'I am sorry to say,' said I, 'that I have some rather disheartening intelligence from my aunt.'
'No!' said he. 'Dear me! Not paralysis, I hope?'
'It has no reference to her health, sir,' I replied. 'She has met with some large losses. In fact, she has very little left, indeed.'
'You as-tound me, Copperfield!' cried Mr. Spenlow.
I shook my head. 'Indeed, sir,' said I, 'her affairs are so changed, that I wished to ask you whether it would be possible — at a sacrifice on our part of some portion of the premium, of course,' I put in this, on the spur of the moment, warned by the blank expression of his face — 'to cancel my articles?'
What it cost me to make this proposal, nobody knows. It was like asking, as a favour, to be sentenced to transportation from Dora.
'To cancel your articles, Copperfield? Cancel?'
I explained with tolerable firmness, that I really did not know where my means of subsistence were to come from, unless I could earn them for myself. I had no fear for the future, I said — and I laid great emphasis on that, as if to imply that I should still be decidedly eligible for a son-in-law one of these days — but, for the present, I was thrown upon my own resources. 'I am extremely sorry to hear this, Copperfield,' said Mr. Spenlow. 'Extremely sorry. It is not usual to cancel articles for any such reason. It is not a professional course of proceeding. It is not a convenient precedent at all. Far from it. At the same time — '
'You are very good, sir,' I murmured, anticipating a concession.
'Not at all. Don't mention it,' said Mr. Spenlow. 'At the same time, I was going to say, if it had been my lot to have my hands unfettered — if I had not a partner — Mr. Jorkins — '
My hopes were dashed in a moment, but I made another effort.
'Do you think, sir,' said I, 'if I were to mention it to Mr. Jorkins — '
Mr. Spenlow shook his head discouragingly. 'Heaven forbid, Copperfield,' he replied, 'that I should do any man an injustice: still less, Mr. jorkins. But I know my partner, Copperfield. Mr. jorkins is not a man to respond to a proposition of this peculiar nature. Mr. jorkins is very difficult to move from the beaten track. You know what he is!'
I am sure I knew nothing about him, except that he had originally been alone in the business, and now lived by himself in a house near Montagu Square, which was fearfully in want of painting; that he came very late of a day, and went away very early; that he never appeared to be consulted about anything; and that he had a dingy little black-hole of his own upstairs, where no business was ever done, and where there was a yellow old cartridge-paper pad upon his desk, unsoiled by ink, and reported to be twenty years of age.
'Would you object to my mentioning it to him, sir?' I asked.
'By no means,' said Mr. Spenlow. 'But I have some experience of Mr. jorkins, Copperfield. I wish it were otherwise, for I should be happy to meet your views in any respect. I cannot have the objection to your mentioning it to Mr. jorkins, Copperfield, if you think it worth while.'
Availing myself of this permission, which was given with a warm shake of the hand, I sat thinking about Dora, and looking at the sunlight stealing from the chimney-pots down the wall of the opposite house, until Mr. jorkins came. I then went up to Mr. jorkins's room, and evidently astonished Mr. jorkins very much by making my appearance there.
'Come in, Mr. Copperfield,' said Mr. jorkins. 'Come in!'
I went in, and sat down; and stated my case to Mr. jorkins pretty much as I had stated it to Mr. Spenlow. Mr. Jorkins was not by any means the awful creature one might have expected, but a large, mild, smooth-faced man of sixty, who took so much snuff that there was a tradition in the Commons that he lived principally on that stimulant, having little room in his system for any other article of diet.
'You have mentioned this to Mr. Spenlow, I suppose?' said Mr. jorkins; when he had heard me, very restlessly, to an end.
I answered Yes, and told him that Mr. Spenlow had introduced his name.
'He said I should object?' asked Mr. jorkins.
I was obliged to admit that Mr. Spenlow had considered it probable.
'I am sorry to say, Mr. Copperfield, I can't advance your object,' said Mr. jorkins, nervously. 'The fact is — but I have an appointment at the Bank, if you'll have the goodness to excuse me.'
With that he rose in a great hurry, and was going out of the room, when I made bold to say that I feared, then, there was no way of arranging the matter?