Charles Dickens.

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

. (page 22 of 27)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 2) → online text (page 22 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


299



Mr. Spenlow did not appear to know what the connexion
between Mr. Murdstone and myself was ; which I was glad of,
for I could not bear to acknowledge him, even in my own
breast, remembering what I did of the historj- of my poor
mother. Mr. Spenlow seemed to think, if he thought any-
thing about the matter, that my aunt was the leader of the
etate party in our family, and that there was a rebel party
commanded by somebody else — so I gathered at least from
what he said, while we were waiting for Mr. Tiffey to make
out Peggotty's bill of costs.

"Miss Trotwood," he remarked, "is very firm, no doubt,
and not likely to give way to opposition. I have an admira-
tion for her character, and I may congratulate you, Copper-
field, on being on the right side. Differences between rela-
tions are much to be deplored — but they are extremely
general — and the great thing is, to be on the right side:"
meaning, I take it, on the side of the moneyed interest.

"Rather a good marriage this, I believe?" said Mr.
Spenlow.

[ explained that I knew nothing about it.

"Indeed!" he said. "Speaking from the few words Mr.
Murdstone dropped — as a man frequently does on these oc-
casions — and from what Miss Murdstone let fall, I should say
it was rather a good marriage."

"Do you mean that there is money. Sir?" I asked.

"Yes," said Mr. Spenlow, "I understand there's money.
Beauty too, I am told."

"Indeed? Is his new wife young?"

"Just of age," said Mr. Spenlow. "So lately, that I
should think they had been waiting for that."

"Lord deliver her!" said Peggotty. So ver}' emphati-
cally and unexpectedly, that we were all three discomposed;
until Tiffey came in with the bill.



300



Old Tiffey soon appeared, however, and handed it to
Mr. Spenlow, to look over. Mr. Spenlow, settling his chin
in his cravat and rubbing it softly, went over the items with a
deprecatory air — as if it were all Jorkins's doing — and
handed it back to Tiffey with a bland sigh,

"Yes," he said. "That 's right. Quite right. I should
have been extremely happy, Copperfield, to have limited
these charges to the actual expenditure out of pocket; but
it is an irksome incident in my professional life, that I am not
at liberty to consult my own wishes. I have a partner — Mr.
Jorkins."

As he said this with a gentle melancholy, which was the
next thing to making no charge at all, I expressed my acknow-
ledgments on Peggotty's behalf, and paid Tiffey in bank
notes. Peggotty then retired to her lodging, and Mr. Spen-
low and I went into Court, where we had a divorce-suit
coming on, under an ingenious little statute (repealed now,
I believe, but in virtue of which I have seen several marriages
annulled), of which the merits were these. The husband,
whose name was Thomas Benjamin, had taken out his mar-
riage license as Thomas only; suppressing the Benjamin,
in case he should not find himself as comfortable as he ex-
pected. Not finding himself as comfortable as he expected^
or being a little fatigued with his wife, poor fellow, he now
came forward by a friend, after being married a year or two,
and declared that his name was Thomas Benjamin, and there-
fore he was not married at all. "Which the Court confirmed,
to his great satisfaction.

I must say that I had my doubts about the sW-ict justice
of this, and was not even frightened out of them by the bushel
of wheat which reconciles all anomalies. But Mr. Spenlow
argued the matter with me. He said, Look at the world,
there was good and evil in that; look at the ecclesiastical law>



301



there was good and evil in that. It was all part of a system.
Very good. There you were I

I had not the hardihood to suggest to Dora's father that
possibly we might even improve the world a little, if we got
up early in the morning, and took off our coats to the work;
but I confessed that I thought we might improve the Com-
mons. Mr. Spenlow replied that he would particularly advise
me to dismiss that idea from my mind, as not being worthy
of my gentlemanly character; but that he would be glad to
hear from me of what improvement I thought the Commons
susceptible?

