eBooks Cube
 
CHAPTER 38
A DISSOLUTION OF PARTNERSHIP


I did not allow my resolution, with respect to the Parliamentary
Debates, to cool. It was one of the irons I began to heat
immediately, and one of the irons I kept hot, and hammered at, with
a perseverance I may honestly admire. I bought an approved scheme
of the noble art and mystery of stenography (which cost me ten and
sixpence); and plunged into a sea of perplexity that brought me, in
a few weeks, to the confines of distraction. The changes that were
rung upon dots, which in such a position meant such a thing, and in
such another position something else, entirely different; the
wonderful vagaries that were played by circles; the unaccountable
consequences that resulted from marks like flies' legs; the
tremendous effects of a curve in a wrong place; not only troubled
my waking hours, but reappeared before me in my sleep. When I had
groped my way, blindly, through these difficulties, and had
mastered the alphabet, which was an Egyptian Temple in itself,
there then appeared a procession of new horrors, called arbitrary
characters; the most despotic characters I have ever known; who
insisted, for instance, that a thing like the beginning of a
cobweb, meant expectation, and that a pen-and-ink sky-rocket, stood
for disadvantageous. When I had fixed these wretches in my mind,
I found that they had driven everything else out of it; then,
beginning again, I forgot them; while I was picking them up, I
dropped the other fragments of the system; in short, it was almost
heart-breaking.

It might have been quite heart-breaking, but for Dora, who was the
stay and anchor of my tempest-driven bark. Every scratch in the
scheme was a gnarled oak in the forest of difficulty, and I went on
cutting them down, one after another, with such vigour, that in
three or four months I was in a condition to make an experiment on
one of our crack speakers in the Commons. Shall I ever forget how
the crack speaker walked off from me before I began, and left my
imbecile pencil staggering about the paper as if it were in a fit!

This would not do, it was quite clear. I was flying too high, and
should never get on, so. I resorted to Traddles for advice; who
suggested that he should dictate speeches to me, at a pace, and
with occasional stoppages, adapted to my weakness. Very grateful
for this friendly aid, I accepted the proposal; and night after
night, almost every night, for a long time, we had a sort of
Private Parliament in Buckingham Street, after I came home from the
Doctor's.

I should like to see such a Parliament anywhere else! My aunt and
Mr. Dick represented the Government or the Opposition (as the case
might be), and Traddles, with the assistance of Enfield's Speakers,
or a volume of parliamentary orations, thundered astonishing
invectives against them. Standing by the table, with his finger in
the page to keep the place, and his right arm flourishing above his
head, Traddles, as Mr. Pitt, Mr. Fox, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Burke, Lord
Castlereagh, Viscount Sidmouth, or Mr. Canning, would work himself
into the most violent heats, and deliver the most withering
denunciations of the profligacy and corruption of my aunt and Mr.
Dick; while I used to sit, at a little distance, with my notebook
on my knee, fagging after him with all my might and main. The
inconsistency and recklessness of Traddles were not to be exceeded
by any real politician. He was for any description of policy, in
the compass of a week; and nailed all sorts of colours to every
denomination of mast. My aunt, looking very like an immovable
Chancellor of the Exchequer, would occasionally throw in an
interruption or two, as 'Hear!' or 'No!' or 'Oh!' when the text
seemed to require it: which was always a signal to Mr. Dick (a
perfect country gentleman) to follow lustily with the same cry.
But Mr. Dick got taxed with such things in the course of his
Parliamentary career, and was made responsible for such awful
consequences, that he became uncomfortable in his mind sometimes.
I believe he actually began to be afraid he really had been doing
something, tending to the annihilation of the British constitution,
and the ruin of the country.

Often and often we pursued these debates until the clock pointed to
midnight, and the candles were burning down. The result of so much
good practice was, that by and by I began to keep pace with
Traddles pretty well, and should have been quite triumphant if I
had had the least idea what my notes were about. But, as to
reading them after I had got them, I might as well have copied the
Chinese inscriptions of an immense collection of tea-chests, or the
golden characters on all the great red and green bottles in the
chemists' shops!

