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Mr Toots's Complaint
There was an empty room above-stairs at the wooden Midshipman's,
which, in days of yore, had been Walter's bedroom. Walter, rousing up
the Captain betimes in the morning, proposed that they should carry
thither such furniture out of the little parlour as would grace it
best, so that Florence might take possession of it when she rose. As
nothing could be more agreeable to Captain Cuttle than making himself
very red and short of breath in such a cause, he turned to (as he
himself said) with a will; and, in a couple of hours, this garret was
transformed into a species of land-cabin, adorned with all the
choicest moveables out of the parlour, inclusive even of the Tartar
frigate, which the Captain hung up over the chimney-piece with such
extreme delight, that he could do nothing for half-an-hour afterwards
but walk backward from it, lost in admiration.
The Captain could be indueed by no persuasion of Walter's to wind
up the big watch, or to take back the canister, or to touch the
sugar-tongs and teaspoons. 'No, no, my lad;' was the Captain's
invariable reply to any solicitation of the kind, 'I've made that
there little property over, jintly.' These words he repeated with
great unction and gravity, evidently believing that they had the
virtue of an Act of Parliament, and that unless he committed himself
by some new admission of ownership, no flaw could be found in such a
form of conveyance.
It was an advantage of the new arrangement, that besides the
greater seclusion it afforded Florence, it admitted of the Midshipman
being restored to his usual post of observation, and also of the shop
shutters being taken down. The latter ceremony, however little
importance the unconscious Captain attached to it, was not wholly
superfluous; for, on the previous day, so much excitement had been
occasioned in the neighbourhood, by the shutters remaining unopened,
that the Instrument-maker's house had been honoured with an unusual
share of public observation, and had been intently stared at from the
opposite side of the way, by groups of hungry gazers, at any time
between sunrise and sunset. The idlers and vagabonds had been
particularly interested in the Captain's fate; constantly grovelling
in the mud to apply their eyes to the cellar-grating, under the
shop-window, and delighting their imaginations with the fancy that
they could see a piece of his coat as he hung in a corner; though this
settlement of him was stoutly disputed by an opposite faction, who
were of opinion that he lay murdered with a hammer, on the stairs. It
was not without exciting some discontent, therefore, that the subject
of these rumours was seen early in the morning standing at his
shop-door as hale and hearty as if nothing had happened; and the
beadle of that quarter, a man of an ambitious character, who had
expected to have the distinction of being present at the breaking open
of the door, and of giving evidence in full uniform before the
coroner, went so far as to say to an opposite neighbour, that the chap
in the glazed hat had better not try it on there - without more
particularly mentioning what - and further, that he, the beadle, would
keep his eye upon him.
'Captain Cuttle,' said Walter, musing, when they stood resting from
their labours at the shop-door, looking down the old familiar street;
it being still early in the morning; 'nothing at all of Uncle Sol, in
all that time!'
'Nothing at all, my lad,' replied the Captain, shaking his head.
'Gone in search of me, dear, kind old man,' said Walter: 'yet never
write to you! But why not? He says, in effect, in this packet that you
gave me,' taking the paper from his pocket, which had been opened in
the presence of the enlightened Bunsby, 'that if you never hear from
him before opening it, you may believe him dead. Heaven forbid! But
you would have heard of him, even if he were dead! Someone would have
written, surely, by his desire, if he could not; and have said, "on
such a day, there died in my house," or "under my care," or so forth,
"Mr Solomon Gills of London, who left this last remembrance and this
last request to you".'
The Captain, who had never climbed to such a clear height of
probability before, was greatly impressed by the wide prospect it
opened, and answered, with a thoughtful shake of his head, 'Well said,
my lad; wery well said.'
'I have been thinking of this, or, at least,' said Walter,
colouring, 'I have been thinking of one thing and another, all through
a sleepless night, and I cannot believe, Captain Cuttle, but that my
Uncle Sol (Lord bless him!) is alive, and will return. I don't so much
wonder at his going away, because, leaving out of consideration that
spice of the marvellous which was always in his character, and his
great affection for me, before which every other consideration of his
life became nothing, as no one ought to know so well as I who had the
best of fathers in him,' - Walter's voice was indistinct and husky
here, and he looked away, along the street, - 'leaving that out of
consideration, I say, I have often read and heard of people who,
having some near and dear relative, who was supposed to be shipwrecked
at sea, have gone down to live on that part of the sea-shore where any
tidings of the missing ship might be expected to arrive, though only
an hour or two sooner than elsewhere, or have even gone upon her track
to the place whither she was bound, as if their going would create
intelligence. I think I should do such a thing myself, as soon as
another, or sooner than many, perhaps. But why my Uncle shouldn't
write to you, when he so clearly intended to do so, or how he should
die abroad, and you not know it through some other hand, I cannot make
Captain Cuttle observed, with a shake of his head, that Jack Bunsby
himself hadn't made it out, and that he was a man as could give a
pretty taut opinion too.
