was one of the most amiable of women, but who generally
made a point of falling either up or down the kitchen stairs
with the tray, and almost always plunged into the parlor as
into a bath, with the tea-things. The ravages committed by
this unfortunate, rendering her dismissal necessary, she was
succeeded (with intervals of Mrs. Kidgerbury) by a long
line of Incapables; terminating in a young person of genteel
appearance, who went to Greenwich Fair in Dora's bonnet.
After whom I remember nothing but an average equality of
Everybody we had anything to do with seemed to cheat
us. Our appearance in a shop was a signal for the damaged
goods to be brought out immediately. If we bought a lob-
ster, it was full of water. All our meat turned out to be
tough, and there was hardly any crust to our loaves. In
search of the principle on which joints ought to be roasted,
to be roasted enough, and not too much, I myself referred
to the Cookery Book, and found it there established as the
allowance of a quarter of an hour to every pound, and say
a quarter over. But the principle always failed us by some
curious fatality, and we never could hit any medium between
redness and cinders.
I had reason to believe that in accomplishing these fail-
ures we incurred a far greater expense than if we had achieved
a series of triumphs. It appeared to me, on looking over
the tradesmen's books, as if we might have kept the base-
ment s^ory paved with butter, such was the extensive scale
634 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
of our consumption of that article. I don't know whether
the Excise returns of the period may have exhibited any in-
crease in the demand for pepper; but if our performances
did not affect the market, I should say that several families
must have left off using it. And the most wonderful fact
of all was, that we never had anything in the house.
As to the washerwoman pawning the clothes, and coming
in a state of penitent intoxication to apologize, I suppose
that might have happened several times to anybody. Also
the chimney on fire, the parish engine, and perjury on the
part of the Beadle. But I apprehend that we were person-
ally unfortunate in engaging a servant with a taste for cor-
dials, who swelled our running account for porter at the
public-house by such inexplicable items as " quartern rum
shrub (Mrs. C.)" "Half-quartern gin and cloves (Mrs. C.)"
"Glass rum and peppermint (Mrs. C.)" ā the parenthesis
always referring to Dora, who was supposed, it appeared on
explanation, to have imbibed the whole of these refreshments.
One of our first feats in the housekeeping way was a little
dinner to Traddles. I met him in town, and asked him to
walk out with me that afternoon. He readily consenting, I
wrote to Dora, saying I would bring him home. It was
pleasant weather, and on the road we made my domestic
happiness the theme of conversation. Traddles was very
full of it; and said, that, picturing himself with such a home,
and Sophy waiting and preparing for him, he could think of
nothing wanting to complete his bliss.
I could not have wished for a prettier little wife at the
opposite end of the table, but I certainly could have wished,
when we sat down, for a little more room. I did not know
how it was, but though there were only two of us, we were
at once always cramped for room, and yet had always room
enough to lose everything in. I suspect it may have been
because nothing had a place of its own, except Jip's pagoda,
which invariably blocked up the main thoroughfare. On the
present occasion, Traddles was so hemmed in by the pagoda
and the guitar-case, and Dora's flower-painting, and my
writing-table, that I had serious doubts of the possibility of
his using his knife and fork; but he protested with his own
good-humor, " Oceans of room, Copperfield! I assure you,
There was another thing I could have wished, namely,
that Jip had never been encouraged to walk about the table-
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 635
cloth during dinner. I began to think there was something
disorderly in his being there at all, even if he bad not been
in the habit of putting his foot in the salt or thv. melted but-
ter. On this occasion he seemed to think he was intro-
duced expressly to keep Traddles at bay; and he barked at
my old friend, and made short runs at his plate, with such
undaunted pertinacity, that he may be said to have engrossed
However, as I knew how tender-hearted my dear Dora
was, and how sensitive she would be to any slight upon her
favorite, I hinted no objection. For similar reasons I made
no allusion to the skirmishing plates upon the floor; or to
the disreputable appearance of the castors, which were all
at sixes and sevens, and looked drunk; or to the further
blockade of Traddles by wandering vegetable dishes and
jugs. I could not help wondering in my own mind, as I
contemplated the boiled leg of mutton before me, previous
to carving it, how it came to pass that our joints of meat
were of such extraordinary shapes ā and whether our
butcher contracted for all the deformed sheep that came in-
to the world; but I kept my reflections to myself.
