14_01

Chapter Fourteen


Mr. Micawber Speaks Out

"Mercy on us!" said my aunt.

Mr Dick jumped up in surprise, while Traddles and I stared at Mr. Micawber open-mouthed. He was in a very excited state.

"I will tell you everything," he cried. "Heep is a villain! Heep is a cheat! Heep is a liar and a thief!"

He went on shouting the name of Heep as if it were some magic word, until at last I managed to calm him down. Then he fell quiet, and would say nothing more concerning Uriah, but asked the four of us to come down to Canterbury, where he planned to explain his accusations against Uriah.

My aunt did not wish to go to Canterbury, as my dear Dora was ill and she was nursing her. But Dora persuaded her to go, and so we four travelled together on the chosen day.

We arrived at Mr. Wickfield's house, and found Mr. Micawber at his desk. He rose at once, with a heavy ruler in his hand, and led us to the dining-room. He opened the door for us to enter first.

Uriah, who was there alone, looked up with surprise and frowned. Then he pretended to be glad to see us.

"I am sure," he said, "that this is an unexpected pleasure."

He shook hands all round. I felt ashamed to let him take my hand, but I did not yet know what else to do.

Agnes came in to welcome us. She looked anxious, I thought, but her face was as kind and beautiful as ever.

"Go away now, Micawber," said Uriah.

Mr. Micawber was standing by the door, still holding his ruler, his eyes fixed on Uriah's face.

"What are you waiting for?" said Uriah, angrily; "Micawber! Did you hear me tell you to go?

"Yes," replied Mr. Micawber, making no move.

"Then why do you wait?" demanded Uriah.

"Because I choose to," answered Mr. Micawber.

Uriah's face lost its colour and he began to breathe quickly. Before he could speak, however, Mr. Micawber rushed on: "I wish to say clearly and plainly that you are a villain and a cheat!"
Uriah fell back as if he had been struck. Then he looked round upon us all, a wicked light in his eyes, and said in a low voice: "So there is a plot against me, is there? I warn you- take care! You dare not try to harm me, any of you. I have power over you all. Miss Wickfield, if you have any love for your father, you will not join these people. I'll ruin him if you do. You think Micawber can bring me down, do you? We'll see about that. Let him speak. Let's hear what he has to say."

At this, Mr. Micawber took from his pocket a large sheet of paper, from which he began to read, starting like this:

"Miss Trotwood, and gentlemen, I appear before you to show you that Uriah Heep is a forger, a villain, and a cheat!" At these words, Uriah made a rush at the sheet of paper, as if to tear it in pieces. Mr. Micawber, however, struck at his advancing hand with the ruler. Uriah's hand dropped at the wrist, as if it were broken, and he drew back and sat upon the edge of a table, his sullen face turned to the floor at his feet. Mr. Micawber continued reading from his paper. He had, he said, been forced to borrow money from Uriah-money which he could not pay back-and had been forced to help Uriah in dishonest business in Mr. Wickfield's firm. At first, he had not refused to do this, since he needed more money and Uriah was ready to pay him for his help. As the time passed, however, he was filled with shame and a sense of dishonour, and had decided to put an end to Uriah's crimes. He had watched secretly all that Uriah did. He discovered that Uriah had cheated Mr. Wickfield and others, and had forged Mr. Wickfield's signature on many important papers. When Uriah stole money, it was his habit to pretend that Mr. Wickfield had lost it through careless mistakes; therefore, Mr. Wickfield thought that he was no longer capable of managing his business, and had left his affairs more and more in the hands of Uriah.

"You must prove these accusations," cried Uriah at this point, "and that is something you cannot do."

Mr. Micawber, now looking as if he was enjoying himself, pointed with his ruler to a big iron safe let into the wall of the room. The key was in the lock. A hasty suspicion seemed to strike Uriah. He rushed to the safe and tore open the door. We all saw that the safe was empty.

"Where are the books?" cried Uriah, with a face full of anger. "Some thief has stolen the books!"

"I did," said Mr. Micawber, "when I got the key from you as usual-but a little earlier- and opened it this morning. We now have all the records and papers by which we may prove your crimes."



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