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CHAPTER 59
RETURN


I landed in London on a wintry autumn evening. It was dark and
raining, and I saw more fog and mud in a minute than I had seen in
a year. I walked from the Custom House to the Monument before I
found a coach; and although the very house-fronts, looking on the
swollen gutters, were like old friends to me, I could not but admit
that they were very dingy friends.

I have often remarked - I suppose everybody has - that one's going
away from a familiar place, would seem to be the signal for change
in it. As I looked out of the coach window, and observed that an
old house on Fish-street Hill, which had stood untouched by
painter, carpenter, or bricklayer, for a century, had been pulled
down in my absence; and that a neighbouring street, of
time-honoured insalubrity and inconvenience, was being drained and
widened; I half expected to find St. Paul's Cathedral looking
older.

For some changes in the fortunes of my friends, I was prepared. My
aunt had long been re-established at Dover, and Traddles had begun
to get into some little practice at the Bar, in the very first term
after my departure. He had chambers in Gray's Inn, now; and had
told me, in his last letters, that he was not without hopes of
being soon united to the dearest girl in the world.

They expected me home before Christmas; but had no idea of my
returning so soon. I had purposely misled them, that I might have
the pleasure of taking them by surprise. And yet, I was perverse
enough to feel a chill and disappointment in receiving no welcome,
and rattling, alone and silent, through the misty streets.

The well-known shops, however, with their cheerful lights, did
something for me; and when I alighted at the door of the Gray's Inn
Coffee-house, I had recovered my spirits. It recalled, at first,
that so-different time when I had put up at the Golden Cross, and
reminded me of the changes that had come to pass since then; but
that was natural.

'Do you know where Mr. Traddles lives in the Inn?' I asked the
waiter, as I warmed myself by the coffee-room fire.

'Holborn Court, sir. Number two.'

'Mr. Traddles has a rising reputation among the lawyers, I
believe?' said I.

'Well, sir,' returned the waiter, 'probably he has, sir; but I am
not aware of it myself.'

This waiter, who was middle-aged and spare, looked for help to a
waiter of more authority - a stout, potential old man, with a
double chin, in black breeches and stockings, who came out of a
place like a churchwarden's pew, at the end of the coffee-room,
where he kept company with a cash-box, a Directory, a Law-list, and
other books and papers.

'Mr. Traddles,' said the spare waiter. 'Number two in the Court.'

The potential waiter waved him away, and turned, gravely, to me.

'I was inquiring,' said I, 'whether Mr. Traddles, at number two in
the Court, has not a rising reputation among the lawyers?'

'Never heard his name,' said the waiter, in a rich husky voice.

I felt quite apologetic for Traddles.

'He's a young man, sure?' said the portentous waiter, fixing his
eyes severely on me. 'How long has he been in the Inn?'

'Not above three years,' said I.

The waiter, who I supposed had lived in his churchwarden's pew for
forty years, could not pursue such an insignificant subject. He
asked me what I would have for dinner?

I felt I was in England again, and really was quite cast down on
Traddles's account. There seemed to be no hope for him. I meekly
ordered a bit of fish and a steak, and stood before the fire musing
on his obscurity.

As I followed the chief waiter with my eyes, I could not help
thinking that the garden in which he had gradually blown to be the
flower he was, was an arduous place to rise in. It had such a
prescriptive, stiff-necked, long-established, solemn, elderly air.
I glanced about the room, which had had its sanded floor sanded, no
doubt, in exactly the same manner when the chief waiter was a boy
- if he ever was a boy, which appeared improbable; and at the
shining tables, where I saw myself reflected, in unruffled depths
of old mahogany; and at the lamps, without a flaw in their trimming
or cleaning; and at the comfortable green curtains, with their pure
brass rods, snugly enclosing the boxes; and at the two large coal
fires, brightly burning; and at the rows of decanters, burly as if
with the consciousness of pipes of expensive old port wine below;
and both England, and the law, appeared to me to be very difficult
indeed to be taken by storm. I went up to my bedroom to change my
wet clothes; and the vast extent of that old wainscoted apartment
(which was over the archway leading to the Inn, I remember), and
the sedate immensity of the four-post bedstead, and the indomitable
gravity of the chests of drawers, all seemed to unite in sternly
frowning on the fortunes of Traddles, or on any such daring youth.
I came down again to my dinner; and even the slow comfort of the
meal, and the orderly silence of the place - which was bare of
guests, the Long Vacation not yet being over - were eloquent on the
audacity of Traddles, and his small hopes of a livelihood for
twenty years to come.

