eBooks Cube

For anything I know, I may have had some wild idea of running all
the way to Dover, when I gave up the pursuit of the young man with
the donkey-cart, and started for Greenwich. My scattered senses
were soon collected as to that point, if I had; for I came to a
stop in the Kent Road, at a terrace with a piece of water before
it, and a great foolish image in the middle, blowing a dry shell.
Here I sat down on a doorstep, quite spent and exhausted with the
efforts I had already made, and with hardly breath enough to cry
for the loss of my box and half-guinea.

It was by this time dark; I heard the clocks strike ten, as I sat
resting. But it was a summer night, fortunately, and fine weather.
When I had recovered my breath, and had got rid of a stifling
sensation in my throat, I rose up and went on. In the midst of my
distress, I had no notion of going back. I doubt if I should have
had any, though there had been a Swiss snow-drift in the Kent Road.

But my standing possessed of only three-halfpence in the world (and
I am sure I wonder how they came to be left in my pocket on a
Saturday night!) troubled me none the less because I went on. I
began to picture to myself, as a scrap of newspaper intelligence,
my being found dead in a day or two, under some hedge; and I
trudged on miserably, though as fast as I could, until I happened
to pass a little shop, where it was written up that ladies' and
gentlemen's wardrobes were bought, and that the best price was
given for rags, bones, and kitchen-stuff. The master of this shop
was sitting at the door in his shirt-sleeves, smoking; and as there
were a great many coats and pairs of trousers dangling from the low
ceiling, and only two feeble candles burning inside to show what
they were, I fancied that he looked like a man of a revengeful
disposition, who had hung all his enemies, and was enjoying

My late experiences with Mr. and Mrs. Micawber suggested to me that
here might be a means of keeping off the wolf for a little while.
I went up the next by-street, took off my waistcoat, rolled it
neatly under my arm, and came back to the shop door.

'If you please, sir,' I said, 'I am to sell this for a fair price.'

Mr. Dolloby - Dolloby was the name over the shop door, at least -
took the waistcoat, stood his pipe on its head, against the
door-post, went into the shop, followed by me, snuffed the two
candles with his fingers, spread the waistcoat on the counter, and
looked at it there, held it up against the light, and looked at it
there, and ultimately said:

'What do you call a price, now, for this here little weskit?'

'Oh! you know best, sir,' I returned modestly.

'I can't be buyer and seller too,' said Mr. Dolloby. 'Put a price
on this here little weskit.'

'Would eighteenpence be?'- I hinted, after some hesitation.

Mr. Dolloby rolled it up again, and gave it me back. 'I should rob
my family,' he said, 'if I was to offer ninepence for it.'

This was a disagreeable way of putting the business; because it
imposed upon me, a perfect stranger, the unpleasantness of asking
Mr. Dolloby to rob his family on my account. My circumstances
being so very pressing, however, I said I would take ninepence for
it, if he pleased. Mr. Dolloby, not without some grumbling, gave
ninepence. I wished him good night, and walked out of the shop the
richer by that sum, and the poorer by a waistcoat. But when I
buttoned my jacket, that was not much.
Indeed, I foresaw pretty clearly that my jacket would go next, and
that I should have to make the best of my way to Dover in a shirt
and a pair of trousers, and might deem myself lucky if I got there
even in that trim. But my mind did not run so much on this as
might be supposed. Beyond a general impression of the distance
before me, and of the young man with the donkey-cart having used me
cruelly, I think I had no very urgent sense of my difficulties when
I once again set off with my ninepence in my pocket.

A plan had occurred to me for passing the night, which I was going
to carry into execution. This was, to lie behind the wall at the
back of my old school, in a corner where there used to be a
haystack. I imagined it would be a kind of company to have the
boys, and the bedroom where I used to tell the stories, so near me:
although the boys would know nothing of my being there, and the
bedroom would yield me no shelter.

I had had a hard day's work, and was pretty well jaded when I came
climbing out, at last, upon the level of Blackheath. It cost me
some trouble to find out Salem House; but I found it, and I found
a haystack in the corner, and I lay down by it; having first walked
round the wall, and looked up at the windows, and seen that all was
dark and silent within. Never shall I forget the lonely sensation
of first lying down, without a roof above my head!

Sleep came upon me as it came on many other outcasts, against whom
house-doors were locked, and house-dogs barked, that night - and I
dreamed of lying on my old school-bed, talking to the boys in my
room; and found myself sitting upright, with Steerforth's name upon
my lips, looking wildly at the stars that were glistening and
glimmering above me. When I remembered where I was at that
untimely hour, a feeling stole upon me that made me get up, afraid
of I don't know what, and walk about. But the fainter glimmering
of the stars, and the pale light in the sky where the day was
coming, reassured me: and my eyes being very heavy, I lay down
again and slept - though with a knowledge in my sleep that it was
cold - until the warm beams of the sun, and the ringing of the
getting-up bell at Salem House, awoke me. If I could have hoped
that Steerforth was there, I would have lurked about until he came
out alone; but I knew he must have left long since. Traddles still
remained, perhaps, but it was very doubtful; and I had not
sufficient confidence in his discretion or good luck, however
strong my reliance was on his good nature, to wish to trust him
with my situation. So I crept away from the wall as Mr. Creakle's
boys were getting up, and struck into the long dusty track which I
had first known to be the Dover Road when I was one of them, and
when I little expected that any eyes would ever see me the wayfarer
I was now, upon it.

