Charles Dickens.

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

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CHAPTER XIX.

Depression.

As soon as I could recover my presence of mind, which
quite deserted me in the first overpowering shock of my aunt's
intelligence, I proposed to Mr. Dick to come round to the
chandler's shop, and take possession of the bed which Mr.
Peggotty had lately vacated. The chandler's shop being in
Hungerford Market, and Hungerford Market being a very
different place in those days, there was a low wooden colon-
nade before the door (not very unlike that before the house
where the little man and woman used to live, in the old
weather-glass), which pleased Mr. Dick mightily. The glory
of lodging over this structure would have compensated him,
I dare say, for many inconveniences ; but, as there were really
few to bear, beyond the compound of flavours I have already
mentioned, and perhaps the want of a little more elbow-room^
he was perfectly charmed with his accommodation. Mrs.
Crupp had indignantly assured him that there wasn't room
to swing a cat there; but, as Mr. Dick justly observed to me,
sitting down on the foot of the bed, nursing his leg, "You
know, Trotwood, I don't want to swing a cat. I never do
swing a cat. Therefore, what does that signify to Twe/"

I tried to ascertain whether Mr. Dick had any understand-
ing of the causes of this sudden and great change in my aunt's
affairs. As I might have expected, he had none at all. The
only account he could give of it, was, that my aunt had said
to him, the day before yesterday, "Now, Dick, are you really
and truly the philosopher I take you for? " That then he had
said, Ye?, he hoped so. That then my aunt had said, "Dick,



329



I am ruined." That then he had said "Oh, indeed!" That
then my aunt had praised him highly, which he was very glad
of. And that then they had come to me , and had had bottled
porter and sandwiches on the road.

Mr. Dick was so very complacent, sitting on the foot of
the bed, nursing his leg, and telling me this, with his eyes
wide open and a surprised smile, that I am sorrj' to say I was
provoked into explaining to him that ruin meant distress,
want, and starvation; but, I was soon bitterly reproved for
this harshness, by seeing his face turn pale, and tears course
down his lengthened cheeks, while he fixed upon me a look
of such unutterable woe, that it might have softened a far
harder heart than mine. I took infinitely greater pains to
cheer him up again than I had taken to depress him; and I
soon understood (as I ought to have known at first) that he
had been so confident, merely because of his faith in the wisest
and most wonderful of women, and his unbounded reliance
on my intellectual resources. The latter, I believe, he con-
sidered a match for any kind of disaster not absolutely mortal.

"What can we do, Trotwood?" said Mr. Dick. "There '3
the Memorial — "

"To be sure there is," said I. "But all we can do just
now, Mr. Dick, is to keep a cheerful countenance, and not
let my aunt see that we are thinking about it."

He assented to this in the most earnest manner; and im-
plored me, if I should see him wandering an inch out of the
right course, to recall him by some of those superior methods
which were always at my command. But I regret to state
that the fright I had given him proved too much for his best
attempts at concealment. All the evening his eyes wandered
to my aunt's face, with an expression of the most dismal
apprehension, as if he saw her growing thin on the spot. He
was conscious of this, and put a constraint upon his head ; but



330



his keeping that immovable, and sitting rolling his eyes like
a piece of machinery, did not mend the matter at all. I saw
him look at the loaf at supper (which happened to be a small
one), as if nothing else stood between us and famine; and
when my aunt insisted on his making his customary repast,
I detected him in the act of pocketing fragments of his bread
and cheese ; I have no doubt for the purpose of reviving us
with those savings, when we should have reached an ad-
vanced stage of attenuation.

My aunt, on the other hand, was in a composed frame of
mind, which was a lesson to all of us — to me, I am sure. She
was extremely gracious to Peggotty, except when I inadver-
tently called her by that name; and, strange as I knew she
felt in London, appeared quite at home. She was to have my
bed, and I was to lie in the sitting-room, to keep guard over
her. She made a great point of being so near the river, in
case of a conflagration; and I suppose really did find some
satisfaction in that circumstance,

"Trot, my dear," said my aunt, when she saw me ma-
king preparations for compounding her usual night-draught,
♦'No!"

"Nothing, aunt?"

"Not wine, my dear. Ale."

"But there is wine here, aunt. And you always have it
made of wine."

"Keep that, in case of sickness," said ray aunt. "We
mustn*t use it carelessly. Trot. Ale for me. Half a pint."

