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

"Ye — yes," I said, "he was well taken care of. I mean
he had not the unutterable happiness that I had in being so
near you."

Dora bent her head over her drawing, and said, after a
little while — I had sat, in the interval, in a burning fever, and
with my legs in a very rigid state —

"You didn't seem to be sensible of that happiness yourself,
at one time of the day."

I saw now that I was in for it, and it must be done on
the spot.

"You didn't care for that happiness in the least," said
Dora, slightly raising her eyebrows, and shaking her head,
"when you were sitting by Miss Kitt."

Kitt, I should observe, was the name of the creature in
pink, with the little eyes.

"Though certainly I don't know why you should," said
Dora, "or why you should call it a happiness at all. But of
course you don't mean what you say. And I am sure no one
doubts your being at liberty to do whatever you like. Jip,
you naughty boy, come here!"



313



I don't know how I did it. I did it in a moment. I inter-
cepted Jip. I had Dora in my arms. I was full of eloquence.
I never stopped for a word. I told her how I loved her. I told
her I should die without her. I told her that I idolised and
worshipped her. Jip barked madly all the time.

When Dora hung her head and cried, and trembled, my
eloquence increased so much the more. If she would like me
to die for her, she had but to say the word, and I was ready.
Life without Dora's love was not a thing to have on any terms.
I couldn't bear it, and I wouldn't. I had loved her every
minute, day and night, since I first saw her. I loved her at
that minute to distraction. I should always love her, every
minute, to distraction. Lovers had loved before, and lovers
would love again ; but no lover had ever loved, might, could,
would, or should ever love, as I loved Dora. The more I
raved, the more Jip barked. Each of us, in his own way,
got more mad every moment.

Well, welll Dora and I were sitting on the sofa by-and-
by, quiet enough, and Jip was lying in her lap, winking
peacefully at me. It was off my mind. I was in a state of
perfect rapture. Dora and I were engaged.

I suppose we had some notion that this was to end in mar-
riage. We must have had some , because Dora stipulated that
we were never to be married without her papa's consent. But,
in our youthful ecstacy, I don't think that we really looked
before us or behind us; or had any aspiration beyond the
ignorant present. We were to keep our secret from ^Ir.
Spenlow ; but I am sure the idea never entered my head, then,
that there was anything dishonourable in that.

Miss Mills was more than usually pensive when Dora,
going to find her, brought her back; — I apprehend, because
there was a tendency in what had passed to awaken the slum-
bering echoes in the caverns of memory. But she gave us her



314



blessing, and the assurance of her lasting friendship, and
spoke to us, generally, as became a Voice from the
Cloister.

What an idle time it was 1 What an unsubstantial, happy,
foolish time it was!

When I measured Dora's finger for a ring that was to be
made of Forget-me-nots, and when the jeweller, to whom I
took the measure, found me out, and laughed over his order
book, and charged me anything he liked, for the pretty little
toy , with its blue stones — so associated in my remembrance
with Dora's hand, that yesterday, when I saw such another,
by chance, on the finger of my own daughter, there was a
momentary stirring in my heart, like pain 1

When I walked about, exalted with my secret, and full of
my own interest, and felt the dignity of loving Dora, and of
being beloved, so much, that if I had walked the air, I could
not have been more above the people not so situated, who
were creeping on the earth I

When we had those meetings in the garden of the square,
and sat within the dingy summer-house, so happy, that I love
the London sparrows to this hour, for nothing else, and see
the plumage of the tropics in their smoky feathers 1

When we had our first great quarrel (within a week of our
betrothal), and when Dora sent me back the ring, enclosed
in a despairing cocked-hat note, wherein she used the terrible
expression that "our love had begun in folly, and ended in
madness I" which dreadful words occasioned me to tear ray
hair, and cry that all was over I

When, under cover of the night, I (lew to Miss Mills^
whom I saw by stealth in a back-kitchen where there was a
mangle, and implored Miss Mills to interpose between us and
avert insanity. When Miss Mills undertook the office and
returned with Dora, exhorting us , from the pulpit of her owa



315



bitter youth, to mutual concession, and the avoidance of the
Desert of Sahara 1

When we cried, and made it up, and were so blest again,
that the back-kitchen, mangle and all, changed to Love's
own temple, where we arranged a plan of correspondence
through Miss Mills, always to comprehend at least one letter
on each side every day I

What an idle time ! What an unsubstantial, happy, foolish
time 1 Of all the times of mine that Time has in his grip, there
is none that in one retrospection I can smile at half so much,
and think of half so tenderly.



