David Copperfield – Day 226 of 331

Agnes said she was afraid I must have given her an unpromising character; but Dora corrected that directly.

“Oh no!” she said, shaking her curls at me; “it was all praise. He thinks so much of your opinion, that I was quite afraid of it.”

“My good opinion cannot strengthen his attachment to some people whom he knows,” said Agnes, with a smile; “it is not worth their having.”

“But please let me have it,” said Dora, in her coaxing way, “if you can!”

We made merry about Dora’s wanting to be liked, and Dora said I was a goose, and she didn’t like me at any rate, and the short evening flew away on gossamer-wings. The time was at hand when the coach was to call for us. I was standing alone before the fire, when Dora came stealing softly in, to give me that usual precious little kiss before I went.

“Don’t you think, if I had had her for a friend a long time ago, Doady,” said Dora, her bright eyes shining very brightly, and her little right hand idly busying itself with one of the buttons of my coat, “I might have been more clever perhaps?”

“My love!” said I, “what nonsense!”

“Do you think it is nonsense?” returned Dora, without looking at me. “Are you sure it is?”

“Of course I am!”

“I have forgotten,” said Dora, still turning the button round and round, “what relation Agnes is to you, you dear bad boy.”

“No blood-relation,” I replied; “but we were brought up together, like brother and sister.”

“I wonder why you ever fell in love with me?” said Dora, beginning on another button of my coat.

“Perhaps because I couldn’t see you, and not love you, Dora!”

“Suppose you had never seen me at all,” said Dora, going to another button.

“Suppose we had never been born!” said I, gaily.

I wondered what she was thinking about, as I glanced in admiring silence at the little soft hand travelling up the row of buttons on my coat, and at the clustering hair that lay against my breast, and at the lashes of her downcast eyes, slightly rising as they followed her idle fingers. At length her eyes were lifted up to mine, and she stood on tiptoe to give me, more thoughtfully than usual, that precious little kiss—once, twice, three times—and went out of the room.

They all came back together within five minutes afterwards, and Dora’s unusual thoughtfulness was quite gone then. She was laughingly resolved to put Jip through the whole of his performances, before the coach came. They took some time (not so much on account of their variety, as Jip’s reluctance), and were still unfinished when it was heard at the door. There was a hurried but affectionate parting between Agnes and herself; and Dora was to write to Agnes (who was not to mind her letters being foolish, she said), and Agnes was to write to Dora; and they had a second parting at the coach door, and a third when Dora, in spite of the remonstrances of Miss Lavinia, would come running out once more to remind Agnes at the coach window about writing, and to shake her curls at me on the box.

The stage-coach was to put us down near Covent Garden, where we were to take another stage-coach for Highgate. I was impatient for the short walk in the interval, that Agnes might praise Dora to me. Ah! what praise it was! How lovingly and fervently did it commend the pretty creature I had won, with all her artless graces best displayed, to my most gentle care! How thoughtfully remind me, yet with no pretence of doing so, of the trust in which I held the orphan child!

Never, never, had I loved Dora so deeply and truly, as I loved her that night. When we had again alighted, and were walking in the starlight along the quiet road that led to the Doctor’s house, I told Agnes it was her doing.

“When you were sitting by her,” said I, “you seemed to be no less her guardian angel than mine; and you seem so now, Agnes.”

“A poor angel,” she returned, “but faithful.”

The clear tone of her voice, going straight to my heart, made it natural to me to say:

“The cheerfulness that belongs to you, Agnes (and to no one else that ever I have seen), is so restored, I have observed today, that I have begun to hope you are happier at home?”

“I am happier in myself,” she said; “I am quite cheerful and light-hearted.”

I glanced at the serene face looking upward, and thought it was the stars that made it seem so noble.

“There has been no change at home,” said Agnes, after a few moments.

“No fresh reference,” said I, “to—I wouldn’t distress you, Agnes, but I cannot help asking—to what we spoke of, when we parted last?”

“No, none,” she answered.

“I have thought so much about it.”

“You must think less about it. Remember that I confide in simple love and truth at last. Have no apprehensions for me, Trotwood,” she added, after a moment; “the step you dread my taking, I shall never take.”

Although I think I had never really feared it, in any season of cool reflection, it was an unspeakable relief to me to have this assurance from her own truthful lips. I told her so, earnestly.

“And when this visit is over,” said I,—“for we may not be alone another time,—how long is it likely to be, my dear Agnes, before you come to London again?”

“Probably a long time,” she replied; “I think it will be best—for papa’s sake—to remain at home. We are not likely to meet often, for some time to come; but I shall be a good correspondent of Dora’s, and we shall frequently hear of one another that way.”

We were now within the little courtyard of the Doctor’s cottage. It was growing late. There was a light in the window of Mrs. Strong’s chamber, and Agnes, pointing to it, bade me good night.

“Do not be troubled,” she said, giving me her hand, “by our misfortunes and anxieties. I can be happier in nothing than in your happiness. If you can ever give me help, rely upon it I will ask you for it. God bless you always!” In her beaming smile, and in these last tones of her cheerful voice, I seemed again to see and hear my little Dora in her company. I stood awhile, looking through the porch at the stars, with a heart full of love and gratitude, and then walked slowly forth. I had engaged a bed at a decent alehouse close by, and was going out at the gate, when, happening to turn my head, I saw a light in the Doctor’s study. A half-reproachful fancy came into my mind, that he had been working at the Dictionary without my help. With the view of seeing if this were so, and, in any case, of bidding him good night, if he were yet sitting among his books, I turned back, and going softly across the hall, and gently opening the door, looked in.

The first person whom I saw, to my surprise, by the sober light of the shaded lamp, was Uriah. He was standing close beside it, with one of his skeleton hands over his mouth, and the other resting on the Doctor’s table. The Doctor sat in his study chair, covering his face with his hands. Mr. Wickfield, sorely troubled and distressed, was leaning forward, irresolutely touching the Doctor’s arm.

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