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DOMBEY AND SON.

of rarities, that made a choice appearance. Having darkened the window, and straightened the pieces of carpet on the floor, the Captain surveyed these preparations with great delight, and descended to the little parlour again, to bring Florence to her bower.

Nothing would induce the Captain to believe that it was possible for Florence to walk up stairs. If he could have got the idea into his head, he would have considered it an outrageous breach of hospitality to allow her to do so. Florence was too weak to dispute the point, and the Captain carried her up out of hand, laid her down, and covered her with a great watch-coat.

"My lady lass!" said the Captain, "you ’re as safe here as if you was at the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral, with the ladder cast off. Sleep is what you want, afore all other things, and may you be able to show yourself smart with that there balsam for the still small woice of a wounded mind! When there’s anything you want, my Heart’s Delight, as this here humble house or town can offer, pass the word to Ed’ard Cuttle, as ’ll stand off and on outside that door, and that there man will wibrate with joy." The Captain concluded by kissing the hand that Florence stretched out to him, with the chivalry of any old knight-errant, and walking on tiptoe out of the room.

Descending to the little parlour, Captain Cuttle, after holding a hasty council with himself, decided to open the shop-door for a few minutes, and satisfy himself that now, at all events, there was no one loitering about it. Accordingly he set it open, and stood upon the threshold, keeping a bright look-out, and sweeping the whole street with his spectacles.

"How de do, Captain Gills?" said a voice beside him. The Captain, looking down, found that he had been boarded by Mr. Toots while sweeping the horizon.

"How are, you, my lad?" replied the Captain.

"Well, I’m pretty well, thank’ee, Captain Gills," said Mr. Toots. "You know I’m never quite what I could wish to be, now. I don’t expect that I ever shall be any more."

Mr. Toots never approached any nearer than this to the great theme of his life, when in conversation with Captain Cuttle, on account of the agreement between them.

"Captain Gills," said Mr. Toots, "if I could have the pleasure of a word with you, it’s—it’s rather particular."

"Why, you see, my lad," replied the Captain, leading the way into the parlour, "I an’t what you may call exactly free this morning; and therefore if you can clap on a bit, I should take it kindly."

"Certainly, Captain Gills," replied Mr. Toots, who seldom had any notion of the Captain’s meaning. "To clap on, is exactly what I could wish to do. Naturally."

"If so be, my lad," returned the Captain. "Do it!"

The Captain was so impressed by the possession of his tremendous secret—by the fact of Miss Dombey being at that moment under his roof, while the innocent and unconscious Toots sat opposite to him—that a perspiration broke out on his forehead, and he found it impossible, while slowly drying the same, glazed hat in hand, to keep his eyes off Mr. Toots’s face. Mr. Toots, who himself appeared to have some secret reasons for being in a nervous state, was so unspeakably disconcerted by