Part 10 out of 21
carpet-bag, and think of the captivating, girlish, bright-eyed
lovely Dora. What a form she had, what a face she had, what a
graceful, variable, enchanting manner!
The bell rang again so soon that I made a mere scramble of my
dressing, instead of the careful operation I could have wished
under the circumstances, and went downstairs. There was some
company. Dora was talking to an old gentleman with a grey head.
Grey as he was - and a great-grandfather into the bargain, for he
said so - I was madly jealous of him.
What a state of mind I was in! I was jealous of everybody. I
couldn't bear the idea of anybody knowing Mr. Spenlow better than
I did. It was torturing to me to hear them talk of occurrences in
which I had had no share. When a most amiable person, with a
highly polished bald head, asked me across the dinner table, if
that were the first occasion of my seeing the grounds, I could have
done anything to him that was savage and revengeful.
I don't remember who was there, except Dora. I have not the least
idea what we had for dinner, besides Dora. My impression is, that
I dined off Dora, entirely, and sent away half-a-dozen plates
untouched. I sat next to her. I talked to her. She had the most
delightful little voice, the gayest little laugh, the pleasantest
and most fascinating little ways, that ever led a lost youth into
hopeless slavery. She was rather diminutive altogether. So much
the more precious, I thought.
When she went out of the room with Miss Murdstone (no other ladies
were of the party), I fell into a reverie, only disturbed by the
cruel apprehension that Miss Murdstone would disparage me to her.
The amiable creature with the polished head told me a long story,
which I think was about gardening. I think I heard him say, 'my
gardener', several times. I seemed to pay the deepest attention to
him, but I was wandering in a garden of Eden all the while, with
My apprehensions of being disparaged to the object of my engrossing
affection were revived when we went into the drawing-room, by the
grim and distant aspect of Miss Murdstone. But I was relieved of
them in an unexpected manner.
'David Copperfield,' said Miss Murdstone, beckoning me aside into
a window. 'A word.'
I confronted Miss Murdstone alone.
'David Copperfield,' said Miss Murdstone, 'I need not enlarge upon
family circumstances. They are not a tempting subject.'
'Far from it, ma'am,' I returned.
'Far from it,' assented Miss Murdstone. 'I do not wish to revive
the memory of past differences, or of past outrages. I have
received outrages from a person - a female I am sorry to say, for
the credit of my sex - who is not to be mentioned without scorn and
disgust; and therefore I would rather not mention her.'
I felt very fiery on my aunt's account; but I said it would
certainly be better, if Miss Murdstone pleased, not to mention her.
I could not hear her disrespectfully mentioned, I added, without
expressing my opinion in a decided tone.
Miss Murdstone shut her eyes, and disdainfully inclined her head;
then, slowly opening her eyes, resumed:
'David Copperfield, I shall not attempt to disguise the fact, that
I formed an unfavourable opinion of you in your childhood. It may
have been a mistaken one, or you may have ceased to justify it.
That is not in question between us now. I belong to a family
remarkable, I believe, for some firmness; and I am not the creature
of circumstance or change. I may have my opinion of you. You may
have your opinion of me.'
I inclined my head, in my turn.
'But it is not necessary,' said Miss Murdstone, 'that these
opinions should come into collision here. Under existing
circumstances, it is as well on all accounts that they should not.
As the chances of life have brought us together again, and may
bring us together on other occasions, I would say, let us meet here
as distant acquaintances. Family circumstances are a sufficient
reason for our only meeting on that footing, and it is quite
unnecessary that either of us should make the other the subject of
remark. Do you approve of this?'
'Miss Murdstone,' I returned, 'I think you and Mr. Murdstone used
me very cruelly, and treated my mother with great unkindness. I
shall always think so, as long as I live. But I quite agree in
what you propose.'
Miss Murdstone shut her eyes again, and bent her head. Then, just
touching the back of my hand with the tips of her cold, stiff
fingers, she walked away, arranging the little fetters on her
wrists and round her neck; which seemed to be the same set, in
exactly the same state, as when I had seen her last. These
reminded me, in reference to Miss Murdstone's nature, of the
fetters over a jail door; suggesting on the outside, to all
beholders, what was to be expected within.
All I know of the rest of the evening is, that I heard the empress
of my heart sing enchanted ballads in the French language,
generally to the effect that, whatever was the matter, we ought
always to dance, Ta ra la, Ta ra la! accompanying herself on a
glorified instrument, resembling a guitar. That I was lost in
blissful delirium. That I refused refreshment. That my soul
recoiled from punch particularly. That when Miss Murdstone took
her into custody and led her away, she smiled and gave me her
delicious hand. That I caught a view of myself in a mirror,
looking perfectly imbecile and idiotic. That I retired to bed in
a most maudlin state of mind, and got up in a crisis of feeble
It was a fine morning, and early, and I thought I would go and take
a stroll down one of those wire-arched walks, and indulge my
passion by dwelling on her image. On my way through the hall, I
encountered her little dog, who was called Jip - short for Gipsy.
I approached him tenderly, for I loved even him; but he showed his
whole set of teeth, got under a chair expressly to snarl, and
wouldn't hear of the least familiarity.
The garden was cool and solitary. I walked about, wondering what
my feelings of happiness would be, if I could ever become engaged
to this dear wonder. As to marriage, and fortune, and all that, I
believe I was almost as innocently undesigning then, as when I
loved little Em'ly. To be allowed to call her 'Dora', to write to
her, to dote upon and worship her, to have reason to think that
when she was with other people she was yet mindful of me, seemed to
me the summit of human ambition - I am sure it was the summit of
mine. There is no doubt whatever that I was a lackadaisical young
spooney; but there was a purity of heart in all this, that prevents
my having quite a contemptuous recollection of it, let me laugh as
I had not been walking long, when I turned a corner, and met her.
I tingle again from head to foot as my recollection turns that
corner, and my pen shakes in my hand.
'You - are - out early, Miss Spenlow,' said I.
'It's so stupid at home,' she replied, 'and Miss Murdstone is so
absurd! She talks such nonsense about its being necessary for the
day to be aired, before I come out. Aired!' (She laughed, here, in
the most melodious manner.) 'On a Sunday morning, when I don't
practise, I must do something. So I told papa last night I must
come out. Besides, it's the brightest time of the whole day.
Don't you think so?'
I hazarded a bold flight, and said (not without stammering) that it
was very bright to me then, though it had been very dark to me a
'Do you mean a compliment?' said Dora, 'or that the weather has
I stammered worse than before, in replying that I meant no
compliment, but the plain truth; though I was not aware of any
change having taken place in the weather. It was in the state of
my own feelings, I added bashfully: to clench the explanation.
I never saw such curls - how could I, for there never were such
curls! - as those she shook out to hide her blushes. As to the
straw hat and blue ribbons which was on the top of the curls, if I
could only have hung it up in my room in Buckingham Street, what a
priceless possession it would have been!
'You have just come home from Paris,' said I.
'Yes,' said she. 'Have you ever been there?'
'Oh! I hope you'll go soon! You would like it so much!'
Traces of deep-seated anguish appeared in my countenance. That she
should hope I would go, that she should think it possible I could
go, was insupportable. I depreciated Paris; I depreciated France.
I said I wouldn't leave England, under existing circumstances, for
any earthly consideration. Nothing should induce me. In short,
she was shaking the curls again, when the little dog came running
along the walk to our relief.
He was mortally jealous of me, and persisted in barking at me. She
took him up in her arms - oh my goodness! - and caressed him, but
he persisted upon barking still. He wouldn't let me touch him,
when I tried; and then she beat him. It increased my sufferings
greatly to see the pats she gave him for punishment on the bridge
of his blunt nose, while he winked his eyes, and licked her hand,
and still growled within himself like a little double-bass. At
length he was quiet - well he might be with her dimpled chin upon
his head! - and we walked away to look at a greenhouse.
'You are not very intimate with Miss Murdstone, are you?' said
Dora. -'My pet.'
(The two last words were to the dog. Oh, if they had only been to
'No,' I replied. 'Not at all so.'
'She is a tiresome creature,' said Dora, pouting. 'I can't think
what papa can have been about, when he chose such a vexatious thing
to be my companion. Who wants a protector? I am sure I don't want
a protector. Jip can protect me a great deal better than Miss
Murdstone, - can't you, Jip, dear?'
He only winked lazily, when she kissed his ball of a head.
'Papa calls her my confidential friend, but I am sure she is no
such thing - is she, Jip? We are not going to confide in any such
cross people, Jip and I. We mean to bestow our confidence where we
like, and to find out our own friends, instead of having them found
out for us - don't we, Jip?'
jip made a comfortable noise, in answer, a little like a tea-kettle
when it sings. As for me, every word was a new heap of fetters,
riveted above the last.
'It is very hard, because we have not a kind Mama, that we are to
have, instead, a sulky, gloomy old thing like Miss Murdstone,
always following us about - isn't it, Jip? Never mind, Jip. We
won't be confidential, and we'll make ourselves as happy as we can
in spite of her, and we'll tease her, and not please her - won't
If it had lasted any longer, I think I must have gone down on my
knees on the gravel, with the probability before me of grazing
them, and of being presently ejected from the premises besides.
But, by good fortune the greenhouse was not far off, and these
words brought us to it.
It contained quite a show of beautiful geraniums. We loitered
along in front of them, and Dora often stopped to admire this one
or that one, and I stopped to admire the same one, and Dora,
laughing, held the dog up childishly, to smell the flowers; and if
we were not all three in Fairyland, certainly I was. The scent of
a geranium leaf, at this day, strikes me with a half comical half
serious wonder as to what change has come over me in a moment; and
then I see a straw hat and blue ribbons, and a quantity of curls,
and a little black dog being held up, in two slender arms, against
a bank of blossoms and bright leaves.
Miss Murdstone had been looking for us. She found us here; and
presented her uncongenial cheek, the little wrinkles in it filled
with hair powder, to Dora to be kissed. Then she took Dora's arm
in hers, and marched us into breakfast as if it were a soldier's
How many cups of tea I drank, because Dora made it, I don't know.
But, I perfectly remember that I sat swilling tea until my whole
nervous system, if I had had any in those days, must have gone by
the board. By and by we went to church. Miss Murdstone was
between Dora and me in the pew; but I heard her sing, and the
congregation vanished. A sermon was delivered - about Dora, of
course - and I am afraid that is all I know of the service.
