Part 12 out of 21
'Rather a good marriage this, I believe?' said Mr. Spenlow.
I explained that I knew nothing about it.
'Indeed!' he said. 'Speaking from the few words Mr. Murdstone
dropped - as a man frequently does on these occasions - and from
what Miss Murdstone let fall, I should say it was rather a good
'Do you mean that there is money, sir?' I asked.
'Yes,' said Mr. Spenlow, 'I understand there's money. Beauty too,
I am told.'
'Indeed! Is his new wife young?'
'Just of age,' said Mr. Spenlow. 'So lately, that I should think
they had been waiting for that.'
'Lord deliver her!' said Peggotty. So very emphatically and
unexpectedly, that we were all three discomposed; until Tiffey came
in with the bill.
Old Tiffey soon appeared, however, and handed it to Mr. Spenlow, to
look over. Mr. Spenlow, settling his chin in his cravat and
rubbing it softly, went over the items with a deprecatory air - as
if it were all Jorkins's doing - and handed it back to Tiffey with
a bland sigh.
'Yes,' he said. 'That's right. Quite right. I should have been
extremely happy, Copperfield, to have limited these charges to the
actual expenditure out of pocket, but it is an irksome incident in
my professional life, that I am not at liberty to consult my own
wishes. I have a partner - Mr. Jorkins.'
As he said this with a gentle melancholy, which was the next thing
to making no charge at all, I expressed my acknowledgements on
Peggotty's behalf, and paid Tiffey in banknotes. Peggotty then
retired to her lodging, and Mr. Spenlow and I went into Court,
where we had a divorce-suit coming on, under an ingenious little
statute (repealed now, I believe, but in virtue of which I have
seen several marriages annulled), of which the merits were these.
The husband, whose name was Thomas Benjamin, had taken out his
marriage licence as Thomas only; suppressing the Benjamin, in case
he should not find himself as comfortable as he expected. NOT
finding himself as comfortable as he expected, or being a little
fatigued with his wife, poor fellow, he now came forward, by a
friend, after being married a year or two, and declared that his
name was Thomas Benjamin, and therefore he was not married at all.
Which the Court confirmed, to his great satisfaction.
I must say that I had my doubts about the strict justice of this,
and was not even frightened out of them by the bushel of wheat
which reconciles all anomalies. But Mr. Spenlow argued the matter
with me. He said, Look at the world, there was good and evil in
that; look at the ecclesiastical law, there was good and evil in
THAT. It was all part of a system. Very good. There you were!
I had not the hardihood to suggest to Dora's father that possibly
we might even improve the world a little, if we got up early in the
morning, and took off our coats to the work; but I confessed that
I thought we might improve the Commons. Mr. Spenlow replied that
he would particularly advise me to dismiss that idea from my mind,
as not being worthy of my gentlemanly character; but that he would
be glad to hear from me of what improvement I thought the Commons
Taking that part of the Commons which happened to be nearest to us
- for our man was unmarried by this time, and we were out of Court,
and strolling past the Prerogative Office - I submitted that I
thought the Prerogative Office rather a queerly managed
institution. Mr. Spenlow inquired in what respect? I replied,
with all due deference to his experience (but with more deference,
I am afraid, to his being Dora's father), that perhaps it was a
little nonsensical that the Registry of that Court, containing the
original wills of all persons leaving effects within the immense
province of Canterbury, for three whole centuries, should be an
accidental building, never designed for the purpose, leased by the
registrars for their Own private emolument, unsafe, not even
ascertained to be fire-proof, choked with the important documents
it held, and positively, from the roof to the basement, a mercenary
speculation of the registrars, who took great fees from the public,
and crammed the public's wills away anyhow and anywhere, having no
other object than to get rid of them cheaply. That, perhaps, it
was a little unreasonable that these registrars in the receipt of
profits amounting to eight or nine thousand pounds a year (to say
nothing of the profits of the deputy registrars, and clerks of
seats), should not be obliged to spend a little of that money, in
finding a reasonably safe place for the important documents which
all classes of people were compelled to hand over to them, whether
they would or no. That, perhaps, it was a little unjust, that all
the great offices in this great office should be magnificent
sinecures, while the unfortunate working-clerks in the cold dark
room upstairs were the worst rewarded, and the least considered
men, doing important services, in London. That perhaps it was a
little indecent that the principal registrar of all, whose duty it
was to find the public, constantly resorting to this place, all
needful accommodation, should be an enormous sinecurist in virtue
of that post (and might be, besides, a clergyman, a pluralist, the
holder of a staff in a cathedral, and what not), - while the public
was put to the inconvenience of which we had a specimen every
afternoon when the office was busy, and which we knew to be quite
monstrous. That, perhaps, in short, this Prerogative Office of the
diocese of Canterbury was altogether such a pestilent job, and such
a pernicious absurdity, that but for its being squeezed away in a
corner of St. Paul's Churchyard, which few people knew, it must
have been turned completely inside out, and upside down, long ago.
Mr. Spenlow smiled as I became modestly warm on the subject, and
then argued this question with me as he had argued the other. He
said, what was it after all? It was a question of feeling. If the
public felt that their wills were in safe keeping, and took it for
granted that the office was not to be made better, who was the
worse for it? Nobody. Who was the better for it? All the
Sinecurists. Very well. Then the good predominated. It might not
be a perfect system; nothing was perfect; but what he objected to,
was, the insertion of the wedge. Under the Prerogative Office, the
country had been glorious. Insert the wedge into the Prerogative
Office, and the country would cease to be glorious. He considered
it the principle of a gentleman to take things as he found them;
and he had no doubt the Prerogative Office would last our time. I
deferred to his opinion, though I had great doubts of it myself.
I find he was right, however; for it has not only lasted to the
present moment, but has done so in the teeth of a great
parliamentary report made (not too willingly) eighteen years ago,
when all these objections of mine were set forth in detail, and
when the existing stowage for wills was described as equal to the
accumulation of only two years and a half more. What they have
done with them since; whether they have lost many, or whether they
sell any, now and then, to the butter shops; I don't know. I am
glad mine is not there, and I hope it may not go there, yet awhile.
I have set all this down, in my present blissful chapter, because
here it comes into its natural place. Mr. Spenlow and I falling
into this conversation, prolonged it and our saunter to and fro,
until we diverged into general topics. And so it came about, in
the end, that Mr. Spenlow told me this day week was Dora's
birthday, and he would be glad if I would come down and join a
little picnic on the occasion. I went out of my senses
immediately; became a mere driveller next day, on receipt of a
little lace-edged sheet of note-paper, 'Favoured by papa. To
remind'; and passed the intervening period in a state of dotage.
I think I committed every possible absurdity in the way of
preparation for this blessed event. I turn hot when I remember the
cravat I bought. My boots might be placed in any collection of
instruments of torture. I provided, and sent down by the Norwood
coach the night before, a delicate little hamper, amounting in
itself, I thought, almost to a declaration. There were crackers in
it with the tenderest mottoes that could be got for money. At six
in the morning, I was in Covent Garden Market, buying a bouquet for
Dora. At ten I was on horseback (I hired a gallant grey, for the
occasion), with the bouquet in my hat, to keep it fresh, trotting
down to Norwood.
I suppose that when I saw Dora in the garden and pretended not to
see her, and rode past the house pretending to be anxiously looking
for it, I committed two small fooleries which other young gentlemen
in my circumstances might have committed - because they came so
very natural to me. But oh! when I DID find the house, and DID
dismount at the garden-gate, and drag those stony-hearted boots
across the lawn to Dora sitting on a garden-seat under a lilac
tree, what a spectacle she was, upon that beautiful morning, among
the butterflies, in a white chip bonnet and a dress of celestial
blue! There was a young lady with her - comparatively stricken in
years - almost twenty, I should say. Her name was Miss Mills. and
Dora called her Julia. She was the bosom friend of Dora. Happy
Jip was there, and Jip WOULD bark at me again. When I presented my
bouquet, he gnashed his teeth with jealousy. Well he might. If he
had the least idea how I adored his mistress, well he might!
'Oh, thank you, Mr. Copperfield! What dear flowers!' said Dora.
I had had an intention of saying (and had been studying the best
form of words for three miles) that I thought them beautiful before
I saw them so near HER. But I couldn't manage it. She was too
bewildering. To see her lay the flowers against her little dimpled
chin, was to lose all presence of mind and power of language in a
feeble ecstasy. I wonder I didn't say, 'Kill me, if you have a
heart, Miss Mills. Let me die here!'
Then Dora held my flowers to Jip to smell. Then Jip growled, and
wouldn't smell them. Then Dora laughed, and held them a little
closer to Jip, to make him. Then Jip laid hold of a bit of
geranium with his teeth, and worried imaginary cats in it. Then
Dora beat him, and pouted, and said, 'My poor beautiful flowers!'
as compassionately, I thought, as if Jip had laid hold of me. I
wished he had!
'You'll be so glad to hear, Mr. Copperfield,' said Dora, 'that that
cross Miss Murdstone is not here. She has gone to her brother's
marriage, and will be away at least three weeks. Isn't that
I said I was sure it must be delightful to her, and all that was
delightful to her was delightful to me. Miss Mills, with an air of
superior wisdom and benevolence, smiled upon us.
'She is the most disagreeable thing I ever saw,' said Dora. 'You
can't believe how ill-tempered and shocking she is, Julia.'
'Yes, I can, my dear!' said Julia.
'YOU can, perhaps, love,' returned Dora, with her hand on julia's.
'Forgive my not excepting you, my dear, at first.'
I learnt, from this, that Miss Mills had had her trials in the
course of a chequered existence; and that to these, perhaps, I
might refer that wise benignity of manner which I had already
noticed. i found, in the course of the day, that this was the
case: Miss Mills having been unhappy in a misplaced affection, and
being understood to have retired from the world on her awful stock
of experience, but still to take a calm interest in the unblighted
hopes and loves of youth.
But now Mr. Spenlow came out of the house, and Dora went to him,
saying, 'Look, papa, what beautiful flowers!' And Miss Mills smiled
thoughtfully, as who should say, 'Ye Mayflies, enjoy your brief
existence in the bright morning of life!' And we all walked from
the lawn towards the carriage, which was getting ready.
