Part 9 out of 21
me drinking her wine and water; soaking her strips of toast in it,
one by one, before eating them; and looking benignantly on me, from
among the borders of her nightcap.
'Well, Trot,' she began, 'what do you think of the proctor plan?
Or have you not begun to think about it yet?'
'I have thought a good deal about it, my dear aunt, and I have
talked a good deal about it with Steerforth. I like it very much
indeed. I like it exceedingly.'
'Come!' said my aunt. 'That's cheering!'
'I have only one difficulty, aunt.'
'Say what it is, Trot,' she returned.
'Why, I want to ask, aunt, as this seems, from what I understand,
to be a limited profession, whether my entrance into it would not
be very expensive?'
'It will cost,' returned my aunt, 'to article you, just a thousand
'Now, my dear aunt,' said I, drawing my chair nearer, 'I am uneasy
in my mind about that. It's a large sum of money. You have
expended a great deal on my education, and have always been as
liberal to me in all things as it was possible to be. You have
been the soul of generosity. Surely there are some ways in which
I might begin life with hardly any outlay, and yet begin with a
good hope of getting on by resolution and exertion. Are you sure
that it would not be better to try that course? Are you certain
that you can afford to part with so much money, and that it is
right that it should be so expended? I only ask you, my second
mother, to consider. Are you certain?'
My aunt finished eating the piece of toast on which she was then
engaged, looking me full in the face all the while; and then
setting her glass on the chimney-piece, and folding her hands upon
her folded skirts, replied as follows:
'Trot, my child, if I have any object in life, it is to provide for
your being a good, a sensible, and a happy man. I am bent upon it
- so is Dick. I should like some people that I know to hear Dick's
conversation on the subject. Its sagacity is wonderful. But no
one knows the resources of that man's intellect, except myself!'
She stopped for a moment to take my hand between hers, and went on:
'It's in vain, Trot, to recall the past, unless it works some
influence upon the present. Perhaps I might have been better
friends with your poor father. Perhaps I might have been better
friends with that poor child your mother, even after your sister
Betsey Trotwood disappointed me. When you came to me, a little
runaway boy, all dusty and way-worn, perhaps I thought so. From
that time until now, Trot, you have ever been a credit to me and a
pride and a pleasure. I have no other claim upon my means; at
least' - here to my surprise she hesitated, and was confused - 'no,
I have no other claim upon my means - and you are my adopted child.
Only be a loving child to me in my age, and bear with my whims and
fancies; and you will do more for an old woman whose prime of life
was not so happy or conciliating as it might have been, than ever
that old woman did for you.'
It was the first time I had heard my aunt refer to her past
history. There was a magnanimity in her quiet way of doing so, and
of dismissing it, which would have exalted her in my respect and
affection, if anything could.
'All is agreed and understood between us, now, Trot,' said my aunt,
'and we need talk of this no more. Give me a kiss, and we'll go to
the Commons after breakfast tomorrow.'
We had a long chat by the fire before we went to bed. I slept in
a room on the same floor with my aunt's, and was a little disturbed
in the course of the night by her knocking at my door as often as
she was agitated by a distant sound of hackney-coaches or
market-carts, and inquiring, 'if I heard the engines?' But towards
morning she slept better, and suffered me to do so too.
At about mid-day, we set out for the office of Messrs Spenlow and
Jorkins, in Doctors' Commons. My aunt, who had this other general
opinion in reference to London, that every man she saw was a
pickpocket, gave me her purse to carry for her, which had ten
guineas in it and some silver.
We made a pause at the toy shop in Fleet Street, to see the giants
of Saint Dunstan's strike upon the bells - we had timed our going,
so as to catch them at it, at twelve o'clock - and then went on
towards Ludgate Hill, and St. Paul's Churchyard. We were crossing
to the former place, when I found that my aunt greatly accelerated
her speed, and looked frightened. I observed, at the same time,
that a lowering ill-dressed man who had stopped and stared at us in
passing, a little before, was coming so close after us as to brush
'Trot! My dear Trot!' cried my aunt, in a terrified whisper, and
pressing my arm. 'I don't know what I am to do.'
'Don't be alarmed,' said I. 'There's nothing to be afraid of.
Step into a shop, and I'll soon get rid of this fellow.'
'No, no, child!' she returned. 'Don't speak to him for the world.
I entreat, I order you!'
'Good Heaven, aunt!' said I. 'He is nothing but a sturdy
'You don't know what he is!' replied my aunt. 'You don't know who
he is! You don't know what you say!'
We had stopped in an empty door-way, while this was passing, and he
had stopped too.
'Don't look at him!' said my aunt, as I turned my head indignantly,
'but get me a coach, my dear, and wait for me in St. Paul's
'Wait for you?' I replied.
'Yes,' rejoined my aunt. 'I must go alone. I must go with him.'
'With him, aunt? This man?'
'I am in my senses,' she replied, 'and I tell you I must. Get mea
However much astonished I might be, I was sensible that I had no
right to refuse compliance with such a peremptory command. I
hurried away a few paces, and called a hackney-chariot which was
passing empty. Almost before I could let down the steps, my aunt
sprang in, I don't know how, and the man followed. She waved her
hand to me to go away, so earnestly, that, all confounded as I was,
I turned from them at once. In doing so, I heard her say to the
coachman, 'Drive anywhere! Drive straight on!' and presently the
chariot passed me, going up the hill.
What Mr. Dick had told me, and what I had supposed to be a delusion
of his, now came into my mind. I could not doubt that this person
was the person of whom he had made such mysterious mention, though
what the nature of his hold upon my aunt could possibly be, I was
quite unable to imagine. After half an hour's cooling in the
churchyard, I saw the chariot coming back. The driver stopped
beside me, and my aunt was sitting in it alone.
She had not yet sufficiently recovered from her agitation to be
quite prepared for the visit we had to make. She desired me to get
into the chariot, and to tell the coachman to drive slowly up and
down a little while. She said no more, except, 'My dear child,
never ask me what it was, and don't refer to it,' until she had
perfectly regained her composure, when she told me she was quite
herself now, and we might get out. On her giving me her purse to
pay the driver, I found that all the guineas were gone, and only
the loose silver remained.
Doctors' Commons was approached by a little low archway. Before we
had taken many paces down the street beyond it, the noise of the
city seemed to melt, as if by magic, into a softened distance. A
few dull courts and narrow ways brought us to the sky-lighted
offices of Spenlow and Jorkins; in the vestibule of which temple,
accessible to pilgrims without the ceremony of knocking, three or
four clerks were at work as copyists. One of these, a little dry
man, sitting by himself, who wore a stiff brown wig that looked as
if it were made of gingerbread, rose to receive my aunt, and show
us into Mr. Spenlow's room.
'Mr. Spenlow's in Court, ma'am,' said the dry man; 'it's an Arches
day; but it's close by, and I'll send for him directly.'
As we were left to look about us while Mr. Spenlow was fetched, I
availed myself of the opportunity. The furniture of the room was
old-fashioned and dusty; and the green baize on the top of the
writing-table had lost all its colour, and was as withered and pale
as an old pauper. There were a great many bundles of papers on it,
some endorsed as Allegations, and some (to my surprise) as Libels,
and some as being in the Consistory Court, and some in the Arches
Court, and some in the Prerogative Court, and some in the Admiralty
Court, and some in the Delegates' Court; giving me occasion to
wonder much, how many Courts there might be in the gross, and how
long it would take to understand them all. Besides these, there
were sundry immense manuscript Books of Evidence taken on
affidavit, strongly bound, and tied together in massive sets, a set
to each cause, as if every cause were a history in ten or twenty
volumes. All this looked tolerably expensive, I thought, and gave
me an agreeable notion of a proctor's business. I was casting my
eyes with increasing complacency over these and many similar
objects, when hasty footsteps were heard in the room outside, and
Mr. Spenlow, in a black gown trimmed with white fur, came hurrying
in, taking off his hat as he came.
He was a little light-haired gentleman, with undeniable boots, and
the stiffest of white cravats and shirt-collars. He was buttoned
up, mighty trim and tight, and must have taken a great deal of
pains with his whiskers, which were accurately curled. His gold
watch-chain was so massive, that a fancy came across me, that he
ought to have a sinewy golden arm, to draw it out with, like those
which are put up over the goldbeaters' shops. He was got up with
such care, and was so stiff, that he could hardly bend himself;
being obliged, when he glanced at some papers on his desk, after
sitting down in his chair, to move his whole body, from the bottom
of his spine, like Punch.
I had previously been presented by my aunt, and had been
courteously received. He now said:
'And so, Mr. Copperfield, you think of entering into our
profession? I casually mentioned to Miss Trotwood, when I had the
pleasure of an interview with her the other day,' - with another
inclination of his body - Punch again - 'that there was a vacancy
here. Miss Trotwood was good enough to mention that she had a
nephew who was her peculiar care, and for whom she was seeking to
provide genteelly in life. That nephew, I believe, I have now the
pleasure of' - Punch again.
I bowed my acknowledgements, and said, my aunt had mentioned to me
that there was that opening, and that I believed I should like it
very much. That I was strongly inclined to like it, and had taken
immediately to the proposal. That I could not absolutely pledge
myself to like it, until I knew something more about it. That
although it was little else than a matter of form, I presumed I
should have an opportunity of trying how I liked it, before I bound
myself to it irrevocably.
'Oh surely! surely!' said Mr. Spenlow. 'We always, in this house,
propose a month - an initiatory month. I should be happy, myself,
to propose two months - three - an indefinite period, in fact - but
I have a partner. Mr. Jorkins.'
'And the premium, sir,' I returned, 'is a thousand pounds?'
'And the premium, Stamp included, is a thousand pounds,' said Mr.
Spenlow. 'As I have mentioned to Miss Trotwood, I am actuated by
no mercenary considerations; few men are less so, I believe; but
Mr. Jorkins has his opinions on these subjects, and I am bound to
respect Mr. Jorkins's opinions. Mr. Jorkins thinks a thousand
pounds too little, in short.'
'I suppose, sir,' said I, still desiring to spare my aunt, 'that it
is not the custom here, if an articled clerk were particularly
useful, and made himself a perfect master of his profession' - I
could not help blushing, this looked so like praising myself - 'I
suppose it is not the custom, in the later years of his time, to
allow him any -'
Mr. Spenlow, by a great effort, just lifted his head far enough out
of his cravat to shake it, and answered, anticipating the word
'No. I will not say what consideration I might give to that point
myself, Mr. Copperfield, if I were unfettered. Mr. Jorkins is
I was quite dismayed by the idea of this terrible Jorkins. But I
found out afterwards that he was a mild man of a heavy temperament,
whose place in the business was to keep himself in the background,
and be constantly exhibited by name as the most obdurate and
ruthless of men. If a clerk wanted his salary raised, Mr. Jorkins
wouldn't listen to such a proposition. If a client were slow to
settle his bill of costs, Mr. Jorkins was resolved to have it paid;
and however painful these things might be (and always were) to the
feelings of Mr. Spenlow, Mr. Jorkins would have his bond. The
heart and hand of the good angel Spenlow would have been always
open, but for the restraining demon Jorkins. As I have grown
older, I think I have had experience of some other houses doing
business on the principle of Spenlow and Jorkins!