CHAPTER XVIU,

My aunt astonishes me.

I WROTE to Agnes as soon as Dora and I were engaged.
I wrote her a long letter, in which I tried to make her com-
prehend how blest I was , and what a darling Dora was. I en-
treated Agnes not to regard this as a thoughtless passion which
could ever yield to any other, or had the least resemblance to
the boyish fancies that we used to joke about. I assured her
that its profundity was quite unfathomable, and expressed my
belief that nothing like it had ever been known.

Somehow, as I wrote to Agnes on a fine evening by my
open window, and the remembrance of her clear calm eyes
and gentle face came stealing over me, it shed such a peaceful
influence upon the hurry and agitation in which I had been
living lately, and of which my very happiness partook in some
degree, that it soothed me into tears. I remember that I sat
resting my head upon my hand, when the letter was half done,
cherishing a general fancy as if Agnes were one of the ele-
ments of my natural home. As if, in the retirement of the
house made almost sacred to me by her presence, Dora and I
must be happier than anywhere. As if, in love, joy, sorrow,
hope, or disappointment; in all emotions; my heart turned
naturally there, and found its refuge and best friend.

Of Steerforth , I said nothing. I only told her there had
been sad grief at Yarmouth, on account of Emily's flight; and
that on me it made a double wound, by reason of the circum-
stances attending it. I knew how quick she always was to
divine the truth, and that she would never be the first to
breathe his name.



317



To this letter, I received an answer by return of post.
As I read it, I seemed to hear Agnes speaking to me. It
was like her cordial voice in my ears. What can I say
more!

While I had been away from home lately, Traddles had
called twice or thrice. Finding Peggotty within, and being
informed by Peggotty (who always volunteered that informa-
tion to whomsoever would receive it), that she was my old
nurse, he had established a good-humoured acquaintance with
her, and had stayed to have a little chat with her about me.
So Peggotty said ; but I am afraid the chat was all on her own
side, and of immoderate length, as she was very difficult
indeed to stop, God bless her! when she had me for her
theme.

This reminds me, not only that I expected Traddles on
a certain afternoon of his own appointing, which was now
come, but that Mrs. Crupp had resigned everything apper-
taining to her office (the salary excepted) until Peggotty
should cease to present herself. Mrs. Crupp, after holding
divers conversations respecting Peggotty, in a very high
pitched voice, on the staircase — with some Invisible Familiar
it would appear, for corporeally speaking she was quite alone
at those times — addressed a letter to me, developing her
views. Beginning it with that statement of universal applica-
tion, which fitted every occurrence of her life, namely, that
she was a mother herself, she went on to inform me that she
had once seen verj' difi'erent days, but that at all periods of
her existence she had had a constitutional objection to spies,
intruders, and informers. She named no names, she said;
let them the cap fitted, wear it; but spies, intruders, and
informers, especially in widders' weeds (this clause was
underlined), she had ever accustomed herself to look down
upon. If a gentleman was the victim of spies, intruders, and



318



informers (but still naming no names), that was his own plea-
sure. He had a right to please himself; so let him do. All
that she, Mrs. Crupp, stipulated for, was, that she should
not be "brought In contract" with such persons. Therefore
she begged to be excused from any further attendance on the
top set, until things was as they formerly was, and as they
could be wished to be ; and further mentioned that her little
book would be found upon the breakfast-table every Saturday
morning, when she requested an immediate settlement of the
same, with the benevolent view of saving trouble, "and an
ill-conwenience " to all parties.

After this, Mrs. Crupp confined herself to making pit-falls
on the stairs, principally with pitchers, and endeavouring to
delude Peggotty into breaking her legs. I found it rather
harassing to live in this state of siege, but was too much afraid
of Mrs. Crupp to see any way out of it.

"My dear Copperfield," cried Traddles, punctually ap-
pearing at my door, in spite of all these obstacles, "how do
you do?"

"My dear Traddles," said I, "lam delighted to see you
at last, and ver^' sorry I have not been at home before. But I
have been so much engaged — "

"Yes, yes, I know," said Traddles, "of course. Your's
lives in London, I think."

" What did you say ? "

" She — excuse me — Miss D., you know," said Traddles,
colouring in his great delicacy, "lives in London, I be-
lieve?"

"Oh yes. Near London."

