Part 6 out of 21
My aunt took so kindly to the notion, that some ready-made clothes,
which were purchased for me that afternoon, were marked 'Trotwood
Copperfield', in her own handwriting, and in indelible marking-ink,
before I put them on; and it was settled that all the other clothes
which were ordered to be made for me (a complete outfit was bespoke
that afternoon) should be marked in the same way.
Thus I began my new life, in a new name, and with everything new
about me. Now that the state of doubt was over, I felt, for many
days, like one in a dream. I never thought that I had a curious
couple of guardians, in my aunt and Mr. Dick. I never thought of
anything about myself, distinctly. The two things clearest in my
mind were, that a remoteness had come upon the old Blunderstone
life - which seemed to lie in the haze of an immeasurable distance;
and that a curtain had for ever fallen on my life at Murdstone and
Grinby's. No one has ever raised that curtain since. I have
lifted it for a moment, even in this narrative, with a reluctant
hand, and dropped it gladly. The remembrance of that life is
fraught with so much pain to me, with so much mental suffering and
want of hope, that I have never had the courage even to examine how
long I was doomed to lead it. Whether it lasted for a year, or
more, or less, I do not know. I only know that it was, and ceased
to be; and that I have written, and there I leave it.
I MAKE ANOTHER BEGINNING
Mr. Dick and I soon became the best of friends, and very often,
when his day's work was done, went out together to fly the great
kite. Every day of his life he had a long sitting at the Memorial,
which never made the least progress, however hard he laboured, for
King Charles the First always strayed into it, sooner or later, and
then it was thrown aside, and another one begun. The patience and
hope with which he bore these perpetual disappointments, the mild
perception he had that there was something wrong about King Charles
the First, the feeble efforts he made to keep him out, and the
certainty with which he came in, and tumbled the Memorial out of
all shape, made a deep impression on me. What Mr. Dick supposed
would come of the Memorial, if it were completed; where he thought
it was to go, or what he thought it was to do; he knew no more than
anybody else, I believe. Nor was it at all necessary that he
should trouble himself with such questions, for if anything were
certain under the sun, it was certain that the Memorial never would
be finished. It was quite an affecting sight, I used to think, to
see him with the kite when it was up a great height in the air.
What he had told me, in his room, about his belief in its
disseminating the statements pasted on it, which were nothing but
old leaves of abortive Memorials, might have been a fancy with him
sometimes; but not when he was out, looking up at the kite in the
sky, and feeling it pull and tug at his hand. He never looked so
serene as he did then. I used to fancy, as I sat by him of an
evening, on a green slope, and saw him watch the kite high in the
quiet air, that it lifted his mind out of its confusion, and bore
it (such was my boyish thought) into the skies. As he wound the
string in and it came lower and lower down out of the beautiful
light, until it fluttered to the ground, and lay there like a dead
thing, he seemed to wake gradually out of a dream; and I remember
to have seen him take it up, and look about him in a lost way, as
if they had both come down together, so that I pitied him with all
While I advanced in friendship and intimacy with Mr. Dick, I did
not go backward in the favour of his staunch friend, my aunt. She
took so kindly to me, that, in the course of a few weeks, she
shortened my adopted name of Trotwood into Trot; and even
encouraged me to hope, that if I went on as I had begun, I might
take equal rank in her affections with my sister Betsey Trotwood.
'Trot,' said my aunt one evening, when the backgammon-board was
placed as usual for herself and Mr. Dick, 'we must not forget your
This was my only subject of anxiety, and I felt quite delighted by
her referring to it.
'Should you like to go to school at Canterbury?' said my aunt.
I replied that I should like it very much, as it was so near her.
'Good,' said my aunt. 'Should you like to go tomorrow?'
Being already no stranger to the general rapidity of my aunt's
evolutions, I was not surprised by the suddenness of the proposal,
and said: 'Yes.'
'Good,' said my aunt again. 'Janet, hire the grey pony and chaise
tomorrow morning at ten o'clock, and pack up Master Trotwood's
I was greatly elated by these orders; but my heart smote me for my
selfishness, when I witnessed their effect on Mr. Dick, who was so
low-spirited at the prospect of our separation, and played so ill
in consequence, that my aunt, after giving him several admonitory
raps on the knuckles with her dice-box, shut up the board, and
declined to play with him any more. But, on hearing from my aunt
that I should sometimes come over on a Saturday, and that he could
sometimes come and see me on a Wednesday, he revived; and vowed to
make another kite for those occasions, of proportions greatly
surpassing the present one. In the morning he was downhearted
again, and would have sustained himself by giving me all the money
he had in his possession, gold and silver too, if my aunt had not
interposed, and limited the gift to five shillings, which, at his
earnest petition, were afterwards increased to ten. We parted at
the garden-gate in a most affectionate manner, and Mr. Dick did not
go into the house until my aunt had driven me out of sight of it.
My aunt, who was perfectly indifferent to public opinion, drove the
grey pony through Dover in a masterly manner; sitting high and
stiff like a state coachman, keeping a steady eye upon him wherever
he went, and making a point of not letting him have his own way in
any respect. When we came into the country road, she permitted him
to relax a little, however; and looking at me down in a valley of
cushion by her side, asked me whether I was happy?
'Very happy indeed, thank you, aunt,' I said.
She was much gratified; and both her hands being occupied, patted
me on the head with her whip.
'Is it a large school, aunt?' I asked.
'Why, I don't know,' said my aunt. 'We are going to Mr.
'Does he keep a school?' I asked.
'No, Trot,' said my aunt. 'He keeps an office.'
I asked for no more information about Mr. Wickfield, as she offered
none, and we conversed on other subjects until we came to
Canterbury, where, as it was market-day, my aunt had a great
opportunity of insinuating the grey pony among carts, baskets,
vegetables, and huckster's goods. The hair-breadth turns and
twists we made, drew down upon us a variety of speeches from the
people standing about, which were not always complimentary; but my
aunt drove on with perfect indifference, and I dare say would have
taken her own way with as much coolness through an enemy's country.
At length we stopped before a very old house bulging out over the
road; a house with long low lattice-windows bulging out still
farther, and beams with carved heads on the ends bulging out too,
so that I fancied the whole house was leaning forward, trying to
see who was passing on the narrow pavement below. It was quite
spotless in its cleanliness. The old-fashioned brass knocker on
the low arched door, ornamented with carved garlands of fruit and
flowers, twinkled like a star; the two stone steps descending to
the door were as white as if they had been covered with fair linen;
and all the angles and corners, and carvings and mouldings, and
quaint little panes of glass, and quainter little windows, though
as old as the hills, were as pure as any snow that ever fell upon
When the pony-chaise stopped at the door, and my eyes were intent
upon the house, I saw a cadaverous face appear at a small window on
the ground floor (in a little round tower that formed one side of
the house), and quickly disappear. The low arched door then
opened, and the face came out. It was quite as cadaverous as it
had looked in the window, though in the grain of it there was that
tinge of red which is sometimes to be observed in the skins of
red-haired people. It belonged to a red-haired person - a youth of
fifteen, as I take it now, but looking much older - whose hair was
cropped as close as the closest stubble; who had hardly any
eyebrows, and no eyelashes, and eyes of a red-brown, so unsheltered
and unshaded, that I remember wondering how he went to sleep. He
was high-shouldered and bony; dressed in decent black, with a white
wisp of a neckcloth; buttoned up to the throat; and had a long,
lank, skeleton hand, which particularly attracted my attention, as
he stood at the pony's head, rubbing his chin with it, and looking
up at us in the chaise.
'Is Mr. Wickfield at home, Uriah Heep?' said my aunt.
'Mr. Wickfield's at home, ma'am,' said Uriah Heep, 'if you'll
please to walk in there' - pointing with his long hand to the room
We got out; and leaving him to hold the pony, went into a long low
parlour looking towards the street, from the window of which I
caught a glimpse, as I went in, of Uriah Heep breathing into the
pony's nostrils, and immediately covering them with his hand, as if
he were putting some spell upon him. Opposite to the tall old
chimney-piece were two portraits: one of a gentleman with grey hair
(though not by any means an old man) and black eyebrows, who was
looking over some papers tied together with red tape; the other, of
a lady, with a very placid and sweet expression of face, who was
looking at me.
I believe I was turning about in search of Uriah's picture, when,
a door at the farther end of the room opening, a gentleman entered,
at sight of whom I turned to the first-mentioned portrait again, to
make quite sure that it had not come out of its frame. But it was
stationary; and as the gentleman advanced into the light, I saw
that he was some years older than when he had had his picture
'Miss Betsey Trotwood,' said the gentleman, 'pray walk in. I was
engaged for a moment, but you'll excuse my being busy. You know my
motive. I have but one in life.'
Miss Betsey thanked him, and we went into his room, which was
furnished as an office, with books, papers, tin boxes, and so
forth. It looked into a garden, and had an iron safe let into the
wall; so immediately over the mantelshelf, that I wondered, as I
sat down, how the sweeps got round it when they swept the chimney.
'Well, Miss Trotwood,' said Mr. Wickfield; for I soon found that it
was he, and that he was a lawyer, and steward of the estates of a
rich gentleman of the county; 'what wind blows you here? Not an
ill wind, I hope?'
'No,' replied my aunt. 'I have not come for any law.'
'That's right, ma'am,' said Mr. Wickfield. 'You had better come
for anything else.'
His hair was quite white now, though his eyebrows were still black.
He had a very agreeable face, and, I thought, was handsome. There
was a certain richness in his complexion, which I had been long
accustomed, under Peggotty's tuition, to connect with port wine;
and I fancied it was in his voice too, and referred his growing
corpulency to the same cause. He was very cleanly dressed, in a
blue coat, striped waistcoat, and nankeen trousers; and his fine
frilled shirt and cambric neckcloth looked unusually soft and
white, reminding my strolling fancy (I call to mind) of the plumage
on the breast of a swan.
'This is my nephew,' said my aunt.
'Wasn't aware you had one, Miss Trotwood,' said Mr. Wickfield.
'My grand-nephew, that is to say,' observed my aunt.
'Wasn't aware you had a grand-nephew, I give you my word,' said Mr.
'I have adopted him,' said my aunt, with a wave of her hand,
importing that his knowledge and his ignorance were all one to her,
'and I have brought him here, to put to a school where he may be
thoroughly well taught, and well treated. Now tell me where that
school is, and what it is, and all about it.'
'Before I can advise you properly,' said Mr. Wickfield - 'the old
question, you know. What's your motive in this?'