It was settled that I should begin my month's probation as soon as
I pleased, and that my aunt need neither remain in town nor return
at its expiration, as the articles of agreement, of which I was to
be the subject, could easily be sent to her at home for her
signature. When we had got so far, Mr. Spenlow offered to take me
into Court then and there, and show me what sort of place it was.
As I was willing enough to know, we went out with this object,
leaving my aunt behind; who would trust herself, she said, in no
such place, and who, I think, regarded all Courts of Law as a sort
of powder-mills that might blow up at any time.
Mr. Spenlow conducted me through a paved courtyard formed of grave
brick houses, which I inferred, from the Doctors' names upon the
doors, to be the official abiding-places of the learned advocates
of whom Steerforth had told me; and into a large dull room, not
unlike a chapel to my thinking, on the left hand. The upper part
of this room was fenced off from the rest; and there, on the two
sides of a raised platform of the horse-shoe form, sitting on easy
old-fashioned dining-room chairs, were sundry gentlemen in red
gowns and grey wigs, whom I found to be the Doctors aforesaid.
Blinking over a little desk like a pulpit-desk, in the curve of the
horse-shoe, was an old gentleman, whom, if I had seen him in an
aviary, I should certainly have taken for an owl, but who, I
learned, was the presiding judge. In the space within the
horse-shoe, lower than these, that is to say, on about the level of
the floor, were sundry other gentlemen, of Mr. Spenlow's rank, and
dressed like him in black gowns with white fur upon them, sitting
at a long green table. Their cravats were in general stiff, I
thought, and their looks haughty; but in this last respect I
presently conceived I had done them an injustice, for when two or
three of them had to rise and answer a question of the presiding
dignitary, I never saw anything more sheepish. The public,
represented by a boy with a comforter, and a shabby-genteel man
secretly eating crumbs out of his coat pockets, was warming itself
at a stove in the centre of the Court. The languid stillness of
the place was only broken by the chirping of this fire and by the
voice of one of the Doctors, who was wandering slowly through a
perfect library of evidence, and stopping to put up, from time to
time, at little roadside inns of argument on the journey.
Altogether, I have never, on any occasion, made one at such a
cosey, dosey, old-fashioned, time-forgotten, sleepy-headed little
family-party in all my life; and I felt it would be quite a
soothing opiate to belong to it in any character - except perhaps
as a suitor.
Very well satisfied with the dreamy nature of this retreat, I
informed Mr. Spenlow that I had seen enough for that time, and we
rejoined my aunt; in company with whom I presently departed from
the Commons, feeling very young when I went out of Spenlow and
Jorkins's, on account of the clerks poking one another with their
pens to point me out.
We arrived at Lincoln's Inn Fields without any new adventures,
except encountering an unlucky donkey in a costermonger's cart, who
suggested painful associations to my aunt. We had another long
talk about my plans, when we were safely housed; and as I knew she
was anxious to get home, and, between fire, food, and pickpockets,
could never be considered at her ease for half-an-hour in London,
I urged her not to be uncomfortable on my account, but to leave me
to take care of myself.
'I have not been here a week tomorrow, without considering that
too, my dear,' she returned. 'There is a furnished little set of
chambers to be let in the Adelphi, Trot, which ought to suit you to
With this brief introduction, she produced from her pocket an
advertisement, carefully cut out of a newspaper, setting forth that
in Buckingham Street in the Adelphi there was to be let furnished,
with a view of the river, a singularly desirable, and compact set
of chambers, forming a genteel residence for a young gentleman, a
member of one of the Inns of Court, or otherwise, with immediate
possession. Terms moderate, and could be taken for a month only,
'Why, this is the very thing, aunt!' said I, flushed with the
possible dignity of living in chambers.
'Then come,' replied my aunt, immediately resuming the bonnet she
had a minute before laid aside. 'We'll go and look at 'em.'
Away we went. The advertisement directed us to apply to Mrs. Crupp
on the premises, and we rung the area bell, which we supposed to
communicate with Mrs. Crupp. It was not until we had rung three or
four times that we could prevail on Mrs. Crupp to communicate with
us, but at last she appeared, being a stout lady with a flounce of
flannel petticoat below a nankeen gown.
'Let us see these chambers of yours, if you please, ma'am,' said my
'For this gentleman?' said Mrs. Crupp, feeling in her pocket for
'Yes, for my nephew,' said my aunt.
'And a sweet set they is for sich!' said Mrs. Crupp.
So we went upstairs.
They were on the top of the house - a great point with my aunt,
being near the fire-escape - and consisted of a little half-blind
entry where you could see hardly anything, a little stone-blind
pantry where you could see nothing at all, a sitting-room, and a
bedroom. The furniture was rather faded, but quite good enough for
me; and, sure enough, the river was outside the windows.
As I was delighted with the place, my aunt and Mrs. Crupp withdrew
into the pantry to discuss the terms, while I remained on the
sitting-room sofa, hardly daring to think it possible that I could
be destined to live in such a noble residence. After a single
combat of some duration they returned, and I saw, to my joy, both
in Mrs. Crupp's countenance and in my aunt's, that the deed was
'Is it the last occupant's furniture?' inquired my aunt.
'Yes, it is, ma'am,' said Mrs. Crupp.
'What's become of him?' asked my aunt.
Mrs. Crupp was taken with a troublesome cough, in the midst of
which she articulated with much difficulty. 'He was took ill here,
ma'am, and - ugh! ugh! ugh! dear me! - and he died!'
'Hey! What did he die of?' asked my aunt.
'Well, ma'am, he died of drink,' said Mrs. Crupp, in confidence.
'Smoke? You don't mean chimneys?' said my aunt.
'No, ma'am,' returned Mrs. Crupp. 'Cigars and pipes.'
'That's not catching, Trot, at any rate,' remarked my aunt, turning
'No, indeed,' said I.
In short, my aunt, seeing how enraptured I was with the premises,
took them for a month, with leave to remain for twelve months when
that time was out. Mrs. Crupp was to find linen, and to cook;
every other necessary was already provided; and Mrs. Crupp
expressly intimated that she should always yearn towards me as a
son. I was to take possession the day after tomorrow, and Mrs.
Crupp said, thank Heaven she had now found summun she could care
On our way back, my aunt informed me how she confidently trusted
that the life I was now to lead would make me firm and
self-reliant, which was all I wanted. She repeated this several
times next day, in the intervals of our arranging for the
transmission of my clothes and books from Mr. Wickfield's; relative
to which, and to all my late holiday, I wrote a long letter to
Agnes, of which my aunt took charge, as she was to leave on the
succeeding day. Not to lengthen these particulars, I need only
add, that she made a handsome provision for all my possible wants
during my month of trial; that Steerforth, to my great
disappointment and hers too, did not make his appearance before she
went away; that I saw her safely seated in the Dover coach,
exulting in the coming discomfiture of the vagrant donkeys, with
Janet at her side; and that when the coach was gone, I turned my
face to the Adelphi, pondering on the old days when I used to roam
about its subterranean arches, and on the happy changes which had
brought me to the surface.
MY FIRST DISSIPATION
It was a wonderfully fine thing to have that lofty castle to
myself, and to feel, when I shut my outer door, like Robinson
Crusoe, when he had got into his fortification, and pulled his
ladder up after him. It was a wonderfully fine thing to walk about
town with the key of my house in my pocket, and to know that I
could ask any fellow to come home, and make quite sure of its being
inconvenient to nobody, if it were not so to me. It was a
wonderfully fine thing to let myself in and out, and to come and go
without a word to anyone, and to ring Mrs. Crupp up, gasping, from
the depths of the earth, when I wanted her - and when she was
disposed to come. All this, I say, was wonderfully fine; but I
must say, too, that there were times when it was very dreary.
It was fine in the morning, particularly in the fine mornings. It
looked a very fresh, free life, by daylight: still fresher, and
more free, by sunlight. But as the day declined, the life seemed
to go down too. I don't know how it was; it seldom looked well by
candle-light. I wanted somebody to talk to, then. I missed Agnes.
I found a tremendous blank, in the place of that smiling repository
of my confidence. Mrs. Crupp appeared to be a long way off. I
thought about my predecessor, who had died of drink and smoke; and
I could have wished he had been so good as to live, and not bother
me with his decease.
After two days and nights, I felt as if I had lived there for a
year, and yet I was not an hour older, but was quite as much
tormented by my own youthfulness as ever.
Steerforth not yet appearing, which induced me to apprehend that he
must be ill, I left the Commons early on the third day, and walked
out to Highgate. Mrs. Steerforth was very glad to see me, and said
that he had gone away with one of his Oxford friends to see another
who lived near St. Albans, but that she expected him to return
tomorrow. I was so fond of him, that I felt quite jealous of his
As she pressed me to stay to dinner, I remained, and I believe we
talked about nothing but him all day. I told her how much the
people liked him at Yarmouth, and what a delightful companion he
had been. Miss Dartle was full of hints and mysterious questions,
but took a great interest in all our proceedings there, and said,
'Was it really though?' and so forth, so often, that she got
everything out of me she wanted to know. Her appearance was
exactly what I have described it, when I first saw her; but the
society of the two ladies was so agreeable, and came so natural to
me, that I felt myself falling a little in love with her. I could
not help thinking, several times in the course of the evening, and
particularly when I walked home at night, what delightful company
she would be in Buckingham Street.
I was taking my coffee and roll in the morning, before going to the
Commons - and I may observe in this place that it is surprising how
much coffee Mrs. Crupp used, and how weak it was, considering -
when Steerforth himself walked in, to my unbounded joy.
'My dear Steerforth,' cried I, 'I began to think I should never see
'I was carried off, by force of arms,' said Steerforth, 'the very
next morning after I got home. Why, Daisy, what a rare old
bachelor you are here!'
I showed him over the establishment, not omitting the pantry, with
no little pride, and he commended it highly. 'I tell you what, old
boy,' he added, 'I shall make quite a town-house of this place,
unless you give me notice to quit.'
This was a delightful hearing. I told him if he waited for that,
he would have to wait till doomsday.
