Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
By Charles Dickens.
CHAPTER 1. I AM BORN.
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that
station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my
life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have
been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o'clock at night.
It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry,
In consideration of the day and hour of my birth, it was declared by
the nurse, and by some sage women in the neighbourhood who had taken a
lively interest in me several months before there was any possibility
of our becoming personally acquainted, first, that I was destined to be
unlucky in life; and secondly, that I was privileged to see ghosts and
spirits; both these gifts inevitably attaching, as they believed, to
all unlucky infants of either gender, born towards the small hours on a
I need say nothing here, on the first head, because nothing can show
better than my history whether that prediction was verified or falsified
by the result. On the second branch of the question, I will only remark,
that unless I ran through that part of my inheritance while I was still
a baby, I have not come into it yet. But I do not at all complain of
having been kept out of this property; and if anybody else should be in
the present enjoyment of it, he is heartily welcome to keep it.
I was born with a caul, which was advertised for sale, in the
newspapers, at the low price of fifteen guineas. Whether sea-going
people were short of money about that time, or were short of faith and
preferred cork jackets, I don't know; all I know is, that there was but
one solitary bidding, and that was from an attorney connected with the
bill-broking business, who offered two pounds in cash, and the balance
in sherry, but declined to be guaranteed from drowning on any higher
bargain. Consequently the advertisement was withdrawn at a dead
loss--for as to sherry, my poor dear mother's own sherry was in the
market then--and ten years afterwards, the caul was put up in a raffle
down in our part of the country, to fifty members at half-a-crown a
head, the winner to spend five shillings. I was present myself, and I
remember to have felt quite uncomfortable and confused, at a part of
myself being disposed of in that way. The caul was won, I recollect, by
an old lady with a hand-basket, who, very reluctantly, produced from it
the stipulated five shillings, all in halfpence, and twopence halfpenny
short--as it took an immense time and a great waste of arithmetic, to
endeavour without any effect to prove to her. It is a fact which will
be long remembered as remarkable down there, that she was never drowned,
but died triumphantly in bed, at ninety-two. I have understood that it
was, to the last, her proudest boast, that she never had been on the
water in her life, except upon a bridge; and that over her tea (to which
she was extremely partial) she, to the last, expressed her indignation
at the impiety of mariners and others, who had the presumption to go
'meandering' about the world. It was in vain to represent to her
that some conveniences, tea perhaps included, resulted from this
objectionable practice. She always returned, with greater emphasis and
with an instinctive knowledge of the strength of her objection, 'Let us
have no meandering.'
Not to meander myself, at present, I will go back to my birth.
I was born at Blunderstone, in Suffolk, or 'there by', as they say in
Scotland. I was a posthumous child. My father's eyes had closed upon
the light of this world six months, when mine opened on it. There is
something strange to me, even now, in the reflection that he never saw
me; and something stranger yet in the shadowy remembrance that I have
of my first childish associations with his white grave-stone in the
churchyard, and of the indefinable compassion I used to feel for it
lying out alone there in the dark night, when our little parlour
was warm and bright with fire and candle, and the doors of our house
were--almost cruelly, it seemed to me sometimes--bolted and locked
An aunt of my father's, and consequently a great-aunt of mine, of whom
I shall have more to relate by and by, was the principal magnate of our
family. Miss Trotwood, or Miss Betsey, as my poor mother always called
her, when she sufficiently overcame her dread of this formidable
personage to mention her at all (which was seldom), had been married
to a husband younger than herself, who was very handsome, except in the
sense of the homely adage, 'handsome is, that handsome does'--for he
was strongly suspected of having beaten Miss Betsey, and even of having
once, on a disputed question of supplies, made some hasty but determined
arrangements to throw her out of a two pair of stairs' window. These
evidences of an incompatibility of temper induced Miss Betsey to pay him
off, and effect a separation by mutual consent. He went to India with
his capital, and there, according to a wild legend in our family, he was
once seen riding on an elephant, in company with a Baboon; but I think
it must have been a Baboo--or a Begum. Anyhow, from India tidings of his
death reached home, within ten years. How they affected my aunt, nobody
knew; for immediately upon the separation, she took her maiden name
again, bought a cottage in a hamlet on the sea-coast a long way off,
established herself there as a single woman with one servant, and
was understood to live secluded, ever afterwards, in an inflexible
My father had once been a favourite of hers, I believe; but she was
mortally affronted by his marriage, on the ground that my mother was 'a
wax doll'. She had never seen my mother, but she knew her to be not
yet twenty. My father and Miss Betsey never met again. He was double
my mother's age when he married, and of but a delicate constitution. He
died a year afterwards, and, as I have said, six months before I came
into the world.
This was the state of matters, on the afternoon of, what I may be
excused for calling, that eventful and important Friday. I can make no
claim therefore to have known, at that time, how matters stood; or to
have any remembrance, founded on the evidence of my own senses, of what
My mother was sitting by the fire, but poorly in health, and very low in
spirits, looking at it through her tears, and desponding heavily about
herself and the fatherless little stranger, who was already welcomed by
some grosses of prophetic pins, in a drawer upstairs, to a world not at
all excited on the subject of his arrival; my mother, I say, was sitting
by the fire, that bright, windy March afternoon, very timid and sad, and
very doubtful of ever coming alive out of the trial that was before her,
when, lifting her eyes as she dried them, to the window opposite, she
saw a strange lady coming up the garden.
MY mother had a sure foreboding at the second glance, that it was
Miss Betsey. The setting sun was glowing on the strange lady, over the
garden-fence, and she came walking up to the door with a fell rigidity
of figure and composure of countenance that could have belonged to
When she reached the house, she gave another proof of her identity.
My father had often hinted that she seldom conducted herself like any
ordinary Christian; and now, instead of ringing the bell, she came and
looked in at that identical window, pressing the end of her nose against
the glass to that extent, that my poor dear mother used to say it became
perfectly flat and white in a moment.
She gave my mother such a turn, that I have always been convinced I am
indebted to Miss Betsey for having been born on a Friday.
My mother had left her chair in her agitation, and gone behind it in
the corner. Miss Betsey, looking round the room, slowly and inquiringly,
began on the other side, and carried her eyes on, like a Saracen's Head
in a Dutch clock, until they reached my mother. Then she made a frown
and a gesture to my mother, like one who was accustomed to be obeyed, to
come and open the door. My mother went.
'Mrs. David Copperfield, I think,' said Miss Betsey; the emphasis
referring, perhaps, to my mother's mourning weeds, and her condition.
'Yes,' said my mother, faintly.
'Miss Trotwood,' said the visitor. 'You have heard of her, I dare say?'
My mother answered she had had that pleasure. And she had a disagreeable
consciousness of not appearing to imply that it had been an overpowering
'Now you see her,' said Miss Betsey. My mother bent her head, and begged
her to walk in.
They went into the parlour my mother had come from, the fire in the best
room on the other side of the passage not being lighted--not having
been lighted, indeed, since my father's funeral; and when they were both
seated, and Miss Betsey said nothing, my mother, after vainly trying to
restrain herself, began to cry. 'Oh tut, tut, tut!' said Miss Betsey, in
a hurry. 'Don't do that! Come, come!'
My mother couldn't help it notwithstanding, so she cried until she had
had her cry out.
'Take off your cap, child,' said Miss Betsey, 'and let me see you.'
MY mother was too much afraid of her to refuse compliance with this odd
request, if she had any disposition to do so. Therefore she did as she
was told, and did it with such nervous hands that her hair (which was
luxuriant and beautiful) fell all about her face.
'Why, bless my heart!' exclaimed Miss Betsey. 'You are a very Baby!'
My mother was, no doubt, unusually youthful in appearance even for her
years; she hung her head, as if it were her fault, poor thing, and said,
sobbing, that indeed she was afraid she was but a childish widow, and
would be but a childish mother if she lived. In a short pause which
ensued, she had a fancy that she felt Miss Betsey touch her hair, and
that with no ungentle hand; but, looking at her, in her timid hope, she
found that lady sitting with the skirt of her dress tucked up, her hands
folded on one knee, and her feet upon the fender, frowning at the fire.
'In the name of Heaven,' said Miss Betsey, suddenly, 'why Rookery?'
'Do you mean the house, ma'am?' asked my mother.
'Why Rookery?' said Miss Betsey. 'Cookery would have been more to the
purpose, if you had had any practical ideas of life, either of you.'
'The name was Mr. Copperfield's choice,' returned my mother. 'When he
bought the house, he liked to think that there were rooks about it.'
The evening wind made such a disturbance just now, among some tall old
elm-trees at the bottom of the garden, that neither my mother nor Miss
Betsey could forbear glancing that way. As the elms bent to one another,
like giants who were whispering secrets, and after a few seconds of such
repose, fell into a violent flurry, tossing their wild arms about, as if
their late confidences were really too wicked for their peace of mind,
some weatherbeaten ragged old rooks'-nests, burdening their higher
branches, swung like wrecks upon a stormy sea.
'Where are the birds?' asked Miss Betsey.
'The--?' My mother had been thinking of something else.
'The rooks--what has become of them?' asked Miss Betsey.
'There have not been any since we have lived here,' said my mother. 'We
thought--Mr. Copperfield thought--it was quite a large rookery; but
the nests were very old ones, and the birds have deserted them a long
'David Copperfield all over!' cried Miss Betsey. 'David Copperfield from
head to foot! Calls a house a rookery when there's not a rook near it,
and takes the birds on trust, because he sees the nests!'
'Mr. Copperfield,' returned my mother, 'is dead, and if you dare to
speak unkindly of him to me--'
My poor dear mother, I suppose, had some momentary intention of
committing an assault and battery upon my aunt, who could easily have
settled her with one hand, even if my mother had been in far better
training for such an encounter than she was that evening. But it passed
with the action of rising from her chair; and she sat down again very
meekly, and fainted.
When she came to herself, or when Miss Betsey had restored her,
whichever it was, she found the latter standing at the window. The
twilight was by this time shading down into darkness; and dimly as they
saw each other, they could not have done that without the aid of the
'Well?' said Miss Betsey, coming back to her chair, as if she had only
been taking a casual look at the prospect; 'and when do you expect--'
'I am all in a tremble,' faltered my mother. 'I don't know what's the
matter. I shall die, I am sure!'
'No, no, no,' said Miss Betsey. 'Have some tea.'
'Oh dear me, dear me, do you think it will do me any good?' cried my
mother in a helpless manner.
'Of course it will,' said Miss Betsey. 'It's nothing but fancy. What do
you call your girl?'
'I don't know that it will be a girl, yet, ma'am,' said my mother
'Bless the Baby!' exclaimed Miss Betsey, unconsciously quoting the
second sentiment of the pincushion in the drawer upstairs, but
applying it to my mother instead of me, 'I don't mean that. I mean your
'Peggotty,' said my mother.
'Peggotty!' repeated Miss Betsey, with some indignation. 'Do you mean to
say, child, that any human being has gone into a Christian church,
and got herself named Peggotty?' 'It's her surname,' said my mother,
faintly. 'Mr. Copperfield called her by it, because her Christian name
was the same as mine.'
'Here! Peggotty!' cried Miss Betsey, opening the parlour door. 'Tea.
Your mistress is a little unwell. Don't dawdle.'
Having issued this mandate with as much potentiality as if she had been
a recognized authority in the house ever since it had been a house,
and having looked out to confront the amazed Peggotty coming along the
passage with a candle at the sound of a strange voice, Miss Betsey shut
the door again, and sat down as before: with her feet on the fender, the
skirt of her dress tucked up, and her hands folded on one knee.
'You were speaking about its being a girl,' said Miss Betsey. 'I have no
doubt it will be a girl. I have a presentiment that it must be a girl.
Now child, from the moment of the birth of this girl--'
'Perhaps boy,' my mother took the liberty of putting in.
'I tell you I have a presentiment that it must be a girl,' returned Miss
Betsey. 'Don't contradict. From the moment of this girl's birth, child,
I intend to be her friend. I intend to be her godmother, and I beg
you'll call her Betsey Trotwood Copperfield. There must be no mistakes
in life with THIS Betsey Trotwood. There must be no trifling with HER
affections, poor dear. She must be well brought up, and well guarded
from reposing any foolish confidences where they are not deserved. I
must make that MY care.'
There was a twitch of Miss Betsey's head, after each of these sentences,
as if her own old wrongs were working within her, and she repressed any
plainer reference to them by strong constraint. So my mother suspected,
at least, as she observed her by the low glimmer of the fire: too
much scared by Miss Betsey, too uneasy in herself, and too subdued and
bewildered altogether, to observe anything very clearly, or to know what
'And was David good to you, child?' asked Miss Betsey, when she had been
silent for a little while, and these motions of her head had gradually
ceased. 'Were you comfortable together?'
'We were very happy,' said my mother. 'Mr. Copperfield was only too good
'What, he spoilt you, I suppose?' returned Miss Betsey.
'For being quite alone and dependent on myself in this rough world
again, yes, I fear he did indeed,' sobbed my mother.
'Well! Don't cry!' said Miss Betsey. 'You were not equally matched,
child--if any two people can be equally matched--and so I asked the
question. You were an orphan, weren't you?' 'Yes.'
'And a governess?'
'I was nursery-governess in a family where Mr. Copperfield came to
visit. Mr. Copperfield was very kind to me, and took a great deal of
notice of me, and paid me a good deal of attention, and at last proposed
to me. And I accepted him. And so we were married,' said my mother
'Ha! Poor Baby!' mused Miss Betsey, with her frown still bent upon the
fire. 'Do you know anything?'
'I beg your pardon, ma'am,' faltered my mother.
'About keeping house, for instance,' said Miss Betsey.
'Not much, I fear,' returned my mother. 'Not so much as I could wish.
But Mr. Copperfield was teaching me--'
('Much he knew about it himself!') said Miss Betsey in a parenthesis.
--'And I hope I should have improved, being very anxious to learn, and
he very patient to teach me, if the great misfortune of his death'--my
mother broke down again here, and could get no farther.
'Well, well!' said Miss Betsey. --'I kept my housekeeping-book
regularly, and balanced it with Mr. Copperfield every night,' cried my
mother in another burst of distress, and breaking down again.
'Well, well!' said Miss Betsey. 'Don't cry any more.' --'And I am
sure we never had a word of difference respecting it, except when Mr.
Copperfield objected to my threes and fives being too much like each
other, or to my putting curly tails to my sevens and nines,' resumed my
mother in another burst, and breaking down again.
'You'll make yourself ill,' said Miss Betsey, 'and you know that will
not be good either for you or for my god-daughter. Come! You mustn't do
This argument had some share in quieting my mother, though her
increasing indisposition had a larger one. There was an interval of
silence, only broken by Miss Betsey's occasionally ejaculating 'Ha!' as
she sat with her feet upon the fender.
'David had bought an annuity for himself with his money, I know,' said
she, by and by. 'What did he do for you?'
'Mr. Copperfield,' said my mother, answering with some difficulty, 'was
so considerate and good as to secure the reversion of a part of it to
'How much?' asked Miss Betsey.
'A hundred and five pounds a year,' said my mother.
'He might have done worse,' said my aunt.
The word was appropriate to the moment. My mother was so much worse
that Peggotty, coming in with the teaboard and candles, and seeing at a
glance how ill she was,--as Miss Betsey might have done sooner if there
had been light enough,--conveyed her upstairs to her own room with all
speed; and immediately dispatched Ham Peggotty, her nephew, who had been
for some days past secreted in the house, unknown to my mother, as a
special messenger in case of emergency, to fetch the nurse and doctor.
Those allied powers were considerably astonished, when they arrived
within a few minutes of each other, to find an unknown lady of
portentous appearance, sitting before the fire, with her bonnet tied
over her left arm, stopping her ears with jewellers' cotton. Peggotty
knowing nothing about her, and my mother saying nothing about her,
she was quite a mystery in the parlour; and the fact of her having a
magazine of jewellers' cotton in her pocket, and sticking the article
in her ears in that way, did not detract from the solemnity of her
The doctor having been upstairs and come down again, and having
satisfied himself, I suppose, that there was a probability of this
unknown lady and himself having to sit there, face to face, for some
hours, laid himself out to be polite and social. He was the meekest of
his sex, the mildest of little men. He sidled in and out of a room, to
take up the less space. He walked as softly as the Ghost in Hamlet,
and more slowly. He carried his head on one side, partly in modest
depreciation of himself, partly in modest propitiation of everybody
else. It is nothing to say that he hadn't a word to throw at a dog. He
couldn't have thrown a word at a mad dog. He might have offered him one
gently, or half a one, or a fragment of one; for he spoke as slowly as
he walked; but he wouldn't have been rude to him, and he couldn't have
been quick with him, for any earthly consideration.
Mr. Chillip, looking mildly at my aunt with his head on one side, and
making her a little bow, said, in allusion to the jewellers' cotton, as
he softly touched his left ear:
'Some local irritation, ma'am?'
'What!' replied my aunt, pulling the cotton out of one ear like a cork.
Mr. Chillip was so alarmed by her abruptness--as he told my mother
afterwards--that it was a mercy he didn't lose his presence of mind. But
he repeated sweetly:
'Some local irritation, ma'am?'
'Nonsense!' replied my aunt, and corked herself again, at one blow.
Mr. Chillip could do nothing after this, but sit and look at her feebly,
as she sat and looked at the fire, until he was called upstairs again.
After some quarter of an hour's absence, he returned.
'Well?' said my aunt, taking the cotton out of the ear nearest to him.
'Well, ma'am,' returned Mr. Chillip, 'we are--we are progressing slowly,
'Ba--a--ah!' said my aunt, with a perfect shake on the contemptuous
interjection. And corked herself as before.
Really--really--as Mr. Chillip told my mother, he was almost shocked;
speaking in a professional point of view alone, he was almost shocked.
But he sat and looked at her, notwithstanding, for nearly two hours,
as she sat looking at the fire, until he was again called out. After
another absence, he again returned.
'Well?' said my aunt, taking out the cotton on that side again.
'Well, ma'am,' returned Mr. Chillip, 'we are--we are progressing slowly,
'Ya--a--ah!' said my aunt. With such a snarl at him, that Mr. Chillip
absolutely could not bear it. It was really calculated to break his
spirit, he said afterwards. He preferred to go and sit upon the stairs,
in the dark and a strong draught, until he was again sent for.
Ham Peggotty, who went to the national school, and was a very dragon at
his catechism, and who may therefore be regarded as a credible witness,
reported next day, that happening to peep in at the parlour-door an hour
after this, he was instantly descried by Miss Betsey, then walking to
and fro in a state of agitation, and pounced upon before he could make
his escape. That there were now occasional sounds of feet and voices
overhead which he inferred the cotton did not exclude, from the
circumstance of his evidently being clutched by the lady as a victim on
whom to expend her superabundant agitation when the sounds were loudest.
That, marching him constantly up and down by the collar (as if he had
been taking too much laudanum), she, at those times, shook him, rumpled
his hair, made light of his linen, stopped his ears as if she confounded
them with her own, and otherwise tousled and maltreated him. This was
in part confirmed by his aunt, who saw him at half past twelve o'clock,
soon after his release, and affirmed that he was then as red as I was.
The mild Mr. Chillip could not possibly bear malice at such a time, if
at any time. He sidled into the parlour as soon as he was at liberty,
and said to my aunt in his meekest manner:
'Well, ma'am, I am happy to congratulate you.'
'What upon?' said my aunt, sharply.
Mr. Chillip was fluttered again, by the extreme severity of my aunt's
manner; so he made her a little bow and gave her a little smile, to
'Mercy on the man, what's he doing!' cried my aunt, impatiently. 'Can't
'Be calm, my dear ma'am,' said Mr. Chillip, in his softest accents.
'There is no longer any occasion for uneasiness, ma'am. Be calm.'
It has since been considered almost a miracle that my aunt didn't shake
him, and shake what he had to say, out of him. She only shook her own
head at him, but in a way that made him quail.
'Well, ma'am,' resumed Mr. Chillip, as soon as he had courage, 'I am
happy to congratulate you. All is now over, ma'am, and well over.'
During the five minutes or so that Mr. Chillip devoted to the delivery
of this oration, my aunt eyed him narrowly.
'How is she?' said my aunt, folding her arms with her bonnet still tied
on one of them.
'Well, ma'am, she will soon be quite comfortable, I hope,' returned Mr.
Chillip. 'Quite as comfortable as we can expect a young mother to be,
under these melancholy domestic circumstances. There cannot be any
objection to your seeing her presently, ma'am. It may do her good.'
'And SHE. How is SHE?' said my aunt, sharply.
Mr. Chillip laid his head a little more on one side, and looked at my
aunt like an amiable bird.
'The baby,' said my aunt. 'How is she?'
'Ma'am,' returned Mr. Chillip, 'I apprehended you had known. It's a
My aunt said never a word, but took her bonnet by the strings, in the
manner of a sling, aimed a blow at Mr. Chillip's head with it, put it on
bent, walked out, and never came back. She vanished like a discontented
fairy; or like one of those supernatural beings, whom it was popularly
supposed I was entitled to see; and never came back any more.
No. I lay in my basket, and my mother lay in her bed; but Betsey
Trotwood Copperfield was for ever in the land of dreams and shadows, the
tremendous region whence I had so lately travelled; and the light upon
the window of our room shone out upon the earthly bourne of all such
travellers, and the mound above the ashes and the dust that once was he,
without whom I had never been.
CHAPTER 2. I OBSERVE
The first objects that assume a distinct presence before me, as I look
far back, into the blank of my infancy, are my mother with her pretty
hair and youthful shape, and Peggotty with no shape at all, and eyes so
dark that they seemed to darken their whole neighbourhood in her face,
and cheeks and arms so hard and red that I wondered the birds didn't
peck her in preference to apples.
I believe I can remember these two at a little distance apart, dwarfed
to my sight by stooping down or kneeling on the floor, and I going
unsteadily from the one to the other. I have an impression on my mind
which I cannot distinguish from actual remembrance, of the touch of
Peggotty's forefinger as she used to hold it out to me, and of its being
roughened by needlework, like a pocket nutmeg-grater.
This may be fancy, though I think the memory of most of us can go
farther back into such times than many of us suppose; just as I believe
the power of observation in numbers of very young children to be quite
wonderful for its closeness and accuracy. Indeed, I think that most
grown men who are remarkable in this respect, may with greater propriety
be said not to have lost the faculty, than to have acquired it; the
rather, as I generally observe such men to retain a certain freshness,
and gentleness, and capacity of being pleased, which are also an
inheritance they have preserved from their childhood.
I might have a misgiving that I am 'meandering' in stopping to say this,
but that it brings me to remark that I build these conclusions, in part
upon my own experience of myself; and if it should appear from
anything I may set down in this narrative that I was a child of close
observation, or that as a man I have a strong memory of my childhood, I
undoubtedly lay claim to both of these characteristics.
Looking back, as I was saying, into the blank of my infancy, the first
objects I can remember as standing out by themselves from a confusion of
things, are my mother and Peggotty. What else do I remember? Let me see.
There comes out of the cloud, our house--not new to me, but quite
familiar, in its earliest remembrance. On the ground-floor is Peggotty's
kitchen, opening into a back yard; with a pigeon-house on a pole, in
the centre, without any pigeons in it; a great dog-kennel in a corner,
without any dog; and a quantity of fowls that look terribly tall to me,
walking about, in a menacing and ferocious manner. There is one cock who
gets upon a post to crow, and seems to take particular notice of me as
I look at him through the kitchen window, who makes me shiver, he is so
fierce. Of the geese outside the side-gate who come waddling after
me with their long necks stretched out when I go that way, I dream at
night: as a man environed by wild beasts might dream of lions.
Here is a long passage--what an enormous perspective I make of
it!--leading from Peggotty's kitchen to the front door. A dark
store-room opens out of it, and that is a place to be run past at
night; for I don't know what may be among those tubs and jars and old
tea-chests, when there is nobody in there with a dimly-burning light,
letting a mouldy air come out of the door, in which there is the smell
of soap, pickles, pepper, candles, and coffee, all at one whiff. Then
there are the two parlours: the parlour in which we sit of an evening,
my mother and I and Peggotty--for Peggotty is quite our companion, when
her work is done and we are alone--and the best parlour where we sit
on a Sunday; grandly, but not so comfortably. There is something of a
doleful air about that room to me, for Peggotty has told me--I don't
know when, but apparently ages ago--about my father's funeral, and the
company having their black cloaks put on. One Sunday night my mother
reads to Peggotty and me in there, how Lazarus was raised up from the
dead. And I am so frightened that they are afterwards obliged to take me
out of bed, and show me the quiet churchyard out of the bedroom window,
with the dead all lying in their graves at rest, below the solemn moon.
There is nothing half so green that I know anywhere, as the grass of
that churchyard; nothing half so shady as its trees; nothing half so
quiet as its tombstones. The sheep are feeding there, when I kneel up,
early in the morning, in my little bed in a closet within my mother's
room, to look out at it; and I see the red light shining on the
sun-dial, and think within myself, 'Is the sun-dial glad, I wonder, that
it can tell the time again?'
Here is our pew in the church. What a high-backed pew! With a window
near it, out of which our house can be seen, and IS seen many times
during the morning's service, by Peggotty, who likes to make herself
as sure as she can that it's not being robbed, or is not in flames. But
though Peggotty's eye wanders, she is much offended if mine does,
and frowns to me, as I stand upon the seat, that I am to look at the
clergyman. But I can't always look at him--I know him without that white
thing on, and I am afraid of his wondering why I stare so, and perhaps
stopping the service to inquire--and what am I to do? It's a dreadful
thing to gape, but I must do something. I look at my mother, but she
pretends not to see me. I look at a boy in the aisle, and he makes faces
at me. I look at the sunlight coming in at the open door through
the porch, and there I see a stray sheep--I don't mean a sinner, but
mutton--half making up his mind to come into the church. I feel that
if I looked at him any longer, I might be tempted to say something out
loud; and what would become of me then! I look up at the monumental
tablets on the wall, and try to think of Mr. Bodgers late of this
parish, and what the feelings of Mrs. Bodgers must have been, when
affliction sore, long time Mr. Bodgers bore, and physicians were in
vain. I wonder whether they called in Mr. Chillip, and he was in vain;
and if so, how he likes to be reminded of it once a week. I look from
Mr. Chillip, in his Sunday neckcloth, to the pulpit; and think what a
good place it would be to play in, and what a castle it would make, with
another boy coming up the stairs to attack it, and having the velvet
cushion with the tassels thrown down on his head. In time my eyes
gradually shut up; and, from seeming to hear the clergyman singing a
drowsy song in the heat, I hear nothing, until I fall off the seat with
a crash, and am taken out, more dead than alive, by Peggotty.
And now I see the outside of our house, with the latticed
bedroom-windows standing open to let in the sweet-smelling air, and the
ragged old rooks'-nests still dangling in the elm-trees at the bottom
of the front garden. Now I am in the garden at the back, beyond the
yard where the empty pigeon-house and dog-kennel are--a very preserve
of butterflies, as I remember it, with a high fence, and a gate and
padlock; where the fruit clusters on the trees, riper and richer than
fruit has ever been since, in any other garden, and where my
mother gathers some in a basket, while I stand by, bolting furtive
gooseberries, and trying to look unmoved. A great wind rises, and the
summer is gone in a moment. We are playing in the winter twilight,
dancing about the parlour. When my mother is out of breath and rests
herself in an elbow-chair, I watch her winding her bright curls round
her fingers, and straitening her waist, and nobody knows better than I
do that she likes to look so well, and is proud of being so pretty.
That is among my very earliest impressions. That, and a sense that we
were both a little afraid of Peggotty, and submitted ourselves in most
things to her direction, were among the first opinions--if they may be
so called--that I ever derived from what I saw.
Peggotty and I were sitting one night by the parlour fire, alone. I
had been reading to Peggotty about crocodiles. I must have read very
perspicuously, or the poor soul must have been deeply interested, for I
remember she had a cloudy impression, after I had done, that they were
a sort of vegetable. I was tired of reading, and dead sleepy; but
having leave, as a high treat, to sit up until my mother came home from
spending the evening at a neighbour's, I would rather have died upon
my post (of course) than have gone to bed. I had reached that stage of
sleepiness when Peggotty seemed to swell and grow immensely large.
I propped my eyelids open with my two forefingers, and looked
perseveringly at her as she sat at work; at the little bit of wax-candle
she kept for her thread--how old it looked, being so wrinkled in
all directions!--at the little house with a thatched roof, where the
yard-measure lived; at her work-box with a sliding lid, with a view of
St. Paul's Cathedral (with a pink dome) painted on the top; at the brass
thimble on her finger; at herself, whom I thought lovely. I felt so
sleepy, that I knew if I lost sight of anything for a moment, I was
'Peggotty,' says I, suddenly, 'were you ever married?'
'Lord, Master Davy,' replied Peggotty. 'What's put marriage in your
She answered with such a start, that it quite awoke me. And then she
stopped in her work, and looked at me, with her needle drawn out to its
'But WERE you ever married, Peggotty?' says I. 'You are a very handsome
woman, an't you?'
I thought her in a different style from my mother, certainly; but of
another school of beauty, I considered her a perfect example. There
was a red velvet footstool in the best parlour, on which my mother
had painted a nosegay. The ground-work of that stool, and Peggotty's
complexion appeared to me to be one and the same thing. The stool was
smooth, and Peggotty was rough, but that made no difference.
'Me handsome, Davy!' said Peggotty. 'Lawk, no, my dear! But what put
marriage in your head?'
'I don't know!--You mustn't marry more than one person at a time, may
'Certainly not,' says Peggotty, with the promptest decision.
'But if you marry a person, and the person dies, why then you may marry
another person, mayn't you, Peggotty?'
'YOU MAY,' says Peggotty, 'if you choose, my dear. That's a matter of
'But what is your opinion, Peggotty?' said I.
I asked her, and looked curiously at her, because she looked so
curiously at me.
'My opinion is,' said Peggotty, taking her eyes from me, after a little
indecision and going on with her work, 'that I never was married myself,
Master Davy, and that I don't expect to be. That's all I know about the
'You an't cross, I suppose, Peggotty, are you?' said I, after sitting
quiet for a minute.
I really thought she was, she had been so short with me; but I was quite
mistaken: for she laid aside her work (which was a stocking of her own),
and opening her arms wide, took my curly head within them, and gave it
a good squeeze. I know it was a good squeeze, because, being very plump,
whenever she made any little exertion after she was dressed, some of the
buttons on the back of her gown flew off. And I recollect two bursting
to the opposite side of the parlour, while she was hugging me.
'Now let me hear some more about the Crorkindills,' said Peggotty, who
was not quite right in the name yet, 'for I an't heard half enough.'
I couldn't quite understand why Peggotty looked so queer, or why she
was so ready to go back to the crocodiles. However, we returned to those
monsters, with fresh wakefulness on my part, and we left their eggs in
the sand for the sun to hatch; and we ran away from them, and baffled
them by constantly turning, which they were unable to do quickly, on
account of their unwieldy make; and we went into the water after them,
as natives, and put sharp pieces of timber down their throats; and in
short we ran the whole crocodile gauntlet. I did, at least; but I had
my doubts of Peggotty, who was thoughtfully sticking her needle into
various parts of her face and arms, all the time.
We had exhausted the crocodiles, and begun with the alligators, when
the garden-bell rang. We went out to the door; and there was my mother,
looking unusually pretty, I thought, and with her a gentleman with
beautiful black hair and whiskers, who had walked home with us from
church last Sunday.
As my mother stooped down on the threshold to take me in her arms and
kiss me, the gentleman said I was a more highly privileged little fellow
than a monarch--or something like that; for my later understanding
comes, I am sensible, to my aid here.
'What does that mean?' I asked him, over her shoulder.
He patted me on the head; but somehow, I didn't like him or his deep
voice, and I was jealous that his hand should touch my mother's in
touching me--which it did. I put it away, as well as I could.
'Oh, Davy!' remonstrated my mother.
'Dear boy!' said the gentleman. 'I cannot wonder at his devotion!'
I never saw such a beautiful colour on my mother's face before. She
gently chid me for being rude; and, keeping me close to her shawl,
turned to thank the gentleman for taking so much trouble as to bring her
home. She put out her hand to him as she spoke, and, as he met it with
his own, she glanced, I thought, at me.
