Miss Nipper being still hysterical, laughed immoderately after making this energetic declaration, and then informed Florence that he was waiting below to see her; which would be a rich repayment for the trouble he had had in his late expedition.

Florence entreated Susan to beg of Mr. Toots as a favour that she might have the pleasure of thanking him for his kindness; and Susan, in a few moments, produced that young gentleman, still very much dishevelled in appearance, and stammering exceedingly.

`Miss Dombey,' said Mr. Toots. `To be again permitted to--to--gaze--at least, not to gaze, but--I don't exactly know what I was going to say, but it's of no consequence.'

`I have to thank you so often,' returned Florence, giving him both her hands, with all her innocent gratitude beaming in her face, `that I have no words left, and don't know how to do it.'

`Miss Dombey,' said Mr. Toots, in an awful voice, `if it was possible that you could, consistently with your angelic nature, Curse me, you would--if I may be allowed to say so--floor me infinitely less, than by these undeserved expressions of kindness. Their effect upon me--is--but,' said Mr. Toots, abruptly, `this is a digression, and's of no consequence at all.'

As there seemed to be no means of replying to this, but by thanking him again, Florence thanked him again.

`I could wish,' said Mr. Toots, `to take this opportunity, Miss Dombey, if I might, of entering into a word of explanation. I should have had the pleasure of--of returning with Susan at an earlier period; but, in the first place, we didn't know the name of the relation to whose house she had gone, and, in the second, as she had left that relation's and gone to another at a distance, I think that scarcely anything short of the sagacity of the Chicken, would have found her out in the time.'

Florence was sure of it.

`This, however,' said Mr. Toots, `is not the point. The company of Susan has been, I assure you, Miss Dombey, a consolation and satisfaction to me, in my state of mind, more easily conceived than described. The journey has been its own reward. That, however, still, is not the point. Miss Dombey, I have before observed that I know I am not what is considered a quick person. I am perfectly aware of that. I don't think anybody could be better acquainted with his own--if it was not too strong an expression, I should say with the thickness of his own head--than myself. But, Miss Dombey, I do, notwithstanding, perceive the state of--of things--with Lieutenant Walters. Whatever agony that state of things may have caused me (which is of no consequence at all), I am bound to say, that Lieutenant Walters is a person who appears to be worthy of the blessing that has fallen on his--on his brow. May he wear it long, and appreciate it, as a very different, and very unworthy individual, that it is of no consequence to name, would have done! That, however, still, is not the point. Miss Dombey, Captain Gills is a friend of mine; and during the interval that is now elapsing, I believe it would afford Captain Gills pleasure to see me occasionally coming backwards and forwards here. It would afford me pleasure so to come. But I cannot forget that I once committed myself, fatally, at the corner of the Square at Brighton; and if my presence will be, in the least degree, unpleasant to you, I only ask you to name it to me now, and assure you that I shall perfectly understand you. I shall not consider it at all unkind, and shall only be too delighted and happy to be honoured with your confidence.'

`Mr. Toots,' returned Florence, `if you, who are so old and true a friend of mine, were to stay away from this house now, you would make me very unhappy. It can never, never, give me any feeling but pleasure to see you.'

`Miss Dombey,' said Mr. Toots, taking out his pocket-handkerchief, `if I shed a tear, it is a tear of joy. It is of no consequence, and I am very much obliged to you. I may be allowed to remark, after what you have so kindly said, that it is not my intention to neglect my person any longer.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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