Charles Dickens.

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

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at all times some laying by for him? "

Reminding him of the fact, that Mr. Peggotty derived a
steady, though certainly a very moderate income from the


bequest of his late brotber-in-law, I promised to do so. We
then took leave of each other. I cannot leave him , even now,
without remembering with a pang, at once his modest fortitude
and his great sorrow.

As to Mrs. Gummidge, if I were to endeavour to describe
how she ran down the street by the side of the coach, seeing
nothing but Mr. Feggotty on the roof, through the tears she
tried to repress, and dashing herself against the people who
Y'/cre coming in the opposite direction, I should enter on a
task of some difficulty. Therefore I had better leave her sit-
ting on a baker's door-step, out of breath, with no shape at all
remaining in her bonnet, and one of her shoes off, Ipng on the
pavement at a considerable distance.

When we got to our journey's end, our first pursuit was to
look about for a little lodging for Peggotty, where her brother
could have abed. We were so fortunate as to find one, of a
very clean and cheap description, over a chandler's shop,
only two streets removed from me. When we had engaged
this domicile, I bought some cold meat at an eating-house,
and took my fellow-travellers home to tea; a proceeding, I
regret to state, which did not meet with Mrs. Crupp's approval,
but quite the contrary. I ought to observe, however, in ex-
planation of that lady's state of mind, that she was much of-
fended by Peggotty's tucking up her widow's gown before she
had been ten minutes in the place, and setting to work to
dust my bed-room. This Mrs. Crupp regarded in the light
of a liberty, and a liberty, she said, was a thing she never

Mr. Peggotty had made a communication to me on the
way to London, for wliich I was not unprepared. It was, that
he purposed first seeing Mrs. Steerforth. As I felt bound to
assist him in this, and also to mediate between them; with the
view of sparing the mother's feelings as much as possible, I


wrote to ber that night. I told her as mildly as I could what
his wrong was, and what my own share in his injury. I said
he was a man in very common life, but of a most gentle and
upright character; and that I ventured to express a hope that
she would not refuse to see him in his heavy trouble. I men-
tioned two o'clock in the afternoon as the hour of our coming,
and I sent the letter myself by the first coach in the morning.

At the appointed time, we stood at the door — the door
of that house where I had been, a few days since, so happy :
where my youthful confidence and warmth of heart had been
yielded up so freely: which was closed against me henceforth :
which was now a waste, a ruin.

No Littimer appeared. The pleasanter face which had
replaced his, on the occasion of my last visit, answered to our
summons, and went before us to the drawing-room. Mrs.
Steerforth was sitting there. Rosa Dartle glided, as we went
in, from another part of the room, and stood behind her

I saw, directly, in his mother's face, that she knew from
himself what he had done. It was very pale ; and bore the
traces of deeper emotion than my letter alone, weakened by
the doubts her fondness would have raised upon it, would have
been likely to create. I thought her more like him than ever I
had thought her; and I felt, rather than saw, that the resem-
blance was not lost on my companion.

She sat upright in her arm-chair, with a stately, immove-
able, passionless air, that it seemed as if nothing could
disturb. She looked very stedfastly at Mr. Peggotty when he
Btood before her; and he looked, quite as stedfastly, at her.
Rosa Dartle's keen glance comprehended all of us. For some
moments not a word was spoken.

She motioned to Mr. Peggotty to be seated. He said, in a
low voice, "I shouldn't feel it nat'ral, Ma'am, to sit down in


this house. I*d sooner stand." And this was succeeded by
another silence, which she broke thus:

"I know, with deep regret, what has brought you here.
What do you want of me? \Vliat do you ask me to do?"

He put his hat under his arm, and feeling in his breast
for Emily's letter, took it out, unfolded it, and gave it to her.

"Please to read that. Ma'am. That 's my niece's hand ! "

She read it, in the same stately and impassive way, — un-
touched by its contents, as far as I could see, — and returned
it to him.

" ' Unless he brings me back a lady,' " said Mr. Peggotty,
tracing out that part with his finger. "I come to know, Ma'am,
whether he will keep his wured? "

"No," she returned.

"Why not?" said Mr. Peggotty.

"It is impossible. He would disgrace himself. You can-
not fail to know that she is far below him."

"Raise her up!" said Mr. Peggotty.

" She is uneducated and ignorant."

