Charles Dickens.

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

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me, if he could brighten up at any earthly thing.

The probability of his ever doing so, appeared to me, when
I saw him, to be very small. He was lying with his head and



256



shoulders out of bed, in an uncomfortable attitude, half resting
on the box which had cost him so much pain and trouble. 1
learned, that, when he was past creeping out of bed to open it,
and past assuring himself of its safety by means of the divining
rod I had seen him use, he had required to have it placed on
the chair at the bed-side, where he had ever since embraced it,
night and day. His arm lay on it now. Time and the world
were slipping from beneath him, but the box was there; and
the last words he had uttered were (in an explanatory tone)
*' Old clothes!"

"Barkis, my dearl" said Peggotty, almost cheerfully:
bending over him, while her brother and I stood at the bed's
foot. "Here 's my dear boy — my dear boy. Master Davy,
who brought us together, Barkis ! That you sent messages by,
you know ! Won't you speak to Master Davy ? '*

He was as mute and senseless as the box, from which his
form derived the only expression it had.

"He 's a going out with the tide," said Mr. Pegotty to me,
behind his hand.

My eyes were dim, and so were Mr. Pegotty's; but I re-
peated in a whisper, "With the tide? "

"People can't die, along the coast," said Mr. Peggotty,
"except when the tide's pretty nigh out. They can't be
born, unless it 's pretty nigh in — not properly born, till flood.
He 's a going out with the tide. It 's ebb at half arter three,
slack water half-an-hour. If he lives 'till it turns, he '11 hold
his own till past the Hood, and go out with the next tide."

We remained there, watching hira, a long time — hours.
What mysterious influence my presence had upon him in that
state of his senses, I shall not pretend to say; but when he at
last began to wander feebly, it is certain he was muttering
about driving me to school.

"He 's coming to himself." said Peggotty.



257



Iklr. Peggotty touched me, and whispered with much awe
and reverence, " They are both a going out fast."

"Barkis, my dear ! '* said Peggotty.

" C. P. Barkis," he cried, faintly. "No better woman any-
where 1"

"Lookl Here *8 Master Davyl" said Peggotty. For he
now opened his eyes.

I was on the point of asking him if he knew me, when he
tried to stretch out his arm, and said to me, distinctly, with a
pleasant smile:

"Barkis is willinM "

And, it being low water, he went out with the tide.



David CoppertieU- //• ^'



CHAPTER XV.

A greater loss.

It was not difficult for me, on Peggotty's solicitation, to
resolve to stay where I was, until after the remains of the poor
carrier should have made their last journey to Blunderatone.
She had long ago bought, out of her own savings, a little piece
of ground in our old churchyard near the grave "of her sweet
girl,'* as she always called my mother; and there they were
to rest.

In keeping Peggotty company, and doing all I could for her
(little enough at the utmost), I was as grateful, I rejoice to
think, as even now I could wish myself to have been. But I
am afraid I had a supreme satisfaction, of a personal and pro-
fessional nature, in taking charge of Mr. Barkis*s will, and ex-
pounding its contents.

I may claim the merit of having originated the suggestion
that the will should be looked for in the box. After some
search, it was found in the box, at the bottom of a horse's nose-
bag; wherein (besides hay) there was discovered an old gold
watch, with chain and seals, which Mr. Barkis had worn on his
wedding-day, and which had never been seen before or since;
a silver tobacco-stopper, in the form of a leg; an imitation
lemon, full of minute cups and saucers, which I have some idea
Mr. Barkis must have purchased to present to me when I was
a child, and afterwards found himself unable to part with;
eighty-seven guineas and a half , in guineas and half guineas;
two hundred and ten pounds, in perfectly clean Bank notes;
certain receipts for Bank of England stock; an old horse-shoe,



259



a bad shilling, a piece of caiupbor, and an oyster-shell. From
the circumstance of the latter article having been much po-
lished, and displaying prismatic colours on the inside, I con-
clude that Mr. Barkis had some general ideas about pearls,
which never resolved themselves into anything definite.

For years and years, ^Mr. Barkis had carried this box, on
all bis journeys, every day. That it might the better escape
notice, he had invented a fiction that it belonged to "Mr.
Blackboy," and was "to be left with Barkis till called for;"
a fable he had elaborately written on the lid, in characters
now scarcely legible.

He had hoarded, all these years, I found, to good purpose.
His property in money amounted to nearly three thousand
pounds. Of this he bequeathed the interest of one thousand
to Mr. Peggotty for his life; on his decease, the principal to
be equally divided between Peggotty, little Emily, and me,
or the survivor or survivors of us, share and share alike. All
the rest he died possessed of, he bequeathed to Peggotty,
whom he left residuary legatee , and sole executrix of that his
last will and testament.

