CHAPTER 60. AGNES
My aunt and I, when we were left alone, talked far into the night. How the emigrants never wrote home, otherwise than cheerfully and hopefully; how Mr. Micawber had actually remitted divers small sums of money, on account of those 'pecuniary liabilities', in reference to which he had been so business-like as between man and man; how Janet, returning into my aunt's service when she came back to Dover, had finally carried out her renunciation of mankind by entering into wedlock with a thriving tavern-keeper; and how my aunt had finally set her seal on the same great principle, by aiding and abetting the bride, and crowning the marriage-ceremony with her presence; were among our topics — already more or less familiar to me through the letters I had had. Mr. Dick, as usual, was not forgotten. My aunt informed me how he incessantly occupied himself in copying everything he could lay his hands on, and kept King Charles the First at a respectful distance by that semblance of employment; how it was one of the main joys and rewards of her life that he was free and happy, instead of pining in monotonous restraint; and how (as a novel general conclusion) nobody but she could ever fully know what he was.
'And when, Trot,' said my aunt, patting the back of my hand, as we sat in our old way before the fire, 'when are you going over to Canterbury?'
'I shall get a horse, and ride over tomorrow morning, aunt, unless you will go with me?'
'No!' said my aunt, in her short abrupt way. 'I mean to stay where I am.'
Then, I should ride, I said. I could not have come through Canterbury today without stopping, if I had been coming to anyone but her.
She was pleased, but answered, 'Tut, Trot; MY old bones would have kept till tomorrow!' and softly patted my hand again, as I sat looking thoughtfully at the fire.
Thoughtfully, for I could not be here once more, and so near Agnes, without the revival of those regrets with which I had so long been occupied. Softened regrets they might be, teaching me what I had failed to learn when my younger life was all before me, but not the less regrets. 'Oh, Trot,' I seemed to hear my aunt say once more; and I understood her better now — 'Blind, blind, blind!'
We both kept silence for some minutes. When I raised my eyes, I found that she was steadily observant of me. Perhaps she had followed the current of my mind; for it seemed to me an easy one to track now, wilful as it had been once.
'You will find her father a white-haired old man,' said my aunt, 'though a better man in all other respects — a reclaimed man. Neither will you find him measuring all human interests, and joys, and sorrows, with his one poor little inch-rule now. Trust me, child, such things must shrink very much, before they can be measured off in that way.'
'Indeed they must,' said I.
'You will find her,' pursued my aunt, 'as good, as beautiful, as earnest, as disinterested, as she has always been. If I knew higher praise, Trot, I would bestow it on her.'
There was no higher praise for her; no higher reproach for me. Oh, how had I strayed so far away!
'If she trains the young girls whom she has about her, to be like herself,' said my aunt, earnest even to the filling of her eyes with tears, 'Heaven knows, her life will be well employed! Useful and happy, as she said that day! How could she be otherwise than useful and happy!'
'Has Agnes any — ' I was thinking aloud, rather than speaking.
'Well? Hey? Any what?' said my aunt, sharply.
'Any lover,' said I.
'A score,' cried my aunt, with a kind of indignant pride. 'She might have married twenty times, my dear, since you have been gone!'
'No doubt,' said I. 'No doubt. But has she any lover who is worthy of her? Agnes could care for no other.'
My aunt sat musing for a little while, with her chin upon her hand. Slowly raising her eyes to mine, she said:
'I suspect she has an attachment, Trot.'
'A prosperous one?' said I.
'Trot,' returned my aunt gravely, 'I can't say. I have no right to tell you even so much. She has never confided it to me, but I suspect it.'
She looked so attentively and anxiously at me (I even saw her tremble), that I felt now, more than ever, that she had followed my late thoughts. I summoned all the resolutions I had made, in all those many days and nights, and all those many conflicts of my heart.
'If it should be so,' I began, 'and I hope it is-'