I had seen nothing like this since I went away, and it quite dashed
my hopes for my friend. The chief waiter had had enough of me. He
came near me no more; but devoted himself to an old gentleman in
long gaiters, to meet whom a pint of special port seemed to come
out of the cellar of its own accord, for he gave no order. The
second waiter informed me, in a whisper, that this old gentleman
was a retired conveyancer living in the Square, and worth a mint of
money, which it was expected he would leave to his laundress's
daughter; likewise that it was rumoured that he had a service of
plate in a bureau, all tarnished with lying by, though more than
one spoon and a fork had never yet been beheld in his chambers by
mortal vision. By this time, I quite gave Traddles up for lost;
and settled in my own mind that there was no hope for him.

Being very anxious to see the dear old fellow, nevertheless, I
dispatched my dinner, in a manner not at all calculated to raise me
in the opinion of the chief waiter, and hurried out by the back
way. Number two in the Court was soon reached; and an inscription
on the door-post informing me that Mr. Traddles occupied a set of
chambers on the top storey, I ascended the staircase. A crazy old
staircase I found it to be, feebly lighted on each landing by a
club- headed little oil wick, dying away in a little dungeon of
dirty glass.

In the course of my stumbling upstairs, I fancied I heard a
pleasant sound of laughter; and not the laughter of an attorney or
barrister, or attorney's clerk or barrister's clerk, but of two or
three merry girls. Happening, however, as I stopped to listen, to
put my foot in a hole where the Honourable Society of Gray's Inn
had left a plank deficient, I fell down with some noise, and when
I recovered my footing all was silent.

Groping my way more carefully, for the rest of the journey, my
heart beat high when I found the outer door, which had Mr. TRADDLES
painted on it, open. I knocked. A considerable scuffling within
ensued, but nothing else. I therefore knocked again.

A small sharp-looking lad, half-footboy and half-clerk, who was
very much out of breath, but who looked at me as if he defied me to
prove it legally, presented himself.

'Is Mr. Traddles within?' I said.

'Yes, sir, but he's engaged.'

'I want to see him.'

After a moment's survey of me, the sharp-looking lad decided to let
me in; and opening the door wider for that purpose, admitted me,
first, into a little closet of a hall, and next into a little
sitting-room; where I came into the presence of my old friend (also
out of breath), seated at a table, and bending over papers.

'Good God!' cried Traddles, looking up. 'It's Copperfield!' and
rushed into my arms, where I held him tight.

'All well, my dear Traddles?'

'All well, my dear, dear Copperfield, and nothing but good news!'

We cried with pleasure, both of us.

'My dear fellow,' said Traddles, rumpling his hair in his
excitement, which was a most unnecessary operation, 'my dearest
Copperfield, my long-lost and most welcome friend, how glad I am to
see you! How brown you are! How glad I am! Upon my life and honour,
I never was so rejoiced, my beloved Copperfield, never!'

I was equally at a loss to express my emotions. I was quite unable
to speak, at first.

'My dear fellow!' said Traddles. 'And grown so famous! My glorious
Copperfield! Good gracious me, WHEN did you come, WHERE have you
come from, WHAT have you been doing?'

Never pausing for an answer to anything he said, Traddles, who had
clapped me into an easy-chair by the fire, all this time
impetuously stirred the fire with one hand, and pulled at my
neck-kerchief with the other, under some wild delusion that it was
a great-coat. Without putting down the poker, he now hugged me
again; and I hugged him; and, both laughing, and both wiping our
eyes, we both sat down, and shook hands across the hearth.

'To think,' said Traddles, 'that you should have been so nearly
coming home as you must have been, my dear old boy, and not at the
ceremony!'

'What ceremony, my dear Traddles?'

