It warn't the want of objects to like and love ashore that gave him courage, it was his nat'ral mind. I've seen it in his face, when he was no more than a child - ay, many a time! - and when I thought it nothing but his good looks, bless him!'
'And was he saved!' cried Florence. 'Was he saved!'
'That brave lad,' said the Captain, - 'look at me, pretty! Don't look round - '
Florence had hardly power to repeat, 'Why not?'
'Because there's nothing there, my deary,' said the Captain. 'Don't be took aback, pretty creetur! Don't, for the sake of Wal'r, as was dear to all on us! That there lad,' said the Captain, 'arter working with the best, and standing by the faint-hearted, and never making no complaint nor sign of fear, and keeping up a spirit in all hands that made 'em honour him as if he'd been a admiral - that lad, along with the second-mate and one seaman, was left, of all the beatin' hearts that went aboard that ship, the only living creeturs - lashed to a fragment of the wreck, and driftin' on the stormy sea.
Were they saved?' cried Florence.
'Days and nights they drifted on them endless waters,' said the Captain, 'until at last - No! Don't look that way, pretty! - a sail bore down upon 'em, and they was, by the Lord's mercy, took aboard: two living and one dead.'
'Which of them was dead?' cried Florence.
'Not the lad I speak on,' said the Captain.
'Thank God! oh thank God!'
'Amen!' returned the Captain hurriedly. 'Don't be took aback! A minute more, my lady lass! with a good heart! - aboard that ship, they went a long voyage, right away across the chart (for there warn't no touching nowhere), and on that voyage the seaman as was picked up with him died. But he was spared, and - '
The Captain, without knowing what he did, had cut a slice of bread from the loaf, and put it on his hook (which was his usual toasting-fork), on which he now held it to the fire; looking behind Florence with great emotion in his face, and suffering the bread to blaze and burn like fuel.
'Was spared,' repeated Florence, 'and-?'
'And come home in that ship,' said the Captain, still looking in the same direction, 'and - don't be frightened, pretty - and landed; and one morning come cautiously to his own door to take a obserwation, knowing that his friends would think him drownded, when he sheered off at the unexpected - '
'At the unexpected barking of a dog?' cried Florence, quickly.
'Yes,' roared the Captain. 'Steady, darling! courage! Don't look round yet. See there! upon the wall!'
There was the shadow of a man upon the wall close to her. She started up, looked round, and with a piercing cry, saw Walter Gay behind her!
She had no thought of him but as a brother, a brother rescued from the grave; a shipwrecked brother saved and at her side; and rushed into his arms. In all the world, he seemed to be her hope, her comfort, refuge, natural protector. 'Take care of Walter, I was fond of Walter!' The dear remembrance of the plaintive voice that said so, rushed upon her soul, like music in the night. 'Oh welcome home, dear Walter! Welcome to this stricken breast!' She felt the words, although she could not utter them, and held him in her pure embrace.
Captain Cuttle, in a fit of delirium, attempted to wipe his head with the blackened toast upon his hook: and finding it an uncongenial substance for the purpose, put it into the crown of his glazed hat, put the glazed hat on with some difficulty, essayed to sing a verse of Lovely Peg, broke down at the first word, and retired into the shop, whence he presently came back express, with a face all flushed and besmeared, and the starch completely taken out of his shirt-collar, to say these words:
'Wal'r, my lad, here is a little bit of property as I should wish to make over, jintly!'
The Captain hastily produced the big watch, the teaspoons, the sugar-tongs, and the canister, and laying them on the table, swept them with his great hand into Walter's hat; but in handing that singular strong box to Walter, he was so overcome again, that he was fain to make another retreat into the shop, and absent himself for a longer space of time than on his first retirement.