" My love," said I to Dora," what have you got in that dish?"
I could not imagine why Dora had been making tempting
little faces at me, as if she wanted to kiss me.
" Oysters, dear," said Dora, timidly.
"Was that your thought?" said I, delighted.
" Ye-yes, Doady," said Dora.
" There never was a happier one!" I exclaimed, laying
down the carving-knife and fork. " There is nothing Trad-
dles likes so much!"
" Ye-yes, Doady," said Dora, " and so I bought a beauti-
ful little barrel of them, and the man said they were very
good. . But I ā I am afraid there's something the matter with
them. They don't seem right." Here Dora shook her
head, and diamonds twinkled in her eyes.
" They are only opened in both shells," said I. " Take
the top one off, my love."
" But it won't come off," said Dora, trying very hard, and
looking very much distressed.
" Do you know, Copperfield," said Traddles, cheerfully
examining the dish, " I think it is in consequence ā they are
capital oysters, but, I ^/tink it is in consequence ā of their
never having been opened."
636 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
They never had been opened; and we had no oyster-
knives ā and couldn't have used them if we had ; so we
looked at the oysters and ate the mutton. At least we ate
as much of it as was done, and made up with capers. If I
had permitted him, I am satisfied that Traddles would have
made a perfect savage of himself, and eaten a plate of raw
meat, to express enjoyment of the repast; but I would hear
of no such immolation on the altar of friendship, and we
had a course of bacon instead; there happening, by good
fortune, to be cold bacon in the larder.
My poor little wife was in such affliction when she thought
I should be annoyed, and in such a state of joy when she
found I was not, that the discomfiture I had subdued, very
soon vanished, and we passed a happy evening; Dora sitting
with her arm on my chair, while Traddles and I discussed a
glass of wine, and taking every opportunity of whispering in
my ear that it was so good of me not to be a cruel, cross old
boy. By-the-by she made tea for us; which it was so
pretty to see her do, as if she were busying herself with a
set of doll's tea-things, that I was not particular about the
quality of the beverage. Then Traddles and I played a
game or two atcribbage ; and Dora singing to the guitar
the while, it seemed to me as if our courtship and marriage
were a tender dream of mine, and the night when I first
listened to her voice was not yet over.
When Traddles went away, and I came back into the par-
lor from seeing him out, my wife planted her chair close to
mine, and sat down by my side.
" I am very sorry," she said. " Will you try to teach me,
" I must teach myself fiirst, Dora," said I. " I am as bad
as you, love."
"Ah! but you can learn," she returned; "and you are a
clever, clever man!"
" Nonsense, Mouse!" said I.
"I wish," resumed my wife, after a long silence, "that I
could have gone down into the country for a whole year, and
lived with Agnes!"
Her hands were clasped upon my shoulder, and her chin
rested on them, and her blue eyes looked quietly into mine.
" Why so?" I asked.
" I think she might have improved me, and I think I might
have learnt from her^' said Dora.
DAVID COPPERFIELD/ 637
" All in good time, my love. Agnes has had her father to
take care of for these many years, you should remember.
Even when she was quite a child, she was the Agnes whom
we know," said I.
'* Will you call me a name I want you to call me?" in-
quired Dora, without moving.
" What is it?" I asked with a smile.
" It's a stupid name," she said, shaking her curls for a
moment. *' Child- wife."
I laughingly asked my child-wife* what her fancy was in
desiring to be so called? She answered without moving,
otherwise than as the arm I twined about her may have
brought her blue eyes nearer to me:
" I don't mean, you silly fellow, that you should use the
name, instead of Dora. I only mean that you should think
of me that way. When you are going to be angry with me,
say to yourself, * it's only my child-wife!' When I am very
disappointing, say, * I knew, a long time ago, that she would
make but a child-wife!' When you miss what I should like
to be, and I think can never be, say, ' still my foolish child-
wife loves me!' For indeed I do."
