Part 4 out of 21
cleared, lest I should spot the mourning that was lying there with
my tears. She was a pretty, good-natured girl, and put my hair
away from my eyes with a soft, kind touch; but she was very
cheerful at having nearly finished her work and being in good time,
and was so different from me!
Presently the tune left off, and a good-looking young fellow came
across the yard into the room. He had a hammer in his hand, and
his mouth was full of little nails, which he was obliged to take
out before he could speak.
'Well, Joram!' said Mr. Omer. 'How do you get on?'
'All right,' said Joram. 'Done, sir.'
Minnie coloured a little, and the other two girls smiled at one
'What! you were at it by candle-light last night, when I was at the
club, then? Were you?' said Mr. Omer, shutting up one eye.
'Yes,' said Joram. 'As you said we could make a little trip of it,
and go over together, if it was done, Minnie and me - and you.'
'Oh! I thought you were going to leave me out altogether,' said
Mr. Omer, laughing till he coughed.
'- As you was so good as to say that,' resumed the young man, 'why
I turned to with a will, you see. Will you give me your opinion of
'I will,' said Mr. Omer, rising. 'My dear'; and he stopped and
turned to me: 'would you like to see your -'
'No, father,' Minnie interposed.
'I thought it might be agreeable, my dear,' said Mr. Omer. 'But
perhaps you're right.'
I can't say how I knew it was my dear, dear mother's coffin that
they went to look at. I had never heard one making; I had never
seen one that I know of.- but it came into my mind what the noise
was, while it was going on; and when the young man entered, I am
sure I knew what he had been doing.
The work being now finished, the two girls, whose names I had not
heard, brushed the shreds and threads from their dresses, and went
into the shop to put that to rights, and wait for customers.
Minnie stayed behind to fold up what they had made, and pack it in
two baskets. This she did upon her knees, humming a lively little
tune the while. Joram, who I had no doubt was her lover, came in
and stole a kiss from her while she was busy (he didn't appear to
mind me, at all), and said her father was gone for the chaise, and
he must make haste and get himself ready. Then he went out again;
and then she put her thimble and scissors in her pocket, and stuck
a needle threaded with black thread neatly in the bosom of her
gown, and put on her outer clothing smartly, at a little glass
behind the door, in which I saw the reflection of her pleased face.
All this I observed, sitting at the table in the corner with my
head leaning on my hand, and my thoughts running on very different
things. The chaise soon came round to the front of the shop, and
the baskets being put in first, I was put in next, and those three
followed. I remember it as a kind of half chaise-cart, half
pianoforte-van, painted of a sombre colour, and drawn by a black
horse with a long tail. There was plenty of room for us all.
I do not think I have ever experienced so strange a feeling in my
life (I am wiser now, perhaps) as that of being with them,
remembering how they had been employed, and seeing them enjoy the
ride. I was not angry with them; I was more afraid of them, as if
I were cast away among creatures with whom I had no community of
nature. They were very cheerful. The old man sat in front to
drive, and the two young people sat behind him, and whenever he
spoke to them leaned forward, the one on one side of his chubby
face and the other on the other, and made a great deal of him.
They would have talked to me too, but I held back, and moped in my
corner; scared by their love-making and hilarity, though it was far
from boisterous, and almost wondering that no judgement came upon
them for their hardness of heart.
So, when they stopped to bait the horse, and ate and drank and
enjoyed themselves, I could touch nothing that they touched, but
kept my fast unbroken. So, when we reached home, I dropped out of
the chaise behind, as quickly as possible, that I might not be in
their company before those solemn windows, looking blindly on me
like closed eyes once bright. And oh, how little need I had had to
think what would move me to tears when I came back - seeing the
window of my mother's room, and next it that which, in the better
time, was mine!
I was in Peggotty's arms before I got to the door, and she took me
into the house. Her grief burst out when she first saw me; but she
controlled it soon, and spoke in whispers, and walked softly, as if
the dead could be disturbed. She had not been in bed, I found, for
a long time. She sat up at night still, and watched. As long as
her poor dear pretty was above the ground, she said, she would
never desert her.
Mr. Murdstone took no heed of me when I went into the parlour where
he was, but sat by the fireside, weeping silently, and pondering in
his elbow-chair. Miss Murdstone, who was busy at her writing-desk,
which was covered with letters and papers, gave me her cold
finger-nails, and asked me, in an iron whisper, if I had been
measured for my mourning.
I said: 'Yes.'
'And your shirts,' said Miss Murdstone; 'have you brought 'em
'Yes, ma'am. I have brought home all my clothes.'
This was all the consolation that her firmness administered to me.
I do not doubt that she had a choice pleasure in exhibiting what
she called her self-command, and her firmness, and her strength of
mind, and her common sense, and the whole diabolical catalogue of
her unamiable qualities, on such an occasion. She was particularly
proud of her turn for business; and she showed it now in reducing
everything to pen and ink, and being moved by nothing. All the
rest of that day, and from morning to night afterwards, she sat at
that desk, scratching composedly with a hard pen, speaking in the
same imperturbable whisper to everybody; never relaxing a muscle of
her face, or softening a tone of her voice, or appearing with an
atom of her dress astray.
Her brother took a book sometimes, but never read it that I saw.
He would open it and look at it as if he were reading, but would
remain for a whole hour without turning the leaf, and then put it
down and walk to and fro in the room. I used to sit with folded
hands watching him, and counting his footsteps, hour after hour.
He very seldom spoke to her, and never to me. He seemed to be the
only restless thing, except the clocks, in the whole motionless
In these days before the funeral, I saw but little of Peggotty,
except that, in passing up or down stairs, I always found her close
to the room where my mother and her baby lay, and except that she
came to me every night, and sat by my bed's head while I went to
sleep. A day or two before the burial - I think it was a day or
two before, but I am conscious of confusion in my mind about that
heavy time, with nothing to mark its progress - she took me into
the room. I only recollect that underneath some white covering on
the bed, with a beautiful cleanliness and freshness all around it,
there seemed to me to lie embodied the solemn stillness that was in
the house; and that when she would have turned the cover gently
back, I cried: 'Oh no! oh no!' and held her hand.
If the funeral had been yesterday, I could not recollect it better.
The very air of the best parlour, when I went in at the door, the
bright condition of the fire, the shining of the wine in the
decanters, the patterns of the glasses and plates, the faint sweet
smell of cake, the odour of Miss Murdstone's dress, and our black
clothes. Mr. Chillip is in the room, and comes to speak to me.
'And how is Master David?' he says, kindly.
I cannot tell him very well. I give him my hand, which he holds in
'Dear me!' says Mr. Chillip, meekly smiling, with something shining
in his eye. 'Our little friends grow up around us. They grow out
of our knowledge, ma'am?' This is to Miss Murdstone, who makes no
'There is a great improvement here, ma'am?' says Mr. Chillip.
Miss Murdstone merely answers with a frown and a formal bend: Mr.
Chillip, discomfited, goes into a corner, keeping me with him, and
opens his mouth no more.
I remark this, because I remark everything that happens, not
because I care about myself, or have done since I came home. And
now the bell begins to sound, and Mr. Omer and another come to make
us ready. As Peggotty was wont to tell me, long ago, the followers
of my father to the same grave were made ready in the same room.
There are Mr. Murdstone, our neighbour Mr. Grayper, Mr. Chillip,
and I. When we go out to the door, the Bearers and their load are
in the garden; and they move before us down the path, and past the
elms, and through the gate, and into the churchyard, where I have
so often heard the birds sing on a summer morning.
We stand around the grave. The day seems different to me from
every other day, and the light not of the same colour - of a sadder
colour. Now there is a solemn hush, which we have brought from
home with what is resting in the mould; and while we stand
bareheaded, I hear the voice of the clergyman, sounding remote in
the open air, and yet distinct and plain, saying: 'I am the
Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord!' Then I hear sobs; and,
standing apart among the lookers-on, I see that good and faithful
servant, whom of all the people upon earth I love the best, and
unto whom my childish heart is certain that the Lord will one day
say: 'Well done.'
There are many faces that I know, among the little crowd; faces
that I knew in church, when mine was always wondering there; faces
that first saw my mother, when she came to the village in her
youthful bloom. I do not mind them - I mind nothing but my grief
- and yet I see and know them all; and even in the background, far
away, see Minnie looking on, and her eye glancing on her
sweetheart, who is near me.
It is over, and the earth is filled in, and we turn to come away.
Before us stands our house, so pretty and unchanged, so linked in
my mind with the young idea of what is gone, that all my sorrow has
been nothing to the sorrow it calls forth. But they take me on;
and Mr. Chillip talks to me; and when we get home, puts some water
to my lips; and when I ask his leave to go up to my room, dismisses
me with the gentleness of a woman.
All this, I say, is yesterday's event. Events of later date have
floated from me to the shore where all forgotten things will
reappear, but this stands like a high rock in the ocean.
I knew that Peggotty would come to me in my room. The Sabbath
stillness of the time (the day was so like Sunday! I have
forgotten that) was suited to us both. She sat down by my side
upon my little bed; and holding my hand, and sometimes putting it
to her lips, and sometimes smoothing it with hers, as she might
have comforted my little brother, told me, in her way, all that she
had to tell concerning what had happened.
'She was never well,' said Peggotty, 'for a long time. She was
uncertain in her mind, and not happy. When her baby was born, I
thought at first she would get better, but she was more delicate,
and sunk a little every day. She used to like to sit alone before
her baby came, and then she cried; but afterwards she used to sing
to it - so soft, that I once thought, when I heard her, it was like
a voice up in the air, that was rising away.
'I think she got to be more timid, and more frightened-like, of
late; and that a hard word was like a blow to her. But she was
always the same to me. She never changed to her foolish Peggotty,
didn't my sweet girl.'
Here Peggotty stopped, and softly beat upon my hand a little while.
'The last time that I saw her like her own old self, was the night
when you came home, my dear. The day you went away, she said to
me, "I never shall see my pretty darling again. Something tells me
so, that tells the truth, I know."
'She tried to hold up after that; and many a time, when they told
her she was thoughtless and light-hearted, made believe to be so;
but it was all a bygone then. She never told her husband what she
had told me - she was afraid of saying it to anybody else - till
one night, a little more than a week before it happened, when she
said to him: "My dear, I think I am dying."
'"It's off my mind now, Peggotty," she told me, when I laid her in
her bed that night. "He will believe it more and more, poor
fellow, every day for a few days to come; and then it will be past.
I am very tired. If this is sleep, sit by me while I sleep: don't
leave me. God bless both my children! God protect and keep my
'I never left her afterwards,' said Peggotty. 'She often talked to
them two downstairs - for she loved them; she couldn't bear not to
love anyone who was about her - but when they went away from her
bed-side, she always turned to me, as if there was rest where
Peggotty was, and never fell asleep in any other way.
