- Year Published: 1870
- Language: English
- Country of Origin: England
- Source: Dickens, C. (1870). The Mystery of Edwin Drood. London, England: Chapman and Hall.
- Flesch–Kincaid Level: 8.0
- Word Count: 5,938
Dickens, C. (1870). Chapter 12: A Night with Durdles. The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Lit2Go Edition). Retrieved November 24, 2017, from
Dickens, Charles. "Chapter 12: A Night with Durdles." The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Lit2Go Edition. 1870. Web. <>. November 24, 2017.
Charles Dickens, "Chapter 12: A Night with Durdles," The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Lit2Go Edition, (1870), accessed November 24, 2017,.
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.
‘I really have no intention at all, sir,’ replies Jasper, ‘of turning author or archaeologist. It is but a whim of mine. And even for my whim, Mr. Sapsea here is more accountable than I am.’
‘How so, Mr. Mayor?’ says the Dean, with a nod of good–natured recognition of his Fetch. ‘How is that, Mr. Mayor?’
‘I am not aware,’ Mr. Sapsea remarks, looking about him for information, ‘to what the Very Reverend the Dean does me the honour of referring.’ And then falls to studying his original in minute points of detail.
‘Durdles,’ Mr. Tope hints.
‘Ay!’ the Dean echoes; ‘Durdles, Durdles!’
‘The truth is, sir,’ explains Jasper, ‘that my curiosity in the man was first really stimulated by Mr. Sapsea. Mr. Sapsea’s knowledge of mankind and power of drawing out whatever is recluse or odd around him, first led to my bestowing a second thought upon the man: though of course I had met him constantly about. You would not be surprised by this, Mr. Dean, if you had seen Mr. Sapsea deal with him in his own parlour, as I did.’
‘O!’ cries Sapsea, picking up the ball thrown to him with ineffable complacency and pomposity; ‘yes, yes. The Very Reverend the Dean refers to that? Yes. I happened to bring Durdles and Mr. Jasper together. I regard Durdles as a Character.’
‘A character, Mr. Sapsea, that with a few skilful touches you turn inside out,’ says Jasper.
‘Nay, not quite that,’ returns the lumbering auctioneer. ‘I may have a little influence over him, perhaps; and a little insight into his character, perhaps. The Very Reverend the Dean will please to bear in mind that I have seen the world.’ Here Mr. Sapsea gets a little behind the Dean, to inspect his coat–buttons.
‘Well!’ says the Dean, looking about him to see what has become of his copyist: ‘I hope, Mr. Mayor, you will use your study and knowledge of Durdles to the good purpose of exhorting him not to break our worthy and respected Choir–Master’s neck; we cannot afford it; his head and voice are much too valuable to us.’
Mr. Tope is again highly entertained, and, having fallen into respectful convulsions of laughter, subsides into a deferential murmur, importing that surely any gentleman would deem it a pleasure and an honour to have his neck broken, in return for such a compliment from such a source.
‘I will take it upon myself, sir,’ observes Sapsea loftily, ‘to answer for Mr. Jasper’s neck. I will tell Durdles to be careful of it. He will mind what I say. How is it at present endangered?’ he inquires, looking about him with magnificent patronage.
‘Only by my making a moonlight expedition with Durdles among the tombs, vaults, towers, and ruins,’ returns Jasper. ‘You remember suggesting, when you brought us together, that, as a lover of the picturesque, it might be worth my while?’
‘I remember!’ replies the auctioneer. And the solemn idiot really believes that he does remember.
‘Profiting by your hint,’ pursues Jasper, ‘I have had some day–rambles with the extraordinary old fellow, and we are to make a moonlight hole–and–corner exploration to–night.’
‘And here he is,’ says the Dean.
Durdles with his dinner–bundle in his hand, is indeed beheld slouching towards them. Slouching nearer, and perceiving the Dean, he pulls off his hat, and is slouching away with it under his arm, when Mr. Sapsea stops him.
‘Mind you take care of my friend,’ is the injunction Mr. Sapsea lays upon him.
‘What friend o’ yourn is dead?’ asks Durdles. ‘No orders has come in for any friend o’ yourn.’
