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Yes, do, father,” says Minnie. And now he's come into the busi
And look here! The youngest !! “Minnie laughed, and stroked her banded hair upon her temples, as her father put one of his fat fingers into the hand of the child she was dancing on the counter.
“Two parties, of course!' said Mr. Omer, nodding his head retrospectively. 'Ex-actly so ! And Joram 's at work, at this minute, on a grey one with silver nails, not this measurement'the measurement of the dancing child upon the counter—' by a good two inches.-Will you take something ?
“I thanked him, but declined.
“'Let me see,' said Mr. Omer. Barkis's the carrier's wifePeggotty's the boatman's sister-she had something to do with your family? She was in service, there, sure ?' “My answering in the affirmative
him great satisfaction. “I believe my breath will get long next, my memory's getting so much so,' said Mr. Omer. Well, sir, we've got a young relation of hers here, under articles to us, that has as elegant a taste in the dress-making business—I assure you I don't believe there's a Duchess in England can touch her.' “ “ Not little Em’ly ? ' said I, involuntarily.
Em’ly's her name,' said Mr. Omer, and she's little too. But if
you 'll believe me, she has such a face of her own that half the women in this town are mad against her.' “Nonsense, father !’cried Minnie.
My dear,” said Mr. Omer, 'I don't say it's the case with you,' winking at me, but I say that half the women in Yarmouth -ah! and in five mile round-are mad against that girl.'
“ . Then she should have kept to her own station in life, father,' said Minnie,' and not have given them any hold to talk about her, and then they couldn't have done it.'
“Couldn't have done it, my dear !' retorted Mr. Omer. ' Couldn't have done it! Is that your knowledge of life? What is there that any woman couldn't do, that she shouldn't do--especially on the subject of another woman's good looks ?'
“I really thought it was all over with Mr. Omer, after he had uttered this libellous pleasantry. He coughed to that extent, and his breath eluded all his attempts to recover it with that obstinacy, that I fully expected to see his head go down behind the counter, aud his little black breeches, with the rusty little bunches of ribbons at the knees, come quivering up in a last ineffectual struggle. At length, however, he got better, though he still panted hard, and was so exhausted that he was obliged to sit on the stool of the shopdesk.
"You see,' he said, wiping his head, and breathing with diffi
culty, she hasn't taken much to any companions here; she hasn't taken kindly to any particular acquaintances and friends, not to mention sweethearts. In consequence, an ill-natured story got about, that Em’ly wanted to be a lady. Now my opinion is, that it came into circulation principally on account of her sometimes saying, at the school, that if she was a lady she would like to do so and so for her uncle_don't you see ?--and buy him such and such fine things.'
“ 'I assure you, Mr. Omer, she has said so to me,' I returned eagerly, 'when we were both children.'
“Mr. Omer nodded his head and rubbed his chin. Just so. Then out of a very little, she could dress herself, you see, better than most others could out of a deal, and that made things unpleasant. Moreover, she was rather what might be called wayward I'll go so far as to say what I should call wayward myself,' said Mr. Omer, — didn't know her own mind quite a little spoiledand couldn't, at first, exactly bind herself down. No more than that was ever said against her, Minnie ?'
"No, father,' said Mrs. Joram. That's the worst, I believe.'
" "So when she got a situation,' said Mr. Omer, 'to keep a fractious old lady company, they didn't very well agree, and she didn't stop. At last she came here, apprenticed for three years. Nearly two of 'em are over, and she has been as good a girl as ever was. Worth any six! Minnie, is she worth any six,
“Yes, father,' replied Minnie. 'Never say I detracted from her !'
“Very good,' said Mr. Omer. That's right. And so, young gentleman,' he added, after a few moments' further rubbing of his chin, 'that you may not consider me long-winded as well as shortbreathed, I believe that's all about it.'
“As they had spoken in a subdued tone, while speaking of Em'ly, I had no doubt that she was near. On my asking now, if that were not so, Mr. Omer nodded yes, and nodded towards the door of the parlour. My hurried inquiry if I might peep in, was answered with a free permission; and, looking through the glass, I saw her sitting at her work. I saw her, a most beautiful little creature, with the cloudless blue eyes, that had looked into my childish heart, turned laughingly upon another child of Minnie's who was playing near her ; with enough of wilfulness in her bright face to justify what I had heard ; with much of the old capricious coyness lurking in it; but with nothing in her pretty looks, I am sure, but what was meant for goodness and for happiness, and what was on a good and happy course.
“ The tune across the yard that seemed as if it never had left off --alas! it was the tune that never does leave off-was beating, softly, all the while.
“Wouldn't you like to step in,' said Mr. Omer, ‘and speak to her? Walk in and speak to her, sir ! Make yourself at home!'
“I was too bashful to do so then—I was afraid of confusing her, and I was no less afraid of confusing myself: but I informed myself of the hour at which she left of an evening, in order that our visit might be timed accordingly; and taking leave of Mr. Omer, and his pretty daughter, and her little children, went away to my dear old Peggotty's.
“Here she was, in the tiled kitchen, cooking dinner! The moment I knocked at the door she opened it, and asked me what I pleased to want. I looked at her with a smile, but she gave me no smile in return. I had never ceased to write to her, but it must have been seven years since we had met.
“Is Mr. Barkis at home, ma'am ?' I said, feigning to speak roughly to her.
“ 'He's at home, sir,' returned Peggotty, but he's bad abed with the rheumatics.'
