Charles Dickens.

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

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"But you are a very good pen-man, Sir. You told me so,
Copperfield?"

"Excellent 1" said I. And indeed he was. He wrote with
extraordinary neatness.

"Don't you think," said Traddles, "you could copy
writings. Sir, if I got them for you?"

Mr. Dick looked doubtfully at me. "Eh, Trotwood?"

I shook my head. Mr. Dick shook his , and sighed. " Tell
him about the Memorial," said Mr. Dick.

1 explained to Traddles that there was a difficulty in
keeping King Charles the First out of Mr. Dick's manuscripts;



366



Mr, Dick in the meanwhile looking very deferentially and
seriously at Traddles , and sucking his thumb,

"But these writings, you know, that I speak of, are already
drawn up and finished," said Traddles after a little con-
sideration. "Mr. Dick has nothing to do with them. Wouldn't
that make a difference, Copperfield? At all events wouldn't
it be well to try?"

This gave us new hope. Traddles and I laying our heads
together apart, while Mr. Dick anxiously watched us from his
chair, we concocted a scheme in virtue of which we got him to
work next day, with triumphant success.

On a table by the window in Buckingham Street, we set
out the work Traddles procured for him — which was to make,
I forget how many copies of a legal document about some
right of way — and on another table we spread the last
unfinished original of the great Memorial. Our instructions to
Mr. Dick were that he should copy exactly what he had before
him , without the least departure from the original ; and that
when he felt it necessary to make the slightest allusion to King
Charles the First, he should fly to the Memorial. We exhorted
him to be resolute in this, and left my aunt to observe him.
My aunt reported to us , afterwards , that, at first, he was like
a man pla}'ing the kettle-drums, and constantly divided his
attentions between the two ; but that, finding this confuse and
fatigue him, and having his copy there, plainly before his
eyes, he soon sat at it in an orderly business-like manner, and
postponed the Memorial to a more convenient time. In a
word, although we took great care that he should have no
more to do than was good for him, and although he did not
begin with the beginning of a week, he earned by the fol-
lowing Saturday night ten shillings and nine pence ; and never,
while I live, shall I forget his going about to all the shops in
the neighbourhood to change this treasure into sixpences, or



367



his bringing them to my aunt arranged in the form of a heart
upon a waiter, with tears of joy and pride in his eyes. He was
like one under the propitious influence of a charm, from the
moment of his being usefully employed; and if there were a
happy man in the world, that Saturday night, it was the grate-
ful creature who thought my aunt the most wonderful woman
in existence, and me the most wonderful young man.

"No starving now, Trotwood," said Mr. Dick, shaking
hands with me in a comer. "I '11 provide for her, Sirl " and
he flourished his ten fingers in the air, as if they were ten
banks.

I hardly know which was the better pleased , Traddles or I.
"It really," said Traddles, suddenly, taking a letter out of his
pocket, and giving it to me, "put Mr. Micawber quite out
of my head!"

The letter (Mr. Micawber never missed any possible op-
portunity of writing a letter) was addressed to me, "By the
kindness of T. Traddles, Esquire, of the Inner Temple."
It ran thus : —

"My dear Copperfield,

"You may possibly not be unprepared to receive the in-
timation that something has turned up. I may have mentioned
to you on a former occasion that I was in expectation of such
an event.

"I am about to establish myself in one of the provincial
towns of our favoured island, (where the society may ba
described as a happy admixture of the agricultural and the
clerical), in immediate connexion with one of the learned
professions. Mrs. Micawber and our offspring will accompany
me. Our ashes, at a future period, will probably be found
commingled in the cemetrj' attached to a venerable pile, for



368



which the spot to which I refer, has acquired a reputation,
shall I say from China to Peru?

"In bidding adieu to the modern Babylon, where we have
undergone many vicissitudes, I trust not ignobly, Mrs. Mi-
cawber and myself cannot disguise from our minds that we
part, it may be for years and it may be for ever, with an
individual linked by strong associations to the altar of our
domestic life. If, on the eve of such a departure, you will
accompany our mutual friend, Mr. Thomas Traddles, to our
present abode, and there reciprocate the wishes natural to the
occasion, you will confer a Boon
"On
"One
"Who
"Is

"Ever yours,

"WiLKINS MiCAWBER."

I was glad to find that Mr. Micawber had got rid of his dust
and ashes, and that something really had turned up at last.
Learning from Traddles that the invitation referred to the
evening then wearing away, I expressed my readiness to do
honour to it; and we went off together to the lodging which
Mr. Micawber occupied as Mr. Mortimer, and which was
situated near the top of the Gray's Inn Road.

