Part 5 out of 21
temper may have led him to expect that he would overcome them. The
pearl necklace and bracelets which I inherited from mama, have been
disposed of for less than half their value; and the set of coral,
which was the wedding gift of my papa, has been actually thrown
away for nothing. But I never will desert Mr. Micawber. No!'
cried Mrs. Micawber, more affected than before, 'I never will do
it! It's of no use asking me!'
I felt quite uncomfortable - as if Mrs. Micawber supposed I had
asked her to do anything of the sort! - and sat looking at her in
'Mr. Micawber has his faults. I do not deny that he is
improvident. I do not deny that he has kept me in the dark as to
his resources and his liabilities both,' she went on, looking at
the wall; 'but I never will desert Mr. Micawber!'
Mrs. Micawber having now raised her voice into a perfect scream, I
was so frightened that I ran off to the club-room, and disturbed
Mr. Micawber in the act of presiding at a long table, and leading
the chorus of
Gee up, Dobbin,
Gee ho, Dobbin,
Gee up, Dobbin,
Gee up, and gee ho - o - o!
with the tidings that Mrs. Micawber was in an alarming state, upon
which he immediately burst into tears, and came away with me with
his waistcoat full of the heads and tails of shrimps, of which he
had been partaking.
'Emma, my angel!' cried Mr. Micawber, running into the room; 'what
is the matter?'
'I never will desert you, Micawber!' she exclaimed.
'My life!' said Mr. Micawber, taking her in his arms. 'I am
perfectly aware of it.'
'He is the parent of my children! He is the father of my twins!
He is the husband of my affections,' cried Mrs. Micawber,
struggling; 'and I ne - ver - will - desert Mr. Micawber!'
Mr. Micawber was so deeply affected by this proof of her devotion
(as to me, I was dissolved in tears), that he hung over her in a
passionate manner, imploring her to look up, and to be calm. But
the more he asked Mrs. Micawber to look up, the more she fixed her
eyes on nothing; and the more he asked her to compose herself, the
more she wouldn't. Consequently Mr. Micawber was soon so overcome,
that he mingled his tears with hers and mine; until he begged me to
do him the favour of taking a chair on the staircase, while he got
her into bed. I would have taken my leave for the night, but he
would not hear of my doing that until the strangers' bell should
ring. So I sat at the staircase window, until he came out with
another chair and joined me.
'How is Mrs. Micawber now, sir?' I said.
'Very low,' said Mr. Micawber, shaking his head; 'reaction. Ah,
this has been a dreadful day! We stand alone now - everything is
gone from us!'
Mr. Micawber pressed my hand, and groaned, and afterwards shed
tears. I was greatly touched, and disappointed too, for I had
expected that we should be quite gay on this happy and
long-looked-for occasion. But Mr. and Mrs. Micawber were so used
to their old difficulties, I think, that they felt quite
shipwrecked when they came to consider that they were released from
them. All their elasticity was departed, and I never saw them half
so wretched as on this night; insomuch that when the bell rang, and
Mr. Micawber walked with me to the lodge, and parted from me there
with a blessing, I felt quite afraid to leave him by himself, he
was so profoundly miserable.
But through all the confusion and lowness of spirits in which we
had been, so unexpectedly to me, involved, I plainly discerned that
Mr. and Mrs. Micawber and their family were going away from London,
and that a parting between us was near at hand. It was in my walk
home that night, and in the sleepless hours which followed when I
lay in bed, that the thought first occurred to me - though I don't
know how it came into my head - which afterwards shaped itself into
a settled resolution.
I had grown to be so accustomed to the Micawbers, and had been so
intimate with them in their distresses, and was so utterly
friendless without them, that the prospect of being thrown upon
some new shift for a lodging, and going once more among unknown
people, was like being that moment turned adrift into my present
life, with such a knowledge of it ready made as experience had
given me. All the sensitive feelings it wounded so cruelly, all
the shame and misery it kept alive within my breast, became more
poignant as I thought of this; and I determined that the life was
That there was no hope of escape from it, unless the escape was my
own act, I knew quite well. I rarely heard from Miss Murdstone,
and never from Mr. Murdstone: but two or three parcels of made or
mended clothes had come up for me, consigned to Mr. Quinion, and in
each there was a scrap of paper to the effect that J. M. trusted D.
C. was applying himself to business, and devoting himself wholly to
his duties - not the least hint of my ever being anything else than
the common drudge into which I was fast settling down.
The very next day showed me, while my mind was in the first
agitation of what it had conceived, that Mrs. Micawber had not
spoken of their going away without warrant. They took a lodging in
the house where I lived, for a week; at the expiration of which
time they were to start for Plymouth. Mr. Micawber himself came
down to the counting-house, in the afternoon, to tell Mr. Quinion
that he must relinquish me on the day of his departure, and to give
me a high character, which I am sure I deserved. And Mr. Quinion,
calling in Tipp the carman, who was a married man, and had a room
to let, quartered me prospectively on him - by our mutual consent,
as he had every reason to think; for I said nothing, though my
resolution was now taken.
I passed my evenings with Mr. and Mrs. Micawber, during the
remaining term of our residence under the same roof; and I think we
became fonder of one another as the time went on. On the last
Sunday, they invited me to dinner; and we had a loin of pork and
apple sauce, and a pudding. I had bought a spotted wooden horse
over-night as a parting gift to little Wilkins Micawber - that was
the boy - and a doll for little Emma. I had also bestowed a
shilling on the Orfling, who was about to be disbanded.
We had a very pleasant day, though we were all in a tender state
about our approaching separation.
'I shall never, Master Copperfield,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'revert to
the period when Mr. Micawber was in difficulties, without thinking
of you. Your conduct has always been of the most delicate and
obliging description. You have never been a lodger. You have been
'My dear,' said Mr. Micawber; 'Copperfield,' for so he had been
accustomed to call me, of late, 'has a heart to feel for the
distresses of his fellow-creatures when they are behind a cloud,
and a head to plan, and a hand to - in short, a general ability to
dispose of such available property as could be made away with.'
I expressed my sense of this commendation, and said I was very
sorry we were going to lose one another.
'My dear young friend,' said Mr. Micawber, 'I am older than you; a
man of some experience in life, and - and of some experience, in
short, in difficulties, generally speaking. At present, and until
something turns up (which I am, I may say, hourly expecting), I
have nothing to bestow but advice. Still my advice is so far worth
taking, that - in short, that I have never taken it myself, and am
the' - here Mr. Micawber, who had been beaming and smiling, all
over his head and face, up to the present moment, checked himself
and frowned - 'the miserable wretch you behold.'
'My dear Micawber!' urged his wife.
'I say,' returned Mr. Micawber, quite forgetting himself, and
smiling again, 'the miserable wretch you behold. My advice is,
never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the
thief of time. Collar him!'
'My poor papa's maxim,' Mrs. Micawber observed.
'My dear,' said Mr. Micawber, 'your papa was very well in his way,
and Heaven forbid that I should disparage him. Take him for all in
all, we ne'er shall - in short, make the acquaintance, probably, of
anybody else possessing, at his time of life, the same legs for
gaiters, and able to read the same description of print, without
spectacles. But he applied that maxim to our marriage, my dear;
and that was so far prematurely entered into, in consequence, that
I never recovered the expense.' Mr. Micawber looked aside at Mrs.
Micawber, and added: 'Not that I am sorry for it. Quite the
contrary, my love.' After which, he was grave for a minute or so.
'My other piece of advice, Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, 'you
know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen
nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds,
annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The
blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down
upon the dreary scene, and - and in short you are for ever floored.
As I am!'
To make his example the more impressive, Mr. Micawber drank a glass
of punch with an air of great enjoyment and satisfaction, and
whistled the College Hornpipe.
I did not fail to assure him that I would store these precepts in
my mind, though indeed I had no need to do so, for, at the time,
they affected me visibly. Next morning I met the whole family at
the coach office, and saw them, with a desolate heart, take their
places outside, at the back.
'Master Copperfield,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'God bless you! I never
can forget all that, you know, and I never would if I could.'
'Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, 'farewell! Every happiness and
prosperity! If, in the progress of revolving years, I could
persuade myself that my blighted destiny had been a warning to you,
I should feel that I had not occupied another man's place in
existence altogether in vain. In case of anything turning up (of
which I am rather confident), I shall be extremely happy if it
should be in my power to improve your prospects.'
I think, as Mrs. Micawber sat at the back of the coach, with the
children, and I stood in the road looking wistfully at them, a mist
cleared from her eyes, and she saw what a little creature I really
was. I think so, because she beckoned to me to climb up, with
quite a new and motherly expression in her face, and put her arm
round my neck, and gave me just such a kiss as she might have given
to her own boy. I had barely time to get down again before the
coach started, and I could hardly see the family for the
handkerchiefs they waved. It was gone in a minute. The Orfling
and I stood looking vacantly at each other in the middle of the
road, and then shook hands and said good-bye; she going back, I
suppose, to St. Luke's workhouse, as I went to begin my weary day
at Murdstone and Grinby's.
But with no intention of passing many more weary days there. No.
I had resolved to run away. - To go, by some means or other, down
into the country, to the only relation I had in the world, and tell
my story to my aunt, Miss Betsey.
I have already observed that I don't know how this desperate idea
came into my brain. But, once there, it remained there; and
hardened into a purpose than which I have never entertained a more
determined purpose in my life. I am far from sure that I believed
there was anything hopeful in it, but my mind was thoroughly made
up that it must be carried into execution.
Again, and again, and a hundred times again, since the night when
the thought had first occurred to me and banished sleep, I had gone
over that old story of my poor mother's about my birth, which it
had been one of my great delights in the old time to hear her tell,
and which I knew by heart. My aunt walked into that story, and
walked out of it, a dread and awful personage; but there was one
little trait in her behaviour which I liked to dwell on, and which
gave me some faint shadow of encouragement. I could not forget how
my mother had thought that she felt her touch her pretty hair with
no ungentle hand; and though it might have been altogether my
mother's fancy, and might have had no foundation whatever in fact,
I made a little picture, out of it, of my terrible aunt relenting
towards the girlish beauty that I recollected so well and loved so
much, which softened the whole narrative. It is very possible that
it had been in my mind a long time, and had gradually engendered my
As I did not even know where Miss Betsey lived, I wrote a long
letter to Peggotty, and asked her, incidentally, if she remembered;
pretending that I had heard of such a lady living at a certain
place I named at random, and had a curiosity to know if it were the
same. In the course of that letter, I told Peggotty that I had a
particular occasion for half a guinea; and that if she could lend
me that sum until I could repay it, I should be very much obliged
to her, and would tell her afterwards what I had wanted it for.
