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Charles Dickens > David Copperfield > Chapter 27

David Copperfield

Chapter 27


It may have been in consequence of Mrs. Crupp's advice, and,
perhaps, for no better reason than because there was a certain
similarity in the sound of the word skittles and Traddles, that it
came into my head, next day, to go and look after Traddles. The
time he had mentioned was more than out, and he lived in a little
street near the Veterinary College at Camden Town, which was
principally tenanted, as one of our clerks who lived in that
direction informed me, by gentlemen students, who bought live
donkeys, and made experiments on those quadrupeds in their private
apartments. Having obtained from this clerk a direction to the
academic grove in question, I set out, the same afternoon, to visit
my old schoolfellow.

I found that the street was not as desirable a one as I could have
wished it to be, for the sake of Traddles. The inhabitants
appeared to have a propensity to throw any little trifles they were
not in want of, into the road: which not only made it rank and
sloppy, but untidy too, on account of the cabbage-leaves. The
refuse was not wholly vegetable either, for I myself saw a shoe, a
doubled-up saucepan, a black bonnet, and an umbrella, in various
stages of decomposition, as I was looking out for the number I

The general air of the place reminded me forcibly of the days when
I lived with Mr. and Mrs. Micawber. An indescribable character of
faded gentility that attached to the house I sought, and made it
unlike all the other houses in the street - though they were all
built on one monotonous pattern, and looked like the early copies
of a blundering boy who was learning to make houses, and had not
yet got out of his cramped brick-and-mortar pothooks - reminded me
still more of Mr. and Mrs. Micawber. Happening to arrive at the
door as it was opened to the afternoon milkman, I was reminded of
Mr. and Mrs. Micawber more forcibly yet.

'Now,' said the milkman to a very youthful servant girl. 'Has that
there little bill of mine been heerd on?'

'Oh, master says he'll attend to it immediate,' was the reply.

'Because,' said the milkman, going on as if he had received no
answer, and speaking, as I judged from his tone, rather for the
edification of somebody within the house, than of the youthful
servant - an impression which was strengthened by his manner of
glaring down the passage - 'because that there little bill has been
running so long, that I begin to believe it's run away altogether,
and never won't be heerd of. Now, I'm not a going to stand it, you
know!' said the milkman, still throwing his voice into the house,
and glaring down the passage.

As to his dealing in the mild article of milk, by the by, there
never was a greater anomaly. His deportment would have been fierce
in a butcher or a brandy-merchant.

The voice of the youthful servant became faint, but she seemed to
me, from the action of her lips, again to murmur that it would be
attended to immediate.

'I tell you what,' said the milkman, looking hard at her for the
first time, and taking her by the chin, 'are you fond of milk?'

'Yes, I likes it,' she replied.
'Good,' said the milkman. 'Then you won't have none tomorrow.
D'ye hear? Not a fragment of milk you won't have tomorrow.'

I thought she seemed, upon the whole, relieved by the prospect of
having any today. The milkman, after shaking his head at her
darkly, released her chin, and with anything rather than good-will
opened his can, and deposited the usual quantity in the family jug.
This done, he went away, muttering, and uttered the cry of his
trade next door, in a vindictive shriek.

'Does Mr. Traddles live here?' I then inquired.

A mysterious voice from the end of the passage replied 'Yes.' Upon
which the youthful servant replied 'Yes.'

'Is he at home?' said I.

Again the mysterious voice replied in the affirmative, and again
the servant echoed it. Upon this, I walked in, and in pursuance of
the servant's directions walked upstairs; conscious, as I passed
the back parlour-door, that I was surveyed by a mysterious eye,
probably belonging to the mysterious voice.

When I got to the top of the stairs - the house was only a story
high above the ground floor - Traddles was on the landing to meet
me. He was delighted to see me, and gave me welcome, with great
heartiness, to his little room. It was in the front of the house,
and extremely neat, though sparely furnished. It was his only
room, I saw; for there was a sofa-bedstead in it, and his
blacking-brushes and blacking were among his books - on the top
shelf, behind a dictionary. His table was covered with papers, and
he was hard at work in an old coat. I looked at nothing, that I
know of, but I saw everything, even to the prospect of a church
upon his china inkstand, as I sat down - and this, too, was a
faculty confirmed in me in the old Micawber times. Various
ingenious arrangements he had made, for the disguise of his chest
of drawers, and the accommodation of his boots, his shaving-glass,
and so forth, particularly impressed themselves upon me, as
evidences of the same Traddles who used to make models of
elephants' dens in writing-paper to put flies in; and to comfort
himself under ill usage, with the memorable works of art I have so
often mentioned.

In a corner of the room was something neatly covered up with a
large white cloth. I could not make out what that was.

'Traddles,' said I, shaking hands with him again, after I had sat
down, 'I am delighted to see you.'

