The Complete Works of



Charles Dickens > David Copperfield > Chapter 33

David Copperfield

Chapter 33


All this time, I had gone on loving Dora, harder than ever. Her
idea was my refuge in disappointment and distress, and made some
amends to me, even for the loss of my friend. The more I pitied
myself, or pitied others, the more I sought for consolation in the
image of Dora. The greater the accumulation of deceit and trouble
in the world, the brighter and the purer shone the star of Dora
high above the world. I don't think I had any definite idea where
Dora came from, or in what degree she was related to a higher order
of beings; but I am quite sure I should have scouted the notion of
her being simply human, like any other young lady, with indignation
and contempt.

If I may so express it, I was steeped in Dora. I was not merely
over head and ears in love with her, but I was saturated through
and through. Enough love might have been wrung out of me,
metaphorically speaking, to drown anybody in; and yet there would
have remained enough within me, and all over me, to pervade my
entire existence.

The first thing I did, on my own account, when I came back, was to
take a night-walk to Norwood, and, like the subject of a venerable
riddle of my childhood, to go 'round and round the house, without
ever touching the house', thinking about Dora. I believe the theme
of this incomprehensible conundrum was the moon. No matter what it
was, I, the moon-struck slave of Dora, perambulated round and round
the house and garden for two hours, looking through crevices in the
palings, getting my chin by dint of violent exertion above the
rusty nails on the top, blowing kisses at the lights in the
windows, and romantically calling on the night, at intervals, to
shield my Dora - I don't exactly know what from, I suppose from
fire. Perhaps from mice, to which she had a great objection.

My love was so much in my mind and it was so natural to me to
confide in Peggotty, when I found her again by my side of an
evening with the old set of industrial implements, busily making
the tour of my wardrobe, that I imparted to her, in a sufficiently
roundabout way, my great secret. Peggotty was strongly interested,
but I could not get her into my view of the case at all. She was
audaciously prejudiced in my favour, and quite unable to understand
why I should have any misgivings, or be low-spirited about it.
'The young lady might think herself well off,' she observed, 'to
have such a beau. And as to her Pa,' she said, 'what did the
gentleman expect, for gracious sake!'

I observed, however, that Mr. Spenlow's proctorial gown and stiff
cravat took Peggotty down a little, and inspired her with a greater
reverence for the man who was gradually becoming more and more
etherealized in my eyes every day, and about whom a reflected
radiance seemed to me to beam when he sat erect in Court among his
papers, like a little lighthouse in a sea of stationery. And by
the by, it used to be uncommonly strange to me to consider, I
remember, as I sat in Court too, how those dim old judges and
doctors wouldn't have cared for Dora, if they had known her; how
they wouldn't have gone out of their senses with rapture, if
marriage with Dora had been proposed to them; how Dora might have
sung, and played upon that glorified guitar, until she led me to
the verge of madness, yet not have tempted one of those slow-goers
an inch out of his road!

I despised them, to a man. Frozen-out old gardeners in the
flower-beds of the heart, I took a personal offence against them
all. The Bench was nothing to me but an insensible blunderer. The
Bar had no more tenderness or poetry in it, than the bar of a

Taking the management of Peggotty's affairs into my own hands, with
no little pride, I proved the will, and came to a settlement with
the Legacy Duty-office, and took her to the Bank, and soon got
everything into an orderly train. We varied the legal character of
these proceedings by going to see some perspiring Wax-work, in
Fleet Street (melted, I should hope, these twenty years); and by
visiting Miss Linwood's Exhibition, which I remember as a Mausoleum
of needlework, favourable to self-examination and repentance; and
by inspecting the Tower of London; and going to the top of St.
Paul's. All these wonders afforded Peggotty as much pleasure as
she was able to enjoy, under existing circumstances: except, I
think, St. Paul's, which, from her long attachment to her work-box,
became a rival of the picture on the lid, and was, in some
particulars, vanquished, she considered, by that work of art.

Peggotty's business, which was what we used to call 'common-form
business' in the Commons (and very light and lucrative the
common-form business was), being settled, I took her down to the
office one morning to pay her bill. Mr. Spenlow had stepped out,
old Tiffey said, to get a gentleman sworn for a marriage licence;
but as I knew he would be back directly, our place lying close to
the Surrogate's, and to the Vicar-General's office too, I told
Peggotty to wait.

