Charles Dickens.

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

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in preference to re-engaging the handy young man; against
whom I had conceived a prejudice, in consequence of meeting
him in the Strand, one Sunday morning, in a waistcoat re-
markably like one of mine, which had been missing since the
former occasion. The "young gal" was re-engaged; but on
the stipulation that she should only bring in the dishes, and
then withdraw to the landing-place, beyond the outer door;
where a habit of sniffing she had contracted would be lost
upon the guests, and where her retiring on the plates would
be a physical impossibility.

Having laid in the materials for a bowl of punch, to be
compounded by Mr. Micawber; having provided a bottle of
lavender-water, two wax candles , a paper of mixed pins, and a



213



pincushion, to assist Mrs. Micawber in her toilette, at my
dressing-table ; having also caused the fii-e in ray bed-room to
be lighted for Mrs. Micawber's convenience; and having laid
the cloth with my own hands, 1 awaited the result with com-
posure.

At the appointed time, my three visitors arrived together.
Mr. Micawber with more shirt-collar than usual, and a new
ribbon to his eye-glass; Mrs. Micawber with her cap in a
whitey-brown paper parcel; Traddies carrying the parcel,
and supporting Mrs. Micawber on his arm. They were all
dehghted with my residence. Whenlconducted^lrs. Micawber
to my dressing-table, and she saw the scale on which it was
prepared for her, she was in such raptures , that she called Mr.
Micawber to come in and look.

"My dear Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, "this is
luxurious. This is a way of life which reminds me of the
period when I was myself in a state of celibacy, and Mrs.
Micawber had not yet been solicited to plight her faith at the
HjTneneal altar."

"He means, solicited by him, Mr. Copperfield," said Mrs.
Micawber archly. "He cannot answer for others. "

"My dear," returned Mr. Micawber with sudden serious-
ness, "I have no desire to answer for others. I am too well
aware that when, in the inscrutable decrees of Fate, you were
reserved for me, it is possible you may have been reserved for
one, destined, after a protracted struggle, at length to fall a
victim to pecuniary involvements of a complicated nature. I
understand your allusion, my love. I regret it, but I can
bear it."

"Micawberl" exclaimed Mrs. Micawber, in tears. "Have
I deserved this! I, who never have deserted you; who never
will desert you, Micawber ! "

"My love," said Mr. Micawber, much afTected, "you will



214



forgive, and our old and tried friend Copperfield will, I am
sure, forgive, the momentary laceration of a wounded spirit,
made sensitive by a recent collision with the Minion of Power
— in other words, with a ribald Turncock attached to the
water-works — and will pity, not condemn , its excesses."

Mr. IMicawber then embraced Mrs. Micawber, and pressed
my hand ; leaving me to infer from this broken allusion that
his domestic supply of water had been cut off that afternoon,
in consequence of default in the payment of the company's
rates.

To divert his thoughts from this melancholy subject, I in-
formed Mr. Micawber that I relied upon him for a bowl of
punch, and led him to the lemons. His recent despondency,
not to say despair , was gone in a moment. I never saw a man
so thoroughly enjoy himself amid the fragrance of lemon-peel
and sugar, the odour of burning rum, and the steam of boiling
water, as Mr. Micawber did that afternoon. It was wonderful
to see his face shining at us out of a thin cloud of these deli-
cate fumes, as he stirred, and mixed, and tasted, and looked as
if he were making , instead of punch , a fortune for his family
down to the latest posterity. As to Mrs. Micawber, I don't
know whether it was the effect of the cap, or the lavender-
water, or the pins, or the fire, or the wax candles, but she came
out of my room, comparatively speaking, lovely. And the
lark was never gayer than that excellent woman.

I suppose — I never ventured to inquire, but I suppose —
that Mrs. Crupp, after frying the soles, was taken ill. Because
we broke down at that point. The leg of mutton came up
very red within, and very pale without: besides having a fo-
reign substance of a gritty nature sprinkled over it, as if it had
had a fall into the ashes of that remarkable kitchen fire-place.
But we were not in a condition to judge of this fact from the
appearance of the gravy, forasmuch as the "young gal" had



215

dropped it all upon the stairs — -where it remained, by-the-by,
in a long train, until it was worn out. The pigeon-pie was not
bad, but it was a delusive pie: the crust being like a dis-
appointing head, phrenologically speaking: full of lumps and
bumps, with nothing particular underneath. In short, the
banquet was such a failure that I should have been quite un-
happy — about the failure, I mean, for I was always unhappy
about Dora — if I had not been relieved by the great good-
humour of my company, and by a bright suggestion from Mr.
Micawber.

