hours of my existence fleeted by."
" Made so, I am sure, by Mrs. Micawber," said I. " I
hope she is well ?"
" Thank you," returned Mr. Micawber, whose face clouded
at this reference, " she is but so-so. And this," said Mr. Mic-
awber, nodding his head sorrowfully, "is the Bench!
Where, for the first time in many revolving years, the over-
whelming pressure of pecuniary liabilities was not pro-
claimed, from day to day, by importunate voices declining to
vacate the passage; where there was no knocker on the door
for any creditor to appeal to; where personal service of pro-
cess was not required, and detainers were merely lodged at
the gate! Gentlemen," said Mr. Micawber, "when the shadow
of that iron-work on the summit of the brick structure has
been reflected on the gravel of the Parade, I have seen my
children thread the mazes of the intricate pattern, avoiding
the dark marks. I have been familiar with every stone in
the place. If I betray weakness, you will know how to ex-
" We have all got on in life since then, Mr. Micawber,"
" Mr. Copperfield," returned Mr. Micawber, bitterly,
" when I was an inmate of that retreat I could look my
fellow-man in the face, and punch his head if he offended
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 699
me. My fellow-man and myself are no longer on those
Turning from the building in a downcast manner, Mr.
Micawber accepted my proffered arm on one side, and the
proffered arm of Traddles on the other, and walked away
"There are some landmarks," observed Mr. Micawber,
looking fondly back over his shoulder, " on the road to the
tomb, which, but for the impiety of the aspiration, a man
would wish never to have passed. Such is the Bench in my
" Oh, you are in low spirits, Mr. Micawber," said Traddles.
" I am, sir," interposed Mr. Micawber.
"I hope," said Traddles, "it is not because you have
conceived a dislike to the law — for I am a lawyer myself,
Mr. Micawber answered not a word.
" How is our friend Heep, Mr. Micawber ?" said I, after
" My dear Copperfield," returned Mr. Micawber, bursting
into a state of much excitement, and turning pale, *'if you
ask after my employer as j^ar friend, I am sorry for it; if
you ask after him as my friend, I sardonically smile at it.
In whatever capacity you ask after my employer, I beg,
without offense to you, to limit my reply to this — that what-
ever his state of health may be, his appearance is foxy: not
to say diabolical. You will allow me, as a private individ-
ual, to decline pursuing a subject which has lashed me to
the utmost verge of desperation in my professional capacity."
I expressed my regret for having innocently touched upon
a theme that roused him so much. " May I ask," said I,
" without any hazard of repeating the mistake, how my old
friends Mr. and Miss Wickfield are ?"
" Miss Wickfield," said Mr. Micawber, now turning red,
" is, as she always is, a pattern, and a bright example. My
dear Copperfield, she is the only starry spot in a miserable
existence. My respect for that young lady, my admiration
of her character, my devotion to her for her love, and truth,
and goodness ! — Take me," said Mr. Micawber, '* down a
turning, for, upon my soul, in my present state of mind 1
am not equal to this !"
We wheeled him off into a narrow street, where he took out
his pocket-handkerchief, and stood with his back to a wall.
700 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
If I looked as gravely at him as Traddles did, he must have
found our company by no means inspiriting.
" It is my fate," said Mr. Micawber, unfeignedly sobbing,
but doing even that, with a shadow of the old expression of
doing something genteel; "it is my fate, gentlemen, that the
finer feelinp;s of our nature have become reproaches to me.
My homage to Miss Wickfield is a flight of arrows in my
bosom. You had better leave me, if you please, to walk the
earth as a vagabond. The worm will settle my business in
Without attending to this invocation, we stood by, until
he put up his pocket-handkerchief, pulled up his shirt-collar,
and, to delude any person in the neighborhood who might
have been observing him, hummed a tune with his hat very
much on one side. I then mentioned — not knowing what
might be lost, if we lost sight of him yet — that it would
give me great pleasure to introduce him to my aunt, if he
would ride out to Highgate, where a bed was at his service.
** You shall make us a glass of your own punch, Mr. Mic-
awber," said I, " and forget whatever you have on your
mind in pleasanter reminiscences."
" Or, if confiding anything to friends will be more likely
to relieve you, you shall impart it to us, Mr. Micawber,"
said Traddles, prudently.
