David Copperfield – Day 15 of 331

So the fortnight slipped away, varied by nothing but the variation of the tide, which altered Mr. Peggotty’s times of going out and coming in, and altered Ham’s engagements also. When the latter was unemployed, he sometimes walked with us to show us the boats and ships, and once or twice he took us for a row. I don’t know why one slight set of impressions should be more particularly associated with a place than another, though I believe this obtains with most people, in reference especially to the associations of their childhood. I never hear the name, or read the name, of Yarmouth, but I am reminded of a certain Sunday morning on the beach, the bells ringing for church, little Em’ly leaning on my shoulder, Ham lazily dropping stones into the water, and the sun, away at sea, just breaking through the heavy mist, and showing us the ships, like their own shadows.

At last the day came for going home. I bore up against the separation from Mr. Peggotty and Mrs. Gummidge, but my agony of mind at leaving little Em’ly was piercing. We went arm-in-arm to the public-house where the carrier put up, and I promised, on the road, to write to her. (I redeemed that promise afterwards, in characters larger than those in which apartments are usually announced in manuscript, as being to let.) We were greatly overcome at parting; and if ever, in my life, I have had a void made in my heart, I had one made that day.

Now, all the time I had been on my visit, I had been ungrateful to my home again, and had thought little or nothing about it. But I was no sooner turned towards it, than my reproachful young conscience seemed to point that way with a ready finger; and I felt, all the more for the sinking of my spirits, that it was my nest, and that my mother was my comforter and friend.

This gained upon me as we went along; so that the nearer we drew, the more familiar the objects became that we passed, the more excited I was to get there, and to run into her arms. But Peggotty, instead of sharing in those transports, tried to check them (though very kindly), and looked confused and out of sorts.

Blunderstone Rookery would come, however, in spite of her, when the carrier’s horse pleased—and did. How well I recollect it, on a cold grey afternoon, with a dull sky, threatening rain!

The door opened, and I looked, half laughing and half crying in my pleasant agitation, for my mother. It was not she, but a strange servant.

“Why, Peggotty!” I said, ruefully, “isn’t she come home?”

“Yes, yes, Master Davy,” said Peggotty. “She’s come home. Wait a bit, Master Davy, and I’ll—I’ll tell you something.”

Between her agitation, and her natural awkwardness in getting out of the cart, Peggotty was making a most extraordinary festoon of herself, but I felt too blank and strange to tell her so. When she had got down, she took me by the hand; led me, wondering, into the kitchen; and shut the door.

“Peggotty!” said I, quite frightened. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing’s the matter, bless you, Master Davy dear!” she answered, assuming an air of sprightliness.

“Something’s the matter, I’m sure. Where’s mama?”

“Where’s mama, Master Davy?” repeated Peggotty.

“Yes. Why hasn’t she come out to the gate, and what have we come in here for? Oh, Peggotty!” My eyes were full, and I felt as if I were going to tumble down.

“Bless the precious boy!” cried Peggotty, taking hold of me. “What is it? Speak, my pet!”

“Not dead, too! Oh, she’s not dead, Peggotty?”

Peggotty cried out No! with an astonishing volume of voice; and then sat down, and began to pant, and said I had given her a turn.

I gave her a hug to take away the turn, or to give her another turn in the right direction, and then stood before her, looking at her in anxious inquiry.

“You see, dear, I should have told you before now,” said Peggotty, “but I hadn’t an opportunity. I ought to have made it, perhaps, but I couldn’t azackly”—that was always the substitute for exactly, in Peggotty’s militia of words—“bring my mind to it.”

“Go on, Peggotty,” said I, more frightened than before.

“Master Davy,” said Peggotty, untying her bonnet with a shaking hand, and speaking in a breathless sort of way. “What do you think? You have got a Pa!”

I trembled, and turned white. Something—I don’t know what, or how—connected with the grave in the churchyard, and the raising of the dead, seemed to strike me like an unwholesome wind.

“A new one,” said Peggotty.

“A new one?” I repeated.

Peggotty gave a gasp, as if she were swallowing something that was very hard, and, putting out her hand, said:

“Come and see him.”

“I don’t want to see him.”

— “And your mama,” said Peggotty.

I ceased to draw back, and we went straight to the best parlour, where she left me. On one side of the fire, sat my mother; on the other, Mr. Murdstone. My mother dropped her work, and arose hurriedly, but timidly I thought.

“Now, Clara my dear,” said Mr. Murdstone. “Recollect! control yourself, always control yourself! Davy boy, how do you do?”

I gave him my hand. After a moment of suspense, I went and kissed my mother: she kissed me, patted me gently on the shoulder, and sat down again to her work. I could not look at her, I could not look at him, I knew quite well that he was looking at us both; and I turned to the window and looked out there, at some shrubs that were drooping their heads in the cold.

As soon as I could creep away, I crept upstairs. My old dear bedroom was changed, and I was to lie a long way off. I rambled downstairs to find anything that was like itself, so altered it all seemed; and roamed into the yard. I very soon started back from there, for the empty dog-kennel was filled up with a great dog — deep mouthed and black-haired like Him—and he was very angry at the sight of me, and sprang out to get at me.

Comments

  1. ScottS-M Identicon Icon

    ScottS-M wrote:

    I had thought his mother was going to be gone or dead or something but now I see I misinterpreted:

    It touches me nearly now, although I tell it lightly, to recollect how eager I was to leave my happy home; to think how little I suspected what I did leave for ever.

    I thought he was leaving his home for ever but I guess it was the happy home that he would not see again.

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