< BackForward >
Amazing Artfulness of Captain Cuttle, and a new Pursuit for Walter Gay
Walter could not, for several days, decide what to do in the
Barbados business; and even cherished some faint hope that Mr Dombey
might not have meant what he had said, or that he might change his
mind, and tell him he was not to go. But as nothing occurred to give
this idea (which was sufficiently improbable in itself) any touch of
confirmation, and as time was slipping by, and he had none to lose, he
felt that he must act, without hesitating any longer.
Walter's chief difficulty was, how to break the change in his
affairs to Uncle Sol, to whom he was sensible it would he a terrible
blow. He had the greater difficulty in dashing Uncle Sol's spirits
with such an astounding piece of intelligence, because they had lately
recovered very much, and the old man had become so cheerful, that the
little back parlour was itself again. Uncle Sol had paid the first
appointed portion of the debt to Mr Dombey, and was hopeful of working
his way through the rest; and to cast him down afresh, when he had
sprung up so manfully from his troubles, was a very distressing
Yet it would never do to run away from him. He must know of it
beforehand; and how to tell him was the point. As to the question of
going or not going, Walter did not consider that he had any power of
choice in the matter. Mr Dombey had truly told him that he was young,
and that his Uncle's circumstances were not good; and Mr Dombey had
plainly expressed, in the glance with which he had accompanied that
reminder, that if he declined to go he might stay at home if he chose,
but not in his counting-house. His Uncle and he lay under a great
obligation to Mr Dombey, which was of Walter's own soliciting. He
might have begun in secret to despair of ever winning that gentleman's
favour, and might have thought that he was now and then disposed to
put a slight upon him, which was hardly just. But what would have been
duty without that, was still duty with it - or Walter thought so- and
duty must be done.
When Mr Dombey had looked at him, and told him he was young, and
that his Uncle's circumstances were not good, there had been an
expression of disdain in his face; a contemptuous and disparaging
assumption that he would be quite content to live idly on a reduced
old man, which stung the boy's generous soul. Determined to assure Mr
Dombey, in so far as it was possible to give him the assurance without
expressing it in words, that indeed he mistook his nature, Walter had
been anxious to show even more cheerfulness and activity after the
West Indian interview than he had shown before: if that were possible,
in one of his quick and zealous disposition. He was too young and
inexperienced to think, that possibly this very quality in him was not
agreeable to Mr Dombey, and that it was no stepping-stone to his good
opinion to be elastic and hopeful of pleasing under the shadow of his
powerful displeasure, whether it were right or wrong. But it may have
been - it may have been- that the great man thought himself defied in
this new exposition of an honest spirit, and purposed to bring it
'Well! at last and at least, Uncle Sol must be told,' thought
Walter, with a sigh. And as Walter was apprehensive that his voice
might perhaps quaver a little, and that his countenance might not be
quite as hopeful as he could wish it to be, if he told the old man
himself, and saw the first effects of his communication on his
wrinkled face, he resolved to avail himself of the services of that
powerful mediator, Captain Cuttle. Sunday coming round, he set off
therefore, after breakfast, once more to beat up Captain Cuttle's
It was not unpleasant to remember, on the way thither, that Mrs
MacStinger resorted to a great distance every Sunday morning, to
attend the ministry of the Reverend Melchisedech Howler, who, having
been one day discharged from the West India Docks on a false suspicion
(got up expressly against him by the general enemy) of screwing
gimlets into puncheons, and applying his lips to the orifice, had
announced the destruction of the world for that day two years, at ten
in the morning, and opened a front parlour for the reception of ladies
and gentlemen of the Ranting persuasion, upon whom, on the first
occasion of their assemblage, the admonitions of the Reverend
Melchisedech had produced so powerful an effect, that, in their
rapturous performance of a sacred jig, which closed the service, the
whole flock broke through into a kitchen below, and disabled a mangle
belonging to one of the fold.
This the Captain, in a moment of uncommon conviviality, had
confided to Walter and his Uncle, between the repetitions of lovely
Peg, on the night when Brogley the broker was paid out. The Captain
himself was punctual in his attendance at a church in his own
neighbourhood, which hoisted the Union Jack every Sunday morning; and
where he was good enough - the lawful beadle being infirm - to keep an
eye upon the boys, over whom he exercised great power, in virtue of
his mysterious hook. Knowing the regularity of the Captain's habits,
Walter made all the haste he could, that he might anticipate his going
out; and he made such good speed, that he had the pleasure, on turning
into Brig Place, to behold the broad blue coat and waistcoat hanging
out of the Captain's oPen window, to air in the sun.
