Dombey and Son
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sure. But what could I say, after all, if I had the power of talking
for an hour, except that it is like you?'
Susan Nipper began upon a new part of her bonnet string, and nodded
at the skylight, in approval of the sentiment expressed.
'Oh! but, Walter,' said Florence, 'there is something that I wish
to say to you before you go away, and you must call me Florence, if
you please, and not speak like a stranger.'
'Like a stranger!' returned Walter, 'No. I couldn't speak so. I am
sure, at least, I couldn't feel like one.'
'Ay, but that is not enough, and is not what I mean. For, Walter,'
added Florence, bursting into tears, 'he liked you very much, and said
before he died that he was fond of you, and said "Remember Walter!"
and if you'll be a brother to me, Walter, now that he is gone and I
have none on earth, I'll be your sister all my life, and think of you
like one wherever we may be! This is what I wished to say, dear
Walter, but I cannot say it as I would, because my heart is full.'
And in its fulness and its sweet simplicity, she held out both her
hands to him. Walter taking them, stooped down and touched the tearful
face that neither shrunk nor turned away, nor reddened as he did so,
but looked up at him with confidence and truth. In that one moment,
every shadow of doubt or agitation passed away from Walter's soul. It
seemed to him that he responded to her innocent appeal, beside the
dead child's bed: and, in the solemn presence he had seen there,
pledged himself to cherish and protect her very image, in his
banishment, with brotherly regard; to garner up her simple faith,
inviolate; and hold himself degraded if he breathed upon it any
thought that was not in her own breast when she gave it to him.
Susan Nipper, who had bitten both her bonnet strings at once, and
imparted a great deal of private emotion to the skylight, during this
transaction, now changed the subject by inquiring who took milk and
who took sugar; and being enlightened on these points, poured out the
tea. They all four gathered socially about the little table, and took
tea under that young lady's active superintendence; and the presence
of Florence in the back parlour, brightened the Tartar frigate on the
Half an hour ago Walter, for his life, would have hardly called her
by her name. But he could do so now when she entreated him. He could
think of her being there, without a lurking misgiving that it would
have been better if she had not come. He could calmly think how
beautiful she was, how full of promise, what a home some happy man
would find in such a heart one day. He could reflect upon his own
place in that heart, with pride; and with a brave determination, if
not to deserve it - he still thought that far above him - never to
deserve it less
Some fairy influence must surely have hovered round the hands of
Susan Nipper when she made the tea, engendering the tranquil air that
reigned in the back parlour during its discussion. Some
counter-influence must surely have hovered round the hands of Uncle
Sol's chronometer, and moved them faster than the Tartar frigate ever
went before the wind. Be this as it may, the visitors had a coach in
waiting at a quiet corner not far off; and the chronometer, on being
incidentally referred to, gave such a positive opinion that it had
been waiting a long time, that it was impossible to doubt the fact,
especially when stated on such unimpeachable authority. If Uncle Sol
had been going to be hanged by his own time, he never would have
allowed that the chronometer was too fast, by the least fraction of a
Florence at parting recapitulated to the old man all that she had
said before, and bound him to the compact. Uncle Sol attended her
lovingly to the legs of the wooden Midshipman, and there resigned her
to Walter, who was ready to escort her and Susan Nipper to the coach.
'Walter,' said Florence by the way, 'I have been afraid to ask
before your Uncle. Do you think you will be absent very long?'
'Indeed,' said Walter, 'I don't know. I fear so. Mr Dombey
signified as much, I thought, when he appointed me.'
'Is it a favour, Walter?' inquired Florence, after a moment's
hesitation, and looking anxiously in his face.
'The appointment?' returned Walter.
Walter would have given anything to have answered in the
affirmative, but his face answered before his lips could, and Florence
was too attentive to it not to understand its reply.
'I am afraid you have scarcely been a favourite with Papa,' she
'There is no reason,' replied Walter, smiling, 'why I should be.'
'No reason, Walter!'
'There was no reason,' said Walter, understanding what she meant.
'There are many people employed in the House. Between Mr Dombey and a
young man like me, there's a wide space of separation. If I do my
duty, I do what I ought, and do no more than all the rest.'
