love was, all was.
I 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 it were so, I explained that I begged leave to restrict the
observation to mortals of the masculine gender.
I then put it to Miss Mills, to say whether she considered
that there was or was not any practical merit in the sugges-
tion I had been anxious to make, concerning the accounts,
the housekeeping, 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 favorite 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
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 o^ it ? Mjss 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,
that I really doubted whether she ought to be troubled with
anything so ordinary. And she loved me so much, and was
so captivating, (particularly when she made Jip stand on his
538 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
hind legs for toast, and when she pretended to hold that
nose of his against 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 same
dear old French songs about the impossibility of ever on
any account leaving off dancing. La ra la, La ra la, until I
felt a much greater Monster than before.
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 five 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
so nonsensical !"
" 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
"Oh ! How ridiculous !" cried Dora.
" How shall we live without, Dora ?" said I.
" How ! Any how !" said Dora.
She seemed to think she had quite settled the question.
and gave me such a triumphant little kiss, direct from her
innocent 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-hrl all the irons I now
had in the fire, I would sit sometimes of a night, opposite
my aunt, thinking how I 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 gray.
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 539
A DISSOLUTION OF PARTNERSHIP.
I DID not allow my resolution with respect to the Parlia-
mentary Debates, to cool. It was one of the irons I began
to heat immediately, and oiie of the irons I kept hot, and
hammered at, with a perseverance 1 may honestly admire. I
bought an approved scheme of the noble art and mystery of
stenography (which cost me ten and sixpence); and plunged
into a sea of perplexity that brought me, in a few weeks, to
the confines of distraction. The changes that were rung
upon dots, which in such a position meant such a thing, and
in such another position something else, entirely different;
the wonderful vagaries that were played by circles; the un-
accountable consequences that resulted from marks like
flies' legs; the tremendous effects of a curve in a wrong
place; not only troubled my waking hours, but appeared be-
fore me in my sleep. When I had groped my way, blindly,
through these difficulties, and had mastered the alphabet,
which was an Egyptian Temple in itself, there then ap-
peared a procession of new horrors, called arbitrary char-
acters; the most despotic characters I have ever known;
who insisted, for instance, that a thing like the beginning of
a cobweb, meant expectation, and that a pen and ink sky-
rocket stood for disadvantageous. When I had fixed these
wretches in my mind, I found that they had driven every-
thing else out of it; then, beginning again, I forgot them;
while I was picking them up, I dropped the other fragments
of the system; in short, it was almost heart-breaking.
It might have been quite heart-breaking, but for Dora,
who was the stay and anchor of my tempest-driven bark.
Every scratch in the scheme -was a gnarled oak in the
forest of difficulty, and I went on cutting them down, one
after another, with such vigor, that in three or four months
I was in a condition to make an experiment on one of our
crack speakers in the Commons. Shall I ever forget how
the crack speaker walked off from me before I began, and
left my imbecile pencil staggering about the paper as if it
were in a fit!
This would never do, it was quite clear. I was flying too
high, and should never get on, so. I resorted to Traddles
540 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
for advice, who suggested that he should dictate speeches
to me, at a pace, and with occasional stoppages, adapted to
my weakness. Very grateful for this friendly aid, I accept-
ed the proposal; and night after night, almost every night,
for a long time, we had a sort of private Parliament in
Buckingham Street, after I came home from the Doctor's.
