Part 11 out of 21
circumstanced, supposing any serious cause of variance to arise
between them, of being divided angrily and deeply?'
'I should say yes,' said Steerforth.
'Should you?' she retorted. 'Dear me! Supposing then, for
instance - any unlikely thing will do for a supposition - that you
and your mother were to have a serious quarrel.'
'My dear Rosa,' interposed Mrs. Steerforth, laughing
good-naturedly, 'suggest some other supposition! James and I know
our duty to each other better, I pray Heaven!'
'Oh!' said Miss Dartle, nodding her head thoughtfully. 'To be
sure. That would prevent it? Why, of course it would. Exactly.
Now, I am glad I have been so foolish as to put the case, for it is
so very good to know that your duty to each other would prevent it!
Thank you very much.'
One other little circumstance connected with Miss Dartle I must not
omit; for I had reason to remember it thereafter, when all the
irremediable past was rendered plain. During the whole of this
day, but especially from this period of it, Steerforth exerted
himself with his utmost skill, and that was with his utmost ease,
to charm this singular creature into a pleasant and pleased
companion. That he should succeed, was no matter of surprise to
me. That she should struggle against the fascinating influence of
his delightful art - delightful nature I thought it then - did not
surprise me either; for I knew that she was sometimes jaundiced and
perverse. I saw her features and her manner slowly change; I saw
her look at him with growing admiration; I saw her try, more and
more faintly, but always angrily, as if she condemned a weakness in
herself, to resist the captivating power that he possessed; and
finally, I saw her sharp glance soften, and her smile become quite
gentle, and I ceased to be afraid of her as I had really been all
day, and we all sat about the fire, talking and laughing together,
with as little reserve as if we had been children.
Whether it was because we had sat there so long, or because
Steerforth was resolved not to lose the advantage he had gained, I
do not know; but we did not remain in the dining-room more than
five minutes after her departure. 'She is playing her harp,' said
Steerforth, softly, at the drawing-room door, 'and nobody but my
mother has heard her do that, I believe, these three years.' He
said it with a curious smile, which was gone directly; and we went
into the room and found her alone.
'Don't get up,' said Steerforth (which she had already done)' my
dear Rosa, don't! Be kind for once, and sing us an Irish song.'
'What do you care for an Irish song?' she returned.
'Much!' said Steerforth. 'Much more than for any other. Here is
Daisy, too, loves music from his soul. Sing us an Irish song,
Rosa! and let me sit and listen as I used to do.'
He did not touch her, or the chair from which she had risen, but
sat himself near the harp. She stood beside it for some little
while, in a curious way, going through the motion of playing it
with her right hand, but not sounding it. At length she sat down,
and drew it to her with one sudden action, and played and sang.
I don't know what it was, in her touch or voice, that made that
song the most unearthly I have ever heard in my life, or can
imagine. There was something fearful in the reality of it. It was
as if it had never been written, or set to music, but sprung out of
passion within her; which found imperfect utterance in the low
sounds of her voice, and crouched again when all was still. I was
dumb when she leaned beside the harp again, playing it, but not
sounding it, with her right hand.
A minute more, and this had roused me from my trance: - Steerforth
had left his seat, and gone to her, and had put his arm laughingly
about her, and had said, 'Come, Rosa, for the future we will love
each other very much!' And she had struck him, and had thrown him
off with the fury of a wild cat, and had burst out of the room.
'What is the matter with Rosa?' said Mrs. Steerforth, coming in.
'She has been an angel, mother,' returned Steerforth, 'for a little
while; and has run into the opposite extreme, since, by way of
'You should be careful not to irritate her, James. Her temper has
been soured, remember, and ought not to be tried.'
Rosa did not come back; and no other mention was made of her, until
I went with Steerforth into his room to say Good night. Then he
laughed about her, and asked me if I had ever seen such a fierce
little piece of incomprehensibility.
I expressed as much of my astonishment as was then capable of
expression, and asked if he could guess what it was that she had
taken so much amiss, so suddenly.
'Oh, Heaven knows,' said Steerforth. 'Anything you like - or
nothing! I told you she took everything, herself included, to a
grindstone, and sharpened it. She is an edge-tool, and requires
great care in dealing with. She is always dangerous. Good night!'
'Good night!' said I, 'my dear Steerforth! I shall be gone before
you wake in the morning. Good night!'
He was unwilling to let me go; and stood, holding me out, with a
hand on each of my shoulders, as he had done in my own room.
'Daisy,' he said, with a smile - 'for though that's not the name
your godfathers and godmothers gave you, it's the name I like best
to call you by - and I wish, I wish, I wish, you could give it to
'Why so I can, if I choose,' said I.
'Daisy, if anything should ever separate us, you must think of me
at my best, old boy. Come! Let us make that bargain. Think of me
at my best, if circumstances should ever part us!'
'You have no best to me, Steerforth,' said I, 'and no worst. You
are always equally loved, and cherished in my heart.'
So much compunction for having ever wronged him, even by a
shapeless thought, did I feel within me, that the confession of
having done so was rising to my lips. But for the reluctance I had
to betray the confidence of Agnes, but for my uncertainty how to
approach the subject with no risk of doing so, it would have
reached them before he said, 'God bless you, Daisy, and good
night!' In my doubt, it did NOT reach them; and we shook hands, and
I was up with the dull dawn, and, having dressed as quietly as I
could, looked into his room. He was fast asleep; lying, easily,
with his head upon his arm, as I had often seen him lie at school.
The time came in its season, and that was very soon, when I almost
wondered that nothing troubled his repose, as I looked at him. But
he slept - let me think of him so again - as I had often seen him
sleep at school; and thus, in this silent hour, I left him.
- Never more, oh God forgive you, Steerforth! to touch that passive
hand in love and friendship. Never, never more!
I got down to Yarmouth in the evening, and went to the inn. I knew
that Peggotty's spare room - my room - was likely to have
occupation enough in a little while, if that great Visitor, before
whose presence all the living must give place, were not already in
the house; so I betook myself to the inn, and dined there, and
engaged my bed.
It was ten o'clock when I went out. Many of the shops were shut,
and the town was dull. When I came to Omer and Joram's, I found
the shutters up, but the shop door standing open. As I could
obtain a perspective view of Mr. Omer inside, smoking his pipe by
the parlour door, I entered, and asked him how he was.
'Why, bless my life and soul!' said Mr. Omer, 'how do you find
yourself? Take a seat. - Smoke not disagreeable, I hope?'
'By no means,' said I. 'I like it - in somebody else's pipe.'
'What, not in your own, eh?' Mr. Omer returned, laughing. 'All the
better, sir. Bad habit for a young man. Take a seat. I smoke,
myself, for the asthma.'
Mr. Omer had made room for me, and placed a chair. He now sat down
again very much out of breath, gasping at his pipe as if it
contained a supply of that necessary, without which he must perish.
'I am sorry to have heard bad news of Mr. Barkis,' said I.
Mr. Omer looked at me, with a steady countenance, and shook his
'Do you know how he is tonight?' I asked.
'The very question I should have put to you, sir,' returned Mr.
Omer, 'but on account of delicacy. It's one of the drawbacks of
our line of business. When a party's ill, we can't ask how the
The difficulty had not occurred to me; though I had had my
apprehensions too, when I went in, of hearing the old tune. On its
being mentioned, I recognized it, however, and said as much.
'Yes, yes, you understand,' said Mr. Omer, nodding his head. 'We
dursn't do it. Bless you, it would be a shock that the generality
of parties mightn't recover, to say "Omer and Joram's compliments,
and how do you find yourself this morning?" - or this afternoon -
as it may be.'
Mr. Omer and I nodded at each other, and Mr. Omer recruited his
wind by the aid of his pipe.
'It's one of the things that cut the trade off from attentions they
could often wish to show,' said Mr. Omer. 'Take myself. If I have
known Barkis a year, to move to as he went by, I have known him
forty years. But I can't go and say, "how is he?"'
I felt it was rather hard on Mr. Omer, and I told him so.
'I'm not more self-interested, I hope, than another man,' said Mr.
Omer. 'Look at me! My wind may fail me at any moment, and it
ain't likely that, to my own knowledge, I'd be self-interested
under such circumstances. I say it ain't likely, in a man who
knows his wind will go, when it DOES go, as if a pair of bellows
was cut open; and that man a grandfather,' said Mr. Omer.
I said, 'Not at all.'
'It ain't that I complain of my line of business,' said Mr. Omer.
'It ain't that. Some good and some bad goes, no doubt, to all
callings. What I wish is, that parties was brought up
Mr. Omer, with a very complacent and amiable face, took several
puffs in silence; and then said, resuming his first point:
'Accordingly we're obleeged, in ascertaining how Barkis goes on, to
limit ourselves to Em'ly. She knows what our real objects are, and
she don't have any more alarms or suspicions about us, than if we
was so many lambs. Minnie and Joram have just stepped down to the
house, in fact (she's there, after hours, helping her aunt a bit),
to ask her how he is tonight; and if you was to please to wait till
they come back, they'd give you full partic'lers. Will you take
something? A glass of srub and water, now? I smoke on srub and
water, myself,' said Mr. Omer, taking up his glass, 'because it's
considered softening to the passages, by which this troublesome
breath of mine gets into action. But, Lord bless you,' said Mr.
Omer, huskily, 'it ain't the passages that's out of order! "Give
me breath enough," said I to my daughter Minnie, "and I'll find
passages, my dear."'
He really had no breath to spare, and it was very alarming to see
him laugh. When he was again in a condition to be talked to, I
thanked him for the proffered refreshment, which I declined, as I
had just had dinner; and, observing that I would wait, since he was
so good as to invite me, until his daughter and his son-in-law came
back, I inquired how little Emily was?
'Well, sir,' said Mr. Omer, removing his pipe, that he might rub
his chin: 'I tell you truly, I shall be glad when her marriage has
'Why so?' I inquired.
'Well, she's unsettled at present,' said Mr. Omer. 'It ain't that
she's not as pretty as ever, for she's prettier - I do assure you,
she is prettier. It ain't that she don't work as well as ever, for
she does. She WAS worth any six, and she IS worth any six. But
somehow she wants heart. If you understand,' said Mr. Omer, after
rubbing his chin again, and smoking a little, 'what I mean in a
general way by the expression, "A long pull, and a strong pull, and
a pull altogether, my hearties, hurrah!" I should say to you, that
that was - in a general way - what I miss in Em'ly.'