Had Florence any misgiving of which she was hardly conscious: any
misgiving that had sprung into an indistinct and undefined existence
since that recent night when she had gone down to her father's room:
that Walter's accidental interest in her, and early knowledge of her,
might have involved him in that powerful displeasure and dislike? Had
Walter any such idea, or any sudden thought that it was in her mind at
that moment? Neither of them hinted at it. Neither of them spoke at
all, for some short time. Susan, walking on the other side of Walter,
eyed them both sharply; and certainly Miss Nipper's thoughts travelled
in that direction, and very confidently too.
'You may come back very soon,' said Florence, 'perhaps, Walter.'
'I may come back,' said Walter, 'an old man, and find you an old
lady. But I hope for better things.'
'Papa,' said Florence, after a moment, 'will - will recover from
his grief, and - speak more freely to me one day, perhaps; and if he
should, I will tell him how much I wish to see you back again, and ask
him to recall you for my sake.'
There was a touching modulation in these words about her father,
that Walter understood too well.
The coach being close at hand, he would have left her without
speaking, for now he felt what parting was; but Florence held his hand
when she was seated, and then he found there was a little packet in
'Walter,' she said, looking full upon him with her affectionate
eyes, 'like you, I hope for better things. I will pray for them, and
believe that they will arrive. I made this little gift for Paul. Pray
take it with my love, and do not look at it until you are gone away.
And now, God bless you, Walter! never forget me. You are my brother,
He was glad that Susan Nipper came between them, or he might have
left her with a sorrowful remembrance of him. He was glad too that she
did not look out of the coach again, but waved the little hand to him
instead, as long as he could see it.
In spite of her request, he could not help opening the packet that
night when he went to bed. It was a little purse: and there was was
money in it.
Bright rose the sun next morning, from his absence in strange
countries and up rose Walter with it to receive the Captain, who was
already at the door: having turned out earlier than was necessary, in
order to get under weigh while Mrs MacStinger was still slumbering.
The Captain pretended to be in tip-top spirits, and brought a very
smoky tongue in one of the pockets of the of the broad blue coat for
'And, Wal'r,' said the Captain, when they took their seats at
table, if your Uncle's the man I think him, he'll bring out the last
bottle of the Madeira on the present occasion.'
'No, no, Ned,' returned the old man. 'No! That shall be opened when
Walter comes home again.'
'Well said!' cried the Captain. 'Hear him!'
'There it lies,' said Sol Gills, 'down in the little cellar,
covered with dirt and cobwebs. There may be dirt and cobwebs over you
and me perhaps, Ned, before it sees the light.'
'Hear him! 'cried the Captain. 'Good morality! Wal'r, my lad. Train
up a fig-tree in the way it should go, and when you are old sit under
the shade on it. Overhaul the - Well,' said the Captain on second
thoughts, 'I ain't quite certain where that's to be found, but when
found, make a note of. Sol Gills, heave ahead again!'
'But there or somewhere, it shall lie, Ned, until Wally comes back
to claim it,' said the old man. 'That's all I meant to say.'
'And well said too,' returned the Captain; 'and if we three don't
crack that bottle in company, I'll give you two leave to.'
Notwithstanding the Captain's excessive joviality, he made but a
poor hand at the smoky tongue, though he tried very hard, when anybody
looked at him, to appear as if he were eating with a vast apetite. He
was terribly afraid, likewise, of being left alone with either Uncle
or nephew; appearing to consider that his only chance of safety as to
keeping up appearances, was in there being always three together. This
terror on the part of the Captain, reduced him to such ingenious
evasions as running to the door, when Solomon went to put his coat on,
under pretence of having seen an extraordinary hackney-coach pass: and
darting out into the road when Walter went upstairs to take leave of
the lodgers, on a feint of smelling fire in a neighbouring chimney.
These artifices Captain Cuttle deemed inscrutable by any uninspired
Walter was coming down from his parting expedition upstairs, and
was crossing the shop to go back to the little parlour, when he saw a
faded face he knew, looking in at the door, and darted towards it.
'Mr Carker!' cried Walter, pressing the hand of John Carker the
Junior. 'Pray come in! This is kind of you, to be here so early to say
good-bye to me. You knew how glad it would make me to shake hands with
you, once, before going away. I cannot say how glad I am to have this