" Now, Clara," says Mr. Murdstone, " be firm with the
5S . DAVID COPPERFIELD.
boy. Don't say ' Oh Davy, Davy!' That's childish. He
knows his lesson, or he does not know it."
" He does not know it," Miss Murdstone interposed aw-
" I am really afraid he does not," says my mother.
" Then you see, Clara," returns Miss Murdstone, " you
should jiist give him the book back, and make him know it."
*' Yes, certainly," says my mother; " that's what I intend
to do, my dear Jane. Now Davy, try once more, and don't
I obey the first clause of the injunction by trying once
more, but am not so successful with the second, for I am
very stupid. I tumble down before I get to the old place,
at a point where I was all right before, and stop to think.
But I can't think about the lesson. I think of the number
of yards of net in Miss Murdstone's cap, or of the price of
Mr. Murdstone's dressing-gown, or any such ridiculous
problem that I have no business with, and don't want to
have anything at all to do with. Mr. Murdstone makes a
movement of impatience which I have been expecting for a
long time. Miss Murdstone does the same. My mother
\ glances submissively at them, shuts the book, and lays it by
-^ as an arrear to be worked out when my other tasks are
There is a pile of these arrears very soon, and it swells
like a rolling snowball. The bigger it gets the more stupid
/ get. The case is so hopeless, and I feel that I am wallow-
ing in such a bog of nonsense, that I give up all idea of get-
ting out, and abandon myself to my fate. The despairing
way in which my mother and I look at each other, as I
blunder on, is truly melancholy. But the greatest effect in
these miserable lessons is when my mother (thinking nobody
is observing her) tries to give me the cue by the motion of
her lips. At that instant, Miss Murdstone, who has been
lying in wait for nothing else all along, says in a deep warn-
My mother starts, colors, and smiles faintly. Mr. Murd-
stone comes out of his chair, takes the book, throws it at me
or boxes my ears with it, and turns me out of the room by
Even when the lessons are done, the worst ^ is yet to hap-
pen, in the shape of an appalling sum. This is invented for
DAVID COPPERFIELD: 59
me, and delivered to me orally by Mr. Murdstone, and be-
gins, " If I go into a cheesemonger's shop, and buy five
thousand double-Gloucester cheeses at fourpence-halfpenny
each, present payment " â at which I see Miss Murdstone
secretly overjoyed. I pore over these cheeses without any
result or enlightenment until dinner time; when, having
made a mulatto of myself by getting the dirt of the slate
into the pores of my skin, I have a slice of bread to help me
out with the cheeses, and am considered in disgrace for the
rest of the evening.
It seems to me, at this dist?.nce of time, as if my unfortun^
ate studies generally took this course. I could have done
very well if I had been without the Murdstones; but the
influence of the Murdstones upon me was like the fascina-
tion of two snakes on a wretched young bird. Even when
I did get through the morning with tolerable credit, there
was not much gained but dinner; for Miss Murdstone never
could endure to see me untasked, and if I rashly made any
show of being unemployed, called her brother's attention to
me by saying, " Clara, my dear, there's nothing like work â â¢
give your boy an exercise;" which caused me to be clapped
down to some new labor there and then. As to any recrea-
tion with other children of my age, I had very little of that;
for the gloomy theology of the Murdstones made all chil-
dren out to be a swarm of little vipers (though there was a
child once set in the midst of the Disciples), and held that
they contaminated one another.
The natural result of this treatment," continued, I sup-
pose, for some six months, was to make me sullen, dull and
dogged. I was not made the less so, by my sense of being
daily more and more shut out and alienated from my
mother. I believe I should have been almost stupefied but
for one circumstance.
It was this. My father had left a small collection of
books in a little room up stairs, to which I had access (for
it joined my own) and which nobody else in our house ever
troubled. From that blessed little room, Roderick Random,
Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, The
Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Bias, and Robinson
Crusoe, came out, a glorious host, to keep me company.