"My dear friend Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, "acci-
dents will occur in the best regulated families ; and in families
not regulated by that pervading influence which sanctifies
while it enhances the — a — I would say, in short, by the in-
fluence of Woman, in the lofty character of Wife, they may be
expected with confidence, and must be borne with philosophy.
If you will allow me to take the liberty of remarking that there
are few comestibles better, in their way, than a Devil, and that
I believe, with a little division of labour, we could accomplish a
good one if the young person in attendance could produce a
gridiron, I would put it to you, that this little misfortune may
be easily repaired."

There was a gridiron in the pantry, on which my morning
rasher of bacon was cooked. We had it in, in a twinkling, and
immediately applied ourselves to carrying Mr. Micawber's
idea into efi'ect. The division of labour to which he had re-
ferred was this: — Traddles cut the mutton into slices; Mr.
Micawber (who could do anything of this sort to perfection)
covered them with pepper, mustard, salt, and cayenne; I put
them on the gridiron, turned them with a fork, and took them
off", under Mr. Micawber's directions; and Mrs. Micawber
heated, and continually stirred, some mushroom ketchup in a
little saucepan. When we had slices enough done to begin



216



upon, we fell-to, with our sleeves still tucked up at the wi'ists,
more slices sputtering and blazing on the fire, and our atten-
tion divided between the mutton on our plates, and the mutton
then preparing.

AVhat with the novelty of this cookery, the excellence of it,
the bustle of it, the frequent starting up to look after it, the fre-
quent sitting down to dispose of it as the crisp slices came off
the gi'Idiron hot and hot, the being so busy, so flushed with the
fire, so amused, and in the midst of such a tempting noise and
savour, we reduced the leg of mutton to the bone. My own
appetite came back miraculously. I am ashamed to record it,
but I really believe I forgot Dora for a little while. I am sa-
tisfied that Mr. and Mrs. MIcawber could not have enjoyed the
feast more If they had sold a bed to provide it. Traddles
laughed as heartily, almost the whole time, as he ate and
worked. Indeed we all did, all at once ; and I dare say there
never was a greater success.

We were at the height of our enjoyment, and were all busily
engaged, in our several departments, endeavouring to bring
the last batch of slices to a state of perfection that should
crown the feast, when I was aware of a strange presence in
the room, and my eyes encountered those of the staid Litti-
mer, standing hat in hand before me.

"What 's the matter! " I involuntarily asked.

"I beg your pardon. Sir, I was directed to come in. Is my
master not here. Sir? "

"No."

"Have you not seen him. Sir? "

"No; don't you come from him?"

"Not Immediately so, Sir."

"Did he tell you you would find him here?



217



"Not exactly so, Sir. But I should think he might be here
to-morrow, as he has not been here to-day."

"Is he coming up from Oxford?"

*'I beg, Sir," he returned respectfully, "that you will be
seated, and allow me to do this." With which he took the fork
from my unresisting hand, and bent over the gridiron, as if his
whole attention were concentrated on it.

We should not have been much discomposed, I dare say,
by the appearance of Steerforth himself, but we became in a
moment the meekest of the meek before his respectable ser-
ving-man. Mr. Micawber, humming a tune, to show that he
was quite at ease, subsided into his chair, with the handle of a
hastily-concealed fork sticking out of the bosom of his coat, as
if he had stabbed himself. Mrs. Micawber put on her brown
gloves, and assumed a genteel languor. Traddles ran his
greasy hands through his hair, and stood it bolt upright, and
stared in confusion at the table-cloth. As for me, I was a mere
infant at the head of my own table; and hardly ventured to
glance at the respectable phenomenon, who had come from
Heaven knows where, to put my establishment to rights.

Meanwhile he took the mutton off the gridiron, and gravely
handed it round. We all took some, but our appreciation of
it was gone, and we merely made a show of eating it. As we
severally pushed away our plates, he noiselessly removed
them, and set on the cheese. He took that off, too, when it
was done with; cleared the table; piled everything on the
dumb-waiter; gave us our wine-glasses; and, of his own ac-
cord, wheeled the dumb-waiter into the pantr^'. All this was
done in a perfect manner, and he never raised his eyes from
what he was about. Yet, his very elbows, when he had his
back towards me, seemed to teem with the expression of his
fixed opinion that I was extremely young.

" Can I do anything more, Sir ? "



218



I thanked him and said, No; but would he take no dinner
himself?

