Part 17 out of 21
'Oh, what an accusation,' exclaimed Dora, opening her eyes wide;
'to say that you ever saw me take gold watches! Oh!'
'My dearest,' I remonstrated, 'don't talk preposterous nonsense!
Who has made the least allusion to gold watches?'
'You did,' returned Dora. 'You know you did. You said I hadn't
turned out well, and compared me to him.'
'To whom?' I asked.
'To the page,' sobbed Dora. 'Oh, you cruel fellow, to compare your
affectionate wife to a transported page! Why didn't you tell me
your opinion of me before we were married? Why didn't you say, you
hard-hearted thing, that you were convinced I was worse than a
transported page? Oh, what a dreadful opinion to have of me! Oh,
'Now, Dora, my love,' I returned, gently trying to remove the
handkerchief she pressed to her eyes, 'this is not only very
ridiculous of you, but very wrong. In the first place, it's not
'You always said he was a story-teller,' sobbed Dora. 'And now you
say the same of me! Oh, what shall I do! What shall I do!'
'My darling girl,' I retorted, 'I really must entreat you to be
reasonable, and listen to what I did say, and do say. My dear
Dora, unless we learn to do our duty to those whom we employ, they
will never learn to do their duty to us. I am afraid we present
opportunities to people to do wrong, that never ought to be
presented. Even if we were as lax as we are, in all our
arrangements, by choice - which we are not - even if we liked it,
and found it agreeable to be so - which we don't - I am persuaded
we should have no right to go on in this way. We are positively
corrupting people. We are bound to think of that. I can't help
thinking of it, Dora. It is a reflection I am unable to dismiss,
and it sometimes makes me very uneasy. There, dear, that's all.
Come now. Don't be foolish!'
Dora would not allow me, for a long time, to remove the
handkerchief. She sat sobbing and murmuring behind it, that, if I
was uneasy, why had I ever been married? Why hadn't I said, even
the day before we went to church, that I knew I should be uneasy,
and I would rather not? If I couldn't bear her, why didn't I send
her away to her aunts at Putney, or to Julia Mills in India? Julia
would be glad to see her, and would not call her a transported
page; Julia never had called her anything of the sort. In short,
Dora was so afflicted, and so afflicted me by being in that
condition, that I felt it was of no use repeating this kind of
effort, though never so mildly, and I must take some other course.
What other course was left to take? To 'form her mind'? This was
a common phrase of words which had a fair and promising sound, and
I resolved to form Dora's mind.
I began immediately. When Dora was very childish, and I would have
infinitely preferred to humour her, I tried to be grave - and
disconcerted her, and myself too. I talked to her on the subjects
which occupied my thoughts; and I read Shakespeare to her - and
fatigued her to the last degree. I accustomed myself to giving
her, as it were quite casually, little scraps of useful
information, or sound opinion - and she started from them when I
let them off, as if they had been crackers. No matter how
incidentally or naturally I endeavoured to form my little wife's
mind, I could not help seeing that she always had an instinctive
perception of what I was about, and became a prey to the keenest
apprehensions. In particular, it was clear to me, that she thought
Shakespeare a terrible fellow. The formation went on very slowly.
I pressed Traddles into the service without his knowledge; and
whenever he came to see us, exploded my mines upon him for the
edification of Dora at second hand. The amount of practical wisdom
I bestowed upon Traddles in this manner was immense, and of the
best quality; but it had no other effect upon Dora than to depress
her spirits, and make her always nervous with the dread that it
would be her turn next. I found myself in the condition of a
schoolmaster, a trap, a pitfall; of always playing spider to Dora's
fly, and always pouncing out of my hole to her infinite
Still, looking forward through this intermediate stage, to the time
when there should be a perfect sympathy between Dora and me, and
when I should have 'formed her mind' to my entire satisfaction, I
persevered, even for months. Finding at last, however, that,
although I had been all this time a very porcupine or hedgehog,
bristling all over with determination, I had effected nothing, it
began to occur to me that perhaps Dora's mind was already formed.
On further consideration this appeared so likely, that I abandoned
my scheme, which had had a more promising appearance in words than
in action; resolving henceforth to be satisfied with my child-wife,
and to try to change her into nothing else by any process. I was
heartily tired of being sagacious and prudent by myself, and of
seeing my darling under restraint; so I bought a pretty pair of
ear-rings for her, and a collar for Jip, and went home one day to
make myself agreeable.
Dora was delighted with the little presents, and kissed me
joyfully; but there was a shadow between us, however slight, and I
had made up my mind that it should not be there. If there must be
such a shadow anywhere, I would keep it for the future in my own
I sat down by my wife on the sofa, and put the ear-rings in her
ears; and then I told her that I feared we had not been quite as
good company lately, as we used to be, and that the fault was mine.
Which I sincerely felt, and which indeed it was.
'The truth is, Dora, my life,' I said; 'I have been trying to be
'And to make me wise too,' said Dora, timidly. 'Haven't you,
I nodded assent to the pretty inquiry of the raised eyebrows, and
kissed the parted lips.
'It's of not a bit of use,' said Dora, shaking her head, until the
ear-rings rang again. 'You know what a little thing I am, and what
I wanted you to call me from the first. If you can't do so, I am
afraid you'll never like me. Are you sure you don't think,
sometimes, it would have been better to have -'
'Done what, my dear?' For she made no effort to proceed.
'Nothing!' said Dora.
'Nothing?' I repeated.
She put her arms round my neck, and laughed, and called herself by
her favourite name of a goose, and hid her face on my shoulder in
such a profusion of curls that it was quite a task to clear them
away and see it.
'Don't I think it would have been better to have done nothing, than
to have tried to form my little wife's mind?' said I, laughing at
myself. 'Is that the question? Yes, indeed, I do.'
'Is that what you have been trying?' cried Dora. 'Oh what a
'But I shall never try any more,' said I. 'For I love her dearly
as she is.'
'Without a story - really?' inquired Dora, creeping closer to me.
'Why should I seek to change,' said I, 'what has been so precious
to me for so long! You never can show better than as your own
natural self, my sweet Dora; and we'll try no conceited
experiments, but go back to our old way, and be happy.'
'And be happy!' returned Dora. 'Yes! All day! And you won't mind
things going a tiny morsel wrong, sometimes?'
'No, no,' said I. 'We must do the best we can.'
'And you won't tell me, any more, that we make other people bad,'
coaxed Dora; 'will you? Because you know it's so dreadfully
'No, no,' said I.
'it's better for me to be stupid than uncomfortable, isn't it?'
'Better to be naturally Dora than anything else in the world.'
'In the world! Ah, Doady, it's a large place!'
She shook her head, turned her delighted bright eyes up to mine,
kissed me, broke into a merry laugh, and sprang away to put on
Jip's new collar.
So ended my last attempt to make any change in Dora. I had been
unhappy in trying it; I could not endure my own solitary wisdom; I
could not reconcile it with her former appeal to me as my
child-wife. I resolved to do what I could, in a quiet way, to
improve our proceedings myself, but I foresaw that my utmost would
be very little, or I must degenerate into the spider again, and be
for ever lying in wait.
And the shadow I have mentioned, that was not to be between us any
more, but was to rest wholly on my own heart? How did that fall?
The old unhappy feeling pervaded my life. It was deepened, if it
were changed at all; but it was as undefined as ever, and addressed
me like a strain of sorrowful music faintly heard in the night. I
loved my wife dearly, and I was happy; but the happiness I had
vaguely anticipated, once, was not the happiness I enjoyed, and
there was always something wanting.
In fulfilment of the compact I have made with myself, to reflect my
mind on this paper, I again examine it, closely, and bring its
secrets to the light. What I missed, I still regarded - I always
regarded - as something that had been a dream of my youthful fancy;
that was incapable of realization; that I was now discovering to be
so, with some natural pain, as all men did. But that it would have
been better for me if my wife could have helped me more, and shared
the many thoughts in which I had no partner; and that this might
have been; I knew.
Between these two irreconcilable conclusions: the one, that what I
felt was general and unavoidable; the other, that it was particular
to me, and might have been different: I balanced curiously, with no
distinct sense of their opposition to each other. When I thought
of the airy dreams of youth that are incapable of realization, I
thought of the better state preceding manhood that I had outgrown;
and then the contented days with Agnes, in the dear old house,
arose before me, like spectres of the dead, that might have some
renewal in another world, but never more could be reanimated here.
Sometimes, the speculation came into my thoughts, What might have
happened, or what would have happened, if Dora and I had never
known each other? But she was so incorporated with my existence,
that it was the idlest of all fancies, and would soon rise out of
my reach and sight, like gossamer floating in the air.
I always loved her. What I am describing, slumbered, and half
awoke, and slept again, in the innermost recesses of my mind.
There was no evidence of it in me; I know of no influence it had in
anything I said or did. I bore the weight of all our little cares,
and all my projects; Dora held the pens; and we both felt that our
shares were adjusted as the case required. She was truly fond of
me, and proud of me; and when Agnes wrote a few earnest words in
her letters to Dora, of the pride and interest with which my old
friends heard of my growing reputation, and read my book as if they
heard me speaking its contents, Dora read them out to me with tears
of joy in her bright eyes, and said I was a dear old clever, famous
'The first mistaken impulse of an undisciplined heart.' Those
words of Mrs. Strong's were constantly recurring to me, at this
time; were almost always present to my mind. I awoke with them,
often, in the night; I remember to have even read them, in dreams,
inscribed upon the walls of houses. For I knew, now, that my own
heart was undisciplined when it first loved Dora; and that if it
had been disciplined, it never could have felt, when we were
married, what it had felt in its secret experience.
'There can be no disparity in marriage, like unsuitability of mind
and purpose.' Those words I remembered too. I had endeavoured to
adapt Dora to myself, and found it impracticable. It remained for
me to adapt myself to Dora; to share with her what I could, and be
happy; to bear on my own shoulders what I must, and be happy still.
This was the discipline to which I tried to bring my heart, when I
began to think. It made my second year much happier than my first;
and, what was better still, made Dora's life all sunshine.
But, as that year wore on, Dora was not strong. I had hoped that
lighter hands than mine would help to mould her character, and that
a baby-smile upon her breast might change my child-wife to a woman.
It was not to be. The spirit fluttered for a moment on the
threshold of its little prison, and, unconscious of captivity, took
'When I can run about again, as I used to do, aunt,' said Dora, 'I
shall make Jip race. He is getting quite slow and lazy.'
'I suspect, my dear,' said my aunt quietly working by her side, 'he
has a worse disorder than that. Age, Dora.'
'Do you think he is old?' said Dora, astonished. 'Oh, how strange
it seems that Jip should be old!'
