Very cold I was, I know, notwithstanding the hot tea they had given me before a large fire downstairs; and very glad I was to turn into the Dolphin's bed, pull the Dolphin's blankets round my head, and go to sleep.
Mr. Barkis the carrier was to call for me in the morning at nine o'clock. I got up at eight, a little giddy from the shortness of my night's rest, and was ready for him before the appointed time. He received me exactly as if not five minutes had elapsed since we were last together, and I had only been into the hotel to get change for sixpence, or something of that sort.
As soon as I and my box were in the cart, and the carrier seated, the lazy horse walked away with us all at his accustomed pace.
'You look very well, Mr. Barkis,' I said, thinking he would like to know it.
Mr. Barkis rubbed his cheek with his cuff, and then looked at his cuff as if he expected to find some of the bloom upon it; but made no other acknowledgement of the compliment.
'I gave your message, Mr. Barkis,' I said: 'I wrote to Peggotty.'
'Ah!' said Mr. Barkis.
Mr. Barkis seemed gruff, and answered drily.
'Wasn't it right, Mr. Barkis?' I asked, after a little hesitation.
'Why, no,' said Mr. Barkis.
'Not the message?'
'The message was right enough, perhaps,' said Mr. Barkis; 'but it come to an end there.'
Not understanding what he meant, I repeated inquisitively: 'Came to an end, Mr. Barkis?'
'Nothing come of it,' he explained, looking at me sideways. 'No answer.'
'There was an answer expected, was there, Mr. Barkis?' said I, opening my eyes. For this was a new light to me.
'When a man says he's willin',' said Mr. Barkis, turning his glance slowly on me again, 'it's as much as to say, that man's a-waitin' for a answer.'
'Well, Mr. Barkis?'
'Well,' said Mr. Barkis, carrying his eyes back to his horse's ears; 'that man's been a-waitin' for a answer ever since.'
'Have you told her so, Mr. Barkis?'
'No - no,' growled Mr. Barkis, reflecting about it. 'I ain't got no call to go and tell her so. I never said six words to her myself, I ain't a-goin' to tell her so.'
'Would you like me to do it, Mr. Barkis?' said I, doubtfully. 'You might tell her, if you would,' said Mr. Barkis, with another slow look at me, 'that Barkis was a-waitin' for a answer. Says you - what name is it?'
'Ah!' said Mr. Barkis, with a nod of his head.
'Chrisen name? Or nat'ral name?' said Mr. Barkis.
'Oh, it's not her Christian name. Her Christian name is Clara.'
'Is it though?' said Mr. Barkis.
He seemed to find an immense fund of reflection in this circumstance, and sat pondering and inwardly whistling for some time.
'Well!' he resumed at length. 'Says you, "Peggotty! Barkis is waitin' for a answer." Says she, perhaps, "Answer to what?" Says you, "To what I told you." "What is that?" says she. "Barkis is willin'," says you.'
This extremely artful suggestion Mr. Barkis accompanied with a nudge of his elbow that gave me quite a stitch in my side. After that, he slouched over his horse in his usual manner; and made no other reference to the subject except, half an hour afterwards, taking a piece of chalk from his pocket, and writing up, inside the tilt of the cart, 'Clara Peggotty' - apparently as a private memorandum.
Ah, what a strange feeling it was to be going home when it was not home, and to find that every object I looked at, reminded me of the happy old home, which was like a dream I could never dream again! The days when my mother and I and Peggotty were all in all to one another, and there was no one to come between us, rose up before me so sorrowfully on the road, that I am not sure I was glad to be there - not sure but that I would rather have remained away, and forgotten it in Steerforth's company. But there I was; and soon I was at our house, where the bare old elm-trees wrung their many hands in the bleak wintry air, and shreds of the old rooks'-nests drifted away upon the wind.
The carrier put my box down at the garden-gate, and left me.