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Charles Dickens > David Copperfield > Chapter 44

David Copperfield

Chapter 44


It was a strange condition of things, the honeymoon being over, and
the bridesmaids gone home, when I found myself sitting down in my
own small house with Dora; quite thrown out of employment, as I may
say, in respect of the delicious old occupation of making love.

It seemed such an extraordinary thing to have Dora always there.
It was so unaccountable not to be obliged to go out to see her, not
to have any occasion to be tormenting myself about her, not to have
to write to her, not to be scheming and devising opportunities of
being alone with her. Sometimes of an evening, when I looked up
from my writing, and saw her seated opposite, I would lean back in
my chair, and think how queer it was that there we were, alone
together as a matter of course - nobody's business any more - all
the romance of our engagement put away upon a shelf, to rust - no
one to please but one another - one another to please, for life.

When there was a debate, and I was kept out very late, it seemed so
strange to me, as I was walking home, to think that Dora was at
home! It was such a wonderful thing, at first, to have her coming
softly down to talk to me as I ate my supper. It was such a
stupendous thing to know for certain that she put her hair in
papers. It was altogether such an astonishing event to see her do

I doubt whether two young birds could have known less about keeping
house, than I and my pretty Dora did. We had a servant, of course.
She kept house for us. I have still a latent belief that she must
have been Mrs. Crupp's daughter in disguise, we had such an awful
time of it with Mary Anne.

Her name was Paragon. Her nature was represented to us, when we
engaged her, as being feebly expressed in her name. She had a
written character, as large as a proclamation; and, according to
this document, could do everything of a domestic nature that ever
I heard of, and a great many things that I never did hear of. She
was a woman in the prime of life; of a severe countenance; and
subject (particularly in the arms) to a sort of perpetual measles
or fiery rash. She had a cousin in the Life-Guards, with such long
legs that he looked like the afternoon shadow of somebody else.
His shell-jacket was as much too little for him as he was too big
for the premises. He made the cottage smaller than it need have
been, by being so very much out of proportion to it. Besides
which, the walls were not thick, and, whenever he passed the
evening at our house, we always knew of it by hearing one continual
growl in the kitchen.

Our treasure was warranted sober and honest. I am therefore
willing to believe that she was in a fit when we found her under
the boiler; and that the deficient tea-spoons were attributable to
the dustman.

But she preyed upon our minds dreadfully. We felt our
inexperience, and were unable to help ourselves. We should have
been at her mercy, if she had had any; but she was a remorseless
woman, and had none. She was the cause of our first little

'My dearest life,' I said one day to Dora, 'do you think Mary Anne
has any idea of time?'

'Why, Doady?' inquired Dora, looking up, innocently, from her

'My love, because it's five, and we were to have dined at four.'

Dora glanced wistfully at the clock, and hinted that she thought it
was too fast.

'On the contrary, my love,' said I, referring to my watch, 'it's a
few minutes too slow.'

My little wife came and sat upon my knee, to coax me to be quiet,
and drew a line with her pencil down the middle of my nose; but I
couldn't dine off that, though it was very agreeable.

'Don't you think, my dear,' said I, 'it would be better for you to
remonstrate with Mary Anne?'

'Oh no, please! I couldn't, Doady!' said Dora.

'Why not, my love?' I gently asked.

'Oh, because I am such a little goose,' said Dora, 'and she knows
I am!'

I thought this sentiment so incompatible with the establishment of
any system of check on Mary Anne, that I frowned a little.

'Oh, what ugly wrinkles in my bad boy's forehead!' said Dora, and
still being on my knee, she traced them with her pencil; putting it
to her rosy lips to make it mark blacker, and working at my
forehead with a quaint little mockery of being industrious, that
quite delighted me in spite of myself.

'There's a good child,' said Dora, 'it makes its face so much
prettier to laugh.'
'But, my love,' said I.

'No, no! please!' cried Dora, with a kiss, 'don't be a naughty Blue
Beard! Don't be serious!'

'my precious wife,' said I, 'we must be serious sometimes. Come!
Sit down on this chair, close beside me! Give me the pencil!
There! Now let us talk sensibly. You know, dear'; what a little
hand it was to hold, and what a tiny wedding-ring it was to see!
'You know, my love, it is not exactly comfortable to have to go out
without one's dinner. Now, is it?'