'It's a complaint we are all liable to, Little One, as we get on in
life,' said my aunt, cheerfully; 'I don't feel more free from it
than I used to be, I assure you.'
'But Jip,' said Dora, looking at him with compassion, 'even little
Jip! Oh, poor fellow!'
'I dare say he'll last a long time yet, Blossom,' said my aunt,
patting Dora on the cheek, as she leaned out of her couch to look
at Jip, who responded by standing on his hind legs, and baulking
himself in various asthmatic attempts to scramble up by the head
and shoulders. 'He must have a piece of flannel in his house this
winter, and I shouldn't wonder if he came out quite fresh again,
with the flowers in the spring. Bless the little dog!' exclaimed
my aunt, 'if he had as many lives as a cat, and was on the point of
losing 'em all, he'd bark at me with his last breath, I believe!'
Dora had helped him up on the sofa; where he really was defying my
aunt to such a furious extent, that he couldn't keep straight, but
barked himself sideways. The more my aunt looked at him, the more
he reproached her; for she had lately taken to spectacles, and for
some inscrutable reason he considered the glasses personal.
Dora made him lie down by her, with a good deal of persuasion; and
when he was quiet, drew one of his long ears through and through
her hand, repeating thoughtfully, 'Even little Jip! Oh, poor
'His lungs are good enough,' said my aunt, gaily, 'and his dislikes
are not at all feeble. He has a good many years before him, no
doubt. But if you want a dog to race with, Little Blossom, he has
lived too well for that, and I'll give you one.'
'Thank you, aunt,' said Dora, faintly. 'But don't, please!'
'No?' said my aunt, taking off her spectacles.
'I couldn't have any other dog but Jip,' said Dora. 'It would be
so unkind to Jip! Besides, I couldn't be such friends with any
other dog but Jip; because he wouldn't have known me before I was
married, and wouldn't have barked at Doady when he first came to
our house. I couldn't care for any other dog but Jip, I am afraid,
'To be sure!' said my aunt, patting her cheek again. 'You are
'You are not offended,' said Dora. 'Are you?'
'Why, what a sensitive pet it is!' cried my aunt, bending over her
affectionately. 'To think that I could be offended!'
'No, no, I didn't really think so,' returned Dora; 'but I am a
little tired, and it made me silly for a moment - I am always a
silly little thing, you know, but it made me more silly - to talk
about Jip. He has known me in all that has happened to me, haven't
you, Jip? And I couldn't bear to slight him, because he was a
little altered - could I, Jip?'
Jip nestled closer to his mistress, and lazily licked her hand.
'You are not so old, Jip, are you, that you'll leave your mistress
yet?' said Dora. 'We may keep one another company a little
My pretty Dora! When she came down to dinner on the ensuing Sunday,
and was so glad to see old Traddles (who always dined with us on
Sunday), we thought she would be 'running about as she used to do',
in a few days. But they said, wait a few days more; and then, wait
a few days more; and still she neither ran nor walked. She looked
very pretty, and was very merry; but the little feet that used to
be so nimble when they danced round Jip, were dull and motionless.
I began to carry her downstairs every morning, and upstairs every
night. She would clasp me round the neck and laugh, the while, as
if I did it for a wager. Jip would bark and caper round us, and go
on before, and look back on the landing, breathing short, to see
that we were coming. My aunt, the best and most cheerful of
nurses, would trudge after us, a moving mass of shawls and pillows.
Mr. Dick would not have relinquished his post of candle-bearer to
anyone alive. Traddles would be often at the bottom of the
staircase, looking on, and taking charge of sportive messages from
Dora to the dearest girl in the world. We made quite a gay
procession of it, and my child-wife was the gayest there.
But, sometimes, when I took her up, and felt that she was lighter
in my arms, a dead blank feeling came upon me, as if I were
approaching to some frozen region yet unseen, that numbed my life.
I avoided the recognition of this feeling by any name, or by any
communing with myself; until one night, when it was very strong
upon me, and my aunt had left her with a parting cry of 'Good
night, Little Blossom,' I sat down at my desk alone, and cried to
think, Oh what a fatal name it was, and how the blossom withered in
its bloom upon the tree!
I AM INVOLVED IN MYSTERY
I received one morning by the post, the following letter, dated
Canterbury, and addressed to me at Doctor's Commons; which I read
with some surprise:
'MY DEAR SIR,
'Circumstances beyond my individual control have, for a
considerable lapse of time, effected a severance of that intimacy
which, in the limited opportunities conceded to me in the midst of
my professional duties, of contemplating the scenes and events of
the past, tinged by the prismatic hues of memory, has ever afforded
me, as it ever must continue to afford, gratifying emotions of no
common description. This fact, my dear sir, combined with the
distinguished elevation to which your talents have raised you,
deters me from presuming to aspire to the liberty of addressing the
companion of my youth, by the familiar appellation of Copperfield!
It is sufficient to know that the name to which I do myself the
honour to refer, will ever be treasured among the muniments of our
house (I allude to the archives connected with our former lodgers,
preserved by Mrs. Micawber), with sentiments of personal esteem
amounting to affection.
'It is not for one, situated, through his original errors and a
fortuitous combination of unpropitious events, as is the foundered
Bark (if he may be allowed to assume so maritime a denomination),
who now takes up the pen to address you - it is not, I repeat, for
one so circumstanced, to adopt the language of compliment, or of
congratulation. That he leaves to abler and to purer hands.
'If your more important avocations should admit of your ever
tracing these imperfect characters thus far - which may be, or may
not be, as circumstances arise - you will naturally inquire by what
object am I influenced, then, in inditing the present missive?
Allow me to say that I fully defer to the reasonable character of
that inquiry, and proceed to develop it; premising that it is not
an object of a pecuniary nature.
'Without more directly referring to any latent ability that may
possibly exist on my part, of wielding the thunderbolt, or
directing the devouring and avenging flame in any quarter, I may be
permitted to observe, in passing, that my brightest visions are for
ever dispelled - that my peace is shattered and my power of
enjoyment destroyed - that my heart is no longer in the right place
- and that I no more walk erect before my fellow man. The canker
is in the flower. The cup is bitter to the brim. The worm is at
his work, and will soon dispose of his victim. The sooner the
better. But I will not digress.
'Placed in a mental position of peculiar painfulness, beyond the
assuaging reach even of Mrs. Micawber's influence, though exercised
in the tripartite character of woman, wife, and mother, it is my
intention to fly from myself for a short period, and devote a
respite of eight-and-forty hours to revisiting some metropolitan
scenes of past enjoyment. Among other havens of domestic
tranquillity and peace of mind, my feet will naturally tend towards
the King's Bench Prison. In stating that I shall be (D. V.) on the
outside of the south wall of that place of incarceration on civil
process, the day after tomorrow, at seven in the evening,
precisely, my object in this epistolary communication is
'I do not feel warranted in soliciting my former friend Mr.
Copperfield, or my former friend Mr. Thomas Traddles of the Inner
Temple, if that gentleman is still existent and forthcoming, to
condescend to meet me, and renew (so far as may be) our past
relations of the olden time. I confine myself to throwing out the
observation, that, at the hour and place I have indicated, may be
found such ruined vestiges as yet
'P.S. It may be advisable to superadd to the above, the statement
that Mrs. Micawber is not in confidential possession of my
I read the letter over several times. Making due allowance for Mr.
Micawber's lofty style of composition, and for the extraordinary
relish with which he sat down and wrote long letters on all
possible and impossible occasions, I still believed that something
important lay hidden at the bottom of this roundabout
communication. I put it down, to think about it; and took it up
again, to read it once more; and was still pursuing it, when
Traddles found me in the height of my perplexity.
'My dear fellow,' said I, 'I never was better pleased to see you.
You come to give me the benefit of your sober judgement at a most
opportune time. I have received a very singular letter, Traddles,
from Mr. Micawber.'
'No?' cried Traddles. 'You don't say so? And I have received one
from Mrs. Micawber!'
With that, Traddles, who was flushed with walking, and whose hair,
under the combined effects of exercise and excitement, stood on end
as if he saw a cheerful ghost, produced his letter and made an
exchange with me. I watched him into the heart of Mr. Micawber's
letter, and returned the elevation of eyebrows with which he said
"'Wielding the thunderbolt, or directing the devouring and avenging
flame!" Bless me, Copperfield!'- and then entered on the perusal of
Mrs. Micawber's epistle.
It ran thus:
'My best regards to Mr. Thomas Traddles, and if he should still
remember one who formerly had the happiness of being well
acquainted with him, may I beg a few moments of his leisure time?
I assure Mr. T. T. that I would not intrude upon his kindness, were
I in any other position than on the confines of distraction.
'Though harrowing to myself to mention, the alienation of Mr.
Micawber (formerly so domesticated) from his wife and family, is
the cause of my addressing my unhappy appeal to Mr. Traddles, and
soliciting his best indulgence. Mr. T. can form no adequate idea
of the change in Mr. Micawber's conduct, of his wildness, of his
violence. It has gradually augmented, until it assumes the
appearance of aberration of intellect. Scarcely a day passes, I
assure Mr. Traddles, on which some paroxysm does not take place.
Mr. T. will not require me to depict my feelings, when I inform him
that I have become accustomed to hear Mr. Micawber assert that he
has sold himself to the D. Mystery and secrecy have long been his
principal characteristic, have long replaced unlimited confidence.
The slightest provocation, even being asked if there is anything he
would prefer for dinner, causes him to express a wish for a
separation. Last night, on being childishly solicited for
twopence, to buy 'lemon-stunners' - a local sweetmeat - he
presented an oyster-knife at the twins!
'I entreat Mr. Traddles to bear with me in entering into these
details. Without them, Mr. T. would indeed find it difficult to
form the faintest conception of my heart-rending situation.
'May I now venture to confide to Mr. T. the purport of my letter?
Will he now allow me to throw myself on his friendly consideration?
Oh yes, for I know his heart!
'The quick eye of affection is not easily blinded, when of the
female sex. Mr. Micawber is going to London. Though he studiously
concealed his hand, this morning before breakfast, in writing the
direction-card which he attached to the little brown valise of
happier days, the eagle-glance of matrimonial anxiety detected, d,
o, n, distinctly traced. The West-End destination of the coach, is
the Golden Cross. Dare I fervently implore Mr. T. to see my
misguided husband, and to reason with him? Dare I ask Mr. T. to
endeavour to step in between Mr. Micawber and his agonized family?
Oh no, for that would be too much!