"Mine, perhaps you recollect," said Traddles, with a
serious look, "lives down in Devonshire — one of ten.
Consequently, I am not so much engaged as you — in that
sense "



319



"I wonder you can bear," I returned, "to see her so
seldom.*'

"Hah!" said Traddles , thoughtfully. "It does seem a
wonder. I suppose it is, Copperfield, because there 's no
help for it?"

"I suppose so," I replied, with a smile, and not without a
blush, "And because you have so much constancy and pa-
tience, Traddles."

"Dear me!" said Traddles, considering about it, "do I
strike you in that way, Copperfield? Really I didn't know
that I had. But she is such an extraordinarily dear girl her-
self, that it 's possible she may have imparted something of
those virtues to me. Now you mention it, Copperfield, I
shouldn't wonder at all. I assure you she is always forgetting
herself, and taking care of the other nine."

"Is she the eldest?" I inquired.

"Oh dear, no," said Traddles. "The eldest is a
Beauty."

He saw, I suppose, that I could not help smiling at the
simplicity of this reply ; and added, with a smile upon his own
ingenuous face :

"Not, of course, but that my Sophy — pretty name, Cop-
perfield, I always think?"

"Very pretty ! " said I.

"Not, of course, but that Sophy is beautiful too, in my
eyes, and would be one of the dearest girls that ever was, in
anybody's eyes (I should think). But when I say the eldest is
a Beauty, I mean she really is a — " he seemed to be describing
clouds about himself, with both hands: "Splendid, you
know," said Traddles, energetically.

"Indeed! " said I.

"Oh, I assure you," said Traddles, "something very un-
common, indeed! Then, you know, being formed for society



320



and admiration, and not being able to enjoy much of it, in
consequence of their limited means, she naturally gets a little
irritable and exacting, sometimes. Sophy puts her in good
humour!"

"Is Sophy the youngest? " I hazarded.

"Oh dear, no!" said Traddles, stroking his chin. "The
two youngest are only nine and ten. Sophy educates 'em.*'

" The second daughter, perhaps? " I hazarded.

"No," said Traddles. " Sarah 's the second. Sarah has
something the matter with her spine, poor girl. The malady
will wear out by-and-by, the doctors say, but in the mean-
time she has to lie down for a twelvemonth. Sophy nurses
her. Sophy 's the fourth."

"Is the mother living?" I inquired.

"Oh yes," said Traddles, "she is alive. She is a very
superior woman, indeed, but the damp country is not adapted
to her constitution, and — in fact, she has lost the use of
her limbs."

"Dear me!" said I.

"Very sad, is it not?" returned Traddles. "But in a
merely domestic view it is not so bad as it might be, because
Sophy takes her place. She is quite as much a mother to her
mother, as she is to the other nine."

I felt the greatest admiration for the virtues of this young
lady ; and, honestly with the view of doing my best to prevent
the good-nature of Traddles from being imposed upon, to the
detriment of their joint prospects in life , inquired how Mr.
Micawber was?

"He is quite well, Copperfield, thank you," said Traddles.
" I am not living with him at present."

"No?"

"No. You see the truth is," said Traddles, in a whisper,
"he has changed his name to Mortimer, in consequence of his



321



temporary embarrassments ; and he don't come out till after
dark — and then in spectacles. There was an execution put
into our house, for rent. Mrs. Micawber was in such a
•dreadful state that I really couldn't resist giving my name
to that second bill we spoke of here. You may imagine
bow delightful it was to my feelings, Copperfield, to see
the matter settled with it, and Mrs. Micawber recover her
spirits."

"Hum!" said I.

"Not that her happiness was of long duration," pursued
Traddles, " for, unfortunately, within a week another execu-
tion came in. It broke up the establishment. I have been
living in a furnished apartment since then, and the Mortimers
have been very private indeed, I hope you won't think it
selfish, Copperfield, if I mention that the broker carried off
my little round table with the marble top, and Sophy's flower-
pot and stand?"

" What a hard thing I " I exclaimed indignantly.

