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Title: Dombey and Son
Author: Dickens, Charles
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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By Charles Dickens


    1. Dombey and Son
    2. In which Timely Provision is made for an Emergency that
       will sometimes arise in the best-regulated Families
    3. In which Mr Dombey, as a Man and a Father, is seen at the
       Head of the Home-Department
    4. In which some more First Appearances are made on the
       Stage of these Adventures
    5. Paul’s Progress and Christening
    6. Paul’s Second Deprivation
    7. A Bird’s-eye Glimpse of Miss Tox’s Dwelling-place; also
       of the State of Miss Tox’s Affections
    8. Paul’s further Progress, Growth, and Character
    9. In which the Wooden Midshipman gets into Trouble
   10. Containing the Sequel of the Midshipman’s Disaster
   11. Paul’s Introduction to a New Scene
   12. Paul’s Education
   13. Shipping Intelligence and Office Business
   14. Paul grows more and more Old-fashioned, and goes Home
       for the holidays
   15. Amazing Artfulness of Captain Cuttle, and a new Pursuit
       for Walter Gay
   16. What the Waves were always saying
   17. Captain Cuttle does a little Business for the Young people
   18. Father and Daughter
   19. Walter goes away
   20. Mr Dombey goes upon a journey
   21. New Faces
   22. A Trifle of Management by Mr Carker the Manager
   23. Florence solitary, and the Midshipman mysterious
   24. The Study of a Loving Heart
   25. Strange News of Uncle Sol
   26. Shadows of the Past and Future
   27. Deeper shadows
   28. Alterations
   29. The Opening of the Eyes of Mrs Chick
   30. The Interval before the Marriage
   31. The Wedding
   32. The Wooden Midshipman goes to Pieces
   33. Contrasts
   34. Another Mother and Daughter
   35. The Happy Pair
   36. Housewarming
   37. More Warnings than One
   38. Miss Tox improves an Old Acquaintance
   39. Further Adventures of Captain Edward Cuttle, Mariner
   40. Domestic Relations
   41. New Voices in the Waves
   42. Confidential and Accidental
   43. The Watches of the Night
   44. A Separation
   45. The Trusty Agent
   46. Recognizant and Reflective
   47. The Thunderbolt
   48. The Flight of Florence
   49. The Midshipman makes a Discovery
   50. Mr Toots’s Complaint
   51. Mr Dombey and the World
   52. Secret Intelligence
   53. More Intelligence
   54. The Fugitives
   55. Rob the Grinder loses his Place
   56. Several People delighted, and the Game Chicken disgusted
   57. Another Wedding
   58. After a Lapse
   59. Retribution
   60. Chiefly Matrimonial
   61. Relenting
   62. Final

CHAPTER 1. Dombey and Son

Dombey sat in the corner of the darkened room in the great arm-chair
by the bedside, and Son lay tucked up warm in a little basket bedstead,
carefully disposed on a low settee immediately in front of the fire and
close to it, as if his constitution were analogous to that of a muffin,
and it was essential to toast him brown while he was very new.

Dombey was about eight-and-forty years of age. Son about eight-and-forty
minutes. Dombey was rather bald, rather red, and though a handsome
well-made man, too stern and pompous in appearance, to be prepossessing.
Son was very bald, and very red, and though (of course) an undeniably
fine infant, somewhat crushed and spotty in his general effect, as yet.
On the brow of Dombey, Time and his brother Care had set some marks, as
on a tree that was to come down in good time--remorseless twins they are
for striding through their human forests, notching as they go--while the
countenance of Son was crossed with a thousand little creases, which the
same deceitful Time would take delight in smoothing out and wearing away
with the flat part of his scythe, as a preparation of the surface for
his deeper operations.

Dombey, exulting in the long-looked-for event, jingled and jingled the
heavy gold watch-chain that depended from below his trim blue coat,
whereof the buttons sparkled phosphorescently in the feeble rays of the
distant fire. Son, with his little fists curled up and clenched, seemed,
in his feeble way, to be squaring at existence for having come upon him
so unexpectedly.

‘The House will once again, Mrs Dombey,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘be not only in
name but in fact Dombey and Son;’ and he added, in a tone of luxurious
satisfaction, with his eyes half-closed as if he were reading the name
in a device of flowers, and inhaling their fragrance at the same time;
‘Dom-bey and Son!’

The words had such a softening influence, that he appended a term of
endearment to Mrs Dombey’s name (though not without some hesitation,
as being a man but little used to that form of address): and said, ‘Mrs
Dombey, my--my dear.’

A transient flush of faint surprise overspread the sick lady’s face as
she raised her eyes towards him.

‘He will be christened Paul, my--Mrs Dombey--of course.’

She feebly echoed, ‘Of course,’ or rather expressed it by the motion of
her lips, and closed her eyes again.

‘His father’s name, Mrs Dombey, and his grandfather’s! I wish his
grandfather were alive this day! There is some inconvenience in the
necessity of writing Junior,’ said Mr Dombey, making a fictitious
autograph on his knee; ‘but it is merely of a private and personal
complexion. It doesn’t enter into the correspondence of the House.
Its signature remains the same.’ And again he said ‘Dombey and Son,’ in
exactly the same tone as before.

Those three words conveyed the one idea of Mr Dombey’s life. The earth
was made for Dombey and Son to trade in, and the sun and moon were made
to give them light. Rivers and seas were formed to float their ships;
rainbows gave them promise of fair weather; winds blew for or against
their enterprises; stars and planets circled in their orbits, to
preserve inviolate a system of which they were the centre. Common
abbreviations took new meanings in his eyes, and had sole reference
to them. A. D. had no concern with Anno Domini, but stood for anno
Dombei--and Son.

He had risen, as his father had before him, in the course of life and
death, from Son to Dombey, and for nearly twenty years had been the
sole representative of the Firm. Of those years he had been married,
ten--married, as some said, to a lady with no heart to give him; whose
happiness was in the past, and who was content to bind her broken spirit
to the dutiful and meek endurance of the present. Such idle talk was
little likely to reach the ears of Mr Dombey, whom it nearly concerned;
and probably no one in the world would have received it with such utter
incredulity as he, if it had reached him. Dombey and Son had often dealt
in hides, but never in hearts. They left that fancy ware to boys and
girls, and boarding-schools and books. Mr Dombey would have reasoned:
That a matrimonial alliance with himself must, in the nature of things,
be gratifying and honourable to any woman of common sense. That the
hope of giving birth to a new partner in such a House, could not fail
to awaken a glorious and stirring ambition in the breast of the least
ambitious of her sex. That Mrs Dombey had entered on that social
contract of matrimony: almost necessarily part of a genteel and wealthy
station, even without reference to the perpetuation of family Firms:
with her eyes fully open to these advantages. That Mrs Dombey had had
daily practical knowledge of his position in society. That Mrs Dombey
had always sat at the head of his table, and done the honours of his
house in a remarkably lady-like and becoming manner. That Mrs Dombey
must have been happy. That she couldn’t help it.

Or, at all events, with one drawback. Yes. That he would have allowed.
With only one; but that one certainly involving much. With the drawback
of hope deferred. That hope deferred, which, (as the Scripture very
correctly tells us, Mr Dombey would have added in a patronising way;
for his highest distinct idea even of Scripture, if examined, would
have been found to be; that as forming part of a general whole, of which
Dombey and Son formed another part, it was therefore to be commended
and upheld) maketh the heart sick. They had been married ten years, and
until this present day on which Mr Dombey sat jingling and jingling his
heavy gold watch-chain in the great arm-chair by the side of the bed,
had had no issue.

--To speak of; none worth mentioning. There had been a girl some six
years before, and the child, who had stolen into the chamber unobserved,
was now crouching timidly, in a corner whence she could see her mother’s
face. But what was a girl to Dombey and Son! In the capital of the
House’s name and dignity, such a child was merely a piece of base coin
that couldn’t be invested--a bad Boy--nothing more.

Mr Dombey’s cup of satisfaction was so full at this moment, however,
that he felt he could afford a drop or two of its contents, even to
sprinkle on the dust in the by-path of his little daughter.

So he said, ‘Florence, you may go and look at your pretty brother, if
you like, I daresay. Don’t touch him!’

The child glanced keenly at the blue coat and stiff white cravat, which,
with a pair of creaking boots and a very loud ticking watch, embodied
her idea of a father; but her eyes returned to her mother’s face
immediately, and she neither moved nor answered.

‘Her insensibility is as proof against a brother as against every thing
else,’ said Mr Dombey to himself He seemed so confirmed in a previous
opinion by the discovery, as to be quite glad of it.’

Next moment, the lady had opened her eyes and seen the child; and the
child had run towards her; and, standing on tiptoe, the better to hide
her face in her embrace, had clung about her with a desperate affection
very much at variance with her years.

‘Oh Lord bless me!’ said Mr Dombey, rising testily. ‘A very ill-advised
and feverish proceeding this, I am sure. Please to ring there for Miss
Florence’s nurse. Really the person should be more care-’

‘Wait! I--had better ask Doctor Peps if he’ll have the goodness to step
upstairs again perhaps. I’ll go down. I’ll go down. I needn’t beg you,’
he added, pausing for a moment at the settee before the fire, ‘to take
particular care of this young gentleman, Mrs ----’

‘Blockitt, Sir?’ suggested the nurse, a simpering piece of faded
gentility, who did not presume to state her name as a fact, but merely
offered it as a mild suggestion.

‘Of this young gentleman, Mrs Blockitt.’

‘No, Sir, indeed. I remember when Miss Florence was born--’

‘Ay, ay, ay,’ said Mr Dombey, bending over the basket bedstead, and
slightly bending his brows at the same time. ‘Miss Florence was all very
well, but this is another matter. This young gentleman has to accomplish
a destiny. A destiny, little fellow!’ As he thus apostrophised the
infant he raised one of his hands to his lips, and kissed it; then,
seeming to fear that the action involved some compromise of his dignity,
went, awkwardly enough, away.

Doctor Parker Peps, one of the Court Physicians, and a man of immense
reputation for assisting at the increase of great families, was
walking up and down the drawing-room with his hands behind him, to the
unspeakable admiration of the family Surgeon, who had regularly puffed
the case for the last six weeks, among all his patients, friends, and
acquaintances, as one to which he was in hourly expectation day and
night of being summoned, in conjunction with Doctor Parker Pep.

‘Well, Sir,’ said Doctor Parker Peps in a round, deep, sonorous voice,
muffled for the occasion, like the knocker; ‘do you find that your dear
lady is at all roused by your visit?’

‘Stimulated as it were?’ said the family practitioner faintly: bowing at
the same time to the Doctor, as much as to say, ‘Excuse my putting in a
word, but this is a valuable connexion.’

Mr Dombey was quite discomfited by the question. He had thought so
little of the patient, that he was not in a condition to answer it. He
said that it would be a satisfaction to him, if Doctor Parker Peps would
walk upstairs again.

‘Good! We must not disguise from you, Sir,’ said Doctor Parker Peps,
‘that there is a want of power in Her Grace the Duchess--I beg your
pardon; I confound names; I should say, in your amiable lady. That there
is a certain degree of languor, and a general absence of elasticity,
which we would rather--not--’

‘See,’ interposed the family practitioner with another inclination of
the head.

‘Quite so,’ said Doctor Parker Peps, ‘which we would rather not see. It
would appear that the system of Lady Cankaby--excuse me: I should say of
Mrs Dombey: I confuse the names of cases--’

‘So very numerous,’ murmured the family practitioner--‘can’t be expected
I’m sure--quite wonderful if otherwise--Doctor Parker Peps’s West-End

‘Thank you,’ said the Doctor, ‘quite so. It would appear, I was
observing, that the system of our patient has sustained a shock, from
which it can only hope to rally by a great and strong--’

‘And vigorous,’ murmured the family practitioner.

‘Quite so,’ assented the Doctor--‘and vigorous effort. Mr Pilkins here,
who from his position of medical adviser in this family--no one better
qualified to fill that position, I am sure.’

‘Oh!’ murmured the family practitioner. ‘“Praise from Sir Hubert

‘You are good enough,’ returned Doctor Parker Peps, ‘to say so. Mr
Pilkins who, from his position, is best acquainted with the patient’s
constitution in its normal state (an acquaintance very valuable to us in
forming our opinions in these occasions), is of opinion, with me, that
Nature must be called upon to make a vigorous effort in this instance;
and that if our interesting friend the Countess of Dombey--I beg your
pardon; Mrs Dombey--should not be--’

‘Able,’ said the family practitioner.

‘To make,’ said Doctor Parker Peps.

‘That effort,’ said the family practitioner.

‘Successfully,’ said they both together.

‘Then,’ added Doctor Parker Peps, alone and very gravely, ‘a crisis might
arise, which we should both sincerely deplore.’

With that, they stood for a few seconds looking at the ground. Then,
on the motion--made in dumb show--of Doctor Parker Peps, they went
upstairs; the family practitioner opening the room door for that
distinguished professional, and following him out, with most obsequious

To record of Mr Dombey that he was not in his way affected by this
intelligence, would be to do him an injustice. He was not a man of whom
it could properly be said that he was ever startled, or shocked; but
he certainly had a sense within him, that if his wife should sicken and
decay, he would be very sorry, and that he would find a something gone
from among his plate and furniture, and other household possessions,
which was well worth the having, and could not be lost without sincere
regret. Though it would be a cool, business-like, gentlemanly,
self-possessed regret, no doubt.

His meditations on the subject were soon interrupted, first by the
rustling of garments on the staircase, and then by the sudden whisking
into the room of a lady rather past the middle age than otherwise but
dressed in a very juvenile manner, particularly as to the tightness of
her bodice, who, running up to him with a kind of screw in her face and
carriage, expressive of suppressed emotion, flung her arms around his
neck, and said, in a choking voice,

‘My dear Paul! He’s quite a Dombey!’

‘Well, well!’ returned her brother--for Mr Dombey was her brother--‘I
think he is like the family. Don’t agitate yourself, Louisa.’

‘It’s very foolish of me,’ said Louisa, sitting down, and taking out her
pocket-handkerchief, ‘but he’s--he’s such a perfect Dombey!’

Mr Dombey coughed.

‘It’s so extraordinary,’ said Louisa; smiling through her tears,
which indeed were not overpowering, ‘as to be perfectly ridiculous. So
completely our family. I never saw anything like it in my life!’

‘But what is this about Fanny, herself?’ said Mr Dombey. ‘How is Fanny?’

‘My dear Paul,’ returned Louisa, ‘it’s nothing whatever. Take my word,
it’s nothing whatever. There is exhaustion, certainly, but nothing like
what I underwent myself, either with George or Frederick. An effort
is necessary. That’s all. If dear Fanny were a Dombey!--But I daresay
she’ll make it; I have no doubt she’ll make it. Knowing it to be
required of her, as a duty, of course she’ll make it. My dear Paul, it’s
very weak and silly of me, I know, to be so trembly and shaky from head
to foot; but I am so very queer that I must ask you for a glass of wine
and a morsel of that cake.’

Mr Dombey promptly supplied her with these refreshments from a tray on
the table.

‘I shall not drink my love to you, Paul,’ said Louisa: ‘I shall drink to
the little Dombey. Good gracious me!--it’s the most astonishing thing I
ever knew in all my days, he’s such a perfect Dombey.’

Quenching this expression of opinion in a short hysterical laugh which
terminated in tears, Louisa cast up her eyes, and emptied her glass.

‘I know it’s very weak and silly of me,’ she repeated, ‘to be so trembly
and shaky from head to foot, and to allow my feelings so completely
to get the better of me, but I cannot help it. I thought I should have
fallen out of the staircase window as I came down from seeing dear
Fanny, and that tiddy ickle sing.’ These last words originated in a
sudden vivid reminiscence of the baby.

They were succeeded by a gentle tap at the door.

‘Mrs Chick,’ said a very bland female voice outside, ‘how are you now,
my dear friend?’

‘My dear Paul,’ said Louisa in a low voice, as she rose from her seat,
‘it’s Miss Tox. The kindest creature! I never could have got here
without her! Miss Tox, my brother Mr Dombey. Paul, my dear, my very
particular friend Miss Tox.’

The lady thus specially presented, was a long lean figure, wearing such
a faded air that she seemed not to have been made in what linen-drapers
call ‘fast colours’ originally, and to have, by little and little,
washed out. But for this she might have been described as the very pink
of general propitiation and politeness. From a long habit of listening
admiringly to everything that was said in her presence, and looking at
the speakers as if she were mentally engaged in taking off impressions
of their images upon her soul, never to part with the same but with
life, her head had quite settled on one side. Her hands had contracted
a spasmodic habit of raising themselves of their own accord as in
involuntary admiration. Her eyes were liable to a similar affection. She
had the softest voice that ever was heard; and her nose, stupendously
aquiline, had a little knob in the very centre or key-stone of the
bridge, whence it tended downwards towards her face, as in an invincible
determination never to turn up at anything.

Miss Tox’s dress, though perfectly genteel and good, had a certain
character of angularity and scantiness. She was accustomed to wear
odd weedy little flowers in her bonnets and caps. Strange grasses were
sometimes perceived in her hair; and it was observed by the curious,
of all her collars, frills, tuckers, wristbands, and other gossamer
articles--indeed of everything she wore which had two ends to it
intended to unite--that the two ends were never on good terms, and
wouldn’t quite meet without a struggle. She had furry articles for
winter wear, as tippets, boas, and muffs, which stood up on end in
rampant manner, and were not at all sleek. She was much given to the
carrying about of small bags with snaps to them, that went off like
little pistols when they were shut up; and when full-dressed, she wore
round her neck the barrenest of lockets, representing a fishy old eye,
with no approach to speculation in it. These and other appearances of a
similar nature, had served to propagate the opinion, that Miss Tox was
a lady of what is called a limited independence, which she turned to
the best account. Possibly her mincing gait encouraged the belief,
and suggested that her clipping a step of ordinary compass into two or
three, originated in her habit of making the most of everything.

‘I am sure,’ said Miss Tox, with a prodigious curtsey, ‘that to have
the honour of being presented to Mr Dombey is a distinction which I have
long sought, but very little expected at the present moment. My dear Mrs
Chick--may I say Louisa!’

Mrs Chick took Miss Tox’s hand in hers, rested the foot of her
wine-glass upon it, repressed a tear, and said in a low voice, ‘God
bless you!’

‘My dear Louisa then,’ said Miss Tox, ‘my sweet friend, how are you

‘Better,’ Mrs Chick returned. ‘Take some wine. You have been almost as
anxious as I have been, and must want it, I am sure.’

Mr Dombey of course officiated, and also refilled his sister’s glass,
which she (looking another way, and unconscious of his intention)
held straight and steady the while, and then regarded with great
astonishment, saying, ‘My dear Paul, what have you been doing!’

‘Miss Tox, Paul,’ pursued Mrs Chick, still retaining her hand, ‘knowing
how much I have been interested in the anticipation of the event of
to-day, and how trembly and shaky I have been from head to foot in
expectation of it, has been working at a little gift for Fanny, which I
promised to present. Miss Tox is ingenuity itself.’

‘My dear Louisa,’ said Miss Tox. ‘Don’t say so.’

‘It is only a pincushion for the toilette table, Paul,’ resumed his
sister; ‘one of those trifles which are insignificant to your sex in
general, as it’s very natural they should be--we have no business to
expect they should be otherwise--but to which we attach some interest.’

‘Miss Tox is very good,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘And I do say, and will say, and must say,’ pursued his sister, pressing
the foot of the wine-glass on Miss Tox’s hand, at each of the three
clauses, ‘that Miss Tox has very prettily adapted the sentiment to the
occasion. I call “Welcome little Dombey” Poetry, myself!’

‘Is that the device?’ inquired her brother.

‘That is the device,’ returned Louisa.

‘But do me the justice to remember, my dear Louisa,’ said Miss Tox in
a tone of low and earnest entreaty, ‘that nothing but the--I have some
difficulty in expressing myself--the dubiousness of the result would
have induced me to take so great a liberty: “Welcome, Master Dombey,”
 would have been much more congenial to my feelings, as I am sure you
know. But the uncertainty attendant on angelic strangers, will, I hope,
excuse what must otherwise appear an unwarrantable familiarity.’ Miss
Tox made a graceful bend as she spoke, in favour of Mr Dombey, which
that gentleman graciously acknowledged. Even the sort of recognition of
Dombey and Son, conveyed in the foregoing conversation, was so palatable
to him, that his sister, Mrs Chick--though he affected to consider her
a weak good-natured person--had perhaps more influence over him than
anybody else.

‘My dear Paul,’ that lady broke out afresh, after silently contemplating
his features for a few moments, ‘I don’t know whether to laugh or cry
when I look at you, I declare, you do so remind me of that dear baby

‘Well!’ said Mrs Chick, with a sweet smile, ‘after this, I forgive Fanny

It was a declaration in a Christian spirit, and Mrs Chick felt that it
did her good. Not that she had anything particular to forgive in her
sister-in-law, nor indeed anything at all, except her having married her
brother--in itself a species of audacity--and her having, in the course
of events, given birth to a girl instead of a boy: which, as Mrs Chick
had frequently observed, was not quite what she had expected of her, and
was not a pleasant return for all the attention and distinction she had
met with.

Mr Dombey being hastily summoned out of the room at this moment, the two
ladies were left alone together. Miss Tox immediately became spasmodic.

‘I knew you would admire my brother. I told you so beforehand, my dear,’
said Louisa. Miss Tox’s hands and eyes expressed how much. ‘And as to
his property, my dear!’

‘Ah!’ said Miss Tox, with deep feeling.


‘But his deportment, my dear Louisa!’ said Miss Tox. ‘His presence! His
dignity! No portrait that I have ever seen of anyone has been half
so replete with those qualities. Something so stately, you know: so
uncompromising: so very wide across the chest: so upright! A pecuniary
Duke of York, my love, and nothing short of it!’ said Miss Tox. ‘That’s
what I should designate him.’

‘Why, my dear Paul!’ exclaimed his sister, as he returned, ‘you look
quite pale! There’s nothing the matter?’

‘I am sorry to say, Louisa, that they tell me that Fanny--’

‘Now, my dear Paul,’ returned his sister rising, ‘don’t believe it. Do
not allow yourself to receive a turn unnecessarily. Remember of what
importance you are to society, and do not allow yourself to be worried
by what is so very inconsiderately told you by people who ought to know
better. Really I’m surprised at them.’

‘I hope I know, Louisa,’ said Mr Dombey, stiffly, ‘how to bear myself
before the world.’

‘Nobody better, my dear Paul. Nobody half so well. They would be
ignorant and base indeed who doubted it.’

‘Ignorant and base indeed!’ echoed Miss Tox softly.

‘But,’ pursued Louisa, ‘if you have any reliance on my experience, Paul,
you may rest assured that there is nothing wanting but an effort on
Fanny’s part. And that effort,’ she continued, taking off her bonnet,
and adjusting her cap and gloves, in a business-like manner, ‘she must
be encouraged, and really, if necessary, urged to make. Now, my dear
Paul, come upstairs with me.’

Mr Dombey, who, besides being generally influenced by his sister for the
reason already mentioned, had really faith in her as an experienced
and bustling matron, acquiesced; and followed her, at once, to the sick

The lady lay upon her bed as he had left her, clasping her little
daughter to her breast. The child clung close about her, with the same
intensity as before, and never raised her head, or moved her soft cheek
from her mother’s face, or looked on those who stood around, or spoke,
or moved, or shed a tear.

‘Restless without the little girl,’ the Doctor whispered Mr Dombey. ‘We
found it best to have her in again.’

‘Can nothing be done?’ asked Mr Dombey.

The Doctor shook his head. ‘We can do no more.’

The windows stood open, and the twilight was gathering without.

The scent of the restoratives that had been tried was pungent in
the room, but had no fragrance in the dull and languid air the lady

There was such a solemn stillness round the bed; and the two medical
attendants seemed to look on the impassive form with so much compassion
and so little hope, that Mrs Chick was for the moment diverted from her
purpose. But presently summoning courage, and what she called presence
of mind, she sat down by the bedside, and said in the low precise tone
of one who endeavours to awaken a sleeper:

‘Fanny! Fanny!’

There was no sound in answer but the loud ticking of Mr Dombey’s watch
and Doctor Parker Peps’s watch, which seemed in the silence to be
running a race.

‘Fanny, my dear,’ said Mrs Chick, with assumed lightness, ‘here’s Mr
Dombey come to see you. Won’t you speak to him? They want to lay your
little boy--the baby, Fanny, you know; you have hardly seen him yet, I
think--in bed; but they can’t till you rouse yourself a little. Don’t
you think it’s time you roused yourself a little? Eh?’

She bent her ear to the bed, and listened: at the same time looking
round at the bystanders, and holding up her finger.

‘Eh?’ she repeated, ‘what was it you said, Fanny? I didn’t hear you.’

No word or sound in answer. Mr Dombey’s watch and Dr Parker Peps’s watch
seemed to be racing faster.

‘Now, really, Fanny my dear,’ said the sister-in-law, altering her
position, and speaking less confidently, and more earnestly, in spite
of herself, ‘I shall have to be quite cross with you, if you don’t rouse
yourself. It’s necessary for you to make an effort, and perhaps a very
great and painful effort which you are not disposed to make; but this is
a world of effort you know, Fanny, and we must never yield, when so much
depends upon us. Come! Try! I must really scold you if you don’t!’

The race in the ensuing pause was fierce and furious. The watches seemed
to jostle, and to trip each other up.

‘Fanny!’ said Louisa, glancing round, with a gathering alarm. ‘Only look
at me. Only open your eyes to show me that you hear and understand me;
will you? Good Heaven, gentlemen, what is to be done!’

The two medical attendants exchanged a look across the bed; and the
Physician, stooping down, whispered in the child’s ear. Not having
understood the purport of his whisper, the little creature turned her
perfectly colourless face and deep dark eyes towards him; but without
loosening her hold in the least.

The whisper was repeated.

‘Mama!’ said the child.

The little voice, familiar and dearly loved, awakened some show of
consciousness, even at that ebb. For a moment, the closed eye lids
trembled, and the nostril quivered, and the faintest shadow of a smile
was seen.

‘Mama!’ cried the child sobbing aloud. ‘Oh dear Mama! oh dear Mama!’

The Doctor gently brushed the scattered ringlets of the child, aside
from the face and mouth of the mother. Alas how calm they lay there; how
little breath there was to stir them!

Thus, clinging fast to that slight spar within her arms, the mother
drifted out upon the dark and unknown sea that rolls round all the

CHAPTER 2. In which Timely Provision is made for an Emergency that will
sometimes arise in the best-regulated Families.

‘I shall never cease to congratulate myself,’ said Mrs Chick,’ on having
said, when I little thought what was in store for us,--really as if I
was inspired by something,--that I forgave poor dear Fanny everything.
Whatever happens, that must always be a comfort to me!’

Mrs Chick made this impressive observation in the drawing-room, after
having descended thither from the inspection of the mantua-makers
upstairs, who were busy on the family mourning. She delivered it for the
behoof of Mr Chick, who was a stout bald gentleman, with a very large
face, and his hands continually in his pockets, and who had a tendency
in his nature to whistle and hum tunes, which, sensible of the indecorum
of such sounds in a house of grief, he was at some pains to repress at

‘Don’t you over-exert yourself, Loo,’ said Mr Chick, ‘or you’ll be laid
up with spasms, I see. Right tol loor rul! Bless my soul, I forgot!
We’re here one day and gone the next!’

