sad, wretched dream, to dawn.
For many months I traveled with this ever-darkening
cloud upon my mind. Some blind reasons that I had for
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 807
not returning home — reasons then struggling within me,
vainly for more distinct expression — kept me on my pilgrim-
age. Sometimes, I had proceeded restlessly from place to
place, stopping nowhere; sometimes, I had lingered long in
one spot. I had had no purpose, no sustaining soul within
I was in Switzerland. I had come out of Italy, over one
of the great passes of the Alps, and had since wandered
with a guide among the by-ways of the mountains. If
those awful solitudes had spoken to my heart, I did not
know it. I had found sublimity and wonder in the dread
heights and precipices, in the roaring torrents, and the
wastes of ice and snow; but as yet, they had taught me
I came, one evening before sunset, down into a valley,
where I was to rest. In the course of my descent to it,
by the winding track along the mountain-side, from which
I saw it shining far below, I think some long-unwonted
sense of beauty and tranquillity, some softening influence
awakened by its peace, moved faintly in my breast. I
remember pausing once, with a kind of sorrow that was
not all oppressive, not quite despairing. I remember
almost hoping that some better change was possible with-
I came into the valley, as the evening sun was shining on
the remote heights of snow, that closed it in, like eternal
clouds. The bases of the mountains forming the gorge in
which the little village lay, were richly green ; and high
above this gentler vegetation, grew forests of dark fir, cleav-
ing the wintry snow-drift, wedge-like, and stemming the
avalanche. Above these, were range upon range of craggy
steeps, grey rock, bright ice, and smooth verdure-specks of
pasture, all gradually blending with the crowning snow.
Dotted here and there on the mountain's side, each tiny dot
a home, were lonely wooden cottages, so dwarfed by the
towering heights that they appeared too small for toys.
So did even the clustered village in the valley, with its
wooden bridge across the stream, where the stream tumbled
over broken rocks, and roared away among the trees. In
the quiet air, there was a sound of distant singing — shep-
herd voices ; but as one bright evening cloud floated mid-
way along the mountain's-side, I could almost have believed
it came from there, and was not earthly music. All at once.
«o8 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
in this serenity, great Nature spoke to me ; and soothed me
to lay down my weary head upon the grass, and weep as I
had not wept yet, since Dora died !
I had found a packet of letters awaiting me but a few
minutes before, and had strolled out of the village to read
them while my supper was making ready. Other packets
had missed me, and I had received none for a long time.
Beyond a line or two, to say that I was well, and had ar-
rived at such a place, I had not had fortitude or constancy
to write a letter since I left home.
The packet was in my hand. I opened it, and read the
writing of Agnes.
She was happy and useful, was prospering as she had
hoped. That was all she told me of herself. The rest re-
ferred to me.
She gave me no advice ; she urged no duty on me ; she
only told me, in her own fervent manner what her trust in
me was. She knew (she said) how such a nature as mine
would turn affliction to good. She knew how trial and
emotion would exalt and strengthen it. She was sure that
in my every purpose I should gain a firmer and a higher
tendency, through the grief I had undergone. She, who so
gloried in my fame, and so looked forward to its augmenta-
tion, well knew that I would labor on. She knew that in
me, sorrow could not be weakness, but must be strength.
As the endurance of my childish days had done its part to
make me what I was, so greater calamities would nerve me
on, to be yet better than I was; and so as they had taught
me would I teach others. She commended me to God, who
had taken my innocent darling to His rest ; and in her sisterly
affection cherished me always, and was always at my side go
where I would ; proud of what I had done, but infinitely
prouder yet of what I was reserved to do.
I put the letter in my breast, and thought what had I
been an hour ago ! When I heard the voices die away, and
saw the quiet evening cloud grow dim, and all the colors in the
valley fade, and the golden snow upon the mountain tops be-
come a remote part of the pale night sky, yet felt that the
night was passing from my mind, and all its shadows clear-
ing, there was no name for the love I bore her, dearer to me,
henceforward, than ever until then.
I read her letter many times. I wrote to her before 1
slept. I told her that I had been in sore need of her help ;
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 809
that without her I was not, and I never had been, what she
thought me ; but that she inspired me to be that, and
I would try.