" Gentlemen," returned Mr. Micawber, " do with me as
you will! I am a straw upon the surface of the deep, and
am tossed in all directions by the elephants — I beg your
pardon; I should have said the elements."
We walked on, arm-in-arm, again; found the coach in the
act of starting; and arrived at Highgate without encounter-
ing any difficulties by the way. I was very uneasy and very
uncertain in my mind what to say or do for the best — so
was Traddles, evidently. Mr. Micawber was for the most
part plunged into deep gloom. He occasionally made an
attempt to smarten himself, and hum the fag-end of a tune;
but his relapses into profound melancholy were only made
the more impressive by the mockery of a hat exceedingly on
one side, and the shirt-collar pulled up to his eyes.
We went to my aunt's house rather than to mine, because
of Dora's not being well. My aunt presented herself on be-
ing sent for, and welcomed Mr. Micawber with gracious
cordiality. Mr. Micawber kissed her hand, retired to the
window, and pulling out his pocket-handkerchief, had a
mental wrestle with himseii.
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 701
Mr. Dick was at home. He was by nature so exceed-
ingly compassionate of any one who seemed to be ill at ease,
and was so quick to find any such person out, that he shook
hands with Mr. Micawber at least half a dozen times in five
minutes. To Mr. Micawber, in his trouble, this warmth, on
the part of a stranger, was so extremely touching, that he
could only say, on the occasion of each successive shake,
" My dear sir, you overpower me!" Which gratified Mr.
Dick so much, that he went at it again with greater vigor
" The friendliness of this gentleman," said Mr. Micawber
to my aunt, " if you will allow me, ma'am, to cull a figure of
speech from the vocabulary of our coarser national sports —
floors me. To a man who is struggling with a complicated
burden of perplexity and disquiet, such a reception is trying,
I assure you."
" My friend Mr. Dick," replied my aunt, proudly, " is not
a common man."
*' That I am convinced of," said Mr. Micawber. " My
dear sir!" for Mr. Dick was shaking hands with him again;
" I am deeply sensible of your cordiality."
'' How do you find yourself?" said Mr. Dick, with an
" Indifferent, my dear sir," returned Mr. Micawber, sigh-
" You must keep up your spirits," said Mr. Dick, " and
make yourself as comfortable as possible."
Mr. Micawber was quite overcome by these friendly words,
and by finding Mr. Dick's hand again within his own. " It
has been my lot," he observed, *' to meet, in the diversified
panorama of human existence, with an occasional oasis, but
never with one so green, so gushing, as the present!"
At another time I should have been amused by this; but
I felt that we were all constrained and uneasy, and I watched
Mr. Micawber so anxiously, in his vacillations between an
evident disposition to reveal something, and a counter-dis-
position to reveal nothing, that I was in a perfect fever.
Traddles, sitting on the edge of his chair, with his eyes wide
open, and his hair more emphatically erect than ever, stared
by turns at the ground and at Mr. Micawber, without so
much as attempting to put in a word. My aunt, though I
saw that her shrewdest observation was concentrated on her
702 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
new guest, had more useful possession of her wits than
either of us; for she held him in conversation, and made it
necessary for him to talk, whether he liked it or not.
" You are a very old friend of my nephew's, Mr. Micaw-
ber," said my aunt. " I wish I had had the pleasure of see-
ing you before."
" Madam," returned Mr. Micawber, " I wish I had had
the honor of knowing you at an earlier period. I was not
always the wreck you at present behold."
" I hope Mrs. Micawber and your family are well, sir,"
said my aunt.
Mr. Micawber inclined his head. " They are as well,
ma'am," he desperately observed after a pause, " as Aliens
and Outcasts can ever hope to be."
" Lord bless you, sir !" exclaimed my aunt, in her abrupt
way. " What are you talking about ?"
" The subsistence of my family, ma'am," returned Mr.
Micawber, ** trembles in the balance. My employer "
Here Mr. Micawber provokingly left off ; and began to
peel the lemons that had been under my directions set be-
fore him, together with all the other appliances he used in
" Your employer, you know," said Mr. Dick, jogging his
arm as a gentle reminder.
" My good sir," returned Mr. Micawber, " you recall me.