I felt myself quite a proctor when I read this document
aloud with all possible ceremony, and set forth its provisions,
any number of times, to those whom they concerned. I began
to think there was more in the Commons than I had supposed.
I examined the will with the deepest attention, pronounced it
perfectly formal in all respects, made a pencil-mark or so in
the margin, and thought it rather extraordinary that I knew
so much.

In this abstruse pursuit; in making an account for, Peg-
gotty, of all the property into which she had come; in ar-
ranging all the affairs in an orderly manner; and in being her
referee and adviser on every point, to our joint delight;
1 passed the week before the funeral. I did not see little Emily

17*



260



in that Interval, but they told me she was to be quietly married
in a fortnight.

I did not attend the funeral in character, if I may venture
to say so. I mean I was not dressed up in a black cloak and a
streamer, to frighten the birds ; but I walked over to Blunder-
stone early in the morning, and was in the churchyard when it
came, attended only by Peggotty and her brother. The mad
gentleman looked on, out of my little window; Mr. Chillip's
baby wagged its heavy head, and rolled its goggle eyes , at the
clergyman, over its nurse's shoulder; Mr. Omer breathed
short in the background; no one else was there; and it was
very quiet. We walked about the churchyard for an hour,
after all was over ; and pulled some young leaves from the tree
above my mother's grave.

A dread falls on me here. A cloud is lowering on the
distant town, towards which I retraced my solitary steps.
I fear to approach it. I cannot bear to think of what did come,
upon that memorable night; of what must come again, if I
go on.

It is no worse, becausel write of it. It would be no better,
if I stopped my most unwilling hand. It is done. Nothing can
undo it ; nothing can make it otherwise than as it was.

My old nm'se was to go to London with me next day, on the
business of the will. Little Emily was passing that day at
Mr. Omer*8. We were all to meet in the old boat-house that
night. Ham would bring Emily at the usual hour. I would
walk back at my leisure. The brother and sister would return
as they had come, and be expecting us, when the day closed
in, at the fireside.

I parted from them at the wicket-gate, where visionary
Straps had rested with Roderick Random's knapsack in the
days of yore; and, instead of going straight back, walked a
little distance on the road to Lowestoft. Then I turned, and



261



walked back towards Yarmouth. I stayed to dine at a decent
alehouse, some mile or two from the Ferry I have mentioned
before; and thus the day wore away, and it was evening when
I reached it. Rain was falling heavily by that time , and it was
a wild night ; but there was a moon behind the clouds , and it
was not dark.

I was soon within sight of Mr. Peggotty's house, and of the
light within it shining through the window. A little floun-
dering across the sand, which was heavy, brought me to the
door , and I went in.

It looked very comfortable, indeed. Mr. Peggotty had
smoked his evening pipe, and there were preparations for
some supper by-and-by. The fire was bright, the ashes were
thrown up, the locker was ready for little Emily in her old
place. In her own old place sat Peggotty, once more, looking
(but for her dress) as if she had never left it. She had fallen
back, already, on the society of the work-box with Saint
Paul's upon the lid, the yard-measure in the cottage, and the
bit of wax candle : and there they all were , just as if they had
never been disturbed. Mrs, Gummldge appeared to be fretting
a little, in her old corner; and consequently looked quite
natural, too.

" You 're first of the lot , Mas'r Davy I " said Mr. Peggotty,
with a happy face. "Doen'tkeep In that coat, Sir, if it's wet."

"Thank you, Mr. Peggotty," said I, giving him my outer
coat to hang up. "It 's quite dry."

"So 't Is ! " said Mr. Peggotty, feeling my shoulders. " As
a chip! Sit ye down, Sir. It ain't o' no use saj-Ing welcome
to you, but you 're welcome, kind and hearty."

"Thank you, Mr. Peggotty, I am sure of that. Well,
Peggotty ! " said I , giving her a kiss. " And how are you , old
woman?"

"Ha, hal " laughed Mr. Peggotty, sitting down beside us,



262



and rubbing his hands in his sense of relief from recent
trouble, and in the genuine heartiness of his nature; "there 's
not a woman in the wureld , Sir — as I tell her — that need to
feel more easy in her mind than her! She done her dooty by
the departed, and the departed know'd it; and the departed
done what was right by her, as she done what was right by the
departed ; and — and — and it 's all right 1 "

Mrs. Gummidge groaned.

