Strange News of Uncle SolCAPTAIN CUTTLE, though no sluggard, did not turn out so early on the morning after he had seen Sol Gills, through the shop-window, writing in the parlour, with the Midshipman upon the counter, and Rob the Grinder making up his bed below it, but that the clocks struck six as he raised himself on his elbow, and took a survey of his little chamber. The Captain's eyes must have done severe duty, if he usually opened them as wide on awaking as he did that morning; and were but roughly rewarded for their vigilance, if he generally rubbed them half as hard. But the occasion was no common one, for Rob the Grinder had certainly never stood in the doorway of Captain Cuttle's bedroom before, and in it he stood then, panting at the Captain, with a flushed and touzled air of bed about him, that greatly heightened both his colour and expression.
`Holloa!' roared the Captain. `What's the matter?'
Before Rob could stammer a word in answer, Captain Cuttle turned out, all in a heap, and covered the boy's mouth with his hand.
`Steady, my lad,' said the Captain, `don't ye speak a word to me as yet!'
The Captain, looking at his visitor in great consternation, gently shouldered him into the next room, after laying this injunction upon him; and disappearing for a few moments, forthwith returned in the blue suit. Holding up his hand in token of the injunction not yet being taken off, Captain Cuttle walked up to the cupboard, and poured himself out a dram; a counterpart of which he handed to the messenger. The Captain then stood himself up in a corner, against the wall, as if to forestall the possibility of being knocked backwards by the communication that was to be made to him; and having swallowed his liquor, with his eyes fixed on the messenger, and his face as pale as his face could be, requested him to `heave ahead.'
`Do you mean, tell you, Captain?' asked Rob, who had been greatly impressed by these precautions.
`Aye!' said the Captain.
`Well, sir,' said Rob, `I ain't got much to tell. But look here!'
Rob produced a bundle of keys. The Captain surveyed them, remained in his corner, and surveyed the messenger.
`And look here!' pursued Rob.
The boy produced a sealed packet, which Captain Cuttle stared at as he had stared at the keys.
`When I woke this morning, Captain,' said Rob, `which was about a quarter after five, I found these on my pillow. The shop-door was unbolted and unlocked, and Mr. Gills gone.'
`Gone!' roared the Captain.
`Flowed, sir,' returned Rob.
The Captain's voice was so tremendous, and he came out of his corner with such way on him, that Rob retreated before him into another corner: holding out the keys and packet, to prevent himself from being run down.
`"For Captain Cuttle," sir,' cried Rob, `is on the keys, and on the packet too. Upon my word and honour, Captain Cuttle, I don't know anything more about it. I wish I may die if I do! Here's a sitiwation for a lad that's just got a sitiwation,' cried the unfortunate Grinder, screwing his cuff into his face; `his master bolted with his place, and him blamed for it!'
These lamentations had reference to Captain Cuttle's gaze, or rather glare, which was full of vague suspicions, threatenings, and denunciations. Taking the proffered packet from his hand, the Captain opened it and
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