Peggotty's answer soon arrived, and was, as usual, full of
affectionate devotion. She enclosed the half guinea (I was afraid
she must have had a world of trouble to get it out of Mr. Barkis's
box), and told me that Miss Betsey lived near Dover, but whether at
Dover itself, at Hythe, Sandgate, or Folkestone, she could not say.
One of our men, however, informing me on my asking him about these
places, that they were all close together, I deemed this enough for
my object, and resolved to set out at the end of that week.
Being a very honest little creature, and unwilling to disgrace the
memory I was going to leave behind me at Murdstone and Grinby's, I
considered myself bound to remain until Saturday night; and, as I
had been paid a week's wages in advance when I first came there,
not to present myself in the counting-house at the usual hour, to
receive my stipend. For this express reason, I had borrowed the
half-guinea, that I might not be without a fund for my
travelling-expenses. Accordingly, when the Saturday night came,
and we were all waiting in the warehouse to be paid, and Tipp the
carman, who always took precedence, went in first to draw his
money, I shook Mick Walker by the hand; asked him, when it came to
his turn to be paid, to say to Mr. Quinion that I had gone to move
my box to Tipp's; and, bidding a last good night to Mealy Potatoes,
My box was at my old lodging, over the water, and I had written a
direction for it on the back of one of our address cards that we
nailed on the casks: 'Master David, to be left till called for, at
the Coach Office, Dover.' This I had in my pocket ready to put on
the box, after I should have got it out of the house; and as I went
towards my lodging, I looked about me for someone who would help me
to carry it to the booking-office.
There was a long-legged young man with a very little empty
donkey-cart, standing near the Obelisk, in the Blackfriars Road,
whose eye I caught as I was going by, and who, addressing me as
'Sixpenn'orth of bad ha'pence,' hoped 'I should know him agin to
swear to' - in allusion, I have no doubt, to my staring at him. I
stopped to assure him that I had not done so in bad manners, but
uncertain whether he might or might not like a job.
'Wot job?' said the long-legged young man.
'To move a box,' I answered.
'Wot box?' said the long-legged young man.
I told him mine, which was down that street there, and which I
wanted him to take to the Dover coach office for sixpence.
'Done with you for a tanner!' said the long-legged young man, and
directly got upon his cart, which was nothing but a large wooden
tray on wheels, and rattled away at such a rate, that it was as
much as I could do to keep pace with the donkey.
There was a defiant manner about this young man, and particularly
about the way in which he chewed straw as he spoke to me, that I
did not much like; as the bargain was made, however, I took him
upstairs to the room I was leaving, and we brought the box down,
and put it on his cart. Now, I was unwilling to put the
direction-card on there, lest any of my landlord's family should
fathom what I was doing, and detain me; so I said to the young man
that I would be glad if he would stop for a minute, when he came to
the dead-wall of the King's Bench prison. The words were no sooner
out of my mouth, than he rattled away as if he, my box, the cart,
and the donkey, were all equally mad; and I was quite out of breath
with running and calling after him, when I caught him at the place
Being much flushed and excited, I tumbled my half-guinea out of my
pocket in pulling the card out. I put it in my mouth for safety,
and though my hands trembled a good deal, had just tied the card on
very much to my satisfaction, when I felt myself violently chucked
under the chin by the long-legged young man, and saw my half-guinea
fly out of my mouth into his hand.
'Wot!' said the young man, seizing me by my jacket collar, with a
frightful grin. 'This is a pollis case, is it? You're a-going to
bolt, are you? Come to the pollis, you young warmin, come to the
'You give me my money back, if you please,' said I, very much
frightened; 'and leave me alone.'
'Come to the pollis!' said the young man. 'You shall prove it
yourn to the pollis.'
'Give me my box and money, will you,' I cried, bursting into tears.
The young man still replied: 'Come to the pollis!' and was dragging
me against the donkey in a violent manner, as if there were any
affinity between that animal and a magistrate, when he changed his
mind, jumped into the cart, sat upon my box, and, exclaiming that
he would drive to the pollis straight, rattled away harder than
I ran after him as fast as I could, but I had no breath to call out
with, and should not have dared to call out, now, if I had. I
narrowly escaped being run over, twenty times at least, in half a
mile. Now I lost him, now I saw him, now I lost him, now I was cut
at with a whip, now shouted at, now down in the mud, now up again,
now running into somebody's arms, now running headlong at a post.
At length, confused by fright and heat, and doubting whether half
London might not by this time be turning out for my apprehension,
I left the young man to go where he would with my box and money;
and, panting and crying, but never stopping, faced about for
Greenwich, which I had understood was on the Dover Road: taking
very little more out of the world, towards the retreat of my aunt,
Miss Betsey, than I had brought into it, on the night when my
arrival gave her so much umbrage.
THE SEQUEL OF MY RESOLUTION
For anything I know, I may have had some wild idea of running all
the way to Dover, when I gave up the pursuit of the young man with
the donkey-cart, and started for Greenwich. My scattered senses
were soon collected as to that point, if I had; for I came to a
stop in the Kent Road, at a terrace with a piece of water before
it, and a great foolish image in the middle, blowing a dry shell.
Here I sat down on a doorstep, quite spent and exhausted with the
efforts I had already made, and with hardly breath enough to cry
for the loss of my box and half-guinea.
It was by this time dark; I heard the clocks strike ten, as I sat
resting. But it was a summer night, fortunately, and fine weather.
When I had recovered my breath, and had got rid of a stifling
sensation in my throat, I rose up and went on. In the midst of my
distress, I had no notion of going back. I doubt if I should have
had any, though there had been a Swiss snow-drift in the Kent Road.
But my standing possessed of only three-halfpence in the world (and
I am sure I wonder how they came to be left in my pocket on a
Saturday night!) troubled me none the less because I went on. I
began to picture to myself, as a scrap of newspaper intelligence,
my being found dead in a day or two, under some hedge; and I
trudged on miserably, though as fast as I could, until I happened
to pass a little shop, where it was written up that ladies' and
gentlemen's wardrobes were bought, and that the best price was
given for rags, bones, and kitchen-stuff. The master of this shop
was sitting at the door in his shirt-sleeves, smoking; and as there
were a great many coats and pairs of trousers dangling from the low
ceiling, and only two feeble candles burning inside to show what
they were, I fancied that he looked like a man of a revengeful
disposition, who had hung all his enemies, and was enjoying
My late experiences with Mr. and Mrs. Micawber suggested to me that
here might be a means of keeping off the wolf for a little while.
I went up the next by-street, took off my waistcoat, rolled it
neatly under my arm, and came back to the shop door.
'If you please, sir,' I said, 'I am to sell this for a fair price.'
Mr. Dolloby - Dolloby was the name over the shop door, at least -
took the waistcoat, stood his pipe on its head, against the
door-post, went into the shop, followed by me, snuffed the two
candles with his fingers, spread the waistcoat on the counter, and
looked at it there, held it up against the light, and looked at it
there, and ultimately said:
'What do you call a price, now, for this here little weskit?'
'Oh! you know best, sir,' I returned modestly.
'I can't be buyer and seller too,' said Mr. Dolloby. 'Put a price
on this here little weskit.'
'Would eighteenpence be?'- I hinted, after some hesitation.
Mr. Dolloby rolled it up again, and gave it me back. 'I should rob
my family,' he said, 'if I was to offer ninepence for it.'
This was a disagreeable way of putting the business; because it
imposed upon me, a perfect stranger, the unpleasantness of asking
Mr. Dolloby to rob his family on my account. My circumstances
being so very pressing, however, I said I would take ninepence for
it, if he pleased. Mr. Dolloby, not without some grumbling, gave
ninepence. I wished him good night, and walked out of the shop the
richer by that sum, and the poorer by a waistcoat. But when I
buttoned my jacket, that was not much.
Indeed, I foresaw pretty clearly that my jacket would go next, and
that I should have to make the best of my way to Dover in a shirt
and a pair of trousers, and might deem myself lucky if I got there
even in that trim. But my mind did not run so much on this as
might be supposed. Beyond a general impression of the distance
before me, and of the young man with the donkey-cart having used me
cruelly, I think I had no very urgent sense of my difficulties when
I once again set off with my ninepence in my pocket.
A plan had occurred to me for passing the night, which I was going
to carry into execution. This was, to lie behind the wall at the
back of my old school, in a corner where there used to be a
haystack. I imagined it would be a kind of company to have the
boys, and the bedroom where I used to tell the stories, so near me:
although the boys would know nothing of my being there, and the
bedroom would yield me no shelter.
I had had a hard day's work, and was pretty well jaded when I came
climbing out, at last, upon the level of Blackheath. It cost me
some trouble to find out Salem House; but I found it, and I found
a haystack in the corner, and I lay down by it; having first walked
round the wall, and looked up at the windows, and seen that all was
dark and silent within. Never shall I forget the lonely sensation
of first lying down, without a roof above my head!
Sleep came upon me as it came on many other outcasts, against whom
house-doors were locked, and house-dogs barked, that night - and I
dreamed of lying on my old school-bed, talking to the boys in my
room; and found myself sitting upright, with Steerforth's name upon
my lips, looking wildly at the stars that were glistening and
glimmering above me. When I remembered where I was at that
untimely hour, a feeling stole upon me that made me get up, afraid
of I don't know what, and walk about. But the fainter glimmering
of the stars, and the pale light in the sky where the day was
coming, reassured me: and my eyes being very heavy, I lay down
again and slept - though with a knowledge in my sleep that it was
cold - until the warm beams of the sun, and the ringing of the
getting-up bell at Salem House, awoke me. If I could have hoped
that Steerforth was there, I would have lurked about until he came
out alone; but I knew he must have left long since. Traddles still
remained, perhaps, but it was very doubtful; and I had not
sufficient confidence in his discretion or good luck, however
strong my reliance was on his good nature, to wish to trust him
with my situation. So I crept away from the wall as Mr. Creakle's
boys were getting up, and struck into the long dusty track which I
had first known to be the Dover Road when I was one of them, and
when I little expected that any eyes would ever see me the wayfarer
I was now, upon it.