The resources of this lodging were so limited, that we
found the twins, now some eight or nine years old, reposing
in a turn-up bed-stead in the family sitting-room, where
Mr. Micawber had prepared, in a wash-hand-stand jug, what
he called "a Brew" of the agreeable beverage for which he
was famous. I had the pleasure, on this occasion, of renewing
the acquaintance of Master Micawber, whom I found a pro-
mising boy of about twelve or thirteen, very subject to that



sou



restlessness of limb whicli is not an unfrequont phenomenon
in youths of his age. I also became once more known to his
sister, Miss Micawber, in whom, as Mr. Micawber told us,
" her mother renewed her youth , like the Phoenix.'*

"My dear Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, "yourself and
Mr. Traddles find ub on the brink of migration, and will ex-
cuse any little discomforts incidental to that position."

Glancing round as I made a suitable reply, I observed that
the family effects were already packed, and that the amount
of luggage was by no means overwhelming. I congratulated
Mrs. Micawber on the approaching change.

"My dear Mr. Copperfield," said Mrs. Micawber, "of your
friendly interest in all our affairs, I am well assured. My
family may consider it banishment, if they please ; but I am a
wife and mother, and I never will desert Mr. Micawber."

Traddles, appealed to, by Mrs. Micawber's eye. feelingly
acquiesced.

"That," said Mrs. Micawber, "that, at least, is my view,
ray dear Mr. Copperfield and Mr. Traddles, of the obligation
which I took upon myself when I repeated the irrevocable
words, *I, Emma, take thee, Wilkins.* I read the service
over with a flat-candle on the previous night, and the con-
clusion I derived from it was, that I never could desert Mr.
Micawber. And," said Mrs. Micawber, "though it is possible
I may be mistaken in my view of the ceremony, I never will! "

"My dear," said Mr. Micawber, a little impatiently, "I am
not conscious that you are expected to do any thing of the
sort."

"I am aware, my dear Mr. Copperfield," pursued Mrs.
Micawber, "that I am now about to cast my lot among
strangers; and I am also aware that the various members of
my family, to whom Mr. Micawber has written in the most gen-
tlemanly terms, announcing tliat fact, have not taken the least

David Copperfield. fh 24



370



notice of Mr. Micawber's communication. Indeed I may be
superstitious," said Mrs. Micawber, "but it appears to me
that Mr. Micawber is destined never to receive any answers
whatever to the great majority of the communications he
writes. I may augur, from the silence of ray family, that they
object to the resolution I have taken; but I should not allow
myself to be swerved from the path of duty, Mr. Copperfield,
even by my papa and mama, were they still living."

I expressed my opinion that this was going in the right
direction.

"Itmay be a sacrifice," said Mrs. Micawber, "to immure
one's self in a Cathedral town; but surely, Mr. Copperfield,
if it is a sacrifice in me, it is much more a sacrifice in a man of
^Ir. Micawber's abilities."

"Oh! You are going to a Cathedral town?" said I.

Mr. Micawber, who had been helping us all, out of the
wash-hand-stand jug, replied:

"To Canterbury. In fact, my dear Copperfield, I have
entered into arrangements, by virtue of which I stand pledged
and contracted to our friend Heep, to assist and serve him in
the capacity of — and to be — his confidential clerk."

I stared at Mr. Micawber, who greatly enjoyed my surprise.

"I am bound to state to you," he said, with an official
air, "that the business habits, and the prudent suggestions,
of Mrs. ^licawber, have in a great measure coeduced to this
result. The gauntlet, to which Mrs. Micawber referred upon
a former occasion, being thrown down in the form of an ad-
vertisement, was taken up by my friend Heep, and led to a
mutual recognition. Of my friend Heep ," said Mr. Micawber,
"who is a man of remarkable shrewdness, I desire to speak
with all possible respect. My friend Heep has not fixed the
positive remuneration at too high a figure, but he has made a
great deal, in the way of extrication from the pressure of



371



pecuniary difficulties, contingent on the value of my services;
and on the value of those services I pin my faith. Such address
and intelligence as I chance to possess," said Mr. Micawber,
boastfully disparaging himself, with the old genteel air, "will
be devoted to my friend Heep's service. I have already some
acquaintance with the law — as a defendant on civil process —
and I shall immediately apply myself to the Commentaries of
one of the most eminent and remarkable of our English Jurists.
I believe it is unnecessary to add that I allude to Mr. Justice
Blackstone,'*

