David Copperfield – Day 104 of 331

I had emerged by another door, and stood in the street for a little while, as if I really were a stranger upon earth: but the unceremonious pushing and hustling that I received, soon recalled me to myself, and put me in the road back to the hotel; whither I went, revolving the glorious vision all the way; and where, after some porter and oysters, I sat revolving it still, at past one o’clock, with my eyes on the coffee-room fire.

I was so filled with the play, and with the past—for it was, in a manner, like a shining transparency, through which I saw my earlier life moving along—that I don’t know when the figure of a handsome well-formed young man dressed with a tasteful easy negligence which I have reason to remember very well, became a real presence to me. But I recollect being conscious of his company without having noticed his coming in—and my still sitting, musing, over the coffee-room fire.

At last I rose to go to bed, much to the relief of the sleepy waiter, who had got the fidgets in his legs, and was twisting them, and hitting them, and putting them through all kinds of contortions in his small pantry. In going towards the door, I passed the person who had come in, and saw him plainly. I turned directly, came back, and looked again. He did not know me, but I knew him in a moment.

At another time I might have wanted the confidence or the decision to speak to him, and might have put it off until next day, and might have lost him. But, in the then condition of my mind, where the play was still running high, his former protection of me appeared so deserving of my gratitude, and my old love for him overflowed my breast so freshly and spontaneously, that I went up to him at once, with a fast-beating heart, and said:

“Steerforth! won’t you speak to me?”

He looked at me—just as he used to look, sometimes—but I saw no recognition in his face.

“You don’t remember me, I am afraid,” said I.

“My God!” he suddenly exclaimed. “It’s little Copperfield!”

I grasped him by both hands, and could not let them go. But for very shame, and the fear that it might displease him, I could have held him round the neck and cried.

“I never, never, never was so glad! My dear Steerforth, I am so overjoyed to see you!”

“And I am rejoiced to see you, too!” he said, shaking my hands heartily. “Why, Copperfield, old boy, don’t be overpowered!” And yet he was glad, too, I thought, to see how the delight I had in meeting him affected me.

I brushed away the tears that my utmost resolution had not been able to keep back, and I made a clumsy laugh of it, and we sat down together, side by side.

“Why, how do you come to be here?” said Steerforth, clapping me on the shoulder.

“I came here by the Canterbury coach, today. I have been adopted by an aunt down in that part of the country, and have just finished my education there. How do you come to be here, Steerforth?”

“Well, I am what they call an Oxford man,” he returned; “that is to say, I get bored to death down there, periodically—and I am on my way now to my mother’s. You’re a devilish amiable-looking fellow, Copperfield. Just what you used to be, now I look at you! Not altered in the least!”

“I knew you immediately,” I said; “but you are more easily remembered.”

He laughed as he ran his hand through the clustering curls of his hair, and said gaily:

“Yes, I am on an expedition of duty. My mother lives a little way out of town; and the roads being in a beastly condition, and our house tedious enough, I remained here tonight instead of going on. I have not been in town half-a-dozen hours, and those I have been dozing and grumbling away at the play.”

“I have been at the play, too,” said I. “At Covent Garden. What a delightful and magnificent entertainment, Steerforth!”

Steerforth laughed heartily.

“My dear young Davy,” he said, clapping me on the shoulder again, “you are a very Daisy. The daisy of the field, at sunrise, is not fresher than you are. I have been at Covent Garden, too, and there never was a more miserable business. Holloa, you sir!”

This was addressed to the waiter, who had been very attentive to our recognition, at a distance, and now came forward deferentially.

“Where have you put my friend, Mr. Copperfield?” said Steerforth.

“Beg your pardon, sir?”

“Where does he sleep? What’s his number? You know what I mean,” said Steerforth.

“Well, sir,” said the waiter, with an apologetic air. “Mr. Copperfield is at present in forty-four, sir.”

“And what the devil do you mean,” retorted Steerforth, “by putting Mr. Copperfield into a little loft over a stable?”

“Why, you see we wasn’t aware, sir,” returned the waiter, still apologetically, “as Mr. Copperfield was anyways particular. We can give Mr. Copperfield seventy-two, sir, if it would be preferred. Next you, sir.”

“Of course it would be preferred,” said Steerforth. “And do it at once.” The waiter immediately withdrew to make the exchange. Steerforth, very much amused at my having been put into forty-four, laughed again, and clapped me on the shoulder again, and invited me to breakfast with him next morning at ten o’clock—an invitation I was only too proud and happy to accept. It being now pretty late, we took our candles and went upstairs, where we parted with friendly heartiness at his door, and where I found my new room a great improvement on my old one, it not being at all musty, and having an immense four-post bedstead in it, which was quite a little landed estate. Here, among pillows enough for six, I soon fell asleep in a blissful condition, and dreamed of ancient Rome, Steerforth, and friendship, until the early morning coaches, rumbling out of the archway underneath, made me dream of thunder and the gods.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)