Part 13 out of 21
completed - I saw him walking in the garden at the side, gaiters
and all, as if he had never left off walking since the days of my
pupilage. He had his old companions about him, too; for there were
plenty of high trees in the neighbourhood, and two or three rooks
were on the grass, looking after him, as if they had been written
to about him by the Canterbury rooks, and were observing him
closely in consequence.
Knowing the utter hopelessness of attracting his attention from
that distance, I made bold to open the gate, and walk after him, so
as to meet him when he should turn round. When he did, and came
towards me, he looked at me thoughtfully for a few moments,
evidently without thinking about me at all; and then his benevolent
face expressed extraordinary pleasure, and he took me by both
'Why, my dear Copperfield,' said the Doctor, 'you are a man! How
do you do? I am delighted to see you. My dear Copperfield, how
very much you have improved! You are quite - yes - dear me!'
I hoped he was well, and Mrs. Strong too.
'Oh dear, yes!' said the Doctor; 'Annie's quite well, and she'll be
delighted to see you. You were always her favourite. She said so,
last night, when I showed her your letter. And - yes, to be sure
- you recollect Mr. Jack Maldon, Copperfield?'
'Of course,' said the Doctor. 'To be sure. He's pretty well,
'Has he come home, sir?' I inquired.
'From India?' said the Doctor. 'Yes. Mr. Jack Maldon couldn't
bear the climate, my dear. Mrs. Markleham - you have not forgotten
Forgotten the Old Soldier! And in that short time!
'Mrs. Markleham,' said the Doctor, 'was quite vexed about him, poor
thing; so we have got him at home again; and we have bought him a
little Patent place, which agrees with him much better.'
I knew enough of Mr. Jack Maldon to suspect from this account that
it was a place where there was not much to do, and which was pretty
well paid. The Doctor, walking up and down with his hand on my
shoulder, and his kind face turned encouragingly to mine, went on:
'Now, my dear Copperfield, in reference to this proposal of yours.
It's very gratifying and agreeable to me, I am sure; but don't you
think you could do better? You achieved distinction, you know,
when you were with us. You are qualified for many good things.
You have laid a foundation that any edifice may be raised upon; and
is it not a pity that you should devote the spring-time of your
life to such a poor pursuit as I can offer?'
I became very glowing again, and, expressing myself in a
rhapsodical style, I am afraid, urged my request strongly;
reminding the Doctor that I had already a profession.
'Well, well,' said the Doctor, 'that's true. Certainly, your
having a profession, and being actually engaged in studying it,
makes a difference. But, my good young friend, what's seventy
pounds a year?'
'It doubles our income, Doctor Strong,' said I.
'Dear me!' replied the Doctor. 'To think of that! Not that I mean
to say it's rigidly limited to seventy pounds a-year, because I
have always contemplated making any young friend I might thus
employ, a present too. Undoubtedly,' said the Doctor, still
walking me up and down with his hand on my shoulder. 'I have
always taken an annual present into account.'
'My dear tutor,' said I (now, really, without any nonsense), 'to
whom I owe more obligations already than I ever can acknowledge -'
'No, no,' interposed the Doctor. 'Pardon me!'
'If you will take such time as I have, and that is my mornings and
evenings, and can think it worth seventy pounds a year, you will do
me such a service as I cannot express.'
'Dear me!' said the Doctor, innocently. 'To think that so little
should go for so much! Dear, dear! And when you can do better,
you will? On your word, now?' said the Doctor, - which he had
always made a very grave appeal to the honour of us boys.
'On my word, sir!' I returned, answering in our old school manner.
'Then be it so,' said the Doctor, clapping me on the shoulder, and
still keeping his hand there, as we still walked up and down.
'And I shall be twenty times happier, sir,' said I, with a little
- I hope innocent - flattery, 'if my employment is to be on the
The Doctor stopped, smilingly clapped me on the shoulder again, and
exclaimed, with a triumph most delightful to behold, as if I had
penetrated to the profoundest depths of mortal sagacity, 'My dear
young friend, you have hit it. It IS the Dictionary!'
How could it be anything else! His pockets were as full of it as
his head. It was sticking out of him in all directions. He told
me that since his retirement from scholastic life, he had been
advancing with it wonderfully; and that nothing could suit him
better than the proposed arrangements for morning and evening work,
as it was his custom to walk about in the daytime with his
considering cap on. His papers were in a little confusion, in
consequence of Mr. Jack Maldon having lately proffered his
occasional services as an amanuensis, and not being accustomed to
that occupation; but we should soon put right what was amiss, and
go on swimmingly. Afterwards, when we were fairly at our work, I
found Mr. Jack Maldon's efforts more troublesome to me than I had
expected, as he had not confined himself to making numerous
mistakes, but had sketched so many soldiers, and ladies' heads,
over the Doctor's manuscript, that I often became involved in
labyrinths of obscurity.
The Doctor was quite happy in the prospect of our going to work
together on that wonderful performance, and we settled to begin
next morning at seven o'clock. We were to work two hours every
morning, and two or three hours every night, except on Saturdays,
when I was to rest. On Sundays, of course, I was to rest also, and
I considered these very easy terms.
Our plans being thus arranged to our mutual satisfaction, the
Doctor took me into the house to present me to Mrs. Strong, whom we
found in the Doctor's new study, dusting his books, - a freedom
which he never permitted anybody else to take with those sacred
They had postponed their breakfast on my account, and we sat down
to table together. We had not been seated long, when I saw an
approaching arrival in Mrs. Strong's face, before I heard any sound
of it. A gentleman on horseback came to the gate, and leading his
horse into the little court, with the bridle over his arm, as if he
were quite at home, tied him to a ring in the empty coach-house
wall, and came into the breakfast parlour, whip in hand. It was
Mr. Jack Maldon; and Mr. Jack Maldon was not at all improved by
India, I thought. I was in a state of ferocious virtue, however,
as to young men who were not cutting down trees in the forest of
difficulty; and my impression must be received with due allowance.
'Mr. Jack!' said the Doctor. 'Copperfield!'
Mr. Jack Maldon shook hands with me; but not very warmly, I
believed; and with an air of languid patronage, at which I secretly
took great umbrage. But his languor altogether was quite a
wonderful sight; except when he addressed himself to his cousin
'Have you breakfasted this morning, Mr. Jack?' said the Doctor.
'I hardly ever take breakfast, sir,' he replied, with his head
thrown back in an easy-chair. 'I find it bores me.'
'Is there any news today?' inquired the Doctor.
'Nothing at all, sir,' replied Mr. Maldon. 'There's an account
about the people being hungry and discontented down in the North,
but they are always being hungry and discontented somewhere.'
The Doctor looked grave, and said, as though he wished to change
the subject, 'Then there's no news at all; and no news, they say,
is good news.'
'There's a long statement in the papers, sir, about a murder,'
observed Mr. Maldon. 'But somebody is always being murdered, and
I didn't read it.'
A display of indifference to all the actions and passions of
mankind was not supposed to be such a distinguished quality at that
time, I think, as I have observed it to be considered since. I
have known it very fashionable indeed. I have seen it displayed
with such success, that I have encountered some fine ladies and
gentlemen who might as well have been born caterpillars. Perhaps
it impressed me the more then, because it was new to me, but it
certainly did not tend to exalt my opinion of, or to strengthen my
confidence in, Mr. Jack Maldon.
'I came out to inquire whether Annie would like to go to the opera
tonight,' said Mr. Maldon, turning to her. 'It's the last good
night there will be, this season; and there's a singer there, whom
she really ought to hear. She is perfectly exquisite. Besides
which, she is so charmingly ugly,' relapsing into languor.
The Doctor, ever pleased with what was likely to please his young
wife, turned to her and said:
'You must go, Annie. You must go.'
'I would rather not,' she said to the Doctor. 'I prefer to remain
at home. I would much rather remain at home.'
Without looking at her cousin, she then addressed me, and asked me
about Agnes, and whether she should see her, and whether she was
not likely to come that day; and was so much disturbed, that I
wondered how even the Doctor, buttering his toast, could be blind
to what was so obvious.
But he saw nothing. He told her, good-naturedly, that she was
young and ought to be amused and entertained, and must not allow
herself to be made dull by a dull old fellow. Moreover, he said,
he wanted to hear her sing all the new singer's songs to him; and
how could she do that well, unless she went? So the Doctor
persisted in making the engagement for her, and Mr. Jack Maldon was
to come back to dinner. This concluded, he went to his Patent
place, I suppose; but at all events went away on his horse, looking
I was curious to find out next morning, whether she had been. She
had not, but had sent into London to put her cousin off; and had
gone out in the afternoon to see Agnes, and had prevailed upon the
Doctor to go with her; and they had walked home by the fields, the
Doctor told me, the evening being delightful. I wondered then,
whether she would have gone if Agnes had not been in town, and
whether Agnes had some good influence over her too!
She did not look very happy, I thought; but it was a good face, or
a very false one. I often glanced at it, for she sat in the window
all the time we were at work; and made our breakfast, which we took
by snatches as we were employed. When I left, at nine o'clock, she
was kneeling on the ground at the Doctor's feet, putting on his
shoes and gaiters for him. There was a softened shade upon her
face, thrown from some green leaves overhanging the open window of
the low room; and I thought all the way to Doctors' Commons, of the
night when I had seen it looking at him as he read.
I was pretty busy now; up at five in the morning, and home at nine
or ten at night. But I had infinite satisfaction in being so
closely engaged, and never walked slowly on any account, and felt
enthusiastically that the more I tired myself, the more I was doing
to deserve Dora. I had not revealed myself in my altered character
to Dora yet, because she was coming to see Miss Mills in a few
days, and I deferred all I had to tell her until then; merely
informing her in my letters (all our communications were secretly
forwarded through Miss Mills), that I had much to tell her. In the
meantime, I put myself on a short allowance of bear's grease,
wholly abandoned scented soap and lavender water, and sold off
three waistcoats at a prodigious sacrifice, as being too luxurious
for my stern career.
Not satisfied with all these proceedings, but burning with
impatience to do something more, I went to see Traddles, now
lodging up behind the parapet of a house in Castle Street, Holborn.
Mr. Dick, who had been with me to Highgate twice already, and had
resumed his companionship with the Doctor, I took with me.
I took Mr. Dick with me, because, acutely sensitive to my aunt's
reverses, and sincerely believing that no galley-slave or convict
worked as I did, he had begun to fret and worry himself out of
spirits and appetite, as having nothing useful to do. In this
condition, he felt more incapable of finishing the Memorial than
ever; and the harder he worked at it, the oftener that unlucky head
of King Charles the First got into it. Seriously apprehending that
his malady would increase, unless we put some innocent deception
upon him and caused him to believe that he was useful, or unless we
could put him in the way of being really useful (which would be
better), I made up my mind to try if Traddles could help us.