I shall never have such a ride again. I have never had such
another. There were only those three, their hamper, my hamper, and
the guitar-case, in the phaeton; and, of course, the phaeton was
open; and I rode behind it, and Dora sat with her back to the
horses, looking towards me. She kept the bouquet close to her on
the cushion, and wouldn't allow Jip to sit on that side of her at
all, for fear he should crush it. She often carried it in her
hand, often refreshed herself with its fragrance. Our eyes at
those times often met; and my great astonishment is that I didn't
go over the head of my gallant grey into the carriage.
There was dust, I believe. There was a good deal of dust, I
believe. I have a faint impression that Mr. Spenlow remonstrated
with me for riding in it; but I knew of none. I was sensible of a
mist of love and beauty about Dora, but of nothing else. He stood
up sometimes, and asked me what I thought of the prospect. I said
it was delightful, and I dare say it was; but it was all Dora to
me. The sun shone Dora, and the birds sang Dora. The south wind
blew Dora, and the wild flowers in the hedges were all Doras, to a
bud. My comfort is, Miss Mills understood me. Miss Mills alone
could enter into my feelings thoroughly.
I don't know how long we were going, and to this hour I know as
little where we went. Perhaps it was near Guildford. Perhaps some
Arabian-night magician, opened up the place for the day, and shut
it up for ever when we came away. It was a green spot, on a hill,
carpeted with soft turf. There were shady trees, and heather, and,
as far as the eye could see, a rich landscape.
It was a trying thing to find people here, waiting for us; and my
jealousy, even of the ladies, knew no bounds. But all of my own
sex - especially one impostor, three or four years my elder, with
a red whisker, on which he established an amount of presumption not
to be endured - were my mortal foes.
We all unpacked our baskets, and employed ourselves in getting
dinner ready. Red Whisker pretended he could make a salad (which
I don't believe), and obtruded himself on public notice. Some of
the young ladies washed the lettuces for him, and sliced them under
his directions. Dora was among these. I felt that fate had pitted
me against this man, and one of us must fall.
Red Whisker made his salad (I wondered how they could eat it.
Nothing should have induced ME to touch it!) and voted himself into
the charge of the wine-cellar, which he constructed, being an
ingenious beast, in the hollow trunk of a tree. By and by, I saw
him, with the majority of a lobster on his plate, eating his dinner
at the feet of Dora!
I have but an indistinct idea of what happened for some time after
this baleful object presented itself to my view. I was very merry,
I know; but it was hollow merriment. I attached myself to a young
creature in pink, with little eyes, and flirted with her
desperately. She received my attentions with favour; but whether
on my account solely, or because she had any designs on Red
Whisker, I can't say. Dora's health was drunk. When I drank it,
I affected to interrupt my conversation for that purpose, and to
resume it immediately afterwards. I caught Dora's eye as I bowed
to her, and I thought it looked appealing. But it looked at me
over the head of Red Whisker, and I was adamant.
The young creature in pink had a mother in green; and I rather
think the latter separated us from motives of policy. Howbeit,
there was a general breaking up of the party, while the remnants of
the dinner were being put away; and I strolled off by myself among
the trees, in a raging and remorseful state. I was debating
whether I should pretend that I was not well, and fly - I don't
know where - upon my gallant grey, when Dora and Miss Mills met me.
'Mr. Copperfield,' said Miss Mills, 'you are dull.'
I begged her pardon. Not at all.
'And Dora,' said Miss Mills, 'YOU are dull.'
Oh dear no! Not in the least.
'Mr. Copperfield and Dora,' said Miss Mills, with an almost
venerable air. 'Enough of this. Do not allow a trivial
misunderstanding to wither the blossoms of spring, which, once put
forth and blighted, cannot be renewed. I speak,' said Miss Mills,
'from experience of the past - the remote, irrevocable past. The
gushing fountains which sparkle in the sun, must not be stopped in
mere caprice; the oasis in the desert of Sahara must not be plucked
I hardly knew what I did, I was burning all over to that
extraordinary extent; but I took Dora's little hand and kissed it
- and she let me! I kissed Miss Mills's hand; and we all seemed,
to my thinking, to go straight up to the seventh heaven.
We did not come down again. We stayed up there all the evening.
At first we strayed to and fro among the trees: I with Dora's shy
arm drawn through mine: and Heaven knows, folly as it all was, it
would have been a happy fate to have been struck immortal with
those foolish feelings, and have stayed among the trees for ever!
But, much too soon, we heard the others laughing and talking, and
calling 'where's Dora?' So we went back, and they wanted Dora to
sing. Red Whisker would have got the guitar-case out of the
carriage, but Dora told him nobody knew where it was, but I. So
Red Whisker was done for in a moment; and I got it, and I unlocked
it, and I took the guitar out, and I sat by her, and I held her
handkerchief and gloves, and I drank in every note of her dear
voice, and she sang to ME who loved her, and all the others might
applaud as much as they liked, but they had nothing to do with it!
I was intoxicated with joy. I was afraid it was too happy to be
real, and that I should wake in Buckingham Street presently, and
hear Mrs. Crupp clinking the teacups in getting breakfast ready.
But Dora sang, and others sang, and Miss Mills sang - about the
slumbering echoes in the caverns of Memory; as if she were a
hundred years old - and the evening came on; and we had tea, with
the kettle boiling gipsy-fashion; and I was still as happy as ever.
I was happier than ever when the party broke up, and the other
people, defeated Red Whisker and all, went their several ways, and
we went ours through the still evening and the dying light, with
sweet scents rising up around us. Mr. Spenlow being a little
drowsy after the champagne - honour to the soil that grew the
grape, to the grape that made the wine, to the sun that ripened it,
and to the merchant who adulterated it! - and being fast asleep in
a corner of the carriage, I rode by the side and talked to Dora.
She admired my horse and patted him - oh, what a dear little hand
it looked upon a horse! - and her shawl would not keep right, and
now and then I drew it round her with my arm; and I even fancied
that Jip began to see how it was, and to understand that he must
make up his mind to be friends with me.
That sagacious Miss Mills, too; that amiable, though quite used up,
recluse; that little patriarch of something less than twenty, who
had done with the world, and mustn't on any account have the
slumbering echoes in the caverns of Memory awakened; what a kind
thing she did!
'Mr. Copperfield,' said Miss Mills, 'come to this side of the
carriage a moment - if you can spare a moment. I want to speak to
Behold me, on my gallant grey, bending at the side of Miss Mills,
with my hand upon the carriage door!
'Dora is coming to stay with me. She is coming home with me the
day after tomorrow. If you would like to call, I am sure papa
would be happy to see you.'
What could I do but invoke a silent blessing on Miss Mills's head,
and store Miss Mills's address in the securest corner of my memory!
What could I do but tell Miss Mills, with grateful looks and
fervent words, how much I appreciated her good offices, and what an
inestimable value I set upon her friendship!
Then Miss Mills benignantly dismissed me, saying, 'Go back to
Dora!' and I went; and Dora leaned out of the carriage to talk to
me, and we talked all the rest of the way; and I rode my gallant
grey so close to the wheel that I grazed his near fore leg against
it, and 'took the bark off', as his owner told me, 'to the tune of
three pun' sivin' - which I paid, and thought extremely cheap for
so much joy. What time Miss Mills sat looking at the moon,
murmuring verses- and recalling, I suppose, the ancient days when
she and earth had anything in common.
Norwood was many miles too near, and we reached it many hours too
soon; but Mr. Spenlow came to himself a little short of it, and
said, 'You must come in, Copperfield, and rest!' and I consenting,
we had sandwiches and wine-and-water. In the light room, Dora
blushing looked so lovely, that I could not tear myself away, but
sat there staring, in a dream, until the snoring of Mr. Spenlow
inspired me with sufficient consciousness to take my leave. So we
parted; I riding all the way to London with the farewell touch of
Dora's hand still light on mine, recalling every incident and word
ten thousand times; lying down in my own bed at last, as enraptured
a young noodle as ever was carried out of his five wits by love.
When I awoke next morning, I was resolute to declare my passion to
Dora, and know my fate. Happiness or misery was now the question.
There was no other question that I knew of in the world, and only
Dora could give the answer to it. I passed three days in a luxury
of wretchedness, torturing myself by putting every conceivable
variety of discouraging construction on all that ever had taken
place between Dora and me. At last, arrayed for the purpose at a
vast expense, I went to Miss Mills's, fraught with a declaration.
How many times I went up and down the street, and round the square
- painfully aware of being a much better answer to the old riddle
than the original one - before I could persuade myself to go up the
steps and knock, is no matter now. Even when, at last, I had
knocked, and was waiting at the door, I had some flurried thought
of asking if that were Mr. Blackboy's (in imitation of poor
Barkis), begging pardon, and retreating. But I kept my ground.
Mr. Mills was not at home. I did not expect he would be. Nobody
wanted HIM. Miss Mills was at home. Miss Mills would do.
I was shown into a room upstairs, where Miss Mills and Dora were.
Jip was there. Miss Mills was copying music (I recollect, it was
a new song, called 'Affection's Dirge'), and Dora was painting
flowers. What were my feelings, when I recognized my own flowers;
the identical Covent Garden Market purchase! I cannot say that
they were very like, or that they particularly resembled any
flowers that have ever come under my observation; but I knew from
the paper round them which was accurately copied, what the
Miss Mills was very glad to see me, and very sorry her papa was not
at home: though I thought we all bore that with fortitude. Miss
Mills was conversational for a few minutes, and then, laying down
her pen upon 'Affection's Dirge', got up, and left the room.
I began to think I would put it off till tomorrow.
'I hope your poor horse was not tired, when he got home at night,'
said Dora, lifting up her beautiful eyes. 'It was a long way for
I began to think I would do it today.
'It was a long way for him,' said I, 'for he had nothing to uphold
him on the journey.'
'Wasn't he fed, poor thing?' asked Dora.
I began to think I would put it off till tomorrow.
'Ye-yes,' I said, 'he was well taken care of. I mean he had not
the unutterable happiness that I had in being so near you.'
Dora bent her head over her drawing and said, after a little while
- I had sat, in the interval, in a burning fever, and with my legs
in a very rigid state -
'You didn't seem to be sensible of that happiness yourself, at one
time of the day.'
I saw now that I was in for it, and it must be done on the spot.
'You didn't care for that happiness in the least,' said Dora,
slightly raising her eyebrows, and shaking her head, 'when you were
sitting by Miss Kitt.'
Kitt, I should observe, was the name of the creature in pink, with
the little eyes.
'Though certainly I don't know why you should,' said Dora, or why
you should call it a happiness at all. But of course you don't
mean what you say. And I am sure no one doubts your being at
liberty to do whatever you like. Jip, you naughty boy, come here!'