What a different Sunday morning from the old Sunday morning at
Yarmouth! In due time I heard the church-bells ringing, as I
plodded on; and I met people who were going to church; and I passed
a church or two where the congregation were inside, and the sound
of singing came out into the sunshine, while the beadle sat and
cooled himself in the shade of the porch, or stood beneath the
yew-tree, with his hand to his forehead, glowering at me going by.
But the peace and rest of the old Sunday morning were on
everything, except me. That was the difference. I felt quite
wicked in my dirt and dust, with my tangled hair. But for the
quiet picture I had conjured up, of my mother in her youth and
beauty, weeping by the fire, and my aunt relenting to her, I hardly
think I should have had the courage to go on until next day. But
it always went before me, and I followed.

I got, that Sunday, through three-and-twenty miles on the straight
road, though not very easily, for I was new to that kind of toil.
I see myself, as evening closes in, coming over the bridge at
Rochester, footsore and tired, and eating bread that I had bought
for supper. One or two little houses, with the notice, 'Lodgings
for Travellers', hanging out, had tempted me; but I was afraid of
spending the few pence I had, and was even more afraid of the
vicious looks of the trampers I had met or overtaken. I sought no
shelter, therefore, but the sky; and toiling into Chatham, - which,
in that night's aspect, is a mere dream of chalk, and drawbridges,
and mastless ships in a muddy river, roofed like Noah's arks, -
crept, at last, upon a sort of grass-grown battery overhanging a
lane, where a sentry was walking to and fro. Here I lay down, near
a cannon; and, happy in the society of the sentry's footsteps,
though he knew no more of my being above him than the boys at Salem
House had known of my lying by the wall, slept soundly until

Very stiff and sore of foot I was in the morning, and quite dazed
by the beating of drums and marching of troops, which seemed to hem
me in on every side when I went down towards the long narrow
street. Feeling that I could go but a very little way that day, if
I were to reserve any strength for getting to my journey's end, I
resolved to make the sale of my jacket its principal business.
Accordingly, I took the jacket off, that I might learn to do
without it; and carrying it under my arm, began a tour of
inspection of the various slop-shops.

It was a likely place to sell a jacket in; for the dealers in
second-hand clothes were numerous, and were, generally speaking, on
the look-out for customers at their shop doors. But as most of
them had, hanging up among their stock, an officer's coat or two,
epaulettes and all, I was rendered timid by the costly nature of
their dealings, and walked about for a long time without offering
my merchandise to anyone.

This modesty of mine directed my attention to the marine-store
shops, and such shops as Mr. Dolloby's, in preference to the
regular dealers. At last I found one that I thought looked
promising, at the corner of a dirty lane, ending in an enclosure
full of stinging-nettles, against the palings of which some
second-hand sailors' clothes, that seemed to have overflowed the
shop, were fluttering among some cots, and rusty guns, and oilskin
hats, and certain trays full of so many old rusty keys of so many
sizes that they seemed various enough to open all the doors in the

Into this shop, which was low and small, and which was darkened
rather than lighted by a little window, overhung with clothes, and
was descended into by some steps, I went with a palpitating heart;
which was not relieved when an ugly old man, with the lower part of
his face all covered with a stubbly grey beard, rushed out of a
dirty den behind it, and seized me by the hair of my head. He was
a dreadful old man to look at, in a filthy flannel waistcoat, and
smelling terribly of rum. His bedstead, covered with a tumbled and
ragged piece of patchwork, was in the den he had come from, where
another little window showed a prospect of more stinging-nettles,
and a lame donkey.

'Oh, what do you want?' grinned this old man, in a fierce,
monotonous whine. 'Oh, my eyes and limbs, what do you want? Oh,
my lungs and liver, what do you want? Oh, goroo, goroo!'

I was so much dismayed by these words, and particularly by the
repetition of the last unknown one, which was a kind of rattle in
his throat, that I could make no answer; hereupon the old man,
still holding me by the hair, repeated:

'Oh, what do you want? Oh, my eyes and limbs, what do you want?
Oh, my lungs and liver, what do you want? Oh, goroo!' - which he
screwed out of himself, with an energy that made his eyes start in
his head.

'I wanted to know,' I said, trembling, 'if you would buy a jacket.'

'Oh, let's see the jacket!' cried the old man. 'Oh, my heart on
fire, show the jacket to us! Oh, my eyes and limbs, bring the
jacket out!'

With that he took his trembling hands, which were like the claws of
a great bird, out of my hair; and put on a pair of spectacles, not
at all ornamental to his inflamed eyes.

