Charles Dickens.

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

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for some time, and after a good deal of blushing, stammering,
and denying, I said, having my glass in my hand, "Well!
I would give them D. ! " which so excited and gratified Mr.
Micawber, that he ran with a glass of punch into my bed-
room, in order that Mrs. Micawber might drink D., who
drank it with enthusiasm, crying from within, in a shrill
voice, "Hear, hearl My dear Mr. Copperfield, I am de-
lighted. Hear I" and tapping at the wall, by way of ap-
plause.

Our conversation, afterwards, took a more worldly turn ;
Mr. Micawber telling us that he found Camden Town incon-
venient, and that the first thing he contemplated doing, when
the advertisement should have been the cause of something
satisfactory turning up, was to move. He mentioned a
terrace at the western end of Oxford Street, fronting Hyde



227



Park, on which he had always had his eye, but which he did
not expect to attain immediately, as it would require a large
establishment. There would probably be an interval, he ex-
plained, in which he should content himself with the upper
part of a house, over some respectable place of business, —
say in Piccadilly, — which would be a cheerful situation for
Mrs. Micawber; and where, by throwing out a bow window,
or carrying up the roof another story, or making some little
alteration of that sort, they might live, comfortably and re-
putably, for a few years. Whatever was reserved for him,
he expressly said, or wherever his abode might be, we might
rely on this — there would always be a room for Traddles,
and a knife and fork for me. We acknowledged his kind-
ness; and he begged us to forgive his having launched into
these practical and business-like details, and to excuse it
as natural in one who was making entirely new arrangements
in life.

Mrs. Micawber, tapping at the wall again, to know if
tea were ready, broke up this particular phase of our friendly
conversation. She made tea for us in a most agreeable
manner; and, whenever I went near her, in handing about
the tea-cups and bread-and-butter, asked me, in a whisper,
whether D. was fair, or dark, or whether she was short, or
tall: or something of that kind ; which I think I liked. After
tea, we discussed a variety of topics before the fire; and
Mrs. Micawber was good enough to sing us (in a small, thin,
flat voice, which I remember to have considered, when I first
knew her, the very table-beer of acoustics) the favourite
ballads of "The Dashing White Serjeant,'* and "Little
Tafflin.*' For both of these songs Mrs. Micawber had been
famous when she lived at home with her papa and mama.
Mr. Micawber told us, that when he heard her sing the first
one, on the first occasion of his seeing her beneath the

15'



228



parental roof, she had attracted his attention in an extra-
ordinary degree; but that when it came to Little Tafflin, he
had resolved to win that woman or perish in the attempt.

It was between ten and eleven o'clock when Mrs. Mica wber
rose to replace her cap in the whity-brown paper parcel, and
to put on her bonnet. Mr. Micawber took the opportunity of
Traddles putting on his great coat, to slip a letter into my
hand, with a whispered request that I would read it at my
leisure. I also took the opportunity of my holding a candle
over the bannisters to light them down, when Mr. Micawber
was going first, leading Mrs. Micawber, and Traddles was
following with the cap , to detain Traddles for a moment on
the top of the stairs.

*' Traddles," said I, "Mr. Micawber don't mean any
harm, poor fellow; but, if I were you, I wouldn't lend him
anything."

"My dear Copperfield," returned Traddles, smiling, "I
haven't got anything to lend."

" You have got a name, you know," said I.

"Oh! You call that something to lend?" returned
Traddles, with a thoughtful look.

"Certainly."

"Oh!" said Traddles. "Yes, to be sure! I am very
much obliged to you, Copperfield ; but — I am afraid I have
lent him that already."

"For the bill that is to be a certain investment?" I in-
quired.

"No," said Traddles. "Not for that one. This is the
first I have heard of that one. I have been thinking that he
will most likely propose that one, on the way home. Mine 's
another."

"I hope there will be nothing wrong about it,*' said I.

"I hope not," said Traddles. "I should think not, though,



229



because he told me, only the other day, that it was pro-
vided for. That was Mr. Micawber's expression. * Provided
for.' "

Mr. Micawber looking up at this juncture to where we
were standing, I had only time to repeat my caution. Traddles
thanked rae, and descended. But I was much afraid, when I
observed the good-natured manner in which he went down
with the cap in his hand, and gave Mrs. Micawber his arm,
that he would be carried into the Money Market neck and
heels.