'Let us say "good night", my fine boy,' said the gentleman, when he had
bent his head--I saw him!--over my mother's little glove.
'Good night!' said I.
'Come! Let us be the best friends in the world!' said the gentleman,
laughing. 'Shake hands!'
My right hand was in my mother's left, so I gave him the other.
'Why, that's the Wrong hand, Davy!' laughed the gentleman.
MY mother drew my right hand forward, but I was resolved, for my former
reason, not to give it him, and I did not. I gave him the other, and he
shook it heartily, and said I was a brave fellow, and went away.
At this minute I see him turn round in the garden, and give us a last
look with his ill-omened black eyes, before the door was shut.
Peggotty, who had not said a word or moved a finger, secured the
fastenings instantly, and we all went into the parlour. My mother,
contrary to her usual habit, instead of coming to the elbow-chair by the
fire, remained at the other end of the room, and sat singing to herself.
--'Hope you have had a pleasant evening, ma'am,' said Peggotty, standing
as stiff as a barrel in the centre of the room, with a candlestick in
'Much obliged to you, Peggotty,' returned my mother, in a cheerful
voice, 'I have had a VERY pleasant evening.'
'A stranger or so makes an agreeable change,' suggested Peggotty.
'A very agreeable change, indeed,' returned my mother.
Peggotty continuing to stand motionless in the middle of the room, and
my mother resuming her singing, I fell asleep, though I was not so sound
asleep but that I could hear voices, without hearing what they said.
When I half awoke from this uncomfortable doze, I found Peggotty and my
mother both in tears, and both talking.
'Not such a one as this, Mr. Copperfield wouldn't have liked,' said
Peggotty. 'That I say, and that I swear!'
'Good Heavens!' cried my mother, 'you'll drive me mad! Was ever any
poor girl so ill-used by her servants as I am! Why do I do myself
the injustice of calling myself a girl? Have I never been married,
'God knows you have, ma'am,' returned Peggotty. 'Then, how can you
dare,' said my mother--'you know I don't mean how can you dare,
Peggotty, but how can you have the heart--to make me so uncomfortable
and say such bitter things to me, when you are well aware that I
haven't, out of this place, a single friend to turn to?'
'The more's the reason,' returned Peggotty, 'for saying that it won't
do. No! That it won't do. No! No price could make it do. No!'--I thought
Peggotty would have thrown the candlestick away, she was so emphatic
'How can you be so aggravating,' said my mother, shedding more tears
than before, 'as to talk in such an unjust manner! How can you go on as
if it was all settled and arranged, Peggotty, when I tell you over
and over again, you cruel thing, that beyond the commonest civilities
nothing has passed! You talk of admiration. What am I to do? If people
are so silly as to indulge the sentiment, is it my fault? What am I to
do, I ask you? Would you wish me to shave my head and black my face, or
disfigure myself with a burn, or a scald, or something of that sort? I
dare say you would, Peggotty. I dare say you'd quite enjoy it.'
Peggotty seemed to take this aspersion very much to heart, I thought.
'And my dear boy,' cried my mother, coming to the elbow-chair in which
I was, and caressing me, 'my own little Davy! Is it to be hinted to me
that I am wanting in affection for my precious treasure, the dearest
little fellow that ever was!'
'Nobody never went and hinted no such a thing,' said Peggotty.
'You did, Peggotty!' returned my mother. 'You know you did. What else
was it possible to infer from what you said, you unkind creature,
when you know as well as I do, that on his account only last quarter I
wouldn't buy myself a new parasol, though that old green one is frayed
the whole way up, and the fringe is perfectly mangy? You know it is,
Peggotty. You can't deny it.' Then, turning affectionately to me, with
her cheek against mine, 'Am I a naughty mama to you, Davy? Am I a nasty,
cruel, selfish, bad mama? Say I am, my child; say "yes", dear boy, and
Peggotty will love you; and Peggotty's love is a great deal better than
mine, Davy. I don't love you at all, do I?'
At this, we all fell a-crying together. I think I was the loudest of
the party, but I am sure we were all sincere about it. I was quite
heart-broken myself, and am afraid that in the first transports of
wounded tenderness I called Peggotty a 'Beast'. That honest creature was
in deep affliction, I remember, and must have become quite buttonless
on the occasion; for a little volley of those explosives went off,
when, after having made it up with my mother, she kneeled down by the
elbow-chair, and made it up with me.
We went to bed greatly dejected. My sobs kept waking me, for a long
time; and when one very strong sob quite hoisted me up in bed, I found
my mother sitting on the coverlet, and leaning over me. I fell asleep in
her arms, after that, and slept soundly.
Whether it was the following Sunday when I saw the gentleman again,
or whether there was any greater lapse of time before he reappeared,
I cannot recall. I don't profess to be clear about dates. But there he
was, in church, and he walked home with us afterwards. He came in, too,
to look at a famous geranium we had, in the parlour-window. It did not
appear to me that he took much notice of it, but before he went he asked
my mother to give him a bit of the blossom. She begged him to choose it
for himself, but he refused to do that--I could not understand why--so
she plucked it for him, and gave it into his hand. He said he would
never, never part with it any more; and I thought he must be quite a
fool not to know that it would fall to pieces in a day or two.
Peggotty began to be less with us, of an evening, than she had always
been. My mother deferred to her very much--more than usual, it occurred
to me--and we were all three excellent friends; still we were different
from what we used to be, and were not so comfortable among ourselves.
Sometimes I fancied that Peggotty perhaps objected to my mother's
wearing all the pretty dresses she had in her drawers, or to her
going so often to visit at that neighbour's; but I couldn't, to my
satisfaction, make out how it was.
Gradually, I became used to seeing the gentleman with the black
whiskers. I liked him no better than at first, and had the same uneasy
jealousy of him; but if I had any reason for it beyond a child's
instinctive dislike, and a general idea that Peggotty and I could make
much of my mother without any help, it certainly was not THE reason that
I might have found if I had been older. No such thing came into my mind,
or near it. I could observe, in little pieces, as it were; but as to
making a net of a number of these pieces, and catching anybody in it,
that was, as yet, beyond me.
One autumn morning I was with my mother in the front garden, when Mr.
Murdstone--I knew him by that name now--came by, on horseback. He reined
up his horse to salute my mother, and said he was going to Lowestoft to
see some friends who were there with a yacht, and merrily proposed to
take me on the saddle before him if I would like the ride.
The air was so clear and pleasant, and the horse seemed to like the
idea of the ride so much himself, as he stood snorting and pawing at the
garden-gate, that I had a great desire to go. So I was sent upstairs
to Peggotty to be made spruce; and in the meantime Mr. Murdstone
dismounted, and, with his horse's bridle drawn over his arm, walked
slowly up and down on the outer side of the sweetbriar fence, while my
mother walked slowly up and down on the inner to keep him company. I
recollect Peggotty and I peeping out at them from my little window; I
recollect how closely they seemed to be examining the sweetbriar between
them, as they strolled along; and how, from being in a perfectly angelic
temper, Peggotty turned cross in a moment, and brushed my hair the wrong
way, excessively hard.
Mr. Murdstone and I were soon off, and trotting along on the green turf
by the side of the road. He held me quite easily with one arm, and I
don't think I was restless usually; but I could not make up my mind to
sit in front of him without turning my head sometimes, and looking up in
his face. He had that kind of shallow black eye--I want a better word to
express an eye that has no depth in it to be looked into--which, when
it is abstracted, seems from some peculiarity of light to be disfigured,
for a moment at a time, by a cast. Several times when I glanced at him,
I observed that appearance with a sort of awe, and wondered what he
was thinking about so closely. His hair and whiskers were blacker and
thicker, looked at so near, than even I had given them credit for being.
A squareness about the lower part of his face, and the dotted indication
of the strong black beard he shaved close every day, reminded me of
the wax-work that had travelled into our neighbourhood some half-a-year
before. This, his regular eyebrows, and the rich white, and black, and
brown, of his complexion--confound his complexion, and his memory!--made
me think him, in spite of my misgivings, a very handsome man. I have no
doubt that my poor dear mother thought him so too.
We went to an hotel by the sea, where two gentlemen were smoking cigars
in a room by themselves. Each of them was lying on at least four chairs,
and had a large rough jacket on. In a corner was a heap of coats and
boat-cloaks, and a flag, all bundled up together.
They both rolled on to their feet in an untidy sort of manner, when we
came in, and said, 'Halloa, Murdstone! We thought you were dead!'
'Not yet,' said Mr. Murdstone.
'And who's this shaver?' said one of the gentlemen, taking hold of me.
'That's Davy,' returned Mr. Murdstone.
'Davy who?' said the gentleman. 'Jones?'
'Copperfield,' said Mr. Murdstone.
'What! Bewitching Mrs. Copperfield's encumbrance?' cried the gentleman.
'The pretty little widow?'
'Quinion,' said Mr. Murdstone, 'take care, if you please. Somebody's
'Who is?' asked the gentleman, laughing. I looked up, quickly; being
curious to know.
'Only Brooks of Sheffield,' said Mr. Murdstone.
I was quite relieved to find that it was only Brooks of Sheffield; for,
at first, I really thought it was I.
There seemed to be something very comical in the reputation of Mr.
Brooks of Sheffield, for both the gentlemen laughed heartily when he
was mentioned, and Mr. Murdstone was a good deal amused also. After some
laughing, the gentleman whom he had called Quinion, said:
'And what is the opinion of Brooks of Sheffield, in reference to the
'Why, I don't know that Brooks understands much about it at present,'
replied Mr. Murdstone; 'but he is not generally favourable, I believe.'
There was more laughter at this, and Mr. Quinion said he would ring the
bell for some sherry in which to drink to Brooks. This he did; and when
the wine came, he made me have a little, with a biscuit, and, before
I drank it, stand up and say, 'Confusion to Brooks of Sheffield!' The
toast was received with great applause, and such hearty laughter that
it made me laugh too; at which they laughed the more. In short, we quite
We walked about on the cliff after that, and sat on the grass, and
looked at things through a telescope--I could make out nothing myself
when it was put to my eye, but I pretended I could--and then we came
back to the hotel to an early dinner. All the time we were out, the two
gentlemen smoked incessantly--which, I thought, if I might judge from
the smell of their rough coats, they must have been doing, ever since
the coats had first come home from the tailor's. I must not forget that
we went on board the yacht, where they all three descended into the
cabin, and were busy with some papers. I saw them quite hard at work,
when I looked down through the open skylight. They left me, during this
time, with a very nice man with a very large head of red hair and a very
small shiny hat upon it, who had got a cross-barred shirt or waistcoat
on, with 'Skylark' in capital letters across the chest. I thought it was
his name; and that as he lived on board ship and hadn't a street door
to put his name on, he put it there instead; but when I called him Mr.
Skylark, he said it meant the vessel.
I observed all day that Mr. Murdstone was graver and steadier than the
two gentlemen. They were very gay and careless. They joked freely with
one another, but seldom with him. It appeared to me that he was
more clever and cold than they were, and that they regarded him with
something of my own feeling. I remarked that, once or twice when Mr.
Quinion was talking, he looked at Mr. Murdstone sideways, as if to make
sure of his not being displeased; and that once when Mr. Passnidge (the
other gentleman) was in high spirits, he trod upon his foot, and gave
him a secret caution with his eyes, to observe Mr. Murdstone, who was
sitting stern and silent. Nor do I recollect that Mr. Murdstone laughed
at all that day, except at the Sheffield joke--and that, by the by, was
We went home early in the evening. It was a very fine evening, and my
mother and he had another stroll by the sweetbriar, while I was sent in
to get my tea. When he was gone, my mother asked me all about the day I
had had, and what they had said and done. I mentioned what they had said
about her, and she laughed, and told me they were impudent fellows who
talked nonsense--but I knew it pleased her. I knew it quite as well as
I know it now. I took the opportunity of asking if she was at all
acquainted with Mr. Brooks of Sheffield, but she answered No, only she
supposed he must be a manufacturer in the knife and fork way.
Can I say of her face--altered as I have reason to remember it, perished
as I know it is--that it is gone, when here it comes before me at this
instant, as distinct as any face that I may choose to look on in a
crowded street? Can I say of her innocent and girlish beauty, that it
faded, and was no more, when its breath falls on my cheek now, as it
fell that night? Can I say she ever changed, when my remembrance brings
her back to life, thus only; and, truer to its loving youth than I have
been, or man ever is, still holds fast what it cherished then?
I write of her just as she was when I had gone to bed after this talk,
and she came to bid me good night. She kneeled down playfully by the
side of the bed, and laying her chin upon her hands, and laughing, said:
'What was it they said, Davy? Tell me again. I can't believe it.'
'"Bewitching--"' I began.
My mother put her hands upon my lips to stop me.
'It was never bewitching,' she said, laughing. 'It never could have been
bewitching, Davy. Now I know it wasn't!'
'Yes, it was. "Bewitching Mrs. Copperfield",' I repeated stoutly. 'And,
'No, no, it was never pretty. Not pretty,' interposed my mother, laying
her fingers on my lips again.
'Yes it was. "Pretty little widow."'
'What foolish, impudent creatures!' cried my mother, laughing and
covering her face. 'What ridiculous men! An't they? Davy dear--'
'Don't tell Peggotty; she might be angry with them. I am dreadfully
angry with them myself; but I would rather Peggotty didn't know.'
I promised, of course; and we kissed one another over and over again,
and I soon fell fast asleep.
It seems to me, at this distance of time, as if it were the next day
when Peggotty broached the striking and adventurous proposition I am
about to mention; but it was probably about two months afterwards.
We were sitting as before, one evening (when my mother was out as
before), in company with the stocking and the yard-measure, and the bit
of wax, and the box with St. Paul's on the lid, and the crocodile book,
when Peggotty, after looking at me several times, and opening her mouth
as if she were going to speak, without doing it--which I thought was
merely gaping, or I should have been rather alarmed--said coaxingly:
'Master Davy, how should you like to go along with me and spend a
fortnight at my brother's at Yarmouth? Wouldn't that be a treat?'
'Is your brother an agreeable man, Peggotty?' I inquired, provisionally.
'Oh, what an agreeable man he is!' cried Peggotty, holding up her hands.
'Then there's the sea; and the boats and ships; and the fishermen; and
the beach; and Am to play with--'
Peggotty meant her nephew Ham, mentioned in my first chapter; but she
spoke of him as a morsel of English Grammar.
I was flushed by her summary of delights, and replied that it would
indeed be a treat, but what would my mother say?
'Why then I'll as good as bet a guinea,' said Peggotty, intent upon my
face, 'that she'll let us go. I'll ask her, if you like, as soon as ever
she comes home. There now!'
'But what's she to do while we're away?' said I, putting my small elbows
on the table to argue the point. 'She can't live by herself.'
If Peggotty were looking for a hole, all of a sudden, in the heel of
that stocking, it must have been a very little one indeed, and not worth
'I say! Peggotty! She can't live by herself, you know.'
'Oh, bless you!' said Peggotty, looking at me again at last. 'Don't
you know? She's going to stay for a fortnight with Mrs. Grayper. Mrs.
Grayper's going to have a lot of company.'
Oh! If that was it, I was quite ready to go. I waited, in the utmost
impatience, until my mother came home from Mrs. Grayper's (for it was
that identical neighbour), to ascertain if we could get leave to carry
out this great idea. Without being nearly so much surprised as I had
expected, my mother entered into it readily; and it was all arranged
that night, and my board and lodging during the visit were to be paid
The day soon came for our going. It was such an early day that it came
soon, even to me, who was in a fever of expectation, and half afraid
that an earthquake or a fiery mountain, or some other great convulsion
of nature, might interpose to stop the expedition. We were to go in a
carrier's cart, which departed in the morning after breakfast. I would
have given any money to have been allowed to wrap myself up over-night,
and sleep in my hat and boots.
It touches me nearly now, although I tell it lightly, to recollect how
eager I was to leave my happy home; to think how little I suspected what
I did leave for ever.
I am glad to recollect that when the carrier's cart was at the gate, and
my mother stood there kissing me, a grateful fondness for her and for
the old place I had never turned my back upon before, made me cry. I am
glad to know that my mother cried too, and that I felt her heart beat
I am glad to recollect that when the carrier began to move, my mother
ran out at the gate, and called to him to stop, that she might kiss me
once more. I am glad to dwell upon the earnestness and love with which
she lifted up her face to mine, and did so.
As we left her standing in the road, Mr. Murdstone came up to where
she was, and seemed to expostulate with her for being so moved. I was
looking back round the awning of the cart, and wondered what business
it was of his. Peggotty, who was also looking back on the other side,
seemed anything but satisfied; as the face she brought back in the cart
I sat looking at Peggotty for some time, in a reverie on this
supposititious case: whether, if she were employed to lose me like the
boy in the fairy tale, I should be able to track my way home again by
the buttons she would shed.
CHAPTER 3. I HAVE A CHANGE
The carrier's horse was the laziest horse in the world, I should hope,
and shuffled along, with his head down, as if he liked to keep people
waiting to whom the packages were directed. I fancied, indeed, that he
sometimes chuckled audibly over this reflection, but the carrier said
he was only troubled with a cough. The carrier had a way of keeping his
head down, like his horse, and of drooping sleepily forward as he drove,
with one of his arms on each of his knees. I say 'drove', but it struck
me that the cart would have gone to Yarmouth quite as well without him,
for the horse did all that; and as to conversation, he had no idea of it
Peggotty had a basket of refreshments on her knee, which would have
lasted us out handsomely, if we had been going to London by the same
conveyance. We ate a good deal, and slept a good deal. Peggotty always
went to sleep with her chin upon the handle of the basket, her hold of
which never relaxed; and I could not have believed unless I had heard
her do it, that one defenceless woman could have snored so much.
We made so many deviations up and down lanes, and were such a long time
delivering a bedstead at a public-house, and calling at other places,
that I was quite tired, and very glad, when we saw Yarmouth. It looked
rather spongy and soppy, I thought, as I carried my eye over the great
dull waste that lay across the river; and I could not help wondering, if
the world were really as round as my geography book said, how any
part of it came to be so flat. But I reflected that Yarmouth might be
situated at one of the poles; which would account for it.
As we drew a little nearer, and saw the whole adjacent prospect lying a
straight low line under the sky, I hinted to Peggotty that a mound or so
might have improved it; and also that if the land had been a little more
separated from the sea, and the town and the tide had not been quite
so much mixed up, like toast and water, it would have been nicer. But
Peggotty said, with greater emphasis than usual, that we must take
things as we found them, and that, for her part, she was proud to call
herself a Yarmouth Bloater.
When we got into the street (which was strange enough to me) and smelt
the fish, and pitch, and oakum, and tar, and saw the sailors walking
about, and the carts jingling up and down over the stones, I felt that I
had done so busy a place an injustice; and said as much to Peggotty, who
heard my expressions of delight with great complacency, and told me it
was well known (I suppose to those who had the good fortune to be born
Bloaters) that Yarmouth was, upon the whole, the finest place in the
'Here's my Am!' screamed Peggotty, 'growed out of knowledge!'
He was waiting for us, in fact, at the public-house; and asked me how I
found myself, like an old acquaintance. I did not feel, at first, that
I knew him as well as he knew me, because he had never come to our house
since the night I was born, and naturally he had the advantage of me.
But our intimacy was much advanced by his taking me on his back to carry
me home. He was, now, a huge, strong fellow of six feet high, broad in
proportion, and round-shouldered; but with a simpering boy's face and
curly light hair that gave him quite a sheepish look. He was dressed in
a canvas jacket, and a pair of such very stiff trousers that they
would have stood quite as well alone, without any legs in them. And you
couldn't so properly have said he wore a hat, as that he was covered in
a-top, like an old building, with something pitchy.
Ham carrying me on his back and a small box of ours under his arm,
and Peggotty carrying another small box of ours, we turned down lanes
bestrewn with bits of chips and little hillocks of sand, and went
past gas-works, rope-walks, boat-builders' yards, shipwrights' yards,
ship-breakers' yards, caulkers' yards, riggers' lofts, smiths' forges,
and a great litter of such places, until we came out upon the dull waste
I had already seen at a distance; when Ham said,
'Yon's our house, Mas'r Davy!'
I looked in all directions, as far as I could stare over the wilderness,
and away at the sea, and away at the river, but no house could I make
out. There was a black barge, or some other kind of superannuated boat,
not far off, high and dry on the ground, with an iron funnel sticking
out of it for a chimney and smoking very cosily; but nothing else in the
way of a habitation that was visible to me.
'That's not it?' said I. 'That ship-looking thing?'
'That's it, Mas'r Davy,' returned Ham.
If it had been Aladdin's palace, roc's egg and all, I suppose I could
not have been more charmed with the romantic idea of living in it. There
was a delightful door cut in the side, and it was roofed in, and there
were little windows in it; but the wonderful charm of it was, that
it was a real boat which had no doubt been upon the water hundreds of
times, and which had never been intended to be lived in, on dry land.
That was the captivation of it to me. If it had ever been meant to be
lived in, I might have thought it small, or inconvenient, or lonely; but
never having been designed for any such use, it became a perfect abode.
It was beautifully clean inside, and as tidy as possible. There was a
table, and a Dutch clock, and a chest of drawers, and on the chest of
drawers there was a tea-tray with a painting on it of a lady with a
parasol, taking a walk with a military-looking child who was trundling a
hoop. The tray was kept from tumbling down, by a bible; and the tray, if
it had tumbled down, would have smashed a quantity of cups and saucers
and a teapot that were grouped around the book. On the walls there were
some common coloured pictures, framed and glazed, of scripture subjects;
such as I have never seen since in the hands of pedlars, without seeing
the whole interior of Peggotty's brother's house again, at one view.
Abraham in red going to sacrifice Isaac in blue, and Daniel in yellow
cast into a den of green lions, were the most prominent of these. Over
the little mantelshelf, was a picture of the 'Sarah Jane' lugger, built
at Sunderland, with a real little wooden stern stuck on to it; a work of
art, combining composition with carpentry, which I considered to be one
of the most enviable possessions that the world could afford. There
were some hooks in the beams of the ceiling, the use of which I did not
divine then; and some lockers and boxes and conveniences of that sort,
which served for seats and eked out the chairs.
All this I saw in the first glance after I crossed the
threshold--child-like, according to my theory--and then Peggotty opened
a little door and showed me my bedroom. It was the completest and most
desirable bedroom ever seen--in the stern of the vessel; with a little
window, where the rudder used to go through; a little looking-glass,
just the right height for me, nailed against the wall, and framed with
oyster-shells; a little bed, which there was just room enough to get
into; and a nosegay of seaweed in a blue mug on the table. The walls
were whitewashed as white as milk, and the patchwork counterpane made my
eyes quite ache with its brightness. One thing I particularly noticed
in this delightful house, was the smell of fish; which was so searching,
that when I took out my pocket-handkerchief to wipe my nose, I found it
smelt exactly as if it had wrapped up a lobster. On my imparting this
discovery in confidence to Peggotty, she informed me that her brother
dealt in lobsters, crabs, and crawfish; and I afterwards found that a
heap of these creatures, in a state of wonderful conglomeration with one
another, and never leaving off pinching whatever they laid hold of,
were usually to be found in a little wooden outhouse where the pots and
kettles were kept.
We were welcomed by a very civil woman in a white apron, whom I had seen
curtseying at the door when I was on Ham's back, about a quarter of a
mile off. Likewise by a most beautiful little girl (or I thought her so)
with a necklace of blue beads on, who wouldn't let me kiss her when I
offered to, but ran away and hid herself. By and by, when we had dined
in a sumptuous manner off boiled dabs, melted butter, and potatoes, with
a chop for me, a hairy man with a very good-natured face came home. As
he called Peggotty 'Lass', and gave her a hearty smack on the cheek, I
had no doubt, from the general propriety of her conduct, that he was her
brother; and so he turned out--being presently introduced to me as Mr.
Peggotty, the master of the house.
'Glad to see you, sir,' said Mr. Peggotty. 'You'll find us rough, sir,
but you'll find us ready.'
I thanked him, and replied that I was sure I should be happy in such a
'How's your Ma, sir?' said Mr. Peggotty. 'Did you leave her pretty
I gave Mr. Peggotty to understand that she was as jolly as I could wish,
and that she desired her compliments--which was a polite fiction on my
'I'm much obleeged to her, I'm sure,' said Mr. Peggotty. 'Well, sir,
if you can make out here, fur a fortnut, 'long wi' her,' nodding at his
sister, 'and Ham, and little Em'ly, we shall be proud of your company.'
Having done the honours of his house in this hospitable manner, Mr.
Peggotty went out to wash himself in a kettleful of hot water, remarking
that 'cold would never get his muck off'. He soon returned, greatly
improved in appearance; but so rubicund, that I couldn't help
thinking his face had this in common with the lobsters, crabs, and
crawfish,--that it went into the hot water very black, and came out very
After tea, when the door was shut and all was made snug (the nights
being cold and misty now), it seemed to me the most delicious retreat
that the imagination of man could conceive. To hear the wind getting
up out at sea, to know that the fog was creeping over the desolate flat
outside, and to look at the fire, and think that there was no house near
but this one, and this one a boat, was like enchantment. Little Em'ly
had overcome her shyness, and was sitting by my side upon the lowest and
least of the lockers, which was just large enough for us two, and just
fitted into the chimney corner. Mrs. Peggotty with the white apron, was
knitting on the opposite side of the fire. Peggotty at her needlework
was as much at home with St. Paul's and the bit of wax-candle, as if
they had never known any other roof. Ham, who had been giving me my
first lesson in all-fours, was trying to recollect a scheme of telling
fortunes with the dirty cards, and was printing off fishy impressions of
his thumb on all the cards he turned. Mr. Peggotty was smoking his pipe.
I felt it was a time for conversation and confidence.
'Mr. Peggotty!' says I.
'Sir,' says he.
'Did you give your son the name of Ham, because you lived in a sort of
Mr. Peggotty seemed to think it a deep idea, but answered:
'No, sir. I never giv him no name.'
'Who gave him that name, then?' said I, putting question number two of
the catechism to Mr. Peggotty.
'Why, sir, his father giv it him,' said Mr. Peggotty.
'I thought you were his father!'
'My brother Joe was his father,' said Mr. Peggotty.
'Dead, Mr. Peggotty?' I hinted, after a respectful pause.
'Drowndead,' said Mr. Peggotty.
I was very much surprised that Mr. Peggotty was not Ham's father, and
began to wonder whether I was mistaken about his relationship to anybody
else there. I was so curious to know, that I made up my mind to have it
out with Mr. Peggotty.
'Little Em'ly,' I said, glancing at her. 'She is your daughter, isn't
she, Mr. Peggotty?'
'No, sir. My brother-in-law, Tom, was her father.'
I couldn't help it. '--Dead, Mr. Peggotty?' I hinted, after another
'Drowndead,' said Mr. Peggotty.
I felt the difficulty of resuming the subject, but had not got to the
bottom of it yet, and must get to the bottom somehow. So I said:
'Haven't you ANY children, Mr. Peggotty?'
'No, master,' he answered with a short laugh. 'I'm a bacheldore.'
'A bachelor!' I said, astonished. 'Why, who's that, Mr. Peggotty?'
pointing to the person in the apron who was knitting.
'That's Missis Gummidge,' said Mr. Peggotty.
'Gummidge, Mr. Peggotty?'
But at this point Peggotty--I mean my own peculiar Peggotty--made such
impressive motions to me not to ask any more questions, that I could
only sit and look at all the silent company, until it was time to go to
bed. Then, in the privacy of my own little cabin, she informed me that
Ham and Em'ly were an orphan nephew and niece, whom my host had
at different times adopted in their childhood, when they were left
destitute: and that Mrs. Gummidge was the widow of his partner in
a boat, who had died very poor. He was but a poor man himself, said
Peggotty, but as good as gold and as true as steel--those were her
similes. The only subject, she informed me, on which he ever showed a
violent temper or swore an oath, was this generosity of his; and if it
were ever referred to, by any one of them, he struck the table a heavy
blow with his right hand (had split it on one such occasion), and swore
a dreadful oath that he would be 'Gormed' if he didn't cut and run
for good, if it was ever mentioned again. It appeared, in answer to
my inquiries, that nobody had the least idea of the etymology of this
terrible verb passive to be gormed; but that they all regarded it as
constituting a most solemn imprecation.
I was very sensible of my entertainer's goodness, and listened to the
women's going to bed in another little crib like mine at the opposite
end of the boat, and to him and Ham hanging up two hammocks for
themselves on the hooks I had noticed in the roof, in a very luxurious
state of mind, enhanced by my being sleepy. As slumber gradually stole
upon me, I heard the wind howling out at sea and coming on across the
flat so fiercely, that I had a lazy apprehension of the great deep
rising in the night. But I bethought myself that I was in a boat, after
all; and that a man like Mr. Peggotty was not a bad person to have on
board if anything did happen.
Nothing happened, however, worse than morning. Almost as soon as it
shone upon the oyster-shell frame of my mirror I was out of bed, and out
with little Em'ly, picking up stones upon the beach.
'You're quite a sailor, I suppose?' I said to Em'ly. I don't know that I
supposed anything of the kind, but I felt it an act of gallantry to
say something; and a shining sail close to us made such a pretty little
image of itself, at the moment, in her bright eye, that it came into my
head to say this.
'No,' replied Em'ly, shaking her head, 'I'm afraid of the sea.'
'Afraid!' I said, with a becoming air of boldness, and looking very big
at the mighty ocean. 'I an't!'
'Ah! but it's cruel,' said Em'ly. 'I have seen it very cruel to some of
our men. I have seen it tear a boat as big as our house, all to pieces.'
'I hope it wasn't the boat that--'
'That father was drownded in?' said Em'ly. 'No. Not that one, I never
see that boat.'
'Nor him?' I asked her.
Little Em'ly shook her head. 'Not to remember!'
Here was a coincidence! I immediately went into an explanation how I had
never seen my own father; and how my mother and I had always lived
by ourselves in the happiest state imaginable, and lived so then, and
always meant to live so; and how my father's grave was in the churchyard
near our house, and shaded by a tree, beneath the boughs of which I had
walked and heard the birds sing many a pleasant morning. But there were
some differences between Em'ly's orphanhood and mine, it appeared. She
had lost her mother before her father; and where her father's grave was
no one knew, except that it was somewhere in the depths of the sea.
'Besides,' said Em'ly, as she looked about for shells and pebbles, 'your
father was a gentleman and your mother is a lady; and my father was a
fisherman and my mother was a fisherman's daughter, and my uncle Dan is
'Dan is Mr. Peggotty, is he?' said I.
'Uncle Dan--yonder,' answered Em'ly, nodding at the boat-house.
'Yes. I mean him. He must be very good, I should think?'
'Good?' said Em'ly. 'If I was ever to be a lady, I'd give him a sky-blue
coat with diamond buttons, nankeen trousers, a red velvet waistcoat, a
cocked hat, a large gold watch, a silver pipe, and a box of money.'
I said I had no doubt that Mr. Peggotty well deserved these treasures.
I must acknowledge that I felt it difficult to picture him quite at his
ease in the raiment proposed for him by his grateful little niece, and
that I was particularly doubtful of the policy of the cocked hat; but I
kept these sentiments to myself.
Little Em'ly had stopped and looked up at the sky in her enumeration
of these articles, as if they were a glorious vision. We went on again,
picking up shells and pebbles.
'You would like to be a lady?' I said.
Emily looked at me, and laughed and nodded 'yes'.
'I should like it very much. We would all be gentlefolks together, then.
Me, and uncle, and Ham, and Mrs. Gummidge. We wouldn't mind then, when
there comes stormy weather.---Not for our own sakes, I mean. We would
for the poor fishermen's, to be sure, and we'd help 'em with money when
they come to any hurt.' This seemed to me to be a very satisfactory and
therefore not at all improbable picture. I expressed my pleasure in the
contemplation of it, and little Em'ly was emboldened to say, shyly,
'Don't you think you are afraid of the sea, now?'
