Charles Dickens.

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

. (page 27 of 27)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 2) → online text (page 27 of 27)
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yet gone out, and there was no bird-cage in the middle window.

He kept me waiting so long, that I fervently hoped the
Club would fine him for being late. At last he came out; and
then I saw my own Dora hang up the bird-cage, and peep into
the balcony to look for me, and run in again when she saw I
was there, while Jip remained behind, to bark injuriously at
an immense butcher's dog in the street, who could have taken
him like a pill.

Dora came to the drawing-room door to meet me; and Jip
came scrambling out, tumbling over his own growls, under the
impression that I was a Bandit; and we all thruo went in, as
happy and loving as could be. I soon carried desolation into



380



tlie bosom of our joys — not that I meant to do it, but that 1
was so full of the subject — by asking Dora, without the small-
est preparation, if she could love a beggar?

My pretty, little, startled Dora I Her only association with
the word was a yellow face and a nightcap, or a pair of crutches
or a wooden leg, or a dog with a decanter-stand in his mouth,
or something of that kind ; and she stared at me with the most
delightful wonder.

"How can you ask me anything so foolish! " pouted Dora.
"Love a beggar 1"

"Dora, my own dearest I " said I. " / am a beggar ! "

"How can you be such a silly thing," replied Dora, slap-
ping my hand, "as to sit there, telling such stories? I '11 make
Jip bite youl"

Her childish way was the most delicious way in the world to
me, but it was necessary to be explict,and I solemnly repeated:

"Dora, my own life, I am your ruined David 1 "

" I declare I 'II make Jip bite you I " said Dora, shaking her
curls, "if you are so ridiculous."

But I looked so serious, that Dora left off shaking her curls,
and laid her trembling little hand upon my shoulder, and first
looked scared and anxious, then began to cry. That was
dreadful. I fell upon my knees before the sofa, caressing her,
and Imploring her not to rend my heart; but, for sometime,
I)Oor little Dora did nothing but exclaim. Oh dear! oh dearl
And oh, she was so frightened! And where was Julia Mills !
And oh, take her to Julia Mills, and go away, please! until I
was almost beside myself.

At last, after an agony of supplication and protestation, I
got Dora to look at me, with a horrified expression of face,
which I gradually soothed until it was only loving, and her soft,
pretty cheek was lying against mine. Then I told her, with
my arms clasped round her, how I loved her, so dearly, and so



381



dearly; how I felt it right to offer to release her from her en-
gagement, because now I was poor; how I never could bear it,
or recover it, if I lost her; how I had no fears of poverty, if she
had none, my arm being nerved and my heart inspired by her;
how I was already working with a courage such as none but
lovers knew ; how I had begun to be practical, and to look into
the future ; how a crust well earned was sweeter far than a feast
inherited; and much more to the same purpose, which I de-
livered in a burst of passionate eloquence quite surprising to
myself, though I had been thinking about it, day and night,
ever since my aunt had astonished me.

'•Is your heart mine still, dear Dora?" said I, rapturously,
for I knew by her clinging to me that it was.

"Oh, yes I" cried Dora. "Oh, yes, it 's all yours. Oh,
don't be dreadful I"

/dreadful! To Dora I

"Don't talk about being poor, and working hard!" said
Dora, nestling closer to me. " Oh, don't, don't ! "

"My dearest love," said I, "the crust well-earned — "

" Oh, yes ; but I don't want to hear any more about crusts !"
said Dora. "And Jip must have a mutton-chop every day at
twelve, or he '11 die ! "

I was charmed with her childish, winning way. I fondly
explained to Dora that JIp should have his mutton-chop with
his accustomed regularity. I drew a picture of our frugal home,
made independent by my labour — sketching-in the little house
I had seen at Highgate, and my aunt in her room up-stairs.

"I am not dreadful now, Dora?" said I, tenderly.

"Oh, no, nol" cried Dora. "But 1 hope your aunt will
keep in her own room a good deal ! And I hope she 's not a
scolding old thing!"

