work, and go and live along with my sister. The old boat
yonder ā "
" Will you desert the old boat, Mr.' Peggotty?" I gently
"My station, Mas'r Davy," he returned, "ain't there no
longer; and if ever a boat foundered, since there was dark-
ness on the face of the deep, that one's gone down. But
no, sir, no; I doen't mean as it should be deserted. Fur
We walked again for a while, as before, until he ex-
" My wishes is, sir, as it shall look, day and night, winter
452 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
and summer, as it has always looked since she first know'd
it. If ever she should come a wandering back, I wouldn't
have the old place seem to cast her off, you understand,
but seem to tempt her to draw nigher to't, a-nd to peep in,
maybe, like a ghost, out of the wind and rain, through the
old winder, at the old seat by the fire. Then, maybe, Mas'r
Davy, seein' none but Missis Gummidge there, she might
take heart to creep in, trembling; and might come to be laid
down in her old bed, and rest her weary head where it was
once so gay."
I could not speak to him in reply, though I tried.
" Every night," said Mr. Peggotty, " as reg'lar as the
night comes, the candle must be stood in its old pane of
glass, that if ever she should see it, it may seem to say,
' Come back, my child, come back!' If ever there's a knock,
Ham (partic'ler a soft knock), arter dark, at your aunt's
door, doen't you go nigh it. Let it be her ā not you ā that
sees my fallen child!"
He walked a little in front of us, and kept before us
for some minutes. During this interval, I glanced at Ham
again, and pbserving the same expression on his face, and
his eyes still directed to the distant light, I touched his
Twice I called him by his name, in the tone in which I
might have tried to rouse a sleeper, before he heeded me.
When I at last inquired on what his thoughts were so bent,
" On what's afore me, Mas'r Davy; and over yon."
" On the life before you, do you mean ?" He had pointed
confusedly out to sea.
" Ay, Mas'r Davy. I doen't rightly know how 'tis, but
from over yon there seemed to me to come ā the end of it,
like;" looking at me as if he were waking, but with the same
" What end?" I asked, possessed of my former fear.
" I doen't know," he said thoughtfully; " I was calling to
mind that the beginning of it all did take place here ā and
then the end come. But it's gone! Mas'r Davy," he add-
ed; answering, as I think, my look, "you hadn't no call to
be afeerd of me: but I'm kiender muddled; I doen't fare to
feel no matters," ā which was as much as to say that he was
not himself, and quite confounded.
Mr. Peggotty stopping for us to join him, we did so, and
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 453
said no more. The remembrance of this, in connexion with
my former thought, however, haunted me at intervals, even
until the inexorable end came at its appointed time.
We insensibly approached the old boat, and entered. Mrs.
Gummidge, no longer moping in her special corner, was
busy preparing breakfast. She took Mr. Peggotty's hat, and
placed his seat for him, and spoke so comfortably and softly,,
that I hardly knew her.
" Dan'l, my good man," said she, " you must eat and
drink, and keep up your strength, for without it you'll do
nowt. Try, that's a dear soul! And if I disturb you with
my clicketen," she meant her chattering, " tell me so, Dan'l,
and I won't."
When she had served us all, she withdrew to the window,
where she sedulously employed herself in repairing some
shirts and other clothes belonging to Mr. Peggotty, and
neatly folding and packing them in an old oilskin bag, such
as sailors carry. Meanwhile, she continued talking in the
same quiet manner.
"All times and seasons, you know, Dan'l," said Mrs.
Gummidge, *'* I shall be alius here, and every think will look
accordin' to your wishes. I'm a poor scholar, but I shall
write to you, odd times, when you're away, and send my let-
ters to Mas'r Davy. Maybe you'll write me, too, Dan'l, odd
times, and tell me how you fare to feel upon your lone lorn
" You'll be a solitary woman here, I'm afeerd!" said Mr.
" No, no, Dan'l," she returned, ' I shan't be that. Don't
you mind me. I shall have enough to do to keep a Beeia
for you " (Mrs. Gummidge meant a home); " again you come
back ā to keep a Beein here for any that may hap to come
back, Dan'l. In the fine time, I shall set outside the door as
I used to do. If any should come nigh, they shall see the
old widder woman true to 'em, a long way off."