'Oh, how much for the jacket?' cried the old man, after examining
it. 'Oh - goroo! - how much for the jacket?'

'Half-a-crown,' I answered, recovering myself.

'Oh, my lungs and liver,' cried the old man, 'no! Oh, my eyes, no!
Oh, my limbs, no! Eighteenpence. Goroo!'

Every time he uttered this ejaculation, his eyes seemed to be in
danger of starting out; and every sentence he spoke, he delivered
in a sort of tune, always exactly the same, and more like a gust of
wind, which begins low, mounts up high, and falls again, than any
other comparison I can find for it.

'Well,' said I, glad to have closed the bargain, 'I'll take

'Oh, my liver!' cried the old man, throwing the jacket on a shelf.
'Get out of the shop! Oh, my lungs, get out of the shop! Oh, my
eyes and limbs - goroo! - don't ask for money; make it an
exchange.' I never was so frightened in my life, before or since;
but I told him humbly that I wanted money, and that nothing else
was of any use to me, but that I would wait for it, as he desired,
outside, and had no wish to hurry him. So I went outside, and sat
down in the shade in a corner. And I sat there so many hours, that
the shade became sunlight, and the sunlight became shade again, and
still I sat there waiting for the money.

There never was such another drunken madman in that line of
business, I hope. That he was well known in the neighbourhood, and
enjoyed the reputation of having sold himself to the devil, I soon
understood from the visits he received from the boys, who
continually came skirmishing about the shop, shouting that legend,
and calling to him to bring out his gold. 'You ain't poor, you
know, Charley, as you pretend. Bring out your gold. Bring out
some of the gold you sold yourself to the devil for. Come! It's
in the lining of the mattress, Charley. Rip it open and let's have
some!' This, and many offers to lend him a knife for the purpose,
exasperated him to such a degree, that the whole day was a
succession of rushes on his part, and flights on the part of the
boys. Sometimes in his rage he would take me for one of them, and
come at me, mouthing as if he were going to tear me in pieces;
then, remembering me, just in time, would dive into the shop, and
lie upon his bed, as I thought from the sound of his voice, yelling
in a frantic way, to his own windy tune, the 'Death of Nelson';
with an Oh! before every line, and innumerable Goroos interspersed.
As if this were not bad enough for me, the boys, connecting me with
the establishment, on account of the patience and perseverance with
which I sat outside, half-dressed, pelted me, and used me very ill
all day.

He made many attempts to induce me to consent to an exchange; at
one time coming out with a fishing-rod, at another with a fiddle,
at another with a cocked hat, at another with a flute. But I
resisted all these overtures, and sat there in desperation; each
time asking him, with tears in my eyes, for my money or my jacket.
At last he began to pay me in halfpence at a time; and was full two
hours getting by easy stages to a shilling.

'Oh, my eyes and limbs!' he then cried, peeping hideously out of
the shop, after a long pause, 'will you go for twopence more?'

'I can't,' I said; 'I shall be starved.'

'Oh, my lungs and liver, will you go for threepence?'

'I would go for nothing, if I could,' I said, 'but I want the money

'Oh, go-roo!' (it is really impossible to express how he twisted
this ejaculation out of himself, as he peeped round the door-post
at me, showing nothing but his crafty old head); 'will you go for

I was so faint and weary that I closed with this offer; and taking
the money out of his claw, not without trembling, went away more
hungry and thirsty than I had ever been, a little before sunset.
But at an expense of threepence I soon refreshed myself completely;
and, being in better spirits then, limped seven miles upon my road.

My bed at night was under another haystack, where I rested
comfortably, after having washed my blistered feet in a stream, and
dressed them as well as I was able, with some cool leaves. When I
took the road again next morning, I found that it lay through a
succession of hop-grounds and orchards. It was sufficiently late
in the year for the orchards to be ruddy with ripe apples; and in
a few places the hop-pickers were already at work. I thought it
all extremely beautiful, and made up my mind to sleep among the
hops that night: imagining some cheerful companionship in the long
perspectives of poles, with the graceful leaves twining round them.

The trampers were worse than ever that day, and inspired me with a
dread that is yet quite fresh in my mind. Some of them were most
ferocious-looking ruffians, who stared at me as I went by; and
stopped, perhaps, and called after me to come back and speak to
them, and when I took to my heels, stoned me. I recollect one
young fellow - a tinker, I suppose, from his wallet and brazier -
who had a woman with him, and who faced about and stared at me
thus; and then roared to me in such a tremendous voice to come
back, that I halted and looked round.

'Come here, when you're called,' said the tinker, 'or I'll rip your
young body open.'

I thought it best to go back. As I drew nearer to them, trying to
propitiate the tinker by my looks, I observed that the woman had a
black eye.

'Where are you going?' said the tinker, gripping the bosom of my
shirt with his blackened hand.

'I am going to Dover,' I said.

'Where do you come from?' asked the tinker, giving his hand another
turn in my shirt, to hold me more securely.