I had not been serious with her ; having no idea, until
now, that she was serious herself. But her affectionate
nature was so happy in what I now said to her with my
whole heart, that her face became a laughing one before her
glittering eyes were dry. She was soon my child-wife in-
deed; sitting down on the floor beside the Chinese House,
ringing all the little bells one after another, to punish Jip
for his recent bad behavior; while Jip lay blinking in the
doorway with his head out, even too lazy to be teased.
This appeal of Dora's made a strong impression on me. I
look back on the time I write of; I invoke the innocent
figure that I dearly loved, to come out from the mists and
shadows of the past, and turn its gentle head toward me once
again; and I can still declare that this one little speech was
constantly in my memory. I may not have used it to the best
account; I was young and inexperienced; but I never turned
a deaf ear to its artless pleading.
Dora told me shortly afterwards, that she was going to be
a wonderful housekeeper. Accordingly, she polished the
tablets, pointed the pencil, bought an immense account-
book, carefully stitched up with a needle and thread all the
leaves of the Cookery-Book which Jip had torn, and made
6^8 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
quite a desperate little attempt ** to be good,' as she called
it. But the figureshad the old obstinate propensity ā they
would not add up. When she had entered two or three
laborious items in the account-book, Jip would walk over
the page, wagging his tail, and smear them all out. Her
own little right-hand middle finger got steeped to the very
bone in ink; and I think that was the only decided result
Sometimes, of an evening, when I was at home and at
work ā for I wrote a good deal now, and was beginning in a
email way to be known as a writer ā I would lay down my pen,
and watch my child-wife trying to be good. First of all, she
would bring out the immense account-book, and lay it down
upon the table, with a deep sigh. Then she would open it
at the place where Jip had made it illegible last night, and
call Jip up, to look at his misdeeds. This would occasion a
diversion in Jip's favor, and some inking of his nose per-
haps, as a penalty. Then she would tell Jip to lie down on
the table instantly, " like a lion " ā which was one of his
tricks, though I cannot say the likeness was striking ā and,
if he were in an obedient humor, he would obey. Then she
would take up a pen, and begin to write, and find a hair in
it. Then she would take up another pen, and begin to
write, and find that it spluttered. Then she would take up
another pen, and begin to write, and say in a low voice,
"Oh, it's a talking pen, and will disturb Doady!" And
then she would give it up as a bad job, and put the account-
book away after pretending to crush the lion with it.
Or, if she were in a very sedate and serious state of mind,
she would sit down with the tablets, and a little basket of
bills and other documents, which looked more like curl-
papers than anything else, and endeavor to get some result
out of them. After severely comparing one with another,
and making entries on the tablets, and blotting them out,
and counting all the fingers of her left hand over and over
again, backwards and forwards, she would be so vexed and
discouraged, and would look so unhappy, that it gave me
pain to see her bright face clouded ā and for me ! ā and I
would go softly to her, and say:
" What's the matter, Dora ?"
Dora would look up hopelessly, and reply, ** They won't
come right. They make my head ache so. And they won't
do anything I want !"
DAVID COPPERFIELa 639
Then I would say, *' Now let us try together. Let me
show you, Dora."
Then I would commence a practical demonstration, to
which Dora would pay profound attention, perhaps for five
minutes; when she would begin to be dreadfully tired, and
would lighten the subject by curling my hair, or trying the
effect of my face with my shirt collar turned down. If I
tacitly checked this playfulness, and persisted, she would
look so scared and disconsolate, as she became more and
more bewildered, that the remembrance of her natural gayety
when I first strayed into her path, and of her being my child-
wife, would come reproachfully upon me; and I would lay
the pencil down, and call for the guitar.
I had a great deal of work to do, and had many anxieties,
but the same, considerations made me keep them to myself
I am far from sure, now, that it was right to do this, but I
did it for my child-wife's sake. I search my breast, and I
commit its secrets, if I know them, without any reservation
to this paper. The old unhappy loss or want of something
had, I am conscious, some place in my heart; but not to the
embitterment of my life. When I walked alone in the fine
weather, and thought of the summer days when all the air
had been filled with my boyish enchantment, I did miss
something of the realization of my dreams; but I thought it
was a softened glory of the Past, which nothing could have
thrown upon the present time. I did feel, sometimes, for a
little while, that I could have wished my wife had been my
counsellor; had had more character and purpose, to sustain
me and improve me by; had been endowed with power to
fill up the void which somewhere seemed to be about me;
iDut I felt as if this were an unearthly consummation of my
happiness, that never had been meant to be, and never could
I was a boyish husband as to years. I had known the
softening influence of no other sorrows or experiences
than those recorded in these leaves. If I did any
wrong, as I may have done much, I did it in mistaken
love, and in my want of wisdom. I write the exact truth.