I returned to my fireside, and was musing, half gravely
and half laughing, on the character of Mr. Micawber and the
old relations between us, when I heard a quick step ascending
the stairs. At first, I thought it was Traddles* coming back
for something Mrs. Micawber had left behind ; but as the step
approached, I knew it, and felt my heart beat high, and
the blood rush to my face, for it was Steerforth's.

I was never unmindful of Agnes, and she never left that
sanctuarj' in my thoughts — if I may call it so — where I had
placed her from the first. But when he entered, and stood
before me with his hand out, the darkness that had fallen on
him changed to light, and I felt confounded and ashamed of
having doubted one I loved so heartily. I loved her none the
Tess; 1 thought of her as the same benignant, gentle angel in
my life; I reproached myself, not her, with having done him
an injury; and I would have made him any atonement if I had
known what to make, and how to make it.

"Why, Daisy, old boy, dumb- foundered 1 " laughed
Steerforth, shaking my hand heartily, and throwing it gaily
away. " Have I detected you m another feast, you Sybarite !
These Doctors' Commons fellows are the gayest men in town,
I believe, and beat us sober Oxford people all to nothing! "
His bright glance went merrily round the room, as he took



2?0



the seat on the sofa opposite to me, which Mrs. Micawber
had recently vacated , and stirred the fire into a blaze.

"I was so surprised at first," said I, giving him welcome
with all the cordiality I felt, "that I had hardly breath to greet
you with, Steerforth."

"Well, the sight of me w good for sore eyes, as the Scotch
say," replied Steerforth, "and so is the sight of you, Daisy,
in full bloom. How are you, my Bacchanal?"

" I am very well," said I; " and not at all Bacchanalian to-
night, though I confess to another party of three."

"All of whom I met in the street, talking loud in your
praise , " returned Steerforth. " Who 's our friend in the
tights?"

I gave him the best idea I could, in a few words, of
Mr. Micawber. He laughed heartily at my feeble portrait
of that gentleman, and said he was a man to know, and he
must know him.

"But who do you suppose our other friend is?" said I
in my turn.

"Heaven knows," said Steerforth. "Not a bore, I hope?
I thought he looked a little like one."

" Traddles 1 " I replied, triumphantly.

"Who 's he?" asked Steerforth, in his careless way.

"Don't you remember Traddles? Traddles in our room
at Salem House?"

"Oh I That fellow I" said Steerforth, beating a lump
of coal on the top of the fire, with the poker. "Is
he as soft as ever? And where the deuce did you pick
him up?"

I extolled Traddles in reply, as highly as I could ; for I
felt that Steerforth rather slighted him. Steerforth, dis-
missing the subject with a light nod, and a smile, and the re-
mark that he would be glad to see the old fellow too, for he



231



had always been an odd fish , inquired if I could give hira any-
thing to eat? During most of this short dialogue, when he
had not been speaking in a wild vivacious manner, he had sat
idly beating on the lump of coal with the poker. I observed
that he did the same thing while I was getting out the remains
of the pigeon-pie, and so forth.

"Why, Daisy, here 's a supper for akingi" he exclaimed,
starting out of his silence with a burst, and taking his seat
at the table. "I shall do it justice, for I have come from
Yarmouth."

" I thought you came from Oxford? " I returned.

"Not I," said Steerforth. "I have been seafaring — bet-
ter employed."

"Littimer was here to-day, to inquire for you," I re-
marked, "and I understood him that you were at Oxford;
though, now 1 think of it, he certainly did not say so."

"Littimer is a greater fool than I thought him, to have
been inquiring for me at all," said Steerforth, jovially pouring
out a glass of wine, and drinking to me. "As to understanding
him, you are a cleverer fellow than most of us, Daisy, if you
can do that."

"That's true, indeed," said I, moving my chair to the
table. "So you have been at Yarmouth, Steerforth 1" in-
terested to know all about it. "Have you been there long?"

"No," he returned. "An escapade of a week or so."

"And how are they all? Of course, little Emily is not
married yet?"

"Not yet. Going to be, I believe — In so many weeks,
or months, or something or other. I have not seen much
of 'em. By-the-by;" he laid down his knife and fork,
which he had been using with great diligence, and began
feeling in his pockets; "I have a letter for you."

"From whom?"



232



"Why, from your old nurse," he returned, taking some
papers out of his breast pocket. "'J. Steerforth, Esquire,
debtor, to the Willing Mind;' that 'snot it. Patience, and
we '11 find it presently. Old what's-his-name's in a bad way,
and it 's about that, I believe."