There was nothing for it, but to turn back and begin all over
again. It was very hard, but I turned back, though with a heavy
heart, and began laboriously and methodically to plod over the same
tedious ground at a snail's pace; stopping to examine minutely
every speck in the way, on all sides, and making the most desperate
efforts to know these elusive characters by sight wherever I met
them. I was always punctual at the office; at the Doctor's too:
and I really did work, as the common expression is, like a
cart-horse.
One day, when I went to the Commons as usual, I found Mr. Spenlow
in the doorway looking extremely grave, and talking to himself. As
he was in the habit of complaining of pains in his head - he had
naturally a short throat, and I do seriously believe he
over-starched himself - I was at first alarmed by the idea that he
was not quite right in that direction; but he soon relieved my
uneasiness.

Instead of returning my 'Good morning' with his usual affability,
he looked at me in a distant, ceremonious manner, and coldly
requested me to accompany him to a certain coffee-house, which, in
those days, had a door opening into the Commons, just within the
little archway in St. Paul's Churchyard. I complied, in a very
uncomfortable state, and with a warm shooting all over me, as if my
apprehensions were breaking out into buds. When I allowed him to
go on a little before, on account of the narrowness of the way, I
observed that he carried his head with a lofty air that was
particularly unpromising; and my mind misgave me that he had found
out about my darling Dora.

If I had not guessed this, on the way to the coffee-house, I could
hardly have failed to know what was the matter when I followed him
into an upstairs room, and found Miss Murdstone there, supported by
a background of sideboard, on which were several inverted tumblers
sustaining lemons, and two of those extraordinary boxes, all
corners and flutings, for sticking knives and forks in, which,
happily for mankind, are now obsolete.

Miss Murdstone gave me her chilly finger-nails, and sat severely
rigid. Mr. Spenlow shut the door, motioned me to a chair, and
stood on the hearth-rug in front of the fireplace.

'Have the goodness to show Mr. Copperfield,' said Mr. Spenlow, what
you have in your reticule, Miss Murdstone.'

I believe it was the old identical steel-clasped reticule of my
childhood, that shut up like a bite. Compressing her lips, in
sympathy with the snap, Miss Murdstone opened it - opening her
mouth a little at the same time - and produced my last letter to
Dora, teeming with expressions of devoted affection.

'I believe that is your writing, Mr. Copperfield?' said Mr.
Spenlow.

I was very hot, and the voice I heard was very unlike mine, when I
said, 'It is, sir!'

'If I am not mistaken,' said Mr. Spenlow, as Miss Murdstone brought
a parcel of letters out of her reticule, tied round with the
dearest bit of blue ribbon, 'those are also from your pen, Mr.
Copperfield?'

I took them from her with a most desolate sensation; and, glancing
at such phrases at the top, as 'My ever dearest and own Dora,' 'My
best beloved angel,' 'My blessed one for ever,' and the like,
blushed deeply, and inclined my head.

'No, thank you!' said Mr. Spenlow, coldly, as I mechanically
offered them back to him. 'I will not deprive you of them. Miss
Murdstone, be so good as to proceed!'

That gentle creature, after a moment's thoughtful survey of the
carpet, delivered herself with much dry unction as follows.

'I must confess to having entertained my suspicions of Miss
Spenlow, in reference to David Copperfield, for some time. I
observed Miss Spenlow and David Copperfield, when they first met;
and the impression made upon me then was not agreeable. The
depravity of the human heart is such -'

'You will oblige me, ma'am,' interrupted Mr. Spenlow, 'by confining
yourself to facts.'

Miss Murdstone cast down her eyes, shook her head as if protesting
against this unseemly interruption, and with frowning dignity
resumed:

'Since I am to confine myself to facts, I will state them as dryly
as I can. Perhaps that will be considered an acceptable course of
proceeding. I have already said, sir, that I have had my
suspicions of Miss Spenlow, in reference to David Copperfield, for
some time. I have frequently endeavoured to find decisive
corroboration of those suspicions, but without effect. I have
therefore forborne to mention them to Miss Spenlow's father';
looking severely at him- 'knowing how little disposition there
usually is in such cases, to acknowledge the conscientious
discharge of duty.'

Mr. Spenlow seemed quite cowed by the gentlemanly sternness of Miss
Murdstone's manner, and deprecated her severity with a conciliatory
little wave of his hand.

