Part 7 out of 21
Micawber, rising. 'I have no scruple in saying, in the presence of
our friends here, that I am a man who has, for some years,
contended against the pressure of pecuniary difficulties.' I knew
he was certain to say something of this kind; he always would be so
boastful about his difficulties. 'Sometimes I have risen superior
to my difficulties. Sometimes my difficulties have - in short,
have floored me. There have been times when I have administered a
succession of facers to them; there have been times when they have
been too many for me, and I have given in, and said to Mrs.
Micawber, in the words of Cato, "Plato, thou reasonest well. It's
all up now. I can show fight no more." But at no time of my life,'
said Mr. Micawber, 'have I enjoyed a higher degree of satisfaction
than in pouring my griefs (if I may describe difficulties, chiefly
arising out of warrants of attorney and promissory notes at two and
four months, by that word) into the bosom of my friend
Mr. Micawber closed this handsome tribute by saying, 'Mr. Heep!
Good evening. Mrs. Heep! Your servant,' and then walking out with
me in his most fashionable manner, making a good deal of noise on
the pavement with his shoes, and humming a tune as we went.
It was a little inn where Mr. Micawber put up, and he occupied a
little room in it, partitioned off from the commercial room, and
strongly flavoured with tobacco-smoke. I think it was over the
kitchen, because a warm greasy smell appeared to come up through
the chinks in the floor, and there was a flabby perspiration on the
walls. I know it was near the bar, on account of the smell of
spirits and jingling of glasses. Here, recumbent on a small sofa,
underneath a picture of a race-horse, with her head close to the
fire, and her feet pushing the mustard off the dumb-waiter at the
other end of the room, was Mrs. Micawber, to whom Mr. Micawber
entered first, saying, 'My dear, allow me to introduce to you a
pupil of Doctor Strong's.'
I noticed, by the by, that although Mr. Micawber was just as much
confused as ever about my age and standing, he always remembered,
as a genteel thing, that I was a pupil of Doctor Strong's.
Mrs. Micawber was amazed, but very glad to see me. I was very glad
to see her too, and, after an affectionate greeting on both sides,
sat down on the small sofa near her.
'My dear,' said Mr. Micawber, 'if you will mention to Copperfield
what our present position is, which I have no doubt he will like to
know, I will go and look at the paper the while, and see whether
anything turns up among the advertisements.'
'I thought you were at Plymouth, ma'am,' I said to Mrs. Micawber,
as he went out.
'My dear Master Copperfield,' she replied, 'we went to Plymouth.'
'To be on the spot,' I hinted.
'Just so,' said Mrs. Micawber. 'To be on the spot. But, the truth
is, talent is not wanted in the Custom House. The local influence
of my family was quite unavailing to obtain any employment in that
department, for a man of Mr. Micawber's abilities. They would
rather NOT have a man of Mr. Micawber's abilities. He would only
show the deficiency of the others. Apart from which,' said Mrs.
Micawber, 'I will not disguise from you, my dear Master
Copperfield, that when that branch of my family which is settled in
Plymouth, became aware that Mr. Micawber was accompanied by myself,
and by little Wilkins and his sister, and by the twins, they did
not receive him with that ardour which he might have expected,
being so newly released from captivity. In fact,' said Mrs.
Micawber, lowering her voice, - 'this is between ourselves - our
reception was cool.'
'Dear me!' I said.
'Yes,' said Mrs. Micawber. 'It is truly painful to contemplate
mankind in such an aspect, Master Copperfield, but our reception
was, decidedly, cool. There is no doubt about it. In fact, that
branch of my family which is settled in Plymouth became quite
personal to Mr. Micawber, before we had been there a week.'
I said, and thought, that they ought to be ashamed of themselves.
'Still, so it was,' continued Mrs. Micawber. 'Under such
circumstances, what could a man of Mr. Micawber's spirit do? But
one obvious course was left. To borrow, of that branch of my
family, the money to return to London, and to return at any
'Then you all came back again, ma'am?' I said.
'We all came back again,' replied Mrs. Micawber. 'Since then, I
have consulted other branches of my family on the course which it
is most expedient for Mr. Micawber to take - for I maintain that he
must take some course, Master Copperfield,' said Mrs. Micawber,
argumentatively. 'It is clear that a family of six, not including
a domestic, cannot live upon air.'
'Certainly, ma'am,' said I.
'The opinion of those other branches of my family,' pursued Mrs.
Micawber, 'is, that Mr. Micawber should immediately turn his
attention to coals.'
'To what, ma'am?'
'To coals,' said Mrs. Micawber. 'To the coal trade. Mr. Micawber
was induced to think, on inquiry, that there might be an opening
for a man of his talent in the Medway Coal Trade. Then, as Mr.
Micawber very properly said, the first step to be taken clearly
was, to come and see the Medway. Which we came and saw. I say
"we", Master Copperfield; for I never will,' said Mrs. Micawber
with emotion, 'I never will desert Mr. Micawber.'
I murmured my admiration and approbation.
'We came,' repeated Mrs. Micawber, 'and saw the Medway. My opinion
of the coal trade on that river is, that it may require talent, but
that it certainly requires capital. Talent, Mr. Micawber has;
capital, Mr. Micawber has not. We saw, I think, the greater part
of the Medway; and that is my individual conclusion. Being so near
here, Mr. Micawber was of opinion that it would be rash not to come
on, and see the Cathedral. Firstly, on account of its being so
well worth seeing, and our never having seen it; and secondly, on
account of the great probability of something turning up in a
cathedral town. We have been here,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'three
days. Nothing has, as yet, turned up; and it may not surprise you,
my dear Master Copperfield, so much as it would a stranger, to know
that we are at present waiting for a remittance from London, to
discharge our pecuniary obligations at this hotel. Until the
arrival of that remittance,' said Mrs. Micawber with much feeling,
'I am cut off from my home (I allude to lodgings in Pentonville),
from my boy and girl, and from my twins.'
I felt the utmost sympathy for Mr. and Mrs. Micawber in this
anxious extremity, and said as much to Mr. Micawber, who now
returned: adding that I only wished I had money enough, to lend
them the amount they needed. Mr. Micawber's answer expressed the
disturbance of his mind. He said, shaking hands with me,
'Copperfield, you are a true friend; but when the worst comes to
the worst, no man is without a friend who is possessed of shaving
materials.' At this dreadful hint Mrs. Micawber threw her arms
round Mr. Micawber's neck and entreated him to be calm. He wept;
but so far recovered, almost immediately, as to ring the bell for
the waiter, and bespeak a hot kidney pudding and a plate of shrimps
for breakfast in the morning.
When I took my leave of them, they both pressed me so much to come
and dine before they went away, that I could not refuse. But, as
I knew I could not come next day, when I should have a good deal to
prepare in the evening, Mr. Micawber arranged that he would call at
Doctor Strong's in the course of the morning (having a presentiment
that the remittance would arrive by that post), and propose the day
after, if it would suit me better. Accordingly I was called out of
school next forenoon, and found Mr. Micawber in the parlour; who
had called to say that the dinner would take place as proposed.
When I asked him if the remittance had come, he pressed my hand and
As I was looking out of window that same evening, it surprised me,
and made me rather uneasy, to see Mr. Micawber and Uriah Heep walk
past, arm in arm: Uriah humbly sensible of the honour that was done
him, and Mr. Micawber taking a bland delight in extending his
patronage to Uriah. But I was still more surprised, when I went to
the little hotel next day at the appointed dinner-hour, which was
four o'clock, to find, from what Mr. Micawber said, that he had
gone home with Uriah, and had drunk brandy-and-water at Mrs.
'And I'll tell you what, my dear Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber,
'your friend Heep is a young fellow who might be attorney-general.
If I had known that young man, at the period when my difficulties
came to a crisis, all I can say is, that I believe my creditors
would have been a great deal better managed than they were.'
I hardly understood how this could have been, seeing that Mr.
Micawber had paid them nothing at all as it was; but I did not like
to ask. Neither did I like to say, that I hoped he had not been
too communicative to Uriah; or to inquire if they had talked much
about me. I was afraid of hurting Mr. Micawber's feelings, or, at
all events, Mrs. Micawber's, she being very sensitive; but I was
uncomfortable about it, too, and often thought about it afterwards.
We had a beautiful little dinner. Quite an elegant dish of fish;
the kidney-end of a loin of veal, roasted; fried sausage-meat; a
partridge, and a pudding. There was wine, and there was strong
ale; and after dinner Mrs. Micawber made us a bowl of hot punch
with her own hands.
Mr. Micawber was uncommonly convivial. I never saw him such good
company. He made his face shine with the punch, so that it looked
as if it had been varnished all over. He got cheerfully
sentimental about the town, and proposed success to it; observing
that Mrs. Micawber and himself had been made extremely snug and
comfortable there and that he never should forget the agreeable
hours they had passed in Canterbury. He proposed me afterwards;
and he, and Mrs. Micawber, and I, took a review of our past
acquaintance, in the course of which we sold the property all over
again. Then I proposed Mrs. Micawber: or, at least, said,
modestly, 'If you'll allow me, Mrs. Micawber, I shall now have the
pleasure of drinking your health, ma'am.' On which Mr. Micawber
delivered an eulogium on Mrs. Micawber's character, and said she
had ever been his guide, philosopher, and friend, and that he would
recommend me, when I came to a marrying time of life, to marry such
another woman, if such another woman could be found.
As the punch disappeared, Mr. Micawber became still more friendly
and convivial. Mrs. Micawber's spirits becoming elevated, too, we
sang 'Auld Lang Syne'. When we came to 'Here's a hand, my trusty
frere', we all joined hands round the table; and when we declared
we would 'take a right gude Willie Waught', and hadn't the least
idea what it meant, we were really affected.
In a word, I never saw anybody so thoroughly jovial as Mr. Micawber
was, down to the very last moment of the evening, when I took a
hearty farewell of himself and his amiable wife. Consequently, I
was not prepared, at seven o'clock next morning, to receive the
following communication, dated half past nine in the evening; a
quarter of an hour after I had left him: -
'My DEAR YOUNG FRIEND,
'The die is cast - all is over. Hiding the ravages of care with a
sickly mask of mirth, I have not informed you, this evening, that
there is no hope of the remittance! Under these circumstances,
alike humiliating to endure, humiliating to contemplate, and
humiliating to relate, I have discharged the pecuniary liability
contracted at this establishment, by giving a note of hand, made
payable fourteen days after date, at my residence, Pentonville,
London. When it becomes due, it will not be taken up. The result
is destruction. The bolt is impending, and the tree must fall.