Taking that part of the Commons which happened to be
nearest to us — for our man was unmarried by this time, and
we were out of Court, and strolling past the Prerogative Office
— I submitted that I thought the Prerogative Office rather a
queerly managed institution. Mr. Spenlow inquired in what
respect? I replied, with all due deference to his experience
(but with more deference, I am afraid, to his being Dora's
father), that perhaps it was a little nonsensical that the
Registry of that Court, containing the original wills of all
persons leaving effects within the immense province of Can-
terbury, for three whole centuries, should be an accidental
building, never designed for the purpose, leased by the
registrars for their own private emolument, unsafe, not even
ascertained to be fire-proof, choked with the important docu-
ments it held, and positively, from the roof to the basement,
a mercenary speculation of the registrars, who took great fees
from the public, and crammed the public's wills away anyhow
and anywhere, having no other object than to get rid of them
cheaply. That, perhaps, it was a little unreasonable that
these registrars in the receipt of profits amounting to eight or
nine thousand pounds a year (to say nothing of the profits
of the deputy registrars, and clerks of seats), should not be



302



obliged to spend a little of that money, in finding a reasonably
safe place for the Important documents which all classes of
people were compelled to hand over to them, whether they
would or no. That, perhaps, it was a little unjust that all the
great offices in this great office, should be magnificent sine-
cures, while the unfortunate working-clerks in the cold dark
room up-stairs were the worst rewarded, and the least con-
sidered men, doing important services, in London. That
perhaps it was a little indecent that the principal registrar of
all, whose duty it was to find the public, constantly resorting
to this place, all needful accommodation, should be an enor-
mous slnecurist in virtue of that post (and might be, besides , a
clergyman, a pluralist, the holder of a stall In a cathedral, and
what not), — while the public was put to the Inconvenience of
which we had a specimen every afternoon when the office was
busy, and which we knew to be quite monstrous. That,
perhaps, in short, this Prerogative Office of the diocese of
Canterbury was altogether such a pestilent job, and such a
pernicious absurdity , that but for Its being squeezed away , In
a corner of Saint Paul's Churchyard, which few people knew,
It must have been turned completely inside out, and upside
down, long ago.

Mr. Spenlow smiled as I became modestly warm on the
subject, and then argued this question with me as he had
argued the other. He said, what was It after all? It was a
question of feeling. If the public felt that their wills were in
safe keeping, and took It for granted that the office was not to
be made better, who was the worse for it? Nobody? Who
was the better for it? AU the Sinecurlsts. Very well. Then
the good predominated. It might not be a perfect system;
nothing was perfect; but what he objected to, was, the in-
sertion of the wedge. Under the Prerogative Office, the
country had been glorious. Insert the wedge into the Prero-



303



gative Office, aud the country would cease to be glorious.
He considered it the principle of a gentleman to take things a8
he found them; and he had no doubt the Prerogative Office
would last our time. I deferred to his opinion, though I had
great doubts of it myself. I find he was right, however; for it
has not only lasted to the present moment, but has done so in
the teeth of a great parliamentar)' report made (not too will-
ingly) eighteen years ago, when all these objections of mine
were set forth in detail, and when the existing stowage for
wills was described as equal to the accumulation of only two
years and a half more. What they have done with them since;
whether they have lost many , or whether they sell any , now
and then, to the butter shops; I don't know. I am glad mine
is not there, and I hope it may not go there, yet awhile.

I have set all this down, in my present blissful chapter, be-
cause here it comes into its natural place. Mr. Spenlow and I
falling into this conversation, prolonged it and our saunter to
and fro, until we diverged into general topics. And so it camo
about, in the end, that Mr. Spenlow told me this day week was
Dora's birthday, and he would be glad if I would come down
and join a little pic-nic on the occasion. I went out of ray
senses immediately; became a mere driveller next day, on
receipt of a little lace-edged sheet of note paper, "Favoured
by papa. To remind ; " and passed the intervening period in
a state of dotage.

I think I committed every possible absurdity, in the way of
preparation for this blessed event. I turn hot when I re-
member the cravat I bought. My boots might be placed in
any collection of instruments of torture. I provided , and sent
down by the Norwood coach the night before, a delicate little
hamper, amounting in itself, I thought, almost to a declaration.
There were crackers in it with the tenderest mottos that could
be got for money. At sLx in the morning, I was in Covent



304



Garden Market, buying a bouquet for Dora. At ten I was on
horseback (I hired a gallant grey , for the occasion), with the
bouquet in my hat, to keep it fresh, trotting down to
Norwood.

I suppose that when I saw Dora in the garden and pre-
tended not to see her, and rode past the house pretending to
be anxiously looking for it, I committed two small fooleries
which other young gentlemen in my circumstances might have
committed — because they came so very natural to me. But
oh I when I did find the house, and did dismount at the garden
gate, and drag those stony-hearted boots across the lawn to
Dora sitting on a garden seat under a lilac tree, what a
spectacle she was, upon that beautiful morning, among the
butterflies, in a white chip bonnet and a dress of celestial
blue!

