Dombey and Son
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with Mr Toots, exclaiming, as he waved his hook above his head,
'Hooroar, my lad, hooroar!' To which Mr Toots, wholly at a loss to
account for these proceedings, replied with great politeness,
'Certainly, Captain Gills, whatever you think proper!'
The weather-beaten pea-coat, and a no less weather-beaten cap and
comforter belonging to it, turned from the Captain and from Florence
back to Walter, and sounds came from the weather-beaten pea-coat, cap,
and comforter, as of an old man sobbing underneath them; while the
shaggy sleeves clasped Walter tight. During this pause, there was an
universal silence, and the Captain polished his nose with great
diligence. But when the pea-coat, cap, and comforter lifted themselves
up again, Florence gently moved towards them; and she and Walter
taking them off, disclosed the old Instrument-maker, a little thinner
and more careworn than of old, in his old Welsh wig and his old
coffee-coloured coat and basket buttons, with his old infallible
chronometer ticking away in his pocket.
'Chock full o' science,' said the radiant Captain, 'as ever he was!
Sol Gills, Sol Gills, what have you been up to, for this many a long
day, my ould boy?'
'I'm half blind, Ned,' said the old man, 'and almost deaf and dumb
'His wery woice,' said the Captain, looking round with an
exultation to which even his face could hardly render justice - 'his
wery woice as chock full o' science as ever it was! Sol Gills, lay to,
my lad, upon your own wines and fig-trees like a taut ould patriark as
you are, and overhaul them there adwentures o' yourn, in your own
formilior woice. 'Tis the woice,' said the Captain, impressively, and
announcing a quotation with his hook, 'of the sluggard, I heerd him
complain, you have woke me too soon, I must slumber again. Scatter his
ene-mies, and make 'em fall!'
The Captain sat down with the air of a man who had happily
expressed the feeling of everybody present, and immediately rose again
to present Mr Toots, who was much disconcerted by the arrival of
anybody, appearing to prefer a claim to the name of Gills.
'Although,' stammered Mr Toots, 'I had not the pleasure of your
acquaintance, Sir, before you were - you were - '
'Lost to sight, to memory dear,' suggested the Captain, in a low
Exactly so, Captain Gills!' assented Mr Toots. 'Although I had not
the pleasure of your acquaintance, Mr - Mr Sols,' said Toots, hitting
on that name in the inspiration of a bright idea, 'before that
happened, I have the greatest pleasure, I assure you, in - you know,
in knowing you. I hope,' said Mr Toots, 'that you're as well as can be
With these courteous words, Mr Toots sat down blushing and
The old Instrument-maker, seated in a corner between Walter and
Florence, and nodding at Polly, who was looking on, all smiles and
delight, answered the Captain thus:
'Ned Cuttle, my dear boy, although I have heard something of the
changes of events here, from my pleasant friend there - what a
pleasant face she has to be sure, to welcome a wanderer home!' said
the old man, breaking off, and rubbing his hands in his old dreamy
'Hear him!' cried the Captain gravely. ''Tis woman as seduces all
mankind. For which,' aside to Mr Toots, 'you'll overhaul your Adam and
'I shall make a point of doing so, Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots.
'Although I have heard something of the changes of events, from
her,' resumed the Instrument-maker, taking his old spectacles from his
pocket, and putting them on his forehead in his old manner, 'they are
so great and unexpected, and I am so overpowered by the sight of my
dear boy, and by the,' - glancing at the downcast eyes of Florence,
and not attempting to finish the sentence - 'that I - I can't say much
to-night. But my dear Ned Cuttle, why didn't you write?'
The astonishment depicted in the Captain's features positively
frightened Mr Toots, whose eyes were quite fixed by it, so that he
could not withdraw them from his face.
'Write!' echoed the Captain. 'Write, Sol Gills?'
'Ay,' said the old man, 'either to Barbados, or Jamaica, or
Demerara, That was what I asked.'
'What you asked, Sol Gills?' repeated the Captain.
'Ay,' said the old man. 'Don't you know, Ned? Sure you have not
forgotten? Every time I wrote to you.'
The Captain took off his glazed hat, hung it on his hook, and
smoothing his hair from behind with his hand, sat gazing at the group
around him: a perfect image of wondering resignation.