'Let the wretched man who now addresses you, my dear Copperfield,
be a beacon to you through life. He writes with that intention,
and in that hope. If he could think himself of so much use, one
gleam of day might, by possibility, penetrate into the cheerless
dungeon of his remaining existence - though his longevity is, at
present (to say the least of it), extremely problematical.
'This is the last communication, my dear Copperfield, you will ever
I was so shocked by the contents of this heart-rending letter, that
I ran off directly towards the little hotel with the intention of
taking it on my way to Doctor Strong's, and trying to soothe Mr.
Micawber with a word of comfort. But, half-way there, I met the
London coach with Mr. and Mrs. Micawber up behind; Mr. Micawber,
the very picture of tranquil enjoyment, smiling at Mrs. Micawber's
conversation, eating walnuts out of a paper bag, with a bottle
sticking out of his breast pocket. As they did not see me, I
thought it best, all things considered, not to see them. So, with
a great weight taken off my mind, I turned into a by-street that
was the nearest way to school, and felt, upon the whole, relieved
that they were gone; though I still liked them very much,
My school-days! The silent gliding on of my existence - the
unseen, unfelt progress of my life - from childhood up to youth!
Let me think, as I look back upon that flowing water, now a dry
channel overgrown with leaves, whether there are any marks along
its course, by which I can remember how it ran.
A moment, and I occupy my place in the Cathedral, where we all went
together, every Sunday morning, assembling first at school for that
purpose. The earthy smell, the sunless air, the sensation of the
world being shut out, the resounding of the organ through the black
and white arched galleries and aisles, are wings that take me back,
and hold me hovering above those days, in a half-sleeping and
I am not the last boy in the school. I have risen in a few months,
over several heads. But the first boy seems to me a mighty
creature, dwelling afar off, whose giddy height is unattainable.
Agnes says 'No,' but I say 'Yes,' and tell her that she little
thinks what stores of knowledge have been mastered by the wonderful
Being, at whose place she thinks I, even I, weak aspirant, may
arrive in time. He is not my private friend and public patron, as
Steerforth was, but I hold him in a reverential respect. I chiefly
wonder what he'll be, when he leaves Doctor Strong's, and what
mankind will do to maintain any place against him.
But who is this that breaks upon me? This is Miss Shepherd, whom
Miss Shepherd is a boarder at the Misses Nettingalls'
establishment. I adore Miss Shepherd. She is a little girl, in a
spencer, with a round face and curly flaxen hair. The Misses
Nettingalls' young ladies come to the Cathedral too. I cannot look
upon my book, for I must look upon Miss Shepherd. When the
choristers chaunt, I hear Miss Shepherd. In the service I mentally
insert Miss Shepherd's name - I put her in among the Royal Family.
At home, in my own room, I am sometimes moved to cry out, 'Oh, Miss
Shepherd!' in a transport of love.
For some time, I am doubtful of Miss Shepherd's feelings, but, at
length, Fate being propitious, we meet at the dancing-school. I
have Miss Shepherd for my partner. I touch Miss Shepherd's glove,
and feel a thrill go up the right arm of my jacket, and come out at
my hair. I say nothing to Miss Shepherd, but we understand each
other. Miss Shepherd and myself live but to be united.
Why do I secretly give Miss Shepherd twelve Brazil nuts for a
present, I wonder? They are not expressive of affection, they are
difficult to pack into a parcel of any regular shape, they are hard
to crack, even in room doors, and they are oily when cracked; yet
I feel that they are appropriate to Miss Shepherd. Soft, seedy
biscuits, also, I bestow upon Miss Shepherd; and oranges
innumerable. Once, I kiss Miss Shepherd in the cloak-room.
Ecstasy! What are my agony and indignation next day, when I hear
a flying rumour that the Misses Nettingall have stood Miss Shepherd
in the stocks for turning in her toes!
Miss Shepherd being the one pervading theme and vision of my life,
how do I ever come to break with her? I can't conceive. And yet
a coolness grows between Miss Shepherd and myself. Whispers reach
me of Miss Shepherd having said she wished I wouldn't stare so, and
having avowed a preference for Master Jones - for Jones! a boy of
no merit whatever! The gulf between me and Miss Shepherd widens.
At last, one day, I meet the Misses Nettingalls' establishment out
walking. Miss Shepherd makes a face as she goes by, and laughs to
her companion. All is over. The devotion of a life - it seems a
life, it is all the same - is at an end; Miss Shepherd comes out of
the morning service, and the Royal Family know her no more.
I am higher in the school, and no one breaks my peace. I am not at
all polite, now, to the Misses Nettingalls' young ladies, and
shouldn't dote on any of them, if they were twice as many and
twenty times as beautiful. I think the dancing-school a tiresome
affair, and wonder why the girls can't dance by themselves and
leave us alone. I am growing great in Latin verses, and neglect
the laces of my boots. Doctor Strong refers to me in public as a
promising young scholar. Mr. Dick is wild with joy, and my aunt
remits me a guinea by the next post.
The shade of a young butcher rises, like the apparition of an armed
head in Macbeth. Who is this young butcher? He is the terror of
the youth of Canterbury. There is a vague belief abroad, that the
beef suet with which he anoints his hair gives him unnatural
strength, and that he is a match for a man. He is a broad-faced,
bull-necked, young butcher, with rough red cheeks, an
ill-conditioned mind, and an injurious tongue. His main use of
this tongue, is, to disparage Doctor Strong's young gentlemen. He
says, publicly, that if they want anything he'll give it 'em. He
names individuals among them (myself included), whom he could
undertake to settle with one hand, and the other tied behind him.
He waylays the smaller boys to punch their unprotected heads, and
calls challenges after me in the open streets. For these
sufficient reasons I resolve to fight the butcher.
It is a summer evening, down in a green hollow, at the corner of a
wall. I meet the butcher by appointment. I am attended by a
select body of our boys; the butcher, by two other butchers, a
young publican, and a sweep. The preliminaries are adjusted, and
the butcher and myself stand face to face. In a moment the butcher
lights ten thousand candles out of my left eyebrow. In another
moment, I don't know where the wall is, or where I am, or where
anybody is. I hardly know which is myself and which the butcher,
we are always in such a tangle and tussle, knocking about upon the
trodden grass. Sometimes I see the butcher, bloody but confident;
sometimes I see nothing, and sit gasping on my second's knee;
sometimes I go in at the butcher madly, and cut my knuckles open
against his face, without appearing to discompose him at all. At
last I awake, very queer about the head, as from a giddy sleep, and
see the butcher walking off, congratulated by the two other
butchers and the sweep and publican, and putting on his coat as he
goes; from which I augur, justly, that the victory is his.
I am taken home in a sad plight, and I have beef-steaks put to my
eyes, and am rubbed with vinegar and brandy, and find a great puffy
place bursting out on my upper lip, which swells immoderately. For
three or four days I remain at home, a very ill-looking subject,
with a green shade over my eyes; and I should be very dull, but
that Agnes is a sister to me, and condoles with me, and reads to
me, and makes the time light and happy. Agnes has my confidence
completely, always; I tell her all about the butcher, and the
wrongs he has heaped upon me; she thinks I couldn't have done
otherwise than fight the butcher, while she shrinks and trembles at
my having fought him.
Time has stolen on unobserved, for Adams is not the head-boy in the
days that are come now, nor has he been this many and many a day.
Adams has left the school so long, that when he comes back, on a
visit to Doctor Strong, there are not many there, besides myself,
who know him. Adams is going to be called to the bar almost
directly, and is to be an advocate, and to wear a wig. I am
surprised to find him a meeker man than I had thought, and less
imposing in appearance. He has not staggered the world yet,
either; for it goes on (as well as I can make out) pretty much the
same as if he had never joined it.
A blank, through which the warriors of poetry and history march on
in stately hosts that seem to have no end - and what comes next!
I am the head-boy, now! I look down on the line of boys below me,
with a condescending interest in such of them as bring to my mind
the boy I was myself, when I first came there. That little fellow
seems to be no part of me; I remember him as something left behind
upon the road of life - as something I have passed, rather than
have actually been - and almost think of him as of someone else.
And the little girl I saw on that first day at Mr. Wickfield's,
where is she? Gone also. In her stead, the perfect likeness of
the picture, a child likeness no more, moves about the house; and
Agnes - my sweet sister, as I call her in my thoughts, my
counsellor and friend, the better angel of the lives of all who
come within her calm, good, self-denying influence - is quite a
What other changes have come upon me, besides the changes in my
growth and looks, and in the knowledge I have garnered all this
while? I wear a gold watch and chain, a ring upon my little
finger, and a long-tailed coat; and I use a great deal of bear's
grease - which, taken in conjunction with the ring, looks bad. Am
I in love again? I am. I worship the eldest Miss Larkins.
The eldest Miss Larkins is not a little girl. She is a tall, dark,
black-eyed, fine figure of a woman. The eldest Miss Larkins is not
a chicken; for the youngest Miss Larkins is not that, and the
eldest must be three or four years older. Perhaps the eldest Miss
Larkins may be about thirty. My passion for her is beyond all
The eldest Miss Larkins knows officers. It is an awful thing to
bear. I see them speaking to her in the street. I see them cross
the way to meet her, when her bonnet (she has a bright taste in
bonnets) is seen coming down the pavement, accompanied by her
sister's bonnet. She laughs and talks, and seems to like it. I
spend a good deal of my own spare time in walking up and down to
meet her. If I can bow to her once in the day (I know her to bow
to, knowing Mr. Larkins), I am happier. I deserve a bow now and
then. The raging agonies I suffer on the night of the Race Ball,
where I know the eldest Miss Larkins will be dancing with the
military, ought to have some compensation, if there be even-handed
justice in the world.
My passion takes away my appetite, and makes me wear my newest silk
neckerchief continually. I have no relief but in putting on my
best clothes, and having my boots cleaned over and over again. I
seem, then, to be worthier of the eldest Miss Larkins. Everything
that belongs to her, or is connected with her, is precious to me.
Mr. Larkins (a gruff old gentleman with a double chin, and one of
his eyes immovable in his head) is fraught with interest to me.
When I can't meet his daughter, I go where I am likely to meet him.
To say 'How do you do, Mr. Larkins? Are the young ladies and all
the family quite well?' seems so pointed, that I blush.
I think continually about my age. Say I am seventeen, and say that
seventeen is young for the eldest Miss Larkins, what of that?
Besides, I shall be one-and-twenty in no time almost. I regularly
take walks outside Mr. Larkins's house in the evening, though it
cuts me to the heart to see the officers go in, or to hear them up
in the drawing-room, where the eldest Miss Larkins plays the harp.
