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CHAPTER 35
DEPRESSION


As soon as I could recover my presence of mind, which quite
deserted me in the first overpowering shock of my aunt's
intelligence, I proposed to Mr. Dick to come round to the
chandler's shop, and take possession of the bed which Mr. Peggotty
had lately vacated. The chandler's shop being in Hungerford
Market, and Hungerford Market being a very different place in those
days, there was a low wooden colonnade before the door (not very
unlike that before the house where the little man and woman used to
live, in the old weather-glass), which pleased Mr. Dick mightily.
The glory of lodging over this structure would have compensated
him, I dare say, for many inconveniences; but, as there were really
few to bear, beyond the compound of flavours I have already
mentioned, and perhaps the want of a little more elbow-room, he was
perfectly charmed with his accommodation. Mrs. Crupp had
indignantly assured him that there wasn't room to swing a cat
there; but, as Mr. Dick justly observed to me, sitting down on the
foot of the bed, nursing his leg, 'You know, Trotwood, I don't want
to swing a cat. I never do swing a cat. Therefore, what does that
signify to ME!'

I tried to ascertain whether Mr. Dick had any understanding of the
causes of this sudden and great change in my aunt's affairs. As I
might have expected, he had none at all. The only account he could
give of it was, that my aunt had said to him, the day before
yesterday, 'Now, Dick, are you really and truly the philosopher I
take you for?' That then he had said, Yes, he hoped so. That then
my aunt had said, 'Dick, I am ruined.' That then he had said, 'Oh,
indeed!' That then my aunt had praised him highly, which he was
glad of. And that then they had come to me, and had had bottled
porter and sandwiches on the road.

Mr. Dick was so very complacent, sitting on the foot of the bed,
nursing his leg, and telling me this, with his eyes wide open and
a surprised smile, that I am sorry to say I was provoked into
explaining to him that ruin meant distress, want, and starvation;
but I was soon bitterly reproved for this harshness, by seeing his
face turn pale, and tears course down his lengthened cheeks, while
he fixed upon me a look of such unutterable woe, that it might have
softened a far harder heart than mine. I took infinitely greater
pains to cheer him up again than I had taken to depress him; and I
soon understood (as I ought to have known at first) that he had
been so confident, merely because of his faith in the wisest and
most wonderful of women, and his unbounded reliance on my
intellectual resources. The latter, I believe, he considered a
match for any kind of disaster not absolutely mortal.

'What can we do, Trotwood?' said Mr. Dick. 'There's the Memorial
-'

'To be sure there is,' said I. 'But all we can do just now, Mr.
Dick, is to keep a cheerful countenance, and not let my aunt see
that we are thinking about it.'

He assented to this in the most earnest manner; and implored me, if
I should see him wandering an inch out of the right course, to
recall him by some of those superior methods which were always at
my command. But I regret to state that the fright I had given him
proved too much for his best attempts at concealment. All the
evening his eyes wandered to my aunt's face, with an expression of
the most dismal apprehension, as if he saw her growing thin on the
spot. He was conscious of this, and put a constraint upon his
head; but his keeping that immovable, and sitting rolling his eyes
like a piece of machinery, did not mend the matter at all. I saw
him look at the loaf at supper (which happened to be a small one),
as if nothing else stood between us and famine; and when my aunt
insisted on his making his customary repast, I detected him in the
act of pocketing fragments of his bread and cheese; I have no doubt
for the purpose of reviving us with those savings, when we should
have reached an advanced stage of attenuation.

My aunt, on the other hand, was in a composed frame of mind, which
was a lesson to all of us - to me, I am sure. She was extremely
gracious to Peggotty, except when I inadvertently called her by
that name; and, strange as I knew she felt in London, appeared
quite at home. She was to have my bed, and I was to lie in the
sitting-room, to keep guard over her. She made a great point of
being so near the river, in case of a conflagration; and I suppose
really did find some satisfaction in that circumstance.

'Trot, my dear,' said my aunt, when she saw me making preparations
for compounding her usual night-draught, 'No!'

'Nothing, aunt?'

'Not wine, my dear. Ale.'

'But there is wine here, aunt. And you always have it made of
wine.'

'Keep that, in case of sickness,' said my aunt. 'We mustn't use it
carelessly, Trot. Ale for me. Half a pint.'

I thought Mr. Dick would have fallen, insensible. My aunt being
resolute, I went out and got the ale myself. As it was growing
late, Peggotty and Mr. Dick took that opportunity of repairing to
the chandler's shop together. I parted from him, poor fellow, at
the corner of the street, with his great kite at his back, a very
monument of human misery.

My aunt was walking up and down the room when I returned, crimping
the borders of her nightcap with her fingers. I warmed the ale and
made the toast on the usual infallible principles. When it was
ready for her, she was ready for it, with her nightcap on, and the
skirt of her gown turned back on her knees.

'My dear,' said my aunt, after taking a spoonful of it; 'it's a
great deal better than wine. Not half so bilious.'

I suppose I looked doubtful, for she added:

'Tut, tut, child. If nothing worse than Ale happens to us, we are
well off.'

