Charles Dickens.

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

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march on in stately hosts that seem to have no end — and what
comes next 1 / am the head-boy , now ; and look down on the
line of boys below me, with a condescending interest in such
of them as bring to my mind the boy I was myself, when I first
came there-. That little fellow seems to be no part of me; I
remember him as something left behind upon the road of life

— as something I have passed, rather than have actually been

— and almost think of him as of some one else.

And the little girl I saw on that first day at Mr. Wickfield's,
where is she? Gone also. In her stead, the perfect likeness
of the picture, a child likeness no more, moves about the house ;
and Agnes — my sweet sister, as I call her in my thoughts, my
counsellor and friend, the better angel of the lives of all who
come within her calm , good , self-denying influence — is quite
a woman.

What other changes have come upon me, besides the
changes in my growth and looks, and in the knowledge I have
garnered all this while ? I wear a gold watch and chain, a ring
upon my little finger, and a long-tailed coat; and I use a great
deal of bear's grease — which, taken in conjunction with the
ring, looks bad. Ami in love again? I am. I worship the
eldest Miss Larkins.

The eldest Miss Larkins is not a little girl. She is a tall,
dark, black-eyed, fine figure of a woman. The eldest Miss


Larkins Is not a chicken ; for the youngest Miss Larkins Is not
that, and the eldest must be three or four years older. Per-
haps the eldest Miss Larkins may be about thirty. My pas-
sion for her Is beyond all bounds.

The eldest Miss Larkins knows officers. It is an awful
thing to bear. I see them speaking to her in the street. I see
them cross the way to meet her, when her bonnet (she has a
bright taste In bonnets) Is seen coming down the pavement,
accompanied by her sister's bonnet. She laughs and talks,
and seems to like It. I spend a good deal of my own spare
time in walking up and down to meet her. If I can bow to her
once in the day (I know her to bow to, knowing Mr. Larkins),
I am happier. I deserve a bow now and then. The raging
agonies I suffer on the night of the Race Ball, where I know
the eldest Miss Larkins will be dancing with the military,
ought to have some compensation, If there be even-handed
justice in the world.

My passion takes away my appetite, and makes me wear
my newest silk neck-kerchief continually. I have no relief
but In putting on my best clothes, and having my boots cleaned
over and over again. I seem, then, to be worthier of the
eldest Miss Larkins. Everything that belongs to her, or is
connected with her, is precious to me. Mr. Larkins (a gruff
old gentleman with a double chin, and one of his eyes im-
moveable In his head) Is fraught with interest to me. When I
can't meet his daughter, I go where I am likely to meet him.
To say "How do you do, Mr. Larkins? Are the young ladles
and all the family quite well?" seems so pointed, that I blush.

I think continually about my age. Say I am seventeen,
and say that seventeen is young for the eldest Miss Larkins,
what of that? Besides, I shall be one-and-twenty In no time
almost. I regularly take walks outside Mr. Larklns's house
in the evening, though it cuts me to the heart to see the


officers go In , or to hear them up in the drawing-room , where
the eldest Miss Larkins plays the harp. I even walk, on two
or three occasions, in a sickly, spoony manner, round and
round the house after the family are gone to bed, wondering
which is the eldest Miss Larkins's chamber (and pitching,
I dare say now, on Mr. Larkins's instead) ; wishing that a fire
would burst out; that the assembled crowd would stand
appalled ; that I, dashing through them with a ladder, might
rear it against her window, save her in my arms, go back for
something she had left behind, and perish in the flames. For
I am generally disinterested in my love, and think I could be
content to make a figure before Miss Larkins, and expire.

— Generally, but not always. Sometimes brighter visions
rise before me. When I dress (the occupation of two hours),
for a great ball given at the Larkins's (the anticipation of three
weeks), I indulge my fancy with pleasing images. I picture my-
self taking courage to make a declaration to Miss Larkins. 1
picture Miss Larkins sinking her head upon my shoulder, and
saying, "Oh, Mr. Copperfield, can I believe my ears!" I picture
Mr. Larkins waiting on me next morning, and saying, "My
dear Copperfield, my daughter has told me all. Youth is no
objection. Here are twenty thousand pounds. Be happy!"
I picture my aunt relenting, and blessing us; and Mr. Dick
and Doctor Strong being present at the marriage ceremony,
lam a sensible fellow, I believe — I believe, on looking
back, I mean — and modest I am sure; but all this goes on