'Good gracious me!' cried Traddles, opening his eyes in his old
way. 'Didn't you get my last letter?'

'Certainly not, if it referred to any ceremony.'

'Why, my dear Copperfield,' said Traddles, sticking his hair
upright with both hands, and then putting his hands on my knees, 'I
am married!'

'Married!' I cried joyfully.

'Lord bless me, yes,!' said Traddles - 'by the Reverend Horace - to
Sophy - down in Devonshire. Why, my dear boy, she's behind the
window curtain! Look here!'

To my amazement, the dearest girl in the world came at that same
instant, laughing and blushing, from her place of concealment. And
a more cheerful, amiable, honest, happy, bright-looking bride, I
believe (as I could not help saying on the spot) the world never
saw. I kissed her as an old acquaintance should, and wished them
joy with all my might of heart.

'Dear me,' said Traddles, 'what a delightful re-union this is! You
are so extremely brown, my dear Copperfield! God bless my soul, how
happy I am!'

'And so am I,' said I.

'And I am sure I am!' said the blushing and laughing Sophy.

'We are all as happy as possible!' said Traddles. 'Even the girls
are happy. Dear me, I declare I forgot them!'

'Forgot?' said I.

'The girls,' said Traddles. 'Sophy's sisters. They are staying
with us. They have come to have a peep at London. The fact is,
when - was it you that tumbled upstairs, Copperfield?'

'It was,' said I, laughing.

'Well then, when you tumbled upstairs,' said Traddles, 'I was
romping with the girls. In point of fact, we were playing at Puss
in the Corner. But as that wouldn't do in Westminster Hall, and as
it wouldn't look quite professional if they were seen by a client,
they decamped. And they are now - listening, I have no doubt,'
said Traddles, glancing at the door of another room.

'I am sorry,' said I, laughing afresh, 'to have occasioned such a
dispersion.'

'Upon my word,' rejoined Traddles, greatly delighted, 'if you had
seen them running away, and running back again, after you had
knocked, to pick up the combs they had dropped out of their hair,
and going on in the maddest manner, you wouldn't have said so. My
love, will you fetch the girls?'

Sophy tripped away, and we heard her received in the adjoining room
with a peal of laughter.

'Really musical, isn't it, my dear Copperfield?' said Traddles.
'It's very agreeable to hear. It quite lights up these old rooms.
To an unfortunate bachelor of a fellow who has lived alone all his
life, you know, it's positively delicious. It's charming. Poor
things, they have had a great loss in Sophy - who, I do assure you,
Copperfield is, and ever was, the dearest girl! - and it gratifies
me beyond expression to find them in such good spirits. The
society of girls is a very delightful thing, Copperfield. It's not
professional, but it's very delightful.'

Observing that he slightly faltered, and comprehending that in the
goodness of his heart he was fearful of giving me some pain by what
he had said, I expressed my concurrence with a heartiness that
evidently relieved and pleased him greatly.

'But then,' said Traddles, 'our domestic arrangements are, to say
the truth, quite unprofessional altogether, my dear Copperfield.
Even Sophy's being here, is unprofessional. And we have no other
place of abode. We have put to sea in a cockboat, but we are quite
prepared to rough it. And Sophy's an extraordinary manager! You'll
be surprised how those girls are stowed away. I am sure I hardly
know how it's done!'

'Are many of the young ladies with you?' I inquired.

'The eldest, the Beauty is here,' said Traddles, in a low
confidential voice, 'Caroline. And Sarah's here - the one I
mentioned to you as having something the matter with her spine, you
know. Immensely better! And the two youngest that Sophy educated
are with us. And Louisa's here.'

'Indeed!' cried I.

'Yes,' said Traddles. 'Now the whole set - I mean the chambers -
is only three rooms; but Sophy arranges for the girls in the most
wonderful way, and they sleep as comfortably as possible. Three in
that room,' said Traddles, pointing. 'Two in that.'

I could not help glancing round, in search of the accommodation
remaining for Mr. and Mrs. Traddles. Traddles understood me.