'Deuce take the man!' exclaimed my aunt. 'Always fishing for
motives, when they're on the surface! Why, to make the child happy
'It must be a mixed motive, I think,' said Mr. Wickfield, shaking
his head and smiling incredulously.
'A mixed fiddlestick,' returned my aunt. 'You claim to have one
plain motive in all you do yourself. You don't suppose, I hope,
that you are the only plain dealer in the world?'
'Ay, but I have only one motive in life, Miss Trotwood,' he
rejoined, smiling. 'Other people have dozens, scores, hundreds.
I have only one. There's the difference. However, that's beside
the question. The best school? Whatever the motive, you want the
My aunt nodded assent.
'At the best we have,' said Mr. Wickfield, considering, 'your
nephew couldn't board just now.'
'But he could board somewhere else, I suppose?' suggested my aunt.
Mr. Wickfield thought I could. After a little discussion, he
proposed to take my aunt to the school, that she might see it and
judge for herself; also, to take her, with the same object, to two
or three houses where he thought I could be boarded. My aunt
embracing the proposal, we were all three going out together, when
he stopped and said:
'Our little friend here might have some motive, perhaps, for
objecting to the arrangements. I think we had better leave him
My aunt seemed disposed to contest the point; but to facilitate
matters I said I would gladly remain behind, if they pleased; and
returned into Mr. Wickfield's office, where I sat down again, in
the chair I had first occupied, to await their return.
It so happened that this chair was opposite a narrow passage, which
ended in the little circular room where I had seen Uriah Heep's
pale face looking out of the window. Uriah, having taken the pony
to a neighbouring stable, was at work at a desk in this room, which
had a brass frame on the top to hang paper upon, and on which the
writing he was making a copy of was then hanging. Though his face
was towards me, I thought, for some time, the writing being between
us, that he could not see me; but looking that way more
attentively, it made me uncomfortable to observe that, every now
and then, his sleepless eyes would come below the writing, like two
red suns, and stealthily stare at me for I dare say a whole minute
at a time, during which his pen went, or pretended to go, as
cleverly as ever. I made several attempts to get out of their way
- such as standing on a chair to look at a map on the other side of
the room, and poring over the columns of a Kentish newspaper - but
they always attracted me back again; and whenever I looked towards
those two red suns, I was sure to find them, either just rising or
At length, much to my relief, my aunt and Mr. Wickfield came back,
after a pretty long absence. They were not so successful as I
could have wished; for though the advantages of the school were
undeniable, my aunt had not approved of any of the boarding-houses
proposed for me.
'It's very unfortunate,' said my aunt. 'I don't know what to do,
'It does happen unfortunately,' said Mr. Wickfield. 'But I'll tell
you what you can do, Miss Trotwood.'
'What's that?' inquired my aunt.
'Leave your nephew here, for the present. He's a quiet fellow. He
won't disturb me at all. It's a capital house for study. As quiet
as a monastery, and almost as roomy. Leave him here.'
My aunt evidently liked the offer, though she was delicate of
accepting it. So did I.
'Come, Miss Trotwood,' said Mr. Wickfield. 'This is the way out of
the difficulty. It's only a temporary arrangement, you know. If
it don't act well, or don't quite accord with our mutual
convenience, he can easily go to the right-about. There will be
time to find some better place for him in the meanwhile. You had
better determine to leave him here for the present!'
'I am very much obliged to you,' said my aunt; 'and so is he, I
see; but -'
'Come! I know what you mean,' cried Mr. Wickfield. 'You shall not
be oppressed by the receipt of favours, Miss Trotwood. You may pay
for him, if you like. We won't be hard about terms, but you shall
pay if you will.'
'On that understanding,' said my aunt, 'though it doesn't lessen
the real obligation, I shall be very glad to leave him.'
'Then come and see my little housekeeper,' said Mr. Wickfield.
We accordingly went up a wonderful old staircase; with a balustrade
so broad that we might have gone up that, almost as easily; and
into a shady old drawing-room, lighted by some three or four of the
quaint windows I had looked up at from the street: which had old
oak seats in them, that seemed to have come of the same trees as
the shining oak floor, and the great beams in the ceiling. It was
a prettily furnished room, with a piano and some lively furniture
in red and green, and some flowers. It seemed to be all old nooks
and corners; and in every nook and corner there was some queer
little table, or cupboard, or bookcase, or seat, or something or
other, that made me think there was not such another good corner in
the room; until I looked at the next one, and found it equal to it,
if not better. On everything there was the same air of retirement
and cleanliness that marked the house outside.
Mr. Wickfield tapped at a door in a corner of the panelled wall,
and a girl of about my own age came quickly out and kissed him. On
her face, I saw immediately the placid and sweet expression of the
lady whose picture had looked at me downstairs. It seemed to my
imagination as if the portrait had grown womanly, and the original
remained a child. Although her face was quite bright and happy,
there was a tranquillity about it, and about her - a quiet, good,
calm spirit - that I never have forgotten; that I shall never
forget. This was his little housekeeper, his daughter Agnes, Mr.
Wickfield said. When I heard how he said it, and saw how he held
her hand, I guessed what the one motive of his life was.
She had a little basket-trifle hanging at her side, with keys in
it; and she looked as staid and as discreet a housekeeper as the
old house could have. She listened to her father as he told her
about me, with a pleasant face; and when he had concluded, proposed
to my aunt that we should go upstairs and see my room. We all went
together, she before us: and a glorious old room it was, with more
oak beams, and diamond panes; and the broad balustrade going all
the way up to it.
I cannot call to mind where or when, in my childhood, I had seen a
stained glass window in a church. Nor do I recollect its subject.
But I know that when I saw her turn round, in the grave light of
the old staircase, and wait for us, above, I thought of that
window; and I associated something of its tranquil brightness with
Agnes Wickfield ever afterwards.
My aunt was as happy as I was, in the arrangement made for me; and
we went down to the drawing-room again, well pleased and gratified.
As she would not hear of staying to dinner, lest she should by any
chance fail to arrive at home with the grey pony before dark; and
as I apprehend Mr. Wickfield knew her too well to argue any point
with her; some lunch was provided for her there, and Agnes went
back to her governess, and Mr. Wickfield to his office. So we were
left to take leave of one another without any restraint.
She told me that everything would be arranged for me by Mr.
Wickfield, and that I should want for nothing, and gave me the
kindest words and the best advice.
'Trot,' said my aunt in conclusion, 'be a credit to yourself, to
me, and Mr. Dick, and Heaven be with you!'
I was greatly overcome, and could only thank her, again and again,
and send my love to Mr. Dick.
'Never,' said my aunt, 'be mean in anything; never be false; never
be cruel. Avoid those three vices, Trot, and I can always be
hopeful of you.'
I promised, as well as I could, that I would not abuse her kindness
or forget her admonition.
'The pony's at the door,' said my aunt, 'and I am off! Stay here.'
With these words she embraced me hastily, and went out of the room,
shutting the door after her. At first I was startled by so abrupt
a departure, and almost feared I had displeased her; but when I
looked into the street, and saw how dejectedly she got into the
chaise, and drove away without looking up, I understood her better
and did not do her that injustice.
By five o'clock, which was Mr. Wickfield's dinner-hour, I had
mustered up my spirits again, and was ready for my knife and fork.
The cloth was only laid for us two; but Agnes was waiting in the
drawing-room before dinner, went down with her father, and sat
opposite to him at table. I doubted whether he could have dined
We did not stay there, after dinner, but came upstairs into the
drawing-room again: in one snug corner of which, Agnes set glasses
for her father, and a decanter of port wine. I thought he would
have missed its usual flavour, if it had been put there for him by
any other hands.
There he sat, taking his wine, and taking a good deal of it, for
two hours; while Agnes played on the piano, worked, and talked to
him and me. He was, for the most part, gay and cheerful with us;
but sometimes his eyes rested on her, and he fell into a brooding
state, and was silent. She always observed this quickly, I
thought, and always roused him with a question or caress. Then he
came out of his meditation, and drank more wine.
Agnes made the tea, and presided over it; and the time passed away
after it, as after dinner, until she went to bed; when her father
took her in his arms and kissed her, and, she being gone, ordered
candles in his office. Then I went to bed too.
But in the course of the evening I had rambled down to the door,
and a little way along the street, that I might have another peep
at the old houses, and the grey Cathedral; and might think of my
coming through that old city on my journey, and of my passing the
very house I lived in, without knowing it. As I came back, I saw
Uriah Heep shutting up the office; and feeling friendly towards
everybody, went in and spoke to him, and at parting, gave him my
hand. But oh, what a clammy hand his was! as ghostly to the touch
as to the sight! I rubbed mine afterwards, to warm it, AND TO RUB
It was such an uncomfortable hand, that, when I went to my room, it
was still cold and wet upon my memory. Leaning out of the window,
and seeing one of the faces on the beam-ends looking at me
sideways, I fancied it was Uriah Heep got up there somehow, and
shut him out in a hurry.
I AM A NEW BOY IN MORE SENSES THAN ONE
Next morning, after breakfast, I entered on school life again. I
went, accompanied by Mr. Wickfield, to the scene of my future
studies - a grave building in a courtyard, with a learned air about
it that seemed very well suited to the stray rooks and jackdaws who
came down from the Cathedral towers to walk with a clerkly bearing
on the grass-plot - and was introduced to my new master, Doctor
Doctor Strong looked almost as rusty, to my thinking, as the tall
iron rails and gates outside the house; and almost as stiff and
heavy as the great stone urns that flanked them, and were set up,
on the top of the red-brick wall, at regular distances all round
the court, like sublimated skittles, for Time to play at. He was
in his library (I mean Doctor Strong was), with his clothes not
particularly well brushed, and his hair not particularly well
combed; his knee-smalls unbraced; his long black gaiters
unbuttoned; and his shoes yawning like two caverns on the
hearth-rug. Turning upon me a lustreless eye, that reminded me of
a long-forgotten blind old horse who once used to crop the grass,
and tumble over the graves, in Blunderstone churchyard, he said he
was glad to see me: and then he gave me his hand; which I didn't
know what to do with, as it did nothing for itself.
But, sitting at work, not far from Doctor Strong, was a very pretty
young lady - whom he called Annie, and who was his daughter, I
supposed - who got me out of my difficulty by kneeling down to put
Doctor Strong's shoes on, and button his gaiters, which she did
with great cheerfulness and quickness. When she had finished, and
we were going out to the schoolroom, I was much surprised to hear
Mr. Wickfield, in bidding her good morning, address her as 'Mrs.
