Tafflin." For both of these songs Mrs. Micawber had been
famous when she lived at home with her papa and mamma.
Mr. Micawber told us, that when he heard her sing the
first one, on the first occasion of his seeing her beneath the
parental roof, she had attracted his attention in an extraor-
dinary degree; but that when it came to Little Tafflin, he
had resolved to win that woman or perish in the attempt.
It was between ten and eleven o'clock when Mrs. Micaw-
ber rose to replace her cap in the whity-brown paper parcel,
and to put on her bonnet. Mr. Micawber took the oppor-
tunity of Traddles putting on his great coat, to slip a letter
into my hand, with a whispered request that I would read
it at my leisure. I also took the opportunity of my holding
a candle over the banisters to light them down, when Mr.
Micawber was going first, leading Mrs. Micawber, and Trad-
dles was following with the cap, to detain Traddles for a
moment on the top of the stairs.
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 419
" Traddles," said I, '* Mr. Micawber don*t mean any harm,
poor fellow; but, if I were you, I wouldn't lend him anything."
" My dear Copperfield," returned Traddles, smiling, " 1
haven't got anything to lend."
" You have got a name, you know," said I.
" Oh ? You call that something to lend," returned Traddles,
with a thoughtful look.
" Oh !" said Traddles. " Yes, to be sure ! I am very much
obliged to you, Copperfield; but ā I am afraid I have lent
him that already."
" For the bill that is to be a certain investment ?" I in-
" No," said Traddles. " Not for that one. This is the first
I have heard of that one. I have been thinking that he will
most likely propose that one, on the way home. Mine's
" I hope there will be nothing wrong about ft," said I.
" I hope not," said Traddles. '' I should think not, though,
because he told me, only the other day, that it was provided
for. That was Mr. Micawber's expression. ' Provided for.' "
Mr. Micawber looking up at this juncture to where we
were standing, I had only time to repeat my caution. Trad-
dles thanked me, and descended. But I was much afraid,
when I observed the good-natured manner in which he went
down with the cap in his hand, and gave Mrs. Micawber his
arm, that he would be carried into the Money Market neck
I returned to my fireside, and was musing, half gravely
and half laughing, on the character of Mr. Micawber and
the old relations between us, when I heard a quick step
ascending the stairs. At first, I thought it was Traddles
coming back for something Mrs. Micawber had left behind;
but as the step approached, I knew it, and felt my heart
beat high, and the blood rush to my face, for it was Steer-
I was never unmindful of Agnes, and she never left that
sanctuary in my thoughts ā if I may call it so ā where I had
placed her from the first. But when he entered, and stood
before me with his hand out, the darkness that had fallen on
him changed to light, and I felt confounded and ashamed of
having doubted one I loved so heartily. I loved her none
the less; I thought of her as the same benignant, ^gentle
420 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
angel in my life; I reproached myself, not her, with having
done him an injury; and I would have made him any atone-
ment if I had known what to make, and how to make it.
*' Why, Daisy, old boy, dumb-foundered !" laughed Steer-
forth, shaking my hand heartily, and throwing it gaily away.
** Have I detected you in another feast, you Sybarite! These
Doctors' Commons fellows are the gayest men in town, I be-
lieve, and beat us sober Oxford people all to nothing !" His
bright glance went merrily round the room, as he took his
seat on the sofa opposite to me, which Mrs. Micawber had
recently vacated, and stirred the fire into a blaze.
" I was so surprised at first," said I, giving him a welcome
with all the cordiality I felt, " that I had hardly breath to
greet you with, Steerforth."
" Well, the sight of me is good for sore eyes, as the Scotch
say," replied Steerforth, " and so is the sight of you, Daisy,
in full bloom. How are you, my Bacchanal !"
" I am very well," said I; " and not at all Bacchanalian to-
night, though I confess to another party of three."
"All of whom I met in the street, talking loud in your
praise," returned Steerforth. " Who's our friend in the
I gave him the best idea I could, in a few words, of Mr.
Micawber. He laughed heartily at my feeble portrait of
that gentleman, and said he was a man to know, and he must
" But who do you suppose our other friend is ?" said I, in
" Heaven knows," said Steerforth. " Not a bore I hope ? I
thought he looked a little Hke one."
*' Traddles !" I repUed triumphantly.
'' Who's he ?" asked Steerforth, in a careless way.
