David Copperfield – Day 214 of 331

“I looked for single motives in everyone,” said Mr. Wickfield, and I was satisfied I had bound him to me by motives of interest. But see what he is—oh, see what he is!”

“You had better stop him, Copperfield, if you can,” cried Uriah, with his long forefinger pointing towards me. “He’ll say something presently—mind you!—he’ll be sorry to have said afterwards, and you’ll be sorry to have heard!”

“I’ll say anything!” cried Mr. Wickfield, with a desperate air. “Why should I not be in all the world’s power if I am in yours?”

“Mind! I tell you!” said Uriah, continuing to warn me. “If you don’t stop his mouth, you’re not his friend! Why shouldn’t you be in all the world’s power, Mr. Wickfield? Because you have got a daughter. You and me know what we know, don’t we? Let sleeping dogs lie—who wants to rouse ’em? I don’t. Can’t you see I am as umble as I can be? I tell you, if I’ve gone too far, I’m sorry. What would you have, sir?”

“Oh, Trotwood, Trotwood!”exclaimed Mr. Wickfield, wringing his hands. “What I have come down to be, since I first saw you in this house! I was on my downward way then, but the dreary, dreary road I have traversed since! Weak indulgence has ruined me. Indulgence in remembrance, and indulgence in forgetfulness. My natural grief for my child’s mother turned to disease; my natural love for my child turned to disease. I have infected everything I touched. I have brought misery on what I dearly love, I know—you know! I thought it possible that I could truly love one creature in the world, and not love the rest; I thought it possible that I could truly mourn for one creature gone out of the world, and not have some part in the grief of all who mourned. Thus the lessons of my life have been perverted! I have preyed on my own morbid coward heart, and it has preyed on me. Sordid in my grief, sordid in my love, sordid in my miserable escape from the darker side of both, oh see the ruin I am, and hate me, shun me!”

He dropped into a chair, and weakly sobbed. The excitement into which he had been roused was leaving him. Uriah came out of his corner.

“I don’t know all I have done, in my fatuity,” said Mr. Wickfield, putting out his hands, as if to deprecate my condemnation. “He knows best,” meaning Uriah Heep, “for he has always been at my elbow, whispering me. You see the millstone that he is about my neck. You find him in my house, you find him in my business. You heard him, but a little time ago. What need have I to say more!”

“You haven’t need to say so much, nor half so much, nor anything at all,” observed Uriah, half defiant, and half fawning. “You wouldn’t have took it up so, if it hadn’t been for the wine. You’ll think better of it tomorrow, sir. If I have said too much, or more than I meant, what of it? I haven’t stood by it!”

The door opened, and Agnes, gliding in, without a vestige of colour in her face, put her arm round his neck, and steadily said, “Papa, you are not well. Come with me!”

He laid his head upon her shoulder, as if he were oppressed with heavy shame, and went out with her. Her eyes met mine for but an instant, yet I saw how much she knew of what had passed.

“I didn’t expect he’d cut up so rough, Master Copperfield,” said Uriah. “But it’s nothing. I’ll be friends with him tomorrow. It’s for his good. I’m umbly anxious for his good.”

I gave him no answer, and went upstairs into the quiet room where Agnes had so often sat beside me at my books. Nobody came near me until late at night. I took up a book, and tried to read. I heard the clocks strike twelve, and was still reading, without knowing what I read, when Agnes touched me.

“You will be going early in the morning, Trotwood! Let us say good-bye, now!”

She had been weeping, but her face then was so calm and beautiful!

“Heaven bless you!” she said, giving me her hand.

“Dearest Agnes!” I returned, “I see you ask me not to speak of tonight—but is there nothing to be done?”

“There is God to trust in!” she replied.

“Can I do nothing—I, who come to you with my poor sorrows?”

“And make mine so much lighter,” she replied. “Dear Trotwood, no!”

“Dear Agnes,” I said, “it is presumptuous for me, who am so poor in all in which you are so rich—goodness, resolution, all noble qualities—to doubt or direct you; but you know how much I love you, and how much I owe you. You will never sacrifice yourself to a mistaken sense of duty, Agnes?”

More agitated for a moment than I had ever seen her, she took her hands from me, and moved a step back.

“Say you have no such thought, dear Agnes! Much more than sister! Think of the priceless gift of such a heart as yours, of such a love as yours!”

Oh! long, long afterwards, I saw that face rise up before me, with its momentary look, not wondering, not accusing, not regretting. Oh, long, long afterwards, I saw that look subside, as it did now, into the lovely smile, with which she told me she had no fear for herself—I need have none for her—and parted from me by the name of Brother, and was gone!

It was dark in the morning, when I got upon the coach at the inn door. The day was just breaking when we were about to start, and then, as I sat thinking of her, came struggling up the coach side, through the mingled day and night, Uriah’s head.

“Copperfield!” said he, in a croaking whisper, as he hung by the iron on the roof, “I thought you’d be glad to hear before you went off, that there are no squares broke between us. I’ve been into his room already, and we’ve made it all smooth. Why, though I’m umble, I’m useful to him, you know; and he understands his interest when he isn’t in liquor! What an agreeable man he is, after all, Master Copperfield!”

I obliged myself to say that I was glad he had made his apology.

“Oh, to be sure!” said Uriah. “When a person’s umble, you know, what’s an apology? So easy! I say! I suppose,” with a jerk, “you have sometimes plucked a pear before it was ripe, Master Copperfield?”

“I suppose I have,” I replied.

“I did that last night,” said Uriah; “but it’ll ripen yet! It only wants attending to. I can wait!”

Profuse in his farewells, he got down again as the coachman got up. For anything I know, he was eating something to keep the raw morning air out; but he made motions with his mouth as if the pear were ripe already, and he were smacking his lips over it.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)