"Barkis, do you mean? "

"Yes 1 " still feeling in his pockets , and looking over their
contents : ** it 's all over with poor Barkis, I am afraid. I saw
a little apothecary there — surgeon, or whatever he is — who
brought your worship into the world. He was mighty learned
about the case, to me ; but the upshot of his opinion was, that
the carrier was making his last journey rather fast. — Put
your hand into the breast pocket of my great coat on the chair
yonder, and I think you '11 find the letter. Is it there? "

"Here it is 1" said I.

"That's rightl"

It was from Peggotty; something less legible than usual,
and brief. It informed me of her husband's hopeless state,
and hinted at his being " a little nearer" than heretofore, and
consequently more difficult to manage for his own comfort.
It said nothing of her weariness and watching, and praised him
highly. It was written with a plain , unafi'ected, homely piety
that I know to be genuine, and ended with "my duty to my
ever darling" — meaning myself.

While I deciphered it, Steerforth continued to eat and
drink.

"It 's a bad job," he said, when I had done; "but the sun
sets every day, and people die every minute, and we mustn't
be scared by the common lot. If we failed to hold our own,
because that equal foot at all men's doors was heard knocking
somewhere, every object in this world would slip from us. No 1
Ride on! Rough-shod if need be, smooth-shod if that will do,
but ride on! Ride over all obstacles, and win the race!"



233



"And win what race? " said I.

" The race that one has started in," said he. "Ride on ! '*

I noticed, I remember, as he paused, looking at me with his
handsome head a little thrown back, and his glass raised in his
hand, that, though the freshness of the sea-wind was on his
face, and it was ruddy, there were traces in it, made since I
last saw it, as if he had applied himself to some habitual strain
of the fervent energy which, when roused, was so passionately
roused within him. I had it in my thoughts to remonstrate
with him upon his desperate way of pursuing any fancy that he
took — such as this buffetting of rough seas, and braving of
hard weather, for example — when my mind glanced off to the
immediate subject of our conversation again, and pursued that
instead.

"I tell you what, Steerforth," said I, "if your high spirits
will listen to me " —

"They are potent spirits, and will do whatever you like,"
he answered, moving from the table to the fireside again.

" Then I tell you what, Steerforth. I think I will go down
and see my old nurse. It is not that I can do her any good, or
render her any real service; hut she is so attached to me that
my visit will have as much effect on her, as if I could do both.
She will take it so kindly that it will be a comfort and support
to her. It is no great effort to make, I am sure, for such a
friend as she has been to me. Wouldn't you go a day's
journey, if you were in my place? "

His face was thoughtful, and he sat considering a little be-
fore he answered, in a low voice, "Weill Go. You can do
no harm."

"You have just come back," said I, "and it would be in
vain to ask you to go with me?"

"Quite," he returned. "I am for IJIgligatc to-night. I
have not seen my mother this long time, and it lies upon my



234



conscience, for it 's something to be loved as she loves her
prodigal son. — Bah 1 Nonsense 1 — You mean to go to-mor-
row, I suppose?" he said, holding me out at arm's length, -with
a hand on each of my shoulders.

"Yes, I think so."

"Well, then, don't go till next day. I wanted you to come
and stay a few days with us. Here I am, on purpose to bid you,
and you fly off to Yarmouth I "

"You are a nice fellow to talk of flying off, Steerforth, who
are always running wild on some unknown expedition or
other I"

He looked at me for a moment without speaking, and
then reiolned, still holding me as before, and giving me
a shake

" Come ! Say the next day, and pass as much of to-morrow
as you can with us I Who knows when we may meet again,
else? Gomel Say the next day! I want you to stand be-
tween Rosa Dartle and me, and keep us asunder."

"Would you love each other too much, without me?'*

"Yes; or hate," laughed Steerforth; "no matter which.
Come! Say the next day I "

I said the next day; and he put on his great-coat, and
Ilglited his cigar, and set off to walk home. Finding him In
this intention, I put on my own great- coat (but did not light my
own cigar, having had enough of that for one while) and walked
with him as far as the open road : a dull road, then, at night.
He was In great spirits all the way; and when we parted, and I
looked after him going so gallantly and airily homeward, I
thought of his saying, "Ride on over all obstacles, and win the
race 1 " and wished, for the first time, that he had some worthy
race to run.

