Dombey and Son
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 Next page
hiding from Mrs MacStinger; and arming himself with his large stick,
in case of an appeal to arms being rendered necessary by any
The pride Captain Cuttle had, in giving his arm to Florence, and
escorting her some two or three hundred yards, keeping a bright
look-out all the time, and attracting the attention of everyone who
passed them, by his great vigilance and numerous precautions, was
extreme. Arrived at the shop, the Captain felt it a point of delicacy
to retire during the making of the purchases, as they were to consist
of wearing apparel; but he previously deposited his tin canister on
the counter, and informing the young lady of the establishment that it
contained fourteen pound two, requested her, in case that amount of
property should not be sufficient to defray the expenses of his
niece's little outfit - at the word 'niece,' he bestowed a most
significant look on Florence, accompanied with pantomime, expressive
of sagacity and mystery - to have the goodness to 'sing out,' and he
would make up the difference from his pocket. Casually consulting his
big watch, as a deep means of dazzling the establishment, and
impressing it with a sense of property, the Captain then kissed his
hook to his niece, and retired outside the window, where it was a
choice sight to see his great face looking in from time to time, among
the silks and ribbons, with an obvious misgiving that Florence had
been spirited away by a back door.
'Dear Captain Cuttle,' said Florence, when she came out with a
parcel, the size of which greatly disappointed the Captain, who had
expected to see a porter following with a bale of goods, 'I don't want
this money, indeed. I have not spent any of it. I have money of my
'My lady lass,' returned the baffled Captain, looking straight down
the street before them, 'take care on it for me, will you be so good,
till such time as I ask ye for it?'
'May I put it back in its usual place,' said Florence, 'and keep it
The Captain was not at all gratified by this proposal, but he
answered, 'Ay, ay, put it anywheres, my lady lass, so long as you know
where to find it again. It ain't o' no use to me,' said the Captain.
'I wonder I haven't chucked it away afore now.
The Captain was quite disheartened for the moment, but he revived
at the first touch of Florence's arm, and they returned with the same
precautions as they had come; the Captain opening the door of the
little Midshipman's berth, and diving in, with a suddenness which his
great practice only could have taught him. During Florence's slumber
in the morning, he had engaged the daughter of an elderly lady who
usually sat under a blue umbrella in Leadenhall Market, selling
poultry, to come and put her room in order, and render her any little
services she required; and this damsel now appearing, Florence found
everything about her as convenient and orderly, if not as handsome, as
in the terrible dream she had once called Home.
When they were alone again, the Captain insisted on her eating a
slice of dry toast' and drinking a glass of spiced negus (which he
made to perfection); and, encouraging her with every kind word and
inconsequential quotation be could possibly think of, led her upstairs
to her bedroom. But he too had something on his mind, and was not easy
in his manner.
'Good-night, dear heart,' said Captain Cuttle to her at her
Florence raised her lips to his face, and kissed him.
At any other time the Captain would have been overbalanced by such
a token of her affection and gratitude; but now, although he was very
sensible of it, he looked in her face with even more uneasiness than
he had testified before, and seemed unwilling to leave her.
'Poor Wal'r!' said the Captain.
'Poor, poor Walter!' sighed Florence.
'Drownded, ain't he?' said the Captain.
Florence shook her head, and sighed.
'Good-night, my lady lass!' said Captain Cuttle, putting out his
'God bless you, dear, kind friend!'
But the Captain lingered still.
'Is anything the matter, dear Captain Cuttle?' said Florence,
easily alarmed in her then state of mind. 'Have you anything to tell
'To tell you, lady lass!' replied the Captain, meeting her eyes in
confusion. 'No, no; what should I have to tell you, pretty! You don't
expect as I've got anything good to tell you, sure?'
'No!' said Florence, shaking her head.
The Captain looked at her wistfully, and repeated 'No,' - ' still
lingering, and still showing embarrassment.
'Poor Wal'r!' said the Captain. 'My Wal'r, as I used to call you!
Old Sol Gills's nevy! Welcome to all as knowed you, as the flowers in
May! Where are you got to, brave boy? Drownded, ain't he?'