I even walk, on two or three occasions, in a sickly, spoony manner,
round and round the house after the family are gone to bed,
wondering which is the eldest Miss Larkins's chamber (and pitching,
I dare say now, on Mr. Larkins's instead); wishing that a fire
would burst out; that the assembled crowd would stand appalled;
that I, dashing through them with a ladder, might rear it against
her window, save her in my arms, go back for something she had left
behind, and perish in the flames. For I am generally disinterested
in my love, and think I could be content to make a figure before
Miss Larkins, and expire.
Generally, but not always. Sometimes brighter visions rise before
me. When I dress (the occupation of two hours), for a great ball
given at the Larkins's (the anticipation of three weeks), I indulge
my fancy with pleasing images. I picture myself taking courage to
make a declaration to Miss Larkins. I picture Miss Larkins sinking
her head upon my shoulder, and saying, 'Oh, Mr. Copperfield, can I
believe my ears!' I picture Mr. Larkins waiting on me next morning,
and saying, 'My dear Copperfield, my daughter has told me all.
Youth is no objection. Here are twenty thousand pounds. Be
happy!' I picture my aunt relenting, and blessing us; and Mr. Dick
and Doctor Strong being present at the marriage ceremony. I am a
sensible fellow, I believe - I believe, on looking back, I mean -
and modest I am sure; but all this goes on notwithstanding.
I repair to the enchanted house, where there are lights,
chattering, music, flowers, officers (I am sorry to see), and the
eldest Miss Larkins, a blaze of beauty. She is dressed in blue,
with blue flowers in her hair - forget-me-nots - as if SHE had any
need to wear forget-me-nots. It is the first really grown-up party
that I have ever been invited to, and I am a little uncomfortable;
for I appear not to belong to anybody, and nobody appears to have
anything to say to me, except Mr. Larkins, who asks me how my
schoolfellows are, which he needn't do, as I have not come there to
But after I have stood in the doorway for some time, and feasted my
eyes upon the goddess of my heart, she approaches me - she, the
eldest Miss Larkins! - and asks me pleasantly, if I dance?
I stammer, with a bow, 'With you, Miss Larkins.'
'With no one else?' inquires Miss Larkins.
'I should have no pleasure in dancing with anyone else.'
Miss Larkins laughs and blushes (or I think she blushes), and says,
'Next time but one, I shall be very glad.'
The time arrives. 'It is a waltz, I think,' Miss Larkins
doubtfully observes, when I present myself. 'Do you waltz? If
not, Captain Bailey -'
But I do waltz (pretty well, too, as it happens), and I take Miss
Larkins out. I take her sternly from the side of Captain Bailey.
He is wretched, I have no doubt; but he is nothing to me. I have
been wretched, too. I waltz with the eldest Miss Larkins! I don't
know where, among whom, or how long. I only know that I swim about
in space, with a blue angel, in a state of blissful delirium, until
I find myself alone with her in a little room, resting on a sofa.
She admires a flower (pink camellia japonica, price half-a-crown),
in my button-hole. I give it her, and say:
'I ask an inestimable price for it, Miss Larkins.'
'Indeed! What is that?' returns Miss Larkins.
'A flower of yours, that I may treasure it as a miser does gold.'
'You're a bold boy,' says Miss Larkins. 'There.'
She gives it me, not displeased; and I put it to my lips, and then
into my breast. Miss Larkins, laughing, draws her hand through my
arm, and says, 'Now take me back to Captain Bailey.'
I am lost in the recollection of this delicious interview, and the
waltz, when she comes to me again, with a plain elderly gentleman
who has been playing whist all night, upon her arm, and says:
'Oh! here is my bold friend! Mr. Chestle wants to know you, Mr.
I feel at once that he is a friend of the family, and am much
'I admire your taste, sir,' says Mr. Chestle. 'It does you credit.
I suppose you don't take much interest in hops; but I am a pretty
large grower myself; and if you ever like to come over to our
neighbourhood - neighbourhood of Ashford - and take a run about our
place, -we shall be glad for you to stop as long as you like.'
I thank Mr. Chestle warmly, and shake hands. I think I am in a
happy dream. I waltz with the eldest Miss Larkins once again. She
says I waltz so well! I go home in a state of unspeakable bliss,
and waltz in imagination, all night long, with my arm round the
blue waist of my dear divinity. For some days afterwards, I am
lost in rapturous reflections; but I neither see her in the street,
nor when I call. I am imperfectly consoled for this disappointment
by the sacred pledge, the perished flower.
'Trotwood,' says Agnes, one day after dinner. 'Who do you think is
going to be married tomorrow? Someone you admire.'
'Not you, I suppose, Agnes?'
'Not me!' raising her cheerful face from the music she is copying.
'Do you hear him, Papa? - The eldest Miss Larkins.'
'To - to Captain Bailey?' I have just enough power to ask.
'No; to no Captain. To Mr. Chestle, a hop-grower.'
I am terribly dejected for about a week or two. I take off my
ring, I wear my worst clothes, I use no bear's grease, and I
frequently lament over the late Miss Larkins's faded flower.
Being, by that time, rather tired of this kind of life, and having
received new provocation from the butcher, I throw the flower away,
go out with the butcher, and gloriously defeat him.
This, and the resumption of my ring, as well as of the bear's
grease in moderation, are the last marks I can discern, now, in my
progress to seventeen.
I LOOK ABOUT ME, AND MAKE A DISCOVERY
I am doubtful whether I was at heart glad or sorry, when my
school-days drew to an end, and the time came for my leaving Doctor
Strong's. I had been very happy there, I had a great attachment
for the Doctor, and I was eminent and distinguished in that little
world. For these reasons I was sorry to go; but for other reasons,
unsubstantial enough, I was glad. Misty ideas of being a young man
at my own disposal, of the importance attaching to a young man at
his own disposal, of the wonderful things to be seen and done by
that magnificent animal, and the wonderful effects he could not
fail to make upon society, lured me away. So powerful were these
visionary considerations in my boyish mind, that I seem, according
to my present way of thinking, to have left school without natural
regret. The separation has not made the impression on me, that
other separations have. I try in vain to recall how I felt about
it, and what its circumstances were; but it is not momentous in my
recollection. I suppose the opening prospect confused me. I know
that my juvenile experiences went for little or nothing then; and
that life was more like a great fairy story, which I was just about
to begin to read, than anything else.
MY aunt and I had held many grave deliberations on the calling to
which I should be devoted. For a year or more I had endeavoured to
find a satisfactory answer to her often-repeated question, 'What I
would like to be?' But I had no particular liking, that I could
discover, for anything. If I could have been inspired with a
knowledge of the science of navigation, taken the command of a
fast-sailing expedition, and gone round the world on a triumphant
voyage of discovery, I think I might have considered myself
completely suited. But, in the absence of any such miraculous
provision, my desire was to apply myself to some pursuit that would
not lie too heavily upon her purse; and to do my duty in it,
whatever it might be.
Mr. Dick had regularly assisted at our councils, with a meditative
and sage demeanour. He never made a suggestion but once; and on
that occasion (I don't know what put it in his head), he suddenly
proposed that I should be 'a Brazier'. My aunt received this
proposal so very ungraciously, that he never ventured on a second;
but ever afterwards confined himself to looking watchfully at her
for her suggestions, and rattling his money.
'Trot, I tell you what, my dear,' said my aunt, one morning in the
Christmas season when I left school: 'as this knotty point is still
unsettled, and as we must not make a mistake in our decision if we
can help it, I think we had better take a little breathing-time.
In the meanwhile, you must try to look at it from a new point of
view, and not as a schoolboy.'
'I will, aunt.'
'It has occurred to me,' pursued my aunt, 'that a little change,
and a glimpse of life out of doors, may be useful in helping you to
know your own mind, and form a cooler judgement. Suppose you were
to go down into the old part of the country again, for instance,
and see that - that out-of-the-way woman with the savagest of
names,' said my aunt, rubbing her nose, for she could never
thoroughly forgive Peggotty for being so called.
'Of all things in the world, aunt, I should like it best!'
'Well,' said my aunt, 'that's lucky, for I should like it too. But
it's natural and rational that you should like it. And I am very
well persuaded that whatever you do, Trot, will always be natural
'I hope so, aunt.'
'Your sister, Betsey Trotwood,' said my aunt, 'would have been as
natural and rational a girl as ever breathed. You'll be worthy of
her, won't you?'
'I hope I shall be worthy of YOU, aunt. That will be enough for
'It's a mercy that poor dear baby of a mother of yours didn't
live,' said my aunt, looking at me approvingly, 'or she'd have been
so vain of her boy by this time, that her soft little head would
have been completely turned, if there was anything of it left to
turn.' (My aunt always excused any weakness of her own in my
behalf, by transferring it in this way to my poor mother.) 'Bless
me, Trotwood, how you do remind me of her!'
'Pleasantly, I hope, aunt?' said I.
'He's as like her, Dick,' said my aunt, emphatically, 'he's as like
her, as she was that afternoon before she began to fret - bless my
heart, he's as like her, as he can look at me out of his two eyes!'
'Is he indeed?' said Mr. Dick.
'And he's like David, too,' said my aunt, decisively.
'He is very like David!' said Mr. Dick.
'But what I want you to be, Trot,' resumed my aunt, '- I don't mean
physically, but morally; you are very well physically - is, a firm
fellow. A fine firm fellow, with a will of your own. With
resolution,' said my aunt, shaking her cap at me, and clenching her
hand. 'With determination. With character, Trot - with strength
of character that is not to be influenced, except on good reason,
by anybody, or by anything. That's what I want you to be. That's
what your father and mother might both have been, Heaven knows, and
been the better for it.'
I intimated that I hoped I should be what she described.
'That you may begin, in a small way, to have a reliance upon
yourself, and to act for yourself,' said my aunt, 'I shall send you
upon your trip, alone. I did think, once, of Mr. Dick's going with
you; but, on second thoughts, I shall keep him to take care of me.'
Mr. Dick, for a moment, looked a little disappointed; until the
honour and dignity of having to take care of the most wonderful
woman in the world, restored the sunshine to his face.
'Besides,' said my aunt, 'there's the Memorial -'
'Oh, certainly,' said Mr. Dick, in a hurry, 'I intend, Trotwood, to
get that done immediately - it really must be done immediately!
And then it will go in, you know - and then -' said Mr. Dick, after
checking himself, and pausing a long time, 'there'll be a pretty
kettle of fish!'