I don't know how I did it. I did it in a moment. I intercepted
Jip. I had Dora in my arms. I was full of eloquence. I never
stopped for a word. I told her how I loved her. I told her I
should die without her. I told her that I idolized and worshipped
her. Jip barked madly all the time.
When Dora hung her head and cried, and trembled, my eloquence
increased so much the more. If she would like me to die for her,
she had but to say the word, and I was ready. Life without Dora's
love was not a thing to have on any terms. I couldn't bear it, and
I wouldn't. I had loved her every minute, day and night, since I
first saw her. I loved her at that minute to distraction. I
should always love her, every minute, to distraction. Lovers had
loved before, and lovers would love again; but no lover had loved,
might, could, would, or should ever love, as I loved Dora. The
more I raved, the more Jip barked. Each of us, in his own way, got
more mad every moment.
Well, well! Dora and I were sitting on the sofa by and by, quiet
enough, and Jip was lying in her lap, winking peacefully at me. It
was off my mind. I was in a state of perfect rapture. Dora and I
I suppose we had some notion that this was to end in marriage. We
must have had some, because Dora stipulated that we were never to
be married without her papa's consent. But, in our youthful
ecstasy, I don't think that we really looked before us or behind
us; or had any aspiration beyond the ignorant present. We were to
keep our secret from Mr. Spenlow; but I am sure the idea never
entered my head, then, that there was anything dishonourable in
Miss Mills was more than usually pensive when Dora, going to find
her, brought her back; - I apprehend, because there was a tendency
in what had passed to awaken the slumbering echoes in the caverns
of Memory. But she gave us her blessing, and the assurance of her
lasting friendship, and spoke to us, generally, as became a Voice
from the Cloister.
What an idle time it was! What an insubstantial, happy, foolish
time it was!
When I measured Dora's finger for a ring that was to be made of
Forget-me-nots, and when the jeweller, to whom I took the measure,
found me out, and laughed over his order-book, and charged me
anything he liked for the pretty little toy, with its blue stones
- so associated in my remembrance with Dora's hand, that yesterday,
when I saw such another, by chance, on the finger of my own
daughter, there was a momentary stirring in my heart, like pain!
When I walked about, exalted with my secret, and full of my own
interest, and felt the dignity of loving Dora, and of being
beloved, so much, that if I had walked the air, I could not have
been more above the people not so situated, who were creeping on
When we had those meetings in the garden of the square, and sat
within the dingy summer-house, so happy, that I love the London
sparrows to this hour, for nothing else, and see the plumage of the
tropics in their smoky feathers!
When we had our first great quarrel (within a week of our
betrothal), and when Dora sent me back the ring, enclosed in a
despairing cocked-hat note, wherein she used the terrible
expression that 'our love had begun in folly, and ended in
madness!' which dreadful words occasioned me to tear my hair, and
cry that all was over!
When, under cover of the night, I flew to Miss Mills, whom I saw by
stealth in a back kitchen where there was a mangle, and implored
Miss Mills to interpose between us and avert insanity. When Miss
Mills undertook the office and returned with Dora, exhorting us,
from the pulpit of her own bitter youth, to mutual concession, and
the avoidance of the Desert of Sahara!
When we cried, and made it up, and were so blest again, that the
back kitchen, mangle and all, changed to Love's own temple, where
we arranged a plan of correspondence through Miss Mills, always to
comprehend at least one letter on each side every day!
What an idle time! What an insubstantial, happy, foolish time! Of
all the times of mine that Time has in his grip, there is none that
in one retrospect I can smile at half so much, and think of half so
MY AUNT ASTONISHES ME
I wrote to Agnes as soon as Dora and I were engaged. I wrote her
a long letter, in which I tried to make her comprehend how blest I
was, and what a darling Dora was. I entreated Agnes not to regard
this as a thoughtless passion which could ever yield to any other,
or had the least resemblance to the boyish fancies that we used to
joke about. I assured her that its profundity was quite
unfathomable, and expressed my belief that nothing like it had ever
Somehow, as I wrote to Agnes on a fine evening by my open window,
and the remembrance of her clear calm eyes and gentle face came
stealing over me, it shed such a peaceful influence upon the hurry
and agitation in which I had been living lately, and of which my
very happiness partook in some degree, that it soothed me into
tears. I remember that I sat resting my head upon my hand, when
the letter was half done, cherishing a general fancy as if Agnes
were one of the elements of my natural home. As if, in the
retirement of the house made almost sacred to me by her presence,
Dora and I must be happier than anywhere. As if, in love, joy,
sorrow, hope, or disappointment; in all emotions; my heart turned
naturally there, and found its refuge and best friend.
Of Steerforth I said nothing. I only told her there had been sad
grief at Yarmouth, on account of Emily's flight; and that on me it
made a double wound, by reason of the circumstances attending it.
I knew how quick she always was to divine the truth, and that she
would never be the first to breathe his name.
To this letter, I received an answer by return of post. As I read
it, I seemed to hear Agnes speaking to me. It was like her cordial
voice in my ears. What can I say more!
While I had been away from home lately, Traddles had called twice
or thrice. Finding Peggotty within, and being informed by Peggotty
(who always volunteered that information to whomsoever would
receive it), that she was my old nurse, he had established a
good-humoured acquaintance with her, and had stayed to have a
little chat with her about me. So Peggotty said; but I am afraid
the chat was all on her own side, and of immoderate length, as she
was very difficult indeed to stop, God bless her! when she had me
for her theme.
This reminds me, not only that I expected Traddles on a certain
afternoon of his own appointing, which was now come, but that Mrs.
Crupp had resigned everything appertaining to her office (the
salary excepted) until Peggotty should cease to present herself.
Mrs. Crupp, after holding divers conversations respecting Peggotty,
in a very high-pitched voice, on the staircase - with some
invisible Familiar it would appear, for corporeally speaking she
was quite alone at those times - addressed a letter to me,
developing her views. Beginning it with that statement of
universal application, which fitted every occurrence of her life,
namely, that she was a mother herself, she went on to inform me
that she had once seen very different days, but that at all periods
of her existence she had had a constitutional objection to spies,
intruders, and informers. She named no names, she said; let them
the cap fitted, wear it; but spies, intruders, and informers,
especially in widders' weeds (this clause was underlined), she had
ever accustomed herself to look down upon. If a gentleman was the
victim of spies, intruders, and informers (but still naming no
names), that was his own pleasure. He had a right to please
himself; so let him do. All that she, Mrs. Crupp, stipulated for,
was, that she should not be 'brought in contract' with such
persons. Therefore she begged to be excused from any further
attendance on the top set, until things were as they formerly was,
and as they could be wished to be; and further mentioned that her
little book would be found upon the breakfast-table every Saturday
morning, when she requested an immediate settlement of the same,
with the benevolent view of saving trouble 'and an ill-conwenience'
to all parties.
After this, Mrs. Crupp confined herself to making pitfalls on the
stairs, principally with pitchers, and endeavouring to delude
Peggotty into breaking her legs. I found it rather harassing to
live in this state of siege, but was too much afraid of Mrs. Crupp
to see any way out of it.
'My dear Copperfield,' cried Traddles, punctually appearing at my
door, in spite of all these obstacles, 'how do you do?'
'My dear Traddles,' said I, 'I am delighted to see you at last, and
very sorry I have not been at home before. But I have been so much
'Yes, yes, I know,' said Traddles, 'of course. Yours lives in
London, I think.'
'What did you say?'
'She - excuse me - Miss D., you know,' said Traddles, colouring in
his great delicacy, 'lives in London, I believe?'
'Oh yes. Near London.'
'Mine, perhaps you recollect,' said Traddles, with a serious look,
'lives down in Devonshire - one of ten. Consequently, I am not so
much engaged as you - in that sense.'
'I wonder you can bear,' I returned, 'to see her so seldom.'
'Hah!' said Traddles, thoughtfully. 'It does seem a wonder. I
suppose it is, Copperfield, because there is no help for it?'
'I suppose so,' I replied with a smile, and not without a blush.
'And because you have so much constancy and patience, Traddles.'
'Dear me!' said Traddles, considering about it, 'do I strike you in
that way, Copperfield? Really I didn't know that I had. But she
is such an extraordinarily dear girl herself, that it's possible
she may have imparted something of those virtues to me. Now you
mention it, Copperfield, I shouldn't wonder at all. I assure you
she is always forgetting herself, and taking care of the other
'Is she the eldest?' I inquired.
'Oh dear, no,' said Traddles. 'The eldest is a Beauty.'
He saw, I suppose, that I could not help smiling at the simplicity
of this reply; and added, with a smile upon his own ingenuous face:
'Not, of course, but that my Sophy - pretty name, Copperfield, I
'Very pretty!' said I.
'Not, of course, but that Sophy is beautiful too in my eyes, and
would be one of the dearest girls that ever was, in anybody's eyes
(I should think). But when I say the eldest is a Beauty, I mean
she really is a -' he seemed to be describing clouds about himself,
with both hands: 'Splendid, you know,' said Traddles,
'Indeed!' said I.
'Oh, I assure you,' said Traddles, 'something very uncommon,
indeed! Then, you know, being formed for society and admiration,
and not being able to enjoy much of it in consequence of their
limited means, she naturally gets a little irritable and exacting,
sometimes. Sophy puts her in good humour!'
'Is Sophy the youngest?' I hazarded.
'Oh dear, no!' said Traddles, stroking his chin. 'The two youngest
are only nine and ten. Sophy educates 'em.'
'The second daughter, perhaps?' I hazarded.
'No,' said Traddles. 'Sarah's the second. Sarah has something the
matter with her spine, poor girl. The malady will wear out by and
by, the doctors say, but in the meantime she has to lie down for a
twelvemonth. Sophy nurses her. Sophy's the fourth.'
'Is the mother living?' I inquired.
'Oh yes,' said Traddles, 'she is alive. She is a very superior
woman indeed, but the damp country is not adapted to her
constitution, and - in fact, she has lost the use of her limbs.'
'Dear me!' said I.
'Very sad, is it not?' returned Traddles. 'But in a merely
domestic view it is not so bad as it might be, because Sophy takes
her place. She is quite as much a mother to her mother, as she is
to the other nine.'
I felt the greatest admiration for the virtues of this young lady;
and, honestly with the view of doing my best to prevent the
good-nature of Traddles from being imposed upon, to the detriment
of their joint prospects in life, inquired how Mr. Micawber was?
