eBooks Cube
 
CHAPTER 26
I FALL INTO CAPTIVITY


I saw no more of Uriah Heep, until the day when Agnes left town.
I was at the coach office to take leave of her and see her go; and
there was he, returning to Canterbury by the same conveyance. It
was some small satisfaction to me to observe his spare,
short-waisted, high-shouldered, mulberry-coloured great-coat
perched up, in company with an umbrella like a small tent, on the
edge of the back seat on the roof, while Agnes was, of course,
inside; but what I underwent in my efforts to be friendly with him,
while Agnes looked on, perhaps deserved that little recompense. At
the coach window, as at the dinner-party, he hovered about us
without a moment's intermission, like a great vulture: gorging
himself on every syllable that I said to Agnes, or Agnes said to
me.

In the state of trouble into which his disclosure by my fire had
thrown me, I had thought very much of the words Agnes had used in
reference to the partnership. 'I did what I hope was right.
Feeling sure that it was necessary for papa's peace that the
sacrifice should be made, I entreated him to make it.' A miserable
foreboding that she would yield to, and sustain herself by, the
same feeling in reference to any sacrifice for his sake, had
oppressed me ever since. I knew how she loved him. I knew what
the devotion of her nature was. I knew from her own lips that she
regarded herself as the innocent cause of his errors, and as owing
him a great debt she ardently desired to pay. I had no consolation
in seeing how different she was from this detestable Rufus with the
mulberry-coloured great-coat, for I felt that in the very
difference between them, in the self-denial of her pure soul and
the sordid baseness of his, the greatest danger lay. All this,
doubtless, he knew thoroughly, and had, in his cunning, considered
well.

Yet I was so certain that the prospect of such a sacrifice afar
off, must destroy the happiness of Agnes; and I was so sure, from
her manner, of its being unseen by her then, and having cast no
shadow on her yet; that I could as soon have injured her, as given
her any warning of what impended. Thus it was that we parted
without explanation: she waving her hand and smiling farewell from
the coach window; her evil genius writhing on the roof, as if he
had her in his clutches and triumphed.

I could not get over this farewell glimpse of them for a long time.
When Agnes wrote to tell me of her safe arrival, I was as miserable
as when I saw her going away. Whenever I fell into a thoughtful
state, this subject was sure to present itself, and all my
uneasiness was sure to be redoubled. Hardly a night passed without
my dreaming of it. It became a part of my life, and as inseparable
from my life as my own head.

I had ample leisure to refine upon my uneasiness: for Steerforth
was at Oxford, as he wrote to me, and when I was not at the
Commons, I was very much alone. I believe I had at this time some
lurking distrust of Steerforth. I wrote to him most affectionately
in reply to his, but I think I was glad, upon the whole, that he
could not come to London just then. I suspect the truth to be,
that the influence of Agnes was upon me, undisturbed by the sight
of him; and that it was the more powerful with me, because she had
so large a share in my thoughts and interest.

In the meantime, days and weeks slipped away. I was articled to
Spenlow and Jorkins. I had ninety pounds a year (exclusive of my
house-rent and sundry collateral matters) from my aunt. My rooms
were engaged for twelve months certain: and though I still found
them dreary of an evening, and the evenings long, I could settle
down into a state of equable low spirits, and resign myself to
coffee; which I seem, on looking back, to have taken by the gallon
at about this period of my existence. At about this time, too, I
made three discoveries: first, that Mrs. Crupp was a martyr to a
curious disorder called 'the spazzums', which was generally
accompanied with inflammation of the nose, and required to be
constantly treated with peppermint; secondly, that something
peculiar in the temperature of my pantry, made the brandy-bottles
burst; thirdly, that I was alone in the world, and much given to
record that circumstance in fragments of English versification.