Mr. Omer's face and manner went for so much, that I could
conscientiously nod my head, as divining his meaning. My quickness
of apprehension seemed to please him, and he went on:
'Now I consider this is principally on account of her being in an
unsettled state, you see. We have talked it over a good deal, her
uncle and myself, and her sweetheart and myself, after business;
and I consider it is principally on account of her being unsettled.
You must always recollect of Em'ly,' said Mr. Omer, shaking his
head gently, 'that she's a most extraordinary affectionate little
thing. The proverb says, "You can't make a silk purse out of a
sow's ear." Well, I don't know about that. I rather think you may,
if you begin early in life. She has made a home out of that old
boat, sir, that stone and marble couldn't beat.'
'I am sure she has!' said I.
'To see the clinging of that pretty little thing to her uncle,'
said Mr. Omer; 'to see the way she holds on to him, tighter and
tighter, and closer and closer, every day, is to see a sight. Now,
you know, there's a struggle going on when that's the case. Why
should it be made a longer one than is needful?'
I listened attentively to the good old fellow, and acquiesced, with
all my heart, in what he said.
'Therefore, I mentioned to them,' said Mr. Omer, in a comfortable,
easy-going tone, 'this. I said, "Now, don't consider Em'ly nailed
down in point of time, at all. Make it your own time. Her
services have been more valuable than was supposed; her learning
has been quicker than was supposed; Omer and Joram can run their
pen through what remains; and she's free when you wish. If she
likes to make any little arrangement, afterwards, in the way of
doing any little thing for us at home, very well. If she don't,
very well still. We're no losers, anyhow." For - don't you see,'
said Mr. Omer, touching me with his pipe, 'it ain't likely that a
man so short of breath as myself, and a grandfather too, would go
and strain points with a little bit of a blue-eyed blossom, like
'Not at all, I am certain,' said I.
'Not at all! You're right!' said Mr. Omer. 'Well, sir, her cousin
- you know it's a cousin she's going to be married to?'
'Oh yes,' I replied. 'I know him well.'
'Of course you do,' said Mr. Omer. 'Well, sir! Her cousin being,
as it appears, in good work, and well to do, thanked me in a very
manly sort of manner for this (conducting himself altogether, I
must say, in a way that gives me a high opinion of him), and went
and took as comfortable a little house as you or I could wish to
clap eyes on. That little house is now furnished right through, as
neat and complete as a doll's parlour; and but for Barkis's illness
having taken this bad turn, poor fellow, they would have been man
and wife - I dare say, by this time. As it is, there's a
'And Emily, Mr. Omer?' I inquired. 'Has she become more settled?'
'Why that, you know,' he returned, rubbing his double chin again,
'can't naturally be expected. The prospect of the change and
separation, and all that, is, as one may say, close to her and far
away from her, both at once. Barkis's death needn't put it off
much, but his lingering might. Anyway, it's an uncertain state of
matters, you see.'
'I see,' said I.
'Consequently,' pursued Mr. Omer, 'Em'ly's still a little down, and
a little fluttered; perhaps, upon the whole, she's more so than she
was. Every day she seems to get fonder and fonder of her uncle,
and more loth to part from all of us. A kind word from me brings
the tears into her eyes; and if you was to see her with my daughter
Minnie's little girl, you'd never forget it. Bless my heart
alive!' said Mr. Omer, pondering, 'how she loves that child!'
Having so favourable an opportunity, it occurred to me to ask Mr.
Omer, before our conversation should be interrupted by the return
of his daughter and her husband, whether he knew anything of
'Ah!' he rejoined, shaking his head, and looking very much
dejected. 'No good. A sad story, sir, however you come to know
it. I never thought there was harm in the girl. I wouldn't wish
to mention it before my daughter Minnie - for she'd take me up
directly - but I never did. None of us ever did.'
Mr. Omer, hearing his daughter's footstep before I heard it,
touched me with his pipe, and shut up one eye, as a caution. She
and her husband came in immediately afterwards.
Their report was, that Mr. Barkis was 'as bad as bad could be';
that he was quite unconscious; and that Mr. Chillip had mournfully
said in the kitchen, on going away just now, that the College of
Physicians, the College of Surgeons, and Apothecaries' Hall, if
they were all called in together, couldn't help him. He was past
both Colleges, Mr. Chillip said, and the Hall could only poison
Hearing this, and learning that Mr. Peggotty was there, I
determined to go to the house at once. I bade good night to Mr.
Omer, and to Mr. and Mrs. Joram; and directed my steps thither,
with a solemn feeling, which made Mr. Barkis quite a new and
My low tap at the door was answered by Mr. Peggotty. He was not so
much surprised to see me as I had expected. I remarked this in
Peggotty, too, when she came down; and I have seen it since; and I
think, in the expectation of that dread surprise, all other changes
and surprises dwindle into nothing.
I shook hands with Mr. Peggotty, and passed into the kitchen, while
he softly closed the door. Little Emily was sitting by the fire,
with her hands before her face. Ham was standing near her.
We spoke in whispers; listening, between whiles, for any sound in
the room above. I had not thought of it on the occasion of my last
visit, but how strange it was to me, now, to miss Mr. Barkis out of
'This is very kind of you, Mas'r Davy,' said Mr. Peggotty.
'It's oncommon kind,' said Ham.
'Em'ly, my dear,' cried Mr. Peggotty. 'See here! Here's Mas'r
Davy come! What, cheer up, pretty! Not a wured to Mas'r Davy?'
There was a trembling upon her, that I can see now. The coldness
of her hand when I touched it, I can feel yet. Its only sign of
animation was to shrink from mine; and then she glided from the
chair, and creeping to the other side of her uncle, bowed herself,
silently and trembling still, upon his breast.
'It's such a loving art,' said Mr. Peggotty, smoothing her rich
hair with his great hard hand, 'that it can't abear the sorrer of
this. It's nat'ral in young folk, Mas'r Davy, when they're new to
these here trials, and timid, like my little bird, - it's nat'ral.'
She clung the closer to him, but neither lifted up her face, nor
spoke a word.
'It's getting late, my dear,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'and here's Ham
come fur to take you home. Theer! Go along with t'other loving
art! What' Em'ly? Eh, my pretty?'
The sound of her voice had not reached me, but he bent his head as
if he listened to her, and then said:
'Let you stay with your uncle? Why, you doen't mean to ask me
that! Stay with your uncle, Moppet? When your husband that'll be
so soon, is here fur to take you home? Now a person wouldn't think
it, fur to see this little thing alongside a rough-weather chap
like me,' said Mr. Peggotty, looking round at both of us, with
infinite pride; 'but the sea ain't more salt in it than she has
fondness in her for her uncle - a foolish little Em'ly!'
'Em'ly's in the right in that, Mas'r Davy!' said Ham. 'Lookee
here! As Em'ly wishes of it, and as she's hurried and frightened,
like, besides, I'll leave her till morning. Let me stay too!'
'No, no,' said Mr. Peggotty. 'You doen't ought - a married man
like you - or what's as good - to take and hull away a day's work.
And you doen't ought to watch and work both. That won't do. You
go home and turn in. You ain't afeerd of Em'ly not being took good
care on, I know.'
Ham yielded to this persuasion, and took his hat to go. Even when
he kissed her. - and I never saw him approach her, but I felt that
nature had given him the soul of a gentleman - she seemed to cling
closer to her uncle, even to the avoidance of her chosen husband.
I shut the door after him, that it might cause no disturbance of
the quiet that prevailed; and when I turned back, I found Mr.
Peggotty still talking to her.
'Now, I'm a going upstairs to tell your aunt as Mas'r Davy's here,
and that'll cheer her up a bit,' he said. 'Sit ye down by the
fire, the while, my dear, and warm those mortal cold hands. You
doen't need to be so fearsome, and take on so much. What? You'll
go along with me? - Well! come along with me - come! If her uncle
was turned out of house and home, and forced to lay down in a dyke,
Mas'r Davy,' said Mr. Peggotty, with no less pride than before,
'it's my belief she'd go along with him, now! But there'll be
someone else, soon, - someone else, soon, Em'ly!'
Afterwards, when I went upstairs, as I passed the door of my little
chamber, which was dark, I had an indistinct impression of her
being within it, cast down upon the floor. But, whether it was
really she, or whether it was a confusion of the shadows in the
room, I don't know now.
I had leisure to think, before the kitchen fire, of pretty little
Emily's dread of death - which, added to what Mr. Omer had told me,
I took to be the cause of her being so unlike herself - and I had
leisure, before Peggotty came down, even to think more leniently of
the weakness of it: as I sat counting the ticking of the clock, and
deepening my sense of the solemn hush around me. Peggotty took me
in her arms, and blessed and thanked me over and over again for
being such a comfort to her (that was what she said) in her
distress. She then entreated me to come upstairs, sobbing that Mr.
Barkis had always liked me and admired me; that he had often talked
of me, before he fell into a stupor; and that she believed, in case
of his coming to himself again, he would brighten up at sight of
me, if he could brighten up at any earthly thing.
The probability of his ever doing so, appeared to me, when I saw
him, to be very small. He was lying with his head and shoulders
out of bed, in an uncomfortable attitude, half resting on the box
which had cost him so much pain and trouble. I learned, that, when
he was past creeping out of bed to open it, and past assuring
himself of its safety by means of the divining rod I had seen him
use, he had required to have it placed on the chair at the
bed-side, where he had ever since embraced it, night and day. His
arm lay on it now. Time and the world were slipping from beneath
him, but the box was there; and the last words he had uttered were
(in an explanatory tone) 'Old clothes!'
'Barkis, my dear!' said Peggotty, almost cheerfully: bending over
him, while her brother and I stood at the bed's foot. 'Here's my
dear boy - my dear boy, Master Davy, who brought us together,
Barkis! That you sent messages by, you know! Won't you speak to
He was as mute and senseless as the box, from which his form
derived the only expression it had.
'He's a going out with the tide,' said Mr. Peggotty to me, behind
My eyes were dim and so were Mr. Peggotty's; but I repeated in a
whisper, 'With the tide?'
'People can't die, along the coast,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'except
when the tide's pretty nigh out. They can't be born, unless it's
pretty nigh in - not properly born, till flood. He's a going out
with the tide. It's ebb at half-arter three, slack water half an
hour. If he lives till it turns, he'll hold his own till past the
flood, and go out with the next tide.'