It was quiet enough to reassure me, but I have no doubt if I had seen a
moderately large wave come tumbling in, I should have taken to my heels,
with an awful recollection of her drowned relations. However, I said
'No,' and I added, 'You don't seem to be either, though you say you
are,'--for she was walking much too near the brink of a sort of old
jetty or wooden causeway we had strolled upon, and I was afraid of her
'I'm not afraid in this way,' said little Em'ly. 'But I wake when it
blows, and tremble to think of Uncle Dan and Ham and believe I hear 'em
crying out for help. That's why I should like so much to be a lady. But
I'm not afraid in this way. Not a bit. Look here!'
She started from my side, and ran along a jagged timber which protruded
from the place we stood upon, and overhung the deep water at some
height, without the least defence. The incident is so impressed on my
remembrance, that if I were a draughtsman I could draw its form here,
I dare say, accurately as it was that day, and little Em'ly springing
forward to her destruction (as it appeared to me), with a look that I
have never forgotten, directed far out to sea.
The light, bold, fluttering little figure turned and came back safe
to me, and I soon laughed at my fears, and at the cry I had uttered;
fruitlessly in any case, for there was no one near. But there have been
times since, in my manhood, many times there have been, when I have
thought, Is it possible, among the possibilities of hidden things, that
in the sudden rashness of the child and her wild look so far off, there
was any merciful attraction of her into danger, any tempting her towards
him permitted on the part of her dead father, that her life might have
a chance of ending that day? There has been a time since when I have
wondered whether, if the life before her could have been revealed to me
at a glance, and so revealed as that a child could fully comprehend it,
and if her preservation could have depended on a motion of my hand, I
ought to have held it up to save her. There has been a time since--I do
not say it lasted long, but it has been--when I have asked myself the
question, would it have been better for little Em'ly to have had the
waters close above her head that morning in my sight; and when I have
answered Yes, it would have been.
This may be premature. I have set it down too soon, perhaps. But let it
We strolled a long way, and loaded ourselves with things that we thought
curious, and put some stranded starfish carefully back into the water--I
hardly know enough of the race at this moment to be quite certain
whether they had reason to feel obliged to us for doing so, or the
reverse--and then made our way home to Mr. Peggotty's dwelling. We
stopped under the lee of the lobster-outhouse to exchange an innocent
kiss, and went in to breakfast glowing with health and pleasure.
'Like two young mavishes,' Mr. Peggotty said. I knew this meant, in our
local dialect, like two young thrushes, and received it as a compliment.
Of course I was in love with little Em'ly. I am sure I loved that
baby quite as truly, quite as tenderly, with greater purity and more
disinterestedness, than can enter into the best love of a later time
of life, high and ennobling as it is. I am sure my fancy raised up
something round that blue-eyed mite of a child, which etherealized,
and made a very angel of her. If, any sunny forenoon, she had spread
a little pair of wings and flown away before my eyes, I don't think I
should have regarded it as much more than I had had reason to expect.
We used to walk about that dim old flat at Yarmouth in a loving manner,
hours and hours. The days sported by us, as if Time had not grown up
himself yet, but were a child too, and always at play. I told Em'ly
I adored her, and that unless she confessed she adored me I should be
reduced to the necessity of killing myself with a sword. She said she
did, and I have no doubt she did.
As to any sense of inequality, or youthfulness, or other difficulty
in our way, little Em'ly and I had no such trouble, because we had no
future. We made no more provision for growing older, than we did for
growing younger. We were the admiration of Mrs. Gummidge and Peggotty,
who used to whisper of an evening when we sat, lovingly, on our little
locker side by side, 'Lor! wasn't it beautiful!' Mr. Peggotty smiled at
us from behind his pipe, and Ham grinned all the evening and did nothing
else. They had something of the sort of pleasure in us, I suppose, that
they might have had in a pretty toy, or a pocket model of the Colosseum.
I soon found out that Mrs. Gummidge did not always make herself so
agreeable as she might have been expected to do, under the circumstances
of her residence with Mr. Peggotty. Mrs. Gummidge's was rather a fretful
disposition, and she whimpered more sometimes than was comfortable for
other parties in so small an establishment. I was very sorry for
her; but there were moments when it would have been more agreeable, I
thought, if Mrs. Gummidge had had a convenient apartment of her own to
retire to, and had stopped there until her spirits revived.
Mr. Peggotty went occasionally to a public-house called The Willing
Mind. I discovered this, by his being out on the second or third evening
of our visit, and by Mrs. Gummidge's looking up at the Dutch clock,
between eight and nine, and saying he was there, and that, what was
more, she had known in the morning he would go there.
Mrs. Gummidge had been in a low state all day, and had burst into tears
in the forenoon, when the fire smoked. 'I am a lone lorn creetur',' were
Mrs. Gummidge's words, when that unpleasant occurrence took place, 'and
everythink goes contrary with me.'
'Oh, it'll soon leave off,' said Peggotty--I again mean our
Peggotty--'and besides, you know, it's not more disagreeable to you than
'I feel it more,' said Mrs. Gummidge.
It was a very cold day, with cutting blasts of wind. Mrs. Gummidge's
peculiar corner of the fireside seemed to me to be the warmest and
snuggest in the place, as her chair was certainly the easiest, but it
didn't suit her that day at all. She was constantly complaining of the
cold, and of its occasioning a visitation in her back which she called
'the creeps'. At last she shed tears on that subject, and said again
that she was 'a lone lorn creetur' and everythink went contrary with
'It is certainly very cold,' said Peggotty. 'Everybody must feel it so.'
'I feel it more than other people,' said Mrs. Gummidge.
So at dinner; when Mrs. Gummidge was always helped immediately after me,
to whom the preference was given as a visitor of distinction. The
fish were small and bony, and the potatoes were a little burnt. We all
acknowledged that we felt this something of a disappointment; but Mrs.
Gummidge said she felt it more than we did, and shed tears again, and
made that former declaration with great bitterness.
Accordingly, when Mr. Peggotty came home about nine o'clock, this
unfortunate Mrs. Gummidge was knitting in her corner, in a very wretched
and miserable condition. Peggotty had been working cheerfully. Ham had
been patching up a great pair of waterboots; and I, with little Em'ly
by my side, had been reading to them. Mrs. Gummidge had never made any
other remark than a forlorn sigh, and had never raised her eyes since
'Well, Mates,' said Mr. Peggotty, taking his seat, 'and how are you?'
We all said something, or looked something, to welcome him, except Mrs.
Gummidge, who only shook her head over her knitting.
'What's amiss?' said Mr. Peggotty, with a clap of his hands. 'Cheer up,
old Mawther!' (Mr. Peggotty meant old girl.)
Mrs. Gummidge did not appear to be able to cheer up. She took out an old
black silk handkerchief and wiped her eyes; but instead of putting it
in her pocket, kept it out, and wiped them again, and still kept it out,
ready for use.
'What's amiss, dame?' said Mr. Peggotty.
'Nothing,' returned Mrs. Gummidge. 'You've come from The Willing Mind,
'Why yes, I've took a short spell at The Willing Mind tonight,' said Mr.
'I'm sorry I should drive you there,' said Mrs. Gummidge.
'Drive! I don't want no driving,' returned Mr. Peggotty with an honest
laugh. 'I only go too ready.'
'Very ready,' said Mrs. Gummidge, shaking her head, and wiping her eyes.
'Yes, yes, very ready. I am sorry it should be along of me that you're
'Along o' you! It an't along o' you!' said Mr. Peggotty. 'Don't ye
believe a bit on it.'
'Yes, yes, it is,' cried Mrs. Gummidge. 'I know what I am. I know that I
am a lone lorn creetur', and not only that everythink goes contrary with
me, but that I go contrary with everybody. Yes, yes. I feel more than
other people do, and I show it more. It's my misfortun'.'
I really couldn't help thinking, as I sat taking in all this, that the
misfortune extended to some other members of that family besides Mrs.
Gummidge. But Mr. Peggotty made no such retort, only answering with
another entreaty to Mrs. Gummidge to cheer up.
'I an't what I could wish myself to be,' said Mrs. Gummidge. 'I am far
from it. I know what I am. My troubles has made me contrary. I feel my
troubles, and they make me contrary. I wish I didn't feel 'em, but I
do. I wish I could be hardened to 'em, but I an't. I make the house
uncomfortable. I don't wonder at it. I've made your sister so all day,
and Master Davy.'
Here I was suddenly melted, and roared out, 'No, you haven't, Mrs.
Gummidge,' in great mental distress.
'It's far from right that I should do it,' said Mrs. Gummidge. 'It an't
a fit return. I had better go into the house and die. I am a lone lorn
creetur', and had much better not make myself contrary here. If thinks
must go contrary with me, and I must go contrary myself, let me go
contrary in my parish. Dan'l, I'd better go into the house, and die and
be a riddance!'
Mrs. Gummidge retired with these words, and betook herself to bed. When
she was gone, Mr. Peggotty, who had not exhibited a trace of any feeling
but the profoundest sympathy, looked round upon us, and nodding his head
with a lively expression of that sentiment still animating his face,
said in a whisper:
'She's been thinking of the old 'un!'
I did not quite understand what old one Mrs. Gummidge was supposed to
have fixed her mind upon, until Peggotty, on seeing me to bed, explained
that it was the late Mr. Gummidge; and that her brother always took that
for a received truth on such occasions, and that it always had a moving
effect upon him. Some time after he was in his hammock that night, I
heard him myself repeat to Ham, 'Poor thing! She's been thinking of the
old 'un!' And whenever Mrs. Gummidge was overcome in a similar manner
during the remainder of our stay (which happened some few times), he
always said the same thing in extenuation of the circumstance, and
always with the tenderest commiseration.
So the fortnight slipped away, varied by nothing but the variation of
the tide, which altered Mr. Peggotty's times of going out and coming in,
and altered Ham's engagements also. When the latter was unemployed, he
sometimes walked with us to show us the boats and ships, and once
or twice he took us for a row. I don't know why one slight set of
impressions should be more particularly associated with a place than
another, though I believe this obtains with most people, in reference
especially to the associations of their childhood. I never hear the
name, or read the name, of Yarmouth, but I am reminded of a certain
Sunday morning on the beach, the bells ringing for church, little Em'ly
leaning on my shoulder, Ham lazily dropping stones into the water, and
the sun, away at sea, just breaking through the heavy mist, and showing
us the ships, like their own shadows.
At last the day came for going home. I bore up against the separation
from Mr. Peggotty and Mrs. Gummidge, but my agony of mind at leaving
little Em'ly was piercing. We went arm-in-arm to the public-house where
the carrier put up, and I promised, on the road, to write to her. (I
redeemed that promise afterwards, in characters larger than those in
which apartments are usually announced in manuscript, as being to let.)
We were greatly overcome at parting; and if ever, in my life, I have had
a void made in my heart, I had one made that day.
Now, all the time I had been on my visit, I had been ungrateful to my
home again, and had thought little or nothing about it. But I was no
sooner turned towards it, than my reproachful young conscience seemed
to point that way with a ready finger; and I felt, all the more for the
sinking of my spirits, that it was my nest, and that my mother was my
comforter and friend.
This gained upon me as we went along; so that the nearer we drew, the
more familiar the objects became that we passed, the more excited I was
to get there, and to run into her arms. But Peggotty, instead of sharing
in those transports, tried to check them (though very kindly), and
looked confused and out of sorts.
Blunderstone Rookery would come, however, in spite of her, when the
carrier's horse pleased--and did. How well I recollect it, on a cold
grey afternoon, with a dull sky, threatening rain!
The door opened, and I looked, half laughing and half crying in my
pleasant agitation, for my mother. It was not she, but a strange
'Why, Peggotty!' I said, ruefully, 'isn't she come home?'
'Yes, yes, Master Davy,' said Peggotty. 'She's come home. Wait a bit,
Master Davy, and I'll--I'll tell you something.'
Between her agitation, and her natural awkwardness in getting out of the
cart, Peggotty was making a most extraordinary festoon of herself, but
I felt too blank and strange to tell her so. When she had got down, she
took me by the hand; led me, wondering, into the kitchen; and shut the
'Peggotty!' said I, quite frightened. 'What's the matter?'
'Nothing's the matter, bless you, Master Davy dear!' she answered,
assuming an air of sprightliness.
'Something's the matter, I'm sure. Where's mama?'
'Where's mama, Master Davy?' repeated Peggotty.
'Yes. Why hasn't she come out to the gate, and what have we come in here
for? Oh, Peggotty!' My eyes were full, and I felt as if I were going to
'Bless the precious boy!' cried Peggotty, taking hold of me. 'What is
it? Speak, my pet!'
'Not dead, too! Oh, she's not dead, Peggotty?'
Peggotty cried out No! with an astonishing volume of voice; and then sat
down, and began to pant, and said I had given her a turn.
I gave her a hug to take away the turn, or to give her another turn
in the right direction, and then stood before her, looking at her in
'You see, dear, I should have told you before now,' said Peggotty,
'but I hadn't an opportunity. I ought to have made it, perhaps, but
I couldn't azackly'--that was always the substitute for exactly, in
Peggotty's militia of words--'bring my mind to it.'
'Go on, Peggotty,' said I, more frightened than before.
'Master Davy,' said Peggotty, untying her bonnet with a shaking hand,
and speaking in a breathless sort of way. 'What do you think? You have
got a Pa!'
I trembled, and turned white. Something--I don't know what, or
how--connected with the grave in the churchyard, and the raising of the
dead, seemed to strike me like an unwholesome wind.
'A new one,' said Peggotty.
'A new one?' I repeated.
Peggotty gave a gasp, as if she were swallowing something that was very
hard, and, putting out her hand, said:
'Come and see him.'
'I don't want to see him.' --'And your mama,' said Peggotty.
I ceased to draw back, and we went straight to the best parlour, where
she left me. On one side of the fire, sat my mother; on the other, Mr.
Murdstone. My mother dropped her work, and arose hurriedly, but timidly
'Now, Clara my dear,' said Mr. Murdstone. 'Recollect! control yourself,
always control yourself! Davy boy, how do you do?'
I gave him my hand. After a moment of suspense, I went and kissed my
mother: she kissed me, patted me gently on the shoulder, and sat down
again to her work. I could not look at her, I could not look at him,
I knew quite well that he was looking at us both; and I turned to the
window and looked out there, at some shrubs that were drooping their
heads in the cold.
As soon as I could creep away, I crept upstairs. My old dear bedroom was
changed, and I was to lie a long way off. I rambled downstairs to find
anything that was like itself, so altered it all seemed; and roamed into
the yard. I very soon started back from there, for the empty dog-kennel
was filled up with a great dog--deep mouthed and black-haired like
Him--and he was very angry at the sight of me, and sprang out to get at
CHAPTER 4. I FALL INTO DISGRACE
If the room to which my bed was removed were a sentient thing that could
give evidence, I might appeal to it at this day--who sleeps there now,
I wonder!--to bear witness for me what a heavy heart I carried to it.
I went up there, hearing the dog in the yard bark after me all the way
while I climbed the stairs; and, looking as blank and strange upon the
room as the room looked upon me, sat down with my small hands crossed,
I thought of the oddest things. Of the shape of the room, of the
cracks in the ceiling, of the paper on the walls, of the flaws in
the window-glass making ripples and dimples on the prospect, of the
washing-stand being rickety on its three legs, and having a discontented
something about it, which reminded me of Mrs. Gummidge under the
influence of the old one. I was crying all the time, but, except that I
was conscious of being cold and dejected, I am sure I never thought
why I cried. At last in my desolation I began to consider that I was
dreadfully in love with little Em'ly, and had been torn away from her to
come here where no one seemed to want me, or to care about me, half as
much as she did. This made such a very miserable piece of business of
it, that I rolled myself up in a corner of the counterpane, and cried
myself to sleep.
I was awoke by somebody saying 'Here he is!' and uncovering my hot head.
My mother and Peggotty had come to look for me, and it was one of them
who had done it.
'Davy,' said my mother. 'What's the matter?'
I thought it was very strange that she should ask me, and answered,
'Nothing.' I turned over on my face, I recollect, to hide my trembling
lip, which answered her with greater truth. 'Davy,' said my mother.
'Davy, my child!'
I dare say no words she could have uttered would have affected me
so much, then, as her calling me her child. I hid my tears in the
bedclothes, and pressed her from me with my hand, when she would have
raised me up.
'This is your doing, Peggotty, you cruel thing!' said my mother. 'I have
no doubt at all about it. How can you reconcile it to your conscience,
I wonder, to prejudice my own boy against me, or against anybody who is
dear to me? What do you mean by it, Peggotty?'
Poor Peggotty lifted up her hands and eyes, and only answered, in a
sort of paraphrase of the grace I usually repeated after dinner, 'Lord
forgive you, Mrs. Copperfield, and for what you have said this minute,
may you never be truly sorry!'
'It's enough to distract me,' cried my mother. 'In my honeymoon, too,
when my most inveterate enemy might relent, one would think, and not
envy me a little peace of mind and happiness. Davy, you naughty boy!
Peggotty, you savage creature! Oh, dear me!' cried my mother, turning
from one of us to the other, in her pettish wilful manner, 'what a
troublesome world this is, when one has the most right to expect it to
be as agreeable as possible!'
I felt the touch of a hand that I knew was neither hers nor Peggotty's,
and slipped to my feet at the bed-side. It was Mr. Murdstone's hand, and
he kept it on my arm as he said:
'What's this? Clara, my love, have you forgotten?--Firmness, my dear!'
'I am very sorry, Edward,' said my mother. 'I meant to be very good, but
I am so uncomfortable.'
'Indeed!' he answered. 'That's a bad hearing, so soon, Clara.'
'I say it's very hard I should be made so now,' returned my mother,
pouting; 'and it is--very hard--isn't it?'
He drew her to him, whispered in her ear, and kissed her. I knew as
well, when I saw my mother's head lean down upon his shoulder, and her
arm touch his neck--I knew as well that he could mould her pliant nature
into any form he chose, as I know, now, that he did it.
'Go you below, my love,' said Mr. Murdstone. 'David and I will come
down, together. My friend,' turning a darkening face on Peggotty, when
he had watched my mother out, and dismissed her with a nod and a smile;
'do you know your mistress's name?'
'She has been my mistress a long time, sir,' answered Peggotty, 'I ought
to know it.' 'That's true,' he answered. 'But I thought I heard you, as
I came upstairs, address her by a name that is not hers. She has taken
mine, you know. Will you remember that?'
Peggotty, with some uneasy glances at me, curtseyed herself out of the
room without replying; seeing, I suppose, that she was expected to go,
and had no excuse for remaining. When we two were left alone, he shut
the door, and sitting on a chair, and holding me standing before him,
looked steadily into my eyes. I felt my own attracted, no less steadily,
to his. As I recall our being opposed thus, face to face, I seem again
to hear my heart beat fast and high.
'David,' he said, making his lips thin, by pressing them together, 'if I
have an obstinate horse or dog to deal with, what do you think I do?'
'I don't know.'
'I beat him.'
I had answered in a kind of breathless whisper, but I felt, in my
silence, that my breath was shorter now.
'I make him wince, and smart. I say to myself, "I'll conquer that
fellow"; and if it were to cost him all the blood he had, I should do
it. What is that upon your face?'
'Dirt,' I said.
He knew it was the mark of tears as well as I. But if he had asked the
question twenty times, each time with twenty blows, I believe my baby
heart would have burst before I would have told him so.
'You have a good deal of intelligence for a little fellow,' he said,
with a grave smile that belonged to him, 'and you understood me very
well, I see. Wash that face, sir, and come down with me.'
He pointed to the washing-stand, which I had made out to be like Mrs.
Gummidge, and motioned me with his head to obey him directly. I had
little doubt then, and I have less doubt now, that he would have knocked
me down without the least compunction, if I had hesitated.
'Clara, my dear,' he said, when I had done his bidding, and he walked me
into the parlour, with his hand still on my arm; 'you will not be made
uncomfortable any more, I hope. We shall soon improve our youthful
God help me, I might have been improved for my whole life, I might have
been made another creature perhaps, for life, by a kind word at that
season. A word of encouragement and explanation, of pity for my childish
ignorance, of welcome home, of reassurance to me that it was home, might
have made me dutiful to him in my heart henceforth, instead of in my
hypocritical outside, and might have made me respect instead of hate
him. I thought my mother was sorry to see me standing in the room so
scared and strange, and that, presently, when I stole to a chair, she
followed me with her eyes more sorrowfully still--missing, perhaps, some
freedom in my childish tread--but the word was not spoken, and the time
for it was gone.
We dined alone, we three together. He seemed to be very fond of my
mother--I am afraid I liked him none the better for that--and she was
very fond of him. I gathered from what they said, that an elder sister
of his was coming to stay with them, and that she was expected that
evening. I am not certain whether I found out then, or afterwards, that,
without being actively concerned in any business, he had some share in,
or some annual charge upon the profits of, a wine-merchant's house
in London, with which his family had been connected from his
great-grandfather's time, and in which his sister had a similar
interest; but I may mention it in this place, whether or no.
After dinner, when we were sitting by the fire, and I was meditating an
escape to Peggotty without having the hardihood to slip away, lest
it should offend the master of the house, a coach drove up to the
garden-gate and he went out to receive the visitor. My mother followed
him. I was timidly following her, when she turned round at the parlour
door, in the dusk, and taking me in her embrace as she had been used to
do, whispered me to love my new father and be obedient to him. She did
this hurriedly and secretly, as if it were wrong, but tenderly; and,
putting out her hand behind her, held mine in it, until we came near
to where he was standing in the garden, where she let mine go, and drew
hers through his arm.
It was Miss Murdstone who was arrived, and a gloomy-looking lady she
was; dark, like her brother, whom she greatly resembled in face and
voice; and with very heavy eyebrows, nearly meeting over her large nose,
as if, being disabled by the wrongs of her sex from wearing whiskers,
she had carried them to that account. She brought with her two
uncompromising hard black boxes, with her initials on the lids in hard
brass nails. When she paid the coachman she took her money out of a hard
steel purse, and she kept the purse in a very jail of a bag which hung
upon her arm by a heavy chain, and shut up like a bite. I had never, at
that time, seen such a metallic lady altogether as Miss Murdstone was.
She was brought into the parlour with many tokens of welcome, and there
formally recognized my mother as a new and near relation. Then she
looked at me, and said:
'Is that your boy, sister-in-law?'
My mother acknowledged me.
'Generally speaking,' said Miss Murdstone, 'I don't like boys. How d'ye
Under these encouraging circumstances, I replied that I was very well,
and that I hoped she was the same; with such an indifferent grace, that
Miss Murdstone disposed of me in two words:
Having uttered which, with great distinctness, she begged the favour of
being shown to her room, which became to me from that time forth a place
of awe and dread, wherein the two black boxes were never seen open or
known to be left unlocked, and where (for I peeped in once or twice when
she was out) numerous little steel fetters and rivets, with which Miss
Murdstone embellished herself when she was dressed, generally hung upon
the looking-glass in formidable array.
As well as I could make out, she had come for good, and had no intention
of ever going again. She began to 'help' my mother next morning, and was
in and out of the store-closet all day, putting things to rights, and
making havoc in the old arrangements. Almost the first remarkable thing
I observed in Miss Murdstone was, her being constantly haunted by
a suspicion that the servants had a man secreted somewhere on the
premises. Under the influence of this delusion, she dived into the
coal-cellar at the most untimely hours, and scarcely ever opened the
door of a dark cupboard without clapping it to again, in the belief that
she had got him.
Though there was nothing very airy about Miss Murdstone, she was a
perfect Lark in point of getting up. She was up (and, as I believe
to this hour, looking for that man) before anybody in the house was
stirring. Peggotty gave it as her opinion that she even slept with one
eye open; but I could not concur in this idea; for I tried it myself
after hearing the suggestion thrown out, and found it couldn't be done.
On the very first morning after her arrival she was up and ringing her
bell at cock-crow. When my mother came down to breakfast and was going
to make the tea, Miss Murdstone gave her a kind of peck on the cheek,
which was her nearest approach to a kiss, and said:
'Now, Clara, my dear, I am come here, you know, to relieve you of all
the trouble I can. You're much too pretty and thoughtless'--my mother
blushed but laughed, and seemed not to dislike this character--'to have
any duties imposed upon you that can be undertaken by me. If you'll be
so good as give me your keys, my dear, I'll attend to all this sort of
thing in future.'
From that time, Miss Murdstone kept the keys in her own little jail all
day, and under her pillow all night, and my mother had no more to do
with them than I had.
My mother did not suffer her authority to pass from her without a shadow
of protest. One night when Miss Murdstone had been developing certain
household plans to her brother, of which he signified his approbation,
my mother suddenly began to cry, and said she thought she might have
'Clara!' said Mr. Murdstone sternly. 'Clara! I wonder at you.'
'Oh, it's very well to say you wonder, Edward!' cried my mother, 'and
it's very well for you to talk about firmness, but you wouldn't like it
Firmness, I may observe, was the grand quality on which both Mr. and
Miss Murdstone took their stand. However I might have expressed
my comprehension of it at that time, if I had been called upon, I
nevertheless did clearly comprehend in my own way, that it was another
name for tyranny; and for a certain gloomy, arrogant, devil's humour,
that was in them both. The creed, as I should state it now, was this.
Mr. Murdstone was firm; nobody in his world was to be so firm as Mr.
Murdstone; nobody else in his world was to be firm at all, for everybody
was to be bent to his firmness. Miss Murdstone was an exception.
She might be firm, but only by relationship, and in an inferior and
tributary degree. My mother was another exception. She might be firm,
and must be; but only in bearing their firmness, and firmly believing
there was no other firmness upon earth.
'It's very hard,' said my mother, 'that in my own house--'
'My own house?' repeated Mr. Murdstone. 'Clara!'
'OUR own house, I mean,' faltered my mother, evidently frightened--'I
hope you must know what I mean, Edward--it's very hard that in YOUR own
house I may not have a word to say about domestic matters. I am sure
I managed very well before we were married. There's evidence,' said my
mother, sobbing; 'ask Peggotty if I didn't do very well when I wasn't
'Edward,' said Miss Murdstone, 'let there be an end of this. I go
'Jane Murdstone,' said her brother, 'be silent! How dare you to
insinuate that you don't know my character better than your words
'I am sure,' my poor mother went on, at a grievous disadvantage, and
with many tears, 'I don't want anybody to go. I should be very
miserable and unhappy if anybody was to go. I don't ask much. I am not
unreasonable. I only want to be consulted sometimes. I am very much
obliged to anybody who assists me, and I only want to be consulted as a
mere form, sometimes. I thought you were pleased, once, with my being a
little inexperienced and girlish, Edward--I am sure you said so--but you
seem to hate me for it now, you are so severe.'
'Edward,' said Miss Murdstone, again, 'let there be an end of this. I go
'Jane Murdstone,' thundered Mr. Murdstone. 'Will you be silent? How dare
Miss Murdstone made a jail-delivery of her pocket-handkerchief, and held
it before her eyes.
'Clara,' he continued, looking at my mother, 'you surprise me! You
astound me! Yes, I had a satisfaction in the thought of marrying
an inexperienced and artless person, and forming her character, and
infusing into it some amount of that firmness and decision of which
it stood in need. But when Jane Murdstone is kind enough to come to my
assistance in this endeavour, and to assume, for my sake, a condition
something like a housekeeper's, and when she meets with a base return--'
'Oh, pray, pray, Edward,' cried my mother, 'don't accuse me of being
ungrateful. I am sure I am not ungrateful. No one ever said I was
before. I have many faults, but not that. Oh, don't, my dear!'
'When Jane Murdstone meets, I say,' he went on, after waiting until my
mother was silent, 'with a base return, that feeling of mine is chilled
'Don't, my love, say that!' implored my mother very piteously.
'Oh, don't, Edward! I can't bear to hear it. Whatever I am, I am
affectionate. I know I am affectionate. I wouldn't say it, if I
wasn't sure that I am. Ask Peggotty. I am sure she'll tell you I'm
'There is no extent of mere weakness, Clara,' said Mr. Murdstone in
reply, 'that can have the least weight with me. You lose breath.'
'Pray let us be friends,' said my mother, 'I couldn't live under
coldness or unkindness. I am so sorry. I have a great many defects, I
know, and it's very good of you, Edward, with your strength of mind, to
endeavour to correct them for me. Jane, I don't object to anything. I
should be quite broken-hearted if you thought of leaving--' My mother
was too much overcome to go on.
'Jane Murdstone,' said Mr. Murdstone to his sister, 'any harsh words
between us are, I hope, uncommon. It is not my fault that so unusual an
occurrence has taken place tonight. I was betrayed into it by another.
Nor is it your fault. You were betrayed into it by another. Let us both
try to forget it. And as this,' he added, after these magnanimous words,
'is not a fit scene for the boy--David, go to bed!'
I could hardly find the door, through the tears that stood in my eyes.
I was so sorry for my mother's distress; but I groped my way out, and
groped my way up to my room in the dark, without even having the heart
to say good night to Peggotty, or to get a candle from her. When her
coming up to look for me, an hour or so afterwards, awoke me, she said
that my mother had gone to bed poorly, and that Mr. and Miss Murdstone
were sitting alone.
Going down next morning rather earlier than usual, I paused outside the
parlour door, on hearing my mother's voice. She was very earnestly and
humbly entreating Miss Murdstone's pardon, which that lady granted, and
a perfect reconciliation took place. I never knew my mother afterwards
to give an opinion on any matter, without first appealing to Miss
Murdstone, or without having first ascertained by some sure means, what
Miss Murdstone's opinion was; and I never saw Miss Murdstone, when out
of temper (she was infirm that way), move her hand towards her bag as
if she were going to take out the keys and offer to resign them to my
mother, without seeing that my mother was in a terrible fright.
The gloomy taint that was in the Murdstone blood, darkened the Murdstone
religion, which was austere and wrathful. I have thought, since,
that its assuming that character was a necessary consequence of Mr.
Murdstone's firmness, which wouldn't allow him to let anybody off from
the utmost weight of the severest penalties he could find any excuse
for. Be this as it may, I well remember the tremendous visages with
which we used to go to church, and the changed air of the place. Again,
the dreaded Sunday comes round, and I file into the old pew first, like
a guarded captive brought to a condemned service. Again, Miss Murdstone,
in a black velvet gown, that looks as if it had been made out of a pall,
follows close upon me; then my mother; then her husband. There is no
Peggotty now, as in the old time. Again, I listen to Miss Murdstone
mumbling the responses, and emphasizing all the dread words with a cruel
relish. Again, I see her dark eyes roll round the church when she says
'miserable sinners', as if she were calling all the congregation names.
Again, I catch rare glimpses of my mother, moving her lips timidly
between the two, with one of them muttering at each ear like low
thunder. Again, I wonder with a sudden fear whether it is likely that
our good old clergyman can be wrong, and Mr. and Miss Murdstone right,
and that all the angels in Heaven can be destroying angels. Again, if I
move a finger or relax a muscle of my face, Miss Murdstone pokes me with
her prayer-book, and makes my side ache.
Yes, and again, as we walk home, I note some neighbours looking at my
mother and at me, and whispering. Again, as the three go on arm-in-arm,
and I linger behind alone, I follow some of those looks, and wonder if
my mother's step be really not so light as I have seen it, and if the
gaiety of her beauty be really almost worried away. Again, I wonder
whether any of the neighbours call to mind, as I do, how we used to
walk home together, she and I; and I wonder stupidly about that, all the
dreary dismal day.
There had been some talk on occasions of my going to boarding-school.
Mr. and Miss Murdstone had originated it, and my mother had of course
agreed with them. Nothing, however, was concluded on the subject yet.
In the meantime, I learnt lessons at home. Shall I ever forget those
lessons! They were presided over nominally by my mother, but really by
Mr. Murdstone and his sister, who were always present, and found them
a favourable occasion for giving my mother lessons in that miscalled
firmness, which was the bane of both our lives. I believe I was kept
at home for that purpose. I had been apt enough to learn, and willing
enough, when my mother and I had lived alone together. I can faintly
remember learning the alphabet at her knee. To this day, when I look
upon the fat black letters in the primer, the puzzling novelty of their
shapes, and the easy good-nature of O and Q and S, seem to present
themselves again before me as they used to do. But they recall no
feeling of disgust or reluctance. On the contrary, I seem to have walked
along a path of flowers as far as the crocodile-book, and to have been
cheered by the gentleness of my mother's voice and manner all the
way. But these solemn lessons which succeeded those, I remember as the
death-blow of my peace, and a grievous daily drudgery and misery. They
were very long, very numerous, very hard--perfectly unintelligible,
some of them, to me--and I was generally as much bewildered by them as I
believe my poor mother was herself.