'If my Uncle had been a heedless young man, likely to be entrapped
by jovial company to some drinking-place, where he was to be got rid
of for the sake of what money he might have about him,' said Walter;
'or if he had been a reckless sailor, going ashore with two or three
months' pay in his pocket, I could understand his disappearing, and
leaving no trace behind. But, being what he was - and is, I hope - I
can't believe it.'
'Wal'r, my lad,' inquired the Captain, wistfully eyeing him as he
pondered and pondered, 'what do you make of it, then?'
'Captain Cuttle,' returned Walter, 'I don't know what to make of
it. I suppose he never has written! There is no doubt about that?'
'If so be as Sol Gills wrote, my lad,' replied the Captain,
argumentatively, 'where's his dispatch?'
'Say that he entrusted it to some private hand,' suggested Walter,
'and that it has been forgotten, or carelessly thrown aside, or lost.
Even that is more probable to me, than the other event. In short, I
not only cannot bear to contemplate that other event, Captain Cuttle,
but I can't, and won't.'
'Hope, you see, Wal'r,' said the Captain, sagely, 'Hope. It's that
as animates you. Hope is a buoy, for which you overhaul your Little
Warbler, sentimental diwision, but Lord, my lad, like any other buoy,
it only floats; it can't be steered nowhere. Along with the
figure-head of Hope,' said the Captain, 'there's a anchor; but what's
the good of my having a anchor, if I can't find no bottom to let it go
Captain Cuttle said this rather in his character of a sagacious
citizen and householder, bound to impart a morsel from his stores of
wisdom to an inexperienced youth, than in his own proper person.
Indeed, his face was quite luminous as he spoke, with new hope, caught
from Walter; and he appropriately concluded by slapping him on the
back; and saying, with enthusiasm, 'Hooroar, my lad! Indiwidually, I'm
o' your opinion.' Walter, with his cheerful laugh, returned the
salutation, and said:
'Only one word more about my Uncle at present' Captain Cuttle. I
suppose it is impossible that he can have written in the ordinary
course - by mail packet, or ship letter, you understand - '
'Ay, ay, my lad,' said the Captain approvingly.
And that you have missed the letter, anyhow?'
'Why, Wal'r,' said the Captain, turning his eyes upon him with a
faint approach to a severe expression, 'ain't I been on the look-out
for any tidings of that man o' science, old Sol Gills, your Uncle, day
and night, ever since I lost him? Ain't my heart been heavy and
watchful always, along of him and you? Sleeping and waking, ain't I
been upon my post, and wouldn't I scorn to quit it while this here
Midshipman held together!'
'Yes, Captain Cuttle,' replied Walter, grasping his hand, 'I know
you would, and I know how faithful and earnest all you say and feel
is. I am sure of it. You don't doubt that I am as sure of it as I am
that my foot is again upon this door-step, or that I again have hold
of this true hand. Do you?'
'No, no, Wal'r,' returned the Captain, with his beaming
'I'll hazard no more conjectures,' said Walter, fervently shaking
the hard hand of the Captain, who shook his with no less goodwill.
'All I will add is, Heaven forbid that I should touch my Uncle's
possessions, Captain Cuttle! Everything that he left here, shall
remain in the care of the truest of stewards and kindest of men - and
if his name is not Cuttle, he has no name! Now, best of friends, about
There was a change in Walter's manner, as he came to these two
words; and when he uttered them, all his confidence and cheerfulness
appeared to have deserted him.
'I thought, before Miss Dombey stopped me when I spoke of her
father last night,' said Walter, ' - you remember how?'
The Captain well remembered, and shook his head.
'I thought,' said Walter, 'before that, that we had but one hard
duty to perform, and that it was, to prevail upon her to communicate
with her friends, and to return home.'