'But you shall have some breakfast!' said I, with my hand on the
bell-rope, 'and Mrs. Crupp shall make you some fresh coffee, and
I'll toast you some bacon in a bachelor's Dutch-oven, that I have
'No, no!' said Steerforth. 'Don't ring! I can't! I am going to
breakfast with one of these fellows who is at the Piazza Hotel, in
'But you'll come back to dinner?' said I.
'I can't, upon my life. There's nothing I should like better, but
I must remain with these two fellows. We are all three off
together tomorrow morning.'
'Then bring them here to dinner,' I returned. 'Do you think they
'Oh! they would come fast enough,' said Steerforth; 'but we should
inconvenience you. You had better come and dine with us
I would not by any means consent to this, for it occurred to me
that I really ought to have a little house-warming, and that there
never could be a better opportunity. I had a new pride in my rooms
after his approval of them, and burned with a desire to develop
their utmost resources. I therefore made him promise positively in
the names of his two friends, and we appointed six o'clock as the
When he was gone, I rang for Mrs. Crupp, and acquainted her with my
desperate design. Mrs. Crupp said, in the first place, of course
it was well known she couldn't be expected to wait, but she knew a
handy young man, who she thought could be prevailed upon to do it,
and whose terms would be five shillings, and what I pleased. I
said, certainly we would have him. Next Mrs. Crupp said it was
clear she couldn't be in two places at once (which I felt to be
reasonable), and that 'a young gal' stationed in the pantry with a
bedroom candle, there never to desist from washing plates, would be
indispensable. I said, what would be the expense of this young
female? and Mrs. Crupp said she supposed eighteenpence would
neither make me nor break me. I said I supposed not; and THAT was
settled. Then Mrs. Crupp said, Now about the dinner.
It was a remarkable instance of want of forethought on the part of
the ironmonger who had made Mrs. Crupp's kitchen fireplace, that it
was capable of cooking nothing but chops and mashed potatoes. As
to a fish-kittle, Mrs. Crupp said, well! would I only come and look
at the range? She couldn't say fairer than that. Would I come and
look at it? As I should not have been much the wiser if I HAD
looked at it, I declined, and said, 'Never mind fish.' But Mrs.
Crupp said, Don't say that; oysters was in, why not them? So THAT
was settled. Mrs. Crupp then said what she would recommend would
be this. A pair of hot roast fowls - from the pastry-cook's; a
dish of stewed beef, with vegetables - from the pastry-cook's; two
little corner things, as a raised pie and a dish of kidneys - from
the pastrycook's; a tart, and (if I liked) a shape of jelly - from
the pastrycook's. This, Mrs. Crupp said, would leave her at full
liberty to concentrate her mind on the potatoes, and to serve up
the cheese and celery as she could wish to see it done.
I acted on Mrs. Crupp's opinion, and gave the order at the
pastry-cook's myself. Walking along the Strand, afterwards, and
observing a hard mottled substance in the window of a ham and beef
shop, which resembled marble, but was labelled 'Mock Turtle', I
went in and bought a slab of it, which I have since seen reason to
believe would have sufficed for fifteen people. This preparation,
Mrs. Crupp, after some difficulty, consented to warm up; and it
shrunk so much in a liquid state, that we found it what Steerforth
called 'rather a tight fit' for four.
These preparations happily completed, I bought a little dessert in
Covent Garden Market, and gave a rather extensive order at a retail
wine-merchant's in that vicinity. When I came home in the
afternoon, and saw the bottles drawn up in a square on the pantry
floor, they looked so numerous (though there were two missing,
which made Mrs. Crupp very uncomfortable), that I was absolutely
frightened at them.
One of Steerforth's friends was named Grainger, and the other
Markham. They were both very gay and lively fellows; Grainger,
something older than Steerforth; Markham, youthful-looking, and I
should say not more than twenty. I observed that the latter always
spoke of himself indefinitely, as 'a man', and seldom or never in
the first person singular.
'A man might get on very well here, Mr. Copperfield,' said Markham
- meaning himself.
'It's not a bad situation,' said I, 'and the rooms are really
'I hope you have both brought appetites with you?' said Steerforth.
'Upon my honour,' returned Markham, 'town seems to sharpen a man's
appetite. A man is hungry all day long. A man is perpetually
Being a little embarrassed at first, and feeling much too young to
preside, I made Steerforth take the head of the table when dinner
was announced, and seated myself opposite to him. Everything was
very good; we did not spare the wine; and he exerted himself so
brilliantly to make the thing pass off well, that there was no
pause in our festivity. I was not quite such good company during
dinner as I could have wished to be, for my chair was opposite the
door, and my attention was distracted by observing that the handy
young man went out of the room very often, and that his shadow
always presented itself, immediately afterwards, on the wall of the
entry, with a bottle at its mouth. The 'young gal' likewise
occasioned me some uneasiness: not so much by neglecting to wash
the plates, as by breaking them. For being of an inquisitive
disposition, and unable to confine herself (as her positive
instructions were) to the pantry, she was constantly peering in at
us, and constantly imagining herself detected; in which belief, she
several times retired upon the plates (with which she had carefully
paved the floor), and did a great deal of destruction.
These, however, were small drawbacks, and easily forgotten when the
cloth was cleared, and the dessert put on the table; at which
period of the entertainment the handy young man was discovered to
be speechless. Giving him private directions to seek the society
of Mrs. Crupp, and to remove the 'young gal' to the basement also,
I abandoned myself to enjoyment.
I began, by being singularly cheerful and light-hearted; all sorts
of half-forgotten things to talk about, came rushing into my mind,
and made me hold forth in a most unwonted manner. I laughed
heartily at my own jokes, and everybody else's; called Steerforth
to order for not passing the wine; made several engagements to go
to Oxford; announced that I meant to have a dinner-party exactly
like that, once a week, until further notice; and madly took so
much snuff out of Grainger's box, that I was obliged to go into the
pantry, and have a private fit of sneezing ten minutes long.
I went on, by passing the wine faster and faster yet, and
continually starting up with a corkscrew to open more wine, long
before any was needed. I proposed Steerforth's health. I said he
was my dearest friend, the protector of my boyhood, and the
companion of my prime. I said I was delighted to propose his
health. I said I owed him more obligations than I could ever
repay, and held him in a higher admiration than I could ever
express. I finished by saying, 'I'll give you Steerforth! God
bless him! Hurrah!' We gave him three times three, and another,
and a good one to finish with. I broke my glass in going round the
table to shake hands with him, and I said (in two words)
'Steerforth - you'retheguidingstarofmyexistence.'
I went on, by finding suddenly that somebody was in the middle of
a song. Markham was the singer, and he sang 'When the heart of a
man is depressed with care'. He said, when he had sung it, he
would give us 'Woman!' I took objection to that, and I couldn't
allow it. I said it was not a respectful way of proposing the
toast, and I would never permit that toast to be drunk in my house
otherwise than as 'The Ladies!' I was very high with him, mainly I
think because I saw Steerforth and Grainger laughing at me - or at
him - or at both of us. He said a man was not to be dictated to.
I said a man was. He said a man was not to be insulted, then. I
said he was right there - never under my roof, where the Lares were
sacred, and the laws of hospitality paramount. He said it was no
derogation from a man's dignity to confess that I was a devilish
good fellow. I instantly proposed his health.
Somebody was smoking. We were all smoking. I was smoking, and
trying to suppress a rising tendency to shudder. Steerforth had
made a speech about me, in the course of which I had been affected
almost to tears. I returned thanks, and hoped the present company
would dine with me tomorrow, and the day after - each day at five
o'clock, that we might enjoy the pleasures of conversation and
society through a long evening. I felt called upon to propose an
individual. I would give them my aunt. Miss Betsey Trotwood, the
best of her sex!
Somebody was leaning out of my bedroom window, refreshing his
forehead against the cool stone of the parapet, and feeling the air
upon his face. It was myself. I was addressing myself as
'Copperfield', and saying, 'Why did you try to smoke? You might
have known you couldn't do it.' Now, somebody was unsteadily
contemplating his features in the looking-glass. That was I too.
I was very pale in the looking-glass; my eyes had a vacant
appearance; and my hair - only my hair, nothing else - looked
Somebody said to me, 'Let us go to the theatre, Copperfield!' There
was no bedroom before me, but again the jingling table covered with
glasses; the lamp; Grainger on my right hand, Markham on my left,
and Steerforth opposite - all sitting in a mist, and a long way
off. The theatre? To be sure. The very thing. Come along! But
they must excuse me if I saw everybody out first, and turned the
lamp off - in case of fire.
Owing to some confusion in the dark, the door was gone. I was
feeling for it in the window-curtains, when Steerforth, laughing,
took me by the arm and led me out. We went downstairs, one behind
another. Near the bottom, somebody fell, and rolled down.
Somebody else said it was Copperfield. I was angry at that false
report, until, finding myself on my back in the passage, I began to
think there might be some foundation for it.
A very foggy night, with great rings round the lamps in the
streets! There was an indistinct talk of its being wet. I
considered it frosty. Steerforth dusted me under a lamp-post, and
put my hat into shape, which somebody produced from somewhere in a
most extraordinary manner, for I hadn't had it on before.
Steerforth then said, 'You are all right, Copperfield, are you
not?' and I told him, 'Neverberrer.'
A man, sitting in a pigeon-hole-place, looked out of the fog, and
took money from somebody, inquiring if I was one of the gentlemen
paid for, and appearing rather doubtful (as I remember in the
glimpse I had of him) whether to take the money for me or not.
Shortly afterwards, we were very high up in a very hot theatre,
looking down into a large pit, that seemed to me to smoke; the
people with whom it was crammed were so indistinct. There was a
great stage, too, looking very clean and smooth after the streets;
and there were people upon it, talking about something or other,
but not at all intelligibly. There was an abundance of bright
lights, and there was music, and there were ladies down in the
boxes, and I don't know what more. The whole building looked to me
as if it were learning to swim; it conducted itself in such an
unaccountable manner, when I tried to steady it.
On somebody's motion, we resolved to go downstairs to the
dress-boxes, where the ladies were. A gentleman lounging, full
dressed, on a sofa, with an opera-glass in his hand, passed before
my view, and also my own figure at full length in a glass. Then I
was being ushered into one of these boxes, and found myself saying
something as I sat down, and people about me crying 'Silence!' to
somebody, and ladies casting indignant glances at me, and - what!
yes! - Agnes, sitting on the seat before me, in the same box, with
a lady and gentleman beside her, whom I didn't know. I see her
face now, better than I did then, I dare say, with its indelible
look of regret and wonder turned upon me.
'Agnes!' I said, thickly, 'Lorblessmer! Agnes!'
'Hush! Pray!' she answered, I could not conceive why. 'You
disturb the company. Look at the stage!'