On the day when I was articled, no festivity took place, beyond my
having sandwiches and sherry into the office for the clerks, and
going alone to the theatre at night. I went to see The Stranger,
as a Doctors' Commons sort of play, and was so dreadfully cut up,
that I hardly knew myself in my own glass when I got home. Mr.
Spenlow remarked, on this occasion, when we concluded our business,
that he should have been happy to have seen me at his house at
Norwood to celebrate our becoming connected, but for his domestic
arrangements being in some disorder, on account of the expected
return of his daughter from finishing her education at Paris. But,
he intimated that when she came home he should hope to have the
pleasure of entertaining me. I knew that he was a widower with one
daughter, and expressed my acknowledgements.

Mr. Spenlow was as good as his word. In a week or two, he referred
to this engagement, and said, that if I would do him the favour to
come down next Saturday, and stay till Monday, he would be
extremely happy. Of course I said I would do him the favour; and
he was to drive me down in his phaeton, and to bring me back.

When the day arrived, my very carpet-bag was an object of
veneration to the stipendiary clerks, to whom the house at Norwood
was a sacred mystery. One of them informed me that he had heard
that Mr. Spenlow ate entirely off plate and china; and another
hinted at champagne being constantly on draught, after the usual
custom of table-beer. The old clerk with the wig, whose name was
Mr. Tiffey, had been down on business several times in the course
of his career, and had on each occasion penetrated to the
breakfast-parlour. He described it as an apartment of the most
sumptuous nature, and said that he had drunk brown East India
sherry there, of a quality so precious as to make a man wink. We
had an adjourned cause in the Consistory that day - about
excommunicating a baker who had been objecting in a vestry to a
paving-rate - and as the evidence was just twice the length of
Robinson Crusoe, according to a calculation I made, it was rather
late in the day before we finished. However, we got him
excommunicated for six weeks, and sentenced in no end of costs; and
then the baker's proctor, and the judge, and the advocates on both
sides (who were all nearly related), went out of town together, and
Mr. Spenlow and I drove away in the phaeton.

The phaeton was a very handsome affair; the horses arched their
necks and lifted up their legs as if they knew they belonged to
Doctors' Commons. There was a good deal of competition in the
Commons on all points of display, and it turned out some very
choice equipages then; though I always have considered, and always
shall consider, that in my time the great article of competition
there was starch: which I think was worn among the proctors to as
great an extent as it is in the nature of man to bear.

We were very pleasant, going down, and Mr. Spenlow gave me some
hints in reference to my profession. He said it was the genteelest
profession in the world, and must on no account be confounded with
the profession of a solicitor: being quite another sort of thing,
infinitely more exclusive, less mechanical, and more profitable.
We took things much more easily in the Commons than they could be
taken anywhere else, he observed, and that set us, as a privileged
class, apart. He said it was impossible to conceal the
disagreeable fact, that we were chiefly employed by solicitors; but
he gave me to understand that they were an inferior race of men,
universally looked down upon by all proctors of any pretensions.

I asked Mr. Spenlow what he considered the best sort of
professional business? He replied, that a good case of a disputed
will, where there was a neat little estate of thirty or forty
thousand pounds, was, perhaps, the best of all. In such a case, he
said, not only were there very pretty pickings, in the way of
arguments at every stage of the proceedings, and mountains upon
mountains of evidence on interrogatory and counter-interrogatory
(to say nothing of an appeal lying, first to the Delegates, and
then to the Lords), but, the costs being pretty sure to come out of
the estate at last, both sides went at it in a lively and spirited
manner, and expense was no consideration. Then, he launched into
a general eulogium on the Commons. What was to be particularly
admired (he said) in the Commons, was its compactness. It was the
most conveniently organized place in the world. It was the
complete idea of snugness. It lay in a nutshell. For example: You
brought a divorce case, or a restitution case, into the Consistory.
Very good. You tried it in the Consistory. You made a quiet
little round game of it, among a family group, and you played it
out at leisure. Suppose you were not satisfied with the
Consistory, what did you do then? Why, you went into the Arches.
What was the Arches? The same court, in the same room, with the
same bar, and the same practitioners, but another judge, for there
the Consistory judge could plead any court-day as an advocate.
Well, you played your round game out again. Still you were not
satisfied. Very good. What did you do then? Why, you went to the
Delegates. Who were the Delegates? Why, the Ecclesiastical
Delegates were the advocates without any business, who had looked
on at the round game when it was playing in both courts, and had
seen the cards shuffled, and cut, and played, and had talked to all
the players about it, and now came fresh, as judges, to settle the
matter to the satisfaction of everybody! Discontented people might
talk of corruption in the Commons, closeness in the Commons, and
the necessity of reforming the Commons, said Mr. Spenlow solemnly,
in conclusion; but when the price of wheat per bushel had been
highest, the Commons had been busiest; and a man might lay his hand
upon his heart, and say this to the whole world, - 'Touch the
Commons, and down comes the country!'