Before we went, I wrote Traddles a full statement of all that had
happened, and Traddles wrote me back a capital answer, expressive
of his sympathy and friendship.
We found him hard at work with his inkstand and papers, refreshed
by the sight of the flower-pot stand and the little round table in
a corner of the small apartment. He received us cordially, and
made friends with Mr. Dick in a moment. Mr. Dick professed an
absolute certainty of having seen him before, and we both said,
The first subject on which I had to consult Traddles was this, - I
had heard that many men distinguished in various pursuits had begun
life by reporting the debates in Parliament. Traddles having
mentioned newspapers to me, as one of his hopes, I had put the two
things together, and told Traddles in my letter that I wished to
know how I could qualify myself for this pursuit. Traddles now
informed me, as the result of his inquiries, that the mere
mechanical acquisition necessary, except in rare cases, for
thorough excellence in it, that is to say, a perfect and entire
command of the mystery of short-hand writing and reading, was about
equal in difficulty to the mastery of six languages; and that it
might perhaps be attained, by dint of perseverance, in the course
of a few years. Traddles reasonably supposed that this would
settle the business; but I, only feeling that here indeed were a
few tall trees to be hewn down, immediately resolved to work my way
on to Dora through this thicket, axe in hand.
'I am very much obliged to you, my dear Traddles!' said I. 'I'll
Traddles looked astonished, as he well might; but he had no notion
as yet of my rapturous condition.
'I'll buy a book,' said I, 'with a good scheme of this art in it;
I'll work at it at the Commons, where I haven't half enough to do;
I'll take down the speeches in our court for practice - Traddles,
my dear fellow, I'll master it!'
'Dear me,' said Traddles, opening his eyes, 'I had no idea you were
such a determined character, Copperfield!'
I don't know how he should have had, for it was new enough to me.
I passed that off, and brought Mr. Dick on the carpet.
'You see,' said Mr. Dick, wistfully, 'if I could exert myself, Mr.
Traddles - if I could beat a drum- or blow anything!'
Poor fellow! I have little doubt he would have preferred such an
employment in his heart to all others. Traddles, who would not
have smiled for the world, replied composedly:
'But you are a very good penman, sir. You told me so,
'Excellent!' said I. And indeed he was. He wrote with
'Don't you think,' said Traddles, 'you could copy writings, sir, if
I got them for you?'
Mr. Dick looked doubtfully at me. 'Eh, Trotwood?'
I shook my head. Mr. Dick shook his, and sighed. 'Tell him about
the Memorial,' said Mr. Dick.
I explained to Traddles that there was a difficulty in keeping King
Charles the First out of Mr. Dick's manuscripts; Mr. Dick in the
meanwhile looking very deferentially and seriously at Traddles, and
sucking his thumb.
'But these writings, you know, that I speak of, are already drawn
up and finished,' said Traddles after a little consideration. 'Mr.
Dick has nothing to do with them. Wouldn't that make a difference,
Copperfield? At all events, wouldn't it be well to try?'
This gave us new hope. Traddles and I laying our heads together
apart, while Mr. Dick anxiously watched us from his chair, we
concocted a scheme in virtue of which we got him to work next day,
with triumphant success.
On a table by the window in Buckingham Street, we set out the work
Traddles procured for him - which was to make, I forget how many
copies of a legal document about some right of way - and on another
table we spread the last unfinished original of the great Memorial.
Our instructions to Mr. Dick were that he should copy exactly what
he had before him, without the least departure from the original;
and that when he felt it necessary to make the slightest allusion
to King Charles the First, he should fly to the Memorial. We
exhorted him to be resolute in this, and left my aunt to observe
him. My aunt reported to us, afterwards, that, at first, he was
like a man playing the kettle-drums, and constantly divided his
attentions between the two; but that, finding this confuse and
fatigue him, and having his copy there, plainly before his eyes, he
soon sat at it in an orderly business-like manner, and postponed
the Memorial to a more convenient time. In a word, although we
took great care that he should have no more to do than was good for
him, and although he did not begin with the beginning of a week, he
earned by the following Saturday night ten shillings and
nine-pence; and never, while I live, shall I forget his going about
to all the shops in the neighbourhood to change this treasure into
sixpences, or his bringing them to my aunt arranged in the form of
a heart upon a waiter, with tears of joy and pride in his eyes. He
was like one under the propitious influence of a charm, from the
moment of his being usefully employed; and if there were a happy
man in the world, that Saturday night, it was the grateful creature
who thought my aunt the most wonderful woman in existence, and me
the most wonderful young man.
'No starving now, Trotwood,' said Mr. Dick, shaking hands with me
in a corner. 'I'll provide for her, Sir!' and he flourished his
ten fingers in the air, as if they were ten banks.
I hardly know which was the better pleased, Traddles or I. 'It
really,' said Traddles, suddenly, taking a letter out of his
pocket, and giving it to me, 'put Mr. Micawber quite out of my
The letter (Mr. Micawber never missed any possible opportunity of
writing a letter) was addressed to me, 'By the kindness of T.
Traddles, Esquire, of the Inner Temple.' It ran thus: -
'MY DEAR COPPERFIELD,
'You may possibly not be unprepared to receive the intimation that
something has turned up. I may have mentioned to you on a former
occasion that I was in expectation of such an event.
'I am about to establish myself in one of the provincial towns of
our favoured island (where the society may be described as a happy
admixture of the agricultural and the clerical), in immediate
connexion with one of the learned professions. Mrs. Micawber and
our offspring will accompany me. Our ashes, at a future period,
will probably be found commingled in the cemetery attached to a
venerable pile, for which the spot to which I refer has acquired a
reputation, shall I say from China to Peru?
'In bidding adieu to the modern Babylon, where we have undergone
many vicissitudes, I trust not ignobly, Mrs. Micawber and myself
cannot disguise from our minds that we part, it may be for years
and it may be for ever, with an individual linked by strong
associations to the altar of our domestic life. If, on the eve of
such a departure, you will accompany our mutual friend, Mr. Thomas
Traddles, to our present abode, and there reciprocate the wishes
natural to the occasion, you will confer a Boon
I was glad to find that Mr. Micawber had got rid of his dust and
ashes, and that something really had turned up at last. Learning
from Traddles that the invitation referred to the evening then
wearing away, I expressed my readiness to do honour to it; and we
went off together to the lodging which Mr. Micawber occupied as Mr.
Mortimer, and which was situated near the top of the Gray's Inn
The resources of this lodging were so limited, that we found the
twins, now some eight or nine years old, reposing in a turn-up
bedstead in the family sitting-room, where Mr. Micawber had
prepared, in a wash-hand-stand jug, what he called 'a Brew' of the
agreeable beverage for which he was famous. I had the pleasure, on
this occasion, of renewing the acquaintance of Master Micawber,
whom I found a promising boy of about twelve or thirteen, very
subject to that restlessness of limb which is not an unfrequent
phenomenon in youths of his age. I also became once more known to
his sister, Miss Micawber, in whom, as Mr. Micawber told us, 'her
mother renewed her youth, like the Phoenix'.
'My dear Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, 'yourself and Mr.
Traddles find us on the brink of migration, and will excuse any
little discomforts incidental to that position.'
Glancing round as I made a suitable reply, I observed that the
family effects were already packed, and that the amount of luggage
was by no means overwhelming. I congratulated Mrs. Micawber on the
'My dear Mr. Copperfield,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'of your friendly
interest in all our affairs, I am well assured. My family may
consider it banishment, if they please; but I am a wife and mother,
and I never will desert Mr. Micawber.'
Traddles, appealed to by Mrs. Micawber's eye, feelingly acquiesced.
'That,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'that, at least, is my view, my dear
Mr. Copperfield and Mr. Traddles, of the obligation which I took
upon myself when I repeated the irrevocable words, "I, Emma, take
thee, Wilkins." I read the service over with a flat-candle on the
previous night, and the conclusion I derived from it was, that I
never could desert Mr. Micawber. And,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'though
it is possible I may be mistaken in my view of the ceremony, I
'My dear,' said Mr. Micawber, a little impatiently, 'I am not
conscious that you are expected to do anything of the sort.'
'I am aware, my dear Mr. Copperfield,' pursued Mrs. Micawber, 'that
I am now about to cast my lot among strangers; and I am also aware
that the various members of my family, to whom Mr. Micawber has
written in the most gentlemanly terms, announcing that fact, have
not taken the least notice of Mr. Micawber's communication. Indeed
I may be superstitious,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'but it appears to me
that Mr. Micawber is destined never to receive any answers whatever
to the great majority of the communications he writes. I may
augur, from the silence of my family, that they object to the
resolution I have taken; but I should not allow myself to be
swerved from the path of duty, Mr. Copperfield, even by my papa and
mama, were they still living.'
I expressed my opinion that this was going in the right direction.
'It may be a sacrifice,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'to immure one's-self
in a Cathedral town; but surely, Mr. Copperfield, if it is a
sacrifice in me, it is much more a sacrifice in a man of Mr.
'Oh! You are going to a Cathedral town?' said I.
Mr. Micawber, who had been helping us all, out of the
wash-hand-stand jug, replied:
'To Canterbury. In fact, my dear Copperfield, I have entered into
arrangements, by virtue of which I stand pledged and contracted to
our friend Heep, to assist and serve him in the capacity of - and
to be - his confidential clerk.'
I stared at Mr. Micawber, who greatly enjoyed my surprise.
'I am bound to state to you,' he said, with an official air, 'that
the business habits, and the prudent suggestions, of Mrs. Micawber,
have in a great measure conduced to this result. The gauntlet, to
which Mrs. Micawber referred upon a former occasion, being thrown
down in the form of an advertisement, was taken up by my friend
Heep, and led to a mutual recognition. Of my friend Heep,' said
Mr. Micawber, 'who is a man of remarkable shrewdness, I desire to
speak with all possible respect. My friend Heep has not fixed the
positive remuneration at too high a figure, but he has made a great
deal, in the way of extrication from the pressure of pecuniary
difficulties, contingent on the value of my services; and on the
value of those services I pin my faith. Such address and
intelligence as I chance to possess,' said Mr. Micawber, boastfully
disparaging himself, with the old genteel air, 'will be devoted to
my friend Heep's service. I have already some acquaintance with
the law - as a defendant on civil process - and I shall immediately
apply myself to the Commentaries of one of the most eminent and
remarkable of our English jurists. I believe it is unnecessary to
add that I allude to Mr. justice Blackstone.'