'On the last night, in the evening, she kissed me, and said: "If my
baby should die too, Peggotty, please let them lay him in my arms,
and bury us together." (It was done; for the poor lamb lived but
a day beyond her.) "Let my dearest boy go with us to our
resting-place," she said, "and tell him that his mother, when she
lay here, blessed him not once, but a thousand times."'
Another silence followed this, and another gentle beating on my
'It was pretty far in the night,' said Peggotty, 'when she asked me
for some drink; and when she had taken it, gave me such a patient
smile, the dear! - so beautiful!
'Daybreak had come, and the sun was rising, when she said to me,
how kind and considerate Mr. Copperfield had always been to her,
and how he had borne with her, and told her, when she doubted
herself, that a loving heart was better and stronger than wisdom,
and that he was a happy man in hers. "Peggotty, my dear," she said
then, "put me nearer to you," for she was very weak. "Lay your
good arm underneath my neck," she said, "and turn me to you, for
your face is going far off, and I want it to be near." I put it as
she asked; and oh Davy! the time had come when my first parting
words to you were true - when she was glad to lay her poor head on
her stupid cross old Peggotty's arm - and she died like a child
that had gone to sleep!'
Thus ended Peggotty's narration. From the moment of my knowing of
the death of my mother, the idea of her as she had been of late had
vanished from me. I remembered her, from that instant, only as the
young mother of my earliest impressions, who had been used to wind
her bright curls round and round her finger, and to dance with me
at twilight in the parlour. What Peggotty had told me now, was so
far from bringing me back to the later period, that it rooted the
earlier image in my mind. It may be curious, but it is true. In
her death she winged her way back to her calm untroubled youth, and
cancelled all the rest.
The mother who lay in the grave, was the mother of my infancy; the
little creature in her arms, was myself, as I had once been, hushed
for ever on her bosom.
I BECOME NEGLECTED, AND AM PROVIDED FOR
The first act of business Miss Murdstone performed when the day of
the solemnity was over, and light was freely admitted into the
house, was to give Peggotty a month's warning. Much as Peggotty
would have disliked such a service, I believe she would have
retained it, for my sake, in preference to the best upon earth.
She told me we must part, and told me why; and we condoled with one
another, in all sincerity.
As to me or my future, not a word was said, or a step taken. Happy
they would have been, I dare say, if they could have dismissed me
at a month's warning too. I mustered courage once, to ask Miss
Murdstone when I was going back to school; and she answered dryly,
she believed I was not going back at all. I was told nothing more.
I was very anxious to know what was going to be done with me, and
so was Peggotty; but neither she nor I could pick up any
information on the subject.
There was one change in my condition, which, while it relieved me
of a great deal of present uneasiness, might have made me, if I had
been capable of considering it closely, yet more uncomfortable
about the future. It was this. The constraint that had been put
upon me, was quite abandoned. I was so far from being required to
keep my dull post in the parlour, that on several occasions, when
I took my seat there, Miss Murdstone frowned to me to go away. I
was so far from being warned off from Peggotty's society, that,
provided I was not in Mr. Murdstone's, I was never sought out or
inquired for. At first I was in daily dread of his taking my
education in hand again, or of Miss Murdstone's devoting herself to
it; but I soon began to think that such fears were groundless, and
that all I had to anticipate was neglect.
I do not conceive that this discovery gave me much pain then. I
was still giddy with the shock of my mother's death, and in a kind
of stunned state as to all tributary things. I can recollect,
indeed, to have speculated, at odd times, on the possibility of my
not being taught any more, or cared for any more; and growing up to
be a shabby, moody man, lounging an idle life away, about the
village; as well as on the feasibility of my getting rid of this
picture by going away somewhere, like the hero in a story, to seek
my fortune: but these were transient visions, daydreams I sat
looking at sometimes, as if they were faintly painted or written on
the wall of my room, and which, as they melted away, left the wall
'Peggotty,' I said in a thoughtful whisper, one evening, when I was
warming my hands at the kitchen fire, 'Mr. Murdstone likes me less
than he used to. He never liked me much, Peggotty; but he would
rather not even see me now, if he can help it.'
'Perhaps it's his sorrow,' said Peggotty, stroking my hair.
'I am sure, Peggotty, I am sorry too. If I believed it was his
sorrow, I should not think of it at all. But it's not that; oh,
no, it's not that.'
'How do you know it's not that?' said Peggotty, after a silence.
'Oh, his sorrow is another and quite a different thing. He is
sorry at this moment, sitting by the fireside with Miss Murdstone;
but if I was to go in, Peggotty, he would be something besides.'
'What would he be?' said Peggotty.
'Angry,' I answered, with an involuntary imitation of his dark
frown. 'If he was only sorry, he wouldn't look at me as he does.
I am only sorry, and it makes me feel kinder.'
Peggotty said nothing for a little while; and I warmed my hands, as
silent as she.
'Davy,' she said at length.
'I have tried, my dear, all ways I could think of - all the ways
there are, and all the ways there ain't, in short - to get a
suitable service here, in Blunderstone; but there's no such a
thing, my love.'
'And what do you mean to do, Peggotty,' says I, wistfully. 'Do you
mean to go and seek your fortune?'
'I expect I shall be forced to go to Yarmouth,' replied Peggotty,
'and live there.'
'You might have gone farther off,' I said, brightening a little,
'and been as bad as lost. I shall see you sometimes, my dear old
Peggotty, there. You won't be quite at the other end of the world,
'Contrary ways, please God!' cried Peggotty, with great animation.
'As long as you are here, my pet, I shall come over every week of
my life to see you. One day, every week of my life!'
I felt a great weight taken off my mind by this promise: but even
this was not all, for Peggotty went on to say:
'I'm a-going, Davy, you see, to my brother's, first, for another
fortnight's visit - just till I have had time to look about me, and
get to be something like myself again. Now, I have been thinking
that perhaps, as they don't want you here at present, you might be
let to go along with me.'
If anything, short of being in a different relation to every one
about me, Peggotty excepted, could have given me a sense of
pleasure at that time, it would have been this project of all
others. The idea of being again surrounded by those honest faces,
shining welcome on me; of renewing the peacefulness of the sweet
Sunday morning, when the bells were ringing, the stones dropping in
the water, and the shadowy ships breaking through the mist; of
roaming up and down with little Em'ly, telling her my troubles, and
finding charms against them in the shells and pebbles on the beach;
made a calm in my heart. It was ruffled next moment, to be sure,
by a doubt of Miss Murdstone's giving her consent; but even that
was set at rest soon, for she came out to take an evening grope in
the store-closet while we were yet in conversation, and Peggotty,
with a boldness that amazed me, broached the topic on the spot.
'The boy will be idle there,' said Miss Murdstone, looking into a
pickle-jar, 'and idleness is the root of all evil. But, to be
sure, he would be idle here - or anywhere, in my opinion.'
Peggotty had an angry answer ready, I could see; but she swallowed
it for my sake, and remained silent.
'Humph!' said Miss Murdstone, still keeping her eye on the pickles;
'it is of more importance than anything else - it is of paramount
importance - that my brother should not be disturbed or made
uncomfortable. I suppose I had better say yes.'
I thanked her, without making any demonstration of joy, lest it
should induce her to withdraw her assent. Nor could I help
thinking this a prudent course, since she looked at me out of the
pickle-jar, with as great an access of sourness as if her black
eyes had absorbed its contents. However, the permission was given,
and was never retracted; for when the month was out, Peggotty and
I were ready to depart.
Mr. Barkis came into the house for Peggotty's boxes. I had never
known him to pass the garden-gate before, but on this occasion he
came into the house. And he gave me a look as he shouldered the
largest box and went out, which I thought had meaning in it, if
meaning could ever be said to find its way into Mr. Barkis's
Peggotty was naturally in low spirits at leaving what had been her
home so many years, and where the two strong attachments of her
life - for my mother and myself - had been formed. She had been
walking in the churchyard, too, very early; and she got into the
cart, and sat in it with her handkerchief at her eyes.
So long as she remained in this condition, Mr. Barkis gave no sign
of life whatever. He sat in his usual place and attitude like a
great stuffed figure. But when she began to look about her, and to
speak to me, he nodded his head and grinned several times. I have
not the least notion at whom, or what he meant by it.
'It's a beautiful day, Mr. Barkis!' I said, as an act of
'It ain't bad,' said Mr. Barkis, who generally qualified his
speech, and rarely committed himself.
'Peggotty is quite comfortable now, Mr. Barkis,' I remarked, for
'Is she, though?' said Mr. Barkis.
After reflecting about it, with a sagacious air, Mr. Barkis eyed
her, and said:
'ARE you pretty comfortable?'
Peggotty laughed, and answered in the affirmative.
'But really and truly, you know. Are you?' growled Mr. Barkis,
sliding nearer to her on the seat, and nudging her with his elbow.
'Are you? Really and truly pretty comfortable? Are you? Eh?'
At each of these inquiries Mr. Barkis shuffled nearer to her, and
gave her another nudge; so that at last we were all crowded
together in the left-hand corner of the cart, and I was so squeezed
that I could hardly bear it.
Peggotty calling his attention to my sufferings, Mr. Barkis gave me
a little more room at once, and got away by degrees. But I could
not help observing that he seemed to think he had hit upon a
wonderful expedient for expressing himself in a neat, agreeable,
and pointed manner, without the inconvenience of inventing
conversation. He manifestly chuckled over it for some time. By
and by he turned to Peggotty again, and repeating, 'Are you pretty
comfortable though?' bore down upon us as before, until the breath
was nearly edged out of my body. By and by he made another descent
upon us with the same inquiry, and the same result. At length, I
got up whenever I saw him coming, and standing on the foot-board,
pretended to look at the prospect; after which I did very well.
He was so polite as to stop at a public-house, expressly on our
account, and entertain us with broiled mutton and beer. Even when
Peggotty was in the act of drinking, he was seized with one of
those approaches, and almost choked her. But as we drew nearer to
the end of our journey, he had more to do and less time for
gallantry; and when we got on Yarmouth pavement, we were all too
much shaken and jolted, I apprehend, to have any leisure for
Mr. Peggotty and Ham waited for us at the old place. They received
me and Peggotty in an affectionate manner, and shook hands with Mr.
Barkis, who, with his hat on the very back of his head, and a
shame-faced leer upon his countenance, and pervading his very legs,
presented but a vacant appearance, I thought. They each took one
of Peggotty's trunks, and we were going away, when Mr. Barkis
solemnly made a sign to me with his forefinger to come under an
'I say,' growled Mr. Barkis, 'it was all right.'
