Dombey and Son

Page 48

'That's right. Now I am off!'

And this time he really was: and Solomon Gills, with no appetite for dinner, sat on the opposite side of the fire, watching Florence in her slumber, building a great many airy castles of the most fantastic architecture; and looking, in the dim shade, and in the close vicinity of all the instruments, like a magician disguised in a Welsh wig and a suit of coffee colour, who held the child in an enchanted sleep.

In the meantime, Walter proceeded towards Mr Dombey's house at a pace seldom achieved by a hack horse from the stand; and yet with his head out of window every two or three minutes, in impatient remonstrance with the driver. Arriving at his journey's end, he leaped out, and breathlessly announcing his errand to the servant, followed him straight into the library, we there was a great confusion of tongues, and where Mr Dombey, his sister, and Miss Tox, Richards, and Nipper, were all congregated together.

'Oh! I beg your pardon, Sir,' said Walter, rushing up to him, 'but I'm happy to say it's all right, Sir. Miss Dombey's found!'

The boy with his open face, and flowing hair, and sparkling eyes, panting with pleasure and excitement, was wonderfully opposed to Mr Dombey, as he sat confronting him in his library chair.

'I told you, Louisa, that she would certainly be found,' said Mr Dombey, looking slightly over his shoulder at that lady, who wept in company with Miss Tox. 'Let the servants know that no further steps are necessary. This boy who brings the information, is young Gay, from the office. How was my daughter found, Sir? I know how she was lost.' Here he looked majestically at Richards. 'But how was she found? Who found her?'

'Why, I believe I found Miss Dombey, Sir,' said Walter modestly, 'at least I don't know that I can claim the merit of having exactly found her, Sir, but I was the fortunate instrument of - '

'What do you mean, Sir,' interrupted Mr Dombey, regarding the boy's evident pride and pleasure in his share of the transaction with an instinctive dislike, 'by not having exactly found my daughter, and by being a fortunate instrument? Be plain and coherent, if you please.'

It was quite out of Walter's power to be coherent; but he rendered himself as explanatory as he could, in his breathless state, and stated why he had come alone.

'You hear this, girl?' said Mr Dombey sternly to the black-eyed. 'Take what is necessary, and return immediately with this young man to fetch Miss Florence home. Gay, you will be rewarded to-morrow.

'Oh! thank you, Sir,' said Walter. 'You are very kind. I'm sure I was not thinking of any reward, Sir.'

'You are a boy,' said Mr Dombey, suddenly and almost fiercely; 'and what you think of, or affect to think of, is of little consequence. You have done well, Sir. Don't undo it. Louisa, please to give the lad some wine.'

Mr Dombey's glance followed Walter Gay with sharp disfavour, as he left the room under the pilotage of Mrs Chick; and it may be that his mind's eye followed him with no greater relish, as he rode back to his Uncle's with Miss Susan Nipper.

There they found that Florence, much refreshed by sleep, had dined, and greatly improved the acquaintance of Solomon Gills, with whom she was on terms of perfect confidence and ease. The black-eyed (who had cried so much that she might now be called the red-eyed, and who was very silent and depressed) caught her in her arms without a word of contradiction or reproach, and made a very hysterical meeting of it. Then converting the parlour, for the nonce, into a private tiring room, she dressed her, with great care, in proper clothes; and presently led her forth, as like a Dombey as her natural disqualifications admitted of her being made.

'Good-night!' said Florence, running up to Solomon. 'You have been very good to me.

Old Sol was quite delighted, and kissed her like her grand-father.

'Good-night, Walter! Good-bye!' said Florence.

'Good-bye!' said Walter, giving both his hands.

'I'll never forget you,' pursued Florence.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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