I should like to see such a Parliament anywhere else! My
aunt and Mr. Dick represented theGovernment or the Opposi-
tion (as the case might be), and Traddles, with the assistance
of Enfield's Speaker or a volume of parliamentary orations,
thundered astonishing invectives against them. Standing
by the table, with his finger in the page to keep the place,
and his right arm flourishing above his head, Traddles, as
Mr. Pitt, Mr. Fox, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Burke, Lord Castle-
reagh, Viscount Sidmouth, or Mr. Canning, would work
himself into the most violent heats, and deliver
the most withering denunciations of the profligacy
and corruption of my aunt and Mr. Dick; while I used
to sit, at a Httle distance, my note-book on my knee,
fagging after him with all my might and main. The
inconsistency and recklessness of Traddles were not to be
exceeded by any real politician. He was for any descrip-
tion of policy, in the compass of a week; and nailed all sorts
of colors to every denomination of mast. My aunt, looking
very like an immovable Chancellor of the Exchequer, would
occasionally throw in an interruption or two, as '' Hear !"
or "No!" or "Oh!" when the text seemed to require it:
which was always a signal to Mr. Dick (a perfect country
gentleman) to follow lustily with the same cry. But Mr.
Dick got taxed with such things during his Parliamentary
career, and was made responsible for such awful consequen-
ces, that he became uncomfortable in his mind sometimes.
I believe he actually began to be afraid he really had been
doing something, tending to the annihilation of the British
constitution, and the ruin of the country.
Often and often we pursued these debates until the clock
pointed to midnight, and the candles were burning down.
The result of so much good practice was, that by-and-by I
began to keep pace with Traddles pretty well, and should
have been quite triumphant if I had had the least idea what
my notes were about. But, as to reading them after I had
got them, I might as well have copied the Chinese inscrip-
tions on an immense collection of tea-chests, or the golden
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 541
characters on all the great red and green bottles in the
chemists' shops !
There was nothing for it, but to turn back and begin all
over again. It was very hard, but I turned back, though
with a heavy heart, and began laboriously and methodically
to plod over the same tedious ground at a snail's pace; stop-
ping to examine minutely every speck in the way, on all
sides, and making the most desperate efforts to know these
elusive characters by sight wherever I met them. I was
always punctual at the office; at the Doctor's too; and I
really did work,as the common expression is, like a cart-horse.
One day, when I went to the Commons as usual, I found
Mr. Spenlow in the doorway looking extremely grave, and
talking to himself. As he was in the habit of complaining
of pains in his head — he had naturally a short throat, and I
do seriously believe he overstarched himself — I was at first
alarmed at the idea that he was not quite right in that direc-
tion; but he soon relieved my uneasiness.
Instead of returning my " Good morning'* with his usual
affabiUty, he looked at me in a distant, ceremonious manner,
and coldly requested me to accompany him to a certain
coffee-house, which in those days, had a door opening into
the Commons, just within the little archway in St Paul's
churchyard. I complied, in a very uncomfortable state, and
with a warm shooting all over me, as if my apprehension
were breaking out into buds. When I allowed him to go
on a little before, on account of the narrowness of the way,
I observed that he carried his head with a lofty air that was
particularly umpromising; and my mind misgave me that he
had found out about my darling Dora.
If I had not guessed this, on the way to the coffee-house,
I could hardly have failed to know what was the matter
when I followed him into an up-stairs room, and found Miss
Murdstone there, supported by a back-ground of sideboard,
on which were several inverted tumblers sustaining lemons,
and two of those extraordinary boxes, all corners and fiut-
ings, for sticking knives and forks in, which, happily for
mankind, are now obsolete.
Miss Murdstone gave me her chilly finger-nails, and sat
severely rigid. Mr. Spenlow shut the door, motioned me to
a chair, and stood on the hearth-rug in front of the fire-place.
" Have the goodness to show Mr. Copperfield," said Mr.
Spenlow, " what you have in your reticule, Miss Murdstone/*
542 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
I believe it was the old identical steel-clasped reticule
of my childhood, that shut up like a bite. Compressing her
lips, in sympathy with the snap. Miss Murdstone opened it
— opening her mouth a little at the same time — and pro-
duced my last letter to Dora, teeming with expressions of
'' I believe that is your writing, Mr. Copperfield ?" said
I was very hot, and the voice I heard was very unlike
mine, when I said, " It is, sir !"
