Dombey and Son
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The profound appearance of this philosopher, who was bulky and
strong, and on whose extremely red face an expression of taciturnity
sat enthroned, not inconsistent with his character, in which that
quality was proudly conspicuous, almost daunted Captain Cuttle, though
on familiar terms with him. Whispering to Florence that Bunsby had
never in his life expressed surprise, and was considered not to know
what it meant, the Captain watched him as he eyed his mast-head, and
afterwards swept the horizon; and when the revolving eye seemed to be
coming round in his direction, said:
'Bunsby, my lad, how fares it?'
A deep, gruff, husky utterance, which seemed to have no connexion
with Bunsby, and certainly had not the least effect upon his face,
replied, 'Ay, ay, shipmet, how goes it?' At the same time Bunsby's
right hand and arm, emerging from a pocket, shook the Captain's, and
went back again.
'Bunsby,' said the Captain, striking home at once, 'here you are; a
man of mind, and a man as can give an opinion. Here's a young lady as
wants to take that opinion, in regard of my friend Wal'r; likewise my
t'other friend, Sol Gills, which is a character for you to come within
hail of, being a man of science, which is the mother of inwention, and
knows no law. Bunsby, will you wear, to oblige me, and come along with
The great commander, who seemed by expression of his visage to be
always on the look-out for something in the extremest distance' and to
have no ocular knowledge of any anng' within ten miles, made no reply
'Here is a man,' said the Captain, addressing himself to his fair
auditors, and indicating the commander with his outstretched hook,
'that has fell down, more than any man alive; that has had more
accidents happen to his own self than the Seamen's Hospital to all
hands; that took as many spars and bars and bolts about the outside of
his head when he was young, as you'd want a order for on Chatham-yard
to build a pleasure yacht with; and yet that his opinions in that way,
it's my belief, for there ain't nothing like 'em afloat or ashore.'
The stolid commander appeared by a very slight vibration in his
elbows, to express some satisfitction in this encomium; but if his
face had been as distant as his gaze was, it could hardIy have
enlightened the beholders less in reference to anything that was
passing in his thoughts.
'Shipmate,' said Bunsby, all of a sudden, and stooping down to look
out under some interposing spar, 'what'll the ladies drink?'
Captain Cuttle, whose delicacy was shocked by such an inquiry in
connection with Florence, drew the sage aside, and seeming to explain
in his ear, accompanied him below; where, that he might not take
offence, the Captain drank a dram himself' which Florence and Susan,
glancing down the open skylight, saw the sage, with difficulty finding
room for himself between his berth and a very little brass fireplace,
serve out for self and friend. They soon reappeared on deck, and
Captain Cuttle, triumphing in the success of his enterprise, conducted
Florence back to the coach, while Bunsby followed, escorting Miss
Nipper, whom he hugged upon the way (much to that young lady's
indignation) with his pilot-coated arm, like a blue bear.
The Captain put his oracle inside, and gloried so much in having
secured him, and having got that mind into a hackney-coach, that he
could not refrain from often peeping in at Florence through the little
window behind the driver, and testifiing his delight in smiles, and
also in taps upon his forehead, to hint to her that the brain of
Bunsby was hard at it' In the meantime, Bunsby, still hugging Miss
Nipper (for his friend, the Captain, had not exaggerated the softness
of his heart), uniformily preserved his gravity of deportment, and
showed no other consciousness of her or anything.
Uncle Sol, who had come home, received them at the door, and
ushered them immediately into the little back parlour: strangely
altered by the absence of Walter. On the table, and about the room,
were the charts and maps on which the heavy-hearted Instrument-maker
had again and again tracked the missing vessel across the sea, and on
which, with a pair of compasses that he still had in his hand, he had
been measuring, a minute before, how far she must have driven, to have
driven here or there: and trying to demonstrate that a long time must
elapse before hope was exhausted.
'Whether she can have run,' said Uncle Sol, looking wistfully over
the chart; 'but no, that's almost impossible or whether she can have
been forced by stress of weather, - but that's not reasonably likely.
Or whether there is any hope she so far changed her course as - but
even I can hardly hope that!' With such broken suggestions, poor old
Uncle Sol roamed over the great sheet before him, and could not find a
speck of hopeful probability in it large enough to set one small point
of the compasses upon.
