The Mystery of Edwin Drood HTML version

A Gritty State of Things Comes on
MR. TARTAR'S chambers were the neatest, the cleanest, and the best- ordered chambers
ever seen under the sun, moon, and stars. The floors were scrubbed to that extent, that
you might have supposed the London blacks emancipated for ever, and gone out of the
land for good. Every inch of brass-work in Mr. Tartar's possession was polished and
burnished, till it shone like a brazen mirror. No speck, nor spot, nor spatter soiled the
purity of any of Mr. Tartar's household gods, large, small, or middle-sized. His sitting-
room was like the admiral's cabin, his bath-room was like a dairy, his sleeping-chamber,
fitted all about with lockers and drawers, was like a seedsman's shop; and his nicely-
balanced cot just stirred in the midst, as if it breathed. Everything belonging to Mr. Tartar
had quarters of its own assigned to it: his maps and charts had their quarters; his books
had theirs; his brushes had theirs; his boots had theirs; his clothes had theirs; his case-
bottles had theirs; his telescopes and other instruments had theirs. Everything was readily
accessible. Shelf, bracket, locker, hook, and drawer were equally within reach, and were
equally contrived with a view to avoiding waste of room, and providing some snug
inches of stowage for something that would have exactly fitted nowhere else. His
gleaming little service of plate was so arranged upon his sideboard as that a slack salt-
spoon would have instantly betrayed itself; his toilet implements were so arranged upon
his dressing-table as that a toothpick of slovenly deportment could have been reported at
a glance. So with the curiosities he had brought home from various voyages. Stuffed,
dried, repolished, or otherwise preserved, according to their kind; birds, fishes, reptiles,
arms, articles of dress, shells, seaweeds, grasses, or memorials of coral reef; each was
displayed in its especial place, and each could have been displayed in no better place.
Paint and varnish seemed to be kept somewhere out of sight, in constant readiness to
obliterate stray finger-marks wherever any might become perceptible in Mr. Tartar's
chambers. No man-of-war was ever kept more spick and span from careless touch. On
this bright summer day, a neat awning was rigged over Mr. Tartar's flower-garden as only
a sailor can rig it, and there was a sea- going air upon the whole effect, so delightfully
complete, that the flower-garden might have appertained to stern-windows afloat, and the
whole concern might have bowled away gallantly with all on board, if Mr. Tartar had
only clapped to his lips the speaking- trumpet that was slung in a corner, and given
hoarse orders to heave the anchor up, look alive there, men, and get all sail upon her!
Mr. Tartar doing the honours of this gallant craft was of a piece with the rest. When a
man rides an amiable hobby that shies at nothing and kicks nobody, it is only agreeable to
find him riding it with a humorous sense of the droll side of the creature. When the man
is a cordial and an earnest man by nature, and withal is perfectly fresh and genuine, it
may be doubted whether he is ever seen to greater advantage than at such a time. So Rosa
would have naturally thought (even if she hadn't been conducted over the ship with all the
homage due to the First Lady of the Admiralty, or First Fairy of the Sea), that it was
charming to see and hear Mr. Tartar half laughing at, and half rejoicing in, his various
contrivances. So Rosa would have naturally thought, anyhow, that the sunburnt sailor
showed to great advantage when, the inspection finished, he delicately withdrew out of