I tried, on her injunction, to fix it, and to hear something of
what was going on there, but quite in vain. I looked at her again
by and by, and saw her shrink into her corner, and put her gloved
hand to her forehead.
'Agnes!' I said. 'I'mafraidyou'renorwell.'
'Yes, yes. Do not mind me, Trotwood,' she returned. 'Listen! Are
you going away soon?'
'Amigoarawaysoo?' I repeated.
I had a stupid intention of replying that I was going to wait, to
hand her downstairs. I suppose I expressed it, somehow; for after
she had looked at me attentively for a little while, she appeared
to understand, and replied in a low tone:
'I know you will do as I ask you, if I tell you I am very earnest
in it. Go away now, Trotwood, for my sake, and ask your friends to
take you home.'
She had so far improved me, for the time, that though I was angry
with her, I felt ashamed, and with a short 'Goori!' (which I
intended for 'Good night!') got up and went away. They followed,
and I stepped at once out of the box-door into my bedroom, where
only Steerforth was with me, helping me to undress, and where I was
by turns telling him that Agnes was my sister, and adjuring him to
bring the corkscrew, that I might open another bottle of wine.
How somebody, lying in my bed, lay saying and doing all this over
again, at cross purposes, in a feverish dream all night - the bed
a rocking sea that was never still! How, as that somebody slowly
settled down into myself, did I begin to parch, and feel as if my
outer covering of skin were a hard board; my tongue the bottom of
an empty kettle, furred with long service, and burning up over a
slow fire; the palms of my hands, hot plates of metal which no ice
But the agony of mind, the remorse, and shame I felt when I became
conscious next day! My horror of having committed a thousand
offences I had forgotten, and which nothing could ever expiate - my
recollection of that indelible look which Agnes had given me - the
torturing impossibility of communicating with her, not knowing,
Beast that I was, how she came to be in London, or where she stayed
- my disgust of the very sight of the room where the revel had been
held - my racking head - the smell of smoke, the sight of glasses,
the impossibility of going out, or even getting up! Oh, what a day
Oh, what an evening, when I sat down by my fire to a basin of
mutton broth, dimpled all over with fat, and thought I was going
the way of my predecessor, and should succeed to his dismal story
as well as to his chambers, and had half a mind to rush express to
Dover and reveal all! What an evening, when Mrs. Crupp, coming in
to take away the broth-basin, produced one kidney on a cheese-plate
as the entire remains of yesterday's feast, and I was really
inclined to fall upon her nankeen breast and say, in heartfelt
penitence, 'Oh, Mrs. Crupp, Mrs. Crupp, never mind the broken
meats! I am very miserable!' - only that I doubted, even at that
pass, if Mrs. Crupp were quite the sort of woman to confide in!
GOOD AND BAD ANGELS
I was going out at my door on the morning after that deplorable day
of headache, sickness, and repentance, with an odd confusion in my
mind relative to the date of my dinner-party, as if a body of
Titans had taken an enormous lever and pushed the day before
yesterday some months back, when I saw a ticket-porter coming
upstairs, with a letter in his hand. He was taking his time about
his errand, then; but when he saw me on the top of the staircase,
looking at him over the banisters, he swung into a trot, and came
up panting as if he had run himself into a state of exhaustion.
'T. Copperfield, Esquire,' said the ticket-porter, touching his hat
with his little cane.
I could scarcely lay claim to the name: I was so disturbed by the
conviction that the letter came from Agnes. However, I told him I
was T. Copperfield, Esquire, and he believed it, and gave me the
letter, which he said required an answer. I shut him out on the
landing to wait for the answer, and went into my chambers again, in
such a nervous state that I was fain to lay the letter down on my
breakfast table, and familiarize myself with the outside of it a
little, before I could resolve to break the seal.
I found, when I did open it, that it was a very kind note,
containing no reference to my condition at the theatre. All it
said was, 'My dear Trotwood. I am staying at the house of papa's
agent, Mr. Waterbrook, in Ely Place, Holborn. Will you come and
see me today, at any time you like to appoint? Ever yours
affectionately, AGNES. '
It took me such a long time to write an answer at all to my
satisfaction, that I don't know what the ticket-porter can have
thought, unless he thought I was learning to write. I must have
written half-a-dozen answers at least. I began one, 'How can I
ever hope, my dear Agnes, to efface from your remembrance the
disgusting impression' - there I didn't like it, and then I tore it
up. I began another, 'Shakespeare has observed, my dear Agnes, how
strange it is that a man should put an enemy into his mouth' - that
reminded me of Markham, and it got no farther. I even tried
poetry. I began one note, in a six-syllable line, 'Oh, do not
remember' - but that associated itself with the fifth of November,
and became an absurdity. After many attempts, I wrote, 'My dear
Agnes. Your letter is like you, and what could I say of it that
would be higher praise than that? I will come at four o'clock.
Affectionately and sorrowfully, T.C.' With this missive (which I
was in twenty minds at once about recalling, as soon as it was out
of my hands), the ticket-porter at last departed.
If the day were half as tremendous to any other professional
gentleman in Doctors' Commons as it was to me, I sincerely believe
he made some expiation for his share in that rotten old
ecclesiastical cheese. Although I left the office at half past
three, and was prowling about the place of appointment within a few
minutes afterwards, the appointed time was exceeded by a full
quarter of an hour, according to the clock of St. Andrew's,
Holborn, before I could muster up sufficient desperation to pull
the private bell-handle let into the left-hand door-post of Mr.
The professional business of Mr. Waterbrook's establishment was
done on the ground-floor, and the genteel business (of which there
was a good deal) in the upper part of the building. I was shown
into a pretty but rather close drawing-room, and there sat Agnes,
netting a purse.
She looked so quiet and good, and reminded me so strongly of my
airy fresh school days at Canterbury, and the sodden, smoky, stupid
wretch I had been the other night, that, nobody being by, I yielded
to my self-reproach and shame, and - in short, made a fool of
myself. I cannot deny that I shed tears. To this hour I am
undecided whether it was upon the whole the wisest thing I could
have done, or the most ridiculous.
'If it had been anyone but you, Agnes,' said I, turning away my
head, 'I should not have minded it half so much. But that it
should have been you who saw me! I almost wish I had been dead,
She put her hand - its touch was like no other hand - upon my arm
for a moment; and I felt so befriended and comforted, that I could
not help moving it to my lips, and gratefully kissing it.
'Sit down,' said Agnes, cheerfully. 'Don't be unhappy, Trotwood.
If you cannot confidently trust me, whom will you trust?'
'Ah, Agnes!' I returned. 'You are my good Angel!'
She smiled rather sadly, I thought, and shook her head.
'Yes, Agnes, my good Angel! Always my good Angel!'
'If I were, indeed, Trotwood,' she returned, 'there is one thing
that I should set my heart on very much.'
I looked at her inquiringly; but already with a foreknowledge of
'On warning you,' said Agnes, with a steady glance, 'against your
'My dear Agnes,' I began, 'if you mean Steerforth -'
'I do, Trotwood,' she returned.
'Then, Agnes, you wrong him very much. He my bad Angel, or
anyone's! He, anything but a guide, a support, and a friend to me!
My dear Agnes! Now, is it not unjust, and unlike you, to judge him
from what you saw of me the other night?'
'I do not judge him from what I saw of you the other night,' she
'From what, then?'
'From many things - trifles in themselves, but they do not seem to
me to be so, when they are put together. I judge him, partly from
your account of him, Trotwood, and your character, and the
influence he has over you.'
There was always something in her modest voice that seemed to touch
a chord within me, answering to that sound alone. It was always
earnest; but when it was very earnest, as it was now, there was a
thrill in it that quite subdued me. I sat looking at her as she
cast her eyes down on her work; I sat seeming still to listen to
her; and Steerforth, in spite of all my attachment to him, darkened
in that tone.
'It is very bold in me,' said Agnes, looking up again, 'who have
lived in such seclusion, and can know so little of the world, to
give you my advice so confidently, or even to have this strong
opinion. But I know in what it is engendered, Trotwood, - in how
true a remembrance of our having grown up together, and in how true
an interest in all relating to you. It is that which makes me
bold. I am certain that what I say is right. I am quite sure it
is. I feel as if it were someone else speaking to you, and not I,
when I caution you that you have made a dangerous friend.'
Again I looked at her, again I listened to her after she was
silent, and again his image, though it was still fixed in my heart,
'I am not so unreasonable as to expect,' said Agnes, resuming her
usual tone, after a little while, 'that you will, or that you can,
at once, change any sentiment that has become a conviction to you;
least of all a sentiment that is rooted in your trusting
disposition. You ought not hastily to do that. I only ask you,
Trotwood, if you ever think of me - I mean,' with a quiet smile,
for I was going to interrupt her, and she knew why, 'as often as
you think of me - to think of what I have said. Do you forgive me
for all this?'
'I will forgive you, Agnes,' I replied, 'when you come to do
Steerforth justice, and to like him as well as I do.'
'Not until then?' said Agnes.
I saw a passing shadow on her face when I made this mention of him,
but she returned my smile, and we were again as unreserved in our
mutual confidence as of old.
'And when, Agnes,' said I, 'will you forgive me the other night?'
'When I recall it,' said Agnes.
She would have dismissed the subject so, but I was too full of it
to allow that, and insisted on telling her how it happened that I
had disgraced myself, and what chain of accidental circumstances
had had the theatre for its final link. It was a great relief to
me to do this, and to enlarge on the obligation that I owed to
Steerforth for his care of me when I was unable to take care of
'You must not forget,' said Agnes, calmly changing the conversation
as soon as I had concluded, 'that you are always to tell me, not
only when you fall into trouble, but when you fall in love. Who
has succeeded to Miss Larkins, Trotwood?'
'No one, Agnes.'
'Someone, Trotwood,' said Agnes, laughing, and holding up her
'No, Agnes, upon my word! There is a lady, certainly, at Mrs.
Steerforth's house, who is very clever, and whom I like to talk to
- Miss Dartle - but I don't adore her.'
Agnes laughed again at her own penetration, and told me that if I
were faithful to her in my confidence she thought she should keep
a little register of my violent attachments, with the date,
duration, and termination of each, like the table of the reigns of
the kings and queens, in the History of England. Then she asked me
if I had seen Uriah.
'Uriah Heep?' said I. 'No. Is he in London?'
'He comes to the office downstairs, every day,' returned Agnes.
'He was in London a week before me. I am afraid on disagreeable
'On some business that makes you uneasy, Agnes, I see,' said I.
'What can that be?'
Agnes laid aside her work, and replied, folding her hands upon one
another, and looking pensively at me out of those beautiful soft
eyes of hers:
'I believe he is going to enter into partnership with papa.'