These observations, and indeed the greater part of the observations
made that evening, were interrupted by Mrs. Micawber's discovering
that Master Micawber was sitting on his boots, or holding his head
on with both arms as if he felt it loose, or accidentally kicking
Traddles under the table, or shuffling his feet over one another,
or producing them at distances from himself apparently outrageous
to nature, or lying sideways with his hair among the wine-glasses,
or developing his restlessness of limb in some other form
incompatible with the general interests of society; and by Master
Micawber's receiving those discoveries in a resentful spirit. I
sat all the while, amazed by Mr. Micawber's disclosure, and
wondering what it meant; until Mrs. Micawber resumed the thread of
the discourse, and claimed my attention.
'What I particularly request Mr. Micawber to be careful of, is,'
said Mrs. Micawber, 'that he does not, my dear Mr. Copperfield, in
applying himself to this subordinate branch of the law, place it
out of his power to rise, ultimately, to the top of the tree. I am
convinced that Mr. Micawber, giving his mind to a profession so
adapted to his fertile resources, and his flow of language, must
distinguish himself. Now, for example, Mr. Traddles,' said Mrs.
Micawber, assuming a profound air, 'a judge, or even say a
Chancellor. Does an individual place himself beyond the pale of
those preferments by entering on such an office as Mr. Micawber has
'My dear,' observed Mr. Micawber - but glancing inquisitively at
Traddles, too; 'we have time enough before us, for the
consideration of those questions.'
'Micawber,' she returned, 'no! Your mistake in life is, that you
do not look forward far enough. You are bound, in justice to your
family, if not to yourself, to take in at a comprehensive glance
the extremest point in the horizon to which your abilities may lead
Mr. Micawber coughed, and drank his punch with an air of exceeding
satisfaction - still glancing at Traddles, as if he desired to have
'Why, the plain state of the case, Mrs. Micawber,' said Traddles,
mildly breaking the truth to her. 'I mean the real prosaic fact,
you know -'
'Just so,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'my dear Mr. Traddles, I wish to be
as prosaic and literal as possible on a subject of so much
'- Is,' said Traddles, 'that this branch of the law, even if Mr.
Micawber were a regular solicitor -'
'Exactly so,' returned Mrs. Micawber. ('Wilkins, you are
squinting, and will not be able to get your eyes back.')
'- Has nothing,' pursued Traddles, 'to do with that. Only a
barrister is eligible for such preferments; and Mr. Micawber could
not be a barrister, without being entered at an inn of court as a
student, for five years.'
'Do I follow you?' said Mrs. Micawber, with her most affable air of
business. 'Do I understand, my dear Mr. Traddles, that, at the
expiration of that period, Mr. Micawber would be eligible as a
Judge or Chancellor?'
'He would be ELIGIBLE,' returned Traddles, with a strong emphasis
on that word.
'Thank you,' said Mrs. Micawber. 'That is quite sufficient. If
such is the case, and Mr. Micawber forfeits no privilege by
entering on these duties, my anxiety is set at rest. I speak,'
said Mrs. Micawber, 'as a female, necessarily; but I have always
been of opinion that Mr. Micawber possesses what I have heard my
papa call, when I lived at home, the judicial mind; and I hope Mr.
Micawber is now entering on a field where that mind will develop
itself, and take a commanding station.'
I quite believe that Mr. Micawber saw himself, in his judicial
mind's eye, on the woolsack. He passed his hand complacently over
his bald head, and said with ostentatious resignation:
'My dear, we will not anticipate the decrees of fortune. If I am
reserved to wear a wig, I am at least prepared, externally,' in
allusion to his baldness, 'for that distinction. I do not,' said
Mr. Micawber, 'regret my hair, and I may have been deprived of it
for a specific purpose. I cannot say. It is my intention, my dear
Copperfield, to educate my son for the Church; I will not deny that
I should be happy, on his account, to attain to eminence.'
'For the Church?' said I, still pondering, between whiles, on Uriah
'Yes,' said Mr. Micawber. 'He has a remarkable head-voice, and
will commence as a chorister. Our residence at Canterbury, and our
local connexion, will, no doubt, enable him to take advantage of
any vacancy that may arise in the Cathedral corps.'
On looking at Master Micawber again, I saw that he had a certain
expression of face, as if his voice were behind his eyebrows; where
it presently appeared to be, on his singing us (as an alternative
between that and bed) 'The Wood-Pecker tapping'. After many
compliments on this performance, we fell into some general
conversation; and as I was too full of my desperate intentions to
keep my altered circumstances to myself, I made them known to Mr.
and Mrs. Micawber. I cannot express how extremely delighted they
both were, by the idea of my aunt's being in difficulties; and how
comfortable and friendly it made them.
When we were nearly come to the last round of the punch, I
addressed myself to Traddles, and reminded him that we must not
separate, without wishing our friends health, happiness, and
success in their new career. I begged Mr. Micawber to fill us
bumpers, and proposed the toast in due form: shaking hands with him
across the table, and kissing Mrs. Micawber, to commemorate that
eventful occasion. Traddles imitated me in the first particular,
but did not consider himself a sufficiently old friend to venture
on the second.
'My dear Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, rising with one of his
thumbs in each of his waistcoat pockets, 'the companion of my
youth: if I may be allowed the expression - and my esteemed friend
Traddles: if I may be permitted to call him so - will allow me, on
the part of Mrs. Micawber, myself, and our offspring, to thank them
in the warmest and most uncompromising terms for their good wishes.
It may be expected that on the eve of a migration which will
consign us to a perfectly new existence,' Mr. Micawber spoke as if
they were going five hundred thousand miles, 'I should offer a few
valedictory remarks to two such friends as I see before me. But
all that I have to say in this way, I have said. Whatever station
in society I may attain, through the medium of the learned
profession of which I am about to become an unworthy member, I
shall endeavour not to disgrace, and Mrs. Micawber will be safe to
adorn. Under the temporary pressure of pecuniary liabilities,
contracted with a view to their immediate liquidation, but
remaining unliquidated through a combination of circumstances, I
have been under the necessity of assuming a garb from which my
natural instincts recoil - I allude to spectacles - and possessing
myself of a cognomen, to which I can establish no legitimate
pretensions. All I have to say on that score is, that the cloud
has passed from the dreary scene, and the God of Day is once more
high upon the mountain tops. On Monday next, on the arrival of the
four o'clock afternoon coach at Canterbury, my foot will be on my
native heath - my name, Micawber!'
Mr. Micawber resumed his seat on the close of these remarks, and
drank two glasses of punch in grave succession. He then said with
'One thing more I have to do, before this separation is complete,
and that is to perform an act of justice. My friend Mr. Thomas
Traddles has, on two several occasions, "put his name", if I may
use a common expression, to bills of exchange for my accommodation.
On the first occasion Mr. Thomas Traddles was left - let me say, in
short, in the lurch. The fulfilment of the second has not yet
arrived. The amount of the first obligation,' here Mr. Micawber
carefully referred to papers, 'was, I believe, twenty-three, four,
nine and a half, of the second, according to my entry of that
transaction, eighteen, six, two. These sums, united, make a total,
if my calculation is correct, amounting to forty-one, ten, eleven
and a half. My friend Copperfield will perhaps do me the favour to
check that total?'
I did so and found it correct.
'To leave this metropolis,' said Mr. Micawber, 'and my friend Mr.
Thomas Traddles, without acquitting myself of the pecuniary part of
this obligation, would weigh upon my mind to an insupportable
extent. I have, therefore, prepared for my friend Mr. Thomas
Traddles, and I now hold in my hand, a document, which accomplishes
the desired object. I beg to hand to my friend Mr. Thomas Traddles
my I.O.U. for forty-one, ten, eleven and a half, and I am happy to
recover my moral dignity, and to know that I can once more walk
erect before my fellow man!'
With this introduction (which greatly affected him), Mr. Micawber
placed his I.O.U. in the hands of Traddles, and said he wished him
well in every relation of life. I am persuaded, not only that this
was quite the same to Mr. Micawber as paying the money, but that
Traddles himself hardly knew the difference until he had had time
to think about it.
Mr. Micawber walked so erect before his fellow man, on the strength
of this virtuous action, that his chest looked half as broad again
when he lighted us downstairs. We parted with great heartiness on
both sides; and when I had seen Traddles to his own door, and was
going home alone, I thought, among the other odd and contradictory
things I mused upon, that, slippery as Mr. Micawber was, I was
probably indebted to some compassionate recollection he retained of
me as his boy-lodger, for never having been asked by him for money.
I certainly should not have had the moral courage to refuse it; and
I have no doubt he knew that (to his credit be it written), quite
as well as I did.
A LITTLE COLD WATER
My new life had lasted for more than a week, and I was stronger
than ever in those tremendous practical resolutions that I felt the
crisis required. I continued to walk extremely fast, and to have
a general idea that I was getting on. I made it a rule to take as
much out of myself as I possibly could, in my way of doing
everything to which I applied my energies. I made a perfect victim
of myself. I even entertained some idea of putting myself on a
vegetable diet, vaguely conceiving that, in becoming a
graminivorous animal, I should sacrifice to Dora.
As yet, little Dora was quite unconscious of my desperate firmness,
otherwise than as my letters darkly shadowed it forth. But another
Saturday came, and on that Saturday evening she was to be at Miss
Mills's; and when Mr. Mills had gone to his whist-club (telegraphed
to me in the street, by a bird-cage in the drawing-room middle
window), I was to go there to tea.
By this time, we were quite settled down in Buckingham Street,
where Mr. Dick continued his copying in a state of absolute
felicity. My aunt had obtained a signal victory over Mrs. Crupp,
by paying her off, throwing the first pitcher she planted on the
stairs out of window, and protecting in person, up and down the
staircase, a supernumerary whom she engaged from the outer world.
These vigorous measures struck such terror to the breast of Mrs.
Crupp, that she subsided into her own kitchen, under the impression
that my aunt was mad. My aunt being supremely indifferent to Mrs.
Crupp's opinion and everybody else's, and rather favouring than
discouraging the idea, Mrs. Crupp, of late the bold, became within
a few days so faint-hearted, that rather than encounter my aunt
upon the staircase, she would endeavour to hide her portly form
behind doors - leaving visible, however, a wide margin of flannel
petticoat - or would shrink into dark corners. This gave my aunt
such unspeakable satisfaction, that I believe she took a delight in
prowling up and down, with her bonnet insanely perched on the top
of her head, at times when Mrs. Crupp was likely to be in the way.