Mrs Chick contented herself with a glance of reproof, and then proceeded
with the thread of her discourse.

‘I am sure,’ she said, ‘I hope this heart-rending occurrence will be a
warning to all of us, to accustom ourselves to rouse ourselves, and to
make efforts in time where they’re required of us. There’s a moral in
everything, if we would only avail ourselves of it. It will be our own
faults if we lose sight of this one.’

Mr Chick invaded the grave silence which ensued on this remark with
the singularly inappropriate air of ‘A cobbler there was;’ and checking
himself, in some confusion, observed, that it was undoubtedly our own
faults if we didn’t improve such melancholy occasions as the present.

‘Which might be better improved, I should think, Mr C.,’ retorted his
helpmate, after a short pause, ‘than by the introduction, either of
the college hornpipe, or the equally unmeaning and unfeeling remark of
rump-te-iddity, bow-wow-wow!’--which Mr Chick had indeed indulged in,
under his breath, and which Mrs Chick repeated in a tone of withering

‘Merely habit, my dear,’ pleaded Mr Chick.

‘Nonsense! Habit!’ returned his wife. ‘If you’re a rational being, don’t
make such ridiculous excuses. Habit! If I was to get a habit (as you
call it) of walking on the ceiling, like the flies, I should hear enough
of it, I daresay.’

It appeared so probable that such a habit might be attended with
some degree of notoriety, that Mr Chick didn’t venture to dispute the

‘Bow-wow-wow!’ repeated Mrs Chick with an emphasis of blighting
contempt on the last syllable. ‘More like a professional singer with the
hydrophobia, than a man in your station of life!’

‘How’s the Baby, Loo?’ asked Mr Chick: to change the subject.

‘What Baby do you mean?’ answered Mrs Chick.

‘The poor bereaved little baby,’ said Mr Chick. ‘I don’t know of any
other, my dear.’

‘You don’t know of any other,’ retorted Mrs Chick. ‘More shame for you, I
was going to say.’

Mr Chick looked astonished.

‘I am sure the morning I have had, with that dining-room downstairs, one
mass of babies, no one in their senses would believe.’

‘One mass of babies!’ repeated Mr Chick, staring with an alarmed
expression about him.

‘It would have occurred to most men,’ said Mrs Chick, ‘that poor dear
Fanny being no more,--those words of mine will always be a balm and
comfort to me,’ here she dried her eyes; ‘it becomes necessary to
provide a Nurse.’

‘Oh! Ah!’ said Mr Chick. ‘Toor-ru!--such is life, I mean. I hope you are
suited, my dear.’

‘Indeed I am not,’ said Mrs Chick; ‘nor likely to be, so far as I can
see, and in the meantime the poor child seems likely to be starved to
death. Paul is so very particular--naturally so, of course, having set
his whole heart on this one boy--and there are so many objections to
everybody that offers, that I don’t see, myself, the least chance of an
arrangement. Meanwhile, of course, the child is--’

‘Going to the Devil,’ said Mr Chick, thoughtfully, ‘to be sure.’

Admonished, however, that he had committed himself, by the indignation
expressed in Mrs Chick’s countenance at the idea of a Dombey going
there; and thinking to atone for his misconduct by a bright suggestion,
he added:

‘Couldn’t something temporary be done with a teapot?’

If he had meant to bring the subject prematurely to a close, he could
not have done it more effectually. After looking at him for some moments
in silent resignation, Mrs Chick said she trusted he hadn’t said it in
aggravation, because that would do very little honour to his heart. She
trusted he hadn’t said it seriously, because that would do very little
honour to his head. As in any case, he couldn’t, however sanguine his
disposition, hope to offer a remark that would be a greater outrage on
human nature in general, we would beg to leave the discussion at that

Mrs Chick then walked majestically to the window and peeped through
the blind, attracted by the sound of wheels. Mr Chick, finding that his
destiny was, for the time, against him, said no more, and walked off.
But it was not always thus with Mr Chick. He was often in the
ascendant himself, and at those times punished Louisa roundly. In
their matrimonial bickerings they were, upon the whole, a well-matched,
fairly-balanced, give-and-take couple. It would have been, generally
speaking, very difficult to have betted on the winner. Often when Mr
Chick seemed beaten, he would suddenly make a start, turn the tables,
clatter them about the ears of Mrs Chick, and carry all before him.
Being liable himself to similar unlooked for checks from Mrs Chick,
their little contests usually possessed a character of uncertainty that
was very animating.

Miss Tox had arrived on the wheels just now alluded to, and came running
into the room in a breathless condition.

‘My dear Louisa,’ said Miss Tox, ‘is the vacancy still unsupplied?’

‘You good soul, yes,’ said Mrs Chick.

‘Then, my dear Louisa,’ returned Miss Tox, ‘I hope and believe--but in
one moment, my dear, I’ll introduce the party.’

Running downstairs again as fast as she had run up, Miss Tox got the
party out of the hackney-coach, and soon returned with it under convoy.

It then appeared that she had used the word, not in its legal or
business acceptation, when it merely expresses an individual, but as
a noun of multitude, or signifying many: for Miss Tox escorted a plump
rosy-cheeked wholesome apple-faced young woman, with an infant in her
arms; a younger woman not so plump, but apple-faced also, who led
a plump and apple-faced child in each hand; another plump and also
apple-faced boy who walked by himself; and finally, a plump and
apple-faced man, who carried in his arms another plump and apple-faced
boy, whom he stood down on the floor, and admonished, in a husky
whisper, to ‘kitch hold of his brother Johnny.’

‘My dear Louisa,’ said Miss Tox, ‘knowing your great anxiety, and
wishing to relieve it, I posted off myself to the Queen Charlotte’s
Royal Married Females,’ which you had forgot, and put the question, Was
there anybody there that they thought would suit? No, they said there
was not. When they gave me that answer, I do assure you, my dear, I was
almost driven to despair on your account. But it did so happen, that one
of the Royal Married Females, hearing the inquiry, reminded the matron
of another who had gone to her own home, and who, she said, would in
all likelihood be most satisfactory. The moment I heard this, and had
it corroborated by the matron--excellent references and unimpeachable
character--I got the address, my dear, and posted off again.’

‘Like the dear good Tox, you are!’ said Louisa.

‘Not at all,’ returned Miss Tox. ‘Don’t say so. Arriving at the house
(the cleanest place, my dear! You might eat your dinner off the floor),
I found the whole family sitting at table; and feeling that no account
of them could be half so comfortable to you and Mr Dombey as the sight
of them all together, I brought them all away. This gentleman,’ said
Miss Tox, pointing out the apple-faced man, ‘is the father. Will you
have the goodness to come a little forward, Sir?’

The apple-faced man having sheepishly complied with this request, stood
chuckling and grinning in a front row.

‘This is his wife, of course,’ said Miss Tox, singling out the young
woman with the baby. ‘How do you do, Polly?’

‘I’m pretty well, I thank you, Ma’am,’ said Polly.

By way of bringing her out dexterously, Miss Tox had made the inquiry
as in condescension to an old acquaintance whom she hadn’t seen for a
fortnight or so.

‘I’m glad to hear it,’ said Miss Tox. ‘The other young woman is her
unmarried sister who lives with them, and would take care of her
children. Her name’s Jemima. How do you do, Jemima?’

‘I’m pretty well, I thank you, Ma’am,’ returned Jemima.

‘I’m very glad indeed to hear it,’ said Miss Tox. ‘I hope you’ll keep
so. Five children. Youngest six weeks. The fine little boy with the
blister on his nose is the eldest. The blister, I believe,’ said
Miss Tox, looking round upon the family, ‘is not constitutional, but

The apple-faced man was understood to growl, ‘Flat iron.’

‘I beg your pardon, Sir,’ said Miss Tox, ‘did you--’

‘Flat iron,’ he repeated.

‘Oh yes,’ said Miss Tox. ‘Yes! quite true. I forgot. The little
creature, in his mother’s absence, smelt a warm flat iron. You’re quite
right, Sir. You were going to have the goodness to inform me, when we
arrived at the door that you were by trade a--’

‘Stoker,’ said the man.

‘A choker!’ said Miss Tox, quite aghast.

‘Stoker,’ said the man. ‘Steam ingine.’

‘Oh-h! Yes!’ returned Miss Tox, looking thoughtfully at him, and seeming
still to have but a very imperfect understanding of his meaning.

‘And how do you like it, Sir?’

‘Which, Mum?’ said the man.

‘That,’ replied Miss Tox. ‘Your trade.’

‘Oh! Pretty well, Mum. The ashes sometimes gets in here;’ touching his
chest: ‘and makes a man speak gruff, as at the present time. But it is
ashes, Mum, not crustiness.’

Miss Tox seemed to be so little enlightened by this reply, as to find
a difficulty in pursuing the subject. But Mrs Chick relieved her, by
entering into a close private examination of Polly, her children, her
marriage certificate, testimonials, and so forth. Polly coming out
unscathed from this ordeal, Mrs Chick withdrew with her report to her
brother’s room, and as an emphatic comment on it, and corroboration of
it, carried the two rosiest little Toodles with her. Toodle being the
family name of the apple-faced family.

Mr Dombey had remained in his own apartment since the death of his wife,
absorbed in visions of the youth, education, and destination of his baby
son. Something lay at the bottom of his cool heart, colder and heavier
than its ordinary load; but it was more a sense of the child’s loss than
his own, awakening within him an almost angry sorrow. That the life
and progress on which he built such hopes, should be endangered in the
outset by so mean a want; that Dombey and Son should be tottering for
a nurse, was a sore humiliation. And yet in his pride and jealousy, he
viewed with so much bitterness the thought of being dependent for the
very first step towards the accomplishment of his soul’s desire, on a
hired serving-woman who would be to the child, for the time, all that
even his alliance could have made his own wife, that in every new
rejection of a candidate he felt a secret pleasure. The time had now
come, however, when he could no longer be divided between these two sets
of feelings. The less so, as there seemed to be no flaw in the title of
Polly Toodle after his sister had set it forth, with many commendations
on the indefatigable friendship of Miss Tox.

‘These children look healthy,’ said Mr Dombey. ‘But my God, to think of
their some day claiming a sort of relationship to Paul!’

‘But what relationship is there!’ Louisa began--

‘Is there!’ echoed Mr Dombey, who had not intended his sister to
participate in the thought he had unconsciously expressed. ‘Is there,
did you say, Louisa!’

‘Can there be, I mean--’

‘Why none,’ said Mr Dombey, sternly. ‘The whole world knows that, I
presume. Grief has not made me idiotic, Louisa. Take them away, Louisa!
Let me see this woman and her husband.’

Mrs Chick bore off the tender pair of Toodles, and presently returned
with that tougher couple whose presence her brother had commanded.

‘My good woman,’ said Mr Dombey, turning round in his easy chair, as
one piece, and not as a man with limbs and joints, ‘I understand you are
poor, and wish to earn money by nursing the little boy, my son, who has
been so prematurely deprived of what can never be replaced. I have no
objection to your adding to the comforts of your family by that means.
So far as I can tell, you seem to be a deserving object. But I must
impose one or two conditions on you, before you enter my house in that
capacity. While you are here, I must stipulate that you are always known
as--say as Richards--an ordinary name, and convenient. Have you any
objection to be known as Richards? You had better consult your husband.’

‘Well?’ said Mr Dombey, after a pretty long pause. ‘What does your
husband say to your being called Richards?’

As the husband did nothing but chuckle and grin, and continually draw
his right hand across his mouth, moistening the palm, Mrs Toodle, after
nudging him twice or thrice in vain, dropped a curtsey and replied ‘that
perhaps if she was to be called out of her name, it would be considered
in the wages.’

‘Oh, of course,’ said Mr Dombey. ‘I desire to make it a question of
wages, altogether. Now, Richards, if you nurse my bereaved child, I
wish you to remember this always. You will receive a liberal stipend in
return for the discharge of certain duties, in the performance of which,
I wish you to see as little of your family as possible. When those
duties cease to be required and rendered, and the stipend ceases to be
paid, there is an end of all relations between us. Do you understand

Mrs Toodle seemed doubtful about it; and as to Toodle himself, he had
evidently no doubt whatever, that he was all abroad.

‘You have children of your own,’ said Mr Dombey. ‘It is not at all in
this bargain that you need become attached to my child, or that my child
need become attached to you. I don’t expect or desire anything of the
kind. Quite the reverse. When you go away from here, you will have
concluded what is a mere matter of bargain and sale, hiring and letting:
and will stay away. The child will cease to remember you; and you will
cease, if you please, to remember the child.’

Mrs Toodle, with a little more colour in her cheeks than she had had
before, said ‘she hoped she knew her place.’

‘I hope you do, Richards,’ said Mr Dombey. ‘I have no doubt you know
it very well. Indeed it is so plain and obvious that it could hardly be
otherwise. Louisa, my dear, arrange with Richards about money, and let
her have it when and how she pleases. Mr what’s-your name, a word with
you, if you please!’

Thus arrested on the threshold as he was following his wife out of the
room, Toodle returned and confronted Mr Dombey alone. He was a strong,
loose, round-shouldered, shuffling, shaggy fellow, on whom his clothes
sat negligently: with a good deal of hair and whisker, deepened in its
natural tint, perhaps by smoke and coal-dust: hard knotty hands: and a
square forehead, as coarse in grain as the bark of an oak. A
thorough contrast in all respects, to Mr Dombey, who was one of those
close-shaved close-cut moneyed gentlemen who are glossy and crisp like
new bank-notes, and who seem to be artificially braced and tightened as
by the stimulating action of golden showerbaths.

‘You have a son, I believe?’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Four on ‘em, Sir. Four hims and a her. All alive!’

‘Why, it’s as much as you can afford to keep them!’ said Mr Dombey.

‘I couldn’t hardly afford but one thing in the world less, Sir.’

‘What is that?’

‘To lose ‘em, Sir.’

‘Can you read?’ asked Mr Dombey.

‘Why, not partick’ler, Sir.’


‘With chalk, Sir?’

‘With anything?’

‘I could make shift to chalk a little bit, I think, if I was put to it,’
said Toodle after some reflection.

‘And yet,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘you are two or three and thirty, I suppose?’

‘Thereabouts, I suppose, Sir,’ answered Toodle, after more reflection

‘Then why don’t you learn?’ asked Mr Dombey.

‘So I’m a going to, Sir. One of my little boys is a going to learn me,
when he’s old enough, and been to school himself.’

‘Well,’ said Mr Dombey, after looking at him attentively, and with no
great favour, as he stood gazing round the room (principally round the
ceiling) and still drawing his hand across and across his mouth. ‘You
heard what I said to your wife just now?’

‘Polly heerd it,’ said Toodle, jerking his hat over his shoulder in the
direction of the door, with an air of perfect confidence in his better
half. ‘It’s all right.’

‘But I ask you if you heard it. You did, I suppose, and understood it?’
pursued Mr Dombey.

‘I heerd it,’ said Toodle, ‘but I don’t know as I understood it rightly
Sir, ‘account of being no scholar, and the words being--ask your
pardon--rayther high. But Polly heerd it. It’s all right.’

‘As you appear to leave everything to her,’ said Mr Dombey, frustrated
in his intention of impressing his views still more distinctly on the
husband, as the stronger character, ‘I suppose it is of no use my saying
anything to you.’

‘Not a bit,’ said Toodle. ‘Polly heerd it. She’s awake, Sir.’

‘I won’t detain you any longer then,’ returned Mr Dombey, disappointed.
‘Where have you worked all your life?’

‘Mostly underground, Sir, ‘till I got married. I come to the level then.
I’m a going on one of these here railroads when they comes into full

As he added in one of his hoarse whispers, ‘We means to bring up little
Biler to that line,’ Mr Dombey inquired haughtily who little Biler was.

‘The eldest on ‘em, Sir,’ said Toodle, with a smile. ‘It ain’t a common
name. Sermuchser that when he was took to church the gen’lm’n said, it
wam’t a chris’en one, and he couldn’t give it. But we always calls him
Biler just the same. For we don’t mean no harm. Not we.’

‘Do you mean to say, Man,’ inquired Mr Dombey; looking at him with
marked displeasure, ‘that you have called a child after a boiler?’

‘No, no, Sir,’ returned Toodle, with a tender consideration for his
mistake. ‘I should hope not! No, Sir. Arter a BILER Sir. The Steamingine
was a’most as good as a godfather to him, and so we called him Biler,
don’t you see!’

As the last straw breaks the laden camel’s back, this piece of
information crushed the sinking spirits of Mr Dombey. He motioned his
child’s foster-father to the door, who departed by no means unwillingly:
and then turning the key, paced up and down the room in solitary

It would be harsh, and perhaps not altogether true, to say of him that
he felt these rubs and gratings against his pride more keenly than he
had felt his wife’s death: but certainly they impressed that event upon
him with new force, and communicated to it added weight and bitterness.
It was a rude shock to his sense of property in his child, that these
people--the mere dust of the earth, as he thought them--should be
necessary to him; and it was natural that in proportion as he felt
disturbed by it, he should deplore the occurrence which had made them
so. For all his starched, impenetrable dignity and composure, he wiped
blinding tears from his eyes as he paced up and down his room; and often
said, with an emotion of which he would not, for the world, have had a
witness, ‘Poor little fellow!’

It may have been characteristic of Mr Dombey’s pride, that he pitied
himself through the child. Not poor me. Not poor widower, confiding by
constraint in the wife of an ignorant Hind who has been working ‘mostly
underground’ all his life, and yet at whose door Death had never
knocked, and at whose poor table four sons daily sit--but poor little

Those words being on his lips, it occurred to him--and it is an instance
of the strong attraction with which his hopes and fears and all his
thoughts were tending to one centre--that a great temptation was being
placed in this woman’s way. Her infant was a boy too. Now, would it be
possible for her to change them?

Though he was soon satisfied that he had dismissed the idea as romantic
and unlikely--though possible, there was no denying--he could not help
pursuing it so far as to entertain within himself a picture of what his
condition would be, if he should discover such an imposture when he was
grown old. Whether a man so situated would be able to pluck away the
result of so many years of usage, confidence, and belief, from the
impostor, and endow a stranger with it?

But it was idle speculating thus. It couldn’t happen. In a moment
afterwards he determined that it could, but that such women were
constantly observed, and had no opportunity given them for the
accomplishment of such a design, even when they were so wicked as to
entertain it. In another moment, he was remembering how few such cases
seemed to have ever happened. In another moment he was wondering whether
they ever happened and were not found out.

As his unusual emotion subsided, these misgivings gradually melted away,
though so much of their shadow remained behind, that he was constant in
his resolution to look closely after Richards himself, without appearing
to do so. Being now in an easier frame of mind, he regarded the woman’s
station as rather an advantageous circumstance than otherwise, by
placing, in itself, a broad distance between her and the child, and
rendering their separation easy and natural. Thence he passed to the
contemplation of the future glories of Dombey and Son, and dismissed the
memory of his wife, for the time being, with a tributary sigh or two.

Meanwhile terms were ratified and agreed upon between Mrs Chick and
Richards, with the assistance of Miss Tox; and Richards being with much
ceremony invested with the Dombey baby, as if it were an Order, resigned
her own, with many tears and kisses, to Jemima. Glasses of wine were
then produced, to sustain the drooping spirits of the family; and Miss
Tox, busying herself in dispensing ‘tastes’ to the younger branches,
bred them up to their father’s business with such surprising expedition,
that she made chokers of four of them in a quarter of a minute.

‘You’ll take a glass yourself, Sir, won’t you?’ said Miss Tox, as Toodle

‘Thankee, Mum,’ said Toodle, ‘since you are suppressing.’

‘And you’re very glad to leave your dear good wife in such a comfortable
home, ain’t you, Sir?’ said Miss Tox, nodding and winking at him

‘No, Mum,’ said Toodle. ‘Here’s wishing of her back agin.’

Polly cried more than ever at this. So Mrs Chick, who had her matronly
apprehensions that this indulgence in grief might be prejudicial to the
little Dombey [‘acid, indeed,’ she whispered Miss Tox), hastened to the

‘Your little child will thrive charmingly with your sister Jemima,
Richards,’ said Mrs Chick; ‘and you have only to make an effort--this is
a world of effort, you know, Richards--to be very happy indeed. You have
been already measured for your mourning, haven’t you, Richards?’

‘Ye--es, Ma’am,’ sobbed Polly.

‘And it’ll fit beautifully. I know,’ said Mrs Chick, ‘for the same young
person has made me many dresses. The very best materials, too!’

‘Lor, you’ll be so smart,’ said Miss Tox, ‘that your husband won’t know
you; will you, Sir?’

‘I should know her,’ said Toodle, gruffly, ‘anyhows and anywheres.’

Toodle was evidently not to be bought over.

‘As to living, Richards, you know,’ pursued Mrs Chick, ‘why, the very
best of everything will be at your disposal. You will order your little
dinner every day; and anything you take a fancy to, I’m sure will be as
readily provided as if you were a Lady.’

‘Yes to be sure!’ said Miss Tox, keeping up the ball with great
sympathy. ‘And as to porter!--quite unlimited, will it not, Louisa?’

‘Oh, certainly!’ returned Mrs Chick in the same tone. ‘With a little
abstinence, you know, my dear, in point of vegetables.’

‘And pickles, perhaps,’ suggested Miss Tox.

‘With such exceptions,’ said Louisa, ‘she’ll consult her choice
entirely, and be under no restraint at all, my love.’

‘And then, of course, you know,’ said Miss Tox, ‘however fond she is of
her own dear little child--and I’m sure, Louisa, you don’t blame her for
being fond of it?’

‘Oh no!’ cried Mrs Chick, benignantly.

‘Still,’ resumed Miss Tox, ‘she naturally must be interested in her
young charge, and must consider it a privilege to see a little cherub
connected with the superior classes, gradually unfolding itself from day
to day at one common fountain--is it not so, Louisa?’

‘Most undoubtedly!’ said Mrs Chick. ‘You see, my love, she’s already
quite contented and comfortable, and means to say goodbye to her sister
Jemima and her little pets, and her good honest husband, with a light
heart and a smile; don’t she, my dear?’

‘Oh yes!’ cried Miss Tox. ‘To be sure she does!’

Notwithstanding which, however, poor Polly embraced them all round in
great distress, and coming to her spouse at last, could not make up her
mind to part from him, until he gently disengaged himself, at the close
of the following allegorical piece of consolation:

‘Polly, old ‘ooman, whatever you do, my darling, hold up your head
and fight low. That’s the only rule as I know on, that’ll carry anyone
through life. You always have held up your head and fought low, Polly.
Do it now, or Bricks is no longer so. God bless you, Polly! Me and
J’mima will do your duty by you; and with relating to your’n, hold up
your head and fight low, Polly, and you can’t go wrong!’

Fortified by this golden secret, Folly finally ran away to avoid any
more particular leave-taking between herself and the children. But the
stratagem hardly succeeded as well as it deserved; for the smallest boy
but one divining her intent, immediately began swarming upstairs after
her--if that word of doubtful etymology be admissible--on his arms and
legs; while the eldest (known in the family by the name of Biler, in
remembrance of the steam engine) beat a demoniacal tattoo with his
boots, expressive of grief; in which he was joined by the rest of the

A quantity of oranges and halfpence thrust indiscriminately on each
young Toodle, checked the first violence of their regret, and the
family were speedily transported to their own home, by means of the
hackney-coach kept in waiting for that purpose. The children, under the
guardianship of Jemima, blocked up the window, and dropped out oranges
and halfpence all the way along. Mr Toodle himself preferred to ride
behind among the spikes, as being the mode of conveyance to which he was
best accustomed.

CHAPTER 3. In which Mr Dombey, as a Man and a Father, is seen at the
Head of the Home-Department

The funeral of the deceased lady having been ‘performed’ to the entire
satisfaction of the undertaker, as well as of the neighbourhood at
large, which is generally disposed to be captious on such a point,
and is prone to take offence at any omissions or short-comings in the
ceremonies, the various members of Mr Dombey’s household subsided into
their several places in the domestic system. That small world, like the
great one out of doors, had the capacity of easily forgetting its
dead; and when the cook had said she was a quiet-tempered lady, and the
house-keeper had said it was the common lot, and the butler had said
who’d have thought it, and the housemaid had said she couldn’t hardly
believe it, and the footman had said it seemed exactly like a dream,
they had quite worn the subject out, and began to think their mourning
was wearing rusty too.

On Richards, who was established upstairs in a state of honourable
captivity, the dawn of her new life seemed to break cold and grey.
Mr Dombey’s house was a large one, on the shady side of a tall, dark,
dreadfully genteel street in the region between Portland Place and
Bryanstone Square. It was a corner house, with great wide areas
containing cellars frowned upon by barred windows, and leered at by
crooked-eyed doors leading to dustbins. It was a house of dismal state,
with a circular back to it, containing a whole suite of drawing-rooms
looking upon a gravelled yard, where two gaunt trees, with blackened
trunks and branches, rattled rather than rustled, their leaves were so
smoked-dried. The summer sun was never on the street, but in the morning
about breakfast-time, when it came with the water-carts and the old
clothes men, and the people with geraniums, and the umbrella-mender, and
the man who trilled the little bell of the Dutch clock as he went along.
It was soon gone again to return no more that day; and the bands of
music and the straggling Punch’s shows going after it, left it a prey
to the most dismal of organs, and white mice; with now and then a
porcupine, to vary the entertainments; until the butlers whose families
were dining out, began to stand at the house-doors in the twilight, and
the lamp-lighter made his nightly failure in attempting to brighten up
the street with gas.

It was as blank a house inside as outside. When the funeral was over,
Mr Dombey ordered the furniture to be covered up--perhaps to preserve it
for the son with whom his plans were all associated--and the rooms to be
ungarnished, saving such as he retained for himself on the ground floor.
Accordingly, mysterious shapes were made of tables and chairs,
heaped together in the middle of rooms, and covered over with great
winding-sheets. Bell-handles, window-blinds, and looking-glasses, being
papered up in journals, daily and weekly, obtruded fragmentary accounts
of deaths and dreadful murders. Every chandelier or lustre, muffled in
holland, looked like a monstrous tear depending from the ceiling’s eye.
Odours, as from vaults and damp places, came out of the chimneys. The
dead and buried lady was awful in a picture-frame of ghastly bandages.
Every gust of wind that rose, brought eddying round the corner from
the neighbouring mews, some fragments of the straw that had been strewn
before the house when she was ill, mildewed remains of which were still
cleaving to the neighbourhood: and these, being always drawn by
some invisible attraction to the threshold of the dirty house to let
immediately opposite, addressed a dismal eloquence to Mr Dombey’s

The apartments which Mr Dombey reserved for his own inhabiting, were
attainable from the hall, and consisted of a sitting-room; a library,
which was in fact a dressing-room, so that the smell of hot-pressed
paper, vellum, morocco, and Russia leather, contended in it with the
smell of divers pairs of boots; and a kind of conservatory or little
glass breakfast-room beyond, commanding a prospect of the trees before
mentioned, and, generally speaking, of a few prowling cats. These three
rooms opened upon one another. In the morning, when Mr Dombey was at his
breakfast in one or other of the two first-mentioned of them, as well
as in the afternoon when he came home to dinner, a bell was rung for
Richards to repair to this glass chamber, and there walk to and fro with
her young charge. From the glimpses she caught of Mr Dombey at these
times, sitting in the dark distance, looking out towards the infant from
among the dark heavy furniture--the house had been inhabited for years
by his father, and in many of its appointments was old-fashioned and
grim--she began to entertain ideas of him in his solitary state, as if
he were a lone prisoner in a cell, or a strange apparition that was not
to be accosted or understood. Mr Dombey came to be, in the course of a
few days, invested in his own person, to her simple thinking, with all
the mystery and gloom of his house. As she walked up and down the glass
room, or sat hushing the baby there--which she very often did for hours
together, when the dusk was closing in, too--she would sometimes try to
pierce the gloom beyond, and make out how he was looking and what he
was doing. Sensible that she was plainly to be seen by him, however, she
never dared to pry in that direction but very furtively and for a moment
at a time. Consequently she made out nothing, and Mr Dombey in his den
remained a very shade.