"It was a — it was a pull," said Traddles, with his usual
wince at that expression. '*I don't mention it reproachfully,
however, but with a motive. The fact is, Copperfield, I was
unable to repurchase them at the time of their seizure; in the
first place, because the broker, having an idea that I wanted
them, ran the price up to an extravagant extent ; and, in the
second place, because I — hadn't any money. Now, I have
kept my eye since, upon the broker's shop," said Traddles,
with a great enjoyment of his mystery, "which is up at the top
of Tottenham Court Road, and, at last, to-day I find them
put out for sale. I have only noticed them from over the way,
because if the broker saw me, bless you, he 'd ask any price
for them! What has occurred to me, having now the money,
is, that perhaps you wouldn't object to ask that good nurse
of yours to come with me to the shop — I can show it her
David Copperfield. 11. 2 1



322



from round the corner of the next street — and make the
best bargain for them, as if they were for himself, that she
canl"

The delight with which Traddles propounded this plan
to me, and the sense he had of its uncommon artfulness, are
among the freshest things in my remembrance.

I told him that my old nurse would be delighted to assist
him, and that we would all three take the field together, but
on one condition. That condition was, that he should make a
solemn resolution to grant no more loans of his name, or any-
thing else, to Mr. Micawber.

"My dear Copperfield," said Traddles, "I have already
done so, because I begin to feel that I have not only been
inconsiderate, but that I have been positively unjust to
Sophy. My word being passed to myself, there is no longer
any apprehension; but I pledge it to you, too, with the
greatest readiness. That first unlucky obligation, I have
paid. I have no doubt Mr. Micawber would have paid it
if he could, but he could not. One thing I ought to men-
tion, which I like very much in Mr. Micawber, Copperfield.
It refers to the second obligation, which is not yet due. He
don't tell me that it i* provided for, but he says it will be.
Now, I think there is something very fair and honest about
thatl"

I was unwilling to damp my good friend's confidence, and
therefore assented. After a little further conversation, we
went round to the chandler's shop , to enlist Peggotty ;
Traddles declining to pass the evening with me, both because
he endured the liveliest apprehensions that his property would
be bought by somebody else before he could re-purchase it,
and because it was the evening he always devoted to writing to
the dearest girl in the world.

I never shall forget him peeping round the comer of the



323



street in Tottenham Court Road, while Peggotty was bar-
gaining for the precious articles; or his agitation when she
came slowly towards us after vainly offering a price, and
was hailed by the relenting broker, and went back again.
The end of the negotiation was, that she bought the property
on tolerably easy terms, and Traddles was transported with
pleasure.

"I am very much obliged to you, indeed," said Traddles,
on hearing it was to be sent to where he lived, that night. If
I might ask one other favour, I hope you wouldn't think it
absurd, Copperfield?"

I said beforehand, certainly not.

"Then if you 7vould be good enough," said Traddles
to Peggotty, "to get the flower-pot now, I think I should
like (it being Sophy's, Copperfield) to carry it home my-
self! "

Peggotty was glad to get it for him, and he overwhelmed
her with thanks, and went his way up Tottenham Court
Road, carrying the flower-pot affectionately in his arms, with
one of the most delighted expressions of countenance I ever
saw.

We then turned back towards my chambers. As the shops
had charms for Peggotty which I never knew them possess in
the same degree for anybody else, I sauntered easily along,
amused by her staring in at the windows, and waiting for her
as often as she chose. We were thus a good while in getting
to the Adelphi.

On our way upstairs, I called her attention to the sudden
disappearance of Mrs. Crupp's pit-falls, and also to the prints
of recent footsteps. We were both very much surprised,
coming higher up, to find my outer door standing open (which
I had shut), and to hear voices inside.

We looked at one another, without knowing what to

2r



324



make of this, and went into the sitting-room. What was
my amazement to find, of all people upon earth, my aunt
there, and Mr. Dick! My aunt sitting on a quantity of
luggage, with her two birds before her, and her cat on
her knee, like a female Robinson Crusoe, drinking tea.
Mr. Dick leaning thoughtfully on a great kite, such as we had
often been out together to fly, with more luggage piled about
him!

"My dear aunt!" cried I. "Why, what an unexpected
pleasure I **

We cordially embraced; and Mr. Dick and I cordially
shook hands; and Mrs. Crupp, who was busy making tea,
and could not be too attentive, cordially said she had knowed
well as IVIr. CcpperfuU would have his heart in his mouth,
when he see his dear relations.

"Hollao!'* said my aunt to Peggotty , who quailed before
her awful presence. "How are you?'"

"You remember my aunt, Peggotty?" said I.

"For the love of goodness, child," exclaimed my aunt,
" don't call the woman by that South Sea Island name I If she
married and got rid of it, which was the best thing she could
do, why don't you give her the benefit of the change? What's
your name now, — P?" said my aunt, as a compromise for the
obnoxious appellation.

