David Copperfield – Day 153 of 331

Both Traddles and I applauded it highly.

“Very well,” said Mrs. Micawber. “Then what do I recommend? Here is Mr. Micawber with a variety of qualifications—with great talent—”

“Really, my love,” said Mr. Micawber.

“Pray, my dear, allow me to conclude. Here is Mr. Micawber, with a variety of qualifications, with great talent—I should say, with genius, but that may be the partiality of a wife—”

Traddles and I both murmured “No.”

“And here is Mr. Micawber without any suitable position or employment. Where does that responsibility rest? Clearly on society. Then I would make a fact so disgraceful known, and boldly challenge society to set it right. It appears to me, my dear Mr. Copperfield,” said Mrs. Micawber, forcibly, “that what Mr. Micawber has to do, is to throw down the gauntlet to society, and say, in effect, ‘Show me who will take that up. Let the party immediately step forward.’”

I ventured to ask Mrs. Micawber how this was to be done.

“By advertising,” said Mrs. Micawber—“in all the papers. It appears to me, that what Mr. Micawber has to do, in justice to himself, in justice to his family, and I will even go so far as to say in justice to society, by which he has been hitherto overlooked, is to advertise in all the papers; to describe himself plainly as so-and-so, with such and such qualifications and to put it thus: ‘Now employ me, on remunerative terms, and address, post-paid, to W. M., Post Office, Camden Town.’”

“This idea of Mrs. Micawber’s, my dear Copperfield,” said Mr. Micawber, making his shirt-collar meet in front of his chin, and glancing at me sideways, “is, in fact, the Leap to which I alluded, when I last had the pleasure of seeing you.”

“Advertising is rather expensive,” I remarked, dubiously.

“Exactly so!” said Mrs. Micawber, preserving the same logical air. “Quite true, my dear Mr. Copperfield! I have made the identical observation to Mr. Micawber. It is for that reason especially, that I think Mr. Micawber ought (as I have already said, in justice to himself, in justice to his family, and in justice to society) to raise a certain sum of money—on a bill.”

Mr. Micawber, leaning back in his chair, trifled with his eye-glass and cast his eyes up at the ceiling; but I thought him observant of Traddles, too, who was looking at the fire.

“If no member of my family,” said Mrs. Micawber, “is possessed of sufficient natural feeling to negotiate that bill—I believe there is a better business-term to express what I mean—”

Mr. Micawber, with his eyes still cast up at the ceiling, suggested “Discount.”

“To discount that bill,” said Mrs. Micawber, “then my opinion is, that Mr. Micawber should go into the City, should take that bill into the Money Market, and should dispose of it for what he can get. If the individuals in the Money Market oblige Mr. Micawber to sustain a great sacrifice, that is between themselves and their consciences. I view it, steadily, as an investment. I recommend Mr. Micawber, my dear Mr. Copperfield, to do the same; to regard it as an investment which is sure of return, and to make up his mind to any sacrifice.”

I felt, but I am sure I don’t know why, that this was self-denying and devoted in Mrs. Micawber, and I uttered a murmur to that effect. Traddles, who took his tone from me, did likewise, still looking at the fire.

“I will not,” said Mrs. Micawber, finishing her punch, and gathering her scarf about her shoulders, preparatory to her withdrawal to my bedroom: “I will not protract these remarks on the subject of Mr. Micawber’s pecuniary affairs. At your fireside, my dear Mr. Copperfield, and in the presence of Mr. Traddles, who, though not so old a friend, is quite one of ourselves, I could not refrain from making you acquainted with the course I advise Mr. Micawber to take. I feel that the time is arrived when Mr. Micawber should exert himself and—I will add—assert himself, and it appears to me that these are the means. I am aware that I am merely a female, and that a masculine judgement is usually considered more competent to the discussion of such questions; still I must not forget that, when I lived at home with my papa and mama, my papa was in the habit of saying, ‘Emma’s form is fragile, but her grasp of a subject is inferior to none.’ That my papa was too partial, I well know; but that he was an observer of character in some degree, my duty and my reason equally forbid me to doubt.”

With these words, and resisting our entreaties that she would grace the remaining circulation of the punch with her presence, Mrs. Micawber retired to my bedroom. And really I felt that she was a noble woman—the sort of woman who might have been a Roman matron, and done all manner of heroic things, in times of public trouble.

In the fervour of this impression, I congratulated Mr. Micawber on the treasure he possessed. So did Traddles. Mr. Micawber extended his hand to each of us in succession, and then covered his face with his pocket-handkerchief, which I think had more snuff upon it than he was aware of. He then returned to the punch, in the highest state of exhilaration.

He was full of eloquence. He gave us to understand that in our children we lived again, and that, under the pressure of pecuniary difficulties, any accession to their number was doubly welcome. He said that Mrs. Micawber had latterly had her doubts on this point, but that he had dispelled them, and reassured her. As to her family, they were totally unworthy of her, and their sentiments were utterly indifferent to him, and they might—I quote his own expression—go to the Devil.

Mr. Micawber then delivered a warm eulogy on Traddles. He said Traddles’s was a character, to the steady virtues of which he (Mr. Micawber) could lay no claim, but which, he thanked Heaven, he could admire. He feelingly alluded to the young lady, unknown, whom Traddles had honoured with his affection, and who had reciprocated that affection by honouring and blessing Traddles with her affection. Mr. Micawber pledged her. So did I. Traddles thanked us both, by saying, with a simplicity and honesty I had sense enough to be quite charmed with, “I am very much obliged to you indeed. And I do assure you, she’s the dearest girl!—”

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