The Captain muttered a feeble 'Awast!' or a 'Stand by!' or
something or other, equally pertinent to the occasion; but it was
rendered so extremely feeble by the total discomfiture with which he
received this announcement, that what it was, is mere matter of
'But,' said Walter, 'that is over. I think so, no longer. I would
sooner be put back again upon that piece of wreck, on which I have so
often floated, since my preservation, in my dreams, and there left to
drift, and drive, and die!'
'Hooroar, my lad!' exclaimed the Captain, in a burst of
uncontrollable satisfaction. 'Hooroar! hooroar! hooroar!'
'To think that she, so young, so good, and beautiful,' said Walter,
'so delicately brought up, and born to such a different fortune,
should strive with the rough world! But we have seen the gulf that
cuts off all behind her, though no one but herself can know how deep
it is; and there is no return.
Captain Cuttle, without quite understanding this, greatly approved
of it, and observed in a tone of strong corroboration, that the wind
was quite abaft.
'She ought not to be alone here; ought she, Captain Cuttle?' said
'Well, my lad,' replied the Captain, after a little sagacious
consideration. 'I don't know. You being here to keep her company, you
see, and you two being jintly - '
'Dear Captain Cuttle!' remonstrated Walter. 'I being here! Miss
Dombey, in her guileless innocent heart, regards me as her adopted
brother; but what would the guile and guilt of my heart be, if I
pretended to believe that I had any right to approach her, familiarly,
in that character - if I pretended to forget that I am bound, in
honour, not to do it?'
'Wal'r, my lad,' hinted the Captain, with some revival of his
discomfiture, 'ain't there no other character as - '
'Oh!' returned Walter, 'would you have me die in her esteem - in
such esteem as hers - and put a veil between myself and her angel's
face for ever, by taking advantage of her being here for refuge, so
trusting and so unprotected, to endeavour to exalt myself into her
lover? What do I say? There is no one in the world who would be more
opposed to me if I could do so, than you.'
'Wal'r, my lad,' said the Captain, drooping more and more,
'prowiding as there is any just cause or impediment why two persons
should not be jined together in the house of bondage, for which you'll
overhaul the place and make a note, I hope I should declare it as
promised and wowed in the banns. So there ain't no other character;
ain't there, my lad?'
Walter briskly waved his hand in the negative.
'Well, my lad,' growled the Captain slowly, 'I won't deny but what
I find myself wery much down by the head, along o' this here, or but
what I've gone clean about. But as to Lady lass, Wal'r, mind you,
wot's respect and duty to her, is respect and duty in my articles,
howsumever disapinting; and therefore I follows in your wake, my lad,
and feel as you are, no doubt, acting up to yourself. And there ain't
no other character, ain't there?' said the Captain, musing over the
ruins of his fallen castle, with a very despondent face.
'Now, Captain Cuttle,' said Walter, starting a fresh point with a
gayer air, to cheer the Captain up - but nothing could do that; he was
too much concerned - 'I think we should exert ourselves to find
someone who would be a proper attendant for Miss Dombey while she
remains here, and who may be trusted. None of her relations may. It's
clear Miss Dombey feels that they are all subservient to her father.
What has become of Susan?'
'The young woman?' returned the Captain. 'It's my belief as she was
sent away again the will of Heart's Delight. I made a signal for her
when Lady lass first come, and she rated of her wery high, and said
she had been gone a long time.'
'Then,' said Walter, 'do you ask Miss Dombey where she's gone, and
we'll try to find her. The morning's getting on, and Miss Dombey will
soon be rising. You are her best friend. Wait for her upstairs, and
leave me to take care of all down here.'
The Captain, very crest-fallen indeed, echoed the sigh with which
Walter said this, and complied. Florence was delighted with her new
room, anxious to see Walter, and overjoyed at the prospect of greeting
her old friend Susan. But Florence could not say where Susan was gone,
except that it was in Essex, and no one could say, she remembered,
unless it were Mr Toots.
With this information the melancholy Captain returned to Walter,
and gave him to understand that Mr Toots was the young gentleman whom
he had encountered on the door-step, and that he was a friend of his,
and that he was a young gentleman of property, and that he hopelessly
adored Miss Dombey. The Captain also related how the intelligence of
Walter's supposed fate had first made him acquainted with Mr Toots,
and how there was solemn treaty and compact between them, that Mr
Toots should be mute upon the subject of his love.
