Charles Dickens.

The personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 2) online

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nature — might have been harder to reconcile than the two
extremest opposites in creation. The idea did not originate
in ray own discernment, I am bound to confess, but in a
speech of Rosa Dartle's.

She said at dinner:

"Oh, but do tell me, though, somebody, because I have
been thinking about it all day, and I want to know."

"You want to know what, Rosa?" returned Mrs. Steer-
forth. "Pray, pray, Rosa, do not be mysterious."

"Mysterious I" she cried. "Oh! really? Do you con-
sider me so?"

"Do I constantly entreat you," said Mrs. Steerforth, "to
speak plainly, in your own natural manner? "

"Oh! then, this is noi my natural manner?" she rejoined.
"Now you must really bear with me, because I ask for infor-
mation. We never know ourselves."

"It has become a second nature," said Mrs. Steerforth,
without any displeasure; "but I remember, — and so must
you, I think, — when your manner was different, Rosa; when
it was not so guarded, and was more trustful."

"I am sure you are right," she returned; "and so it is that
bad habits grow upon one ! Really ? Less guarded and more
trustful? How can I, imperceptibly, have changed, I won-
der! Well, that *s verj' odd! I must study to regain my
former self."

"I wish you would," said Mrs. Steerforth, with a smile.
David Copperfield. 11. 1 6



242



"Ohl I really will, you know!" she answered. "I will
learn frankness from — let me see — from James."

"You cannot learn frankness, Rosa," said Mrs. Steerforth,
quickly — for there was always some effect of sarcasm in what
Rosa Dartle said, though it was said, as this was, in the most
unconscious manner in the world — "in a better school."

"That I am sure of," she answered, with uncommon fer-
vour. "If I am sure of anything, of course, you know, I am
sure of that,"

Mrs. Steerforth appeared to me to regret having been a
little nettled; for she presently said, in a kind tone :

"Well, my dear Rosa, we have not heard what it is that
you want to be satisfied about?"

"That I want to be satisfied about?" she replied, with
provoking coldness. "Oh I It was only whether people , who
are like each other in their moral constitution — is that the
phrase?"

"It's as good a phrase as another," said Steerforth.

" Thank you : — whether people , who are like each other
in their moral constitution, are in greater danger than people
not so circumstanced, supposing any serious cause of variance
to arise between them, of being divided angrily and deeply?"

"I should say yes," said Steerforth.

"Should you?" she retorted. "Dearmel Supposing then,
for instance, — any unlikely thing will do for a supposition —
that you and your mother were to have a serious quarrel."

"My dear Rosa," interposed Mrs. Steerforth, laughing
good-naturedly, "suggest some other supposition! James
and I know our duty to each other better, I pray Heaven 1 "

"Oh I" said Miss Dartle, nodding her head thoughtfully.
"To be sure. That would prevent it? VVhy, of course it
would. Ex-actly. Now, I am glad I have been so foolish
as to put the case, io"^ it is so very good to know that



243



your duty to each other would prevent itl Thank you very
much."

One other little circumstance connected with Miss Dartle I
must not omit; for I had reason to remember it thereafter,
when all the irremediable past was rendered plain. During
the whole of this day, but especially from this period of it,
Steerforth exerted himself with his utmost skill, and that was
with his utmost ease , to charm this singular creature into a
pleasant and pleased companion. That he should succeed,
was no matter of surprise to me. That she should struggle
against the fascinating influence of his delightful art — de-
lightful nature I thought it then — did not surprise me either;
for I knew that she was sometimes jaundiced and perverse.
I saw her features and her manner slowly change; I saw her
look at him with growing admiration; I saw her try, more and
more faintly, but always angrily, as if she condemned a weak-
ness in herself, to resist the captivating power that he pos-
sessed; and finally I saw her sharp glance soften, and her
smile become quite gentle, and I ceased to be afraid of her as
I had really been all day, and we all sat about the fire, talking
and laughing together, with as little reserve as if we had been
children.

Whether it was because we had sat there so long, or be-
cause Steerforth was resolved not to lose the advantage he had
gained, I do not know; but we did not remain in the dining-
room more than five minutes after her departure. "She is
playing her harp," said Steerforth, softly, at the drawing-
room door, "and nobody but my mother has heard her do
that, I believe, these three years." He said it with a curious
smile, which was gone directly; and we went into the room
and found her alone.

"Don't get up!" said Steerforth (which she had already

16'



244



done) ; " my dear Rosa , don't ! Be kind for once, and sing us
an Irish song."

*' What do you care for an Irish song? " she returned.