I looked up into his face, and answered, with an attempt to be very
'It didn't come to a end there,' said Mr. Barkis, nodding
confidentially. 'It was all right.'
Again I answered, 'Oh!'
'You know who was willin',' said my friend. 'It was Barkis, and
I nodded assent.
'It's all right,' said Mr. Barkis, shaking hands; 'I'm a friend of
your'n. You made it all right, first. It's all right.'
In his attempts to be particularly lucid, Mr. Barkis was so
extremely mysterious, that I might have stood looking in his face
for an hour, and most assuredly should have got as much information
out of it as out of the face of a clock that had stopped, but for
Peggotty's calling me away. As we were going along, she asked me
what he had said; and I told her he had said it was all right.
'Like his impudence,' said Peggotty, 'but I don't mind that! Davy
dear, what should you think if I was to think of being married?'
'Why - I suppose you would like me as much then, Peggotty, as you
do now?' I returned, after a little consideration.
Greatly to the astonishment of the passengers in the street, as
well as of her relations going on before, the good soul was obliged
to stop and embrace me on the spot, with many protestations of her
'Tell me what should you say, darling?' she asked again, when this
was over, and we were walking on.
'If you were thinking of being married - to Mr. Barkis, Peggotty?'
'Yes,' said Peggotty.
'I should think it would be a very good thing. For then you know,
Peggotty, you would always have the horse and cart to bring you
over to see me, and could come for nothing, and be sure of coming.'
'The sense of the dear!' cried Peggotty. 'What I have been
thinking of, this month back! Yes, my precious; and I think I
should be more independent altogether, you see; let alone my
working with a better heart in my own house, than I could in
anybody else's now. I don't know what I might be fit for, now, as
a servant to a stranger. And I shall be always near my pretty's
resting-place,' said Peggotty, musing, 'and be able to see it when
I like; and when I lie down to rest, I may be laid not far off from
my darling girl!'
We neither of us said anything for a little while.
'But I wouldn't so much as give it another thought,' said Peggotty,
cheerily 'if my Davy was anyways against it - not if I had been
asked in church thirty times three times over, and was wearing out
the ring in my pocket.'
'Look at me, Peggotty,' I replied; 'and see if I am not really
glad, and don't truly wish it!' As indeed I did, with all my
'Well, my life,' said Peggotty, giving me a squeeze, 'I have
thought of it night and day, every way I can, and I hope the right
way; but I'll think of it again, and speak to my brother about it,
and in the meantime we'll keep it to ourselves, Davy, you and me.
Barkis is a good plain creature,' said Peggotty, 'and if I tried to
do my duty by him, I think it would be my fault if I wasn't - if I
wasn't pretty comfortable,' said Peggotty, laughing heartily.
This quotation from Mr. Barkis was so appropriate, and tickled us
both so much, that we laughed again and again, and were quite in a
pleasant humour when we came within view of Mr. Peggotty's cottage.
It looked just the same, except that it may, perhaps, have shrunk
a little in my eyes; and Mrs. Gummidge was waiting at the door as
if she had stood there ever since. All within was the same, down
to the seaweed in the blue mug in my bedroom. I went into the
out-house to look about me; and the very same lobsters, crabs, and
crawfish possessed by the same desire to pinch the world in
general, appeared to be in the same state of conglomeration in the
same old corner.
But there was no little Em'ly to be seen, so I asked Mr. Peggotty
where she was.
'She's at school, sir,' said Mr. Peggotty, wiping the heat
consequent on the porterage of Peggotty's box from his forehead;
'she'll be home,' looking at the Dutch clock, 'in from twenty
minutes to half-an-hour's time. We all on us feel the loss of her,
Mrs. Gummidge moaned.
'Cheer up, Mawther!' cried Mr. Peggotty.
'I feel it more than anybody else,' said Mrs. Gummidge; 'I'm a lone
lorn creetur', and she used to be a'most the only thing that didn't
go contrary with me.'
Mrs. Gummidge, whimpering and shaking her head, applied herself to
blowing the fire. Mr. Peggotty, looking round upon us while she
was so engaged, said in a low voice, which he shaded with his hand:
'The old 'un!' From this I rightly conjectured that no improvement
had taken place since my last visit in the state of Mrs. Gummidge's
Now, the whole place was, or it should have been, quite as
delightful a place as ever; and yet it did not impress me in the
same way. I felt rather disappointed with it. Perhaps it was
because little Em'ly was not at home. I knew the way by which she
would come, and presently found myself strolling along the path to
A figure appeared in the distance before long, and I soon knew it
to be Em'ly, who was a little creature still in stature, though she
was grown. But when she drew nearer, and I saw her blue eyes
looking bluer, and her dimpled face looking brighter, and her whole
self prettier and gayer, a curious feeling came over me that made
me pretend not to know her, and pass by as if I were looking at
something a long way off. I have done such a thing since in later
life, or I am mistaken.
Little Em'ly didn't care a bit. She saw me well enough; but
instead of turning round and calling after me, ran away laughing.
This obliged me to run after her, and she ran so fast that we were
very near the cottage before I caught her.
'Oh, it's you, is it?' said little Em'ly.
'Why, you knew who it was, Em'ly,' said I.
'And didn't YOU know who it was?' said Em'ly. I was going to kiss
her, but she covered her cherry lips with her hands, and said she
wasn't a baby now, and ran away, laughing more than ever, into the
She seemed to delight in teasing me, which was a change in her I
wondered at very much. The tea table was ready, and our little
locker was put out in its old place, but instead of coming to sit
by me, she went and bestowed her company upon that grumbling Mrs.
Gummidge: and on Mr. Peggotty's inquiring why, rumpled her hair all
over her face to hide it, and could do nothing but laugh.
'A little puss, it is!' said Mr. Peggotty, patting her with his
'So sh' is! so sh' is!' cried Ham. 'Mas'r Davy bor', so sh' is!'
and he sat and chuckled at her for some time, in a state of mingled
admiration and delight, that made his face a burning red.
Little Em'ly was spoiled by them all, in fact; and by no one more
than Mr. Peggotty himself, whom she could have coaxed into
anything, by only going and laying her cheek against his rough
whisker. That was my opinion, at least, when I saw her do it; and
I held Mr. Peggotty to be thoroughly in the right. But she was so
affectionate and sweet-natured, and had such a pleasant manner of
being both sly and shy at once, that she captivated me more than
She was tender-hearted, too; for when, as we sat round the fire
after tea, an allusion was made by Mr. Peggotty over his pipe to
the loss I had sustained, the tears stood in her eyes, and she
looked at me so kindly across the table, that I felt quite thankful
'Ah!' said Mr. Peggotty, taking up her curls, and running them over
his hand like water, 'here's another orphan, you see, sir. And
here,' said Mr. Peggotty, giving Ham a backhanded knock in the
chest, 'is another of 'em, though he don't look much like it.'
'If I had you for my guardian, Mr. Peggotty,' said I, shaking my
head, 'I don't think I should FEEL much like it.'
'Well said, Mas'r Davy bor'!' cried Ham, in an ecstasy. 'Hoorah!
Well said! Nor more you wouldn't! Hor! Hor!' - Here he returned
Mr. Peggotty's back-hander, and little Em'ly got up and kissed Mr.
Peggotty. 'And how's your friend, sir?' said Mr. Peggotty to me.
'Steerforth?' said I.
'That's the name!' cried Mr. Peggotty, turning to Ham. 'I knowed
it was something in our way.'
'You said it was Rudderford,' observed Ham, laughing.
'Well!' retorted Mr. Peggotty. 'And ye steer with a rudder, don't
ye? It ain't fur off. How is he, sir?'
'He was very well indeed when I came away, Mr. Peggotty.'
'There's a friend!' said Mr. Peggotty, stretching out his pipe.
'There's a friend, if you talk of friends! Why, Lord love my heart
alive, if it ain't a treat to look at him!'
'He is very handsome, is he not?' said I, my heart warming with
'Handsome!' cried Mr. Peggotty. 'He stands up to you like - like
a - why I don't know what he don't stand up to you like. He's so
'Yes! That's just his character,' said I. 'He's as brave as a
lion, and you can't think how frank he is, Mr. Peggotty.'
'And I do suppose, now,' said Mr. Peggotty, looking at me through
the smoke of his pipe, 'that in the way of book-larning he'd take
the wind out of a'most anything.'
'Yes,' said I, delighted; 'he knows everything. He is
'There's a friend!' murmured Mr. Peggotty, with a grave toss of his
'Nothing seems to cost him any trouble,' said I. 'He knows a task
if he only looks at it. He is the best cricketer you ever saw. He
will give you almost as many men as you like at draughts, and beat
Mr. Peggotty gave his head another toss, as much as to say: 'Of
course he will.'
'He is such a speaker,' I pursued, 'that he can win anybody over;
and I don't know what you'd say if you were to hear him sing, Mr.
Mr. Peggotty gave his head another toss, as much as to say: 'I have
no doubt of it.'
'Then, he's such a generous, fine, noble fellow,' said I, quite
carried away by my favourite theme, 'that it's hardly possible to
give him as much praise as he deserves. I am sure I can never feel
thankful enough for the generosity with which he has protected me,
so much younger and lower in the school than himself.'
I was running on, very fast indeed, when my eyes rested on little
Em'ly's face, which was bent forward over the table, listening with
the deepest attention, her breath held, her blue eyes sparkling
like jewels, and the colour mantling in her cheeks. She looked so
extraordinarily earnest and pretty, that I stopped in a sort of
wonder; and they all observed her at the same time, for as I
stopped, they laughed and looked at her.
'Em'ly is like me,' said Peggotty, 'and would like to see him.'
Em'ly was confused by our all observing her, and hung down her
head, and her face was covered with blushes. Glancing up presently
through her stray curls, and seeing that we were all looking at her
still (I am sure I, for one, could have looked at her for hours),
she ran away, and kept away till it was nearly bedtime.
I lay down in the old little bed in the stern of the boat, and the
wind came moaning on across the flat as it had done before. But I
could not help fancying, now, that it moaned of those who were
gone; and instead of thinking that the sea might rise in the night
and float the boat away, I thought of the sea that had risen, since
I last heard those sounds, and drowned my happy home. I recollect,
as the wind and water began to sound fainter in my ears, putting a
short clause into my prayers, petitioning that I might grow up to
marry little Em'ly, and so dropping lovingly asleep.