It appeared incredible that the coat and waistcoat could be seen by
mortal eyes without the Captain; but he certainly was not in them,
otherwise his legs - the houses in Brig Place not being lofty- would
have obstructed the street door, which was perfectly clear. Quite
wondering at this discovery, Walter gave a single knock.
'Stinger,' he distinctly heard the Captain say, up in his room, as
if that were no business of his. Therefore Walter gave two knocks.
'Cuttle,' he heard the Captain say upon that; and immediately
afterwards the Captain, in his clean shirt and braces, with his
neckerchief hanging loosely round his throat like a coil of rope, and
his glazed hat on, appeared at the window, leaning out over the broad
blue coat and waistcoat.
'Wal'r!' cried the Captain, looking down upon him in amazement.
'Ay, ay, Captain Cuttle,' returned Walter, 'only me'
'What's the matter, my lad?' inquired the Captain, with great
concern. 'Gills an't been and sprung nothing again?'
'No, no,' said Walter. 'My Uncle's all right, Captain Cuttle.'
The Captain expressed his gratification, and said he would come
down below and open the door, which he did.
'Though you're early, Wal'r,' said the Captain, eyeing him still
doubtfully, when they got upstairs:
'Why, the fact is, Captain Cuttle,' said Walter, sitting down, 'I
was afraid you would have gone out, and I want to benefit by your
'So you shall,' said the Captain; 'what'll you take?'
'I want to take your opinion, Captain Cuttle,' returned Walter,
smiling. 'That's the only thing for me.'
'Come on then,' said the Captain. 'With a will, my lad!'
Walter related to him what had happened; and the difficulty in
which he felt respecting his Uncle, and the relief it would be to him
if Captain Cuttle, in his kindness, would help him to smooth it away;
Captain Cuttle's infinite consternation and astonishment at the
prospect unfolded to him, gradually swallowing that gentleman up,
until it left his face quite vacant, and the suit of blue, the glazed
hat, and the hook, apparently without an owner.
'You see, Captain Cuttle,' pursued Walter, 'for myself, I am young,
as Mr Dombey said, and not to be considered. I am to fight my way
through the world, I know; but there are two points I was thinking, as
I came along, that I should be very particular about, in respect to my
Uncle. I don't mean to say that I deserve to be the pride and delight
of his life - you believe me, I know - but I am. Now, don't you think
The Captain seemed to make an endeavour to rise from the depths of
his astonishment, and get back to his face; but the effort being
ineffectual, the glazed hat merely nodded with a mute, unutterable
'If I live and have my health,' said Walter, 'and I am not afraid
of that, still, when I leave England I can hardly hope to see my Uncle
again. He is old, Captain Cuttle; and besides, his life is a life of
custom - '
'Steady, Wal'r! Of a want of custom?' said the Captain, suddenly
'Too true,' returned Walter, shaking his head: 'but I meant a life
of habit, Captain Cuttle - that sort of custom. And if (as you very
truly said, I am sure) he would have died the sooner for the loss of
the stock, and all those objects to which he has been accustomed for
so many years, don't you think he might die a little sooner for the
loss of - '
'Of his Nevy,' interposed the Captain. 'Right!'
'Well then,' said Walter, trying to speak gaily, 'we must do our
best to make him believe that the separation is but a temporary one,
after all; but as I know better, or dread that I know better, Captain
Cuttle, and as I have so many reasons for regarding him with
affection, and duty, and honour, I am afraid I should make but a very
poor hand at that, if I tried to persuade him of it. That's my great
reason for wishing you to break it out to him; and that's the first
'Keep her off a point or so!' observed the Captain, in a
'What did you say, Captain Cuttle?' inquired Walter.
'Stand by!' returned the Captain, thoughtfully.
Walter paused to ascertain if the Captain had any particular
information to add to this, but as he said no more, went on.
