Charles Dickens.

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

. (page 9 of 27)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


•'"What do you say, Daisy?" inquired Steerforth, laugh-
ing, and resigning his seat. "Will you be improved?"

"Thank you, MissMowcher, not this evening."

"Don't say no," returned the little woman , looking at me
with the aspect of a connoisseur; "a little bit more eye-
brow?"

"Thank you," I returned, "some other time."

"Have it carried half a quarter of an inch towards the
temple," said Miss Mowcher. "We can do it in a fortnight."

"No, I thank you. Not at present.'*

"Go in for a tip," she urged. "No? Let 's get the scaf-
folding up, then, for a pair of whiskers. Come!"

I could not help blushing as I declined, for I felt we were
on my weak point, now. But MissMowcher, finding that I
was not at present disposed for any decoration within the
range of her art, and that I was, for the time being, proof
against the blandishments of the small bottle which she held
up before one eye to enforce her persuasions, said we would
make a beginning on an early day, and requested the aid of
David Copperfield. JI. 8



114



my hand to descend from Ler elevated station. Thus assisted,
she skipped down with much agility, and began to tie her
double chin into her bonnet.

"The fee,'* said Steerforth, "is—"

"Five bob," replied Miss Mowcher, "and dirt-cheap, my
chicken. Ain't I volatile, Mr. Copperfield?"

I replied politely: "Not at all." But I thought she was
rather so, when she tossed up his two half-crowns like a
goblin pieman, caught them, dropped them in her pocket,
and gave it a loud slap.

"That's the Till!" observed Miss Mowcher, standing at
the chair again, and replacing in the bag the miscellaneous
collection of little objects she had emptied out of it. "Have
I got all my traps? It seems so. It won't do to be like long
Ned Beadwood, when they took him to church *to marry him
to somebody,' as he says, and left the bride behind. Ha!
ha! ha I A wicked rascal, Ned, but droll! Now, I know
I 'm going to break your hearts , but I am forced to leave you.
You must call up all your fortitude , and try to bear it. Good
bye, Mr. Copperfield! Take care of yourself, Jockey of
Norfolk! How I have been rattling on! It's all the fault of
you two wretches. / forgive you! 'Bob swore!' — as the
Englishman said for 'Good night,' when he first learnt French,
and thought it so like English. ' Bob swore ,' my ducks 1 "

With the bag slung over her arm, and rattling as she
waddled away, she waddled to the door; where she stopped
to inquire if she should leave us a look of her hair. "Ain't I
volatile?" she added, as a commentary on this ofi'er, and,
with her finger on her nose , departed.

Steerforth laughed to that degree, that it was impossible
for me to help laughing too; though I am not sure I should
have done so, but for this inducement. When we had had
our laugh quite out, which was after some time, he told me



115



that Miss Mowcher had quite an extensive connexion, and
made herself useful to a variety of people in a variety of ways.
Some people trifled with her as a mere oddity, he said; but
she was as shrewdly and sharply observant as any one he
knew, and as long-headed as she was short-armed. He told
me that what she had said of being here, and there, and
everywhere, was true enough; for she made little darts into
the provinces, and seemed to pick up customers everywhere,
and to know everybody. I asked him what her disposition
was: whether it was at all mischievous, and if her sympathies
were generally on the right side of things: but, not succeed-
ing in attracting his attention to these questions after two or
three attempts, I forbore or forgot to repeat them. He told
me instead, with much rapidity, a good deal about her skill,
and her profits; and about her being a scientific cupper,
if I should ever have occasion for her services in that
capacity.

She was the principal theme of our conversation during the
evening : and when we parted for the night Steerforth called
after me over the bannisters , "Bob swore!" as I went down
stairs. •

I was surprised, when I came to Mr. Barkis's house to find
Ham walking up and down in front of it, and still more sur-
prised to learn from him that little Em'ly was inside. I natu-
rally inquired why he was not there too, instead of pacing the
street by himself?

"Why, you see, Mas'r Davy," he rejoined, in a hesi-
tating manner, "Em'ly, she 's talking to some 'un in here."

"I should have thought," said I, smiling, "that that was
a reason for your being in here too , Ham."

"Well, Mas'r Davy, in a general way, so 't would be,"
he returned; "but look'ee here, Mas'r Davy," lowering his
voice, and speaking very gravely. "It's a young woman,

8*



116



Sir — a young woman, that Em'ly knowed once, and doen't
ought to know no more."

When I heard these words, a light began to fall upon the
figure I had seen following them, some hours ago.