We remained there, watching him, a long time - hours. What
mysterious influence my presence had upon him in that state of his
senses, I shall not pretend to say; but when he at last began to
wander feebly, it is certain he was muttering about driving me to
'He's coming to himself,' said Peggotty.
Mr. Peggotty touched me, and whispered with much awe and reverence.
'They are both a-going out fast.'
'Barkis, my dear!' said Peggotty.
'C. P. Barkis,' he cried faintly. 'No better woman anywhere!'
'Look! Here's Master Davy!' said Peggotty. For he now opened his
I was on the point of asking him if he knew me, when he tried to
stretch out his arm, and said to me, distinctly, with a pleasant
'Barkis is willin'!'
And, it being low water, he went out with the tide.
A GREATER LOSS
It was not difficult for me, on Peggotty's solicitation, to resolve
to stay where I was, until after the remains of the poor carrier
should have made their last journey to Blunderstone. She had long
ago bought, out of her own savings, a little piece of ground in our
old churchyard near the grave of 'her sweet girl', as she always
called my mother; and there they were to rest.
In keeping Peggotty company, and doing all I could for her (little
enough at the utmost), I was as grateful, I rejoice to think, as
even now I could wish myself to have been. But I am afraid I had
a supreme satisfaction, of a personal and professional nature, in
taking charge of Mr. Barkis's will, and expounding its contents.
I may claim the merit of having originated the suggestion that the
will should be looked for in the box. After some search, it was
found in the box, at the bottom of a horse's nose-bag; wherein
(besides hay) there was discovered an old gold watch, with chain
and seals, which Mr. Barkis had worn on his wedding-day, and which
had never been seen before or since; a silver tobacco-stopper, in
the form of a leg; an imitation lemon, full of minute cups and
saucers, which I have some idea Mr. Barkis must have purchased to
present to me when I was a child, and afterwards found himself
unable to part with; eighty-seven guineas and a half, in guineas
and half-guineas; two hundred and ten pounds, in perfectly clean
Bank notes; certain receipts for Bank of England stock; an old
horseshoe, a bad shilling, a piece of camphor, and an oyster-shell.
From the circumstance of the latter article having been much
polished, and displaying prismatic colours on the inside, I
conclude that Mr. Barkis had some general ideas about pearls, which
never resolved themselves into anything definite.
For years and years, Mr. Barkis had carried this box, on all his
journeys, every day. That it might the better escape notice, he
had invented a fiction that it belonged to 'Mr. Blackboy', and was
'to be left with Barkis till called for'; a fable he had
elaborately written on the lid, in characters now scarcely legible.
He had hoarded, all these years, I found, to good purpose. His
property in money amounted to nearly three thousand pounds. Of
this he bequeathed the interest of one thousand to Mr. Peggotty for
his life; on his decease, the principal to be equally divided
between Peggotty, little Emily, and me, or the survivor or
survivors of us, share and share alike. All the rest he died
possessed of, he bequeathed to Peggotty; whom he left residuary
legatee, and sole executrix of that his last will and testament.
I felt myself quite a proctor when I read this document aloud with
all possible ceremony, and set forth its provisions, any number of
times, to those whom they concerned. I began to think there was
more in the Commons than I had supposed. I examined the will with
the deepest attention, pronounced it perfectly formal in all
respects, made a pencil-mark or so in the margin, and thought it
rather extraordinary that I knew so much.
In this abstruse pursuit; in making an account for Peggotty, of all
the property into which she had come; in arranging all the affairs
in an orderly manner; and in being her referee and adviser on every
point, to our joint delight; I passed the week before the funeral.
I did not see little Emily in that interval, but they told me she
was to be quietly married in a fortnight.
I did not attend the funeral in character, if I may venture to say
so. I mean I was not dressed up in a black coat and a streamer, to
frighten the birds; but I walked over to Blunderstone early in the
morning, and was in the churchyard when it came, attended only by
Peggotty and her brother. The mad gentleman looked on, out of my
little window; Mr. Chillip's baby wagged its heavy head, and rolled
its goggle eyes, at the clergyman, over its nurse's shoulder; Mr.
Omer breathed short in the background; no one else was there; and
it was very quiet. We walked about the churchyard for an hour,
after all was over; and pulled some young leaves from the tree
above my mother's grave.
A dread falls on me here. A cloud is lowering on the distant town,
towards which I retraced my solitary steps. I fear to approach it.
I cannot bear to think of what did come, upon that memorable night;
of what must come again, if I go on.
It is no worse, because I write of it. It would be no better, if
I stopped my most unwilling hand. It is done. Nothing can undo
it; nothing can make it otherwise than as it was.
My old nurse was to go to London with me next day, on the business
of the will. Little Emily was passing that day at Mr. Omer's. We
were all to meet in the old boathouse that night. Ham would bring
Emily at the usual hour. I would walk back at my leisure. The
brother and sister would return as they had come, and be expecting
us, when the day closed in, at the fireside.
I parted from them at the wicket-gate, where visionary Strap had
rested with Roderick Random's knapsack in the days of yore; and,
instead of going straight back, walked a little distance on the
road to Lowestoft. Then I turned, and walked back towards
Yarmouth. I stayed to dine at a decent alehouse, some mile or two
from the Ferry I have mentioned before; and thus the day wore away,
and it was evening when I reached it. Rain was falling heavily by
that time, and it was a wild night; but there was a moon behind the
clouds, and it was not dark.
I was soon within sight of Mr. Peggotty's house, and of the light
within it shining through the window. A little floundering across
the sand, which was heavy, brought me to the door, and I went in.
It looked very comfortable indeed. Mr. Peggotty had smoked his
evening pipe and there were preparations for some supper by and by.
The fire was bright, the ashes were thrown up, the locker was ready
for little Emily in her old place. In her own old place sat
Peggotty, once more, looking (but for her dress) as if she had
never left it. She had fallen back, already, on the society of the
work-box with St. Paul's upon the lid, the yard-measure in the
cottage, and the bit of wax-candle; and there they all were, just
as if they had never been disturbed. Mrs. Gummidge appeared to be
fretting a little, in her old corner; and consequently looked quite
'You're first of the lot, Mas'r Davy!' said Mr. Peggotty with a
happy face. 'Doen't keep in that coat, sir, if it's wet.'
'Thank you, Mr. Peggotty,' said I, giving him my outer coat to hang
up. 'It's quite dry.'
'So 'tis!' said Mr. Peggotty, feeling my shoulders. 'As a chip!
Sit ye down, sir. It ain't o' no use saying welcome to you, but
you're welcome, kind and hearty.'
'Thank you, Mr. Peggotty, I am sure of that. Well, Peggotty!' said
I, giving her a kiss. 'And how are you, old woman?'
'Ha, ha!' laughed Mr. Peggotty, sitting down beside us, and rubbing
his hands in his sense of relief from recent trouble, and in the
genuine heartiness of his nature; 'there's not a woman in the
wureld, sir - as I tell her - that need to feel more easy in her
mind than her! She done her dooty by the departed, and the
departed know'd it; and the departed done what was right by her, as
she done what was right by the departed; - and - and - and it's all
Mrs. Gummidge groaned.
'Cheer up, my pritty mawther!' said Mr. Peggotty. (But he shook
his head aside at us, evidently sensible of the tendency of the
late occurrences to recall the memory of the old one.) 'Doen't be
down! Cheer up, for your own self, on'y a little bit, and see if
a good deal more doen't come nat'ral!'
'Not to me, Dan'l,' returned Mrs. Gummidge. 'Nothink's nat'ral to
me but to be lone and lorn.'
'No, no,' said Mr. Peggotty, soothing her sorrows.
'Yes, yes, Dan'l!' said Mrs. Gummidge. 'I ain't a person to live
with them as has had money left. Thinks go too contrary with me.
I had better be a riddance.'
'Why, how should I ever spend it without you?' said Mr. Peggotty,
with an air of serious remonstrance. 'What are you a talking on?
Doen't I want you more now, than ever I did?'
'I know'd I was never wanted before!' cried Mrs. Gummidge, with a
pitiable whimper, 'and now I'm told so! How could I expect to be
wanted, being so lone and lorn, and so contrary!'
Mr. Peggotty seemed very much shocked at himself for having made a
speech capable of this unfeeling construction, but was prevented
from replying, by Peggotty's pulling his sleeve, and shaking her
head. After looking at Mrs. Gummidge for some moments, in sore
distress of mind, he glanced at the Dutch clock, rose, snuffed the
candle, and put it in the window.
'Theer!'said Mr. Peggotty, cheerily.'Theer we are, Missis
Gummidge!' Mrs. Gummidge slightly groaned. 'Lighted up, accordin'
to custom! You're a wonderin' what that's fur, sir! Well, it's
fur our little Em'ly. You see, the path ain't over light or
cheerful arter dark; and when I'm here at the hour as she's a
comin' home, I puts the light in the winder. That, you see,' said
Mr. Peggotty, bending over me with great glee, 'meets two objects.
She says, says Em'ly, "Theer's home!" she says. And likewise, says
Em'ly, "My uncle's theer!" Fur if I ain't theer, I never have no
'You're a baby!' said Peggotty; very fond of him for it, if she
'Well,' returned Mr. Peggotty, standing with his legs pretty wide
apart, and rubbing his hands up and down them in his comfortable
satisfaction, as he looked alternately at us and at the fire. 'I
doen't know but I am. Not, you see, to look at.'
'Not azackly,' observed Peggotty.
'No,' laughed Mr. Peggotty, 'not to look at, but to - to consider
on, you know. I doen't care, bless you! Now I tell you. When I
go a looking and looking about that theer pritty house of our
Em'ly's, I'm - I'm Gormed,' said Mr. Peggotty, with sudden emphasis
- 'theer! I can't say more - if I doen't feel as if the littlest
things was her, a'most. I takes 'em up and I put 'em down, and I
touches of 'em as delicate as if they was our Em'ly. So 'tis with
her little bonnets and that. I couldn't see one on 'em rough used
a purpose - not fur the whole wureld. There's a babby fur you, in
the form of a great Sea Porkypine!' said Mr. Peggotty, relieving
his earnestness with a roar of laughter.
Peggotty and I both laughed, but not so loud.
'It's my opinion, you see,' said Mr. Peggotty, with a delighted
face, after some further rubbing of his legs, 'as this is along of
my havin' played with her so much, and made believe as we was
Turks, and French, and sharks, and every wariety of forinners -
bless you, yes; and lions and whales, and I doen't know what all!