'' Don't you remember Traddles ? Traddles in our room at
Salem House ?"
" Oh ! That fellow ?" said Steerforth, beating a lump of
coal on the top of the fire, with a poker. " Is he as soft as
ever ? And where the deuce did you pick him up ?"
I extolled Traddles in reply, as highly as I could; for I
felt that Steerforth rather slighted him. Steerforth, dismiss-
ing the subject with a light nod, and a smile, and the remark
that he would be glad to see the old fellow too, for he had
always been an odd fish, inquired if I could give him any-
thing to eat ? During the most of this short dialogue, when
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 421
he had not been speaking in a wild vivacious manner, he had
sat idly beating on the lump of coal with the poker. I ob-
served that he did the same thing while I was getting out the
remains of the pigeon-pie, and so forth.
"Why, Daisy, here's a supper for a kin^ !" he exclaimed,
starting out of his silence with a burst, ahd taking his seat
at the table. " I shall do it justice, for I have come from
" I thought you came from Oxford ?" I returned.
" Not I," said Steerforth. ** I have been seafaring ā better
" Littimer was here to-day, to inquire for you," I re-
marked, " and I understood him that you were at Oxford,
though now I think of it, he certainly did not say so."
" Littimer is a greater fool than I thought him, to have
been inquiring for me at all," said Steerforth, jovially pour-
ing out a glass of wine, and drinking to me. " As to under-
standing him, you are a cleverer fellow than most of us,
Daisy, if you can do that."
''That's true, indeed," said I, moving my chair to the
table. " So you have been at Yarmouth, Steerforth !'' inter-
ested to know all about it. " Have you been there long ?"
" No," he returned. "An escapade of a week or so."
"And how are they all? Of course, little Em'ly is not
married yet ?"
" Not yet. Going to be, I believe ā in so many weeks, or
months, or something or other. I have not seen much of
'em. By-the-by;" he laid down his knife and fork, which
he had been using with great diligence, and began feeling
in his pocket ; " I have a letter for you."
" From whom ?"
"Why, from your old nurse," he returned, taking some
papers out of his breast pocket. " ' J. Steerforth, Esquire,
debtor to the Willing Mind;' that's not it. Patience and we'll
find it presently. ' Old what's-his-name's in a bad way, and
it's about that, I believe."
" Barkis, do you mean ?"
" Yes," still feeling in his pockets, and looking over their
contents: " it's all over with poor Barkis, I am afraid. I
saw a little apothecary there ā surgeon, or whatever he is ā
who brought your worship into the world. He was mighty
learned about the case, to me; but the upshot of his opinion
was, that the carrier was making his last journey rather fast
422 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
ā Put your hand into the breast-pocket of my great coat on
the chair yonder, and I think you'll find the letter. Is it
" Here it is!" said I.
" That's right!"^
It was from Peggotty; something less legible than usual,
and brief. It informed me of her husband's hopeless state,
and hinted at his being " a little nearer" than heretofore,
and consequently more difficult to manage for his own com-
fort. It said nothing of her weariness and watching, and
praised him highly. It was written with a plain, unaffected,
homely piety, that I knew to be genuine, and ended with
" my duty to my ever darling " ā meaning myself.
While I deciphered it, Steerforth continued to eat and drink.
" It's a bad job," he said, when I had done; " but the sun
sets every day, and people die every minute, and we mustn't
be scared by the common lot. If we fail to hold our own,
because that equal foot at all men's doors was heard knock-
ing somewhere, every object in this world would slip from
us. No! Ride on! Rough-shod if need be, smooth-shod
if that will'do, but ride on! Ride overall obstacles and win
" And win what race ?" said I.
" The race that one has started in," said he. " Ride on."
I noticed, I remember, as he paused, looking at me with
his handsome head a little thrown back, and his glass raised in
his hand, that, though the freshness of the sea-wind was on
his face, and it was ruddy, there were traces in it, made since
I last saw it, as if he had applied himself to some habitual
strain of the fervent energy which, when roused, was so
passionately roused within him. I had it in my thoughts to
remonstrate with him upon his desperate way of pursuing
any fancy that he took ā such as this buffeting of rough seas,
and braving of hard weather, for example ā when my mind
glanced off to the immediate subject of our conversation
again, and pursued that instead.
" I tell you what, Steerforth," said I, " if your high spirits
will listen to me" ā
" They are potent spirits, and will do whatever you like,"
he answered, moving from the table to the fireside again.
