David Copperfield – Day 285 of 331

“You know what I want?” said my aunt.

“A strait-waistcoat,” said he.

“No. My property!” returned my aunt. “Agnes, my dear, as long as I believed it had been really made away with by your father, I wouldn’t—and, my dear, I didn’t, even to Trot, as he knows — breathe a syllable of its having been placed here for investment. But, now I know this fellow’s answerable for it, and I’ll have it! Trot, come and take it away from him!”

Whether my aunt supposed, for the moment, that he kept her property in his neck-kerchief, I am sure I don’t know; but she certainly pulled at it as if she thought so. I hastened to put myself between them, and to assure her that we would all take care that he should make the utmost restitution of everything he had wrongly got. This, and a few moments’ reflection, pacified her; but she was not at all disconcerted by what she had done (though I cannot say as much for her bonnet) and resumed her seat composedly.

During the last few minutes, Mrs. Heep had been clamouring to her son to be “umble”; and had been going down on her knees to all of us in succession, and making the wildest promises. Her son sat her down in his chair; and, standing sulkily by her, holding her arm with his hand, but not rudely, said to me, with a ferocious look:

“What do you want done?”

“I will tell you what must be done,” said Traddles.

“Has that Copperfield no tongue?” muttered Uriah, “I would do a good deal for you if you could tell me, without lying, that somebody had cut it out.”

“My Uriah means to be umble!” cried his mother. “Don’t mind what he says, good gentlemen!”

“What must be done,” said Traddles, “is this. First, the deed of relinquishment, that we have heard of, must be given over to me now — here.”

“Suppose I haven’t got it,” he interrupted.

“But you have,” said Traddles; “therefore, you know, we won’t suppose so.” And I cannot help avowing that this was the first occasion on which I really did justice to the clear head, and the plain, patient, practical good sense, of my old schoolfellow. “Then,” said Traddles, “you must prepare to disgorge all that your rapacity has become possessed of, and to make restoration to the last farthing. All the partnership books and papers must remain in our possession; all your books and papers; all money accounts and securities, of both kinds. In short, everything here.”

“Must it? I don’t know that,” said Uriah. “I must have time to think about that.”

“Certainly,” replied Traddles; “but, in the meanwhile, and until everything is done to our satisfaction, we shall maintain possession of these things; and beg you—in short, compel you—to keep to your own room, and hold no communication with anyone.”

“I won’t do it!” said Uriah, with an oath.

“Maidstone jail is a safer place of detention,” observed Traddles; “and though the law may be longer in righting us, and may not be able to right us so completely as you can, there is no doubt of its punishing you. Dear me, you know that quite as well as I! Copperfield, will you go round to the Guildhall, and bring a couple of officers?”

Here, Mrs. Heep broke out again, crying on her knees to Agnes to interfere in their behalf, exclaiming that he was very humble, and it was all true, and if he didn’t do what we wanted, she would, and much more to the same purpose; being half frantic with fears for her darling. To inquire what he might have done, if he had had any boldness, would be like inquiring what a mongrel cur might do, if it had the spirit of a tiger. He was a coward, from head to foot; and showed his dastardly nature through his sullenness and mortification, as much as at any time of his mean life.

“Stop!” he growled to me; and wiped his hot face with his hand. “Mother, hold your noise. Well! Let ’em have that deed. Go and fetch it!”

“Do you help her, Mr. Dick,” said Traddles, “if you please.”

Proud of his commission, and understanding it, Mr. Dick accompanied her as a shepherd’s dog might accompany a sheep. But, Mrs. Heep gave him little trouble; for she not only returned with the deed, but with the box in which it was, where we found a banker’s book and some other papers that were afterwards serviceable.

“Good!” said Traddles, when this was brought. “Now, Mr. Heep, you can retire to think: particularly observing, if you please, that I declare to you, on the part of all present, that there is only one thing to be done; that it is what I have explained; and that it must be done without delay.”

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