'I come from London,' I said.

'What lay are you upon?' asked the tinker. 'Are you a prig?'

'N-no,' I said.

'Ain't you, by G--? If you make a brag of your honesty to me,'
said the tinker, 'I'll knock your brains out.'

With his disengaged hand he made a menace of striking me, and then
looked at me from head to foot.

'Have you got the price of a pint of beer about you?' said the
tinker. 'If you have, out with it, afore I take it away!'

I should certainly have produced it, but that I met the woman's
look, and saw her very slightly shake her head, and form 'No!' with
her lips.

'I am very poor,' I said, attempting to smile, 'and have got no

'Why, what do you mean?' said the tinker, looking so sternly at me,
that I almost feared he saw the money in my pocket.

'Sir!' I stammered.

'What do you mean,' said the tinker, 'by wearing my brother's silk
handkerchief! Give it over here!' And he had mine off my neck in
a moment, and tossed it to the woman.

The woman burst into a fit of laughter, as if she thought this a
joke, and tossed it back to me, nodded once, as slightly as before,
and made the word 'Go!' with her lips. Before I could obey,
however, the tinker seized the handkerchief out of my hand with a
roughness that threw me away like a feather, and putting it loosely
round his own neck, turned upon the woman with an oath, and knocked
her down. I never shall forget seeing her fall backward on the
hard road, and lie there with her bonnet tumbled off, and her hair
all whitened in the dust; nor, when I looked back from a distance,
seeing her sitting on the pathway, which was a bank by the
roadside, wiping the blood from her face with a corner of her
shawl, while he went on ahead.

This adventure frightened me so, that, afterwards, when I saw any
of these people coming, I turned back until I could find a
hiding-place, where I remained until they had gone out of sight;
which happened so often, that I was very seriously delayed. But
under this difficulty, as under all the other difficulties of my
journey, I seemed to be sustained and led on by my fanciful picture
of my mother in her youth, before I came into the world. It always
kept me company. It was there, among the hops, when I lay down to
sleep; it was with me on my waking in the morning; it went before
me all day. I have associated it, ever since, with the sunny
street of Canterbury, dozing as it were in the hot light; and with
the sight of its old houses and gateways, and the stately, grey
Cathedral, with the rooks sailing round the towers. When I came,
at last, upon the bare, wide downs near Dover, it relieved the
solitary aspect of the scene with hope; and not until I reached
that first great aim of my journey, and actually set foot in the
town itself, on the sixth day of my flight, did it desert me. But
then, strange to say, when I stood with my ragged shoes, and my
dusty, sunburnt, half-clothed figure, in the place so long desired,
it seemed to vanish like a dream, and to leave me helpless and

I inquired about my aunt among the boatmen first, and received
various answers. One said she lived in the South Foreland Light,
and had singed her whiskers by doing so; another, that she was made
fast to the great buoy outside the harbour, and could only be
visited at half-tide; a third, that she was locked up in Maidstone
jail for child-stealing; a fourth, that she was seen to mount a
broom in the last high wind, and make direct for Calais. The
fly-drivers, among whom I inquired next, were equally jocose and
equally disrespectful; and the shopkeepers, not liking my
appearance, generally replied, without hearing what I had to say,
that they had got nothing for me. I felt more miserable and
destitute than I had done at any period of my running away. My
money was all gone, I had nothing left to dispose of; I was hungry,
thirsty, and worn out; and seemed as distant from my end as if I
had remained in London.

The morning had worn away in these inquiries, and I was sitting on
the step of an empty shop at a street corner, near the
market-place, deliberating upon wandering towards those other
places which had been mentioned, when a fly-driver, coming by with
his carriage, dropped a horsecloth. Something good-natured in the
man's face, as I handed it up, encouraged me to ask him if he could
tell me where Miss Trotwood lived; though I had asked the question
so often, that it almost died upon my lips.

'Trotwood,' said he. 'Let me see. I know the name, too. Old

'Yes,' I said, 'rather.'

'Pretty stiff in the back?' said he, making himself upright.

'Yes,' I said. 'I should think it very likely.'

'Carries a bag?' said he - 'bag with a good deal of room in it - is
gruffish, and comes down upon you, sharp?'

My heart sank within me as I acknowledged the undoubted accuracy of
this description.

'Why then, I tell you what,' said he. 'If you go up there,'
pointing with his whip towards the heights, 'and keep right on till
you come to some houses facing the sea, I think you'll hear of her.
My opinion is she won't stand anything, so here's a penny for you.'

I accepted the gift thankfully, and bought a loaf with it.
Dispatching this refreshment by the way, I went in the direction my
friend had indicated, and walked on a good distance without coming
to the houses he had mentioned. At length I saw some before me;
and approaching them, went into a little shop (it was what we used
to call a general shop, at home), and inquired if they could have
the goodness to tell me where Miss Trotwood lived. I addressed
myself to a man behind the counter, who was weighing some rice for
a young woman; but the latter, taking the inquiry to herself,
turned round quickly.

