Dombey and Son
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Amazing Artfulness of Captain Cuttle, and a new Pursuit for Walter Gay
Walter could not, for several days, decide what to do in the
Barbados business; and even cherished some faint hope that Mr Dombey
might not have meant what he had said, or that he might change his
mind, and tell him he was not to go. But as nothing occurred to give
this idea (which was sufficiently improbable in itself) any touch of
confirmation, and as time was slipping by, and he had none to lose, he
felt that he must act, without hesitating any longer.
Walter's chief difficulty was, how to break the change in his
affairs to Uncle Sol, to whom he was sensible it would he a terrible
blow. He had the greater difficulty in dashing Uncle Sol's spirits
with such an astounding piece of intelligence, because they had lately
recovered very much, and the old man had become so cheerful, that the
little back parlour was itself again. Uncle Sol had paid the first
appointed portion of the debt to Mr Dombey, and was hopeful of working
his way through the rest; and to cast him down afresh, when he had
sprung up so manfully from his troubles, was a very distressing
Yet it would never do to run away from him. He must know of it
beforehand; and how to tell him was the point. As to the question of
going or not going, Walter did not consider that he had any power of
choice in the matter. Mr Dombey had truly told him that he was young,
and that his Uncle's circumstances were not good; and Mr Dombey had
plainly expressed, in the glance with which he had accompanied that
reminder, that if he declined to go he might stay at home if he chose,
but not in his counting-house. His Uncle and he lay under a great
obligation to Mr Dombey, which was of Walter's own soliciting. He
might have begun in secret to despair of ever winning that gentleman's
favour, and might have thought that he was now and then disposed to
put a slight upon him, which was hardly just. But what would have been
duty without that, was still duty with it - or Walter thought so- and
duty must be done.
When Mr Dombey had looked at him, and told him he was young, and
that his Uncle's circumstances were not good, there had been an
expression of disdain in his face; a contemptuous and disparaging
assumption that he would be quite content to live idly on a reduced
old man, which stung the boy's generous soul. Determined to assure Mr
Dombey, in so far as it was possible to give him the assurance without
expressing it in words, that indeed he mistook his nature, Walter had
been anxious to show even more cheerfulness and activity after the
West Indian interview than he had shown before: if that were possible,
in one of his quick and zealous disposition. He was too young and
inexperienced to think, that possibly this very quality in him was not
agreeable to Mr Dombey, and that it was no stepping-stone to his good
opinion to be elastic and hopeful of pleasing under the shadow of his
powerful displeasure, whether it were right or wrong. But it may have
been - it may have been- that the great man thought himself defied in
this new exposition of an honest spirit, and purposed to bring it
'Well! at last and at least, Uncle Sol must be told,' thought
Walter, with a sigh. And as Walter was apprehensive that his voice
might perhaps quaver a little, and that his countenance might not be
quite as hopeful as he could wish it to be, if he told the old man
himself, and saw the first effects of his communication on his
wrinkled face, he resolved to avail himself of the services of that
powerful mediator, Captain Cuttle. Sunday coming round, he set off
therefore, after breakfast, once more to beat up Captain Cuttle's
It was not unpleasant to remember, on the way thither, that Mrs
MacStinger resorted to a great distance every Sunday morning, to
attend the ministry of the Reverend Melchisedech Howler, who, having
been one day discharged from the West India Docks on a false suspicion
(got up expressly against him by the general enemy) of screwing
gimlets into puncheons, and applying his lips to the orifice, had
announced the destruction of the world for that day two years, at ten
in the morning, and opened a front parlour for the reception of ladies
and gentlemen of the Ranting persuasion, upon whom, on the first
occasion of their assemblage, the admonitions of the Reverend
Melchisedech had produced so powerful an effect, that, in their
rapturous performance of a sacred jig, which closed the service, the
whole flock broke through into a kitchen below, and disabled a mangle
belonging to one of the fold.
This the Captain, in a moment of uncommon conviviality, had
confided to Walter and his Uncle, between the repetitions of lovely
Peg, on the night when Brogley the broker was paid out. The Captain
himself was punctual in his attendance at a church in his own
neighbourhood, which hoisted the Union Jack every Sunday morning; and
where he was good enough - the lawful beadle being infirm - to keep an
eye upon the boys, over whom he exercised great power, in virtue of
his mysterious hook. Knowing the regularity of the Captain's habits,
Walter made all the haste he could, that he might anticipate his going
out; and he made such good speed, that he had the pleasure, on turning
into Brig Place, to behold the broad blue coat and waistcoat hanging
out of the Captain's oPen window, to air in the sun.