'Well!' said Traddles, 'we are prepared to rough it, as I said just
now, and we did improvise a bed last week, upon the floor here.
But there's a little room in the roof - a very nice room, when
you're up there - which Sophy papered herself, to surprise me; and
that's our room at present. It's a capital little gipsy sort of
place. There's quite a view from it.'

'And you are happily married at last, my dear Traddles!' said I.
'How rejoiced I am!'

'Thank you, my dear Copperfield,' said Traddles, as we shook hands
once more. 'Yes, I am as happy as it's possible to be. There's
your old friend, you see,' said Traddles, nodding triumphantly at
the flower-pot and stand; 'and there's the table with the marble
top! All the other furniture is plain and serviceable, you
perceive. And as to plate, Lord bless you, we haven't so much as
a tea-spoon.'

'All to be earned?' said I, cheerfully.

'Exactly so,' replied Traddles, 'all to be earned. Of course we
have something in the shape of tea-spoons, because we stir our tea.
But they're Britannia metal."

'The silver will be the brighter when it comes,' said I.

'The very thing we say!' cried Traddles. 'You see, my dear
Copperfield,' falling again into the low confidential tone, 'after
I had delivered my argument in DOE dem. JIPES versus WIGZIELL,
which did me great service with the profession, I went down into
Devonshire, and had some serious conversation in private with the
Reverend Horace. I dwelt upon the fact that Sophy - who I do
assure you, Copperfield, is the dearest girl! -'

'I am certain she is!' said I.

'She is, indeed!' rejoined Traddles. 'But I am afraid I am
wandering from the subject. Did I mention the Reverend Horace?'

'You said that you dwelt upon the fact -'

'True! Upon the fact that Sophy and I had been engaged for a long
period, and that Sophy, with the permission of her parents, was
more than content to take me - in short,' said Traddles, with his
old frank smile, 'on our present Britannia-metal footing. Very
well. I then proposed to the Reverend Horace - who is a most
excellent clergyman, Copperfield, and ought to be a Bishop; or at
least ought to have enough to live upon, without pinching himself
- that if I could turn the corner, say of two hundred and fifty
pounds, in one year; and could see my way pretty clearly to that,
or something better, next year; and could plainly furnish a little
place like this, besides; then, and in that case, Sophy and I
should be united. I took the liberty of representing that we had
been patient for a good many years; and that the circumstance of
Sophy's being extraordinarily useful at home, ought not to operate
with her affectionate parents, against her establishment in life -
don't you see?'

'Certainly it ought not,' said I.

'I am glad you think so, Copperfield,' rejoined Traddles, 'because,
without any imputation on the Reverend Horace, I do think parents,
and brothers, and so forth, are sometimes rather selfish in such
cases. Well! I also pointed out, that my most earnest desire was,
to be useful to the family; and that if I got on in the world, and
anything should happen to him - I refer to the Reverend Horace -'

'I understand,' said I.

'- Or to Mrs. Crewler - it would be the utmost gratification of my
wishes, to be a parent to the girls. He replied in a most
admirable manner, exceedingly flattering to my feelings, and
undertook to obtain the consent of Mrs. Crewler to this
arrangement. They had a dreadful time of it with her. It mounted
from her legs into her chest, and then into her head -'

'What mounted?' I asked.

'Her grief,' replied Traddles, with a serious look. 'Her feelings
generally. As I mentioned on a former occasion, she is a very
superior woman, but has lost the use of her limbs. Whatever occurs
to harass her, usually settles in her legs; but on this occasion it
mounted to the chest, and then to the head, and, in short, pervaded
the whole system in a most alarming manner. However, they brought
her through it by unremitting and affectionate attention; and we
were married yesterday six weeks. You have no idea what a Monster
I felt, Copperfield, when I saw the whole family crying and
fainting away in every direction! Mrs. Crewler couldn't see me
before we left - couldn't forgive me, then, for depriving her of
her child - but she is a good creature, and has done so since. I
had a delightful letter from her, only this morning.'

'And in short, my dear friend,' said I, 'you feel as blest as you
deserve to feel!'