It would avail me nothing to extenuate it now.
Thus it was that I took upon myself the toils and cares of
our life, and had no partner in them. We lived much as before,
in reference to our scrambling household arrangements; but
I had got used to those, and Dora I was pleased to see was
640 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
seldom vexed now. She was bright and cheerful in the oM
childish way, loved me dearly, and was happy with her old
When the debates were heavy ā I mean as to length, not
quality, for in the last respect they were not often otherwise
ā and I went home late, Dora would never rest when slie
heard my footsteps, but would always come down stairs to
meet me. When my evenings were unoccupied by the pur-
suit for which I had qualified myself with so much pains, and
I was engaged in writing at home, she would sit quietly near
me, however late the hour, and be so mute, that I would
often think she had dropped asleep. But generally, when I
raised my head, I saw her blue eyes looking at me with the
quiet attention of which I have already spoken.
" Oh, what a weary boy !" said Dora one night, when I
met her eyes as I was shutting up my desk.
"What a weary girl!" said I. "That's more to the pur-
pose. You must go to bed another time, my love. It's far
too late for you."
"No, don't send me to bed!" pleaded Dora, coming to
my side. " Pray don't do that!"
To my amazement she was sobbing on my neck. .
" Not well, my dear! not happy!"
"Yes! quite well, and very happy!" said Dora. "But
say you'll let me stop, and see you write."
"Why, what a sight for such bright eyes at midnight!" I
" Are they bright, though ?" returned Dora, laughing.
" I'm so glad they're bright."
"Little Vanity!" said I.
But it was not vanity; it was only harmless delight in my
admiration. I knew that very well, before she told me so.
" If you think them pretty, say I may always stop, and
see you write!" said Dora. ''Do you think them pretty ?"
" Then let me always stop and see you write."
"I'm afraid that won't improve their brightness, Dora."
*' Yes it will! Because, you clever boy, you'll not forget
me then, while you are full of silent fancies. Will you mind
it, if I say something very, very silly ? ā more than usual ?"
inquired Dora, peeping over my shoulder into my face.
" What wonderful thing is that ?" said I.
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 64I
" Please let me hold the pens," said Dora. " I want to
have something to do with all those many hours when you
are so industrious. May I hold the pens ?"
The remembrance of her pretty joy when I said yes,
brings tears into my eyes. The next time I sat down to
write, and regularly afterwards, she sat in her old place
with a spare bundle of pens at her side. Her triumph in
this connexion with my work, and her delight when I
wanted a new pen ā which I very often feigned to do ā
suggested to me a new way of pleasing my child-wife. I
occasionally made a pretense of wanting a page or two of
manuscript copied. Then Dora was in her glory. The
preparations she made for this great work, the aprons she
put on, the bibs she borrowed from the kitchen to keep off
the ink, the time she took, the innumerable stoppages she
made to have a laugh with Jip as if he understood it all,
her conviction that her work was incomplete unless she
signed her name at the end, and the way in which she would
bring it to me, like a school-copy, and then, when I praised
it, clasp me around the neck, are touching recollections to
me, simple as they might appear to other men.
She took possession of the keys soon after this, and went
jingling about the house with the whole bunch in a little
basket, tied to her slender waist. I seldom found that the
places to which they belonged were locked, or that they
were of any use except as a plaything for Jip ā but Dora
was pleased, and that pleased me. She was quite satisfied
that a good deal was effected by this make-belief of house-
keeping; and was as merry as if we had been keeping a
baby-house for a joke.