‘I mean my live friend there.’
‘O! him?’ says Durdles. ‘He can take care of himself, can Mister Jarsper.’
‘But do you take care of him too,’ says Sapsea.
Whom Durdles (there being command in his tone) surlily surveys from head to foot.
‘With submission to his Reverence the Dean, if you’ll mind what concerns you, Mr. Sapsea, Durdles he’ll mind what concerns him.’
‘You’re out of temper,’ says Mr. Sapsea, winking to the company to observe how smoothly he will manage him. ‘My friend concerns me, and Mr. Jasper is my friend. And you are my friend.’
‘Don’t you get into a bad habit of boasting,’ retorts Durdles, with a grave cautionary nod. ‘It’ll grow upon you.’
‘You are out of temper,’ says Sapsea again; reddening, but again sinking to the company.
‘I own to it,’ returns Durdles; ‘I don’t like liberties.’
Mr. Sapsea winks a third wink to the company, as who should say: ‘I think you will agree with me that I have settled his business;’ and stalks out of the controversy.
Durdles then gives the Dean a good evening, and adding, as he puts his hat on, ‘You’ll find me at home, Mister Jarsper, as agreed, when you want me; I’m a–going home to clean myself,’ soon slouches out of sight. This going home to clean himself is one of the man’s incomprehensible compromises with inexorable facts; he, and his hat, and his boots, and his clothes, never showing any trace of cleaning, but being uniformly in one condition of dust and grit.
The lamplighter now dotting the quiet Close with specks of light, and running at a great rate up and down his little ladder with that object – his little ladder under the sacred shadow of whose inconvenience generations had grown up, and which all Cloisterham would have stood aghast at the idea of abolishing – the Dean withdraws to his dinner, Mr. Tope to his tea, and Mr. Jasper to his piano. There, with no light but that of the fire, he sits chanting choir–music in a low and beautiful voice, for two or three hours; in short, until it has been for some time dark, and the moon is about to rise.
Then he closes his piano softly, softly changes his coat for a pea–jacket, with a goodly wicker–cased bottle in its largest pocket, and putting on a low–crowned, flap–brimmed hat, goes softly out. Why does he move so softly to–night? No outward reason is apparent for it. Can there be any sympathetic reason crouching darkly within him?
Repairing to Durdles’s unfinished house, or hole in the city wall, and seeing a light within it, he softly picks his course among the gravestones, monuments, and stony lumber of the yard, already touched here and there, sidewise, by the rising moon. The two journeymen have left their two great saws sticking in their blocks of stone; and two skeleton journeymen out of the Dance of Death might be grinning in the shadow of their sheltering sentry–boxes, about to slash away at cutting out the gravestones of the next two people destined to die in Cloisterham. Likely enough, the two think little of that now, being alive, and perhaps merry. Curious, to make a guess at the two; – or say one of the two!
The light moves, and he appears with it at the door. He would seem to have been ‘cleaning himself’ with the aid of a bottle, jug, and tumbler; for no other cleansing instruments are visible in the bare brick room with rafters overhead and no plastered ceiling, into which he shows his visitor.
‘Are you ready?’
‘I am ready, Mister Jarsper. Let the old ’uns come out if they dare, when we go among their tombs. My spirit is ready for ’em.’
‘Do you mean animal spirits, or ardent?’
‘The one’s the t’other,’ answers Durdles, ‘and I mean ’em both.’
He takes a lantern from a hook, puts a match or two in his pocket wherewith to light it, should there be need; and they go out together, dinner–bundle and all.
Surely an unaccountable sort of expedition! That Durdles himself, who is always prowling among old graves, and ruins, like a Ghoul – that he should be stealing forth to climb, and dive, and wander without an object, is nothing extraordinary; but that the Choir–Master or any one else should hold it worth his while to be with him, and to study moonlight effects in such company is another affair. Surely an unaccountable sort of expedition, therefore!
‘’Ware that there mound by the yard–gate, Mister Jarsper.’
‘I see it. What is it?’
Mr. Jasper stops, and waits for him to come up, for he lags behind. ‘What you call quick–lime?’