'Oh! That's your partiality!' laughed Traddles. 'But, indeed, I am
in a most enviable state. I work hard, and read Law insatiably.
I get up at five every morning, and don't mind it at all. I hide
the girls in the daytime, and make merry with them in the evening.
And I assure you I am quite sorry that they are going home on
Tuesday, which is the day before the first day of Michaelmas Term.
But here,' said Traddles, breaking off in his confidence, and
speaking aloud, 'ARE the girls! Mr. Copperfield, Miss Crewler -
Miss Sarah - Miss Louisa - Margaret and Lucy!'

They were a perfect nest of roses; they looked so wholesome and
fresh. They were all pretty, and Miss Caroline was very handsome;
but there was a loving, cheerful, fireside quality in Sophy's
bright looks, which was better than that, and which assured me that
my friend had chosen well. We all sat round the fire; while the
sharp boy, who I now divined had lost his breath in putting the
papers out, cleared them away again, and produced the tea-things.
After that, he retired for the night, shutting the outer door upon
us with a bang. Mrs. Traddles, with perfect pleasure and composure
beaming from her household eyes, having made the tea, then quietly
made the toast as she sat in a corner by the fire.

She had seen Agnes, she told me while she was toasting. 'Tom' had
taken her down into Kent for a wedding trip, and there she had seen
my aunt, too; and both my aunt and Agnes were well, and they had
all talked of nothing but me. 'Tom' had never had me out of his
thoughts, she really believed, all the time I had been away. 'Tom'
was the authority for everything. 'Tom' was evidently the idol of
her life; never to be shaken on his pedestal by any commotion;
always to be believed in, and done homage to with the whole faith
of her heart, come what might.

The deference which both she and Traddles showed towards the
Beauty, pleased me very much. I don't know that I thought it very
reasonable; but I thought it very delightful, and essentially a
part of their character. If Traddles ever for an instant missed
the tea-spoons that were still to be won, I have no doubt it was
when he handed the Beauty her tea. If his sweet-tempered wife
could have got up any self-assertion against anyone, I am satisfied
it could only have been because she was the Beauty's sister. A few
slight indications of a rather petted and capricious manner, which
I observed in the Beauty, were manifestly considered, by Traddles
and his wife, as her birthright and natural endowment. If she had
been born a Queen Bee, and they labouring Bees, they could not have
been more satisfied of that.

But their self-forgetfulness charmed me. Their pride in these
girls, and their submission of themselves to all their whims, was
the pleasantest little testimony to their own worth I could have
desired to see. If Traddles were addressed as 'a darling', once in
the course of that evening; and besought to bring something here,
or carry something there, or take something up, or put something
down, or find something, or fetch something, he was so addressed,
by one or other of his sisters-in-law, at least twelve times in an
hour. Neither could they do anything without Sophy. Somebody's
hair fell down, and nobody but Sophy could put it up. Somebody
forgot how a particular tune went, and nobody but Sophy could hum
that tune right. Somebody wanted to recall the name of a place in
Devonshire, and only Sophy knew it. Something was wanted to be
written home, and Sophy alone could be trusted to write before
breakfast in the morning. Somebody broke down in a piece of
knitting, and no one but Sophy was able to put the defaulter in the
right direction. They were entire mistresses of the place, and
Sophy and Traddles waited on them. How many children Sophy could
have taken care of in her time, I can't imagine; but she seemed to
be famous for knowing every sort of song that ever was addressed to
a child in the English tongue; and she sang dozens to order with
the clearest little voice in the world, one after another (every
sister issuing directions for a different tune, and the Beauty
generally striking in last), so that I was quite fascinated. The
best of all was, that, in the midst of their exactions, all the
sisters had a great tenderness and respect both for Sophy and
Traddles. I am sure, when I took my leave, and Traddles was coming
out to walk with me to the coffee-house, I thought I had never seen
an obstinate head of hair, or any other head of hair, rolling about
in such a shower of kisses.