Florence saw immediately - it would have been difficult to help
seeing - that there was a singular, indescribable change in the old
man, and that while his manner was far more restless and unsettled
than usual, there was yet a curious, contradictory decision in it,
that perplexed her very much. She fancied once that he spoke wildly,
and at random; for on her saying she regretted not to have seen him
when she had been there before that morning, he at first replied that
he had been to see her, and directly afterwards seemed to wish to
recall that answer.
'You have been to see me?' said Florence. 'To-day?'
'Yes, my dear young lady,' returned Uncle Sol, looking at her and
away from her in a confused manner. 'I wished to see you with my own
eyes, and to hear you with my own ears, once more before - ' There he
'Before when? Before what?' said Florence, putting her hand upon
'Did I say "before?"' replied old Sol. 'If I did, I must have meant
before we should have news of my dear boy.'
'You are not well,' said Florence, tenderly. 'You have been so very
anxious I am sure you are not well.'
'I am as well,' returned the old man, shutting up his right hand,
and holding it out to show her: 'as well and firm as any man at my
time of life can hope to be. See! It's steady. Is its master not as
capable of resolution and fortitude as many a younger man? I think so.
We shall see.'
There was that in his manner more than in his words, though they
remained with her too, which impressed Florence so much, that she
would have confided her uneasiness to Captain Cuttle at that moment,
if the Captain had not seized that moment for expounding the state of
circumstance, on which the opinion of the sagacious Bunsby was
requested, and entreating that profound authority to deliver the same.
Bunsby, whose eye continued to be addressed to somewhere about the
half-way house between London and Gravesend, two or three times put
out his rough right arm, as seeking to wind it for inspiration round
the fair form of Miss Nipper; but that young female having withdrawn
herself, in displeasure, to the opposite side of the table, the soft
heart of the Commander of the Cautious Clara met with no response to
its impulses. After sundry failures in this wise, the Commander,
addressing himself to nobody, thus spake; or rather the voice within
him said of its own accord, and quite independent of himself, as if he
were possessed by a gruff spirit:
'My name's Jack Bunsby!'
'He was christened John,' cried the delighted Captain Cuttle. 'Hear
'And what I says,' pursued the voice, after some deliberation, 'I
The Captain, with Florence on his arm, nodded at the auditory, and
seemed to say, 'Now he's coming out. This is what I meant when I
'Whereby,' proceeded the voice, 'why not? If so, what odds? Can any
man say otherwise? No. Awast then!'
When it had pursued its train of argument to this point, the voice
stopped, and rested. It then proceeded very slowly, thus:
'Do I believe that this here Son and Heir's gone down, my lads?
Mayhap. Do I say so? Which? If a skipper stands out by Sen' George's
Channel, making for the Downs, what's right ahead of him? The
Goodwins. He isn't foroed to run upon the Goodwins, but he may. The
bearings of this observation lays in the application on it. That ain't
no part of my duty. Awast then, keep a bright look-out for'ard, and
good luck to you!'
The voice here went out of the back parlour and into the street,
taking the Commander of the Cautious Clara with it, and accompanying
him on board again with all convenient expedition, where he
immediately turned in, and refreshed his mind with a nap.
The students of the sage's precepts, left to their own application
of his wisdom - upon a principle which was the main leg of the Bunsby
tripod, as it is perchance of some other oracular stools - looked upon
one another in a little uncertainty; while Rob the Grinder, who had
taken the innocent freedom of peering in, and listening, through the
skylight in the roof, came softly down from the leads, in a state of
very dense confusion. Captain Cuttle, however, whose admiration of
Bunsby was, if possible, enhanced by the splendid manner in which he
had justified his reputation and come through this solemn reference,
proceeded to explain that Bunsby meant nothing but confidence; that
Bunsby had no misgivings; and that such an opinion as that man had
given, coming from such a mind as his, was Hope's own anchor, with
good roads to cast it in. Florence endeavoured to believe that the
Captain was right; but the Nipper, with her arms tight folded, shook
her head in resolute denial, and had no more trust m Bunsby than in Mr
The philosopher seemed to have left Uncle Sol pretty much where he
had found him, for he still went roaming about the watery world,
compasses in hand, and discovering no rest for them. It was in
pursuance of a whisper in his ear from Florence, while the old man was
absorbed in this pursuit, that Captain Cuttle laid his heavy hand upon
'What cheer, Sol Gills?' cried the Captain, heartily.
'But so-so, Ned,' returned the Instrument-maker. 'I have been
remembering, all this afternoon, that on the very day when my boy