David Copperfield – Day 162 of 331

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 the kitchen!

“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 Master Davy?”

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 his hand.

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 school.

“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 eyes.

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 smile:

“Barkis is willin’!”

And, it being low water, he went out with the tide.

Comments

  1. ScottS-M Identicon Icon

    ScottS-M wrote:

    That’s too bad. He seemed like a good guy (maybe it’s just my inner miser).

    I wonder what’s going on with Emily. She seems way too over concerned. I guess it’s probably linked to that girl that wanted money and maybe if things were all going to tie together it could be related to Steerforth and his “boat”. But we’re only halfway though so I guess Dickens still has a lot of time to tie off those loose ends in other ways.

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