Dombey and Son
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'No, Wally, no,' replied the old man; 'everything I hear about Miss
Dombey, now that she is left alone, poor lamb, I'll write. I fear it
won't be much though, Wally.'
'Why, I'll tell you what, Uncle,' said Walter, after a moment's
hesitation, 'I have just been up there.'
'Ay, ay, ay?' murmured the old man, raising his eyebrows, and his
spectacles with them.
'Not to see her,' said Walter, 'though I could have seen her, I
daresay, if I had asked, Mr Dombey being out of town: but to say a
parting word to Susan. I thought I might venture to do that, you know,
under the circumstances, and remembering when I saw Miss Dombey last.'
'Yes, my boy, yes,' replied his Uncle, rousing himself from a
'So I saw her,' pursued Walter, 'Susan, I mean: and I told her I
was off and away to-morrow. And I said, Uncle, that you had always had
an interest in Miss Dombey since that night when she was here, and
always wished her well and happy, and always would be proud and glad
to serve her in the least: I thought I might say that, you know, under
the circumstances. Don't you think so ?'
'Yes, my boy, yes,' replied his Uncle, in the tone as before.
'And I added,' pursued Walter, 'that if she - Susan, I mean - could
ever let you know, either through herself, or Mrs Richards, or anybody
else who might be coming this way, that Miss Dombey was well and
happy, you would take it very kindly, and would write so much to me,
and I should take it very kindly too. There! Upon my word, Uncle,'
said Walter, 'I scarcely slept all last night through thinking of
doing this; and could not make up my mind when I was out, whether to
do it or not; and yet I am sure it is the true feeling of my heart,
and I should have been quite miserable afterwards if I had not
His honest voice and manner corroborated what he said, and quite
established its ingenuousness.
'So, if you ever see her, Uncle,' said Walter, 'I mean Miss Dombey
now - and perhaps you may, who knows! - tell her how much I felt for
her; how much I used to think of her when I was here; how I spoke of
her, with the tears in my eyes, Uncle, on this last night before I
went away. Tell her that I said I never could forget her gentle
manner, or her beautiful face, or her sweet kind disposition that was
better than all. And as I didn't take them from a woman's feet, or a
young lady's: only a little innocent child's,' said Walter: 'tell her,
if you don't mind, Uncle, that I kept those shoes - she'll remember
how often they fell off, that night - and took them away with me as a
They were at that very moment going out at the door in one of
Walter's trunks. A porter carrying off his baggage on a truck for
shipment at the docks on board the Son and Heir, had got possession of
them; and wheeled them away under the very eye of the insensible
Midshipman before their owner had well finished speaking.
But that ancient mariner might have been excused his insensibility
to the treasure as it rolled away. For, under his eye at the same
moment, accurately within his range of observation, coming full into
the sphere of his startled and intensely wide-awake look-out, were
Florence and Susan Nipper: Florence looking up into his face half
timidly, and receiving the whole shock of his wooden ogling!
More than this, they passed into the shop, and passed in at the
parlour door before they were observed by anybody but the Midshipman.
And Walter, having his back to the door, would have known nothing of
their apparition even then, but for seeing his Uncle spring out of his
own chair, and nearly tumble over another.
'Why, Uncle!' exclaimed Walter. 'What's the matter?'
Old Solomon replied, 'Miss Dombey!'
'Is it possible?' cried Walter, looking round and starting up in
his turn. 'Here!'
Why, It was so possible and so actual, that, while the words were
on his lips, Florence hurried past him; took Uncle Sol's
snuff-coloured lapels, one in each hand; kissed him on the cheek; and
turning, gave her hand to Walter with a simple truth and earnestness
that was her own, and no one else's in the world!
'Going away, Walter!' said Florence.
'Yes, Miss Dombey,' he replied, but not so hopefully as he
endeavoured: 'I have a voyage before me.'
'And your Uncle,' said Florence, looking back at Solomon. 'He is
sorry you are going, I am sure. Ah! I see he is! Dear Walter, I am
very sorry too.'
