'And to finish with, sir: I have been brought up among abject and servile dependents, of an inferior race, and I may easily have contracted some affinity with them. Sometimes, I don't know but that it may be a drop of what is tigerish in their blood.'
'As in the case of that remark just now,' thought Mr. Crisparkle.
'In a last word of reference to my sister, sir (we are twin children), you ought to know, to her honour, that nothing in our misery ever subdued her, though it often cowed me. When we ran away from it (we ran away four times in six years, to be soon brought back and cruelly punished), the flight was always of her planning and leading. Each time she dressed as a boy, and showed the daring of a man. I take it we were seven years old when we first decamped; but I remember, when I lost the pocket-knife with which she was to have cut her hair short, how desperately she tried to tear it out, or bite it off. I have nothing further to say, sir, except that I hope you will bear with me and make allowance for me.'
'Of that, Mr. Neville, you may be sure,' returned the Minor Canon. 'I don't preach more than I can help, and I will not repay your confidence with a sermon. But I entreat you to bear in mind, very seriously and steadily, that if I am to do you any good, it can only be with your own assistance; and that you can only render that, efficiently, by seeking aid from Heaven.'
'I will try to do my part, sir.'
'And, Mr. Neville, I will try to do mine. Here is my hand on it. May God bless our endeavours!'
They were now standing at his house-door, and a cheerful sound of voices and laughter was heard within.
'We will take one more turn before going in,' said Mr. Crisparkle, 'for I want to ask you a question. When you said you were in a changed mind concerning me, you spoke, not only for yourself, but for your sister too?'
'Undoubtedly I did, sir.'
'Excuse me, Mr. Neville, but I think you have had no opportunity of communicating with your sister, since I met you. Mr. Honeythunder was very eloquent; but perhaps I may venture to say, without ill- nature, that he rather monopolised the occasion. May you not have answered for your sister without sufficient warrant?'
Neville shook his head with a proud smile.
'You don't know, sir, yet, what a complete understanding can exist between my sister and me, though no spoken word--perhaps hardly as much as a look--may have passed between us. She not only feels as I have described, but she very well knows that I am taking this opportunity of speaking to you, both for her and for myself.'
Mr. Crisparkle looked in his face, with some incredulity; but his face expressed such absolute and firm conviction of the truth of what he said, that Mr. Crisparkle looked at the pavement, and mused, until they came to his door again.
'I will ask for one more turn, sir, this time,' said the young man, with a rather heightened colour rising in his face. 'But for Mr. Honeythunder's--I think you called it eloquence, sir?' (somewhat slyly.)
'I--yes, I called it eloquence,' said Mr. Crisparkle.
'But for Mr. Honeythunder's eloquence, I might have had no need to ask you what I am going to ask you. This Mr. Edwin Drood, sir: I think that's the name?'
'Quite correct,' said Mr. Crisparkle. 'D-r-double o-d.'
'Does he--or did he--read with you, sir?'
'Never, Mr. Neville. He comes here visiting his relation, Mr. Jasper.'
'Is Miss Bud his relation too, sir?'
('Now, why should he ask that, with sudden superciliousness?' thought Mr. Crisparkle.) Then he explained, aloud, what he knew of the little story of their betrothal.
'O! THAT'S it, is it?' said the young man. 'I understand his air of proprietorship now!'
This was said so evidently to himself, or to anybody rather than Mr. Crisparkle, that the latter instinctively felt as if to notice it would be almost tantamount to noticing a passage in a letter which he had read by chance over the writer's shoulder. A moment afterwards they re-entered the house.