Part 14 out of 21
'I am glad your experience is so favourable,' I returned.
'You are very obliging, my dear Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber;
and hummed a tune.
'Do you see much of Mr. Wickfield?' I asked, to change the subject.
'Not much,' said Mr. Micawber, slightingly. 'Mr. Wickfield is, I
dare say, a man of very excellent intentions; but he is - in short,
he is obsolete.'
'I am afraid his partner seeks to make him so,' said I.
'My dear Copperfield!' returned Mr. Micawber, after some uneasy
evolutions on his stool, 'allow me to offer a remark! I am here,
in a capacity of confidence. I am here, in a position of trust.
The discussion of some topics, even with Mrs. Micawber herself (so
long the partner of my various vicissitudes, and a woman of a
remarkable lucidity of intellect), is, I am led to consider,
incompatible with the functions now devolving on me. I would
therefore take the liberty of suggesting that in our friendly
intercourse - which I trust will never be disturbed! - we draw a
line. On one side of this line,' said Mr. Micawber, representing
it on the desk with the office ruler, 'is the whole range of the
human intellect, with a trifling exception; on the other, IS that
exception; that is to say, the affairs of Messrs Wickfield and
Heep, with all belonging and appertaining thereunto. I trust I
give no offence to the companion of my youth, in submitting this
proposition to his cooler judgement?'
Though I saw an uneasy change in Mr. Micawber, which sat tightly on
him, as if his new duties were a misfit, I felt I had no right to
be offended. My telling him so, appeared to relieve him; and he
shook hands with me.
'I am charmed, Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, 'let me assure you,
with Miss Wickfield. She is a very superior young lady, of very
remarkable attractions, graces, and virtues. Upon my honour,' said
Mr. Micawber, indefinitely kissing his hand and bowing with his
genteelest air, 'I do Homage to Miss Wickfield! Hem!'
'I am glad of that, at least,' said I.
'If you had not assured us, my dear Copperfield, on the occasion of
that agreeable afternoon we had the happiness of passing with you,
that D. was your favourite letter,' said Mr. Micawber, 'I should
unquestionably have supposed that A. had been so.'
We have all some experience of a feeling, that comes over us
occasionally, of what we are saying and doing having been said and
done before, in a remote time - of our having been surrounded, dim
ages ago, by the same faces, objects, and circumstances - of our
knowing perfectly what will be said next, as if we suddenly
remembered it! I never had this mysterious impression more
strongly in my life, than before he uttered those words.
I took my leave of Mr. Micawber, for the time, charging him with my
best remembrances to all at home. As I left him, resuming his
stool and his pen, and rolling his head in his stock, to get it
into easier writing order, I clearly perceived that there was
something interposed between him and me, since he had come into his
new functions, which prevented our getting at each other as we used
to do, and quite altered the character of our intercourse.
There was no one in the quaint old drawing-room, though it
presented tokens of Mrs. Heep's whereabouts. I looked into the
room still belonging to Agnes, and saw her sitting by the fire, at
a pretty old-fashioned desk she had, writing.
My darkening the light made her look up. What a pleasure to be the
cause of that bright change in her attentive face, and the object
of that sweet regard and welcome!
'Ah, Agnes!' said I, when we were sitting together, side by side;
'I have missed you so much, lately!'
'Indeed?' she replied. 'Again! And so soon?'
I shook my head.
'I don't know how it is, Agnes; I seem to want some faculty of mind
that I ought to have. You were so much in the habit of thinking
for me, in the happy old days here, and I came so naturally to you
for counsel and support, that I really think I have missed
'And what is it?' said Agnes, cheerfully.
'I don't know what to call it,' I replied. 'I think I am earnest
'I am sure of it,' said Agnes.
'And patient, Agnes?' I inquired, with a little hesitation.
'Yes,' returned Agnes, laughing. 'Pretty well.'
'And yet,' said I, 'I get so miserable and worried, and am so
unsteady and irresolute in my power of assuring myself, that I know
I must want - shall I call it - reliance, of some kind?'
'Call it so, if you will,' said Agnes.
'Well!' I returned. 'See here! You come to London, I rely on you,
and I have an object and a course at once. I am driven out of it,
I come here, and in a moment I feel an altered person. The
circumstances that distressed me are not changed, since I came into
this room; but an influence comes over me in that short interval
that alters me, oh, how much for the better! What is it? What is
your secret, Agnes?'
Her head was bent down, looking at the fire.
'It's the old story,' said I. 'Don't laugh, when I say it was
always the same in little things as it is in greater ones. My old
troubles were nonsense, and now they are serious; but whenever I
have gone away from my adopted sister -'
Agnes looked up - with such a Heavenly face! - and gave me her
hand, which I kissed.
'Whenever I have not had you, Agnes, to advise and approve in the
beginning, I have seemed to go wild, and to get into all sorts of
difficulty. When I have come to you, at last (as I have always
done), I have come to peace and happiness. I come home, now, like
a tired traveller, and find such a blessed sense of rest!'
I felt so deeply what I said, it affected me so sincerely, that my
voice failed, and I covered my face with my hand, and broke into
tears. I write the truth. Whatever contradictions and
inconsistencies there were within me, as there are within so many
of us; whatever might have been so different, and so much better;
whatever I had done, in which I had perversely wandered away from
the voice of my own heart; I knew nothing of. I only knew that I
was fervently in earnest, when I felt the rest and peace of having
Agnes near me.
In her placid sisterly manner; with her beaming eyes; with her
tender voice; and with that sweet composure, which had long ago
made the house that held her quite a sacred place to me; she soon
won me from this weakness, and led me on to tell all that had
happened since our last meeting.
'And there is not another word to tell, Agnes,' said I, when I had
made an end of my confidence. 'Now, my reliance is on you.'
'But it must not be on me, Trotwood,' returned Agnes, with a
pleasant smile. 'It must be on someone else.'
'On Dora?' said I.
'Why, I have not mentioned, Agnes,' said I, a little embarrassed,
'that Dora is rather difficult to - I would not, for the world,
say, to rely upon, because she is the soul of purity and truth -
but rather difficult to - I hardly know how to express it, really,
Agnes. She is a timid little thing, and easily disturbed and
frightened. Some time ago, before her father's death, when I
thought it right to mention to her - but I'll tell you, if you will
bear with me, how it was.'
Accordingly, I told Agnes about my declaration of poverty, about
the cookery-book, the housekeeping accounts, and all the rest of
'Oh, Trotwood!' she remonstrated, with a smile. 'Just your old
headlong way! You might have been in earnest in striving to get on
in the world, without being so very sudden with a timid, loving,
inexperienced girl. Poor Dora!'
I never heard such sweet forbearing kindness expressed in a voice,
as she expressed in making this reply. It was as if I had seen her
admiringly and tenderly embracing Dora, and tacitly reproving me,
by her considerate protection, for my hot haste in fluttering that
little heart. It was as if I had seen Dora, in all her fascinating
artlessness, caressing Agnes, and thanking her, and coaxingly
appealing against me, and loving me with all her childish
I felt so grateful to Agnes, and admired her so! I saw those two
together, in a bright perspective, such well-associated friends,
each adorning the other so much!
'What ought I to do then, Agnes?' I inquired, after looking at the
fire a little while. 'What would it be right to do?'
'I think,' said Agnes, 'that the honourable course to take, would
be to write to those two ladies. Don't you think that any secret
course is an unworthy one?'
'Yes. If YOU think so,' said I.
'I am poorly qualified to judge of such matters,' replied Agnes,
with a modest hesitation, 'but I certainly feel - in short, I feel
that your being secret and clandestine, is not being like
'Like myself, in the too high opinion you have of me, Agnes, I am
afraid,' said I.
'Like yourself, in the candour of your nature,' she returned; 'and
therefore I would write to those two ladies. I would relate, as
plainly and as openly as possible, all that has taken place; and I
would ask their permission to visit sometimes, at their house.
Considering that you are young, and striving for a place in life,
I think it would be well to say that you would readily abide by any
conditions they might impose upon you. I would entreat them not to
dismiss your request, without a reference to Dora; and to discuss
it with her when they should think the time suitable. I would not
be too vehement,' said Agnes, gently, 'or propose too much. I
would trust to my fidelity and perseverance - and to Dora.'
'But if they were to frighten Dora again, Agnes, by speaking to
her,' said I. 'And if Dora were to cry, and say nothing about me!'
'Is that likely?' inquired Agnes, with the same sweet consideration
in her face.
'God bless her, she is as easily scared as a bird,' said I. 'It
might be! Or if the two Miss Spenlows (elderly ladies of that sort
are odd characters sometimes) should not be likely persons to
address in that way!'
'I don't think, Trotwood,' returned Agnes, raising her soft eyes to
mine, 'I would consider that. Perhaps it would be better only to
consider whether it is right to do this; and, if it is, to do it.'
I had no longer any doubt on the subject. With a lightened heart,
though with a profound sense of the weighty importance of my task,
I devoted the whole afternoon to the composition of the draft of
this letter; for which great purpose, Agnes relinquished her desk
to me. But first I went downstairs to see Mr. Wickfield and Uriah
I found Uriah in possession of a new, plaster-smelling office,
built out in the garden; looking extraordinarily mean, in the midst
of a quantity of books and papers. He received me in his usual
fawning way, and pretended not to have heard of my arrival from Mr.
Micawber; a pretence I took the liberty of disbelieving. He
accompanied me into Mr. Wickfield's room, which was the shadow of
its former self - having been divested of a variety of
conveniences, for the accommodation of the new partner - and stood
before the fire, warming his back, and shaving his chin with his
bony hand, while Mr. Wickfield and I exchanged greetings.
'You stay with us, Trotwood, while you remain in Canterbury?' said
Mr. Wickfield, not without a glance at Uriah for his approval.
'Is there room for me?' said I.
'I am sure, Master Copperfield - I should say Mister, but the other
comes so natural,' said Uriah, -'I would turn out of your old room
with pleasure, if it would be agreeable.'
'No, no,' said Mr. Wickfield. 'Why should you be inconvenienced?
There's another room. There's another room.'
