A bottle that has been long excluded from the light of day, and is hoary with dust and cobwebs, has been brought into the sunshine; and the golden wine within it sheds a lustre on the table.
It is the last bottle of the old Madiera.
'You are quite right, Mr Gills,' says Mr Dombey. 'This is a very rare and most delicious wine.'
The Captain, who is of the party, beams with joy. There is a very halo of delight round his glowing forehead.
'We always promised ourselves, Sir,' observes Mr Gills,' Ned and myself, I mean - '
Mr Dombey nods at the Captain, who shines more and more with speechless gratification.
'-that we would drink this, one day or other, to Walter safe at home: though such a home we never thought of. If you don't object to our old whim, Sir, let us devote this first glass to Walter and his wife.'
'To Walter and his wife!' says Mr Dombey. 'Florence, my child' - and turns to kiss her.
'To Walter and his wife!' says Mr Toots.
'To Wal'r and his wife!' exclaims the Captain. 'Hooroar!' and the Captain exhibiting a strong desire to clink his glass against some other glass, Mr Dombey, with a ready hand, holds out his. The others follow; and there is a blithe and merry ringing, as of a little peal of marriage bells.
Other buried wine grows older, as the old Madeira did in its time; and dust and cobwebs thicken on the bottles.
Mr Dombey is a white-haired gentleman, whose face bears heavy marks of care and suffering; but they are traces of a storm that has passed on for ever, and left a clear evening in its track.
Ambitious projects trouble him no more. His only pride is in his daughter and her husband. He has a silent, thoughtful, quiet manner, and is always with his daughter. Miss Tox is not infrequently of the family party, and is quite devoted to it, and a great favourite. Her admiration of her once stately patron is, and has been ever since the morning of her shock in Princess's Place, platonic, but not weakened in the least.
Nothing has drifted to him from the wreck of his fortunes, but a certain annual sum that comes he knows not how, with an earnest entreaty that he will not seek to discover, and with the assurance that it is a debt, and an act of reparation. He has consulted with his old clerk about this, who is clear it may be honourably accepted, and has no doubt it arises out of some forgotten transaction in the times of the old House.
That hazel-eyed bachelor, a bachelor no more, is married now, and to the sister of the grey-haired Junior. He visits his old chief sometimes, but seldom. There is a reason in the greyhaired Junior's history, and yet a stronger reason in his name, why he should keep retired from his old employer; and as he lives with his sister and her husband, they participate in that retirement. Walter sees them sometimes - Florence too - and the pleasant house resounds with profound duets arranged for the Piano-Forte and Violoncello, and with the labours of Harmonious Blacksmiths.
And how goes the wooden Midshipman in these changed days? Why, here he still is, right leg foremost, hard at work upon the hackney coaches, and more on the alert than ever, being newly painted from his cocked hat to his buckled shoes; and up above him, in golden characters, these names shine refulgent, GILLS AND CUTTLE.
Not another stroke of business does the Midshipman achieve beyond his usual easy trade. But they do say, in a circuit of some half-mile round the blue umbrella in Leadenhall Market, that some of Mr Gills's old investments are coming out wonderfully well; and that instead of being behind the time in those respects, as he supposed, he was, in truth, a little before it, and had to wait the fulness of the time and the design. The whisper is that Mr Gills's money has begun to turn itself, and that it is turning itself over and over pretty briskly. Certain it is that, standing at his shop-door, in his coffee-coloured suit, with his chronometer in his pocket, and his spectacles on his forehead, he don't appear to break his heart at customers not coming, but looks very jovial and contented, though full as misty as of yore.
As to his partner, Captain Cuttle, there is a fiction of a business in the Captain's mind which is better than any reality. The Captain is as satisfied of the Midshipman's importance to the commerce and navigation of the country, as he could possibly be, if no ship left the Port of London without the Midshipman's assistance. His delight in his own name over the door, is inexhaustible. He crosses the street, twenty times a day, to look at it from the other side of the way; and invariably says, on these occasions, 'Ed'ard Cuttle, my lad, if your mother could ha' know'd as you would ever be a man o' science, the good old creetur would ha' been took aback in-deed!'
But here is Mr Toots descending on the Midshipman with violent rapidity, and Mr Toots's face is very red as he bursts into the little parlour.
'Captain Gills,' says Mr Toots, 'and Mr Sols, I am happy to inform you that Mrs Toots has had an increase to her family.
'And it does her credit!' cries the Captain.
'I give you joy, Mr Toots!' says old Sol.
'Thank'ee,' chuckles Mr Toots, 'I'm very much obliged to you. I knew that you'd be glad to hear, and so I came down myself. We're positively getting on, you know. There's Florence, and Susan, and now here's another little stranger.'
'A female stranger?' inquires the Captain.
'Yes, Captain Gills,' says Mr Toots, 'and I'm glad of it. The oftener we can repeat that most extraordinary woman, my opinion is, the better!'
'Stand by!' says the Captain, turning to the old case-bottle with no throat - for it is evening, and the Midshipman's usual moderate provision of pipes and glasses is on the board. 'Here's to her, and may she have ever so many more!'
'Thank'ee, Captain Gills,' says the delighted Mr Toots. 'I echo the sentiment. If you'll allow me, as my so doing cannot be unpleasant to anybody, under the circumstances, I think I'll take a pipe.'
Mr Toots begins to smoke, accordingly, and in the openness of his heart is very loquacious.
'Of all the remarkable instances that that delightful woman has given of her excellent sense, Captain Gills and Mr Sols,' said Mr Toots, 'I think none is more remarkable than the perfection with which she has understood my devotion to Miss Dombey.'
Both his auditors assent.
'Because you know,' says Mr Toots, 'I have never changed my sentiments towards Miss Dombey. They are the same as ever. She is the same bright vision to me, at present, that she was before I made Walters's acquaintance. When Mrs Toots and myself first began to talk of - in short, of the tender passion, you know, Captain Gills.'
'Ay, ay, my lad,' says the Captain, 'as makes us all slue round - for which you'll overhaul the book - '
Dombey and Son - by Charles Dickens