There was a young lady with her — comparatively stricken
in years — almost twenty , I should say. Her name was Miss
Mills and Dora called her Julia. She was the bosom friend of
Dora. Happy ^liss Mills !

Jip was there, and Jip would bark at me again. When 1
presented my bouquet, he gnashed his teeth with jealousy.
Well he might. If he had the least idea how I adored his
mistress, well he mightl

" Oh , thank you , J^Ir. Copperfield I What dear flowers 1 "
said Dora.

I had had an intention of saying (and had been studying
the best form of words for three miles) that I thought them
beautiful before I saw them so near her. But I couldn't
manage it. She was too bewildering. To see her lay the
flowers against her little dimpled chin, was to lose all presence
of mind and power of language in a feeble ecstacy. I wonder
I didn't say, "Kill me, if you have a heart. Miss Mills. Let
me die here!"



305



Then Dora held my flowers to Jip to smell. Then Jip
growled, and wouldn't smell them. Then Dora laughed , and
held them a little closer to Jip, to make him. Then Jip laid
hold of a bit of geranium with his teeth, and worried ima-
ginary cats in it. Then Dora beat him, and pouted, and said,
*' My poor beautiful flowers ! " as compassionately, I thought,
as if Jip had laid hold of me. I wished he had 1

"You'll be so glad to hear, Mr. Copperfield," saidDora,
*'that that cross Miss Murdstone is not here. She has gone
to her brother's marriage, and will be away at least three
weeks. Isn't that delightful?"

I said I was sure it must be delightful to her, and all that
was delightful to her was delightful to me. Miss Mills, with
an air of superior wisdom and benevolence, smiled upon us.

"She is the most disagreeable thing I ever saw," said
Dora. "You can't believe how ill-tempered and shocking
she is, Julia."

"Yes, I can, my dear! '' said Julia,

"yoMcan, perhaps, love," returned Dora, with her hand
on Julia's. "Forgive my not excepting you, my dear, at
first."

I learnt, from this , that Miss Mills had had her trials in the
course of a chequered existence ; and that to these , perhaps , I
might refer that wise benignity of manner which I had already
noticed. I found, in the course of the day, that this was the
case: Miss Mills having been unhappy in a misplaced af-
fection, and being understood to have retired from the world
on her awful stock of experience, but still to take a calm in-
terest in the unblighted hopes and loves of yonth.

But now Mr. Spenlow came out of the house, and Dora

went to him, saying, "Look, papa, what beautiful flowers!'*

And Miss Mills smiled thoughtfully, as who should say, 'Yc

May-flies, enjoy your brief existence in the bright morning of

David Copperfield. IL 20



306



life I " And we all walked from the lawn towards the carriage,
which was getting ready.

I shall never have such a ride again. I have never had
such another. There were only those three, their hamper, my
hamper, and the guitar-case, in the phaeton ; and, of course,
the phaeton was open ; and I rode behind it, and Dora sat with
her back to the horses, looking towards me. She kept the
bouquet close to her on the cushion, and wouldn't allow Jip
to sit on that side of her at all, for fear he should crush it. She
often carried it in her hand, often refreshed herself with its
fragrance. Our eyes at those times often met; and my great
astonishment is that I didn't go over the head of my gallant
grey into the carriage.

There was dust, I believe. There was a good deal of dust,
I believe. I have a faint impression that Mr. Spenlow remon-
strated with me for riding in it; but 1 knew of none. I was sen-
sible of a mist of love and beauty about Dora, but of nothing
else. He stood up sometimes, and asked me what I thought
of the prospect. I said it was delightful, and I daresay it was ;
but it was all Dora to me. The sun shone Dora, and the birds
sang Dora. The south wind blew Dora, and the wild flowers
in the hedges were all Doras, to a bud. My comfort is. Miss
Mills understood me. Miss Mills alone could enter into my
feelings thoroughly.

I don't know how long we were going, and to this hour I
know as little where we went. Perhaps it was near Guildford.
Perhaps some Arabian-night magician, opened up the place
for the day, and shut it for ever when we came away. It was
a green spot, on a hill, carpeted with soft turf. There were
shady trees, and heather, and, as far as the eye could see,
a rich landscape.