I am obliged to you." They shook hands again. " My em-
ployer, ma'am — Mr. Heep — once did me the favor to observe
to me, that if I were not in the receipt of the stipendiary emol-
uments appertaining to my engagement with him, I should
probably be a mountebank about the country, swallowing a
sword-blade, and eating the devouring element. For any-
thing that I can perceive to the contrary, it is still probable
that my children may be reduced to seek a livelihood by
personal contortion, while Mrs. Micawber abets their unnat-
ural feats, by playing the barrel-organ."
Mr. Micawber, with a random but expressive flourish of
his knife, signified that these performances might be expected
to take place after he was no more; then resumed his peel-
ing with a desperate air.
My aunt leaned her elbow on a little round table that she
usually kept beside her, and eyed him attentively. Notwith-
standing the aversion with which I regarded the idea of en-
trapping him into any disclosure he was not prepared to
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 703
make voluntarily, I should have taken him up at this point,
but for the strange proceedings in which I saw him engaged,
whereof his putting the lemon-peel into the kettle, the sugar
into the snuffer-tray, the spirit into the empty jug, and con-
fidently attempting to pour boiling water out of a candle-
stick, were among the most remarkable. I saw that a crisis
was at hand, and it came. He clattered all his means and
implements together, rose from his chair, pulled out his
handkerchief, and burst into tears.
" My dear Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, behind his
handkerchief, " this is an occupation, of all others, requiring
an untroubled mind, and self-respect. I cannot perform it.
It is out of the question."
" Mr. Micawber," said I, " what is the matter ? Pray speak
out. You are among friends."
" Among friends, sir !" repeated Mr. Micawber; and all he
had reserved came breaking out of him. " Good heavens, it
is principally because I am among friends that my state of
mind is what it is. What is the matter, gentlemen ? What is
not the matter? Villainy is the matter; baseness is the mat-
ter; deception, fraud, conspiracy, are the matter; and the
name of the whole atrocious mass is — Heep !"
My aunt clapped her hands, and we all started up as if
we were possessed.
" The struggle is over !" said Mr. Micawber, violently ges-
ticulating with his pocket-handkerchief, and fairly striking
out from time to time with both arms, as if he were swim-
ming under superhuman difficulties. *' I will lead this life no
longer. I am a wretched being, cut off from everything that
makes life tolerable. I have been under a Taboo in that in-
fernal scoundrel's service. Give me back my wife, give me
back my family, substitute Micawber for the petty wretch
who walks about in the boots at present on my feet, and call
upon me to swallow a sword to-morrow, and I'll do it with
an appetite !"
\ never saw a man so hot in my life. I tried to calm him,
that we might come to something rational; but he got hotter
and hotter, and wouldn't hear a word.
" I'll put my hand in no man's hand," said Mr. Micawber,
gasping, puffing, and sobbing, to that degree that he was like
a man fighting with cold water, " until I have — blown to frag-
ments — the — a — detestable — serpent — Heep ! I'll partake
of no one's hospitality, until I have — a — moved Mount
704 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
Vesuvius — to eruption — on — a — the abandoned rascal —
Heep ! Refreshment — a — underneath this roof — particu-
larly punch — would — a — choke me — unless — I had — pre-
viously — choked the eyes — out of the head — a — of — inter-
minable cheat, and liar — Heep ! I — a — I'll know nobody
—and — a — say nothing — and — a — live nowhere — until I
have crushed — to — a — undiscoverable atoms— the — trans-
cendent and immortal hypocrite and perjurer — Heep !"
I really had some fear of Mr. Micawber's dying on the
spot. The manner in which he struggled through these in-
articulate sentences, and, whenever he found himself getting
near the name of Heep, fought his way on to it, dashed at it
in a fainting state, and brought it out with a vehemence lit-
tle less than marvelous, was frightful ; but now, when he
sank into a chair, steaming, and looked at us, with every
possible color in his face that had no business there, and an
endless procession of lumps following one another in hot
haste up his throat, whence they seemed to shoot into his
forehead, he had the appearance of being in the last ex-
tremity. I would have gone to his assistance, but he waved
me off, and wouldn't hear a word.