'I am delighted to see YOU, Copperfield,' he returned. 'I am very
glad indeed to see you. It was because I was thoroughly glad to
see you when we met in Ely Place, and was sure you were thoroughly
glad to see me, that I gave you this address instead of my address
at chambers.'
'Oh! You have chambers?' said I.

'Why, I have the fourth of a room and a passage, and the fourth of
a clerk,' returned Traddles. 'Three others and myself unite to
have a set of chambers - to look business-like - and we quarter the
clerk too. Half-a-crown a week he costs me.'

His old simple character and good temper, and something of his old
unlucky fortune also, I thought, smiled at me in the smile with
which he made this explanation.

'It's not because I have the least pride, Copperfield, you
understand,' said Traddles, 'that I don't usually give my address
here. It's only on account of those who come to me, who might not
like to come here. For myself, I am fighting my way on in the
world against difficulties, and it would be ridiculous if I made a
pretence of doing anything else.'

'You are reading for the bar, Mr. Waterbrook informed me?' said I.

'Why, yes,' said Traddles, rubbing his hands slowly over one
another. 'I am reading for the bar. The fact is, I have just
begun to keep my terms, after rather a long delay. It's some time
since I was articled, but the payment of that hundred pounds was a
great pull. A great pull!' said Traddles, with a wince, as if he
had had a tooth out.

'Do you know what I can't help thinking of, Traddles, as I sit here
looking at you?' I asked him.

'No,' said he.

'That sky-blue suit you used to wear.'

'Lord, to be sure!' cried Traddles, laughing. 'Tight in the arms
and legs, you know? Dear me! Well! Those were happy times,
weren't they?'

'I think our schoolmaster might have made them happier, without
doing any harm to any of us, I acknowledge,' I returned.

'Perhaps he might,' said Traddles. 'But dear me, there was a good
deal of fun going on. Do you remember the nights in the bedroom?
When we used to have the suppers? And when you used to tell the
stories? Ha, ha, ha! And do you remember when I got caned for
crying about Mr. Mell? Old Creakle! I should like to see him
again, too!'

'He was a brute to you, Traddles,' said I, indignantly; for his
good humour made me feel as if I had seen him beaten but yesterday.

'Do you think so?' returned Traddles. 'Really? Perhaps he was
rather. But it's all over, a long while. Old Creakle!'

'You were brought up by an uncle, then?' said I.

'Of course I was!' said Traddles. 'The one I was always going to
write to. And always didn't, eh! Ha, ha, ha! Yes, I had an uncle
then. He died soon after I left school.'


'Yes. He was a retired - what do you call it! - draper -
cloth-merchant - and had made me his heir. But he didn't like me
when I grew up.'

'Do you really mean that?' said I. He was so composed, that I
fancied he must have some other meaning.

'Oh dear, yes, Copperfield! I mean it,' replied Traddles. 'It was
an unfortunate thing, but he didn't like me at all. He said I
wasn't at all what he expected, and so he married his housekeeper.'

'And what did you do?' I asked.

'I didn't do anything in particular,' said Traddles. 'I lived with
them, waiting to be put out in the world, until his gout
unfortunately flew to his stomach - and so he died, and so she
married a young man, and so I wasn't provided for.'

'Did you get nothing, Traddles, after all?'

'Oh dear, yes!' said Traddles. 'I got fifty pounds. I had never
been brought up to any profession, and at first I was at a loss
what to do for myself. However, I began, with the assistance of
the son of a professional man, who had been to Salem House -
Yawler, with his nose on one side. Do you recollect him?'

No. He had not been there with me; all the noses were straight in
my day.

'It don't matter,' said Traddles. 'I began, by means of his
assistance, to copy law writings. That didn't answer very well;
and then I began to state cases for them, and make abstracts, and
that sort of work. For I am a plodding kind of fellow,
Copperfield, and had learnt the way of doing such things pithily.
Well! That put it in my head to enter myself as a law student; and
that ran away with all that was left of the fifty pounds. Yawler
recommended me to one or two other offices, however - Mr.
Waterbrook's for one - and I got a good many jobs. I was fortunate
enough, too, to become acquainted with a person in the publishing
way, who was getting up an Encyclopaedia, and he set me to work;
and, indeed' (glancing at his table), 'I am at work for him at this
minute. I am not a bad compiler, Copperfield,' said Traddles,
preserving the same air of cheerful confidence in all he said, 'but
I have no invention at all; not a particle. I suppose there never
was a young man with less originality than I have.'

As Traddles seemed to expect that I should assent to this as a
matter of course, I nodded; and he went on, with the same sprightly
patience - I can find no better expression - as before.