'' If I am not mistaken," said Mr. Spenlow, as Miss Murd-
stone brought a parcel of letters out of her reticule, tied
around with the dearest bit of blue ribbon, " those are also
from your pen, Mr. Copperfield ?"
I took them from her with a most desolate sensation; and,
glancing at such phrases at the top, as " My ever dearest
and own Dora," *' My best and beloved angel," " My blessed
one for ever,"and the like, blushed deeply, and inclined my
" No, thank you !" said Mr. Spenlow coldly, as I mechan .
ically offered them back to him. " I will not deprive you
of them. Miss Murdstone, be so good as to proceed !"
That gentle creature, after a moment's thoughtful survey
of the carpet, delivered herself with much dry unction as
" I must confess to having entertained my suspicions of
Miss Spenlow, in reference to David Copperfield, for some
time. I observed Miss Spenlow and David Copperfield,
when they first met; and the impression made upon me
then was not agreeable. The depravity of the human heart
is such "
" You will oblige me, ma'am," interrupted Mr. Spenlow,
" by confining yourself to facts."
Miss Murdstone cast down her eyes, shook her head as if
protesting against this unseemly interruption, and with
frowning dignity resumed:
" Since I am to confine myself to facts, I will state them
as dryly as I can. Perhaps that will be considered an ac-
ceptable course of proceeding. I have already said, sir, that I
have had my suspicions of Miss Spenlow,in reference to David
Copperfield, for some time. I have frequently endeavored
to find decisive corroboration of those suspicions, but with-
out effect. I have therefore forborne to mention them to
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 543
Miss Spenlow's father;" looking severely at him; " knowing
how little disposition there usually is in such cases, to acknow-
ledge the conscientious discharge of duty."
Mr. Spenlow seemed quite cowed by the gentlemanly
sternness of Miss Murdstone's manner, and deprecated her
severity with a conciliatory little wave of his hand.
" On my return to Norwood, after the period of absence
occasioned by my brother's marriage," pursued Miss Murd-
stone in a disdainful voice, '^ and on the return of Miss
Spenlow from her visit to her friend Miss Mills, I imagined
that the manner of Miss Spenlow gave me greater occasion
for suspicion than before. Therefore I watched Miss Spen-
Dear, tender little Dora, so unconscious of this Dragon's
" Still," resumed Miss Murdstone, " I found no proof un-
til last night. It appeared to me that Miss Spenlow received
too many letters from her friend Miss Mills; but Miss Mills
being her friend with her father's full concurrence," another
telling blow at Mr. Spenlow, " it was not for me to interfere.
If I may not be permitted to allude to the natural depravity
of the human heart, at least I may — I must — be permitted,
so far, to refer to misplaced confidence."
Mr. Spenlow apologetically murmured his assent.
" Last evening after tea," pursued Miss Murdstone, " I
observed the little dog starting, rolling and growling about
the drawing-room, worrying something. I said to Miss
Spenlow, ' Dora, what is that the dog has in his mouth?
It's paper.' Miss Spenlow immediately put her hand to her
frock, gave a sudden cry, and ran to the dog. I intef^osed,
and said, ' Dora my love, you must permit me.' "
Oh Jip, miserable Spaniel, the wretchedness, then, was
" Miss Spenlow endeavored," said Miss Murdstone, *' to
bribe me with kisses, work-boxes, and small articles of jewel-
ry — that of course, I pass over. The little dog retreated
under the sofa on my approaching him, and was with great
difficulty dislodged by the fire-irons. Even when dislodged,
he still kept the letter in his mouth; and on my endeavor-
ing to take it from him, at the imminent risk of being bitten,
he kept it between his teeth so pertinaciously as to suffer
himself to be held suspended in the air by means of the
document. At length I obtained possession of it. After
544 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
perusing it, I taxed Miss Spenlow with having many such
letters in her possession; and ultimately obtained from her
the packet which is now in David Copperfield's hand."