- when she warn't no higher than my knee. I've got into the way on
it, you know. Why, this here candle, now!' said Mr. Peggotty,
gleefully holding out his hand towards it, 'I know wery well that
arter she's married and gone, I shall put that candle theer, just
the same as now. I know wery well that when I'm here o' nights
(and where else should I live, bless your arts, whatever fortun' I
come into!) and she ain't here or I ain't theer, I shall put the
candle in the winder, and sit afore the fire, pretending I'm
expecting of her, like I'm a doing now. THERE'S a babby for you,'
said Mr. Peggotty, with another roar, 'in the form of a Sea
Porkypine! Why, at the present minute, when I see the candle
sparkle up, I says to myself, "She's a looking at it! Em'ly's a
coming!" THERE'S a babby for you, in the form of a Sea Porkypine!
Right for all that,' said Mr. Peggotty, stopping in his roar, and
smiting his hands together; 'fur here she is!'
It was only Ham. The night should have turned more wet since I
came in, for he had a large sou'wester hat on, slouched over his
'Wheer's Em'ly?' said Mr. Peggotty.
Ham made a motion with his head, as if she were outside. Mr.
Peggotty took the light from the window, trimmed it, put it on the
table, and was busily stirring the fire, when Ham, who had not
'Mas'r Davy, will you come out a minute, and see what Em'ly and me
has got to show you?'
We went out. As I passed him at the door, I saw, to my
astonishment and fright, that he was deadly pale. He pushed me
hastily into the open air, and closed the door upon us. Only upon
'Ham! what's the matter?'
'Mas'r Davy! -' Oh, for his broken heart, how dreadfully he wept!
I was paralysed by the sight of such grief. I don't know what I
thought, or what I dreaded. I could only look at him.
'Ham! Poor good fellow! For Heaven's sake, tell me what's the
'My love, Mas'r Davy - the pride and hope of my art - her that I'd
have died for, and would die for now - she's gone!'
'Em'ly's run away! Oh, Mas'r Davy, think HOW she's run away, when
I pray my good and gracious God to kill her (her that is so dear
above all things) sooner than let her come to ruin and disgrace!'
The face he turned up to the troubled sky, the quivering of his
clasped hands, the agony of his figure, remain associated with the
lonely waste, in my remembrance, to this hour. It is always night
there, and he is the only object in the scene.
'You're a scholar,' he said, hurriedly, 'and know what's right and
best. What am I to say, indoors? How am I ever to break it to
him, Mas'r Davy?'
I saw the door move, and instinctively tried to hold the latch on
the outside, to gain a moment's time. It was too late. Mr.
Peggotty thrust forth his face; and never could I forget the change
that came upon it when he saw us, if I were to live five hundred
I remember a great wail and cry, and the women hanging about him,
and we all standing in the room; I with a paper in my hand, which
Ham had given me; Mr. Peggotty, with his vest torn open, his hair
wild, his face and lips quite white, and blood trickling down his
bosom (it had sprung from his mouth, I think), looking fixedly at
'Read it, sir,' he said, in a low shivering voice. 'Slow, please.
I doen't know as I can understand.'
In the midst of the silence of death, I read thus, from a blotted
'"When you, who love me so much better than I ever have deserved,
even when my mind was innocent, see this, I shall be far away."'
'I shall be fur away,' he repeated slowly. 'Stop! Em'ly fur away.
'"When I leave my dear home - my dear home - oh, my dear home! - in
the letter bore date on the previous night:
'"- it will be never to come back, unless he brings me back a lady.
This will be found at night, many hours after, instead of me. Oh,
if you knew how my heart is torn. If even you, that I have wronged
so much, that never can forgive me, could only know what I suffer!
I am too wicked to write about myself! Oh, take comfort in
thinking that I am so bad. Oh, for mercy's sake, tell uncle that
I never loved him half so dear as now. Oh, don't remember how
affectionate and kind you have all been to me - don't remember we
were ever to be married - but try to think as if I died when I was
little, and was buried somewhere. Pray Heaven that I am going away
from, have compassion on my uncle! Tell him that I never loved him
half so dear. Be his comfort. Love some good girl that will be
what I was once to uncle, and be true to you, and worthy of you,
and know no shame but me. God bless all! I'll pray for all,
often, on my knees. If he don't bring me back a lady, and I don't
pray for my own self, I'll pray for all. My parting love to uncle.
My last tears, and my last thanks, for uncle!"'
That was all.
He stood, long after I had ceased to read, still looking at me. At
length I ventured to take his hand, and to entreat him, as well as
I could, to endeavour to get some command of himself. He replied,
'I thankee, sir, I thankee!' without moving.
Ham spoke to him. Mr. Peggotty was so far sensible of HIS
affliction, that he wrung his hand; but, otherwise, he remained in
the same state, and no one dared to disturb him.
Slowly, at last, he moved his eyes from my face, as if he were
waking from a vision, and cast them round the room. Then he said,
in a low voice:
'Who's the man? I want to know his name.'
Ham glanced at me, and suddenly I felt a shock that struck me back.
'There's a man suspected,' said Mr. Peggotty. 'Who is it?'
'Mas'r Davy!' implored Ham. 'Go out a bit, and let me tell him
what I must. You doen't ought to hear it, sir.'
I felt the shock again. I sank down in a chair, and tried to utter
some reply; but my tongue was fettered, and my sight was weak.
'I want to know his name!' I heard said once more.
'For some time past,' Ham faltered, 'there's been a servant about
here, at odd times. There's been a gen'lm'n too. Both of 'em
belonged to one another.'
Mr. Peggotty stood fixed as before, but now looking at him.
'The servant,' pursued Ham, 'was seen along with - our poor girl -
last night. He's been in hiding about here, this week or over. He
was thought to have gone, but he was hiding. Doen't stay, Mas'r
I felt Peggotty's arm round my neck, but I could not have moved if
the house had been about to fall upon me.
'A strange chay and hosses was outside town, this morning, on the
Norwich road, a'most afore the day broke,' Ham went on. 'The
servant went to it, and come from it, and went to it again. When
he went to it again, Em'ly was nigh him. The t'other was inside.
He's the man.'
'For the Lord's love,' said Mr. Peggotty, falling back, and putting
out his hand, as if to keep off what he dreaded. 'Doen't tell me
his name's Steerforth!'
'Mas'r Davy,' exclaimed Ham, in a broken voice, 'it ain't no fault
of yourn - and I am far from laying of it to you - but his name is
Steerforth, and he's a damned villain!'
Mr. Peggotty uttered no cry, and shed no tear, and moved no more,
until he seemed to wake again, all at once, and pulled down his
rough coat from its peg in a corner.
'Bear a hand with this! I'm struck of a heap, and can't do it,' he
said, impatiently. 'Bear a hand and help me. Well!' when somebody
had done so. 'Now give me that theer hat!'
Ham asked him whither he was going.
'I'm a going to seek my niece. I'm a going to seek my Em'ly. I'm
a going, first, to stave in that theer boat, and sink it where I
would have drownded him, as I'm a living soul, if I had had one
thought of what was in him! As he sat afore me,' he said, wildly,
holding out his clenched right hand, 'as he sat afore me, face to
face, strike me down dead, but I'd have drownded him, and thought
it right! - I'm a going to seek my niece.'
'Where?' cried Ham, interposing himself before the door.
'Anywhere! I'm a going to seek my niece through the wureld. I'm
a going to find my poor niece in her shame, and bring her back. No
one stop me! I tell you I'm a going to seek my niece!'
'No, no!' cried Mrs. Gummidge, coming between them, in a fit of
crying. 'No, no, Dan'l, not as you are now. Seek her in a little
while, my lone lorn Dan'l, and that'll be but right! but not as you
are now. Sit ye down, and give me your forgiveness for having ever
been a worrit to you, Dan'l - what have my contraries ever been to
this! - and let us speak a word about them times when she was first
an orphan, and when Ham was too, and when I was a poor widder
woman, and you took me in. It'll soften your poor heart, Dan'l,'
laying her head upon his shoulder, 'and you'll bear your sorrow
better; for you know the promise, Dan'l, "As you have done it unto
one of the least of these, you have done it unto me",- and that can
never fail under this roof, that's been our shelter for so many,
He was quite passive now; and when I heard him crying, the impulse
that had been upon me to go down upon my knees, and ask their
pardon for the desolation I had caused, and curse Steer- forth,
yielded to a better feeling, My overcharged heart found the same
relief, and I cried too.
THE BEGINNING OF A LONG JOURNEY
What is natural in me, is natural in many other men, I infer, and
so I am not afraid to write that I never had loved Steerforth
better than when the ties that bound me to him were broken. In the
keen distress of the discovery of his unworthiness, I thought more
of all that was brilliant in him, I softened more towards all that
was good in him, I did more justice to the qualities that might
have made him a man of a noble nature and a great name, than ever
I had done in the height of my devotion to him. Deeply as I felt
my own unconscious part in his pollution of an honest home, I
believed that if I had been brought face to face with him, I could
not have uttered one reproach. I should have loved him so well
still - though he fascinated me no longer - I should have held in
so much tenderness the memory of my affection for him, that I think
I should have been as weak as a spirit-wounded child, in all but
the entertainment of a thought that we could ever be re-united.
That thought I never had. I felt, as he had felt, that all was at
an end between us. What his remembrances of me were, I have never
known - they were light enough, perhaps, and easily dismissed - but
mine of him were as the remembrances of a cherished friend, who was
Yes, Steerforth, long removed from the scenes of this poor history!
My sorrow may bear involuntary witness against you at the judgement
Throne; but my angry thoughts or my reproaches never will, I know!
The news of what had happened soon spread through the town;
insomuch that as I passed along the streets next morning, I
overheard the people speaking of it at their doors. Many were hard
upon her, some few were hard upon him, but towards her second
father and her lover there was but one sentiment. Among all kinds
of people a respect for them in their distress prevailed, which was
full of gentleness and delicacy. The seafaring men kept apart,
when those two were seen early, walking with slow steps on the
beach; and stood in knots, talking compassionately among
It was on the beach, close down by the sea, that I found them. It
would have been easy to perceive that they had not slept all last
night, even if Peggotty had failed to tell me of their still
sitting just as I left them, when it was broad day. They looked
worn; and I thought Mr. Peggotty's head was bowed in one night more
than in all the years I had known him. But they were both as grave
and steady as the sea itself, then lying beneath a dark sky,
waveless - yet with a heavy roll upon it, as if it breathed in its
rest - and touched, on the horizon, with a strip of silvery light
from the unseen sun.
