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by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield Chapter 30 Summary
A Loss David arrives at Yarmouth and goes to an inn, not wanting to disturb Peggotty at this difficult time. David goes out, but it's late evening, and almost everything is shut. He does find Mr. Omer in his shop. David asks Mr. Omer if he knows how Mr. Barkis is. Mr. Omer replies that he doesn't know because he can't ask: it's rude for an undertaker to inquire about the health of a potential client. David comments that this seems painful, since Mr. Omer has known Mr. Barkis for forty years. The best Mr. Omer can do is to ask little Emily (who is his apprentice) how Mr. Barkis is doing. That's what Minnie and Joram the carpenter are doing right now. David asks how little Emily is. Mr. Omer tells David that he'll be glad when Emily is safely married – right now, she seems unsettled and in low spirits. Ham Peggotty has apparently already furnished the house they're going to be living in, but the marriage has been postponed because of Mr. Barkis's illness. The longer Mr. Barkis stays ill, without either dying or getting better, the more opportunity little Emily has to doubt her choices. Little Emily is clinging closer and closer to Mr. Peggotty, as though she is afraid of what she might do if she lets him go. David asks if Mr. Omer has heard anything about Martha Endell. Mr. Omer says it's a sad story, since he thinks Martha didn't mean to do any harm. At that moment, Minnie comes home with Mr. Joram. They tell Mr. Omer and David that Mr. Barkis is unconscious, and that he seems near death. Apparently, Mr. Chillip the doctor is there, but he has given up on Mr. Barkis's life. David decides to go over to Mr. Barkis's house immediately. He finds Mr. Peggotty, Ham Peggotty, and little Emily sitting in the house. Little Emily is covering her face with her hands. She embraces her uncle tightly. Mr. Peggotty claims that Emily is so upset because she has such a tender heart, and because she is too young to be used to trouble and sorrow. Mr. Peggotty comforts her: Ham Peggotty is about to take her home. Emily whispers to Mr. Peggotty that she wants to stay with him. Mr. Peggotty protests that she should go with her soon-to-be-husband, though he does appreciate how fond she is of her uncle. Ham eventually agrees. As Ham heads out the door, he goes to kiss Emily. David notices that it looks as though Emily is pushing closer to her uncle and away from Ham. Emily is so upset because she is afraid of death, David assumes. Peggotty comes downstairs to hug David and bring him up to see Mr. Barkis. She believes that, if Mr. Barkis wakes up, he'll be really happy to see David. David knows that Mr. Barkis probably won't wake up: he looks completely unconscious. Peggotty leans over and tells Mr. Barkis that David has arrived. Mr. Peggotty predicts that Mr. Barkis will go "out with the tide" (30.65). Apparently, people living on the coast always die when the tide goes out. David and Mr. Peggotty sit and watch by Mr. Barkis's bedside. Mr. Barkis begins to mutter, his mind wandering. Peggotty sees that he's coming awake. Mr. Barkis tells Peggotty that she is the best woman anywhere. Peggotty gestures to David and tells Mr. Barkis that David has come. Mr. Barkis repeats to David his old message; "Barkis is willin'!" (30.75). And with that, Mr. Barkis dies.
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