Part 1 out of 21
by CHARLES DICKENS
AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED TO
THE HON. Mr. AND Mrs. RICHARD WATSON,
OF ROCKINGHAM, NORTHAMPTONSHIRE.
I. I Am Born
II. I Observe
III. I Have a Change
IV. I Fall into Disgrace
V. I Am Sent Away
VI. I Enlarge My Circle of Acquaintance
VII. My 'First Half' at Salem House
VIII. My Holidays. Especially One Happy Afternoon
IX. I Have a Memorable Birthday
X. I Become Neglected, and Am Provided For
XI. I Begin Life on My Own Account, and Don't Like It
XII. Liking Life on My Own Account No Better, I Form a Great Resolution
XIII. The Sequel of My Resolution
XIV. My Aunt Makes up Her Mind About Me
XV. I Make Another Beginning
XVI. I Am a New Boy in More Senses Than One
XVII. Somebody Turns Up
XVIII. A Retrospect
XIX. I Look About Me and Make a Discovery
XX. Steerforth's Home
XXI. Little Em'ly
XXII. Some Old Scenes, and Some New People
XXIII. I Corroborate Mr. Dick, and Choose a Profession
XXIV. My First Dissipation
XXV. Good and Bad Angels
XXVI. I Fall into Captivity
XXVII. Tommy Traddles
XXVIII. Mr. Micawber's Gauntlet
XXIX. I Visit Steerforth at His Home, Again
XXX. A Loss
XXXI. A Greater Loss
XXXII. The Beginning of a Long Journey
XXXIV. My Aunt Astonishes Me
XXXVII. A Little Cold Water
XXXVIII. A Dissolution of Partnership
XXXIX. Wickfield and Heep
XL. The Wanderer
XLI. Dora's Aunts
XLIII. Another Retrospect
XLIV. Our Housekeeping
XLV. Mr. Dick Fulfils My Aunt's Predictions
XLIX. I Am Involved in Mystery
L. Mr. Peggotty's Dream Comes True
LI. The Beginning of a Longer Journey
LII. I Assist at an Explosion
LIII. Another Retrospect
LIV. Mr. Micawber's Transactions
LVI. The New Wound, and the Old
LVII. The Emigrants
LXI. I Am Shown Two Interesting Penitents
LXII. A Light Shines on My Way
LXIII. A Visitor
LXIV. A Last Retrospect
PREFACE TO 1850 EDITION
I do not find it easy to get sufficiently far away from this Book,
in the first sensations of having finished it, to refer to it with
the composure which this formal heading would seem to require. My
interest in it, is so recent and strong; and my mind is so divided
between pleasure and regret - pleasure in the achievement of a long
design, regret in the separation from many companions - that I am
in danger of wearying the reader whom I love, with personal
confidences, and private emotions.
Besides which, all that I could say of the Story, to any purpose,
I have endeavoured to say in it.
It would concern the reader little, perhaps, to know, how
sorrowfully the pen is laid down at the close of a two-years'
imaginative task; or how an Author feels as if he were dismissing
some portion of himself into the shadowy world, when a crowd of the
creatures of his brain are going from him for ever. Yet, I have
nothing else to tell; unless, indeed, I were to confess (which
might be of less moment still) that no one can ever believe this
Narrative, in the reading, more than I have believed it in the
Instead of looking back, therefore, I will look forward. I cannot
close this Volume more agreeably to myself, than with a hopeful
glance towards the time when I shall again put forth my two green
leaves once a month, and with a faithful remembrance of the genial
sun and showers that have fallen on these leaves of David
Copperfield, and made me happy.
London, October, 1850.
THE CHARLES DICKENS EDITION
I REMARKED in the original Preface to this Book, that I did not
find it easy to get sufficiently far away from it, in the first
sensations of having finished it, to refer to it with the composure
which this formal heading would seem to require. My interest in it
was so recent and strong, and my mind was so divided between
pleasure and regret - pleasure in the achievement of a long design,
regret in the separation from many companions - that I was in
danger of wearying the reader with personal confidences and private
Besides which, all that I could have said of the Story to any
purpose, I had endeavoured to say in it.
It would concern the reader little, perhaps, to know how
sorrowfully the pen is laid down at the close of a two-years'
imaginative task; or how an Author feels as if he were dismissing
some portion of himself into the shadowy world, when a crowd of the
creatures of his brain are going from him for ever. Yet, I had
nothing else to tell; unless, indeed, I were to confess (which
might be of less moment still), that no one can ever believe this
Narrative, in the reading, more than I believed it in the writing.
So true are these avowals at the present day, that I can now only
take the reader into one confidence more. Of all my books, I like
this the best. It will be easily believed that I am a fond parent
to every child of my fancy, and that no one can ever love that
family as dearly as I love them. But, like many fond parents, I
have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is
THE PERSONAL HISTORY AND
DAVID COPPERFIELD THE YOUNGER
I AM BORN
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether
that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was
born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve
o'clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike,
and I began to cry, simultaneously.
In consideration of the day and hour of my birth, it was declared
by the nurse, and by some sage women in the neighbourhood who had
taken a lively interest in me several months before there was any
possibility of our becoming personally acquainted, first, that I
was destined to be unlucky in life; and secondly, that I was
privileged to see ghosts and spirits; both these gifts inevitably
attaching, as they believed, to all unlucky infants of either
gender, born towards the small hours on a Friday night.
I need say nothing here, on the first head, because nothing can
show better than my history whether that prediction was verified or
falsified by the result. On the second branch of the question, I
will only remark, that unless I ran through that part of my
inheritance while I was still a baby, I have not come into it yet.
But I do not at all complain of having been kept out of this
property; and if anybody else should be in the present enjoyment of
it, he is heartily welcome to keep it.
I was born with a caul, which was advertised for sale, in the
newspapers, at the low price of fifteen guineas. Whether sea-going
people were short of money about that time, or were short of faith
and preferred cork jackets, I don't know; all I know is, that there
was but one solitary bidding, and that was from an attorney
connected with the bill-broking business, who offered two pounds in
cash, and the balance in sherry, but declined to be guaranteed from
drowning on any higher bargain. Consequently the advertisement was
withdrawn at a dead loss - for as to sherry, my poor dear mother's
own sherry was in the market then - and ten years afterwards, the
caul was put up in a raffle down in our part of the country, to
fifty members at half-a-crown a head, the winner to spend five
shillings. I was present myself, and I remember to have felt quite
uncomfortable and confused, at a part of myself being disposed of
in that way. The caul was won, I recollect, by an old lady with a
hand-basket, who, very reluctantly, produced from it the stipulated
five shillings, all in halfpence, and twopence halfpenny short - as
it took an immense time and a great waste of arithmetic, to
endeavour without any effect to prove to her. It is a fact which
will be long remembered as remarkable down there, that she was
never drowned, but died triumphantly in bed, at ninety-two. I have
understood that it was, to the last, her proudest boast, that she
never had been on the water in her life, except upon a bridge; and
that over her tea (to which she was extremely partial) she, to the
last, expressed her indignation at the impiety of mariners and
others, who had the presumption to go 'meandering' about the world.
It was in vain to represent to her that some conveniences, tea
perhaps included, resulted from this objectionable practice. She
always returned, with greater emphasis and with an instinctive
knowledge of the strength of her objection, 'Let us have no
Not to meander myself, at present, I will go back to my birth.
I was born at Blunderstone, in Suffolk, or 'there by', as they say
in Scotland. I was a posthumous child. My father's eyes had
closed upon the light of this world six months, when mine opened on
it. There is something strange to me, even now, in the reflection
that he never saw me; and something stranger yet in the shadowy
remembrance that I have of my first childish associations with his
white grave-stone in the churchyard, and of the indefinable
compassion I used to feel for it lying out alone there in the dark
night, when our little parlour was warm and bright with fire and
candle, and the doors of our house were - almost cruelly, it seemed
to me sometimes - bolted and locked against it.
An aunt of my father's, and consequently a great-aunt of mine, of
whom I shall have more to relate by and by, was the principal
magnate of our family. Miss Trotwood, or Miss Betsey, as my poor
mother always called her, when she sufficiently overcame her dread
of this formidable personage to mention her at all (which was
seldom), had been married to a husband younger than herself, who
was very handsome, except in the sense of the homely adage,
'handsome is, that handsome does' - for he was strongly suspected
of having beaten Miss Betsey, and even of having once, on a
disputed question of supplies, made some hasty but determined
arrangements to throw her out of a two pair of stairs' window.
These evidences of an incompatibility of temper induced Miss Betsey
to pay him off, and effect a separation by mutual consent. He went
to India with his capital, and there, according to a wild legend in
our family, he was once seen riding on an elephant, in company with
a Baboon; but I think it must have been a Baboo - or a Begum.
Anyhow, from India tidings of his death reached home, within ten
years. How they affected my aunt, nobody knew; for immediately
upon the separation, she took her maiden name again, bought a
cottage in a hamlet on the sea-coast a long way off, established
herself there as a single woman with one servant, and was
understood to live secluded, ever afterwards, in an inflexible
My father had once been a favourite of hers, I believe; but she was
mortally affronted by his marriage, on the ground that my mother
was 'a wax doll'. She had never seen my mother, but she knew her
to be not yet twenty. My father and Miss Betsey never met again.
He was double my mother's age when he married, and of but a
delicate constitution. He died a year afterwards, and, as I have
said, six months before I came into the world.
This was the state of matters, on the afternoon of, what I may be
excused for calling, that eventful and important Friday. I can
make no claim therefore to have known, at that time, how matters
stood; or to have any remembrance, founded on the evidence of my
own senses, of what follows.
My mother was sitting by the fire, but poorly in health, and very
low in spirits, looking at it through her tears, and desponding
heavily about herself and the fatherless little stranger, who was
already welcomed by some grosses of prophetic pins, in a drawer
upstairs, to a world not at all excited on the subject of his
arrival; my mother, I say, was sitting by the fire, that bright,
windy March afternoon, very timid and sad, and very doubtful of
ever coming alive out of the trial that was before her, when,
lifting her eyes as she dried them, to the window opposite, she saw
a strange lady coming up the garden.
