When I awoke in the morning I thought very much of little Em’ly, and her emotion last night, after Martha had left. I felt as if I had come into the knowledge of those domestic weaknesses and tendernesses in a sacred confidence, and that to disclose them, even to Steerforth, would be wrong. I had no gentler feeling towards anyone than towards the pretty creature who had been my playmate, and whom I have always been persuaded, and shall always be persuaded, to my dying day, I then devotedly loved. The repetition to any ears—even to Steerforth’s—of what she had been unable to repress when her heart lay open to me by an accident, I felt would be a rough deed, unworthy of myself, unworthy of the light of our pure childhood, which I always saw encircling her head. I made a resolution, therefore, to keep it in my own breast; and there it gave her image a new grace.
While we were at breakfast, a letter was delivered to me from my aunt. As it contained matter on which I thought Steerforth could advise me as well as anyone, and on which I knew I should be delighted to consult him, I resolved to make it a subject of discussion on our journey home. For the present we had enough to do, in taking leave of all our friends. Mr. Barkis was far from being the last among them, in his regret at our departure; and I believe would even have opened the box again, and sacrificed another guinea, if it would have kept us eight-and-forty hours in Yarmouth. Peggotty and all her family were full of grief at our going. The whole house of Omer and Joram turned out to bid us good-bye; and there were so many seafaring volunteers in attendance on Steerforth, when our portmanteaux went to the coach, that if we had had the baggage of a regiment with us, we should hardly have wanted porters to carry it. In a word, we departed to the regret and admiration of all concerned, and left a great many people very sorry behind US.
Do you stay long here, Littimer?’ said I, as he stood waiting to see the coach start.
‘No, sir,’ he replied; ‘probably not very long, sir.’
‘He can hardly say, just now,’ observed Steerforth, carelessly. ‘He knows what he has to do, and he’ll do it.’
‘That I am sure he will,’ said I.
Littimer touched his hat in acknowledgement of my good opinion, and I felt about eight years old. He touched it once more, wishing us a good journey; and we left him standing on the pavement, as respectable a mystery as any pyramid in Egypt.
For some little time we held no conversation, Steerforth being unusually silent, and I being sufficiently engaged in wondering, within myself, when I should see the old places again, and what new changes might happen to me or them in the meanwhile. At length Steerforth, becoming gay and talkative in a moment, as he could become anything he liked at any moment, pulled me by the arm:
‘Find a voice, David. What about that letter you were speaking of at breakfast?’
‘Oh!’ said I, taking it out of my pocket. ‘It’s from my aunt.’
‘And what does she say, requiring consideration?’
‘Why, she reminds me, Steerforth,’ said I, ‘that I came out on this expedition to look about me, and to think a little.’
‘Which, of course, you have done?’
‘Indeed I can’t say I have, particularly. To tell you the truth, I am afraid I have forgotten it.’
‘Well! look about you now, and make up for your negligence,’ said Steerforth. ‘Look to the right, and you’ll see a flat country, with a good deal of marsh in it; look to the left, and you’ll see the same. Look to the front, and you’ll find no difference; look to the rear, and there it is still.’ I laughed, and replied that I saw no suitable profession in the whole prospect; which was perhaps to be attributed to its flatness.
‘What says our aunt on the subject?’ inquired Steerforth, glancing at the letter in my hand. ‘Does she suggest anything?’