The days passed pretty much as they had passed before, except - it
was a great exception- that little Em'ly and I seldom wandered on
the beach now. She had tasks to learn, and needle-work to do; and
was absent during a great part of each day. But I felt that we
should not have had those old wanderings, even if it had been
otherwise. Wild and full of childish whims as Em'ly was, she was
more of a little woman than I had supposed. She seemed to have got
a great distance away from me, in little more than a year. She
liked me, but she laughed at me, and tormented me; and when I went
to meet her, stole home another way, and was laughing at the door
when I came back, disappointed. The best times were when she sat
quietly at work in the doorway, and I sat on the wooden step at her
feet, reading to her. It seems to me, at this hour, that I have
never seen such sunlight as on those bright April afternoons; that
I have never seen such a sunny little figure as I used to see,
sitting in the doorway of the old boat; that I have never beheld
such sky, such water, such glorified ships sailing away into golden
On the very first evening after our arrival, Mr. Barkis appeared in
an exceedingly vacant and awkward condition, and with a bundle of
oranges tied up in a handkerchief. As he made no allusion of any
kind to this property, he was supposed to have left it behind him
by accident when he went away; until Ham, running after him to
restore it, came back with the information that it was intended for
Peggotty. After that occasion he appeared every evening at exactly
the same hour, and always with a little bundle, to which he never
alluded, and which he regularly put behind the door and left there.
These offerings of affection were of a most various and eccentric
description. Among them I remember a double set of pigs' trotters,
a huge pin-cushion, half a bushel or so of apples, a pair of jet
earrings, some Spanish onions, a box of dominoes, a canary bird and
cage, and a leg of pickled pork.
Mr. Barkis's wooing, as I remember it, was altogether of a peculiar
kind. He very seldom said anything; but would sit by the fire in
much the same attitude as he sat in his cart, and stare heavily at
Peggotty, who was opposite. One night, being, as I suppose,
inspired by love, he made a dart at the bit of wax-candle she kept
for her thread, and put it in his waistcoat-pocket and carried it
off. After that, his great delight was to produce it when it was
wanted, sticking to the lining of his pocket, in a partially melted
state, and pocket it again when it was done with. He seemed to
enjoy himself very much, and not to feel at all called upon to
talk. Even when he took Peggotty out for a walk on the flats, he
had no uneasiness on that head, I believe; contenting himself with
now and then asking her if she was pretty comfortable; and I
remember that sometimes, after he was gone, Peggotty would throw
her apron over her face, and laugh for half-an-hour. Indeed, we
were all more or less amused, except that miserable Mrs. Gummidge,
whose courtship would appear to have been of an exactly parallel
nature, she was so continually reminded by these transactions of
the old one.
At length, when the term of my visit was nearly expired, it was
given out that Peggotty and Mr. Barkis were going to make a day's
holiday together, and that little Em'ly and I were to accompany
them. I had but a broken sleep the night before, in anticipation
of the pleasure of a whole day with Em'ly. We were all astir
betimes in the morning; and while we were yet at breakfast, Mr.
Barkis appeared in the distance, driving a chaise-cart towards the
object of his affections.
Peggotty was dressed as usual, in her neat and quiet mourning; but
Mr. Barkis bloomed in a new blue coat, of which the tailor had
given him such good measure, that the cuffs would have rendered
gloves unnecessary in the coldest weather, while the collar was so
high that it pushed his hair up on end on the top of his head. His
bright buttons, too, were of the largest size. Rendered complete
by drab pantaloons and a buff waistcoat, I thought Mr. Barkis a
phenomenon of respectability.
When we were all in a bustle outside the door, I found that Mr.
Peggotty was prepared with an old shoe, which was to be thrown
after us for luck, and which he offered to Mrs. Gummidge for that
'No. It had better be done by somebody else, Dan'l,' said Mrs.
Gummidge. 'I'm a lone lorn creetur' myself, and everythink that
reminds me of creetur's that ain't lone and lorn, goes contrary
'Come, old gal!' cried Mr. Peggotty. 'Take and heave it.'
'No, Dan'l,' returned Mrs. Gummidge, whimpering and shaking her
head. 'If I felt less, I could do more. You don't feel like me,
Dan'l; thinks don't go contrary with you, nor you with them; you
had better do it yourself.'
But here Peggotty, who had been going about from one to another in
a hurried way, kissing everybody, called out from the cart, in
which we all were by this time (Em'ly and I on two little chairs,
side by side), that Mrs. Gummidge must do it. So Mrs. Gummidge did
it; and, I am sorry to relate, cast a damp upon the festive
character of our departure, by immediately bursting into tears, and
sinking subdued into the arms of Ham, with the declaration that she
knowed she was a burden, and had better be carried to the House at
once. Which I really thought was a sensible idea, that Ham might
have acted on.
Away we went, however, on our holiday excursion; and the first
thing we did was to stop at a church, where Mr. Barkis tied the
horse to some rails, and went in with Peggotty, leaving little
Em'ly and me alone in the chaise. I took that occasion to put my
arm round Em'ly's waist, and propose that as I was going away so
very soon now, we should determine to be very affectionate to one
another, and very happy, all day. Little Em'ly consenting, and
allowing me to kiss her, I became desperate; informing her, I
recollect, that I never could love another, and that I was prepared
to shed the blood of anybody who should aspire to her affections.
How merry little Em'ly made herself about it! With what a demure
assumption of being immensely older and wiser than I, the fairy
little woman said I was 'a silly boy'; and then laughed so
charmingly that I forgot the pain of being called by that
disparaging name, in the pleasure of looking at her.
Mr. Barkis and Peggotty were a good while in the church, but came
out at last, and then we drove away into the country. As we were
going along, Mr. Barkis turned to me, and said, with a wink, - by
the by, I should hardly have thought, before, that he could wink:
'What name was it as I wrote up in the cart?'
'Clara Peggotty,' I answered.
'What name would it be as I should write up now, if there was a
'Clara Peggotty, again?' I suggested.
'Clara Peggotty BARKIS!' he returned, and burst into a roar of
laughter that shook the chaise.
In a word, they were married, and had gone into the church for no
other purpose. Peggotty was resolved that it should be quietly
done; and the clerk had given her away, and there had been no
witnesses of the ceremony. She was a little confused when Mr.
Barkis made this abrupt announcement of their union, and could not
hug me enough in token of her unimpaired affection; but she soon
became herself again, and said she was very glad it was over.
We drove to a little inn in a by-road, where we were expected, and
where we had a very comfortable dinner, and passed the day with
great satisfaction. If Peggotty had been married every day for the
last ten years, she could hardly have been more at her ease about
it; it made no sort of difference in her: she was just the same as
ever, and went out for a stroll with little Em'ly and me before
tea, while Mr. Barkis philosophically smoked his pipe, and enjoyed
himself, I suppose, with the contemplation of his happiness. If
so, it sharpened his appetite; for I distinctly call to mind that,
although he had eaten a good deal of pork and greens at dinner, and
had finished off with a fowl or two, he was obliged to have cold
boiled bacon for tea, and disposed of a large quantity without any
I have often thought, since, what an odd, innocent, out-of-the-way
kind of wedding it must have been! We got into the chaise again
soon after dark, and drove cosily back, looking up at the stars,
and talking about them. I was their chief exponent, and opened Mr.
Barkis's mind to an amazing extent. I told him all I knew, but he
would have believed anything I might have taken it into my head to
impart to him; for he had a profound veneration for my abilities,
and informed his wife in my hearing, on that very occasion, that I
was 'a young Roeshus' - by which I think he meant prodigy.
When we had exhausted the subject of the stars, or rather when I
had exhausted the mental faculties of Mr. Barkis, little Em'ly and
I made a cloak of an old wrapper, and sat under it for the rest of
the journey. Ah, how I loved her! What happiness (I thought) if
we were married, and were going away anywhere to live among the
trees and in the fields, never growing older, never growing wiser,
children ever, rambling hand in hand through sunshine and among
flowery meadows, laying down our heads on moss at night, in a sweet
sleep of purity and peace, and buried by the birds when we were
dead! Some such picture, with no real world in it, bright with the
light of our innocence, and vague as the stars afar off, was in my
mind all the way. I am glad to think there were two such guileless
hearts at Peggotty's marriage as little Em'ly's and mine. I am
glad to think the Loves and Graces took such airy forms in its
Well, we came to the old boat again in good time at night; and
there Mr. and Mrs. Barkis bade us good-bye, and drove away snugly
to their own home. I felt then, for the first time, that I had
lost Peggotty. I should have gone to bed with a sore heart indeed
under any other roof but that which sheltered little Em'ly's head.
Mr. Peggotty and Ham knew what was in my thoughts as well as I did,
and were ready with some supper and their hospitable faces to drive
it away. Little Em'ly came and sat beside me on the locker for the
only time in all that visit; and it was altogether a wonderful
close to a wonderful day.
It was a night tide; and soon after we went to bed, Mr. Peggotty
and Ham went out to fish. I felt very brave at being left alone in
the solitary house, the protector of Em'ly and Mrs. Gummidge, and
only wished that a lion or a serpent, or any ill-disposed monster,
would make an attack upon us, that I might destroy him, and cover
myself with glory. But as nothing of the sort happened to be
walking about on Yarmouth flats that night, I provided the best
substitute I could by dreaming of dragons until morning.
With morning came Peggotty; who called to me, as usual, under my
window as if Mr. Barkis the carrier had been from first to last a
dream too. After breakfast she took me to her own home, and a
beautiful little home it was. Of all the moveables in it, I must
have been impressed by a certain old bureau of some dark wood in
the parlour (the tile-floored kitchen was the general
sitting-room), with a retreating top which opened, let down, and
became a desk, within which was a large quarto edition of Foxe's
Book of Martyrs. This precious volume, of which I do not recollect
one word, I immediately discovered and immediately applied myself
to; and I never visited the house afterwards, but I kneeled on a
chair, opened the casket where this gem was enshrined, spread my
arms over the desk, and fell to devouring the book afresh. I was
chiefly edified, I am afraid, by the pictures, which were numerous,
and represented all kinds of dismal horrors; but the Martyrs and
Peggotty's house have been inseparable in my mind ever since, and
I took leave of Mr. Peggotty, and Ham, and Mrs. Gummidge, and
little Em'ly, that day; and passed the night at Peggotty's, in a
little room in the roof (with the Crocodile Book on a shelf by the
bed's head) which was to be always mine, Peggotty said, and should
always be kept for me in exactly the same state.
'Young or old, Davy dear, as long as I am alive and have this house
over my head,' said Peggotty, 'you shall find it as if I expected
you here directly minute. I shall keep it every day, as I used to
keep your old little room, my darling; and if you was to go to
China, you might think of it as being kept just the same, all the
time you were away.'