Here she ceased; and snapping her reticule again, and
shutting her mouth, looked as if she might be broken, but
could never be bent.
" You have heard Miss Murdstone," said Mr. Spenlow,
turning to me. " I beg to ask, Mr. Copperfield, if you have
anything to say in reply?"
The picture I had before me, of the beautiful little trea-
sure of my heart, sobbing and crying all night — of her being
alone, frightened, and wretched, then of her having so
piteously begged and prayed that stony-hearted woman to
forgive her — of her having vainly offered her those kisses,
work-boxes, and trinkets — of her being in such grievous dis-
tress, and all for me — very 'much impaired the little dignity
I had been able to muster. 1 am afraid I was in a tremulous
state for a minute or so, though I did my best to disguise it.
" There is nothing I can say, sir," I returned, " except
that all the blame is mine. Dora — "
" Miss Spenlow, if you please," said her father, majestically,
" — was induced and persuaded by me," I went on, swal-
lowing that colder designation, " to consent to this conceal-
ment, and I bitterly regret it."
" You are very much to blame, sir," said Mr. Spenlow,
walking to and fro upon the hearth-rug, and emphasizing
what he said with his whole body instead of his head, on
account of the stiffness of his cravat and spine. " You have
done a stealthy and unbecoming action, Mr. Copperfield.
When I take a gentleman to my house, no matter whether
he is nineteen, twenty-nine, or ninety, I take him there in a
spirit of confidence. If he abuses my confidence, he com-
mits a dishonorable action, Mr. Copperfield."
" I feel it, sir, I assure you," I returned. " But I never
tnought so, before. Sincerely, honestly, indeed, Mr. Spen-
low, I never thought so before. I love Miss Spenlow to
that extent — "
" Pooh! nonsense!" said Mr. Spenlow, reddening. " Pray
don't tell me to my face that you love my daughter, Mr.
" Could I defend my conduct if I did not, sir?" I re-
turned, with all humility.
" Can you defend your conduct if you do, sir?" said Mr.
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 545
Spenlovv, stopping short upon the hearth-rug. ** Have yon
considered your years, and my daughter's years, Mr. Cop-
perfield? Have you considered what it is to undermine the
confidence that should subsist between my daughter and
myself? Have you considered my daughter's station in life,
the projects I may contemplate for her advancement, the
testamentary intentions I may have with reference to her ?
Have you considered anything, Mr. Copperfield ?"
" Very little, sir, I am afraid;" I answered, speaking to
him as respectfully and sorrowfully as I felt; " but pray be-
lieve me, I have considered my own worldly position.
When I explained it to you, we were already engaged — "
*' I BEG," said Mr. Spenlow, more like Punch than I had
ever seen him, as he energetically struck one hand upon the
other — I could not help noticing that even in my despair;
" that you will not talk to me of engagements, Mr. Copper-
The otherwise immovable Miss Murdstone laughed con-
temptuously in one short syllable.
" When I explained my altered position to you, sir,** I
began again, substituting a new form of expression for what
was so unpalatable to him, " this concealment, into which
I am so unhappy as to have led Miss Spenlow, had begun.
Since I have been in that altered position, I have strained
every nerve, I have exerted every energy, to improve it. I
am sure I shall improve it in time. Will you grant me time —
any length of time ? We are both so young, sir, — "
" You are right," interrupted Mr. Spenlow, nodding his
head a great many times, and frowning very much, '* you
are both very young. It's all nonsense. Let there be an end
of the nonsense. Take away those letters, and throw them
in the fire. Give me Miss Spenlow's letters to throw in the
fire; and although our future intercourse must, you are
aware, be restricted to the Commons here, we will agree to
make no further mention of the past. Come, Mr. Copper-
field, you don't want sense; and this is the sensible course."