In pursuance of my aunt's kind scheme, I was shortly afterwards
fitted out with a handsome purse of money, and a portmanteau, and
tenderly dismissed upon my expedition. At parting, my aunt gave me
some good advice, and a good many kisses; and said that as her
object was that I should look about me, and should think a little,
she would recommend me to stay a few days in London, if I liked it,
either on my way down into Suffolk, or in coming back. In a word,
I was at liberty to do what I would, for three weeks or a month;
and no other conditions were imposed upon my freedom than the
before-mentioned thinking and looking about me, and a pledge to
write three times a week and faithfully report myself.
I went to Canterbury first, that I might take leave of Agnes and
Mr. Wickfield (my old room in whose house I had not yet
relinquished), and also of the good Doctor. Agnes was very glad to
see me, and told me that the house had not been like itself since
I had left it.
'I am sure I am not like myself when I am away,' said I. 'I seem
to want my right hand, when I miss you. Though that's not saying
much; for there's no head in my right hand, and no heart. Everyone
who knows you, consults with you, and is guided by you, Agnes.'
'Everyone who knows me, spoils me, I believe,' she answered,
'No. it's because you are like no one else. You are so good, and
so sweet-tempered. You have such a gentle nature, and you are
'You talk,' said Agnes, breaking into a pleasant laugh, as she sat
at work, 'as if I were the late Miss Larkins.'
'Come! It's not fair to abuse my confidence,' I answered,
reddening at the recollection of my blue enslaver. 'But I shall
confide in you, just the same, Agnes. I can never grow out of
that. Whenever I fall into trouble, or fall in love, I shall
always tell you, if you'll let me - even when I come to fall in
love in earnest.'
'Why, you have always been in earnest!' said Agnes, laughing again.
'Oh! that was as a child, or a schoolboy,' said I, laughing in my
turn, not without being a little shame-faced. 'Times are altering
now, and I suppose I shall be in a terrible state of earnestness
one day or other. My wonder is, that you are not in earnest
yourself, by this time, Agnes.'
Agnes laughed again, and shook her head.
'Oh, I know you are not!' said I, 'because if you had been you
would have told me. Or at least' - for I saw a faint blush in her
face, 'you would have let me find it out for myself. But there is
no one that I know of, who deserves to love you, Agnes. Someone of
a nobler character, and more worthy altogether than anyone I have
ever seen here, must rise up, before I give my consent. In the
time to come, I shall have a wary eye on all admirers; and shall
exact a great deal from the successful one, I assure you.'
We had gone on, so far, in a mixture of confidential jest and
earnest, that had long grown naturally out of our familiar
relations, begun as mere children. But Agnes, now suddenly lifting
up her eyes to mine, and speaking in a different manner, said:
'Trotwood, there is something that I want to ask you, and that I
may not have another opportunity of asking for a long time, perhaps
- something I would ask, I think, of no one else. Have you
observed any gradual alteration in Papa?'
I had observed it, and had often wondered whether she had too. I
must have shown as much, now, in my face; for her eyes were in a
moment cast down, and I saw tears in them.
'Tell me what it is,' she said, in a low voice.
'I think - shall I be quite plain, Agnes, liking him so much?'
'Yes,' she said.
'I think he does himself no good by the habit that has increased
upon him since I first came here. He is often very nervous - or I
'It is not fancy,' said Agnes, shaking her head.
'His hand trembles, his speech is not plain, and his eyes look
wild. I have remarked that at those times, and when he is least
like himself, he is most certain to be wanted on some business.'
'By Uriah,' said Agnes.
'Yes; and the sense of being unfit for it, or of not having
understood it, or of having shown his condition in spite of
himself, seems to make him so uneasy, that next day he is worse,
and next day worse, and so he becomes jaded and haggard. Do not be
alarmed by what I say, Agnes, but in this state I saw him, only the
other evening, lay down his head upon his desk, and shed tears like
Her hand passed softly before my lips while I was yet speaking, and
in a moment she had met her father at the door of the room, and was
hanging on his shoulder. The expression of her face, as they both
looked towards me, I felt to be very touching. There was such deep
fondness for him, and gratitude to him for all his love and care,
in her beautiful look; and there was such a fervent appeal to me to
deal tenderly by him, even in my inmost thoughts, and to let no
harsh construction find any place against him; she was, at once, so
proud of him and devoted to him, yet so compassionate and sorry,
and so reliant upon me to be so, too; that nothing she could have
said would have expressed more to me, or moved me more.
We were to drink tea at the Doctor's. We went there at the usual
hour; and round the study fireside found the Doctor, and his young
wife, and her mother. The Doctor, who made as much of my going
away as if I were going to China, received me as an honoured guest;
and called for a log of wood to be thrown on the fire, that he
might see the face of his old pupil reddening in the blaze.
'I shall not see many more new faces in Trotwood's stead,
Wickfield,' said the Doctor, warming his hands; 'I am getting lazy,
and want ease. I shall relinquish all my young people in another
six months, and lead a quieter life.'
'You have said so, any time these ten years, Doctor,' Mr. Wickfield
'But now I mean to do it,' returned the Doctor. 'My first master
will succeed me - I am in earnest at last - so you'll soon have to
arrange our contracts, and to bind us firmly to them, like a couple
'And to take care,' said Mr. Wickfield, 'that you're not imposed
on, eh? As you certainly would be, in any contract you should make
for yourself. Well! I am ready. There are worse tasks than that,
in my calling.'
'I shall have nothing to think of then,' said the Doctor, with a
smile, 'but my Dictionary; and this other contract-bargain -
As Mr. Wickfield glanced towards her, sitting at the tea table by
Agnes, she seemed to me to avoid his look with such unwonted
hesitation and timidity, that his attention became fixed upon her,
as if something were suggested to his thoughts.
'There is a post come in from India, I observe,' he said, after a
'By the by! and letters from Mr. Jack Maldon!' said the Doctor.
'Poor dear Jack!' said Mrs. Markleham, shaking her head. 'That
trying climate! - like living, they tell me, on a sand-heap,
underneath a burning-glass! He looked strong, but he wasn't. My
dear Doctor, it was his spirit, not his constitution, that he
ventured on so boldly. Annie, my dear, I am sure you must
perfectly recollect that your cousin never was strong - not what
can be called ROBUST, you know,' said Mrs. Markleham, with
emphasis, and looking round upon us generally, '- from the time
when my daughter and himself were children together, and walking
about, arm-in-arm, the livelong day.'
Annie, thus addressed, made no reply.
'Do I gather from what you say, ma'am, that Mr. Maldon is ill?'
asked Mr. Wickfield.
'Ill!' replied the Old Soldier. 'My dear sir, he's all sorts of
'Except well?' said Mr. Wickfield.
'Except well, indeed!' said the Old Soldier. 'He has had dreadful
strokes of the sun, no doubt, and jungle fevers and agues, and
every kind of thing you can mention. As to his liver,' said the
Old Soldier resignedly, 'that, of course, he gave up altogether,
when he first went out!'
'Does he say all this?' asked Mr. Wickfield.
'Say? My dear sir,' returned Mrs. Markleham, shaking her head and
her fan, 'you little know my poor Jack Maldon when you ask that
question. Say? Not he. You might drag him at the heels of four
wild horses first.'
'Mama!' said Mrs. Strong.
'Annie, my dear,' returned her mother, 'once for all, I must really
beg that you will not interfere with me, unless it is to confirm
what I say. You know as well as I do that your cousin Maldon would
be dragged at the heels of any number of wild horses - why should
I confine myself to four! I WON'T confine myself to four - eight,
sixteen, two-and-thirty, rather than say anything calculated to
overturn the Doctor's plans.'
'Wickfield's plans,' said the Doctor, stroking his face, and
looking penitently at his adviser. 'That is to say, our joint
plans for him. I said myself, abroad or at home.'
'And I said' added Mr. Wickfield gravely, 'abroad. I was the means
of sending him abroad. It's my responsibility.'
'Oh! Responsibility!' said the Old Soldier. 'Everything was done
for the best, my dear Mr. Wickfield; everything was done for the
kindest and best, we know. But if the dear fellow can't live
there, he can't live there. And if he can't live there, he'll die
there, sooner than he'll overturn the Doctor's plans. I know him,'
said the Old Soldier, fanning herself, in a sort of calm prophetic
agony, 'and I know he'll die there, sooner than he'll overturn the
'Well, well, ma'am,' said the Doctor cheerfully, 'I am not bigoted
to my plans, and I can overturn them myself. I can substitute some
other plans. If Mr. Jack Maldon comes home on account of ill
health, he must not be allowed to go back, and we must endeavour to
make some more suitable and fortunate provision for him in this
Mrs. Markleham was so overcome by this generous speech - which, I
need not say, she had not at all expected or led up to - that she
could only tell the Doctor it was like himself, and go several
times through that operation of kissing the sticks of her fan, and
then tapping his hand with it. After which she gently chid her
daughter Annie, for not being more demonstrative when such
kindnesses were showered, for her sake, on her old playfellow; and
entertained us with some particulars concerning other deserving
members of her family, whom it was desirable to set on their
All this time, her daughter Annie never once spoke, or lifted up
her eyes. All this time, Mr. Wickfield had his glance upon her as
she sat by his own daughter's side. It appeared to me that he
never thought of being observed by anyone; but was so intent upon
her, and upon his own thoughts in connexion with her, as to be
quite absorbed. He now asked what Mr. Jack Maldon had actually
written in reference to himself, and to whom he had written?
'Why, here,' said Mrs. Markleham, taking a letter from the
chimney-piece above the Doctor's head, 'the dear fellow says to the
Doctor himself - where is it? Oh! - "I am sorry to inform you that
my health is suffering severely, and that I fear I may be reduced
to the necessity of returning home for a time, as the only hope of
restoration." That's pretty plain, poor fellow! His only hope of
restoration! But Annie's letter is plainer still. Annie, show me
that letter again.'
'Not now, mama,' she pleaded in a low tone.
'My dear, you absolutely are, on some subjects, one of the most
ridiculous persons in the world,' returned her mother, 'and perhaps
the most unnatural to the claims of your own family. We never
should have heard of the letter at all, I believe, unless I had
asked for it myself. Do you call that confidence, my love, towards
Doctor Strong? I am surprised. You ought to know better.'
The letter was reluctantly produced; and as I handed it to the old
lady, I saw how the unwilling hand from which I took it, trembled.
