Charles Dickens.

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

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142



Steerforth not yet appearing, which induced me to appre-
hend that he must be ill, I left the Commons early on the
third day, and walked out to Ilighgate. Mrs. Steerforth was
very glad to see me, and said that he had gone away with one
of his Oxford friends to see another who lived near St. Albans,
but that she expected hira to return to-morrow. I was so
fond of him, that I felt quite jealous of his Oxford friends.

As she pressed me to stay to dinner, I remained, and I
believe we talked about nothing but hira all day. I told her
how much the people liked hira at Yarmouth, and what a
delightful companion he had been. Miss Dartle was full of
hints and mysterious questions, but took a great interest in
all our proceedings there, and said, "Was it really, though? "
and so forth, so often, that she got everything out of me she
wanted to know. Her appearance was exactly what I have
described it, when I first saw her; but the society of the two
ladies was so agreeable, and carae so natural to me, that I
felt myself falling a little in love with her. I could not help
thinking, several times in the course of the evening, and par-
ticularly when I walked home at night, what delightful com-
pany she would be in Buckingham Street.

I was taking my coffee and roll in the morning, before
going to the Commons — and I may observe in this place that
it is surprising how mucli coffee Mrs. Crupp used, and how
weak it was, considering — when Steerforth himself walked
in, to my unbounded joy.

"My dear Steerforth," cried I, "I began to think I should
never see you again 1 "

"I was carried off, by force of arms," said Steerforth,
" the very next morning after I got home. Why, Daisy, what
a rare old bachelor you are here ! "

I showed him over the establisment, not omitting the
pantry, with no little pride, and he commended it highly.



143



*'I tell you what, old boy,'* he added, "I shall make quite
a town -house of this place, unless you give me notice to
quit."

This was a delightful hearing. I told him if he waited for
that, he would have to wait till doomsday.

"But you shall have some breakfast!" said I, with my
hand on the bell-rope, "and Mrs. Crupp shall make you some
fresh coffee, and I '11 toast you some bacon in a bachelor's
Dutch-oven that I have got here."

"No, nol" said Steerforth. "Don't ring! I can't! I
am going to breakfast with one of tliese fellows who is at the
Piazza Hotel, in Covent Garden."

"But you '11 come back to dinner? " said I.

"I can't, upon my life. There 's nothing I should like
better, but I must remain with these two fellows. We are all
three off together to-morrow morning."

"Then bring them here to dinner," Ireturned. "Do you
think they would come?"

"Oh! they would come fast enough," said Steerforth;
"but we should inconvenience you. You had better come
and dine with us somewhere."

I would not by any means consent to this, for it occurred
to me that I really ought to have a little housewarming, and
that there never could be a better opportunity. I had a new
pride in my rooms after his approval of them, and burned
with a desire to develop their utmost resources. I therefore
made him promise positively in tlie names of his two friends,
and we appointed six o'clock as the dinner-hour.

When he was gone, I rang for Mrs. Crupp, and acquainted
her with my desperate design. Mrs. Crupp said, in the first
place, of course it was well known she couldn't be expected
to wait, but she knew a handy young man, who she thouglit
could be prevailed upon to do it, and whose terms would bo



144



6ve shillings , and what I pleased. I said, certainly we would
have him. Next, Mi-s. Crupp said it was clear she couldn't
be in two places at once (which I felt to be reasonable), and
that "a young gal'* stationed in the pantry with a bed-room
candle, there never to desist from washing plates , would be
indispensable. I said, what would be the expense of this
young female, and Mrs. Crupp said she supposed eighteen-
pence would neither make me nor break me. I said I sup-
posed not; and that was settled. Then Mrs. Crupp said,
Now about the dinner.

It was a remarkable instance of want of forethought on the
part of the ironmonger who had made Mrs. Crupp's kitchen
fire-place, that it was capable of cooking nothing but chops
and mashed potatoes. As to a fish-kittle, Mrs. Crupp said,
well! would I only come and look at the range. She couldn't
say fairer than that. Would I come and look at it? As I
should not have been much the wiser if I had looked at it, I
declined, and said, "Never mind fish." But Mrs. Crupp
said, Don't say that; oysters was in, and why not them? So
that was settled. Mi's. Crupp then said what she would recom-
mend would be this. A pair of hot roast fowls — from the
pastry-cook's ; a dish of stewed beef, with vegetables — from
the pastry-cook's ; two little corner things, as a raised pie and
a dish of kidneys — from the pastry-cook's ; a tart, and (if I
liked) a shape of jelly — from the pastry-cook's. This, Mrs.
Crupp said, would leave her at full liberty to concentrate her
mind on the potatoes, and to serve up the cheese and celery
as she could wish to see It done.

