David Copperfield – Day 24 of 331

As he repudiated this suggestion, however, with a jerk of his head, and once more confirmed his previous request by saying, with profound gravity, “Barkis is willin’. That’s the message,” I readily undertook its transmission. While I was waiting for the coach in the hotel at Yarmouth that very afternoon, I procured a sheet of paper and an inkstand, and wrote a note to Peggotty, which ran thus: “My dear Peggotty. I have come here safe. Barkis is willing. My love to mama. Yours affectionately. P.S. He says he particularly wants you to Know—Barkis is willing.”

When I had taken this commission on myself prospectively, Mr. Barkis relapsed into perfect silence; and I, feeling quite worn out by all that had happened lately, lay down on a sack in the cart and fell asleep. I slept soundly until we got to Yarmouth; which was so entirely new and strange to me in the inn-yard to which we drove, that I at once abandoned a latent hope I had had of meeting with some of Mr. Peggotty’s family there, perhaps even with little Em’ly herself.

The coach was in the yard, shining very much all over, but without any horses to it as yet; and it looked in that state as if nothing was more unlikely than its ever going to London. I was thinking this, and wondering what would ultimately become of my box, which Mr. Barkis had put down on the yard-pavement by the pole (he having driven up the yard to turn his cart), and also what would ultimately become of me, when a lady looked out of a bow-window where some fowls and joints of meat were hanging up, and said:

“Is that the little gentleman from Blunderstone?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“What name?” inquired the lady.

“Copperfield, ma’am,” I said.

“That won’t do,” returned the lady. “Nobody’s dinner is paid for here, in that name.”

“Is it Murdstone, ma’am?” I said.

“If you’re Master Murdstone,” said the lady, “why do you go and give another name, first?”

I explained to the lady how it was, who than rang a bell, and called out, “William! show the coffee-room!” upon which a waiter came running out of a kitchen on the opposite side of the yard to show it, and seemed a good deal surprised when he was only to show it to me.

It was a large long room with some large maps in it. I doubt if I could have felt much stranger if the maps had been real foreign countries, and I cast away in the middle of them. I felt it was taking a liberty to sit down, with my cap in my hand, on the corner of the chair nearest the door; and when the waiter laid a cloth on purpose for me, and put a set of castors on it, I think I must have turned red all over with modesty.

He brought me some chops, and vegetables, and took the covers off in such a bouncing manner that I was afraid I must have given him some offence. But he greatly relieved my mind by putting a chair for me at the table, and saying, very affably, “Now, six-foot! come on!”

I thanked him, and took my seat at the board; but found it extremely difficult to handle my knife and fork with anything like dexterity, or to avoid splashing myself with the gravy, while he was standing opposite, staring so hard, and making me blush in the most dreadful manner every time I caught his eye. After watching me into the second chop, he said:

“There’s half a pint of ale for you. Will you have it now?”

I thanked him and said, “Yes.” Upon which he poured it out of a jug into a large tumbler, and held it up against the light, and made it look beautiful.

“My eye!” he said. “It seems a good deal, don’t it?”

“It does seem a good deal,” I answered with a smile. For it was quite delightful to me, to find him so pleasant. He was a twinkling-eyed, pimple-faced man, with his hair standing upright all over his head; and as he stood with one arm a-kimbo, holding up the glass to the light with the other hand, he looked quite friendly.

“There was a gentleman here, yesterday,” he said—“a stout gentleman, by the name of Topsawyer—perhaps you know him?”

“No,” I said, “I don’t think—“

“In breeches and gaiters, broad-brimmed hat, grey coat, speckled choker,” said the waiter.

“No,” I said bashfully, “I haven’t the pleasure—“

“He came in here,” said the waiter, looking at the light through the tumbler, “ordered a glass of this ale—would order it—I told him not—drank it, and fell dead. It was too old for him. It oughtn’t to be drawn; that’s the fact.”

I was very much shocked to hear of this melancholy accident, and said I thought I had better have some water.

“Why you see,” said the waiter, still looking at the light through the tumbler, with one of his eyes shut up, “our people don’t like things being ordered and left. It offends ’em. But I’ll drink it, if you like. I’m used to it, and use is everything. I don’t think it’ll hurt me, if I throw my head back, and take it off quick. Shall I?”

I replied that he would much oblige me by drinking it, if he thought he could do it safely, but by no means otherwise. When he did throw his head back, and take it off quick, I had a horrible fear, I confess, of seeing him meet the fate of the lamented Mr. Topsawyer, and fall lifeless on the carpet. But it didn’t hurt him. On the contrary, I thought he seemed the fresher for it.

“What have we got here?” he said, putting a fork into my dish. “Not chops?”

“Chops,” I said.

“Lord bless my soul!” he exclaimed, “I didn’t know they were chops. Why, a chop’s the very thing to take off the bad effects of that beer! Ain’t it lucky?”

So he took a chop by the bone in one hand, and a potato in the other, and ate away with a very good appetite, to my extreme satisfaction. He afterwards took another chop, and another potato; and after that, another chop and another potato. When we had done, he brought me a pudding, and having set it before me, seemed to ruminate, and to become absent in his mind for some moments.

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