David Copperfield – Day 56 of 331

“And how do you get on, and where are you being educated, Brooks?” said Mr. Quinion.

He had put his hand upon my shoulder, and turned me about, to walk with them. I did not know what to reply, and glanced dubiously at Mr. Murdstone.

“He is at home at present,” said the latter. “He is not being educated anywhere. I don’t know what to do with him. He is a difficult subject.”

That old, double look was on me for a moment; and then his eyes darkened with a frown, as it turned, in its aversion, elsewhere.

“Humph!” said Mr. Quinion, looking at us both, I thought. “Fine weather!”

Silence ensued, and I was considering how I could best disengage my shoulder from his hand, and go away, when he said:

“I suppose you are a pretty sharp fellow still? Eh, Brooks?”

“Aye! He is sharp enough,” said Mr. Murdstone, impatiently. “You had better let him go. He will not thank you for troubling him.”

On this hint, Mr. Quinion released me, and I made the best of my way home. Looking back as I turned into the front garden, I saw Mr. Murdstone leaning against the wicket of the churchyard, and Mr. Quinion talking to him. They were both looking after me, and I felt that they were speaking of me.

Mr. Quinion lay at our house that night. After breakfast, the next morning, I had put my chair away, and was going out of the room, when Mr. Murdstone called me back. He then gravely repaired to another table, where his sister sat herself at her desk. Mr. Quinion, with his hands in his pockets, stood looking out of window; and I stood looking at them all.

“David,” said Mr. Murdstone, “to the young this is a world for action; not for moping and droning in.”

— “As you do,” added his sister.

“Jane Murdstone, leave it to me, if you please. I say, David, to the young this is a world for action, and not for moping and droning in. It is especially so for a young boy of your disposition, which requires a great deal of correcting; and to which no greater service can be done than to force it to conform to the ways of the working world, and to bend it and break it.”

“For stubbornness won’t do here,” said his sister “What it wants is, to be crushed. And crushed it must be. Shall be, too!”

He gave her a look, half in remonstrance, half in approval, and went on:

“I suppose you know, David, that I am not rich. At any rate, you know it now. You have received some considerable education already. Education is costly; and even if it were not, and I could afford it, I am of opinion that it would not be at all advantageous to you to be kept at school. What is before you, is a fight with the world; and the sooner you begin it, the better.”

I think it occurred to me that I had already begun it, in my poor way: but it occurs to me now, whether or no.

“You have heard the ‘counting-house’ mentioned sometimes,” said Mr. Murdstone.

“The counting-house, sir?” I repeated. “Of Murdstone and Grinby, in the wine trade,” he replied.

I suppose I looked uncertain, for he went on hastily:

“You have heard the ‘counting-house’ mentioned, or the business, or the cellars, or the wharf, or something about it.”

“I think I have heard the business mentioned, sir,” I said, remembering what I vaguely knew of his and his sister’s resources. “But I don’t know when.”

“It does not matter when,” he returned. “Mr. Quinion manages that business.”

I glanced at the latter deferentially as he stood looking out of window.

“Mr. Quinion suggests that it gives employment to some other boys, and that he sees no reason why it shouldn’t, on the same terms, give employment to you.”

“He having,” Mr. Quinion observed in a low voice, and half turning round, “no other prospect, Murdstone.”

Mr. Murdstone, with an impatient, even an angry gesture, resumed, without noticing what he had said:

“Those terms are, that you will earn enough for yourself to provide for your eating and drinking, and pocket-money. Your lodging (which I have arranged for) will be paid by me. So will your washing—“

“—Which will be kept down to my estimate,” said his sister.

“Your clothes will be looked after for you, too,” said Mr. Murdstone; “as you will not be able, yet awhile, to get them for yourself. So you are now going to London, David, with Mr. Quinion, to begin the world on your own account.”

“In short, you are provided for,” observed his sister; “and will please to do your duty.”

Though I quite understood that the purpose of this announcement was to get rid of me, I have no distinct remembrance whether it pleased or frightened me. My impression is, that I was in a state of confusion about it, and, oscillating between the two points, touched neither. Nor had I much time for the clearing of my thoughts, as Mr. Quinion was to go upon the morrow.

Behold me, on the morrow, in a much-worn little white hat, with a black crape round it for my mother, a black jacket, and a pair of hard, stiff corduroy trousers—which Miss Murdstone considered the best armour for the legs in that fight with the world which was now to come off. Behold me so attired, and with my little worldly all before me in a small trunk, sitting, a lone lorn child (as Mrs. Gummidge might have said), in the post-chaise that was carrying Mr. Quinion to the London coach at Yarmouth! See, how our house and church are lessening in the distance; how the grave beneath the tree is blotted out by intervening objects; how the spire points upwards from my old playground no more, and the sky is empty!

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