'On my return to Norwood, after the period of absence occasioned by
my brother's marriage,' pursued Miss Murdstone in a disdainful
voice, 'and on the return of Miss Spenlow from her visit to her
friend Miss Mills, I imagined that the manner of Miss Spenlow gave
me greater occasion for suspicion than before. Therefore I watched
Miss Spenlow closely.'

Dear, tender little Dora, so unconscious of this Dragon's eye!

'Still,' resumed Miss Murdstone, 'I found no proof until last
night. It appeared to me that Miss Spenlow received too many
letters from her friend Miss Mills; but Miss Mills being her friend
with her father's full concurrence,' another telling blow at Mr.
Spenlow, 'it was not for me to interfere. If I may not be
permitted to allude to the natural depravity of the human heart, at
least I may - I must - be permitted, so far to refer to misplaced
confidence.'

Mr. Spenlow apologetically murmured his assent.

'Last evening after tea,' pursued Miss Murdstone, 'I observed the
little dog starting, rolling, and growling about the drawing-room,
worrying something. I said to Miss Spenlow, "Dora, what is that
the dog has in his mouth? It's paper." Miss Spenlow immediately
put her hand to her frock, gave a sudden cry, and ran to the dog.
I interposed, and said, "Dora, my love, you must permit me." '

Oh Jip, miserable Spaniel, this wretchedness, then, was your work!

'Miss Spenlow endeavoured,' said Miss Murdstone, 'to bribe me with
kisses, work-boxes, and small articles of jewellery - that, of
course, I pass over. The little dog retreated under the sofa on my
approaching him, and was with great difficulty dislodged by the
fire-irons. Even when dislodged, he still kept the letter in his
mouth; and on my endeavouring to take it from him, at the imminent
risk of being bitten, he kept it between his teeth so
pertinaciously as to suffer himself to be held suspended in the air
by means of the document. At length I obtained possession of it.
After perusing it, I taxed Miss Spenlow with having many such
letters in her possession; and ultimately obtained from her the
packet which is now in David Copperfield's hand.'

Here she ceased; and snapping her reticule again, and shutting her
mouth, looked as if she might be broken, but could never be bent.

'You have heard Miss Murdstone,' said Mr. Spenlow, turning to me.
'I beg to ask, Mr. Copperfield, if you have anything to say in
reply?'

The picture I had before me, of the beautiful little treasure of my
heart, sobbing and crying all night - of her being alone,
frightened, and wretched, then - of her having so piteously begged
and prayed that stony-hearted woman to forgive her - of her having
vainly offered her those kisses, work-boxes, and trinkets - of her
being in such grievous distress, and all for me - very much
impaired the little dignity I had been able to muster. I am afraid
I was in a tremulous state for a minute or so, though I did my best
to disguise it.

'There is nothing I can say, sir,' I returned, 'except that all the
blame is mine. Dora -'

'Miss Spenlow, if you please,' said her father, majestically.

'- was induced and persuaded by me,' I went on, swallowing that
colder designation, 'to consent to this concealment, and I bitterly
regret it.'

'You are very much to blame, sir,' said Mr. Spenlow, walking to and
fro upon the hearth-rug, and emphasizing what he said with his
whole body instead of his head, on account of the stiffness of his
cravat and spine. 'You have done a stealthy and unbecoming action,
Mr. Copperfield. When I take a gentleman to my house, no matter
whether he is nineteen, twenty-nine, or ninety, I take him there in
a spirit of confidence. If he abuses my confidence, he commits a
dishonourable action, Mr. Copperfield.'

'I feel it, sir, I assure you,' I returned. 'But I never thought
so, before. Sincerely, honestly, indeed, Mr. Spenlow, I never
thought so, before. I love Miss Spenlow to that extent -'

'Pooh! nonsense!' said Mr. Spenlow, reddening. 'Pray don't tell me
to my face that you love my daughter, Mr. Copperfield!'

'Could I defend my conduct if I did not, sir?' I returned, with all
humility.

'Can you defend your conduct if you do, sir?' said Mr. Spenlow,
stopping short upon the hearth-rug. 'Have you considered your
years, and my daughter's years, Mr. Copperfield? Have you
considered what it is to undermine the confidence that should
subsist between my daughter and myself? Have you considered my
daughter's station in life, the projects I may contemplate for her
advancement, the testamentary intentions I may have with reference
to her? Have you considered anything, Mr. Copperfield?'