Little Paul Dombey’s foster-mother had led this life herself, and had
carried little Paul through it for some weeks; and had returned upstairs
one day from a melancholy saunter through the dreary rooms of state (she
never went out without Mrs Chick, who called on fine mornings, usually
accompanied by Miss Tox, to take her and Baby for an airing--or in other
words, to march them gravely up and down the pavement, like a walking
funeral); when, as she was sitting in her own room, the door was slowly
and quietly opened, and a dark-eyed little girl looked in.

‘It’s Miss Florence come home from her aunt’s, no doubt,’ thought
Richards, who had never seen the child before. ‘Hope I see you well,

‘Is that my brother?’ asked the child, pointing to the Baby.

‘Yes, my pretty,’ answered Richards. ‘Come and kiss him.’

But the child, instead of advancing, looked her earnestly in the face,
and said:

‘What have you done with my Mama?’

‘Lord bless the little creeter!’ cried Richards, ‘what a sad question! I
done? Nothing, Miss.’

‘What have they done with my Mama?’ inquired the child, with exactly the
same look and manner.

‘I never saw such a melting thing in all my life!’ said Richards, who
naturally substituted for this child one of her own, inquiring for
herself in like circumstances. ‘Come nearer here, my dear Miss! Don’t be
afraid of me.’

‘I am not afraid of you,’ said the child, drawing nearer. ‘But I want to
know what they have done with my Mama.’

Her heart swelled so as she stood before the woman, looking into her
eyes, that she was fain to press her little hand upon her breast and
hold it there. Yet there was a purpose in the child that prevented both
her slender figure and her searching gaze from faltering.

‘My darling,’ said Richards, ‘you wear that pretty black frock in
remembrance of your Mama.’

‘I can remember my Mama,’ returned the child, with tears springing to
her eyes, ‘in any frock.’

‘But people put on black, to remember people when they’re gone.’

‘Where gone?’ asked the child.

‘Come and sit down by me,’ said Richards, ‘and I’ll tell you a story.’

With a quick perception that it was intended to relate to what she had
asked, little Florence laid aside the bonnet she had held in her hand
until now, and sat down on a stool at the Nurse’s feet, looking up into
her face.

‘Once upon a time,’ said Richards, ‘there was a lady--a very good lady,
and her little daughter dearly loved her.’

‘A very good lady and her little daughter dearly loved her,’ repeated
the child.

‘Who, when God thought it right that it should be so, was taken ill and

The child shuddered.

‘Died, never to be seen again by anyone on earth, and was buried in the
ground where the trees grow.’

‘The cold ground?’ said the child, shuddering again.

‘No! The warm ground,’ returned Polly, seizing her advantage, ‘where the
ugly little seeds turn into beautiful flowers, and into grass, and corn,
and I don’t know what all besides. Where good people turn into bright
angels, and fly away to Heaven!’

The child, who had dropped her head, raised it again, and sat looking at
her intently.

‘So; let me see,’ said Polly, not a little flurried between this earnest
scrutiny, her desire to comfort the child, her sudden success, and her
very slight confidence in her own powers. ‘So, when this lady died,
wherever they took her, or wherever they put her, she went to GOD! and
she prayed to Him, this lady did,’ said Polly, affecting herself beyond
measure; being heartily in earnest, ‘to teach her little daughter to
be sure of that in her heart: and to know that she was happy there and
loved her still: and to hope and try--Oh, all her life--to meet her
there one day, never, never, never to part any more.’

‘It was my Mama!’ exclaimed the child, springing up, and clasping her
round the neck.

‘And the child’s heart,’ said Polly, drawing her to her breast: ‘the
little daughter’s heart was so full of the truth of this, that even when
she heard it from a strange nurse that couldn’t tell it right, but was a
poor mother herself and that was all, she found a comfort in it--didn’t
feel so lonely--sobbed and cried upon her bosom--took kindly to the baby
lying in her lap--and--there, there, there!’ said Polly, smoothing the
child’s curls and dropping tears upon them. ‘There, poor dear!’

‘Oh well, Miss Floy! And won’t your Pa be angry neither!’ cried a quick
voice at the door, proceeding from a short, brown, womanly girl of
fourteen, with a little snub nose, and black eyes like jet beads. ‘When
it was ‘tickerlerly given out that you wasn’t to go and worrit the wet

‘She don’t worry me,’ was the surprised rejoinder of Polly. ‘I am very
fond of children.’

‘Oh! but begging your pardon, Mrs Richards, that don’t matter, you
know,’ returned the black-eyed girl, who was so desperately sharp and
biting that she seemed to make one’s eyes water. ‘I may be very fond of
pennywinkles, Mrs Richards, but it don’t follow that I’m to have ‘em for

‘Well, it don’t matter,’ said Polly.

‘Oh, thank’ee, Mrs Richards, don’t it!’ returned the sharp girl.
‘Remembering, however, if you’ll be so good, that Miss Floy’s under my
charge, and Master Paul’s under your’n.’

‘But still we needn’t quarrel,’ said Polly.

‘Oh no, Mrs Richards,’ rejoined Spitfire. ‘Not at all, I don’t wish it,
we needn’t stand upon that footing, Miss Floy being a permanency, Master
Paul a temporary.’ Spitfire made use of none but comma pauses; shooting
out whatever she had to say in one sentence, and in one breath, if

‘Miss Florence has just come home, hasn’t she?’ asked Polly.

‘Yes, Mrs Richards, just come, and here, Miss Floy, before you’ve been
in the house a quarter of an hour, you go a smearing your wet face
against the expensive mourning that Mrs Richards is a wearing for your
Ma!’ With this remonstrance, young Spitfire, whose real name was Susan
Nipper, detached the child from her new friend by a wrench--as if she
were a tooth. But she seemed to do it, more in the excessively sharp
exercise of her official functions, than with any deliberate unkindness.

‘She’ll be quite happy, now she has come home again,’ said Polly,
nodding to her with an encouraging smile upon her wholesome face, ‘and
will be so pleased to see her dear Papa to-night.’

‘Lork, Mrs Richards!’ cried Miss Nipper, taking up her words with a
jerk. ‘Don’t. See her dear Papa indeed! I should like to see her do it!’

‘Won’t she then?’ asked Polly.

‘Lork, Mrs Richards, no, her Pa’s a deal too wrapped up in somebody
else, and before there was a somebody else to be wrapped up in she never
was a favourite, girls are thrown away in this house, Mrs Richards, I
assure you.’

The child looked quickly from one nurse to the other, as if she
understood and felt what was said.

‘You surprise me!’ cried Folly. ‘Hasn’t Mr Dombey seen her since--’

‘No,’ interrupted Susan Nipper. ‘Not once since, and he hadn’t hardly
set his eyes upon her before that for months and months, and I don’t
think he’d have known her for his own child if he had met her in the
streets, or would know her for his own child if he was to meet her in
the streets to-morrow, Mrs Richards, as to me,’ said Spitfire, with a
giggle, ‘I doubt if he’s aweer of my existence.’

‘Pretty dear!’ said Richards; meaning, not Miss Nipper, but the little

‘Oh! there’s a Tartar within a hundred miles of where we’re now in
conversation, I can tell you, Mrs Richards, present company always
excepted too,’ said Susan Nipper; ‘wish you good morning, Mrs Richards,
now Miss Floy, you come along with me, and don’t go hanging back like a
naughty wicked child that judgments is no example to, don’t!’

In spite of being thus adjured, and in spite also of some hauling on
the part of Susan Nipper, tending towards the dislocation of her
right shoulder, little Florence broke away, and kissed her new friend,

‘Oh dear! after it was given out so ‘tickerlerly, that Mrs Richards
wasn’t to be made free with!’ exclaimed Susan. ‘Very well, Miss Floy!’

‘God bless the sweet thing!’ said Richards, ‘Good-bye, dear!’

‘Good-bye!’ returned the child. ‘God bless you! I shall come to see you
again soon, and you’ll come to see me? Susan will let us. Won’t you,

Spitfire seemed to be in the main a good-natured little body, although
a disciple of that school of trainers of the young idea which holds that
childhood, like money, must be shaken and rattled and jostled about
a good deal to keep it bright. For, being thus appealed to with some
endearing gestures and caresses, she folded her small arms and shook her
head, and conveyed a relenting expression into her very-wide-open black

‘It ain’t right of you to ask it, Miss Floy, for you know I can’t refuse
you, but Mrs Richards and me will see what can be done, if Mrs Richards
likes, I may wish, you see, to take a voyage to Chaney, Mrs Richards,
but I mayn’t know how to leave the London Docks.’

Richards assented to the proposition.

‘This house ain’t so exactly ringing with merry-making,’ said Miss
Nipper, ‘that one need be lonelier than one must be. Your Toxes and
your Chickses may draw out my two front double teeth, Mrs Richards, but
that’s no reason why I need offer ‘em the whole set.’

This proposition was also assented to by Richards, as an obvious one.

‘So I’m agreeable, I’m sure,’ said Susan Nipper, ‘to live friendly, Mrs
Richards, while Master Paul continues a permanency, if the means can be
planned out without going openly against orders, but goodness gracious
Miss Floy, you haven’t got your things off yet, you naughty child, you
haven’t, come along!’

With these words, Susan Nipper, in a transport of coercion, made a
charge at her young ward, and swept her out of the room.

The child, in her grief and neglect, was so gentle, so quiet, and
uncomplaining; was possessed of so much affection that no one seemed to
care to have, and so much sorrowful intelligence that no one seemed to
mind or think about the wounding of, that Polly’s heart was sore when
she was left alone again. In the simple passage that had taken place
between herself and the motherless little girl, her own motherly heart
had been touched no less than the child’s; and she felt, as the child
did, that there was something of confidence and interest between them
from that moment.

Notwithstanding Mr Toodle’s great reliance on Polly, she was perhaps in
point of artificial accomplishments very little his superior. She had
been good-humouredly working and drudging for her life all her life,
and was a sober steady-going person, with matter-of-fact ideas about the
butcher and baker, and the division of pence into farthings. But she
was a good plain sample of a nature that is ever, in the mass, better,
truer, higher, nobler, quicker to feel, and much more constant to
retain, all tenderness and pity, self-denial and devotion, than the
nature of men. And, perhaps, unlearned as she was, she could have
brought a dawning knowledge home to Mr Dombey at that early day, which
would not then have struck him in the end like lightning.

But this is from the purpose. Polly only thought, at that time, of
improving on her successful propitiation of Miss Nipper, and devising
some means of having little Florence aide her, lawfully, and without
rebellion. An opening happened to present itself that very night.

She had been rung down into the glass room as usual, and had walked
about and about it a long time, with the baby in her arms, when, to her
great surprise and dismay, Mr Dombey--whom she had seen at first leaning
on his elbow at the table, and afterwards walking up and down the middle
room, drawing, each time, a little nearer, she thought, to the open
folding doors--came out, suddenly, and stopped before her.

‘Good evening, Richards.’

Just the same austere, stiff gentleman, as he had appeared to her on
that first day. Such a hard-looking gentleman, that she involuntarily
dropped her eyes and her curtsey at the same time.

‘How is Master Paul, Richards?’

‘Quite thriving, Sir, and well.’

‘He looks so,’ said Mr Dombey, glancing with great interest at the tiny
face she uncovered for his observation, and yet affecting to be half
careless of it. ‘They give you everything you want, I hope?’

‘Oh yes, thank you, Sir.’

She suddenly appended such an obvious hesitation to this reply, however,
that Mr Dombey, who had turned away; stopped, and turned round again,

‘If you please, Sir, the child is very much disposed to take notice of
things,’ said Richards, with another curtsey, ‘and--upstairs is a little
dull for him, perhaps, Sir.’

‘I begged them to take you out for airings, constantly,’ said Mr Dombey.
‘Very well! You shall go out oftener. You’re quite right to mention it.’

‘I beg your pardon, Sir,’ faltered Polly, ‘but we go out quite plenty
Sir, thank you.’

‘What would you have then?’ asked Mr Dombey.

‘Indeed Sir, I don’t exactly know,’ said Polly, ‘unless--’


‘I believe nothing is so good for making children lively and cheerful,
Sir, as seeing other children playing about ‘em,’ observed Polly, taking

‘I think I mentioned to you, Richards, when you came here,’ said Mr
Dombey, with a frown, ‘that I wished you to see as little of your family
as possible.’

‘Oh dear yes, Sir, I wasn’t so much as thinking of that.’

‘I am glad of it,’ said Mr Dombey hastily. ‘You can continue your walk
if you please.’

With that, he disappeared into his inner room; and Polly had the
satisfaction of feeling that he had thoroughly misunderstood her object,
and that she had fallen into disgrace without the least advancement of
her purpose.

Next night, she found him walking about the conservatory when she came
down. As she stopped at the door, checked by this unusual sight, and
uncertain whether to advance or retreat, he called her in. His mind was
too much set on Dombey and Son, it soon appeared, to admit of his having
forgotten her suggestion.

‘If you really think that sort of society is good for the child,’ he
said sharply, as if there had been no interval since she proposed it,
‘where’s Miss Florence?’

‘Nothing could be better than Miss Florence, Sir,’ said Polly eagerly,
‘but I understood from her maid that they were not to--’

Mr Dombey rang the bell, and walked till it was answered.

‘Tell them always to let Miss Florence be with Richards when she
chooses, and go out with her, and so forth. Tell them to let the
children be together, when Richards wishes it.’

The iron was now hot, and Richards striking on it boldly--it was a
good cause and she bold in it, though instinctively afraid of Mr
Dombey--requested that Miss Florence might be sent down then and there,
to make friends with her little brother.

She feigned to be dandling the child as the servant retired on this
errand, but she thought that she saw Mr Dombey’s colour changed; that
the expression of his face quite altered; that he turned, hurriedly, as
if to gainsay what he had said, or she had said, or both, and was only
deterred by very shame.

And she was right. The last time he had seen his slighted child, there
had been that in the sad embrace between her and her dying mother, which
was at once a revelation and a reproach to him. Let him be absorbed
as he would in the Son on whom he built such high hopes, he could not
forget that closing scene. He could not forget that he had had no part
in it. That, at the bottom of its clear depths of tenderness and truth
lay those two figures clasped in each other’s arms, while he stood on
the bank above them, looking down a mere spectator--not a sharer with
them--quite shut out.

Unable to exclude these things from his remembrance, or to keep his
mind free from such imperfect shapes of the meaning with which they were
fraught, as were able to make themselves visible to him through the
mist of his pride, his previous feeling of indifference towards little
Florence changed into an uneasiness of an extraordinary kind. Young as
she was, and possessing in any eyes but his (and perhaps in his too)
even more than the usual amount of childish simplicity and confidence,
he almost felt as if she watched and distrusted him. As if she held the
clue to something secret in his breast, of the nature of which he
was hardly informed himself. As if she had an innate knowledge of one
jarring and discordant string within him, and her very breath could
sound it.

His feeling about the child had been negative from her birth. He had
never conceived an aversion to her: it had not been worth his while or
in his humour. She had never been a positively disagreeable object to
him. But now he was ill at ease about her. She troubled his peace. He
would have preferred to put her idea aside altogether, if he had known
how. Perhaps--who shall decide on such mysteries!--he was afraid that he
might come to hate her.

When little Florence timidly presented herself, Mr Dombey stopped in his
pacing up and down and looked towards her. Had he looked with greater
interest and with a father’s eye, he might have read in her keen glance
the impulses and fears that made her waver; the passionate desire to run
clinging to him, crying, as she hid her face in his embrace, ‘Oh father,
try to love me! there’s no one else!’ the dread of a repulse; the fear
of being too bold, and of offending him; the pitiable need in which she
stood of some assurance and encouragement; and how her overcharged young
heart was wandering to find some natural resting-place, for its sorrow
and affection.

But he saw nothing of this. He saw her pause irresolutely at the door
and look towards him; and he saw no more.

‘Come in,’ he said, ‘come in: what is the child afraid of?’

She came in; and after glancing round her for a moment with an uncertain
air, stood pressing her small hands hard together, close within the

‘Come here, Florence,’ said her father, coldly. ‘Do you know who I am?’

‘Yes, Papa.’

‘Have you nothing to say to me?’

The tears that stood in her eyes as she raised them quickly to his face,
were frozen by the expression it wore. She looked down again, and put
out her trembling hand.

Mr Dombey took it loosely in his own, and stood looking down upon her
for a moment, as if he knew as little as the child, what to say or do.

‘There! Be a good girl,’ he said, patting her on the head, and regarding
her as it were by stealth with a disturbed and doubtful look. ‘Go to
Richards! Go!’

His little daughter hesitated for another instant as though she would
have clung about him still, or had some lingering hope that he might
raise her in his arms and kiss her. She looked up in his face once more.
He thought how like her expression was then, to what it had been when
she looked round at the Doctor--that night--and instinctively dropped
her hand and turned away.

It was not difficult to perceive that Florence was at a great
disadvantage in her father’s presence. It was not only a constraint upon
the child’s mind, but even upon the natural grace and freedom of her
actions. As she sported and played about her baby brother that night,
her manner was seldom so winning and so pretty as it naturally was,
and sometimes when in his pacing to and fro, he came near her (she had,
perhaps, for the moment, forgotten him) it changed upon the instant and
became forced and embarrassed.

Still, Polly persevered with all the better heart for seeing this; and,
judging of Mr Dombey by herself, had great confidence in the mute appeal
of poor little Florence’s mourning dress. ‘It’s hard indeed,’ thought
Polly, ‘if he takes only to one little motherless child, when he has
another, and that a girl, before his eyes.’

So, Polly kept her before his eyes, as long as she could, and managed
so well with little Paul, as to make it very plain that he was all the
livelier for his sister’s company. When it was time to withdraw
upstairs again, she would have sent Florence into the inner room to say
good-night to her father, but the child was timid and drew back; and
when she urged her again, said, spreading her hands before her eyes, as
if to shut out her own unworthiness, ‘Oh no, no! He don’t want me. He
don’t want me!’

The little altercation between them had attracted the notice of Mr
Dombey, who inquired from the table where he was sitting at his wine,
what the matter was.

‘Miss Florence was afraid of interrupting, Sir, if she came in to say
good-night,’ said Richards.

‘It doesn’t matter,’ returned Mr Dombey. ‘You can let her come and go
without regarding me.’

The child shrunk as she listened--and was gone, before her humble friend
looked round again.

However, Polly triumphed not a little in the success of her
well-intentioned scheme, and in the address with which she had brought
it to bear: whereof she made a full disclosure to Spitfire when she was
once more safely entrenched upstairs. Miss Nipper received that proof
of her confidence, as well as the prospect of their free association
for the future, rather coldly, and was anything but enthusiastic in her
demonstrations of joy.

‘I thought you would have been pleased,’ said Polly.

‘Oh yes, Mrs Richards, I’m very well pleased, thank you,’ returned
Susan, who had suddenly become so very upright that she seemed to have
put an additional bone in her stays.

‘You don’t show it,’ said Polly.

‘Oh! Being only a permanency I couldn’t be expected to show it like a
temporary,’ said Susan Nipper. ‘Temporaries carries it all before ‘em
here, I find, but though there’s a excellent party-wall between this
house and the next, I mayn’t exactly like to go to it, Mrs Richards,

CHAPTER 4. In which some more First Appearances are made on the Stage of
these Adventures

Though the offices of Dombey and Son were within the liberties of the
City of London, and within hearing of Bow Bells, when their clashing
voices were not drowned by the uproar in the streets, yet were there
hints of adventurous and romantic story to be observed in some of the
adjacent objects. Gog and Magog held their state within ten minutes’
walk; the Royal Exchange was close at hand; the Bank of England, with
its vaults of gold and silver ‘down among the dead men’ underground, was
their magnificent neighbour. Just round the corner stood the rich East
India House, teeming with suggestions of precious stuffs and stones,
tigers, elephants, howdahs, hookahs, umbrellas, palm trees, palanquins,
and gorgeous princes of a brown complexion sitting on carpets, with
their slippers very much turned up at the toes. Anywhere in the
immediate vicinity there might be seen pictures of ships speeding away
full sail to all parts of the world; outfitting warehouses ready to pack
off anybody anywhere, fully equipped in half an hour; and little timber
midshipmen in obsolete naval uniforms, eternally employed outside the
shop doors of nautical Instrument-makers in taking observations of the
hackney carriages.

Sole master and proprietor of one of these effigies--of that which might
be called, familiarly, the woodenest--of that which thrust itself
out above the pavement, right leg foremost, with a suavity the least
endurable, and had the shoe buckles and flapped waistcoat the least
reconcileable to human reason, and bore at its right eye the most
offensively disproportionate piece of machinery--sole master and
proprietor of that Midshipman, and proud of him too, an elderly
gentleman in a Welsh wig had paid house-rent, taxes, rates, and dues,
for more years than many a full-grown midshipman of flesh and blood has
numbered in his life; and midshipmen who have attained a pretty green
old age, have not been wanting in the English Navy.

The stock-in-trade of this old gentleman comprised chronometers,
barometers, telescopes, compasses, charts, maps, sextants, quadrants,
and specimens of every kind of instrument used in the working of a
ship’s course, or the keeping of a ship’s reckoning, or the prosecuting
of a ship’s discoveries. Objects in brass and glass were in his drawers
and on his shelves, which none but the initiated could have found the
top of, or guessed the use of, or having once examined, could have ever
got back again into their mahogany nests without assistance. Everything
was jammed into the tightest cases, fitted into the narrowest corners,
fenced up behind the most impertinent cushions, and screwed into the
acutest angles, to prevent its philosophical composure from being
disturbed by the rolling of the sea. Such extraordinary precautions were
taken in every instance to save room, and keep the thing compact; and
so much practical navigation was fitted, and cushioned, and screwed into
every box (whether the box was a mere slab, as some were, or something
between a cocked hat and a star-fish, as others were, and those quite
mild and modest boxes as compared with others); that the shop itself,
partaking of the general infection, seemed almost to become a snug,
sea-going, ship-shape concern, wanting only good sea-room, in the event
of an unexpected launch, to work its way securely to any desert island
in the world.

Many minor incidents in the household life of the Ships’
Instrument-maker who was proud of his little Midshipman, assisted and
bore out this fancy. His acquaintance lying chiefly among ship-chandlers
and so forth, he had always plenty of the veritable ships’ biscuit on
his table. It was familiar with dried meats and tongues, possessing an
extraordinary flavour of rope yarn. Pickles were produced upon it, in
great wholesale jars, with ‘dealer in all kinds of Ships’ Provisions’ on
the label; spirits were set forth in case bottles with no throats. Old
prints of ships with alphabetical references to their various mysteries,
hung in frames upon the walls; the Tartar Frigate under weigh, was
on the plates; outlandish shells, seaweeds, and mosses, decorated the
chimney-piece; the little wainscotted back parlour was lighted by a
sky-light, like a cabin.

Here he lived too, in skipper-like state, all alone with his nephew
Walter: a boy of fourteen who looked quite enough like a midshipman,
to carry out the prevailing idea. But there it ended, for Solomon Gills
himself (more generally called old Sol) was far from having a maritime
appearance. To say nothing of his Welsh wig, which was as plain and
stubborn a Welsh wig as ever was worn, and in which he looked like
anything but a Rover, he was a slow, quiet-spoken, thoughtful old
fellow, with eyes as red as if they had been small suns looking at
you through a fog; and a newly-awakened manner, such as he might have
acquired by having stared for three or four days successively through
every optical instrument in his shop, and suddenly came back to the
world again, to find it green. The only change ever known in his outward
man, was from a complete suit of coffee-colour cut very square, and
ornamented with glaring buttons, to the same suit of coffee-colour minus
the inexpressibles, which were then of a pale nankeen. He wore a very
precise shirt-frill, and carried a pair of first-rate spectacles on his
forehead, and a tremendous chronometer in his fob, rather than doubt
which precious possession, he would have believed in a conspiracy
against it on part of all the clocks and watches in the City, and even
of the very Sun itself. Such as he was, such he had been in the shop
and parlour behind the little Midshipman, for years upon years; going
regularly aloft to bed every night in a howling garret remote from the
lodgers, where, when gentlemen of England who lived below at ease had
little or no idea of the state of the weather, it often blew great guns.

It is half-past five o’clock, and an autumn afternoon, when the reader
and Solomon Gills become acquainted. Solomon Gills is in the act of
seeing what time it is by the unimpeachable chronometer. The usual daily
clearance has been making in the City for an hour or more; and the human
tide is still rolling westward. ‘The streets have thinned,’ as Mr
Gills says, ‘very much.’ It threatens to be wet to-night. All the
weatherglasses in the shop are in low spirits, and the rain already
shines upon the cocked hat of the wooden Midshipman.

‘Where’s Walter, I wonder!’ said Solomon Gills, after he had carefully
put up the chronometer again. ‘Here’s dinner been ready, half an hour,
and no Walter!’

Turning round upon his stool behind the counter, Mr Gills looked out
among the instruments in the window, to see if his nephew might be
crossing the road. No. He was not among the bobbing umbrellas, and he
certainly was not the newspaper boy in the oilskin cap who was slowly
working his way along the piece of brass outside, writing his name over
Mr Gills’s name with his forefinger.

‘If I didn’t know he was too fond of me to make a run of it, and go
and enter himself aboard ship against my wishes, I should begin to be
fidgetty,’ said Mr Gills, tapping two or three weather-glasses with
his knuckles. ‘I really should. All in the Downs, eh! Lots of moisture!
Well! it’s wanted.’

‘I believe,’ said Mr Gills, blowing the dust off the glass top of a
compass-case, ‘that you don’t point more direct and due to the back
parlour than the boy’s inclination does after all. And the parlour
couldn’t bear straighter either. Due north. Not the twentieth part of a
point either way.’

‘Halloa, Uncle Sol!’

‘Halloa, my boy!’ cried the Instrument-maker, turning briskly round.
‘What! you are here, are you?’

A cheerful looking, merry boy, fresh with running home in the rain;
fair-faced, bright-eyed, and curly-haired.

‘Well, Uncle, how have you got on without me all day? Is dinner ready?
I’m so hungry.’

‘As to getting on,’ said Solomon good-naturedly, ‘it would be odd if I
couldn’t get on without a young dog like you a great deal better than
with you. As to dinner being ready, it’s been ready this half hour and
waiting for you. As to being hungry, I am!’

‘Come along then, Uncle!’ cried the boy. ‘Hurrah for the admiral!’

‘Confound the admiral!’ returned Solomon Gills. ‘You mean the Lord

‘No I don’t!’ cried the boy. ‘Hurrah for the admiral! Hurrah for the
admiral! For-ward!’