"No, Copperfield ! — No — communication — a — until — Miss
Wickfield — a — redress from wrongs inflicted by consummate
scoundrel — Heep!" (I am quite convinced he could not
have uttered these words, but for the amazing energy with
which this word inspired him when he felt it coming.) '* In-
violable secret — a — from the whole world — a — no excep-
tions — this day week — a — at breakfast time — a — everybody
present — including aunt — a — and extremely friendly gentle-
man — to be at the hotel at Canterbury — a — where — Mrs.
Micawber and myself — Auld Lang Syne in chorus — and — a
— will expose intolerable ruffian — Heep! No more to say —
a — or listen to persuasion — go immediately — not capable —
a — bear society — upon the track of devoted and doomed
traitor — Heep!"
With this last repetition of the magic word that had kept
him going at all, and in which he surpassed all his previous
efforts, Mr. Micawber rushed out of the house; leaving us
in a state of excitement, hope, and wonder, that reduced us
to a condition little better than his own. But even then his
passion for writing letters was too strong to be resisted; for
while we were yet in the height of our excitement, hope, and
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 705
wonder, the following pastoral note was brought to me from
a neighboring tavern, at which he had called to write it: —
" Most secret and confidential.
" My dear Sir,
" I beg to be allowed to convey, through you, my
apologies to your excellent aunt for my late excitement. An
explosion of a smouldering volcano long suppressed, was the
result of an infernal contest more easily conceived than
" I trust I rendered tolerably intelligible my appointment
V for the morning of this day week, at the house of public en-
tertainment at Canterbury, where Mrs. Micawber and my-
self had once the honor of uniting our voices to yours, in the
well-known strain of the Immortal exciseman nurtured be-
yond the Tweed.
" The duty done, and act of reparation performed, which
can alone enable me to contemplate my fellow mortal, I
shall be known no more. I shall simply require to be de-
posited in that place of universal resort, where
•* * Each in his narrow cell for ever laid.
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.*
' "—With the plain inscription,
7o6 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
MR. PEGGOTTY'S dream COMES TRUE.
By this time, some months had passed, since our inter-
view on the bank of the river with Martha. I had never
seen her since, but she had communicated with Mr. Peg-
gotty on several occasions. Nothing had come of her zeal-
ous intervention; nor could I infer, from what he told me,
that any clue had ever been obtained, for a moment, to
Emily's fate. I confess that I began to despair of her re-
covery, and gradually to sink deeper and deeper into the
belief that she was dead.
His conviction remained unchanged. So far as I know —
and I believe his honest heart was transparent to me — he
never wavered again, in his solemn certainty of finding her.
His patience never tired. And, although I trembled for the
agony it might one day be to him to have his strong assur-
ance shivered at a blow, there was something so religious in
it, so affectingly expressive of its anchor being in the purest
depths of his fine nature, that the respect and honor in which
I held him were exalted every day.
His was not a lazy trustfulness that hoped, and did no
more. He had been a man of sturdy action all his life, and
he knew that in all things wherein he wanted help he must
do his own part faithfully, and help himself. I have known
him set out in the night, on a misgiving that the light
might not be, by some accident, in the window of the old
boat, and walk to Yarmouth. I have known him, on read-
ing something in the newspaper that might apply to her,
take up his stick, and go forth on a journey of three or four
score miles. He made his way by sea to Naples, and back,
after hearing the narrative to which Miss Dartle had assisted
me. All his journeys were ruggedly performed; for he was
always steadfast in a purpose of saving money for Emily's
sake, when she should be found. In all this long pursuit, I
never heard him repine; I never heard him say he was fa-
tigued, or out of heart.
Dora had often seen him since our marriage, and was
quite fond of him. I fancy his figure before me now, stand-
ing near her sofa, with his rough cap in his hand and the
blue eyes of my child-wife raised, with a timid wonder, to
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 707'
his face. Sometimes of an evening, about twilight, when
he came to talk with me, I would induce him to smoke his
pipe in the garden, as we slowly paced to and fro together;
and then, the picture of his deserted home, and the com-
fortable air it used to have in my childish eyes of an even-
ing when the fire was burning, and the wind moaning round
it, came most vividly into my mind.
One evening, at this hour, he told me that he had found
Martha waiting near his lodging on the preceding night
when he came out, and that she had asked him not to
leave London on any account, until he should see her
" Did she tell you why ?" I inquired.
" I asked her, Mas'r Davy," he replied, "but it is but few
words as she ever says, and she on'y got my promise and
Eo went away."
