David Copperfield – Day 293 of 331

“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!”

We all remained quiet; Agnes covering her face.

“Well, my dear friend,” said my aunt, after a pause, “and you have really extorted the money back from him?”

“Why, the fact is,” returned Traddles, “Mr. Micawber had so completely hemmed him in, and was always ready with so many new points if an old one failed, that he could not escape from us. A most remarkable circumstance is, that I really don’t think he grasped this sum even so much for the gratification of his avarice, which was inordinate, as in the hatred he felt for Copperfield. He said so to me, plainly. He said he would even have spent as much, to baulk or injure Copperfield.”

“Ha!” said my aunt, knitting her brows thoughtfully, and glancing at Agnes. “And what’s become of him?”

“I don’t know. He left here,” said Traddles, “with his mother, who had been clamouring, and beseeching, and disclosing, the whole time. They went away by one of the London night coaches, and I know no more about him; except that his malevolence to me at parting was audacious. He seemed to consider himself hardly less indebted to me, than to Mr. Micawber; which I consider (as I told him) quite a compliment.”

“Do you suppose he has any money, Traddles?” I asked.

“Oh dear, yes, I should think so,” he replied, shaking his head, seriously. “I should say he must have pocketed a good deal, in one way or other. But, I think you would find, Copperfield, if you had an opportunity of observing his course, that money would never keep that man out of mischief. He is such an incarnate hypocrite, that whatever object he pursues, he must pursue crookedly. It’s his only compensation for the outward restraints he puts upon himself. Always creeping along the ground to some small end or other, he will always magnify every object in the way; and consequently will hate and suspect everybody that comes, in the most innocent manner, between him and it. So the crooked courses will become crookeder, at any moment, for the least reason, or for none. It’s only necessary to consider his history here,” said Traddles, “to know that.”

“He’s a monster of meanness!” said my aunt.

“Really I don’t know about that,” observed Traddles thoughtfully. “Many people can be very mean, when they give their minds to it.”

“And now, touching Mr. Micawber,” said my aunt.

“Well, really,” said Traddles, cheerfully, “I must, once more, give Mr. Micawber high praise. But for his having been so patient and persevering for so long a time, we never could have hoped to do anything worth speaking of. And I think we ought to consider that Mr. Micawber did right, for right’s sake, when we reflect what terms he might have made with Uriah Heep himself, for his silence.”

“I think so too,” said I.

“Now, what would you give him?” inquired my aunt.

“Oh! Before you come to that,” said Traddles, a little disconcerted, “I am afraid I thought it discreet to omit (not being able to carry everything before me) two points, in making this lawless adjustment—for it’s perfectly lawless from beginning to end—of a difficult affair. Those I.O.U.’s, and so forth, which Mr. Micawber gave him for the advances he had—“

“Well! They must be paid,” said my aunt.

“Yes, but I don’t know when they may be proceeded on, or where they are,” rejoined Traddles, opening his eyes; “and I anticipate, that, between this time and his departure, Mr. Micawber will be constantly arrested, or taken in execution.”

“Then he must be constantly set free again, and taken out of execution,” said my aunt. “What’s the amount altogether?”

“Why, Mr. Micawber has entered the transactions—he calls them transactions—with great form, in a book,” rejoined Traddles, smiling; “and he makes the amount a hundred and three pounds, five.”

“Now, what shall we give him, that sum included?” said my aunt. “Agnes, my dear, you and I can talk about division of it afterwards. What should it be? Five hundred pounds?”

Upon this, Traddles and I both struck in at once. We both recommended a small sum in money, and the payment, without stipulation to Mr. Micawber, of the Uriah claims as they came in. We proposed that the family should have their passage and their outfit, and a hundred pounds; and that Mr. Micawber’s arrangement for the repayment of the advances should be gravely entered into, as it might be wholesome for him to suppose himself under that responsibility. To this, I added the suggestion, that I should give some explanation of his character and history to Mr. Peggotty, who I knew could be relied on; and that to Mr. Peggotty should be quietly entrusted the discretion of advancing another hundred. I further proposed to interest Mr. Micawber in Mr. Peggotty, by confiding so much of Mr. Peggotty’s story to him as I might feel justified in relating, or might think expedient; and to endeavour to bring each of them to bear upon the other, for the common advantage. We all entered warmly into these views; and I may mention at once, that the principals themselves did so, shortly afterwards, with perfect good will and harmony.

Seeing that Traddles now glanced anxiously at my aunt again, I reminded him of the second and last point to which he had adverted.

“You and your aunt will excuse me, Copperfield, if I touch upon a painful theme, as I greatly fear I shall,” said Traddles, hesitating; “but I think it necessary to bring it to your recollection. On the day of Mr. Micawber’s memorable denunciation a threatening allusion was made by Uriah Heep to your aunt’s — husband.”

My aunt, retaining her stiff position, and apparent composure, assented with a nod.

“Perhaps,” observed Traddles, “it was mere purposeless impertinence?”

“No,” returned my aunt.

“There was—pardon me—really such a person, and at all in his power?” hinted Traddles.

“Yes, my good friend,” said my aunt.

Traddles, with a perceptible lengthening of his face, explained that he had not been able to approach this subject; that it had shared the fate of Mr. Micawber’s liabilities, in not being comprehended in the terms he had made; that we were no longer of any authority with Uriah Heep; and that if he could do us, or any of us, any injury or annoyance, no doubt he would.

My aunt remained quiet; until again some stray tears found their way to her cheeks. “You are quite right,” she said. “It was very thoughtful to mention it.”

“Can I—or Copperfield—do anything?” asked Traddles, gently.

“Nothing,” said my aunt. “I thank you many times. Trot, my dear, a vain threat! Let us have Mr. and Mrs. Micawber back. And don’t any of you speak to me!” With that she smoothed her dress, and sat, with her upright carriage, looking at the door.

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