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Dombey and Son

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CHAPTER XLVI. 
Recognizant and Reflective

Among sundry minor alterations in Mr Carker’s life and habits that began to take place at this time, none was more remarkable than the extraordinary diligence with which he applied himself to business, and the closeness with which he investigated every detail that the affairs of the House laid open to him. Always active and penetrating in such matters, his lynx-eyed vigilance now increased twenty-fold. Not only did his weary watch keep pace with every present point that every day presented to him in some new form, but in the midst of these engrossing occupations he found leisure—that is, he made it—to review the past transactions of the Firm, and his share in them, during a long series of years. Frequently when the clerks were all gone, the offices dark and empty, and all similar places of business shut up, Mr Carker, with the whole anatomy of the iron room laid bare before him, would explore the mysteries of books and papers, with the patient progress of a man who was dissecting the minutest nerves and fibres of his subject. Perch, the messenger, who usually remained on these occasions, to entertain himself with the perusal of the Price Current by the light of one candle, or to doze over the fire in the outer office, at the imminent risk every moment of diving head foremost into the coal-box, could not withhold the tribute of his admiration from this zealous conduct, although it much contracted his domestic enjoyments; and again, and again, expatiated to Mrs Perch (now nursing twins) on the industry and acuteness of their managing gentleman in the City.

The same increased and sharp attention that Mr Carker bestowed on the business of the House, he applied to his own personal affairs. Though not a partner in the concern—a distinction hitherto reserved solely to inheritors of the great name of Dombey—he was in the receipt of some percentage on its dealings; and, participating in all its facilities for the employment of money to advantage, was considered, by the minnows among the tritons of the East, a rich man. It began to be said, among these shrewd observers, that Jem Carker, of Dombey’s, was looking about him to see what he was worth; and that he was calling in his money at a good time, like the long-headed fellow he was; and bets were even offered on the Stock Exchange that Jem was going to marry a rich widow.

Yet these cares did not in the least interfere with Mr Carker’s watching of his chief, or with his cleanness, neatness, sleekness, or any cat-like quality he possessed. It was not so much that there was a change in him, in reference to any of his habits, as that the whole man was intensified. Everything that had been observable in him before, was observable now, but with a greater amount of concentration. He did each single thing, as if he did nothing else—a pretty certain indication in a man of that range of ability and purpose, that he is doing something which sharpens and keeps alive his keenest powers.

The only decided alteration in him was, that as he rode to and fro along the streets, he would fall into deep fits of musing, like that in which he had come away from Mr Dombey’s house, on the morning of that gentleman’s disaster. At such times, he would keep clear of the obstacles in his way, mechanically; and would appear to see and hear nothing until arrival at his destination, or some sudden chance or effort roused him.

Walking his white-legged horse thus, to the counting-house of Dombey and Son one day, he was as unconscious of the observation of two pairs of women’s eyes, as of the fascinated orbs of Rob the Grinder, who, in waiting a street’s length from the appointed place, as a demonstration of punctuality, vainly touched and retouched his hat to attract attention, and trotted along on foot, by his master’s side, prepared to hold his stirrup when he should alight.

“See where he goes!” cried one of these two women, an old creature, who stretched out her shrivelled arm to point him out to her companion, a young woman, who stood close beside her, withdrawn like herself into a gateway.

Mrs Brown’s daughter looked out, at this bidding on the part of Mrs Brown; and there were wrath and vengeance in her face.

“I never thought to look at him again,” she said, in a low voice; “but it’s well I should, perhaps. I see. I see!”

“Not changed!” said the old woman, with a look of eager malice.

“He changed!” returned the other. “What for? What has he suffered? There is change enough for twenty in me. Isn’t that enough?”

“See where he goes!” muttered the old woman, watching her daughter with her red eyes; “so easy and so trim a-horseback, while we are in the mud.”

“And of it,” said her daughter impatiently. “We are mud, underneath his horse’s feet. What should we be?”

In the intentness with which she looked after him again, she made a hasty gesture with her hand when the old woman began to reply, as if her view could be obstructed by mere sound. Her mother watching her, and not him, remained silent; until her kindling glance subsided, and she drew a long breath, as if in the relief of his being gone.

“Deary!” said the old woman then. “Alice! Handsome gall Ally!” She gently shook her sleeve to arouse her attention. “Will you let him go like that, when you can wring money from him? Why, it’s a wickedness, my daughter.”

“Haven’t I told you, that I will not have money from him?” she returned. “And don’t you yet believe me? Did I take his sister’s money? Would I touch a penny, if I knew it, that had gone through his white hands—unless it was, indeed, that I could poison it, and send it back to him? Peace, mother, and come away.”

“And him so rich?” murmured the old woman. “And us so poor!”

“Poor in not being able to pay him any of the harm we owe him,” returned her daughter. “Let him give me that sort of riches, and I’ll take them from him, and use them. Come away. Its no good looking at his horse. Come away, mother!”

But the old woman, for whom the spectacle of Rob the Grinder returning down the street, leading the riderless horse, appeared to have some extraneous interest that it did not possess in itself, surveyed that young man with the utmost earnestness; and seeming to have whatever doubts she entertained, resolved as he drew nearer, glanced at her daughter with brightened eyes and with her finger on her lip, and emerging from the gateway at the moment of his passing, touched him on the shoulder.

“Why, where’s my sprightly Rob been, all this time!” she said, as he turned round.

The sprightly Rob, whose sprightliness was very much diminished by the salutation, looked exceedingly dismayed, and said, with the water rising in his eyes:

“Oh! why can’t you leave a poor cove alone, Misses Brown, when he’s getting an honest livelihood and conducting himself respectable? What do you come and deprive a cove of his character for, by talking to him in the streets, when he’s taking his master’s horse to a honest stable—a horse you’d go and sell for cats’ and dogs’ meat if you had your way! Why, I thought,” said the Grinder, producing his concluding remark as if it were the climax of all his injuries, “that you was dead long ago!”

“This is the way,” cried the old woman, appealing to her daughter, “that he talks to me, who knew him weeks and months together, my deary, and have stood his friend many and many a time among the pigeon-fancying tramps and bird-catchers.”

“Let the birds be, will you, Misses Brown?” retorted Rob, in a tone of the acutest anguish. “I think a cove had better have to do with lions than them little creeturs, for they’re always flying back in your face when you least expect it. Well, how d’ye do and what do you want?” These polite inquiries the Grinder uttered, as it were under protest, and with great exasperation and vindictiveness.

“Hark how he speaks to an old friend, my deary!” said Mrs Brown, again appealing to her daughter. “But there’s some of his old friends not so patient as me. If I was to tell some that he knows, and has spotted and cheated with, where to find him—”

“Will you hold your tongue, Misses Brown?” interrupted the miserable Grinder, glancing quickly round, as though he expected to see his master’s teeth shining at his elbow. “What do you take a pleasure in ruining a cove for? At your time of life too! when you ought to be thinking of a variety of things!”

“What a gallant horse!” said the old woman, patting the animal’s neck.

“Let him alone, will you, Misses Brown?” cried Rob, pushing away her hand. “You’re enough to drive a penitent cove mad!”

“Why, what hurt do I do him, child?” returned the old woman.

“Hurt?” said Rob. “He’s got a master that would find it out if he was touched with a straw.” And he blew upon the place where the old woman’s hand had rested for a moment, and smoothed it gently with his finger, as if he seriously believed what he said.

The old woman looking back to mumble and mouth at her daughter, who followed, kept close to Rob’s heels as he walked on with the bridle in his hand; and pursued the conversation.

“A good place, Rob, eh?” said she. “You’re in luck, my child.”

“Oh don’t talk about luck, Misses Brown,” returned the wretched Grinder, facing round and stopping. “If you’d never come, or if you’d go away, then indeed a cove might be considered tolerable lucky. Can’t you go along, Misses Brown, and not foller me!” blubbered Rob, with sudden defiance. “If the young woman’s a friend of yours, why don’t she take you away, instead of letting you make yourself so disgraceful!”

“What!” croaked the old woman, putting her face close to his, with a malevolent grin upon it that puckered up the loose skin down in her very throat. “Do you deny your old chum! Have you lurked to my house fifty times, and slept sound in a corner when you had no other bed but the paving-stones, and do you talk to me like this! Have I bought and sold with you, and helped you in my way of business, schoolboy, sneak, and what not, and do you tell me to go along? Could I raise a crowd of old company about you to-morrow morning, that would follow you to ruin like copies of your own shadow, and do you turn on me with your bold looks! I’ll go. Come, Alice.”

“Stop, Misses Brown!” cried the distracted Grinder. “What are you doing of? Don’t put yourself in a passion! Don’t let her go, if you please. I haven’t meant any offence. I said ‘how d’ye do,’ at first, didn’t I? But you wouldn’t answer. How you do? Besides,” said Rob piteously, “look here! How can a cove stand talking in the street with his master’s prad a-wanting to be took to be rubbed down, and his master up to every individgle thing that happens!”

The old woman made a show of being partially appeased, but shook her head, and mouthed and muttered still.

“Come along to the stables, and have a glass of something that’s good for you, Misses Brown, can’t you?” said Rob, “instead of going on, like that, which is no good to you, nor anybody else. Come along with her, will you be so kind?” said Rob. “I’m sure I’m delighted to see her, if it wasn’t for the horse!”

With this apology, Rob turned away, a rueful picture of despair, and walked his charge down a bye street. The old woman, mouthing at her daughter, followed close upon him. The daughter followed.

Turning into a silent little square or court-yard that had a great church tower rising above it, and a packer’s warehouse, and a bottle-maker’s warehouse, for its places of business, Rob the Grinder delivered the white-legged horse to the hostler of a quaint stable at the corner; and inviting Mrs Brown and her daughter to seat themselves upon a stone bench at the gate of that establishment, soon reappeared from a neighbouring public-house with a pewter measure and a glass.

“Here’s master—Mr Carker, child!” said the old woman, slowly, as her sentiment before drinking. “Lord bless him!”

“Why, I didn’t tell you who he was,” observed Rob, with staring eyes.

“We know him by sight,” said Mrs Brown, whose working mouth and nodding head stopped for the moment, in the fixedness of her attention. “We saw him pass this morning, afore he got off his horse; when you were ready to take it.”

“Ay, ay,” returned Rob, appearing to wish that his readiness had carried him to any other place.—“What’s the matter with her? Won’t she drink?”

This inquiry had reference to Alice, who, folded in her cloak, sat a little apart, profoundly inattentive to his offer of the replenished glass.

The old woman shook her head. “Don’t mind her,” she said; “she’s a strange creetur, if you know’d her, Rob. But Mr Carker—”

“Hush!” said Rob, glancing cautiously up at the packer’s, and at the bottle-maker’s, as if, from any one of the tiers of warehouses, Mr Carker might be looking down. “Softly.”

“Why, he ain’t here!” cried Mrs Brown.

“I don’t know that,” muttered Rob, whose glance even wandered to the church tower, as if he might be there, with a supernatural power of hearing.

“Good master?” inquired Mrs Brown.

Rob nodded; and added, in a low voice, “precious sharp.”

“Lives out of town, don’t he, lovey?” said the old woman.

“When he’s at home,” returned Rob; “but we don’t live at home just now.”

“Where then?” asked the old woman.

“Lodgings; up near Mr Dombey’s,” returned Rob.

The younger woman fixed her eyes so searchingly upon him, and so suddenly, that Rob was quite confounded, and offered the glass again, but with no more effect upon her than before.

“Mr Dombey—you and I used to talk about him, sometimes, you know,” said Rob to Mrs Brown. “You used to get me to talk about him.”

The old woman nodded.

“Well, Mr Dombey, he’s had a fall from his horse,” said Rob, unwillingly; “and my master has to be up there, more than usual, either with him, or Mrs Dombey, or some of ’em; and so we’ve come to town.”

“Are they good friends, lovey?” asked the old woman.

“Who?” retorted Rob.

“He and she?”

“What, Mr and Mrs Dombey?” said Rob. “How should I know!”

“Not them—Master and Mrs Dombey, chick,” replied the old woman, coaxingly.

“I don’t know,” said Rob, looking round him again. “I suppose so. How curious you are, Misses Brown! Least said, soonest mended.”

“Why there’s no harm in it!” exclaimed the old woman, with a laugh, and a clap of her hands. “Sprightly Rob, has grown tame since he has been well off! There’s no harm in it.”

“No, there’s no harm in it, I know,” returned Rob, with the same distrustful glance at the packer’s and the bottle-maker’s, and the church; “but blabbing, if it’s only about the number of buttons on my master’s coat, won’t do. I tell you it won’t do with him. A cove had better drown himself. He says so. I shouldn’t have so much as told you what his name was, if you hadn’t known it. Talk about somebody else.”

As Rob took another cautious survey of the yard, the old woman made a secret motion to her daughter. It was momentary, but the daughter, with a slight look of intelligence, withdrew her eyes from the boy’s face, and sat folded in her cloak as before.

“Rob, lovey!” said the old woman, beckoning him to the other end of the bench. “You were always a pet and favourite of mine. Now, weren’t you? Don’t you know you were?”

“Yes, Misses Brown,” replied the Grinder, with a very bad grace.

“And you could leave me!” said the old woman, flinging her arms about his neck. “You could go away, and grow almost out of knowledge, and never come to tell your poor old friend how fortunate you were, proud lad! Oho, Oho!”

“Oh here’s a dreadful go for a cove that’s got a master wide awake in the neighbourhood!” exclaimed the wretched Grinder. “To be howled over like this here!”

“Won’t you come and see me, Robby?” cried Mrs Brown. “Oho, won’t you ever come and see me?”

“Yes, I tell you! Yes, I will!” returned the Grinder.

“That’s my own Rob! That’s my lovey!” said Mrs Brown, drying the tears upon her shrivelled face, and giving him a tender squeeze. “At the old place, Rob?”

“Yes,” replied the Grinder.

“Soon, Robby dear?” cried Mrs Brown; “and often?”

“Yes. Yes. Yes,” replied Rob. “I will indeed, upon my soul and body.”

“And then,” said Mrs Brown, with her arms uplifted towards the sky, and her head thrown back and shaking, “if he’s true to his word, I’ll never come a-near him though I know where he is, and never breathe a syllable about him! Never!”

This ejaculation seemed a drop of comfort to the miserable Grinder, who shook Mrs Brown by the hand upon it, and implored her with tears in his eyes, to leave a cove and not destroy his prospects. Mrs Brown, with another fond embrace, assented; but in the act of following her daughter, turned back, with her finger stealthily raised, and asked in a hoarse whisper for some money.

“A shilling, dear!” she said, with her eager avaricious face, “or sixpence! For old acquaintance sake. I’m so poor. And my handsome gal”—looking over her shoulder—“she’s my gal, Rob—half starves me.”

But as the reluctant Grinder put it in her hand, her daughter, coming quietly back, caught the hand in hers, and twisted out the coin.

“What,” she said, “mother! always money! money from the first, and to the last. Do you mind so little what I said but now? Here. Take it!”