It appeared incredible that the coat and waistcoat could be seen by
mortal eyes without the Captain; but he certainly was not in them,
otherwise his legs - the houses in Brig Place not being lofty- would
have obstructed the street door, which was perfectly clear. Quite
wondering at this discovery, Walter gave a single knock.
'Stinger,' he distinctly heard the Captain say, up in his room, as
if that were no business of his. Therefore Walter gave two knocks.
'Cuttle,' he heard the Captain say upon that; and immediately
afterwards the Captain, in his clean shirt and braces, with his
neckerchief hanging loosely round his throat like a coil of rope, and
his glazed hat on, appeared at the window, leaning out over the broad
blue coat and waistcoat.
'Wal'r!' cried the Captain, looking down upon him in amazement.
'Ay, ay, Captain Cuttle,' returned Walter, 'only me'
'What's the matter, my lad?' inquired the Captain, with great
concern. 'Gills an't been and sprung nothing again?'
'No, no,' said Walter. 'My Uncle's all right, Captain Cuttle.'
The Captain expressed his gratification, and said he would come
down below and open the door, which he did.
'Though you're early, Wal'r,' said the Captain, eyeing him still
doubtfully, when they got upstairs:
'Why, the fact is, Captain Cuttle,' said Walter, sitting down, 'I
was afraid you would have gone out, and I want to benefit by your
'So you shall,' said the Captain; 'what'll you take?'
'I want to take your opinion, Captain Cuttle,' returned Walter,
smiling. 'That's the only thing for me.'
'Come on then,' said the Captain. 'With a will, my lad!'
Walter related to him what had happened; and the difficulty in
which he felt respecting his Uncle, and the relief it would be to him
if Captain Cuttle, in his kindness, would help him to smooth it away;
Captain Cuttle's infinite consternation and astonishment at the
prospect unfolded to him, gradually swallowing that gentleman up,
until it left his face quite vacant, and the suit of blue, the glazed
hat, and the hook, apparently without an owner.
'You see, Captain Cuttle,' pursued Walter, 'for myself, I am young,
as Mr Dombey said, and not to be considered. I am to fight my way
through the world, I know; but there are two points I was thinking, as
I came along, that I should be very particular about, in respect to my
Uncle. I don't mean to say that I deserve to be the pride and delight
of his life - you believe me, I know - but I am. Now, don't you think
The Captain seemed to make an endeavour to rise from the depths of
his astonishment, and get back to his face; but the effort being
ineffectual, the glazed hat merely nodded with a mute, unutterable
'If I live and have my health,' said Walter, 'and I am not afraid
of that, still, when I leave England I can hardly hope to see my Uncle
again. He is old, Captain Cuttle; and besides, his life is a life of
custom - '
'Steady, Wal'r! Of a want of custom?' said the Captain, suddenly
'Too true,' returned Walter, shaking his head: 'but I meant a life
of habit, Captain Cuttle - that sort of custom. And if (as you very
truly said, I am sure) he would have died the sooner for the loss of
the stock, and all those objects to which he has been accustomed for
so many years, don't you think he might die a little sooner for the
loss of - '
'Of his Nevy,' interposed the Captain. 'Right!'
'Well then,' said Walter, trying to speak gaily, 'we must do our
best to make him believe that the separation is but a temporary one,
after all; but as I know better, or dread that I know better, Captain
Cuttle, and as I have so many reasons for regarding him with
affection, and duty, and honour, I am afraid I should make but a very
poor hand at that, if I tried to persuade him of it. That's my great
reason for wishing you to break it out to him; and that's the first
'Keep her off a point or so!' observed the Captain, in a
'What did you say, Captain Cuttle?' inquired Walter.
'Stand by!' returned the Captain, thoughtfully.
Walter paused to ascertain if the Captain had any particular
information to add to this, but as he said no more, went on.
'Now, the second point, Captain Cuttle. I am sorry to say, I am not
a favourite with Mr Dombey. I have always tried to do my best, and I
have always done it; but he does not like me. He can't help his
likings and dislikings, perhaps. I say nothing of that. I only say
that I am certain he does not like me. He does not send me to this
post as a good one; he disclaims to represent it as being better than
it is; and I doubt very much if it will ever lead me to advancement in
the House - whether it does not, on the contrary, dispose of me for