In the centre of the stage stands a brass bed loaded with luggage. The COMPANY swarm over it, hold a tableau, then go, leaving a carter – BARKIS – asleep with his back to us, and YOUNG DAVID and PEGGOTTY, half-asleep. PEGGOTTY pokes BARKIS awake.
PEGGOTTY. Master Davy.
PEGGOTTY and YOUNG DAVID get off. Enter HAM. The bed is pushed offstage to be transformed into the boat-house. YOUNG DAVID and PEGGOTTY gaze around. HAM picks up their luggage.
Ham? Ham – there’s a bag still to come off the cart. What does that driver-man Barkis think he’s about? Still awake, Master Davy? This is Ham, my brother Daniel’s boy. Ham? This is young Master David Copperfield, my very own Master Davy. Honest, Ham, it’s like we’ve been on the road for ever, there were so many things delivered on the way. Up lanes and down lanes – parcels and packets and even a bedstead for some tavern – and Barkis had no conversation beyond whistling to himself and snoozing. It’s as well the horse knew the Yarmouth road: you’d never have believed one man could have snored so much. Ah, Master Davy, my love, smell that air. Fish and pitch and oakum and tar and sea salt – and sailors! Proud I am to call myself a Yarmouth Bloater, for no one could doubt but Yarmouth is the finest place in the whole universe.
YOUNG DAVID. It’s awfully flat, Peggotty! And the land and the sea are all mixed up. Look! There’s a big black boat sailing on the ground over there!
HAM. Yon big black boat is our house, Master Davy.
YOUNG DAVID. Your house?
HAM. Aye, our house. She were a real boat once, Master Davy, and sailed the sea a thousand times, but now she has a roof and a door and windows in her sides –
PEGGOTTY. Tables and chairs and chests inside, and a clock and a painting of a lady with a parasol – everything just like in a proper house, but all snug and trim and cosy –
HAM. Just like a ship on the sea.
Enter DANIEL PEGGOTTY and EMILY.
DANIEL. Mr Davy, sir! Glad to see you. You’ll find us rough, sir, but you’ll find us ready. Say ‘hello’, Emily.
YOUNG DAVID. How do you do, Mr Peggotty. I am sure I shall be happy in such a wonderful house.
DANIEL. And how’s your ma, sir? Did you leave her pretty jolly?
PEGGOTTY. That we did, Dan. As jolly as may be.
DANIEL. Well, Master Davy, if you can make out here for a fortnight, we shall be proud of your company.
HAM. Come on, Master Davy, we’ll stow your gear, and Emily and me will show you around.
YOUNG DAVID, HAM and EMILY go.
DANIEL. Well, sister, you are with us again. (They embrace.) Never fear for the little lad. We’ll give him two weeks of sea air, good cheer and good plain vittles, and send him home with colour in his cheeks. And we’ll not be a-worrying beyond those two weeks, will we?
PEGGOTTY. No, Dan, you’re right, we won’t. There’ll be time aplenty for worrying, after. My, but it’s a treat to see you.
DANIEL. Little Emily seemed to think it a treat to see our Master Davy. Fair smitten with him, I thought.
PEGGOTTY. Are you turned matchmaker, then? I’ll maybe soon be asking you to land me a catch. Barkis the carter is always a-grinning and a-nudging, and a-mumbling he’s ‘willin’’. ‘Barkis is willin’.’ But willin’ to what, he never do say.
YOUNG DAVID returns. EMILY hovers in the background.
DANIEL. Well, Master Davy, I bet you never thought you’d be a-staying aboard Noah’s Ark!
YOUNG DAVID. Is that why you call your son ‘Ham’, then, because you live in an Ark?
DANIEL. Lord, no. His father gave it him.
YOUNG DAVID. I thought you were his father.
DANIEL. Bless you, no, sir. His father was my drowndead brother Joe.
YOUNG DAVID. But Emily’s your daughter?
DANIEL. No, my brother-in-law Tom was her father.
YOUNG DAVID. Drowndead, Mr Peggotty?
DANIEL. Drowndead, Master Davy. And her mother passed on afore that.
PEGGOTTY. Mr Peggotty adopted Emily and Ham, Davy, so they be not left poor orphans. And him but a poor man himself, but a man as good as gold and true as steel –
DANIEL. No more of that. I do only what the next man would do. Do you run along with Emily, Master Davy, and see the sights of Yarmouth. Emily! Take this young gentleman and show him the ocean!
PEGGOTTY, DANIEL and HAM go into the boat-house. EMILY and YOUNG DAVID join hands and run forward as if onto the seashore.
YOUNG DAVID. Mr Peggotty is very good.
EMILY. Uncle Dan? Yes, he is good. He is the best man in the world. If I was ever to be a lady, I’d give him a sky-blue coat with diamond buttons, nankeen trousers, a red-velvet waistcoat, a cocked hat, a large gold watch, a silver pipe, and a box of money....