"Don't he go over to Blunderstone now?' I asked.
ever go there, Mrs. Barkis ?' “She looked at me more attentively, and I noticed a quick movement of her hands towards each other.
“Because I want to ask a question about a house there, that they call the--what is it ?—the Rookery,' said I.
“She took a step backward, and put out her hands in an undecided frightened way, as if to keep me off.
Peggotty !'I cried to her. “She cried, 'My darling boy !' and we both burst into tears, and were locked in one another's arms.
“What extravagancies she committed ; what laughing and crying over me; what pride she showed, what joy, what sorrow that she whose pride and joy I might have been, could never hold me in a fond embrace ; I have not the heart to tell. I was troubled with no misgiving that it was wrong in me to respond to her emotions. I had never laughed and cried in all my life, I dare say--not even to her—more freely than I did that morning.
“ Barkis will be so glad,' said Peggotty, wiping her eyes with her apron, that it 'll do him more good than pints of liniment. May I go and tell him you are here? Will you come up and see him,
my dear P'
“Of course I would. But Peggotty could not get out of the room as easily as she meant to, for as often as she got to the door and looked round at me, she came back again to have another laugh
and another cry upon my
shoulder. At last, to make the matter easier, I went up-stairs with her; and having waited outside for a minute, while she said a word of preparation to Mr. Barkis, presented myself before that invalid.
“He received me with absolute enthusiasm. He was too rheumatic to be shaken hands with, but he begged me to shake the tassel on the top of his nightcap, which I did most cordially. When I sat down by the side of the bed, he said that it did him a world of good to feel as if he was driving me on the Blunderstone road again. As he lay in bed, face upward, and so covered, with that exception, that he seemed to be nothing but a face— like a conventional cherubim,—he looked the queerest object I ever beheld.
“What name was it, as I wrote up, in the cart, sir?' said Mr. Barkis, with a slow rheumatic smile.
“Ah! Mr. Barkis, we had some grave talks about that matter, hadn't we?'
“I was willin' a long time, sir ?' said Mr. Barkis. “A long time,' said I.
And I don't regret it,' said Mr. Barkis. 'Do you remember what you told me once, about her making all the apple pasties and doing all the cooking?'
Yes, very well,' I returned. “It was as true,' said Mr. Barkis, 'as turnips is. It was as true,' said Mr. Barkis, nodding his nightcap, which was his only means of emphasis, ‘as taxes is. And nothing's truer than them.'
“ Mr. Barkis turned his eyes upon me, as if for my assent to this result of his reflections in bed; and I gave
it. “Nothing's truer than them,' repeated Mr. Barkis; 'a man as poor as I am finds that out in his mind when he ’s laid up. I'm a very poor man,
sir.' “I am sorry to hear it, Mr. Barkis.' “A very poor man, indeed I am,' said Mr. Barkis.
“Here his right hand came slowly and feebly from under the bedclothes, and with a purposeless uncertain grasp took hold of a stick which was loosely tied to the side of the bed. After some poking about with this instrument, in the course of which his face assumed a variety of distracted expressions, Mr. Barkis poked it against a box, an end of which had been visible to me all the tine. Then his face became composed.
“Old Clothes,' said Mr. Barkis.
“•But it AIN'T,' said Mr. Barkis, opening both his eyes as wide as he possibly could.
“I expressed myself quite sure of that, and Mr. Barkis, turning his eyes more gently to his wife, said :
“She's the usefullest and best of women, C. P. Barkis. All the praise that any one can give to C. P. Barkis, she deserves, and more! My dear, you 'll get a dinner to-day, for company; something good to eat and drink, will you ?'
"I should have protested against this unnecessary demonstration in my honour, but that I saw Peggotty, on the opposite side of the bed, extremely anxious I should not. So I held my peace.
“I have got a trifle of money somewhere about me, my dear, said Mr. Barkis, but I'm a little tired. If you and Mr. David will leave me for a short nap, I'll try and find it when I wake.'
“We left the room, in compliance with this request. got outside the door, Peggotty informed me that Mr. Barkis, being now 'a little nearer' than he used to be, always resorted to this same device before producing a single coin from his store; and that he endured unheard-of agonies in crawling out of bed alone, and taking it from that unlucky box. In effect, we presently heard him uttering suppressed groans of the most dismal nature, as this magpie proceeding racked him in every joint; but while Peggotty's eyes were full of compassion for him, she said his generous impulse would do him good, and it was better not to check it. So he groaned on, until he had got into bed again, suffering, I have no doubt, a martyrdom; and then called us in, pretending to bave just woke up from a refreshing sleep, and to produce a guinea from under his pillow. His satisfaction in which happy imposition on us, and in having preserved the impenetrable secret of the box, appeared to be a sufficient compensation to him for all his tortures.
“I prepared Peggotty for Steerforth's arrival, and it was not long before he came. I am persuaded she knew no difference between his having been a personal benefactor of hers, and a kind friend to me, and that she would have received him with the utmost gratitude and devotion in any case. But his easy, spirited, good humour; his genial manner, his handsome looks, his natural gift of adapting himself to whomsoever he pleased, and making direct, when he cared to do it, to the main point of interest in anybody's heart; bound her to him wholly in five minutes. His manner to me, alone, would have won her. But, through all these causes combined, I sincerely believe she had a kind of adoration for him before he left the house that night.
“He stayed there with me to dinner—if I were to say willingly, I should not half express how readily and gaily. He went into Mr. Barkis's room like light and air, brightening and refreshing it as if he were healthy weather. There was no noise, no effort, no consciousness, in anything he did; but in everything an indescrib