I repair to the enchanted house , where there are lights,
chattering, music, flowers, officers (I am sorry to see), and
the eldest Miss Larkins , a blaze of beauty . She is dressed in
blue, with blue flowers in her hair — forget-me-nots — as if
she had any need to wear forget-me-nots ! It is the first really
grown-up party that I have ever been invited to, and I am a


little uncomfortable ; for I appear not to belong to anybody,
and nobody appears to have anything to say to me, except
Mr. Larkins, who asks me how my schoolfellows are, which
he needn't do, as I have not come there to be insulted. But
after I have stood in the doorway for some time, and feasted
my eyes upon the goddess of my heart, she approaches me —
she, the eldest Miss Larkins! — and asks me, pleasantly, if
I dance.

I stammer, with a bow, "With you. Miss Larkins."

"With no one else?" inquires Miss Larkins.

"I should have no pleasure In dancing with any one

Miss Larkins laughs anc blushes (or I think she blushes),
and says, "Next time but one, I shall be very glad."

The time arrives. "It is a waltz, I think," Miss Larkins
doubtfully observes , when I present myself. "Do you waltz?
If not, Captain Bailey — "

But I do waltz (pretty well, too, as It happens), and I
take Miss Larkins out. I take her sternly from the side of
Captain Bailey. He Is wretched , I have no doubt; but he Is
nothing to me. I have been wretched, too. I waltz with the
eldest Mss Larkins! I don't know where, among whom, or
how long. I only know that I swim about in space, with a
blue angel, in a state of blissful delirium, until I find myself
alone with her In a little room, resting on a sofa. She ad-
mires a flower (pink camelia japonica, price half-a- crown),
in my button hole. I give It her, and say :

" I ask an inestimable price for It, Miss Larkins."

"Indeed! What is that?" returns Miss Larkins.

" A flower of vours, that I may treasure It as a miser does

"You 're a bold boy," says Miss Larkins. "There."

She gives It me, not displeased; and I put it to my lips,


and then into my breast. MissLarkins, laughing, draws her
hand through my arm, and says, "Now take me back to Cap-
tain Bailey."

I am lost in the recollection of this delicious interview,
and the waltz, when she comes to me again, with a plain
elderly gentleman, who has been playing whist all night,
upon her arm, and says :

"Oh ! here is my bold friend I Mr. Chestle wants to know
you. Mr. Copperfield."

I feel at once that he is a friend of the family, and am
much gratified.

"I admire your taste, Sir," says Mr. Chestle. "It does
you credit. I suppose you don't take much interest in hops ;
but I am a pretty large gi'ower myself; and if you ever like to
come over to our neighbourhood — neighbourhood of Ashford
— and take a run about our place, we shall be glad for you
to stop as long as you like."

I thank Mr. Chestle warmly, and shake hands. I think
1 am in a happy dream. I waltz with the eldest Miss Larkins
once again — she says I waltz so well ! I go home in a state of
unspeakable bliss, and waltz in imagination, all night long,
with my arm round the blue waist of my dear divinity. For
some days afterwards, I am lost in rapturous rellections ; but
I neither see her in the street, nor when I call. I am imper-
fectly consoled for this disappointment by the sacred pledge,
the perished flower.

"Trotwood," says Agnes, one day after dinner. "Who
do you think is going to be married to-morrow? Some one
you admire."

"Not you, I suppose, Agnes?"

"Not me 1 " raising her cheerful face from the music she is
copying. "Do you hear him, Papa? — The eldest Miss


" To — to Captain Bailey ? " I have just power enough to

"No; to no Captain. To Mr. Chestle, ahop-grower."

I am terribly dejected for about a week or two. I take off
my ring, I wear my worst clothes, I use no bear's grease,
and I frequently lament over the late Miss Larkins's faded
flower. Being, by that time, rather tired of this kind of life,
and having received new provocation from the butcher,
I throw the flower away, go out with the butcher, and glo-
riously defeat him.

This, and the resumption of my ring, as well as of the
bear's grease in moderation, are the last marks I can discern,
now, in my progress to seventeen.

David CopperficJd. IL


I look about me, and make a discovery.