. " Then I tell you what, Steerforth, I think I will go down
and see my old nurse. It is not that I can do her any good,
or render her any real service; but she is so attached to me
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 423
that my visit will have as much effect on her, as if I could
do both. She will take it so kindly that it will be a comfort
and support to her. It is no great effort to make, I am sure,
for such a friend as she has been to me. Wouldn't you go
a day's journey, if you were in my place ?"
His face was thoughtful, and he sat considering a little
before he answered, in a low voice, " Well! Go. You can
do no harm."
" You have just come back," said I, " and it would be in
vain to ask you to go with me ?"
" Quite," he returned. " I am for Highgate to-night. I
have not seen my mother this long time, and it lies upon my
conscience, for it's something to be loved as she loves her
prodigal son. ā Bah! Nonsense! ā You mean to go to-mor-
row, I suppose .<*" he said, holding me out at arm's length,
with a hand on each of my shoulders.
" Yes, I think so."
" Well, then, don't go till next day. I wanted you to come
and stay a few days with us. Here I am, on purpose to bid
you, and you fly off to Yarmouth!"
" You are a nice fellow to talk of flying off, Steerforth,
who are always running wild on some unknown expedition
He looked at me for a moment without speaking, and then
rejoined, still holding me as before, and giving me a shake:
" Come! Say the next day, and pass as much of to-mor-
row as you can with us! Who knows when we may meet
again, else ? Come! Say the next day! I want you to
stand between Rosa Dartle and me, and keep us asunder,"
" Would you love each other too much without me!"
"Yes; or hate," laughed Steerforth; "no matter which.
Come! Say the next day!"
I said the next day; and he put on his great-coat, and
lighted his cigar, and set off to walk home. Finding him in
this intention, I put on my own great-coat (but did not light
my own cigar, having had enough of that for one while) and
walked with him as far as the open road: a dull road, then,
at night. He was in great spirits all the way; and when we
parted, and I looked after him going so gallantly and airily
homeward, I thought of his saying " Ride on over all ob-
stacles, and win the racel" and wished, for the first time,
that he had some worthy race to run.
I was undressing in my own room, when Mr. Micawber's
424 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
letter tumbled on the floor. Thus reminded of it, I broke
the seal and read as follows. It was dated an hour and a
half before dinner. I am not sure whether I have mentioned
that, when Mr. Micawber was at any particularly desperate
crisis, he used a sort of legal phraseology: which he seemed
to think equivalent to winding up his affairs.
" Sir ā for I dare not say, my dear Copperfield.
" It is expedient that I should inform you that the under-
signed is Crushed. Some flickering efforts to spare you the
premature knowledge of his calamitous position, you may
observe in him this day; but hope has sunk beneath the
horizon, and the Undersigned is Crushed.
" The present communication is penned within the per-
sonal range (I cannot call it the society) of an individual,
in a state closely bordering on intoxication, employed by a
broker. That individual is in legal possession of the prem-
ises, under a distress for rent. His inventory includes, not
only the chatties and effects of every description belonging
to the undersigned, as yearly tenant of this habitation, but
also those appertaining to Mr. Thomas Traddles, lodger, a
member of the Honorable Society of the Inner Temple.
*' If any drop of gloom were wanting in the overflowing
cup, which is now * commended ' (in the language of an im-
mortal Writer) to the lips of the undersigned, it would be
found in the fact, that a friendly acceptance granted to the
undersigned, by the before-mentioned Mr. Thomas Trad-
dles, for the sum of j[^2'7^ 4^. 9^^/. is over due, and is not
provided for. Also, in the fact, that the living responsibil-
ities clinging to the undersigned, will, in the course of na-
ture, be increased by the sum of one more helpless victim;
whose miserable appearance may be looked for ā in round
numbers ā at the expiration of a period not exceeding six
lunar months from the present date.
" After premising thus much, it would be a work of sup-
ererogation to add, that dust and ashes are for ever scat-
Poor Traddles! I knew enough of Mr. Micawber by this
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 425
time, to foresee that he might be expected to recover the
blow; but my night's rest was sorely distressed by thoughts
of Traddles, and of the curate's daughter, who was one of
ten, down in Devonshire, and who was such a dear girl, and
who would wait for Traddles (ominous phrase!) until she
was sixty or any age that could be mentioned.