'N-n-no!' replied Dora, faintly.

'My love, how you tremble!'

'Because I KNOW you're going to scold me,' exclaimed Dora, in a
piteous voice.

'My sweet, I am only going to reason.'

'Oh, but reasoning is worse than scolding!' exclaimed Dora, in
despair. 'I didn't marry to be reasoned with. If you meant to
reason with such a poor little thing as I am, you ought to have
told me so, you cruel boy!'

I tried to pacify Dora, but she turned away her face, and shook her
curls from side to side, and said, 'You cruel, cruel boy!' so many
times, that I really did not exactly know what to do: so I took a
few turns up and down the room in my uncertainty, and came back

'Dora, my darling!'

'No, I am not your darling. Because you must be sorry that you
married me, or else you wouldn't reason with me!' returned Dora.

I felt so injured by the inconsequential nature of this charge,
that it gave me courage to be grave.

'Now, my own Dora,' said I, 'you are very childish, and are talking
nonsense. You must remember, I am sure, that I was obliged to go
out yesterday when dinner was half over; and that, the day before,
I was made quite unwell by being obliged to eat underdone veal in
a hurry; today, I don't dine at all - and I am afraid to say how
long we waited for breakfast - and then the water didn't boil. I
don't mean to reproach you, my dear, but this is not comfortable.'

'Oh, you cruel, cruel boy, to say I am a disagreeable wife!' cried

'Now, my dear Dora, you must know that I never said that!'

'You said, I wasn't comfortable!' cried Dora.
'I said the housekeeping was not comfortable!'

'It's exactly the same thing!' cried Dora. And she evidently
thought so, for she wept most grievously.

I took another turn across the room, full of love for my pretty
wife, and distracted by self-accusatory inclinations to knock my
head against the door. I sat down again, and said:

'I am not blaming you, Dora. We have both a great deal to learn.
I am only trying to show you, my dear, that you must - you really
must' (I was resolved not to give this up) - 'accustom yourself to
look after Mary Anne. Likewise to act a little for yourself, and

'I wonder, I do, at your making such ungrateful speeches,' sobbed
Dora. 'When you know that the other day, when you said you would
like a little bit of fish, I went out myself, miles and miles, and
ordered it, to surprise you.'

'And it was very kind of you, my own darling,' said I. 'I felt it
so much that I wouldn't on any account have even mentioned that you
bought a Salmon - which was too much for two. Or that it cost one
pound six - which was more than we can afford.'

'You enjoyed it very much,' sobbed Dora. 'And you said I was a

'And I'll say so again, my love,' I returned, 'a thousand times!'

But I had wounded Dora's soft little heart, and she was not to be
comforted. She was so pathetic in her sobbing and bewailing, that
I felt as if I had said I don't know what to hurt her. I was
obliged to hurry away; I was kept out late; and I felt all night
such pangs of remorse as made me miserable. I had the conscience
of an assassin, and was haunted by a vague sense of enormous

It was two or three hours past midnight when I got home. I found
my aunt, in our house, sitting up for me.

'Is anything the matter, aunt?' said I, alarmed.

'Nothing, Trot,' she replied. 'Sit down, sit down. Little Blossom
has been rather out of spirits, and I have been keeping her
company. That's all.'

I leaned my head upon my hand; and felt more sorry and downcast, as
I sat looking at the fire, than I could have supposed possible so
soon after the fulfilment of my brightest hopes. As I sat
thinking, I happened to meet my aunt's eyes, which were resting on
my face. There was an anxious expression in them, but it cleared

'I assure you, aunt,' said I, 'I have been quite unhappy myself all
night, to think of Dora's being so. But I had no other intention
than to speak to her tenderly and lovingly about our home-affairs.'

MY aunt nodded encouragement.

'You must have patience, Trot,' said she.

'Of course. Heaven knows I don't mean to be unreasonable, aunt!'

'No, no,' said my aunt. 'But Little Blossom is a very tender
little blossom, and the wind must be gentle with her.'

