Sinking on the stones, she took some in each hand, and clenched them up, as if she would have ground them. She writhed into some new posture constantly: stiffening her arms, twisting them before her face, as though to shut out from her eyes the little light there was, and drooping her head, as if it were heavy with insupportable recollections.
'What shall I ever do!' she said, fighting thus with her despair. 'How can I go on as I am, a solitary curse to myself, a living disgrace to everyone I come near!' Suddenly she turned to my companion. 'Stamp upon me, kill me! When she was your pride, you would have thought I had done her harm if I had brushed against her in the street. You can't believe - why should you? - a syllable that comes out of my lips. It would be a burning shame upon you, even now, if she and I exchanged a word. I don't complain. I don't say she and I are alike - I know there is a long, long way between us. I only say, with all my guilt and wretchedness upon my head, that I am grateful to her from my soul, and love her. Oh, don't think that all the power I had of loving anything is quite worn out! Throw me away, as all the world does. Kill me for being what I am, and having ever known her; but don't think that of me!'
He looked upon her, while she made this supplication, in a wild distracted manner; and, when she was silent, gently raised her.
'Martha,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'God forbid as I should judge you. Forbid as I, of all men, should do that, my girl! You doen't know half the change that's come, in course of time, upon me, when you think it likely. Well!' he paused a moment, then went on. 'You doen't understand how 'tis that this here gentleman and me has wished to speak to you. You doen't understand what 'tis we has afore us. Listen now!'
His influence upon her was complete. She stood, shrinkingly, before him, as if she were afraid to meet his eyes; but her passionate sorrow was quite hushed and mute.
'If you heerd,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'owt of what passed between Mas'r Davy and me, th' night when it snew so hard, you know as I have been - wheer not - fur to seek my dear niece. My dear niece,' he repeated steadily. 'Fur she's more dear to me now, Martha, than she was dear afore.'
She put her hands before her face; but otherwise remained quiet.
'I have heerd her tell,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'as you was early left fatherless and motherless, with no friend fur to take, in a rough seafaring-way, their place. Maybe you can guess that if you'd had such a friend, you'd have got into a way of being fond of him in course of time, and that my niece was kiender daughter-like to me.'