she returned. " And when I came to you, that night, to lay
down all my load of shame and grief, and knew that I had
to tell, that, underneath your roof, one of my own kindred,
to whom you had been a benefactor, for the love of me, had
spoken to me words that should have found no utterance, even
if I had been the weak and mercenary wretch he thought me
â€” my mind revolted from the taint the very tale conveyed. It
died upon my lips, and from that hour till now has never
Mrs. Markleham, with a short groan, leaned back in her
easy chair; and retired behind her fan, as if she were never
coming out any more.
" I have never, but in your presence, interchanged a word
with him from that time; then, only when it has been neces-
sary for the avoidance of this explanation. Years have
passed since he knew, from me, what his situation here was.
The kindnesses you have secretly done for his advancement,
and then disclosed to me, for my surprise and pleasure, have
been, you will believe, but aggravations of the unhappiness
and burden of my secret."
She sank down gently at the Doctor's feet, though he did
his utmost to prevent her; and said, looking up, tearfully,
into his face:
**Do not speak to me yet! Let me say a little more!
Right or wrong, if this were to be done again, I think I
should do just the same. You never can know what it was
to be devoted to you, with those old associations; to find
that any one could be so hard as to suppose that the truth
of my heart was bartered away, and to be surrounded by
appearances confirming that belief. I was very young, and
had no adviser. Between mamma and me, in all relating to
you, there was a wide division. If I shrunk into myself,
hiding the disrespect I had undergone, it was because I hon-
ored you so much, and so much wished that you should
" Annie, my pure heart!" said the Doctor, " my dear girl!"
"A little more! a very few words more! I used to think
there were so many whom you might have married, who
would not have brought such charge and trouble on you,
and who would have made your home a worthier home. I
used to be afraid that I had better hav^i remained your
pupil, and almost your child. I used to fear that I was so
unsuited to your learning and wisdom. If all this made me
shrink within myself (as indeed it did), when I had that to
tell, it was still because I honored you so much, and hope4
that you might gn^ day honor me,"
656 DAVID COPPERriELD.
" That day has shone this long time, Annie,*' said the
Doctor, ''and can have but one long night, my dear."
" Another word! I afterwards meant â€” steadfastly meant,
and purposed to myself â€” to bear the whole weight of know-
ing the unworthiness of one to whom you had been so good.
And now a last word, dearest and best of friends! The
cause of the late change in you, which I have seen with so
much pain and sorrow, and have sometimes referred to my
old apprehension â€” at other times to lingering suppositions
nearer to the truth â€” has been made clear to-night; and by
an accident, I have also come to know, to-night, the full
measure of your noble trust in me, even under that mistake.
I do not hope that any love and duty I may render in re-
turn, will ever make me worthy of your priceless confidence;
but with all this knowledge fresh upon me, I can lift my eyes
to this dear face, revered as a father's, loved as a husband's,
sacred to me in my childhood as a friend's, and solemnly de-
clare that in my lightest thought I have never wronged you;
never wavered in the love and fidelity I owe you!"
She had her arms around the Doctor's neck, and he leant
his head down over her, mingling his gray hair with her
dark brown tresses.
" Oh, hold me to your heart, my husband! Never cast me
out! Do not think or speak of disparity between us, for
there is none, except in all my many imperfections. Every
succeeding year I have known this better, as I have esteemed
you more and more. Oh, take me to your heart, my hus-
band, for my love was founded on a rock, and it en-
In the silence that ensued, my aunt walked gravely up to
Mr. Dick, without at all hurrying herself, and gave him a
hug and a sounding kiss. And it was very fortunate, with a
view to his credit, that she did so; for I am confident that I
detected him at that moment in the act of making prepara-
tions to stand on one leg, as an appropriate expression of
" You are a remarkable man, Dick!" said my aunt, with an
air of unquaHfied approbation; "and never pretend to be
anything else, for I know better!"
With that, my aunt pulled him by the sleeve, and nodded
to me; and we three stole quietly out of the room, and came
" That's a settler for our military friend, at any rate;" said
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 657
my aunt, on the way home. " I should sleep the better for
that, if there was nothing else to be glad of !"
'* She was quite overcome, I am afraid," said Mr. Dick,
with great commiseration.
