|Scene:||London and Cloisterham, a Neighboring Town|
|Edwin Drood||A young engineer|
|John Jasper||His uncle and guardian. A choir master|
|Rosa Bud||An orphan girl, engaged to marry Drood|
Known as "Rosebud"
|Mr. Grewgious||A lawyer. Her guardian|
|Miss Twinkleton||The principal of the Young Ladies'|
Seminary in Cloisterham
|The Reverend Mr. Crisparkle||A minister|
|Neville Landless||Mr. Crisparkle's pupil|
|Helena||His twin sister|
|Rosebud's room-mate in the seminary|
|Luke Honeythunder||A self-styled "philanthropist" and|
bore. Guardian of Neville and Helena
|Lieutenant Tartar||A retired naval officer|
|"Dick Datchery"||A detective|
|Durdles||A stone-mason and chiseler of tombstones|
|"The Deputy"||A street Arab|
In the quiet town of Cloisterham, in England, in a boarding-school, once lived a beautiful girl named Rosa Bud—an amiable, wilful, winning, whimsical little creature whom every one called Rosebud. She was an orphan. Her mother had been drowned when she was only seven years old and her father had died of grief on the first anniversary of that day.
Her father's friend and college mate, a Mr. Drood, had comforted his last hours, and they had agreed between them that when Rosebud was old enough she should marry Mr. Drood's son Edwin, then a little boy. Her father put this wish in his will, as did Mr. Drood, who died also soon after his friend, and so Rosebud and Edwin Drood grew up knowing that, though not bound in any way, each was intended for the other. So it came about that, while if they had been let alone they might have fallen in love naturally, yet as it was they were always shy and ill at ease with one another. Yet they liked each other, too.
Rosebud's guardian was a Mr. Grewgious, an[Pg 442] arid, sandy man who looked as if he might be put in a grinding-mill and turned out first-class snuff. He had scanty hair like a yellow fur tippet, and deep notches in his forehead, and was very near-sighted. He seemed to have been born old, so that when he came to London to call on Rosebud amid all the school-girls he used to say he felt like a bear with the cramp. Grewgious, however, under his oddity had a very tender heart, particularly for Rosebud, whose mother he had been secretly in love with before she married. But he had grown up a dry old bachelor, living in gloomy rooms in London, and no one would have guessed him ever to have been a bit romantic.
The school Rosebud attended was called Nun's House. Miss Twinkleton, the prim old maid who managed it, termed it a "Seminary for Young Ladies." It had a worn front, with a shining brass door-plate that made it look at a distance like a battered old beau with a big new eye-glass stuck in his blind eye. Here Rosebud lived a happy life, the pet of the whole seminary, till she was a young lady.
Cloisterham was a dull, gray town with an ancient cathedral, which was so cold and dark and damp that looking into its door was like looking down the throat of old Father Time. The cathedral had a fine choir, which sang at all the services and was taught and led by a music-master whose name was John Jasper. This Jasper, as it[Pg 443]happened, was the uncle and guardian of Edwin Drood.
Drood, who was studying to be an engineer, was very fond of his uncle and came often to Cloisterham to visit him, so that Rosebud saw a great deal of her intended husband. He always called her "Pussy." He used to call on her at the school and take her walking and buy her candy at a Turkish shop, called "Lumps of Delight," and did his best to get on well with her, though he felt awkward.
Drood and Jasper were much more like two friends than like uncle and nephew, for the choir master was very little older than the other.
Jasper seemed to be wonderfully fond of Drood, and every one who knew him thought him a most honorable and upright man; but in reality he was far different. At heart he hated the cathedral and the singing, and wished often that he could find relief, like some old monk, in carving demons out of the desks and seats. He had a soul that was without fear or conscience.
One vile and wicked practice he had which he had hidden from all who knew him. He was an opium smoker. He would steal away to London to a garret kept by a mumbling old woman who knew the secret of mixing the drug, and there, stretched on a dirty pallet, sometimes with a drunken Chinaman or a Lascar beside him, would smoke pipe after pipe of the dreadful mixture that stole away his senses and left him worse than before.[Pg 444] Hours later he would awake, give the woman money and hurry back to Cloisterham just in time, perhaps, to put on his church robes and lead the cathedral choir.
Though no one knew of this, and though Edwin Drood thought his uncle was well-nigh perfect, Rosebud, after she grew up, had no liking for Jasper. He gave her music lessons and every time they met he terrified her. She felt sometimes that he haunted her thoughts like a dreadful ghost. He seemed almost to make a slave of her with his looks, and she felt that in every glance he was telling her that he, Jasper, loved her and yet compelled her to keep silence. But, though disliking the choir master so, and shivering whenever he came near her, Rosebud did not know how to tell Edwin, who she knew loved and believed in Jasper, of her feelings.
Thank you for reading!