MY mother had a sure foreboding at the second glance, that it was
Miss Betsey. The setting sun was glowing on the strange lady, over
the garden-fence, and she came walking up to the door with a fell
rigidity of figure and composure of countenance that could have
belonged to nobody else.
When she reached the house, she gave another proof of her identity.
My father had often hinted that she seldom conducted herself like
any ordinary Christian; and now, instead of ringing the bell, she
came and looked in at that identical window, pressing the end of
her nose against the glass to that extent, that my poor dear mother
used to say it became perfectly flat and white in a moment.
She gave my mother such a turn, that I have always been convinced
I am indebted to Miss Betsey for having been born on a Friday.
My mother had left her chair in her agitation, and gone behind it
in the corner. Miss Betsey, looking round the room, slowly and
inquiringly, began on the other side, and carried her eyes on, like
a Saracen's Head in a Dutch clock, until they reached my mother.
Then she made a frown and a gesture to my mother, like one who was
accustomed to be obeyed, to come and open the door. My mother
'Mrs. David Copperfield, I think,' said Miss Betsey; the emphasis
referring, perhaps, to my mother's mourning weeds, and her
'Yes,' said my mother, faintly.
'Miss Trotwood,' said the visitor. 'You have heard of her, I dare
My mother answered she had had that pleasure. And she had a
disagreeable consciousness of not appearing to imply that it had
been an overpowering pleasure.
'Now you see her,' said Miss Betsey. My mother bent her head, and
begged her to walk in.
They went into the parlour my mother had come from, the fire in the
best room on the other side of the passage not being lighted - not
having been lighted, indeed, since my father's funeral; and when
they were both seated, and Miss Betsey said nothing, my mother,
after vainly trying to restrain herself, began to cry.
'Oh tut, tut, tut!' said Miss Betsey, in a hurry. 'Don't do that!
My mother couldn't help it notwithstanding, so she cried until she
had had her cry out.
'Take off your cap, child,' said Miss Betsey, 'and let me see you.'
MY mother was too much afraid of her to refuse compliance with this
odd request, if she had any disposition to do so. Therefore she
did as she was told, and did it with such nervous hands that her
hair (which was luxuriant and beautiful) fell all about her face.
'Why, bless my heart!' exclaimed Miss Betsey. 'You are a very
My mother was, no doubt, unusually youthful in appearance even for
her years; she hung her head, as if it were her fault, poor thing,
and said, sobbing, that indeed she was afraid she was but a
childish widow, and would be but a childish mother if she lived.
In a short pause which ensued, she had a fancy that she felt Miss
Betsey touch her hair, and that with no ungentle hand; but, looking
at her, in her timid hope, she found that lady sitting with the
skirt of her dress tucked up, her hands folded on one knee, and her
feet upon the fender, frowning at the fire.
'In the name of Heaven,' said Miss Betsey, suddenly, 'why Rookery?'
'Do you mean the house, ma'am?' asked my mother.
'Why Rookery?' said Miss Betsey. 'Cookery would have been more to
the purpose, if you had had any practical ideas of life, either of
'The name was Mr. Copperfield's choice,' returned my mother. 'When
he bought the house, he liked to think that there were rooks about
The evening wind made such a disturbance just now, among some tall
old elm-trees at the bottom of the garden, that neither my mother
nor Miss Betsey could forbear glancing that way. As the elms bent
to one another, like giants who were whispering secrets, and after
a few seconds of such repose, fell into a violent flurry, tossing
their wild arms about, as if their late confidences were really too
wicked for their peace of mind, some weatherbeaten ragged old
rooks'-nests, burdening their higher branches, swung like wrecks
upon a stormy sea.
'Where are the birds?' asked Miss Betsey.
'The -? ' My mother had been thinking of something else.
'The rooks - what has become of them?' asked Miss Betsey.
'There have not been any since we have lived here,' said my mother.
'We thought - Mr. Copperfield thought - it was quite a large
rookery; but the nests were very old ones, and the birds have
deserted them a long while.'
'David Copperfield all over!' cried Miss Betsey. 'David
Copperfield from head to foot! Calls a house a rookery when
there's not a rook near it, and takes the birds on trust, because
he sees the nests!'
'Mr. Copperfield,' returned my mother, 'is dead, and if you dare to
speak unkindly of him to me -'
My poor dear mother, I suppose, had some momentary intention of
committing an assault and battery upon my aunt, who could easily
have settled her with one hand, even if my mother had been in far
better training for such an encounter than she was that evening.
But it passed with the action of rising from her chair; and she sat
down again very meekly, and fainted.
When she came to herself, or when Miss Betsey had restored her,
whichever it was, she found the latter standing at the window. The
twilight was by this time shading down into darkness; and dimly as
they saw each other, they could not have done that without the aid
of the fire.
'Well?' said Miss Betsey, coming back to her chair, as if she had
only been taking a casual look at the prospect; 'and when do you
'I am all in a tremble,' faltered my mother. 'I don't know what's
the matter. I shall die, I am sure!'
'No, no, no,' said Miss Betsey. 'Have some tea.'
'Oh dear me, dear me, do you think it will do me any good?' cried
my mother in a helpless manner.
'Of course it will,' said Miss Betsey. 'It's nothing but fancy.
What do you call your girl?'
'I don't know that it will be a girl, yet, ma'am,' said my mother
'Bless the Baby!' exclaimed Miss Betsey, unconsciously quoting the
second sentiment of the pincushion in the drawer upstairs, but
applying it to my mother instead of me, 'I don't mean that. I mean
'Peggotty,' said my mother.
'Peggotty!' repeated Miss Betsey, with some indignation. 'Do you
mean to say, child, that any human being has gone into a Christian
church, and got herself named Peggotty?'
'It's her surname,' said my mother, faintly. 'Mr. Copperfield
called her by it, because her Christian name was the same as mine.'
'Here! Peggotty!' cried Miss Betsey, opening the parlour door.
'Tea. Your mistress is a little unwell. Don't dawdle.'
Having issued this mandate with as much potentiality as if she had
been a recognized authority in the house ever since it had been a
house, and having looked out to confront the amazed Peggotty coming
along the passage with a candle at the sound of a strange voice,
Miss Betsey shut the door again, and sat down as before: with her
feet on the fender, the skirt of her dress tucked up, and her hands
folded on one knee.
'You were speaking about its being a girl,' said Miss Betsey. 'I
have no doubt it will be a girl. I have a presentiment that it
must be a girl. Now child, from the moment of the birth of this
'Perhaps boy,' my mother took the liberty of putting in.
'I tell you I have a presentiment that it must be a girl,' returned
Miss Betsey. 'Don't contradict. From the moment of this girl's
birth, child, I intend to be her friend. I intend to be her
godmother, and I beg you'll call her Betsey Trotwood Copperfield.
There must be no mistakes in life with THIS Betsey Trotwood. There
must be no trifling with HER affections, poor dear. She must be
well brought up, and well guarded from reposing any foolish
confidences where they are not deserved. I must make that MY
There was a twitch of Miss Betsey's head, after each of these
sentences, as if her own old wrongs were working within her, and
she repressed any plainer reference to them by strong constraint.
So my mother suspected, at least, as she observed her by the low
glimmer of the fire: too much scared by Miss Betsey, too uneasy in
herself, and too subdued and bewildered altogether, to observe
anything very clearly, or to know what to say.
'And was David good to you, child?' asked Miss Betsey, when she had
been silent for a little while, and these motions of her head had
gradually ceased. 'Were you comfortable together?'
'We were very happy,' said my mother. 'Mr. Copperfield was only
too good to me.'
'What, he spoilt you, I suppose?' returned Miss Betsey.
'For being quite alone and dependent on myself in this rough world
again, yes, I fear he did indeed,' sobbed my mother.
'Well! Don't cry!' said Miss Betsey. 'You were not equally
matched, child - if any two people can be equally matched - and so
I asked the question. You were an orphan, weren't you?'
'And a governess?'
'I was nursery-governess in a family where Mr. Copperfield came to
visit. Mr. Copperfield was very kind to me, and took a great deal
of notice of me, and paid me a good deal of attention, and at last
proposed to me. And I accepted him. And so we were married,' said
my mother simply.
'Ha! Poor Baby!' mused Miss Betsey, with her frown still bent upon
the fire. 'Do you know anything?'
'I beg your pardon, ma'am,' faltered my mother.
'About keeping house, for instance,' said Miss Betsey.
'Not much, I fear,' returned my mother. 'Not so much as I could
wish. But Mr. Copperfield was teaching me -'
('Much he knew about it himself!') said Miss Betsey in a
- 'And I hope I should have improved, being very anxious to learn,
and he very patient to teach me, if the great misfortune of his
death' - my mother broke down again here, and could get no farther.
'Well, well!' said Miss Betsey.
-'I kept my housekeeping-book regularly, and balanced it with Mr.
Copperfield every night,' cried my mother in another burst of
distress, and breaking down again.
'Well, well!' said Miss Betsey. 'Don't cry any more.'
- 'And I am sure we never had a word of difference respecting it,
except when Mr. Copperfield objected to my threes and fives being
too much like each other, or to my putting curly tails to my sevens
and nines,' resumed my mother in another burst, and breaking down
'You'll make yourself ill,' said Miss Betsey, 'and you know that
will not be good either for you or for my god-daughter. Come! You
mustn't do it!'
This argument had some share in quieting my mother, though her
increasing indisposition had a larger one. There was an interval
of silence, only broken by Miss Betsey's occasionally ejaculating
'Ha!' as she sat with her feet upon the fender.
'David had bought an annuity for himself with his money, I know,'
said she, by and by. 'What did he do for you?'
'Mr. Copperfield,' said my mother, answering with some difficulty,
'was so considerate and good as to secure the reversion of a part
of it to me.'
'How much?' asked Miss Betsey.