"Maybe she's not; maybe she is," said Mr. Peggotty.
"/think not, Ma'am; but I 'm no judge of them things. Teach
her better 1"

"Since you oblige me to speak more plainly, which I am
very unwilling to do, her humble connexions would render
such a thing impossible, if nothing else did."

"Hark to this. Ma'am," he returned, slowly and quietly.
"Youknow what it is to love your child. So do I. If she was
a hundred times my child, I couldn't love her more. You
doen't know what it is to lose your child. I do. AH the heaps
of riches in the wureld would be nowt to me (if they was mine)
to buy her back! But, save her from this disgrace, and she
shall never be disgraced by us. Not one of us that she 's
growed up among, not one of us that 's lived along with her,


and had her for their all in all, these many year, will ever look
upon her pritty face again. AVe *I1 be content to let her be;
we '11 be content to think of her, far off, as if she was under-
neath another sun and sky; we '11 be content to trust her to
her husband, — to her little children p'raps, — and bide the
time when all of us shall be alike in quality afore our God! "

The rugged eloquence with which he spoke, was not de-
void of all effect. She still preserved her proud manner, but
there was a touch of softness in her voice, as she answered:

*' I justify nothing. I make no counter-accusations. But
I am sorry to repeat, it is impossible. Such a marriage would
irretrievably blight my son's career, and ruin his prospects.
Nothing is more certain than that it never can take place, and
never will. If there is any other compensation — "

"I am looking at the likeness of the face," interrupted
Mr. Peggotty, with a steady but a kindling eye, "that has
looked at me, in my home, at my fireside, in my boat — wheer
not? — smiling and friendly, when it was so treacherous , that
I go half wild when I think of it. If the likeness of that face
don't turn to burning fire, at the thought of offering money
tome for my child's blight and ruin, it 's as bad. I doen't
know, being a lady's, but what it 's worse."

She changed now, in a moment. An angry flush over-
spread her features; and she said, in an intolerant manner,
grasping the arm-chair tightly with her hands :

"Wliat compensation can you make to me for opening such
fi pit between me and my son? What is your love to mine?
What is your separation to ours?"

Miss Dartle softly touched her, and bent down her head
to whisper, but she would not hear a word.

"No, Rosa, not a word I Let the man listen to what I
say! My son, who has been the object of my life, to whom
its every thought has been devoted, whom I have gratified


from a child in every wish, from whom I have had no separate
existence since his birth, — to take up in a moment with a
miserable girl, and avoid me I To repay my confidence with
systematic deception, for her sake, and quit me for her I To
set this wretched fancy, against his mother's claims upon his
duty, love, respect, gratitude — claims that every day and
hour of his life should have strengthened into ties that nothing
could be proof against! Is this no injury? "

Again Rosa Dartle tried to soothe her; again ineffectually.

"I say, Rosa, not a word! If he can stake his all upon the
lightest object, I can stake my all upon a greater purpose. Let
him go where he will, with the means that my love has secured
to him! Does he think to reduce me by long absence? He
knows his mother very Httle if he does. Let him put away his
whim now, and he is welcome back. Let him not put her
away now, and he never shall come near me, living or dying,
while I can raise my hand to make a sign against it, unless,
being rid of her for ever, he comes humbly to me and begs for
my forgiveness. This is my right. This is the acknowledg-
ment I will have. This is the separation that there is between
us! And is this," she added, looking at her visitor with the
proud intolerant air with which she had begun, "no injury?"

While I heard and saw the mother as she said these words,
I seemed to hear and see the son, defying them. AH that I
had ever seen in him of an unyielding, wilful spirit, I saw in
her. All the understanding that I had now of his misdirected
energy, became an understanding of her character too, and
a perception that it was , in its strongest springs, the same.

She now observed to me, aloud, resuming her former
restraint, that it wa? useless to hear more, or to say more, and
that she begged to put an end to the interview. She rose with
an air of dignity to leave the room, when Mr. Peggotty signi-
fied that it was needless.
David Copperfleld. IL i9


"Doen't fear me being any hindrance to you, I have no
more to say, Ma'am," he remarked, ashemoved towards the
door, "I come heer with no hope, and I take away no hope.
I have done what I thowt should be done, but I never looked
fur any good to come of my stan'ning where I do. This has
been too evil a house fur me and mine, fur me to be in my
right senses and expect it."

