I took the hand she held out with a dignified, unbending air, and it was as calm in mine as if her breast had been at peace. Her pride could still its very pulses, it appeared, and draw the placid veil before her face, through which she sat looking straight before her on the far distance.
As I moved away from them along the terrace, I could not help observing how steadily they both sat gazing on the prospect, and how it thickened and closed around them. Here and there, some early lamps were seen to twinkle in the distant city; and in the eastern quarter of the sky the lurid light still hovered. But, from the greater part of the broad valley interposed, a mist was rising like a sea, which, mingling with the darkness, made it seem as if the gathering waters would encompass them. I have reason to remember this, and think of it with awe; for before I looked upon those two again, a stormy sea had risen to their feet.
Reflecting on what had been thus told me, I felt it right that it should be communicated to Mr. Peggotty. On the following evening I went into London in quest of him. He was always wandering about from place to place, with his one object of recovering his niece before him; but was more in London than elsewhere. Often and often, now, had I seen him in the dead of night passing along the streets, searching, among the few who loitered out of doors at those untimely hours, for what he dreaded to find.
He kept a lodging over the little chandler's shop in Hungerford Market, which I have had occasion to mention more than once, and from which he first went forth upon his errand of mercy. Hither I directed my walk. On making inquiry for him, I learned from the people of the house that he had not gone out yet, and I should find him in his room upstairs.
He was sitting reading by a window in which he kept a few plants. The room was very neat and orderly. I saw in a moment that it was always kept prepared for her reception, and that he never went out but he thought it possible he might bring her home. He had not heard my tap at the door, and only raised his eyes when I laid my hand upon his shoulder.
'Mas'r Davy! Thankee, sir! thankee hearty, for this visit! Sit ye down. You're kindly welcome, sir!'
'Mr. Peggotty,' said I, taking the chair he handed me, 'don't expect much! I have heard some news.'
He put his hand, in a nervous manner, on his mouth, and turned pale, as he fixed his eyes on mine.
'It gives no clue to where she is; but she is not with him.'
He sat down, looking intently at me, and listened in profound silence to all I had to tell. I well remember the sense of dignity, beauty even, with which the patient gravity of his face impressed me, when, having gradually removed his eyes from mine, he sat looking downward, leaning his forehead on his hand. He offered no interruption, but remained throughout perfectly still. He seemed to pursue her figure through the narrative, and to let every other shape go by him, as if it were nothing.
When I had done, he shaded his face, and continued silent. I looked out of the window for a little while, and occupied myself with the plants.
'How do you fare to feel about it, Mas'r Davy?' he inquired at length.
'I think that she is living,' I replied.
'I doen't know. Maybe the first shock was too rough, and in the wildness of her art — ! That there blue water as she used to speak on. Could she have thowt o' that so many year, because it was to be her grave!'
He said this, musing, in a low, frightened voice; and walked across the little room.
'And yet,' he added, 'Mas'r Davy, I have felt so sure as she was living — I have know'd, awake and sleeping, as it was so trew that I should find her — I have been so led on by it, and held up by it — that I doen't believe I can have been deceived. No! Em'ly's alive!'
He put his hand down firmly on the table, and set his sunburnt face into a resolute expression.
'My niece, Em'ly, is alive, sir!' he said, steadfastly. 'I doen't know wheer it comes from, or how 'tis, but I am told as she's alive!'
He looked almost like a man inspired, as he said it. I waited for a few moments, until he could give me his undivided attention; and then proceeded to explain the precaution, that, it had occurred to me last night, it would be wise to take.
'Now, my dear friend — 'I began.
'Thankee, thankee, kind sir,' he said, grasping my hand in both of his.
'If she should make her way to London, which is likely — for where could she lose herself so readily as in this vast city; and what would she wish to do, but lose and hide herself, if she does not go home? — '
'And she won't go home,' he interposed, shaking his head mournfully. 'If she had left of her own accord, she might; not as It was, sir.'