My aunt, being uncommonly neat and ingenious, made so many little
improvements in our domestic arrangements, that I seemed to be
richer instead of poorer. Among the rest, she converted the pantry
into a dressing-room for me; and purchased and embellished a
bedstead for my occupation, which looked as like a bookcase in the
daytime as a bedstead could. I was the object of her constant
solicitude; and my poor mother herself could not have loved me
better, or studied more how to make me happy.
Peggotty had considered herself highly privileged in being allowed
to participate in these labours; and, although she still retained
something of her old sentiment of awe in reference to my aunt, had
received so many marks of encouragement and confidence, that they
were the best friends possible. But the time had now come (I am
speaking of the Saturday when I was to take tea at Miss Mills's)
when it was necessary for her to return home, and enter on the
discharge of the duties she had undertaken in behalf of Ham. 'So
good-bye, Barkis,' said my aunt, 'and take care of yourself! I am
sure I never thought I could be sorry to lose you!'
I took Peggotty to the coach office and saw her off. She cried at
parting, and confided her brother to my friendship as Ham had done.
We had heard nothing of him since he went away, that sunny
'And now, my own dear Davy,' said Peggotty, 'if, while you're a
prentice, you should want any money to spend; or if, when you're
out of your time, my dear, you should want any to set you up (and
you must do one or other, or both, my darling); who has such a good
right to ask leave to lend it you, as my sweet girl's own old
I was not so savagely independent as to say anything in reply, but
that if ever I borrowed money of anyone, I would borrow it of her.
Next to accepting a large sum on the spot, I believe this gave
Peggotty more comfort than anything I could have done.
'And, my dear!' whispered Peggotty, 'tell the pretty little angel
that I should so have liked to see her, only for a minute! And
tell her that before she marries my boy, I'll come and make your
house so beautiful for you, if you'll let me!'
I declared that nobody else should touch it; and this gave Peggotty
such delight that she went away in good spirits.
I fatigued myself as much as I possibly could in the Commons all
day, by a variety of devices, and at the appointed time in the
evening repaired to Mr. Mills's street. Mr. Mills, who was a
terrible fellow to fall asleep after dinner, had not yet gone out,
and there was no bird-cage in the middle window.
He kept me waiting so long, that I fervently hoped the Club would
fine him for being late. At last he came out; and then I saw my
own Dora hang up the bird-cage, and peep into the balcony to look
for me, and run in again when she saw I was there, while Jip
remained behind, to bark injuriously at an immense butcher's dog in
the street, who could have taken him like a pill.
Dora came to the drawing-room door to meet me; and Jip came
scrambling out, tumbling over his own growls, under the impression
that I was a Bandit; and we all three went in, as happy and loving
as could be. I soon carried desolation into the bosom of our joys
- not that I meant to do it, but that I was so full of the subject
- by asking Dora, without the smallest preparation, if she could
love a beggar?
My pretty, little, startled Dora! Her only association with the
word was a yellow face and a nightcap, or a pair of crutches, or a
wooden leg, or a dog with a decanter-stand in his mouth, or
something of that kind; and she stared at me with the most
'How can you ask me anything so foolish?' pouted Dora. 'Love a
'Dora, my own dearest!' said I. 'I am a beggar!'
'How can you be such a silly thing,' replied Dora, slapping my
hand, 'as to sit there, telling such stories? I'll make Jip bite
Her childish way was the most delicious way in the world to me, but
it was necessary to be explicit, and I solemnly repeated:
'Dora, my own life, I am your ruined David!'
'I declare I'll make Jip bite you!' said Dora, shaking her curls,
'if you are so ridiculous.'
But I looked so serious, that Dora left off shaking her curls, and
laid her trembling little hand upon my shoulder, and first looked
scared and anxious, then began to cry. That was dreadful. I fell
upon my knees before the sofa, caressing her, and imploring her not
to rend my heart; but, for some time, poor little Dora did nothing
but exclaim Oh dear! Oh dear! And oh, she was so frightened! And
where was Julia Mills! And oh, take her to Julia Mills, and go
away, please! until I was almost beside myself.
At last, after an agony of supplication and protestation, I got
Dora to look at me, with a horrified expression of face, which I
gradually soothed until it was only loving, and her soft, pretty
cheek was lying against mine. Then I told her, with my arms
clasped round her, how I loved her, so dearly, and so dearly; how
I felt it right to offer to release her from her engagement,
because now I was poor; how I never could bear it, or recover it,
if I lost her; how I had no fears of poverty, if she had none, my
arm being nerved and my heart inspired by her; how I was already
working with a courage such as none but lovers knew; how I had
begun to be practical, and look into the future; how a crust well
earned was sweeter far than a feast inherited; and much more to the
same purpose, which I delivered in a burst of passionate eloquence
quite surprising to myself, though I had been thinking about it,
day and night, ever since my aunt had astonished me.
'Is your heart mine still, dear Dora?' said I, rapturously, for I
knew by her clinging to me that it was.
'Oh, yes!' cried Dora. 'Oh, yes, it's all yours. Oh, don't be
I dreadful! To Dora!
'Don't talk about being poor, and working hard!' said Dora,
nestling closer to me. 'Oh, don't, don't!'
'My dearest love,' said I, 'the crust well-earned -'
'Oh, yes; but I don't want to hear any more about crusts!' said
Dora. 'And Jip must have a mutton-chop every day at twelve, or
I was charmed with her childish, winning way. I fondly explained
to Dora that Jip should have his mutton-chop with his accustomed
regularity. I drew a picture of our frugal home, made independent
by my labour - sketching in the little house I had seen at
Highgate, and my aunt in her room upstairs.
'I am not dreadful now, Dora?' said I, tenderly.
'Oh, no, no!' cried Dora. 'But I hope your aunt will keep in her
own room a good deal. And I hope she's not a scolding old thing!'
If it were possible for me to love Dora more than ever, I am sure
I did. But I felt she was a little impracticable. It damped my
new-born ardour, to find that ardour so difficult of communication
to her. I made another trial. When she was quite herself again,
and was curling Jip's ears, as he lay upon her lap, I became grave,
'My own! May I mention something?'
'Oh, please don't be practical!' said Dora, coaxingly. 'Because it
frightens me so!'
'Sweetheart!' I returned; 'there is nothing to alarm you in all
this. I want you to think of it quite differently. I want to make
it nerve you, and inspire you, Dora!'
'Oh, but that's so shocking!' cried Dora.
'My love, no. Perseverance and strength of character will enable
us to bear much worse things.'
'But I haven't got any strength at all,' said Dora, shaking her
curls. 'Have I, Jip? Oh, do kiss Jip, and be agreeable!'
It was impossible to resist kissing Jip, when she held him up to me
for that purpose, putting her own bright, rosy little mouth into
kissing form, as she directed the operation, which she insisted
should be performed symmetrically, on the centre of his nose. I
did as she bade me - rewarding myself afterwards for my obedience
- and she charmed me out of my graver character for I don't know
'But, Dora, my beloved!' said I, at last resuming it; 'I was going
to mention something.'
The judge of the Prerogative Court might have fallen in love with
her, to see her fold her little hands and hold them up, begging and
praying me not to be dreadful any more.
'Indeed I am not going to be, my darling!' I assured her. 'But,
Dora, my love, if you will sometimes think, - not despondingly, you
know; far from that! - but if you will sometimes think - just to
encourage yourself - that you are engaged to a poor man -'
'Don't, don't! Pray don't!' cried Dora. 'It's so very dreadful!'
'My soul, not at all!' said I, cheerfully. 'If you will sometimes
think of that, and look about now and then at your papa's
housekeeping, and endeavour to acquire a little habit - of
accounts, for instance -'
Poor little Dora received this suggestion with something that was
half a sob and half a scream.
'- It would be so useful to us afterwards,' I went on. 'And if you
would promise me to read a little - a little Cookery Book that I
would send you, it would be so excellent for both of us. For our
path in life, my Dora,' said I, warming with the subject, 'is stony
and rugged now, and it rests with us to smooth it. We must fight
our way onward. We must be brave. There are obstacles to be met,
and we must meet, and crush them!'
I was going on at a great rate, with a clenched hand, and a most
enthusiastic countenance; but it was quite unnecessary to proceed.
I had said enough. I had done it again. Oh, she was so
frightened! Oh, where was Julia Mills! Oh, take her to Julia
Mills, and go away, please! So that, in short, I was quite
distracted, and raved about the drawing-room.
I thought I had killed her, this time. I sprinkled water on her
face. I went down on my knees. I plucked at my hair. I denounced
myself as a remorseless brute and a ruthless beast. I implored her
forgiveness. I besought her to look up. I ravaged Miss Mills's
work-box for a smelling-bottle, and in my agony of mind applied an
ivory needle-case instead, and dropped all the needles over Dora.
I shook my fists at Jip, who was as frantic as myself. I did every
wild extravagance that could be done, and was a long way beyond the
end of my wits when Miss Mills came into the room.
'Who has done this?' exclaimed Miss Mills, succouring her friend.
I replied, 'I, Miss Mills! I have done it! Behold the destroyer!'
- or words to that effect - and hid my face from the light, in the
At first Miss Mills thought it was a quarrel, and that we were
verging on the Desert of Sahara; but she soon found out how matters
stood, for my dear affectionate little Dora, embracing her, began
exclaiming that I was 'a poor labourer'; and then cried for me, and
embraced me, and asked me would I let her give me all her money to
keep, and then fell on Miss Mills's neck, sobbing as if her tender
heart were broken.
Miss Mills must have been born to be a blessing to us. She
ascertained from me in a few words what it was all about, comforted
Dora, and gradually convinced her that I was not a labourer - from
my manner of stating the case I believe Dora concluded that I was
a navigator, and went balancing myself up and down a plank all day
with a wheelbarrow - and so brought us together in peace. When we
were quite composed, and Dora had gone up-stairs to put some
rose-water to her eyes, Miss Mills rang for tea. In the ensuing
interval, I told Miss Mills that she was evermore my friend, and
that my heart must cease to vibrate ere I could forget her
I then expounded to Miss Mills what I had endeavoured, so very
unsuccessfully, to expound to Dora. Miss Mills replied, on general
principles, that the Cottage of content was better than the Palace
of cold splendour, and that where love was, all was.
I said to Miss Mills that this was very true, and who should know
it better than I, who loved Dora with a love that never mortal had
experienced yet? But on Miss Mills observing, with despondency,
that it were well indeed for some hearts if this were so, I
explained that I begged leave to restrict the observation to
mortals of the masculine gender.
I then put it to Miss Mills, to say whether she considered that
there was or was not any practical merit in the suggestion I had
been anxious to make, concerning the accounts, the housekeeping,
and the Cookery Book?