With this, we departed; leaving her standing by her
elbow chair, a picture of a noble presence and a handsome

We had, on our way out, to cross a paved hall, with glass
sides and roof, over which a vine was trained. Its leaves and
shoots were green then, and the day being sunny, a pair of
glass doors leading to the garden were thrown open. Rosa
Dartle, entering this way with a noiseless step, when we were
close to them , addressed herself to me :

"You do well," she said, "indeed, to bring this fellow

Such a concentration of rage and scorn as darkened her
face, and flashed in her jet-black eyes, I could not have
thought compressible even into that face. The scar made by
the hammer was, as usual in this excited state of her features,
strongly marked. When the throbbing I had seen before,
came into it as I looked at her, she absolutely lifted up her
hand, and struck it.

"This is a fellow," she said, "to champion and bring
here , is he not? You are a true man ! "

"Miss Dartle," I returned, "you are surely not so unjust
as to condemn me/"

"Why do you bring division between these two mad crea-
tures?" she returned. " Don't you know that they are both
mad with their own self-will and pride?"

"I« it my doing?" I returned.



"Is it your doingi" she retorted. "Why do you bring
this man here?"

"He is a deeply-injured man, Miss Dartle," I replied.
*' You may not know it."

"I know that James Steerforth," she said, with her hand
on her bosom , as if to prevent the storm that was raging there,
from being loud, "has a false, corrupt heart, and is a traitor.
But what need I know or care about this fellow, and his com-
mon niece?"

"Miss Dartle," I returned, "you deepen the injury. It is
sufficient already. I will only say, at parting, that you do him
a great wrong."

"I do him no wrong," she returned. "They are a depraved
worthless set. I would have her whipped ! "

Mr. Peggotty passed on, without a word, and went out at
the door.

"Oh, shame. Miss Dartle I shame!" I said indignantly.
"How can you bear to trample on his undeserved affliction ! "

"I would trample on them all," she answered. "I would
have his house pulled down. I would have her branded on the
face, drest in rags, and cast out in the streets to starve. If I
had the power to sit in judgment on her, I would see it done.
See it done? I would do it 1 I detest her. If I ever could
reproach her with her infamous condition, I would go any-
where to do so. If I could hunt her to her grave, I would.
If there was any word of comfort that would be a solace to her
in her dying hour, and only I possessed it, I wouldn't part with
it for Life itself."

The mere vehemence of her words can convey, T am
sensible, but a weak impression of the passion by which she
was possessed, and which made itself articulate in her whole
figure, though her voice, instead of being raised, was lower
than usual. No description I could give of her would do



justice to my recollection of her, or to her entire deliverance
of herself to her anger. I have seen passion In many forms,
but I have never seen it in such a form as that.

WTien I joined Mr. Peggotty, he was walking slowly and
thoughtfully down the hill. He told me, as soon as I came up
with him , that having now discharged his mind of what he had
purposed doing in London, he meant "to set out on his
travels ," that night. I asked him where he meant to go ? He
only answered, "I 'ma going. Sir, to seek my niece."

We went back to the little lodging over the chandler's
shop, and there I found an opportunity of repeating to Peg-
gotty what he had said to me. She informed me, in return,
that he had said the same to her that morning. She knew no
more than I did, where he was going, but she thought he had
some project shaped out in his mind.

I did not like to leave him, under such circumstances, and
we all three dined together off a beefsteak pie — which was
one of the many good things for which Peggotty was famous —
and which was curiously flavoured on this occasion, I recollect
well, by a miscellaneous taste of tea, coffee, butter, bacon,
cheese, new loaves, firewood, candles, and walnut ketchup,
continually ascending from the shop. After dinner we sat for
an hour or so near the window, without talking much; and
then Mr. Peggotty got up , and brought his oilskin bag and his
stout stick, and laid them on the table.