"It 's apoor wurem, Mas'rDavy," said Ham, "as is trod
under foot by all the town. Up street and down street. The
mowld o' the churchyard don't hold any that the folk shrink
away from, more."

"Did I see her to-night, Ham, on the sands, after we met
you?"

"Keeping us In sight?" said Ham. "It's like you did,
Mas'r Davy. Not that I know'd, then, she was theer, Sir,
but along of her creeping soon arterwards under Em'ly's
little winder, when she see the light come, and whisp'ring
'Em'ly, Em'ly, for Christ's sake have a woman's heart to-
wards me. I was once like you 1 ' Those was solemn words,
Mas'r Davy, fur to hear ! "

"They were indeed. Ham. What did Em'ly do?"

"Says Em'ly, 'Martha, Is it you? Oh, Martha, can it be
youl ' — for they had sat at work together, many a day, at
Mr. Omer's."

"I recollect her nowl " cried I, recalling one of the two
girls I had seen when I first went there. "I recollect her'
quite well 1" j

"Martha Endell," said Ham. "Two or three year older
than Em'ly, but was at the school with her."

"I never heard her name," said I. "I didn't mean to
Interrupt you."

"For the matter o' that, Mas'r Davy," replied Ham,
"all 's told a'most in them words, 'Em'ly, Em'ly, for Christ's
sake have a woman's heart towards me. I was once like you I '
She wanted to speak to Em'ly. Em'ly couldn't speak to her
theer, for her loving uncle was come home, and he wouldn't



117



— no, Mas'rDavy," said Ham, with great earnestness, "he
couldn't, kind-naturd, tender-hearted as he is, see them two
together, side by side, for all the treasures that 's wrecked in
the sea."

I felt how true this was. I knew it, on the instant, quite
as well as Ham.

"So Em'ly writes in pencil on a bit of paper," he pursued,
"and gives it to her out o' winder to bring here. 'Show
that,' she says, 'to my aunt, Mrs. Barkis, and she '11 set you
down by her fire, for the love of me, till uncle is gone out,
and I can come.' By-and-by she tells me what 1 tell you,
Mas'r Davy, and asks me to bring her. AMiat can I do? She
doen't ought to know any such, but I can't deny her, when
the tears is on her face."

He put his hand into the breast of his shaggy jacket, and
took out with great care a pretty little purse.

"And if I could deny her when the tears was on her face,
Mas'r Davy," said Ham, tenderly adjusting it on the rough
palm of his hand, "how could I deny her when she give me
this to carry for her — knowing what she brought it for? Such
a toy as it is ! " said Ham , thoughtfully looking on it. " With
such a little money in it, Em'ly my dear ! "

I shook him warmly by the hand when he had put it away
again — for that was more satisfactory to me than saying any-
thing — and we walked up and down , for a minute or two, in
silence. The door opened then, and Peggotty appeared,
beckoning to Ham to come in. I would have kept away, but
she came after me , entreating me to come in too. Even then,
I would have avoided the room where they all were, but for
its being the neat-tiled kitchen I have mentioned more than
once. The door opening immediately into it, I found myself
among them, before I considered whither I was j,'oing.

The girl — the same I had seen upon the sands — was near



118



the fire. She was sitting on the ground, -mth her head and
one arm lying on a chair. I fancied, from the disposition of
her figure , that Em'ly had but newly risen from the chair, and
that the forlorn head might perhaps have been lying on her
lap. I saw but little of the girl's face, over which her hair fell
loose and scattered, as if she had been disordering it with her
own hands; but T saw that she was young, and of a fair com-
plexion. Peggotty had been crying. So had little Em'ly,
Not a word was spoken when we first went in; and the Dutch
clock by the dresser seemed, in the silence, to tick twice as
loud as usual.

Em'ly spoke first.

"Martha wants,'* she said to Ham , "to go to London."

"Why to London?" returned Ham.

He stood between them, looking on the prostrate girl with
a mixture of compassion for her, and of jealousy of her hold-
ing any companionship with her whom he loved so well, which
I have always remembered distinctly. They both spoke as if
she were ill ; in a soft, suppressed tone that was plainly heard,
although it hardly rose above a whisper.

"Better there than here," said a third voice aloud —
Martha's, though she did not move. "No one knows me
there. Everybody knows me here."

"What will she do there?" inquired Ham.

She lifted up her head, and looked darkly round at him for
a moment ; then laid it down again, and curved her right arm
about her neck, as a woman in a fever, or in an agony of pain
from a shot, might twist herself.