*' What! did you ever see a crocodile overcome?" inquired
" I don't think I ever saw a crocodile," returned Mr. Dick,
" There never would have been anything the matter, if it
hadn't been for that old Animal," said my aunt, with strong
emphasis. " It's very much to be wished that some mothers
would leave their daughters alone after marriage, and not be
so violently affectionate. They seem to think the only re-
turn that can be made them for bringing an unfortunate
young woman into the world â€” God bless my soul, as if she
asked to be brought, or wanted to come! â€” is full liberty to
worry her out of it again. What are you thinking of,
I was thinking of all that had been said. My mind was
still running on some of the expressions used. " There can
be no disparity in marriage like unsuitability of mind and
purpose." " The first mistaken impulse of an undisciphned
heart." " My love was founded on a rock." But we were
at home; and the trodden leaves were lying underfoot, and
the autumn wind was blowing.
I MUST have been married, if I may trust to my imperfect
memory for dates, about a year or so, when one evening, as
I was returning from a solitary walk, thinking of the book I
was then writing â€” for my success had steadily increased
with my steady application, and I was engaged at that time
upon my first work of fiction â€” I came past Mrs. Steerforth's
house. I had often passed it before, during my residence
in that neighborhood, though never when I could choose
another road. Howbeit, it did sometimes happen that it
was not easy to find another, without making a long circuit;
and so I had passed that way, upon the whole, pretty often.
I had never done more than glance ft the haujse,^ 4.% \ went
653 DAVID COPPERFIELD,
by with a quickened step. It had been uniformly gloomy
and dull. None of the best rooms abutted on the road; and
the narrow, heavily-framed, old-fashioned windows, never
cheerful under any circumstances, looked very dismal, close
shut, and with their blinds always drawn down. There was
a covered way across a little paved court, to an entrance
that was never used; and there was one round staircase win-
dow, at odds with all the rest, and the only one unshaded by
a blind, which had the same unoccupied blank look. I do
not remember that I ever saw a light in all the house. If I
had been a casual passer-by, I should have probably sup-
posed that some childless person lay dead in it. If I had
happily possessed no knowledge of the place, and had seen
it often in that changeless state, I should have pleased my
fancy with many ingenious speculations, I dare say.
As it was, I thought as little of it as I might. But my
mind could not go by it and leave it, as my body did; and
it usually awakened a long train of meditations. Coming
before mÂ«, on this particular evening that I mention, mingled
with the childish recollections and later fancies, the ghosts
of half-formed hopes, the broken shadows of disappoint-
ments dimly seen and understood, the blending of experi-
ence and imagination, incidental to the occupation with
which my thoughts had been busy, it was more than com-
monly suggestive. I fell into a brown study as I walked on,
and a voice at my side made me start.
It was a woman's voice, too. I was not long in recollect-
ing Mrs. Steerforth's little parlor maid, who had formerly
worn blue ribbons in her cap. She had them out now, to
adapt herself, I suppose, to the altered character of the
house; and wore but one or two disconsolate bows of sober
'' If you please, sir, would you have the goodness to walk
in, and speak to Miss Dartle ?"
" Has Miss Dartle sent you for me?" I inquired.
" Not to-night, sir, but it's just the same. Miss Dartle
saw you pass a night or two ago; and I was to sit at work on
the staircase, and when I saw you pass again, to ask you to
step in and speak to her."
I turned back, and inquired of my conductor, as we went
along, how Mrs. Steerforth was. She said her lady was but
poorly, and kept her own room a great deal.
Wljen wf arrived at the hguse, I was directed to Miss
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 659
Dartle in the garden, and left to make my presence known
to her myself. She was sitting on a seat at one end of a
kind of terrace, overlooking the great city. It was a somber
evening, with a lurid light in the sky; and as I saw the pros-
pect scowling in the distance, with here and there some
larger object starting up in the sullen glare, I fancied it
was no inq^t companion to the memory of this fierce
She saw me as I advanced, and rose for a moment to re-
ceive me. I thought her, then, still more colorless and thin
than when I had seen her last; the flashing eyes still brighter,
and the scar still plainer.
Our meeting was not cordial. We had parted angrily on
the last occasion; and there was an air of disdain about her,
which she took no pains to conceal.