We had a quiet day. No company, a walk, a family dinner of four,
and an evening of looking over books and pictures; Miss Murdstone
with a homily before her, and her eye upon us, keeping guard
vigilantly. Ah! little did Mr. Spenlow imagine, when he sat
opposite to me after dinner that day, with his pocket-handkerchief
over his head, how fervently I was embracing him, in my fancy, as
his son-in-law! Little did he think, when I took leave of him at
night, that he had just given his full consent to my being engaged
to Dora, and that I was invoking blessings on his head!
We departed early in the morning, for we had a Salvage case coming
on in the Admiralty Court, requiring a rather accurate knowledge of
the whole science of navigation, in which (as we couldn't be
expected to know much about those matters in the Commons) the judge
had entreated two old Trinity Masters, for charity's sake, to come
and help him out. Dora was at the breakfast-table to make the tea
again, however; and I had the melancholy pleasure of taking off my
hat to her in the phaeton, as she stood on the door-step with Jip
in her arms.
What the Admiralty was to me that day; what nonsense I made of our
case in my mind, as I listened to it; how I saw 'DORA' engraved
upon the blade of the silver oar which they lay upon the table, as
the emblem of that high jurisdiction; and how I felt when Mr.
Spenlow went home without me (I had had an insane hope that he
might take me back again), as if I were a mariner myself, and the
ship to which I belonged had sailed away and left me on a desert
island; I shall make no fruitless effort to describe. If that
sleepy old court could rouse itself, and present in any visible
form the daydreams I have had in it about Dora, it would reveal my
I don't mean the dreams that I dreamed on that day alone, but day
after day, from week to week, and term to term. I went there, not
to attend to what was going on, but to think about Dora. If ever
I bestowed a thought upon the cases, as they dragged their slow
length before me, it was only to wonder, in the matrimonial cases
(remembering Dora), how it was that married people could ever be
otherwise than happy; and, in the Prerogative cases, to consider,
if the money in question had been left to me, what were the
foremost steps I should immediately have taken in regard to Dora.
Within the first week of my passion, I bought four sumptuous
waistcoats - not for myself; I had no pride in them; for Dora - and
took to wearing straw-coloured kid gloves in the streets, and laid
the foundations of all the corns I have ever had. If the boots I
wore at that period could only be produced and compared with the
natural size of my feet, they would show what the state of my heart
was, in a most affecting manner.
And yet, wretched cripple as I made myself by this act of homage to
Dora, I walked miles upon miles daily in the hope of seeing her.
Not only was I soon as well known on the Norwood Road as the
postmen on that beat, but I pervaded London likewise. I walked
about the streets where the best shops for ladies were, I haunted
the Bazaar like an unquiet spirit, I fagged through the Park again
and again, long after I was quite knocked up. Sometimes, at long
intervals and on rare occasions, I saw her. Perhaps I saw her
glove waved in a carriage window; perhaps I met her, walked with
her and Miss Murdstone a little way, and spoke to her. In the
latter case I was always very miserable afterwards, to think that
I had said nothing to the purpose; or that she had no idea of the
extent of my devotion, or that she cared nothing about me. I was
always looking out, as may be supposed, for another invitation to
Mr. Spenlow's house. I was always being disappointed, for I got
Mrs. Crupp must have been a woman of penetration; for when this
attachment was but a few weeks old, and I had not had the courage
to write more explicitly even to Agnes, than that I had been to Mr.
Spenlow's house, 'whose family,' I added, 'consists of one
daughter'; - I say Mrs. Crupp must have been a woman of
penetration, for, even in that early stage, she found it out. She
came up to me one evening, when I was very low, to ask (she being
then afflicted with the disorder I have mentioned) if I could
oblige her with a little tincture of cardamums mixed with rhubarb,
and flavoured with seven drops of the essence of cloves, which was
the best remedy for her complaint; - or, if I had not such a thing
by me, with a little brandy, which was the next best. It was not,
she remarked, so palatable to her, but it was the next best. As I
had never even heard of the first remedy, and always had the second
in the closet, I gave Mrs. Crupp a glass of the second, which (that
I might have no suspicion of its being devoted to any improper use)
she began to take in my presence.
'Cheer up, sir,' said Mrs. Crupp. 'I can't abear to see you so,
sir: I'm a mother myself.'
I did not quite perceive the application of this fact to myself,
but I smiled on Mrs. Crupp, as benignly as was in my power.
'Come, sir,' said Mrs. Crupp. 'Excuse me. I know what it is, sir.
There's a lady in the case.'
'Mrs. Crupp?' I returned, reddening.
'Oh, bless you! Keep a good heart, sir!' said Mrs. Crupp, nodding
encouragement. 'Never say die, sir! If She don't smile upon you,
there's a many as will. You are a young gentleman to be smiled on,
Mr. Copperfull, and you must learn your walue, sir.'
Mrs. Crupp always called me Mr. Copperfull: firstly, no doubt,
because it was not my name; and secondly, I am inclined to think,
in some indistinct association with a washing-day.
'What makes you suppose there is any young lady in the case, Mrs.
Crupp?' said I.
'Mr. Copperfull,' said Mrs. Crupp, with a great deal of feeling,
'I'm a mother myself.'
For some time Mrs. Crupp could only lay her hand upon her nankeen
bosom, and fortify herself against returning pain with sips of her
medicine. At length she spoke again.
'When the present set were took for you by your dear aunt, Mr.
Copperfull,' said Mrs. Crupp, 'my remark were, I had now found
summun I could care for. "Thank Ev'in!" were the expression, "I
have now found summun I can care for!" - You don't eat enough, sir,
nor yet drink.'
'Is that what you found your supposition on, Mrs. Crupp?' said I.
'Sir,' said Mrs. Crupp, in a tone approaching to severity, 'I've
laundressed other young gentlemen besides yourself. A young
gentleman may be over-careful of himself, or he may be
under-careful of himself. He may brush his hair too regular, or
too un-regular. He may wear his boots much too large for him, or
much too small. That is according as the young gentleman has his
original character formed. But let him go to which extreme he may,
sir, there's a young lady in both of 'em.'
Mrs. Crupp shook her head in such a determined manner, that I had
not an inch of vantage-ground left.
'It was but the gentleman which died here before yourself,' said
Mrs. Crupp, 'that fell in love - with a barmaid - and had his
waistcoats took in directly, though much swelled by drinking.'
'Mrs. Crupp,' said I, 'I must beg you not to connect the young lady
in my case with a barmaid, or anything of that sort, if you
'Mr. Copperfull,' returned Mrs. Crupp, 'I'm a mother myself, and
not likely. I ask your pardon, sir, if I intrude. I should never
wish to intrude where I were not welcome. But you are a young
gentleman, Mr. Copperfull, and my adwice to you is, to cheer up,
sir, to keep a good heart, and to know your own walue. If you was
to take to something, sir,' said Mrs. Crupp, 'if you was to take to
skittles, now, which is healthy, you might find it divert your
mind, and do you good.'
With these words, Mrs. Crupp, affecting to be very careful of the
brandy - which was all gone - thanked me with a majestic curtsey,
and retired. As her figure disappeared into the gloom of the
entry, this counsel certainly presented itself to my mind in the
light of a slight liberty on Mrs. Crupp's part; but, at the same
time, I was content to receive it, in another point of view, as a
word to the wise, and a warning in future to keep my secret better.
It may have been in consequence of Mrs. Crupp's advice, and,
perhaps, for no better reason than because there was a certain
similarity in the sound of the word skittles and Traddles, that it
came into my head, next day, to go and look after Traddles. The
time he had mentioned was more than out, and he lived in a little
street near the Veterinary College at Camden Town, which was
principally tenanted, as one of our clerks who lived in that
direction informed me, by gentlemen students, who bought live
donkeys, and made experiments on those quadrupeds in their private
apartments. Having obtained from this clerk a direction to the
academic grove in question, I set out, the same afternoon, to visit
my old schoolfellow.
I found that the street was not as desirable a one as I could have
wished it to be, for the sake of Traddles. The inhabitants
appeared to have a propensity to throw any little trifles they were
not in want of, into the road: which not only made it rank and
sloppy, but untidy too, on account of the cabbage-leaves. The
refuse was not wholly vegetable either, for I myself saw a shoe, a
doubled-up saucepan, a black bonnet, and an umbrella, in various
stages of decomposition, as I was looking out for the number I
The general air of the place reminded me forcibly of the days when
I lived with Mr. and Mrs. Micawber. An indescribable character of
faded gentility that attached to the house I sought, and made it
unlike all the other houses in the street - though they were all
built on one monotonous pattern, and looked like the early copies
of a blundering boy who was learning to make houses, and had not
yet got out of his cramped brick-and-mortar pothooks - reminded me
still more of Mr. and Mrs. Micawber. Happening to arrive at the
door as it was opened to the afternoon milkman, I was reminded of
Mr. and Mrs. Micawber more forcibly yet.
'Now,' said the milkman to a very youthful servant girl. 'Has that
there little bill of mine been heerd on?'
'Oh, master says he'll attend to it immediate,' was the reply.
'Because,' said the milkman, going on as if he had received no
answer, and speaking, as I judged from his tone, rather for the
edification of somebody within the house, than of the youthful
servant - an impression which was strengthened by his manner of
glaring down the passage - 'because that there little bill has been
running so long, that I begin to believe it's run away altogether,
and never won't be heerd of. Now, I'm not a going to stand it, you
know!' said the milkman, still throwing his voice into the house,
and glaring down the passage.
As to his dealing in the mild article of milk, by the by, there
never was a greater anomaly. His deportment would have been fierce
in a butcher or a brandy-merchant.
The voice of the youthful servant became faint, but she seemed to
me, from the action of her lips, again to murmur that it would be
attended to immediate.
'I tell you what,' said the milkman, looking hard at her for the
first time, and taking her by the chin, 'are you fond of milk?'
'Yes, I likes it,' she replied.
'Good,' said the milkman. 'Then you won't have none tomorrow.
D'ye hear? Not a fragment of milk you won't have tomorrow.'
I thought she seemed, upon the whole, relieved by the prospect of
having any today. The milkman, after shaking his head at her
darkly, released her chin, and with anything rather than good-will
opened his can, and deposited the usual quantity in the family jug.
This done, he went away, muttering, and uttered the cry of his
trade next door, in a vindictive shriek.