I VISIT STEERFORTH AT HIS HOME AGAIN.
I MENTIONED to Mr. Spenlow in the morning, that I
wanted leave of absence for a short time, and as I was not
in the receipt of any salary, and consequently was not ob-
noxious to the implacable Jorkins, there was no difficulty
about it. I took that opportunity, with my voice sticking
in my throat, and my sight failing as I uttered the words, to
express my hope that Miss Spenlow was quite well; to which
Mr. Spenlow replied, with no more emotion than if he had
been speaking of an ordinary human being, that he was
much obliged to me, and she was very well.
We articled clerks, as germs of the patrician order of
proctors, were treated with so much consideration, that I
was almost my own master at all times. As I did not care,
however, to get to Highgate before one or two o'clock in
the day, and as we had another little excommunication case
in court that morning, which was called The office of the
Judge promoted by Tipkins against Bullock for his soul's
correction, I passed an hour or two in attendance on it with
Mr. Spenlow very agreeably. It arose out of a scuffle be-
tween two churchwardens, one of whom was alleged to have
pushed the other against a pump; the handle of which pump
projecting into a school-house, which school-house was un-
der a gable of the church roof, made the push an ecclesias-
tical offence. It was an amusing case; and sent me up to
Highgate, on the box of the stage-coach, thinking about the
Commons, and what Mr. Spenlow had said about touching
the Commons and bringing down the country.
Mrs. Steerforth was pleased to see me, and so also was
Rosa Dartle. I was agreeably surprised to find that Litti-
mer was not there, and that we were attended by a modest
little parlor-maid, with blue ribbons in her cap, whose eye
425 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
it was much more pleasant, and much less disconcerting, to
catch by accident, than the eye of that respectable man.
But what I particularly observed, before I had been half
an hour in the house, was the close and attentive watch
Miss Dartle kept upon me; and the lurking manner in which
she seemed to compare my face with Steerforth's, and Steer-
forth's with mine, and to lie in wait for something to come
out between the two. So surely as I looked towards her,
did I see that eager visage, with its gaunt black eyes and
searching brow, intent on mine; or passing suddenly from
mine to Steerforth's; or comprehending both of us at once.
In this lynx-like scrutiny she was so far from faltering
when she saw I observed it, that at such a time she only
fixed her piercing look upon me with a more intent ex-
pression still. Blameless as I was, and knew that I was, in
reference to any wrong she could possibly suspect me of, I
shrunk before her strange eyes, quite unable to endure their
All day, she seemed to pervade the whole house. If I
talked to Steerforth in his room, I heard her dress rustle in
the little gallery outside. When he and I engaged in some .
of our old exercises on the lawn behind the house, I saw
her face pass from window to window, like a wandering
light, until it fixed itself in one, and watched us. When we
all four went out walking in the afternoon, she closed her
thin hand on my arm like a spring, to keep me back, while
Steerforth and his mother went on out of hearing: and then
spoke to me.
"You have been a long time," she said, "without coming
here. Is your profession really so engaging and interesting
as to absorb your whole attention? I ask because I always
want to be informed, when I am ignorant. Is it really,
I replied that I liked it well enough, but that I certainly
could not claim so much for it.
"Oh! I am glad to know that, because I always like to
be put right when I am wrong," said Rosa Dartle. " You
mean it is a little dry, perhaps?"
Well, I replied; perhaps it was a little dry.
" Oh! and that's a reason why you want relief and change
ā excitement, and all that?" said she. "Ah! very true! But
isn't it a little Eh? ā for him; I don't mean you?"
A quick glance of her eye towards the spot where Steer-
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 427
forth was walking, with his mother leaning on his arm,
showed me whom she meant; but beyond that I was quite
lost. And I looked so, I have no doubt.
" Don't it ā I don't say that it does^ mind I want to know
ā don't it rather engross him? Don't it make him, perhaps,
a little more remiss than usual in his visits to his blindly
doting ā eh?" With another quick glance at them, and such
a glance at me as seemed to look into my innermost
" Miss Dartle," I returned, " pray do not think ā "
" I don't!" she said. " Oh, dear me, don't suppose that
I think anything! I am not suspicious. I only ask a ques-
tion. I don't state any opinion. I want to found an opin-
ion on what you tell me. Then, it's not so? Well! I am
very glad to know it."