'Oh, but you know,' returned Uriah, with a grin, 'I should really
To cut the matter short, I said I would have the other room or none
at all; so it was settled that I should have the other room; and,
taking my leave of the firm until dinner, I went upstairs again.
I had hoped to have no other companion than Agnes. But Mrs. Heep
had asked permission to bring herself and her knitting near the
fire, in that room; on pretence of its having an aspect more
favourable for her rheumatics, as the wind then was, than the
drawing-room or dining-parlour. Though I could almost have
consigned her to the mercies of the wind on the topmost pinnacle of
the Cathedral, without remorse, I made a virtue of necessity, and
gave her a friendly salutation.
'I'm umbly thankful to you, sir,' said Mrs. Heep, in
acknowledgement of my inquiries concerning her health, 'but I'm
only pretty well. I haven't much to boast of. If I could see my
Uriah well settled in life, I couldn't expect much more I think.
How do you think my Ury looking, sir?'
I thought him looking as villainous as ever, and I replied that I
saw no change in him.
'Oh, don't you think he's changed?' said Mrs. Heep. 'There I must
umbly beg leave to differ from you. Don't you see a thinness in
'Not more than usual,' I replied.
'Don't you though!' said Mrs. Heep. 'But you don't take notice of
him with a mother's eye!'
His mother's eye was an evil eye to the rest of the world, I
thought as it met mine, howsoever affectionate to him; and I
believe she and her son were devoted to one another. It passed me,
and went on to Agnes.
'Don't YOU see a wasting and a wearing in him, Miss Wickfield?'
inquired Mrs. Heep.
'No,' said Agnes, quietly pursuing the work on which she was
engaged. 'You are too solicitous about him. He is very well.'
Mrs. Heep, with a prodigious sniff, resumed her knitting.
She never left off, or left us for a moment. I had arrived early
in the day, and we had still three or four hours before dinner; but
she sat there, plying her knitting-needles as monotonously as an
hour-glass might have poured out its sands. She sat on one side of
the fire; I sat at the desk in front of it; a little beyond me, on
the other side, sat Agnes. Whensoever, slowly pondering over my
letter, I lifted up my eyes, and meeting the thoughtful face of
Agnes, saw it clear, and beam encouragement upon me, with its own
angelic expression, I was conscious presently of the evil eye
passing me, and going on to her, and coming back to me again, and
dropping furtively upon the knitting. What the knitting was, I
don't know, not being learned in that art; but it looked like a
net; and as she worked away with those Chinese chopsticks of
knitting-needles, she showed in the firelight like an ill-looking
enchantress, baulked as yet by the radiant goodness opposite, but
getting ready for a cast of her net by and by.
At dinner she maintained her watch, with the same unwinking eyes.
After dinner, her son took his turn; and when Mr. Wickfield,
himself, and I were left alone together, leered at me, and writhed
until I could hardly bear it. In the drawing-room, there was the
mother knitting and watching again. All the time that Agnes sang
and played, the mother sat at the piano. Once she asked for a
particular ballad, which she said her Ury (who was yawning in a
great chair) doted on; and at intervals she looked round at him,
and reported to Agnes that he was in raptures with the music. But
she hardly ever spoke - I question if she ever did - without making
some mention of him. It was evident to me that this was the duty
assigned to her.
This lasted until bedtime. To have seen the mother and son, like
two great bats hanging over the whole house, and darkening it with
their ugly forms, made me so uncomfortable, that I would rather
have remained downstairs, knitting and all, than gone to bed. I
hardly got any sleep. Next day the knitting and watching began
again, and lasted all day.
I had not an opportunity of speaking to Agnes, for ten minutes. I
could barely show her my letter. I proposed to her to walk out
with me; but Mrs. Heep repeatedly complaining that she was worse,
Agnes charitably remained within, to bear her company. Towards the
twilight I went out by myself, musing on what I ought to do, and
whether I was justified in withholding from Agnes, any longer, what
Uriah Heep had told me in London; for that began to trouble me
again, very much.
I had not walked out far enough to be quite clear of the town, upon
the Ramsgate road, where there was a good path, when I was hailed,
through the dust, by somebody behind me. The shambling figure, and
the scanty great-coat, were not to be mistaken. I stopped, and
Uriah Heep came up.
'Well?' said I.
'How fast you walk!' said he. 'My legs are pretty long, but you've
given 'em quite a job.'
'Where are you going?' said I.
'I am going with you, Master Copperfield, if you'll allow me the
pleasure of a walk with an old acquaintance.' Saying this, with a
jerk of his body, which might have been either propitiatory or
derisive, he fell into step beside me.
'Uriah!' said I, as civilly as I could, after a silence.
'Master Copperfield!' said Uriah.
'To tell you the truth (at which you will not be offended), I came
Out to walk alone, because I have had so much company.'
He looked at me sideways, and said with his hardest grin, 'You mean
'Why yes, I do,' said I.
'Ah! But you know we're so very umble,' he returned. 'And having
such a knowledge of our own umbleness, we must really take care
that we're not pushed to the wall by them as isn't umble. All
stratagems are fair in love, sir.'
Raising his great hands until they touched his chin, he rubbed them
softly, and softly chuckled; looking as like a malevolent baboon,
I thought, as anything human could look.
'You see,' he said, still hugging himself in that unpleasant way,
and shaking his head at me, 'you're quite a dangerous rival, Master
Copperfield. You always was, you know.'
'Do you set a watch upon Miss Wickfield, and make her home no home,
because of me?' said I.
'Oh! Master Copperfield! Those are very arsh words,' he replied.
'Put my meaning into any words you like,' said I. 'You know what
it is, Uriah, as well as I do.'
'Oh no! You must put it into words,' he said. 'Oh, really! I
'Do you suppose,' said I, constraining myself to be very temperate
and quiet with him, on account of Agnes, 'that I regard Miss
Wickfield otherwise than as a very dear sister?'
'Well, Master Copperfield,' he replied, 'you perceive I am not
bound to answer that question. You may not, you know. But then,
you see, you may!'
Anything to equal the low cunning of his visage, and of his
shadowless eyes without the ghost of an eyelash, I never saw.
'Come then!' said I. 'For the sake of Miss Wickfield -'
'My Agnes!' he exclaimed, with a sickly, angular contortion of
himself. 'Would you be so good as call her Agnes, Master
'For the sake of Agnes Wickfield - Heaven bless her!'
'Thank you for that blessing, Master Copperfield!'he interposed.
'I will tell you what I should, under any other circumstances, as
soon have thought of telling to - Jack Ketch.'
'To who, sir?' said Uriah, stretching out his neck, and shading his
ear with his hand.
'To the hangman,' I returned. 'The most unlikely person I could
think of,' - though his own face had suggested the allusion quite
as a natural sequence. 'I am engaged to another young lady. I
hope that contents you.'
'Upon your soul?' said Uriah.
I was about indignantly to give my assertion the confirmation he
required, when he caught hold of my hand, and gave it a squeeze.
'Oh, Master Copperfield!' he said. 'If you had only had the
condescension to return my confidence when I poured out the fulness
of my art, the night I put you so much out of the way by sleeping
before your sitting-room fire, I never should have doubted you. As
it is, I'm sure I'll take off mother directly, and only too appy.
I know you'll excuse the precautions of affection, won't you? What
a pity, Master Copperfield, that you didn't condescend to return my
confidence! I'm sure I gave you every opportunity. But you never
have condescended to me, as much as I could have wished. I know
you have never liked me, as I have liked you!'
All this time he was squeezing my hand with his damp fishy fingers,
while I made every effort I decently could to get it away. But I
was quite unsuccessful. He drew it under the sleeve of his
mulberry-coloured great-coat, and I walked on, almost upon
compulsion, arm-in-arm with him.
'Shall we turn?' said Uriah, by and by wheeling me face about
towards the town, on which the early moon was now shining,
silvering the distant windows.
'Before we leave the subject, you ought to understand,' said I,
breaking a pretty long silence, 'that I believe Agnes Wickfield to
be as far above you, and as far removed from all your aspirations,
as that moon herself!'
'Peaceful! Ain't she!' said Uriah. 'Very! Now confess, Master
Copperfield, that you haven't liked me quite as I have liked you.
All along you've thought me too umble now, I shouldn't wonder?'
'I am not fond of professions of humility,' I returned, 'or
professions of anything else.'
'There now!' said Uriah, looking flabby and lead-coloured in the
moonlight. 'Didn't I know it! But how little you think of the
rightful umbleness of a person in my station, Master Copperfield!
Father and me was both brought up at a foundation school for boys;
and mother, she was likewise brought up at a public, sort of
charitable, establishment. They taught us all a deal of umbleness
- not much else that I know of, from morning to night. We was to
be umble to this person, and umble to that; and to pull off our
caps here, and to make bows there; and always to know our place,
and abase ourselves before our betters. And we had such a lot of
betters! Father got the monitor-medal by being umble. So did I.
Father got made a sexton by being umble. He had the character,
among the gentlefolks, of being such a well-behaved man, that they
were determined to bring him in. "Be umble, Uriah," says father to
me, "and you'll get on. It was what was always being dinned into
you and me at school; it's what goes down best. Be umble," says
father," and you'll do!" And really it ain't done bad!'
It was the first time it had ever occurred to me, that this
detestable cant of false humility might have originated out of the
Heep family. I had seen the harvest, but had never thought of the
'When I was quite a young boy,' said Uriah, 'I got to know what
umbleness did, and I took to it. I ate umble pie with an appetite.
I stopped at the umble point of my learning, and says I, "Hold
hard!" When you offered to teach me Latin, I knew better. "People
like to be above you," says father, "keep yourself down." I am very
umble to the present moment, Master Copperfield, but I've got a
And he said all this - I knew, as I saw his face in the moonlight
- that I might understand he was resolved to recompense himself by
using his power. I had never doubted his meanness, his craft and
malice; but I fully comprehended now, for the first time, what a
base, unrelenting, and revengeful spirit, must have been engendered
by this early, and this long, suppression.