'Does Mr. Traddles live here?' I then inquired.
A mysterious voice from the end of the passage replied 'Yes.' Upon
which the youthful servant replied 'Yes.'
'Is he at home?' said I.
Again the mysterious voice replied in the affirmative, and again
the servant echoed it. Upon this, I walked in, and in pursuance of
the servant's directions walked upstairs; conscious, as I passed
the back parlour-door, that I was surveyed by a mysterious eye,
probably belonging to the mysterious voice.
When I got to the top of the stairs - the house was only a story
high above the ground floor - Traddles was on the landing to meet
me. He was delighted to see me, and gave me welcome, with great
heartiness, to his little room. It was in the front of the house,
and extremely neat, though sparely furnished. It was his only
room, I saw; for there was a sofa-bedstead in it, and his
blacking-brushes and blacking were among his books - on the top
shelf, behind a dictionary. His table was covered with papers, and
he was hard at work in an old coat. I looked at nothing, that I
know of, but I saw everything, even to the prospect of a church
upon his china inkstand, as I sat down - and this, too, was a
faculty confirmed in me in the old Micawber times. Various
ingenious arrangements he had made, for the disguise of his chest
of drawers, and the accommodation of his boots, his shaving-glass,
and so forth, particularly impressed themselves upon me, as
evidences of the same Traddles who used to make models of
elephants' dens in writing-paper to put flies in; and to comfort
himself under ill usage, with the memorable works of art I have so
In a corner of the room was something neatly covered up with a
large white cloth. I could not make out what that was.
'Traddles,' said I, shaking hands with him again, after I had sat
down, 'I am delighted to see you.'
'I am delighted to see YOU, Copperfield,' he returned. 'I am very
glad indeed to see you. It was because I was thoroughly glad to
see you when we met in Ely Place, and was sure you were thoroughly
glad to see me, that I gave you this address instead of my address
'Oh! You have chambers?' said I.
'Why, I have the fourth of a room and a passage, and the fourth of
a clerk,' returned Traddles. 'Three others and myself unite to
have a set of chambers - to look business-like - and we quarter the
clerk too. Half-a-crown a week he costs me.'
His old simple character and good temper, and something of his old
unlucky fortune also, I thought, smiled at me in the smile with
which he made this explanation.
'It's not because I have the least pride, Copperfield, you
understand,' said Traddles, 'that I don't usually give my address
here. It's only on account of those who come to me, who might not
like to come here. For myself, I am fighting my way on in the
world against difficulties, and it would be ridiculous if I made a
pretence of doing anything else.'
'You are reading for the bar, Mr. Waterbrook informed me?' said I.
'Why, yes,' said Traddles, rubbing his hands slowly over one
another. 'I am reading for the bar. The fact is, I have just
begun to keep my terms, after rather a long delay. It's some time
since I was articled, but the payment of that hundred pounds was a
great pull. A great pull!' said Traddles, with a wince, as if he
had had a tooth out.
'Do you know what I can't help thinking of, Traddles, as I sit here
looking at you?' I asked him.
'No,' said he.
'That sky-blue suit you used to wear.'
'Lord, to be sure!' cried Traddles, laughing. 'Tight in the arms
and legs, you know? Dear me! Well! Those were happy times,
'I think our schoolmaster might have made them happier, without
doing any harm to any of us, I acknowledge,' I returned.
'Perhaps he might,' said Traddles. 'But dear me, there was a good
deal of fun going on. Do you remember the nights in the bedroom?
When we used to have the suppers? And when you used to tell the
stories? Ha, ha, ha! And do you remember when I got caned for
crying about Mr. Mell? Old Creakle! I should like to see him
'He was a brute to you, Traddles,' said I, indignantly; for his
good humour made me feel as if I had seen him beaten but yesterday.
'Do you think so?' returned Traddles. 'Really? Perhaps he was
rather. But it's all over, a long while. Old Creakle!'
'You were brought up by an uncle, then?' said I.
'Of course I was!' said Traddles. 'The one I was always going to
write to. And always didn't, eh! Ha, ha, ha! Yes, I had an uncle
then. He died soon after I left school.'
'Yes. He was a retired - what do you call it! - draper -
cloth-merchant - and had made me his heir. But he didn't like me
when I grew up.'
'Do you really mean that?' said I. He was so composed, that I
fancied he must have some other meaning.
'Oh dear, yes, Copperfield! I mean it,' replied Traddles. 'It was
an unfortunate thing, but he didn't like me at all. He said I
wasn't at all what he expected, and so he married his housekeeper.'
'And what did you do?' I asked.
'I didn't do anything in particular,' said Traddles. 'I lived with
them, waiting to be put out in the world, until his gout
unfortunately flew to his stomach - and so he died, and so she
married a young man, and so I wasn't provided for.'
'Did you get nothing, Traddles, after all?'
'Oh dear, yes!' said Traddles. 'I got fifty pounds. I had never
been brought up to any profession, and at first I was at a loss
what to do for myself. However, I began, with the assistance of
the son of a professional man, who had been to Salem House -
Yawler, with his nose on one side. Do you recollect him?'
No. He had not been there with me; all the noses were straight in
'It don't matter,' said Traddles. 'I began, by means of his
assistance, to copy law writings. That didn't answer very well;
and then I began to state cases for them, and make abstracts, and
that sort of work. For I am a plodding kind of fellow,
Copperfield, and had learnt the way of doing such things pithily.
Well! That put it in my head to enter myself as a law student; and
that ran away with all that was left of the fifty pounds. Yawler
recommended me to one or two other offices, however - Mr.
Waterbrook's for one - and I got a good many jobs. I was fortunate
enough, too, to become acquainted with a person in the publishing
way, who was getting up an Encyclopaedia, and he set me to work;
and, indeed' (glancing at his table), 'I am at work for him at this
minute. I am not a bad compiler, Copperfield,' said Traddles,
preserving the same air of cheerful confidence in all he said, 'but
I have no invention at all; not a particle. I suppose there never
was a young man with less originality than I have.'
As Traddles seemed to expect that I should assent to this as a
matter of course, I nodded; and he went on, with the same sprightly
patience - I can find no better expression - as before.
'So, by little and little, and not living high, I managed to scrape
up the hundred pounds at last,' said Traddles; 'and thank Heaven
that's paid - though it was - though it certainly was,' said
Traddles, wincing again as if he had had another tooth out, 'a
pull. I am living by the sort of work I have mentioned, still, and
I hope, one of these days, to get connected with some newspaper:
which would almost be the making of my fortune. Now, Copperfield,
you are so exactly what you used to be, with that agreeable face,
and it's so pleasant to see you, that I sha'n't conceal anything.
Therefore you must know that I am engaged.'
Engaged! Oh, Dora!
'She is a curate's daughter,' said Traddles; 'one of ten, down in
Devonshire. Yes!' For he saw me glance, involuntarily, at the
prospect on the inkstand. 'That's the church! You come round here
to the left, out of this gate,' tracing his finger along the
inkstand, 'and exactly where I hold this pen, there stands the
house - facing, you understand, towards the church.'
The delight with which he entered into these particulars, did not
fully present itself to me until afterwards; for my selfish
thoughts were making a ground-plan of Mr. Spenlow's house and
garden at the same moment.
'She is such a dear girl!' said Traddles; 'a little older than me,
but the dearest girl! I told you I was going out of town? I have
been down there. I walked there, and I walked back, and I had the
most delightful time! I dare say ours is likely to be a rather
long engagement, but our motto is "Wait and hope!" We always say
that. "Wait and hope," we always say. And she would wait,
Copperfield, till she was sixty - any age you can mention - for
Traddles rose from his chair, and, with a triumphant smile, put his
hand upon the white cloth I had observed.
'However,' he said, 'it's not that we haven't made a beginning
towards housekeeping. No, no; we have begun. We must get on by
degrees, but we have begun. Here,' drawing the cloth off with
great pride and care, 'are two pieces of furniture to commence
with. This flower-pot and stand, she bought herself. You put that
in a parlour window,' said Traddles, falling a little back from it
to survey it with the greater admiration, 'with a plant in it, and
- and there you are! This little round table with the marble top
(it's two feet ten in circumference), I bought. You want to lay a
book down, you know, or somebody comes to see you or your wife, and
wants a place to stand a cup of tea upon, and - and there you are
again!' said Traddles. 'It's an admirable piece of workmanship -
firm as a rock!'
I praised them both, highly, and Traddles replaced the covering as
carefully as he had removed it.
'It's not a great deal towards the furnishing,' said Traddles, 'but
it's something. The table-cloths, and pillow-cases, and articles
of that kind, are what discourage me most, Copperfield. So does
the ironmongery - candle-boxes, and gridirons, and that sort of
necessaries - because those things tell, and mount up. However,
and hope!" And I assure you she's the dearest girl!'
'I am quite certain of it,' said I.
'In the meantime,' said Traddles, coming back to his chair; 'and
this is the end of my prosing about myself, I get on as well as I
can. I don't make much, but I don't spend much. In general, I
board with the people downstairs, who are very agreeable people
indeed. Both Mr. and Mrs. Micawber have seen a good deal of life,
and are excellent company.'
'My dear Traddles!' I quickly exclaimed. 'What are you talking
Traddles looked at me, as if he wondered what I was talking about.
'Mr. and Mrs. Micawber!' I repeated. 'Why, I am intimately
acquainted with them!'
An opportune double knock at the door, which I knew well from old
experience in Windsor Terrace, and which nobody but Mr. Micawber
could ever have knocked at that door, resolved any doubt in my mind
as to their being my old friends. I begged Traddles to ask his
landlord to walk up. Traddles accordingly did so, over the
banister; and Mr. Micawber, not a bit changed - his tights, his
stick, his shirt-collar, and his eye-glass, all the same as ever -
came into the room with a genteel and youthful air.
'I beg your pardon, Mr. Traddles,' said Mr. Micawber, with the old
roll in his voice, as he checked himself in humming a soft tune.
'I was not aware that there was any individual, alien to this
tenement, in your sanctum.'
Mr. Micawber slightly bowed to me, and pulled up his shirt-collar.
'How do you do, Mr. Micawber?' said I.
'Sir,' said Mr. Micawber, 'you are exceedingly obliging. I am in
'And Mrs. Micawber?' I pursued.
'Sir,' said Mr. Micawber, 'she is also, thank God, in statu quo.'
