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Charles Dickens > Dombey And Son > Chapter 56

Dombey And Son

Chapter 56

Several People delighted, and the Game Chicken disgusted

The Midshipman was all alive. Mr Toots and Susan had arrived at
last. Susan had run upstairs like a young woman bereft of her senses,
and Mr Toots and the Chicken had gone into the Parlour.

'Oh my own pretty darling sweet Miss Floy!' cried the Nipper,
running into Florence's room, 'to think that it should come to this
and I should find you here my own dear dove with nobody to wait upon
you and no home to call your own but never never will I go away again
Miss Floy for though I may not gather moss I'm not a rolling stone nor
is my heart a stone or else it wouldn't bust as it is busting now oh
dear oh dear!'

Pouring out these words, without the faintest indication of a stop,
of any sort, Miss Nipper, on her knees beside her mistress, hugged her

'Oh love!' cried Susan, 'I know all that's past I know it all my
tender pet and I'm a choking give me air!'

'Susan, dear good Susan!' said Florence. 'Oh bless her! I that was
her little maid when she was a little child! and is she really, really
truly going to be married?'exclaimed Susan, in a burst of pain and
pleasure, pride and grief, and Heaven knows how many other conflicting

'Who told you so?' said Florence.

'Oh gracious me! that innocentest creetur Toots,' returned Susan
hysterically. 'I knew he must be right my dear, because he took on so.
He's the devotedest and innocentest infant! And is my darling,'
pursued Susan, with another close embrace and burst of tears, 'really
really going to be married!'

The mixture of compassion, pleasure, tenderness, protection, and
regret with which the Nipper constantly recurred to this subject, and
at every such once, raised her head to look in the young face and kiss
it, and then laid her head again upon her mistress's shoulder,
caressing her and sobbing, was as womanly and good a thing, in its
way, as ever was seen in the world.

'There, there!' said the soothing voice of Florence presently. 'Now
you're quite yourself, dear Susan!'

Miss Nipper, sitting down upon the floor, at her mistress's feet,
laughing and sobbing, holding her pocket-handkerchief to her eyes with
one hand, and patting Diogenes with the other as he licked her face,
confessed to being more composed, and laughed and cried a little more
in proof of it.

'I-I-I never did see such a creetur as that Toots,' said Susan, 'in
all my born days never!'

'So kind,' suggested Florence.

'And so comic!' Susan sobbed. 'The way he's been going on inside
with me with that disrespectable Chicken on the box!'

'About what, Susan?' inquired Florence, timidly.

'Oh about Lieutenant Walters, and Captain Gills, and you my dear
Miss Floy, and the silent tomb,' said Susan.

'The silent tomb!' repeated Florence.

'He says,' here Susan burst into a violent hysterical laugh, 'that
he'll go down into it now immediately and quite comfortable, but bless
your heart my dear Miss Floy he won't, he's a great deal too happy in
seeing other people happy for that, he may not be a Solomon,' pursued
the Nipper, with her usual volubility, 'nor do I say he is but this I
do say a less selfish human creature human nature never knew!' Miss
Nipper being still hysterical, laughed immoderately after making this
energetic declaration, and then informed Florence that he was waiting
below to see her; which would be a rich repayment for the trouble he
had had in his late expedition.

Florence entreated Susan to beg of Mr Toots as a favour that she
might have the pleasure of thanking him for his kindness; and Susan,
in a few moments, produced that young gentleman, still very much
dishevelled in appearance, and stammering exceedingly.

'Miss Dombey,' said Mr Toots. 'To be again permitted to - to - gaze
- at least, not to gaze, but - I don't exactly know what I was going
to say, but it's of no consequence.

'I have to thank you so often,' returned Florence, giving him both
her hands, with all her innocent gratitude beaming in her face, 'that
I have no words left, and don't know how to do it.'

'Miss Dombey,' said Mr Toots, in an awful voice, 'if it was
possible that you could, consistently with your angelic nature, Curse
me, you would - if I may be allowed to say so - floor me infinitely
less, than by these undeserved expressions of kindness Their effect
upon me - is - but,' said Mr Toots, abruptly, 'this is a digression,
and of no consequence at all.'

As there seemed to be no means of replying to this, but by thanking
him again, Florence thanked him again.

'I could wish,' said Mr Toots, 'to take this opportunity, Miss
Dombey, if I might, of entering into a word of explanation. I should
have had the pleasure of - of returning with Susan at an earlier
period; but, in the first place, we didn't know the name of the
relation to whose house she had gone, and, in the second, as she had
left that relation's and gone to another at a distance, I think that
scarcely anything short of the sagacity of the Chicken, would have
found her out in the time.'

Florence was sure of it.

'This, however,' said Mr Toots, 'is not the point. The company of
Susan has been, I assure you, Miss Dombey, a consolation and
satisfaction to me, in my state of mind, more easily conceived than
described. The journey has been its own reward. That, however, still,
is not the point. Miss Dombey, I have before observed that I know I am
not what is considered a quick person. I am perfectly aware of that. I
don't think anybody could be better acquainted with his own - if it
was not too strong an expression, I should say with the thickness of
his own head - than myself. But, Miss Dombey, I do, notwithstanding,
perceive the state of - of things - with Lieutenant Walters. Whatever
agony that state of things may have caused me (which is of no
consequence at all), I am bound to say, that Lieutenant Walters is a
person who appears to be worthy of the blessing that has fallen on his
- on his brow. May he wear it long, and appreciate it, as a very
different, and very unworthy individual, that it is of no consequence
to name, would have done! That, however, still, is not the point. Miss
Dombey, Captain Gills is a friend of mine; and during the interval
that is now elapsing, I believe it would afford Captain Gills pleasure
to see me occasionally coming backwards and forwards here. It would
afford me pleasure so to come. But I cannot forget that I once
committed myself, fatally, at the corner of the Square at Brighton;
and if my presence will be, in the least degree, unpleasant to you, I
only ask you to name it to me now, and assure you that I shall
perfectly understand you. I shall not consider it at all unkind, and
shall only be too delighted and happy to be honoured with your

'Mr Toots,' returned Florence, 'if you, who are so old and true a
friend of mine, were to stay away from this house now, you would make
me very unhappy. It can never, never, give me any feeling but pleasure
to see you.

