David Copperfield – Day 7 of 331

“Let us say ‘good night’, my fine boy,” said the gentleman, when he had bent his head—I saw him!—over my mother’s little glove.

“Good night!” said I.

“Come! Let us be the best friends in the world!” said the gentleman, laughing. “Shake hands!”

My right hand was in my mother’s left, so I gave him the other.

“Why, that’s the Wrong hand, Davy!” laughed the gentleman.

My mother drew my right hand forward, but I was resolved, for my former reason, not to give it him, and I did not. I gave him the other, and he shook it heartily, and said I was a brave fellow, and went away.

At this minute I see him turn round in the garden, and give us a last look with his ill-omened black eyes, before the door was shut.

Peggotty, who had not said a word or moved a finger, secured the fastenings instantly, and we all went into the parlour. My mother, contrary to her usual habit, instead of coming to the elbow-chair by the fire, remained at the other end of the room, and sat singing to herself.

— “Hope you have had a pleasant evening, ma’am,” said Peggotty, standing as stiff as a barrel in the centre of the room, with a candlestick in her hand.

“Much obliged to you, Peggotty,” returned my mother, in a cheerful voice, “I have had a very pleasant evening.”

“A stranger or so makes an agreeable change,” suggested Peggotty.

“A very agreeable change, indeed,” returned my mother.

Peggotty continuing to stand motionless in the middle of the room, and my mother resuming her singing, I fell asleep, though I was not so sound asleep but that I could hear voices, without hearing what they said. When I half awoke from this uncomfortable doze, I found Peggotty and my mother both in tears, and both talking.

“Not such a one as this, Mr. Copperfield wouldn’t have liked,” said Peggotty. “That I say, and that I swear!”

“Good Heavens!” cried my mother, “you’ll drive me mad! Was ever any poor girl so ill-used by her servants as I am! Why do I do myself the injustice of calling myself a girl? Have I never been married, Peggotty?”

“God knows you have, ma’am,” returned Peggotty. “Then, how can you dare,” said my mother—“you know I don’t mean how can you dare, Peggotty, but how can you have the heart—to make me so uncomfortable and say such bitter things to me, when you are well aware that I haven’t, out of this place, a single friend to turn to?”

“The more’s the reason,” returned Peggotty, “for saying that it won’t do. No! That it won’t do. No! No price could make it do. No!”—I thought Peggotty would have thrown the candlestick away, she was so emphatic with it.

“How can you be so aggravating,” said my mother, shedding more tears than before, “as to talk in such an unjust manner! How can you go on as if it was all settled and arranged, Peggotty, when I tell you over and over again, you cruel thing, that beyond the commonest civilities nothing has passed! You talk of admiration. What am I to do? If people are so silly as to indulge the sentiment, is it my fault? What am I to do, I ask you? Would you wish me to shave my head and black my face, or disfigure myself with a burn, or a scald, or something of that sort? I dare say you would, Peggotty. I dare say you’d quite enjoy it.”

Peggotty seemed to take this aspersion very much to heart, I thought.

“And my dear boy,” cried my mother, coming to the elbow-chair in which I was, and caressing me, “my own little Davy! Is it to be hinted to me that I am wanting in affection for my precious treasure, the dearest little fellow that ever was!”

“Nobody never went and hinted no such a thing,” said Peggotty.

“You did, Peggotty!” returned my mother. “You know you did. What else was it possible to infer from what you said, you unkind creature, when you know as well as I do, that on his account only last quarter I wouldn’t buy myself a new parasol, though that old green one is frayed the whole way up, and the fringe is perfectly mangy? You know it is, Peggotty. You can’t deny it.” Then, turning affectionately to me, with her cheek against mine, “Am I a naughty mama to you, Davy? Am I a nasty, cruel, selfish, bad mama? Say I am, my child; say ‘yes’, dear boy, and Peggotty will love you; and Peggotty’s love is a great deal better than mine, Davy. I don’t love you at all, do I?”

At this, we all fell a-crying together. I think I was the loudest of the party, but I am sure we were all sincere about it. I was quite heart-broken myself, and am afraid that in the first transports of wounded tenderness I called Peggotty a “Beast”. That honest creature was in deep affliction, I remember, and must have become quite buttonless on the occasion; for a little volley of those explosives went off, when, after having made it up with my mother, she kneeled down by the elbow-chair, and made it up with me.

We went to bed greatly dejected. My sobs kept waking me, for a long time; and when one very strong sob quite hoisted me up in bed, I found my mother sitting on the coverlet, and leaning over me. I fell asleep in her arms, after that, and slept soundly.

Whether it was the following Sunday when I saw the gentleman again, or whether there was any greater lapse of time before he reappeared, I cannot recall. I don’t profess to be clear about dates. But there he was, in church, and he walked home with us afterwards. He came in, too, to look at a famous geranium we had, in the parlour-window. It did not appear to me that he took much notice of it, but before he went he asked my mother to give him a bit of the blossom. She begged him to choose it for himself, but he refused to do that—I could not understand why—so she plucked it for him, and gave it into his hand. He said he would never, never part with it any more; and I thought he must be quite a fool not to know that it would fall to pieces in a day or two.

Peggotty began to be less with us, of an evening, than she had always been. My mother deferred to her very much—more than usual, it occurred to me—and we were all three excellent friends; still we were different from what we used to be, and were not so comfortable among ourselves. Sometimes I fancied that Peggotty perhaps objected to my mother’s wearing all the pretty dresses she had in her drawers, or to her going so often to visit at that neighbour’s; but I couldn’t, to my satisfaction, make out how it was.

Comments

  1. ScottS-M Identicon Icon

    ScottS-M wrote:

    Doesn’t sound like this fellow is going to turn out to be a good thing.

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