'Now let us see,' said Mrs. Markleham, putting her glass to her
eye, 'where the passage is. "The remembrance of old times, my
dearest Annie" - and so forth - it's not there. "The amiable old
Proctor" - who's he? Dear me, Annie, how illegibly your cousin
Maldon writes, and how stupid I am! "Doctor," of course. Ah!
amiable indeed!' Here she left off, to kiss her fan again, and
shake it at the Doctor, who was looking at us in a state of placid
satisfaction. 'Now I have found it. "You may not be surprised to
hear, Annie," - no, to be sure, knowing that he never was really
strong; what did I say just now? - "that I have undergone so much
in this distant place, as to have decided to leave it at all
hazards; on sick leave, if I can; on total resignation, if that is
not to be obtained. What I have endured, and do endure here, is
insupportable." And but for the promptitude of that best of
creatures,' said Mrs. Markleham, telegraphing the Doctor as before,
and refolding the letter, 'it would be insupportable to me to think
Mr. Wickfield said not one word, though the old lady looked to him
as if for his commentary on this intelligence; but sat severely
silent, with his eyes fixed on the ground. Long after the subject
was dismissed, and other topics occupied us, he remained so; seldom
raising his eyes, unless to rest them for a moment, with a
thoughtful frown, upon the Doctor, or his wife, or both.
The Doctor was very fond of music. Agnes sang with great sweetness
and expression, and so did Mrs. Strong. They sang together, and
played duets together, and we had quite a little concert. But I
remarked two things: first, that though Annie soon recovered her
composure, and was quite herself, there was a blank between her and
Mr. Wickfield which separated them wholly from each other;
secondly, that Mr. Wickfield seemed to dislike the intimacy between
her and Agnes, and to watch it with uneasiness. And now, I must
confess, the recollection of what I had seen on that night when Mr.
Maldon went away, first began to return upon me with a meaning it
had never had, and to trouble me. The innocent beauty of her face
was not as innocent to me as it had been; I mistrusted the natural
grace and charm of her manner; and when I looked at Agnes by her
side, and thought how good and true Agnes was, suspicions arose
within me that it was an ill-assorted friendship.
She was so happy in it herself, however, and the other was so happy
too, that they made the evening fly away as if it were but an hour.
It closed in an incident which I well remember. They were taking
leave of each other, and Agnes was going to embrace her and kiss
her, when Mr. Wickfield stepped between them, as if by accident,
and drew Agnes quickly away. Then I saw, as though all the
intervening time had been cancelled, and I were still standing in
the doorway on the night of the departure, the expression of that
night in the face of Mrs. Strong, as it confronted his.
I cannot say what an impression this made upon me, or how
impossible I found it, when I thought of her afterwards, to
separate her from this look, and remember her face in its innocent
loveliness again. It haunted me when I got home. I seemed to have
left the Doctor's roof with a dark cloud lowering on it. The
reverence that I had for his grey head, was mingled with
commiseration for his faith in those who were treacherous to him,
and with resentment against those who injured him. The impending
shadow of a great affliction, and a great disgrace that had no
distinct form in it yet, fell like a stain upon the quiet place
where I had worked and played as a boy, and did it a cruel wrong.
I had no pleasure in thinking, any more, of the grave old
broad-leaved aloe-trees, which remained shut up in themselves a
hundred years together, and of the trim smooth grass-plot, and the
stone urns, and the Doctor's walk, and the congenial sound of the
Cathedral bell hovering above them all. It was as if the tranquil
sanctuary of my boyhood had been sacked before my face, and its
peace and honour given to the winds.
But morning brought with it my parting from the old house, which
Agnes had filled with her influence; and that occupied my mind
sufficiently. I should be there again soon, no doubt; I might
sleep again - perhaps often - in my old room; but the days of my
inhabiting there were gone, and the old time was past. I was
heavier at heart when I packed up such of my books and clothes as
still remained there to be sent to Dover, than I cared to show to
Uriah Heep; who was so officious to help me, that I uncharitably
thought him mighty glad that I was going.
I got away from Agnes and her father, somehow, with an indifferent
show of being very manly, and took my seat upon the box of the
London coach. I was so softened and forgiving, going through the
town, that I had half a mind to nod to my old enemy the butcher,
and throw him five shillings to drink. But he looked such a very
obdurate butcher as he stood scraping the great block in the shop,
and moreover, his appearance was so little improved by the loss of
a front tooth which I had knocked out, that I thought it best to
make no advances.
The main object on my mind, I remember, when we got fairly on the
road, was to appear as old as possible to the coachman, and to
speak extremely gruff. The latter point I achieved at great
personal inconvenience; but I stuck to it, because I felt it was a
grown-up sort of thing.
'You are going through, sir?' said the coachman.
'Yes, William,' I said, condescendingly (I knew him); 'I am going
to London. I shall go down into Suffolk afterwards.'
'Shooting, sir?' said the coachman.
He knew as well as I did that it was just as likely, at that time
of year, I was going down there whaling; but I felt complimented,
'I don't know,' I said, pretending to be undecided, 'whether I
shall take a shot or not.'
'Birds is got wery shy, I'm told,' said William.
'So I understand,' said I.
'Is Suffolk your county, sir?' asked William.
'Yes,' I said, with some importance. 'Suffolk's my county.'
'I'm told the dumplings is uncommon fine down there,' said William.
I was not aware of it myself, but I felt it necessary to uphold the
institutions of my county, and to evince a familiarity with them;
so I shook my head, as much as to say, 'I believe you!'
'And the Punches,' said William. 'There's cattle! A Suffolk
Punch, when he's a good un, is worth his weight in gold. Did you
ever breed any Suffolk Punches yourself, sir?'
'N-no,' I said, 'not exactly.'
'Here's a gen'lm'n behind me, I'll pound it,' said William, 'as has
bred 'em by wholesale.'
The gentleman spoken of was a gentleman with a very unpromising
squint, and a prominent chin, who had a tall white hat on with a
narrow flat brim, and whose close-fitting drab trousers seemed to
button all the way up outside his legs from his boots to his hips.
His chin was cocked over the coachman's shoulder, so near to me,
that his breath quite tickled the back of my head; and as I looked
at him, he leered at the leaders with the eye with which he didn't
squint, in a very knowing manner.
'Ain't you?' asked William.
'Ain't I what?' said the gentleman behind.
'Bred them Suffolk Punches by wholesale?'
'I should think so,' said the gentleman. 'There ain't no sort of
orse that I ain't bred, and no sort of dorg. Orses and dorgs is
some men's fancy. They're wittles and drink to me - lodging, wife,
and children - reading, writing, and Arithmetic - snuff, tobacker,
'That ain't a sort of man to see sitting behind a coach-box, is it
though?' said William in my ear, as he handled the reins.
I construed this remark into an indication of a wish that he should
have my place, so I blushingly offered to resign it.
'Well, if you don't mind, sir,' said William, 'I think it would be
I have always considered this as the first fall I had in life.
When I booked my place at the coach office I had had 'Box Seat'
written against the entry, and had given the book-keeper
half-a-crown. I was got up in a special great-coat and shawl,
expressly to do honour to that distinguished eminence; had
glorified myself upon it a good deal; and had felt that I was a
credit to the coach. And here, in the very first stage, I was
supplanted by a shabby man with a squint, who had no other merit
than smelling like a livery-stables, and being able to walk across
me, more like a fly than a human being, while the horses were at a
A distrust of myself, which has often beset me in life on small
occasions, when it would have been better away, was assuredly not
stopped in its growth by this little incident outside the
Canterbury coach. It was in vain to take refuge in gruffness of
speech. I spoke from the pit of my stomach for the rest of the
journey, but I felt completely extinguished, and dreadfully young.
It was curious and interesting, nevertheless, to be sitting up
there behind four horses: well educated, well dressed, and with
plenty of money in my pocket; and to look out for the places where
I had slept on my weary journey. I had abundant occupation for my
thoughts, in every conspicuous landmark on the road. When I looked
down at the trampers whom we passed, and saw that well-remembered
style of face turned up, I felt as if the tinker's blackened hand
were in the bosom of my shirt again. When we clattered through the
narrow street of Chatham, and I caught a glimpse, in passing, of
the lane where the old monster lived who had bought my jacket, I
stretched my neck eagerly to look for the place where I had sat, in
the sun and in the shade, waiting for my money. When we came, at
last, within a stage of London, and passed the veritable Salem
House where Mr. Creakle had laid about him with a heavy hand, I
would have given all I had, for lawful permission to get down and
thrash him, and let all the boys out like so many caged sparrows.
We went to the Golden Cross at Charing Cross, then a mouldy sort of
establishment in a close neighbourhood. A waiter showed me into
the coffee-room; and a chambermaid introduced me to my small
bedchamber, which smelt like a hackney-coach, and was shut up like
a family vault. I was still painfully conscious of my youth, for
nobody stood in any awe of me at all: the chambermaid being utterly
indifferent to my opinions on any subject, and the waiter being
familiar with me, and offering advice to my inexperience.
'Well now,' said the waiter, in a tone of confidence, 'what would
you like for dinner? Young gentlemen likes poultry in general:
have a fowl!'
I told him, as majestically as I could, that I wasn't in the humour
for a fowl.
'Ain't you?' said the waiter. 'Young gentlemen is generally tired
of beef and mutton: have a weal cutlet!'
I assented to this proposal, in default of being able to suggest
'Do you care for taters?' said the waiter, with an insinuating
smile, and his head on one side. 'Young gentlemen generally has
been overdosed with taters.'
I commanded him, in my deepest voice, to order a veal cutlet and
potatoes, and all things fitting; and to inquire at the bar if
there were any letters for Trotwood Copperfield, Esquire - which I
knew there were not, and couldn't be, but thought it manly to
appear to expect.
He soon came back to say that there were none (at which I was much
surprised) and began to lay the cloth for my dinner in a box by the
fire. While he was so engaged, he asked me what I would take with
it; and on my replying 'Half a pint of sherry,'thought it a
favourable opportunity, I am afraid, to extract that measure of
wine from the stale leavings at the bottoms of several small
decanters. I am of this opinion, because, while I was reading the
newspaper, I observed him behind a low wooden partition, which was
his private apartment, very busy pouring out of a number of those
vessels into one, like a chemist and druggist making up a
prescription. When the wine came, too, I thought it flat; and it
certainly had more English crumbs in it, than were to be expected
in a foreign wine in anything like a pure state, but I was bashful
enough to drink it, and say nothing.
