David Copperfield – Day 204 of 331

“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.”

“I feel it, sir, I assure you,” I returned. “But I never thought so, before. Sincerely, honestly, indeed, Mr. Spenlow, I never thought so, before. I love Miss Spenlow to that extent—“

“Pooh! nonsense!” said Mr. Spenlow, reddening. “Pray don’t tell me to my face that you love my daughter, Mr. Copperfield!”

“Could I defend my conduct if I did not, sir?” I returned, with all humility.

“Can you defend your conduct if you do, sir?” said Mr. Spenlow, stopping short upon the hearth-rug. “Have you considered your years, and my daughter’s years, Mr. Copperfield? Have you considered what it is to undermine the confidence that should subsist between my daughter and myself? Have you considered my daughter’s station in life, the projects I may contemplate for her advancement, the testamentary intentions I may have with reference to her? Have you considered anything, Mr. Copperfield?”

“Very little, sir, I am afraid;” I answered, speaking to him as respectfully and sorrowfully as I felt; “but pray believe me, I have considered my own worldly position. When I explained it to you, we were already engaged—“

“I beg,” said Mr. Spenlow, more like Punch than I had ever seen him, as he energetically struck one hand upon the other—I could not help noticing that even in my despair; “that you will not talk to me of engagements, Mr. Copperfield!”

The otherwise immovable Miss Murdstone laughed contemptuously in one short syllable.

“When I explained my altered position to you, sir,” I began again, substituting a new form of expression for what was so unpalatable to him, “this concealment, into which I am so unhappy as to have led Miss Spenlow, had begun. Since I have been in that altered position, I have strained every nerve, I have exerted every energy, to improve it. I am sure I shall improve it in time. Will you grant me time—any length of time? We are both so young, sir,—“

“You are right,” interrupted Mr. Spenlow, nodding his head a great many times, and frowning very much, “you are both very young. It’s all nonsense. Let there be an end of the nonsense. Take away those letters, and throw them in the fire. Give me Miss Spenlow’s letters to throw in the fire; and although our future intercourse must, you are aware, be restricted to the Commons here, we will agree to make no further mention of the past. Come, Mr. Copperfield, you don’t want sense; and this is the sensible course.”

No. I couldn’t think of agreeing to it. I was very sorry, but there was a higher consideration than sense. Love was above all earthly considerations, and I loved Dora to idolatry, and Dora loved me. I didn’t exactly say so; I softened it down as much as I could; but I implied it, and I was resolute upon it. I don’t think I made myself very ridiculous, but I know I was resolute.

“Very well, Mr. Copperfield,” said Mr. Spenlow, “I must try my influence with my daughter.”

Miss Murdstone, by an expressive sound, a long drawn respiration, which was neither a sigh nor a moan, but was like both, gave it as her opinion that he should have done this at first.

“I must try,” said Mr. Spenlow, confirmed by this support, “my influence with my daughter. Do you decline to take those letters, Mr. Copperfield?” For I had laid them on the table.

Yes. I told him I hoped he would not think it wrong, but I couldn’t possibly take them from Miss Murdstone.

“Nor from me?” said Mr. Spenlow.

No, I replied with the profoundest respect; nor from him.

“Very well!” said Mr. Spenlow.

A silence succeeding, I was undecided whether to go or stay. At length I was moving quietly towards the door, with the intention of saying that perhaps I should consult his feelings best by withdrawing: when he said, with his hands in his coat pockets, into which it was as much as he could do to get them; and with what I should call, upon the whole, a decidedly pious air:

“You are probably aware, Mr. Copperfield, that I am not altogether destitute of worldly possessions, and that my daughter is my nearest and dearest relative?”

I hurriedly made him a reply to the effect, that I hoped the error into which I had been betrayed by the desperate nature of my love, did not induce him to think me mercenary too?

“I don’t allude to the matter in that light,” said Mr. Spenlow. “It would be better for yourself, and all of us, if you were mercenary, Mr. Copperfield—I mean, if you were more discreet and less influenced by all this youthful nonsense. No. I merely say, with quite another view, you are probably aware I have some property to bequeath to my child?”

I certainly supposed so.

“And you can hardly think,” said Mr. Spenlow, “having experience of what we see, in the Commons here, every day, of the various unaccountable and negligent proceedings of men, in respect of their testamentary arrangements—of all subjects, the one on which perhaps the strangest revelations of human inconsistency are to be met with—but that mine are made?”

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