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David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Part 15 out of 21

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insinuating, that you draw me like a corkscrew! Well, I don't mind
telling you,' putting his fish-like hand on mine, 'I'm not a lady's
man in general, sir, and I never was, with Mrs. Strong.'

His eyes looked green now, as they watched mine with a rascally
cunning.

'What do you mean?' said I.

'Why, though I am a lawyer, Master Copperfield,' he replied, with
a dry grin, 'I mean, just at present, what I say.'

'And what do you mean by your look?' I retorted, quietly.

'By my look? Dear me, Copperfield, that's sharp practice! What do
I mean by my look?'

'Yes,' said I. 'By your look.'

He seemed very much amused, and laughed as heartily as it was in
his nature to laugh. After some scraping of his chin with his
hand, he went on to say, with his eyes cast downward - still
scraping, very slowly:

'When I was but an umble clerk, she always looked down upon me.
She was for ever having my Agnes backwards and forwards at her
ouse, and she was for ever being a friend to you, Master
Copperfield; but I was too far beneath her, myself, to be noticed.'

'Well?' said I; 'suppose you were!'

'- And beneath him too,' pursued Uriah, very distinctly, and in a
meditative tone of voice, as he continued to scrape his chin.

'Don't you know the Doctor better,' said I, 'than to suppose him
conscious of your existence, when you were not before him?'

He directed his eyes at me in that sidelong glance again, and he
made his face very lantern-jawed, for the greater convenience of
scraping, as he answered:

'Oh dear, I am not referring to the Doctor! Oh no, poor man! I
mean Mr. Maldon!'

My heart quite died within me. All my old doubts and apprehensions
on that subject, all the Doctor's happiness and peace, all the
mingled possibilities of innocence and compromise, that I could not
unravel, I saw, in a moment, at the mercy of this fellow's
twisting.

'He never could come into the office, without ordering and shoving
me about,' said Uriah. 'One of your fine gentlemen he was! I was
very meek and umble - and I am. But I didn't like that sort of
thing - and I don't!'

He left off scraping his chin, and sucked in his cheeks until they
seemed to meet inside; keeping his sidelong glance upon me all the
while.

'She is one of your lovely women, she is,' he pursued, when he had
slowly restored his face to its natural form; 'and ready to be no
friend to such as me, I know. She's just the person as would put
my Agnes up to higher sort of game. Now, I ain't one of your
lady's men, Master Copperfield; but I've had eyes in my ed, a
pretty long time back. We umble ones have got eyes, mostly
speaking - and we look out of 'em.'

I endeavoured to appear unconscious and not disquieted, but, I saw
in his face, with poor success.

'Now, I'm not a-going to let myself be run down, Copperfield,' he
continued, raising that part of his countenance, where his red
eyebrows would have been if he had had any, with malignant triumph,
'and I shall do what I can to put a stop to this friendship. I
don't approve of it. I don't mind acknowledging to you that I've
got rather a grudging disposition, and want to keep off all
intruders. I ain't a-going, if I know it, to run the risk of being
plotted against.'

'You are always plotting, and delude yourself into the belief that
everybody else is doing the like, I think,' said I.

'Perhaps so, Master Copperfield,' he replied. 'But I've got a
motive, as my fellow-partner used to say; and I go at it tooth and
nail. I mustn't be put upon, as a numble person, too much. I
can't allow people in my way. Really they must come out of the
cart, Master Copperfield!'

'I don't understand you,' said I.

'Don't you, though?' he returned, with one of his jerks. 'I'm
astonished at that, Master Copperfield, you being usually so quick!
I'll try to be plainer, another time. - Is that Mr. Maldon
a-norseback, ringing at the gate, sir?'

'It looks like him,' I replied, as carelessly as I could.

Uriah stopped short, put his hands between his great knobs of
knees, and doubled himself up with laughter. With perfectly silent
laughter. Not a sound escaped from him. I was so repelled by his
odious behaviour, particularly by this concluding instance, that I
turned away without any ceremony; and left him doubled up in the
middle of the garden, like a scarecrow in want of support.

It was not on that evening; but, as I well remember, on the next
evening but one, which was a Sunday; that I took Agnes to see Dora.
I had arranged the visit, beforehand, with Miss Lavinia; and Agnes
was expected to tea.

I was in a flutter of pride and anxiety; pride in my dear little
betrothed, and anxiety that Agnes should like her. All the way to
Putney, Agnes being inside the stage-coach, and I outside, I
pictured Dora to myself in every one of the pretty looks I knew so
well; now making up my mind that I should like her to look exactly
as she looked at such a time, and then doubting whether I should
not prefer her looking as she looked at such another time; and
almost worrying myself into a fever about it.

I was troubled by no doubt of her being very pretty, in any case;
but it fell out that I had never seen her look so well. She was
not in the drawing-room when I presented Agnes to her little aunts,
but was shyly keeping out of the way. I knew where to look for
her, now; and sure enough I found her stopping her ears again,
behind the same dull old door.

At first she wouldn't come at all; and then she pleaded for five
minutes by my watch. When at length she put her arm through mine,
to be taken to the drawing-room, her charming little face was
flushed, and had never been so pretty. But, when we went into the
room, and it turned pale, she was ten thousand times prettier yet.

Dora was afraid of Agnes. She had told me that she knew Agnes was
'too clever'. But when she saw her looking at once so cheerful and
so earnest, and so thoughtful, and so good, she gave a faint little
cry of pleased surprise, and just put her affectionate arms round
Agnes's neck, and laid her innocent cheek against her face.

I never was so happy. I never was so pleased as when I saw those
two sit down together, side by side. As when I saw my little
darling looking up so naturally to those cordial eyes. As when I
saw the tender, beautiful regard which Agnes cast upon her.

Miss Lavinia and Miss Clarissa partook, in their way, of my joy.
It was the pleasantest tea-table in the world. Miss Clarissa
presided. I cut and handed the sweet seed-cake - the little
sisters had a bird-like fondness for picking up seeds and pecking
at sugar; Miss Lavinia looked on with benignant patronage, as if
our happy love were all her work; and we were perfectly contented
with ourselves and one another.

The gentle cheerfulness of Agnes went to all their hearts. Her
quiet interest in everything that interested Dora; her manner of
making acquaintance with Jip (who responded instantly); her
pleasant way, when Dora was ashamed to come over to her usual seat
by me; her modest grace and ease, eliciting a crowd of blushing
little marks of confidence from Dora; seemed to make our circle
quite complete.

'I am so glad,' said Dora, after tea, 'that you like me. I didn't
think you would; and I want, more than ever, to be liked, now Julia
Mills is gone.'

I have omitted to mention it, by the by. Miss Mills had sailed,
and Dora and I had gone aboard a great East Indiaman at Gravesend
to see her; and we had had preserved ginger, and guava, and other
delicacies of that sort for lunch; and we had left Miss Mills
weeping on a camp-stool on the quarter-deck, with a large new diary
under her arm, in which the original reflections awakened by the
contemplation of Ocean were to be recorded under lock and key.

Agnes said she was afraid I must have given her an unpromising
character; but Dora corrected that directly.

'Oh no!' she said, shaking her curls at me; 'it was all praise. He
thinks so much of your opinion, that I was quite afraid of it.'

'My good opinion cannot strengthen his attachment to some people
whom he knows,' said Agnes, with a smile; 'it is not worth their
having.'

'But please let me have it,' said Dora, in her coaxing way, 'if you
can!'

We made merry about Dora's wanting to be liked, and Dora said I was
a goose, and she didn't like me at any rate, and the short evening
flew away on gossamer-wings. The time was at hand when the coach
was to call for us. I was standing alone before the fire, when
Dora came stealing softly in, to give me that usual precious little
kiss before I went.

'Don't you think, if I had had her for a friend a long time ago,
Doady,' said Dora, her bright eyes shining very brightly, and her
little right hand idly busying itself with one of the buttons of my
coat, 'I might have been more clever perhaps?'

'My love!' said I, 'what nonsense!'

'Do you think it is nonsense?' returned Dora, without looking at
me. 'Are you sure it is?'

'Of course I am!'
'I have forgotten,' said Dora, still turning the button round and
round, 'what relation Agnes is to you, you dear bad boy.'

'No blood-relation,' I replied; 'but we were brought up together,
like brother and sister.'

'I wonder why you ever fell in love with me?' said Dora, beginning
on another button of my coat.

'Perhaps because I couldn't see you, and not love you, Dora!'

'Suppose you had never seen me at all,' said Dora, going to another
button.

'Suppose we had never been born!' said I, gaily.

I wondered what she was thinking about, as I glanced in admiring
silence at the little soft hand travelling up the row of buttons on
my coat, and at the clustering hair that lay against my breast, and
at the lashes of her downcast eyes, slightly rising as they
followed her idle fingers. At length her eyes were lifted up to
mine, and she stood on tiptoe to give me, more thoughtfully than
usual, that precious little kiss - once, twice, three times - and
went out of the room.

They all came back together within five minutes afterwards, and
Dora's unusual thoughtfulness was quite gone then. She was
laughingly resolved to put Jip through the whole of his
performances, before the coach came. They took some time (not so
much on account of their variety, as Jip's reluctance), and were
still unfinished when it was heard at the door. There was a
hurried but affectionate parting between Agnes and herself; and
Dora was to write to Agnes (who was not to mind her letters being
foolish, she said), and Agnes was to write to Dora; and they had a
second parting at the coach door, and a third when Dora, in spite
of the remonstrances of Miss Lavinia, would come running out once
more to remind Agnes at the coach window about writing, and to
shake her curls at me on the box.

The stage-coach was to put us down near Covent Garden, where we
were to take another stage-coach for Highgate. I was impatient for
the short walk in the interval, that Agnes might praise Dora to me.
Ah! what praise it was! How lovingly and fervently did it commend
the pretty creature I had won, with all her artless graces best
displayed, to my most gentle care! How thoughtfully remind me, yet
with no pretence of doing so, of the trust in which I held the
orphan child!

Never, never, had I loved Dora so deeply and truly, as I loved her
that night. When we had again alighted, and were walking in the
starlight along the quiet road that led to the Doctor's house, I
told Agnes it was her doing.

'When you were sitting by her,' said I, 'you seemed to be no less
her guardian angel than mine; and you seem so now, Agnes.'