'And the children, Mr. Micawber?'
'Sir,' said Mr. Micawber, 'I rejoice to reply that they are,
likewise, in the enjoyment of salubrity.'
All this time, Mr. Micawber had not known me in the least, though
he had stood face to face with me. But now, seeing me smile, he
examined my features with more attention, fell back, cried, 'Is it
possible! Have I the pleasure of again beholding Copperfield!' and
shook me by both hands with the utmost fervour.
'Good Heaven, Mr. Traddles!' said Mr. Micawber, 'to think that I
should find you acquainted with the friend of my youth, the
companion of earlier days! My dear!' calling over the banisters to
Mrs. Micawber, while Traddles looked (with reason) not a little
amazed at this description of me. 'Here is a gentleman in Mr.
Traddles's apartment, whom he wishes to have the pleasure of
presenting to you, my love!'
Mr. Micawber immediately reappeared, and shook hands with me again.
'And how is our good friend the Doctor, Copperfield?' said Mr.
Micawber, 'and all the circle at Canterbury?'
'I have none but good accounts of them,' said I.
'I am most delighted to hear it,' said Mr. Micawber. 'It was at
Canterbury where we last met. Within the shadow, I may
figuratively say, of that religious edifice immortalized by
Chaucer, which was anciently the resort of Pilgrims from the
remotest corners of - in short,' said Mr. Micawber, 'in the
immediate neighbourhood of the Cathedral.'
I replied that it was. Mr. Micawber continued talking as volubly
as he could; but not, I thought, without showing, by some marks of
concern in his countenance, that he was sensible of sounds in the
next room, as of Mrs. Micawber washing her hands, and hurriedly
opening and shutting drawers that were uneasy in their action.
'You find us, Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, with one eye on
Traddles, 'at present established, on what may be designated as a
small and unassuming scale; but, you are aware that I have, in the
course of my career, surmounted difficulties, and conquered
obstacles. You are no stranger to the fact, that there have been
periods of my life, when it has been requisite that I should pause,
until certain expected events should turn up; when it has been
necessary that I should fall back, before making what I trust I
shall not be accused of presumption in terming - a spring. The
present is one of those momentous stages in the life of man. You
find me, fallen back, FOR a spring; and I have every reason to
believe that a vigorous leap will shortly be the result.'
I was expressing my satisfaction, when Mrs. Micawber came in; a
little more slatternly than she used to be, or so she seemed now,
to my unaccustomed eyes, but still with some preparation of herself
for company, and with a pair of brown gloves on.
'My dear,' said Mr. Micawber, leading her towards me, 'here is a
gentleman of the name of Copperfield, who wishes to renew his
acquaintance with you.'
It would have been better, as it turned out, to have led gently up
to this announcement, for Mrs. Micawber, being in a delicate state
of health, was overcome by it, and was taken so unwell, that Mr.
Micawber was obliged, in great trepidation, to run down to the
water-butt in the backyard, and draw a basinful to lave her brow
with. She presently revived, however, and was really pleased to
see me. We had half-an-hour's talk, all together; and I asked her
about the twins, who, she said, were 'grown great creatures'; and
after Master and Miss Micawber, whom she described as 'absolute
giants', but they were not produced on that occasion.
Mr. Micawber was very anxious that I should stay to dinner. I
should not have been averse to do so, but that I imagined I
detected trouble, and calculation relative to the extent of the
cold meat, in Mrs. Micawber's eye. I therefore pleaded another
engagement; and observing that Mrs. Micawber's spirits were
immediately lightened, I resisted all persuasion to forego it.
But I told Traddles, and Mr. and Mrs. Micawber, that before I could
think of leaving, they must appoint a day when they would come and
dine with me. The occupations to which Traddles stood pledged,
rendered it necessary to fix a somewhat distant one; but an
appointment was made for the purpose, that suited us all, and then
I took my leave.
Mr. Micawber, under pretence of showing me a nearer way than that
by which I had come, accompanied me to the corner of the street;
being anxious (he explained to me) to say a few words to an old
friend, in confidence.
'My dear Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, 'I need hardly tell you
that to have beneath our roof, under existing circumstances, a mind
like that which gleams - if I may be allowed the expression - which
gleams - in your friend Traddles, is an unspeakable comfort. With
a washerwoman, who exposes hard-bake for sale in her
parlour-window, dwelling next door, and a Bow-street officer
residing over the way, you may imagine that his society is a source
of consolation to myself and to Mrs. Micawber. I am at present, my
dear Copperfield, engaged in the sale of corn upon commission. It
is not an avocation of a remunerative description - in other words,
it does not pay - and some temporary embarrassments of a pecuniary
nature have been the consequence. I am, however, delighted to add
that I have now an immediate prospect of something turning up (I am
not at liberty to say in what direction), which I trust will enable
me to provide, permanently, both for myself and for your friend
Traddles, in whom I have an unaffected interest. You may, perhaps,
be prepared to hear that Mrs. Micawber is in a state of health
which renders it not wholly improbable that an addition may be
ultimately made to those pledges of affection which - in short, to
the infantine group. Mrs. Micawber's family have been so good as
to express their dissatisfaction at this state of things. I have
merely to observe, that I am not aware that it is any business of
theirs, and that I repel that exhibition of feeling with scorn, and
Mr. Micawber then shook hands with me again, and left me.
Mr. MICAWBER'S GAUNTLET
Until the day arrived on which I was to entertain my newly-found
old friends, I lived principally on Dora and coffee. In my
love-lorn condition, my appetite languished; and I was glad of it,
for I felt as though it would have been an act of perfidy towards
Dora to have a natural relish for my dinner. The quantity of
walking exercise I took, was not in this respect attended with its
usual consequence, as the disappointment counteracted the fresh
air. I have my doubts, too, founded on the acute experience
acquired at this period of my life, whether a sound enjoyment of
animal food can develop itself freely in any human subject who is
always in torment from tight boots. I think the extremities
require to be at peace before the stomach will conduct itself with
On the occasion of this domestic little party, I did not repeat my
former extensive preparations. I merely provided a pair of soles,
a small leg of mutton, and a pigeon-pie. Mrs. Crupp broke out into
rebellion on my first bashful hint in reference to the cooking of
the fish and joint, and said, with a dignified sense of injury,
'No! No, sir! You will not ask me sich a thing, for you are
better acquainted with me than to suppose me capable of doing what
I cannot do with ampial satisfaction to my own feelings!' But, in
the end, a compromise was effected; and Mrs. Crupp consented to
achieve this feat, on condition that I dined from home for a
And here I may remark, that what I underwent from Mrs. Crupp, in
consequence of the tyranny she established over me, was dreadful.
I never was so much afraid of anyone. We made a compromise of
everything. If I hesitated, she was taken with that wonderful
disorder which was always lying in ambush in her system, ready, at
the shortest notice, to prey upon her vitals. If I rang the bell
impatiently, after half-a-dozen unavailing modest pulls, and she
appeared at last - which was not by any means to be relied upon -
she would appear with a reproachful aspect, sink breathless on a
chair near the door, lay her hand upon her nankeen bosom, and
become so ill, that I was glad, at any sacrifice of brandy or
anything else, to get rid of her. If I objected to having my bed
made at five o'clock in the afternoon - which I do still think an
uncomfortable arrangement - one motion of her hand towards the same
nankeen region of wounded sensibility was enough to make me falter
an apology. In short, I would have done anything in an honourable
way rather than give Mrs. Crupp offence; and she was the terror of
I bought a second-hand dumb-waiter for this dinner-party, in
preference to re-engaging the handy young man; against whom I had
conceived a prejudice, in consequence of meeting him in the Strand,
one Sunday morning, in a waistcoat remarkably like one of mine,
which had been missing since the former occasion. The 'young gal'
was re-engaged; but on the stipulation that she should only bring
in the dishes, and then withdraw to the landing-place, beyond the
outer door; where a habit of sniffing she had contracted would be
lost upon the guests, and where her retiring on the plates would be
a physical impossibility.
Having laid in the materials for a bowl of punch, to be compounded
by Mr. Micawber; having provided a bottle of lavender-water, two
wax-candles, a paper of mixed pins, and a pincushion, to assist
Mrs. Micawber in her toilette at my dressing-table; having also
caused the fire in my bedroom to be lighted for Mrs. Micawber's
convenience; and having laid the cloth with my own hands, I awaited
the result with composure.
At the appointed time, my three visitors arrived together. Mr.
Micawber with more shirt-collar than usual, and a new ribbon to his
eye-glass; Mrs. Micawber with her cap in a whitey-brown paper
parcel; Traddles carrying the parcel, and supporting Mrs. Micawber
on his arm. They were all delighted with my residence. When I
conducted Mrs. Micawber to my dressing-table, and she saw the scale
on which it was prepared for her, she was in such raptures, that
she called Mr. Micawber to come in and look.
'My dear Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, 'this is luxurious. This
is a way of life which reminds me of the period when I was myself
in a state of celibacy, and Mrs. Micawber had not yet been
solicited to plight her faith at the Hymeneal altar.'
'He means, solicited by him, Mr. Copperfield,' said Mrs. Micawber,
archly. 'He cannot answer for others.'
'My dear,' returned Mr. Micawber with sudden seriousness, 'I have
no desire to answer for others. I am too well aware that when, in
the inscrutable decrees of Fate, you were reserved for me, it is
possible you may have been reserved for one, destined, after a
protracted struggle, at length to fall a victim to pecuniary
involvements of a complicated nature. I understand your allusion,
my love. I regret it, but I can bear it.'
'Micawber!' exclaimed Mrs. Micawber, in tears. 'Have I deserved
this! I, who never have deserted you; who never WILL desert you,
'My love,' said Mr. Micawber, much affected, 'you will forgive, and
our old and tried friend Copperfield will, I am sure, forgive, the
momentary laceration of a wounded spirit, made sensitive by a
recent collision with the Minion of Power - in other words, with a
ribald Turncock attached to the water-works - and will pity, not
condemn, its excesses.'
Mr. Micawber then embraced Mrs. Micawber, and pressed my hand;
leaving me to infer from this broken allusion that his domestic
supply of water had been cut off that afternoon, in consequence of
default in the payment of the company's rates.
To divert his thoughts from this melancholy subject, I informed Mr.
