Dombey and Son
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One fact was quite clear to the Captain, as Walter, sitting
thoughtfully over his untasted dinner, dwelt on all that had happened;
namely, that however Walter's modesty might stand in the way of his
perceiving it himself, he was, as one might say, a member of Mr
Dombey's family. He had been, in his own person, connected with the
incident he so pathetically described; he had been by name remembered
and commended in close association with it; and his fortunes must have
a particular interest in his employer's eyes. If the Captain had any
lurking doubt whatever of his own conclusions, he had not the least
doubt that they were good conclusions for the peace of mind of the
Instrument-maker. Therefore he availed himself of so favourable a
moment for breaking the West Indian intelligence to his friend, as a
piece of extraordinary preferment; declaring that for his part he
would freely give a hundred thousand pounds (if he had it) for
Walter's gain in the long-run, and that he had no doubt such an
investment would yield a handsome premium.
Solomon Gills was at first stunned by the communication, which fell
upon the little back-parlour like a thunderbolt, and tore up the
hearth savagely. But the Captain flashed such golden prospects before
his dim sight: hinted so mysteriously at 'Whittingtonian consequences;
laid such emphasis on what Walter had just now told them: and appealed
to it so confidently as a corroboration of his predictions, and a
great advance towards the realisation of the romantic legend of Lovely
Peg: that he bewildered the old man. Walter, for his part, feigned to
be so full of hope and ardour, and so sure of coming home again soon,
and backed up the Captain with such expressive shakings of his head
and rubbings of his hands, that Solomon, looking first at him then at
Captain Cuttle, began to think he ought to be transported with joy.
'But I'm behind the time, you understand,' he observed in apology,
passing his hand nervously down the whole row of bright buttons on his
coat, and then up again, as if they were beads and he were telling
them twice over: 'and I would rather have my dear boy here. It's an
old-fashioned notion, I daresay. He was always fond of the sea He's' -
and he looked wistfully at Walter - 'he's glad to go.'
'Uncle Sol!' cried Walter, quickly, 'if you say that, I won't go.
No, Captain Cuttle, I won't. If my Uncle thinks I could be glad to
leave him, though I was going to be made Governor of all the Islands
in the West Indies, that's enough. I'm a fixture.'
'Wal'r, my lad,' said the Captain. 'Steady! Sol Gills, take an
observation of your nevy.
Following with his eyes the majestic action of the Captain's hook,
the old man looked at Walter.
'Here is a certain craft,' said the Captain, with a magnificent
sense of the allegory into which he was soaring, 'a-going to put out
on a certain voyage. What name is wrote upon that craft indelibly? Is
it The Gay? or,' said the Captain, raising his voice as much as to
say, observe the point of this, 'is it The Gills?'
'Ned,' said the old man, drawing Walter to his side, and taking his
arm tenderly through his, 'I know. I know. Of course I know that Wally
considers me more than himself always. That's in my mind. When I say
he is glad to go, I mean I hope he is. Eh? look you, Ned and you too,
Wally, my dear, this is new and unexpected to me; and I'm afraid my
being behind the time, and poor, is at the bottom of it. Is it really
good fortune for him, do you tell me, now?' said the old man, looking
anxiously from one to the other. 'Really and truly? Is it? I can
reconcile myself to almost anything that advances Wally, but I won't
have Wally putting himself at any disadvantage for me, or keeping
anything from me. You, Ned Cuttle!' said the old man, fastening on the
Captain, to the manifest confusion of that diplomatist; 'are you
dealing plainly by your old friend? Speak out, Ned Cuttle. Is there
anything behind? Ought he to go? How do you know it first, and why?'
As it was a contest of affection and self-denial, Walter struck in
with infinite effect, to the Captain's relief; and between them they
tolerably reconciled old Sol Gills, by continued talking, to the
project; or rather so confused him, that nothing, not even the pain of
separation, was distinctly clear to his mind.