'If Mr. Copperfield should yet remember one unknown to fame, will
Mr. T. take charge of my unalterable regards and similar
entreaties? In any case, he will have the benevolence to consider
this communication strictly private, and on no account whatever to
be alluded to, however distantly, in the presence of Mr. Micawber.
If Mr. T. should ever reply to it (which I cannot but feel to be
most improbable), a letter addressed to M. E., Post Office,
Canterbury, will be fraught with less painful consequences than any
addressed immediately to one, who subscribes herself, in extreme
'Mr. Thomas Traddles's respectful friend and suppliant,
'What do you think of that letter?' said Traddles, casting his eyes
upon me, when I had read it twice.
'What do you think of the other?' said I. For he was still reading
it with knitted brows.
'I think that the two together, Copperfield,' replied Traddles,
'mean more than Mr. and Mrs. Micawber usually mean in their
correspondence - but I don't know what. They are both written in
good faith, I have no doubt, and without any collusion. Poor
thing!' he was now alluding to Mrs. Micawber's letter, and we were
standing side by side comparing the two; 'it will be a charity to
write to her, at all events, and tell her that we will not fail to
see Mr. Micawber.'
I acceded to this the more readily, because I now reproached myself
with having treated her former letter rather lightly. It had set
me thinking a good deal at the time, as I have mentioned in its
place; but my absorption in my own affairs, my experience of the
family, and my hearing nothing more, had gradually ended in my
dismissing the subject. I had often thought of the Micawbers, but
chiefly to wonder what 'pecuniary liabilities' they were
establishing in Canterbury, and to recall how shy Mr. Micawber was
of me when he became clerk to Uriah Heep.
However, I now wrote a comforting letter to Mrs. Micawber, in our
joint names, and we both signed it. As we walked into town to post
it, Traddles and I held a long conference, and launched into a
number of speculations, which I need not repeat. We took my aunt
into our counsels in the afternoon; but our only decided conclusion
was, that we would be very punctual in keeping Mr. Micawber's
Although we appeared at the stipulated place a quarter of an hour
before the time, we found Mr. Micawber already there. He was
standing with his arms folded, over against the wall, looking at
the spikes on the top, with a sentimental expression, as if they
were the interlacing boughs of trees that had shaded him in his
When we accosted him, his manner was something more confused, and
something less genteel, than of yore. He had relinquished his
legal suit of black for the purposes of this excursion, and wore
the old surtout and tights, but not quite with the old air. He
gradually picked up more and more of it as we conversed with him;
but, his very eye-glass seemed to hang less easily, and his
shirt-collar, though still of the old formidable dimensions, rather
'Gentlemen!' said Mr. Micawber, after the first salutations, 'you
are friends in need, and friends indeed. Allow me to offer my
inquiries with reference to the physical welfare of Mrs.
Copperfield in esse, and Mrs. Traddles in posse, - presuming, that
is to say, that my friend Mr. Traddles is not yet united to the
object of his affections, for weal and for woe.'
We acknowledged his politeness, and made suitable replies. He then
directed our attention to the wall, and was beginning, 'I assure
you, gentlemen,' when I ventured to object to that ceremonious form
of address, and to beg that he would speak to us in the old way.
'My dear Copperfield,' he returned, pressing my hand, 'your
cordiality overpowers me. This reception of a shattered fragment
of the Temple once called Man - if I may be permitted so to express
myself - bespeaks a heart that is an honour to our common nature.
I was about to observe that I again behold the serene spot where
some of the happiest hours of my existence fleeted by.'
'Made so, I am sure, by Mrs. Micawber,' said I. 'I hope she is
'Thank you,' returned Mr. Micawber, whose face clouded at this
reference, 'she is but so-so. And this,' said Mr. Micawber,
nodding his head sorrowfully, 'is the Bench! Where, for the first
time in many revolving years, the overwhelming pressure of
pecuniary liabilities was not proclaimed, from day to day, by
importune voices declining to vacate the passage; where there was
no knocker on the door for any creditor to appeal to; where
personal service of process was not required, and detainees were
merely lodged at the gate! Gentlemen,' said Mr. Micawber, 'when the
shadow of that iron-work on the summit of the brick structure has
been reflected on the gravel of the Parade, I have seen my children
thread the mazes of the intricate pattern, avoiding the dark marks.
I have been familiar with every stone in the place. If I betray
weakness, you will know how to excuse me.'
'We have all got on in life since then, Mr. Micawber,' said I.
'Mr. Copperfield,' returned Mr. Micawber, bitterly, 'when I was an
inmate of that retreat I could look my fellow-man in the face, and
punch his head if he offended me. My fellow-man and myself are no
longer on those glorious terms!'
Turning from the building in a downcast manner, Mr. Micawber
accepted my proffered arm on one side, and the proffered arm of
Traddles on the other, and walked away between us.
'There are some landmarks,' observed Mr. Micawber, looking fondly
back over his shoulder, 'on the road to the tomb, which, but for
the impiety of the aspiration, a man would wish never to have
passed. Such is the Bench in my chequered career.'
'Oh, you are in low spirits, Mr. Micawber,' said Traddles.
'I am, sir,' interposed Mr. Micawber.
'I hope,' said Traddles, 'it is not because you have conceived a
dislike to the law - for I am a lawyer myself, you know.'
Mr. Micawber answered not a word.
'How is our friend Heep, Mr. Micawber?' said I, after a silence.
'My dear Copperfield,' returned Mr. Micawber, bursting into a state
of much excitement, and turning pale, 'if you ask after my employer
as your friend, I am sorry for it; if you ask after him as MY
friend, I sardonically smile at it. In whatever capacity you ask
after my employer, I beg, without offence to you, to limit my reply
to this - that whatever his state of health may be, his appearance
is foxy: not to say diabolical. You will allow me, as a private
individual, to decline pursuing a subject which has lashed me to
the utmost verge of desperation in my professional capacity.'
I expressed my regret for having innocently touched upon a theme
that roused him so much. 'May I ask,' said I, 'without any hazard
of repeating the mistake, how my old friends Mr. and Miss Wickfield
'Miss Wickfield,' said Mr. Micawber, now turning red, 'is, as she
always is, a pattern, and a bright example. My dear Copperfield,
she is the only starry spot in a miserable existence. My respect
for that young lady, my admiration of her character, my devotion to
her for her love and truth, and goodness! - Take me,' said Mr.
Micawber, 'down a turning, for, upon my soul, in my present state
of mind I am not equal to this!'
We wheeled him off into a narrow street, where he took out his
pocket-handkerchief, and stood with his back to a wall. If I
looked as gravely at him as Traddles did, he must have found our
company by no means inspiriting.
'It is my fate,' said Mr. Micawber, unfeignedly sobbing, but doing
even that, with a shadow of the old expression of doing something
genteel; 'it is my fate, gentlemen, that the finer feelings of our
nature have become reproaches to me. My homage to Miss Wickfield,
is a flight of arrows in my bosom. You had better leave me, if you
please, to walk the earth as a vagabond. The worm will settle my
business in double-quick time.'
Without attending to this invocation, we stood by, until he put up
his pocket-handkerchief, pulled up his shirt-collar, and, to delude
any person in the neighbourhood who might have been observing him,
hummed a tune with his hat very much on one side. I then mentioned
- not knowing what might be lost if we lost sight of him yet - that
it would give me great pleasure to introduce him to my aunt, if he
would ride out to Highgate, where a bed was at his service.
'You shall make us a glass of your own punch, Mr. Micawber,' said
I, 'and forget whatever you have on your mind, in pleasanter
'Or, if confiding anything to friends will be more likely to
relieve you, you shall impart it to us, Mr. Micawber,' said
'Gentlemen,' returned Mr. Micawber, 'do with me as you will! I am
a straw upon the surface of the deep, and am tossed in all
directions by the elephants - I beg your pardon; I should have said
We walked on, arm-in-arm, again; found the coach in the act of
starting; and arrived at Highgate without encountering any
difficulties by the way. I was very uneasy and very uncertain in
my mind what to say or do for the best - so was Traddles,
evidently. Mr. Micawber was for the most part plunged into deep
gloom. He occasionally made an attempt to smarten himself, and hum
the fag-end of a tune; but his relapses into profound melancholy
were only made the more impressive by the mockery of a hat
exceedingly on one side, and a shirt-collar pulled up to his eyes.
We went to my aunt's house rather than to mine, because of Dora's
not being well. My aunt presented herself on being sent for, and
welcomed Mr. Micawber with gracious cordiality. Mr. Micawber
kissed her hand, retired to the window, and pulling out his
pocket-handkerchief, had a mental wrestle with himself.
Mr. Dick was at home. He was by nature so exceedingly
compassionate of anyone who seemed to be ill at ease, and was so
quick to find any such person out, that he shook hands with Mr.
Micawber, at least half-a-dozen times in five minutes. To Mr.
Micawber, in his trouble, this warmth, on the part of a stranger,
was so extremely touching, that he could only say, on the occasion
of each successive shake, 'My dear sir, you overpower me!' Which
gratified Mr. Dick so much, that he went at it again with greater
vigour than before.
'The friendliness of this gentleman,' said Mr. Micawber to my aunt,
'if you will allow me, ma'am, to cull a figure of speech from the
vocabulary of our coarser national sports - floors me. To a man
who is struggling with a complicated burden of perplexity and
disquiet, such a reception is trying, I assure you.'
'My friend Mr. Dick,' replied my aunt proudly, 'is not a common
'That I am convinced of,' said Mr. Micawber. 'My dear sir!' for
Mr. Dick was shaking hands with him again; 'I am deeply sensible of
'How do you find yourself?' said Mr. Dick, with an anxious look.
'Indifferent, my dear sir,' returned Mr. Micawber, sighing.
'You must keep up your spirits,' said Mr. Dick, 'and make yourself
as comfortable as possible.'
Mr. Micawber was quite overcome by these friendly words, and by
finding Mr. Dick's hand again within his own. 'It has been my
lot,' he observed, 'to meet, in the diversified panorama of human
existence, with an occasional oasis, but never with one so green,
so gushing, as the present!'
At another time I should have been amused by this; but I felt that
we were all constrained and uneasy, and I watched Mr. Micawber so
anxiously, in his vacillations between an evident disposition to
reveal something, and a counter-disposition to reveal nothing, that
I was in a perfect fever. Traddles, sitting on the edge of his
chair, with his eyes wide open, and his hair more emphatically
erect than ever, stared by turns at the ground and at Mr. Micawber,
without so much as attempting to put in a word. My aunt, though I
saw that her shrewdest observation was concentrated on her new
guest, had more useful possession of her wits than either of us;
for she held him in conversation, and made it necessary for him to
talk, whether he liked it or not.
