Charles Dickens.

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

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silent, and again his image, though it was still fixed in my
heart, darkened.

"I am not so unreasonable as to expect," said Agnes,
resuming her usual tone, after a little while, "that you will,



156



or that you can, at once, change any sentiment that has
become a conviction to you; least of all a sentiment that
is rooted in your trusting disposition. You ought not hastily
to do that. I only ask you, Trotwood, if you ever think
of me — I mean" with a quiet smile, for I was going to
interrupt her, and she knew why "as often as you think of
me — to think of what I have said. Do you forgive me for
all this?"

"I will forgive you, Agnes," I replied, "when you
come to do Steerforth justice, and to like him as well as
I do."

" Not until then ? " said Agnes.

I saw a passing shadow on her face when I made this
mention of him, but she returned my smile, and we were
again as unreserved in our mutual confidence as of old.

"And when, Agnes," said I, "will you forgive me the
other night?"

" When I recall it," said Agnes.

She would have dismissed the subject so, but I was
too full of it to allow that, and insisted on telling her
how it happened that I had disgraced myself, and what
chain of accidental circumstances had had the theatre for
its final link. It was a great relief to me to do this, and
to enlarge on the obligation that I owed to Steerforth for
his care of me when I was unable to take care of myself.

"You must not forget," said Agnes, calmly changing
the conversation as soon as I had concluded, "that you are
always to tell me, not only when you fall into trouble, but
when you fall in love. Who has succeeded to Miss Larkins,
Trotwood?"

"No one, Agnes."

"Some one, Trotwood, said Agnes, laughing, and
holding up her finger.



157



**No, Agnes, upon my -word! There is a lady, cer-
tainly, at Mrs. Steerforth's house, -who is very clever, and
whom I like to talk to — Miss Dartle — but I don't adore
her."

Agnes laughed again at her own penetration, and told
me that if I were faithful to her in my confidence she thought
she should keep a little register of my violent attachments,
with the date, duration, and termination of each, like the
table of the reigns of the kings and queens, in the History
of England. Then she asked me if I had seen Uriah.

" Uriah Heep?" said I. "No. Is he in London?"

"He comes to the office down-stairs, every day," re-
turned Agnes. "He was in London a week before me. I am
afraid on disagreeable business, Trotwood."

"On some business that makes you uneasy, Agnes, I see,"
saidL "What can that be?"

Agnes laid aside her work, and replied, folding her hands
upon one another, and looking pensively at me out of those
beautiful soft eyes of hers :

"I believe he is going to enter into partnership with
papa."^

"What? Uriah? That mean, fawning fellow, worm him-
self into such promotion?" I cried, indignantly. "Have
you made no remonstrance about it, Agnes? Consider what
a connexion it is likely to be. You must speak out. You
must not allow your father to take such a mad step. You
must prevent it, Agnes, while there 's time."

Still looking at me, Agnes shook her head while I was
speaking, with a faint smile at my warmth: and then re-
plied:

"You remember our last conversation about papa? It
was not long after that — not more than two or three
days — when he gave me the first intimation of what I



158



tell you. It was sad to see him struggling between his desire
to represent it to me as a matter of choice on his part, and
his inability to conceal tliat it was forced upon him. I felt
very sorry.*'

"Forced upon him, Agnes! Who forces it upon him?"

"Uriah," she replied, after a moment's hesitation, "has
made himself indispensable to papa. He is subtle and watch-
ful. He has mastered papa's weaknesses, fostered them, and
taken advantage of them, until — to say all that I mean in a
word, Trotwood, until papa is afraid of him."

There was more that she might have said; more that she
knew, or that she suspected ; I clearly saw. I could not give
her pain by asking what it was, for I knew that she withheld it
from me, to spare her father. It had long been going on to
this, I was sensible: yes, I could not but feel, on the least
rellection, that it had been going on to this for a long time.
I remained silent.

"His ascendancy over papa," said Agnes, " is very great.
He professes humility and gi-atitude — with truth, perhaps:
I hope so — but his position is really one of power, and I fear
ho makes a hard use of his power."

I said he was a hound, which, at the moment, was a great
satisfaction to me.

"At the time I speak of, as the time when papa spoke to
me," pursued Agnes, "he had told papa that he was going
away; that he was very sorry, and unwilling to leave, but
that he had better prospects. Papa was very much depressed
then, and more bowed down by care than ever you or I liave
seen him; but he seemed relieved by this expedient of the
partnership, though at the same time he seemed hurt by it and
ashamed of it."