He accepted, from his sister's stock of ready money, a
small sum on account of his legacy; barely enough, I should
have thought, to keep him for a month. He promised to com-
municate with me , when anything befel him ; and he slung his
bag about him, took his hat and stick, and bade us both
"Good bye 1'*

"All good attend you, dear old woman," he said, em-
bracing Peggotty, "and you too, Mas'r Davj'I" shaking


hands with me. "I 'm a going to seek her, fur and wide. If
she should come home -while I 'm away, — but ah, that ain't
like to be! — or if I should bring her back, my meaning is,
that she and me shall live and die where no one can't reproach
her. If any hurt should come to me, remember that the last
words I left for her was, 'My unchanged love is with my
darling child, and I forgive her! '"

He said this solemnly, bare-headed; then, putting on his
hat, he went down the stairs, and away. We followed to the
door. It was a warm, dusty evening, just the time when, in
the great main thoroughfare out of which that bye-way turned,
there was a temporary lull in the eternal tread of feet upon the
pavement, and a strong red sunshine. He turned, alone, at
the corner of our shady street, into a glow of light, in which
we lost him.

Rarely did that hour of the evening come, rarely did I
wake at night, rarely did I lookup at the moon, or stars, or
watch the falling rain, or hear the wind, but I thought of his
Bolitar}' figure toiling on, poor pilgrim, and recalled the
words :

" I *m a going to seek her, fur and wide. If any hurt should
come to me, remember that the last words I left for her was,
*My unchanged love is with my darling child, and I for-
give her!'"



All this time, I had gone on loving Dora, harder than
ever. Her idea was my refuge in disappointment and distress,
and made some amends to me, even for the loss of my friend.
The more I pitied myself, or pitied others , the more I sought
for consolation in the image of Dora. The greater the accu-
mulation of deceit and trouble in the world, the brighter and
the purer shone the star of Dora high above the world. I don't
think I had any definite idea where Dora came from, or in
what degree she was related to a higher order of beings; but
I am quite sure I should have scouted the notion of her being
simply human, like any other young lady, with indignation and

If I may so express it, I was steeped in Dora. I was not
merely over head and ears in love with her, but I was saturated
through and through. Enough love might have been wrung
out of me, metaphorically speaking, to drown anybody in;
and yet there would have remained enough within me, and all
over me, to pervade my entire existence.

The first thing I did, on my own account, when I came
back, was to take a night-walk to Norwood, and, like the
subject of a venerable riddle of my childhood to go "round
and round the house, without ever touching the house,'*
thinking about Dora.. I believe the theme of this incom-
prehensible conundrum was the moon. No matter what it was,
I, the moon-struck slave of Dora, perambulated round and
round the house and garden for two hours, looking through


crevices ia the palings, getting my chin by dint of violent
exertion above the rusty nails on the top, blowing kisses at the
lights in the windows, and romantically calling on the night,
at Intervals, to shield my Dora — I don't exactly know what
from, I suppose from fire. Perhaps from mice, to which she
had a great objection.

My love was so much on my mind, and it was so natural to
me to confide in Peggott}-, when I found her again by my side
of an evening with the old set of industrial implements , busily
making the tour of my wardrobe, that I imparted to her, in a
sufficiently roundabout way, my great secret. Peggotty was
strongly interested, but I could not get her into my view of
the case at all. She was audaciously prejudiced in my favour,
and quite unable to understand why I should have any mis-
givings , or be low-spirited about It. ' The young lady might
think herself well off,' she observed, *to have such a beau.
And as to her Pa,' she said, 'what did the gentleman expect,
for gracious sake!'

I observed, however, that Mr. Spenlow's Proctorial gown
and stiff cravat took Peggotty down a little, and inspired her
with a greater reverence for the man who was gradually be-
coming more and more etherealized in my eyes every day, and
about whom a reflected radiance seemed to me to beam when
he sat erect in Court among his papers, like a little light-house
in a sea of stationery. And by-the-by, it used to be uncom-
monly strange to me to consider, I remember, as I sat in
Court too, how those dim old judges and doctors wouldn't
have cared for Dora, if they had known her; how they
wouldn't have gone out of their senses with rapture, if mar-
riage with Dora had been proposed to them ; how Dora might
have sung, and played upon that glorified guitar, until she
led me to the verge of madness, yet not have tempted one of
those slow-goers an inch out of his road!


I despised them, to a man. Frozen-out old gardeners in
the flower-beds of the heart, I took a personal offence against
them all. The Bench was nothing to me but an insensible
blunderer. The Bar had no more tenderness or poetry in it,
than the Bar of a public-house.