I acted on Mrs. Crupp's opinion, and gave the order at the
pastry-cook's myself. Walking along the Strand, afterwards,
and observing a hard mottled substance in the window of a
hara and beef shop, which resembled marble, but was labelled
" Mock Turtle," I went in and bought a slab of It, which I have



145



since seen reason to believe would have sufficed for fifteen
people. This preparation, Mrs. Crupp, after some difficulty,
consented to warm up ; and it slirunk so much in a liquid state,
that we found it what Steerforth called "rather a tight fit" for
four.

These preparations happily completed, I bought a little
dessert in Covent Garden Market, and gave a rather extensive
order at a retail wine-merchant's in that vicinity. When I
came home in the afternoon, and saw the bottles drawn up in
a square on the pantr} - floor, they looked so numerous (though
there were two missing, which made Mrs. Crupp very uncom-
fortable), that I was absolutely frightened at them.

One of Steerforth's friends was named Grainger, and the
other Markham. They were both verj' gay and lively fellows ;
Grainger, something older than Steerforth; Markham, youth-
ful-looking, andl should say not more than twenty. I observed
that the latter always spoke of himself indefinitely, as "a
man," and seldom or never in the first person singular.

"A man might get on very well here, Mr. Copperfield,"
said Markham — meaning himself.

"It's not a bad situation," said I, "and the rooms are
really commodious."

"I hope you have both brought appetites with you?" said
Steerforth.

"Upon my honour," returned Markham, "town seems to
sharpen a man's appetite, A man is hungry all day long. A
man is perpetually eating."

Being a little embarrassed at first, and feeling much too
young to preside, I made Steerforth take the head of the table
when dinner was announced, and seated myself opposite to
him. Everj'thing was verj' good; we did not spare the wine;
and he exerted himself so brilliantly to make the thing pass of!
well, that there was no pause in our festivity. I was not quite
David Cnpperfipld. 11. ^^



146



such good company during dinner, as I could have wished to
be, for my chair was opposite the door, and my attention was
distracted by observing that the handy young man went out of
the room very often, and that his shadow always presented
itself, immediately afterwards, on the wall of the entry, with a
bottle at its mouth. The "young gal" likewise occasioned
me some uneasiness: not so much by neglecting to wash the
plates, as by breaking them. For being of an inquisitive dis-
position, and unable to confine herself (as her positive instruc-
tions were) to the pantry, she was constantly peering in at us,
and constantly imagining herself detected; in which belief, she
several times retired upon the plates (with which she had care-
fully paved the floor), and did a great deal of destruction.

These, however, were small drawbacks, and easily for-
gotten when the cloth was cleared, and the dessert put on the
table; at which period of the entertainment the handy young
man was discovered to be speechless. Giving him private di-
rections to seek the society of Mrs, Crupp, and to remove the
"young gal" to the basement also, I abandoned myself to
enjoyment,

I began, by being singularly cheerful and light-hearted;
all sorts of half-forgotten things to talk about, came rushing
into my mind, and made me hold forth in a most unwonted
manner. I laughed heartily at my own jokes, and everybody
else's; called Steerforth to order for not passing the wine;
made several engagements to go to Oxford; announced that 1
meant to have a dinner party exactly like that, once a week
until further notice; and madly took so much snuff out of
Grainger's box, that I was obliged to go into the pantry, and
have a private fit of sneezing ten minutes long,

I went on, by passing the wine faster and faster yet, and
continually starting up with a corkscrew to open more wine,
long before any was needed. I proposed Steerforth's health.



Ii7



I said he was my dearest friend, the protector of my boyhood,
and the companion of my prime. I said I was delighted to pro-
pose his health. I said I owed him more obligations than I
could ever repay, and held him in a higher admiration than I
could ever express. I finished by saying, "I '11 give you
Steerforth! God bless him! Hurrah!" We gave him three
times three, and another, and a good one to finish with. 1
broke my glass in going round the table to shake hands with
him, and I said (in two words) "Steerforthyou'rethegui-
dingstarofmyexist ence."