"None, I am obh'ged to you, Sir.*'

"Is Mr. Steerforth coming from Oxford ? "

"I beg your pardon, Sir?"

"Is Mr. Steerforth coming from Oxford? "

"I should imagine that he might be here to-morrow, Sir.
I rather thought he might have been here to-day, Sir. The
mistake is mine, no doubt, Sir."

"If you should see him first — " said I.

"If you '11 excuse me, Sir, I don't think I shall see him
first."

"In case you do," said I, "pray say that lam sorrj' he was
not here to-day, as an old school-fellow of his was here."

"Indeed, Sirl" and he divided a bow between me and
Traddles , with a glance at the latter.

He was moving softly to the door, when , In a forlorn hope
of saying something naturally — which I never could, to this
man — I said :

"Oh! Littimerl"

"Sirl"

" Did you remain long at Yarmouth , that time? "

"Not particularly so, Sir."

"You saw the boat completed? '*

" Y"es , Sir. I remained behind on purpose to see the boat
completed."

"I know! " He raised his eyes to mine respectfully. "Mr.
Steerforth has not seen it yet, I suppose?"

"I really can't say. Sir. I think — but I really can't say,
Sir. I wish you good night, Sir.'*

He comprehended everybody present, in the respectful
bow with which he followed these words, and disappeared.
My visitors seemed to breathe more freely when he was gone;



219



but my own relief was very great, for besides the constraint,
arising from that extraordinary sense of being at a disadvan-
tage which I always had in this man's presence, my conscience
had embarrassed me with whispers that I had mistrusted his
master, and I could not repress a vague uneasy dread that
he might find it out. How was it, having so little in reality
to conceal, that I always did feel as if this man were finding
me out?

Mr. Micawber roused me from this reflection, which was
blended with a certain remorseful apprehension of seeing
Steerforth himself, by bestowing many encomiums on the
absent Littimer as a most respectable fellow, and a thoroughly
admirable servant. Mr. Micawber, I may remark, had taken
his full share of the general bow, and had received it with
infinite condescension.

"But punch, my dear Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber,
tasting it, "like time and tide, waits for no man. Ah! It is
at the present moment in high flavour. My love, will you give
me your opinion ? "

Mrs. Micawber pronounced It excellent.

"Then I Avill drink," said Mr. Micawber, "if my friend
Copperfield will permit me to take that social liberty, to the
days when my friend Copperfield and myself were younger,
and fought our way in the world side by side. I may say,
of myself and Copperfield, in words we have sung together
before now, that

We Iwa' hae run about ihe braes
And pu'd ihe gowans fine

— in a figurative point of view — on several occasions. I am
not exactly aware," said IVlr. Micawber, with the old roll in
his voice, and the old indescribable air of saying something
genteel, "what gowans may be, but I have no doubt that Cop-



220



perfield and myself would frequently have taken a pull at
them, if it had been feasible."

Mr. Micawber, at the then present moment, took a pull at
his punch. So we all did : Traddles evidently lost in wonder-
ing at what distant time Mr. Micawber and I could possibly
have been comrades in the battle of the world.

"Aheml" said Mr. Micawber, clearing his throat, and
warming with the punch and with the fire. "My dear, another
glass?"

Mrs. Micawber said it must be very little, but we couldn't
allow that, so it was a glassful.

"As we are quite confidential here, Mr. Copperfield," said
Mrs. Micawber, sipping lier punch, "Mr. Traddles being a
part of our domesticity, 1 should much like to have your opi-
nion on Mr. Micawber's prospects. For corn," said Mrs.
Micawber argumentatively, "as I have repeatedly said to
Mr. Micawber, may be gentlemanly, but it is not remunera-
tive. Commission to the extent of two and ninepence in a
fortnight cannot, however limited our ideas, be considered
remunerative."

We were all agreed upon that.

"Then," said Mrs. Micawber, who prided herself on taking
a clear view of things, and keeping Mr. Micawber straight by
her woman's wisdom, when he might otherwise go a little
crooked, "then I ask myself this question. If corn is not to
be relied upon, what is? Are coals to be relied upon? Not
at all. We have turned our attention to that experiment, on
the suggestion of my family, and we find it fallacious."

Mr. Micawber, leaning back in his chair with his hands in
his pockets, eyed us aside, and nodded his head, as much as
to say that the case was very clearly put.