'We have had a mort of talk, sir,' said Mr. Peggotty to me, when we
had all three walked a little while in silence, 'of what we ought
and doen't ought to do. But we see our course now.'
I happened to glance at Ham, then looking out to sea upon the
distant light, and a frightful thought came into my mind - not that
his face was angry, for it was not; I recall nothing but an
expression of stern determination in it - that if ever he
encountered Steerforth, he would kill him.
'My dooty here, sir,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'is done. I'm a going to
seek my -' he stopped, and went on in a firmer voice: 'I'm a going
to seek her. That's my dooty evermore.'
He shook his head when I asked him where he would seek her, and
inquired if I were going to London tomorrow? I told him I had not
gone today, fearing to lose the chance of being of any service to
him; but that I was ready to go when he would.
'I'll go along with you, sir,' he rejoined, 'if you're agreeable,
We walked again, for a while, in silence.
'Ham,'he presently resumed,'he'll hold to his present work, and go
and live along with my sister. The old boat yonder -'
'Will you desert the old boat, Mr. Peggotty?' I gently interposed.
'My station, Mas'r Davy,' he returned, 'ain't there no longer; and
if ever a boat foundered, since there was darkness on the face of
the deep, that one's gone down. But no, sir, no; I doen't mean as
it should be deserted. Fur from that.'
We walked again for a while, as before, until he explained:
'My wishes is, sir, as it shall look, day and night, winter and
summer, as it has always looked, since she fust know'd it. If ever
she should come a wandering back, I wouldn't have the old place
seem to cast her off, you understand, but seem to tempt her to draw
nigher to 't, and to peep in, maybe, like a ghost, out of the wind
and rain, through the old winder, at the old seat by the fire.
Then, maybe, Mas'r Davy, seein' none but Missis Gummidge there, she
might take heart to creep in, trembling; and might come to be laid
down in her old bed, and rest her weary head where it was once so
I could not speak to him in reply, though I tried.
'Every night,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'as reg'lar as the night comes,
the candle must be stood in its old pane of glass, that if ever she
should see it, it may seem to say "Come back, my child, come back!"
If ever there's a knock, Ham (partic'ler a soft knock), arter dark,
at your aunt's door, doen't you go nigh it. Let it be her - not
you - that sees my fallen child!'
He walked a little in front of us, and kept before us for some
minutes. During this interval, I glanced at Ham again, and
observing the same expression on his face, and his eyes still
directed to the distant light, I touched his arm.
Twice I called him by his name, in the tone in which I might have
tried to rouse a sleeper, before he heeded me. When I at last
inquired on what his thoughts were so bent, he replied:
'On what's afore me, Mas'r Davy; and over yon.'
'On the life before you, do you mean?' He had pointed confusedly
out to sea.
'Ay, Mas'r Davy. I doen't rightly know how 'tis, but from over yon
there seemed to me to come - the end of it like,' looking at me as
if he were waking, but with the same determined face.
'What end?' I asked, possessed by my former fear.
'I doen't know,'he said, thoughtfully; 'I was calling to mind that
the beginning of it all did take place here - and then the end
come. But it's gone! Mas'r Davy,' he added; answering, as I
think, my look; 'you han't no call to be afeerd of me: but I'm
kiender muddled; I don't fare to feel no matters,' - which was as
much as to say that he was not himself, and quite confounded.
Mr. Peggotty stopping for us to join him: we did so, and said no
more. The remembrance of this, in connexion with my former
thought, however, haunted me at intervals, even until the
inexorable end came at its appointed time.
We insensibly approached the old boat, and entered. Mrs. Gummidge,
no longer moping in her especial corner, was busy preparing
breakfast. She took Mr. Peggotty's hat, and placed his seat for
him, and spoke so comfortably and softly, that I hardly knew her.
'Dan'l, my good man,' said she, 'you must eat and drink, and keep
up your strength, for without it you'll do nowt. Try, that's a
dear soul! An if I disturb you with my clicketten,' she meant her
chattering, 'tell me so, Dan'l, and I won't.'
When she had served us all, she withdrew to the window, where she
sedulously employed herself in repairing some shirts and other
clothes belonging to Mr. Peggotty, and neatly folding and packing
them in an old oilskin bag, such as sailors carry. Meanwhile, she
continued talking, in the same quiet manner:
'All times and seasons, you know, Dan'l,' said Mrs. Gummidge, 'I
shall be allus here, and everythink will look accordin' to your
wishes. I'm a poor scholar, but I shall write to you, odd times,
when you're away, and send my letters to Mas'r Davy. Maybe you'll
write to me too, Dan'l, odd times, and tell me how you fare to feel
upon your lone lorn journies.'
'You'll be a solitary woman heer, I'm afeerd!' said Mr. Peggotty.
'No, no, Dan'l,' she returned, 'I shan't be that. Doen't you mind
me. I shall have enough to do to keep a Beein for you' (Mrs.
Gummidge meant a home), 'again you come back - to keep a Beein here
for any that may hap to come back, Dan'l. In the fine time, I
shall set outside the door as I used to do. If any should come
nigh, they shall see the old widder woman true to 'em, a long way
What a change in Mrs. Gummidge in a little time! She was another
woman. She was so devoted, she had such a quick perception of what
it would be well to say, and what it would be well to leave unsaid;
she was so forgetful of herself, and so regardful of the sorrow
about her, that I held her in a sort of veneration. The work she
did that day! There were many things to be brought up from the
beach and stored in the outhouse - as oars, nets, sails, cordage,
spars, lobster-pots, bags of ballast, and the like; and though
there was abundance of assistance rendered, there being not a pair
of working hands on all that shore but would have laboured hard for
Mr. Peggotty, and been well paid in being asked to do it, yet she
persisted, all day long, in toiling under weights that she was
quite unequal to, and fagging to and fro on all sorts of
unnecessary errands. As to deploring her misfortunes, she appeared
to have entirely lost the recollection of ever having had any. She
preserved an equable cheerfulness in the midst of her sympathy,
which was not the least astonishing part of the change that had
come over her. Querulousness was out of the question. I did not
even observe her voice to falter, or a tear to escape from her
eyes, the whole day through, until twilight; when she and I and Mr.
Peggotty being alone together, and he having fallen asleep in
perfect exhaustion, she broke into a half-suppressed fit of sobbing
and crying, and taking me to the door, said, 'Ever bless you, Mas'r
Davy, be a friend to him, poor dear!' Then, she immediately ran out
of the house to wash her face, in order that she might sit quietly
beside him, and be found at work there, when he should awake. In
short I left her, when I went away at night, the prop and staff of
Mr. Peggotty's affliction; and I could not meditate enough upon the
lesson that I read in Mrs. Gummidge, and the new experience she
unfolded to me.
It was between nine and ten o'clock when, strolling in a melancholy
manner through the town, I stopped at Mr. Omer's door. Mr. Omer
had taken it so much to heart, his daughter told me, that he had
been very low and poorly all day, and had gone to bed without his
'A deceitful, bad-hearted girl,' said Mrs. Joram. 'There was no
good in her, ever!'
'Don't say so,' I returned. 'You don't think so.'
'Yes, I do!' cried Mrs. Joram, angrily.
'No, no,' said I.
Mrs. Joram tossed her head, endeavouring to be very stern and
cross; but she could not command her softer self, and began to cry.
I was young, to be sure; but I thought much the better of her for
this sympathy, and fancied it became her, as a virtuous wife and
mother, very well indeed.
'What will she ever do!' sobbed Minnie. 'Where will she go! What
will become of her! Oh, how could she be so cruel, to herself and
I remembered the time when Minnie was a young and pretty girl; and
I was glad she remembered it too, so feelingly.
'My little Minnie,' said Mrs. Joram, 'has only just now been got to
sleep. Even in her sleep she is sobbing for Em'ly. All day long,
little Minnie has cried for her, and asked me, over and over again,
whether Em'ly was wicked? What can I say to her, when Em'ly tied
a ribbon off her own neck round little Minnie's the last night she
was here, and laid her head down on the pillow beside her till she
was fast asleep! The ribbon's round my little Minnie's neck now.
It ought not to be, perhaps, but what can I do? Em'ly is very bad,
but they were fond of one another. And the child knows nothing!'
Mrs. Joram was so unhappy that her husband came out to take care of
her. Leaving them together, I went home to Peggotty's; more
melancholy myself, if possible, than I had been yet.
That good creature - I mean Peggotty - all untired by her late
anxieties and sleepless nights, was at her brother's, where she
meant to stay till morning. An old woman, who had been employed
about the house for some weeks past, while Peggotty had been unable
to attend to it, was the house's only other occupant besides
myself. As I had no occasion for her services, I sent her to bed,
by no means against her will, and sat down before the kitchen fire
a little while, to think about all this.
I was blending it with the deathbed of the late Mr. Barkis, and was
driving out with the tide towards the distance at which Ham had
looked so singularly in the morning, when I was recalled from my
wanderings by a knock at the door. There was a knocker upon the
door, but it was not that which made the sound. The tap was from
a hand, and low down upon the door, as if it were given by a child.
It made me start as much as if it had been the knock of a footman
to a person of distinction. I opened the door; and at first looked
down, to my amazement, on nothing but a great umbrella that
appeared to be walking about of itself. But presently I discovered
underneath it, Miss Mowcher.
I might not have been prepared to give the little creature a very
kind reception, if, on her removing the umbrella, which her utmost
efforts were unable to shut up, she had shown me the 'volatile'
expression of face which had made so great an impression on me at
our first and last meeting. But her face, as she turned it up to
mine, was so earnest; and when I relieved her of the umbrella
(which would have been an inconvenient one for the Irish Giant),
she wrung her little hands in such an afflicted manner; that I
rather inclined towards her.
'Miss Mowcher!' said I, after glancing up and down the empty
street, without distinctly knowing what I expected to see besides;
'how do you come here? What is the matter?'
She motioned to me with her short right arm, to shut the umbrella
for her; and passing me hurriedly, went into the kitchen. When I
had closed the door, and followed, with the umbrella in my hand, I
found her sitting on the corner of the fender - it was a low iron
one, with two flat bars at top to stand plates upon - in the shadow
of the boiler, swaying herself backwards and forwards, and chafing
her hands upon her knees like a person in pain.