What a change in Mrs. Gummidge in a little time! She
was another woman. She was so devoted, she had such a
quick perception of what it would be well to say, and what
it would be well to leave unsaid, she was so forgetful of her-
self, and so regardful of the sorrow about her, that I held her
in a sort of veneration. The work she did that day ! There
were many things to be brought up from the beach and
stored in the outhouse ā as oars, nets, sails, cordage, spars,
454 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
lobster-pots, bags of ballast, and the like; and though there
was abundance of assistance rendered, there being not a pair
of working hands on all that shore but would have labored
hard for Mr. Peggotty, and been well paid in being asked to
do it, yet she persisted, all day long, in toiling under weights
that she was quite unequal to, and fagging to and fro on all
sorts of unnecessary errands. As to deploring her misfor-
tunes, she appeared to have entirely lost the recollection of
ever having had any. She preserved an equable cheerful-
ness in the midst of her sympathy, which was not the least
astonishing part of the change that had come over her.
Querulousness was out of the question. I did not even ob-
serve her voice to falter, or a tear to escape from her eyes,
the whole day through, until twilight; when she and I and
Peggotty being alone together, and he having fallen asleep
in perfect exhaustion, she broke into a half suppressed fit of
sobbing and crying, and taking me to the door, said, " Ever
bless you, Mas'r Davy, be a friend to him, poor dear." Then,
she immediately ran out of the house to wash her face, in
order that she might sit quietly beside him, and be found at
work there, when he should awake. In short I left her, when
I went away at night, the prop and staff of Mr. Peggotty's
affliction; and I could not meditate enough upon the lesson
that I read in Mrs. Gummidge, and the new experience she
unfolded to me.
It was between nine and ten o'clock when, strolling in a
melancholy manner through the town, I stopped at Mr.
Omer's door. Mr. Omer had taken it so much to heart, his
daughter told me, that he had been very low and poorly all
day, and had gone to bed without his pipe.
"A deceitful, bad-hearted girl," said Mrs. Joram. "There
was no good in her, ever !"
" Don't say so," I returned. "You don't think so."
"Yes, I do," cried Mrs. Joram, angrily.
" No, no," said I.
Mrs. Joram tossed her head, endeavoring to be very stern
and cross; but she could not command her softer self, and
began to cry. I was young, to be sure; but I thought much
the better of her for this sympathy, and fancied it became
her, as a virtuous wife, and mother, very well indeed.
"What will she ever do !" sobbed Minnie ! "Where will
she go ! What will become of her ! Oh, how could she be
so cruel, to herself and him !"
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 455
I remembered the time when Minnie was a young and pretty
girl; and I was glad that she remembered it too, so feel-
" My little Minnie," said Mrs. Joram, "has only just now
been got to sleep. Even in her sleep she is sobbing for
Em'ly. All day long, little Minnie has cried for her, and
asked me, over and over again, whether Em'ly was wicked ?
What can I say to her, when Em'ly tied a ribbon off her own
neck round little Minnie's the last night she was here, and
laid her head down on the pillow beside her until she was
fast asleep ! The ribbon's round my little Minnie's neck
now. It ought not to be, perhaps, but what can I do ? Em'ly
is very bad, but they were fond of one another. And the child
knows nothing !"
Mrs. Joram was so unhappy, that her husband came out
to take care of her. Leaving them together, I went home to
Peggotty's; more melancholy myself, if possible, than I had
That good creature ā I mean Peggotty ā all untired by her
late anxieties and sleepless nights, was at her brother's, where
she meant to stay till morning. An old woman, who had
been employed about the house for some weeks past, while
Peggotty had been unable to attend to it, was the house's
only other occupant besides myself. As I had no occasion
for her services, I sent her to bed, by no means against her
will; and sat down before the kitchen fir,e a little while, to
think about all this.
I was blending it with the deathbed of the late Mr. Barkis,
and was driving out with the tide towards the distance at
which Ham had looked so singularly in the morning, when I
was recalled from my wanderings by a knock at the door.
There was a knocker upon the door, but it was not that
which made the sound. The tap was from a hand, and low
down upon the door, as if it were given by a child.
It made me start as much as if it had been the knock of a
footman to a person of distinction. I opened the door; and
at first looked down, to my amazement, on nothing but a
great umbrella that appeared to be walking about of itself.