No. I couldn't think of agreeing to it. I was very sor-
ry, but there was a higher consideration than sense. Love
was above all earthly considerations, and I loved Dora to
Idolatry, and Dora loved me. I didn't exactly say so; I
softened it down as much as I could; but I implied it, and
I was resolute upon it. I don't think I made myself very
ridiculous, but I know I was resolute.
54<5 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
"Very well, Mr. Copperfield," said Mr. Spenlow, "I
must try my influence with my daughter."
Miss Murdstone, by an expressive sound, a long-drawn
respiration, which was neither a sigh nor a moan, but was
like both, gave it as her opinion that he should have done
this at first.
" I must try," said Mr. Spenlow, confirmed by this sup-
port, " my influence with my daughter. Do you decline to
take those letters, Mr. Copperfield .?" For I had laid .them
on the table.
Yes. I told him I hoped he would not think it wrong,
but I couldn't possibly take them from Miss Murdstone.
" Nor from me .'*" said Mr. Spenlow.
No, I replied with the profoundest respect; nor from
"Very well!" said Mr. Spenlow.
A silence succeeding, I was undecided whether to go or
stay. At length I was moving quietly towards the door,
with the intention of saying that perhaps I should consult
his feelings best by withdrawing; when he said, with his
hands in his coat pockets, into which it was as much as he
could do to get them; and with what I should call, upon the
whole, a decidedly pious air:
" You are probably aware, Mr. Copperfield, that I am not
altogether destitute of worldly possessions, and that my
daughter is my nearest and dearest relative?"
I hurriedly made him a reply to the effect, that I hoped
the error into which I had been betrayed by the desperate
nature of my love, did not induce him to think me mer-
cenary too ?
'*I don't allude to the matter in that light," said Mr.
Spenlow. *' It would be better for yourself, and all of us, if
you were mercenary, Mr. Copperfield — I mean, if you were
more discreet and less influenced by all this youthful non-
sense. No. I merely say, with quite another view, you are
probably aware I have some property to bequeath to my
I certainly supposed so.
"And you can hardly think," said Mr. Spenlow, "having
experience of what we see, in the Commons here, every day,
of the various unaccountable and negligent proceedings of
men, in respect of their testamentary arrangements — of all
subjects, the one on which perhaps the strangest revelations
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 54^
of human inconsistency are to be met with — but that mine
I inclined my head in acquiescence.
"I should not allow," said Mr. Spenlow, with an evident
increase of pious sentiment, and slowly shaking his head as
he poised himself upon his toes and heels alternately, " my
suitable provision for my child to be influenced by a piece
of youthful folly, like the present. It is mere folly. Mere
nonsense. In a little while, it will weigh lighter than any
feather. But I might — I might — if this silly business were
not completely relinquished altogether, be induced in some
anxious moment to guard her from, and surround her with
protections against the consequences of, any foolish step in
the way of marriage. Now, Mr. Copperfield, I hope you
will not render it necessary for me to open, even for a
quarter of an hour, that closed page in the book of life,
and unsettle, even for a quarter of an hour, grave affairs
long since composed."
There was a serenity, a tranquillity, a calm-sunset air
about him, which quite affected me. He was so peaceful
and resigned — clearly had his affairs in such perfect train,
and so systematically wound up — that he was a man to feel
touched in the contemplation of. I really think I saw tears
rise to his eyes, from the depth of his own feeling of all this.
But what could I do ? I could not deny Dora and my
own heart. When he told me I had better take a week to
consider of what he had said, how could I say I wouldn't
take a week, yet how could I fail to know that no amount of
weeks could influence such a love as mine ?
" In the meantime, confer with Miss Trotwood, or with
any person with any knowledge of life," said Mr. Spenlow,
adjusting his cravat with both hands. " Take a week, Mr.
I submitted; and, with a countenance as expressive as 1
was able to make it of dejected and despairing constancy,
came out of the room. Miss Murdstone's heavy eyebrows
followed me to the door — I say her eyebrows rather than