Quite alarmed at being the only recipient of this untimely visit,
and the only spectator of this portentous behaviour, I exclaimed
again, 'Pray tell me, Miss Mowcher, what is the matter! are you
'My dear young soul,' returned Miss Mowcher, squeezing her hands
upon her heart one over the other. 'I am ill here, I am very ill.
To think that it should come to this, when I might have known it
and perhaps prevented it, if I hadn't been a thoughtless fool!'
Again her large bonnet (very disproportionate to the figure) went
backwards and forwards, in her swaying of her little body to and
fro; while a most gigantic bonnet rocked, in unison with it, upon
'I am surprised,' I began, 'to see you so distressed and serious'-
when she interrupted me.
'Yes, it's always so!' she said. 'They are all surprised, these
inconsiderate young people, fairly and full grown, to see any
natural feeling in a little thing like me! They make a plaything
of me, use me for their amusement, throw me away when they are
tired, and wonder that I feel more than a toy horse or a wooden
soldier! Yes, yes, that's the way. The old way!'
'It may be, with others,' I returned, 'but I do assure you it is
not with me. Perhaps I ought not to be at all surprised to see you
as you are now: I know so little of you. I said, without
consideration, what I thought.'
'What can I do?' returned the little woman, standing up, and
holding out her arms to show herself. 'See! What I am, my father
was; and my sister is; and my brother is. I have worked for sister
and brother these many years - hard, Mr. Copperfield - all day. I
must live. I do no harm. If there are people so unreflecting or
so cruel, as to make a jest of me, what is left for me to do but to
make a jest of myself, them, and everything? If I do so, for the
time, whose fault is that? Mine?'
No. Not Miss Mowcher's, I perceived.
'If I had shown myself a sensitive dwarf to your false friend,'
pursued the little woman, shaking her head at me, with reproachful
earnestness, 'how much of his help or good will do you think I
should ever have had? If little Mowcher (who had no hand, young
gentleman, in the making of herself) addressed herself to him, or
the like of him, because of her misfortunes, when do you suppose
her small voice would have been heard? Little Mowcher would have
as much need to live, if she was the bitterest and dullest of
pigmies; but she couldn't do it. No. She might whistle for her
bread and butter till she died of Air.'
Miss Mowcher sat down on the fender again, and took out her
handkerchief, and wiped her eyes.
'Be thankful for me, if you have a kind heart, as I think you
have,' she said, 'that while I know well what I am, I can be
cheerful and endure it all. I am thankful for myself, at any rate,
that I can find my tiny way through the world, without being
beholden to anyone; and that in return for all that is thrown at
me, in folly or vanity, as I go along, I can throw bubbles back.
If I don't brood over all I want, it is the better for me, and not
the worse for anyone. If I am a plaything for you giants, be
gentle with me.'
Miss Mowcher replaced her handkerchief in her pocket, looking at me
with very intent expression all the while, and pursued:
'I saw you in the street just now. You may suppose I am not able
to walk as fast as you, with my short legs and short breath, and I
couldn't overtake you; but I guessed where you came, and came after
you. I have been here before, today, but the good woman wasn't at
'Do you know her?' I demanded.
'I know of her, and about her,' she replied, 'from Omer and Joram.
I was there at seven o'clock this morning. Do you remember what
Steerforth said to me about this unfortunate girl, that time when
I saw you both at the inn?'
The great bonnet on Miss Mowcher's head, and the greater bonnet on
the wall, began to go backwards and forwards again when she asked
I remembered very well what she referred to, having had it in my
thoughts many times that day. I told her so.
'May the Father of all Evil confound him,' said the little woman,
holding up her forefinger between me and her sparkling eyes, 'and
ten times more confound that wicked servant; but I believed it was
YOU who had a boyish passion for her!'
'I?' I repeated.
'Child, child! In the name of blind ill-fortune,' cried Miss
Mowcher, wringing her hands impatiently, as she went to and fro
again upon the fender, 'why did you praise her so, and blush, and
look disturbed? '
I could not conceal from myself that I had done this, though for a
reason very different from her supposition.
'What did I know?' said Miss Mowcher, taking out her handkerchief
again, and giving one little stamp on the ground whenever, at short
intervals, she applied it to her eyes with both hands at once. 'He
was crossing you and wheedling you, I saw; and you were soft wax in
his hands, I saw. Had I left the room a minute, when his man told
me that "Young Innocence" (so he called you, and you may call him
"Old Guilt" all the days of your life) had set his heart upon her,
and she was giddy and liked him, but his master was resolved that
no harm should come of it - more for your sake than for hers - and
that that was their business here? How could I BUT believe him?
I saw Steerforth soothe and please you by his praise of her! You
were the first to mention her name. You owned to an old admiration
of her. You were hot and cold, and red and white, all at once when
I spoke to you of her. What could I think - what DID I think - but
that you were a young libertine in everything but experience, and
had fallen into hands that had experience enough, and could manage
you (having the fancy) for your own good? Oh! oh! oh! They were
afraid of my finding out the truth,' exclaimed Miss Mowcher,
getting off the fender, and trotting up and down the kitchen with
her two short arms distressfully lifted up, 'because I am a sharp
little thing - I need be, to get through the world at all! - and
they deceived me altogether, and I gave the poor unfortunate girl
a letter, which I fully believe was the beginning of her ever
speaking to Littimer, who was left behind on purpose!'
I stood amazed at the revelation of all this perfidy, looking at
Miss Mowcher as she walked up and down the kitchen until she was
out of breath: when she sat upon the fender again, and, drying her
face with her handkerchief, shook her head for a long time, without
otherwise moving, and without breaking silence.
'My country rounds,' she added at length, 'brought me to Norwich,
Mr. Copperfield, the night before last. What I happened to find
there, about their secret way of coming and going, without you -
which was strange - led to my suspecting something wrong. I got
into the coach from London last night, as it came through Norwich,
and was here this morning. Oh, oh, oh! too late!'
Poor little Mowcher turned so chilly after all her crying and
fretting, that she turned round on the fender, putting her poor
little wet feet in among the ashes to warm them, and sat looking at
the fire, like a large doll. I sat in a chair on the other side of
the hearth, lost in unhappy reflections, and looking at the fire
too, and sometimes at her.
'I must go,' she said at last, rising as she spoke. 'It's late.
You don't mistrust me?'
Meeting her sharp glance, which was as sharp as ever when she asked
me, I could not on that short challenge answer no, quite frankly.
'Come!' said she, accepting the offer of my hand to help her over
the fender, and looking wistfully up into my face, 'you know you
wouldn't mistrust me, if I was a full-sized woman!'
I felt that there was much truth in this; and I felt rather ashamed
'You are a young man,' she said, nodding. 'Take a word of advice,
even from three foot nothing. Try not to associate bodily defects
with mental, my good friend, except for a solid reason.'
She had got over the fender now, and I had got over my suspicion.
I told her that I believed she had given me a faithful account of
herself, and that we had both been hapless instruments in designing
hands. She thanked me, and said I was a good fellow.
'Now, mind!' she exclaimed, turning back on her way to the door,
and looking shrewdly at me, with her forefinger up again.- 'I have
some reason to suspect, from what I have heard - my ears are always
open; I can't afford to spare what powers I have - that they are
gone abroad. But if ever they return, if ever any one of them
returns, while I am alive, I am more likely than another, going
about as I do, to find it out soon. Whatever I know, you shall
know. If ever I can do anything to serve the poor betrayed girl,
I will do it faithfully, please Heaven! And Littimer had better
have a bloodhound at his back, than little Mowcher!'
I placed implicit faith in this last statement, when I marked the
look with which it was accompanied.
'Trust me no more, but trust me no less, than you would trust a
full-sized woman,' said the little creature, touching me
appealingly on the wrist. 'If ever you see me again, unlike what
I am now, and like what I was when you first saw me, observe what
company I am in. Call to mind that I am a very helpless and
defenceless little thing. Think of me at home with my brother like
myself and sister like myself, when my day's work is done. Perhaps
you won't, then, be very hard upon me, or surprised if I can be
distressed and serious. Good night!'
I gave Miss Mowcher my hand, with a very different opinion of her
from that which I had hitherto entertained, and opened the door to
let her out. It was not a trifling business to get the great
umbrella up, and properly balanced in her grasp; but at last I
successfully accomplished this, and saw it go bobbing down the
street through the rain, without the least appearance of having
anybody underneath it, except when a heavier fall than usual from
some over-charged water-spout sent it toppling over, on one side,
and discovered Miss Mowcher struggling violently to get it right.
After making one or two sallies to her relief, which were rendered
futile by the umbrella's hopping on again, like an immense bird,
before I could reach it, I came in, went to bed, and slept till
In the morning I was joined by Mr. Peggotty and by my old nurse,
and we went at an early hour to the coach office, where Mrs.
Gummidge and Ham were waiting to take leave of us.
'Mas'r Davy,' Ham whispered, drawing me aside, while Mr. Peggotty
was stowing his bag among the luggage, 'his life is quite broke up.
He doen't know wheer he's going; he doen't know -what's afore him;
he's bound upon a voyage that'll last, on and off, all the rest of
his days, take my wured for 't, unless he finds what he's a seeking
of. I am sure you'll be a friend to him, Mas'r Davy?'
'Trust me, I will indeed,' said I, shaking hands with Ham
'Thankee. Thankee, very kind, sir. One thing furder. I'm in good
employ, you know, Mas'r Davy, and I han't no way now of spending
what I gets. Money's of no use to me no more, except to live. If
you can lay it out for him, I shall do my work with a better art.
Though as to that, sir,' and he spoke very steadily and mildly,
'you're not to think but I shall work at all times, like a man, and
act the best that lays in my power!'
I told him I was well convinced of it; and I hinted that I hoped
the time might even come, when he would cease to lead the lonely
life he naturally contemplated now.
'No, sir,' he said, shaking his head, 'all that's past and over
with me, sir. No one can never fill the place that's empty. But
you'll bear in mind about the money, as theer's at all times some
laying by for him?'
Reminding him of the fact, that Mr. Peggotty derived a steady,
though certainly a very moderate income from the bequest of his
late brother-in-law, I promised to do so. We then took leave of
each other. I cannot leave him even now, without remembering with
a pang, at once his modest fortitude and his great sorrow.
As to Mrs. Gummidge, if I were to endeavour to describe how she ran
down the street by the side of the coach, seeing nothing but Mr.
