Dombey and Son
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case, would I say to you what I have said, about existing
circumstances and coming prepared, and as soon as ever I saw you,
would I ask you to step round the corner, if it was only for one
minute, on most important business, to Mr Brogley's the Broker's. Now,
I tell you what, Captain Gills - whatever it is, I am convinced it's
very important; and if you like to step round, now, I'll wait here
till you come back.'
The Captain, divided between his fear of compromising Florence in
some way by not going, and his horror of leaving Mr Toots in
possession of the house with a chance of finding out the secret, was a
spectacle of mental disturbance that even Mr Toots could not be blind
to. But that young gentleman, considering his nautical friend as
merely in a state of preparation for the interview he was going to
have, was quite satisfied, and did not review his own discreet conduct
At length the Captain decided, as the lesser of two evils, to run
round to Brogley's the Broker's: previously locking the door that
communicated with the upper part of the house, and putting the key in
his pocket. 'If so be,' said the Captain to Mr Toots, with not a
little shame and hesitation, 'as you'll excuse my doing of it,
'Captain Gills,' returned Mr Toots, 'whatever you do, is
satisfactory to me.
The Captain thanked him heartily, and promising to come back in
less than five minutes, went out in quest of the person who had
entrusted Mr Toots with this mysterious message. Poor Mr Toots, left
to himself, lay down upon the sofa, little thinking who had reclined
there last, and, gazing up at the skylight and resigning himself to
visions of Miss Dombey, lost all heed of time and place.
It was as well that he did so; for although the Captain was not
gone long, he was gone much longer than he had proposed. When he came
back, he was very pale indeed, and greatly agitated, and even looked
as if he had been shedding tears. He seemed to have lost the faculty
of speech, until he had been to the cupboard and taken a dram of rum
from the case-bottle, when he fetched a deep breath, and sat down in a
chair with his hand before his face.
'Captain Gills,' said Toots, kindly, 'I hope and trust there's
'Thank'ee, my lad, not a bit,' said the Captain. 'Quite contrairy.'
'You have the appearance of being overcome, Captain Gills,'
observed Mr Toots.
'Why, my lad, I am took aback,' the Captain admitted. 'I am.'
'Is there anything I can do, Captain Gills?' inquired Mr Toots. 'If
there is, make use of me.'
The Captain removed his hand from his face, looked at him with a
remarkable expression of pity and tenderness, and took him by the
hand, and shook it hard.
'No, thank'ee,' said the Captain. 'Nothing. Only I'll take it as a
favour if you'll part company for the present. I believe, brother,'
wringing his hand again, 'that, after Wal'r, and on a different model,
you're as good a lad as ever stepped.'
'Upon my word and honour, Captain Gills,' returned Mr Toots, giving
the Captain's hand a preliminary slap before shaking it again, 'it's
delightful to me to possess your good opinion. Thank'ee.
'And bear a hand and cheer up,' said the Captain, patting him on
the back. 'What! There's more than one sweet creetur in the world!'
'Not to me, Captain Gills,' replied Mr Toots gravely. 'Not to me, I
assure you. The state of my feelings towards Miss Dombey is of that
unspeakable description, that my heart is a desert island, and she
lives in it alone. I'm getting more used up every day, and I'm proud
to be so. If you could see my legs when I take my boots off, you'd
form some idea of what unrequited affection is. I have been prescribed
bark, but I don't take it, for I don't wish to have any tone whatever
given to my constitution. I'd rather not. This, however, is forbidden
ground. Captain Gills, goodbye!'
Captain Cuttle cordially reciprocating the warmth of Mr Toots's
farewell, locked the door behind him, and shaking his head with the
same remarkable expression of pity and tenderness as he had regarded
him with before, went up to see if Florence wanted him.
There was an entire change in the Captain's face as he went
upstairs. He wiped his eyes with his handkerchief, and he polished the
bridge of his nose with his sleeve as he had done already that
morning, but his face was absolutely changed. Now, he might have been
thought supremely happy; now, he might have been thought sad; but the
kind of gravity that sat upon his features was quite new to them, and
was as great an improvement to them as if they had undergone some
He knocked softly, with his hook, at Florence's door, twice or
thrice; but, receiving no answer, ventured first to peep in, and then
to enter: emboldened to take the latter step, perhaps, by the familiar
recognition of Diogenes, who, stretched upon the ground by the side of
her couch, wagged his tail, and winked his eyes at the Captain,
without being at the trouble of getting up.
