in their moral constitution, are in greater danger than peo-
ple not so circumstanced, supposing any serious cause of
variance to rise between them, of being divided angrily
" I should say yes," said Steerforth.
"Should you?" she returned. "Dear me! Supposing,
then, for instance, â any unlikely thing will do for a suppo-
sition, â that you and your mother were to have a serious
" 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!"
" OhI" said Miss Dartle, nodding her head thoughtfully.
"To be sure. 77z^/ would prevent it? Why, of course it
would. Ex-actly. Now, I am glad I have been so fool-
ish as to put the case, for it is so very good to know
that your duty to each other would prevent it! Thank you
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,
430 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
Steerforth exerted himself with his utmost skill, and that
was with his utmost ease, to charm this singular creature in-
to a pleasant and pleased companion. That he should suc-
ceed, was no matter of surprise to me. That she should
struggle against the fascinating influence of his delightful
art â delightful nature I thought it thenâ 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 con-
demned a weakness in herself, to resist the captivating
power that he possessed; and finally I saw her sharp glance
soften, and her smile become quite gentle, and I ceased to
be afraict 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 din-
ing-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
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 ! and let me sit and listen as I used
He did not touch her, or the chair from which she had
risen, but sat himself near the harp. She stood beside it for
some little while, in a curious way, going through the motion
of playing 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
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 431
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 sound-
ing 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 much!" And she
had struck him, and had 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,
" She has been an angel, mother," returned Steerforth,
"for a little while; and has run into the opposite extreme,
since, by way of compensation."
" You should be careful not to irritate her, James. Her
temper has been soured, remember, and ought not to be
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 incomprehen-
I expressed as much of my astonishment as was then
capable of expression, and asked if he could guess what it
was that she had taken so much amiss, so suddenly.
**0h. Heaven knows," said Steerforth. "Anything you
like â or nothing! I told you she took everything, 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
" Daisy," he said, with a smile â " for though that's not the
name your Godfathers and Godmothers gave you, it's the
name I like best to call you by â 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
432 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
think of me at my best, old boy. Come! Let us make fhat
bargain. Think of me at my best, if circumstances should
ever part us !"
" You have no best to me, Steerforth," said I, " and no worst.
You are always equally loved and cherished in my heart."
So much compunction for having ever wronged him even
by a shapeless thought, did I feel within me, that the confes-
sion of having done so was rising to my lips. But for the
reluctance I had to betray the confidence of Agnes, but for
my uncertainty how to approach the subject with no risk of
doing so, it would have reached them before he said " God
bless you, Daisy, and good night !" In my doubt, it did not
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 sleptâ let me think of him so again
âas I had often seen him sleep at school; and thus, in this
silent hour, I left him.
â Never more, oh God forgive you, Steerforth ! to touch
that passive hand in love and friendship. Never, never morel
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 433
I GOT down to Yarmouth in the evening, and went to the
inn. I knew that Peggotty's spare room â my room â was
Ukely to have occupation enough in a little while, if that
greater 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 inside, smoking his pipe by the parlor-door, I entered,
and asked him how he was.
" Why, bless my life and soul !" said Mr. Omer, " how do
you find yourself ? Take a seat â Smoke not disagreeable, I
" By no means," said I. " I like it â in somebody else's
" What, not in your own, eh ?" Mr. 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, with-
out which he must perish.
" I am sorry to have heard bad news of Mr. Barkis," said I.
Mr. Omer looked at me, with a steady countenance, and
shook his head. ^
" Do you 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 recognized it, however, and
said as much.
" Yes, yes, you understand," said Mr. Omer, nodding his
head. â ** We durstn't do it. Bless you, it would be a shock
Hiat the generality of parties mightn't recover, to say * Omer
and Joram's compUments, and how do you find yourself this
morning? ' â or this afternoon â as it may be."
Mr. Omer and I nodded at each other, and Mr. Omer re-
cruited his wind by the aid of his pipe.
''It's one of the things that cut the trade off from attentions
they could often wish to show," said Mr. Omer. " Take my-
self. â 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
' How is he ?' "
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 me ! 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 grandfather," said Mr. Omer.
I said " Not at all."
" It ain't that I complain of my line of business," said Mr.
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, with a very complacent and amiable face, took
several puffs in silence; and then said, resuming his first
" 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 sus-
picions about us, than if we were 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
something? A glass of srub and water, now ? I smoke on
srub and 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 ! * Give me breath enough,' said I to my
daughter Minnie, *and /'ll 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
DAVID COPPERFIELD. Â» 435
â¢uilked to, I thanked him for the proffered refreshment,
which I decHned, as I had just had dinner; and, observing
that I would wait, since he was so good as to invite me, until
his daughter and his son-in-law came back, I inquired how
little Em ly 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," said Mr. Omer. " It
ain't that she's not as pretty as ever, for she's prettier â I do
assure you she is prettier. It ain't that she don't work as
well as ever, for she does. She wa^ worth any six, and she
t's 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, that
f/iaf was â in a general way â what I miss in Em'ly."
