“Sit down,” said Agnes, cheerfully. “Don’t be unhappy, Trotwood. If you cannot confidently trust me, whom will you trust?”

“Ah, Agnes!” I returned. “You are my good Angel!”

She smiled rather sadly, I thought, and shook her head.

“Yes, Agnes, my good Angel! Always my good Angel!”

“If I were, indeed, Trotwood,” she returned, “there is one thing that I should set my heart on very much.”

I looked at her inquiringly; but already with a foreknowledge of her meaning.

“On warning you,” said Agnes, with a steady glance, “against your bad Angel.”

“My dear Agnes,” I began, “if you mean Steerforth—”

“I do, Trotwood,” she returned.

“Then, Agnes, you wrong him very much. He my bad Angel, or any one’s! He, anything but a guide, a support, and a friend to me! My dear Agnes! Now, is it not unjust, and unlike you, to judge him from what you saw of me the other night?”

“I do not judge him from what I saw of you the other night,” she quietly replied.

“From what, then?”

“From many things—trifles in themselves, but they do not seem to me to be so, when they are put together. I judge him, partly from your account of him, Trotwood, and your character, and the influence he has over you.”

There was always something in her modest voice that seemed to touch a chord within me, answering to that sound alone. It was always earnest; but when it was very earnest, as it was now, there was a thrill in it that quite subdued me. I sat looking at her as she cast her eyes down on her work; I sat seeming still to listen to her; and Steerforth, in spite of all my attachment to him, darkened in that tone.

“It is very bold in me,” said Agnes, looking up again, “who have lived in such seclusion, and can know so little of the world, to give you my advice so confidently, or even to have this strong opinion. But I know in what it is engendered, Trotwood,—in how true a remembrance of our having grown up together, and in how true an interest in all relating to you. It is that which makes me bold. I am certain that what I say is right. I am quite sure it is. I feel as if it were some one else speaking to you, and not I, when I caution you that you have made a dangerous friend.”

Again I looked at her, again I listened to her after she was silent, and again his image, though it was still fixed in my heart, darkened.

“I am not so unreasonable as to expect,” said Agnes, resuming her usual tone, after a little while, “that you will, or that you can, at once, change any sentiment that has become a conviction to you; least of all a sentiment that is rooted in your trusting disposition. You ought not hastily to do that. I only ask you, Trotwood, if you ever think of me—I mean,” with a quiet smile, for I was going to interrupt her, and she knew why, “as often as you think of me—to think of what I have said. Do you forgive me for all this?”

“I will forgive you, Agnes,” I replied, “when you come to do Steerforth justice, and to like him as well as I do.”

“Not until then?” said Agnes.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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