Micawber that I relied upon him for a bowl of punch, and led him to
the lemons. His recent despondency, not to say despair, was gone
in a moment. I never saw a man so thoroughly enjoy himself amid
the fragrance of lemon-peel and sugar, the odour of burning rum,
and the steam of boiling water, as Mr. Micawber did that afternoon.
It was wonderful to see his face shining at us out of a thin cloud
of these delicate fumes, as he stirred, and mixed, and tasted, and
looked as if he were making, instead of punch, a fortune for his
family down to the latest posterity. As to Mrs. Micawber, I don't
know whether it was the effect of the cap, or the lavender-water,
or the pins, or the fire, or the wax-candles, but she came out of
my room, comparatively speaking, lovely. And the lark was never
gayer than that excellent woman.
I suppose - I never ventured to inquire, but I suppose - that Mrs.
Crupp, after frying the soles, was taken ill. Because we broke
down at that point. The leg of mutton came up very red within, and
very pale without: besides having a foreign substance of a gritty
nature sprinkled over it, as if if had had a fall into the ashes of
that remarkable kitchen fireplace. But we were not in condition to
judge of this fact from the appearance of the gravy, forasmuch as
the 'young gal' had dropped it all upon the stairs - where it
remained, by the by, in a long train, until it was worn out. The
pigeon-pie was not bad, but it was a delusive pie: the crust being
like a disappointing head, phrenologically speaking: full of lumps
and bumps, with nothing particular underneath. In short, the
banquet was such a failure that I should have been quite unhappy -
about the failure, I mean, for I was always unhappy about Dora - if
I had not been relieved by the great good humour of my company, and
by a bright suggestion from Mr. Micawber.
'My dear friend Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, 'accidents will
occur in the best-regulated families; and in families not regulated
by that pervading influence which sanctifies while it enhances the
- a - I would say, in short, by the influence of Woman, in the
lofty character of Wife, they may be expected with confidence, and
must be borne with philosophy. If you will allow me to take the
liberty of remarking that there are few comestibles better, in
their way, than a Devil, and that I believe, with a little division
of labour, we could accomplish a good one if the young person in
attendance could produce a gridiron, I would put it to you, that
this little misfortune may be easily repaired.'
There was a gridiron in the pantry, on which my morning rasher of
bacon was cooked. We had it in, in a twinkling, and immediately
applied ourselves to carrying Mr. Micawber's idea into effect. The
division of labour to which he had referred was this: - Traddles
cut the mutton into slices; Mr. Micawber (who could do anything of
this sort to perfection) covered them with pepper, mustard, salt,
and cayenne; I put them on the gridiron, turned them with a fork,
and took them off, under Mr. Micawber's direction; and Mrs.
Micawber heated, and continually stirred, some mushroom ketchup in
a little saucepan. When we had slices enough done to begin upon,
we fell-to, with our sleeves still tucked up at the wrist, more
slices sputtering and blazing on the fire, and our attention
divided between the mutton on our plates, and the mutton then
What with the novelty of this cookery, the excellence of it, the
bustle of it, the frequent starting up to look after it, the
frequent sitting down to dispose of it as the crisp slices came off
the gridiron hot and hot, the being so busy, so flushed with the
fire, so amused, and in the midst of such a tempting noise and
savour, we reduced the leg of mutton to the bone. My own appetite
came back miraculously. I am ashamed to record it, but I really
believe I forgot Dora for a little while. I am satisfied that Mr.
and Mrs. Micawber could not have enjoyed the feast more, if they
had sold a bed to provide it. Traddles laughed as heartily, almost
the whole time, as he ate and worked. Indeed we all did, all at
once; and I dare say there was never a greater success.
We were at the height of our enjoyment, and were all busily
engaged, in our several departments, endeavouring to bring the last
batch of slices to a state of perfection that should crown the
feast, when I was aware of a strange presence in the room, and my
eyes encountered those of the staid Littimer, standing hat in hand
'What's the matter?' I involuntarily asked.
'I beg your pardon, sir, I was directed to come in. Is my master
not here, sir?'
'Have you not seen him, sir?'
'No; don't you come from him?'
'Not immediately so, sir.'
'Did he tell you you would find him here?'
'Not exactly so, sir. But I should think he might be here
tomorrow, as he has not been here today.'
'Is he coming up from Oxford?'
'I beg, sir,' he returned respectfully, 'that you will be seated,
and allow me to do this.' With which he took the fork from my
unresisting hand, and bent over the gridiron, as if his whole
attention were concentrated on it.
We should not have been much discomposed, I dare say, by the
appearance of Steerforth himself, but we became in a moment the
meekest of the meek before his respectable serving-man. Mr.
Micawber, humming a tune, to show that he was quite at ease,
subsided into his chair, with the handle of a hastily concealed
fork sticking out of the bosom of his coat, as if he had stabbed
himself. Mrs. Micawber put on her brown gloves, and assumed a
genteel languor. Traddles ran his greasy hands through his hair,
and stood it bolt upright, and stared in confusion on the
table-cloth. As for me, I was a mere infant at the head of my own
table; and hardly ventured to glance at the respectable phenomenon,
who had come from Heaven knows where, to put my establishment to
Meanwhile he took the mutton off the gridiron, and gravely handed
it round. We all took some, but our appreciation of it was gone,
and we merely made a show of eating it. As we severally pushed
away our plates, he noiselessly removed them, and set on the
cheese. He took that off, too, when it was done with; cleared the
table; piled everything on the dumb-waiter; gave us our
wine-glasses; and, of his own accord, wheeled the dumb-waiter into
the pantry. All this was done in a perfect manner, and he never
raised his eyes from what he was about. Yet his very elbows, when
he had his back towards me, seemed to teem with the expression of
his fixed opinion that I was extremely young.
'Can I do anything more, sir?'
I thanked him and said, No; but would he take no dinner himself?
'None, I am obliged to you, sir.'
'Is Mr. Steerforth coming from Oxford?'
'I beg your pardon, sir?'
'Is Mr. Steerforth coming from Oxford?'
'I should imagine that he might be here tomorrow, sir. I rather
thought he might have been here today, sir. The mistake is mine,
no doubt, sir.'
'If you should see him first -' said I.
'If you'll excuse me, sir, I don't think I shall see him first.'
'In case you do,' said I, 'pray say that I am sorry he was not here
today, as an old schoolfellow of his was here.'
'Indeed, sir!' and he divided a bow between me and Traddles, with
a glance at the latter.
He was moving softly to the door, when, in a forlorn hope of saying
something naturally - which I never could, to this man - I said:
'Did you remain long at Yarmouth, that time?'
'Not particularly so, sir.'
'You saw the boat completed?'
'Yes, sir. I remained behind on purpose to see the boat
'I know!' He raised his eyes to mine respectfully.
'Mr. Steerforth has not seen it yet, I suppose?'
'I really can't say, sir. I think - but I really can't say, sir.
I wish you good night, sir.'
He comprehended everybody present, in the respectful bow with which
he followed these words, and disappeared. My visitors seemed to
breathe more freely when he was gone; but my own relief was very
great, for besides the constraint, arising from that extraordinary
sense of being at a disadvantage which I always had in this man's
presence, my conscience had embarrassed me with whispers that I had
mistrusted his master, and I could not repress a vague uneasy dread
that he might find it out. How was it, having so little in reality
to conceal, that I always DID feel as if this man were finding me
Mr. Micawber roused me from this reflection, which was blended with
a certain remorseful apprehension of seeing Steerforth himself, by
bestowing many encomiums on the absent Littimer as a most
respectable fellow, and a thoroughly admirable servant. Mr.
Micawber, I may remark, had taken his full share of the general
bow, and had received it with infinite condescension.
'But punch, my dear Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, tasting it,
'like time and tide, waits for no man. Ah! it is at the present
moment in high flavour. My love, will you give me your opinion?'
Mrs. Micawber pronounced it excellent.
'Then I will drink,' said Mr. Micawber, 'if my friend Copperfield
will permit me to take that social liberty, to the days when my
friend Copperfield and myself were younger, and fought our way in
the world side by side. I may say, of myself and Copperfield, in
words we have sung together before now, that
We twa hae run about the braes
And pu'd the gowans' fine
- in a figurative point of view - on several occasions. I am not
exactly aware,' said Mr. Micawber, with the old roll in his voice,
and the old indescribable air of saying something genteel, 'what
gowans may be, but I have no doubt that Copperfield and myself
would frequently have taken a pull at them, if it had been
Mr. Micawber, at the then present moment, took a pull at his punch.
So we all did: Traddles evidently lost in wondering at what distant
time Mr. Micawber and I could have been comrades in the battle of
'Ahem!' said Mr. Micawber, clearing his throat, and warming with
the punch and with the fire. 'My dear, another glass?'
Mrs. Micawber said it must be very little; but we couldn't allow
that, so it was a glassful.
'As we are quite confidential here, Mr. Copperfield,' said Mrs.
Micawber, sipping her punch, 'Mr. Traddles being a part of our
domesticity, I should much like to have your opinion on Mr.
Micawber's prospects. For corn,' said Mrs. Micawber
argumentatively, 'as I have repeatedly said to Mr. Micawber, may be
gentlemanly, but it is not remunerative. Commission to the extent
of two and ninepence in a fortnight cannot, however limited our
ideas, be considered remunerative.'
We were all agreed upon that.
'Then,' said Mrs. Micawber, who prided herself on taking a clear
view of things, and keeping Mr. Micawber straight by her woman's
wisdom, when he might otherwise go a little crooked, 'then I ask
myself this question. If corn is not to be relied upon, what is?
Are coals to be relied upon? Not at all. We have turned our
attention to that experiment, on the suggestion of my family, and
we find it fallacious.'
Mr. Micawber, leaning back in his chair with his hands in his
pockets, eyed us aside, and nodded his head, as much as to say that
the case was very clearly put.
'The articles of corn and coals,' said Mrs. Micawber, still more
argumentatively, 'being equally out of the question, Mr.
Copperfield, I naturally look round the world, and say, "What is
there in which a person of Mr. Micawber's talent is likely to
succeed?" And I exclude the doing anything on commission, because
commission is not a certainty. What is best suited to a person of
Mr. Micawber's peculiar temperament is, I am convinced, a
Traddles and I both expressed, by a feeling murmur, that this great
discovery was no doubt true of Mr. Micawber, and that it did him
'I will not conceal from you, my dear Mr. Copperfield,' said Mrs.