" I am told you wish to speak to me. Miss Dartle;" said I,
standing near her, with my head upon the back of the seat,
and declining her gesture of invitation to sit down.
" If you please," said she. *' Pray has this girl been found?'*
** And yet she has run away!"
I saw her thin lips working while she looked at me, as if
they were eager to load her with reproaches.
" Run away?" I repeated.
"Yes! From him,*' she said with a laugh. " If she is not
found, perhaps she never will be found. She may be dead!"
The vaunting cruelty with which she met my glance, I
never saw expressed in any other face that ever I have seen.
" To wish her dead," said I, " may be the kindest wish
that one of her own sex could bestow upon her. I am glad
that time has softened you so much. Miss Dartle."
She condescended to make no reply, but, turning on me
with another scornful laugh, said:
" The friends of this excellent and much-injured young
lady are friends of yours. You are their champion, and
assert their rights. Do you wish to know what is known of
"Yes," said I.
She rose with an ill-favored smile, and, taking a few steps
towards a wall of holly that was near at hand, dividing the
lawn from a kitchen-garden, said, in a louder voice, " Come
here!" â€” as if she were calling to some unclean beast.
"You will ^estrair any demonstrative championship M
66o DAVID COPPERFIELD.
vengeance in this place, of course, Mr. Copperfield ?" said
she, looking over her shoulder at me with the same expres-
I inclined my head, without knowing what she meant; and
she said, "Come here!" again; and returned, followed by
the respectable Mr. Littimer, who, with undiminished respec-
tability, made me a bow, and took up his position behind
her. The air of wicked grace: of triumph, in which, strange
to say, there was yet something feminine and alluring: with
which she reclined upon the seat between us, and looked at
me, was worthy of a cruel Princess in a Legend.
" Now," said she, imperiously, without glancing at him,
and touching the old wound as it throbbed: perhaps, in
this instance, with pleasure rather than pain. " Tell Mr.
Copperfield about the flight."
" Mr. James and myself, ma'am "
" Don't address yourself to me! " she interrupted with a
" Mr. James and myself, sir "
" Nor to me, if you please," said I.
Mr. Littimer, without being at all discomposed, signified
by a slight obeisance, that anything that was most agreeable
to us was most agreeable to him ; and began again :
" Mr. James and myself have been abroad with the yoting
woman, ever since she left Yarmouth under Mr. James's
protection. We have been in a variety of places, and seen
a deal of foreign country. We have been in France, Switzer-
land, Italy, in fact, almost all parts."
He looked at the back of the seat, as if he were address-
ing himself to that ; and softly played upon it with his
hands, as if he were striking chords upon a dumb piano.
*' Mr. James took quite uncommonly to the young woman;
and was more settled, for a length of time, than I have
known him to be since I have been in his service. The
young woman was very improvable, and spoke the languages;
and wouldn't have been known for the same country-
person. I noticed that she was much admired wherever we
Miss Dartle put her hand upon her side. I saw him
steal a glance at her, and slightly smile to himself.
"Very much admired, indeed, the young woman was.
What with her dress; what with the air and sun; what with
being made so much of; what with this, that, and the other;
her merits really attracted general notice."
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 66i
He made a short pause. Her eyes wandered restlessly-
over the distant prospect, and she bit her nether lip to stop
that busy mouth.
Taking his hands from the seat, and placing one of them
within the other, as he settled himself on one leg, Mr. Litti-
mer proceeded, with his eyes cast down, and his respectable
head a little advanced, and a little on one side :
" The young woman went on in this manner for some
time, being occasionally low in her spirits, until I think she
began to weary Mr. James by giving way to her low spirits
and tempers of that kind ; and things were not so comfort-
able. Mr. James he began to be restless again. The more
restless he got, the worse she got: and I must say, for my-
self, that I had a very difficult time of it indeed between
the two. Still matters were patched up here, and made
good there, over and over again; and altogether lasted, I am
sure, for a longer time than anybody could have expected."
Recalling her eyes from the distance, she looked at me
again now, with her former air. Mr. Littimer, clearing his
throat behind his hand with a respectable short cough^
changed legs, and went on:
"At last, when there had been, upon the whole, a good
many words and reproaches, Mr. James he set off one morn-
ing, from the neighborhood of Naples, where he had a
villa (the young woman being very partial to the sea), and.
