That was all.
He stood, long after I had ceased to read, still looking at me. At length I ventured to take his hand, and to entreat him, as well as I could, to endeavour to get some command of himself. He replied, 'I thankee, sir, I thankee!' without moving.
Ham spoke to him. Mr. Peggotty was so far sensible of HIS affliction, that he wrung his hand; but, otherwise, he remained in the same state, and no one dared to disturb him.
Slowly, at last, he moved his eyes from my face, as if he were waking from a vision, and cast them round the room. Then he said, in a low voice:
'Who's the man? I want to know his name.'
Ham glanced at me, and suddenly I felt a shock that struck me back.
'There's a man suspected,' said Mr. Peggotty. 'Who is it?'
'Mas'r Davy!' implored Ham. 'Go out a bit, and let me tell him what I must. You doen't ought to hear it, sir.'
I felt the shock again. I sank down in a chair, and tried to utter some reply; but my tongue was fettered, and my sight was weak.
'I want to know his name!' I heard said once more.
'For some time past,' Ham faltered, 'there's been a servant about here, at odd times. There's been a gen'lm'n too. Both of 'em belonged to one another.'
Mr. Peggotty stood fixed as before, but now looking at him.
'The servant,' pursued Ham, 'was seen along with — our poor girl — last night. He's been in hiding about here, this week or over. He was thought to have gone, but he was hiding. Doen't stay, Mas'r Davy, doen't!'
I felt Peggotty's arm round my neck, but I could not have moved if the house had been about to fall upon me.
'A strange chay and hosses was outside town, this morning, on the Norwich road, a'most afore the day broke,' Ham went on. 'The servant went to it, and come from it, and went to it again. When he went to it again, Em'ly was nigh him. The t'other was inside. He's the man.'
'For the Lord's love,' said Mr. Peggotty, falling back, and putting out his hand, as if to keep off what he dreaded. 'Doen't tell me his name's Steerforth!'
'Mas'r Davy,' exclaimed Ham, in a broken voice, 'it ain't no fault of yourn — and I am far from laying of it to you — but his name is Steerforth, and he's a damned villain!'
Mr. Peggotty uttered no cry, and shed no tear, and moved no more, until he seemed to wake again, all at once, and pulled down his rough coat from its peg in a corner.
'Bear a hand with this! I'm struck of a heap, and can't do it,' he said, impatiently. 'Bear a hand and help me. Well!' when somebody had done so. 'Now give me that theer hat!'
Ham asked him whither he was going.
'I'm a going to seek my niece. I'm a going to seek my Em'ly. I'm a going, first, to stave in that theer boat, and sink it where I would have drownded him, as I'm a living soul, if I had had one thought of what was in him! As he sat afore me,' he said, wildly, holding out his clenched right hand, 'as he sat afore me, face to face, strike me down dead, but I'd have drownded him, and thought it right! — I'm a going to seek my niece.'
'Where?' cried Ham, interposing himself before the door.
'Anywhere! I'm a going to seek my niece through the wureld. I'm a going to find my poor niece in her shame, and bring her back. No one stop me! I tell you I'm a going to seek my niece!'
'No, no!' cried Mrs. Gummidge, coming between them, in a fit of crying. 'No, no, Dan'l, not as you are now. Seek her in a little while, my lone lorn Dan'l, and that'll be but right! but not as you are now. Sit ye down, and give me your forgiveness for having ever been a worrit to you, Dan'l — what have my contraries ever been to this! — and let us speak a word about them times when she was first an orphan, and when Ham was too, and when I was a poor widder woman, and you took me in. It'll soften your poor heart, Dan'l,' laying her head upon his shoulder, 'and you'll bear your sorrow better; for you know the promise, Dan'l, "As you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto me", — and that can never fail under this roof, that's been our shelter for so many, many year!'
He was quite passive now; and when I heard him crying, the impulse that had been upon me to go down upon my knees, and ask their pardon for the desolation I had caused, and curse Steer — forth, yielded to a better feeling, My overcharged heart found the same relief, and I cried too.