Micawber, 'that I have long felt the Brewing business to be
particularly adapted to Mr. Micawber. Look at Barclay and Perkins!
Look at Truman, Hanbury, and Buxton! It is on that extensive
footing that Mr. Micawber, I know from my own knowledge of him, is
calculated to shine; and the profits, I am told, are e-NOR-MOUS!
But if Mr. Micawber cannot get into those firms - which decline to
answer his letters, when he offers his services even in an inferior
capacity - what is the use of dwelling upon that idea? None. I
may have a conviction that Mr. Micawber's manners -'
'Hem! Really, my dear,' interposed Mr. Micawber.
'My love, be silent,' said Mrs. Micawber, laying her brown glove on
his hand. 'I may have a conviction, Mr. Copperfield, that Mr.
Micawber's manners peculiarly qualify him for the Banking business.
I may argue within myself, that if I had a deposit at a
banking-house, the manners of Mr. Micawber, as representing that
banking-house, would inspire confidence, and must extend the
connexion. But if the various banking-houses refuse to avail
themselves of Mr. Micawber's abilities, or receive the offer of
them with contumely, what is the use of dwelling upon THAT idea?
None. As to originating a banking-business, I may know that there
are members of my family who, if they chose to place their money in
Mr. Micawber's hands, might found an establishment of that
description. But if they do NOT choose to place their money in Mr.
Micawber's hands - which they don't - what is the use of that?
Again I contend that we are no farther advanced than we were
I shook my head, and said, 'Not a bit.' Traddles also shook his
head, and said, 'Not a bit.'
'What do I deduce from this?' Mrs. Micawber went on to say, still
with the same air of putting a case lucidly. 'What is the
conclusion, my dear Mr. Copperfield, to which I am irresistibly
brought? Am I wrong in saying, it is clear that we must live?'
I answered 'Not at all!' and Traddles answered 'Not at all!' and I
found myself afterwards sagely adding, alone, that a person must
either live or die.
'Just so,' returned Mrs. Micawber, 'It is precisely that. And the
fact is, my dear Mr. Copperfield, that we can not live without
something widely different from existing circumstances shortly
turning up. Now I am convinced, myself, and this I have pointed
out to Mr. Micawber several times of late, that things cannot be
expected to turn up of themselves. We must, in a measure, assist
to turn them up. I may be wrong, but I have formed that opinion.'
Both Traddles and I applauded it highly.
'Very well,' said Mrs. Micawber. 'Then what do I recommend? Here
is Mr. Micawber with a variety of qualifications - with great
'Really, my love,' said Mr. Micawber.
'Pray, my dear, allow me to conclude. Here is Mr. Micawber, with
a variety of qualifications, with great talent - I should say, with
genius, but that may be the partiality of a wife -'
Traddles and I both murmured 'No.'
'And here is Mr. Micawber without any suitable position or
employment. Where does that responsibility rest? Clearly on
society. Then I would make a fact so disgraceful known, and boldly
challenge society to set it right. It appears to me, my dear Mr.
Copperfield,' said Mrs. Micawber, forcibly, 'that what Mr. Micawber
has to do, is to throw down the gauntlet to society, and say, in
effect, "Show me who will take that up. Let the party immediately
I ventured to ask Mrs. Micawber how this was to be done.
'By advertising,' said Mrs. Micawber - 'in all the papers. It
appears to me, that what Mr. Micawber has to do, in justice to
himself, in justice to his family, and I will even go so far as to
say in justice to society, by which he has been hitherto
overlooked, is to advertise in all the papers; to describe himself
plainly as so-and-so, with such and such qualifications and to put
it thus: "Now employ me, on remunerative terms, and address,
post-paid, to W. M., Post Office, Camden Town."'
'This idea of Mrs. Micawber's, my dear Copperfield,' said Mr.
Micawber, making his shirt-collar meet in front of his chin, and
glancing at me sideways, 'is, in fact, the Leap to which I alluded,
when I last had the pleasure of seeing you.'
'Advertising is rather expensive,' I remarked, dubiously.
'Exactly so!' said Mrs. Micawber, preserving the same logical air.
'Quite true, my dear Mr. Copperfield! I have made the identical
observation to Mr. Micawber. It is for that reason especially,
that I think Mr. Micawber ought (as I have already said, in justice
to himself, in justice to his family, and in justice to society) to
raise a certain sum of money - on a bill.'
Mr. Micawber, leaning back in his chair, trifled with his eye-glass
and cast his eyes up at the ceiling; but I thought him observant of
Traddles, too, who was looking at the fire.
'If no member of my family,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'is possessed of
sufficient natural feeling to negotiate that bill - I believe there
is a better business-term to express what I mean -'
Mr. Micawber, with his eyes still cast up at the ceiling, suggested
'To discount that bill,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'then my opinion is,
that Mr. Micawber should go into the City, should take that bill
into the Money Market, and should dispose of it for what he can
get. If the individuals in the Money Market oblige Mr. Micawber to
sustain a great sacrifice, that is between themselves and their
consciences. I view it, steadily, as an investment. I recommend
Mr. Micawber, my dear Mr. Copperfield, to do the same; to regard it
as an investment which is sure of return, and to make up his mind
to any sacrifice.'
I felt, but I am sure I don't know why, that this was self-denying
and devoted in Mrs. Micawber, and I uttered a murmur to that
effect. Traddles, who took his tone from me, did likewise, still
looking at the fire.
'I will not,' said Mrs. Micawber, finishing her punch, and
gathering her scarf about her shoulders, preparatory to her
withdrawal to my bedroom: 'I will not protract these remarks on the
subject of Mr. Micawber's pecuniary affairs. At your fireside, my
dear Mr. Copperfield, and in the presence of Mr. Traddles, who,
though not so old a friend, is quite one of ourselves, I could not
refrain from making you acquainted with the course I advise Mr.
Micawber to take. I feel that the time is arrived when Mr.
Micawber should exert himself and - I will add - assert himself,
and it appears to me that these are the means. I am aware that I
am merely a female, and that a masculine judgement is usually
considered more competent to the discussion of such questions;
still I must not forget that, when I lived at home with my papa and
mama, my papa was in the habit of saying, "Emma's form is fragile,
but her grasp of a subject is inferior to none." That my papa was
too partial, I well know; but that he was an observer of character
in some degree, my duty and my reason equally forbid me to doubt.'
With these words, and resisting our entreaties that she would grace
the remaining circulation of the punch with her presence, Mrs.
Micawber retired to my bedroom. And really I felt that she was a
noble woman - the sort of woman who might have been a Roman matron,
and done all manner of heroic things, in times of public trouble.
In the fervour of this impression, I congratulated Mr. Micawber on
the treasure he possessed. So did Traddles. Mr. Micawber extended
his hand to each of us in succession, and then covered his face
with his pocket-handkerchief, which I think had more snuff upon it
than he was aware of. He then returned to the punch, in the
highest state of exhilaration.
He was full of eloquence. He gave us to understand that in our
children we lived again, and that, under the pressure of pecuniary
difficulties, any accession to their number was doubly welcome. He
said that Mrs. Micawber had latterly had her doubts on this point,
but that he had dispelled them, and reassured her. As to her
family, they were totally unworthy of her, and their sentiments
were utterly indifferent to him, and they might - I quote his own
expression - go to the Devil.
Mr. Micawber then delivered a warm eulogy on Traddles. He said
Traddles's was a character, to the steady virtues of which he (Mr.
Micawber) could lay no claim, but which, he thanked Heaven, he
could admire. He feelingly alluded to the young lady, unknown,
whom Traddles had honoured with his affection, and who had
reciprocated that affection by honouring and blessing Traddles with
her affection. Mr. Micawber pledged her. So did I. Traddles
thanked us both, by saying, with a simplicity and honesty I had
sense enough to be quite charmed with, 'I am very much obliged to
you indeed. And I do assure you, she's the dearest girl! -'
Mr. Micawber took an early opportunity, after that, of hinting,
with the utmost delicacy and ceremony, at the state of MY
affections. Nothing but the serious assurance of his friend
Copperfield to the contrary, he observed, could deprive him of the
impression that his friend Copperfield loved and was beloved.
After feeling very hot and uncomfortable for some time, and after
a good deal of blushing, stammering, and denying, I said, having my
glass in my hand, 'Well! I would give them D.!' which so excited
and gratified Mr. Micawber, that he ran with a glass of punch into
my bedroom, in order that Mrs. Micawber might drink D., who drank
it with enthusiasm, crying from within, in a shrill voice, 'Hear,
hear! My dear Mr. Copperfield, I am delighted. Hear!' and tapping
at the wall, by way of applause.
Our conversation, afterwards, took a more worldly turn; Mr.
Micawber telling us that he found Camden Town inconvenient, and
that the first thing he contemplated doing, when the advertisement
should have been the cause of something satisfactory turning up,
was to move. He mentioned a terrace at the western end of Oxford
Street, fronting Hyde Park, on which he had always had his eye, but
which he did not expect to attain immediately, as it would require
a large establishment. There would probably be an interval, he
explained, in which he should content himself with the upper part
of a house, over some respectable place of business - say in
Piccadilly, - which would be a cheerful situation for Mrs.
Micawber; and where, by throwing out a bow-window, or carrying up
the roof another story, or making some little alteration of that
sort, they might live, comfortably and reputably, for a few years.
Whatever was reserved for him, he expressly said, or wherever his
abode might be, we might rely on this - there would always be a
room for Traddles, and a knife and fork for me. We acknowledged
his kindness; and he begged us to forgive his having launched into
these practical and business-like details, and to excuse it as
natural in one who was making entirely new arrangements in life.
Mrs. Micawber, tapping at the wall again to know if tea were ready,
broke up this particular phase of our friendly conversation. She
made tea for us in a most agreeable manner; and, whenever I went
near her, in handing about the tea-cups and bread-and-butter, asked
me, in a whisper, whether D. was fair, or dark, or whether she was
short, or tall: or something of that kind; which I think I liked.
After tea, we discussed a variety of topics before the fire; and
Mrs. Micawber was good enough to sing us (in a small, thin, flat
voice, which I remembered to have considered, when I first knew
her, the very table-beer of acoustics) the favourite ballads of
'The Dashing White Sergeant', and 'Little Tafflin'. For both of
these songs Mrs. Micawber had been famous when she lived at home
with her papa and mama. Mr. Micawber told us, that when he heard
her sing the first one, on the first occasion of his seeing her
beneath the parental roof, she had attracted his attention in an
extraordinary degree; but that when it came to Little Tafflin, he
had resolved to win that woman or perish in the attempt.
