09_02

When I had been in London some months, I was very glad to receive a letter from Agnes. All it said was, "My dear David. I am staying at the house of a lawyer-friend of my father's. His name is Waterbrook, and he lives in Ely Place, Holborn. Will you come and see me today, at any time you like?-Ever yours, Agnes."

I came to Mr. Waterbrook's house at three that same afternoon. His professional business I found, was done on the ground floor of the house, while he and his family lived in the upper part of the building. I was shown into a neat and pretty room, and there sat Agnes, busy with her sewing.

It was good to see her again, and to tell her all about my new position and my new home. But, as we talked and laughed together, the smile all at once vanished from her face and she asked me if I had seen Uriah.

"Uriah Heep?" said I, in some surprise. "No. Is he in London?"

"Yes," she replied. "He comes to the office downstairs every day."

I could see that she was unhappy when she thought of Uriah.

"Why are you so worried?" I asked.

"Do you remember when we talked about my father's illness?" she asked. "He seems to be worse now, and Uriah has been taking care of the business. Now he wants to become my father's partner, and father says that he cannot refuse him."

"What!" I cried. "Your father is going to make that creeping little worm his partner? Why can't he refuse?"

"He is afraid of Uriah," she replied, with tears in her eyes. "I know it, David. In some way, Uriah seems to have a power over him. Father says that he cannot manage now without Uriah's help."

I said angrily that I hated Uriah, but Agnes interrupted me gently, and said:

"I hope that when Uriah is in charge of the business father will be able to rest a little and improve his health. Please, David," she continued, "be polite to Uriah when you see him. You must not make him angry, in case he hurts my father in some way."

She had no time to say more, for the door opened and Mrs. Waterbrook, a large lady in a red dress, came in. She welcomed me, and invited me to call again the next day.

On the following day when I went to see Agnes, there were a number of guests in the house, and I was introduced to these friends. There was one guest who attracted my attention even before he came in, on account of my hearing him mentioned as Mr. Traddles. My mind flew back to Salem House, and I was delighted to find that he was indeed my old friend, Tommy Traddles. He told me his address, and I promised to visit him.

I found Uriah Heep there too. He had grown very tall, but he still looked pale and thin-and more cunning than ever, I thought. I knew, in the instant I set eyes on him again, that I hated him, though I forced myself to hide the fact from him.

"I expect," he said, "that you have heard of the change in my position with Mr. Wickfield. I am a very stupid person, but I hope that I have been able to help Mr. Wickfield. He is a very worthy man, Mr. Copperfield, but he has been very unwise. He would have been ruined and disgraced, if it had not been for me."

I said nothing, but watched his cunning face and his evil little eyes.

"May I tell you a secret, Mr. Copperfield?" he went on.

"You may if you wish," I replied.

"I know I am a very humble sort of person," he said, "but I have always had a great affection for Miss Agnes. When she sees how much her father needs me, I think she may become kind to me. I hope, indeed, that she may some day be my wife."

I was so shocked, so surprised and angry, that I almost struck him. It was terrible to think of my dear Agnes as the wife of this cunning, redheaded animal. I do not know how I kept my hands off him. I said good-bye to him quickly, and went home.

That night I could not sleep for hours, but lay thinking about Agnes and this creature, and considering what I should do. In the end, I could only conclude that the best course for her peace of mind was to do nothing, and to keep to myself what I had heard. When I awoke in the morning, the memory of what Uriah had told me sat heavy upon me like a bad dream, and made me feel as if I had a devil in the house, who threatened to destroy the happiness of the girl who had become as a sister to me.



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