“Peggotty, do you mean, sir?”

“Ah!” said Mr. Barkis. “Her.”

“Yes. She makes all our pastry and does all our cooking.”

“Do she though?” said Mr. Barkis.

He made up his mouth as if to whistle, but he didn’t whistle. He sat looking at the horse’s ears as if he saw something new there, and sat so for a considerable time. By and by he said—

“No sweethearts, I b’lieve?”

“Sweetmeats, did you say, Mr. Barkis?” For I thought he wanted something else to eat, and had pointedly alluded to that description of refreshment.

“Hearts,” said Mr. Barkis. “Sweethearts—no person walks with her?”

“With Peggotty?”

“Ah!” he said. “Her.”

“Oh no. She never had a sweetheart.”

“Didn’t she though?” said Mr. Barkis.

Again he made up his mouth to whistle, and again he didn’t whistle, but sat looking at the horse’s ears.

“So she makes,” said Mr. Barkis, after a long interval of reflection, “all the apple parsties, and doos all the cooking, do she?”

I replied that such was the fact.

“Well. I’ll tell you what,” said Mr. Barkis. “P’raps you might be writin’ to her?”

“I shall certainly write to her,” I rejoined.

“Ah!” he said, slowly turning his eyes towards me. “Well! If you was writin’ to her, p’raps you’d recollect to say that Barkis was willin’—would you?”

“That Barkis is willing,” I repeated, innocently. “Is that all the message?”

“Ye—es,” he said, considering. “Ye—es. Barkis is willin’.”

“But you will be at Blunderstone again to-morrow, Mr. Barkis,” I said, faltering a little at the idea of my being far away from it then, “and could give your own message so much better.”

As he repudiated this suggestion, however, with a jerk of his head, and once more confirmed his previous request by saying with profound gravity, “Barkis is willin’. That’s the message,” I readily undertook its transmission. While I was waiting for the coach in the hotel at Yarmouth that very afternoon, I procured a sheet of paper and an ink-stand and wrote a note to Peggotty, which ran thus: “My dear Peggotty. I have come here safe. Barkis is willing. My love to mama. Yours affectionately. P.S. He says he particularly wants you to know—Barkis is willing.”

When I had taken this commission on myself prospectively, Mr. Barkis relapsed into perfect silence, and I, feeling quite worn out by all that had happened lately, lay down on a sack in the cart and fell asleep. I slept soundly until we got to Yarmouth, which was so entirely new and strange to me in the inn-yard to

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