STEERFORTH and I stayed for more than a fortnight in that part of the country. We were very much together, I need not say; but occasionally we were asunder for some hours at a time. He was a good sailor, and I was but an indifferent one; and when he went out boating with Mr. Peggotty, which was a favourite amusement of his, I generally remained ashore. My occupation of Peggottys spare room put a constraint upon me, from which he was free: for, knowing how assiduously she attended on Mr. Barkis all day, I did not like to remain out late at night; whereas Steerforth, lying at the Inn, had nothing to consult but his own humour. Thus it came about, that I heard of his making little treats for the fishermen at Mr. Peggottys house of call, The Willing Mind, after I was in bed, and of his being afloat wrapped in fishermens clothes, whole moonlight nights, and coming back when the morning tide was at flood. By this time, however, I knew that his restless nature and bold spirits delighted to find a vent in rough toil and hard weather, as in any other means of excitement that presented itself freshly to him; so none of his proceedings surprised me.
Another cause of our being sometimes apart was, that I had naturally an interest in going over to Blunderstone, and revisiting the old familiar scenes of my childhood; while Steerforth, after being there once, had naturally no great interest in going there again. Hence, on three or four days that I can at once recall, we went our several ways after an early breakfast, and met again at a late dinner. I had no idea how he employed his time in the interval, beyond a general knowledge that he was very popular in the place, and had twenty means of actively diverting himself where another man might not have found one.
For my own part, my occupation in my solitary pilgrimages was to recall every yard of the old road as I went along it, and to haunt the old spots, of which I never tired. I haunted them, as my memory had often done, and lingered among them as my younger thoughts had lingered when I was far away.
The grave beneath the tree, where both my parents layon which I had looked out, when it was my fathers only, with such curious feelings of compassion, and by which I had stood, so desolate, when it was opened to receive my pretty mother and her babythe grave which Peggottys own faithful care had ever since kept neat, and made a garden of, I walked near, by the hour. It lay a little off the churchyard path, in a quiet corner, not so far removed but I could read the names upon the stone as I walked to and fro, startled by the sound of the church-bell when it struck the hour, for it was like a departed voice to me. My reflections at these times were always associated with the figure I was to make in life, and the distinguished things I was to do. My echoing footsteps went to no other tune, but were as constant to that as if I had come home to build my castles in the air at a living mothers side.
There were great changes in my old home. The ragged nests, so long deserted by the rooks, were gone; and the trees were lopped and topped out of their remembered shapes. The garden had run wild, and half the windows of the house were shut up. It was occupied, but only by a poor lunatic gentleman, and the people who took care of him. He was always sitting at my little window, looking out into the churchyard; and I wondered whether his rambling thoughts ever went upon any of the fancies that used to occupy mine, on the rosy mornings when I peeped out of that same little window in my night-clothes, and saw the sheep quietly feeding in the light of the rising sun.
Our old neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Grayper, were gone to South America, and the rain had made its way through the roof of their empty house, and stained the outer walls. Mr. Chillip was married again to a tall, raw-boned, high-nosed wife; and they had a weazen little baby, with a heavy head that it couldnt hold up, and two weak staring eyes, with which it seemed to be always wondering why it had ever been born.
It was with a singular jumble of sadness and pleasure that I used to linger about my native place, until the reddening winter sun admonished me that it was time to start on my returning walk. But, when the place was left behind, and especially when Steerforth and I were happily seated over our dinner by a blazing fire, it was delicious to think of having been there. So it was, though in a softened degree, when I went to my neat room at night; and, turning over the leaves of the crocodile-book (which was always there, upon a little table), remembered with a grateful heart how blest I was in having such a friend as Steerforth, such a friend as Peggotty, and such a substitute for what I had lost as my excellent and generous aunt.
My nearest way to Yarmouth, in coming back from these long walks, was by a ferry. It landed me on the flat between the town and the sea, which I could make straight across, and so save myself a considerable circuit by the high road. Mr. Peggottys house being on that waste-place, and not a hundred yards out of my tract, I always looked in as I went by.
One dark evening, when I was later than usualfor I had, that day, been making my parting visit to Blunderstone, as we were now about to return homeI found him alone in Mr. Peggottys house, sitting thoughtfully before the fire. He was so intent upon his own reflections that he was quite unconscious of my approach. This, indeed, he might easily have been if he had been less absorbed, for footsteps fell noiselessly on the sandy ground outside; but even my entrance failed to rouse him. I was standing close to him, looking at him; and still, with a heavy brow, he was lost in his meditations.