'A hundred and five pounds a year,' said my mother.
'He might have done worse,' said my aunt.
The word was appropriate to the moment. My mother was so much
worse that Peggotty, coming in with the teaboard and candles, and
seeing at a glance how ill she was, - as Miss Betsey might have
done sooner if there had been light enough, - conveyed her upstairs
to her own room with all speed; and immediately dispatched Ham
Peggotty, her nephew, who had been for some days past secreted in
the house, unknown to my mother, as a special messenger in case of
emergency, to fetch the nurse and doctor.
Those allied powers were considerably astonished, when they arrived
within a few minutes of each other, to find an unknown lady of
portentous appearance, sitting before the fire, with her bonnet
tied over her left arm, stopping her ears with jewellers' cotton.
Peggotty knowing nothing about her, and my mother saying nothing
about her, she was quite a mystery in the parlour; and the fact of
her having a magazine of jewellers' cotton in her pocket, and
sticking the article in her ears in that way, did not detract from
the solemnity of her presence.
The doctor having been upstairs and come down again, and having
satisfied himself, I suppose, that there was a probability of this
unknown lady and himself having to sit there, face to face, for
some hours, laid himself out to be polite and social. He was the
meekest of his sex, the mildest of little men. He sidled in and
out of a room, to take up the less space. He walked as softly as
the Ghost in Hamlet, and more slowly. He carried his head on one
side, partly in modest depreciation of himself, partly in modest
propitiation of everybody else. It is nothing to say that he
hadn't a word to throw at a dog. He couldn't have thrown a word at
a mad dog. He might have offered him one gently, or half a one, or
a fragment of one; for he spoke as slowly as he walked; but he
wouldn't have been rude to him, and he couldn't have been quick
with him, for any earthly consideration.
Mr. Chillip, looking mildly at my aunt with his head on one side,
and making her a little bow, said, in allusion to the jewellers'
cotton, as he softly touched his left ear:
'Some local irritation, ma'am?'
'What!' replied my aunt, pulling the cotton out of one ear like a
Mr. Chillip was so alarmed by her abruptness - as he told my mother
afterwards - that it was a mercy he didn't lose his presence of
mind. But he repeated sweetly:
'Some local irritation, ma'am?'
'Nonsense!' replied my aunt, and corked herself again, at one blow.
Mr. Chillip could do nothing after this, but sit and look at her
feebly, as she sat and looked at the fire, until he was called
upstairs again. After some quarter of an hour's absence, he
'Well?' said my aunt, taking the cotton out of the ear nearest to
'Well, ma'am,' returned Mr. Chillip, 'we are- we are progressing
'Ba--a--ah!' said my aunt, with a perfect shake on the contemptuous
interjection. And corked herself as before.
Really - really - as Mr. Chillip told my mother, he was almost
shocked; speaking in a professional point of view alone, he was
almost shocked. But he sat and looked at her, notwithstanding, for
nearly two hours, as she sat looking at the fire, until he was
again called out. After another absence, he again returned.
'Well?' said my aunt, taking out the cotton on that side again.
'Well, ma'am,' returned Mr. Chillip, 'we are - we are progressing
'Ya--a--ah!' said my aunt. With such a snarl at him, that Mr.
Chillip absolutely could not bear it. It was really calculated to
break his spirit, he said afterwards. He preferred to go and sit
upon the stairs, in the dark and a strong draught, until he was
again sent for.
Ham Peggotty, who went to the national school, and was a very
dragon at his catechism, and who may therefore be regarded as a
credible witness, reported next day, that happening to peep in at
the parlour-door an hour after this, he was instantly descried by
Miss Betsey, then walking to and fro in a state of agitation, and
pounced upon before he could make his escape. That there were now
occasional sounds of feet and voices overhead which he inferred the
cotton did not exclude, from the circumstance of his evidently
being clutched by the lady as a victim on whom to expend her
superabundant agitation when the sounds were loudest. That,
marching him constantly up and down by the collar (as if he had
been taking too much laudanum), she, at those times, shook him,
rumpled his hair, made light of his linen, stopped his ears as if
she confounded them with her own, and otherwise tousled and
maltreated him. This was in part confirmed by his aunt, who saw
him at half past twelve o'clock, soon after his release, and
affirmed that he was then as red as I was.
The mild Mr. Chillip could not possibly bear malice at such a time,
if at any time. He sidled into the parlour as soon as he was at
liberty, and said to my aunt in his meekest manner:
'Well, ma'am, I am happy to congratulate you.'
'What upon?' said my aunt, sharply.
Mr. Chillip was fluttered again, by the extreme severity of my
aunt's manner; so he made her a little bow and gave her a little
smile, to mollify her.
'Mercy on the man, what's he doing!' cried my aunt, impatiently.
'Can't he speak?'
'Be calm, my dear ma'am,' said Mr. Chillip, in his softest accents.
'There is no longer any occasion for uneasiness, ma'am. Be calm.'
It has since been considered almost a miracle that my aunt didn't
shake him, and shake what he had to say, out of him. She only
shook her own head at him, but in a way that made him quail.
'Well, ma'am,' resumed Mr. Chillip, as soon as he had courage, 'I
am happy to congratulate you. All is now over, ma'am, and well
During the five minutes or so that Mr. Chillip devoted to the
delivery of this oration, my aunt eyed him narrowly.
'How is she?' said my aunt, folding her arms with her bonnet still
tied on one of them.
'Well, ma'am, she will soon be quite comfortable, I hope,' returned
Mr. Chillip. 'Quite as comfortable as we can expect a young mother
to be, under these melancholy domestic circumstances. There cannot
be any objection to your seeing her presently, ma'am. It may do
'And SHE. How is SHE?' said my aunt, sharply.
Mr. Chillip laid his head a little more on one side, and looked at
my aunt like an amiable bird.
'The baby,' said my aunt. 'How is she?'
'Ma'am,' returned Mr. Chillip, 'I apprehended you had known. It's
My aunt said never a word, but took her bonnet by the strings, in
the manner of a sling, aimed a blow at Mr. Chillip's head with it,
put it on bent, walked out, and never came back. She vanished like
a discontented fairy; or like one of those supernatural beings,
whom it was popularly supposed I was entitled to see; and never
came back any more.
No. I lay in my basket, and my mother lay in her bed; but Betsey
Trotwood Copperfield was for ever in the land of dreams and
shadows, the tremendous region whence I had so lately travelled;
and the light upon the window of our room shone out upon the
earthly bourne of all such travellers, and the mound above the
ashes and the dust that once was he, without whom I had never been.
The first objects that assume a distinct presence before me, as I
look far back, into the blank of my infancy, are my mother with her
pretty hair and youthful shape, and Peggotty with no shape at all,
and eyes so dark that they seemed to darken their whole
neighbourhood in her face, and cheeks and arms so hard and red that
I wondered the birds didn't peck her in preference to apples.
I believe I can remember these two at a little distance apart,
dwarfed to my sight by stooping down or kneeling on the floor, and
I going unsteadily from the one to the other. I have an impression
on my mind which I cannot distinguish from actual remembrance, of
the touch of Peggotty's forefinger as she used to hold it out to
me, and of its being roughened by needlework, like a pocket
This may be fancy, though I think the memory of most of us can go
farther back into such times than many of us suppose; just as I
believe the power of observation in numbers of very young children
to be quite wonderful for its closeness and accuracy. Indeed, I
think that most grown men who are remarkable in this respect, may
with greater propriety be said not to have lost the faculty, than
to have acquired it; the rather, as I generally observe such men to
retain a certain freshness, and gentleness, and capacity of being
pleased, which are also an inheritance they have preserved from
I might have a misgiving that I am 'meandering' in stopping to say
this, but that it brings me to remark that I build these
conclusions, in part upon my own experience of myself; and if it
should appear from anything I may set down in this narrative that
I was a child of close observation, or that as a man I have a
strong memory of my childhood, I undoubtedly lay claim to both of
Looking back, as I was saying, into the blank of my infancy, the
first objects I can remember as standing out by themselves from a
confusion of things, are my mother and Peggotty. What else do I
remember? Let me see.
There comes out of the cloud, our house - not new to me, but quite
familiar, in its earliest remembrance. On the ground-floor is
Peggotty's kitchen, opening into a back yard; with a pigeon-house
on a pole, in the centre, without any pigeons in it; a great dog-
kennel in a corner, without any dog; and a quantity of fowls that
look terribly tall to me, walking about, in a menacing and
ferocious manner. There is one cock who gets upon a post to crow,
and seems to take particular notice of me as I look at him through
the kitchen window, who makes me shiver, he is so fierce. Of the
geese outside the side-gate who come waddling after me with their
long necks stretched out when I go that way, I dream at night: as
a man environed by wild beasts might dream of lions.
Here is a long passage - what an enormous perspective I make of it!
- leading from Peggotty's kitchen to the front door. A dark
store-room opens out of it, and that is a place to be run past at
night; for I don't know what may be among those tubs and jars and
old tea-chests, when there is nobody in there with a dimly-burning
light, letting a mouldy air come out of the door, in which there is
the smell of soap, pickles, pepper, candles, and coffee, all at one
whiff. Then there are the two parlours: the parlour in which we
sit of an evening, my mother and I and Peggotty - for Peggotty is
quite our companion, when her work is done and we are alone - and
the best parlour where we sit on a Sunday; grandly, but not so
comfortably. There is something of a doleful air about that room
to me, for Peggotty has told me - I don't know when, but apparently
ages ago - about my father's funeral, and the company having their
black cloaks put on. One Sunday night my mother reads to Peggotty
and me in there, how Lazarus was raised up from the dead. And I am
so frightened that they are afterwards obliged to take me out of
bed, and show me the quiet churchyard out of the bedroom window,
with the dead all lying in their graves at rest, below the solemn
There is nothing half so green that I know anywhere, as the grass
of that churchyard; nothing half so shady as its trees; nothing
half so quiet as its tombstones. The sheep are feeding there, when
I kneel up, early in the morning, in my little bed in a closet
within my mother's room, to look out at it; and I see the red light
shining on the sun-dial, and think within myself, 'Is the sun-dial
glad, I wonder, that it can tell the time again?'