These observations, and indeed the greater part of
the observations made that evening, were interrupted
by Mrs. Micawber's discovering that Master Micawber
was sitting on his boots, or holding his head on with both
arms as if he felt it loose, or accidentally kicking Traddles
under the table, or shuffling his feet over one another, or
producing them at distances from himself apparently
outrageous to nature, or lying sideways with his hair among
the wine-glasses, or developing his restlessness of limb in
some other form incompatible with the general interests of
society ; and by Master Micawber's receiving those discoveries
in a resentful spirit. I sat all the while, amazed by Mr. Mi-
cawber's disclosure, and wondering what it meant; until
Mrs. Micawber resumed the thread of the discourse, and
claimed my attention.

*'What I particularly request Mr. Micawber to be careful
of, is," said Mrs. Micawber, *'that he does not, my dear
Mr. Copperfield, in applying himself to this subordinate
branch of the law, place it out of his power to rise, ultimately,
to the top of the tree. I am convinced that Mr. Micawber,
giving his mind to a profession so adapted to his fertile re-
sources, and his flow of language, must distinguish himself.
Now, for example, Mr. Traddles," said Mrs. Micawber,



372



assuming a profound air, "a Judge, or even say a Chancellor.
Does an individual place himself beyond the pale of those
preferments by entering on such an office as Mr. Micawber
has accepted?"

"My dear," observed Mr. Micawber — but glancing in-
quisitively at Traddles, too; "we have time enough before
us , for the consideration of those questions."

" Micawber," she returned , " no ! Your mistake in life is,
that you do not look forward far enough. You are bound, in
justice to your family, if not to yourself, to take in at a com-
prehensive glance the extremest point in the horizon to which
your abilities may lead you,"

Mr. Micawber coughed, and drank his punch with an air
of exceeding satisfaction — still glancing at Traddles, as if he
desired to have his opinion.

"Why, the plain state of the case, Mrs. Micawber," said
Traddles, mildly breaking the truth to her, "I mean the real
prosaic fact, you know — "

"Just so," said Mrs. Micawber, "my dear Mr. Traddles,
I wish to be as prosaic and literal as possible on a subject of so
much importance."

" — Is," said Traddles, "that this branch of the law, even
if Mr. Micawber were a regular solicitor — "

"Exactly so," returned Mrs. Micawber. ("Wilkins, you
are squinting, and will not be able to get your eyes back.")

" — Has nothing," pursued Traddles, "to do with that.
Only a barrister is eligible for such preferments ; and Mr. Mi-
cawber could not be a barrister, without being entered at an
inn of court as a student, for five years."

"Do I follow you?" said Mrs. Micawber, with her most
affable air of business. "Do I understand, my dear Mr.
Traddles, that, at the expiration of that period, ISIr. Micaw-
ber would be eligible as a Judge or Chancellor?"



373



"He would be eligible ^'^ returned Traddles, with a strong
emphasis on that word."

"Thank you," said Mrs. MIcawber. "That is quite suf-
ficient. If such is the case, and Mr. Micawber forfeits no pri-
vilege by entering on these duties, my anxiety is set at rest.
I speak," said Mrs. Micawber, "as a female, necessarily; but
I have always been of opinion that Mr. Micawber possesses
what I have heard my papa call, when I lived at home, the
Judicial mind ; and I hope Mr. Micawber is now entering on a
field where that mind will develope itself, and take a com-
manding station."

I quite believe that Mr. Micawber saw himself, in his
judicial mind's eye, on the woolsack. He passed his hand
complacently over his bald head, and said with ostentatious
resignation:

"My dear, we will not anticipate the decrees of fortune.
If I am reserved to wear a wig, I am at least prepared, exter-
nally," m allusion to his baldness, "for that distinction. I do
not," said Mr. Micawber, "regret my hair, and I may have
been deprived of it for a specific purpose. I cannot say. It
is my intention, ray dear Copperfield, to educate my son for
the Church; I will not deny that I should be happy, on his ac-
count, to attain to eminence."

"For the Church?" said I, still pondering, between-
whiles, on Uriah Heep.

"Yes," said Mr. Micawber. "He has a remarkable head-
voice, and will commence as a chorister. Our residence at
Canterbur}', and our local connexion, will, no doubt, enable
him to take advantage of any vacancy that may arise in the
Cathedral corps.