"And how did you receive it, Agnes? "

"I did, Trotwood," she replied, "what I hope was right.



159



Feeling sure that it was necessary for papa's peace that the
sacrifice should be made, I entreated him to make it. I said
it would lighten the load of his life — I hope it will! — and that
it would give me increased opportunities of being his com-
panion. Oh, TrotwoodI" cried Agnes, putting her hands
before her face, as her tears started on it, "I almost feel as
if I had been papa's enemy, instead of his loving child. For
I know how he has altered , in his devotion to me. I know
how he has narrowed the circle of his sympathies and duties,
in the concentration of his whole mind upon me. I know what
a multitude of things he has shut out for my sake, and how his
anxious tlioughts of me have shadowed his life, and weakened
his strengtli and energ)-, by turning them always upon one
idea. If I could ever set this right! If I could ever work
out his restoration, aslliave so innocently been the cause of
his decline!"

I had never before seen Agnes cry. I had seen tears in
her eyes when I had brought new honours home from school,
and I had seen them there when we last spoke about her
father, and I liad seen her turn her gentle head aside when
we took leave of one another; but I had never seen her grieve
like this. It made me so sorrj- that I could only say, in a
foolish, helpless manner, "Pray, Agnes, don't! Don't, my
dear sister!"

But Agnes was too superior to me in character and pur-
pose, as I know well now, whatever I might know or not know
then, to be long in need of my entreaties. The beautiful, calm
manner, which makes her so different in my remembrance
from everybody else, came back again, as if a cloud had
passed from a serene sky.

"We are not likely to remain alone much longer," said
Agnes, "and while I have an opportunity, let me earnestly
entreat you, Trotwood, to be friendly to Uriah. Don't



160



repel him. Don't resent (as I think you have a general dis-
position to do) what may be uncongenial to you in him. lie
may not deserve it, for we know no certain ill of him. In any
case, think first of papa and me 1 "

Agnes had no time to say more, for the room-door opened,
and Mrs. Waterbrook, who was a large lady — or who wore a
large dress: I don't exactly know which, for I don't know
which was dress and which was lady — came sailing in. I had
a dim recollection of having seen her at the theatre, as if 1
had seen her in a pale magic lantern; but she appeared to re-
member me perfectly, and still to suspect me of being in a
state of intoxication.

Finding by degrees, however, that I was sober, and
(I hope) that I was a modest young gentleman, Mrs. Water-
brook softened towards me considerably, and inquired,
firstly, if I went much into the parks, and secondly, if I
went much into society. On my replying to both these
questions in the negative, it occurred to me that I fell
again in her good opinion; but she concealed the fact grace-
fully, and invited me to dinner next day. I accepted the
Invitation, and took my leave ; making a call on Uriah in the
office as I went out, and leaving a card for him in his ab-
sence.

When I went to dinner next day, and, on the street-door
being opened, plunged in a vapour-bath of haunch of mutton,
I divined that I was not the only guest; for I immediately
identified the ticket-porter in disguise, assisting the family
servant, and waiting at the foot of the stairs to carry up my
name. He looked, to the best of his ability, when he asked
me for it confidentially, as if he had never seen me before;
but well did I know him, and well did he know me. Con-
science made cowards of us both.

I found Mr. Waterbrook to be a middle aged gentleman,



161



with a short throat, and a good deal of shirt-collar, who only
wanted a black nose to be the portrait of a pug-dog. He told
me he was happy to have the honour of making my acquain-
tance; and when I had paid my homage to Mrs. Waterbrook,
presented me, with much ceremony, to a very awful lady
in a black velvet dress, and a great black velvet hat, whom I
remember as looking like a near relation of Hamlet's — say
his aunt.

Mrs. Henry Spiker was this lady's name; and her hus-
band was there too; so cold a man, that his head, instead
of being grey, seemed to be sprinkled with hoar-frost.
Immense deference was shown to the Henry Splkers, male
and female; which Agues told me was on account of Mr.
Henry Spiker being solicitor to something or to somebody,
I forget what or which, remotely connected with the Trea-
sury.

I found Uriah Heep among the company, in a suit of black,
and in deep humility. He told me, when I shook hands with
him, that he was proud to be noticed by me, and that he
really felt obliged to me for my condescension. I could
have wished he had been less obliged to me, for he hovered
about me in his gratitude all the rest of the evening; and
whenever I said a word to Agnes, was sure, with his shadow-
less eyes and cadaverous face, to be looking gauntly down
upon us from behind.