The question then was, whether Florence could trust Mr Toots; and
Florence saying, with a smile, 'Oh, yes, with her whole heart!' it
became important to find out where Mr Toots lived. This, Florence
didn't know, and the Captain had forgotten; and the Captain was
telling Walter, in the little parlour, that Mr Toots was sure to be
there soon, when in came Mr Toots himself.
'Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, rushing into the parlour without
any ceremony, 'I'm in a state of mind bordering on distraction!'
Mr Toots had discharged those words, as from a mortar, before he
observed Walter, whom he recognised with what may be described as a
chuckle of misery.
'You'll excuse me, Sir,' said Mr Toots, holding his forehead, 'but
I'm at present in that state that my brain is going, if not gone, and
anything approaching to politeness in an individual so situated would
be a hollow mockery. Captain Gills, I beg to request the favour of a
'Why, Brother,' returned the Captain, taking him by the hand, 'you
are the man as we was on the look-out for.'
'Oh, Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'what a look-out that must be,
of which I am the object! I haven't dared to shave, I'm in that rash
state. I haven't had my clothes brushed. My hair is matted together. I
told the Chicken that if he offered to clean my boots, I'd stretch him
a Corpse before me!'
All these indications of a disordered mind were verified in Mr
Toots's appearance, which was wild and savage.
'See here, Brother,' said the Captain. 'This here's old Sol Gills's
nevy Wal'r. Him as was supposed to have perished at sea'
Mr Toots took his hand from his forehead, and stared at Walter.
'Good gracious me!' stammered Mr Toots. 'What a complication of
misery! How-de-do? I - I - I'm afraid you must have got very wet.
Captain Gills, will you allow me a word in the shop?'
He took the Captain by the coat, and going out with him whispered:
'That then, Captain Gills, is the party you spoke of, when you said
that he and Miss Dombey were made for one another?'
'Why, ay, my lad,' replied the disconsolate Captain; 'I was of that
'And at this time!' exclaimed Mr Toots, with his hand to his
forehead again. 'Of all others! - a hated rival! At least, he ain't a
hated rival,' said Mr Toots, stopping short, on second thoughts, and
taking away his hand; 'what should I hate him for? No. If my affection
has been truly disinterested, Captain Gills, let me prove it now!'
Mr Toots shot back abruptly into the parlour, and said, wringing
Walter by the hand:
'How-de-do? I hope you didn't take any cold. I - I shall be very
glad if you'll give me the pleasure of your acquaintance. I wish you
many happy returns of the day. Upon my word and honour,' said Mr
Toots, warming as he became better acquainted with Walter's face and
figure, 'I'm very glad to see you!'
'Thank you, heartily,' said Walter. 'I couldn't desire a more
genuine and genial welcome.'
'Couldn't you, though?' said Mr Toots, still shaking his hand.
'It's very kind of you. I'm much obliged to you. How-de-do? I hope you
left everybody quite well over the - that is, upon the - I mean
wherever you came from last, you know.'
All these good wishes, and better intentions, Walter responded to
'Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'I should wish to be strictly
honourable; but I trust I may be allowed now, to allude to a certain
subject that - '
'Ay, ay, my lad,' returned the Captain. 'Freely, freely.'
'Then, Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'and Lieutenant Walters - are
you aware that the most dreadful circumstances have been happening at
Mr Dombey's house, and that Miss Dombey herself has left her father,
who, in my opinion,' said Mr Toots, with great excitement, 'is a
Brute, that it would be a flattery to call a - a marble monument, or a
bird of prey, - and that she is not to be found, and has gone no one
'May I ask how you heard this?' inquired Walter.
'Lieutenant Walters,' said Mr Toots, who had arrived at that
appellation by a process peculiar to himself; probably by jumbling up
his Christian name with the seafaring profession, and supposing some
relationship between him and the Captain, which would extend, as a
matter of course, to their titles; 'Lieutenant Walters, I can have no
objection to make a straightforward reply. The fact is, that feeling
extremely interested in everything that relates to Miss Dombey - not
for any selfish reason, Lieutenant Walters, for I am well aware that
the most able thing I could do for all parties would be to put an end
to my existence, which can only be regarded as an inconvenience - I
have been in the habit of bestowing a trifle now and then upon a
footman; a most respectable young man, of the name of Towlinson, who
has lived in the family some time; and Towlinson informed me,
yesterday evening, that this was the state of things. Since which,
Captain Gills - and Lieutenant Walters - I have been perfectly
frantic, and have been lying down on the sofa all night, the Ruin you
'Mr Toots,' said Walter, 'I am happy to be able to relieve your
mind. Pray calm yourself. Miss Dombey is safe and well.'