"She will try to do well," said little Em'ly. "You don't
know what she has said to us. Does he — do they — aunt?"

Peggotty shook her head compassionately.

" I '11 try," said Martha, "if you '11 help me away. I never
can do worse than I have done here. I may do better. Oh I"



119



with a dreadful shiver, "take me out of these streets, where
the whole town knows me from a child I "

As Em'ly held out her hand to Ham, I saw him put in it a
little canvas bag. She took it, as if she thought It were her
purse, and made a step or two forward; but finding her mis-
take, came back to where he had retired near me, and showed
it to him.

" It 's all youm, Em'ly," I could hear him say. " I haven't
nowt in all the wureld that ain't yourn, my dear. It ain't of no
dehght to me, except for you ! "

The tears rose freshly In her eyes, but she turned away,
and went to Martha. What she gave her, I don't know. I saw
her stooping over her, and putting money in her bosom. She
whispered something, and asked was that enough? "More
than enough," the other said, and took her hand aud
kissed it.

Then Martha arose, and gathering her shawl about her, co-
vering her face with it, and weeping aloud, went slowly to the
door. She stopped a moment before going out, as If she
would have uttered something or turned back; but no word
passed her lips. Making the same low, dreary, wretched
moaning in her shawl, she went away.

As the door closed, little Em'ly looked at us three in a hur-
ried manner, and then hid her face In her hands, and fell to
sobbing.

"Doen't Em*ly!'* said Ham, tapping her gently on the
shoulder. "Doen't, my dear! You doen't ought to cry so,
pretty 1 "

"Oh, Haml" she exclaimed, still weeping pitifully, "I am
not as good a girl as I ought to be! I know I have not the
thankful heart, sometimes, I ought to have! "

"Yes, yes, you have, I 'm sure," said Ham.

"No! no! no!" cried little Em'ly, sobbing, and shaking her



120



head. "I am not as good a girl as I ought to be. Not near!
not near 1"

And still she cried, as if her heart would break.

"I try your love too much. I know I do!" she sobbed.
"I 'm often cross to you, and changeable with you, when I
ought to be far different. You are never so to me. Why am
I ever so to you, when I should think of nothing but how to be
grateful, and to make you happy ! "

"You always make me so," said Ham, "my dearl I am
happy in the sight of you. I am happy, all day long, in the
thoughts of you."

"Ah! that's not enough!" she cried. "That is because
you are good ; not because I am I Oh, my dear, it might have
been a better fortune for you, if you had been fond of some
one else — of some one steadier and much worthier than me,
Avho was all bound up in you, and never vain and changeable
like mel"

"Poor little tender-heart," said Ham, in a low voice.
"Martha has overset her, altogether."

"Please, aunt," sobbed Em'ly, "come here, and let me lay
my head upon you. Oh, I am very miserable to-night, aunt !
Oh, I am not as good a girl as I ought to be. lam not, I know!"

Peggotty had hastened to the chair before the fire. Em'ly,
with her arms around her neck, kneeled by her, looking up
most earnestly into her face.

"Oh, pray, aunt, try to help me! Ham, dear, try to help
me! Mr. David, for the sake of old times, do, please, try to
help mel I want to be a better girl than I am. I want to feel
a hundred times more thankful than I do. I want to feel more,
what a blessed thing it is to be the wife of a good man, and to
lead a peaceful life. Oh me, oh me ! Oh, my heart, my heart! "

She dropped her face on my old nurse's breast, and, ceasing
this supplication, which in its agony and grief was half a wo-



121



man's, half a child's, as all her manner was (being, in that,
more natural, and better suited to her beauty, as I thought,
than any other manner could have been), wept silently, while
my old nurse hushed her like an infant.

She got calmer by degrees, and then we soothed her ; now
talking encouragingly, and now jesting a little with her, until
she began to raise her head and speak to us. So we got on,
until she was able to smile, and then to laugh, and then to sit
up, half ashamed; while Peggotty recalled her stray ringlets,
dried her eyes, and made her neat again, lest her uncle should
wonder, when she got home, why his darling had been crying.

I saw her do, that night, what I had never seen her do be-
fore. I saw her innocently kiss her chosen husband on the
cheek, and creep close to his bluff form as if it were her best
support. When they went away together, in the waning moon-
light, and I looked after them, comparing their departure in
my mind with Martha's, I saw that she held his arm with both
licr hands, and still kept close to him.



CHAPTER VII.

I corroborate Mr. Dick, and choose a profession.