** Did she say when you might expect to see her again ?"
" No, Mas'r Davy," he returned, drawing his hand thought-
fully down his face. " I asked that too, but it was more
(she said) than she could tell."
As I had long forborne to encourage him with hopes that
hung on threads, I made no other comment on this infor-
mation than that I supposed he would see her soon. Such
speculations as it engendered within me I kept to myself,
and those were faint enough.
I was walking alone in the garden, one evening, about a
fortnight afterwards. I remember that evening well. It
was the second in Mr. Micawber's week of suspense. There
had been rain all day, and there was a damp feeling in the
air. The leaves were thick upon the trees, and heavy with
wet; but the rain had ceased, though the sky was still dark;
and the hopeful birds were singing cheerfully. As I walked
to and fro in the garden, and the twilight began to close
around me, their little voices were hushed; and that pecu-
liar silence which belongs to such an evening in the country
when the lightest trees are quite still, save for the occa-
sional droppings from their boughs, prevailed.
There was a little green perspective of trellis-work and
ivy at the side of our cottage, through which I could see,
from the garden where I was walking, into the road before
the house. I happened to turn my eyes towards this place,
as I was thinking of many things; and I saw a figure be*
7o8 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
yond, dressed in a plain cloak. It was bending eagerly to-
wards me, and beckoning.
" Martha!" said I, going to it.
" Can you come with me?" she inquired, in an agitated
whisper. " I have been to him, and he is not at home. I
wrote down where he was to come, and left it on his table
with my own hand. They said he would not be out long.
I have tidings for him. Can you come directly?"
My answer was to pass out at the gate immediately. She
made a hasty gesture with her hand, as if to entreat my
patience and my silence, and turned towards London,
whence, as her dress betokened, she had come expeditiously
I asked her if that were not our destination? On her
motioning Yes, with the same hasty gesture as before, I
stopped an empty coach that was coming by, and we got
into it. When I asked her where the coachman was to
drive, she answered "Anywhere near Golden Square! And
quick!" — then shrunk into a corner, with one trembling hand
before her face, and the other making the former gesture, as
if she could not bear a voice.
Now much disturbed, and dazzled with conflicting gleams
of hope and dread, I looked at her for some explanation.
But, seeing how strongly she desired to remain quiet, and
feeling that it was my own natural inclination too, at such a
time, I did not attempt to break the silence. We proceeded
without a word being spoken. Sometimes she glanced out
of the window, as though she thought we were going slowly,
though indeed we were going fast; but otherwise remained
exactly as at first.
We alighted at one of the entrances to the Square she had
mentioned, where I directed the coach to wait, not knowing
but that we might have some occasion for it. She laid her
hand upon my arm, and hurried me on to one of the somber
streets, of which there are several in that part, where the
houses were once fair dwellings in the occupation of single
families, but have, and had, long degenerated into poor
lodgings let off in rooms. Entering at the open door of one
of these, and releasing my arm, she beckoned me to follow
her up the common staircase, which was like a tributary
channel to the street.
The house swarmed with inmates. As we went up, doors
of rooms were opened and people's heads put out; and we
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 709
passed other people on the stairs, who were coming down.
In glancing up from the outside, before we entered, I had
seen women and children lolling at the windows over flower-
pots; and we seemed to have attracted their curiosity, for
these were principally the observers who looked out of their
doors. It was a broad paneled staircase, with massive balus-
trades of some dark wood; cornices above the doors, orna-
mented with carved fruit and flowers; and broad seats in the
windows. But all these tokens of past grandeur were mis-
erably decayed and dirty; rot, damp, and age, had weakened
the flooring, which in many places was unsound and even
unsafe. Some attempts had been made, I noticed, to infuse
new blood into this dwindling frame, by repairing the costly
old wood-work here and there with common deal; but it
was like the marriage of a reduced old noble to a plebeian
pauper, and each party to the ill-assorted union shrunk away
from the other. Several of the back windows on the stair-
case had been darkened or wholly blocked up. In those that
remained, there was scarcely any glass; and, through the
crumbling frames by which the bad air seemed always to
come, and never to go out, I saw, through other glassless
windows, into other houses in a similar condition, and looked
giddily down into a wretched yard which was the common
dust-heap of the mansion.