His account of himself was so far attended with an agreeable
result, that it led to his withdrawing his hand in order that he
might have another hug of himself under the chin. Once apart from
him, I was determined to keep apart; and we walked back, side by
side, saying very little more by the way. Whether his spirits were
elevated by the communication I had made to him, or by his having
indulged in this retrospect, I don't know; but they were raised by
some influence. He talked more at dinner than was usual with him;
asked his mother (off duty, from the moment of our re-entering the
house) whether he was not growing too old for a bachelor; and once
looked at Agnes so, that I would have given all I had, for leave to
knock him down.
When we three males were left alone after dinner, he got into a
more adventurous state. He had taken little or no wine; and I
presume it was the mere insolence of triumph that was upon him,
flushed perhaps by the temptation my presence furnished to its
I had observed yesterday, that he tried to entice Mr. Wickfield to
drink; and, interpreting the look which Agnes had given me as she
went out, had limited myself to one glass, and then proposed that
we should follow her. I would have done so again today; but Uriah
was too quick for me.
'We seldom see our present visitor, sir,' he said, addressing Mr.
Wickfield, sitting, such a contrast to him, at the end of the
table, 'and I should propose to give him welcome in another glass
or two of wine, if you have no objections. Mr. Copperfield, your
elth and appiness!'
I was obliged to make a show of taking the hand he stretched across
to me; and then, with very different emotions, I took the hand of
the broken gentleman, his partner.
'Come, fellow-partner,' said Uriah, 'if I may take the liberty, -
now, suppose you give us something or another appropriate to
I pass over Mr. Wickfield's proposing my aunt, his proposing Mr.
Dick, his proposing Doctors' Commons, his proposing Uriah, his
drinking everything twice; his consciousness of his own weakness,
the ineffectual effort that he made against it; the struggle
between his shame in Uriah's deportment, and his desire to
conciliate him; the manifest exultation with which Uriah twisted
and turned, and held him up before me. It made me sick at heart to
see, and my hand recoils from writing it.
'Come, fellow-partner!' said Uriah, at last, 'I'll give you another
one, and I umbly ask for bumpers, seeing I intend to make it the
divinest of her sex.'
Her father had his empty glass in his hand. I saw him set it down,
look at the picture she was so like, put his hand to his forehead,
and shrink back in his elbow-chair.
'I'm an umble individual to give you her elth,' proceeded Uriah,
'but I admire - adore her.'
No physical pain that her father's grey head could have borne, I
think, could have been more terrible to me, than the mental
endurance I saw compressed now within both his hands.
'Agnes,' said Uriah, either not regarding him, or not knowing what
the nature of his action was, 'Agnes Wickfield is, I am safe to
say, the divinest of her sex. May I speak out, among friends? To
be her father is a proud distinction, but to be her usband -'
Spare me from ever again hearing such a cry, as that with which her
father rose up from the table!
'What's the matter?' said Uriah, turning of a deadly colour. 'You
are not gone mad, after all, Mr. Wickfield, I hope? If I say I've
an ambition to make your Agnes my Agnes, I have as good a right to
it as another man. I have a better right to it than any other
I had my arms round Mr. Wickfield, imploring him by everything that
I could think of, oftenest of all by his love for Agnes, to calm
himself a little. He was mad for the moment; tearing out his hair,
beating his head, trying to force me from him, and to force himself
from me, not answering a word, not looking at or seeing anyone;
blindly striving for he knew not what, his face all staring and
distorted - a frightful spectacle.
I conjured him, incoherently, but in the most impassioned manner,
not to abandon himself to this wildness, but to hear me. I
besought him to think of Agnes, to connect me with Agnes, to
recollect how Agnes and I had grown up together, how I honoured her
and loved her, how she was his pride and joy. I tried to bring her
idea before him in any form; I even reproached him with not having
firmness to spare her the knowledge of such a scene as this. I may
have effected something, or his wildness may have spent itself; but
by degrees he struggled less, and began to look at me - strangely
at first, then with recognition in his eyes. At length he said, 'I
know, Trotwood! My darling child and you - I know! But look at
He pointed to Uriah, pale and glowering in a corner, evidently very
much out in his calculations, and taken by surprise.
'Look at my torturer,' he replied. 'Before him I have step by step
abandoned name and reputation, peace and quiet, house and home.'
'I have kept your name and reputation for you, and your peace and
quiet, and your house and home too,' said Uriah, with a sulky,
hurried, defeated air of compromise. 'Don't be foolish, Mr.
Wickfield. If I have gone a little beyond what you were prepared
for, I can go back, I suppose? There's no harm done.'
'I looked for single motives in everyone,' said Mr. Wickfield, and
I was satisfied I had bound him to me by motives of interest. But
see what he is - oh, see what he is!'
'You had better stop him, Copperfield, if you can,' cried Uriah,
with his long forefinger pointing towards me. 'He'll say something
presently - mind you! - he'll be sorry to have said afterwards, and
you'll be sorry to have heard!'
'I'll say anything!' cried Mr. Wickfield, with a desperate air.
'Why should I not be in all the world's power if I am in yours?'
'Mind! I tell you!' said Uriah, continuing to warn me. 'If you
don't stop his mouth, you're not his friend! Why shouldn't you be
in all the world's power, Mr. Wickfield? Because you have got a
daughter. You and me know what we know, don't we? Let sleeping
dogs lie - who wants to rouse 'em? I don't. Can't you see I am as
umble as I can be? I tell you, if I've gone too far, I'm sorry.
What would you have, sir?'
'Oh, Trotwood, Trotwood!'exclaimed Mr. Wickfield, wringing his
hands. 'What I have come down to be, since I first saw you in this
house! I was on my downward way then, but the dreary, dreary road
I have traversed since! Weak indulgence has ruined me. Indulgence
in remembrance, and indulgence in forgetfulness. My natural grief
for my child's mother turned to disease; my natural love for my
child turned to disease. I have infected everything I touched. I
have brought misery on what I dearly love, I know -you know! I
thought it possible that I could truly love one creature in the
world, and not love the rest; I thought it possible that I could
truly mourn for one creature gone out of the world, and not have
some part in the grief of all who mourned. Thus the lessons of my
life have been perverted! I have preyed on my own morbid coward
heart, and it has preyed on me. Sordid in my grief, sordid in my
love, sordid in my miserable escape from the darker side of both,
oh see the ruin I am, and hate me, shun me!'
He dropped into a chair, and weakly sobbed. The excitement into
which he had been roused was leaving him. Uriah came out of his
'I don't know all I have done, in my fatuity,' said Mr. Wickfield,
putting out his hands, as if to deprecate my condemnation. 'He
knows best,' meaning Uriah Heep, 'for he has always been at my
elbow, whispering me. You see the millstone that he is about my
neck. You find him in my house, you find him in my business. You
heard him, but a little time ago. What need have I to say more!'
'You haven't need to say so much, nor half so much, nor anything at
all,' observed Uriah, half defiant, and half fawning. 'You
wouldn't have took it up so, if it hadn't been for the wine.
You'll think better of it tomorrow, sir. If I have said too much,
or more than I meant, what of it? I haven't stood by it!'
The door opened, and Agnes, gliding in, without a vestige of colour
in her face, put her arm round his neck, and steadily said, 'Papa,
you are not well. Come with me!'
He laid his head upon her shoulder, as if he were oppressed with
heavy shame, and went out with her. Her eyes met mine for but an
instant, yet I saw how much she knew of what had passed.
'I didn't expect he'd cut up so rough, Master Copperfield,' said
Uriah. 'But it's nothing. I'll be friends with him tomorrow.
It's for his good. I'm umbly anxious for his good.'
I gave him no answer, and went upstairs into the quiet room where
Agnes had so often sat beside me at my books. Nobody came near me
until late at night. I took up a book, and tried to read. I heard
the clocks strike twelve, and was still reading, without knowing
what I read, when Agnes touched me.
'You will be going early in the morning, Trotwood! Let us say
She had been weeping, but her face then was so calm and beautiful!
'Heaven bless you!' she said, giving me her hand.
'Dearest Agnes!' I returned, 'I see you ask me not to speak of
tonight - but is there nothing to be done?'
'There is God to trust in!' she replied.
'Can I do nothing- I, who come to you with my poor sorrows?'
'And make mine so much lighter,' she replied. 'Dear Trotwood, no!'
'Dear Agnes,' I said, 'it is presumptuous for me, who am so poor in
all in which you are so rich - goodness, resolution, all noble
qualities - to doubt or direct you; but you know how much I love
you, and how much I owe you. You will never sacrifice yourself to
a mistaken sense of duty, Agnes?'
More agitated for a moment than I had ever seen her, she took her
hands from me, and moved a step back.
'Say you have no such thought, dear Agnes! Much more than sister!
Think of the priceless gift of such a heart as yours, of such a
love as yours!'
Oh! long, long afterwards, I saw that face rise up before me, with
its momentary look, not wondering, not accusing, not regretting.
Oh, long, long afterwards, I saw that look subside, as it did now,
into the lovely smile, with which she told me she had no fear for
herself - I need have none for her - and parted from me by the name
of Brother, and was gone!
It was dark in the morning, when I got upon the coach at the inn
door. The day was just breaking when we were about to start, and
then, as I sat thinking of her, came struggling up the coach side,
through the mingled day and night, Uriah's head.
'Copperfield!' said he, in a croaking whisper, as he hung by the
iron on the roof, 'I thought you'd be glad to hear before you went
off, that there are no squares broke between us. I've been into
his room already, and we've made it all smooth. Why, though I'm
umble, I'm useful to him, you know; and he understands his interest
when he isn't in liquor! What an agreeable man he is, after all,
I obliged myself to say that I was glad he had made his apology.
'Oh, to be sure!' said Uriah. 'When a person's umble, you know,
what's an apology? So easy! I say! I suppose,' with a jerk, 'you
have sometimes plucked a pear before it was ripe, Master
'I suppose I have,' I replied.
'I did that last night,' said Uriah; 'but it'll ripen yet! It only
wants attending to. I can wait!'
Profuse in his farewells, he got down again as the coachman got up.
For anything I know, he was eating something to keep the raw
morning air out; but he made motions with his mouth as if the pear
were ripe already, and he were smacking his lips over it.