'My mistress?' she said. 'What do you want with her, boy?'

'I want,' I replied, 'to speak to her, if you please.'

'To beg of her, you mean,' retorted the damsel.

'No,' I said, 'indeed.' But suddenly remembering that in truth I
came for no other purpose, I held my peace in confusion, and felt
my face burn.

MY aunt's handmaid, as I supposed she was from what she had said,
put her rice in a little basket and walked out of the shop; telling
me that I could follow her, if I wanted to know where Miss Trotwood
lived. I needed no second permission; though I was by this time in
such a state of consternation and agitation, that my legs shook
under me. I followed the young woman, and we soon came to a very
neat little cottage with cheerful bow-windows: in front of it, a
small square gravelled court or garden full of flowers, carefully
tended, and smelling deliciously.

'This is Miss Trotwood's,' said the young woman. 'Now you know;
and that's all I have got to say.' With which words she hurried
into the house, as if to shake off the responsibility of my
appearance; and left me standing at the garden-gate, looking
disconsolately over the top of it towards the parlour window, where
a muslin curtain partly undrawn in the middle, a large round green
screen or fan fastened on to the windowsill, a small table, and a
great chair, suggested to me that my aunt might be at that moment
seated in awful state.

My shoes were by this time in a woeful condition. The soles had
shed themselves bit by bit, and the upper leathers had broken and
burst until the very shape and form of shoes had departed from
them. My hat (which had served me for a night-cap, too) was so
crushed and bent, that no old battered handleless saucepan on a
dunghill need have been ashamed to vie with it. My shirt and
trousers, stained with heat, dew, grass, and the Kentish soil on
which I had slept - and torn besides - might have frightened the
birds from my aunt's garden, as I stood at the gate. My hair had
known no comb or brush since I left London. My face, neck, and
hands, from unaccustomed exposure to the air and sun, were burnt to
a berry-brown. From head to foot I was powdered almost as white
with chalk and dust, as if I had come out of a lime-kiln. In this
plight, and with a strong consciousness of it, I waited to
introduce myself to, and make my first impression on, my formidable

The unbroken stillness of the parlour window leading me to infer,
after a while, that she was not there, I lifted up my eyes to the
window above it, where I saw a florid, pleasant-looking gentleman,
with a grey head, who shut up one eye in a grotesque manner, nodded
his head at me several times, shook it at me as often, laughed, and
went away.

I had been discomposed enough before; but I was so much the more
discomposed by this unexpected behaviour, that I was on the point
of slinking off, to think how I had best proceed, when there came
out of the house a lady with her handkerchief tied over her cap,
and a pair of gardening gloves on her hands, wearing a gardening
pocket like a toll-man's apron, and carrying a great knife. I knew
her immediately to be Miss Betsey, for she came stalking out of the
house exactly as my poor mother had so often described her stalking
up our garden at Blunderstone Rookery.

'Go away!' said Miss Betsey, shaking her head, and making a distant
chop in the air with her knife. 'Go along! No boys here!'

I watched her, with my heart at my lips, as she marched to a corner
of her garden, and stooped to dig up some little root there. Then,
without a scrap of courage, but with a great deal of desperation,
I went softly in and stood beside her, touching her with my finger.

'If you please, ma'am,' I began.

She started and looked up.

'If you please, aunt.'

'EH?' exclaimed Miss Betsey, in a tone of amazement I have never
heard approached.

'If you please, aunt, I am your nephew.'

'Oh, Lord!' said my aunt. And sat flat down in the garden-path.

'I am David Copperfield, of Blunderstone, in Suffolk - where you
came, on the night when I was born, and saw my dear mama. I have
been very unhappy since she died. I have been slighted, and taught
nothing, and thrown upon myself, and put to work not fit for me.
It made me run away to you. I was robbed at first setting out, and
have walked all the way, and have never slept in a bed since I
began the journey.' Here my self-support gave way all at once; and
with a movement of my hands, intended to show her my ragged state,
and call it to witness that I had suffered something, I broke into
a passion of crying, which I suppose had been pent up within me all
the week.

My aunt, with every sort of expression but wonder discharged from
her countenance, sat on the gravel, staring at me, until I began to
cry; when she got up in a great hurry, collared me, and took me
into the parlour. Her first proceeding there was to unlock a tall
press, bring out several bottles, and pour some of the contents of
each into my mouth. I think they must have been taken out at
random, for I am sure I tasted aniseed water, anchovy sauce, and
salad dressing. When she had administered these restoratives, as
I was still quite hysterical, and unable to control my sobs, she
put me on the sofa, with a shawl under my head, and the
handkerchief from her own head under my feet, lest I should sully
the cover; and then, sitting herself down behind the green fan or
screen I have already mentioned, so that I could not see her face,
ejaculated at intervals, 'Mercy on us!' letting those exclamations
off like minute guns.

After a time she rang the bell. 'Janet,' said my aunt, when her
servant came in. 'Go upstairs, give my compliments to Mr. Dick,
and say I wish to speak to him.'