So we went on. Dora was hardly less affectionate to my
aunt than to me, and often told her of the time when she
was afraid she was a "cross old thing." I never saw my
aunt unbend more systematically to any one. She courted
Jip, though Jip never responded; listened, day after day to
the guitar, though I 2m afraid she had no taste for music;
never attacked the Incapables, though the temptation must
have been severe; went wonderful distances on foot to pur-
chase, as surprises, any trifles that she found out Dora
wanted; and never came in by the garden, and missed her
from the room, but she would call out, at the foot of the
stairs, in a voice that sounded cheerfully all over the house;
** Where's Little Blossom?"
642 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
MR. DICK FULFILLS MY AUNT's PREDICTION.
It was some time now since I had left the Doctor. Liv-
ing in his neighborhood, I saw him frequently ; and we all
went to his house on two or three occasions to dinner or
tea. The Old Soldier was in permanent quarters under the
Doctor's roof. She was exactly the same as ever, and the
same immortal butterflies hovered over her cap.
Like some other mothers, whom I have known in the
course of my life, Mrs. Markleham was far more fond of
pleasure than her daughter was. She required a great deal
of amusement, and, like a deep old soldier, pretended, in
consulting her own inclinations, to be devoting herself to
her child. The Doctor's desire that Annie should be en-
tertained, was therefore particularly acceptable to this ex-
cellent parent ; who expressed unqualified approval of his
I have no doubt, indeed, that she probed the Doctor's
wound without knowing it. Meaning nothing but a certain
matured frivolity and selfishness, not always inseparable
from full-blown years, I think she confirmed him in his fear
that he was a constraint upon his young wife, and that
there was no congeniality of feeling between them, by so
strongly commending his design of lightening the load of
** My dear soul," she said to him one day when I was
present, " you know there is no doubt it would be a little
pokey for Annie to be always shut up here."
The Doctor nodded his benevolent head.
" When she comes to her mother's age," said Mrs. Mark-
leham, with a flourish of her fan, " then, it'll be another
thing. You might put me into a jail, with genteel society
and a rubber, and I should never care to come out. But I
am not Annie, you know; and Annie is not her mother."
" Surely, surely," said the Doctor.
" You are the best of creatures ā no, I beg pardon ! " for
the Doctor made a gesture of depreciation, " I must say be-
fore your face, as I always say behind your back, you are
the best of creatures; but of course you don't ā now do
you ? ā enter into the same pursuits and fancies as Annie ? "
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 643
" No," said the Doctor, in a sorrowful tone.
" No, of course not," retorted the Old Soldier. " Take
your Dictionary for example. What a useful work a Dic-
tionary is ! What a necessary work ! The meanings of
words ! Without Doctor Johnson, or somebody of that
sort, we might have been at this present moment calling an
Italian-iron a bedstead But we can't expect a Dictionary
ā especially when it's making ā to interest Annie, can we ? "
The Doctor shook his head.
" And that's why I so much approve," said Mrs. Markle-
ham, tapping him on the shoulder with her shut-up fan, "of
your thoughtfulness. It shows that you don't expect, as
many elderly people do expect, old heads on young shoul-
ders. You have studied Annie's character, and you under-
stand it. That's what I find so charming."
Even the calm and patient face of Dr. Strong expressed
some little sense of pain, I thought, under the infliction of
" Therefore, my dear Doctor," said the Soldier, giving
him several affectionate taps, " you may command me, at
all times and seasons. Now, do understand that I am en-
tirely at your service. I am ready to go with Annie to op-
eras, concerts, exhibitions, all kinds of places ; and you shall
never find that I am tired. Duty, my dear Doctor, before
every consideration in the universe ! "
She was as good as her word. She was one of those peo-
ple who can bear a great deal of pleasure, and she never
flinched in her perseverance in the cause. She seldom got
hold of the newspaper (which she settled herself down in the
softest chair in the house to read through an eye-glass, every
day, for two hours), but she found out something that she
was certain Annie would lil^e to see. It was in vain for
Annie to protest that she was weary of such things. Her
mother's remonstrance always was, " Now, my dear Annie,
I am sure you know better ; and I must tell you, my love,
that you are not making a proper return for the kindness of
This was usually said in the Doctor's presence, and ap-
peared to me to constitute Annie's principal inducement for
withdrawing her objections when she made any. But in
general she resigned herself to her mother, and went where
the Old Soldier would.
It rarely happened now that Mr. Maldon accompanied
644 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
them. Sometimes my aunt and Dora were invited to do so,