David Copperfield – Day 277 of 331

“I loved her—and I love the mem’ry of her—too deep—to be able to lead her to believe of my own self as I’m a happy man. I could only be happy—by forgetting of her—and I’m afeerd I couldn’t hardly bear as she should be told I done that. But if you, being so full of learning, Mas’r Davy, could think of anything to say as might bring her to believe I wasn’t greatly hurt: still loving of her, and mourning for her: anything as might bring her to believe as I was not tired of my life, and yet was hoping fur to see her without blame, wheer the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest—anything as would ease her sorrowful mind, and yet not make her think as I could ever marry, or as ’twas possible that anyone could ever be to me what she was—I should ask of you to say that—with my prayers for her—that was so dear.”

I pressed his manly hand again, and told him I would charge myself to do this as well as I could.

“I thankee, sir,” he answered. “’Twas kind of you to meet me. ’Twas kind of you to bear him company down. Mas’r Davy, I unnerstan’ very well, though my aunt will come to Lon’on afore they sail, and they’ll unite once more, that I am not like to see him agen. I fare to feel sure on’t. We doen’t say so, but so ’twill be, and better so. The last you see on him—the very last—will you give him the lovingest duty and thanks of the orphan, as he was ever more than a father to?”

This I also promised, faithfully.

“I thankee agen, sir,” he said, heartily shaking hands. “I know wheer you’re a-going. Good-bye!”

With a slight wave of his hand, as though to explain to me that he could not enter the old place, he turned away. As I looked after his figure, crossing the waste in the moonlight, I saw him turn his face towards a strip of silvery light upon the sea, and pass on, looking at it, until he was a shadow in the distance.

The door of the boat-house stood open when I approached; and, on entering, I found it emptied of all its furniture, saving one of the old lockers, on which Mrs. Gummidge, with a basket on her knee, was seated, looking at Mr. Peggotty. He leaned his elbow on the rough chimney-piece, and gazed upon a few expiring embers in the grate; but he raised his head, hopefully, on my coming in, and spoke in a cheery manner.

“Come, according to promise, to bid farewell to ’t, eh, Mas’r Davy?” he said, taking up the candle. “Bare enough, now, an’t it?”

“Indeed you have made good use of the time,” said I.

“Why, we have not been idle, sir. Missis Gummidge has worked like a—I doen’t know what Missis Gummidge an’t worked like,” said Mr. Peggotty, looking at her, at a loss for a sufficiently approving simile.

Mrs. Gummidge, leaning on her basket, made no observation.

“Theer’s the very locker that you used to sit on, ’long with Em’ly!” said Mr. Peggotty, in a whisper. “I’m a-going to carry it away with me, last of all. And heer’s your old little bedroom, see, Mas’r Davy! A’most as bleak tonight, as ’art could wish!”

In truth, the wind, though it was low, had a solemn sound, and crept around the deserted house with a whispered wailing that was very mournful. Everything was gone, down to the little mirror with the oyster-shell frame. I thought of myself, lying here, when that first great change was being wrought at home. I thought of the blue-eyed child who had enchanted me. I thought of Steerforth: and a foolish, fearful fancy came upon me of his being near at hand, and liable to be met at any turn.

“’Tis like to be long,” said Mr. Peggotty, in a low voice, “afore the boat finds new tenants. They look upon ’t, down heer, as being unfortunate now!”

“Does it belong to anybody in the neighbourhood?” I asked.

“To a mast-maker up town,” said Mr. Peggotty. “I’m a-going to give the key to him tonight.”

We looked into the other little room, and came back to Mrs. Gummidge, sitting on the locker, whom Mr. Peggotty, putting the light on the chimney-piece, requested to rise, that he might carry it outside the door before extinguishing the candle.

“Dan’l,” said Mrs. Gummidge, suddenly deserting her basket, and clinging to his arm “my dear Dan’l, the parting words I speak in this house is, I mustn’t be left behind. Doen’t ye think of leaving me behind, Dan’l! Oh, doen’t ye ever do it!”

Mr. Peggotty, taken aback, looked from Mrs. Gummidge to me, and from me to Mrs. Gummidge, as if he had been awakened from a sleep.

“Doen’t ye, dearest Dan’l, doen’t ye!” cried Mrs. Gummidge, fervently. “Take me ’long with you, Dan’l, take me ’long with you and Em’ly! I’ll be your servant, constant and trew. If there’s slaves in them parts where you’re a-going, I’ll be bound to you for one, and happy, but doen’t ye leave me behind, Dan’l, that’s a deary dear!”

“My good soul,” said Mr. Peggotty, shaking his head, “you doen’t know what a long voyage, and what a hard life ’tis!”

“Yes, I do, Dan’l! I can guess!” cried Mrs. Gummidge. “But my parting words under this roof is, I shall go into the house and die, if I am not took. I can dig, Dan’l. I can work. I can live hard. I can be loving and patient now—more than you think, Dan’l, if you’ll on’y try me. I wouldn’t touch the ’lowance, not if I was dying of want, Dan’l Peggotty; but I’ll go with you and Em’ly, if you’ll on’y let me, to the world’s end! I know how ’tis; I know you think that I am lone and lorn; but, deary love, ’tan’t so no more! I ain’t sat here, so long, a-watching, and a-thinking of your trials, without some good being done me. Mas’r Davy, speak to him for me! I knows his ways, and Em’ly’s, and I knows their sorrows, and can be a comfort to ’em, some odd times, and labour for ’em allus! Dan’l, deary Dan’l, let me go ’long with you!”

And Mrs. Gummidge took his hand, and kissed it with a homely pathos and affection, in a homely rapture of devotion and gratitude, that he well deserved.

We brought the locker out, extinguished the candle, fastened the door on the outside, and left the old boat close shut up, a dark speck in the cloudy night. Next day, when we were returning to London outside the coach, Mrs. Gummidge and her basket were on the seat behind, and Mrs. Gummidge was happy.

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