Peggotty on the roof, through the tears she tried to repress, and
dashing herself against the people who were coming in the opposite
direction, I should enter on a task of some difficulty. Therefore
I had better leave her sitting on a baker's door-step, out of
breath, with no shape at all remaining in her bonnet, and one of
her shoes off, lying on the pavement at a considerable distance.
When we got to our journey's end, our first pursuit was to look
about for a little lodging for Peggotty, where her brother could
have a bed. We were so fortunate as to find one, of a very clean
and cheap description, over a chandler's shop, only two streets
removed from me. When we had engaged this domicile, I bought some
cold meat at an eating-house, and took my fellow-travellers home to
tea; a proceeding, I regret to state, which did not meet with Mrs.
Crupp's approval, but quite the contrary. I ought to observe,
however, in explanation of that lady's state of mind, that she was
much offended by Peggotty's tucking up her widow's gown before she
had been ten minutes in the place, and setting to work to dust my
bedroom. This Mrs. Crupp regarded in the light of a liberty, and
a liberty, she said, was a thing she never allowed.
Mr. Peggotty had made a communication to me on the way to London
for which I was not unprepared. It was, that he purposed first
seeing Mrs. Steerforth. As I felt bound to assist him in this, and
also to mediate between them; with the view of sparing the mother's
feelings as much as possible, I wrote to her that night. I told
her as mildly as I could what his wrong was, and what my own share
in his injury. I said he was a man in very common life, but of a
most gentle and upright character; and that I ventured to express
a hope that she would not refuse to see him in his heavy trouble.
I mentioned two o'clock in the afternoon as the hour of our coming,
and I sent the letter myself by the first coach in the morning.
At the appointed time, we stood at the door - the door of that
house where I had been, a few days since, so happy: where my
youthful confidence and warmth of heart had been yielded up so
freely: which was closed against me henceforth: which was now a
waste, a ruin.
No Littimer appeared. The pleasanter face which had replaced his,
on the occasion of my last visit, answered to our summons, and went
before us to the drawing-room. Mrs. Steerforth was sitting there.
Rosa Dartle glided, as we went in, from another part of the room
and stood behind her chair.
I saw, directly, in his mother's face, that she knew from himself
what he had done. It was very pale; and bore the traces of deeper
emotion than my letter alone, weakened by the doubts her fondness
would have raised upon it, would have been likely to create. I
thought her more like him than ever I had thought her; and I felt,
rather than saw, that the resemblance was not lost on my companion.
She sat upright in her arm-chair, with a stately, immovable,
passionless air, that it seemed as if nothing could disturb. She
looked very steadfastly at Mr. Peggotty when he stood before her;
and he looked quite as steadfastly at her. Rosa Dartle's keen
glance comprehended all of us. For some moments not a word was
She motioned to Mr. Peggotty to be seated. He said, in a low
voice, 'I shouldn't feel it nat'ral, ma'am, to sit down in this
house. I'd sooner stand.' And this was succeeded by another
silence, which she broke thus:
'I know, with deep regret, what has brought you here. What do you
want of me? What do you ask me to do?'
He put his hat under his arm, and feeling in his breast for Emily's
letter, took it out, unfolded it, and gave it to her.
'Please to read that, ma'am. That's my niece's hand!'
She read it, in the same stately and impassive way, - untouched by
its contents, as far as I could see, - and returned it to him.
'"Unless he brings me back a lady,"' said Mr. Peggotty, tracing out
that part with his finger. 'I come to know, ma'am, whether he will
keep his wured?'
'No,' she returned.
'Why not?' said Mr. Peggotty.
'It is impossible. He would disgrace himself. You cannot fail to
know that she is far below him.'
'Raise her up!' said Mr. Peggotty.
'She is uneducated and ignorant.'
'Maybe she's not; maybe she is,' said Mr. Peggotty. 'I think not,
ma'am; but I'm no judge of them things. Teach her better!'
'Since you oblige me to speak more plainly, which I am very
unwilling to do, her humble connexions would render such a thing
impossible, if nothing else did.'
'Hark to this, ma'am,' he returned, slowly and quietly. 'You know
what it is to love your child. So do I. If she was a hundred
times my child, I couldn't love her more. You doen't know what it
is to lose your child. I do. All the heaps of riches in the
wureld would be nowt to me (if they was mine) to buy her back!
But, save her from this disgrace, and she shall never be disgraced
by us. Not one of us that she's growed up among, not one of us
that's lived along with her and had her for their all in all, these
many year, will ever look upon her pritty face again. We'll be
content to let her be; we'll be content to think of her, far off,
as if she was underneath another sun and sky; we'll be content to
trust her to her husband, - to her little children, p'raps, - and
bide the time when all of us shall be alike in quality afore our
The rugged eloquence with which he spoke, was not devoid of all
effect. She still preserved her proud manner, but there was a
touch of softness in her voice, as she answered:
'I justify nothing. I make no counter-accusations. But I am sorry
to repeat, it is impossible. Such a marriage would irretrievably
blight my son's career, and ruin his prospects. Nothing is more
certain than that it never can take place, and never will. If
there is any other compensation -'
'I am looking at the likeness of the face,' interrupted Mr.
Peggotty, with a steady but a kindling eye, 'that has looked at me,
in my home, at my fireside, in my boat - wheer not? - smiling and
friendly, when it was so treacherous, that I go half wild when I
think of it. If the likeness of that face don't turn to burning
fire, at the thought of offering money to me for my child's blight
and ruin, it's as bad. I doen't know, being a lady's, but what
She changed now, in a moment. An angry flush overspread her
features; and she said, in an intolerant manner, grasping the
arm-chair tightly with her hands:
'What compensation can you make to ME for opening such a pit
between me and my son? What is your love to mine? What is your
separation to ours?'
Miss Dartle softly touched her, and bent down her head to whisper,
but she would not hear a word.
'No, Rosa, not a word! Let the man listen to what I say! My son,
who has been the object of my life, to whom its every thought has
been devoted, whom I have gratified from a child in every wish,
from whom I have had no separate existence since his birth, - to
take up in a moment with a miserable girl, and avoid me! To repay
my confidence with systematic deception, for her sake, and quit me
for her! To set this wretched fancy, against his mother's claims
upon his duty, love, respect, gratitude - claims that every day and
hour of his life should have strengthened into ties that nothing
could be proof against! Is this no injury?'
Again Rosa Dartle tried to soothe her; again ineffectually.
'I say, Rosa, not a word! If he can stake his all upon the
lightest object, I can stake my all upon a greater purpose. Let
him go where he will, with the means that my love has secured to
him! Does he think to reduce me by long absence? He knows his
mother very little if he does. Let him put away his whim now, and
he is welcome back. Let him not put her away now, and he never
shall come near me, living or dying, while I can raise my hand to
make a sign against it, unless, being rid of her for ever, he comes
humbly to me and begs for my forgiveness. This is my right. This
is the acknowledgement I WILL HAVE. This is the separation that
there is between us! And is this,' she added, looking at her
visitor with the proud intolerant air with which she had begun, 'no
While I heard and saw the mother as she said these words, I seemed
to hear and see the son, defying them. All that I had ever seen in
him of an unyielding, wilful spirit, I saw in her. All the
understanding that I had now of his misdirected energy, became an
understanding of her character too, and a perception that it was,
in its strongest springs, the same.
She now observed to me, aloud, resuming her former restraint, that
it was useless to hear more, or to say more, and that she begged to
put an end to the interview. She rose with an air of dignity to
leave the room, when Mr. Peggotty signified that it was needless.
'Doen't fear me being any hindrance to you, I have no more to say,
ma'am,' he remarked, as he moved towards the door. 'I come beer
with no hope, and I take away no hope. I have done what I thowt
should be done, but I never looked fur any good to come of my
stan'ning where I do. This has been too evil a house fur me and
mine, fur me to be in my right senses and expect it.'
With this, we departed; leaving her standing by her elbow-chair, a
picture of a noble presence and a handsome face.
We had, on our way out, to cross a paved hall, with glass sides and
roof, over which a vine was trained. Its leaves and shoots were
green then, and the day being sunny, a pair of glass doors leading
to the garden were thrown open. Rosa Dartle, entering this way
with a noiseless step, when we were close to them, addressed
herself to me:
'You do well,' she said, 'indeed, to bring this fellow here!'
Such a concentration of rage and scorn as darkened her face, and
flashed in her jet-black eyes, I could not have thought
compressible even into that face. The scar made by the hammer was,
as usual in this excited state of her features, strongly marked.
When the throbbing I had seen before, came into it as I looked at
her, she absolutely lifted up her hand, and struck it.
'This is a fellow,' she said, 'to champion and bring here, is he
not? You are a true man!'
'Miss Dartle,' I returned, 'you are surely not so unjust as to
'Why do you bring division between these two mad creatures?' she
returned. 'Don't you know that they are both mad with their own
self-will and pride?'
'Is it my doing?' I returned.
'Is it your doing!' she retorted. 'Why do you bring this man
'He is a deeply-injured man, Miss Dartle,' I replied. 'You may not
'I know that James Steerforth,' she said, with her hand on her
bosom, as if to prevent the storm that was raging there, from being
loud, 'has a false, corrupt heart, and is a traitor. But what need
I know or care about this fellow, and his common niece?'
'Miss Dartle,' I returned, 'you deepen the injury. It is
sufficient already. I will only say, at parting, that you do him
a great wrong.'
'I do him no wrong,' she returned. 'They are a depraved, worthless
set. I would have her whipped!'
Mr. Peggotty passed on, without a word, and went out at the door.
'Oh, shame, Miss Dartle! shame!' I said indignantly. 'How can you
bear to trample on his undeserved affliction!'
'I would trample on them all,' she answered. 'I would have his
house pulled down. I would have her branded on the face, dressed
in rags, and cast out in the streets to starve. If I had the power
to sit in judgement on her, I would see it done. See it done? I
would do it! I detest her. If I ever could reproach her with her
infamous condition, I would go anywhere to do so. If I could hunt
her to her grave, I would. If there was any word of comfort that
would be a solace to her in her dying hour, and only I possessed
it, I wouldn't part with it for Life itself.'
The mere vehemence of her words can convey, I am sensible, but a
weak impression of the passion by which she was possessed, and
which made itself articulate in her whole figure, though her voice,
instead of being raised, was lower than usual. No description I
could give of her would do justice to my recollection of her, or to
her entire deliverance of herself to her anger. I have seen
passion in many forms, but I have never seen it in such a form as
When I joined Mr. Peggotty, he was walking slowly and thoughtfully
down the hill. He told me, as soon as I came up with him, that
having now discharged his mind of what he had purposed doing in
London, he meant 'to set out on his travels', that night. I asked
him where he meant to go? He only answered, 'I'm a going, sir, to
seek my niece.'