'What? Uriah? That mean, fawning fellow, worm himself into such
promotion!' I cried, indignantly. 'Have you made no remonstrance
about it, Agnes? Consider what a connexion it is likely to be.
You must speak out. You must not allow your father to take such a
mad step. You must prevent it, Agnes, while there's time.'
Still looking at me, Agnes shook her head while I was speaking,
with a faint smile at my warmth: and then replied:
'You remember our last conversation about papa? It was not long
after that - not more than two or three days - when he gave me the
first intimation of what I tell you. It was sad to see him
struggling between his desire to represent it to me as a matter of
choice on his part, and his inability to conceal that it was forced
upon him. I felt very sorry.'
'Forced upon him, Agnes! Who forces it upon him?'
'Uriah,' she replied, after a moment's hesitation, 'has made
himself indispensable to papa. He is subtle and watchful. He has
mastered papa's weaknesses, fostered them, and taken advantage of
them, until - to say all that I mean in a word, Trotwood, - until
papa is afraid of him.'
There was more that she might have said; more that she knew, or
that she suspected; I clearly saw. I could not give her pain by
asking what it was, for I knew that she withheld it from me, to
spare her father. It had long been going on to this, I was
sensible: yes, I could not but feel, on the least reflection, that
it had been going on to this for a long time. I remained silent.
'His ascendancy over papa,' said Agnes, 'is very great. He
professes humility and gratitude - with truth, perhaps: I hope so
- but his position is really one of power, and I fear he makes a
hard use of his power.'
I said he was a hound, which, at the moment, was a great
satisfaction to me.
'At the time I speak of, as the time when papa spoke to me,'
pursued Agnes, 'he had told papa that he was going away; that he
was very sorry, and unwilling to leave, but that he had better
prospects. Papa was very much depressed then, and more bowed down
by care than ever you or I have seen him; but he seemed relieved by
this expedient of the partnership, though at the same time he
seemed hurt by it and ashamed of it.'
'And how did you receive it, Agnes?'
'I did, Trotwood,' she replied, 'what I hope was right. Feeling
sure that it was necessary for papa's peace that the sacrifice
should be made, I entreated him to make it. I said it would
lighten the load of his life - I hope it will! - and that it would
give me increased opportunities of being his companion. Oh,
Trotwood!' cried Agnes, putting her hands before her face, as her
tears started on it, 'I almost feel as if I had been papa's enemy,
instead of his loving child. For I know how he has altered, in his
devotion to me. I know how he has narrowed the circle of his
sympathies and duties, in the concentration of his whole mind upon
me. I know what a multitude of things he has shut out for my sake,
and how his anxious thoughts of me have shadowed his life, and
weakened his strength and energy, by turning them always upon one
idea. If I could ever set this right! If I could ever work out
his restoration, as I have so innocently been the cause of his
I had never before seen Agnes cry. I had seen tears in her eyes
when I had brought new honours home from school, and I had seen
them there when we last spoke about her father, and I had seen her
turn her gentle head aside when we took leave of one another; but
I had never seen her grieve like this. It made me so sorry that I
could only say, in a foolish, helpless manner, 'Pray, Agnes, don't!
Don't, my dear sister!'
But Agnes was too superior to me in character and purpose, as I
know well now, whatever I might know or not know then, to be long
in need of my entreaties. The beautiful, calm manner, which makes
her so different in my remembrance from everybody else, came back
again, as if a cloud had passed from a serene sky.
'We are not likely to remain alone much longer,' said Agnes, 'and
while I have an opportunity, let me earnestly entreat you,
Trotwood, to be friendly to Uriah. Don't repel him. Don't resent
(as I think you have a general disposition to do) what may be
uncongenial to you in him. He may not deserve it, for we know no
certain ill of him. In any case, think first of papa and me!'
Agnes had no time to say more, for the room door opened, and Mrs.
Waterbrook, who was a large lady - or who wore a large dress: I
don't exactly know which, for I don't know which was dress and
which was lady - came sailing in. I had a dim recollection of
having seen her at the theatre, as if I had seen her in a pale
magic lantern; but she appeared to remember me perfectly, and still
to suspect me of being in a state of intoxication.
Finding by degrees, however, that I was sober, and (I hope) that I
was a modest young gentleman, Mrs. Waterbrook softened towards me
considerably, and inquired, firstly, if I went much into the parks,
and secondly, if I went much into society. On my replying to both
these questions in the negative, it occurred to me that I fell
again in her good opinion; but she concealed the fact gracefully,
and invited me to dinner next day. I accepted the invitation, and
took my leave, making a call on Uriah in the office as I went out,
and leaving a card for him in his absence.
When I went to dinner next day, and on the street door being
opened, plunged into a vapour-bath of haunch of mutton, I divined
that I was not the only guest, for I immediately identified the
ticket-porter in disguise, assisting the family servant, and
waiting at the foot of the stairs to carry up my name. He looked,
to the best of his ability, when he asked me for it confidentially,
as if he had never seen me before; but well did I know him, and
well did he know me. Conscience made cowards of us both.
I found Mr. Waterbrook to be a middle-aged gentleman, with a short
throat, and a good deal of shirt-collar, who only wanted a black
nose to be the portrait of a pug-dog. He told me he was happy to
have the honour of making my acquaintance; and when I had paid my
homage to Mrs. Waterbrook, presented me, with much ceremony, to a
very awful lady in a black velvet dress, and a great black velvet
hat, whom I remember as looking like a near relation of Hamlet's -
say his aunt.
Mrs. Henry Spiker was this lady's name; and her husband was there
too: so cold a man, that his head, instead of being grey, seemed to
be sprinkled with hoar-frost. Immense deference was shown to the
Henry Spikers, male and female; which Agnes told me was on account
of Mr. Henry Spiker being solicitor to something Or to Somebody, I
forget what or which, remotely connected with the Treasury.
I found Uriah Heep among the company, in a suit of black, and in
deep humility. He told me, when I shook hands with him, that he
was proud to be noticed by me, and that he really felt obliged to
me for my condescension. I could have wished he had been less
obliged to me, for he hovered about me in his gratitude all the
rest of the evening; and whenever I said a word to Agnes, was sure,
with his shadowless eyes and cadaverous face, to be looking gauntly
down upon us from behind.
There were other guests - all iced for the occasion, as it struck
me, like the wine. But there was one who attracted my attention
before he came in, on account of my hearing him announced as Mr.
Traddles! My mind flew back to Salem House; and could it be Tommy,
I thought, who used to draw the skeletons!
I looked for Mr. Traddles with unusual interest. He was a sober,
steady-looking young man of retiring manners, with a comic head of
hair, and eyes that were rather wide open; and he got into an
obscure corner so soon, that I had some difficulty in making him
out. At length I had a good view of him, and either my vision
deceived me, or it was the old unfortunate Tommy.
I made my way to Mr. Waterbrook, and said, that I believed I had
the pleasure of seeing an old schoolfellow there.
'Indeed!' said Mr. Waterbrook, surprised. 'You are too young to
have been at school with Mr. Henry Spiker?'
'Oh, I don't mean him!' I returned. 'I mean the gentleman named
'Oh! Aye, aye! Indeed!' said my host, with much diminished
'If it's really the same person,' said I, glancing towards him, 'it
was at a place called Salem House where we were together, and he
was an excellent fellow.'
'Oh yes. Traddles is a good fellow,' returned my host nodding his
head with an air of toleration. 'Traddles is quite a good fellow.'
'It's a curious coincidence,' said I.
'It is really,' returned my host, 'quite a coincidence, that
Traddles should be here at all: as Traddles was only invited this
morning, when the place at table, intended to be occupied by Mrs.
Henry Spiker's brother, became vacant, in consequence of his
indisposition. A very gentlemanly man, Mrs. Henry Spiker's
brother, Mr. Copperfield.'
I murmured an assent, which was full of feeling, considering that
I knew nothing at all about him; and I inquired what Mr. Traddles
was by profession.
'Traddles,' returned Mr. Waterbrook, 'is a young man reading for
the bar. Yes. He is quite a good fellow - nobody's enemy but his
'Is he his own enemy?' said I, sorry to hear this.
'Well,' returned Mr. Waterbrook, pursing up his mouth, and playing
with his watch-chain, in a comfortable, prosperous sort of way. 'I
should say he was one of those men who stand in their own light.
Yes, I should say he would never, for example, be worth five
hundred pound. Traddles was recommended to me by a professional
friend. Oh yes. Yes. He has a kind of talent for drawing briefs,
and stating a case in writing, plainly. I am able to throw
something in Traddles's way, in the course of the year; something
- for him - considerable. Oh yes. Yes.'
I was much impressed by the extremely comfortable and satisfied
manner in which Mr. Waterbrook delivered himself of this little
word 'Yes', every now and then. There was wonderful expression in
it. It completely conveyed the idea of a man who had been born,
not to say with a silver spoon, but with a scaling-ladder, and had
gone on mounting all the heights of life one after another, until
now he looked, from the top of the fortifications, with the eye of
a philosopher and a patron, on the people down in the trenches.
My reflections on this theme were still in progress when dinner was
announced. Mr. Waterbrook went down with Hamlet's aunt. Mr. Henry
Spiker took Mrs. Waterbrook. Agnes, whom I should have liked to
take myself, was given to a simpering fellow with weak legs.
Uriah, Traddles, and I, as the junior part of the company, went
down last, how we could. I was not so vexed at losing Agnes as I
might have been, since it gave me an opportunity of making myself
known to Traddles on the stairs, who greeted me with great fervour;
while Uriah writhed with such obtrusive satisfaction and
self-abasement, that I could gladly have pitched him over the
Traddles and I were separated at table, being billeted in two
remote corners: he in the glare of a red velvet lady; I, in the
gloom of Hamlet's aunt. The dinner was very long, and the
conversation was about the Aristocracy - and Blood. Mrs.
Waterbrook repeatedly told us, that if she had a weakness, it was
It occurred to me several times that we should have got on better,
if we had not been quite so genteel. We were so exceedingly
genteel, that our scope was very limited. A Mr. and Mrs. Gulpidge
were of the party, who had something to do at second-hand (at
least, Mr. Gulpidge had) with the law business of the Bank; and
what with the Bank, and what with the Treasury, we were as
exclusive as the Court Circular. To mend the matter, Hamlet's aunt
had the family failing of indulging in soliloquy, and held forth in
a desultory manner, by herself, on every topic that was introduced.
These were few enough, to be sure; but as we always fell back upon
Blood, she had as wide a field for abstract speculation as her
We might have been a party of Ogres, the conversation assumed such
a sanguine complexion.
'I confess I am of Mrs. Waterbrook's opinion,' said Mr. Waterbrook,
with his wine-glass at his eye. 'Other things are all very well in
their way, but give me Blood!'