'You are a very old friend of my nephew's, Mr. Micawber,' said my
aunt. 'I wish I had had the pleasure of seeing you before.'
'Madam,' returned Mr. Micawber, 'I wish I had had the honour of
knowing you at an earlier period. I was not always the wreck you
at present behold.'
'I hope Mrs. Micawber and your family are well, sir,' said my aunt.
Mr. Micawber inclined his head. 'They are as well, ma'am,' he
desperately observed after a pause, 'as Aliens and Outcasts can
ever hope to be.'
'Lord bless you, sir!' exclaimed my aunt, in her abrupt way. 'What
are you talking about?'
'The subsistence of my family, ma'am,' returned Mr. Micawber,
'trembles in the balance. My employer -'
Here Mr. Micawber provokingly left off; and began to peel the
lemons that had been under my directions set before him, together
with all the other appliances he used in making punch.
'Your employer, you know,' said Mr. Dick, jogging his arm as a
'My good sir,' returned Mr. Micawber, 'you recall me, I am obliged
to you.' They shook hands again. 'My employer, ma'am - Mr. Heep
- once did me the favour to observe to me, that if I were not in
the receipt of the stipendiary emoluments appertaining to my
engagement with him, I should probably be a mountebank about the
country, swallowing a sword-blade, and eating the devouring
element. For anything that I can perceive to the contrary, it is
still probable that my children may be reduced to seek a livelihood
by personal contortion, while Mrs. Micawber abets their unnatural
feats by playing the barrel-organ.'
Mr. Micawber, with a random but expressive flourish of his knife,
signified that these performances might be expected to take place
after he was no more; then resumed his peeling with a desperate
My aunt leaned her elbow on the little round table that she usually
kept beside her, and eyed him attentively. Notwithstanding the
aversion with which I regarded the idea of entrapping him into any
disclosure he was not prepared to make voluntarily, I should have
taken him up at this point, but for the strange proceedings in
which I saw him engaged; whereof his putting the lemon-peel into
the kettle, the sugar into the snuffer-tray, the spirit into the
empty jug, and confidently attempting to pour boiling water out of
a candlestick, were among the most remarkable. I saw that a crisis
was at hand, and it came. He clattered all his means and
implements together, rose from his chair, pulled out his
pocket-handkerchief, and burst into tears.
'My dear Copperfield,' said Mr. Micawber, behind his handkerchief,
'this is an occupation, of all others, requiring an untroubled
mind, and self-respect. I cannot perform it. It is out of the
'Mr. Micawber,' said I, 'what is the matter? Pray speak out. You
are among friends.'
'Among friends, sir!' repeated Mr. Micawber; and all he had
reserved came breaking out of him. 'Good heavens, it is
principally because I AM among friends that my state of mind is
what it is. What is the matter, gentlemen? What is NOT the
matter? Villainy is the matter; baseness is the matter; deception,
fraud, conspiracy, are the matter; and the name of the whole
atrocious mass is - HEEP!'
MY aunt clapped her hands, and we all started up as if we were
'The struggle is over!' said Mr. Micawber violently gesticulating
with his pocket-handkerchief, and fairly striking out from time to
time with both arms, as if he were swimming under superhuman
difficulties. 'I will lead this life no longer. I am a wretched
being, cut off from everything that makes life tolerable. I have
been under a Taboo in that infernal scoundrel's service. Give me
back my wife, give me back my family, substitute Micawber for the
petty wretch who walks about in the boots at present on my feet,
and call upon me to swallow a sword tomorrow, and I'll do it. With
I never saw a man so hot in my life. I tried to calm him, that we
might come to something rational; but he got hotter and hotter, and
wouldn't hear a word.
'I'll put my hand in no man's hand,' said Mr. Micawber, gasping,
puffing, and sobbing, to that degree that he was like a man
fighting with cold water, 'until I have - blown to fragments - the
- a - detestable - serpent - HEEP! I'll partake of no one's
hospitality, until I have - a - moved Mount Vesuvius - to eruption
- on - a - the abandoned rascal - HEEP! Refreshment - a -
underneath this roof - particularly punch - would - a - choke me -
unless - I had - previously - choked the eyes - out of the head -
a - of - interminable cheat, and liar - HEEP! I - a- I'll know
nobody - and - a - say nothing - and - a - live nowhere - until I
have crushed - to - a - undiscoverable atoms - the - transcendent
and immortal hypocrite and perjurer - HEEP!'
I really had some fear of Mr. Micawber's dying on the spot. The
manner in which he struggled through these inarticulate sentences,
and, whenever he found himself getting near the name of Heep,
fought his way on to it, dashed at it in a fainting state, and
brought it out with a vehemence little less than marvellous, was
frightful; but now, when he sank into a chair, steaming, and looked
at us, with every possible colour in his face that had no business
there, and an endless procession of lumps following one another in
hot haste up his throat, whence they seemed to shoot into his
forehead, he had the appearance of being in the last extremity. I
would have gone to his assistance, but he waved me off, and
wouldn't hear a word.
'No, Copperfield! - No communication - a - until - Miss Wickfield
- a - redress from wrongs inflicted by consummate scoundrel -
HEEP!' (I am quite convinced he could not have uttered three words,
but for the amazing energy with which this word inspired him when
he felt it coming.) 'Inviolable secret - a - from the whole world
- a - no exceptions - this day week - a - at breakfast-time - a -
everybody present - including aunt - a - and extremely friendly
gentleman - to be at the hotel at Canterbury - a - where - Mrs.
Micawber and myself - Auld Lang Syne in chorus - and - a - will
expose intolerable ruffian - HEEP! No more to say - a - or listen
to persuasion - go immediately - not capable - a - bear society -
upon the track of devoted and doomed traitor - HEEP!'
With this last repetition of the magic word that had kept him going
at all, and in which he surpassed all his previous efforts, Mr.
Micawber rushed out of the house; leaving us in a state of
excitement, hope, and wonder, that reduced us to a condition little
better than his own. But even then his passion for writing letters
was too strong to be resisted; for while we were yet in the height
of our excitement, hope, and wonder, the following pastoral note
was brought to me from a neighbouring tavern, at which he had
called to write it: -
'Most secret and confidential.
'MY DEAR SIR,
'I beg to be allowed to convey, through you, my apologies to your
excellent aunt for my late excitement. An explosion of a
smouldering volcano long suppressed, was the result of an internal
contest more easily conceived than described.
'I trust I rendered tolerably intelligible my appointment for the
morning of this day week, at the house of public entertainment at
Canterbury, where Mrs. Micawber and myself had once the honour of
uniting our voices to yours, in the well-known strain of the
Immortal exciseman nurtured beyond the Tweed.
'The duty done, and act of reparation performed, which can alone
enable me to contemplate my fellow mortal, I shall be known no
more. I shall simply require to be deposited in that place of
universal resort, where
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep,
'- With the plain Inscription,
Mr. PEGGOTTY'S DREAM COMES TRUE
By this time, some months had passed since our interview on the
bank of the river with Martha. I had never seen her since, but she
had communicated with Mr. Peggotty on several occasions. Nothing
had come of her zealous intervention; nor could I infer, from what
he told me, that any clue had been obtained, for a moment, to
Emily's fate. I confess that I began to despair of her recovery,
and gradually to sink deeper and deeper into the belief that she
His conviction remained unchanged. So far as I know - and I
believe his honest heart was transparent to me - he never wavered
again, in his solemn certainty of finding her. His patience never
tired. And, although I trembled for the agony it might one day be
to him to have his strong assurance shivered at a blow, there was
something so religious in it, so affectingly expressive of its
anchor being in the purest depths of his fine nature, that the
respect and honour in which I held him were exalted every day.
His was not a lazy trustfulness that hoped, and did no more. He
had been a man of sturdy action all his life, and he knew that in
all things wherein he wanted help he must do his own part
faithfully, and help himself. I have known him set out in the
night, on a misgiving that the light might not be, by some
accident, in the window of the old boat, and walk to Yarmouth. I
have known him, on reading something in the newspaper that might
apply to her, take up his stick, and go forth on a journey of
three- or four-score miles. He made his way by sea to Naples, and
back, after hearing the narrative to which Miss Dartle had assisted
me. All his journeys were ruggedly performed; for he was always
steadfast in a purpose of saving money for Emily's sake, when she
should be found. In all this long pursuit, I never heard him
repine; I never heard him say he was fatigued, or out of heart.
Dora had often seen him since our marriage, and was quite fond of
him. I fancy his figure before me now, standing near her sofa,
with his rough cap in his hand, and the blue eyes of my child-wife
raised, with a timid wonder, to his face. Sometimes of an evening,
about twilight, when he came to talk with me, I would induce him to
smoke his pipe in the garden, as we slowly paced to and fro
together; and then, the picture of his deserted home, and the
comfortable air it used to have in my childish eyes of an evening
when the fire was burning, and the wind moaning round it, came most
vividly into my mind.
One evening, at this hour, he told me that he had found Martha
waiting near his lodging on the preceding night when he came out,
and that she had asked him not to leave London on any account,
until he should have seen her again.
'Did she tell you why?' I inquired.
'I asked her, Mas'r Davy,' he replied, 'but it is but few words as
she ever says, and she on'y got my promise and so went away.'
'Did she say when you might expect to see her again?' I demanded.
'No, Mas'r Davy,' he returned, drawing his hand thoughtfully down
his face. 'I asked that too; but it was more (she said) than she
As I had long forborne to encourage him with hopes that hung on
threads, I made no other comment on this information than that I
supposed he would see her soon. Such speculations as it engendered
within me I kept to myself, and those were faint enough.
I was walking alone in the garden, one evening, about a fortnight
afterwards. I remember that evening well. It was the second in
Mr. Micawber's week of suspense. There had been rain all day, and
there was a damp feeling in the air. The leaves were thick upon
the trees, and heavy with wet; but the rain had ceased, though the
sky was still dark; and the hopeful birds were singing cheerfully.
As I walked to and fro in the garden, and the twilight began to
close around me, their little voices were hushed; and that peculiar
silence which belongs to such an evening in the country when the
lightest trees are quite still, save for the occasional droppings
from their boughs, prevailed.
There was a little green perspective of trellis-work and ivy at the
side of our cottage, through which I could see, from the garden
where I was walking, into the road before the house. I happened to
turn my eyes towards this place, as I was thinking of many things;
and I saw a figure beyond, dressed in a plain cloak. It was
bending eagerly towards me, and beckoning.
'Martha!' said I, going to it.