If it were possible for me to love Dora more than ever, I am
sure I did. But I felt she was a little impracticable. It damp-



382



G(l my new-born ardour, to find that ardour so difficult of com-
munication to her. I made another trial. When she was quite
herself again, and was curling Jip's ears, as he lay upon her
lap, I became grave, and said :

"My own 1 May I mention something?"

"Oh, please don't be practical!" said Dora, coaxingly.
" Because it frightens me so ! "

"Sweetheartl" I returned; "there is nothing to alarm you
in all this. I want you to think of it quite differently. I want
to make it nerve you, and inspire you, Dora ! "

" Oh, but that 's so shocking I " bried Dora.

"My love, no. Perseverance and strength of character
will enable us to bear much worse things."

"But I haven't got any strength at all," said Dora, shaking
her curls. "Have I, Jip? Oh, do kiss Jip, and be
agreeable 1"

It was impossible to resist kissing Jip, when she held him
up to me for that purpose, putting her own bright, rosy little
mouth into kissing form, as she directed the operation, which
she insisted should be performed symmetrically, on the centre
of his nose. I did as she bade me — rewarding myself after-
wards for my obedience — and she charmed me out of my
graver character for I don't know how long.

"But, Dora, mybelovedl" said I, at last resuming it; "I
was going to mention something."

The Judge of the Prerogative Court might have fallen in
love with her, to see her fold her little hands and hold them
up, begging and praying me not to be dreadful any more.

"Indeed I am not going to be, my darling! " I assured her.
"But, Dora, my love, if you will sometimes think, — not de-
spondingly, you know; far from that! — but if you will some-
times think — just to encourage yourself — that you are en-
gaged to a poor man — ' '



383



"Don't, don'tl Pray don't!" cried Dora. "It's so very
dreadful 1"

"My soul, not at all!" said T, cheerfully. "If you will
sometimes think of that, and look about now and then at your
papa's housekeeping, and endeavour to acquire a little habit
— of accounts, for instance — "

Poor little Dora received this suggestion with something
that was half a sob and half a scream.

" — It will be so useful to us afterwards," I went on. "And
if you would promise me to read a little — a little Cookery
Book that I would send you, it would be so excellent for both
of us. For our path in life, my Dora," said I, warming with
the subject, "is stony and rugged now, and it rests with us to
smooth it. We must fight our way onward. We must be
brave. There are obstacles to be met, and we must meet, and
crush them! "

I was going on at a great rate , with a clenched hand , and a
most enthusiastic countenance; but it was quite unnecessary
to proceed. I had said enough. I had done it again. Oh,
she was so frightened! Oh, where was Julia Mills! Oh,
take her to Julia Mills, and go away, please! So that, in
short, I was quite distracted, and raved about the drawing-
room.

I thought I had killed her, this time. I sprinkled water on
her face. I went down on my knees. I plucked at my hair.
I denounced myself as a remorseless brute and a ruthless
beast. I implored her forgiveness. I besought her to look
up. I ravaged Miss Mills's work-box for a smelling-bottle, and
in my agony of mind applied an ivory needle-case instead, and
dropped all the needles over Dora. I shook my fists at Jip,
who was as franctic as myself. I did every wild extravagance
that could be done, and was a long way beyond the end of my
wits when Miss Mills came into the room.



384



"Who has done this!" exclaimed Miss Mills, succouring
her friend.

I replied, "/, Miss Mills! / have done it! Behold the
destroyer! " — or words to that effect — and hid my face from
the light, in the sofa cushion.

At first Miss Mills thought it was a quarrel, and that we
were verging on the Desert of Sahara; but she soon found out
how matters stood, for my dear affectionate little Dora, em-
bracing her, began exclaiming that I was *' a poor labourer;'*
and then cried for me, and embraced me, and asked me would
I let her give me all her money to keep, and then fell on ISIiss
Mills's neck , sobbing as if her tender heart were broken.

Miss Mills must have been born to be a blessing to us. She
ascertained from me in a few words what it was all about, com-
forted Dora, and gradually convinced her that I was not a
labourer — from my manner of stating the case I believe Dora
concluded that I was a navigator, and went balancing myself
up and down a plank all day with a wheelbarrow — and so
brought us together in peace. When we were quite com-
posed, and Dora had gone up-stairs to put some rose-water to
her eyes. Miss Mills rang for tea. In the ensuing interval, I
told Miss Mills that she was evermore my friend, and that my
heart must cease to vibrate ere I could forget her sympathy.