Janet looked a little surprised to see me lying stiffly on the sofa
(I was afraid to move lest it should be displeasing to my aunt),
but went on her errand. My aunt, with her hands behind her, walked
up and down the room, until the gentleman who had squinted at me
from the upper window came in laughing.

'Mr. Dick,' said my aunt, 'don't be a fool, because nobody can be
more discreet than you can, when you choose. We all know that. So
don't be a fool, whatever you are.'

The gentleman was serious immediately, and looked at me, I thought,
as if he would entreat me to say nothing about the window.

'Mr. Dick,' said my aunt, 'you have heard me mention David
Copperfield? Now don't pretend not to have a memory, because you
and I know better.'

'David Copperfield?' said Mr. Dick, who did not appear to me to
remember much about it. 'David Copperfield? Oh yes, to be sure.
David, certainly.'

'Well,' said my aunt, 'this is his boy - his son. He would be as
like his father as it's possible to be, if he was not so like his
mother, too.'

'His son?' said Mr. Dick. 'David's son? Indeed!'

'Yes,' pursued my aunt, 'and he has done a pretty piece of
business. He has run away. Ah! His sister, Betsey Trotwood,
never would have run away.' My aunt shook her head firmly,
confident in the character and behaviour of the girl who never was

'Oh! you think she wouldn't have run away?' said Mr. Dick.

'Bless and save the man,' exclaimed my aunt, sharply, 'how he
talks! Don't I know she wouldn't? She would have lived with her
god-mother, and we should have been devoted to one another. Where,
in the name of wonder, should his sister, Betsey Trotwood, have run
from, or to?'

'Nowhere,' said Mr. Dick.

'Well then,' returned my aunt, softened by the reply, 'how can you
pretend to be wool-gathering, Dick, when you are as sharp as a
surgeon's lancet? Now, here you see young David Copperfield, and
the question I put to you is, what shall I do with him?'

'What shall you do with him?' said Mr. Dick, feebly, scratching his
head. 'Oh! do with him?'

'Yes,' said my aunt, with a grave look, and her forefinger held up.
'Come! I want some very sound advice.'

'Why, if I was you,' said Mr. Dick, considering, and looking
vacantly at me, 'I should -' The contemplation of me seemed to
inspire him with a sudden idea, and he added, briskly, 'I should
wash him!'

'Janet,' said my aunt, turning round with a quiet triumph, which I
did not then understand, 'Mr. Dick sets us all right. Heat the

Although I was deeply interested in this dialogue, I could not help
observing my aunt, Mr. Dick, and Janet, while it was in progress,
and completing a survey I had already been engaged in making of the

MY aunt was a tall, hard-featured lady, but by no means
ill-looking. There was an inflexibility in her face, in her voice,
in her gait and carriage, amply sufficient to account for the
effect she had made upon a gentle creature like my mother; but her
features were rather handsome than otherwise, though unbending and
austere. I particularly noticed that she had a very quick, bright
eye. Her hair, which was grey, was arranged in two plain
divisions, under what I believe would be called a mob-cap; I mean
a cap, much more common then than now, with side-pieces fastening
under the chin. Her dress was of a lavender colour, and perfectly
neat; but scantily made, as if she desired to be as little
encumbered as possible. I remember that I thought it, in form,
more like a riding-habit with the superfluous skirt cut off, than
anything else. She wore at her side a gentleman's gold watch, if
I might judge from its size and make, with an appropriate chain and
seals; she had some linen at her throat not unlike a shirt-collar,
and things at her wrists like little shirt-wristbands.

Mr. Dick, as I have already said, was grey-headed, and florid: I
should have said all about him, in saying so, had not his head been
curiously bowed - not by age; it reminded me of one of Mr.
Creakle's boys' heads after a beating - and his grey eyes prominent
and large, with a strange kind of watery brightness in them that
made me, in combination with his vacant manner, his submission to
my aunt, and his childish delight when she praised him, suspect him
of being a little mad; though, if he were mad, how he came to be
there puzzled me extremely. He was dressed like any other ordinary
gentleman, in a loose grey morning coat and waistcoat, and white
trousers; and had his watch in his fob, and his money in his
pockets: which he rattled as if he were very proud of it.

Janet was a pretty blooming girl, of about nineteen or twenty, and
a perfect picture of neatness. Though I made no further
observation of her at the moment, I may mention here what I did not
discover until afterwards, namely, that she was one of a series of
protegees whom my aunt had taken into her service expressly to
educate in a renouncement of mankind, and who had generally
completed their abjuration by marrying the baker.

The room was as neat as Janet or my aunt. As I laid down my pen,
a moment since, to think of it, the air from the sea came blowing
in again, mixed with the perfume of the flowers; and I saw the
old-fashioned furniture brightly rubbed and polished, my aunt's
inviolable chair and table by the round green fan in the
bow-window, the drugget-covered carpet, the cat, the kettle-holder,
the two canaries, the old china, the punchbowl full of dried
rose-leaves, the tall press guarding all sorts of bottles and pots,
and, wonderfully out of keeping with the rest, my dusty self upon
the sofa, taking note of everything.