I felt the truth and constancy of my dear old nurse, with all my
heart, and thanked her as well as I could. That was not very well,
for she spoke to me thus, with her arms round my neck, in the
morning, and I was going home in the morning, and I went home in
the morning, with herself and Mr. Barkis in the cart. They left me
at the gate, not easily or lightly; and it was a strange sight to
me to see the cart go on, taking Peggotty away, and leaving me
under the old elm-trees looking at the house, in which there was no
face to look on mine with love or liking any more.
And now I fell into a state of neglect, which I cannot look back
upon without compassion. I fell at once into a solitary condition,
- apart from all friendly notice, apart from the society of all
other boys of my own age, apart from all companionship but my own
spiritless thoughts, - which seems to cast its gloom upon this
paper as I write.
What would I have given, to have been sent to the hardest school
that ever was kept! - to have been taught something, anyhow,
anywhere! No such hope dawned upon me. They disliked me; and they
sullenly, sternly, steadily, overlooked me. I think Mr.
Murdstone's means were straitened at about this time; but it is
little to the purpose. He could not bear me; and in putting me
from him he tried, as I believe, to put away the notion that I had
any claim upon him - and succeeded.
I was not actively ill-used. I was not beaten, or starved; but the
wrong that was done to me had no intervals of relenting, and was
done in a systematic, passionless manner. Day after day, week
after week, month after month, I was coldly neglected. I wonder
sometimes, when I think of it, what they would have done if I had
been taken with an illness; whether I should have lain down in my
lonely room, and languished through it in my usual solitary way, or
whether anybody would have helped me out.
When Mr. and Miss Murdstone were at home, I took my meals with
them; in their absence, I ate and drank by myself. At all times I
lounged about the house and neighbourhood quite disregarded, except
that they were jealous of my making any friends: thinking, perhaps,
that if I did, I might complain to someone. For this reason,
though Mr. Chillip often asked me to go and see him (he was a
widower, having, some years before that, lost a little small
light-haired wife, whom I can just remember connecting in my own
thoughts with a pale tortoise-shell cat), it was but seldom that I
enjoyed the happiness of passing an afternoon in his closet of a
surgery; reading some book that was new to me, with the smell of
the whole Pharmacopoeia coming up my nose, or pounding something in
a mortar under his mild directions.
For the same reason, added no doubt to the old dislike of her, I
was seldom allowed to visit Peggotty. Faithful to her promise, she
either came to see me, or met me somewhere near, once every week,
and never empty-handed; but many and bitter were the
disappointments I had, in being refused permission to pay a visit
to her at her house. Some few times, however, at long intervals,
I was allowed to go there; and then I found out that Mr. Barkis was
something of a miser, or as Peggotty dutifully expressed it, was 'a
little near', and kept a heap of money in a box under his bed,
which he pretended was only full of coats and trousers. In this
coffer, his riches hid themselves with such a tenacious modesty,
that the smallest instalments could only be tempted out by
artifice; so that Peggotty had to prepare a long and elaborate
scheme, a very Gunpowder Plot, for every Saturday's expenses.
All this time I was so conscious of the waste of any promise I had
given, and of my being utterly neglected, that I should have been
perfectly miserable, I have no doubt, but for the old books. They
were my only comfort; and I was as true to them as they were to me,
and read them over and over I don't know how many times more.
I now approach a period of my life, which I can never lose the
remembrance of, while I remember anything: and the recollection of
which has often, without my invocation, come before me like a
ghost, and haunted happier times.
I had been out, one day, loitering somewhere, in the listless,
meditative manner that my way of life engendered, when, turning the
corner of a lane near our house, I came upon Mr. Murdstone walking
with a gentleman. I was confused, and was going by them, when the
'No, sir, David Copperfield,' I said.
'Don't tell me. You are Brooks,' said the gentleman. 'You are
Brooks of Sheffield. That's your name.'
At these words, I observed the gentleman more attentively. His
laugh coming to my remembrance too, I knew him to be Mr. Quinion,
whom I had gone over to Lowestoft with Mr. Murdstone to see, before
- it is no matter - I need not recall when.
'And how do you get on, and where are you being educated, Brooks?'
said Mr. Quinion.
He had put his hand upon my shoulder, and turned me about, to walk
with them. I did not know what to reply, and glanced dubiously at
'He is at home at present,' said the latter. 'He is not being
educated anywhere. I don't know what to do with him. He is a
That old, double look was on me for a moment; and then his eyes
darkened with a frown, as it turned, in its aversion, elsewhere.
'Humph!' said Mr. Quinion, looking at us both, I thought. 'Fine
Silence ensued, and I was considering how I could best disengage my
shoulder from his hand, and go away, when he said:
'I suppose you are a pretty sharp fellow still? Eh, Brooks?'
'Aye! He is sharp enough,' said Mr. Murdstone, impatiently. 'You
had better let him go. He will not thank you for troubling him.'
On this hint, Mr. Quinion released me, and I made the best of my
way home. Looking back as I turned into the front garden, I saw
Mr. Murdstone leaning against the wicket of the churchyard, and Mr.
Quinion talking to him. They were both looking after me, and I
felt that they were speaking of me.
Mr. Quinion lay at our house that night. After breakfast, the next
morning, I had put my chair away, and was going out of the room,
when Mr. Murdstone called me back. He then gravely repaired to
another table, where his sister sat herself at her desk. Mr.
Quinion, with his hands in his pockets, stood looking out of
window; and I stood looking at them all.
'David,' said Mr. Murdstone, 'to the young this is a world for
action; not for moping and droning in.'
- 'As you do,' added his sister.
'Jane Murdstone, leave it to me, if you please. I say, David, to
the young this is a world for action, and not for moping and
droning in. It is especially so for a young boy of your
disposition, which requires a great deal of correcting; and to
which no greater service can be done than to force it to conform to
the ways of the working world, and to bend it and break it.'
'For stubbornness won't do here,' said his sister 'What it wants
is, to be crushed. And crushed it must be. Shall be, too!'
He gave her a look, half in remonstrance, half in approval, and
'I suppose you know, David, that I am not rich. At any rate, you
know it now. You have received some considerable education
already. Education is costly; and even if it were not, and I could
afford it, I am of opinion that it would not be at all advantageous
to you to be kept at school. What is before you, is a fight with
the world; and the sooner you begin it, the better.'
I think it occurred to me that I had already begun it, in my poor
way: but it occurs to me now, whether or no.
'You have heard the "counting-house" mentioned sometimes,' said Mr.
'The counting-house, sir?' I repeated.
'Of Murdstone and Grinby, in the wine trade,' he replied.
I suppose I looked uncertain, for he went on hastily:
'You have heard the "counting-house" mentioned, or the business, or
the cellars, or the wharf, or something about it.'
'I think I have heard the business mentioned, sir,' I said,
remembering what I vaguely knew of his and his sister's resources.
'But I don't know when.'
'It does not matter when,' he returned. 'Mr. Quinion manages that
I glanced at the latter deferentially as he stood looking out of
'Mr. Quinion suggests that it gives employment to some other boys,
and that he sees no reason why it shouldn't, on the same terms,
give employment to you.'
'He having,' Mr. Quinion observed in a low voice, and half turning
round, 'no other prospect, Murdstone.'
Mr. Murdstone, with an impatient, even an angry gesture, resumed,
without noticing what he had said:
'Those terms are, that you will earn enough for yourself to provide
for your eating and drinking, and pocket-money. Your lodging
(which I have arranged for) will be paid by me. So will your
'- Which will be kept down to my estimate,' said his sister.
'Your clothes will be looked after for you, too,' said Mr.
Murdstone; 'as you will not be able, yet awhile, to get them for
yourself. So you are now going to London, David, with Mr. Quinion,
to begin the world on your own account.'
'In short, you are provided for,' observed his sister; 'and will
please to do your duty.'
Though I quite understood that the purpose of this announcement was
to get rid of me, I have no distinct remembrance whether it pleased
or frightened me. My impression is, that I was in a state of
confusion about it, and, oscillating between the two points,
touched neither. Nor had I much time for the clearing of my
thoughts, as Mr. Quinion was to go upon the morrow.
Behold me, on the morrow, in a much-worn little white hat, with a
black crape round it for my mother, a black jacket, and a pair of
hard, stiff corduroy trousers - which Miss Murdstone considered the
best armour for the legs in that fight with the world which was now
to come off. behold me so attired, and with my little worldly all
before me in a small trunk, sitting, a lone lorn child (as Mrs.
Gummidge might have said), in the post-chaise that was carrying Mr.
Quinion to the London coach at Yarmouth! See, how our house and
church are lessening in the distance; how the grave beneath the
tree is blotted out by intervening objects; how the spire points
upwards from my old playground no more, and the sky is empty!
I BEGIN LIFE ON MY OWN ACCOUNT, AND DON'T LIKE IT
I know enough of the world now, to have almost lost the capacity of
being much surprised by anything; but it is matter of some surprise
to me, even now, that I can have been so easily thrown away at such
an age. A child of excellent abilities, and with strong powers of
observation, quick, eager, delicate, and soon hurt bodily or
mentally, it seems wonderful to me that nobody should have made any
sign in my behalf. But none was made; and I became, at ten years
old, a little labouring hind in the service of Murdstone and
Murdstone and Grinby's warehouse was at the waterside. It was down
in Blackfriars. Modern improvements have altered the place; but it
was the last house at the bottom of a narrow street, curving down
hill to the river, with some stairs at the end, where people took
boat. It was a crazy old house with a wharf of its own, abutting
on the water when the tide was in, and on the mud when the tide was
out, and literally overrun with rats. Its panelled rooms,
discoloured with the dirt and smoke of a hundred years, I dare say;
its decaying floors and staircase; the squeaking and scuffling of
the old grey rats down in the cellars; and the dirt and rottenness
of the place; are things, not of many years ago, in my mind, but of
the present instant. They are all before me, just as they were in
the evil hour when I went among them for the first time, with my
trembling hand in Mr. Quinion's.
Murdstone and Grinby's trade was among a good many kinds of people,
but an important branch of it was the supply of wines and spirits
to certain packet ships. I forget now where they chiefly went, but
I think there were some among them that made voyages both to the
East and West Indies. I know that a great many empty bottles were
one of the consequences of this traffic, and that certain men and
boys were employed to examine them against the light, and reject
those that were flawed, and to rinse and wash them. When the empty
bottles ran short, there were labels to be pasted on full ones, or
corks to be fitted to them, or seals to be put upon the corks, or
finished bottles to be packed in casks. All this work was my work,
and of the boys employed upon it I was one.
