'If she should come here,' said I, 'I believe there is one person, here, more likely to discover her than any other in the world. Do you remember — hear what I say, with fortitude — think of your great object! — do you remember Martha?'
'Of our town?'
I needed no other answer than his face.
'Do you know that she is in London?'
'I have seen her in the streets,' he answered, with a shiver.
'But you don't know,' said I, 'that Emily was charitable to her, with Ham's help, long before she fled from home. Nor, that, when we met one night, and spoke together in the room yonder, over the way, she listened at the door.'
'Mas'r Davy!' he replied in astonishment. 'That night when it snew so hard?'
'That night. I have never seen her since. I went back, after parting from you, to speak to her, but she was gone. I was unwilling to mention her to you then, and I am now; but she is the person of whom I speak, and with whom I think we should communicate. Do you understand?'
'Too well, sir,' he replied. We had sunk our voices, almost to a whisper, and continued to speak in that tone.
'You say you have seen her. Do you think that you could find her? I could only hope to do so by chance.'
'I think, Mas'r Davy, I know wheer to look.'
'It is dark. Being together, shall we go out now, and try to find her tonight?'
He assented, and prepared to accompany me. Without appearing to observe what he was doing, I saw how carefully he adjusted the little room, put a candle ready and the means of lighting it, arranged the bed, and finally took out of a drawer one of her dresses (I remember to have seen her wear it), neatly folded with some other garments, and a bonnet, which he placed upon a chair. He made no allusion to these clothes, neither did I. There they had been waiting for her, many and many a night, no doubt.
'The time was, Mas'r Davy,' he said, as we came downstairs, 'when I thowt this girl, Martha, a'most like the dirt underneath my Em'ly's feet. God forgive me, theer's a difference now!'
As we went along, partly to hold him in conversation, and partly to satisfy myself, I asked him about Ham. He said, almost in the same words as formerly, that Ham was just the same, 'wearing away his life with kiender no care nohow for 't; but never murmuring, and liked by all'.
I asked him what he thought Ham's state of mind was, in reference to the cause of their misfortunes? Whether he believed it was dangerous? What he supposed, for example, Ham would do, if he and Steerforth ever should encounter?
'I doen't know, sir,' he replied. 'I have thowt of it oftentimes, but I can't awize myself of it, no matters.'
I recalled to his remembrance the morning after her departure, when we were all three on the beach. 'Do you recollect,' said I, 'a certain wild way in which he looked out to sea, and spoke about "the end of it"?'
'Sure I do!' said he.
'What do you suppose he meant?'
'Mas'r Davy,' he replied, 'I've put the question to myself a mort o' times, and never found no answer. And theer's one curious thing — that, though he is so pleasant, I wouldn't fare to feel comfortable to try and get his mind upon 't. He never said a wured to me as warn't as dootiful as dootiful could be, and it ain't likely as he'd begin to speak any other ways now; but it's fur from being fleet water in his mind, where them thowts lays. It's deep, sir, and I can't see down.'
'You are right,' said I, 'and that has sometimes made me anxious.'
'And me too, Mas'r Davy,' he rejoined. 'Even more so, I do assure you, than his ventersome ways, though both belongs to the alteration in him. I doen't know as he'd do violence under any circumstances, but I hope as them two may be kep asunders.'
We had come, through Temple Bar, into the city. Conversing no more now, and walking at my side, he yielded himself up to the one aim of his devoted life, and went on, with that hushed concentration of his faculties which would have made his figure solitary in a multitude. We were not far from Blackfriars Bridge, when he turned his head and pointed to a solitary female figure flitting along the opposite side of the street. I knew it, readily, to be the figure that we sought.
We crossed the road, and were pressing on towards her, when it occurred to me that she might be more disposed to feel a woman's interest in the lost girl, if we spoke to her in a quieter place, aloof from the crowd, and where we should be less observed. I advised my companion, therefore, that we should not address her yet, but follow her; consulting in this, likewise, an indistinct desire I had, to know where she went.
He acquiescing, we followed at a distance: never losing sight of her, but never caring to come very near, as she frequently looked about. Once, she stopped to listen to a band of music; and then we stopped too.
She went on a long way. Still we went on. It was evident, from the manner in which she held her course, that she was going to some fixed destination; and this, and her keeping in the busy streets, and I suppose the strange fascination in the secrecy and mystery of so following anyone, made me adhere to my first purpose. At length she turned into a dull, dark street, where the noise and crowd were lost; and I said, 'We may speak to her now'; and, mending our pace, we went after her.