“My dear Traddles,” said I, “I am delighted to see you at last, and very sorry I have not been at home before. But I have been so much engaged—”

“Yes, yes, I know,” said Traddles, “of course. Yours lives in London, I think.”

“What did you say?”

“She—excuse me—Miss D., you know,” said Traddles, colouring, in his great delicacy, “lives in London, I believe?”

“Oh yes. Near London.”

“Mine, perhaps you recollect,” said Traddles, with a serious look, “lives down in Devonshire—one of ten. Consequently, I am not so much engaged as you—in that sense.”

“I wonder you can bear,” I returned, “to see her so seldom.”

“Hah!” said Traddles, thoughtfully. “It does seem a wonder. I suppose it is, Copperfield, because there’s no help for it?”

“I suppose so,” I replied, with a smile, and not without a blush. “And because you have so much constancy and patience, Traddles.”

“Dear me!” said Traddles, considering about it, “do I strike you in that way, Copperfield? Really I didn’t know that I had. But she is such an extraordinarily dear girl herself, that it’s possible she may have imparted something of those virtues to me. Now you mention it, Copperfield, I shouldn’t wonder at all. I assure you she is always forgetting herself, and taking care of the other nine.”

“Is she the eldest?” I inquired.

“Oh dear, no,” said Traddles. “The eldest is a Beauty.”

He saw, I suppose, that I could not help smiling at the simplicity of this reply; and added, with a smile upon his own ingenuous face—

“Not, of course, but that my Sophy—pretty name, Copperfield, I always think?”

“Very pretty!” said I.

“Not, of course, but that Sophy is beautiful too, in my eyes, and would be one of the dearest girls that ever was, in anybody’s eyes (I should think). But when I say the eldest is a Beauty, I mean she really is a—” he seemed to be describing clouds about himself, with both hands: “Splendid, you know,” said Traddles, energetically.

“Indeed!” said I.

“Oh, I assure you,” said Traddles, “something very uncommon, indeed! Then, you know, being formed for society and admiration, and not being able to enjoy much of it, in consequence of their limited means, she naturally gets a little irritable and exacting, sometimes. Sophy puts her in good humour!”

“Is Sophy the youngest?” I hazarded.

“Oh dear, no!” said Traddles, stroking his chin. “The two youngest are only nine and ten. Sophy educates ’em.”

“The second daughter, perhaps?” I hazarded.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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