I was undressing in my own room, when Mr. MIcawber's
letter tumbled on the floor. Thus reminded of it, I broke the



235



seal and read as follows. It was dated an hour and a half be-
fore dinner. I am not sure whether I have mentioned that,
when Mr.Micawber was at any particularly desperate crisis, he
used a sort of legal phraseolog)': which he seemed to think
equivalent to winding up his affairs.

"Sir — for I dare not say, my dear Copperfield,
"It is expedient that I should inform you that the under-
signed is Crushed. Some flickering efforts to spare you the
premature knowledge of his calamitous position, you may
observe in him this day; but hope has sunk beneath the ho-
rizon, and the undersigned is Crushed.

"The present communication is penned within the per-
sonal range (I cannot call it the society) of an individual, in a
state closely bordering on intoxication, employed by a broker.
That individual is in legal possession of the premises, under a
distress for rent. His inventory includes, not only the chattels
and effects of everj' description belonging to the undersigned,
as yearly tenant of this habitation, but also those appertaining
to Mr. Thomas Traddles, lodger, a member of the Honourable
Society of the Inner Temple.

"If any drop of gloom were wanting in the overflowing
cup, which is now 'commended' (in the language of an im-
mortal Writer) to the lips of the undersigned, it would be
found in the fact, that a friendly acceptance granted to the
undersigned, by the before-mentioned Mr. Thomas Traddles,
for the sum of ^23 4 *. 9^ d. is over due, and is not provided
for. Also, in the fact, that the living responsibilities clinging
to the undersigned, will, in the course of nature, be increased
by the sum of one more helpless victim; whose miserable ap-
pearance may be looked for — in round numbers — at the
expiration of a period not exceeding six lunar months from
the present date.



236



"After premising thus much, it would be a work of su-
pererogation to add, that dust and ashes are for ever scattered
"On
"The
"Head
"Of

"WiLKIKS MiCAWBER."

Poor Traddles 1 I knew enough of Mr. Micawber by this
time, to foresee that he might be expected to recover the blow;
but my night's rest was sorely distressed by thoughts of Trad-
dles, and of the curate's daughter, who was one often, down in
Devonshire, and who was such a dear girl, and who would wait
for Traddles (ominous praise!) until she was sixty, or any age
that could be mentioned.



CHAPTER XIII.

Bj I visit Steerfortb ai his home, again.

P 1 MENTIONED to Mr. Spenlow in the morning, that I
wanted leave of absence for a short time; and as I was not in
the receipt of any salarj-, and consequently was not obnoxious
to the implacable Jorkins, there was no difficulty about it.
I took that opportunity, with my voice sticking in my throat,
and my sight failing as I uttered the words, to express my
hope that Miss Spenlow was quite well ; to which Mr. Spenlow
replied, with no more emotion than if he had been speaking
of an ordinary human being, that he was much obliged to me,
and she was very well.

We articled clerks, as germs of the patrician order of
proctors , were treated with so much consideration , that I was
almost my own master at all times. As I did not care, how-
ever, to get to Highgate before one or two o'clock in the day,

I and as we had another little excommunication case in court
that morning, which was called The office of the Judge pro-
moted by Tipkins against Bullock for his soul's correction,
I passed an hour or two in attendance on it with Mr. Spenlow
very agreeably. It arose out of a scuffle between two church-

I wardens, one of whom was alleged to have pushed the other
against a pump; the handle of which pump projecting into a
school-house, which school-house was under a gable of the
church-roof, made the push an ecclesiastical offence. It was
an amusing case; and sent me up to Highgate, on the box of
the stage-coach, thinking about the Commons, and what
Mr. Spenlow had said about touching the Commons and
bringing down the countr}'.



238



Mrs. Steerforth was pleased to see me, and so was Rosa
Dartle. I was agreeably surprised to find that Littimer was
not there, and that we were attended by a modest little
parlour-maid, with blue ribbons in her cap, whose eye it was
much more pleasant, and much less disconcerting, to catch
by accident, than the eye of that respectable man. But what
I particularly observed, before I had been half-an-hour in
the house, was the close and attentive watch Miss Dartle kept
upon me; and the lurking manner in which she seemed to
compare my face with Steerforth's, and Steerforth's with
mine, and to lie in wait for something to come out between the
two. So surely as I looked towards her, did I see that eager
visage, with its gaunt black eyes and searching brow, intent
on mine; or passing suddenly from mine to Steerforth's; or
comprehending both of us at once. In this lynx-like scrutiny
she was so far from faltering when she saw I observed it, that
at such a time she only fixed her piercing look upon me with a
more intent expression still. Blameless as I was , and knew
that I was, in reference to any wrong she could possibly su-
spect me of, I shrunk before her strange eyes, quite unable to
endure their hungry lustre.