Let me remember how it used to be, and bring one morning back again.
I come into the second-best parlour after breakfast, with my books,
and an exercise-book, and a slate. My mother is ready for me at her
writing-desk, but not half so ready as Mr. Murdstone in his easy-chair
by the window (though he pretends to be reading a book), or as Miss
Murdstone, sitting near my mother stringing steel beads. The very sight
of these two has such an influence over me, that I begin to feel the
words I have been at infinite pains to get into my head, all sliding
away, and going I don't know where. I wonder where they do go, by the
I hand the first book to my mother. Perhaps it is a grammar, perhaps a
history, or geography. I take a last drowning look at the page as I give
it into her hand, and start off aloud at a racing pace while I have
got it fresh. I trip over a word. Mr. Murdstone looks up. I trip
over another word. Miss Murdstone looks up. I redden, tumble over
half-a-dozen words, and stop. I think my mother would show me the book
if she dared, but she does not dare, and she says softly:
'Oh, Davy, Davy!'
'Now, Clara,' says Mr. Murdstone, 'be firm with the boy. Don't say, "Oh,
Davy, Davy!" That's childish. He knows his lesson, or he does not know
'He does NOT know it,' Miss Murdstone interposes awfully.
'I am really afraid he does not,' says my mother.
'Then, you see, Clara,' returns Miss Murdstone, 'you should just give
him the book back, and make him know it.'
'Yes, certainly,' says my mother; 'that is what I intend to do, my dear
Jane. Now, Davy, try once more, and don't be stupid.'
I obey the first clause of the injunction by trying once more, but am
not so successful with the second, for I am very stupid. I tumble down
before I get to the old place, at a point where I was all right before,
and stop to think. But I can't think about the lesson. I think of the
number of yards of net in Miss Murdstone's cap, or of the price of Mr.
Murdstone's dressing-gown, or any such ridiculous problem that I have
no business with, and don't want to have anything at all to do with. Mr.
Murdstone makes a movement of impatience which I have been expecting
for a long time. Miss Murdstone does the same. My mother glances
submissively at them, shuts the book, and lays it by as an arrear to be
worked out when my other tasks are done.
There is a pile of these arrears very soon, and it swells like a rolling
snowball. The bigger it gets, the more stupid I get. The case is so
hopeless, and I feel that I am wallowing in such a bog of nonsense, that
I give up all idea of getting out, and abandon myself to my fate. The
despairing way in which my mother and I look at each other, as I blunder
on, is truly melancholy. But the greatest effect in these miserable
lessons is when my mother (thinking nobody is observing her) tries
to give me the cue by the motion of her lips. At that instant, Miss
Murdstone, who has been lying in wait for nothing else all along, says
in a deep warning voice:
My mother starts, colours, and smiles faintly. Mr. Murdstone comes out
of his chair, takes the book, throws it at me or boxes my ears with it,
and turns me out of the room by the shoulders.
Even when the lessons are done, the worst is yet to happen, in the shape
of an appalling sum. This is invented for me, and delivered to me orally
by Mr. Murdstone, and begins, 'If I go into a cheesemonger's shop, and
buy five thousand double-Gloucester cheeses at fourpence-halfpenny each,
present payment'--at which I see Miss Murdstone secretly overjoyed.
I pore over these cheeses without any result or enlightenment until
dinner-time, when, having made a Mulatto of myself by getting the dirt
of the slate into the pores of my skin, I have a slice of bread to help
me out with the cheeses, and am considered in disgrace for the rest of
It seems to me, at this distance of time, as if my unfortunate studies
generally took this course. I could have done very well if I had been
without the Murdstones; but the influence of the Murdstones upon me was
like the fascination of two snakes on a wretched young bird. Even when
I did get through the morning with tolerable credit, there was not
much gained but dinner; for Miss Murdstone never could endure to see me
untasked, and if I rashly made any show of being unemployed, called her
brother's attention to me by saying, 'Clara, my dear, there's nothing
like work--give your boy an exercise'; which caused me to be clapped
down to some new labour, there and then. As to any recreation with other
children of my age, I had very little of that; for the gloomy theology
of the Murdstones made all children out to be a swarm of little vipers
(though there WAS a child once set in the midst of the Disciples), and
held that they contaminated one another.
The natural result of this treatment, continued, I suppose, for some six
months or more, was to make me sullen, dull, and dogged. I was not
made the less so by my sense of being daily more and more shut out and
alienated from my mother. I believe I should have been almost stupefied
but for one circumstance.
It was this. My father had left a small collection of books in a little
room upstairs, to which I had access (for it adjoined my own) and which
nobody else in our house ever troubled. From that blessed little room,
Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, the
Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Blas, and Robinson Crusoe, came
out, a glorious host, to keep me company. They kept alive my fancy, and
my hope of something beyond that place and time,--they, and the Arabian
Nights, and the Tales of the Genii,--and did me no harm; for whatever
harm was in some of them was not there for me; I knew nothing of it. It
is astonishing to me now, how I found time, in the midst of my porings
and blunderings over heavier themes, to read those books as I did. It
is curious to me how I could ever have consoled myself under my
small troubles (which were great troubles to me), by impersonating my
favourite characters in them--as I did--and by putting Mr. and Miss
Murdstone into all the bad ones--which I did too. I have been Tom Jones
(a child's Tom Jones, a harmless creature) for a week together. I have
sustained my own idea of Roderick Random for a month at a stretch, I
verily believe. I had a greedy relish for a few volumes of Voyages and
Travels--I forget what, now--that were on those shelves; and for days
and days I can remember to have gone about my region of our house,
armed with the centre-piece out of an old set of boot-trees--the perfect
realization of Captain Somebody, of the Royal British Navy, in danger of
being beset by savages, and resolved to sell his life at a great price.
The Captain never lost dignity, from having his ears boxed with the
Latin Grammar. I did; but the Captain was a Captain and a hero, in
despite of all the grammars of all the languages in the world, dead or
This was my only and my constant comfort. When I think of it, the
picture always rises in my mind, of a summer evening, the boys at play
in the churchyard, and I sitting on my bed, reading as if for life.
Every barn in the neighbourhood, every stone in the church, and every
foot of the churchyard, had some association of its own, in my mind,
connected with these books, and stood for some locality made famous in
them. I have seen Tom Pipes go climbing up the church-steeple; I have
watched Strap, with the knapsack on his back, stopping to rest himself
upon the wicket-gate; and I know that Commodore Trunnion held that club
with Mr. Pickle, in the parlour of our little village alehouse.
The reader now understands, as well as I do, what I was when I came to
that point of my youthful history to which I am now coming again.
One morning when I went into the parlour with my books, I found my
mother looking anxious, Miss Murdstone looking firm, and Mr. Murdstone
binding something round the bottom of a cane--a lithe and limber cane,
which he left off binding when I came in, and poised and switched in the
'I tell you, Clara,' said Mr. Murdstone, 'I have been often flogged
'To be sure; of course,' said Miss Murdstone.
'Certainly, my dear Jane,' faltered my mother, meekly. 'But--but do you
think it did Edward good?'
'Do you think it did Edward harm, Clara?' asked Mr. Murdstone, gravely.
'That's the point,' said his sister.
To this my mother returned, 'Certainly, my dear Jane,' and said no more.
I felt apprehensive that I was personally interested in this dialogue,
and sought Mr. Murdstone's eye as it lighted on mine.
'Now, David,' he said--and I saw that cast again as he said it--'you
must be far more careful today than usual.' He gave the cane another
poise, and another switch; and having finished his preparation of it,
laid it down beside him, with an impressive look, and took up his book.
This was a good freshener to my presence of mind, as a beginning. I felt
the words of my lessons slipping off, not one by one, or line by line,
but by the entire page; I tried to lay hold of them; but they seemed,
if I may so express it, to have put skates on, and to skim away from me
with a smoothness there was no checking.
We began badly, and went on worse. I had come in with an idea of
distinguishing myself rather, conceiving that I was very well prepared;
but it turned out to be quite a mistake. Book after book was added to
the heap of failures, Miss Murdstone being firmly watchful of us all the
time. And when we came at last to the five thousand cheeses (canes he
made it that day, I remember), my mother burst out crying.
'Clara!' said Miss Murdstone, in her warning voice.
'I am not quite well, my dear Jane, I think,' said my mother.
I saw him wink, solemnly, at his sister, as he rose and said, taking up
'Why, Jane, we can hardly expect Clara to bear, with perfect firmness,
the worry and torment that David has occasioned her today. That would be
stoical. Clara is greatly strengthened and improved, but we can hardly
expect so much from her. David, you and I will go upstairs, boy.'
As he took me out at the door, my mother ran towards us. Miss Murdstone
said, 'Clara! are you a perfect fool?' and interfered. I saw my mother
stop her ears then, and I heard her crying.
He walked me up to my room slowly and gravely--I am certain he had a
delight in that formal parade of executing justice--and when we got
there, suddenly twisted my head under his arm.
'Mr. Murdstone! Sir!' I cried to him. 'Don't! Pray don't beat me! I have
tried to learn, sir, but I can't learn while you and Miss Murdstone are
by. I can't indeed!'
'Can't you, indeed, David?' he said. 'We'll try that.'
He had my head as in a vice, but I twined round him somehow, and stopped
him for a moment, entreating him not to beat me. It was only a moment
that I stopped him, for he cut me heavily an instant afterwards, and in
the same instant I caught the hand with which he held me in my mouth,
between my teeth, and bit it through. It sets my teeth on edge to think
He beat me then, as if he would have beaten me to death. Above all the
noise we made, I heard them running up the stairs, and crying out--I
heard my mother crying out--and Peggotty. Then he was gone; and the
door was locked outside; and I was lying, fevered and hot, and torn, and
sore, and raging in my puny way, upon the floor.
How well I recollect, when I became quiet, what an unnatural stillness
seemed to reign through the whole house! How well I remember, when my
smart and passion began to cool, how wicked I began to feel!
I sat listening for a long while, but there was not a sound. I crawled
up from the floor, and saw my face in the glass, so swollen, red, and
ugly that it almost frightened me. My stripes were sore and stiff, and
made me cry afresh, when I moved; but they were nothing to the guilt I
felt. It lay heavier on my breast than if I had been a most atrocious
criminal, I dare say.
It had begun to grow dark, and I had shut the window (I had been lying,
for the most part, with my head upon the sill, by turns crying, dozing,
and looking listlessly out), when the key was turned, and Miss Murdstone
came in with some bread and meat, and milk. These she put down upon the
table without a word, glaring at me the while with exemplary firmness,
and then retired, locking the door after her.
Long after it was dark I sat there, wondering whether anybody else would
come. When this appeared improbable for that night, I undressed, and
went to bed; and, there, I began to wonder fearfully what would be done
to me. Whether it was a criminal act that I had committed? Whether I
should be taken into custody, and sent to prison? Whether I was at all
in danger of being hanged?
I never shall forget the waking, next morning; the being cheerful and
fresh for the first moment, and then the being weighed down by the stale
and dismal oppression of remembrance. Miss Murdstone reappeared before
I was out of bed; told me, in so many words, that I was free to walk in
the garden for half an hour and no longer; and retired, leaving the door
open, that I might avail myself of that permission.
I did so, and did so every morning of my imprisonment, which lasted five
days. If I could have seen my mother alone, I should have gone down on
my knees to her and besought her forgiveness; but I saw no one, Miss
Murdstone excepted, during the whole time--except at evening prayers in
the parlour; to which I was escorted by Miss Murdstone after everybody
else was placed; where I was stationed, a young outlaw, all alone by
myself near the door; and whence I was solemnly conducted by my jailer,
before any one arose from the devotional posture. I only observed that
my mother was as far off from me as she could be, and kept her face
another way so that I never saw it; and that Mr. Murdstone's hand was
bound up in a large linen wrapper.
The length of those five days I can convey no idea of to any one. They
occupy the place of years in my remembrance. The way in which I listened
to all the incidents of the house that made themselves audible to me;
the ringing of bells, the opening and shutting of doors, the murmuring
of voices, the footsteps on the stairs; to any laughing, whistling, or
singing, outside, which seemed more dismal than anything else to me in
my solitude and disgrace--the uncertain pace of the hours, especially
at night, when I would wake thinking it was morning, and find that the
family were not yet gone to bed, and that all the length of night had
yet to come--the depressed dreams and nightmares I had--the return of
day, noon, afternoon, evening, when the boys played in the churchyard,
and I watched them from a distance within the room, being ashamed to
show myself at the window lest they should know I was a prisoner--the
strange sensation of never hearing myself speak--the fleeting intervals
of something like cheerfulness, which came with eating and drinking,
and went away with it--the setting in of rain one evening, with a fresh
smell, and its coming down faster and faster between me and the church,
until it and gathering night seemed to quench me in gloom, and fear, and
remorse--all this appears to have gone round and round for years instead
of days, it is so vividly and strongly stamped on my remembrance. On the
last night of my restraint, I was awakened by hearing my own name spoken
in a whisper. I started up in bed, and putting out my arms in the dark,
'Is that you, Peggotty?'
There was no immediate answer, but presently I heard my name again, in a
tone so very mysterious and awful, that I think I should have gone into
a fit, if it had not occurred to me that it must have come through the
I groped my way to the door, and putting my own lips to the keyhole,
whispered: 'Is that you, Peggotty dear?'
'Yes, my own precious Davy,' she replied. 'Be as soft as a mouse, or the
Cat'll hear us.'
I understood this to mean Miss Murdstone, and was sensible of the
urgency of the case; her room being close by.
'How's mama, dear Peggotty? Is she very angry with me?'
I could hear Peggotty crying softly on her side of the keyhole, as I was
doing on mine, before she answered. 'No. Not very.'
'What is going to be done with me, Peggotty dear? Do you know?'
'School. Near London,' was Peggotty's answer. I was obliged to get her
to repeat it, for she spoke it the first time quite down my throat,
in consequence of my having forgotten to take my mouth away from the
keyhole and put my ear there; and though her words tickled me a good
deal, I didn't hear them.
'Is that the reason why Miss Murdstone took the clothes out of my
drawers?' which she had done, though I have forgotten to mention it.
'Yes,' said Peggotty. 'Box.'
'Shan't I see mama?'
'Yes,' said Peggotty. 'Morning.'
Then Peggotty fitted her mouth close to the keyhole, and delivered these
words through it with as much feeling and earnestness as a keyhole
has ever been the medium of communicating, I will venture to assert:
shooting in each broken little sentence in a convulsive little burst of
'Davy, dear. If I ain't been azackly as intimate with you. Lately, as I
used to be. It ain't because I don't love you. Just as well and more, my
pretty poppet. It's because I thought it better for you. And for someone
else besides. Davy, my darling, are you listening? Can you hear?'
'Ye-ye-ye-yes, Peggotty!' I sobbed.
'My own!' said Peggotty, with infinite compassion. 'What I want to say,
is. That you must never forget me. For I'll never forget you. And I'll
take as much care of your mama, Davy. As ever I took of you. And I won't
leave her. The day may come when she'll be glad to lay her poor head.
On her stupid, cross old Peggotty's arm again. And I'll write to you,
my dear. Though I ain't no scholar. And I'll--I'll--' Peggotty fell to
kissing the keyhole, as she couldn't kiss me.
'Thank you, dear Peggotty!' said I. 'Oh, thank you! Thank you! Will you
promise me one thing, Peggotty? Will you write and tell Mr. Peggotty and
little Em'ly, and Mrs. Gummidge and Ham, that I am not so bad as they
might suppose, and that I sent 'em all my love--especially to little
Em'ly? Will you, if you please, Peggotty?'
The kind soul promised, and we both of us kissed the keyhole with the
greatest affection--I patted it with my hand, I recollect, as if it had
been her honest face--and parted. From that night there grew up in my
breast a feeling for Peggotty which I cannot very well define. She did
not replace my mother; no one could do that; but she came into a vacancy
in my heart, which closed upon her, and I felt towards her something
I have never felt for any other human being. It was a sort of comical
affection, too; and yet if she had died, I cannot think what I should
have done, or how I should have acted out the tragedy it would have been
In the morning Miss Murdstone appeared as usual, and told me I was going
to school; which was not altogether such news to me as she supposed. She
also informed me that when I was dressed, I was to come downstairs into
the parlour, and have my breakfast. There, I found my mother, very pale
and with red eyes: into whose arms I ran, and begged her pardon from my
'Oh, Davy!' she said. 'That you could hurt anyone I love! Try to be
better, pray to be better! I forgive you; but I am so grieved, Davy,
that you should have such bad passions in your heart.'
They had persuaded her that I was a wicked fellow, and she was more
sorry for that than for my going away. I felt it sorely. I tried to eat
my parting breakfast, but my tears dropped upon my bread-and-butter,
and trickled into my tea. I saw my mother look at me sometimes, and then
glance at the watchful Miss Murdstone, and than look down, or look away.
'Master Copperfield's box there!' said Miss Murdstone, when wheels were
heard at the gate.
I looked for Peggotty, but it was not she; neither she nor Mr. Murdstone
appeared. My former acquaintance, the carrier, was at the door. The box
was taken out to his cart, and lifted in.
'Clara!' said Miss Murdstone, in her warning note.
'Ready, my dear Jane,' returned my mother. 'Good-bye, Davy. You are
going for your own good. Good-bye, my child. You will come home in the
holidays, and be a better boy.'
'Clara!' Miss Murdstone repeated.
'Certainly, my dear Jane,' replied my mother, who was holding me. 'I
forgive you, my dear boy. God bless you!'
'Clara!' Miss Murdstone repeated.
Miss Murdstone was good enough to take me out to the cart, and to say on
the way that she hoped I would repent, before I came to a bad end; and
then I got into the cart, and the lazy horse walked off with it.
CHAPTER 5. I AM SENT AWAY FROM HOME
We might have gone about half a mile, and my pocket-handkerchief was
quite wet through, when the carrier stopped short. Looking out to
ascertain for what, I saw, to MY amazement, Peggotty burst from a hedge
and climb into the cart. She took me in both her arms, and squeezed me
to her stays until the pressure on my nose was extremely painful, though
I never thought of that till afterwards when I found it very tender. Not
a single word did Peggotty speak. Releasing one of her arms, she put
it down in her pocket to the elbow, and brought out some paper bags of
cakes which she crammed into my pockets, and a purse which she put into
my hand, but not one word did she say. After another and a final squeeze
with both arms, she got down from the cart and ran away; and, my belief
is, and has always been, without a solitary button on her gown. I
picked up one, of several that were rolling about, and treasured it as a
keepsake for a long time.
The carrier looked at me, as if to inquire if she were coming back. I
shook my head, and said I thought not. 'Then come up,' said the carrier
to the lazy horse; who came up accordingly.
Having by this time cried as much as I possibly could, I began to think
it was of no use crying any more, especially as neither Roderick Random,
nor that Captain in the Royal British Navy, had ever cried, that I
could remember, in trying situations. The carrier, seeing me in this
resolution, proposed that my pocket-handkerchief should be spread upon
the horse's back to dry. I thanked him, and assented; and particularly
small it looked, under those circumstances.
I had now leisure to examine the purse. It was a stiff leather purse,
with a snap, and had three bright shillings in it, which Peggotty had
evidently polished up with whitening, for my greater delight. But its
most precious contents were two half-crowns folded together in a bit
of paper, on which was written, in my mother's hand, 'For Davy. With my
love.' I was so overcome by this, that I asked the carrier to be so good
as to reach me my pocket-handkerchief again; but he said he thought I
had better do without it, and I thought I really had, so I wiped my eyes
on my sleeve and stopped myself.
For good, too; though, in consequence of my previous emotions, I was
still occasionally seized with a stormy sob. After we had jogged on for
some little time, I asked the carrier if he was going all the way.
'All the way where?' inquired the carrier.
'There,' I said.
'Where's there?' inquired the carrier.
'Near London,' I said.
'Why that horse,' said the carrier, jerking the rein to point him out,
'would be deader than pork afore he got over half the ground.'
'Are you only going to Yarmouth then?' I asked.
'That's about it,' said the carrier. 'And there I shall take you to the
stage-cutch, and the stage-cutch that'll take you to--wherever it is.'
As this was a great deal for the carrier (whose name was Mr. Barkis)
to say--he being, as I observed in a former chapter, of a phlegmatic
temperament, and not at all conversational--I offered him a cake as a
mark of attention, which he ate at one gulp, exactly like an elephant,
and which made no more impression on his big face than it would have
done on an elephant's.
'Did SHE make 'em, now?' said Mr. Barkis, always leaning forward, in his
slouching way, on the footboard of the cart with an arm on each knee.
'Peggotty, do you mean, sir?'
'Ah!' said Mr. Barkis. 'Her.'
'Yes. She makes all our pastry, and does all our cooking.'
'Do she though?' said Mr. Barkis. He made up his mouth as if to whistle,
but he didn't whistle. He sat looking at the horse's ears, as if he saw
something new there; and sat so, for a considerable time. By and by, he
'No sweethearts, I b'lieve?'
'Sweetmeats did you say, Mr. Barkis?' For I thought he wanted
something else to eat, and had pointedly alluded to that description of
'Hearts,' said Mr. Barkis. 'Sweet hearts; no person walks with her!'
'Ah!' he said. 'Her.'
'Oh, no. She never had a sweetheart.'
'Didn't she, though!' said Mr. Barkis.
Again he made up his mouth to whistle, and again he didn't whistle, but
sat looking at the horse's ears.
'So she makes,' said Mr. Barkis, after a long interval of reflection,
'all the apple parsties, and doos all the cooking, do she?'
I replied that such was the fact.
'Well. I'll tell you what,' said Mr. Barkis. 'P'raps you might be
writin' to her?'
'I shall certainly write to her,' I rejoined.
'Ah!' he said, slowly turning his eyes towards me. 'Well! If you was
writin' to her, p'raps you'd recollect to say that Barkis was willin';
'That Barkis is willing,' I repeated, innocently. 'Is that all the
'Ye-es,' he said, considering. 'Ye-es. Barkis is willin'.'
'But you will be at Blunderstone again tomorrow, Mr. Barkis,' I said,
faltering a little at the idea of my being far away from it then, and
could give your own message so much better.'
As he repudiated this suggestion, however, with a jerk of his head,
and once more confirmed his previous request by saying, with profound
gravity, 'Barkis is willin'. That's the message,' I readily undertook
its transmission. While I was waiting for the coach in the hotel
at Yarmouth that very afternoon, I procured a sheet of paper and
an inkstand, and wrote a note to Peggotty, which ran thus: 'My dear
Peggotty. I have come here safe. Barkis is willing. My love to mama.
Yours affectionately. P.S. He says he particularly wants you to
know--BARKIS IS WILLING.'
When I had taken this commission on myself prospectively, Mr. Barkis
relapsed into perfect silence; and I, feeling quite worn out by all that
had happened lately, lay down on a sack in the cart and fell asleep. I
slept soundly until we got to Yarmouth; which was so entirely new
and strange to me in the inn-yard to which we drove, that I at once
abandoned a latent hope I had had of meeting with some of Mr. Peggotty's
family there, perhaps even with little Em'ly herself.
The coach was in the yard, shining very much all over, but without any
horses to it as yet; and it looked in that state as if nothing was
more unlikely than its ever going to London. I was thinking this, and
wondering what would ultimately become of my box, which Mr. Barkis had
put down on the yard-pavement by the pole (he having driven up the yard
to turn his cart), and also what would ultimately become of me, when a
lady looked out of a bow-window where some fowls and joints of meat were
hanging up, and said:
'Is that the little gentleman from Blunderstone?'
'Yes, ma'am,' I said.
'What name?' inquired the lady.
'Copperfield, ma'am,' I said.
'That won't do,' returned the lady. 'Nobody's dinner is paid for here,
in that name.'
'Is it Murdstone, ma'am?' I said.
'If you're Master Murdstone,' said the lady, 'why do you go and give
another name, first?'
I explained to the lady how it was, who than rang a bell, and called
out, 'William! show the coffee-room!' upon which a waiter came running
out of a kitchen on the opposite side of the yard to show it, and seemed
a good deal surprised when he was only to show it to me.
It was a large long room with some large maps in it. I doubt if I could
have felt much stranger if the maps had been real foreign countries, and
I cast away in the middle of them. I felt it was taking a liberty to
sit down, with my cap in my hand, on the corner of the chair nearest the
door; and when the waiter laid a cloth on purpose for me, and put a set
of castors on it, I think I must have turned red all over with modesty.
He brought me some chops, and vegetables, and took the covers off in
such a bouncing manner that I was afraid I must have given him some
offence. But he greatly relieved my mind by putting a chair for me at
the table, and saying, very affably, 'Now, six-foot! come on!'
I thanked him, and took my seat at the board; but found it extremely
difficult to handle my knife and fork with anything like dexterity,
or to avoid splashing myself with the gravy, while he was standing
opposite, staring so hard, and making me blush in the most dreadful
manner every time I caught his eye. After watching me into the second
chop, he said:
'There's half a pint of ale for you. Will you have it now?'
I thanked him and said, 'Yes.' Upon which he poured it out of a jug
into a large tumbler, and held it up against the light, and made it look
'My eye!' he said. 'It seems a good deal, don't it?'
'It does seem a good deal,' I answered with a smile. For it was quite
delightful to me, to find him so pleasant. He was a twinkling-eyed,
pimple-faced man, with his hair standing upright all over his head; and
as he stood with one arm a-kimbo, holding up the glass to the light with
the other hand, he looked quite friendly.
'There was a gentleman here, yesterday,' he said--'a stout gentleman, by
the name of Topsawyer--perhaps you know him?'
'No,' I said, 'I don't think--'
'In breeches and gaiters, broad-brimmed hat, grey coat, speckled
choker,' said the waiter.
'No,' I said bashfully, 'I haven't the pleasure--'
'He came in here,' said the waiter, looking at the light through the
tumbler, 'ordered a glass of this ale--WOULD order it--I told him
not--drank it, and fell dead. It was too old for him. It oughtn't to be
drawn; that's the fact.'
I was very much shocked to hear of this melancholy accident, and said I
thought I had better have some water.
'Why you see,' said the waiter, still looking at the light through the
tumbler, with one of his eyes shut up, 'our people don't like things
being ordered and left. It offends 'em. But I'll drink it, if you like.
I'm used to it, and use is everything. I don't think it'll hurt me, if I
throw my head back, and take it off quick. Shall I?'
I replied that he would much oblige me by drinking it, if he thought
he could do it safely, but by no means otherwise. When he did throw his
head back, and take it off quick, I had a horrible fear, I confess,
of seeing him meet the fate of the lamented Mr. Topsawyer, and fall
lifeless on the carpet. But it didn't hurt him. On the contrary, I
thought he seemed the fresher for it.
'What have we got here?' he said, putting a fork into my dish. 'Not
'Chops,' I said.
'Lord bless my soul!' he exclaimed, 'I didn't know they were chops. Why,
a chop's the very thing to take off the bad effects of that beer! Ain't
So he took a chop by the bone in one hand, and a potato in the other,
and ate away with a very good appetite, to my extreme satisfaction.
He afterwards took another chop, and another potato; and after that,
another chop and another potato. When we had done, he brought me a
pudding, and having set it before me, seemed to ruminate, and to become
absent in his mind for some moments.
'How's the pie?' he said, rousing himself.
'It's a pudding,' I made answer.
'Pudding!' he exclaimed. 'Why, bless me, so it is! What!' looking at it
nearer. 'You don't mean to say it's a batter-pudding!'
'Yes, it is indeed.'
'Why, a batter-pudding,' he said, taking up a table-spoon, 'is my
favourite pudding! Ain't that lucky? Come on, little 'un, and let's see
who'll get most.'
The waiter certainly got most. He entreated me more than once to come in
and win, but what with his table-spoon to my tea-spoon, his dispatch to
my dispatch, and his appetite to my appetite, I was left far behind at
the first mouthful, and had no chance with him. I never saw anyone enjoy
a pudding so much, I think; and he laughed, when it was all gone, as if
his enjoyment of it lasted still.
Finding him so very friendly and companionable, it was then that I asked
for the pen and ink and paper, to write to Peggotty. He not only brought
it immediately, but was good enough to look over me while I wrote the
letter. When I had finished it, he asked me where I was going to school.
I said, 'Near London,' which was all I knew.
'Oh! my eye!' he said, looking very low-spirited, 'I am sorry for that.'
'Why?' I asked him.
'Oh, Lord!' he said, shaking his head, 'that's the school where they
broke the boy's ribs--two ribs--a little boy he was. I should say he
was--let me see--how old are you, about?'
I told him between eight and nine.
'That's just his age,' he said. 'He was eight years and six months old
when they broke his first rib; eight years and eight months old when
they broke his second, and did for him.'
I could not disguise from myself, or from the waiter, that this was an
uncomfortable coincidence, and inquired how it was done. His answer was
not cheering to my spirits, for it consisted of two dismal words, 'With
The blowing of the coach-horn in the yard was a seasonable diversion,
which made me get up and hesitatingly inquire, in the mingled pride and
diffidence of having a purse (which I took out of my pocket), if there
were anything to pay.
'There's a sheet of letter-paper,' he returned. 'Did you ever buy a
sheet of letter-paper?'
I could not remember that I ever had.
'It's dear,' he said, 'on account of the duty. Threepence. That's
the way we're taxed in this country. There's nothing else, except the
waiter. Never mind the ink. I lose by that.'
'What should you--what should I--how much ought I to--what would it be
right to pay the waiter, if you please?' I stammered, blushing.
'If I hadn't a family, and that family hadn't the cowpock,' said the
waiter, 'I wouldn't take a sixpence. If I didn't support a aged pairint,
and a lovely sister,'--here the waiter was greatly agitated--'I wouldn't
take a farthing. If I had a good place, and was treated well here, I
should beg acceptance of a trifle, instead of taking of it. But I live
on broken wittles--and I sleep on the coals'--here the waiter burst into
I was very much concerned for his misfortunes, and felt that any
recognition short of ninepence would be mere brutality and hardness of
heart. Therefore I gave him one of my three bright shillings, which he
received with much humility and veneration, and spun up with his thumb,
directly afterwards, to try the goodness of.
It was a little disconcerting to me, to find, when I was being helped
up behind the coach, that I was supposed to have eaten all the dinner
without any assistance. I discovered this, from overhearing the lady in
the bow-window say to the guard, 'Take care of that child, George, or
he'll burst!' and from observing that the women-servants who were about
the place came out to look and giggle at me as a young phenomenon. My
unfortunate friend the waiter, who had quite recovered his spirits, did
not appear to be disturbed by this, but joined in the general admiration
without being at all confused. If I had any doubt of him, I suppose
this half awakened it; but I am inclined to believe that with the simple
confidence of a child, and the natural reliance of a child upon superior
years (qualities I am very sorry any children should prematurely change
for worldly wisdom), I had no serious mistrust of him on the whole, even
I felt it rather hard, I must own, to be made, without deserving it, the
subject of jokes between the coachman and guard as to the coach drawing
heavy behind, on account of my sitting there, and as to the greater
expediency of my travelling by waggon. The story of my supposed appetite
getting wind among the outside passengers, they were merry upon it
likewise; and asked me whether I was going to be paid for, at school,
as two brothers or three, and whether I was contracted for, or went upon
the regular terms; with other pleasant questions. But the worst of
it was, that I knew I should be ashamed to eat anything, when an
opportunity offered, and that, after a rather light dinner, I should
remain hungry all night--for I had left my cakes behind, at the hotel,
in my hurry. My apprehensions were realized. When we stopped for supper
I couldn't muster courage to take any, though I should have liked it
very much, but sat by the fire and said I didn't want anything. This did
not save me from more jokes, either; for a husky-voiced gentleman with
a rough face, who had been eating out of a sandwich-box nearly all the
way, except when he had been drinking out of a bottle, said I was like
a boa-constrictor who took enough at one meal to last him a long time;
after which, he actually brought a rash out upon himself with boiled
We had started from Yarmouth at three o'clock in the afternoon, and we
were due in London about eight next morning. It was Mid-summer weather,
and the evening was very pleasant. When we passed through a village, I
pictured to myself what the insides of the houses were like, and what
the inhabitants were about; and when boys came running after us, and
got up behind and swung there for a little way, I wondered whether their
fathers were alive, and whether they Were happy at home. I had plenty to
think of, therefore, besides my mind running continually on the kind
of place I was going to--which was an awful speculation. Sometimes, I
remember, I resigned myself to thoughts of home and Peggotty; and to
endeavouring, in a confused blind way, to recall how I had felt, and
what sort of boy I used to be, before I bit Mr. Murdstone: which I
couldn't satisfy myself about by any means, I seemed to have bitten him
in such a remote antiquity.