We were a little like undertakers, in the Commons, as regarded
Probate transactions; generally making it a rule to look more or
less cut up, when we had to deal with clients in mourning. In a
similar feeling of delicacy, we were always blithe and
light-hearted with the licence clients. Therefore I hinted to
Peggotty that she would find Mr. Spenlow much recovered from the
shock of Mr. Barkis's decease; and indeed he came in like a

But neither Peggotty nor I had eyes for him, when we saw, in
company with him, Mr. Murdstone. He was very little changed. His
hair looked as thick, and was certainly as black, as ever; and his
glance was as little to be trusted as of old.

'Ah, Copperfield?' said Mr. Spenlow. 'You know this gentleman, I

I made my gentleman a distant bow, and Peggotty barely recognized
him. He was, at first, somewhat disconcerted to meet us two
together; but quickly decided what to do, and came up to me.

'I hope,' he said, 'that you are doing well?'

'It can hardly be interesting to you,' said I. 'Yes, if you wish
to know.'

We looked at each other, and he addressed himself to Peggotty.

'And you,' said he. 'I am sorry to observe that you have lost your

'It's not the first loss I have had in my life, Mr. Murdstone,'
replied Peggotty, trembling from head to foot. 'I am glad to hope
that there is nobody to blame for this one, - nobody to answer for

'Ha!' said he; 'that's a comfortable reflection. You have done
your duty?'

'I have not worn anybody's life away,' said Peggotty, 'I am
thankful to think! No, Mr. Murdstone, I have not worrited and
frightened any sweet creetur to an early grave!'

He eyed her gloomily - remorsefully I thought - for an instant; and
said, turning his head towards me, but looking at my feet instead
of my face:

'We are not likely to encounter soon again; - a source of
satisfaction to us both, no doubt, for such meetings as this can
never be agreeable. I do not expect that you, who always rebelled
against my just authority, exerted for your benefit and
reformation, should owe me any good-will now. There is an
antipathy between us -'

'An old one, I believe?' said I, interrupting him.

He smiled, and shot as evil a glance at me as could come from his
dark eyes.

'It rankled in your baby breast,' he said. 'It embittered the life
of your poor mother. You are right. I hope you may do better,
yet; I hope you may correct yourself.'

Here he ended the dialogue, which had been carried on in a low
voice, in a corner of the outer office, by passing into Mr.
Spenlow's room, and saying aloud, in his smoothest manner:

'Gentlemen of Mr. Spenlow's profession are accustomed to family
differences, and know how complicated and difficult they always
are!' With that, he paid the money for his licence; and, receiving
it neatly folded from Mr. Spenlow, together with a shake of the
hand, and a polite wish for his happiness and the lady's, went out
of the office.

I might have had more difficulty in constraining myself to be
silent under his words, if I had had less difficulty in impressing
upon Peggotty (who was only angry on my account, good creature!)
that we were not in a place for recrimination, and that I besought
her to hold her peace. She was so unusually roused, that I was
glad to compound for an affectionate hug, elicited by this revival
in her mind of our old injuries, and to make the best I could of
it, before Mr. Spenlow and the clerks.

Mr. Spenlow did not appear to know what the connexion between Mr.
Murdstone and myself was; which I was glad of, for I could not bear
to acknowledge him, even in my own breast, remembering what I did
of the history of my poor mother. Mr. Spenlow seemed to think, if
he thought anything about the matter, that my aunt was the leader
of the state party in our family, and that there was a rebel party
commanded by somebody else - so I gathered at least from what he
said, while we were waiting for Mr. Tiffey to make out Peggotty's
bill of costs.

'Miss Trotwood,' he remarked, 'is very firm, no doubt, and not
likely to give way to opposition. I have an admiration for her
character, and I may congratulate you, Copperfield, on being on the
right side. Differences between relations are much to be deplored
- but they are extremely general - and the great thing is, to be on
the right side': meaning, I take it, on the side of the moneyed

'Rather a good marriage this, I believe?' said Mr. Spenlow.