'Now, the second point, Captain Cuttle. I am sorry to say, I am not
a favourite with Mr Dombey. I have always tried to do my best, and I
have always done it; but he does not like me. He can't help his
likings and dislikings, perhaps. I say nothing of that. I only say
that I am certain he does not like me. He does not send me to this
post as a good one; he disclaims to represent it as being better than
it is; and I doubt very much if it will ever lead me to advancement in
the House - whether it does not, on the contrary, dispose of me for
ever, and put me out of the way. Now, we must say nothing of this to
my Uncle, Captain Cuttle, but must make it out to be as favourable and
promising as we can; and when I tell you what it really is, I only do
so, that in case any means should ever arise of lending me a hand, so
far off, I may have one friend at home who knows my real situation.
'Wal'r, my boy,' replied the Captain, 'in the Proverbs of Solomon
you will find the following words, "May we never want a friend in
need, nor a bottle to give him!" When found, make a note of.'
Here the Captain stretched out his hand to Walter, with an air of
downright good faith that spoke volumes; at the same time repeating
(for he felt proud of the accuracy and pointed application of his
quotation), 'When found, make a note of.'
'Captain Cuttle,' said Walter, taking the immense fist extended to
him by the Captain in both his hands, which it completely filled, next
to my Uncle Sol, I love you. There is no one on earth in whom I can
more safely trust, I am sure. As to the mere going away, Captain
Cuttle, I don't care for that; why should I care for that! If I were
free to seek my own fortune - if I were free to go as a common sailor
- if I were free to venture on my own account to the farthest end of
the world - I would gladly go! I would have gladly gone, years ago,
and taken my chance of what might come of it. But it was against my
Uncle's wishes, and against the plans he had formed for me; and there
was an end of that. But what I feel, Captain Cuttle, is that we have
been a little mistaken all along, and that, so far as any improvement
in my prospects is concerned, I am no better off now than I was when I
first entered Dombey's House - perhaps a little worse, for the House
may have been kindly inclined towards me then, and it certainly is not
'Turn again, Whittington,' muttered the disconsolate Captain, after
looking at Walter for some time.
'Ay,' replied Walter, laughing, 'and turn a great many times, too,
Captain Cuttle, I'm afraid, before such fortune as his ever turns up
again. Not that I complain,' he added, in his lively, animated,
energetic way. 'I have nothing to complain of. I am provided for. I
can live. When I leave my Uncle, I leave him to you; and I can leave
him to no one better, Captain Cuttle. I haven't told you all this
because I despair, not I; it's to convince you that I can't pick and
choose in Dombey's House, and that where I am sent, there I must go,
and what I am offered, that I must take. It's better for my Uncle that
I should be sent away; for Mr Dombey is a valuable friend to him, as
he proved himself, you know when, Captain Cuttle; and I am persuaded
he won't be less valuable when he hasn't me there, every day, to
awaken his dislike. So hurrah for the West Indies, Captain Cuttle! How
does that tune go that the sailors sing?
'For the Port of Barbados, Boys!
Leaving old England behind us, Boys!
Here the Captain roared in chorus -
'Oh cheerily, cheerily!
The last line reaching the quick ears of an ardent skipper not
quite sober, who lodged opposite, and who instantly sprung out of bed,
threw up his window, and joined in, across the street, at the top of
his voice, produced a fine effect. When it was impossible to sustain
the concluding note any longer, the skipper bellowed forth a terrific
'ahoy!' intended in part as a friendly greeting, and in part to show
that he was not at all breathed. That done, he shut down his window,
and went to bed again.
'And now, Captain Cuttle,' said Walter, handing him the blue coat
and waistcoat, and bustling very much, 'if you'll come and break the
news to Uncle Sol (which he ought to have known, days upon days ago,
by rights), I'll leave you at the door, you know, and walk about until
The Captain, however, scarcely appeared to relish the commission,
or to be by any means confident of his powers of executing it. He had
arranged the future life and adventures of Walter so very differently,
and so entirely to his own satisfaction; he had felicitated himself so
often on the sagacity and foresight displayed in that arrangement, and
had found it so complete and perfect in all its parts; that to suffer
it to go to pieces all at once, and even to assist in breaking it up,
required a great effort of his resolution. The Captain, too, found it
difficult to unload his old ideas upon the subject, and to take a
perfectly new cargo on board, with that rapidity which the
circumstances required, or without jumbling and confounding the two.