They kept alive my fancy, and my hope of something be-
yond that place and time, â they, and the Arabian Nights,
and the Tales of the Genii, â and did me no harm; for
<5o DAVID COPPERFIELD.
whatever harm was in some of them was not there for me;
/ knew nothing of it. It is astonishing to me now, how I
found time, in the midst of my porings and blunderings
over heavier themes, to read those books as I did. It is
curious to me how I could ever have consoled myself under
my small troubles (which were great troubles to me), by im-
personating my favorite characters in them â as I did â and
by putting Mr. and Miss Murdstone into all the bad ones â â¢
which I did too. I have been Tom Jones (a child's Tom
Jones, a harmless creature) for a week together. I have
sustained my own idea of Roderick Random for a month at
a stretch, I verily believe. I had a greedy relish for a few
volumes of Voyages and Travels â I forget what, now â that
were on those shelves; and for days and days I can remem-
ber to have gone about my region of our house, armed with
the centre-piece of an old set of boot-trees â the perfect re-
alization of Captain Somebody, of the Royal British Navy,
in danger of being beset by savages, and resolved to sell his
life at a great price. The Captain never lost dignity, from
having his ears boxed with the Latin Grammar. I did; but
the Captain was a Captain and a hero, in despite of all the
grammars of all the languages in the world, dead or alive.
This was my only and my constant comfort. When I
think of it, the picture always rises in my mind, of a summer
evening, the boys at play in the churchyard, and I sitting
on my bed, reading as if for life. Every barn in the neigh-
borhood, every stone in the church, and every foot in the
churchyard, had some association of its own, in my mind,
connected with these books, and stood for some locality
made, famous in them. I have seen Tom Pipes go climbing
up the church- steeple; I have watched Strap, with the
knapsack on his back, stopping to rest himself upon the
wicket-gate; and I know that Commodore Trunnion held
that club with Mr. Pickle, in the parlor of our little village
The reader now understands as well as I do, what I was
when I came to that point of my youthful history to which
I am now coming again.
One morning when I went into the parlor with my books,
I found my mother looking anxious, Miss Murdstone look-
ing firm, and Mr. Murdstone binding something round the
bottom of a cane â a lithe and limber cane, which he left off
binding when I came in, and poised and switched in the air.^
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 6t
" I tell you, Clara," said Mr. Murdstone, " I have been
often flogged myself."
" To be sure; of course," said Miss Murdstone.
" Certainly, my dear Jane," faltered my mother, meekly.
*' But â but do you think it did Edward good?"
*' Do you think it did Edward harm, Clara?" asked Mr.
" That's the point!" said his sister.
To this my mother returned " Certainly, my dear Jane,"
and said no more.
I felt apprehensive that I was personally interested in this
dialogue, and sought Mr. Murdstone's eye as it lighted on
" Now, David," he said â and I saw that cast again, as he
said it â " you must be far more careful to-day than usual."
He gave the cane another poise, and another switch; and
having finished his preparation of it, laid it down beside
him, with an expressive look, and took up his book.
This was a good freshener to my presence of mind, as a
beginning. I felt the words of my lesson slipping off, not
one by one, or line by line, but by the entire page. I tried
to lay hold of them; but they seemed, if I may so express it,
to have put skates on, and to skim away from me with a
smoothness there was no checking.
We began badly, and went on worse. I had come in, with
an idea of distinguishing myself rather, conceiving that I
was very well , prepared; but it turned out to be quite a
mistake. Book after book was added to the heap of fail-
ures. Miss Murdstone being firmly watchful of us all the
time. And when we came at last to the five thousand
cheeses (canes he made it that day, I remember), my mother
burst out crying.
" Clara!" said Miss Murdstone, in her warning voice.
" I am not quite well, my dear Jane, I think," said my
I saw him wink, solemnly, at his sister, as he rose and
said, taking up the cane,
" Why, Jane, we can hardly expect Clara to bear, with
perfect firmness, the worry and torment that David has oc-
casioned her to-day. That would be stoical. Clara is
greatly strengthened and improved, but we can hardly ex-
pect so much from her. David, you and I will go up stairs,
62 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
As he took me out at the door, my mother ran towards
us. Miss Murdstone said, " Clara! are you a perfect fool?"
and interfered. I sa^ my mother stop her ears then, and I
heard her crying.
He walked me up to my room slowly and gravely â I am
certain he had a delight in that formal parade of executing
iustice â and when we got there, suddenly twisted my head
under his arm.
â¢' Mr. Murdstone! Sir!" I cried to him. " Don't. Pray
don't beat me! I have tried to learn, sir, but I can't learn
while you and Miss Murdstone are by. I can't indeed!"
" Can't you, indeed, David ?" he said. " We'll try that."