It was a trying thing to find people here, waiting for us ; and
my jealousy, even of the ladies, knew no bounds. But all of



307



my own sex — especially one impostor, three or four years my
elder, with a red whisker, on which he established an amount
of presumption not be endured — were my mortal foes.

We all unpacked our baskets, and employed ourselves in
getting dinner ready. Red Whisker pretended he could make
a salad (which I don't believe), and obtruded himself on public
notice. Some of the young ladies washed the lettuces for him,
and sliced them under his directions. Dora was among these.
I felt that fate had pitted me against this man, and one of us
must fall.

Red Whisker made his salad (I wondered how they could
eat it. Nothing should have induced me to touch it I) and
voted himself into the charge of the wine-cellar, which he con-
structed, being an ingenious beast, in the hollow trunk of a
tree. By-and-by I saw him, with the majority of a lobster on
his plate, eating his dinner at the feet of Dora!

I have but an indistinct idea of what happened for some
time after this baleful object presented Itself to my view. I
was very merry, Iknow; but it was hollow merriment. I attach-
ed myself to a young creature in pink, with little eyes, and
flirted with her desperately. She received my attentions with
favour; but whether on my account solely, or because she had
any designs on Red Whisker, I can't say. Dora's health was
drunk. When I drank it, I affected to interrupt my conver-
sation for that purpose, and to resume it immediately after-
wards. I caught Dora's eye as I bowed to her, and I thought
it looked appealing. But it looked at me over the head of Red
Whisker, and I was adamant.

The young creature in pink had amother in green; and I
rather think the latter separated us from motives of policy.
Howbeit, there was a general breaking up of the party, while
t]»e remnants of the dinner were being put away; and I strolled
off by myself among the trees, in a raging and remorseful

20*



308



state. I was debating whether I should pretend that I was not
well, and fly — I don't know where — upon my gallant grey,
when Dora and Miss Mills met me.

"Mr. Copperfield." said Miss Mills, "you are dull."

I begged her pardon. Not at all.

"And, Dora," said Miss Mills, ^'you are dull.

Oh dear no ! Not in the least.

"Mr. Copperfield and Dora," said Miss I^Iills, with an al-
most venerable air. "Enough of this. Do not allow a trivial
misunderstanding to wither the blossoms of spring, which,
once put forth and blighted, can not be renewed. I speak,"
said Miss Mills, "from experience of the past — the remote
irrevocable past. The gushing fountains which sparkle in the
sun, must not be stopped in mere caprice; the oasis in the
desert of Sahara, must not be plucked up idly."

I hardly knew what I did, I was burning all over to that ex-
traordinary extent; but I took Dora's little hand and kissed it
— and she let mel I kissed Miss Mills's hand; and we all
seemed, to my thinking, to go straight up to the seventh
heaven.

We did not come down again. We stayed up there all the
evening. At first we strayed to and fro among the trees : I
with Dora's shy arm drawn through mine : and Heaven knows,
folly as it all was, It would have been a happy fate to have been
struck Immortal with those foolish feelings, and have strayed
among the trees for ever I

But, much too soon, we heard the others laughing and
talking, and calling "where 's Dora!" So we went back, and
they wanted Dora to sing. Red Whisker would have got the
guitar-case out of the carriage, but Dora told him nobody
knew where It was, but I. So Red Whisker was done for in a
moment ; and / got it, and / unlocked it, and / took the guitar
out, and / sat by her, and /held her handkerchief and gloves,



309



and/ drank in every note of her dear voice, and she sang to

vie who loved her, and all the others might applaud as much as
they liked, but they had nothing to do with it!

I was intoxicated with joy. I was afraid it was too happy
to be real, an*d that I should wake in Buckingham Street pre-
sently, and hear Mrs. Crupp clinking the tea-cups in getting
breakfast ready. But Dora sang, and others sang, and Miss
Mills sang — about the slumbering echoes in the caverns of
Memory; as if she were a hundred years old — and the evening
came on; and we had tea, with a kettle boiling gipsy- fashion;
and I was still as happy as ever.

I was happier than ever when the party broke up, and
the other people, defeated Red Whisker and all, went
their several ways, and we went ours through the still
evening and the dying light, with sweet scents rising up
around us. Mr. Spenlow being a little drowsy after the
champagne — honour to the soil that grew the grape, to
the grape that made the wine, to the sun that ripened it, and
to the merchant who adulterated it! — and being fast asleep in
a corner of the carriage, I rode by the side, and talked to
Dora. She admired my horse and patted him — oh, what a
dear little hand it' looked upon a horse! — and her shawl
would not keep right, and now and then I drew it round her
with my arm ; and I even fancied that Jip began to see how it
was, and to understand that he must make up his mind to be
friends with me.