'A poor angel,' she returned, 'but faithful.'

The clear tone of her voice, going straight to my heart, made it
natural to me to say:

'The cheerfulness that belongs to you, Agnes (and to no one else
that ever I have seen), is so restored, I have observed today, that
I have begun to hope you are happier at home?'

'I am happier in myself,' she said; 'I am quite cheerful and
light-hearted.'

I glanced at the serene face looking upward, and thought it was the
stars that made it seem so noble.

'There has been no change at home,' said Agnes, after a few
moments.

'No fresh reference,' said I, 'to - I wouldn't distress you, Agnes,
but I cannot help asking - to what we spoke of, when we parted
last?'

'No, none,' she answered.

'I have thought so much about it.'

'You must think less about it. Remember that I confide in simple
love and truth at last. Have no apprehensions for me, Trotwood,'
she added, after a moment; 'the step you dread my taking, I shall
never take.'

Although I think I had never really feared it, in any season of
cool reflection, it was an unspeakable relief to me to have this
assurance from her own truthful lips. I told her so, earnestly.

'And when this visit is over,' said I, - 'for we may not be alone
another time, - how long is it likely to be, my dear Agnes, before
you come to London again?'

'Probably a long time,' she replied; 'I think it will be best - for
papa's sake - to remain at home. We are not likely to meet often,
for some time to come; but I shall be a good correspondent of
Dora's, and we shall frequently hear of one another that way.'

We were now within the little courtyard of the Doctor's cottage.
It was growing late. There was a light in the window of Mrs.
Strong's chamber, and Agnes, pointing to it, bade me good night.

'Do not be troubled,' she said, giving me her hand, 'by our
misfortunes and anxieties. I can be happier in nothing than in
your happiness. If you can ever give me help, rely upon it I will
ask you for it. God bless you always!'
In her beaming smile, and in these last tones of her cheerful
voice, I seemed again to see and hear my little Dora in her
company. I stood awhile, looking through the porch at the stars,
with a heart full of love and gratitude, and then walked slowly
forth. I had engaged a bed at a decent alehouse close by, and was
going out at the gate, when, happening to turn my head, I saw a
light in the Doctor's study. A half-reproachful fancy came into my
mind, that he had been working at the Dictionary without my help.
With the view of seeing if this were so, and, in any case, of
bidding him good night, if he were yet sitting among his books, I
turned back, and going softly across the hall, and gently opening
the door, looked in.

The first person whom I saw, to my surprise, by the sober light of
the shaded lamp, was Uriah. He was standing close beside it, with
one of his skeleton hands over his mouth, and the other resting on
the Doctor's table. The Doctor sat in his study chair, covering
his face with his hands. Mr. Wickfield, sorely troubled and
distressed, was leaning forward, irresolutely touching the Doctor's
arm.

For an instant, I supposed that the Doctor was ill. I hastily
advanced a step under that impression, when I met Uriah's eye, and
saw what was the matter. I would have withdrawn, but the Doctor
made a gesture to detain me, and I remained.

'At any rate,' observed Uriah, with a writhe of his ungainly
person, 'we may keep the door shut. We needn't make it known to
ALL the town.'

Saying which, he went on his toes to the door, which I had left
open, and carefully closed it. He then came back, and took up his
former position. There was an obtrusive show of compassionate zeal
in his voice and manner, more intolerable - at least to me - than
any demeanour he could have assumed.

'I have felt it incumbent upon me, Master Copperfield,' said Uriah,
'to point out to Doctor Strong what you and me have already talked
about. You didn't exactly understand me, though?'

I gave him a look, but no other answer; and, going to my good old
master, said a few words that I meant to be words of comfort and
encouragement. He put his hand upon my shoulder, as it had been
his custom to do when I was quite a little fellow, but did not lift
his grey head.

'As you didn't understand me, Master Copperfield,' resumed Uriah in
the same officious manner, 'I may take the liberty of umbly
mentioning, being among friends, that I have called Doctor Strong's
attention to the goings-on of Mrs. Strong. It's much against the
grain with me, I assure you, Copperfield, to be concerned in
anything so unpleasant; but really, as it is, we're all mixing
ourselves up with what oughtn't to be. That was what my meaning
was, sir, when you didn't understand me.'
I wonder now, when I recall his leer, that I did not collar him,
and try to shake the breath out of his body.

'I dare say I didn't make myself very clear,' he went on, 'nor you
neither. Naturally, we was both of us inclined to give such a
subject a wide berth. Hows'ever, at last I have made up my mind to
speak plain; and I have mentioned to Doctor Strong that - did you
speak, sir?'

This was to the Doctor, who had moaned. The sound might have
touched any heart, I thought, but it had no effect upon Uriah's.

'- mentioned to Doctor Strong,' he proceeded, 'that anyone may see
that Mr. Maldon, and the lovely and agreeable lady as is Doctor
Strong's wife, are too sweet on one another. Really the time is
come (we being at present all mixing ourselves up with what
oughtn't to be), when Doctor Strong must be told that this was full
as plain to everybody as the sun, before Mr. Maldon went to India;
that Mr. Maldon made excuses to come back, for nothing else; and
that he's always here, for nothing else. When you come in, sir, I
was just putting it to my fellow-partner,' towards whom he turned,
'to say to Doctor Strong upon his word and honour, whether he'd
ever been of this opinion long ago, or not. Come, Mr. Wickfield,
sir! Would you be so good as tell us? Yes or no, sir? Come,
partner!'

'For God's sake, my dear Doctor,' said Mr. Wickfield again laying
his irresolute hand upon the Doctor's arm, 'don't attach too much
weight to any suspicions I may have entertained.'

'There!' cried Uriah, shaking his head. 'What a melancholy
confirmation: ain't it? Him! Such an old friend! Bless your
soul, when I was nothing but a clerk in his office, Copperfield,
I've seen him twenty times, if I've seen him once, quite in a
taking about it - quite put out, you know (and very proper in him
as a father; I'm sure I can't blame him), to think that Miss Agnes
was mixing herself up with what oughtn't to be.'

'My dear Strong,' said Mr. Wickfield in a tremulous voice, 'my good
friend, I needn't tell you that it has been my vice to look for
some one master motive in everybody, and to try all actions by one
narrow test. I may have fallen into such doubts as I have had,
through this mistake.'

'You have had doubts, Wickfield,' said the Doctor, without lifting
up his head. 'You have had doubts.'

'Speak up, fellow-partner,' urged Uriah.

'I had, at one time, certainly,' said Mr. Wickfield. 'I - God
forgive me - I thought YOU had.'

'No, no, no!' returned the Doctor, in a tone of most pathetic
grief.
'I thought, at one time,' said Mr. Wickfield, 'that you wished to
send Maldon abroad to effect a desirable separation.'

'No, no, no!' returned the Doctor. 'To give Annie pleasure, by
making some provision for the companion of her childhood. Nothing
else.'

'So I found,' said Mr. Wickfield. 'I couldn't doubt it, when you
told me so. But I thought - I implore you to remember the narrow
construction which has been my besetting sin - that, in a case
where there was so much disparity in point of years -'

'That's the way to put it, you see, Master Copperfield!' observed
Uriah, with fawning and offensive pity.

'- a lady of such youth, and such attractions, however real her
respect for you, might have been influenced in marrying, by worldly
considerations only. I make no allowance for innumerable feelings
and circumstances that may have all tended to good. For Heaven's
sake remember that!'

'How kind he puts it!' said Uriah, shaking his head.

'Always observing her from one point of view,' said Mr. Wickfield;
'but by all that is dear to you, my old friend, I entreat you to
consider what it was; I am forced to confess now, having no escape
-'

'No! There's no way out of it, Mr. Wickfield, sir,' observed
Uriah, 'when it's got to this.'

'- that I did,' said Mr. Wickfield, glancing helplessly and
distractedly at his partner, 'that I did doubt her, and think her
wanting in her duty to you; and that I did sometimes, if I must say
all, feel averse to Agnes being in such a familiar relation towards
her, as to see what I saw, or in my diseased theory fancied that I
saw. I never mentioned this to anyone. I never meant it to be
known to anyone. And though it is terrible to you to hear,' said
Mr. Wickfield, quite subdued, 'if you knew how terrible it is for
me to tell, you would feel compassion for me!'

The Doctor, in the perfect goodness of his nature, put out his
hand. Mr. Wickfield held it for a little while in his, with his
head bowed down.

'I am sure,' said Uriah, writhing himself into the silence like a
Conger-eel, 'that this is a subject full of unpleasantness to
everybody. But since we have got so far, I ought to take the
liberty of mentioning that Copperfield has noticed it too.'

I turned upon him, and asked him how he dared refer to me!

'Oh! it's very kind of you, Copperfield,' returned Uriah,
undulating all over, 'and we all know what an amiable character
yours is; but you know that the moment I spoke to you the other
night, you knew what I meant. You know you knew what I meant,
Copperfield. Don't deny it! You deny it with the best intentions;
but don't do it, Copperfield.'

I saw the mild eye of the good old Doctor turned upon me for a
moment, and I felt that the confession of my old misgivings and
remembrances was too plainly written in my face to be overlooked.
It was of no use raging. I could not undo that. Say what I would,
I could not unsay it.

We were silent again, and remained so, until the Doctor rose and
walked twice or thrice across the room. Presently he returned to
where his chair stood; and, leaning on the back of it, and
occasionally putting his handkerchief to his eyes, with a simple
honesty that did him more honour, to my thinking, than any disguise
he could have effected, said:

'I have been much to blame. I believe I have been very much to
blame. I have exposed one whom I hold in my heart, to trials and
aspersions - I call them aspersions, even to have been conceived in
anybody's inmost mind - of which she never, but for me, could have
been the object.'

Uriah Heep gave a kind of snivel. I think to express sympathy.

'Of which my Annie,' said the Doctor, 'never, but for me, could
have been the object. Gentlemen, I am old now, as you know; I do
not feel, tonight, that I have much to live for. But my life - my
Life - upon the truth and honour of the dear lady who has been the
subject of this conversation!'

I do not think that the best embodiment of chivalry, the
realization of the handsomest and most romantic figure ever
imagined by painter, could have said this, with a more impressive
and affecting dignity than the plain old Doctor did.