It was between ten and eleven o'clock when Mrs. Micawber rose to
replace her cap in the whitey-brown paper parcel, and to put on her
bonnet. Mr. Micawber took the opportunity of Traddles putting on
his great-coat, to slip a letter into my hand, with a whispered
request that I would read it at my leisure. I also took the
opportunity of my holding a candle over the banisters to light them
down, when Mr. Micawber was going first, leading Mrs. Micawber, and
Traddles was following with the cap, to detain Traddles for a
moment on the top of the stairs.
'Traddles,' said I, 'Mr. Micawber don't mean any harm, poor fellow:
but, if I were you, I wouldn't lend him anything.'
'My dear Copperfield,' returned Traddles, smiling, 'I haven't got
anything to lend.'
'You have got a name, you know,' said I.
'Oh! You call THAT something to lend?' returned Traddles, with a
'Oh!' said Traddles. 'Yes, to be sure! I am very much obliged to
you, Copperfield; but - I am afraid I have lent him that already.'
'For the bill that is to be a certain investment?' I inquired.
'No,' said Traddles. 'Not for that one. This is the first I have
heard of that one. I have been thinking that he will most likely
propose that one, on the way home. Mine's another.'
'I hope there will be nothing wrong about it,' said I.
'I hope not,' said Traddles. 'I should think not, though, because
he told me, only the other day, that it was provided for. That was
Mr. Micawber's expression, "Provided for."'
Mr. Micawber looking up at this juncture to where we were standing,
I had only time to repeat my caution. Traddles thanked me, and
descended. But I was much afraid, when I observed the good-natured
manner in which he went down with the cap in his hand, and gave
Mrs. Micawber his arm, that he would be carried into the Money
Market neck and heels.
I returned to my fireside, and was musing, half gravely and half
laughing, on the character of Mr. Micawber and the old relations
between us, when I heard a quick step ascending the stairs. At
first, I thought it was Traddles coming back for something Mrs.
Micawber had left behind; but as the step approached, I knew it,
and felt my heart beat high, and the blood rush to my face, for it
I was never unmindful of Agnes, and she never left that sanctuary
in my thoughts - if I may call it so - where I had placed her from
the first. But when he entered, and stood before me with his hand
out, the darkness that had fallen on him changed to light, and I
felt confounded and ashamed of having doubted one I loved so
heartily. I loved her none the less; I thought of her as the same
benignant, gentle angel in my life; I reproached myself, not her,
with having done him an injury; and I would have made him any
atonement if I had known what to make, and how to make it.
'Why, Daisy, old boy, dumb-foundered!' laughed Steerforth, shaking
my hand heartily, and throwing it gaily away. 'Have I detected you
in another feast, you Sybarite! These Doctors' Commons fellows are
the gayest men in town, I believe, and beat us sober Oxford people
all to nothing!' His bright glance went merrily round the room, as
he took the seat on the sofa opposite to me, which Mrs. Micawber
had recently vacated, and stirred the fire into a blaze.
'I was so surprised at first,' said I, giving him welcome with all
the cordiality I felt, 'that I had hardly breath to greet you with,
'Well, the sight of me is good for sore eyes, as the Scotch say,'
replied Steerforth, 'and so is the sight of you, Daisy, in full
bloom. How are you, my Bacchanal?'
'I am very well,' said I; 'and not at all Bacchanalian tonight,
though I confess to another party of three.'
'All of whom I met in the street, talking loud in your praise,'
returned Steerforth. 'Who's our friend in the tights?'
I gave him the best idea I could, in a few words, of Mr. Micawber.
He laughed heartily at my feeble portrait of that gentleman, and
said he was a man to know, and he must know him.
'But who do you suppose our other friend is?' said I, in my turn.
'Heaven knows,' said Steerforth. 'Not a bore, I hope? I thought
he looked a little like one.'
'Traddles!' I replied, triumphantly.
'Who's he?' asked Steerforth, in his careless way.
'Don't you remember Traddles? Traddles in our room at Salem
'Oh! That fellow!' said Steerforth, beating a lump of coal on the
top of the fire, with the poker. 'Is he as soft as ever? And
where the deuce did you pick him up?'
I extolled Traddles in reply, as highly as I could; for I felt that
Steerforth rather slighted him. Steerforth, dismissing the subject
with a light nod, and a smile, and the remark that he would be glad
to see the old fellow too, for he had always been an odd fish,
inquired if I could give him anything to eat? During most of this
short dialogue, when he had not been speaking in a wild vivacious
manner, he had sat idly beating on the lump of coal with the poker.
I observed that he did the same thing while I was getting out the
remains of the pigeon-pie, and so forth.
'Why, Daisy, here's a supper for a king!' he exclaimed, starting
out of his silence with a burst, and taking his seat at the table.
'I shall do it justice, for I have come from Yarmouth.'
'I thought you came from Oxford?' I returned.
'Not I,' said Steerforth. 'I have been seafaring - better
'Littimer was here today, to inquire for you,' I remarked, 'and I
understood him that you were at Oxford; though, now I think of it,
he certainly did not say so.'
'Littimer is a greater fool than I thought him, to have been
inquiring for me at all,' said Steerforth, jovially pouring out a
glass of wine, and drinking to me. 'As to understanding him, you
are a cleverer fellow than most of us, Daisy, if you can do that.'
'That's true, indeed,' said I, moving my chair to the table. 'So
you have been at Yarmouth, Steerforth!' interested to know all
about it. 'Have you been there long?'
'No,' he returned. 'An escapade of a week or so.'
'And how are they all? Of course, little Emily is not married
'Not yet. Going to be, I believe - in so many weeks, or months, or
something or other. I have not seen much of 'em. By the by'; he
laid down his knife and fork, which he had been using with great
diligence, and began feeling in his pockets; 'I have a letter for
'Why, from your old nurse,' he returned, taking some papers out of
his breast pocket. "'J. Steerforth, Esquire, debtor, to The
Willing Mind"; that's not it. Patience, and we'll find it
presently. Old what's-his-name's in a bad way, and it's about
that, I believe.'
'Barkis, do you mean?'
'Yes!' still feeling in his pockets, and looking over their
contents: 'it's all over with poor Barkis, I am afraid. I saw a
little apothecary there - surgeon, or whatever he is - who brought
your worship into the world. He was mighty learned about the case,
to me; but the upshot of his opinion was, that the carrier was
making his last journey rather fast. - Put your hand into the
breast pocket of my great-coat on the chair yonder, and I think
you'll find the letter. Is it there?'
'Here it is!' said I.
It was from Peggotty; something less legible than usual, and brief.
It informed me of her husband's hopeless state, and hinted at his
being 'a little nearer' than heretofore, and consequently more
difficult to manage for his own comfort. It said nothing of her
weariness and watching, and praised him highly. It was written
with a plain, unaffected, homely piety that I knew to be genuine,
and ended with 'my duty to my ever darling' - meaning myself.
While I deciphered it, Steerforth continued to eat and drink.
'It's a bad job,' he said, when I had done; 'but the sun sets every
day, and people die every minute, and we mustn't be scared by the
common lot. If we failed to hold our own, because that equal foot
at all men's doors was heard knocking somewhere, every object in
this world would slip from us. No! Ride on! Rough-shod if need
be, smooth-shod if that will do, but ride on! Ride on over all
obstacles, and win the race!'
'And win what race?' said I.
'The race that one has started in,' said he. 'Ride on!'
I noticed, I remember, as he paused, looking at me with his
handsome head a little thrown back, and his glass raised in his
hand, that, though the freshness of the sea-wind was on his face,
and it was ruddy, there were traces in it, made since I last saw
it, as if he had applied himself to some habitual strain of the
fervent energy which, when roused, was so passionately roused
within him. I had it in my thoughts to remonstrate with him upon
his desperate way of pursuing any fancy that he took - such as this
buffeting of rough seas, and braving of hard weather, for example
- when my mind glanced off to the immediate subject of our
conversation again, and pursued that instead.
'I tell you what, Steerforth,' said I, 'if your high spirits will
listen to me -'
'They are potent spirits, and will do whatever you like,' he
answered, moving from the table to the fireside again.
'Then I tell you what, Steerforth. I think I will go down and see
my old nurse. It is not that I can do her any good, or render her
any real service; but she is so attached to me that my visit will
have as much effect on her, as if I could do both. She will take
it so kindly that it will be a comfort and support to her. It is
no great effort to make, I am sure, for such a friend as she has
been to me. Wouldn't you go a day's journey, if you were in my
His face was thoughtful, and he sat considering a little before he
answered, in a low voice, 'Well! Go. You can do no harm.'
'You have just come back,' said I, 'and it would be in vain to ask
you to go with me?'
'Quite,' he returned. 'I am for Highgate tonight. I have not seen
my mother this long time, and it lies upon my conscience, for it's
something to be loved as she loves her prodigal son. - Bah!
Nonsense! - You mean to go tomorrow, I suppose?' he said, holding
me out at arm's length, with a hand on each of my shoulders.
'Yes, I think so.'
'Well, then, don't go till next day. I wanted you to come and stay
a few days with us. Here I am, on purpose to bid you, and you fly
off to Yarmouth!'
'You are a nice fellow to talk of flying off, Steerforth, who are
always running wild on some unknown expedition or other!'
He looked at me for a moment without speaking, and then rejoined,
still holding me as before, and giving me a shake:
'Come! Say the next day, and pass as much of tomorrow as you can
with us! Who knows when we may meet again, else? Come! Say the
next day! I want you to stand between Rosa Dartle and me, and keep
'Would you love each other too much, without me?'
'Yes; or hate,' laughed Steerforth; 'no matter which. Come! Say
the next day!'
I said the next day; and he put on his great-coat and lighted his
cigar, and set off to walk home. Finding him in this intention, I
put on my own great-coat (but did not light my own cigar, having
had enough of that for one while) and walked with him as far as the
open road: a dull road, then, at night. He was in great spirits
all the way; and when we parted, and I looked after him going so
gallantly and airily homeward, I thought of his saying, 'Ride on
over all obstacles, and win the race!' and wished, for the first
time, that he had some worthy race to run.