All day, she seemed to pervade the whole house. If I
talked to Steerforth in his room, I heard her dress rustle in
the little gallery outside. When he and I engaged in some of
our old exercises on the lawn behind the house, I saw her face
pass from window to window, like a wandering light, until it
fixed itself in one, and watched us. When we all four went
out walking in the afternoon, she closed her thin hand on my
arm like a spring, to keep me back, while Steerforth and his
mother went on out of hearing: and then spoke to me.

"You have been a long time,'* shesaid, "without coming
here. Is your profession really so engaging and interesting
as to absorb your whole attention? I ask because I always



239



want to be informed, when I am ignorant. Is it really,
though?"

I replied that I liked it well enough, but that I certainly
could not claim so much for it.

" Oh I I am glad to know that , because I always like to be
put right when I am wrong," said Rosa Dartle. "You mean
it is a little dr}', perhaps? "

"Well," Ireplied; "perhaps it tf'o* a little dry."

"Oh! and that 's a reason why you want relief and change

— excitement, and all that?" said she. "Ah! very true!
But isn't it a little — Eh? — for him ; I don't mean you ? "

A quick glance of her eye towards the spot where Steer-
forth was walking, with his mother leaning on his arm, showed
me whom she meant; but beyond that, I was quite lost. And
I looked so, I have no doubt.

"Don't it — I don't say that it does^ mind I want to know

— don't it rather engross him? Don't it make him, perhaps,
a little more remiss than usual in his visits to his blindly doting

— eh?" With another quick glance at them, and such a
glance at me as seemed to look into my Innermost thoughts.

"Miss Dartle," I returned, "pray do not think — "

"I don't!" she said. "Oh, dear me, don't suppose that
J think anything 1 I am not suspicious. I only ask a question.
I don't state any opinion. I want to found an opinion on what
you tell me. Then, it's not so? Well! I am very glad to
know it."

"It certainly is not the fact," said I, perplexed, "that I
am accountable for Steerforth's having been away from home
longer than usual — ifhe has been: which I really don't know
at this moment, unless I understand it from you. I have not
seen him this long while , until last night."

"No?"

"Indeed, Miss Dartle, nol "



240



As she looked full at me, I saw her face grow sharper and
paler, and the marks of the old wound lengthen out until it cut
through the disfigured lip, and deep into the nether lip, and
slanted down the face. There was something positively
awful to me in this, and in the brightness of her eyes, as she
said, looking fixedly at me:

"What is he doing?"

I repeated the words, more to myself than her, being so
amazed.

"What is he doing?" she said, with an eagerness that
seemed enough to consume her like a fire. "In what is that
man assisting him, who never looks at me without an inscru-
table falsehood in his eyes? If you are honourable and faithful,
I don't ask you to betray your friend, I ask you only to tell
me, is it anger, is it hatred, is it pride, is it restlessness, is it
some wild fancy, is it love, what is it ^ that is leading him?"

"Miss Dartle," I returned, "how shall I tell you, so that
you will believe me, that I know of nothing in Steerforth dif-
ferent from what there was when I first came here. I can think
of nothing. I firmly believe there is nothing. I hardly under-
stand, even, what you mean."

As she still looked fixedly at me, a twitching or throbbing,
from which I could not dissociate the idea of pain, came into
that cruel mark ; and lifted up the corner of her lip as if with
scorn, or with a pity that despised its object. She put her
hand upon it hurriedly — a hand so thin and delicate, that
when I had seen her hold it up before the fire to shade her
face, I had compared it in my thoughts to fine porcelain —
and saying, in a quick, fierce, passionate way , "I swear you
to secresy about this I " said not a word more.

Mrs. Steerforth was particularly happy in her son's society,
and Steerforth was, on this occasion, particularly attentive
and respectful to her. It was very interesting to me to see



241



them together, not only on account of their mutual affection,
but because of the strong personal resemblance between them,
and the manner in which what was haughty or impetuous in
him was softened by age and sex, in her, to a gracious dignity.
I thought, more than once, that it was well no serious cause
of division had ever come between them; or two such natures
— I ought rather to express it, two such shades of the same


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