I AM doubtful whether I was at heart glad or sorry, when
my school-days drew to an end, and the time came for my
leaving Doctor Strong's. I had been very happy there, I had
a great attachment for the Doctor, and I was eminent and
distinguished in that little world. For these reasons I was
sorry to go; but for other reasons, unsubstantial enough,
I was glad. Misty ideas of being a young man at my own
disposal, of the importance attaching to a young man at his
own disposal, of the wonderful things to be seen and done by
that magnificent animal, and the wonderful effects he could
not fail to make upon society, lured me away. So powerful
were these visionary considerations in my boyish mind, that I
seem, according to my present way of thinking, to have left
school without natural regret. The separation has not made
the impression on me, that other separations have. I try in
vain to recall how I felt about it, and what its circumstances
were ; but it is not momentous in my recollection. I suppose
the opening prospect confused me. I know that my juvenile
experiences went for little or nothing then ; and that life was
more like a great fairy story, which I was just about to begin
to read, than anything else.

My aunt and I had held many grave deliberations on the
calling to which I should be devoted. For a year or more I
had endeavoured to find a satisfactory answer to her often-
repeated question, "What I would like to be?" But I had
no particular liking, that I could discover, for anything. If


r could Lave been inspired with a knowledge of the science
of navigation, taken the command of a fast-sailing expedition,
and gone round the world on a triumphant voyage of dis-
covery, I think I might have considered myself completely
suited. But, in the absence of any such miraculous provision,
my desire was to apply myself to some pursuit that would not
lie too heavily upon her purse; and to do my duty in It, what-
ever it might be.

Mr. Dick had regularly assisted at our councils, with a
meditative and sage demeanour. He never made a suggestion
but once; and on that occasion (I don't know what put it in
his head), he suddenly proposed that I should be " a Brazier."
My aunt received this proposal so very ungraciously, that he
never ventured on a second ; but ever afterwards confined
himself to looking watchfully at her for her suggestions, and
rattling his money.

"Trot, I tell you what, my dear," said my aunt, one
morning in the Christmas season when I left school; "as this
knotty point is still unsettled, and as we must not make a
mistake in our decision if we can help it, I think we had
better take a little breathing-time. In the meanwhile, you
must try to look at it from a new point of view, and not as a

"I will, aunt."

"It has occurred to me," pursued my aunt, "that a little
change, and a glimpse of life out of doors, may be useful,
in helping you to know your own mind, and form a cooler
judgment. Suppose you were to take a little journey now.
Suppose you were to go down into the old part of the country
again, for instance, and see that — that out-of-the-way woman
with the savagest of names," said my aunt, rubbing her nose,
for she could never thoroughly forgive Feggotty for being so



"Of all things in the world, aunt, I should like it

"Well," said my aunt, "that's lucky, for I should like
it too. But it 's natural and rational that you should like it.
And I am very well persuaded that whatever you do, Trot,
will always be natural and rational."

"I hope so, aunt."

"Your sister, Betsey Trotwood," said my aunt, "would
have been as natural and rational a girl as ever breathed.
You '11 be worthy of her, won't you? "

"I hope T shall be worthy oi you, aunt. That will be
enough for me."

"It 's a mercy that poor dear baby of a mother of yours
didn't live," said my aunt, looking at me approvingly, "or
she 'd have been so vain of her boy by this time, that her soft
little head would have been completely turned, if there was
anything of it left to turn." (My aunt always excused any
weakness of her own in my behalf, by transferring it in this
way to my poor mother.) "Bless me, Trotwood, how you
do remind me of her 1 "

"Pleasantly, I hope, aunt?" said I.

"He's as like her, Dick," said my aunt, emphatically, "he 's
as like her, as she was that afternoon, before she began to
fret — bless my heart, he 's as like her, as he can look at mo
out of his two eyes ! "

"Is he indeed?" said Mr. Dick.

"And he 's like David, too," said my aunt, decisively.

" He is very like David I " said Mr. Dick.

"But what I want you to be. Trot," resumed my aunt
" — I don't mean physically, but morally; you are very well
physically — is, a firm fellow. A fine firm fellow, with a will
of your own. With resolution," said my aunt, shaking her
cap at me, and clenching her hand. "With determination.


With character, Trot — with strength of character that is not
to be influenced, except on good reason, by anybody, or by
anything. That 's what I want you to be. That 's what your
father and mother might both have been, Heaven knows, and
been the better for it."

I intimated that I hoped I should be what she described.

"That you may begin, in a small way, to have a reliance
upon yourself, and to act for yourself," said my aunt, "I shall
send you upon your trip, alone. I did think, once, of Mr.
Dick's going with you; but, on second thoughts, I shall keep
him to take care of me."