I explained that I knew nothing about it.

'Indeed!' he said. 'Speaking from the few words Mr. Murdstone
dropped - as a man frequently does on these occasions - and from
what Miss Murdstone let fall, I should say it was rather a good

'Do you mean that there is money, sir?' I asked.

'Yes,' said Mr. Spenlow, 'I understand there's money. Beauty too,
I am told.'

'Indeed! Is his new wife young?'

'Just of age,' said Mr. Spenlow. 'So lately, that I should think
they had been waiting for that.'

'Lord deliver her!' said Peggotty. So very emphatically and
unexpectedly, that we were all three discomposed; until Tiffey came
in with the bill.

Old Tiffey soon appeared, however, and handed it to Mr. Spenlow, to
look over. Mr. Spenlow, settling his chin in his cravat and
rubbing it softly, went over the items with a deprecatory air - as
if it were all Jorkins's doing - and handed it back to Tiffey with
a bland sigh.

'Yes,' he said. 'That's right. Quite right. I should have been
extremely happy, Copperfield, to have limited these charges to the
actual expenditure out of pocket, but it is an irksome incident in
my professional life, that I am not at liberty to consult my own
wishes. I have a partner - Mr. Jorkins.'

As he said this with a gentle melancholy, which was the next thing
to making no charge at all, I expressed my acknowledgements on
Peggotty's behalf, and paid Tiffey in banknotes. Peggotty then
retired to her lodging, and Mr. Spenlow and I went into Court,
where we had a divorce-suit coming on, under an ingenious little
statute (repealed now, I believe, but in virtue of which I have
seen several marriages annulled), of which the merits were these.
The husband, whose name was Thomas Benjamin, had taken out his
marriage licence as Thomas only; suppressing the Benjamin, in case
he should not find himself as comfortable as he expected. NOT
finding himself as comfortable as he expected, or being a little
fatigued with his wife, poor fellow, he now came forward, by a
friend, after being married a year or two, and declared that his
name was Thomas Benjamin, and therefore he was not married at all.
Which the Court confirmed, to his great satisfaction.

I must say that I had my doubts about the strict justice of this,
and was not even frightened out of them by the bushel of wheat
which reconciles all anomalies. But Mr. Spenlow argued the matter
with me. He said, Look at the world, there was good and evil in
that; look at the ecclesiastical law, there was good and evil in
THAT. It was all part of a system. Very good. There you were!

I had not the hardihood to suggest to Dora's father that possibly
we might even improve the world a little, if we got up early in the
morning, and took off our coats to the work; but I confessed that
I thought we might improve the Commons. Mr. Spenlow replied that
he would particularly advise me to dismiss that idea from my mind,
as not being worthy of my gentlemanly character; but that he would
be glad to hear from me of what improvement I thought the Commons

Taking that part of the Commons which happened to be nearest to us
- for our man was unmarried by this time, and we were out of Court,
and strolling past the Prerogative Office - I submitted that I
thought the Prerogative Office rather a queerly managed
institution. Mr. Spenlow inquired in what respect? I replied,
with all due deference to his experience (but with more deference,
I am afraid, to his being Dora's father), that perhaps it was a
little nonsensical that the Registry of that Court, containing the
original wills of all persons leaving effects within the immense
province of Canterbury, for three whole centuries, should be an
accidental building, never designed for the purpose, leased by the
registrars for their Own private emolument, unsafe, not even
ascertained to be fire-proof, choked with the important documents
it held, and positively, from the roof to the basement, a mercenary
speculation of the registrars, who took great fees from the public,
and crammed the public's wills away anyhow and anywhere, having no
other object than to get rid of them cheaply. That, perhaps, it
was a little unreasonable that these registrars in the receipt of
profits amounting to eight or nine thousand pounds a year (to say
nothing of the profits of the deputy registrars, and clerks of
seats), should not be obliged to spend a little of that money, in
finding a reasonably safe place for the important documents which
all classes of people were compelled to hand over to them, whether
they would or no. That, perhaps, it was a little unjust, that all
the great offices in this great office should be magnificent
sinecures, while the unfortunate working-clerks in the cold dark
room upstairs were the worst rewarded, and the least considered
men, doing important services, in London. That perhaps it was a
little indecent that the principal registrar of all, whose duty it
was to find the public, constantly resorting to this place, all
needful accommodation, should be an enormous sinecurist in virtue
of that post (and might be, besides, a clergyman, a pluralist, the
holder of a staff in a cathedral, and what not), - while the public
was put to the inconvenience of which we had a specimen every
afternoon when the office was busy, and which we knew to be quite
monstrous. That, perhaps, in short, this Prerogative Office of the
diocese of Canterbury was altogether such a pestilent job, and such
a pernicious absurdity, that but for its being squeezed away in a
corner of St. Paul's Churchyard, which few people knew, it must
have been turned completely inside out, and upside down, long ago.