Altogether, it was a scene I could not help dwelling on with
pleasure, for a long time after I got back and had wished Traddles
good night. If I had beheld a thousand roses blowing in a top set
of chambers, in that withered Gray's Inn, they could not have
brightened it half so much. The idea of those Devonshire girls,
among the dry law-stationers and the attorneys' offices; and of the
tea and toast, and children's songs, in that grim atmosphere of
pounce and parchment, red-tape, dusty wafers, ink-jars, brief and
draft paper, law reports, writs, declarations, and bills of costs;
seemed almost as pleasantly fanciful as if I had dreamed that the
Sultan's famous family had been admitted on the roll of attorneys,
and had brought the talking bird, the singing tree, and the golden
water into Gray's Inn Hall. Somehow, I found that I had taken
leave of Traddles for the night, and come back to the coffee-house,
with a great change in my despondency about him. I began to think
he would get on, in spite of all the many orders of chief waiters
in England.

Drawing a chair before one of the coffee-room fires to think about
him at my leisure, I gradually fell from the consideration of his
happiness to tracing prospects in the live-coals, and to thinking,
as they broke and changed, of the principal vicissitudes and
separations that had marked my life. I had not seen a coal fire,
since I had left England three years ago: though many a wood fire
had I watched, as it crumbled into hoary ashes, and mingled with
the feathery heap upon the hearth, which not inaptly figured to me,
in my despondency, my own dead hopes.

I could think of the past now, gravely, but not bitterly; and could
contemplate the future in a brave spirit. Home, in its best sense,
was for me no more. She in whom I might have inspired a dearer
love, I had taught to be my sister. She would marry, and would
have new claimants on her tenderness; and in doing it, would never
know the love for her that had grown up in my heart. It was right
that I should pay the forfeit of my headlong passion. What I
reaped, I had sown.

I was thinking. And had I truly disciplined my heart to this, and
could I resolutely bear it, and calmly hold the place in her home
which she had calmly held in mine, - when I found my eyes resting
on a countenance that might have arisen out of the fire, in its
association with my early remembrances.

Little Mr. Chillip the Doctor, to whose good offices I was indebted
in the very first chapter of this history, sat reading a newspaper
in the shadow of an opposite corner. He was tolerably stricken in
years by this time; but, being a mild, meek, calm little man, had
worn so easily, that I thought he looked at that moment just as he
might have looked when he sat in our parlour, waiting for me to be
born.

Mr. Chillip had left Blunderstone six or seven years ago, and I had
never seen him since. He sat placidly perusing the newspaper, with
his little head on one side, and a glass of warm sherry negus at
his elbow. He was so extremely conciliatory in his manner that he
seemed to apologize to the very newspaper for taking the liberty of
reading it.

I walked up to where he was sitting, and said, 'How do you do, Mr.
Chillip?'

He was greatly fluttered by this unexpected address from a
stranger, and replied, in his slow way, 'I thank you, sir, you are
very good. Thank you, sir. I hope YOU are well.'

'You don't remember me?' said I.

'Well, sir,' returned Mr. Chillip, smiling very meekly, and shaking
his head as he surveyed me, 'I have a kind of an impression that
something in your countenance is familiar to me, sir; but I
couldn't lay my hand upon your name, really.'

'And yet you knew it, long before I knew it myself,' I returned.

'Did I indeed, sir?' said Mr. Chillip. 'Is it possible that I had
the honour, sir, of officiating when -?'

'Yes,' said I.

'Dear me!' cried Mr. Chillip. 'But no doubt you are a good deal
changed since then, sir?'

'Probably,' said I.

'Well, sir,' observed Mr. Chillip, 'I hope you'll excuse me, if I
am compelled to ask the favour of your name?'

On my telling him my name, he was really moved. He quite shook
hands with me - which was a violent proceeding for him, his usual
course being to slide a tepid little fish-slice, an inch or two in
advance of his hip, and evince the greatest discomposure when
anybody grappled with it. Even now, he put his hand in his
coat-pocket as soon as he could disengage it, and seemed relieved
when he had got it safe back.

'Dear me, sir!' said Mr. Chillip, surveying me with his head on one
side. 'And it's Mr. Copperfield, is it? Well, sir, I think I
should have known you, if I had taken the liberty of looking more
closely at you. There's a strong resemblance between you and your
poor father, sir.'

'I never had the happiness of seeing my father,' I observed.