At this word of command, the Welsh wig and its wearer were borne without
resistance into the back parlour, as at the head of a boarding party of
five hundred men; and Uncle Sol and his nephew were speedily engaged on
a fried sole with a prospect of steak to follow.

‘The Lord Mayor, Wally,’ said Solomon, ‘for ever! No more admirals. The
Lord Mayor’s your admiral.’

‘Oh, is he though!’ said the boy, shaking his head. ‘Why, the Sword
Bearer’s better than him. He draws his sword sometimes.’

‘And a pretty figure he cuts with it for his pains,’ returned the Uncle.
‘Listen to me, Wally, listen to me. Look on the mantelshelf.’

‘Why who has cocked my silver mug up there, on a nail?’ exclaimed the

‘I have,’ said his Uncle. ‘No more mugs now. We must begin to drink out
of glasses to-day, Walter. We are men of business. We belong to the
City. We started in life this morning.’

‘Well, Uncle,’ said the boy, ‘I’ll drink out of anything you like, so
long as I can drink to you. Here’s to you, Uncle Sol, and Hurrah for

‘Lord Mayor,’ interrupted the old man.

‘For the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, Common Council, and Livery,’ said the
boy. ‘Long life to ‘em!’

The uncle nodded his head with great satisfaction. ‘And now,’ he said,
‘let’s hear something about the Firm.’

‘Oh! there’s not much to be told about the Firm, Uncle,’ said the boy,
plying his knife and fork. ‘It’s a precious dark set of offices, and in
the room where I sit, there’s a high fender, and an iron safe, and some
cards about ships that are going to sail, and an almanack, and some
desks and stools, and an inkbottle, and some books, and some boxes, and
a lot of cobwebs, and in one of ‘em, just over my head, a shrivelled-up
blue-bottle that looks as if it had hung there ever so long.’

‘Nothing else?’ said the Uncle.

‘No, nothing else, except an old birdcage (I wonder how that ever came
there!) and a coal-scuttle.’

‘No bankers’ books, or cheque books, or bills, or such tokens of wealth
rolling in from day to day?’ said old Sol, looking wistfully at his
nephew out of the fog that always seemed to hang about him, and laying
an unctuous emphasis upon the words.

‘Oh yes, plenty of that I suppose,’ returned his nephew carelessly;
‘but all that sort of thing’s in Mr Carker’s room, or Mr Morfin’s, or Mr

‘Has Mr Dombey been there to-day?’ inquired the Uncle.

‘Oh yes! In and out all day.’

‘He didn’t take any notice of you, I suppose?’.

‘Yes he did. He walked up to my seat,--I wish he wasn’t so solemn and
stiff, Uncle,--and said, “Oh! you are the son of Mr Gills the Ships’
Instrument-maker.” “Nephew, Sir,” I said. “I said nephew, boy,” said he.
But I could take my oath he said son, Uncle.’

‘You’re mistaken I daresay. It’s no matter.’

‘No, it’s no matter, but he needn’t have been so sharp, I thought. There
was no harm in it though he did say son. Then he told me that you had
spoken to him about me, and that he had found me employment in the House
accordingly, and that I was expected to be attentive and punctual, and
then he went away. I thought he didn’t seem to like me much.’

‘You mean, I suppose,’ observed the Instrument-maker, ‘that you didn’t
seem to like him much?’

‘Well, Uncle,’ returned the boy, laughing. ‘Perhaps so; I never thought
of that.’

Solomon looked a little graver as he finished his dinner, and glanced
from time to time at the boy’s bright face. When dinner was done, and
the cloth was cleared away (the entertainment had been brought from a
neighbouring eating-house), he lighted a candle, and went down
below into a little cellar, while his nephew, standing on the mouldy
staircase, dutifully held the light. After a moment’s groping here and
there, he presently returned with a very ancient-looking bottle, covered
with dust and dirt.

‘Why, Uncle Sol!’ said the boy, ‘what are you about? that’s the
wonderful Madeira!--there’s only one more bottle!’

Uncle Sol nodded his head, implying that he knew very well what he was
about; and having drawn the cork in solemn silence, filled two glasses
and set the bottle and a third clean glass on the table.

‘You shall drink the other bottle, Wally,’ he said, ‘when you come to
good fortune; when you are a thriving, respected, happy man; when the
start in life you have made to-day shall have brought you, as I pray
Heaven it may!--to a smooth part of the course you have to run, my
child. My love to you!’

Some of the fog that hung about old Sol seemed to have got into his
throat; for he spoke huskily. His hand shook too, as he clinked his
glass against his nephew’s. But having once got the wine to his lips, he
tossed it off like a man, and smacked them afterwards.

‘Dear Uncle,’ said the boy, affecting to make light of it, while the
tears stood in his eyes, ‘for the honour you have done me, et cetera,
et cetera. I shall now beg to propose Mr Solomon Gills with three times
three and one cheer more. Hurrah! and you’ll return thanks, Uncle, when
we drink the last bottle together; won’t you?’

They clinked their glasses again; and Walter, who was hoarding his wine,
took a sip of it, and held the glass up to his eye with as critical an
air as he could possibly assume.

His Uncle sat looking at him for some time in silence. When their eyes
at last met, he began at once to pursue the theme that had occupied his
thoughts, aloud, as if he had been speaking all the time.

‘You see, Walter,’ he said, ‘in truth this business is merely a habit
with me. I am so accustomed to the habit that I could hardly live if
I relinquished it: but there’s nothing doing, nothing doing. When that
uniform was worn,’ pointing out towards the little Midshipman, ‘then
indeed, fortunes were to be made, and were made. But competition,
competition--new invention, new invention--alteration, alteration--the
world’s gone past me. I hardly know where I am myself, much less where
my customers are.’

‘Never mind ‘em, Uncle!’

‘Since you came home from weekly boarding-school at Peckham, for
instance--and that’s ten days,’ said Solomon, ‘I don’t remember more
than one person that has come into the shop.’

‘Two, Uncle, don’t you recollect? There was the man who came to ask for
change for a sovereign--’

‘That’s the one,’ said Solomon.

‘Why Uncle! don’t you call the woman anybody, who came to ask the way to
Mile-End Turnpike?’

‘Oh! it’s true,’ said Solomon, ‘I forgot her. Two persons.’

‘To be sure, they didn’t buy anything,’ cried the boy.

‘No. They didn’t buy anything,’ said Solomon, quietly.

‘Nor want anything,’ cried the boy.

‘No. If they had, they’d gone to another shop,’ said Solomon, in the
same tone.

‘But there were two of ‘em, Uncle,’ cried the boy, as if that were a
great triumph. ‘You said only one.’

‘Well, Wally,’ resumed the old man, after a short pause: ‘not being like
the Savages who came on Robinson Crusoe’s Island, we can’t live on a man
who asks for change for a sovereign, and a woman who inquires the way
to Mile-End Turnpike. As I said just now, the world has gone past me.
I don’t blame it; but I no longer understand it. Tradesmen are not the
same as they used to be, apprentices are not the same, business is not
the same, business commodities are not the same. Seven-eighths of my
stock is old-fashioned. I am an old-fashioned man in an old-fashioned
shop, in a street that is not the same as I remember it. I have fallen
behind the time, and am too old to catch it again. Even the noise it
makes a long way ahead, confuses me.’

Walter was going to speak, but his Uncle held up his hand.

‘Therefore, Wally--therefore it is that I am anxious you should be early
in the busy world, and on the world’s track. I am only the ghost of this
business--its substance vanished long ago; and when I die, its ghost
will be laid. As it is clearly no inheritance for you then, I have
thought it best to use for your advantage, almost the only fragment of
the old connexion that stands by me, through long habit. Some people
suppose me to be wealthy. I wish for your sake they were right. But
whatever I leave behind me, or whatever I can give you, you in such a
House as Dombey’s are in the road to use well and make the most of. Be
diligent, try to like it, my dear boy, work for a steady independence,
and be happy!’

‘I’ll do everything I can, Uncle, to deserve your affection. Indeed I
will,’ said the boy, earnestly.

‘I know it,’ said Solomon. ‘I am sure of it,’ and he applied himself
to a second glass of the old Madeira, with increased relish. ‘As to the
Sea,’ he pursued, ‘that’s well enough in fiction, Wally, but it won’t do
in fact: it won’t do at all. It’s natural enough that you should think
about it, associating it with all these familiar things; but it won’t
do, it won’t do.’

Solomon Gills rubbed his hands with an air of stealthy enjoyment, as he
talked of the sea, though; and looked on the seafaring objects about him
with inexpressible complacency.

‘Think of this wine for instance,’ said old Sol, ‘which has been to the
East Indies and back, I’m not able to say how often, and has been once
round the world. Think of the pitch-dark nights, the roaring winds, and
rolling seas:’

‘The thunder, lightning, rain, hail, storm of all kinds,’ said the boy.

‘To be sure,’ said Solomon,--‘that this wine has passed through. Think
what a straining and creaking of timbers and masts: what a whistling and
howling of the gale through ropes and rigging:’

‘What a clambering aloft of men, vying with each other who shall lie
out first upon the yards to furl the icy sails, while the ship rolls and
pitches, like mad!’ cried his nephew.

‘Exactly so,’ said Solomon: ‘has gone on, over the old cask that held
this wine. Why, when the Charming Sally went down in the--’

‘In the Baltic Sea, in the dead of night; five-and-twenty minutes past
twelve when the captain’s watch stopped in his pocket; he lying
dead against the main-mast--on the fourteenth of February, seventeen
forty-nine!’ cried Walter, with great animation.

‘Ay, to be sure!’ cried old Sol, ‘quite right! Then, there were five
hundred casks of such wine aboard; and all hands (except the first mate,
first lieutenant, two seamen, and a lady, in a leaky boat) going to work
to stave the casks, got drunk and died drunk, singing “Rule Britannia”,
when she settled and went down, and ending with one awful scream in

‘But when the George the Second drove ashore, Uncle, on the coast of
Cornwall, in a dismal gale, two hours before daybreak, on the fourth
of March, ‘seventy-one, she had near two hundred horses aboard; and the
horses breaking loose down below, early in the gale, and tearing to and
fro, and trampling each other to death, made such noises, and set up
such human cries, that the crew believing the ship to be full of devils,
some of the best men, losing heart and head, went overboard in despair,
and only two were left alive, at last, to tell the tale.’

‘And when,’ said old Sol, ‘when the Polyphemus--’

‘Private West India Trader, burden three hundred and fifty tons,
Captain, John Brown of Deptford. Owners, Wiggs and Co.,’ cried Walter.

‘The same,’ said Sol; ‘when she took fire, four days’ sail with a fair
wind out of Jamaica Harbour, in the night--’

‘There were two brothers on board,’ interposed his nephew, speaking very
fast and loud, ‘and there not being room for both of them in the only
boat that wasn’t swamped, neither of them would consent to go, until
the elder took the younger by the waist, and flung him in. And then
the younger, rising in the boat, cried out, “Dear Edward, think of your
promised wife at home. I’m only a boy. No one waits at home for me. Leap
down into my place!” and flung himself in the sea!’

The kindling eye and heightened colour of the boy, who had risen from
his seat in the earnestness of what he said and felt, seemed to remind
old Sol of something he had forgotten, or that his encircling mist had
hitherto shut out. Instead of proceeding with any more anecdotes, as he
had evidently intended but a moment before, he gave a short dry cough,
and said, ‘Well! suppose we change the subject.’

The truth was, that the simple-minded Uncle in his secret attraction
towards the marvellous and adventurous--of which he was, in some sort,
a distant relation, by his trade--had greatly encouraged the same
attraction in the nephew; and that everything that had ever been put
before the boy to deter him from a life of adventure, had had the usual
unaccountable effect of sharpening his taste for it. This is invariable.
It would seem as if there never was a book written, or a story told,
expressly with the object of keeping boys on shore, which did not lure
and charm them to the ocean, as a matter of course.

But an addition to the little party now made its appearance, in the
shape of a gentleman in a wide suit of blue, with a hook instead of a
hand attached to his right wrist; very bushy black eyebrows; and a thick
stick in his left hand, covered all over (like his nose) with knobs.
He wore a loose black silk handkerchief round his neck, and such a very
large coarse shirt collar, that it looked like a small sail. He was
evidently the person for whom the spare wine-glass was intended, and
evidently knew it; for having taken off his rough outer coat, and hung
up, on a particular peg behind the door, such a hard glazed hat as a
sympathetic person’s head might ache at the sight of, and which left a
red rim round his own forehead as if he had been wearing a tight basin,
he brought a chair to where the clean glass was, and sat himself down
behind it. He was usually addressed as Captain, this visitor; and had
been a pilot, or a skipper, or a privateersman, or all three perhaps;
and was a very salt-looking man indeed.

His face, remarkable for a brown solidity, brightened as he shook hands
with Uncle and nephew; but he seemed to be of a laconic disposition, and
merely said:

‘How goes it?’

‘All well,’ said Mr Gills, pushing the bottle towards him.

He took it up, and having surveyed and smelt it, said with extraordinary


‘The,’ returned the Instrument-maker.

Upon that he whistled as he filled his glass, and seemed to think they
were making holiday indeed.

‘Wal’r!’ he said, arranging his hair (which was thin) with his hook, and
then pointing it at the Instrument-maker, ‘Look at him! Love! Honour!
And Obey! Overhaul your catechism till you find that passage, and when
found turn the leaf down. Success, my boy!’

He was so perfectly satisfied both with his quotation and his reference
to it, that he could not help repeating the words again in a low voice,
and saying he had forgotten ‘em these forty year.

‘But I never wanted two or three words in my life that I didn’t know
where to lay my hand upon ‘em, Gills,’ he observed. ‘It comes of not
wasting language as some do.’

The reflection perhaps reminded him that he had better, like young
Norval’s father, “increase his store.” At any rate he became silent, and
remained so, until old Sol went out into the shop to light it up, when
he turned to Walter, and said, without any introductory remark:--

‘I suppose he could make a clock if he tried?’

‘I shouldn’t wonder, Captain Cuttle,’ returned the boy.

‘And it would go!’ said Captain Cuttle, making a species of serpent in
the air with his hook. ‘Lord, how that clock would go!’

For a moment or two he seemed quite lost in contemplating the pace of
this ideal timepiece, and sat looking at the boy as if his face were the

‘But he’s chock-full of science,’ he observed, waving his hook towards
the stock-in-trade. ‘Look’ye here! Here’s a collection of ‘em. Earth,
air, or water. It’s all one. Only say where you’ll have it. Up in a
balloon?  There you are. Down in a bell? There you are. D’ye want to put
the North Star in a pair of scales and weigh it? He’ll do it for you.’

It may be gathered from these remarks that Captain Cuttle’s reverence
for the stock of instruments was profound, and that his philosophy knew
little or no distinction between trading in it and inventing it.

‘Ah!’ he said, with a sigh, ‘it’s a fine thing to understand ‘em. And
yet it’s a fine thing not to understand ‘em. I hardly know which
is best. It’s so comfortable to sit here and feel that you might be
weighed, measured, magnified, electrified, polarized, played the very
devil with: and never know how.’

Nothing short of the wonderful Madeira, combined with the occasion
(which rendered it desirable to improve and expand Walter’s mind), could
have ever loosened his tongue to the extent of giving utterance to this
prodigious oration. He seemed quite amazed himself at the manner in
which it opened up to view the sources of the taciturn delight he had
had in eating Sunday dinners in that parlour for ten years. Becoming a
sadder and a wiser man, he mused and held his peace.

‘Come!’ cried the subject of this admiration, returning. ‘Before you
have your glass of grog, Ned, we must finish the bottle.’

‘Stand by!’ said Ned, filling his glass. ‘Give the boy some more.’

‘No more, thank’e, Uncle!’

‘Yes, yes,’ said Sol, ‘a little more. We’ll finish the bottle, to the
House, Ned--Walter’s House. Why it may be his House one of these
days, in part. Who knows? Sir Richard Whittington married his master’s

‘“Turn again Whittington, Lord Mayor of London, and when you are old you
will never depart from it,”’ interposed the Captain. ‘Wal’r! Overhaul
the book, my lad.’

‘And although Mr Dombey hasn’t a daughter,’ Sol began.

‘Yes, yes, he has, Uncle,’ said the boy, reddening and laughing.

‘Has he?’ cried the old man. ‘Indeed I think he has too.’

‘Oh! I know he has,’ said the boy. ‘Some of ‘em were talking about it in
the office today. And they do say, Uncle and Captain Cuttle,’ lowering
his voice, ‘that he’s taken a dislike to her, and that she’s left,
unnoticed, among the servants, and that his mind’s so set all the while
upon having his son in the House, that although he’s only a baby now,
he is going to have balances struck oftener than formerly, and the
books kept closer than they used to be, and has even been seen (when
he thought he wasn’t) walking in the Docks, looking at his ships and
property and all that, as if he was exulting like, over what he and
his son will possess together. That’s what they say. Of course, I don’t

‘He knows all about her already, you see,’ said the instrument-maker.

‘Nonsense, Uncle,’ cried the boy, still reddening and laughing,
boy-like. ‘How can I help hearing what they tell me?’

‘The son’s a little in our way at present, I’m afraid, Ned,’ said the
old man, humouring the joke.

‘Very much,’ said the Captain.

‘Nevertheless, we’ll drink him,’ pursued Sol. ‘So, here’s to Dombey and

‘Oh, very well, Uncle,’ said the boy, merrily. ‘Since you have
introduced the mention of her, and have connected me with her and have
said that I know all about her, I shall make bold to amend the toast. So
here’s to Dombey--and Son--and Daughter!’

CHAPTER 5. Paul’s Progress and Christening

Little Paul, suffering no contamination from the blood of the Toodles,
grew stouter and stronger every day. Every day, too, he was more
and more ardently cherished by Miss Tox, whose devotion was so far
appreciated by Mr Dombey that he began to regard her as a woman of
great natural good sense, whose feelings did her credit and deserved
encouragement. He was so lavish of this condescension, that he not only
bowed to her, in a particular manner, on several occasions, but even
entrusted such stately recognitions of her to his sister as ‘pray tell
your friend, Louisa, that she is very good,’ or ‘mention to Miss
Tox, Louisa, that I am obliged to her;’ specialities which made a deep
impression on the lady thus distinguished.

Whether Miss Tox conceived that having been selected by the Fates
to welcome the little Dombey before he was born, in Kirby, Beard and
Kirby’s Best Mixed Pins, it therefore naturally devolved upon her to
greet him with all other forms of welcome in all other early stages
of his existence--or whether her overflowing goodness induced her to
volunteer into the domestic militia as a substitute in some sort for his
deceased Mama--or whether she was conscious of any other motives--are
questions which in this stage of the Firm’s history herself only could
have solved. Nor have they much bearing on the fact (of which there
is no doubt), that Miss Tox’s constancy and zeal were a heavy
discouragement to Richards, who lost flesh hourly under her patronage,
and was in some danger of being superintended to death.

Miss Tox was often in the habit of assuring Mrs Chick, that nothing
could exceed her interest in all connected with the development of
that sweet child; and an observer of Miss Tox’s proceedings might have
inferred so much without declaratory confirmation. She would
preside over the innocent repasts of the young heir, with ineffable
satisfaction, almost with an air of joint proprietorship with Richards
in the entertainment. At the little ceremonies of the bath and toilette,
she assisted with enthusiasm. The administration of infantine doses of
physic awakened all the active sympathy of her character; and being on
one occasion secreted in a cupboard (whither she had fled in modesty),
when Mr Dombey was introduced into the nursery by his sister, to behold
his son, in the course of preparation for bed, taking a short walk
uphill over Richards’s gown, in a short and airy linen jacket, Miss
Tox was so transported beyond the ignorant present as to be unable to
refrain from crying out, ‘Is he not beautiful Mr Dombey! Is he not
a Cupid, Sir!’ and then almost sinking behind the closet door with
confusion and blushes.

‘Louisa,’ said Mr Dombey, one day, to his sister, ‘I really think I must
present your friend with some little token, on the occasion of Paul’s
christening. She has exerted herself so warmly in the child’s behalf
from the first, and seems to understand her position so thoroughly (a
very rare merit in this world, I am sorry to say), that it would really
be agreeable to me to notice her.’

Let it be no detraction from the merits of Miss Tox, to hint that in Mr
Dombey’s eyes, as in some others that occasionally see the light, they
only achieved that mighty piece of knowledge, the understanding of their
own position, who showed a fitting reverence for his. It was not so much
their merit that they knew themselves, as that they knew him, and bowed
low before him.

‘My dear Paul,’ returned his sister, ‘you do Miss Tox but justice, as a
man of your penetration was sure, I knew, to do. I believe if there
are three words in the English language for which she has a respect
amounting almost to veneration, those words are, Dombey and Son.’

‘Well,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘I believe it. It does Miss Tox credit.’

‘And as to anything in the shape of a token, my dear Paul,’ pursued
his sister, ‘all I can say is that anything you give Miss Tox will be
hoarded and prized, I am sure, like a relic. But there is a way, my dear
Paul, of showing your sense of Miss Tox’s friendliness in a still more
flattering and acceptable manner, if you should be so inclined.’

‘How is that?’ asked Mr Dombey.

‘Godfathers, of course,’ continued Mrs Chick, ‘are important in point of
connexion and influence.’

‘I don’t know why they should be, to my son,’ said Mr Dombey, coldly.

‘Very true, my dear Paul,’ retorted Mrs Chick, with an extraordinary
show of animation, to cover the suddenness of her conversion; ‘and
spoken like yourself. I might have expected nothing else from you. I
might have known that such would have been your opinion. Perhaps;’ here
Mrs Chick faltered again, as not quite comfortably feeling her way;
‘perhaps that is a reason why you might have the less objection to
allowing Miss Tox to be godmother to the dear thing, if it were only as
deputy and proxy for someone else. That it would be received as a great
honour and distinction, Paul, I need not say.’

‘Louisa,’ said Mr Dombey, after a short pause, ‘it is not to be

‘Certainly not,’ cried Mrs Chick, hastening to anticipate a refusal, ‘I
never thought it was.’

Mr Dombey looked at her impatiently.

‘Don’t flurry me, my dear Paul,’ said his sister; ‘for that destroys
me. I am far from strong. I have not been quite myself, since poor dear
Fanny departed.’

Mr Dombey glanced at the pocket-handkerchief which his sister applied to
her eyes, and resumed:

‘It is not be supposed, I say--’

‘And I say,’ murmured Mrs Chick, ‘that I never thought it was.’

‘Good Heaven, Louisa!’ said Mr Dombey.

‘No, my dear Paul,’ she remonstrated with tearful dignity, ‘I must
really be allowed to speak. I am not so clever, or so reasoning, or so
eloquent, or so anything, as you are. I know that very well. So much the
worse for me. But if they were the last words I had to utter--and
last words should be very solemn to you and me, Paul, after poor dear
Fanny--I would still say I never thought it was. And what is more,’
added Mrs Chick with increased dignity, as if she had withheld her
crushing argument until now, ‘I never did think it was.’

Mr Dombey walked to the window and back again.

‘It is not to be supposed, Louisa,’ he said (Mrs Chick had nailed her
colours to the mast, and repeated ‘I know it isn’t,’ but he took no
notice of it), ‘but that there are many persons who, supposing that
I recognised any claim at all in such a case, have a claim upon me
superior to Miss Tox’s. But I do not. I recognise no such thing. Paul
and myself will be able, when the time comes, to hold our own--the
House, in other words, will be able to hold its own, and maintain its
own, and hand down its own of itself, and without any such common-place
aids. The kind of foreign help which people usually seek for their
children, I can afford to despise; being above it, I hope. So that
Paul’s infancy and childhood pass away well, and I see him becoming
qualified without waste of time for the career on which he is destined
to enter, I am satisfied. He will make what powerful friends he pleases
in after-life, when he is actively maintaining--and extending, if that
is possible--the dignity and credit of the Firm. Until then, I am enough
for him, perhaps, and all in all. I have no wish that people should step
in between us. I would much rather show my sense of the obliging conduct
of a deserving person like your friend. Therefore let it be so; and
your husband and myself will do well enough for the other sponsors, I

In the course of these remarks, delivered with great majesty and
grandeur, Mr Dombey had truly revealed the secret feelings of his
breast. An indescribable distrust of anybody stepping in between himself
and his son; a haughty dread of having any rival or partner in the boy’s
respect and deference; a sharp misgiving, recently acquired, that he was
not infallible in his power of bending and binding human wills; as sharp
a jealousy of any second check or cross; these were, at that time the
master keys of his soul. In all his life, he had never made a friend.
His cold and distant nature had neither sought one, nor found one. And
now, when that nature concentrated its whole force so strongly on a
partial scheme of parental interest and ambition, it seemed as if its
icy current, instead of being released by this influence, and running
clear and free, had thawed for but an instant to admit its burden, and
then frozen with it into one unyielding block.

Elevated thus to the godmothership of little Paul, in virtue of her
insignificance, Miss Tox was from that hour chosen and appointed to
office; and Mr Dombey further signified his pleasure that the ceremony,
already long delayed, should take place without further postponement.
His sister, who had been far from anticipating so signal a success,
withdrew as soon as she could, to communicate it to her best of friends;
and Mr Dombey was left alone in his library. He had already laid his
hand upon the bellrope to convey his usual summons to Richards, when his
eye fell upon a writing-desk, belonging to his deceased wife, which had
been taken, among other things, from a cabinet in her chamber. It was
not the first time that his eye had lighted on it He carried the key
in his pocket; and he brought it to his table and opened it now--having
previously locked the room door--with a well-accustomed hand.

From beneath a leaf of torn and cancelled scraps of paper, he took one
letter that remained entire. Involuntarily holding his breath as he
opened this document, and ‘bating in the stealthy action something of
his arrogant demeanour, he sat down, resting his head upon one hand,
and read it through.

He read it slowly and attentively, and with a nice particularity
to every syllable. Otherwise than as his great deliberation seemed
unnatural, and perhaps the result of an effort equally great, he allowed
no sign of emotion to escape him. When he had read it through, he
folded and refolded it slowly several times, and tore it carefully into
fragments. Checking his hand in the act of throwing these away, he put
them in his pocket, as if unwilling to trust them even to the chances
of being re-united and deciphered; and instead of ringing, as usual, for
little Paul, he sat solitary, all the evening, in his cheerless room.

There was anything but solitude in the nursery; for there, Mrs Chick and
Miss Tox were enjoying a social evening, so much to the disgust of Miss
Susan Nipper, that that young lady embraced every opportunity of making
wry faces behind the door. Her feelings were so much excited on the
occasion, that she found it indispensable to afford them this relief,
even without having the comfort of any audience or sympathy whatever.
As the knight-errants of old relieved their minds by carving their
mistress’s names in deserts, and wildernesses, and other savage places
where there was no probability of there ever being anybody to read them,
so did Miss Susan Nipper curl her snub nose into drawers and wardrobes,
put away winks of disparagement in cupboards, shed derisive squints into
stone pitchers, and contradict and call names out in the passage.

The two interlopers, however, blissfully unconscious of the young lady’s
sentiments, saw little Paul safe through all the stages of undressing,
airy exercise, supper and bed; and then sat down to tea before the fire.
The two children now lay, through the good offices of Polly, in
one room; and it was not until the ladies were established at their
tea-table that, happening to look towards the little beds, they thought
of Florence.