When I awoke in the morning I thought very much of little
Em'ly, and her emotion last night, after Martha had left. I felt
as if I had come into the knowledge of those domestic weak-
nesses and tendernesses in a sacred confidence, and that to
disclose them, even to Steerforth, would be wrong. I had no
gentler feeling towards any one than towards the pretty crea-
ture who had been my playmate, and whom I have always been
persuaded, and shall always be persuaded, to my dying day,
I then devotedly loved. The repetition to any ears — even to
Steerforth's, — of what she had been unable to repress when
her heart lay open to me by an accident, I felt would be a
rough deed, unworthy of myself, unworthy of the light of our
pure childhood, which I always saw encircling her head. I
made a resolution, therefore, to keep it in my own breast; and
there it gave her image a new grace.

While we were at breakfast, a letter was delivered to me
from my aunt. As it contained matter on which I thought
Steerforth could advise me as well as any one, and on which I
knew I should be delighted to consult him , I resolved to make
it a subject of discussion on our journey home. For the pre-
sent we had enough to do, in taking leave of all our friends.
Mr. Barkis was far from being the last among them, in his
regret at our departure; and I believe would even have
opened the box again, and sacrificed another guinea, if it would
have kept us eight-and-forty hours in Yarmouth. Peggotty,
and all her family, were full of grief at our going. The whole



123



house of Onier and Joram turned out to bid us good bye ; and
there were so many seafaring volunteers in attendance on
Steerforth, when our portmanteaus went to the coach, that if
we had had the baggage of a regiment with us, we should
hardly have wanted porters to carry it. In a word, we de-
parted to the regret and admiration of all concerned, and left
a great many people very sorry behind us.

"Do you stay long here, Littimer?" said I, as he stood
waiting to see the coach start.

"No, Sir," he replied; "probably not very long, Sir."

"He can hardly say just now," observed vSteerforth, care-
lessly. "He knows what he has to do, and he '11 do it."

" That I am sure he will, " said I.

Littimer touched his hat in acknowledgment of my good
opinion, and I felt about eight years old. He touched it once
more, wishing us a good journey; and we left him standing on
the pavement, as respectable a mystery as any p\Tamid in
Egypt.

For some little time we held no conversation, Steerforth
being unusually silent, and I being sufficiently engaged in
wondering, within myself, when I should see the old places
again, and what new changes might happen to me or them in
the meanwhile. At length Steerforth, becoming gay and talka-
tive in a moment, as he could become anything he liked at
any moment , pulled me by the arm :

"Find a voice, David. What about the letter you were
speaking of at breakfast? "

"Ohl" said I, taking it out of my pocket. "It's from my
aunt."

"And what does she say, requiring consideration 1 "

"Why, she reminds me, Steerforth," said I, "that I came
out on this expedition to look about me, and to think a little."

"Which, of course, you have done?"



124



"Indeed I can't say I have, particularly. To tell you the
truth, I am afraid I had forgotten it."

"Weill look about you now, and make up for your negli-
gence," said Steerforth. "Look to the right, and you '11 see
a flat country, with a good deal of marsh in it; look to the left,
and you '11 see the same. Look to the front, and you '11 find
no difference; look to the rear, and there it is still."

I laughed, and replied that I saw no suitable profession in
the whole prospect ; which was perhaps to be attributed to its
llatness.

" What says our aunt on the subject?" inquired Steerforth,
glancing at the letter in my hand. "Does she suggest any-
thing?"

"Why, yes," saidL "She asks me, here, if I think I
should like to be a proctor? What do you think of it ? "

"Well, I don't know, " replied Steerforth, coolly. "You
may as well do that as anything else, I suppose. "

I could not help laughing again , at his balancing all callings
and professions so equally ; and I told him so.

"What is a proctor, Steerforth? " said L

"Why, he is a sort of monkish attorney," replied Steer-
forth. "He is, to some faded courts held in Doctors' Com-
mons — a lazy old nook near St. Paul's Churchyard — what
solicitors are to the courts of law and equity. He is a functio-
nary whose existence, in the natural course of things, would
have terminated about two Imndred years ago. I can tell you
best what he is, by telling you what Doctors' Commons is.
It 's a little out-of-the-way place , where they administer what
is called ecclesiastical law, and play all kinds of tricks with ob-
solete old monsters of acts of Parliament, which three-fourths
of the world know nothing about, and the other fourth sup-
poses to have been dug up, in a fossil state, in the days of the
Edwards. It 's a place that has an ancient monopoly in suits



125



about people's wills and people's marriages, and disputes
among ships and boats."