'Very little, sir, I am afraid;' I answered, speaking to him as
respectfully and sorrowfully as I felt; 'but pray believe me, I
have considered my own worldly position. When I explained it to
you, we were already engaged -'

'I BEG,' said Mr. Spenlow, more like Punch than I had ever seen
him, as he energetically struck one hand upon the other - I could
not help noticing that even in my despair; 'that YOU Will NOT talk
to me of engagements, Mr. Copperfield!'

The otherwise immovable Miss Murdstone laughed contemptuously in
one short syllable.

'When I explained my altered position to you, sir,' I began again,
substituting a new form of expression for what was so unpalatable
to him, 'this concealment, into which I am so unhappy as to have
led Miss Spenlow, had begun. Since I have been in that altered
position, I have strained every nerve, I have exerted every energy,
to improve it. I am sure I shall improve it in time. Will you
grant me time - any length of time? We are both so young, sir, -'

'You are right,' interrupted Mr. Spenlow, nodding his head a great
many times, and frowning very much, 'you are both very young. It's
all nonsense. Let there be an end of the nonsense. Take away
those letters, and throw them in the fire. Give me Miss Spenlow's
letters to throw in the fire; and although our future intercourse
must, you are aware, be restricted to the Commons here, we will
agree to make no further mention of the past. Come, Mr.
Copperfield, you don't want sense; and this is the sensible
course.'

No. I couldn't think of agreeing to it. I was very sorry, but
there was a higher consideration than sense. Love was above all
earthly considerations, and I loved Dora to idolatry, and Dora
loved me. I didn't exactly say so; I softened it down as much as
I could; but I implied it, and I was resolute upon it. I don't
think I made myself very ridiculous, but I know I was resolute.

'Very well, Mr. Copperfield,' said Mr. Spenlow, 'I must try my
influence with my daughter.'

Miss Murdstone, by an expressive sound, a long drawn respiration,
which was neither a sigh nor a moan, but was like both, gave it as
her opinion that he should have done this at first.

'I must try,' said Mr. Spenlow, confirmed by this support, 'my
influence with my daughter. Do you decline to take those letters,
Mr. Copperfield?' For I had laid them on the table.

Yes. I told him I hoped he would not think it wrong, but I
couldn't possibly take them from Miss Murdstone.

'Nor from me?' said Mr. Spenlow.

No, I replied with the profoundest respect; nor from him.

'Very well!' said Mr. Spenlow.

A silence succeeding, I was undecided whether to go or stay. At
length I was moving quietly towards the door, with the intention of
saying that perhaps I should consult his feelings best by
withdrawing: when he said, with his hands in his coat pockets, into
which it was as much as he could do to get them; and with what I
should call, upon the whole, a decidedly pious air:

'You are probably aware, Mr. Copperfield, that I am not altogether
destitute of worldly possessions, and that my daughter is my
nearest and dearest relative?'

I hurriedly made him a reply to the effect, that I hoped the error
into which I had been betrayed by the desperate nature of my love,
did not induce him to think me mercenary too?

'I don't allude to the matter in that light,' said Mr. Spenlow.
'It would be better for yourself, and all of us, if you WERE
mercenary, Mr. Copperfield - I mean, if you were more discreet and
less influenced by all this youthful nonsense. No. I merely say,
with quite another view, you are probably aware I have some
property to bequeath to my child?'

I certainly supposed so.

'And you can hardly think,' said Mr. Spenlow, 'having experience of
what we see, in the Commons here, every day, of the various
unaccountable and negligent proceedings of men, in respect of their
testamentary arrangements - of all subjects, the one on which
perhaps the strangest revelations of human inconsistency are to be
met with - but that mine are made?'

I inclined my head in acquiescence.

'I should not allow,' said Mr. Spenlow, with an evident increase of
pious sentiment, and slowly shaking his head as he poised himself
upon his toes and heels alternately, 'my suitable provision for my
child to be influenced by a piece of youthful folly like the
present. It is mere folly. Mere nonsense. In a little while, it
will weigh lighter than any feather. But I might - I might - if
this silly business were not completely relinquished altogether, be
induced in some anxious moment to guard her from, and surround her
with protections against, the consequences of any foolish step in
the way of marriage. Now, Mr. Copperfield, I hope that you will
not render it necessary for me to open, even for a quarter of an
hour, that closed page in the book of life, and unsettle, even for
a quarter of an hour, grave affairs long since composed.'