'Can you come with me?' she inquired, in an agitated whisper. 'I
have been to him, and he is not at home. I wrote down where he was
to come, and left it on his table with my own hand. They said he
would not be out long. I have tidings for him. Can you come
My answer was, to pass out at the gate immediately. She made a
hasty gesture with her hand, as if to entreat my patience and my
silence, and turned towards London, whence, as her dress betokened,
she had come expeditiously on foot.
I asked her if that were not our destination? On her motioning
Yes, with the same hasty gesture as before, I stopped an empty
coach that was coming by, and we got into it. When I asked her
where the coachman was to drive, she answered, 'Anywhere near
Golden Square! And quick!' - then shrunk into a corner, with one
trembling hand before her face, and the other making the former
gesture, as if she could not bear a voice.
Now much disturbed, and dazzled with conflicting gleams of hope and
dread, I looked at her for some explanation. But seeing how
strongly she desired to remain quiet, and feeling that it was my
own natural inclination too, at such a time, I did not attempt to
break the silence. We proceeded without a word being spoken.
Sometimes she glanced out of the window, as though she thought we
were going slowly, though indeed we were going fast; but otherwise
remained exactly as at first.
We alighted at one of the entrances to the Square she had
mentioned, where I directed the coach to wait, not knowing but that
we might have some occasion for it. She laid her hand on my arm,
and hurried me on to one of the sombre streets, of which there are
several in that part, where the houses were once fair dwellings in
the occupation of single families, but have, and had, long
degenerated into poor lodgings let off in rooms. Entering at the
open door of one of these, and releasing my arm, she beckoned me to
follow her up the common staircase, which was like a tributary
channel to the street.
The house swarmed with inmates. As we went up, doors of rooms were
opened and people's heads put out; and we passed other people on
the stairs, who were coming down. In glancing up from the outside,
before we entered, I had seen women and children lolling at the
windows over flower-pots; and we seemed to have attracted their
curiosity, for these were principally the observers who looked out
of their doors. It was a broad panelled staircase, with massive
balustrades of some dark wood; cornices above the doors, ornamented
with carved fruit and flowers; and broad seats in the windows. But
all these tokens of past grandeur were miserably decayed and dirty;
rot, damp, and age, had weakened the flooring, which in many places
was unsound and even unsafe. Some attempts had been made, I
noticed, to infuse new blood into this dwindling frame, by
repairing the costly old wood-work here and there with common deal;
but it was like the marriage of a reduced old noble to a plebeian
pauper, and each party to the ill-assorted union shrunk away from
the other. Several of the back windows on the staircase had been
darkened or wholly blocked up. In those that remained, there was
scarcely any glass; and, through the crumbling frames by which the
bad air seemed always to come in, and never to go out, I saw,
through other glassless windows, into other houses in a similar
condition, and looked giddily down into a wretched yard, which was
the common dust-heap of the mansion.
We proceeded to the top-storey of the house. Two or three times,
by the way, I thought I observed in the indistinct light the skirts
of a female figure going up before us. As we turned to ascend the
last flight of stairs between us and the roof, we caught a full
view of this figure pausing for a moment, at a door. Then it
turned the handle, and went in.
'What's this!' said Martha, in a whisper. 'She has gone into my
room. I don't know her!'
I knew her. I had recognized her with amazement, for Miss Dartle.
I said something to the effect that it was a lady whom I had seen
before, in a few words, to my conductress; and had scarcely done
so, when we heard her voice in the room, though not, from where we
stood, what she was saying. Martha, with an astonished look,
repeated her former action, and softly led me up the stairs; and
then, by a little back-door which seemed to have no lock, and which
she pushed open with a touch, into a small empty garret with a low
sloping roof, little better than a cupboard. Between this, and the
room she had called hers, there was a small door of communication,
standing partly open. Here we stopped, breathless with our ascent,
and she placed her hand lightly on my lips. I could only see, of
the room beyond, that it was pretty large; that there was a bed in
it; and that there were some common pictures of ships upon the
walls. I could not see Miss Dartle, or the person whom we had
heard her address. Certainly, my companion could not, for my
position was the best.
A dead silence prevailed for some moments. Martha kept one hand on
my lips, and raised the other in a listening attitude.
'It matters little to me her not being at home,' said Rosa Dartle
haughtily, 'I know nothing of her. It is you I come to see.'
'Me?' replied a soft voice.
At the sound of it, a thrill went through my frame. For it was
'Yes,' returned Miss Dartle, 'I have come to look at you. What?
You are not ashamed of the face that has done so much?'
The resolute and unrelenting hatred of her tone, its cold stern
sharpness, and its mastered rage, presented her before me, as if I
had seen her standing in the light. I saw the flashing black eyes,
and the passion-wasted figure; and I saw the scar, with its white
track cutting through her lips, quivering and throbbing as she
'I have come to see,' she said, 'James Steerforth's fancy; the girl
who ran away with him, and is the town-talk of the commonest people
of her native place; the bold, flaunting, practised companion of
persons like James Steerforth. I want to know what such a thing is
There was a rustle, as if the unhappy girl, on whom she heaped
these taunts, ran towards the door, and the speaker swiftly
interposed herself before it. It was succeeded by a moment's
When Miss Dartle spoke again, it was through her set teeth, and
with a stamp upon the ground.
'Stay there!' she said, 'or I'll proclaim you to the house, and the
whole street! If you try to evade me, I'll stop you, if it's by the
hair, and raise the very stones against you!'
A frightened murmur was the only reply that reached my ears. A
silence succeeded. I did not know what to do. Much as I desired
to put an end to the interview, I felt that I had no right to
present myself; that it was for Mr. Peggotty alone to see her and
recover her. Would he never come? I thought impatiently.
'So!' said Rosa Dartle, with a contemptuous laugh, 'I see her at
last! Why, he was a poor creature to be taken by that delicate
mock-modesty, and that hanging head!'
'Oh, for Heaven's sake, spare me!' exclaimed Emily. 'Whoever you
are, you know my pitiable story, and for Heaven's sake spare me, if
you would be spared yourself!'
'If I would be spared!' returned the other fiercely; 'what is there
in common between US, do you think!'
'Nothing but our sex,' said Emily, with a burst of tears.
'And that,' said Rosa Dartle, 'is so strong a claim, preferred by
one so infamous, that if I had any feeling in my breast but scorn
and abhorrence of you, it would freeze it up. Our sex! You are an
honour to our sex!'
'I have deserved this,' said Emily, 'but it's dreadful! Dear, dear
lady, think what I have suffered, and how I am fallen! Oh, Martha,
come back! Oh, home, home!'
Miss Dartle placed herself in a chair, within view of the door, and
looked downward, as if Emily were crouching on the floor before
her. Being now between me and the light, I could see her curled
lip, and her cruel eyes intently fixed on one place, with a greedy
'Listen to what I say!' she said; 'and reserve your false arts for
your dupes. Do you hope to move me by your tears? No more than
you could charm me by your smiles, you purchased slave.'
'Oh, have some mercy on me!' cried Emily. 'Show me some
compassion, or I shall die mad!'
'It would be no great penance,' said Rosa Dartle, 'for your crimes.
Do you know what you have done? Do you ever think of the home you
have laid waste?'
'Oh, is there ever night or day, when I don't think of it!' cried
Emily; and now I could just see her, on her knees, with her head
thrown back, her pale face looking upward, her hands wildly clasped
and held out, and her hair streaming about her. 'Has there ever
been a single minute, waking or sleeping, when it hasn't been
before me, just as it used to be in the lost days when I turned my
back upon it for ever and for ever! Oh, home, home! Oh dear, dear
uncle, if you ever could have known the agony your love would cause
me when I fell away from good, you never would have shown it to me
so constant, much as you felt it; but would have been angry to me,
at least once in my life, that I might have had some comfort! I
have none, none, no comfort upon earth, for all of them were always
fond of me!' She dropped on her face, before the imperious figure
in the chair, with an imploring effort to clasp the skirt of her
Rosa Dartle sat looking down upon her, as inflexible as a figure of
brass. Her lips were tightly compressed, as if she knew that she
must keep a strong constraint upon herself - I write what I
sincerely believe - or she would be tempted to strike the beautiful
form with her foot. I saw her, distinctly, and the whole power of
her face and character seemed forced into that expression. - Would
he never come?
'The miserable vanity of these earth-worms!' she said, when she had
so far controlled the angry heavings of her breast, that she could
trust herself to speak. 'YOUR home! Do you imagine that I bestow
a thought on it, or suppose you could do any harm to that low
place, which money would not pay for, and handsomely? YOUR home!
You were a part of the trade of your home, and were bought and sold
like any other vendible thing your people dealt in.'
'Oh, not that!' cried Emily. 'Say anything of me; but don't visit
my disgrace and shame, more than I have done, on folks who are as
honourable as you! Have some respect for them, as you are a lady,
if you have no mercy for me.'
'I speak,' she said, not deigning to take any heed of this appeal,
and drawing away her dress from the contamination of Emily's touch,
'I speak of HIS home - where I live. Here,' she said, stretching
out her hand with her contemptuous laugh, and looking down upon the
prostrate girl, 'is a worthy cause of division between lady-mother
and gentleman-son; of grief in a house where she wouldn't have been
admitted as a kitchen-girl; of anger, and repining, and reproach.
This piece of pollution, picked up from the water-side, to be made
much of for an hour, and then tossed back to her original place!'
'No! no!' cried Emily, clasping her hands together. 'When he first
came into my way - that the day had never dawned upon me, and he
had met me being carried to my grave! - I had been brought up as
virtuous as you or any lady, and was going to be the wife of as
good a man as you or any lady in the world can ever marry. If you
live in his home and know him, you know, perhaps, what his power
with a weak, vain girl might be. I don't defend myself, but I know
well, and he knows well, or he will know when he comes to die, and
his mind is troubled with it, that he used all his power to deceive
me, and that I believed him, trusted him, and loved him!'
Rosa Dartle sprang up from her seat; recoiled; and in recoiling
struck at her, with a face of such malignity, so darkened and
disfigured by passion, that I had almost thrown myself between
them. The blow, which had no aim, fell upon the air. As she now
stood panting, looking at her with the utmost detestation that she
was capable of expressing, and trembling from head to foot with
rage and scorn, I thought I had never seen such a sight, and never
could see such another.
'YOU love him? You?' she cried, with her clenched hand, quivering
as if it only wanted a weapon to stab the object of her wrath.
Emily had shrunk out of my view. There was no reply.
'And tell that to ME,' she added, 'with your shameful lips? Why
don't they whip these creatures? If I could order it to be done,
I would have this girl whipped to death.'
And so she would, I have no doubt. I would not have trusted her
with the rack itself, while that furious look lasted.
She slowly, very slowly, broke into a laugh, and pointed at Emily
with her hand, as if she were a sight of shame for gods and men.