I thanked my good aunt, in my heart, for her tenderness towards my
wife; and I was sure that she knew I did.

'Don't you think, aunt,' said I, after some further contemplation
of the fire, 'that you could advise and counsel Dora a little, for
our mutual advantage, now and then?'

'Trot,' returned my aunt, with some emotion, 'no! Don't ask me
such a thing.'

Her tone was so very earnest that I raised my eyes in surprise.

'I look back on my life, child,' said my aunt, 'and I think of some
who are in their graves, with whom I might have been on kinder
terms. If I judged harshly of other people's mistakes in marriage,
it may have been because I had bitter reason to judge harshly of my
own. Let that pass. I have been a grumpy, frumpy, wayward sort of
a woman, a good many years. I am still, and I always shall be.
But you and I have done one another some good, Trot, - at all
events, you have done me good, my dear; and division must not come
between us, at this time of day.'

'Division between us!' cried I.

'Child, child!' said my aunt, smoothing her dress, 'how soon it
might come between us, or how unhappy I might make our Little
Blossom, if I meddled in anything, a prophet couldn't say. I want
our pet to like me, and be as gay as a butterfly. Remember your
own home, in that second marriage; and never do both me and her the
injury you have hinted at!'

I comprehended, at once, that my aunt was right; and I comprehended
the full extent of her generous feeling towards my dear wife.

'These are early days, Trot,' she pursued, 'and Rome was not built
in a day, nor in a year. You have chosen freely for yourself'; a
cloud passed over her face for a moment, I thought; 'and you have
chosen a very pretty and a very affectionate creature. It will be
your duty, and it will be your pleasure too - of course I know
that; I am not delivering a lecture - to estimate her (as you chose
her) by the qualities she has, and not by the qualities she may not
have. The latter you must develop in her, if you can. And if you
cannot, child,' here my aunt rubbed her nose, 'you must just
accustom yourself to do without 'em. But remember, my dear, your
future is between you two. No one can assist you; you are to work
it out for yourselves. This is marriage, Trot; and Heaven bless
you both, in it, for a pair of babes in the wood as you are!'

My aunt said this in a sprightly way, and gave me a kiss to ratify
the blessing.

'Now,' said she, 'light my little lantern, and see me into my
bandbox by the garden path'; for there was a communication between
our cottages in that direction. 'Give Betsey Trotwood's love to
Blossom, when you come back; and whatever you do, Trot, never dream
of setting Betsey up as a scarecrow, for if I ever saw her in the
glass, she's quite grim enough and gaunt enough in her private

With this my aunt tied her head up in a handkerchief, with which
she was accustomed to make a bundle of it on such occasions; and I
escorted her home. As she stood in her garden, holding up her
little lantern to light me back, I thought her observation of me
had an anxious air again; but I was too much occupied in pondering
on what she had said, and too much impressed - for the first time,
in reality - by the conviction that Dora and I had indeed to work
out our future for ourselves, and that no one could assist us, to
take much notice of it.

Dora came stealing down in her little slippers, to meet me, now
that I was alone; and cried upon my shoulder, and said I had been
hard-hearted and she had been naughty; and I said much the same
thing in effect, I believe; and we made it up, and agreed that our
first little difference was to be our last, and that we were never
to have another if we lived a hundred years.

The next domestic trial we went through, was the Ordeal of
Servants. Mary Anne's cousin deserted into our coal-hole, and was
brought out, to our great amazement, by a piquet of his companions
in arms, who took him away handcuffed in a procession that covered
our front-garden with ignominy. This nerved me to get rid of Mary
Anne, who went so mildly, on receipt of wages, that I was
surprised, until I found out about the tea-spoons, and also about
the little sums she had borrowed in my name of the tradespeople
without authority. After an interval of Mrs. Kidgerbury - the
oldest inhabitant of Kentish Town, I believe, who went out charing,
but was too feeble to execute her conceptions of that art - we
found another treasure, who was one of the most amiable of women,
but who generally made a point of falling either up or down the
kitchen stairs with the tray, and almost plunged into the parlour,
as into a bath, with the tea-things. The ravages committed by this
unfortunate, rendering her dismissal necessary, she was succeeded
(with intervals of Mrs. Kidgerbury) by a long line of Incapables;
terminating in a young person of genteel appearance, who went to
Greenwich Fair in Dora's bonnet. After whom I remember nothing but
an average equality of failure.