‘Ay!’ says Durdles; ‘quick enough to eat your boots. With a little handy stirring, quick enough to eat your bones.’
They go on, presently passing the red windows of the Travellers’ Twopenny, and emerging into the clear moonlight of the Monks’ Vineyard. This crossed, they come to Minor Canon Corner: of which the greater part lies in shadow until the moon shall rise higher in the sky.
The sound of a closing house–door strikes their ears, and two men come out. These are Mr. Crisparkle and Neville. Jasper, with a strange and sudden smile upon his face, lays the palm of his hand upon the breast of Durdles, stopping him where he stands.
At that end of Minor Canon Corner the shadow is profound in the existing state of the light: at that end, too, there is a piece of old dwarf wall, breast high, the only remaining boundary of what was once a garden, but is now the thoroughfare. Jasper and Durdles would have turned this wall in another instant; but, stopping so short, stand behind it.
‘Those two are only sauntering,’ Jasper whispers; ‘they will go out into the moonlight soon. Let us keep quiet here, or they will detain us, or want to join us, or what not.’
Durdles nods assent, and falls to munching some fragments from his bundle. Jasper folds his arms upon the top of the wall, and, with his chin resting on them, watches. He takes no note whatever of the Minor Canon, but watches Neville, as though his eye were at the trigger of a loaded rifle, and he had covered him, and were going to fire. A sense of destructive power is so expressed in his face, that even Durdles pauses in his munching, and looks at him, with an unmunched something in his cheek.
Meanwhile Mr. Crisparkle and Neville walk to and fro, quietly talking together. What they say, cannot be heard consecutively; but Mr. Jasper has already distinguished his own name more than once.
‘This is the first day of the week,’ Mr. Crisparkle can be distinctly heard to observe, as they turn back; ‘and the last day of the week is Christmas Eve.’
‘You may be certain of me, sir.’
The echoes were favourable at those points, but as the two approach, the sound of their talking becomes confused again. The word ‘confidence,’ shattered by the echoes, but still capable of being pieced together, is uttered by Mr. Crisparkle. As they draw still nearer, this fragment of a reply is heard: ‘Not deserved yet, but shall be, sir.’ As they turn away again, Jasper again hears his own name, in connection with the words from Mr. Crisparkle: ‘Remember that I said I answered for you confidently.’ Then the sound of their talk becomes confused again; they halting for a little while, and some earnest action on the part of Neville succeeding. When they move once more, Mr. Crisparkle is seen to look up at the sky, and to point before him. They then slowly disappear; passing out into the moonlight at the opposite end of the Corner.
It is not until they are gone, that Mr. Jasper moves. But then he turns to Durdles, and bursts into a fit of laughter. Durdles, who still has that suspended something in his cheek, and who sees nothing to laugh at, stares at him until Mr. Jasper lays his face down on his arms to have his laugh out. Then Durdles bolts the something, as if desperately resigning himself to indigestion.
Among those secluded nooks there is very little stir or movement after dark. There is little enough in the high tide of the day, but there is next to none at night. Besides that the cheerfully frequented High Street lies nearly parallel to the spot (the old Cathedral rising between the two), and is the natural channel in which the Cloisterham traffic flows, a certain awful hush pervades the ancient pile, the cloisters, and the churchyard, after dark, which not many people care to encounter. Ask the first hundred citizens of Cloisterham, met at random in the streets at noon, if they believed in Ghosts, they would tell you no; but put them to choose at night between these eerie Precincts and the thoroughfare of shops, and you would find that ninety–nine declared for the longer round and the more frequented way. The cause of this is not to be found in any local superstition that attaches to the Precincts – albeit a mysterious lady, with a child in her arms and a rope dangling from her neck, has been seen flitting about there by sundry witnesses as intangible as herself – but it is to be sought in the innate shrinking of dust with the breath of life in it from dust out of which the breath of life has passed; also, in the widely diffused, and almost as widely unacknowledged, reflection: ‘If the dead do, under any circumstances, become visible to the living, these are such likely surroundings for the purpose that I, the living, will get out of them as soon as I can.’ Hence, when Mr. Jasper and Durdles pause to glance around them, before descending into the crypt by a small side door, of which the latter has a key, the whole expanse of moonlight in their view is utterly deserted. One might fancy that the tide of life was stemmed by Mr. Jasper’s own gatehouse. The murmur of the tide is heard beyond; but no wave passes the archway, over which his lamp burns red behind his curtain, as if the building were a Lighthouse.