"Much!" said Steerforth. "Much more than for any
other. Here is Daisy, too, loves music from his soul. Sing
us an Irish song, Rosa I and let me sit and listen as I used
to do."

He did not touch her, or the chair from which she had
risen, bat sat himself near the harp. She stood beside it for
some little while, in a curious way, going through the motion
of playing it with her right hand, but not sounding it. At
length she sat down, and drew it to her with one sudden action,
and played and sang.

I don't know what it was, in her touch or voice, that made
that song the most unearthly I have ever heard in my life, or
can imagine. There was something fearful in the reality of it.
It was as if it had never been written, or set to music, but
sprung out of the passion within her; which found imperfect
utterance in the low sounds of her voice, and crouched again
when all was still. I was dumb when she leaned beside the
harp again, playing it, but not sounding it, with her right
hand.

A minute more, and this had roused me from my trance: —
Steerforth had left his seat, and gone to her, and had put his
arm laughingly about her, and had said, "Come, Rosa, for the
future we will love each other very muchl" And she had
struck him, and hail thrown him off with the fury of a wild cat,
and had burst out of the room.

"What is the matter with Rosa?" said Mrs. Steerforth,
coming in.

"She has been an angel, mother," returned Steerforth,
"for a little while; and has run into the opposite extreme,
since, by way of compensation."



245



"You should be careful not to irritate her, James. Her
temper has been soured, remember, and ought not to be
tried."

Rosa did not come back; and no other mention was made
of her, until I went with Steerforth into his room to say Good
night. Then he laughed about her, and asked me if I had
ever seen such a fierce little piece of incomprehensibility.

I expressed as much of my astonishment as was then ca-
pable of expression, and asked if he could guess what it was
that she had taken so much amiss, so suddenly.

"Oh, Heaven knows," said Steerforth. "Any thing you
like — or nothing! I told you she took every thing, herself
included, to a grindstone, and sharpened it. She is an edge-
tool, and requires great care in dealing with. She is always
dangerous. Good night! "

"Good night!" said I, "my dear Steerforth ! I shall be
gone before you wake in the morning. Good night ! "

He was unwilling to let me go; and stood, holding me out,
with a hand on each of my shoulders, as he had done in my
own room. ^

"Daisy," he said, with a smile — "for though that 's not
the name your Godfathers and Godmothers gave you, it 's the
name I like best to call you by — and I wish, I wish, I wish, you
could give it to me !"

"Why so I can, if I choose," said I.

"Daisy, if anything should ever separate us, you must think
of me at my best, old boy. Come! I^et us make that bargain.
Think of me at my best, if circumstances should ever part us I"

"You have no best to me, Steerforth," said I, "and no
worst. You are alwas equally loved, and cherished in my
heart."

So much compunction for having ever wronged him, even
by a shapeless thought, did 1 feel witliin mc, that the confes-



246



sion of having done so was rising to my lips. But for the re-
luctance I had, to betray the confidence of Agnes, but for my
uncertainty how to approach the subject with no risk of doing
80, it would have reached them before he said, *'God bless
you, Daisy, and good night I" In my doubt, it did no^ reach
them ; and we shook hands, and we parted.

I was up with the dull dawn, and, having dressed as quietly
as I could, looked into his room. He was fast asleep ; lying,
easily, with his head upon his arm , as I had often seen him lie
at school.

The time came in its season, and that was very soon, when
I almost wondered that nothing troubled his repose, as I
looked at him. But he slept — let me think of him so again —
as I had often seen him sleep at school; and thus, in this silent
hour, I left him.

— Never more, oh God forgive you, SteerforthI to touch
that passive hand in love and friendship. Never, never
more!



CHAPTER XIV.

A loss.

I GOT down to Yarmouth in the evening, and went to the
Inn. I knew that Peggotty's spare room — my room — was
likely to have occupation enough in a little while, if that great
Visitor, before whose presence all the living must give place,
were not already in the house; so I betook myself to the inn,
and dined there, and engaged my bed.

It was ten o'clock when I went out. Many of the shops
were shut, and the town was dull. When I came to Omer and
Joram's, I found the shutters up, but the shop door standing
open. As I could obtain a perspective view of Mr. Omer in-
side, smoking his pipe by the parlour-door, I entered, and
asked him how he was.

"Why, bless my life and soull" saidMr. Omer, "how do
you find yourself? Take a seat. — Smoke not disagreeable,
I hope?"