Miss Mills, after some consideration, thus replied:
'Mr. Copperfield, I will be plain with you. Mental suffering and
trial supply, in some natures, the place of years, and I will be as
plain with you as if I were a Lady Abbess. No. The suggestion is
not appropriate to our Dora. Our dearest Dora is a favourite child
of nature. She is a thing of light, and airiness, and joy. I am
free to confess that if it could be done, it might be well, but -'
And Miss Mills shook her head.
I was encouraged by this closing admission on the part of Miss
Mills to ask her, whether, for Dora's sake, if she had any
opportunity of luring her attention to such preparations for an
earnest life, she would avail herself of it? Miss Mills replied in
the affirmative so readily, that I further asked her if she would
take charge of the Cookery Book; and, if she ever could insinuate
it upon Dora's acceptance, without frightening her, undertake to do
me that crowning service. Miss Mills accepted this trust, too; but
was not sanguine.
And Dora returned, looking such a lovely little creature, that I
really doubted whether she ought to be troubled with anything so
ordinary. And she loved me so much, and was so captivating
(particularly when she made Jip stand on his hind legs for toast,
and when she pretended to hold that nose of his against the hot
teapot for punishment because he wouldn't), that I felt like a sort
of Monster who had got into a Fairy's bower, when I thought of
having frightened her, and made her cry.
After tea we had the guitar; and Dora sang those same dear old
French songs about the impossibility of ever on any account leaving
off dancing, La ra la, La ra la, until I felt a much greater
Monster than before.
We had only one check to our pleasure, and that happened a little
while before I took my leave, when, Miss Mills chancing to make
some allusion to tomorrow morning, I unluckily let out that, being
obliged to exert myself now, I got up at five o'clock. Whether
Dora had any idea that I was a Private Watchman, I am unable to
say; but it made a great impression on her, and she neither played
nor sang any more.
It was still on her mind when I bade her adieu; and she said to me,
in her pretty coaxing way - as if I were a doll, I used to think:
'Now don't get up at five o'clock, you naughty boy. It's so
'My love,' said I, 'I have work to do.'
'But don't do it!' returned Dora. 'Why should you?'
It was impossible to say to that sweet little surprised face,
otherwise than lightly and playfully, that we must work to live.
'Oh! How ridiculous!' cried Dora.
'How shall we live without, Dora?' said I.
'How? Any how!' said Dora.
She seemed to think she had quite settled the question, and gave me
such a triumphant little kiss, direct from her innocent heart, that
I would hardly have put her out of conceit with her answer, for a
Well! I loved her, and I went on loving her, most absorbingly,
entirely, and completely. But going on, too, working pretty hard,
and busily keeping red-hot all the irons I now had in the fire, I
would sit sometimes of a night, opposite my aunt, thinking how I
had frightened Dora that time, and how I could best make my way
with a guitar-case through the forest of difficulty, until I used
to fancy that my head was turning quite grey.
A DISSOLUTION OF PARTNERSHIP
I did not allow my resolution, with respect to the Parliamentary
Debates, to cool. It was one of the irons I began to heat
immediately, and one of the irons I kept hot, and hammered at, with
a perseverance I may honestly admire. I bought an approved scheme
of the noble art and mystery of stenography (which cost me ten and
sixpence); and plunged into a sea of perplexity that brought me, in
a few weeks, to the confines of distraction. The changes that were
rung upon dots, which in such a position meant such a thing, and in
such another position something else, entirely different; the
wonderful vagaries that were played by circles; the unaccountable
consequences that resulted from marks like flies' legs; the
tremendous effects of a curve in a wrong place; not only troubled
my waking hours, but reappeared before me in my sleep. When I had
groped my way, blindly, through these difficulties, and had
mastered the alphabet, which was an Egyptian Temple in itself,
there then appeared a procession of new horrors, called arbitrary
characters; the most despotic characters I have ever known; who
insisted, for instance, that a thing like the beginning of a
cobweb, meant expectation, and that a pen-and-ink sky-rocket, stood
for disadvantageous. When I had fixed these wretches in my mind,
I found that they had driven everything else out of it; then,
beginning again, I forgot them; while I was picking them up, I
dropped the other fragments of the system; in short, it was almost
It might have been quite heart-breaking, but for Dora, who was the
stay and anchor of my tempest-driven bark. Every scratch in the
scheme was a gnarled oak in the forest of difficulty, and I went on
cutting them down, one after another, with such vigour, that in
three or four months I was in a condition to make an experiment on
one of our crack speakers in the Commons. Shall I ever forget how
the crack speaker walked off from me before I began, and left my
imbecile pencil staggering about the paper as if it were in a fit!
This would not do, it was quite clear. I was flying too high, and
should never get on, so. I resorted to Traddles for advice; who
suggested that he should dictate speeches to me, at a pace, and
with occasional stoppages, adapted to my weakness. Very grateful
for this friendly aid, I accepted the proposal; and night after
night, almost every night, for a long time, we had a sort of
Private Parliament in Buckingham Street, after I came home from the
I should like to see such a Parliament anywhere else! My aunt and
Mr. Dick represented the Government or the Opposition (as the case
might be), and Traddles, with the assistance of Enfield's Speakers,
or a volume of parliamentary orations, thundered astonishing
invectives against them. Standing by the table, with his finger in
the page to keep the place, and his right arm flourishing above his
head, Traddles, as Mr. Pitt, Mr. Fox, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Burke, Lord
Castlereagh, Viscount Sidmouth, or Mr. Canning, would work himself
into the most violent heats, and deliver the most withering
denunciations of the profligacy and corruption of my aunt and Mr.
Dick; while I used to sit, at a little distance, with my notebook
on my knee, fagging after him with all my might and main. The
inconsistency and recklessness of Traddles were not to be exceeded
by any real politician. He was for any description of policy, in
the compass of a week; and nailed all sorts of colours to every
denomination of mast. My aunt, looking very like an immovable
Chancellor of the Exchequer, would occasionally throw in an
interruption or two, as 'Hear!' or 'No!' or 'Oh!' when the text
seemed to require it: which was always a signal to Mr. Dick (a
perfect country gentleman) to follow lustily with the same cry.
But Mr. Dick got taxed with such things in the course of his
Parliamentary career, and was made responsible for such awful
consequences, that he became uncomfortable in his mind sometimes.
I believe he actually began to be afraid he really had been doing
something, tending to the annihilation of the British constitution,
and the ruin of the country.
Often and often we pursued these debates until the clock pointed to
midnight, and the candles were burning down. The result of so much
good practice was, that by and by I began to keep pace with
Traddles pretty well, and should have been quite triumphant if I
had had the least idea what my notes were about. But, as to
reading them after I had got them, I might as well have copied the
Chinese inscriptions of an immense collection of tea-chests, or the
golden characters on all the great red and green bottles in the
There was nothing for it, but to turn back and begin all over
again. It was very hard, but I turned back, though with a heavy
heart, and began laboriously and methodically to plod over the same
tedious ground at a snail's pace; stopping to examine minutely
every speck in the way, on all sides, and making the most desperate
efforts to know these elusive characters by sight wherever I met
them. I was always punctual at the office; at the Doctor's too:
and I really did work, as the common expression is, like a
One day, when I went to the Commons as usual, I found Mr. Spenlow
in the doorway looking extremely grave, and talking to himself. As
he was in the habit of complaining of pains in his head - he had
naturally a short throat, and I do seriously believe he
over-starched himself - I was at first alarmed by the idea that he
was not quite right in that direction; but he soon relieved my
Instead of returning my 'Good morning' with his usual affability,
he looked at me in a distant, ceremonious manner, and coldly
requested me to accompany him to a certain coffee-house, which, in
those days, had a door opening into the Commons, just within the
little archway in St. Paul's Churchyard. I complied, in a very
uncomfortable state, and with a warm shooting all over me, as if my
apprehensions were breaking out into buds. When I allowed him to
go on a little before, on account of the narrowness of the way, I
observed that he carried his head with a lofty air that was
particularly unpromising; and my mind misgave me that he had found
out about my darling Dora.
If I had not guessed this, on the way to the coffee-house, I could
hardly have failed to know what was the matter when I followed him
into an upstairs room, and found Miss Murdstone there, supported by
a background of sideboard, on which were several inverted tumblers
sustaining lemons, and two of those extraordinary boxes, all
corners and flutings, for sticking knives and forks in, which,
happily for mankind, are now obsolete.
Miss Murdstone gave me her chilly finger-nails, and sat severely
rigid. Mr. Spenlow shut the door, motioned me to a chair, and
stood on the hearth-rug in front of the fireplace.
'Have the goodness to show Mr. Copperfield,' said Mr. Spenlow, what
you have in your reticule, Miss Murdstone.'
I believe it was the old identical steel-clasped reticule of my
childhood, that shut up like a bite. Compressing her lips, in
sympathy with the snap, Miss Murdstone opened it - opening her
mouth a little at the same time - and produced my last letter to
Dora, teeming with expressions of devoted affection.
'I believe that is your writing, Mr. Copperfield?' said Mr.
I was very hot, and the voice I heard was very unlike mine, when I
said, 'It is, sir!'
'If I am not mistaken,' said Mr. Spenlow, as Miss Murdstone brought
a parcel of letters out of her reticule, tied round with the
dearest bit of blue ribbon, 'those are also from your pen, Mr.
I took them from her with a most desolate sensation; and, glancing
at such phrases at the top, as 'My ever dearest and own Dora,' 'My
best beloved angel,' 'My blessed one for ever,' and the like,
blushed deeply, and inclined my head.
'No, thank you!' said Mr. Spenlow, coldly, as I mechanically
offered them back to him. 'I will not deprive you of them. Miss
Murdstone, be so good as to proceed!'
That gentle creature, after a moment's thoughtful survey of the
carpet, delivered herself with much dry unction as follows.
'I must confess to having entertained my suspicions of Miss
Spenlow, in reference to David Copperfield, for some time. I
observed Miss Spenlow and David Copperfield, when they first met;
and the impression made upon me then was not agreeable. The
depravity of the human heart is such -'
'You will oblige me, ma'am,' interrupted Mr. Spenlow, 'by confining
yourself to facts.'
Miss Murdstone cast down her eyes, shook her head as if protesting
against this unseemly interruption, and with frowning dignity
'Since I am to confine myself to facts, I will state them as dryly
as I can. Perhaps that will be considered an acceptable course of
proceeding. I have already said, sir, that I have had my
suspicions of Miss Spenlow, in reference to David Copperfield, for
some time. I have frequently endeavoured to find decisive
corroboration of those suspicions, but without effect. I have
therefore forborne to mention them to Miss Spenlow's father';
looking severely at him- 'knowing how little disposition there
usually is in such cases, to acknowledge the conscientious
discharge of duty.'