'Sir!' cried Mr Toots, starting from his chair and shaking hands
with him anew, 'the relief is so excessive, and unspeakable, that if
you were to tell me now that Miss Dombey was married even, I could
smile. Yes, Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, appealing to him, 'upon my
soul and body, I really think, whatever I might do to myself
immediately afterwards, that I could smile, I am so relieved.'
'It will be a greater relief and delight still, to such a generous
mind as yours,' said Walter, not at all slow in returning his
greeting, 'to find that you can render service to Miss Dombey. Captain
Cuttle, will you have the kindness to take Mr Toots upstairs?'
The Captain beckoned to Mr Toots, who followed him with a
bewildered countenance, and, ascending to the top of the house, was
introduced, without a word of preparation from his conductor, into
Florence's new retreat.
Poor Mr Toots's amazement and pleasure at sight of her were such,
that they could find a vent in nothing but extravagance. He ran up to
her, seized her hand, kissed it, dropped it, seized it again, fell
upon one knee, shed tears, chuckled, and was quite regardless of his
danger of being pinned by Diogenes, who, inspired by the belief that
there was something hostile to his mistress in these demonstrations,
worked round and round him, as if only undecided at what particular
point to go in for the assault, but quite resolved to do him a fearful
'Oh Di, you bad, forgetful dog! Dear Mr Toots, I am so rejoiced to
'Thankee,' said Mr Toots, 'I am pretty well, I'm much obliged to
you, Miss Dombey. I hope all the family are the same.'
Mr Toots said this without the least notion of what he was talking
about, and sat down on a chair, staring at Florence with the liveliest
contention of delight and despair going on in his face that any face
'Captain Gills and Lieutenant Walters have mentioned, Miss Dombey,'
gasped Mr Toots, 'that I can do you some service. If I could by any
means wash out the remembrance of that day at Brighton, when I
conducted myself - much more like a Parricide than a person of
independent property,' said Mr Toots, with severe self-accusation, 'I
should sink into the silent tomb with a gleam of joy.'
'Pray, Mr Toots,' said Florence, 'do not wish me to forget anything
in our acquaintance. I never can, believe me. You have been far too
kind and good to me always.'
'Miss Dombey,' returned Mr Toots, 'your consideration for my
feelings is a part of your angelic character. Thank you a thousand
times. It's of no consequence at all.'
'What we thought of asking you,' said Florence, 'is, whether you
remember where Susan, whom you were so kind as to accompany to the
coach-office when she left me, is to be found.'
'Why I do not certainly, Miss Dombey,' said Mr Toots, after a
little consideration, 'remember the exact name of the place that was
on the coach; and I do recollect that she said she was not going to
stop there, but was going farther on. But, Miss Dombey, if your object
is to find her, and to have her here, myself and the Chicken will
produce her with every dispatch that devotion on my part, and great
intelligence on the Chicken's, can ensure.
Mr Toots was so manifestly delighted and revived by the prospect of
being useful, and the disinterested sincerity of his devotion was so
unquestionable, that it would have been cruel to refuse him. Florence,
with an instinctive delicacy, forbore to urge the least obstacle,
though she did not forbear to overpower him with thanks; and Mr Toots
proudly took the commission upon himself for immediate execution.
'Miss Dombey,' said Mr Toots, touching her proffered hand, with a
pang of hopeless love visibly shooting through him, and flashing out
in his face, 'Good-bye! Allow me to take the liberty of saying, that
your misfortunes make me perfectly wretched, and that you may trust
me, next to Captain Gills himself. I am quite aware, Miss Dombey, of
my own deficiencies - they're not of the least consequence, thank you
- but I am entirely to be relied upon, I do assure you, Miss Dombey.'
With that Mr Toots came out of the room, again accompanied by the
Captain, who, standing at a little distance, holding his hat under his
arm and arranging his scattered locks with his hook, had been a not
uninterested witness of what passed. And when the door closed behind
them, the light of Mr Toots's life was darkly clouded again.
'Captain Gills,' said that gentleman, stopping near the bottom of
the stairs, and turning round, 'to tell you the truth, I am not in a
frame of mind at the present moment, in which I could see Lieutenant
Walters with that entirely friendly feeling towards him that I should
wish to harbour in my breast. We cannot always command our feelings,
Captain Gills, and I should take it as a particular favour if you'd
let me out at the private door.'