"By no means," said I. "I like it — in somebody else's
pipe."^

"What, not in your own, eh?" ^Ir. Omer returned, laugh-
ing. "All the better, Sir. Bad habit for a young man. Take
a seat. I smoke, myself, for the asthma."

Mr. Omer had made room for me, and placed a chair.
He now sat down again, very much out of breath, gasping at
his pipe as if it contained a supply of that necessary, without
which he must perish.

"I am sorry to have heard bad ncv/s of Mr. Barkis,'*
said I.



248



;Mr. Omer looked at me, -with a steady countenance, and
shook his head.

"Do jou know how he is to-night?" I asked.

"The very question I should have put to you, Sir," re-
turned Mr. Omer, "but on account of delicacy. It *s one of
the drawbacks of our line of business. When a party 's ill,
we can't ask how the party is."

The difficulty had not occurred to me; though I had had
my apprehensions too, when I went in, of hearing the old
tune. On its being mentioned, I recognised It, however, and
said as much.

"Yes, yes, you understand," saidlklr. Omer, nodding his
head. "We durstn't do it. Bless you, It would be a shock
that the generality of parties mightn't recover, to say 'Omer
and Jorams's compliments, and how do you find yourself this
morning' — or this afternoon — as it may be."

Mr. Omer and I nodded at each other, and Mr. Omer
recruited his wind by the aid of his pipe.

"It's one of the things that cut the trade off from atten-
tions they could often wish to show," said Mr. Omer. " Take
myself. If I have known Barkis a year, to move to as he went
by, I have known him forty year. But / can't go and say
*howishe?"'

I felt it was rather hard on Mr, Omer, and I told him so.

"I 'm not more self-interested, I hope, than another man,"
said Mr. Omer, "Look at mel My wind may fail me at any
moment, and it ain't likely that, to my own knowledge, I'd
be self-interested under such circumstances. I say it ain't
likely, in a man who knows his wind will go , when it does go,
as if a pair of bellows was cut open; and that man a grand
father," said Mr. Omer.

I said, "Not at all."

"It ain't that I complain of my line of business," said Mr.



I



249



Omer. "It ain't that. Some good and some bad goes, no
doubt, to all callings. "What I wish, is, that parties were
brought up stronger-minded."

Mr. Omer, wlth*a very complacent and amiable face, took
several puff's in silence; and then said, resuming his first
point.

"Accordingly we 're obleeged. In ascertaining how Barkis
goes on, to limit ourselves to Em'ly. She knows what our
real objects are, and she don't have any more alarms or suspi-
cions about us, than If we was so many lambs. Minnie and
Joram have just stepped down to the house, in fact (she's
there, after hours, helping her aunt a bit), to ask her how
he Is to-night; and If you was to please to wait till they come
back, they 'd give you full partic'lers. Will you take some-
thing? A glass of srub and water, now? I smoke on srub
an.d water, myself," said Mr. Omer, taking up his glass,
"because it 's considered softening to the passages, by which
this troublesome breath of mine gets into action. But, Lord
bless you," said Mr. Omer, huskily, "it ain't the passages
that 's out of order I 'Give me breath enough,' says I to my
daughter Minnie, 'and / '11 find passages, my dear.'"

He really had no breath to spare , and It was very alarming
to see him laugh. When he was again in a condition to be
talked to , I thanked him for the proffered refreshment, which
I declined, as I had just had dinner; and, observing that I
would Avalt, since he was so good as to invite me, until his
daughter and his son-in-law came back, I inquired how little
Emily was?

"Well, Sir," said Mr. Omer, removing his pipe, that he
might rub his chin ; "I tell you truly, I shall be glad when her
marriage has taken place."

"Why so?" I inquired.

"Well, she 's unsettled at present," sail Mr. Omer. "It



:^50



ain't that she *s not as pretty as ever, for she *s prettier — I
do assure you, she is prettier. It ain't that she don't work as
well as ever, for she does. She was worth any six, and she
is worth any six. But somehow she wants heart. If you
understand," said Mr. Omer, after rubbing his chin again,
and smoking a little, "what I mean in a general way by the
expression, 'A long pull, and a strong pull, and a pull alto-
gether, my hearties, hurrah!' I should say to you, th&t that
was — in a general way — what I miss in Em'ly."

IVIr. Omer's face and manner went for so much, that I
could conscientiously nod my head, as divining his meaning.
My quickness of apprehension seemed to please him, and he
went on:

"Now, I consider this is principally on account of her being
in an unsettled state, you see. We have talked it over a
good deal, her uncle and myself, and her sweetheart and
myself, after business; and I consider it is principally on
account of her being unsettled. You must always recollect
of Em'ly," said Mr. Omer, shaking his head gently, "that
she 's a most extraordinary affectionate little thing. The
proverb says, * You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.'
Well, I don't know about that. I rather think you may, if
you begin early in life. She has made a home out of that old
boat. Sir, that stone and marble couldn't beat."