'You don't appear to understand me, Ned!' observed old Sol.
'Sol Gills,' returned the Captain, after staring at him and the
rest for a long time, without speaking, 'I'm gone about and adrift.
Pay out a word or two respecting them adwenturs, will you! Can't I
bring up, nohows? Nohows?' said the Captain, ruminating, and staring
'You know, Ned,' said Sol Gills, 'why I left here. Did you open my
'Why, ay, ay,' said the Captain. 'To be sure, I opened the packet.'
'And read it?' said the old man.
'And read it,' answered the Captain, eyeing him attentively, and
proceeding to quote it from memory. '"My dear Ned Cuttle, when I left
home for the West Indies in forlorn search of intelligence of my
dear-" There he sits! There's Wal'r!' said the Captain, as if he were
relieved by getting hold of anything that was real and indisputable.
'Well, Ned. Now attend a moment!' said the old man. 'When I wrote
first - that was from Barbados - I said that though you would receive
that letter long before the year was out, I should be glad if you
would open the packet, as it explained the reason of my going away.
Very good, Ned. When I wrote the second, third, and perhaps the fourth
times - that was from Jamaica - I said I was in just the same state,
couldn't rest, and couldn't come away from that part of the world,
without knowing that my boy was lost or saved. When I wrote next -
that, I think, was from Demerara, wasn't it?'
'That he thinks was from Demerara, warn't it!' said the Captain,
looking hopelessly round.
'I said,' proceeded old Sol, 'that still there was no certain
information got yet. That I found many captains and others, in that
part of the world, who had known me for years, and who assisted me
with a passage here and there, and for whom I was able, now and then,
to do a little in return, in my own craft. That everyone was sorry for
me, and seemed to take a sort of interest in my wanderings; and that I
began to think it would be my fate to cruise about in search of
tidings of my boy, until I died.'
'Began to think as how he was a scientific Flying Dutchman!' said
the Captain, as before, and with great seriousness.
'But when the news come one day, Ned, - that was to Barbados, after
I got back there, - that a China trader home'ard bound had been spoke,
that had my boy aboard, then, Ned, I took passage in the next ship and
came home; arrived at home to-night to find it true, thank God!' said
the old man, devoutly.
The Captain, after bowing his head with great reverence, stared all
round the circle, beginning with Mr Toots, and ending with the
Instrument-maker; then gravely said:
'Sol Gills! The observation as I'm a-going to make is calc'lated to
blow every stitch of sail as you can carry, clean out of the
bolt-ropes, and bring you on your beam ends with a lurch. Not one of
them letters was ever delivered to Ed'ard Cuttle. Not one o' them
letters,' repeated the Captain, to make his declaration the more
solemn and impressive, 'was ever delivered unto Ed'ard Cuttle,
Mariner, of England, as lives at home at ease, and doth improve each
'And posted by my own hand! And directed by my own hand, Number
nine Brig Place!' exclaimed old Sol.
The colour all went out of the Captain's face and all came back
again in a glow.
'What do you mean, Sol Gills, my friend, by Number nine Brig
Place?' inquired the Captain.
'Mean? Your lodgings, Ned,' returned the old man. 'Mrs
What's-her-name! I shall forget my own name next, but I am behind the
present time - I always was, you recollect - and very much confused.
Mrs - '
'Sol Gills!' said the Captain, as if he were putting the most
improbable case in the world, 'it ain't the name of MacStinger as
you're a trying to remember?'
'Of course it is!' exclaimed the Instrument-maker. 'To be sure Ned.
Captain Cuttle, whose eyes were now as wide open as they would be,
and the knobs upon whose face were perfectly luminous, gave a long
shrill whistle of a most melancholy sound, and stood gazing at
everybody in a state of speechlessness.
'Overhaul that there again, Sol Gills, will you be so kind?' he
said at last.
'All these letters,' returned Uncle Sol, beating time with the
forefinger of his right hand upon the palm of his left, with a
steadiness and distinctness that might have done honour, even to the
infallible chronometer in his pocket, 'I posted with my own hand, and
directed with my own hand, to Captain Cuttle, at Mrs MacStinger's,
Number nine Brig Place.'
The Captain took his glazed hat off his hook, looked into it, put