Consequently, instead of putting on his coat and waistcoat with
anything like the impetuosity that could alone have kept pace with
Walter's mood, he declined to invest himself with those garments at
all at present; and informed Walter that on such a serious matter, he
must be allowed to 'bite his nails a bit'
'It's an old habit of mine, Wal'r,' said the Captain, 'any time
these fifty year. When you see Ned Cuttle bite his nails, Wal'r, then
you may know that Ned Cuttle's aground.'
Thereupon the Captain put his iron hook between his teeth, as if it
were a hand; and with an air of wisdom and profundity that was the
very concentration and sublimation of all philosophical reflection and
grave inquiry, applied himself to the consideration of the subject in
its various branches.
'There's a friend of mine,' murmured the Captain, in an absent
manner, 'but he's at present coasting round to Whitby, that would
deliver such an opinion on this subject, or any other that could be
named, as would give Parliament six and beat 'em. Been knocked
overboard, that man,' said the Captain, 'twice, and none the worse for
it. Was beat in his apprenticeship, for three weeks (off and on),
about the head with a ring-bolt. And yet a clearer-minded man don't
Despite of his respect for Captain Cuttle, Walter could not help
inwardly rejoicing at the absence of this sage, and devoutly hoping
that his limpid intellect might not be brought to bear on his
difficulties until they were quite settled.
'If you was to take and show that man the buoy at the Nore,' said
Captain Cuttle in the same tone, 'and ask him his opinion of it,
Wal'r, he'd give you an opinion that was no more like that buoy than
your Uncle's buttons are. There ain't a man that walks - certainly not
on two legs - that can come near him. Not near him!'
'What's his name, Captain Cuttle?' inquired Walter, determined to
be interested in the Captain's friend.
'His name's Bunsby, said the Captain. 'But Lord, it might be
anything for the matter of that, with such a mind as his!'
The exact idea which the Captain attached to this concluding piece
of praise, he did not further elucidate; neither did Walter seek to
draw it forth. For on his beginning to review, with the vivacity
natural to himself and to his situation, the leading points in his own
affairs, he soon discovered that the Captain had relapsed into his
former profound state of mind; and that while he eyed him steadfastly
from beneath his bushy eyebrows, he evidently neither saw nor heard
him, but remained immersed in cogitation.
In fact, Captain Cuttle was labouring with such great designs, that
far from being aground, he soon got off into the deepest of water, and
could find no bottom to his penetration. By degrees it became
perfectly plain to the Captain that there was some mistake here; that
it was undoubtedly much more likely to be Walter's mistake than his;
that if there were really any West India scheme afoot, it was a very
different one from what Walter, who was young and rash, supposed; and
could only be some new device for making his fortune with unusual
celerity. 'Or if there should be any little hitch between 'em,'
thought the Captain, meaning between Walter and Mr Dombey, 'it only
wants a word in season from a friend of both parties, to set it right
and smooth, and make all taut again.' Captain Cuttle's deduction from
these considerations was, that as he already enjoyed the pleasure of
knowing Mr Dombey, from having spent a very agreeable half-hour in his
company at Brighton (on the morning when they borrowed the money); and
that, as a couple of men of the world, who understood each other, and
were mutually disposed to make things comfortable, could easily
arrange any little difficulty of this sort, and come at the real
facts; the friendly thing for him to do would be, without saying
anything about it to Walter at present, just to step up to Mr Dombey's
house - say to the servant 'Would ye be so good, my lad, as report
Cap'en Cuttle here?' - meet Mr Dombey in a confidential spirit- hook
him by the button-hole - talk it over - make it all right - and come
As these reflections presented themselves to the Captain's mind,
and by slow degrees assumed this shape and form, his visage cleared
like a doubtful morning when it gives place to a bright noon. His
eyebrows, which had been in the highest degree portentous, smoothed
their rugged bristling aspect, and became serene; his eyes, which had
been nearly closed in the severity of his mental exercise, opened
freely; a smile which had been at first but three specks - one at the
right-hand corner of his mouth, and one at the corner of each eye -
gradually overspread his whole face, and, rippling up into his
forehead, lifted the glazed hat: as if that too had been aground with
Captain Cuttle, and were now, like him, happily afloat again.
Finally, the Captain left off biting his nails, and said, 'Now,
Wal'r, my boy, you may help me on with them slops.' By which the
Captain meant his coat and waistcoat.