The old woman uttered a moan as the money was restored, but without in any other way opposing its restoration, hobbled at her daughter’s side out of the yard, and along the by-street upon which it opened. The astonished and dismayed Rob staring after them, saw that they stopped, and fell to earnest conversation very soon; and more than once observed a darkly threatening action of the younger woman’s hand (obviously having reference to someone of whom they spoke), and a crooning feeble imitation of it on the part of Mrs Brown, that made him earnestly hope he might not be the subject of their discourse.

With the present consolation that they were gone, and with the prospective comfort that Mrs Brown could not live for ever, and was not likely to live long to trouble him, the Grinder, not otherwise regretting his misdeeds than as they were attended with such disagreeable incidental consequences, composed his ruffled features to a more serene expression by thinking of the admirable manner in which he had disposed of Captain Cuttle (a reflection that seldom failed to put him in a flow of spirits), and went to the Dombey Counting House to receive his master’s orders.

There his master, so subtle and vigilant of eye, that Rob quaked before him, more than half expecting to be taxed with Mrs Brown, gave him the usual morning’s box of papers for Mr Dombey, and a note for Mrs Dombey: merely nodding his head as an enjoinder to be careful, and to use dispatch—a mysterious admonition, fraught in the Grinder’s imagination with dismal warnings and threats; and more powerful with him than any words.

Alone again, in his own room, Mr Carker applied himself to work, and worked all day. He saw many visitors; overlooked a number of documents; went in and out, to and from, sundry places of mercantile resort; and indulged in no more abstraction until the day’s business was done. But, when the usual clearance of papers from his table was made at last, he fell into his thoughtful mood once more.

He was standing in his accustomed place and attitude, with his eyes intently fixed upon the ground, when his brother entered to bring back some letters that had been taken out in the course of the day. He put them quietly on the table, and was going immediately, when Mr Carker the Manager, whose eyes had rested on him, on his entrance, as if they had all this time had him for the subject of their contemplation, instead of the office-floor, said:

“Well, John Carker, and what brings you here?”

His brother pointed to the letters, and was again withdrawing.

“I wonder,” said the Manager, “that you can come and go, without inquiring how our master is”.

“We had word this morning in the Counting House, that Mr Dombey was doing well,” replied his brother.

“You are such a meek fellow,” said the Manager, with a smile,—“but you have grown so, in the course of years—that if any harm came to him, you’d be miserable, I dare swear now.”

“I should be truly sorry, James,” returned the other.

“He would be sorry!” said the Manager, pointing at him, as if there were some other person present to whom he was appealing. “He would be truly sorry! This brother of mine! This junior of the place, this slighted piece of lumber, pushed aside with his face to the wall, like a rotten picture, and left so, for Heaven knows how many years he’s all gratitude and respect, and devotion too, he would have me believe!”

“I would have you believe nothing, James,” returned the other. “Be as just to me as you would to any other man below you. You ask a question, and I answer it.”

“And have you nothing, Spaniel,” said the Manager, with unusual irascibility, “to complain of in him? No proud treatment to resent, no insolence, no foolery of state, no exaction of any sort! What the devil! are you man or mouse?”

“It would be strange if any two persons could be together for so many years, especially as superior and inferior, without each having something to complain of in the other—as he thought, at all events,” replied John Carker. “But apart from my history here—”

“His history here!” exclaimed the Manager. “Why, there it is. The very fact that makes him an extreme case, puts him out of the whole chapter! Well?”

“Apart from that, which, as you hint, gives me a reason to be thankful that I alone (happily for all the rest) possess, surely there is no one in the House who would not say and feel at least as much. You do not think that anybody here would be indifferent to a mischance or misfortune happening to the head of the House, or anything than truly sorry for it?”

“You have good reason to be bound to him too!” said the Manager, contemptuously. “Why, don’t you believe that you are kept here, as a cheap example, and a famous instance of the clemency of Dombey and Son, redounding to the credit of the illustrious House?”

“No,” replied his brother, mildly, “I have long believed that I am kept here for more kind and disinterested reasons.”

“But you were going,” said the Manager, with the snarl of a tiger-cat, “to recite some Christian precept, I observed.”

“Nay, James,” returned the other, “though the tie of brotherhood between us has been long broken and thrown away—”

“Who broke it, good Sir?” said the Manager.

“I, by my misconduct. I do not charge it upon you.”

The Manager replied, with that mute action of his bristling mouth, “Oh, you don’t charge it upon me!” and bade him go on.

“I say, though there is not that tie between us, do not, I entreat, assail me with unnecessary taunts, or misinterpret what I say, or would say. I was only going to suggest to you that it would be a mistake to suppose that it is only you, who have been selected here, above all others, for advancement, confidence and distinction (selected, in the beginning, I know, for your great ability and trustfulness), and who communicate more freely with Mr Dombey than anyone, and stand, it may be said, on equal terms with him, and have been favoured and enriched by him—that it would be a mistake to suppose that it is only you who are tender of his welfare and reputation. There is no one in the House, from yourself down to the lowest, I sincerely believe, who does not participate in that feeling.”

“You lie!” said the Manager, red with sudden anger. “You’re a hypocrite, John Carker, and you lie.”

“James!” cried the other, flushing in his turn. “What do you mean by these insulting words? Why do you so basely use them to me, unprovoked?”

“I tell you,” said the Manager, “that your hypocrisy and meekness—that all the hypocrisy and meekness of this place—is not worth that to me,” snapping his thumb and finger, “and that I see through it as if it were air! There is not a man employed here, standing between myself and the lowest in place (of whom you are very considerate, and with reason, for he is not far off), who wouldn’t be glad at heart to see his master humbled: who does not hate him, secretly: who does not wish him evil rather than good: and who would not turn upon him, if he had the power and boldness. The nearer to his favour, the nearer to his insolence; the closer to him, the farther from him. That’s the creed here!”

“I don’t know,” said his brother, whose roused feelings had soon yielded to surprise, “who may have abused your ear with such representations; or why you have chosen to try me, rather than another. But that you have been trying me, and tampering with me, I am now sure. You have a different manner and a different aspect from any that I ever saw in you. I will only say to you, once more, you are deceived.”

“I know I am,” said the Manager. “I have told you so.”

“Not by me,” returned his brother. “By your informant, if you have one. If not, by your own thoughts and suspicions.”

“I have no suspicions,” said the Manager. “Mine are certainties. You pusillanimous, abject, cringing dogs! All making the same show, all canting the same story, all whining the same professions, all harbouring the same transparent secret.”

His brother withdrew, without saying more, and shut the door as he concluded. Mr Carker the Manager drew a chair close before the fire, and fell to beating the coals softly with the poker.

“The faint-hearted, fawning knaves,” he muttered, with his two shining rows of teeth laid bare. “There’s not one among them, who wouldn’t feign to be so shocked and outraged—! Bah! There’s not one among them, but if he had at once the power, and the wit and daring to use it, would scatter Dombey’s pride and lay it low, as ruthlessly as I rake out these ashes.”

As he broke them up and strewed them in the grate, he looked on with a thoughtful smile at what he was doing. “Without the same queen beckoner too!” he added presently; “and there is pride there, not to be forgotten—witness our own acquaintance!” With that he fell into a deeper reverie, and sat pondering over the blackening grate, until he rose up like a man who had been absorbed in a book, and looking round him took his hat and gloves, went to where his horse was waiting, mounted, and rode away through the lighted streets, for it was evening.

He rode near Mr Dombey’s house; and falling into a walk as he approached it, looked up at the windows The window where he had once seen Florence sitting with her dog attracted his attention first, though there was no light in it; but he smiled as he carried his eyes up the tall front of the house, and seemed to leave that object superciliously behind.

“Time was,” he said, “when it was well to watch even your rising little star, and know in what quarter there were clouds, to shadow you if needful. But a planet has arisen, and you are lost in its light.”

He turned the white-legged horse round the street corner, and sought one shining window from among those at the back of the house. Associated with it was a certain stately presence, a gloved hand, the remembrance how the feathers of a beautiful bird’s wing had been showered down upon the floor, and how the light white down upon a robe had stirred and rustled, as in the rising of a distant storm. These were the things he carried with him as he turned away again, and rode through the darkening and deserted Parks at a quick rate.

In fatal truth, these were associated with a woman, a proud woman, who hated him, but who by slow and sure degrees had been led on by his craft, and her pride and resentment, to endure his company, and little by little to receive him as one who had the privilege to talk to her of her own defiant disregard of her own husband, and her abandonment of high consideration for herself. They were associated with a woman who hated him deeply, and who knew him, and who mistrusted him because she knew him, and because he knew her; but who fed her fierce resentment by suffering him to draw nearer and yet nearer to her every day, in spite of the hate she cherished for him. In spite of it! For that very reason; since in its depths, too far down for her threatening eye to pierce, though she could see into them dimly, lay the dark retaliation, whose faintest shadow seen once and shuddered at, and never seen again, would have been sufficient stain upon her soul.

Did the phantom of such a woman flit about him on his ride; true to the reality, and obvious to him?

Yes. He saw her in his mind, exactly as she was. She bore him company with her pride, resentment, hatred, all as plain to him as her beauty; with nothing plainer to him than her hatred of him. He saw her sometimes haughty and repellent at his side, and some times down among his horse’s feet, fallen and in the dust. But he always saw her as she was, without disguise, and watched her on the dangerous way that she was going.

And when his ride was over, and he was newly dressed, and came into the light of her bright room with his bent head, soft voice, and soothing smile, he saw her yet as plainly. He even suspected the mystery of the gloved hand, and held it all the longer in his own for that suspicion. Upon the dangerous way that she was going, he was, still; and not a footprint did she mark upon it, but he set his own there, straight.

CHAPTER XLVII. 
The Thunderbolt

The barrier between Mr Dombey and his wife was not weakened by time. Ill-assorted couple, unhappy in themselves and in each other, bound together by no tie but the manacle that joined their fettered hands, and straining that so harshly, in their shrinking asunder, that it wore and chafed to the bone, Time, consoler of affliction and softener of anger, could do nothing to help them. Their pride, however different in kind and object, was equal in degree; and, in their flinty opposition, struck out fire between them which might smoulder or might blaze, as circumstances were, but burned up everything within their mutual reach, and made their marriage way a road of ashes.

Let us be just to him. In the monstrous delusion of his life, swelling with every grain of sand that shifted in its glass, he urged her on, he little thought to what, or considered how; but still his feeling towards her, such as it was, remained as at first. She had the grand demerit of unaccountably putting herself in opposition to the recognition of his vast importance, and to the acknowledgment of her complete submission to it, and so far it was necessary to correct and reduce her; but otherwise he still considered her, in his cold way, a lady capable of doing honour, if she would, to his choice and name, and of reflecting credit on his proprietorship.

Now, she, with all her might of passionate and proud resentment, bent her dark glance from day to day, and hour to hour—from that night in her own chamber, when she had sat gazing at the shadows on the wall, to the deeper night fast coming—upon one figure directing a crowd of humiliations and exasperations against her; and that figure, still her husband’s.

Was Mr Dombey’s master-vice, that ruled him so inexorably, an unnatural characteristic? It might be worthwhile, sometimes, to inquire what Nature is, and how men work to change her, and whether, in the enforced distortions so produced, it is not natural to be unnatural. Coop any son or daughter of our mighty mother within narrow range, and bind the prisoner to one idea, and foster it by servile worship of it on the part of the few timid or designing people standing round, and what is Nature to the willing captive who has never risen up upon the wings of a free mind—drooping and useless soon—to see her in her comprehensive truth!

Alas! are there so few things in the world, about us, most unnatural, and yet most natural in being so? Hear the magistrate or judge admonish the unnatural outcasts of society; unnatural in brutal habits, unnatural in want of decency, unnatural in losing and confounding all distinctions between good and evil; unnatural in ignorance, in vice, in recklessness, in contumacy, in mind, in looks, in everything. But follow the good clergyman or doctor, who, with his life imperilled at every breath he draws, goes down into their dens, lying within the echoes of our carriage wheels and daily tread upon the pavement stones. Look round upon the world of odious sights—millions of immortal creatures have no other world on earth—at the lightest mention of which humanity revolts, and dainty delicacy living in the next street, stops her ears, and lisps “I don’t believe it!” Breathe the polluted air, foul with every impurity that is poisonous to health and life; and have every sense, conferred upon our race for its delight and happiness, offended, sickened and disgusted, and made a channel by which misery and death alone can enter. Vainly attempt to think of any simple plant, or flower, or wholesome weed, that, set in this foetid bed, could have its natural growth, or put its little leaves off to the sun as GOD designed it. And then, calling up some ghastly child, with stunted form and wicked face, hold forth on its unnatural sinfulness, and lament its being, so early, far away from Heaven—but think a little of its having been conceived, and born and bred, in Hell!

Those who study the physical sciences, and bring them to bear upon the health of Man, tell us that if the noxious particles that rise from vitiated air were palpable to the sight, we should see them lowering in a dense black cloud above such haunts, and rolling slowly on to corrupt the better portions of a town. But if the moral pestilence that rises with them, and in the eternal laws of our Nature, is inseparable from them, could be made discernible too, how terrible the revelation! Then should we see depravity, impiety, drunkenness, theft, murder, and a long train of nameless sins against the natural affections and repulsions of mankind, overhanging the devoted spots, and creeping on, to blight the innocent and spread contagion among the pure. Then should we see how the same poisoned fountains that flow into our hospitals and lazar-houses, inundate the jails, and make the convict-ships swim deep, and roll across the seas, and over-run vast continents with crime. Then should we stand appalled to know, that where we generate disease to strike our children down and entail itself on unborn generations, there also we breed, by the same certain process, infancy that knows no innocence, youth without modesty or shame, maturity that is mature in nothing but in suffering and guilt, blasted old age that is a scandal on the form we bear, unnatural humanity! When we shall gather grapes from thorns, and figs from thistles; when fields of grain shall spring up from the offal in the bye-ways of our wicked cities, and roses bloom in the fat churchyards that they cherish; then we may look for natural humanity, and find it growing from such seed.

Oh for a good spirit who would take the house-tops off, with a more potent and benignant hand than the lame demon in the tale, and show a Christian people what dark shapes issue from amidst their homes, to swell the retinue of the Destroying Angel as he moves forth among them! For only one night’s view of the pale phantoms rising from the scenes of our too-long neglect; and from the thick and sullen air where Vice and Fever propagate together, raining the tremendous social retributions which are ever pouring down, and ever coming thicker! Bright and blest the morning that should rise on such a night: for men, delayed no more by stumbling-blocks of their own making, which are but specks of dust upon the path between them and eternity, would then apply themselves, like creatures of one common origin, owing one duty to the Father of one family, and tending to one common end, to make the world a better place!

Not the less bright and blest would that day be for rousing some who never have looked out upon the world of human life around them, to a knowledge of their own relation to it, and for making them acquainted with a perversion of nature in their own contracted sympathies and estimates; as great, and yet as natural in its development when once begun, as the lowest degradation known.