I did try. In three months more, a year would have pass-
ed since the beginning of my sorrow. I determined to
make no resolutions until the expiration of those three
months, but to try. I lived in that valley, and its neigh-
borhood, all the time.
The three months gone, I resolved to remain away from
home for some time longer ; to settle myself for the present
in Switzerland, which was growing dear to me in the re-
membrance of that evening ; to resume my pen ; to work.
I resorted humbly whither Agnes had commended me ; I
sought out Nature, never sought in vain ; and I admitted to
my breast the human interest I had lately shrunk from. It
was not long before I had almost as many friends in the
valley as in Yarmouth ; and when I left it, before the win-
ter set in, for Geneva, and came back in the spring, their
cordial greetings had a homely sound to me, although they
were not conveyed in English words.
I worked early and late, patiently and hard. I wrote a
Story, with a purpose growing, not remotely, out of my ex-
perience, and sent it to Traddles, and he arranged for its
publication very advantageously for me; and the tidings of
my growing reputation began to reach me from travelers
whom I encountered by chance. After some rest and change,
I fell to work, in my old ardent way, on a new fancy which
took strong possession of me. As I advanced in the execu-
tion of this task, I felt it more and more, and roused my
utmost energies to do it well. This was my third work of
fiction. It was not half written, when, in an interval of
rest, I thought of returning home.
For a long time, though studying and working patiently, I
had accustomed myself to robust exercise. My health,
severely impaired when I left England, was quite restored.
I had seen much. I had been in many countries, and I
hope I had improved my store of knowledge.
I have now recalled all that I think it needful to recall
here, of this term of absence — with one reservation. I have
made it, thus far, with no purpose of suppressing any of my
thoughts; for as I have elsewhere said, this narrative is my
written memory. I have desired to keep the most secret
current of my mind apart, and to the last. I enter on it now.
8io DAVID COPPERFIELD.
I cannot so completely penetrate the mystery of my own
heart, as to know when I began to think that I might have
set its earliest and brightest hopes on Agnes. I cannot say
at what stage of my grief it first became associated with the
reflection, that, in my wayward boyhood, I had thrown away
the treasure of her love. I believe I may have heard some
whisper of that distant thought, in the old unhappy loss or
want of something never to be realized, of which I had been
sensible. But the thought came into my mind as a new re-
proach and new regret, when I was left so sad and lonely in
If at that time I had been much with her, I should, in
the weakness of my desolation, have betrayed this. It was
what I remotely dreaded when I was first impelled to stay
away from England. I could not have borne to lose the
smallest portion of her sisterly affection; yet, in that be-
trayal, I should set a constraint between us hitherto un-
I could not forget that the feeling with which she now re-
garded me had grown up in my own free choice and course.
That if she had ever loved me with another love — and I
sometimes thought the time was when she might have done
so — I had cast it away. It was nothing, now, that I had ac-
customed myself to think of her, when we were both mere
children, as one who was far removed from my wild fancies.
I had bestowed my passionate tenderness upon another ob-
ject; and what I might have done, I had not done; and
what Agnes was to me, I and her own noble heart had made
In the beginning of the change that gradually worked in
me, when I tried to get a better understanding of myself
and be a better man, I did glance, through some indefinite
probation, to a period when I might possibly hope to cancel
the mistaken past, and to be so blessed as to marry her.
But as time wore on, this shadowy prospect faded, and de-
parted from me. If she had ever lo>'ed me, then I should
hold her the more sacred; remembering the confidences I
had reposed in her, her knowledge of my errant heart, the
sacrifice she must have made to be my friend and sister, and
the victory she had won. If she had never loved me, could
I believe that she would love me now?
I had always felt my weakness, in comparison with her
constancy and fortitude; and now I felt it more and more,
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 8ii
Whatever I might have been to her, or she to me, if I had
been more worthy of her long ago, I was not now, and she
was not. The time was past. I had let it go by, and had
deservedly lost her.