We had a very serious conversation in Buckingham Street that night,
about the domestic occurrences I have detailed in the last chapter.
My aunt was deeply interested in them, and walked up and down the
room with her arms folded, for more than two hours afterwards.
Whenever she was particularly discomposed, she always performed one
of these pedestrian feats; and the amount of her discomposure might
always be estimated by the duration of her walk. On this occasion
she was so much disturbed in mind as to find it necessary to open
the bedroom door, and make a course for herself, comprising the
full extent of the bedrooms from wall to wall; and while Mr. Dick
and I sat quietly by the fire, she kept passing in and out, along
this measured track, at an unchanging pace, with the regularity of
When my aunt and I were left to ourselves by Mr. Dick's going out
to bed, I sat down to write my letter to the two old ladies. By
that time she was tired of walking, and sat by the fire with her
dress tucked up as usual. But instead of sitting in her usual
manner, holding her glass upon her knee, she suffered it to stand
neglected on the chimney-piece; and, resting her left elbow on her
right arm, and her chin on her left hand, looked thoughtfully at
me. As often as I raised my eyes from what I was about, I met
hers. 'I am in the lovingest of tempers, my dear,' she would
assure me with a nod, 'but I am fidgeted and sorry!'
I had been too busy to observe, until after she was gone to bed,
that she had left her night-mixture, as she always called it,
untasted on the chimney-piece. She came to her door, with even
more than her usual affection of manner, when I knocked to acquaint
her with this discovery; but only said, 'I have not the heart to
take it, Trot, tonight,' and shook her head, and went in again.
She read my letter to the two old ladies, in the morning, and
approved of it. I posted it, and had nothing to do then, but wait,
as patiently as I could, for the reply. I was still in this state
of expectation, and had been, for nearly a week; when I left the
Doctor's one snowy night, to walk home.
It had been a bitter day, and a cutting north-east wind had blown
for some time. The wind had gone down with the light, and so the
snow had come on. It was a heavy, settled fall, I recollect, in
great flakes; and it lay thick. The noise of wheels and tread of
people were as hushed, as if the streets had been strewn that depth
My shortest way home, - and I naturally took the shortest way on
such a night - was through St. Martin's Lane. Now, the church
which gives its name to the lane, stood in a less free situation at
that time; there being no open space before it, and the lane
winding down to the Strand. As I passed the steps of the portico,
I encountered, at the corner, a woman's face. It looked in mine,
passed across the narrow lane, and disappeared. I knew it. I had
seen it somewhere. But I could not remember where. I had some
association with it, that struck upon my heart directly; but I was
thinking of anything else when it came upon me, and was confused.
On the steps of the church, there was the stooping figure of a man,
who had put down some burden on the smooth snow, to adjust it; my
seeing the face, and my seeing him, were simultaneous. I don't
think I had stopped in my surprise; but, in any case, as I went on,
he rose, turned, and came down towards me. I stood face to face
with Mr. Peggotty!
Then I remembered the woman. It was Martha, to whom Emily had
given the money that night in the kitchen. Martha Endell - side by
side with whom, he would not have seen his dear niece, Ham had told
me, for all the treasures wrecked in the sea.
We shook hands heartily. At first, neither of us could speak a
'Mas'r Davy!' he said, gripping me tight, 'it do my art good to see
you, sir. Well met, well met!'
'Well met, my dear old friend!' said I.
'I had my thowts o' coming to make inquiration for you, sir,
tonight,' he said, 'but knowing as your aunt was living along wi'
you - fur I've been down yonder - Yarmouth way - I was afeerd it
was too late. I should have come early in the morning, sir, afore
'Again?' said I.
'Yes, sir,' he replied, patiently shaking his head, 'I'm away
'Where were you going now?' I asked.
'Well!' he replied, shaking the snow out of his long hair, 'I was
a-going to turn in somewheers.'
In those days there was a side-entrance to the stable-yard of the
Golden Cross, the inn so memorable to me in connexion with his
misfortune, nearly opposite to where we stood. I pointed out the
gateway, put my arm through his, and we went across. Two or three
public-rooms opened out of the stable-yard; and looking into one of
them, and finding it empty, and a good fire burning, I took him in
When I saw him in the light, I observed, not only that his hair was
long and ragged, but that his face was burnt dark by the sun. He
was greyer, the lines in his face and forehead were deeper, and he
had every appearance of having toiled and wandered through all
varieties of weather; but he looked very strong, and like a man
upheld by steadfastness of purpose, whom nothing could tire out.
He shook the snow from his hat and clothes, and brushed it away
from his face, while I was inwardly making these remarks. As he
sat down opposite to me at a table, with his back to the door by
which we had entered, he put out his rough hand again, and grasped
'I'll tell you, Mas'r Davy,' he said, - 'wheer all I've been, and
what-all we've heerd. I've been fur, and we've heerd little; but
I'll tell you!'
I rang the bell for something hot to drink. He would have nothing
stronger than ale; and while it was being brought, and being warmed
at the fire, he sat thinking. There was a fine, massive gravity in
his face, I did not venture to disturb.
'When she was a child,' he said, lifting up his head soon after we
were left alone, 'she used to talk to me a deal about the sea, and
about them coasts where the sea got to be dark blue, and to lay
a-shining and a-shining in the sun. I thowt, odd times, as her
father being drownded made her think on it so much. I doen't know,
you see, but maybe she believed - or hoped - he had drifted out to
them parts, where the flowers is always a-blowing, and the country
'It is likely to have been a childish fancy,' I replied.
'When she was - lost,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'I know'd in my mind, as
he would take her to them countries. I know'd in my mind, as he'd
have told her wonders of 'em, and how she was to be a lady theer,
and how he got her to listen to him fust, along o' sech like. When
we see his mother, I know'd quite well as I was right. I went
across-channel to France, and landed theer, as if I'd fell down
from the sky.'
I saw the door move, and the snow drift in. I saw it move a little
more, and a hand softly interpose to keep it open.
'I found out an English gen'leman as was in authority,' said Mr.
Peggotty, 'and told him I was a-going to seek my niece. He got me
them papers as I wanted fur to carry me through - I doen't rightly
know how they're called - and he would have give me money, but that
I was thankful to have no need on. I thank him kind, for all he
done, I'm sure! "I've wrote afore you," he says to me, "and I
shall speak to many as will come that way, and many will know you,
fur distant from here, when you're a-travelling alone." I told him,
best as I was able, what my gratitoode was, and went away through
'Alone, and on foot?' said I.
'Mostly a-foot,' he rejoined; 'sometimes in carts along with people
going to market; sometimes in empty coaches. Many mile a day
a-foot, and often with some poor soldier or another, travelling to
see his friends. I couldn't talk to him,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'nor
he to me; but we was company for one another, too, along the dusty
I should have known that by his friendly tone.
'When I come to any town,' he pursued, 'I found the inn, and waited
about the yard till someone turned up (someone mostly did) as
know'd English. Then I told how that I was on my way to seek my
niece, and they told me what manner of gentlefolks was in the
house, and I waited to see any as seemed like her, going in or out.
When it warn't Em'ly, I went on agen. By little and little, when
I come to a new village or that, among the poor people, I found
they know'd about me. They would set me down at their cottage
doors, and give me what-not fur to eat and drink, and show me where
to sleep; and many a woman, Mas'r Davy, as has had a daughter of
about Em'ly's age, I've found a-waiting fur me, at Our Saviour's
Cross outside the village, fur to do me sim'lar kindnesses. Some
has had daughters as was dead. And God only knows how good them
mothers was to me!'
It was Martha at the door. I saw her haggard, listening face
distinctly. My dread was lest he should turn his head, and see her
'They would often put their children - particular their little
girls,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'upon my knee; and many a time you might
have seen me sitting at their doors, when night was coming in,
a'most as if they'd been my Darling's children. Oh, my Darling!'
Overpowered by sudden grief, he sobbed aloud. I laid my trembling
hand upon the hand he put before his face. 'Thankee, sir,' he
said, 'doen't take no notice.'
In a very little while he took his hand away and put it on his
breast, and went on with his story.
'They often walked with me,' he said, 'in the morning, maybe a mile
or two upon my road; and when we parted, and I said, "I'm very
thankful to you! God bless you!" they always seemed to understand,
and answered pleasant. At last I come to the sea. It warn't hard,
you may suppose, for a seafaring man like me to work his way over
to Italy. When I got theer, I wandered on as I had done afore.
The people was just as good to me, and I should have gone from town
to town, maybe the country through, but that I got news of her
being seen among them Swiss mountains yonder. One as know'd his
servant see 'em there, all three, and told me how they travelled,
and where they was. I made fur them mountains, Mas'r Davy, day and
night. Ever so fur as I went, ever so fur the mountains seemed to
shift away from me. But I come up with 'em, and I crossed 'em.
When I got nigh the place as I had been told of, I began to think
within my own self, "What shall I do when I see her?"'
The listening face, insensible to the inclement night, still
drooped at the door, and the hands begged me - prayed me - not to
cast it forth.
'I never doubted her,' said Mr. Peggotty. 'No! Not a bit! On'y
let her see my face - on'y let her beer my voice - on'y let my
stanning still afore her bring to her thoughts the home she had
fled away from, and the child she had been - and if she had growed
to be a royal lady, she'd have fell down at my feet! I know'd it
well! Many a time in my sleep had I heerd her cry out, "Uncle!"
and seen her fall like death afore me. Many a time in my sleep had
I raised her up, and whispered to her, "Em'ly, my dear, I am come
fur to bring forgiveness, and to take you home!"'
He stopped and shook his head, and went on with a sigh.
'He was nowt to me now. Em'ly was all. I bought a country dress
to put upon her; and I know'd that, once found, she would walk
beside me over them stony roads, go where I would, and never,
never, leave me more. To put that dress upon her, and to cast off
what she wore - to take her on my arm again, and wander towards
home - to stop sometimes upon the road, and heal her bruised feet
and her worse-bruised heart - was all that I thowt of now. I
doen't believe I should have done so much as look at him. But,
Mas'r Davy, it warn't to be - not yet! I was too late, and they
was gone. Wheer, I couldn't learn. Some said beer, some said
theer. I travelled beer, and I travelled theer, but I found no
Em'ly, and I travelled home.'
