08_02

"That's very kind of you," said my aunt. "I shall be delighted to see him left in such good hands."

"Then come and see my little housekeeper," said Mr. Wickfield.

He led us upstairs and knocked at a door. When it opened, a girl of about my age came quickly out and kissed him. Her face was bright and happy and there was a sort of peace that hung about her-a good, quiet, calm spirit-that I have never forgotten.

This was his little housekeeper, his daughter Agnes, Mr. Wickfield said. She listened to her father, as he told her about me, then proposed to my aunt that we should go and inspect my room.

My aunt was as happy as I was when she saw the wonderful old room they had given me, and we went downstairs again, hand in hand. My aunt would not hear of staying to dinner, and hurried off at once. At first I was worried, and feared that I had annoyed her in some way. But when I looked out into the street, and saw how sadly she got into the chaise and drove away without looking up, I understood her better.

Early that evening, as I wandered through the big house, I saw a light in the little office where I had seen Uriah Heep. I could not decide whether I liked him or not, but for some reason he had a kind of attraction for me, so I went in there and found him reading a great fat book.

"You are working late tonight, Uriah," I said.

"I am not doing office-work," he replied. "I am improving my knowledge of the law by reading this book. I have been reading it for four years now."

"I suppose you are a great lawyer," I said.

"Oh, no," he replied, "I am only Mr. Wickfield's clerk. I am a very stupid person, really, and much too humble to become a real lawyer, like Mr. Wickfield."

Although he pretended to be stupid, I thought that he looked both clever and cunning. He got up, put his book on a shelf, and began to make arrangements for going home.

When he was ready to leave, he asked if I would like the light put out; and in my answering, "Yes," instantly put it out. After shaking hands with me he opened the door into the street a little, and crept out, and shut it, leaving me to feel my way back into the house: which cost me some trouble and a fall over his stool.

Next morning, I started school again. Dr. Strong, my new headmaster, who was a tall, round-shouldered man with grey hair and short-sighted eyes, led me to a large room in which some twenty-five boys were working at their books.

"Here is a new boy, young gentlemen," said the Doctor. "He is called David Copperfield."

The head boy, whose name was Adams, stepped forward and welcomed me. He showed me where I should sit, and introduced me to the masters.

It seemed to me so long since I had been among such boys, that I felt very strange and out of place that first day. I felt a little better the next day, and a good deal better the next, and in less than a fortnight I was quite at home and happy among my new companions.
Dr. Strong's was an excellent school, as different from Mr. Creakle's as good is from evil. The Doctor trusted in the good faith and honour of his boys, and we all felt that we had a part in the management of the place. We were well spoken of in the town and it was rare for any one to disgrace, by appearance or manner, the reputation of Dr. Strong or Dr. Strong's boys.

So began a new and happy stage of my life. It was pleasant to return at night, with my books under my arm, to Mr. Wickfield's quiet old house. Agnes was always waiting in the parlour to greet me with a happy smile, and to ask me how I had enjoyed my day. And after I had been in the house a week or two, Mr. Wickfield said, one evening:

"Do you wish to stay here, David, or would you rather go somewhere else?"



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