Being then in a pleasant frame of mind (from which I infer that
poisoning is not always disagreeable in some stages of the
process), I resolved to go to the play. It was Covent Garden
Theatre that I chose; and there, from the back of a centre box, I
saw Julius Caesar and the new Pantomime. To have all those noble
Romans alive before me, and walking in and out for my
entertainment, instead of being the stern taskmasters they had been
at school, was a most novel and delightful effect. But the mingled
reality and mystery of the whole show, the influence upon me of the
poetry, the lights, the music, the company, the smooth stupendous
changes of glittering and brilliant scenery, were so dazzling, and
opened up such illimitable regions of delight, that when I came out
into the rainy street, at twelve o'clock at night, I felt as if I
had come from the clouds, where I had been leading a romantic life
for ages, to a bawling, splashing, link-lighted,
umbrella-struggling, hackney-coach-jostling, patten-clinking,
muddy, miserable world.
I had emerged by another door, and stood in the street for a little
while, as if I really were a stranger upon earth: but the
unceremonious pushing and hustling that I received, soon recalled
me to myself, and put me in the road back to the hotel; whither I
went, revolving the glorious vision all the way; and where, after
some porter and oysters, I sat revolving it still, at past one
o'clock, with my eyes on the coffee-room fire.
I was so filled with the play, and with the past - for it was, in
a manner, like a shining transparency, through which I saw my
earlier life moving along - that I don't know when the figure of a
handsome well-formed young man dressed with a tasteful easy
negligence which I have reason to remember very well, became a real
presence to me. But I recollect being conscious of his company
without having noticed his coming in - and my still sitting,
musing, over the coffee-room fire.
At last I rose to go to bed, much to the relief of the sleepy
waiter, who had got the fidgets in his legs, and was twisting them,
and hitting them, and putting them through all kinds of contortions
in his small pantry. In going towards the door, I passed the
person who had come in, and saw him plainly. I turned directly,
came back, and looked again. He did not know me, but I knew him in
At another time I might have wanted the confidence or the decision
to speak to him, and might have put it off until next day, and
might have lost him. But, in the then condition of my mind, where
the play was still running high, his former protection of me
appeared so deserving of my gratitude, and my old love for him
overflowed my breast so freshly and spontaneously, that I went up
to him at once, with a fast-beating heart, and said:
'Steerforth! won't you speak to me?'
He looked at me - just as he used to look, sometimes -but I saw no
recognition in his face.
'You don't remember me, I am afraid,' said I.
'My God!' he suddenly exclaimed. 'It's little Copperfield!'
I grasped him by both hands, and could not let them go. But for
very shame, and the fear that it might displease him, I could have
held him round the neck and cried.
'I never, never, never was so glad! My dear Steerforth, I am so
overjoyed to see you!'
'And I am rejoiced to see you, too!' he said, shaking my hands
heartily. 'Why, Copperfield, old boy, don't be overpowered!' And
yet he was glad, too, I thought, to see how the delight I had in
meeting him affected me.
I brushed away the tears that my utmost resolution had not been
able to keep back, and I made a clumsy laugh of it, and we sat down
together, side by side.
'Why, how do you come to be here?' said Steerforth, clapping me on
'I came here by the Canterbury coach, today. I have been adopted
by an aunt down in that part of the country, and have just finished
my education there. How do YOU come to be here, Steerforth?'
'Well, I am what they call an Oxford man,' he returned; 'that is to
say, I get bored to death down there, periodically - and I am on my
way now to my mother's. You're a devilish amiable-looking fellow,
Copperfield. just what you used to be, now I look at you! Not
altered in the least!'
'I knew you immediately,' I said; 'but you are more easily
He laughed as he ran his hand through the clustering curls of his
hair, and said gaily:
'Yes, I am on an expedition of duty. My mother lives a little way
out of town; and the roads being in a beastly condition, and our
house tedious enough, I remained here tonight instead of going on.
I have not been in town half-a-dozen hours, and those I have been
dozing and grumbling away at the play.'
'I have been at the play, too,' said I. 'At Covent Garden. What
a delightful and magnificent entertainment, Steerforth!'
Steerforth laughed heartily.
'My dear young Davy,' he said, clapping me on the shoulder again,
'you are a very Daisy. The daisy of the field, at sunrise, is not
fresher than you are. I have been at Covent Garden, too, and there
never was a more miserable business. Holloa, you sir!'
This was addressed to the waiter, who had been very attentive to
our recognition, at a distance, and now came forward deferentially.
'Where have you put my friend, Mr. Copperfield?' said Steerforth.
'Beg your pardon, sir?'
'Where does he sleep? What's his number? You know what I mean,'
'Well, sir,' said the waiter, with an apologetic air. 'Mr.
Copperfield is at present in forty-four, sir.'
'And what the devil do you mean,' retorted Steerforth, 'by putting
Mr. Copperfield into a little loft over a stable?'
'Why, you see we wasn't aware, sir,' returned the waiter, still
apologetically, 'as Mr. Copperfield was anyways particular. We can
give Mr. Copperfield seventy-two, sir, if it would be preferred.
Next you, sir.'
'Of course it would be preferred,' said Steerforth. 'And do it at
The waiter immediately withdrew to make the exchange. Steerforth,
very much amused at my having been put into forty-four, laughed
again, and clapped me on the shoulder again, and invited me to
breakfast with him next morning at ten o'clock - an invitation I
was only too proud and happy to accept. It being now pretty late,
we took our candles and went upstairs, where we parted with
friendly heartiness at his door, and where I found my new room a
great improvement on my old one, it not being at all musty, and
having an immense four-post bedstead in it, which was quite a
little landed estate. Here, among pillows enough for six, I soon
fell asleep in a blissful condition, and dreamed of ancient Rome,
Steerforth, and friendship, until the early morning coaches,
rumbling out of the archway underneath, made me dream of thunder
and the gods.
When the chambermaid tapped at my door at eight o'clock, and
informed me that my shaving-water was outside, I felt severely the
having no occasion for it, and blushed in my bed. The suspicion
that she laughed too, when she said it, preyed upon my mind all the
time I was dressing; and gave me, I was conscious, a sneaking and
guilty air when I passed her on the staircase, as I was going down
to breakfast. I was so sensitively aware, indeed, of being younger
than I could have wished, that for some time I could not make up my
mind to pass her at all, under the ignoble circumstances of the
case; but, hearing her there with a broom, stood peeping out of
window at King Charles on horseback, surrounded by a maze of
hackney-coaches, and looking anything but regal in a drizzling rain
and a dark-brown fog, until I was admonished by the waiter that the
gentleman was waiting for me.
It was not in the coffee-room that I found Steerforth expecting me,
but in a snug private apartment, red-curtained and Turkey-carpeted,
where the fire burnt bright, and a fine hot breakfast was set forth
on a table covered with a clean cloth; and a cheerful miniature of
the room, the fire, the breakfast, Steerforth, and all, was shining
in the little round mirror over the sideboard. I was rather
bashful at first, Steerforth being so self-possessed, and elegant,
and superior to me in all respects (age included); but his easy
patronage soon put that to rights, and made me quite at home. I
could not enough admire the change he had wrought in the Golden
Cross; or compare the dull forlorn state I had held yesterday, with
this morning's comfort and this morning's entertainment. As to the
waiter's familiarity, it was quenched as if it had never been. He
attended on us, as I may say, in sackcloth and ashes.
'Now, Copperfield,' said Steerforth, when we were alone, 'I should
like to hear what you are doing, and where you are going, and all
about you. I feel as if you were my property.'
Glowing with pleasure to find that he had still this interest in
me, I told him how my aunt had proposed the little expedition that
I had before me, and whither it tended.
'As you are in no hurry, then,' said Steerforth, 'come home with me
to Highgate, and stay a day or two. You will be pleased with my
mother - she is a little vain and prosy about me, but that you can
forgive her - and she will be pleased with you.'
'I should like to be as sure of that, as you are kind enough to say
you are,' I answered, smiling.
'Oh!' said Steerforth, 'everyone who likes me, has a claim on her
that is sure to be acknowledged.'
'Then I think I shall be a favourite,' said I.
'Good!' said Steerforth. 'Come and prove it. We will go and see
the lions for an hour or two - it's something to have a fresh
fellow like you to show them to, Copperfield - and then we'll
journey out to Highgate by the coach.'
I could hardly believe but that I was in a dream, and that I should
wake presently in number forty-four, to the solitary box in the
coffee-room and the familiar waiter again. After I had written to
my aunt and told her of my fortunate meeting with my admired old
schoolfellow, and my acceptance of his invitation, we went out in
a hackney-chariot, and saw a Panorama and some other sights, and
took a walk through the Museum, where I could not help observing
how much Steerforth knew, on an infinite variety of subjects, and
of how little account he seemed to make his knowledge.
'You'll take a high degree at college, Steerforth,' said I, 'if you
have not done so already; and they will have good reason to be
proud of you.'
'I take a degree!' cried Steerforth. 'Not I! my dear Daisy - will
you mind my calling you Daisy?'
'Not at all!' said I.
'That's a good fellow! My dear Daisy,' said Steerforth, laughing.
'I have not the least desire or intention to distinguish myself in
that way. I have done quite sufficient for my purpose. I find
that I am heavy company enough for myself as I am.'
'But the fame -' I was beginning.
'You romantic Daisy!' said Steerforth, laughing still more
heartily: 'why should I trouble myself, that a parcel of
heavy-headed fellows may gape and hold up their hands? Let them do
it at some other man. There's fame for him, and he's welcome to
I was abashed at having made so great a mistake, and was glad to
change the subject. Fortunately it was not difficult to do, for
Steerforth could always pass from one subject to another with a
carelessness and lightness that were his own.
Lunch succeeded to our sight-seeing, and the short winter day wore
away so fast, that it was dusk when the stage-coach stopped with us
at an old brick house at Highgate on the summit of the hill. An
elderly lady, though not very far advanced in years, with a proud
carriage and a handsome face, was in the doorway as we alighted;
and greeting Steerforth as 'My dearest James,' folded him in her
arms. To this lady he presented me as his mother, and she gave me
a stately welcome.
It was a genteel old-fashioned house, very quiet and orderly. From
the windows of my room I saw all London lying in the distance like
a great vapour, with here and there some lights twinkling through
it. I had only time, in dressing, to glance at the solid
furniture, the framed pieces of work (done, I supposed, by
Steerforth's mother when she was a girl), and some pictures in
crayons of ladies with powdered hair and bodices, coming and going
on the walls, as the newly-kindled fire crackled and sputtered,
when I was called to dinner.