'How long ago?' I asked.
'A matter o' fower days,' said Mr. Peggotty. 'I sighted the old
boat arter dark, and the light a-shining in the winder. When I
come nigh and looked in through the glass, I see the faithful
creetur Missis Gummidge sittin' by the fire, as we had fixed upon,
alone. I called out, "Doen't be afeerd! It's Dan'l!" and I went
in. I never could have thowt the old boat would have been so
From some pocket in his breast, he took out, with a very careful
hand a small paper bundle containing two or three letters or little
packets, which he laid upon the table.
'This fust one come,' he said, selecting it from the rest, 'afore
I had been gone a week. A fifty pound Bank note, in a sheet of
paper, directed to me, and put underneath the door in the night.
She tried to hide her writing, but she couldn't hide it from Me!'
He folded up the note again, with great patience and care, in
exactly the same form, and laid it on one side.
'This come to Missis Gummidge,' he said, opening another, 'two or
three months ago.'After looking at it for some moments, he gave it
to me, and added in a low voice, 'Be so good as read it, sir.'
I read as follows:
'Oh what will you feel when you see this writing, and know it comes
from my wicked hand! But try, try - not for my sake, but for
uncle's goodness, try to let your heart soften to me, only for a
little little time! Try, pray do, to relent towards a miserable
girl, and write down on a bit of paper whether he is well, and what
he said about me before you left off ever naming me among
yourselves - and whether, of a night, when it is my old time of
coming home, you ever see him look as if he thought of one he used
to love so dear. Oh, my heart is breaking when I think about it!
I am kneeling down to you, begging and praying you not to be as
hard with me as I deserve - as I well, well, know I deserve - but
to be so gentle and so good, as to write down something of him, and
to send it to me. You need not call me Little, you need not call
me by the name I have disgraced; but oh, listen to my agony, and
have mercy on me so far as to write me some word of uncle, never,
never to be seen in this world by my eyes again!
'Dear, if your heart is hard towards me - justly hard, I know -
but, listen, if it is hard, dear, ask him I have wronged the most
- him whose wife I was to have been - before you quite decide
against my poor poor prayer! If he should be so compassionate as
to say that you might write something for me to read - I think he
would, oh, I think he would, if you would only ask him, for he
always was so brave and so forgiving - tell him then (but not
else), that when I hear the wind blowing at night, I feel as if it
was passing angrily from seeing him and uncle, and was going up to
God against me. Tell him that if I was to die tomorrow (and oh, if
I was fit, I would be so glad to die!) I would bless him and uncle
with my last words, and pray for his happy home with my last
Some money was enclosed in this letter also. Five pounds. It was
untouched like the previous sum, and he refolded it in the same
way. Detailed instructions were added relative to the address of
a reply, which, although they betrayed the intervention of several
hands, and made it difficult to arrive at any very probable
conclusion in reference to her place of concealment, made it at
least not unlikely that she had written from that spot where she
was stated to have been seen.
'What answer was sent?' I inquired of Mr. Peggotty.
'Missis Gummidge,' he returned, 'not being a good scholar, sir, Ham
kindly drawed it out, and she made a copy on it. They told her I
was gone to seek her, and what my parting words was.'
'Is that another letter in your hand?' said I.
'It's money, sir,' said Mr. Peggotty, unfolding it a little way.
'Ten pound, you see. And wrote inside, "From a true friend," like
the fust. But the fust was put underneath the door, and this come
by the post, day afore yesterday. I'm a-going to seek her at the
He showed it to me. It was a town on the Upper Rhine. He had
found out, at Yarmouth, some foreign dealers who knew that country,
and they had drawn him a rude map on paper, which he could very
well understand. He laid it between us on the table; and, with his
chin resting on one hand, tracked his course upon it with the
I asked him how Ham was? He shook his head.
'He works,' he said, 'as bold as a man can. His name's as good, in
all that part, as any man's is, anywheres in the wureld. Anyone's
hand is ready to help him, you understand, and his is ready to help
them. He's never been heerd fur to complain. But my sister's
belief is ('twixt ourselves) as it has cut him deep.'
'Poor fellow, I can believe it!'
'He ain't no care, Mas'r Davy,' said Mr. Peggotty in a solemn
whisper - 'kinder no care no-how for his life. When a man's wanted
for rough sarvice in rough weather, he's theer. When there's hard
duty to be done with danger in it, he steps for'ard afore all his
mates. And yet he's as gentle as any child. There ain't a child
in Yarmouth that doen't know him.'
He gathered up the letters thoughtfully, smoothing them with his
hand; put them into their little bundle; and placed it tenderly in
his breast again. The face was gone from the door. I still saw
the snow drifting in; but nothing else was there.
'Well!' he said, looking to his bag, 'having seen you tonight,
Mas'r Davy (and that doos me good!), I shall away betimes tomorrow
morning. You have seen what I've got heer'; putting his hand on
where the little packet lay; 'all that troubles me is, to think
that any harm might come to me, afore that money was give back. If
I was to die, and it was lost, or stole, or elseways made away
with, and it was never know'd by him but what I'd took it, I
believe the t'other wureld wouldn't hold me! I believe I must come
He rose, and I rose too; we grasped each other by the hand again,
before going out.
'I'd go ten thousand mile,' he said, 'I'd go till I dropped dead,
to lay that money down afore him. If I do that, and find my Em'ly,
I'm content. If I doen't find her, maybe she'll come to hear,
sometime, as her loving uncle only ended his search for her when he
ended his life; and if I know her, even that will turn her home at
As he went out into the rigorous night, I saw the lonely figure
flit away before us. I turned him hastily on some pretence, and
held him in conversation until it was gone.
He spoke of a traveller's house on the Dover Road, where he knew he
could find a clean, plain lodging for the night. I went with him
over Westminster Bridge, and parted from him on the Surrey shore.
Everything seemed, to my imagination, to be hushed in reverence for
him, as he resumed his solitary journey through the snow.
I returned to the inn yard, and, impressed by my remembrance of the
face, looked awfully around for it. It was not there. The snow
had covered our late footprints; my new track was the only one to
be seen; and even that began to die away (it snowed so fast) as I
looked back over my shoulder.
At last, an answer came from the two old ladies. They presented
their compliments to Mr. Copperfield, and informed him that they
had given his letter their best consideration, 'with a view to the
happiness of both parties' - which I thought rather an alarming
expression, not only because of the use they had made of it in
relation to the family difference before-mentioned, but because I
had (and have all my life) observed that conventional phrases are
a sort of fireworks, easily let off, and liable to take a great
variety of shapes and colours not at all suggested by their
original form. The Misses Spenlow added that they begged to
forbear expressing, 'through the medium of correspondence', an
opinion on the subject of Mr. Copperfield's communication; but that
if Mr. Copperfield would do them the favour to call, upon a certain
day (accompanied, if he thought proper, by a confidential friend),
they would be happy to hold some conversation on the subject.
To this favour, Mr. Copperfield immediately replied, with his
respectful compliments, that he would have the honour of waiting on
the Misses Spenlow, at the time appointed; accompanied, in
accordance with their kind permission, by his friend Mr. Thomas
Traddles of the Inner Temple. Having dispatched which missive, Mr.
Copperfield fell into a condition of strong nervous agitation; and
so remained until the day arrived.
It was a great augmentation of my uneasiness to be bereaved, at
this eventful crisis, of the inestimable services of Miss Mills.
But Mr. Mills, who was always doing something or other to annoy me
- or I felt as if he were, which was the same thing - had brought
his conduct to a climax, by taking it into his head that he would
go to India. Why should he go to India, except to harass me? To
be sure he had nothing to do with any other part of the world, and
had a good deal to do with that part; being entirely in the India
trade, whatever that was (I had floating dreams myself concerning
golden shawls and elephants' teeth); having been at Calcutta in his
youth; and designing now to go out there again, in the capacity of
resident partner. But this was nothing to me. However, it was so
much to him that for India he was bound, and Julia with him; and
Julia went into the country to take leave of her relations; and the
house was put into a perfect suit of bills, announcing that it was
to be let or sold, and that the furniture (Mangle and all) was to
be taken at a valuation. So, here was another earthquake of which
I became the sport, before I had recovered from the shock of its
I was in several minds how to dress myself on the important day;
being divided between my desire to appear to advantage, and my
apprehensions of putting on anything that might impair my severely
practical character in the eyes of the Misses Spenlow. I
endeavoured to hit a happy medium between these two extremes; my
aunt approved the result; and Mr. Dick threw one of his shoes after
Traddles and me, for luck, as we went downstairs.
Excellent fellow as I knew Traddles to be, and warmly attached to
him as I was, I could not help wishing, on that delicate occasion,
that he had never contracted the habit of brushing his hair so very
upright. It gave him a surprised look - not to say a hearth-broomy
kind of expression - which, my apprehensions whispered, might be
fatal to us.
I took the liberty of mentioning it to Traddles, as we were walking
to Putney; and saying that if he WOULD smooth it down a little -
'My dear Copperfield,' said Traddles, lifting off his hat, and
rubbing his hair all kinds of ways, 'nothing would give me greater
pleasure. But it won't.'
'Won't be smoothed down?' said I.
'No,' said Traddles. 'Nothing will induce it. If I was to carry
a half-hundred-weight upon it, all the way to Putney, it would be
up again the moment the weight was taken off. You have no idea
what obstinate hair mine is, Copperfield. I am quite a fretful
I was a little disappointed, I must confess, but thoroughly charmed
by his good-nature too. I told him how I esteemed his good-nature;
and said that his hair must have taken all the obstinacy out of his
character, for he had none.
'Oh!' returned Traddles, laughing. 'I assure you, it's quite an
old story, my unfortunate hair. My uncle's wife couldn't bear it.
She said it exasperated her. It stood very much in my way, too,
when I first fell in love with Sophy. Very much!'
'Did she object to it?'
