Dombey and Son
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suggestion she had previously offered to the Captain, Mrs Richards.
Florence brightened at the name. And Susan, setting off that very
afternoon to the Toodle domicile, to sound Mrs Richards, returned in
triumph the same evening, accompanied by the identical rosy-cheeked
apple-faced Polly, whose demonstrations, when brought into Florence's
presence, were hardly less affectionate than those of Susan Nipper
This piece of generalship accomplished; from which the Captain
derived uncommon satisfaction, as he did, indeed, from everything else
that was done, whatever it happened to be; Florence had next to
prepare Susan for their approaching separation. This was a much more
difficult task, as Miss Nipper was of a resolute disposition, and had
fully made up her mind that she had come back never to be parted from
her old mistress any more.
'As to wages dear Miss Floy,' she said, 'you wouldn't hint and
wrong me so as think of naming them, for I've put money by and
wouldn't sell my love and duty at a time like this even if the
Savings' Banks and me were total strangers or the Banks were broke to
pieces, but you've never been without me darling from the time your
poor dear Ma was took away, and though I'm nothing to be boasted of
you're used to me and oh my own dear mistress through so many years
don't think of going anywhere without me, for it mustn't and can't
'Dear Susan, I am going on a long, long voyage.'
'Well Miss Floy, and what of that? the more you'll want me. Lengths
of voyages ain't an object in my eyes, thank God!' said the impetuous
'But, Susan, I am going with Walter, and I would go with Walter
anywhere - everywhere! Walter is poor, and I am very poor, and I must
learn, now, both to help myself, and help him.'
'Dear Miss Floy!' cried Susan, bursting out afresh, and shaking her
head violently, 'it's nothing new to you to help yourself and others
too and be the patientest and truest of noble hearts, but let me talk
to Mr Walter Gay and settle it with him, for suffer you to go away
across the world alone I cannot, and I won't.'
'Alone, Susan?' returned Florence. 'Alone? and Walter taking me
with him!' Ah, what a bright, amazed, enraptured smile was on her
face! - He should have seen it. 'I am sure you will not speak to
Walter if I ask you not,' she added tenderly; 'and pray don't, dear.'
Susan sobbed 'Why not, Miss Floy?'
'Because,' said Florence, 'I am going to be his wife, to give him
up my whole heart, and to live with him and die with him. He might
think, if you said to him what you have said to me, that I am afraid
of what is before me, or that you have some cause to be afraid for me.
Why, Susan, dear, I love him!'
Miss Nipper was so much affected by the quiet fervour of these
words, and the simple, heartfelt, all-pervading earnestness expressed
in them, and making the speaker's face more beautiful and pure than
ever, that she could only cling to her again, crying. Was her little
mistress really, really going to be married, and pitying, caressing,
and protecting her, as she had done before. But the Nipper, though
susceptible of womanly weaknesses, was almost as capable of putting
constraint upon herself as of attacking the redoubtable MacStinger.
From that time, she never returned to the subject, but was always
cheerful, active, bustling, and hopeful. She did, indeed, inform Mr
Toots privately, that she was only 'keeping up' for the time, and that
when it was all over, and Miss Dombey was gone, she might be expected
to become a spectacle distressful; and Mr Toots did also express that
it was his case too, and that they would mingle their tears together;
but she never otherwise indulged her private feelings in the presence
of Florence or within the precincts of the Midshipman.
Limited and plain as Florence's wardrobe was - what a contrast to
that prepared for the last marriage in which she had taken part! -
there was a good deal to do in getting it ready, and Susan Nipper
worked away at her side, all day, with the concentrated zeal of fifty
sempstresses. The wonderful contributions Captain Cuttle would have
made to this branch of the outfit, if he had been permitted - as pink
parasols, tinted silk stockings, blue shoes, and other articles no
less necessary on shipboard - would occupy some space in the recital.
He was induced, however, by various fraudulent representations, to
limit his contributions to a work-box and dressing case, of each of
which he purchased the very largest specimen that could be got for
money. For ten days or a fortnight afterwards, he generally sat,
during the greater part of the day, gazing at these boxes; divided
between extreme admiration of them, and dejected misgivings that they
were not gorgeous enough, and frequently diving out into the street to
purchase some wild article that he deemed necessary to their
completeness. But his master-stroke was, the bearing of them both off,
suddenly, one morning, and getting the two words FLORENCE GAY engraved
upon a brass heart inlaid over the lid of each. After this, he smoked
four pipes successively in the little parlour by himself, and was
discovered chuckling, at the expiration of as many hours.
