'More than a mile off, Mr. Tiffey,' interposed a junior.
'Was it? I believe you are right,' said Tiffey, — 'more than a mile off — not far from the church — lying partly on the roadside, and partly on the path, upon his face. Whether he fell out in a fit, or got out, feeling ill before the fit came on — or even whether he was quite dead then, though there is no doubt he was quite insensible — no one appears to know. If he breathed, certainly he never spoke. Medical assistance was got as soon as possible, but it was quite useless.'
I cannot describe the state of mind into which I was thrown by this intelligence. The shock of such an event happening so suddenly, and happening to one with whom I had been in any respect at variance — the appalling vacancy in the room he had occupied so lately, where his chair and table seemed to wait for him, and his handwriting of yesterday was like a ghost — the in — definable impossibility of separating him from the place, and feeling, when the door opened, as if he might come in — the lazy hush and rest there was in the office, and the insatiable relish with which our people talked about it, and other people came in and out all day, and gorged themselves with the subject — this is easily intelligible to anyone. What I cannot describe is, how, in the innermost recesses of my own heart, I had a lurking jealousy even of Death. How I felt as if its might would push me from my ground in Dora's thoughts. How I was, in a grudging way I have no words for, envious of her grief. How it made me restless to think of her weeping to others, or being consoled by others. How I had a grasping, avaricious wish to shut out everybody from her but myself, and to be all in all to her, at that unseasonable time of all times.
In the trouble of this state of mind — not exclusively my own, I hope, but known to others — I went down to Norwood that night; and finding from one of the servants, when I made my inquiries at the door, that Miss Mills was there, got my aunt to direct a letter to her, which I wrote. I deplored the untimely death of Mr. Spenlow, most sincerely, and shed tears in doing so. I entreated her to tell Dora, if Dora were in a state to hear it, that he had spoken to me with the utmost kindness and consideration; and had coupled nothing but tenderness, not a single or reproachful word, with her name. I know I did this selfishly, to have my name brought before her; but I tried to believe it was an act of justice to his memory. Perhaps I did believe it.
My aunt received a few lines next day in reply; addressed, outside, to her; within, to me. Dora was overcome by grief; and when her friend had asked her should she send her love to me, had only cried, as she was always crying, 'Oh, dear papa! oh, poor papa!' But she had not said No, and that I made the most of.
Mr. jorkins, who had been at Norwood since the occurrence, came to the office a few days afterwards. He and Tiffey were closeted together for some few moments, and then Tiffey looked out at the door and beckoned me in.
'Oh!' said Mr. jorkins. 'Mr. Tiffey and myself, Mr. Copperfield, are about to examine the desks, the drawers, and other such repositories of the deceased, with the view of sealing up his private papers, and searching for a Will. There is no trace of any, elsewhere. It may be as well for you to assist us, if you please.'
I had been in agony to obtain some knowledge of the circumstances in which my Dora would be placed — as, in whose guardianship, and so forth — and this was something towards it. We began the search at once; Mr. jorkins unlocking the drawers and desks, and we all taking out the papers. The office-papers we placed on one side, and the private papers (which were not numerous) on the other. We were very grave; and when we came to a stray seal, or pencil-case, or ring, or any little article of that kind which we associated personally with him, we spoke very low.
We had sealed up several packets; and were still going on dustily and quietly, when Mr. jorkins said to us, applying exactly the same words to his late partner as his late partner had applied to him:
'Mr. Spenlow was very difficult to move from the beaten track. You know what he was! I am disposed to think he had made no will.'
'Oh, I know he had!' said I.
They both stopped and looked at me. 'On the very day when I last saw him,' said I, 'he told me that he had, and that his affairs were long since settled.'
Mr. jorkins and old Tiffey shook their heads with one accord.
'That looks unpromising,' said Tiffey.
'Very unpromising,' said Mr. jorkins.
'Surely you don't doubt — ' I began.
'My good Mr. Copperfield!' said Tiffey, laying his hand upon my arm, and shutting up both his eyes as he shook his head: 'if you had been in the Commons as long as I have, you would know that there is no subject on which men are so inconsistent, and so little to be trusted.'
'Why, bless my soul, he made that very remark!' I replied persistently.
'I should call that almost final,' observed Tiffey. 'My opinion is — no will.'