He had my head as in a vice, but I twined round him
somehow, and stopped him for a moment, entreating him
not to beat me. It was only for a moment that I stopped
him, for he cut me heavily an instant afterwards, and in the
same instant I caught the hand with which he held me in
my mouth, between my teeth, and bit it through. It sets
my teeth on edge to think of it.
He beat me then, as if he would have beaten me to death.
Above all the noise we made, I heard them running up the
stairs, and crying out â I heard my mother crying out â
and Peggotty. Then he was gone; and the door was locked
outside; and I was lying fevered, and hot, and torn, and
raging in my puny way, upon the floor.
How well I recollect, when I became quiet, what an un-
natural stillness seemed to reign through the whole house!
How well I remember, when my smart and passion began to
cool, how wicked I began to feel!
I sat listening for a long while, but there was not a
sound. I crawled up from the floor, and saw my face
4n the glass, so swollen, red, and ugly that it almost fright-
ened me. My stripes were sore and stiff, and made me cry
afresh, when I moved; but they were nothing to the guilt I
felt. It lay heavier on my breast than if I had been a most
atrocious criminal, I dare say.
It had begun to grow dark, and I had shut the window
(I had been lying, for the most part, with my head upon the
sill, by turns crying, dozing, and looking listlessly out),
when the key was turned, and Miss Murdstone came in with
some bread and meat, and milk. These she put down upon
the table without a word, glaring at me the while with ex-
emplary firmness, and then retired, locking the door aftÂ«r
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 6$
Long after it was dark I sat there, wondering whether
anybody else would come. When this appeared improbable
for that night, I undressed, and went to bed; and, there, I
began to wonder fearfully what would be done to me.
Whether it was a criminal act that I had committed ?
Whether I should be taken into custody, and sent to prison?
Whether I was at all in danger of being hanged?
I never shall forget the waking, next morning; the being
cheerful and fresh for the first moment, and then the being
weighed down by the stale and dismal oppression of re-
membrance. Miss Murdstone re-appeared before I was out
of bed; told me, in so many words, that I was free to walk
in the garden for half an hour and no longer; and retired,
leaving the door open, that I might avail myself of that
I did so, and' did so every morning of my imprisonment,
which lasted five days. If I could have seen my mother
alone, I should have gone down on my knees to her and
besought her forgiveness; but I saw no one. Miss Murd-
stone excepted, during the whole time â except at evening
prayers in the parlor; to which I was escorted by Miss
Murdstone after every body else was placed; where I was
stationed, a young outlaw, all alone by myself near the
door; and whence I was solemnly conducted by my jailor,
before any one arose from the devotional posture. I only
observed that my mother was as far off from me as she
could be, and kept her face another way so that I never saw
it; and that Mr. Murdstone's hand was bound up in a large
The length of those five days I can convey no idea of to
any one. They occupy the place of years in my remem-
brance. The way in which I listened to all the incidents of
the house that made themselves audible to me; the ringing
of bells, the opening and shutting of doors, the mur-
muring of voices, the footsteps on the stairs; to any laugh-
ing, whistling, or singing, outside, which seemed more dis-
mal than anything else to me in my solitude and disgrace â
the uncertain pace of the hours, especially at night, when I
would wake, thinking it was morning, and find that the
family were not yet gone to bed, and that all the length of
the night had yet to come â the depressed dreams and night-
mares I had â the return of day, noon, afternoon, evening,
when the boys played in the churchyard, and I watched
^4 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
them from a distance within the room, being ashamed to
show myself at the window lest they should know I was a
prisoner â the strange sensation of never hearing myself
speak â the fleeting intervals of something like cheerfulness,
which came with eating and drinking, and went away with it
â the setting in of rain one evening, with a fresh smell, and
its coming down faster and faster between me and the
church, until it and the gathering night seemed to quench
me in gloom and fear, and remorse â all this appears to have
gone round and round for years instead of days, it is so
vividly and strongly stamped on my remembrance.
On the last night of my restraint, I was awakened by
hearing my own name spoken in a whisper. I started up in
bed, and putting out my arms in the dark, said:
" Is that you, Peggotty ?"
There was no immediate answer, but presently I heard my
name again, in a tone so very mysterious and awful, that I
think I should have gone into a fit, if it had not occurred to
me that it must have come through the keyhole.
I groped my way to the door, and putting my own lips to
the keyhole, whispered:
" Is that you, Peggotty, dear?"