But you are spoiling them for me, said I, as he stirred it quickly with a piece of burning wood, striking out of it a train of red-hot sparks that went careering up the little chimney, and roaring out into the air.
And I have been sitting here, said Steerforth, glancing round the room, thinking that all the people we found so glad on the night of our coming down, mightto judge from the present wasted air of the placebe dispersed, or dead, or come to I dont know what harm. David, I wish to God I had had a judicious father these last twenty years!
It would be better to be this poor Peggotty, or his lout of a nephew, he said, getting up and leaning moodily against the chimney-piece, with his face towards the fire, than to be myself, twenty times richer and twenty times wiser, and be the torment to myself that I have been, in this Devils bark of a boat, within the last halfhour!
I was so confounded by the alteration in him, that at last I could only observe him in silence, as he stood leaning his head upon his hand, and looking gloomily down at the fire. At length I begged him, with all the earnestness a felt, to tell me what had occurred to cross him so unusually, and to let me sympathise with him, if I could not hope to advise him. Before I had well concluded, he began to laughfretfully at first, but soon with returning gaiety.
Tut, its nothing, Daisy! nothing! he replied. I told you, at the inn in London, I am heavy company for myself, sometimes. I have been a nightmare to myself, just nowmust have had one, I think. At odd dull times, nursery tales come up into the memory, unrecognised for what they are. I believe I have been confounding myself with the bad boy who didnt care, and became food for lionsa grander kind of going to the dogs, I suppose. What old women call the horrors, have been creeping over me from head to foot. I have been afraid of myself.
Perhaps not, and yet may have enough to be afraid of too, he answered. Well! So it goes by! I am not about to be hipped again, David; but I tell you, my good fellow, once more, that it would have been well for me (and for more than me) if I had had a steadfast and judicious father!
The advent of Mrs. Gummidge with a basket, explained how the house had happened to be empty. She had hurried out to buy something that was needed, against Mr. Peggottys return with the tide; and had left the door open in the meanwhile, lest Ham and little Emly, with whom it was an early night, should come home while she was gone. Steerforth, after very much improving Mrs. Gummidges spirits by a cheerful salutation and a jocose embrace, took my arm, and hurried me away.
Like enough, he returned; though theres a sarcastic meaning in that observation for an amiable piece of innocence like my young friend. Well! I dare say I am a capricious fellow, David. I know I am; but while the iron is hot, I can strike it vigorously too. I could pass a reasonably good examination already, as a pilot in these waters, I think.
Indeed he does, and you know how truly; knowing how ardent you are in any pursuit you follow, and how easily you can master it. And that amazes me most in you, Steerforththat you should be contented with such fitful uses of your powers.
Contented? he answered, merrily. I am never contented, except with your freshness, my gentle Daisy. As to fitfulness, I have never learnt the art of binding myself to any of the wheels on which the Ixions of these days are turning round and round. I missed it somehow in a bad apprenticeship, and now dont care about it.You know I have bought a boat down here?
I dont know that, he returned. I have taken a fancy to the place. At all events, walking me briskly on, I have bought a boat that was for salea clipper, Mr. Peggotty says; and so she isand Mr. Peggotty will be master of her in my absence.
Now I understand you, Steerforth! said I, exultingly. You pretend to have bought it for yourself, but you have really done so to confer a benefit on him. I might have known as much at first, knowing you. My dear kind Steerforth, how can I tell you what I think of your generosity?
As our looks met, I observed that he was pale even to his lips, though he looked very steadily at me. I feared that some difference between him and his mother might have led to his being in the frame of mind in which I had found him at the solitary fireside. I hinted so.
The same as ever, said Steerforth. Distant and quiet as the North Pole. He shall see to the boat being fresh named. Shes the Stormy Petrel now. What does Mr. Peggotty care for Stormy Petrels! Ill have her christened again.
As he had continued to look steadily at me, I took it as a reminder that he objected to being extolled for his consideration. I could not help showing in my face how much it pleased me, but I said little, and he resumed his usual smile, and seemed relieved.