She was sleeping heavily, and moaning in her sleep; and Captain
Cuttle, with a perfect awe of her youth, and beauty, and her sorrow,
raised her head, and adjusted the coat that covered her, where it had
fallen off, and darkened the window a little more that she might sleep
on, and crept out again, and took his post of watch upon the stairs.
All this, with a touch and tread as light as Florence's own.
Long may it remain in this mixed world a point not easy of
decision, which is the more beautiful evidence of the Almighty's
goodness - the delicate fingers that are formed for sensitiveness and
sympathy of touch, and made to minister to pain and grief, or the
rough hard Captain Cuttle hand, that the heart teaches, guides, and
softens in a moment!
Florence slept upon her couch, forgetful of her homelessness and
orphanage, and Captain Cuttle watched upon the stairs. A louder sob or
moan than usual, brought him sometimes to her door; but by degrees she
slept more peacefully, and the Captain's watch was undisturbed.
The Midshipman makes a Discovery
It was long before Florence awoke. The day was in its prime, the
day was in its wane, and still, uneasy in mind and body, she slept on;
unconscious of her strange bed, of the noise and turmoil in the
street, and of the light that shone outside the shaded window. Perfect
unconsciousness of what had happened in the home that existed no more,
even the deep slumber of exhaustion could not produce. Some undefined
and mournful recollection of it, dozing uneasily but never sleeping,
pervaded all her rest. A dull sorrow, like a half-lulled sense of
pain, was always present to her; and her pale cheek was oftener wet
with tears than the honest Captain, softly putting in his head from
time to time at the half-closed door, could have desired to see it.
The sun was getting low in the west, and, glancing out of a red
mist, pierced with its rays opposite loopholes and pieces of fretwork
in the spires of city churches, as if with golden arrows that struck
through and through them - and far away athwart the river and its flat
banks, it was gleaming like a path of fire - and out at sea it was
irradiating sails of ships - and, looked towards, from quiet
churchyards, upon hill-tops in the country, it was steeping distant
prospects in a flush and glow that seemed to mingle earth and sky
together in one glorious suffusion - when Florence, opening her heavy
eyes, lay at first, looking without interest or recognition at the
unfamiliar walls around her, and listening in the same regardless
manner to the noises in the street. But presently she started up upon
her couch, gazed round with a surprised and vacant look, and
'My pretty,' said the Captain, knocking at the door, 'what cheer?'
'Dear friend,' cried Florence, hurrying to him, 'is it you?'
The Captain felt so much pride in the name, and was so pleased by
the gleam of pleasure in her face, when she saw him, that he kissed
his hook, by way of reply, in speechless gratification.
'What cheer, bright di'mond?' said the Captain.
'I have surely slept very long,' returned Florence. 'When did I
come here? Yesterday?'
'This here blessed day, my lady lass,' replied the Captain.
'Has there been no night? Is it still day?' asked Florence.
'Getting on for evening now, my pretty,' said the Captain, drawing
back the curtain of the window. 'See!'
Florence, with her hand upon the Captain's arm, so sorrowful and
timid, and the Captain with his rough face and burly figure, so
quietly protective of her, stood in the rosy light of the bright
evening sky, without saying a word. However strange the form of speech
into which he might have fashioned the feeling, if he had had to give
it utterance, the Captain felt, as sensibly as the most eloquent of
men could have done, that there was something in the tranquil time and
in its softened beauty that would make the wounded heart of Florence
overflow; and that it was better that such tears should have their
way. So not a word spake Captain Cuttle. But when he felt his arm
clasped closer, and when he felt the lonely head come nearer to it,
and lay itself against his homely coarse blue sleeve, he pressed it
gently with his rugged hand, and understood it, and was understood.
'Better now, my pretty!' said the Captain. 'Cheerily, cheerily,
I'll go down below, and get some dinner ready. Will you come down of
your own self, arterwards, pretty, or shall Ed'ard Cuttle come and
As Florence assured him that she was quite able to walk downstairs,
the Captain, though evidently doubtful of his own hospitality in
permitting it, left her to do so, and immediately set about roasting a
fowl at the fire in the little parlour. To achieve his cookery with
the greater skill, he pulled off his coat, tucked up his wristbands,
and put on his glazed hat, without which assistant he never applied
himself to any nice or difficult undertaking.
After cooling her aching head and burning face in the fresh water