'Miss Dombey,' said Mr Toots, taking out his pocket-handkerchief,
'if I shed a tear, it is a tear of joy. It is of no consequence, and I
am very much obliged to you. I may be allowed to remark, after what
you have so kindly said, that it is not my intention to neglect my
person any longer.'

Florence received this intimation with the prettiest expression of
perplexity possible.

'I mean,' said Mr Toots, 'that I shall consider it my duty as a
fellow-creature generally, until I am claimed by the silent tomb, to
make the best of myself, and to - to have my boots as brightly
polished, as - as -circumstances will admit of. This is the last time,
Miss Dombey, of my intruding any observation of a private and personal
nature. I thank you very much indeed. if I am not, in a general way,
as sensible as my friends could wish me to be, or as I could wish
myself, I really am, upon my word and honour, particularly sensible of
what is considerate and kind. I feel,' said Mr Toots, in an
impassioned tone, 'as if I could express my feelings, at the present
moment, in a most remarkable manner, if - if - I could only get a

Appearing not to get it, after waiting a minute or two to see if it
would come, Mr Toots took a hasty leave, and went below to seek the
Captain, whom he found in the shop.

'Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'what is now to take place between
us, takes place under the sacred seal of confidence. It is the sequel,
Captain Gills, of what has taken place between myself and Miss Dombey,

'Alow and aloft, eh, my lad?' murmured the Captain.

'Exactly so, Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, whose fervour of
acquiescence was greatly heightened by his entire ignorance of the
Captain's meaning. 'Miss Dombey, I believe, Captain Gills, is to be
shortly united to Lieutenant Walters?'

'Why, ay, my lad. We're all shipmets here, - Wal'r and sweet- heart
will be jined together in the house of bondage, as soon as the askings
is over,' whispered Captain Cuttle, in his ear.

'The askings, Captain Gills!' repeated Mr Toots.

'In the church, down yonder,' said the Captain, pointing his thumb
over his shoulder.

'Oh! Yes!' returned Mr Toots.

'And then,' said the Captain, in his hoarse whisper, and tapping Mr
Toots on the chest with the back of his hand, and falling from him
with a look of infinite admiration, 'what follers? That there pretty
creetur, as delicately brought up as a foreign bird, goes away upon
the roaring main with Wal'r on a woyage to China!'

'Lord, Captain Gills!' said Mr Toots.

'Ay!' nodded the Captain. 'The ship as took him up, when he was
wrecked in the hurricane that had drove her clean out of her course,
was a China trader, and Wal'r made the woyage, and got into favour,
aboard and ashore - being as smart and good a lad as ever stepped -
and so, the supercargo dying at Canton, he got made (having acted as
clerk afore), and now he's supercargo aboard another ship, same
owners. And so, you see,' repeated the Captain, thoughtfully, 'the
pretty creetur goes away upon the roaring main with Wal'r, on a woyage
to China.'

Mr Toots and Captain Cuttle heaved a sigh in concert. 'What then?'
said the Captain. 'She loves him true. He loves her true. Them as
should have loved and tended of her, treated of her like the beasts as
perish. When she, cast out of home, come here to me, and dropped upon
them planks, her wownded heart was broke. I know it. I, Ed'ard Cuttle,
see it. There's nowt but true, kind, steady love, as can ever piece it
up again. If so be I didn't know that, and didn't know as Wal'r was
her true love, brother, and she his, I'd have these here blue arms and
legs chopped off, afore I'd let her go. But I know it, and what then!
Why, then, I say, Heaven go with 'em both, and so it will! Amen!'

'Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'let me have the pleasure of
shaking hands You've a way of saying things, that gives me an
agreeable warmth, all up my back. I say Amen. You are aware, Captain
Gills, that I, too, have adored Miss Dombey.'

'Cheer up!' said the Captain, laying his hand on Mr Toots's
shoulder. 'Stand by, boy!'

'It is my intention, Captain Gills,' returned the spirited Mr
Toots, 'to cheer up. Also to standby, as much as possible. When the
silent tomb shall yawn, Captain Gills, I shall be ready for burial;
not before. But not being certain, just at present, of my power over
myself, what I wish to say to you, and what I shall take it as a
particular favour if you will mention to Lieutenant Walters, is as

'Is as follers,' echoed the Captain. 'Steady!'

'Miss Dombey being so inexpressably kind,' continued Mr Toots with
watery eyes, 'as to say that my presence is the reverse of
disagreeable to her, and you and everybody here being no less
forbearing and tolerant towards one who - who certainly,' said Mr
Toots, with momentary dejection, 'would appear to have been born by
mistake, I shall come backwards and forwards of an evening, during the
short time we can all be together. But what I ask is this. If, at any
moment, I find that I cannot endure the contemplation of Lieutenant
Walters's bliss, and should rush out, I hope, Captain Gills, that you
and he will both consider it as my misfortune and not my fault, or the
want of inward conflict. That you'll feel convinced I bear no malice
to any living creature-least of all to Lieutenant Walters himself -
and that you'll casually remark that I have gone out for a walk, or
probably to see what o'clock it is by the Royal Exchange. Captain
Gills, if you could enter into this arrangement, and could answer for
Lieutenant Walters, it would be a relief to my feelings that I should
think cheap at the sacrifice of a considerable portion of my

'My lad,' returned the Captain, 'say no more. There ain't a colour
you can run up, as won't be made out, and answered to, by Wal'r and

'Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'my mind is greatly relieved. I
wish to preserve the good opinion of all here. I - I - mean well, upon
my honour, however badly I may show it. You know,' said Mr Toots,
'it's as exactly as Burgess and Co. wished to oblige a customer with a
most extraordinary pair of trousers, and could not cut out what they
had in their minds.'