Taking the management of Peggotty*s affairs into my own
hands, with no little pride, I proved the will, and came to a
settlement with the Legacy Duty-ofiice, and took her to the
Bank, and soon got everything into an orderly train. We
varied the legal character of these proceedings by going to see
some perspiring Wax-work, in Fleet Street (melted, I should
hope, these twenty years); and by visiting Miss Linwood's
Exhibition, which I remember as a Mausoleum of needlework,
favourable to self-examination and repentance; and by in-
specting the Tower of London ; and going to the top of
St. Paul's. All these wonders afforded Peggotty as much
pleasure as she was able to enjoy, under existing circum-
stances: except, I think, St. Paul's, which, from her long-
attachment to her work-box, became a rival of the picture on
the lid, and was, in some particulars, vanquished, she con-
sidered , by that work of art.

Peggotty's business, which was what we used to call
" common-form business" in the Commons (and very light and
lucrative the common-form business was), being settled, I
took her down to the office one morning to pay her bill.
Mr. Spenlow had stepped out, old Tiffey said, to get a
gentleman sworn for a marriage license; but as I knew he
would be back directly, our place lying close to the Surro-
gate's, and to the Vicar-General's office too, I told Peggotty-
to wait.

We were a little like undertakers, in the Commons, as re-
garded Probate transactions; generally making it a rule to-
look more or less cut up, when we had to deal with clients ia


moaming. In a similar feeling of delicacy, we were always
blithe and light-hearted with the license clients. Therefore I
hinted to Peggotty that she would find Mr. Spenlow much re-
covered from the shock of Mr. Barkis's decease; and Indeed
he came in like a bridegroom.

But neither Peggotty nor I had eyes for him, when we saw,
in company with him, Mr. Murdstone. He was verj' little
changed. His hair looked as thick, and was certainly as
black, as ever; and his glance was as little to be trusted as
of old.

"Ah, Copperfield?" said Mr. Spenlow. "Youknowthls
gentleman, I believe?"

I made my gentleman a distant bow, and Peggotty barely
recognised him. He was, at first, somewhat disconcerted to
meet us two together; but quickly decided what to do, and
came up to me.

'•I hope," he said, "that you are doing well?"

"It can hardly be interesting to you," said I. "Yes, if
you wish to know."

We looked at each other, and he addressed himself to

"And you," said he. "lam sorry to observe that you have
lost your husband."

"It 's not the first loss I have had in my life, Mr. Murd-
stone," replied Peggotty, trembling from head to foot. "I
am glad to hope that there is nobody to blame for this one, —
nobody to answer for it."

"Ha!" said he; "that's a comfortable reflection. You
have done your duty ? "

"I have not worn any body's life away," said Peggotty,
"I am thankful to think 1 No, Mr. Murdstone, I have not
worrited and frightened any sweet creetur to an early grave 1 ""

He eyed her gloomily — remorsefully I thought — for ant


instant; and said, turning his head towards me, but looking
at my feet instead of my face :

"We are not likely to encounter soon again ; — a source of
satisfaction to us both, no doubt, for such meetings as this
can never be agreeable. I do not expect that you, who always
rebelled against my just authority, exerted for your benefit
and reformation, should owe me any good will now. There
is an antipathy between us — "

"An old one, I believe?" said I, interrupting him.

He smiled, and shot as evil a glance at me as could come
from his dark eyes.

"It rankled in your baby breast," he said. "It embittered
the life of your poor mother. You are right. I hope you may
do better, yet; I hope you may correct yourself."

Here he ended the dialogue, which had been carried on
in a low voice, in a corner of the outer office, bypassing
into Mr. Spenlow's room, and saying aloud, in his smoothest
manner :

"Gentlemen of Mr. Spenlow's profession are accustomed
to family differences, and know how complicated and difficult
they always are I" With that, he paid the money for his
license; and, receiving it neatly folded from Mr. Spenlow,
together with a shake of the hand, and a polite wish for his
happiness and the lady's, went out of the office.

I might have had more difficulty in constraining myself to
be silent under his words, if I had had less difficulty in im-
pressing upon Peggotty (who was only angry on my account,
good creature !) that we were not in a place for recrimination,
and that I besought her to hold her peace. She was so
unusually roused, that I was glad to compound for an affec-
tionate hug, elicited by this revival in her mind of our old
injuries, and to make the best I could of it, before Mr. Spen-
low and the clerks.

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Online LibraryCharles DickensThe personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. (Volume 2) → online text (page 21 of 27)