‘How sound she sleeps!’ said Miss Tox.

‘Why, you know, my dear, she takes a great deal of exercise in the
course of the day,’ returned Mrs Chick, ‘playing about little Paul so

‘She is a curious child,’ said Miss Tox.

‘My dear,’ retorted Mrs Chick, in a low voice: ‘Her Mama, all over!’

‘In-deed!’ said Miss Tox. ‘Ah dear me!’

A tone of most extraordinary compassion Miss Tox said it in, though she
had no distinct idea why, except that it was expected of her.

‘Florence will never, never, never be a Dombey,’ said Mrs Chick, ‘not if
she lives to be a thousand years old.’

Miss Tox elevated her eyebrows, and was again full of commiseration.

‘I quite fret and worry myself about her,’ said Mrs Chick, with a sigh
of modest merit. ‘I really don’t see what is to become of her when she
grows older, or what position she is to take. She don’t gain on her Papa
in the least. How can one expect she should, when she is so very unlike
a Dombey?’

Miss Tox looked as if she saw no way out of such a cogent argument as
that, at all.

‘And the child, you see,’ said Mrs Chick, in deep confidence, ‘has poor
dear Fanny’s nature. She’ll never make an effort in after-life, I’ll
venture to say. Never! She’ll never wind and twine herself about her
Papa’s heart like--’

‘Like the ivy?’ suggested Miss Tox.

‘Like the ivy,’ Mrs Chick assented. ‘Never! She’ll never glide and
nestle into the bosom of her Papa’s affections like--the--’

‘Startled fawn?’ suggested Miss Tox.

‘Like the startled fawn,’ said Mrs Chick. ‘Never! Poor Fanny! Yet, how I
loved her!’

‘You must not distress yourself, my dear,’ said Miss Tox, in a soothing
voice. ‘Now really! You have too much feeling.’

‘We have all our faults,’ said Mrs Chick, weeping and shaking her head.
‘I daresay we have. I never was blind to hers. I never said I was. Far
from it. Yet how I loved her!’

What a satisfaction it was to Mrs Chick--a common-place piece of folly
enough, compared with whom her sister-in-law had been a very angel of
womanly intelligence and gentleness--to patronise and be tender to the
memory of that lady: in exact pursuance of her conduct to her in her
lifetime: and to thoroughly believe herself, and take herself in, and
make herself uncommonly comfortable on the strength of her toleration!
What a mighty pleasant virtue toleration should be when we are right, to
be so very pleasant when we are wrong, and quite unable to demonstrate
how we come to be invested with the privilege of exercising it!

Mrs Chick was yet drying her eyes and shaking her head, when Richards
made bold to caution her that Miss Florence was awake and sitting in her
bed. She had risen, as the nurse said, and the lashes of her eyes were
wet with tears. But no one saw them glistening save Polly. No one else
leant over her, and whispered soothing words to her, or was near enough
to hear the flutter of her beating heart.

‘Oh! dear nurse!’ said the child, looking earnestly up in her face, ‘let
me lie by my brother!’

‘Why, my pet?’ said Richards.

‘Oh! I think he loves me,’ cried the child wildly. ‘Let me lie by him.
Pray do!’

Mrs Chick interposed with some motherly words about going to sleep like
a dear, but Florence repeated her supplication, with a frightened look,
and in a voice broken by sobs and tears.

‘I’ll not wake him,’ she said, covering her face and hanging down her
head. ‘I’ll only touch him with my hand, and go to sleep. Oh, pray,
pray, let me lie by my brother to-night, for I believe he’s fond of me!’

Richards took her without a word, and carrying her to the little bed in
which the infant was sleeping, laid her down by his side. She crept as
near him as she could without disturbing his rest; and stretching out
one arm so that it timidly embraced his neck, and hiding her face on
the other, over which her damp and scattered hair fell loose, lay

‘Poor little thing,’ said Miss Tox; ‘she has been dreaming, I daresay.’

Dreaming, perhaps, of loving tones for ever silent, of loving eyes for
ever closed, of loving arms again wound round her, and relaxing in that
dream within the dam which no tongue can relate. Seeking, perhaps--in
dreams--some natural comfort for a heart, deeply and sorely wounded,
though so young a child’s: and finding it, perhaps, in dreams, if not
in waking, cold, substantial truth. This trivial incident had so
interrupted the current of conversation, that it was difficult
of resumption; and Mrs Chick moreover had been so affected by the
contemplation of her own tolerant nature, that she was not in spirits.
The two friends accordingly soon made an end of their tea, and a servant
was despatched to fetch a hackney cabriolet for Miss Tox. Miss Tox had
great experience in hackney cabs, and her starting in one was generally
a work of time, as she was systematic in the preparatory arrangements.

‘Have the goodness, if you please, Towlinson,’ said Miss Tox, ‘first of
all, to carry out a pen and ink and take his number legibly.’

‘Yes, Miss,’ said Towlinson.

‘Then, if you please, Towlinson,’ said Miss Tox, ‘have the goodness
to turn the cushion. Which,’ said Miss Tox apart to Mrs Chick, ‘is
generally damp, my dear.’

‘Yes, Miss,’ said Towlinson.

‘I’ll trouble you also, if you please, Towlinson,’ said Miss Tox,
‘with this card and this shilling. He’s to drive to the card, and is to
understand that he will not on any account have more than the shilling.’

‘No, Miss,’ said Towlinson.

‘And--I’m sorry to give you so much trouble, Towlinson,’ said Miss Tox,
looking at him pensively.

‘Not at all, Miss,’ said Towlinson.

‘Mention to the man, then, if you please, Towlinson,’ said Miss Tox,
‘that the lady’s uncle is a magistrate, and that if he gives her any of
his impertinence he will be punished terribly. You can pretend to say
that, if you please, Towlinson, in a friendly way, and because you know
it was done to another man, who died.’

‘Certainly, Miss,’ said Towlinson.

‘And now good-night to my sweet, sweet, sweet, godson,’ said Miss Tox,
with a soft shower of kisses at each repetition of the adjective; ‘and
Louisa, my dear friend, promise me to take a little something warm
before you go to bed, and not to distress yourself!’

It was with extreme difficulty that Nipper, the black-eyed, who
looked on steadfastly, contained herself at this crisis, and until the
subsequent departure of Mrs Chick. But the nursery being at length free
of visitors, she made herself some recompense for her late restraint.

‘You might keep me in a strait-waistcoat for six weeks,’ said Nipper,
‘and when I got it off I’d only be more aggravated, who ever heard the
like of them two Griffins, Mrs Richards?’

‘And then to talk of having been dreaming, poor dear!’ said Polly.

‘Oh you beauties!’ cried Susan Nipper, affecting to salute the door by
which the ladies had departed. ‘Never be a Dombey won’t she? It’s to be
hoped she won’t, we don’t want any more such, one’s enough.’

‘Don’t wake the children, Susan dear,’ said Polly.

‘I’m very much beholden to you, Mrs Richards,’ said Susan, who was
not by any means discriminating in her wrath, ‘and really feel it as a
honour to receive your commands, being a black slave and a mulotter.
Mrs Richards, if there’s any other orders, you can give me, pray mention

‘Nonsense; orders,’ said Polly.

‘Oh! bless your heart, Mrs Richards,’ cried Susan, ‘temporaries always
orders permanencies here, didn’t you know that, why wherever was you
born, Mrs Richards? But wherever you was born, Mrs Richards,’ pursued
Spitfire, shaking her head resolutely, ‘and whenever, and however (which
is best known to yourself), you may bear in mind, please, that it’s one
thing to give orders, and quite another thing to take ‘em. A person may
tell a person to dive off a bridge head foremost into five-and-forty
feet of water, Mrs Richards, but a person may be very far from diving.’

‘There now,’ said Polly, ‘you’re angry because you’re a good little
thing, and fond of Miss Florence; and yet you turn round on me, because
there’s nobody else.’

‘It’s very easy for some to keep their tempers, and be soft-spoken, Mrs
Richards,’ returned Susan, slightly mollified, ‘when their child’s made
as much of as a prince, and is petted and patted till it wishes its
friends further, but when a sweet young pretty innocent, that never
ought to have a cross word spoken to or of it, is rundown, the case is
very different indeed. My goodness gracious me, Miss Floy, you naughty,
sinful child, if you don’t shut your eyes this minute, I’ll call in them
hobgoblins that lives in the cock-loft to come and eat you up alive!’

Here Miss Nipper made a horrible lowing, supposed to issue from a
conscientious goblin of the bull species, impatient to discharge the
severe duty of his position. Having further composed her young charge
by covering her head with the bedclothes, and making three or four angry
dabs at the pillow, she folded her arms, and screwed up her mouth, and
sat looking at the fire for the rest of the evening.

Though little Paul was said, in nursery phrase, ‘to take a deal of
notice for his age,’ he took as little notice of all this as of
the preparations for his christening on the next day but one; which
nevertheless went on about him, as to his personal apparel, and that of
his sister and the two nurses, with great activity. Neither did he, on
the arrival of the appointed morning, show any sense of its importance;
being, on the contrary, unusually inclined to sleep, and unusually
inclined to take it ill in his attendants that they dressed him to go

It happened to be an iron-grey autumnal day, with a shrewd east wind
blowing--a day in keeping with the proceedings. Mr Dombey represented in
himself the wind, the shade, and the autumn of the christening. He stood
in his library to receive the company, as hard and cold as the weather;
and when he looked out through the glass room, at the trees in the
little garden, their brown and yellow leaves came fluttering down, as if
he blighted them.

Ugh! They were black, cold rooms; and seemed to be in mourning, like the
inmates of the house. The books precisely matched as to size, and
drawn up in line, like soldiers, looked in their cold, hard, slippery
uniforms, as if they had but one idea among them, and that was a
freezer. The bookcase, glazed and locked, repudiated all familiarities.
Mr Pitt, in bronze, on the top, with no trace of his celestial origin
about him, guarded the unattainable treasure like an enchanted Moor.
A dusty urn at each high corner, dug up from an ancient tomb, preached
desolation and decay, as from two pulpits; and the chimney-glass,
reflecting Mr Dombey and his portrait at one blow, seemed fraught with
melancholy meditations.

The stiff and stark fire-irons appeared to claim a nearer relationship
than anything else there to Mr Dombey, with his buttoned coat, his white
cravat, his heavy gold watch-chain, and his creaking boots.  But this
was before the arrival of Mr and Mrs Chick, his lawful relatives, who
soon presented themselves.

‘My dear Paul,’ Mrs Chick murmured, as she embraced him, ‘the beginning,
I hope, of many joyful days!’

‘Thank you, Louisa,’ said Mr Dombey, grimly. ‘How do you do, Mr John?’

‘How do you do, Sir?’ said Chick.

He gave Mr Dombey his hand, as if he feared it might electrify him. Mr
Dombey took it as if it were a fish, or seaweed, or some such clammy
substance, and immediately returned it to him with exalted politeness.

‘Perhaps, Louisa,’ said Mr Dombey, slightly turning his head in his
cravat, as if it were a socket, ‘you would have preferred a fire?’

‘Oh, my dear Paul, no,’ said Mrs Chick, who had much ado to keep her
teeth from chattering; ‘not for me.’

‘Mr John,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘you are not sensible of any chill?’

Mr John, who had already got both his hands in his pockets over the
wrists, and was on the very threshold of that same canine chorus which
had given Mrs Chick so much offence on a former occasion, protested that
he was perfectly comfortable.

He added in a low voice, ‘With my tiddle tol toor rul’--when he was
providentially stopped by Towlinson, who announced:

‘Miss Tox!’

And enter that fair enslaver, with a blue nose and indescribably frosty
face, referable to her being very thinly clad in a maze of fluttering
odds and ends, to do honour to the ceremony.

‘How do you do, Miss Tox?’ said Mr Dombey.

Miss Tox, in the midst of her spreading gauzes, went down altogether
like an opera-glass shutting-up; she curtseyed so low, in acknowledgment
of Mr Dombey’s advancing a step or two to meet her.

‘I can never forget this occasion, Sir,’ said Miss Tox, softly. ‘’Tis
impossible. My dear Louisa, I can hardly believe the evidence of my

If Miss Tox could believe the evidence of one of her senses, it was a
very cold day. That was quite clear. She took an early opportunity of
promoting the circulation in the tip of her nose by secretly chafing
it with her pocket handkerchief, lest, by its very low temperature, it
should disagreeably astonish the baby when she came to kiss it.

The baby soon appeared, carried in great glory by Richards; while
Florence, in custody of that active young constable, Susan Nipper,
brought up the rear. Though the whole nursery party were dressed by
this time in lighter mourning than at first, there was enough in the
appearance of the bereaved children to make the day no brighter. The
baby too--it might have been Miss Tox’s nose--began to cry. Thereby, as
it happened, preventing Mr Chick from the awkward fulfilment of a very
honest purpose he had; which was, to make much of Florence. For this
gentleman, insensible to the superior claims of a perfect Dombey
(perhaps on account of having the honour to be united to a Dombey
himself, and being familiar with excellence), really liked her, and
showed that he liked her, and was about to show it in his own way now,
when Paul cried, and his helpmate stopped him short--

‘Now Florence, child!’ said her aunt, briskly, ‘what are you doing,
love? Show yourself to him. Engage his attention, my dear!’

The atmosphere became or might have become colder and colder, when Mr
Dombey stood frigidly watching his little daughter, who, clapping her
hands, and standing on tip-toe before the throne of his son and heir,
lured him to bend down from his high estate, and look at her. Some
honest act of Richards’s may have aided the effect, but he did look
down, and held his peace. As his sister hid behind her nurse, he
followed her with his eyes; and when she peeped out with a merry cry to
him, he sprang up and crowed lustily--laughing outright when she ran in
upon him; and seeming to fondle her curls with his tiny hands, while she
smothered him with kisses.

Was Mr Dombey pleased to see this? He testified no pleasure by the
relaxation of a nerve; but outward tokens of any kind of feeling were
unusual with him. If any sunbeam stole into the room to light the
children at their play, it never reached his face. He looked on so
fixedly and coldly, that the warm light vanished even from the laughing
eyes of little Florence, when, at last, they happened to meet his.

It was a dull, grey, autumn day indeed, and in a minute’s pause and
silence that took place, the leaves fell sorrowfully.

‘Mr John,’ said Mr Dombey, referring to his watch, and assuming his hat
and gloves. ‘Take my sister, if you please: my arm today is Miss Tox’s.
You had better go first with Master Paul, Richards. Be very careful.’

In Mr Dombey’s carriage, Dombey and Son, Miss Tox, Mrs Chick, Richards,
and Florence. In a little carriage following it, Susan Nipper and the
owner Mr Chick. Susan looking out of window, without intermission, as
a relief from the embarrassment of confronting the large face of that
gentleman, and thinking whenever anything rattled that he was putting up
in paper an appropriate pecuniary compliment for herself.

Once upon the road to church, Mr Dombey clapped his hands for the
amusement of his son. At which instance of parental enthusiasm Miss
Tox was enchanted. But exclusive of this incident, the chief difference
between the christening party and a party in a mourning coach consisted
in the colours of the carriage and horses.

Arrived at the church steps, they were received by a portentous beadle.
Mr Dombey dismounting first to help the ladies out, and standing near
him at the church door, looked like another beadle. A beadle less
gorgeous but more dreadful; the beadle of private life; the beadle of
our business and our bosoms.

Miss Tox’s hand trembled as she slipped it through Mr Dombey’s arm,
and felt herself escorted up the steps, preceded by a cocked hat and
a Babylonian collar. It seemed for a moment like that other solemn
institution, ‘Wilt thou have this man, Lucretia?’ ‘Yes, I will.’

‘Please to bring the child in quick out of the air there,’ whispered the
beadle, holding open the inner door of the church.

Little Paul might have asked with Hamlet ‘into my grave?’ so chill and
earthy was the place. The tall, shrouded pulpit and reading desk; the
dreary perspective of empty pews stretching away under the galleries,
and empty benches mounting to the roof and lost in the shadow of the
great grim organ; the dusty matting and cold stone slabs; the grisly
free seats in the aisles; and the damp corner by the bell-rope, where
the black trestles used for funerals were stowed away, along with some
shovels and baskets, and a coil or two of deadly-looking rope; the
strange, unusual, uncomfortable smell, and the cadaverous light; were
all in unison. It was a cold and dismal scene.

‘There’s a wedding just on, Sir,’ said the beadle, ‘but it’ll be over
directly, if you’ll walk into the westry here.’

Before he turned again to lead the way, he gave Mr Dombey a bow and a
half smile of recognition, importing that he (the beadle) remembered to
have had the pleasure of attending on him when he buried his wife, and
hoped he had enjoyed himself since.

The very wedding looked dismal as they passed in front of the altar. The
bride was too old and the bridegroom too young, and a superannuated beau
with one eye and an eyeglass stuck in its blank companion, was giving
away the lady, while the friends were shivering. In the vestry the fire
was smoking; and an over-aged and over-worked and under-paid attorney’s
clerk, ‘making a search,’ was running his forefinger down the parchment
pages of an immense register (one of a long series of similar volumes)
gorged with burials. Over the fireplace was a ground-plan of the vaults
underneath the church; and Mr Chick, skimming the literary portion of
it aloud, by way of enlivening the company, read the reference to Mrs
Dombey’s tomb in full, before he could stop himself.

After another cold interval, a wheezy little pew-opener afflicted with
an asthma, appropriate to the churchyard, if not to the church, summoned
them to the font--a rigid marble basin which seemed to have been playing
a churchyard game at cup and ball with its matter of fact pedestal, and
to have been just that moment caught on the top of it. Here they waited
some little time while the marriage party enrolled themselves; and
meanwhile the wheezy little pew-opener--partly in consequence of her
infirmity, and partly that the marriage party might not forget her--went
about the building coughing like a grampus.

Presently the clerk (the only cheerful-looking object there, and he was
an undertaker) came up with a jug of warm water, and said something, as
he poured it into the font, about taking the chill off; which millions
of gallons boiling hot could not have done for the occasion. Then the
clergyman, an amiable and mild-looking young curate, but obviously
afraid of the baby, appeared like the principal character in a
ghost-story, ‘a tall figure all in white;’ at sight of whom Paul rent
the air with his cries, and never left off again till he was taken out
black in the face.

Even when that event had happened, to the great relief of everybody,
he was heard under the portico, during the rest of the ceremony, now
fainter, now louder, now hushed, now bursting forth again with an
irrepressible sense of his wrongs. This so distracted the attention of
the two ladies, that Mrs Chick was constantly deploying into the centre
aisle, to send out messages by the pew-opener, while Miss Tox kept her
Prayer-book open at the Gunpowder Plot, and occasionally read responses
from that service.

During the whole of these proceedings, Mr Dombey remained as impassive
and gentlemanly as ever, and perhaps assisted in making it so cold, that
the young curate smoked at the mouth as he read. The only time that he
unbent his visage in the least, was when the clergyman, in delivering
(very unaffectedly and simply) the closing exhortation, relative to the
future examination of the child by the sponsors, happened to rest his
eye on Mr Chick; and then Mr Dombey might have been seen to express by a
majestic look, that he would like to catch him at it.

It might have been well for Mr Dombey, if he had thought of his own
dignity a little less; and had thought of the great origin and purpose
of the ceremony in which he took so formal and so stiff a part, a little
more. His arrogance contrasted strangely with its history.

When it was all over, he again gave his arm to Miss Tox, and conducted
her to the vestry, where he informed the clergyman how much pleasure
it would have given him to have solicited the honour of his company
at dinner, but for the unfortunate state of his household affairs. The
register signed, and the fees paid, and the pew-opener (whose cough was
very bad again) remembered, and the beadle gratified, and the sexton
(who was accidentally on the doorsteps, looking with great interest at
the weather) not forgotten, they got into the carriage again, and drove
home in the same bleak fellowship.

There they found Mr Pitt turning up his nose at a cold collation, set
forth in a cold pomp of glass and silver, and looking more like a dead
dinner lying in state than a social refreshment. On their arrival Miss
Tox produced a mug for her godson, and Mr Chick a knife and fork and
spoon in a case. Mr Dombey also produced a bracelet for Miss Tox; and,
on the receipt of this token, Miss Tox was tenderly affected.

‘Mr John,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘will you take the bottom of the table, if
you please? What have you got there, Mr John?’

‘I have got a cold fillet of veal here, Sir,’ replied Mr Chick, rubbing
his numbed hands hard together. ‘What have you got there, Sir?’

‘This,’ returned Mr Dombey, ‘is some cold preparation of calf’s head, I
think. I see cold fowls--ham--patties--salad--lobster. Miss Tox will do
me the honour of taking some wine? Champagne to Miss Tox.’

There was a toothache in everything. The wine was so bitter cold that it
forced a little scream from Miss Tox, which she had great difficulty in
turning into a ‘Hem!’ The veal had come from such an airy pantry, that
the first taste of it had struck a sensation as of cold lead to Mr
Chick’s extremities. Mr Dombey alone remained unmoved. He might have
been hung up for sale at a Russian fair as a specimen of a frozen

The prevailing influence was too much even for his sister. She made
no effort at flattery or small talk, and directed all her efforts to
looking as warm as she could.

‘Well, Sir,’ said Mr Chick, making a desperate plunge, after a long
silence, and filling a glass of sherry; ‘I shall drink this, if you’ll
allow me, Sir, to little Paul.’

‘Bless him!’ murmured Miss Tox, taking a sip of wine.

‘Dear little Dombey!’ murmured Mrs Chick.

‘Mr John,’ said Mr Dombey, with severe gravity, ‘my son would feel and
express himself obliged to you, I have no doubt, if he could appreciate
the favour you have done him. He will prove, in time to come, I trust,
equal to any responsibility that the obliging disposition of his
relations and friends, in private, or the onerous nature of our
position, in public, may impose upon him.’

The tone in which this was said admitting of nothing more, Mr Chick
relapsed into low spirits and silence. Not so Miss Tox, who, having
listened to Mr Dombey with even a more emphatic attention than usual,
and with a more expressive tendency of her head to one side, now leant
across the table, and said to Mrs Chick softly:


‘My dear,’ said Mrs Chick.

‘Onerous nature of our position in public may--I have forgotten
the exact term.’

‘Expose him to,’ said Mrs Chick.

‘Pardon me, my dear,’ returned Miss Tox, ‘I think not. It was more
rounded and flowing. Obliging disposition of relations and friends in
private, or onerous nature of position in public--may--impose upon him!’

‘Impose upon him, to be sure,’ said Mrs Chick.

Miss Tox struck her delicate hands together lightly, in triumph; and
added, casting up her eyes, ‘eloquence indeed!’

Mr Dombey, in the meanwhile, had issued orders for the attendance of
Richards, who now entered curtseying, but without the baby; Paul being
asleep after the fatigues of the morning. Mr Dombey, having delivered a
glass of wine to this vassal, addressed her in the following words: Miss
Tox previously settling her head on one side, and making other little
arrangements for engraving them on her heart.

‘During the six months or so, Richards, which have seen you an inmate
of this house, you have done your duty. Desiring to connect some little
service to you with this occasion, I considered how I could best effect
that object, and I also advised with my sister, Mrs--’

‘Chick,’ interposed the gentleman of that name.

‘Oh, hush if you please!’ said Miss Tox.

‘I was about to say to you, Richards,’ resumed Mr Dombey, with an
appalling glance at Mr John, ‘that I was further assisted in my
decision, by the recollection of a conversation I held with your husband
in this room, on the occasion of your being hired, when he disclosed to
me the melancholy fact that your family, himself at the head, were sunk
and steeped in ignorance.’

Richards quailed under the magnificence of the reproof.

‘I am far from being friendly,’ pursued Mr Dombey, ‘to what is called by
persons of levelling sentiments, general education. But it is necessary
that the inferior classes should continue to be taught to know their
position, and to conduct themselves properly. So far I approve of
schools. Having the power of nominating a child on the foundation of an
ancient establishment, called (from a worshipful company) the Charitable
Grinders; where not only is a wholesome education bestowed upon the
scholars, but where a dress and badge is likewise provided for them;
I have (first communicating, through Mrs Chick, with your family)
nominated your eldest son to an existing vacancy; and he has this day, I
am informed, assumed the habit. The number of her son, I believe,’ said
Mr Dombey, turning to his sister and speaking of the child as if he were
a hackney-coach, is one hundred and forty-seven. Louisa, you can tell

‘One hundred and forty-seven,’ said Mrs Chick ‘The dress, Richards, is
a nice, warm, blue baize tailed coat and cap, turned up with orange
coloured binding; red worsted stockings; and very strong leather
small-clothes. One might wear the articles one’s self,’ said Mrs Chick,
with enthusiasm, ‘and be grateful.’

‘There, Richards!’ said Miss Tox. ‘Now, indeed, you may be proud. The
Charitable Grinders!’

‘I am sure I am very much obliged, Sir,’ returned Richards faintly, ‘and
take it very kind that you should remember my little ones.’ At the same
time a vision of Biler as a Charitable Grinder, with his very small legs
encased in the serviceable clothing described by Mrs Chick, swam before
Richards’s eyes, and made them water.

‘I am very glad to see you have so much feeling, Richards,’ said Miss

‘It makes one almost hope, it really does,’ said Mrs Chick, who prided
herself on taking trustful views of human nature, ‘that there may yet be
some faint spark of gratitude and right feeling in the world.’

Richards deferred to these compliments by curtseying and murmuring
her thanks; but finding it quite impossible to recover her spirits from
the disorder into which they had been thrown by the image of her son in
his precocious nether garments, she gradually approached the door and
was heartily relieved to escape by it.

Such temporary indications of a partial thaw that had appeared with her,
vanished with her; and the frost set in again, as cold and hard as ever.
Mr Chick was twice heard to hum a tune at the bottom of the table, but
on both occasions it was a fragment of the Dead March in Saul. The party
seemed to get colder and colder, and to be gradually resolving itself
into a congealed and solid state, like the collation round which it was
assembled. At length Mrs Chick looked at Miss Tox, and Miss Tox returned
the look, and they both rose and said it was really time to go. Mr
Dombey receiving this announcement with perfect equanimity, they took
leave of that gentleman, and presently departed under the protection of
Mr Chick; who, when they had turned their backs upon the house and left
its master in his usual solitary state, put his hands in his pockets,
threw himself back in the carriage, and whistled ‘With a hey ho chevy!’
all through; conveying into his face as he did so, an expression of such
gloomy and terrible defiance, that Mrs Chick dared not protest, or in
any way molest him.

Richards, though she had little Paul on her lap, could not forget her
own first-born. She felt it was ungrateful; but the influence of the
day fell even on the Charitable Grinders, and she could hardly help
regarding his pewter badge, number one hundred and forty-seven, as,
somehow, a part of its formality and sternness. She spoke, too, in the
nursery, of his ‘blessed legs,’ and was again troubled by his spectre in

‘I don’t know what I wouldn’t give,’ said Polly, ‘to see the poor little
dear before he gets used to ‘em.’

‘Why, then, I tell you what, Mrs Richards,’ retorted Nipper, who had
been admitted to her confidence, ‘see him and make your mind easy.’

‘Mr Dombey wouldn’t like it,’ said Polly.

‘Oh, wouldn’t he, Mrs Richards!’ retorted Nipper, ‘he’d like it very
much, I think when he was asked.’