'I should think so myself, aunt, I am sure,' said I.

'Well, then, why DON'T you think so?' said my aunt.

'Because you and I are very different people,' I returned.

'Stuff and nonsense, Trot!' replied my aunt.

MY aunt went on with a quiet enjoyment, in which there was very
little affectation, if any; drinking the warm ale with a tea-spoon,
and soaking her strips of toast in it.

'Trot,' said she, 'I don't care for strange faces in general, but
I rather like that Barkis of yours, do you know!'

'It's better than a hundred pounds to hear you say so!' said I.

'It's a most extraordinary world,' observed my aunt, rubbing her
nose; 'how that woman ever got into it with that name, is
unaccountable to me. It would be much more easy to be born a
Jackson, or something of that sort, one would think.'

'Perhaps she thinks so, too; it's not her fault,' said I.

'I suppose not,' returned my aunt, rather grudging the admission;
'but it's very aggravating. However, she's Barkis now. That's
some comfort. Barkis is uncommonly fond of you, Trot.'

'There is nothing she would leave undone to prove it,' said I.

'Nothing, I believe,' returned my aunt. 'Here, the poor fool has
been begging and praying about handing over some of her money -
because she has got too much of it. A simpleton!'

My aunt's tears of pleasure were positively trickling down into the
warm ale.

'She's the most ridiculous creature that ever was born,' said my
aunt. 'I knew, from the first moment when I saw her with that poor
dear blessed baby of a mother of yours, that she was the most
ridiculous of mortals. But there are good points in Barkis!'

Affecting to laugh, she got an opportunity of putting her hand to
her eyes. Having availed herself of it, she resumed her toast and
her discourse together.

'Ah! Mercy upon us!' sighed my aunt. 'I know all about it, Trot!
Barkis and myself had quite a gossip while you were out with Dick.
I know all about it. I don't know where these wretched girls
expect to go to, for my part. I wonder they don't knock out their
brains against - against mantelpieces,' said my aunt; an idea which
was probably suggested to her by her contemplation of mine.

'Poor Emily!' said I.

'Oh, don't talk to me about poor,' returned my aunt. 'She should
have thought of that, before she caused so much misery! Give me a
kiss, Trot. I am sorry for your early experience.'

As I bent forward, she put her tumbler on my knee to detain me, and
said:

'Oh, Trot, Trot! And so you fancy yourself in love! Do you?'

'Fancy, aunt!' I exclaimed, as red as I could be. 'I adore her
with my whole soul!'

'Dora, indeed!' returned my aunt. 'And you mean to say the little
thing is very fascinating, I suppose?'

'My dear aunt,' I replied, 'no one can form the least idea what she
is!'

'Ah! And not silly?' said my aunt.

'Silly, aunt!'

I seriously believe it had never once entered my head for a single
moment, to consider whether she was or not. I resented the idea,
of course; but I was in a manner struck by it, as a new one
altogether.

'Not light-headed?' said my aunt.

'Light-headed, aunt!' I could only repeat this daring speculation
with the same kind of feeling with which I had repeated the
preceding question.

'Well, well!' said my aunt. 'I only ask. I don't depreciate her.
Poor little couple! And so you think you were formed for one
another, and are to go through a party-supper-table kind of life,
like two pretty pieces of confectionery, do you, Trot?'

She asked me this so kindly, and with such a gentle air, half
playful and half sorrowful, that I was quite touched.

'We are young and inexperienced, aunt, I know,' I replied; 'and I
dare say we say and think a good deal that is rather foolish. But
we love one another truly, I am sure. If I thought Dora could ever
love anybody else, or cease to love me; or that I could ever love
anybody else, or cease to love her; I don't know what I should do
- go out of my mind, I think!'

'Ah, Trot!' said my aunt, shaking her head, and smiling gravely;
'blind, blind, blind!'

'Someone that I know, Trot,' my aunt pursued, after a pause,
'though of a very pliant disposition, has an earnestness of
affection in him that reminds me of poor Baby. Earnestness is what
that Somebody must look for, to sustain him and improve him, Trot.
Deep, downright, faithful earnestness.'

'If you only knew the earnestness of Dora, aunt!' I cried.

'Oh, Trot!' she said again; 'blind, blind!' and without knowing
why, I felt a vague unhappy loss or want of something overshadow me
like a cloud.

'However,' said my aunt, 'I don't want to put two young creatures
out of conceit with themselves, or to make them unhappy; so, though
it is a girl and boy attachment, and girl and boy attachments very
often - mind! I don't say always! - come to nothing, still we'll be
serious about it, and hope for a prosperous issue one of these
days. There's time enough for it to come to anything!'

This was not upon the whole very comforting to a rapturous lover;
but I was glad to have my aunt in my confidence, and I was mindful
of her being fatigued. So I thanked her ardently for this mark of
her affection, and for all her other kindnesses towards me; and
after a tender good night, she took her nightcap into my bedroom.