"The articles of corn and coals," said Mrs. Micawber, still
more argumentatively, *• being equally out of the question,



221



Mr. Copperfield, I naturally look round the world, and say,
'What is there in which a person of Mr. Mica-wber's talent is
likely to succeed?' And I exclude the doing anything on
commission, because commission is not a certainty. What is
best suited to a person of Mr. Micawber's peculiar tempera-
ment, is, I am convinced, a certainty."

Traddles and I both expressed, by a feeling murmur, that
this great discovery was no doubt true of Mr. Micawber, and
that it did him much credit.

"I will not conceal from you, my dear Mr. Copperfield,"
said Mrs. Micawber, "that / have long felt the Brewing busi-
ness to be particularly adapted to Mr. Micawber. Look at
Barclay and Perkins ! Look at Truman , Hanbury, and Bux-
ton! It is on that extensive footing that Mr. Micawber, I
know from my own knowledge of him, is calculated to shine;
and the profits, I am told, are e-XOR — mous! But if Mr.
Micawber cannot get into those firms — which decline to
answer his letters, when he offers his services even in an
inferiour capacity — what is the use of dwelling upon that
idea? None. I may have a conviction that Mr. Micawber's
manners" —

"Hem! Really, my dear," interposed Mr. Micawber.

"My love, be silent," said Mrs. Micawber, laying her
brown glove on his hand. "I may have a conviction, Mr.
Copperfield , that Mr. Micawber's manners peculiarly qualify
him for the Banking business. I may argue within myself,
that if / had a deposit at a banking-house, the manners of
Mr. Micawber, as representing that banking-house, would
inspire confidence, and must extend the connexion. But if
the various banking-houses refuse to avail themselves of
Mr. Micawber's abilities, or receive the offer of them with
contumely, what is the use of dwelling upon that idea?
None. As to originating a banking-business, T may know



222



that there are members of my family who , if they chose to
place their money in Mr. Micawber's hands, might found an
establishment of that description. But if they do not choose
to place their money in Mr. Micawber's hands — which they
don't — what is the use of that? Again I contend that we are
no farther advanced than we were before."

I shook my head, and said, "Not a bit." Traddles also
shook his hftad, and said, "Not a bit."

"What do I deduce from this?" Mrs. Micawber went on
to say, still with the same air of putting a case lucidly. "What
is the conclusion, my dear Mr. Copperfield, to which I am
irresistibly brought? Am I wrong in saying, it is clear that
we must live?"

I answered, "Not at alll" and Traddles answered, "Not
at all ! " and I found myself afterwards sagely adding, alone,
that a person must either live or die.

"Just so,'* returned Mrs. Micawber. "It is precisely that.
And the fact is, my dear Mr. Copperfield, that we can not
live without something widely different from existing circum-
stances shortly turning up. Now I am convinced, myself,
and this I have pointed out to Mr. Micawber several times
of late, that things cannot be expected to turn up of them-
selves. We must, in a measure, assist to turn them up.
I may be wrong, but I have formed that opinion."

Both Traddles and I applauded it highly.

"Very well," said Mrs. Micawber. "Then what do I
recommend? Here is Mr. Micawber, with a variety of quali-
fications — with great talent — "

"Really, my love," said Mr. Micawber.

"Pray, my dear, allow me to conclude. Here is Mr.
Micawber, with a variety of qualifications, with great talent
— / should say, with genius, but that may be the partiality of
a wife — "



223



Traddles and I both murmured "No.*

*'And here is Mr. Micawber without any suitable posi-
tion or employment. Where does that responsibility rest?
Clearly on society. Then I would make a fact so dis-
graceful known, and boldly challenge society to set it right.
It appears to me, my dear Mr. Copperfield," said Mrs.
Micawber, forcibly, "that what Mr. Micawber has to do, is
to throw down the gauntlet to society, and say, in effect,
'Show me who will take that up. Let the party immediately
step forward.' "

I ventured to ask Mrs. Micawber how this was to be
done.

"By advertising," said Mrs. Micawber — "in all the
papers. It appears to me, that what Mr. Micawber has to
do, injustice to himself, Injustice to his family, and I will
even go so far as to say in justice to society, by which he has
been hitherto overlooked, is to advertise in all the papers;
to describe himself plainly as so and so, with such and such
qualifications, and to put it thus: ^Now employ me, on re-
munerative terms, and address, post-paid, to fF. M., Post
Office, Camden Town.' "

"This idea of Mrs. Micawber's, my dear Copperfield,"
said Mr. Micawber, making his shirt-collar meet in front of
his chin, and glancing at me sideways, "is, in fact, the Leap
to which I alluded, when I last had the pleasure of seeing
you."