He had not much time to balance the matter; for on the very next
day, Walter received from Mr Carker the Manager, the necessary
credentials for his passage and outfit, together with the information
that the Son and Heir would sail in a fortnight, or within a day or
two afterwards at latest. In the hurry of preparation: which Walter
purposely enhanced as much as possible: the old man lost what little
selfpossession he ever had; and so the time of departure drew on
The Captain, who did not fail to make himself acquainted with all
that passed, through inquiries of Walter from day to day, found the
time still tending on towards his going away, without any occasion
offering itself, or seeming likely to offer itself, for a better
understanding of his position. It was after much consideration of this
fact, and much pondering over such an unfortunate combination of
circumstances, that a bright idea occurred to the Captain. Suppose he
made a call on Mr Carker, and tried to find out from him how the land
Captain Cuttle liked this idea very much. It came upon him in a
moment of inspiration, as he was smoking an early pipe in Brig Place
after breakfast; and it was worthy of the tobacco. It would quiet his
conscience, which was an honest one, and was made a little uneasy by
what Walter had confided to him, and what Sol Gills had said; and it
would be a deep, shrewd act of friendship. He would sound Mr Carker
carefully, and say much or little, just as he read that gentleman's
character, and discovered that they got on well together or the
Accordingly, without the fear of Walter before his eyes (who he
knew was at home packing), Captain Cuttle again assumed his
ankle-jacks and mourning brooch, and issued forth on this second
expedition. He purchased no propitiatory nosegay on the present
occasion, as he was going to a place of business; but he put a small
sunflower in his button-hole to give himself an agreeable relish of
the country; and with this, and the knobby stick, and the glazed hat,
bore down upon the offices of Dombey and Son.
After taking a glass of warm rum-and-water at a tavern close by, to
collect his thoughts, the Captain made a rush down the court, lest its
good effects should evaporate, and appeared suddenly to Mr Perch.
'Matey,' said the Captain, in persuasive accents. 'One of your
Governors is named Carker.' Mr Perch admitted it; but gave him to
understand, as in official duty bound, that all his Governors were
engaged, and never expected to be disengaged any more.
'Look'ee here, mate,' said the Captain in his ear; 'my name's
The Captain would have hooked Perch gently to him, but Mr Perch
eluded the attempt; not so much in design, as in starting at the
sudden thought that such a weapon unexpectedly exhibited to Mrs Perch
might, in her then condition, be destructive to that lady's hopes.
'If you'll be so good as just report Cap'en Cuttle here, when you
get a chance,' said the Captain, 'I'll wait.'
Saying which, the Captain took his seat on Mr Perch's bracket, and
drawing out his handkerchief from the crown of the glazed hat which he
jammed between his knees (without injury to its shape, for nothing
human could bend it), rubbed his head well all over, and appeared
refreshed. He subsequently arranged his hair with his hook, and sat
looking round the office, contemplating the clerks with a serene
The Captain's equanimity was so impenetrable, and he was altogether
so mysterious a being, that Perch the messenger was daunted.
'What name was it you said?' asked Mr Perch, bending down over him
as he sat on the bracket.
'Cap'en,' in a deep hoarse whisper.
'Yes,' said Mr Perch, keeping time with his head.
'Oh!' said Mr Perch, in the same tone, for he caught it, and
couldn't help it; the Captain, in his diplomacy, was so impressive.
'I'll see if he's disengaged now. I don't know. Perhaps he may be for
'Ay, ay, my lad, I won't detain him longer than a minute,' said the
Captain, nodding with all the weighty importance that he felt within
him. Perch, soon returning, said, 'Will Captain Cuttle walk this way?'
Mr Carker the Manager, standing on the hearth-rug before the empty
fireplace, which was ornamented with a castellated sheet of brown
paper, looked at the Captain as he came in, with no very special
'Mr Carker?' said Captain Cuttle.
'I believe so,' said Mr Carker, showing all his teeth.
The Captain liked his answering with a smile; it looked pleasant.
'You see,' began the Captain, rolling his eyes slowly round the little
room, and taking in as much of it as his shirt-collar permitted; 'I'm
a seafaring man myself, Mr Carker, and Wal'r, as is on your books
here, is almost a son of mine.'
'Walter Gay?' said Mr Carker, showing all his teeth again.
'Wal'r Gay it is,' replied the Captain, 'right!' The Captain's
manner expressed a warm approval of Mr Carker's quickness of
perception. 'I'm a intimate friend of his and his Uncle's. Perhaps,'
said the Captain, 'you may have heard your head Governor mention my
name? - Captain Cuttle.'
'No!' said Mr Carker, with a still wider demonstration than before.
'Well,' resumed the Captain, 'I've the pleasure of his
acquaintance. I waited upon him down on the Sussex coast there, with
my young friend Wal'r, when - in short, when there was a little
accommodation wanted.' The Captain nodded his head in a manner that
was at once comfortable, easy, and expressive. 'You remember, I
'I think,' said Mr Carker, 'I had the honour of arranging the
'To be sure!' returned the Captain. 'Right again! you had. Now I've
took the liberty of coming here -