I listened to all this with attention; and though, I must say, I
had my doubts whether the country was quite as much obliged to the
Commons as Mr. Spenlow made out, I respectfully deferred to his
opinion. That about the price of wheat per bushel, I modestly felt
was too much for my strength, and quite settled the question. I
have never, to this hour, got the better of that bushel of wheat.
It has reappeared to annihilate me, all through my life, in
connexion with all kinds of subjects. I don't know now, exactly,
what it has to do with me, or what right it has to crush me, on an
infinite variety of occasions; but whenever I see my old friend the
bushel brought in by the head and shoulders (as he always is, I
observe), I give up a subject for lost.

This is a digression. I was not the man to touch the Commons, and
bring down the country. I submissively expressed, by my silence,
my acquiescence in all I had heard from my superior in years and
knowledge; and we talked about The Stranger and the Drama, and the
pairs of horses, until we came to Mr. Spenlow's gate.

There was a lovely garden to Mr. Spenlow's house; and though that
was not the best time of the year for seeing a garden, it was so
beautifully kept, that I was quite enchanted. There was a charming
lawn, there were clusters of trees, and there were perspective
walks that I could just distinguish in the dark, arched over with
trellis-work, on which shrubs and flowers grew in the growing
season. 'Here Miss Spenlow walks by herself,' I thought. 'Dear
me!'

We went into the house, which was cheerfully lighted up, and into
a hall where there were all sorts of hats, caps, great-coats,
plaids, gloves, whips, and walking-sticks. 'Where is Miss Dora?'
said Mr. Spenlow to the servant. 'Dora!' I thought. 'What a
beautiful name!'

We turned into a room near at hand (I think it was the identical
breakfast-room, made memorable by the brown East Indian sherry),
and I heard a voice say, 'Mr. Copperfield, my daughter Dora, and my
daughter Dora's confidential friend!' It was, no doubt, Mr.
Spenlow's voice, but I didn't know it, and I didn't care whose it
was. All was over in a moment. I had fulfilled my destiny. I was
a captive and a slave. I loved Dora Spenlow to distraction!

She was more than human to me. She was a Fairy, a Sylph, I don't
know what she was - anything that no one ever saw, and everything
that everybody ever wanted. I was swallowed up in an abyss of love
in an instant. There was no pausing on the brink; no looking down,
or looking back; I was gone, headlong, before I had sense to say a
word to her.

'I,' observed a well-remembered voice, when I had bowed and
murmured something, 'have seen Mr. Copperfield before.'

The speaker was not Dora. No; the confidential friend, Miss
Murdstone!

I don't think I was much astonished. To the best of my judgement,
no capacity of astonishment was left in me. There was nothing
worth mentioning in the material world, but Dora Spenlow, to be
astonished about. I said, 'How do you do, Miss Murdstone? I hope
you are well.' She answered, 'Very well.' I said, 'How is Mr.
Murdstone?' She replied, 'My brother is robust, I am obliged to
you.'