'SHE didn't,' rejoined Traddles; 'but her eldest sister - the one
that's the Beauty - quite made game of it, I understand. In fact,
all the sisters laugh at it.'
'Agreeable!' said I.
'Yes,' returned Traddles with perfect innocence, 'it's a joke for
us. They pretend that Sophy has a lock of it in her desk, and is
obliged to shut it in a clasped book, to keep it down. We laugh
'By the by, my dear Traddles,' said I, 'your experience may suggest
something to me. When you became engaged to the young lady whom
you have just mentioned, did you make a regular proposal to her
family? Was there anything like - what we are going through today,
for instance?' I added, nervously.
'Why,' replied Traddles, on whose attentive face a thoughtful shade
had stolen, 'it was rather a painful transaction, Copperfield, in
my case. You see, Sophy being of so much use in the family, none
of them could endure the thought of her ever being married.
Indeed, they had quite settled among themselves that she never was
to be married, and they called her the old maid. Accordingly, when
I mentioned it, with the greatest precaution, to Mrs. Crewler -'
'The mama?' said I.
'The mama,' said Traddles - 'Reverend Horace Crewler - when I
mentioned it with every possible precaution to Mrs. Crewler, the
effect upon her was such that she gave a scream and became
insensible. I couldn't approach the subject again, for months.'
'You did at last?' said I.
'Well, the Reverend Horace did,' said Traddles. 'He is an
excellent man, most exemplary in every way; and he pointed out to
her that she ought, as a Christian, to reconcile herself to the
sacrifice (especially as it was so uncertain), and to bear no
uncharitable feeling towards me. As to myself, Copperfield, I give
you my word, I felt a perfect bird of prey towards the family.'
'The sisters took your part, I hope, Traddles?'
'Why, I can't say they did,' he returned. 'When we had
comparatively reconciled Mrs. Crewler to it, we had to break it to
Sarah. You recollect my mentioning Sarah, as the one that has
something the matter with her spine?'
'She clenched both her hands,' said Traddles, looking at me in
dismay; 'shut her eyes; turned lead-colour; became perfectly stiff;
and took nothing for two days but toast-and-water, administered
with a tea-spoon.'
'What a very unpleasant girl, Traddles!' I remarked.
'Oh, I beg your pardon, Copperfield!' said Traddles. 'She is a
very charming girl, but she has a great deal of feeling. In fact,
they all have. Sophy told me afterwards, that the self-reproach
she underwent while she was in attendance upon Sarah, no words
could describe. I know it must have been severe, by my own
feelings, Copperfield; which were like a criminal's. After Sarah
was restored, we still had to break it to the other eight; and it
produced various effects upon them of a most pathetic nature. The
two little ones, whom Sophy educates, have only just left off
'At any rate, they are all reconciled to it now, I hope?' said I.
'Ye-yes, I should say they were, on the whole, resigned to it,'
said Traddles, doubtfully. 'The fact is, we avoid mentioning the
subject; and my unsettled prospects and indifferent circumstances
are a great consolation to them. There will be a deplorable scene,
whenever we are married. It will be much more like a funeral, than
a wedding. And they'll all hate me for taking her away!'
His honest face, as he looked at me with a serio-comic shake of his
head, impresses me more in the remembrance than it did in the
reality, for I was by this time in a state of such excessive
trepidation and wandering of mind, as to be quite unable to fix my
attention on anything. On our approaching the house where the
Misses Spenlow lived, I was at such a discount in respect of my
personal looks and presence of mind, that Traddles proposed a
gentle stimulant in the form of a glass of ale. This having been
administered at a neighbouring public-house, he conducted me, with
tottering steps, to the Misses Spenlow's door.
I had a vague sensation of being, as it were, on view, when the
maid opened it; and of wavering, somehow, across a hall with a
weather-glass in it, into a quiet little drawing-room on the
ground-floor, commanding a neat garden. Also of sitting down here,
on a sofa, and seeing Traddles's hair start up, now his hat was
removed, like one of those obtrusive little figures made of
springs, that fly out of fictitious snuff-boxes when the lid is
taken off. Also of hearing an old-fashioned clock ticking away on
the chimney-piece, and trying to make it keep time to the jerking
of my heart, - which it wouldn't. Also of looking round the room
for any sign of Dora, and seeing none. Also of thinking that Jip
once barked in the distance, and was instantly choked by somebody.
Ultimately I found myself backing Traddles into the fireplace, and
bowing in great confusion to two dry little elderly ladies, dressed
in black, and each looking wonderfully like a preparation in chip
or tan of the late Mr. Spenlow.
'Pray,' said one of the two little ladies, 'be seated.'
When I had done tumbling over Traddles, and had sat upon something
which was not a cat - my first seat was - I so far recovered my
sight, as to perceive that Mr. Spenlow had evidently been the
youngest of the family; that there was a disparity of six or eight
years between the two sisters; and that the younger appeared to be
the manager of the conference, inasmuch as she had my letter in her
hand - so familiar as it looked to me, and yet so odd! - and was
referring to it through an eye-glass. They were dressed alike, but
this sister wore her dress with a more youthful air than the other;
and perhaps had a trifle more frill, or tucker, or brooch, or
bracelet, or some little thing of that kind, which made her look
more lively. They were both upright in their carriage, formal,
precise, composed, and quiet. The sister who had not my letter,
had her arms crossed on her breast, and resting on each other, like
'Mr. Copperfield, I believe,' said the sister who had got my
letter, addressing herself to Traddles.
This was a frightful beginning. Traddles had to indicate that I
was Mr. Copperfield, and I had to lay claim to myself, and they had
to divest themselves of a preconceived opinion that Traddles was
Mr. Copperfield, and altogether we were in a nice condition. To
improve it, we all distinctly heard Jip give two short barks, and
receive another choke.
'Mr. Copperfield!' said the sister with the letter.
I did something - bowed, I suppose - and was all attention, when
the other sister struck in.
'My sister Lavinia,' said she 'being conversant with matters of
this nature, will state what we consider most calculated to promote
the happiness of both parties.'
I discovered afterwards that Miss Lavinia was an authority in
affairs of the heart, by reason of there having anciently existed
a certain Mr. Pidger, who played short whist, and was supposed to
have been enamoured of her. My private opinion is, that this was
entirely a gratuitous assumption, and that Pidger was altogether
innocent of any such sentiments - to which he had never given any
sort of expression that I could ever hear of. Both Miss Lavinia
and Miss Clarissa had a superstition, however, that he would have
declared his passion, if he had not been cut short in his youth (at
about sixty) by over-drinking his constitution, and over-doing an
attempt to set it right again by swilling Bath water. They had a
lurking suspicion even, that he died of secret love; though I must
say there was a picture of him in the house with a damask nose,
which concealment did not appear to have ever preyed upon.
'We will not,' said Miss Lavinia, 'enter on the past history of
this matter. Our poor brother Francis's death has cancelled that.'
'We had not,' said Miss Clarissa, 'been in the habit of frequent
association with our brother Francis; but there was no decided
division or disunion between us. Francis took his road; we took
ours. We considered it conducive to the happiness of all parties
that it should be so. And it was so.'
Each of the sisters leaned a little forward to speak, shook her
head after speaking, and became upright again when silent. Miss
Clarissa never moved her arms. She sometimes played tunes upon
them with her fingers - minuets and marches I should think - but
never moved them.
'Our niece's position, or supposed position, is much changed by our
brother Francis's death,' said Miss Lavinia; 'and therefore we
consider our brother's opinions as regarded her position as being
changed too. We have no reason to doubt, Mr. Copperfield, that you
are a young gentleman possessed of good qualities and honourable
character; or that you have an affection - or are fully persuaded
that you have an affection - for our niece.'
I replied, as I usually did whenever I had a chance, that nobody
had ever loved anybody else as I loved Dora. Traddles came to my
assistance with a confirmatory murmur.
Miss Lavinia was going on to make some rejoinder, when Miss
Clarissa, who appeared to be incessantly beset by a desire to refer
to her brother Francis, struck in again:
'If Dora's mama,' she said, 'when she married our brother Francis,
had at once said that there was not room for the family at the
dinner-table, it would have been better for the happiness of all
'Sister Clarissa,' said Miss Lavinia. 'Perhaps we needn't mind
'Sister Lavinia,' said Miss Clarissa, 'it belongs to the subject.
With your branch of the subject, on which alone you are competent
to speak, I should not think of interfering. On this branch of the
subject I have a voice and an opinion. It would have been better
for the happiness of all parties, if Dora's mama, when she married
our brother Francis, had mentioned plainly what her intentions
were. We should then have known what we had to expect. We should
have said "Pray do not invite us, at any time"; and all possibility
of misunderstanding would have been avoided.'
When Miss Clarissa had shaken her head, Miss Lavinia resumed: again
referring to my letter through her eye-glass. They both had little
bright round twinkling eyes, by the way, which were like birds'
eyes. They were not unlike birds, altogether; having a sharp,
brisk, sudden manner, and a little short, spruce way of adjusting
themselves, like canaries.
Miss Lavinia, as I have said, resumed:
'You ask permission of my sister Clarissa and myself, Mr.
Copperfield, to visit here, as the accepted suitor of our niece.'
'If our brother Francis,' said Miss Clarissa, breaking out again,
if I may call anything so calm a breaking out, 'wished to surround
himself with an atmosphere of Doctors' Commons, and of Doctors'
Commons only, what right or desire had we to object? None, I am
sure. We have ever been far from wishing to obtrude ourselves on
anyone. But why not say so? Let our brother Francis and his wife
have their society. Let my sister Lavinia and myself have our
society. We can find it for ourselves, I hope.'
As this appeared to be addressed to Traddles and me, both Traddles
and I made some sort of reply. Traddles was inaudible. I think I
observed, myself, that it was highly creditable to all concerned.
I don't in the least know what I meant.
'Sister Lavinia,' said Miss Clarissa, having now relieved her mind,
'you can go on, my dear.'
Miss Lavinia proceeded:
'Mr. Copperfield, my sister Clarissa and I have been very careful
indeed in considering this letter; and we have not considered it
without finally showing it to our niece, and discussing it with our
niece. We have no doubt that you think you like her very much.'
