David Copperfield – Day 292 of 331

“I must do Mr. Micawber the justice to say,” Traddles began, “that although he would appear not to have worked to any good account for himself, he is a most untiring man when he works for other people. I never saw such a fellow. If he always goes on in the same way, he must be, virtually, about two hundred years old, at present. The heat into which he has been continually putting himself; and the distracted and impetuous manner in which he has been diving, day and night, among papers and books; to say nothing of the immense number of letters he has written me between this house and Mr. Wickfield’s, and often across the table when he has been sitting opposite, and might much more easily have spoken; is quite extraordinary.”

“Letters!” cried my aunt. “I believe he dreams in letters!”

“There’s Mr. Dick, too,” said Traddles, “has been doing wonders! As soon as he was released from overlooking Uriah Heep, whom he kept in such charge as I never saw exceeded, he began to devote himself to Mr. Wickfield. And really his anxiety to be of use in the investigations we have been making, and his real usefulness in extracting, and copying, and fetching, and carrying, have been quite stimulating to us.”

“Dick is a very remarkable man,” exclaimed my aunt; “and I always said he was. Trot, you know it.”

“I am happy to say, Miss Wickfield,” pursued Traddles, at once with great delicacy and with great earnestness, “that in your absence Mr. Wickfield has considerably improved. Relieved of the incubus that had fastened upon him for so long a time, and of the dreadful apprehensions under which he had lived, he is hardly the same person. At times, even his impaired power of concentrating his memory and attention on particular points of business, has recovered itself very much; and he has been able to assist us in making some things clear, that we should have found very difficult indeed, if not hopeless, without him. But what I have to do is to come to results; which are short enough; not to gossip on all the hopeful circumstances I have observed, or I shall never have done.” His natural manner and agreeable simplicity made it transparent that he said this to put us in good heart, and to enable Agnes to hear her father mentioned with greater confidence; but it was not the less pleasant for that.

“Now, let me see,” said Traddles, looking among the papers on the table. “Having counted our funds, and reduced to order a great mass of unintentional confusion in the first place, and of wilful confusion and falsification in the second, we take it to be clear that Mr. Wickfield might now wind up his business, and his agency-trust, and exhibit no deficiency or defalcation whatever.”

“Oh, thank Heaven!” cried Agnes, fervently.

“But,” said Traddles, “the surplus that would be left as his means of support—and I suppose the house to be sold, even in saying this—would be so small, not exceeding in all probability some hundreds of pounds, that perhaps, Miss Wickfield, it would be best to consider whether he might not retain his agency of the estate to which he has so long been receiver. His friends might advise him, you know; now he is free. You yourself, Miss Wickfield — Copperfield—I—“

“I have considered it, Trotwood,” said Agnes, looking to me, “and I feel that it ought not to be, and must not be; even on the recommendation of a friend to whom I am so grateful, and owe so much.”

“I will not say that I recommend it,” observed Traddles. “I think it right to suggest it. No more.”

“I am happy to hear you say so,” answered Agnes, steadily, “for it gives me hope, almost assurance, that we think alike. Dear Mr. Traddles and dear Trotwood, papa once free with honour, what could I wish for! I have always aspired, if I could have released him from the toils in which he was held, to render back some little portion of the love and care I owe him, and to devote my life to him. It has been, for years, the utmost height of my hopes. To take our future on myself, will be the next great happiness—the next to his release from all trust and responsibility—that I can know.”

“Have you thought how, Agnes?”

“Often! I am not afraid, dear Trotwood. I am certain of success. So many people know me here, and think kindly of me, that I am certain. Don’t mistrust me. Our wants are not many. If I rent the dear old house, and keep a school, I shall be useful and happy.”

The calm fervour of her cheerful voice brought back so vividly, first the dear old house itself, and then my solitary home, that my heart was too full for speech. Traddles pretended for a little while to be busily looking among the papers.

“Next, Miss Trotwood,” said Traddles, “that property of yours.”

“Well, sir,” sighed my aunt. “All I have got to say about it is, that if it’s gone, I can bear it; and if it’s not gone, I shall be glad to get it back.”

“It was originally, I think, eight thousand pounds, Consols?” said Traddles.

“Right!” replied my aunt.

“I can’t account for more than five,” said Traddles, with an air of perplexity.

“—thousand, do you mean?” inquired my aunt, with uncommon composure, “or pounds?”

“Five thousand pounds,” said Traddles.

“It was all there was,” returned my aunt. “I sold three, myself. One, I paid for your articles, Trot, my dear; and the other two I have by me. When I lost the rest, I thought it wise to say nothing about that sum, but to keep it secretly for a rainy day. I wanted to see how you would come out of the trial, Trot; and you came out nobly—persevering, self-reliant, self-denying! So did Dick. Don’t speak to me, for I find my nerves a little shaken!”

Nobody would have thought so, to see her sitting upright, with her arms folded; but she had wonderful self-command.

“Then I am delighted to say,” cried Traddles, beaming with joy, “that we have recovered the whole money!”

“Don’t congratulate me, anybody!” exclaimed my aunt. “How so, sir?”

“You believed it had been misappropriated by Mr. Wickfield?” said Traddles.

“Of course I did,” said my aunt, “and was therefore easily silenced. Agnes, not a word!”

“And indeed,” said Traddles, “it was sold, by virtue of the power of management he held from you; but I needn’t say by whom sold, or on whose actual signature. It was afterwards pretended to Mr. Wickfield, by that rascal,—and proved, too, by figures,—that he had possessed himself of the money (on general instructions, he said) to keep other deficiencies and difficulties from the light. Mr. Wickfield, being so weak and helpless in his hands as to pay you, afterwards, several sums of interest on a pretended principal which he knew did not exist, made himself, unhappily, a party to the fraud.”

“And at last took the blame upon himself,” added my aunt; “and wrote me a mad letter, charging himself with robbery, and wrong unheard of. Upon which I paid him a visit early one morning, called for a candle, burnt the letter, and told him if he ever could right me and himself, to do it; and if he couldn’t, to keep his own counsel for his daughter’s sake. —If anybody speaks to me, I’ll leave the house!”

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