I thought Mr. Dick would have fallen, insensible. My
aunt being resolute, I went out and got the ale myself. As it
was growing late, Peggotty and Mr. Dick took that opportu-
nity of repairing to the chandler's shop together. I parted
from him, poor fellow, at the corner of the street, with his
great kite at his back, a \Qry monument of human misery.



331



My aunt was walking up and down tlie room wnen I
returned, crimping the borders of her nightcap with her
lingers. I warmed the ale and made the toast on the usual
infallible principles. WTien it was ready for her, she was
ready for it, with her nightcap on, and the skirt of her gown
turned back on her knees.

"My dear," said my aunt, after taking a spoonful of it;
*'it 's a great deal better than wine. Not half so bilious.*'

I suppose I looked doubtful , for she added :

"Tut, tut, child. If nothing worse than Ale happens to
us, we are well off.'*

"I should think so myself, aunt, I am sure," said I.

"Well, then, why rfon'f you think so?" said my aunt.

"Because you and I are very different people," I returned.

"Stuff and nonsense, Trot!" replied my aunt.

My aunt went on with a quiet enjoyment, in which there
was very little affectation , if any; drinking the warm ale with
a tea-spoon , and soaking her strips of toast in it.

"Trot," said she, "I don't care for strange faces in
general, but I rather like that Barkis of yours, do you
know!"

"It's better than a hundred pounds to hear you say so!"
eaid I.

"It's a most extraordinary world," observed my aunt,
rubbing her nose ; " how that woman ever got into it with that
name, is unaccountable to me. It would be much more easy
to be bom a Jackson, or something of that sort, one would
think."

"Perhaps she thinks so, too; it 's not her fault," said I.

"I suppose not," returned my aunt, rather grudging the
admission; "but It 's very aggravating. However, she 's
Barkis now. That *8 some comfort. Barkis is uncommonly
fond of you, Trot."



332



"There Is nothing she would leave undone to prove it,'*
said I.

"Nothing, I believe," returned my aunt. "Here, the poor
fool has been begging and praying about handing over some
of her money — because she has got too much of it! A simple-
ton!"

My aunt's tears of pleasure were positively trickling down
into the warm ale.

"She 's the most ridiculous creature that ever was born,'*
said my aunt, "I knew, from the first moment when I saw her
with that poor dear blessed baby of a mother of yours, that
she was the most ridiculous of mortals. But there are good
points in Barkis ! "

Affecting to laugh, she got an opportunity of putting her
hand to her eyes. Having availed herself of it, she resumed
her toast and her discourse together.

"Ahl Mercy upon us!" sighed my aunt. "I know all
about it. Trot! Barkis and myself had quite a gossip while
you were out with Dick, I know all about it. I don't know
where these wretched girls expect to go to, for my part.
I wonder they don't knock out their brains against — against
mantelpieces," said my aunt; an idea which was probably
suggested to her by her contemplation of mine.

"Poor Emily!" said I.

"Oh, don't talk to rae about poor," returned my aunt.
" She should have thought of that, before she caused so much
misery! Give me a kiss. Trot. I am sorry for your early
experience.**

As I bent forward, she put her tumbler on my knee to
detain me, and said:

"Oh, Trot, Trot! And so you fancy yourself in love!
Do you?"






333



"Fancy, aunt I " I exclaimed, as red as I could be. "I adore
her with my whole soul I "

"Dora, indeed 1" returned my aunt. "And you mean to
say the little thing is very fascinating, I suppose?"

"My dear aunt," I replied, "no one can form the least
idea what she is! "

"Ah ! And not silly? " said my aunt.

"Silly, auntl"

I seriously believe it had never once entered my head for
a single moment, to consider whether she was or not. I re-
sented the idea, of course; but I was in a manner struck by it,
as a new one altogether.

"Not light-headed?" said my aunt.

"Light-headed, aunt!" I could only repeat this daring
speculation with the same kind of feeling with which I had
repeated the preceding question.

"Well, well!" said my aunt. "I only ask. I don't de-
j)reciate her. Poor little couple I And so you think you were
formed for one another, and are to go through a party-supper-
table kind of life, like two pretty pieces of confectionary,
do you, Trot?"

"She asked me this so kindly, and with such a gentle air,
half playful and half sorrowful, that I was quite touched.

"We are young and inexperienced, aunt, I know," I re-
plied; "and I dare say we say and think a good deal that is
rather foolish. But we love one another truly, I am sure.
If I thought Dora could ever love anybody else, or cease to
love me; or that I could ever love anybody else, or cease to
love her : I don't know what I should do — go out of my mind,
Ithmk!"