'Brother,' returned the Captain, 'you shall shape your own course.
Wotever course you take, is plain and seamanlike, I'm wery sure.
'Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'you're extremely kind. Your good
opinion is a consolation to me. There is one thing,' said Mr Toots,
standing in the passage, behind the half-opened door, 'that I hope
you'll bear in mind, Captain Gills, and that I should wish Lieutenant
Walters to be made acquainted with. I have quite come into my property
now, you know, and - and I don't know what to do with it. If I could
be at all useful in a pecuniary point of view, I should glide into the
silent tomb with ease and smoothness.'
Mr Toots said no more, but slipped out quietly and shut the door
upon himself, to cut the Captain off from any reply.
Florence thought of this good creature, long after he had left her,
with mingled emotions of pain and pleasure. He was so honest and
warm-hearted, that to see him again and be assured of his truth to her
in her distress, was a joy and comfort beyond all price; but for that
very reason, it was so affecting to think that she caused him a
moment's unhappiness, or ruffled, by a breath, the harmless current of
his life, that her eyes filled with tears, and her bosom overflowed
with pity. Captain Cuttle, in his different way, thought much of Mr
Toots too; and so did Walter; and when the evening came, and they were
all sitting together in Florence's new room, Walter praised him in a
most impassioned manner, and told Florence what he had said on leaving
the house, with every graceful setting-off in the way of comment and
appreciation that his own honesty and sympathy could surround it with.
Mr Toots did not return upon the next day, or the next, or for
several days; and in the meanwhile Florence, without any new alarm,
lived like a quiet bird in a cage, at the top of the old
Instrument-maker's house. But Florence drooped and hung her head more
and more plainly, as the days went on; and the expression that had
been seen in the face of the dead child, was often turned to the sky
from her high window, as if it sought his angel out, on the bright
shore of which he had spoken: lying on his little bed.
Florence had been weak and delicate of late, and the agitation she
had undergone was not without its influences on her health. But it was
no bodily illness that affected her now. She was distressed in mind;
and the cause of her distress was Walter.
Interested in her, anxious for her, proud and glad to serve her,
and showing all this with the enthusiasm and ardour of his character,
Florence saw that he avoided her. All the long day through, he seldom
approached her room. If she asked for him, he came, again for the
moment as earnest and as bright as she remembered him when she was a
lost child in the staring streets; but he soon became constrained -
her quick affection was too watchful not to know it - and uneasy, and
soon left her. Unsought, he never came, all day, between the morning
and the night. When the evening closed in, he was always there, and
that was her happiest time, for then she half believed that the old
Walter of her childhood was not changed. But, even then, some trivial
word, look, or circumstance would show her that there was an
indefinable division between them which could not be passed.
And she could not but see that these revealings of a great
alteration in Walter manifested themselves in despite of his utmost
efforts to hide them. In his consideration for her, she thought, and
in the earnestness of his desire to spare her any wound from his kind
hand, he resorted to innumerable little artifices and disguises. So
much the more did Florence feel the greatness of the alteration in
him; so much the oftener did she weep at this estrangement of her
- The good Captain
- her untiring, tender, ever zealous friend - saw
it, too, Florence thought, and it pained him. He was less cheerful and
hopeful than he had been at first, and would steal looks at her and
Walter, by turns, when they were all three together of an evening,
with quite a sad face.
Florence resolved, at last, to speak to Walter. She believed she
knew now what the cause of his estrangement was, and she thought it
would be a relief to her full heart, and would set him more at ease,
if she told him she had found it out, and quite submitted to it, and
did not reproach him.
It was on a certain Sunday afternoon, that Florence took this
resolution. The faithful Captain, in an amazing shirt-collar, was
sitting by her, reading with his spectacles on, and she asked him
where Walter was.
'I think he's down below, my lady lass,' returned the Captain.
'I should like to speak to him,' said Florence, rising hurriedly as
if to go downstairs.
'I'll rouse him up here, Beauty,' said the Captain, 'in a trice.'
Thereupon the Captain, with much alacrity, shouldered his book -
for he made it a point of duty to read none but very large books on a
Sunday, as having a more staid appearance: and had bargained, years
ago, for a prodigious volume at a book-stall, five lines of which
utterly confounded him at any time, insomuch that he had not yet
ascertained of what subject it treated - and withdrew. Walter soon
'Captain Cuttle tells me, Miss Dombey,' he eagerly began on coming
in - but stopped when he saw her face.