Mr. Spenlow, who, I suppose, had been surprised to see us recognize
each other, then put in his word.

'I am glad to find,' he said, 'Copperfield, that you and Miss
Murdstone are already acquainted.'

'Mr. Copperfield and myself,' said Miss Murdstone, with severe
composure, 'are connexions. We were once slightly acquainted. It
was in his childish days. Circumstances have separated us since.
I should not have known him.'

I replied that I should have known her, anywhere. Which was true
enough.

'Miss Murdstone has had the goodness,' said Mr. Spenlow to me, 'to
accept the office - if I may so describe it - of my daughter Dora's
confidential friend. My daughter Dora having, unhappily, no
mother, Miss Murdstone is obliging enough to become her companion
and protector.'

A passing thought occurred to me that Miss Murdstone, like the
pocket instrument called a life-preserver, was not so much designed
for purposes of protection as of assault. But as I had none but
passing thoughts for any subject save Dora, I glanced at her,
directly afterwards, and was thinking that I saw, in her prettily
pettish manner, that she was not very much inclined to be
particularly confidential to her companion and protector, when a
bell rang, which Mr. Spenlow said was the first dinner-bell, and so
carried me off to dress.

The idea of dressing one's self, or doing anything in the way of
action, in that state of love, was a little too ridiculous. I
could only sit down before my fire, biting the key of my
carpet-bag, and think of the captivating, girlish, bright-eyed
lovely Dora. What a form she had, what a face she had, what a
graceful, variable, enchanting manner!

The bell rang again so soon that I made a mere scramble of my
dressing, instead of the careful operation I could have wished
under the circumstances, and went downstairs. There was some
company. Dora was talking to an old gentleman with a grey head.
Grey as he was - and a great-grandfather into the bargain, for he
said so - I was madly jealous of him.

What a state of mind I was in! I was jealous of everybody. I
couldn't bear the idea of anybody knowing Mr. Spenlow better than
I did. It was torturing to me to hear them talk of occurrences in
which I had had no share. When a most amiable person, with a
highly polished bald head, asked me across the dinner table, if
that were the first occasion of my seeing the grounds, I could have
done anything to him that was savage and revengeful.

I don't remember who was there, except Dora. I have not the least
idea what we had for dinner, besides Dora. My impression is, that
I dined off Dora, entirely, and sent away half-a-dozen plates
untouched. I sat next to her. I talked to her. She had the most
delightful little voice, the gayest little laugh, the pleasantest
and most fascinating little ways, that ever led a lost youth into
hopeless slavery. She was rather diminutive altogether. So much
the more precious, I thought.

When she went out of the room with Miss Murdstone (no other ladies
were of the party), I fell into a reverie, only disturbed by the
cruel apprehension that Miss Murdstone would disparage me to her.
The amiable creature with the polished head told me a long story,
which I think was about gardening. I think I heard him say, 'my
gardener', several times. I seemed to pay the deepest attention to
him, but I was wandering in a garden of Eden all the while, with
Dora.

My apprehensions of being disparaged to the object of my engrossing
affection were revived when we went into the drawing-room, by the
grim and distant aspect of Miss Murdstone. But I was relieved of
them in an unexpected manner.

'David Copperfield,' said Miss Murdstone, beckoning me aside into
a window. 'A word.'

I confronted Miss Murdstone alone.

'David Copperfield,' said Miss Murdstone, 'I need not enlarge upon
family circumstances. They are not a tempting subject.'
'Far from it, ma'am,' I returned.

'Far from it,' assented Miss Murdstone. 'I do not wish to revive
the memory of past differences, or of past outrages. I have
received outrages from a person - a female I am sorry to say, for
the credit of my sex - who is not to be mentioned without scorn and
disgust; and therefore I would rather not mention her.'

I felt very fiery on my aunt's account; but I said it would
certainly be better, if Miss Murdstone pleased, not to mention her.
I could not hear her disrespectfully mentioned, I added, without
expressing my opinion in a decided tone.