Janet had gone away to get the bath ready, when my aunt, to my
great alarm, became in one moment rigid with indignation, and had
hardly voice to cry out, 'Janet! Donkeys!'

Upon which, Janet came running up the stairs as if the house were
in flames, darted out on a little piece of green in front, and
warned off two saddle-donkeys, lady-ridden, that had presumed to
set hoof upon it; while my aunt, rushing out of the house, seized
the bridle of a third animal laden with a bestriding child, turned
him, led him forth from those sacred precincts, and boxed the ears
of the unlucky urchin in attendance who had dared to profane that
hallowed ground.

To this hour I don't know whether my aunt had any lawful right of
way over that patch of green; but she had settled it in her own
mind that she had, and it was all the same to her. The one great
outrage of her life, demanding to be constantly avenged, was the
passage of a donkey over that immaculate spot. In whatever
occupation she was engaged, however interesting to her the
conversation in which she was taking part, a donkey turned the
current of her ideas in a moment, and she was upon him straight.
Jugs of water, and watering-pots, were kept in secret places ready
to be discharged on the offending boys; sticks were laid in ambush
behind the door; sallies were made at all hours; and incessant war
prevailed. Perhaps this was an agreeable excitement to the
donkey-boys; or perhaps the more sagacious of the donkeys,
understanding how the case stood, delighted with constitutional
obstinacy in coming that way. I only know that there were three
alarms before the bath was ready; and that on the occasion of the
last and most desperate of all, I saw my aunt engage,
single-handed, with a sandy-headed lad of fifteen, and bump his
sandy head against her own gate, before he seemed to comprehend
what was the matter. These interruptions were of the more
ridiculous to me, because she was giving me broth out of a
table-spoon at the time (having firmly persuaded herself that I was
actually starving, and must receive nourishment at first in very
small quantities), and, while my mouth was yet open to receive the
spoon, she would put it back into the basin, cry 'Janet! Donkeys!'
and go out to the assault.

The bath was a great comfort. For I began to be sensible of acute
pains in my limbs from lying out in the fields, and was now so
tired and low that I could hardly keep myself awake for five
minutes together. When I had bathed, they (I mean my aunt and
Janet) enrobed me in a shirt and a pair of trousers belonging to
Mr. Dick, and tied me up in two or three great shawls. What sort
of bundle I looked like, I don't know, but I felt a very hot one.
Feeling also very faint and drowsy, I soon lay down on the sofa
again and fell asleep.

It might have been a dream, originating in the fancy which had
occupied my mind so long, but I awoke with the impression that my
aunt had come and bent over me, and had put my hair away from my
face, and laid my head more comfortably, and had then stood looking
at me. The words, 'Pretty fellow,' or 'Poor fellow,' seemed to be
in my ears, too; but certainly there was nothing else, when I
awoke, to lead me to believe that they had been uttered by my aunt,
who sat in the bow-window gazing at the sea from behind the green
fan, which was mounted on a kind of swivel, and turned any way.

We dined soon after I awoke, off a roast fowl and a pudding; I
sitting at table, not unlike a trussed bird myself, and moving my
arms with considerable difficulty. But as my aunt had swathed me
up, I made no complaint of being inconvenienced. All this time I
was deeply anxious to know what she was going to do with me; but
she took her dinner in profound silence, except when she
occasionally fixed her eyes on me sitting opposite, and said,
'Mercy upon us!' which did not by any means relieve my anxiety.

The cloth being drawn, and some sherry put upon the table (of which
I had a glass), my aunt sent up for Mr. Dick again, who joined us,
and looked as wise as he could when she requested him to attend to
my story, which she elicited from me, gradually, by a course of
questions. During my recital, she kept her eyes on Mr. Dick, who
I thought would have gone to sleep but for that, and who,
whensoever he lapsed into a smile, was checked by a frown from my

'Whatever possessed that poor unfortunate Baby, that she must go
and be married again,' said my aunt, when I had finished, 'I can't

'Perhaps she fell in love with her second husband,' Mr. Dick

'Fell in love!' repeated my aunt. 'What do you mean? What
business had she to do it?'

'Perhaps,' Mr. Dick simpered, after thinking a little, 'she did it
for pleasure.'

'Pleasure, indeed!' replied my aunt. 'A mighty pleasure for the
poor Baby to fix her simple faith upon any dog of a fellow, certain
to ill-use her in some way or other. What did she propose to
herself, I should like to know! She had had one husband. She had
seen David Copperfield out of the world, who was always running
after wax dolls from his cradle. She had got a baby - oh, there
were a pair of babies when she gave birth to this child sitting
here, that Friday night! - and what more did she want?'

Mr. Dick secretly shook his head at me, as if he thought there was
no getting over this.

'She couldn't even have a baby like anybody else,' said my aunt.
'Where was this child's sister, Betsey Trotwood? Not forthcoming.
Don't tell me!'