'SHE love!' she said. 'THAT carrion! And he ever cared for her,
she'd tell me. Ha, ha! The liars that these traders are!'
Her mockery was worse than her undisguised rage. Of the two, I
would have much preferred to be the object of the latter. But,
when she suffered it to break loose, it was only for a moment. She
had chained it up again, and however it might tear her within, she
subdued it to herself.
'I came here, you pure fountain of love,' she said, 'to see - as I
began by telling you - what such a thing as you was like. I was
curious. I am satisfied. Also to tell you, that you had best seek
that home of yours, with all speed, and hide your head among those
excellent people who are expecting you, and whom your money will
console. When it's all gone, you can believe, and trust, and love
again, you know! I thought you a broken toy that had lasted its
time; a worthless spangle that was tarnished, and thrown away.
But, finding you true gold, a very lady, and an ill-used innocent,
with a fresh heart full of love and trustfulness - which you look
like, and is quite consistent with your story! - I have something
more to say. Attend to it; for what I say I'll do. Do you hear
me, you fairy spirit? What I say, I mean to do!'
Her rage got the better of her again, for a moment; but it passed
over her face like a spasm, and left her smiling.
'Hide yourself,' she pursued, 'if not at home, somewhere. Let it
be somewhere beyond reach; in some obscure life - or, better still,
in some obscure death. I wonder, if your loving heart will not
break, you have found no way of helping it to be still! I have
heard of such means sometimes. I believe they may be easily
A low crying, on the part of Emily, interrupted her here. She
stopped, and listened to it as if it were music.
'I am of a strange nature, perhaps,' Rosa Dartle went on; 'but I
can't breathe freely in the air you breathe. I find it sickly.
Therefore, I will have it cleared; I will have it purified of you.
If you live here tomorrow, I'll have your story and your character
proclaimed on the common stair. There are decent women in the
house, I am told; and it is a pity such a light as you should be
among them, and concealed. If, leaving here, you seek any refuge
in this town in any character but your true one (which you are
welcome to bear, without molestation from me), the same service
shall be done you, if I hear of your retreat. Being assisted by a
gentleman who not long ago aspired to the favour of your hand, I am
sanguine as to that.'
Would he never, never come? How long was I to bear this? How long
could I bear it?
'Oh me, oh me!' exclaimed the wretched Emily, in a tone that might
have touched the hardest heart, I should have thought; but there
was no relenting in Rosa Dartle's smile. 'What, what, shall I do!'
'Do?' returned the other. 'Live happy in your own reflections!
Consecrate your existence to the recollection of James Steerforth's
tenderness - he would have made you his serving-man's wife, would
he not? - or to feeling grateful to the upright and deserving
creature who would have taken you as his gift. Or, if those proud
remembrances, and the consciousness of your own virtues, and the
honourable position to which they have raised you in the eyes of
everything that wears the human shape, will not sustain you, marry
that good man, and be happy in his condescension. If this will not
do either, die! There are doorways and dust-heaps for such deaths,
and such despair - find one, and take your flight to Heaven!'
I heard a distant foot upon the stairs. I knew it, I was certain.
It was his, thank God!
She moved slowly from before the door when she said this, and
passed out of my sight.
'But mark!' she added, slowly and sternly, opening the other door
to go away, 'I am resolved, for reasons that I have and hatreds
that I entertain, to cast you out, unless you withdraw from my
reach altogether, or drop your pretty mask. This is what I had to
say; and what I say, I mean to do!'
The foot upon the stairs came nearer - nearer - passed her as she
went down - rushed into the room!
A fearful cry followed the word. I paused a moment, and looking
in, saw him supporting her insensible figure in his arms. He gazed
for a few seconds in the face; then stooped to kiss it - oh, how
tenderly! - and drew a handkerchief before it.
'Mas'r Davy,' he said, in a low tremulous voice, when it was
covered, 'I thank my Heav'nly Father as my dream's come true! I
thank Him hearty for having guided of me, in His own ways, to my
With those words he took her up in his arms; and, with the veiled
face lying on his bosom, and addressed towards his own, carried
her, motionless and unconscious, down the stairs.
THE BEGINNING OF A LONGER JOURNEY
It was yet early in the morning of the following day, when, as I
was walking in my garden with my aunt (who took little other
exercise now, being so much in attendance on my dear Dora), I was
told that Mr. Peggotty desired to speak with me. He came into the
garden to meet me half-way, on my going towards the gate; and bared
his head, as it was always his custom to do when he saw my aunt,
for whom he had a high respect. I had been telling her all that
had happened overnight. Without saying a word, she walked up with
a cordial face, shook hands with him, and patted him on the arm.
It was so expressively done, that she had no need to say a word.
Mr. Peggotty understood her quite as well as if she had said a
'I'll go in now, Trot,' said my aunt, 'and look after Little
Blossom, who will be getting up presently.'
'Not along of my being heer, ma'am, I hope?' said Mr. Peggotty.
'Unless my wits is gone a bahd's neezing' - by which Mr. Peggotty
meant to say, bird's-nesting - 'this morning, 'tis along of me as
you're a-going to quit us?'
'You have something to say, my good friend,' returned my aunt, 'and
will do better without me.'
'By your leave, ma'am,' returned Mr. Peggotty, 'I should take it
kind, pervising you doen't mind my clicketten, if you'd bide heer.'
'Would you?' said my aunt, with short good-nature. 'Then I am sure
So, she drew her arm through Mr. Peggotty's, and walked with him to
a leafy little summer-house there was at the bottom of the garden,
where she sat down on a bench, and I beside her. There was a seat
for Mr. Peggotty too, but he preferred to stand, leaning his hand
on the small rustic table. As he stood, looking at his cap for a
little while before beginning to speak, I could not help observing
what power and force of character his sinewy hand expressed, and
what a good and trusty companion it was to his honest brow and
'I took my dear child away last night,' Mr. Peggotty began, as he
raised his eyes to ours, 'to my lodging, wheer I have a long time
been expecting of her and preparing fur her. It was hours afore
she knowed me right; and when she did, she kneeled down at my feet,
and kiender said to me, as if it was her prayers, how it all come
to be. You may believe me, when I heerd her voice, as I had heerd
at home so playful - and see her humbled, as it might be in the
dust our Saviour wrote in with his blessed hand - I felt a wownd go
to my 'art, in the midst of all its thankfulness.'
He drew his sleeve across his face, without any pretence of
concealing why; and then cleared his voice.
'It warn't for long as I felt that; for she was found. I had on'y
to think as she was found, and it was gone. I doen't know why I do
so much as mention of it now, I'm sure. I didn't have it in my
mind a minute ago, to say a word about myself; but it come up so
nat'ral, that I yielded to it afore I was aweer.'
'You are a self-denying soul,' said my aunt, 'and will have your
Mr. Peggotty, with the shadows of the leaves playing athwart his
face, made a surprised inclination of the head towards my aunt, as
an acknowledgement of her good opinion; then took up the thread he
'When my Em'ly took flight,' he said, in stern wrath for the
moment, 'from the house wheer she was made a prisoner by that theer
spotted snake as Mas'r Davy see, - and his story's trew, and may
GOD confound him! - she took flight in the night. It was a dark
night, with a many stars a-shining. She was wild. She ran along
the sea beach, believing the old boat was theer; and calling out to
us to turn away our faces, for she was a-coming by. She heerd
herself a-crying out, like as if it was another person; and cut
herself on them sharp-pinted stones and rocks, and felt it no more
than if she had been rock herself. Ever so fur she run, and there
was fire afore her eyes, and roarings in her ears. Of a sudden -
or so she thowt, you unnerstand - the day broke, wet and windy, and
she was lying b'low a heap of stone upon the shore, and a woman was
a-speaking to her, saying, in the language of that country, what
was it as had gone so much amiss?'
He saw everything he related. It passed before him, as he spoke,
so vividly, that, in the intensity of his earnestness, he presented
what he described to me, with greater distinctness than I can
express. I can hardly believe, writing now long afterwards, but
that I was actually present in these scenes; they are impressed
upon me with such an astonishing air of fidelity.
'As Em'ly's eyes - which was heavy - see this woman better,' Mr.
Peggotty went on, 'she know'd as she was one of them as she had
often talked to on the beach. Fur, though she had run (as I have
said) ever so fur in the night, she had oftentimes wandered long
ways, partly afoot, partly in boats and carriages, and know'd all
that country, 'long the coast, miles and miles. She hadn't no
children of her own, this woman, being a young wife; but she was a-
looking to have one afore long. And may my prayers go up to Heaven
that 'twill be a happiness to her, and a comfort, and a honour, all
her life! May it love her and be dootiful to her, in her old age;
helpful of her at the last; a Angel to her heer, and heerafter!'
'Amen!' said my aunt.
'She had been summat timorous and down,' said Mr. Peggotty, and had
sat, at first, a little way off, at her spinning, or such work as
it was, when Em'ly talked to the children. But Em'ly had took
notice of her, and had gone and spoke to her; and as the young
woman was partial to the children herself, they had soon made
friends. Sermuchser, that when Em'ly went that way, she always giv
Em'ly flowers. This was her as now asked what it was that had gone
so much amiss. Em'ly told her, and she - took her home. She did
indeed. She took her home,' said Mr. Peggotty, covering his face.
He was more affected by this act of kindness, than I had ever seen
him affected by anything since the night she went away. My aunt
and I did not attempt to disturb him.
'It was a little cottage, you may suppose,' he said, presently,
'but she found space for Em'ly in it, - her husband was away at
sea, - and she kep it secret, and prevailed upon such neighbours as
she had (they was not many near) to keep it secret too. Em'ly was
took bad with fever, and, what is very strange to me is, - maybe
'tis not so strange to scholars, - the language of that country
went out of her head, and she could only speak her own, that no one
unnerstood. She recollects, as if she had dreamed it, that she lay
there always a-talking her own tongue, always believing as the old
boat was round the next pint in the bay, and begging and imploring
of 'em to send theer and tell how she was dying, and bring back a
message of forgiveness, if it was on'y a wured. A'most the whole
time, she thowt, - now, that him as I made mention on just now was
lurking for her unnerneath the winder; now that him as had brought
her to this was in the room, - and cried to the good young woman
not to give her up, and know'd, at the same time, that she couldn't
unnerstand, and dreaded that she must be took away. Likewise the
fire was afore her eyes, and the roarings in her ears; and theer
was no today, nor yesterday, nor yet tomorrow; but everything in
her life as ever had been, or as ever could be, and everything as
never had been, and as never could be, was a crowding on her all at
once, and nothing clear nor welcome, and yet she sang and laughed
about it! How long this lasted, I doen't know; but then theer come
a sleep; and in that sleep, from being a many times stronger than
her own self, she fell into the weakness of the littlest child.'
