Charles Dickens.

The personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 2) online

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line of business, and was not available for purposes of tres-
pass. But my aunt wouldn't hear of it.

Supper was comfortably served and hot, though my
aunt's rooms were very high up — whether that she might
have more stone stairs for her money, or might be nearer
to the door in the roof, I don't know — and consisted of



128



a roast fowl, a steak, and some vegetables, to all of which
[ did ample justice, and which were all excellent. But my
aunt had her own Ideas concerning London provision, and ate
but little.

"I suppose this unfortunate fowl was born and brought
up in a cellar," said my aunt, "and never took the air except
on a hackney coach-stand. I hope the steak may be beef,
but I don't beheve it. Nothing's genuine in the place, in
my opinion, but the dirt."

"Don't you think the fowl may have come out of the
country, aunt?" I hinted.

"Certainly not," returned my aunt. "It would be no
pleasure to a London tradesman to sell anything which was
what he pretended it was."

I did not venture to controvert this opinion, but I made
a good supper, which it greatly satisfied her to see me do.
When the table was cleared, Janet assisted her to arrange
her hair, to put on her nightcap, which was of a smarter
construction than usual ("in case of fire," my aunt said), and
to fold her gown back over her knees, these being her usual
preparations for warming herself before going to bed. I then
made her, according to certain established regulations from
which no deviation, however slight, could ever be permitted,
a glass of hot white wine and water, and a slice of toast cut
into long thin strips. With these accompaniments we were
left alone to finish the evening, my aunt sitting opposite to me
drinking her wine and water; soaking her strips of toast in it,
one by one, before eating them; and looking benignantly on
me, from among the borders of her nightcap.

"Well, Trot," she began, "what do you think of the
proctor plan? Or have you not begun to think about it
yet?"

"I have thought a good deal about it, my dear aunt, and



129



I have talked a good deal about it with Steerforth. I like it
very much indeed. I like it exceedingly.

"Come!" said my aunt. "That 's cheering!"

"I have only one difficulty, aunt."

"Say what it is, Trot," she returned.

"Why, I want to ask, aunt, as this seems, from what I
understand, to be a limited profession, whether my entrance
into it would not be very expensive ? "

"It will cost," returned my aunt, "to article you, just a
thousand pounds."

"Now, my dear aunt," said I, drawing my chair nearer,
"I am uneasy in my mind about that. It's a large sum of
money. You have expended a great deal on my education,
and have always been as liberal to me In all things, as it
was possible to be. You have been the soul of generosity.
Surely there are some ways in which I might begin life
v/ith hardly any outlay, and yet begin with a good hope
of getting on by resolution and exertion. Are you sure
that it would not be better to try that course? Are you
certain that you can afford to part with so much money,
and that it is right it should be so expended ? I only
ask you, my second mother, to consider. Are you cer-
tain?"

My aunt finished eating the piece of toast on which she
was then engaged, looking me full in the face all the while;
and tlien setting her glass on the chimney-piece, and folding
her hands upon her folded skirts, replied as follows:

"Trot, my child, if I have any object in life, it is to pro-
vide for your being a good, a sensible, and a happy man.
I am bent upon it — so is Dick. 1 should like some people
that I know to hear Dick's conversation on the subject. Its
sagacity is wonderftil. But no one knows the resources of
that man's intellect, except myself! "
David Copperfield. II. 9



130



She stopped for a moment to take my hand between hers,
and went on:

"It's in vain, Trot, to recall the past, unless it works
some influence upon the present. Perhaps I might have been
better friends with your poor father. Perhaps I might have
been better friends with that poor child your mother, even
after your sister Betsey Trotwood disappointed me. When
you came to me, a little runaway boy, all dusty and way-
worn, perhaps I thought so. From that time until now, Trot,
you have ever been a credit to me and a pride and pleasure.
I have no other claim upon my means; at least" — here to
my surprise she hesitated, and was confused — "no, I have
no other claim upon my means — and you are my adopted
child. Only be a loving child to me in my age, and bear
with my whims and fancies; and you will do more for an
old woman whose prime of life was not so happy or con-
ciliating as it might have been, than ever that old woman did
for you."

It was the first time I had heard my aunt refer to her past
history. There was a magnanimity in her quiet way of doing
so, and of dismissing it, which would have exalted her in my
respect and affection, if any thing could.

"All is agreed and understood between us now, Trot,"
said my aunt, "and we need talk of this no more. Give
me a kiss, and we '11 go to the Commons after breakfast to-
morrow."