Concluding his apostrophe with this abrupt appeal to Florence, the
Captain bade her good-night, and descended the stairs, while Florence
remained at the top, holding the candle out to light him down. He was
lost in the obscurity, and, judging from the sound of his receding
footsteps, was in the act of turning into the little parlour, when his
head and shoulders unexpectedly emerged again, as from the deep,
apparently for no other purpose than to repeat, 'Drownded, ain't he,
pretty?' For when he had said that in a tone of tender condolence, he
Florence was very sorry that she should unwittingly, though
naturally, have awakened these associations in the mind of her
protector, by taking refuge there; and sitting down before the little
table where the Captain had arranged the telescope and song-book, and
those other rarities, thought of Walter, and of all that was connected
with him in the past, until she could have almost wished to lie down
on her bed and fade away. But in her lonely yearning to the dead whom
she had loved, no thought of home - no possibility of going back - no
presentation of it as yet existing, or as sheltering her father - once
entered her thoughts. She had seen the murder done. In the last
lingering natural aspect in which she had cherished him through so
much, he had been torn out of her heart, defaced, and slain. The
thought of it was so appalling to her, that she covered her eyes, and
shrunk trembling from the least remembrance of the deed, or of the
cruel hand that did it. If her fond heart could have held his image
after that, it must have broken; but it could not; and the void was
filled with a wild dread that fled from all confronting with its
shattered fragments - with such a dread as could have risen out of
nothing but the depths of such a love, so wronged.
She dared not look into the glass; for the sight of the darkening
mark upon her bosom made her afraid of herself, as if she bore about
her something wicked. She covered it up, with a hasty, faltering hand,
and in the dark; and laid her weary head down, weeping.
The Captain did not go to bed for a long time. He walked to and fro
in the shop and in the little parlour, for a full hour, and, appearing
to have composed himself by that exercise, sat down with a grave and
thoughtful face, and read out of a Prayer-book the forms of prayer
appointed to be used at sea. These were not easily disposed of; the
good Captain being a mighty slow, gruff reader, and frequently
stopping at a hard word to give himself such encouragement as Now, my
lad! With a will!' or, 'Steady, Ed'ard Cuttle, steady!' which had a
great effect in helping him out of any difficulty. Moreover, his
spectacles greatly interfered with his powers of vision. But
notwithstanding these drawbacks, the Captain, being heartily in
earnest, read the service to the very last line, and with genuine
feeling too; and approving of it very much when he had done, turned
in, under the counter (but not before he had been upstairs, and
listened at Florence's door), with a serene breast, and a most
The Captain turned out several times in the course of the night, to
assure himself that his charge was resting quietly; and once, at
daybreak, found that she was awake: for she called to know if it were
he, on hearing footsteps near her door.
'Yes' my lady lass,' replied the Captain, in a growling whisper.
'Are you all right, di'mond?'
Florence thanked him, and said 'Yes.'
The Captain could not lose so favourable an opportunity of applying
his mouth to the keyhole, and calling through it, like a hoarse
breeze, 'Poor Wal'r! Drownded, ain't he?' after which he withdrew, and
turning in again, slept till seven o'clock.
Nor was he free from his uneasy and embarrassed manner all that
day; though Florence, being busy with her needle in the little
parlour, was more calm and tranquil than she had been on the day
preceding. Almost always when she raised her eyes from her work, she
observed the captain looking at her, and thoughtfully stroking his
chin; and he so often hitched his arm-chair close to her, as if he
were going to say something very confidential, and hitched it away
again, as not being able to make up his mind how to begin, that in the
course of the day he cruised completely round the parlour in that
frail bark, and more than once went ashore against the wainscot or the
closet door, in a very distressed condition.
It was not until the twilight that Captain Cuttle, fairly dropping
anchor, at last, by the side of Florence, began to talk at all
connectedly. But when the light of the fire was shining on the walls
and ceiling of the little room, and on the tea-board and the cups and
saucers that were ranged upon the table, and on her calm face turned
towards the flame, and reflecting it in the tears that filled her
eyes, the Captain broke a long silence thus:
'You never was at sea, my own?'
'No,' replied Florence.
'Ay,' said the Captain, reverentially; 'it's a almighty element.
There's wonders in the deep, my pretty. Think on it when the winds is
roaring and the waves is rowling. Think on it when the stormy nights
is so pitch dark,' said the Captain, solemnly holding up his hook, 'as
you can't see your hand afore you, excepting when the wiwid lightning