" It certainly is not the fact," said I, perplexed, " that I
am accountable for Steerforth's having been away from
home longer than usual ā if he has been: which I really
don't know at this moment, unless I understand it from you,
I have not seen him this long while, until last night."
" Indeed, Miss Dartle, no."
As she looked full at me, I saw her face grow sharper and
paler, and the marks of the old wound lengthened out until
it cut through the disfigured lip, and deep into the nether
lip, and slanted down the face. There was something posi-
tively awful to me in this, and in the brightness of her eyes,
as she said, looking fixedly at me:
"What is he doing?"
1 repeated the words, more to myself than her, being so
" What is he doing?" she said, with an eagerness that
seemed enough to consume her like a fire. " In what is
that man assisting him, who never looks at me without an
inscrutable falsehood in his eyes? If you are honorable and
faithful, I don't ask you to betray your friend. I ask you
only to tell me, is it anger, is it hatred, is it pride, is it rest-
lessness, is it some wild fancy, is it love, what is it, that is
" Miss Dartle," I returned, "how shall I tell you, so that
you will believe me, that I know nothing in Steerforth dif-
ferent from what there was when I first came here. I can
think of nothing. I firmly believe there is nothing. I hard-
ly understand, even what you mean."
42S DAVID COPPERFIELD.
As she still looked fixedly at me, a twitching or throb,
bing, from which I could not dissociate the idea of pain
came into that cruel mark; and lifted up the corner of her
lip as if with scorn, or with a pity that despised its object.
She put her hand upon it hurriedly ā a hand so thin and
delicate, that when I had seen her hold it up before the fire
to shade her face, I had compared it in my thoughts to fine
porcelain ā and saying, in a quick, fierce, passionate way,
" I swear you to secrecy about this!" said not a word more.
Mrs. Steerforth was particularly happy in her son's socie-
ty, and Steerforth was, on this occasion, particularly atten-
tive and respectful to her. It was very interesting to me to
see them together, not only on account of their mutual af-
fection, but because of the strong personal resemblance be-
tween them, and the manner in which what was haughty and
impetuous in him was softened by age and sex, in her, to a
gracious dignity. I thought, more than once, that it was
well no serious cause of division had ever come between
them; or two such natures ā I ought rather to express it, two
such shades of the same nature ā might have been harder to
reconcile than the two extremest opposites in creation. The
idea did not originate in my own discernment, and I am
bound to confess in a speech of Rosa Dartle's.
She said at dinner:
" Oh, but do tell me, though, somebody, because I have
been thinking about it all day, and I want to know."
" You want to know what, Rosa ?" returned Mrs. Steer-
forth. "Pray, pray, Rosa, do not be mysterious."
"Mysterious!" she cried. "Oh! really? Do you consider
" Do I constantly entreat you," said Mrs. Steerforth, " to
speak plainly, in your own natural manner?"
"Oh! then, this is ?2of my natural manner?" she rejoined.
" Now you must really bear with me, because I ask for in-
formation. We never know ourselves."
" It has become a second nature," said Mrs Steerforth,
without any displeasure; "but I remember, ā and so must
you, I think ā when your manner was different, Rosa; when
it was not so guarded, and was more trustful."
"I am sure you are right," she returned; "and so it is
that bad habits grow upon one! Really? Less guarded and
more trustful? How can I, imperceptibly, have changed, I
wonder! Well, that's very odd! I must study to regain
my former self."
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 429
"I wish you would," said Mrs. Steerforth, with a smile.
"Oh! I really will, you know!" she answered. "I will
learn frankness from ā let me see ā from James."
" You cannot learn frankness, Rosa," said Mrs. Steer-
forth, quickly ā for there was always some effect of sarcasm
in what Rosa Dartle said, though it was said, as this was, in
the most unconscious manner in the world ā *' in a better
" That I am sure of," she answered, with uncommon fer-
vor. " If I am sure of anything, of course, you know, I am
sure of that."
Mrs. Steerforth appeared to me to regret having been a
little nettled; for she presently said, in a kind tone:
" Well, my dear Rosa, we have not heard whatsit is that
you want to be satisfied about?"
" That I want to be satisfied about?" she replied, with
provoking coldness. " Oh! It was only whether people,
who are like each other in their moral constitution ā is that
" It's as good a phrase as another," said Steerforth.
" Thank you: ā whether people, who are like each other