Charles Dickens.

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

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I observe) , I give up a subject for lost.

This is a digression. / was not the man to touch tlie Com-



184



mons , and bring down the country. I submissively expressed,
by my silence, my acquiescence in all I had heard from ray
superior in years and knowledge ; and we talked about "The
Stranger" and the Drama, and the pair of horses, until we
came to Mr. Spenlow's gate.

There was a lovley garden to Mr. Spenlow's house; and
though that was not the best time of the year for seeing a
garden, it was so beautifully kept, that I was quite enchanted.
There was a charming lawn, there were clusters of trees, and
there were perspective walks that I could just distinguish in
the dark, arched over with trellis-work , on which shrubs and
flowers grew in the growing season. "Here Miss Spenlow
walks by herself," I thought. "Dear me!"

We went into the house, which was cheerfully lighted up,
and into a hall where there were all sorts of hats, caps, great-
coats, plaids, gloves, whips, and walking-sticks. "Where
is Miss Dora?" said Mr. Spenlow to the servant. "Dora!"
I thought. "What a beautiful name ! "

We turned into a room near at hand (I think it was the
identical breakfast-room, made memorable by the brown East
Indian Sherry), and I heard a voice say, "Mr. Copperfield,
my daughter Dora, and my daughter Dora's confidential
friend!" It was, no doubt, Mr. Spenlow's voice, buti didn't
know it, and I didn't care whose it was. All was over in a
moment. I had fulfilled my destiny. I was a captive and a
slave. I loved Dora Spenlow to distraction!

She was more than human to me. She was a Fairy, a Sylph,
I don't know what she was — any thing that no one ever saw,
and every thing that every body ever wanted. I was swallowed
up in an abyss of love in an instant. There was no pausing on
the brink; no looking down, or looking back; I was gone,
headlong, before I had sense to say a word to her.

"/," observed a well-remembered voice, when I had



185



bowed and murmured something, "have seen Mr. Copperfield
before."

The speaker was not Dora. No; the confidential friend.
Miss Murdstonel

I don't think I was much astonished. To the best of my
judgment, no capacity of astonishment was left in me. There
was nothing worth mentioning in the material world, but
Dora Spenlow, to be astonished about. I said, "How do
you do, Miss Murdstone? I hope you are well." She an-
swered, "Very well." I said, "How is Mr. Murdstone?"
She replied , ^' My brother is robust, I am obliged to you."

Mr. Spenlow, who, I suppose, had been surprised to see
us recognise each other, then put in his word.

"lam glad to find," he said, "Copperfield, that you and
Miss Murdstone are already acquainted."

"Mr. Copperfield and myself," said Miss Murdstone,
with severe composure, "are connexions. We were once
slightly acquainted. It was in his childish days. Circum-
stanc-es have separated us since. I should not have known
him."

I replied that I should have known her, any where. Which
was true enough.

"Miss Murdstone has had the goodness," said Mr. Spen-
low to me, "to accept the office — if I may so describe
it — of my daughter Dora's confidential friend. My daugh-
ter Dora having, unhappily, no mother. Miss Murdstone
is obliging enough to become her companion and pro-
tector."

A passing thought occurred to me that Miss Murdstone,
like the pocket instrument called a life-preserver, was not
so much designed for purposes of protection as of assault.
But as I had none but passing thoughts for any subject save
Dora, I glanced at her, directly afterwards, and was thinking



186



that I saw, In her prettily pettish manner, that she was not
very much inclined to be particularly confidential to her
companion and protector, when a bell rang, which Mr. Spen-
low said was the first dinner-bell, and so carried me oflf to
dress.

The idea of dressing one's self, or doing any thing in the
way of action, in that state of love, was a little too ridiculous.
I could only sit down before my fire, biting the key of my
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 mere a scramble
of my dressing, instead of the careful operation I could have
wished under the circumstances, and went down-stairs. 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 I was jealous of every-
body. 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 oc-
casion 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



187



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
Dora.

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.

"Farfromit," assented Miss Murdstone. "Idonotwish
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 men-
tion her. I could not hear her disrespectfully mentioned,
I added, without expressing my opinion in a decided tone.



188



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 cir-
cumstances 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, stifi* 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 Murd-
stone's nature, of the fetters over a jail-door; suggesting



189



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! ac-
companying 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 in-
fatuation.

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 Era'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 1



190



was a lackadaisical young spooney; but there was a purity
of heart in all this still, that prevents my having quite a con-
temptuous recollection of it, let me laugh as I may.

I had not been walking long, when I turned a comer,
and met her. I tingle again from head to foot as my re-
collection turns that corner, and my pen shakes in my
band.

"You — are — out early, Miss Spenlow," said I.

"It's so stupid at home," she replied, "and Miss Murd-
stone is so absurd! She talks such nonsense about its being
necessary for the day to be aired, before I come out.
Aired I" (She laughed, here, in the most melodious man-
ner). "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 minute before.

"Do you mean a compliment?" said Dora, "or that the
weather has really changed? "

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 I — 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.



191



"Yes," said she. "Have you ever been there? "

"No."

"Ohl I hope you '11 go soon. You would like it so much 1"

Traces of deep-seated anguish appeared in my coun-
tenance. 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 Eng-
land, under existing circumstances, for any earthly con-
sideration. 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 1 —
and caressed him, but he insisted 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 headl — and we walked away to look at a
greenhouse.

"You are not very intimate with Miss Murdstone, are
you?" saidDora. — "Mypetl"

(The two last words were to the dog. Oh if they had
only been to me I)

"No," I replied. "Not at all so."

"She is a tiresome creature," said Dora pouting. "]
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 / don't want a protector. Jip can
protect me a great deal better than Miss Murdstone, — can't
you, Jip dear?"



192



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, rivetted 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 '11 make our-
selves as happy as we can in spite of her, and we '11 teaze her,
and not please her, — won't we, Jip ? "

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 pre-
mises 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 Fairy-
land, certainly / 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.



193



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 funeral.

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; butl
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 serv-icc.

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-liandkerchief 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 I

We departed early in the morning, for we had a Salvage
case coming on in the Admiralty Court, requiring a rather ac-
curate 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.
rkivid Copperfield II. 13



194



What the Adrairalt}' was to me that day; what nonsense 1
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 day dreams I
have had in it about Dora, it would reveal my truth.

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 I ever bestowed a thought upon the cases , as
they dragged their slow length before me, it was only to won-
der, 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 com-
pared 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 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



195



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 in-
vitation to Mr. Spenlow's house. I was always being disap-
pointed, for I got none.

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 re-
medy 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 my-

13'



196



self, 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 young lady in the case."

"Mrs. Crupp?" I returned, reddening.

"Oh, bless youl Keep a good heart, Sirl" said Mrs.
Crupp, nodding encouragement. "Never say die, Sirl If
She don't smile upon you, there 's a many as will. You 're 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, lam in-
clined to think, in some indistinct association with a wash-
ing-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 1 ' — 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 re-
gular, or too unregular. He may wear his boots much too



197-

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 your-
self," 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 please."

"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 , ^Ir. 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 it 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


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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 14 of 27)