The night was not so pleasant as the evening, for it got chilly; and
being put between two gentlemen (the rough-faced one and another) to
prevent my tumbling off the coach, I was nearly smothered by their
falling asleep, and completely blocking me up. They squeezed me so hard
sometimes, that I could not help crying out, 'Oh! If you please!'--which
they didn't like at all, because it woke them. Opposite me was an
elderly lady in a great fur cloak, who looked in the dark more like a
haystack than a lady, she was wrapped up to such a degree. This lady had
a basket with her, and she hadn't known what to do with it, for a long
time, until she found that on account of my legs being short, it could
go underneath me. It cramped and hurt me so, that it made me perfectly
miserable; but if I moved in the least, and made a glass that was in the
basket rattle against something else (as it was sure to do), she gave
me the cruellest poke with her foot, and said, 'Come, don't YOU fidget.
YOUR bones are young enough, I'm sure!'
At last the sun rose, and then my companions seemed to sleep easier.
The difficulties under which they had laboured all night, and which had
found utterance in the most terrific gasps and snorts, are not to be
conceived. As the sun got higher, their sleep became lighter, and so
they gradually one by one awoke. I recollect being very much surprised
by the feint everybody made, then, of not having been to sleep at all,
and by the uncommon indignation with which everyone repelled the
charge. I labour under the same kind of astonishment to this day, having
invariably observed that of all human weaknesses, the one to which our
common nature is the least disposed to confess (I cannot imagine why) is
the weakness of having gone to sleep in a coach.
What an amazing place London was to me when I saw it in the distance,
and how I believed all the adventures of all my favourite heroes to be
constantly enacting and re-enacting there, and how I vaguely made it
out in my own mind to be fuller of wonders and wickedness than all the
cities of the earth, I need not stop here to relate. We approached it by
degrees, and got, in due time, to the inn in the Whitechapel district,
for which we were bound. I forget whether it was the Blue Bull, or the
Blue Boar; but I know it was the Blue Something, and that its likeness
was painted up on the back of the coach.
The guard's eye lighted on me as he was getting down, and he said at the
'Is there anybody here for a yoongster booked in the name of Murdstone,
from Bloonderstone, Sooffolk, to be left till called for?'
'Try Copperfield, if you please, sir,' said I, looking helplessly down.
'Is there anybody here for a yoongster, booked in the name of Murdstone,
from Bloonderstone, Sooffolk, but owning to the name of Copperfield, to
be left till called for?' said the guard. 'Come! IS there anybody?'
No. There was nobody. I looked anxiously around; but the inquiry made no
impression on any of the bystanders, if I except a man in gaiters, with
one eye, who suggested that they had better put a brass collar round my
neck, and tie me up in the stable.
A ladder was brought, and I got down after the lady, who was like a
haystack: not daring to stir, until her basket was removed. The coach
was clear of passengers by that time, the luggage was very soon cleared
out, the horses had been taken out before the luggage, and now the coach
itself was wheeled and backed off by some hostlers, out of the way.
Still, nobody appeared, to claim the dusty youngster from Blunderstone,
More solitary than Robinson Crusoe, who had nobody to look at him
and see that he was solitary, I went into the booking-office, and, by
invitation of the clerk on duty, passed behind the counter, and sat down
on the scale at which they weighed the luggage. Here, as I sat looking
at the parcels, packages, and books, and inhaling the smell of stables
(ever since associated with that morning), a procession of most
tremendous considerations began to march through my mind. Supposing
nobody should ever fetch me, how long would they consent to keep me
there? Would they keep me long enough to spend seven shillings? Should I
sleep at night in one of those wooden bins, with the other luggage,
and wash myself at the pump in the yard in the morning; or should I
be turned out every night, and expected to come again to be left till
called for, when the office opened next day? Supposing there was no
mistake in the case, and Mr. Murdstone had devised this plan to get rid
of me, what should I do? If they allowed me to remain there until my
seven shillings were spent, I couldn't hope to remain there when I began
to starve. That would obviously be inconvenient and unpleasant to the
customers, besides entailing on the Blue Whatever-it-was, the risk of
funeral expenses. If I started off at once, and tried to walk back home,
how could I ever find my way, how could I ever hope to walk so far, how
could I make sure of anyone but Peggotty, even if I got back? If I
found out the nearest proper authorities, and offered myself to go for a
soldier, or a sailor, I was such a little fellow that it was most likely
they wouldn't take me in. These thoughts, and a hundred other such
thoughts, turned me burning hot, and made me giddy with apprehension and
dismay. I was in the height of my fever when a man entered and whispered
to the clerk, who presently slanted me off the scale, and pushed me over
to him, as if I were weighed, bought, delivered, and paid for.
As I went out of the office, hand in hand with this new acquaintance,
I stole a look at him. He was a gaunt, sallow young man, with hollow
cheeks, and a chin almost as black as Mr. Murdstone's; but there the
likeness ended, for his whiskers were shaved off, and his hair, instead
of being glossy, was rusty and dry. He was dressed in a suit of black
clothes which were rather rusty and dry too, and rather short in the
sleeves and legs; and he had a white neck-kerchief on, that was not
over-clean. I did not, and do not, suppose that this neck-kerchief was
all the linen he wore, but it was all he showed or gave any hint of.
'You're the new boy?' he said. 'Yes, sir,' I said.
I supposed I was. I didn't know.
'I'm one of the masters at Salem House,' he said.
I made him a bow and felt very much overawed. I was so ashamed to allude
to a commonplace thing like my box, to a scholar and a master at Salem
House, that we had gone some little distance from the yard before I had
the hardihood to mention it. We turned back, on my humbly insinuating
that it might be useful to me hereafter; and he told the clerk that the
carrier had instructions to call for it at noon.
'If you please, sir,' I said, when we had accomplished about the same
distance as before, 'is it far?'
'It's down by Blackheath,' he said.
'Is that far, sir?' I diffidently asked.
'It's a good step,' he said. 'We shall go by the stage-coach. It's about
I was so faint and tired, that the idea of holding out for six miles
more, was too much for me. I took heart to tell him that I had had
nothing all night, and that if he would allow me to buy something to
eat, I should be very much obliged to him. He appeared surprised at
this--I see him stop and look at me now--and after considering for a few
moments, said he wanted to call on an old person who lived not far off,
and that the best way would be for me to buy some bread, or whatever I
liked best that was wholesome, and make my breakfast at her house, where
we could get some milk.
Accordingly we looked in at a baker's window, and after I had made a
series of proposals to buy everything that was bilious in the shop, and
he had rejected them one by one, we decided in favour of a nice little
loaf of brown bread, which cost me threepence. Then, at a grocer's shop,
we bought an egg and a slice of streaky bacon; which still left what
I thought a good deal of change, out of the second of the bright
shillings, and made me consider London a very cheap place. These
provisions laid in, we went on through a great noise and uproar that
confused my weary head beyond description, and over a bridge which, no
doubt, was London Bridge (indeed I think he told me so, but I was half
asleep), until we came to the poor person's house, which was a part of
some alms-houses, as I knew by their look, and by an inscription on a
stone over the gate which said they were established for twenty-five
The Master at Salem House lifted the latch of one of a number of little
black doors that were all alike, and had each a little diamond-paned
window on one side, and another little diamond--paned window above; and
we went into the little house of one of these poor old women, who was
blowing a fire to make a little saucepan boil. On seeing the master
enter, the old woman stopped with the bellows on her knee, and said
something that I thought sounded like 'My Charley!' but on seeing me
come in too, she got up, and rubbing her hands made a confused sort of
'Can you cook this young gentleman's breakfast for him, if you please?'
said the Master at Salem House.
'Can I?' said the old woman. 'Yes can I, sure!'
'How's Mrs. Fibbitson today?' said the Master, looking at another old
woman in a large chair by the fire, who was such a bundle of clothes
that I feel grateful to this hour for not having sat upon her by
'Ah, she's poorly,' said the first old woman. 'It's one of her bad days.
If the fire was to go out, through any accident, I verily believe she'd
go out too, and never come to life again.'
As they looked at her, I looked at her also. Although it was a warm day,
she seemed to think of nothing but the fire. I fancied she was jealous
even of the saucepan on it; and I have reason to know that she took its
impressment into the service of boiling my egg and broiling my bacon, in
dudgeon; for I saw her, with my own discomfited eyes, shake her fist at
me once, when those culinary operations were going on, and no one else
was looking. The sun streamed in at the little window, but she sat with
her own back and the back of the large chair towards it, screening the
fire as if she were sedulously keeping IT warm, instead of it keeping
her warm, and watching it in a most distrustful manner. The completion
of the preparations for my breakfast, by relieving the fire, gave her
such extreme joy that she laughed aloud--and a very unmelodious laugh
she had, I must say.
I sat down to my brown loaf, my egg, and my rasher of bacon, with a
basin of milk besides, and made a most delicious meal. While I was yet
in the full enjoyment of it, the old woman of the house said to the
'Have you got your flute with you?'
'Yes,' he returned.
'Have a blow at it,' said the old woman, coaxingly. 'Do!'
The Master, upon this, put his hand underneath the skirts of his coat,
and brought out his flute in three pieces, which he screwed together,
and began immediately to play. My impression is, after many years of
consideration, that there never can have been anybody in the world who
played worse. He made the most dismal sounds I have ever heard produced
by any means, natural or artificial. I don't know what the tunes
were--if there were such things in the performance at all, which I
doubt--but the influence of the strain upon me was, first, to make me
think of all my sorrows until I could hardly keep my tears back; then to
take away my appetite; and lastly, to make me so sleepy that I couldn't
keep my eyes open. They begin to close again, and I begin to nod, as the
recollection rises fresh upon me. Once more the little room, with its
open corner cupboard, and its square-backed chairs, and its angular
little staircase leading to the room above, and its three peacock's
feathers displayed over the mantelpiece--I remember wondering when I
first went in, what that peacock would have thought if he had known what
his finery was doomed to come to--fades from before me, and I nod, and
sleep. The flute becomes inaudible, the wheels of the coach are heard
instead, and I am on my journey. The coach jolts, I wake with a start,
and the flute has come back again, and the Master at Salem House is
sitting with his legs crossed, playing it dolefully, while the old woman
of the house looks on delighted. She fades in her turn, and he fades,
and all fades, and there is no flute, no Master, no Salem House, no
David Copperfield, no anything but heavy sleep.
I dreamed, I thought, that once while he was blowing into this dismal
flute, the old woman of the house, who had gone nearer and nearer to him
in her ecstatic admiration, leaned over the back of his chair and gave
him an affectionate squeeze round the neck, which stopped his playing
for a moment. I was in the middle state between sleeping and waking,
either then or immediately afterwards; for, as he resumed--it was a real
fact that he had stopped playing--I saw and heard the same old woman ask
Mrs. Fibbitson if it wasn't delicious (meaning the flute), to which Mrs.
Fibbitson replied, 'Ay, ay! yes!' and nodded at the fire: to which, I am
persuaded, she gave the credit of the whole performance.
When I seemed to have been dozing a long while, the Master at Salem
House unscrewed his flute into the three pieces, put them up as before,
and took me away. We found the coach very near at hand, and got upon the
roof; but I was so dead sleepy, that when we stopped on the road to take
up somebody else, they put me inside where there were no passengers, and
where I slept profoundly, until I found the coach going at a footpace up
a steep hill among green leaves. Presently, it stopped, and had come to
A short walk brought us--I mean the Master and me--to Salem House, which
was enclosed with a high brick wall, and looked very dull. Over a door
in this wall was a board with SALEM HOUSE upon it; and through a grating
in this door we were surveyed when we rang the bell by a surly face,
which I found, on the door being opened, belonged to a stout man with a
bull-neck, a wooden leg, overhanging temples, and his hair cut close all
round his head.
'The new boy,' said the Master.
The man with the wooden leg eyed me all over--it didn't take long, for
there was not much of me--and locked the gate behind us, and took out
the key. We were going up to the house, among some dark heavy trees,
when he called after my conductor. 'Hallo!'
We looked back, and he was standing at the door of a little lodge, where
he lived, with a pair of boots in his hand.
'Here! The cobbler's been,' he said, 'since you've been out, Mr. Mell,
and he says he can't mend 'em any more. He says there ain't a bit of the
original boot left, and he wonders you expect it.'
With these words he threw the boots towards Mr. Mell, who went back a
few paces to pick them up, and looked at them (very disconsolately,
I was afraid), as we went on together. I observed then, for the first
time, that the boots he had on were a good deal the worse for wear, and
that his stocking was just breaking out in one place, like a bud.
Salem House was a square brick building with wings; of a bare and
unfurnished appearance. All about it was so very quiet, that I said to
Mr. Mell I supposed the boys were out; but he seemed surprised at my
not knowing that it was holiday-time. That all the boys were at their
several homes. That Mr. Creakle, the proprietor, was down by the
sea-side with Mrs. and Miss Creakle; and that I was sent in holiday-time
as a punishment for my misdoing, all of which he explained to me as we
I gazed upon the schoolroom into which he took me, as the most forlorn
and desolate place I had ever seen. I see it now. A long room with three
long rows of desks, and six of forms, and bristling all round with pegs
for hats and slates. Scraps of old copy-books and exercises litter the
dirty floor. Some silkworms' houses, made of the same materials, are
scattered over the desks. Two miserable little white mice, left behind
by their owner, are running up and down in a fusty castle made of
pasteboard and wire, looking in all the corners with their red eyes
for anything to eat. A bird, in a cage very little bigger than himself,
makes a mournful rattle now and then in hopping on his perch, two inches
high, or dropping from it; but neither sings nor chirps. There is a
strange unwholesome smell upon the room, like mildewed corduroys, sweet
apples wanting air, and rotten books. There could not well be more ink
splashed about it, if it had been roofless from its first construction,
and the skies had rained, snowed, hailed, and blown ink through the
varying seasons of the year.
Mr. Mell having left me while he took his irreparable boots upstairs, I
went softly to the upper end of the room, observing all this as I crept
along. Suddenly I came upon a pasteboard placard, beautifully written,
which was lying on the desk, and bore these words: 'TAKE CARE OF HIM. HE
I got upon the desk immediately, apprehensive of at least a great dog
underneath. But, though I looked all round with anxious eyes, I could
see nothing of him. I was still engaged in peering about, when Mr. Mell
came back, and asked me what I did up there?
'I beg your pardon, sir,' says I, 'if you please, I'm looking for the
'Dog?' he says. 'What dog?'
'Isn't it a dog, sir?'
'Isn't what a dog?'
'That's to be taken care of, sir; that bites.'
'No, Copperfield,' says he, gravely, 'that's not a dog. That's a boy.
My instructions are, Copperfield, to put this placard on your back. I am
sorry to make such a beginning with you, but I must do it.' With that he
took me down, and tied the placard, which was neatly constructed for
the purpose, on my shoulders like a knapsack; and wherever I went,
afterwards, I had the consolation of carrying it.
What I suffered from that placard, nobody can imagine. Whether it was
possible for people to see me or not, I always fancied that somebody was
reading it. It was no relief to turn round and find nobody; for wherever
my back was, there I imagined somebody always to be. That cruel man with
the wooden leg aggravated my sufferings. He was in authority; and if he
ever saw me leaning against a tree, or a wall, or the house, he roared
out from his lodge door in a stupendous voice, 'Hallo, you sir! You
Copperfield! Show that badge conspicuous, or I'll report you!' The
playground was a bare gravelled yard, open to all the back of the house
and the offices; and I knew that the servants read it, and the butcher
read it, and the baker read it; that everybody, in a word, who came
backwards and forwards to the house, of a morning when I was ordered to
walk there, read that I was to be taken care of, for I bit, I recollect
that I positively began to have a dread of myself, as a kind of wild boy
who did bite.
There was an old door in this playground, on which the boys had a
custom of carving their names. It was completely covered with such
inscriptions. In my dread of the end of the vacation and their coming
back, I could not read a boy's name, without inquiring in what tone and
with what emphasis HE would read, 'Take care of him. He bites.' There
was one boy--a certain J. Steerforth--who cut his name very deep and
very often, who, I conceived, would read it in a rather strong voice,
and afterwards pull my hair. There was another boy, one Tommy Traddles,
who I dreaded would make game of it, and pretend to be dreadfully
frightened of me. There was a third, George Demple, who I fancied would
sing it. I have looked, a little shrinking creature, at that door, until
the owners of all the names--there were five-and-forty of them in the
school then, Mr. Mell said--seemed to send me to Coventry by general
acclamation, and to cry out, each in his own way, 'Take care of him. He
It was the same with the places at the desks and forms. It was the same
with the groves of deserted bedsteads I peeped at, on my way to, and
when I was in, my own bed. I remember dreaming night after night, of
being with my mother as she used to be, or of going to a party at Mr.
Peggotty's, or of travelling outside the stage-coach, or of dining again
with my unfortunate friend the waiter, and in all these circumstances
making people scream and stare, by the unhappy disclosure that I had
nothing on but my little night-shirt, and that placard.
In the monotony of my life, and in my constant apprehension of the
re-opening of the school, it was such an insupportable affliction! I had
long tasks every day to do with Mr. Mell; but I did them, there being
no Mr. and Miss Murdstone here, and got through them without disgrace.
Before, and after them, I walked about--supervised, as I have mentioned,
by the man with the wooden leg. How vividly I call to mind the damp
about the house, the green cracked flagstones in the court, an old leaky
water-butt, and the discoloured trunks of some of the grim trees, which
seemed to have dripped more in the rain than other trees, and to have
blown less in the sun! At one we dined, Mr. Mell and I, at the upper end
of a long bare dining-room, full of deal tables, and smelling of fat.
Then, we had more tasks until tea, which Mr. Mell drank out of a blue
teacup, and I out of a tin pot. All day long, and until seven or eight
in the evening, Mr. Mell, at his own detached desk in the schoolroom,
worked hard with pen, ink, ruler, books, and writing-paper, making out
the bills (as I found) for last half-year. When he had put up his things
for the night he took out his flute, and blew at it, until I almost
thought he would gradually blow his whole being into the large hole at
the top, and ooze away at the keys.
I picture my small self in the dimly-lighted rooms, sitting with my
head upon my hand, listening to the doleful performance of Mr. Mell,
and conning tomorrow's lessons. I picture myself with my books shut up,
still listening to the doleful performance of Mr. Mell, and listening
through it to what used to be at home, and to the blowing of the wind
on Yarmouth flats, and feeling very sad and solitary. I picture myself
going up to bed, among the unused rooms, and sitting on my bed-side
crying for a comfortable word from Peggotty. I picture myself coming
downstairs in the morning, and looking through a long ghastly gash of a
staircase window at the school-bell hanging on the top of an out-house
with a weathercock above it; and dreading the time when it shall ring J.
Steerforth and the rest to work: which is only second, in my foreboding
apprehensions, to the time when the man with the wooden leg shall unlock
the rusty gate to give admission to the awful Mr. Creakle. I cannot
think I was a very dangerous character in any of these aspects, but in
all of them I carried the same warning on my back.
Mr. Mell never said much to me, but he was never harsh to me. I suppose
we were company to each other, without talking. I forgot to mention that
he would talk to himself sometimes, and grin, and clench his fist, and
grind his teeth, and pull his hair in an unaccountable manner. But he
had these peculiarities: and at first they frightened me, though I soon
got used to them.
CHAPTER 6. I ENLARGE MY CIRCLE OF ACQUAINTANCE
I HAD led this life about a month, when the man with the wooden leg
began to stump about with a mop and a bucket of water, from which I
inferred that preparations were making to receive Mr. Creakle and the
boys. I was not mistaken; for the mop came into the schoolroom before
long, and turned out Mr. Mell and me, who lived where we could, and got
on how we could, for some days, during which we were always in the way
of two or three young women, who had rarely shown themselves before, and
were so continually in the midst of dust that I sneezed almost as much
as if Salem House had been a great snuff-box.
One day I was informed by Mr. Mell that Mr. Creakle would be home that
evening. In the evening, after tea, I heard that he was come. Before
bedtime, I was fetched by the man with the wooden leg to appear before
Mr. Creakle's part of the house was a good deal more comfortable than
ours, and he had a snug bit of garden that looked pleasant after the
dusty playground, which was such a desert in miniature, that I thought
no one but a camel, or a dromedary, could have felt at home in it. It
seemed to me a bold thing even to take notice that the passage looked
comfortable, as I went on my way, trembling, to Mr. Creakle's presence:
which so abashed me, when I was ushered into it, that I hardly saw
Mrs. Creakle or Miss Creakle (who were both there, in the parlour), or
anything but Mr. Creakle, a stout gentleman with a bunch of watch-chain
and seals, in an arm-chair, with a tumbler and bottle beside him.
'So!' said Mr. Creakle. 'This is the young gentleman whose teeth are to
be filed! Turn him round.'
The wooden-legged man turned me about so as to exhibit the placard; and
having afforded time for a full survey of it, turned me about again,
with my face to Mr. Creakle, and posted himself at Mr. Creakle's side.
Mr. Creakle's face was fiery, and his eyes were small, and deep in his
head; he had thick veins in his forehead, a little nose, and a large
chin. He was bald on the top of his head; and had some thin wet-looking
hair that was just turning grey, brushed across each temple, so that
the two sides interlaced on his forehead. But the circumstance about
him which impressed me most, was, that he had no voice, but spoke in a
whisper. The exertion this cost him, or the consciousness of talking in
that feeble way, made his angry face so much more angry, and his thick
veins so much thicker, when he spoke, that I am not surprised, on
looking back, at this peculiarity striking me as his chief one. 'Now,'
said Mr. Creakle. 'What's the report of this boy?'
'There's nothing against him yet,' returned the man with the wooden leg.
'There has been no opportunity.'
I thought Mr. Creakle was disappointed. I thought Mrs. and Miss Creakle
(at whom I now glanced for the first time, and who were, both, thin and
quiet) were not disappointed.
'Come here, sir!' said Mr. Creakle, beckoning to me.
'Come here!' said the man with the wooden leg, repeating the gesture.
'I have the happiness of knowing your father-in-law,' whispered Mr.
Creakle, taking me by the ear; 'and a worthy man he is, and a man of
a strong character. He knows me, and I know him. Do YOU know me? Hey?'
said Mr. Creakle, pinching my ear with ferocious playfulness.
'Not yet, sir,' I said, flinching with the pain.
'Not yet? Hey?' repeated Mr. Creakle. 'But you will soon. Hey?'
'You will soon. Hey?' repeated the man with the wooden leg. I afterwards
found that he generally acted, with his strong voice, as Mr. Creakle's
interpreter to the boys.
I was very much frightened, and said, I hoped so, if he pleased. I felt,
all this while, as if my ear were blazing; he pinched it so hard.
'I'll tell you what I am,' whispered Mr. Creakle, letting it go at last,
with a screw at parting that brought the water into my eyes. 'I'm a
'A Tartar,' said the man with the wooden leg.
'When I say I'll do a thing, I do it,' said Mr. Creakle; 'and when I say
I will have a thing done, I will have it done.'
'--Will have a thing done, I will have it done,' repeated the man with
the wooden leg.
'I am a determined character,' said Mr. Creakle. 'That's what I am. I
do my duty. That's what I do. My flesh and blood'--he looked at Mrs.
Creakle as he said this--'when it rises against me, is not my flesh
and blood. I discard it. Has that fellow'--to the man with the wooden
leg--'been here again?'
'No,' was the answer.
'No,' said Mr. Creakle. 'He knows better. He knows me. Let him keep
away. I say let him keep away,' said Mr. Creakle, striking his hand upon
the table, and looking at Mrs. Creakle, 'for he knows me. Now you have
begun to know me too, my young friend, and you may go. Take him away.'
I was very glad to be ordered away, for Mrs. and Miss Creakle were both
wiping their eyes, and I felt as uncomfortable for them as I did for
myself. But I had a petition on my mind which concerned me so nearly,
that I couldn't help saying, though I wondered at my own courage:
'If you please, sir--'
Mr. Creakle whispered, 'Hah! What's this?' and bent his eyes upon me, as
if he would have burnt me up with them.
'If you please, sir,' I faltered, 'if I might be allowed (I am very
sorry indeed, sir, for what I did) to take this writing off, before the
boys come back--'
Whether Mr. Creakle was in earnest, or whether he only did it to
frighten me, I don't know, but he made a burst out of his chair, before
which I precipitately retreated, without waiting for the escort Of the
man with the wooden leg, and never once stopped until I reached my own
bedroom, where, finding I was not pursued, I went to bed, as it was
time, and lay quaking, for a couple of hours.
Next morning Mr. Sharp came back. Mr. Sharp was the first master, and
superior to Mr. Mell. Mr. Mell took his meals with the boys, but
Mr. Sharp dined and supped at Mr. Creakle's table. He was a limp,
delicate-looking gentleman, I thought, with a good deal of nose, and a
way of carrying his head on one side, as if it were a little too heavy
for him. His hair was very smooth and wavy; but I was informed by the
very first boy who came back that it was a wig (a second-hand one HE
said), and that Mr. Sharp went out every Saturday afternoon to get it
It was no other than Tommy Traddles who gave me this piece of
intelligence. He was the first boy who returned. He introduced himself
by informing me that I should find his name on the right-hand corner of
the gate, over the top-bolt; upon that I said, 'Traddles?' to which he
replied, 'The same,' and then he asked me for a full account of myself
It was a happy circumstance for me that Traddles came back first. He
enjoyed my placard so much, that he saved me from the embarrassment of
either disclosure or concealment, by presenting me to every other boy
who came back, great or small, immediately on his arrival, in this form
of introduction, 'Look here! Here's a game!' Happily, too, the greater
part of the boys came back low-spirited, and were not so boisterous at
my expense as I had expected. Some of them certainly did dance about me
like wild Indians, and the greater part could not resist the temptation
of pretending that I was a dog, and patting and soothing me, lest I
should bite, and saying, 'Lie down, sir!' and calling me Towzer. This
was naturally confusing, among so many strangers, and cost me some
tears, but on the whole it was much better than I had anticipated.
I was not considered as being formally received into the school,
however, until J. Steerforth arrived. Before this boy, who was
reputed to be a great scholar, and was very good-looking, and at least
half-a-dozen years my senior, I was carried as before a magistrate. He
inquired, under a shed in the playground, into the particulars of my
punishment, and was pleased to express his opinion that it was 'a jolly
shame'; for which I became bound to him ever afterwards.
'What money have you got, Copperfield?' he said, walking aside with
me when he had disposed of my affair in these terms. I told him seven
'You had better give it to me to take care of,' he said. 'At least, you
can if you like. You needn't if you don't like.'
I hastened to comply with his friendly suggestion, and opening
Peggotty's purse, turned it upside down into his hand.
'Do you want to spend anything now?' he asked me.
'No thank you,' I replied.
'You can, if you like, you know,' said Steerforth. 'Say the word.'
'No, thank you, sir,' I repeated.
'Perhaps you'd like to spend a couple of shillings or so, in a bottle of
currant wine by and by, up in the bedroom?' said Steerforth. 'You belong
to my bedroom, I find.'
It certainly had not occurred to me before, but I said, Yes, I should
'Very good,' said Steerforth. 'You'll be glad to spend another shilling
or so, in almond cakes, I dare say?'
I said, Yes, I should like that, too.
'And another shilling or so in biscuits, and another in fruit, eh?' said
Steerforth. 'I say, young Copperfield, you're going it!'
I smiled because he smiled, but I was a little troubled in my mind, too.
'Well!' said Steerforth. 'We must make it stretch as far as we can;
that's all. I'll do the best in my power for you. I can go out when I
like, and I'll smuggle the prog in.' With these words he put the money
in his pocket, and kindly told me not to make myself uneasy; he would
take care it should be all right. He was as good as his word, if that
were all right which I had a secret misgiving was nearly all wrong--for
I feared it was a waste of my mother's two half-crowns--though I had
preserved the piece of paper they were wrapped in: which was a precious
saving. When we went upstairs to bed, he produced the whole seven
shillings' worth, and laid it out on my bed in the moonlight, saying:
'There you are, young Copperfield, and a royal spread you've got.'
I couldn't think of doing the honours of the feast, at my time of life,
while he was by; my hand shook at the very thought of it. I begged him
to do me the favour of presiding; and my request being seconded by the
other boys who were in that room, he acceded to it, and sat upon my
pillow, handing round the viands--with perfect fairness, I must say--and
dispensing the currant wine in a little glass without a foot, which was
his own property. As to me, I sat on his left hand, and the rest were
grouped about us, on the nearest beds and on the floor.
How well I recollect our sitting there, talking in whispers; or their
talking, and my respectfully listening, I ought rather to say; the
moonlight falling a little way into the room, through the window,
painting a pale window on the floor, and the greater part of us in
shadow, except when Steerforth dipped a match into a phosphorus-box,
when he wanted to look for anything on the board, and shed a blue glare
over us that was gone directly! A certain mysterious feeling, consequent
on the darkness, the secrecy of the revel, and the whisper in which
everything was said, steals over me again, and I listen to all they tell
me with a vague feeling of solemnity and awe, which makes me glad that
they are all so near, and frightens me (though I feign to laugh) when
Traddles pretends to see a ghost in the corner.
I heard all kinds of things about the school and all belonging to it.
I heard that Mr. Creakle had not preferred his claim to being a Tartar
without reason; that he was the sternest and most severe of masters;
that he laid about him, right and left, every day of his life, charging
in among the boys like a trooper, and slashing away, unmercifully. That
he knew nothing himself, but the art of slashing, being more ignorant
(J. Steerforth said) than the lowest boy in the school; that he had
been, a good many years ago, a small hop-dealer in the Borough, and had
taken to the schooling business after being bankrupt in hops, and making
away with Mrs. Creakle's money. With a good deal more of that sort,
which I wondered how they knew.
I heard that the man with the wooden leg, whose name was Tungay, was an
obstinate barbarian who had formerly assisted in the hop business, but
had come into the scholastic line with Mr. Creakle, in consequence,
as was supposed among the boys, of his having broken his leg in Mr.
Creakle's service, and having done a deal of dishonest work for him,
and knowing his secrets. I heard that with the single exception of Mr.
Creakle, Tungay considered the whole establishment, masters and boys,
as his natural enemies, and that the only delight of his life was to be
sour and malicious. I heard that Mr. Creakle had a son, who had not been
Tungay's friend, and who, assisting in the school, had once held some
remonstrance with his father on an occasion when its discipline was very
cruelly exercised, and was supposed, besides, to have protested against
his father's usage of his mother. I heard that Mr. Creakle had turned
him out of doors, in consequence; and that Mrs. and Miss Creakle had
been in a sad way, ever since.
But the greatest wonder that I heard of Mr. Creakle was, there being one
boy in the school on whom he never ventured to lay a hand, and that
boy being J. Steerforth. Steerforth himself confirmed this when it was
stated, and said that he should like to begin to see him do it. On being
asked by a mild boy (not me) how he would proceed if he did begin to see
him do it, he dipped a match into his phosphorus-box on purpose to shed
a glare over his reply, and said he would commence by knocking him down
with a blow on the forehead from the seven-and-sixpenny ink-bottle
that was always on the mantelpiece. We sat in the dark for some time,
I heard that Mr. Sharp and Mr. Mell were both supposed to be wretchedly
paid; and that when there was hot and cold meat for dinner at Mr.
Creakle's table, Mr. Sharp was always expected to say he preferred cold;
which was again corroborated by J. Steerforth, the only parlour-boarder.
I heard that Mr. Sharp's wig didn't fit him; and that he needn't be so
'bounceable'--somebody else said 'bumptious'--about it, because his own
red hair was very plainly to be seen behind.