"Ah, Trot!" said my aunt, shaking her head, and smiling
gravely; "blind, blind, blind!"

"Some one that I know, Trot," my aunt pursued, aftera



334



pause, "though of a very pliant disposition, has an earnestness
of affection in him that reminds me of poor Baby, Earnestness
is what that Somebody must look for, to sustain him and im-
prove him, Trot. Deep, downright, faithful earnestness."

"If you only knew the earnestness of Dora, aunt! " I cried.

"Oh, Trot!" she said again; "blind, blind!" and without
knowing why, I felt a vague unhappy loss or want of some-
lliing overshadow me like a cloud.

"However," said my aunt, "I don't want to put two young
creatures out of conceit with themselves, or to make them
unhappy; so, though it is a girl and boy attachment, and girl
and boy attachments very often — mind I I don't say always ! —
come to nothing, still we '11 be serious about it, and hope for a
prosperous issue one of these days. There 's time enough for
it to come to anything! "

This was not upon the whole very comforting to a
rapturous lover; but I was glad to have my aunt in my con-
fidence, and I was mindful of her being fatigued. So I thanked
her ardently for this mark of her affection, and for all her
other kindnesses towards me; and after a tender good night,
she took her nightcap into my bed-room.

How miserable I was, when I lay down! How I thought
and thought about my being poor, in Mr. Spenlow's eyes;
about my not being what I thought I was , when I proposed to
Dora; about the chivalrous necessity of telling Dora what my
worldly condition was, and releasing her from her engagement
if she thought fit; about how I should contrive to live, during
the long term of my articles, when I was earning nothing;
about doing something to assist my aunt, and seeing no way
of doing anything; about coming down to have no money in
my pocket, and to wear a shabby coat, and to be able to carry
Dora no little presents, and to ride no gallant greys, and to
ahow myself in no agreeable light! Sordid and selfish as I



335



Ifjiew it was, and as I tortured myself by knowing that it was,
to let my mind run on my own distress so much, I was so de-
voted to Dora that I could not help it. I knew that it was base
in me not to think more of my aunt, and less of myself ; but, so
far, selfishness was inseparable from Dora, and I could not put
Dora on one side for any mortal creature. How exceedingly
miserable I was, that night!

As to sleep, I had dreams of poverty in all sorts of shapes,
but I seemed to dream without the previous ceremony of going
to sleep. Now I was ragged, wanting to sell Dora matches,
six bundles for a halfpenny ; now I was at the office in a night-
gown and boots, remonstrated with by Mr. Spenlow on ap-
pearing before the clients in that airy attire ; now I was hun-
grily picking up the crumbs that fell from old Tiffey's daily
biscuit, regularly eaten when Saint Paul's struck one; now I
was hopelessly endeavouring to get a license to marry Dora,
having nothing but one of Uriah Heep's gloves to offer in ex-
change, which the whole Commons rejected; and still, more or
less conscious of my own room, I was always tossing about like
a distressed ship in a sea of bed-clothes.

My aunt was restless, too, for I frequently heard her walk-
ing to and fro. Two or three times in the course of the night,
attired in a long flannel wrapper in which she looked seven
feet high, she appeared, like a disturbed ghost, in my room,
and came to the side of the sofa on which I lay. On the first
occasion I started up in alarm, to learn that she inferred from
a particular light in the sky, that Westminster Abbey was on
fire; and to be consulted in reference to the probability of its
igniting Buckingham Street, in case the wind changed. Lying
still, after that, I found that she sat down near me, whispering
to herself "Poor boy I" And then it made me twenty times
more wretched, to know how unselfishly mindful she was of
me, and how selfishly mindful I was of myself.



336



It was difficult to believe that a night so long to me, could
be short to anybody else. This consideration set me thinking
and thinking of an imaginary party where people were dancing
the hours away, until that became a dream too, and I heard the
music incessantly playing one tune, and saw Dora incessantly
dancing one dance, without taking the least notice of me. The
man who had been playing the harp all night, was trying in
vain to cover it with an ordinary sized nightcap, wheni awoke;
or I should rather say, when I left off trying to go to sleep, and
saw the sun shining in through the window at last.

There was an old Roman bath in those days at the bottom
of one of the streets out of the Strand — it may be there still
— in which I have had many a cold plunge. Dressing myself
as quietly as I could, and leaving Peggotty to look after my
aunt, I tumbled head foremost into it, and then went for a walk
to Hampstead. I had a hope that this brisk treatment might
freshen my wits a little; and I think it did them good, for I
soon came to the conclusion that the first step I ought to take
was, to try if my articles could be cancelled and the premium
recovered. I got some breakfast on the Heath, and walked
back to Doctors' Commons, along the watered roads and
through a pleasant smell of summer flowers, growing in gar-
dens and carried into town on hucksters' heads, intent on this
first effort to meet our altered circumstances.