Miss Murdstone shut her eyes, and disdainfully inclined her head;
then, slowly opening her eyes, resumed:

'David Copperfield, I shall not attempt to disguise the fact, that
I formed an unfavourable opinion of you in your childhood. It may
have been a mistaken one, or you may have ceased to justify it.
That is not in question between us now. I belong to a family
remarkable, I believe, for some firmness; and I am not the creature
of circumstance or change. I may have my opinion of you. You may
have your opinion of me.'

I inclined my head, in my turn.

'But it is not necessary,' said Miss Murdstone, 'that these
opinions should come into collision here. Under existing
circumstances, it is as well on all accounts that they should not.
As the chances of life have brought us together again, and may
bring us together on other occasions, I would say, let us meet here
as distant acquaintances. Family circumstances are a sufficient
reason for our only meeting on that footing, and it is quite
unnecessary that either of us should make the other the subject of
remark. Do you approve of this?'

'Miss Murdstone,' I returned, 'I think you and Mr. Murdstone used
me very cruelly, and treated my mother with great unkindness. I
shall always think so, as long as I live. But I quite agree in
what you propose.'

Miss Murdstone shut her eyes again, and bent her head. Then, just
touching the back of my hand with the tips of her cold, stiff
fingers, she walked away, arranging the little fetters on her
wrists and round her neck; which seemed to be the same set, in
exactly the same state, as when I had seen her last. These
reminded me, in reference to Miss Murdstone's nature, of the
fetters over a jail door; suggesting on the outside, to all
beholders, what was to be expected within.

All I know of the rest of the evening is, that I heard the empress
of my heart sing enchanted ballads in the French language,
generally to the effect that, whatever was the matter, we ought
always to dance, Ta ra la, Ta ra la! accompanying herself on a
glorified instrument, resembling a guitar. That I was lost in
blissful delirium. That I refused refreshment. That my soul
recoiled from punch particularly. That when Miss Murdstone took
her into custody and led her away, she smiled and gave me her
delicious hand. That I caught a view of myself in a mirror,
looking perfectly imbecile and idiotic. That I retired to bed in
a most maudlin state of mind, and got up in a crisis of feeble
infatuation.

It was a fine morning, and early, and I thought I would go and take
a stroll down one of those wire-arched walks, and indulge my
passion by dwelling on her image. On my way through the hall, I
encountered her little dog, who was called Jip - short for Gipsy.
I approached him tenderly, for I loved even him; but he showed his
whole set of teeth, got under a chair expressly to snarl, and
wouldn't hear of the least familiarity.

The garden was cool and solitary. I walked about, wondering what
my feelings of happiness would be, if I could ever become engaged
to this dear wonder. As to marriage, and fortune, and all that, I
believe I was almost as innocently undesigning then, as when I
loved little Em'ly. To be allowed to call her 'Dora', to write to
her, to dote upon and worship her, to have reason to think that
when she was with other people she was yet mindful of me, seemed to
me the summit of human ambition - I am sure it was the summit of
mine. There is no doubt whatever that I was a lackadaisical young
spooney; but there was a purity of heart in all this, that prevents
my having quite a contemptuous recollection of it, let me laugh as
I may.

I had not been walking long, when I turned a corner, and met her.
I tingle again from head to foot as my recollection turns that
corner, and my pen shakes in my hand.

'You - are - out early, Miss Spenlow,' said I.

'It's so stupid at home,' she replied, 'and Miss Murdstone is so
absurd! She talks such nonsense about its being necessary for the
day to be aired, before I come out. Aired!' (She laughed, here, in
the most melodious manner.) 'On a Sunday morning, when I don't
practise, I must do something. So I told papa last night I must
come out. Besides, it's the brightest time of the whole day.
Don't you think so?'

I hazarded a bold flight, and said (not without stammering) that it
was very bright to me then, though it had been very dark to me a
minute before.

