David Copperfield – Day 183 of 331

Peggotty was glad to get it for him, and he overwhelmed her with thanks, and went his way up Tottenham Court Road, carrying the flower-pot affectionately in his arms, with one of the most delighted expressions of countenance I ever saw.

We then turned back towards my chambers. As the shops had charms for Peggotty which I never knew them possess in the same degree for anybody else, I sauntered easily along, amused by her staring in at the windows, and waiting for her as often as she chose. We were thus a good while in getting to the Adelphi.

On our way upstairs, I called her attention to the sudden disappearance of Mrs. Crupp’s pitfalls, and also to the prints of recent footsteps. We were both very much surprised, coming higher up, to find my outer door standing open (which I had shut) and to hear voices inside.

We looked at one another, without knowing what to make of this, and went into the sitting-room. What was my amazement to find, of all people upon earth, my aunt there, and Mr. Dick! My aunt sitting on a quantity of luggage, with her two birds before her, and her cat on her knee, like a female Robinson Crusoe, drinking tea. Mr. Dick leaning thoughtfully on a great kite, such as we had often been out together to fly, with more luggage piled about him!

“My dear aunt!” cried I. “Why, what an unexpected pleasure!”

We cordially embraced; and Mr. Dick and I cordially shook hands; and Mrs. Crupp, who was busy making tea, and could not be too attentive, cordially said she had knowed well as Mr. Copperfull would have his heart in his mouth, when he see his dear relations.

“Holloa!” said my aunt to Peggotty, who quailed before her awful presence. “How are you?”

“You remember my aunt, Peggotty?” said I.

“For the love of goodness, child,” exclaimed my aunt, “don’t call the woman by that South Sea Island name! If she married and got rid of it, which was the best thing she could do, why don’t you give her the benefit of the change? What’s your name now,—P?” said my aunt, as a compromise for the obnoxious appellation.

“Barkis, ma’am,” said Peggotty, with a curtsey.

“Well! That’s human,” said my aunt. “It sounds less as if you wanted a missionary. How d’ye do, Barkis? I hope you’re well?”

Encouraged by these gracious words, and by my aunt’s extending her hand, Barkis came forward, and took the hand, and curtseyed her acknowledgements.

“We are older than we were, I see,” said my aunt. “We have only met each other once before, you know. A nice business we made of it then! Trot, my dear, another cup.”

I handed it dutifully to my aunt, who was in her usual inflexible state of figure; and ventured a remonstrance with her on the subject of her sitting on a box.

“Let me draw the sofa here, or the easy-chair, aunt,” said I. “Why should you be so uncomfortable?”

“Thank you, Trot,” replied my aunt, “I prefer to sit upon my property.” Here my aunt looked hard at Mrs. Crupp, and observed, “We needn’t trouble you to wait, ma’am.”

“Shall I put a little more tea in the pot afore I go, ma’am?” said Mrs. Crupp.

“No, I thank you, ma’am,” replied my aunt.

“Would you let me fetch another pat of butter, ma’am?” said Mrs. Crupp. “Or would you be persuaded to try a new-laid hegg? or should I brile a rasher? Ain’t there nothing I could do for your dear aunt, Mr. Copperfull?”

“Nothing, ma’am,” returned my aunt. “I shall do very well, I thank you.”

Mrs. Crupp, who had been incessantly smiling to express sweet temper, and incessantly holding her head on one side, to express a general feebleness of constitution, and incessantly rubbing her hands, to express a desire to be of service to all deserving objects, gradually smiled herself, one-sided herself, and rubbed herself, out of the room. “Dick!” said my aunt. “You know what I told you about time-servers and wealth-worshippers?”

Mr. Dick—with rather a scared look, as if he had forgotten it — returned a hasty answer in the affirmative.

“Mrs. Crupp is one of them,” said my aunt. “Barkis, I’ll trouble you to look after the tea, and let me have another cup, for I don’t fancy that woman’s pouring-out!”

I knew my aunt sufficiently well to know that she had something of importance on her mind, and that there was far more matter in this arrival than a stranger might have supposed. I noticed how her eye lighted on me, when she thought my attention otherwise occupied; and what a curious process of hesitation appeared to be going on within her, while she preserved her outward stiffness and composure. I began to reflect whether I had done anything to offend her; and my conscience whispered me that I had not yet told her about Dora. Could it by any means be that, I wondered!

As I knew she would only speak in her own good time, I sat down near her, and spoke to the birds, and played with the cat, and was as easy as I could be. But I was very far from being really easy; and I should still have been so, even if Mr. Dick, leaning over the great kite behind my aunt, had not taken every secret opportunity of shaking his head darkly at me, and pointing at her.

“Trot,” said my aunt at last, when she had finished her tea, and carefully smoothed down her dress, and wiped her lips—“you needn’t go, Barkis!—Trot, have you got to be firm and self-reliant?”

“I hope so, aunt.”

“What do you think?” inquired Miss Betsey.

“I think so, aunt.”

“Then why, my love,” said my aunt, looking earnestly at me, “why do you think I prefer to sit upon this property of mine tonight?”

I shook my head, unable to guess.

“Because,” said my aunt, “it’s all I have. Because I’m ruined, my dear!”

If the house, and every one of us, had tumbled out into the river together, I could hardly have received a greater shock.

“Dick knows it,” said my aunt, laying her hand calmly on my shoulder. “I am ruined, my dear Trot! All I have in the world is in this room, except the cottage; and that I have left Janet to let. Barkis, I want to get a bed for this gentleman tonight. To save expense, perhaps you can make up something here for myself. Anything will do. It’s only for tonight. We’ll talk about this, more, tomorrow.”

I was roused from my amazement, and concern for her—I am sure, for her—by her falling on my neck, for a moment, and crying that she only grieved for me. In another moment she suppressed this emotion; and said with an aspect more triumphant than dejected:

“We must meet reverses boldly, and not suffer them to frighten us, my dear. We must learn to act the play out. We must live misfortune down, Trot!”

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