I heard that one boy, who was a coal-merchant's son, came as a set-off
against the coal-bill, and was called, on that account, 'Exchange or
Barter'--a name selected from the arithmetic book as expressing this
arrangement. I heard that the table beer was a robbery of parents, and
the pudding an imposition. I heard that Miss Creakle was regarded by the
school in general as being in love with Steerforth; and I am sure, as I
sat in the dark, thinking of his nice voice, and his fine face, and his
easy manner, and his curling hair, I thought it very likely. I heard
that Mr. Mell was not a bad sort of fellow, but hadn't a sixpence to
bless himself with; and that there was no doubt that old Mrs. Mell, his
mother, was as poor as job. I thought of my breakfast then, and what had
sounded like 'My Charley!' but I was, I am glad to remember, as mute as
a mouse about it.
The hearing of all this, and a good deal more, outlasted the banquet
some time. The greater part of the guests had gone to bed as soon as the
eating and drinking were over; and we, who had remained whispering and
listening half-undressed, at last betook ourselves to bed, too.
'Good night, young Copperfield,' said Steerforth. 'I'll take care of
you.' 'You're very kind,' I gratefully returned. 'I am very much obliged
'You haven't got a sister, have you?' said Steerforth, yawning.
'No,' I answered.
'That's a pity,' said Steerforth. 'If you had had one, I should think
she would have been a pretty, timid, little, bright-eyed sort of girl. I
should have liked to know her. Good night, young Copperfield.'
'Good night, sir,' I replied.
I thought of him very much after I went to bed, and raised myself,
I recollect, to look at him where he lay in the moonlight, with his
handsome face turned up, and his head reclining easily on his arm. He
was a person of great power in my eyes; that was, of course, the reason
of my mind running on him. No veiled future dimly glanced upon him in
the moonbeams. There was no shadowy picture of his footsteps, in the
garden that I dreamed of walking in all night.
CHAPTER 7. MY 'FIRST HALF' AT SALEM HOUSE
School began in earnest next day. A profound impression was made
upon me, I remember, by the roar of voices in the schoolroom suddenly
becoming hushed as death when Mr. Creakle entered after breakfast, and
stood in the doorway looking round upon us like a giant in a story-book
surveying his captives.
Tungay stood at Mr. Creakle's elbow. He had no occasion, I thought,
to cry out 'Silence!' so ferociously, for the boys were all struck
speechless and motionless.
Mr. Creakle was seen to speak, and Tungay was heard, to this effect.
'Now, boys, this is a new half. Take care what you're about, in this new
half. Come fresh up to the lessons, I advise you, for I come fresh up
to the punishment. I won't flinch. It will be of no use your rubbing
yourselves; you won't rub the marks out that I shall give you. Now get
to work, every boy!'
When this dreadful exordium was over, and Tungay had stumped out again,
Mr. Creakle came to where I sat, and told me that if I were famous for
biting, he was famous for biting, too. He then showed me the cane, and
asked me what I thought of THAT, for a tooth? Was it a sharp tooth, hey?
Was it a double tooth, hey? Had it a deep prong, hey? Did it bite, hey?
Did it bite? At every question he gave me a fleshy cut with it that made
me writhe; so I was very soon made free of Salem House (as Steerforth
said), and was very soon in tears also.
Not that I mean to say these were special marks of distinction,
which only I received. On the contrary, a large majority of the boys
(especially the smaller ones) were visited with similar instances
of notice, as Mr. Creakle made the round of the schoolroom. Half the
establishment was writhing and crying, before the day's work began; and
how much of it had writhed and cried before the day's work was over, I
am really afraid to recollect, lest I should seem to exaggerate.
I should think there never can have been a man who enjoyed his
profession more than Mr. Creakle did. He had a delight in cutting at
the boys, which was like the satisfaction of a craving appetite. I am
confident that he couldn't resist a chubby boy, especially; that there
was a fascination in such a subject, which made him restless in his
mind, until he had scored and marked him for the day. I was chubby
myself, and ought to know. I am sure when I think of the fellow now, my
blood rises against him with the disinterested indignation I should
feel if I could have known all about him without having ever been in his
power; but it rises hotly, because I know him to have been an incapable
brute, who had no more right to be possessed of the great trust he held,
than to be Lord High Admiral, or Commander-in-Chief--in either of
which capacities it is probable that he would have done infinitely less
Miserable little propitiators of a remorseless Idol, how abject we were
to him! What a launch in life I think it now, on looking back, to be so
mean and servile to a man of such parts and pretensions!
Here I sit at the desk again, watching his eye--humbly watching his eye,
as he rules a ciphering-book for another victim whose hands have just
been flattened by that identical ruler, and who is trying to wipe the
sting out with a pocket-handkerchief. I have plenty to do. I don't watch
his eye in idleness, but because I am morbidly attracted to it, in a
dread desire to know what he will do next, and whether it will be my
turn to suffer, or somebody else's. A lane of small boys beyond me, with
the same interest in his eye, watch it too. I think he knows it,
though he pretends he don't. He makes dreadful mouths as he rules the
ciphering-book; and now he throws his eye sideways down our lane, and we
all droop over our books and tremble. A moment afterwards we are again
eyeing him. An unhappy culprit, found guilty of imperfect exercise,
approaches at his command. The culprit falters excuses, and professes a
determination to do better tomorrow. Mr. Creakle cuts a joke before he
beats him, and we laugh at it,--miserable little dogs, we laugh, with
our visages as white as ashes, and our hearts sinking into our boots.
Here I sit at the desk again, on a drowsy summer afternoon. A buzz and
hum go up around me, as if the boys were so many bluebottles. A cloggy
sensation of the lukewarm fat of meat is upon me (we dined an hour or
two ago), and my head is as heavy as so much lead. I would give the
world to go to sleep. I sit with my eye on Mr. Creakle, blinking at him
like a young owl; when sleep overpowers me for a minute, he still looms
through my slumber, ruling those ciphering-books, until he softly comes
behind me and wakes me to plainer perception of him, with a red ridge
across my back.
Here I am in the playground, with my eye still fascinated by him, though
I can't see him. The window at a little distance from which I know he is
having his dinner, stands for him, and I eye that instead. If he shows
his face near it, mine assumes an imploring and submissive expression.
If he looks out through the glass, the boldest boy (Steerforth excepted)
stops in the middle of a shout or yell, and becomes contemplative. One
day, Traddles (the most unfortunate boy in the world) breaks that window
accidentally, with a ball. I shudder at this moment with the tremendous
sensation of seeing it done, and feeling that the ball has bounded on to
Mr. Creakle's sacred head.
Poor Traddles! In a tight sky-blue suit that made his arms and legs like
German sausages, or roly-poly puddings, he was the merriest and most
miserable of all the boys. He was always being caned--I think he was
caned every day that half-year, except one holiday Monday when he was
only ruler'd on both hands--and was always going to write to his uncle
about it, and never did. After laying his head on the desk for a little
while, he would cheer up, somehow, begin to laugh again, and draw
skeletons all over his slate, before his eyes were dry. I used at first
to wonder what comfort Traddles found in drawing skeletons; and for some
time looked upon him as a sort of hermit, who reminded himself by those
symbols of mortality that caning couldn't last for ever. But I believe
he only did it because they were easy, and didn't want any features.
He was very honourable, Traddles was, and held it as a solemn duty
in the boys to stand by one another. He suffered for this on several
occasions; and particularly once, when Steerforth laughed in church,
and the Beadle thought it was Traddles, and took him out. I see him now,
going away in custody, despised by the congregation. He never said
who was the real offender, though he smarted for it next day, and was
imprisoned so many hours that he came forth with a whole churchyard-full
of skeletons swarming all over his Latin Dictionary. But he had his
reward. Steerforth said there was nothing of the sneak in Traddles, and
we all felt that to be the highest praise. For my part, I could have
gone through a good deal (though I was much less brave than Traddles,
and nothing like so old) to have won such a recompense.
To see Steerforth walk to church before us, arm-in-arm with Miss
Creakle, was one of the great sights of my life. I didn't think Miss
Creakle equal to little Em'ly in point of beauty, and I didn't love
her (I didn't dare); but I thought her a young lady of extraordinary
attractions, and in point of gentility not to be surpassed. When
Steerforth, in white trousers, carried her parasol for her, I felt proud
to know him; and believed that she could not choose but adore him with
all her heart. Mr. Sharp and Mr. Mell were both notable personages in my
eyes; but Steerforth was to them what the sun was to two stars.
Steerforth continued his protection of me, and proved a very useful
friend; since nobody dared to annoy one whom he honoured with his
countenance. He couldn't--or at all events he didn't--defend me from Mr.
Creakle, who was very severe with me; but whenever I had been treated
worse than usual, he always told me that I wanted a little of his pluck,
and that he wouldn't have stood it himself; which I felt he intended
for encouragement, and considered to be very kind of him. There was one
advantage, and only one that I know of, in Mr. Creakle's severity. He
found my placard in his way when he came up or down behind the form on
which I sat, and wanted to make a cut at me in passing; for this reason
it was soon taken off, and I saw it no more.
An accidental circumstance cemented the intimacy between Steerforth
and me, in a manner that inspired me with great pride and satisfaction,
though it sometimes led to inconvenience. It happened on one occasion,
when he was doing me the honour of talking to me in the playground, that
I hazarded the observation that something or somebody--I forget what
now--was like something or somebody in Peregrine Pickle. He said nothing
at the time; but when I was going to bed at night, asked me if I had got
I told him no, and explained how it was that I had read it, and all
those other books of which I have made mention.
'And do you recollect them?' Steerforth said.
'Oh yes,' I replied; I had a good memory, and I believed I recollected
them very well.
'Then I tell you what, young Copperfield,' said Steerforth, 'you
shall tell 'em to me. I can't get to sleep very early at night, and I
generally wake rather early in the morning. We'll go over 'em one after
another. We'll make some regular Arabian Nights of it.'
I felt extremely flattered by this arrangement, and we commenced
carrying it into execution that very evening. What ravages I committed
on my favourite authors in the course of my interpretation of them, I am
not in a condition to say, and should be very unwilling to know; but
I had a profound faith in them, and I had, to the best of my belief,
a simple, earnest manner of narrating what I did narrate; and these
qualities went a long way.
The drawback was, that I was often sleepy at night, or out of spirits
and indisposed to resume the story; and then it was rather hard work,
and it must be done; for to disappoint or to displease Steerforth was of
course out of the question. In the morning, too, when I felt weary, and
should have enjoyed another hour's repose very much, it was a tiresome
thing to be roused, like the Sultana Scheherazade, and forced into a
long story before the getting-up bell rang; but Steerforth was resolute;
and as he explained to me, in return, my sums and exercises, and
anything in my tasks that was too hard for me, I was no loser by the
transaction. Let me do myself justice, however. I was moved by no
interested or selfish motive, nor was I moved by fear of him. I admired
and loved him, and his approval was return enough. It was so precious to
me that I look back on these trifles, now, with an aching heart.
Steerforth was considerate, too; and showed his consideration, in
one particular instance, in an unflinching manner that was a little
tantalizing, I suspect, to poor Traddles and the rest. Peggotty's
promised letter--what a comfortable letter it was!--arrived before
'the half' was many weeks old; and with it a cake in a perfect nest
of oranges, and two bottles of cowslip wine. This treasure, as in duty
bound, I laid at the feet of Steerforth, and begged him to dispense.
'Now, I'll tell you what, young Copperfield,' said he: 'the wine shall
be kept to wet your whistle when you are story-telling.'
I blushed at the idea, and begged him, in my modesty, not to think of
it. But he said he had observed I was sometimes hoarse--a little roopy
was his exact expression--and it should be, every drop, devoted to the
purpose he had mentioned. Accordingly, it was locked up in his box, and
drawn off by himself in a phial, and administered to me through a
piece of quill in the cork, when I was supposed to be in want of a
restorative. Sometimes, to make it a more sovereign specific, he was so
kind as to squeeze orange juice into it, or to stir it up with ginger,
or dissolve a peppermint drop in it; and although I cannot assert that
the flavour was improved by these experiments, or that it was exactly
the compound one would have chosen for a stomachic, the last thing at
night and the first thing in the morning, I drank it gratefully and was
very sensible of his attention.
We seem, to me, to have been months over Peregrine, and months more over
the other stories. The institution never flagged for want of a story, I
am certain; and the wine lasted out almost as well as the matter. Poor
Traddles--I never think of that boy but with a strange disposition to
laugh, and with tears in my eyes--was a sort of chorus, in general;
and affected to be convulsed with mirth at the comic parts, and to be
overcome with fear when there was any passage of an alarming character
in the narrative. This rather put me out, very often. It was a great
jest of his, I recollect, to pretend that he couldn't keep his teeth
from chattering, whenever mention was made of an Alguazill in connexion
with the adventures of Gil Blas; and I remember that when Gil Blas met
the captain of the robbers in Madrid, this unlucky joker counterfeited
such an ague of terror, that he was overheard by Mr. Creakle, who
was prowling about the passage, and handsomely flogged for disorderly
conduct in the bedroom. Whatever I had within me that was romantic and
dreamy, was encouraged by so much story-telling in the dark; and in that
respect the pursuit may not have been very profitable to me. But the
being cherished as a kind of plaything in my room, and the consciousness
that this accomplishment of mine was bruited about among the boys, and
attracted a good deal of notice to me though I was the youngest there,
stimulated me to exertion. In a school carried on by sheer cruelty,
whether it is presided over by a dunce or not, there is not likely to
be much learnt. I believe our boys were, generally, as ignorant a set
as any schoolboys in existence; they were too much troubled and knocked
about to learn; they could no more do that to advantage, than any one
can do anything to advantage in a life of constant misfortune, torment,
and worry. But my little vanity, and Steerforth's help, urged me on
somehow; and without saving me from much, if anything, in the way of
punishment, made me, for the time I was there, an exception to the
general body, insomuch that I did steadily pick up some crumbs of
In this I was much assisted by Mr. Mell, who had a liking for me that
I am grateful to remember. It always gave me pain to observe that
Steerforth treated him with systematic disparagement, and seldom lost
an occasion of wounding his feelings, or inducing others to do so.
This troubled me the more for a long time, because I had soon told
Steerforth, from whom I could no more keep such a secret, than I could
keep a cake or any other tangible possession, about the two old women
Mr. Mell had taken me to see; and I was always afraid that Steerforth
would let it out, and twit him with it.
We little thought, any one of us, I dare say, when I ate my breakfast
that first morning, and went to sleep under the shadow of the peacock's
feathers to the sound of the flute, what consequences would come of the
introduction into those alms-houses of my insignificant person. But the
visit had its unforeseen consequences; and of a serious sort, too, in
One day when Mr. Creakle kept the house from indisposition, which
naturally diffused a lively joy through the school, there was a good
deal of noise in the course of the morning's work. The great relief and
satisfaction experienced by the boys made them difficult to manage; and
though the dreaded Tungay brought his wooden leg in twice or thrice, and
took notes of the principal offenders' names, no great impression was
made by it, as they were pretty sure of getting into trouble tomorrow,
do what they would, and thought it wise, no doubt, to enjoy themselves
It was, properly, a half-holiday; being Saturday. But as the noise in
the playground would have disturbed Mr. Creakle, and the weather was
not favourable for going out walking, we were ordered into school in the
afternoon, and set some lighter tasks than usual, which were made for
the occasion. It was the day of the week on which Mr. Sharp went out to
get his wig curled; so Mr. Mell, who always did the drudgery, whatever
it was, kept school by himself. If I could associate the idea of a bull
or a bear with anyone so mild as Mr. Mell, I should think of him, in
connexion with that afternoon when the uproar was at its height, as of
one of those animals, baited by a thousand dogs. I recall him bending
his aching head, supported on his bony hand, over the book on his desk,
and wretchedly endeavouring to get on with his tiresome work, amidst an
uproar that might have made the Speaker of the House of Commons giddy.
Boys started in and out of their places, playing at puss in the corner
with other boys; there were laughing boys, singing boys, talking boys,
dancing boys, howling boys; boys shuffled with their feet, boys whirled
about him, grinning, making faces, mimicking him behind his back and
before his eyes; mimicking his poverty, his boots, his coat, his mother,
everything belonging to him that they should have had consideration for.
'Silence!' cried Mr. Mell, suddenly rising up, and striking his desk
with the book. 'What does this mean! It's impossible to bear it. It's
maddening. How can you do it to me, boys?'
It was my book that he struck his desk with; and as I stood beside him,
following his eye as it glanced round the room, I saw the boys all stop,
some suddenly surprised, some half afraid, and some sorry perhaps.
Steerforth's place was at the bottom of the school, at the opposite end
of the long room. He was lounging with his back against the wall, and
his hands in his pockets, and looked at Mr. Mell with his mouth shut up
as if he were whistling, when Mr. Mell looked at him.
'Silence, Mr. Steerforth!' said Mr. Mell.
'Silence yourself,' said Steerforth, turning red. 'Whom are you talking
'Sit down,' said Mr. Mell.
'Sit down yourself,' said Steerforth, 'and mind your business.'
There was a titter, and some applause; but Mr. Mell was so white, that
silence immediately succeeded; and one boy, who had darted out behind
him to imitate his mother again, changed his mind, and pretended to want
a pen mended.
'If you think, Steerforth,' said Mr. Mell, 'that I am not acquainted
with the power you can establish over any mind here'--he laid his hand,
without considering what he did (as I supposed), upon my head--'or that
I have not observed you, within a few minutes, urging your juniors on to
every sort of outrage against me, you are mistaken.'
'I don't give myself the trouble of thinking at all about you,' said
Steerforth, coolly; 'so I'm not mistaken, as it happens.'
'And when you make use of your position of favouritism here, sir,'
pursued Mr. Mell, with his lip trembling very much, 'to insult a
'A what?--where is he?' said Steerforth.
Here somebody cried out, 'Shame, J. Steerforth! Too bad!' It was
Traddles; whom Mr. Mell instantly discomfited by bidding him hold his
tongue. --'To insult one who is not fortunate in life, sir, and who
never gave you the least offence, and the many reasons for not insulting
whom you are old enough and wise enough to understand,' said Mr. Mell,
with his lips trembling more and more, 'you commit a mean and base
action. You can sit down or stand up as you please, sir. Copperfield, go
'Young Copperfield,' said Steerforth, coming forward up the room,
'stop a bit. I tell you what, Mr. Mell, once for all. When you take the
liberty of calling me mean or base, or anything of that sort, you are
an impudent beggar. You are always a beggar, you know; but when you do
that, you are an impudent beggar.'
I am not clear whether he was going to strike Mr. Mell, or Mr. Mell was
going to strike him, or there was any such intention on either side.
I saw a rigidity come upon the whole school as if they had been turned
into stone, and found Mr. Creakle in the midst of us, with Tungay at his
side, and Mrs. and Miss Creakle looking in at the door as if they were
frightened. Mr. Mell, with his elbows on his desk and his face in his
hands, sat, for some moments, quite still.
'Mr. Mell,' said Mr. Creakle, shaking him by the arm; and his whisper
was so audible now, that Tungay felt it unnecessary to repeat his words;
'you have not forgotten yourself, I hope?'
'No, sir, no,' returned the Master, showing his face, and shaking his
head, and rubbing his hands in great agitation. 'No, sir. No. I have
remembered myself, I--no, Mr. Creakle, I have not forgotten myself, I--I
have remembered myself, sir. I--I--could wish you had remembered me a
little sooner, Mr. Creakle. It--it--would have been more kind, sir, more
just, sir. It would have saved me something, sir.'
Mr. Creakle, looking hard at Mr. Mell, put his hand on Tungay's
shoulder, and got his feet upon the form close by, and sat upon the
desk. After still looking hard at Mr. Mell from his throne, as he
shook his head, and rubbed his hands, and remained in the same state of
agitation, Mr. Creakle turned to Steerforth, and said:
'Now, sir, as he don't condescend to tell me, what is this?'
Steerforth evaded the question for a little while; looking in scorn and
anger on his opponent, and remaining silent. I could not help thinking
even in that interval, I remember, what a noble fellow he was in
appearance, and how homely and plain Mr. Mell looked opposed to him.
'What did he mean by talking about favourites, then?' said Steerforth at
'Favourites?' repeated Mr. Creakle, with the veins in his forehead
swelling quickly. 'Who talked about favourites?'
'He did,' said Steerforth.
'And pray, what did you mean by that, sir?' demanded Mr. Creakle,
turning angrily on his assistant.
'I meant, Mr. Creakle,' he returned in a low voice, 'as I said; that
no pupil had a right to avail himself of his position of favouritism to
'To degrade YOU?' said Mr. Creakle. 'My stars! But give me leave to ask
you, Mr. What's-your-name'; and here Mr. Creakle folded his arms, cane
and all, upon his chest, and made such a knot of his brows that his
little eyes were hardly visible below them; 'whether, when you talk
about favourites, you showed proper respect to me? To me, sir,' said Mr.
Creakle, darting his head at him suddenly, and drawing it back again,
'the principal of this establishment, and your employer.'
'It was not judicious, sir, I am willing to admit,' said Mr. Mell. 'I
should not have done so, if I had been cool.'
Here Steerforth struck in.
'Then he said I was mean, and then he said I was base, and then I called
him a beggar. If I had been cool, perhaps I shouldn't have called him a
beggar. But I did, and I am ready to take the consequences of it.'
Without considering, perhaps, whether there were any consequences to
be taken, I felt quite in a glow at this gallant speech. It made an
impression on the boys too, for there was a low stir among them, though
no one spoke a word.
'I am surprised, Steerforth--although your candour does you honour,'
said Mr. Creakle, 'does you honour, certainly--I am surprised,
Steerforth, I must say, that you should attach such an epithet to any
person employed and paid in Salem House, sir.'
Steerforth gave a short laugh.
'That's not an answer, sir,' said Mr. Creakle, 'to my remark. I expect
more than that from you, Steerforth.'
If Mr. Mell looked homely, in my eyes, before the handsome boy, it would
be quite impossible to say how homely Mr. Creakle looked. 'Let him deny
it,' said Steerforth.
'Deny that he is a beggar, Steerforth?' cried Mr. Creakle. 'Why, where
does he go a-begging?'
'If he is not a beggar himself, his near relation's one,' said
Steerforth. 'It's all the same.'
He glanced at me, and Mr. Mell's hand gently patted me upon the
shoulder. I looked up with a flush upon my face and remorse in my heart,
but Mr. Mell's eyes were fixed on Steerforth. He continued to pat me
kindly on the shoulder, but he looked at him.
'Since you expect me, Mr. Creakle, to justify myself,' said Steerforth,
'and to say what I mean,--what I have to say is, that his mother lives
on charity in an alms-house.'
Mr. Mell still looked at him, and still patted me kindly on the
shoulder, and said to himself, in a whisper, if I heard right: 'Yes, I
Mr. Creakle turned to his assistant, with a severe frown and laboured
'Now, you hear what this gentleman says, Mr. Mell. Have the goodness, if
you please, to set him right before the assembled school.'
'He is right, sir, without correction,' returned Mr. Mell, in the midst
of a dead silence; 'what he has said is true.'
'Be so good then as declare publicly, will you,' said Mr. Creakle,
putting his head on one side, and rolling his eyes round the school,
'whether it ever came to my knowledge until this moment?'
'I believe not directly,' he returned.
'Why, you know not,' said Mr. Creakle. 'Don't you, man?'
'I apprehend you never supposed my worldly circumstances to be very
good,' replied the assistant. 'You know what my position is, and always
has been, here.'
'I apprehend, if you come to that,' said Mr. Creakle, with his veins
swelling again bigger than ever, 'that you've been in a wrong position
altogether, and mistook this for a charity school. Mr. Mell, we'll part,
if you please. The sooner the better.'
'There is no time,' answered Mr. Mell, rising, 'like the present.'
'Sir, to you!' said Mr. Creakle.
'I take my leave of you, Mr. Creakle, and all of you,' said Mr. Mell,
glancing round the room, and again patting me gently on the shoulders.
'James Steerforth, the best wish I can leave you is that you may come to
be ashamed of what you have done today. At present I would prefer to see
you anything rather than a friend, to me, or to anyone in whom I feel an
Once more he laid his hand upon my shoulder; and then taking his
flute and a few books from his desk, and leaving the key in it for his
successor, he went out of the school, with his property under his arm.
Mr. Creakle then made a speech, through Tungay, in which he thanked
Steerforth for asserting (though perhaps too warmly) the independence
and respectability of Salem House; and which he wound up by shaking
hands with Steerforth, while we gave three cheers--I did not quite know
what for, but I supposed for Steerforth, and so joined in them ardently,
though I felt miserable. Mr. Creakle then caned Tommy Traddles for
being discovered in tears, instead of cheers, on account of Mr. Mell's
departure; and went back to his sofa, or his bed, or wherever he had
We were left to ourselves now, and looked very blank, I recollect, on
one another. For myself, I felt so much self-reproach and contrition for
my part in what had happened, that nothing would have enabled me to keep
back my tears but the fear that Steerforth, who often looked at me, I
saw, might think it unfriendly--or, I should rather say, considering our
relative ages, and the feeling with which I regarded him, undutiful--if
I showed the emotion which distressed me. He was very angry with
Traddles, and said he was glad he had caught it.
Poor Traddles, who had passed the stage of lying with his head upon the
desk, and was relieving himself as usual with a burst of skeletons, said
he didn't care. Mr. Mell was ill-used.
'Who has ill-used him, you girl?' said Steerforth.
'Why, you have,' returned Traddles.
'What have I done?' said Steerforth.
'What have you done?' retorted Traddles. 'Hurt his feelings, and lost
him his situation.'
'His feelings?' repeated Steerforth disdainfully. 'His feelings will
soon get the better of it, I'll be bound. His feelings are not like
yours, Miss Traddles. As to his situation--which was a precious one,
wasn't it?--do you suppose I am not going to write home, and take care
that he gets some money? Polly?'
We thought this intention very noble in Steerforth, whose mother was
a widow, and rich, and would do almost anything, it was said, that he
asked her. We were all extremely glad to see Traddles so put down,
and exalted Steerforth to the skies: especially when he told us, as he
condescended to do, that what he had done had been done expressly for
us, and for our cause; and that he had conferred a great boon upon us
by unselfishly doing it. But I must say that when I was going on with a
story in the dark that night, Mr. Mell's old flute seemed more than once
to sound mournfully in my ears; and that when at last Steerforth was
tired, and I lay down in my bed, I fancied it playing so sorrowfully
somewhere, that I was quite wretched.
I soon forgot him in the contemplation of Steerforth, who, in an easy
amateur way, and without any book (he seemed to me to know everything by
heart), took some of his classes until a new master was found. The new
master came from a grammar school; and before he entered on his duties,
dined in the parlour one day, to be introduced to Steerforth. Steerforth
approved of him highly, and told us he was a Brick. Without exactly
understanding what learned distinction was meant by this, I respected
him greatly for it, and had no doubt whatever of his superior knowledge:
though he never took the pains with me--not that I was anybody--that Mr.
Mell had taken.
There was only one other event in this half-year, out of the daily
school-life, that made an impression upon me which still survives. It
survives for many reasons.
One afternoon, when we were all harassed into a state of dire confusion,
and Mr. Creakle was laying about him dreadfully, Tungay came in, and
called out in his usual strong way: 'Visitors for Copperfield!'
A few words were interchanged between him and Mr. Creakle, as, who the
visitors were, and what room they were to be shown into; and then I, who
had, according to custom, stood up on the announcement being made, and
felt quite faint with astonishment, was told to go by the back stairs
and get a clean frill on, before I repaired to the dining-room. These
orders I obeyed, in such a flutter and hurry of my young spirits as
I had never known before; and when I got to the parlour door, and the
thought came into my head that it might be my mother--I had only thought
of Mr. or Miss Murdstone until then--I drew back my hand from the lock,
and stopped to have a sob before I went in.
At first I saw nobody; but feeling a pressure against the door, I looked
round it, and there, to my amazement, were Mr. Peggotty and Ham, ducking
at me with their hats, and squeezing one another against the wall. I
could not help laughing; but it was much more in the pleasure of seeing
them, than at the appearance they made. We shook hands in a very
cordial way; and I laughed and laughed, until I pulled out my
pocket-handkerchief and wiped my eyes.
Mr. Peggotty (who never shut his mouth once, I remember, during the
visit) showed great concern when he saw me do this, and nudged Ham to
'Cheer up, Mas'r Davy bor'!' said Ham, in his simpering way. 'Why, how
you have growed!'
'Am I grown?' I said, drying my eyes. I was not crying at anything
in particular that I know of; but somehow it made me cry, to see old
'Growed, Mas'r Davy bor'? Ain't he growed!' said Ham.
'Ain't he growed!' said Mr. Peggotty.
They made me laugh again by laughing at each other, and then we all
three laughed until I was in danger of crying again.
'Do you know how mama is, Mr. Peggotty?' I said. 'And how my dear, dear,
old Peggotty is?'
'Oncommon,' said Mr. Peggotty.
'And little Em'ly, and Mrs. Gummidge?'
'On--common,' said Mr. Peggotty.
There was a silence. Mr. Peggotty, to relieve it, took two prodigious
lobsters, and an enormous crab, and a large canvas bag of shrimps, out
of his pockets, and piled them up in Ham's arms.
'You see,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'knowing as you was partial to a little
relish with your wittles when you was along with us, we took the
liberty. The old Mawther biled 'em, she did. Mrs. Gummidge biled 'em.
Yes,' said Mr. Peggotty, slowly, who I thought appeared to stick to the
subject on account of having no other subject ready, 'Mrs. Gummidge, I
do assure you, she biled 'em.'
I expressed my thanks; and Mr. Peggotty, after looking at Ham, who stood
smiling sheepishly over the shellfish, without making any attempt to
help him, said:
'We come, you see, the wind and tide making in our favour, in one of our
Yarmouth lugs to Gravesen'. My sister she wrote to me the name of this
here place, and wrote to me as if ever I chanced to come to Gravesen',
I was to come over and inquire for Mas'r Davy and give her dooty,
humbly wishing him well and reporting of the fam'ly as they was oncommon
toe-be-sure. Little Em'ly, you see, she'll write to my sister when I go
back, as I see you and as you was similarly oncommon, and so we make it
quite a merry-go-rounder.'
I was obliged to consider a little before I understood what Mr. Peggotty
meant by this figure, expressive of a complete circle of intelligence. I
then thanked him heartily; and said, with a consciousness of reddening,
that I supposed little Em'ly was altered too, since we used to pick up
shells and pebbles on the beach?
'She's getting to be a woman, that's wot she's getting to be,' said Mr.
Peggotty. 'Ask HIM.' He meant Ham, who beamed with delight and assent
over the bag of shrimps.
'Her pretty face!' said Mr. Peggotty, with his own shining like a light.
'Her learning!' said Ham.
'Her writing!' said Mr. Peggotty. 'Why it's as black as jet! And so
large it is, you might see it anywheres.'
It was perfectly delightful to behold with what enthusiasm Mr. Peggotty
became inspired when he thought of his little favourite. He stands
before me again, his bluff hairy face irradiating with a joyful love and
pride, for which I can find no description. His honest eyes fire up, and
sparkle, as if their depths were stirred by something bright. His broad
chest heaves with pleasure. His strong loose hands clench themselves,
in his earnestness; and he emphasizes what he says with a right arm that
shows, in my pigmy view, like a sledge-hammer.
Ham was quite as earnest as he. I dare say they would have said much
more about her, if they had not been abashed by the unexpected coming in
of Steerforth, who, seeing me in a corner speaking with two strangers,
stopped in a song he was singing, and said: 'I didn't know you were
here, young Copperfield!' (for it was not the usual visiting room) and
crossed by us on his way out.
I am not sure whether it was in the pride of having such a friend as
Steerforth, or in the desire to explain to him how I came to have such a
friend as Mr. Peggotty, that I called to him as he was going away. But I
said, modestly--Good Heaven, how it all comes back to me this long time
'Don't go, Steerforth, if you please. These are two Yarmouth
boatmen--very kind, good people--who are relations of my nurse, and have
come from Gravesend to see me.'