They enter, locking themselves in, descend the rugged steps, and are down in the Crypt. The lantern is not wanted, for the moonlight strikes in at the groined windows, bare of glass, the broken frames for which cast patterns on the ground. The heavy pillars which support the roof engender masses of black shade, but between them there are lanes of light. Up and down these lanes they walk, Durdles discoursing of the ‘old uns’ he yet counts on disinterring, and slapping a wall, in which he considers ‘a whole family on ’em’ to be stoned and earthed up, just as if he were a familiar friend of the family. The taciturnity of Durdles is for the time overcome by Mr. Jasper’s wicker bottle, which circulates freely; – in the sense, that is to say, that its contents enter freely into Mr. Durdles’s circulation, while Mr. Jasper only rinses his mouth once, and casts forth the rinsing.
They are to ascend the great Tower. On the steps by which they rise to the Cathedral, Durdles pauses for new store of breath. The steps are very dark, but out of the darkness they can see the lanes of light they have traversed. Durdles seats himself upon a step. Mr. Jasper seats himself upon another. The odour from the wicker bottle (which has somehow passed into Durdles’s keeping) soon intimates that the cork has been taken out; but this is not ascertainable through the sense of sight, since neither can descry the other. And yet, in talking, they turn to one another, as though their faces could commune together.
‘This is good stuff, Mister Jarsper!’
‘It is very good stuff, I hope. – I bought it on purpose.’
‘They don’t show, you see, the old uns don’t, Mister Jarsper!’
‘It would be a more confused world than it is, if they could.’
‘Well, it would lead towards a mixing of things,’ Durdles acquiesces: pausing on the remark, as if the idea of ghosts had not previously presented itself to him in a merely inconvenient light, domestically or chronologically. ‘But do you think there may be Ghosts of other things, though not of men and women?’
‘What things? Flower–beds and watering–pots? horses and harness?’
‘What cries do you mean? Chairs to mend?’
‘No. I mean screeches. Now I’ll tell you, Mr. Jarsper. Wait a bit till I put the bottle right.’ Here the cork is evidently taken out again, and replaced again. ‘There! Now it’s right! This time last year, only a few days later, I happened to have been doing what was correct by the season, in the way of giving it the welcome it had a right to expect, when them town–boys set on me at their worst. At length I gave ’em the slip, and turned in here. And here I fell asleep. And what woke me? The ghost of a cry. The ghost of one terrific shriek, which shriek was followed by the ghost of the howl of a dog: a long, dismal, woeful howl, such as a dog gives when a person’s dead. That was my last Christmas Eve.’
‘What do you mean?’ is the very abrupt, and, one might say, fierce retort.
‘I mean that I made inquiries everywhere about, and, that no living ears but mine heard either that cry or that howl. So I say they was both ghosts; though why they came to me, I’ve never made out.’
‘I thought you were another kind of man,’ says Jasper, scornfully.
‘So I thought myself,’ answers Durdles with his usual composure; ‘and yet I was picked out for it.’
Jasper had risen suddenly, when he asked him what he meant, and he now says, ‘Come; we shall freeze here; lead the way.’
Durdles complies, not over–steadily; opens the door at the top of the steps with the key he has already used; and so emerges on the Cathedral level, in a passage at the side of the chancel. Here, the moonlight is so very bright again that the colours of the nearest stained–glass window are thrown upon their faces. The appearance of the unconscious Durdles, holding the door open for his companion to follow, as if from the grave, is ghastly enough, with a purple hand across his face, and a yellow splash upon his brow; but he bears the close scrutiny of his companion in an insensible way, although it is prolonged while the latter fumbles among his pockets for a key confided to him that will open an iron gate, so to enable them to pass to the staircase of the great tower.
