The Mystery of Edwin Drood HTML version

When Shall These Three Meet Again?
CHRISTMAS EVE in Cloisterham. A few strange faces in the streets; a few other faces,
half strange and half familiar, once the faces of Cloisterham children, now the faces of
men and women who come back from the outer world at long intervals to find the city
wonderfully shrunken in size, as if it had not washed by any means well in the
meanwhile. To these, the striking of the Cathedral clock, and the cawing of the rooks
from the Cathedral tower, are like voices of their nursery time. To such as these, it has
happened in their dying hours afar off, that they have imagined their chamber-floor to be
strewn with the autumnal leaves fallen from the elm-trees in the Close: so have the
rustling sounds and fresh scents of their earliest impressions revived when the circle of
their lives was very nearly traced, and the beginning and the end were drawing close
Seasonable tokens are about. Red berries shine here and there in the lattices of Minor
Canon Corner; Mr. and Mrs. Tope are daintily sticking sprigs of holly into the carvings
and sconces of the Cathedral stalls, as if they were sticking them into the coat- button-
holes of the Dean and Chapter. Lavish profusion is in the shops: particularly in the
articles of currants, raisins, spices, candied peel, and moist sugar. An unusual air of
gallantry and dissipation is abroad; evinced in an immense bunch of mistletoe hanging in
the greengrocer's shop doorway, and a poor little Twelfth Cake, culminating in the figure
of a Harlequin - such a very poor little Twelfth Cake, that one would rather called it a
Twenty-fourth Cake or a Forty-eighth Cake - to be raffled for at the pastrycook's, terms
one shilling per member. Public amusements are not wanting. The Wax-Work which
made so deep an impression on the reflective mind of the Emperor of China is to be seen
by particular desire during Christmas Week only, on the premises of the bankrupt livery-
stable-keeper up the lane; and a new grand comic Christmas pantomime is to be produced
at the Theatre: the latter heralded by the portrait of Signor Jacksonini the clown, saying
'How do you do to-morrow?' quite as large as life, and almost as miserably. In short,
Cloisterham is up and doing: though from this description the High School and Miss
Twinkleton's are to be excluded. From the former establishment the scholars have gone
home, every one of them in love with one of Miss Twinkleton's young ladies (who knows
nothing about it); and only the handmaidens flutter occasionally in the windows of the
latter. It is noticed, by the bye, that these damsels become, within the limits of decorum,
more skittish when thus intrusted with the concrete representation of their sex, than when
dividing the representation with Miss Twinkleton's young ladies.
Three are to meet at the gatehouse to-night. How does each one of the three get through
the day?
Neville Landless, though absolved from his books for the time by Mr. Crisparkle - whose
fresh nature is by no means insensible to the charms of a holiday - reads and writes in his
quiet room, with a concentrated air, until it is two hours past noon. He then sets himself
to clearing his table, to arranging his books, and to tearing up and burning his stray
papers. He makes a clean sweep of all untidy accumulations, puts all his drawers in order,