"Nonsense, Steerforth I " I exclaimed. " You don't mean
to say that there is any affinity between nautical matters and
ecclesiastical matters? "

"I don't, indeed, my dear boy, " he returned; *'but I mean
to say that they are managed and decided by the same set of
people, down in that same Doctors' Commons. You shall go
there one day, and find them blundering through half the nau-
tical terms in Young's Dictionary, apropos of the 'Nancy'
having run down the 'Sarah Jane,' or Mr. Peggotty and the
Yarmouth boatmen having put off in a gale of wind with an
anchor and cable to the 'Nelson' Indiaman in distress; and
you shall go there another day, and find them deep in the evi-
den-ce, pro and con, respecting a clergyman who has misbe-
haved himself; and you shall find the judge in the nautical
case, the advocate in the clerg}'man case, or contrariwise.
They are like actors : now a man 's a judge, and now he is not
a judge; now he 's one thing, now he 's another; now he 's
something else, change and change about; but it 's always a
very pleasant profitable little affair of private theatricals, pre-
sented to an uncommonly select audience."

"But advocates and proctors are not one and the same?"
said I, a little puzzled. "Are they?"

"No," returned Steerforth, "the advocates are civilians —
men who have taken a doctor's degree at college — which is
the first reason of my knowing anything about it. The proc-
tors employ the advocates. Both get very comfortable fees,
and altogether they make a mighty snug little party. On the
whole , I would recommend you to take to Doctors' Commons
kindly, David. They plume themselves on their gentility
there, I can tell you, if that 's any satisfaction. "

I made allowance for Steerforth's light way of treating the



126



subject, and, considering it with reference to the staid air o/
gravity and antiquity which I associated with that "lazy old
nook near St. Paul's Churchyard," did not feel indisposed
towards my aunt's suggestion ; which she left to my free de-
cision, making no scruple of telling me that it had occurred to
her, on her lately visiting her own proctor in Doctors' Com-
mons for the purpose of settling her will in my favour.

" That 's a laudable proceeding on the part of our aunt, at
all events," said Steerforth, when I mentioned it; "and one
deserving of all encouragement. Daisy, my advice is that
you take kindly to Doctors' Commons."

I quite made up my mind to do so. I then told Steerforth
that my aunt was in town awaiting me (as I found from her
letter), and that she had taken lodgings for a week at a kind
of private hotel in Lincoln's Inn Fields , where there was a
stone staircase, and a convenient door in the roof; my aunt
being firmly persuaded that every house in London was going
to be burnt down every night.

We achieved the rest of our journey pleasantly, some-
times recurring to Doctors' Commons, and anticipating the
distant days when I should be a proctor there, which Steer-
forth pictured in a variety of humorous and whimsical lights,
that made us both merry. When we came to our journey's
end, he went home, engaging to call upon me next day but
one; and I drove to Lincoln's Inn Fields, where I found my
aunt up, and waiting supper.

If I had been round the world since we parted, we could
hardly have been better pleased to meet again. My aunt cried
outright as she embraced me ; and said, pretending to laugh,
that if my poor mother had been alive, that silly little creature
would have shed tears, she had no doubt.

"So you have left Mr. Dick behind, aunt?" said I. "lam
sorry for that. Ah, Janet, how do you do?"



127



As Janet curtsied, ho})mg I was well, I observed my aunt's
visiige lengthen very much.

"I am sorry for it, too," said my aunt, rubbing her
nose. '"I have had no peace of mind, Trot, since I have
been here."

Before I could ask why, she told me.

"lam convinced," said my aunt; laying her hand with
melancholy firmness on ths table, "that Dick's character Is not
a character to keep the donkies off. I am confident he wants
strength of purpose. I ought to have left Janet at home,
instead, and then my mind might perhaps have been at ease.
If ever there was a donkey trespassing on ray green," said my
aunt, with emphasis, "there was one this afternoon at four
o'clock. A cold feeling came over me from head to foot, and
I know it was a donkey ! "

I tried to comfort her on this point, but she rejected con-
solation.

"It was a donkey," said my aunt; "and it was the one
with the stumpy tail which that Murdering sister of a woman
rode, when she came to my house." This had been, ever
since, the only name my aunt knew for Miss !Murdstone. "If
there is any donkey in Dover, whose audacity it is harder
to me to bear than another's, that," said ray aunt, striking
the table, " is the animal I "

Janet ventured to suggest that my aunt might be dis-
turbing herself unnecessarily, and that she believed the
donkey in question was then engaged in the sand and gravel



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 27)