Dombey and Son
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produce her with every dispatch that devotion on my part, and great
intelligence on the Chicken's, can ensure.
Mr Toots was so manifestly delighted and revived by the prospect of
being useful, and the disinterested sincerity of his devotion was so
unquestionable, that it would have been cruel to refuse him. Florence,
with an instinctive delicacy, forbore to urge the least obstacle,
though she did not forbear to overpower him with thanks; and Mr Toots
proudly took the commission upon himself for immediate execution.
'Miss Dombey,' said Mr Toots, touching her proffered hand, with a
pang of hopeless love visibly shooting through him, and flashing out
in his face, 'Good-bye! Allow me to take the liberty of saying, that
your misfortunes make me perfectly wretched, and that you may trust
me, next to Captain Gills himself. I am quite aware, Miss Dombey, of
my own deficiencies - they're not of the least consequence, thank you
- but I am entirely to be relied upon, I do assure you, Miss Dombey.'
With that Mr Toots came out of the room, again accompanied by the
Captain, who, standing at a little distance, holding his hat under his
arm and arranging his scattered locks with his hook, had been a not
uninterested witness of what passed. And when the door closed behind
them, the light of Mr Toots's life was darkly clouded again.
'Captain Gills,' said that gentleman, stopping near the bottom of
the stairs, and turning round, 'to tell you the truth, I am not in a
frame of mind at the present moment, in which I could see Lieutenant
Walters with that entirely friendly feeling towards him that I should
wish to harbour in my breast. We cannot always command our feelings,
Captain Gills, and I should take it as a particular favour if you'd
let me out at the private door.'
'Brother,' returned the Captain, 'you shall shape your own course.
Wotever course you take, is plain and seamanlike, I'm wery sure.
'Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'you're extremely kind. Your good
opinion is a consolation to me. There is one thing,' said Mr Toots,
standing in the passage, behind the half-opened door, 'that I hope
you'll bear in mind, Captain Gills, and that I should wish Lieutenant
Walters to be made acquainted with. I have quite come into my property
now, you know, and - and I don't know what to do with it. If I could
be at all useful in a pecuniary point of view, I should glide into the
silent tomb with ease and smoothness.'
Mr Toots said no more, but slipped out quietly and shut the door
upon himself, to cut the Captain off from any reply.
Florence thought of this good creature, long after he had left her,
with mingled emotions of pain and pleasure. He was so honest and
warm-hearted, that to see him again and be assured of his truth to her
in her distress, was a joy and comfort beyond all price; but for that
very reason, it was so affecting to think that she caused him a
moment's unhappiness, or ruffled, by a breath, the harmless current of
his life, that her eyes filled with tears, and her bosom overflowed
with pity. Captain Cuttle, in his different way, thought much of Mr
Toots too; and so did Walter; and when the evening came, and they were
all sitting together in Florence's new room, Walter praised him in a
most impassioned manner, and told Florence what he had said on leaving
the house, with every graceful setting-off in the way of comment and
appreciation that his own honesty and sympathy could surround it with.
Mr Toots did not return upon the next day, or the next, or for
several days; and in the meanwhile Florence, without any new alarm,
lived like a quiet bird in a cage, at the top of the old
Instrument-maker's house. But Florence drooped and hung her head more
and more plainly, as the days went on; and the expression that had
been seen in the face of the dead child, was often turned to the sky
from her high window, as if it sought his angel out, on the bright
shore of which he had spoken: lying on his little bed.
Florence had been weak and delicate of late, and the agitation she
had undergone was not without its influences on her health. But it was
no bodily illness that affected her now. She was distressed in mind;
and the cause of her distress was Walter.
Interested in her, anxious for her, proud and glad to serve her,
and showing all this with the enthusiasm and ardour of his character,
Florence saw that he avoided her. All the long day through, he seldom
approached her room. If she asked for him, he came, again for the
moment as earnest and as bright as she remembered him when she was a
lost child in the staring streets; but he soon became constrained -
her quick affection was too watchful not to know it - and uneasy, and
soon left her. Unsought, he never came, all day, between the morning
and the night. When the evening closed in, he was always there, and
that was her happiest time, for then she half believed that the old
Walter of her childhood was not changed. But, even then, some trivial
word, look, or circumstance would show her that there was an
indefinable division between them which could not be passed.
