We walked a little farther, and he said:
'Mas'r Davy, shall you see her, d'ye think?'
'It would be too painful to her, perhaps,' said I.
'I have thowt of that,' he replied. 'So 'twould, sir, so 'twould.'
'But, Ham,' said I, gently, 'if there is anything that I could write to her, for you, in case I could not tell it; if there is anything you would wish to make known to her through me; I should consider it a sacred trust.'
'I am sure on't. I thankee, sir, most kind! I think theer is something I could wish said or wrote.'
'What is it?'
We walked a little farther in silence, and then he spoke.
''Tan't that I forgive her. 'Tan't that so much. 'Tis more as I beg of her to forgive me, for having pressed my affections upon her. Odd times, I think that if I hadn't had her promise fur to marry me, sir, she was that trustful of me, in a friendly way, that she'd have told me what was struggling in her mind, and would have counselled with me, and I might have saved her.'
I pressed his hand. 'Is that all?' 'Theer's yet a something else,' he returned, 'if I can say it, Mas'r Davy.'
We walked on, farther than we had walked yet, before he spoke again. He was not crying when he made the pauses I shall express by lines. He was merely collecting himself to speak very plainly.
'I loved her — and I love the mem'ry of her — too deep — to be able to lead her to believe of my own self as I'm a happy man. I could only be happy — by forgetting of her — and I'm afeerd I couldn't hardly bear as she should be told I done that. But if you, being so full of learning, Mas'r Davy, could think of anything to say as might bring her to believe I wasn't greatly hurt: still loving of her, and mourning for her: anything as might bring her to believe as I was not tired of my life, and yet was hoping fur to see her without blame, wheer the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest — anything as would ease her sorrowful mind, and yet not make her think as I could ever marry, or as 'twas possible that anyone could ever be to me what she was — I should ask of you to say that — with my prayers for her — that was so dear.'
I pressed his manly hand again, and told him I would charge myself to do this as well as I could.
'I thankee, sir,' he answered. ''Twas kind of you to meet me. 'Twas kind of you to bear him company down. Mas'r Davy, I unnerstan' very well, though my aunt will come to Lon'on afore they sail, and they'll unite once more, that I am not like to see him agen. I fare to feel sure on't. We doen't say so, but so 'twill be, and better so. The last you see on him — the very last — will you give him the lovingest duty and thanks of the orphan, as he was ever more than a father to?'
This I also promised, faithfully.
'I thankee agen, sir,' he said, heartily shaking hands. 'I know wheer you're a-going. Good-bye!'
With a slight wave of his hand, as though to explain to me that he could not enter the old place, he turned away. As I looked after his figure, crossing the waste in the moonlight, I saw him turn his face towards a strip of silvery light upon the sea, and pass on, looking at it, until he was a shadow in the distance.
The door of the boat-house stood open when I approached; and, on entering, I found it emptied of all its furniture, saving one of the old lockers, on which Mrs. Gummidge, with a basket on her knee, was seated, looking at Mr. Peggotty. He leaned his elbow on the rough chimney-piece, and gazed upon a few expiring embers in the grate; but he raised his head, hopefully, on my coming in, and spoke in a cheery manner.
'Come, according to promise, to bid farewell to 't, eh, Mas'r Davy?' he said, taking up the candle. 'Bare enough, now, an't it?' 'Indeed you have made good use of the time,' said I.
'Why, we have not been idle, sir. Missis Gummidge has worked like a — I doen't know what Missis Gummidge an't worked like,' said Mr. Peggotty, looking at her, at a loss for a sufficiently approving simile.
Mrs. Gummidge, leaning on her basket, made no observation.
'Theer's the very locker that you used to sit on, 'long with Em'ly!' said Mr. Peggotty, in a whisper. 'I'm a-going to carry it away with me, last of all. And heer's your old little bedroom, see, Mas'r Davy! A'most as bleak tonight, as 'art could wish!'
In truth, the wind, though it was low, had a solemn sound, and crept around the deserted house with a whispered wailing that was very mournful. Everything was gone, down to the little mirror with the oyster-shell frame. I thought of myself, lying here, when that first great change was being wrought at home. I thought of the blue-eyed child who had enchanted me. I thought of Steerforth: and a foolish, fearful fancy came upon me of his being near at hand, and liable to be met at any turn.