'You know who was willin',' said my friend. 'It was Barkis, and Barkis only.'
I nodded assent.
'It's all right,' said Mr. Barkis, shaking hands; 'I'm a friend of your'n. You made it all right, first. It's all right.'
In his attempts to be particularly lucid, Mr. Barkis was so extremely mysterious, that I might have stood looking in his face for an hour, and most assuredly should have got as much information out of it as out of the face of a clock that had stopped, but for Peggotty's calling me away. As we were going along, she asked me what he had said; and I told her he had said it was all right.
'Like his impudence,' said Peggotty, 'but I don't mind that! Davy dear, what should you think if I was to think of being married?'
'Why — I suppose you would like me as much then, Peggotty, as you do now?' I returned, after a little consideration.
Greatly to the astonishment of the passengers in the street, as well as of her relations going on before, the good soul was obliged to stop and embrace me on the spot, with many protestations of her unalterable love.
'Tell me what should you say, darling?' she asked again, when this was over, and we were walking on.
'If you were thinking of being married — to Mr. Barkis, Peggotty?'
'Yes,' said Peggotty.
'I should think it would be a very good thing. For then you know, Peggotty, you would always have the horse and cart to bring you over to see me, and could come for nothing, and be sure of coming.'
'The sense of the dear!' cried Peggotty. 'What I have been thinking of, this month back! Yes, my precious; and I think I should be more independent altogether, you see; let alone my working with a better heart in my own house, than I could in anybody else's now. I don't know what I might be fit for, now, as a servant to a stranger. And I shall be always near my pretty's resting-place,' said Peggotty, musing, 'and be able to see it when I like; and when I lie down to rest, I may be laid not far off from my darling girl!'
We neither of us said anything for a little while.
'But I wouldn't so much as give it another thought,' said Peggotty, cheerily 'if my Davy was anyways against it — not if I had been asked in church thirty times three times over, and was wearing out the ring in my pocket.'
'Look at me, Peggotty,' I replied; 'and see if I am not really glad, and don't truly wish it!' As indeed I did, with all my heart.
'Well, my life,' said Peggotty, giving me a squeeze, 'I have thought of it night and day, every way I can, and I hope the right way; but I'll think of it again, and speak to my brother about it, and in the meantime we'll keep it to ourselves, Davy, you and me. Barkis is a good plain creature,' said Peggotty, 'and if I tried to do my duty by him, I think it would be my fault if I wasn't — if I wasn't pretty comfortable,' said Peggotty, laughing heartily. This quotation from Mr. Barkis was so appropriate, and tickled us both so much, that we laughed again and again, and were quite in a pleasant humour when we came within view of Mr. Peggotty's cottage.
It looked just the same, except that it may, perhaps, have shrunk a little in my eyes; and Mrs. Gummidge was waiting at the door as if she had stood there ever since. All within was the same, down to the seaweed in the blue mug in my bedroom. I went into the out-house to look about me; and the very same lobsters, crabs, and crawfish possessed by the same desire to pinch the world in general, appeared to be in the same state of conglomeration in the same old corner.
But there was no little Em'ly to be seen, so I asked Mr. Peggotty where she was.
'She's at school, sir,' said Mr. Peggotty, wiping the heat consequent on the porterage of Peggotty's box from his forehead; 'she'll be home,' looking at the Dutch clock, 'in from twenty minutes to half-an-hour's time. We all on us feel the loss of her, bless ye!'
Mrs. Gummidge moaned.
'Cheer up, Mawther!' cried Mr. Peggotty.
'I feel it more than anybody else,' said Mrs. Gummidge; 'I'm a lone lorn creetur', and she used to be a'most the only thing that didn't go contrary with me.'
Mrs. Gummidge, whimpering and shaking her head, applied herself to blowing the fire. Mr. Peggotty, looking round upon us while she was so engaged, said in a low voice, which he shaded with his hand: 'The old 'un!' From this I rightly conjectured that no improvement had taken place since my last visit in the state of Mrs. Gummidge's spirits.
Now, the whole place was, or it should have been, quite as delightful a place as ever; and yet it did not impress me in the same way. I felt rather disappointed with it. Perhaps it was because little Em'ly was not at home. I knew the way by which she would come, and presently found myself strolling along the path to meet her.