Ham was a boat-builder in these days, having improved a natural ingenuity in that handicraft, until he had become a skilled workman. He was in his working-dress, and looked rugged enough, but manly withal, and a very fit protector for the blooming little creature at his side. Indeed, there was a frankness in his face, an honesty, and an undisguised show of his pride in her, and his love for her, which were, to me, the best of good looks. I thought, as they came towards us, that they were well matched even in that particular.
She withdrew her hand timidly from his arm as we stopped to speak to them, and blushed as she gave it to Steerforth and to me. When they passed on, after we had exchanged a few words, she did not like to replace that hand, but still appearing timid and constrained, walked by herself. I thought all this very pretty and engaging, and Steerforth seemed to think so too, as we looked after them fading away in the light of a young moon.
Suddenly there passed usevidently following thema young woman whose approach we had not observed, but whose face I saw as she went by, and thought I had a faint remembrance of. She was lightly dressed; looked bold, and haggard, and flaunting, and poor; but seemed, for the time, to have given all that to the wind which was blowing, and to have nothing in her mind but going after them. As the dark distant level absorbing their figures into itself, left but itself visible between us and the sea and clouds, her figure disappeared in like manner, still no nearer to them than before.
But he looked again over his shoulder towards the sealine glimmering afar off; and yet again. And he wondered about it, in some broken expressions, several times, in the short remainder of our walk; and only seemed to forget it when the light of fire and candle shone upon us, seated warm and merry, at table.
Littimer was there, and had his usual effect upon me. When I said to him that I hoped Mrs. Steerforth and Miss Dartle were well, he answered respectfully (and of course respectably), that they were tolerably well, he thanked me, and had sent their compliments. This was all, and yet he seemed to me to say as plainly as a man could say: You are very young, Sir; you are exceedingly young.
It appears to be her native part of the country, Sir. She informs me that she makes one of her professional visits here, every year, Sir. I met her in the street this afternoon, and she wished to know if she might have the honour of waiting on you after dinner, Sir.
I felt some curiosity and excitement about this lady, especially as Steerforth burst into a fit of laughing when I referred to her, and positively refused to answer any question of which I made her the subject. I remained, therefore, in a state of considerable expectation until the cloth had been removed some half-an-hour, and we were sitting over our decanter of wine before the fire, when the door opened, and Littimer, with his habitual serenity quite undisturbed, announced:
Miss Mowcher! I looked at the doorway and saw nothing. I was still looking at the doorway, thinking that Miss Mowcher was a long while making her appearance, when, to my infinite astonishment, there came waddling round a sofa which stood between me and it, a pursy dwarf, of about forty or forty-five, with a very large head and face, a pair of roguish grey eyes, and such extremely little arms, that, to enable herself to lay a finger archly against her snub nose as she ogled Steerforth, she was obliged to meet the finger halfway, and lay her nose against it. Her chin, which was what is called a double chin, was so fat that it entirely swallowed up the strings of her bonnet, bow and all. Throat she had none; waist she had none; legs she had none, worth mentioning; for though she was more than full-sized down to where her waist would have been, if she had had any, and though she terminated, as human beings generally do, in a pair of feet, she was so short that she stood at a common-sized chair as at a table, resting a bag she carried on the seat. This lady; dressed in an off-hand, easy style; bringing her nose and her forefinger together, with the difficulty I have described; standing with her head necessarily on one side, and, with one of her sharp eyes shut up, making an uncommonly knowing face; after ogling Steerforth for a few moments, broke into a torrent of words.
What! My flower! she pleasantly began, shaking her large head at him. Youre there, are you! Oh, you naughty boy, fie for shame, what do you do so far away from home? Up to mischief, Ill be bound. Oh, youre a downy fellow, Steerforth, so you are, and Im another, aint I? Ha, ha, ha! Youd have betted a hundred pound to five, now, that you wouldnt have seen me here, wouldnt you? Bless you, man alive, Im everywhere. Im here, and there, and where not, like the conjurors half-crown in the ladys hankercher. Talking of hankerchersand talking of ladieswhat a comfort you are to your blessed mother, aint you, my dear boy, over one of my shoulders, and I dont say which!
Miss Mowcher untied her bonnet, at this passage of her discourse, threw back the strings, and sat down, panting, on a foot-stool in front of the firemaking a kind of arbour of the dining-table, which spread its mahogany shelter above her head.