How miserable I was, when I lay down! How I thought and thought
about my being poor, in Mr. Spenlow's eyes; about my not being what
I thought I was, when I proposed to Dora; about the chivalrous
necessity of telling Dora what my worldly condition was, and
releasing her from her engagement if she thought fit; about how I
should contrive to live, during the long term of my articles, when
I was earning nothing; about doing something to assist my aunt, and
seeing no way of doing anything; about coming down to have no money
in my pocket, and to wear a shabby coat, and to be able to carry
Dora no little presents, and to ride no gallant greys, and to show
myself in no agreeable light! Sordid and selfish as I knew it was,
and as I tortured myself by knowing that it was, to let my mind run
on my own distress so much, I was so devoted to Dora that I could
not help it. I knew that it was base in me not to think more of my
aunt, and less of myself; but, so far, selfishness was inseparable
from Dora, and I could not put Dora on one side for any mortal
creature. How exceedingly miserable I was, that night!

As to sleep, I had dreams of poverty in all sorts of shapes, but I
seemed to dream without the previous ceremony of going to sleep.
Now I was ragged, wanting to sell Dora matches, six bundles for a
halfpenny; now I was at the office in a nightgown and boots,
remonstrated with by Mr. Spenlow on appearing before the clients in
that airy attire; now I was hungrily picking up the crumbs that
fell from old Tiffey's daily biscuit, regularly eaten when St.
Paul's struck one; now I was hopelessly endeavouring to get a
licence to marry Dora, having nothing but one of Uriah Heep's
gloves to offer in exchange, which the whole Commons rejected; and
still, more or less conscious of my own room, I was always tossing
about like a distressed ship in a sea of bed-clothes.

My aunt was restless, too, for I frequently heard her walking to
and fro. Two or,three times in the course of the night, attired in
a long flannel wrapper in which she looked seven feet high, she
appeared, like a disturbed ghost, in my room, and came to the side
of the sofa on which I lay. On the first occasion I started up in
alarm, to learn that she inferred from a particular light in the
sky, that Westminster Abbey was on fire; and to be consulted in
reference to the probability of its igniting Buckingham Street, in
case the wind changed. Lying still, after that, I found that she
sat down near me, whispering to herself 'Poor boy!' And then it
made me twenty times more wretched, to know how unselfishly mindful
she was of me, and how selfishly mindful I was of myself.

It was difficult to believe that a night so long to me, could be
short to anybody else. This consideration set me thinking and
thinking of an imaginary party where people were dancing the hours
away, until that became a dream too, and I heard the music
incessantly playing one tune, and saw Dora incessantly dancing one
dance, without taking the least notice of me. The man who had been
playing the harp all night, was trying in vain to cover it with an
ordinary-sized nightcap, when I awoke; or I should rather say, when
I left off trying to go to sleep, and saw the sun shining in
through the window at last.

There was an old Roman bath in those days at the bottom of one of
the streets out of the Strand - it may be there still - in which I
have had many a cold plunge. Dressing myself as quietly as I
could, and leaving Peggotty to look after my aunt, I tumbled head
foremost into it, and then went for a walk to Hampstead. I had a
hope that this brisk treatment might freshen my wits a little; and
I think it did them good, for I soon came to the conclusion that
the first step I ought to take was, to try if my articles could be
cancelled and the premium recovered. I got some breakfast on the
Heath, and walked back to Doctors' Commons, along the watered roads

and through a pleasant smell of summer flowers, growing in gardens
and carried into town on hucksters' heads, intent on this first
effort to meet our altered circumstances.

I arrived at the office so soon, after all, that I had half an
hour's loitering about the Commons, before old Tiffey, who was
always first, appeared with his key. Then I sat down in my shady
corner, looking up at the sunlight on the opposite chimney-pots,
and thinking about Dora; until Mr. Spenlow came in, crisp and
curly.

'How are you, Copperfield?' said he. 'Fine morning!'

'Beautiful morning, sir,' said I. 'Could I say a word to you
before you go into Court?'

'By all means,' said he. 'Come into my room.'

I followed him into his room, and he began putting on his gown, and
touching himself up before a little glass he had, hanging inside a
closet door.

'I am sorry to say,' said I, 'that I have some rather disheartening
intelligence from my aunt.'

'No!' said he. 'Dear me! Not paralysis, I hope?'

'It has no reference to her health, sir,' I replied. 'She has met
with some large losses. In fact, she has very little left,
indeed.'

'You as-tound me, Copperfield!' cried Mr. Spenlow.

I shook my head. 'Indeed, sir,' said I, 'her affairs are so
changed, that I wished to ask you whether it would be possible - at
a sacrifice on our part of some portion of the premium, of course,'
I put in this, on the spur of the moment, warned by the blank
expression of his face - 'to cancel my articles?'

What it cost me to make this proposal, nobody knows. It was like
asking, as a favour, to be sentenced to transportation from Dora.

'To cancel your articles, Copperfield? Cancel?'

I explained with tolerable firmness, that I really did not know
where my means of subsistence were to come from, unless I could
earn them for myself. I had no fear for the future, I said - and
I laid great emphasis on that, as if to imply that I should still
be decidedly eligible for a son-in-law one of these days - but, for
the present, I was thrown upon my own resources.
'I am extremely sorry to hear this, Copperfield,' said Mr. Spenlow.
'Extremely sorry. It is not usual to cancel articles for any such
reason. It is not a professional course of proceeding. It is not
a convenient precedent at all. Far from it. At the same time -'

'You are very good, sir,' I murmured, anticipating a concession.