'Very true, sir,' said Mr. Chillip, in a soothing tone. 'And very
much to be deplored it was, on all accounts! We are not ignorant,
sir,' said Mr. Chillip, slowly shaking his little head again, 'down
in our part of the country, of your fame. There must be great
excitement here, sir,' said Mr. Chillip, tapping himself on the
forehead with his forefinger. 'You must find it a trying
occupation, sir!'

'What is your part of the country now?' I asked, seating myself
near him.

'I am established within a few miles of Bury St. Edmund's, sir,'
said Mr. Chillip. 'Mrs. Chillip, coming into a little property in
that neighbourhood, under her father's will, I bought a practice
down there, in which you will be glad to hear I am doing well. My
daughter is growing quite a tall lass now, sir,' said Mr. Chillip,
giving his little head another little shake. 'Her mother let down
two tucks in her frocks only last week. Such is time, you see,
sir!'

As the little man put his now empty glass to his lips, when he made
this reflection, I proposed to him to have it refilled, and I would
keep him company with another. 'Well, sir,' he returned, in his
slow way, 'it's more than I am accustomed to; but I can't deny
myself the pleasure of your conversation. It seems but yesterday
that I had the honour of attending you in the measles. You came
through them charmingly, sir!'

I acknowledged this compliment, and ordered the negus, which was
soon produced. 'Quite an uncommon dissipation!' said Mr. Chillip,
stirring it, 'but I can't resist so extraordinary an occasion. You
have no family, sir?'

I shook my head.

'I was aware that you sustained a bereavement, sir, some time ago,'
said Mr. Chillip. 'I heard it from your father-in-law's sister.
Very decided character there, sir?'

'Why, yes,' said I, 'decided enough. Where did you see her, Mr.
Chillip?'

'Are you not aware, sir,' returned Mr. Chillip, with his placidest
smile, 'that your father-in-law is again a neighbour of mine?'

'No,' said I.

'He is indeed, sir!' said Mr. Chillip. 'Married a young lady of
that part, with a very good little property, poor thing. - And
this action of the brain now, sir? Don't you find it fatigue you?'
said Mr. Chillip, looking at me like an admiring Robin.

I waived that question, and returned to the Murdstones. 'I was
aware of his being married again. Do you attend the family?' I
asked.

'Not regularly. I have been called in,' he replied. 'Strong
phrenological developments of the organ of firmness, in Mr.
Murdstone and his sister, sir.'

I replied with such an expressive look, that Mr. Chillip was
emboldened by that, and the negus together, to give his head
several short shakes, and thoughtfully exclaim, 'Ah, dear me! We
remember old times, Mr. Copperfield!'

'And the brother and sister are pursuing their old course, are
they?' said I.

'Well, sir,' replied Mr. Chillip, 'a medical man, being so much in
families, ought to have neither eyes nor ears for anything but his
profession. Still, I must say, they are very severe, sir: both as
to this life and the next.'

'The next will be regulated without much reference to them, I dare
say,' I returned: 'what are they doing as to this?'

Mr. Chillip shook his head, stirred his negus, and sipped it.

'She was a charming woman, sir!' he observed in a plaintive manner.

'The present Mrs. Murdstone?'

A charming woman indeed, sir,' said Mr. Chillip; 'as amiable, I am
sure, as it was possible to be! Mrs. Chillip's opinion is, that her
spirit has been entirely broken since her marriage, and that she is
all but melancholy mad. And the ladies,' observed Mr. Chillip,
timorously, 'are great observers, sir.'

'I suppose she was to be subdued and broken to their detestable
mould, Heaven help her!' said I. 'And she has been.'

'Well, sir, there were violent quarrels at first, I assure you,'
said Mr. Chillip; 'but she is quite a shadow now. Would it be
considered forward if I was to say to you, sir, in confidence, that
since the sister came to help, the brother and sister between them
have nearly reduced her to a state of imbecility?'

I told him I could easily believe it.

'I have no hesitation in saying,' said Mr. Chillip, fortifying
himself with another sip of negus, 'between you and me, sir, that
her mother died of it - or that tyranny, gloom, and worry have made
Mrs. Murdstone nearly imbecile. She was a lively young woman, sir,
before marriage, and their gloom and austerity destroyed her. They
go about with her, now, more like her keepers than her husband and
sister-in-law. That was Mrs. Chillip's remark to me, only last
week. And I assure you, sir, the ladies are great observers. Mrs.
Chillip herself is a great observer!'