I was undressing in my own room, when Mr. Micawber's letter tumbled
on the floor. Thus reminded of it, I broke the seal and read as
follows. It was dated an hour and a half before dinner. I am not
sure whether I have mentioned that, when Mr. Micawber was at any
particularly desperate crisis, he used a sort of legal phraseology,
which he seemed to think equivalent to winding up his affairs.
'SIR - for I dare not say my dear Copperfield,
'It is expedient that I should inform you that the undersigned is
Crushed. Some flickering efforts to spare you the premature
knowledge of his calamitous position, you may observe in him this
day; but hope has sunk beneath the horizon, and the undersigned is
'The present communication is penned within the personal range (I
cannot call it the society) of an individual, in a state closely
bordering on intoxication, employed by a broker. That individual
is in legal possession of the premises, under a distress for rent.
His inventory includes, not only the chattels and effects of every
description belonging to the undersigned, as yearly tenant of this
habitation, but also those appertaining to Mr. Thomas Traddles,
lodger, a member of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple.
'If any drop of gloom were wanting in the overflowing cup, which is
now "commended" (in the language of an immortal Writer) to the lips
of the undersigned, it would be found in the fact, that a friendly
acceptance granted to the undersigned, by the before-mentioned Mr.
Thomas Traddles, for the sum Of 23l 4s 9 1/2d is over due, and is
NOT provided for. Also, in the fact that the living
responsibilities clinging to the undersigned will, in the course of
nature, be increased by the sum of one more helpless victim; whose
miserable appearance may be looked for - in round numbers - at the
expiration of a period not exceeding six lunar months from the
'After premising thus much, it would be a work of supererogation to
add, that dust and ashes are for ever scattered
Poor Traddles! I knew enough of Mr. Micawber by this time, to
foresee that he might be expected to recover the blow; but my
night's rest was sorely distressed by thoughts of Traddles, and of
the curate's daughter, who was one of ten, down in Devonshire, and
who was such a dear girl, and who would wait for Traddles (ominous
praise!) until she was sixty, or any age that could be mentioned.
I VISIT STEERFORTH AT HIS HOME, AGAIN
I mentioned to Mr. Spenlow in the morning, that I wanted leave of
absence for a short time; and as I was not in the receipt of any
salary, and consequently was not obnoxious to the implacable
Jorkins, there was no difficulty about it. I took that
opportunity, with my voice sticking in my throat, and my sight
failing as I uttered the words, to express my hope that Miss
Spenlow was quite well; to which Mr. Spenlow replied, with no more
emotion than if he had been speaking of an ordinary human being,
that he was much obliged to me, and she was very well.
We articled clerks, as germs of the patrician order of proctors,
were treated with so much consideration, that I was almost my own
master at all times. As I did not care, however, to get to
Highgate before one or two o'clock in the day, and as we had
another little excommunication case in court that morning, which
was called The office of the judge promoted by Tipkins against
Bullock for his soul's correction, I passed an hour or two in
attendance on it with Mr. Spenlow very agreeably. It arose out of
a scuffle between two churchwardens, one of whom was alleged to
have pushed the other against a pump; the handle of which pump
projecting into a school-house, which school-house was under a
gable of the church-roof, made the push an ecclesiastical offence.
It was an amusing case; and sent me up to Highgate, on the box of
the stage-coach, thinking about the Commons, and what Mr. Spenlow
had said about touching the Commons and bringing down the country.
Mrs. Steerforth was pleased to see me, and so was Rosa Dartle. I
was agreeably surprised to find that Littimer was not there, and
that we were attended by a modest little parlour-maid, with blue
ribbons in her cap, whose eye it was much more pleasant, and much
less disconcerting, to catch by accident, than the eye of that
respectable man. But what I particularly observed, before I had
been half-an-hour in the house, was the close and attentive watch
Miss Dartle kept upon me; and the lurking manner in which she
seemed to compare my face with Steerforth's, and Steerforth's with
mine, and to lie in wait for something to come out between the two.
So surely as I looked towards her, did I see that eager visage,
with its gaunt black eyes and searching brow, intent on mine; or
passing suddenly from mine to Steerforth's; or comprehending both
of us at once. In this lynx-like scrutiny she was so far from
faltering when she saw I observed it, that at such a time she only
fixed her piercing look upon me with a more intent expression
still. Blameless as I was, and knew that I was, in reference to
any wrong she could possibly suspect me of, I shrunk before her
strange eyes, quite unable to endure their hungry lustre.
All day, she seemed to pervade the whole house. If I talked to
Steerforth in his room, I heard her dress rustle in the little
gallery outside. When he and I engaged in some of our old
exercises on the lawn behind the house, I saw her face pass from
window to window, like a wandering light, until it fixed itself in
one, and watched us. When we all four went out walking in the
afternoon, she closed her thin hand on my arm like a spring, to
keep me back, while Steerforth and his mother went on out of
hearing: and then spoke to me.
'You have been a long time,' she said, 'without coming here. Is
your profession really so engaging and interesting as to absorb
your whole attention? I ask because I always want to be informed,
when I am ignorant. Is it really, though?'
I replied that I liked it well enough, but that I certainly could
not claim so much for it.
'Oh! I am glad to know that, because I always like to be put right
when I am wrong,' said Rosa Dartle. 'You mean it is a little dry,
'Well,' I replied; 'perhaps it was a little dry.'
'Oh! and that's a reason why you want relief and change -
excitement and all that?' said she. 'Ah! very true! But isn't it
a little - Eh? - for him; I don't mean you?'
A quick glance of her eye towards the spot where Steerforth was
walking, with his mother leaning on his arm, showed me whom she
meant; but beyond that, I was quite lost. And I looked so, I have
'Don't it - I don't say that it does, mind I want to know - don't
it rather engross him? Don't it make him, perhaps, a little more
remiss than usual in his visits to his blindly-doting - eh?' With
another quick glance at them, and such a glance at me as seemed to
look into my innermost thoughts.
'Miss Dartle,' I returned, 'pray do not think -'
'I don't!' she said. 'Oh dear me, don't suppose that I think
anything! I am not suspicious. I only ask a question. I don't
state any opinion. I want to found an opinion on what you tell me.
Then, it's not so? Well! I am very glad to know it.'
'It certainly is not the fact,' said I, perplexed, 'that I am
accountable for Steerforth's having been away from home longer than
usual - if he has been: which I really don't know at this moment,
unless I understand it from you. I have not seen him this long
while, until last night.'
'Indeed, Miss Dartle, no!'
As she looked full at me, I saw her face grow sharper and paler,
and the marks of the old wound lengthen out until it cut through
the disfigured lip, and deep into the nether lip, and slanted down
the face. There was something positively awful to me in this, and
in the brightness of her eyes, as she said, looking fixedly at me:
'What is he doing?'
I repeated the words, more to myself than her, being so amazed.
'What is he doing?' she said, with an eagerness that seemed enough
to consume her like a fire. 'In what is that man assisting him,
who never looks at me without an inscrutable falsehood in his eyes?
If you are honourable and faithful, I don't ask you to betray your
friend. I ask you only to tell me, is it anger, is it hatred, is
it pride, is it restlessness, is it some wild fancy, is it love,
what is it, that is leading him?'
'Miss Dartle,' I returned, 'how shall I tell you, so that you will
believe me, that I know of nothing in Steerforth different from
what there was when I first came here? I can think of nothing. I
firmly believe there is nothing. I hardly understand even what you
As she still stood looking fixedly at me, a twitching or throbbing,
from which I could not dissociate the idea of pain, came into that
cruel mark; and lifted up the corner of her lip as if with scorn,
or with a pity that despised its object. She put her hand upon it
hurriedly - a hand so thin and delicate, that when I had seen her
hold it up before the fire to shade her face, I had compared it in
my thoughts to fine porcelain - and saying, in a quick, fierce,
passionate way, 'I swear you to secrecy about this!' said not a
Mrs. Steerforth was particularly happy in her son's society, and
Steerforth was, on this occasion, particularly attentive and
respectful to her. It was very interesting to me to see them
together, not only on account of their mutual affection, but
because of the strong personal resemblance between them, and the
manner in which what was haughty or impetuous in him was softened
by age and sex, in her, to a gracious dignity. I thought, more
than once, that it was well no serious cause of division had ever
come between them; or two such natures - I ought rather to express
it, two such shades of the same nature - might have been harder to
reconcile than the two extremest opposites in creation. The idea
did not originate in my own discernment, I am bound to confess, but
in a speech of Rosa Dartle's.
She said at dinner:
'Oh, but do tell me, though, somebody, because I have been thinking
about it all day, and I want to know.'
'You want to know what, Rosa?' returned Mrs. Steerforth. 'Pray,
pray, Rosa, do not be mysterious.'
'Mysterious!' she cried. 'Oh! really? Do you consider me so?'
'Do I constantly entreat you,' said Mrs. Steerforth, 'to speak
plainly, in your own natural manner?'
'Oh! then this is not my natural manner?' she rejoined. 'Now you
must really bear with me, because I ask for information. We never
'It has become a second nature,' said Mrs. Steerforth, without any
displeasure; 'but I remember, - and so must you, I think, - when
your manner was different, Rosa; when it was not so guarded, and
was more trustful.'
'I am sure you are right,' she returned; 'and so it is that bad
habits grow upon one! Really? Less guarded and more trustful?
How can I, imperceptibly, have changed, I wonder! Well, that's
very odd! I must study to regain my former self.'
'I wish you would,' said Mrs. Steerforth, with a smile.
'Oh! I really will, you know!' she answered. 'I will learn
frankness from - let me see - from James.'
'You cannot learn frankness, Rosa,' said Mrs. Steerforth quickly -
for there was always some effect of sarcasm in what Rosa Dartle
said, though it was said, as this was, in the most unconscious
manner in the world - 'in a better school.'
'That I am sure of,' she answered, with uncommon fervour. 'If I am
sure of anything, of course, you know, I am sure of that.'
Mrs. Steerforth appeared to me to regret having been a little
nettled; for she presently said, in a kind tone:
'Well, my dear Rosa, we have not heard what it is that you want to
be satisfied about?'
'That I want to be satisfied about?' she replied, with provoking
coldness. 'Oh! It was only whether people, who are like each
other in their moral constitution - is that the phrase?'
'It's as good a phrase as another,' said Steerforth.
'Thank you: - whether people, who are like each other in their
moral constitution, are in greater danger than people not so