'Do you mean a compliment?' said Dora, 'or that the weather has
really changed?'

I stammered worse than before, in replying that I meant no
compliment, but the plain truth; though I was not aware of any
change having taken place in the weather. It was in the state of
my own feelings, I added bashfully: to clench the explanation.

I never saw such curls - how could I, for there never were such
curls! - as those she shook out to hide her blushes. As to the
straw hat and blue ribbons which was on the top of the curls, if I
could only have hung it up in my room in Buckingham Street, what a
priceless possession it would have been!

'You have just come home from Paris,' said I.

'Yes,' said she. 'Have you ever been there?'

'No.'

'Oh! I hope you'll go soon! You would like it so much!'

Traces of deep-seated anguish appeared in my countenance. That she
should hope I would go, that she should think it possible I could
go, was insupportable. I depreciated Paris; I depreciated France.
I said I wouldn't leave England, under existing circumstances, for
any earthly consideration. Nothing should induce me. In short,
she was shaking the curls again, when the little dog came running
along the walk to our relief.

He was mortally jealous of me, and persisted in barking at me. She
took him up in her arms - oh my goodness! - and caressed him, but
he persisted upon barking still. He wouldn't let me touch him,
when I tried; and then she beat him. It increased my sufferings
greatly to see the pats she gave him for punishment on the bridge
of his blunt nose, while he winked his eyes, and licked her hand,
and still growled within himself like a little double-bass. At
length he was quiet - well he might be with her dimpled chin upon
his head! - and we walked away to look at a greenhouse.

'You are not very intimate with Miss Murdstone, are you?' said
Dora. -'My pet.'

(The two last words were to the dog. Oh, if they had only been to
me!)

'No,' I replied. 'Not at all so.'

'She is a tiresome creature,' said Dora, pouting. 'I can't think
what papa can have been about, when he chose such a vexatious thing
to be my companion. Who wants a protector? I am sure I don't want
a protector. Jip can protect me a great deal better than Miss
Murdstone, - can't you, Jip, dear?'

He only winked lazily, when she kissed his ball of a head.

'Papa calls her my confidential friend, but I am sure she is no
such thing - is she, Jip? We are not going to confide in any such
cross people, Jip and I. We mean to bestow our confidence where we
like, and to find out our own friends, instead of having them found
out for us - don't we, Jip?'

jip made a comfortable noise, in answer, a little like a tea-kettle
when it sings. As for me, every word was a new heap of fetters,
riveted above the last.

'It is very hard, because we have not a kind Mama, that we are to
have, instead, a sulky, gloomy old thing like Miss Murdstone,
always following us about - isn't it, Jip? Never mind, Jip. We
won't be confidential, and we'll make ourselves as happy as we can
in spite of her, and we'll tease her, and not please her - won't
we, Jip?'

If it had lasted any longer, I think I must have gone down on my
knees on the gravel, with the probability before me of grazing
them, and of being presently ejected from the premises besides.
But, by good fortune the greenhouse was not far off, and these
words brought us to it.

It contained quite a show of beautiful geraniums. We loitered
along in front of them, and Dora often stopped to admire this one
or that one, and I stopped to admire the same one, and Dora,
laughing, held the dog up childishly, to smell the flowers; and if
we were not all three in Fairyland, certainly I was. The scent of
a geranium leaf, at this day, strikes me with a half comical half
serious wonder as to what change has come over me in a moment; and
then I see a straw hat and blue ribbons, and a quantity of curls,
and a little black dog being held up, in two slender arms, against
a bank of blossoms and bright leaves.

Miss Murdstone had been looking for us. She found us here; and
presented her uncongenial cheek, the little wrinkles in it filled
with hair powder, to Dora to be kissed. Then she took Dora's arm
in hers, and marched us into breakfast as if it were a soldier's
funeral.

