WHAT I have purposed to record is nearly finished; but there is yet an incident conspicuous in my memory, on which it often rests with delight, and without which one thread in the web I have spun, would have a ravelled end.
I had advanced in fame and fortune, my domestic joy was perfect, I had been married ten happy years. Agnes and I were sitting by the fire, in our house in London, one night in spring, and three of our children were playing in the room, when I was told that a stranger wished to see me.
As this sounded mysterious to the children, and moreover was like the beginning of a favourite story Agnes used to tell them, introductory to the arrival of a wicked old Fairy in a cloak who hated everybody, it produced some commotion. One of our boys laid his head in his mothers lap to be out of harms way, and little Agnes (our eldest child) left her doll in a chair to represent her, and thrust out her little heap of golden curls from between the window-curtains to see what happened next.
There soon appeared, pausing in the dark doorway as he entered, a hale, grey-haired old man. Little Agnes, attracted by his looks, had run to bring him in, and I had not yet clearly seen his face, when my wife, starting up, cried out to me, in a pleased and agitated voice, that it was Mr. Peggotty!
It was Mr. Peggotty. An old man now, but in a ruddy, hearty, strong old age. When our first emotion was over, and he sat before the fire with the children on his knees, and the blaze shining on his face, he looked, to me, as vigorous and robust, withal as handsome, an old man, as ever I had seen.
And these heer pretty ones, said Mr. Peggotty. To look at these heer flowers! Why, Masr Davy, you was but the heighth of the littlest of these when I first see you! When Emly warnt no bigger, and our poor lad were but a lad!
Time has changed me more than it has changed you since then, said I. But let these dear rogues go to bed; and as no house in England but this must hold you, tell me where to send for your baggage (is the old black bag among it, that went so far, I wonder!), and then, over a glass of Yarmouth grog, we will have the tidings of ten years!
We sat him between us, not knowing how to give him welcome enough; and as I began to listen to his old familiar voice, I could have fancied he was still pursuing his long journey in search of his darling niece.
Its mort of water, said Mr. Peggotty, fur to come across, and ony stay a matter of fower weeks. But water (specially when tis salt) comes natral to me; and friends is dear, and I am heer.Which is verse, said Mr. Peggotty, surprised to find it out, though I hadnt such intentions.
Yes, maam, he returned. I giv the promise to Emly, afore I come away. You see, I doent grow younger as the years comes round, and if I hadnt sailed as twas, most like I shouldnt never donet. And its allus been on my mind, as I must come and see Masr Davy and your own sweet blooming self, in your wedded happiness, afore I got to be too old.
Our fortuns, Masr Davy, he rejoined, is soon told. We havent fared nohows, but fared to thrive. Weve allus thrived. Weve worked as we ought tot, and maybe we lived a lettle hard at first or so, but we have allus thrived. What with sheep-farming, and what with stock-farming, and what with one thing and what with tother, we are as well to do, as well could be. Theers been kiender a blessing fell upon us, said Mr. Peggotty, reverentially inclining his head, and weve done nowt but prosper. That is, in the long run. If not yesterday, why then to-day. If not to-day, why then to-morrow.
Emly, said he, arter you left her, maamand I never heerd her saying of her prayers at night, tother side the canvas screen, when we was settled in the Bush, but what I heerd your nameand arter she and me lost sight of Masr Davy, that theer shining sundownwas that low, at first, that, if she had knowd then what Masr Davy kep from us so kind and thowtful, tis my opinion shed have drooped away. But theer was some poor folks aboard as had illness among em, and she took care of them; and there was the children in our company, and she took care of them; and so she got to be busy, and to be doing good, and that helped her.
I kep it from her arter I heerd ont, said Mr. Peggotty, going on nigh a year. We was living then in a solitary place, but among the beautifullest trees, and with the roses a covering our Beein to the roof. Theer come along one day, when I was out a working on the land, a traveller from our own Norfolk or Suffolk in England (I doent rightly mind which), and of course we took him in. and giv him to eat and drink, and made him welcome. We all do that, all the colony over. Hed got an old newspaper with him, and some other account in print of the storm. Thats how she knowd it. When I come home at night, I found she knowd it.