We went back to the little lodging over the chandler's shop, and
there I found an opportunity of repeating to Peggotty what he had
said to me. She informed me, in return, that he had said the same
to her that morning. She knew no more than I did, where he was
going, but she thought he had some project shaped out in his mind.
I did not like to leave him, under such circumstances, and we all
three dined together off a beefsteak pie - which was one of the
many good things for which Peggotty was famous - and which was
curiously flavoured on this occasion, I recollect well, by a
miscellaneous taste of tea, coffee, butter, bacon, cheese, new
loaves, firewood, candles, and walnut ketchup, continually
ascending from the shop. After dinner we sat for an hour or so
near the window, without talking much; and then Mr. Peggotty got
up, and brought his oilskin bag and his stout stick, and laid them
on the table.
He accepted, from his sister's stock of ready money, a small sum on
account of his legacy; barely enough, I should have thought, to
keep him for a month. He promised to communicate with me, when
anything befell him; and he slung his bag about him, took his hat
and stick, and bade us both 'Good-bye!'
'All good attend you, dear old woman,' he said, embracing Peggotty,
'and you too, Mas'r Davy!' shaking hands with me. 'I'm a-going to
seek her, fur and wide. If she should come home while I'm away -
but ah, that ain't like to be! - or if I should bring her back, my
meaning is, that she and me shall live and die where no one can't
reproach her. If any hurt should come to me, remember that the
last words I left for her was, "My unchanged love is with my
darling child, and I forgive her!"'
He said this solemnly, bare-headed; then, putting on his hat, he
went down the stairs, and away. We followed to the door. It was
a warm, dusty evening, just the time when, in the great main
thoroughfare out of which that by-way turned, there was a temporary
lull in the eternal tread of feet upon the pavement, and a strong
red sunshine. He turned, alone, at the corner of our shady street,
into a glow of light, in which we lost him.
Rarely did that hour of the evening come, rarely did I wake at
night, rarely did I look up at the moon, or stars, or watch the
falling rain, or hear the wind, but I thought of his solitary
figure toiling on, poor pilgrim, and recalled the words:
'I'm a going to seek her, fur and wide. If any hurt should come to
me, remember that the last words I left for her was, "My unchanged
love is with my darling child, and I forgive her!"'
All this time, I had gone on loving Dora, harder than ever. Her
idea was my refuge in disappointment and distress, and made some
amends to me, even for the loss of my friend. The more I pitied
myself, or pitied others, the more I sought for consolation in the
image of Dora. The greater the accumulation of deceit and trouble
in the world, the brighter and the purer shone the star of Dora
high above the world. I don't think I had any definite idea where
Dora came from, or in what degree she was related to a higher order
of beings; but I am quite sure I should have scouted the notion of
her being simply human, like any other young lady, with indignation
If I may so express it, I was steeped in Dora. I was not merely
over head and ears in love with her, but I was saturated through
and through. Enough love might have been wrung out of me,
metaphorically speaking, to drown anybody in; and yet there would
have remained enough within me, and all over me, to pervade my
The first thing I did, on my own account, when I came back, was to
take a night-walk to Norwood, and, like the subject of a venerable
riddle of my childhood, to go 'round and round the house, without
ever touching the house', thinking about Dora. I believe the theme
of this incomprehensible conundrum was the moon. No matter what it
was, I, the moon-struck slave of Dora, perambulated round and round
the house and garden for two hours, looking through crevices in the
palings, getting my chin by dint of violent exertion above the
rusty nails on the top, blowing kisses at the lights in the
windows, and romantically calling on the night, at intervals, to
shield my Dora - I don't exactly know what from, I suppose from
fire. Perhaps from mice, to which she had a great objection.
My love was so much in my mind and it was so natural to me to
confide in Peggotty, when I found her again by my side of an
evening with the old set of industrial implements, busily making
the tour of my wardrobe, that I imparted to her, in a sufficiently
roundabout way, my great secret. Peggotty was strongly interested,
but I could not get her into my view of the case at all. She was
audaciously prejudiced in my favour, and quite unable to understand
why I should have any misgivings, or be low-spirited about it.
'The young lady might think herself well off,' she observed, 'to
have such a beau. And as to her Pa,' she said, 'what did the
gentleman expect, for gracious sake!'
I observed, however, that Mr. Spenlow's proctorial gown and stiff
cravat took Peggotty down a little, and inspired her with a greater
reverence for the man who was gradually becoming more and more
etherealized in my eyes every day, and about whom a reflected
radiance seemed to me to beam when he sat erect in Court among his
papers, like a little lighthouse in a sea of stationery. And by
the by, it used to be uncommonly strange to me to consider, I
remember, as I sat in Court too, how those dim old judges and
doctors wouldn't have cared for Dora, if they had known her; how
they wouldn't have gone out of their senses with rapture, if
marriage with Dora had been proposed to them; how Dora might have
sung, and played upon that glorified guitar, until she led me to
the verge of madness, yet not have tempted one of those slow-goers
an inch out of his road!
I despised them, to a man. Frozen-out old gardeners in the
flower-beds of the heart, I took a personal offence against them
all. The Bench was nothing to me but an insensible blunderer. The
Bar had no more tenderness or poetry in it, than the bar of a
Taking the management of Peggotty's affairs into my own hands, with
no little pride, I proved the will, and came to a settlement with
the Legacy Duty-office, and took her to the Bank, and soon got
everything into an orderly train. We varied the legal character of
these proceedings by going to see some perspiring Wax-work, in
Fleet Street (melted, I should hope, these twenty years); and by
visiting Miss Linwood's Exhibition, which I remember as a Mausoleum
of needlework, favourable to self-examination and repentance; and
by inspecting the Tower of London; and going to the top of St.
Paul's. All these wonders afforded Peggotty as much pleasure as
she was able to enjoy, under existing circumstances: except, I
think, St. Paul's, which, from her long attachment to her work-box,
became a rival of the picture on the lid, and was, in some
particulars, vanquished, she considered, by that work of art.
Peggotty's business, which was what we used to call 'common-form
business' in the Commons (and very light and lucrative the
common-form business was), being settled, I took her down to the
office one morning to pay her bill. Mr. Spenlow had stepped out,
old Tiffey said, to get a gentleman sworn for a marriage licence;
but as I knew he would be back directly, our place lying close to
the Surrogate's, and to the Vicar-General's office too, I told
Peggotty to wait.
We were a little like undertakers, in the Commons, as regarded
Probate transactions; generally making it a rule to look more or
less cut up, when we had to deal with clients in mourning. In a
similar feeling of delicacy, we were always blithe and
light-hearted with the licence clients. Therefore I hinted to
Peggotty that she would find Mr. Spenlow much recovered from the
shock of Mr. Barkis's decease; and indeed he came in like a
But neither Peggotty nor I had eyes for him, when we saw, in
company with him, Mr. Murdstone. He was very little changed. His
hair looked as thick, and was certainly as black, as ever; and his
glance was as little to be trusted as of old.
'Ah, Copperfield?' said Mr. Spenlow. 'You know this gentleman, I
I made my gentleman a distant bow, and Peggotty barely recognized
him. He was, at first, somewhat disconcerted to meet us two
together; but quickly decided what to do, and came up to me.
'I hope,' he said, 'that you are doing well?'
'It can hardly be interesting to you,' said I. 'Yes, if you wish
We looked at each other, and he addressed himself to Peggotty.
'And you,' said he. 'I am sorry to observe that you have lost your
'It's not the first loss I have had in my life, Mr. Murdstone,'
replied Peggotty, trembling from head to foot. 'I am glad to hope
that there is nobody to blame for this one, - nobody to answer for
'Ha!' said he; 'that's a comfortable reflection. You have done
'I have not worn anybody's life away,' said Peggotty, 'I am
thankful to think! No, Mr. Murdstone, I have not worrited and
frightened any sweet creetur to an early grave!'
He eyed her gloomily - remorsefully I thought - for an instant; and
said, turning his head towards me, but looking at my feet instead
of my face:
'We are not likely to encounter soon again; - a source of
satisfaction to us both, no doubt, for such meetings as this can
never be agreeable. I do not expect that you, who always rebelled
against my just authority, exerted for your benefit and
reformation, should owe me any good-will now. There is an
antipathy between us -'
'An old one, I believe?' said I, interrupting him.
He smiled, and shot as evil a glance at me as could come from his
'It rankled in your baby breast,' he said. 'It embittered the life
of your poor mother. You are right. I hope you may do better,
yet; I hope you may correct yourself.'
Here he ended the dialogue, which had been carried on in a low
voice, in a corner of the outer office, by passing into Mr.
Spenlow's room, and saying aloud, in his smoothest manner:
'Gentlemen of Mr. Spenlow's profession are accustomed to family
differences, and know how complicated and difficult they always
are!' With that, he paid the money for his licence; and, receiving
it neatly folded from Mr. Spenlow, together with a shake of the
hand, and a polite wish for his happiness and the lady's, went out
of the office.
I might have had more difficulty in constraining myself to be
silent under his words, if I had had less difficulty in impressing
upon Peggotty (who was only angry on my account, good creature!)
that we were not in a place for recrimination, and that I besought
her to hold her peace. She was so unusually roused, that I was
glad to compound for an affectionate hug, elicited by this revival
in her mind of our old injuries, and to make the best I could of
it, before Mr. Spenlow and the clerks.
Mr. Spenlow did not appear to know what the connexion between Mr.
Murdstone and myself was; which I was glad of, for I could not bear
to acknowledge him, even in my own breast, remembering what I did
of the history of my poor mother. Mr. Spenlow seemed to think, if
he thought anything about the matter, that my aunt was the leader
of the state party in our family, and that there was a rebel party
commanded by somebody else - so I gathered at least from what he
said, while we were waiting for Mr. Tiffey to make out Peggotty's
bill of costs.
'Miss Trotwood,' he remarked, 'is very firm, no doubt, and not
likely to give way to opposition. I have an admiration for her
character, and I may congratulate you, Copperfield, on being on the
right side. Differences between relations are much to be deplored
- but they are extremely general - and the great thing is, to be on
the right side': meaning, I take it, on the side of the moneyed