In due time, Mr. Micawber’s petition was ripe for hearing; and that gentleman was ordered to be discharged under the Act, to my great joy. His creditors were not implacable; and Mrs. Micawber informed me that even the revengeful boot-maker had declared in open court that he bore him no malice, but that when money was owing to him he liked to be paid. He said he thought it was human nature.
Mr. Micawber returned to the King’s Bench when his case was over, as some fees were to be settled, and some formalities observed, before he could be actually released. The club received him with transport, and held an harmonic meeting that evening in his honour; while Mrs. Micawber and I had a lamb’s fry in private, surrounded by the sleeping family.
‘On such an occasion I will give you, Master Copperfield,’ said Mrs. Micawber, ‘in a little more flip,’ for we had been having some already, ‘the memory of my papa and mama.’
‘Are they dead, ma’am?’ I inquired, after drinking the toast in a wine-glass.
‘My mama departed this life,’ said Mrs. Micawber, ‘before Mr. Micawber’s difficulties commenced, or at least before they became pressing. My papa lived to bail Mr. Micawber several times, and then expired, regretted by a numerous circle.’
Mrs. Micawber shook her head, and dropped a pious tear upon the twin who happened to be in hand.
As I could hardly hope for a more favourable opportunity of putting a question in which I had a near interest, I said to Mrs. Micawber:
‘May I ask, ma’am, what you and Mr. Micawber intend to do, now that Mr. Micawber is out of his difficulties, and at liberty? Have you settled yet?’
‘My family,’ said Mrs. Micawber, who always said those two words with an air, though I never could discover who came under the denomination, ‘my family are of opinion that Mr. Micawber should quit London, and exert his talents in the country. Mr. Micawber is a man of great talent, Master Copperfield.’
I said I was sure of that.
‘Of great talent,’ repeated Mrs. Micawber. ‘My family are of opinion, that, with a little interest, something might be done for a man of his ability in the Custom House. The influence of my family being local, it is their wish that Mr. Micawber should go down to Plymouth. They think it indispensable that he should be upon the spot.’
‘That he may be ready?’ I suggested.
‘Exactly,’ returned Mrs. Micawber. ‘That he may be ready—in case of anything turning up.’
‘And do you go too, ma’am?’
The events of the day, in combination with the twins, if not with the flip, had made Mrs. Micawber hysterical, and she shed tears as she replied:
‘I never will desert Mr. Micawber. Mr. Micawber may have concealed his difficulties from me in the first instance, but his sanguine temper may have led him to expect that he would overcome them. The pearl necklace and bracelets which I inherited from mama, have been disposed of for less than half their value; and the set of coral, which was the wedding gift of my papa, has been actually thrown away for nothing. But I never will desert Mr. Micawber. No!’ cried Mrs. Micawber, more affected than before, ‘I never will do it! It’s of no use asking me!’
I felt quite uncomfortable—as if Mrs. Micawber supposed I had asked her to do anything of the sort!—and sat looking at her in alarm.
‘Mr. Micawber has his faults. I do not deny that he is improvident. I do not deny that he has kept me in the dark as to his resources and his liabilities both,’ she went on, looking at the wall; ‘but I never will desert Mr. Micawber!’
Mrs. Micawber having now raised her voice into a perfect scream, I was so frightened that I ran off to the club-room, and disturbed Mr. Micawber in the act of presiding at a long table, and leading the chorus of
Gee up, Dobbin, Gee ho, Dobbin, Gee up, Dobbin, Gee up, and gee ho—o—o!
with the tidings that Mrs. Micawber was in an alarming state, upon which he immediately burst into tears, and came away with me with his waistcoat full of the heads and tails of shrimps, of which he had been partaking.