Everybody we had anything to do with seemed to cheat us. Our
appearance in a shop was a signal for the damaged goods to be
brought out immediately. If we bought a lobster, it was full of
water. All our meat turned out to be tough, and there was hardly
any crust to our loaves. In search of the principle on which
joints ought to be roasted, to be roasted enough, and not too much,
I myself referred to the Cookery Book, and found it there
established as the allowance of a quarter of an hour to every
pound, and say a quarter over. But the principle always failed us
by some curious fatality, and we never could hit any medium between
redness and cinders.

I had reason to believe that in accomplishing these failures we
incurred a far greater expense than if we had achieved a series of
triumphs. It appeared to me, on looking over the tradesmen's
books, as if we might have kept the basement storey paved with
butter, such was the extensive scale of our consumption of that
article. I don't know whether the Excise returns of the period may
have exhibited any increase in the demand for pepper; but if our
performances did not affect the market, I should say several
families must have left off using it. And the most wonderful fact
of all was, that we never had anything in the house.

As to the washerwoman pawning the clothes, and coming in a state of
penitent intoxication to apologize, I suppose that might have
happened several times to anybody. Also the chimney on fire, the
parish engine, and perjury on the part of the Beadle. But I
apprehend that we were personally fortunate in engaging a servant
with a taste for cordials, who swelled our running account for
porter at the public-house by such inexplicable items as 'quartern
rum shrub (Mrs. C.)'; 'Half-quartern gin and cloves (Mrs. C.)';
'Glass rum and peppermint (Mrs. C.)' - the parentheses always
referring to Dora, who was supposed, it appeared on explanation, to
have imbibed the whole of these refreshments.

One of our first feats in the housekeeping way was a little dinner
to Traddles. I met him in town, and asked him to walk out with me
that afternoon. He readily consenting, I wrote to Dora, saying I
would bring him home. It was pleasant weather, and on the road we
made my domestic happiness the theme of conversation. Traddles was
very full of it; and said, that, picturing himself with such a
home, and Sophy waiting and preparing for him, he could think of
nothing wanting to complete his bliss.

I could not have wished for a prettier little wife at the opposite
end of the table, but I certainly could have wished, when we sat
down, for a little more room. I did not know how it was, but
though there were only two of us, we were at once always cramped
for room, and yet had always room enough to lose everything in. I
suspect it may have been because nothing had a place of its own,
except Jip's pagoda, which invariably blocked up the main
thoroughfare. On the present occasion, Traddles was so hemmed in
by the pagoda and the guitar-case, and Dora's flower-painting, and
my writing-table, that I had serious doubts of the possibility of
his using his knife and fork; but he protested, with his own
good-humour, 'Oceans of room, Copperfield! I assure you, Oceans!'

There was another thing I could have wished, namely, that Jip had
never been encouraged to walk about the tablecloth during dinner.
I began to think there was something disorderly in his being there
at all, even if he had not been in the habit of putting his foot in
the salt or the melted butter. On this occasion he seemed to think
he was introduced expressly to keep Traddles at bay; and he barked
at my old friend, and made short runs at his plate, with such
undaunted pertinacity, that he may be said to have engrossed the

However, as I knew how tender-hearted my dear Dora was, and how
sensitive she would be to any slight upon her favourite, I hinted
no objection. For similar reasons I made no allusion to the
skirmishing plates upon the floor; or to the disreputable
appearance of the castors, which were all at sixes and sevens, and
looked drunk; or to the further blockade of Traddles by wandering
vegetable dishes and jugs. I could not help wondering in my own
mind, as I contemplated the boiled leg of mutton before me,
previous to carving it, how it came to pass that our joints of meat
were of such extraordinary shapes - and whether our butcher
contracted for all the deformed sheep that came into the world; but
I kept my reflections to myself.

'My love,' said I to Dora, 'what have you got in that dish?'

I could not imagine why Dora had been making tempting little faces
at me, as if she wanted to kiss me.