On looking at Master Micawber again, I saw that he had a
certain expression of face, as if his voice were behind his eye-
brows; where it preseutlv appeared to be, on his singing us



374



(as an alternative between that and bed) " The Wood-Pecker
tapping." After many compliments on this performance, we
fell into some general conversation; and as I was too full of
my desperate intentions to keep ray altered circumstances to
myself, I made them known to Mr. and Mrs. Micawber. I
cannot express how extremely delighted they both were, by
the idea of my aunt's being in difficulties ; and how comfort-
able and friendly it made them.

When we were nearly come to the last round of the punch,
I addressed myself to Traddles, and reminded him that we
must not separate, without wishing our friends health, hap-
piness, and success in their new career. I begged Mr. Mi-
cawber to fill us bumpers, and proposed the toast in due
form: shaking hands with him across the table, and kissing
Mrs. Micawber, to commemorate that eventful occasion.
Traddles imitated me in the first particular, but did not con-
sider himself a sufficiently old friend to venture on the
second.

"My dear Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, rising with
one of his thumbs in each of his waistcoat pockets, "the com-
panion of my youth: if I may be allowed the expression — and
my esteemed friend Traddles: il I may be permitted to call
him so — will allow me, on the part of Mrs. Micawber, my-
self, and our oflspring, to thank them in the warmest and
most uncompromising terms for their good wishes. It may be
expected that on the eve of a migration which will consign us
to a perfectly new existence," Mr. Micawber spoke as if they
were going five hundred thousand miles, "I should offer a
few valedictory remarks to two such friends as I see before me.
But all that I have to say in this way, 1 have said. Whatever
station in society I may attain, through the medium of the
learned profession of which lam about to become an unworthy
member, I shall endeavour not to disgrace, and Mrs. Micaw-



375



ber will be safe to adorn. Under the temporarj- pressure of
pecuniary liabilities, contracted with a view to their immediate
liquidation, but remaining unliquidated through a combination
of circumstances, I have been under the necessity of assuming
a garb from which my natural instincts recoil — I allude to
spectacles — and possessing myself of a cognomen, to which
I can establish no legitimate pretensions. All I have to say
on that score is, that the cloud has passed from the dreary
scene, and the God of Day is once more high upon the moun-
tain tops. On Monday next, on the arrival of the four o'clock
afternoon coach at Canterbury, my foot will be on my native
heath — my name, Micawber ! "

]Mr. Micawber resumed his seat on the close of these re-
marks, and drank two glasses of punch in grave succession.
He then said with much solemnity:

"One thing more I have to do, before this separation is
complete, and that is to perform an act of justice. My friend
Mr. Thomas Traddles has, on two several occasions, 'put
his name,' if I may use a common expression, to bills of ex-
change for my accommodation. On tlie first occasion Mr.
Thomas Traddles was left — let me say, in short, in the lurch.
The fulfilment of the second has not yet arrived. The amount
of the first obligation," here Mr. Micawber carefully referred
to papers, "was, I believe, twenty-three, four, nine and a
half; of the second, according to my entry of that transaction,
eighteen, six, two. These sums, united, make a total, if
my calculation is correct, amounting to forty-one, ten, eleven
and a half. My friend Copperfield will perhaps do me the
favour to check that total?"

I did so and found it correct.

"To leave this metropolis," said Mr. Micawber, "and my
friend Mr. Thomas Traddles, without acquitting myself of the
pecuniary part of this obligation, would weigh upon my mind



376



to an insupportable extent. I have, therefore, prepared for
ray friend Mr. Thomas Traddles, and I now hold in my hand,
a document, which accomplishes the desired object. I beg
to hand to my friend Mr. Thomas Traddles my I. O. U. for
forty-one, ten, eleven and a half ; and I am happy to recover
my moral dignity, and to know that I can once more walk
erect before my fellow man! "

With this introduction (which greatly affected him) , Mr.
Micawber placed his I. O. U. in the hands of Traddles, and
said he wished him well in every relation of life. I am per-
suaded, not only that this was quite the same to Mr. Micawber
as paying the money, but that Traddles himself hardly knew
the difference until he had had time to think about it.

Mr. Micawber walked so erect before his fellow man, on
the strength of this virtuous action, that his chest looked half
as broad again when he lighted us down stairs. We parted
witli great heartiness on both sides; and when I had seen
Traddles to his own door, and was going home alone, I
thought, among the other odd and contradictory things I
mused upon, that, slippery as Mr. Micawber was, I was pro-
bably indebted to some compassionate recollection he re-
tained of me as his boy-lodger, for never having been asked
by him for money. I certainly should not have had the moral
courage to refuse it; and I have no doubt he knew that (to his
credit be it written) , quite as well as I did.



