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one, and watched us. When we all four went out walking in the
afternoon, she closed her thin hand on my arm like a spring, to
keep me back, while Steerforth and his mother went on out of
hearing: and then spoke to me.

'You have been a long time,' she said, 'without coming here. Is
your profession really so engaging and interesting as to absorb
your whole attention? I ask because I always want to be informed,
when I am ignorant. Is it really, though?'

I replied that I liked it well enough, but that I certainly could
not claim so much for it.

'Oh! I am glad to know that, because I always like to be put right
when I am wrong,' said Rosa Dartle. 'You mean it is a little dry,

'Well,' I replied; 'perhaps it was a little dry.'

'Oh! and that's a reason why you want relief and change -
excitement and all that?' said she. 'Ah! very true! But isn't it
a little - Eh? - for him; I don't mean you?'

A quick glance of her eye towards the spot where Steerforth was
walking, with his mother leaning on his arm, showed me whom she
meant; but beyond that, I was quite lost. And I looked so, I have
no doubt.

'Don't it - I don't say that it does, mind I want to know - don't
it rather engross him? Don't it make him, perhaps, a little more
remiss than usual in his visits to his blindly-doting - eh?' With
another quick glance at them, and such a glance at me as seemed to
look into my innermost thoughts.

'Miss Dartle,' I returned, 'pray do not think -'

'I don't!' she said. 'Oh dear me, don't suppose that I think
anything! I am not suspicious. I only ask a question. I don't
state any opinion. I want to found an opinion on what you tell me.
Then, it's not so? Well! I am very glad to know it.'

'It certainly is not the fact,' said I, perplexed, 'that I am
accountable for Steerforth's having been away from home longer than
usual - if he has been: which I really don't know at this moment,
unless I understand it from you. I have not seen him this long
<- Previous | Table Of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - Copperfield by Charles Dickens

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