Strong'; and I was wondering could she be Doctor Strong's son's
wife, or could she be Mrs. Doctor Strong, when Doctor Strong
himself unconsciously enlightened me.
'By the by, Wickfield,' he said, stopping in a passage with his
hand on my shoulder; 'you have not found any suitable provision for
my wife's cousin yet?'
'No,' said Mr. Wickfield. 'No. Not yet.'
'I could wish it done as soon as it can be done, Wickfield,' said
Doctor Strong, 'for Jack Maldon is needy, and idle; and of those
two bad things, worse things sometimes come. What does Doctor
Watts say,' he added, looking at me, and moving his head to the
time of his quotation, '"Satan finds some mischief still, for idle
hands to do."'
'Egad, Doctor,' returned Mr. Wickfield, 'if Doctor Watts knew
mankind, he might have written, with as much truth, "Satan finds
some mischief still, for busy hands to do." The busy people achieve
their full share of mischief in the world, you may rely upon it.
What have the people been about, who have been the busiest in
getting money, and in getting power, this century or two? No
'Jack Maldon will never be very busy in getting either, I expect,'
said Doctor Strong, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
'Perhaps not,' said Mr. Wickfield; 'and you bring me back to the
question, with an apology for digressing. No, I have not been able
to dispose of Mr. Jack Maldon yet. I believe,' he said this with
some hesitation, 'I penetrate your motive, and it makes the thing
'My motive,' returned Doctor Strong, 'is to make some suitable
provision for a cousin, and an old playfellow, of Annie's.'
'Yes, I know,' said Mr. Wickfield; 'at home or abroad.'
'Aye!' replied the Doctor, apparently wondering why he emphasized
those words so much. 'At home or abroad.'
'Your own expression, you know,' said Mr. Wickfield. 'Or abroad.'
'Surely,' the Doctor answered. 'Surely. One or other.'
'One or other? Have you no choice?' asked Mr. Wickfield.
'No,' returned the Doctor.
'No?' with astonishment.
'Not the least.'
'No motive,' said Mr. Wickfield, 'for meaning abroad, and not at
'No,' returned the Doctor.
'I am bound to believe you, and of course I do believe you,' said
Mr. Wickfield. 'It might have simplified my office very much, if
I had known it before. But I confess I entertained another
Doctor Strong regarded him with a puzzled and doubting look, which
almost immediately subsided into a smile that gave me great
encouragement; for it was full of amiability and sweetness, and
there was a simplicity in it, and indeed in his whole manner, when
the studious, pondering frost upon it was got through, very
attractive and hopeful to a young scholar like me. Repeating 'no',
and 'not the least', and other short assurances to the same
purport, Doctor Strong jogged on before us, at a queer, uneven
pace; and we followed: Mr. Wickfield, looking grave, I observed,
and shaking his head to himself, without knowing that I saw him.
The schoolroom was a pretty large hall, on the quietest side of the
house, confronted by the stately stare of some half-dozen of the
great urns, and commanding a peep of an old secluded garden
belonging to the Doctor, where the peaches were ripening on the
sunny south wall. There were two great aloes, in tubs, on the turf
outside the windows; the broad hard leaves of which plant (looking
as if they were made of painted tin) have ever since, by
association, been symbolical to me of silence and retirement.
About five-and-twenty boys were studiously engaged at their books
when we went in, but they rose to give the Doctor good morning, and
remained standing when they saw Mr. Wickfield and me.
'A new boy, young gentlemen,' said the Doctor; 'Trotwood
One Adams, who was the head-boy, then stepped out of his place and
welcomed me. He looked like a young clergyman, in his white
cravat, but he was very affable and good-humoured; and he showed me
my place, and presented me to the masters, in a gentlemanly way
that would have put me at my ease, if anything could.
It seemed to me so long, however, since I had been among such boys,
or among any companions of my own age, except Mick Walker and Mealy
Potatoes, that I felt as strange as ever I have done in my life.
I was so conscious of having passed through scenes of which they
could have no knowledge, and of having acquired experiences foreign
to my age, appearance, and condition as one of them, that I half
believed it was an imposture to come there as an ordinary little
schoolboy. I had become, in the Murdstone and Grinby time, however
short or long it may have been, so unused to the sports and games
of boys, that I knew I was awkward and inexperienced in the
commonest things belonging to them. Whatever I had learnt, had so
slipped away from me in the sordid cares of my life from day to
night, that now, when I was examined about what I knew, I knew
nothing, and was put into the lowest form of the school. But,
troubled as I was, by my want of boyish skill, and of book-learning
too, I was made infinitely more uncomfortable by the consideration,
that, in what I did know, I was much farther removed from my
companions than in what I did not. My mind ran upon what they
would think, if they knew of my familiar acquaintance with the
King's Bench Prison? Was there anything about me which would
reveal my proceedings in connexion with the Micawber family - all
those pawnings, and sellings, and suppers - in spite of myself?
Suppose some of the boys had seen me coming through Canterbury,
wayworn and ragged, and should find me out? What would they say,
who made so light of money, if they could know how I had scraped my
halfpence together, for the purchase of my daily saveloy and beer,
or my slices of pudding? How would it affect them, who were so
innocent of London life, and London streets, to discover how
knowing I was (and was ashamed to be) in some of the meanest phases
of both? All this ran in my head so much, on that first day at
Doctor Strong's, that I felt distrustful of my slightest look and
gesture; shrunk within myself whensoever I was approached by one of
my new schoolfellows; and hurried off the minute school was over,
afraid of committing myself in my response to any friendly notice
But there was such an influence in Mr. Wickfield's old house, that
when I knocked at it, with my new school-books under my arm, I
began to feel my uneasiness softening away. As I went up to my
airy old room, the grave shadow of the staircase seemed to fall
upon my doubts and fears, and to make the past more indistinct. I
sat there, sturdily conning my books, until dinner-time (we were
out of school for good at three); and went down, hopeful of
becoming a passable sort of boy yet.
Agnes was in the drawing-room, waiting for her father, who was
detained by someone in his office. She met me with her pleasant
smile, and asked me how I liked the school. I told her I should
like it very much, I hoped; but I was a little strange to it at
'You have never been to school,' I said, 'have you?'
'Oh yes! Every day.'
'Ah, but you mean here, at your own home?'
'Papa couldn't spare me to go anywhere else,' she answered, smiling
and shaking her head. 'His housekeeper must be in his house, you
'He is very fond of you, I am sure,' I said.
She nodded 'Yes,' and went to the door to listen for his coming up,
that she might meet him on the stairs. But, as he was not there,
she came back again.
'Mama has been dead ever since I was born,' she said, in her quiet
way. 'I only know her picture, downstairs. I saw you looking at
it yesterday. Did you think whose it was?'
I told her yes, because it was so like herself.
'Papa says so, too,' said Agnes, pleased. 'Hark! That's papa
Her bright calm face lighted up with pleasure as she went to meet
him, and as they came in, hand in hand. He greeted me cordially;
and told me I should certainly be happy under Doctor Strong, who
was one of the gentlest of men.
'There may be some, perhaps - I don't know that there are - who
abuse his kindness,' said Mr. Wickfield. 'Never be one of those,
Trotwood, in anything. He is the least suspicious of mankind; and
whether that's a merit, or whether it's a blemish, it deserves
consideration in all dealings with the Doctor, great or small.'
He spoke, I thought, as if he were weary, or dissatisfied with
something; but I did not pursue the question in my mind, for dinner
was just then announced, and we went down and took the same seats
We had scarcely done so, when Uriah Heep put in his red head and
his lank hand at the door, and said:
'Here's Mr. Maldon begs the favour of a word, sir.'
'I am but this moment quit of Mr. Maldon,' said his master.
'Yes, sir,' returned Uriah; 'but Mr. Maldon has come back, and he
begs the favour of a word.'
As he held the door open with his hand, Uriah looked at me, and
looked at Agnes, and looked at the dishes, and looked at the
plates, and looked at every object in the room, I thought, - yet
seemed to look at nothing; he made such an appearance all the while
of keeping his red eyes dutifully on his master.
'I beg your pardon. It's only to say, on reflection,' observed a
voice behind Uriah, as Uriah's head was pushed away, and the
speaker's substituted - 'pray excuse me for this intrusion - that
as it seems I have no choice in the matter, the sooner I go abroad
the better. My cousin Annie did say, when we talked of it, that
she liked to have her friends within reach rather than to have them
banished, and the old Doctor -'
'Doctor Strong, was that?' Mr. Wickfield interposed, gravely.
'Doctor Strong, of course,' returned the other; 'I call him the old
Doctor; it's all the same, you know.'
'I don't know,' returned Mr. Wickfield.
'Well, Doctor Strong,' said the other - 'Doctor Strong was of the
same mind, I believed. But as it appears from the course you take
with me he has changed his mind, why there's no more to be said,
except that the sooner I am off, the better. Therefore, I thought
I'd come back and say, that the sooner I am off the better. When
a plunge is to be made into the water, it's of no use lingering on
'There shall be as little lingering as possible, in your case, Mr.
Maldon, you may depend upon it,' said Mr. Wickfield.
'Thank'ee,' said the other. 'Much obliged. I don't want to look
a gift-horse in the mouth, which is not a gracious thing to do;
otherwise, I dare say, my cousin Annie could easily arrange it in
her own way. I suppose Annie would only have to say to the old
'Meaning that Mrs. Strong would only have to say to her husband -
do I follow you?' said Mr. Wickfield.
'Quite so,' returned the other, '- would only have to say, that she
wanted such and such a thing to be so and so; and it would be so
and so, as a matter of course.'
'And why as a matter of course, Mr. Maldon?' asked Mr. Wickfield,
sedately eating his dinner.
'Why, because Annie's a charming young girl, and the old Doctor -
Doctor Strong, I mean - is not quite a charming young boy,' said
Mr. Jack Maldon, laughing. 'No offence to anybody, Mr. Wickfield.
I only mean that I suppose some compensation is fair and reasonable
in that sort of marriage.'
'Compensation to the lady, sir?' asked Mr. Wickfield gravely.
'To the lady, sir,' Mr. Jack Maldon answered, laughing. But
appearing to remark that Mr. Wickfield went on with his dinner in
the same sedate, immovable manner, and that there was no hope of
making him relax a muscle of his face, he added:
'However, I have said what I came to say, and, with another apology
for this intrusion, I may take myself off. Of course I shall
observe your directions, in considering the matter as one to be
arranged between you and me solely, and not to be referred to, up
at the Doctor's.'
