David Copperfield – Day 313 of 331

I was thinking. And had I truly disciplined my heart to this, and could I resolutely bear it, and calmly hold the place in her home which she had calmly held in mine,—when I found my eyes resting on a countenance that might have arisen out of the fire, in its association with my early remembrances.

Little Mr. Chillip the Doctor, to whose good offices I was indebted in the very first chapter of this history, sat reading a newspaper in the shadow of an opposite corner. He was tolerably stricken in years by this time; but, being a mild, meek, calm little man, had worn so easily, that I thought he looked at that moment just as he might have looked when he sat in our parlour, waiting for me to be born.

Mr. Chillip had left Blunderstone six or seven years ago, and I had never seen him since. He sat placidly perusing the newspaper, with his little head on one side, and a glass of warm sherry negus at his elbow. He was so extremely conciliatory in his manner that he seemed to apologize to the very newspaper for taking the liberty of reading it.

I walked up to where he was sitting, and said, “How do you do, Mr. Chillip?”

He was greatly fluttered by this unexpected address from a stranger, and replied, in his slow way, “I thank you, sir, you are very good. Thank you, sir. I hope you are well.”

“You don’t remember me?” said I.

“Well, sir,” returned Mr. Chillip, smiling very meekly, and shaking his head as he surveyed me, “I have a kind of an impression that something in your countenance is familiar to me, sir; but I couldn’t lay my hand upon your name, really.”

“And yet you knew it, long before I knew it myself,” I returned.

“Did I indeed, sir?” said Mr. Chillip. “Is it possible that I had the honour, sir, of officiating when—?”

“Yes,” said I.

“Dear me!” cried Mr. Chillip. “But no doubt you are a good deal changed since then, sir?”

“Probably,” said I.

“Well, sir,” observed Mr. Chillip, “I hope you’ll excuse me, if I am compelled to ask the favour of your name?”

On my telling him my name, he was really moved. He quite shook hands with me—which was a violent proceeding for him, his usual course being to slide a tepid little fish-slice, an inch or two in advance of his hip, and evince the greatest discomposure when anybody grappled with it. Even now, he put his hand in his coat-pocket as soon as he could disengage it, and seemed relieved when he had got it safe back.

“Dear me, sir!” said Mr. Chillip, surveying me with his head on one side. “And it’s Mr. Copperfield, is it? Well, sir, I think I should have known you, if I had taken the liberty of looking more closely at you. There’s a strong resemblance between you and your poor father, sir.”

“I never had the happiness of seeing my father,” I observed.

“Very true, sir,” said Mr. Chillip, in a soothing tone. “And very much to be deplored it was, on all accounts! We are not ignorant, sir,” said Mr. Chillip, slowly shaking his little head again, “down in our part of the country, of your fame. There must be great excitement here, sir,” said Mr. Chillip, tapping himself on the forehead with his forefinger. “You must find it a trying occupation, sir!”

“What is your part of the country now?” I asked, seating myself near him.

“I am established within a few miles of Bury St. Edmund’s, sir,” said Mr. Chillip. “Mrs. Chillip, coming into a little property in that neighbourhood, under her father’s will, I bought a practice down there, in which you will be glad to hear I am doing well. My daughter is growing quite a tall lass now, sir,” said Mr. Chillip, giving his little head another little shake. “Her mother let down two tucks in her frocks only last week. Such is time, you see, sir!”

As the little man put his now empty glass to his lips, when he made this reflection, I proposed to him to have it refilled, and I would keep him company with another. “Well, sir,” he returned, in his slow way, “it’s more than I am accustomed to; but I can’t deny myself the pleasure of your conversation. It seems but yesterday that I had the honour of attending you in the measles. You came through them charmingly, sir!”

I acknowledged this compliment, and ordered the negus, which was soon produced. “Quite an uncommon dissipation!” said Mr. Chillip, stirring it, “but I can’t resist so extraordinary an occasion. You have no family, sir?”

I shook my head.

“I was aware that you sustained a bereavement, sir, some time ago,” said Mr. Chillip. “I heard it from your father-in-law’s sister. Very decided character there, sir?”

“Why, yes,” said I, “decided enough. Where did you see her, Mr. Chillip?”

“Are you not aware, sir,” returned Mr. Chillip, with his placidest smile, “that your father-in-law is again a neighbour of mine?”

“No,” said I.

“He is indeed, sir!” said Mr. Chillip. “Married a young lady of that part, with a very good little property, poor thing. —And this action of the brain now, sir? Don’t you find it fatigue you?” said Mr. Chillip, looking at me like an admiring Robin.

I waived that question, and returned to the Murdstones. “I was aware of his being married again. Do you attend the family?” I asked.

“Not regularly. I have been called in,” he replied. “Strong phrenological developments of the organ of firmness, in Mr. Murdstone and his sister, sir.”

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