'You are not so well to-day. You look distressed. You have been
He spoke so kindly, and with such a fervent tremor in his voice,
that the tears gushed into her eyes at the sound of his words.
'Walter,' said Florence, gently, 'I am not quite well, and I have
been weeping. I want to speak to you.'
He sat down opposite to her, looking at her beautiful and innocent
face; and his own turned pale, and his lips trembled.
'You said, upon the night when I knew that you were saved - and oh!
dear Walter, what I felt that night, and what I hoped!' - '
He put his trembling hand upon the table between them, and sat
looking at her.
- 'that I was changed. I was surprised to hear you say so, but I
understand, now, that I am. Don't be angry with me, Walter. I was too
much overjoyed to think of it, then.'
She seemed a child to him again. It was the ingenuous, confiding,
loving child he saw and heard. Not the dear woman, at whose feet he
would have laid the riches of the earth.
'You remember the last time I saw you, Walter, before you went
He put his hand into his breast, and took out a little purse.
'I have always worn it round my neck! If I had gone down in the
deep, it would have been with me at the bottom of the sea.'
'And you will wear it still, Walter, for my old sake?'
'Until I die!'
She laid her hand on his, as fearlessly and simply, as if not a day
had intervened since she gave him the little token of remembrance.
'I am glad of that. I shall be always glad to think so, Walter. Do
you recollect that a thought of this change seemed to come into our
minds at the same time that evening, when we were talking together?'
'No!' he answered, in a wondering tone.
'Yes, Walter. I had been the means of injuring your hopes and
prospects even then. I feared to think so, then, but I know it now. If
you were able, then, in your generosity, to hide from me that you knew
it too, you cannot do so now, although you try as generously as
before. You do. I thank you for it, Walter, deeply, truly; but you
cannot succeed. You have suffered too much in your own hardships, and
in those of your dearest relation, quite to overlook the innocent
cause of all the peril and affliction that has befallen you. You
cannot quite forget me in that character, and we can be brother and
sister no longer. But, dear Walter, do not think that I complain of
you in this. I might have known it - ought to have known it - but
forgot it in my joy. All I hope is that you may think of me less
irksomely when this feeling is no more a secret one; and all I ask is,
Walter, in the name of the poor child who was your sister once, that
you will not struggle with yourself, and pain yourself, for my sake,
now that I know all!'
Walter had looked upon her while she said this, with a face so full
of wonder and amazement, that it had room for nothing else. Now he
caught up the hand that touched his, so entreatingly, and held it
between his own.
'Oh, Miss Dombey,' he said, 'is it possible that while I have been
suffering so much, in striving with my sense of what is due to you,
and must be rendered to you, I have made you suffer what your words
disclose to me? Never, never, before Heaven, have I thought of you but
as the single, bright, pure, blessed recollection of my boyhood and my
youth. Never have I from the first, and never shall I to the last,
regard your part in my life, but as something sacred, never to be
lightly thought of, never to be esteemed enough, never, until death,
to be forgotten. Again to see you look, and hear you speak, as you did
on that night when we parted, is happiness to me that there are no
words to utter; and to be loved and trusted as your brother, is the
next gift I could receive and prize!'
'Walter,' said Florence, looking at him earnestly, but with a
changing face, 'what is that which is due to me, and must be rendered
to me, at the sacrifice of all this?'
'Respect,' said Walter, in a low tone. 'Reverence.
The colour dawned in her face, and she timidly and thoughtfully
withdrew her hand; still looking at him with unabated earnestness.
'I have not a brother's right,' said Walter. 'I have not a
brother's claim. I left a child. I find a woman.'
The colour overspread her face. She made a gesture as if of
entreaty that he would say no more, and her face dropped upon her
They were both silent for a time; she weeping.
'I owe it to a heart so trusting, pure, and good,' said Walter,
'even to tear myself from it, though I rend my own. How dare I say it
is my sister's!'
She was weeping still.
'If you had been happy; surrounded as you should be by loving and
admiring friends, and by all that makes the station you were born to
enviable,' said Walter; 'and if you had called me brother, then, in
your affectionate remembrance of the past, I could have answered to
the name from my distant place, with no inward assurance that I
wronged your spotless truth by doing so. But here - and now!'
'Oh thank you, thank you, Walter! Forgive my having wronged you so
much. I had no one to advise me. I am quite alone.'