Oh my stars and whats-their-names! she went on, clapping a hand on each of her little knees, and glancing shrewdly at me. Im of too full a habit, thats the fact, Steerforth. After a flight of stairs, it gives me as much trouble to draw every breath I want, as if it was a bucket of water. If you saw me looking out of an upper window, youd think I was a fine woman, wouldnt you?
Go along, you dog! cried the little creature, making a whisk at him with the handkerchief with which she was wiping her face, and dont be impudent! But I give you my word and honour I was at Lady Mitherss last weektheres a woman! How she wears!and Mithers himself came into the room where I was waiting for hertheres a man! How he wears! and his wig too, for hes had it these ten yearsand he went on at that rate in the complimentary line, that I began to think I should be obliged to ring the bell. Ha! ha! ha! Hes a pleasant wretch, but he wants principle.
Thats tellings, my blessed infant, she retorted, tapping her nose again, screwing up her face, and twinkling her eyes like an imp of supernatural intelligence. Never you mind! Youd like to know whether I stop her hair from falling off, or dye it, or touch up her complexion, or improve her eyebrows, wouldnt you? And so you shall, my darlingwhen I tell you! Do you know what my great grandfathers name was?
I never beheld anything approaching to Miss Mowchers wink, except Miss Mowchers self-possession. She had a wonderful way too, when listening to what was said to her, or when waiting for an answer to what she had said herself, of pausing with her head cunningly on one side, and one eye turned up like a magpies. Altogether I was lost in amazement, and sat staring at her, quite oblivious, I am afraid, of the laws of politeness.
She had by this time drawn the chair to her side, and was busily engaged in producing from the bag (plunging in her short arm to the shoulder, at every dive) a number of small bottles, sponges, combs, brushes, bits of flannel, little pairs of curling-irons, and other instruments, which she tumbled in a heap upon the chair. From this employment she suddenly desisted, and said to Steerforth, much to my confusion:
Well then, he shall! I thought he looked as if he did! returned Miss Mowcher, waddling up to me, bag in hand, and laughing on me as she came. Face like a peach! standing on tiptoe to pinch my cheek as I sat. Quite tempting! Im very fond of peaches. Happy to make your acquaintance, Mr. Copperfield, Im sure.
Oh my goodness, how polite we are! exclaimed Miss Mowcher, making a preposterous attempt to cover her large face with her morsel of a hand. What a world of gammon and spinnage it is, though, aint it!
Ha! ha! ha! What a refreshing set of humbugs we are, to be sure, aint we, my sweet child? replied that morsel of a woman, feeling in the bag with her head on one side, and her eye in the air. Look here! taking something out. Scraps of the Russian Princes nails! Prince Alphabet turned topsy-turvy, I call him, for his names got all the letters in it, higgledy-piggledy.
Miss Mowcher winked assent. Forced to send for me. Couldnt help it. The climate affected his dye; it did very well in Russia, but it was no go here. You never saw such a rusty prince in all your born days as he was. Like old iron!
Oh, youre a broth of a boy, aint you? returned Miss Mowcher, shaking her head violently. I said, what a set of humbugs we were in general, and I showed you the scraps of the Princes nails to prove it. The Princes nails do more for me in private families of the genteel sort, than all my talents put together. I always carryem about. Theyre the best introduction. If Miss Mowcher cuts the Princes nails, she must be all right. I giveem away to the young ladies. They putem in albums, I believe. Ha! ha! ha! Upon my life, the whole social system (as the men call it when they make speeches in Parliament) is a system of Princes nails! said this least of women, trying to fold her short arms, and nodding her large head.
Steerforth laughed heartily, and I laughed too. Miss Mowcher continuing all the time to shake her head (which was very much on one side), and to look into the air with one eye, and to wink with the other.
She then selected two or three of the little instruments, and a little bottle, and asked (to my surprise) if the table would bear. On Steerforths replying in the affirmative, she pushed a chair against it, and begging the assistance of my hand, mounted up, pretty nimbly, to the top, as if it were a stage.
This was an invocation to Steerforth to place himself under her hands; who, accordingly, sat himself down, with his back to the table, and his laughing face towards me, and submitted his head to her inspection, evidently for no other purpose than our entertainment. To see Miss Mowcher standing over him, looking at his rich profusion of brown hair through a large round magnifying-glass, which she took out of her pocket, was a most amazing spectacle.