'Have you dined?' asked Mr. Wickfield, with a motion of his hand
towards the table.
'Thank'ee. I am going to dine,' said Mr. Maldon, 'with my cousin
Mr. Wickfield, without rising, looked after him thoughtfully as he
went out. He was rather a shallow sort of young gentleman, I
thought, with a handsome face, a rapid utterance, and a confident,
bold air. And this was the first I ever saw of Mr. Jack Maldon;
whom I had not expected to see so soon, when I heard the Doctor
speak of him that morning.
When we had dined, we went upstairs again, where everything went on
exactly as on the previous day. Agnes set the glasses and
decanters in the same corner, and Mr. Wickfield sat down to drink,
and drank a good deal. Agnes played the piano to him, sat by him,
and worked and talked, and played some games at dominoes with me.
In good time she made tea; and afterwards, when I brought down my
books, looked into them, and showed me what she knew of them (which
was no slight matter, though she said it was), and what was the
best way to learn and understand them. I see her, with her modest,
orderly, placid manner, and I hear her beautiful calm voice, as I
write these words. The influence for all good, which she came to
exercise over me at a later time, begins already to descend upon my
breast. I love little Em'ly, and I don't love Agnes - no, not at
all in that way - but I feel that there are goodness, peace, and
truth, wherever Agnes is; and that the soft light of the coloured
window in the church, seen long ago, falls on her always, and on me
when I am near her, and on everything around.
The time having come for her withdrawal for the night, and she
having left us, I gave Mr. Wickfield my hand, preparatory to going
away myself. But he checked me and said: 'Should you like to stay
with us, Trotwood, or to go elsewhere?'
'To stay,' I answered, quickly.
'You are sure?'
'If you please. If I may!'
'Why, it's but a dull life that we lead here, boy, I am afraid,' he
'Not more dull for me than Agnes, sir. Not dull at all!'
'Than Agnes,' he repeated, walking slowly to the great
chimney-piece, and leaning against it. 'Than Agnes!'
He had drank wine that evening (or I fancied it), until his eyes
were bloodshot. Not that I could see them now, for they were cast
down, and shaded by his hand; but I had noticed them a little while
'Now I wonder,' he muttered, 'whether my Agnes tires of me. When
should I ever tire of her! But that's different, that's quite
He was musing, not speaking to me; so I remained quiet.
'A dull old house,' he said, 'and a monotonous life; but I must
have her near me. I must keep her near me. If the thought that I
may die and leave my darling, or that my darling may die and leave
me, comes like a spectre, to distress my happiest hours, and is
only to be drowned in -'
He did not supply the word; but pacing slowly to the place where he
had sat, and mechanically going through the action of pouring wine
from the empty decanter, set it down and paced back again.
'If it is miserable to bear, when she is here,' he said, 'what
would it be, and she away? No, no, no. I cannot try that.'
He leaned against the chimney-piece, brooding so long that I could
not decide whether to run the risk of disturbing him by going, or
to remain quietly where I was, until he should come out of his
reverie. At length he aroused himself, and looked about the room
until his eyes encountered mine.
'Stay with us, Trotwood, eh?' he said in his usual manner, and as
if he were answering something I had just said. 'I am glad of it.
You are company to us both. It is wholesome to have you here.
Wholesome for me, wholesome for Agnes, wholesome perhaps for all of
'I am sure it is for me, sir,' I said. 'I am so glad to be here.'
'That's a fine fellow!' said Mr. Wickfield. 'As long as you are
glad to be here, you shall stay here.' He shook hands with me upon
it, and clapped me on the back; and told me that when I had
anything to do at night after Agnes had left us, or when I wished
to read for my own pleasure, I was free to come down to his room,
if he were there and if I desired it for company's sake, and to sit
with him. I thanked him for his consideration; and, as he went
down soon afterwards, and I was not tired, went down too, with a
book in my hand, to avail myself, for half-an-hour, of his
But, seeing a light in the little round office, and immediately
feeling myself attracted towards Uriah Heep, who had a sort of
fascination for me, I went in there instead. I found Uriah reading
a great fat book, with such demonstrative attention, that his lank
forefinger followed up every line as he read, and made clammy
tracks along the page (or so I fully believed) like a snail.
'You are working late tonight, Uriah,' says I.
'Yes, Master Copperfield,' says Uriah.
As I was getting on the stool opposite, to talk to him more
conveniently, I observed that he had not such a thing as a smile
about him, and that he could only widen his mouth and make two hard
creases down his cheeks, one on each side, to stand for one.
'I am not doing office-work, Master Copperfield,' said Uriah.
'What work, then?' I asked.
'I am improving my legal knowledge, Master Copperfield,' said
Uriah. 'I am going through Tidd's Practice. Oh, what a writer Mr.
Tidd is, Master Copperfield!'
My stool was such a tower of observation, that as I watched him
reading on again, after this rapturous exclamation, and following
up the lines with his forefinger, I observed that his nostrils,
which were thin and pointed, with sharp dints in them, had a
singular and most uncomfortable way of expanding and contracting
themselves - that they seemed to twinkle instead of his eyes, which
hardly ever twinkled at all.
'I suppose you are quite a great lawyer?' I said, after looking at
him for some time.
'Me, Master Copperfield?' said Uriah. 'Oh, no! I'm a very umble
It was no fancy of mine about his hands, I observed; for he
frequently ground the palms against each other as if to squeeze
them dry and warm, besides often wiping them, in a stealthy way, on
'I am well aware that I am the umblest person going,' said Uriah
Heep, modestly; 'let the other be where he may. My mother is
likewise a very umble person. We live in a numble abode, Master
Copperfield, but have much to be thankful for. My father's former
calling was umble. He was a sexton.'
'What is he now?' I asked.
'He is a partaker of glory at present, Master Copperfield,' said
Uriah Heep. 'But we have much to be thankful for. How much have
I to be thankful for in living with Mr. Wickfield!'
I asked Uriah if he had been with Mr. Wickfield long?
'I have been with him, going on four year, Master Copperfield,'
said Uriah; shutting up his book, after carefully marking the place
where he had left off. 'Since a year after my father's death. How
much have I to be thankful for, in that! How much have I to be
thankful for, in Mr. Wickfield's kind intention to give me my
articles, which would otherwise not lay within the umble means of
mother and self!'
'Then, when your articled time is over, you'll be a regular lawyer,
I suppose?' said I.
'With the blessing of Providence, Master Copperfield,' returned
'Perhaps you'll be a partner in Mr. Wickfield's business, one of
these days,' I said, to make myself agreeable; 'and it will be
Wickfield and Heep, or Heep late Wickfield.'
'Oh no, Master Copperfield,' returned Uriah, shaking his head, 'I
am much too umble for that!'
He certainly did look uncommonly like the carved face on the beam
outside my window, as he sat, in his humility, eyeing me sideways,
with his mouth widened, and the creases in his cheeks.
'Mr. Wickfield is a most excellent man, Master Copperfield,' said
Uriah. 'If you have known him long, you know it, I am sure, much
better than I can inform you.'
I replied that I was certain he was; but that I had not known him
long myself, though he was a friend of my aunt's.
'Oh, indeed, Master Copperfield,' said Uriah. 'Your aunt is a
sweet lady, Master Copperfield!'
He had a way of writhing when he wanted to express enthusiasm,
which was very ugly; and which diverted my attention from the
compliment he had paid my relation, to the snaky twistings of his
throat and body.
'A sweet lady, Master Copperfield!' said Uriah Heep. 'She has a
great admiration for Miss Agnes, Master Copperfield, I believe?'
I said, 'Yes,' boldly; not that I knew anything about it, Heaven
'I hope you have, too, Master Copperfield,' said Uriah. 'But I am
sure you must have.'
'Everybody must have,' I returned.
'Oh, thank you, Master Copperfield,' said Uriah Heep, 'for that
remark! It is so true! Umble as I am, I know it is so true! Oh,
thank you, Master Copperfield!'
He writhed himself quite off his stool in the excitement of his
feelings, and, being off, began to make arrangements for going
'Mother will be expecting me,' he said, referring to a pale,
inexpressive-faced watch in his pocket, 'and getting uneasy; for
though we are very umble, Master Copperfield, we are much attached
to one another. If you would come and see us, any afternoon, and
take a cup of tea at our lowly dwelling, mother would be as proud
of your company as I should be.'
I said I should be glad to come.
'Thank you, Master Copperfield,' returned Uriah, putting his book
away upon the shelf - 'I suppose you stop here, some time, Master
I said I was going to be brought up there, I believed, as long as
I remained at school.
'Oh, indeed!' exclaimed Uriah. 'I should think YOU would come into
the business at last, Master Copperfield!'
I protested that I had no views of that sort, and that no such
scheme was entertained in my behalf by anybody; but Uriah insisted
on blandly replying to all my assurances, 'Oh, yes, Master
Copperfield, I should think you would, indeed!' and, 'Oh, indeed,
Master Copperfield, I should think you would, certainly!' over and
over again. Being, at last, ready to leave the office for the
night, he asked me if it would suit my convenience to have the
light put out; and on my answering 'Yes,' instantly extinguished
it. After shaking hands with me - his hand felt like a fish, in
the dark - he opened the door into the street a very little, and
crept out, and shut it, leaving me to grope my way back into the
house: which cost me some trouble and a fall over his stool. This
was the proximate cause, I suppose, of my dreaming about him, for
what appeared to me to be half the night; and dreaming, among other
things, that he had launched Mr. Peggotty's house on a piratical
expedition, with a black flag at the masthead, bearing the
inscription 'Tidd's Practice', under which diabolical ensign he was
carrying me and little Em'ly to the Spanish Main, to be drowned.
I got a little the better of my uneasiness when I went to school
next day, and a good deal the better next day, and so shook it off
by degrees, that in less than a fortnight I was quite at home, and
happy, among my new companions. I was awkward enough in their
games, and backward enough in their studies; but custom would
improve me in the first respect, I hoped, and hard work in the
second. Accordingly, I went to work very hard, both in play and in
earnest, and gained great commendation. And, in a very little
while, the Murdstone and Grinby life became so strange to me that
I hardly believed in it, while my present life grew so familiar,
that I seemed to have been leading it a long time.
Doctor Strong's was an excellent school; as different from Mr.