But no such day had ever dawned on Mr Dombey, or his wife; and the course of each was taken.

Through six months that ensued upon his accident, they held the same relations one towards the other. A marble rock could not have stood more obdurately in his way than she; and no chilled spring, lying uncheered by any ray of light in the depths of a deep cave, could be more sullen or more cold than he.

The hope that had fluttered within her when the promise of her new home dawned, was quite gone from the heart of Florence now. That home was nearly two years old; and even the patient trust that was in her, could not survive the daily blight of such experience. If she had any lingering fancy in the nature of hope left, that Edith and her father might be happier together, in some distant time, she had none, now, that her father would ever love her. The little interval in which she had imagined that she saw some small relenting in him, was forgotten in the long remembrance of his coldness since and before, or only remembered as a sorrowful delusion.

Florence loved him still, but, by degrees, had come to love him rather as some dear one who had been, or who might have been, than as the hard reality before her eyes. Something of the softened sadness with which she loved the memory of little Paul, or of her mother, seemed to enter now into her thoughts of him, and to make them, as it were, a dear remembrance. Whether it was that he was dead to her, and that partly for this reason, partly for his share in those old objects of her affection, and partly for the long association of him with hopes that were withered and tendernesses he had frozen, she could not have told; but the father whom she loved began to be a vague and dreamy idea to her: hardly more substantially connected with her real life, than the image she would sometimes conjure up, of her dear brother yet alive, and growing to be a man, who would protect and cherish her.

The change, if it may be called one, had stolen on her like the change from childhood to womanhood, and had come with it. Florence was almost seventeen, when, in her lonely musings, she was conscious of these thoughts.

She was often alone now, for the old association between her and her Mama was greatly changed. At the time of her father’s accident, and when he was lying in his room downstairs, Florence had first observed that Edith avoided her. Wounded and shocked, and yet unable to reconcile this with her affection when they did meet, she sought her in her own room at night, once more.

“Mama,” said Florence, stealing softly to her side, “have I offended you?”

Edith answered “No.”

“I must have done something,” said Florence. “Tell me what it is. You have changed your manner to me, dear Mama. I cannot say how instantly I feel the least change; for I love you with my whole heart.”

“As I do you,” said Edith. “Ah, Florence, believe me never more than now!”

“Why do you go away from me so often, and keep away?” asked Florence. “And why do you sometimes look so strangely on me, dear Mama? You do so, do you not?”

Edith signified assent with her dark eyes.

“Why?” returned Florence imploringly. “Tell me why, that I may know how to please you better; and tell me this shall not be so any more.”

“My Florence,” answered Edith, taking the hand that embraced her neck, and looking into the eyes that looked into hers so lovingly, as Florence knelt upon the ground before her; “why it is, I cannot tell you. It is neither for me to say, nor you to hear; but that it is, and that it must be, I know. Should I do it if I did not?”

“Are we to be estranged, Mama?” asked Florence, gazing at her like one frightened.

Edith’s silent lips formed “Yes.”

Florence looked at her with increasing fear and wonder, until she could see her no more through the blinding tears that ran down her face.

“Florence! my life!” said Edith, hurriedly, “listen to me. I cannot bear to see this grief. Be calmer. You see that I am composed, and is it nothing to me?”

She resumed her steady voice and manner as she said the latter words, and added presently:

“Not wholly estranged. Partially: and only that, in appearance, Florence, for in my own breast I am still the same to you, and ever will be. But what I do is not done for myself.”

“Is it for me, Mama?” asked Florence.

“It is enough,” said Edith, after a pause, “to know what it is; why, matters little. Dear Florence, it is better—it is necessary—it must be—that our association should be less frequent. The confidence there has been between us must be broken off.”

“When?” cried Florence. “Oh, Mama, when?”

“Now,” said Edith.

“For all time to come?” asked Florence.

“I do not say that,” answered Edith. “I do not know that. Nor will I say that companionship between us is, at the best, an ill-assorted and unholy union, of which I might have known no good could come. My way here has been through paths that you will never tread, and my way henceforth may lie—God knows—I do not see it—”

Her voice died away into silence; and she sat, looking at Florence, and almost shrinking from her, with the same strange dread and wild avoidance that Florence had noticed once before. The same dark pride and rage succeeded, sweeping over her form and features like an angry chord across the strings of a wild harp. But no softness or humility ensued on that. She did not lay her head down now, and weep, and say that she had no hope but in Florence. She held it up as if she were a beautiful Medusa, looking on him, face to face, to strike him dead. Yes, and she would have done it, if she had had the charm.

“Mama,” said Florence, anxiously, “there is a change in you, in more than what you say to me, which alarms me. Let me stay with you a little.”

“No,” said Edith, “no, dearest. I am best left alone now, and I do best to keep apart from you, of all else. Ask me no questions, but believe that what I am when I seem fickle or capricious to you, I am not of my own will, or for myself. Believe, though we are stranger to each other than we have been, that I am unchanged to you within. Forgive me for having ever darkened your dark home—I am a shadow on it, I know well—and let us never speak of this again.”

“Mama,” sobbed Florence, “we are not to part?”

“We do this that we may not part,” said Edith. “Ask no more. Go, Florence! My love and my remorse go with you!”

She embraced her, and dismissed her; and as Florence passed out of her room, Edith looked on the retiring figure, as if her good angel went out in that form, and left her to the haughty and indignant passions that now claimed her for their own, and set their seal upon her brow.

From that hour, Florence and she were, as they had been, no more. For days together, they would seldom meet, except at table, and when Mr Dombey was present. Then Edith, imperious, inflexible, and silent, never looked at her. Whenever Mr Carker was of the party, as he often was, during the progress of Mr Dombey’s recovery, and afterwards, Edith held herself more removed from her, and was more distant towards her, than at other times. Yet she and Florence never encountered, when there was no one by, but she would embrace her as affectionately as of old, though not with the same relenting of her proud aspect; and often, when she had been out late, she would steal up to Florence’s room, as she had been used to do, in the dark, and whisper “Good-night,” on her pillow. When unconscious, in her slumber, of such visits, Florence would sometimes awake, as from a dream of those words, softly spoken, and would seem to feel the touch of lips upon her face. But less and less often as the months went on.

And now the void in Florence’s own heart began again, indeed, to make a solitude around her. As the image of the father whom she loved had insensibly become a mere abstraction, so Edith, following the fate of all the rest about whom her affections had entwined themselves, was fleeting, fading, growing paler in the distance, every day. Little by little, she receded from Florence, like the retiring ghost of what she had been; little by little, the chasm between them widened and seemed deeper; little by little, all the power of earnestness and tenderness she had shown, was frozen up in the bold, angry hardihood with which she stood, upon the brink of a deep precipice unseen by Florence, daring to look down.

There was but one consideration to set against the heavy loss of Edith, and though it was slight comfort to her burdened heart, she tried to think it some relief. No longer divided between her affection and duty to the two, Florence could love both and do no injustice to either. As shadows of her fond imagination, she could give them equal place in her own bosom, and wrong them with no doubts.

So she tried to do. At times, and often too, wondering speculations on the cause of this change in Edith, would obtrude themselves upon her mind and frighten her; but in the calm of its abandonment once more to silent grief and loneliness, it was not a curious mind. Florence had only to remember that her star of promise was clouded in the general gloom that hung upon the house, and to weep and be resigned.

Thus living, in a dream wherein the overflowing love of her young heart expended itself on airy forms, and in a real world where she had experienced little but the rolling back of that strong tide upon itself, Florence grew to be seventeen. Timid and retiring as her solitary life had made her, it had not embittered her sweet temper, or her earnest nature. A child in innocent simplicity; a woman in her modest self-reliance, and her deep intensity of feeling; both child and woman seemed at once expressed in her face and fragile delicacy of shape, and gracefully to mingle there;—as if the spring should be unwilling to depart when summer came, and sought to blend the earlier beauties of the flowers with their bloom. But in her thrilling voice, in her calm eyes, sometimes in a sage ethereal light that seemed to rest upon her head, and always in a certain pensive air upon her beauty, there was an expression, such as had been seen in the dead boy; and the council in the Servants’ Hall whispered so among themselves, and shook their heads, and ate and drank the more, in a closer bond of good-fellowship.

This observant body had plenty to say of Mr and Mrs Dombey, and of Mr Carker, who appeared to be a mediator between them, and who came and went as if he were trying to make peace, but never could. They all deplored the uncomfortable state of affairs, and all agreed that Mrs Pipchin (whose unpopularity was not to be surpassed) had some hand in it; but, upon the whole, it was agreeable to have so good a subject for a rallying point, and they made a great deal of it, and enjoyed themselves very much.

The general visitors who came to the house, and those among whom Mr and Mrs Dombey visited, thought it a pretty equal match, as to haughtiness, at all events, and thought nothing more about it. The young lady with the back did not appear for some time after Mrs Skewton’s death; observing to some particular friends, with her usual engaging little scream, that she couldn’t separate the family from a notion of tombstones, and horrors of that sort; but when she did come, she saw nothing wrong, except Mr Dombey’s wearing a bunch of gold seals to his watch, which shocked her very much, as an exploded superstition. This youthful fascinator considered a daughter-in-law objectionable in principle; otherwise, she had nothing to say against Florence, but that she sadly wanted “style”—which might mean back, perhaps. Many, who only came to the house on state occasions, hardly knew who Florence was, and said, going home, “Indeed, was that Miss Dombey, in the corner? Very pretty, but a little delicate and thoughtful in appearance!”

None the less so, certainly, for her life of the last six months. Florence took her seat at the dinner-table, on the day before the second anniversary of her father’s marriage to Edith (Mrs Skewton had been lying stricken with paralysis when the first came round), with an uneasiness, amounting to dread. She had no other warrant for it, than the occasion, the expression of her father’s face, in the hasty glance she caught of it, and the presence of Mr Carker, which, always unpleasant to her, was more so on this day, than she had ever felt it before.

Edith was richly dressed, for she and Mr Dombey were engaged in the evening to some large assembly, and the dinner-hour that day was late. She did not appear until they were seated at table, when Mr Carker rose and led her to her chair. Beautiful and lustrous as she was, there was that in her face and air which seemed to separate her hopelessly from Florence, and from everyone, for ever more. And yet, for an instant, Florence saw a beam of kindness in her eyes, when they were turned on her, that made the distance to which she had withdrawn herself a greater cause of sorrow and regret than ever.

There was very little said at dinner. Florence heard her father speak to Mr Carker sometimes on business matters, and heard him softly reply, but she paid little attention to what they said, and only wished the dinner at an end. When the dessert was placed upon the table, and they were left alone, with no servant in attendance, Mr Dombey, who had been several times clearing his throat in a manner that augured no good, said:

“Mrs Dombey, you know, I suppose, that I have instructed the housekeeper that there will be some company to dinner here to-morrow.”

“I do not dine at home,” she answered.

“Not a large party,” pursued Mr Dombey, with an indifferent assumption of not having heard her; “merely some twelve or fourteen. My sister, Major Bagstock, and some others whom you know but slightly.”

“I do not dine at home,” she repeated.

“However doubtful reason I may have, Mrs Dombey,” said Mr Dombey, still going majestically on, as if she had not spoken, “to hold the occasion in very pleasant remembrance just now, there are appearances in these things which must be maintained before the world. If you have no respect for yourself, Mrs Dombey—”

“I have none,” she said.

“Madam,” cried Mr Dombey, striking his hand upon the table, “hear me if you please. I say, if you have no respect for yourself—”

“And I say I have none,” she answered.

He looked at her; but the face she showed him in return would not have changed, if death itself had looked.

“Carker,” said Mr Dombey, turning more quietly to that gentleman, “as you have been my medium of communication with Mrs Dombey on former occasions, and as I choose to preserve the decencies of life, so far as I am individually concerned, I will trouble you to have the goodness to inform Mrs Dombey that if she has no respect for herself, I have some respect for myself, and therefore insist on my arrangements for to-morrow.”

“Tell your sovereign master, Sir,” said Edith, “that I will take leave to speak to him on this subject by-and-bye, and that I will speak to him alone.”

“Mr Carker, Madam,” said her husband, “being in possession of the reason which obliges me to refuse you that privilege, shall be absolved from the delivery of any such message.” He saw her eyes move, while he spoke, and followed them with his own.

“Your daughter is present, Sir,” said Edith.

“My daughter will remain present,” said Mr Dombey.

Florence, who had risen, sat down again, hiding her face in her hands, and trembling.

“My daughter, Madam”—began Mr Dombey.

But Edith stopped him, in a voice which, although not raised in the least, was so clear, emphatic, and distinct, that it might have been heard in a whirlwind.

“I tell you I will speak to you alone,” she said. “If you are not mad, heed what I say.”

“I have authority to speak to you, Madam,” returned her husband, “when and where I please; and it is my pleasure to speak here and now.”

She rose up as if to leave the room; but sat down again, and looking at him with all outward composure, said, in the same voice:

“You shall!”

“I must tell you first, that there is a threatening appearance in your manner, Madam,” said Mr Dombey, “which does not become you.”

She laughed. The shaken diamonds in her hair started and trembled. There are fables of precious stones that would turn pale, their wearer being in danger. Had these been such, their imprisoned rays of light would have taken flight that moment, and they would have been as dull as lead.

Carker listened, with his eyes cast down.

“As to my daughter, Madam,” said Mr Dombey, resuming the thread of his discourse, “it is by no means inconsistent with her duty to me, that she should know what conduct to avoid. At present you are a very strong example to her of this kind, and I hope she may profit by it.”

“I would not stop you now,” returned his wife, immoveable in eye, and voice, and attitude; “I would not rise and go away, and save you the utterance of one word, if the room were burning.”

Mr Dombey moved his head, as if in a sarcastic acknowledgment of the attention, and resumed. But not with so much self-possession as before; for Edith’s quick uneasiness in reference to Florence, and Edith’s indifference to him and his censure, chafed and galled him like a stiffening wound.

“Mrs Dombey,” said he, “it may not be inconsistent with my daughter’s improvement to know how very much to be lamented, and how necessary to be corrected, a stubborn disposition is, especially when it is indulged in—unthankfully indulged in, I will add—after the gratification of ambition and interest. Both of which, I believe, had some share in inducing you to occupy your present station at this board.”

“No! I would not rise, and go away, and save you the utterance of one word,” she repeated, exactly as before, “if the room were burning.”

“It may be natural enough, Mrs Dombey,” he pursued, “that you should be uneasy in the presence of any auditors of these disagreeable truths; though why”—he could not hide his real feeling here, or keep his eyes from glancing gloomily at Florence—“why anyone can give them greater force and point than myself, whom they so nearly concern, I do not pretend to understand. It may be natural enough that you should object to hear, in anybody’s presence, that there is a rebellious principle within you which you cannot curb too soon; which you must curb, Mrs Dombey; and which, I regret to say, I remember to have seen manifested—with some doubt and displeasure, on more than one occasion before our marriage—towards your deceased mother. But you have the remedy in your own hands. I by no means forgot, when I began, that my daughter was present, Mrs Dombey. I beg you will not forget, to-morrow, that there are several persons present; and that, with some regard to appearances, you will receive your company in a becoming manner.”