Mr. Spenlow smiled as I became modestly warm on the subject, and
then argued this question with me as he had argued the other. He
said, what was it after all? It was a question of feeling. If the
public felt that their wills were in safe keeping, and took it for
granted that the office was not to be made better, who was the
worse for it? Nobody. Who was the better for it? All the
Sinecurists. Very well. Then the good predominated. It might not
be a perfect system; nothing was perfect; but what he objected to,
was, the insertion of the wedge. Under the Prerogative Office, the
country had been glorious. Insert the wedge into the Prerogative
Office, and the country would cease to be glorious. He considered
it the principle of a gentleman to take things as he found them;
and he had no doubt the Prerogative Office would last our time. I
deferred to his opinion, though I had great doubts of it myself.
I find he was right, however; for it has not only lasted to the
present moment, but has done so in the teeth of a great
parliamentary report made (not too willingly) eighteen years ago,
when all these objections of mine were set forth in detail, and
when the existing stowage for wills was described as equal to the
accumulation of only two years and a half more. What they have
done with them since; whether they have lost many, or whether they
sell any, now and then, to the butter shops; I don't know. I am
glad mine is not there, and I hope it may not go there, yet awhile.

I have set all this down, in my present blissful chapter, because
here it comes into its natural place. Mr. Spenlow and I falling
into this conversation, prolonged it and our saunter to and fro,
until we diverged into general topics. And so it came about, in
the end, that Mr. Spenlow told me this day week was Dora's
birthday, and he would be glad if I would come down and join a
little picnic on the occasion. I went out of my senses
immediately; became a mere driveller next day, on receipt of a
little lace-edged sheet of note-paper, 'Favoured by papa. To
remind'; and passed the intervening period in a state of dotage.

I think I committed every possible absurdity in the way of
preparation for this blessed event. I turn hot when I remember the
cravat I bought. My boots might be placed in any collection of
instruments of torture. I provided, and sent down by the Norwood
coach the night before, a delicate little hamper, amounting in
itself, I thought, almost to a declaration. There were crackers in
it with the tenderest mottoes that could be got for money. At six
in the morning, I was in Covent Garden Market, buying a bouquet for
Dora. At ten I was on horseback (I hired a gallant grey, for the
occasion), with the bouquet in my hat, to keep it fresh, trotting
down to Norwood.

I suppose that when I saw Dora in the garden and pretended not to
see her, and rode past the house pretending to be anxiously looking
for it, I committed two small fooleries which other young gentlemen
in my circumstances might have committed - because they came so
very natural to me. But oh! when I DID find the house, and DID
dismount at the garden-gate, and drag those stony-hearted boots
across the lawn to Dora sitting on a garden-seat under a lilac
tree, what a spectacle she was, upon that beautiful morning, among
the butterflies, in a white chip bonnet and a dress of celestial
blue! There was a young lady with her - comparatively stricken in
years - almost twenty, I should say. Her name was Miss Mills. and
Dora called her Julia. She was the bosom friend of Dora. Happy
Miss Mills!

Jip was there, and Jip WOULD bark at me again. When I presented my
bouquet, he gnashed his teeth with jealousy. Well he might. If he
had the least idea how I adored his mistress, well he might!

'Oh, thank you, Mr. Copperfield! What dear flowers!' said Dora.

I had had an intention of saying (and had been studying the best
form of words for three miles) that I thought them beautiful before
I saw them so near HER. But I couldn't manage it. She was too
bewildering. To see her lay the flowers against her little dimpled
chin, was to lose all presence of mind and power of language in a
feeble ecstasy. I wonder I didn't say, 'Kill me, if you have a
heart, Miss Mills. Let me die here!'