We had a long chat by the fire before we went to bed. I
slept in a room on the same floor with my aunt's , and was a
little disturbed in the course of the night by her knocking at
my door, as often as she was agitated by a distant sound of
hackney-coaches or market-carts, and Inquiring "if I heard
the engines?" But towards morning she slept better, and
suffered me to do so too.



131



At about mid-day, we set out for the offices of Messrs
Spenlow and Jorkins in Doctors' Commons. My aunt, -who
had this other general opinion in reference to London, that
every man she saw was a pickpocket, gave me her purse
to carry for her, which had ten guineas in it and some
silver.

We made a pause at the toy-shop in Fleet-street, to see
the giants of Saint Dunstan's strike upon the bells — wc
had timed our going, so as to catch them at it, at twelve
o'clock — and then went on towards Ludgate Hill, and St.
Paul's Churchyard. We were crossing to the former place,
when I found that my aunt greatly accelerated her speed, and
looked frightened. I observed, at the same time, that a
lowering ill-dressed man who had stopped and stared at us in
passing, a little before, was coming so close after us, as to
brush against her.

"Trot! My dear Trot!" cried my aunt, in a terrified
whisper, and pressing my arm. *'I don't know what I am
to do."

"Don't be alarmed," said I. "There's nothing to be
afraid of. Step into a shop, and I'll soon get rid of this
fellow."

"No, no, child!" she returned. "Don't speak to him
for tlie world. I entreat, I order you ! "

"Good Heaven, aunt!" said I. "He is nothing but a
sturdy beggar."

"You don't know what he is!" replied my aunt. "You
don't know who he is I You don't know what you say ! "

We had stopped in an empty doorway, while this was
passing, and he had stopped too.

"Don't look at him!" said my aunt, as I tumpil my head
indignantly, "but get me a coach, my dear, and wait forme
in St. Paul's Churchyard."



132



"Wait for you?" I repeated.

"Yes," rejoined my aunt, "1 must go alone. I must go
with him.'*

"With him, aunt? This man? '*

"lam in my senses," she replied, "and I tell yonlmmt.
Get me a coach 1 "

However much astonished I might be, I was sensible that
I had no right to refuse compliance with such a peremptory
command. I hurried away a few paces, and called a hackney
chariot which was passing empty. Almost before I could let
down the steps, my aunt sprang in, I don't know how, and
the man followed. She waved her hand to me to go away, so
earnestly, that, all confounded as I was, I turned from them
at once. In doing so I heard her say to the coachman, "Drive
anywhere 1 Drive straight onl" and presently the chariot
passed me, going up the hill.

What Mr. Dick had told me, and what I had supposed to
be a delusion of his, now came into my mind. I could not
doubt that this person was the person of whom he had made
such mysterious mention, though what the nature of his hold
upon my aunt could possibly be, I was quite unable to
imagine. After half an hour's cooling in the churchyard, I
saw the chariot coming back. The driver stopped beside me,
and my aunt was sitting in it alone.

She had not yet sufficiently recovered from her agitation
to be quite prepared for the visit we had to make. She
desired me to get into the chariot, and to tell the coachman
to drive slowly up and down a little while. She said no more,
except, "My dear child, never ask me what it was, and don't
refer to it," until she had perfectly regained her composure,
when she told me she was quite herself now, and we might
get out. On her giving me her purse, to pay the driver, I



133



found that all the guineas were gone, and only the loose silver
remained.

Doctors' Commons was approached by a little low archway.
Before we had taken many paces down the street beyond it,
the noise of the city seemed to melt, as if by magic, into a
softened distance. A few dull courts, and narrow ways,
brought us to the sky-lighted offices of Spenlow and Jorkins;
in the vestibule of which temple, accessible to pilgrims with-
out the ceremony of knocking, three or four clerks were at
work as copyists. One of these, a little dry man, sitting by
himself, who wore a stiff brown wig that looked as if it were
made of gingerbread, rose to receive my aunt, and show us
into Mr. Spenlow's room.

"Mr. Spenlow's in Court, Ma'am," said the dry man;
"it 's an Arches day; but it *s close by, and I '11 send for him
directly."