I went on, by finding suddenly that somebody was in tlie
middle of a song. Markham was the singer, and he sang
"When the heart of a man is depressed with care." He said,
wlien he had sung it, he would give us "Woman!" I took
objection to that, and I couldn't allow it. I said it was not a
respectful way of proposing the toast, and I would never permit
that toast to be drunk in my house otherwise than as "The
Ladies 1 " I was very high with him, mainly I think because I
saw Steerforth and Grainger laughing at me — or at him —
or at both of us. Pie said a man was not to be dictated to. I
said a man was. He said a man was not to be insulted, then.
I said he was right there — never under my roof, where the
Lares were sacred, and the laws of hospitality paramount. He
said it was no derogation from a man's dignity to confess that
I was a devilish good fellow. I instantly proposed his health.

Somebody was smoking. We were all smoking. / was
smoking, and trying to suppress a rising tendency to shudder.
Steerforth had made a speech about me, in the course of which
I had been affected almost to tears. I returned thanks, and
hoped the present company would dine with me to-morrow,
and the day after — each day at five o'clock, that we might
enjoy the pleasures of conversation and society through a long
evening. I felt called upon to propose an individual. I would

10*



148



give them my aunt. Miss Betsey Trotwood, the best of
her sex I

Somebody was leaning out of my bed-room window, re-
freshing his forehead against the cool stone of the parapet, and
feeling the air upon his face. It was myself. I was addressing
myself as "Copperfield," and saying, "Why did you try to
smoke? You might have known you couldn't do it." Now,
somebody was unsteadily contemplating his features in the
looking-glass. That was I too. 1 was very pale in the looking-
glass ; my eyes had a vacant appearance ; and my hair — only
my hair, nothing else — looked drunk.

Somebody said to me, "Let us go to the theatre, Copper-
fieldl" There was no bed-room before me, but again the
jingling table covered with glasses; the lamp; Grainger on
my right hand, Markham on my left, and Steerforth opposite

— all sitting in a mist , and a long way off. The theatre ? To
be sure. The very thing. Come along I But they must
excuse me if I saw everybody out first, and turned the lamp off

— in case of fire.

Owing to some confusion in the dark, the door was gone.
I was feeling for it in the window-curtains, when Steerforth,
laughing, took me by the arm and led me out. We went
down-stairs, one behind another. Near the bottom, some-
body fell, and rolled down. Somebody else said it was Cop-
perfield. I was angry at that false report, until, finding my-
self on my back in the passage, I began to think there might be
some foundation for it.

A very foggy night, with great rings round the lamps in the
streets ! There was an indistinct talk of its being wet. / con-
sidered it frosty. Steerforth dusted me under a lamp-post,
and put my hat into shape, which somebody produced from
somewhere in a most extraordinary manner, for I hadn't had it



149



on before. Steerforth then said, "You are all right, Copper-
field, are you not?" and I told him, "Neverberrer."

A man, sitting in a pigeon-hole-place, looked out of the
fog, and took money from somebody, inquiring if I was one of
the gentlemen paid for, and appearing rather doubtful (as I
remember in the glimpse I had of him) whether to take the
money for me or not. Shortly afterwards, we were very high
up in a very hot theatre, looking down into a large pit, that
seemed to me to smoke; the people with whom it was cram-
med were so indistinct. There was a great stage, too, looking
very clean and smooth after the streets ; and there were people
upon it, talking about something or other, but not at all intel-
ligibly. There was an abundance of bright lights, and there
was music, and there were ladies down in the boxes, and I
don't know what more. The whole building looked to me, as
if it were learning to swim ; it conducted itself in such an unac-
countable manner, when I tried to steady it.

On somebody's motion, we resolved to go down-stairs to
the dress-boxes, where the ladies were. A gentleman lounging,
full dressed, on a sofa, with an opera-glass in his hand, passed
before my view, and also my own figure at full length in a glass.
Then I was being ushered into one of these boxes , and found
myself saying something as I sat down, and people about me
crying "Silence! " to somebody, and ladies casting indignant
glances at me , and — what ! yes ! — Agnes , sitting on the seat
before me, in the same box, with a lady and gentleman beside
her, whom I didn't know. I see her face now, better than I
did then I dare say, with its indelible look of regret and won-
der turned upon me.

"Agnes!" I said, thickly, "Lorblessmer I Agnes!"