Walter little imagined why the Captain was so particular in the
arrangement of his cravat, as to twist the pendent ends into a sort of
pigtail, and pass them through a massive gold ring with a picture of a
tomb upon it, and a neat iron railing, and a tree, in memory of some
deceased friend. Nor why the Captain pulled up his shirt-collar to the
utmost limits allowed by the Irish linen below, and by so doing
decorated himself with a complete pair of blinkers; nor why he changed
his shoes, and put on an unparalleled pair of ankle-jacks, which he
only wore on extraordinary occasions. The Captain being at length
attired to his own complete satisfaction, and having glanced at
himself from head to foot in a shaving-glass which he removed from a
nail for that purpose, took up his knotted stick, and said he was
The Captain's walk was more complacent than usual when they got out
into the street; but this Walter supposed to be the effect of the
ankle-jacks, and took little heed of. Before they had gone very far,
they encountered a woman selling flowers; when the Captain stopping
short, as if struck by a happy idea, made a purchase of the largest
bundle in her basket: a most glorious nosegay, fan-shaped, some two
feet and a half round, and composed of all the jolliest-looking
flowers that blow.
Armed with this little token which he designed for Mr Dombey,
Captain Cuttle walked on with Walter until they reached the
Instrument-maker's door, before which they both paused.
'You're going in?' said Walter.
'Yes,' returned the Captain, who felt that Walter must be got rid
of before he proceeded any further, and that he had better time his
projected visit somewhat later in the day.
'And you won't forget anything?'
'No,' returned the Captain.
'I'll go upon my walk at once,' said Walter, 'and then I shall be
out of the way, Captain Cuttle.'
'Take a good long 'un, my lad!' replied the Captain, calling after
him. Walter waved his hand in assent, and went his way.
His way was nowhere in particular; but he thought he would go out
into the fields, where he could reflect upon the unknown life before
him, and resting under some tree, ponder quietly. He knew no better
fields than those near Hampstead, and no better means of getting at
them than by passing Mr Dombey's house.
It was as stately and as dark as ever, when he went by and glanced
up at its frowning front. The blinds were all pulled down, but the
upper windows stood wide open, and the pleasant air stirring those
curtains and waving them to and fro was the only sign of animation in
the whole exterior. Walter walked softly as he passed, and was glad
when he had left the house a door or two behind.
He looked back then; with the interest he had always felt for the
place since the adventure of the lost child, years ago; and looked
especially at those upper windows. While he was thus engaged, a
chariot drove to the door, and a portly gentleman in black, with a
heavy watch-chain, alighted, and went in. When he afterwards
remembered this gentleman and his equipage together, Walter had no
doubt be was a physician; and then he wondered who was ill; but the
discovery did not occur to him until he had walked some distance,
thinking listlessly of other things.
Though still, of what the house had suggested to him; for Walter
pleased hImself with thinking that perhaps the time might come, when
the beautiful child who was his old friend and had always been so
grateful to him and so glad to see him since, might interest her
brother in his behalf and influence his fortunes for the better. He
liked to imagine this - more, at that moment, for the pleasure of
imagining her continued remembrance of him, than for any worldly
profit he might gain: but another and more sober fancy whispered to
him that if he were alive then, he would be beyond the sea and
forgotten; she married, rich, proud, happy. There was no more reason
why she should remember him with any interest in such an altered state
of things, than any plaything she ever had. No, not so much.
Yet Walter so idealised the pretty child whom he had found
wandering in the rough streets, and so identified her with her
innocent gratitude of that night and the simplicity and truth of its
expression, that he blushed for himself as a libeller when he argued
that she could ever grow proud. On the other hand, his meditations
were of that fantastic order that it seemed hardly less libellous in
him to imagine her grown a woman: to think of her as anything but the
same artless, gentle, winning little creature, that she had been in
the days of Good Mrs Brown. In a word, Walter found out that to reason
with himself about Florence at all, was to become very unreasonable
indeed; and that he could do no better than preserve her image in his
mind as something precious, unattainable, unchangeable, and indefinite
- indefinite in all but its power of giving him pleasure, and
restraining him like an angel's hand from anything unworthy.
It was a long stroll in the fields that Walter took that day,
listening to the birds, and the Sunday bells, and the softened murmur
of the town - breathing sweet scents; glancing sometimes at the dim
horizon beyond which his voyage and his place of destination lay; then
looking round on the green English grass and the home landscape. But
he hardly once thought, even of going away, distinctly; and seemed to
put off reflection idly, from hour to hour, and from minute to minute,
while he yet went on reflecting all the time.
