David Copperfield – Day 209 of 331

I asked him whether he had reason, so far, to be satisfied with his friend Heep’s treatment of him? He got up to ascertain if the door were close shut, before he replied, in a lower voice:

“My dear Copperfield, a man who labours under the pressure of pecuniary embarrassments, is, with the generality of people, at a disadvantage. That disadvantage is not diminished, when that pressure necessitates the drawing of stipendiary emoluments, before those emoluments are strictly due and payable. All I can say is, that my friend Heep has responded to appeals to which I need not more particularly refer, in a manner calculated to redound equally to the honour of his head, and of his heart.”

“I should not have supposed him to be very free with his money either,” I observed.

“Pardon me!” said Mr. Micawber, with an air of constraint, “I speak of my friend Heep as I have experience.”

“I am glad your experience is so favourable,” I returned.

“You are very obliging, my dear Copperfield,” said Mr. Micawber; and hummed a tune.

“Do you see much of Mr. Wickfield?” I asked, to change the subject.

“Not much,” said Mr. Micawber, slightingly. “Mr. Wickfield is, I dare say, a man of very excellent intentions; but he is—in short, he is obsolete.”

“I am afraid his partner seeks to make him so,” said I.

“My dear Copperfield!” returned Mr. Micawber, after some uneasy evolutions on his stool, “allow me to offer a remark! I am here, in a capacity of confidence. I am here, in a position of trust. The discussion of some topics, even with Mrs. Micawber herself (so long the partner of my various vicissitudes, and a woman of a remarkable lucidity of intellect), is, I am led to consider, incompatible with the functions now devolving on me. I would therefore take the liberty of suggesting that in our friendly intercourse—which I trust will never be disturbed!—we draw a line. On one side of this line,” said Mr. Micawber, representing it on the desk with the office ruler, “is the whole range of the human intellect, with a trifling exception; on the other, is that exception; that is to say, the affairs of Messrs Wickfield and Heep, with all belonging and appertaining thereunto. I trust I give no offence to the companion of my youth, in submitting this proposition to his cooler judgement?”

Though I saw an uneasy change in Mr. Micawber, which sat tightly on him, as if his new duties were a misfit, I felt I had no right to be offended. My telling him so, appeared to relieve him; and he shook hands with me.

“I am charmed, Copperfield,” said Mr. Micawber, “let me assure you, with Miss Wickfield. She is a very superior young lady, of very remarkable attractions, graces, and virtues. Upon my honour,” said Mr. Micawber, indefinitely kissing his hand and bowing with his genteelest air, “I do Homage to Miss Wickfield! Hem!”

“I am glad of that, at least,” said I.

“If you had not assured us, my dear Copperfield, on the occasion of that agreeable afternoon we had the happiness of passing with you, that D. was your favourite letter,” said Mr. Micawber, “I should unquestionably have supposed that A. had been so.”

We have all some experience of a feeling, that comes over us occasionally, of what we are saying and doing having been said and done before, in a remote time—of our having been surrounded, dim ages ago, by the same faces, objects, and circumstances—of our knowing perfectly what will be said next, as if we suddenly remembered it! I never had this mysterious impression more strongly in my life, than before he uttered those words.

I took my leave of Mr. Micawber, for the time, charging him with my best remembrances to all at home. As I left him, resuming his stool and his pen, and rolling his head in his stock, to get it into easier writing order, I clearly perceived that there was something interposed between him and me, since he had come into his new functions, which prevented our getting at each other as we used to do, and quite altered the character of our intercourse.

There was no one in the quaint old drawing-room, though it presented tokens of Mrs. Heep’s whereabouts. I looked into the room still belonging to Agnes, and saw her sitting by the fire, at a pretty old-fashioned desk she had, writing.

My darkening the light made her look up. What a pleasure to be the cause of that bright change in her attentive face, and the object of that sweet regard and welcome!

“Ah, Agnes!” said I, when we were sitting together, side by side; “I have missed you so much, lately!”

“Indeed?” she replied. “Again! And so soon?”

I shook my head.

“I don’t know how it is, Agnes; I seem to want some faculty of mind that I ought to have. You were so much in the habit of thinking for me, in the happy old days here, and I came so naturally to you for counsel and support, that I really think I have missed acquiring it.”

“And what is it?” said Agnes, cheerfully.

“I don’t know what to call it,” I replied. “I think I am earnest and persevering?”

“I am sure of it,” said Agnes.

“And patient, Agnes?” I inquired, with a little hesitation.

“Yes,” returned Agnes, laughing. “Pretty well.”

“And yet,” said I, “I get so miserable and worried, and am so unsteady and irresolute in my power of assuring myself, that I know I must want—shall I call it—reliance, of some kind?”

“Call it so, if you will,” said Agnes.

“Well!” I returned. “See here! You come to London, I rely on you, and I have an object and a course at once. I am driven out of it, I come here, and in a moment I feel an altered person. The circumstances that distressed me are not changed, since I came into this room; but an influence comes over me in that short interval that alters me, oh, how much for the better! What is it? What is your secret, Agnes?”

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