"Cheer up, my pretty mawtherl*' said Mr. Peggotty.
(But he shook his head aside at us, evidently sensible of the
tendency of the late occurrences to recall the memory of the
old one.) "Doen't be downl Cheer up, for your own self,
on'y a little bit, and see if a good deal more doen't come
natural!"

"Not to me, Dan'l," returned Mrs. Gummidge. "No-
think *s natural to me but to be lone and lorn."

"No, no," said Mr. Peggotty, soothing her sorrows.

"Yes, yes, Dan'l!" said Mrs. Gummidge. "I ain*t a
person to live with them as has had money left. Thinks go too
contrairy with me. I had better be a riddance."

"Why, how should I ever spend it without you?" said
Mr. Peggotty, with an air of serious remonstrance. "What
are you a talking on? Doen't I want you more now, than ever
I did?"

"I know'd I was never wanted before I " cried Mrs. Gum-
midge, with a pitiable whimper, "and now I 'm told so I How
could I expect to be wanted, being so lone and lorn, and so
contrairy I"

Mr. Peggotty seemed very much shocked at himself for
having made a speech capable of this unfeeling construction,
but was prevented from replying, by Peggotty's pulling his
sleeve, and shaking her head. After looking at Mrs. Gum-
midge for some moments, in sore distress of mind, he glanced



263



at the Dutch clock, rose, snuffed the candle, and put it in the
window.

"Theerl" said Mr. Peggotty, cheerily. "Theerweare,
Missis Gummidge!" Mrs. Gummidge slightly groaned,
*' Lighted up, accordin' to custom! You 're a wonderin' what
that's fur, Sir! Well, it's fur our little Em'ly. You see,
the path ain't over light or cheerful arter dark; and when
I 'm here at the hour as she 's a comin' home, I puts the light
in the winder. That, you see," said Mr. Peggotty, bending
over me with great glee, "meets two objects. She says, says
Em'ly, ' Theer 's home I ' she says. And likewise, says Em'ly,
' My uncle 's theer ! ' Fur if I ain't theer, I never have no light
showed."

"You 're a baby!" said Peggotty; very fond of him for it,
if she thought so.

"Well," returned Mr. Peggotty, standing with his legs
pretty wide apart, and rubbing his hands up and down them in
his comfortable satisfaction, as he looked alternately at us
and at the fire, "I doen't know but lam. Not, you see, to
look at."

"Notazackly," observed Peggotty.

"No," laughed Mr. Peggotty, "not to look at, but
to — to consider on, you know. / doen't care, bless you!
Now I tell you. When I go a looking and looking about
that theer pritty house of our Em'ly's, I 'm — I 'm Gormed,"
said Mr. Peggotty, with sudden emphasis — "theer! I can't
say more — if I doen't feel as if the littlest things was her,
a'most. I takes 'em up and I puts 'em down, and I touches
of 'em as delicate as if they was our Em'ly. So 't is with
her little bonnets and that. I couldn't see one on 'em
rough used a purpose — not fur the whole wureld. There 's
a babby fur you, in the form of a great Sea Porkypinel"



264



said Mr. Peggotty, relieving his earnestness with a roar of
laughter.

Peggotty and I both laughed, but not so loud.

"It's my opinion, you see," said Mr. Peggotty, with a
delighted face, after some further rubbing of his legs, "as
this is along of my havin' played with her so much, and made
believe as we was Turks, and French, and sharks, and every
wariety of forinners — bless you, yes; and lions and whales,
and I don't know what all ! — when she wam't no higher than
my knee. I Ve got into the way on it, you know. Why, this
here candle, now I" said Mr. Peggotty, gleefully holding out
his hand towards it, "/ know wery well that arter she *s
married and gone, I shall put that candle theer, just the same
as now. I know yvery well that when I 'm here o' nights (and
where else should / live, bless your arts, whatever fortun' I
come into!) and she ain't here, or I ain't theer, I shall put
the candle in the winder, and sit afore the fire, pretending
I 'm expecting of her, like I 'm a doing now. 2'here ** a babby
for you," said Mr. Peggotty, with another roar, "in the form
of a Sea Porkypine! Why, at the present minute, when I
see the candle sparkle up, I says to myself, *She 's a looking
at itl Em'ly 's a commg!' T/iere *s a babby for you, in the
form of a Sea Porkypine! Right for all that," said Mr. Peg-
gotty, stopping in his roar, and smiting his hands together;
"fur here she is I"

It was only Ham. The night should have turned more wet
since I came in, for he had a large sou'wester hat on, slouched
over his face.

" Where 's Em'ly ? " said Mr. Peggotty.