'But I am not prepared,' he went on, 'to deny - perhaps I may have
been, without knowing it, in some degree prepared to admit - that
I may have unwittingly ensnared that lady into an unhappy marriage.
I am a man quite unaccustomed to observe; and I cannot but believe
that the observation of several people, of different ages and
positions, all too plainly tending in one direction (and that so
natural), is better than mine.'

I had often admired, as I have elsewhere described, his benignant
manner towards his youthful wife; but the respectful tenderness he
manifested in every reference to her on this occasion, and the
almost reverential manner in which he put away from him the
lightest doubt of her integrity, exalted him, in my eyes, beyond
description.

'I married that lady,' said the Doctor, 'when she was extremely
young. I took her to myself when her character was scarcely
formed. So far as it was developed, it had been my happiness to
form it. I knew her father well. I knew her well. I had taught
her what I could, for the love of all her beautiful and virtuous
qualities. If I did her wrong; as I fear I did, in taking
advantage (but I never meant it) of her gratitude and her
affection; I ask pardon of that lady, in my heart!'

He walked across the room, and came back to the same place; holding
the chair with a grasp that trembled, like his subdued voice, in
its earnestness.

'I regarded myself as a refuge, for her, from the dangers and
vicissitudes of life. I persuaded myself that, unequal though we
were in years, she would live tranquilly and contentedly with me.
I did not shut out of my consideration the time when I should leave
her free, and still young and still beautiful, but with her
judgement more matured - no, gentlemen - upon my truth!'

His homely figure seemed to be lightened up by his fidelity and
generosity. Every word he uttered had a force that no other grace
could have imparted to it.

'My life with this lady has been very happy. Until tonight, I have
had uninterrupted occasion to bless the day on which I did her
great injustice.'

His voice, more and more faltering in the utterance of these words,
stopped for a few moments; then he went on:

'Once awakened from my dream - I have been a poor dreamer, in one
way or other, all my life - I see how natural it is that she should
have some regretful feeling towards her old companion and her
equal. That she does regard him with some innocent regret, with
some blameless thoughts of what might have been, but for me, is, I
fear, too true. Much that I have seen, but not noted, has come
back upon me with new meaning, during this last trying hour. But,
beyond this, gentlemen, the dear lady's name never must be coupled
with a word, a breath, of doubt.'

For a little while, his eye kindled and his voice was firm; for a
little while he was again silent. Presently, he proceeded as
before:

'It only remains for me, to bear the knowledge of the unhappiness
I have occasioned, as submissively as I can. It is she who should
reproach; not I. To save her from misconstruction, cruel
misconstruction, that even my friends have not been able to avoid,
becomes my duty. The more retired we live, the better I shall
discharge it. And when the time comes - may it come soon, if it be
His merciful pleasure! - when my death shall release her from
constraint, I shall close my eyes upon her honoured face, with
unbounded confidence and love; and leave her, with no sorrow then,
to happier and brighter days.'

I could not see him for the tears which his earnestness and
goodness, so adorned by, and so adorning, the perfect simplicity of
his manner, brought into my eyes. He had moved to the door, when
he added:

'Gentlemen, I have shown you my heart. I am sure you will respect
it. What we have said tonight is never to be said more.
Wickfield, give me an old friend's arm upstairs!'

Mr. Wickfield hastened to him. Without interchanging a word they
went slowly out of the room together, Uriah looking after them.

'Well, Master Copperfield!' said Uriah, meekly turning to me. 'The
thing hasn't took quite the turn that might have been expected, for
the old Scholar - what an excellent man! - is as blind as a
brickbat; but this family's out of the cart, I think!'

I needed but the sound of his voice to be so madly enraged as I
never was before, and never have been since.

'You villain,' said I, 'what do you mean by entrapping me into your
schemes? How dare you appeal to me just now, you false rascal, as
if we had been in discussion together?'

As we stood, front to front, I saw so plainly, in the stealthy
exultation of his face, what I already so plainly knew; I mean that
he forced his confidence upon me, expressly to make me miserable,
and had set a deliberate trap for me in this very matter; that I
couldn't bear it. The whole of his lank cheek was invitingly
before me, and I struck it with my open hand with that force that
my fingers tingled as if I had burnt them.

He caught the hand in his, and we stood in that connexion, looking
at each other. We stood so, a long time; long enough for me to see
the white marks of my fingers die out of the deep red of his cheek,
and leave it a deeper red.

'Copperfield,' he said at length, in a breathless voice, 'have you
taken leave of your senses?'

'I have taken leave of you,' said I, wresting my hand away. 'You
dog, I'll know no more of you.'

'Won't you?' said he, constrained by the pain of his cheek to put
his hand there. 'Perhaps you won't be able to help it. Isn't this
ungrateful of you, now?'

'I have shown you often enough,' said I, 'that I despise you. I
have shown you now, more plainly, that I do. Why should I dread
your doing your worst to all about you? What else do you ever do?'

He perfectly understood this allusion to the considerations that
had hitherto restrained me in my communications with him. I rather
think that neither the blow, nor the allusion, would have escaped
me, but for the assurance I had had from Agnes that night. It is
no matter.

There was another long pause. His eyes, as he looked at me, seemed
to take every shade of colour that could make eyes ugly.

'Copperfield,' he said, removing his hand from his cheek, 'you have
always gone against me. I know you always used to be against me at
Mr. Wickfield's.'

'You may think what you like,' said I, still in a towering rage.
'If it is not true, so much the worthier you.'

'And yet I always liked you, Copperfield!' he rejoined.

I deigned to make him no reply; and, taking up my hat, was going
out to bed, when he came between me and the door.

'Copperfield,' he said, 'there must be two parties to a quarrel.
I won't be one.'

'You may go to the devil!' said I.

'Don't say that!' he replied. 'I know you'll be sorry afterwards.
How can you make yourself so inferior to me, as to show such a bad
spirit? But I forgive you.'

'You forgive me!' I repeated disdainfully.

'I do, and you can't help yourself,' replied Uriah. 'To think of
your going and attacking me, that have always been a friend to you!
But there can't be a quarrel without two parties, and I won't be
one. I will be a friend to you, in spite of you. So now you know
what you've got to expect.'

The necessity of carrying on this dialogue (his part in which was
very slow; mine very quick) in a low tone, that the house might not
be disturbed at an unseasonable hour, did not improve my temper;
though my passion was cooling down. Merely telling him that I
should expect from him what I always had expected, and had never
yet been disappointed in, I opened the door upon him, as if he had
been a great walnut put there to be cracked, and went out of the
house. But he slept out of the house too, at his mother's lodging;
and before I had gone many hundred yards, came up with me.

'You know, Copperfield,' he said, in my ear (I did not turn my
head), 'you're in quite a wrong position'; which I felt to be true,
and that made me chafe the more; 'you can't make this a brave
thing, and you can't help being forgiven. I don't intend to
mention it to mother, nor to any living soul. I'm determined to
forgive you. But I do wonder that you should lift your hand
against a person that you knew to be so umble!'

I felt only less mean than he. He knew me better than I knew
myself. If he had retorted or openly exasperated me, it would have
been a relief and a justification; but he had put me on a slow
fire, on which I lay tormented half the night.

In the morning, when I came out, the early church-bell was ringing,
and he was walking up and down with his mother. He addressed me as
if nothing had happened, and I could do no less than reply. I had
struck him hard enough to give him the toothache, I suppose. At
all events his face was tied up in a black silk handkerchief,
which, with his hat perched on the top of it, was far from
improving his appearance. I heard that he went to a dentist's in
London on the Monday morning, and had a tooth out. I hope it was
a double one.

The Doctor gave out that he was not quite well; and remained alone,
for a considerable part of every day, during the remainder of the
visit. Agnes and her father had been gone a week, before we
resumed our usual work. On the day preceding its resumption, the
Doctor gave me with his own hands a folded note not sealed. It was
addressed to myself; and laid an injunction on me, in a few
affectionate words, never to refer to the subject of that evening.
I had confided it to my aunt, but to no one else. It was not a
subject I could discuss with Agnes, and Agnes certainly had not the
least suspicion of what had passed.

Neither, I felt convinced, had Mrs. Strong then. Several weeks
elapsed before I saw the least change in her. It came on slowly,
like a cloud when there is no wind. At first, she seemed to wonder
at the gentle compassion with which the Doctor spoke to her, and at
his wish that she should have her mother with her, to relieve the
dull monotony of her life. Often, when we were at work, and she
was sitting by, I would see her pausing and looking at him with
that memorable face. Afterwards, I sometimes observed her rise,
with her eyes full of tears, and go out of the room. Gradually, an
unhappy shadow fell upon her beauty, and deepened every day. Mrs.
Markleham was a regular inmate of the cottage then; but she talked
and talked, and saw nothing.

As this change stole on Annie, once like sunshine in the Doctor's
house, the Doctor became older in appearance, and more grave; but
the sweetness of his temper, the placid kindness of his manner, and
his benevolent solicitude for her, if they were capable of any
increase, were increased. I saw him once, early on the morning of
her birthday, when she came to sit in the window while we were at
work (which she had always done, but now began to do with a timid
and uncertain air that I thought very touching), take her forehead
between his hands, kiss it, and go hurriedly away, too much moved
to remain. I saw her stand where he had left her, like a statue;
and then bend down her head, and clasp her hands, and weep, I
cannot say how sorrowfully.

Sometimes, after that, I fancied that she tried to speak even to
me, in intervals when we were left alone. But she never uttered a
word. The Doctor always had some new project for her participating
in amusements away from home, with her mother; and Mrs. Markleham,
who was very fond of amusements, and very easily dissatisfied with
anything else, entered into them with great good-will, and was loud
in her commendations. But Annie, in a spiritless unhappy way, only
went whither she was led, and seemed to have no care for anything.

I did not know what to think. Neither did my aunt; who must have
walked, at various times, a hundred miles in her uncertainty. What
was strangest of all was, that the only real relief which seemed to
make its way into the secret region of this domestic unhappiness,
made its way there in the person of Mr. Dick.