“So it is not enough,” said Edith, “that you know what has passed between yourself and me; it is not enough that you can look here,” pointing at Carker, who still listened, with his eyes cast down, “and be reminded of the affronts you have put upon me; it is not enough that you can look here,” pointing to Florence with a hand that slightly trembled for the first and only time, “and think of what you have done, and of the ingenious agony, daily, hourly, constant, you have made me feel in doing it; it is not enough that this day, of all others in the year, is memorable to me for a struggle (well-deserved, but not conceivable by such as you) in which I wish I had died! You add to all this, do you, the last crowning meanness of making her a witness of the depth to which I have fallen; when you know that you have made me sacrifice to her peace, the only gentle feeling and interest of my life, when you know that for her sake, I would now if I could—but I can not, my soul recoils from you too much—submit myself wholly to your will, and be the meekest vassal that you have!”

This was not the way to minister to Mr Dombey’s greatness. The old feeling was roused by what she said, into a stronger and fiercer existence than it had ever had. Again, his neglected child, at this rough passage of his life, put forth by even this rebellious woman, as powerful where he was powerless, and everything where he was nothing!

He turned on Florence, as if it were she who had spoken, and bade her leave the room. Florence with her covered face obeyed, trembling and weeping as she went.

“I understand, Madam,” said Mr Dombey, with an angry flush of triumph, “the spirit of opposition that turned your affections in that channel, but they have been met, Mrs Dombey; they have been met, and turned back!”

“The worse for you!” she answered, with her voice and manner still unchanged. “Ay!” for he turned sharply when she said so, “what is the worse for me, is twenty million times the worse for you. Heed that, if you heed nothing else.”

The arch of diamonds spanning her dark hair, flashed and glittered like a starry bridge. There was no warning in them, or they would have turned as dull and dim as tarnished honour. Carker still sat and listened, with his eyes cast down.

“Mrs Dombey,” said Mr Dombey, resuming as much as he could of his arrogant composure, “you will not conciliate me, or turn me from any purpose, by this course of conduct.”

“It is the only true although it is a faint expression of what is within me,” she replied. “But if I thought it would conciliate you, I would repress it, if it were repressible by any human effort. I will do nothing that you ask.”

“I am not accustomed to ask, Mrs Dombey,” he observed; “I direct.”

“I will hold no place in your house to-morrow, or on any recurrence of to-morrow. I will be exhibited to no one, as the refractory slave you purchased, such a time. If I kept my marriage day, I would keep it as a day of shame. Self-respect! appearances before the world! what are these to me? You have done all you can to make them nothing to me, and they are nothing.”

“Carker,” said Mr Dombey, speaking with knitted brows, and after a moment’s consideration, “Mrs Dombey is so forgetful of herself and me in all this, and places me in a position so unsuited to my character, that I must bring this state of matters to a close.”

“Release me, then,” said Edith, immoveable in voice, in look, and bearing, as she had been throughout, “from the chain by which I am bound. Let me go.”

“Madam?” exclaimed Mr Dombey.

“Loose me. Set me free!”

“Madam?” he repeated, “Mrs Dombey?”

“Tell him,” said Edith, addressing her proud face to Carker, “that I wish for a separation between us. That there had better be one. That I recommend it to him. Tell him it may take place on his own terms—his wealth is nothing to me—but that it cannot be too soon.”

“Good Heaven, Mrs Dombey!” said her husband, with supreme amazement, “do you imagine it possible that I could ever listen to such a proposition? Do you know who I am, Madam? Do you know what I represent? Did you ever hear of Dombey and Son? People to say that Mr Dombey—Mr Dombey!—was separated from his wife! Common people to talk of Mr Dombey and his domestic affairs! Do you seriously think, Mrs Dombey, that I would permit my name to be banded about in such connexion? Pooh, pooh, Madam! Fie for shame! You’re absurd.” Mr Dombey absolutely laughed.

But not as she did. She had better have been dead than laugh as she did, in reply, with her intent look fixed upon him. He had better have been dead, than sitting there, in his magnificence, to hear her.

“No, Mrs Dombey,” he resumed. “No, Madam. There is no possibility of separation between you and me, and therefore I the more advise you to be awakened to a sense of duty. And, Carker, as I was about to say to you—”

Mr Carker, who had sat and listened all this time, now raised his eyes, in which there was a bright unusual light.

“—As I was about to say to you,” resumed Mr Dombey, “I must beg you, now that matters have come to this, to inform Mrs Dombey, that it is not the rule of my life to allow myself to be thwarted by anybody—anybody, Carker—or to suffer anybody to be paraded as a stronger motive for obedience in those who owe obedience to me than I am my self. The mention that has been made of my daughter, and the use that is made of my daughter, in opposition to me, are unnatural. Whether my daughter is in actual concert with Mrs Dombey, I do not know, and do not care; but after what Mrs Dombey has said today, and my daughter has heard today, I beg you to make known to Mrs Dombey, that if she continues to make this house the scene of contention it has become, I shall consider my daughter responsible in some degree, on that lady’s own avowal, and shall visit her with my severe displeasure. Mrs Dombey has asked ‘whether it is not enough,’ that she had done this and that. You will please to answer no, it is not enough.”

“A moment!” cried Carker, interposing, “permit me! painful as my position is, at the best, and unusually painful in seeming to entertain a different opinion from you,” addressing Mr Dombey, “I must ask, had you not better reconsider the question of a separation. I know how incompatible it appears with your high public position, and I know how determined you are when you give Mrs Dombey to understand”—the light in his eyes fell upon her as he separated his words each from each, with the distinctness of so many bells—“that nothing but death can ever part you. Nothing else. But when you consider that Mrs Dombey, by living in this house, and making it as you have said, a scene of contention, not only has her part in that contention, but compromises Miss Dombey every day (for I know how determined you are), will you not relieve her from a continual irritation of spirit, and a continual sense of being unjust to another, almost intolerable? Does this not seem like—I do not say it is—sacrificing Mrs Dombey to the preservation of your preeminent and unassailable position?”

Again the light in his eyes fell upon her, as she stood looking at her husband: now with an extraordinary and awful smile upon her face.

“Carker,” returned Mr Dombey, with a supercilious frown, and in a tone that was intended to be final, “you mistake your position in offering advice to me on such a point, and you mistake me (I am surprised to find) in the character of your advice. I have no more to say.”

“Perhaps,” said Carker, with an unusual and indefinable taunt in his air, “you mistook my position, when you honoured me with the negotiations in which I have been engaged here”—with a motion of his hand towards Mrs Dombey.

“Not at all, Sir, not at all,” returned the other haughtily. “You were employed—”

“Being an inferior person, for the humiliation of Mrs Dombey. I forgot. Oh, yes, it was expressly understood!” said Carker. “I beg your pardon!”

As he bent his head to Mr Dombey, with an air of deference that accorded ill with his words, though they were humbly spoken, he moved it round towards her, and kept his watching eyes that way.

She had better have turned hideous and dropped dead, than have stood up with such a smile upon her face, in such a fallen spirit’s majesty of scorn and beauty. She lifted her hand to the tiara of bright jewels radiant on her head, and, plucking it off with a force that dragged and strained her rich black hair with heedless cruelty, and brought it tumbling wildly on her shoulders, cast the gems upon the ground. From each arm, she unclasped a diamond bracelet, flung it down, and trod upon the glittering heap. Without a word, without a shadow on the fire of her bright eye, without abatement of her awful smile, she looked on Mr Dombey to the last, in moving to the door; and left him.

Florence had heard enough before quitting the room, to know that Edith loved her yet; that she had suffered for her sake; and that she had kept her sacrifices quiet, lest they should trouble her peace. She did not want to speak to her of this—she could not, remembering to whom she was opposed—but she wished, in one silent and affectionate embrace, to assure her that she felt it all, and thanked her.

Her father went out alone, that evening, and Florence issuing from her own chamber soon afterwards, went about the house in search of Edith, but unavailingly. She was in her own rooms, where Florence had long ceased to go, and did not dare to venture now, lest she should unconsciously engender new trouble. Still Florence hoping to meet her before going to bed, changed from room to room, and wandered through the house so splendid and so dreary, without remaining anywhere.

She was crossing a gallery of communication that opened at some little distance on the staircase, and was only lighted on great occasions, when she saw, through the opening, which was an arch, the figure of a man coming down some few stairs opposite. Instinctively apprehensive of her father, whom she supposed it was, she stopped, in the dark, gazing through the arch into the light. But it was Mr Carker coming down alone, and looking over the railing into the hall. No bell was rung to announce his departure, and no servant was in attendance. He went down quietly, opened the door for himself, glided out, and shut it softly after him.

Her invincible repugnance to this man, and perhaps the stealthy act of watching anyone, which, even under such innocent circumstances, is in a manner guilty and oppressive, made Florence shake from head to foot. Her blood seemed to run cold. As soon as she could—for at first she felt an insurmountable dread of moving—she went quickly to her own room and locked her door; but even then, shut in with her dog beside her, felt a chill sensation of horror, as if there were danger brooding somewhere near her.

It invaded her dreams and disturbed the whole night. Rising in the morning, unrefreshed, and with a heavy recollection of the domestic unhappiness of the preceding day, she sought Edith again in all the rooms, and did so, from time to time, all the morning. But she remained in her own chamber, and Florence saw nothing of her. Learning, however, that the projected dinner at home was put off, Florence thought it likely that she would go out in the evening to fulfil the engagement she had spoken of; and resolved to try and meet her, then, upon the staircase.

When the evening had set in, she heard, from the room in which she sat on purpose, a footstep on the stairs that she thought to be Edith’s. Hurrying out, and up towards her room, Florence met her immediately, coming down alone.

What was Florence’s affright and wonder when, at sight of her, with her tearful face, and outstretched arms, Edith recoiled and shrieked!

“Don’t come near me!” she cried. “Keep away! Let me go by!”

“Mama!” said Florence.

“Don’t call me by that name! Don’t speak to me! Don’t look at me!—Florence!” shrinking back, as Florence moved a step towards her, “don’t touch me!”

As Florence stood transfixed before the haggard face and staring eyes, she noted, as in a dream, that Edith spread her hands over them, and shuddering through all her form, and crouching down against the wall, crawled by her like some lower animal, sprang up, and fled away.

Florence dropped upon the stairs in a swoon; and was found there by Mrs Pipchin, she supposed. She knew nothing more, until she found herself lying on her own bed, with Mrs Pipchin and some servants standing round her.

“Where is Mama?” was her first question.

“Gone out to dinner,” said Mrs Pipchin.

“And Papa?”

“Mr Dombey is in his own room, Miss Dombey,” said Mrs Pipchin, “and the best thing you can do, is to take off your things and go to bed this minute.” This was the sagacious woman’s remedy for all complaints, particularly lowness of spirits, and inability to sleep; for which offences, many young victims in the days of the Brighton Castle had been committed to bed at ten o’clock in the morning.

Without promising obedience, but on the plea of desiring to be very quiet, Florence disengaged herself, as soon as she could, from the ministration of Mrs Pipchin and her attendants. Left alone, she thought of what had happened on the staircase, at first in doubt of its reality; then with tears; then with an indescribable and terrible alarm, like that she had felt the night before.

She determined not to go to bed until Edith returned, and if she could not speak to her, at least to be sure that she was safe at home. What indistinct and shadowy dread moved Florence to this resolution, she did not know, and did not dare to think. She only knew that until Edith came back, there was no repose for her aching head or throbbing heart.

The evening deepened into night; midnight came; no Edith.

Florence could not read, or rest a moment. She paced her own room, opened the door and paced the staircase-gallery outside, looked out of window on the night, listened to the wind blowing and the rain falling, sat down and watched the faces in the fire, got up and watched the moon flying like a storm-driven ship through the sea of clouds.

All the house was gone to bed, except two servants who were waiting the return of their mistress, downstairs.

One o’clock. The carriages that rumbled in the distance, turned away, or stopped short, or went past; the silence gradually deepened, and was more and more rarely broken, save by a rush of wind or sweep of rain. Two o’clock. No Edith!

Florence, more agitated, paced her room; and paced the gallery outside; and looked out at the night, blurred and wavy with the raindrops on the glass, and the tears in her own eyes; and looked up at the hurry in the sky, so different from the repose below, and yet so tranquil and solitary. Three o’clock! There was a terror in every ash that dropped out of the fire. No Edith yet.

More and more agitated, Florence paced her room, and paced the gallery, and looked out at the moon with a new fancy of her likeness to a pale fugitive hurrying away and hiding her guilty face. Four struck! Five! No Edith yet.

But now there was some cautious stir in the house; and Florence found that Mrs Pipchin had been awakened by one of those who sat up, had risen and had gone down to her father’s door. Stealing lower down the stairs, and observing what passed, she saw her father come out in his morning gown, and start when he was told his wife had not come home. He dispatched a messenger to the stables to inquire whether the coachman was there; and while the man was gone, dressed himself very hurriedly.

The man came back, in great haste, bringing the coachman with him, who said he had been at home and in bed, since ten o’clock. He had driven his mistress to her old house in Brook Street, where she had been met by Mr Carker—

Florence stood upon the very spot where she had seen him coming down. Again she shivered with the nameless terror of that sight, and had hardly steadiness enough to hear and understand what followed.

—Who had told him, the man went on to say, that his mistress would not want the carriage to go home in; and had dismissed him.

She saw her father turn white in the face, and heard him ask in a quick, trembling voice, for Mrs Dombey’s maid. The whole house was roused; for she was there, in a moment, very pale too, and speaking incoherently.

She said she had dressed her mistress early—full two hours before she went out—and had been told, as she often was, that she would not be wanted at night. She had just come from her mistress’s rooms, but—

“But what! what was it?” Florence heard her father demand like a madman.

“But the inner dressing-room was locked and the key gone.”

Her father seized a candle that was flaming on the ground—someone had put it down there, and forgotten it—and came running upstairs with such fury, that Florence, in her fear, had hardly time to fly before him. She heard him striking in the door, as she ran on, with her hands widely spread, and her hair streaming, and her face like a distracted person’s, back to her own room.

When the door yielded, and he rushed in, what did he see there? No one knew. But thrown down in a costly mass upon the ground, was every ornament she had had, since she had been his wife; every dress she had worn; and everything she had possessed. This was the room in which he had seen, in yonder mirror, the proud face discard him. This was the room in which he had wondered, idly, how these things would look when he should see them next!

Heaping them back into the drawers, and locking them up in a rage of haste, he saw some papers on the table. The deed of settlement he had executed on their marriage, and a letter. He read that she was gone. He read that he was dishonoured. He read that she had fled, upon her shameful wedding-day, with the man whom he had chosen for her humiliation; and he tore out of the room, and out of the house, with a frantic idea of finding her yet, at the place to which she had been taken, and beating all trace of beauty out of the triumphant face with his bare hand.