As we were left to look about us while Mr. Spenlow was
fetched, I availed myself of the opportunity. The furniture
of the room was old-fashioned and dusty ; and the green baize
on the top of the writing-table had lost all its colour, and was as
withered and pale as an old pauper. There were a great many
bundles of papers on it, some indorsed as Allegations, and
some (to my surprise) as Libels, and some as being in the
Consistory Court, and some in the Arches Court, and some in
the Prerogative Court, and some in the Admiralty Court, and
some in the Delegates' Court; giving me occasion to wonder
much , how many Courts there might be in the gross, and how
long it would take to understand them all. Besides these,
there were sundry immense manuscript Books of Evidence
taken on affidavit, strongly bound, and tied together in mas-
sive sets, a set to each cause, as if every cause were a history
in ten or twenty volumes. All this looked tolerably expensive,
I thought, and gave me an agreeable notion of a proctor's



134



business. I was casting my eyes with increasing complacency
over these and many similar objects, when hasty footsteps
were heard in the room outside, and Mr. Spenlow, in a black
gown trimmed witli white fur, came hurrying in, taking off
his hat as he came.

He was a little light-haired gentleman, with undeniable
boots , and the stiffest of white cravats and shirt- collars. He
was buttoned up, mighty trim and tight, and must have taken
a great deal of pains with his whiskers , which were accurately
curled. His gold watch-chain was so massive, that a fancy
came across me, that he ought to have a sinewy golden arm,
to draw it out with , like those which are put up over the gold-
beaters' shops. He was got up with such care, and was so
stiff, that he could hardly bend himself; being obliged, when
he glanced at some papers on his desk, after sitting down in
his chair, to move his whole body, from the bottom of his
spine, like Punch.

I had previously been presented by my aunt, and had been
courteously received. He now said :

"And so, Mr. Copperfield, you think of entering into our
profession? I casually mentioned to Miss Trotwood, when I
had the pleasure of an interview with her the other day," —
with another inclination of his body — Punch again — "that
there was a vacancy here. Miss Trotwood was good enough
to mention that she had a nephew who was her peculiar care,
and for whom she was seeking to provide genteelly in life.
That nephew, I believe, I have now the pleasure of" —
Punch again.

I bowed my acknowledgments, and said, my aunt had
mentioned to me that there was that opening, and that I be-
lieved I should like it very much. That I was strongly in-
clined to like it, and had taken immediately to the proposal.
That I could not absolutely pledge myself to like it, until I



135



knew something more about it. That although it was little
else than a matter of form, I presumed I should have an op-
portunity of trjing how I liked it, before I bound myself to it
irrevocably.

"Oh surely i surely!" said Mr. Spenlow. "We always,
in this house, propose a month — an initiatory month. I should
be happy, myself, to propose two months — three — an inde-
finite period, in fact — but I have a partner. Mr. Jorkins."

"And the premium, Sir," I returned, "is a thousand
pounds?"

"And the premium. Stamp included, is a thousand
pounds," said Mr. Spenlow. "As I have mentioned to Miss
Trotwood, I am actuated by no mercenary considerations;
few men are less so, I believe; but Mr. Jorkins has his opi-
nions on these subjects, and I am bound to respect Mr. Jor-
kins's opinions. Mr. Jorkins thinks a thousand pounds too
little, in short."

"I suppose, Sir," said I, still desiring to spare my aunt,
"that it is not the custom here, if an articled clerk were par-
ticularly useful, and made himself a perfect master of his pro-
fession — " I could not help blushing, this looked so like
praising myself — "I suppose it is not the custom, in thelatiT
years of his time, to allow him any — *'

Mr. Spenlow, by a great eSbrt, just lifted his head far
enough out of his cravat to shake it, and answered, anticipa-
ting the word "salary : "

"No. I will not say what consideration I might give to
that point myself, Mr. Copperfield, if I were unfettered.
Mr. Jorkins i? immovable."

I was quite dismayed by the idea of this terrible Jorkins.
But I found out afterwards that he was a mild man , of a heavy
temperament, whose place in the business was to keep himself
in the back-ground, and be constantly exhibited by name as



136



the most obdurate and ruthless of men. If a clerk wanted his
salary raised, Mr. Jerkins wouldn't listen to such a propo-
sition. If a client were slow to settle his bill of costs, Mr.
Jorkius was resolved to have it paid; and however painful
these things might be (and always were) to the feelings of
Mr. Spenlow, Mr. Jorkins would have his bond. The heart
and hand of the good angel Spenlow would have been always
open, but for the restraining demon Jorkins. As I have
grown older, I think I have had experience of some other
houses doing business on the principle of Spenlow and
Jorkins !