Mr. Spenlow seemed quite cowed by the gentlemanly sternness of Miss
Murdstone's manner, and deprecated her severity with a conciliatory
little wave of his hand.
'On my return to Norwood, after the period of absence occasioned by
my brother's marriage,' pursued Miss Murdstone in a disdainful
voice, 'and on the return of Miss Spenlow from her visit to her
friend Miss Mills, I imagined that the manner of Miss Spenlow gave
me greater occasion for suspicion than before. Therefore I watched
Miss Spenlow closely.'
Dear, tender little Dora, so unconscious of this Dragon's eye!
'Still,' resumed Miss Murdstone, 'I found no proof until last
night. It appeared to me that Miss Spenlow received too many
letters from her friend Miss Mills; but Miss Mills being her friend
with her father's full concurrence,' another telling blow at Mr.
Spenlow, 'it was not for me to interfere. If I may not be
permitted to allude to the natural depravity of the human heart, at
least I may - I must - be permitted, so far to refer to misplaced
Mr. Spenlow apologetically murmured his assent.
'Last evening after tea,' pursued Miss Murdstone, 'I observed the
little dog starting, rolling, and growling about the drawing-room,
worrying something. I said to Miss Spenlow, "Dora, what is that
the dog has in his mouth? It's paper." Miss Spenlow immediately
put her hand to her frock, gave a sudden cry, and ran to the dog.
I interposed, and said, "Dora, my love, you must permit me." '
Oh Jip, miserable Spaniel, this wretchedness, then, was your work!
'Miss Spenlow endeavoured,' said Miss Murdstone, 'to bribe me with
kisses, work-boxes, and small articles of jewellery - that, of
course, I pass over. The little dog retreated under the sofa on my
approaching him, and was with great difficulty dislodged by the
fire-irons. Even when dislodged, he still kept the letter in his
mouth; and on my endeavouring to take it from him, at the imminent
risk of being bitten, he kept it between his teeth so
pertinaciously as to suffer himself to be held suspended in the air
by means of the document. At length I obtained possession of it.
After perusing it, I taxed Miss Spenlow with having many such
letters in her possession; and ultimately obtained from her the
packet which is now in David Copperfield's hand.'
Here she ceased; and snapping her reticule again, and shutting her
mouth, looked as if she might be broken, but could never be bent.
'You have heard Miss Murdstone,' said Mr. Spenlow, turning to me.
'I beg to ask, Mr. Copperfield, if you have anything to say in
The picture I had before me, of the beautiful little treasure of my
heart, sobbing and crying all night - of her being alone,
frightened, and wretched, then - of her having so piteously begged
and prayed that stony-hearted woman to forgive her - of her having
vainly offered her those kisses, work-boxes, and trinkets - of her
being in such grievous distress, and all for me - very much
impaired the little dignity I had been able to muster. I am afraid
I was in a tremulous state for a minute or so, though I did my best
to disguise it.
'There is nothing I can say, sir,' I returned, 'except that all the
blame is mine. Dora -'
'Miss Spenlow, if you please,' said her father, majestically.
'- was induced and persuaded by me,' I went on, swallowing that
colder designation, 'to consent to this concealment, and I bitterly
'You are very much to blame, sir,' said Mr. Spenlow, walking to and
fro upon the hearth-rug, and emphasizing what he said with his
whole body instead of his head, on account of the stiffness of his
cravat and spine. 'You have done a stealthy and unbecoming action,
Mr. Copperfield. When I take a gentleman to my house, no matter
whether he is nineteen, twenty-nine, or ninety, I take him there in
a spirit of confidence. If he abuses my confidence, he commits a
dishonourable action, Mr. Copperfield.'
'I feel it, sir, I assure you,' I returned. 'But I never thought
so, before. Sincerely, honestly, indeed, Mr. Spenlow, I never
thought so, before. I love Miss Spenlow to that extent -'
'Pooh! nonsense!' said Mr. Spenlow, reddening. 'Pray don't tell me
to my face that you love my daughter, Mr. Copperfield!'
'Could I defend my conduct if I did not, sir?' I returned, with all
'Can you defend your conduct if you do, sir?' said Mr. Spenlow,
stopping short upon the hearth-rug. 'Have you considered your
years, and my daughter's years, Mr. Copperfield? Have you
considered what it is to undermine the confidence that should
subsist between my daughter and myself? Have you considered my
daughter's station in life, the projects I may contemplate for her
advancement, the testamentary intentions I may have with reference
to her? Have you considered anything, Mr. Copperfield?'
'Very little, sir, I am afraid;' I answered, speaking to him as
respectfully and sorrowfully as I felt; 'but pray believe me, I
have considered my own worldly position. When I explained it to
you, we were already engaged -'
'I BEG,' said Mr. Spenlow, more like Punch than I had ever seen
him, as he energetically struck one hand upon the other - I could
not help noticing that even in my despair; 'that YOU Will NOT talk
to me of engagements, Mr. Copperfield!'
The otherwise immovable Miss Murdstone laughed contemptuously in
one short syllable.
'When I explained my altered position to you, sir,' I began again,
substituting a new form of expression for what was so unpalatable
to him, 'this concealment, into which I am so unhappy as to have
led Miss Spenlow, had begun. Since I have been in that altered
position, I have strained every nerve, I have exerted every energy,
to improve it. I am sure I shall improve it in time. Will you
grant me time - any length of time? We are both so young, sir, -'
'You are right,' interrupted Mr. Spenlow, nodding his head a great
many times, and frowning very much, 'you are both very young. It's
all nonsense. Let there be an end of the nonsense. Take away
those letters, and throw them in the fire. Give me Miss Spenlow's
letters to throw in the fire; and although our future intercourse
must, you are aware, be restricted to the Commons here, we will
agree to make no further mention of the past. Come, Mr.
Copperfield, you don't want sense; and this is the sensible
No. I couldn't think of agreeing to it. I was very sorry, but
there was a higher consideration than sense. Love was above all
earthly considerations, and I loved Dora to idolatry, and Dora
loved me. I didn't exactly say so; I softened it down as much as
I could; but I implied it, and I was resolute upon it. I don't
think I made myself very ridiculous, but I know I was resolute.
'Very well, Mr. Copperfield,' said Mr. Spenlow, 'I must try my
influence with my daughter.'
Miss Murdstone, by an expressive sound, a long drawn respiration,
which was neither a sigh nor a moan, but was like both, gave it as
her opinion that he should have done this at first.
'I must try,' said Mr. Spenlow, confirmed by this support, 'my
influence with my daughter. Do you decline to take those letters,
Mr. Copperfield?' For I had laid them on the table.
Yes. I told him I hoped he would not think it wrong, but I
couldn't possibly take them from Miss Murdstone.
'Nor from me?' said Mr. Spenlow.
No, I replied with the profoundest respect; nor from him.
'Very well!' said Mr. Spenlow.
A silence succeeding, I was undecided whether to go or stay. At
length I was moving quietly towards the door, with the intention of
saying that perhaps I should consult his feelings best by
withdrawing: when he said, with his hands in his coat pockets, into
which it was as much as he could do to get them; and with what I
should call, upon the whole, a decidedly pious air:
'You are probably aware, Mr. Copperfield, that I am not altogether
destitute of worldly possessions, and that my daughter is my
nearest and dearest relative?'
I hurriedly made him a reply to the effect, that I hoped the error
into which I had been betrayed by the desperate nature of my love,
did not induce him to think me mercenary too?
'I don't allude to the matter in that light,' said Mr. Spenlow.
'It would be better for yourself, and all of us, if you WERE
mercenary, Mr. Copperfield - I mean, if you were more discreet and
less influenced by all this youthful nonsense. No. I merely say,
with quite another view, you are probably aware I have some
property to bequeath to my child?'
I certainly supposed so.
'And you can hardly think,' said Mr. Spenlow, 'having experience of
what we see, in the Commons here, every day, of the various
unaccountable and negligent proceedings of men, in respect of their
testamentary arrangements - of all subjects, the one on which
perhaps the strangest revelations of human inconsistency are to be
met with - but that mine are made?'
I inclined my head in acquiescence.
'I should not allow,' said Mr. Spenlow, with an evident increase of
pious sentiment, and slowly shaking his head as he poised himself
upon his toes and heels alternately, 'my suitable provision for my
child to be influenced by a piece of youthful folly like the
present. It is mere folly. Mere nonsense. In a little while, it
will weigh lighter than any feather. But I might - I might - if
this silly business were not completely relinquished altogether, be
induced in some anxious moment to guard her from, and surround her
with protections against, the consequences of any foolish step in
the way of marriage. Now, Mr. Copperfield, I hope that you will
not render it necessary for me to open, even for a quarter of an
hour, that closed page in the book of life, and unsettle, even for
a quarter of an hour, grave affairs long since composed.'
There was a serenity, a tranquillity, a calm sunset air about him,
which quite affected me. He was so peaceful and resigned - clearly
had his affairs in such perfect train, and so systematically wound
up - that he was a man to feel touched in the contemplation of. I
really think I saw tears rise to his eyes, from the depth of his
own feeling of all this.
But what could I do? I could not deny Dora and my own heart. When
he told me I had better take a week to consider of what he had
said, how could I say I wouldn't take a week, yet how could I fail
to know that no amount of weeks could influence such love as mine?
'In the meantime, confer with Miss Trotwood, or with any person
with any knowledge of life,' said Mr. Spenlow, adjusting his cravat
with both hands. 'Take a week, Mr. Copperfield.'
I submitted; and, with a countenance as expressive as I was able to
make it of dejected and despairing constancy, came out of the room.
Miss Murdstone's heavy eyebrows followed me to the door - I say her
eyebrows rather than her eyes, because they were much more
important in her face - and she looked so exactly as she used to
look, at about that hour of the morning, in our parlour at
Blunderstone, that I could have fancied I had been breaking down in
my lessons again, and that the dead weight on my mind was that
horrible old spelling-book, with oval woodcuts, shaped, to my
youthful fancy, like the glasses out of spectacles.
When I got to the office, and, shutting out old Tiffey and the rest
of them with my hands, sat at my desk, in my own particular nook,
thinking of this earthquake that had taken place so unexpectedly,
and in the bitterness of my spirit cursing Jip, I fell into such a
state of torment about Dora, that I wonder I did not take up my hat
and rush insanely to Norwood. The idea of their frightening her,
and making her cry, and of my not being there to comfort her, was
so excruciating, that it impelled me to write a wild letter to Mr.