Under pretense of coming back in a day or so, left it in
charge with me to break it out, that, for the general happi-
ness of all concerned, he was " â€” here an interruption of the
short cough â€” " gone. But Mr. James, I must say, certainly
did behave extremely honorable; for he proposed that the
young woman should marry a very respectable person, who
was fully prepared to overlook the past, and who was, at
least, as good as anybody the young woman could have
aspired to in a regular way: her connexions being very
He changed legs again, and wetted his lips. I was con-
vinced that the scoundrel spoke of himself, and I saw my
conviction reflected in Miss Dartle's face.
" This I also had it in charge to communicate. I was
willing to do anything to relieve Mr. James from his diffi-
culty, and to restore harmony between himself and an
affectionate parent, who has undergone so much on his
662 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
account. Therefore I undertook the commission. The
young woman's violence when she came to, after I broke the
fact of his departure, was beyond all expectations. She
was quite mad, and had to be held by force; or, if she
couldn't have got to a knife, or got to the sea, she'd have
beaten her head against the marble floor."
Miss Dartle, leaning back upon the seat, wijh a light of
exultation in her face, seemed almost to caress the sounds
this fellow had uttered.
" But when I came to the second part of what had been
entrusted to me," said Mr. Littimer, rubbing his hands, un-
easily, " which anybody might have supposed would have
been, at all events, appreciated as a kind intention, then the
young woman came out in her true color. A more out-
rageous person I never did see. Her conduct was surpris*
ingly bad. She had no more gratitude, no more feeling, no
more patience, no more reason in her, than a stock or a
stone. If I hadn't been upon my guard, I am convinced she
would have had my blood."
" I think the better of her for it," said I, indignantly.
Mr. Littimer bent his head, as much as to say, ** Indeed,
sir ? â€” But you're young !" and resumed his narrative.
" It was necessary, in short, for a time, to take away every-
thing nigh her, that she could do herself or anybody else,
an injury with, and to shut her up close. Notwithstanding
which, she got out in the night, forced the lattice of a win-
dow, that I had nailed up myself; dropped on a vine that
was trailed below; and never has been seen or heard of, to
my knowledge, since."
" She is dead, perhaps," said Miss Dartle, with a smile, as
]f she could have spurned the body of the ruined girl.
"She may have drowned herself, miss," returned Mr. Lit-
timer, catching at an excuse for addressing himself to some-
body. " It's very possible. Or, she may have had assis-
tance from the boatmen, and the boatmen's wives and chil-
dren. Being given to low company, she was very much in
the habit of talking to them on the beach. Miss Dartle, and
sitting by their boats. I have known her do it, when Mr.
James has been away, whole days. Mr. James was far from
pleased to find out, once, that she had told the children she
was a boatman's daughter, and that in her own country,
long ago, she had roamed about the beach, like them."
Oh, Emily! Unhappy beauty! What a picture rose be-
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 66$
fore me of her sitting on the far-off shore, among the chil-
dren like herself when she was innocent, listening to little
voices such as might have called her Mother had she been a
poor man's wife; and to the great voice of the sea, with its
eternal " Never more !"
"When it was clear that nothing could be done, Miss Dar-
" Did I tell you not to speak to me ?" she said, with stern
" You spoke to me, miss," he replied. " I beg your par-
don. But it's my service to obey."
'* Do your service," she returned. " Finish your story,
and go !"
" When it was clear," he said, with infinite respectability,
and an obedient bow, " that she was not to be found, I went
to Mr. James, at the place where it had been agreed that I
should write to him, and informed him of what had occurred.
Words passed between us in consequence, and I felt it due
to my character to leave him. I could bear, and I have
borne, a great deal from Mr. James; but he insulted me too
far. He hurt me. Knowing the unfortunate difference be-
tween himself and his mother, and what her anxiety of mind
was likely to be, I took the liberty of coming home to Eng-
land, and relating "
" For money which I paid him," said Miss Dartle to me.