Then Dora held my flowers to Jip to smell. Then Jip growled, and
wouldn't smell them. Then Dora laughed, and held them a little
closer to Jip, to make him. Then Jip laid hold of a bit of
geranium with his teeth, and worried imaginary cats in it. Then
Dora beat him, and pouted, and said, 'My poor beautiful flowers!'
as compassionately, I thought, as if Jip had laid hold of me. I
wished he had!

'You'll be so glad to hear, Mr. Copperfield,' said Dora, 'that that
cross Miss Murdstone is not here. She has gone to her brother's
marriage, and will be away at least three weeks. Isn't that

I said I was sure it must be delightful to her, and all that was
delightful to her was delightful to me. Miss Mills, with an air of
superior wisdom and benevolence, smiled upon us.

'She is the most disagreeable thing I ever saw,' said Dora. 'You
can't believe how ill-tempered and shocking she is, Julia.'

'Yes, I can, my dear!' said Julia.

'YOU can, perhaps, love,' returned Dora, with her hand on julia's.
'Forgive my not excepting you, my dear, at first.'

I learnt, from this, that Miss Mills had had her trials in the
course of a chequered existence; and that to these, perhaps, I
might refer that wise benignity of manner which I had already
noticed. i found, in the course of the day, that this was the
case: Miss Mills having been unhappy in a misplaced affection, and
being understood to have retired from the world on her awful stock
of experience, but still to take a calm interest in the unblighted
hopes and loves of youth.

But now Mr. Spenlow came out of the house, and Dora went to him,
saying, 'Look, papa, what beautiful flowers!' And Miss Mills smiled
thoughtfully, as who should say, 'Ye Mayflies, enjoy your brief
existence in the bright morning of life!' And we all walked from
the lawn towards the carriage, which was getting ready.

I shall never have such a ride again. I have never had such
another. There were only those three, their hamper, my hamper, and
the guitar-case, in the phaeton; and, of course, the phaeton was
open; and I rode behind it, and Dora sat with her back to the
horses, looking towards me. She kept the bouquet close to her on
the cushion, and wouldn't allow Jip to sit on that side of her at
all, for fear he should crush it. She often carried it in her
hand, often refreshed herself with its fragrance. Our eyes at
those times often met; and my great astonishment is that I didn't
go over the head of my gallant grey into the carriage.

There was dust, I believe. There was a good deal of dust, I
believe. I have a faint impression that Mr. Spenlow remonstrated
with me for riding in it; but I knew of none. I was sensible of a
mist of love and beauty about Dora, but of nothing else. He stood
up sometimes, and asked me what I thought of the prospect. I said
it was delightful, and I dare say it was; but it was all Dora to
me. The sun shone Dora, and the birds sang Dora. The south wind
blew Dora, and the wild flowers in the hedges were all Doras, to a
bud. My comfort is, Miss Mills understood me. Miss Mills alone
could enter into my feelings thoroughly.

I don't know how long we were going, and to this hour I know as
little where we went. Perhaps it was near Guildford. Perhaps some
Arabian-night magician, opened up the place for the day, and shut
it up for ever when we came away. It was a green spot, on a hill,
carpeted with soft turf. There were shady trees, and heather, and,
as far as the eye could see, a rich landscape.

It was a trying thing to find people here, waiting for us; and my
jealousy, even of the ladies, knew no bounds. But all of my own
sex - especially one impostor, three or four years my elder, with
a red whisker, on which he established an amount of presumption not
to be endured - were my mortal foes.

We all unpacked our baskets, and employed ourselves in getting
dinner ready. Red Whisker pretended he could make a salad (which
I don't believe), and obtruded himself on public notice. Some of
the young ladies washed the lettuces for him, and sliced them under
his directions. Dora was among these. I felt that fate had pitted
me against this man, and one of us must fall.

Red Whisker made his salad (I wondered how they could eat it.
Nothing should have induced ME to touch it!) and voted himself into
the charge of the wine-cellar, which he constructed, being an
ingenious beast, in the hollow trunk of a tree. By and by, I saw
him, with the majority of a lobster on his plate, eating his dinner
at the feet of Dora!