What a different Sunday morning from the old Sunday morning at
Yarmouth! In due time I heard the church-bells ringing, as I
plodded on; and I met people who were going to church; and I passed
a church or two where the congregation were inside, and the sound
of singing came out into the sunshine, while the beadle sat and
cooled himself in the shade of the porch, or stood beneath the
yew-tree, with his hand to his forehead, glowering at me going by.
But the peace and rest of the old Sunday morning were on
everything, except me. That was the difference. I felt quite
wicked in my dirt and dust, with my tangled hair. But for the
quiet picture I had conjured up, of my mother in her youth and
beauty, weeping by the fire, and my aunt relenting to her, I hardly
think I should have had the courage to go on until next day. But
it always went before me, and I followed.
I got, that Sunday, through three-and-twenty miles on the straight
road, though not very easily, for I was new to that kind of toil.
I see myself, as evening closes in, coming over the bridge at
Rochester, footsore and tired, and eating bread that I had bought
for supper. One or two little houses, with the notice, 'Lodgings
for Travellers', hanging out, had tempted me; but I was afraid of
spending the few pence I had, and was even more afraid of the
vicious looks of the trampers I had met or overtaken. I sought no
shelter, therefore, but the sky; and toiling into Chatham, - which,
in that night's aspect, is a mere dream of chalk, and drawbridges,
and mastless ships in a muddy river, roofed like Noah's arks, -
crept, at last, upon a sort of grass-grown battery overhanging a
lane, where a sentry was walking to and fro. Here I lay down, near
a cannon; and, happy in the society of the sentry's footsteps,
though he knew no more of my being above him than the boys at Salem
House had known of my lying by the wall, slept soundly until
Very stiff and sore of foot I was in the morning, and quite dazed
by the beating of drums and marching of troops, which seemed to hem
me in on every side when I went down towards the long narrow
street. Feeling that I could go but a very little way that day, if
I were to reserve any strength for getting to my journey's end, I
resolved to make the sale of my jacket its principal business.
Accordingly, I took the jacket off, that I might learn to do
without it; and carrying it under my arm, began a tour of
inspection of the various slop-shops.
It was a likely place to sell a jacket in; for the dealers in
second-hand clothes were numerous, and were, generally speaking, on
the look-out for customers at their shop doors. But as most of
them had, hanging up among their stock, an officer's coat or two,
epaulettes and all, I was rendered timid by the costly nature of
their dealings, and walked about for a long time without offering
my merchandise to anyone.
This modesty of mine directed my attention to the marine-store
shops, and such shops as Mr. Dolloby's, in preference to the
regular dealers. At last I found one that I thought looked
promising, at the corner of a dirty lane, ending in an enclosure
full of stinging-nettles, against the palings of which some
second-hand sailors' clothes, that seemed to have overflowed the
shop, were fluttering among some cots, and rusty guns, and oilskin
hats, and certain trays full of so many old rusty keys of so many
sizes that they seemed various enough to open all the doors in the
Into this shop, which was low and small, and which was darkened
rather than lighted by a little window, overhung with clothes, and
was descended into by some steps, I went with a palpitating heart;
which was not relieved when an ugly old man, with the lower part of
his face all covered with a stubbly grey beard, rushed out of a
dirty den behind it, and seized me by the hair of my head. He was
a dreadful old man to look at, in a filthy flannel waistcoat, and
smelling terribly of rum. His bedstead, covered with a tumbled and
ragged piece of patchwork, was in the den he had come from, where
another little window showed a prospect of more stinging-nettles,
and a lame donkey.
'Oh, what do you want?' grinned this old man, in a fierce,
monotonous whine. 'Oh, my eyes and limbs, what do you want? Oh,
my lungs and liver, what do you want? Oh, goroo, goroo!'
I was so much dismayed by these words, and particularly by the
repetition of the last unknown one, which was a kind of rattle in
his throat, that I could make no answer; hereupon the old man,
still holding me by the hair, repeated:
'Oh, what do you want? Oh, my eyes and limbs, what do you want?
Oh, my lungs and liver, what do you want? Oh, goroo!' - which he
screwed out of himself, with an energy that made his eyes start in
'I wanted to know,' I said, trembling, 'if you would buy a jacket.'
'Oh, let's see the jacket!' cried the old man. 'Oh, my heart on
fire, show the jacket to us! Oh, my eyes and limbs, bring the
With that he took his trembling hands, which were like the claws of
a great bird, out of my hair; and put on a pair of spectacles, not
at all ornamental to his inflamed eyes.
'Oh, how much for the jacket?' cried the old man, after examining
it. 'Oh - goroo! - how much for the jacket?'
'Half-a-crown,' I answered, recovering myself.
'Oh, my lungs and liver,' cried the old man, 'no! Oh, my eyes, no!
Oh, my limbs, no! Eighteenpence. Goroo!'
Every time he uttered this ejaculation, his eyes seemed to be in
danger of starting out; and every sentence he spoke, he delivered
in a sort of tune, always exactly the same, and more like a gust of
wind, which begins low, mounts up high, and falls again, than any
other comparison I can find for it.
'Well,' said I, glad to have closed the bargain, 'I'll take
'Oh, my liver!' cried the old man, throwing the jacket on a shelf.
'Get out of the shop! Oh, my lungs, get out of the shop! Oh, my
eyes and limbs - goroo! - don't ask for money; make it an
exchange.' I never was so frightened in my life, before or since;
but I told him humbly that I wanted money, and that nothing else
was of any use to me, but that I would wait for it, as he desired,
outside, and had no wish to hurry him. So I went outside, and sat
down in the shade in a corner. And I sat there so many hours, that
the shade became sunlight, and the sunlight became shade again, and
still I sat there waiting for the money.
There never was such another drunken madman in that line of
business, I hope. That he was well known in the neighbourhood, and
enjoyed the reputation of having sold himself to the devil, I soon
understood from the visits he received from the boys, who
continually came skirmishing about the shop, shouting that legend,
and calling to him to bring out his gold. 'You ain't poor, you
know, Charley, as you pretend. Bring out your gold. Bring out
some of the gold you sold yourself to the devil for. Come! It's
in the lining of the mattress, Charley. Rip it open and let's have
some!' This, and many offers to lend him a knife for the purpose,
exasperated him to such a degree, that the whole day was a
succession of rushes on his part, and flights on the part of the
boys. Sometimes in his rage he would take me for one of them, and
come at me, mouthing as if he were going to tear me in pieces;
then, remembering me, just in time, would dive into the shop, and
lie upon his bed, as I thought from the sound of his voice, yelling
in a frantic way, to his own windy tune, the 'Death of Nelson';
with an Oh! before every line, and innumerable Goroos interspersed.
As if this were not bad enough for me, the boys, connecting me with
the establishment, on account of the patience and perseverance with
which I sat outside, half-dressed, pelted me, and used me very ill
He made many attempts to induce me to consent to an exchange; at
one time coming out with a fishing-rod, at another with a fiddle,
at another with a cocked hat, at another with a flute. But I
resisted all these overtures, and sat there in desperation; each
time asking him, with tears in my eyes, for my money or my jacket.
At last he began to pay me in halfpence at a time; and was full two
hours getting by easy stages to a shilling.
'Oh, my eyes and limbs!' he then cried, peeping hideously out of
the shop, after a long pause, 'will you go for twopence more?'
'I can't,' I said; 'I shall be starved.'
'Oh, my lungs and liver, will you go for threepence?'
'I would go for nothing, if I could,' I said, 'but I want the money
'Oh, go-roo!' (it is really impossible to express how he twisted
this ejaculation out of himself, as he peeped round the door-post
at me, showing nothing but his crafty old head); 'will you go for
I was so faint and weary that I closed with this offer; and taking
the money out of his claw, not without trembling, went away more
hungry and thirsty than I had ever been, a little before sunset.
But at an expense of threepence I soon refreshed myself completely;
and, being in better spirits then, limped seven miles upon my road.
My bed at night was under another haystack, where I rested
comfortably, after having washed my blistered feet in a stream, and
dressed them as well as I was able, with some cool leaves. When I
took the road again next morning, I found that it lay through a
succession of hop-grounds and orchards. It was sufficiently late
in the year for the orchards to be ruddy with ripe apples; and in
a few places the hop-pickers were already at work. I thought it
all extremely beautiful, and made up my mind to sleep among the
hops that night: imagining some cheerful companionship in the long
perspectives of poles, with the graceful leaves twining round them.
The trampers were worse than ever that day, and inspired me with a
dread that is yet quite fresh in my mind. Some of them were most
ferocious-looking ruffians, who stared at me as I went by; and
stopped, perhaps, and called after me to come back and speak to
them, and when I took to my heels, stoned me. I recollect one
young fellow - a tinker, I suppose, from his wallet and brazier -
who had a woman with him, and who faced about and stared at me
thus; and then roared to me in such a tremendous voice to come
back, that I halted and looked round.
'Come here, when you're called,' said the tinker, 'or I'll rip your
young body open.'
I thought it best to go back. As I drew nearer to them, trying to
propitiate the tinker by my looks, I observed that the woman had a
'Where are you going?' said the tinker, gripping the bosom of my
shirt with his blackened hand.
'I am going to Dover,' I said.
'Where do you come from?' asked the tinker, giving his hand another
turn in my shirt, to hold me more securely.
'I come from London,' I said.
'What lay are you upon?' asked the tinker. 'Are you a prig?'
'N-no,' I said.
'Ain't you, by G--? If you make a brag of your honesty to me,'
said the tinker, 'I'll knock your brains out.'
With his disengaged hand he made a menace of striking me, and then
looked at me from head to foot.
'Have you got the price of a pint of beer about you?' said the
tinker. 'If you have, out with it, afore I take it away!'
I should certainly have produced it, but that I met the woman's
look, and saw her very slightly shake her head, and form 'No!' with
'I am very poor,' I said, attempting to smile, 'and have got no
'Why, what do you mean?' said the tinker, looking so sternly at me,
that I almost feared he saw the money in my pocket.
'Sir!' I stammered.
'What do you mean,' said the tinker, 'by wearing my brother's silk
handkerchief! Give it over here!' And he had mine off my neck in
a moment, and tossed it to the woman.