Creakle's as good is from evil. It was very gravely and decorously
ordered, and on a sound system; with an appeal, in everything, to
the honour and good faith of the boys, and an avowed intention to
rely on their possession of those qualities unless they proved
themselves unworthy of it, which worked wonders. We all felt that
we had a part in the management of the place, and in sustaining its
character and dignity. Hence, we soon became warmly attached to it
- I am sure I did for one, and I never knew, in all my time, of any
other boy being otherwise - and learnt with a good will, desiring
to do it credit. We had noble games out of hours, and plenty of
liberty; but even then, as I remember, we were well spoken of in
the town, and rarely did any disgrace, by our appearance or manner,
to the reputation of Doctor Strong and Doctor Strong's boys.
Some of the higher scholars boarded in the Doctor's house, and
through them I learned, at second hand, some particulars of the
Doctor's history - as, how he had not yet been married twelve
months to the beautiful young lady I had seen in the study, whom he
had married for love; for she had not a sixpence, and had a world
of poor relations (so our fellows said) ready to swarm the Doctor
out of house and home. Also, how the Doctor's cogitating manner
was attributable to his being always engaged in looking out for
Greek roots; which, in my innocence and ignorance, I supposed to be
a botanical furor on the Doctor's part, especially as he always
looked at the ground when he walked about, until I understood that
they were roots of words, with a view to a new Dictionary which he
had in contemplation. Adams, our head-boy, who had a turn for
mathematics, had made a calculation, I was informed, of the time
this Dictionary would take in completing, on the Doctor's plan, and
at the Doctor's rate of going. He considered that it might be done
in one thousand six hundred and forty-nine years, counting from the
Doctor's last, or sixty-second, birthday.
But the Doctor himself was the idol of the whole school: and it
must have been a badly composed school if he had been anything
else, for he was the kindest of men; with a simple faith in him
that might have touched the stone hearts of the very urns upon the
wall. As he walked up and down that part of the courtyard which
was at the side of the house, with the stray rooks and jackdaws
looking after him with their heads cocked slyly, as if they knew
how much more knowing they were in worldly affairs than he, if any
sort of vagabond could only get near enough to his creaking shoes
to attract his attention to one sentence of a tale of distress,
that vagabond was made for the next two days. It was so notorious
in the house, that the masters and head-boys took pains to cut
these marauders off at angles, and to get out of windows, and turn
them out of the courtyard, before they could make the Doctor aware
of their presence; which was sometimes happily effected within a
few yards of him, without his knowing anything of the matter, as he
jogged to and fro. Outside his own domain, and unprotected, he was
a very sheep for the shearers. He would have taken his gaiters off
his legs, to give away. In fact, there was a story current among
us (I have no idea, and never had, on what authority, but I have
believed it for so many years that I feel quite certain it is
true), that on a frosty day, one winter-time, he actually did
bestow his gaiters on a beggar-woman, who occasioned some scandal
in the neighbourhood by exhibiting a fine infant from door to door,
wrapped in those garments, which were universally recognized, being
as well known in the vicinity as the Cathedral. The legend added
that the only person who did not identify them was the Doctor
himself, who, when they were shortly afterwards displayed at the
door of a little second-hand shop of no very good repute, where
such things were taken in exchange for gin, was more than once
observed to handle them approvingly, as if admiring some curious
novelty in the pattern, and considering them an improvement on his
It was very pleasant to see the Doctor with his pretty young wife.
He had a fatherly, benignant way of showing his fondness for her,
which seemed in itself to express a good man. I often saw them
walking in the garden where the peaches were, and I sometimes had
a nearer observation of them in the study or the parlour. She
appeared to me to take great care of the Doctor, and to like him
very much, though I never thought her vitally interested in the
Dictionary: some cumbrous fragments of which work the Doctor always
carried in his pockets, and in the lining of his hat, and generally
seemed to be expounding to her as they walked about.
I saw a good deal of Mrs. Strong, both because she had taken a
liking for me on the morning of my introduction to the Doctor, and
was always afterwards kind to me, and interested in me; and because
she was very fond of Agnes, and was often backwards and forwards at
our house. There was a curious constraint between her and Mr.
Wickfield, I thought (of whom she seemed to be afraid), that never
wore off. When she came there of an evening, she always shrunk
from accepting his escort home, and ran away with me instead. And
sometimes, as we were running gaily across the Cathedral yard
together, expecting to meet nobody, we would meet Mr. Jack Maldon,
who was always surprised to see us.
Mrs. Strong's mama was a lady I took great delight in. Her name
was Mrs. Markleham; but our boys used to call her the Old Soldier,
on account of her generalship, and the skill with which she
marshalled great forces of relations against the Doctor. She was
a little, sharp-eyed woman, who used to wear, when she was dressed,
one unchangeable cap, ornamented with some artificial flowers, and
two artificial butterflies supposed to be hovering above the
flowers. There was a superstition among us that this cap had come
from France, and could only originate in the workmanship of that
ingenious nation: but all I certainly know about it, is, that it
always made its appearance of an evening, wheresoever Mrs.
Markleham made HER appearance; that it was carried about to
friendly meetings in a Hindoo basket; that the butterflies had the
gift of trembling constantly; and that they improved the shining
hours at Doctor Strong's expense, like busy bees.
I observed the Old Soldier - not to adopt the name disrespectfully
- to pretty good advantage, on a night which is made memorable to
me by something else I shall relate. It was the night of a little
party at the Doctor's, which was given on the occasion of Mr. Jack
Maldon's departure for India, whither he was going as a cadet, or
something of that kind: Mr. Wickfield having at length arranged the
business. It happened to be the Doctor's birthday, too. We had
had a holiday, had made presents to him in the morning, had made a
speech to him through the head-boy, and had cheered him until we
were hoarse, and until he had shed tears. And now, in the evening,
Mr. Wickfield, Agnes, and I, went to have tea with him in his
Mr. Jack Maldon was there, before us. Mrs. Strong, dressed in
white, with cherry-coloured ribbons, was playing the piano, when we
went in; and he was leaning over her to turn the leaves. The clear
red and white of her complexion was not so blooming and flower-like
as usual, I thought, when she turned round; but she looked very
pretty, Wonderfully pretty.
'I have forgotten, Doctor,' said Mrs. Strong's mama, when we were
seated, 'to pay you the compliments of the day - though they are,
as you may suppose, very far from being mere compliments in my
case. Allow me to wish you many happy returns.'
'I thank you, ma'am,' replied the Doctor.
'Many, many, many, happy returns,' said the Old Soldier. 'Not only
for your own sake, but for Annie's, and John Maldon's, and many
other people's. It seems but yesterday to me, John, when you were
a little creature, a head shorter than Master Copperfield, making
baby love to Annie behind the gooseberry bushes in the
'My dear mama,' said Mrs. Strong, 'never mind that now.'
'Annie, don't be absurd,' returned her mother. 'If you are to
blush to hear of such things now you are an old married woman, when
are you not to blush to hear of them?'
'Old?' exclaimed Mr. Jack Maldon. 'Annie? Come!'
'Yes, John,' returned the Soldier. 'Virtually, an old married
woman. Although not old by years - for when did you ever hear me
say, or who has ever heard me say, that a girl of twenty was old by
years! - your cousin is the wife of the Doctor, and, as such, what
I have described her. It is well for you, John, that your cousin
is the wife of the Doctor. You have found in him an influential
and kind friend, who will be kinder yet, I venture to predict, if
you deserve it. I have no false pride. I never hesitate to admit,
frankly, that there are some members of our family who want a
friend. You were one yourself, before your cousin's influence
raised up one for you.'
The Doctor, in the goodness of his heart, waved his hand as if to
make light of it, and save Mr. Jack Maldon from any further
reminder. But Mrs. Markleham changed her chair for one next the
Doctor's, and putting her fan on his coat-sleeve, said:
'No, really, my dear Doctor, you must excuse me if I appear to
dwell on this rather, because I feel so very strongly. I call it
quite my monomania, it is such a subject of mine. You are a
blessing to us. You really are a Boon, you know.'
'Nonsense, nonsense,' said the Doctor.
'No, no, I beg your pardon,' retorted the Old Soldier. 'With
nobody present, but our dear and confidential friend Mr. Wickfield,
I cannot consent to be put down. I shall begin to assert the
privileges of a mother-in-law, if you go on like that, and scold
you. I am perfectly honest and outspoken. What I am saying, is
what I said when you first overpowered me with surprise - you
remember how surprised I was? - by proposing for Annie. Not that
there was anything so very much out of the way, in the mere fact of
the proposal - it would be ridiculous to say that! - but because,
you having known her poor father, and having known her from a baby
six months old, I hadn't thought of you in such a light at all, or
indeed as a marrying man in any way, - simply that, you know.'
'Aye, aye,' returned the Doctor, good-humouredly. 'Never mind.'
'But I DO mind,' said the Old Soldier, laying her fan upon his
lips. 'I mind very much. I recall these things that I may be
contradicted if I am wrong. Well! Then I spoke to Annie, and I
told her what had happened. I said, "My dear, here's Doctor Strong
has positively been and made you the subject of a handsome
declaration and an offer." Did I press it in the least? No. I
said, "Now, Annie, tell me the truth this moment; is your heart
free?" "Mama," she said crying, "I am extremely young" - which was
perfectly true - "and I hardly know if I have a heart at all."
"Then, my dear," I said, "you may rely upon it, it's free. At all
events, my love," said I, "Doctor Strong is in an agitated state of
mind, and must be answered. He cannot be kept in his present state
of suspense." "Mama," said Annie, still crying, "would he be
unhappy without me? If he would, I honour and respect him so much,
that I think I will have him." So it was settled. And then, and
not till then, I said to Annie, "Annie, Doctor Strong will not only
be your husband, but he will represent your late father: he will
represent the head of our family, he will represent the wisdom and
station, and I may say the means, of our family; and will be, in
short, a Boon to it." I used the word at the time, and I have used
it again, today. If I have any merit it is consistency.'
The daughter had sat quite silent and still during this speech,
with her eyes fixed on the ground; her cousin standing near her,
and looking on the ground too. She now said very softly, in a
'Mama, I hope you have finished?'
'No, my dear Annie,' returned the Old Soldier, 'I have not quite
finished. Since you ask me, my love, I reply that I have not. I
complain that you really are a little unnatural towards your own
family; and, as it is of no use complaining to you. I mean to
complain to your husband. Now, my dear Doctor, do look at that
silly wife of yours.'
As the Doctor turned his kind face, with its smile of simplicity
and gentleness, towards her, she drooped her head more. I noticed
that Mr. Wickfield looked at her steadily.
'When I happened to say to that naughty thing, the other day,'
pursued her mother, shaking her head and her fan at her, playfully,
'that there was a family circumstance she might mention to you -
indeed, I think, was bound to mention - she said, that to mention
it was to ask a favour; and that, as you were too generous, and as
for her to ask was always to have, she wouldn't.'
