'On Dora?' said I.
'Why, I have not mentioned, Agnes,' said I, a little embarrassed, 'that Dora is rather difficult to — I would not, for the world, say, to rely upon, because she is the soul of purity and truth — but rather difficult to — I hardly know how to express it, really, Agnes. She is a timid little thing, and easily disturbed and frightened. Some time ago, before her father's death, when I thought it right to mention to her — but I'll tell you, if you will bear with me, how it was.'
Accordingly, I told Agnes about my declaration of poverty, about the cookery-book, the housekeeping accounts, and all the rest of it.
'Oh, Trotwood!' she remonstrated, with a smile. 'Just your old headlong way! You might have been in earnest in striving to get on in the world, without being so very sudden with a timid, loving, inexperienced girl. Poor Dora!'
I never heard such sweet forbearing kindness expressed in a voice, as she expressed in making this reply. It was as if I had seen her admiringly and tenderly embracing Dora, and tacitly reproving me, by her considerate protection, for my hot haste in fluttering that little heart. It was as if I had seen Dora, in all her fascinating artlessness, caressing Agnes, and thanking her, and coaxingly appealing against me, and loving me with all her childish innocence.
I felt so grateful to Agnes, and admired her so! I saw those two together, in a bright perspective, such well-associated friends, each adorning the other so much!
'What ought I to do then, Agnes?' I inquired, after looking at the fire a little while. 'What would it be right to do?'
'I think,' said Agnes, 'that the honourable course to take, would be to write to those two ladies. Don't you think that any secret course is an unworthy one?'
'Yes. If YOU think so,' said I.
'I am poorly qualified to judge of such matters,' replied Agnes, with a modest hesitation, 'but I certainly feel — in short, I feel that your being secret and clandestine, is not being like yourself.'
'Like myself, in the too high opinion you have of me, Agnes, I am afraid,' said I.
'Like yourself, in the candour of your nature,' she returned; 'and therefore I would write to those two ladies. I would relate, as plainly and as openly as possible, all that has taken place; and I would ask their permission to visit sometimes, at their house. Considering that you are young, and striving for a place in life, I think it would be well to say that you would readily abide by any conditions they might impose upon you. I would entreat them not to dismiss your request, without a reference to Dora; and to discuss it with her when they should think the time suitable. I would not be too vehement,' said Agnes, gently, 'or propose too much. I would trust to my fidelity and perseverance — and to Dora.'
'But if they were to frighten Dora again, Agnes, by speaking to her,' said I. 'And if Dora were to cry, and say nothing about me!'
'Is that likely?' inquired Agnes, with the same sweet consideration in her face.
'God bless her, she is as easily scared as a bird,' said I. 'It might be! Or if the two Miss Spenlows (elderly ladies of that sort are odd characters sometimes) should not be likely persons to address in that way!'
'I don't think, Trotwood,' returned Agnes, raising her soft eyes to mine, 'I would consider that. Perhaps it would be better only to consider whether it is right to do this; and, if it is, to do it.'
I had no longer any doubt on the subject. With a lightened heart, though with a profound sense of the weighty importance of my task, I devoted the whole afternoon to the composition of the draft of this letter; for which great purpose, Agnes relinquished her desk to me. But first I went downstairs to see Mr. Wickfield and Uriah Heep.
I found Uriah in possession of a new, plaster-smelling office, built out in the garden; looking extraordinarily mean, in the midst of a quantity of books and papers. He received me in his usual fawning way, and pretended not to have heard of my arrival from Mr. Micawber; a pretence I took the liberty of disbelieving. He accompanied me into Mr. Wickfield's room, which was the shadow of its former self — having been divested of a variety of conveniences, for the accommodation of the new partner — and stood before the fire, warming his back, and shaving his chin with his bony hand, while Mr. Wickfield and I exchanged greetings.
'You stay with us, Trotwood, while you remain in Canterbury?' said Mr. Wickfield, not without a glance at Uriah for his approval.
'Is there room for me?' said I.
'I am sure, Master Copperfield — I should say Mister, but the other comes so natural,' said Uriah, — 'I would turn out of your old room with pleasure, if it would be agreeable.'
'No, no,' said Mr. Wickfield. 'Why should you be inconvenienced? There's another room. There's another room.' 'Oh, but you know,' returned Uriah, with a grin, 'I should really be delighted!'
To cut the matter short, I said I would have the other room or none at all; so it was settled that I should have the other room; and, taking my leave of the firm until dinner, I went upstairs again.