"Barkis, Ma'am," said Peggotty, with a curtsey.

"Well! that 's human," said my aunt. "It sounds less as
if you wanted a Missionary. How d' ye do , Barkis? I hope
you 're well?"

Encouraged by these gracious words, and by my aunt's
extending her hand, Barkis came forward, and took the hand,
and curtseyed her acknowledgments.

" We are older than we were , I see ," said my aunt. " We
have only met each other once before, you know. A nice



325



"business we made of it thenl Trot, my dear, another
cup."

I handed it dutifully to my aunt, who was in her usual in-
flexible state of figure ; and ventured a remonstrance with her
on the subject of sitting on a box.

"Let me draw the sofa here, or the easy chair, aunt,'*
said I. "Why should you be so uncomfortable?"

"Thank you, Trot," replied my aunt, "I prefer to sit
upon my property." Here my aunt looked hard at Mrs.Crupp,
and observed, "We needn't trouble you to wait, Ma'am."

" Shall I put a little more tea in the pot afore I go, Ma'am? '*
said Mrs. Crupp.

"No, I thank you, Ma*am," replied my aunt.

"Would you let me fetch another pat of butter, Ma'am? '*
said Mrs. Crupp. " Or would you be persuaded to try a new-
laid hegg? or should I brile a rasher? Ain't there nothing I
could do for your dear aunt, Mr. CopperfuU?"

"Nothing, Ma'am," returned my aunt. "I shall do very
well, I thank you."

IVIrs. Crupp, who had been incessantly smiling to express
sweet temper, and incessantly holding her head on one side,
to express a general feebleness of constitution, and inces-
santly rubbing her hands, to express a desire to be of service
to all deserving objects, gradually smiled herself, one-sided
herself, and rubbed herself, out of the room.

"Dick!" said my aunt. "You know what I told you about
time-servers and wealth-worshippers? "

Mr. Dick — with rather a scared look, as if he had for-
gotten it — returned a hasty answer in the affirmative.

"Mrs.Crupp is one of them," said my aunt. "Barkis,
I '11 trouble you to look after the tea, and let me have another
cup, for I don't fancy that woman's pouring-out!"

I knew my aunt sufficiently well to know that she had some-



326



thing of importance on her mind, and that there was far more
matter in this arrival than a stranger might have supposed. I
noticed how her eye lighted on me, when she thought my at-
tention otherwise occupied; and what a curious process of
hesitation appeared to be going on within her, while she pre-
served her outward stiffness and composure. I began to
reflect whether I had done anything to offend her ; and my
conscience whispered me that I had not yet told her about
Dora. Could it by any means be that, I wondered!

As I knew she would only speak in her own good time, I
sat down near her, and spoke to the birds, and played with
the cat, and was as easy as I could be. But I was very far
from being really easy; and I should still have been so , even
if Mr. Dick, leaning over the great kite behind my aunt, had
not taken every secret opportunity of shaking his head tiarkly
at me, and pointing at her.

"Trot," said my aunt at last, when she had finished her
tea, and carefully smoothed down her dress, and wiped her
lips — " you needn't go , Barkis 1 — Trot, have you got to be
firm, and self-reliant?"

**Ihope so, aunt."

" What do you think ? " inquired Miss Betsey.

**1 think so, aunt."

"Then why, my love," said my aunt, looking earnestly
at me, "why do you think I prefer to sit upon this property of
mine to-night?"

I shook my head, unable to guess.

"Because," said my aunt, "it 's all I have. Because I 'm
ruined, my dear!"

If the house, and everj' one of us, had tumbled out into
the river together, I could hardly have received a greater
shock.

"Dick knows it," said my aunt, laying her hand calmly on



327



my shoulder. "lam ruined, my dear Trot! All I have in
the world is in this room, except the cottage; and that I have
left Janet to let. Barkis , I want to get a bed for this gentle-
man to-night. To save expense, perhaps you can make up
Bomething here for myself. Anything will do. It 's only for
to-night. We '11 talk about this, more, to-morrow."

I was roused from my amazement , and concern for her —
I am sure, for her — by her falling on my neck, for a moment,
and crj-ing that she only grieved for me. In another moment,
she suppressed this emotion; and said with an aspect more
triumphant than dejected:

*' We must meet reverses boldly, and not suffer them to
frighten us, my dear. We must learn to act the play out. We
must live misfortune down, Trot I "


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