'Oh! There is nothing,' observed Hamlet's aunt, 'so satisfactory
to one! There is nothing that is so much one's beau-ideal of - of
all that sort of thing, speaking generally. There are some low
minds (not many, I am happy to believe, but there are some) that
would prefer to do what I should call bow down before idols.
Positively Idols! Before service, intellect, and so on. But these
are intangible points. Blood is not so. We see Blood in a nose,
and we know it. We meet with it in a chin, and we say, "There it
is! That's Blood!" It is an actual matter of fact. We point it
out. It admits of no doubt.'
The simpering fellow with the weak legs, who had taken Agnes down,
stated the question more decisively yet, I thought.
'Oh, you know, deuce take it,' said this gentleman, looking round
the board with an imbecile smile, 'we can't forego Blood, you know.
We must have Blood, you know. Some young fellows, you know, may be
a little behind their station, perhaps, in point of education and
behaviour, and may go a little wrong, you know, and get themselves
and other people into a variety of fixes - and all that - but deuce
take it, it's delightful to reflect that they've got Blood in 'em!
Myself, I'd rather at any time be knocked down by a man who had got
Blood in him, than I'd be picked up by a man who hadn't!'
This sentiment, as compressing the general question into a
nutshell, gave the utmost satisfaction, and brought the gentleman
into great notice until the ladies retired. After that, I observed
that Mr. Gulpidge and Mr. Henry Spiker, who had hitherto been very
distant, entered into a defensive alliance against us, the common
enemy, and exchanged a mysterious dialogue across the table for our
defeat and overthrow.
'That affair of the first bond for four thousand five hundred
pounds has not taken the course that was expected, Spiker,' said
'Do you mean the D. of A.'s?' said Mr. Spiker.
'The C. of B.'s!' said Mr. Gulpidge.
Mr. Spiker raised his eyebrows, and looked much concerned.
'When the question was referred to Lord - I needn't name him,' said
Mr. Gulpidge, checking himself -
'I understand,' said Mr. Spiker, 'N.'
Mr. Gulpidge darkly nodded - 'was referred to him, his answer was,
"Money, or no release."'
'Lord bless my soul!' cried Mr. Spiker.
"'Money, or no release,"' repeated Mr. Gulpidge, firmly. 'The next
in reversion - you understand me?'
'K.,' said Mr. Spiker, with an ominous look.
'- K. then positively refused to sign. He was attended at
Newmarket for that purpose, and he point-blank refused to do it.'
Mr. Spiker was so interested, that he became quite stony.
'So the matter rests at this hour,' said Mr. Gulpidge, throwing
himself back in his chair. 'Our friend Waterbrook will excuse me
if I forbear to explain myself generally, on account of the
magnitude of the interests involved.'
Mr. Waterbrook was only too happy, as it appeared to me, to have
such interests, and such names, even hinted at, across his table.
He assumed an expression of gloomy intelligence (though I am
persuaded he knew no more about the discussion than I did), and
highly approved of the discretion that had been observed. Mr.
Spiker, after the receipt of such a confidence, naturally desired
to favour his friend with a confidence of his own; therefore the
foregoing dialogue was succeeded by another, in which it was Mr.
Gulpidge's turn to be surprised, and that by another in which the
surprise came round to Mr. Spiker's turn again, and so on, turn and
turn about. All this time we, the outsiders, remained oppressed by
the tremendous interests involved in the conversation; and our host
regarded us with pride, as the victims of a salutary awe and
I was very glad indeed to get upstairs to Agnes, and to talk with
her in a corner, and to introduce Traddles to her, who was shy, but
agreeable, and the same good-natured creature still. As he was
obliged to leave early, on account of going away next morning for
a month, I had not nearly so much conversation with him as I could
have wished; but we exchanged addresses, and promised ourselves the
pleasure of another meeting when he should come back to town. He
was greatly interested to hear that I knew Steerforth, and spoke of
him with such warmth that I made him tell Agnes what he thought of
him. But Agnes only looked at me the while, and very slightly
shook her head when only I observed her.
As she was not among people with whom I believed she could be very
much at home, I was almost glad to hear that she was going away
within a few days, though I was sorry at the prospect of parting
from her again so soon. This caused me to remain until all the
company were gone. Conversing with her, and hearing her sing, was
such a delightful reminder to me of my happy life in the grave old
house she had made so beautiful, that I could have remained there
half the night; but, having no excuse for staying any longer, when
the lights of Mr. Waterbrook's society were all snuffed out, I took
my leave very much against my inclination. I felt then, more than
ever, that she was my better Angel; and if I thought of her sweet
face and placid smile, as though they had shone on me from some
removed being, like an Angel, I hope I thought no harm.
I have said that the company were all gone; but I ought to have
excepted Uriah, whom I don't include in that denomination, and who
had never ceased to hover near us. He was close behind me when I
went downstairs. He was close beside me, when I walked away from
the house, slowly fitting his long skeleton fingers into the still
longer fingers of a great Guy Fawkes pair of gloves.
It was in no disposition for Uriah's company, but in remembrance of
the entreaty Agnes had made to me, that I asked him if he would
come home to my rooms, and have some coffee.
'Oh, really, Master Copperfield,' he rejoined - 'I beg your pardon,
Mister Copperfield, but the other comes so natural, I don't like
that you should put a constraint upon yourself to ask a numble
person like me to your ouse.'
'There is no constraint in the case,' said I. 'Will you come?'
'I should like to, very much,' replied Uriah, with a writhe.
'Well, then, come along!' said I.
I could not help being rather short with him, but he appeared not
to mind it. We went the nearest way, without conversing much upon
the road; and he was so humble in respect of those scarecrow
gloves, that he was still putting them on, and seemed to have made
no advance in that labour, when we got to my place.
I led him up the dark stairs, to prevent his knocking his head
against anything, and really his damp cold hand felt so like a frog
in mine, that I was tempted to drop it and run away. Agnes and
hospitality prevailed, however, and I conducted him to my fireside.
When I lighted my candles, he fell into meek transports with the
room that was revealed to him; and when I heated the coffee in an
unassuming block-tin vessel in which Mrs. Crupp delighted to
prepare it (chiefly, I believe, because it was not intended for the
purpose, being a shaving-pot, and because there was a patent
invention of great price mouldering away in the pantry), he
professed so much emotion, that I could joyfully have scalded him.
'Oh, really, Master Copperfield, - I mean Mister Copperfield,' said
Uriah, 'to see you waiting upon me is what I never could have
expected! But, one way and another, so many things happen to me
which I never could have expected, I am sure, in my umble station,
that it seems to rain blessings on my ed. You have heard
something, I des-say, of a change in my expectations, Master
Copperfield, - I should say, Mister Copperfield?'
As he sat on my sofa, with his long knees drawn up under his
coffee-cup, his hat and gloves upon the ground close to him, his
spoon going softly round and round, his shadowless red eyes, which
looked as if they had scorched their lashes off, turned towards me
without looking at me, the disagreeable dints I have formerly
described in his nostrils coming and going with his breath, and a
snaky undulation pervading his frame from his chin to his boots, I
decided in my own mind that I disliked him intensely. It made me
very uncomfortable to have him for a guest, for I was young then,
and unused to disguise what I so strongly felt.
'You have heard something, I des-say, of a change in my
expectations, Master Copperfield, - I should say, Mister
Copperfield?' observed Uriah.
'Yes,' said I, 'something.'
'Ah! I thought Miss Agnes would know of it!' he quietly returned.
'I'm glad to find Miss Agnes knows of it. Oh, thank you, Master -
I could have thrown my bootjack at him (it lay ready on the rug),
for having entrapped me into the disclosure of anything concerning
Agnes, however immaterial. But I only drank my coffee.
'What a prophet you have shown yourself, Mister Copperfield!'
pursued Uriah. 'Dear me, what a prophet you have proved yourself
to be! Don't you remember saying to me once, that perhaps I should
be a partner in Mr. Wickfield's business, and perhaps it might be
Wickfield and Heep? You may not recollect it; but when a person is
umble, Master Copperfield, a person treasures such things up!'
'I recollect talking about it,' said I, 'though I certainly did not
think it very likely then.'
'Oh! who would have thought it likely, Mister Copperfield!'
returned Uriah, enthusiastically. 'I am sure I didn't myself. I
recollect saying with my own lips that I was much too umble. So I
considered myself really and truly.'
He sat, with that carved grin on his face, looking at the fire, as
I looked at him.
'But the umblest persons, Master Copperfield,' he presently
resumed, 'may be the instruments of good. I am glad to think I
have been the instrument of good to Mr. Wickfield, and that I may
be more so. Oh what a worthy man he is, Mister Copperfield, but
how imprudent he has been!'
'I am sorry to hear it,' said I. I could not help adding, rather
pointedly, 'on all accounts.'
'Decidedly so, Mister Copperfield,' replied Uriah. 'On all
accounts. Miss Agnes's above all! You don't remember your own
eloquent expressions, Master Copperfield; but I remember how you
said one day that everybody must admire her, and how I thanked you
for it! You have forgot that, I have no doubt, Master
'No,' said I, drily.
'Oh how glad I am you have not!' exclaimed Uriah. 'To think that
you should be the first to kindle the sparks of ambition in my
umble breast, and that you've not forgot it! Oh! - Would you
excuse me asking for a cup more coffee?'
Something in the emphasis he laid upon the kindling of those
sparks, and something in the glance he directed at me as he said
it, had made me start as if I had seen him illuminated by a blaze
of light. Recalled by his request, preferred in quite another tone
of voice, I did the honours of the shaving-pot; but I did them with
an unsteadiness of hand, a sudden sense of being no match for him,
and a perplexed suspicious anxiety as to what he might be going to
say next, which I felt could not escape his observation.
He said nothing at all. He stirred his coffee round and round, he
sipped it, he felt his chin softly with his grisly hand, he looked
at the fire, he looked about the room, he gasped rather than smiled
at me, he writhed and undulated about, in his deferential
servility, he stirred and sipped again, but he left the renewal of
the conversation to me.
'So, Mr. Wickfield,' said I, at last, 'who is worth five hundred of
you - or me'; for my life, I think, I could not have helped
dividing that part of the sentence with an awkward jerk; 'has been
imprudent, has he, Mr. Heep?'
'Oh, very imprudent indeed, Master Copperfield,' returned Uriah,
sighing modestly. 'Oh, very much so! But I wish you'd call me
Uriah, if you please. It's like old times.'
'Well! Uriah,' said I, bolting it out with some difficulty.
'Thank you,' he returned, with fervour. 'Thank you, Master
Copperfield! It's like the blowing of old breezes or the ringing
of old bellses to hear YOU say Uriah. I beg your pardon. Was I
making any observation?'