What his thoughts were on the subject, or what his observation was,
I am as unable to explain, as I dare say he would have been to
assist me in the task. But, as I have recorded in the narrative of
my school days, his veneration for the Doctor was unbounded; and
there is a subtlety of perception in real attachment, even when it
is borne towards man by one of the lower animals, which leaves the
highest intellect behind. To this mind of the heart, if I may call
it so, in Mr. Dick, some bright ray of the truth shot straight.

He had proudly resumed his privilege, in many of his spare hours,
of walking up and down the garden with the Doctor; as he had been
accustomed to pace up and down The Doctor's Walk at Canterbury.
But matters were no sooner in this state, than he devoted all his
spare time (and got up earlier to make it more) to these
perambulations. If he had never been so happy as when the Doctor
read that marvellous performance, the Dictionary, to him; he was
now quite miserable unless the Doctor pulled it out of his pocket,
and began. When the Doctor and I were engaged, he now fell into
the custom of walking up and down with Mrs. Strong, and helping her
to trim her favourite flowers, or weed the beds. I dare say he
rarely spoke a dozen words in an hour: but his quiet interest, and
his wistful face, found immediate response in both their breasts;
each knew that the other liked him, and that he loved both; and he
became what no one else could be - a link between them.

When I think of him, with his impenetrably wise face, walking up
and down with the Doctor, delighted to be battered by the hard
words in the Dictionary; when I think of him carrying huge
watering-pots after Annie; kneeling down, in very paws of gloves,
at patient microscopic work among the little leaves; expressing as
no philosopher could have expressed, in everything he did, a
delicate desire to be her friend; showering sympathy, trustfulness,
and affection, out of every hole in the watering-pot; when I think
of him never wandering in that better mind of his to which
unhappiness addressed itself, never bringing the unfortunate King
Charles into the garden, never wavering in his grateful service,
never diverted from his knowledge that there was something wrong,
or from his wish to set it right- I really feel almost ashamed of
having known that he was not quite in his wits, taking account of
the utmost I have done with mine.

'Nobody but myself, Trot, knows what that man is!' my aunt would
proudly remark, when we conversed about it. 'Dick will distinguish
himself yet!'

I must refer to one other topic before I close this chapter. While
the visit at the Doctor's was still in progress, I observed that
the postman brought two or three letters every morning for Uriah
Heep, who remained at Highgate until the rest went back, it being
a leisure time; and that these were always directed in a
business-like manner by Mr. Micawber, who now assumed a round legal
hand. I was glad to infer, from these slight premises, that Mr.
Micawber was doing well; and consequently was much surprised to
receive, about this time, the following letter from his amiable
wife.

'CANTERBURY, Monday Evening.

'You will doubtless be surprised, my dear Mr. Copperfield, to
receive this communication. Still more so, by its contents. Still
more so, by the stipulation of implicit confidence which I beg to
impose. But my feelings as a wife and mother require relief; and
as I do not wish to consult my family (already obnoxious to the
feelings of Mr. Micawber), I know no one of whom I can better ask
advice than my friend and former lodger.

'You may be aware, my dear Mr. Copperfield, that between myself and
Mr. Micawber (whom I will never desert), there has always been
preserved a spirit of mutual confidence. Mr. Micawber may have
occasionally given a bill without consulting me, or he may have
misled me as to the period when that obligation would become due.
This has actually happened. But, in general, Mr. Micawber has had
no secrets from the bosom of affection - I allude to his wife - and
has invariably, on our retirement to rest, recalled the events of
the day.

'You will picture to yourself, my dear Mr. Copperfield, what the
poignancy of my feelings must be, when I inform you that Mr.
Micawber is entirely changed. He is reserved. He is secret. His
life is a mystery to the partner of his joys and sorrows - I again
allude to his wife - and if I should assure you that beyond knowing
that it is passed from morning to night at the office, I now know
less of it than I do of the man in the south, connected with whose
mouth the thoughtless children repeat an idle tale respecting cold
plum porridge, I should adopt a popular fallacy to express an
actual fact.

'But this is not all. Mr. Micawber is morose. He is severe. He
is estranged from our eldest son and daughter, he has no pride in
his twins, he looks with an eye of coldness even on the unoffending
stranger who last became a member of our circle. The pecuniary
means of meeting our expenses, kept down to the utmost farthing,
are obtained from him with great difficulty, and even under fearful
threats that he will Settle himself (the exact expression); and he
inexorably refuses to give any explanation whatever of this
distracting policy.

'This is hard to bear. This is heart-breaking. If you will advise
me, knowing my feeble powers such as they are, how you think it
will be best to exert them in a dilemma so unwonted, you will add
another friendly obligation to the many you have already rendered
me. With loves from the children, and a smile from the
happily-unconscious stranger, I remain, dear Mr. Copperfield,

Your afflicted,

'EMMA MICAWBER.'

I did not feel justified in giving a wife of Mrs. Micawber's
experience any other recommendation, than that she should try to
reclaim Mr. Micawber by patience and kindness (as I knew she would
in any case); but the letter set me thinking about him very much.

CHAPTER 43
ANOTHER RETROSPECT

Once again, let me pause upon a memorable period of my life. Let
me stand aside, to see the phantoms of those days go by me,
accompanying the shadow of myself, in dim procession.

Weeks, months, seasons, pass along. They seem little more than a
summer day and a winter evening. Now, the Common where I walk with
Dora is all in bloom, a field of bright gold; and now the unseen
heather lies in mounds and bunches underneath a covering of snow.
In a breath, the river that flows through our Sunday walks is
sparkling in the summer sun, is ruffled by the winter wind, or
thickened with drifting heaps of ice. Faster than ever river ran
towards the sea, it flashes, darkens, and rolls away.

Not a thread changes, in the house of the two little bird-like
ladies. The clock ticks over the fireplace, the weather-glass
hangs in the hall. Neither clock nor weather-glass is ever right;
but we believe in both, devoutly.

I have come legally to man's estate. I have attained the dignity
of twenty-one. But this is a sort of dignity that may be thrust
upon one. Let me think what I have achieved.

I have tamed that savage stenographic mystery. I make a
respectable income by it. I am in high repute for my
accomplishment in all pertaining to the art, and am joined with
eleven others in reporting the debates in Parliament for a Morning
Newspaper. Night after night, I record predictions that never come
to pass, professions that are never fulfilled, explanations that
are only meant to mystify. I wallow in words. Britannia, that
unfortunate female, is always before me, like a trussed fowl:
skewered through and through with office-pens, and bound hand and
foot with red tape. I am sufficiently behind the scenes to know
the worth of political life. I am quite an Infidel about it, and
shall never be converted.

My dear old Traddles has tried his hand at the same pursuit, but it
is not in Traddles's way. He is perfectly good-humoured respecting
his failure, and reminds me that he always did consider himself
slow. He has occasional employment on the same newspaper, in
getting up the facts of dry subjects, to be written about and
embellished by more fertile minds. He is called to the bar; and
with admirable industry and self-denial has scraped another hundred
pounds together, to fee a Conveyancer whose chambers he attends.
A great deal of very hot port wine was consumed at his call; and,
considering the figure, I should think the Inner Temple must have
made a profit by it.

I have come out in another way. I have taken with fear and
trembling to authorship. I wrote a little something, in secret,
and sent it to a magazine, and it was published in the magazine.
Since then, I have taken heart to write a good many trifling
pieces. Now, I am regularly paid for them. Altogether, I am well
off, when I tell my income on the fingers of my left hand, I pass
the third finger and take in the fourth to the middle joint.

We have removed, from Buckingham Street, to a pleasant little
cottage very near the one I looked at, when my enthusiasm first
came on. My aunt, however (who has sold the house at Dover, to
good advantage), is not going to remain here, but intends removing
herself to a still more tiny cottage close at hand. What does this
portend? My marriage? Yes!

Yes! I am going to be married to Dora! Miss Lavinia and Miss
Clarissa have given their consent; and if ever canary birds were in
a flutter, they are. Miss Lavinia, self-charged with the
superintendence of my darling's wardrobe, is constantly cutting out
brown-paper cuirasses, and differing in opinion from a highly
respectable young man, with a long bundle, and a yard measure under
his arm. A dressmaker, always stabbed in the breast with a needle
and thread, boards and lodges in the house; and seems to me,
eating, drinking, or sleeping, never to take her thimble off. They
make a lay-figure of my dear. They are always sending for her to
come and try something on. We can't be happy together for five
minutes in the evening, but some intrusive female knocks at the
door, and says, 'Oh, if you please, Miss Dora, would you step
upstairs!'

Miss Clarissa and my aunt roam all over London, to find out
articles of furniture for Dora and me to look at. It would be
better for them to buy the goods at once, without this ceremony of
inspection; for, when we go to see a kitchen fender and
meat-screen, Dora sees a Chinese house for Jip, with little bells
on the top, and prefers that. And it takes a long time to accustom
Jip to his new residence, after we have bought it; whenever he goes
in or out, he makes all the little bells ring, and is horribly
frightened.

Peggotty comes up to make herself useful, and falls to work
immediately. Her department appears to be, to clean everything
over and over again. She rubs everything that can be rubbed, until
it shines, like her own honest forehead, with perpetual friction.
And now it is, that I begin to see her solitary brother passing
through the dark streets at night, and looking, as he goes, among
the wandering faces. I never speak to him at such an hour. I know
too well, as his grave figure passes onward, what he seeks, and
what he dreads.

Why does Traddles look so important when he calls upon me this
afternoon in the Commons - where I still occasionally attend, for
form's sake, when I have time? The realization of my boyish
day-dreams is at hand. I am going to take out the licence.

It is a little document to do so much; and Traddles contemplates
it, as it lies upon my desk, half in admiration, half in awe.
There are the names, in the sweet old visionary connexion, David
Copperfield and Dora Spenlow; and there, in the corner, is that
Parental Institution, the Stamp Office, which is so benignantly
interested in the various transactions of human life, looking down
upon our Union; and there is the Archbishop of Canterbury invoking
a blessing on us in print, and doing it as cheap as could possibly
be expected.

Nevertheless, I am in a dream, a flustered, happy, hurried dream.
I can't believe that it is going to be; and yet I can't believe but
that everyone I pass in the street, must have some kind of
perception, that I am to be married the day after tomorrow. The
Surrogate knows me, when I go down to be sworn; and disposes of me
easily, as if there were a Masonic understanding between us.
Traddles is not at all wanted, but is in attendance as my general
backer.