There were other guests — all iced for the occasion, as it
struck me, like the wine. But, there was one who attracted
my attention before he came in, on account of my hearing
him announced as Mr. Traddles! My mind flew back to
Salem House; and could it be Tommy, I thought, who used
to draw the skeletons !

I looked for Mr. Traddles with unusual interest. He was
a sober, steady-looking young man of retiring manners, with
David Copperfield. 11. ' ^



162



a comic head of hair, and eyes that were ratlier wide open;
and he got into an obscure corner so soon, that I had some
difficulty in making him out. At length I had a good view of
him, and either my vision deceived me, or it was the old un-
fortunate Tommy.

I made my way to Mr. Waterbrook, and said, that I
believed I had the pleasure of seeing an old school-fellow
there.

"Indeed?" said Mr. Waterbrook, surprised. "You are
too young to have been at school with Mr. Henry Spiker? "

"Oh, I don't mean him I" I returned. "I mean the gen-
tleman named Traddles."

"Ohl Aye, age! Indeed 1" said my host, with much
diminished interest. "Possibly."

"If it 's really the same person," said I, glancing towards
him, "it was at a place called Salem House where we were
together, and he was an excellent fellow."

*'0h yes. Traddles is a good fellow," returned my host,
nodding his head with an air of toleration. " Traddles is quite
a good fellow."

"It 's a curious coincidence," said I.

"It is really," returned my host, "quite a coincidence,
that Traddles should be here at all: as Traddles was only
invited this morning, when the place at table, intended to be
occupied by Mrs. Henry Spiker's brother, became vacant, in
consequence of his indisposition. A very gentlemanly man,
Mrs. Henry Spiker's brother, Mr. Copperfield."

I murmured an assent, which was full of feeling, con-
sidering that I knew nothing at all about him; and I inquired
what Mr. Traddles was by profession.

"Traddles," returned Mr. Waterbrook, "is a young man
reading for the bar. Yes. He is quite a good fellow— no-
body's enemy but his own."



163



"Is he his own enemy?" saidi, sorry to hear this.
"AVell," returned Mr. Waterbrook, pursing up his mouth,
and playing with his watch-chain, in a comfortable, pro-
sperous sort of way. "I should say he was one of those men
who stand in their own light. Yes, I should say he would
never, for example, be worth five hundred pound. Traddles
was recommended to me, by a professional friend. Oh yes.
Yes. He has a kind of talent, for drawing briefs, and stating
a case in writing, plainly. I am able to throw something in
Traddles's way, in the course of the year; something — for
him — considerable. Oh yes. Yes."

I was much impressed by the extremely comfortable and
satisfied manner, in which Mr. Waterbrook delivered himself
of this little word "Yes," every now and then. There was
wonderful expression in it. It completely conveyed the Idea
of a man who had been born, not to say with a silver spoon,
but with a scaling-ladder, and had gone on mounting all the
heights of life one after another, until now he looked, from
the top of the fortifications , with the eye of a philosopher and
a patron, on the people down in the trenches.

My reflections on this theme were still in progress when
dinner was announced. Mr. Waterbrook went down with
Hamlet's aunt. Mr. Henry Spiker took Mrs. Waterbrook.
Agnes, whom I should have liked to take myself, was given
to a simpering fellow with weak legs. Uriah, Traddles, and
I, as the junior part of the company, went down last, how
we could. I was not so vexed at losing Agnes as I might have
been since it gave me an opportunity of making myself known
to Traddles on the stairs, who greeted me with great fervour :
while Uriah writhed with such obtrusive satisfaction and self-
abasement, that I could gladly have pitched him over the
bannisters.

Traddles and I were separated at table, being billeted in

11*



164



two remote corners: he in the glare of a red velvet lady; I,
in the gloom of Hamlet's aunt. The dinner was very long,
and the conversation was about the Aristocracy — and Blood.
Mrs. Waterbrook repeatedly told us, that if she had a weak-
ness, it was Blood.

It occurred to me several times that we should have got on
better, if we had not been quite so genteel. We were so ex-
ceedingly genteel, that our scope was very limited. A Mr.
and Mrs. Gulpidge were of the party, who had something to
do at second-hand (at least, Mr. Gulpidge had) with the law
business of the Bank ; and what with the Bank, and what with
the Treasury, we were as exclusive as the Court Circular.
To mend the matter, Hamlet's aunt had the family failing of
indulging in soliloquy, and held forth in a desultory manner,
by herself, on every topic that was introduced. These were
few enough, to be sure; but as we always fell back upon
Blood, she had as wide a field for abstract speculation as her
nephew himself.