"Hush! Pray!" she answered, I could not conceive why.
"You disturb the company. Look at the stage ! "

I tried, on her injunction, to fix it, and to hear something



150



of what was going on there, but quite in vain. I looked at her
again by-and-by , and saw her shrink into her corner, and put
her gloved hand to her forehead.

"Agnes!" I said, "rmafraidyou'renorwell."

"Yes, yes. Do not mind me, Trotwood," she returned.
"Listen! Are you going away soon?"

" Amigoarawaysoo ? " I repeated.

"Yes."

I had a stupid intention of replying that 1 was going to wait,
to hand her down-stairs. I suppose I expressed it, somehow ;
for after she had looked at me attentively for a little while, she
appeared to understand, and replied in a low tone :

"I know you will do as I ask you, if I tell you I am very
earnest in it. Go away now, Trotwood, for my sake, and ask
your friends to take you home."

She had so far improved me, for the time, that though I
was angry with her, I felt ashamed, and with a short *' Goori !"
(which I intended for "Good night!") got up and went away.
They followed, and I stepped at once out of the box-door into
ray bed-room, where only Steerforth was with me, helping me
to undress, and where I was by turns telling him that Agnes
was my sister, and adjuring him to bring the corkscrew, that I
might open another bottle of wine.

How somebody, lying in my bed, lay sa}ing and doing all
this over again, at cross purposes, in a feverish dream all night
— the bed a rocking sea that was never still! How, as that
somebody slowly settled down into myself, did I begin to
parch , and feel as if my outer covering of skin were a hard
board; my tongue the bottom of an empty kettle, furred with
long service, and burning up over a slow fire ; the palms of my
hands, hot plates of metal which no ice could cool!

But the agony of mind, the remorse, and shajnc I felt, when
I became conscious next day I My horror of having commit-



151



ted a thousand offences I had forgotten, and which nothing
could ever expiate — my recollection of that indelible look
which Agnes had given me — the torturing impossibility of
communicating with her, not knowing, Beast that I was, how
she came to be in London, or where she stayed — my disgust
of the very sight of the room where the revel had been held —
my racking head — the smell of smoke, the sight of glasses,
the impossibility of going out, or even getting upl Oh, what
a day it was I

Oh, what an evening, when I sat down by my fire to a basin
of mutton broth , dimpled all over with fat, and thought I was
going the way of my predecessor, and should succeed to his
dismal story as well as to his chambers, and had half a mind to
rush express to Dover and reveal all I What an evening, when
Mrs. Crupp, coming in to take away the broth-basin, produced
one kidney on a cheese-plate as the entire remains of yester-
day's feast, and I was really inclined to fall upon her nankeen
breast, and say, in heartfelt penitence, "Oh, Mrs. Crupp, Mrs.
Crupp, never mind the broken meats ! I am very miserable ! "
— only that I doubted, even at that pass, if Mrs. Crupp were
quite the sort of woman to confide in 1



CHAPTER IX.

Good and bad angels.

I WAS going out at my door on the morning after that
deplorable day of headache, sickness, and repentance, with
an odd confusion in my mind relative to the date of my dinner-
party, as if a body of Titans had taken an enormous lever and
pushed the day before yesterday some months back, when
I saw a ticket-porter coming up-stairs, with a letter in his
hand. He was taking his time about his errand, then; but
when he saw me on the top of the staircase, looking at him
over the bannisters, he swung into a trot, and came up
panting as if he had run himself into a state of exhaustion.

"T. Copperfield, Esquire," said the ticket-porter, touch-
ing his hat with his little cane.

I could scarcely lay claim to the name: I was so disturbed
by the conviction that the letter came from Agnes. However,
I told him I was T. Copperfield, Esquire, and he believed it,
and gave me the letter, which he said required an answer.
I shut him out on the landing to wait for the answer, and went
into my chambers again, in such a nervous state that I was fain
to lay the letter down on my breakfast-table, and familiarise
myself with the outside of it a little, before I could resolve to
break the seal.

I found, when I did open it, that it was a very kind note,
containing no reference to ray condition at the theatre. All
it said, was, "My dear Trotwood. I am staying at the house
of papa's agent, Mr. Waterbrook, in Ely-place, Holborn.
Will you come and see me to-day, at any time you like to
appoint? Ever yours aflTectionately, Agnes."