There was a second lady in the dining-room, of a slight short
figure, dark, and not agreeable to look at, but with some
appearance of good looks too, who attracted my attention: perhaps
because I had not expected to see her; perhaps because I found
myself sitting opposite to her; perhaps because of something really
remarkable in her. She had black hair and eager black eyes, and
was thin, and had a scar upon her lip. It was an old scar - I
should rather call it seam, for it was not discoloured, and had
healed years ago - which had once cut through her mouth, downward
towards the chin, but was now barely visible across the table,
except above and on her upper lip, the shape of which it had
altered. I concluded in my own mind that she was about thirty
years of age, and that she wished to be married. She was a little
dilapidated - like a house - with having been so long to let; yet
had, as I have said, an appearance of good looks. Her thinness
seemed to be the effect of some wasting fire within her, which
found a vent in her gaunt eyes.
She was introduced as Miss Dartle, and both Steerforth and his
mother called her Rosa. I found that she lived there, and had been
for a long time Mrs. Steerforth's companion. It appeared to me
that she never said anything she wanted to say, outright; but
hinted it, and made a great deal more of it by this practice. For
example, when Mrs. Steerforth observed, more in jest than earnest,
that she feared her son led but a wild life at college, Miss Dartle
put in thus:
'Oh, really? You know how ignorant I am, and that I only ask for
information, but isn't it always so? I thought that kind of life
was on all hands understood to be - eh?'
'It is education for a very grave profession, if you mean that,
Rosa,' Mrs. Steerforth answered with some coldness.
'Oh! Yes! That's very true,' returned Miss Dartle. 'But isn't
it, though? - I want to be put right, if I am wrong - isn't it,
'Really what?' said Mrs. Steerforth.
'Oh! You mean it's not!' returned Miss Dartle. 'Well, I'm very
glad to hear it! Now, I know what to do! That's the advantage of
asking. I shall never allow people to talk before me about
wastefulness and profligacy, and so forth, in connexion with that
life, any more.'
'And you will be right,' said Mrs. Steerforth. 'My son's tutor is
a conscientious gentleman; and if I had not implicit reliance on my
son, I should have reliance on him.'
'Should you?' said Miss Dartle. 'Dear me! Conscientious, is he?
Really conscientious, now?'
'Yes, I am convinced of it,' said Mrs. Steerforth.
'How very nice!' exclaimed Miss Dartle. 'What a comfort! Really
conscientious? Then he's not - but of course he can't be, if he's
really conscientious. Well, I shall be quite happy in my opinion
of him, from this time. You can't think how it elevates him in my
opinion, to know for certain that he's really conscientious!'
Her own views of every question, and her correction of everything
that was said to which she was opposed, Miss Dartle insinuated in
the same way: sometimes, I could not conceal from myself, with
great power, though in contradiction even of Steerforth. An
instance happened before dinner was done. Mrs. Steerforth speaking
to me about my intention of going down into Suffolk, I said at
hazard how glad I should be, if Steerforth would only go there with
me; and explaining to him that I was going to see my old nurse, and
Mr. Peggotty's family, I reminded him of the boatman whom he had
seen at school.
'Oh! That bluff fellow!' said Steerforth. 'He had a son with him,
'No. That was his nephew,' I replied; 'whom he adopted, though, as
a son. He has a very pretty little niece too, whom he adopted as
a daughter. In short, his house - or rather his boat, for he lives
in one, on dry land - is full of people who are objects of his
generosity and kindness. You would be delighted to see that
'Should I?' said Steerforth. 'Well, I think I should. I must see
what can be done. It would be worth a journey (not to mention the
pleasure of a journey with you, Daisy), to see that sort of people
together, and to make one of 'em.'
My heart leaped with a new hope of pleasure. But it was in
reference to the tone in which he had spoken of 'that sort of
people', that Miss Dartle, whose sparkling eyes had been watchful
of us, now broke in again.
'Oh, but, really? Do tell me. Are they, though?' she said.
'Are they what? And are who what?' said Steerforth.
'That sort of people. - Are they really animals and clods, and
beings of another order? I want to know SO much.'
'Why, there's a pretty wide separation between them and us,' said
Steerforth, with indifference. 'They are not to be expected to be
as sensitive as we are. Their delicacy is not to be shocked, or
hurt easily. They are wonderfully virtuous, I dare say - some
people contend for that, at least; and I am sure I don't want to
contradict them - but they have not very fine natures, and they may
be thankful that, like their coarse rough skins, they are not
'Really!' said Miss Dartle. 'Well, I don't know, now, when I have
been better pleased than to hear that. It's so consoling! It's
such a delight to know that, when they suffer, they don't feel!
Sometimes I have been quite uneasy for that sort of people; but now
I shall just dismiss the idea of them, altogether. Live and learn.
I had my doubts, I confess, but now they're cleared up. I didn't
know, and now I do know, and that shows the advantage of asking -
I believed that Steerforth had said what he had, in jest, or to
draw Miss Dartle out; and I expected him to say as much when she
was gone, and we two were sitting before the fire. But he merely
asked me what I thought of her.
'She is very clever, is she not?' I asked.
'Clever! She brings everything to a grindstone,' said Steerforth,
and sharpens it, as she has sharpened her own face and figure these
years past. She has worn herself away by constant sharpening. She
is all edge.'
'What a remarkable scar that is upon her lip!' I said.
Steerforth's face fell, and he paused a moment.
'Why, the fact is,' he returned, 'I did that.'
'By an unfortunate accident!'
'No. I was a young boy, and she exasperated me, and I threw a
hammer at her. A promising young angel I must have been!'
I was deeply sorry to have touched on such a painful theme, but
that was useless now.
'She has borne the mark ever since, as you see,' said Steerforth;
'and she'll bear it to her grave, if she ever rests in one - though
I can hardly believe she will ever rest anywhere. She was the
motherless child of a sort of cousin of my father's. He died one
day. My mother, who was then a widow, brought her here to be
company to her. She has a couple of thousand pounds of her own,
and saves the interest of it every year, to add to the principal.
There's the history of Miss Rosa Dartle for you.'
'And I have no doubt she loves you like a brother?' said I.
'Humph!' retorted Steerforth, looking at the fire. 'Some brothers
are not loved over much; and some love - but help yourself,
Copperfield! We'll drink the daisies of the field, in compliment
to you; and the lilies of the valley that toil not, neither do they
spin, in compliment to me - the more shame for me!' A moody smile
that had overspread his features cleared off as he said this
merrily, and he was his own frank, winning self again.
I could not help glancing at the scar with a painful interest when
we went in to tea. It was not long before I observed that it was
the most susceptible part of her face, and that, when she turned
pale, that mark altered first, and became a dull, lead-coloured
streak, lengthening out to its full extent, like a mark in
invisible ink brought to the fire. There was a little altercation
between her and Steerforth about a cast of the dice at back gammon
- when I thought her, for one moment, in a storm of rage; and then
I saw it start forth like the old writing on the wall.
It was no matter of wonder to me to find Mrs. Steerforth devoted to
her son. She seemed to be able to speak or think about nothing
else. She showed me his picture as an infant, in a locket, with
some of his baby-hair in it; she showed me his picture as he had
been when I first knew him; and she wore at her breast his picture
as he was now. All the letters he had ever written to her, she
kept in a cabinet near her own chair by the fire; and she would
have read me some of them, and I should have been very glad to hear
them too, if he had not interposed, and coaxed her out of the
'It was at Mr. Creakle's, my son tells me, that you first became
acquainted,' said Mrs. Steerforth, as she and I were talking at one
table, while they played backgammon at another. 'Indeed, I
recollect his speaking, at that time, of a pupil younger than
himself who had taken his fancy there; but your name, as you may
suppose, has not lived in my memory.'
'He was very generous and noble to me in those days, I assure you,
ma'am,' said I, 'and I stood in need of such a friend. I should
have been quite crushed without him.'
'He is always generous and noble,' said Mrs. Steerforth, proudly.
I subscribed to this with all my heart, God knows. She knew I did;
for the stateliness of her manner already abated towards me, except
when she spoke in praise of him, and then her air was always lofty.
'It was not a fit school generally for my son,' said she; 'far from
it; but there were particular circumstances to be considered at the
time, of more importance even than that selection. My son's high
spirit made it desirable that he should be placed with some man who
felt its superiority, and would be content to bow himself before
it; and we found such a man there.'
I knew that, knowing the fellow. And yet I did not despise him the
more for it, but thought it a redeeming quality in him if he could
be allowed any grace for not resisting one so irresistible as
'My son's great capacity was tempted on, there, by a feeling of
voluntary emulation and conscious pride,' the fond lady went on to
say. 'He would have risen against all constraint; but he found
himself the monarch of the place, and he haughtily determined to be
worthy of his station. It was like himself.'
I echoed, with all my heart and soul, that it was like himself.
'So my son took, of his own will, and on no compulsion, to the
course in which he can always, when it is his pleasure, outstrip
every competitor,' she pursued. 'My son informs me, Mr.
Copperfield, that you were quite devoted to him, and that when you
met yesterday you made yourself known to him with tears of joy. I
should be an affected woman if I made any pretence of being
surprised by my son's inspiring such emotions; but I cannot be
indifferent to anyone who is so sensible of his merit, and I am
very glad to see you here, and can assure you that he feels an
unusual friendship for you, and that you may rely on his
Miss Dartle played backgammon as eagerly as she did everything
else. If I had seen her, first, at the board, I should have
fancied that her figure had got thin, and her eyes had got large,
over that pursuit, and no other in the world. But I am very much
mistaken if she missed a word of this, or lost a look of mine as I
received it with the utmost pleasure, and honoured by Mrs.
Steerforth's confidence, felt older than I had done since I left
When the evening was pretty far spent, and a tray of glasses and
decanters came in, Steerforth promised, over the fire, that he
would seriously think of going down into the country with me.
There was no hurry, he said; a week hence would do; and his mother
hospitably said the same. While we were talking, he more than once
called me Daisy; which brought Miss Dartle out again.
'But really, Mr. Copperfield,' she asked, 'is it a nickname? And
why does he give it you? Is it - eh? - because he thinks you young
and innocent? I am so stupid in these things.'
I coloured in replying that I believed it was.
'Oh!' said Miss Dartle. 'Now I am glad to know that! I ask for
information, and I am glad to know it. He thinks you young and
innocent; and so you are his friend. Well, that's quite
She went to bed soon after this, and Mrs. Steerforth retired too.
Steerforth and I, after lingering for half-an-hour over the fire,
talking about Traddles and all the rest of them at old Salem House,
went upstairs together. Steerforth's room was next to mine, and I
went in to look at it. It was a picture of comfort, full of
easy-chairs, cushions and footstools, worked by his mother's hand,
and with no sort of thing omitted that could help to render it
complete. Finally, her handsome features looked down on her
darling from a portrait on the wall, as if it were even something
to her that her likeness should watch him while he slept.