'Aye, aye?' said Steerforth, returning. 'I am glad to see them. How are
There was an ease in his manner--a gay and light manner it was, but not
swaggering--which I still believe to have borne a kind of enchantment
with it. I still believe him, in virtue of this carriage, his animal
spirits, his delightful voice, his handsome face and figure, and, for
aught I know, of some inborn power of attraction besides (which I think
a few people possess), to have carried a spell with him to which it was
a natural weakness to yield, and which not many persons could withstand.
I could not but see how pleased they were with him, and how they seemed
to open their hearts to him in a moment.
'You must let them know at home, if you please, Mr. Peggotty,' I said,
'when that letter is sent, that Mr. Steerforth is very kind to me, and
that I don't know what I should ever do here without him.'
'Nonsense!' said Steerforth, laughing. 'You mustn't tell them anything
of the sort.'
'And if Mr. Steerforth ever comes into Norfolk or Suffolk, Mr.
Peggotty,' I said, 'while I am there, you may depend upon it I shall
bring him to Yarmouth, if he will let me, to see your house. You never
saw such a good house, Steerforth. It's made out of a boat!'
'Made out of a boat, is it?' said Steerforth. 'It's the right sort of a
house for such a thorough-built boatman.'
'So 'tis, sir, so 'tis, sir,' said Ham, grinning. 'You're right, young
gen'l'm'n! Mas'r Davy bor', gen'l'm'n's right. A thorough-built boatman!
Hor, hor! That's what he is, too!'
Mr. Peggotty was no less pleased than his nephew, though his modesty
forbade him to claim a personal compliment so vociferously.
'Well, sir,' he said, bowing and chuckling, and tucking in the ends
of his neckerchief at his breast: 'I thankee, sir, I thankee! I do my
endeavours in my line of life, sir.'
'The best of men can do no more, Mr. Peggotty,' said Steerforth. He had
got his name already.
'I'll pound it, it's wot you do yourself, sir,' said Mr. Peggotty,
shaking his head, 'and wot you do well--right well! I thankee, sir. I'm
obleeged to you, sir, for your welcoming manner of me. I'm rough, sir,
but I'm ready--least ways, I hope I'm ready, you unnerstand. My house
ain't much for to see, sir, but it's hearty at your service if ever you
should come along with Mas'r Davy to see it. I'm a reg'lar Dodman,
I am,' said Mr. Peggotty, by which he meant snail, and this was in
allusion to his being slow to go, for he had attempted to go after every
sentence, and had somehow or other come back again; 'but I wish you both
well, and I wish you happy!'
Ham echoed this sentiment, and we parted with them in the heartiest
manner. I was almost tempted that evening to tell Steerforth about
pretty little Em'ly, but I was too timid of mentioning her name, and
too much afraid of his laughing at me. I remember that I thought a good
deal, and in an uneasy sort of way, about Mr. Peggotty having said that
she was getting on to be a woman; but I decided that was nonsense.
We transported the shellfish, or the 'relish' as Mr. Peggotty had
modestly called it, up into our room unobserved, and made a great supper
that evening. But Traddles couldn't get happily out of it. He was too
unfortunate even to come through a supper like anybody else. He was
taken ill in the night--quite prostrate he was--in consequence of Crab;
and after being drugged with black draughts and blue pills, to an extent
which Demple (whose father was a doctor) said was enough to undermine
a horse's constitution, received a caning and six chapters of Greek
Testament for refusing to confess.
The rest of the half-year is a jumble in my recollection of the daily
strife and struggle of our lives; of the waning summer and the changing
season; of the frosty mornings when we were rung out of bed, and the
cold, cold smell of the dark nights when we were rung into bed again; of
the evening schoolroom dimly lighted and indifferently warmed, and the
morning schoolroom which was nothing but a great shivering-machine; of
the alternation of boiled beef with roast beef, and boiled mutton with
roast mutton; of clods of bread-and-butter, dog's-eared lesson-books,
cracked slates, tear-blotted copy-books, canings, rulerings,
hair-cuttings, rainy Sundays, suet-puddings, and a dirty atmosphere of
ink, surrounding all.
I well remember though, how the distant idea of the holidays, after
seeming for an immense time to be a stationary speck, began to come
towards us, and to grow and grow. How from counting months, we came to
weeks, and then to days; and how I then began to be afraid that I should
not be sent for and when I learnt from Steerforth that I had been sent
for, and was certainly to go home, had dim forebodings that I might
break my leg first. How the breaking-up day changed its place fast, at
last, from the week after next to next week, this week, the day after
tomorrow, tomorrow, today, tonight--when I was inside the Yarmouth mail,
and going home.
I had many a broken sleep inside the Yarmouth mail, and many an
incoherent dream of all these things. But when I awoke at intervals, the
ground outside the window was not the playground of Salem House, and the
sound in my ears was not the sound of Mr. Creakle giving it to Traddles,
but the sound of the coachman touching up the horses.
CHAPTER 8. MY HOLIDAYS. ESPECIALLY ONE HAPPY AFTERNOON
When we arrived before day at the inn where the mail stopped, which was
not the inn where my friend the waiter lived, I was shown up to a nice
little bedroom, with DOLPHIN painted on the door. Very cold I was, I
know, notwithstanding the hot tea they had given me before a large fire
downstairs; and very glad I was to turn into the Dolphin's bed, pull the
Dolphin's blankets round my head, and go to sleep.
Mr. Barkis the carrier was to call for me in the morning at nine
o'clock. I got up at eight, a little giddy from the shortness of my
night's rest, and was ready for him before the appointed time. He
received me exactly as if not five minutes had elapsed since we were
last together, and I had only been into the hotel to get change for
sixpence, or something of that sort.
As soon as I and my box were in the cart, and the carrier seated, the
lazy horse walked away with us all at his accustomed pace.
'You look very well, Mr. Barkis,' I said, thinking he would like to know
Mr. Barkis rubbed his cheek with his cuff, and then looked at his cuff
as if he expected to find some of the bloom upon it; but made no other
acknowledgement of the compliment.
'I gave your message, Mr. Barkis,' I said: 'I wrote to Peggotty.'
'Ah!' said Mr. Barkis.
Mr. Barkis seemed gruff, and answered drily.
'Wasn't it right, Mr. Barkis?' I asked, after a little hesitation.
'Why, no,' said Mr. Barkis.
'Not the message?'
'The message was right enough, perhaps,' said Mr. Barkis; 'but it come
to an end there.'
Not understanding what he meant, I repeated inquisitively: 'Came to an
end, Mr. Barkis?'
'Nothing come of it,' he explained, looking at me sideways. 'No answer.'
'There was an answer expected, was there, Mr. Barkis?' said I, opening
my eyes. For this was a new light to me.
'When a man says he's willin',' said Mr. Barkis, turning his glance
slowly on me again, 'it's as much as to say, that man's a-waitin' for a
'Well, Mr. Barkis?'
'Well,' said Mr. Barkis, carrying his eyes back to his horse's ears;
'that man's been a-waitin' for a answer ever since.'
'Have you told her so, Mr. Barkis?'
'No--no,' growled Mr. Barkis, reflecting about it. 'I ain't got no call
to go and tell her so. I never said six words to her myself, I ain't
a-goin' to tell her so.'
'Would you like me to do it, Mr. Barkis?' said I, doubtfully. 'You might
tell her, if you would,' said Mr. Barkis, with another slow look at me,
'that Barkis was a-waitin' for a answer. Says you--what name is it?'
'Ah!' said Mr. Barkis, with a nod of his head.
'Chrisen name? Or nat'ral name?' said Mr. Barkis.
'Oh, it's not her Christian name. Her Christian name is Clara.'
'Is it though?' said Mr. Barkis.
He seemed to find an immense fund of reflection in this circumstance,
and sat pondering and inwardly whistling for some time.
'Well!' he resumed at length. 'Says you, "Peggotty! Barkis is waitin'
for a answer." Says she, perhaps, "Answer to what?" Says you, "To what I
told you." "What is that?" says she. "Barkis is willin'," says you.'
This extremely artful suggestion Mr. Barkis accompanied with a nudge
of his elbow that gave me quite a stitch in my side. After that, he
slouched over his horse in his usual manner; and made no other reference
to the subject except, half an hour afterwards, taking a piece of chalk
from his pocket, and writing up, inside the tilt of the cart, 'Clara
Peggotty'--apparently as a private memorandum.
Ah, what a strange feeling it was to be going home when it was not home,
and to find that every object I looked at, reminded me of the happy old
home, which was like a dream I could never dream again! The days when my
mother and I and Peggotty were all in all to one another, and there was
no one to come between us, rose up before me so sorrowfully on the road,
that I am not sure I was glad to be there--not sure but that I would
rather have remained away, and forgotten it in Steerforth's company. But
there I was; and soon I was at our house, where the bare old elm-trees
wrung their many hands in the bleak wintry air, and shreds of the old
rooks'-nests drifted away upon the wind.
The carrier put my box down at the garden-gate, and left me. I walked
along the path towards the house, glancing at the windows, and fearing
at every step to see Mr. Murdstone or Miss Murdstone lowering out of
one of them. No face appeared, however; and being come to the house, and
knowing how to open the door, before dark, without knocking, I went in
with a quiet, timid step.
God knows how infantine the memory may have been, that was awakened
within me by the sound of my mother's voice in the old parlour, when I
set foot in the hall. She was singing in a low tone. I think I must have
lain in her arms, and heard her singing so to me when I was but a baby.
The strain was new to me, and yet it was so old that it filled my heart
brim-full; like a friend come back from a long absence.
I believed, from the solitary and thoughtful way in which my mother
murmured her song, that she was alone. And I went softly into the room.
She was sitting by the fire, suckling an infant, whose tiny hand she
held against her neck. Her eyes were looking down upon its face, and she
sat singing to it. I was so far right, that she had no other companion.
I spoke to her, and she started, and cried out. But seeing me, she
called me her dear Davy, her own boy! and coming half across the room
to meet me, kneeled down upon the ground and kissed me, and laid my head
down on her bosom near the little creature that was nestling there, and
put its hand to my lips.
I wish I had died. I wish I had died then, with that feeling in my
heart! I should have been more fit for Heaven than I ever have been
'He is your brother,' said my mother, fondling me. 'Davy, my pretty boy!
My poor child!' Then she kissed me more and more, and clasped me round
the neck. This she was doing when Peggotty came running in, and bounced
down on the ground beside us, and went mad about us both for a quarter
of an hour.
It seemed that I had not been expected so soon, the carrier being much
before his usual time. It seemed, too, that Mr. and Miss Murdstone had
gone out upon a visit in the neighbourhood, and would not return before
night. I had never hoped for this. I had never thought it possible that
we three could be together undisturbed, once more; and I felt, for the
time, as if the old days were come back.
We dined together by the fireside. Peggotty was in attendance to wait
upon us, but my mother wouldn't let her do it, and made her dine with
us. I had my own old plate, with a brown view of a man-of-war in full
sail upon it, which Peggotty had hoarded somewhere all the time I
had been away, and would not have had broken, she said, for a hundred
pounds. I had my own old mug with David on it, and my own old little
knife and fork that wouldn't cut.
While we were at table, I thought it a favourable occasion to tell
Peggotty about Mr. Barkis, who, before I had finished what I had to tell
her, began to laugh, and throw her apron over her face.
'Peggotty,' said my mother. 'What's the matter?'
Peggotty only laughed the more, and held her apron tight over her face
when my mother tried to pull it away, and sat as if her head were in a
'What are you doing, you stupid creature?' said my mother, laughing.
'Oh, drat the man!' cried Peggotty. 'He wants to marry me.'
'It would be a very good match for you; wouldn't it?' said my mother.
'Oh! I don't know,' said Peggotty. 'Don't ask me. I wouldn't have him if
he was made of gold. Nor I wouldn't have anybody.'
'Then, why don't you tell him so, you ridiculous thing?' said my mother.
'Tell him so,' retorted Peggotty, looking out of her apron. 'He has
never said a word to me about it. He knows better. If he was to make so
bold as say a word to me, I should slap his face.'
Her own was as red as ever I saw it, or any other face, I think; but she
only covered it again, for a few moments at a time, when she was taken
with a violent fit of laughter; and after two or three of those attacks,
went on with her dinner.
I remarked that my mother, though she smiled when Peggotty looked at
her, became more serious and thoughtful. I had seen at first that she
was changed. Her face was very pretty still, but it looked careworn, and
too delicate; and her hand was so thin and white that it seemed to me
to be almost transparent. But the change to which I now refer was
superadded to this: it was in her manner, which became anxious and
fluttered. At last she said, putting out her hand, and laying it
affectionately on the hand of her old servant,
'Peggotty, dear, you are not going to be married?'
'Me, ma'am?' returned Peggotty, staring. 'Lord bless you, no!'
'Not just yet?' said my mother, tenderly.
'Never!' cried Peggotty.
My mother took her hand, and said:
'Don't leave me, Peggotty. Stay with me. It will not be for long,
perhaps. What should I ever do without you!'
'Me leave you, my precious!' cried Peggotty. 'Not for all the world and
his wife. Why, what's put that in your silly little head?'--For Peggotty
had been used of old to talk to my mother sometimes like a child.
But my mother made no answer, except to thank her, and Peggotty went
running on in her own fashion.
'Me leave you? I think I see myself. Peggotty go away from you? I should
like to catch her at it! No, no, no,' said Peggotty, shaking her head,
and folding her arms; 'not she, my dear. It isn't that there ain't some
Cats that would be well enough pleased if she did, but they sha'n't be
pleased. They shall be aggravated. I'll stay with you till I am a cross
cranky old woman. And when I'm too deaf, and too lame, and too blind,
and too mumbly for want of teeth, to be of any use at all, even to be
found fault with, than I shall go to my Davy, and ask him to take me
'And, Peggotty,' says I, 'I shall be glad to see you, and I'll make you
as welcome as a queen.'
'Bless your dear heart!' cried Peggotty. 'I know you will!' And she
kissed me beforehand, in grateful acknowledgement of my hospitality.
After that, she covered her head up with her apron again and had another
laugh about Mr. Barkis. After that, she took the baby out of its little
cradle, and nursed it. After that, she cleared the dinner table;
after that, came in with another cap on, and her work-box, and the
yard-measure, and the bit of wax-candle, all just the same as ever.
We sat round the fire, and talked delightfully. I told them what a hard
master Mr. Creakle was, and they pitied me very much. I told them what a
fine fellow Steerforth was, and what a patron of mine, and Peggotty said
she would walk a score of miles to see him. I took the little baby in
my arms when it was awake, and nursed it lovingly. When it was asleep
again, I crept close to my mother's side according to my old custom,
broken now a long time, and sat with my arms embracing her waist, and my
little red cheek on her shoulder, and once more felt her beautiful
hair drooping over me--like an angel's wing as I used to think, I
recollect--and was very happy indeed.
While I sat thus, looking at the fire, and seeing pictures in the
red-hot coals, I almost believed that I had never been away; that Mr.
and Miss Murdstone were such pictures, and would vanish when the fire
got low; and that there was nothing real in all that I remembered, save
my mother, Peggotty, and I.
Peggotty darned away at a stocking as long as she could see, and then
sat with it drawn on her left hand like a glove, and her needle in her
right, ready to take another stitch whenever there was a blaze. I cannot
conceive whose stockings they can have been that Peggotty was always
darning, or where such an unfailing supply of stockings in want of
darning can have come from. From my earliest infancy she seems to have
been always employed in that class of needlework, and never by any
chance in any other.
'I wonder,' said Peggotty, who was sometimes seized with a fit of
wondering on some most unexpected topic, 'what's become of Davy's
great-aunt?' 'Lor, Peggotty!' observed my mother, rousing herself from a
reverie, 'what nonsense you talk!'
'Well, but I really do wonder, ma'am,' said Peggotty.
'What can have put such a person in your head?' inquired my mother. 'Is
there nobody else in the world to come there?'
'I don't know how it is,' said Peggotty, 'unless it's on account of
being stupid, but my head never can pick and choose its people. They
come and they go, and they don't come and they don't go, just as they
like. I wonder what's become of her?'
'How absurd you are, Peggotty!' returned my mother. 'One would suppose
you wanted a second visit from her.'
'Lord forbid!' cried Peggotty.
'Well then, don't talk about such uncomfortable things, there's a good
soul,' said my mother. 'Miss Betsey is shut up in her cottage by the
sea, no doubt, and will remain there. At all events, she is not likely
ever to trouble us again.'
'No!' mused Peggotty. 'No, that ain't likely at all.---I wonder, if she
was to die, whether she'd leave Davy anything?'
'Good gracious me, Peggotty,' returned my mother, 'what a nonsensical
woman you are! when you know that she took offence at the poor dear
boy's ever being born at all.'
'I suppose she wouldn't be inclined to forgive him now,' hinted
'Why should she be inclined to forgive him now?' said my mother, rather
'Now that he's got a brother, I mean,' said Peggotty.
MY mother immediately began to cry, and wondered how Peggotty dared to
say such a thing.
'As if this poor little innocent in its cradle had ever done any harm to
you or anybody else, you jealous thing!' said she. 'You had much better
go and marry Mr. Barkis, the carrier. Why don't you?'
'I should make Miss Murdstone happy, if I was to,' said Peggotty.
'What a bad disposition you have, Peggotty!' returned my mother. 'You
are as jealous of Miss Murdstone as it is possible for a ridiculous
creature to be. You want to keep the keys yourself, and give out all the
things, I suppose? I shouldn't be surprised if you did. When you know
that she only does it out of kindness and the best intentions! You know
she does, Peggotty--you know it well.'
Peggotty muttered something to the effect of 'Bother the best
intentions!' and something else to the effect that there was a little
too much of the best intentions going on.
'I know what you mean, you cross thing,' said my mother. 'I understand
you, Peggotty, perfectly. You know I do, and I wonder you don't colour
up like fire. But one point at a time. Miss Murdstone is the point now,
Peggotty, and you sha'n't escape from it. Haven't you heard her
say, over and over again, that she thinks I am too thoughtless and
'Pretty,' suggested Peggotty.
'Well,' returned my mother, half laughing, 'and if she is so silly as to
say so, can I be blamed for it?'
'No one says you can,' said Peggotty.
'No, I should hope not, indeed!' returned my mother. 'Haven't you heard
her say, over and over again, that on this account she wished to spare
me a great deal of trouble, which she thinks I am not suited for, and
which I really don't know myself that I AM suited for; and isn't she up
early and late, and going to and fro continually--and doesn't she do
all sorts of things, and grope into all sorts of places, coal-holes and
pantries and I don't know where, that can't be very agreeable--and do
you mean to insinuate that there is not a sort of devotion in that?'
'I don't insinuate at all,' said Peggotty.
'You do, Peggotty,' returned my mother. 'You never do anything else,
except your work. You are always insinuating. You revel in it. And when
you talk of Mr. Murdstone's good intentions--'
'I never talked of 'em,' said Peggotty.
'No, Peggotty,' returned my mother, 'but you insinuated. That's what I
told you just now. That's the worst of you. You WILL insinuate. I said,
at the moment, that I understood you, and you see I did. When you talk
of Mr. Murdstone's good intentions, and pretend to slight them (for I
don't believe you really do, in your heart, Peggotty), you must be as
well convinced as I am how good they are, and how they actuate him in
everything. If he seems to have been at all stern with a certain person,
Peggotty--you understand, and so I am sure does Davy, that I am not
alluding to anybody present--it is solely because he is satisfied that
it is for a certain person's benefit. He naturally loves a certain
person, on my account; and acts solely for a certain person's good. He
is better able to judge of it than I am; for I very well know that I am
a weak, light, girlish creature, and that he is a firm, grave, serious
man. And he takes,' said my mother, with the tears which were engendered
in her affectionate nature, stealing down her face, 'he takes great
pains with me; and I ought to be very thankful to him, and very
submissive to him even in my thoughts; and when I am not, Peggotty, I
worry and condemn myself, and feel doubtful of my own heart, and don't
know what to do.'
Peggotty sat with her chin on the foot of the stocking, looking silently
at the fire.
'There, Peggotty,' said my mother, changing her tone, 'don't let us fall
out with one another, for I couldn't bear it. You are my true friend, I
know, if I have any in the world. When I call you a ridiculous creature,
or a vexatious thing, or anything of that sort, Peggotty, I only mean
that you are my true friend, and always have been, ever since the night
when Mr. Copperfield first brought me home here, and you came out to the
gate to meet me.'
Peggotty was not slow to respond, and ratify the treaty of friendship by
giving me one of her best hugs. I think I had some glimpses of the real
character of this conversation at the time; but I am sure, now, that
the good creature originated it, and took her part in it, merely that
my mother might comfort herself with the little contradictory summary in
which she had indulged. The design was efficacious; for I remember that
my mother seemed more at ease during the rest of the evening, and that
Peggotty observed her less.
When we had had our tea, and the ashes were thrown up, and the candles
snuffed, I read Peggotty a chapter out of the Crocodile Book, in
remembrance of old times--she took it out of her pocket: I don't know
whether she had kept it there ever since--and then we talked about Salem
House, which brought me round again to Steerforth, who was my great
subject. We were very happy; and that evening, as the last of its race,
and destined evermore to close that volume of my life, will never pass
out of my memory.
It was almost ten o'clock before we heard the sound of wheels. We all
got up then; and my mother said hurriedly that, as it was so late, and
Mr. and Miss Murdstone approved of early hours for young people, perhaps
I had better go to bed. I kissed her, and went upstairs with my candle
directly, before they came in. It appeared to my childish fancy, as I
ascended to the bedroom where I had been imprisoned, that they brought
a cold blast of air into the house which blew away the old familiar
feeling like a feather.
I felt uncomfortable about going down to breakfast in the morning, as
I had never set eyes on Mr. Murdstone since the day when I committed my
memorable offence. However, as it must be done, I went down, after two
or three false starts half-way, and as many runs back on tiptoe to my
own room, and presented myself in the parlour.
He was standing before the fire with his back to it, while Miss
Murdstone made the tea. He looked at me steadily as I entered, but made
no sign of recognition whatever. I went up to him, after a moment of
confusion, and said: 'I beg your pardon, sir. I am very sorry for what I
did, and I hope you will forgive me.'
'I am glad to hear you are sorry, David,' he replied.
The hand he gave me was the hand I had bitten. I could not restrain my
eye from resting for an instant on a red spot upon it; but it was not so
red as I turned, when I met that sinister expression in his face.
'How do you do, ma'am?' I said to Miss Murdstone.
'Ah, dear me!' sighed Miss Murdstone, giving me the tea-caddy scoop
instead of her fingers. 'How long are the holidays?'
'A month, ma'am.'
'Counting from when?'
'From today, ma'am.'
'Oh!' said Miss Murdstone. 'Then here's one day off.'
She kept a calendar of the holidays in this way, and every morning
checked a day off in exactly the same manner. She did it gloomily until
she came to ten, but when she got into two figures she became more
hopeful, and, as the time advanced, even jocular.
It was on this very first day that I had the misfortune to throw her,
though she was not subject to such weakness in general, into a state of
violent consternation. I came into the room where she and my mother
were sitting; and the baby (who was only a few weeks old) being on
my mother's lap, I took it very carefully in my arms. Suddenly Miss
Murdstone gave such a scream that I all but dropped it.
'My dear Jane!' cried my mother.
'Good heavens, Clara, do you see?' exclaimed Miss Murdstone.
'See what, my dear Jane?' said my mother; 'where?'
'He's got it!' cried Miss Murdstone. 'The boy has got the baby!'
She was limp with horror; but stiffened herself to make a dart at me,
and take it out of my arms. Then, she turned faint; and was so very
ill that they were obliged to give her cherry brandy. I was solemnly
interdicted by her, on her recovery, from touching my brother any more
on any pretence whatever; and my poor mother, who, I could see, wished
otherwise, meekly confirmed the interdict, by saying: 'No doubt you are
right, my dear Jane.'
On another occasion, when we three were together, this same dear
baby--it was truly dear to me, for our mother's sake--was the innocent
occasion of Miss Murdstone's going into a passion. My mother, who had
been looking at its eyes as it lay upon her lap, said:
'Davy! come here!' and looked at mine.
I saw Miss Murdstone lay her beads down.
'I declare,' said my mother, gently, 'they are exactly alike. I suppose
they are mine. I think they are the colour of mine. But they are
'What are you talking about, Clara?' said Miss Murdstone.
'My dear Jane,' faltered my mother, a little abashed by the harsh tone
of this inquiry, 'I find that the baby's eyes and Davy's are exactly
'Clara!' said Miss Murdstone, rising angrily, 'you are a positive fool
'My dear Jane,' remonstrated my mother.
'A positive fool,' said Miss Murdstone. 'Who else could compare my
brother's baby with your boy? They are not at all alike. They are
exactly unlike. They are utterly dissimilar in all respects. I hope
they will ever remain so. I will not sit here, and hear such comparisons
made.' With that she stalked out, and made the door bang after her.
In short, I was not a favourite with Miss Murdstone. In short, I was not
a favourite there with anybody, not even with myself; for those who did
like me could not show it, and those who did not, showed it so plainly
that I had a sensitive consciousness of always appearing constrained,
boorish, and dull.
I felt that I made them as uncomfortable as they made me. If I came into
the room where they were, and they were talking together and my mother
seemed cheerful, an anxious cloud would steal over her face from the
moment of my entrance. If Mr. Murdstone were in his best humour, I
checked him. If Miss Murdstone were in her worst, I intensified it. I
had perception enough to know that my mother was the victim always; that
she was afraid to speak to me or to be kind to me, lest she should
give them some offence by her manner of doing so, and receive a
lecture afterwards; that she was not only ceaselessly afraid of her own
offending, but of my offending, and uneasily watched their looks if I
only moved. Therefore I resolved to keep myself as much out of their way
as I could; and many a wintry hour did I hear the church clock strike,
when I was sitting in my cheerless bedroom, wrapped in my little
great-coat, poring over a book.
In the evening, sometimes, I went and sat with Peggotty in the kitchen.
There I was comfortable, and not afraid of being myself. But neither of
these resources was approved of in the parlour. The tormenting humour
which was dominant there stopped them both. I was still held to be
necessary to my poor mother's training, and, as one of her trials, could
not be suffered to absent myself.
'David,' said Mr. Murdstone, one day after dinner when I was going to
leave the room as usual; 'I am sorry to observe that you are of a sullen
'As sulky as a bear!' said Miss Murdstone.
I stood still, and hung my head.
'Now, David,' said Mr. Murdstone, 'a sullen obdurate disposition is, of
all tempers, the worst.'
'And the boy's is, of all such dispositions that ever I have seen,'
remarked his sister, 'the most confirmed and stubborn. I think, my dear
Clara, even you must observe it?'
'I beg your pardon, my dear Jane,' said my mother, 'but are you quite
sure--I am certain you'll excuse me, my dear Jane--that you understand
'I should be somewhat ashamed of myself, Clara,' returned Miss
Murdstone, 'if I could not understand the boy, or any boy. I don't
profess to be profound; but I do lay claim to common sense.'
'No doubt, my dear Jane,' returned my mother, 'your understanding is
'Oh dear, no! Pray don't say that, Clara,' interposed Miss Murdstone,
'But I am sure it is,' resumed my mother; 'and everybody knows it is. I
profit so much by it myself, in many ways--at least I ought to--that no
one can be more convinced of it than myself; and therefore I speak with
great diffidence, my dear Jane, I assure you.'
'We'll say I don't understand the boy, Clara,' returned Miss Murdstone,
arranging the little fetters on her wrists. 'We'll agree, if you please,
that I don't understand him at all. He is much too deep for me. But
perhaps my brother's penetration may enable him to have some insight
into his character. And I believe my brother was speaking on the subject
when we--not very decently--interrupted him.'
'I think, Clara,' said Mr. Murdstone, in a low grave voice, 'that there
may be better and more dispassionate judges of such a question than
'Edward,' replied my mother, timidly, 'you are a far better judge of all
questions than I pretend to be. Both you and Jane are. I only said--'
'You only said something weak and inconsiderate,' he replied. 'Try not
to do it again, my dear Clara, and keep a watch upon yourself.'
MY mother's lips moved, as if she answered 'Yes, my dear Edward,' but
she said nothing aloud.
'I was sorry, David, I remarked,' said Mr. Murdstone, turning his head
and his eyes stiffly towards me, 'to observe that you are of a sullen
disposition. This is not a character that I can suffer to develop itself
beneath my eyes without an effort at improvement. You must endeavour,
sir, to change it. We must endeavour to change it for you.'
'I beg your pardon, sir,' I faltered. 'I have never meant to be sullen
since I came back.'
'Don't take refuge in a lie, sir!' he returned so fiercely, that I saw
my mother involuntarily put out her trembling hand as if to interpose
between us. 'You have withdrawn yourself in your sullenness to your own
room. You have kept your own room when you ought to have been here. You
know now, once for all, that I require you to be here, and not there.
Further, that I require you to bring obedience here. You know me, David.
I will have it done.'
Miss Murdstone gave a hoarse chuckle.
'I will have a respectful, prompt, and ready bearing towards myself,' he
continued, 'and towards Jane Murdstone, and towards your mother. I will
not have this room shunned as if it were infected, at the pleasure of a
child. Sit down.'
He ordered me like a dog, and I obeyed like a dog.
'One thing more,' he said. 'I observe that you have an attachment to low
and common company. You are not to associate with servants. The
kitchen will not improve you, in the many respects in which you need
improvement. Of the woman who abets you, I say nothing--since you,
Clara,' addressing my mother in a lower voice, 'from old associations
and long-established fancies, have a weakness respecting her which is
not yet overcome.'
'A most unaccountable delusion it is!' cried Miss Murdstone.
'I only say,' he resumed, addressing me, 'that I disapprove of your
preferring such company as Mistress Peggotty, and that it is to be
abandoned. Now, David, you understand me, and you know what will be the
consequence if you fail to obey me to the letter.'
I knew well--better perhaps than he thought, as far as my poor mother
was concerned--and I obeyed him to the letter. I retreated to my own
room no more; I took refuge with Peggotty no more; but sat wearily in
the parlour day after day, looking forward to night, and bedtime.
What irksome constraint I underwent, sitting in the same attitude hours
upon hours, afraid to move an arm or a leg lest Miss Murdstone should
complain (as she did on the least pretence) of my restlessness, and
afraid to move an eye lest she should light on some look of dislike
or scrutiny that would find new cause for complaint in mine! What
intolerable dulness to sit listening to the ticking of the clock; and
watching Miss Murdstone's little shiny steel beads as she strung them;
and wondering whether she would ever be married, and if so, to what
sort of unhappy man; and counting the divisions in the moulding of the
chimney-piece; and wandering away, with my eyes, to the ceiling, among
the curls and corkscrews in the paper on the wall!
What walks I took alone, down muddy lanes, in the bad winter weather,
carrying that parlour, and Mr. and Miss Murdstone in it, everywhere: a
monstrous load that I was obliged to bear, a daymare that there was
no possibility of breaking in, a weight that brooded on my wits, and
What meals I had in silence and embarrassment, always feeling that there
were a knife and fork too many, and that mine; an appetite too many, and
that mine; a plate and chair too many, and those mine; a somebody too
many, and that I!
What evenings, when the candles came, and I was expected to employ
myself, but, not daring to read an entertaining book, pored over some
hard-headed, harder-hearted treatise on arithmetic; when the tables of
weights and measures set themselves to tunes, as 'Rule Britannia', or
'Away with Melancholy'; when they wouldn't stand still to be learnt, but
would go threading my grandmother's needle through my unfortunate head,
in at one ear and out at the other! What yawns and dozes I lapsed into,
in spite of all my care; what starts I came out of concealed sleeps
with; what answers I never got, to little observations that I rarely
made; what a blank space I seemed, which everybody overlooked, and
yet was in everybody's way; what a heavy relief it was to hear Miss
Murdstone hail the first stroke of nine at night, and order me to bed!
Thus the holidays lagged away, until the morning came when Miss
Murdstone said: 'Here's the last day off!' and gave me the closing cup
of tea of the vacation.
I was not sorry to go. I had lapsed into a stupid state; but I was
recovering a little and looking forward to Steerforth, albeit Mr.
Creakle loomed behind him. Again Mr. Barkis appeared at the gate, and
again Miss Murdstone in her warning voice, said: 'Clara!' when my mother
bent over me, to bid me farewell.
