David Copperfield – Day 280 of 331

“We have perfect confidence in you, Mr. Micawber,” said I, “and will do what you please.”

“Mr. Copperfield,” returned Mr. Micawber, “your confidence is not, at the existing juncture, ill-bestowed. I would beg to be allowed a start of five minutes by the clock; and then to receive the present company, inquiring for Miss Wickfield, at the office of Wickfield and Heep, whose Stipendiary I am.”

My aunt and I looked at Traddles, who nodded his approval.

“I have no more,” observed Mr. Micawber, “to say at present.”

With which, to my infinite surprise, he included us all in a comprehensive bow, and disappeared; his manner being extremely distant, and his face extremely pale.

Traddles only smiled, and shook his head (with his hair standing upright on the top of it), when I looked to him for an explanation; so I took out my watch, and, as a last resource, counted off the five minutes. My aunt, with her own watch in her hand, did the like. When the time was expired, Traddles gave her his arm; and we all went out together to the old house, without saying one word on the way.

We found Mr. Micawber at his desk, in the turret office on the ground floor, either writing, or pretending to write, hard. The large office-ruler was stuck into his waistcoat, and was not so well concealed but that a foot or more of that instrument protruded from his bosom, like a new kind of shirt-frill.

As it appeared to me that I was expected to speak, I said aloud:

“How do you do, Mr. Micawber?”

“Mr. Copperfield,” said Mr. Micawber, gravely, “I hope I see you well?”

“Is Miss Wickfield at home?” said I.

“Mr. Wickfield is unwell in bed, sir, of a rheumatic fever,” he returned; “but Miss Wickfield, I have no doubt, will be happy to see old friends. Will you walk in, sir?”

He preceded us to the dining-room—the first room I had entered in that house—and flinging open the door of Mr. Wickfield’s former office, said, in a sonorous voice:

“Miss Trotwood, Mr. David Copperfield, Mr. Thomas Traddles, and Mr. Dixon!”

I had not seen Uriah Heep since the time of the blow. Our visit astonished him, evidently; not the less, I dare say, because it astonished ourselves. He did not gather his eyebrows together, for he had none worth mentioning; but he frowned to that degree that he almost closed his small eyes, while the hurried raising of his grisly hand to his chin betrayed some trepidation or surprise. This was only when we were in the act of entering his room, and when I caught a glance at him over my aunt’s shoulder. A moment afterwards, he was as fawning and as humble as ever.

“Well, I am sure,” he said. “This is indeed an unexpected pleasure! To have, as I may say, all friends round St. Paul’s at once, is a treat unlooked for! Mr. Copperfield, I hope I see you well, and—if I may umbly express myself so—friendly towards them as is ever your friends, whether or not. Mrs. Copperfield, sir, I hope she’s getting on. We have been made quite uneasy by the poor accounts we have had of her state, lately, I do assure you.”

I felt ashamed to let him take my hand, but I did not know yet what else to do.

“Things are changed in this office, Miss Trotwood, since I was an umble clerk, and held your pony; ain’t they?” said Uriah, with his sickliest smile. “But I am not changed, Miss Trotwood.”

“Well, sir,” returned my aunt, “to tell you the truth, I think you are pretty constant to the promise of your youth; if that’s any satisfaction to you.”

“Thank you, Miss Trotwood,” said Uriah, writhing in his ungainly manner, “for your good opinion! Micawber, tell ’em to let Miss Agnes know—and mother. Mother will be quite in a state, when she sees the present company!” said Uriah, setting chairs.

“You are not busy, Mr. Heep?” said Traddles, whose eye the cunning red eye accidentally caught, as it at once scrutinized and evaded us.

“No, Mr. Traddles,” replied Uriah, resuming his official seat, and squeezing his bony hands, laid palm to palm between his bony knees. “Not so much so as I could wish. But lawyers, sharks, and leeches, are not easily satisfied, you know! Not but what myself and Micawber have our hands pretty full, in general, on account of Mr. Wickfield’s being hardly fit for any occupation, sir. But it’s a pleasure as well as a duty, I am sure, to work for him. You’ve not been intimate with Mr. Wickfield, I think, Mr. Traddles? I believe I’ve only had the honour of seeing you once myself?”

“No, I have not been intimate with Mr. Wickfield,” returned Traddles; “or I might perhaps have waited on you long ago, Mr. Heep.”

There was something in the tone of this reply, which made Uriah look at the speaker again, with a very sinister and suspicious expression. But, seeing only Traddles, with his good-natured face, simple manner, and hair on end, he dismissed it as he replied, with a jerk of his whole body, but especially his throat:

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