'Does he gloomily profess to be (I am ashamed to use the word in
such association) religious still?' I inquired.

'You anticipate, sir,' said Mr. Chillip, his eyelids getting quite
red with the unwonted stimulus in which he was indulging. 'One of
Mrs. Chillip's most impressive remarks. Mrs. Chillip,' he
proceeded, in the calmest and slowest manner, 'quite electrified
me, by pointing out that Mr. Murdstone sets up an image of himself,
and calls it the Divine Nature. You might have knocked me down on
the flat of my back, sir, with the feather of a pen, I assure you,
when Mrs. Chillip said so. The ladies are great observers, sir?'

'Intuitively,' said I, to his extreme delight.

'I am very happy to receive such support in my opinion, sir,' he
rejoined. 'It is not often that I venture to give a non-medical
opinion, I assure you. Mr. Murdstone delivers public addresses
sometimes, and it is said, - in short, sir, it is said by Mrs.
Chillip, - that the darker tyrant he has lately been, the more
ferocious is his doctrine.'

'I believe Mrs. Chillip to be perfectly right,' said I.

'Mrs. Chillip does go so far as to say,' pursued the meekest of
little men, much encouraged, 'that what such people miscall their
religion, is a vent for their bad humours and arrogance. And do
you know I must say, sir,' he continued, mildly laying his head on
one side, 'that I DON'T find authority for Mr. and Miss Murdstone
in the New Testament?'

'I never found it either!' said I.

'In the meantime, sir,' said Mr. Chillip, 'they are much disliked;
and as they are very free in consigning everybody who dislikes them
to perdition, we really have a good deal of perdition going on in
our neighbourhood! However, as Mrs. Chillip says, sir, they undergo
a continual punishment; for they are turned inward, to feed upon
their own hearts, and their own hearts are very bad feeding. Now,
sir, about that brain of yours, if you'll excuse my returning to
it. Don't you expose it to a good deal of excitement, sir?'

I found it not difficult, in the excitement of Mr. Chillip's own
brain, under his potations of negus, to divert his attention from
this topic to his own affairs, on which, for the next half-hour, he
was quite loquacious; giving me to understand, among other pieces
of information, that he was then at the Gray's Inn Coffee-house to
lay his professional evidence before a Commission of Lunacy,
touching the state of mind of a patient who had become deranged
from excessive drinking.
'And I assure you, sir,' he said, 'I am extremely nervous on such
occasions. I could not support being what is called Bullied, sir.
It would quite unman me. Do you know it was some time before I
recovered the conduct of that alarming lady, on the night of your
birth, Mr. Copperfield?'

I told him that I was going down to my aunt, the Dragon of that
night, early in the morning; and that she was one of the most
tender-hearted and excellent of women, as he would know full well
if he knew her better. The mere notion of the possibility of his
ever seeing her again, appeared to terrify him. He replied with a
small pale smile, 'Is she so, indeed, sir? Really?' and almost
immediately called for a candle, and went to bed, as if he were not
quite safe anywhere else. He did not actually stagger under the
negus; but I should think his placid little pulse must have made
two or three more beats in a minute, than it had done since the
great night of my aunt's disappointment, when she struck at him
with her bonnet.

Thoroughly tired, I went to bed too, at midnight; passed the next
day on the Dover coach; burst safe and sound into my aunt's old
parlour while she was at tea (she wore spectacles now); and was
received by her, and Mr. Dick, and dear old Peggotty, who acted as
housekeeper, with open arms and tears of joy. My aunt was mightily
amused, when we began to talk composedly, by my account of my
meeting with Mr. Chillip, and of his holding her in such dread
remembrance; and both she and Peggotty had a great deal to say
about my poor mother's second husband, and 'that murdering woman of
a sister', - on whom I think no pain or penalty would have induced
my aunt to bestow any Christian or Proper Name, or any other
designation.





David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Category:
General Fiction

England - Social life and customs - 19th century
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