And she could not but see that these revealings of a great
alteration in Walter manifested themselves in despite of his utmost
efforts to hide them. In his consideration for her, she thought, and
in the earnestness of his desire to spare her any wound from his kind
hand, he resorted to innumerable little artifices and disguises. So
much the more did Florence feel the greatness of the alteration in
him; so much the oftener did she weep at this estrangement of her
The good Captain - her untiring, tender, ever zealous friend - saw
it, too, Florence thought, and it pained him. He was less cheerful and
hopeful than he had been at first, and would steal looks at her and
Walter, by turns, when they were all three together of an evening,
with quite a sad face.
Florence resolved, at last, to speak to Walter. She believed she
knew now what the cause of his estrangement was, and she thought it
would be a relief to her full heart, and would set him more at ease,
if she told him she had found it out, and quite submitted to it, and
did not reproach him.
It was on a certain Sunday afternoon, that Florence took this
resolution. The faithful Captain, in an amazing shirt-collar, was
sitting by her, reading with his spectacles on, and she asked him
where Walter was.
'I think he's down below, my lady lass,' returned the Captain.
'I should like to speak to him,' said Florence, rising hurriedly as
if to go downstairs.
'I'll rouse him up here, Beauty,' said the Captain, 'in a trice.'
Thereupon the Captain, with much alacrity, shouldered his book -
for he made it a point of duty to read none but very large books on a
Sunday, as having a more staid appearance: and had bargained, years
ago, for a prodigious volume at a book-stall, five lines of which
utterly confounded him at any time, insomuch that he had not yet
ascertained of what subject it treated - and withdrew. Walter soon
'Captain Cuttle tells me, Miss Dombey,' he eagerly began on coming
in - but stopped when he saw her face.
'You are not so well to-day. You look distressed. You have been
He spoke so kindly, and with such a fervent tremor in his voice,
that the tears gushed into her eyes at the sound of his words.
'Walter,' said Florence, gently, 'I am not quite well, and I have
been weeping. I want to speak to you.'
He sat down opposite to her, looking at her beautiful and innocent
face; and his own turned pale, and his lips trembled.
'You said, upon the night when I knew that you were saved - and oh!
dear Walter, what I felt that night, and what I hoped!' - '
He put his trembling hand upon the table between them, and sat
looking at her.
- 'that I was changed. I was surprised to hear you say so, but I
understand, now, that I am. Don't be angry with me, Walter. I was too
much overjoyed to think of it, then.'
She seemed a child to him again. It was the ingenuous, confiding,
loving child he saw and heard. Not the dear woman, at whose feet he
would have laid the riches of the earth.
'You remember the last time I saw you, Walter, before you went
He put his hand into his breast, and took out a little purse.
'I have always worn it round my neck! If I had gone down in the
deep, it would have been with me at the bottom of the sea.'
'And you will wear it still, Walter, for my old sake?'
'Until I die!'
She laid her hand on his, as fearlessly and simply, as if not a day
had intervened since she gave him the little token of remembrance.
'I am glad of that. I shall be always glad to think so, Walter. Do
you recollect that a thought of this change seemed to come into our
minds at the same time that evening, when we were talking together?'
'No!' he answered, in a wondering tone.
'Yes, Walter. I had been the means of injuring your hopes and
prospects even then. I feared to think so, then, but I know it now. If
you were able, then, in your generosity, to hide from me that you knew
it too, you cannot do so now, although you try as generously as
before. You do. I thank you for it, Walter, deeply, truly; but you
cannot succeed. You have suffered too much in your own hardships, and
in those of your dearest relation, quite to overlook the innocent
cause of all the peril and affliction that has befallen you. You
cannot quite forget me in that character, and we can be brother and
sister no longer. But, dear Walter, do not think that I complain of
you in this. I might have known it - ought to have known it - but
forgot it in my joy. All I hope is that you may think of me less
irksomely when this feeling is no more a secret one; and all I ask is,
Walter, in the name of the poor child who was your sister once, that
you will not struggle with yourself, and pain yourself, for my sake,
now that I know all!'
Walter had looked upon her while she said this, with a face so full
of wonder and amazement, that it had room for nothing else. Now he
caught up the hand that touched his, so entreatingly, and held it