'He is quite well, Copperfield, thank you,' said Traddles. 'I am
not living with him at present.'
'No. You see the truth is,' said Traddles, in a whisper, 'he had
changed his name to Mortimer, in consequence of his temporary
embarrassments; and he don't come out till after dark - and then in
spectacles. There was an execution put into our house, for rent.
Mrs. Micawber was in such a dreadful state that I really couldn't
resist giving my name to that second bill we spoke of here. You
may imagine how delightful it was to my feelings, Copperfield, to
see the matter settled with it, and Mrs. Micawber recover her
'Hum!' said I.
'Not that her happiness was of long duration,' pursued Traddles,
'for, unfortunately, within a week another execution came in. It
broke up the establishment. I have been living in a furnished
apartment since then, and the Mortimers have been very private
indeed. I hope you won't think it selfish, Copperfield, if I
mention that the broker carried off my little round table with the
marble top, and Sophy's flower-pot and stand?'
'What a hard thing!' I exclaimed indignantly.
'It was a - it was a pull,' said Traddles, with his usual wince at
that expression. 'I don't mention it reproachfully, however, but
with a motive. The fact is, Copperfield, I was unable to
repurchase them at the time of their seizure; in the first place,
because the broker, having an idea that I wanted them, ran the
price up to an extravagant extent; and, in the second place,
because I - hadn't any money. Now, I have kept my eye since, upon
the broker's shop,' said Traddles, with a great enjoyment of his
mystery, 'which is up at the top of Tottenham Court Road, and, at
last, today I find them put out for sale. I have only noticed them
from over the way, because if the broker saw me, bless you, he'd
ask any price for them! What has occurred to me, having now the
money, is, that perhaps you wouldn't object to ask that good nurse
of yours to come with me to the shop - I can show it her from round
the corner of the next street - and make the best bargain for them,
as if they were for herself, that she can!'
The delight with which Traddles propounded this plan to me, and the
sense he had of its uncommon artfulness, are among the freshest
things in my remembrance.
I told him that my old nurse would be delighted to assist him, and
that we would all three take the field together, but on one
condition. That condition was, that he should make a solemn
resolution to grant no more loans of his name, or anything else, to
'My dear Copperfield,' said Traddles, 'I have already done so,
because I begin to feel that I have not only been inconsiderate,
but that I have been positively unjust to Sophy. My word being
passed to myself, there is no longer any apprehension; but I pledge
it to you, too, with the greatest readiness. That first unlucky
obligation, I have paid. I have no doubt Mr. Micawber would have
paid it if he could, but he could not. One thing I ought to
mention, which I like very much in Mr. Micawber, Copperfield. It
refers to the second obligation, which is not yet due. He don't
tell me that it is provided for, but he says it WILL BE. Now, I
think there is something very fair and honest about that!'
I was unwilling to damp my good friend's confidence, and therefore
assented. After a little further conversation, we went round to
the chandler's shop, to enlist Peggotty; Traddles declining to pass
the evening with me, both because he endured the liveliest
apprehensions that his property would be bought by somebody else
before he could re-purchase it, and because it was the evening he
always devoted to writing to the dearest girl in the world.
I never shall forget him peeping round the corner of the street in
Tottenham Court Road, while Peggotty was bargaining for the
precious articles; or his agitation when she came slowly towards us
after vainly offering a price, and was hailed by the relenting
broker, and went back again. The end of the negotiation was, that
she bought the property on tolerably easy terms, and Traddles was
transported with pleasure.
'I am very much obliged to you, indeed,' said Traddles, on hearing
it was to be sent to where he lived, that night. 'If I might ask
one other favour, I hope you would not think it absurd,
I said beforehand, certainly not.
'Then if you WOULD be good enough,' said Traddles to Peggotty, 'to
get the flower-pot now, I think I should like (it being Sophy's,
Copperfield) to carry it home myself!'
Peggotty was glad to get it for him, and he overwhelmed her with
thanks, and went his way up Tottenham Court Road, carrying the
flower-pot affectionately in his arms, with one of the most
delighted expressions of countenance I ever saw.
We then turned back towards my chambers. As the shops had charms
for Peggotty which I never knew them possess in the same degree for
anybody else, I sauntered easily along, amused by her staring in at
the windows, and waiting for her as often as she chose. We were
thus a good while in getting to the Adelphi.
On our way upstairs, I called her attention to the sudden
disappearance of Mrs. Crupp's pitfalls, and also to the prints of
recent footsteps. We were both very much surprised, coming higher
up, to find my outer door standing open (which I had shut) and to
hear voices inside.
We looked at one another, without knowing what to make of this, and
went into the sitting-room. What was my amazement to find, of all
people upon earth, my aunt there, and Mr. Dick! My aunt sitting on
a quantity of luggage, with her two birds before her, and her cat
on her knee, like a female Robinson Crusoe, drinking tea. Mr. Dick
leaning thoughtfully on a great kite, such as we had often been out
together to fly, with more luggage piled about him!
'My dear aunt!' cried I. 'Why, what an unexpected pleasure!'
We cordially embraced; and Mr. Dick and I cordially shook hands;
and Mrs. Crupp, who was busy making tea, and could not be too
attentive, cordially said she had knowed well as Mr. Copperfull
would have his heart in his mouth, when he see his dear relations.
'Holloa!' said my aunt to Peggotty, who quailed before her awful
presence. 'How are YOU?'
'You remember my aunt, Peggotty?' said I.
'For the love of goodness, child,' exclaimed my aunt, 'don't call
the woman by that South Sea Island name! If she married and got
rid of it, which was the best thing she could do, why don't you
give her the benefit of the change? What's your name now, - P?'
said my aunt, as a compromise for the obnoxious appellation.
'Barkis, ma'am,' said Peggotty, with a curtsey.
'Well! That's human,' said my aunt. 'It sounds less as if you
wanted a missionary. How d'ye do, Barkis? I hope you're well?'
Encouraged by these gracious words, and by my aunt's extending her
hand, Barkis came forward, and took the hand, and curtseyed her
'We are older than we were, I see,' said my aunt. 'We have only
met each other once before, you know. A nice business we made of
it then! Trot, my dear, another cup.'
I handed it dutifully to my aunt, who was in her usual inflexible
state of figure; and ventured a remonstrance with her on the
subject of her sitting on a box.
'Let me draw the sofa here, or the easy-chair, aunt,' said I. 'Why
should you be so uncomfortable?'
'Thank you, Trot,' replied my aunt, 'I prefer to sit upon my
property.' Here my aunt looked hard at Mrs. Crupp, and observed,
'We needn't trouble you to wait, ma'am.'
'Shall I put a little more tea in the pot afore I go, ma'am?' said
'No, I thank you, ma'am,' replied my aunt.
'Would you let me fetch another pat of butter, ma'am?' said Mrs.
Crupp. 'Or would you be persuaded to try a new-laid hegg? or
should I brile a rasher? Ain't there nothing I could do for your
dear aunt, Mr. Copperfull?'
'Nothing, ma'am,' returned my aunt. 'I shall do very well, I thank
Mrs. Crupp, who had been incessantly smiling to express sweet
temper, and incessantly holding her head on one side, to express a
general feebleness of constitution, and incessantly rubbing her
hands, to express a desire to be of service to all deserving
objects, gradually smiled herself, one-sided herself, and rubbed
herself, out of the room.
'Dick!' said my aunt. 'You know what I told you about time-servers
Mr. Dick - with rather a scared look, as if he had forgotten it -
returned a hasty answer in the affirmative.
'Mrs. Crupp is one of them,' said my aunt. 'Barkis, I'll trouble
you to look after the tea, and let me have another cup, for I don't
fancy that woman's pouring-out!'
I knew my aunt sufficiently well to know that she had something of
importance on her mind, and that there was far more matter in this
arrival than a stranger might have supposed. I noticed how her eye
lighted on me, when she thought my attention otherwise occupied;
and what a curious process of hesitation appeared to be going on
within her, while she preserved her outward stiffness and
composure. I began to reflect whether I had done anything to
offend her; and my conscience whispered me that I had not yet told
her about Dora. Could it by any means be that, I wondered!
As I knew she would only speak in her own good time, I sat down
near her, and spoke to the birds, and played with the cat, and was
as easy as I could be. But I was very far from being really easy;
and I should still have been so, even if Mr. Dick, leaning over the
great kite behind my aunt, had not taken every secret opportunity
of shaking his head darkly at me, and pointing at her.
'Trot,' said my aunt at last, when she had finished her tea, and
carefully smoothed down her dress, and wiped her lips - 'you
needn't go, Barkis! - Trot, have you got to be firm and
'I hope so, aunt.'
'What do you think?' inquired Miss Betsey.
'I think so, aunt.'
'Then why, my love,' said my aunt, looking earnestly at me, 'why do
you think I prefer to sit upon this property of mine tonight?'
I shook my head, unable to guess.
'Because,' said my aunt, 'it's all I have. Because I'm ruined, my
If the house, and every one of us, had tumbled out into the river
together, I could hardly have received a greater shock.
'Dick knows it,' said my aunt, laying her hand calmly on my
shoulder. 'I am ruined, my dear Trot! All I have in the world is
in this room, except the cottage; and that I have left Janet to
let. Barkis, I want to get a bed for this gentleman tonight. To
save expense, perhaps you can make up something here for myself.
Anything will do. It's only for tonight. We'll talk about this,
I was roused from my amazement, and concern for her - I am sure,
for her - by her falling on my neck, for a moment, and crying that
she only grieved for me. In another moment she suppressed this
emotion; and said with an aspect more triumphant than dejected:
'We must meet reverses boldly, and not suffer them to frighten us,
my dear. We must learn to act the play out. We must live
misfortune down, Trot!'
As soon as I could recover my presence of mind, which quite
deserted me in the first overpowering shock of my aunt's
intelligence, I proposed to Mr. Dick to come round to the
chandler's shop, and take possession of the bed which Mr. Peggotty
had lately vacated. The chandler's shop being in Hungerford
Market, and Hungerford Market being a very different place in those
days, there was a low wooden colonnade before the door (not very
unlike that before the house where the little man and woman used to
live, in the old weather-glass), which pleased Mr. Dick mightily.
