Dombey and Son
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write to you! But why not? He says, in effect, in this packet that you
gave me,' taking the paper from his pocket, which had been opened in
the presence of the enlightened Bunsby, 'that if you never hear from
him before opening it, you may believe him dead. Heaven forbid! But
you would have heard of him, even if he were dead! Someone would have
written, surely, by his desire, if he could not; and have said, "on
such a day, there died in my house," or "under my care," or so forth,
"Mr Solomon Gills of London, who left this last remembrance and this
last request to you".'
The Captain, who had never climbed to such a clear height of
probability before, was greatly impressed by the wide prospect it
opened, and answered, with a thoughtful shake of his head, 'Well said,
my lad; wery well said.'
'I have been thinking of this, or, at least,' said Walter,
colouring, 'I have been thinking of one thing and another, all through
a sleepless night, and I cannot believe, Captain Cuttle, but that my
Uncle Sol (Lord bless him!) is alive, and will return. I don't so much
wonder at his going away, because, leaving out of consideration that
spice of the marvellous which was always in his character, and his
great affection for me, before which every other consideration of his
life became nothing, as no one ought to know so well as I who had the
best of fathers in him,' - Walter's voice was indistinct and husky
here, and he looked away, along the street, - 'leaving that out of
consideration, I say, I have often read and heard of people who,
having some near and dear relative, who was supposed to be shipwrecked
at sea, have gone down to live on that part of the sea-shore where any
tidings of the missing ship might be expected to arrive, though only
an hour or two sooner than elsewhere, or have even gone upon her track
to the place whither she was bound, as if their going would create
intelligence. I think I should do such a thing myself, as soon as
another, or sooner than many, perhaps. But why my Uncle shouldn't
write to you, when he so clearly intended to do so, or how he should
die abroad, and you not know it through some other hand, I cannot make
Captain Cuttle observed, with a shake of his head, that Jack Bunsby
himself hadn't made it out, and that he was a man as could give a
pretty taut opinion too.
'If my Uncle had been a heedless young man, likely to be entrapped
by jovial company to some drinking-place, where he was to be got rid
of for the sake of what money he might have about him,' said Walter;
'or if he had been a reckless sailor, going ashore with two or three
months' pay in his pocket, I could understand his disappearing, and
leaving no trace behind. But, being what he was - and is, I hope - I
can't believe it.'
'Wal'r, my lad,' inquired the Captain, wistfully eyeing him as he
pondered and pondered, 'what do you make of it, then?'
'Captain Cuttle,' returned Walter, 'I don't know what to make of
it. I suppose he never has written! There is no doubt about that?'
'If so be as Sol Gills wrote, my lad,' replied the Captain,
argumentatively, 'where's his dispatch?'
'Say that he entrusted it to some private hand,' suggested Walter,
'and that it has been forgotten, or carelessly thrown aside, or lost.
Even that is more probable to me, than the other event. In short, I
not only cannot bear to contemplate that other event, Captain Cuttle,
but I can't, and won't.'
'Hope, you see, Wal'r,' said the Captain, sagely, 'Hope. It's that
as animates you. Hope is a buoy, for which you overhaul your Little
Warbler, sentimental diwision, but Lord, my lad, like any other buoy,
it only floats; it can't be steered nowhere. Along with the
figure-head of Hope,' said the Captain, 'there's a anchor; but what's
the good of my having a anchor, if I can't find no bottom to let it go
Captain Cuttle said this rather in his character of a sagacious
citizen and householder, bound to impart a morsel from his stores of
wisdom to an inexperienced youth, than in his own proper person.
Indeed, his face was quite luminous as he spoke, with new hope, caught
from Walter; and he appropriately concluded by slapping him on the
back; and saying, with enthusiasm, 'Hooroar, my lad! Indiwidually, I'm
o' your opinion.' Walter, with his cheerful laugh, returned the
salutation, and said:
'Only one word more about my Uncle at present' Captain Cuttle. I
suppose it is impossible that he can have written in the ordinary
course - by mail packet, or ship letter, you understand - '
'Ay, ay, my lad,' said the Captain approvingly.
And that you have missed the letter, anyhow?'
'Why, Wal'r,' said the Captain, turning his eyes upon him with a
faint approach to a severe expression, 'ain't I been on the look-out
for any tidings of that man o' science, old Sol Gills, your Uncle, day
and night, ever since I lost him? Ain't my heart been heavy and
watchful always, along of him and you? Sleeping and waking, ain't I
been upon my post, and wouldn't I scorn to quit it while this here
Midshipman held together!'