I arrived at the office so soon, after all, that I had half an
hour's loitering about the Commons, before old Tiffey, who
was always first, appeared with his key. Then I sat down in
my shady corner, looking up at the sunlight on the opposite
chimney-pots, and thinking about Dora; until Mr. Spenlow
came in , crips and curly.

"How are you, Copperfield?" said he. "Fine morning! "

"Beautiful morning, Sir," said I. " Could I say a word to
you before you go into Court? "



337



" By all means," said he. " Come into my room."

I followed him into his room, and he began putting on his
gown, and touching himself up before a little glass he had,
hanging inside a closet door.

"I am sorry to say," said I, "that I have some rather dis-
lieartening intelligence from my aunt."

"No! "said he. "Dear me! Not paralysis, I hope?"

"It has no reference to her health, Sir," I rephed. " She
has met with some large losses. In fact, she has very little
left, indeed."

"You as-tound me, Copperfield! " cried Mr. Spenlow.

I shook my head. "Indeed, Sir," said I, "her affairs are so
changed, that I wished to ask you whether it would be possible
— at a sacrifice on our part of some portion of the premium,
of course," I put in this, on the spur of the moment,
warned by the blank expression of his face — "to cancel my
articles?"

What it cost me to make this proposal, nobody knows. It
was like asking, as a favour, to be sentenced to transportation
from Dora.

"To cancel your articles, Copperfield? Cancel?"

I explained with tolerable firmness, that I really did not
know where my means of subsistence were to come from, un-
less I could earn them for myself. I had no fear for the future,
I said — and I laid great emphasis on that, as if to imply that
I should still be decidedly eligible fora son-in-law one of these
days — but, for the present, I was thrown upon my own re-
sources.

"I am extremely sorry to hear this, Copperfield," said Mr.
Spenlow. "Extremely sorrj-. It is not usual to cancel ar-
ticles for any such reason. It is not a professional course of
proceeding. It is not a convenient precedent at all. Far from
it. At the same time " —

9
David Copperfield. 11. ^~



338



"You are very good, Sir," I murmured, anticipating a
concession.

"Not at aU. Don't mention it," said Mr. Spenlow. "At
the same time, I was going to say, if it had been my lot to have
my hands unfettered — if Ihad not a partner — Mr. Jorkins" —

My hopes were dashed in a moment, but I made another
effort.

"Do you think, Sir," said I, "if I were to mention it to Mr.
Jorkins — "

Mr. Spenlow shook his head discouragingly. "Heaven
forbid, Copperfield," he replied, "that I should do any man an
injustice; still less, Mr. Jorkins. But I know my partner,
Copperfield. Mr. Jorkins is not a man to respond to a propo-
sition of this peculiar nature. Mr. Jorkins is very difficult to
move from the beaten track. You know what he is ! "

I am sure I knew nothing about him, except that he had
originally been alone in the business, and now lived by himself
in a house near Montagu Square, which was fearfully in want
of painting; that he came very late of a day, and went away
very early; that he never appeared to be consulted about
anything; and that he had a ding}' little black-hole of his own
up-stairs, where no business was ever done, and where there
was a yellow old cartridge-paper pad upon his desk, unsoiled
by ink, and reported to be twenty years of age.

"Would you object to my mentioning it to him, Sir?" I
asked.

"By no means," said Mr. Spenlow. "But I have some ex-
perience of Mr. Jorkins, Copperfield. Iwish it were other-
wise , for I should be happy to meet your views in any respect.
I cannot have the least objection to your mentioning it to
Mr. Jorkins, Copperfield, if you think it worth while."

Availing myself of this permission, which was given with a
warm shake of the hand, I sat thinking about Dora, and look-



339



ing at the sunlight stealing from the chimney-pots down the
wall of the opposite house, until Mr. Jorkins came. Ithen
went up to Mr. Jorkins's room, and evidently astonished
Mr. Jorkins very much by making my appearance there.

"Comein, Mr.Copperfield," saidMr. Jorkins. "Come in!"

I went in, and sat down ; and stated my case to Mr. Jorkins
pretty much as I had stated it to Mr. Spenlow. Mr. Jorkins
was not by any means the awful creature one might have ex-
pected, but a large, mild, smooth-faced man of sixty, who
took 80 much snuff that there was a tradition in the Commons
that he lived principally on that stimulant, having little room
in his system for any other article of diet.