That I suffered much in these contentions, that they filled
me with unhappiness and remorse, and that I had a sustain-
ing sense that it was required of me, in right and honor, to
keep away from myself, with shame, the thought of turning
to the dear girl in the withering of my hopes, from whom I
had frivolously turned when they were bright and fresh —
which consideration was at the root of every thought I had
concerning her — is all equally true. I made no effort to
conceal from myself, now, that I loved her, that I was de-
voted to her; but I brought the assurance home to myself,
that it was now too late, and that our long-subsisting rela-
tion must be undisturbed.
I had thought, much and often, of my Dora's shadowing
out to me what might have happened, in those years that
were destined not to try us: I had considered how the things
that never happen, are often as much realities to us, in their
effects, as those that are accomplished. The very years she
spoke of, were realities now, for my correction; and would
have been, one day, a little later perhaps, though we had
parted in our earliest folly. I endeavored to convert what
might have been between myself and Agnes, into a means
of making me more self-denying, more resolved, more con-
scious of myself, and my defects and errors. Thus, through
the reflection that it might have been, I arrived at the con-
viction that it could never be.
These, with their perplexities and inconsistencies, were
the shifting quicksands of my mind, from the time of my
departure to the time of my return home, three years after-
wards. Three years had elapsed since the sailing of the
emigrant ship; when at the same hour of sunset, and in the
same place, I stood on the deck of the -packet vessel that
brought me home, looking on the rosy water where I had
seen the image of that ship reflected.
Three years. Long in the aggregate, though short as they
went by. And home was very dear to me, and Agnes too —
but she was not mine — she was never to be mine. She
might have been, but that was past !
812 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
I LANDED in London on a wintry autumn evening. It
was dark and raining, and I saw more fog and mud in a
minute than I had seen in a year. I walked from the Custom
House to the Monument before I found a coach; and
although the very house-fronts, looking on the swollen gut-
ters, were like old friends to me, I could not but admit that
they were very dingy friends.
I have often remarked — I suppose everybody has — that
one's going away from a familiar place, would seem to be
the signal for change in it. As I looked out of the coach-
window, and observed that an old house on Fish-street Hill,
which had stood untouched by painter, carpenter, or brick-
layer, for a century, had been pulled down in my absence;
and that a neighboring street, of time-honored insalubrity
and inconvenience, was being drained and widened; I half
expected to find St. Paul's Cathedral looking older.
For some changes in the fortunes of my friends, • I was
prepared. My aunt had been re-established at Dover, and
Traddles had begun to get into some little practice at the
Bar, in the very first term after my departure. He had
chambers in Gray's Inn, now; and had told me, in his last
letters, that he was not without hopes of being soon united
to the dearest girl in the world.
They expected me home before Christmas; but had no
idea of my returning so soon. I had purposely misled them,
that I might have the pleasure of taking them by surprise.
And yet I was perverse enough to feel a chill and disap-
pointment in receiving no welcome, and rattling, alone and
silent, through the misty streets.
The well-known shops, however, with their cheerful lights,
did something for me; and when I alighted at the door of
the Gray's Inn Coffee-house, I had recovered my spirits.
It recalled, at first, that so-different time when I had put up
at the Golden Cross, and reminded me of the changes that
had come to pass since then; but that was natural.
" Do you know where Mr. Traddles lives in the Inn ?" I
asked the waiter, as I warmed myself by the coffee-room
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 813
**Holborn Court, sir. Number two."
" Mr. Traddles has |i rising reputation among the lawyers,
I believe ?" said I.
"Well, sir," returned the waiter, *' probably he has, sir;
but I am not aware of it myself."
This waiter, who was middle aged and spare, looked for
help to a waiter of more authority — a stout, potential old
man, with a double chin, in black breeches and stockings,
who came out of a place like a church-warden's pew, at the
end of the coffee-room, where he kept company with a cash
box, a Directory, a Law-list, and other books and papers.
" Mr. Traddles," said the spare waiter. " Number two in
The potential waiter waved him away, and turned gravely
"I was inquiring," said I, "whether Mr. Traddles at
number two in the court, has not a rising reputation among
the lawyers ?"
" Never heard his name," said the water in a rich, husky
I felt quite apologetic for Traddles.
" He's a young man, sure ?" said the portentous waiter,
fixing his eyes severely on me. " How long has he been h
the Inn ?"
" Not above three years," said I.
The waiter, who I supposed had lived in his church-warden's
pew for forty years, could not pursue such an insignificant
subject. He asked me what 1 would have for dinner ?