Mr. Dick seemed quite frightened.

'That little man of a doctor, with his head on one side,' said my
aunt, 'Jellips, or whatever his name was, what was he about? All
he could do, was to say to me, like a robin redbreast - as he is -
"It's a boy." A boy! Yah, the imbecility of the whole set of

The heartiness of the ejaculation startled Mr. Dick exceedingly;
and me, too, if I am to tell the truth.

'And then, as if this was not enough, and she had not stood
sufficiently in the light of this child's sister, Betsey Trotwood,'
said my aunt, 'she marries a second time - goes and marries a
Murderer - or a man with a name like it - and stands in THIS
child's light! And the natural consequence is, as anybody but a
baby might have foreseen, that he prowls and wanders. He's as like
Cain before he was grown up, as he can be.'

Mr. Dick looked hard at me, as if to identify me in this character.

'And then there's that woman with the Pagan name,' said my aunt,
'that Peggotty, she goes and gets married next. Because she has
not seen enough of the evil attending such things, she goes and
gets married next, as the child relates. I only hope,' said my
aunt, shaking her head, 'that her husband is one of those Poker
husbands who abound in the newspapers, and will beat her well with

I could not bear to hear my old nurse so decried, and made the
subject of such a wish. I told my aunt that indeed she was
mistaken. That Peggotty was the best, the truest, the most
faithful, most devoted, and most self-denying friend and servant in
the world; who had ever loved me dearly, who had ever loved my
mother dearly; who had held my mother's dying head upon her arm, on
whose face my mother had imprinted her last grateful kiss. And my
remembrance of them both, choking me, I broke down as I was trying
to say that her home was my home, and that all she had was mine,
and that I would have gone to her for shelter, but for her humble
station, which made me fear that I might bring some trouble on her
- I broke down, I say, as I was trying to say so, and laid my face
in my hands upon the table.

'Well, well!' said my aunt, 'the child is right to stand by those
who have stood by him - Janet! Donkeys!'

I thoroughly believe that but for those unfortunate donkeys, we
should have come to a good understanding; for my aunt had laid her
hand on my shoulder, and the impulse was upon me, thus emboldened,
to embrace her and beseech her protection. But the interruption,
and the disorder she was thrown into by the struggle outside, put
an end to all softer ideas for the present, and kept my aunt
indignantly declaiming to Mr. Dick about her determination to
appeal for redress to the laws of her country, and to bring actions
for trespass against the whole donkey proprietorship of Dover,
until tea-time.

After tea, we sat at the window - on the look-out, as I imagined,
from my aunt's sharp expression of face, for more invaders - until
dusk, when Janet set candles, and a backgammon-board, on the table,
and pulled down the blinds.

'Now, Mr. Dick,' said my aunt, with her grave look, and her
forefinger up as before, 'I am going to ask you another question.
Look at this child.'

'David's son?' said Mr. Dick, with an attentive, puzzled face.

'Exactly so,' returned my aunt. 'What would you do with him, now?'

'Do with David's son?' said Mr. Dick.

'Ay,' replied my aunt, 'with David's son.'

'Oh!' said Mr. Dick. 'Yes. Do with - I should put him to bed.'

'Janet!' cried my aunt, with the same complacent triumph that I had
remarked before. 'Mr. Dick sets us all right. If the bed is
ready, we'll take him up to it.'

Janet reporting it to be quite ready, I was taken up to it; kindly,
but in some sort like a prisoner; my aunt going in front and Janet
bringing up the rear. The only circumstance which gave me any new
hope, was my aunt's stopping on the stairs to inquire about a smell
of fire that was prevalent there; and janet's replying that she had
been making tinder down in the kitchen, of my old shirt. But there
were no other clothes in my room than the odd heap of things I
wore; and when I was left there, with a little taper which my aunt
forewarned me would burn exactly five minutes, I heard them lock my
door on the outside. Turning these things over in my mind I deemed
it possible that my aunt, who could know nothing of me, might
suspect I had a habit of running away, and took precautions, on
that account, to have me in safe keeping.

The room was a pleasant one, at the top of the house, overlooking
the sea, on which the moon was shining brilliantly. After I had
said my prayers, and the candle had burnt out, I remember how I
still sat looking at the moonlight on the water, as if I could hope
to read my fortune in it, as in a bright book; or to see my mother
with her child, coming from Heaven, along that shining path, to
look upon me as she had looked when I last saw her sweet face. I
remember how the solemn feeling with which at length I turned my
eyes away, yielded to the sensation of gratitude and rest which the
sight of the white-curtained bed - and how much more the lying
softly down upon it, nestling in the snow-white sheets! - inspired.
I remember how I thought of all the solitary places under the night
sky where I had slept, and how I prayed that I never might be
houseless any more, and never might forget the houseless. I
remember how I seemed to float, then, down the melancholy glory of
that track upon the sea, away into the world of dreams.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
General Fiction

England - Social life and customs - 19th century
Nabou.com: the big site