David Copperfield – Day 203 of 331

“I believe that is your writing, Mr. Copperfield?” said Mr. Spenlow.

I was very hot, and the voice I heard was very unlike mine, when I said, “It is, sir!”

“If I am not mistaken,” said Mr. Spenlow, as Miss Murdstone brought a parcel of letters out of her reticule, tied round with the dearest bit of blue ribbon, “those are also from your pen, Mr. Copperfield?”

I took them from her with a most desolate sensation; and, glancing at such phrases at the top, as “My ever dearest and own Dora,” “My best beloved angel,” “My blessed one for ever,” and the like, blushed deeply, and inclined my head.

“No, thank you!” said Mr. Spenlow, coldly, as I mechanically offered them back to him. “I will not deprive you of them. Miss Murdstone, be so good as to proceed!”

That gentle creature, after a moment’s thoughtful survey of the carpet, delivered herself with much dry unction as follows.

“I must confess to having entertained my suspicions of Miss Spenlow, in reference to David Copperfield, for some time. I observed Miss Spenlow and David Copperfield, when they first met; and the impression made upon me then was not agreeable. The depravity of the human heart is such—“

“You will oblige me, ma’am,” interrupted Mr. Spenlow, “by confining yourself to facts.”

Miss Murdstone cast down her eyes, shook her head as if protesting against this unseemly interruption, and with frowning dignity resumed:

“Since I am to confine myself to facts, I will state them as dryly as I can. Perhaps that will be considered an acceptable course of proceeding. I have already said, sir, that I have had my suspicions of Miss Spenlow, in reference to David Copperfield, for some time. I have frequently endeavoured to find decisive corroboration of those suspicions, but without effect. I have therefore forborne to mention them to Miss Spenlow’s father”; looking severely at him—“knowing how little disposition there usually is in such cases, to acknowledge the conscientious discharge of duty.”

Mr. Spenlow seemed quite cowed by the gentlemanly sternness of Miss Murdstone’s manner, and deprecated her severity with a conciliatory little wave of his hand.

“On my return to Norwood, after the period of absence occasioned by my brother’s marriage,” pursued Miss Murdstone in a disdainful voice, “and on the return of Miss Spenlow from her visit to her friend Miss Mills, I imagined that the manner of Miss Spenlow gave me greater occasion for suspicion than before. Therefore I watched Miss Spenlow closely.”

Dear, tender little Dora, so unconscious of this Dragon’s eye!

“Still,” resumed Miss Murdstone, “I found no proof until last night. It appeared to me that Miss Spenlow received too many letters from her friend Miss Mills; but Miss Mills being her friend with her father’s full concurrence,” another telling blow at Mr. Spenlow, “it was not for me to interfere. If I may not be permitted to allude to the natural depravity of the human heart, at least I may—I must—be permitted, so far to refer to misplaced confidence.”

Mr. Spenlow apologetically murmured his assent.

“Last evening after tea,” pursued Miss Murdstone, “I observed the little dog starting, rolling, and growling about the drawing-room, worrying something. I said to Miss Spenlow, ‘Dora, what is that the dog has in his mouth? It’s paper.’ Miss Spenlow immediately put her hand to her frock, gave a sudden cry, and ran to the dog. I interposed, and said, ‘Dora, my love, you must permit me.'”

Oh Jip, miserable Spaniel, this wretchedness, then, was your work!

“Miss Spenlow endeavoured,” said Miss Murdstone, “to bribe me with kisses, work-boxes, and small articles of jewellery—that, of course, I pass over. The little dog retreated under the sofa on my approaching him, and was with great difficulty dislodged by the fire-irons. Even when dislodged, he still kept the letter in his mouth; and on my endeavouring to take it from him, at the imminent risk of being bitten, he kept it between his teeth so pertinaciously as to suffer himself to be held suspended in the air by means of the document. At length I obtained possession of it. After perusing it, I taxed Miss Spenlow with having many such letters in her possession; and ultimately obtained from her the packet which is now in David Copperfield’s hand.”

Here she ceased; and snapping her reticule again, and shutting her mouth, looked as if she might be broken, but could never be bent.

“You have heard Miss Murdstone,” said Mr. Spenlow, turning to me. “I beg to ask, Mr. Copperfield, if you have anything to say in reply?”

The picture I had before me, of the beautiful little treasure of my heart, sobbing and crying all night—of her being alone, frightened, and wretched, then—of her having so piteously begged and prayed that stony-hearted woman to forgive her—of her having vainly offered her those kisses, work-boxes, and trinkets—of her being in such grievous distress, and all for me—very much impaired the little dignity I had been able to muster. I am afraid I was in a tremulous state for a minute or so, though I did my best to disguise it.

“There is nothing I can say, sir,” I returned, “except that all the blame is mine. Dora—“

“Miss Spenlow, if you please,” said her father, majestically.

“—was induced and persuaded by me,” I went on, swallowing that colder designation, “to consent to this concealment, and I bitterly regret it.”

“You are very much to blame, sir,” said Mr. Spenlow, walking to and fro upon the hearth-rug, and emphasizing what he said with his whole body instead of his head, on account of the stiffness of his cravat and spine. “You have done a stealthy and unbecoming action, Mr. Copperfield. When I take a gentleman to my house, no matter whether he is nineteen, twenty-nine, or ninety, I take him there in a spirit of confidence. If he abuses my confidence, he commits a dishonourable action, Mr. Copperfield.”

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