I have but an indistinct idea of what happened for some time after
this baleful object presented itself to my view. I was very merry,
I know; but it was hollow merriment. I attached myself to a young
creature in pink, with little eyes, and flirted with her
desperately. She received my attentions with favour; but whether
on my account solely, or because she had any designs on Red
Whisker, I can't say. Dora's health was drunk. When I drank it,
I affected to interrupt my conversation for that purpose, and to
resume it immediately afterwards. I caught Dora's eye as I bowed
to her, and I thought it looked appealing. But it looked at me
over the head of Red Whisker, and I was adamant.

The young creature in pink had a mother in green; and I rather
think the latter separated us from motives of policy. Howbeit,
there was a general breaking up of the party, while the remnants of
the dinner were being put away; and I strolled off by myself among
the trees, in a raging and remorseful state. I was debating
whether I should pretend that I was not well, and fly - I don't
know where - upon my gallant grey, when Dora and Miss Mills met me.

'Mr. Copperfield,' said Miss Mills, 'you are dull.'

I begged her pardon. Not at all.

'And Dora,' said Miss Mills, 'YOU are dull.'

Oh dear no! Not in the least.

'Mr. Copperfield and Dora,' said Miss Mills, with an almost
venerable air. 'Enough of this. Do not allow a trivial
misunderstanding to wither the blossoms of spring, which, once put
forth and blighted, cannot be renewed. I speak,' said Miss Mills,
'from experience of the past - the remote, irrevocable past. The
gushing fountains which sparkle in the sun, must not be stopped in
mere caprice; the oasis in the desert of Sahara must not be plucked
up idly.'

I hardly knew what I did, I was burning all over to that
extraordinary extent; but I took Dora's little hand and kissed it
- and she let me! I kissed Miss Mills's hand; and we all seemed,
to my thinking, to go straight up to the seventh heaven.
We did not come down again. We stayed up there all the evening.
At first we strayed to and fro among the trees: I with Dora's shy
arm drawn through mine: and Heaven knows, folly as it all was, it
would have been a happy fate to have been struck immortal with
those foolish feelings, and have stayed among the trees for ever!

But, much too soon, we heard the others laughing and talking, and
calling 'where's Dora?' So we went back, and they wanted Dora to
sing. Red Whisker would have got the guitar-case out of the
carriage, but Dora told him nobody knew where it was, but I. So
Red Whisker was done for in a moment; and I got it, and I unlocked
it, and I took the guitar out, and I sat by her, and I held her
handkerchief and gloves, and I drank in every note of her dear
voice, and she sang to ME who loved her, and all the others might
applaud as much as they liked, but they had nothing to do with it!

I was intoxicated with joy. I was afraid it was too happy to be
real, and that I should wake in Buckingham Street presently, and
hear Mrs. Crupp clinking the teacups in getting breakfast ready.
But Dora sang, and others sang, and Miss Mills sang - about the
slumbering echoes in the caverns of Memory; as if she were a
hundred years old - and the evening came on; and we had tea, with
the kettle boiling gipsy-fashion; and I was still as happy as ever.

I was happier than ever when the party broke up, and the other
people, defeated Red Whisker and all, went their several ways, and
we went ours through the still evening and the dying light, with
sweet scents rising up around us. Mr. Spenlow being a little
drowsy after the champagne - honour to the soil that grew the
grape, to the grape that made the wine, to the sun that ripened it,
and to the merchant who adulterated it! - and being fast asleep in
a corner of the carriage, I rode by the side and talked to Dora.
She admired my horse and patted him - oh, what a dear little hand
it looked upon a horse! - and her shawl would not keep right, and
now and then I drew it round her with my arm; and I even fancied
that Jip began to see how it was, and to understand that he must
make up his mind to be friends with me.

That sagacious Miss Mills, too; that amiable, though quite used up,
recluse; that little patriarch of something less than twenty, who
had done with the world, and mustn't on any account have the
slumbering echoes in the caverns of Memory awakened; what a kind
thing she did!