‘You wouldn’t ask him, I suppose, at all?’ said Polly.

‘No, Mrs Richards, quite contrairy,’ returned Susan, ‘and them two
inspectors Tox and Chick, not intending to be on duty tomorrow, as I
heard ‘em say, me and Miss Floy will go along with you tomorrow morning,
and welcome, Mrs Richards, if you like, for we may as well walk there as
up and down a street, and better too.’

Polly rejected the idea pretty stoutly at first; but by little and
little she began to entertain it, as she entertained more and more
distinctly the forbidden pictures of her children, and her own home.
At length, arguing that there could be no great harm in calling for a
moment at the door, she yielded to the Nipper proposition.

The matter being settled thus, little Paul began to cry most piteously,
as if he had a foreboding that no good would come of it.

‘What’s the matter with the child?’ asked Susan.

‘He’s cold, I think,’ said Polly, walking with him to and fro, and
hushing him.

It was a bleak autumnal afternoon indeed; and as she walked, and hushed,
and, glancing through the dreary windows, pressed the little fellow
closer to her breast, the withered leaves came showering down.

CHAPTER 6. Paul’s Second Deprivation

Polly was beset by so many misgivings in the morning, that but for
the incessant promptings of her black-eyed companion, she would have
abandoned all thoughts of the expedition, and formally petitioned for
leave to see number one hundred and forty-seven, under the awful shadow
of Mr Dombey’s roof. But Susan who was personally disposed in favour
of the excursion, and who (like Tony Lumpkin), if she could bear the
disappointments of other people with tolerable fortitude, could not
abide to disappoint herself, threw so many ingenious doubts in the way
of this second thought, and stimulated the original intention with so
many ingenious arguments, that almost as soon as Mr Dombey’s stately
back was turned, and that gentleman was pursuing his daily road towards
the City, his unconscious son was on his way to Staggs’s Gardens.

This euphonious locality was situated in a suburb, known by the
inhabitants of Staggs’s Gardens by the name of Camberling Town; a
designation which the Strangers’ Map of London, as printed (with a
view to pleasant and commodious reference) on pocket handkerchiefs,
condenses, with some show of reason, into Camden Town. Hither the two
nurses bent their steps, accompanied by their charges; Richards carrying
Paul, of course, and Susan leading little Florence by the hand, and
giving her such jerks and pokes from time to time, as she considered it
wholesome to administer.

The first shock of a great earthquake had, just at that period, rent the
whole neighbourhood to its centre. Traces of its course were visible
on every side. Houses were knocked down; streets broken through and
stopped; deep pits and trenches dug in the ground; enormous heaps of
earth and clay thrown up; buildings that were undermined and shaking,
propped by great beams of wood. Here, a chaos of carts, overthrown and
jumbled together, lay topsy-turvy at the bottom of a steep unnatural
hill; there, confused treasures of iron soaked and rusted in something
that had accidentally become a pond. Everywhere were bridges that led
nowhere; thoroughfares that were wholly impassable; Babel towers
of chimneys, wanting half their height; temporary wooden houses
and enclosures, in the most unlikely situations; carcases of ragged
tenements, and fragments of unfinished walls and arches, and piles of
scaffolding, and wildernesses of bricks, and giant forms of cranes, and
tripods straddling above nothing. There were a hundred thousand shapes
and substances of incompleteness, wildly mingled out of their places,
upside down, burrowing in the earth, aspiring in the air, mouldering
in the water, and unintelligible as any dream. Hot springs and
fiery eruptions, the usual attendants upon earthquakes, lent their
contributions of confusion to the scene. Boiling water hissed and heaved
within dilapidated walls; whence, also, the glare and roar of flames
came issuing forth; and mounds of ashes blocked up rights of way, and
wholly changed the law and custom of the neighbourhood.

In short, the yet unfinished and unopened Railroad was in progress; and,
from the very core of all this dire disorder, trailed smoothly away,
upon its mighty course of civilisation and improvement.

But as yet, the neighbourhood was shy to own the Railroad. One or two
bold speculators had projected streets; and one had built a little,
but had stopped among the mud and ashes to consider farther of it. A
bran-new Tavern, redolent of fresh mortar and size, and fronting nothing
at all, had taken for its sign The Railway Arms; but that might be rash
enterprise--and then it hoped to sell drink to the workmen. So, the
Excavators’ House of Call had sprung up from a beer-shop; and the
old-established Ham and Beef Shop had become the Railway Eating House,
with a roast leg of pork daily, through interested motives of a similar
immediate and popular description. Lodging-house keepers were favourable
in like manner; and for the like reasons were not to be trusted. The
general belief was very slow. There were frowzy fields, and
cow-houses, and dunghills, and dustheaps, and ditches, and gardens,
and summer-houses, and carpet-beating grounds, at the very door of the
Railway. Little tumuli of oyster shells in the oyster season, and of
lobster shells in the lobster season, and of broken crockery and faded
cabbage leaves in all seasons, encroached upon its high places. Posts,
and rails, and old cautions to trespassers, and backs of mean houses,
and patches of wretched vegetation, stared it out of countenance.
Nothing was the better for it, or thought of being so. If the miserable
waste ground lying near it could have laughed, it would have laughed it
to scorn, like many of the miserable neighbours.

Staggs’s Gardens was uncommonly incredulous. It was a little row of
houses, with little squalid patches of ground before them, fenced off
with old doors, barrel staves, scraps of tarpaulin, and dead bushes;
with bottomless tin kettles and exhausted iron fenders, thrust into the
gaps. Here, the Staggs’s Gardeners trained scarlet beans, kept fowls
and rabbits, erected rotten summer-houses (one was an old boat), dried
clothes, and smoked pipes. Some were of opinion that Staggs’s Gardens
derived its name from a deceased capitalist, one Mr Staggs, who had
built it for his delectation. Others, who had a natural taste for the
country, held that it dated from those rural times when the antlered
herd, under the familiar denomination of Staggses, had resorted to its
shady precincts. Be this as it may, Staggs’s Gardens was regarded by
its population as a sacred grove not to be withered by Railroads; and so
confident were they generally of its long outliving any such ridiculous
inventions, that the master chimney-sweeper at the corner, who was
understood to take the lead in the local politics of the Gardens, had
publicly declared that on the occasion of the Railroad opening, if ever
it did open, two of his boys should ascend the flues of his dwelling,
with instructions to hail the failure with derisive cheers from the

To this unhallowed spot, the very name of which had hitherto been
carefully concealed from Mr Dombey by his sister, was little Paul now
borne by Fate and Richards

‘That’s my house, Susan,’ said Polly, pointing it out.

‘Is it, indeed, Mrs Richards?’ said Susan, condescendingly.

‘And there’s my sister Jemima at the door, I do declare’ cried Polly,
‘with my own sweet precious baby in her arms!’

The sight added such an extensive pair of wings to Polly’s impatience,
that she set off down the Gardens at a run, and bouncing on Jemima,
changed babies with her in a twinkling; to the unutterable astonishment
of that young damsel, on whom the heir of the Dombeys seemed to have
fallen from the clouds.

‘Why, Polly!’ cried Jemima. ‘You! what a turn you have given me! who’d
have thought it! come along in Polly! How well you do look to be sure!
The children will go half wild to see you Polly, that they will.’

That they did, if one might judge from the noise they made, and the
way in which they dashed at Polly and dragged her to a low chair in the
chimney corner, where her own honest apple face became immediately the
centre of a bunch of smaller pippins, all laying their rosy cheeks close
to it, and all evidently the growth of the same tree. As to Polly, she
was full as noisy and vehement as the children; and it was not until she
was quite out of breath, and her hair was hanging all about her flushed
face, and her new christening attire was very much dishevelled, that any
pause took place in the confusion. Even then, the smallest Toodle but
one remained in her lap, holding on tight with both arms round her neck;
while the smallest Toodle but two mounted on the back of the chair, and
made desperate efforts, with one leg in the air, to kiss her round the

‘Look! there’s a pretty little lady come to see you,’ said Polly; ‘and
see how quiet she is! what a beautiful little lady, ain’t she?’

This reference to Florence, who had been standing by the door not
unobservant of what passed, directed the attention of the younger
branches towards her; and had likewise the happy effect of leading to
the formal recognition of Miss Nipper, who was not quite free from a
misgiving that she had been already slighted.

‘Oh do come in and sit down a minute, Susan, please,’ said Polly. ‘This
is my sister Jemima, this is. Jemima, I don’t know what I should ever do
with myself, if it wasn’t for Susan Nipper; I shouldn’t be here now but
for her.’

‘Oh do sit down, Miss Nipper, if you please,’ quoth Jemima.

Susan took the extreme corner of a chair, with a stately and ceremonious

‘I never was so glad to see anybody in all my life; now really I never
was, Miss Nipper,’ said Jemima.

Susan relaxing, took a little more of the chair, and smiled graciously.

‘Do untie your bonnet-strings, and make yourself at home, Miss Nipper,
please,’ entreated Jemima. ‘I am afraid it’s a poorer place than you’re
used to; but you’ll make allowances, I’m sure.’

The black-eyed was so softened by this deferential behaviour, that
she caught up little Miss Toodle who was running past, and took her to
Banbury Cross immediately.

‘But where’s my pretty boy?’ said Polly. ‘My poor fellow? I came all
this way to see him in his new clothes.’

‘Ah what a pity!’ cried Jemima. ‘He’ll break his heart, when he hears
his mother has been here. He’s at school, Polly.’

‘Gone already!’

‘Yes. He went for the first time yesterday, for fear he should lose any
learning. But it’s half-holiday, Polly: if you could only stop till he
comes home--you and Miss Nipper, leastways,’ said Jemima, mindful in
good time of the dignity of the black-eyed.

‘And how does he look, Jemima, bless him!’ faltered Polly.

‘Well, really he don’t look so bad as you’d suppose,’ returned Jemima.

‘Ah!’ said Polly, with emotion, ‘I knew his legs must be too short.’

‘His legs is short,’ returned Jemima; ‘especially behind; but they’ll get
longer, Polly, every day.’

It was a slow, prospective kind of consolation; but the cheerfulness and
good nature with which it was administered, gave it a value it did not
intrinsically possess. After a moment’s silence, Polly asked, in a more
sprightly manner:

‘And where’s Father, Jemima dear?’--for by that patriarchal appellation,
Mr Toodle was generally known in the family.

‘There again!’ said Jemima. ‘What a pity! Father took his dinner with
him this morning, and isn’t coming home till night. But he’s always
talking of you, Polly, and telling the children about you; and is the
peaceablest, patientest, best-temperedest soul in the world, as he
always was and will be!’

‘Thankee, Jemima,’ cried the simple Polly; delighted by the speech, and
disappointed by the absence.

‘Oh you needn’t thank me, Polly,’ said her sister, giving her a sounding
kiss upon the cheek, and then dancing little Paul cheerfully. ‘I say the
same of you sometimes, and think it too.’

In spite of the double disappointment, it was impossible to regard in
the light of a failure a visit which was greeted with such a reception;
so the sisters talked hopefully about family matters, and about Biler,
and about all his brothers and sisters: while the black-eyed, having
performed several journeys to Banbury Cross and back, took sharp note
of the furniture, the Dutch clock, the cupboard, the castle on
the mantel-piece with red and green windows in it, susceptible of
illumination by a candle-end within; and the pair of small black velvet
kittens, each with a lady’s reticule in its mouth; regarded by the
Staggs’s Gardeners as prodigies of imitative art. The conversation soon
becoming general lest the black-eyed should go off at score and turn
sarcastic, that young lady related to Jemima a summary of everything
she knew concerning Mr Dombey, his prospects, family, pursuits, and
character. Also an exact inventory of her personal wardrobe, and some
account of her principal relations and friends. Having relieved her mind
of these disclosures, she partook of shrimps and porter, and evinced a
disposition to swear eternal friendship.

Little Florence herself was not behind-hand in improving the occasion;
for, being conducted forth by the young Toodles to inspect some
toad-stools and other curiosities of the Gardens, she entered with them,
heart and soul, on the formation of a temporary breakwater across a
small green pool that had collected in a corner. She was still busily
engaged in that labour, when sought and found by Susan; who, such was
her sense of duty, even under the humanizing influence of shrimps,
delivered a moral address to her (punctuated with thumps) on her
degenerate nature, while washing her face and hands; and predicted that
she would bring the grey hairs of her family in general, with sorrow to
the grave. After some delay, occasioned by a pretty long confidential
interview above stairs on pecuniary subjects, between Polly and Jemima,
an interchange of babies was again effected--for Polly had all this
time retained her own child, and Jemima little Paul--and the visitors
took leave.

But first the young Toodles, victims of a pious fraud, were deluded into
repairing in a body to a chandler’s shop in the neighbourhood, for the
ostensible purpose of spending a penny; and when the coast was quite
clear, Polly fled: Jemima calling after her that if they could only go
round towards the City Road on their way back, they would be sure to
meet little Biler coming from school.

‘Do you think that we might make time to go a little round in that
direction, Susan?’ inquired Polly, when they halted to take breath.

‘Why not, Mrs Richards?’ returned Susan.

‘It’s getting on towards our dinner time you know,’ said Polly.

But lunch had rendered her companion more than indifferent to this grave
consideration, so she allowed no weight to it, and they resolved to go
‘a little round.’

Now, it happened that poor Biler’s life had been, since yesterday
morning, rendered weary by the costume of the Charitable Grinders. The
youth of the streets could not endure it. No young vagabond could be
brought to bear its contemplation for a moment, without throwing himself
upon the unoffending wearer, and doing him a mischief. His social
existence had been more like that of an early Christian, than an
innocent child of the nineteenth century. He had been stoned in the
streets. He had been overthrown into gutters; bespattered with mud;
violently flattened against posts. Entire strangers to his person had
lifted his yellow cap off his head, and cast it to the winds. His legs
had not only undergone verbal criticisms and revilings, but had been
handled and pinched. That very morning, he had received a perfectly
unsolicited black eye on his way to the Grinders’ establishment, and
had been punished for it by the master: a superannuated old Grinder
of savage disposition, who had been appointed schoolmaster because he
didn’t know anything, and wasn’t fit for anything, and for whose cruel
cane all chubby little boys had a perfect fascination.

Thus it fell out that Biler, on his way home, sought unfrequented
paths; and slunk along by narrow passages and back streets, to avoid
his tormentors. Being compelled to emerge into the main road, his ill
fortune brought him at last where a small party of boys, headed by a
ferocious young butcher, were lying in wait for any means of pleasurable
excitement that might happen. These, finding a Charitable Grinder in
the midst of them--unaccountably delivered over, as it were, into their
hands--set up a general yell and rushed upon him.

But it so fell out likewise, that, at the same time, Polly, looking
hopelessly along the road before her, after a good hour’s walk, had said
it was no use going any further, when suddenly she saw this sight. She
no sooner saw it than, uttering a hasty exclamation, and giving Master
Dombey to the black-eyed, she started to the rescue of her unhappy
little son.

Surprises, like misfortunes, rarely come alone. The astonished Susan
Nipper and her two young charges were rescued by the bystanders from
under the very wheels of a passing carriage before they knew what had
happened; and at that moment (it was market day) a thundering alarm of
‘Mad Bull!’ was raised.

With a wild confusion before her, of people running up and down, and
shouting, and wheels running over them, and boys fighting, and mad bulls
coming up, and the nurse in the midst of all these dangers being torn
to pieces, Florence screamed and ran. She ran till she was exhausted,
urging Susan to do the same; and then, stopping and wringing her hands
as she remembered they had left the other nurse behind, found, with a
sensation of terror not to be described, that she was quite alone.

‘Susan! Susan!’ cried Florence, clapping her hands in the very ecstasy
of her alarm. ‘Oh, where are they? where are they?’

‘Where are they?’ said an old woman, coming hobbling across as fast as
she could from the opposite side of the way. ‘Why did you run away from

‘I was frightened,’ answered Florence. ‘I didn’t know what I did. I
thought they were with me. Where are they?’

The old woman took her by the wrist, and said, ‘I’ll show you.’

She was a very ugly old woman, with red rims round her eyes, and a mouth
that mumbled and chattered of itself when she was not speaking. She was
miserably dressed, and carried some skins over her arm. She seemed to
have followed Florence some little way at all events, for she had lost
her breath; and this made her uglier still, as she stood trying to
regain it: working her shrivelled yellow face and throat into all sorts
of contortions.

Florence was afraid of her, and looked, hesitating, up the street, of
which she had almost reached the bottom. It was a solitary place--more a
back road than a street--and there was no one in it but her-self and the
old woman.

‘You needn’t be frightened now,’ said the old woman, still holding her
tight. ‘Come along with me.’

‘I--I don’t know you. What’s your name?’ asked Florence.

‘Mrs Brown,’ said the old woman. ‘Good Mrs Brown.’

‘Are they near here?’ asked Florence, beginning to be led away.

‘Susan ain’t far off,’ said Good Mrs Brown; ‘and the others are close to

‘Is anybody hurt?’ cried Florence.

‘Not a bit of it,’ said Good Mrs Brown.

The child shed tears of delight on hearing this, and accompanied the old
woman willingly; though she could not help glancing at her face as
they went along--particularly at that industrious mouth--and wondering
whether Bad Mrs Brown, if there were such a person, was at all like her.

They had not gone far, but had gone by some very uncomfortable places,
such as brick-fields and tile-yards, when the old woman turned down a
dirty lane, where the mud lay in deep black ruts in the middle of the
road. She stopped before a shabby little house, as closely shut up as
a house that was full of cracks and crevices could be. Opening the door
with a key she took out of her bonnet, she pushed the child before her
into a back room, where there was a great heap of rags of different
colours lying on the floor; a heap of bones, and a heap of sifted dust
or cinders; but there was no furniture at all, and the walls and ceiling
were quite black.

The child became so terrified the she was stricken speechless, and
looked as though about to swoon.

‘Now don’t be a young mule,’ said Good Mrs Brown, reviving her with a
shake. ‘I’m not a going to hurt you. Sit upon the rags.’

Florence obeyed her, holding out her folded hands, in mute supplication.

‘I’m not a going to keep you, even, above an hour,’ said Mrs Brown.
‘D’ye understand what I say?’

The child answered with great difficulty, ‘Yes.’

‘Then,’ said Good Mrs Brown, taking her own seat on the bones, ‘don’t
vex me. If you don’t, I tell you I won’t hurt you. But if you do, I’ll
kill you. I could have you killed at any time--even if you was in your
own bed at home. Now let’s know who you are, and what you are, and all
about it.’

The old woman’s threats and promises; the dread of giving her offence;
and the habit, unusual to a child, but almost natural to Florence now,
of being quiet, and repressing what she felt, and feared, and hoped;
enabled her to do this bidding, and to tell her little history, or what
she knew of it. Mrs Brown listened attentively, until she had finished.

‘So your name’s Dombey, eh?’ said Mrs Brown.

‘I want that pretty frock, Miss Dombey,’ said Good Mrs Brown, ‘and that
little bonnet, and a petticoat or two, and anything else you can spare.
Come! Take ‘em off.’

Florence obeyed, as fast as her trembling hands would allow; keeping,
all the while, a frightened eye on Mrs Brown. When she had divested
herself of all the articles of apparel mentioned by that lady, Mrs B.
examined them at leisure, and seemed tolerably well satisfied with their
quality and value.

‘Humph!’ she said, running her eyes over the child’s slight figure, ‘I
don’t see anything else--except the shoes. I must have the shoes, Miss

Poor little Florence took them off with equal alacrity, only too glad
to have any more means of conciliation about her. The old woman then
produced some wretched substitutes from the bottom of the heap of rags,
which she turned up for that purpose; together with a girl’s cloak,
quite worn out and very old; and the crushed remains of a bonnet that
had probably been picked up from some ditch or dunghill. In this
dainty raiment, she instructed Florence to dress herself; and as such
preparation seemed a prelude to her release, the child complied with
increased readiness, if possible.

In hurriedly putting on the bonnet, if that may be called a bonnet which
was more like a pad to carry loads on, she caught it in her hair which
grew luxuriantly, and could not immediately disentangle it. Good
Mrs Brown whipped out a large pair of scissors, and fell into an
unaccountable state of excitement.

‘Why couldn’t you let me be!’ said Mrs Brown, ‘when I was contented? You
little fool!’

‘I beg your pardon. I don’t know what I have done,’ panted Florence. ‘I
couldn’t help it.’

‘Couldn’t help it!’ cried Mrs Brown. ‘How do you expect I can help
it? Why, Lord!’ said the old woman, ruffling her curls with a furious
pleasure, ‘anybody but me would have had ‘em off, first of all.’

Florence was so relieved to find that it was only her hair and not
her head which Mrs Brown coveted, that she offered no resistance or
entreaty, and merely raised her mild eyes towards the face of that good

‘If I hadn’t once had a gal of my own--beyond seas now--that was proud
of her hair,’ said Mrs Brown, ‘I’d have had every lock of it. She’s far
away, she’s far away! Oho! Oho!’

Mrs Brown’s was not a melodious cry, but, accompanied with a wild
tossing up of her lean arms, it was full of passionate grief, and
thrilled to the heart of Florence, whom it frightened more than ever.
It had its part, perhaps, in saving her curls; for Mrs Brown, after
hovering about her with the scissors for some moments, like a new kind
of butterfly, bade her hide them under the bonnet and let no trace of
them escape to tempt her. Having accomplished this victory over herself,
Mrs Brown resumed her seat on the bones, and smoked a very short black
pipe, mowing and mumbling all the time, as if she were eating the stem.

When the pipe was smoked out, she gave the child a rabbit-skin to carry,
that she might appear the more like her ordinary companion, and told her
that she was now going to lead her to a public street whence she could
inquire her way to her friends. But she cautioned her, with threats of
summary and deadly vengeance in case of disobedience, not to talk to
strangers, nor to repair to her own home (which may have been too near
for Mrs Brown’s convenience), but to her father’s office in the City;
also to wait at the street corner where she would be left, until the
clock struck three. These directions Mrs Brown enforced with assurances
that there would be potent eyes and ears in her employment cognizant
of all she did; and these directions Florence promised faithfully and
earnestly to observe.

At length, Mrs Brown, issuing forth, conducted her changed and ragged
little friend through a labyrinth of narrow streets and lanes and
alleys, which emerged, after a long time, upon a stable yard, with a
gateway at the end, whence the roar of a great thoroughfare made itself
audible. Pointing out this gateway, and informing Florence that when the
clocks struck three she was to go to the left, Mrs Brown, after making a
parting grasp at her hair which seemed involuntary and quite beyond her
own control, told her she knew what to do, and bade her go and do it:
remembering that she was watched.

With a lighter heart, but still sore afraid, Florence felt herself
released, and tripped off to the corner. When she reached it, she looked
back and saw the head of Good Mrs Brown peeping out of the low wooden
passage, where she had issued her parting injunctions; likewise the fist
of Good Mrs Brown shaking towards her. But though she often looked back
afterwards--every minute, at least, in her nervous recollection of the
old woman--she could not see her again.

Florence remained there, looking at the bustle in the street, and more
and more bewildered by it; and in the meanwhile the clocks appeared to
have made up their minds never to strike three any more. At last the
steeples rang out three o’clock; there was one close by, so she couldn’t
be mistaken; and--after often looking over her shoulder, and often going
a little way, and as often coming back again, lest the all-powerful
spies of Mrs Brown should take offence--she hurried off, as fast as she
could in her slipshod shoes, holding the rabbit-skin tight in her hand.

All she knew of her father’s offices was that they belonged to Dombey
and Son, and that that was a great power belonging to the City. So
she could only ask the way to Dombey and Son’s in the City; and as
she generally made inquiry of children--being afraid to ask grown
people--she got very little satisfaction indeed. But by dint of asking
her way to the City after a while, and dropping the rest of her inquiry
for the present, she really did advance, by slow degrees, towards the
heart of that great region which is governed by the terrible Lord Mayor.

Tired of walking, repulsed and pushed about, stunned by the noise and
confusion, anxious for her brother and the nurses, terrified by what she
had undergone, and the prospect of encountering her angry father in such
an altered state; perplexed and frightened alike by what had passed, and
what was passing, and what was yet before her; Florence went upon her
weary way with tearful eyes, and once or twice could not help stopping
to ease her bursting heart by crying bitterly. But few people noticed
her at those times, in the garb she wore: or if they did, believed that
she was tutored to excite compassion, and passed on. Florence, too,
called to her aid all the firmness and self-reliance of a character that
her sad experience had prematurely formed and tried: and keeping the end
she had in view steadily before her, steadily pursued it.

It was full two hours later in the afternoon than when she had started
on this strange adventure, when, escaping from the clash and clangour
of a narrow street full of carts and waggons, she peeped into a kind
of wharf or landing-place upon the river-side, where there were a great
many packages, casks, and boxes, strewn about; a large pair of wooden
scales; and a little wooden house on wheels, outside of which, looking
at the neighbouring masts and boats, a stout man stood whistling, with
his pen behind his ear, and his hands in his pockets, as if his day’s
work were nearly done.

‘Now then!’ said this man, happening to turn round. ‘We haven’t got
anything for you, little girl. Be off!’

‘If you please, is this the City?’ asked the trembling daughter of the

‘Ah! It’s the City. You know that well enough, I daresay. Be off! We
haven’t got anything for you.’

‘I don’t want anything, thank you,’ was the timid answer. ‘Except to
know the way to Dombey and Son’s.’

The man who had been strolling carelessly towards her, seemed surprised
by this reply, and looking attentively in her face, rejoined:

‘Why, what can you want with Dombey and Son’s?’

‘To know the way there, if you please.’

The man looked at her yet more curiously, and rubbed the back of his
head so hard in his wonderment that he knocked his own hat off.

‘Joe!’ he called to another man--a labourer--as he picked it up and put
it on again.

‘Joe it is!’ said Joe.

‘Where’s that young spark of Dombey’s who’s been watching the shipment
of them goods?’

‘Just gone, by t’other gate,’ said Joe.

‘Call him back a minute.’

Joe ran up an archway, bawling as he went, and very soon returned
with a blithe-looking boy.

‘You’re Dombey’s jockey, ain’t you?’ said the first man.

‘I’m in Dombey’s House, Mr Clark,’ returned the boy.

‘Look’ye here, then,’ said Mr Clark.

Obedient to the indication of Mr Clark’s hand, the boy approached
towards Florence, wondering, as well he might, what he had to do with
her. But she, who had heard what passed, and who, besides the relief
of so suddenly considering herself safe at her journey’s end, felt
reassured beyond all measure by his lively youthful face and manner, ran
eagerly up to him, leaving one of the slipshod shoes upon the ground and
caught his hand in both of hers.

‘I am lost, if you please!’ said Florence.

‘Lost!’ cried the boy.

‘Yes, I was lost this morning, a long way from here--and I have had my
clothes taken away, since--and I am not dressed in my own now--and my
name is Florence Dombey, my little brother’s only sister--and, oh dear,
dear, take care of me, if you please!’ sobbed Florence, giving full vent
to the childish feelings she had so long suppressed, and bursting into
tears. At the same time her miserable bonnet falling off, her hair
came tumbling down about her face: moving to speechless admiration
and commiseration, young Walter, nephew of Solomon Gills, Ships’
Instrument-maker in general.