'Not at all. Don't mention it,' said Mr. Spenlow. 'At the same
time, I was going to say, if it had been my lot to have my hands
unfettered - if I had not a partner - Mr. Jorkins -'

My hopes were dashed in a moment, but I made another effort.

'Do you think, sir,' said I, 'if I were to mention it to Mr.
Jorkins -'

Mr. Spenlow shook his head discouragingly. 'Heaven forbid,
Copperfield,' he replied, 'that I should do any man an injustice:
still less, Mr. jorkins. But I know my partner, Copperfield. Mr.
jorkins is not a man to respond to a proposition of this peculiar
nature. Mr. jorkins is very difficult to move from the beaten
track. You know what he is!'

I am sure I knew nothing about him, except that he had originally
been alone in the business, and now lived by himself in a house
near Montagu Square, which was fearfully in want of painting; that
he came very late of a day, and went away very early; that he never
appeared to be consulted about anything; and that he had a dingy
little black-hole of his own upstairs, where no business was ever
done, and where there was a yellow old cartridge-paper pad upon his
desk, unsoiled by ink, and reported to be twenty years of age.

'Would you object to my mentioning it to him, sir?' I asked.

'By no means,' said Mr. Spenlow. 'But I have some experience of
Mr. jorkins, Copperfield. I wish it were otherwise, for I should
be happy to meet your views in any respect. I cannot have the
objection to your mentioning it to Mr. jorkins, Copperfield, if you
think it worth while.'

Availing myself of this permission, which was given with a warm
shake of the hand, I sat thinking about Dora, and looking at the
sunlight stealing from the chimney-pots down the wall of the
opposite house, until Mr. jorkins came. I then went up to Mr.
jorkins's room, and evidently astonished Mr. jorkins very much by
making my appearance there.

'Come in, Mr. Copperfield,' said Mr. jorkins. 'Come in!'

I went in, and sat down; and stated my case to Mr. jorkins pretty
much as I had stated it to Mr. Spenlow. Mr. Jorkins was not by any
means the awful creature one might have expected, but a large,
mild, smooth-faced man of sixty, who took so much snuff that there
was a tradition in the Commons that he lived principally on that
stimulant, having little room in his system for any other article
of diet.

'You have mentioned this to Mr. Spenlow, I suppose?' said Mr.
jorkins; when he had heard me, very restlessly, to an end.

I answered Yes, and told him that Mr. Spenlow had introduced his
name.

'He said I should object?' asked Mr. jorkins.

I was obliged to admit that Mr. Spenlow had considered it probable.

'I am sorry to say, Mr. Copperfield, I can't advance your object,'
said Mr. jorkins, nervously. 'The fact is - but I have an
appointment at the Bank, if you'll have the goodness to excuse me.'

With that he rose in a great hurry, and was going out of the room,
when I made bold to say that I feared, then, there was no way of
arranging the matter?

'No!' said Mr. jorkins, stopping at the door to shake his head.
'Oh, no! I object, you know,' which he said very rapidly, and went
out. 'You must be aware, Mr. Copperfield,' he added, looking
restlessly in at the door again, 'if Mr. Spenlow objects -'

'Personally, he does not object, sir,' said I.

'Oh! Personally!' repeated Mr. Jorkins, in an impatient manner.
'I assure you there's an objection, Mr. Copperfield. Hopeless!
What you wish to be done, can't be done. I - I really have got an
appointment at the Bank.' With that he fairly ran away; and to the
best of my knowledge, it was three days before he showed himself in
the Commons again.

Being very anxious to leave no stone unturned, I waited until Mr.
Spenlow came in, and then described what had passed; giving him to
understand that I was not hopeless of his being able to soften the
adamantine jorkins, if he would undertake the task.

'Copperfield,' returned Mr. Spenlow, with a gracious smile, 'you
have not known my partner, Mr. jorkins, as long as I have. Nothing
is farther from my thoughts than to attribute any degree of
artifice to Mr. jorkins. But Mr. jorkins has a way of stating his
objections which often deceives people. No, Copperfield!' shaking
his head. 'Mr. jorkins is not to be moved, believe me!'

I was completely bewildered between Mr. Spenlow and Mr. jorkins, as
to which of them really was the objecting partner; but I saw with
sufficient clearness that there was obduracy somewhere in the firm,
and that the recovery of my aunt's thousand pounds was out of the
question. In a state of despondency, which I remember with
anything but satisfaction, for I know it still had too much
reference to myself (though always in connexion with Dora), I left
the office, and went homeward.

I was trying to familiarize my mind with the worst, and to present
to myself the arrangements we should have to make for the future in
their sternest aspect, when a hackney-chariot coming after me, and
stopping at my very feet, occasioned me to look up. A fair hand
was stretched forth to me from the window; and the face I had never
seen without a feeling of serenity and happiness, from the moment
when it first turned back on the old oak staircase with the great
broad balustrade, and when I associated its softened beauty with
the stained-glass window in the church, was smiling on me.

