I strolled into the country for an hour or so, and then returned by the main street, which in the interval had shaken off its last night's sleep. Among those who were stirring in the shops, I saw my ancient enemy the butcher, now advanced to top-boots and a baby, and in business for himself. He was nursing the baby, and appeared to be a benignant member of society.
We all became very anxious and impatient, when we sat down to breakfast. As it approached nearer and nearer to half past nine o'clock, our restless expectation of Mr. Micawber increased. At last we made no more pretence of attending to the meal, which, except with Mr. Dick, had been a mere form from the first; but my aunt walked up and down the room, Traddles sat upon the sofa affecting to read the paper with his eyes on the ceiling; and I looked out of the window to give early notice of Mr. Micawber's coming. Nor had I long to watch, for, at the first chime of the half hour, he appeared in the street.
'Here he is,' said I, 'and not in his legal attire!'
My aunt tied the strings of her bonnet (she had come down to breakfast in it), and put on her shawl, as if she were ready for anything that was resolute and uncompromising. Traddles buttoned his coat with a determined air. Mr. Dick, disturbed by these formidable appearances, but feeling it necessary to imitate them, pulled his hat, with both hands, as firmly over his ears as he possibly could; and instantly took it off again, to welcome Mr. Micawber.
'Gentlemen, and madam,' said Mr. Micawber, 'good morning! My dear sir,' to Mr. Dick, who shook hands with him violently, 'you are extremely good.'
'Have you breakfasted?' said Mr. Dick. 'Have a chop!'
'Not for the world, my good sir!' cried Mr. Micawber, stopping him on his way to the bell; 'appetite and myself, Mr. Dixon, have long been strangers.'
Mr. Dixon was so well pleased with his new name, and appeared to think it so obliging in Mr. Micawber to confer it upon him, that he shook hands with him again, and laughed rather childishly.
'Dick,' said my aunt, 'attention!'
Mr. Dick recovered himself, with a blush.
'Now, sir,' said my aunt to Mr. Micawber, as she put on her gloves, 'we are ready for Mount Vesuvius, or anything else, as soon as YOU please.'
'Madam,' returned Mr. Micawber, 'I trust you will shortly witness an eruption. Mr. Traddles, I have your permission, I believe, to mention here that we have been in communication together?'
'It is undoubtedly the fact, Copperfield,' said Traddles, to whom I looked in surprise. 'Mr. Micawber has consulted me in reference to what he has in contemplation; and I have advised him to the best of my judgement.'
'Unless I deceive myself, Mr. Traddles,' pursued Mr. Micawber, 'what I contemplate is a disclosure of an important nature.'
'Highly so,' said Traddles.
'Perhaps, under such circumstances, madam and gentlemen,' said Mr. Micawber, 'you will do me the favour to submit yourselves, for the moment, to the direction of one who, however unworthy to be regarded in any other light but as a Waif and Stray upon the shore of human nature, is still your fellow-man, though crushed out of his original form by individual errors, and the accumulative force of a combination of circumstances?'
'We have perfect confidence in you, Mr. Micawber,' said I, 'and will do what you please.'
'Mr. Copperfield,' returned Mr. Micawber, 'your confidence is not, at the existing juncture, ill-bestowed. I would beg to be allowed a start of five minutes by the clock; and then to receive the present company, inquiring for Miss Wickfield, at the office of Wickfield and Heep, whose Stipendiary I am.'
My aunt and I looked at Traddles, who nodded his approval.
'I have no more,' observed Mr. Micawber, 'to say at present.'
With which, to my infinite surprise, he included us all in a comprehensive bow, and disappeared; his manner being extremely distant, and his face extremely pale.
Traddles only smiled, and shook his head (with his hair standing upright on the top of it), when I looked to him for an explanation; so I took out my watch, and, as a last resource, counted off the five minutes. My aunt, with her own watch in her hand, did the like. When the time was expired, Traddles gave her his arm; and we all went out together to the old house, without saying one word on the way.
We found Mr. Micawber at his desk, in the turret office on the ground floor, either writing, or pretending to write, hard. The large office-ruler was stuck into his waistcoat, and was not so well concealed but that a foot or more of that instrument protruded from his bosom, like a new kind of shirt-frill.
As it appeared to me that I was expected to speak, I said aloud:
'How do you do, Mr. Micawber?'
'Mr. Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, gravely, 'I hope I see you well?'
'Is Miss Wickfield at home?' said I.
'Mr. Wickfield is unwell in bed, sir, of a rheumatic fever,' he returned; 'but Miss Wickfield, I have no doubt, will be happy to see old friends. Will you walk in, sir?'