IT was not difficult for me, on Peggottys solicitation, to resolve to stay where I was, until after the remains of the poor carrier should have made their last journey to Blunderstone. She had long ago bought, out of her own savings, a little piece of ground in our old churchyard near the grave of her sweet girl, as she always called my mother; and there they were to rest.
In keeping Peggotty company, and doing all I could for her (little enough at the utmost), I was as grateful, I rejoice to think, as even now I could wish myself to have been. But I am afraid I had a supreme satisfaction, of a personal and professional nature, in taking charge of Mr. Barkiss will, and expounding its contents.
I may claim the merit of having originated the suggestion that the will should be looked for in the box. After some search, it was found in the box, at the bottom of a horses nose-bag; wherein (besides hay) there was discovered an old gold watch, with chain and seals, and which had Mr. Barkis had worn on his wedding-day, and which had never been seen before or since; a silver tobacco-stopper in the form of a leg; an imitation lemon, full of minute cups and saucers, which I have some idea Mr. Barkis must have purchased to present to me when I was a child, and afterwards found himself unable to part with; eighty-seven guineas and a half, in guineas and half-guineas; two hundred and ten pounds, in perfectly clean bank-notes; certain receipts for Bank of England stock; an old horseshoe, a bad shilling, a piece of camphor, and an oyster-shell. From the circumstance of the latter article having been much polished, and displaying prismatic colours on the inside, I onclude that Mr. Barkis had some general ideas about pearls, which never resolved themselves into anything definite.
For years and years, Mr. Barkis had carried this box, on all his journeys, every day. That it might the better escape notice, he had invented a fiction that it belonged to Mr. Blackboy, and was to be left with Barkis till called for; a fable he had elaborately written on the lid, in characters now scarcely legible.
He had hoarded, all these years, I found, to good purpose. His property in money amounted to nearly three thousand pounds. Of this he bequeathed the interest of one thousand to Mr. Peggotty for his life; on his decease, the principal to be equally divided between Peggotty, little Emily, and me or the survivor or survivors of us, share and share alike. All the rest he died possessed of, he bequeathed to Peggotty; whom he left residuary legatee, and sole executrix of that his last will and testament.
I felt myself quite a proctor when I read this document aloud with all possible ceremony, and set forth its provisions, any number of times, to those whom they concerned. I began to think there was more in the Commons than I had supposed. I examined the will with the deepest attention, pronounced it perfectly formal in all respects, made a pencil-mark or so in the margin, and thought it rather extraordinary that I knew so much.
In this abstruse pursuit; in making an account for Peggotty, of all the property into which she had come; in arranging all the affairs in an orderly manner; and in being her referee and adviser on every point, to our joint delight; I passed the week before the funeral. I did not see little Emily in that interval, but they told me she was to be quietly married in a fortnight.
I did not attend the funeral in character, if I may venture to say so. I mean I was not dressed up in a black cloak and a streamer, to frighten the birds; but I walked over to Blunderstone early in the morning, and was in the churchyard when it came, attended only by Peggotty and her brother. The mad gentleman looked on, out of my little window; Mr. Chillips baby wagged its heavy head, and rolled its goggle eyes, at the clergyman, over its nurses shoulder; Mr. Omer breathed short in the background; no one else was there; and it was very quiet. We walked about the churchyard for an hour, after all was over; and pulled some young leaves from the tree above my mothers grave.
A dread falls on me here. A cloud is lowering on the distant town, towards which I retraced my solitary steps. I fear to approach it. I cannot bear to think of what did come, upon that memorable night; of what must come again, if I go on.
My old nurse was to go to London with me next day, on the business of the will. Little Emily was passing that day at Mr. Omers. We were all to meet in the old boathouse that night. Ham would bring Emily at the usual hour. I would walk back at my leisure. The brother and sister would return as they had come, and be expecting us, when the day closed in, at the fireside.
I parted from them at the wicket-gate, where visionary Straps had rested with Roderick Randoms knapsack in the days of yore; and, instead of going straight back, walked a little distance on the road to Lowestoft. Then I turned, and walked back towards Yarmouth. I stayed to dine at a decent alehouse, some mile or two from the ferry I have mentioned before; and thus the day wore away, and it was evening when I reached it. Rain was falling heavily by that time, and it was a wild night; but there was a moon behind the clouds, and it was not dark.
It looked very comfortable indeed. Mr. Peggotty had smoked his evening pipe, and there were preparations for some supper by-and-by. The fire was bright, the ashes were thrown up, the locker was ready for little Emily in her old place. In her own old place sat Peggotty, once more, looking (but for her dress) as if she had never left it. She had fallen back, already, on the society of the work-box with Saint Pauls upon the lid, the yard-measure in the cottage, and the bit of wax candle: and there they all were, just as if they had never been disturbed. Mrs. Gummidge appeared to be fretting a little, in her old corner; and consequently looked quite natural, too.
Ha, ha! laughed Mr. Peggotty, sitting down beside us, and rubbing his hands in his sense of relief from recent trouble, and in the genuine heartiness of his nature; theres not a woman in the wureld, Siras I tell herthat need to feel more easy in her mind than her! She done her dooty by the departed, and the departed knowd it; and the departed done what was right by her, as she done what was right by the departed;andandand its all right!
Cheer up, my pretty mawther! said Mr. Peggotty, (But he shook his head aside at us, evidently sensible of the tendency of the late occurrences to recall the memory of the old one.) Doent be down! Cheer up, for your own self, ony a little bit, and see if a good deal more doent come natral!
Mr. Peggotty seemed very much shocked at himself for having made a speech capable of this unfeeling construction, but was prevented from replying, by Peggottys pulling his sleeve, and shaking her head. After looking at Mrs. Gummidge for some moments, in sore distress of mind, he glanced at the Dutch clock, rose, snuffed the candle, and put it in the window.