'I hope the next time you come here, my dear fellow,' I say to
Traddles, 'it will be on the same errand for yourself. And I hope
it will be soon.'

'Thank you for your good wishes, my dear Copperfield,' he replies.
'I hope so too. It's a satisfaction to know that she'll wait for
me any length of time, and that she really is the dearest girl -'

'When are you to meet her at the coach?' I ask.

'At seven,' says Traddles, looking at his plain old silver watch -
the very watch he once took a wheel out of, at school, to make a
water-mill. 'That is about Miss Wickfield's time, is it not?'

'A little earlier. Her time is half past eight.'
'I assure you, my dear boy,' says Traddles, 'I am almost as pleased
as if I were going to be married myself, to think that this event
is coming to such a happy termination. And really the great
friendship and consideration of personally associating Sophy with
the joyful occasion, and inviting her to be a bridesmaid in
conjunction with Miss Wickfield, demands my warmest thanks. I am
extremely sensible of it.'

I hear him, and shake hands with him; and we talk, and walk, and
dine, and so on; but I don't believe it. Nothing is real.

Sophy arrives at the house of Dora's aunts, in due course. She has
the most agreeable of faces, - not absolutely beautiful, but
extraordinarily pleasant, - and is one of the most genial,
unaffected, frank, engaging creatures I have ever seen. Traddles
presents her to us with great pride; and rubs his hands for ten
minutes by the clock, with every individual hair upon his head
standing on tiptoe, when I congratulate him in a corner on his
choice.

I have brought Agnes from the Canterbury coach, and her cheerful
and beautiful face is among us for the second time. Agnes has a
great liking for Traddles, and it is capital to see them meet, and
to observe the glory of Traddles as he commends the dearest girl in
the world to her acquaintance.

Still I don't believe it. We have a delightful evening, and are
supremely happy; but I don't believe it yet. I can't collect
myself. I can't check off my happiness as it takes place. I feel
in a misty and unsettled kind of state; as if I had got up very
early in the morning a week or two ago, and had never been to bed
since. I can't make out when yesterday was. I seem to have been
carrying the licence about, in my pocket, many months.

Next day, too, when we all go in a flock to see the house - our
house - Dora's and mine - I am quite unable to regard myself as its
master. I seem to be there, by permission of somebody else. I
half expect the real master to come home presently, and say he is
glad to see me. Such a beautiful little house as it is, with
everything so bright and new; with the flowers on the carpets
looking as if freshly gathered, and the green leaves on the paper
as if they had just come out; with the spotless muslin curtains,
and the blushing rose-coloured furniture, and Dora's garden hat
with the blue ribbon - do I remember, now, how I loved her in such
another hat when I first knew her! - already hanging on its little
peg; the guitar-case quite at home on its heels in a corner; and
everybody tumbling over Jip's pagoda, which is much too big for the
establishment. Another happy evening, quite as unreal as all the
rest of it, and I steal into the usual room before going away.
Dora is not there. I suppose they have not done trying on yet.
Miss Lavinia peeps in, and tells me mysteriously that she will not
be long. She is rather long, notwithstanding; but by and by I hear
a rustling at the door, and someone taps.

I say, 'Come in!' but someone taps again.

I go to the door, wondering who it is; there, I meet a pair of
bright eyes, and a blushing face; they are Dora's eyes and face,
and Miss Lavinia has dressed her in tomorrow's dress, bonnet and
all, for me to see. I take my little wife to my heart; and Miss
Lavinia gives a little scream because I tumble the bonnet, and Dora
laughs and cries at once, because I am so pleased; and I believe it
less than ever.

'Do you think it pretty, Doady?' says Dora.

Pretty! I should rather think I did.

'And are you sure you like me very much?' says Dora.

The topic is fraught with such danger to the bonnet, that Miss
Lavinia gives another little scream, and begs me to understand that
Dora is only to be looked at, and on no account to be touched. So
Dora stands in a delightful state of confusion for a minute or two,
to be admired; and then takes off her bonnet - looking so natural
without it! - and runs away with it in her hand; and comes dancing
down again in her own familiar dress, and asks Jip if I have got a
beautiful little wife, and whether he'll forgive her for being
married, and kneels down to make him stand upon the cookery-book,
for the last time in her single life.

I go home, more incredulous than ever, to a lodging that I have
hard by; and get up very early in the morning, to ride to the
Highgate road and fetch my aunt.

I have never seen my aunt in such state. She is dressed in
lavender-coloured silk, and has a white bonnet on, and is amazing.
Janet has dressed her, and is there to look at me. Peggotty is
ready to go to church, intending to behold the ceremony from the
gallery. Mr. Dick, who is to give my darling to me at the altar,
has had his hair curled. Traddles, whom I have taken up by
appointment at the turnpike, presents a dazzling combination of
cream colour and light blue; and both he and Mr. Dick have a
general effect about them of being all gloves.

No doubt I see this, because I know it is so; but I am astray, and
seem to see nothing. Nor do I believe anything whatever. Still,
as we drive along in an open carriage, this fairy marriage is real
enough to fill me with a sort of wondering pity for the unfortunate
people who have no part in it, but are sweeping out the shops, and
going to their daily occupations.

My aunt sits with my hand in hers all the way. When we stop a
little way short of the church, to put down Peggotty, whom we have
brought on the box, she gives it a squeeze, and me a kiss.

'God bless you, Trot! My own boy never could be dearer. I think
of poor dear Baby this morning.'
'So do I. And of all I owe to you, dear aunt.'

'Tut, child!' says my aunt; and gives her hand in overflowing
cordiality to Traddles, who then gives his to Mr. Dick, who then
gives his to me, who then gives mine to Traddles, and then we come
to the church door.

The church is calm enough, I am sure; but it might be a steam-power
loom in full action, for any sedative effect it has on me. I am
too far gone for that.

The rest is all a more or less incoherent dream.

A dream of their coming in with Dora; of the pew-opener arranging
us, like a drill-sergeant, before the altar rails; of my wondering,
even then, why pew-openers must always be the most disagreeable
females procurable, and whether there is any religious dread of a
disastrous infection of good-humour which renders it indispensable
to set those vessels of vinegar upon the road to Heaven.

Of the clergyman and clerk appearing; of a few boatmen and some
other people strolling in; of an ancient mariner behind me,
strongly flavouring the church with rum; of the service beginning
in a deep voice, and our all being very attentive.

Of Miss Lavinia, who acts as a semi-auxiliary bridesmaid, being the
first to cry, and of her doing homage (as I take it) to the memory
of Pidger, in sobs; of Miss Clarissa applying a smelling-bottle; of
Agnes taking care of Dora; of my aunt endeavouring to represent
herself as a model of sternness, with tears rolling down her face;
of little Dora trembling very much, and making her responses in
faint whispers.

Of our kneeling down together, side by side; of Dora's trembling
less and less, but always clasping Agnes by the hand; of the
service being got through, quietly and gravely; of our all looking
at each other in an April state of smiles and tears, when it is
over; of my young wife being hysterical in the vestry, and crying
for her poor papa, her dear papa.

Of her soon cheering up again, and our signing the register all
round. Of my going into the gallery for Peggotty to bring her to
sign it; of Peggotty's hugging me in a corner, and telling me she
saw my own dear mother married; of its being over, and our going
away.

Of my walking so proudly and lovingly down the aisle with my sweet
wife upon my arm, through a mist of half-seen people, pulpits,
monuments, pews, fonts, organs, and church windows, in which there
flutter faint airs of association with my childish church at home,
so long ago.

Of their whispering, as we pass, what a youthful couple we are, and
what a pretty little wife she is. Of our all being so merry and
talkative in the carriage going back. Of Sophy telling us that
when she saw Traddles (whom I had entrusted with the licence) asked
for it, she almost fainted, having been convinced that he would
contrive to lose it, or to have his pocket picked. Of Agnes
laughing gaily; and of Dora being so fond of Agnes that she will
not be separated from her, but still keeps her hand.

Of there being a breakfast, with abundance of things, pretty and
substantial, to eat and drink, whereof I partake, as I should do in
any other dream, without the least perception of their flavour;
eating and drinking, as I may say, nothing but love and marriage,
and no more believing in the viands than in anything else.

Of my making a speech in the same dreamy fashion, without having an
idea of what I want to say, beyond such as may be comprehended in
the full conviction that I haven't said it. Of our being very
sociably and simply happy (always in a dream though); and of Jip's
having wedding cake, and its not agreeing with him afterwards.

Of the pair of hired post-horses being ready, and of Dora's going
away to change her dress. Of my aunt and Miss Clarissa remaining
with us; and our walking in the garden; and my aunt, who has made
quite a speech at breakfast touching Dora's aunts, being mightily
amused with herself, but a little proud of it too.

Of Dora's being ready, and of Miss Lavinia's hovering about her,
loth to lose the pretty toy that has given her so much pleasant
occupation. Of Dora's making a long series of surprised
discoveries that she has forgotten all sorts of little things; and
of everybody's running everywhere to fetch them.

Of their all closing about Dora, when at last she begins to say
good-bye, looking, with their bright colours and ribbons, like a
bed of flowers. Of my darling being almost smothered among the
flowers, and coming out, laughing and crying both together, to my
jealous arms.

Of my wanting to carry Jip (who is to go along with us), and Dora's
saying no, that she must carry him, or else he'll think she don't
like him any more, now she is married, and will break his heart.
Of our going, arm in arm, and Dora stopping and looking back, and
saying, 'If I have ever been cross or ungrateful to anybody, don't
remember it!' and bursting into tears.

Of her waving her little hand, and our going away once more. Of
her once more stopping, and looking back, and hurrying to Agnes,
and giving Agnes, above all the others, her last kisses and
farewells.

We drive away together, and I awake from the dream. I believe it
at last. It is my dear, dear, little wife beside me, whom I love
so well!

'Are you happy now, you foolish boy?' says Dora, 'and sure you
don't repent?'

I have stood aside to see the phantoms of those days go by me.
They are gone, and I resume the journey of my story.

CHAPTER 44
OUR HOUSEKEEPING

It was a strange condition of things, the honeymoon being over, and
the bridesmaids gone home, when I found myself sitting down in my
own small house with Dora; quite thrown out of employment, as I may
say, in respect of the delicious old occupation of making love.