There was a serenity, a tranquillity, a calm sunset air about him,
which quite affected me. He was so peaceful and resigned - clearly
had his affairs in such perfect train, and so systematically wound
up - that he was a man to feel touched in the contemplation of. I
really think I saw tears rise to his eyes, from the depth of his
own feeling of all this.

But what could I do? I could not deny Dora and my own heart. When
he told me I had better take a week to consider of what he had
said, how could I say I wouldn't take a week, yet how could I fail
to know that no amount of weeks could influence such love as mine?

'In the meantime, confer with Miss Trotwood, or with any person
with any knowledge of life,' said Mr. Spenlow, adjusting his cravat
with both hands. 'Take a week, Mr. Copperfield.'

I submitted; and, with a countenance as expressive as I was able to
make it of dejected and despairing constancy, came out of the room.
Miss Murdstone's heavy eyebrows followed me to the door - I say her
eyebrows rather than her eyes, because they were much more
important in her face - and she looked so exactly as she used to
look, at about that hour of the morning, in our parlour at
Blunderstone, that I could have fancied I had been breaking down in
my lessons again, and that the dead weight on my mind was that
horrible old spelling-book, with oval woodcuts, shaped, to my
youthful fancy, like the glasses out of spectacles.

When I got to the office, and, shutting out old Tiffey and the rest
of them with my hands, sat at my desk, in my own particular nook,
thinking of this earthquake that had taken place so unexpectedly,
and in the bitterness of my spirit cursing Jip, I fell into such a
state of torment about Dora, that I wonder I did not take up my hat
and rush insanely to Norwood. The idea of their frightening her,
and making her cry, and of my not being there to comfort her, was
so excruciating, that it impelled me to write a wild letter to Mr.
Spenlow, beseeching him not to visit upon her the consequences of
my awful destiny. I implored him to spare her gentle nature - not
to crush a fragile flower - and addressed him generally, to the
best of my remembrance, as if, instead of being her father, he had
been an Ogre, or the Dragon of Wantley.3 This letter I sealed and
laid upon his desk before he returned; and when he came in, I saw
him, through the half-opened door of his room, take it up and read
it.

He said nothing about it all the morning; but before he went away
in the afternoon he called me in, and told me that I need not make
myself at all uneasy about his daughter's happiness. He had
assured her, he said, that it was all nonsense; and he had nothing
more to say to her. He believed he was an indulgent father (as
indeed he was), and I might spare myself any solicitude on her
account.

'You may make it necessary, if you are foolish or obstinate, Mr.
Copperfield,' he observed, 'for me to send my daughter abroad
again, for a term; but I have a better opinion of you. I hope you
will be wiser than that, in a few days. As to Miss Murdstone,' for
I had alluded to her in the letter, 'I respect that lady's
vigilance, and feel obliged to her; but she has strict charge to
avoid the subject. All I desire, Mr. Copperfield, is, that it
should be forgotten. All you have got to do, Mr. Copperfield, is
to forget it.'

All! In the note I wrote to Miss Mills, I bitterly quoted this
sentiment. All I had to do, I said, with gloomy sarcasm, was to
forget Dora. That was all, and what was that! I entreated Miss
Mills to see me, that evening. If it could not be done with Mr.
Mills's sanction and concurrence, I besought a clandestine
interview in the back kitchen where the Mangle was. I informed her
that my reason was tottering on its throne, and only she, Miss
Mills, could prevent its being deposed. I signed myself, hers
distractedly; and I couldn't help feeling, while I read this
composition over, before sending it by a porter, that it was
something in the style of Mr. Micawber.

However, I sent it. At night I repaired to Miss Mills's street,
and walked up and down, until I was stealthily fetched in by Miss
Mills's maid, and taken the area way to the back kitchen. I have
since seen reason to believe that there was nothing on earth to
prevent my going in at the front door, and being shown up into the
drawing-room, except Miss Mills's love of the romantic and
mysterious.