15:



It took me such a long time to -write an answer at all to my
satisfaction, that I don't know what the ticket-porter can have
thought, unless he thought I was learning to write. I must
have written half a dozen answers at least. I began one,
"How can I ever hope, my dear Agnes, to efface from your
remembrance the disgusting impression" — there I didn't like
it, and then I tore it up. I began another, "Shakspeare has
observed, my dear Agnes, how strange it is that a man should
put an enemy into his mouth" — that reminded me of Mark-
ham, and it got no farther. I even tried poetry. I began
one note, in a six-syllable line, *'0h do not remember" —
but that associated itself with the fifth of November, and
became an absurdity. After many attempts, I wrote, "My
dear Agnes. Your letter is like you , and what could I say of
it that would be higher praise than that? I will come at four
o'clock. Affectionately and sorrowfully, T. C." With this
missive (which I was in twenty minds at once about recalling,
as soon as it was out of my hands), the ticket-porter at last
departed.

If the day were half as tremendous to any other profes-
sional gentleman in Doctors' Commons as it was to me, I sin-
cerely believe he made some expiation for his share in that
rotten old ecclesiastical cheese. Altliough I left the office at
half-past three, and was prowhng about the place of appoint-
ment within a few minutes afterwards, the appointed time was
exceeded by a full quarter of an hour, according to the clock
of St. Andrew's, Holborn, before I could muster up sufficient
desperation to pull the private bell-handle let into the left-
hand door-post of Mr. Waterbrook's house.

The professional business of Mr. Waterbrook's establish-
ment was done on the ground-floor, and the genteel business
(of which there was a good deal) in the upper part of the



154



building. I was shown into a pretty but rather close drawing-
room, and there sat Agnes, netting a purse.

She looked so quiet and good, and reminded me so
strongly of my airy fresh school days at Canterbury, and the
sodden, smoky, stupid wretch I had been the other night,
that, nobody being by, I yielded to my self-reproach and
shame, and — in short, made a fool of myself. I cannot deny
that I shed tears. To this hour I am undecided whether it was
upon the whole the wisest thing I could have done, or the
most ridiculous.

"If it had been any one but you, Agnes," saidi, turning
away my head, "I should not have minded it half so much.
But that it should have been you who saw me I I almost wish
I had been dead, first."

She put her hand — its touch was like no other hand —
upon my arm for a moment; and I felt so befriended and com-
forted, that I could not help moving it to my lips, and grate-
fully kissing it.

"Sit down," said Agnes, cheerfully. "Don't be unhappy,
Trotwood. If you cannot confidently trust me, whom will
you trust?"

"Ah, Agnes!" I returned. "You are my good Angel!"

She smiled rather sadly, I thought, and shook her head.

"Yes, Agnes, my good Angel! Always my good Angel ! "

"If I were, indeed, Trotwood," she returned, "there is
one thing that I should set my heart on very much."

I looked at her inquiringly; but already with a foreknow-
ledge of her meaning,

"On warning you," said Agnes, with a steady glance,
"against your bad Angel."

"My dear Agnes," Ibegan, " if you mean Steerforth — "

"I do, Trotwood," she returned.

"Then, Agnes, you wrong him very much. He my bad



155



Angel, or anyone's 1 He, anything but a guide, a support,
and a friend to me I My dear Agnes I Now, is it not unjust,
and unlike you, to judge him from what you saw of me the
other night?"

"I do not judge him from what I saw of you the other
night," she quietly replied.

"From what, then?"

"From many things — trifles in themselves, but they do not
seem to me to be so, when they are put together. I judge
him, partly from your account of him, Trotwood, and your
character, and the influence he has over you."

There was always something in her modest voice that
seemed to touch a chord within me, answering to that sound
alone. It was always earnest; but when it was very earnest,
as it was now, there was a thrill in it that quite subdued me.
I sat looking at her as she cast her eyes down on her work;
I sat seeming still to listen to her; and Steerforth, in spite of
all my attachment to him , darkened in that tone.

"It is very bold in me," said Agnes, looking up again,
"who have lived in such seclusion, and can know so little of
the world, to give you my advice so confidently, or even to
have this strong opinion. But I know in what it is engendered,
Trotwood, — in how true a remembrance of our having grown
up together, and in how true an interest in all relating to you.
It is that which makes me bold. I am certain that what I say
is right. I am quite sure it is. I feel as if it were some one
else speaking to you, and not I, when I caution you that you
have made a dangerous friend."

Again I looked at her, again I listened to her after she was


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