With this apposite illustration, of which he seemed a little Proud,
Mr Toots gave Captain Cuttle his blessing and departed.

The honest Captain, with his Heart's Delight in the house, and
Susan tending her, was a beaming and a happy man. As the days flew by,
he grew more beaming and more happy, every day. After some conferences
with Susan (for whose wisdom the Captain had a profound respect, and
whose valiant precipitation of herself on Mrs MacStinger he could
never forget), he proposed to Florence that the daughter of the
elderly lady who usually sat under the blue umbrella in Leadenhall
Market, should, for prudential reasons and considerations of privacy,
be superseded in the temporary discharge of the household duties, by
someone who was not unknown to them, and in whom they could safely
confide. Susan, being present, then named, in furtherance of a
suggestion she had previously offered to the Captain, Mrs Richards.
Florence brightened at the name. And Susan, setting off that very
afternoon to the Toodle domicile, to sound Mrs Richards, returned in
triumph the same evening, accompanied by the identical rosy-cheeked
apple-faced Polly, whose demonstrations, when brought into Florence's
presence, were hardly less affectionate than those of Susan Nipper

This piece of generalship accomplished; from which the Captain
derived uncommon satisfaction, as he did, indeed, from everything else
that was done, whatever it happened to be; Florence had next to
prepare Susan for their approaching separation. This was a much more
difficult task, as Miss Nipper was of a resolute disposition, and had
fully made up her mind that she had come back never to be parted from
her old mistress any more.

'As to wages dear Miss Floy,' she said, 'you wouldn't hint and
wrong me so as think of naming them, for I've put money by and
wouldn't sell my love and duty at a time like this even if the
Savings' Banks and me were total strangers or the Banks were broke to
pieces, but you've never been without me darling from the time your
poor dear Ma was took away, and though I'm nothing to be boasted of
you're used to me and oh my own dear mistress through so many years
don't think of going anywhere without me, for it mustn't and can't

'Dear Susan, I am going on a long, long voyage.'

'Well Miss Floy, and what of that? the more you'll want me. Lengths
of voyages ain't an object in my eyes, thank God!' said the impetuous
Susan Nipper.

'But, Susan, I am going with Walter, and I would go with Walter
anywhere - everywhere! Walter is poor, and I am very poor, and I must
learn, now, both to help myself, and help him.'

'Dear Miss Floy!' cried Susan, bursting out afresh, and shaking her
head violently, 'it's nothing new to you to help yourself and others
too and be the patientest and truest of noble hearts, but let me talk
to Mr Walter Gay and settle it with him, for suffer you to go away
across the world alone I cannot, and I won't.'

'Alone, Susan?' returned Florence. 'Alone? and Walter taking me
with him!' Ah, what a bright, amazed, enraptured smile was on her
face! - He should have seen it. 'I am sure you will not speak to
Walter if I ask you not,' she added tenderly; 'and pray don't, dear.'

Susan sobbed 'Why not, Miss Floy?'

'Because,' said Florence, 'I am going to be his wife, to give him
up my whole heart, and to live with him and die with him. He might
think, if you said to him what you have said to me, that I am afraid
of what is before me, or that you have some cause to be afraid for me.
Why, Susan, dear, I love him!'

Miss Nipper was so much affected by the quiet fervour of these
words, and the simple, heartfelt, all-pervading earnestness expressed
in them, and making the speaker's face more beautiful and pure than
ever, that she could only cling to her again, crying. Was her little
mistress really, really going to be married, and pitying, caressing,
and protecting her, as she had done before. But the Nipper, though
susceptible of womanly weaknesses, was almost as capable of putting
constraint upon herself as of attacking the redoubtable MacStinger.
From that time, she never returned to the subject, but was always
cheerful, active, bustling, and hopeful. She did, indeed, inform Mr
Toots privately, that she was only 'keeping up' for the time, and that
when it was all over, and Miss Dombey was gone, she might be expected
to become a spectacle distressful; and Mr Toots did also express that
it was his case too, and that they would mingle their tears together;
but she never otherwise indulged her private feelings in the presence
of Florence or within the precincts of the Midshipman.

Limited and plain as Florence's wardrobe was - what a contrast to
that prepared for the last marriage in which she had taken part! -
there was a good deal to do in getting it ready, and Susan Nipper
worked away at her side, all day, with the concentrated zeal of fifty
sempstresses. The wonderful contributions Captain Cuttle would have
made to this branch of the outfit, if he had been permitted - as pink
parasols, tinted silk stockings, blue shoes, and other articles no
less necessary on shipboard - would occupy some space in the recital.
He was induced, however, by various fraudulent representations, to
limit his contributions to a work-box and dressing case, of each of
which he purchased the very largest specimen that could be got for
money. For ten days or a fortnight afterwards, he generally sat,
during the greater part of the day, gazing at these boxes; divided
between extreme admiration of them, and dejected misgivings that they
were not gorgeous enough, and frequently diving out into the street to
purchase some wild article that he deemed necessary to their
completeness. But his master-stroke was, the bearing of them both off,
suddenly, one morning, and getting the two words FLORENCE GAY engraved
upon a brass heart inlaid over the lid of each. After this, he smoked
four pipes successively in the little parlour by himself, and was
discovered chuckling, at the expiration of as many hours.

Walter was busy and away all day, but came there every morning
early to see Florence, and always passed the evening with her.
Florence never left her high rooms but to steal downstairs to wait for
him when it was his time to come, or, sheltered by his proud,
encircling arm, to bear him company to the door again, and sometimes
peep into the street. In the twilight they were always together. Oh
blessed time! Oh wandering heart at rest! Oh deep, exhaustless, mighty
well of love, in which so much was sunk!

The cruel mark was on her bosom yet. It rose against her father
with the breath she drew, it lay between her and her lover when he
pressed her to his heart. But she forgot it. In the beating of that
heart for her, and in the beating of her own for him, all harsher
music was unheard, all stern unloving hearts forgotten. Fragile and
delicate she was, but with a might of love within her that could, and
did, create a world to fly to, and to rest in, out of his one image.