Ham made a motion with his head, as if she were outside.
Mr. Peggotty took the light from the window, trimmed it, put
it on the table, and was busily stirring the fire, when Ham,
who had not moved, said:



265



"Mas'r Davy, will you come out a minute, and see what
Em'ly and me has got to show you? "

We went out. As I passed him at the door, I saw, to my
astonishment and fright, that he was deadly pale. He pushed
me hastily into the open air, and closed the door upon us.
Only upon us two.

"Ham! what 's the matter 1"

" Mas'r Davy ! — " Oh, for his broken heart, how dread-
fully he wept I

I was paralyzed by the sight of such grief. I don't know
what I thought, or what I dreaded. I could only look at
him.

"Haml Poor good fellow! For Heaven's sake tell me
what 's the matter!"

*'My love, Mas'r Davy — the pride and hope of my art —
her that I 'd have died for, and would die for now — she 's
gone!"

"Gone?"

"Em'ly 's run away! Oh, Mas'r Davy, think how she's
run away, when I pray my good and gracious God to kill her
(her that is so dear above all things) sooner than let her come
to ruin and disgrace ! "

The face he turned up to the troubled sky, the quivering
of his clasped hands, the agony of his figure, remain as-
sociated with that lonely waste, in my remembrance, to this
hour. It is always night there, and he is the only object in
the scene.

"You 're a scholar," he said, hurriedly, "and know what 's
right and best. What am I to say, in-doors? How am I ever
to break it to him, Mas'r Davy ? "

I saw the door move, and instinctively tried to hold the
latch on the outside, to gain a moment's time. It was too
late. Mr. Peggotty thrust forth his face; and never could



266



I forget the change that came upon it when he saw us, if I
were to live five hundred years.

I remember a great wail and cry, and the women hanging
about him, and we all standingin the room; I with a paper in
my hand, which Ham had given me; Mr. Peggotty, with his
vest torn open, his hair wild, his face and lips quite white,
and blood trickling down his bosom (it had sprung from his
mouth, I think), looking fixedly at me.

"Read it, Sir," he said, in a low shivering voice. " Slow,
please. I doen't know as I can understand."

In the midst of the silence of death, I read thus, from a
blotted letter.

*' 'When you, who love me so much better than I ever have
deserved, even when my mind was innocent, see this, I shall be
far away.'"

"I shall be fur away,' he repeated slowly. "Stop!
Em'ly fur away. Well I ' *

*When I leave ray dear home — my dear home - oh, my dear
home! — in the morning,'

the letter bore date on the previous night:

'— it will be never to come back, unless he brings me back a
lady. This will be found at night, many hours after, instead of me.
Oh, if you knew how my heart is torn. If even you, that I have
wronged so much, that never can forgive me, could only know
what I suffer! I am too wicked to write about myself. Oh, take
comfort in thinking that I am so bad. Oh, for mercy's sake, tell
uncle that I never loved him half so dear as now. Oh, don't re-
member how affectionate and kind you have all been to me — don't
remember we were ever to be married — but try to think as if I died
when I was little, and was buried somewhere. Pray Heaven that I
am going away from , have compassion on my uncle! Tell him that
I never loved him half so dear. Be his comfort. Love some good
girl, that will be what I was once to uncle, and be true to you, and
worthy of you, and know no shame but me. God bless all! I '11
pray for all , often, on my knees. If he don't bring me back a lady,
and I don't pray for my own self, I '11 pray for all. My parting Jove
to uncle. My last tears, and n»y last thanks , for uncle!'"



267



That was all.

He stood, long after I had ceased to read, still looking at
rae. At length I ventured to take his hand, and to entreat
him, as well as I could, to endeavour to get some command
of himself. He replied, "I thankee. Sir, I thankee 1" with-
out moving.

Ham spoke to him. Mr. Peggotty was so far sensible
of his affliction, that he wrung his hand; but, otherwise,
he remained in the same state, and no one dared to disturb
him.

Slowly, at laj^t, he moved his eyes from my face, as if he
were waking from a vision, and cast them round the room.
Then he said, in a low voice :

"Who 's the man? I want to know his name."

Ham glanced at me, and suddenly I felt a shock that struck
me back.

"There 's a man suspected," said Mr. Peggotty. "Who
is it?"

"Mas'r Davyl" implored Ham. "Go out a bit, and let
me tell him what I must. You doen't ought to hear it. Sir. "

I felt the shock again. I sank down in a chair, and tried
to utter some reply ; but my tongue was fettered, and my sight
was weak.

"I want to know his name ! " I heard said, once more.

"For some time past," Ham faltered, "there's been a
servant about here, at odd times. There 's been a gen'lm'n
too. Both of 'em belonged to one another."