Florence, not knowing what she did, put on a shawl and bonnet, in a dream of running through the streets until she found Edith, and then clasping her in her arms, to save and bring her back. But when she hurried out upon the staircase, and saw the frightened servants going up and down with lights, and whispering together, and falling away from her father as he passed down, she awoke to a sense of her own powerlessness; and hiding in one of the great rooms that had been made gorgeous for this, felt as if her heart would burst with grief.

Compassion for her father was the first distinct emotion that made head against the flood of sorrow which overwhelmed her. Her constant nature turned to him in his distress, as fervently and faithfully, as if, in his prosperity, he had been the embodiment of that idea which had gradually become so faint and dim. Although she did not know, otherwise than through the suggestions of a shapeless fear, the full extent of his calamity, he stood before her, wronged and deserted; and again her yearning love impelled her to his side.

He was not long away; for Florence was yet weeping in the great room and nourishing these thoughts, when she heard him come back. He ordered the servants to set about their ordinary occupations, and went into his own apartment, where he trod so heavily that she could hear him walking up and down from end to end.

Yielding at once to the impulse of her affection, timid at all other times, but bold in its truth to him in his adversity, and undaunted by past repulse, Florence, dressed as she was, hurried downstairs. As she set her light foot in the hall, he came out of his room. She hastened towards him unchecked, with her arms stretched out, and crying “Oh dear, dear Papa!” as if she would have clasped him round the neck.

And so she would have done. But in his frenzy, he lifted up his cruel arm, and struck her, crosswise, with that heaviness, that she tottered on the marble floor; and as he dealt the blow, he told her what Edith was, and bade her follow her, since they had always been in league.

She did not sink down at his feet; she did not shut out the sight of him with her trembling hands; she did not weep; she did not utter one word of reproach. But she looked at him, and a cry of desolation issued from her heart. For as she looked, she saw him murdering that fond idea to which she had held in spite of him. She saw his cruelty, neglect, and hatred dominant above it, and stamping it down. She saw she had no father upon earth, and ran out, orphaned, from his house.

Ran out of his house. A moment, and her hand was on the lock, the cry was on her lips, his face was there, made paler by the yellow candles hastily put down and guttering away, and by the daylight coming in above the door. Another moment, and the close darkness of the shut-up house (forgotten to be opened, though it was long since day) yielded to the unexpected glare and freedom of the morning; and Florence, with her head bent down to hide her agony of tears, was in the streets.

CHAPTER XLVIII. 
The Flight of Florence

In the wildness of her sorrow, shame, and terror, the forlorn girl hurried through the sunshine of a bright morning, as if it were the darkness of a winter night. Wringing her hands and weeping bitterly, insensible to everything but the deep wound in her breast, stunned by the loss of all she loved, left like the sole survivor on a lonely shore from the wreck of a great vessel, she fled without a thought, without a hope, without a purpose, but to fly somewhere anywhere.

The cheerful vista of the long street, burnished by the morning light, the sight of the blue sky and airy clouds, the vigorous freshness of the day, so flushed and rosy in its conquest of the night, awakened no responsive feelings in her so hurt bosom. Somewhere, anywhere, to hide her head! somewhere, anywhere, for refuge, never more to look upon the place from which she fled!

But there were people going to and fro; there were opening shops, and servants at the doors of houses; there was the rising clash and roar of the day’s struggle. Florence saw surprise and curiosity in the faces flitting past her; saw long shadows coming back upon the pavement; and heard voices that were strange to her asking her where she went, and what the matter was; and though these frightened her the more at first, and made her hurry on the faster, they did her the good service of recalling her in some degree to herself, and reminding her of the necessity of greater composure.

Where to go? Still somewhere, anywhere! still going on; but where! She thought of the only other time she had been lost in the wild wilderness of London—though not lost as now—and went that way. To the home of Walter’s Uncle.

Checking her sobs, and drying her swollen eyes, and endeavouring to calm the agitation of her manner, so as to avoid attracting notice, Florence, resolving to keep to the more quiet streets as long as she could, was going on more quietly herself, when a familiar little shadow darted past upon the sunny pavement, stopped short, wheeled about, came close to her, made off again, bounded round and round her, and Diogenes, panting for breath, and yet making the street ring with his glad bark, was at her feet.

“Oh, Di! oh, dear, true, faithful Di, how did you come here? How could I ever leave you, Di, who would never leave me?”

Florence bent down on the pavement, and laid his rough, old, loving, foolish head against her breast, and they got up together, and went on together; Di more off the ground than on it, endeavouring to kiss his mistress flying, tumbling over and getting up again without the least concern, dashing at big dogs in a jocose defiance of his species, terrifying with touches of his nose young housemaids who were cleaning doorsteps, and continually stopping, in the midst of a thousand extravagances, to look back at Florence, and bark until all the dogs within hearing answered, and all the dogs who could come out, came out to stare at him.

With this last adherent, Florence hurried away in the advancing morning, and the strengthening sunshine, to the City. The roar soon grew more loud, the passengers more numerous, the shops more busy, until she was carried onward in a stream of life setting that way, and flowing, indifferently, past marts and mansions, prisons, churches, market-places, wealth, poverty, good, and evil, like the broad river side by side with it, awakened from its dreams of rushes, willows, and green moss, and rolling on, turbid and troubled, among the works and cares of men, to the deep sea.

At length the quarters of the little Midshipman arose in view. Nearer yet, and the little Midshipman himself was seen upon his post, intent as ever on his observations. Nearer yet, and the door stood open, inviting her to enter. Florence, who had again quickened her pace, as she approached the end of her journey, ran across the road (closely followed by Diogenes, whom the bustle had somewhat confused), ran in, and sank upon the threshold of the well-remembered little parlour.

The Captain, in his glazed hat, was standing over the fire, making his morning’s cocoa, with that elegant trifle, his watch, upon the chimney-piece, for easy reference during the progress of the cookery. Hearing a footstep and the rustle of a dress, the Captain turned with a palpitating remembrance of the dreadful Mrs MacStinger, at the instant when Florence made a motion with her hand towards him, reeled, and fell upon the floor.

The Captain, pale as Florence, pale in the very knobs upon his face, raised her like a baby, and laid her on the same old sofa upon which she had slumbered long ago.

“It’s Heart’s Delight!” said the Captain, looking intently in her face. “It’s the sweet creetur grow’d a woman!”

Captain Cuttle was so respectful of her, and had such a reverence for her, in this new character, that he would not have held her in his arms, while she was unconscious, for a thousand pounds.

“My Heart’s Delight!” said the Captain, withdrawing to a little distance, with the greatest alarm and sympathy depicted on his countenance. “If you can hail Ned Cuttle with a finger, do it!”

But Florence did not stir.

“My Heart’s Delight!” said the trembling Captain. “For the sake of Wal”r drownded in the briny deep, turn to, and histe up something or another, if able!”

Finding her insensible to this impressive adjuration also, Captain Cuttle snatched from his breakfast-table a basin of cold water, and sprinkled some upon her face. Yielding to the urgency of the case, the Captain then, using his immense hand with extraordinary gentleness, relieved her of her bonnet, moistened her lips and forehead, put back her hair, covered her feet with his own coat which he pulled off for the purpose, patted her hand—so small in his, that he was struck with wonder when he touched it—and seeing that her eyelids quivered, and that her lips began to move, continued these restorative applications with a better heart.

“Cheerily,” said the Captain. “Cheerily! Stand by, my pretty one, stand by! There! You’re better now. Steady’s the word, and steady it is. Keep her so! Drink a little drop o’ this here,” said the Captain. “There you are! What cheer now, my pretty, what cheer now?”

At this stage of her recovery, Captain Cuttle, with an imperfect association of a Watch with a Physician’s treatment of a patient, took his own down from the mantel-shelf, and holding it out on his hook, and taking Florence’s hand in his, looked steadily from one to the other, as expecting the dial to do something.

“What cheer, my pretty?” said the Captain. “What cheer now? You’ve done her some good, my lad, I believe,” said the Captain, under his breath, and throwing an approving glance upon his watch. “Put you back half-an-hour every morning, and about another quarter towards the arternoon, and you’re a watch as can be ekalled by few and excelled by none. What cheer, my lady lass!”

“Captain Cuttle! Is it you?” exclaimed Florence, raising herself a little.

“Yes, yes, my lady lass,” said the Captain, hastily deciding in his own mind upon the superior elegance of that form of address, as the most courtly he could think of.

“Is Walter’s Uncle here?” asked Florence.

“Here, pretty?” returned the Captain. “He ain’t been here this many a long day. He ain’t been heerd on, since he sheered off arter poor Wal”r. But,” said the Captain, as a quotation, “Though lost to sight, to memory dear, and England, Home, and Beauty!”

“Do you live here?” asked Florence.

“Yes, my lady lass,” returned the Captain.

“Oh, Captain Cuttle!” cried Florence, putting her hands together, and speaking wildly. “Save me! keep me here! Let no one know where I am! I’ll tell you what has happened by-and-by, when I can. I have no one in the world to go to. Do not send me away!”

“Send you away, my lady lass!” exclaimed the Captain. “You, my Heart’s Delight! Stay a bit! We’ll put up this here deadlight, and take a double turn on the key!”

With these words, the Captain, using his one hand and his hook with the greatest dexterity, got out the shutter of the door, put it up, made it all fast, and locked the door itself.

When he came back to the side of Florence, she took his hand, and kissed it. The helplessness of the action, the appeal it made to him, the confidence it expressed, the unspeakable sorrow in her face, the pain of mind she had too plainly suffered, and was suffering then, his knowledge of her past history, her present lonely, worn, and unprotected appearance, all so rushed upon the good Captain together, that he fairly overflowed with compassion and gentleness.

“My lady lass,” said the Captain, polishing the bridge of his nose with his arm until it shone like burnished copper, “don’t you say a word to Ed’ard Cuttle, until such times as you finds yourself a riding smooth and easy; which won’t be today, nor yet to-morrow. And as to giving of you up, or reporting where you are, yes verily, and by God’s help, so I won’t, Church catechism, make a note on!”

This the Captain said, reference and all, in one breath, and with much solemnity; taking off his hat at “yes verily,” and putting it on again, when he had quite concluded.

Florence could do but one thing more to thank him, and to show him how she trusted in him; and she did it. Clinging to this rough creature as the last asylum of her bleeding heart, she laid her head upon his honest shoulder, and clasped him round his neck, and would have kneeled down to bless him, but that he divined her purpose, and held her up like a true man.

“Steady!” said the Captain. “Steady! You’re too weak to stand, you see, my pretty, and must lie down here again. There, there!” To see the Captain lift her on the sofa, and cover her with his coat, would have been worth a hundred state sights. “And now,” said the Captain, “you must take some breakfast, lady lass, and the dog shall have some too. And arter that you shall go aloft to old Sol Gills’s room, and fall asleep there, like a angel.”

Captain Cuttle patted Diogenes when he made allusion to him, and Diogenes met that overture graciously, half-way. During the administration of the restoratives he had clearly been in two minds whether to fly at the Captain or to offer him his friendship; and he had expressed that conflict of feeling by alternate waggings of his tail, and displays of his teeth, with now and then a growl or so. But by this time, his doubts were all removed. It was plain that he considered the Captain one of the most amiable of men, and a man whom it was an honour to a dog to know.

In evidence of these convictions, Diogenes attended on the Captain while he made some tea and toast, and showed a lively interest in his housekeeping. But it was in vain for the kind Captain to make such preparations for Florence, who sorely tried to do some honour to them, but could touch nothing, and could only weep and weep again.

“Well, well!” said the compassionate Captain, “arter turning in, my Heart’s Delight, you’ll get more way upon you. Now, I’ll serve out your allowance, my lad.” To Diogenes. “And you shall keep guard on your mistress aloft.”

Diogenes, however, although he had been eyeing his intended breakfast with a watering mouth and glistening eyes, instead of falling to, ravenously, when it was put before him, pricked up his ears, darted to the shop-door, and barked there furiously: burrowing with his head at the bottom, as if he were bent on mining his way out.

“Can there be anybody there!” asked Florence, in alarm.

“No, my lady lass,” returned the Captain. “Who’d stay there, without making any noise! Keep up a good heart, pretty. It’s only people going by.”

But for all that, Diogenes barked and barked, and burrowed and burrowed, with pertinacious fury; and whenever he stopped to listen, appeared to receive some new conviction into his mind, for he set to, barking and burrowing again, a dozen times. Even when he was persuaded to return to his breakfast, he came jogging back to it, with a very doubtful air; and was off again, in another paroxysm, before touching a morsel.

“If there should be someone listening and watching,” whispered Florence. “Someone who saw me come—who followed me, perhaps.”

“It ain’t the young woman, lady lass, is it?” said the Captain, taken with a bright idea.

“Susan?” said Florence, shaking her head. “Ah no! Susan has been gone from me a long time.”

“Not deserted, I hope?” said the Captain. “Don’t say that that there young woman’s run, my pretty!”

“Oh, no, no!” cried Florence. “She is one of the truest hearts in the world!”

The Captain was greatly relieved by this reply, and expressed his satisfaction by taking off his hard glazed hat, and dabbing his head all over with his handkerchief, rolled up like a ball, observing several times, with infinite complacency, and with a beaming countenance, that he know’d it.

“So you’re quiet now, are you, brother?” said the Captain to Diogenes. “There warn’t nobody there, my lady lass, bless you!”

Diogenes was not so sure of that. The door still had an attraction for him at intervals; and he went snuffing about it, and growling to himself, unable to forget the subject. This incident, coupled with the Captain’s observation of Florence’s fatigue and faintness, decided him to prepare Sol Gills’s chamber as a place of retirement for her immediately. He therefore hastily betook himself to the top of the house, and made the best arrangement of it that his imagination and his means suggested.

It was very clean already; and the Captain, being an orderly man, and accustomed to make things ship-shape, converted the bed into a couch, by covering it all over with a clean white drapery. By a similar contrivance, the Captain converted the little dressing-table into a species of altar, on which he set forth two silver teaspoons, a flower-pot, a telescope, his celebrated watch, a pocket-comb, and a song-book, as a small collection of rarities, that made a choice appearance. Having darkened the window, and straightened the pieces of carpet on the floor, the Captain surveyed these preparations with great delight, and descended to the little parlour again, to bring Florence to her bower.

Nothing would induce the Captain to believe that it was possible for Florence to walk upstairs. If he could have got the idea into his head, he would have considered it an outrageous breach of hospitality to allow her to do so. Florence was too weak to dispute the point, and the Captain carried her up out of hand, laid her down, and covered her with a great watch-coat.

“My lady lass!” said the Captain, “you’re as safe here as if you was at the top of St Paul’s Cathedral, with the ladder cast off. Sleep is what you want, afore all other things, and may you be able to show yourself smart with that there balsam for the still small woice of a wounded mind! When there’s anything you want, my Heart’s Delight, as this here humble house or town can offer, pass the word to Ed’ard Cuttle, as’ll stand off and on outside that door, and that there man will wibrate with joy.” The Captain concluded by kissing the hand that Florence stretched out to him, with the chivalry of any old knight-errant, and walking on tiptoe out of the room.