" Just so, ma'am â€” and relating what I knew. I am not
aware," said Mr. Littimer, after a moment's reflection, " that
there is anything else. I am at present out of employment,
and should be happy to meet with a respectable situation."
Miss Dartle glanced at me, as though she would inquire
if there were anything that I desired to ask. As there was
something which had occurred to my mind, I said in reply:
" I could wish to know from this â€” creature," I could not
bring myself to utter any more conciliatory word, " whether
they intercepted a letter that was written to her from home,
or whether he supposes that she received it ?"
He remained calm and silent, with his eyes fixed on the
ground, and the tip of every finger of his right hand deli-
cately poised against the tip of every finger of his left.
Miss Dartle turned her head disdainfully towards him.
" I beg your pardon, miss," he said, awakening from his
abstraction, "but, however submissive to you, I have my
position though a servant. Mr. Copperfield and you, miss,
664 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
are different people. If Mr. Copperfield wishes to know
anything from me, I take the liberty of reminding Mr. Cop-
perfield that he can put a question to me. I have a char-
acter to maintain."
After a momentary struggle with myself, I turned my eyes
upon him, and said, " You have heard my question. Con-
sider it addressed to yourself, if you choose. What answer
do you make ? "
*^^ Sir," he rejoined, with an occasional separation and re-
union of those delicate tips, "my answer must be qualified ;
because, to betray Mr. James's confidence to his mother, and
to betray it to you, are two different actions. It is not
probable, I consider, that Mr. James would encourage
the receipt of letters likely to increase low spirits and un-
pleasantness ; but further than that, sir, I should wish to
" Is that all ? " inquired Miss Dartle of me.
I indicated that I had nothing more to say. " Except,"
I added, as I saw him moving off, " that I understand
this fellow's part in the wicked story, and that, as I shall
make it known to the honest man who has been her father
from her childhood, I would recommend him to avoid going
too much into public."
He had stopped the moment I began, and had listened
with his usual repose of manner.
"Thank you, sir. But you'll excuse me if I say, sir, that
there are neither slaves nor slave-drivers in this country,
and that people are not allowed to take the law into their own
hands. If they do, it is more to their peril, I believe, than
to other people's. Consequently speaking, I am not at all
afraid of going wherever I may wish, sir."
With that, he made me a polite bow; and, with another
to Miss Dartle, went away through the arch in the wall of
holly by which he had come. Miss Dartle and I re-
garded each other for a little while in silence; her manner
being exactly what it was, when she had produced the
" He says besides," she observed, with a slow curling of
her lip, "that his master, as he hears, is coasting Spain; and
this done, is away to gratify his seafaring tastes till he is
weary. But that is of no interest to you. Between these
two proud persons, mother and son, there is a wider breach
than before, and little hope of its healing, for they are one
DAVID COPPERFIELD 665
at heart, and time makes each obstinate and imperious.
Neither is this of any interest to you; but it introduces what
I wish to say. This devil whom you make an angel
of, I mean this low girl whom he picked out of the tide-
mud," with her black eyes full upon me, and her passionate
finger up, " may be alive, â€” for I believe some common things
are hard to die. If she is, you will desire to have a pearl of
such price found and taken care of. We desire that, too;^
that he may not by any chance be made her prey again. So
far, we are united in one interest; and that is why I, who
would do her any mischief that so coarse a wretch is capa-
ble of feeling, have sent for you to hear what you have
I saw, by the change in her face, that some one was ad-
vancing behind me. It was Mrs. Steerforth, who gave me
her hand more coldly than of yore, and with an augmenta-
tion of her former stateliness of manner ; but still, I per-
ceived â€” and I was touched by it â€” with an ineffaceable re-
membrance of my old love for her son. She was greatly
altered. Her fine figure was far less upright, her handsome
face was deeply marked, and her hair was almost white. But
when she sat down on the seat, she was a handsome lady
still ; and well I knew the bright eye with its lofty look,
that had been a light in my very dreams at school.
" Is Mr. Copperfield informed of everything, Rosa?"
" And has he heard Littimer himself?"
"Yes; I have told him why you wished it."
" You are a good girl. I have had some slight corres-
pondence with your former friend, sir," addressing me, " but
it has not restored his sense of duty or natural obligation.
Therefore I have no other object in this, than what Rosa