There were three or four of us, counting me. My working place was
established in a corner of the warehouse, where Mr. Quinion could
see me, when he chose to stand up on the bottom rail of his stool
in the counting-house, and look at me through a window above the
desk. Hither, on the first morning of my so auspiciously beginning
life on my own account, the oldest of the regular boys was summoned
to show me my business. His name was Mick Walker, and he wore a
ragged apron and a paper cap. He informed me that his father was
a bargeman, and walked, in a black velvet head-dress, in the Lord
Mayor's Show. He also informed me that our principal associate
would be another boy whom he introduced by the - to me -
extraordinary name of Mealy Potatoes. I discovered, however, that
this youth had not been christened by that name, but that it had
been bestowed upon him in the warehouse, on account of his
complexion, which was pale or mealy. Mealy's father was a
waterman, who had the additional distinction of being a fireman,
and was engaged as such at one of the large theatres; where some
young relation of Mealy's - I think his little sister - did Imps in
No words can express the secret agony of my soul as I sunk into
this companionship; compared these henceforth everyday associates
with those of my happier childhood - not to say with Steerforth,
Traddles, and the rest of those boys; and felt my hopes of growing
up to be a learned and distinguished man, crushed in my bosom. The
deep remembrance of the sense I had, of being utterly without hope
now; of the shame I felt in my position; of the misery it was to my
young heart to believe that day by day what I had learned, and
thought, and delighted in, and raised my fancy and my emulation up
by, would pass away from me, little by little, never to be brought
back any more; cannot be written. As often as Mick Walker went
away in the course of that forenoon, I mingled my tears with the
water in which I was washing the bottles; and sobbed as if there
were a flaw in my own breast, and it were in danger of bursting.
The counting-house clock was at half past twelve, and there was
general preparation for going to dinner, when Mr. Quinion tapped at
the counting-house window, and beckoned to me to go in. I went in,
and found there a stoutish, middle-aged person, in a brown surtout
and black tights and shoes, with no more hair upon his head (which
was a large one, and very shining) than there is upon an egg, and
with a very extensive face, which he turned full upon me. His
clothes were shabby, but he had an imposing shirt-collar on. He
carried a jaunty sort of a stick, with a large pair of rusty
tassels to it; and a quizzing-glass hung outside his coat, - for
ornament, I afterwards found, as he very seldom looked through it,
and couldn't see anything when he did.
'This,' said Mr. Quinion, in allusion to myself, 'is he.'
'This,' said the stranger, with a certain condescending roll in his
voice, and a certain indescribable air of doing something genteel,
which impressed me very much, 'is Master Copperfield. I hope I see
you well, sir?'
I said I was very well, and hoped he was. I was sufficiently ill
at ease, Heaven knows; but it was not in my nature to complain much
at that time of my life, so I said I was very well, and hoped he
'I am,' said the stranger, 'thank Heaven, quite well. I have
received a letter from Mr. Murdstone, in which he mentions that he
would desire me to receive into an apartment in the rear of my
house, which is at present unoccupied - and is, in short, to be let
as a - in short,' said the stranger, with a smile and in a burst of
confidence, 'as a bedroom - the young beginner whom I have now the
pleasure to -' and the stranger waved his hand, and settled his
chin in his shirt-collar.
'This is Mr. Micawber,' said Mr. Quinion to me.
'Ahem!' said the stranger, 'that is my name.'
'Mr. Micawber,' said Mr. Quinion, 'is known to Mr. Murdstone. He
takes orders for us on commission, when he can get any. He has
been written to by Mr. Murdstone, on the subject of your lodgings,
and he will receive you as a lodger.'
'My address,' said Mr. Micawber, 'is Windsor Terrace, City Road.
I - in short,' said Mr. Micawber, with the same genteel air, and in
another burst of confidence - 'I live there.'
I made him a bow.
'Under the impression,' said Mr. Micawber, 'that your
peregrinations in this metropolis have not as yet been extensive,
and that you might have some difficulty in penetrating the arcana
of the Modern Babylon in the direction of the City Road, - in
short,' said Mr. Micawber, in another burst of confidence, 'that
you might lose yourself - I shall be happy to call this evening,
and install you in the knowledge of the nearest way.'
I thanked him with all my heart, for it was friendly in him to
offer to take that trouble.
'At what hour,' said Mr. Micawber, 'shall I -'
'At about eight,' said Mr. Quinion.
'At about eight,' said Mr. Micawber. 'I beg to wish you good day,
Mr. Quinion. I will intrude no longer.'
So he put on his hat, and went out with his cane under his arm:
very upright, and humming a tune when he was clear of the
Mr. Quinion then formally engaged me to be as useful as I could in
the warehouse of Murdstone and Grinby, at a salary, I think, of six
shillings a week. I am not clear whether it was six or seven. I
am inclined to believe, from my uncertainty on this head, that it
was six at first and seven afterwards. He paid me a week down
(from his own pocket, I believe), and I gave Mealy sixpence out of
it to get my trunk carried to Windsor Terrace that night: it being
too heavy for my strength, small as it was. I paid sixpence more
for my dinner, which was a meat pie and a turn at a neighbouring
pump; and passed the hour which was allowed for that meal, in
walking about the streets.
At the appointed time in the evening, Mr. Micawber reappeared. I
washed my hands and face, to do the greater honour to his
gentility, and we walked to our house, as I suppose I must now call
it, together; Mr. Micawber impressing the name of streets, and the
shapes of corner houses upon me, as we went along, that I might
find my way back, easily, in the morning.
Arrived at this house in Windsor Terrace (which I noticed was
shabby like himself, but also, like himself, made all the show it
could), he presented me to Mrs. Micawber, a thin and faded lady,
not at all young, who was sitting in the parlour (the first floor
was altogether unfurnished, and the blinds were kept down to delude
the neighbours), with a baby at her breast. This baby was one of
twins; and I may remark here that I hardly ever, in all my
experience of the family, saw both the twins detached from Mrs.
Micawber at the same time. One of them was always taking
There were two other children; Master Micawber, aged about four,
and Miss Micawber, aged about three. These, and a
dark-complexioned young woman, with a habit of snorting, who was
servant to the family, and informed me, before half an hour had
expired, that she was 'a Orfling', and came from St. Luke's
workhouse, in the neighbourhood, completed the establishment. My
room was at the top of the house, at the back: a close chamber;
stencilled all over with an ornament which my young imagination
represented as a blue muffin; and very scantily furnished.
'I never thought,' said Mrs. Micawber, when she came up, twin and
all, to show me the apartment, and sat down to take breath, 'before
I was married, when I lived with papa and mama, that I should ever
find it necessary to take a lodger. But Mr. Micawber being in
difficulties, all considerations of private feeling must give way.'
I said: 'Yes, ma'am.'
'Mr. Micawber's difficulties are almost overwhelming just at
present,' said Mrs. Micawber; 'and whether it is possible to bring
him through them, I don't know. When I lived at home with papa and
mama, I really should have hardly understood what the word meant,
in the sense in which I now employ it, but experientia does it, -
as papa used to say.'
I cannot satisfy myself whether she told me that Mr. Micawber had
been an officer in the Marines, or whether I have imagined it. I
only know that I believe to this hour that he WAS in the Marines
once upon a time, without knowing why. He was a sort of town
traveller for a number of miscellaneous houses, now; but made
little or nothing of it, I am afraid.
'If Mr. Micawber's creditors will not give him time,' said Mrs.
Micawber, 'they must take the consequences; and the sooner they
bring it to an issue the better. Blood cannot be obtained from a
stone, neither can anything on account be obtained at present (not
to mention law expenses) from Mr. Micawber.'
I never can quite understand whether my precocious self-dependence
confused Mrs. Micawber in reference to my age, or whether she was
so full of the subject that she would have talked about it to the
very twins if there had been nobody else to communicate with, but
this was the strain in which she began, and she went on accordingly
all the time I knew her.
Poor Mrs. Micawber! She said she had tried to exert herself, and
so, I have no doubt, she had. The centre of the street door was
perfectly covered with a great brass-plate, on which was engraved
'Mrs. Micawber's Boarding Establishment for Young Ladies': but I
never found that any young lady had ever been to school there; or
that any young lady ever came, or proposed to come; or that the
least preparation was ever made to receive any young lady. The
only visitors I ever saw, or heard of, were creditors. THEY used
to come at all hours, and some of them were quite ferocious. One
dirty-faced man, I think he was a boot-maker, used to edge himself
into the passage as early as seven o'clock in the morning, and call
up the stairs to Mr. Micawber - 'Come! You ain't out yet, you
know. Pay us, will you? Don't hide, you know; that's mean. I
wouldn't be mean if I was you. Pay us, will you? You just pay us,
d'ye hear? Come!' Receiving no answer to these taunts, he would
mount in his wrath to the words 'swindlers' and 'robbers'; and
these being ineffectual too, would sometimes go to the extremity of
crossing the street, and roaring up at the windows of the second
floor, where he knew Mr. Micawber was. At these times, Mr.
Micawber would be transported with grief and mortification, even to
the length (as I was once made aware by a scream from his wife) of
making motions at himself with a razor; but within half-an-hour
afterwards, he would polish up his shoes with extraordinary pains,
and go out, humming a tune with a greater air of gentility than
ever. Mrs. Micawber was quite as elastic. I have known her to be
thrown into fainting fits by the king's taxes at three o'clock, and
to eat lamb chops, breaded, and drink warm ale (paid for with two
tea-spoons that had gone to the pawnbroker's) at four. On one
occasion, when an execution had just been put in, coming home
through some chance as early as six o'clock, I saw her lying (of
course with a twin) under the grate in a swoon, with her hair all
torn about her face; but I never knew her more cheerful than she
was, that very same night, over a veal cutlet before the kitchen
fire, telling me stories about her papa and mama, and the company
they used to keep.