Spenlow, beseeching him not to visit upon her the consequences of
my awful destiny. I implored him to spare her gentle nature - not
to crush a fragile flower - and addressed him generally, to the
best of my remembrance, as if, instead of being her father, he had
been an Ogre, or the Dragon of Wantley.3 This letter I sealed and
laid upon his desk before he returned; and when he came in, I saw
him, through the half-opened door of his room, take it up and read
He said nothing about it all the morning; but before he went away
in the afternoon he called me in, and told me that I need not make
myself at all uneasy about his daughter's happiness. He had
assured her, he said, that it was all nonsense; and he had nothing
more to say to her. He believed he was an indulgent father (as
indeed he was), and I might spare myself any solicitude on her
'You may make it necessary, if you are foolish or obstinate, Mr.
Copperfield,' he observed, 'for me to send my daughter abroad
again, for a term; but I have a better opinion of you. I hope you
will be wiser than that, in a few days. As to Miss Murdstone,' for
I had alluded to her in the letter, 'I respect that lady's
vigilance, and feel obliged to her; but she has strict charge to
avoid the subject. All I desire, Mr. Copperfield, is, that it
should be forgotten. All you have got to do, Mr. Copperfield, is
to forget it.'
All! In the note I wrote to Miss Mills, I bitterly quoted this
sentiment. All I had to do, I said, with gloomy sarcasm, was to
forget Dora. That was all, and what was that! I entreated Miss
Mills to see me, that evening. If it could not be done with Mr.
Mills's sanction and concurrence, I besought a clandestine
interview in the back kitchen where the Mangle was. I informed her
that my reason was tottering on its throne, and only she, Miss
Mills, could prevent its being deposed. I signed myself, hers
distractedly; and I couldn't help feeling, while I read this
composition over, before sending it by a porter, that it was
something in the style of Mr. Micawber.
However, I sent it. At night I repaired to Miss Mills's street,
and walked up and down, until I was stealthily fetched in by Miss
Mills's maid, and taken the area way to the back kitchen. I have
since seen reason to believe that there was nothing on earth to
prevent my going in at the front door, and being shown up into the
drawing-room, except Miss Mills's love of the romantic and
In the back kitchen, I raved as became me. I went there, I
suppose, to make a fool of myself, and I am quite sure I did it.
Miss Mills had received a hasty note from Dora, telling her that
all was discovered, and saying. 'Oh pray come to me, Julia, do,
do!' But Miss Mills, mistrusting the acceptability of her presence
to the higher powers, had not yet gone; and we were all benighted
in the Desert of Sahara.
Miss Mills had a wonderful flow of words, and liked to pour them
out. I could not help feeling, though she mingled her tears with
mine, that she had a dreadful luxury in our afflictions. She
petted them, as I may say, and made the most of them. A deep gulf,
she observed, had opened between Dora and me, and Love could only
span it with its rainbow. Love must suffer in this stern world; it
ever had been so, it ever would be so. No matter, Miss Mills
remarked. Hearts confined by cobwebs would burst at last, and then
Love was avenged.
This was small consolation, but Miss Mills wouldn't encourage
fallacious hopes. She made me much more wretched than I was
before, and I felt (and told her with the deepest gratitude) that
she was indeed a friend. We resolved that she should go to Dora
the first thing in the morning, and find some means of assuring
her, either by looks or words, of my devotion and misery. We
parted, overwhelmed with grief; and I think Miss Mills enjoyed
I confided all to my aunt when I got home; and in spite of all she
could say to me, went to bed despairing. I got up despairing, and
went out despairing. It was Saturday morning, and I went straight
to the Commons.
I was surprised, when I came within sight of our office-door, to
see the ticket-porters standing outside talking together, and some
half-dozen stragglers gazing at the windows which were shut up. I
quickened my pace, and, passing among them, wondering at their
looks, went hurriedly in.
The clerks were there, but nobody was doing anything. Old Tiffey,
for the first time in his life I should think, was sitting on
somebody else's stool, and had not hung up his hat.
'This is a dreadful calamity, Mr. Copperfield,' said he, as I
'What is?' I exclaimed. 'What's the matter?'
'Don't you know?' cried Tiffey, and all the rest of them, coming
'No!' said I, looking from face to face.
'Mr. Spenlow,' said Tiffey.
'What about him!'
I thought it was the office reeling, and not I, as one of the
clerks caught hold of me. They sat me down in a chair, untied my
neck-cloth, and brought me some water. I have no idea whether this
took any time.
'Dead?' said I.
'He dined in town yesterday, and drove down in the phaeton by
himself,' said Tiffey, 'having sent his own groom home by the
coach, as he sometimes did, you know -'
'The phaeton went home without him. The horses stopped at the
stable-gate. The man went out with a lantern. Nobody in the
'Had they run away?'
'They were not hot,' said Tiffey, putting on his glasses; 'no
hotter, I understand, than they would have been, going down at the
usual pace. The reins were broken, but they had been dragging on
the ground. The house was roused up directly, and three of them
went out along the road. They found him a mile off.'
'More than a mile off, Mr. Tiffey,' interposed a junior.
'Was it? I believe you are right,' said Tiffey, - 'more than a
mile off - not far from the church - lying partly on the roadside,
and partly on the path, upon his face. Whether he fell out in a
fit, or got out, feeling ill before the fit came on - or even
whether he was quite dead then, though there is no doubt he was
quite insensible - no one appears to know. If he breathed,
certainly he never spoke. Medical assistance was got as soon as
possible, but it was quite useless.'
I cannot describe the state of mind into which I was thrown by this
intelligence. The shock of such an event happening so suddenly,
and happening to one with whom I had been in any respect at
variance - the appalling vacancy in the room he had occupied so
lately, where his chair and table seemed to wait for him, and his
handwriting of yesterday was like a ghost - the in- definable
impossibility of separating him from the place, and feeling, when
the door opened, as if he might come in - the lazy hush and rest
there was in the office, and the insatiable relish with which our
people talked about it, and other people came in and out all day,
and gorged themselves with the subject - this is easily
intelligible to anyone. What I cannot describe is, how, in the
innermost recesses of my own heart, I had a lurking jealousy even
of Death. How I felt as if its might would push me from my ground
in Dora's thoughts. How I was, in a grudging way I have no words
for, envious of her grief. How it made me restless to think of her
weeping to others, or being consoled by others. How I had a
grasping, avaricious wish to shut out everybody from her but
myself, and to be all in all to her, at that unseasonable time of
In the trouble of this state of mind - not exclusively my own, I
hope, but known to others - I went down to Norwood that night; and
finding from one of the servants, when I made my inquiries at the
door, that Miss Mills was there, got my aunt to direct a letter to
her, which I wrote. I deplored the untimely death of Mr. Spenlow,
most sincerely, and shed tears in doing so. I entreated her to
tell Dora, if Dora were in a state to hear it, that he had spoken
to me with the utmost kindness and consideration; and had coupled
nothing but tenderness, not a single or reproachful word, with her
name. I know I did this selfishly, to have my name brought before
her; but I tried to believe it was an act of justice to his memory.
Perhaps I did believe it.
My aunt received a few lines next day in reply; addressed, outside,
to her; within, to me. Dora was overcome by grief; and when her
friend had asked her should she send her love to me, had only
cried, as she was always crying, 'Oh, dear papa! oh, poor papa!'
But she had not said No, and that I made the most of.
Mr. jorkins, who had been at Norwood since the occurrence, came to
the office a few days afterwards. He and Tiffey were closeted
together for some few moments, and then Tiffey looked out at the
door and beckoned me in.
'Oh!' said Mr. jorkins. 'Mr. Tiffey and myself, Mr. Copperfield,
are about to examine the desks, the drawers, and other such
repositories of the deceased, with the view of sealing up his
private papers, and searching for a Will. There is no trace of
any, elsewhere. It may be as well for you to assist us, if you
I had been in agony to obtain some knowledge of the circumstances
in which my Dora would be placed - as, in whose guardianship, and
so forth - and this was something towards it. We began the search
at once; Mr. jorkins unlocking the drawers and desks, and we all
taking out the papers. The office-papers we placed on one side,
and the private papers (which were not numerous) on the other. We
were very grave; and when we came to a stray seal, or pencil-case,
or ring, or any little article of that kind which we associated
personally with him, we spoke very low.
We had sealed up several packets; and were still going on dustily
and quietly, when Mr. jorkins said to us, applying exactly the same
words to his late partner as his late partner had applied to him:
'Mr. Spenlow was very difficult to move from the beaten track. You
know what he was! I am disposed to think he had made no will.'
'Oh, I know he had!' said I.
They both stopped and looked at me.
'On the very day when I last saw him,' said I, 'he told me that he
had, and that his affairs were long since settled.'
Mr. jorkins and old Tiffey shook their heads with one accord.
'That looks unpromising,' said Tiffey.
'Very unpromising,' said Mr. jorkins.
'Surely you don't doubt -' I began.
'My good Mr. Copperfield!' said Tiffey, laying his hand upon my
arm, and shutting up both his eyes as he shook his head: 'if you
had been in the Commons as long as I have, you would know that
there is no subject on which men are so inconsistent, and so little
to be trusted.'
'Why, bless my soul, he made that very remark!' I replied
'I should call that almost final,' observed Tiffey. 'My opinion is
- no will.'
It appeared a wonderful thing to me, but it turned out that there
was no will. He had never so much as thought of making one, so far
as his papers afforded any evidence; for there was no kind of hint,
sketch, or memorandum, of any testamentary intention whatever.
What was scarcely less astonishing to me, was, that his affairs
were in a most disordered state. It was extremely difficult, I
heard, to make out what he owed, or what he had paid, or of what he
died possessed. It was considered likely that for years he could
have had no clear opinion on these subjects himself. By little and
little it came out, that, in the competition on all points of
appearance and gentility then running high in the Commons, he had
spent more than his professional income, which was not a very large
one, and had reduced his private means, if they ever had been great
(which was exceedingly doubtful), to a very low ebb indeed. There
was a sale of the furniture and lease, at Norwood; and Tiffey told
me, little thinking how interested I was in the story, that, paying
all the just debts of the deceased, and deducting his share of
outstanding bad and doubtful debts due to the firm, he wouldn't
give a thousand pounds for all the assets remaining.
This was at the expiration of about six weeks. I had suffered
tortures all the time; and thought I really must have laid violent
hands upon myself, when Miss Mills still reported to me, that my
broken-hearted little Dora would say nothing, when I was mentioned,
but 'Oh, poor papa! Oh, dear papa!' Also, that she had no other
relations than two aunts, maiden sisters of Mr. Spenlow, who lived
at Putney, and who had not held any other than chance communication
with their brother for many years. Not that they had ever
quarrelled (Miss Mills informed me); but that having been, on the
occasion of Dora's christening, invited to tea, when they
considered themselves privileged to be invited to dinner, they had
expressed their opinion in writing, that it was 'better for the
happiness of all parties' that they should stay away. Since which
they had gone their road, and their brother had gone his.