'Mr. Copperfield,' said Miss Mills, 'come to this side of the
carriage a moment - if you can spare a moment. I want to speak to

Behold me, on my gallant grey, bending at the side of Miss Mills,
with my hand upon the carriage door!

'Dora is coming to stay with me. She is coming home with me the
day after tomorrow. If you would like to call, I am sure papa
would be happy to see you.'
What could I do but invoke a silent blessing on Miss Mills's head,
and store Miss Mills's address in the securest corner of my memory!
What could I do but tell Miss Mills, with grateful looks and
fervent words, how much I appreciated her good offices, and what an
inestimable value I set upon her friendship!

Then Miss Mills benignantly dismissed me, saying, 'Go back to
Dora!' and I went; and Dora leaned out of the carriage to talk to
me, and we talked all the rest of the way; and I rode my gallant
grey so close to the wheel that I grazed his near fore leg against
it, and 'took the bark off', as his owner told me, 'to the tune of
three pun' sivin' - which I paid, and thought extremely cheap for
so much joy. What time Miss Mills sat looking at the moon,
murmuring verses- and recalling, I suppose, the ancient days when
she and earth had anything in common.

Norwood was many miles too near, and we reached it many hours too
soon; but Mr. Spenlow came to himself a little short of it, and
said, 'You must come in, Copperfield, and rest!' and I consenting,
we had sandwiches and wine-and-water. In the light room, Dora
blushing looked so lovely, that I could not tear myself away, but
sat there staring, in a dream, until the snoring of Mr. Spenlow
inspired me with sufficient consciousness to take my leave. So we
parted; I riding all the way to London with the farewell touch of
Dora's hand still light on mine, recalling every incident and word
ten thousand times; lying down in my own bed at last, as enraptured
a young noodle as ever was carried out of his five wits by love.

When I awoke next morning, I was resolute to declare my passion to
Dora, and know my fate. Happiness or misery was now the question.
There was no other question that I knew of in the world, and only
Dora could give the answer to it. I passed three days in a luxury
of wretchedness, torturing myself by putting every conceivable
variety of discouraging construction on all that ever had taken
place between Dora and me. At last, arrayed for the purpose at a
vast expense, I went to Miss Mills's, fraught with a declaration.

How many times I went up and down the street, and round the square
- painfully aware of being a much better answer to the old riddle
than the original one - before I could persuade myself to go up the
steps and knock, is no matter now. Even when, at last, I had
knocked, and was waiting at the door, I had some flurried thought
of asking if that were Mr. Blackboy's (in imitation of poor
Barkis), begging pardon, and retreating. But I kept my ground.

Mr. Mills was not at home. I did not expect he would be. Nobody
wanted HIM. Miss Mills was at home. Miss Mills would do.

I was shown into a room upstairs, where Miss Mills and Dora were.
Jip was there. Miss Mills was copying music (I recollect, it was
a new song, called 'Affection's Dirge'), and Dora was painting
flowers. What were my feelings, when I recognized my own flowers;
the identical Covent Garden Market purchase! I cannot say that
they were very like, or that they particularly resembled any
flowers that have ever come under my observation; but I knew from
the paper round them which was accurately copied, what the
composition was.

Miss Mills was very glad to see me, and very sorry her papa was not
at home: though I thought we all bore that with fortitude. Miss
Mills was conversational for a few minutes, and then, laying down
her pen upon 'Affection's Dirge', got up, and left the room.

I began to think I would put it off till tomorrow.

'I hope your poor horse was not tired, when he got home at night,'
said Dora, lifting up her beautiful eyes. 'It was a long way for

I began to think I would do it today.

'It was a long way for him,' said I, 'for he had nothing to uphold
him on the journey.'

'Wasn't he fed, poor thing?' asked Dora.

I began to think I would put it off till tomorrow.

'Ye-yes,' I said, 'he was well taken care of. I mean he had not
the unutterable happiness that I had in being so near you.'

Dora bent her head over her drawing and said, after a little while
- I had sat, in the interval, in a burning fever, and with my legs
in a very rigid state -

'You didn't seem to be sensible of that happiness yourself, at one
time of the day.'

I saw now that I was in for it, and it must be done on the spot.