'Oysters, dear,' said Dora, timidly.

'Was that YOUR thought?' said I, delighted.

'Ye-yes, Doady,' said Dora.

'There never was a happier one!' I exclaimed, laying down the
carving-knife and fork. 'There is nothing Traddles likes so much!'

'Ye-yes, Doady,' said Dora, 'and so I bought a beautiful little
barrel of them, and the man said they were very good. But I - I am
afraid there's something the matter with them. They don't seem
right.' Here Dora shook her head, and diamonds twinkled in her

'They are only opened in both shells,' said I. 'Take the top one
off, my love.'

'But it won't come off!' said Dora, trying very hard, and looking
very much distressed.

'Do you know, Copperfield,' said Traddles, cheerfully examining the
dish, 'I think it is in consequence - they are capital oysters, but
I think it is in consequence - of their never having been opened.'

They never had been opened; and we had no oyster-knives - and
couldn't have used them if we had; so we looked at the oysters and
ate the mutton. At least we ate as much of it as was done, and
made up with capers. If I had permitted him, I am satisfied that
Traddles would have made a perfect savage of himself, and eaten a
plateful of raw meat, to express enjoyment of the repast; but I
would hear of no such immolation on the altar of friendship, and we
had a course of bacon instead; there happening, by good fortune, to
be cold bacon in the larder.

My poor little wife was in such affliction when she thought I
should be annoyed, and in such a state of joy when she found I was
not, that the discomfiture I had subdued, very soon vanished, and
we passed a happy evening; Dora sitting with her arm on my chair
while Traddles and I discussed a glass of wine, and taking every
opportunity of whispering in my ear that it was so good of me not
to be a cruel, cross old boy. By and by she made tea for us; which
it was so pretty to see her do, as if she was busying herself with
a set of doll's tea-things, that I was not particular about the
quality of the beverage. Then Traddles and I played a game or two
at cribbage; and Dora singing to the guitar the while, it seemed to
me as if our courtship and marriage were a tender dream of mine,
and the night when I first listened to her voice were not yet over.

When Traddles went away, and I came back into the parlour from
seeing him out, my wife planted her chair close to mine, and sat
down by my side. 'I am very sorry,' she said. 'Will you try to
teach me, Doady?'

'I must teach myself first, Dora,' said I. 'I am as bad as you,

'Ah! But you can learn,' she returned; 'and you are a clever,
clever man!'

'Nonsense, mouse!' said I.

'I wish,' resumed my wife, after a long silence, 'that I could have
gone down into the country for a whole year, and lived with Agnes!'

Her hands were clasped upon my shoulder, and her chin rested on
them, and her blue eyes looked quietly into mine.

'Why so?' I asked.

'I think she might have improved me, and I think I might have
learned from her,' said Dora.

'All in good time, my love. Agnes has had her father to take care
of for these many years, you should remember. Even when she was
quite a child, she was the Agnes whom we know,' said I.

'Will you call me a name I want you to call me?' inquired Dora,
without moving.

'What is it?' I asked with a smile.

'It's a stupid name,' she said, shaking her curls for a moment.

I laughingly asked my child-wife what her fancy was in desiring to
be so called. She answered without moving, otherwise than as the
arm I twined about her may have brought her blue eyes nearer to me:

'I don't mean, you silly fellow, that you should use the name
instead of Dora. I only mean that you should think of me that way.
When you are going to be angry with me, say to yourself, "it's only
my child-wife!" When I am very disappointing, say, "I knew, a long
time ago, that she would make but a child-wife!" When you miss what
I should like to be, and I think can never be, say, "still my
foolish child-wife loves me!" For indeed I do.'

I had not been serious with her; having no idea until now, that she
was serious herself. But her affectionate nature was so happy in
what I now said to her with my whole heart, that her face became a
laughing one before her glittering eyes were dry. She was soon my
child-wife indeed; sitting down on the floor outside the Chinese
House, ringing all the little bells one after another, to punish
Jip for his recent bad behaviour; while Jip lay blinking in the
doorway with his head out, even too lazy to be teased.