The glory of lodging over this structure would have compensated
him, I dare say, for many inconveniences; but, as there were really
few to bear, beyond the compound of flavours I have already
mentioned, and perhaps the want of a little more elbow-room, he was
perfectly charmed with his accommodation. Mrs. Crupp had
indignantly assured him that there wasn't room to swing a cat
there; but, as Mr. Dick justly observed to me, sitting down on the
foot of the bed, nursing his leg, 'You know, Trotwood, I don't want
to swing a cat. I never do swing a cat. Therefore, what does that
signify to ME!'
I tried to ascertain whether Mr. Dick had any understanding of the
causes of this sudden and great change in my aunt's affairs. As I
might have expected, he had none at all. The only account he could
give of it was, that my aunt had said to him, the day before
yesterday, 'Now, Dick, are you really and truly the philosopher I
take you for?' That then he had said, Yes, he hoped so. That then
my aunt had said, 'Dick, I am ruined.' That then he had said, 'Oh,
indeed!' That then my aunt had praised him highly, which he was
glad of. And that then they had come to me, and had had bottled
porter and sandwiches on the road.
Mr. Dick was so very complacent, sitting on the foot of the bed,
nursing his leg, and telling me this, with his eyes wide open and
a surprised smile, that I am sorry to say I was provoked into
explaining to him that ruin meant distress, want, and starvation;
but I was soon bitterly reproved for this harshness, by seeing his
face turn pale, and tears course down his lengthened cheeks, while
he fixed upon me a look of such unutterable woe, that it might have
softened a far harder heart than mine. I took infinitely greater
pains to cheer him up again than I had taken to depress him; and I
soon understood (as I ought to have known at first) that he had
been so confident, merely because of his faith in the wisest and
most wonderful of women, and his unbounded reliance on my
intellectual resources. The latter, I believe, he considered a
match for any kind of disaster not absolutely mortal.
'What can we do, Trotwood?' said Mr. Dick. 'There's the Memorial
'To be sure there is,' said I. 'But all we can do just now, Mr.
Dick, is to keep a cheerful countenance, and not let my aunt see
that we are thinking about it.'
He assented to this in the most earnest manner; and implored me, if
I should see him wandering an inch out of the right course, to
recall him by some of those superior methods which were always at
my command. But I regret to state that the fright I had given him
proved too much for his best attempts at concealment. All the
evening his eyes wandered to my aunt's face, with an expression of
the most dismal apprehension, as if he saw her growing thin on the
spot. He was conscious of this, and put a constraint upon his
head; but his keeping that immovable, and sitting rolling his eyes
like a piece of machinery, did not mend the matter at all. I saw
him look at the loaf at supper (which happened to be a small one),
as if nothing else stood between us and famine; and when my aunt
insisted on his making his customary repast, I detected him in the
act of pocketing fragments of his bread and cheese; I have no doubt
for the purpose of reviving us with those savings, when we should
have reached an advanced stage of attenuation.
My aunt, on the other hand, was in a composed frame of mind, which
was a lesson to all of us - to me, I am sure. She was extremely
gracious to Peggotty, except when I inadvertently called her by
that name; and, strange as I knew she felt in London, appeared
quite at home. She was to have my bed, and I was to lie in the
sitting-room, to keep guard over her. She made a great point of
being so near the river, in case of a conflagration; and I suppose
really did find some satisfaction in that circumstance.
'Trot, my dear,' said my aunt, when she saw me making preparations
for compounding her usual night-draught, 'No!'
'Not wine, my dear. Ale.'
'But there is wine here, aunt. And you always have it made of
'Keep that, in case of sickness,' said my aunt. 'We mustn't use it
carelessly, Trot. Ale for me. Half a pint.'
I thought Mr. Dick would have fallen, insensible. My aunt being
resolute, I went out and got the ale myself. As it was growing
late, Peggotty and Mr. Dick took that opportunity of repairing to
the chandler's shop together. I parted from him, poor fellow, at
the corner of the street, with his great kite at his back, a very
monument of human misery.
My aunt was walking up and down the room when I returned, crimping
the borders of her nightcap with her fingers. I warmed the ale and
made the toast on the usual infallible principles. When it was
ready for her, she was ready for it, with her nightcap on, and the
skirt of her gown turned back on her knees.
'My dear,' said my aunt, after taking a spoonful of it; 'it's a
great deal better than wine. Not half so bilious.'
I suppose I looked doubtful, for she added:
'Tut, tut, child. If nothing worse than Ale happens to us, we are
'I should think so myself, aunt, I am sure,' said I.
'Well, then, why DON'T you think so?' said my aunt.
'Because you and I are very different people,' I returned.
'Stuff and nonsense, Trot!' replied my aunt.
MY aunt went on with a quiet enjoyment, in which there was very
little affectation, if any; drinking the warm ale with a tea-spoon,
and soaking her strips of toast in it.
'Trot,' said she, 'I don't care for strange faces in general, but
I rather like that Barkis of yours, do you know!'
'It's better than a hundred pounds to hear you say so!' said I.
'It's a most extraordinary world,' observed my aunt, rubbing her
nose; 'how that woman ever got into it with that name, is
unaccountable to me. It would be much more easy to be born a
Jackson, or something of that sort, one would think.'
'Perhaps she thinks so, too; it's not her fault,' said I.
'I suppose not,' returned my aunt, rather grudging the admission;
'but it's very aggravating. However, she's Barkis now. That's
some comfort. Barkis is uncommonly fond of you, Trot.'
'There is nothing she would leave undone to prove it,' said I.
'Nothing, I believe,' returned my aunt. 'Here, the poor fool has
been begging and praying about handing over some of her money -
because she has got too much of it. A simpleton!'
My aunt's tears of pleasure were positively trickling down into the
'She's the most ridiculous creature that ever was born,' said my
aunt. 'I knew, from the first moment when I saw her with that poor
dear blessed baby of a mother of yours, that she was the most
ridiculous of mortals. But there are good points in Barkis!'
Affecting to laugh, she got an opportunity of putting her hand to
her eyes. Having availed herself of it, she resumed her toast and
her discourse together.
'Ah! Mercy upon us!' sighed my aunt. 'I know all about it, Trot!
Barkis and myself had quite a gossip while you were out with Dick.
I know all about it. I don't know where these wretched girls
expect to go to, for my part. I wonder they don't knock out their
brains against - against mantelpieces,' said my aunt; an idea which
was probably suggested to her by her contemplation of mine.
'Poor Emily!' said I.
'Oh, don't talk to me about poor,' returned my aunt. 'She should
have thought of that, before she caused so much misery! Give me a
kiss, Trot. I am sorry for your early experience.'
As I bent forward, she put her tumbler on my knee to detain me, and
'Oh, Trot, Trot! And so you fancy yourself in love! Do you?'
'Fancy, aunt!' I exclaimed, as red as I could be. 'I adore her
with my whole soul!'
'Dora, indeed!' returned my aunt. 'And you mean to say the little
thing is very fascinating, I suppose?'
'My dear aunt,' I replied, 'no one can form the least idea what she
'Ah! And not silly?' said my aunt.
I seriously believe it had never once entered my head for a single
moment, to consider whether she was or not. I resented the idea,
of course; but I was in a manner struck by it, as a new one
'Not light-headed?' said my aunt.
'Light-headed, aunt!' I could only repeat this daring speculation
with the same kind of feeling with which I had repeated the
'Well, well!' said my aunt. 'I only ask. I don't depreciate her.
Poor little couple! And so you think you were formed for one
another, and are to go through a party-supper-table kind of life,
like two pretty pieces of confectionery, do you, Trot?'
She asked me this so kindly, and with such a gentle air, half
playful and half sorrowful, that I was quite touched.
'We are young and inexperienced, aunt, I know,' I replied; 'and I
dare say we say and think a good deal that is rather foolish. But
we love one another truly, I am sure. If I thought Dora could ever
love anybody else, or cease to love me; or that I could ever love
anybody else, or cease to love her; I don't know what I should do
- go out of my mind, I think!'
'Ah, Trot!' said my aunt, shaking her head, and smiling gravely;
'blind, blind, blind!'
'Someone that I know, Trot,' my aunt pursued, after a pause,
'though of a very pliant disposition, has an earnestness of
affection in him that reminds me of poor Baby. Earnestness is what
that Somebody must look for, to sustain him and improve him, Trot.
Deep, downright, faithful earnestness.'
'If you only knew the earnestness of Dora, aunt!' I cried.
'Oh, Trot!' she said again; 'blind, blind!' and without knowing
why, I felt a vague unhappy loss or want of something overshadow me
like a cloud.
'However,' said my aunt, 'I don't want to put two young creatures
out of conceit with themselves, or to make them unhappy; so, though
it is a girl and boy attachment, and girl and boy attachments very
often - mind! I don't say always! - come to nothing, still we'll be
serious about it, and hope for a prosperous issue one of these
days. There's time enough for it to come to anything!'
This was not upon the whole very comforting to a rapturous lover;
but I was glad to have my aunt in my confidence, and I was mindful
of her being fatigued. So I thanked her ardently for this mark of
her affection, and for all her other kindnesses towards me; and
after a tender good night, she took her nightcap into my bedroom.
How miserable I was, when I lay down! How I thought and thought
about my being poor, in Mr. Spenlow's eyes; about my not being what
I thought I was, when I proposed to Dora; about the chivalrous
necessity of telling Dora what my worldly condition was, and
releasing her from her engagement if she thought fit; about how I
should contrive to live, during the long term of my articles, when
I was earning nothing; about doing something to assist my aunt, and
seeing no way of doing anything; about coming down to have no money
in my pocket, and to wear a shabby coat, and to be able to carry
Dora no little presents, and to ride no gallant greys, and to show
myself in no agreeable light! Sordid and selfish as I knew it was,
and as I tortured myself by knowing that it was, to let my mind run
on my own distress so much, I was so devoted to Dora that I could
not help it. I knew that it was base in me not to think more of my
aunt, and less of myself; but, so far, selfishness was inseparable
from Dora, and I could not put Dora on one side for any mortal
creature. How exceedingly miserable I was, that night!
As to sleep, I had dreams of poverty in all sorts of shapes, but I
seemed to dream without the previous ceremony of going to sleep.
Now I was ragged, wanting to sell Dora matches, six bundles for a
halfpenny; now I was at the office in a nightgown and boots,
remonstrated with by Mr. Spenlow on appearing before the clients in
that airy attire; now I was hungrily picking up the crumbs that
fell from old Tiffey's daily biscuit, regularly eaten when St.
Paul's struck one; now I was hopelessly endeavouring to get a
licence to marry Dora, having nothing but one of Uriah Heep's
gloves to offer in exchange, which the whole Commons rejected; and
still, more or less conscious of my own room, I was always tossing
about like a distressed ship in a sea of bed-clothes.