It seemed such an extraordinary thing to have Dora always there.
It was so unaccountable not to be obliged to go out to see her, not
to have any occasion to be tormenting myself about her, not to have
to write to her, not to be scheming and devising opportunities of
being alone with her. Sometimes of an evening, when I looked up
from my writing, and saw her seated opposite, I would lean back in
my chair, and think how queer it was that there we were, alone
together as a matter of course - nobody's business any more - all
the romance of our engagement put away upon a shelf, to rust - no
one to please but one another - one another to please, for life.

When there was a debate, and I was kept out very late, it seemed so
strange to me, as I was walking home, to think that Dora was at
home! It was such a wonderful thing, at first, to have her coming
softly down to talk to me as I ate my supper. It was such a
stupendous thing to know for certain that she put her hair in
papers. It was altogether such an astonishing event to see her do
it!

I doubt whether two young birds could have known less about keeping
house, than I and my pretty Dora did. We had a servant, of course.
She kept house for us. I have still a latent belief that she must
have been Mrs. Crupp's daughter in disguise, we had such an awful
time of it with Mary Anne.

Her name was Paragon. Her nature was represented to us, when we
engaged her, as being feebly expressed in her name. She had a
written character, as large as a proclamation; and, according to
this document, could do everything of a domestic nature that ever
I heard of, and a great many things that I never did hear of. She
was a woman in the prime of life; of a severe countenance; and
subject (particularly in the arms) to a sort of perpetual measles
or fiery rash. She had a cousin in the Life-Guards, with such long
legs that he looked like the afternoon shadow of somebody else.
His shell-jacket was as much too little for him as he was too big
for the premises. He made the cottage smaller than it need have
been, by being so very much out of proportion to it. Besides
which, the walls were not thick, and, whenever he passed the
evening at our house, we always knew of it by hearing one continual
growl in the kitchen.

Our treasure was warranted sober and honest. I am therefore
willing to believe that she was in a fit when we found her under
the boiler; and that the deficient tea-spoons were attributable to
the dustman.

But she preyed upon our minds dreadfully. We felt our
inexperience, and were unable to help ourselves. We should have
been at her mercy, if she had had any; but she was a remorseless
woman, and had none. She was the cause of our first little
quarrel.

'My dearest life,' I said one day to Dora, 'do you think Mary Anne
has any idea of time?'

'Why, Doady?' inquired Dora, looking up, innocently, from her
drawing.

'My love, because it's five, and we were to have dined at four.'

Dora glanced wistfully at the clock, and hinted that she thought it
was too fast.

'On the contrary, my love,' said I, referring to my watch, 'it's a
few minutes too slow.'

My little wife came and sat upon my knee, to coax me to be quiet,
and drew a line with her pencil down the middle of my nose; but I
couldn't dine off that, though it was very agreeable.

'Don't you think, my dear,' said I, 'it would be better for you to
remonstrate with Mary Anne?'

'Oh no, please! I couldn't, Doady!' said Dora.

'Why not, my love?' I gently asked.

'Oh, because I am such a little goose,' said Dora, 'and she knows
I am!'

I thought this sentiment so incompatible with the establishment of
any system of check on Mary Anne, that I frowned a little.

'Oh, what ugly wrinkles in my bad boy's forehead!' said Dora, and
still being on my knee, she traced them with her pencil; putting it
to her rosy lips to make it mark blacker, and working at my
forehead with a quaint little mockery of being industrious, that
quite delighted me in spite of myself.

'There's a good child,' said Dora, 'it makes its face so much
prettier to laugh.'
'But, my love,' said I.

'No, no! please!' cried Dora, with a kiss, 'don't be a naughty Blue
Beard! Don't be serious!'

'my precious wife,' said I, 'we must be serious sometimes. Come!
Sit down on this chair, close beside me! Give me the pencil!
There! Now let us talk sensibly. You know, dear'; what a little
hand it was to hold, and what a tiny wedding-ring it was to see!
'You know, my love, it is not exactly comfortable to have to go out
without one's dinner. Now, is it?'

'N-n-no!' replied Dora, faintly.

'My love, how you tremble!'

'Because I KNOW you're going to scold me,' exclaimed Dora, in a
piteous voice.

'My sweet, I am only going to reason.'

'Oh, but reasoning is worse than scolding!' exclaimed Dora, in
despair. 'I didn't marry to be reasoned with. If you meant to
reason with such a poor little thing as I am, you ought to have
told me so, you cruel boy!'

I tried to pacify Dora, but she turned away her face, and shook her
curls from side to side, and said, 'You cruel, cruel boy!' so many
times, that I really did not exactly know what to do: so I took a
few turns up and down the room in my uncertainty, and came back
again.

'Dora, my darling!'

'No, I am not your darling. Because you must be sorry that you
married me, or else you wouldn't reason with me!' returned Dora.

I felt so injured by the inconsequential nature of this charge,
that it gave me courage to be grave.

'Now, my own Dora,' said I, 'you are very childish, and are talking
nonsense. You must remember, I am sure, that I was obliged to go
out yesterday when dinner was half over; and that, the day before,
I was made quite unwell by being obliged to eat underdone veal in
a hurry; today, I don't dine at all - and I am afraid to say how
long we waited for breakfast - and then the water didn't boil. I
don't mean to reproach you, my dear, but this is not comfortable.'

'Oh, you cruel, cruel boy, to say I am a disagreeable wife!' cried
Dora.

'Now, my dear Dora, you must know that I never said that!'

'You said, I wasn't comfortable!' cried Dora.
'I said the housekeeping was not comfortable!'

'It's exactly the same thing!' cried Dora. And she evidently
thought so, for she wept most grievously.

I took another turn across the room, full of love for my pretty
wife, and distracted by self-accusatory inclinations to knock my
head against the door. I sat down again, and said:

'I am not blaming you, Dora. We have both a great deal to learn.
I am only trying to show you, my dear, that you must - you really
must' (I was resolved not to give this up) - 'accustom yourself to
look after Mary Anne. Likewise to act a little for yourself, and
me.'

'I wonder, I do, at your making such ungrateful speeches,' sobbed
Dora. 'When you know that the other day, when you said you would
like a little bit of fish, I went out myself, miles and miles, and
ordered it, to surprise you.'

'And it was very kind of you, my own darling,' said I. 'I felt it
so much that I wouldn't on any account have even mentioned that you
bought a Salmon - which was too much for two. Or that it cost one
pound six - which was more than we can afford.'

'You enjoyed it very much,' sobbed Dora. 'And you said I was a
Mouse.'

'And I'll say so again, my love,' I returned, 'a thousand times!'

But I had wounded Dora's soft little heart, and she was not to be
comforted. She was so pathetic in her sobbing and bewailing, that
I felt as if I had said I don't know what to hurt her. I was
obliged to hurry away; I was kept out late; and I felt all night
such pangs of remorse as made me miserable. I had the conscience
of an assassin, and was haunted by a vague sense of enormous
wickedness.

It was two or three hours past midnight when I got home. I found
my aunt, in our house, sitting up for me.

'Is anything the matter, aunt?' said I, alarmed.

'Nothing, Trot,' she replied. 'Sit down, sit down. Little Blossom
has been rather out of spirits, and I have been keeping her
company. That's all.'

I leaned my head upon my hand; and felt more sorry and downcast, as
I sat looking at the fire, than I could have supposed possible so
soon after the fulfilment of my brightest hopes. As I sat
thinking, I happened to meet my aunt's eyes, which were resting on
my face. There was an anxious expression in them, but it cleared
directly.

'I assure you, aunt,' said I, 'I have been quite unhappy myself all
night, to think of Dora's being so. But I had no other intention
than to speak to her tenderly and lovingly about our home-affairs.'

MY aunt nodded encouragement.

'You must have patience, Trot,' said she.

'Of course. Heaven knows I don't mean to be unreasonable, aunt!'

'No, no,' said my aunt. 'But Little Blossom is a very tender
little blossom, and the wind must be gentle with her.'

I thanked my good aunt, in my heart, for her tenderness towards my
wife; and I was sure that she knew I did.

'Don't you think, aunt,' said I, after some further contemplation
of the fire, 'that you could advise and counsel Dora a little, for
our mutual advantage, now and then?'

'Trot,' returned my aunt, with some emotion, 'no! Don't ask me
such a thing.'

Her tone was so very earnest that I raised my eyes in surprise.

'I look back on my life, child,' said my aunt, 'and I think of some
who are in their graves, with whom I might have been on kinder
terms. If I judged harshly of other people's mistakes in marriage,
it may have been because I had bitter reason to judge harshly of my
own. Let that pass. I have been a grumpy, frumpy, wayward sort of
a woman, a good many years. I am still, and I always shall be.
But you and I have done one another some good, Trot, - at all
events, you have done me good, my dear; and division must not come
between us, at this time of day.'

'Division between us!' cried I.

'Child, child!' said my aunt, smoothing her dress, 'how soon it
might come between us, or how unhappy I might make our Little
Blossom, if I meddled in anything, a prophet couldn't say. I want
our pet to like me, and be as gay as a butterfly. Remember your
own home, in that second marriage; and never do both me and her the
injury you have hinted at!'

I comprehended, at once, that my aunt was right; and I comprehended
the full extent of her generous feeling towards my dear wife.

'These are early days, Trot,' she pursued, 'and Rome was not built
in a day, nor in a year. You have chosen freely for yourself'; a
cloud passed over her face for a moment, I thought; 'and you have
chosen a very pretty and a very affectionate creature. It will be
your duty, and it will be your pleasure too - of course I know
that; I am not delivering a lecture - to estimate her (as you chose
her) by the qualities she has, and not by the qualities she may not
have. The latter you must develop in her, if you can. And if you
cannot, child,' here my aunt rubbed her nose, 'you must just
accustom yourself to do without 'em. But remember, my dear, your
future is between you two. No one can assist you; you are to work
it out for yourselves. This is marriage, Trot; and Heaven bless
you both, in it, for a pair of babes in the wood as you are!'

My aunt said this in a sprightly way, and gave me a kiss to ratify
the blessing.