"You have mentioned this to Mr. Spenlow, I suppose?"
saidMr. Jorkins; when he had heard me, very restleesly, to
an end.

I answered Yes , and told him that Mr. Spenlow had intro-
duced his name.

"He said I should object? " asked Mr. Jorkins.

I was obliged to admit that Mr. Spenlow had considered it
probable.

**Iam sorry to say, Mr. Copperfield, I can't advance your
object," said Mr. Jorkins , nervously. "The fact is — but I
have an appointment at the Bank , if you '11 have the goodness
to excuse me."

With that he rose in a great hurry, and was going out of
the room, when I made bold to say that I feared, then, there
was no way of arranging the matter?

"Nol" said Mr. Jorkins, stopping at the door to shake
his head. "Oh, no! I object, you know," which he said
very rapidly, and went out. "You must be aware, Mr.Cop-
perfield," he added, looking restlessly in at the door again,
"if Mr. Spenlow objects — "

"Personally, he does not object. Sir,'* said I.

22*



340



"Oh! Personally!" repeated Mr. Jorkins, in an impatient
manner. *'I assure you there's an objection, Mr. Copperfield.
Hopeless! What you wish to be done, can't be done. I — I
really have got an appointment at the Bank." With that he
fairly ran away; and to the best of my knowledge, it was
three days before he showed himself in the Commons again.

Being very anxious to leave no stone unturned, I waited
until Mr. Spenlow came in, and then described what had
passed; giving him to understand that I was not hopeless of
his being able to soften the adamantine Jorkins , if he would
undertake that task.

"Copperfield," returned Mr. Spenlow , with a sagacious
smile, "you have not known my partner, Mr. Jorkins, as
long as I have. Nothing is farther from my thoughts than to
attribute any degree of artifice to ^Ir. Jorkins. But Mr.
Jorkins has a way of stating his objections which often de-
ceives people. No, Copperfield!" shaking his head. "Mr.
Jorkins is not to be moved , believestill; and with his head bowed,
as if he felt it. This was only for a moment; for Agnes softly
said to him, "Papa! Here is Miss Trotwood — and Trot-
wood, whom you have not seen for a longwhilel" and then
he approached, and constrainedly gave my aunt his hand,
and shook hands more cordially with me. In the moment's
pause I speak of, I saw Uriah's countenance form itself into
a most ill-favoured smile. Agnes saw it too, I think, for she
shrank from him.

What my aunt saw, or did not see, I defy the science of
physiognomy to have made out, without her own consent. I
believe there never was anybody with such an imperturbable



350



countenance when she chose. Her face might have been a
dead wall on the occasion in question, for any light it threw
upon her thoughts; until she broke silence with her usual
abruptness.

"Well, Wickfield!'* said my aunt; and he looked up
at her for the first time. "I have been telling your daughter
how well I have been disposing of my money for myself, be-
cause I couldn't trust it to you , as you were growing rusty in
business matters. We have been taking counsel together,
and getting on very well, all things considered. Agnes is
worth the whole firm, in my opinion."

"If I may umbly make the remark," said Uriah Heep,
with a writhe, "I fully agree with Miss Betsey Trotwood,
and should be only too appy if Miss Agnes was a partner."

"You're a partner yourself, you know," returned my
aunt, "and that 's about enough for you, I expect. How do
you find yourself. Sir?"

In acknowledgment of this question, addressed to him
with extraordinary curtness , Mr. Heep , uncomfortably
clutching the blue bag he carried, replied that he was
pretty well, he thanked my aunt, and hoped she was the
same.

"And you, Master —- I should say. Mister Copperfield,"
pursued Uriah. "I hope I see you welll I am rejoiced to
see you. Mister Copperfield, even under present circum-
stances." I believed that; for he seemed to relish them very
much. "Present circumstances is not what your friends
would wish for you. Mister Copperfield, but it isn't money
makes the man : it 's — I am really unequal with my umble
powers to express what it is,'* said Uriah, with a fawning jerk,
"but it isn't money 1 "

Here he shook hands with me: not in the common way,
but standing at a good distance from me, and lifting my



351



hand up and down like a pump handle, that he was a little
afraid of.

"And how do you think we are looking, Master Copper-
field, — I should say, Mister?" fawned Uriah. "Don't you
find Mr. Wickfield blooming, Sir? Years don't tell much in


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