'Annie, my dear,' said the Doctor. 'That was wrong. It robbed me
of a pleasure.'
'Almost the very words I said to her!' exclaimed her mother. 'Now
really, another time, when I know what she would tell you but for
this reason, and won't, I have a great mind, my dear Doctor, to
tell you myself.'
'I shall be glad if you will,' returned the Doctor.
'Well, then, I will!' said the Old Soldier. 'That's a bargain.'
And having, I suppose, carried her point, she tapped the Doctor's
hand several times with her fan (which she kissed first), and
returned triumphantly to her former station.
Some more company coming in, among whom were the two masters and
Adams, the talk became general; and it naturally turned on Mr. Jack
Maldon, and his voyage, and the country he was going to, and his
various plans and prospects. He was to leave that night, after
supper, in a post-chaise, for Gravesend; where the ship, in which
he was to make the voyage, lay; and was to be gone - unless he came
home on leave, or for his health - I don't know how many years. I
recollect it was settled by general consent that India was quite a
misrepresented country, and had nothing objectionable in it, but a
tiger or two, and a little heat in the warm part of the day. For
my own part, I looked on Mr. Jack Maldon as a modern Sindbad, and
pictured him the bosom friend of all the Rajahs in the East,
sitting under canopies, smoking curly golden pipes - a mile long,
if they could be straightened out.
Mrs. Strong was a very pretty singer: as I knew, who often heard
her singing by herself. But, whether she was afraid of singing
before people, or was out of voice that evening, it was certain
that she couldn't sing at all. She tried a duet, once, with her
cousin Maldon, but could not so much as begin; and afterwards, when
she tried to sing by herself, although she began sweetly, her voice
died away on a sudden, and left her quite distressed, with her head
hanging down over the keys. The good Doctor said she was nervous,
and, to relieve her, proposed a round game at cards; of which he
knew as much as of the art of playing the trombone. But I remarked
that the Old Soldier took him into custody directly, for her
partner; and instructed him, as the first preliminary of
initiation, to give her all the silver he had in his pocket.
We had a merry game, not made the less merry by the Doctor's
mistakes, of which he committed an innumerable quantity, in spite
of the watchfulness of the butterflies, and to their great
aggravation. Mrs. Strong had declined to play, on the ground of
not feeling very well; and her cousin Maldon had excused himself
because he had some packing to do. When he had done it, however,
he returned, and they sat together, talking, on the sofa. From
time to time she came and looked over the Doctor's hand, and told
him what to play. She was very pale, as she bent over him, and I
thought her finger trembled as she pointed out the cards; but the
Doctor was quite happy in her attention, and took no notice of
this, if it were so.
At supper, we were hardly so gay. Everyone appeared to feel that
a parting of that sort was an awkward thing, and that the nearer it
approached, the more awkward it was. Mr. Jack Maldon tried to be
very talkative, but was not at his ease, and made matters worse.
And they were not improved, as it appeared to me, by the Old
Soldier: who continually recalled passages of Mr. Jack Maldon's
The Doctor, however, who felt, I am sure, that he was making
everybody happy, was well pleased, and had no suspicion but that we
were all at the utmost height of enjoyment.
'Annie, my dear,' said he, looking at his watch, and filling his
glass, 'it is past your cousin jack's time, and we must not detain
him, since time and tide - both concerned in this case - wait for
no man. Mr. Jack Maldon, you have a long voyage, and a strange
country, before you; but many men have had both, and many men will
have both, to the end of time. The winds you are going to tempt,
have wafted thousands upon thousands to fortune, and brought
thousands upon thousands happily back.'
'It's an affecting thing,' said Mrs. Markleham - 'however it's
viewed, it's affecting, to see a fine young man one has known from
an infant, going away to the other end of the world, leaving all he
knows behind, and not knowing what's before him. A young man
really well deserves constant support and patronage,' looking at
the Doctor, 'who makes such sacrifices.'
'Time will go fast with you, Mr. Jack Maldon,' pursued the Doctor,
'and fast with all of us. Some of us can hardly expect, perhaps,
in the natural course of things, to greet you on your return. The
next best thing is to hope to do it, and that's my case. I shall
not weary you with good advice. You have long had a good model
before you, in your cousin Annie. Imitate her virtues as nearly as
Mrs. Markleham fanned herself, and shook her head.
'Farewell, Mr. Jack,' said the Doctor, standing up; on which we all
stood up. 'A prosperous voyage out, a thriving career abroad, and
a happy return home!'
We all drank the toast, and all shook hands with Mr. Jack Maldon;
after which he hastily took leave of the ladies who were there, and
hurried to the door, where he was received, as he got into the
chaise, with a tremendous broadside of cheers discharged by our
boys, who had assembled on the lawn for the purpose. Running in
among them to swell the ranks, I was very near the chaise when it
rolled away; and I had a lively impression made upon me, in the
midst of the noise and dust, of having seen Mr. Jack Maldon rattle
past with an agitated face, and something cherry-coloured in his
After another broadside for the Doctor, and another for the
Doctor's wife, the boys dispersed, and I went back into the house,
where I found the guests all standing in a group about the Doctor,
discussing how Mr. Jack Maldon had gone away, and how he had borne
it, and how he had felt it, and all the rest of it. In the midst
of these remarks, Mrs. Markleham cried: 'Where's Annie?'
No Annie was there; and when they called to her, no Annie replied.
But all pressing out of the room, in a crowd, to see what was the
matter, we found her lying on the hall floor. There was great
alarm at first, until it was found that she was in a swoon, and
that the swoon was yielding to the usual means of recovery; when
the Doctor, who had lifted her head upon his knee, put her curls
aside with his hand, and said, looking around:
'Poor Annie! She's so faithful and tender-hearted! It's the
parting from her old playfellow and friend - her favourite cousin
- that has done this. Ah! It's a pity! I am very sorry!'
When she opened her eyes, and saw where she was, and that we were
all standing about her, she arose with assistance: turning her
head, as she did so, to lay it on the Doctor's shoulder - or to
hide it, I don't know which. We went into the drawing-room, to
leave her with the Doctor and her mother; but she said, it seemed,
that she was better than she had been since morning, and that she
would rather be brought among us; so they brought her in, looking
very white and weak, I thought, and sat her on a sofa.
'Annie, my dear,' said her mother, doing something to her dress.
'See here! You have lost a bow. Will anybody be so good as find
a ribbon; a cherry-coloured ribbon?'
It was the one she had worn at her bosom. We all looked for it; I
myself looked everywhere, I am certain - but nobody could find it.
'Do you recollect where you had it last, Annie?' said her mother.
I wondered how I could have thought she looked white, or anything
but burning red, when she answered that she had had it safe, a
little while ago, she thought, but it was not worth looking for.
Nevertheless, it was looked for again, and still not found. She
entreated that there might be no more searching; but it was still
sought for, in a desultory way, until she was quite well, and the
company took their departure.
We walked very slowly home, Mr. Wickfield, Agnes, and I - Agnes and
I admiring the moonlight, and Mr. Wickfield scarcely raising his
eyes from the ground. When we, at last, reached our own door,
Agnes discovered that she had left her little reticule behind.
Delighted to be of any service to her, I ran back to fetch it.
I went into the supper-room where it had been left, which was
deserted and dark. But a door of communication between that and
the Doctor's study, where there was a light, being open, I passed
on there, to say what I wanted, and to get a candle.
The Doctor was sitting in his easy-chair by the fireside, and his
young wife was on a stool at his feet. The Doctor, with a
complacent smile, was reading aloud some manuscript explanation or
statement of a theory out of that interminable Dictionary, and she
was looking up at him. But with such a face as I never saw. It
was so beautiful in its form, it was so ashy pale, it was so fixed
in its abstraction, it was so full of a wild, sleep-walking, dreamy
horror of I don't know what. The eyes were wide open, and her
brown hair fell in two rich clusters on her shoulders, and on her
white dress, disordered by the want of the lost ribbon. Distinctly
as I recollect her look, I cannot say of what it was expressive, I
cannot even say of what it is expressive to me now, rising again
before my older judgement. Penitence, humiliation, shame, pride,
love, and trustfulness - I see them all; and in them all, I see
that horror of I don't know what.
My entrance, and my saying what I wanted, roused her. It disturbed
the Doctor too, for when I went back to replace the candle I had
taken from the table, he was patting her head, in his fatherly way,
and saying he was a merciless drone to let her tempt him into
reading on; and he would have her go to bed.
But she asked him, in a rapid, urgent manner, to let her stay - to
let her feel assured (I heard her murmur some broken words to this
effect) that she was in his confidence that night. And, as she
turned again towards him, after glancing at me as I left the room
and went out at the door, I saw her cross her hands upon his knee,
and look up at him with the same face, something quieted, as he
resumed his reading.
It made a great impression on me, and I remembered it a long time
afterwards; as I shall have occasion to narrate when the time
SOMEBODY TURNS UP
It has not occurred to me to mention Peggotty since I ran away;
but, of course, I wrote her a letter almost as soon as I was housed
at Dover, and another, and a longer letter, containing all
particulars fully related, when my aunt took me formally under her
protection. On my being settled at Doctor Strong's I wrote to her
again, detailing my happy condition and prospects. I never could
have derived anything like the pleasure from spending the money Mr.
Dick had given me, that I felt in sending a gold half-guinea to
Peggotty, per post, enclosed in this last letter, to discharge the
sum I had borrowed of her: in which epistle, not before, I
mentioned about the young man with the donkey-cart.
To these communications Peggotty replied as promptly, if not as
concisely, as a merchant's clerk. Her utmost powers of expression
(which were certainly not great in ink) were exhausted in the
attempt to write what she felt on the subject of my journey. Four
sides of incoherent and interjectional beginnings of sentences,
that had no end, except blots, were inadequate to afford her any
relief. But the blots were more expressive to me than the best
composition; for they showed me that Peggotty had been crying all
over the paper, and what could I have desired more?
I made out, without much difficulty, that she could not take quite
kindly to my aunt yet. The notice was too short after so long a
prepossession the other way. We never knew a person, she wrote;
but to think that Miss Betsey should seem to be so different from
what she had been thought to be, was a Moral! - that was her word.