Theer! said Mr. Peggotty, cheerily. Theer we are, Missis Gummidge! Mrs. Gummidge slightly groaned. Lighted up, accordin to custom! Youre a wonderin what thats fur, Sir! Well, its fur our little Emly. You see, the path aint over light or cheerful arter dark; and when Im here at the hour as shes a comin home, I puts the light in the winder. That, you see, said Mr. Peggotty, bending over me with great glee, meets two objects. She says, says Emly, Theers home! she says. And likewise, says Emly, My uncles theer! Fur if I aint theer, I never have no light showed.
Well, returned Mr. Peggotty, standing with his legs pretty wide apart, and rubbing his hands up and down them in his comfortable satisfaction, as he looked alternately at us and at the fire, I doent know but I am. Not, you see, to look at.
No, laughed Mr. Peggotty, not to look at, but toto consider on, you know. I doent care, bless you! Now I tell you. When I go a looking and looking about that theer pritty house of our Emlys, ImIm Gormed, said Mr. Peggotty, with sudden emphasistheer! I cant say moreif I doent feel as if the littlest things was her, amost. I takes em up and I puts em down, and I touches of em as delicate as if they was our Emly. So its with her little bonnet and that. I couldnt see one on em rough used a purposenot fur the whole wureld. Theres a babby for you, in the form of a great Sea Porkypine! said Mr. Peggotty, relieving his earnestness with a roar of laughter.
Its my opinion, you see, said Mr. Peggotty, with a delighted face, after some further rubbing of his legs, as this is along of my havin played with her so much, and made believe as we was Turks, and French, and sharks, and every wariety of forinnersbless you, yes; and lions and whales, and I doent know what all!when she warnt no higher than my knee. Ive got into the way on it, you know. Why, this here candle now! said Mr. Peggotty, gleefully holding out his hand towards it, I know wery well that arter shes married and gone, I shall put that candle theer, just that same as now. I know wery well that when Im here o nights (and where else should I live, bless your arts, whatever fortun I come into?) and she aint here, or I aint theer, I shall put the candle in the winder, and sit afore the fire, pretending Im expecting of her, like Im a doing now. Theres a babby for you, said Mr. Peggotty, with another roar, in the form of a Sea Porkypine! Why, at the present minute, when I see the candle sparkle up, I says to myself, Shes a looking at it! Emlys a coming! Theres a babby for you, in the form of a Sea Porkypine! Right for all that, said Mr. Peggotty, stopping in his roar, and smiting his hands together; fur here she is!
The face he turned up to the troubled sky, the quivering of his clasped hands, the agony of his figure, remain associated with that lonely waste, in my remembrance, to this hour. It is always night there, and he is the only object in the scene.
I remember a great wail and cry, and the women hanging about him, and we all standing in the room; I with a paper in my hand, which Ham had given me; Mr. Peggotty, with his vest torn open, his hair wild, his face and lips quite white, and blood trickling down his bosom (it had sprung from his mouth, I think), looking fixedly at me.
I shall be fur away, he repeated slowly. Stop! Emly fur away. Well!
When I leave my dear homemy dear homeoh, my dear home!in the morning,
the letter bore date on the previous night:
it will be never to come back, unless he brings me back a lady. This will be found at night, many hours after, instead of me. Oh, if you knew how my heart is torn. If even you, that I have wronged so much, that never can forgive me, could only know what I suffer! I am too wicked to write about myself. Oh, take comfort in thinking that I am so bad. Oh, for mercys sake, tell uncle that I never loved him half so dear as now. Oh, dont remember how affectionate and kind you have all been to medont remember we were ever to be marriedbut try to think as if I died when I was little, and was buried somewhere. Pray Heaven that I am going away from, have compassion on my uncle! Tell him that I never loved him half so dear. Be his comfort. Love some good girl, that will be what I was once to uncle, and be true to you, and worthy of you, and know no shame but me. God bless all! Ill pray for all, often, on my knees. If he dont bring me back a lady, and I dont pray for my own self, Ill pray for all. My parting love to uncle. My last tears, and my last thanks, for uncle!
The servant, pursued Ham, was seen along withour poor girllast night. Hes been in hiding about here, this week or over. He was thought to have gone, but he was hiding. Doent stay, Masr Davy, doent!
A strange chay and hosses was outside town, this morning, on the Norwich road, amost afore the day broke, Ham went on. The servant went to it, and come from it, and went to it again. When he went to it again, Emly was nigh him. The tother was inside. Hes the man.
Im a going to seek my niece. Im going to seek my Emly. Im a going, first, to stave in that theer boat, and sink it where I would have drownded him, as Im a livin soul, if I had one thought of what was in him! As he sat afore me, he said, wildly, holding out his clenched right hand, as he sat afore me, face to face, strike me down dead, but Id have drownded him, and thought it right!Im a going to seek my niece.
No, no! cried Mrs. Gummidge, coming between them in a fit of crying. No, no, Danl, not as you are now. Seek her in a little while, my lone lorn Danl, and thatll be but right; but not as you are now. Sit ye down, and give me your forgiveness for having ever been a worrit to you, Danlwhat have my contrairies ever been to this!and let us speak a word about them times when she was first an orphan, and when Ham was too, and when I was a poor widder woman, and you took me in. Itll soften your poor heart, Danl, laying her head upon his shoulder, and youll bear your sorrow better; for you know the promise, Danl, As you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto Me; and that can never fail under this roof, thats been our shelter for so many, many year!
He was quite passive now; and when I heard him crying, the impulse that had been upon me to go down upon my knees, and ask their pardon for the desolation I had caused, and curse Steerforth, yielded to a better feeling. My overcharged heart found the same relief, and I cried too.