Youre a pretty fellow! said Miss Mowcher, after a brief inspection. Youd be as bald as a friar on the top of your head in twelve months, but for me. Just half-a-minute, my young friend, and well give you a polishing that shall keep your curls on for the next ten years!
With this, she tilted some of the contents of the little bottle on to one of the little bits of flannel, and, again imparting some of the virtues of that preparation to one of the little brushes, began rubbing and scraping away with both on the crown of Steerforths head in the busiest manner I ever witnessed, talking all the time.
It looks like it. However, mad or sane, he tried, returned Miss Mowcher. What does he do, but, lo and behold you, he goes into a perfumers shop, and wants to buy a bottle of the Madagascar Liquid.
To drink? returned Miss Mowcher, stopping to slap his cheek. To doctor his own moustachios with, you know. There was a woman in the shopelderly femalequite a Griffinwho had never even heard of it by name. Begging pardon, Sir, said the Griffin to Charley, its notnotnot ROUGE, is it? Rouge, said Charley, to the Griffin. What the unmentionable to ears polite, do you think I want with rouge? No offence, Sir, said the Griffin; we have it asked for by so many names, I thought it might be. Now that, my child, continued Miss Mowcher, rubbing all the time as busily as ever, is another instance of the refreshing humbug I was speaking of I do something in that way myselfperhaps a good dealperhaps a littlesharps the word, my dear boynever mind!
Put this and that together, my tender pupil, returned the wary Mowcher, touching her nose, work it by the rule of Secrets in all trades, and the product will give you the desired result. I say I do a little in that way myself. One Dowager, she calls it lip-salve. Another, she calls it gloves. Another, she calls it tucker-edging. Another, she calls it a fan. I call it whatever they call it. I supply it for em, but we keep up the trick so, to one another, and make believe with such a face, that theyd as soon think of laying it on, before a whole drawing-room, as before me. And when I wait upon em, theyll say to me sometimeswith it onthick, and no mistakeHow am I looking, Mowcher? Am I pale? Ha! ha! ha! ha! Isnt that refreshing, my young friend!
The first exclamation sounded like a question put to both of us, and the second like a question put to Steerforth only. She seemed to have found no answer to either, but continued to rub, with her head on one side and her eye turned up, as if she were looking for an answer in the air, and were confident of its appearing presently.
Her tone and look implied something that was not agreeable to me in connexion with the subject. So I said, in a graver manner than any of us had yet assumed: She is as virtuous as she is pretty. She is engaged to be married to a most worthy and deserving man in her own station of life. I esteem her for her good sense, as much as I admire her for her good looks.
Well said! cried Steerforth. Hear, hear, hear! Now, Ill quench the curiosity of this little Fatima, my dear Daisy, by leaving her nothing to guess at. She is at present apprenticed, Miss Mowcher, or articled, or whatever it may be, to Omer and Joram, Haberdashers, Milliners, and so forth, in this town. Do you observe? Omer and Joram. The promise of which my friend has spoken, is made and entered into with her cousin; Christian name, Ham; surname, Peggotty; occupation, boat-builder; also of this town. She lives with a relative; Christian name, unknown; surname, Peggotty; occupation, seafaring; also of this town. She is the prettiest and most engaging little fairy in the world. I admire heras my friend doesexceedingly. If it were not that I might appear to disparage her intended, which I know my friend would not like, I would add, that to me she seems to be throwing herself away; that I am sure she might do better; and that I swear she was born to be a lady.
Miss Mowcher listened to these words, which were very slowly and distinctly spoken, with her head on one side, and her eye in the air, as if she were still looking for that answer. When he ceased she became brisk again in an instant, and rattled away with surprising volubility.
Oh, and thats all about it, is it? she exclaimed, trimming his whiskers with a little restless pair of scissors, that went glancing round his head in all directions. Very well: very well! Quite a long story. Ought to end and they lived happy ever afterwards; oughtnt it? Ah! Whats that game at forfeits? I love my love with an E, because shes enticing: I hate her with an E, because shes engaged. I took her to the sign of the exquisite, and treated her with an elopement; her names Emily, and she lives in the east? Ha! ha! ha! Mr. Copperfield, aint I volatile?