She was evidently still afraid of Miss Betsey, for she sent her
grateful duty to her but timidly; and she was evidently afraid of
me, too, and entertained the probability of my running away again
soon: if I might judge from the repeated hints she threw out, that
the coach-fare to Yarmouth was always to be had of her for the
She gave me one piece of intelligence which affected me very much,
namely, that there had been a sale of the furniture at our old
home, and that Mr. and Miss Murdstone were gone away, and the house
was shut up, to be let or sold. God knows I had no part in it
while they remained there, but it pained me to think of the dear
old place as altogether abandoned; of the weeds growing tall in the
garden, and the fallen leaves lying thick and wet upon the paths.
I imagined how the winds of winter would howl round it, how the
cold rain would beat upon the window-glass, how the moon would make
ghosts on the walls of the empty rooms, watching their solitude all
night. I thought afresh of the grave in the churchyard, underneath
the tree: and it seemed as if the house were dead too, now, and all
connected with my father and mother were faded away.
There was no other news in Peggotty's letters. Mr. Barkis was an
excellent husband, she said, though still a little near; but we all
had our faults, and she had plenty (though I am sure I don't know
what they were); and he sent his duty, and my little bedroom was
always ready for me. Mr. Peggotty was well, and Ham was well, and
Mrs.. Gummidge was but poorly, and little Em'ly wouldn't send her
love, but said that Peggotty might send it, if she liked.
All this intelligence I dutifully imparted to my aunt, only
reserving to myself the mention of little Em'ly, to whom I
instinctively felt that she would not very tenderly incline. While
I was yet new at Doctor Strong's, she made several excursions over
to Canterbury to see me, and always at unseasonable hours: with the
view, I suppose, of taking me by surprise. But, finding me well
employed, and bearing a good character, and hearing on all hands
that I rose fast in the school, she soon discontinued these visits.
I saw her on a Saturday, every third or fourth week, when I went
over to Dover for a treat; and I saw Mr. Dick every alternate
Wednesday, when he arrived by stage-coach at noon, to stay until
On these occasions Mr. Dick never travelled without a leathern
writing-desk, containing a supply of stationery and the Memorial;
in relation to which document he had a notion that time was
beginning to press now, and that it really must be got out of hand.
Mr. Dick was very partial to gingerbread. To render his visits the
more agreeable, my aunt had instructed me to open a credit for him
at a cake shop, which was hampered with the stipulation that he
should not be served with more than one shilling's-worth in the
course of any one day. This, and the reference of all his little
bills at the county inn where he slept, to my aunt, before they
were paid, induced me to suspect that he was only allowed to rattle
his money, and not to spend it. I found on further investigation
that this was so, or at least there was an agreement between him
and my aunt that he should account to her for all his
disbursements. As he had no idea of deceiving her, and always
desired to please her, he was thus made chary of launching into
expense. On this point, as well as on all other possible points,
Mr. Dick was convinced that my aunt was the wisest and most
wonderful of women; as he repeatedly told me with infinite secrecy,
and always in a whisper.
'Trotwood,' said Mr. Dick, with an air of mystery, after imparting
this confidence to me, one Wednesday; 'who's the man that hides
near our house and frightens her?'
'Frightens my aunt, sir?'
Mr. Dick nodded. 'I thought nothing would have frightened her,' he
said, 'for she's -' here he whispered softly, 'don't mention it -
the wisest and most wonderful of women.' Having said which, he
drew back, to observe the effect which this description of her made
'The first time he came,' said Mr. Dick, 'was- let me see- sixteen
hundred and forty-nine was the date of King Charles's execution.
I think you said sixteen hundred and forty-nine?'
'I don't know how it can be,' said Mr. Dick, sorely puzzled and
shaking his head. 'I don't think I am as old as that.'
'Was it in that year that the man appeared, sir?' I asked.
'Why, really' said Mr. Dick, 'I don't see how it can have been in
that year, Trotwood. Did you get that date out of history?'
'I suppose history never lies, does it?' said Mr. Dick, with a
gleam of hope.
'Oh dear, no, sir!' I replied, most decisively. I was ingenuous
and young, and I thought so.
'I can't make it out,' said Mr. Dick, shaking his head. 'There's
something wrong, somewhere. However, it was very soon after the
mistake was made of putting some of the trouble out of King
Charles's head into my head, that the man first came. I was
walking out with Miss Trotwood after tea, just at dark, and there
he was, close to our house.'
'Walking about?' I inquired.
'Walking about?' repeated Mr. Dick. 'Let me see, I must recollect
a bit. N-no, no; he was not walking about.'
I asked, as the shortest way to get at it, what he WAS doing.
'Well, he wasn't there at all,' said Mr. Dick, 'until he came up
behind her, and whispered. Then she turned round and fainted, and
I stood still and looked at him, and he walked away; but that he
should have been hiding ever since (in the ground or somewhere), is
the most extraordinary thing!'
'HAS he been hiding ever since?' I asked.
'To be sure he has,' retorted Mr. Dick, nodding his head gravely.
'Never came out, till last night! We were walking last night, and
he came up behind her again, and I knew him again.'
'And did he frighten my aunt again?'
'All of a shiver,' said Mr. Dick, counterfeiting that affection and
making his teeth chatter. 'Held by the palings. Cried. But,
Trotwood, come here,' getting me close to him, that he might
whisper very softly; 'why did she give him money, boy, in the
'He was a beggar, perhaps.'
Mr. Dick shook his head, as utterly renouncing the suggestion; and
having replied a great many times, and with great confidence, 'No
beggar, no beggar, no beggar, sir!' went on to say, that from his
window he had afterwards, and late at night, seen my aunt give this
person money outside the garden rails in the moonlight, who then
slunk away - into the ground again, as he thought probable - and
was seen no more: while my aunt came hurriedly and secretly back
into the house, and had, even that morning, been quite different
from her usual self; which preyed on Mr. Dick's mind.
I had not the least belief, in the outset of this story, that the
unknown was anything but a delusion of Mr. Dick's, and one of the
line of that ill-fated Prince who occasioned him so much
difficulty; but after some reflection I began to entertain the
question whether an attempt, or threat of an attempt, might have
been twice made to take poor Mr. Dick himself from under my aunt's
protection, and whether my aunt, the strength of whose kind feeling
towards him I knew from herself, might have been induced to pay a
price for his peace and quiet. As I was already much attached to
Mr. Dick, and very solicitous for his welfare, my fears favoured
this supposition; and for a long time his Wednesday hardly ever
came round, without my entertaining a misgiving that he would not
be on the coach-box as usual. There he always appeared, however,
grey-headed, laughing, and happy; and he never had anything more to
tell of the man who could frighten my aunt.
These Wednesdays were the happiest days of Mr. Dick's life; they
were far from being the least happy of mine. He soon became known
to every boy in the school; and though he never took an active part
in any game but kite-flying, was as deeply interested in all our
sports as anyone among us. How often have I seen him, intent upon
a match at marbles or pegtop, looking on with a face of unutterable
interest, and hardly breathing at the critical times! How often,
at hare and hounds, have I seen him mounted on a little knoll,
cheering the whole field on to action, and waving his hat above his
grey head, oblivious of King Charles the Martyr's head, and all
belonging to it! How many a summer hour have I known to be but
blissful minutes to him in the cricket-field! How many winter days
have I seen him, standing blue-nosed, in the snow and east wind,
looking at the boys going down the long slide, and clapping his
worsted gloves in rapture!
He was an universal favourite, and his ingenuity in little things
was transcendent. He could cut oranges into such devices as none
of us had an idea of. He could make a boat out of anything, from
a skewer upwards. He could turn cramp-bones into chessmen; fashion
Roman chariots from old court cards; make spoked wheels out of
cotton reels, and bird-cages of old wire. But he was greatest of
all, perhaps, in the articles of string and straw; with which we
were all persuaded he could do anything that could be done by
Mr. Dick's renown was not long confined to us. After a few
Wednesdays, Doctor Strong himself made some inquiries of me about
him, and I told him all my aunt had told me; which interested the
Doctor so much that he requested, on the occasion of his next
visit, to be presented to him. This ceremony I performed; and the
Doctor begging Mr. Dick, whensoever he should not find me at the
coach office, to come on there, and rest himself until our
morning's work was over, it soon passed into a custom for Mr. Dick
to come on as a matter of course, and, if we were a little late, as
often happened on a Wednesday, to walk about the courtyard, waiting
for me. Here he made the acquaintance of the Doctor's beautiful
young wife (paler than formerly, all this time; more rarely seen by
me or anyone, I think; and not so gay, but not less beautiful), and
so became more and more familiar by degrees, until, at last, he
would come into the school and wait. He always sat in a particular
corner, on a particular stool, which was called 'Dick', after him;
here he would sit, with his grey head bent forward, attentively
listening to whatever might be going on, with a profound veneration
for the learning he had never been able to acquire.
This veneration Mr. Dick extended to the Doctor, whom he thought
the most subtle and accomplished philosopher of any age. It was
long before Mr. Dick ever spoke to him otherwise than bareheaded;
and even when he and the Doctor had struck up quite a friendship,
and would walk together by the hour, on that side of the courtyard
which was known among us as The Doctor's Walk, Mr. Dick would pull
off his hat at intervals to show his respect for wisdom and
knowledge. How it ever came about that the Doctor began to read
out scraps of the famous Dictionary, in these walks, I never knew;
perhaps he felt it all the same, at first, as reading to himself.
However, it passed into a custom too; and Mr. Dick, listening with
a face shining with pride and pleasure, in his heart of hearts
believed the Dictionary to be the most delightful book in the
As I think of them going up and down before those schoolroom
windows - the Doctor reading with his complacent smile, an
occasional flourish of the manuscript, or grave motion of his head;
and Mr. Dick listening, enchained by interest, with his poor wits
calmly wandering God knows where, upon the wings of hard words - I
think of it as one of the pleasantest things, in a quiet way, that
I have ever seen. I feel as if they might go walking to and fro
for ever, and the world might somehow be the better for it - as if
a thousand things it makes a noise about, were not one half so good
for it, or me.
Agnes was one of Mr. Dick's friends, very soon; and in often coming
to the house, he made acquaintance with Uriah. The friendship
between himself and me increased continually, and it was maintained
on this odd footing: that, while Mr. Dick came professedly to look
after me as my guardian, he always consulted me in any little
matter of doubt that arose, and invariably guided himself by my
advice; not only having a high respect for my native sagacity, but
considering that I inherited a good deal from my aunt.
One Thursday morning, when I was about to walk with Mr. Dick from
the hotel to the coach office before going back to school (for we
had an hour's school before breakfast), I met Uriah in the street,
who reminded me of the promise I had made to take tea with himself
and his mother: adding, with a writhe, 'But I didn't expect you to
keep it, Master Copperfield, we're so very umble.'