My aunt was restless, too, for I frequently heard her walking to
and fro. Two or,three times in the course of the night, attired in
a long flannel wrapper in which she looked seven feet high, she
appeared, like a disturbed ghost, in my room, and came to the side
of the sofa on which I lay. On the first occasion I started up in
alarm, to learn that she inferred from a particular light in the
sky, that Westminster Abbey was on fire; and to be consulted in
reference to the probability of its igniting Buckingham Street, in
case the wind changed. Lying still, after that, I found that she
sat down near me, whispering to herself 'Poor boy!' And then it
made me twenty times more wretched, to know how unselfishly mindful
she was of me, and how selfishly mindful I was of myself.
It was difficult to believe that a night so long to me, could be
short to anybody else. This consideration set me thinking and
thinking of an imaginary party where people were dancing the hours
away, until that became a dream too, and I heard the music
incessantly playing one tune, and saw Dora incessantly dancing one
dance, without taking the least notice of me. The man who had been
playing the harp all night, was trying in vain to cover it with an
ordinary-sized nightcap, when I awoke; or I should rather say, when
I left off trying to go to sleep, and saw the sun shining in
through the window at last.
There was an old Roman bath in those days at the bottom of one of
the streets out of the Strand - it may be there still - in which I
have had many a cold plunge. Dressing myself as quietly as I
could, and leaving Peggotty to look after my aunt, I tumbled head
foremost into it, and then went for a walk to Hampstead. I had a
hope that this brisk treatment might freshen my wits a little; and
I think it did them good, for I soon came to the conclusion that
the first step I ought to take was, to try if my articles could be
cancelled and the premium recovered. I got some breakfast on the
Heath, and walked back to Doctors' Commons, along the watered roads
and through a pleasant smell of summer flowers, growing in gardens
and carried into town on hucksters' heads, intent on this first
effort to meet our altered circumstances.
I arrived at the office so soon, after all, that I had half an
hour's loitering about the Commons, before old Tiffey, who was
always first, appeared with his key. Then I sat down in my shady
corner, looking up at the sunlight on the opposite chimney-pots,
and thinking about Dora; until Mr. Spenlow came in, crisp and
'How are you, Copperfield?' said he. 'Fine morning!'
'Beautiful morning, sir,' said I. 'Could I say a word to you
before you go into Court?'
'By all means,' said he. 'Come into my room.'
I followed him into his room, and he began putting on his gown, and
touching himself up before a little glass he had, hanging inside a
'I am sorry to say,' said I, 'that I have some rather disheartening
intelligence from my aunt.'
'No!' said he. 'Dear me! Not paralysis, I hope?'
'It has no reference to her health, sir,' I replied. 'She has met
with some large losses. In fact, she has very little left,
'You as-tound me, Copperfield!' cried Mr. Spenlow.
I shook my head. 'Indeed, sir,' said I, 'her affairs are so
changed, that I wished to ask you whether it would be possible - at
a sacrifice on our part of some portion of the premium, of course,'
I put in this, on the spur of the moment, warned by the blank
expression of his face - 'to cancel my articles?'
What it cost me to make this proposal, nobody knows. It was like
asking, as a favour, to be sentenced to transportation from Dora.
'To cancel your articles, Copperfield? Cancel?'
I explained with tolerable firmness, that I really did not know
where my means of subsistence were to come from, unless I could
earn them for myself. I had no fear for the future, I said - and
I laid great emphasis on that, as if to imply that I should still
be decidedly eligible for a son-in-law one of these days - but, for
the present, I was thrown upon my own resources.
'I am extremely sorry to hear this, Copperfield,' said Mr. Spenlow.
'Extremely sorry. It is not usual to cancel articles for any such
reason. It is not a professional course of proceeding. It is not
a convenient precedent at all. Far from it. At the same time -'
'You are very good, sir,' I murmured, anticipating a concession.
'Not at all. Don't mention it,' said Mr. Spenlow. 'At the same
time, I was going to say, if it had been my lot to have my hands
unfettered - if I had not a partner - Mr. Jorkins -'
My hopes were dashed in a moment, but I made another effort.
'Do you think, sir,' said I, 'if I were to mention it to Mr.
Mr. Spenlow shook his head discouragingly. 'Heaven forbid,
Copperfield,' he replied, 'that I should do any man an injustice:
still less, Mr. jorkins. But I know my partner, Copperfield. Mr.
jorkins is not a man to respond to a proposition of this peculiar
nature. Mr. jorkins is very difficult to move from the beaten
track. You know what he is!'
I am sure I knew nothing about him, except that he had originally
been alone in the business, and now lived by himself in a house
near Montagu Square, which was fearfully in want of painting; that
he came very late of a day, and went away very early; that he never
appeared to be consulted about anything; and that he had a dingy
little black-hole of his own upstairs, where no business was ever
done, and where there was a yellow old cartridge-paper pad upon his
desk, unsoiled by ink, and reported to be twenty years of age.
'Would you object to my mentioning it to him, sir?' I asked.
'By no means,' said Mr. Spenlow. 'But I have some experience of
Mr. jorkins, Copperfield. I wish it were otherwise, for I should
be happy to meet your views in any respect. I cannot have the
objection to your mentioning it to Mr. jorkins, Copperfield, if you
think it worth while.'
Availing myself of this permission, which was given with a warm
shake of the hand, I sat thinking about Dora, and looking at the
sunlight stealing from the chimney-pots down the wall of the
opposite house, until Mr. jorkins came. I then went up to Mr.
jorkins's room, and evidently astonished Mr. jorkins very much by
making my appearance there.
'Come in, Mr. Copperfield,' said Mr. jorkins. 'Come in!'
I went in, and sat down; and stated my case to Mr. jorkins pretty
much as I had stated it to Mr. Spenlow. Mr. Jorkins was not by any
means the awful creature one might have expected, but a large,
mild, smooth-faced man of sixty, who took so much snuff that there
was a tradition in the Commons that he lived principally on that
stimulant, having little room in his system for any other article
'You have mentioned this to Mr. Spenlow, I suppose?' said Mr.
jorkins; when he had heard me, very restlessly, to an end.
I answered Yes, and told him that Mr. Spenlow had introduced his
'He said I should object?' asked Mr. jorkins.
I was obliged to admit that Mr. Spenlow had considered it probable.
'I am sorry to say, Mr. Copperfield, I can't advance your object,'
said Mr. jorkins, nervously. 'The fact is - but I have an
appointment at the Bank, if you'll have the goodness to excuse me.'
With that he rose in a great hurry, and was going out of the room,
when I made bold to say that I feared, then, there was no way of
arranging the matter?
'No!' said Mr. jorkins, stopping at the door to shake his head.
'Oh, no! I object, you know,' which he said very rapidly, and went
out. 'You must be aware, Mr. Copperfield,' he added, looking
restlessly in at the door again, 'if Mr. Spenlow objects -'
'Personally, he does not object, sir,' said I.
'Oh! Personally!' repeated Mr. Jorkins, in an impatient manner.
'I assure you there's an objection, Mr. Copperfield. Hopeless!
What you wish to be done, can't be done. I - I really have got an
appointment at the Bank.' With that he fairly ran away; and to the
best of my knowledge, it was three days before he showed himself in
the Commons again.
Being very anxious to leave no stone unturned, I waited until Mr.
Spenlow came in, and then described what had passed; giving him to
understand that I was not hopeless of his being able to soften the
adamantine jorkins, if he would undertake the task.
'Copperfield,' returned Mr. Spenlow, with a gracious smile, 'you
have not known my partner, Mr. jorkins, as long as I have. Nothing
is farther from my thoughts than to attribute any degree of
artifice to Mr. jorkins. But Mr. jorkins has a way of stating his
objections which often deceives people. No, Copperfield!' shaking
his head. 'Mr. jorkins is not to be moved, believe me!'
I was completely bewildered between Mr. Spenlow and Mr. jorkins, as
to which of them really was the objecting partner; but I saw with
sufficient clearness that there was obduracy somewhere in the firm,
and that the recovery of my aunt's thousand pounds was out of the
question. In a state of despondency, which I remember with
anything but satisfaction, for I know it still had too much
reference to myself (though always in connexion with Dora), I left
the office, and went homeward.
I was trying to familiarize my mind with the worst, and to present
to myself the arrangements we should have to make for the future in
their sternest aspect, when a hackney-chariot coming after me, and
stopping at my very feet, occasioned me to look up. A fair hand
was stretched forth to me from the window; and the face I had never
seen without a feeling of serenity and happiness, from the moment
when it first turned back on the old oak staircase with the great
broad balustrade, and when I associated its softened beauty with
the stained-glass window in the church, was smiling on me.
'Agnes!' I joyfully exclaimed. 'Oh, my dear Agnes, of all people
in the world, what a pleasure to see you!'
'Is it, indeed?' she said, in her cordial voice.
'I want to talk to you so much!' said I. 'It's such a lightening
of my heart, only to look at you! If I had had a conjuror's cap,
there is no one I should have wished for but you!'
'What?' returned Agnes.
'Well! perhaps Dora first,' I admitted, with a blush.
'Certainly, Dora first, I hope,' said Agnes, laughing.
'But you next!' said I. 'Where are you going?'
She was going to my rooms to see my aunt. The day being very fine,
she was glad to come out of the chariot, which smelt (I had my head
in it all this time) like a stable put under a cucumber-frame. I
dismissed the coachman, and she took my arm, and we walked on
together. She was like Hope embodied, to me. How different I felt
in one short minute, having Agnes at my side!
My aunt had written her one of the odd, abrupt notes - very little
longer than a Bank note - to which her epistolary efforts were
usually limited. She had stated therein that she had fallen into
adversity, and was leaving Dover for good, but had quite made up
her mind to it, and was so well that nobody need be uncomfortable
about her. Agnes had come to London to see my aunt, between whom
and herself there had been a mutual liking these many years:
indeed, it dated from the time of my taking up my residence in Mr.
Wickfield's house. She was not alone, she said. Her papa was with
her - and Uriah Heep.
'And now they are partners,' said I. 'Confound him!'
'Yes,' said Agnes. 'They have some business here; and I took
advantage of their coming, to come too. You must not think my
visit all friendly and disinterested, Trotwood, for - I am afraid
I may be cruelly prejudiced - I do not like to let papa go away
alone, with him.'