Ay, for a good long time, he said, shaking his head; if not to this present hour. But I think the solitoode done her good. And she had a deal to mind in the way of poultry and the like, and minded of it, and come through. I wonder, he said thoughfully, if you could see my Emly now, Masr Davy, whether youd know her!
I doent know. I see her evry day, and doent know; but, odd-times, I have thowt so. A slight figure, said Mr. Peggotty, looking at the fire, kiender worn; soft, sorrowful, blue eyes; a delicate face; a pritty head, leaning a little down; a quiet voice and waytimid amost. Thats Emly!
Some thinks, he said, as her affection was ill-bestowed; some, as her marriage was broke off by death. No one knows how tis. She might have married well, a mort of times, But, uncle, she says to me, thats gone for ever. Cheerful along with me; retired when others is by; fond of going any distance fur to teach a child, or fur to tend a sick person, or fur to do some kindness towrds a young girls wedding (and shes done a many, but has never seen one); fondly loving of her uncle; patient; liked by young and old; sowt out by all that has any trouble. Thats Emly!
Martha, he replied, got married, Masr Davy, in the second year. A young man, a farm-labourer, as come by us on his way to market with his masrs draysa journey of over five hundred mile, theer and backmade offers fur to take her fur his wife (wives is very scarce theer), and then to set up fur their two selves in the Bush. She spoke to me fur to tell him her trew story. I did. They was married, and they live fower hundred mile away from any voices but their own and the singing birds.
It was a pleasant key to touch, for Mr. Peggotty suddenly burst into a roar of laughter, and rubbed his hands up and down his legs, as he had been accustomed to do when he enjoyed himself in the long-shipwrecked boat.
Would you believe it! he said. Why, someun even made offers fur to marry her! If a ships cook that was turning settler, Masr Davy, didnt make offers fur to marry Missis Gummidge, Im Gormedand I cant say no fairer than that!
I never saw Agnes laugh so. This sudden ecstasy on the part of Mr. Peggotty was so delightful to her, that she could not leave off laughing; and the more she laughed the more she made me laugh, and the greater Mr. Peggottys ecstasy became, and the more he rubbed his legs.
If youll believe me, returned Mr. Peggotty, Missis Gummidge, stead of saying thank you, Im much obleeged to you, I aint a going fur to change my condition at my time of life, upd with a bucket as was standing by, and laid it over that theer ships cooks head till he sung out fur help, and I went in and reskied of him.
But I must say this, for the good creetur, he resumed, wiping his face when we were quite exhausted; she has been all she said shed be to us, and more. Shes the willingest, the trewest, the honestest-helping woman, Masr Davy, as ever drawd the breath of life. I have never known her to be lone, and lorn, for a single minute, not even when the colony was all afore us, and we was new to it. And thinking of the old un is a thing she never done, I do assure you, since she left England!
Now, last, not least, Mr. Micawber, said I. He has paid off every obligation he incurred hereeven to Traddless bill, you remember, my dear Agnesand therefore we may take it for granted that he is doing well. But what is the latest news of him?
Bless you, yes, said Mr. Peggotty, and turned to with a will. I never wish to meet a better genlman for turning to, with a will. Ive seen that theer bald head of his, a perspiring in the sun, Masr Davy, till I amost thowt it would have melted away. And now hes a magistrate.
