Dombey and Son
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find myself there, why - why I call.'
'Nat'rally,' observed the Captain.
'Yes,' said Mr Toots. 'I called this afternoon. Upon my word and
honour, I don't think it's possible to form an idea of the angel Miss
Dombey was this afternoon.'
The Captain answered with a jerk of his head, implying that it
might not be easy to some people, but was quite so to him.
'As I was coming out,' said Mr Toots, 'the young woman, in the most
unexpected manner, took me into the pantry.
The Captain seemed, for the moment, to object to this proceeding;
and leaning back in his chair, looked at Mr Toots with a distrustful,
if not threatening visage.
'Where she brought out,' said Mr Toots, 'this newspaper. She told
me that she had kept it from Miss Dombey all day, on account of
something that was in it, about somebody that she and Dombey used to
know; and then she read the passage to me. Very well. Then she said -
wait a minute; what was it she said, though!'
Mr Toots, endeavouring to concentrate his mental powers on this
question, unintentionally fixed the Captain's eye, and was so much
discomposed by its stern expression, that his difficulty in resuming
the thread of his subject was enhanced to a painful extent.
'Oh!' said Mr Toots after long consideration. 'Oh, ah! Yes! She
said that she hoped there was a bare possibility that it mightn't be
true; and that as she couldn't very well come out herself, without
surprising Miss Dombey, would I go down to Mr Solomon Gills the
Instrument-maker's in this street, who was the party's Uncle, and ask
whether he believed it was true, or had heard anything else in the
City. She said, if he couldn't speak to me, no doubt Captain Cuttle
could. By the bye!' said Mr Toots, as the discovery flashed upon him,
'you, you know!'
The Captain glanced at the newspaper in Mr Toots's hand, and
breathed short and hurriedly.
'Well, pursued Mr Toots, 'the reason why I'm rather late is,
because I went up as far as Finchley first, to get some uncommonly
fine chickweed that grows there, for Miss Dombey's bird. But I came on
here, directly afterwards. You've seen the paper, I suppose?'
The Captain, who had become cautious of reading the news, lest he
should find himself advertised at full length by Mrs MacStinger, shook
'Shall I read the passage to you?' inquired Mr Toots.
The Captain making a sign in the affirmative, Mr Toots read as
follows, from the Shipping Intelligence:
'"Southampton. The barque Defiance, Henry James, Commander, arrived
in this port to-day, with a cargo of sugar, coffee, and rum, reports
that being becalmed on the sixth day of her passage home from Jamaica,
in" - in such and such a latitude, you know,' said Mr Toots, after
making a feeble dash at the figures, and tumbling over them.
'Ay!' cried the Captain, striking his clenched hand on the table.
'Heave ahead, my lad!'
' - latitude,' repeated Mr Toots, with a startled glance at the
Captain, 'and longitude so-and-so, - "the look-out observed, half an
hour before sunset, some fragments of a wreck, drifting at about the
distance of a mile. The weather being clear, and the barque making no
way, a boat was hoisted out, with orders to inspect the same, when
they were found to consist of sundry large spars, and a part of the
main rigging of an English brig, of about five hundred tons burden,
together with a portion of the stem on which the words and letters
'Son and H-' were yet plainly legible. No vestige of any dead body was
to be seen upon the floating fragments. Log of the Defiance states,
that a breeze springing up in the night, the wreck was seen no more.
There can be no doubt that all surmises as to the fate of the missing
vessel, the Son and Heir, port of London, bound for Barbados, are now
set at rest for ever; that she broke up in the last hurricane; and
that every soul on board perished."'
Captain Cuttle, like all mankind, little knew how much hope had
survived within him under discouragement, until he felt its
death-shock. During the reading of the paragraph, and for a minute or
two afterwards, he sat with his gaze fixed on the modest Mr Toots,
like a man entranced; then, suddenly rising, and putting on his glazed
hat, which, in his visitor's honour, he had laid upon the table, the
Captain turned his back, and bent his head down on the little
'Oh' upon my word and honour,' cried Mr Toots, whose tender heart
was moved by the Captain's unexpected distress, 'this is a most
wretched sort of affair this world is! Somebody's always dying, or
going and doing something uncomfortable in it. I'm sure I never should
have looked forward so much, to coming into my property, if I had
known this. I never saw such a world. It's a great deal worse than
Captain Cuttle, without altering his position, signed to Mr Toots
not to mind him; and presently turned round, with his glazed hat
thrust back upon his ears, and his hand composing and smoothing his
'Wal'r, my dear lad,' said the Captain, 'farewell! Wal'r my child,
my boy, and man, I loved you! He warn't my flesh and blood,' said the
Captain, looking at the fire - 'I ain't got none - but something of
what a father feels when he loses a son, I feel in losing Wal'r. For
why?' said the Captain. 'Because it ain't one loss, but a round dozen.
