David Copperfield – Day 264 of 331

“Gentlemen!” said Mr. Micawber, after the first salutations, “you are friends in need, and friends indeed. Allow me to offer my inquiries with reference to the physical welfare of Mrs. Copperfield in esse, and Mrs. Traddles in posse,—presuming, that is to say, that my friend Mr. Traddles is not yet united to the object of his affections, for weal and for woe.”

We acknowledged his politeness, and made suitable replies. He then directed our attention to the wall, and was beginning, “I assure you, gentlemen,” when I ventured to object to that ceremonious form of address, and to beg that he would speak to us in the old way.

“My dear Copperfield,” he returned, pressing my hand, “your cordiality overpowers me. This reception of a shattered fragment of the Temple once called Man—if I may be permitted so to express myself—bespeaks a heart that is an honour to our common nature. I was about to observe that I again behold the serene spot where some of the happiest hours of my existence fleeted by.”

“Made so, I am sure, by Mrs. Micawber,” said I. “I hope she is well?”

“Thank you,” returned Mr. Micawber, whose face clouded at this reference, “she is but so-so. And this,” said Mr. Micawber, nodding his head sorrowfully, “is the Bench! Where, for the first time in many revolving years, the overwhelming pressure of pecuniary liabilities was not proclaimed, from day to day, by importune voices declining to vacate the passage; where there was no knocker on the door for any creditor to appeal to; where personal service of process was not required, and detainees were merely lodged at the gate! Gentlemen,” said Mr. Micawber, “when the shadow of that iron-work on the summit of the brick structure has been reflected on the gravel of the Parade, I have seen my children thread the mazes of the intricate pattern, avoiding the dark marks. I have been familiar with every stone in the place. If I betray weakness, you will know how to excuse me.”

“We have all got on in life since then, Mr. Micawber,” said I.

“Mr. Copperfield,” returned Mr. Micawber, bitterly, “when I was an inmate of that retreat I could look my fellow-man in the face, and punch his head if he offended me. My fellow-man and myself are no longer on those glorious terms!”

Turning from the building in a downcast manner, Mr. Micawber accepted my proffered arm on one side, and the proffered arm of Traddles on the other, and walked away between us.

“There are some landmarks,” observed Mr. Micawber, looking fondly back over his shoulder, “on the road to the tomb, which, but for the impiety of the aspiration, a man would wish never to have passed. Such is the Bench in my chequered career.”

“Oh, you are in low spirits, Mr. Micawber,” said Traddles.

“I am, sir,” interposed Mr. Micawber.

“I hope,” said Traddles, “it is not because you have conceived a dislike to the law—for I am a lawyer myself, you know.”

Mr. Micawber answered not a word.

“How is our friend Heep, Mr. Micawber?” said I, after a silence.

“My dear Copperfield,” returned Mr. Micawber, bursting into a state of much excitement, and turning pale, “if you ask after my employer as your friend, I am sorry for it; if you ask after him as my friend, I sardonically smile at it. In whatever capacity you ask after my employer, I beg, without offence to you, to limit my reply to this—that whatever his state of health may be, his appearance is foxy: not to say diabolical. You will allow me, as a private individual, to decline pursuing a subject which has lashed me to the utmost verge of desperation in my professional capacity.”

I expressed my regret for having innocently touched upon a theme that roused him so much. “May I ask,” said I, “without any hazard of repeating the mistake, how my old friends Mr. and Miss Wickfield are?”

“Miss Wickfield,” said Mr. Micawber, now turning red, “is, as she always is, a pattern, and a bright example. My dear Copperfield, she is the only starry spot in a miserable existence. My respect for that young lady, my admiration of her character, my devotion to her for her love and truth, and goodness!—Take me,” said Mr. Micawber, “down a turning, for, upon my soul, in my present state of mind I am not equal to this!”

We wheeled him off into a narrow street, where he took out his pocket-handkerchief, and stood with his back to a wall. If I looked as gravely at him as Traddles did, he must have found our company by no means inspiriting.

“It is my fate,” said Mr. Micawber, unfeignedly sobbing, but doing even that, with a shadow of the old expression of doing something genteel; “it is my fate, gentlemen, that the finer feelings of our nature have become reproaches to me. My homage to Miss Wickfield, is a flight of arrows in my bosom. You had better leave me, if you please, to walk the earth as a vagabond. The worm will settle my business in double-quick time.”

Without attending to this invocation, we stood by, until he put up his pocket-handkerchief, pulled up his shirt-collar, and, to delude any person in the neighbourhood who might have been observing him, hummed a tune with his hat very much on one side. I then mentioned — not knowing what might be lost if we lost sight of him yet—that it would give me great pleasure to introduce him to my aunt, if he would ride out to Highgate, where a bed was at his service.

“You shall make us a glass of your own punch, Mr. Micawber,” said I, “and forget whatever you have on your mind, in pleasanter reminiscences.”

“Or, if confiding anything to friends will be more likely to relieve you, you shall impart it to us, Mr. Micawber,” said Traddles, prudently.

“Gentlemen,” returned Mr. Micawber, “do with me as you will! I am a straw upon the surface of the deep, and am tossed in all directions by the elephants—I beg your pardon; I should have said the elements.”

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.)