I felt I was in England again, and really was quite cast
down on Traddles's account. There seemed to be no hope
for him. I meekly ordered a bit of fish and a steak, and
stood before the fire musing on his obscurity.
As I followed the chief waiter with my eyes, I could not
help thinking that the garden in which he had gradually
blown to be the flower he was, was an arduous place to rise
in. It had such a prescriptive, stiff-necked, long-established,
solemn, elderly air. I glanced about the room, which had its
sanded floor sanded, no doubt, in exactly the same manner
when the chief waiter was a boy — if he ever was a boy, which
appeared improbable; and at the shining tables, where I
saw myself reflected in the unruffled depths of old mahogany;
and at the lamps, without a flaw in their trimming or clean-
ing; and at the comfortable green curtains, with their pure
8i4 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
brass rods, snugly enclosing the boxes; and at the two large
coal fires, brightly burning; and at jthe rows of decanters,
burly as with the consciousness of pipes of expensive old
port wine below; and both England and the law appeared
to me to be very difficult indeed to be taken by storm. I
went up to my bed-room to change my wet clothes; and the
vast extent of that old wainscotted apartment (which was
over the archway leading to the Inn, I remember), and the
sedate immensity of the four-post bedstead, and the indom-
itable gravity of the chests of drawers, all seemed to unite in
sternly frowning on the fortunes of Traddles, or on any
such daring youth. I came down again to my dinner; and
even the slow comfort of the meal, and the orderly silence
of the place — which was bare of guests, the Long Vacation
not yet being over — were eloquent on the audacity of Trad-
dles, and his small hopes of a livelihood for twenty years to
I had seen nothing like this since I went away, and it quite
dashed my hopes for my friend. The chief waiter had had
enough of me. He came near me no more; but devoted
himself to an old gentleman in long gaiters, to meet whom a
pint of special port seemed to come out of the cellar of its
own accord, for he gave no order. The second waiter in-
formed me, in a whisper, that this old gentleman was a re-
tired conveyancer living in the Square, and worth a mint
of money, which it was expected he would leave to his laun-
dress's daughter; likewise that it was rumored that he had
a service of plate in a bureau, all tarnished with lying by,
though more than one spoon and fork had never yet been
beheld in his chambers by mortal vision. By this time, I
quite gave Traddles up for lost; and settled in my own
mind that there was no hope for him.
Being very anxious to see the dear old fellow, nevertheless.
I despatched my dinner in a manner not at all calculated to
raise me in the opinion of the chief waiter, and hurried out
by the back way. Number two in the Court was soon reached;
and an inscription on the door-post informing me that Mr.
Traddles occupied a set of chambers on the top story, I
ascended the staircase. A crazy old staircase I found it to be,
feebly lighted on each landing by a club -headed little oil wick,
dying away in a little dungeon of dirty glass.
In the course of my stumbling up-stairs, I fancied I heard
a pleasant sound of laughter: and not the laughter of an at"-
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 815
tomey or barrister, or attorney's clerk or barrister's clerk,
but of two or three merry girls. Happening, however, as I
stopped to listen, to put my foot in a hole where the Honor-
able Society of Gray's Inn had left a plank deficient, I fell
down with some noise, and when I recovered my footing all
Groping my way more carefully for the rest of the journey,
my heart beat high when I found the outer door, which had
Mr. Traddles painted on it, open. I knocked. A consid-
erable scuffling within ensued, but nothing else. I therefore
A small sharp-looking lad, half foot-boy and half clerk,
who was very much out of breath, but who looked at me as
if he defied me to prove it legally, presented himself.
" Is Mr. Traddles within ?" said I.
" Yes, sir, but he's engaged."
" I want to see him."
After a moment's survey of me, the sharp-looking lad de-
cided to let me in; and opening the door wider for that pur-
pose, admitted me, first, into a little closet of a hall, and next
into a little sitting room; where I came into the presence of
my old friend (also out of breath), seated at a table, and
bending over papers.
"Good God !" cried Traddles, looking up. "It's Copper-
field !" and rushed into my arms, where I held him tight.
" All well, my dear Traddles ?"