In this house, and with this family, I passed my leisure time. My
own exclusive breakfast of a penny loaf and a pennyworth of milk,
I provided myself. I kept another small loaf, and a modicum of
cheese, on a particular shelf of a particular cupboard, to make my
supper on when I came back at night. This made a hole in the six
or seven shillings, I know well; and I was out at the warehouse all
day, and had to support myself on that money all the week. From
Monday morning until Saturday night, I had no advice, no counsel,
no encouragement, no consolation, no assistance, no support, of any
kind, from anyone, that I can call to mind, as I hope to go to
I was so young and childish, and so little qualified - how could I
be otherwise? - to undertake the whole charge of my own existence,
that often, in going to Murdstone and Grinby's, of a morning, I
could not resist the stale pastry put out for sale at half-price at
the pastrycooks' doors, and spent in that the money I should have
kept for my dinner. Then, I went without my dinner, or bought a
roll or a slice of pudding. I remember two pudding shops, between
which I was divided, according to my finances. One was in a court
close to St. Martin's Church - at the back of the church, - which
is now removed altogether. The pudding at that shop was made of
currants, and was rather a special pudding, but was dear,
twopennyworth not being larger than a pennyworth of more ordinary
pudding. A good shop for the latter was in the Strand - somewhere
in that part which has been rebuilt since. It was a stout pale
pudding, heavy and flabby, and with great flat raisins in it, stuck
in whole at wide distances apart. It came up hot at about my time
every day, and many a day did I dine off it. When I dined
regularly and handsomely, I had a saveloy and a penny loaf, or a
fourpenny plate of red beef from a cook's shop; or a plate of bread
and cheese and a glass of beer, from a miserable old public-house
opposite our place of business, called the Lion, or the Lion and
something else that I have forgotten. Once, I remember carrying my
own bread (which I had brought from home in the morning) under my
arm, wrapped in a piece of paper, like a book, and going to a
famous alamode beef-house near Drury Lane, and ordering a 'small
plate' of that delicacy to eat with it. What the waiter thought of
such a strange little apparition coming in all alone, I don't know;
but I can see him now, staring at me as I ate my dinner, and
bringing up the other waiter to look. I gave him a halfpenny for
himself, and I wish he hadn't taken it.
We had half-an-hour, I think, for tea. When I had money enough, I
used to get half-a-pint of ready-made coffee and a slice of bread
and butter. When I had none, I used to look at a venison shop in
Fleet Street; or I have strolled, at such a time, as far as Covent
Garden Market, and stared at the pineapples. I was fond of
wandering about the Adelphi, because it was a mysterious place,
with those dark arches. I see myself emerging one evening from
some of these arches, on a little public-house close to the river,
with an open space before it, where some coal-heavers were dancing;
to look at whom I sat down upon a bench. I wonder what they
thought of me!
I was such a child, and so little, that frequently when I went into
the bar of a strange public-house for a glass of ale or porter, to
moisten what I had had for dinner, they were afraid to give it me.
I remember one hot evening I went into the bar of a public-house,
and said to the landlord:
'What is your best - your very best - ale a glass?' For it was a
special occasion. I don't know what. It may have been my
'Twopence-halfpenny,' says the landlord, 'is the price of the
Genuine Stunning ale.'
'Then,' says I, producing the money, 'just draw me a glass of the
Genuine Stunning, if you please, with a good head to it.'
The landlord looked at me in return over the bar, from head to
foot, with a strange smile on his face; and instead of drawing the
beer, looked round the screen and said something to his wife. She
came out from behind it, with her work in her hand, and joined him
in surveying me. Here we stand, all three, before me now. The
landlord in his shirt-sleeves, leaning against the bar
window-frame; his wife looking over the little half-door; and I, in
some confusion, looking up at them from outside the partition.
They asked me a good many questions; as, what my name was, how old
I was, where I lived, how I was employed, and how I came there. To
all of which, that I might commit nobody, I invented, I am afraid,
appropriate answers. They served me with the ale, though I suspect
it was not the Genuine Stunning; and the landlord's wife, opening
the little half-door of the bar, and bending down, gave me my money
back, and gave me a kiss that was half admiring and half
compassionate, but all womanly and good, I am sure.
I know I do not exaggerate, unconsciously and unintentionally, the
scantiness of my resources or the difficulties of my life. I know
that if a shilling were given me by Mr. Quinion at any time, I
spent it in a dinner or a tea. I know that I worked, from morning
until night, with common men and boys, a shabby child. I know that
I lounged about the streets, insufficiently and unsatisfactorily
fed. I know that, but for the mercy of God, I might easily have
been, for any care that was taken of me, a little robber or a
Yet I held some station at Murdstone and Grinby's too. Besides
that Mr. Quinion did what a careless man so occupied, and dealing
with a thing so anomalous, could, to treat me as one upon a
different footing from the rest, I never said, to man or boy, how
it was that I came to be there, or gave the least indication of
being sorry that I was there. That I suffered in secret, and that
I suffered exquisitely, no one ever knew but I. How much I
suffered, it is, as I have said already, utterly beyond my power to
tell. But I kept my own counsel, and I did my work. I knew from
the first, that, if I could not do my work as well as any of the
rest, I could not hold myself above slight and contempt. I soon
became at least as expeditious and as skilful as either of the
other boys. Though perfectly familiar with them, my conduct and
manner were different enough from theirs to place a space between
us. They and the men generally spoke of me as 'the little gent',
or 'the young Suffolker.' A certain man named Gregory, who was
foreman of the packers, and another named Tipp, who was the carman,
and wore a red jacket, used to address me sometimes as 'David': but
I think it was mostly when we were very confidential, and when I
had made some efforts to entertain them, over our work, with some
results of the old readings; which were fast perishing out of my
remembrance. Mealy Potatoes uprose once, and rebelled against my
being so distinguished; but Mick Walker settled him in no time.
My rescue from this kind of existence I considered quite hopeless,
and abandoned, as such, altogether. I am solemnly convinced that
I never for one hour was reconciled to it, or was otherwise than
miserably unhappy; but I bore it; and even to Peggotty, partly for
the love of her and partly for shame, never in any letter (though
many passed between us) revealed the truth.
Mr. Micawber's difficulties were an addition to the distressed
state of my mind. In my forlorn state I became quite attached to
the family, and used to walk about, busy with Mrs. Micawber's
calculations of ways and means, and heavy with the weight of Mr.
Micawber's debts. On a Saturday night, which was my grand treat,
- partly because it was a great thing to walk home with six or
seven shillings in my pocket, looking into the shops and thinking
what such a sum would buy, and partly because I went home early, -
Mrs. Micawber would make the most heart-rending confidences to me;
also on a Sunday morning, when I mixed the portion of tea or coffee
I had bought over-night, in a little shaving-pot, and sat late at
my breakfast. It was nothing at all unusual for Mr. Micawber to
sob violently at the beginning of one of these Saturday night
conversations, and sing about jack's delight being his lovely Nan,
towards the end of it. I have known him come home to supper with
a flood of tears, and a declaration that nothing was now left but
a jail; and go to bed making a calculation of the expense of
putting bow-windows to the house, 'in case anything turned up',
which was his favourite expression. And Mrs. Micawber was just the
A curious equality of friendship, originating, I suppose, in our
respective circumstances, sprung up between me and these people,
notwithstanding the ludicrous disparity in our years. But I never
allowed myself to be prevailed upon to accept any invitation to eat
and drink with them out of their stock (knowing that they got on
badly with the butcher and baker, and had often not too much for
themselves), until Mrs. Micawber took me into her entire
confidence. This she did one evening as follows:
'Master Copperfield,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'I make no stranger of
you, and therefore do not hesitate to say that Mr. Micawber's
difficulties are coming to a crisis.'
It made me very miserable to hear it, and I looked at Mrs.
Micawber's red eyes with the utmost sympathy.
'With the exception of the heel of a Dutch cheese - which is not
adapted to the wants of a young family' - said Mrs. Micawber,
'there is really not a scrap of anything in the larder. I was
accustomed to speak of the larder when I lived with papa and mama,
and I use the word almost unconsciously. What I mean to express
is, that there is nothing to eat in the house.'
'Dear me!' I said, in great concern.
I had two or three shillings of my week's money in my pocket - from
which I presume that it must have been on a Wednesday night when we
held this conversation - and I hastily produced them, and with
heartfelt emotion begged Mrs. Micawber to accept of them as a loan.
But that lady, kissing me, and making me put them back in my
pocket, replied that she couldn't think of it.
'No, my dear Master Copperfield,' said she, 'far be it from my
thoughts! But you have a discretion beyond your years, and can
render me another kind of service, if you will; and a service I
will thankfully accept of.'
I begged Mrs. Micawber to name it.
'I have parted with the plate myself,' said Mrs. Micawber. 'Six
tea, two salt, and a pair of sugars, I have at different times
borrowed money on, in secret, with my own hands. But the twins are
a great tie; and to me, with my recollections, of papa and mama,
these transactions are very painful. There are still a few trifles
that we could part with. Mr. Micawber's feelings would never allow
him to dispose of them; and Clickett' - this was the girl from the
workhouse - 'being of a vulgar mind, would take painful liberties
if so much confidence was reposed in her. Master Copperfield, if
I might ask you -'
I understood Mrs. Micawber now, and begged her to make use of me to
any extent. I began to dispose of the more portable articles of
property that very evening; and went out on a similar expedition
almost every morning, before I went to Murdstone and Grinby's.
Mr. Micawber had a few books on a little chiffonier, which he
called the library; and those went first. I carried them, one
after another, to a bookstall in the City Road - one part of which,
near our house, was almost all bookstalls and bird shops then - and
sold them for whatever they would bring. The keeper of this
bookstall, who lived in a little house behind it, used to get tipsy
every night, and to be violently scolded by his wife every morning.
More than once, when I went there early, I had audience of him in
a turn-up bedstead, with a cut in his forehead or a black eye,
bearing witness to his excesses over-night (I am afraid he was
quarrelsome in his drink), and he, with a shaking hand,
endeavouring to find the needful shillings in one or other of the
pockets of his clothes, which lay upon the floor, while his wife,
with a baby in her arms and her shoes down at heel, never left off
rating him. Sometimes he had lost his money, and then he would ask
me to call again; but his wife had always got some - had taken his,
I dare say, while he was drunk - and secretly completed the bargain
on the stairs, as we went down together.
At the pawnbroker's shop, too, I began to be very well known. The
principal gentleman who officiated behind the counter, took a good
deal of notice of me; and often got me, I recollect, to decline a
Latin noun or adjective, or to conjugate a Latin verb, in his ear,
while he transacted my business. After all these occasions Mrs.
Micawber made a little treat, which was generally a supper; and
there was a peculiar relish in these meals which I well remember.
At last Mr. Micawber's difficulties came to a crisis, and he was
arrested early one morning, and carried over to the King's Bench
Prison in the Borough. He told me, as he went out of the house,
that the God of day had now gone down upon him - and I really
thought his heart was broken and mine too. But I heard,
afterwards, that he was seen to play a lively game at skittles,
On the first Sunday after he was taken there, I was to go and see
him, and have dinner with him. I was to ask my way to such a
place, and just short of that place I should see such another
place, and just short of that I should see a yard, which I was to
cross, and keep straight on until I saw a turnkey. All this I did;
and when at last I did see a turnkey (poor little fellow that I
was!), and thought how, when Roderick Random was in a debtors'
prison, there was a man there with nothing on him but an old rug,
the turnkey swam before my dimmed eyes and my beating heart.