How often did the great house, and the old days, come before her in
the twilight time, when she was sheltered by the arm, so proud, so
fond, and, creeping closer to him, shrunk within it at the
recollection! How often, from remembering the night when she went down
to that room and met the never-to-be forgotten look, did she raise her
eyes to those that watched her with such loving earnestness, and weep
with happiness in such a refuge! The more she clung to it, the more
the dear dead child was in her thoughts: but as if the last time she
had seen her father, had been when he was sleeping and she kissed his
face, she always left him so, and never, in her fancy, passed that

'Walter, dear,' said Florence, one evening, when it was almost
dark.'Do you know what I have been thinking to-day?'

'Thinking how the time is flying on, and how soon we shall be upon
the sea, sweet Florence?'

'I don't mean that, Walter, though I think of that too. I have been
thinking what a charge I am to you.

'A precious, sacred charge, dear heart! Why, I think that

'You are laughing, Walter. I know that's much more in your thoughts
than mine. But I mean a cost.

'A cost, my own?'

'In money, dear. All these preparations that Susan and I are so
busy with - I have been able to purchase very little for myself. You
were poor before. But how much poorer I shall make you, Walter!'

'And how much richer, Florence!'

Florence laughed, and shook her head.

'Besides,' said Walter, 'long ago - before I went to sea - I had a
little purse presented to me, dearest, which had money in it.'

'Ah!' returned Florence, laughing sorrowfully, 'very little! very
little, Walter! But, you must not think,' and here she laid her light
hand on his shoulder, and looked into his face, 'that I regret to be
this burden on you. No, dear love, I am glad of it. I am happy in it.
I wouldn't have it otherwise for all the world!'

'Nor I, indeed, dear Florence.'

'Ay! but, Walter, you can never feel it as I do. I am so proud of
you! It makes my heart swell with such delight to know that those who
speak of you must say you married a poor disowned girl, who had taken
shelter here; who had no other home, no other friends; who had nothing
- nothing! Oh, Walter, if I could have brought you millions, I never
could have been so happy for your sake, as I am!'

'And you, dear Florence? are you nothing?' he returned.

'No, nothing, Walter. Nothing but your wife.' The light hand stole
about his neck, and the voice came nearer - nearer. 'I am nothing any
more, that is not you. I have no earthly hope any more, that is not
you. I have nothing dear to me any more, that is not you.

Oh! well might Mr Toots leave the little company that evening, and
twice go out to correct his watch by the Royal Exchange, and once to
keep an appointment with a banker which he suddenly remembered, and
once to take a little turn to Aldgate Pump and back!

But before he went upon these expeditions, or indeed before he
came, and before lights were brought, Walter said:

'Florence, love, the lading of our ship is nearly finished, and
probably on the very day of our marriage she will drop down the river.
Shall we go away that morning, and stay in Kent until we go on board
at Gravesend within a week?'

'If you please, Walter. I shall be happy anywhere. But - '

'Yes, my life?'

'You know,' said Florence, 'that we shall have no marriage party,
and that nobody will distinguish us by our dress from other people. As
we leave the same day, will you - will you take me somewhere that
morning, Walter - early - before we go to church?'

Walter seemed to understand her, as so true a lover so truly loved
should, and confirmed his ready promise with a kiss - with more than
one perhaps, or two or threes or five or six; and in the grave,
peaceful evening, Florence was very happy.

Then into the quiet room came Susan Nipper and the candles; shortly
afterwards, the tea, the Captain, and the excursive Mr Toots, who, as
above mentioned, was frequently on the move afterwards, and passed but
a restless evening. This, however, was not his habit: for he generally
got on very well, by dint of playing at cribbage with the Captain
under the advice and guidance of Miss Nipper, and distracting his mind
with the calculations incidental to the game; which he found to be a
very effectual means of utterly confounding himself.

The Captain's visage on these occasions presented one of the finest
examples of combination and succession of expression ever observed.
His instinctive delicacy and his chivalrous feeling towards Florence,
taught him that it was not a time for any boisterous jollity, or
violent display of satisfaction; floating reminiscences of Lovely Peg,
on the other hand, were constantly struggling for a vent, and urging
the Captain to commit himself by some irreparable demonstration. Anon,
his admiration of Florence and Walter - well-matched, truly, and full
of grace and interest in their youth, and love, and good looks, as
they sat apart - would take such complete possession of hIm, that he
would lay down his cards, and beam upon them, dabbing his head all
over with his pockethandkerchief; until warned, perhaps, by the sudden
rushing forth of Mr Toots, that he had unconsciously been very
instrumental, indeed, in making that gentleman miserable. This
reflection would make the Captain profoundly melancholy, until the
return of Mr Toots; when he would fall to his cards again, with many
side winks and nods, and polite waves of his hook at Miss Nipper,
importing that he wasn't going to do so any more. The state that
ensued on this, was, perhaps, his best; for then, endeavouring to
discharge all expression from his face, he would sit staring round the
room, with all these expressions conveyed into it at once, and each
wrestling with the other. Delighted admiration of Florence and Walter
always overthrew the rest, and remained victorious and undisguised,
unless Mr Toots made another rush into the air, and then the Captain
would sit, like a remorseful culprit, until he came back again,
occasionally calling upon himself, in a low reproachful voice, to
'Stand by!' or growling some remonstrance to 'Ed'ard Cuttle, my lad,'
on the want of caution observabl in his behaviour.

One of Mr Toots's hardest trials, however, was of his own seeking.
On the approach of the Sunday which was to witness the last of those
askings in church of which the Captain had spoken, Mr Toots thus
stated his feelings to Susan Nipper.

'Susan,' said Mr Toots, 'I am drawn towards the building. The words
which cut me off from Miss Dombey for ever, will strike upon my ears
like a knell you know, but upon my word and honour, I feel that I must
hear them. Therefore,' said Mr Toots, 'will you accompany me
to-morrow, to the sacred edifice?'

Miss Nipper expressed her readiness to do so, if that would be any
satisfaction to Mr Toots, but besought him to abandon his idea of

'Susan,' returned Mr Toots, with much solemnity, 'before my
whiskers began to be observed by anybody but myself, I adored Miss
Dombey. While yet a victim to the thraldom of Blimber, I adored Miss
Dombey. When I could no longer be kept out of my property, in a legal
point of view, and - and accordingly came into it - I adored Miss
Dombey. The banns which consign her to Lieutenant Walters, and me to -
to Gloom, you know,' said Mr Toots, after hesitating for a strong
expression, 'may be dreadful, will be dreadful; but I feel that I
should wish to hear them spoken. I feel that I should wish to know
that the ground wascertainly cut from under me, and that I hadn't a
hope to cherish, or a - or a leg, in short, to - to go upon.'

Susan Nipper could only commiserate Mr Toots's unfortunate
condition, and agree, under these circumstances, to accompany him;
which she did next morning.

The church Walter had chosen for the purpose, was a mouldy old
church in a yard, hemmed in by a labyrinth of back streets and courts,
with a little burying-ground round it, and itself buried in a kind of
vault, formed by the neighbouring houses, and paved with echoing
stones It was a great dim, shabby pile, with high old oaken pews,
among which about a score of people lost themselves every Sunday;
while the clergyman's voice drowsily resounded through the emptiness,
and the organ rumbled and rolled as if the church had got the colic,
for want of a congregation to keep the wind and damp out. But so far
was this city church from languishing for the company of other
churches, that spires were clustered round it, as the masts of
shipping cluster on the river. It would have been hard to count them
from its steeple-top, they were so many. In almost every yard and
blind-place near, there was a church. The confusion of bells when
Susan and Mr Toots betook themselves towards it on the Sunday morning,
was deafening. There were twenty churches close together, clamouring
for people to come in.

The two stray sheep in question were penned by a beadle in a
commodious pew, and, being early, sat for some time counting the
congregation, listening to the disappointed bell high up in the tower,
or looking at a shabby little old man in the porch behind the screen,
who was ringing the same, like the Bull in Cock Robin,' with his foot
in a stirrup. Mr Toots, after a lengthened survey of the large books
on the reading-desk, whispered Miss Nipper that he wondered where the
banns were kept, but that young lady merely shook her head and
frowned; repelling for the time all approaches of a temporal nature.

Mr Toots, however, appearing unable to keep his thoughts from the
banns, was evidently looking out for them during the whole preliminary
portion of the service. As the time for reading them approached, the
poor young gentleman manifested great anxiety and trepidation, which
was not diminished by the unexpected apparition of the Captain in the
front row of the gallery. When the clerk handed up a list to the
clergyman, Mr Toots, being then seated, held on by the seat of the
pew; but when the names of Walter Gay and Florence Dombey were read
aloud as being in the third and last stage of that association, he was
so entirley conquered by his feelings as to rush from the church
without his hat, followed by the beadle and pew-opener, and two
gentlemen of the medical profeesion, who happened to be present; of
whom the first-named presently returned for that article, informing
Miss Nipper in a whisper that she was not to make herself uneasy about
the gentleman, as the gentleman said his indisposition was of no

Miss Nipper, feeling that the eyes of that integral portion of
Europe which lost itself weekly among the high-backed pews, were upon
her, would have been sufficient embarrassed by this incident, though
it had terminated here; the more so, as the Captain in the front row
of the gallery, was in a state of unmitigated consciousness which
could hardly fail to express to the congregation that he had some
mysterious connection with it. But the extreme restlessness of Mr
Toots painfully increased and protracted the delicacy of her
situation. That young gentleman, incapable, in his state of mind, of
remaining alone in the churchyard, a prey to solitary meditation, and
also desirous, no doubt, of testifying his respect for the offices he
had in some measure interrupted, suddenly returned - not coming back
to the pew, but stationing himself on a free seat in the aisle,
between two elderly females who were in the habit of receiving their
portion of a weekly dole of bread then set forth on a shelf in the
porch. In this conjunction Mr Toots remained, greatly disturbing the
congregation, who felt it impossible to avoid looking at him, until
his feelings overcame him again, when he departed silently and
suddenly. Not venturing to trust himself in the church any more, and
yet wishing to have some social participation in what was going on
there, Mr Toots was, after this, seen from time to time, looking in,
with a lorn aspect, at one or other of the windows; and as there were
several windows accessible to him from without, and as his
restlessness was very great, it not only became difficult to conceive
at which window he would appear next, but likewise became necessary,
as it were, for the whole congregation to speculate upon the chances
of the different windows, during the comparative leisure afforded them
by the sermon. Mr Toots's movements in the churchyard were so
eccentric, that he seemed generally to defeat all calculation, and to
appear, like the conjuror's figure, where he was least expected; and
the effect of these mysterious presentations was much increased by its
being difficult to him to see in, and easy to everybody else to see
out: which occasioned his remaining, every time, longer than might
have been expected, with his face close to the glass, until he all at
once became aware that all eyes were upon him, and vanished.

These proceedings on the part of Mr Toots, and the strong
individual consciousness of them that was exhibited by the Captain,
rendered Miss Nipper's position so responsible a one, that she was
mightily relieved by the conclusion of the service; and was hardly so
affable to Mr Toots as usual, when he informed her and the Captain, on
the way back, that now he was sure he had no hope, you know, he felt
more comfortable - at least not exactly more comfortable, but more
comfortably and completely miserable.

Swiftly now, indeed, the time flew by until it was the evening
before the day appointed for the marriage. They were all assembled in
the upper room at the Midshipman's, and had no fear of interruption;
for there were no lodgers in the house now, and the Midshipman had it
all to himself. They were grave and quiet in the prospect of
to-morrow, but moderately cheerful too. Florence, with Walter close
beside her, was finishing a little piece of work intended as a parting
gift to the Captain. The Captain was playing cribbage with Mr Toots.
Mr Toots was taking counsel as to his hand, of Susan Nipper. Miss
Nipper was giving it, with all due secrecy and circumspection.
Diogenes was listening, and occasionally breaking out into a gruff
half-smothered fragment of a bark, of which he afterwards seemed
half-ashamed, as if he doubted having any reason for it.

'Steady, steady!' said the Captain to Diogenes, 'what's amiss with
you? You don't seem easy in your mind to-night, my boy!'

Diogenes wagged his tail, but pricked up his ears immediately
afterwards, and gave utterance to another fragment of a bark; for
which he apologised to the Captain, by again wagging his tail.

'It's my opinion, Di,' said the Captain, looking thoughtfully at
his cards, and stroking his chin with his hook, 'as you have your
doubts of Mrs Richards; but if you're the animal I take you to be,
you'll think better o' that; for her looks is her commission. Now,
Brother:' to Mr Toots: 'if so be as you're ready, heave ahead.'

The Captain spoke with all composure and attention to the game, but
suddenly his cards dropped out of his hand, his mouth and eyes opened
wide, his legs drew themselves up and stuck out in front of his chair,
and he sat staring at the door with blank amazement. Looking round
upon the company, and seeing that none of them observed him or the
cause of his astonishment, the Captain recovered himself with a great
gasp, struck the table a tremendous blow, cried in a stentorian roar,
'Sol Gills ahoy!' and tumbled into the arms of a weather-beaten
pea-coat that had come with Polly into the room.

In another moment, Walter was in the arms of the weather-beaten
pea-coat. In another moment, Florence was in the arms of the
weather-beaten pea-coat. In another moment, Captain Cuttle had
embraced Mrs Richards and Miss Nipper, and was violently shaking hands
with Mr Toots, exclaiming, as he waved his hook above his head,
'Hooroar, my lad, hooroar!' To which Mr Toots, wholly at a loss to
account for these proceedings, replied with great politeness,
'Certainly, Captain Gills, whatever you think proper!'

The weather-beaten pea-coat, and a no less weather-beaten cap and
comforter belonging to it, turned from the Captain and from Florence
back to Walter, and sounds came from the weather-beaten pea-coat, cap,
and comforter, as of an old man sobbing underneath them; while the
shaggy sleeves clasped Walter tight. During this pause, there was an
universal silence, and the Captain polished his nose with great
diligence. But when the pea-coat, cap, and comforter lifted themselves
up again, Florence gently moved towards them; and she and Walter
taking them off, disclosed the old Instrument-maker, a little thinner
and more careworn than of old, in his old Welsh wig and his old
coffee-coloured coat and basket buttons, with his old infallible
chronometer ticking away in his pocket.

'Chock full o' science,' said the radiant Captain, 'as ever he was!
Sol Gills, Sol Gills, what have you been up to, for this many a long
day, my ould boy?'

'I'm half blind, Ned,' said the old man, 'and almost deaf and dumb
with joy.'

'His wery woice,' said the Captain, looking round with an
exultation to which even his face could hardly render justice - 'his
wery woice as chock full o' science as ever it was! Sol Gills, lay to,
my lad, upon your own wines and fig-trees like a taut ould patriark as
you are, and overhaul them there adwentures o' yourn, in your own
formilior woice. 'Tis the woice,' said the Captain, impressively, and
announcing a quotation with his hook, 'of the sluggard, I heerd him
complain, you have woke me too soon, I must slumber again. Scatter his
ene-mies, and make 'em fall!'

The Captain sat down with the air of a man who had happily
expressed the feeling of everybody present, and immediately rose again
to present Mr Toots, who was much disconcerted by the arrival of
anybody, appearing to prefer a claim to the name of Gills.

'Although,' stammered Mr Toots, 'I had not the pleasure of your
acquaintance, Sir, before you were - you were - '

'Lost to sight, to memory dear,' suggested the Captain, in a low

Exactly so, Captain Gills!' assented Mr Toots. 'Although I had not
the pleasure of your acquaintance, Mr - Mr Sols,' said Toots, hitting
on that name in the inspiration of a bright idea, 'before that
happened, I have the greatest pleasure, I assure you, in - you know,
in knowing you. I hope,' said Mr Toots, 'that you're as well as can be

With these courteous words, Mr Toots sat down blushing and

The old Instrument-maker, seated in a corner between Walter and
Florence, and nodding at Polly, who was looking on, all smiles and
delight, answered the Captain thus:

'Ned Cuttle, my dear boy, although I have heard something of the
changes of events here, from my pleasant friend there - what a
pleasant face she has to be sure, to welcome a wanderer home!' said
the old man, breaking off, and rubbing his hands in his old dreamy

'Hear him!' cried the Captain gravely. ''Tis woman as seduces all
mankind. For which,' aside to Mr Toots, 'you'll overhaul your Adam and
Eve, brother.'

'I shall make a point of doing so, Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots.

'Although I have heard something of the changes of events, from
her,' resumed the Instrument-maker, taking his old spectacles from his
pocket, and putting them on his forehead in his old manner, 'they are
so great and unexpected, and I am so overpowered by the sight of my
dear boy, and by the,' - glancing at the downcast eyes of Florence,
and not attempting to finish the sentence - 'that I - I can't say much
to-night. But my dear Ned Cuttle, why didn't you write?'

The astonishment depicted in the Captain's features positively
frightened Mr Toots, whose eyes were quite fixed by it, so that he
could not withdraw them from his face.

'Write!' echoed the Captain. 'Write, Sol Gills?'

'Ay,' said the old man, 'either to Barbados, or Jamaica, or
Demerara, That was what I asked.'

'What you asked, Sol Gills?' repeated the Captain.

'Ay,' said the old man. 'Don't you know, Ned? Sure you have not
forgotten? Every time I wrote to you.'

The Captain took off his glazed hat, hung it on his hook, and
smoothing his hair from behind with his hand, sat gazing at the group
around him: a perfect image of wondering resignation.

'You don't appear to understand me, Ned!' observed old Sol.

'Sol Gills,' returned the Captain, after staring at him and the
rest for a long time, without speaking, 'I'm gone about and adrift.
Pay out a word or two respecting them adwenturs, will you! Can't I
bring up, nohows? Nohows?' said the Captain, ruminating, and staring
all round.

'You know, Ned,' said Sol Gills, 'why I left here. Did you open my
packet, Ned?'

'Why, ay, ay,' said the Captain. 'To be sure, I opened the packet.'

'And read it?' said the old man.

'And read it,' answered the Captain, eyeing him attentively, and
proceeding to quote it from memory. '"My dear Ned Cuttle, when I left
home for the West Indies in forlorn search of intelligence of my
dear-" There he sits! There's Wal'r!' said the Captain, as if he were
relieved by getting hold of anything that was real and indisputable.

'Well, Ned. Now attend a moment!' said the old man. 'When I wrote
first - that was from Barbados - I said that though you would receive
that letter long before the year was out, I should be glad if you
would open the packet, as it explained the reason of my going away.
Very good, Ned. When I wrote the second, third, and perhaps the fourth
times - that was from Jamaica - I said I was in just the same state,
couldn't rest, and couldn't come away from that part of the world,
without knowing that my boy was lost or saved. When I wrote next -
that, I think, was from Demerara, wasn't it?'

'That he thinks was from Demerara, warn't it!' said the Captain,
looking hopelessly round.

'I said,' proceeded old Sol, 'that still there was no certain
information got yet. That I found many captains and others, in that
part of the world, who had known me for years, and who assisted me
with a passage here and there, and for whom I was able, now and then,
to do a little in return, in my own craft. That everyone was sorry for
me, and seemed to take a sort of interest in my wanderings; and that I
began to think it would be my fate to cruise about in search of
tidings of my boy, until I died.'

'Began to think as how he was a scientific Flying Dutchman!' said
the Captain, as before, and with great seriousness.

'But when the news come one day, Ned, - that was to Barbados, after
I got back there, - that a China trader home'ard bound had been spoke,
that had my boy aboard, then, Ned, I took passage in the next ship and
came home; arrived at home to-night to find it true, thank God!' said
the old man, devoutly.

The Captain, after bowing his head with great reverence, stared all
round the circle, beginning with Mr Toots, and ending with the
Instrument-maker; then gravely said:

'Sol Gills! The observation as I'm a-going to make is calc'lated to
blow every stitch of sail as you can carry, clean out of the
bolt-ropes, and bring you on your beam ends with a lurch. Not one of
them letters was ever delivered to Ed'ard Cuttle. Not one o' them
letters,' repeated the Captain, to make his declaration the more
solemn and impressive, 'was ever delivered unto Ed'ard Cuttle,
Mariner, of England, as lives at home at ease, and doth improve each
shining hour!'

'And posted by my own hand! And directed by my own hand, Number
nine Brig Place!' exclaimed old Sol.

The colour all went out of the Captain's face and all came back
again in a glow.

'What do you mean, Sol Gills, my friend, by Number nine Brig
Place?' inquired the Captain.

'Mean? Your lodgings, Ned,' returned the old man. 'Mrs
What's-her-name! I shall forget my own name next, but I am behind the
present time - I always was, you recollect - and very much confused.
Mrs - '

'Sol Gills!' said the Captain, as if he were putting the most
improbable case in the world, 'it ain't the name of MacStinger as
you're a trying to remember?'

'Of course it is!' exclaimed the Instrument-maker. 'To be sure Ned.
Mrs MacStinger!'

Captain Cuttle, whose eyes were now as wide open as they would be,
and the knobs upon whose face were perfectly luminous, gave a long
shrill whistle of a most melancholy sound, and stood gazing at
everybody in a state of speechlessness.

'Overhaul that there again, Sol Gills, will you be so kind?' he
said at last.

'All these letters,' returned Uncle Sol, beating time with the
forefinger of his right hand upon the palm of his left, with a
steadiness and distinctness that might have done honour, even to the
infallible chronometer in his pocket, 'I posted with my own hand, and
directed with my own hand, to Captain Cuttle, at Mrs MacStinger's,
Number nine Brig Place.'

The Captain took his glazed hat off his hook, looked into it, put
it on, and sat down.

'Why, friends all,' said the Captain, staring round in the last
state of discomfiture, 'I cut and run from there!'

'And no one knew where you were gone, Captain Cuttle?' cried Walter

'Bless your heart, Wal'r,' said the Captain, shaking his head,
'she'd never have allowed o' my coming to take charge o' this here
property. Nothing could be done but cut and run. Lord love you,
Wal'r!' said the Captain, 'you've only seen her in a calm! But see her
when her angry passions rise - and make a note on!'

'I'd give it her!' remarked the Nipper, softly.

'Would you, do you think, my dear?' returned the Captain, with
feeble admiration. 'Well, my dear, it does you credit. But there ain't
no wild animal I wouldn't sooner face myself. I only got my chest away
by means of a friend as nobody's a match for. It was no good sending
any letter there. She wouldn't take in any letter, bless you,' said
the Captain, 'under them circumstances! Why, you could hardly make it
worth a man's while to be the postman!'

'Then it's pretty clear, Captain Cuttle, that all of us, and you
and Uncle Sol especially,' said Walter, 'may thank Mrs MacStinger for
no small anxiety.'

The general obligation in this wise to the determined relict of the
late Mr MacStinger, was so apparent, that the Captain did not contest
the point; but being in some measure ashamed of his position, though
nobody dwelt upon the subject, and Walter especially avoided it,
remembering the last conversation he and the Captain had held together
respecting it, he remained under a cloud for nearly five minutes - an
extraordinary period for him when that sun, his face, broke out once
more, shining on all beholders with extraordinary brilliancy; and he
fell into a fit of shaking hands with everybody over and over again.

At an early hour, but not before Uncle Sol and Walter had
questioned each other at some length about their voyages and dangers,
they all, except Walter, vacated Florence's room, and went down to the
parlour. Here they were soon afterwards joined by Walter, who told
them Florence was a little sorrowful and heavy-hearted, and had gone
to bed. Though they could not have disturbed her with their voices
down there, they all spoke in a whisper after this: and each, in his
different way, felt very lovingly and gently towards Walter's fair
young bride: and a long explanation there was of everything relating
to her, for the satisfaction of Uncle Sol; and very sensible Mr Toots
was of the delicacy with which Walter made his name and services
important, and his presence necessary to their little council.

'Mr Toots,' said Walter, on parting with him at the house door, 'we
shall see each other to-morrow morning?'

'Lieutenant Walters,' returned Mr Toots, grasping his hand
fervently, 'I shall certainly be present.

'This is the last night we shall meet for a long time - the last
night we may ever meet,' said Walter. 'Such a noble heart as yours,
must feel, I think, when another heart is bound to it. I hope you know
that I am very grateful to you?'

'Walters,' replied Mr Toots, quite touched, 'I should be glad to
feel that you had reason to be so.'

'Florence,' said Walter, 'on this last night of her bearing her own
name, has made me promise - it was only just now, when you left us
together - that I would tell you - with her dear love - '

Mr Toots laid his hand upon the doorpost, and his eyes upon his

- with her dear love,' said Walter, 'that she can never have a
friend whom she will value above you. That the recollection of your
true consideration for her always, can never be forgotten by her. That
she remembers you in her prayers to-night, and hopes that you will
think of her when she is far away. Shall I say anything for you?'

'Say, Walter,' replied Mr Toots indistinctly, 'that I shall think
of her every day, but never without feeling happy to know that she is
married to the man she loves, and who loves her. Say, if you please,
that I am sure her husband deserves her - even her!- and that I am
glad of her choice.'

Mr Toots got more distinct as he came to these last words, and
raising his eyes from the doorpost, said them stoutly. He then shook
Walter's hand again with a fervour that Walter was not slow to return
and started homeward.

Mr Toots was accompanied by the Chicken, whom he had of late
brought with him every evening, and left in the shop, with an idea
that unforeseen circumstances might arise from without, in which the
prowess of that distinguished character would be of service to the
Midshipman. The Chicken did not appear to be in a particularly good
humour on this occasion. Either the gas-lamps were treacherous, or he
cocked his eye in a hideous manner, and likewise distorted his nose,
when Mr Toots, crossing the road, looked back over his shoulder at the
room where Florence slept. On the road home, he was more demonstrative
of aggressive intentions against the other foot-passengers, than
comported with a professor of the peaceful art of self-defence.
Arrived at home, instead of leaving Mr Toots in his apartments when he
had escorted him thither, he remained before him weighing his white
hat in both hands by the brim, and twitching his head and nose (both
of which had been many times broken, and but indifferently repaired),
with an air of decided disrespect.

His patron being much engaged with his own thoughts, did not
observe this for some time, nor indeed until the Chicken, determined
not to be overlooked, had made divers clicking sounds with his tongue
and teeth, to attract attention.

'Now, Master,' said the Chicken, doggedly, when he, at length,
caught Mr Toots's eye, 'I want to know whether this here gammon is to
finish it, or whether you're a going in to win?'

'Chicken,' returned Mr Toots, 'explain yourself.'

'Why then, here's all about it, Master,' said the Chicken. 'I ain't
a cove to chuck a word away. Here's wot it is. Are any on 'em to be
doubled up?'

When the Chicken put this question he dropped his hat, made a dodge
and a feint with his left hand, hit a supposed enemy a violent blow
with his right, shook his head smartly, and recovered himself'

'Come, Master,' said the Chicken. 'Is it to be gammon or pluck?

Chicken,' returned Mr Toots, 'your expressions are coarse, and your
meaning is obscure.'

'Why, then, I tell you what, Master,' said the Chicken. 'This is
where it is. It's mean.'

'What is mean, Chicken?' asked Mr Toots.

'It is,' said the Chicken, with a frightful corrugation of his
broken nose. 'There! Now, Master! Wot! When you could go and blow on
this here match to the stiff'un;' by which depreciatory appellation it
has been since supposed that the Game One intended to signify Mr
Dombey; 'and when you could knock the winner and all the kit of 'em
dead out o' wind and time, are you going to give in? To give in? 'said
the Chicken, with contemptuous emphasis. 'Wy, it's mean!'

'Chicken,' said Mr Toots, severely, 'you're a perfect Vulture! Your
sentiments are atrocious.'

'My sentiments is Game and Fancy, Master,' returned the Chicken.
'That's wot my sentiments is. I can't abear a meanness. I'm afore the
public, I'm to be heerd on at the bar of the Little Helephant, and no
Gov'ner o' mine mustn't go and do what's mean. Wy, it's mean,' said
the Chicken, with increased expression. 'That's where it is. It's

'Chicken,' said Mr Toots, 'you disgust me.'

'Master,' returned the Chicken, putting on his hat, 'there's a pair
on us, then. Come! Here's a offer! You've spoke to me more than once't
or twice't about the public line. Never mind! Give me a fi'typunnote
to-morrow, and let me go.'

'Chicken,' returned Mr Toots, 'after the odious sentiments you have
expressed, I shall be glad to part on such terms.'

'Done then,' said the Chicken. 'It's a bargain. This here conduct
of yourn won't suit my book, Master. Wy, it's mean,' said the Chicken;
who seemed equally unable to get beyond that point, and to stop short
of it. 'That's where it is; it's mean!'

So Mr Toots and the Chicken agreed to part on this incompatibility
of moral perception; and Mr Toots lying down to sleep, dreamed happily
of Florence, who had thought of him as her friend upon the last night
of her maiden life, and who had sent him her dear love.

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