'Agnes!' I joyfully exclaimed. 'Oh, my dear Agnes, of all people
in the world, what a pleasure to see you!'

'Is it, indeed?' she said, in her cordial voice.

'I want to talk to you so much!' said I. 'It's such a lightening
of my heart, only to look at you! If I had had a conjuror's cap,
there is no one I should have wished for but you!'

'What?' returned Agnes.

'Well! perhaps Dora first,' I admitted, with a blush.

'Certainly, Dora first, I hope,' said Agnes, laughing.

'But you next!' said I. 'Where are you going?'

She was going to my rooms to see my aunt. The day being very fine,
she was glad to come out of the chariot, which smelt (I had my head
in it all this time) like a stable put under a cucumber-frame. I
dismissed the coachman, and she took my arm, and we walked on
together. She was like Hope embodied, to me. How different I felt
in one short minute, having Agnes at my side!

My aunt had written her one of the odd, abrupt notes - very little
longer than a Bank note - to which her epistolary efforts were
usually limited. She had stated therein that she had fallen into
adversity, and was leaving Dover for good, but had quite made up
her mind to it, and was so well that nobody need be uncomfortable
about her. Agnes had come to London to see my aunt, between whom
and herself there had been a mutual liking these many years:
indeed, it dated from the time of my taking up my residence in Mr.
Wickfield's house. She was not alone, she said. Her papa was with
her - and Uriah Heep.

'And now they are partners,' said I. 'Confound him!'

'Yes,' said Agnes. 'They have some business here; and I took
advantage of their coming, to come too. You must not think my
visit all friendly and disinterested, Trotwood, for - I am afraid
I may be cruelly prejudiced - I do not like to let papa go away
alone, with him.'
'Does he exercise the same influence over Mr. Wickfield still,
Agnes?'

Agnes shook her head. 'There is such a change at home,' said she,
'that you would scarcely know the dear old house. They live with
us now.'

'They?' said I.

'Mr. Heep and his mother. He sleeps in your old room,' said Agnes,
looking up into my face.

'I wish I had the ordering of his dreams,' said I. 'He wouldn't
sleep there long.'

'I keep my own little room,' said Agnes, 'where I used to learn my
lessons. How the time goes! You remember? The little panelled
room that opens from the drawing-room?'

'Remember, Agnes? When I saw you, for the first time, coming out
at the door, with your quaint little basket of keys hanging at your
side?'

'It is just the same,' said Agnes, smiling. 'I am glad you think
of it so pleasantly. We were very happy.'

'We were, indeed,' said I.

'I keep that room to myself still; but I cannot always desert Mrs.
Heep, you know. And so,' said Agnes, quietly, 'I feel obliged to
bear her company, when I might prefer to be alone. But I have no
other reason to complain of her. If she tires me, sometimes, by
her praises of her son, it is only natural in a mother. He is a
very good son to her.'

I looked at Agnes when she said these words, without detecting in
her any consciousness of Uriah's design. Her mild but earnest eyes
met mine with their own beautiful frankness, and there was no
change in her gentle face.

'The chief evil of their presence in the house,' said Agnes, 'is
that I cannot be as near papa as I could wish - Uriah Heep being so
much between us - and cannot watch over him, if that is not too
bold a thing to say, as closely as I would. But if any fraud or
treachery is practising against him, I hope that simple love and
truth will be strong in the end. I hope that real love and truth
are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.'

A certain bright smile, which I never saw on any other face, died
away, even while I thought how good it was, and how familiar it had
once been to me; and she asked me, with a quick change of
expression (we were drawing very near my street), if I knew how the
reverse in my aunt's circumstances had been brought about. On my
replying no, she had not told me yet, Agnes became thoughtful, and
I fancied I felt her arm tremble in mine.

We found my aunt alone, in a state of some excitement. A
difference of opinion had arisen between herself and Mrs. Crupp, on
an abstract question (the propriety of chambers being inhabited by
the gentler sex); and my aunt, utterly indifferent to spasms on the
part of Mrs. Crupp, had cut the dispute short, by informing that
lady that she smelt of my brandy, and that she would trouble her to
walk out. Both of these expressions Mrs. Crupp considered
actionable, and had expressed her intention of bringing before a
'British Judy' - meaning, it was supposed, the bulwark of our
national liberties.

MY aunt, however, having had time to cool, while Peggotty was out
showing Mr. Dick the soldiers at the Horse Guards - and being,
besides, greatly pleased to see Agnes - rather plumed herself on
the affair than otherwise, and received us with unimpaired good
humour. When Agnes laid her bonnet on the table, and sat down
beside her, I could not but think, looking on her mild eyes and her
radiant forehead, how natural it seemed to have her there; how
trustfully, although she was so young and inexperienced, my aunt
confided in her; how strong she was, indeed, in simple love and
truth.

We began to talk about my aunt's losses, and I told them what I had
tried to do that morning.