'Now,' said she, 'light my little lantern, and see me into my
bandbox by the garden path'; for there was a communication between
our cottages in that direction. 'Give Betsey Trotwood's love to
Blossom, when you come back; and whatever you do, Trot, never dream
of setting Betsey up as a scarecrow, for if I ever saw her in the
glass, she's quite grim enough and gaunt enough in her private
capacity!'

With this my aunt tied her head up in a handkerchief, with which
she was accustomed to make a bundle of it on such occasions; and I
escorted her home. As she stood in her garden, holding up her
little lantern to light me back, I thought her observation of me
had an anxious air again; but I was too much occupied in pondering
on what she had said, and too much impressed - for the first time,
in reality - by the conviction that Dora and I had indeed to work
out our future for ourselves, and that no one could assist us, to
take much notice of it.

Dora came stealing down in her little slippers, to meet me, now
that I was alone; and cried upon my shoulder, and said I had been
hard-hearted and she had been naughty; and I said much the same
thing in effect, I believe; and we made it up, and agreed that our
first little difference was to be our last, and that we were never
to have another if we lived a hundred years.

The next domestic trial we went through, was the Ordeal of
Servants. Mary Anne's cousin deserted into our coal-hole, and was
brought out, to our great amazement, by a piquet of his companions
in arms, who took him away handcuffed in a procession that covered
our front-garden with ignominy. This nerved me to get rid of Mary
Anne, who went so mildly, on receipt of wages, that I was
surprised, until I found out about the tea-spoons, and also about
the little sums she had borrowed in my name of the tradespeople
without authority. After an interval of Mrs. Kidgerbury - the
oldest inhabitant of Kentish Town, I believe, who went out charing,
but was too feeble to execute her conceptions of that art - we
found another treasure, who was one of the most amiable of women,
but who generally made a point of falling either up or down the
kitchen stairs with the tray, and almost plunged into the parlour,
as into a bath, with the tea-things. The ravages committed by this
unfortunate, rendering her dismissal necessary, she was succeeded
(with intervals of Mrs. Kidgerbury) by a long line of Incapables;
terminating in a young person of genteel appearance, who went to
Greenwich Fair in Dora's bonnet. After whom I remember nothing but
an average equality of failure.

Everybody we had anything to do with seemed to cheat us. Our
appearance in a shop was a signal for the damaged goods to be
brought out immediately. If we bought a lobster, it was full of
water. All our meat turned out to be tough, and there was hardly
any crust to our loaves. In search of the principle on which
joints ought to be roasted, to be roasted enough, and not too much,
I myself referred to the Cookery Book, and found it there
established as the allowance of a quarter of an hour to every
pound, and say a quarter over. But the principle always failed us
by some curious fatality, and we never could hit any medium between
redness and cinders.

I had reason to believe that in accomplishing these failures we
incurred a far greater expense than if we had achieved a series of
triumphs. It appeared to me, on looking over the tradesmen's
books, as if we might have kept the basement storey paved with
butter, such was the extensive scale of our consumption of that
article. I don't know whether the Excise returns of the period may
have exhibited any increase in the demand for pepper; but if our
performances did not affect the market, I should say several
families must have left off using it. And the most wonderful fact
of all was, that we never had anything in the house.

As to the washerwoman pawning the clothes, and coming in a state of
penitent intoxication to apologize, I suppose that might have
happened several times to anybody. Also the chimney on fire, the
parish engine, and perjury on the part of the Beadle. But I
apprehend that we were personally fortunate in engaging a servant
with a taste for cordials, who swelled our running account for
porter at the public-house by such inexplicable items as 'quartern
rum shrub (Mrs. C.)'; 'Half-quartern gin and cloves (Mrs. C.)';
'Glass rum and peppermint (Mrs. C.)' - the parentheses always
referring to Dora, who was supposed, it appeared on explanation, to
have imbibed the whole of these refreshments.

One of our first feats in the housekeeping way was a little dinner
to Traddles. I met him in town, and asked him to walk out with me
that afternoon. He readily consenting, I wrote to Dora, saying I
would bring him home. It was pleasant weather, and on the road we
made my domestic happiness the theme of conversation. Traddles was
very full of it; and said, that, picturing himself with such a
home, and Sophy waiting and preparing for him, he could think of
nothing wanting to complete his bliss.

I could not have wished for a prettier little wife at the opposite
end of the table, but I certainly could have wished, when we sat
down, for a little more room. I did not know how it was, but
though there were only two of us, we were at once always cramped
for room, and yet had always room enough to lose everything in. I
suspect it may have been because nothing had a place of its own,
except Jip's pagoda, which invariably blocked up the main
thoroughfare. On the present occasion, Traddles was so hemmed in
by the pagoda and the guitar-case, and Dora's flower-painting, and
my writing-table, that I had serious doubts of the possibility of
his using his knife and fork; but he protested, with his own
good-humour, 'Oceans of room, Copperfield! I assure you, Oceans!'

There was another thing I could have wished, namely, that Jip had
never been encouraged to walk about the tablecloth during dinner.
I began to think there was something disorderly in his being there
at all, even if he had not been in the habit of putting his foot in
the salt or the melted butter. On this occasion he seemed to think
he was introduced expressly to keep Traddles at bay; and he barked
at my old friend, and made short runs at his plate, with such
undaunted pertinacity, that he may be said to have engrossed the
conversation.

However, as I knew how tender-hearted my dear Dora was, and how
sensitive she would be to any slight upon her favourite, I hinted
no objection. For similar reasons I made no allusion to the
skirmishing plates upon the floor; or to the disreputable
appearance of the castors, which were all at sixes and sevens, and
looked drunk; or to the further blockade of Traddles by wandering
vegetable dishes and jugs. I could not help wondering in my own
mind, as I contemplated the boiled leg of mutton before me,
previous to carving it, how it came to pass that our joints of meat
were of such extraordinary shapes - and whether our butcher
contracted for all the deformed sheep that came into the world; but
I kept my reflections to myself.

'My love,' said I to Dora, 'what have you got in that dish?'

I could not imagine why Dora had been making tempting little faces
at me, as if she wanted to kiss me.

'Oysters, dear,' said Dora, timidly.

'Was that YOUR thought?' said I, delighted.

'Ye-yes, Doady,' said Dora.

'There never was a happier one!' I exclaimed, laying down the
carving-knife and fork. 'There is nothing Traddles likes so much!'

'Ye-yes, Doady,' said Dora, 'and so I bought a beautiful little
barrel of them, and the man said they were very good. But I - I am
afraid there's something the matter with them. They don't seem
right.' Here Dora shook her head, and diamonds twinkled in her
eyes.

'They are only opened in both shells,' said I. 'Take the top one
off, my love.'

'But it won't come off!' said Dora, trying very hard, and looking
very much distressed.

'Do you know, Copperfield,' said Traddles, cheerfully examining the
dish, 'I think it is in consequence - they are capital oysters, but
I think it is in consequence - of their never having been opened.'

They never had been opened; and we had no oyster-knives - and
couldn't have used them if we had; so we looked at the oysters and
ate the mutton. At least we ate as much of it as was done, and
made up with capers. If I had permitted him, I am satisfied that
Traddles would have made a perfect savage of himself, and eaten a
plateful of raw meat, to express enjoyment of the repast; but I
would hear of no such immolation on the altar of friendship, and we
had a course of bacon instead; there happening, by good fortune, to
be cold bacon in the larder.

My poor little wife was in such affliction when she thought I
should be annoyed, and in such a state of joy when she found I was
not, that the discomfiture I had subdued, very soon vanished, and
we passed a happy evening; Dora sitting with her arm on my chair
while Traddles and I discussed a glass of wine, and taking every
opportunity of whispering in my ear that it was so good of me not
to be a cruel, cross old boy. By and by she made tea for us; which
it was so pretty to see her do, as if she was busying herself with
a set of doll's tea-things, that I was not particular about the
quality of the beverage. Then Traddles and I played a game or two
at cribbage; and Dora singing to the guitar the while, it seemed to
me as if our courtship and marriage were a tender dream of mine,
and the night when I first listened to her voice were not yet over.

When Traddles went away, and I came back into the parlour from
seeing him out, my wife planted her chair close to mine, and sat
down by my side. 'I am very sorry,' she said. 'Will you try to
teach me, Doady?'

'I must teach myself first, Dora,' said I. 'I am as bad as you,
love.'

'Ah! But you can learn,' she returned; 'and you are a clever,
clever man!'

'Nonsense, mouse!' said I.

'I wish,' resumed my wife, after a long silence, 'that I could have
gone down into the country for a whole year, and lived with Agnes!'

Her hands were clasped upon my shoulder, and her chin rested on
them, and her blue eyes looked quietly into mine.

'Why so?' I asked.

'I think she might have improved me, and I think I might have
learned from her,' said Dora.

'All in good time, my love. Agnes has had her father to take care
of for these many years, you should remember. Even when she was
quite a child, she was the Agnes whom we know,' said I.

'Will you call me a name I want you to call me?' inquired Dora,
without moving.

'What is it?' I asked with a smile.

'It's a stupid name,' she said, shaking her curls for a moment.
'Child-wife.'

I laughingly asked my child-wife what her fancy was in desiring to
be so called. She answered without moving, otherwise than as the
arm I twined about her may have brought her blue eyes nearer to me:

'I don't mean, you silly fellow, that you should use the name
instead of Dora. I only mean that you should think of me that way.
When you are going to be angry with me, say to yourself, "it's only
my child-wife!" When I am very disappointing, say, "I knew, a long
time ago, that she would make but a child-wife!" When you miss what
I should like to be, and I think can never be, say, "still my
foolish child-wife loves me!" For indeed I do.'

I had not been serious with her; having no idea until now, that she
was serious herself. But her affectionate nature was so happy in
what I now said to her with my whole heart, that her face became a
laughing one before her glittering eyes were dry. She was soon my
child-wife indeed; sitting down on the floor outside the Chinese
House, ringing all the little bells one after another, to punish
Jip for his recent bad behaviour; while Jip lay blinking in the
doorway with his head out, even too lazy to be teased.

This appeal of Dora's made a strong impression on me. I look back
on the time I write of; I invoke the innocent figure that I dearly
loved, to come out from the mists and shadows of the past, and turn
its gentle head towards me once again; and I can still declare that
this one little speech was constantly in my memory. I may not have
used it to the best account; I was young and inexperienced; but I
never turned a deaf ear to its artless pleading.