The woman burst into a fit of laughter, as if she thought this a
joke, and tossed it back to me, nodded once, as slightly as before,
and made the word 'Go!' with her lips. Before I could obey,
however, the tinker seized the handkerchief out of my hand with a
roughness that threw me away like a feather, and putting it loosely
round his own neck, turned upon the woman with an oath, and knocked
her down. I never shall forget seeing her fall backward on the
hard road, and lie there with her bonnet tumbled off, and her hair
all whitened in the dust; nor, when I looked back from a distance,
seeing her sitting on the pathway, which was a bank by the
roadside, wiping the blood from her face with a corner of her
shawl, while he went on ahead.
This adventure frightened me so, that, afterwards, when I saw any
of these people coming, I turned back until I could find a
hiding-place, where I remained until they had gone out of sight;
which happened so often, that I was very seriously delayed. But
under this difficulty, as under all the other difficulties of my
journey, I seemed to be sustained and led on by my fanciful picture
of my mother in her youth, before I came into the world. It always
kept me company. It was there, among the hops, when I lay down to
sleep; it was with me on my waking in the morning; it went before
me all day. I have associated it, ever since, with the sunny
street of Canterbury, dozing as it were in the hot light; and with
the sight of its old houses and gateways, and the stately, grey
Cathedral, with the rooks sailing round the towers. When I came,
at last, upon the bare, wide downs near Dover, it relieved the
solitary aspect of the scene with hope; and not until I reached
that first great aim of my journey, and actually set foot in the
town itself, on the sixth day of my flight, did it desert me. But
then, strange to say, when I stood with my ragged shoes, and my
dusty, sunburnt, half-clothed figure, in the place so long desired,
it seemed to vanish like a dream, and to leave me helpless and
I inquired about my aunt among the boatmen first, and received
various answers. One said she lived in the South Foreland Light,
and had singed her whiskers by doing so; another, that she was made
fast to the great buoy outside the harbour, and could only be
visited at half-tide; a third, that she was locked up in Maidstone
jail for child-stealing; a fourth, that she was seen to mount a
broom in the last high wind, and make direct for Calais. The
fly-drivers, among whom I inquired next, were equally jocose and
equally disrespectful; and the shopkeepers, not liking my
appearance, generally replied, without hearing what I had to say,
that they had got nothing for me. I felt more miserable and
destitute than I had done at any period of my running away. My
money was all gone, I had nothing left to dispose of; I was hungry,
thirsty, and worn out; and seemed as distant from my end as if I
had remained in London.
The morning had worn away in these inquiries, and I was sitting on
the step of an empty shop at a street corner, near the
market-place, deliberating upon wandering towards those other
places which had been mentioned, when a fly-driver, coming by with
his carriage, dropped a horsecloth. Something good-natured in the
man's face, as I handed it up, encouraged me to ask him if he could
tell me where Miss Trotwood lived; though I had asked the question
so often, that it almost died upon my lips.
'Trotwood,' said he. 'Let me see. I know the name, too. Old
'Yes,' I said, 'rather.'
'Pretty stiff in the back?' said he, making himself upright.
'Yes,' I said. 'I should think it very likely.'
'Carries a bag?' said he - 'bag with a good deal of room in it - is
gruffish, and comes down upon you, sharp?'
My heart sank within me as I acknowledged the undoubted accuracy of
'Why then, I tell you what,' said he. 'If you go up there,'
pointing with his whip towards the heights, 'and keep right on till
you come to some houses facing the sea, I think you'll hear of her.
My opinion is she won't stand anything, so here's a penny for you.'
I accepted the gift thankfully, and bought a loaf with it.
Dispatching this refreshment by the way, I went in the direction my
friend had indicated, and walked on a good distance without coming
to the houses he had mentioned. At length I saw some before me;
and approaching them, went into a little shop (it was what we used
to call a general shop, at home), and inquired if they could have
the goodness to tell me where Miss Trotwood lived. I addressed
myself to a man behind the counter, who was weighing some rice for
a young woman; but the latter, taking the inquiry to herself,
turned round quickly.
'My mistress?' she said. 'What do you want with her, boy?'
'I want,' I replied, 'to speak to her, if you please.'
'To beg of her, you mean,' retorted the damsel.
'No,' I said, 'indeed.' But suddenly remembering that in truth I
came for no other purpose, I held my peace in confusion, and felt
my face burn.
MY aunt's handmaid, as I supposed she was from what she had said,
put her rice in a little basket and walked out of the shop; telling
me that I could follow her, if I wanted to know where Miss Trotwood
lived. I needed no second permission; though I was by this time in
such a state of consternation and agitation, that my legs shook
under me. I followed the young woman, and we soon came to a very
neat little cottage with cheerful bow-windows: in front of it, a
small square gravelled court or garden full of flowers, carefully
tended, and smelling deliciously.
'This is Miss Trotwood's,' said the young woman. 'Now you know;
and that's all I have got to say.' With which words she hurried
into the house, as if to shake off the responsibility of my
appearance; and left me standing at the garden-gate, looking
disconsolately over the top of it towards the parlour window, where
a muslin curtain partly undrawn in the middle, a large round green
screen or fan fastened on to the windowsill, a small table, and a
great chair, suggested to me that my aunt might be at that moment
seated in awful state.
My shoes were by this time in a woeful condition. The soles had
shed themselves bit by bit, and the upper leathers had broken and
burst until the very shape and form of shoes had departed from
them. My hat (which had served me for a night-cap, too) was so
crushed and bent, that no old battered handleless saucepan on a
dunghill need have been ashamed to vie with it. My shirt and
trousers, stained with heat, dew, grass, and the Kentish soil on
which I had slept - and torn besides - might have frightened the
birds from my aunt's garden, as I stood at the gate. My hair had
known no comb or brush since I left London. My face, neck, and
hands, from unaccustomed exposure to the air and sun, were burnt to
a berry-brown. From head to foot I was powdered almost as white
with chalk and dust, as if I had come out of a lime-kiln. In this
plight, and with a strong consciousness of it, I waited to
introduce myself to, and make my first impression on, my formidable
The unbroken stillness of the parlour window leading me to infer,
after a while, that she was not there, I lifted up my eyes to the
window above it, where I saw a florid, pleasant-looking gentleman,
with a grey head, who shut up one eye in a grotesque manner, nodded
his head at me several times, shook it at me as often, laughed, and
I had been discomposed enough before; but I was so much the more
discomposed by this unexpected behaviour, that I was on the point
of slinking off, to think how I had best proceed, when there came
out of the house a lady with her handkerchief tied over her cap,
and a pair of gardening gloves on her hands, wearing a gardening
pocket like a toll-man's apron, and carrying a great knife. I knew
her immediately to be Miss Betsey, for she came stalking out of the
house exactly as my poor mother had so often described her stalking
up our garden at Blunderstone Rookery.
'Go away!' said Miss Betsey, shaking her head, and making a distant
chop in the air with her knife. 'Go along! No boys here!'
I watched her, with my heart at my lips, as she marched to a corner
of her garden, and stooped to dig up some little root there. Then,
without a scrap of courage, but with a great deal of desperation,
I went softly in and stood beside her, touching her with my finger.
'If you please, ma'am,' I began.
She started and looked up.
'If you please, aunt.'
'EH?' exclaimed Miss Betsey, in a tone of amazement I have never
'If you please, aunt, I am your nephew.'
'Oh, Lord!' said my aunt. And sat flat down in the garden-path.
'I am David Copperfield, of Blunderstone, in Suffolk - where you
came, on the night when I was born, and saw my dear mama. I have
been very unhappy since she died. I have been slighted, and taught
nothing, and thrown upon myself, and put to work not fit for me.
It made me run away to you. I was robbed at first setting out, and
have walked all the way, and have never slept in a bed since I
began the journey.' Here my self-support gave way all at once; and
with a movement of my hands, intended to show her my ragged state,
and call it to witness that I had suffered something, I broke into
a passion of crying, which I suppose had been pent up within me all
My aunt, with every sort of expression but wonder discharged from
her countenance, sat on the gravel, staring at me, until I began to
cry; when she got up in a great hurry, collared me, and took me
into the parlour. Her first proceeding there was to unlock a tall
press, bring out several bottles, and pour some of the contents of
each into my mouth. I think they must have been taken out at
random, for I am sure I tasted aniseed water, anchovy sauce, and
salad dressing. When she had administered these restoratives, as
I was still quite hysterical, and unable to control my sobs, she
put me on the sofa, with a shawl under my head, and the
handkerchief from her own head under my feet, lest I should sully
the cover; and then, sitting herself down behind the green fan or
screen I have already mentioned, so that I could not see her face,
ejaculated at intervals, 'Mercy on us!' letting those exclamations
off like minute guns.
After a time she rang the bell. 'Janet,' said my aunt, when her
servant came in. 'Go upstairs, give my compliments to Mr. Dick,
and say I wish to speak to him.'
Janet looked a little surprised to see me lying stiffly on the sofa
(I was afraid to move lest it should be displeasing to my aunt),
but went on her errand. My aunt, with her hands behind her, walked
up and down the room, until the gentleman who had squinted at me
from the upper window came in laughing.
'Mr. Dick,' said my aunt, 'don't be a fool, because nobody can be
more discreet than you can, when you choose. We all know that. So
don't be a fool, whatever you are.'
The gentleman was serious immediately, and looked at me, I thought,
as if he would entreat me to say nothing about the window.
'Mr. Dick,' said my aunt, 'you have heard me mention David
Copperfield? Now don't pretend not to have a memory, because you
and I know better.'
'David Copperfield?' said Mr. Dick, who did not appear to me to
remember much about it. 'David Copperfield? Oh yes, to be sure.
'Well,' said my aunt, 'this is his boy - his son. He would be as
like his father as it's possible to be, if he was not so like his
'His son?' said Mr. Dick. 'David's son? Indeed!'
'Yes,' pursued my aunt, 'and he has done a pretty piece of
business. He has run away. Ah! His sister, Betsey Trotwood,
never would have run away.' My aunt shook her head firmly,
confident in the character and behaviour of the girl who never was
'Oh! you think she wouldn't have run away?' said Mr. Dick.
'Bless and save the man,' exclaimed my aunt, sharply, 'how he
talks! Don't I know she wouldn't? She would have lived with her
god-mother, and we should have been devoted to one another. Where,
in the name of wonder, should his sister, Betsey Trotwood, have run
from, or to?'
'Nowhere,' said Mr. Dick.
'Well then,' returned my aunt, softened by the reply, 'how can you
pretend to be wool-gathering, Dick, when you are as sharp as a
surgeon's lancet? Now, here you see young David Copperfield, and
the question I put to you is, what shall I do with him?'