I found the fire burning clear enough in my room by this time, and
the curtains drawn before the windows and round the bed, giving it
a very snug appearance. I sat down in a great chair upon the
hearth to meditate on my happiness; and had enjoyed the
contemplation of it for some time, when I found a likeness of Miss
Dartle looking eagerly at me from above the chimney-piece.
It was a startling likeness, and necessarily had a startling look.
The painter hadn't made the scar, but I made it; and there it was,
coming and going; now confined to the upper lip as I had seen it at
dinner, and now showing the whole extent of the wound inflicted by
the hammer, as I had seen it when she was passionate.
I wondered peevishly why they couldn't put her anywhere else
instead of quartering her on me. To get rid of her, I undressed
quickly, extinguished my light, and went to bed. But, as I fell
asleep, I could not forget that she was still there looking, 'Is it
really, though? I want to know'; and when I awoke in the night, I
found that I was uneasily asking all sorts of people in my dreams
whether it really was or not - without knowing what I meant.
There was a servant in that house, a man who, I understood, was
usually with Steerforth, and had come into his service at the
University, who was in appearance a pattern of respectability. I
believe there never existed in his station a more
respectable-looking man. He was taciturn, soft-footed, very quiet
in his manner, deferential, observant, always at hand when wanted,
and never near when not wanted; but his great claim to
consideration was his respectability. He had not a pliant face, he
had rather a stiff neck, rather a tight smooth head with short hair
clinging to it at the sides, a soft way of speaking, with a
peculiar habit of whispering the letter S so distinctly, that he
seemed to use it oftener than any other man; but every peculiarity
that he had he made respectable. If his nose had been upside-down,
he would have made that respectable. He surrounded himself with an
atmosphere of respectability, and walked secure in it. It would
have been next to impossible to suspect him of anything wrong, he
was so thoroughly respectable. Nobody could have thought of
putting him in a livery, he was so highly respectable. To have
imposed any derogatory work upon him, would have been to inflict a
wanton insult on the feelings of a most respectable man. And of
this, I noticed- the women-servants in the household were so
intuitively conscious, that they always did such work themselves,
and generally while he read the paper by the pantry fire.
Such a self-contained man I never saw. But in that quality, as in
every other he possessed, he only seemed to be the more
respectable. Even the fact that no one knew his Christian name,
seemed to form a part of his respectability. Nothing could be
objected against his surname, Littimer, by which he was known.
Peter might have been hanged, or Tom transported; but Littimer was
It was occasioned, I suppose, by the reverend nature of
respectability in the abstract, but I felt particularly young in
this man's presence. How old he was himself, I could not guess -
and that again went to his credit on the same score; for in the
calmness of respectability he might have numbered fifty years as
well as thirty.
Littimer was in my room in the morning before I was up, to bring me
that reproachful shaving-water, and to put out my clothes. When I
undrew the curtains and looked out of bed, I saw him, in an equable
temperature of respectability, unaffected by the east wind of
January, and not even breathing frostily, standing my boots right
and left in the first dancing position, and blowing specks of dust
off my coat as he laid it down like a baby.
I gave him good morning, and asked him what o'clock it was. He
took out of his pocket the most respectable hunting-watch I ever
saw, and preventing the spring with his thumb from opening far,
looked in at the face as if he were consulting an oracular oyster,
shut it up again, and said, if I pleased, it was half past eight.
'Mr. Steerforth will be glad to hear how you have rested, sir.'
'Thank you,' said I, 'very well indeed. Is Mr. Steerforth quite
'Thank you, sir, Mr. Steerforth is tolerably well.' Another of his
characteristics - no use of superlatives. A cool calm medium
'Is there anything more I can have the honour of doing for you,
sir? The warning-bell will ring at nine; the family take breakfast
at half past nine.'
'Nothing, I thank you.'
'I thank YOU, sir, if you please'; and with that, and with a little
inclination of his head when he passed the bed-side, as an apology
for correcting me, he went out, shutting the door as delicately as
if I had just fallen into a sweet sleep on which my life depended.
Every morning we held exactly this conversation: never any more,
and never any less: and yet, invariably, however far I might have
been lifted out of myself over-night, and advanced towards maturer
years, by Steerforth's companionship, or Mrs. Steerforth's
confidence, or Miss Dartle's conversation, in the presence of this
most respectable man I became, as our smaller poets sing, 'a boy
He got horses for us; and Steerforth, who knew everything, gave me
lessons in riding. He provided foils for us, and Steerforth gave
me lessons in fencing - gloves, and I began, of the same master, to
improve in boxing. It gave me no manner of concern that Steerforth
should find me a novice in these sciences, but I never could bear
to show my want of skill before the respectable Littimer. I had no
reason to believe that Littimer understood such arts himself; he
never led me to suppose anything of the kind, by so much as the
vibration of one of his respectable eyelashes; yet whenever he was
by, while we were practising, I felt myself the greenest and most
inexperienced of mortals.
I am particular about this man, because he made a particular effect
on me at that time, and because of what took place thereafter.
The week passed away in a most delightful manner. It passed
rapidly, as may be supposed, to one entranced as I was; and yet it
gave me so many occasions for knowing Steerforth better, and
admiring him more in a thousand respects, that at its close I
seemed to have been with him for a much longer time. A dashing way
he had of treating me like a plaything, was more agreeable to me
than any behaviour he could have adopted. It reminded me of our
old acquaintance; it seemed the natural sequel of it; it showed me
that he was unchanged; it relieved me of any uneasiness I might
have felt, in comparing my merits with his, and measuring my claims
upon his friendship by any equal standard; above all, it was a
familiar, unrestrained, affectionate demeanour that he used towards
no one else. As he had treated me at school differently from all
the rest, I joyfully believed that he treated me in life unlike any
other friend he had. I believed that I was nearer to his heart
than any other friend, and my own heart warmed with attachment to
He made up his mind to go with me into the country, and the day
arrived for our departure. He had been doubtful at first whether
to take Littimer or not, but decided to leave him at home. The
respectable creature, satisfied with his lot whatever it was,
arranged our portmanteaux on the little carriage that was to take
us into London, as if they were intended to defy the shocks of
ages, and received my modestly proffered donation with perfect
We bade adieu to Mrs. Steerforth and Miss Dartle, with many thanks
on my part, and much kindness on the devoted mother's. The last
thing I saw was Littimer's unruffled eye; fraught, as I fancied,
with the silent conviction that I was very young indeed.
What I felt, in returning so auspiciously to the old familiar
places, I shall not endeavour to describe. We went down by the
Mail. I was so concerned, I recollect, even for the honour of
Yarmouth, that when Steerforth said, as we drove through its dark
streets to the inn, that, as well as he could make out, it was a
good, queer, out-of-the-way kind of hole, I was highly pleased. We
went to bed on our arrival (I observed a pair of dirty shoes and
gaiters in connexion with my old friend the Dolphin as we passed
that door), and breakfasted late in the morning. Steerforth, who
was in great spirits, had been strolling about the beach before I
was up, and had made acquaintance, he said, with half the boatmen
in the place. Moreover, he had seen, in the distance, what he was
sure must be the identical house of Mr. Peggotty, with smoke coming
out of the chimney; and had had a great mind, he told me, to walk
in and swear he was myself grown out of knowledge.
'When do you propose to introduce me there, Daisy?' he said. 'I am
at your disposal. Make your own arrangements.'
'Why, I was thinking that this evening would be a good time,
Steerforth, when they are all sitting round the fire. I should
like you to see it when it's snug, it's such a curious place.'
'So be it!' returned Steerforth. 'This evening.'
'I shall not give them any notice that we are here, you know,' said
I, delighted. 'We must take them by surprise.'
'Oh, of course! It's no fun,' said Steerforth, 'unless we take
them by surprise. Let us see the natives in their aboriginal
'Though they ARE that sort of people that you mentioned,' I
'Aha! What! you recollect my skirmishes with Rosa, do you?' he
exclaimed with a quick look. 'Confound the girl, I am half afraid
of her. She's like a goblin to me. But never mind her. Now what
are you going to do? You are going to see your nurse, I suppose?'
'Why, yes,' I said, 'I must see Peggotty first of all.'
'Well,' replied Steerforth, looking at his watch. 'Suppose I
deliver you up to be cried over for a couple of hours. Is that
I answered, laughing, that I thought we might get through it in
that time, but that he must come also; for he would find that his
renown had preceded him, and that he was almost as great a
personage as I was.
'I'll come anywhere you like,' said Steerforth, 'or do anything you
like. Tell me where to come to; and in two hours I'll produce
myself in any state you please, sentimental or comical.'
I gave him minute directions for finding the residence of Mr.
Barkis, carrier to Blunderstone and elsewhere; and, on this
understanding, went out alone. There was a sharp bracing air; the
ground was dry; the sea was crisp and clear; the sun was diffusing
abundance of light, if not much warmth; and everything was fresh
and lively. I was so fresh and lively myself, in the pleasure of
being there, that I could have stopped the people in the streets
and shaken hands with them.
The streets looked small, of course. The streets that we have only
seen as children always do, I believe, when we go back to them.
But I had forgotten nothing in them, and found nothing changed,
until I came to Mr. Omer's shop. OMER AND Joram was now written
up, where OMER used to be; but the inscription, DRAPER, TAILOR,
HABERDASHER, FUNERAL FURNISHER, &c., remained as it was.
My footsteps seemed to tend so naturally to the shop door, after I
had read these words from over the way, that I went across the road
and looked in. There was a pretty woman at the back of the shop,
dancing a little child in her arms, while another little fellow
clung to her apron. I had no difficulty in recognizing either
Minnie or Minnie's children. The glass door of the parlour was not
open; but in the workshop across the yard I could faintly hear the
old tune playing, as if it had never left off.
'Is Mr. Omer at home?' said I, entering. 'I should like to see
him, for a moment, if he is.'
'Oh yes, sir, he is at home,' said Minnie; 'the weather don't suit
his asthma out of doors. Joe, call your grandfather!'
The little fellow, who was holding her apron, gave such a lusty
shout, that the sound of it made him bashful, and he buried his
face in her skirts, to her great admiration. I heard a heavy
puffing and blowing coming towards us, and soon Mr. Omer,
shorter-winded than of yore, but not much older-looking, stood
'Servant, sir,' said Mr. Omer. 'What can I do for you, sir?'
'You can shake hands with me, Mr. Omer, if you please,' said I,