Descending to the little parlour, Captain Cuttle, after holding a hasty council with himself, decided to open the shop-door for a few minutes, and satisfy himself that now, at all events, there was no one loitering about it. Accordingly he set it open, and stood upon the threshold, keeping a bright look-out, and sweeping the whole street with his spectacles.

“How de do, Captain Gills?” said a voice beside him. The Captain, looking down, found that he had been boarded by Mr Toots while sweeping the horizon.

“How are, you, my lad?” replied the Captain.

“Well, I’m pretty well, thank’ee, Captain Gills,” said Mr Toots. “You know I’m never quite what I could wish to be, now. I don’t expect that I ever shall be any more.”

Mr Toots never approached any nearer than this to the great theme of his life, when in conversation with Captain Cuttle, on account of the agreement between them.

“Captain Gills,” said Mr Toots, “if I could have the pleasure of a word with you, it’s—it’s rather particular.”

“Why, you see, my lad,” replied the Captain, leading the way into the parlour, “I ain’t what you may call exactly free this morning; and therefore if you can clap on a bit, I should take it kindly.”

“Certainly, Captain Gills,” replied Mr Toots, who seldom had any notion of the Captain’s meaning. “To clap on, is exactly what I could wish to do. Naturally.”

“If so be, my lad,” returned the Captain. “Do it!”

The Captain was so impressed by the possession of his tremendous secret—by the fact of Miss Dombey being at that moment under his roof, while the innocent and unconscious Toots sat opposite to him—that a perspiration broke out on his forehead, and he found it impossible, while slowly drying the same, glazed hat in hand, to keep his eyes off Mr Toots’s face. Mr Toots, who himself appeared to have some secret reasons for being in a nervous state, was so unspeakably disconcerted by the Captain’s stare, that after looking at him vacantly for some time in silence, and shifting uneasily on his chair, he said:

“I beg your pardon, Captain Gills, but you don’t happen to see anything particular in me, do you?”

“No, my lad,” returned the Captain. “No.”

“Because you know,” said Mr Toots with a chuckle, “I know I’m wasting away. You needn’t at all mind alluding to that. I—I should like it. Burgess and Co. have altered my measure, I’m in that state of thinness. It’s a gratification to me. I—I’m glad of it. I—I’d a great deal rather go into a decline, if I could. I’m a mere brute you know, grazing upon the surface of the earth, Captain Gills.”

The more Mr Toots went on in this way, the more the Captain was weighed down by his secret, and stared at him. What with this cause of uneasiness, and his desire to get rid of Mr Toots, the Captain was in such a scared and strange condition, indeed, that if he had been in conversation with a ghost, he could hardly have evinced greater discomposure.

“But I was going to say, Captain Gills,” said Mr Toots. “Happening to be this way early this morning—to tell you the truth, I was coming to breakfast with you. As to sleep, you know, I never sleep now. I might be a Watchman, except that I don’t get any pay, and he’s got nothing on his mind.”

“Carry on, my lad!” said the Captain, in an admonitory voice.

“Certainly, Captain Gills,” said Mr Toots. “Perfectly true! Happening to be this way early this morning (an hour or so ago), and finding the door shut—”

“What! were you waiting there, brother?” demanded the Captain.

“Not at all, Captain Gills,” returned Mr Toots. “I didn’t stop a moment. I thought you were out. But the person said—by the bye, you don’t keep a dog, you, Captain Gills?”

The Captain shook his head.

“To be sure,” said Mr Toots, “that’s exactly what I said. I knew you didn’t. There is a dog, Captain Gills, connected with—but excuse me. That’s forbidden ground.”

The Captain stared at Mr Toots until he seemed to swell to twice his natural size; and again the perspiration broke out on the Captain’s forehead, when he thought of Diogenes taking it into his head to come down and make a third in the parlour.

“The person said,” continued Mr Toots, “that he had heard a dog barking in the shop: which I knew couldn’t be, and I told him so. But he was as positive as if he had seen the dog.”

“What person, my lad?” inquired the Captain.

“Why, you see there it is, Captain Gills,” said Mr Toots, with a perceptible increase in the nervousness of his manner. “It’s not for me to say what may have taken place, or what may not have taken place. Indeed, I don’t know. I get mixed up with all sorts of things that I don’t quite understand, and I think there’s something rather weak in my—in my head, in short.”

The Captain nodded his own, as a mark of assent.

“But the person said, as we were walking away,” continued Mr Toots, “that you knew what, under existing circumstances, might occur—he said ‘might,’ very strongly—and that if you were requested to prepare yourself, you would, no doubt, come prepared.”

“Person, my lad” the Captain repeated.

“I don’t know what person, I’m sure, Captain Gills,” replied Mr Toots, “I haven’t the least idea. But coming to the door, I found him waiting there; and he said was I coming back again, and I said yes; and he said did I know you, and I said, yes, I had the pleasure of your acquaintance—you had given me the pleasure of your acquaintance, after some persuasion; and he said, if that was the case, would I say to you what I have said, about existing circumstances and coming prepared, and as soon as ever I saw you, would I ask you to step round the corner, if it was only for one minute, on most important business, to Mr Brogley’s the Broker’s. Now, I tell you what, Captain Gills—whatever it is, I am convinced it’s very important; and if you like to step round, now, I’ll wait here till you come back.”

The Captain, divided between his fear of compromising Florence in some way by not going, and his horror of leaving Mr Toots in possession of the house with a chance of finding out the secret, was a spectacle of mental disturbance that even Mr Toots could not be blind to. But that young gentleman, considering his nautical friend as merely in a state of preparation for the interview he was going to have, was quite satisfied, and did not review his own discreet conduct without chuckle.

At length the Captain decided, as the lesser of two evils, to run round to Brogley’s the Broker’s: previously locking the door that communicated with the upper part of the house, and putting the key in his pocket. “If so be,” said the Captain to Mr Toots, with not a little shame and hesitation, “as you’ll excuse my doing of it, brother.”

“Captain Gills,” returned Mr Toots, “whatever you do, is satisfactory to me.”

The Captain thanked him heartily, and promising to come back in less than five minutes, went out in quest of the person who had entrusted Mr Toots with this mysterious message. Poor Mr Toots, left to himself, lay down upon the sofa, little thinking who had reclined there last, and, gazing up at the skylight and resigning himself to visions of Miss Dombey, lost all heed of time and place.

It was as well that he did so; for although the Captain was not gone long, he was gone much longer than he had proposed. When he came back, he was very pale indeed, and greatly agitated, and even looked as if he had been shedding tears. He seemed to have lost the faculty of speech, until he had been to the cupboard and taken a dram of rum from the case-bottle, when he fetched a deep breath, and sat down in a chair with his hand before his face.

“Captain Gills,” said Toots, kindly, “I hope and trust there’s nothing wrong?”

“Thank’ee, my lad, not a bit,” said the Captain. “Quite contrairy.”

“You have the appearance of being overcome, Captain Gills,” observed Mr Toots.

“Why, my lad, I am took aback,” the Captain admitted. “I am.”

“Is there anything I can do, Captain Gills?” inquired Mr Toots. “If there is, make use of me.”

The Captain removed his hand from his face, looked at him with a remarkable expression of pity and tenderness, and took him by the hand, and shook it hard.

“No, thank’ee,” said the Captain. “Nothing. Only I’ll take it as a favour if you’ll part company for the present. I believe, brother,” wringing his hand again, “that, after Wal”r, and on a different model, you’re as good a lad as ever stepped.”

“Upon my word and honour, Captain Gills,” returned Mr Toots, giving the Captain’s hand a preliminary slap before shaking it again, “it’s delightful to me to possess your good opinion. Thank’ee.”

“And bear a hand and cheer up,” said the Captain, patting him on the back. “What! There’s more than one sweet creetur in the world!”

“Not to me, Captain Gills,” replied Mr Toots gravely. “Not to me, I assure you. The state of my feelings towards Miss Dombey is of that unspeakable description, that my heart is a desert island, and she lives in it alone. I’m getting more used up every day, and I’m proud to be so. If you could see my legs when I take my boots off, you’d form some idea of what unrequited affection is. I have been prescribed bark, but I don’t take it, for I don’t wish to have any tone whatever given to my constitution. I’d rather not. This, however, is forbidden ground. Captain Gills, goodbye!”

Captain Cuttle cordially reciprocating the warmth of Mr Toots’s farewell, locked the door behind him, and shaking his head with the same remarkable expression of pity and tenderness as he had regarded him with before, went up to see if Florence wanted him.

There was an entire change in the Captain’s face as he went upstairs. He wiped his eyes with his handkerchief, and he polished the bridge of his nose with his sleeve as he had done already that morning, but his face was absolutely changed. Now, he might have been thought supremely happy; now, he might have been thought sad; but the kind of gravity that sat upon his features was quite new to them, and was as great an improvement to them as if they had undergone some sublimating process.

He knocked softly, with his hook, at Florence’s door, twice or thrice; but, receiving no answer, ventured first to peep in, and then to enter: emboldened to take the latter step, perhaps, by the familiar recognition of Diogenes, who, stretched upon the ground by the side of her couch, wagged his tail, and winked his eyes at the Captain, without being at the trouble of getting up.

She was sleeping heavily, and moaning in her sleep; and Captain Cuttle, with a perfect awe of her youth, and beauty, and her sorrow, raised her head, and adjusted the coat that covered her, where it had fallen off, and darkened the window a little more that she might sleep on, and crept out again, and took his post of watch upon the stairs. All this, with a touch and tread as light as Florence’s own.

Long may it remain in this mixed world a point not easy of decision, which is the more beautiful evidence of the Almighty’s goodness—the delicate fingers that are formed for sensitiveness and sympathy of touch, and made to minister to pain and grief, or the rough hard Captain Cuttle hand, that the heart teaches, guides, and softens in a moment!

Florence slept upon her couch, forgetful of her homelessness and orphanage, and Captain Cuttle watched upon the stairs. A louder sob or moan than usual, brought him sometimes to her door; but by degrees she slept more peacefully, and the Captain’s watch was undisturbed.

CHAPTER XLIX. 
The Midshipman makes a Discovery

It was long before Florence awoke. The day was in its prime, the day was in its wane, and still, uneasy in mind and body, she slept on; unconscious of her strange bed, of the noise and turmoil in the street, and of the light that shone outside the shaded window. Perfect unconsciousness of what had happened in the home that existed no more, even the deep slumber of exhaustion could not produce. Some undefined and mournful recollection of it, dozing uneasily but never sleeping, pervaded all her rest. A dull sorrow, like a half-lulled sense of pain, was always present to her; and her pale cheek was oftener wet with tears than the honest Captain, softly putting in his head from time to time at the half-closed door, could have desired to see it.

The sun was getting low in the west, and, glancing out of a red mist, pierced with its rays opposite loopholes and pieces of fretwork in the spires of city churches, as if with golden arrows that struck through and through them—and far away athwart the river and its flat banks, it was gleaming like a path of fire—and out at sea it was irradiating sails of ships—and, looked towards, from quiet churchyards, upon hill-tops in the country, it was steeping distant prospects in a flush and glow that seemed to mingle earth and sky together in one glorious suffusion—when Florence, opening her heavy eyes, lay at first, looking without interest or recognition at the unfamiliar walls around her, and listening in the same regardless manner to the noises in the street. But presently she started up upon her couch, gazed round with a surprised and vacant look, and recollected all.

“My pretty,” said the Captain, knocking at the door, “what cheer?”

“Dear friend,” cried Florence, hurrying to him, “is it you?”

The Captain felt so much pride in the name, and was so pleased by the gleam of pleasure in her face, when she saw him, that he kissed his hook, by way of reply, in speechless gratification.

“What cheer, bright di’mond?” said the Captain.

“I have surely slept very long,” returned Florence. “When did I come here? Yesterday?”

“This here blessed day, my lady lass,” replied the Captain.

“Has there been no night? Is it still day?” asked Florence.

“Getting on for evening now, my pretty,” said the Captain, drawing back the curtain of the window. “See!”

Florence, with her hand upon the Captain’s arm, so sorrowful and timid, and the Captain with his rough face and burly figure, so quietly protective of her, stood in the rosy light of the bright evening sky, without saying a word. However strange the form of speech into which he might have fashioned the feeling, if he had had to give it utterance, the Captain felt, as sensibly as the most eloquent of men could have done, that there was something in the tranquil time and in its softened beauty that would make the wounded heart of Florence overflow; and that it was better that such tears should have their way. So not a word spake Captain Cuttle. But when he felt his arm clasped closer, and when he felt the lonely head come nearer to it, and lay itself against his homely coarse blue sleeve, he pressed it gently with his rugged hand, and understood it, and was understood.

“Better now, my pretty!” said the Captain. “Cheerily, cheerily, I’ll go down below, and get some dinner ready. Will you come down of your own self, arterwards, pretty, or shall Ed’ard Cuttle come and fetch you?”

As Florence assured him that she was quite able to walk downstairs, the Captain, though evidently doubtful of his own hospitality in permitting it, left her to do so, and immediately set about roasting a fowl at the fire in the little parlour. To achieve his cookery with the greater skill, he pulled off his coat, tucked up his wristbands, and put on his glazed hat, without which assistant he never applied himself to any nice or difficult undertaking.

After cooling her aching head and burning face in the fresh water which the Captain’s care had provided for her while she slept, Florence went to the little mirror to bind up her disordered hair. Then she knew—in a moment, for she shunned it instantly, that on her breast there was the darkening mark of an angry hand.

Her tears burst forth afresh at the sight; she was ashamed and afraid of it; but it moved her to no anger against him. Homeless and fatherless, she forgave him everything; hardly thought that she had need to forgive him, or that she did; but she fled from the idea of him as she had fled from the reality, and he was utterly gone and lost. There was no such Being in the world.

What to do, or where to live, Florence—poor, inexperienced girl!—could not yet consider. She had indistinct dreams of finding, a long way off, some little sisters to instruct, who would be gentle with her, and to whom, under some feigned name, she might attach herself, and who would grow up in their happy home, and marry, and be good to their old governess, and perhaps entrust her, in time, with the education of their own daughters. And she thought how strange and sorrowful it would be, thus to become a grey-haired woman, carrying her secret to the grave, when Florence Dombey was forgotten. But it was all dim and clouded to her now. She only knew that she had no Father upon earth, and she said so, many times, with her suppliant head hidden from all, but her Father who was in Heaven.

Her little stock of money amounted to but a few guineas. With a part of this, it would be necessary to buy some clothes, for she had none but those she wore. She was too desolate to think how soon her money would be gone—too much a child in worldly matters to be greatly troubled on that score yet, even if her other trouble had been less. She tried to calm her thoughts and stay her tears; to quiet the hurry in her throbbing head, and bring herself to believe that what had happened were but the events of a few hours ago, instead of weeks or months, as they appeared; and went down to her kind protector.