Walter had left the fields behind him, and was plodding homeward in
the same abstracted mood, when he heard a shout from a man, and then a
woman's voice calling to him loudly by name. Turning quickly in his
surprise, he saw that a hackney-coach, going in the contrary
direction, had stopped at no great distance; that the coachman was
looking back from his box and making signals to him with his whip; and
that a young woman inside was leaning out of the window, and beckoning
with immense energy. Running up to this coach, he found that the young
woman was Miss Nipper, and that Miss Nipper was in such a flutter as
to be almost beside herself.
'Staggs's Gardens, Mr Walter!' said Miss Nipper; 'if you please, oh
'Eh?' cried Walter; 'what is the matter?'
'Oh, Mr Walter, Staggs's Gardens, if you please!' said Susan.
'There!' cried the coachman, appealing to Walter, with a sort of
exalting despair; 'that's the way the young lady's been a goin' on for
up'ards of a mortal hour, and me continivally backing out of no
thoroughfares, where she would drive up. I've had a many fares in this
coach, first and last, but never such a fare as her.'
'Do you want to go to Staggs's Gardens, Susan?' inquired Walter.
'Ah! She wants to go there! WHERE IS IT?' growled the coachman.
'I don't know where it is!' exclaimed Susan, wildly. 'Mr Walter, I
was there once myself, along with Miss Floy and our poor darling
Master Paul, on the very day when you found Miss Floy in the City, for
we lost her coming home, Mrs Richards and me, and a mad bull, and Mrs
Richards's eldest, and though I went there afterwards, I can't
remember where it is, I think it's sunk into the ground. Oh, Mr
Walter, don't desert me, Staggs's Gardens, if you please! Miss Floy's
darling - all our darlings - little, meek, meek Master Paul! Oh Mr
'Good God!' cried Walter. 'Is he very ill?'
'The pretty flower!' cried Susan, wringing her hands, 'has took the
fancy that he'd like to see his old nurse, and I've come to bring her
to his bedside, Mrs Staggs, of Polly Toodle's Gardens, someone pray!'
Greatly moved by what he heard, and catching Susan's earnestness
immediately, Walter, now that he understood the nature of her errand,
dashed into it with such ardour that the coachman had enough to do to
follow closely as he ran before, inquiring here and there and
everywhere, the way to Staggs's Gardens.
There was no such place as Staggs's Gardens. It had vanished from
the earth. Where the old rotten summer-houses once had stood, palaces
now reared their heads, and granite columns of gigantic girth opened a
vista to the railway world beyond. The miserable waste ground, where
the refuse-matter had been heaped of yore, was swallowed up and gone;
and in its frowsy stead were tiers of warehouses, crammed with rich
goods and costly merchandise. The old by-streets now swarmed with
passengers and vehicles of every kind: the new streets that had
stopped disheartened in the mud and waggon-ruts, formed towns within
themselves, originating wholesome comforts and conveniences belonging
to themselves, and never tried nor thought of until they sprung into
existence. Bridges that had led to nothing, led to villas, gardens,
churches, healthy public walks. The carcasses of houses, and
beginnings of new thoroughfares, had started off upon the line at
steam's own speed, and shot away into the country in a monster train.'
As to the neighbourhood which had hesitated to acknowledge the
railroad in its straggling days, that had grown wise and penitent, as
any Christian might in such a case, and now boasted of its powerful
and prosperous relation. There were railway patterns in its drapers'
shops, and railway journals in the windows of its newsmen. There were
railway hotels, office-houses, lodging-houses, boarding-houses;
railway plans, maps, views, wrappers, bottles, sandwich-boxes, and
time-tables; railway hackney-coach and stands; railway omnibuses,
railway streets and buildings, railway hangers-on and parasites, and
flatterers out of all calculation. There was even railway time
observed in clocks, as if the sun itself had given in. Among the
vanquished was the master chimney-sweeper, whilom incredulous at
Staggs's Gardens, who now lived in a stuccoed house three stories
high, and gave himself out, with golden flourishes upon a varnished
board, as contractor for the cleansing of railway chimneys by
To and from the heart of this great change, all day and night,
throbbing currents rushed and returned incessantly like its life's
blood. Crowds of people and mountains of goods, departing and arriving
scores upon scores of times in every four-and-twenty hours, produced a
fermentation in the place that was always in action. The very houses
seemed disposed to pack up and take trips. Wonderful Members of
Parliament, who, little more than twenty years before, had made
themselves merry with the wild railroad theories of engineers, and
given them the liveliest rubs in cross-examination, went down into the
north with their watches in their hands, and sent on messages before
by the electric telegraph, to say that they were coming. Night and day
the conquering engines rumbled at their distant work, or, advancing
smoothly to their journey's end, and gliding like tame dragons into
the allotted corners grooved out to the inch for their reception,
stood bubbling and trembling there, making the walls quake, as if they
were dilating with the secret knowledge of great powers yet
unsuspected in them, and strong purposes not yet achieved.
