David Copperfield – Day 287 of 331

“Is this all your family, ma’am?” said my aunt.

“There are no more at present,” returned Mrs. Micawber.

“Good gracious, I didn’t mean that, ma’am,” said my aunt. “I mean, are all these yours?”

“Madam,” replied Mr. Micawber, “it is a true bill.”

“And that eldest young gentleman, now,” said my aunt, musing, “what has he been brought up to?”

“It was my hope when I came here,” said Mr. Micawber, “to have got Wilkins into the Church: or perhaps I shall express my meaning more strictly, if I say the Choir. But there was no vacancy for a tenor in the venerable Pile for which this city is so justly eminent; and he has—in short, he has contracted a habit of singing in public-houses, rather than in sacred edifices.”

“But he means well,” said Mrs. Micawber, tenderly.

“I dare say, my love,” rejoined Mr. Micawber, “that he means particularly well; but I have not yet found that he carries out his meaning, in any given direction whatsoever.”

Master Micawber’s moroseness of aspect returned upon him again, and he demanded, with some temper, what he was to do? Whether he had been born a carpenter, or a coach-painter, any more than he had been born a bird? Whether he could go into the next street, and open a chemist’s shop? Whether he could rush to the next assizes, and proclaim himself a lawyer? Whether he could come out by force at the opera, and succeed by violence? Whether he could do anything, without being brought up to something?

My aunt mused a little while, and then said:

“Mr. Micawber, I wonder you have never turned your thoughts to emigration.”

“Madam,” returned Mr. Micawber, “it was the dream of my youth, and the fallacious aspiration of my riper years.” I am thoroughly persuaded, by the by, that he had never thought of it in his life.

“Aye?” said my aunt, with a glance at me. “Why, what a thing it would be for yourselves and your family, Mr. and Mrs. Micawber, if you were to emigrate now.”

“Capital, madam, capital,” urged Mr. Micawber, gloomily.

“That is the principal, I may say the only difficulty, my dear Mr. Copperfield,” assented his wife.

“Capital?” cried my aunt. “But you are doing us a great service — have done us a great service, I may say, for surely much will come out of the fire—and what could we do for you, that would be half so good as to find the capital?”

“I could not receive it as a gift,” said Mr. Micawber, full of fire and animation, “but if a sufficient sum could be advanced, say at five per cent interest, per annum, upon my personal liability—say my notes of hand, at twelve, eighteen, and twenty-four months, respectively, to allow time for something to turn up—“

“Could be? Can be and shall be, on your own terms,” returned my aunt, “if you say the word. Think of this now, both of you. Here are some people David knows, going out to Australia shortly. If you decide to go, why shouldn’t you go in the same ship? You may help each other. Think of this now, Mr. and Mrs. Micawber. Take your time, and weigh it well.”

“There is but one question, my dear ma’am, I could wish to ask,” said Mrs. Micawber. “The climate, I believe, is healthy?”

“Finest in the world!” said my aunt.

“Just so,” returned Mrs. Micawber. “Then my question arises. Now, are the circumstances of the country such, that a man of Mr. Micawber’s abilities would have a fair chance of rising in the social scale? I will not say, at present, might he aspire to be Governor, or anything of that sort; but would there be a reasonable opening for his talents to develop themselves—that would be amply sufficient—and find their own expansion?”

“No better opening anywhere,” said my aunt, “for a man who conducts himself well, and is industrious.”

“For a man who conducts himself well,” repeated Mrs. Micawber, with her clearest business manner, “and is industrious. Precisely. It is evident to me that Australia is the legitimate sphere of action for Mr. Micawber!”

“I entertain the conviction, my dear madam,” said Mr. Micawber, “that it is, under existing circumstances, the land, the only land, for myself and family; and that something of an extraordinary nature will turn up on that shore. It is no distance — comparatively speaking; and though consideration is due to the kindness of your proposal, I assure you that is a mere matter of form.”

Shall I ever forget how, in a moment, he was the most sanguine of men, looking on to fortune; or how Mrs. Micawber presently discoursed about the habits of the kangaroo! Shall I ever recall that street of Canterbury on a market-day, without recalling him, as he walked back with us; expressing, in the hardy roving manner he assumed, the unsettled habits of a temporary sojourner in the land; and looking at the bullocks, as they came by, with the eye of an Australian farmer!

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