"All well, my dear, dear Copperfield, and nothing but good
We cried with pleasure, both of us.
"My dear fellow," said Traddles, rumpling his hair in his
excitement, which was a most unnecessary operation, " my
dearest Copperfield, my long-lost and most welcome friend,
how glad I am to see you ! How brown you are ! How glad
I am ! Upon my life and honor, I never was so rejoiced, my
beloved Copperfield, never !"
I was equally at a loss to express my emotions. I was quite
unable to speak, at first.
" My dear fellow !" said Traddles. " And grown so famous!
My glorious Copperfield ! Good gracious me, wken did
you come, where have you come from, what have you been
Never pausing for an answer to anything he said, Trad'
dies, who had clapped me into an easy chair by the fire, all
8i6 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
this time impetuously stirred the fire with one hand, and
pulled at my neckerchief with the other, under some wild
delusion that it was a great-coat. Without putting down the
poker, he now hugged me again; and I hugged him; and,
both laughing, and both wiping our eyes, we both sat down,
and shook hands across the hearth.
" To think," said Traddles, " that you should have been
so nearly coming home as you must have been, my dear old
boy, and not at the ceremony !"
" What ceremony, my dear Traddles ?"
" Good gracious me !" cried Traddles, opening his eyes in
his old way. " Didn't you get my last letter ?"
"Certainly not, if it referred to any ceremony."
" Why, my dear Copperfield," said Traddles, sticking hia
hair upright with both hands, and then putting his hands on
my knees, " I am married !"
" Married !" I cried, joyfully.
" Lord bless me, yes !" said Traddles — " by the Reverend
Horace — to Sophy — down in Devonshire. Why, my dear
boy, she's behind the window curtain ! Look here ! "
To my amazement, the dearest girl in the world came at
that same instant, laughing and blushing, from her place of
concealment. And a more cheerful, amiable, honest, happy,
bright-looking bride, I believe (as I could not help saying
on the spot) the world never saw. I kissed her as an old ac-
quaintance should, and wished them joy with all my might
" Dear me," said Traddles, " what a delightful re-union
this is ! You are so extremely brown, my dear Copperfield !
God bless my soul, how happy I am !"
" And so am I," said L
"And I am sure I am!" said the blushing and laughing
'* We are all as happy as possible!" said Traddles. " Even
the girls are happy. Dear me, I declare I forgot them!"
"Forgot!" said L
" The girls," said Traddles. " Sophy's sisters. They are
staying with us. They have come to have a peep at London.
The fact is, when — was it you that tumbled up-stairs, Cop-
" It was," said I laughing.
" Well then, when you tumbled up-stairs," said Traddles,
** I was romping with the girls. In point of fact, we were
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 817
playing at Puss in the Corner. But as that wouldn't do in
Westminster Hall, and as it wouldn't look quite professional
if they were seen by a client, they decamped. And they are
now — listening, I have no doubt," said Traddles, glancing at
the door of another room.
" I am sorry," said I, laughing afresh, " to have occasioned
such a dispersion."
" Upon my word," rejoined Traddles, greatly delighted,
** if you had seen them running away, and running back
again, after you had knocked, to pick up the combs they had
dropped out of their hair, and going on in the maddest man-
ner, you wouldn't have said so. My love, will you fetch the
Sophy tripped away, and we heard her received in the ad-
joining room with a peal of laughter.
" Really musical, isn't it, my dear Copperfield ?" said
Traddles. *' It's very agreeable to hear. It quite lights up
these old rooms. To an unfortunate bachelor of a fellow
who has lived alone all his Hfe, you know, it's positively
delicious. It's charming. Poor things, they have had
a great loss in Sophy — who, I do assure you, Copperfield,
is, and ever was, the dearest girl! — and it gratifies me
beyond expression to find them in such good spirits. The
society of girls is a very delightful thing, Copperfield. It's
not professional, but it's very delightful."
Observing that he slightly faltered, and comprehending
that in the goodness of his heart he was fearful of giving me
some pain by what he had said I expressed my concurrence
with a heartiness that evidently relieved and pleased him
" But then," said Traddles, " our domestic arrangements
are, to say the truth, quite unprofessional altogether, my
dear Copperfield. Even Sophy's being here is unprofession-