'What shall you do with him?' said Mr. Dick, feebly, scratching his
head. 'Oh! do with him?'
'Yes,' said my aunt, with a grave look, and her forefinger held up.
'Come! I want some very sound advice.'
'Why, if I was you,' said Mr. Dick, considering, and looking
vacantly at me, 'I should -' The contemplation of me seemed to
inspire him with a sudden idea, and he added, briskly, 'I should
'Janet,' said my aunt, turning round with a quiet triumph, which I
did not then understand, 'Mr. Dick sets us all right. Heat the
Although I was deeply interested in this dialogue, I could not help
observing my aunt, Mr. Dick, and Janet, while it was in progress,
and completing a survey I had already been engaged in making of the
MY aunt was a tall, hard-featured lady, but by no means
ill-looking. There was an inflexibility in her face, in her voice,
in her gait and carriage, amply sufficient to account for the
effect she had made upon a gentle creature like my mother; but her
features were rather handsome than otherwise, though unbending and
austere. I particularly noticed that she had a very quick, bright
eye. Her hair, which was grey, was arranged in two plain
divisions, under what I believe would be called a mob-cap; I mean
a cap, much more common then than now, with side-pieces fastening
under the chin. Her dress was of a lavender colour, and perfectly
neat; but scantily made, as if she desired to be as little
encumbered as possible. I remember that I thought it, in form,
more like a riding-habit with the superfluous skirt cut off, than
anything else. She wore at her side a gentleman's gold watch, if
I might judge from its size and make, with an appropriate chain and
seals; she had some linen at her throat not unlike a shirt-collar,
and things at her wrists like little shirt-wristbands.
Mr. Dick, as I have already said, was grey-headed, and florid: I
should have said all about him, in saying so, had not his head been
curiously bowed - not by age; it reminded me of one of Mr.
Creakle's boys' heads after a beating - and his grey eyes prominent
and large, with a strange kind of watery brightness in them that
made me, in combination with his vacant manner, his submission to
my aunt, and his childish delight when she praised him, suspect him
of being a little mad; though, if he were mad, how he came to be
there puzzled me extremely. He was dressed like any other ordinary
gentleman, in a loose grey morning coat and waistcoat, and white
trousers; and had his watch in his fob, and his money in his
pockets: which he rattled as if he were very proud of it.
Janet was a pretty blooming girl, of about nineteen or twenty, and
a perfect picture of neatness. Though I made no further
observation of her at the moment, I may mention here what I did not
discover until afterwards, namely, that she was one of a series of
protegees whom my aunt had taken into her service expressly to
educate in a renouncement of mankind, and who had generally
completed their abjuration by marrying the baker.
The room was as neat as Janet or my aunt. As I laid down my pen,
a moment since, to think of it, the air from the sea came blowing
in again, mixed with the perfume of the flowers; and I saw the
old-fashioned furniture brightly rubbed and polished, my aunt's
inviolable chair and table by the round green fan in the
bow-window, the drugget-covered carpet, the cat, the kettle-holder,
the two canaries, the old china, the punchbowl full of dried
rose-leaves, the tall press guarding all sorts of bottles and pots,
and, wonderfully out of keeping with the rest, my dusty self upon
the sofa, taking note of everything.
Janet had gone away to get the bath ready, when my aunt, to my
great alarm, became in one moment rigid with indignation, and had
hardly voice to cry out, 'Janet! Donkeys!'
Upon which, Janet came running up the stairs as if the house were
in flames, darted out on a little piece of green in front, and
warned off two saddle-donkeys, lady-ridden, that had presumed to
set hoof upon it; while my aunt, rushing out of the house, seized
the bridle of a third animal laden with a bestriding child, turned
him, led him forth from those sacred precincts, and boxed the ears
of the unlucky urchin in attendance who had dared to profane that
To this hour I don't know whether my aunt had any lawful right of
way over that patch of green; but she had settled it in her own
mind that she had, and it was all the same to her. The one great
outrage of her life, demanding to be constantly avenged, was the
passage of a donkey over that immaculate spot. In whatever
occupation she was engaged, however interesting to her the
conversation in which she was taking part, a donkey turned the
current of her ideas in a moment, and she was upon him straight.
Jugs of water, and watering-pots, were kept in secret places ready
to be discharged on the offending boys; sticks were laid in ambush
behind the door; sallies were made at all hours; and incessant war
prevailed. Perhaps this was an agreeable excitement to the
donkey-boys; or perhaps the more sagacious of the donkeys,
understanding how the case stood, delighted with constitutional
obstinacy in coming that way. I only know that there were three
alarms before the bath was ready; and that on the occasion of the
last and most desperate of all, I saw my aunt engage,
single-handed, with a sandy-headed lad of fifteen, and bump his
sandy head against her own gate, before he seemed to comprehend
what was the matter. These interruptions were of the more
ridiculous to me, because she was giving me broth out of a
table-spoon at the time (having firmly persuaded herself that I was
actually starving, and must receive nourishment at first in very
small quantities), and, while my mouth was yet open to receive the
spoon, she would put it back into the basin, cry 'Janet! Donkeys!'
and go out to the assault.
The bath was a great comfort. For I began to be sensible of acute
pains in my limbs from lying out in the fields, and was now so
tired and low that I could hardly keep myself awake for five
minutes together. When I had bathed, they (I mean my aunt and
Janet) enrobed me in a shirt and a pair of trousers belonging to
Mr. Dick, and tied me up in two or three great shawls. What sort
of bundle I looked like, I don't know, but I felt a very hot one.
Feeling also very faint and drowsy, I soon lay down on the sofa
again and fell asleep.
It might have been a dream, originating in the fancy which had
occupied my mind so long, but I awoke with the impression that my
aunt had come and bent over me, and had put my hair away from my
face, and laid my head more comfortably, and had then stood looking
at me. The words, 'Pretty fellow,' or 'Poor fellow,' seemed to be
in my ears, too; but certainly there was nothing else, when I
awoke, to lead me to believe that they had been uttered by my aunt,
who sat in the bow-window gazing at the sea from behind the green
fan, which was mounted on a kind of swivel, and turned any way.
We dined soon after I awoke, off a roast fowl and a pudding; I
sitting at table, not unlike a trussed bird myself, and moving my
arms with considerable difficulty. But as my aunt had swathed me
up, I made no complaint of being inconvenienced. All this time I
was deeply anxious to know what she was going to do with me; but
she took her dinner in profound silence, except when she
occasionally fixed her eyes on me sitting opposite, and said,
'Mercy upon us!' which did not by any means relieve my anxiety.
The cloth being drawn, and some sherry put upon the table (of which
I had a glass), my aunt sent up for Mr. Dick again, who joined us,
and looked as wise as he could when she requested him to attend to
my story, which she elicited from me, gradually, by a course of
questions. During my recital, she kept her eyes on Mr. Dick, who
I thought would have gone to sleep but for that, and who,
whensoever he lapsed into a smile, was checked by a frown from my
'Whatever possessed that poor unfortunate Baby, that she must go
and be married again,' said my aunt, when I had finished, 'I can't
'Perhaps she fell in love with her second husband,' Mr. Dick
'Fell in love!' repeated my aunt. 'What do you mean? What
business had she to do it?'
'Perhaps,' Mr. Dick simpered, after thinking a little, 'she did it
'Pleasure, indeed!' replied my aunt. 'A mighty pleasure for the
poor Baby to fix her simple faith upon any dog of a fellow, certain
to ill-use her in some way or other. What did she propose to
herself, I should like to know! She had had one husband. She had
seen David Copperfield out of the world, who was always running
after wax dolls from his cradle. She had got a baby - oh, there
were a pair of babies when she gave birth to this child sitting
here, that Friday night! - and what more did she want?'
Mr. Dick secretly shook his head at me, as if he thought there was
no getting over this.
'She couldn't even have a baby like anybody else,' said my aunt.
'Where was this child's sister, Betsey Trotwood? Not forthcoming.
Don't tell me!'
Mr. Dick seemed quite frightened.
'That little man of a doctor, with his head on one side,' said my
aunt, 'Jellips, or whatever his name was, what was he about? All
he could do, was to say to me, like a robin redbreast - as he is -
"It's a boy." A boy! Yah, the imbecility of the whole set of
The heartiness of the ejaculation startled Mr. Dick exceedingly;
and me, too, if I am to tell the truth.
'And then, as if this was not enough, and she had not stood
sufficiently in the light of this child's sister, Betsey Trotwood,'
said my aunt, 'she marries a second time - goes and marries a
Murderer - or a man with a name like it - and stands in THIS
child's light! And the natural consequence is, as anybody but a
baby might have foreseen, that he prowls and wanders. He's as like
Cain before he was grown up, as he can be.'
Mr. Dick looked hard at me, as if to identify me in this character.
'And then there's that woman with the Pagan name,' said my aunt,
'that Peggotty, she goes and gets married next. Because she has
not seen enough of the evil attending such things, she goes and
gets married next, as the child relates. I only hope,' said my
aunt, shaking her head, 'that her husband is one of those Poker
husbands who abound in the newspapers, and will beat her well with
I could not bear to hear my old nurse so decried, and made the
subject of such a wish. I told my aunt that indeed she was
mistaken. That Peggotty was the best, the truest, the most
faithful, most devoted, and most self-denying friend and servant in
the world; who had ever loved me dearly, who had ever loved my
mother dearly; who had held my mother's dying head upon her arm, on
whose face my mother had imprinted her last grateful kiss. And my
remembrance of them both, choking me, I broke down as I was trying
to say that her home was my home, and that all she had was mine,
and that I would have gone to her for shelter, but for her humble
station, which made me fear that I might bring some trouble on her
- I broke down, I say, as I was trying to say so, and laid my face
in my hands upon the table.
'Well, well!' said my aunt, 'the child is right to stand by those
who have stood by him - Janet! Donkeys!'
I thoroughly believe that but for those unfortunate donkeys, we
should have come to a good understanding; for my aunt had laid her
hand on my shoulder, and the impulse was upon me, thus emboldened,
to embrace her and beseech her protection. But the interruption,
and the disorder she was thrown into by the struggle outside, put
an end to all softer ideas for the present, and kept my aunt
indignantly declaiming to Mr. Dick about her determination to
appeal for redress to the laws of her country, and to bring actions
for trespass against the whole donkey proprietorship of Dover,
After tea, we sat at the window - on the look-out, as I imagined,
from my aunt's sharp expression of face, for more invaders - until
dusk, when Janet set candles, and a backgammon-board, on the table,
and pulled down the blinds.