'Which was injudicious, Trot,' said my aunt, 'but well meant. You
are a generous boy - I suppose I must say, young man, now - and I
am proud of you, my dear. So far, so good. Now, Trot and Agnes,
let us look the case of Betsey Trotwood in the face, and see how it
stands.'

I observed Agnes turn pale, as she looked very attentively at my
aunt. My aunt, patting her cat, looked very attentively at Agnes.

'Betsey Trotwood,' said my aunt, who had always kept her money
matters to herself. '- I don't mean your sister, Trot, my dear,
but myself - had a certain property. It don't matter how much;
enough to live on. More; for she had saved a little, and added to
it. Betsey funded her property for some time, and then, by the
advice of her man of business, laid it out on landed security.
That did very well, and returned very good interest, till Betsey
was paid off. I am talking of Betsey as if she was a man-of-war.
Well! Then, Betsey had to look about her, for a new investment.
She thought she was wiser, now, than her man of business, who was
not such a good man of business by this time, as he used to be - I
am alluding to your father, Agnes - and she took it into her head
to lay it out for herself. So she took her pigs,' said my aunt,
'to a foreign market; and a very bad market it turned out to be.
First, she lost in the mining way, and then she lost in the diving
way - fishing up treasure, or some such Tom Tiddler nonsense,'
explained my aunt, rubbing her nose; 'and then she lost in the
mining way again, and, last of all, to set the thing entirely to
rights, she lost in the banking way. I don't know what the Bank
shares were worth for a little while,' said my aunt; 'cent per cent
was the lowest of it, I believe; but the Bank was at the other end
of the world, and tumbled into space, for what I know; anyhow, it
fell to pieces, and never will and never can pay sixpence; and
Betsey's sixpences were all there, and there's an end of them.
Least said, soonest mended!'

My aunt concluded this philosophical summary, by fixing her eyes
with a kind of triumph on Agnes, whose colour was gradually
returning.

'Dear Miss Trotwood, is that all the history?' said Agnes.

'I hope it's enough, child,' said my aunt. 'If there had been more
money to lose, it wouldn't have been all, I dare say. Betsey would
have contrived to throw that after the rest, and make another
chapter, I have little doubt. But there was no more money, and
there's no more story.'

Agnes had listened at first with suspended breath. Her colour
still came and went, but she breathed more freely. I thought I
knew why. I thought she had had some fear that her unhappy father
might be in some way to blame for what had happened. My aunt took
her hand in hers, and laughed.

'Is that all?' repeated my aunt. 'Why, yes, that's all, except,
"And she lived happy ever afterwards." Perhaps I may add that of
Betsey yet, one of these days. Now, Agnes, you have a wise head.
So have you, Trot, in some things, though I can't compliment you
always'; and here my aunt shook her own at me, with an energy
peculiar to herself. 'What's to be done? Here's the cottage,
taking one time with another, will produce say seventy pounds a
year. I think we may safely put it down at that. Well! - That's
all we've got,' said my aunt; with whom it was an idiosyncrasy, as
it is with some horses, to stop very short when she appeared to be
in a fair way of going on for a long while.

'Then,' said my aunt, after a rest, 'there's Dick. He's good for
a hundred a-year, but of course that must be expended on himself.
I would sooner send him away, though I know I am the only person
who appreciates him, than have him, and not spend his money on
himself. How can Trot and I do best, upon our means? What do you
say, Agnes?'

'I say, aunt,' I interposed, 'that I must do something!'

'Go for a soldier, do you mean?' returned my aunt, alarmed; 'or go
to sea? I won't hear of it. You are to be a proctor. We're not
going to have any knockings on the head in THIS family, if you
please, sir.'

I was about to explain that I was not desirous of introducing that
mode of provision into the family, when Agnes inquired if my rooms
were held for any long term?

'You come to the point, my dear,' said my aunt. 'They are not to
be got rid of, for six months at least, unless they could be
underlet, and that I don't believe. The last man died here. Five
people out of six would die - of course - of that woman in nankeen
with the flannel petticoat. I have a little ready money; and I
agree with you, the best thing we can do, is, to live the term out
here, and get a bedroom hard by.'

I thought it my duty to hint at the discomfort my aunt would
sustain, from living in a continual state of guerilla warfare with
Mrs. Crupp; but she disposed of that objection summarily by
declaring that, on the first demonstration of hostilities, she was
prepared to astonish Mrs. Crupp for the whole remainder of her
natural life.

'I have been thinking, Trotwood,' said Agnes, diffidently, 'that if
you had time -'

'I have a good deal of time, Agnes. I am always disengaged after
four or five o'clock, and I have time early in the morning. In one
way and another,' said I, conscious of reddening a little as I
thought of the hours and hours I had devoted to fagging about town,
and to and fro upon the Norwood Road, 'I have abundance of time.'

'I know you would not mind,' said Agnes, coming to me, and speaking
in a low voice, so full of sweet and hopeful consideration that I
hear it now, 'the duties of a secretary.'

'Mind, my dear Agnes?'

'Because,' continued Agnes, 'Doctor Strong has acted on his
intention of retiring, and has come to live in London; and he asked
papa, I know, if he could recommend him one. Don't you think he
would rather have his favourite old pupil near him, than anybody
else?'

