The Mystery of Edwin Drood
A Night With Durdles
WHEN Mr. Sapsea has nothing better to do, towards evening, and finds the
contemplation of his own profundity becoming a little monotonous in spite of the
vastness of the subject, he often takes an airing in the Cathedral Close and thereabout. He
likes to pass the churchyard with a swelling air of proprietorship, and to encourage in his
breast a sort of benignant-landlord feeling, in that he has been bountiful towards that
meritorious tenant, Mrs. Sapsea, and has publicly given her a prize. He likes to see a stray
face or two looking in through the railings, and perhaps reading his inscription. Should he
meet a stranger coming from the churchyard with a quick step, he is morally convinced
that the stranger is 'with a blush retiring,' as monumentally directed.
Mr. Sapsea's importance has received enhancement, for he has become Mayor of
Cloisterham. Without mayors, and many of them, it cannot be disputed that the whole
framework of society - Mr. Sapsea is confident that he invented that forcible figure -
would fall to pieces. Mayors have been knighted for 'going up' with addresses: explosive
machines intrepidly discharging shot and shell into the English Grammar. Mr. Sapsea
may 'go up' with an address. Rise, Sir Thomas Sapsea! Of such is the salt of the earth.
Mr. Sapsea has improved the acquaintance of Mr. Jasper, since their first meeting to
partake of port, epitaph, backgammon, beef, and salad. Mr. Sapsea has been received at
the gatehouse with kindred hospitality; and on that occasion Mr. Jasper seated himself at
the piano, and sang to him, tickling his ears - figuratively - long enough to present a
considerable area for tickling. What Mr. Sapsea likes in that young man is, that he is
always ready to profit by the wisdom of his elders, and that he is sound, sir, at the core. In
proof of which, he sang to Mr. Sapsea that evening, no kickshaw ditties, favourites with
national enemies, but gave him the genuine George the Third home-brewed; exhorting
him (as 'my brave boys') to reduce to a smashed condition all other islands but this island,
and all continents, peninsulas, isthmuses, promontories, and other geographical forms of
land soever, besides sweeping the seas in all directions. In short, he rendered it pretty
clear that Providence made a distinct mistake in originating so small a nation of hearts of
oak, and so many other verminous peoples.
Mr. Sapsea, walking slowly this moist evening near the churchyard with his hands behind
him, on the look-out for a blushing and retiring stranger, turns a corner, and comes
instead into the goodly presence of the Dean, conversing with the Verger and Mr. Jasper.
Mr. Sapsea makes his obeisance, and is instantly stricken far more ecclesiastical than any
Archbishop of York or Canterbury.
'You are evidently going to write a book about us, Mr. Jasper,' quoth the Dean; 'to write a
book about us. Well! We are very ancient, and we ought to make a good book. We are
not so richly endowed in possessions as in age; but perhaps you will put THAT in your
book, among other things, and call attention to our wrongs.'
Mr. Tope, as in duty bound, is greatly entertained by this.