"Advertising is rather expensive," I remarked, du-
biously.

"Exactly so!" said Mrs. Micawber, preserving the same
logical air. "Quite true, my dear Mr. Copperfield! I have
made the identical observation to Mr. Micawber. It is for
that reason especially, that I think Mr. Micawber ought (as
I have already said, in justice to himself, in justice to his



224



family, and in justice to society) to raise a certain sum of
money — on a bill."

Mr. Micawber, leaning back in bis chair, trifled with
his eye-glass, and cast his eyes up at the ceiling; but I
thought him observant of Traddles too, who was looking at
the fire.

"If no member of my family," said Mrs. Micawber, "is
possessed of sufficient natural feeling to negotiate that bill —
I believe there is a better business- term to express what I
mean — "

Mr. Micawber, with his eyes still cast up at the ceiling,
suggested "Discount."

"To discount that bill," said Mrs. Micawber, "then my
opinion is, that Mr. Micawber should go into the City, should
take that bill Into the Money Market, and should dispose
of it for what he can get. If the individuals in the Money
Market oblige Mr. Micawber to sustain a great sacrifice, that
is between themselves and their consciences, I view it,
steadily, as an investment. I recommend Mr. Micawber, my
dear Mr. Copperfield, to do the same; to regard it as an in-
vestment which is sure of return, and to make up his mind to
any sacrifice."

I felt, but I am sure I don't know why, that this was self-
denying and devoted in Mrs. Micawber, and I uttered a
murmur to that effect. Traddles, who took his tone from me,
did likewise, still looking at the fire.

"I will not," said Mrs. Micawber, finishing her punch,
and gathering her scarf about her shoulders, preparatory
to her withdrawal to my bed-room: "I will not protract these
remarks on the subject of Mr. Micawber's pecuniary affairs.
At your fii-eside, my dear Mr. Copperfield, and in the pre-
sence of Mr. Traddles , who, though not so old a friend, is
quite one of ourselves, I could not refrain from making you



225



acquainted with the course / advise Mr. Micawber to take.
I feel that the time is arrived when Mr. Micawber should
exert himself and — I will add — assert himself, and it
appears to me that these are the means. I am aware that
I am merely a female, and that a masculine judgment is
usually considered more competent to the discussion of such
questions; still I must not forget that, when I lived at home
with my papa and mama, my papa was In the habit of saying,
*Emma's form is fragile, but her grasp of a subject is inferior
to none.' That my papa was too partial, I well know; but
that he was an observer of character In some degree, my duty
and my reason equally forbid me to doubt."

With these words, and resisting our entreaties that she
would grace the remaining circulation of the punch with her
presence, Mrs. Micawber retired to my bed-room. And really
I felt that she was a noble woman — the sort of woman who
might have been a Roman matron, and done all manner of
heroic things, in times of public trouble.

In the fervour of this impression, I congratulated Mr.
Micawber on the treasure he possessed. So did Traddles.
Mr. Micawber extended his hand to each of us in succession,
and then covered his face with his pocket-handkerchief, which
I think had more snuff upon it than he was aware of. He
then returned to the punch, in the highest state of exhilaration.

He was full of eloquence. He gave us to understand that
in our children we lived again, and that, under the pressure
of pecuniary difficulties, any accession to their number was
doubly welcome. He said that Mi's. Micawber had latterly
had her doubts on this point, but that he had dispelled them,
and reassured her. As to her family, they were totally un-
worthy of her, and their sentiments were utterly indifferent to
him , and they might — I quote his own expression — go to
the Devil.
David Copperfield. U. 15



226



Mr. Micawber then delivered a warm eulogy on Traddles.
He said Traddles's was a character, to the steady virtues of
which he (Mr. Micawber) could lay no claim, but which, he
thanked Heaven, he could admire. He feelingly alluded to
the young lady, unknown, whom Traddles had honoured
with his affection, and who had reciprocated that affection
by honouring and blessing Traddles with her affection.
Mr. Micawber pledged her. So did I. Traddles thanked
us both, by saying, with a simplicity and honesty I had
sense enough to be quite charmed with, "I am very much
obliged to you indeed. And I do assure you, she 's the
dearest girl! — "

Mr. Micawber took an early opportunity, after that, of
hinting, with the utmost delicacy and ceremony, at the state
of my affections. Nothing but the serious assurance of his
friend Copperfield to the contrary, he observed, could de-
prive him of the impression that his friend Copperfield loved
and was beloved. After feeling very hot and uncomfortable


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