Merely looking at me with extravagant slyness, and not waiting for any reply, she continued, without drawing breath: There! If ever any scapegrace was trimmed and touched up to perfection, you are, Steerforth. If I understand any noddle in the world, I understand yours. Do you hear me when I tell you that, my darling? I understand yours, peeping down into his face. Now you may mizzle, Jemmy (as we say at Court), and if Mr. Copperfield will take the chair Ill operate on him.
I could not help blushing as I declined, for I felt we were on my weak point, now. But Miss Mowcher, finding that I was not at present disposed for any decoration within the range of her art, and that I was, for the time being, proof against the blandishments of the small bottle which she held up before one eye to enforce her persuasions, said she would make a beginning on an early day, and requested the aid of my hand to descend from her elevated station. Thus assisted, she skipped down with much agility, and began to tie her double chin into her bonnet.
Thats the Till! observed Miss Mowcher, standing at the chair again, and replacing in the bag a miscellaneous collection of little objects she had emptied out of it. Have I got all my traps? It seems so. It wont do to be like long Ned Beadwood, when they took him to church to marry him to somebody, as he says, and left the bride behind. Ha! ha! ha! A wicked rascal, Ned, but droll! Now, I know Im going to break your hearts, but I am forced to leave you. You must call up all your fortitude, and try to bear it. Good bye, Mr. Copperfield! Take care of yourself, Jockey of Norfolk! How I have been rattling on! Its all the fault of you two wretches. I forgive you! Bob swore!as the Englishman said for Good night, when he first learnt French, and thought it so like English. Bob swore, my ducks!
With the bag slung over her arm, and rattling as she waddled away, she waddled to the door; where she stopped to inquire if she should leave us a lock of her hair. Aint I volatile? she added, as a commentary on this offer, and, with her finger on her nose, departed.
Steerforth laughed to that degree, that it was impossible for me to help laughing too; though I am not sure I should have done so, but for this inducement. When we had had our laugh quite out, which was after some time, he told me that Miss Mowcher had quite an extensive connexion, and made herself useful to a variety of people in a variety of ways. Some people trifled with her as a mere oddity, he said; but she was as shrewdly and sharply observant as anyone he knew, and as long-headed as she was short-armed. He told me that what she had said of being here, and there, and everywhere, was true enough; for she made little darts into the provinces, and seemed to pick up customers everywhere, and to know everybody. I asked him what her disposition was: was: whether it was at all mischievous, and if her sympathies were generally on the right side of things: but, not succeeding in attracting his attention to these questions after two or three attempts, I forebore or forgot to repeat them. He told me instead, with much rapidity, a good deal about her skill, and her profits; and about her being a scientific cupper, if I should ever have occasion for her service in that capacity.
I was surprised, when I came to Mr. Barkiss house, to find Ham walking up and down in front of it, and still more surprised to learn from him that little Emly was inside. I naturally inquired why he was not there too, instead of pacing the street by himself?
Well, Masr Davy, in a general way, sot would be, he returned; but lookee here, Masr Davy, lowering his voice, and speaking very gravely. Its a young woman, Sira young woman, that Emly knowed once, and doent ought to know no more.
Keeping us in sight? said Ham. Its like you did, Masr Davy. Not that I knowd then, she was theer, Sir, but along of her creeping soon arterwards under Emlys little winder, when she see a light come, and whispring Emly, Emly, for Christs sake, have a womans heart towards me. I was once like you! Those was solemn words, Masr Davy, fur to hear!
For the matter o that, Masr Davy, replied Ham, alls told amost in them words, Emly, Emly, for Christs sake, have a womans heart towards me. I was once like you! She wanted to speak to Emly. Emly couldnt speak to her theer, for her loving uncle was come home, and he wouldntno, Masr Davy, said Ham, with great earnestness, he couldnt, kind-naturd, tender-hearted as he is, see them two together, side by side, for all the treasures thats wrecked in the sea.
So Emly writes in pencil on a bit of paper, he pursued, and gives it to her out o window to bring here. Show that, she says, to my aunt, Mrs. Barkis, and shell set you down by her fire, for the love of me, till uncle is gone out, and I can come. By-and-by she tells me what I tell you, Masr Davy, and asks me to bring her. What can I do? She doent ought to know any such, but I cant deny her, when the tears is on her face.