‘That and the bottle are enough for you to carry,’ he says, giving it to Durdles; ‘hand your bundle to me; I am younger and longer–winded than you.’ Durdles hesitates for a moment between bundle and bottle; but gives the preference to the bottle as being by far the better company, and consigns the dry weight to his fellow–explorer.
Then they go up the winding staircase of the great tower, toilsomely, turning and turning, and lowering their heads to avoid the stairs above, or the rough stone pivot around which they twist. Durdles has lighted his lantern, by drawing from the cold, hard wall a spark of that mysterious fire which lurks in everything, and, guided by this speck, they clamber up among the cobwebs and the dust. Their way lies through strange places. Twice or thrice they emerge into level, low–arched galleries, whence they can look down into the moon–lit nave; and where Durdles, waving his lantern, waves the dim angels’ heads upon the corbels of the roof, seeming to watch their progress. Anon they turn into narrower and steeper staircases, and the night–air begins to blow upon them, and the chirp of some startled jackdaw or frightened rook precedes the heavy beating of wings in a confined space, and the beating down of dust and straws upon their heads. At last, leaving their light behind a stair – for it blows fresh up here – they look down on Cloisterham, fair to see in the moonlight: its ruined habitations and sanctuaries of the dead, at the tower’s base: its moss–softened red–tiled roofs and red–brick houses of the living, clustered beyond: its river winding down from the mist on the horizon, as though that were its source, and already heaving with a restless knowledge of its approach towards the sea.
Once again, an unaccountable expedition this! Jasper (always moving softly with no visible reason) contemplates the scene, and especially that stillest part of it which the Cathedral overshadows. But he contemplates Durdles quite as curiously, and Durdles is by times conscious of his watchful eyes.
Only by times, because Durdles is growing drowsy. As aëronauts lighten the load they carry, when they wish to rise, similarly Durdles has lightened the wicker bottle in coming up. Snatches of sleep surprise him on his legs, and stop him in his talk. A mild fit of calenture seizes him, in which he deems that the ground so far below, is on a level with the tower, and would as lief walk off the tower into the air as not. Such is his state when they begin to come down. And as aëronauts make themselves heavier when they wish to descend, similarly Durdles charges himself with more liquid from the wicker bottle, that he may come down the better.
The iron gate attained and locked – but not before Durdles has tumbled twice, and cut an eyebrow open once – they descend into the crypt again, with the intent of issuing forth as they entered. But, while returning among those lanes of light, Durdles becomes so very uncertain, both of foot and speech, that he half drops, half throws himself down, by one of the heavy pillars, scarcely less heavy than itself, and indistinctly appeals to his companion for forty winks of a second each.
‘If you will have it so, or must have it so,’ replies Jasper, ‘I’ll not leave you here. Take them, while I walk to and fro.’
Durdles is asleep at once; and in his sleep he dreams a dream.
It is not much of a dream, considering the vast extent of the domains of dreamland, and their wonderful productions; it is only remarkable for being unusually restless and unusually real. He dreams of lying there, asleep, and yet counting his companion’s footsteps as he walks to and fro. He dreams that the footsteps die away into distance of time and of space, and that something touches him, and that something falls from his hand. Then something clinks and gropes about, and he dreams that he is alone for so long a time, that the lanes of light take new directions as the moon advances in her course. From succeeding unconsciousness he passes into a dream of slow uneasiness from cold; and painfully awakes to a perception of the lanes of light – really changed, much as he had dreamed – and Jasper walking among them, beating his hands and feet.
‘Holloa!’ Durdles cries out, unmeaningly alarmed.
‘Awake at last?’ says Jasper, coming up to him. ‘Do you know that your forties have stretched into thousands?’
‘They have though.’
‘What’s the time?’
‘Hark! The bells are going in the Tower!’
They strike four quarters, and then the great bell strikes.
‘Two!’ cries Durdles, scrambling up; ‘why didn’t you try to wake me, Mister Jarsper?’
‘I did. I might as well have tried to wake the dead – your own family of dead, up in the corner there.’
‘Did you touch me?’
‘Touch you! Yes. Shook you.’
As Durdles recalls that touching something in his dream, he looks down on the pavement, and sees the key of the crypt door lying close to where he himself lay.