'Goodness knows,' exclaimed Miss Nipper, 'there's a many we could
spare instead, if numbers is a object, Mrs Pipchin as a overseer would
come cheap at her weight in gold, and if a knowledge of black slavery
should be required, them Blimbers is the very people for the
With that Miss Nipper untied her bonnet strings, and alter looking
vacantly for some moments into a little black teapot that was set
forth with the usual homely service on the table, shook her head and a
tin canister, and began unasked to make the tea.
In the meantime Florence had turned again to the Instrument-maker,
who was as full of admiration as surprise. 'So grown!' said old Sol.
'So improved! And yet not altered! Just the same!'
'Indeed!' said Florence.
'Ye - yes,' returned old Sol, rubbing his hands slowly, and
considering the matter half aloud, as something pensive in the bright
eyes looking at him arrested his attention. 'Yes, that expression was
in the younger face, too!'
'You remember me,' said Florence with a smile, 'and what a little
creature I was then?'
'My dear young lady,' returned the Instrument-maker, 'how could I
forget you, often as I have thought of you and heard of you since! At
the very moment, indeed, when you came in, Wally was talking about you
to me, and leaving messages for you, and - '
'Was he?' said Florence. 'Thank you, Walter! Oh thank you, Walter!
I was afraid you might be going away and hardly thinking of me;' and
again she gave him her little hand so freely and so faithfully that
Walter held it for some moments in his own, and could not bear to let
Yet Walter did not hold it as he might have held it once, nor did
its touch awaken those old day-dreams of his boyhood that had floated
past him sometimes even lately, and confused him with their indistinct
and broken shapes. The purity and innocence of her endearing manner,
and its perfect trustfulness, and the undisguised regard for him that
lay so deeply seated in her constant eyes, and glowed upon her fair
face through the smile that shaded - for alas! it was a smile too sad
to brighten - it, were not of their romantic race. They brought back
to his thoughts the early death-bed he had seen her tending, and the
love the child had borne her; and on the wings of such remembrances
she seemed to rise up, far above his idle fancies, into clearer and
'I - I am afraid I must call you Walter's Uncle, Sir,' said
Florence to the old man, 'if you'll let me.'
'My dear young lady,' cried old Sol. 'Let you! Good gracious!'
'We always knew you by that name, and talked of you,' said
Florence, glancing round, and sighing gently. 'The nice old parlour!
Just the same! How well I recollect it!'
Old Sol looked first at her, then at his nephew, and then rubbed
his hands, and rubbed his spectacles, and said below his breath, 'Ah!
time, time, time!'
There was a short silence; during which Susan Nipper skilfully
impounded two extra cups and saucers from the cupboard, and awaited
the drawing of the tea with a thoughtful air.
'I want to tell Walter's Uncle,' said Florence, laying her hand
timidly upon the old man's as it rested on the table, to bespeak his
attention, 'something that I am anxious about. He is going to be left
alone, and if he will allow me - not to take Walter's place, for that
I couldn't do, but to be his true friend and help him if I ever can
while Walter is away, I shall be very much obliged to him indeed. Will
you? May I, Walter's Uncle?'
The Instrument-maker, without speaking, put her hand to his lips,
and Susan Nipper, leaning back with her arms crossed, in the chair of
presidency into which she had voted herself, bit one end of her bonnet
strings, and heaved a gentle sigh as she looked up at the skylight.
'You will let me come to see you,' said Florence, 'when I can; and
you will tell me everything about yourself and Walter; and you will
have no secrets from Susan when she comes and I do not, but will
confide in us, and trust us, and rely upon us. And you'll try to let
us be a comfort to you? Will you, Walter's Uncle?'
The sweet face looking into his, the gentle pleading eyes, the soft
voice, and the light touch on his arm made the more winning by a
child's respect and honour for his age, that gave to all an air of
graceful doubt and modest hesitation - these, and her natural
earnestness, so overcame the poor old Instrument-maker, that he only
'Wally! say a word for me, my dear. I'm very grateful.'
'No, Walter,' returned Florence with her quiet smile. 'Say nothing
for him, if you please. I understand him very well, and we must learn
to talk together without you, dear Walter.'
The regretful tone in which she said these latter words, touched
Walter more than all the rest.
'Miss Florence,' he replied, with an effort to recover the cheerful
manner he had preserved while talking with his Uncle, 'I know no more
than my Uncle, what to say in acknowledgment of such kindness, I am