'Yes, Captain Cuttle,' replied Walter, grasping his hand, 'I know
you would, and I know how faithful and earnest all you say and feel
is. I am sure of it. You don't doubt that I am as sure of it as I am
that my foot is again upon this door-step, or that I again have hold
of this true hand. Do you?'
'No, no, Wal'r,' returned the Captain, with his beaming
'I'll hazard no more conjectures,' said Walter, fervently shaking
the hard hand of the Captain, who shook his with no less goodwill.
'All I will add is, Heaven forbid that I should touch my Uncle's
possessions, Captain Cuttle! Everything that he left here, shall
remain in the care of the truest of stewards and kindest of men - and
if his name is not Cuttle, he has no name! Now, best of friends, about
- Miss Dombey.'
There was a change in Walter's manner, as he came to these two
words; and when he uttered them, all his confidence and cheerfulness
appeared to have deserted him.
'I thought, before Miss Dombey stopped me when I spoke of her
father last night,' said Walter, ' - you remember how?'
The Captain well remembered, and shook his head.
'I thought,' said Walter, 'before that, that we had but one hard
duty to perform, and that it was, to prevail upon her to communicate
with her friends, and to return home.'
The Captain muttered a feeble 'Awast!' or a 'Stand by!' or
something or other, equally pertinent to the occasion; but it was
rendered so extremely feeble by the total discomfiture with which he
received this announcement, that what it was, is mere matter of
'But,' said Walter, 'that is over. I think so, no longer. I would
sooner be put back again upon that piece of wreck, on which I have so
often floated, since my preservation, in my dreams, and there left to
drift, and drive, and die!'
'Hooroar, my lad!' exclaimed the Captain, in a burst of
uncontrollable satisfaction. 'Hooroar! hooroar! hooroar!'
'To think that she, so young, so good, and beautiful,' said Walter,
'so delicately brought up, and born to such a different fortune,
should strive with the rough world! But we have seen the gulf that
cuts off all behind her, though no one but herself can know how deep
it is; and there is no return.
Captain Cuttle, without quite understanding this, greatly approved
of it, and observed in a tone of strong corroboration, that the wind
was quite abaft.
'She ought not to be alone here; ought she, Captain Cuttle?' said
'Well, my lad,' replied the Captain, after a little sagacious
consideration. 'I don't know. You being here to keep her company, you
see, and you two being jintly - '
'Dear Captain Cuttle!' remonstrated Walter. 'I being here! Miss
Dombey, in her guileless innocent heart, regards me as her adopted
brother; but what would the guile and guilt of my heart be, if I
pretended to believe that I had any right to approach her, familiarly,
in that character - if I pretended to forget that I am bound, in
honour, not to do it?'
'Wal'r, my lad,' hinted the Captain, with some revival of his
discomfiture, 'ain't there no other character as - '
'Oh!' returned Walter, 'would you have me die in her esteem - in
such esteem as hers - and put a veil between myself and her angel's
face for ever, by taking advantage of her being here for refuge, so
trusting and so unprotected, to endeavour to exalt myself into her
lover? What do I say? There is no one in the world who would be more
opposed to me if I could do so, than you.'
'Wal'r, my lad,' said the Captain, drooping more and more,
'prowiding as there is any just cause or impediment why two persons
should not be jined together in the house of bondage, for which you'll
overhaul the place and make a note, I hope I should declare it as
promised and wowed in the banns. So there ain't no other character;
ain't there, my lad?'
Walter briskly waved his hand in the negative.
'Well, my lad,' growled the Captain slowly, 'I won't deny but what
I find myself wery much down by the head, along o' this here, or but
what I've gone clean about. But as to Lady lass, Wal'r, mind you,
wot's respect and duty to her, is respect and duty in my articles,
howsumever disapinting; and therefore I follows in your wake, my lad,
and feel as you are, no doubt, acting up to yourself. And there ain't
no other character, ain't there?' said the Captain, musing over the
ruins of his fallen castle, with a very despondent face.
'Now, Captain Cuttle,' said Walter, starting a fresh point with a
gayer air, to cheer the Captain up - but nothing could do that; he was
too much concerned - 'I think we should exert ourselves to find
someone who would be a proper attendant for Miss Dombey while she
remains here, and who may be trusted. None of her relations may. It's
clear Miss Dombey feels that they are all subservient to her father.
What has become of Susan?'