'I never doubted her,' said Mr. Peggotty. 'No! Not a bit! On'y let her see my face — on'y let her beer my voice — on'y let my stanning still afore her bring to her thoughts the home she had fled away from, and the child she had been — and if she had growed to be a royal lady, she'd have fell down at my feet! I know'd it well! Many a time in my sleep had I heerd her cry out, "Uncle!" and seen her fall like death afore me. Many a time in my sleep had I raised her up, and whispered to her, "Em'ly, my dear, I am come fur to bring forgiveness, and to take you home!"'
He stopped and shook his head, and went on with a sigh.
'He was nowt to me now. Em'ly was all. I bought a country dress to put upon her; and I know'd that, once found, she would walk beside me over them stony roads, go where I would, and never, never, leave me more. To put that dress upon her, and to cast off what she wore — to take her on my arm again, and wander towards home — to stop sometimes upon the road, and heal her bruised feet and her worse-bruised heart — was all that I thowt of now. I doen't believe I should have done so much as look at him. But, Mas'r Davy, it warn't to be — not yet! I was too late, and they was gone. Wheer, I couldn't learn. Some said beer, some said theer. I travelled beer, and I travelled theer, but I found no Em'ly, and I travelled home.'
'How long ago?' I asked.
'A matter o' fower days,' said Mr. Peggotty. 'I sighted the old boat arter dark, and the light a-shining in the winder. When I come nigh and looked in through the glass, I see the faithful creetur Missis Gummidge sittin' by the fire, as we had fixed upon, alone. I called out, "Doen't be afeerd! It's Dan'l!" and I went in. I never could have thowt the old boat would have been so strange!' From some pocket in his breast, he took out, with a very careful hand a small paper bundle containing two or three letters or little packets, which he laid upon the table.
'This fust one come,' he said, selecting it from the rest, 'afore I had been gone a week. A fifty pound Bank note, in a sheet of paper, directed to me, and put underneath the door in the night. She tried to hide her writing, but she couldn't hide it from Me!'
He folded up the note again, with great patience and care, in exactly the same form, and laid it on one side.
'This come to Missis Gummidge,' he said, opening another, 'two or three months ago.'After looking at it for some moments, he gave it to me, and added in a low voice, 'Be so good as read it, sir.'
I read as follows:
'Oh what will you feel when you see this writing, and know it comes from my wicked hand! But try, try — not for my sake, but for uncle's goodness, try to let your heart soften to me, only for a little little time! Try, pray do, to relent towards a miserable girl, and write down on a bit of paper whether he is well, and what he said about me before you left off ever naming me among yourselves — and whether, of a night, when it is my old time of coming home, you ever see him look as if he thought of one he used to love so dear. Oh, my heart is breaking when I think about it! I am kneeling down to you, begging and praying you not to be as hard with me as I deserve — as I well, well, know I deserve — but to be so gentle and so good, as to write down something of him, and to send it to me. You need not call me Little, you need not call me by the name I have disgraced; but oh, listen to my agony, and have mercy on me so far as to write me some word of uncle, never, never to be seen in this world by my eyes again!
'Dear, if your heart is hard towards me — justly hard, I know — but, listen, if it is hard, dear, ask him I have wronged the most — him whose wife I was to have been — before you quite decide against my poor poor prayer! If he should be so compassionate as to say that you might write something for me to read — I think he would, oh, I think he would, if you would only ask him, for he always was so brave and so forgiving — tell him then (but not else), that when I hear the wind blowing at night, I feel as if it was passing angrily from seeing him and uncle, and was going up to God against me. Tell him that if I was to die tomorrow (and oh, if I was fit, I would be so glad to die!) I would bless him and uncle with my last words, and pray for his happy home with my last breath!'
Some money was enclosed in this letter also. Five pounds. It was untouched like the previous sum, and he refolded it in the same way. Detailed instructions were added relative to the address of a reply, which, although they betrayed the intervention of several hands, and made it difficult to arrive at any very probable conclusion in reference to her place of concealment, made it at least not unlikely that she had written from that spot where she was stated to have been seen.
'What answer was sent?' I inquired of Mr. Peggotty.
'Missis Gummidge,' he returned, 'not being a good scholar, sir, Ham kindly drawed it out, and she made a copy on it. They told her I was gone to seek her, and what my parting words was.'
'Is that another letter in your hand?' said I.
'It's money, sir,' said Mr. Peggotty, unfolding it a little way. 'Ten pound, you see. And wrote inside, "From a true friend," like the fust. But the fust was put underneath the door, and this come by the post, day afore yesterday. I'm a-going to seek her at the post-mark.'