Walter was busy and away all day, but came there every morning
early to see Florence, and always passed the evening with her.
Florence never left her high rooms but to steal downstairs to wait for
him when it was his time to come, or, sheltered by his proud,
encircling arm, to bear him company to the door again, and sometimes
peep into the street. In the twilight they were always together. Oh
blessed time! Oh wandering heart at rest! Oh deep, exhaustless, mighty
well of love, in which so much was sunk!
The cruel mark was on her bosom yet. It rose against her father
with the breath she drew, it lay between her and her lover when he
pressed her to his heart. But she forgot it. In the beating of that
heart for her, and in the beating of her own for him, all harsher
music was unheard, all stern unloving hearts forgotten. Fragile and
delicate she was, but with a might of love within her that could, and
did, create a world to fly to, and to rest in, out of his one image.
How often did the great house, and the old days, come before her in
the twilight time, when she was sheltered by the arm, so proud, so
fond, and, creeping closer to him, shrunk within it at the
recollection! How often, from remembering the night when she went down
to that room and met the never-to-be forgotten look, did she raise her
eyes to those that watched her with such loving earnestness, and weep
with happiness in such a refuge! The more she clung to it, the more
the dear dead child was in her thoughts: but as if the last time she
had seen her father, had been when he was sleeping and she kissed his
face, she always left him so, and never, in her fancy, passed that
'Walter, dear,' said Florence, one evening, when it was almost
dark.'Do you know what I have been thinking to-day?'
'Thinking how the time is flying on, and how soon we shall be upon
the sea, sweet Florence?'
'I don't mean that, Walter, though I think of that too. I have been
thinking what a charge I am to you.
'A precious, sacred charge, dear heart! Why, I think that
'You are laughing, Walter. I know that's much more in your thoughts
than mine. But I mean a cost.
'A cost, my own?'
'In money, dear. All these preparations that Susan and I are so
busy with - I have been able to purchase very little for myself. You
were poor before. But how much poorer I shall make you, Walter!'
'And how much richer, Florence!'
Florence laughed, and shook her head.
'Besides,' said Walter, 'long ago - before I went to sea - I had a
little purse presented to me, dearest, which had money in it.'
'Ah!' returned Florence, laughing sorrowfully, 'very little! very
little, Walter! But, you must not think,' and here she laid her light
hand on his shoulder, and looked into his face, 'that I regret to be
this burden on you. No, dear love, I am glad of it. I am happy in it.
I wouldn't have it otherwise for all the world!'
'Nor I, indeed, dear Florence.'
'Ay! but, Walter, you can never feel it as I do. I am so proud of
you! It makes my heart swell with such delight to know that those who
speak of you must say you married a poor disowned girl, who had taken
shelter here; who had no other home, no other friends; who had nothing
- nothing! Oh, Walter, if I could have brought you millions, I never
could have been so happy for your sake, as I am!'
'And you, dear Florence? are you nothing?' he returned.
'No, nothing, Walter. Nothing but your wife.' The light hand stole
about his neck, and the voice came nearer - nearer. 'I am nothing any
more, that is not you. I have no earthly hope any more, that is not
you. I have nothing dear to me any more, that is not you.
Oh! well might Mr Toots leave the little company that evening, and
twice go out to correct his watch by the Royal Exchange, and once to
keep an appointment with a banker which he suddenly remembered, and
once to take a little turn to Aldgate Pump and back!
But before he went upon these expeditions, or indeed before he
came, and before lights were brought, Walter said:
'Florence, love, the lading of our ship is nearly finished, and
probably on the very day of our marriage she will drop down the river.
Shall we go away that morning, and stay in Kent until we go on board
at Gravesend within a week?'
'If you please, Walter. I shall be happy anywhere. But - '
'Yes, my life?'
'You know,' said Florence, 'that we shall have no marriage party,
and that nobody will distinguish us by our dress from other people. As
we leave the same day, will you - will you take me somewhere that
morning, Walter - early - before we go to church?'
Walter seemed to understand her, as so true a lover so truly loved
should, and confirmed his ready promise with a kiss - with more than
one perhaps, or two or threes or five or six; and in the grave,
peaceful evening, Florence was very happy.