Mr. 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
" Now, I consider this is principally on account of her be-
ing in an unsettled state, you see. We have talked it over a
great deal, her uncle and myself, and her sweetheart and my-
self, after business, and I consider it 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 ex-
traordinary 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 !" 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's 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.
" Therefore, I mentioned to them," said Mr. Omer, in a
comfortable, easy-going tone, " this. I said. 'Now, don't con-
sider 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 supposed;
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 â don't you see," said Mr.
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 blossom,
like her ?"
" Not at all, I am certain," said I.
" Not at all ! You're right !" said Mr. Omer. " Well,
sir, her cousin â 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 sir ! Her
cousin being, as it appears, in good work, and well to do,
thanked me in a very manly sort of manner for this (con-
ducting himself altogether, I must say, in a way that gives
me a high opinion of him), and went and took as comfort-
able 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 parlor; and but for Barkis's illness
having taken this bad turn, poor fellow, they would have
been man and wife â I dare say, by this time. As it is,
there's a postponement."
" And Em'ly, Mr. Omer ?" I inquired. " Has she become
" Why that, you know," he returned, rubbing his double
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 off 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
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 437
all of us. A kind word from me brings the tears into hei
eyes; and if you was to see her with my daughter Minnie's
little girl, you'd never forget it. Bless my heart alive !"
said Mr. Omer, pondering, " how she loves that child !"
Having so favorable an opportunity, it occurred to me to
ask Mr. Omer, before our conversation should be interrupted
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 â for she'd take me up directly â 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 cau-
tion. 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 Sur-
geons, and Apothecaries' Hall, if they were all called in to-
gether, couldn't help him. He was past both Colleges, Mr.
Chillip said, and the Hall could only poison him.
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
I shook hands with Mr. Peggotty and passed into the
kitchen, while he softly closed the door. Little Em'ly 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
occasion of my last visit, but how strange was it to me now,
to miss Mr. Barkis out of the kitchen!
438 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
"This is very kind of you, Mas'r Davy/' said Mr. Peg'
" It is oncommon kind," said Ham.
" Em'ly, my dear," cried Mr Peggotty. " See here! Here's
Mas'r Davy come! What, cheer up, pretty! 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
" It's such a loving art," said Mr. Peggotty, smoothing her
rich hair with his great hard hand, *'that it can't abear the
sorrer of this. It's nat'ral in young folk, Mas'r Davy, when
â¢they're new to these here trials, and timid, like my little
bird, â it's 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! 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 your uncle? Why, you doen't mean
to ask me that! Stay with your uncle. Moppet? When
your husband that'll 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 â a foolish little Em'ly!"
"Em'ly's in the right in that, Mas'r Davy!" said Ham.
" Lookee here! As Em'ly wishes of it, and as she's hurried
and frightened like, besides, I'll leave her till morning. Let
me stay too!"
"No, no," said Mr. Peggotty. "You doen't ought â a
married man like you â or what's as good â 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, /
Ham yielded to this persuasion, and took his hat to go.
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 439
Even when he kissed her, â and I never saw him approach
her, but I felt that nature had given him the soul of a gen-
tleman, â she seemed to cling closer to her uncle, even to
the avoidance of her chosen husband, I shut the door after
him, that it might cause no disturbance of the quiet that
prevailed; and when I 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'll cheer her up a bit," he said. " Sit
ye down by the fire, the while, my dear, and warm these
mortal cold hands. You don't need to be so fearsome, and
take on so much. What? You'll go along with me? â Well!
come along with me â come! If her uncle was turned out
of house and home, and forced to lay down in the dyke,
Mas'r Davy," said Mr. Peggotty, with no less pride than be-
fore, " it's my belief she'd go along with him, now! But
there'll be some one else, soon, â some one else, soon,
Afterwards, when I went up-stairs, as I passed the door
of my little chamber, which was dark, I had an indistinct
impression 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 â which, added to what Mr.
Omer had told me, I took to be the cause of her being so
unlike herself â 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 entreated me to come up-stairs, sob-
bing 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, in case of his coming to himself
again, he would brighten up at sight of 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 shoulders out of bed, in an uncomfortable attitude, half
resting on the box which had cost him so much pain and
trouble. I 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 dear !" said Peggotty, almost cheerfully:
bending over him, while her brother and I stood at the bed's
foot. " Here's my dear boy â 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 agoing out with the tide," said Mr. Peggotty to
me, behind his hand.
My eyes were dim, and so were Mr. Peggotty'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 â not properly born, till flood.
He's agoing out with the tide. It's ebb at half arter three,
slack water half-an-hour. If he lives till it turns, he'll hold
his own till past the flood, and go out with the next tide."
We remained there, watching him, a long time â 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 mut-
tering about driving me to school.
" He's coming to himself," said Peggotty.
Mr. Peggotty touched me, and whispered with much awe
and reverence, " They are both agoing out fast."