'Now, Mr. Dick,' said my aunt, with her grave look, and her
forefinger up as before, 'I am going to ask you another question.
Look at this child.'
'David's son?' said Mr. Dick, with an attentive, puzzled face.
'Exactly so,' returned my aunt. 'What would you do with him, now?'
'Do with David's son?' said Mr. Dick.
'Ay,' replied my aunt, 'with David's son.'
'Oh!' said Mr. Dick. 'Yes. Do with - I should put him to bed.'
'Janet!' cried my aunt, with the same complacent triumph that I had
remarked before. 'Mr. Dick sets us all right. If the bed is
ready, we'll take him up to it.'
Janet reporting it to be quite ready, I was taken up to it; kindly,
but in some sort like a prisoner; my aunt going in front and Janet
bringing up the rear. The only circumstance which gave me any new
hope, was my aunt's stopping on the stairs to inquire about a smell
of fire that was prevalent there; and janet's replying that she had
been making tinder down in the kitchen, of my old shirt. But there
were no other clothes in my room than the odd heap of things I
wore; and when I was left there, with a little taper which my aunt
forewarned me would burn exactly five minutes, I heard them lock my
door on the outside. Turning these things over in my mind I deemed
it possible that my aunt, who could know nothing of me, might
suspect I had a habit of running away, and took precautions, on
that account, to have me in safe keeping.
The room was a pleasant one, at the top of the house, overlooking
the sea, on which the moon was shining brilliantly. After I had
said my prayers, and the candle had burnt out, I remember how I
still sat looking at the moonlight on the water, as if I could hope
to read my fortune in it, as in a bright book; or to see my mother
with her child, coming from Heaven, along that shining path, to
look upon me as she had looked when I last saw her sweet face. I
remember how the solemn feeling with which at length I turned my
eyes away, yielded to the sensation of gratitude and rest which the
sight of the white-curtained bed - and how much more the lying
softly down upon it, nestling in the snow-white sheets! - inspired.
I remember how I thought of all the solitary places under the night
sky where I had slept, and how I prayed that I never might be
houseless any more, and never might forget the houseless. I
remember how I seemed to float, then, down the melancholy glory of
that track upon the sea, away into the world of dreams.
MY AUNT MAKES UP HER MIND ABOUT ME
On going down in the morning, I found my aunt musing so profoundly
over the breakfast table, with her elbow on the tray, that the
contents of the urn had overflowed the teapot and were laying the
whole table-cloth under water, when my entrance put her meditations
to flight. I felt sure that I had been the subject of her
reflections, and was more than ever anxious to know her intentions
towards me. Yet I dared not express my anxiety, lest it should
give her offence.
My eyes, however, not being so much under control as my tongue,
were attracted towards my aunt very often during breakfast. I
never could look at her for a few moments together but I found her
looking at me - in an odd thoughtful manner, as if I were an
immense way off, instead of being on the other side of the small
round table. When she had finished her breakfast, my aunt very
deliberately leaned back in her chair, knitted her brows, folded
her arms, and contemplated me at her leisure, with such a fixedness
of attention that I was quite overpowered by embarrassment. Not
having as yet finished my own breakfast, I attempted to hide my
confusion by proceeding with it; but my knife tumbled over my fork,
my fork tripped up my knife, I chipped bits of bacon a surprising
height into the air instead of cutting them for my own eating, and
choked myself with my tea, which persisted in going the wrong way
instead of the right one, until I gave in altogether, and sat
blushing under my aunt's close scrutiny.
'Hallo!' said my aunt, after a long time.
I looked up, and met her sharp bright glance respectfully.
'I have written to him,' said my aunt.
'To your father-in-law,' said my aunt. 'I have sent him a letter
that I'll trouble him to attend to, or he and I will fall out, I
can tell him!'
'Does he know where I am, aunt?' I inquired, alarmed.
'I have told him,' said my aunt, with a nod.
'Shall I - be - given up to him?' I faltered.
'I don't know,' said my aunt. 'We shall see.'
'Oh! I can't think what I shall do,' I exclaimed, 'if I have to go
back to Mr. Murdstone!'
'I don't know anything about it,' said my aunt, shaking her head.
'I can't say, I am sure. We shall see.'
My spirits sank under these words, and I became very downcast and
heavy of heart. My aunt, without appearing to take much heed of
me, put on a coarse apron with a bib, which she took out of the
press; washed up the teacups with her own hands; and, when
everything was washed and set in the tray again, and the cloth
folded and put on the top of the whole, rang for Janet to remove
it. She next swept up the crumbs with a little broom (putting on
a pair of gloves first), until there did not appear to be one
microscopic speck left on the carpet; next dusted and arranged the
room, which was dusted and arranged to a hair'sbreadth already.
When all these tasks were performed to her satisfaction, she took
off the gloves and apron, folded them up, put them in the
particular corner of the press from which they had been taken,
brought out her work-box to her own table in the open window, and
sat down, with the green fan between her and the light, to work.
'I wish you'd go upstairs,' said my aunt, as she threaded her
needle, 'and give my compliments to Mr. Dick, and I'll be glad to
know how he gets on with his Memorial.'
I rose with all alacrity, to acquit myself of this commission.
'I suppose,' said my aunt, eyeing me as narrowly as she had eyed
the needle in threading it, 'you think Mr. Dick a short name, eh?'
'I thought it was rather a short name, yesterday,' I confessed.
'You are not to suppose that he hasn't got a longer name, if he
chose to use it,' said my aunt, with a loftier air. 'Babley - Mr.
Richard Babley - that's the gentleman's true name.'
I was going to suggest, with a modest sense of my youth and the
familiarity I had been already guilty of, that I had better give
him the full benefit of that name, when my aunt went on to say:
'But don't you call him by it, whatever you do. He can't bear his
name. That's a peculiarity of his. Though I don't know that it's
much of a peculiarity, either; for he has been ill-used enough, by
some that bear it, to have a mortal antipathy for it, Heaven knows.
Mr. Dick is his name here, and everywhere else, now - if he ever
went anywhere else, which he don't. So take care, child, you don't
call him anything BUT Mr. Dick.'
I promised to obey, and went upstairs with my message; thinking, as
I went, that if Mr. Dick had been working at his Memorial long, at
the same rate as I had seen him working at it, through the open
door, when I came down, he was probably getting on very well
indeed. I found him still driving at it with a long pen, and his
head almost laid upon the paper. He was so intent upon it, that I
had ample leisure to observe the large paper kite in a corner, the
confusion of bundles of manuscript, the number of pens, and, above
all, the quantity of ink (which he seemed to have in, in
half-gallon jars by the dozen), before he observed my being
'Ha! Phoebus!' said Mr. Dick, laying down his pen. 'How does the
world go? I'll tell you what,' he added, in a lower tone, 'I
shouldn't wish it to be mentioned, but it's a -' here he beckoned
to me, and put his lips close to my ear - 'it's a mad world. Mad
as Bedlam, boy!' said Mr. Dick, taking snuff from a round box on
the table, and laughing heartily.
Without presuming to give my opinion on this question, I delivered
'Well,' said Mr. Dick, in answer, 'my compliments to her, and I -
I believe I have made a start. I think I have made a start,' said
Mr. Dick, passing his hand among his grey hair, and casting
anything but a confident look at his manuscript. 'You have been to
'Yes, sir,' I answered; 'for a short time.'
'Do you recollect the date,' said Mr. Dick, looking earnestly at
me, and taking up his pen to note it down, 'when King Charles the
First had his head cut off?'
I said I believed it happened in the year sixteen hundred and
'Well,' returned Mr. Dick, scratching his ear with his pen, and
looking dubiously at me. 'So the books say; but I don't see how
that can be. Because, if it was so long ago, how could the people
about him have made that mistake of putting some of the trouble out
of his head, after it was taken off, into mine?'
I was very much surprised by the inquiry; but could give no
information on this point.
'It's very strange,' said Mr. Dick, with a despondent look upon his
papers, and with his hand among his hair again, 'that I never can
get that quite right. I never can make that perfectly clear. But
no matter, no matter!' he said cheerfully, and rousing himself,
'there's time enough! My compliments to Miss Trotwood, I am
getting on very well indeed.'
I was going away, when he directed my attention to the kite.
'What do you think of that for a kite?' he said.
I answered that it was a beautiful one. I should think it must
have been as much as seven feet high.
'I made it. We'll go and fly it, you and I,' said Mr. Dick. 'Do
you see this?'
He showed me that it was covered with manuscript, very closely and
laboriously written; but so plainly, that as I looked along the
lines, I thought I saw some allusion to King Charles the First's
head again, in one or two places.
'There's plenty of string,' said Mr. Dick, 'and when it flies high,
it takes the facts a long way. That's my manner of diffusing 'em.
I don't know where they may come down. It's according to
circumstances, and the wind, and so forth; but I take my chance of
His face was so very mild and pleasant, and had something so
reverend in it, though it was hale and hearty, that I was not sure
but that he was having a good-humoured jest with me. So I laughed,
and he laughed, and we parted the best friends possible.
'Well, child,' said my aunt, when I went downstairs. 'And what of
Mr. Dick, this morning?'
I informed her that he sent his compliments, and was getting on
very well indeed.
'What do you think of him?' said my aunt.
I had some shadowy idea of endeavouring to evade the question, by
replying that I thought him a very nice gentleman; but my aunt was
not to be so put off, for she laid her work down in her lap, and
said, folding her hands upon it:
'Come! Your sister Betsey Trotwood would have told me what she
thought of anyone, directly. Be as like your sister as you can,
and speak out!'
'Is he - is Mr. Dick - I ask because I don't know, aunt - is he at
all out of his mind, then?' I stammered; for I felt I was on
'Not a morsel,' said my aunt.
'Oh, indeed!' I observed faintly.
'If there is anything in the world,' said my aunt, with great
decision and force of manner, 'that Mr. Dick is not, it's that.'
I had nothing better to offer, than another timid, 'Oh, indeed!'
'He has been CALLED mad,' said my aunt. 'I have a selfish pleasure
in saying he has been called mad, or I should not have had the
benefit of his society and advice for these last ten years and
upwards - in fact, ever since your sister, Betsey Trotwood,
'So long as that?' I said.