Mr. Dick, for a moment, looked a little disappointed;
until the honour and dignity of having to take care of the most
wonderful woman in the world, restored the sunshine to his

"Besides," said my aunt, "there 's the Memorial — "

"Oh, certainly," said Mr. Dick, in a hurry, "I intend,
Trotwood, to get that done immediately — it really must
be done immediately! And then it will go in, you know
— and then — ," said Mr. Dick, after checking himself,
and pausing a long time, "there '11 be a pretty kettle of

In pursuance of my aunt's kind scheme, I was shortly
afterwards fitted out with a handsome purse of money, and
a portmanteau, and tenderly dismissed upon my expedition.
At parting, my aunt gave me some good advice, and a good
many kisses ; and said that as her object was that I should look
about me, and should think a little, she woidd recommend me
to stay a few days in London, if I liked it, either on my way
down into Suffolk, or in coming back. In a word, I was at
liberty to do what I would, for three weeks or a month;
and no other conditions were imposed upon my freedom than
the before-mentioned thinking and looking about me, and


a pledge to write three times a week tind faithfully report

I went to Canterbury first, that I might take leave of Agnes
and Mr. Wickfield (my old room in whose house I had not yet
relinquished), and also of the good Doctor. Agnes was very
glad to see me, and told me that the house had not been like
itself since I had left it.

"I am sure I am not like myself when lam away," said I.
"I seem to want my right hand, when I miss you. Though
that 's not saying much ; for there 's no head in my right
liand, and no heart. Every one who knows you, consults
with you, and is guided by you, Agnes."

"Every one who knows me, spoils me, I believe," she
answered, smiling.

"No. It 's because you are like no one else. You are
so good, and so sweet-tempered. You have such a gentle
nature, and you are always right."

"You talk," said Agnes, breaking into a pleasant laugh,
as she sat at work, "as if I were the late Miss Larkins."

"Cornel It 's not fair to abuse my confidence," I an-
swered, reddening at the recollection of my blue enslaver.
"But I shall confide in you, ju«?t the same, Agnes. I can
never grow out of that. Whenever I fall into trouble, or fall
in love, I shall always tell you, if you '11 let me — even when I
come to fall in love in earnest."

"Why, you have always been in earnest!" said Agnes,
laughing again.

" Oh 1 that was as a child, or a school-boy," said I, laughing
in my turn, not without being a little shame-faced. "Times
are altering now, and I suppose I shall be in a terrible state
of earnestness one day or other. My wonder is, that you are
not in earnest yourself, by this time, Agnes."

Agnes laughed again, and shook her head.


"Oh, I know you are notl" said I, "because if you had
been, you would have told me. Or at least" — for I saw a
faint blush in her face, "you would have let me find it out for
myself. But there is no one that I know of, who deserves to
love t/ow, Agnes. Some one of a nobler character, and more
worthy altogether than any one I have ever seen here, must
rise up, before I give my consent. In the time to come, I
shall have a wary eye on all admirers ; and shall exact a great
deal from the successful one, I assure you."

We had gone on, so far, in a mixture of confidential jest
and earnest, that had long grown naturally out of our familiar
relations, begun as mere children. But Agnes, now suddenly
lifting up her eyes to mine, and speaking in a difi"erent manner,

"Trotwood, there is something that I want to ask you.
and that I may not have another opportunity of asking for
a long time, perhaps — something I would ask, I think, of
no one else. Have you observed any gradual alteration in

I had observed it, and had often wondered whether she
had too. I must have shown as much, now, in my face;
for her eyes were in a moment cast down, and I saw tears
in them.

"Tell me what it is," she said, in a low voice.

"I think — shall I be quite plain, Agnes, liking him so

"Yes," she said.

"I think he does himself no good by the habit that has
increased upon him since I first came here. He is often very
nervous — or I fancy so."

"It is not fancy," said Agnes, shaking her head.

"His hand trembles, his speech is not plain, and his eyes
look wild. I have remarked that at those times, and when


he is least like himself, he is most certain to be wanted on
some business."

"By Uriah," said Agnes.

"Yes ; and the sense of being unfit for it, or of not having
understood it, or of having shown his condition in spite of
himself, seems to make him so uneasy, that next day he is
worse, and next day worse, and so he becomes jaded and
haggard. Do not be alarmed by what I say, Agnes, but in
this state I saw him , only the other evening, lay down his head
upon his desk, and shed tears like a child."