But Staggs's Gardens had been cut up root and branch. Oh woe the
day when 'not a rood of English ground' - laid out in Staggs's Gardens
- is secure!
At last, after much fruitless inquiry, Walter, followed by the
coach and Susan, found a man who had once resided in that vanished
land, and who was no other than the master sweep before referred to,
grown stout, and knocking a double knock at his own door. He knowed
Toodle, he said, well. Belonged to the Railroad, didn't he?
'Yes' sir, yes!' cried Susan Nipper from the coach window.
Where did he live now? hastily inquired Walter.
He lived in the Company's own Buildings, second turning to the
right, down the yard, cross over, and take the second on the right
again. It was number eleven; they couldn't mistake it; but if they
did, they had only to ask for Toodle, Engine Fireman, and any one
would show them which was his house. At this unexpected stroke of
success Susan Nipper dismounted from the coach with all speed, took
Walter's arm, and set off at a breathless pace on foot; leaving the
coach there to await their return.
'Has the little boy been long ill, Susan?' inquired Walter, as they
'Ailing for a deal of time, but no one knew how much,' said Susan;
adding, with excessive sharpness, 'Oh, them Blimbers!'
'Blimbers?' echoed Walter.
'I couldn't forgive myself at such a time as this, Mr Walter,' said
Susan, 'and when there's so much serious distress to think about, if I
rested hard on anyone, especially on them that little darling Paul
speaks well of, but I may wish that the family was set to work in a
stony soil to make new roads, and that Miss Blimber went in front, and
had the pickaxe!'
Miss Nipper then took breath, and went on faster than before, as if
this extraordinary aspiration had relieved her. Walter, who had by
this time no breath of his own to spare, hurried along without asking
any more questions; and they soon, in their impatience, burst in at a
little door and came into a clean parlour full of children.
'Where's Mrs Richards?' exclaimed Susan Nipper, looking round. 'Oh
Mrs Richards, Mrs Richards, come along with me, my dear creetur!'
'Why, if it ain't Susan!' cried Polly, rising with her honest face
and motherly figure from among the group, in great surprIse.
'Yes, Mrs Richards, it's me,' said Susan, 'and I wish it wasn't,
though I may not seem to flatter when I say so, but little Master Paul
is very ill, and told his Pa today that he would like to see the face
of his old nurse, and him and Miss Floy hope you'll come along with me
- and Mr Walter, Mrs Richards - forgetting what is past, and do a
kindness to the sweet dear that is withering away. Oh, Mrs Richards,
withering away!' Susan Nipper crying, Polly shed tears to see her, and
to hear what she had said; and all the children gathered round
(including numbers of new babies); and Mr Toodle, who had just come
home from Birmingham, and was eating his dinner out of a basin, laid
down his knife and fork, and put on his wife's bonnet and shawl for
her, which were hanging up behind the door; then tapped her on the
back; and said, with more fatherly feeling than eloquence, 'Polly! cut
So they got back to the coach, long before the coachman expected
them; and Walter, putting Susan and Mrs Richards inside, took his seat
on the box himself that there might be no more mistakes, and deposited
them safely in the hall of Mr Dombey's house - where, by the bye, he
saw a mighty nosegay lying, which reminded him of the one Captain
Cuttle had purchased in his company that morning. He would have
lingered to know more of the young invalid, or waited any length of
time to see if he could render the least service; but, painfully
sensible that such conduct would be looked upon by Mr Dombey as
presumptuous and forward, he turned slowly, sadly, anxiously, away.
He had not gone five minutes' walk from the door, when a man came
running after him, and begged him to return. Walter retraced his steps
as quickly as he could, and entered the gloomy house with a sorrowful