" Yes, my own precious Davy," she replied. " Be as soft
as a mouse, or the Cat '11 hear us."
I understood this to mean Miss Murdstone, and was sen-
sible of the urgency of the case: her room being close by.
" How's mamma, dear Peggotty ? Is she very angry with
I could hear Peggotty crying softly on her side of the
keyhole, as I was doing on mine, before she answered. " No.
" What is going to be done with me, Peggotty dear? Do
you know ?"
" School. Near London," was Peggotty's answer. I was
obliged to get her to repeat it, for she spoke it the first
time quite down my throat, in consequence of my having
forgotten to take my mouth away from the keyhole and put
my ear there; and though her words tickled me a good deal,
I didn't hear them.
" When, Peggotty ?"
" Is that the reason why Miss Murdstone took the clothes
DAVID COPPKRFIELD. 65
out of my drawers ?" which she had done, though I have
forgotten to mention it.
'* Yes," said Peggotty. " Box."
" Shan't I see mamma ?"
" Yes," said Peggotty. " Morning."
Then Peggotty fitted her moulh close to the keyhole, and
delivered these words through it with as much feeling and
earnestness as a keyhole has ever been the medium of com-
municating, I vv^ll venture to assert: shooting in each little
broken sentence in a convulsive little burst of its own.
" Davy, dear. If I ain't ben azackly as intimate with you.
Lately, as I used to be. It ain't becase I don't love you.
Just as well and more, my pretty poppet. It's because I
thought it better for you. And for some one else besides.
Davy, my darling, are you listening ? Can you hear ?"
"Ye â ye â ye â yes, Peggotty !" I sobbed.
" My own !" said Peggotty, with infinite compassion.
" What I want to say, is. That you must never forget me.
For I'll never forget you. And I'll take as much care of
your mamma, Davy. As ever I took of you. And I won't
leave her. The day may come when she'll be glad to lay
her poor head. On her stupid, cross old Peggotty's arm
again. And I'll write to you, my dear. Though I ain't no
scholar. And I'll â I'll â " Peggotty fell to kissing the
keyhole, as she couldn't kiss me.
"Thank you, dear Peggotty!" said I. "Oh, thank you!
Thank you! Will you promise me one thing, Peggotty?
Will you write and tell Mr. Peggotty and little Em'ly and
Mrs. Gummidge and Ham, that I am not so bad as they
might suppose, and that I sent 'em all my love â especially
to little Em'ly? Will you, if you please, Peggotty?"
The kind soul promised, and we both of us kissed the
keyhole with the greatest affection â I patted it with my
hand, I recollect, as if it had been her honest face â and
parted. From that night there grew up in my breast, a feel-
ing for Peggotty, which I cannot very well define. She did
not replace my mother; no one could do that; but she
came into a vacancy in my heart, which closed upon her,
and I felt towards her something I have never felt for any
other human being. It was a sort of comical affection too;
and yet if she had died, I cannot think what I should have
done, or how I should have acted out the tragedy it would
have been to me.
66 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
In the morning Miss Murdstone appeared as usual, and
told me I was going to school; which was not altogether
such news to me as she supposed. She also informed me
that when I was dressed, I was to come down stairs into the
parlor, and have my breakfast. There I found my mother,
very pale and with red eyes: into whose arms I ran, and
begged her pardon from my suffering soul.
"Oh, Davy!" she said. "That you could hurt any one
I love! Try to be better, pray to be better! I forgive you;
but I am so grieved, Davy, that you should have such bad
passions in your heart."
They had persuaded her I was a wicked fellow, and she
was more sorry for that than for my going away. I felt it
sorely. I tried to eat my parting breakfast, but my tears
dropped upon my bread and butter, and trickled into my
tea. I saw my mother look at me sometimes, and then
glance at the watchful Miss Murdstone, and then look down,
or look away.
" Master Copperfield's box there!" said Miss Murdstone,
when wheels were heard at the gate.
I looked for Peggotty, but it was not she; neither she nor
Mr. Murdstone appeared. My former acquaintance, the
carrier, was at the door; the box was taken out to his cart,
and lifted in.
" Clara !" said Miss Murdstone, in her warning note.
" Ready, my dear Jane," returned my mother. " Good
bye, Davy. You are going for your own good. Good bye,
my child. You will come home in the holidays, and be a
" Clara !" Miss Murdstone repeated.