'So, by little and little, and not living high, I managed to scrape
up the hundred pounds at last,' said Traddles; 'and thank Heaven
that's paid - though it was - though it certainly was,' said
Traddles, wincing again as if he had had another tooth out, 'a
pull. I am living by the sort of work I have mentioned, still, and
I hope, one of these days, to get connected with some newspaper:
which would almost be the making of my fortune. Now, Copperfield,
you are so exactly what you used to be, with that agreeable face,
and it's so pleasant to see you, that I sha'n't conceal anything.
Therefore you must know that I am engaged.'

Engaged! Oh, Dora!

'She is a curate's daughter,' said Traddles; 'one of ten, down in
Devonshire. Yes!' For he saw me glance, involuntarily, at the
prospect on the inkstand. 'That's the church! You come round here
to the left, out of this gate,' tracing his finger along the
inkstand, 'and exactly where I hold this pen, there stands the
house - facing, you understand, towards the church.'

The delight with which he entered into these particulars, did not
fully present itself to me until afterwards; for my selfish
thoughts were making a ground-plan of Mr. Spenlow's house and
garden at the same moment.

'She is such a dear girl!' said Traddles; 'a little older than me,
but the dearest girl! I told you I was going out of town? I have
been down there. I walked there, and I walked back, and I had the
most delightful time! I dare say ours is likely to be a rather
long engagement, but our motto is "Wait and hope!" We always say
that. "Wait and hope," we always say. And she would wait,
Copperfield, till she was sixty - any age you can mention - for

Traddles rose from his chair, and, with a triumphant smile, put his
hand upon the white cloth I had observed.

'However,' he said, 'it's not that we haven't made a beginning
towards housekeeping. No, no; we have begun. We must get on by
degrees, but we have begun. Here,' drawing the cloth off with
great pride and care, 'are two pieces of furniture to commence
with. This flower-pot and stand, she bought herself. You put that
in a parlour window,' said Traddles, falling a little back from it
to survey it with the greater admiration, 'with a plant in it, and
- and there you are! This little round table with the marble top
(it's two feet ten in circumference), I bought. You want to lay a
book down, you know, or somebody comes to see you or your wife, and
wants a place to stand a cup of tea upon, and - and there you are
again!' said Traddles. 'It's an admirable piece of workmanship -
firm as a rock!'
I praised them both, highly, and Traddles replaced the covering as
carefully as he had removed it.

'It's not a great deal towards the furnishing,' said Traddles, 'but
it's something. The table-cloths, and pillow-cases, and articles
of that kind, are what discourage me most, Copperfield. So does
the ironmongery - candle-boxes, and gridirons, and that sort of
necessaries - because those things tell, and mount up. However,

and hope!" And I assure you she's the dearest girl!'

'I am quite certain of it,' said I.

'In the meantime,' said Traddles, coming back to his chair; 'and
this is the end of my prosing about myself, I get on as well as I
can. I don't make much, but I don't spend much. In general, I
board with the people downstairs, who are very agreeable people
indeed. Both Mr. and Mrs. Micawber have seen a good deal of life,
and are excellent company.'

'My dear Traddles!' I quickly exclaimed. 'What are you talking

Traddles looked at me, as if he wondered what I was talking about.

'Mr. and Mrs. Micawber!' I repeated. 'Why, I am intimately
acquainted with them!'

An opportune double knock at the door, which I knew well from old
experience in Windsor Terrace, and which nobody but Mr. Micawber
could ever have knocked at that door, resolved any doubt in my mind
as to their being my old friends. I begged Traddles to ask his
landlord to walk up. Traddles accordingly did so, over the
banister; and Mr. Micawber, not a bit changed - his tights, his
stick, his shirt-collar, and his eye-glass, all the same as ever -
came into the room with a genteel and youthful air.

'I beg your pardon, Mr. Traddles,' said Mr. Micawber, with the old
roll in his voice, as he checked himself in humming a soft tune.
'I was not aware that there was any individual, alien to this
tenement, in your sanctum.'

Mr. Micawber slightly bowed to me, and pulled up his shirt-collar.

'How do you do, Mr. Micawber?' said I.

'Sir,' said Mr. Micawber, 'you are exceedingly obliging. I am in
statu quo.'

'And Mrs. Micawber?' I pursued.

'Sir,' said Mr. Micawber, 'she is also, thank God, in statu quo.'

'And the children, Mr. Micawber?'

'Sir,' said Mr. Micawber, 'I rejoice to reply that they are,
likewise, in the enjoyment of salubrity.'

All this time, Mr. Micawber had not known me in the least, though
he had stood face to face with me. But now, seeing me smile, he
examined my features with more attention, fell back, cried, 'Is it
possible! Have I the pleasure of again beholding Copperfield!' and
shook me by both hands with the utmost fervour.