'About Mr. Wickfield,' I suggested.
'Oh! Yes, truly,' said Uriah. 'Ah! Great imprudence, Master
Copperfield. It's a topic that I wouldn't touch upon, to any soul
but you. Even to you I can only touch upon it, and no more. If
anyone else had been in my place during the last few years, by this
time he would have had Mr. Wickfield (oh, what a worthy man he is,
Master Copperfield, too!) under his thumb. Un--der--his thumb,'
said Uriah, very slowly, as he stretched out his cruel-looking hand
above my table, and pressed his own thumb upon it, until it shook,
and shook the room.
If I had been obliged to look at him with him splay foot on Mr.
Wickfield's head, I think I could scarcely have hated him more.
'Oh, dear, yes, Master Copperfield,' he proceeded, in a soft voice,
most remarkably contrasting with the action of his thumb, which did
not diminish its hard pressure in the least degree, 'there's no
doubt of it. There would have been loss, disgrace, I don't know
what at all. Mr. Wickfield knows it. I am the umble instrument of
umbly serving him, and he puts me on an eminence I hardly could
have hoped to reach. How thankful should I be!' With his face
turned towards me, as he finished, but without looking at me, he
took his crooked thumb off the spot where he had planted it, and
slowly and thoughtfully scraped his lank jaw with it, as if he were
I recollect well how indignantly my heart beat, as I saw his crafty
face, with the appropriately red light of the fire upon it,
preparing for something else.
'Master Copperfield,' he began - 'but am I keeping you up?'
'You are not keeping me up. I generally go to bed late.'
'Thank you, Master Copperfield! I have risen from my umble station
since first you used to address me, it is true; but I am umble
still. I hope I never shall be otherwise than umble. You will not
think the worse of my umbleness, if I make a little confidence to
you, Master Copperfield? Will you?'
'Oh no,' said I, with an effort.
'Thank you!' He took out his pocket-handkerchief, and began wiping
the palms of his hands. 'Miss Agnes, Master Copperfield -'
'Oh, how pleasant to be called Uriah, spontaneously!' he cried; and
gave himself a jerk, like a convulsive fish. 'You thought her
looking very beautiful tonight, Master Copperfield?'
'I thought her looking as she always does: superior, in all
respects, to everyone around her,' I returned.
'Oh, thank you! It's so true!' he cried. 'Oh, thank you very much
'Not at all,' I said, loftily. 'There is no reason why you should
'Why that, Master Copperfield,' said Uriah, 'is, in fact, the
confidence that I am going to take the liberty of reposing. Umble
as I am,' he wiped his hands harder, and looked at them and at the
fire by turns, 'umble as my mother is, and lowly as our poor but
honest roof has ever been, the image of Miss Agnes (I don't mind
trusting you with my secret, Master Copperfield, for I have always
overflowed towards you since the first moment I had the pleasure of
beholding you in a pony-shay) has been in my breast for years. Oh,
Master Copperfield, with what a pure affection do I love the ground
my Agnes walks on!'
I believe I had a delirious idea of seizing the red-hot poker out
of the fire, and running him through with it. It went from me with
a shock, like a ball fired from a rifle: but the image of Agnes,
outraged by so much as a thought of this red-headed animal's,
remained in my mind when I looked at him, sitting all awry as if
his mean soul griped his body, and made me giddy. He seemed to
swell and grow before my eyes; the room seemed full of the echoes
of his voice; and the strange feeling (to which, perhaps, no one is
quite a stranger) that all this had occurred before, at some
indefinite time, and that I knew what he was going to say next,
took possession of me.
A timely observation of the sense of power that there was in his
face, did more to bring back to my remembrance the entreaty of
Agnes, in its full force, than any effort I could have made. I
asked him, with a better appearance of composure than I could have
thought possible a minute before, whether he had made his feelings
known to Agnes.
'Oh no, Master Copperfield!' he returned; 'oh dear, no! Not to
anyone but you. You see I am only just emerging from my lowly
station. I rest a good deal of hope on her observing how useful I
am to her father (for I trust to be very useful to him indeed,
Master Copperfield), and how I smooth the way for him, and keep him
straight. She's so much attached to her father, Master Copperfield
(oh, what a lovely thing it is in a daughter!), that I think she
may come, on his account, to be kind to me.'
I fathomed the depth of the rascal's whole scheme, and understood
why he laid it bare.
'If you'll have the goodness to keep my secret, Master
Copperfield,' he pursued, 'and not, in general, to go against me,
I shall take it as a particular favour. You wouldn't wish to make
unpleasantness. I know what a friendly heart you've got; but
having only known me on my umble footing (on my umblest I should
say, for I am very umble still), you might, unbeknown, go against
me rather, with my Agnes. I call her mine, you see, Master
Copperfield. There's a song that says, "I'd crowns resign, to call
her mine!" I hope to do it, one of these days.'
Dear Agnes! So much too loving and too good for anyone that I
could think of, was it possible that she was reserved to be the
wife of such a wretch as this!
'There's no hurry at present, you know, Master Copperfield,' Uriah
proceeded, in his slimy way, as I sat gazing at him, with this
thought in my mind. 'My Agnes is very young still; and mother and
me will have to work our way upwards, and make a good many new
arrangements, before it would be quite convenient. So I shall have
time gradually to make her familiar with my hopes, as opportunities
offer. Oh, I'm so much obliged to you for this confidence! Oh,
it's such a relief, you can't think, to know that you understand
our situation, and are certain (as you wouldn't wish to make
unpleasantness in the family) not to go against me!'
He took the hand which I dared not withhold, and having given it a
damp squeeze, referred to his pale-faced watch.
'Dear me!' he said, 'it's past one. The moments slip away so, in
the confidence of old times, Master Copperfield, that it's almost
half past one!'
I answered that I had thought it was later. Not that I had really
thought so, but because my conversational powers were effectually
'Dear me!' he said, considering. 'The ouse that I am stopping at
- a sort of a private hotel and boarding ouse, Master Copperfield,
near the New River ed - will have gone to bed these two hours.'
'I am sorry,' I returned, 'that there is only one bed here, and
that I -'
'Oh, don't think of mentioning beds, Master Copperfield!' he
rejoined ecstatically, drawing up one leg. 'But would you have any
objections to my laying down before the fire?'
'If it comes to that,' I said, 'pray take my bed, and I'll lie down
before the fire.'
His repudiation of this offer was almost shrill enough, in the
excess of its surprise and humility, to have penetrated to the ears
of Mrs. Crupp, then sleeping, I suppose, in a distant chamber,
situated at about the level of low-water mark, soothed in her
slumbers by the ticking of an incorrigible clock, to which she
always referred me when we had any little difference on the score
of punctuality, and which was never less than three-quarters of an
hour too slow, and had always been put right in the morning by the
best authorities. As no arguments I could urge, in my bewildered
condition, had the least effect upon his modesty in inducing him to
accept my bedroom, I was obliged to make the best arrangements I
could, for his repose before the fire. The mattress of the sofa
(which was a great deal too short for his lank figure), the sofa
pillows, a blanket, the table-cover, a clean breakfast-cloth, and
a great-coat, made him a bed and covering, for which he was more
than thankful. Having lent him a night-cap, which he put on at
once, and in which he made such an awful figure, that I have never
worn one since, I left him to his rest.
I never shall forget that night. I never shall forget how I turned
and tumbled; how I wearied myself with thinking about Agnes and
this creature; how I considered what could I do, and what ought I
to do; how I could come to no other conclusion than that the best
course for her peace was to do nothing, and to keep to myself what
I had heard. If I went to sleep for a few moments, the image of
Agnes with her tender eyes, and of her father looking fondly on
her, as I had so often seen him look, arose before me with
appealing faces, and filled me with vague terrors. When I awoke,
the recollection that Uriah was lying in the next room, sat heavy
on me like a waking nightmare; and oppressed me with a leaden
dread, as if I had had some meaner quality of devil for a lodger.
The poker got into my dozing thoughts besides, and wouldn't come
out. I thought, between sleeping and waking, that it was still red
hot, and I had snatched it out of the fire, and run him through the
body. I was so haunted at last by the idea, though I knew there
was nothing in it, that I stole into the next room to look at him.
There I saw him, lying on his back, with his legs extending to I
don't know where, gurglings taking place in his throat, stoppages
in his nose, and his mouth open like a post-office. He was so much
worse in reality than in my distempered fancy, that afterwards I
was attracted to him in very repulsion, and could not help
wandering in and out every half-hour or so, and taking another look
at him. Still, the long, long night seemed heavy and hopeless as
ever, and no promise of day was in the murky sky.
When I saw him going downstairs early in the morning (for, thank
Heaven! he would not stay to breakfast), it appeared to me as if
the night was going away in his person. When I went out to the
Commons, I charged Mrs. Crupp with particular directions to leave
the windows open, that my sitting-room might be aired, and purged
of his presence.
I FALL INTO CAPTIVITY
I saw no more of Uriah Heep, until the day when Agnes left town.
I was at the coach office to take leave of her and see her go; and
there was he, returning to Canterbury by the same conveyance. It
was some small satisfaction to me to observe his spare,
short-waisted, high-shouldered, mulberry-coloured great-coat
perched up, in company with an umbrella like a small tent, on the
edge of the back seat on the roof, while Agnes was, of course,
inside; but what I underwent in my efforts to be friendly with him,
while Agnes looked on, perhaps deserved that little recompense. At
the coach window, as at the dinner-party, he hovered about us
without a moment's intermission, like a great vulture: gorging
himself on every syllable that I said to Agnes, or Agnes said to
In the state of trouble into which his disclosure by my fire had
thrown me, I had thought very much of the words Agnes had used in
reference to the partnership. 'I did what I hope was right.
Feeling sure that it was necessary for papa's peace that the
sacrifice should be made, I entreated him to make it.' A miserable
foreboding that she would yield to, and sustain herself by, the
same feeling in reference to any sacrifice for his sake, had
oppressed me ever since. I knew how she loved him. I knew what
the devotion of her nature was. I knew from her own lips that she
regarded herself as the innocent cause of his errors, and as owing
him a great debt she ardently desired to pay. I had no consolation
in seeing how different she was from this detestable Rufus with the
mulberry-coloured great-coat, for I felt that in the very
difference between them, in the self-denial of her pure soul and
the sordid baseness of his, the greatest danger lay. All this,
doubtless, he knew thoroughly, and had, in his cunning, considered
Yet I was so certain that the prospect of such a sacrifice afar
off, must destroy the happiness of Agnes; and I was so sure, from
her manner, of its being unseen by her then, and having cast no
shadow on her yet; that I could as soon have injured her, as given
her any warning of what impended. Thus it was that we parted
without explanation: she waving her hand and smiling farewell from
the coach window; her evil genius writhing on the roof, as if he
had her in his clutches and triumphed.