The Captain had spread the cloth with great care, and was making some egg-sauce in a little saucepan: basting the fowl from time to time during the process with a strong interest, as it turned and browned on a string before the fire. Having propped Florence up with cushions on the sofa, which was already wheeled into a warm corner for her greater comfort, the Captain pursued his cooking with extraordinary skill, making hot gravy in a second little saucepan, boiling a handful of potatoes in a third, never forgetting the egg-sauce in the first, and making an impartial round of basting and stirring with the most useful of spoons every minute. Besides these cares, the Captain had to keep his eye on a diminutive frying-pan, in which some sausages were hissing and bubbling in a most musical manner; and there was never such a radiant cook as the Captain looked, in the height and heat of these functions: it being impossible to say whether his face or his glazed hat shone the brighter.

The dinner being at length quite ready, Captain Cuttle dished and served it up, with no less dexterity than he had cooked it. He then dressed for dinner, by taking off his glazed hat and putting on his coat. That done, he wheeled the table close against Florence on the sofa, said grace, unscrewed his hook, screwed his fork into its place, and did the honours of the table.

“My lady lass,” said the Captain, “cheer up, and try to eat a deal. Stand by, my deary! Liver wing it is. Sarse it is. Sassage it is. And potato!” all which the Captain ranged symmetrically on a plate, and pouring hot gravy on the whole with the useful spoon, set before his cherished guest.

“The whole row o’ dead lights is up, for’ard, lady lass,” observed the Captain, encouragingly, “and everythink is made snug. Try and pick a bit, my pretty. If Wal”r was here—”

“Ah! If I had him for my brother now!” cried Florence.

“Don’t! don’t take on, my pretty!” said the Captain, “awast, to obleege me! He was your nat’ral born friend like, warn’t he, Pet?”

Florence had no words to answer with. She only said, “Oh, dear, dear Paul! oh, Walter!”

“The wery planks she walked on,” murmured the Captain, looking at her drooping face, “was as high esteemed by Wal”r, as the water brooks is by the hart which never rejices! I see him now, the wery day as he was rated on them Dombey books, a speaking of her with his face a glistening with doo—leastways with his modest sentiments—like a new blowed rose, at dinner. Well, well! If our poor Wal”r was here, my lady lass—or if he could be—for he’s drownded, ain’t he?”

Florence shook her head.

“Yes, yes; drownded,” said the Captain, soothingly; “as I was saying, if he could be here he’d beg and pray of you, my precious, to pick a leetle bit, with a look-out for your own sweet health. Whereby, hold your own, my lady lass, as if it was for Wal”r’s sake, and lay your pretty head to the wind.”

Florence essayed to eat a morsel, for the Captain’s pleasure. The Captain, meanwhile, who seemed to have quite forgotten his own dinner, laid down his knife and fork, and drew his chair to the sofa.

“Wal”r was a trim lad, warn’t he, precious?” said the Captain, after sitting for some time silently rubbing his chin, with his eyes fixed upon her, “and a brave lad, and a good lad?”

Florence tearfully assented.

“And he’s drownded, Beauty, ain’t he?” said the Captain, in a soothing voice.

Florence could not but assent again.

“He was older than you, my lady lass,” pursued the Captain, “but you was like two children together, at first; wam’t you?”

Florence answered “Yes.”

“And Wal”r’s drownded,” said the Captain. “Ain’t he?”

The repetition of this inquiry was a curious source of consolation, but it seemed to be one to Captain Cuttle, for he came back to it again and again. Florence, fain to push from her her untasted dinner, and to lie back on her sofa, gave him her hand, feeling that she had disappointed him, though truly wishing to have pleased him after all his trouble, but he held it in his own (which shook as he held it), and appearing to have quite forgotten all about the dinner and her want of appetite, went on growling at intervals, in a ruminating tone of sympathy, “Poor Wal”r. Ay, ay! Drownded. Ain’t he?” And always waited for her answer, in which the great point of these singular reflections appeared to consist.

The fowl and sausages were cold, and the gravy and the egg-sauce stagnant, before the Captain remembered that they were on the board, and fell to with the assistance of Diogenes, whose united efforts quickly dispatched the banquet. The Captain’s delight and wonder at the quiet housewifery of Florence in assisting to clear the table, arrange the parlour, and sweep up the hearth—only to be equalled by the fervency of his protest when she began to assist him—were gradually raised to that degree, that at last he could not choose but do nothing himself, and stand looking at her as if she were some Fairy, daintily performing these offices for him; the red rim on his forehead glowing again, in his unspeakable admiration.

But when Florence, taking down his pipe from the mantel-shelf gave it into his hand, and entreated him to smoke it, the good Captain was so bewildered by her attention that he held it as if he had never held a pipe, in all his life. Likewise, when Florence, looking into the little cupboard, took out the case-bottle and mixed a perfect glass of grog for him, unasked, and set it at his elbow, his ruddy nose turned pale, he felt himself so graced and honoured. When he had filled his pipe in an absolute reverie of satisfaction, Florence lighted it for him—the Captain having no power to object, or to prevent her—and resuming her place on the old sofa, looked at him with a smile so loving and so grateful, a smile that showed him so plainly how her forlorn heart turned to him, as her face did, through grief, that the smoke of the pipe got into the Captain’s throat and made him cough, and got into the Captain’s eyes, and made them blink and water.

The manner in which the Captain tried to make believe that the cause of these effects lay hidden in the pipe itself, and the way in which he looked into the bowl for it, and not finding it there, pretended to blow it out of the stem, was wonderfully pleasant. The pipe soon getting into better condition, he fell into that state of repose becoming a good smoker; but sat with his eyes fixed on Florence, and, with a beaming placidity not to be described, and stopping every now and then to discharge a little cloud from his lips, slowly puffed it forth, as if it were a scroll coming out of his mouth, bearing the legend “Poor Wal”r, ay, ay. Drownded, ain’t he?” after which he would resume his smoking with infinite gentleness.

Unlike as they were externally—and there could scarcely be a more decided contrast than between Florence in her delicate youth and beauty, and Captain Cuttle with his knobby face, his great broad weather-beaten person, and his gruff voice—in simple innocence of the world’s ways and the world’s perplexities and dangers, they were nearly on a level. No child could have surpassed Captain Cuttle in inexperience of everything but wind and weather; in simplicity, credulity, and generous trustfulness. Faith, hope, and charity, shared his whole nature among them. An odd sort of romance, perfectly unimaginative, yet perfectly unreal, and subject to no considerations of worldly prudence or practicability, was the only partner they had in his character. As the Captain sat, and smoked, and looked at Florence, God knows what impossible pictures, in which she was the principal figure, presented themselves to his mind. Equally vague and uncertain, though not so sanguine, were her own thoughts of the life before her; and even as her tears made prismatic colours in the light she gazed at, so, through her new and heavy grief, she already saw a rainbow faintly shining in the far-off sky. A wandering princess and a good monster in a storybook might have sat by the fireside, and talked as Captain Cuttle and poor Florence talked—and not have looked very much unlike them.

The Captain was not troubled with the faintest idea of any difficulty in retaining Florence, or of any responsibility thereby incurred. Having put up the shutters and locked the door, he was quite satisfied on this head. If she had been a Ward in Chancery, it would have made no difference at all to Captain Cuttle. He was the last man in the world to be troubled by any such considerations.

So the Captain smoked his pipe very comfortably, and Florence and he meditated after their own manner. When the pipe was out, they had some tea; and then Florence entreated him to take her to some neighbouring shop, where she could buy the few necessaries she immediately wanted. It being quite dark, the Captain consented: peeping carefully out first, as he had been wont to do in his time of hiding from Mrs MacStinger; and arming himself with his large stick, in case of an appeal to arms being rendered necessary by any unforeseen circumstance.

The pride Captain Cuttle had, in giving his arm to Florence, and escorting her some two or three hundred yards, keeping a bright look-out all the time, and attracting the attention of everyone who passed them, by his great vigilance and numerous precautions, was extreme. Arrived at the shop, the Captain felt it a point of delicacy to retire during the making of the purchases, as they were to consist of wearing apparel; but he previously deposited his tin canister on the counter, and informing the young lady of the establishment that it contained fourteen pound two, requested her, in case that amount of property should not be sufficient to defray the expenses of his niece’s little outfit—at the word “niece,” he bestowed a most significant look on Florence, accompanied with pantomime, expressive of sagacity and mystery—to have the goodness to “sing out,” and he would make up the difference from his pocket. Casually consulting his big watch, as a deep means of dazzling the establishment, and impressing it with a sense of property, the Captain then kissed his hook to his niece, and retired outside the window, where it was a choice sight to see his great face looking in from time to time, among the silks and ribbons, with an obvious misgiving that Florence had been spirited away by a back door.

“Dear Captain Cuttle,” said Florence, when she came out with a parcel, the size of which greatly disappointed the Captain, who had expected to see a porter following with a bale of goods, “I don’t want this money, indeed. I have not spent any of it. I have money of my own.”

“My lady lass,” returned the baffled Captain, looking straight down the street before them, “take care on it for me, will you be so good, till such time as I ask ye for it?”

“May I put it back in its usual place,” said Florence, “and keep it there?”

The Captain was not at all gratified by this proposal, but he answered, “Ay, ay, put it anywheres, my lady lass, so long as you know where to find it again. It ain’t o’ no use to me,” said the Captain. “I wonder I haven’t chucked it away afore now.

The Captain was quite disheartened for the moment, but he revived at the first touch of Florence’s arm, and they returned with the same precautions as they had come; the Captain opening the door of the little Midshipman’s berth, and diving in, with a suddenness which his great practice only could have taught him. During Florence’s slumber in the morning, he had engaged the daughter of an elderly lady who usually sat under a blue umbrella in Leadenhall Market, selling poultry, to come and put her room in order, and render her any little services she required; and this damsel now appearing, Florence found everything about her as convenient and orderly, if not as handsome, as in the terrible dream she had once called Home.

When they were alone again, the Captain insisted on her eating a slice of dry toast, and drinking a glass of spiced negus (which he made to perfection); and, encouraging her with every kind word and inconsequential quotation he could possibly think of, led her upstairs to her bedroom. But he too had something on his mind, and was not easy in his manner.

“Good-night, dear heart,” said Captain Cuttle to her at her chamber-door.

Florence raised her lips to his face, and kissed him.

At any other time the Captain would have been overbalanced by such a token of her affection and gratitude; but now, although he was very sensible of it, he looked in her face with even more uneasiness than he had testified before, and seemed unwilling to leave her.

“Poor Wal”r!” said the Captain.

“Poor, poor Walter!” sighed Florence.

“Drownded, ain’t he?” said the Captain.

Florence shook her head, and sighed.

“Good-night, my lady lass!” said Captain Cuttle, putting out his hand.

“God bless you, dear, kind friend!”

But the Captain lingered still.

“Is anything the matter, dear Captain Cuttle?” said Florence, easily alarmed in her then state of mind. “Have you anything to tell me?”

“To tell you, lady lass!” replied the Captain, meeting her eyes in confusion. “No, no; what should I have to tell you, pretty! You don’t expect as I’ve got anything good to tell you, sure?”

“No!” said Florence, shaking her head.

The Captain looked at her wistfully, and repeated “No,”— still lingering, and still showing embarrassment.

“Poor Wal”r!” said the Captain. “My Wal”r, as I used to call you! Old Sol Gills’s nevy! Welcome to all as knowed you, as the flowers in May! Where are you got to, brave boy? Drownded, ain’t he?”

Concluding his apostrophe with this abrupt appeal to Florence, the Captain bade her good-night, and descended the stairs, while Florence remained at the top, holding the candle out to light him down. He was lost in the obscurity, and, judging from the sound of his receding footsteps, was in the act of turning into the little parlour, when his head and shoulders unexpectedly emerged again, as from the deep, apparently for no other purpose than to repeat, “Drownded, ain’t he, pretty?” For when he had said that in a tone of tender condolence, he disappeared.

Florence was very sorry that she should unwittingly, though naturally, have awakened these associations in the mind of her protector, by taking refuge there; and sitting down before the little table where the Captain had arranged the telescope and song-book, and those other rarities, thought of Walter, and of all that was connected with him in the past, until she could have almost wished to lie down on her bed and fade away. But in her lonely yearning to the dead whom she had loved, no thought of home—no possibility of going back—no presentation of it as yet existing, or as sheltering her father—once entered her thoughts. She had seen the murder done. In the last lingering natural aspect in which she had cherished him through so much, he had been torn out of her heart, defaced, and slain. The thought of it was so appalling to her, that she covered her eyes, and shrunk trembling from the least remembrance of the deed, or of the cruel hand that did it. If her fond heart could have held his image after that, it must have broken; but it could not; and the void was filled with a wild dread that fled from all confronting with its shattered fragments—with such a dread as could have risen out of nothing but the depths of such a love, so wronged.

She dared not look into the glass; for the sight of the darkening mark upon her bosom made her afraid of herself, as if she bore about her something wicked. She covered it up, with a hasty, faltering hand, and in the dark; and laid her weary head down, weeping.

The Captain did not go to bed for a long time. He walked to and fro in the shop and in the little parlour, for a full hour, and, appearing to have composed himself by that exercise, sat down with a grave and thoughtful face, and read out of a Prayer-book the forms of prayer appointed to be used at sea. These were not easily disposed of; the good Captain being a mighty slow, gruff reader, and frequently stopping at a hard word to give himself such encouragement as “Now, my lad! With a will!” or, “Steady, Ed’ard Cuttle, steady!” which had a great effect in helping him out of any difficulty. Moreover, his spectacles greatly interfered with his powers of vision. But notwithstanding these drawbacks, the Captain, being heartily in earnest, read the service to the very last line, and with genuine feeling too; and approving of it very much when he had done, turned in, under the counter (but not before he had been upstairs, and listened at Florence’s door), with a serene breast, and a most benevolent visage.

The Captain turned out several times in the course of the night, to assure himself that his charge was resting quietly; and once, at daybreak, found that she was awake: for she called to know if it were he, on hearing footsteps near her door.

“Yes, my lady lass,” replied the Captain, in a growling whisper. “Are you all right, di’mond?”

Florence thanked him, and said “Yes.”

The Captain could not lose so favourable an opportunity of applying his mouth to the keyhole, and calling through it, like a hoarse breeze, “Poor Wal”r! Drownded, ain’t he?” after which he withdrew, and turning in again, slept till seven o’clock.

Nor was he free from his uneasy and embarrassed manner all that day; though Florence, being busy with her needle in the little parlour, was more calm and tranquil than she had been on the day preceding. Almost always when she raised her eyes from her work, she observed the captain looking at her, and thoughtfully stroking his chin; and he so often hitched his arm-chair close to her, as if he were going to say something very confidential, and hitched it away again, as not being able to make up his mind how to begin, that in the course of the day he cruised completely round the parlour in that frail bark, and more than once went ashore against the wainscot or the closet door, in a very distressed condition.

