Книга David Copperfield. Содержание - CHAPTER 30 A LOSS

Whether it was because we had sat there so long, or because Steerforth was resolved not to lose the advantage he had gained, I do not know; but we did not remain in the dining-room more than five minutes after her departure. 'She is playing her harp,' said Steerforth, softly, at the drawing-room door, 'and nobody but my mother has heard her do that, I believe, these three years.' He said it with a curious smile, which was gone directly; and we went into the room and found her alone.

'Don't get up,' said Steerforth (which she had already done)' my dear Rosa, don't! Be kind for once, and sing us an Irish song.'

'What do you care for an Irish song?' she returned.

'Much!' said Steerforth. 'Much more than for any other. Here is Daisy, too, loves music from his soul. Sing us an Irish song, Rosa! and let me sit and listen as I used to do.'

He did not touch her, or the chair from which she had risen, but sat himself near the harp. She stood beside it for some little while, in a curious way, going through the motion of playing it with her right hand, but not sounding it. At length she sat down, and drew it to her with one sudden action, and played and sang.

I don't know what it was, in her touch or voice, that made that song the most unearthly I have ever heard in my life, or can imagine. There was something fearful in the reality of it. It was as if it had never been written, or set to music, but sprung out of passion within her; which found imperfect utterance in the low sounds of her voice, and crouched again when all was still. I was dumb when she leaned beside the harp again, playing it, but not sounding it, with her right hand.

A minute more, and this had roused me from my trance: — Steerforth had left his seat, and gone to her, and had put his arm laughingly about her, and had said, 'Come, Rosa, for the future we will love each other very much!' And she had struck him, and had thrown him off with the fury of a wild cat, and had burst out of the room.

'What is the matter with Rosa?' said Mrs. Steerforth, coming in.

'She has been an angel, mother,' returned Steerforth, 'for a little while; and has run into the opposite extreme, since, by way of compensation.'

'You should be careful not to irritate her, James. Her temper has been soured, remember, and ought not to be tried.'

Rosa did not come back; and no other mention was made of her, until I went with Steerforth into his room to say Good night. Then he laughed about her, and asked me if I had ever seen such a fierce little piece of incomprehensibility.

I expressed as much of my astonishment as was then capable of expression, and asked if he could guess what it was that she had taken so much amiss, so suddenly.

'Oh, Heaven knows,' said Steerforth. 'Anything you like — or nothing! I told you she took everything, herself included, to a grindstone, and sharpened it. She is an edge-tool, and requires great care in dealing with. She is always dangerous. Good night!'

'Good night!' said I, 'my dear Steerforth! I shall be gone before you wake in the morning. Good night!'

He was unwilling to let me go; and stood, holding me out, with a hand on each of my shoulders, as he had done in my own room.

'Daisy,' he said, with a smile — 'for though that's not the name your godfathers and godmothers gave you, it's the name I like best to call you by — and I wish, I wish, I wish, you could give it to me!'

'Why so I can, if I choose,' said I.

'Daisy, if anything should ever separate us, you must think of me at my best, old boy. Come! Let us make that bargain. Think of me at my best, if circumstances should ever part us!'

'You have no best to me, Steerforth,' said I, 'and no worst. You are always equally loved, and cherished in my heart.'

So much compunction for having ever wronged him, even by a shapeless thought, did I feel within me, that the confession of having done so was rising to my lips. But for the reluctance I had to betray the confidence of Agnes, but for my uncertainty how to approach the subject with no risk of doing so, it would have reached them before he said, 'God bless you, Daisy, and good night!' In my doubt, it did NOT reach them; and we shook hands, and we parted.

I was up with the dull dawn, and, having dressed as quietly as I could, looked into his room. He was fast asleep; lying, easily, with his head upon his arm, as I had often seen him lie at school.

The time came in its season, and that was very soon, when I almost wondered that nothing troubled his repose, as I looked at him. But he slept — let me think of him so again — as I had often seen him sleep at school; and thus, in this silent hour, I left him.

— Never more, oh God forgive you, Steerforth! to touch that passive hand in love and friendship. Never, never more!



I got down to Yarmouth in the evening, and went to the inn. I knew that Peggotty's spare room — my room — was likely to have occupation enough in a little while, if that great Visitor, before whose presence all the living must give place, were not already in the house; so I betook myself to the inn, and dined there, and engaged my bed.

It was ten o'clock when I went out. Many of the shops were shut, and the town was dull. When I came to Omer and Joram's, I found the shutters up, but the shop door standing open. As I could obtain a perspective view of Mr. Omer inside, smoking his pipe by the parlour door, I entered, and asked him how he was.

'Why, bless my life and soul!' said Mr. Omer, 'how do you find yourself? Take a seat. — Smoke not disagreeable, I hope?'

'By no means,' said I. 'I like it — in somebody else's pipe.'

'What, not in your own, eh?' Mr. Omer returned, laughing. 'All the better, sir. Bad habit for a young man. Take a seat. I smoke, myself, for the asthma.'

Mr. Omer had made room for me, and placed a chair. He now sat down again very much out of breath, gasping at his pipe as if it contained a supply of that necessary, without which he must perish.

'I am sorry to have heard bad news of Mr. Barkis,' said I.

Mr. Omer looked at me, with a steady countenance, and shook his head.

'Do you know how he is tonight?' I asked.

'The very question I should have put to you, sir,' returned Mr.

Omer, 'but on account of delicacy. It's one of the drawbacks of our line of business. When a party's ill, we can't ask how the party is.'

The difficulty had not occurred to me; though I had had my apprehensions too, when I went in, of hearing the old tune. On its being mentioned, I recognized it, however, and said as much.

'Yes, yes, you understand,' said Mr. Omer, nodding his head. 'We dursn't do it. Bless you, it would be a shock that the generality of parties mightn't recover, to say "Omer and Joram's compliments, and how do you find yourself this morning?" — or this afternoon — as it may be.'

Mr. Omer and I nodded at each other, and Mr. Omer recruited his wind by the aid of his pipe.

'It's one of the things that cut the trade off from attentions they could often wish to show,' said Mr. Omer. 'Take myself. If I have known Barkis a year, to move to as he went by, I have known him forty years. But I can't go and say, "how is he?"'

I felt it was rather hard on Mr. Omer, and I told him so.

'I'm not more self-interested, I hope, than another man,' said Mr.

Omer. 'Look at me! My wind may fail me at any moment, and it ain't likely that, to my own knowledge, I'd be self-interested under such circumstances. I say it ain't likely, in a man who knows his wind will go, when it DOES go, as if a pair of bellows was cut open; and that man a grandfather,' said Mr. Omer.

I said, 'Not at all.'

'It ain't that I complain of my line of business,' said Mr. Omer.

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