Dora told me, shortly afterwards, that she was going to be a
wonderful housekeeper. Accordingly, she polished the tablets,
pointed the pencil, bought an immense account-book, carefully
stitched up with a needle and thread all the leaves of the Cookery
Book which Jip had torn, and made quite a desperate little attempt
'to be good', as she called it. But the figures had the old
obstinate propensity - they WOULD NOT add up. When she had entered
two or three laborious items in the account-book, Jip would walk
over the page, wagging his tail, and smear them all out. Her own
little right-hand middle finger got steeped to the very bone in
ink; and I think that was the only decided result obtained.

Sometimes, of an evening, when I was at home and at work - for I
wrote a good deal now, and was beginning in a small way to be known
as a writer - I would lay down my pen, and watch my child-wife
trying to be good. First of all, she would bring out the immense
account-book, and lay it down upon the table, with a deep sigh.
Then she would open it at the place where Jip had made it illegible
last night, and call Jip up, to look at his misdeeds. This would
occasion a diversion in Jip's favour, and some inking of his nose,
perhaps, as a penalty. Then she would tell Jip to lie down on the
table instantly, 'like a lion' - which was one of his tricks,
though I cannot say the likeness was striking - and, if he were in
an obedient humour, he would obey. Then she would take up a pen,
and begin to write, and find a hair in it. Then she would take up
another pen, and begin to write, and find that it spluttered. Then
she would take up another pen, and begin to write, and say in a low
voice, 'Oh, it's a talking pen, and will disturb Doady!' And then
she would give it up as a bad job, and put the account-book away,
after pretending to crush the lion with it.

Or, if she were in a very sedate and serious state of mind, she
would sit down with the tablets, and a little basket of bills and
other documents, which looked more like curl-papers than anything
else, and endeavour to get some result out of them. After severely
comparing one with another, and making entries on the tablets, and
blotting them out, and counting all the fingers of her left hand
over and over again, backwards and forwards, she would be so vexed
and discouraged, and would look so unhappy, that it gave me pain to
see her bright face clouded - and for me! - and I would go softly
to her, and say:

'What's the matter, Dora?'

Dora would look up hopelessly, and reply, 'They won't come right.
They make my head ache so. And they won't do anything I want!'

Then I would say, 'Now let us try together. Let me show you,
Dora.'

Then I would commence a practical demonstration, to which Dora
would pay profound attention, perhaps for five minutes; when she
would begin to be dreadfully tired, and would lighten the subject
by curling my hair, or trying the effect of my face with my
shirt-collar turned down. If I tacitly checked this playfulness,
and persisted, she would look so scared and disconsolate, as she
became more and more bewildered, that the remembrance of her
natural gaiety when I first strayed into her path, and of her being
my child-wife, would come reproachfully upon me; and I would lay
the pencil down, and call for the guitar.

I had a great deal of work to do, and had many anxieties, but the
same considerations made me keep them to myself. I am far from
sure, now, that it was right to do this, but I did it for my
child-wife's sake. I search my breast, and I commit its secrets,
if I know them, without any reservation to this paper. The old
unhappy loss or want of something had, I am conscious, some place
in my heart; but not to the embitterment of my life. When I walked
alone in the fine weather, and thought of the summer days when all
the air had been filled with my boyish enchantment, I did miss
something of the realization of my dreams; but I thought it was a
softened glory of the Past, which nothing could have thrown upon
the present time. I did feel, sometimes, for a little while, that
I could have wished my wife had been my counsellor; had had more
character and purpose, to sustain me and improve me by; had been
endowed with power to fill up the void which somewhere seemed to be
about me; but I felt as if this were an unearthly consummation of
my happiness, that never had been meant to be, and never could have
been.

I was a boyish husband as to years. I had known the softening
influence of no other sorrows or experiences than those recorded in
these leaves. If I did any wrong, as I may have done much, I did
it in mistaken love, and in my want of wisdom. I write the exact
truth. It would avail me nothing to extenuate it now.

Thus it was that I took upon myself the toils and cares of our
life, and had no partner in them. We lived much as before, in
reference to our scrambling household arrangements; but I had got
used to those, and Dora I was pleased to see was seldom vexed now.
She was bright and cheerful in the old childish way, loved me
dearly, and was happy with her old trifles.

When the debates were heavy - I mean as to length, not quality, for
in the last respect they were not often otherwise - and I went home
late, Dora would never rest when she heard my footsteps, but would
always come downstairs to meet me. When my evenings were
unoccupied by the pursuit for which I had qualified myself with so
much pains, and I was engaged in writing at home, she would sit
quietly near me, however late the hour, and be so mute, that I
would often think she had dropped asleep. But generally, when I
raised my head, I saw her blue eyes looking at me with the quiet
attention of which I have already spoken.

'Oh, what a weary boy!' said Dora one night, when I met her eyes as
I was shutting up my desk.

'What a weary girl!' said I. 'That's more to the purpose. You
must go to bed another time, my love. It's far too late for you.'

'No, don't send me to bed!' pleaded Dora, coming to my side.
'Pray, don't do that!'

'Dora!' To my amazement she was sobbing on my neck. 'Not well, my
dear! not happy!'

'Yes! quite well, and very happy!' said Dora. 'But say you'll let
me stop, and see you write.'

'Why, what a sight for such bright eyes at midnight!' I replied.

'Are they bright, though?' returned Dora, laughing. 'I'm so glad
they're bright.'
'Little Vanity!' said I.

But it was not vanity; it was only harmless delight in my
admiration. I knew that very well, before she told me so.

'If you think them pretty, say I may always stop, and see you
write!' said Dora. 'Do you think them pretty?'

'Very pretty.'

'Then let me always stop and see you write.'

'I am afraid that won't improve their brightness, Dora.'

'Yes, it will! Because, you clever boy, you'll not forget me then,
while you are full of silent fancies. Will you mind it, if I say
something very, very silly? - more than usual?' inquired Dora,
peeping over my shoulder into my face.

'What wonderful thing is that?' said I.

'Please let me hold the pens,' said Dora. 'I want to have
something to do with all those many hours when you are so
industrious. May I hold the pens?'

The remembrance of her pretty joy when I said yes, brings tears
into my eyes. The next time I sat down to write, and regularly
afterwards, she sat in her old place, with a spare bundle of pens
at her side. Her triumph in this connexion with my work, and her
delight when I wanted a new pen - which I very often feigned to do
- suggested to me a new way of pleasing my child-wife. I
occasionally made a pretence of wanting a page or two of manuscript
copied. Then Dora was in her glory. The preparations she made for
this great work, the aprons she put on, the bibs she borrowed from
the kitchen to keep off the ink, the time she took, the innumerable
stoppages she made to have a laugh with Jip as if he understood it
all, her conviction that her work was incomplete unless she signed
her name at the end, and the way in which she would bring it to me,
like a school-copy, and then, when I praised it, clasp me round the
neck, are touching recollections to me, simple as they might appear
to other men.

She took possession of the keys soon after this, and went jingling
about the house with the whole bunch in a little basket, tied to
her slender waist. I seldom found that the places to which they
belonged were locked, or that they were of any use except as a
plaything for Jip - but Dora was pleased, and that pleased me. She
was quite satisfied that a good deal was effected by this
make-belief of housekeeping; and was as merry as if we had been
keeping a baby-house, for a joke.

So we went on. Dora was hardly less affectionate to my aunt than
to me, and often told her of the time when she was afraid she was
'a cross old thing'. I never saw my aunt unbend more
systematically to anyone. She courted Jip, though Jip never
responded; listened, day after day, to the guitar, though I am
afraid she had no taste for music; never attacked the Incapables,
though the temptation must have been severe; went wonderful
distances on foot to purchase, as surprises, any trifles that she
found out Dora wanted; and never came in by the garden, and missed
her from the room, but she would call out, at the foot of the
stairs, in a voice that sounded cheerfully all over the house:

'Where's Little Blossom?'

CHAPTER 45
Mr. Dick fulfils my aunt's Predictions

It was some time now, since I had left the Doctor. Living in his
neighbourhood, I saw him frequently; and we all went to his house
on two or three occasions to dinner or tea. The Old Soldier was in
permanent quarters under the Doctor's roof. She was exactly the
same as ever, and the same immortal butterflies hovered over her
cap.

Like some other mothers, whom I have known in the course of my
life, Mrs. Markleham was far more fond of pleasure than her
daughter was. She required a great deal of amusement, and, like a
deep old soldier, pretended, in consulting her own inclinations, to
be devoting herself to her child. The Doctor's desire that Annie
should be entertained, was therefore particularly acceptable to
this excellent parent; who expressed unqualified approval of his
discretion.

I have no doubt, indeed, that she probed the Doctor's wound without
knowing it. Meaning nothing but a certain matured frivolity and
selfishness, not always inseparable from full-blown years, I think
she confirmed him in his fear that he was a constraint upon his
young wife, and that there was no congeniality of feeling between
them, by so strongly commending his design of lightening the load
of her life.

'My dear soul,' she said to him one day when I was present, 'you
know there is no doubt it would be a little pokey for Annie to be
always shut up here.'

The Doctor nodded his benevolent head. 'When she comes to her
mother's age,' said Mrs. Markleham, with a flourish of her fan,
'then it'll be another thing. You might put ME into a Jail, with
genteel society and a rubber, and I should never care to come out.
But I am not Annie, you know; and Annie is not her mother.'

'Surely, surely,' said the Doctor.

'You are the best of creatures - no, I beg your pardon!' for the
Doctor made a gesture of deprecation, 'I must say before your face,
as I always say behind your back, you are the best of creatures;
but of course you don't - now do you? - enter into the same
pursuits and fancies as Annie?'

'No,' said the Doctor, in a sorrowful tone.

'No, of course not,' retorted the Old Soldier. 'Take your
Dictionary, for example. What a useful work a Dictionary is! What
a necessary work! The meanings of words! Without Doctor Johnson,
or somebody of that sort, we might have been at this present moment
calling an Italian-iron, a bedstead. But we can't expect a
Dictionary - especially when it's making - to interest Annie, can
we?'

The Doctor shook his head.

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