It was settled that I should begin ray month's probation as
soon as I pleased, and that my aunt need neither remain in
town nor return at its expiration, as the articles of agreement,
of which I was to be the subject, could easily be sent to her at
home for her signature. When we had got so far, Mr. Spen-
low offered to take me into Court then and there, and show
me what sort of place it was. As I was willing enough to know,
we went out with this object, leaving my aunt behind; who
would trust herself, she said, in no such place, and who, 1
think, regarded all Courts of Law as a sort of powder-mills
that might blow up at any time.

Mr. Spenlow conducted me through a paved courtyard
formed of grave brick houses, which I inferred, from the
Doctors* names upon the doors, to be the official abiding-
places of the learned advocates of whom Steerforth had told
me; and into a large dull room, not unlike a chapel to my
thinking, on the left hand. The upper part of this room was
fenced off from the rest; and there, on the two sides of a
raised platform of the horse-shoe form, sitting on easy old-
fashioned dining-room chairs, were sundry gentlemen in red
gowns and grey wigs, whom I found to be the Doctors afore-
said. Blinking over a little desk like a pulpit-desk, in the



137



curve of the horse-shoe, was an old gentleman, whom, if I
had seen him in an aviary, I should certainly have taken for
an owl, but who I learned was the presiding judge. In the
space within the horse-shoe, lower than these, that is to say,
on about the level of the lloor, were sundry other gentlemen,
of Mr. Spenlow's rank, and dressed like him in black gowns
with white fur upon them, sitting at a long green table.
Their cravats were in general stiff, I thought, and their looks
haughty; but in this last respect I presently conceived I had
done them an injustice, for when two or three of them had to
rise and answer a question of the presiding dignitary, I never
saw anything more sheepish. The public, represented by a
boy with a comforter, and a shabby-genteel man secretly
eating crumbs out of his coat pockets, was warming itself at
a stove in the centre of the Court. The languid stillness of
the place was only broken by the chirping of this fire and by
the voice of one of the Doctors, who was wandering slowly
through a perfect library of evidence, and stopping to put up,
from time to time, at little roadside inns of argument on the
journey. Altogether, I have never, on any occasion, made
one at such a cosey, dosey, old-fashioned, tirae-forgotteu,
sleepy-headed little family-party in all my life; and I felt it
would be quite a soothing opiate to belong to it in any cha-
racter — except perhaps as a suitor.

Very well satisfied with the dreamy nature of this retreat, 1
informed Mr. Spenlow that I had seen enough for that time,
and we rejoined my aunt; in company with whom T presently
departed from the Commons, fueling very young when I went
out of Spenlow and Jorklns's, on account of the clerks poking
one another with their pens to point me out.

We arrived at Lincoln's Inn Fields without any new ad-
ventures, except encountering an unlucky donkey In a coster-
monger's cart, who suggested painful associations to my aunt.



138



We had another long talk about my plans, when we were safe-
ly housed; and as I knew she was anxious to get home, and,
between fire, food, and pickpockets, could never be consider-
ed at her ease for half-an-hour in London, I urged her not to
be uncomfortable on my account, but to leave me to take care
of myself.

"I have not been here a week to-morrow, without con-
sidering that too, my dear/' she returned. "There is a fur-
nished little set of chambers to be let In the Adelphi, Trot,
which ought to suit you to a marvel."

With this brief introduction, she produced from her pocket
an advertisement, carefully cut out of a newspaper, setting
forth that in Buckingham Street In the Adelphi there was to be
let, furnished, with a view of the river, a singularly desirable,
and compact set of chambers, forming a genteel residence for
a young gentleman, a member of one of the Inns of Court, or
otherwise, with Immediate possession. Terms moderate, and
could be taken for a month only if required.

"Why, this is the very thing, aunt I " said I, flushed with the
possible dignity of living In chambers.

"Then come," replied my aunt, immediately resuming the
bonnet she had a minute before laid aside. "We '11 go and
look at 'em,"

Away we went. The advertisement directed us to apply to
Mrs. Crupp on the premises, and we rung the area bell, which
we supposed to communicate with Mrs. Crupp. It was not
until we had rung three or four times that we could prevail on
Mrs. Crupp to communicate with us, but at last she appeared,
being a stout lady with a flounce of flannel petticoat below a
nankeen gown.

"Let us see these chambers of yours, if you please, Ma'am,"
said my aunt.



139



"For this gentleman?" said Mrs. Crupp, feeling in her
pocket for her keys.