'Think, ma'am,' I rapturously began, 'oh! -'
But Miss Clarissa giving me a look (just like a sharp canary), as
requesting that I would not interrupt the oracle, I begged pardon.
'Affection,' said Miss Lavinia, glancing at her sister for
corroboration, which she gave in the form of a little nod to every
clause, 'mature affection, homage, devotion, does not easily
express itself. Its voice is low. It is modest and retiring, it
lies in ambush, waits and waits. Such is the mature fruit.
Sometimes a life glides away, and finds it still ripening in the
Of course I did not understand then that this was an allusion to
her supposed experience of the stricken Pidger; but I saw, from the
gravity with which Miss Clarissa nodded her head, that great weight
was attached to these words.
'The light - for I call them, in comparison with such sentiments,
the light - inclinations of very young people,' pursued Miss
Lavinia, 'are dust, compared to rocks. It is owing to the
difficulty of knowing whether they are likely to endure or have any
real foundation, that my sister Clarissa and myself have been very
undecided how to act, Mr. Copperfield, and Mr. -'
'Traddles,' said my friend, finding himself looked at.
'I beg pardon. Of the Inner Temple, I believe?' said Miss
Clarissa, again glancing at my letter.
Traddles said 'Exactly so,' and became pretty red in the face.
Now, although I had not received any express encouragement as yet,
I fancied that I saw in the two little sisters, and particularly in
Miss Lavinia, an intensified enjoyment of this new and fruitful
subject of domestic interest, a settling down to make the most of
it, a disposition to pet it, in which there was a good bright ray
of hope. I thought I perceived that Miss Lavinia would have
uncommon satisfaction in superintending two young lovers, like Dora
and me; and that Miss Clarissa would have hardly less satisfaction
in seeing her superintend us, and in chiming in with her own
particular department of the subject whenever that impulse was
strong upon her. This gave me courage to protest most vehemently
that I loved Dora better than I could tell, or anyone believe; that
all my friends knew how I loved her; that my aunt, Agnes, Traddles,
everyone who knew me, knew how I loved her, and how earnest my love
had made me. For the truth of this, I appealed to Traddles. And
Traddles, firing up as if he were plunging into a Parliamentary
Debate, really did come out nobly: confirming me in good round
terms, and in a plain sensible practical manner, that evidently
made a favourable impression.
'I speak, if I may presume to say so, as one who has some little
experience of such things,' said Traddles, 'being myself engaged to
a young lady - one of ten, down in Devonshire - and seeing no
probability, at present, of our engagement coming to a
'You may be able to confirm what I have said, Mr. Traddles,'
observed Miss Lavinia, evidently taking a new interest in him, 'of
the affection that is modest and retiring; that waits and waits?'
'Entirely, ma'am,' said Traddles.
Miss Clarissa looked at Miss Lavinia, and shook her head gravely.
Miss Lavinia looked consciously at Miss Clarissa, and heaved a
'Sister Lavinia,' said Miss Clarissa, 'take my smelling-bottle.'
Miss Lavinia revived herself with a few whiffs of aromatic vinegar
- Traddles and I looking on with great solicitude the while; and
then went on to say, rather faintly:
'My sister and myself have been in great doubt, Mr. Traddles, what
course we ought to take in reference to the likings, or imaginary
likings, of such very young people as your friend Mr. Copperfield
and our niece.'
'Our brother Francis's child,' remarked Miss Clarissa. 'If our
brother Francis's wife had found it convenient in her lifetime
(though she had an unquestionable right to act as she thought best)
to invite the family to her dinner-table, we might have known our
brother Francis's child better at the present moment. Sister
Miss Lavinia turned my letter, so as to bring the superscription
towards herself, and referred through her eye-glass to some
orderly-looking notes she had made on that part of it.
'It seems to us,' said she, 'prudent, Mr. Traddles, to bring these
feelings to the test of our own observation. At present we know
nothing of them, and are not in a situation to judge how much
reality there may be in them. Therefore we are inclined so far to
accede to Mr. Copperfield's proposal, as to admit his visits here.'
'I shall never, dear ladies,' I exclaimed, relieved of an immense
load of apprehension, 'forget your kindness!'
'But,' pursued Miss Lavinia, - 'but, we would prefer to regard
those visits, Mr. Traddles, as made, at present, to us. We must
guard ourselves from recognizing any positive engagement between
Mr. Copperfield and our niece, until we have had an opportunity -'
'Until YOU have had an opportunity, sister Lavinia,' said Miss
'Be it so,' assented Miss Lavinia, with a sigh - 'until I have had
an opportunity of observing them.'
'Copperfield,' said Traddles, turning to me, 'you feel, I am sure,
that nothing could be more reasonable or considerate.'
'Nothing!' cried I. 'I am deeply sensible of it.'
'In this position of affairs,' said Miss Lavinia, again referring
to her notes, 'and admitting his visits on this understanding only,
we must require from Mr. Copperfield a distinct assurance, on his
word of honour, that no communication of any kind shall take place
between him and our niece without our knowledge. That no project
whatever shall be entertained with regard to our niece, without
being first submitted to us -'
'To you, sister Lavinia,' Miss Clarissa interposed.
'Be it so, Clarissa!' assented Miss Lavinia resignedly - 'to me -
and receiving our concurrence. We must make this a most express
and serious stipulation, not to be broken on any account. We
wished Mr. Copperfield to be accompanied by some confidential
friend today,' with an inclination of her head towards Traddles,
who bowed, 'in order that there might be no doubt or misconception
on this subject. If Mr. Copperfield, or if you, Mr. Traddles, feel
the least scruple, in giving this promise, I beg you to take time
to consider it.'
I exclaimed, in a state of high ecstatic fervour, that not a
moment's consideration could be necessary. I bound myself by the
required promise, in a most impassioned manner; called upon
Traddles to witness it; and denounced myself as the most atrocious
of characters if I ever swerved from it in the least degree.
'Stay!' said Miss Lavinia, holding up her hand; 'we resolved,
before we had the pleasure of receiving you two gentlemen, to leave
you alone for a quarter of an hour, to consider this point. You
will allow us to retire.'
It was in vain for me to say that no consideration was necessary.
They persisted in withdrawing for the specified time. Accordingly,
these little birds hopped out with great dignity; leaving me to
receive the congratulations of Traddles, and to feel as if I were
translated to regions of exquisite happiness. Exactly at the
expiration of the quarter of an hour, they reappeared with no less
dignity than they had disappeared. They had gone rustling away as
if their little dresses were made of autumn-leaves: and they came
rustling back, in like manner.
I then bound myself once more to the prescribed conditions.
'Sister Clarissa,' said Miss Lavinia, 'the rest is with you.'
Miss Clarissa, unfolding her arms for the first time, took the
notes and glanced at them.
'We shall be happy,' said Miss Clarissa, 'to see Mr. Copperfield to
dinner, every Sunday, if it should suit his convenience. Our hour
'In the course of the week,' said Miss Clarissa, 'we shall be happy
to see Mr. Copperfield to tea. Our hour is half-past six.'
I bowed again.
'Twice in the week,' said Miss Clarissa, 'but, as a rule, not
I bowed again.
'Miss Trotwood,' said Miss Clarissa, 'mentioned in Mr.
Copperfield's letter, will perhaps call upon us. When visiting is
better for the happiness of all parties, we are glad to receive
visits, and return them. When it is better for the happiness of
all parties that no visiting should take place, (as in the case of
our brother Francis, and his establishment) that is quite
I intimated that my aunt would be proud and delighted to make their
acquaintance; though I must say I was not quite sure of their
getting on very satisfactorily together. The conditions being now
closed, I expressed my acknowledgements in the warmest manner; and,
taking the hand, first of Miss Clarissa, and then of Miss Lavinia,
pressed it, in each case, to my lips.
Miss Lavinia then arose, and begging Mr. Traddles to excuse us for
a minute, requested me to follow her. I obeyed, all in a tremble,
and was conducted into another room. There I found my blessed
darling stopping her ears behind the door, with her dear little
face against the wall; and Jip in the plate-warmer with his head
tied up in a towel.
Oh! How beautiful she was in her black frock, and how she sobbed
and cried at first, and wouldn't come out from behind the door!
How fond we were of one another, when she did come out at last; and
what a state of bliss I was in, when we took Jip out of the
plate-warmer, and restored him to the light, sneezing very much,
and were all three reunited!
'My dearest Dora! Now, indeed, my own for ever!'
'Oh, DON'T!' pleaded Dora. 'Please!'
'Are you not my own for ever, Dora?'
'Oh yes, of course I am!' cried Dora, 'but I am so frightened!'
'Frightened, my own?'
'Oh yes! I don't like him,' said Dora. 'Why don't he go?'
'Who, my life?'
'Your friend,' said Dora. 'It isn't any business of his. What a
stupid he must be!'
'My love!' (There never was anything so coaxing as her childish
ways.) 'He is the best creature!'
'Oh, but we don't want any best creatures!' pouted Dora.
'My dear,' I argued, 'you will soon know him well, and like him of
all things. And here is my aunt coming soon; and you'll like her
of all things too, when you know her.'
'No, please don't bring her!' said Dora, giving me a horrified
little kiss, and folding her hands. 'Don't. I know she's a
naughty, mischief-making old thing! Don't let her come here,
Doady!' which was a corruption of David.
Remonstrance was of no use, then; so I laughed, and admired, and
was very much in love and very happy; and she showed me Jip's new
trick of standing on his hind legs in a corner - which he did for
about the space of a flash of lightning, and then fell down - and
I don't know how long I should have stayed there, oblivious of
Traddles, if Miss Lavinia had not come in to take me away. Miss
Lavinia was very fond of Dora (she told me Dora was exactly like
what she had been herself at her age - she must have altered a good
deal), and she treated Dora just as if she had been a toy. I
wanted to persuade Dora to come and see Traddles, but on my
proposing it she ran off to her own room and locked herself in; so
I went to Traddles without her, and walked away with him on air.
'Nothing could be more satisfactory,' said Traddles; 'and they are
very agreeable old ladies, I am sure. I shouldn't be at all
surprised if you were to be married years before me, Copperfield.'