I could not get over this farewell glimpse of them for a long time.
When Agnes wrote to tell me of her safe arrival, I was as miserable
as when I saw her going away. Whenever I fell into a thoughtful
state, this subject was sure to present itself, and all my
uneasiness was sure to be redoubled. Hardly a night passed without
my dreaming of it. It became a part of my life, and as inseparable
from my life as my own head.
I had ample leisure to refine upon my uneasiness: for Steerforth
was at Oxford, as he wrote to me, and when I was not at the
Commons, I was very much alone. I believe I had at this time some
lurking distrust of Steerforth. I wrote to him most affectionately
in reply to his, but I think I was glad, upon the whole, that he
could not come to London just then. I suspect the truth to be,
that the influence of Agnes was upon me, undisturbed by the sight
of him; and that it was the more powerful with me, because she had
so large a share in my thoughts and interest.
In the meantime, days and weeks slipped away. I was articled to
Spenlow and Jorkins. I had ninety pounds a year (exclusive of my
house-rent and sundry collateral matters) from my aunt. My rooms
were engaged for twelve months certain: and though I still found
them dreary of an evening, and the evenings long, I could settle
down into a state of equable low spirits, and resign myself to
coffee; which I seem, on looking back, to have taken by the gallon
at about this period of my existence. At about this time, too, I
made three discoveries: first, that Mrs. Crupp was a martyr to a
curious disorder called 'the spazzums', which was generally
accompanied with inflammation of the nose, and required to be
constantly treated with peppermint; secondly, that something
peculiar in the temperature of my pantry, made the brandy-bottles
burst; thirdly, that I was alone in the world, and much given to
record that circumstance in fragments of English versification.
On the day when I was articled, no festivity took place, beyond my
having sandwiches and sherry into the office for the clerks, and
going alone to the theatre at night. I went to see The Stranger,
as a Doctors' Commons sort of play, and was so dreadfully cut up,
that I hardly knew myself in my own glass when I got home. Mr.
Spenlow remarked, on this occasion, when we concluded our business,
that he should have been happy to have seen me at his house at
Norwood to celebrate our becoming connected, but for his domestic
arrangements being in some disorder, on account of the expected
return of his daughter from finishing her education at Paris. But,
he intimated that when she came home he should hope to have the
pleasure of entertaining me. I knew that he was a widower with one
daughter, and expressed my acknowledgements.
Mr. Spenlow was as good as his word. In a week or two, he referred
to this engagement, and said, that if I would do him the favour to
come down next Saturday, and stay till Monday, he would be
extremely happy. Of course I said I would do him the favour; and
he was to drive me down in his phaeton, and to bring me back.
When the day arrived, my very carpet-bag was an object of
veneration to the stipendiary clerks, to whom the house at Norwood
was a sacred mystery. One of them informed me that he had heard
that Mr. Spenlow ate entirely off plate and china; and another
hinted at champagne being constantly on draught, after the usual
custom of table-beer. The old clerk with the wig, whose name was
Mr. Tiffey, had been down on business several times in the course
of his career, and had on each occasion penetrated to the
breakfast-parlour. He described it as an apartment of the most
sumptuous nature, and said that he had drunk brown East India
sherry there, of a quality so precious as to make a man wink. We
had an adjourned cause in the Consistory that day - about
excommunicating a baker who had been objecting in a vestry to a
paving-rate - and as the evidence was just twice the length of
Robinson Crusoe, according to a calculation I made, it was rather
late in the day before we finished. However, we got him
excommunicated for six weeks, and sentenced in no end of costs; and
then the baker's proctor, and the judge, and the advocates on both
sides (who were all nearly related), went out of town together, and
Mr. Spenlow and I drove away in the phaeton.
The phaeton was a very handsome affair; the horses arched their
necks and lifted up their legs as if they knew they belonged to
Doctors' Commons. There was a good deal of competition in the
Commons on all points of display, and it turned out some very
choice equipages then; though I always have considered, and always
shall consider, that in my time the great article of competition
there was starch: which I think was worn among the proctors to as
great an extent as it is in the nature of man to bear.
We were very pleasant, going down, and Mr. Spenlow gave me some
hints in reference to my profession. He said it was the genteelest
profession in the world, and must on no account be confounded with
the profession of a solicitor: being quite another sort of thing,
infinitely more exclusive, less mechanical, and more profitable.
We took things much more easily in the Commons than they could be
taken anywhere else, he observed, and that set us, as a privileged
class, apart. He said it was impossible to conceal the
disagreeable fact, that we were chiefly employed by solicitors; but
he gave me to understand that they were an inferior race of men,
universally looked down upon by all proctors of any pretensions.
I asked Mr. Spenlow what he considered the best sort of
professional business? He replied, that a good case of a disputed
will, where there was a neat little estate of thirty or forty
thousand pounds, was, perhaps, the best of all. In such a case, he
said, not only were there very pretty pickings, in the way of
arguments at every stage of the proceedings, and mountains upon
mountains of evidence on interrogatory and counter-interrogatory
(to say nothing of an appeal lying, first to the Delegates, and
then to the Lords), but, the costs being pretty sure to come out of
the estate at last, both sides went at it in a lively and spirited
manner, and expense was no consideration. Then, he launched into
a general eulogium on the Commons. What was to be particularly
admired (he said) in the Commons, was its compactness. It was the
most conveniently organized place in the world. It was the
complete idea of snugness. It lay in a nutshell. For example: You
brought a divorce case, or a restitution case, into the Consistory.
Very good. You tried it in the Consistory. You made a quiet
little round game of it, among a family group, and you played it
out at leisure. Suppose you were not satisfied with the
Consistory, what did you do then? Why, you went into the Arches.
What was the Arches? The same court, in the same room, with the
same bar, and the same practitioners, but another judge, for there
the Consistory judge could plead any court-day as an advocate.
Well, you played your round game out again. Still you were not
satisfied. Very good. What did you do then? Why, you went to the
Delegates. Who were the Delegates? Why, the Ecclesiastical
Delegates were the advocates without any business, who had looked
on at the round game when it was playing in both courts, and had
seen the cards shuffled, and cut, and played, and had talked to all
the players about it, and now came fresh, as judges, to settle the
matter to the satisfaction of everybody! Discontented people might
talk of corruption in the Commons, closeness in the Commons, and
the necessity of reforming the Commons, said Mr. Spenlow solemnly,
in conclusion; but when the price of wheat per bushel had been
highest, the Commons had been busiest; and a man might lay his hand
upon his heart, and say this to the whole world, - 'Touch the
Commons, and down comes the country!'
I listened to all this with attention; and though, I must say, I
had my doubts whether the country was quite as much obliged to the
Commons as Mr. Spenlow made out, I respectfully deferred to his
opinion. That about the price of wheat per bushel, I modestly felt
was too much for my strength, and quite settled the question. I
have never, to this hour, got the better of that bushel of wheat.
It has reappeared to annihilate me, all through my life, in
connexion with all kinds of subjects. I don't know now, exactly,
what it has to do with me, or what right it has to crush me, on an
infinite variety of occasions; but whenever I see my old friend the
bushel brought in by the head and shoulders (as he always is, I
observe), I give up a subject for lost.
This is a digression. I was not the man to touch the Commons, and
bring down the country. I submissively expressed, by my silence,
my acquiescence in all I had heard from my superior in years and
knowledge; and we talked about The Stranger and the Drama, and the
pairs of horses, until we came to Mr. Spenlow's gate.
There was a lovely garden to Mr. Spenlow's house; and though that
was not the best time of the year for seeing a garden, it was so
beautifully kept, that I was quite enchanted. There was a charming
lawn, there were clusters of trees, and there were perspective
walks that I could just distinguish in the dark, arched over with
trellis-work, on which shrubs and flowers grew in the growing
season. 'Here Miss Spenlow walks by herself,' I thought. 'Dear
We went into the house, which was cheerfully lighted up, and into
a hall where there were all sorts of hats, caps, great-coats,
plaids, gloves, whips, and walking-sticks. 'Where is Miss Dora?'
said Mr. Spenlow to the servant. 'Dora!' I thought. 'What a
We turned into a room near at hand (I think it was the identical
breakfast-room, made memorable by the brown East Indian sherry),
and I heard a voice say, 'Mr. Copperfield, my daughter Dora, and my
daughter Dora's confidential friend!' It was, no doubt, Mr.
Spenlow's voice, but I didn't know it, and I didn't care whose it
was. All was over in a moment. I had fulfilled my destiny. I was
a captive and a slave. I loved Dora Spenlow to distraction!
She was more than human to me. She was a Fairy, a Sylph, I don't
know what she was - anything that no one ever saw, and everything
that everybody ever wanted. I was swallowed up in an abyss of love
in an instant. There was no pausing on the brink; no looking down,
or looking back; I was gone, headlong, before I had sense to say a
word to her.
'I,' observed a well-remembered voice, when I had bowed and
murmured something, 'have seen Mr. Copperfield before.'
The speaker was not Dora. No; the confidential friend, Miss
I don't think I was much astonished. To the best of my judgement,
no capacity of astonishment was left in me. There was nothing
worth mentioning in the material world, but Dora Spenlow, to be
astonished about. I said, 'How do you do, Miss Murdstone? I hope
you are well.' She answered, 'Very well.' I said, 'How is Mr.
Murdstone?' She replied, 'My brother is robust, I am obliged to
Mr. Spenlow, who, I suppose, had been surprised to see us recognize
each other, then put in his word.
'I am glad to find,' he said, 'Copperfield, that you and Miss
Murdstone are already acquainted.'
'Mr. Copperfield and myself,' said Miss Murdstone, with severe
composure, 'are connexions. We were once slightly acquainted. It
was in his childish days. Circumstances have separated us since.
I should not have known him.'
I replied that I should have known her, anywhere. Which was true
'Miss Murdstone has had the goodness,' said Mr. Spenlow to me, 'to
accept the office - if I may so describe it - of my daughter Dora's
confidential friend. My daughter Dora having, unhappily, no
mother, Miss Murdstone is obliging enough to become her companion
A passing thought occurred to me that Miss Murdstone, like the
pocket instrument called a life-preserver, was not so much designed
for purposes of protection as of assault. But as I had none but
passing thoughts for any subject save Dora, I glanced at her,
directly afterwards, and was thinking that I saw, in her prettily
pettish manner, that she was not very much inclined to be
particularly confidential to her companion and protector, when a
bell rang, which Mr. Spenlow said was the first dinner-bell, and so
carried me off to dress.
The idea of dressing one's self, or doing anything in the way of
action, in that state of love, was a little too ridiculous. I
could only sit down before my fire, biting the key of my