I then expounded to Miss Mills what I had endeavoured, so
very unsuccessfully, to expound to Dora. MissMills replied, on
general principles, that the Cottage of content was better than
the Palace of cold splendour, and that where love was, all was.

1 said to Miss Mills that this was very true , and who should
know it better than I, who loved Dora with a love that never
mortal had experienced yet. But on Miss Mills observing,
with despondency, that it were well indeed for some hearts if
this were so, I explained that I begged leave to restrict the
observation to mortals of the masculine gender.



385



I then put it to Miss Mills, to say whether slie considered
that there was or was not any practical merit in the suggcsiioii I
had bfeen anxious to make, concerning the accounts, the house-
keeping, and the Cookery Book?

Miss Mills, after some consideration, thus replied:

"Mr. Copperfield, I will be plain with you. Mental suf-
fering and trial supply, in some natures, the place of years, and
I will be as plain with you as if I were a Lady Abbess. No.
The suggestion is not appropriate to our Dora. Our dearest
Dora is a favourite child of nature. She is a thing of light, and
airiness, and joy. I am free to confess that if it could be done,
it might be well, but — " And Miss Mills shook her head.

I was encouraged by this closing admission on the part of
Miss Mills to ask her, whether, for Dora's sake, if she had any
opportunity of luring her attention to such preparations for an
earnest life, she would avail herself of it? Miss Mills replied
in the affirmative so readily, that I further asked her if she
would take charge of the Cookery Book; and, if she ever
could insinuate it upon Dora's acceptance, without frightening
her, undertake to do me that crowning service. Miss Mills
accepted this trust, too; but was not sanguine.

And Dora returned, looking such a lovely little creature,
thatlreally doubted whether she ought to be troubled with any-
thing so ordinary. And she loved me so much, and was so capti-
vating, (particularly when she made Jip stand on his hind legs
for toast, and when she pretended to hold that nose of his agsiinst
the hot tea-pot for punishment because he wouldn't), that I
felt like a sort of Monster who had got into a Fairy's bower,
when I thought of having frightened her, and made her cry.

After tea we had the guitar; and Dora sang those samo
dear old French songs about the impossibility of ever on any
account leaving olT dancing. La ra la, La ra la, until I felt a
much greater Monster than before.

Dnvifl Coppcrfid'l. II. -5



38G



We had only one check to our pleasure , and that happened
a little while before I took my leave, when, Miss Mills chancing
to make some allusion to to-morrow morning, I unluckily let
out that being obliged to exert myself now, I got up at fi-^ e
o'clock. Whether Dora had any idea that I was a Private
Watchman , I am unable to say ; but it made a great impression
on her, and she neither played nor sang any more.

It was still on her mind when I bade her adieu; and she
said to me, in her pretty coaxing way — as if I were a doll, I
used to think!

"Now don't get up at five o'clock, you naughty boy. It's
80 nonsensical I "

"My love,'* said I, "I have work to do."

" But don't do it ! " returned Dora. " Why should you? "

It was impossible to say to that sweet little surprised face,
otherwise than lightly and playfully, that we must work, to live.

"Ohl How ridiculous 1 " cried Dora.

"How shall we live without, Dora? " said I.

"How? Anyhow!" said Dora.

She seemed to think she had quite settled the question,
and gave me such a triumphant little kiss, direct from her in-
nocent heart, that I would hardly have put her out of conceit
with her answer, for a fortune.

Well! I loved her, and I went on loving her, most absorb-
ingly, entirely, and completely. But going on, too, working
pretty hard, and busily keeping red-hot all the irons I now
had in the fire, I would sit sometimes of a night, opposite my
aunt, thinking howl had frightened Dora that time, and how
I could best make my way with a guitar-case through the forest
of difficulty, until I used to fancy that my head was turning

quite grey.

BND OF VOL. II.



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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 27 of 27)