'Does your Sophy play on any instrument, Traddles?' I inquired, in
the pride of my heart.
'She knows enough of the piano to teach it to her little sisters,'
'Does she sing at all?' I asked.
'Why, she sings ballads, sometimes, to freshen up the others a
little when they're out of spirits,' said Traddles. 'Nothing
'She doesn't sing to the guitar?' said I.
'Oh dear no!' said Traddles.
'Paint at all?'
'Not at all,' said Traddles.
I promised Traddles that he should hear Dora sing, and see some of
her flower-painting. He said he should like it very much, and we
went home arm in arm in great good humour and delight. I
encouraged him to talk about Sophy, on the way; which he did with
a loving reliance on her that I very much admired. I compared her
in my mind with Dora, with considerable inward satisfaction; but I
candidly admitted to myself that she seemed to be an excellent kind
of girl for Traddles, too.
Of course my aunt was immediately made acquainted with the
successful issue of the conference, and with all that had been said
and done in the course of it. She was happy to see me so happy,
and promised to call on Dora's aunts without loss of time. But she
took such a long walk up and down our rooms that night, while I was
writing to Agnes, that I began to think she meant to walk till
My letter to Agnes was a fervent and grateful one, narrating all
the good effects that had resulted from my following her advice.
She wrote, by return of post, to me. Her letter was hopeful,
earnest, and cheerful. She was always cheerful from that time.
I had my hands more full than ever, now. My daily journeys to
Highgate considered, Putney was a long way off; and I naturally
wanted to go there as often as I could. The proposed tea-drinkings
being quite impracticable, I compounded with Miss Lavinia for
permission to visit every Saturday afternoon, without detriment to
my privileged Sundays. So, the close of every week was a delicious
time for me; and I got through the rest of the week by looking
forward to it.
I was wonderfully relieved to find that my aunt and Dora's aunts
rubbed on, all things considered, much more smoothly than I could
have expected. My aunt made her promised visit within a few days
of the conference; and within a few more days, Dora's aunts called
upon her, in due state and form. Similar but more friendly
exchanges took place afterwards, usually at intervals of three or
four weeks. I know that my aunt distressed Dora's aunts very much,
by utterly setting at naught the dignity of fly-conveyance, and
walking out to Putney at extraordinary times, as shortly after
breakfast or just before tea; likewise by wearing her bonnet in any
manner that happened to be comfortable to her head, without at all
deferring to the prejudices of civilization on that subject. But
Dora's aunts soon agreed to regard my aunt as an eccentric and
somewhat masculine lady, with a strong understanding; and although
my aunt occasionally ruffled the feathers of Dora's aunts, by
expressing heretical opinions on various points of ceremony, she
loved me too well not to sacrifice some of her little peculiarities
to the general harmony.
The only member of our small society who positively refused to
adapt himself to circumstances, was Jip. He never saw my aunt
without immediately displaying every tooth in his head, retiring
under a chair, and growling incessantly: with now and then a
doleful howl, as if she really were too much for his feelings. All
kinds of treatment were tried with him, coaxing, scolding,
slapping, bringing him to Buckingham Street (where he instantly
dashed at the two cats, to the terror of all beholders); but he
never could prevail upon himself to bear my aunt's society. He
would sometimes think he had got the better of his objection, and
be amiable for a few minutes; and then would put up his snub nose,
and howl to that extent, that there was nothing for it but to blind
him and put him in the plate-warmer. At length, Dora regularly
muffled him in a towel and shut him up there, whenever my aunt was
reported at the door.
One thing troubled me much, after we had fallen into this quiet
train. It was, that Dora seemed by one consent to be regarded like
a pretty toy or plaything. My aunt, with whom she gradually became
familiar, always called her Little Blossom; and the pleasure of
Miss Lavinia's life was to wait upon her, curl her hair, make
ornaments for her, and treat her like a pet child. What Miss
Lavinia did, her sister did as a matter of course. It was very odd
to me; but they all seemed to treat Dora, in her degree, much as
Dora treated Jip in his.
I made up my mind to speak to Dora about this; and one day when we
were out walking (for we were licensed by Miss Lavinia, after a
while, to go out walking by ourselves), I said to her that I wished
she could get them to behave towards her differently.
'Because you know, my darling,' I remonstrated, 'you are not a
'There!' said Dora. 'Now you're going to be cross!'
'Cross, my love?'
'I am sure they're very kind to me,' said Dora, 'and I am very
'Well! But my dearest life!' said I, 'you might be very happy, and
yet be treated rationally.'
Dora gave me a reproachful look - the prettiest look! - and then
began to sob, saying, if I didn't like her, why had I ever wanted
so much to be engaged to her? And why didn't I go away, now, if I
couldn't bear her?
What could I do, but kiss away her tears, and tell her how I doted
on her, after that!
'I am sure I am very affectionate,' said Dora; 'you oughtn't to be
cruel to me, Doady!'
'Cruel, my precious love! As if I would - or could - be cruel to
you, for the world!'
'Then don't find fault with me,' said Dora, making a rosebud of her
mouth; 'and I'll be good.'
I was charmed by her presently asking me, of her own accord, to
give her that cookery-book I had once spoken of, and to show her
how to keep accounts as I had once promised I would. I brought the
volume with me on my next visit (I got it prettily bound, first, to
make it look less dry and more inviting); and as we strolled about
the Common, I showed her an old housekeeping-book of my aunt's, and
gave her a set of tablets, and a pretty little pencil-case and box
of leads, to practise housekeeping with.
But the cookery-book made Dora's head ache, and the figures made
her cry. They wouldn't add up, she said. So she rubbed them out,
and drew little nosegays and likenesses of me and Jip, all over the
Then I playfully tried verbal instruction in domestic matters, as
we walked about on a Saturday afternoon. Sometimes, for example,
when we passed a butcher's shop, I would say:
'Now suppose, my pet, that we were married, and you were going to
buy a shoulder of mutton for dinner, would you know how to buy it?'
My pretty little Dora's face would fall, and she would make her
mouth into a bud again, as if she would very much prefer to shut
mine with a kiss.
'Would you know how to buy it, my darling?' I would repeat,
perhaps, if I were very inflexible.
Dora would think a little, and then reply, perhaps, with great
'Why, the butcher would know how to sell it, and what need I know?
Oh, you silly boy!'
So, when I once asked Dora, with an eye to the cookery-book, what
she would do, if we were married, and I were to say I should like
a nice Irish stew, she replied that she would tell the servant to
make it; and then clapped her little hands together across my arm,
and laughed in such a charming manner that she was more delightful
Consequently, the principal use to which the cookery-book was
devoted, was being put down in the corner for Jip to stand upon.
But Dora was so pleased, when she had trained him to stand upon it
without offering to come off, and at the same time to hold the
pencil-case in his mouth, that I was very glad I had bought it.
And we fell back on the guitar-case, and the flower-painting, and
the songs about never leaving off dancing, Ta ra la! and were as
happy as the week was long. I occasionally wished I could venture
to hint to Miss Lavinia, that she treated the darling of my heart
a little too much like a plaything; and I sometimes awoke, as it
were, wondering to find that I had fallen into the general fault,
and treated her like a plaything too - but not often.
I feel as if it were not for me to record, even though this
manuscript is intended for no eyes but mine, how hard I worked at
that tremendous short-hand, and all improvement appertaining to it,
in my sense of responsibility to Dora and her aunts. I will only
add, to what I have already written of my perseverance at this time
of my life, and of a patient and continuous energy which then began
to be matured within me, and which I know to be the strong part of
my character, if it have any strength at all, that there, on
looking back, I find the source of my success. I have been very
fortunate in worldly matters; many men have worked much harder, and
not succeeded half so well; but I never could have done what I have
done, without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence,
without the determination to concentrate myself on one object at a
time, no matter how quickly its successor should come upon its
heels, which I then formed. Heaven knows I write this, in no
spirit of self-laudation. The man who reviews his own life, as I
do mine, in going on here, from page to page, had need to have been
a good man indeed, if he would be spared the sharp consciousness of
many talents neglected, many opportunities wasted, many erratic and
perverted feelings constantly at war within his breast, and
defeating him. I do not hold one natural gift, I dare say, that I
have not abused. My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried
to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that
whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to
completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been
thoroughly in earnest. I have never believed it possible that any
natural or improved ability can claim immunity from the
companionship of the steady, plain, hard-working qualities, and
hope to gain its end. There is no such thing as such fulfilment on
this earth. Some happy talent, and some fortunate opportunity, may
form the two sides of the ladder on which some men mount, but the
rounds of that ladder must be made of stuff to stand wear and tear;
and there is no substitute for thorough-going, ardent, and sincere
earnestness. Never to put one hand to anything, on which I could
throw my whole self; and never to affect depreciation of my work,
whatever it was; I find, now, to have been my golden rules.
How much of the practice I have just reduced to precept, I owe to
Agnes, I will not repeat here. My narrative proceeds to Agnes,
with a thankful love.
She came on a visit of a fortnight to the Doctor's. Mr. Wickfield
was the Doctor's old friend, and the Doctor wished to talk with
him, and do him good. It had been matter of conversation with
Agnes when she was last in town, and this visit was the result.
She and her father came together. I was not much surprised to hear
from her that she had engaged to find a lodging in the
neighbourhood for Mrs. Heep, whose rheumatic complaint required
change of air, and who would be charmed to have it in such company.
Neither was I surprised when, on the very next day, Uriah, like a
dutiful son, brought his worthy mother to take possession.
'You see, Master Copperfield,' said he, as he forced himself upon
my company for a turn in the Doctor's garden, 'where a person
loves, a person is a little jealous - leastways, anxious to keep an
eye on the beloved one.'
'Of whom are you jealous, now?' said I.
'Thanks to you, Master Copperfield,' he returned, 'of no one in
particular just at present - no male person, at least.'
'Do you mean that you are jealous of a female person?'
He gave me a sidelong glance out of his sinister red eyes, and
'Really, Master Copperfield,' he said, '- I should say Mister, but
I know you'll excuse the abit I've got into - you're so