We might have been a party of Ogres, the conversation
assumed such a sanguine complexion.

"I confess I am of Mrs. Waterbrook's opinion," said Mr.
Waterbrook, with his wine-glass at his eye. "Other things
are all very well in their way, but give me Blood! "

♦'Oh I There is nothing," observed Hamlet's aunt, "so
satisfactory to one! There is nothing that is so much one's
beau-ideal of — of all that sort of thing, speaking generally.
There are some low minds (not many, I am happy to believe,
but there are some) that would prefer to do what / should call
bow down before idols. Positively Idols! Before services,
intellect, and so on. But these are intangible points. Blood
is not so. We see Blood in a nose, and we know it. We meet
with it in a chin, and we say, 'There it is I That 's Blood!'



165



It Is an actual matter of fact. We point it out. It admits of
no doubt."

The simpering fellow with the weak legs, who had taken
Agnes down, stated the question more decisively yet, I
thought.

"Oh, you know, deuce take it," said this gentleman,
looking round the board with an imbecile smile, "we can't
forego Blood, you know. We must have Blood, you know.
Some young fellows, you know, may be a little behind their
station, perhaps, in point of education and behaviour, and
may go a little wrong, you know, and get themselves and
other people into a variety of fixes — and all that — but deuce
take it, it 's delightful to reflect that they 've got Blood in 'em 1
Myself, I 'd rather at any time be knocked down by a man
who had got Blood in him, than I 'd be picked up by a man
who hadn't!"

This sentiment, as compressing the general question into
a nutshell, gave the utmost satisfaction, and brought the
gentleman into great notice until the ladies retired. After
that, I observed that Mr. Gulpidge and Mr. Henry Spiker,
who had hitherto been very distant, entered into a defensive
alliance against us, the common enemy, and exchanged a
mysterious dialogue across the table for our defeat and over-
throw.

" That affair of the first bond for four thausand five hun-
dred pounds has not taken tlie course that was expected, Gul-
pidge," said Mr. Henry Spiker.

"Do you mean the D. of A.'s?" said Mr. Spiker.

"The C. ofB.'s?" said Mr. Gulpidge.

Mr. Spiker raised his eye-brows, and looked much con-
cerned.

"When the question was referred to Lord — I needn't
name him," said Mr. Gulpidge, checking himself —



166



•'I understand," saidMr. Spiker, "N."

Mr, Gulpidge darkly nodded — "was refeiTed to him, bis
answer was, 'Money, or no release.' "

"Lord bless my soul I " cried Mr. Spiker.

'* 'Money, or no release,' " repeated Mr. Gulpidge firmly.
" The next in reversion — you understand me ? "

"K." saidMr. Spiker, with an ominous look.

" — K. then positively refused to sign. He was attended
at New-market for that purpose, and he point-blank refused
to do it."

Mr. Spiker was so interested, that he became quite stony.

"So the matter rests at this hour," said Mr. Gulpidge,
throwing himself back in his chair. " Our friend Waterbrook
will excuse me if I forbear to explain myself generally, on ac-
count of the magnitude of the interests involved."

Mr. Waterbrook was only too happy, as it appeared to me,
to have such interests, and such names, even hinted at, across
his table. He assumed an expression of gloomy intelligence
(though I am persuaded he knew no more about the discussion
than I did), and highly approved of the discretion that had
been observed. Mr. Spiker, after the receipt of such a confi-
dence, naturally desired to favour his friend with a confidence
of bis own ; therefore the foregoing dialogue was succeeded
by another, in which it was Mr. Gulpidge's turn to be sur-
prised, and that by another in which the surprise came round
to Mr. Spiker's turn again, and so on, turn and turn about.
All this time we, the outsiders, remained oppressed by the
tremendous interests involved in the conversation; and our
host regarded us with pride, as the victims of a salutary awe
and astonishment.