'Dear Agnes!' said I. 'What should I do without you! You are
always my good angel. I told you so. I never think of you in any
other light.'

Agnes answered with her pleasant laugh, that one good Angel
(meaning Dora) was enough; and went on to remind me that the Doctor
had been used to occupy himself in his study, early in the morning,
and in the evening - and that probably my leisure would suit his
requirements very well. I was scarcely more delighted with the
prospect of earning my own bread, than with the hope of earning it
under my old master; in short, acting on the advice of Agnes, I sat
down and wrote a letter to the Doctor, stating my object, and
appointing to call on him next day at ten in the forenoon. This I
addressed to Highgate - for in that place, so memorable to me, he
lived - and went and posted, myself, without losing a minute.

Wherever Agnes was, some agreeable token of her noiseless presence
seemed inseparable from the place. When I came back, I found my
aunt's birds hanging, just as they had hung so long in the parlour
window of the cottage; and my easy-chair imitating my aunt's much
easier chair in its position at the open window; and even the round
green fan, which my aunt had brought away with her, screwed on to
the window-sill. I knew who had done all this, by its seeming to
have quietly done itself; and I should have known in a moment who
had arranged my neglected books in the old order of my school days,
even if I had supposed Agnes to be miles away, instead of seeing
her busy with them, and smiling at the disorder into which they had
fallen.

My aunt was quite gracious on the subject of the Thames (it really
did look very well with the sun upon it, though not like the sea
before the cottage), but she could not relent towards the London
smoke, which, she said, 'peppered everything'. A complete
revolution, in which Peggotty bore a prominent part, was being
effected in every corner of my rooms, in regard of this pepper; and
I was looking on, thinking how little even Peggotty seemed to do
with a good deal of bustle, and how much Agnes did without any
bustle at all, when a knock came at the door.

'I think,' said Agnes, turning pale, 'it's papa. He promised me
that he would come.'

I opened the door, and admitted, not only Mr. Wickfield, but Uriah
Heep. I had not seen Mr. Wickfield for some time. I was prepared
for a great change in him, after what I had heard from Agnes, but
his appearance shocked me.

It was not that he looked many years older, though still dressed
with the old scrupulous cleanliness; or that there was an
unwholesome ruddiness upon his face; or that his eyes were full and
bloodshot; or that there was a nervous trembling in his hand, the
cause of which I knew, and had for some years seen at work. It was
not that he had lost his good looks, or his old bearing of a
gentleman - for that he had not - but the thing that struck me
most, was, that with the evidences of his native superiority still
upon him, he should submit himself to that crawling impersonation
of meanness, Uriah Heep. The reversal of the two natures, in their
relative positions, Uriah's of power and Mr. Wickfield's of
dependence, was a sight more painful to me than I can express. If
I had seen an Ape taking command of a Man, I should hardly have
thought it a more degrading spectacle.

He appeared to be only too conscious of it himself. When he came
in, he stood still; and with his head bowed, as if he felt it.
This was only for a moment; for Agnes softly said to him, 'Papa!
Here is Miss Trotwood - and Trotwood, whom you have not seen for a
long while!' and then he approached, and constrainedly gave my aunt
his hand, and shook hands more cordially with me. In the moment's
pause I speak of, I saw Uriah's countenance form itself into a most
ill-favoured smile. Agnes saw it too, I think, for she shrank from
him.

What my aunt saw, or did not see, I defy the science of physiognomy
to have made out, without her own consent. I believe there never
was anybody with such an imperturbable countenance when she chose.
Her face might have been a dead-wall on the occasion in question,
for any light it threw upon her thoughts; until she broke silence
with her usual abruptness.

'Well, Wickfield!' said my aunt; and he looked up at her for the
first time. 'I have been telling your daughter how well I have
been disposing of my money for myself, because I couldn't trust it
to you, as you were growing rusty in business matters. We have
been taking counsel together, and getting on very well, all things
considered. Agnes is worth the whole firm, in my opinion.'

'If I may umbly make the remark,' said Uriah Heep, with a writhe,
'I fully agree with Miss Betsey Trotwood, and should be only too
appy if Miss Agnes was a partner.'

'You're a partner yourself, you know,' returned my aunt, 'and
that's about enough for you, I expect. How do you find yourself,
sir?'

In acknowledgement of this question, addressed to him with
extraordinary curtness, Mr. Heep, uncomfortably clutching the blue
bag he carried, replied that he was pretty well, he thanked my
aunt, and hoped she was the same.

'And you, Master - I should say, Mister Copperfield,' pursued
Uriah. 'I hope I see you well! I am rejoiced to see you, Mister
Copperfield, even under present circumstances.' I believed that;
for he seemed to relish them very much. 'Present circumstances is
not what your friends would wish for you, Mister Copperfield, but
it isn't money makes the man: it's - I am really unequal with my
umble powers to express what it is,' said Uriah, with a fawning
jerk, 'but it isn't money!'

Here he shook hands with me: not in the common way, but standing at
a good distance from me, and lifting my hand up and down like a
pump handle, that he was a little afraid of.