Where's that there young school-boy with the rosy face and curly hair,
that used to be as merry in this here parlour, come round every week,
as a piece of music? Gone down with Wal'r. Where's that there fresh
lad, that nothing couldn't tire nor put out, and that sparkled up and
blushed so, when we joked him about Heart's Delight, that he was
beautiful to look at? Gone down with Wal'r. Where's that there man's
spirit, all afire, that wouldn't see the old man hove down for a
minute, and cared nothing for itself? Gone down with Wal'r. It ain't
one Wal'r. There was a dozen Wal'rs that I know'd and loved, all
holding round his neck when he went down, and they're a-holding round
Mr Toots sat silent: folding and refolding the newspaper as small
as possible upon his knee.
'And Sol Gills,' said the Captain, gazing at the fire, 'poor
nevyless old Sol, where are you got to! you was left in charge of me;
his last words was, "Take care of my Uncle!" What came over you, Sol,
when you went and gave the go-bye to Ned Cuttle; and what am I to put
In my accounts that he's a looking down upon, respecting you! Sol
Gills, Sol Gills!' said the Captain, shaking his head slowly, 'catch
sight of that there newspaper, away from home, with no one as know'd
Wal'r by, to say a word; and broadside to you broach, and down you
pitch, head foremost!'
Drawing a heavy sigh, the Captain turned to Mr Toots, and roused
himself to a sustained consciousness of that gentleman's presence.
'My lad,' said the Captain, 'you must tell the young woman honestly
that this here fatal news is too correct. They don't romance, you see,
on such pints. It's entered on the ship's log, and that's the truest
book as a man can write. To-morrow morning,' said the Captain, 'I'll
step out and make inquiries; but they'll lead to no good. They can't
do it. If you'll give me a look-in in the forenoon, you shall know
what I have heerd; but tell the young woman from Cap'en Cuttle, that
it's over. Over!' And the Captain, hooking off his glazed hat, pulled
his handkerchief out of the crown, wiped his grizzled head
despairingly, and tossed the handkerchief in again, with the
indifference of deep dejection.
'Oh! I assure you,' said Mr Toots, 'really I am dreadfully sorry.
Upon my word I am, though I wasn't acquainted with the party. Do you
think Miss Dombey will be very much affected, Captain Gills - I mean
'Why, Lord love you,' returned the Captain, with something of
compassion for Mr Toots's innocence. When she warn't no higher than
that, they were as fond of one another as two young doves.'
'Were they though!' said Mr Toots, with a considerably lengthened
'They were made for one another,' said the Captain, mournfully;
'but what signifies that now!'
'Upon my word and honour,' cried Mr Toots, blurting out his words
through a singular combination of awkward chuckles and emotion, 'I'm
even more sorry than I was before. You know, Captain Gills, I - I
positively adore Miss Dombey; - I - I am perfectly sore with loving
her;' the burst with which this confession forced itself out of the
unhappy Mr Toots, bespoke the vehemence of his feelings; 'but what
would be the good of my regarding her in this manner, if I wasn't
truly sorry for her feeling pain, whatever was the cause of it. Mine
ain't a selfish affection, you know,' said Mr Toots, in the confidence
engendered by his having been a witness of the Captain's tenderness.
'It's the sort of thing with me, Captain Gills, that if I could be run
over - or - or trampled upon - or - or thrown off a very high place
-or anything of that sort - for Miss Dombey's sake, it would be the
most delightful thing that could happen to me.
All this, Mr Toots said in a suppressed voice, to prevent its
reaching the jealous ears of the Chicken, who objected to the softer
emotions; which effort of restraint, coupled with the intensity of his
feelings, made him red to the tips of his ears, and caused him to
present such an affecting spectacle of disinterested love to the eyes
of Captain Cuttle, that the good Captain patted him consolingly on the
back, and bade him cheer up.
'Thankee, Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'it's kind of you, in the
midst of your own troubles, to say so. I'm very much obliged to you.
As I said before, I really want a friend, and should be glad to have
your acquaintance. Although I am very well off,' said Mr Toots, with
energy, 'you can't think what a miserable Beast I am. The hollow
crowd, you know, when they see me with the Chicken, and characters of
distinction like that, suppose me to be happy; but I'm wretched. I
suffer for Miss Dombey, Captain Gills. I can't get through my meals; I
have no pleasure in my tailor; I often cry when I'm alone. I assure
you it'll be a satisfaction to me to come back to-morrow, or to come
back fifty times.'
Mr Toots, with these words, shook the Captain's hand; and
disguising such traces of his agitation as could be disguised on so