'Does he exercise the same influence over Mr. Wickfield still,
Agnes shook her head. 'There is such a change at home,' said she,
'that you would scarcely know the dear old house. They live with
'They?' said I.
'Mr. Heep and his mother. He sleeps in your old room,' said Agnes,
looking up into my face.
'I wish I had the ordering of his dreams,' said I. 'He wouldn't
sleep there long.'
'I keep my own little room,' said Agnes, 'where I used to learn my
lessons. How the time goes! You remember? The little panelled
room that opens from the drawing-room?'
'Remember, Agnes? When I saw you, for the first time, coming out
at the door, with your quaint little basket of keys hanging at your
'It is just the same,' said Agnes, smiling. 'I am glad you think
of it so pleasantly. We were very happy.'
'We were, indeed,' said I.
'I keep that room to myself still; but I cannot always desert Mrs.
Heep, you know. And so,' said Agnes, quietly, 'I feel obliged to
bear her company, when I might prefer to be alone. But I have no
other reason to complain of her. If she tires me, sometimes, by
her praises of her son, it is only natural in a mother. He is a
very good son to her.'
I looked at Agnes when she said these words, without detecting in
her any consciousness of Uriah's design. Her mild but earnest eyes
met mine with their own beautiful frankness, and there was no
change in her gentle face.
'The chief evil of their presence in the house,' said Agnes, 'is
that I cannot be as near papa as I could wish - Uriah Heep being so
much between us - and cannot watch over him, if that is not too
bold a thing to say, as closely as I would. But if any fraud or
treachery is practising against him, I hope that simple love and
truth will be strong in the end. I hope that real love and truth
are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.'
A certain bright smile, which I never saw on any other face, died
away, even while I thought how good it was, and how familiar it had
once been to me; and she asked me, with a quick change of
expression (we were drawing very near my street), if I knew how the
reverse in my aunt's circumstances had been brought about. On my
replying no, she had not told me yet, Agnes became thoughtful, and
I fancied I felt her arm tremble in mine.
We found my aunt alone, in a state of some excitement. A
difference of opinion had arisen between herself and Mrs. Crupp, on
an abstract question (the propriety of chambers being inhabited by
the gentler sex); and my aunt, utterly indifferent to spasms on the
part of Mrs. Crupp, had cut the dispute short, by informing that
lady that she smelt of my brandy, and that she would trouble her to
walk out. Both of these expressions Mrs. Crupp considered
actionable, and had expressed her intention of bringing before a
'British Judy' - meaning, it was supposed, the bulwark of our
MY aunt, however, having had time to cool, while Peggotty was out
showing Mr. Dick the soldiers at the Horse Guards - and being,
besides, greatly pleased to see Agnes - rather plumed herself on
the affair than otherwise, and received us with unimpaired good
humour. When Agnes laid her bonnet on the table, and sat down
beside her, I could not but think, looking on her mild eyes and her
radiant forehead, how natural it seemed to have her there; how
trustfully, although she was so young and inexperienced, my aunt
confided in her; how strong she was, indeed, in simple love and
We began to talk about my aunt's losses, and I told them what I had
tried to do that morning.
'Which was injudicious, Trot,' said my aunt, 'but well meant. You
are a generous boy - I suppose I must say, young man, now - and I
am proud of you, my dear. So far, so good. Now, Trot and Agnes,
let us look the case of Betsey Trotwood in the face, and see how it
I observed Agnes turn pale, as she looked very attentively at my
aunt. My aunt, patting her cat, looked very attentively at Agnes.
'Betsey Trotwood,' said my aunt, who had always kept her money
matters to herself. '- I don't mean your sister, Trot, my dear,
but myself - had a certain property. It don't matter how much;
enough to live on. More; for she had saved a little, and added to
it. Betsey funded her property for some time, and then, by the
advice of her man of business, laid it out on landed security.
That did very well, and returned very good interest, till Betsey
was paid off. I am talking of Betsey as if she was a man-of-war.
Well! Then, Betsey had to look about her, for a new investment.
She thought she was wiser, now, than her man of business, who was
not such a good man of business by this time, as he used to be - I
am alluding to your father, Agnes - and she took it into her head
to lay it out for herself. So she took her pigs,' said my aunt,
'to a foreign market; and a very bad market it turned out to be.
First, she lost in the mining way, and then she lost in the diving
way - fishing up treasure, or some such Tom Tiddler nonsense,'
explained my aunt, rubbing her nose; 'and then she lost in the
mining way again, and, last of all, to set the thing entirely to
rights, she lost in the banking way. I don't know what the Bank
shares were worth for a little while,' said my aunt; 'cent per cent
was the lowest of it, I believe; but the Bank was at the other end
of the world, and tumbled into space, for what I know; anyhow, it
fell to pieces, and never will and never can pay sixpence; and
Betsey's sixpences were all there, and there's an end of them.
Least said, soonest mended!'
My aunt concluded this philosophical summary, by fixing her eyes
with a kind of triumph on Agnes, whose colour was gradually
'Dear Miss Trotwood, is that all the history?' said Agnes.
'I hope it's enough, child,' said my aunt. 'If there had been more
money to lose, it wouldn't have been all, I dare say. Betsey would
have contrived to throw that after the rest, and make another
chapter, I have little doubt. But there was no more money, and
there's no more story.'
Agnes had listened at first with suspended breath. Her colour
still came and went, but she breathed more freely. I thought I
knew why. I thought she had had some fear that her unhappy father
might be in some way to blame for what had happened. My aunt took
her hand in hers, and laughed.
'Is that all?' repeated my aunt. 'Why, yes, that's all, except,
"And she lived happy ever afterwards." Perhaps I may add that of
Betsey yet, one of these days. Now, Agnes, you have a wise head.
So have you, Trot, in some things, though I can't compliment you
always'; and here my aunt shook her own at me, with an energy
peculiar to herself. 'What's to be done? Here's the cottage,
taking one time with another, will produce say seventy pounds a
year. I think we may safely put it down at that. Well! - That's
all we've got,' said my aunt; with whom it was an idiosyncrasy, as
it is with some horses, to stop very short when she appeared to be
in a fair way of going on for a long while.
'Then,' said my aunt, after a rest, 'there's Dick. He's good for
a hundred a-year, but of course that must be expended on himself.
I would sooner send him away, though I know I am the only person
who appreciates him, than have him, and not spend his money on
himself. How can Trot and I do best, upon our means? What do you
'I say, aunt,' I interposed, 'that I must do something!'
'Go for a soldier, do you mean?' returned my aunt, alarmed; 'or go
to sea? I won't hear of it. You are to be a proctor. We're not
going to have any knockings on the head in THIS family, if you
I was about to explain that I was not desirous of introducing that
mode of provision into the family, when Agnes inquired if my rooms
were held for any long term?
'You come to the point, my dear,' said my aunt. 'They are not to
be got rid of, for six months at least, unless they could be
underlet, and that I don't believe. The last man died here. Five
people out of six would die - of course - of that woman in nankeen
with the flannel petticoat. I have a little ready money; and I
agree with you, the best thing we can do, is, to live the term out
here, and get a bedroom hard by.'
I thought it my duty to hint at the discomfort my aunt would
sustain, from living in a continual state of guerilla warfare with
Mrs. Crupp; but she disposed of that objection summarily by
declaring that, on the first demonstration of hostilities, she was
prepared to astonish Mrs. Crupp for the whole remainder of her
'I have been thinking, Trotwood,' said Agnes, diffidently, 'that if
you had time -'
'I have a good deal of time, Agnes. I am always disengaged after
four or five o'clock, and I have time early in the morning. In one
way and another,' said I, conscious of reddening a little as I
thought of the hours and hours I had devoted to fagging about town,
and to and fro upon the Norwood Road, 'I have abundance of time.'
'I know you would not mind,' said Agnes, coming to me, and speaking
in a low voice, so full of sweet and hopeful consideration that I
hear it now, 'the duties of a secretary.'
'Mind, my dear Agnes?'
'Because,' continued Agnes, 'Doctor Strong has acted on his
intention of retiring, and has come to live in London; and he asked
papa, I know, if he could recommend him one. Don't you think he
would rather have his favourite old pupil near him, than anybody
'Dear Agnes!' said I. 'What should I do without you! You are
always my good angel. I told you so. I never think of you in any
Agnes answered with her pleasant laugh, that one good Angel
(meaning Dora) was enough; and went on to remind me that the Doctor
had been used to occupy himself in his study, early in the morning,
and in the evening - and that probably my leisure would suit his
requirements very well. I was scarcely more delighted with the
prospect of earning my own bread, than with the hope of earning it
under my old master; in short, acting on the advice of Agnes, I sat
down and wrote a letter to the Doctor, stating my object, and
appointing to call on him next day at ten in the forenoon. This I
addressed to Highgate - for in that place, so memorable to me, he
lived - and went and posted, myself, without losing a minute.
Wherever Agnes was, some agreeable token of her noiseless presence
seemed inseparable from the place. When I came back, I found my
aunt's birds hanging, just as they had hung so long in the parlour
window of the cottage; and my easy-chair imitating my aunt's much
easier chair in its position at the open window; and even the round
green fan, which my aunt had brought away with her, screwed on to
the window-sill. I knew who had done all this, by its seeming to
have quietly done itself; and I should have known in a moment who
had arranged my neglected books in the old order of my school days,
even if I had supposed Agnes to be miles away, instead of seeing
her busy with them, and smiling at the disorder into which they had
My aunt was quite gracious on the subject of the Thames (it really
did look very well with the sun upon it, though not like the sea
before the cottage), but she could not relent towards the London
smoke, which, she said, 'peppered everything'. A complete
revolution, in which Peggotty bore a prominent part, was being
effected in every corner of my rooms, in regard of this pepper; and
I was looking on, thinking how little even Peggotty seemed to do
with a good deal of bustle, and how much Agnes did without any
bustle at all, when a knock came at the door.
'I think,' said Agnes, turning pale, 'it's papa. He promised me
that he would come.'
I opened the door, and admitted, not only Mr. Wickfield, but Uriah
Heep. I had not seen Mr. Wickfield for some time. I was prepared
for a great change in him, after what I had heard from Agnes, but
his appearance shocked me.