"I am sure she has 1" said I.

"To see the clinging of that pretty little thing to her
uncle," said Mr. Omer; "to see the way she holds on to him,
tighter and tighter, and closer and closer, every day, is to
see a sight. Now, you know, there 's a struggle going on
when that 'b the case. Why should it be made a longer one
than is needful?'*

I listened attentively to the good old fellow, and ac^
quiesced , with all my heart , in what he said.



251



"Therefore, I mentioned to them," said Mr. Omer, in a
comfortable, easy-going tone, "this. I said, 'Now, don't
consider Em'ly nailed down in point of time, at all. Make it
your own time. Her services have been more valuable than
was supposed; her learning has been quicker than was sup-
posed; Omer and Joram can run their pen through what
remains; and she 's free when you wish. If she likes to make
any little arrangement, afterwards, in the way of doing any
little thing for us at home, very well. If she don't, very- well
still. We 're no losers, anyhow.' For — don't you see,"
EaidMr. Omer, touching me with his pipe, "it ain't likely that
a man so short of breath as myself, and a grandfather too,
would go and strain points with a little bit of a blue-eyed blos-
som, like her f"

" Not at all , I am certain ," said I.

"Not at all! You 're right!" said Mr. Omer. "Well,
Sir, her cousin — you know it's a cousin she's going to be
married to?"

"Oh yes," I replied. "I know him well."

"Of course you do," said Mr. Omer. "Well, Sirl Her
cousin being, as it appears, in good work, and well to do,
thanked me in a very manly sort of manner for this (conduct-
ing himself altogether, I must say, in a way that gives me a
high opinion of him), and went and took as comfortable a
little house as you or I could wish to clap eyes on. That little
house is now furnished, right through, as neat and complete
as a doll's parlour; and but for Barkis's illness having taken
this bad turn, poor fellow, they would have been man and
wife — I dare say, by this time. As it is, there 's a post-
ponement."

"And Emily, Mr. Omer?" I inquired. "Has she be-
come more settled?"

"Why that, you know," he returned, rubbing his double



252



chin again, "can*t naturally be expected. The prospect of the
change and separation, and all that, is, as one may say, close to
her and far away from her, both at once. Barkis*s death
needn't put it ofT much, but his lingering might. Anyway,
it 's an uncertain state of matters, you see.'*

"I see," said I.

"Consequently," pursued Mr. Omer, "Em'ly 's still a little
down, and a little fluttered ; perhaps, upon the whole, she 's
more so than she was. Every day she seems to get fonder and
fonder of her uncle, and more loth to part from all of us, A
kind word from me brings the tears into her eyes ; and if you
was to see her with my daughter Minnie's little girl, you'd
never forget it. Bless my heart alive I " said Mr. Omer , pon-
dering, "how she loves that child!"

Having so favourable an opportunity, it occurred to me to
ask Mr. Omer, before our conversation should be interupted
by the return of his daughter and her husband, whether he
knew anything of Martha.

"Ah!" he rejoined, shaking his head, and looking very
much dejected. "No good. A sad story, Sir, however you come
to know it. I never thought there was harm in the girl. I wouldn't
wish to mention it before my daughter Minnie — for she 'd
take me up directly — but I never did. None of us ever did."

Mr. Omer, hearing his daughter's footstep before I heard
it, touched me with his pipe, and shut up one eye, as a caution.
She and her husband came in immediately afterwards.

Their report was, that Mr. Barkis was "as bad as bad could
be ;" that he was quite unconscious ; and that Mr. Chillip had
mournfully said in the kitchen, on going away just now, that
the College of Physicians, the College of Surgeons, and Apo-
thecaries' Hall, if they were all called in together, couldn't
help him. He was past both Colleges, Mr. Chillip said, and
the Hall could only poison him.



253



Hearing this , and learning that Mr. Peggotty was there , I
determined to go to the house at once. I bade good night to
]Mr. Omer, and to Mr. and Mrs. Joram; and directed my steps
thither, with a solemn feeling, which made Mr. Barkis quite a
new and different creature.

My low tap at the door was answered by Mr. Peggotty.
He was not so much surprised to see me as I had expected.
I remarked this In Peggotty, too, when she came down;
and I have seen it since; and I think, in the expectation of
that dread surprise, all other changes and surprises dwindle
into nothing.