Mr. Peggotty stood fixed as before, but now looking at
him.

"The servant," pursued Ham, "was seen along with —
our poor girl — last night. He's been in hiding about here,
this week or over. He was thought to have gone, but he was
hiding Doen't stay, Mas'r Davy, doen'tl"



268



I felt Peggotty's arm round my neck, but I could not have
moved if the house had been about to fall upon me,

"A strange chay and horses was outside town, this
morning, on the Norwich road, a'most afore the day broke,"
Ham went on. "The servant went to it, and come from it,
and went to it again. When he went to it again, Em'ly was
nigh him. The t'other was inside. He 's the man."

"For the Lord's love," said IMr. Peggotty, falling back,
and putting out his hand, as if to keep off what he dreaded.
"Doen't tell me his name *s SteerforthI "

"Mas*r Davy," exclaimed Ham, in a broken voice, "it
ain't no fault of yourn — and I am far from laying of it
to you — but his name is Steerforth , and he 's a danmed
villain 1"

Mr. Peggotty uttered no cry, and shed no tear, and
moved no more, until he seemed to wake again, all at once,
and pulled down his rough coat from its peg in a corner.

"Bear a hand with this! I 'm struck of aheap, and can't
do it," he said, impatiently. "Bear a hand, and help me.
Weill" when somebody had done so. "Now give me that
theerhati"

Ham asked him whither he was going.

"I 'm a going to seek my niece. I *m a going to seek my
Em'ly. I 'm a going, first, to stave in that theer boat, and
sink it where I would have drownded him, as I 'm a livin'
soul, if I had had one thought of what was in him! As he
sat afore me," he said, wildly, holding out his clenched right
hand, "as he sat afore me, face to face, strike me down dead,
but I 'd have drownded him, and thought it right! — I *m a
going to seek my niece."

"Where?'* cried Ham, interposing himself before the
door.

"Anywhere! I 'm a going to seek my niece through the



269



vaireld. I 'm a going to find my poor niece in her shame,
and bring her back. No one stop me ! I tell you I 'm a going
to seek my niece l"

"No, no!" cried Mrs. Gummidge, coming bet-ween them,
in a fit of crj-ing. "No, no, Dan'l, not as you are now.
Seek her in a little while, my lone lorn Dan'l, and that '11 be
but right; but not as you are now. Sit ye down, and give me
your forgiveness for having ever been a worrit to you, Dan'l
— what have my contrairies ever been to this I — and let us
speak a word about them times when she was first an orphan,
and when Ham was too, and when I was a poor widder woman,
and you took me in. It '11 soften your poor heart, Dan'l,"
laying her head upon his shoulder, "and you'll bear your
sorrow better; for you know the promise, Dan'l, *As you
have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it
unto me'; and that can never fail under this roof, that's
been our shelter for so many, many yearl "

He was quite passive now; and when I heard him crying,
the impulse that had been upon me to go down upon my
knees, and ask their pardon for the desolation I had caused,
and curse Steerforth, j-ielded to a better feeling. My over-
charged heart found the same relief, and I cried too.



CHAPTER XVI.

The beginning of a long journey.

What is natural in me, is natural in many other men, I
infer, and so I am not afraid to write that I never had loved
Steerfortli better than when the ties that bound me to him
were broken. In the keen distress of the discovery of his un-
worthiness, I thought more of all that was brilliant in him,
I softened more towards all that was good in him, I did more
justice to the qualities that might have made him a man of a
noble nature and a great name, than ever I had done In the
height of my devotion to him. Deeply as I felt my own uncon-
scious part In his pollution of an honest home, I believe that if I
had been broughtfacetoface with him, I could not have uttered
one reproach. I should have loved him so well still — though he
fascinated me no longer — I should have held in so much ten-
derness the memory of my affection for him, that I think I
should have been as weak as a spirit-wounded child, in all but
the entertainment of a thought that we could ever be re-
united. That thought I never had. 1 felt, as he had felt,
that all was at an end between us. What his remembrances of
me were, I have never known — they were light enough , per-
haps, and easily dismissed — but mine of him were as the re-
membrances of a cherished friend, who was dead.

Yes, Steerforth, long removed from the scenes of this
poor history! My sorrow may bear involuntary witness against
you at the Judgment Throne ; but my angry thoughts or my
reproaches never will, I knowl



271



The news of what had happened soon spread through the
town ; insomuch that as I passed along the streets next morn-
ing, I overheard the people speaking of it at their doors.
Many were hard upon her, some few were hard upon him, but
towards her second father and her lover there was but one


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