'Florence!' said Walter, passionately. 'I am hurried on to say,
what I thought, but a few moments ago, nothing could have forced from
my lips. If I had been prosperous; if I had any means or hope of being
one day able to restore you to a station near your own; I would have
told you that there was one name you might bestow upon - me - a right
above all others, to protect and cherish you - that I was worthy of in
nothing but the love and honour that I bore you, and in my whole heart
being yours. I would have told you that it was the only claim that you
could give me to defend and guard you, which I dare accept and dare
assert; but that if I had that right, I would regard it as a trust so
precious and so priceless, that the undivided truth and fervour of my
life would poorly acknowledge its worth.'
The head was still bent down, the tears still falling, and the
bosom swelling with its sobs.
'Dear Florence! Dearest Florence! whom I called so in my thoughts
before I could consider how presumptuous and wild it was. One last
time let me call you by your own dear name, and touch this gentle hand
in token of your sisterly forgetfulness of what I have said.'
She raised her head, and spoke to him with such a solemn sweetness
in her eyes; with such a calm, bright, placid smile shining on him
through her tears; with such a low, soft tremble in her frame and
voice; that the innermost chords of his heart were touched, and his
sight was dim as he listened.
'No, Walter, I cannot forget it. I would not forget it, for the
world. Are you - are you very poor?'
'I am but a wanderer,' said Walter, 'making voyages to live, across
the sea. That is my calling now.
'Are you soon going away again, Walter?'
She sat looking at him for a moment; then timidly put her trembling
hand in his.
'If you will take me for your wife, Walter, I will love you dearly.
If you will let me go with you, Walter, I will go to the world's end
without fear. I can give up nothing for you - I have nothing to
resign, and no one to forsake; but all my love and life shall be
devoted to you, and with my last breath I will breathe your name to
God if I have sense and memory left.'
He caught her to his heart, and laid her cheek against his own, and
now, no more repulsed, no more forlorn, she wept indeed, upon the
breast of her dear lover.
Blessed Sunday Bells, ringing so tranquilly in their entranced and
happy ears! Blessed Sunday peace and quiet, harmonising with the
calmness in their souls, and making holy air around them! Blessed
twilight stealing on, and shading her so soothingly and gravely, as
she falls asleep, like a hushed child, upon the bosom she has clung
Oh load of love and trustfulness that lies to lightly there! Ay,
look down on the closed eyes, Walter, with a proudly tender gaze; for
in all the wide wide world they seek but thee now - only thee!
The Captain remained in the little parlour until it was quite dark.
He took the chair on which Walter had been sitting, and looked up at
the skylight, until the day, by little and little, faded away, and the
stars peeped down. He lighted a candle, lighted a pipe, smoked it out,
and wondered what on earth was going on upstairs, and why they didn't
call him to tea.
Florence came to his side while he was in the height of his
'Ay! lady lass!' cried the Captain. 'Why, you and Wal'r have had a
long spell o' talk, my beauty.'
Florence put her little hand round one of the great buttons of his
coat, and said, looking down into his face:
'Dear Captain, I want to tell you something, if you please.
The Captain raised his head pretty smartly, to hear what it was.
Catching by this means a more distinct view of Florence, he pushed
back his chair, and himself with it, as far as they could go.
'What! Heart's Delight!' cried the Captain, suddenly elated, 'Is it
'Yes!' said Florence, eagerly.
'Wal'r! Husband! THAT?' roared the Captain, tossing up his glazed
hat into the skylight.
'Yes!' cried Florence, laughing and crying together.
The Captain immediately hugged her; and then, picking up the glazed
hat and putting it on, drew her arm through his, and conducted her
upstairs again; where he felt that the great joke of his life was now
to be made.
'What, Wal'r my lad!' said the Captain, looking in at the door,
with his face like an amiable warming-pan. 'So there ain't NO other
character, ain't there?'
He had like to have suffocated himself with this pleasantry, which
he repeated at least forty times during tea; polishing his radiant
face with the sleeve of his coat, and dabbing his head all over with
his pocket-handkerchief, in the intervals. But he was not without a
graver source of enjoyment to fall back upon, when so disposed, for he
was repeatedly heard to say in an undertone, as he looked with
ineffable delight at Walter and Florence:
'Ed'ard Cuttle, my lad, you never shaped a better course in your
life, than when you made that there little property over, jintly!'