In the back kitchen, I raved as became me. I went there, I
suppose, to make a fool of myself, and I am quite sure I did it.
Miss Mills had received a hasty note from Dora, telling her that
all was discovered, and saying. 'Oh pray come to me, Julia, do,
do!' But Miss Mills, mistrusting the acceptability of her presence
to the higher powers, had not yet gone; and we were all benighted
in the Desert of Sahara.

Miss Mills had a wonderful flow of words, and liked to pour them
out. I could not help feeling, though she mingled her tears with
mine, that she had a dreadful luxury in our afflictions. She
petted them, as I may say, and made the most of them. A deep gulf,
she observed, had opened between Dora and me, and Love could only
span it with its rainbow. Love must suffer in this stern world; it
ever had been so, it ever would be so. No matter, Miss Mills
remarked. Hearts confined by cobwebs would burst at last, and then
Love was avenged.

This was small consolation, but Miss Mills wouldn't encourage
fallacious hopes. She made me much more wretched than I was
before, and I felt (and told her with the deepest gratitude) that
she was indeed a friend. We resolved that she should go to Dora
the first thing in the morning, and find some means of assuring
her, either by looks or words, of my devotion and misery. We
parted, overwhelmed with grief; and I think Miss Mills enjoyed
herself completely.

I confided all to my aunt when I got home; and in spite of all she
could say to me, went to bed despairing. I got up despairing, and
went out despairing. It was Saturday morning, and I went straight
to the Commons.

I was surprised, when I came within sight of our office-door, to
see the ticket-porters standing outside talking together, and some
half-dozen stragglers gazing at the windows which were shut up. I
quickened my pace, and, passing among them, wondering at their
looks, went hurriedly in.

The clerks were there, but nobody was doing anything. Old Tiffey,
for the first time in his life I should think, was sitting on
somebody else's stool, and had not hung up his hat.

'This is a dreadful calamity, Mr. Copperfield,' said he, as I
entered.

'What is?' I exclaimed. 'What's the matter?'

'Don't you know?' cried Tiffey, and all the rest of them, coming
round me.

'No!' said I, looking from face to face.

'Mr. Spenlow,' said Tiffey.

'What about him!'

'Dead!'
I thought it was the office reeling, and not I, as one of the
clerks caught hold of me. They sat me down in a chair, untied my
neck-cloth, and brought me some water. I have no idea whether this
took any time.

'Dead?' said I.

'He dined in town yesterday, and drove down in the phaeton by
himself,' said Tiffey, 'having sent his own groom home by the
coach, as he sometimes did, you know -'

'Well?'

'The phaeton went home without him. The horses stopped at the
stable-gate. The man went out with a lantern. Nobody in the
carriage.'

'Had they run away?'

'They were not hot,' said Tiffey, putting on his glasses; 'no
hotter, I understand, than they would have been, going down at the
usual pace. The reins were broken, but they had been dragging on
the ground. The house was roused up directly, and three of them
went out along the road. They found him a mile off.'

'More than a mile off, Mr. Tiffey,' interposed a junior.

'Was it? I believe you are right,' said Tiffey, - 'more than a
mile off - not far from the church - lying partly on the roadside,
and partly on the path, upon his face. Whether he fell out in a
fit, or got out, feeling ill before the fit came on - or even
whether he was quite dead then, though there is no doubt he was
quite insensible - no one appears to know. If he breathed,
certainly he never spoke. Medical assistance was got as soon as
possible, but it was quite useless.'

I cannot describe the state of mind into which I was thrown by this
intelligence. The shock of such an event happening so suddenly,
and happening to one with whom I had been in any respect at
variance - the appalling vacancy in the room he had occupied so
lately, where his chair and table seemed to wait for him, and his
handwriting of yesterday was like a ghost - the in- definable
impossibility of separating him from the place, and feeling, when
the door opened, as if he might come in - the lazy hush and rest
there was in the office, and the insatiable relish with which our
people talked about it, and other people came in and out all day,
and gorged themselves with the subject - this is easily
intelligible to anyone. What I cannot describe is, how, in the
innermost recesses of my own heart, I had a lurking jealousy even
of Death. How I felt as if its might would push me from my ground
in Dora's thoughts. How I was, in a grudging way I have no words
for, envious of her grief. How it made me restless to think of her
weeping to others, or being consoled by others. How I had a
grasping, avaricious wish to shut out everybody from her but
myself, and to be all in all to her, at that unseasonable time of
all times.