This appeal of Dora's made a strong impression on me. I look back
on the time I write of; I invoke the innocent figure that I dearly
loved, to come out from the mists and shadows of the past, and turn
its gentle head towards me once again; and I can still declare that
this one little speech was constantly in my memory. I may not have
used it to the best account; I was young and inexperienced; but I
never turned a deaf ear to its artless pleading.

Dora told me, shortly afterwards, that she was going to be a
wonderful housekeeper. Accordingly, she polished the tablets,
pointed the pencil, bought an immense account-book, carefully
stitched up with a needle and thread all the leaves of the Cookery
Book which Jip had torn, and made quite a desperate little attempt
'to be good', as she called it. But the figures had the old
obstinate propensity - they WOULD NOT add up. When she had entered
two or three laborious items in the account-book, Jip would walk
over the page, wagging his tail, and smear them all out. Her own
little right-hand middle finger got steeped to the very bone in
ink; and I think that was the only decided result obtained.

Sometimes, of an evening, when I was at home and at work - for I
wrote a good deal now, and was beginning in a small way to be known
as a writer - I would lay down my pen, and watch my child-wife
trying to be good. First of all, she would bring out the immense
account-book, and lay it down upon the table, with a deep sigh.
Then she would open it at the place where Jip had made it illegible
last night, and call Jip up, to look at his misdeeds. This would
occasion a diversion in Jip's favour, and some inking of his nose,
perhaps, as a penalty. Then she would tell Jip to lie down on the
table instantly, 'like a lion' - which was one of his tricks,
though I cannot say the likeness was striking - and, if he were in
an obedient humour, he would obey. Then she would take up a pen,
and begin to write, and find a hair in it. Then she would take up
another pen, and begin to write, and find that it spluttered. Then
she would take up another pen, and begin to write, and say in a low
voice, 'Oh, it's a talking pen, and will disturb Doady!' And then
she would give it up as a bad job, and put the account-book away,
after pretending to crush the lion with it.

Or, if she were in a very sedate and serious state of mind, she
would sit down with the tablets, and a little basket of bills and
other documents, which looked more like curl-papers than anything
else, and endeavour to get some result out of them. After severely
comparing one with another, and making entries on the tablets, and
blotting them out, and counting all the fingers of her left hand
over and over again, backwards and forwards, she would be so vexed
and discouraged, and would look so unhappy, that it gave me pain to
see her bright face clouded - and for me! - and I would go softly
to her, and say:

'What's the matter, Dora?'

Dora would look up hopelessly, and reply, 'They won't come right.
They make my head ache so. And they won't do anything I want!'

Then I would say, 'Now let us try together. Let me show you,

Then I would commence a practical demonstration, to which Dora
would pay profound attention, perhaps for five minutes; when she
would begin to be dreadfully tired, and would lighten the subject
by curling my hair, or trying the effect of my face with my
shirt-collar turned down. If I tacitly checked this playfulness,
and persisted, she would look so scared and disconsolate, as she
became more and more bewildered, that the remembrance of her
natural gaiety when I first strayed into her path, and of her being
my child-wife, would come reproachfully upon me; and I would lay
the pencil down, and call for the guitar.

I had a great deal of work to do, and had many anxieties, but the
same considerations made me keep them to myself. I am far from
sure, now, that it was right to do this, but I did it for my
child-wife's sake. I search my breast, and I commit its secrets,
if I know them, without any reservation to this paper. The old
unhappy loss or want of something had, I am conscious, some place
in my heart; but not to the embitterment of my life. When I walked
alone in the fine weather, and thought of the summer days when all
the air had been filled with my boyish enchantment, I did miss
something of the realization of my dreams; but I thought it was a
softened glory of the Past, which nothing could have thrown upon
the present time. I did feel, sometimes, for a little while, that
I could have wished my wife had been my counsellor; had had more
character and purpose, to sustain me and improve me by; had been
endowed with power to fill up the void which somewhere seemed to be
about me; but I felt as if this were an unearthly consummation of
my happiness, that never had been meant to be, and never could have

I was a boyish husband as to years. I had known the softening
influence of no other sorrows or experiences than those recorded in
these leaves. If I did any wrong, as I may have done much, I did
it in mistaken love, and in my want of wisdom. I write the exact
truth. It would avail me nothing to extenuate it now.