How many cups of tea I drank, because Dora made it, I don't know.
But, I perfectly remember that I sat swilling tea until my whole
nervous system, if I had had any in those days, must have gone by
the board. By and by we went to church. Miss Murdstone was
between Dora and me in the pew; but I heard her sing, and the
congregation vanished. A sermon was delivered - about Dora, of
course - and I am afraid that is all I know of the service.

We had a quiet day. No company, a walk, a family dinner of four,
and an evening of looking over books and pictures; Miss Murdstone
with a homily before her, and her eye upon us, keeping guard
vigilantly. Ah! little did Mr. Spenlow imagine, when he sat
opposite to me after dinner that day, with his pocket-handkerchief
over his head, how fervently I was embracing him, in my fancy, as
his son-in-law! Little did he think, when I took leave of him at
night, that he had just given his full consent to my being engaged
to Dora, and that I was invoking blessings on his head!

We departed early in the morning, for we had a Salvage case coming
on in the Admiralty Court, requiring a rather accurate knowledge of
the whole science of navigation, in which (as we couldn't be
expected to know much about those matters in the Commons) the judge
had entreated two old Trinity Masters, for charity's sake, to come
and help him out. Dora was at the breakfast-table to make the tea
again, however; and I had the melancholy pleasure of taking off my
hat to her in the phaeton, as she stood on the door-step with Jip
in her arms.

What the Admiralty was to me that day; what nonsense I made of our
case in my mind, as I listened to it; how I saw 'DORA' engraved
upon the blade of the silver oar which they lay upon the table, as
the emblem of that high jurisdiction; and how I felt when Mr.
Spenlow went home without me (I had had an insane hope that he
might take me back again), as if I were a mariner myself, and the
ship to which I belonged had sailed away and left me on a desert
island; I shall make no fruitless effort to describe. If that
sleepy old court could rouse itself, and present in any visible
form the daydreams I have had in it about Dora, it would reveal my
truth.

I don't mean the dreams that I dreamed on that day alone, but day
after day, from week to week, and term to term. I went there, not
to attend to what was going on, but to think about Dora. If ever
I bestowed a thought upon the cases, as they dragged their slow
length before me, it was only to wonder, in the matrimonial cases
(remembering Dora), how it was that married people could ever be
otherwise than happy; and, in the Prerogative cases, to consider,
if the money in question had been left to me, what were the
foremost steps I should immediately have taken in regard to Dora.
Within the first week of my passion, I bought four sumptuous
waistcoats - not for myself; I had no pride in them; for Dora - and
took to wearing straw-coloured kid gloves in the streets, and laid
the foundations of all the corns I have ever had. If the boots I
wore at that period could only be produced and compared with the
natural size of my feet, they would show what the state of my heart
was, in a most affecting manner.

And yet, wretched cripple as I made myself by this act of homage to
Dora, I walked miles upon miles daily in the hope of seeing her.
Not only was I soon as well known on the Norwood Road as the
postmen on that beat, but I pervaded London likewise. I walked
about the streets where the best shops for ladies were, I haunted
the Bazaar like an unquiet spirit, I fagged through the Park again
and again, long after I was quite knocked up. Sometimes, at long
intervals and on rare occasions, I saw her. Perhaps I saw her
glove waved in a carriage window; perhaps I met her, walked with
her and Miss Murdstone a little way, and spoke to her. In the
latter case I was always very miserable afterwards, to think that
I had said nothing to the purpose; or that she had no idea of the
extent of my devotion, or that she cared nothing about me. I was
always looking out, as may be supposed, for another invitation to
Mr. Spenlow's house. I was always being disappointed, for I got
none.