In the trouble of this state of mind - not exclusively my own, I
hope, but known to others - I went down to Norwood that night; and
finding from one of the servants, when I made my inquiries at the
door, that Miss Mills was there, got my aunt to direct a letter to
her, which I wrote. I deplored the untimely death of Mr. Spenlow,
most sincerely, and shed tears in doing so. I entreated her to
tell Dora, if Dora were in a state to hear it, that he had spoken
to me with the utmost kindness and consideration; and had coupled
nothing but tenderness, not a single or reproachful word, with her
name. I know I did this selfishly, to have my name brought before
her; but I tried to believe it was an act of justice to his memory.
Perhaps I did believe it.

My aunt received a few lines next day in reply; addressed, outside,
to her; within, to me. Dora was overcome by grief; and when her
friend had asked her should she send her love to me, had only
cried, as she was always crying, 'Oh, dear papa! oh, poor papa!'
But she had not said No, and that I made the most of.

Mr. jorkins, who had been at Norwood since the occurrence, came to
the office a few days afterwards. He and Tiffey were closeted
together for some few moments, and then Tiffey looked out at the
door and beckoned me in.

'Oh!' said Mr. jorkins. 'Mr. Tiffey and myself, Mr. Copperfield,
are about to examine the desks, the drawers, and other such
repositories of the deceased, with the view of sealing up his
private papers, and searching for a Will. There is no trace of
any, elsewhere. It may be as well for you to assist us, if you
please.'

I had been in agony to obtain some knowledge of the circumstances
in which my Dora would be placed - as, in whose guardianship, and
so forth - and this was something towards it. We began the search
at once; Mr. jorkins unlocking the drawers and desks, and we all
taking out the papers. The office-papers we placed on one side,
and the private papers (which were not numerous) on the other. We
were very grave; and when we came to a stray seal, or pencil-case,
or ring, or any little article of that kind which we associated
personally with him, we spoke very low.

We had sealed up several packets; and were still going on dustily
and quietly, when Mr. jorkins said to us, applying exactly the same
words to his late partner as his late partner had applied to him:

'Mr. Spenlow was very difficult to move from the beaten track. You
know what he was! I am disposed to think he had made no will.'

'Oh, I know he had!' said I.

They both stopped and looked at me.
'On the very day when I last saw him,' said I, 'he told me that he
had, and that his affairs were long since settled.'

Mr. jorkins and old Tiffey shook their heads with one accord.

'That looks unpromising,' said Tiffey.

'Very unpromising,' said Mr. jorkins.

'Surely you don't doubt -' I began.

'My good Mr. Copperfield!' said Tiffey, laying his hand upon my
arm, and shutting up both his eyes as he shook his head: 'if you
had been in the Commons as long as I have, you would know that
there is no subject on which men are so inconsistent, and so little
to be trusted.'

'Why, bless my soul, he made that very remark!' I replied
persistently.

'I should call that almost final,' observed Tiffey. 'My opinion is
- no will.'

It appeared a wonderful thing to me, but it turned out that there
was no will. He had never so much as thought of making one, so far
as his papers afforded any evidence; for there was no kind of hint,
sketch, or memorandum, of any testamentary intention whatever.
What was scarcely less astonishing to me, was, that his affairs
were in a most disordered state. It was extremely difficult, I
heard, to make out what he owed, or what he had paid, or of what he
died possessed. It was considered likely that for years he could
have had no clear opinion on these subjects himself. By little and
little it came out, that, in the competition on all points of
appearance and gentility then running high in the Commons, he had
spent more than his professional income, which was not a very large
one, and had reduced his private means, if they ever had been great
(which was exceedingly doubtful), to a very low ebb indeed. There
was a sale of the furniture and lease, at Norwood; and Tiffey told
me, little thinking how interested I was in the story, that, paying
all the just debts of the deceased, and deducting his share of
outstanding bad and doubtful debts due to the firm, he wouldn't
give a thousand pounds for all the assets remaining.