It was not until the twilight that Captain Cuttle, fairly dropping anchor, at last, by the side of Florence, began to talk at all connectedly. But when the light of the fire was shining on the walls and ceiling of the little room, and on the tea-board and the cups and saucers that were ranged upon the table, and on her calm face turned towards the flame, and reflecting it in the tears that filled her eyes, the Captain broke a long silence thus:

“You never was at sea, my own?”

“No,” replied Florence.

“Ay,” said the Captain, reverentially; “it’s a almighty element. There’s wonders in the deep, my pretty. Think on it when the winds is roaring and the waves is rowling. Think on it when the stormy nights is so pitch dark,” said the Captain, solemnly holding up his hook, “as you can’t see your hand afore you, excepting when the wiwid lightning reweals the same; and when you drive, drive, drive through the storm and dark, as if you was a driving, head on, to the world without end, evermore, amen, and when found making a note of. Them’s the times, my beauty, when a man may say to his messmate (previously a overhauling of the wollume), ‘A stiff nor’wester’s blowing, Bill; hark, don’t you hear it roar now! Lord help ’em, how I pitys all unhappy folks ashore now!’” Which quotation, as particularly applicable to the terrors of the ocean, the Captain delivered in a most impressive manner, concluding with a sonorous “Stand by!”

“Were you ever in a dreadful storm?” asked Florence.

“Why ay, my lady lass, I’ve seen my share of bad weather,” said the Captain, tremulously wiping his head, “and I’ve had my share of knocking about; but—but it ain’t of myself as I was a meaning to speak. Our dear boy,” drawing closer to her, “Wal”r, darling, as was drownded.”

The Captain spoke in such a trembling voice, and looked at Florence with a face so pale and agitated, that she clung to his hand in affright.

“Your face is changed,” cried Florence. “You are altered in a moment. What is it? Dear Captain Cuttle, it turns me cold to see you!”

“What! Lady lass,” returned the Captain, supporting her with his hand, “don’t be took aback. No, no! All’s well, all’s well, my dear. As I was a saying—Wal”r—he’s—he’s drownded. Ain’t he?”

Florence looked at him intently; her colour came and went; and she laid her hand upon her breast.

“There’s perils and dangers on the deep, my beauty,” said the Captain; “and over many a brave ship, and many and many a bould heart, the secret waters has closed up, and never told no tales. But there’s escapes upon the deep, too, and sometimes one man out of a score,—ah! maybe out of a hundred, pretty,—has been saved by the mercy of God, and come home after being given over for dead, and told of all hands lost. I—I know a story, Heart’s Delight,” stammered the Captain, “o’ this natur, as was told to me once; and being on this here tack, and you and me sitting alone by the fire, maybe you’d like to hear me tell it. Would you, deary?”

Florence, trembling with an agitation which she could not control or understand, involuntarily followed his glance, which went behind her into the shop, where a lamp was burning. The instant that she turned her head, the Captain sprung out of his chair, and interposed his hand.

“There’s nothing there, my beauty,” said the Captain. “Don’t look there.”

“Why not?” asked Florence.

The Captain murmured something about its being dull that way, and about the fire being cheerful. He drew the door ajar, which had been standing open until now, and resumed his seat. Florence followed him with her eyes, and looked intently in his face.

“The story was about a ship, my lady lass,” began the Captain, “as sailed out of the Port of London, with a fair wind and in fair weather, bound for—don’t be took aback, my lady lass, she was only out’ard bound, pretty, only out’ard bound!”

The expression on Florence’s face alarmed the Captain, who was himself very hot and flurried, and showed scarcely less agitation than she did.

“Shall I go on, Beauty?” said the Captain.

“Yes, yes, pray!” cried Florence.

The Captain made a gulp as if to get down something that was sticking in his throat, and nervously proceeded:

“That there unfort’nate ship met with such foul weather, out at sea, as don’t blow once in twenty year, my darling. There was hurricanes ashore as tore up forests and blowed down towns, and there was gales at sea in them latitudes, as not the stoutest wessel ever launched could live in. Day arter day that there unfort’nate ship behaved noble, I’m told, and did her duty brave, my pretty, but at one blow a’most her bulwarks was stove in, her masts and rudder carved away, her best man swept overboard, and she left to the mercy of the storm as had no mercy but blowed harder and harder yet, while the waves dashed over her, and beat her in, and every time they come a thundering at her, broke her like a shell. Every black spot in every mountain of water that rolled away was a bit o’ the ship’s life or a living man, and so she went to pieces, Beauty, and no grass will never grow upon the graves of them as manned that ship.”

“They were not all lost!” cried Florence. “Some were saved!—Was one?”

“Aboard o’ that there unfort’nate wessel,” said the Captain, rising from his chair, and clenching his hand with prodigious energy and exultation, “was a lad, a gallant lad—as I’ve heerd tell—that had loved, when he was a boy, to read and talk about brave actions in shipwrecks—I’ve heerd him! I’ve heerd him!—and he remembered of ’em in his hour of need; for when the stoutest and oldest hands was hove down, he was firm and cheery. It warn’t the want of objects to like and love ashore that gave him courage, it was his nat’ral mind. I’ve seen it in his face, when he was no more than a child—ay, many a time!—and when I thought it nothing but his good looks, bless him!”

“And was he saved!” cried Florence. “Was he saved!”

“That brave lad,” said the Captain,—“look at me, pretty! Don’t look round—”

Florence had hardly power to repeat, “Why not?”

“Because there’s nothing there, my deary,” said the Captain. “Don’t be took aback, pretty creetur! Don’t, for the sake of Wal”r, as was dear to all on us! That there lad,” said the Captain, “arter working with the best, and standing by the faint-hearted, and never making no complaint nor sign of fear, and keeping up a spirit in all hands that made ’em honour him as if he’d been a admiral—that lad, along with the second-mate and one seaman, was left, of all the beatin’ hearts that went aboard that ship, the only living creeturs—lashed to a fragment of the wreck, and driftin’ on the stormy sea.”

“Were they saved?” cried Florence.

“Days and nights they drifted on them endless waters,” said the Captain, “until at last—No! Don’t look that way, pretty!—a sail bore down upon ’em, and they was, by the Lord’s mercy, took aboard: two living and one dead.”

“Which of them was dead?” cried Florence.

“Not the lad I speak on,” said the Captain.

“Thank God! oh thank God!”

“Amen!” returned the Captain hurriedly. “Don’t be took aback! A minute more, my lady lass! with a good heart!—aboard that ship, they went a long voyage, right away across the chart (for there warn’t no touching nowhere), and on that voyage the seaman as was picked up with him died. But he was spared, and—”

The Captain, without knowing what he did, had cut a slice of bread from the loaf, and put it on his hook (which was his usual toasting-fork), on which he now held it to the fire; looking behind Florence with great emotion in his face, and suffering the bread to blaze and burn like fuel.

“Was spared,” repeated Florence, “and—?”

“And come home in that ship,” said the Captain, still looking in the same direction, “and—don’t be frightened, pretty—and landed; and one morning come cautiously to his own door to take a obserwation, knowing that his friends would think him drownded, when he sheered off at the unexpected—”

“At the unexpected barking of a dog?” cried Florence, quickly.

“Yes,” roared the Captain. “Steady, darling! courage! Don’t look round yet. See there! upon the wall!”

There was the shadow of a man upon the wall close to her. She started up, looked round, and with a piercing cry, saw Walter Gay behind her!

She had no thought of him but as a brother, a brother rescued from the grave; a shipwrecked brother saved and at her side; and rushed into his arms. In all the world, he seemed to be her hope, her comfort, refuge, natural protector. “Take care of Walter, I was fond of Walter!” The dear remembrance of the plaintive voice that said so, rushed upon her soul, like music in the night. “Oh welcome home, dear Walter! Welcome to this stricken breast!” She felt the words, although she could not utter them, and held him in her pure embrace.

Captain Cuttle, in a fit of delirium, attempted to wipe his head with the blackened toast upon his hook: and finding it an uncongenial substance for the purpose, put it into the crown of his glazed hat, put the glazed hat on with some difficulty, essayed to sing a verse of Lovely Peg, broke down at the first word, and retired into the shop, whence he presently came back express, with a face all flushed and besmeared, and the starch completely taken out of his shirt-collar, to say these words:

“Wal”r, my lad, here is a little bit of property as I should wish to make over, jintly!”

The Captain hastily produced the big watch, the teaspoons, the sugar-tongs, and the canister, and laying them on the table, swept them with his great hand into Walter’s hat; but in handing that singular strong box to Walter, he was so overcome again, that he was fain to make another retreat into the shop, and absent himself for a longer space of time than on his first retirement.

But Walter sought him out, and brought him back; and then the Captain’s great apprehension was, that Florence would suffer from this new shock. He felt it so earnestly, that he turned quite rational, and positively interdicted any further allusion to Walter’s adventures for some days to come. Captain Cuttle then became sufficiently composed to relieve himself of the toast in his hat, and to take his place at the tea-board; but finding Walter’s grasp upon his shoulder, on one side, and Florence whispering her tearful congratulations on the other, the Captain suddenly bolted again, and was missing for a good ten minutes.

But never in all his life had the Captain’s face so shone and glistened, as when, at last, he sat stationary at the tea-board, looking from Florence to Walter, and from Walter to Florence. Nor was this effect produced or at all heightened by the immense quantity of polishing he had administered to his face with his coat-sleeve during the last half-hour. It was solely the effect of his internal emotions. There was a glory and delight within the Captain that spread itself over his whole visage, and made a perfect illumination there.

The pride with which the Captain looked upon the bronzed cheek and the courageous eyes of his recovered boy; with which he saw the generous fervour of his youth, and all its frank and hopeful qualities, shining once more, in the fresh, wholesome manner, and the ardent face, would have kindled something of this light in his countenance. The admiration and sympathy with which he turned his eyes on Florence, whose beauty, grace, and innocence could have won no truer or more zealous champion than himself, would have had an equal influence upon him. But the fulness of the glow he shed around him could only have been engendered in his contemplation of the two together, and in all the fancies springing out of that association, that came sparkling and beaming into his head, and danced about it.

How they talked of poor old Uncle Sol, and dwelt on every little circumstance relating to his disappearance; how their joy was moderated by the old man’s absence and by the misfortunes of Florence; how they released Diogenes, whom the Captain had decoyed upstairs some time before, lest he should bark again; the Captain, though he was in one continual flutter, and made many more short plunges into the shop, fully comprehended. But he no more dreamed that Walter looked on Florence, as it were, from a new and far-off place; that while his eyes often sought the lovely face, they seldom met its open glance of sisterly affection, but withdrew themselves when hers were raised towards him; than he believed that it was Walter’s ghost who sat beside him. He saw them together in their youth and beauty, and he knew the story of their younger days, and he had no inch of room beneath his great blue waistcoat for anything save admiration of such a pair, and gratitude for their being reunited.

They sat thus, until it grew late. The Captain would have been content to sit so for a week. But Walter rose, to take leave for the night.

“Going, Walter!” said Florence. “Where?”

“He slings his hammock for the present, lady lass,” said Captain Cuttle, “round at Brogley’s. Within hail, Heart’s Delight.”

“I am the cause of your going away, Walter,” said Florence. “There is a houseless sister in your place.”

“Dear Miss Dombey,” replied Walter, hesitating—“if it is not too bold to call you so!—”

“Walter!” she exclaimed, surprised.

“—If anything could make me happier in being allowed to see and speak to you, would it not be the discovery that I had any means on earth of doing you a moment’s service! Where would I not go, what would I not do, for your sake?”

She smiled, and called him brother.

“You are so changed,” said Walter—

“I changed!” she interrupted.

“—To me,” said Walter, softly, as if he were thinking aloud, “changed to me. I left you such a child, and find you—oh! something so different—”

“But your sister, Walter. You have not forgotten what we promised to each other, when we parted?”

“Forgotten!” But he said no more.

“And if you had—if suffering and danger had driven it from your thoughts—which it has not—you would remember it now, Walter, when you find me poor and abandoned, with no home but this, and no friends but the two who hear me speak!”

“I would! Heaven knows I would!” said Walter.

“Oh, Walter,” exclaimed Florence, through her sobs and tears. “Dear brother! Show me some way through the world—some humble path that I may take alone, and labour in, and sometimes think of you as one who will protect and care for me as for a sister! Oh, help me, Walter, for I need help so much!”

“Miss Dombey! Florence! I would die to help you. But your friends are proud and rich. Your father—”

“No, no! Walter!” She shrieked, and put her hands up to her head, in an attitude of terror that transfixed him where he stood. “Don’t say that word!”

He never, from that hour, forgot the voice and look with which she stopped him at the name. He felt that if he were to live a hundred years, he never could forget it.

Somewhere—anywhere—but never home! All past, all gone, all lost, and broken up! The whole history of her untold slight and suffering was in the cry and look; and he felt he never could forget it, and he never did.

She laid her gentle face upon the Captain’s shoulder, and related how and why she had fled. If every sorrowing tear she shed in doing so, had been a curse upon the head of him she never named or blamed, it would have been better for him, Walter thought, with awe, than to be renounced out of such a strength and might of love.

“There, precious!” said the Captain, when she ceased; and deep attention the Captain had paid to her while she spoke; listening, with his glazed hat all awry and his mouth wide open. “Awast, awast, my eyes! Wal”r, dear lad, sheer off for tonight, and leave the pretty one to me!”

Walter took her hand in both of his, and put it to his lips, and kissed it. He knew now that she was, indeed, a homeless wandering fugitive; but, richer to him so, than in all the wealth and pride of her right station, she seemed farther off than even on the height that had made him giddy in his boyish dreams.

Captain Cuttle, perplexed by no such meditations, guarded Florence to her room, and watched at intervals upon the charmed ground outside her door—for such it truly was to him—until he felt sufficiently easy in his mind about her, to turn in under the counter. On abandoning his watch for that purpose, he could not help calling once, rapturously, through the keyhole, “Drownded. Ain’t he, pretty?”—or, when he got downstairs, making another trial at that verse of Lovely Peg. But it stuck in his throat somehow, and he could make nothing of it; so he went to bed, and dreamed that old Sol Gills was married to Mrs MacStinger, and kept prisoner by that lady in a secret chamber on a short allowance of victuals.

CHAPTER L. 
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 induced 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 out.”

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 in?”

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—Miss Dombey.”

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 conjecture.

“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 Walter, anxiously.

“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 private interview.”

“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 mind once.”

“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 manfully.

“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 knows where?”

“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 behold.”

“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 mischief.

“Oh Di, you bad, forgetful dog! Dear Mr Toots, I am so rejoiced to see you!”

“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 could exhibit.

“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 brother.

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 appeared.

“Captain Cuttle tells me, Miss Dombey,” he eagerly began on coming in—but stopped when he saw her face.

“You are not so well today. You look distressed. You have been weeping.”

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 away?”

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 hands.

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?”

“Very soon.”

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 to!

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 wonderment.

“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 that?”

“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!”