Florence, though very tired, laughingly declined the proposal, lest he should let her fall; and as they were already near the wooden Midshipman, and as Walter went on to cite various precedents, from shipwrecks and other moving accidents, where younger boys than he had triumphantly rescued and carried off older girls than Florence, they were still in full conversation about it when they arrived at the Instrument-maker's door.
'Holloa, Uncle Sol!' cried Walter, bursting into the shop, and speaking incoherently and out of breath, from that time forth, for the rest of the evening. 'Here's a wonderful adventure! Here's Mr Dombey's daughter lost in the streets, and robbed of her clothes by an old witch of a woman - found by me - brought home to our parlour to rest - look here!'
'Good Heaven!' said Uncle Sol, starting back against his favourite compass-case. 'It can't be! Well, I - '
'No, nor anybody else,' said Walter, anticipating the rest. 'Nobody would, nobody could, you know. Here! just help me lift the little sofa near the fire, will you, Uncle Sol - take care of the plates - cut some dinner for her, will you, Uncle - throw those shoes under the grate. Miss Florence - put your feet on the fender to dry - how damp they are - here's an adventure, Uncle, eh? - God bless my soul, how hot I am!'
Solomon Gills was quite as hot, by sympathy, and in excessive bewilderment. He patted Florence's head, pressed her to eat, pressed her to drink, rubbed the soles of her feet with his pocket-handkerchief heated at the fire, followed his locomotive nephew with his eyes, and ears, and had no clear perception of anything except that he was being constantly knocked against and tumbled over by that excited young gentleman, as he darted about the room attempting to accomplish twenty things at once, and doing nothing at all.
'Here, wait a minute, Uncle,' he continued, catching up a candle, 'till I run upstairs, and get another jacket on, and then I'll be off. I say, Uncle, isn't this an adventure?'
'My dear boy,' said Solomon, who, with his spectacles on his forehead and the great chronometer in his pocket, was incessantly oscillating between Florence on the sofa, and his nephew in all parts of the parlour, 'it's the most extraordinary - '
'No, but do, Uncle, please - do, Miss Florence - dinner, you know, Uncle.'
'Yes, yes, yes,' cried Solomon, cutting instantly into a leg of mutton, as if he were catering for a giant. 'I'll take care of her, Wally! I understand. Pretty dear! Famished, of course. You go and get ready. Lord bless me! Sir Richard Whittington thrice Lord Mayor of London.'
Walter was not very long in mounting to his lofty garret and descending from it, but in the meantime Florence, overcome by fatigue, had sunk into a doze before the fire. The short interval of quiet, though only a few minutes in duration, enabled Solomon Gills so far to collect his wits as to make some little arrangements for her comfort, and to darken the room, and to screen her from the blaze. Thus, when the boy returned, she was sleeping peacefully.
'That's capital!' he whispered, giving Solomon such a hug that it squeezed a new expression into his face. 'Now I'm off. I'll just take a crust of bread with me, for I'm very hungry - and don't wake her, Uncle Sol.'
'No, no,' said Solomon. 'Pretty child.'
'Pretty, indeed!' cried Walter. 'I never saw such a face, Uncle Sol. Now I'm off.'
'That's right,' said Solomon, greatly relieved.
'I say, Uncle Sol,' cried Walter, putting his face in at the door.
'Here he is again,' said Solomon.
'How does she look now?'
'Quite happy,' said Solomon.
'That's famous! now I'm off.'
'I hope you are,' said Solomon to himself.
'I say, Uncle Sol,' cried Walter, reappearing at the door.
'Here he is again!' said Solomon.
'We met Mr Carker the Junior in the street, queerer than ever. He bade me good-bye, but came behind us here - there's an odd thing! - for when we reached the shop door, I looked round, and saw him going quietly away, like a servant who had seen me home, or a faithful dog. How does she look now, Uncle?'
'Pretty much the same as before, Wally,' replied Uncle Sol.