Here is our pew in the church. What a high-backed pew! With a
window near it, out of which our house can be seen, and IS seen
many times during the morning's service, by Peggotty, who likes to
make herself as sure as she can that it's not being robbed, or is
not in flames. But though Peggotty's eye wanders, she is much
offended if mine does, and frowns to me, as I stand upon the seat,
that I am to look at the clergyman. But I can't always look at him
- I know him without that white thing on, and I am afraid of his
wondering why I stare so, and perhaps stopping the service to
inquire - and what am I to do? It's a dreadful thing to gape, but
I must do something. I look at my mother, but she pretends not to
see me. I look at a boy in the aisle, and he makes faces at me.
I look at the sunlight coming in at the open door through the
porch, and there I see a stray sheep - I don't mean a sinner, but
mutton - half making up his mind to come into the church. I feel
that if I looked at him any longer, I might be tempted to say
something out loud; and what would become of me then! I look up at
the monumental tablets on the wall, and try to think of Mr. Bodgers
late of this parish, and what the feelings of Mrs. Bodgers must
have been, when affliction sore, long time Mr. Bodgers bore, and
physicians were in vain. I wonder whether they called in Mr.
Chillip, and he was in vain; and if so, how he likes to be reminded
of it once a week. I look from Mr. Chillip, in his Sunday
neckcloth, to the pulpit; and think what a good place it would be
to play in, and what a castle it would make, with another boy
coming up the stairs to attack it, and having the velvet cushion
with the tassels thrown down on his head. In time my eyes
gradually shut up; and, from seeming to hear the clergyman singing
a drowsy song in the heat, I hear nothing, until I fall off the
seat with a crash, and am taken out, more dead than alive, by
And now I see the outside of our house, with the latticed
bedroom-windows standing open to let in the sweet-smelling air, and
the ragged old rooks'-nests still dangling in the elm-trees at the
bottom of the front garden. Now I am in the garden at the back,
beyond the yard where the empty pigeon-house and dog-kennel are -
a very preserve of butterflies, as I remember it, with a high
fence, and a gate and padlock; where the fruit clusters on the
trees, riper and richer than fruit has ever been since, in any
other garden, and where my mother gathers some in a basket, while
I stand by, bolting furtive gooseberries, and trying to look
unmoved. A great wind rises, and the summer is gone in a moment.
We are playing in the winter twilight, dancing about the parlour.
When my mother is out of breath and rests herself in an
elbow-chair, I watch her winding her bright curls round her
fingers, and straitening her waist, and nobody knows better than I
do that she likes to look so well, and is proud of being so pretty.
That is among my very earliest impressions. That, and a sense that
we were both a little afraid of Peggotty, and submitted ourselves
in most things to her direction, were among the first opinions - if
they may be so called - that I ever derived from what I saw.
Peggotty and I were sitting one night by the parlour fire, alone.
I had been reading to Peggotty about crocodiles. I must have read
very perspicuously, or the poor soul must have been deeply
interested, for I remember she had a cloudy impression, after I had
done, that they were a sort of vegetable. I was tired of reading,
and dead sleepy; but having leave, as a high treat, to sit up until
my mother came home from spending the evening at a neighbour's, I
would rather have died upon my post (of course) than have gone to
bed. I had reached that stage of sleepiness when Peggotty seemed
to swell and grow immensely large. I propped my eyelids open with
my two forefingers, and looked perseveringly at her as she sat at
work; at the little bit of wax-candle she kept for her thread - how
old it looked, being so wrinkled in all directions! - at the little
house with a thatched roof, where the yard-measure lived; at her
work-box with a sliding lid, with a view of St. Paul's Cathedral
(with a pink dome) painted on the top; at the brass thimble on her
finger; at herself, whom I thought lovely. I felt so sleepy, that
I knew if I lost sight of anything for a moment, I was gone.
'Peggotty,' says I, suddenly, 'were you ever married?'
'Lord, Master Davy,' replied Peggotty. 'What's put marriage in
She answered with such a start, that it quite awoke me. And then
she stopped in her work, and looked at me, with her needle drawn
out to its thread's length.
'But WERE you ever married, Peggotty?' says I. 'You are a very
handsome woman, an't you?'
I thought her in a different style from my mother, certainly; but
of another school of beauty, I considered her a perfect example.
There was a red velvet footstool in the best parlour, on which my
mother had painted a nosegay. The ground-work of that stool, and
Peggotty's complexion appeared to me to be one and the same thing.
The stool was smooth, and Peggotty was rough, but that made no
'Me handsome, Davy!' said Peggotty. 'Lawk, no, my dear! But what
put marriage in your head?'
'I don't know! - You mustn't marry more than one person at a time,
may you, Peggotty?'
'Certainly not,' says Peggotty, with the promptest decision.
'But if you marry a person, and the person dies, why then you may
marry another person, mayn't you, Peggotty?'
'YOU MAY,' says Peggotty, 'if you choose, my dear. That's a matter
'But what is your opinion, Peggotty?' said I.
I asked her, and looked curiously at her, because she looked so
curiously at me.
'My opinion is,' said Peggotty, taking her eyes from me, after a
little indecision and going on with her work, 'that I never was
married myself, Master Davy, and that I don't expect to be. That's
all I know about the subject.'
'You an't cross, I suppose, Peggotty, are you?' said I, after
sitting quiet for a minute.
I really thought she was, she had been so short with me; but I was
quite mistaken: for she laid aside her work (which was a stocking
of her own), and opening her arms wide, took my curly head within
them, and gave it a good squeeze. I know it was a good squeeze,
because, being very plump, whenever she made any little exertion
after she was dressed, some of the buttons on the back of her gown
flew off. And I recollect two bursting to the opposite side of the
parlour, while she was hugging me.
'Now let me hear some more about the Crorkindills,' said Peggotty,
who was not quite right in the name yet, 'for I an't heard half
I couldn't quite understand why Peggotty looked so queer, or why
she was so ready to go back to the crocodiles. However, we
returned to those monsters, with fresh wakefulness on my part, and
we left their eggs in the sand for the sun to hatch; and we ran
away from them, and baffled them by constantly turning, which they
were unable to do quickly, on account of their unwieldy make; and
we went into the water after them, as natives, and put sharp pieces
of timber down their throats; and in short we ran the whole
crocodile gauntlet. I did, at least; but I had my doubts of
Peggotty, who was thoughtfully sticking her needle into various
parts of her face and arms, all the time.
We had exhausted the crocodiles, and begun with the alligators,
when the garden-bell rang. We went out to the door; and there was
my mother, looking unusually pretty, I thought, and with her a
gentleman with beautiful black hair and whiskers, who had walked
home with us from church last Sunday.
As my mother stooped down on the threshold to take me in her arms
and kiss me, the gentleman said I was a more highly privileged
little fellow than a monarch - or something like that; for my later
understanding comes, I am sensible, to my aid here.
'What does that mean?' I asked him, over her shoulder.
He patted me on the head; but somehow, I didn't like him or his
deep voice, and I was jealous that his hand should touch my
mother's in touching me - which it did. I put it away, as well as
'Oh, Davy!' remonstrated my mother.
'Dear boy!' said the gentleman. 'I cannot wonder at his devotion!'
I never saw such a beautiful colour on my mother's face before.
She gently chid me for being rude; and, keeping me close to her
shawl, turned to thank the gentleman for taking so much trouble as
to bring her home. She put out her hand to him as she spoke, and,
as he met it with his own, she glanced, I thought, at me.
'Let us say "good night", my fine boy,' said the gentleman, when he
had bent his head - I saw him! - over my mother's little glove.
'Good night!' said I.
'Come! Let us be the best friends in the world!' said the
gentleman, laughing. 'Shake hands!'
My right hand was in my mother's left, so I gave him the other.
'Why, that's the Wrong hand, Davy!' laughed the gentleman.
MY mother drew my right hand forward, but I was resolved, for my
former reason, not to give it him, and I did not. I gave him the
other, and he shook it heartily, and said I was a brave fellow, and
At this minute I see him turn round in the garden, and give us a
last look with his ill-omened black eyes, before the door was shut.
Peggotty, who had not said a word or moved a finger, secured the
fastenings instantly, and we all went into the parlour. My mother,
contrary to her usual habit, instead of coming to the elbow-chair
by the fire, remained at the other end of the room, and sat singing
- 'Hope you have had a pleasant evening, ma'am,' said Peggotty,
standing as stiff as a barrel in the centre of the room, with a
candlestick in her hand.
'Much obliged to you, Peggotty,' returned my mother, in a cheerful
voice, 'I have had a VERY pleasant evening.'
'A stranger or so makes an agreeable change,' suggested Peggotty.
'A very agreeable change, indeed,' returned my mother.
Peggotty continuing to stand motionless in the middle of the room,
and my mother resuming her singing, I fell asleep, though I was not
so sound asleep but that I could hear voices, without hearing what
they said. When I half awoke from this uncomfortable doze, I found
Peggotty and my mother both in tears, and both talking.
'Not such a one as this, Mr. Copperfield wouldn't have liked,' said
Peggotty. 'That I say, and that I swear!'
'Good Heavens!' cried my mother, 'you'll drive me mad! Was ever
any poor girl so ill-used by her servants as I am! Why do I do
myself the injustice of calling myself a girl? Have I never been
'God knows you have, ma'am,' returned Peggotty.
'Then, how can you dare,' said my mother - 'you know I don't mean
how can you dare, Peggotty, but how can you have the heart - to
make me so uncomfortable and say such bitter things to me, when you
are well aware that I haven't, out of this place, a single friend
to turn to?'
'The more's the reason,' returned Peggotty, 'for saying that it
won't do. No! That it won't do. No! No price could make it do.
No!' - I thought Peggotty would have thrown the candlestick away,
she was so emphatic with it.