I kissed her, and my baby brother, and was very sorry then; but not
sorry to go away, for the gulf between us was there, and the parting was
there, every day. And it is not so much the embrace she gave me, that
lives in my mind, though it was as fervent as could be, as what followed
I was in the carrier's cart when I heard her calling to me. I looked
out, and she stood at the garden-gate alone, holding her baby up in her
arms for me to see. It was cold still weather; and not a hair of her
head, nor a fold of her dress, was stirred, as she looked intently at
me, holding up her child.
So I lost her. So I saw her afterwards, in my sleep at school--a silent
presence near my bed--looking at me with the same intent face--holding
up her baby in her arms.
CHAPTER 9. I HAVE A MEMORABLE BIRTHDAY
I PASS over all that happened at school, until the anniversary of my
birthday came round in March. Except that Steerforth was more to be
admired than ever, I remember nothing. He was going away at the end of
the half-year, if not sooner, and was more spirited and independent than
before in my eyes, and therefore more engaging than before; but beyond
this I remember nothing. The great remembrance by which that time is
marked in my mind, seems to have swallowed up all lesser recollections,
and to exist alone.
It is even difficult for me to believe that there was a gap of full
two months between my return to Salem House and the arrival of that
birthday. I can only understand that the fact was so, because I know it
must have been so; otherwise I should feel convinced that there was no
interval, and that the one occasion trod upon the other's heels.
How well I recollect the kind of day it was! I smell the fog that hung
about the place; I see the hoar frost, ghostly, through it; I feel my
rimy hair fall clammy on my cheek; I look along the dim perspective of
the schoolroom, with a sputtering candle here and there to light up the
foggy morning, and the breath of the boys wreathing and smoking in the
raw cold as they blow upon their fingers, and tap their feet upon the
floor. It was after breakfast, and we had been summoned in from the
playground, when Mr. Sharp entered and said:
'David Copperfield is to go into the parlour.'
I expected a hamper from Peggotty, and brightened at the order. Some
of the boys about me put in their claim not to be forgotten in the
distribution of the good things, as I got out of my seat with great
'Don't hurry, David,' said Mr. Sharp. 'There's time enough, my boy,
I might have been surprised by the feeling tone in which he spoke, if I
had given it a thought; but I gave it none until afterwards. I hurried
away to the parlour; and there I found Mr. Creakle, sitting at his
breakfast with the cane and a newspaper before him, and Mrs. Creakle
with an opened letter in her hand. But no hamper.
'David Copperfield,' said Mrs. Creakle, leading me to a sofa, and
sitting down beside me. 'I want to speak to you very particularly. I
have something to tell you, my child.'
Mr. Creakle, at whom of course I looked, shook his head without looking
at me, and stopped up a sigh with a very large piece of buttered toast.
'You are too young to know how the world changes every day,' said Mrs.
Creakle, 'and how the people in it pass away. But we all have to learn
it, David; some of us when we are young, some of us when we are old,
some of us at all times of our lives.'
I looked at her earnestly.
'When you came away from home at the end of the vacation,' said Mrs.
Creakle, after a pause, 'were they all well?' After another pause, 'Was
your mama well?'
I trembled without distinctly knowing why, and still looked at her
earnestly, making no attempt to answer.
'Because,' said she, 'I grieve to tell you that I hear this morning your
mama is very ill.'
A mist rose between Mrs. Creakle and me, and her figure seemed to move
in it for an instant. Then I felt the burning tears run down my face,
and it was steady again.
'She is very dangerously ill,' she added.
I knew all now.
'She is dead.'
There was no need to tell me so. I had already broken out into a
desolate cry, and felt an orphan in the wide world.
She was very kind to me. She kept me there all day, and left me alone
sometimes; and I cried, and wore myself to sleep, and awoke and
cried again. When I could cry no more, I began to think; and then the
oppression on my breast was heaviest, and my grief a dull pain that
there was no ease for.
And yet my thoughts were idle; not intent on the calamity that weighed
upon my heart, but idly loitering near it. I thought of our house shut
up and hushed. I thought of the little baby, who, Mrs. Creakle said, had
been pining away for some time, and who, they believed, would die too. I
thought of my father's grave in the churchyard, by our house, and of my
mother lying there beneath the tree I knew so well. I stood upon a chair
when I was left alone, and looked into the glass to see how red my eyes
were, and how sorrowful my face. I considered, after some hours were
gone, if my tears were really hard to flow now, as they seemed to be,
what, in connexion with my loss, it would affect me most to think
of when I drew near home--for I was going home to the funeral. I am
sensible of having felt that a dignity attached to me among the rest of
the boys, and that I was important in my affliction.
If ever child were stricken with sincere grief, I was. But I remember
that this importance was a kind of satisfaction to me, when I walked in
the playground that afternoon while the boys were in school. When I
saw them glancing at me out of the windows, as they went up to their
classes, I felt distinguished, and looked more melancholy, and walked
slower. When school was over, and they came out and spoke to me, I felt
it rather good in myself not to be proud to any of them, and to take
exactly the same notice of them all, as before.
I was to go home next night; not by the mail, but by the heavy
night-coach, which was called the Farmer, and was principally used by
country-people travelling short intermediate distances upon the road. We
had no story-telling that evening, and Traddles insisted on lending me
his pillow. I don't know what good he thought it would do me, for I
had one of my own: but it was all he had to lend, poor fellow, except a
sheet of letter-paper full of skeletons; and that he gave me at parting,
as a soother of my sorrows and a contribution to my peace of mind.
I left Salem House upon the morrow afternoon. I little thought then that
I left it, never to return. We travelled very slowly all night, and
did not get into Yarmouth before nine or ten o'clock in the morning. I
looked out for Mr. Barkis, but he was not there; and instead of him a
fat, short-winded, merry-looking, little old man in black, with rusty
little bunches of ribbons at the knees of his breeches, black stockings,
and a broad-brimmed hat, came puffing up to the coach window, and said:
'Will you come with me, young sir, if you please,' he said, opening the
door, 'and I shall have the pleasure of taking you home.'
I put my hand in his, wondering who he was, and we walked away to a
shop in a narrow street, on which was written OMER, DRAPER, TAILOR,
HABERDASHER, FUNERAL FURNISHER, &c. It was a close and stifling little
shop; full of all sorts of clothing, made and unmade, including
one window full of beaver-hats and bonnets. We went into a little
back-parlour behind the shop, where we found three young women at work
on a quantity of black materials, which were heaped upon the table,
and little bits and cuttings of which were littered all over the floor.
There was a good fire in the room, and a breathless smell of warm black
crape--I did not know what the smell was then, but I know now.
The three young women, who appeared to be very industrious and
comfortable, raised their heads to look at me, and then went on with
their work. Stitch, stitch, stitch. At the same time there came from
a workshop across a little yard outside the window, a regular sound
of hammering that kept a kind of tune: RAT--tat-tat, RAT--tat-tat,
RAT--tat-tat, without any variation.
'Well,' said my conductor to one of the three young women. 'How do you
get on, Minnie?'
'We shall be ready by the trying-on time,' she replied gaily, without
looking up. 'Don't you be afraid, father.'
Mr. Omer took off his broad-brimmed hat, and sat down and panted. He was
so fat that he was obliged to pant some time before he could say:
'Father!' said Minnie, playfully. 'What a porpoise you do grow!'
'Well, I don't know how it is, my dear,' he replied, considering about
it. 'I am rather so.'
'You are such a comfortable man, you see,' said Minnie. 'You take things
'No use taking 'em otherwise, my dear,' said Mr. Omer.
'No, indeed,' returned his daughter. 'We are all pretty gay here, thank
Heaven! Ain't we, father?'
'I hope so, my dear,' said Mr. Omer. 'As I have got my breath now, I
think I'll measure this young scholar. Would you walk into the shop,
I preceded Mr. Omer, in compliance with his request; and after showing
me a roll of cloth which he said was extra super, and too good mourning
for anything short of parents, he took my various dimensions, and put
them down in a book. While he was recording them he called my attention
to his stock in trade, and to certain fashions which he said had 'just
come up', and to certain other fashions which he said had 'just gone
'And by that sort of thing we very often lose a little mint of money,'
said Mr. Omer. 'But fashions are like human beings. They come in, nobody
knows when, why, or how; and they go out, nobody knows when, why, or
how. Everything is like life, in my opinion, if you look at it in that
point of view.'
I was too sorrowful to discuss the question, which would possibly have
been beyond me under any circumstances; and Mr. Omer took me back into
the parlour, breathing with some difficulty on the way.
He then called down a little break-neck range of steps behind a door:
'Bring up that tea and bread-and-butter!' which, after some time,
during which I sat looking about me and thinking, and listening to the
stitching in the room and the tune that was being hammered across the
yard, appeared on a tray, and turned out to be for me.
'I have been acquainted with you,' said Mr. Omer, after watching me
for some minutes, during which I had not made much impression on the
breakfast, for the black things destroyed my appetite, 'I have been
acquainted with you a long time, my young friend.'
'Have you, sir?'
'All your life,' said Mr. Omer. 'I may say before it. I knew your
father before you. He was five foot nine and a half, and he lays in
five-and-twen-ty foot of ground.'
'RAT--tat-tat, RAT--tat-tat, RAT--tat-tat,' across the yard.
'He lays in five and twen-ty foot of ground, if he lays in a fraction,'
said Mr. Omer, pleasantly. 'It was either his request or her direction,
I forget which.'
'Do you know how my little brother is, sir?' I inquired.
Mr. Omer shook his head.
'RAT--tat-tat, RAT--tat-tat, RAT--tat-tat.'
'He is in his mother's arms,' said he.
'Oh, poor little fellow! Is he dead?'
'Don't mind it more than you can help,' said Mr. Omer. 'Yes. The baby's
My wounds broke out afresh at this intelligence. I left the
scarcely-tasted breakfast, and went and rested my head on another table,
in a corner of the little room, which Minnie hastily cleared, lest I
should spot the mourning that was lying there with my tears. She was
a pretty, good-natured girl, and put my hair away from my eyes with a
soft, kind touch; but she was very cheerful at having nearly finished
her work and being in good time, and was so different from me!
Presently the tune left off, and a good-looking young fellow came across
the yard into the room. He had a hammer in his hand, and his mouth was
full of little nails, which he was obliged to take out before he could
'Well, Joram!' said Mr. Omer. 'How do you get on?'
'All right,' said Joram. 'Done, sir.'
Minnie coloured a little, and the other two girls smiled at one another.
'What! you were at it by candle-light last night, when I was at the
club, then? Were you?' said Mr. Omer, shutting up one eye.
'Yes,' said Joram. 'As you said we could make a little trip of it, and
go over together, if it was done, Minnie and me--and you.'
'Oh! I thought you were going to leave me out altogether,' said Mr.
Omer, laughing till he coughed.
'--As you was so good as to say that,' resumed the young man, 'why I
turned to with a will, you see. Will you give me your opinion of it?'
'I will,' said Mr. Omer, rising. 'My dear'; and he stopped and turned to
me: 'would you like to see your--'
'No, father,' Minnie interposed.
'I thought it might be agreeable, my dear,' said Mr. Omer. 'But perhaps
I can't say how I knew it was my dear, dear mother's coffin that they
went to look at. I had never heard one making; I had never seen one that
I know of.--but it came into my mind what the noise was, while it was
going on; and when the young man entered, I am sure I knew what he had
The work being now finished, the two girls, whose names I had not heard,
brushed the shreds and threads from their dresses, and went into the
shop to put that to rights, and wait for customers. Minnie stayed behind
to fold up what they had made, and pack it in two baskets. This she did
upon her knees, humming a lively little tune the while. Joram, who I had
no doubt was her lover, came in and stole a kiss from her while she was
busy (he didn't appear to mind me, at all), and said her father was gone
for the chaise, and he must make haste and get himself ready. Then he
went out again; and then she put her thimble and scissors in her pocket,
and stuck a needle threaded with black thread neatly in the bosom of her
gown, and put on her outer clothing smartly, at a little glass behind
the door, in which I saw the reflection of her pleased face.
All this I observed, sitting at the table in the corner with my head
leaning on my hand, and my thoughts running on very different things.
The chaise soon came round to the front of the shop, and the baskets
being put in first, I was put in next, and those three followed. I
remember it as a kind of half chaise-cart, half pianoforte-van, painted
of a sombre colour, and drawn by a black horse with a long tail. There
was plenty of room for us all.
I do not think I have ever experienced so strange a feeling in my life
(I am wiser now, perhaps) as that of being with them, remembering how
they had been employed, and seeing them enjoy the ride. I was not angry
with them; I was more afraid of them, as if I were cast away among
creatures with whom I had no community of nature. They were very
cheerful. The old man sat in front to drive, and the two young people
sat behind him, and whenever he spoke to them leaned forward, the one on
one side of his chubby face and the other on the other, and made a great
deal of him. They would have talked to me too, but I held back, and
moped in my corner; scared by their love-making and hilarity, though
it was far from boisterous, and almost wondering that no judgement came
upon them for their hardness of heart.
So, when they stopped to bait the horse, and ate and drank and enjoyed
themselves, I could touch nothing that they touched, but kept my fast
unbroken. So, when we reached home, I dropped out of the chaise behind,
as quickly as possible, that I might not be in their company before
those solemn windows, looking blindly on me like closed eyes once
bright. And oh, how little need I had had to think what would move me to
tears when I came back--seeing the window of my mother's room, and next
it that which, in the better time, was mine!
I was in Peggotty's arms before I got to the door, and she took me into
the house. Her grief burst out when she first saw me; but she controlled
it soon, and spoke in whispers, and walked softly, as if the dead could
be disturbed. She had not been in bed, I found, for a long time. She
sat up at night still, and watched. As long as her poor dear pretty was
above the ground, she said, she would never desert her.
Mr. Murdstone took no heed of me when I went into the parlour where he
was, but sat by the fireside, weeping silently, and pondering in his
elbow-chair. Miss Murdstone, who was busy at her writing-desk, which
was covered with letters and papers, gave me her cold finger-nails, and
asked me, in an iron whisper, if I had been measured for my mourning.
I said: 'Yes.'
'And your shirts,' said Miss Murdstone; 'have you brought 'em home?'
'Yes, ma'am. I have brought home all my clothes.'
This was all the consolation that her firmness administered to me. I do
not doubt that she had a choice pleasure in exhibiting what she called
her self-command, and her firmness, and her strength of mind, and
her common sense, and the whole diabolical catalogue of her unamiable
qualities, on such an occasion. She was particularly proud of her turn
for business; and she showed it now in reducing everything to pen and
ink, and being moved by nothing. All the rest of that day, and from
morning to night afterwards, she sat at that desk, scratching composedly
with a hard pen, speaking in the same imperturbable whisper to
everybody; never relaxing a muscle of her face, or softening a tone of
her voice, or appearing with an atom of her dress astray.
Her brother took a book sometimes, but never read it that I saw. He
would open it and look at it as if he were reading, but would remain for
a whole hour without turning the leaf, and then put it down and walk to
and fro in the room. I used to sit with folded hands watching him, and
counting his footsteps, hour after hour. He very seldom spoke to her,
and never to me. He seemed to be the only restless thing, except the
clocks, in the whole motionless house.
In these days before the funeral, I saw but little of Peggotty, except
that, in passing up or down stairs, I always found her close to the room
where my mother and her baby lay, and except that she came to me every
night, and sat by my bed's head while I went to sleep. A day or
two before the burial--I think it was a day or two before, but I am
conscious of confusion in my mind about that heavy time, with nothing
to mark its progress--she took me into the room. I only recollect that
underneath some white covering on the bed, with a beautiful cleanliness
and freshness all around it, there seemed to me to lie embodied the
solemn stillness that was in the house; and that when she would have
turned the cover gently back, I cried: 'Oh no! oh no!' and held her
If the funeral had been yesterday, I could not recollect it better. The
very air of the best parlour, when I went in at the door, the bright
condition of the fire, the shining of the wine in the decanters, the
patterns of the glasses and plates, the faint sweet smell of cake, the
odour of Miss Murdstone's dress, and our black clothes. Mr. Chillip is
in the room, and comes to speak to me.
'And how is Master David?' he says, kindly.
I cannot tell him very well. I give him my hand, which he holds in his.
'Dear me!' says Mr. Chillip, meekly smiling, with something shining in
his eye. 'Our little friends grow up around us. They grow out of our
knowledge, ma'am?' This is to Miss Murdstone, who makes no reply.
'There is a great improvement here, ma'am?' says Mr. Chillip.
Miss Murdstone merely answers with a frown and a formal bend: Mr.
Chillip, discomfited, goes into a corner, keeping me with him, and opens
his mouth no more.
I remark this, because I remark everything that happens, not because
I care about myself, or have done since I came home. And now the bell
begins to sound, and Mr. Omer and another come to make us ready. As
Peggotty was wont to tell me, long ago, the followers of my father to
the same grave were made ready in the same room.
There are Mr. Murdstone, our neighbour Mr. Grayper, Mr. Chillip, and
I. When we go out to the door, the Bearers and their load are in the
garden; and they move before us down the path, and past the elms, and
through the gate, and into the churchyard, where I have so often heard
the birds sing on a summer morning.
We stand around the grave. The day seems different to me from every
other day, and the light not of the same colour--of a sadder colour.
Now there is a solemn hush, which we have brought from home with what is
resting in the mould; and while we stand bareheaded, I hear the voice
of the clergyman, sounding remote in the open air, and yet distinct and
plain, saying: 'I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord!'
Then I hear sobs; and, standing apart among the lookers-on, I see that
good and faithful servant, whom of all the people upon earth I love the
best, and unto whom my childish heart is certain that the Lord will one
day say: 'Well done.'
There are many faces that I know, among the little crowd; faces that I
knew in church, when mine was always wondering there; faces that first
saw my mother, when she came to the village in her youthful bloom. I do
not mind them--I mind nothing but my grief--and yet I see and know them
all; and even in the background, far away, see Minnie looking on, and
her eye glancing on her sweetheart, who is near me.
It is over, and the earth is filled in, and we turn to come away. Before
us stands our house, so pretty and unchanged, so linked in my mind with
the young idea of what is gone, that all my sorrow has been nothing to
the sorrow it calls forth. But they take me on; and Mr. Chillip talks to
me; and when we get home, puts some water to my lips; and when I ask his
leave to go up to my room, dismisses me with the gentleness of a woman.
All this, I say, is yesterday's event. Events of later date have floated
from me to the shore where all forgotten things will reappear, but this
stands like a high rock in the ocean.
I knew that Peggotty would come to me in my room. The Sabbath stillness
of the time (the day was so like Sunday! I have forgotten that) was
suited to us both. She sat down by my side upon my little bed; and
holding my hand, and sometimes putting it to her lips, and sometimes
smoothing it with hers, as she might have comforted my little brother,
told me, in her way, all that she had to tell concerning what had
'She was never well,' said Peggotty, 'for a long time. She was uncertain
in her mind, and not happy. When her baby was born, I thought at first
she would get better, but she was more delicate, and sunk a little every
day. She used to like to sit alone before her baby came, and then she
cried; but afterwards she used to sing to it--so soft, that I once
thought, when I heard her, it was like a voice up in the air, that was
'I think she got to be more timid, and more frightened-like, of late;
and that a hard word was like a blow to her. But she was always the same
to me. She never changed to her foolish Peggotty, didn't my sweet girl.'
Here Peggotty stopped, and softly beat upon my hand a little while.
'The last time that I saw her like her own old self, was the night when
you came home, my dear. The day you went away, she said to me, "I never
shall see my pretty darling again. Something tells me so, that tells the
truth, I know."
'She tried to hold up after that; and many a time, when they told her
she was thoughtless and light-hearted, made believe to be so; but it was
all a bygone then. She never told her husband what she had told me--she
was afraid of saying it to anybody else--till one night, a little more
than a week before it happened, when she said to him: "My dear, I think
I am dying."
'"It's off my mind now, Peggotty," she told me, when I laid her in her
bed that night. "He will believe it more and more, poor fellow, every
day for a few days to come; and then it will be past. I am very tired.
If this is sleep, sit by me while I sleep: don't leave me. God bless
both my children! God protect and keep my fatherless boy!"
'I never left her afterwards,' said Peggotty. 'She often talked to them
two downstairs--for she loved them; she couldn't bear not to love anyone
who was about her--but when they went away from her bed-side, she always
turned to me, as if there was rest where Peggotty was, and never fell
asleep in any other way.
'On the last night, in the evening, she kissed me, and said: "If my baby
should die too, Peggotty, please let them lay him in my arms, and bury
us together." (It was done; for the poor lamb lived but a day beyond
her.) "Let my dearest boy go with us to our resting-place," she said,
"and tell him that his mother, when she lay here, blessed him not once,
but a thousand times."'
Another silence followed this, and another gentle beating on my hand.
'It was pretty far in the night,' said Peggotty, 'when she asked me for
some drink; and when she had taken it, gave me such a patient smile, the
'Daybreak had come, and the sun was rising, when she said to me, how
kind and considerate Mr. Copperfield had always been to her, and how
he had borne with her, and told her, when she doubted herself, that
a loving heart was better and stronger than wisdom, and that he was a
happy man in hers. "Peggotty, my dear," she said then, "put me nearer to
you," for she was very weak. "Lay your good arm underneath my neck," she
said, "and turn me to you, for your face is going far off, and I want it
to be near." I put it as she asked; and oh Davy! the time had come when
my first parting words to you were true--when she was glad to lay her
poor head on her stupid cross old Peggotty's arm--and she died like a
child that had gone to sleep!'
Thus ended Peggotty's narration. From the moment of my knowing of the
death of my mother, the idea of her as she had been of late had vanished
from me. I remembered her, from that instant, only as the young mother
of my earliest impressions, who had been used to wind her bright curls
round and round her finger, and to dance with me at twilight in the
parlour. What Peggotty had told me now, was so far from bringing me back
to the later period, that it rooted the earlier image in my mind. It may
be curious, but it is true. In her death she winged her way back to her
calm untroubled youth, and cancelled all the rest.
The mother who lay in the grave, was the mother of my infancy; the
little creature in her arms, was myself, as I had once been, hushed for
ever on her bosom.
CHAPTER 10. I BECOME NEGLECTED, AND AM PROVIDED FOR
The first act of business Miss Murdstone performed when the day of the
solemnity was over, and light was freely admitted into the house, was
to give Peggotty a month's warning. Much as Peggotty would have disliked
such a service, I believe she would have retained it, for my sake, in
preference to the best upon earth. She told me we must part, and told me
why; and we condoled with one another, in all sincerity.
As to me or my future, not a word was said, or a step taken. Happy
they would have been, I dare say, if they could have dismissed me at a
month's warning too. I mustered courage once, to ask Miss Murdstone when
I was going back to school; and she answered dryly, she believed I was
not going back at all. I was told nothing more. I was very anxious to
know what was going to be done with me, and so was Peggotty; but neither
she nor I could pick up any information on the subject.
There was one change in my condition, which, while it relieved me of
a great deal of present uneasiness, might have made me, if I had been
capable of considering it closely, yet more uncomfortable about the
future. It was this. The constraint that had been put upon me, was quite
abandoned. I was so far from being required to keep my dull post in
the parlour, that on several occasions, when I took my seat there, Miss
Murdstone frowned to me to go away. I was so far from being warned off
from Peggotty's society, that, provided I was not in Mr. Murdstone's, I
was never sought out or inquired for. At first I was in daily dread of
his taking my education in hand again, or of Miss Murdstone's
devoting herself to it; but I soon began to think that such fears were
groundless, and that all I had to anticipate was neglect.
I do not conceive that this discovery gave me much pain then. I was
still giddy with the shock of my mother's death, and in a kind of
stunned state as to all tributary things. I can recollect, indeed, to
have speculated, at odd times, on the possibility of my not being taught
any more, or cared for any more; and growing up to be a shabby, moody
man, lounging an idle life away, about the village; as well as on the
feasibility of my getting rid of this picture by going away somewhere,
like the hero in a story, to seek my fortune: but these were transient
visions, daydreams I sat looking at sometimes, as if they were faintly
painted or written on the wall of my room, and which, as they melted
away, left the wall blank again.
'Peggotty,' I said in a thoughtful whisper, one evening, when I was
warming my hands at the kitchen fire, 'Mr. Murdstone likes me less than
he used to. He never liked me much, Peggotty; but he would rather not
even see me now, if he can help it.'
'Perhaps it's his sorrow,' said Peggotty, stroking my hair.
'I am sure, Peggotty, I am sorry too. If I believed it was his sorrow,
I should not think of it at all. But it's not that; oh, no, it's not
'How do you know it's not that?' said Peggotty, after a silence.
'Oh, his sorrow is another and quite a different thing. He is sorry at
this moment, sitting by the fireside with Miss Murdstone; but if I was
to go in, Peggotty, he would be something besides.'
'What would he be?' said Peggotty.
'Angry,' I answered, with an involuntary imitation of his dark frown.
'If he was only sorry, he wouldn't look at me as he does. I am only
sorry, and it makes me feel kinder.'
Peggotty said nothing for a little while; and I warmed my hands, as
silent as she.
'Davy,' she said at length.
'Yes, Peggotty?' 'I have tried, my dear, all ways I could think of--all
the ways there are, and all the ways there ain't, in short--to get a
suitable service here, in Blunderstone; but there's no such a thing, my
'And what do you mean to do, Peggotty,' says I, wistfully. 'Do you mean
to go and seek your fortune?'
'I expect I shall be forced to go to Yarmouth,' replied Peggotty, 'and
'You might have gone farther off,' I said, brightening a little, 'and
been as bad as lost. I shall see you sometimes, my dear old Peggotty,
there. You won't be quite at the other end of the world, will you?'
'Contrary ways, please God!' cried Peggotty, with great animation. 'As
long as you are here, my pet, I shall come over every week of my life to
see you. One day, every week of my life!'
I felt a great weight taken off my mind by this promise: but even this
was not all, for Peggotty went on to say:
'I'm a-going, Davy, you see, to my brother's, first, for another
fortnight's visit--just till I have had time to look about me, and
get to be something like myself again. Now, I have been thinking that
perhaps, as they don't want you here at present, you might be let to go
along with me.'
If anything, short of being in a different relation to every one about
me, Peggotty excepted, could have given me a sense of pleasure at that
time, it would have been this project of all others. The idea of being
again surrounded by those honest faces, shining welcome on me; of
renewing the peacefulness of the sweet Sunday morning, when the bells
were ringing, the stones dropping in the water, and the shadowy ships
breaking through the mist; of roaming up and down with little Em'ly,
telling her my troubles, and finding charms against them in the shells
and pebbles on the beach; made a calm in my heart. It was ruffled next
moment, to be sure, by a doubt of Miss Murdstone's giving her consent;
but even that was set at rest soon, for she came out to take an evening
grope in the store-closet while we were yet in conversation, and
Peggotty, with a boldness that amazed me, broached the topic on the
'The boy will be idle there,' said Miss Murdstone, looking into a
pickle-jar, 'and idleness is the root of all evil. But, to be sure, he
would be idle here--or anywhere, in my opinion.'
Peggotty had an angry answer ready, I could see; but she swallowed it
for my sake, and remained silent.
'Humph!' said Miss Murdstone, still keeping her eye on the pickles;
'it is of more importance than anything else--it is of paramount
importance--that my brother should not be disturbed or made
uncomfortable. I suppose I had better say yes.'
I thanked her, without making any demonstration of joy, lest it should
induce her to withdraw her assent. Nor could I help thinking this a
prudent course, since she looked at me out of the pickle-jar, with
as great an access of sourness as if her black eyes had absorbed its
contents. However, the permission was given, and was never retracted;
for when the month was out, Peggotty and I were ready to depart.
Mr. Barkis came into the house for Peggotty's boxes. I had never known
him to pass the garden-gate before, but on this occasion he came into
the house. And he gave me a look as he shouldered the largest box and
went out, which I thought had meaning in it, if meaning could ever be
said to find its way into Mr. Barkis's visage.
Peggotty was naturally in low spirits at leaving what had been her home
so many years, and where the two strong attachments of her life--for
my mother and myself--had been formed. She had been walking in the
churchyard, too, very early; and she got into the cart, and sat in it
with her handkerchief at her eyes.
So long as she remained in this condition, Mr. Barkis gave no sign
of life whatever. He sat in his usual place and attitude like a great
stuffed figure. But when she began to look about her, and to speak to
me, he nodded his head and grinned several times. I have not the least
notion at whom, or what he meant by it.
'It's a beautiful day, Mr. Barkis!' I said, as an act of politeness.
'It ain't bad,' said Mr. Barkis, who generally qualified his speech, and
rarely committed himself.
'Peggotty is quite comfortable now, Mr. Barkis,' I remarked, for his
'Is she, though?' said Mr. Barkis.
After reflecting about it, with a sagacious air, Mr. Barkis eyed her,
'ARE you pretty comfortable?'
Peggotty laughed, and answered in the affirmative.
'But really and truly, you know. Are you?' growled Mr. Barkis, sliding
nearer to her on the seat, and nudging her with his elbow. 'Are you?
Really and truly pretty comfortable? Are you? Eh?'
At each of these inquiries Mr. Barkis shuffled nearer to her, and gave
her another nudge; so that at last we were all crowded together in the
left-hand corner of the cart, and I was so squeezed that I could hardly
Peggotty calling his attention to my sufferings, Mr. Barkis gave me a
little more room at once, and got away by degrees. But I could not help
observing that he seemed to think he had hit upon a wonderful expedient
for expressing himself in a neat, agreeable, and pointed manner, without
the inconvenience of inventing conversation. He manifestly chuckled over
it for some time. By and by he turned to Peggotty again, and repeating,
'Are you pretty comfortable though?' bore down upon us as before, until
the breath was nearly edged out of my body. By and by he made another
descent upon us with the same inquiry, and the same result. At length,
I got up whenever I saw him coming, and standing on the foot-board,
pretended to look at the prospect; after which I did very well.
He was so polite as to stop at a public-house, expressly on our account,
and entertain us with broiled mutton and beer. Even when Peggotty was
in the act of drinking, he was seized with one of those approaches, and
almost choked her. But as we drew nearer to the end of our journey, he
had more to do and less time for gallantry; and when we got on Yarmouth
pavement, we were all too much shaken and jolted, I apprehend, to have
any leisure for anything else.
Mr. Peggotty and Ham waited for us at the old place. They received me
and Peggotty in an affectionate manner, and shook hands with Mr. Barkis,
who, with his hat on the very back of his head, and a shame-faced leer
upon his countenance, and pervading his very legs, presented but a
vacant appearance, I thought. They each took one of Peggotty's trunks,
and we were going away, when Mr. Barkis solemnly made a sign to me with
his forefinger to come under an archway.
'I say,' growled Mr. Barkis, 'it was all right.'
I looked up into his face, and answered, with an attempt to be very
'It didn't come to a end there,' said Mr. Barkis, nodding
confidentially. 'It was all right.'
Again I answered, 'Oh!'
'You know who was willin',' said my friend. 'It was Barkis, and Barkis
I nodded assent.
'It's all right,' said Mr. Barkis, shaking hands; 'I'm a friend of
your'n. You made it all right, first. It's all right.'
In his attempts to be particularly lucid, Mr. Barkis was so extremely
mysterious, that I might have stood looking in his face for an hour, and
most assuredly should have got as much information out of it as out
of the face of a clock that had stopped, but for Peggotty's calling me
away. As we were going along, she asked me what he had said; and I told
her he had said it was all right.
'Like his impudence,' said Peggotty, 'but I don't mind that! Davy dear,
what should you think if I was to think of being married?'
'Why--I suppose you would like me as much then, Peggotty, as you do
now?' I returned, after a little consideration.
Greatly to the astonishment of the passengers in the street, as well as
of her relations going on before, the good soul was obliged to stop and
embrace me on the spot, with many protestations of her unalterable love.
'Tell me what should you say, darling?' she asked again, when this was
over, and we were walking on.
'If you were thinking of being married--to Mr. Barkis, Peggotty?'
'Yes,' said Peggotty.
'I should think it would be a very good thing. For then you know,
Peggotty, you would always have the horse and cart to bring you over to
see me, and could come for nothing, and be sure of coming.'
'The sense of the dear!' cried Peggotty. 'What I have been thinking
of, this month back! Yes, my precious; and I think I should be more
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