‘I dropped you, did I?’ he says, picking it up, and recalling that part of his dream. As he gathers himself up again into an upright position, or into a position as nearly upright as he ever maintains, he is again conscious of being watched by his companion.
‘Well?’ says Jasper, smiling, ‘are you quite ready? Pray don’t hurry.’
‘Let me get my bundle right, Mister Jarsper, and I’m with you.’ As he ties it afresh, he is once more conscious that he is very narrowly observed.
‘What do you suspect me of, Mister Jarsper?’ he asks, with drunken displeasure. ‘Let them as has any suspicions of Durdles name ’em.’
‘I’ve no suspicions of you, my good Mr. Durdles; but I have suspicions that my bottle was filled with something stiffer than either of us supposed. And I also have suspicions,’ Jasper adds, taking it from the pavement and turning it bottom upwards, ‘that it’s empty.’
Durdles condescends to laugh at this. Continuing to chuckle when his laugh is over, as though remonstrant with himself on his drinking powers, he rolls to the door and unlocks it. They both pass out, and Durdles relocks it, and pockets his key.
‘A thousand thanks for a curious and interesting night,’ says Jasper, giving him his hand; ‘you can make your own way home?’
‘I should think so!’ answers Durdles. ‘If you was to offer Durdles the affront to show him his way home, he wouldn’t go home.
Durdles wouldn’t go home till morning;
And then Durdles wouldn’t go home,
Durdles wouldn’t.’ This with the utmost defiance.
‘Good–night, Mister Jarsper.’
Each is turning his own way, when a sharp whistle rends the silence, and the jargon is yelped out:
Widdy widdy wen!
I – ket – ches – Im – out – ar – ter – ten.
Widdy widdy wy!
Then – E – don’t – go – then – I – shy –
Widdy Widdy Wake–cock warning!’
Instantly afterwards, a rapid fire of stones rattles at the Cathedral wall, and the hideous small boy is beheld opposite, dancing in the moonlight.
‘What! Is that baby–devil on the watch there!’ cries Jasper in a fury: so quickly roused, and so violent, that he seems an older devil himself. ‘I shall shed the blood of that impish wretch! I know I shall do it!’ Regardless of the fire, though it hits him more than once, he rushes at Deputy, collars him, and tries to bring him across. But Deputy is not to be so easily brought across. With a diabolical insight into the strongest part of his position, he is no sooner taken by the throat than he curls up his legs, forces his assailant to hang him, as it were, and gurgles in his throat, and screws his body, and twists, as already undergoing the first agonies of strangulation. There is nothing for it but to drop him. He instantly gets himself together, backs over to Durdles, and cries to his assailant, gnashing the great gap in front of his mouth with rage and malice:
‘I’ll blind yer, s’elp me! I’ll stone yer eyes out, s’elp me! If I don’t have yer eyesight, bellows me!’ At the same time dodging behind Durdles, and snarling at Jasper, now from this side of him, and now from that: prepared, if pounced upon, to dart away in all manner of curvilinear directions, and, if run down after all, to grovel in the dust, and cry: ‘Now, hit me when I’m down! Do it!’
‘Don’t hurt the boy, Mister Jarsper,’ urges Durdles, shielding him. ‘Recollect yourself.’
‘He followed us to–night, when we first came here!’
‘Yer lie, I didn’t!’ replies Deputy, in his one form of polite contradiction.
‘He has been prowling near us ever since!’
‘Yer lie, I haven’t,’ returns Deputy. ‘I’d only jist come out for my ’elth when I see you two a–coming out of the Kin–freederel. If
I – ket – ches – Im – out – ar – ter – ten!’
(with the usual rhythm and dance, though dodging behind Durdles), ‘it ain’t any fault, is it?’
‘Take him home, then,’ retorts Jasper, ferociously, though with a strong check upon himself, ‘and let my eyes be rid of the sight of you!’
Deputy, with another sharp whistle, at once expressing his relief, and his commencement of a milder stoning of Mr. Durdles, begins stoning that respectable gentleman home, as if he were a reluctant ox. Mr. Jasper goes to his gatehouse, brooding. And thus, as everything comes to an end, the unaccountable expedition comes to an end – for the time.