" Certainly, my dear Jane," replied my mother, who was
holding me. " I forgive you, my dear boy. God bless you!"
" Clara !" Miss Murdstone repeated.
Miss Murdstone was good enough to take me out to the
cart, and to say on the way that she hoped I would repent
before I came to a bad end; and then I got into the
cart, and the lazy horse walked off with it
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 67
I AM SENT AWAV FROM HOME.
We might have gone about half a mile, and my pocket-
handkerchief was quite wet through, when the carrier
Looking out to ascertain what for, I saw, to my amaze-
ment, Peggotty burst from a hedge and climb into the
cart. She took me in both her arms, and squeezed me to
her stays uni.il the pressure on my nose was extremely pain-
ful, though I never thought of that till afterwards when I
found it very tender. Not a single word did Peggotty
speak. Releasing one of her arms, she put it down in hei
pocket to the elbow, and brought out some paper-bags of
cakes which she crammed into my pockets, and a purse
which she put into my hand, but not one word did she say.
After another and a final squeeze with both arms, she
got down from the cart and ran away ; and, my belief is, and
has always been, without a solitary button on her gown, I
picked up one, of several that were rolling about, and
treasured it as a keepsake for a long time.
The carrier looked at me, as if to inquire if she were com-
ing back. I shook my head, and said I thought not.
" Then come up," said the carrier to the lazy horse ; who
came up accordingly.
Having by this time cried as much as I possibly could, I
began to think it was of no use crying any more, especially
as neither Roderick Random, nor that Captain in the Royal
British Navy, had ever cried, that I could remember, in try-
ing situations. The carrier, seeing me in this resolution,
proposed that my pocket-handkerchief should be spread
upon the horse's back to dry. I thanked him, and assented ;
and particularly small it looked under those circumstances.
I had now leisure to examine the purse. It was a stiff
leather purse, with a snap, and had three bright shillings in
it, which Peggotty had evidently polished up with whiten-
ing, for my greater deliglit. But its most precious contents
were two half-crowns folded together in a bit of paper, on
which was written, in my mother's hand, " For Davy. With
my love." I was so overcome by this, that I asked the car-
rier to be so good as to reach me my pocket-handkerchief
again ; but he said he thought 1 had better do without it ;
68 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
and I thought I really had ; so I wiped my eyes on my
sleeve and stopped myself.
For good, too; though in consequence of my previous
emotions, I was still occasionally seized with a stormy sob.
After we had jogged on for some little time, I asked the
carrier if he was going all the way.
" All the way where ?" enquired the carrier.
" There/' I said.
" Where's there ?" enquired the carrier.
*' Near London ?" I said.
" Why that horse," said the carrier, jerking the rein to
point him out, " would be deader than pork before he got
over half the ground."
" Are you only going to Yarmouth then ?" I asked.
" That's about it," said the carrier. ^' And there I shall
take you to the stage-cutch, and the stage-cutch that'll take
you toâ wherever it is."
As this was a great deal for the carrier (whose name was
V, Mr. Barkis) to say â he being, as I observed in the former
^chapter, of a phlegmatic temperament, and not at all con-
versational â I offered him a cake as a mark of attention,
which he ate at one gulp, exactly like an elephant, and
which made no more impression on his big face than it
would have done on an elephant's.
" Did s/ie make 'em now ?" said Mr. Barkis, always lean-
ing forward, in his slouching way, on the footboard of the
cart with an arm on each knee.
" Peggotty, do you mean, sir ?"
" Ah !" said Mr. Barkis. " Her."
" Yes. She makes all our pastry, and does all our cook-
*' Do she though ?" said Mr. Barkis.
He made up his mouth as if to whistle, but he didn't
whistle. He sat looking at the horse's ears, as if he saw
something new there ; and sat so, for a considerable time.
By-and-by, he said:
" No sweethearts, I b'lieve ?"
" Sweetmeats did you say, Mr. Barkis ?" For I thought he
wanted something else to eat, and had pointedly alluded to
that description of refreshment.
" Hearts," said Mr. Barkis. "Sweet hearts; no person
walks with her !"
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 69
"Ah!" he said. "Her."
" Oh no. She never had a sweetheart."
"Didn't she though !" said Mr. Barkis.
Again he made up his mouth to whistle, and again he
didn't whistle, but sat looking at the horse's ears.