But presently I discovered underneath it, Miss Mowcher.
I might not have been prepared to give the little creature
a very kind reception, if, on her removing the umbrella,
which her utmost efforts were unable to shut up, she had
shown me the " volatile " expression of face which had made
45^ DAVID COPPERFIELD.
30 great an impression on me at our first and last meeting.
But her face, as she turned it up to mine, was so earnest;
and when I relieved her of- the umbrella (which would have
been an inconvenient one for the Irish Giant), she wrung
her Httle hands in such an afflicted manner; that I rather
inclined towards her.
*' Miss Mowcher!" said I after glancing up and down the
empty street, without distinctly knowing what I expected to
see besides; "how do you come here? What is the matter?"
She motioned to me, with her short right arm, to shut the
umbrella for her; and passing me hurriedly, went into the
kitchen. When I had closed the door, and followed, with
the umbrella in my hand, I found her sitting on the corner
of the fender ā it was a low iron one, with two flat bars at
top to stand plates upon ā in the shadow of the boiler, sway-
ing herself backwards and forwards, and chafing her hands
upon her knees like a person in pain.
Quite alarmed at being the only recipient of this untimely
visit, and the only spectator of this portentous behavior, I
exclaimed again: "Pray tell me. Miss Mowcher, what is
the matter! are you ill?"
" My dear young soul," returned Miss Mowcher, squeez-
ing her hands upon her heart one over the other. " I am
ill here, I am very ill. To think that it should come to this,
when I might have known it, and perhaps prevented it, if I
hadn't been a thoughtless fool!"
Again her large bonnet (very disproportionate to her fig-
ure) went backwards and forwards in her swaying of her lit-
tle body to and fro; while a most gigantic bonnet rocked,
in unison with it, upon the wall.
" I am surprised," I began, " to see you so distressed and
serious " ā when she interrupted me.
"Yes, it's always so!" she said. " They are all surprised,
these inconsiderate young people, fairly and full grown, to
see any natural feeling in a little thing like me! They make
a plaything of me, use me for their amusement, throw me
away when they are tired, and wonder that I feel more than
a toy horse or a wooden soldier! Yes, yes, that's the way.
The old way!"
" It may be, with others," I returned, " but I do assure you
it is not with me. Perhaps I ought not to be at all surprised
to see you as you are now: I know so little of you. I said,
without consideration, what I thought."
DAVID COPPERFIELD. . 457
"What can I do?" returned the little woman, standing up,
and holding out her arms to show herself. " See! What I
am, my father was; and my sister is; and my brother is. I
have worked for sister and brother these many years ā hard,
Mr. Copperfield ā all day. I must live. I do no harm. If
there are people so unreflecting or so cruel, as to make a
jest of me, what is left for me to do but to make a jest of
myself, them, and everything? If I do so, for the time,
whose fault is that? Mine?"
No. Not Miss Mowcher's, I perceived.
" If I had shown myself a sensitive dwarf to your false
friend," pursued the little woman, shaking her head at me,
with reproachful earnestness, " how much of his help or
good-will do you think / should ever have had? If little
Mowcher (who had no hand, young gentleman, in the mak-
ing of herself) addressed herself to him, or the like of him,
because of her misfortunes, when do you suppose her small
voice would have been heard? Little Mowcher would have
as much need to live, if she was the bitterest and dullest of
pigmies; but she couldn't do it. No. She might whistle
for her bread and butter till she died of air!"
Miss Mowcher sat down on the fender again, and took
out her handkerchief, and wiped her eyes.
" Be thankful for me, if you have a kind heart as I think
you have," she said, "that while I know well what I am, I
can be cheerful and endure it all. I am thankful for my-
self, at any rate, that I can find my tiny way through the
world, without being beholden to any one; and that in re-
turn for all that is thrown at me, in folly or vanity, as I go
along, I can throw bubbles back. If I don't brood over all
I want, it is the better for me, and not the worse for any
one. If I am a plaything for you giants, be gentle with me."
Miss Mowcher replaced her handkerchief in her pocket,
looking at me with very intent expression all the while, and
" I saw you in the street just now. You may suppose I
am not able to walk as fast as you, with my short legs and
short breath, and I couldn't overtake you; but I guessed
where you came, and came after you. I have been here be-
fore you, to-day, but the good woman wasn't at home."