Mr Clark stood rapt in amazement: observing under his breath, I never
saw such a start on this wharf before. Walter picked up the shoe, and
put it on the little foot as the Prince in the story might have fitted
Cinderella’s slipper on. He hung the rabbit-skin over his left arm;
gave the right to Florence; and felt, not to say like Richard
Whittington--that is a tame comparison--but like Saint George of
England, with the dragon lying dead before him.

‘Don’t cry, Miss Dombey,’ said Walter, in a transport of enthusiasm.
‘What a wonderful thing for me that I am here! You are as safe now as if
you were guarded by a whole boat’s crew of picked men from a man-of-war.
Oh, don’t cry.’

‘I won’t cry any more,’ said Florence. ‘I am only crying for joy.’

‘Crying for joy!’ thought Walter, ‘and I’m the cause of it! Come along,
Miss Dombey. There’s the other shoe off now! Take mine, Miss Dombey.’

‘No, no, no,’ said Florence, checking him in the act of impetuously
pulling off his own. ‘These do better. These do very well.’

‘Why, to be sure,’ said Walter, glancing at her foot, ‘mine are a mile
too large. What am I thinking about! You never could walk in mine! Come
along, Miss Dombey. Let me see the villain who will dare molest you

So Walter, looking immensely fierce, led off Florence, looking very
happy; and they went arm-in-arm along the streets, perfectly indifferent
to any astonishment that their appearance might or did excite by the

It was growing dark and foggy, and beginning to rain too; but they cared
nothing for this: being both wholly absorbed in the late adventures of
Florence, which she related with the innocent good faith and confidence
of her years, while Walter listened as if, far from the mud and grease
of Thames Street, they were rambling alone among the broad leaves and
tall trees of some desert island in the tropics--as he very likely
fancied, for the time, they were.

‘Have we far to go?’ asked Florence at last, lilting up her eyes to her
companion’s face.

‘Ah! By-the-bye,’ said Walter, stopping, ‘let me see; where are we? Oh!
I know. But the offices are shut up now, Miss Dombey. There’s nobody
there. Mr Dombey has gone home long ago. I suppose we must go home too?
or, stay. Suppose I take you to my Uncle’s, where I live--it’s very near
here--and go to your house in a coach to tell them you are safe, and
bring you back some clothes. Won’t that be best?’

‘I think so,’ answered Florence. ‘Don’t you? What do you think?’

As they stood deliberating in the street, a man passed them, who glanced
quickly at Walter as he went by, as if he recognised him; but seeming to
correct that first impression, he passed on without stopping.

‘Why, I think it’s Mr Carker,’ said Walter. ‘Carker in our House. Not
Carker our Manager, Miss Dombey--the other Carker; the Junior--Halloa!
Mr Carker!’

‘Is that Walter Gay?’ said the other, stopping and returning. ‘I
couldn’t believe it, with such a strange companion.’

As he stood near a lamp, listening with surprise to Walter’s hurried
explanation, he presented a remarkable contrast to the two youthful
figures arm-in-arm before him. He was not old, but his hair was white;
his body was bent, or bowed as if by the weight of some great trouble:
and there were deep lines in his worn and melancholy face. The fire of
his eyes, the expression of his features, the very voice in which he
spoke, were all subdued and quenched, as if the spirit within him lay
in ashes. He was respectably, though very plainly dressed, in black; but
his clothes, moulded to the general character of his figure, seemed
to shrink and abase themselves upon him, and to join in the sorrowful
solicitation which the whole man from head to foot expressed, to be left
unnoticed, and alone in his humility.

And yet his interest in youth and hopefulness was not extinguished
with the other embers of his soul, for he watched the boy’s earnest
countenance as he spoke with unusual sympathy, though with an
inexplicable show of trouble and compassion, which escaped into his
looks, however hard he strove to hold it prisoner. When Walter, in
conclusion, put to him the question he had put to Florence, he still
stood glancing at him with the same expression, as if he had read some
fate upon his face, mournfully at variance with its present brightness.

‘What do you advise, Mr Carker?’ said Walter, smiling. ‘You always give
me good advice, you know, when you do speak to me. That’s not often,

‘I think your own idea is the best,’ he answered: looking from Florence
to Walter, and back again.

‘Mr Carker,’ said Walter, brightening with a generous thought, ‘Come!
Here’s a chance for you. Go you to Mr Dombey’s, and be the messenger of
good news. It may do you some good, Sir. I’ll remain at home. You shall

‘I!’ returned the other.

‘Yes. Why not, Mr Carker?’ said the boy.

He merely shook him by the hand in answer; he seemed in a manner ashamed
and afraid even to do that; and bidding him good-night, and advising him
to make haste, turned away.

‘Come, Miss Dombey,’ said Walter, looking after him as they turned away
also, ‘we’ll go to my Uncle’s as quick as we can. Did you ever hear Mr
Dombey speak of Mr Carker the Junior, Miss Florence?’

‘No,’ returned the child, mildly, ‘I don’t often hear Papa speak.’

‘Ah! true! more shame for him,’ thought Walter. After a minute’s pause,
during which he had been looking down upon the gentle patient little
face moving on at his side, he said, ‘The strangest man, Mr Carker
the Junior is, Miss Florence, that ever you heard of. If you could
understand what an extraordinary interest he takes in me, and yet how he
shuns me and avoids me; and what a low place he holds in our office, and
how he is never advanced, and never complains, though year after year
he sees young men passed over his head, and though his brother (younger
than he is), is our head Manager, you would be as much puzzled about him
as I am.’

As Florence could hardly be expected to understand much about it, Walter
bestirred himself with his accustomed boyish animation and restlessness
to change the subject; and one of the unfortunate shoes coming off again
opportunely, proposed to carry Florence to his uncle’s in his arms.
Florence, though very tired, laughingly declined the proposal, lest
he should let her fall; and as they were already near the wooden
Midshipman, and as Walter went on to cite various precedents, from
shipwrecks and other moving accidents, where younger boys than he had
triumphantly rescued and carried off older girls than Florence, they
were still in full conversation about it when they arrived at the
Instrument-maker’s door.

‘Holloa, Uncle Sol!’ cried Walter, bursting into the shop, and speaking
incoherently and out of breath, from that time forth, for the rest of
the evening. ‘Here’s a wonderful adventure! Here’s Mr Dombey’s daughter
lost in the streets, and robbed of her clothes by an old witch of a
woman--found by me--brought home to our parlour to rest--look here!’

‘Good Heaven!’ said Uncle Sol, starting back against his favourite
compass-case. ‘It can’t be! Well, I--’

‘No, nor anybody else,’ said Walter, anticipating the rest. ‘Nobody
would, nobody could, you know. Here! just help me lift the little sofa
near the fire, will you, Uncle Sol--take care of the plates--cut some
dinner for her, will you, Uncle--throw those shoes under the grate. Miss
Florence--put your feet on the fender to dry--how damp they are--here’s
an adventure, Uncle, eh?--God bless my soul, how hot I am!’

Solomon Gills was quite as hot, by sympathy, and in excessive
bewilderment. He patted Florence’s head, pressed her to eat, pressed
her to drink, rubbed the soles of her feet with his pocket-handkerchief
heated at the fire, followed his locomotive nephew with his eyes, and
ears, and had no clear perception of anything except that he was being
constantly knocked against and tumbled over by that excited young
gentleman, as he darted about the room attempting to accomplish twenty
things at once, and doing nothing at all.

‘Here, wait a minute, Uncle,’ he continued, catching up a candle, ‘till
I run upstairs, and get another jacket on, and then I’ll be off. I say,
Uncle, isn’t this an adventure?’

‘My dear boy,’ said Solomon, who, with his spectacles on his forehead
and the great chronometer in his pocket, was incessantly oscillating
between Florence on the sofa, and his nephew in all parts of the
parlour, ‘it’s the most extraordinary--’

‘No, but do, Uncle, please--do, Miss Florence--dinner, you know, Uncle.’

‘Yes, yes, yes,’ cried Solomon, cutting instantly into a leg of mutton,
as if he were catering for a giant. ‘I’ll take care of her, Wally! I
understand. Pretty dear! Famished, of course. You go and get ready. Lord
bless me! Sir Richard Whittington thrice Lord Mayor of London.’

Walter was not very long in mounting to his lofty garret and descending
from it, but in the meantime Florence, overcome by fatigue, had sunk
into a doze before the fire. The short interval of quiet, though only
a few minutes in duration, enabled Solomon Gills so far to collect his
wits as to make some little arrangements for her comfort, and to darken
the room, and to screen her from the blaze. Thus, when the boy returned,
she was sleeping peacefully.

‘That’s capital!’ he whispered, giving Solomon such a hug that it
squeezed a new expression into his face. ‘Now I’m off. I’ll just take a
crust of bread with me, for I’m very hungry--and don’t wake her, Uncle

‘No, no,’ said Solomon. ‘Pretty child.’

‘Pretty, indeed!’ cried Walter. ‘I never saw such a face, Uncle Sol. Now
I’m off.’

‘That’s right,’ said Solomon, greatly relieved.

‘I say, Uncle Sol,’ cried Walter, putting his face in at the door.

‘Here he is again,’ said Solomon.

‘How does she look now?’

‘Quite happy,’ said Solomon.

‘That’s famous! now I’m off.’

‘I hope you are,’ said Solomon to himself.

‘I say, Uncle Sol,’ cried Walter, reappearing at the door.

‘Here he is again!’ said Solomon.

‘We met Mr Carker the Junior in the street, queerer than ever. He bade
me good-bye, but came behind us here--there’s an odd thing!--for when we
reached the shop door, I looked round, and saw him going quietly away,
like a servant who had seen me home, or a faithful dog. How does she
look now, Uncle?’

‘Pretty much the same as before, Wally,’ replied Uncle Sol.

‘That’s right. Now I am off!’

And this time he really was: and Solomon Gills, with no appetite for
dinner, sat on the opposite side of the fire, watching Florence in
her slumber, building a great many airy castles of the most fantastic
architecture; and looking, in the dim shade, and in the close vicinity
of all the instruments, like a magician disguised in a Welsh wig and a
suit of coffee colour, who held the child in an enchanted sleep.

In the meantime, Walter proceeded towards Mr Dombey’s house at a pace
seldom achieved by a hack horse from the stand; and yet with his head
out of window every two or three minutes, in impatient remonstrance
with the driver. Arriving at his journey’s end, he leaped out, and
breathlessly announcing his errand to the servant, followed him straight
into the library, we there was a great confusion of tongues, and where
Mr Dombey, his sister, and Miss Tox, Richards, and Nipper, were all
congregated together.

‘Oh! I beg your pardon, Sir,’ said Walter, rushing up to him, ‘but I’m
happy to say it’s all right, Sir. Miss Dombey’s found!’

The boy with his open face, and flowing hair, and sparkling eyes,
panting with pleasure and excitement, was wonderfully opposed to Mr
Dombey, as he sat confronting him in his library chair.

‘I told you, Louisa, that she would certainly be found,’ said Mr Dombey,
looking slightly over his shoulder at that lady, who wept in company
with Miss Tox. ‘Let the servants know that no further steps are
necessary. This boy who brings the information, is young Gay, from the
office. How was my daughter found, Sir? I know how she was lost.’ Here
he looked majestically at Richards. ‘But how was she found? Who found

‘Why, I believe I found Miss Dombey, Sir,’ said Walter modestly, ‘at
least I don’t know that I can claim the merit of having exactly found
her, Sir, but I was the fortunate instrument of--’

‘What do you mean, Sir,’ interrupted Mr Dombey, regarding the boy’s
evident pride and pleasure in his share of the transaction with an
instinctive dislike, ‘by not having exactly found my daughter, and by
being a fortunate instrument? Be plain and coherent, if you please.’

It was quite out of Walter’s power to be coherent; but he rendered
himself as explanatory as he could, in his breathless state, and stated
why he had come alone.

‘You hear this, girl?’ said Mr Dombey sternly to the black-eyed. ‘Take
what is necessary, and return immediately with this young man to fetch
Miss Florence home. Gay, you will be rewarded to-morrow.’

‘Oh! thank you, Sir,’ said Walter. ‘You are very kind. I’m sure I was
not thinking of any reward, Sir.’

‘You are a boy,’ said Mr Dombey, suddenly and almost fiercely; ‘and what
you think of, or affect to think of, is of little consequence. You
have done well, Sir. Don’t undo it. Louisa, please to give the lad some

Mr Dombey’s glance followed Walter Gay with sharp disfavour, as he left
the room under the pilotage of Mrs Chick; and it may be that his mind’s
eye followed him with no greater relish, as he rode back to his Uncle’s
with Miss Susan Nipper.

There they found that Florence, much refreshed by sleep, had dined, and
greatly improved the acquaintance of Solomon Gills, with whom she was on
terms of perfect confidence and ease. The black-eyed (who had cried so
much that she might now be called the red-eyed, and who was very silent
and depressed) caught her in her arms without a word of contradiction or
reproach, and made a very hysterical meeting of it. Then converting the
parlour, for the nonce, into a private tiring room, she dressed her,
with great care, in proper clothes; and presently led her forth, as like
a Dombey as her natural disqualifications admitted of her being made.

‘Good-night!’ said Florence, running up to Solomon. ‘You have been very
good to me.’

Old Sol was quite delighted, and kissed her like her grand-father.

‘Good-night, Walter! Good-bye!’ said Florence.

‘Good-bye!’ said Walter, giving both his hands.

‘I’ll never forget you,’ pursued Florence. ‘No! indeed I never will.
Good-bye, Walter!’

In the innocence of her grateful heart, the child lifted up her face to
his. Walter, bending down his own, raised it again, all red and burning;
and looked at Uncle Sol, quite sheepishly.

‘Where’s Walter?’ ‘Good-night, Walter!’ ‘Good-bye, Walter!’ ‘Shake hands
once more, Walter!’ This was still Florence’s cry, after she was shut up
with her little maid, in the coach. And when the coach at length
moved off, Walter on the door-step gaily returned the waving of her
handkerchief, while the wooden Midshipman behind him seemed, like
himself, intent upon that coach alone, excluding all the other passing
coaches from his observation.

In good time Mr Dombey’s mansion was gained again, and again there was
a noise of tongues in the library. Again, too, the coach was ordered
to wait--‘for Mrs Richards,’ one of Susan’s fellow-servants ominously
whispered, as she passed with Florence.

The entrance of the lost child made a slight sensation, but not much. Mr
Dombey, who had never found her, kissed her once upon the forehead, and
cautioned her not to run away again, or wander anywhere with treacherous
attendants. Mrs Chick stopped in her lamentations on the corruption of
human nature, even when beckoned to the paths of virtue by a Charitable
Grinder; and received her with a welcome something short of the
reception due to none but perfect Dombeys. Miss Tox regulated her
feelings by the models before her. Richards, the culprit Richards, alone
poured out her heart in broken words of welcome, and bowed herself over
the little wandering head as if she really loved it.

‘Ah, Richards!’ said Mrs Chick, with a sigh. ‘It would have been much
more satisfactory to those who wish to think well of their fellow
creatures, and much more becoming in you, if you had shown some
proper feeling, in time, for the little child that is now going to be
prematurely deprived of its natural nourishment.

‘Cut off,’ said Miss Tox, in a plaintive whisper, ‘from one common

‘If it was my ungrateful case,’ said Mrs Chick, solemnly, ‘and I had your
reflections, Richards, I should feel as if the Charitable Grinders’
dress would blight my child, and the education choke him.’

For the matter of that--but Mrs Chick didn’t know it--he had been pretty
well blighted by the dress already; and as to the education, even its
retributive effect might be produced in time, for it was a storm of sobs
and blows.

‘Louisa!’ said Mr Dombey. ‘It is not necessary to prolong these
observations. The woman is discharged and paid. You leave this house,
Richards, for taking my son--my son,’ said Mr Dombey, emphatically
repeating these two words, ‘into haunts and into society which are not
to be thought of without a shudder. As to the accident which befel Miss
Florence this morning, I regard that as, in one great sense, a happy and
fortunate circumstance; inasmuch as, but for that occurrence, I never
could have known--and from your own lips too--of what you had been
guilty. I think, Louisa, the other nurse, the young person,’ here Miss
Nipper sobbed aloud, ‘being so much younger, and necessarily influenced
by Paul’s nurse, may remain. Have the goodness to direct that this
woman’s coach is paid to’--Mr Dombey stopped and winced--‘to Staggs’s

Polly moved towards the door, with Florence holding to her dress, and
crying to her in the most pathetic manner not to go away. It was a
dagger in the haughty father’s heart, an arrow in his brain, to see how
the flesh and blood he could not disown clung to this obscure stranger,
and he sitting by. Not that he cared to whom his daughter turned, or
from whom turned away. The swift sharp agony struck through him, as he
thought of what his son might do.

His son cried lustily that night, at all events. Sooth to say, poor Paul
had better reason for his tears than sons of that age often have, for he
had lost his second mother--his first, so far as he knew--by a stroke
as sudden as that natural affliction which had darkened the beginning of
his life. At the same blow, his sister too, who cried herself to sleep
so mournfully, had lost as good and true a friend. But that is quite
beside the question. Let us waste no words about it.

CHAPTER 7. A Bird’s-eye Glimpse of Miss Tox’s Dwelling-place: also of
the State of Miss Tox’s Affections

Miss Tox inhabited a dark little house that had been squeezed, at some
remote period of English History, into a fashionable neighbourhood
at the west end of the town, where it stood in the shade like a poor
relation of the great street round the corner, coldly looked down
upon by mighty mansions. It was not exactly in a court, and it was
not exactly in a yard; but it was in the dullest of No-Thoroughfares,
rendered anxious and haggard by distant double knocks. The name of this
retirement, where grass grew between the chinks in the stone pavement,
was Princess’s Place; and in Princess’s Place was Princess’s Chapel,
with a tinkling bell, where sometimes as many as five-and-twenty people
attended service on a Sunday. The Princess’s Arms was also there, and
much resorted to by splendid footmen. A sedan chair was kept inside the
railing before the Princess’s Arms, but it had never come out within the
memory of man; and on fine mornings, the top of every rail (there were
eight-and-forty, as Miss Tox had often counted) was decorated with a

There was another private house besides Miss Tox’s in Princess’s
Place: not to mention an immense Pair of gates, with an immense pair of
lion-headed knockers on them, which were never opened by any chance, and
were supposed to constitute a disused entrance to somebody’s stables.
Indeed, there was a smack of stabling in the air of Princess’s Place;
and Miss Tox’s bedroom (which was at the back) commanded a vista of
Mews, where hostlers, at whatever sort of work engaged, were continually
accompanying themselves with effervescent noises; and where the most
domestic and confidential garments of coachmen and their wives and
families, usually hung, like Macbeth’s banners, on the outward walls.

At this other private house in Princess’s Place, tenanted by a retired
butler who had married a housekeeper, apartments were let Furnished, to
a single gentleman: to wit, a wooden-featured, blue-faced Major, with
his eyes starting out of his head, in whom Miss Tox recognised, as she
herself expressed it, ‘something so truly military;’ and between whom
and herself, an occasional interchange of newspapers and pamphlets,
and such Platonic dalliance, was effected through the medium of a dark
servant of the Major’s who Miss Tox was quite content to classify as a
‘native,’ without connecting him with any geographical idea whatever.

Perhaps there never was a smaller entry and staircase, than the entry
and staircase of Miss Tox’s house. Perhaps, taken altogether, from top
to bottom, it was the most inconvenient little house in England, and the
crookedest; but then, Miss Tox said, what a situation! There was very
little daylight to be got there in the winter: no sun at the best of
times: air was out of the question, and traffic was walled out. Still
Miss Tox said, think of the situation! So said the blue-faced Major,
whose eyes were starting out of his head: who gloried in Princess’s
Place: and who delighted to turn the conversation at his club, whenever
he could, to something connected with some of the great people in the
great street round the corner, that he might have the satisfaction of
saying they were his neighbours.

In short, with Miss Tox and the blue-faced Major, it was enough for
Princess’s Place--as with a very small fragment of society, it is enough
for many a little hanger-on of another sort--to be well connected, and
to have genteel blood in its veins. It might be poor, mean, shabby,
stupid, dull. No matter. The great street round the corner trailed off
into Princess’s Place; and that which of High Holborn would have become
a choleric word, spoken of Princess’s Place became flat blasphemy.

The dingy tenement inhabited by Miss Tox was her own; having been
devised and bequeathed to her by the deceased owner of the fishy eye
in the locket, of whom a miniature portrait, with a powdered head and
a pigtail, balanced the kettle-holder on opposite sides of the parlour
fireplace. The greater part of the furniture was of the powdered-head
and pig-tail period: comprising a plate-warmer, always languishing
and sprawling its four attenuated bow legs in somebody’s way; and an
obsolete harpsichord, illuminated round the maker’s name with a painted
garland of sweet peas. In any part of the house, visitors were usually
cognizant of a prevailing mustiness; and in warm weather Miss Tox
had been seen apparently writing in sundry chinks and crevices of
the wainscoat with the the wrong end of a pen dipped in spirits of

Although Major Bagstock had arrived at what is called in polite
literature, the grand meridian of life, and was proceeding on his
journey downhill with hardly any throat, and a very rigid pair
of jaw-bones, and long-flapped elephantine ears, and his eyes and
complexion in the state of artificial excitement already mentioned, he
was mightily proud of awakening an interest in Miss Tox, and tickled his
vanity with the fiction that she was a splendid woman who had her eye
on him. This he had several times hinted at the club: in connexion with
little jocularities, of which old Joe Bagstock, old Joey Bagstock, old
J. Bagstock, old Josh Bagstock, or so forth, was the perpetual theme:
it being, as it were, the Major’s stronghold and donjon-keep of light
humour, to be on the most familiar terms with his own name.

‘Joey B., Sir,’ the Major would say, with a flourish of his
walking-stick, ‘is worth a dozen of you. If you had a few more of the
Bagstock breed among you, Sir, you’d be none the worse for it. Old Joe,
Sir, needn’t look far for a wife even now, if he was on the look-out;
but he’s hard-hearted, Sir, is Joe--he’s tough, Sir, tough, and
de-vilish sly!’ After such a declaration, wheezing sounds would be
heard; and the Major’s blue would deepen into purple, while his eyes
strained and started convulsively.

Notwithstanding his very liberal laudation of himself, however, the
Major was selfish. It may be doubted whether there ever was a more
entirely selfish person at heart; or at stomach is perhaps a better
expression, seeing that he was more decidedly endowed with that latter
organ than with the former. He had no idea of being overlooked or
slighted by anybody; least of all, had he the remotest comprehension of
being overlooked and slighted by Miss Tox.

And yet, Miss Tox, as it appeared, forgot him--gradually forgot him. She
began to forget him soon after her discovery of the Toodle family. She
continued to forget him up to the time of the christening. She went on
forgetting him with compound interest after that. Something or somebody
had superseded him as a source of interest.

‘Good morning, Ma’am,’ said the Major, meeting Miss Tox in Princess’s
Place, some weeks after the changes chronicled in the last chapter.

‘Good morning, Sir,’ said Miss Tox; very coldly.

‘Joe Bagstock, Ma’am,’ observed the Major, with his usual gallantry,
‘has not had the happiness of bowing to you at your window, for a
considerable period. Joe has been hardly used, Ma’am. His sun has been
behind a cloud.’

Miss Tox inclined her head; but very coldly indeed.

‘Joe’s luminary has been out of town, Ma’am, perhaps,’ inquired the

‘I? out of town? oh no, I have not been out of town,’ said Miss Tox.
‘I have been much engaged lately. My time is nearly all devoted to some
very intimate friends. I am afraid I have none to spare, even now. Good
morning, Sir!’

As Miss Tox, with her most fascinating step and carriage, disappeared
from Princess’s Place, the Major stood looking after her with a bluer
face than ever: muttering and growling some not at all complimentary

‘Why, damme, Sir,’ said the Major, rolling his lobster eyes round and
round Princess’s Place, and apostrophizing its fragrant air, ‘six months
ago, the woman loved the ground Josh Bagstock walked on. What’s the
meaning of it?’

The Major decided, after some consideration, that it meant mantraps;
that it meant plotting and snaring; that Miss Tox was digging pitfalls.
‘But you won’t catch Joe, Ma’am,’ said the Major. ‘He’s tough, Ma’am,
tough, is J.B. Tough, and de-vilish sly!’ over which reflection he
chuckled for the rest of the day.

But still, when that day and many other days were gone and past, it
seemed that Miss Tox took no heed whatever of the Major, and thought
nothing at all about him. She had been wont, once upon a time, to look
out at one of her little dark windows by accident, and blushingly return
the Major’s greeting; but now, she never gave the Major a chance,
and cared nothing at all whether he looked over the way or not. Other
changes had come to pass too. The Major, standing in the shade of his
own apartment, could make out that an air of greater smartness had
recently come over Miss Tox’s house; that a new cage with gilded wires
had been provided for the ancient little canary bird; that divers
ornaments, cut out of coloured card-boards and paper, seemed to decorate
the chimney-piece and tables; that a plant or two had suddenly sprung up
in the windows; that Miss Tox occasionally practised on the harpsichord,
whose garland of sweet peas was always displayed ostentatiously, crowned
with the Copenhagen and Bird Waltzes in a Music Book of Miss Tox’s own

Over and above all this, Miss Tox had long been dressed with uncommon
care and elegance in slight mourning. But this helped the Major out of
his difficulty; and he determined within himself that she had come into
a small legacy, and grown proud.

It was on the very next day after he had eased his mind by arriving
at this decision, that the Major, sitting at his breakfast, saw
an apparition so tremendous and wonderful in Miss Tox’s little
drawing-room, that he remained for some time rooted to his chair;
then, rushing into the next room, returned with a double-barrelled
opera-glass, through which he surveyed it intently for some minutes.

‘It’s a Baby, Sir,’ said the Major, shutting up the glass again, ‘for
fifty thousand pounds!’

The Major couldn’t forget it. He could do nothing but whistle, and stare
to that extent, that his eyes, compared with what they now became, had
been in former times quite cavernous and sunken. Day after day, two,
three, four times a week, this Baby reappeared. The Major continued to
stare and whistle. To all other intents and purposes he was alone in
Princess’s Place. Miss Tox had ceased to mind what he did. He might have
been black as well as blue, and it would have been of no consequence to

The perseverance with which she walked out of Princess’s Place to fetch
this baby and its nurse, and walked back with them, and walked home
with them again, and continually mounted guard over them; and the
perseverance with which she nursed it herself, and fed it, and played
with it, and froze its young blood with airs upon the harpsichord, was
extraordinary. At about this same period too, she was seized with a
passion for looking at a certain bracelet; also with a passion for
looking at the moon, of which she would take long observations from
her chamber window. But whatever she looked at; sun, moon, stars, or
bracelet; she looked no more at the Major. And the Major whistled, and
stared, and wondered, and dodged about his room, and could make nothing
of it.

‘You’ll quite win my brother Paul’s heart, and that’s the truth, my
dear,’ said Mrs Chick, one day.

Miss Tox turned pale.

‘He grows more like Paul every day,’ said Mrs Chick.

Miss Tox returned no other reply than by taking the little Paul in her
arms, and making his cockade perfectly flat and limp with her caresses.

‘His mother, my dear,’ said Miss Tox, ‘whose acquaintance I was to have
made through you, does he at all resemble her?’

‘Not at all,’ returned Louisa

‘She was--she was pretty, I believe?’ faltered Miss Tox.