'How can you be so aggravating,' said my mother, shedding more
tears than before, 'as to talk in such an unjust manner! How can
you go on as if it was all settled and arranged, Peggotty, when I
tell you over and over again, you cruel thing, that beyond the
commonest civilities nothing has passed! You talk of admiration.
What am I to do? If people are so silly as to indulge the
sentiment, is it my fault? What am I to do, I ask you? Would you
wish me to shave my head and black my face, or disfigure myself
with a burn, or a scald, or something of that sort? I dare say you
would, Peggotty. I dare say you'd quite enjoy it.'
Peggotty seemed to take this aspersion very much to heart, I
'And my dear boy,' cried my mother, coming to the elbow-chair in
which I was, and caressing me, 'my own little Davy! Is it to be
hinted to me that I am wanting in affection for my precious
treasure, the dearest little fellow that ever was!'
'Nobody never went and hinted no such a thing,' said Peggotty.
'You did, Peggotty!' returned my mother. 'You know you did. What
else was it possible to infer from what you said, you unkind
creature, when you know as well as I do, that on his account only
last quarter I wouldn't buy myself a new parasol, though that old
green one is frayed the whole way up, and the fringe is perfectly
mangy? You know it is, Peggotty. You can't deny it.' Then,
turning affectionately to me, with her cheek against mine, 'Am I a
naughty mama to you, Davy? Am I a nasty, cruel, selfish, bad mama?
Say I am, my child; say "yes", dear boy, and Peggotty will love
you; and Peggotty's love is a great deal better than mine, Davy.
I don't love you at all, do I?'
At this, we all fell a-crying together. I think I was the loudest
of the party, but I am sure we were all sincere about it. I was
quite heart-broken myself, and am afraid that in the first
transports of wounded tenderness I called Peggotty a 'Beast'. That
honest creature was in deep affliction, I remember, and must have
become quite buttonless on the occasion; for a little volley of
those explosives went off, when, after having made it up with my
mother, she kneeled down by the elbow-chair, and made it up with
We went to bed greatly dejected. My sobs kept waking me, for a
long time; and when one very strong sob quite hoisted me up in bed,
I found my mother sitting on the coverlet, and leaning over me. I
fell asleep in her arms, after that, and slept soundly.
Whether it was the following Sunday when I saw the gentleman again,
or whether there was any greater lapse of time before he
reappeared, I cannot recall. I don't profess to be clear about
dates. But there he was, in church, and he walked home with us
afterwards. He came in, too, to look at a famous geranium we had,
in the parlour-window. It did not appear to me that he took much
notice of it, but before he went he asked my mother to give him a
bit of the blossom. She begged him to choose it for himself, but
he refused to do that - I could not understand why - so she plucked
it for him, and gave it into his hand. He said he would never,
never part with it any more; and I thought he must be quite a fool
not to know that it would fall to pieces in a day or two.
Peggotty began to be less with us, of an evening, than she had
always been. My mother deferred to her very much - more than
usual, it occurred to me - and we were all three excellent friends;
still we were different from what we used to be, and were not so
comfortable among ourselves. Sometimes I fancied that Peggotty
perhaps objected to my mother's wearing all the pretty dresses she
had in her drawers, or to her going so often to visit at that
neighbour's; but I couldn't, to my satisfaction, make out how it
Gradually, I became used to seeing the gentleman with the black
whiskers. I liked him no better than at first, and had the same
uneasy jealousy of him; but if I had any reason for it beyond a
child's instinctive dislike, and a general idea that Peggotty and
I could make much of my mother without any help, it certainly was
not THE reason that I might have found if I had been older. No
such thing came into my mind, or near it. I could observe, in
little pieces, as it were; but as to making a net of a number of
these pieces, and catching anybody in it, that was, as yet, beyond
One autumn morning I was with my mother in the front garden, when
Mr. Murdstone - I knew him by that name now - came by, on
horseback. He reined up his horse to salute my mother, and said he
was going to Lowestoft to see some friends who were there with a
yacht, and merrily proposed to take me on the saddle before him if
I would like the ride.
The air was so clear and pleasant, and the horse seemed to like the
idea of the ride so much himself, as he stood snorting and pawing
at the garden-gate, that I had a great desire to go. So I was sent
upstairs to Peggotty to be made spruce; and in the meantime Mr.
Murdstone dismounted, and, with his horse's bridle drawn over his
arm, walked slowly up and down on the outer side of the sweetbriar
fence, while my mother walked slowly up and down on the inner to
keep him company. I recollect Peggotty and I peeping out at them
from my little window; I recollect how closely they seemed to be
examining the sweetbriar between them, as they strolled along; and
how, from being in a perfectly angelic temper, Peggotty turned
cross in a moment, and brushed my hair the wrong way, excessively
Mr. Murdstone and I were soon off, and trotting along on the green
turf by the side of the road. He held me quite easily with one
arm, and I don't think I was restless usually; but I could not make
up my mind to sit in front of him without turning my head
sometimes, and looking up in his face. He had that kind of shallow
black eye - I want a better word to express an eye that has no
depth in it to be looked into - which, when it is abstracted, seems
from some peculiarity of light to be disfigured, for a moment at a
time, by a cast. Several times when I glanced at him, I observed
that appearance with a sort of awe, and wondered what he was
thinking about so closely. His hair and whiskers were blacker and
thicker, looked at so near, than even I had given them credit for
being. A squareness about the lower part of his face, and the
dotted indication of the strong black beard he shaved close every
day, reminded me of the wax-work that had travelled into our
neighbourhood some half-a-year before. This, his regular eyebrows,
and the rich white, and black, and brown, of his complexion -
confound his complexion, and his memory! - made me think him, in
spite of my misgivings, a very handsome man. I have no doubt that
my poor dear mother thought him so too.
We went to an hotel by the sea, where two gentlemen were smoking
cigars in a room by themselves. Each of them was lying on at least
four chairs, and had a large rough jacket on. In a corner was a
heap of coats and boat-cloaks, and a flag, all bundled up together.
They both rolled on to their feet in an untidy sort of manner, when
we came in, and said, 'Halloa, Murdstone! We thought you were
'Not yet,' said Mr. Murdstone.
'And who's this shaver?' said one of the gentlemen, taking hold of
'That's Davy,' returned Mr. Murdstone.
'Davy who?' said the gentleman. 'Jones?'
'Copperfield,' said Mr. Murdstone.
'What! Bewitching Mrs. Copperfield's encumbrance?' cried the
gentleman. 'The pretty little widow?'
'Quinion,' said Mr. Murdstone, 'take care, if you please.
'Who is?' asked the gentleman, laughing.
I looked up, quickly; being curious to know.
'Only Brooks of Sheffield,' said Mr. Murdstone.
I was quite relieved to find that it was only Brooks of Sheffield;
for, at first, I really thought it was I.
There seemed to be something very comical in the reputation of Mr.
Brooks of Sheffield, for both the gentlemen laughed heartily when
he was mentioned, and Mr. Murdstone was a good deal amused also.
After some laughing, the gentleman whom he had called Quinion,
'And what is the opinion of Brooks of Sheffield, in reference to
the projected business?'
'Why, I don't know that Brooks understands much about it at
present,' replied Mr. Murdstone; 'but he is not generally
favourable, I believe.'
There was more laughter at this, and Mr. Quinion said he would ring
the bell for some sherry in which to drink to Brooks. This he did;
and when the wine came, he made me have a little, with a biscuit,
and, before I drank it, stand up and say, 'Confusion to Brooks of
Sheffield!' The toast was received with great applause, and such
hearty laughter that it made me laugh too; at which they laughed
the more. In short, we quite enjoyed ourselves.
We walked about on the cliff after that, and sat on the grass, and
looked at things through a telescope - I could make out nothing
myself when it was put to my eye, but I pretended I could - and
then we came back to the hotel to an early dinner. All the time we
were out, the two gentlemen smoked incessantly - which, I thought,
if I might judge from the smell of their rough coats, they must
have been doing, ever since the coats had first come home from the
tailor's. I must not forget that we went on board the yacht, where
they all three descended into the cabin, and were busy with some
papers. I saw them quite hard at work, when I looked down through
the open skylight. They left me, during this time, with a very
nice man with a very large head of red hair and a very small shiny
hat upon it, who had got a cross-barred shirt or waistcoat on, with
'Skylark' in capital letters across the chest. I thought it was
his name; and that as he lived on board ship and hadn't a street
door to put his name on, he put it there instead; but when I called
him Mr. Skylark, he said it meant the vessel.
I observed all day that Mr. Murdstone was graver and steadier than
the two gentlemen. They were very gay and careless. They joked
freely with one another, but seldom with him. It appeared to me
that he was more clever and cold than they were, and that they
regarded him with something of my own feeling. I remarked that,
once or twice when Mr. Quinion was talking, he looked at Mr.
Murdstone sideways, as if to make sure of his not being displeased;
and that once when Mr. Passnidge (the other gentleman) was in high
spirits, he trod upon his foot, and gave him a secret caution with
his eyes, to observe Mr. Murdstone, who was sitting stern and
silent. Nor do I recollect that Mr. Murdstone laughed at all that
day, except at the Sheffield joke - and that, by the by, was his
We went home early in the evening. It was a very fine evening, and
my mother and he had another stroll by the sweetbriar, while I was
sent in to get my tea. When he was gone, my mother asked me all
about the day I had had, and what they had said and done. I
mentioned what they had said about her, and she laughed, and told
me they were impudent fellows who talked nonsense - but I knew it
pleased her. I knew it quite as well as I know it now. I took the
opportunity of asking if she was at all acquainted with Mr. Brooks
of Sheffield, but she answered No, only she supposed he must be a
manufacturer in the knife and fork way.
Can I say of her face - altered as I have reason to remember it,
perished as I know it is - that it is gone, when here it comes
before me at this instant, as distinct as any face that I may
choose to look on in a crowded street? Can I say of her innocent
and girlish beauty, that it faded, and was no more, when its breath
falls on my cheek now, as it fell that night? Can I say she ever
changed, when my remembrance brings her back to life, thus only;
and, truer to its loving youth than I have been, or man ever is,
still holds fast what it cherished then?