CHAPTER XXI.

A lUlIe cold water.

My new life had lasted for more than a week, and I was
stronger than ever in those tremendous practical resolutions
that I felt the crisis required. I continued to walk extremely
fast, and to have a general idea that I was getting on. I made
it a rule to take as much out of myself as I possibly could, in
my way ef doing everything to which I applied my energies. I
made a perfect victim of myself. I even entertained some idea
of putting myself on a vegetable diet, vaguely conceiving that,
in becoming a graminivorous animal, I should sacrifice to Dora.

As yet, little Dora was quife unconscious of my desperate
firmness, otherwise than as my letters darkly shadowed it
forth. But, another Saturday came, and on that Saturday
evening she was to be at Miss Mills's ; and when Mr. Mills had
gone to his whist-club (telegraphed to me in the street, by a
bird-cage in the drawing-room middle window), I was to go
there to tea.

By this time, we were quite settled down in Buckingham
Street, where Mr. Dick continued his copying in a state of
absolute felicity. My aunt had obtained a signal victory over
Mrs. Crupp, by paying her off, throwing the first pitcher she
planted on the stairs out of window, and protecting in person,
up and down the staircase, a supernumerary whom she en-
gaged from the outer world. These vigorous measures struck
6uch terror to the breast of Mrs. Crupp, that she subsided into
her own kitchen, under the impression that my aunt was mad.
My aunt being supremely indillercnt to Mrs. Crupp's opinion
and everybody else's, and rather favouring than discouraging



378



the idea, Mrs. Crupp, of late the bold, became within a few
days so faint-hearted, that rather than encounter my aunt
upon the staircase, she would endeavour to hide her portly
form behind doors — leaving visible, however, a wide margin
of flannel petticoat — or would shrink into dark corners. This
gave my aunt such unspeakable satisfaction , that I believe she
took a delight in prowling up and down, with her bonnet
insanely perched on the top of her head, at times when Mrs.
Crupp was likely to be in the way.

My aunt, being uncommonly neat and ingenious, made so
many little improvements in our domestic arrangements, that
I seemed to be richer instead of poorer. Among the rest, she
converted the pantry into a dressing-room for me ; and pur-
chased and embellished a bedstead for my occupation, which
looked as like a bookcase In the daytime , as a bedstead could.
I was the object of her constant solicitude; and my poor
mother herself could not have loved me better, or studied
more how to make me happy.

Peggotty had considered herself highly privileged in being
allowed to participate in these labours; and, although she still
retained something of her old sentiment of awe in reference
to my aunt, had received so many marks of encouragement
and confidence, that they were the best friends possible. But
the time had now come (I am speaking of the Saturday when
I was to take tea at Miss Mills's) when it was necessary for her
to return home, and enter on the discharge of the duties she
had undertaken in behalf of Ham. *'So goodbye, Barkis,"
said my aunt, "and take care of yourself I I am sure I never
thought I could be sorry to lose you ! "

I took Peggotty to the coach-office, and saw her off. She
cried at parting, and confided her brother to my friendship
as Ham had done. We had heard nothing of him since he
went away, that sunny afternoon.



379



"And now, my own dear Davy," said Peggotty, "if, while
you 're a prentice, you should want any money to spend; or
if, when you 're out of your time, my dear, you should want
any to set you up (and you must do one or other, or both, my
darling) ; who has such a good right to ask leave to lend it
you, as my sweet girl's own old stupid mel"

I was not so savagely independent as to say anything in
reply, but that if ever I borrowed money of any one, I would
borrow it of her. Next to accepting a large sum on the spot,
I believe this gave Peggotty more comfort than anything I
could have done.

"And, my dear!** whispered Peggotty, "tell the pretty
little angel that I should so have liked to see her, only for a
minute 1 And tell her that before she marries my boy, I'll come
and make your house so beautiful for you, if you '11 let me I "

I declared that nobody else should touch it; and this gave
Peggotty such delight that she went away in good spirits.

I fatigued myself as much as I possibly could in the Com-
mons all day, by a variety of devices, and at the appointed
time in the evening repaired to Mr. Mills's street. Mr. Mills,
who was a terrible fellow to fall asleep after dinner, had not


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Online LibraryCharles DickensThe personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 2) → online text (page 26 of 27)