Charles Dickens, David Copperfield: Ch. 2

[+] | [-] | reset
 

'That's Davy,' returned Mr. Murdstone.

'Davy who?' said the gentleman. 'Jones?'

'Copperfield,' said Mr. Murdstone.

'What! Bewitching Mrs. Copperfield's encumbrance?'w cried the gentleman. 'The pretty little widow?'

'Quinion,' said Mr. Murdstone, 'take care, if you please. Somebody's sharp.'

'Who is?' asked the gentleman, laughing. I looked up, quickly; being curious to know.

'Only Brooks of Sheffield,'h said Mr. Murdstone.

I was quite relieved to find that it was only Brooks of Sheffield; for, at first, I really thought it was I.

There seemed to be something very comical in the reputation of Mr. Brooks of Sheffield, for both the gentlemen laughed heartily when he was mentioned, and Mr. Murdstone was a good deal amused also. After some laughing, the gentleman whom he had called Quinion, said:

'And what is the opinion of Brooks of Sheffield, in reference to the projected business?'

'Why, I don't know that Brooks understands much about it at present,' replied Mr. Murdstone; 'but he is not generally favourable, I believe.'

There was more laughter at this,d and Mr. Quinion said he would ring the bell for some sherry in which to drink to Brooks. This he did; and when the wine came, he made me have a little, with a biscuit, and, before I drank it, stand up and say, 'Confusion to Brooks of Sheffield!' The toast was received with great applause, and such hearty laughter that it made me laugh too; at which they laughed the more. In short, we quite enjoyed ourselves.

We walked about on the cliff after that, and sat on the grass, and looked at things through a telescope—I could make out nothing myself when it was put to my eye, but I pretended I could—and then we came back to the hotel to an early dinner.h All the time we were out, the two gentlemen smoked incessantly—which, I thought, if I might judge from the smell of their rough coats, they must have been doing, ever since the coats had first come home from the tailor's. I must not forget that we went on board the yacht, where they all three descended into the cabin, and were busy with some papers. I saw them quite hard at work,d when I looked down through the open skylight. They left me, during this time, with a very nice man with a very large head of red hair and a very small shiny hat upon it, who had got a cross-barred shirt or waistcoat on, with 'Skylark' in capital letters across the chest. I thought it was his name; and that as he lived on board ship and hadn't a street door to put his name on, he put it there instead; but when I called him Mr. Skylark,d he said it meant the vessel.

I observed all day that Mr. Murdstone was graver and steadier than the two gentlemen. They were very gay and careless. They joked freely with one another, but seldom with him. It appeared to me that he was more clever and cold than they were, and that they regarded him with something of my own feeling. I remarked that, once or twice when Mr. Quinion was talking, he looked at Mr. Murdstone sideways, as if to make sure of his not being displeased; and that once when Mr. Passnidge (the other gentleman) was in high spirits, he trod upon his foot, and gave him a secret caution with his eyes, to observe Mr. Murdstone, who was sitting stern and silent. Nor do I recollect that Mr. Murdstone laughed at all that day, except at the Sheffield joke—and that, by the by, was his own.

X [w] encumbrance?'

A burden, sometimes taking a legal form.

X [h] Brooks of Sheffield,'

Places

Invented to mystify David. Sheffield was famous for its knives: "Somebody's sharp."

X [d] There was more laughter at this,

Writing & Reading

The secret, condescending manner of adults toward the child David and to other children features in the earlier part of the novel and destabilizes the child's response, for, unable to grasp what is being said, he drifts into apprehensiveness and unnatural behavior.

X [h] an early dinner.

Custom & Law

Dinner (Search), the middle and principal meal of the day, is taken  earlier in the provinces than in London. It would be followed in the early evening by high tea, unless that meal was replaced by the convivial sort of banquet that Dickens had often with his male friends.

X [d] and were busy with some papers. I saw them qu…

Money

This hints at something unsavory about his courtship, such as the disbursement of funds to Murdstone predicated on his marrying Clara. 

X [d] when I called him Mr. Skylark,

David, like most children, is literal as well as credulous.