Mrs. Crupp must have been a woman of penetration; for when this
attachment was but a few weeks old, and I had not had the courage
to write more explicitly even to Agnes, than that I had been to Mr.
Spenlow's house, 'whose family,' I added, 'consists of one
daughter'; - I say Mrs. Crupp must have been a woman of
penetration, for, even in that early stage, she found it out. She
came up to me one evening, when I was very low, to ask (she being
then afflicted with the disorder I have mentioned) if I could
oblige her with a little tincture of cardamums mixed with rhubarb,
and flavoured with seven drops of the essence of cloves, which was
the best remedy for her complaint; - or, if I had not such a thing
by me, with a little brandy, which was the next best. It was not,
she remarked, so palatable to her, but it was the next best. As I
had never even heard of the first remedy, and always had the second
in the closet, I gave Mrs. Crupp a glass of the second, which (that
I might have no suspicion of its being devoted to any improper use)
she began to take in my presence.

'Cheer up, sir,' said Mrs. Crupp. 'I can't abear to see you so,
sir: I'm a mother myself.'

I did not quite perceive the application of this fact to myself,
but I smiled on Mrs. Crupp, as benignly as was in my power.

'Come, sir,' said Mrs. Crupp. 'Excuse me. I know what it is, sir.
There's a lady in the case.'

'Mrs. Crupp?' I returned, reddening.

'Oh, bless you! Keep a good heart, sir!' said Mrs. Crupp, nodding
encouragement. 'Never say die, sir! If She don't smile upon you,
there's a many as will. You are a young gentleman to be smiled on,
Mr. Copperfull, and you must learn your walue, sir.'

Mrs. Crupp always called me Mr. Copperfull: firstly, no doubt,
because it was not my name; and secondly, I am inclined to think,
in some indistinct association with a washing-day.

'What makes you suppose there is any young lady in the case, Mrs.
Crupp?' said I.

'Mr. Copperfull,' said Mrs. Crupp, with a great deal of feeling,
'I'm a mother myself.'

For some time Mrs. Crupp could only lay her hand upon her nankeen
bosom, and fortify herself against returning pain with sips of her
medicine. At length she spoke again.

'When the present set were took for you by your dear aunt, Mr.
Copperfull,' said Mrs. Crupp, 'my remark were, I had now found
summun I could care for. "Thank Ev'in!" were the expression, "I
have now found summun I can care for!" - You don't eat enough, sir,
nor yet drink.'

'Is that what you found your supposition on, Mrs. Crupp?' said I.

'Sir,' said Mrs. Crupp, in a tone approaching to severity, 'I've
laundressed other young gentlemen besides yourself. A young
gentleman may be over-careful of himself, or he may be
under-careful of himself. He may brush his hair too regular, or
too un-regular. He may wear his boots much too large for him, or
much too small. That is according as the young gentleman has his
original character formed. But let him go to which extreme he may,
sir, there's a young lady in both of 'em.'

Mrs. Crupp shook her head in such a determined manner, that I had
not an inch of vantage-ground left.

'It was but the gentleman which died here before yourself,' said
Mrs. Crupp, 'that fell in love - with a barmaid - and had his
waistcoats took in directly, though much swelled by drinking.'

'Mrs. Crupp,' said I, 'I must beg you not to connect the young lady
in my case with a barmaid, or anything of that sort, if you
please.'

'Mr. Copperfull,' returned Mrs. Crupp, 'I'm a mother myself, and
not likely. I ask your pardon, sir, if I intrude. I should never
wish to intrude where I were not welcome. But you are a young
gentleman, Mr. Copperfull, and my adwice to you is, to cheer up,
sir, to keep a good heart, and to know your own walue. If you was
to take to something, sir,' said Mrs. Crupp, 'if you was to take to
skittles, now, which is healthy, you might find it divert your
mind, and do you good.'

With these words, Mrs. Crupp, affecting to be very careful of the
brandy - which was all gone - thanked me with a majestic curtsey,
and retired. As her figure disappeared into the gloom of the
entry, this counsel certainly presented itself to my mind in the
light of a slight liberty on Mrs. Crupp's part; but, at the same
time, I was content to receive it, in another point of view, as a
word to the wise, and a warning in future to keep my secret better.





David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Category:
General Fiction

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