I shook hands with Mr. Peggotty, and passed into the
kitchen, while he softly closed the door. Little Emily was
sitting by the fire, with her hands before her face. Ham was
standing near her.

We spoke in whispers; listening, between whiles, for any
sound in the room above. I had not thought of it on the oc-
casion of my last visit, but how strange it was to me now, to
miss Mr. Barkis out of the kitchen 1

"This is very kind of you, Mas'r Davy," said Mr.
Peggotty.

"It is oncommon kind," said Ham.

"Em'ly, my dear," cried Mr. Peggotty. "See here!
Here 's Mas'r Davy come 1 What, cheer up, pretty 1 Not a
wured to Mas'r Davy ? "

There was a trembling upon her, that I can see now. The
coldness of her hand when I touched it, I can feel yet. Its
only sign of animation was to shrink from mine; and then she
glided from the chair, and, creeping to the other side of her
uncle, bowed herself, silently and trembling still, upon his
breast.

"It 's such a loving art," said Mr. Peggotty, smoothing her
rich hair with his great hard liand, "that it can't abear the



__2a4

sorrer of this. It 's natValln young folk, Mas'rDavy, when
they 're new to these here trials, and timid, like my little bird,

— it 'b nat'ral."

She clung the closer to him , but neither lifted up her face,
nor spoke a word.

"It's getting late, my dear," said Mr. Peggotty, "and
here 's Ham come fur to take you home. Theer! Go along
with t' other loving art I What, Em'ly ? Eh, my pretty? "

The sound of her voice had not reached me, but he bent
his head as if he listened to her, and then said:

"Let you stay with jour uncle? Why, you doen't mean to
ask me that! Stay with your uncle, Moppet? When your
husband that '11 be so soon , is here fur to take you home?
Now a person wouldn't think it, fur to see this little thing
alongside a rough-weather chap like me," said Mr. Peggotty,
looking round at both of us, with infinite pride; "but the sea
ain't more salt in it than she has fondness in her for her uncle

— a foolish little Em'ly I "

"Em'ly 's in the right in that, Mas'r Davy I" said Ham.
"Lookee here I As Em'ly wishes of it, and as she 's hurried
and frightened, like, besides, I '11 leave her till morning. Let
me stay too ! "

"No, no," said Mr. Peggotty. "You doen't ought — a
married man like you — or what 's as good — to take and hull
away a day's work. And you doen't ought to watch and work
both. That won't do. You go home and turn in. You ain't
afeerd of Em'ly not being took good care on, /know."

Ham yielded to this persuasion, and took his hat to go.
Even when he kissed her, — and I never saw him approach her,
but I felt that nature had given hira the soul of a gentleman,

— she seemed to cling closer to her uncle, even to the avoid-
ance of her chosen husband. I shut the door after him, that
it might cause no disturbance of the quiet that prevailed ; and



255



when 1 turned back, I found Mr. Peggotty still talking to
her.

"Now, I'm a going up-stairs to tell your aunt as Mas'r
Davy 's here, and that '11 cheer her up a bit," he said. " Sit ye
down by the fire, the while, my dear, and warm these mortal
cold hands. You doen't need to be so fearsome, and take on
CO much. What? You '11 go along with me?— Well! come
along with me — come ! If her uncle was turned out of house
and home, and forced to lay down in a dyke, Mas'r Davy,"
said Mr. Peggotty, with no less pride than before, "it's my
belief she 'd go along with him, now! But there '11 be some
one else, soon, — some one else, soon, Em'lyl"

Afterwards, when I went up-stairs, as I passed the door of
my little chamber, which was dark, I had an indistinct impres-
sion of her being within it, cast down upon the floor. But,
whether it was really she, or whether it was a confusion of the
shadows in the room, I don't know now.

I had leisure to think, before the kitchen-fire, of pretty
little Em'ly's dread of death — which, added to what Mr. Omer
had told me, I took to be the cause of her being so unlike her-
self — and I had leisure, before Peggotty came down, even to
think more leniently of the weakness of it: as I sat counting the
ticking of the clock, and deepening my sense of the solemn
hush around me. Peggotty took me in her arms, and blessed
and thanked me over and over again for being such a comfort
to her (that was what she said) in her distress. She then en-
treated me to come up-stairs, sobbing that Mr, Barkis had
always liked me and admired me; that he had often talked of
me, before he fell into a stupor; and that she believed, incase
of his coming to himself again, he would brighten up at sight of


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