I really had not yet been able to make up my mind whether I liked
Uriah or detested him; and I was very doubtful about it still, as
I stood looking him in the face in the street. But I felt it quite
an affront to be supposed proud, and said I only wanted to be
' Oh, if that's all, Master Copperfield,' said Uriah, 'and it
really isn't our umbleness that prevents you, will you come this
evening? But if it is our umbleness, I hope you won't mind owning
to it, Master Copperfield; for we are well aware of our condition.'
I said I would mention it to Mr. Wickfield, and if he approved, as
I had no doubt he would, I would come with pleasure. So, at six
o'clock that evening, which was one of the early office evenings,
I announced myself as ready, to Uriah.
'Mother will be proud, indeed,' he said, as we walked away
together. 'Or she would be proud, if it wasn't sinful, Master
'Yet you didn't mind supposing I was proud this morning,' I
'Oh dear, no, Master Copperfield!' returned Uriah. 'Oh, believe
me, no! Such a thought never came into my head! I shouldn't have
deemed it at all proud if you had thought US too umble for you.
Because we are so very umble.'
'Have you been studying much law lately?' I asked, to change the
'Oh, Master Copperfield,' he said, with an air of self-denial, 'my
reading is hardly to be called study. I have passed an hour or two
in the evening, sometimes, with Mr. Tidd.'
'Rather hard, I suppose?' said I.
'He is hard to me sometimes,' returned Uriah. 'But I don't know
what he might be to a gifted person.'
After beating a little tune on his chin as he walked on, with the
two forefingers of his skeleton right hand, he added:
'There are expressions, you see, Master Copperfield - Latin words
and terms - in Mr. Tidd, that are trying to a reader of my umble
'Would you like to be taught Latin?' I said briskly. 'I will teach
it you with pleasure, as I learn it.'
'Oh, thank you, Master Copperfield,' he answered, shaking his head.
'I am sure it's very kind of you to make the offer, but I am much
too umble to accept it.'
'What nonsense, Uriah!'
'Oh, indeed you must excuse me, Master Copperfield! I am greatly
obliged, and I should like it of all things, I assure you; but I am
far too umble. There are people enough to tread upon me in my
lowly state, without my doing outrage to their feelings by
possessing learning. Learning ain't for me. A person like myself
had better not aspire. If he is to get on in life, he must get on
umbly, Master Copperfield!'
I never saw his mouth so wide, or the creases in his cheeks so
deep, as when he delivered himself of these sentiments: shaking his
head all the time, and writhing modestly.
'I think you are wrong, Uriah,' I said. 'I dare say there are
several things that I could teach you, if you would like to learn
'Oh, I don't doubt that, Master Copperfield,' he answered; 'not in
the least. But not being umble yourself, you don't judge well,
perhaps, for them that are. I won't provoke my betters with
knowledge, thank you. I'm much too umble. Here is my umble
dwelling, Master Copperfield!'
We entered a low, old-fashioned room, walked straight into from the
street, and found there Mrs. Heep, who was the dead image of Uriah,
only short. She received me with the utmost humility, and
apologized to me for giving her son a kiss, observing that, lowly
as they were, they had their natural affections, which they hoped
would give no offence to anyone. It was a perfectly decent room,
half parlour and half kitchen, but not at all a snug room. The
tea-things were set upon the table, and the kettle was boiling on
the hob. There was a chest of drawers with an escritoire top, for
Uriah to read or write at of an evening; there was Uriah's blue bag
lying down and vomiting papers; there was a company of Uriah's
books commanded by Mr. Tidd; there was a corner cupboard: and there
were the usual articles of furniture. I don't remember that any
individual object had a bare, pinched, spare look; but I do
remember that the whole place had.
It was perhaps a part of Mrs. Heep's humility, that she still wore
weeds. Notwithstanding the lapse of time that had occurred since
Mr. Heep's decease, she still wore weeds. I think there was some
compromise in the cap; but otherwise she was as weedy as in the
early days of her mourning.
'This is a day to be remembered, my Uriah, I am sure,' said Mrs.
Heep, making the tea, 'when Master Copperfield pays us a visit.'
'I said you'd think so, mother,' said Uriah.
'If I could have wished father to remain among us for any reason,'
said Mrs. Heep, 'it would have been, that he might have known his
company this afternoon.'
I felt embarrassed by these compliments; but I was sensible, too,
of being entertained as an honoured guest, and I thought Mrs. Heep
an agreeable woman.
'My Uriah,' said Mrs. Heep, 'has looked forward to this, sir, a
long while. He had his fears that our umbleness stood in the way,
and I joined in them myself. Umble we are, umble we have been,
umble we shall ever be,' said Mrs. Heep.
'I am sure you have no occasion to be so, ma'am,' I said, 'unless
'Thank you, sir,' retorted Mrs. Heep. 'We know our station and are
thankful in it.'
I found that Mrs. Heep gradually got nearer to me, and that Uriah
gradually got opposite to me, and that they respectfully plied me
with the choicest of the eatables on the table. There was nothing
particularly choice there, to be sure; but I took the will for the
deed, and felt that they were very attentive. Presently they began
to talk about aunts, and then I told them about mine; and about
fathers and mothers, and then I told them about mine; and then Mrs.
Heep began to talk about fathers-in-law, and then I began to tell
her about mine - but stopped, because my aunt had advised me to
observe a silence on that subject. A tender young cork, however,
would have had no more chance against a pair of corkscrews, or a
tender young tooth against a pair of dentists, or a little
shuttlecock against two battledores, than I had against Uriah and
Mrs. Heep. They did just what they liked with me; and wormed
things out of me that I had no desire to tell, with a certainty I
blush to think of. the more especially, as in my juvenile
frankness, I took some credit to myself for being so confidential
and felt that I was quite the patron of my two respectful
They were very fond of one another: that was certain. I take it,
that had its effect upon me, as a touch of nature; but the skill
with which the one followed up whatever the other said, was a touch
of art which I was still less proof against. When there was
nothing more to be got out of me about myself (for on the Murdstone
and Grinby life, and on my journey, I was dumb), they began about
Mr. Wickfield and Agnes. Uriah threw the ball to Mrs. Heep, Mrs.
Heep caught it and threw it back to Uriah, Uriah kept it up a
little while, then sent it back to Mrs. Heep, and so they went on
tossing it about until I had no idea who had got it, and was quite
bewildered. The ball itself was always changing too. Now it was
Mr. Wickfield, now Agnes, now the excellence of Mr. Wickfield, now
my admiration of Agnes; now the extent of Mr. Wickfield's business
and resources, now our domestic life after dinner; now, the wine
that Mr. Wickfield took, the reason why he took it, and the pity
that it was he took so much; now one thing, now another, then
everything at once; and all the time, without appearing to speak
very often, or to do anything but sometimes encourage them a
little, for fear they should be overcome by their humility and the
honour of my company, I found myself perpetually letting out
something or other that I had no business to let out and seeing the
effect of it in the twinkling of Uriah's dinted nostrils.
I had begun to be a little uncomfortable, and to wish myself well
out of the visit, when a figure coming down the street passed the
door - it stood open to air the room, which was warm, the weather
being close for the time of year - came back again, looked in, and
walked in, exclaiming loudly, 'Copperfield! Is it possible?'
It was Mr. Micawber! It was Mr. Micawber, with his eye-glass, and
his walking-stick, and his shirt-collar, and his genteel air, and
the condescending roll in his voice, all complete!
'My dear Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, putting out his hand,
'this is indeed a meeting which is calculated to impress the mind
with a sense of the instability and uncertainty of all human - in
short, it is a most extraordinary meeting. Walking along the
street, reflecting upon the probability of something turning up (of
which I am at present rather sanguine), I find a young but valued
friend turn up, who is connected with the most eventful period of
my life; I may say, with the turning-point of my existence.
Copperfield, my dear fellow, how do you do?'
I cannot say - I really cannot say - that I was glad to see Mr.
Micawber there; but I was glad to see him too, and shook hands with
him, heartily, inquiring how Mrs. Micawber was.
'Thank you,' said Mr. Micawber, waving his hand as of old, and
settling his chin in his shirt-collar. 'She is tolerably
convalescent. The twins no longer derive their sustenance from
Nature's founts - in short,' said Mr. Micawber, in one of his
bursts of confidence, 'they are weaned - and Mrs. Micawber is, at
present, my travelling companion. She will be rejoiced,
Copperfield, to renew her acquaintance with one who has proved
himself in all respects a worthy minister at the sacred altar of
I said I should be delighted to see her.
'You are very good,' said Mr. Micawber.
Mr. Micawber then smiled, settled his chin again, and looked about
'I have discovered my friend Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber
genteelly, and without addressing himself particularly to anyone,
'not in solitude, but partaking of a social meal in company with a
widow lady, and one who is apparently her offspring - in short,'
said Mr. Micawber, in another of his bursts of confidence, 'her
son. I shall esteem it an honour to be presented.'
I could do no less, under these circumstances, than make Mr.
Micawber known to Uriah Heep and his mother; which I accordingly
did. As they abased themselves before him, Mr. Micawber took a
seat, and waved his hand in his most courtly manner.
'Any friend of my friend Copperfield's,' said Mr. Micawber, 'has a
personal claim upon myself.'
'We are too umble, sir,' said Mrs. Heep, 'my son and me, to be the
friends of Master Copperfield. He has been so good as take his tea
with us, and we are thankful to him for his company, also to you,
sir, for your notice.'
'Ma'am,' returned Mr. Micawber, with a bow, 'you are very obliging:
and what are you doing, Copperfield? Still in the wine trade?'
I was excessively anxious to get Mr. Micawber away; and replied,
with my hat in my hand, and a very red face, I have no doubt, that
I was a pupil at Doctor Strong's.
'A pupil?' said Mr. Micawber, raising his eyebrows. 'I am
extremely happy to hear it. Although a mind like my friend
Copperfield's' - to Uriah and Mrs. Heep - 'does not require that
cultivation which, without his knowledge of men and things, it
would require, still it is a rich soil teeming with latent
vegetation - in short,' said Mr. Micawber, smiling, in another
burst of confidence, 'it is an intellect capable of getting up the
classics to any extent.'
Uriah, with his long hands slowly twining over one another, made a
ghastly writhe from the waist upwards, to express his concurrence
in this estimation of me.
'Shall we go and see Mrs. Micawber, sir?' I said, to get Mr.
'If you will do her that favour, Copperfield,' replied Mr.