Mr. Peggotty pointed to a certain paragraph in the newspaper, where I read aloud as follows, from the Port Middlebay Times:
The public dinner to our distinguished fellow-colonist and townsman, WILKINS MICAWBER, ESQUIRE, Port Middlebay District Magistrate, came off yesterday in the large room of the Hotel, which was crowded to suffocation. It is estimated that not fewer than forty-seven persons must have been accommodated with dinner at one time, exclusive of the company in the passage and on the stairs. The beauty, fashion, and exclusiveness of Port Middlebay flocked to do honour to one so deservedly esteemed, so highly talented, and so widely popular. Doctor Mell (of Colonial Salem-House Grammar School, Port Middlebay) presided, and on his right sat the distinguished guest. After the removal of the cloth, and the singing of Non Nobis (beautifully executed, and in which we were at no loss to distinguish the bell-like notes of that gifted amateur, WILKINS MICAWBER, ESQUIRE, JUNIOR), the usual loyal and patriotic toasts were severally given and rapturously received. Dr. Mell, in a replete with feeling, then proposed Our distinguished Guest, the ornament of our town. May he never leave us but to better himself, and may his success among us be such as to render his bettering himself impossible! The cheering with which the toast was received defies description. Again and again it rose and fell, like the waves of ocean. At length all was hushed, and WILKINS MICAWBER, ESQUIRE, presented himself to return thanks. Far be it from us, in the present comparatively imperfect state of the resources of our establishment, to endeavour to follow our distinguished townsman through the smoothly-flowing periods of his polished and highly-ornate address! Suffice it to observe, that it was a masterpiece of eloquence; and that those passages in which he more particularly traced his own successful career to its source, and warned the younger portion of his auditory from the shoals of ever incurring pecuniary liabilities which they were unable to liquidate, brought a tear into the manliest eye present. The remaining toasts were DOCTOR MELL; MRS. MICAWBER (who gracefully bowed her acknowledgments from the side-door, where a galaxy of beauty was elevated on chairs, at once to witness and adorn the gratifying scene); MRS. RIDGER BEGS (late Miss Micawber); MRS. MELL; WILKINS MICAWBER, ESQUIRE, JUNIOR (who convulsed the assembly by humorously remarking that he found himself unable to return thanks in a speech, but would do so, with their permission, in a song); MRS. MICAWBERS FAMILY (well known, it is needless to remark, in the mother-country), &c., &c., &c., At the conclusion of the proceedings the tables were cleared as if by art-magic for dancing. Among the votaries of TERPSICHORE, who disported themselves until Sol gave warning for departure, Wilkins Micawber, Esquire, Junior, and the lovely and accomplished Miss Helena, fourth daughter of Doctor Mell, were particularly remarkable.
I was looking back to the name of Doctor Mell, pleased to have discovered, in these happier circumstances, Mr. Mell, formerly poor pinched usher to my Middlesex magistrate, when Mr. Peggotty pointing to another part of the paper, my eyes rested on my own name, and I read thus:
TO DAVID COPPERFIELD, ESQUIRE,
THE EMINENT AUTHOR.
MY DEAR SIR,
Years have elapsed, since I had an opportunity of ocularly perusing the lineaments, now familiar to the imaginations of a considerable portion of the civilised world.
But, my dear Sir, though estranged (by the force of circumstances over which I have had no control) from the personal society of the friend and companion of my youth, I have not been unmindful of his soaring flight. Nor have I been debarred,
Though seas between us braid ha roared,
(BURNS) from participating in the intellectual feasts he has spread before us.
I cannot, therefore, allow of the departure from this place of an individual whom we mutually respect and esteem, without, my dear Sir, taking this public opportunity of thanking you, on my own behalf, and, I may undertake to add, on that of the whole of the Inhabitants of Port Middlebay, for the gratification of which you are the ministering agent.
Go on, my dear Sir! You are not unknown here, you are not unappreciated. Though remote, we are neither unfriended, melancholy, nor (I may add) slow. Go on, my dear Sir, in your Eagle course! The inhabitants of Port Middlebay may at least aspire to watch it, with delight, with entertainment, with instruction!
Among the eyes elevated towards you from this portion of the globe, will ever be found, while it has light and life,
I found, on glancing at the remaining contents of the newspaper, that Mr. Micawber was a diligent and esteemed correspondent of that journal. There was another letter from him in the same paper, touching a bridge; there was an advertisement of a collection of similar letters by him, to be shortly republished, in a neat volume, with considerable additions; and, unless I am very much mistaken, the Leading Article was his also.
We talked much of Mr. Micawber, on many other evenings while Mr. Peggotty remained with us. He lived with us during the whole term of his stay,which, I think, was something less than a month,and his sister and my aunt came to London to see him. Agnes and I parted from him aboard ship, when he sailed; and we shall never part from him more, on earth.
But before he left, he went with me to Yarmouth, to see a little tablet I had put up in the churchyard to the memory of Ham. While I was copying the plain inscription for him at his request, I saw him stoop, and gather a tuft of grass from the grave, and a little earth.