Mr. Micawber was waiting for me within the gate, and we went up to
his room (top story but one), and cried very much. He solemnly
conjured me, I remember, to take warning by his fate; and to
observe that if a man had twenty pounds a-year for his income, and
spent nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence, he would be
happy, but that if he spent twenty pounds one he would be
miserable. After which he borrowed a shilling of me for porter,
gave me a written order on Mrs. Micawber for the amount, and put
away his pocket-handkerchief, and cheered up.
We sat before a little fire, with two bricks put within the rusted
grate, one on each side, to prevent its burning too many coals;
until another debtor, who shared the room with Mr. Micawber, came
in from the bakehouse with the loin of mutton which was our
joint-stock repast. Then I was sent up to 'Captain Hopkins' in the
room overhead, with Mr. Micawber's compliments, and I was his young
friend, and would Captain Hopkins lend me a knife and fork.
Captain Hopkins lent me the knife and fork, with his compliments to
Mr. Micawber. There was a very dirty lady in his little room, and
two wan girls, his daughters, with shock heads of hair. I thought
it was better to borrow Captain Hopkins's knife and fork, than
Captain Hopkins's comb. The Captain himself was in the last
extremity of shabbiness, with large whiskers, and an old, old brown
great-coat with no other coat below it. I saw his bed rolled up in
a corner; and what plates and dishes and pots he had, on a shelf;
and I divined (God knows how) that though the two girls with the
shock heads of hair were Captain Hopkins's children, the dirty lady
was not married to Captain Hopkins. My timid station on his
threshold was not occupied more than a couple of minutes at most;
but I came down again with all this in my knowledge, as surely as
the knife and fork were in my hand.
There was something gipsy-like and agreeable in the dinner, after
all. I took back Captain Hopkins's knife and fork early in the
afternoon, and went home to comfort Mrs. Micawber with an account
of my visit. She fainted when she saw me return, and made a little
jug of egg-hot afterwards to console us while we talked it over.
I don't know how the household furniture came to be sold for the
family benefit, or who sold it, except that I did not. Sold it
was, however, and carried away in a van; except the bed, a few
chairs, and the kitchen table. With these possessions we encamped,
as it were, in the two parlours of the emptied house in Windsor
Terrace; Mrs. Micawber, the children, the Orfling, and myself; and
lived in those rooms night and day. I have no idea for how long,
though it seems to me for a long time. At last Mrs. Micawber
resolved to move into the prison, where Mr. Micawber had now
secured a room to himself. So I took the key of the house to the
landlord, who was very glad to get it; and the beds were sent over
to the King's Bench, except mine, for which a little room was hired
outside the walls in the neighbourhood of that Institution, very
much to my satisfaction, since the Micawbers and I had become too
used to one another, in our troubles, to part. The Orfling was
likewise accommodated with an inexpensive lodging in the same
neighbourhood. Mine was a quiet back-garret with a sloping roof,
commanding a pleasant prospect of a timberyard; and when I took
possession of it, with the reflection that Mr. Micawber's troubles
had come to a crisis at last, I thought it quite a paradise.
All this time I was working at Murdstone and Grinby's in the same
common way, and with the same common companions, and with the same
sense of unmerited degradation as at first. But I never, happily
for me no doubt, made a single acquaintance, or spoke to any of the
many boys whom I saw daily in going to the warehouse, in coming
from it, and in prowling about the streets at meal-times. I led
the same secretly unhappy life; but I led it in the same lonely,
self-reliant manner. The only changes I am conscious of are,
firstly, that I had grown more shabby, and secondly, that I was now
relieved of much of the weight of Mr. and Mrs. Micawber's cares;
for some relatives or friends had engaged to help them at their
present pass, and they lived more comfortably in the prison than
they had lived for a long while out of it. I used to breakfast
with them now, in virtue of some arrangement, of which I have
forgotten the details. I forget, too, at what hour the gates were
opened in the morning, admitting of my going in; but I know that I
was often up at six o'clock, and that my favourite lounging-place
in the interval was old London Bridge, where I was wont to sit in
one of the stone recesses, watching the people going by, or to look
over the balustrades at the sun shining in the water, and lighting
up the golden flame on the top of the Monument. The Orfling met me
here sometimes, to be told some astonishing fictions respecting the
wharves and the Tower; of which I can say no more than that I hope
I believed them myself. In the evening I used to go back to the
prison, and walk up and down the parade with Mr. Micawber; or play
casino with Mrs. Micawber, and hear reminiscences of her papa and
mama. Whether Mr. Murdstone knew where I was, I am unable to say.
I never told them at Murdstone and Grinby's.
Mr. Micawber's affairs, although past their crisis, were very much
involved by reason of a certain 'Deed', of which I used to hear a
great deal, and which I suppose, now, to have been some former
composition with his creditors, though I was so far from being
clear about it then, that I am conscious of having confounded it
with those demoniacal parchments which are held to have, once upon
a time, obtained to a great extent in Germany. At last this
document appeared to be got out of the way, somehow; at all events
it ceased to be the rock-ahead it had been; and Mrs. Micawber
informed me that 'her family' had decided that Mr. Micawber should
apply for his release under the Insolvent Debtors Act, which would
set him free, she expected, in about six weeks.
'And then,' said Mr. Micawber, who was present, 'I have no doubt I
shall, please Heaven, begin to be beforehand with the world, and to
live in a perfectly new manner, if - in short, if anything turns
By way of going in for anything that might be on the cards, I call
to mind that Mr. Micawber, about this time, composed a petition to
the House of Commons, praying for an alteration in the law of
imprisonment for debt. I set down this remembrance here, because
it is an instance to myself of the manner in which I fitted my old
books to my altered life, and made stories for myself, out of the
streets, and out of men and women; and how some main points in the
character I shall unconsciously develop, I suppose, in writing my
life, were gradually forming all this while.
There was a club in the prison, in which Mr. Micawber, as a
gentleman, was a great authority. Mr. Micawber had stated his idea
of this petition to the club, and the club had strongly approved of
the same. Wherefore Mr. Micawber (who was a thoroughly
good-natured man, and as active a creature about everything but his
own affairs as ever existed, and never so happy as when he was busy
about something that could never be of any profit to him) set to
work at the petition, invented it, engrossed it on an immense sheet
of paper, spread it out on a table, and appointed a time for all
the club, and all within the walls if they chose, to come up to his
room and sign it.
When I heard of this approaching ceremony, I was so anxious to see
them all come in, one after another, though I knew the greater part
of them already, and they me, that I got an hour's leave of absence
from Murdstone and Grinby's, and established myself in a corner for
that purpose. As many of the principal members of the club as
could be got into the small room without filling it, supported Mr.
Micawber in front of the petition, while my old friend Captain
Hopkins (who had washed himself, to do honour to so solemn an
occasion) stationed himself close to it, to read it to all who were
unacquainted with its contents. The door was then thrown open, and
the general population began to come in, in a long file: several
waiting outside, while one entered, affixed his signature, and went
out. To everybody in succession, Captain Hopkins said: 'Have you
read it?' - 'No.' - 'Would you like to hear it read?' If he
weakly showed the least disposition to hear it, Captain Hopkins, in
a loud sonorous voice, gave him every word of it. The Captain
would have read it twenty thousand times, if twenty thousand people
would have heard him, one by one. I remember a certain luscious
roll he gave to such phrases as 'The people's representatives in
Parliament assembled,' 'Your petitioners therefore humbly approach
your honourable house,' 'His gracious Majesty's unfortunate
subjects,' as if the words were something real in his mouth, and
delicious to taste; Mr. Micawber, meanwhile, listening with a
little of an author's vanity, and contemplating (not severely) the
spikes on the opposite wall.
As I walked to and fro daily between Southwark and Blackfriars, and
lounged about at meal-times in obscure streets, the stones of which
may, for anything I know, be worn at this moment by my childish
feet, I wonder how many of these people were wanting in the crowd
that used to come filing before me in review again, to the echo of
Captain Hopkins's voice! When my thoughts go back, now, to that
slow agony of my youth, I wonder how much of the histories I
invented for such people hangs like a mist of fancy over
well-remembered facts! When I tread the old ground, I do not
wonder that I seem to see and pity, going on before me, an innocent
romantic boy, making his imaginative world out of such strange
experiences and sordid things!
LIKING LIFE ON MY OWN ACCOUNT NO BETTER,
I FORM A GREAT RESOLUTION
In due time, Mr. Micawber's petition was ripe for hearing; and that
gentleman was ordered to be discharged under the Act, to my great
joy. His creditors were not implacable; and Mrs. Micawber informed
me that even the revengeful boot-maker had declared in open court
that he bore him no malice, but that when money was owing to him he
liked to be paid. He said he thought it was human nature.
M r Micawber returned to the King's Bench when his case was over,
as some fees were to be settled, and some formalities observed,
before he could be actually released. The club received him with
transport, and held an harmonic meeting that evening in his honour;
while Mrs. Micawber and I had a lamb's fry in private, surrounded
by the sleeping family.
'On such an occasion I will give you, Master Copperfield,' said
Mrs. Micawber, 'in a little more flip,' for we had been having some
already, 'the memory of my papa and mama.'
'Are they dead, ma'am?' I inquired, after drinking the toast in a
'My mama departed this life,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'before Mr.
Micawber's difficulties commenced, or at least before they became
pressing. My papa lived to bail Mr. Micawber several times, and
then expired, regretted by a numerous circle.'
Mrs. Micawber shook her head, and dropped a pious tear upon the
twin who happened to be in hand.
As I could hardly hope for a more favourable opportunity of putting
a question in which I had a near interest, I said to Mrs. Micawber:
'May I ask, ma'am, what you and Mr. Micawber intend to do, now that
Mr. Micawber is out of his difficulties, and at liberty? Have you
'My family,' said Mrs. Micawber, who always said those two words
with an air, though I never could discover who came under the
denomination, 'my family are of opinion that Mr. Micawber should
quit London, and exert his talents in the country. Mr. Micawber is
a man of great talent, Master Copperfield.'
I said I was sure of that.
'Of great talent,' repeated Mrs. Micawber. 'My family are of
opinion, that, with a little interest, something might be done for
a man of his ability in the Custom House. The influence of my
family being local, it is their wish that Mr. Micawber should go
down to Plymouth. They think it indispensable that he should be
upon the spot.'
'That he may be ready?' I suggested.
'Exactly,' returned Mrs. Micawber. 'That he may be ready - in case
of anything turning up.'
'And do you go too, ma'am?'
The events of the day, in combination with the twins, if not with
the flip, had made Mrs. Micawber hysterical, and she shed tears as
'I never will desert Mr. Micawber. Mr. Micawber may have concealed
his difficulties from me in the first instance, but his sanguine