And if I could deny her when the tears was on her face, Masr Davy, said Ham, tenderly adjusting it on the rough palm of his hand, how could I deny her when she give me this to carry for herknowing what she brought it for? Such a toy as it is! said Ham, thoughtfully looking on it. With such a little money in it, Emly my dear!
I shook him warmly by the hand when he had put it away againfor that was more satisfactory to me than saying anythingand we walked up and down, for a minute or two, in silence. The door opened then, and Peggotty appeared, beckoning to Ham to come in. I would have kept away, but she came after me, entreating me to come in too. Even then, I would have avoided the room where they all were, but for its being the neat-tiled kitchen I have mentioned more than once. The door opening immediately into it, I found myself among them, before I considered whither I was going.
The girlthe same I had seen upon the sandswas near the fire. She was sitting on the ground, with her head and one arm lying on a chair. I fancied, from the disposition of her figure, that Emly had but newly risen from the chair, and that the forlorn head might perhaps have been lying on her lap. I saw but little of the girls face, over which her hair fell loose and scattered, as if she had been disordering it with her own hands; but I saw that she was young, and of a fair complexion. Peggotty had been crying. So had little Emly. Not a word was spoken when we first went in; and the Dutch clock by the dresser seemed, in the silence, to tick twice as loud as usual.
He stood between them, looking on the prostrate girl with a mixture of compassion for her, and of jealousy of her holding any companionship with her whom he loved so well, which I have always remembered distinctly. They both spoke as if she were ill; in a soft, suppressed tone that was plainly heard, although it hardly rose above a whisper.
She lifted up her head, and looked darkly round at him for a moment; then laid it down again, and curved her right arm about her neck, as a woman in a fever, or in an agony of pain from a shot, might twist herself.
Ill try, said Martha, if youll help me away. I never can do worse than I have done here. I may do better. Oh! with a dreadful shiver, take me out of these streets, where the whole town knows me from a child!
As Emly held out her hand to Ham, I saw him put in it a little canvas bag. She took it, as if she thought it were her purse, and made a step or two forward; but finding her mistake, came back to where he had retired near me, and showed it to him.
The tears rose freshly in her eyes, but she turned away and went to Martha. What she gave her, I dont know. I saw her stooping over her, and putting money in her bosom. She whispered something, and asked was that enough? More than enough, the other said, and took her hand and kissed it.
Then Martha arose, and gathering her shawl about her, covering her face with it, and weeping aloud, went slowly to the door. She stopped a moment before going out, as if she would have uttered something or turned back; but no word passed her lips. Making the same low, dreary, wretched moaning in her shawl, she went away.
I try your love too much. I know I do! she sobbed I am often cross to you, and changeable with you, when I ought to be far different. You are never so to me. Why am I ever so to you, when I should think of nothing but how to be grateful, and to make you happy!
Ah! thats not enough! she cried. That is because you are good; not because I am! Oh, my dear, it might have been a better fortune for you, if you had been fond of some one elseof some one steadier and much worthier than me, who was all bound up in you, and never vain and changeable like me!
Oh, pray, aunt, try to help me! Ham, dear, try to help me! Mr. David, for the sake of old times, do please, try to help me! I want to be a better girl than I am. I want to feel a hundred times more thankful than I do. I want to feel more, what a blessed thing it is to be the wife of a good man, and to lead a peaceful life. Oh me, oh me! Oh my heart, my heart!
She dropped her face on my old nurses breast, and, ceasing this supplication, which in its agony and grief was half a womans, half a childs, as all her manner was (being, in that, more natural, and better suited to her beauty, as I thought, than any other manner could have been), wept silently, while my old nurse hushed her like an infant.
She got calmer by degrees, and then we soothed her; now talking encouragingly, and now jesting a little with her, until she began to raise her head and speak to us. So we got on, until she was able to smile, and then to laugh, and then to sit up, half ashamed; while Peggotty recalled her stray ringlets, dried her eyes, and made her neat again, lest her uncle should wonder, when she got home, why his darling had been crying.
I saw her do, that night, what I had never seen her do before. I saw her innocently kiss her chosen husband on the cheek, and creep close to his bluff form as if it were her best support. When they went away together, in the waning moonlight, and I looked after them, comparing their departure in my mind with Marthas, I saw that she held his arm with both her hands, and still kept close to him.