'You didn't care for that happiness in the least,' said Dora,
slightly raising her eyebrows, and shaking her head, 'when you were
sitting by Miss Kitt.'

Kitt, I should observe, was the name of the creature in pink, with
the little eyes.

'Though certainly I don't know why you should,' said Dora, or why
you should call it a happiness at all. But of course you don't
mean what you say. And I am sure no one doubts your being at
liberty to do whatever you like. Jip, you naughty boy, come here!'

I don't know how I did it. I did it in a moment. I intercepted
Jip. I had Dora in my arms. I was full of eloquence. I never
stopped for a word. I told her how I loved her. I told her I
should die without her. I told her that I idolized and worshipped
her. Jip barked madly all the time.

When Dora hung her head and cried, and trembled, my eloquence
increased so much the more. If she would like me to die for her,
she had but to say the word, and I was ready. Life without Dora's
love was not a thing to have on any terms. I couldn't bear it, and
I wouldn't. I had loved her every minute, day and night, since I
first saw her. I loved her at that minute to distraction. I
should always love her, every minute, to distraction. Lovers had
loved before, and lovers would love again; but no lover had loved,
might, could, would, or should ever love, as I loved Dora. The
more I raved, the more Jip barked. Each of us, in his own way, got
more mad every moment.

Well, well! Dora and I were sitting on the sofa by and by, quiet
enough, and Jip was lying in her lap, winking peacefully at me. It
was off my mind. I was in a state of perfect rapture. Dora and I
were engaged.

I suppose we had some notion that this was to end in marriage. We
must have had some, because Dora stipulated that we were never to
be married without her papa's consent. But, in our youthful
ecstasy, I don't think that we really looked before us or behind
us; or had any aspiration beyond the ignorant present. We were to
keep our secret from Mr. Spenlow; but I am sure the idea never
entered my head, then, that there was anything dishonourable in

Miss Mills was more than usually pensive when Dora, going to find
her, brought her back; - I apprehend, because there was a tendency
in what had passed to awaken the slumbering echoes in the caverns
of Memory. But she gave us her blessing, and the assurance of her
lasting friendship, and spoke to us, generally, as became a Voice
from the Cloister.

What an idle time it was! What an insubstantial, happy, foolish
time it was!

When I measured Dora's finger for a ring that was to be made of
Forget-me-nots, and when the jeweller, to whom I took the measure,
found me out, and laughed over his order-book, and charged me
anything he liked for the pretty little toy, with its blue stones
- so associated in my remembrance with Dora's hand, that yesterday,
when I saw such another, by chance, on the finger of my own
daughter, there was a momentary stirring in my heart, like pain!

When I walked about, exalted with my secret, and full of my own
interest, and felt the dignity of loving Dora, and of being
beloved, so much, that if I had walked the air, I could not have
been more above the people not so situated, who were creeping on
the earth!

When we had those meetings in the garden of the square, and sat
within the dingy summer-house, so happy, that I love the London
sparrows to this hour, for nothing else, and see the plumage of the
tropics in their smoky feathers!
When we had our first great quarrel (within a week of our
betrothal), and when Dora sent me back the ring, enclosed in a
despairing cocked-hat note, wherein she used the terrible
expression that 'our love had begun in folly, and ended in
madness!' which dreadful words occasioned me to tear my hair, and
cry that all was over!

When, under cover of the night, I flew to Miss Mills, whom I saw by
stealth in a back kitchen where there was a mangle, and implored
Miss Mills to interpose between us and avert insanity. When Miss
Mills undertook the office and returned with Dora, exhorting us,
from the pulpit of her own bitter youth, to mutual concession, and
the avoidance of the Desert of Sahara!

When we cried, and made it up, and were so blest again, that the
back kitchen, mangle and all, changed to Love's own temple, where
we arranged a plan of correspondence through Miss Mills, always to
comprehend at least one letter on each side every day!

What an idle time! What an insubstantial, happy, foolish time! Of
all the times of mine that Time has in his grip, there is none that
in one retrospect I can smile at half so much, and think of half so

< Back
Forward >

Index Index

Other Authors Other Authors

Charles Dickens. Copyright © 2022,
Contact the webmaster
Disclaimer here. Privacy Policy here.