I was very glad indeed to get up-stairs to Agnes, and to
talk with her in a corner, and to introduce Traddles to her,
who was shy, but agreeable, and the same good-natured crea-



167



ture still. As he was obliged to leave early, on account of
going away next morning for a month, I had not nearly so
much conversation with him as I could have wished; but we
exchanged addresses, and promised ourselves the pleasure of
another meeting when he should come back to town. He was
greatly interested to hear that I knew Steerforth, and spoke of
him with such warmth that I made him tell Agnes what he
thought of him. But Agnes only looked at me the while, and
very slightly shook her head when only I observed her.

As she was not among people with whom I believed she
could be verj' much at home, I was almost glad to hear that she
was going away within a few days, though I was sorry at the
prospect of parting from her again so soon. This caused me
to remain until all the company were gone. Conversing with
her, and hearing her sing, was such a delightful reminder to
me of my happy life in the grave old house she had made so
beautiful, that I could have remained there half the night ; but,
having no excuse for staying any longer, when the lights of
Mr. VVaterbrook's society were all snuffed out, I took my leave
very much against my inclination. I felt then, more than ever,
that she was my better Angel; and if I thought of her sweet
face and placid smile, as though they had shone on me from
some removed being, like an Angel, I hope I thought no
harm.

I have said that the company were all gone ; but I ought to
have excepted Uriah, whom I don't include in that denomi-
nation, and who had never ceased to hover near us. He was
close behind me when I went down-stairs. He was close
beside me, when I walked away from the house, slowly fitting
his long skeleton fingers into the still longer fingers of a great
Guy Fawkes pair of gloves.

It was in no disposition for Uriah's company, but in remem-
brance of the entreaty Agnes had made to me, that I asked



108



him if he would come home to my rooms, and have some
coffee.

"Oh, really, Master Copperfield," he rejoined, — "I beg
your pardon, Mister Copperfield, but the other comes so
natural, — I don't like that you should put a constraint upon
yourself to ask a numble person like me to your ouse."

"There is no constraint in the case," said I. "Will you
come?"

"I should like to, very much," replied Uriah, with a
writhe.

"Well, then, come along!" said I.

I could not help being rather short with him, but he ap-
peared not to mind it. We went the nearest way, without con-
versing much upon the road ; and he was so humble in respect
of those scarecrow gloves, that he was still putting them on,
and seemed to have made no advance in that labour, when we
got to my place.

I led him up the dark stairs, to prevent his knocking his
head against anything, and really his damp cold hand felt so
like a frog in mine, that I was tempted to drop it and run away.
Agnes and hospitality prevailed, however, and I conducted
him to my fireside. When I lighted my candles, he fell into
meek transports with the room that was revealed to him; and
when I heated the coffee in an unassuming block-tin vessel , in
which Mrs. Crupp delighted to prepare it (chiefly, I believe,
because it was not intended for the purpose, being a shaving-
pot, and because there was a patent invention of great price
mouldering away in the pantry), he professed so much emotion,
that I could joyfully have scalded him.

" Oh, really. Master Copperfield, — I mean Mister Copper-
field, " said Uriah, "to see you waiting upon me is what I never
could have expected 1 But, one way and another, so many
things happen to me which I never could have expected, I am



169



sure, In my umble station , that it seems to rain blessings on my
ed. You have heard something, I des-say , of a change in my
expectations, Master Copperfield, — / should say. Mister
Copperfield?"

As he sat on my sofa, with his long knees drawn up under
his coffee-cup, his hat and gloves upon the ground close to
him, his spoon going softly round and round, his shadowless
red eyes , which looked as if they had scorched their lashes off,
turned towards me without looking at me, the disagreeable
dints I have formerly described in his nostrils coming and
going with his breath, and a snaky undulation pervading his
frame from his chin to his boots, I decided in my own mind
that I disliked him intensely. It made me very uncomfort-
able to have him for a guest , for I was young then , and unused
to disguise what I so strongly felt.

♦'You have heard something, I des-say, of a change in my
expectations. Master Copperfield, — I should say, Mister Cop-
perfield?" observed Uriah.

"Yes," said I, "something."

"Ah! IthoughtMiss Agnes would know of it!" he quietly
returned. "I 'm glad to find Miss Agnes knows of it. Oh,
thank you. Master — Mister Copperfield! "

I could have thrown my bootjack at him (it lay ready on
the rug), for having entrapped me into the disclosure of any-
thing concerning Agnes, however immaterial. But I only
drank my coffee.

"What a prophet you have shown yourself. Mister Copper-
field!" pursued Uriah. "Dear me, what a prophet you have
proved yourself to be! Don 't you remember saying to me
once, that perhaps I should be a partner in Mr. Wickfield's


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