I hoped he was well, and Mrs. Strong too.

“Oh dear, yes!” said the Doctor; “Annie’s quite well, and she’ll be delighted to see you. You were always her favourite. She said so, last night, when I showed her your letter. And—yes, to be sure—you recollect Mr. Jack Maldon, Copperfield?”

“Perfectly, Sir.”

“Of course,” said the Doctor. “To be sure. He’s pretty well, too.”

“Has he come home, Sir?” I inquired.

“From India?” said the Doctor. “Yes. Mr. Jack Maldon couldn’t bear the climate, my dear. Mrs. Markleham—you have not forgotten Mrs. Markleham?”

Forgotten the Old Soldier! And in that short time!

“Mrs. Markleham,” said the Doctor, “was quite vexed about him, poor thing; so we have got him at home again; and we have bought him a little Patent place, which agrees with him much better.”

I knew enough of Mr. Jack Maldon to suspect from this account that it was a place where there was not much to do, and which was pretty well paid. The Doctor, walking up and down with his hand on my shoulder, and his kind face turned encouragingly to mine, went on—

“Now, my dear Copperfield, in reference to this proposal of yours. It’s very gratifying and agreeable to me, I am sure; but don’t you think you could do better? You achieved distinction, you know, when you were with us. You are qualified for many good things. You have laid a foundation that any edifice may be raised upon; and is it not a pity that you should devote the spring-time of your life to such a poor pursuit as I can offer?”

I became very glowing again, and, expressing myself in a rhapsodical style, I am afraid, urged my request strongly; reminding the Doctor that I had already a profession.

“Well, well,” returned the Doctor, “that’s true. Certainly, your having a profession, and being actually engaged in studying it, makes a difference. But, my good young friend, what’s seventy pounds a year?”

“It doubles our income, Doctor Strong,” said I.

“Dear me!” replied the Doctor. “To think of that! Not that I mean to say it’s rigidly limited to seventy pounds a year, because I have always contemplated making any young friend I might thus employ, a present too. Undoubtedly,” said the Doctor, still walking me up and down with his hand on my shoulder. “I have always taken an annual present into account.”

“My dear tutor,” said I (now, really, without any nonsense), “to whom I owe more obligations already than I ever can acknowledge—”

“No, no,” interposed the Doctor. “Pardon me!”

“If you will take such time as I have, and that is my mornings and evenings, and can think it worth seventy pounds a year, you will do me such a service as I cannot express.”

“Dear me!” said the Doctor, innocently. “To think that so little should go for so much! Dear, dear! And when you can do better, you will? On your word, now?” said the Doctor,—which he had always made a very grave appeal to the honour of us boys.

“On my word, Sir!” I returned, answering in our old school manner.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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