I write of her just as she was when I had gone to bed after this
talk, and she came to bid me good night. She kneeled down
playfully by the side of the bed, and laying her chin upon her
hands, and laughing, said:
'What was it they said, Davy? Tell me again. I can't believe it.'
'"Bewitching -"' I began.
My mother put her hands upon my lips to stop me.
'It was never bewitching,' she said, laughing. 'It never could
have been bewitching, Davy. Now I know it wasn't!'
'Yes, it was. "Bewitching Mrs. Copperfield",' I repeated stoutly.
'No, no, it was never pretty. Not pretty,' interposed my mother,
laying her fingers on my lips again.
'Yes it was. "Pretty little widow."'
'What foolish, impudent creatures!' cried my mother, laughing and
covering her face. 'What ridiculous men! An't they? Davy dear -'
'Don't tell Peggotty; she might be angry with them. I am
dreadfully angry with them myself; but I would rather Peggotty
I promised, of course; and we kissed one another over and over
again, and I soon fell fast asleep.
It seems to me, at this distance of time, as if it were the next
day when Peggotty broached the striking and adventurous proposition
I am about to mention; but it was probably about two months
We were sitting as before, one evening (when my mother was out as
before), in company with the stocking and the yard-measure, and the
bit of wax, and the box with St. Paul's on the lid, and the
crocodile book, when Peggotty, after looking at me several times,
and opening her mouth as if she were going to speak, without doing
it - which I thought was merely gaping, or I should have been
rather alarmed - said coaxingly:
'Master Davy, how should you like to go along with me and spend a
fortnight at my brother's at Yarmouth? Wouldn't that be a treat?'
'Is your brother an agreeable man, Peggotty?' I inquired,
'Oh, what an agreeable man he is!' cried Peggotty, holding up her
hands. 'Then there's the sea; and the boats and ships; and the
fishermen; and the beach; and Am to play with -'
Peggotty meant her nephew Ham, mentioned in my first chapter; but
she spoke of him as a morsel of English Grammar.
I was flushed by her summary of delights, and replied that it would
indeed be a treat, but what would my mother say?
'Why then I'll as good as bet a guinea,' said Peggotty, intent upon
my face, 'that she'll let us go. I'll ask her, if you like, as
soon as ever she comes home. There now!'
'But what's she to do while we're away?' said I, putting my small
elbows on the table to argue the point. 'She can't live by
If Peggotty were looking for a hole, all of a sudden, in the heel
of that stocking, it must have been a very little one indeed, and
not worth darning.
'I say! Peggotty! She can't live by herself, you know.'
'Oh, bless you!' said Peggotty, looking at me again at last.
'Don't you know? She's going to stay for a fortnight with Mrs.
Grayper. Mrs. Grayper's going to have a lot of company.'
Oh! If that was it, I was quite ready to go. I waited, in the
utmost impatience, until my mother came home from Mrs. Grayper's
(for it was that identical neighbour), to ascertain if we could get
leave to carry out this great idea. Without being nearly so much
surprised as I had expected, my mother entered into it readily; and
it was all arranged that night, and my board and lodging during the
visit were to be paid for.
The day soon came for our going. It was such an early day that it
came soon, even to me, who was in a fever of expectation, and half
afraid that an earthquake or a fiery mountain, or some other great
convulsion of nature, might interpose to stop the expedition. We
were to go in a carrier's cart, which departed in the morning after
breakfast. I would have given any money to have been allowed to
wrap myself up over-night, and sleep in my hat and boots.
It touches me nearly now, although I tell it lightly, to recollect
how eager I was to leave my happy home; to think how little I
suspected what I did leave for ever.
I am glad to recollect that when the carrier's cart was at the
gate, and my mother stood there kissing me, a grateful fondness for
her and for the old place I had never turned my back upon before,
made me cry. I am glad to know that my mother cried too, and that
I felt her heart beat against mine.
I am glad to recollect that when the carrier began to move, my
mother ran out at the gate, and called to him to stop, that she
might kiss me once more. I am glad to dwell upon the earnestness
and love with which she lifted up her face to mine, and did so.
As we left her standing in the road, Mr. Murdstone came up to where
she was, and seemed to expostulate with her for being so moved. I
was looking back round the awning of the cart, and wondered what
business it was of his. Peggotty, who was also looking back on the
other side, seemed anything but satisfied; as the face she brought
back in the cart denoted.
I sat looking at Peggotty for some time, in a reverie on this
supposititious case: whether, if she were employed to lose me like
the boy in the fairy tale, I should be able to track my way home
again by the buttons she would shed.
I HAVE A CHANGE
The carrier's horse was the laziest horse in the world, I should
hope, and shuffled along, with his head down, as if he liked to
keep people waiting to whom the packages were directed. I fancied,
indeed, that he sometimes chuckled audibly over this reflection,
but the carrier said he was only troubled with a cough.
The carrier had a way of keeping his head down, like his horse, and
of drooping sleepily forward as he drove, with one of his arms on
each of his knees. I say 'drove', but it struck me that the cart
would have gone to Yarmouth quite as well without him, for the
horse did all that; and as to conversation, he had no idea of it
Peggotty had a basket of refreshments on her knee, which would have
lasted us out handsomely, if we had been going to London by the
same conveyance. We ate a good deal, and slept a good deal.
Peggotty always went to sleep with her chin upon the handle of the
basket, her hold of which never relaxed; and I could not have
believed unless I had heard her do it, that one defenceless woman
could have snored so much.
We made so many deviations up and down lanes, and were such a long
time delivering a bedstead at a public-house, and calling at other
places, that I was quite tired, and very glad, when we saw
Yarmouth. It looked rather spongy and soppy, I thought, as I
carried my eye over the great dull waste that lay across the river;
and I could not help wondering, if the world were really as round
as my geography book said, how any part of it came to be so flat.
But I reflected that Yarmouth might be situated at one of the
poles; which would account for it.
As we drew a little nearer, and saw the whole adjacent prospect
lying a straight low line under the sky, I hinted to Peggotty that
a mound or so might have improved it; and also that if the land had
been a little more separated from the sea, and the town and the
tide had not been quite so much mixed up, like toast and water, it
would have been nicer. But Peggotty said, with greater emphasis
than usual, that we must take things as we found them, and that,
for her part, she was proud to call herself a Yarmouth Bloater.
When we got into the street (which was strange enough to me) and
smelt the fish, and pitch, and oakum, and tar, and saw the sailors
walking about, and the carts jingling up and down over the stones,
I felt that I had done so busy a place an injustice; and said as
much to Peggotty, who heard my expressions of delight with great
complacency, and told me it was well known (I suppose to those who
had the good fortune to be born Bloaters) that Yarmouth was, upon
the whole, the finest place in the universe.
'Here's my Am!' screamed Peggotty, 'growed out of knowledge!'
He was waiting for us, in fact, at the public-house; and asked me
how I found myself, like an old acquaintance. I did not feel, at
first, that I knew him as well as he knew me, because he had never
come to our house since the night I was born, and naturally he had
the advantage of me. But our intimacy was much advanced by his
taking me on his back to carry me home. He was, now, a huge,
strong fellow of six feet high, broad in proportion, and
round-shouldered; but with a simpering boy's face and curly light
hair that gave him quite a sheepish look. He was dressed in a
canvas jacket, and a pair of such very stiff trousers that they
would have stood quite as well alone, without any legs in them.
And you couldn't so properly have said he wore a hat, as that he
was covered in a-top, like an old building, with something pitchy.
Ham carrying me on his back and a small box of ours under his arm,
and Peggotty carrying another small box of ours, we turned down
lanes bestrewn with bits of chips and little hillocks of sand, and
went past gas-works, rope-walks, boat-builders' yards, shipwrights'
yards, ship-breakers' yards, caulkers' yards, riggers' lofts,
smiths' forges, and a great litter of such places, until we came
out upon the dull waste I had already seen at a distance; when Ham
'Yon's our house, Mas'r Davy!'
I looked in all directions, as far as I could stare over the
wilderness, and away at the sea, and away at the river, but no
house could I make out. There was a black barge, or some other
kind of superannuated boat, not far off, high and dry on the
ground, with an iron funnel sticking out of it for a chimney and
smoking very cosily; but nothing else in the way of a habitation
that was visible to me.
'That's not it?' said I. 'That ship-looking thing?'
'That's it, Mas'r Davy,' returned Ham.
If it had been Aladdin's palace, roc's egg and all, I suppose I
could not have been more charmed with the romantic idea of living
in it. There was a delightful door cut in the side, and it was
roofed in, and there were little windows in it; but the wonderful
charm of it was, that it was a real boat which had no doubt been
upon the water hundreds of times, and which had never been intended
to be lived in, on dry land. That was the captivation of it to me.
If it had ever been meant to be lived in, I might have thought it
small, or inconvenient, or lonely; but never having been designed
for any such use, it became a perfect abode.
It was beautifully clean inside, and as tidy as possible. There
was a table, and a Dutch clock, and a chest of drawers, and on the
chest of drawers there was a tea-tray with a painting on it of a
lady with a parasol, taking a walk with a military-looking child
who was trundling a hoop. The tray was kept from tumbling down, by
a bible; and the tray, if it had tumbled down, would have smashed
a quantity of cups and saucers and a teapot that were grouped
around the book. On the walls there were some common coloured
pictures, framed and glazed, of scripture subjects; such as I have
never seen since in the hands of pedlars, without seeing the whole
interior of Peggotty's brother's house again, at one view. Abraham
in red going to sacrifice Isaac in blue, and Daniel in yellow cast
into a den of green lions, were the most prominent of these. Over
the little mantelshelf, was a picture of the 'Sarah Jane' lugger,
built at Sunderland, with a real little wooden stern stuck on to
it; a work of art, combining composition with carpentry, which I
considered to be one of the most enviable possessions that the
world could afford. There were some hooks in the beams of the
ceiling, the use of which I did not divine then; and some lockers
and boxes and conveniences of that sort, which served for seats and
eked out the chairs.