It was not that he looked many years older, though still dressed
with the old scrupulous cleanliness; or that there was an
unwholesome ruddiness upon his face; or that his eyes were full and
bloodshot; or that there was a nervous trembling in his hand, the
cause of which I knew, and had for some years seen at work. It was
not that he had lost his good looks, or his old bearing of a
gentleman - for that he had not - but the thing that struck me
most, was, that with the evidences of his native superiority still
upon him, he should submit himself to that crawling impersonation
of meanness, Uriah Heep. The reversal of the two natures, in their
relative positions, Uriah's of power and Mr. Wickfield's of
dependence, was a sight more painful to me than I can express. If
I had seen an Ape taking command of a Man, I should hardly have
thought it a more degrading spectacle.
He appeared to be only too conscious of it himself. When he came
in, he stood still; and with his head bowed, as if he felt it.
This was only for a moment; for Agnes softly said to him, 'Papa!
Here is Miss Trotwood - and Trotwood, whom you have not seen for a
long while!' and then he approached, and constrainedly gave my aunt
his hand, and shook hands more cordially with me. In the moment's
pause I speak of, I saw Uriah's countenance form itself into a most
ill-favoured smile. Agnes saw it too, I think, for she shrank from
What my aunt saw, or did not see, I defy the science of physiognomy
to have made out, without her own consent. I believe there never
was anybody with such an imperturbable countenance when she chose.
Her face might have been a dead-wall on the occasion in question,
for any light it threw upon her thoughts; until she broke silence
with her usual abruptness.
'Well, Wickfield!' said my aunt; and he looked up at her for the
first time. 'I have been telling your daughter how well I have
been disposing of my money for myself, because I couldn't trust it
to you, as you were growing rusty in business matters. We have
been taking counsel together, and getting on very well, all things
considered. Agnes is worth the whole firm, in my opinion.'
'If I may umbly make the remark,' said Uriah Heep, with a writhe,
'I fully agree with Miss Betsey Trotwood, and should be only too
appy if Miss Agnes was a partner.'
'You're a partner yourself, you know,' returned my aunt, 'and
that's about enough for you, I expect. How do you find yourself,
In acknowledgement of this question, addressed to him with
extraordinary curtness, Mr. Heep, uncomfortably clutching the blue
bag he carried, replied that he was pretty well, he thanked my
aunt, and hoped she was the same.
'And you, Master - I should say, Mister Copperfield,' pursued
Uriah. 'I hope I see you well! I am rejoiced to see you, Mister
Copperfield, even under present circumstances.' I believed that;
for he seemed to relish them very much. 'Present circumstances is
not what your friends would wish for you, Mister Copperfield, but
it isn't money makes the man: it's - I am really unequal with my
umble powers to express what it is,' said Uriah, with a fawning
jerk, 'but it isn't money!'
Here he shook hands with me: not in the common way, but standing at
a good distance from me, and lifting my hand up and down like a
pump handle, that he was a little afraid of.
'And how do you think we are looking, Master Copperfield, - I
should say, Mister?' fawned Uriah. 'Don't you find Mr. Wickfield
blooming, sir? Years don't tell much in our firm, Master
Copperfield, except in raising up the umble, namely, mother and
self - and in developing,' he added, as an afterthought, 'the
beautiful, namely, Miss Agnes.'
He jerked himself about, after this compliment, in such an
intolerable manner, that my aunt, who had sat looking straight at
him, lost all patience.
'Deuce take the man!' said my aunt, sternly, 'what's he about?
Don't be galvanic, sir!'
'I ask your pardon, Miss Trotwood,' returned Uriah; 'I'm aware
'Go along with you, sir!' said my aunt, anything but appeased.
'Don't presume to say so! I am nothing of the sort. If you're an
eel, sir, conduct yourself like one. If you're a man, control your
limbs, sir! Good God!' said my aunt, with great indignation, 'I am
not going to be serpentined and corkscrewed out of my senses!'
Mr. Heep was rather abashed, as most people might have been, by
this explosion; which derived great additional force from the
indignant manner in which my aunt afterwards moved in her chair,
and shook her head as if she were making snaps or bounces at him.
But he said to me aside in a meek voice:
'I am well aware, Master Copperfield, that Miss Trotwood, though an
excellent lady, has a quick temper (indeed I think I had the
pleasure of knowing her, when I was a numble clerk, before you did,
Master Copperfield), and it's only natural, I am sure, that it
should be made quicker by present circumstances. The wonder is,
that it isn't much worse! I only called to say that if there was
anything we could do, in present circumstances, mother or self, or
Wickfield and Heep, -we should be really glad. I may go so far?'
said Uriah, with a sickly smile at his partner.
'Uriah Heep,' said Mr. Wickfield, in a monotonous forced way, 'is
active in the business, Trotwood. What he says, I quite concur in.
You know I had an old interest in you. Apart from that, what Uriah
says I quite concur in!'
'Oh, what a reward it is,' said Uriah, drawing up one leg, at the
risk of bringing down upon himself another visitation from my aunt,
'to be so trusted in! But I hope I am able to do something to
relieve him from the fatigues of business, Master Copperfield!'
'Uriah Heep is a great relief to me,' said Mr. Wickfield, in the
same dull voice. 'It's a load off my mind, Trotwood, to have such
The red fox made him say all this, I knew, to exhibit him to me in
the light he had indicated on the night when he poisoned my rest.
I saw the same ill-favoured smile upon his face again, and saw how
he watched me.
'You are not going, papa?' said Agnes, anxiously. 'Will you not
walk back with Trotwood and me?'
He would have looked to Uriah, I believe, before replying, if that
worthy had not anticipated him.
'I am bespoke myself,' said Uriah, 'on business; otherwise I should
have been appy to have kept with my friends. But I leave my
partner to represent the firm. Miss Agnes, ever yours! I wish you
good-day, Master Copperfield, and leave my umble respects for Miss
With those words, he retired, kissing his great hand, and leering
at us like a mask.
We sat there, talking about our pleasant old Canterbury days, an
hour or two. Mr. Wickfield, left to Agnes, soon became more like
his former self; though there was a settled depression upon him,
which he never shook off. For all that, he brightened; and had an
evident pleasure in hearing us recall the little incidents of our
old life, many of which he remembered very well. He said it was
like those times, to be alone with Agnes and me again; and he
wished to Heaven they had never changed. I am sure there was an
influence in the placid face of Agnes, and in the very touch of her
hand upon his arm, that did wonders for him.
My aunt (who was busy nearly all this while with Peggotty, in the
inner room) would not accompany us to the place where they were
staying, but insisted on my going; and I went. We dined together.
After dinner, Agnes sat beside him, as of old, and poured out his
wine. He took what she gave him, and no more - like a child - and
we all three sat together at a window as the evening gathered in.
When it was almost dark, he lay down on a sofa, Agnes pillowing his
head and bending over him a little while; and when she came back to
the window, it was not so dark but I could see tears glittering in
I pray Heaven that I never may forget the dear girl in her love and
truth, at that time of my life; for if I should, I must be drawing
near the end, and then I would desire to remember her best! She
filled my heart with such good resolutions, strengthened my
weakness so, by her example, so directed - I know not how, she was
too modest and gentle to advise me in many words - the wandering
ardour and unsettled purpose within me, that all the little good I
have done, and all the harm I have forborne, I solemnly believe I
may refer to her.
And how she spoke to me of Dora, sitting at the window in the dark;
listened to my praises of her; praised again; and round the little
fairy-figure shed some glimpses of her own pure light, that made it
yet more precious and more innocent to me! Oh, Agnes, sister of my
boyhood, if I had known then, what I knew long afterwards! -
There was a beggar in the street, when I went down; and as I turned
my head towards the window, thinking of her calm seraphic eyes, he
made me start by muttering, as if he were an echo of the morning:
'Blind! Blind! Blind!'
I began the next day with another dive into the Roman bath, and
then started for Highgate. I was not dispirited now. I was not
afraid of the shabby coat, and had no yearnings after gallant
greys. My whole manner of thinking of our late misfortune was
changed. What I had to do, was, to show my aunt that her past
goodness to me had not been thrown away on an insensible,
ungrateful object. What I had to do, was, to turn the painful
discipline of my younger days to account, by going to work with a
resolute and steady heart. What I had to do, was, to take my
woodman's axe in my hand, and clear my own way through the forest
of difficulty, by cutting down the trees until I came to Dora. And
I went on at a mighty rate, as if it could be done by walking.
When I found myself on the familiar Highgate road, pursuing such a
different errand from that old one of pleasure, with which it was
associated, it seemed as if a complete change had come on my whole
life. But that did not discourage me. With the new life, came new
purpose, new intention. Great was the labour; priceless the
reward. Dora was the reward, and Dora must be won.
I got into such a transport, that I felt quite sorry my coat was
not a little shabby already. I wanted to be cutting at those trees
in the forest of difficulty, under circumstances that should prove
my strength. I had a good mind to ask an old man, in wire
spectacles, who was breaking stones upon the road, to lend me his
hammer for a little while, and let me begin to beat a path to Dora
out of granite. I stimulated myself into such a heat, and got so
out of breath, that I felt as if I had been earning I don't know
In this state, I went into a cottage that I saw was to let, and
examined it narrowly, - for I felt it necessary to be practical.
It would do for me and Dora admirably: with a little front garden
for Jip to run about in, and bark at the tradespeople through the
railings, and a capital room upstairs for my aunt. I came out
again, hotter and faster than ever, and dashed up to Highgate, at
such a rate that I was there an hour too early; and, though I had
not been, should have been obliged to stroll about to cool myself,
before I was at all presentable.
My first care, after putting myself under this necessary course of
preparation, was to find the Doctor's house. It was not in that
part of Highgate where Mrs. Steerforth lived, but quite on the
opposite side of the little town. When I had made this discovery,
I went back, in an attraction I could not resist, to a lane by Mrs.
Steerforth's, and looked over the corner of the garden wall. His
room was shut up close. The conservatory doors were standing open,
and Rosa Dartle was walking, bareheaded, with a quick, impetuous
step, up and down a gravel walk on one side of the lawn. She gave
me the idea of some fierce thing, that was dragging the length of
its chain to and fro upon a beaten track, and wearing its heart
I came softly away from my place of observation, and avoiding that
part of the neighbourhood, and wishing I had not gone near it,
strolled about until it was ten o'clock. The church with the
slender spire, that stands on the top of the hill now, was not
there then to tell me the time. An old red-brick mansion, used as
a school, was in its place; and a fine old house it must have been
to go to school at, as I recollect it.
When I approached the Doctor's cottage - a pretty old place, on
which he seemed to have expended some money, if I might judge from
the embellishments and repairs that had the look of being just