'Good Heaven, Mr. Traddles!' said Mr. Micawber, 'to think that I
should find you acquainted with the friend of my youth, the
companion of earlier days! My dear!' calling over the banisters to
Mrs. Micawber, while Traddles looked (with reason) not a little
amazed at this description of me. 'Here is a gentleman in Mr.
Traddles's apartment, whom he wishes to have the pleasure of
presenting to you, my love!'

Mr. Micawber immediately reappeared, and shook hands with me again.

'And how is our good friend the Doctor, Copperfield?' said Mr.
Micawber, 'and all the circle at Canterbury?'

'I have none but good accounts of them,' said I.

'I am most delighted to hear it,' said Mr. Micawber. 'It was at
Canterbury where we last met. Within the shadow, I may
figuratively say, of that religious edifice immortalized by
Chaucer, which was anciently the resort of Pilgrims from the
remotest corners of - in short,' said Mr. Micawber, 'in the
immediate neighbourhood of the Cathedral.'

I replied that it was. Mr. Micawber continued talking as volubly
as he could; but not, I thought, without showing, by some marks of
concern in his countenance, that he was sensible of sounds in the
next room, as of Mrs. Micawber washing her hands, and hurriedly
opening and shutting drawers that were uneasy in their action.

'You find us, Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, with one eye on
Traddles, 'at present established, on what may be designated as a
small and unassuming scale; but, you are aware that I have, in the
course of my career, surmounted difficulties, and conquered
obstacles. You are no stranger to the fact, that there have been
periods of my life, when it has been requisite that I should pause,
until certain expected events should turn up; when it has been
necessary that I should fall back, before making what I trust I
shall not be accused of presumption in terming - a spring. The
present is one of those momentous stages in the life of man. You
find me, fallen back, FOR a spring; and I have every reason to
believe that a vigorous leap will shortly be the result.'

I was expressing my satisfaction, when Mrs. Micawber came in; a
little more slatternly than she used to be, or so she seemed now,
to my unaccustomed eyes, but still with some preparation of herself
for company, and with a pair of brown gloves on.

'My dear,' said Mr. Micawber, leading her towards me, 'here is a
gentleman of the name of Copperfield, who wishes to renew his
acquaintance with you.'

It would have been better, as it turned out, to have led gently up
to this announcement, for Mrs. Micawber, being in a delicate state
of health, was overcome by it, and was taken so unwell, that Mr.
Micawber was obliged, in great trepidation, to run down to the
water-butt in the backyard, and draw a basinful to lave her brow
with. She presently revived, however, and was really pleased to
see me. We had half-an-hour's talk, all together; and I asked her
about the twins, who, she said, were 'grown great creatures'; and
after Master and Miss Micawber, whom she described as 'absolute
giants', but they were not produced on that occasion.

Mr. Micawber was very anxious that I should stay to dinner. I
should not have been averse to do so, but that I imagined I
detected trouble, and calculation relative to the extent of the
cold meat, in Mrs. Micawber's eye. I therefore pleaded another
engagement; and observing that Mrs. Micawber's spirits were
immediately lightened, I resisted all persuasion to forego it.

But I told Traddles, and Mr. and Mrs. Micawber, that before I could
think of leaving, they must appoint a day when they would come and
dine with me. The occupations to which Traddles stood pledged,
rendered it necessary to fix a somewhat distant one; but an
appointment was made for the purpose, that suited us all, and then
I took my leave.

Mr. Micawber, under pretence of showing me a nearer way than that
by which I had come, accompanied me to the corner of the street;
being anxious (he explained to me) to say a few words to an old
friend, in confidence.

'My dear Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, 'I need hardly tell you
that to have beneath our roof, under existing circumstances, a mind
like that which gleams - if I may be allowed the expression - which
gleams - in your friend Traddles, is an unspeakable comfort. With
a washerwoman, who exposes hard-bake for sale in her
parlour-window, dwelling next door, and a Bow-street officer
residing over the way, you may imagine that his society is a source
of consolation to myself and to Mrs. Micawber. I am at present, my
dear Copperfield, engaged in the sale of corn upon commission. It
is not an avocation of a remunerative description - in other words,
it does not pay - and some temporary embarrassments of a pecuniary
nature have been the consequence. I am, however, delighted to add
that I have now an immediate prospect of something turning up (I am
not at liberty to say in what direction), which I trust will enable
me to provide, permanently, both for myself and for your friend
Traddles, in whom I have an unaffected interest. You may, perhaps,
be prepared to hear that Mrs. Micawber is in a state of health
which renders it not wholly improbable that an addition may be
ultimately made to those pledges of affection which - in short, to
the infantine group. Mrs. Micawber's family have been so good as
to express their dissatisfaction at this state of things. I have
merely to observe, that I am not aware that it is any business of
theirs, and that I repel that exhibition of feeling with scorn, and
with defiance!'

Mr. Micawber then shook hands with me again, and left me.

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