All this I saw in the first glance after I crossed the threshold -
child-like, according to my theory - and then Peggotty opened a
little door and showed me my bedroom. It was the completest and
most desirable bedroom ever seen - in the stern of the vessel; with
a little window, where the rudder used to go through; a little
looking-glass, just the right height for me, nailed against the
wall, and framed with oyster-shells; a little bed, which there was
just room enough to get into; and a nosegay of seaweed in a blue
mug on the table. The walls were whitewashed as white as milk, and
the patchwork counterpane made my eyes quite ache with its
brightness. One thing I particularly noticed in this delightful
house, was the smell of fish; which was so searching, that when I
took out my pocket-handkerchief to wipe my nose, I found it smelt
exactly as if it had wrapped up a lobster. On my imparting this
discovery in confidence to Peggotty, she informed me that her
brother dealt in lobsters, crabs, and crawfish; and I afterwards
found that a heap of these creatures, in a state of wonderful
conglomeration with one another, and never leaving off pinching
whatever they laid hold of, were usually to be found in a little
wooden outhouse where the pots and kettles were kept.
We were welcomed by a very civil woman in a white apron, whom I had
seen curtseying at the door when I was on Ham's back, about a
quarter of a mile off. Likewise by a most beautiful little girl
(or I thought her so) with a necklace of blue beads on, who
wouldn't let me kiss her when I offered to, but ran away and hid
herself. By and by, when we had dined in a sumptuous manner off
boiled dabs, melted butter, and potatoes, with a chop for me, a
hairy man with a very good-natured face came home. As he called
Peggotty 'Lass', and gave her a hearty smack on the cheek, I had no
doubt, from the general propriety of her conduct, that he was her
brother; and so he turned out - being presently introduced to me as
Mr. Peggotty, the master of the house.
'Glad to see you, sir,' said Mr. Peggotty. 'You'll find us rough,
sir, but you'll find us ready.'
I thanked him, and replied that I was sure I should be happy in
such a delightful place.
'How's your Ma, sir?' said Mr. Peggotty. 'Did you leave her pretty
I gave Mr. Peggotty to understand that she was as jolly as I could
wish, and that she desired her compliments - which was a polite
fiction on my part.
'I'm much obleeged to her, I'm sure,' said Mr. Peggotty. 'Well,
sir, if you can make out here, fur a fortnut, 'long wi' her,'
nodding at his sister, 'and Ham, and little Em'ly, we shall be
proud of your company.'
Having done the honours of his house in this hospitable manner, Mr.
Peggotty went out to wash himself in a kettleful of hot water,
remarking that 'cold would never get his muck off'. He soon
returned, greatly improved in appearance; but so rubicund, that I
couldn't help thinking his face had this in common with the
lobsters, crabs, and crawfish, - that it went into the hot water
very black, and came out very red.
After tea, when the door was shut and all was made snug (the nights
being cold and misty now), it seemed to me the most delicious
retreat that the imagination of man could conceive. To hear the
wind getting up out at sea, to know that the fog was creeping over
the desolate flat outside, and to look at the fire, and think that
there was no house near but this one, and this one a boat, was like
enchantment. Little Em'ly had overcome her shyness, and was
sitting by my side upon the lowest and least of the lockers, which
was just large enough for us two, and just fitted into the chimney
corner. Mrs. Peggotty with the white apron, was knitting on the
opposite side of the fire. Peggotty at her needlework was as much
at home with St. Paul's and the bit of wax-candle, as if they had
never known any other roof. Ham, who had been giving me my first
lesson in all-fours, was trying to recollect a scheme of telling
fortunes with the dirty cards, and was printing off fishy
impressions of his thumb on all the cards he turned. Mr. Peggotty
was smoking his pipe. I felt it was a time for conversation and
'Mr. Peggotty!' says I.
'Sir,' says he.
'Did you give your son the name of Ham, because you lived in a sort
Mr. Peggotty seemed to think it a deep idea, but answered:
'No, sir. I never giv him no name.'
'Who gave him that name, then?' said I, putting question number two
of the catechism to Mr. Peggotty.
'Why, sir, his father giv it him,' said Mr. Peggotty.
'I thought you were his father!'
'My brother Joe was his father,' said Mr. Peggotty.
'Dead, Mr. Peggotty?' I hinted, after a respectful pause.
'Drowndead,' said Mr. Peggotty.
I was very much surprised that Mr. Peggotty was not Ham's father,
and began to wonder whether I was mistaken about his relationship
to anybody else there. I was so curious to know, that I made up my
mind to have it out with Mr. Peggotty.
'Little Em'ly,' I said, glancing at her. 'She is your daughter,
isn't she, Mr. Peggotty?'
'No, sir. My brother-in-law, Tom, was her father.'
I couldn't help it. '- Dead, Mr. Peggotty?' I hinted, after
another respectful silence.
'Drowndead,' said Mr. Peggotty.
I felt the difficulty of resuming the subject, but had not got to
the bottom of it yet, and must get to the bottom somehow. So I
'Haven't you ANY children, Mr. Peggotty?'
'No, master,' he answered with a short laugh. 'I'm a bacheldore.'
'A bachelor!' I said, astonished. 'Why, who's that, Mr. Peggotty?'
pointing to the person in the apron who was knitting.
'That's Missis Gummidge,' said Mr. Peggotty.
'Gummidge, Mr. Peggotty?'
But at this point Peggotty - I mean my own peculiar Peggotty - made
such impressive motions to me not to ask any more questions, that
I could only sit and look at all the silent company, until it was
time to go to bed. Then, in the privacy of my own little cabin,
she informed me that Ham and Em'ly were an orphan nephew and niece,
whom my host had at different times adopted in their childhood,
when they were left destitute: and that Mrs. Gummidge was the widow
of his partner in a boat, who had died very poor. He was but a
poor man himself, said Peggotty, but as good as gold and as true as
steel - those were her similes. The only subject, she informed me,
on which he ever showed a violent temper or swore an oath, was this
generosity of his; and if it were ever referred to, by any one of
them, he struck the table a heavy blow with his right hand (had
split it on one such occasion), and swore a dreadful oath that he
would be 'Gormed' if he didn't cut and run for good, if it was ever
mentioned again. It appeared, in answer to my inquiries, that
nobody had the least idea of the etymology of this terrible verb
passive to be gormed; but that they all regarded it as constituting
a most solemn imprecation.
I was very sensible of my entertainer's goodness, and listened to
the women's going to bed in another little crib like mine at the
opposite end of the boat, and to him and Ham hanging up two
hammocks for themselves on the hooks I had noticed in the roof, in
a very luxurious state of mind, enhanced by my being sleepy. As
slumber gradually stole upon me, I heard the wind howling out at
sea and coming on across the flat so fiercely, that I had a lazy
apprehension of the great deep rising in the night. But I
bethought myself that I was in a boat, after all; and that a man
like Mr. Peggotty was not a bad person to have on board if anything
Nothing happened, however, worse than morning. Almost as soon as
it shone upon the oyster-shell frame of my mirror I was out of bed,
and out with little Em'ly, picking up stones upon the beach.
'You're quite a sailor, I suppose?' I said to Em'ly. I don't know
that I supposed anything of the kind, but I felt it an act of
gallantry to say something; and a shining sail close to us made
such a pretty little image of itself, at the moment, in her bright
eye, that it came into my head to say this.
'No,' replied Em'ly, shaking her head, 'I'm afraid of the sea.'
'Afraid!' I said, with a becoming air of boldness, and looking very
big at the mighty ocean. 'I an't!'
'Ah! but it's cruel,' said Em'ly. 'I have seen it very cruel to
some of our men. I have seen it tear a boat as big as our house,
all to pieces.'
'I hope it wasn't the boat that -'
'That father was drownded in?' said Em'ly. 'No. Not that one, I
never see that boat.'
'Nor him?' I asked her.
Little Em'ly shook her head. 'Not to remember!'
Here was a coincidence! I immediately went into an explanation how
I had never seen my own father; and how my mother and I had always
lived by ourselves in the happiest state imaginable, and lived so
then, and always meant to live so; and how my father's grave was in
the churchyard near our house, and shaded by a tree, beneath the
boughs of which I had walked and heard the birds sing many a
pleasant morning. But there were some differences between Em'ly's
orphanhood and mine, it appeared. She had lost her mother before
her father; and where her father's grave was no one knew, except
that it was somewhere in the depths of the sea.
'Besides,' said Em'ly, as she looked about for shells and pebbles,
'your father was a gentleman and your mother is a lady; and my
father was a fisherman and my mother was a fisherman's daughter,
and my uncle Dan is a fisherman.'
'Dan is Mr. Peggotty, is he?' said I.
'Uncle Dan - yonder,' answered Em'ly, nodding at the boat-house.
'Yes. I mean him. He must be very good, I should think?'
'Good?' said Em'ly. 'If I was ever to be a lady, I'd give him a
sky-blue coat with diamond buttons, nankeen trousers, a red velvet
waistcoat, a cocked hat, a large gold watch, a silver pipe, and a
box of money.'
I said I had no doubt that Mr. Peggotty well deserved these
treasures. I must acknowledge that I felt it difficult to picture
him quite at his ease in the raiment proposed for him by his
grateful little niece, and that I was particularly doubtful of the
policy of the cocked hat; but I kept these sentiments to myself.
Little Em'ly had stopped and looked up at the sky in her
enumeration of these articles, as if they were a glorious vision.
We went on again, picking up shells and pebbles.
'You would like to be a lady?' I said.
Emily looked at me, and laughed and nodded 'yes'.
'I should like it very much. We would all be gentlefolks together,
then. Me, and uncle, and Ham, and Mrs. Gummidge. We wouldn't mind
then, when there comes stormy weather. - Not for our own sakes, I
mean. We would for the poor fishermen's, to be sure, and we'd help
'em with money when they come to any hurt.' This seemed to me to
be a very satisfactory and therefore not at all improbable picture.