That sagacious Miss Mills, too ; that amiable, though quite
used up, recluse; that little patriarch of something less than
twenty, who had done with the world, and mustn't on any ac-
count have the slumbering echoes in the caverns of Memory
awakened; what a kind thing ^Ae did!

"Mr. Copperfield," said Miss Mills, "come to this side of



310



the carriage a moment — if you can spare a moment. I want
to speak to you."

Behold me, on my gallant grey, bending at the side of
Miss Mills , with my hand upon the carriage-door !

"Dora is coming to stay with me. She is coming homo
with me the day after to-morrow. If you would like to call,
I am sure papa would be happy to see you."

What could I do but invoke a silent blessing on Miss Mills's
head, and store Miss Mills's address in the securest corner of my
memory! What could I do but tell Miss Mills, with grateful
looks and fervent words, how much I appreciated her good
offices, and what an inestimable value I set upon her friend-
ship !

Then Miss Mills benignantly dismissed me, saying, "Go
backtoDoral" andlwent; and Dora leaned out of the car-
riage to talk to me, and we talked all the rest of the way ; and
I rode my gallant grey so close to the wheel that I grazed his
near fore leg against it, and "took the bark off," as his owner
told me, "to the tune of three pun' sivin" — which I paid,
and thought extremely cheap for so much joy. What time
]\Iiss Mills sat looking at the moon, murmuring verses and re-
calling, I suppose, the ancient days when she and earth had
anything in common.

Norwood was many miles too near, and we reached it many
hours too soon; but Mr. Spenlow came to himself a little short
of it, and said, "You must come in, Copperfield, and rest!"
and I consenting , we had sandwiches and wine-and-water. In
the light room, Dora blushing looked so lovely, that I could
not tear myself away , but sat there staring, in a dream, until
the snoring of Mr. Spenlow inspired me with sufficient con-
sciousness to take my leave. So we parted; I riding all the
way to London with the farewell touch of Dora's hand still
light on mine, recalling every incident and word ten thousand



311



times; lying down In my own bed at last, as enraptured a
young noodle as ever was carried out of his five wits by love.

When I awoke next morning, I was resolute to declare my
passion to Dora, and know my fate. Happiness or miser}- was
now the question. There was no other question that I knew
of in the world, and only Dora could give the answer to it. I
passed three days in a luxur}' of wretchedness, torturing my-
self by putting every conceivable variety of discouraging con-
struction on all that ever had taken place between Dora and
me. At last, arrayed for the purpose at a vast expense, I went
to Miss Mills's, fraught with a declaration.

How many times I went up and down the street, and round
the square — painfully aware of being a much better answer to
the old riddle than the original one — before I could persuade
myself to go up the steps and knock, is no matter now. Even
when, at last, I had knocked, and wa^ waiting at the door, I
had some flurried thought of asking if that were Mr. Black-
boy's (in imitation of poor Barkis), begging pardon, and re-
treating. But I kept my ground.

Mr. Mills was not at home. I did not expect he would be.
Nobody wanted him. Miss Mills wa? at home. Miss Mills
would do.

I was shown into a room upstairs, where Miss Mills and
Dora were. Jip was there. Miss Mills was copying music
(I recollect, it was a new song, called Affection's Dirge) , and
Dora was painting flowers. What were my feelings, when I
recognised ray own flowers; the identical Covent Garden
Market purchase! I cannot say that they were very like, or
that they particularly resembled any flowers that have ever
come under my observation ; but I knew from the paper round
them, which was accurately copied, what the composition was.

Miss Mills was ver}' glad to see me, and very sorn.' her
Papa was not at home : though I thought we all bore that with



312



fortitude. Miss Mills was conversational for a few minutes,
and then, laying down her pen upon Affection's Dirge, got up,
and left the room.

I began to think I would put it off till to-morrow.

"I hope your poor horse was not tired , when he got home
at night," said Dora, lifting up her beautiful eyes. "It was a
long way for him.*'

I began to think I would do it to-day.

"It was a long way for hhn ," said I, "for he had nothing to
uphold him on the journey."

"Wasn't he fed, poor thing?" asked Dora.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22 24 25 26 27

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 2) → online text (page 22 of 27)