'And how do you think we are looking, Master Copperfield, - I
should say, Mister?' fawned Uriah. 'Don't you find Mr. Wickfield
blooming, sir? Years don't tell much in our firm, Master
Copperfield, except in raising up the umble, namely, mother and
self - and in developing,' he added, as an afterthought, 'the
beautiful, namely, Miss Agnes.'

He jerked himself about, after this compliment, in such an
intolerable manner, that my aunt, who had sat looking straight at
him, lost all patience.

'Deuce take the man!' said my aunt, sternly, 'what's he about?
Don't be galvanic, sir!'

'I ask your pardon, Miss Trotwood,' returned Uriah; 'I'm aware
you're nervous.'

'Go along with you, sir!' said my aunt, anything but appeased.
'Don't presume to say so! I am nothing of the sort. If you're an
eel, sir, conduct yourself like one. If you're a man, control your
limbs, sir! Good God!' said my aunt, with great indignation, 'I am
not going to be serpentined and corkscrewed out of my senses!'

Mr. Heep was rather abashed, as most people might have been, by
this explosion; which derived great additional force from the
indignant manner in which my aunt afterwards moved in her chair,
and shook her head as if she were making snaps or bounces at him.
But he said to me aside in a meek voice:

'I am well aware, Master Copperfield, that Miss Trotwood, though an
excellent lady, has a quick temper (indeed I think I had the
pleasure of knowing her, when I was a numble clerk, before you did,
Master Copperfield), and it's only natural, I am sure, that it
should be made quicker by present circumstances. The wonder is,
that it isn't much worse! I only called to say that if there was
anything we could do, in present circumstances, mother or self, or
Wickfield and Heep, -we should be really glad. I may go so far?'
said Uriah, with a sickly smile at his partner.

'Uriah Heep,' said Mr. Wickfield, in a monotonous forced way, 'is
active in the business, Trotwood. What he says, I quite concur in.
You know I had an old interest in you. Apart from that, what Uriah
says I quite concur in!'

'Oh, what a reward it is,' said Uriah, drawing up one leg, at the
risk of bringing down upon himself another visitation from my aunt,
'to be so trusted in! But I hope I am able to do something to
relieve him from the fatigues of business, Master Copperfield!'

'Uriah Heep is a great relief to me,' said Mr. Wickfield, in the
same dull voice. 'It's a load off my mind, Trotwood, to have such
a partner.'

The red fox made him say all this, I knew, to exhibit him to me in
the light he had indicated on the night when he poisoned my rest.
I saw the same ill-favoured smile upon his face again, and saw how
he watched me.

'You are not going, papa?' said Agnes, anxiously. 'Will you not
walk back with Trotwood and me?'

He would have looked to Uriah, I believe, before replying, if that
worthy had not anticipated him.

'I am bespoke myself,' said Uriah, 'on business; otherwise I should
have been appy to have kept with my friends. But I leave my
partner to represent the firm. Miss Agnes, ever yours! I wish you
good-day, Master Copperfield, and leave my umble respects for Miss
Betsey Trotwood.'

With those words, he retired, kissing his great hand, and leering
at us like a mask.

We sat there, talking about our pleasant old Canterbury days, an
hour or two. Mr. Wickfield, left to Agnes, soon became more like
his former self; though there was a settled depression upon him,
which he never shook off. For all that, he brightened; and had an
evident pleasure in hearing us recall the little incidents of our
old life, many of which he remembered very well. He said it was
like those times, to be alone with Agnes and me again; and he
wished to Heaven they had never changed. I am sure there was an
influence in the placid face of Agnes, and in the very touch of her
hand upon his arm, that did wonders for him.

My aunt (who was busy nearly all this while with Peggotty, in the
inner room) would not accompany us to the place where they were
staying, but insisted on my going; and I went. We dined together.
After dinner, Agnes sat beside him, as of old, and poured out his
wine. He took what she gave him, and no more - like a child - and
we all three sat together at a window as the evening gathered in.
When it was almost dark, he lay down on a sofa, Agnes pillowing his
head and bending over him a little while; and when she came back to
the window, it was not so dark but I could see tears glittering in
her eyes.

I pray Heaven that I never may forget the dear girl in her love and
truth, at that time of my life; for if I should, I must be drawing
near the end, and then I would desire to remember her best! She
filled my heart with such good resolutions, strengthened my
weakness so, by her example, so directed - I know not how, she was
too modest and gentle to advise me in many words - the wandering
ardour and unsettled purpose within me, that all the little good I
have done, and all the harm I have forborne, I solemnly believe I
may refer to her.

And how she spoke to me of Dora, sitting at the window in the dark;
listened to my praises of her; praised again; and round the little
fairy-figure shed some glimpses of her own pure light, that made it
yet more precious and more innocent to me! Oh, Agnes, sister of my
boyhood, if I had known then, what I knew long afterwards! -

There was a beggar in the street, when I went down; and as I turned
my head towards the window, thinking of her calm seraphic eyes, he
made me start by muttering, as if he were an echo of the morning:
'Blind! Blind! Blind!'





David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Category:
General Fiction

England - Social life and customs - 19th century
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