*' Do you know her?" I demanded.
" I know of her, and about her," she replied, "from Omer
and Joram. I was there at seven o'clock this morning. Do
458 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
you remember what Steerforth said to me about this unfor-
tunate girl, that time when I saw you both at the inn?"
The great bonnet on Miss Mowcher's head, and the
greater bonnet on the wall, began to go backwards and for-
wards again when she asked this question.
I remembered very well what she referred to, having had
it in my thoughts many times that day. I told her so.
"May the Father of all Evil confound him," said the lit-
tle woman, holding up her forefinger between me and her
sparkling eyes, "and ten times more confound that wicked
servant; but I believed it \\^,syou who had a boyish passion
" I?" I repeated.
" Child, child! In the name of blind ill-fortune," cried
Miss Mowcher, wringing her hands impatiently, as she went
to and fro again upon the fender, " why did you praise her
so, and blush, and look disturbed?"
I could not conceal from myself that I had done this,
though for a reason very different from her supposition.
"What did I know?" said Miss Mowcher, taking out her
handkerchief again, and giving one little stamp on the
ground whenever, at short intervals, she applied it to her
eyes with both hands at once. " He was crossing you and
wheedling you, I saw; and you were soft wax in his hands,
I saw. Had I left the room a minute, when his man told
me that ' Young Innocence ' (so he called you, and you may
call him ' Old Guilt ' all the days of your life) had set his
heart upon her, and she was giddy and liked him, but his
master was resolved that no harm should come of it ā more
for your sake than for hers ā and that that was their busi-
ness here? How could I but believe him? I saw Steerforth
soothe and please you by his praise of her? You were the
first to mention her name. You owned to an old admiration
of her. You were hot and cold, and red and white, all at
once when I spoke to you of her. What could I think ā
what did I think ā but that you were a young libertine in
everything but experience, and had fallen in hands that had
experience enough, and could manage you (having the fancy)
for your own good! Oh! oh! oh! They were afraid of my
finding out the truth," exclaimed Miss Mowcher, getting off
the fender, and trotting up and down the kitchen with her
two short arms distressfully lifted up, " because I am a sharp
little thing ā I need be, to get through the world at all! ā and
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 459
they deceived me altogether, and I gave the poor unfortu*
nate girl a letter, which I fully believe was the beginning of
her ever speaking to Littimer, who was left behind on pur-
I stood amazed at the revelation of all this perfidy, look-
ing at Miss Mowcher as she walked up and down the kitchen
until she was out of breath: when she sat upon the fender
again, and, drying her face with her handkerchief, shook
her hc^ad for a long time, without otherwise moving, and
without breaking silence.
"My country rounds," she added at length, "brought me
to Norwich, Mr. Copperfield, the night before last. What I
happened to find out there, about their secret way of com-
ing and going, without you ā which was strange ā led to my
suspecting something wrong. I got into the coach from
London last night, as it came through Norwich, and was
here this morning. Oh, oh, oh! too late!"
Poor little Mowcher turned so chilly after all her crying
and fretting, that she turned round on the fender, putting
her poor little wet feet in among the ashes to warm them,
and sat looking at the fire like a large doll. I sat in a chair
on the other side of the hearth, lost in unhappy reflections,
and looking at the fire too, and sometimes at her.
" I must go," she said at last, rising as she spoke. " It's
late. You don't mistrust me ?"
Meeting her sharp glance, which was as sharp as ever
when she asked me, I could not on that short challenge
answer no, quite frankly.
" Come!" said she, accepting the offer of my hand to help
her over the fender, and looking wistfully up into my face,
" you know you wouldn't mistrust me, if I was a full sized
I felt that there was much truth in this; and I felt rather
ashamed of myself.
*' You are a young man," she said nodding. " Take a
word of advice, even from three foot nothing. Try not to
associate bodily defects with mental, *my good friend, except
for a solid reason."
She had got over the fender now, and I had got over my
suspicion. I told her that I believed she had given me a
faithful account of herself, and that we had both been hap-
less instruments in designing hands. She thanked me, and
said I was a good fellow.
46o DAVID COPPERFIELD.