*' Yes, for ray neplicw," said my aunt.

"And a sweet set they is for sich ! " said Mrs. Crupp.

So we went up-stairs.

They were on the top of the house — a great point with my
aunt, being near the fire-escape — and consisted of a little
half-blind entrj' where you could see hardly anything, a little
stone-blind pantry where you could see nothing at all, a sit-
ting-room, and a bed-room. The furniture was rather faded,
but quite good enough for me ; and, sure enough, the river was
outside the windows.

As I was delighted with the place, my aunt and Mrs. Crupp
withdrew Into the pantry to discuss the terms, while I remain-
ed on the sitting-room sofa, hardly daring to think it possible
that I could be destined to live in such a noble residence.
After a single combat of some duration they returned, and I
saw, to my joy, both In Mrs. Crupp's countenance and in my
aunt's, that the deed was done.

" Is it the last occupant's furniture? " inquired my aunt.

*' Yes It is, Ma'am," said Mrs. Crupp.

" What 's become of himV" asked my aunt.

Mrs. Crupp was taken with a troublesome cough, in the
midst of which she articulated with much difficulty. "He was
took ill here. Ma'am, and — ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! dear me ! — and
he died."

"Hey I What did he die of ? " asked my aunt.

"Well, Ma'am, he died of drink," said Mrs. Crupp in con-
fidence. "And smoke."

"Smoke? You don't mean chimneys?" said my aunt.

"No, Ma'am," returned Mrs. Crupp. " Cigars and pipes."

*^'I7iat's not catching, Trot, at any rate," remarked my
aunt, turning to me.



140



"No, indeed," said I.

In short, my aunt, seeing how enraptured 1 was with the
premises, took them for a month, with leave to remain for
twelve months when that time was out. Mrs. Crupp was to
find linen, and to cook; every other necessary was already
provided ; and Mrs. Crupp expressly intimated that she should
always yearn towards me as a son. I was to take possession
the day after to-morrow, and Mrs. Crupp said thank Heaven
she had now found summun she could care for I

On our way back, my aunt informed me how she confidently
trusted that the life I was now to lead would make me firm and
self-reliant, which was all I wanted. She repeated this several
times next day, in the intervals of our arranging for the trans-
mission of my clothes and books from Mr. Wickfield's; relative
to which, and to all my late holiday, I wrote a long letter to
Agnes, of which my aunt took charge, as she was to leave on
the succeeding day. Not to lengthen these particulars, I need
only add, that she made a handsome provision for all my pos-
sible wants during my month of trial; that Steerforth, to my
great disappointment and hers too , did not make his ap-
pearance before she went away ; that I saw her safely seated in
the Dover coach, exulting in the coming discomfiture of the
vagrant donkeys, with Janet at her side; and that when the
coach was gone, I turned my face to the Adelphi, pondering
on the old days when I used to roam about its subterranean
arches, and on the happy changes which had brought me to the
surface.



CHAPTER VIII.

My Grsl dissipatioD.

It was a wonderfully fine thing to have that lofty castle to
myself, and to feel, when I shut my outer door, like Robinson
Crusoe, when he had got Into his fortification, and pulled his
ladder up after him. It was a wonderfully fine thing to walk
about town with the key of my house in my pocket, and to
know that I could ask any fellow to come home, and make
quite sure of its being inconvenient to nobody, if it were not
so to me. It was a wonderfully fine thing to let myself in and
out, and to come and go without a word to any one, and to
ring Mrs. Crupp up, gasping, from the depths of the earth,
when I wanted her — and when she was disposed to come.
All this, I say, was wonderfully fine; but I must say, too,
that there were times when it was very dreary.

It was fine in the morning, particularly in the fine morn-
ings. It looked a very fresh, free life, by daylight: still
fresher, and more free, by sunlight. But as the day declined,
the life seemed to go down too. I don't know how it was; it
seldom looked well by candle-light. I wanted somebody to
talk to, then. I missed Agnes. I found a tremendous blank,
in the place of that smiling repository of my confidence.
Mrs. Crupp appeared to be a long way ofi*. I thought about
my predecessor, who had died of drink and smoke; and I
could have wished he had been so good as to live, and not
bother me with his decease.

After two days and nights, I felt as if I had lived there for
a year, and yet I was not an hour older, but was quite as much
tormented by my own youthfulness as ever.


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Online LibraryCharles DickensThe personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 2) → online text (page 10 of 27)