'To Canterbury. In fact, my dear Copperfield, I have entered into arrangements, by virtue of which I stand pledged and contracted to our friend Heep, to assist and serve him in the capacity of — and to be — his confidential clerk.'
I stared at Mr. Micawber, who greatly enjoyed my surprise.
'I am bound to state to you,' he said, with an official air, 'that the business habits, and the prudent suggestions, of Mrs. Micawber, have in a great measure conduced to this result. The gauntlet, to which Mrs. Micawber referred upon a former occasion, being thrown down in the form of an advertisement, was taken up by my friend Heep, and led to a mutual recognition. Of my friend Heep,' said Mr. Micawber, 'who is a man of remarkable shrewdness, I desire to speak with all possible respect. My friend Heep has not fixed the positive remuneration at too high a figure, but he has made a great deal, in the way of extrication from the pressure of pecuniary difficulties, contingent on the value of my services; and on the value of those services I pin my faith. Such address and intelligence as I chance to possess,' said Mr. Micawber, boastfully disparaging himself, with the old genteel air, 'will be devoted to my friend Heep's service. I have already some acquaintance with the law — as a defendant on civil process — and I shall immediately apply myself to the Commentaries of one of the most eminent and remarkable of our English jurists. I believe it is unnecessary to add that I allude to Mr. justice Blackstone.'
These observations, and indeed the greater part of the observations made that evening, were interrupted by Mrs. Micawber's discovering that Master Micawber was sitting on his boots, or holding his head on with both arms as if he felt it loose, or accidentally kicking Traddles under the table, or shuffling his feet over one another, or producing them at distances from himself apparently outrageous to nature, or lying sideways with his hair among the wine-glasses, or developing his restlessness of limb in some other form incompatible with the general interests of society; and by Master Micawber's receiving those discoveries in a resentful spirit. I sat all the while, amazed by Mr. Micawber's disclosure, and wondering what it meant; until Mrs. Micawber resumed the thread of the discourse, and claimed my attention.
'What I particularly request Mr. Micawber to be careful of, is,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'that he does not, my dear Mr. Copperfield, in applying himself to this subordinate branch of the law, place it out of his power to rise, ultimately, to the top of the tree. I am convinced that Mr. Micawber, giving his mind to a profession so adapted to his fertile resources, and his flow of language, must distinguish himself. Now, for example, Mr. Traddles,' said Mrs. Micawber, assuming a profound air, 'a judge, or even say a Chancellor. Does an individual place himself beyond the pale of those preferments by entering on such an office as Mr. Micawber has accepted?'
'My dear,' observed Mr. Micawber — but glancing inquisitively at Traddles, too; 'we have time enough before us, for the consideration of those questions.'
'Micawber,' she returned, 'no! Your mistake in life is, that you do not look forward far enough. You are bound, in justice to your family, if not to yourself, to take in at a comprehensive glance the extremest point in the horizon to which your abilities may lead you.'
Mr. Micawber coughed, and drank his punch with an air of exceeding satisfaction — still glancing at Traddles, as if he desired to have his opinion.
'Why, the plain state of the case, Mrs. Micawber,' said Traddles, mildly breaking the truth to her. 'I mean the real prosaic fact, you know — '
'Just so,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'my dear Mr. Traddles, I wish to be as prosaic and literal as possible on a subject of so much importance.'
' — Is,' said Traddles, 'that this branch of the law, even if Mr. Micawber were a regular solicitor — '
'Exactly so,' returned Mrs. Micawber. ('Wilkins, you are squinting, and will not be able to get your eyes back.')
' — Has nothing,' pursued Traddles, 'to do with that. Only a barrister is eligible for such preferments; and Mr. Micawber could not be a barrister, without being entered at an inn of court as a student, for five years.'
'Do I follow you?' said Mrs. Micawber, with her most affable air of business. 'Do I understand, my dear Mr. Traddles, that, at the expiration of that period, Mr. Micawber would be eligible as a Judge or Chancellor?'
'He would be ELIGIBLE,' returned Traddles, with a strong emphasis on that word.
'Thank you,' said Mrs. Micawber. 'That is quite sufficient. If such is the case, and Mr. Micawber forfeits no privilege by entering on these duties, my anxiety is set at rest. I speak,' said Mrs. Micawber, 'as a female, necessarily; but I have always been of opinion that Mr. Micawber possesses what I have heard my papa call, when I lived at home, the judicial mind; and I hope Mr. Micawber is now entering on a field where that mind will develop itself, and take a commanding station.'
I quite believe that Mr. Micawber saw himself, in his judicial mind's eye, on the woolsack. He passed his hand complacently over his bald head, and said with ostentatious resignation: