Dombey and Son
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short a notice, before the Chicken's penetrating glance, rejoined that
eminent gentleman in the shop. The Chicken, who was apt to be jealous
of his ascendancy, eyed Captain Cuttle with anything but favour as he
took leave of Mr Toots, but followed his patron without being
otherwise demonstrative of his ill-will: leaving the Captain oppressed
with sorrow; and Rob the Grinder elevated with joy, on account of
having had the honour of staring for nearly half an hour at the
conqueror of the Nobby Shropshire One.
Long after Rob was fast asleep in his bed under the counter, the
Captain sat looking at the fire; and long after there was no fire to
look at, the Captain sat gazing on the rusty bars, with unavailing
thoughts of Walter and old Sol crowding through his mind. Retirement
to the stormy chamber at the top of the house brought no rest with it;
and the Captain rose up in the morning, sorrowful and unrefreshed.
As soon as the City offices were opened, the Captain issued forth
to the counting-house of Dombey and Son. But there was no opening of
the Midshipman's windows that morning. Rob the Grinder, by the
Captain's orders, left the shutters closed, and the house was as a
house of death.
It chanced that Mr Carker was entering the office, as Captain
Cuttle arrived at the door. Receiving the Manager's benison gravely
and silently, Captain Cuttle made bold to accompany him into his own
'Well, Captain Cuttle,' said Mr Carker, taking up his usual
position before the fireplace, and keeping on his hat, 'this is a bad
'You have received the news as was in print yesterday, Sir?' said
'Yes,' said Mr Carker, 'we have received it! It was accurately
stated. The underwriters suffer a considerable loss. We are very
sorry. No help! Such is life!'
Mr Carker pared his nails delicately with a penknife, and smiled at
the Captain, who was standing by the door looking at him.
'I excessively regret poor Gay,' said Carker, 'and the crew. I
understand there were some of our very best men among 'em. It always
happens so. Many men with families too. A comfort to reflect that poor
Gay had no family, Captain Cuttle!'
The Captain stood rubbing his chin, and looking at the Manager. The
Manager glanced at the unopened letters lying on his desk, and took up
'Is there anything I can do for you, Captain Cuttle?' he asked
looking off it, with a smiling and expressive glance at the door.
'I wish you could set my mind at rest, Sir, on something it's
uneasy about,' returned the Captain.
'Ay!' exclaimed the Manager, 'what's that? Come, Captain Cuttle, I
must trouble you to be quick, if you please. I am much engaged.'
'Lookee here, Sir,' said the Captain, advancing a step. 'Afore my
friend Wal'r went on this here disastrous voyage -
'Come, come, Captain Cuttle,' interposed the smiling Manager,
'don't talk about disastrous voyages in that way. We have nothing to
do with disastrous voyages here, my good fellow. You must have begun
very early on your day's allowance, Captain, if you don't remember
that there are hazards in all voyages, whether by sea or land. You are
not made uneasy by the supposition that young what's-his-name was lost
in bad weather that was got up against him in these offices - are you?
Fie, Captain! Sleep, and soda-water, are the best cures for such
uneasiness as that.
'My lad,' returned the Captain, slowly - 'you are a'most a lad to
me, and so I don't ask your pardon for that slip of a word, - if you
find any pleasure in this here sport, you ain't the gentleman I took
you for. And if you ain't the gentleman I took you for, may be my mind
has call to be uneasy. Now this is what it is, Mr Carker. - Afore that
poor lad went away, according to orders, he told me that he warn't a
going away for his own good, or for promotion, he know'd. It was my
belief that he was wrong, and I told him so, and I come here, your
head governor being absent, to ask a question or two of you in a civil
way, for my own satisfaction. Them questions you answered - free. Now
it'll ease my mind to know, when all is over, as it is, and when what
can't be cured must be endoored - for which, as a scholar, you'll
overhaul the book it's in, and thereof make a note - to know once
more, in a word, that I warn't mistaken; that I warn't back'ard in my
duty when I didn't tell the old man what Wal'r told me; and that the
wind was truly in his sail, when he highsted of it for Barbados
Harbour. Mr Carker,' said the Captain, in the goodness of his nature,
'when I was here last, we was very pleasant together. If I ain't been
altogether so pleasant myself this morning, on account of this poor
lad, and if I have chafed again any observation of yours that I might
have fended off, my name is Ed'ard Cuttle, and I ask your pardon.'
'Captain Cuttle,' returned the Manager, with all possible
politeness, 'I must ask you to do me a favour.'
'And what is it, Sir?' inquired the Captain.
'To have the goodness to walk off, if you please,' rejoined the
Manager, stretching forth his arm, 'and to carry your jargon somewhere
Every knob in the Captain's face turned white with astonishment and
indignation; even the red rim on his forehead faded, like a rainbow
among the gathering clouds.
'I tell you what, Captain Cuttle,' said the Manager, shaking his
forefinger at him, and showing him all his teeth, but still amiably
smiling, 'I was much too lenient with you when you came here before.
You belong to an artful and audacious set of people. In my desire to
save young what's-his-name from being kicked out of this place, neck
and crop, my good Captain, I tolerated you; but for once, and only
once. Now, go, my friend!'
The Captain was absolutely rooted to the ground, and speechless -
'Go,' said the good-humoured Manager, gathering up his skirts, and
standing astride upon the hearth-rug, 'like a sensible fellow, and let
us have no turning out, or any such violent measures. If Mr Dombey
were here, Captain, you might be obliged to leave in a more
ignominious manner, possibly. I merely say, Go!'
The Captain, laying his ponderous hand upon his chest, to assist
himself in fetching a deep breath, looked at Mr Carker from head to
foot, and looked round the little room, as if he did not clearly
understand where he was, or in what company.
'You are deep, Captain Cuttle,' pursued Carker, with the easy and
vivacious frankness of a man of the world who knew the world too well
to be ruffled by any discovery of misdoing, when it did not
immediately concern himself, 'but you are not quite out of soundings,
either - neither you nor your absent friend, Captain. What have you
done with your absent friend, hey?'
Again the Captain laid his hand upon his chest. After drawing
another deep breath, he conjured himself to 'stand by!' But In a
'You hatch nice little plots, and hold nice little councils, and
make nice little appointments, and receive nice little visitors, too,
Captain, hey?' said Carker, bending his brows upon him, without
showing his teeth any the less: 'but it's a bold measure to come here
afterwards. Not like your discretion! You conspirators, and hiders,
and runners-away, should know better than that. Will you oblige me by
'My lad,' gasped the Captain, in a choked and trembling voice, and
with a curious action going on in the ponderous fist; 'there's a many
words I could wish to say to you, but I don't rightly know where
they're stowed just at present. My young friend, Wal'r, was drownded
only last night, according to my reckoning, and it puts me out, you
see. But you and me will come alongside o'one another again, my lad,'
said the Captain, holding up his hook, if we live.'
'It will be anything but shrewd in you, my good fellow, if we do,'
returned the Manager, with the same frankness; 'for you may rely, I
give you fair warning, upon my detecting and exposing you. I don't
pretend to be a more moral man than my neighbours, my good Captain;
but the confidence of this House, or of any member of this House, is
not to be abused and undermined while I have eyes and ears. Good day!'
said Mr Carker, nodding his head.
Captain Cuttle, looking at him steadily (Mr Carker looked full as
steadily at the Captain), went out of the office and left him standing
astride before the fire, as calm and pleasant as if there were no more
spots upon his soul than on his pure white linen, and his smooth sleek
The Captain glanced, in passing through the outer counting-house,
at the desk where he knew poor Walter had been used to sit, now
occupied by another young boy, with a face almost as fresh and hopeful
as his on the day when they tapped the famous last bottle but one of
the old Madeira, in the little back parlour. The nation of ideas, thus
awakened, did the Captain a great deal of good; it softened him in the
very height of his anger, and brought the tears into his eyes.
Arrived at the wooden Midshipman's again, and sitting down in a
corner of the dark shop, the Captain's indignation, strong as it was,
could make no head against his grief. Passion seemed not only to do
wrong and violence to the memory of the dead, but to be infected by
death, and to droop and decline beside it. All the living knaves and
liars in the world, were nothing to the honesty and truth of one dead
The only thing the honest Captain made out clearly, in this state
of mind, besides the loss of Walter, was, that with him almost the
whole world of Captain Cuttle had been drowned. If he reproached
himself sometimes, and keenly too, for having ever connived at
Walter's innocent deceit, he thought at least as often of the Mr
Carker whom no sea could ever render up; and the Mr Dombey, whom he
now began to perceive was as far beyond human recall; and the 'Heart's
Delight,' with whom he must never foregather again; and the Lovely
Peg, that teak-built and trim ballad, that had gone ashore upon a
rock, and split into mere planks and beams of rhyme. The Captain sat
in the dark shop, thinking of these things, to the entire exclusion of
his own injury; and looking with as sad an eye upon the ground, as if
in contemplation of their actual fragments, as they floated past
But the Captain was not unmindful, for all that, of such decent and