Here he stopped, as if for relief from the terrors of his own
description. After being silent for a few moments, he pursued his
'It was a pleasant arternoon when she awoke; and so quiet, that
there warn't a sound but the rippling of that blue sea without a
tide, upon the shore. It was her belief, at first, that she was at
home upon a Sunday morning; but the vine leaves as she see at the
winder, and the hills beyond, warn't home, and contradicted of her.
Then, come in her friend to watch alongside of her bed; and then
she know'd as the old boat warn't round that next pint in the bay
no more, but was fur off; and know'd where she was, and why; and
broke out a-crying on that good young woman's bosom, wheer I hope
her baby is a-lying now, a-cheering of her with its pretty eyes!'
He could not speak of this good friend of Emily's without a flow of
tears. It was in vain to try. He broke down again, endeavouring
to bless her!
'That done my Em'ly good,' he resumed, after such emotion as I
could not behold without sharing in; and as to my aunt, she wept
with all her heart; 'that done Em'ly good, and she begun to mend.
But, the language of that country was quite gone from her, and she
was forced to make signs. So she went on, getting better from day
to day, slow, but sure, and trying to learn the names of common
things - names as she seemed never to have heerd in all her life -
till one evening come, when she was a-setting at her window,
looking at a little girl at play upon the beach. And of a sudden
this child held out her hand, and said, what would be in English,
"Fisherman's daughter, here's a shell!" - for you are to unnerstand
that they used at first to call her "Pretty lady", as the general
way in that country is, and that she had taught 'em to call her
"Fisherman's daughter" instead. The child says of a sudden,
"Fisherman's daughter, here's a shell!" Then Em'ly unnerstands her;
and she answers, bursting out a-crying; and it all comes back!
'When Em'ly got strong again,' said Mr. Peggotty, after another
short interval of silence, 'she cast about to leave that good young
creetur, and get to her own country. The husband was come home,
then; and the two together put her aboard a small trader bound to
Leghorn, and from that to France. She had a little money, but it
was less than little as they would take for all they done. I'm
a'most glad on it, though they was so poor! What they done, is laid
up wheer neither moth or rust doth corrupt, and wheer thieves do
not break through nor steal. Mas'r Davy, it'll outlast all the
treasure in the wureld.
'Em'ly got to France, and took service to wait on travelling ladies
at a inn in the port. Theer, theer come, one day, that snake. -
Let him never come nigh me. I doen't know what hurt I might do
him! - Soon as she see him, without him seeing her, all her fear
and wildness returned upon her, and she fled afore the very breath
he draw'd. She come to England, and was set ashore at Dover.
'I doen't know," said Mr. Peggotty, 'for sure, when her 'art begun
to fail her; but all the way to England she had thowt to come to
her dear home. Soon as she got to England she turned her face
tow'rds it. But, fear of not being forgiv, fear of being pinted
at, fear of some of us being dead along of her, fear of many
things, turned her from it, kiender by force, upon the road:
"Uncle, uncle," she says to me, "the fear of not being worthy to do
what my torn and bleeding breast so longed to do, was the most
fright'ning fear of all! I turned back, when my 'art was full of
prayers that I might crawl to the old door-step, in the night, kiss
it, lay my wicked face upon it, and theer be found dead in the
'She come,' said Mr. Peggotty, dropping his voice to an
awe-stricken whisper, 'to London. She - as had never seen it in
her life - alone - without a penny - young - so pretty - come to
London. A'most the moment as she lighted heer, all so desolate,
she found (as she believed) a friend; a decent woman as spoke to
her about the needle-work as she had been brought up to do, about
finding plenty of it fur her, about a lodging fur the night, and
making secret inquiration concerning of me and all at home,
tomorrow. When my child,' he said aloud, and with an energy of
gratitude that shook him from head to foot, 'stood upon the brink
of more than I can say or think on - Martha, trew to her promise,
I could not repress a cry of joy.
'Mas'r Davy!' said he, gripping my hand in that strong hand of his,
'it was you as first made mention of her to me. I thankee, sir!
She was arnest. She had know'd of her bitter knowledge wheer to
watch and what to do. She had done it. And the Lord was above
all! She come, white and hurried, upon Em'ly in her sleep. She
says to her, "Rise up from worse than death, and come with me!"
Them belonging to the house would have stopped her, but they might
as soon have stopped the sea. "Stand away from me," she says, "I
am a ghost that calls her from beside her open grave!" She told
Em'ly she had seen me, and know'd I loved her, and forgive her.
She wrapped her, hasty, in her clothes. She took her, faint and
trembling, on her arm. She heeded no more what they said, than if
she had had no ears. She walked among 'em with my child, minding
only her; and brought her safe out, in the dead of the night, from
that black pit of ruin!
'She attended on Em'ly,' said Mr. Peggotty, who had released my
hand, and put his own hand on his heaving chest; 'she attended to
my Em'ly, lying wearied out, and wandering betwixt whiles, till
late next day. Then she went in search of me; then in search of
you, Mas'r Davy. She didn't tell Em'ly what she come out fur, lest
her 'art should fail, and she should think of hiding of herself.
How the cruel lady know'd of her being theer, I can't say. Whether
him as I have spoke so much of, chanced to see 'em going theer, or
whether (which is most like, to my thinking) he had heerd it from
the woman, I doen't greatly ask myself. My niece is found.
'All night long,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'we have been together, Em'ly
and me. 'Tis little (considering the time) as she has said, in
wureds, through them broken-hearted tears; 'tis less as I have seen
of her dear face, as grow'd into a woman's at my hearth. But, all
night long, her arms has been about my neck; and her head has laid
heer; and we knows full well, as we can put our trust in one
another, ever more.'
He ceased to speak, and his hand upon the table rested there in
perfect repose, with a resolution in it that might have conquered
'It was a gleam of light upon me, Trot,' said my aunt, drying her
eyes, 'when I formed the resolution of being godmother to your
sister Betsey Trotwood, who disappointed me; but, next to that,
hardly anything would have given me greater pleasure, than to be
godmother to that good young creature's baby!'
Mr. Peggotty nodded his understanding of my aunt's feelings, but
could not trust himself with any verbal reference to the subject of
her commendation. We all remained silent, and occupied with our
own reflections (my aunt drying her eyes, and now sobbing
convulsively, and now laughing and calling herself a fool); until
'You have quite made up your mind,' said I to Mr. Peggotty, 'as to
the future, good friend? I need scarcely ask you.'
'Quite, Mas'r Davy,' he returned; 'and told Em'ly. Theer's mighty
countries, fur from heer. Our future life lays over the sea.'
'They will emigrate together, aunt,' said I.
'Yes!' said Mr. Peggotty, with a hopeful smile. 'No one can't
reproach my darling in Australia. We will begin a new life over
I asked him if he yet proposed to himself any time for going away.
'I was down at the Docks early this morning, sir,' he returned, 'to
get information concerning of them ships. In about six weeks or
two months from now, there'll be one sailing - I see her this
morning - went aboard - and we shall take our passage in her.'
'Quite alone?' I asked.
'Aye, Mas'r Davy!' he returned. 'My sister, you see, she's that
fond of you and yourn, and that accustomed to think on'y of her own
country, that it wouldn't be hardly fair to let her go. Besides
which, theer's one she has in charge, Mas'r Davy, as doen't ought
to be forgot.'
'Poor Ham!' said I.
'My good sister takes care of his house, you see, ma'am, and he
takes kindly to her,' Mr. Peggotty explained for my aunt's better
information. 'He'll set and talk to her, with a calm spirit, wen
it's like he couldn't bring himself to open his lips to another.
Poor fellow!' said Mr. Peggotty, shaking his head, 'theer's not so
much left him, that he could spare the little as he has!'
'And Mrs. Gummidge?' said I.
'Well, I've had a mort of consideration, I do tell you,' returned
Mr. Peggotty, with a perplexed look which gradually cleared as he
went on, 'concerning of Missis Gummidge. You see, wen Missis
Gummidge falls a-thinking of the old 'un, she an't what you may
call good company. Betwixt you and me, Mas'r Davy - and you, ma'am
- wen Mrs. Gummidge takes to wimicking,' - our old country word for
crying, - 'she's liable to be considered to be, by them as didn't
know the old 'un, peevish-like. Now I DID know the old 'un,' said
Mr. Peggotty, 'and I know'd his merits, so I unnerstan' her; but
'tan't entirely so, you see, with others - nat'rally can't be!'
My aunt and I both acquiesced.
'Wheerby,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'my sister might - I doen't say she
would, but might - find Missis Gummidge give her a leetle trouble
now-and-again. Theerfur 'tan't my intentions to moor Missis
Gummidge 'long with them, but to find a Beein' fur her wheer she
can fisherate for herself.' (A Beein' signifies, in that dialect,
a home, and to fisherate is to provide.) 'Fur which purpose,' said
Mr. Peggotty, 'I means to make her a 'lowance afore I go, as'll
leave her pretty comfort'ble. She's the faithfullest of creeturs.
'Tan't to be expected, of course, at her time of life, and being
lone and lorn, as the good old Mawther is to be knocked about
aboardship, and in the woods and wilds of a new and fur-away
country. So that's what I'm a-going to do with her.'
He forgot nobody. He thought of everybody's claims and strivings,
but his own.
'Em'ly,' he continued, 'will keep along with me - poor child, she's
sore in need of peace and rest! - until such time as we goes upon
our voyage. She'll work at them clothes, as must be made; and I
hope her troubles will begin to seem longer ago than they was, wen
she finds herself once more by her rough but loving uncle.'
MY aunt nodded confirmation of this hope, and imparted great
satisfaction to Mr. Peggotty.
'Theer's one thing furder, Mas'r Davy,' said he, putting his hand
in his breast-pocket, and gravely taking out the little paper
bundle I had seen before, which he unrolled on the table. 'Theer's
these here banknotes - fifty pound, and ten. To them I wish to add
the money as she come away with. I've asked her about that (but
not saying why), and have added of it up. I an't a scholar. Would
you be so kind as see how 'tis?'
He handed me, apologetically for his scholarship, a piece of paper,
and observed me while I looked it over. It was quite right.
'Thankee, sir,' he said, taking it back. 'This money, if you
doen't see objections, Mas'r Davy, I shall put up jest afore I go,
in a cover directed to him; and put that up in another, directed to
his mother. I shall tell her, in no more wureds than I speak to
you, what it's the price on; and that I'm gone, and past receiving
of it back.'