Her hand passed softly before my lips while I was yet
speaking, and in a moment she had met her father at the door
of the room , and was hanging on his shoulder. The ex-
pression of her face, as they both looked towards me, I felt
to be very touching. There was such deep fondness for him,
and gratitude to him for all his love and care, in her beautiful
look; and there was such a fervent appeal to me to deal
tenderly by him, even in my inmost thoughts, and to let no
harsh construction find any place against hira; she was, at
once, so proud of him and devoted to him , yet so compas-
sionate and sorry, and so reliant upon me to be so, too; that
nothing she could have said would have expressed more to me,
or moved me more.

We were to drink tea at the Doctor's. We went there at
the usual hour; and round the study -fireside found the
Doctor, and his young wife, and her mother. The Doctor,
who made as much of my going away as if I were going to
China, received me as an honoured guest; and called for a log
of wood to be thrown on tlie fire, that he might see the face
of his old pupil reddening in tlie blaze.

"I shall not see many more new faces in Trotwood's stead,
WIckfield," said the Doctor, warming his hands; "I am
getting lazy, and want case. I shall relinquish all my


young people In another six months, and lead a quieter

"You have said so, any time these ten years, Doctor,"
Mr. Wickfield answered.

"But now I mean to do it," returned the Doctor. "My
first master will succeed me — I am In earnest at last — so
you '11 soon have to arrange our contracts, and to bind us
firmly to them, like a couple of knaves."

"And to take care," said^Ir. Wickfield, "that you 're not
imposed on, eh? — as you certainly would be, In any contract
you should make for yourself. Well! lam ready. There
are worse tasks than that, in my calling."

"I shall have nothing to think of then," said the Doctor,
with a smile, "but my Dlctionar}-; and this other contract-
bargain — Annie."

As Mr. W^ickfield glanced towards her, sitting at the tea-
table by Agnes, she seemed to me to avoid his look with such
unwonted hesitation and timidity, that his attention became
fixed upon her, as if something were suggested to his thoughts.

"There Is a post come In from India, I observe," he said,
after a short silence.

"By-the-by 1 and letters from Mr. Jack Maldon ! " said the


"Poor dear Jack! "said Mrs. Marklehara, shaking herhead.
"That trying climate! — like living, they tell me, on a sand-
heap, underneath a burning-glass I He looked strong, but he
wasn't. My dear Doctor, it was his spirit, not his constitution,
that he ventured on so boldly. Annie, my dear, I am sure you
must perfectly recollect that your cousin never was strong —
not what can be called robust^ you know," said Mrs. Markle-
ham, with emphasis, and looking round upon us generally
" — from the time when my daughter and himself were


children together, and walking about, arm inarm, the live-
long day."

Annie, thus addressed, made no reply.

"Do I gather from -what you say, Ma'am, that Mr. Maldon
is ill?" asked Mr. Wickfield.

"IllI" replied the Old Soldier. "My dear Sir, he is all
sorts of things,"

"Except well? " said Mr. Wickfield.

"Except well, indeed 1" said the Old Soldier. "He has
had dreadful strokes of the sun, no doubt, and jungle fevers
and agues, and every kind of thing you can mention. As to
his liver," said the Old Soldier resignedly, "that, of course,
he gave up altogether, when he first went out ! "

"Does he say all this?" asked Mr. Wickfield.

"Say? My dear Sir," returned Mrs. Markleham, shaking
her head and her fan, "you little know my poor Jack Maldon
when you ask that question. Say? Not he. You might drag
him at the heels of four wild horses first."

"Mammal" said Mrs. Strong.

"Annie, my dear," returned her mother, "once for all, I
must really beg that you will not interfere with me, unless it
is to confirm what I say. You know as well as I do, that your
cousin Maldon would be dragged at the heels of any number
of wild horses — why should I confine myself to four I I won't
confine myself to four — eight, sixteen, two-and-thirty, rather
than say anything calculated to overturn the Doctor's plans."

" Wickfield's plans," said the Doctor, stroking his face, and
looking penitently at his adviser. "That is to say, our joint
plans for him. I said myself, abroad or at home."

"And I said," added Mr. Wickfield gravely, "abroad. I
was the means of sending him abroad. It 's my responsibility."

"Oh! Responsibility!" said the Old Soldier. "Everything
was done for the best, my dear Mr. Wickfield ; every thing was


done for the kindnest andbest, we know. But if the dear fel-

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 27)