'And nice people they were, who had the audacity to call him mad,'
pursued my aunt. 'Mr. Dick is a sort of distant connexion of mine
- it doesn't matter how; I needn't enter into that. If it hadn't
been for me, his own brother would have shut him up for life.
I am afraid it was hypocritical in me, but seeing that my aunt felt
strongly on the subject, I tried to look as if I felt strongly too.
'A proud fool!' said my aunt. 'Because his brother was a little
eccentric - though he is not half so eccentric as a good many
people - he didn't like to have him visible about his house, and
sent him away to some private asylum-place: though he had been left
to his particular care by their deceased father, who thought him
almost a natural. And a wise man he must have been to think so!
Mad himself, no doubt.'
Again, as my aunt looked quite convinced, I endeavoured to look
quite convinced also.
'So I stepped in,' said my aunt, 'and made him an offer. I said,
"Your brother's sane - a great deal more sane than you are, or ever
will be, it is to be hoped. Let him have his little income, and
come and live with me. I am not afraid of him, I am not proud, I
am ready to take care of him, and shall not ill-treat him as some
people (besides the asylum-folks) have done." After a good deal of
squabbling,' said my aunt, 'I got him; and he has been here ever
since. He is the most friendly and amenable creature in existence;
and as for advice! - But nobody knows what that man's mind is,
My aunt smoothed her dress and shook her head, as if she smoothed
defiance of the whole world out of the one, and shook it out of the
'He had a favourite sister,' said my aunt, 'a good creature, and
very kind to him. But she did what they all do - took a husband.
And HE did what they all do - made her wretched. It had such an
effect upon the mind of Mr. Dick (that's not madness, I hope!)
that, combined with his fear of his brother, and his sense of his
unkindness, it threw him into a fever. That was before he came to
me, but the recollection of it is oppressive to him even now. Did
he say anything to you about King Charles the First, child?'
'Ah!' said my aunt, rubbing her nose as if she were a little vexed.
'That's his allegorical way of expressing it. He connects his
illness with great disturbance and agitation, naturally, and that's
the figure, or the simile, or whatever it's called, which he
chooses to use. And why shouldn't he, if he thinks proper!'
I said: 'Certainly, aunt.'
'It's not a business-like way of speaking,' said my aunt, 'nor a
worldly way. I am aware of that; and that's the reason why I
insist upon it, that there shan't be a word about it in his
'Is it a Memorial about his own history that he is writing, aunt?'
'Yes, child,' said my aunt, rubbing her nose again. 'He is
memorializing the Lord Chancellor, or the Lord Somebody or other -
one of those people, at all events, who are paid to be memorialized
- about his affairs. I suppose it will go in, one of these days.
He hasn't been able to draw it up yet, without introducing that
mode of expressing himself; but it don't signify; it keeps him
In fact, I found out afterwards that Mr. Dick had been for upwards
of ten years endeavouring to keep King Charles the First out of the
Memorial; but he had been constantly getting into it, and was there
'I say again,' said my aunt, 'nobody knows what that man's mind is
except myself; and he's the most amenable and friendly creature in
existence. If he likes to fly a kite sometimes, what of that!
Franklin used to fly a kite. He was a Quaker, or something of that
sort, if I am not mistaken. And a Quaker flying a kite is a much
more ridiculous object than anybody else.'
If I could have supposed that my aunt had recounted these
particulars for my especial behoof, and as a piece of confidence in
me, I should have felt very much distinguished, and should have
augured favourably from such a mark of her good opinion. But I
could hardly help observing that she had launched into them,
chiefly because the question was raised in her own mind, and with
very little reference to me, though she had addressed herself to me
in the absence of anybody else.
At the same time, I must say that the generosity of her
championship of poor harmless Mr. Dick, not only inspired my young
breast with some selfish hope for myself, but warmed it unselfishly
towards her. I believe that I began to know that there was
something about my aunt, notwithstanding her many eccentricities
and odd humours, to be honoured and trusted in. Though she was
just as sharp that day as on the day before, and was in and out
about the donkeys just as often, and was thrown into a tremendous
state of indignation, when a young man, going by, ogled Janet at a
window (which was one of the gravest misdemeanours that could be
committed against my aunt's dignity), she seemed to me to command
more of my respect, if not less of my fear.
The anxiety I underwent, in the interval which necessarily elapsed
before a reply could be received to her letter to Mr. Murdstone,
was extreme; but I made an endeavour to suppress it, and to be as
agreeable as I could in a quiet way, both to my aunt and Mr. Dick.
The latter and I would have gone out to fly the great kite; but
that I had still no other clothes than the anything but ornamental
garments with which I had been decorated on the first day, and
which confined me to the house, except for an hour after dark, when
my aunt, for my health's sake, paraded me up and down on the cliff
outside, before going to bed. At length the reply from Mr.
Murdstone came, and my aunt informed me, to my infinite terror,
that he was coming to speak to her herself on the next day. On the
next day, still bundled up in my curious habiliments, I sat
counting the time, flushed and heated by the conflict of sinking
hopes and rising fears within me; and waiting to be startled by the
sight of the gloomy face, whose non-arrival startled me every
MY aunt was a little more imperious and stern than usual, but I
observed no other token of her preparing herself to receive the
visitor so much dreaded by me. She sat at work in the window, and
I sat by, with my thoughts running astray on all possible and
impossible results of Mr. Murdstone's visit, until pretty late in
the afternoon. Our dinner had been indefinitely postponed; but it
was growing so late, that my aunt had ordered it to be got ready,
when she gave a sudden alarm of donkeys, and to my consternation
and amazement, I beheld Miss Murdstone, on a side-saddle, ride
deliberately over the sacred piece of green, and stop in front of
the house, looking about her.
'Go along with you!' cried my aunt, shaking her head and her fist
at the window. 'You have no business there. How dare you
trespass? Go along! Oh! you bold-faced thing!'
MY aunt was so exasperated by the coolness with which Miss
Murdstone looked about her, that I really believe she was
motionless, and unable for the moment to dart out according to
custom. I seized the opportunity to inform her who it was; and
that the gentleman now coming near the offender (for the way up was
very steep, and he had dropped behind), was Mr. Murdstone himself.
'I don't care who it is!' cried my aunt, still shaking her head and
gesticulating anything but welcome from the bow-window. 'I won't
be trespassed upon. I won't allow it. Go away! Janet, turn him
round. Lead him off!' and I saw, from behind my aunt, a sort of
hurried battle-piece, in which the donkey stood resisting
everybody, with all his four legs planted different ways, while
Janet tried to pull him round by the bridle, Mr. Murdstone tried to
lead him on, Miss Murdstone struck at Janet with a parasol, and
several boys, who had come to see the engagement, shouted
vigorously. But my aunt, suddenly descrying among them the young
malefactor who was the donkey's guardian, and who was one of the
most inveterate offenders against her, though hardly in his teens,
rushed out to the scene of action, pounced upon him, captured him,
dragged him, with his jacket over his head, and his heels grinding
the ground, into the garden, and, calling upon Janet to fetch the
constables and justices, that he might be taken, tried, and
executed on the spot, held him at bay there. This part of the
business, however, did not last long; for the young rascal, being
expert at a variety of feints and dodges, of which my aunt had no
conception, soon went whooping away, leaving some deep impressions
of his nailed boots in the flower-beds, and taking his donkey in
triumph with him.
Miss Murdstone, during the latter portion of the contest, had
dismounted, and was now waiting with her brother at the bottom of
the steps, until my aunt should be at leisure to receive them. My
aunt, a little ruffled by the combat, marched past them into the
house, with great dignity, and took no notice of their presence,
until they were announced by Janet.
'Shall I go away, aunt?' I asked, trembling.
'No, sir,' said my aunt. 'Certainly not!' With which she pushed
me into a corner near her, and fenced Me in with a chair, as if it
were a prison or a bar of justice. This position I continued to
occupy during the whole interview, and from it I now saw Mr. and
Miss Murdstone enter the room.
'Oh!' said my aunt, 'I was not aware at first to whom I had the
pleasure of objecting. But I don't allow anybody to ride over that
turf. I make no exceptions. I don't allow anybody to do it.'
'Your regulation is rather awkward to strangers,' said Miss
'Is it!' said my aunt.
Mr. Murdstone seemed afraid of a renewal of hostilities, and
'I beg your pardon,' observed my aunt with a keen look. 'You are
the Mr. Murdstone who married the widow of my late nephew, David
Copperfield, of Blunderstone Rookery! - Though why Rookery, I don't
'I am,' said Mr. Murdstone.
'You'll excuse my saying, sir,' returned my aunt, 'that I think it
would have been a much better and happier thing if you had left
that poor child alone.'
'I so far agree with what Miss Trotwood has remarked,' observed
Miss Murdstone, bridling, 'that I consider our lamented Clara to
have been, in all essential respects, a mere child.'
'It is a comfort to you and me, ma'am,' said my aunt, 'who are
getting on in life, and are not likely to be made unhappy by our
personal attractions, that nobody can say the same of us.'
'No doubt!' returned Miss Murdstone, though, I thought, not with a
very ready or gracious assent. 'And it certainly might have been,
as you say, a better and happier thing for my brother if he had
never entered into such a marriage. I have always been of that
'I have no doubt you have,' said my aunt. 'Janet,' ringing the
bell, 'my compliments to Mr. Dick, and beg him to come down.'
Until he came, my aunt sat perfectly upright and stiff, frowning at
the wall. When he came, my aunt performed the ceremony of
'Mr. Dick. An old and intimate friend. On whose judgement,' said
my aunt, with emphasis, as an admonition to Mr. Dick, who was
biting his forefinger and looking rather foolish, 'I rely.'
Mr. Dick took his finger out of his mouth, on this hint, and stood
among the group, with a grave and attentive expression of face.
My aunt inclined her head to Mr. Murdstone, who went on:
'Miss Trotwood: on the receipt of your letter, I considered it an
act of greater justice to myself, and perhaps of more respect to
'Thank you,' said my aunt, still eyeing him keenly. 'You needn't
'To answer it in person, however inconvenient the journey,' pursued
Mr. Murdstone, 'rather than by letter. This unhappy boy who has
run away from his friends and his occupation -'
'And whose appearance,' interposed his sister, directing general
attention to me in my indefinable costume, 'is perfectly scandalous
'Jane Murdstone,' said her brother, 'have the goodness not to
interrupt me. This unhappy boy, Miss Trotwood, has been the
occasion of much domestic trouble and uneasiness; both during the
lifetime of my late dear wife, and since. He has a sullen,
rebellious spirit; a violent temper; and an untoward, intractable
disposition. Both my sister and myself have endeavoured to correct
his vices, but ineffectually. And I have felt - we both have felt,
I may say; my sister being fully in my confidence - that it is
right you should receive this grave and dispassionate assurance
from our lips.'
'It can hardly be necessary for me to confirm anything stated by my
brother,' said Miss Murdstone; 'but I beg to observe, that, of all
the boys in the world, I believe this is the worst boy.'
'Strong!' said my aunt, shortly.
'But not at all too strong for the facts,' returned Miss Murdstone.
'Ha!' said my aunt. 'Well, sir?'
'I have my own opinions,' resumed Mr. Murdstone, whose face
darkened more and more, the more he and my aunt observed each
other, which they did very narrowly, 'as to the best mode of
bringing him up; they are founded, in part, on my knowledge of him,
and in part on my knowledge of my own means and resources. I am
responsible for them to myself, I act upon them, and I say no more
about them. It is enough that I place this boy under the eye of a
friend of my own, in a respectable business; that it does not
please him; that he runs away from it; makes himself a common
vagabond about the country; and comes here, in rags, to appeal to
you, Miss Trotwood. I wish to set before you, honourably, the
exact consequences - so far as they are within my knowledge - of
your abetting him in this appeal.'
'But about the respectable business first,' said my aunt. 'If he
had been your own boy, you would have put him to it, just the same,
'If he had been my brother's own boy,' returned Miss Murdstone,
striking in, 'his character, I trust, would have been altogether
'Or if the poor child, his mother, had been alive, he would still
have gone into the respectable business, would he?' said my aunt.
'I believe,' said Mr. Murdstone, with an inclination of his head,
'that Clara would have disputed nothing which myself and my sister
Jane Murdstone were agreed was for the best.'
Miss Murdstone confirmed this with an audible murmur.
'Humph!' said my aunt. 'Unfortunate baby!'
Mr. Dick, who had been rattling his money all this time, was
rattling it so loudly now, that my aunt felt it necessary to check
him with a look, before saying:
'The poor child's annuity died with her?'
'Died with her,' replied Mr. Murdstone.
'And there was no settlement of the little property - the house and
garden - the what's-its-name Rookery without any rooks in it - upon
'It had been left to her, unconditionally, by her first husband,'
Mr. Murdstone began, when my aunt caught him up with the greatest
irascibility and impatience.
'Good Lord, man, there's no occasion to say that. Left to her
unconditionally! I think I see David Copperfield looking forward
to any condition of any sort or kind, though it stared him
point-blank in the face! Of course it was left to her
unconditionally. But when she married again - when she took that
most disastrous step of marrying you, in short,' said my aunt, 'to
be plain - did no one put in a word for the boy at that time?'
'My late wife loved her second husband, ma'am,' said Mr. Murdstone,
'and trusted implicitly in him.'
'Your late wife, sir, was a most unworldly, most unhappy, most
unfortunate baby,' returned my aunt, shaking her head at him.
'That's what she was. And now, what have you got to say next?'
'Merely this, Miss Trotwood,' he returned. 'I am here to take
David back - to take him back unconditionally, to dispose of him as
I think proper, and to deal with him as I think right. I am not
here to make any promise, or give any pledge to anybody. You may
possibly have some idea, Miss Trotwood, of abetting him in his
running away, and in his complaints to you. Your manner, which I
must say does not seem intended to propitiate, induces me to think
it possible. Now I must caution you that if you abet him once, you
abet him for good and all; if you step in between him and me, now,
you must step in, Miss Trotwood, for ever. I cannot trifle, or be
trifled with. I am here, for the first and last time, to take him
away. Is he ready to go? If he is not - and you tell me he is
not; on any pretence; it is indifferent to me what - my doors are
shut against him henceforth, and yours, I take it for granted, are
open to him.'
To this address, my aunt had listened with the closest attention,
sitting perfectly upright, with her hands folded on one knee, and
looking grimly on the speaker. When he had finished, she turned
her eyes so as to command Miss Murdstone, without otherwise
disturbing her attitude, and said:
'Well, ma'am, have YOU got anything to remark?'
'Indeed, Miss Trotwood,' said Miss Murdstone, 'all that I could say
has been so well said by my brother, and all that I know to be the
fact has been so plainly stated by him, that I have nothing to add
except my thanks for your politeness. For your very great
politeness, I am sure,' said Miss Murdstone; with an irony which no
more affected my aunt, than it discomposed the cannon I had slept
by at Chatham.
'And what does the boy say?' said my aunt. 'Are you ready to go,
I answered no, and entreated her not to let me go. I said that
neither Mr. nor Miss Murdstone had ever liked me, or had ever been
kind to me. That they had made my mama, who always loved me
dearly, unhappy about me, and that I knew it well, and that
Peggotty knew it. I said that I had been more miserable than I
thought anybody could believe, who only knew how young I was. And
I begged and prayed my aunt - I forget in what terms now, but I
remember that they affected me very much then - to befriend and
protect me, for my father's sake.
'Mr. Dick,' said my aunt, 'what shall I do with this child?'
Mr. Dick considered, hesitated, brightened, and rejoined, 'Have him
measured for a suit of clothes directly.'
'Mr. Dick,' said my aunt triumphantly, 'give me your hand, for your
common sense is invaluable.' Having shaken it with great
cordiality, she pulled me towards her and said to Mr. Murdstone:
'You can go when you like; I'll take my chance with the boy. If
he's all you say he is, at least I can do as much for him then, as
you have done. But I don't believe a word of it.'
'Miss Trotwood,' rejoined Mr. Murdstone, shrugging his shoulders,
as he rose, 'if you were a gentleman -'
'Bah! Stuff and nonsense!' said my aunt. 'Don't talk to me!'
'How exquisitely polite!' exclaimed Miss Murdstone, rising.
'Do you think I don't know,' said my aunt, turning a deaf ear to
the sister, and continuing to address the brother, and to shake her
head at him with infinite expression, 'what kind of life you must
have led that poor, unhappy, misdirected baby? Do you think I
don't know what a woeful day it was for the soft little creature
when you first came in her way - smirking and making great eyes at
her, I'll be bound, as if you couldn't say boh! to a goose!'
'I never heard anything so elegant!' said Miss Murdstone.
'Do you think I can't understand you as well as if I had seen you,'
pursued my aunt, 'now that I DO see and hear you - which, I tell
you candidly, is anything but a pleasure to me? Oh yes, bless us!
who so smooth and silky as Mr. Murdstone at first! The poor,
benighted innocent had never seen such a man. He was made of
sweetness. He worshipped her. He doted on her boy - tenderly
doted on him! He was to be another father to him, and they were
all to live together in a garden of roses, weren't they? Ugh! Get
along with you, do!' said my aunt.
'I never heard anything like this person in my life!' exclaimed
'And when you had made sure of the poor little fool,' said my aunt
- 'God forgive me that I should call her so, and she gone where YOU
won't go in a hurry - because you had not done wrong enough to her
and hers, you must begin to train her, must you? begin to break
her, like a poor caged bird, and wear her deluded life away, in
teaching her to sing YOUR notes?'
'This is either insanity or intoxication,' said Miss Murdstone, in
a perfect agony at not being able to turn the current of my aunt's
address towards herself; 'and my suspicion is that it's
Miss Betsey, without taking the least notice of the interruption,
continued to address herself to Mr. Murdstone as if there had been
no such thing.
'Mr. Murdstone,' she said, shaking her finger at him, 'you were a
tyrant to the simple baby, and you broke her heart. She was a
loving baby - I know that; I knew it, years before you ever saw her
- and through the best part of her weakness you gave her the wounds
she died of. There is the truth for your comfort, however you like
it. And you and your instruments may make the most of it.'
'Allow me to inquire, Miss Trotwood,' interposed Miss Murdstone,
'whom you are pleased to call, in a choice of words in which I am
not experienced, my brother's instruments?'
'It was clear enough, as I have told you, years before YOU ever saw
her - and why, in the mysterious dispensations of Providence, you
ever did see her, is more than humanity can comprehend - it was
clear enough that the poor soft little thing would marry somebody,
at some time or other; but I did hope it wouldn't have been as bad
as it has turned out. That was the time, Mr. Murdstone, when she
gave birth to her boy here,' said my aunt; 'to the poor child you
sometimes tormented her through afterwards, which is a disagreeable
remembrance and makes the sight of him odious now. Aye, aye! you
needn't wince!' said my aunt. 'I know it's true without that.'
He had stood by the door, all this while, observant of her with a
smile upon his face, though his black eyebrows were heavily
contracted. I remarked now, that, though the smile was on his face
still, his colour had gone in a moment, and he seemed to breathe as
if he had been running.
'Good day, sir,' said my aunt, 'and good-bye! Good day to you,
too, ma'am,' said my aunt, turning suddenly upon his sister. 'Let
me see you ride a donkey over my green again, and as sure as you
have a head upon your shoulders, I'll knock your bonnet off, and
tread upon it!'
It would require a painter, and no common painter too, to depict my
aunt's face as she delivered herself of this very unexpected
sentiment, and Miss Murdstone's face as she heard it. But the
manner of the speech, no less than the matter, was so fiery, that
Miss Murdstone, without a word in answer, discreetly put her arm
through her brother's, and walked haughtily out of the cottage; my
aunt remaining in the window looking after them; prepared, I have
no doubt, in case of the donkey's reappearance, to carry her threat
into instant execution.
No attempt at defiance being made, however, her face gradually
relaxed, and became so pleasant, that I was emboldened to kiss and
thank her; which I did with great heartiness, and with both my arms
clasped round her neck. I then shook hands with Mr. Dick, who
shook hands with me a great many times, and hailed this happy close
of the proceedings with repeated bursts of laughter.
'You'll consider yourself guardian, jointly with me, of this child,
Mr. Dick,' said my aunt.
'I shall be delighted,' said Mr. Dick, 'to be the guardian of
'Very good,' returned my aunt, 'that's settled. I have been
thinking, do you know, Mr. Dick, that I might call him Trotwood?'
'Certainly, certainly. Call him Trotwood, certainly,' said Mr.
Dick. 'David's son's Trotwood.'
'Trotwood Copperfield, you mean,' returned my aunt.
'Yes, to be sure. Yes. Trotwood Copperfield,' said Mr. Dick, a