I told him that I thought it would be right to do so - that I was
thoroughly convinced it would be, since he felt it to be right.
'I said that theer was on'y one thing furder,' he proceeded with a
grave smile, when he had made up his little bundle again, and put
it in his pocket; 'but theer was two. I warn't sure in my mind,
wen I come out this morning, as I could go and break to Ham, of my
own self, what had so thankfully happened. So I writ a letter
while I was out, and put it in the post-office, telling of 'em how
all was as 'tis; and that I should come down tomorrow to unload my
mind of what little needs a-doing of down theer, and, most-like,
take my farewell leave of Yarmouth.'
'And do you wish me to go with you?' said I, seeing that he left
'If you could do me that kind favour, Mas'r Davy,' he replied. 'I
know the sight on you would cheer 'em up a bit.'
My little Dora being in good spirits, and very desirous that I
should go - as I found on talking it over with her - I readily
pledged myself to accompany him in accordance with his wish. Next
morning, consequently, we were on the Yarmouth coach, and again
travelling over the old ground.
As we passed along the familiar street at night - Mr. Peggotty, in
despite of all my remonstrances, carrying my bag - I glanced into
Omer and Joram's shop, and saw my old friend Mr. Omer there,
smoking his pipe. I felt reluctant to be present, when Mr.
Peggotty first met his sister and Ham; and made Mr. Omer my excuse
for lingering behind.
'How is Mr. Omer, after this long time?' said I, going in.
He fanned away the smoke of his pipe, that he might get a better
view of me, and soon recognized me with great delight.
'I should get up, sir, to acknowledge such an honour as this
visit,' said he, 'only my limbs are rather out of sorts, and I am
wheeled about. With the exception of my limbs and my breath,
howsoever, I am as hearty as a man can be, I'm thankful to say.'
I congratulated him on his contented looks and his good spirits,
and saw, now, that his easy-chair went on wheels.
'It's an ingenious thing, ain't it?' he inquired, following the
direction of my glance, and polishing the elbow with his arm. 'It
runs as light as a feather, and tracks as true as a mail-coach.
Bless you, my little Minnie - my grand-daughter you know, Minnie's
child - puts her little strength against the back, gives it a
shove, and away we go, as clever and merry as ever you see
anything! And I tell you what - it's a most uncommon chair to smoke
a pipe in.'
I never saw such a good old fellow to make the best of a thing, and
find out the enjoyment of it, as Mr. Omer. He was as radiant, as
if his chair, his asthma, and the failure of his limbs, were the
various branches of a great invention for enhancing the luxury of
'I see more of the world, I can assure you,' said Mr. Omer, 'in
this chair, than ever I see out of it. You'd be surprised at the
number of people that looks in of a day to have a chat. You really
would! There's twice as much in the newspaper, since I've taken to
this chair, as there used to be. As to general reading, dear me,
what a lot of it I do get through! That's what I feel so strong,
you know! If it had been my eyes, what should I have done? If it
had been my ears, what should I have done? Being my limbs, what
does it signify? Why, my limbs only made my breath shorter when I
used 'em. And now, if I want to go out into the street or down to
the sands, I've only got to call Dick, Joram's youngest 'prentice,
and away I go in my own carriage, like the Lord Mayor of London.'
He half suffocated himself with laughing here.
'Lord bless you!' said Mr. Omer, resuming his pipe, 'a man must
take the fat with the lean; that's what he must make up his mind
to, in this life. Joram does a fine business. Ex-cellent
'I am very glad to hear it,' said I.
'I knew you would be,' said Mr. Omer. 'And Joram and Minnie are
like Valentines. What more can a man expect? What's his limbs to
His supreme contempt for his own limbs, as he sat smoking, was one
of the pleasantest oddities I have ever encountered.
'And since I've took to general reading, you've took to general
writing, eh, sir?' said Mr. Omer, surveying me admiringly. 'What
a lovely work that was of yours! What expressions in it! I read it
every word - every word. And as to feeling sleepy! Not at all!'
I laughingly expressed my satisfaction, but I must confess that I
thought this association of ideas significant.
'I give you my word and honour, sir,' said Mr. Omer, 'that when I
lay that book upon the table, and look at it outside; compact in
three separate and indiwidual wollumes - one, two, three; I am as
proud as Punch to think that I once had the honour of being
connected with your family. And dear me, it's a long time ago,
now, ain't it? Over at Blunderstone. With a pretty little party
laid along with the other party. And you quite a small party then,
yourself. Dear, dear!'
I changed the subject by referring to Emily. After assuring him
that I did not forget how interested he had always been in her, and
how kindly he had always treated her, I gave him a general account
of her restoration to her uncle by the aid of Martha; which I knew
would please the old man. He listened with the utmost attention,
and said, feelingly, when I had done:
'I am rejoiced at it, sir! It's the best news I have heard for many
a day. Dear, dear, dear! And what's going to be undertook for that
unfortunate young woman, Martha, now?'
'You touch a point that my thoughts have been dwelling on since
yesterday,' said I, 'but on which I can give you no information
yet, Mr. Omer. Mr. Peggotty has not alluded to it, and I have a
delicacy in doing so. I am sure he has not forgotten it. He
forgets nothing that is disinterested and good.'
'Because you know,' said Mr. Omer, taking himself up, where he had
left off, 'whatever is done, I should wish to be a member of. Put
me down for anything you may consider right, and let me know. I
never could think the girl all bad, and I am glad to find she's
not. So will my daughter Minnie be. Young women are contradictory
creatures in some things - her mother was just the same as her -
but their hearts are soft and kind. It's all show with Minnie,
about Martha. Why she should consider it necessary to make any
show, I don't undertake to tell you. But it's all show, bless you.
She'd do her any kindness in private. So, put me down for whatever
you may consider right, will you be so good? and drop me a line
where to forward it. Dear me!' said Mr. Omer, 'when a man is
drawing on to a time of life, where the two ends of life meet; when
he finds himself, however hearty he is, being wheeled about for the
second time, in a speeches of go-cart; he should be over-rejoiced
to do a kindness if he can. He wants plenty. And I don't speak of
myself, particular,' said Mr. Omer, 'because, sir, the way I look
at it is, that we are all drawing on to the bottom of the hill,
whatever age we are, on account of time never standing still for a
single moment. So let us always do a kindness, and be
over-rejoiced. To be sure!'
He knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and put it on a ledge in the
back of his chair, expressly made for its reception.
'There's Em'ly's cousin, him that she was to have been married to,'
said Mr. Omer, rubbing his hands feebly, 'as fine a fellow as there
is in Yarmouth! He'll come and talk or read to me, in the evening,
for an hour together sometimes. That's a kindness, I should call
it! All his life's a kindness.'
'I am going to see him now,' said I.
'Are you?' said Mr. Omer. 'Tell him I was hearty, and sent my
respects. Minnie and Joram's at a ball. They would be as proud to
see you as I am, if they was at home. Minnie won't hardly go out
at all, you see, "on account of father", as she says. So I swore
tonight, that if she didn't go, I'd go to bed at six. In
consequence of which,' Mr. Omer shook himself and his chair with
laughter at the success of his device, 'she and Joram's at a ball.'
I shook hands with him, and wished him good night.
'Half a minute, sir,' said Mr. Omer. 'If you was to go without
seeing my little elephant, you'd lose the best of sights. You
never see such a sight! Minnie!'
A musical little voice answered, from somewhere upstairs, 'I am
coming, grandfather!' and a pretty little girl with long, flaxen,
curling hair, soon came running into the shop.
'This is my little elephant, sir,' said Mr. Omer, fondling the
child. 'Siamese breed, sir. Now, little elephant!'
The little elephant set the door of the parlour open, enabling me
to see that, in these latter days, it was converted into a bedroom
for Mr. Omer who could not be easily conveyed upstairs; and then
hid her pretty forehead, and tumbled her long hair, against the
back of Mr. Omer's chair.
'The elephant butts, you know, sir,' said Mr. Omer, winking, 'when
he goes at a object. Once, elephant. Twice. Three times!'
At this signal, the little elephant, with a dexterity that was next
to marvellous in so small an animal, whisked the chair round with
Mr. Omer in it, and rattled it off, pell-mell, into the parlour,
without touching the door-post: Mr. Omer indescribably enjoying the
performance, and looking back at me on the road as if it were the
triumphant issue of his life's exertions.
After a stroll about the town I went to Ham's house. Peggotty had
now removed here for good; and had let her own house to the
successor of Mr. Barkis in the carrying business, who had paid her
very well for the good-will, cart, and horse. I believe the very
same slow horse that Mr. Barkis drove was still at work.
I found them in the neat kitchen, accompanied by Mrs. Gummidge, who
had been fetched from the old boat by Mr. Peggotty himself. I
doubt if she could have been induced to desert her post, by anyone
else. He had evidently told them all. Both Peggotty and Mrs.
Gummidge had their aprons to their eyes, and Ham had just stepped
out 'to take a turn on the beach'. He presently came home, very
glad to see me; and I hope they were all the better for my being
there. We spoke, with some approach to cheerfulness, of Mr.
Peggotty's growing rich in a new country, and of the wonders he
would describe in his letters. We said nothing of Emily by name,
but distantly referred to her more than once. Ham was the serenest
of the party.
But, Peggotty told me, when she lighted me to a little chamber
where the Crocodile book was lying ready for me on the table, that
he always was the same. She believed (she told me, crying) that he
was broken-hearted; though he was as full of courage as of
sweetness, and worked harder and better than any boat-builder in
any yard in all that part. There were times, she said, of an
evening, when he talked of their old life in the boat-house; and
then he mentioned Emily as a child. But, he never mentioned her as
I thought I had read in his face that he would like to speak to me
alone. I therefore resolved to put myself in his way next evening,
as he came home from his work. Having settled this with myself, I
fell asleep. That night, for the first time in all those many
nights, the candle was taken out of the window, Mr. Peggotty swung
in his old hammock in the old boat, and the wind murmured with the
old sound round his head.
All next day, he was occupied in disposing of his fishing-boat and
tackle; in packing up, and sending to London by waggon, such of his
little domestic possessions as he thought would be useful to him;
and in parting with the rest, or bestowing them on Mrs. Gummidge.
She was with him all day. As I had a sorrowful wish to see the old
place once more, before it was locked up, I engaged to meet them
there in the evening. But I so arranged it, as that I should meet
It was easy to come in his way, as I knew where he worked. I met
him at a retired part of the sands, which I knew he would cross,
and turned back with him, that he might have leisure to speak to me
if he really wished. I had not mistaken the expression of his
face. We had walked but a little way together, when he said,
without looking at me: