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Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

Part 19 out of 21

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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
confidence.'

'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
start.'

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,
upstairs.'

'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
follows.'

'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
property.'

'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
self.'

'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
herself.

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
be!'

'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
hour.

'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
sometimes.'

'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
going.

'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
consequence.

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
voice.

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
expected.'

With these courteous words, Mr Toots sat down blushing and
chuckling.

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
way.

'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
hastily.

'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
hand.

- 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?
Which?'

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
mean.'

'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.

CHAPTER 57.

Another Wedding

Mr Sownds the beadle, and Mrs Miff the pew-opener, are early at
their posts in the fine church where Mr Dombey was married. A
yellow-faced old gentleman from India, is going to take unto himself a
young wife this morning, and six carriages full of company are
expected, and Mrs Miff has been informed that the yellow-faced old
gentleman could pave the road to church with diamonds and hardly miss
them. The nuptial benediction is to be a superior one, proceeding from
a very reverend, a dean, and the lady is to be given away, as an
extraordinary present, by somebody who comes express from the Horse
Guards

Mrs Miff is more intolerant of common people this morning, than she
generally is; and she his always strong opinions on that subject, for
it is associated with free sittings. Mrs Miff is not a student of
political economy (she thinks the science is connected with
dissenters; 'Baptists or Wesleyans, or some o' them,' she says), but
she can never understand what business your common folks have to be
married. 'Drat 'em,' says Mrs Miff 'you read the same things over 'em'
and instead of sovereigns get sixpences!'

Mr Sownds the beadle is more liberal than Mrs Miff - but then he is
not a pew-opener. 'It must be done, Ma'am,' he says. 'We must marry
'em. We must have our national schools to walk at the head of, and we
must have our standing armies. We must marry 'em, Ma'am,' says Mr
Sownds, 'and keep the country going.'

Mr Sownds is sitting on the steps and Mrs Miff is dusting in the
church, when a young couple, plainly dressed, come in. The mortified
bonnet of Mrs Miff is sharply turned towards them, for she espies in
this early visit indications of a runaway match. But they don't want
to be married - 'Only,' says the gentleman, 'to walk round the
church.' And as he slips a genteel compliment into the palm of Mrs
Miff, her vinegary face relaxes, and her mortified bonnet and her
spare dry figure dip and crackle.

Mrs Miff resumes her dusting and plumps up her cushions - for the
yellow-faced old gentleman is reported to have tender knees - but
keeps her glazed, pew-opening eye on the young couple who are walking
round the church. 'Ahem,' coughs Mrs Miff whose cough is drier than
the hay in any hassock in her charge, 'you'll come to us one of these
mornings, my dears, unless I'm much mistaken!'

They are looking at a tablet on the wall, erected to the memory of
someone dead. They are a long way off from Mrs Miff, but Mrs Miff can
see with half an eye how she is leaning on his arm, and how his head
is bent down over her. 'Well, well,' says Mrs Miff, 'you might do
worse. For you're a tidy pair!'

There is nothing personal in Mrs Miff's remark. She merely speaks
of stock-in-trade. She is hardly more curious in couples than in
coffins. She is such a spare, straight, dry old lady - such a pew of a
woman - that you should find as many individual sympathies in a chip.
Mr Sownds, now, who is fleshy, and has scarlet in his coat, is of a
different temperament. He says, as they stand upon the steps watching
the young couple away, that she has a pretty figure, hasn't she, and
as well as he could see (for she held her head down coming out), an
uncommon pretty face. 'Altogether, Mrs Miff,' says Mr Sownds with a
relish, 'she is what you may call a rose-bud.'

Mrs Miff assents with a spare nod of her mortified bonnet; but
approves of this so little, that she inwardly resolves she wouldn't be
the wife of Mr Sownds for any money he could give her, Beadle as he
is.

And what are the young couple saying as they leave the church, and
go out at the gate?

'Dear Walter, thank you! I can go away, now, happy.'

'And when we come back, Florence, we will come and see his grave
again.'

Florence lifts her eyes, so bright with tears, to his kind face;
and clasps her disengaged hand on that other modest little hand which
clasps his arm.

'It is very early, Walter, and the streets are almost empty yet.
Let us walk.'

'But you will be so tired, my love.'

'Oh no! I was very tired the first time that we ever walked
together, but I shall not be so to-day.' And thus - not much changed -
she, as innocent and earnest-hearted - he, as frank, as hopeful, and
more proud of her - Florence and Walter, on their bridal morning, walk
through the streets together.

Not even in that childish walk of long ago, were they so far
removed from all the world about them as to-day. The childish feet of
long ago, did not tread such enchanted ground as theirs do now. The
confidence and love of children may be given many times, and will
spring up in many places; but the woman's heart of Florence, with its
undivided treasure, can be yielded only once, and under slight or
change, can only droop and die.

They take the streets that are the quietest, and do not go near
that in which her old home stands. It is a fair, warm summer morning,
and the sun shines on them, as they walk towards the darkening mist
that overspreads the City. Riches are uncovering in shops; jewels,
gold, and silver flash in the goldsmith's sunny windows; and great
houses cast a stately shade upon them as they pass. But through the
light, and through the shade, they go on lovingly together, lost to
everything around; thinking of no other riches, and no prouder home,
than they have now in one another.

Gradually they come into the darker, narrower streets, where the
sun, now yellow, and now red, is seen through the mist, only at street
corners, and in small open spaces where there is a tree, or one of the
innumerable churches, or a paved way and a flight of steps, or a
curious little patch of garden, or a burying-ground, where the few
tombs and tombstones are almost black. Lovingly and trustfully,
through all the narrow yards and alleys and the shady streets,
Florence goes, clinging to his arm, to be his wife.

Her heart beats quicker now, for Walter tells her that their church
is very near. They pass a few great stacks of warehouses, with waggons
at the doors, and busy carmen stopping up the way - but Florence does
not see or hear them - and then the air is quiet, and the day is
darkened, and she is trembling in a church which has a strange smell
like a cellar.

The shabby little old man, ringer of the disappointed bell, is
standing in the porch, and has put his hat in the font - for he is
quite at home there, being sexton. He ushers them into an old brown,
panelled, dusty vestry, like a corner-cupboard with the shelves taken
out; where the wormy registers diffuse a smell like faded snuff, which
has set the tearful Nipper sneezing.

Youthful, and how beautiful, the young bride looks, in this old
dusty place, with no kindred object near her but her husband. There is
a dusty old clerk, who keeps a sort of evaporated news shop underneath
an archway opposite, behind a perfect fortification of posts. There is
a dusty old pew-opener who only keeps herself, and finds that quite
enough to do. There is a dusty old beadle (these are Mr Toots's beadle
and pew-opener of last Sunday), who has something to do with a
Worshipful Company who have got a Hall in the next yard, with a
stained-glass window in it that no mortal ever saw. There are dusty
wooden ledges and cornices poked in and out over the altar, and over
the screen and round the gallery, and over the inscription about what
the Master and Wardens of the Worshipful Company did in one thousand
six hundred and ninety-four. There are dusty old sounding-boards over
the pulpit and reading-desk, looking like lids to be let down on the
officiating ministers in case of their giving offence. There is every
possible provision for the accommodation of dust, except in the
churchyard, where the facilities in that respect are very limited. The
Captain, Uncle Sol, and Mr Toots are come; the clergyman is putting on
his surplice in the vestry, while the clerk walks round him, blowing
the dust off it; and the bride and bridegroom stand before the altar.
There is no bridesmaid, unless Susan Nipper is one; and no better
father than Captain Cuttle. A man with a wooden leg, chewing a faint
apple and carrying a blue bag in has hand, looks in to see what is
going on; but finding it nothing entertaining, stumps off again, and
pegs his way among the echoes out of doors.

No gracious ray of light is seen to fall on Florence, kneeling at
the altar with her timid head bowed down. The morning luminary is
built out, and don't shine there. There is a meagre tree outside,
where the sparrows are chirping a little; and there is a blackbird in
an eyelet-hole of sun in a dyer's garret, over against the window, who
whistles loudly whilst the service is performing; and there is the man
with the wooden leg stumping away. The amens of the dusty clerk
appear, like Macbeth's, to stick in his throat a little'; but Captain
Cuttle helps him out, and does it with so much goodwill that he
interpolates three entirely new responses of that word, never
introduced into the service before.

They are married, and have signed their names in one of the old
sneezy registers, and the clergyman's surplice is restored to the
dust, and the clergymam is gone home. In a dark corner of the dark
church, Florence has turned to Susan Nipper, and is weeping in her
arms. Mr Toots's eyes are red. The Captain lubricates his nose. Uncle
Sol has pulled down his spectacles from his forehead, and walked out
to the door.

'God bless you, Susan; dearest Susan! If you ever can bear witness
to the love I have for Walter, and the reason that I have to love him,
do it for his sake. Good-bye! Good-bye!'

They have thought it better not to go back to the Midshipman, but
to part so; a coach is waiting for them, near at hand.

Miss Nipper cannot speak; she only sobs and chokes, and hugs her
mistress. Mr Toots advances, urges her to cheer up, and takes charge
of her. Florence gives him her hand - gives him, in the fulness of her
heart, her lips - kisses Uncle Sol, and Captain Cuttle, and is borne
away by her young husband.

But Susan cannot bear that Florence should go away with a mournful
recollection of her. She had meant to be so different, that she
reproaches herself bitterly. Intent on making one last effort to
redeem her character, she breaks from Mr Toots and runs away to find
the coach, and show a parting smile. The Captain, divining her object,
sets off after her; for he feels it his duty also to dismiss them with
a cheer, if possible. Uncle Sol and Mr Toots are left behind together,
outside the church, to wait for them.

The coach is gone, but the street is steep, and narrow, and blocked
up, and Susan can see it at a stand-still in the distance, she is
sure. Captain Cuttle follows her as she flies down the hill, and waves
his glazed hat as a general signal, which may attract the right coach
and which may not.

Susan outstrips the Captain, and comes up with it. She looks in at
the window, sees Walter, with the gentle face beside him, and claps
her hands and screams:

'Miss Floy, my darling! look at me! We are all so happy now, dear!
One more good-bye, my precious, one more!'

How Susan does it, she don't know, but she reaches to the window,
kisses her, and has her arms about her neck, in a moment.

We are all so happy now, my dear Miss Floy!' says Susan, with a
suspicious catching in her breath. 'You, you won't be angry with me
now. Now will you?'

'Angry, Susan!'

'No, no; I am sure you won't. I say you won't, my pet, my dearest!'
exclaims Susan; 'and here's the Captain too - your friend the Captain,
you know - to say good-bye once more!'

'Hooroar, my Heart's Delight!' vociferates the Captain, with a
countenance of strong emotion. 'Hooroar, Wal'r my lad. Hooroar!
Hooroar!'

What with the young husband at one window, and the young wife at
the other; the Captain hanging on at this door, and Susan Nipper
holding fast by that; the coach obliged to go on whether it will or
no, and all the other carts and coaches turbulent because it
hesitates; there never was so much confusion on four wheels. But Susan
Nipper gallantly maintains her point. She keeps a smiling face upon
her mistress, smiling through her tears, until the last. Even when she
is left behind, the Captain continues to appear and disappear at the
door, crying 'Hooroar, my lad! Hooroar, my Heart's Delight!' with his
shirt-collar in a violent state of agitation, until it is hopeless to
attempt to keep up with the coach any longer. Finally, when the coach
is gone, Susan Nipper, being rejoined by the Captain, falls into a
state of insensibility, and is taken into a baker's shop to recover.

Uncle Sol and Mr Toots wait patiently in the churchyard, sitting on
the coping-stone of the railings, until Captain Cuttle and Susan come
back, Neither being at all desirous to speak, or to be spoken to, they
are excellent company, and quite satisfied. When they all arrive again
at the little Midshipman, and sit down to breakfast, nobody can touch
a morsel. Captain Cuttle makes a feint of being voracious about toast,
but gives it up as a swindle. Mr Toots says, after breakfast, he will
come back in the evening; and goes wandering about the town all day,
with a vague sensation upon him as if he hadn't been to bed for a
fortnight.

There is a strange charm in the house, and in the room, in which
they have been used to be together, and out of which so much is gone.
It aggravates, and yet it soothes, the sorrow of the separation. Mr
Toots tells Susan Nipper when he comes at night, that he hasn't been
so wretched all day long, and yet he likes it. He confides in Susan
Nipper, being alone with her, and tells her what his feelings were
when she gave him that candid opinion as to the probability of Miss
Dombey's ever loving him. In the vein of confidence engendered by
these common recollections, and their tears, Mr Toots proposes that
they shall go out together, and buy something for supper. Miss Nipper
assenting, they buy a good many little things; and, with the aid of
Mrs Richards, set the supper out quite showily before the Captain and
old Sol came home.

The Captain and old Sol have been on board the ship, and have
established Di there, and have seen the chests put aboard. They have
much to tell about the popularity of Walter, and the comforts he will
have about him, and the quiet way in which it seems he has been
working early and late, to make his cabin what the Captain calls 'a
picter,' to surprise his little wife. 'A admiral's cabin, mind you,'
says the Captain, 'ain't more trim.'

But one of the Captain's chief delights is, that he knows the big
watch, and the sugar-tongs, and tea-spoons, are on board: and again
and again he murmurs to himself, 'Ed'ard Cuttle, my lad, you never
shaped a better course in your life than when you made that there
little property over jintly. You see how the land bore, Ed'ard,' says
the Captain, 'and it does you credit, my lad.'

The old Instrument-maker is more distraught and misty than he used
to be, and takes the marriage and the parting very much to heart. But
he is greatly comforted by having his old ally, Ned Cuttle, at his
side; and he sits down to supper with a grateful and contented face.

'My boy has been preserved and thrives,' says old Sol Gills,
rubbing his hands. 'What right have I to be otherwise than thankful
and happy!'

The Captain, who has not yet taken his seat at the table, but who
has been fidgeting about for some time, and now stands hesitating in
his place, looks doubtfully at Mr Gills, and says:

'Sol! There's the last bottle of the old Madeira down below. Would
you wish to have it up to-night, my boy, and drink to Wal'r and his
wife?'

The Instrument-maker, looking wistfully at the Captain, puts his
hand into the breast-pocket of his coffee-coloured coat, brings forth
his pocket-book, and takes a letter out.

'To Mr Dombey,' says the old man. 'From Walter. To be sent in three
weeks' time. I'll read it.'

'"Sir. I am married to your daughter. She is gone with me upon a
distant voyage. To be devoted to her is to have no claim on her or
you, but God knows that I am.

'"Why, loving her beyond all earthly things, I have yet, without
remorse, united her to the uncertainties and dangers of my life, I
will not say to you. You know why, and you are her father.

'"Do not reproach her. She has never reproached you.

'"I do not think or hope that you will ever forgive me. There is
nothing I expect less. But if an hour should come when it will comfort
you to believe that Florence has someone ever near her, the great
charge of whose life is to cancel her remembrance of past sorrow, I
solemnly assure you, you may, in that hour, rest in that belief."'

Solomon puts back the letter carefully in his pocket-book, and puts
back his pocket-book in his coat.

'We won't drink the last bottle of the old Madeira yet, Ned,' says
the old man thoughtfully. 'Not yet.

'Not yet,' assents the Captain. 'No. Not yet.'

Susan and Mr Toots are of the same opinion. After a silence they
all sit down to supper, and drink to the young husband and wife in
something else; and the last bottle of the old Madeira still remains
among its dust and cobwebs, undisturbed.

A few days have elapsed, and a stately ship is out at sea,
spreading its white wings to the favouring wind.

Upon the deck, image to the roughest man on board of something that
is graceful, beautiful, and harmless - something that it is good and
pleasant to have there, and that should make the voyage prosperous -
is Florence. It is night, and she and Walter sit alone, watching the
solemn path of light upon the sea between them and the moon.

At length she cannot see it plainly, for the tears that fill her
eyes; and then she lays her head down on his breast, and puts her arms
around his neck, saying, 'Oh Walter, dearest love, I am so happy!'

Her husband holds her to his heart, and they are very quiet, and
the stately ship goes on serenely.

'As I hear the sea,' says Florence, 'and sit watching it, it brings
so many days into my mind. It makes me think so much - '

'Of Paul, my love. I know it does.'

Of Paul and Walter. And the voices in the waves are always
whispering to Florence, in their ceaseless murmuring, of love - of
love, eternal and illimitable, not bounded by the confines of this
world, or by the end of time, but ranging still, beyond the sea,
beyond the sky, to the invisible country far away!

CHAPTER 58.

After a Lapse

The sea had ebbed and flowed, through a whole year. Through a whole
year, the winds and clouds had come and gone; the ceaseless work of
Time had been performed, in storm and sunshine. Through a whole year,
the tides of human chance and change had set in their allotted
courses. Through a whole year, the famous House of Dombey and Son had
fought a fight for life, against cross accidents, doubtful rumours,
unsuccessful ventures, unpropitious times, and most of all, against
the infatuation of its head, who would not contract its enterprises by
a hair's breadth, and would not listen to a word of warning that the
ship he strained so hard against the storm, was weak, and could not
bear it. The year was out, and the great House was down.

One summer afternoon; a year, wanting some odd days, after the
marriage in the City church; there was a buzz and whisper upon 'Change
of a great failure. A certain cold proud man, well known there, was
not there, nor was he represented there. Next day it was noised abroad
that Dombey and Son had stopped, and next night there was a List of
Bankrupts published, headed by that name.

The world was very busy now, in sooth, and had a deal to say. It
was an innocently credulous and a much ill-used world. It was a world
in which there was 'no other sort of bankruptcy whatever. There were
no conspicuous people in it, trading far and wide on rotten banks of
religion, patriotism, virtue, honour. There was no amount worth
mentioning of mere paper in circulation, on which anybody lived pretty
handsomely, promising to pay great sums of goodness with no effects.
There were no shortcomings anywhere, in anything but money. The world
was very angry indeed; and the people especially, who, in a worse
world, might have been supposed to be apt traders themselves in shows
and pretences, were observed to be mightily indignant.

Here was a new inducement to dissipation, presented to that sport
of circumstances, Mr Perch the Messenger! It was apparently the fate
of Mr Perch to be always waking up, and finding himself famous. He had
but yesterday, as one might say, subsided into private life from the
celebrity of the elopement and the events that followed it; and now he
was made a more important man than ever, by the bankruptcy. Gliding
from his bracket in the outer office where he now sat, watching the
strange faces of accountants and others, who quickly superseded nearly
all the old clerks, Mr Perch had but to show himself in the court
outside, or, at farthest, in the bar of the King's Arms, to be asked a
multitude of questions, almost certain to include that interesting
question, what would he take to drink? Then would Mr Perch descant
upon the hours of acute uneasiness he and Mrs Perch had suffered out
at Balls Pond, when they first suspected 'things was going wrong.'
Then would Mr Perch relate to gaping listeners, in a low voice, as if
the corpse of the deceased House were lying unburied in the next room,
how Mrs Perch had first come to surmise that things was going wrong by
hearing him (Perch) moaning in his sleep, 'twelve and ninepence in the
pound, twelve and ninepence in the pound!' Which act of somnambulism
he supposed to have originated in the impression made upon him by the
change in Mr Dombey's face. Then would he inform them how he had once
said, 'Might I make so bold as ask, Sir, are you unhappy in your
mind?' and how Mr Dombey had replied, 'My faithful Perch - but no, it
cannot be!' and with that had struck his hand upon his forehead, and
said, 'Leave me, Perch!' Then, in short, would Mr Perch, a victim to
his position, tell all manner of lies; affecting himself to tears by
those that were of a moving nature, and really believing that the
inventions of yesterday had, on repetition, a sort of truth about them
to-day.

Mr Perch always closed these conferences by meekly remarking, That,
of course, whatever his suspicions might have been (as if he had ever
had any!) it wasn't for him to betray his trust, was it? Which
sentiment (there never being any creditors present) was received as
doing great honour to his feelings. Thus, he generally brought away a
soothed conscience and left an agreeable impression behind him, when
he returned to his bracket: again to sit watching the strange faces of
the accountants and others, making so free with the great mysteries,
the Books; or now and then to go on tiptoe into Mr Dombey's empty
room, and stir the fire; or to take an airing at the door, and have a
little more doleful chat with any straggler whom he knew; or to
propitiate, with various small attentions, the head accountant: from
whom Mr Perch had expectations of a messengership in a Fire Office,
when the affairs of the House should be wound up.

To Major Bagstock, the bankruptcy was quite a calamity. The Major
was not a sympathetic character - his attention being wholly
concentrated on J. B. - nor was he a man subject to lively emotions,
except in the physical regards of gasping and choking. But he had so
paraded his friend Dombey at the club; had so flourished him at the
heads of the members in general, and so put them down by continual
assertion of his riches; that the club, being but human, was delighted
to retort upon the Major, by asking him, with a show of great concern,
whether this tremendous smash had been at all expected, and how his
friend Dombey bore it. To such questions, the Major, waxing very
purple, would reply that it was a bad world, Sir, altogether; that
Joey knew a thing or two, but had been done, Sir, done like an infant;
that if you had foretold this, Sir, to J. Bagstock, when he went
abroad with Dombey and was chasing that vagabond up and down France,
J. Bagstock would have pooh-pooh'd you - would have pooh- pooh'd you,
Sir, by the Lord! That Joe had been deceived, Sir, taken in,
hoodwinked, blindfolded, but was broad awake again and staring;
insomuch, Sir, that if Joe's father were to rise up from the grave
to-morrow, he wouldn't trust the old blade with a penny piece, but
would tell him that his son Josh was too old a soldier to be done
again, Sir. That he was a suspicious, crabbed, cranky, used-up, J. B.
infidel, Sir; and that if it were consistent with the dignity of a
rough and tough old Major, of the old school, who had had the honour
of being personally known to, and commended by, their late Royal
Highnesses the Dukes of Kent and York, to retire to a tub and live in
it, by Gad! Sir, he'd have a tub in Pall Mall to-morrow, to show his
contempt for mankind!'

Of all this, and many variations of the same tune, the Major would
deliver himself with so many apoplectic symptoms, such rollings of his
head, and such violent growls of ill usage and resentment, that the
younger members of the club surmised he had invested money in his
friend Dombey's House, and lost it; though the older soldiers and
deeper dogs, who knew Joe better, wouldn't hear of such a thing. The
unfortunate Native, expressing no opinion, suffered dreadfully; not
merely in his moral feelings, which were regularly fusilladed by the
Major every hour in the day, and riddled through and through, but in
his sensitiveness to bodily knocks and bumps, which was kept
continually on the stretch. For six entire weeks after the bankruptcy,
this miserable foreigner lived in a rainy season of boot-jacks and
brushes.

Mrs Chick had three ideas upon the subject of the terrible reverse.
The first was that she could not understand it. The second, that her
brother had not made an effort. The third, that if she had been
invited to dinner on the day of that first party, it never would have
happened; and that she had said so, at the time.

Nobody's opinion stayed the misfortune, lightened it, or made it
heavier. It was understood that the affairs of the House were to be
wound up as they best could be; that Mr Dombey freely resigned
everything he had, and asked for no favour from anyone. That any
resumption of the business was out of the question, as he would listen
to no friendly negotiation having that compromise in view; that he had
relinquished every post of trust or distinction he had held, as a man
respected among merchants; that he was dying, according to some; that
he was going melancholy mad, according to others; that he was a broken
man, according to all.

The clerks dispersed after holding a little dinner of condolence
among themselves, which was enlivened by comic singing, and went off
admirably. Some took places abroad, and some engaged in other Houses
at home; some looked up relations in the country, for whom they
suddenly remembered they had a particular affection; and some
advertised for employment in the newspapers. Mr Perch alone remained
of all the late establishment, sitting on his bracket looking at the
accountants, or starting off it, to propitiate the head accountant,
who was to get him into the Fire Office. The Counting House soon got
to be dirty and neglected. The principal slipper and dogs' collar
seller, at the corner of the court, would have doubted the propriety
of throwing up his forefinger to the brim of his hat, any more, if Mr
Dombey had appeared there now; and the ticket porter, with his hands
under his white apron, moralised good sound morality about ambition,
which (he observed) was not, in his opinion, made to rhyme to
perdition, for nothing.

Mr Morfin, the hazel-eyed bachelor, with the hair and whiskers
sprinkled with grey, was perhaps the only person within the atmosphere
of the House - its head, of course, excepted - who was heartily and
deeply affected by the disaster that had befallen it. He had treated
Mr Dombey with due respect and deference through many years, but he
had never disguised his natural character, or meanly truckled to him,
or pampered his master passion for the advancement of his own
purposes. He had, therefore, no self-disrespect to avenge; no
long-tightened springs to release with a quick recoil. He worked early
and late to unravel whatever was complicated or difficult in the
records of the transactions of the House; was always in attendance to
explain whatever required explanation; sat in his old room sometimes
very late at night, studying points by his mastery of which he could
spare Mr Dombey the pain of being personally referred to; and then
would go home to Islington, and calm his mind by producing the most
dismal and forlorn sounds out of his violoncello before going to bed.

He was solacing himself with this melodious grumbler one evening,
and, having been much dispirited by the proceedings of the day, was
scraping consolation out of its deepest notes, when his landlady (who
was fortunately deaf, and had no other consciousness of these
performances than a sensation of something rumbling in her bones)
announced a lady.

'In mourning,' she said.

The violoncello stopped immediately; and the performer, laying it
on the sofa with great tenderness and care, made a sign that the lady
was to come in. He followed directly, and met Harriet Carker on the
stair.

'Alone!' he said, 'and John here this morning! Is there anything
the matter, my dear? But no,' he added, 'your face tells quite another
story.'

'I am afraid it is a selfish revelation that you see there, then,'
she answered.

'It is a very pleasant one,' said he; 'and, if selfish, a novelty
too, worth seeing in you. But I don't believe that.'

He had placed a chair for her by this time, and sat down opposite;
the violoncello lying snugly on the sofa between them.

'You will not be surprised at my coming alone, or at John's not
having told you I was coming,' said Harriet; 'and you will believe
that, when I tell you why I have come. May I do so now?'

'You can do nothing better.'

'You were not busy?'

He pointed to the violoncello lying on the sofa, and said 'I have
been, all day. Here's my witness. I have been confiding all my cares
to it. I wish I had none but my own to tell.'

'Is the House at an end?' said Harriet, earnestly.

'Completely at an end.'

'Will it never be resumed?'

'Never.'

The bright expression of her face was not overshadowed as her lips
silently repeated the word. He seemed to observe this with some little
involuntary surprise: and said again:

'Never. You remember what I told you. It has been, all along,
impossible to convince him; impossible to reason with him; sometimes,
impossible even to approach him. The worst has happened; and the House
has fallen, never to be built up any more.'

'And Mr Dombey, is he personally ruined?'

'Ruined.'

'Will he have no private fortune left? Nothing?'

A certain eagerness in her voice, and something that was almost
joyful in her look, seemed to surprise him more and more; to
disappoint him too, and jar discordantly against his own emotions. He
drummed with the fingers of one hand on the table, looking wistfully
at her, and shaking his head, said, after a pause:

'The extent of Mr Dombey's resources is not accurately within my
knowledge; but though they are doubtless very large, his obligations
are enormous. He is a gentleman of high honour and integrity. Any man
in his position could, and many a man in his position would, have
saved himself, by making terms which would have very slightly, almost
insensibly, increased the losses of those who had had dealings with
him, and left him a remnant to live upon. But he is resolved on
payment to the last farthing of his means. His own words are, that
they will clear, or nearly clear, the House, and that no one can lose
much. Ah, Miss Harriet, it would do us no harm to remember oftener
than we do, that vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess!
His pride shows well in this.'

She heard him with little or no change in her expression, and with
a divided attention that showed her to be busy with something in her
own mind. When he was silent, she asked him hurriedly:

'Have you seen him lately?'

'No one sees him. When this crisis of his affairs renders it
necessary for him to come out of his house, he comes out for the
occasion, and again goes home, and shuts himself up, and will sea no
one. He has written me a letter, acknowledging our past connexion in
higher terms than it deserved, and parting from me. I am delicate of
obtruding myself upon him now, never having had much intercourse with
him in better times; but I have tried to do so. I have written, gone
there, entreated. Quite in vain.'

He watched her, as in the hope that she would testify some greater
concern than she had yet shown; and spoke gravely and feelingly, as if
to impress her the more; but there was no change in her.

'Well, well, Miss Harriet,' he said, with a disappointed air, 'this
is not to the purpose. You have not come here to hear this. Some other
and pleasanter theme is in your mind. Let it be in mine, too, and we
shall talk upon more equal terms. Come!'

'No, it is the same theme,' returned Harriet, with frank and quick
surprise. 'Is it not likely that it should be? Is it not natural that
John and I should have been thinking and speaking very much of late of
these great changes? Mr Dombey, whom he served so many years - you
know upon what terms - reduced, as you describe; and we quite rich!'

Good, true face, as that face of hers was, and pleasant as it had
been to him, Mr Morfin, the hazel-eyed bachelor, since the first time
he had ever looked upon it, it pleased him less at that moment,
lighted with a ray of exultation, than it had ever pleased him before.

'I need not remind you,' said Harriet, casting down her eyes upon
her black dress, 'through what means our circumstances changed. You
have not forgotten that our brother James, upon that dreadful day,
left no will, no relations but ourselves.'

The face was pleasanter to him now, though it was pale and
melancholy, than it had been a moment since. He seemed to breathe more
cheerily.

'You know,' she said, 'our history, the history of both my
brothers, in connexion with the unfortunate, unhappy gentleman, of
whom you have spoken so truly. You know how few our wants are - John's
and mine - and what little use we have for money, after the life we
have led together for so many years; and now that he is earning an
income that is ample for us, through your kindness. You are not
unprepared to hear what favour I have come to ask of you?'

'I hardly know. I was, a minute ago. Now, I think, I am not.'

'Of my dead brother I say nothing. If the dead know what we do -
but you understand me. Of my living brother I could say much; but what
need I say more, than that this act of duty, in which I have come to
ask your indispensable assistance, is his own, and that he cannot rest
until it is performed!'

She raised her eyes again; and the light of exultation in her face
began to appear beautiful, in the observant eyes that watched her.

'Dear Sir,' she went on to say, 'it must be done very quietly and
secretly. Your experience and knowledge will point out a way of doing
it. Mr Dombey may, perhaps, be led to believe that it is something
saved, unexpectedly, from the wreck of his fortunes; or that it is a
voluntary tribute to his honourable and upright character, from some
of those with whom he has had great dealings; or that it is some old
lost debt repaid. There must be many ways of doing it. I know you will
choose the best. The favour I have come to ask is, that you will do it
for us in your own kind, generous, considerate manner. That you will
never speak of it to John, whose chief happiness in this act of
restitution is to do it secretly, unknown, and unapproved of: that
only a very small part of the inheritance may be reserved to us, until
Mr Dombey shall have possessed the interest of the rest for the
remainder of his life; that you will keep our secret, faithfully - but
that I am sure you will; and that, from this time, it may seldom be
whispered, even between you and me, but may live in my thoughts only
as a new reason for thankfulness to Heaven, and joy and pride in my
brother.'

Such a look of exultation there may be on Angels' faces when the
one repentant sinner enters Heaven, among ninety-nine just men. It was
not dimmed or tarnished by the joyful tears that filled her eyes, but
was the brighter for them.

'My dear Harriet,' said Mr Morfin, after a silence, 'I was not
prepared for this. Do I understand you that you wish to make your own
part in the inheritance available for your good purpose, as well as
John's?'

'Oh, yes,' she returned 'When we have shared everything together
for so long a time, and have had no care, hope, or purpose apart,
could I bear to be excluded from my share in this? May I not urge a
claim to be my brother's partner and companion to the last?'

'Heaven forbid that I should dispute it!' he replied.

'We may rely on your friendly help?' she said. 'I knew we might!'

'I should be a worse man than, - than I hope I am, or would
willingly believe myself, if I could not give you that assurance from
my heart and soul. You may, implicitly. Upon my honour, I will keep
your secret. And if it should be found that Mr Dombey is so reduced as
I fear he will be, acting on a determination that there seem to be no
means of influencing, I will assist you to accomplish the design, on
which you and John are jointly resolved.'

She gave him her hand, and thanked him with a cordial, happy face.

'Harriet,' he said, detaining it in his. 'To speak to you of the
worth of any sacrifice that you can make now - above all, of any
sacrifice of mere money - would be idle and presumptuous. To put
before you any appeal to reconsider your purpose or to set narrow
limits to it, would be, I feel, not less so. I have no right to mar
the great end of a great history, by any obtrusion of my own weak
self. I have every right to bend my head before what you confide to
me, satisfied that it comes from a higher and better source of
inspiration than my poor worldly knowledge. I will say only this: I am
your faithful steward; and I would rather be so, and your chosen
friend, than I would be anybody in the world, except yourself.'

She thanked him again, cordially, and wished him good-night. 'Are
you going home?' he said. 'Let me go with you.'

'Not to-night. I am not going home now; I have a visit to make
alone. Will you come to-morrow?'

'Well, well,' said he, 'I'll come to-morrow. In the meantime, I'll
think of this, and how we can best proceed. And perhaps I'll think of
it, dear Harriet, and - and - think of me a little in connexion with
it.'

He handed her down to a coach she had in waiting at the door; and
if his landlady had not been deaf, she would have heard him muttering
as he went back upstairs, when the coach had driven off, that we were
creatures of habit, and it was a sorrowful habit to be an old
bachelor.

The violoncello lying on the sofa between the two chairs, he took
it up, without putting away the vacant chair, and sat droning on it,
and slowly shaking his head at the vacant chair, for a long, long
time. The expression he communicated to the instrument at first,
though monstrously pathetic and bland, was nothing to the expression
he communicated to his own face, and bestowed upon the empty chair:
which was so sincere, that he was obliged to have recourse to Captain
Cuttle's remedy more than once, and to rub his face with his sleeve.
By degrees, however, the violoncello, in unison with his own frame of
mind, glided melodiously into the Harmonious Blacksmith, which he
played over and over again, until his ruddy and serene face gleamed
like true metal on the anvil of a veritable blacksmith. In fine, the
violoncello and the empty chair were the companions of his
bachelorhood until nearly midnight; and when he took his supper, the
violoncello set up on end in the sofa corner, big with the latent
harmony of a whole foundry full of harmonious blacksmiths, seemed to
ogle the empty chair out of its crooked eyes, with unutterable
intelligence.

When Harriet left the house, the driver of her hired coach, taking
a course that was evidently no new one to him, went in and out by
bye-ways, through that part of the suburbs, until he arrived at some
open ground, where there were a few quiet little old houses standing
among gardens. At the garden-gate of one of these he stopped, and
Harriet alighted.

Her gentle ringing at the bell was responded to by a
dolorous-looking woman, of light complexion, with raised eyebrows, and
head drooping on one side, who curtseyed at sight of her, and
conducted her across the garden to the house.

'How is your patient, nurse, to-night?' said Harriet.

'In a poor way, Miss, I am afraid. Oh how she do remind me,
sometimes, of my Uncle's Betsey Jane!' returned the woman of the light
complexion, in a sort of doleful rapture.

'In what respect?' asked Harriet.

'Miss, in all respects,' replied the other, 'except that she's
grown up, and Betsey Jane, when at death's door, was but a child.'

'But you have told me she recovered,' observed Harriet mildly; 'so
there is the more reason for hope, Mrs Wickam.'

'Ah, Miss, hope is an excellent thing for such as has the spirits
to bear it!' said Mrs Wickam, shaking her head. 'My own spirits is not
equal to it, but I don't owe it any grudge. I envys them that is so
blest!'

'You should try to be more cheerful,' remarked Harriet.

'Thank you, Miss, I'm sure,' said Mrs Wickam grimly. 'If I was so
inclined, the loneliness of this situation - you'll excuse my speaking
so free - would put it out of my power, in four and twenty hours; but
I ain't at all. I'd rather not. The little spirits that I ever had, I
was bereaved of at Brighton some few years ago, and I think I feel
myself the better for it.'

In truth, this was the very Mrs Wickam who had superseded Mrs
Richards as the nurse of little Paul, and who considered herself to
have gained the loss in question, under the roof of the amiable
Pipchin. The excellent and thoughtful old system, hallowed by long
prescription, which has usually picked out from the rest of mankind
the most dreary and uncomfortable people that could possibly be laid
hold of, to act as instructors of youth, finger-posts to the virtues,
matrons, monitors, attendants on sick beds, and the like, had
established Mrs Wickam in very good business as a nurse, and had led
to her serious qualities being particularly commended by an admiring
and numerous connexion.

Mrs Wickam, with her eyebrows elevated, and her head on one side,
lighted the way upstairs to a clean, neat chamber, opening on another
chamber dimly lighted, where there was a bed. In the first room, an
old woman sat mechanically staring out at the open window, on the
darkness. In the second, stretched upon the bed, lay the shadow of a
figure that had spurned the wind and rain, one wintry night; hardly to
be recognised now, but by the long black hair that showed so very
black against the colourless face, and all the white things about it.

Oh, the strong eyes, and the weak frame! The eyes that turned so
eagerly and brightly to the door when Harriet came in; the feeble head
that could not raise itself, and moved so slowly round upon its
pillow!

'Alice!' said the visitor's mild voice, 'am I late to-night?'

'You always seem late, but are always early.'

Harriet had sat down by the bedside now, and put her hand upon the
thin hand lying there.

'You are better?'

Mrs Wickam, standing at the foot of the bed, like a disconsolate
spectre, most decidedly and forcibly shook her head to negative this
position.

'It matters very little!' said Alice, with a faint smile. 'Better
or worse to-day, is but a day's difference - perhaps not so much.'

Mrs Wickam, as a serious character, expressed her approval with a
groan; and having made some cold dabs at the bottom of the bedclothes,
as feeling for the patient's feet and expecting to find them stony;
went clinking among the medicine bottles on the table, as who should
say, 'while we are here, let us repeat the mixture as before.'

'No,' said Alice, whispering to her visitor, 'evil courses, and
remorse, travel, want, and weather, storm within, and storm without,
have worn my life away. It will not last much longer.

She drew the hand up as she spoke, and laid her face against it.

'I lie here, sometimes, thinking I should like to live until I had
had a little time to show you how grateful I could be! It is a
weakness, and soon passes. Better for you as it is. Better for me!'

How different her hold upon the hand, from what it had been when
she took it by the fireside on the bleak winter evening! Scorn, rage,
defiance, recklessness, look here! This is the end.

Mrs Wickam having clinked sufficiently among the bottles, now
produced the mixture. Mrs Wickam looked hard at her patient in the act
of drinking, screwed her mouth up tight, her eyebrows also, and shook
her head, expressing that tortures shouldn't make her say it was a
hopeless case. Mrs Wickam then sprinkled a little cooling-stuff about
the room, with the air of a female grave-digger, who was strewing
ashes on ashes, dust on dust - for she was a serious character - and
withdrew to partake of certain funeral baked meats downstairs.

'How long is it,' asked Alice, 'since I went to you and told you
what I had done, and when you were advised it was too late for anyone
to follow?'

'It is a year and more,' said Harriet.

'A year and more,' said Alice, thoughtfully intent upon her face.
'Months upon months since you brought me here!'

Harriet answered 'Yes.'

'Brought me here, by force of gentleness and kindness. Me!' said
Alice, shrinking with her face behind her hand, 'and made me human by
woman's looks and words, and angel's deeds!'

Harriet bending over her, composed and soothed her. By and bye,
Alice lying as before, with the hand against her face, asked to have
her mother called.

Harriet called to her more than once, but the old woman was so
absorbed looking out at the open window on the darkness, that she did
not hear. It was not until Harriet went to her and touched her, that
she rose up, and came.

'Mother,' said Alice, taking the hand again, and fixing her
lustrous eyes lovingly upon her visitor, while she merely addressed a
motion of her finger to the old woman, 'tell her what you know.'

'To-night, my deary?'

'Ay, mother,' answered Alice, faintly and solemnly, 'to-night!'

The old woman, whose wits appeared disorderly by alarm, remorse, or
grief, came creeping along the side of the bed, opposite to that on
which Harriet sat; and kneeling down, so as to bring her withered face
upon a level with the coverlet, and stretching out her hand, so as to
touch her daughter's arm, began:

'My handsome gal - '

Heaven, what a cry was that, with which she stopped there, gazing
at the poor form lying on the bed!

'Changed, long ago, mother! Withered, long ago,' said Alice,
without looking at her. 'Don't grieve for that now.

'My daughter,' faltered the old woman, 'my gal who'll soon get
better, and shame 'em all with her good looks.'

Alice smiled mournfully at Harriet, and fondled her hand a little
closer, but said nothing.

'Who'll soon get better, I say,' repeated the old woman, menacing
the vacant air with her shrivelled fist, 'and who'll shame 'em all
with her good looks - she will. I say she will! she shall!' - as if
she were in passionate contention with some unseen opponent at the
bedside, who contradicted her - 'my daughter has been turned away
from, and cast out, but she could boast relationship to proud folks
too, if she chose. Ah! To proud folks! There's relationship without
your clergy and your wedding rings - they may make it, but they can't
break it - and my daughter's well related. Show me Mrs Dombey, and
I'll show you my Alice's first cousin.'

Harriet glanced from the old woman to the lustrous eyes intent upon
her face, and derived corroboration from them.

'What!' cried the old woman, her nodding head bridling with a
ghastly vanity. 'Though I am old and ugly now, - much older by life
and habit than years though, - I was once as young as any. Ah! as
pretty too, as many! I was a fresh country wench in my time, darling,'
stretching out her arm to Harriet, across the bed, 'and looked it,
too. Down in my country, Mrs Dombey's father and his brother were the
gayest gentlemen and the best-liked that came a visiting from London -
they have long been dead, though! Lord, Lord, this long while! The
brother, who was my Ally's father, longest of the two.'

She raised her head a little, and peered at her daughter's face; as
if from the remembrance of her own youth, she had flown to the
remembrance of her child's. Then, suddenly, she laid her face down on
the bed, and shut her head up in her hands and arms.

'They were as like,' said the old woman, without looking up, as you
could see two brothers, so near an age - there wasn't much more than a
year between them, as I recollect - and if you could have seen my gal,
as I have seen her once, side by side with the other's daughter, you'd
have seen, for all the difference of dress and life, that they were
like each other. Oh! is the likeness gone, and is it my gal - only my
gal - that's to change so!'

'We shall all change, mother, in our turn,' said Alice.

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