12_02

Miss Murdstone explained that she had found Jip playing with a letter, outside Dora's room, and had taken it from him and read it. In this way she had discovered that I was writing love-letters to Dora. She had questioned Dora, and had at last obtained from her, by means of threats, the bundle of letters I held in my hand.

"You have heard Miss Murdstone," said Mr. Spenlow, turning to me. "Have you anything to say in reply?"

"I'm sorry, sir," I said, "if you think I have acted badly. There is nothing I can say except that all the blame is mine. Dora and I love each other, and we are engaged to be married-"

"No, Mr. Copperfield," interrupted Mr. Spenlow, "you are not engaged to be married, and you never will be engaged to my daughter. You are both far too young, and I want there to be an end to this nonsense. Take away those letters and throw them in the fire-where they belong. You must promise me that you will never write to Dora, or try to see her again."

I refused to make such a promise, though I could see that Mr. Spenlow was very angry with me. But what else could I do? I could not deny Dora and my own heart. Mr. Spenlow then said that he would talk to Dora about me, and would have no difficulty in persuading her not to marry me.

I rose to leave, and Miss Murdstone's eyes followed me to the door, and she looked exactly as she used to look when I made mistakes in my lessons all those years ago.

I spent a day of grief and anxiety. The idea of their frightening Dora, and making her cry, and of my not being there to comfort her, almost drove me mad.

I told my aunt what had happened when I got home; and, in spite of all she could say to comfort me, went to bed filled with despair. I got up despairing, and went out despairing. It was Saturday morning, and I went straight to the office.

I was surprised when I got there to see half a dozen people standing about and staring at the windows, which were shut. I quickened my step, passed among them-wondering at their looks-and went hurriedly in. All the clerks were there, but nobody was doing anything. "What's the matter?" I asked. "Don't you know?" said one of the clerks. "No," said I, looking from face to face. "Mr. Spenlow is dead," the clerk replied. I dropped down into a chair. "Dead?" I said. "When did it happen?" "He dined in town yesterday," the clerk said, "and drove home in his coach alone, as he sometimes did, you know-" "Well?" "The coach reached his house without him. The horses stopped at the stable gate. The servants went out with lamps. There was nobody in the coach. They went back along the road and found him a mile off-not far from the church- lying on the roadside. Whether he fell out in a fit, or got out, feeling ill before the fit came on, no one appears to know. The servants fetched a doctor at once, but it was quite useless. There was nothing that could be done for him."

I cannot describe the state of mind into which I was thrown by this news. It was so much of a shock to me that I could easily imagine how much more of a shock it would be for Dora.

During the next few weeks, I saw nothing of her, though I knew that Miss Mills was with her to comfort her. During that time, it was discovered that Mr. Spenlow had left no will, and that his affairs were in a most disordered state. It was extremely difficult, I heard, to make out how much he owed, or what he had paid, or of what he died possessed. Little by little it came out that he had spent more than his professional income, which was not a very large one, and had reduced his

private means to almost nothing. Dora, it seemed, would be left as poor as I was myself.

In another week or two, I learned, through Miss Mills, that Dora had gone to live with two aunts, who had a house on the other side of London. I could only hope that she would be happy with them, while I longed to see her again, and was miserable all the time without her.



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