These two ladies now emerged from their retirement, and proposed to
take Dora to live at Putney. Dora, clinging to them both, and
weeping, exclaimed, 'O yes, aunts! Please take Julia Mills and me
and Jip to Putney!' So they went, very soon after the funeral.
How I found time to haunt Putney, I am sure I don't know; but I
contrived, by some means or other, to prowl about the neighbourhood
pretty often. Miss Mills, for the more exact discharge of the
duties of friendship, kept a journal; and she used to meet me
sometimes, on the Common, and read it, or (if she had not time to
do that) lend it to me. How I treasured up the entries, of which
I subjoin a sample! -
'Monday. My sweet D. still much depressed. Headache. Called
attention to J. as being beautifully sleek. D. fondled J.
Associations thus awakened, opened floodgates of sorrow. Rush of
grief admitted. (Are tears the dewdrops of the heart? J. M.)
'Tuesday. D. weak and nervous. Beautiful in pallor. (Do we not
remark this in moon likewise? J. M.) D., J. M. and J. took airing
in carriage. J. looking out of window, and barking violently at
dustman, occasioned smile to overspread features of D. (Of such
slight links is chain of life composed! J. M.)
'Wednesday. D. comparatively cheerful. Sang to her, as congenial
melody, "Evening Bells". Effect not soothing, but reverse. D.
inexpressibly affected. Found sobbing afterwards, in own room.
Quoted verses respecting self and young Gazelle. Ineffectually.
Also referred to Patience on Monument. (Qy. Why on monument? J.
'Thursday. D. certainly improved. Better night. Slight tinge of
damask revisiting cheek. Resolved to mention name of D. C.
Introduced same, cautiously, in course of airing. D. immediately
overcome. "Oh, dear, dear Julia! Oh, I have been a naughty and
undutiful child!" Soothed and caressed. Drew ideal picture of D.
C. on verge of tomb. D. again overcome. "Oh, what shall I do,
what shall I do? Oh, take me somewhere!" Much alarmed. Fainting
of D. and glass of water from public-house. (Poetical affinity.
Chequered sign on door-post; chequered human life. Alas! J. M.)
'Friday. Day of incident. Man appears in kitchen, with blue bag,
"for lady's boots left out to heel". Cook replies, "No such
orders." Man argues point. Cook withdraws to inquire, leaving man
alone with J. On Cook's return, man still argues point, but
ultimately goes. J. missing. D. distracted. Information sent to
police. Man to be identified by broad nose, and legs like
balustrades of bridge. Search made in every direction. No J. D.
weeping bitterly, and inconsolable. Renewed reference to young
Gazelle. Appropriate, but unavailing. Towards evening, strange
boy calls. Brought into parlour. Broad nose, but no balustrades.
Says he wants a pound, and knows a dog. Declines to explain
further, though much pressed. Pound being produced by D. takes
Cook to little house, where J. alone tied up to leg of table. joy
of D. who dances round J. while he eats his supper. Emboldened by
this happy change, mention D. C. upstairs. D. weeps afresh, cries
piteously, "Oh, don't, don't, don't! It is so wicked to think of
anything but poor papa!" - embraces J. and sobs herself to sleep.
(Must not D. C. confine himself to the broad pinions of Time? J.
Miss Mills and her journal were my sole consolation at this period.
To see her, who had seen Dora but a little while before - to trace
the initial letter of Dora's name through her sympathetic pages -
to be made more and more miserable by her - were my only comforts.
I felt as if I had been living in a palace of cards, which had
tumbled down, leaving only Miss Mills and me among the ruins; I
felt as if some grim enchanter had drawn a magic circle round the
innocent goddess of my heart, which nothing indeed but those same
strong pinions, capable of carrying so many people over so much,
would enable me to enter!
WICKFIELD AND HEEP
My aunt, beginning, I imagine, to be made seriously uncomfortable
by my prolonged dejection, made a pretence of being anxious that I
should go to Dover, to see that all was working well at the
cottage, which was let; and to conclude an agreement, with the same
tenant, for a longer term of occupation. Janet was drafted into
the service of Mrs. Strong, where I saw her every day. She had
been undecided, on leaving Dover, whether or no to give the
finishing touch to that renunciation of mankind in which she had
been educated, by marrying a pilot; but she decided against that
venture. Not so much for the sake of principle, I believe, as
because she happened not to like him.
Although it required an effort to leave Miss Mills, I fell rather
willingly into my aunt's pretence, as a means of enabling me to
pass a few tranquil hours with Agnes. I consulted the good Doctor
relative to an absence of three days; and the Doctor wishing me to
take that relaxation, - he wished me to take more; but my energy
could not bear that, - I made up my mind to go.
As to the Commons, I had no great occasion to be particular about
my duties in that quarter. To say the truth, we were getting in no
very good odour among the tip-top proctors, and were rapidly
sliding down to but a doubtful position. The business had been
indifferent under Mr. jorkins, before Mr. Spenlow's time; and
although it had been quickened by the infusion of new blood, and by
the display which Mr. Spenlow made, still it was not established on
a sufficiently strong basis to bear, without being shaken, such a
blow as the sudden loss of its active manager. It fell off very
much. Mr. jorkins, notwithstanding his reputation in the firm, was
an easy-going, incapable sort of man, whose reputation out of doors
was not calculated to back it up. I was turned over to him now,
and when I saw him take his snuff and let the business go, I
regretted my aunt's thousand pounds more than ever.
But this was not the worst of it. There were a number of
hangers-on and outsiders about the Commons, who, without being
proctors themselves, dabbled in common-form business, and got it
done by real proctors, who lent their names in consideration of a
share in the spoil; - and there were a good many of these too. As
our house now wanted business on any terms, we joined this noble
band; and threw out lures to the hangers-on and outsiders, to bring
their business to us. Marriage licences and small probates were
what we all looked for, and what paid us best; and the competition
for these ran very high indeed. Kidnappers and inveiglers were
planted in all the avenues of entrance to the Commons, with
instructions to do their utmost to cut off all persons in mourning,
and all gentlemen with anything bashful in their appearance, and
entice them to the offices in which their respective employers were
interested; which instructions were so well observed, that I
myself, before I was known by sight, was twice hustled into the
premises of our principal opponent. The conflicting interests of
these touting gentlemen being of a nature to irritate their
feelings, personal collisions took place; and the Commons was even
scandalized by our principal inveigler (who had formerly been in
the wine trade, and afterwards in the sworn brokery line) walking
about for some days with a black eye. Any one of these scouts used
to think nothing of politely assisting an old lady in black out of
a vehicle, killing any proctor whom she inquired for, representing
his employer as the lawful successor and representative of that
proctor, and bearing the old lady off (sometimes greatly affected)
to his employer's office. Many captives were brought to me in this
way. As to marriage licences, the competition rose to such a
pitch, that a shy gentleman in want of one, had nothing to do but
submit himself to the first inveigler, or be fought for, and become
the prey of the strongest. One of our clerks, who was an outsider,
used, in the height of this contest, to sit with his hat on, that
he might be ready to rush out and swear before a surrogate any
victim who was brought in. The system of inveigling continues, I
believe, to this day. The last time I was in the Commons, a civil
able-bodied person in a white apron pounced out upon me from a
doorway, and whispering the word 'Marriage-licence' in my ear, was
with great difficulty prevented from taking me up in his arms and
lifting me into a proctor's. From this digression, let me proceed
I found everything in a satisfactory state at the cottage; and was
enabled to gratify my aunt exceedingly by reporting that the tenant
inherited her feud, and waged incessant war against donkeys.
Having settled the little business I had to transact there, and
slept there one night, I walked on to Canterbury early in the
morning. It was now winter again; and the fresh, cold windy day,
and the sweeping downland, brightened up my hopes a little.
Coming into Canterbury, I loitered through the old streets with a
sober pleasure that calmed my spirits, and eased my heart. There
were the old signs, the old names over the shops, the old people
serving in them. It appeared so long, since I had been a schoolboy
there, that I wondered the place was so little changed, until I
reflected how little I was changed myself. Strange to say, that
quiet influence which was inseparable in my mind from Agnes, seemed
to pervade even the city where she dwelt. The venerable cathedral
towers, and the old jackdaws and rooks whose airy voices made them
more retired than perfect silence would have done; the battered
gateways, one stuck full with statues, long thrown down, and
crumbled away, like the reverential pilgrims who had gazed upon
them; the still nooks, where the ivied growth of centuries crept
over gabled ends and ruined walls; the ancient houses, the pastoral
landscape of field, orchard, and garden; everywhere - on everything
- I felt the same serener air, the same calm, thoughtful, softening
Arrived at Mr. Wickfield's house, I found, in the little lower room
on the ground floor, where Uriah Heep had been of old accustomed to
sit, Mr. Micawber plying his pen with great assiduity. He was
dressed in a legal-looking suit of black, and loomed, burly and
large, in that small office.
Mr. Micawber was extremely glad to see me, but a little confused
too. He would have conducted me immediately into the presence of
Uriah, but I declined.
'I know the house of old, you recollect,' said I, 'and will find my
way upstairs. How do you like the law, Mr. Micawber?'
'My dear Copperfield,' he replied. 'To a man possessed of the
higher imaginative powers, the objection to legal studies is the
amount of detail which they involve. Even in our professional
correspondence,' said Mr. Micawber, glancing at some letters he was
writing, 'the mind is not at liberty to soar to any exalted form of
expression. Still, it is a great pursuit. A great pursuit!'
He then told me that he had become the tenant of Uriah Heep's old
house; and that Mrs. Micawber would be delighted to receive me,
once more, under her own roof.
'It is humble,' said Mr. Micawber, '- to quote a favourite
expression of my friend Heep; but it may prove the stepping-stone
to more ambitious domiciliary accommodation.'
I asked him whether he had reason, so far, to be satisfied with his
friend Heep's treatment of him? He got up to ascertain if the door
were close shut, before he replied, in a lower voice:
'My dear Copperfield, a man who labours under the pressure of
pecuniary embarrassments, is, with the generality of people, at a
disadvantage. That disadvantage is not diminished, when that
pressure necessitates the drawing of stipendiary emoluments, before
those emoluments are strictly due and payable. All I can say is,
that my friend Heep has responded to appeals to which I need not
more particularly refer, in a manner calculated to redound equally
to the honour of his head, and of his heart.'
'I should not have supposed him to be very free with his money
either,' I observed.
'Pardon me!' said Mr. Micawber, with an air of constraint, 'I speak
of my friend Heep as I have experience.'