" Now, mind!" she exclaimed, turning back on her way to
the door, and looking shrewdly at me, with her forefinger up
again. " I have some reason to suspect, from what I have
heard ā my ears are always open; I can't afford to spare
what powers I have ā that they are gone abroad. But if
ever they return, if ever any one of them returns, while I
am alive, I am more likely than another, going about as I
do, to find it out soon. Whatever I know, you shall know.
If ever I can do anything to serve the poor betrayed girl, I
will do it faithfully, please Heaven! And Littimer had bet-
ter have a bloodhound at his back, than little Mowcher!"
I placed implicit faith in this last statement, when I
marked the look with which it was accompanied.
" Trust me no more, but trust me no less, than you
would trust a full-sized woman," said the little creature,
touching me appealingly on the wrist. " If ever you
see me again, unlike what I am now, and like what I was
when you first saw me, observe what company I am in.
Call to mind that I am a very helpless and defenceless
little thing. Think of me at home with my brother like
myself and sister like myself, when my day's work is done.
Perhaps you won't, then, be very hard upon me, or sur-
prised if I can be distressed and serious. Good night!"
I gave Miss Mowcher my hand, with a very different
opinion of her from that which I had hitherto entertained,
and opened the door to let her out. It was not a trifling
business to get the great umbrella up, and properly
balanced in her grasp; but at last I successfully accom-
plished this, and saw it go bobbing down the street through
the rain, without the least appearance of having anybody
underneath it, except when a heavier fall than usual from
some overcharged water-spout sent it toppling over, on one
side, and discovered Miss Mowcher struggling violently to
get it right. After making one or two sallies to her relief,
which were rendered futile by the umbrella's hopping on
again, like an immense bird, before I could reach it, I came
in, went to bed, and slept till morning.
In the morning I was joined by Mr. Peggotty and my old
nurse, and we went at an early hour to the coach office,
where Mrs. Gummidge and Ham were waiting to take leave
" Mas'r Davy," Ham whispered, drawing me aside, while
Mr. Peggotty was stowing his bag among the luggage, "his
DAVID COPPERFIELD. 461
life is quite broke up. He doen't know wheer he's going; he
doen't know what's afore him; he's bound upon a voyage
that'll last, on and off, all the rest of his days, take my
wured for't, unless he finds what he's a seeking of. I am
sure you'll be a friend to him, Mas'r Davy ?"
" Trust me, I will indeed," said I, shaking hands with
** Thankee. Thankee, very kind, sir. One thing furder.
I'm in good employ, you know, Mas'r Davy, and I han't no
way now of spending what I gets. Money's of no use to
me no more, except to live. If you can lay it out for him,
I shall do my work with a better art. Though as to that,
sir," and he spoke very steadily and mildly, " you're not to
think but I shall work at all times, like a man, and act the
best that lays in my power!"
I told him I was well convinced of it; and I hinted that I
hoped the time might even come, when he would cease to
lead the lonely life he naturally contemplated now.
" No, sir," he said, shaking his head, '^ all that's past and
over with me, sir. No one can never fill the place that's
empty. But you'll bear in mind about the money, as there's
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 brother-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 endeavor to describe
how she ran down the street by the side of the coach, seeing
nothing but Mr. Peggotty on the roof, through the tears she
tried to repress, and dashing herself against the people who
were coming in the opposite direction, I should enter on a
task of some difficulty. Therefore I had better leave her
sitting on a baker's door-step, out of breath, with no shape
at all remaining in her bonnet, and one of her shoes off,
lying 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 a bed. We were so fortunate as to find
one, of a very clean and cheap description, over a chand-
ler's shop, only two streets removed from me. When we had
engaged this domicile, I bought some cold meat at an eating-
452 DAVID COPPERFIELD.
house, and took my fellow-travellers home to tea; a proceed-
ing, I regret to state, which did not meet with Mrs. Crupp's
approval, but quite the contrary. I ought to observe, how-
ever, in explanation of that lady's state of mind, that she
was much offended by Peggotty's tucking up her widow's
gown before she had been ten minutes in the place, and set-
ting to work to dust my bed-room. This Mrs. Crupp re-
garded in the light of a liberty, and a liberty, she said, was
a thing she never allowed.
Mr. Peggotty had made a communication to me on the
way to London, for which I was not prepared. It was, that
he purposed first seeing Mrs. Steerforth. As I felt bound