I expressed my pleasure in the contemplation of it, and little
Em'ly was emboldened to say, shyly,
'Don't you think you are afraid of the sea, now?'
It was quiet enough to reassure me, but I have no doubt if I had
seen a moderately large wave come tumbling in, I should have taken
to my heels, with an awful recollection of her drowned relations.
However, I said 'No,' and I added, 'You don't seem to be either,
though you say you are,' - for she was walking much too near the
brink of a sort of old jetty or wooden causeway we had strolled
upon, and I was afraid of her falling over.
'I'm not afraid in this way,' said little Em'ly. 'But I wake when
it blows, and tremble to think of Uncle Dan and Ham and believe I
hear 'em crying out for help. That's why I should like so much to
be a lady. But I'm not afraid in this way. Not a bit. Look
She started from my side, and ran along a jagged timber which
protruded from the place we stood upon, and overhung the deep water
at some height, without the least defence. The incident is so
impressed on my remembrance, that if I were a draughtsman I could
draw its form here, I dare say, accurately as it was that day, and
little Em'ly springing forward to her destruction (as it appeared
to me), with a look that I have never forgotten, directed far out
The light, bold, fluttering little figure turned and came back safe
to me, and I soon laughed at my fears, and at the cry I had
uttered; fruitlessly in any case, for there was no one near. But
there have been times since, in my manhood, many times there have
been, when I have thought, Is it possible, among the possibilities
of hidden things, that in the sudden rashness of the child and her
wild look so far off, there was any merciful attraction of her into
danger, any tempting her towards him permitted on the part of her
dead father, that her life might have a chance of ending that day?
There has been a time since when I have wondered whether, if the
life before her could have been revealed to me at a glance, and so
revealed as that a child could fully comprehend it, and if her
preservation could have depended on a motion of my hand, I ought to
have held it up to save her. There has been a time since - I do
not say it lasted long, but it has been - when I have asked myself
the question, would it have been better for little Em'ly to have
had the waters close above her head that morning in my sight; and
when I have answered Yes, it would have been.
This may be premature. I have set it down too soon, perhaps. But
let it stand.
We strolled a long way, and loaded ourselves with things that we
thought curious, and put some stranded starfish carefully back into
the water - I hardly know enough of the race at this moment to be
quite certain whether they had reason to feel obliged to us for
doing so, or the reverse - and then made our way home to Mr.
Peggotty's dwelling. We stopped under the lee of the
lobster-outhouse to exchange an innocent kiss, and went in to
breakfast glowing with health and pleasure.
'Like two young mavishes,' Mr. Peggotty said. I knew this meant,
in our local dialect, like two young thrushes, and received it as
Of course I was in love with little Em'ly. I am sure I loved that
baby quite as truly, quite as tenderly, with greater purity and
more disinterestedness, than can enter into the best love of a
later time of life, high and ennobling as it is. I am sure my
fancy raised up something round that blue-eyed mite of a child,
which etherealized, and made a very angel of her. If, any sunny
forenoon, she had spread a little pair of wings and flown away
before my eyes, I don't think I should have regarded it as much
more than I had had reason to expect.
We used to walk about that dim old flat at Yarmouth in a loving
manner, hours and hours. The days sported by us, as if Time had
not grown up himself yet, but were a child too, and always at play.
I told Em'ly I adored her, and that unless she confessed she adored
me I should be reduced to the necessity of killing myself with a
sword. She said she did, and I have no doubt she did.
As to any sense of inequality, or youthfulness, or other difficulty
in our way, little Em'ly and I had no such trouble, because we had
no future. We made no more provision for growing older, than we
did for growing younger. We were the admiration of Mrs. Gummidge
and Peggotty, who used to whisper of an evening when we sat,
lovingly, on our little locker side by side, 'Lor! wasn't it
beautiful!' Mr. Peggotty smiled at us from behind his pipe, and
Ham grinned all the evening and did nothing else. They had
something of the sort of pleasure in us, I suppose, that they might
have had in a pretty toy, or a pocket model of the Colosseum.
I soon found out that Mrs. Gummidge did not always make herself so
agreeable as she might have been expected to do, under the
circumstances of her residence with Mr. Peggotty. Mrs. Gummidge's
was rather a fretful disposition, and she whimpered more sometimes
than was comfortable for other parties in so small an
establishment. I was very sorry for her; but there were moments
when it would have been more agreeable, I thought, if Mrs. Gummidge
had had a convenient apartment of her own to retire to, and had
stopped there until her spirits revived.
Mr. Peggotty went occasionally to a public-house called The Willing
Mind. I discovered this, by his being out on the second or third
evening of our visit, and by Mrs. Gummidge's looking up at the
Dutch clock, between eight and nine, and saying he was there, and
that, what was more, she had known in the morning he would go
Mrs. Gummidge had been in a low state all day, and had burst into
tears in the forenoon, when the fire smoked. 'I am a lone lorn
creetur',' were Mrs. Gummidge's words, when that unpleasant
occurrence took place, 'and everythink goes contrary with me.'
'Oh, it'll soon leave off,' said Peggotty - I again mean our
Peggotty - 'and besides, you know, it's not more disagreeable to
you than to us.'
'I feel it more,' said Mrs. Gummidge.
It was a very cold day, with cutting blasts of wind. Mrs.
Gummidge's peculiar corner of the fireside seemed to me to be the
warmest and snuggest in the place, as her chair was certainly the
easiest, but it didn't suit her that day at all. She was
constantly complaining of the cold, and of its occasioning a
visitation in her back which she called 'the creeps'. At last she
shed tears on that subject, and said again that she was 'a lone
lorn creetur' and everythink went contrary with her'.
'It is certainly very cold,' said Peggotty. 'Everybody must feel
'I feel it more than other people,' said Mrs. Gummidge.
So at dinner; when Mrs. Gummidge was always helped immediately
after me, to whom the preference was given as a visitor of
distinction. The fish were small and bony, and the potatoes were
a little burnt. We all acknowledged that we felt this something of
a disappointment; but Mrs. Gummidge said she felt it more than we
did, and shed tears again, and made that former declaration with
Accordingly, when Mr. Peggotty came home about nine o'clock, this
unfortunate Mrs. Gummidge was knitting in her corner, in a very
wretched and miserable condition. Peggotty had been working
cheerfully. Ham had been patching up a great pair of waterboots;
and I, with little Em'ly by my side, had been reading to them.
Mrs. Gummidge had never made any other remark than a forlorn sigh,
and had never raised her eyes since tea.
'Well, Mates,' said Mr. Peggotty, taking his seat, 'and how are
We all said something, or looked something, to welcome him, except
Mrs. Gummidge, who only shook her head over her knitting.
'What's amiss?' said Mr. Peggotty, with a clap of his hands.
'Cheer up, old Mawther!' (Mr. Peggotty meant old girl.)
Mrs. Gummidge did not appear to be able to cheer up. She took out
an old black silk handkerchief and wiped her eyes; but instead of
putting it in her pocket, kept it out, and wiped them again, and
still kept it out, ready for use.
'What's amiss, dame?' said Mr. Peggotty.
'Nothing,' returned Mrs. Gummidge. 'You've come from The Willing
'Why yes, I've took a short spell at The Willing Mind tonight,'
said Mr. Peggotty.
'I'm sorry I should drive you there,' said Mrs. Gummidge.
'Drive! I don't want no driving,' returned Mr. Peggotty with an
honest laugh. 'I only go too ready.'
'Very ready,' said Mrs. Gummidge, shaking her head, and wiping her
eyes. 'Yes, yes, very ready. I am sorry it should be along of me
that you're so ready.'
'Along o' you! It an't along o' you!' said Mr. Peggotty. 'Don't
ye believe a bit on it.'
'Yes, yes, it is,' cried Mrs. Gummidge. 'I know what I am. I know
that I am a lone lorn creetur', and not only that everythink goes
contrary with me, but that I go contrary with everybody. Yes, yes.
I feel more than other people do, and I show it more. It's my
I really couldn't help thinking, as I sat taking in all this, that
the misfortune extended to some other members of that family
besides Mrs. Gummidge. But Mr. Peggotty made no such retort, only
answering with another entreaty to Mrs. Gummidge to cheer up.
'I an't what I could wish myself to be,' said Mrs. Gummidge. 'I am
far from it. I know what I am. My troubles has made me contrary.
I feel my troubles, and they make me contrary. I wish I didn't
feel 'em, but I do. I wish I could be hardened to 'em, but I an't.
I make the house uncomfortable. I don't wonder at it. I've made
your sister so all day, and Master Davy.'
Here I was suddenly melted, and roared out, 'No, you haven't, Mrs.
Gummidge,' in great mental distress.
'It's far from right that I should do it,' said Mrs. Gummidge. 'It
an't a fit return. I had better go into the house and die. I am
a lone lorn creetur', and had much better not make myself contrary
here. If thinks must go contrary with me, and I must go contrary
myself, let me go contrary in my parish. Dan'l, I'd better go into
the house, and die and be a riddance!'
Mrs. Gummidge retired with these words, and betook herself to bed.
When she was gone, Mr. Peggotty, who had not exhibited a trace of
any feeling but the profoundest sympathy, looked round upon us, and
nodding his head with a lively expression of that sentiment still
animating his face, said in a whisper:
'She's been thinking of the old 'un!'
I did not quite understand what old one Mrs. Gummidge was supposed
to have fixed her mind upon, until Peggotty, on seeing me to bed,
explained that it was the late Mr. Gummidge; and that her brother
always took that for a received truth on such occasions, and that
it always had a moving effect upon him. Some time after he was in
his hammock that night, I heard him myself repeat to Ham, 'Poor
thing! She's been thinking of the old 'un!' And whenever Mrs.
Gummidge was overcome in a similar manner during the remainder of
our stay (which happened some few times), he always said the same