Thus it was that I took upon myself the toils and cares of our
life, and had no partner in them. We lived much as before, in
reference to our scrambling household arrangements; but I had got
used to those, and Dora I was pleased to see was seldom vexed now.
She was bright and cheerful in the old childish way, loved me
dearly, and was happy with her old trifles.

When the debates were heavy - I mean as to length, not quality, for
in the last respect they were not often otherwise - and I went home
late, Dora would never rest when she heard my footsteps, but would
always come downstairs to meet me. When my evenings were
unoccupied by the pursuit for which I had qualified myself with so
much pains, and I was engaged in writing at home, she would sit
quietly near me, however late the hour, and be so mute, that I
would often think she had dropped asleep. But generally, when I
raised my head, I saw her blue eyes looking at me with the quiet
attention of which I have already spoken.

'Oh, what a weary boy!' said Dora one night, when I met her eyes as
I was shutting up my desk.

'What a weary girl!' said I. 'That's more to the purpose. You
must go to bed another time, my love. It's far too late for you.'

'No, don't send me to bed!' pleaded Dora, coming to my side.
'Pray, don't do that!'

'Dora!' To my amazement she was sobbing on my neck. 'Not well, my
dear! not happy!'

'Yes! quite well, and very happy!' said Dora. 'But say you'll let
me stop, and see you write.'

'Why, what a sight for such bright eyes at midnight!' I replied.

'Are they bright, though?' returned Dora, laughing. 'I'm so glad
they're bright.'
'Little Vanity!' said I.

But it was not vanity; it was only harmless delight in my
admiration. I knew that very well, before she told me so.

'If you think them pretty, say I may always stop, and see you
write!' said Dora. 'Do you think them pretty?'

'Very pretty.'

'Then let me always stop and see you write.'

'I am afraid that won't improve their brightness, Dora.'

'Yes, it will! Because, you clever boy, you'll not forget me then,
while you are full of silent fancies. Will you mind it, if I say
something very, very silly? - more than usual?' inquired Dora,
peeping over my shoulder into my face.

'What wonderful thing is that?' said I.

'Please let me hold the pens,' said Dora. 'I want to have
something to do with all those many hours when you are so
industrious. May I hold the pens?'

The remembrance of her pretty joy when I said yes, brings tears
into my eyes. The next time I sat down to write, and regularly
afterwards, she sat in her old place, with a spare bundle of pens
at her side. Her triumph in this connexion with my work, and her
delight when I wanted a new pen - which I very often feigned to do
- suggested to me a new way of pleasing my child-wife. I
occasionally made a pretence of wanting a page or two of manuscript
copied. Then Dora was in her glory. The preparations she made for
this great work, the aprons she put on, the bibs she borrowed from
the kitchen to keep off the ink, the time she took, the innumerable
stoppages she made to have a laugh with Jip as if he understood it
all, her conviction that her work was incomplete unless she signed
her name at the end, and the way in which she would bring it to me,
like a school-copy, and then, when I praised it, clasp me round the
neck, are touching recollections to me, simple as they might appear
to other men.

She took possession of the keys soon after this, and went jingling
about the house with the whole bunch in a little basket, tied to
her slender waist. I seldom found that the places to which they
belonged were locked, or that they were of any use except as a
plaything for Jip - but Dora was pleased, and that pleased me. She
was quite satisfied that a good deal was effected by this
make-belief of housekeeping; and was as merry as if we had been
keeping a baby-house, for a joke.

So we went on. Dora was hardly less affectionate to my aunt than
to me, and often told her of the time when she was afraid she was
'a cross old thing'. I never saw my aunt unbend more
systematically to anyone. She courted Jip, though Jip never
responded; listened, day after day, to the guitar, though I am
afraid she had no taste for music; never attacked the Incapables,
though the temptation must have been severe; went wonderful
distances on foot to purchase, as surprises, any trifles that she
found out Dora wanted; and never came in by the garden, and missed
her from the room, but she would call out, at the foot of the
stairs, in a voice that sounded cheerfully all over the house:

'Where's Little Blossom?'

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