This was at the expiration of about six weeks. I had suffered
tortures all the time; and thought I really must have laid violent
hands upon myself, when Miss Mills still reported to me, that my
broken-hearted little Dora would say nothing, when I was mentioned,
but 'Oh, poor papa! Oh, dear papa!' Also, that she had no other
relations than two aunts, maiden sisters of Mr. Spenlow, who lived
at Putney, and who had not held any other than chance communication
with their brother for many years. Not that they had ever
quarrelled (Miss Mills informed me); but that having been, on the
occasion of Dora's christening, invited to tea, when they
considered themselves privileged to be invited to dinner, they had
expressed their opinion in writing, that it was 'better for the
happiness of all parties' that they should stay away. Since which
they had gone their road, and their brother had gone his.

These two ladies now emerged from their retirement, and proposed to
take Dora to live at Putney. Dora, clinging to them both, and
weeping, exclaimed, 'O yes, aunts! Please take Julia Mills and me
and Jip to Putney!' So they went, very soon after the funeral.

How I found time to haunt Putney, I am sure I don't know; but I
contrived, by some means or other, to prowl about the neighbourhood
pretty often. Miss Mills, for the more exact discharge of the
duties of friendship, kept a journal; and she used to meet me
sometimes, on the Common, and read it, or (if she had not time to
do that) lend it to me. How I treasured up the entries, of which
I subjoin a sample! -

'Monday. My sweet D. still much depressed. Headache. Called
attention to J. as being beautifully sleek. D. fondled J.
Associations thus awakened, opened floodgates of sorrow. Rush of
grief admitted. (Are tears the dewdrops of the heart? J. M.)

'Tuesday. D. weak and nervous. Beautiful in pallor. (Do we not
remark this in moon likewise? J. M.) D., J. M. and J. took airing
in carriage. J. looking out of window, and barking violently at
dustman, occasioned smile to overspread features of D. (Of such
slight links is chain of life composed! J. M.)

'Wednesday. D. comparatively cheerful. Sang to her, as congenial
melody, "Evening Bells". Effect not soothing, but reverse. D.
inexpressibly affected. Found sobbing afterwards, in own room.
Quoted verses respecting self and young Gazelle. Ineffectually.
Also referred to Patience on Monument. (Qy. Why on monument? J.
M.)

'Thursday. D. certainly improved. Better night. Slight tinge of
damask revisiting cheek. Resolved to mention name of D. C.
Introduced same, cautiously, in course of airing. D. immediately
overcome. "Oh, dear, dear Julia! Oh, I have been a naughty and
undutiful child!" Soothed and caressed. Drew ideal picture of D.
C. on verge of tomb. D. again overcome. "Oh, what shall I do,
what shall I do? Oh, take me somewhere!" Much alarmed. Fainting
of D. and glass of water from public-house. (Poetical affinity.
Chequered sign on door-post; chequered human life. Alas! J. M.)

'Friday. Day of incident. Man appears in kitchen, with blue bag,
"for lady's boots left out to heel". Cook replies, "No such
orders." Man argues point. Cook withdraws to inquire, leaving man
alone with J. On Cook's return, man still argues point, but
ultimately goes. J. missing. D. distracted. Information sent to
police. Man to be identified by broad nose, and legs like
balustrades of bridge. Search made in every direction. No J. D.
weeping bitterly, and inconsolable. Renewed reference to young
Gazelle. Appropriate, but unavailing. Towards evening, strange
boy calls. Brought into parlour. Broad nose, but no balustrades.
Says he wants a pound, and knows a dog. Declines to explain
further, though much pressed. Pound being produced by D. takes
Cook to little house, where J. alone tied up to leg of table. joy
of D. who dances round J. while he eats his supper. Emboldened by
this happy change, mention D. C. upstairs. D. weeps afresh, cries
piteously, "Oh, don't, don't, don't! It is so wicked to think of
anything but poor papa!" - embraces J. and sobs herself to sleep.
(Must not D. C. confine himself to the broad pinions of Time? J.
M.)'

Miss Mills and her journal were my sole consolation at this period.
To see her, who had seen Dora but a little while before - to trace
the initial letter of Dora's name through her sympathetic pages -
to be made more and more miserable by her - were my only comforts.
I felt as if I had been living in a palace of cards, which had
tumbled down, leaving only Miss Mills and me among the ruins; I
felt as if some grim enchanter had drawn a magic circle round the
innocent goddess of my heart, which nothing indeed but those same
strong pinions, capable of carrying so many people over so much,
would enable me to enter!





David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Category:
General Fiction

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