David Copperfield – Day 320 of 331

“Indeed, you have reason to commend her!” I returned. “You are a happy fellow. I believe you make yourselves, and each other, two of the happiest people in the world.”

“I am sure we are two of the happiest people,” returned Traddles. “I admit that, at all events. Bless my soul, when I see her getting up by candle-light on these dark mornings, busying herself in the day’s arrangements, going out to market before the clerks come into the Inn, caring for no weather, devising the most capital little dinners out of the plainest materials, making puddings and pies, keeping everything in its right place, always so neat and ornamental herself, sitting up at night with me if it’s ever so late, sweet-tempered and encouraging always, and all for me, I positively sometimes can’t believe it, Copperfield!”

He was tender of the very slippers she had been warming, as he put them on, and stretched his feet enjoyingly upon the fender.

“I positively sometimes can’t believe it,” said Traddles. “Then our pleasures! Dear me, they are inexpensive, but they are quite wonderful! When we are at home here, of an evening, and shut the outer door, and draw those curtains—which she made—where could we be more snug? When it’s fine, and we go out for a walk in the evening, the streets abound in enjoyment for us. We look into the glittering windows of the jewellers’ shops; and I show Sophy which of the diamond-eyed serpents, coiled up on white satin rising grounds, I would give her if I could afford it; and Sophy shows me which of the gold watches that are capped and jewelled and engine-turned, and possessed of the horizontal lever-escape-movement, and all sorts of things, she would buy for me if she could afford it; and we pick out the spoons and forks, fish-slices, butter-knives, and sugar-tongs, we should both prefer if we could both afford it; and really we go away as if we had got them! Then, when we stroll into the squares, and great streets, and see a house to let, sometimes we look up at it, and say, how would that do, if I was made a judge? And we parcel it out—such a room for us, such rooms for the girls, and so forth; until we settle to our satisfaction that it would do, or it wouldn’t do, as the case may be. Sometimes, we go at half-price to the pit of the theatre — the very smell of which is cheap, in my opinion, at the money — and there we thoroughly enjoy the play: which Sophy believes every word of, and so do I. In walking home, perhaps we buy a little bit of something at a cook’s-shop, or a little lobster at the fishmongers, and bring it here, and make a splendid supper, chatting about what we have seen. Now, you know, Copperfield, if I was Lord Chancellor, we couldn’t do this!”

“You would do something, whatever you were, my dear Traddles,” thought I, “that would be pleasant and amiable. And by the way,” I said aloud, “I suppose you never draw any skeletons now?”

“Really,” replied Traddles, laughing, and reddening, “I can’t wholly deny that I do, my dear Copperfield. For being in one of the back rows of the King’s Bench the other day, with a pen in my hand, the fancy came into my head to try how I had preserved that accomplishment. And I am afraid there’s a skeleton—in a wig—on the ledge of the desk.”

After we had both laughed heartily, Traddles wound up by looking with a smile at the fire, and saying, in his forgiving way, “Old Creakle!”

“I have a letter from that old-Rascal here,” said I. For I never was less disposed to forgive him the way he used to batter Traddles, than when I saw Traddles so ready to forgive him himself.

“From Creakle the schoolmaster?” exclaimed Traddles. “No!”

“Among the persons who are attracted to me in my rising fame and fortune,” said I, looking over my letters, “and who discover that they were always much attached to me, is the self-same Creakle. He is not a schoolmaster now, Traddles. He is retired. He is a Middlesex Magistrate.”

I thought Traddles might be surprised to hear it, but he was not so at all.

“How do you suppose he comes to be a Middlesex Magistrate?” said I.

“Oh dear me!” replied Traddles, “it would be very difficult to answer that question. Perhaps he voted for somebody, or lent money to somebody, or bought something of somebody, or otherwise obliged somebody, or jobbed for somebody, who knew somebody who got the lieutenant of the county to nominate him for the commission.”

“On the commission he is, at any rate,” said I. “And he writes to me here, that he will be glad to show me, in operation, the only true system of prison discipline; the only unchallengeable way of making sincere and lasting converts and penitents—which, you know, is by solitary confinement. What do you say?”

“To the system?” inquired Traddles, looking grave.

“No. To my accepting the offer, and your going with me?”

“I don’t object,” said Traddles.

“Then I’ll write to say so. You remember (to say nothing of our treatment) this same Creakle turning his son out of doors, I suppose, and the life he used to lead his wife and daughter?”

“Perfectly,” said Traddles.

“Yet, if you’ll read his letter, you’ll find he is the tenderest of men to prisoners convicted of the whole calendar of felonies,” said I; “though I can’t find that his tenderness extends to any other class of created beings.”

Traddles shrugged his shoulders, and was not at all surprised. I had not expected him to be, and was not surprised myself; or my observation of similar practical satires would have been but scanty. We arranged the time of our visit, and I wrote accordingly to Mr. Creakle that evening.

On the appointed day—I think it was the next day, but no matter — Traddles and I repaired to the prison where Mr. Creakle was powerful. It was an immense and solid building, erected at a vast expense. I could not help thinking, as we approached the gate, what an uproar would have been made in the country, if any deluded man had proposed to spend one half the money it had cost, on the erection of an industrial school for the young, or a house of refuge for the deserving old.

Comments

  1. ScottS-M Identicon Icon

    ScottS-M wrote:

    I could not help thinking, as we approached the gate, what an uproar would have been made in the country, if any deluded man had proposed to spend one half the money it had cost, on the erection of an industrial school for the young, or a house of refuge for the deserving old.

    Sounds familiar.

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