‘Why, poor dear Fanny was interesting,’ said Mrs Chick, after some
judicial consideration. ‘Certainly interesting. She had not that air
of commanding superiority which one would somehow expect, almost as
a matter of course, to find in my brother’s wife; nor had she that
strength and vigour of mind which such a man requires.’

Miss Tox heaved a deep sigh.

‘But she was pleasing:’ said Mrs Chick: ‘extremely so. And she
meant!--oh, dear, how well poor Fanny meant!’

‘You Angel!’ cried Miss Tox to little Paul. ‘You Picture of your own

If the Major could have known how many hopes and ventures, what a
multitude of plans and speculations, rested on that baby head; and
could have seen them hovering, in all their heterogeneous confusion
and disorder, round the puckered cap of the unconscious little Paul;
he might have stared indeed. Then would he have recognised, among the
crowd, some few ambitious motes and beams belonging to Miss Tox; then
would he perhaps have understood the nature of that lady’s faltering
investment in the Dombey Firm.

If the child himself could have awakened in the night, and seen,
gathered about his cradle-curtains, faint reflections of the dreams that
other people had of him, they might have scared him, with good reason.
But he slumbered on, alike unconscious of the kind intentions of Miss
Tox, the wonder of the Major, the early sorrows of his sister, and
the stern visions of his father; and innocent that any spot of earth
contained a Dombey or a Son.

CHAPTER 8. Paul’s Further Progress, Growth and Character

Beneath the watching and attentive eyes of Time--so far another
Major--Paul’s slumbers gradually changed. More and more light broke
in upon them; distincter and distincter dreams disturbed them; an
accumulating crowd of objects and impressions swarmed about his rest;
and so he passed from babyhood to childhood, and became a talking,
walking, wondering Dombey.

On the downfall and banishment of Richards, the nursery may be said to
have been put into commission: as a Public Department is sometimes, when
no individual Atlas can be found to support it The Commissioners were,
of course, Mrs Chick and Miss Tox: who devoted themselves to their
duties with such astonishing ardour that Major Bagstock had every day
some new reminder of his being forsaken, while Mr Chick, bereft of
domestic supervision, cast himself upon the gay world, dined at clubs
and coffee-houses, smelt of smoke on three different occasions, went to
the play by himself, and in short, loosened (as Mrs Chick once told him)
every social bond, and moral obligation.

Yet, in spite of his early promise, all this vigilance and care could
not make little Paul a thriving boy. Naturally delicate, perhaps, he
pined and wasted after the dismissal of his nurse, and, for a long time,
seemed but to wait his opportunity of gliding through their hands, and
seeking his lost mother. This dangerous ground in his steeple-chase
towards manhood passed, he still found it very rough riding, and was
grievously beset by all the obstacles in his course. Every tooth was a
break-neck fence, and every pimple in the measles a stone wall to him.
He was down in every fit of the hooping-cough, and rolled upon and
crushed by a whole field of small diseases, that came trooping on each
other’s heels to prevent his getting up again. Some bird of prey got
into his throat instead of the thrush; and the very chickens turning
ferocious--if they have anything to do with that infant malady to which
they lend their name--worried him like tiger-cats.

The chill of Paul’s christening had struck home, perhaps to some
sensitive part of his nature, which could not recover itself in the cold
shade of his father; but he was an unfortunate child from that day. Mrs
Wickam often said she never see a dear so put upon.

Mrs Wickam was a waiter’s wife--which would seem equivalent to being any
other man’s widow--whose application for an engagement in Mr Dombey’s
service had been favourably considered, on account of the apparent
impossibility of her having any followers, or anyone to follow; and who,
from within a day or two of Paul’s sharp weaning, had been engaged as
his nurse. Mrs Wickam was a meek woman, of a fair complexion, with her
eyebrows always elevated, and her head always drooping; who was always
ready to pity herself, or to be pitied, or to pity anybody else; and
who had a surprising natural gift of viewing all subjects in an utterly
forlorn and pitiable light, and bringing dreadful precedents to bear
upon them, and deriving the greatest consolation from the exercise of
that talent.

It is hardly necessary to observe, that no touch of this quality ever
reached the magnificent knowledge of Mr Dombey. It would have been
remarkable, indeed, if any had; when no one in the house--not even Mrs
Chick or Miss Tox--dared ever whisper to him that there had, on any one
occasion, been the least reason for uneasiness in reference to little
Paul. He had settled, within himself, that the child must necessarily
pass through a certain routine of minor maladies, and that the sooner
he did so the better. If he could have bought him off, or provided a
substitute, as in the case of an unlucky drawing for the militia, he
would have been glad to do so, on liberal terms. But as this was not
feasible, he merely wondered, in his haughty manner, now and then, what
Nature meant by it; and comforted himself with the reflection that there
was another milestone passed upon the road, and that the great end of
the journey lay so much the nearer. For the feeling uppermost in his
mind, now and constantly intensifying, and increasing in it as Paul grew
older, was impatience. Impatience for the time to come, when his visions
of their united consequence and grandeur would be triumphantly realized.

Some philosophers tell us that selfishness is at the root of our best
loves and affections. Mr Dombey’s young child was, from the beginning,
so distinctly important to him as a part of his own greatness, or (which
is the same thing) of the greatness of Dombey and Son, that there is no
doubt his parental affection might have been easily traced, like many
a goodly superstructure of fair fame, to a very low foundation. But he
loved his son with all the love he had. If there were a warm place in
his frosty heart, his son occupied it; if its very hard surface could
receive the impression of any image, the image of that son was there;
though not so much as an infant, or as a boy, but as a grown man--the
‘Son’ of the Firm. Therefore he was impatient to advance into the
future, and to hurry over the intervening passages of his history.
Therefore he had little or no anxiety about them, in spite of his love;
feeling as if the boy had a charmed life, and must become the man with
whom he held such constant communication in his thoughts, and for whom
he planned and projected, as for an existing reality, every day.

Thus Paul grew to be nearly five years old. He was a pretty little
fellow; though there was something wan and wistful in his small face,
that gave occasion to many significant shakes of Mrs Wickam’s head, and
many long-drawn inspirations of Mrs Wickam’s breath. His temper gave
abundant promise of being imperious in after-life; and he had as hopeful
an apprehension of his own importance, and the rightful subservience
of all other things and persons to it, as heart could desire. He was
childish and sportive enough at times, and not of a sullen disposition;
but he had a strange, old-fashioned, thoughtful way, at other times, of
sitting brooding in his miniature arm-chair, when he looked (and talked)
like one of those terrible little Beings in the Fairy tales, who, at a
hundred and fifty or two hundred years of age, fantastically represent
the children for whom they have been substituted. He would frequently
be stricken with this precocious mood upstairs in the nursery; and would
sometimes lapse into it suddenly, exclaiming that he was tired: even
while playing with Florence, or driving Miss Tox in single harness.
But at no time did he fall into it so surely, as when, his little chair
being carried down into his father’s room, he sat there with him after
dinner, by the fire. They were the strangest pair at such a time that
ever firelight shone upon. Mr Dombey so erect and solemn, gazing at the
blare; his little image, with an old, old face, peering into the red
perspective with the fixed and rapt attention of a sage. Mr Dombey
entertaining complicated worldly schemes and plans; the little image
entertaining Heaven knows what wild fancies, half-formed thoughts, and
wandering speculations. Mr Dombey stiff with starch and arrogance; the
little image by inheritance, and in unconscious imitation. The two so
very much alike, and yet so monstrously contrasted.

On one of these occasions, when they had both been perfectly quiet for
a long time, and Mr Dombey only knew that the child was awake by
occasionally glancing at his eye, where the bright fire was sparkling
like a jewel, little Paul broke silence thus:

‘Papa! what’s money?’

The abrupt question had such immediate reference to the subject of Mr
Dombey’s thoughts, that Mr Dombey was quite disconcerted.

‘What is money, Paul?’ he answered. ‘Money?’

‘Yes,’ said the child, laying his hands upon the elbows of his little
chair, and turning the old face up towards Mr Dombey’s; ‘what is money?’

Mr Dombey was in a difficulty. He would have liked to give him
some explanation involving the terms circulating-medium, currency,
depreciation of currency, paper, bullion, rates of exchange, value of
precious metals in the market, and so forth; but looking down at the
little chair, and seeing what a long way down it was, he answered:
‘Gold, and silver, and copper. Guineas, shillings, half-pence. You know
what they are?’

‘Oh yes, I know what they are,’ said Paul. ‘I don’t mean that, Papa. I
mean what’s money after all?’

Heaven and Earth, how old his face was as he turned it up again towards
his father’s!

‘What is money after all!’ said Mr Dombey, backing his chair a little,
that he might the better gaze in sheer amazement at the presumptuous
atom that propounded such an inquiry.

‘I mean, Papa, what can it do?’ returned Paul, folding his arms (they
were hardly long enough to fold), and looking at the fire, and up at
him, and at the fire, and up at him again.

Mr Dombey drew his chair back to its former place, and patted him on the
head. ‘You’ll know better by-and-by, my man,’ he said. ‘Money, Paul,
can do anything.’ He took hold of the little hand, and beat it softly
against one of his own, as he said so.

But Paul got his hand free as soon as he could; and rubbing it gently to
and fro on the elbow of his chair, as if his wit were in the palm, and
he were sharpening it--and looking at the fire again, as though the fire
had been his adviser and prompter--repeated, after a short pause:

‘Anything, Papa?’

‘Yes. Anything--almost,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Anything means everything, don’t it, Papa?’ asked his son: not
observing, or possibly not understanding, the qualification.

‘It includes it: yes,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Why didn’t money save me my Mama?’ returned the child. ‘It isn’t cruel,
is it?’

‘Cruel!’ said Mr Dombey, settling his neckcloth, and seeming to resent
the idea. ‘No. A good thing can’t be cruel.’

‘If it’s a good thing, and can do anything,’ said the little fellow,
thoughtfully, as he looked back at the fire, ‘I wonder why it didn’t
save me my Mama.’

He didn’t ask the question of his father this time. Perhaps he had
seen, with a child’s quickness, that it had already made his father
uncomfortable. But he repeated the thought aloud, as if it were quite
an old one to him, and had troubled him very much; and sat with his chin
resting on his hand, still cogitating and looking for an explanation in
the fire.

Mr Dombey having recovered from his surprise, not to say his alarm (for
it was the very first occasion on which the child had ever broached the
subject of his mother to him, though he had had him sitting by his side,
in this same manner, evening after evening), expounded to him how
that money, though a very potent spirit, never to be disparaged on any
account whatever, could not keep people alive whose time was come to
die; and how that we must all die, unfortunately, even in the City,
though we were never so rich. But how that money caused us to be
honoured, feared, respected, courted, and admired, and made us powerful
and glorious in the eyes of all men; and how that it could, very often,
even keep off death, for a long time together. How, for example, it had
secured to his Mama the services of Mr Pilkins, by which he, Paul, had
often profited himself; likewise of the great Doctor Parker Peps, whom
he had never known. And how it could do all, that could be done. This,
with more to the same purpose, Mr Dombey instilled into the mind of his
son, who listened attentively, and seemed to understand the greater part
of what was said to him.

‘It can’t make me strong and quite well, either, Papa; can it?’ asked
Paul, after a short silence; rubbing his tiny hands.

‘Why, you are strong and quite well,’ returned Mr Dombey. ‘Are you not?’

Oh! the age of the face that was turned up again, with an expression,
half of melancholy, half of slyness, on it!

‘You are as strong and well as such little people usually are? Eh?’ said
Mr Dombey.

‘Florence is older than I am, but I’m not as strong and well as
Florence, ‘I know,’ returned the child; ‘and I believe that when
Florence was as little as me, she could play a great deal longer at a
time without tiring herself. I am so tired sometimes,’ said little Paul,
warming his hands, and looking in between the bars of the grate, as if
some ghostly puppet-show were performing there, ‘and my bones ache so
(Wickam says it’s my bones), that I don’t know what to do.’

‘Ay! But that’s at night,’ said Mr Dombey, drawing his own chair closer
to his son’s, and laying his hand gently on his back; ‘little people
should be tired at night, for then they sleep well.’

‘Oh, it’s not at night, Papa,’ returned the child, ‘it’s in the day;
and I lie down in Florence’s lap, and she sings to me. At night I dream
about such cu-ri-ous things!’

And he went on, warming his hands again, and thinking about them, like
an old man or a young goblin.

Mr Dombey was so astonished, and so uncomfortable, and so perfectly at
a loss how to pursue the conversation, that he could only sit looking at
his son by the light of the fire, with his hand resting on his back, as
if it were detained there by some magnetic attraction. Once he advanced
his other hand, and turned the contemplative face towards his own for
a moment. But it sought the fire again as soon as he released it;
and remained, addressed towards the flickering blaze, until the nurse
appeared, to summon him to bed.

‘I want Florence to come for me,’ said Paul.

‘Won’t you come with your poor Nurse Wickam, Master Paul?’ inquired that
attendant, with great pathos.

‘No, I won’t,’ replied Paul, composing himself in his arm-chair again,
like the master of the house.

Invoking a blessing upon his innocence, Mrs Wickam withdrew, and
presently Florence appeared in her stead. The child immediately started
up with sudden readiness and animation, and raised towards his father in
bidding him good-night, a countenance so much brighter, so much younger,
and so much more child-like altogether, that Mr Dombey, while he felt
greatly reassured by the change, was quite amazed at it.

After they had left the room together, he thought he heard a soft voice
singing; and remembering that Paul had said his sister sung to him, he
had the curiosity to open the door and listen, and look after them. She
was toiling up the great, wide, vacant staircase, with him in her arms;
his head was lying on her shoulder, one of his arms thrown negligently
round her neck. So they went, toiling up; she singing all the way, and
Paul sometimes crooning out a feeble accompaniment. Mr Dombey looked
after them until they reached the top of the staircase--not without
halting to rest by the way--and passed out of his sight; and then he
still stood gazing upwards, until the dull rays of the moon, glimmering
in a melancholy manner through the dim skylight, sent him back to his

Mrs Chick and Miss Tox were convoked in council at dinner next day;
and when the cloth was removed, Mr Dombey opened the proceedings by
requiring to be informed, without any gloss or reservation, whether
there was anything the matter with Paul, and what Mr Pilkins said about

‘For the child is hardly,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘as stout as I could wish.’

‘My dear Paul,’ returned Mrs Chick, ‘with your usual happy
discrimination, which I am weak enough to envy you, every time I am in
your company; and so I think is Miss Tox.’

‘Oh my dear!’ said Miss Tox, softly, ‘how could it be otherwise?
Presumptuous as it is to aspire to such a level; still, if the bird of
night may--but I’ll not trouble Mr Dombey with the sentiment. It merely
relates to the Bulbul.’

Mr Dombey bent his head in stately recognition of the Bulbuls as an
old-established body.

‘With your usual happy discrimination, my dear Paul,’ resumed Mrs Chick,
‘you have hit the point at once. Our darling is altogether as stout as
we could wish. The fact is, that his mind is too much for him. His soul
is a great deal too large for his frame. I am sure the way in which
that dear child talks!’ said Mrs Chick, shaking her head; ‘no one would
believe. His expressions, Lucretia, only yesterday upon the subject of

‘I am afraid,’ said Mr Dombey, interrupting her testily, ‘that some of
those persons upstairs suggest improper subjects to the child. He was
speaking to me last night about his--about his Bones,’ said Mr Dombey,
laying an irritated stress upon the word. ‘What on earth has anybody to
do with the--with the--Bones of my son? He is not a living skeleton, I

‘Very far from it,’ said Mrs Chick, with unspeakable expression.

‘I hope so,’ returned her brother. ‘Funerals again! who talks to the
child of funerals? We are not undertakers, or mutes, or grave-diggers, I

‘Very far from it,’ interposed Mrs Chick, with the same profound
expression as before.

‘Then who puts such things into his head?’ said Mr Dombey. ‘Really I
was quite dismayed and shocked last night. Who puts such things into his
head, Louisa?’

‘My dear Paul,’ said Mrs Chick, after a moment’s silence, ‘it is of no
use inquiring. I do not think, I will tell you candidly that Wickam is a
person of very cheerful spirit, or what one would call a--’

‘A daughter of Momus,’ Miss Tox softly suggested.

‘Exactly so,’ said Mrs Chick; ‘but she is exceedingly attentive and
useful, and not at all presumptuous; indeed I never saw a more biddable
woman. I would say that for her, if I was put upon my trial before a
Court of Justice.’

‘Well! you are not put upon your trial before a Court of Justice, at
present, Louisa,’ returned Mr Dombey, chafing, ‘and therefore it don’t

‘My dear Paul,’ said Mrs Chick, in a warning voice, ‘I must be spoken
to kindly, or there is an end of me,’ at the same time a premonitory
redness developed itself in Mrs Chick’s eyelids which was an invariable
sign of rain, unless the weather changed directly.

‘I was inquiring, Louisa,’ observed Mr Dombey, in an altered voice, and
after a decent interval, ‘about Paul’s health and actual state.’

‘If the dear child,’ said Mrs Chick, in the tone of one who was summing
up what had been previously quite agreed upon, instead of saying it all
for the first time, ‘is a little weakened by that last attack, and is
not in quite such vigorous health as we could wish; and if he has some
temporary weakness in his system, and does occasionally seem about to
lose, for the moment, the use of his--’

Mrs Chick was afraid to say limbs, after Mr Dombey’s recent objection to
bones, and therefore waited for a suggestion from Miss Tox, who, true to
her office, hazarded ‘members.’

‘Members!’ repeated Mr Dombey.

‘I think the medical gentleman mentioned legs this morning, my dear
Louisa, did he not?’ said Miss Tox.

‘Why, of course he did, my love,’ retorted Mrs Chick, mildly
reproachful. ‘How can you ask me? You heard him. I say, if our dear Paul
should lose, for the moment, the use of his legs, these are casualties
common to many children at his time of life, and not to be prevented
by any care or caution. The sooner you understand that, Paul, and admit
that, the better. If you have any doubt as to the amount of care, and
caution, and affection, and self-sacrifice, that has been bestowed
upon little Paul, I should wish to refer the question to your medical
attendant, or to any of your dependants in this house. Call Towlinson,’
said Mrs Chick, ‘I believe he has no prejudice in our favour; quite the
contrary. I should wish to hear what accusation Towlinson can make!’

‘Surely you must know, Louisa,’ observed Mr Dombey, ‘that I don’t
question your natural devotion to, and regard for, the future head of my

‘I am glad to hear it, Paul,’ said Mrs Chick; ‘but really you are very
odd, and sometimes talk very strangely, though without meaning it, I
know. If your dear boy’s soul is too much for his body, Paul, you should
remember whose fault that is--who he takes after, I mean--and make the
best of it. He’s as like his Papa as he can be. People have noticed it
in the streets. The very beadle, I am informed, observed it, so long ago
as at his christening. He’s a very respectable man, with children of his
own. He ought to know.’

‘Mr Pilkins saw Paul this morning, I believe?’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Yes, he did,’ returned his sister. ‘Miss Tox and myself were present.
Miss Tox and myself are always present. We make a point of it. Mr
Pilkins has seen him for some days past, and a very clever man I believe
him to be. He says it is nothing to speak of; which I can confirm,
if that is any consolation; but he recommended, to-day, sea-air. Very
wisely, Paul, I feel convinced.’

‘Sea-air,’ repeated Mr Dombey, looking at his sister.

‘There is nothing to be made uneasy by, in that,’ said Mrs Chick. ‘My
George and Frederick were both ordered sea-air, when they were about his
age; and I have been ordered it myself a great many times. I quite
agree with you, Paul, that perhaps topics may be incautiously mentioned
upstairs before him, which it would be as well for his little mind not
to expatiate upon; but I really don’t see how that is to be helped, in
the case of a child of his quickness. If he were a common child, there
would be nothing in it. I must say I think, with Miss Tox, that a short
absence from this house, the air of Brighton, and the bodily and mental
training of so judicious a person as Mrs Pipchin for instance--’

‘Who is Mrs Pipchin, Louisa?’ asked Mr Dombey; aghast at this familiar
introduction of a name he had never heard before.

‘Mrs Pipchin, my dear Paul,’ returned his sister, ‘is an elderly
lady--Miss Tox knows her whole history--who has for some time devoted
all the energies of her mind, with the greatest success, to the study
and treatment of infancy, and who has been extremely well connected. Her
husband broke his heart in--how did you say her husband broke his heart,
my dear? I forget the precise circumstances.

‘In pumping water out of the Peruvian Mines,’ replied Miss Tox.

‘Not being a Pumper himself, of course,’ said Mrs Chick, glancing at her
brother; and it really did seem necessary to offer the explanation, for
Miss Tox had spoken of him as if he had died at the handle; ‘but having
invested money in the speculation, which failed. I believe that Mrs
Pipchin’s management of children is quite astonishing. I have heard it
commended in private circles ever since I was--dear me--how high!’ Mrs
Chick’s eye wandered about the bookcase near the bust of Mr Pitt, which
was about ten feet from the ground.

‘Perhaps I should say of Mrs Pipchin, my dear Sir,’ observed Miss Tox,
with an ingenuous blush, ‘having been so pointedly referred to, that
the encomium which has been passed upon her by your sweet sister is
well merited. Many ladies and gentleman, now grown up to be interesting
members of society, have been indebted to her care. The humble
individual who addresses you was once under her charge. I believe
juvenile nobility itself is no stranger to her establishment.’

‘Do I understand that this respectable matron keeps an establishment,
Miss Tox?’ the Mr Dombey, condescendingly.

‘Why, I really don’t know,’ rejoined that lady, ‘whether I am justified
in calling it so. It is not a Preparatory School by any means. Should
I express my meaning,’ said Miss Tox, with peculiar sweetness, ‘if I
designated it an infantine Boarding-House of a very select description?’

‘On an exceedingly limited and particular scale,’ suggested Mrs Chick,
with a glance at her brother.

‘Oh! Exclusion itself!’ said Miss Tox.

There was something in this. Mrs Pipchin’s husband having broken his
heart of the Peruvian mines was good. It had a rich sound. Besides, Mr
Dombey was in a state almost amounting to consternation at the idea
of Paul remaining where he was one hour after his removal had been
recommended by the medical practitioner. It was a stoppage and delay
upon the road the child must traverse, slowly at the best, before the
goal was reached. Their recommendation of Mrs Pipchin had great weight
with him; for he knew that they were jealous of any interference with
their charge, and he never for a moment took it into account that they
might be solicitous to divide a responsibility, of which he had, as
shown just now, his own established views. Broke his heart of the
Peruvian mines, mused Mr Dombey. Well! a very respectable way of doing

‘Supposing we should decide, on to-morrow’s inquiries, to send Paul down
to Brighton to this lady, who would go with him?’ inquired Mr Dombey,
after some reflection.

‘I don’t think you could send the child anywhere at present without
Florence, my dear Paul,’ returned his sister, hesitating. ‘It’s quite an
infatuation with him. He’s very young, you know, and has his fancies.’

Mr Dombey turned his head away, and going slowly to the bookcase, and
unlocking it, brought back a book to read.

‘Anybody else, Louisa?’ he said, without looking up, and turning over
the leaves.

‘Wickam, of course. Wickam would be quite sufficient, I should say,’
returned his sister. ‘Paul being in such hands as Mrs Pipchin’s, you
could hardly send anybody who would be a further check upon her. You
would go down yourself once a week at least, of course.’

‘Of course,’ said Mr Dombey; and sat looking at one page for an hour
afterwards, without reading one word.

This celebrated Mrs Pipchin was a marvellous ill-favoured,
ill-conditioned old lady, of a stooping figure, with a mottled face,
like bad marble, a hook nose, and a hard grey eye, that looked as if it
might have been hammered at on an anvil without sustaining any injury.
Forty years at least had elapsed since the Peruvian mines had been the
death of Mr Pipchin; but his relict still wore black bombazeen, of such
a lustreless, deep, dead, sombre shade, that gas itself couldn’t light
her up after dark, and her presence was a quencher to any number of
candles. She was generally spoken of as ‘a great manager’ of children;
and the secret of her management was, to give them everything that they
didn’t like, and nothing that they did--which was found to sweeten their
dispositions very much. She was such a bitter old lady, that one was
tempted to believe there had been some mistake in the application of
the Peruvian machinery, and that all her waters of gladness and milk of
human kindness, had been pumped out dry, instead of the mines.

The Castle of this ogress and child-queller was in a steep by-street
at Brighton; where the soil was more than usually chalky, flinty, and
sterile, and the houses were more than usually brittle and thin; where
the small front-gardens had the unaccountable property of producing
nothing but marigolds, whatever was sown in them; and where snails were
constantly discovered holding on to the street doors, and other
public places they were not expected to ornament, with the tenacity of
cupping-glasses. In the winter time the air couldn’t be got out of the
Castle, and in the summer time it couldn’t be got in. There was such
a continual reverberation of wind in it, that it sounded like a great
shell, which the inhabitants were obliged to hold to their ears
night and day, whether they liked it or no. It was not, naturally, a
fresh-smelling house; and in the window of the front parlour, which was
never opened, Mrs Pipchin kept a collection of plants in pots, which
imparted an earthy flavour of their own to the establishment. However
choice examples of their kind, too, these plants were of a kind
peculiarly adapted to the embowerment of Mrs Pipchin. There were
half-a-dozen specimens of the cactus, writhing round bits of lath, like
hairy serpents; another specimen shooting out broad claws, like a green
lobster; several creeping vegetables, possessed of sticky and adhesive
leaves; and one uncomfortable flower-pot hanging to the ceiling, which
appeared to have boiled over, and tickling people underneath with
its long green ends, reminded them of spiders--in which Mrs Pipchin’s
dwelling was uncommonly prolific, though perhaps it challenged
competition still more proudly, in the season, in point of earwigs.

Mrs Pipchin’s scale of charges being high, however, to all who could
afford to pay, and Mrs Pipchin very seldom sweetening the equable
acidity of her nature in favour of anybody, she was held to be an old
‘lady of remarkable firmness, who was quite scientific in her knowledge
of the childish character.’ On this reputation, and on the broken heart
of Mr Pipchin, she had contrived, taking one year with another, to eke
out a tolerable sufficient living since her husband’s demise. Within
three days after Mrs Chick’s first allusion to her, this excellent old
lady had the satisfaction of anticipating a handsome addition to
her current receipts, from the pocket of Mr Dombey; and of receiving
Florence and her little brother Paul, as inmates of the Castle.

Mrs Chick and Miss Tox, who had brought them down on the previous night
(which they all passed at an Hotel), had just driven away from the door,
on their journey home again; and Mrs Pipchin, with her back to the fire,
stood, reviewing the new-comers, like an old soldier. Mrs Pipchin’s
middle-aged niece, her good-natured and devoted slave, but possessing a
gaunt and iron-bound aspect, and much afflicted with boils on her nose,
was divesting Master Bitherstone of the clean collar he had worn on
parade. Miss Pankey, the only other little boarder at present, had that
moment been walked off to the Castle Dungeon (an empty apartment at the
back, devoted to correctional purposes), for having sniffed thrice, in
the presence of visitors.

‘Well, Sir,’ said Mrs Pipchin to Paul, ‘how do you think you shall like

‘I don’t think I shall like you at all,’ replied Paul. ‘I want to go
away. This isn’t my house.’

‘No. It’s mine,’ retorted Mrs Pipchin.

‘It’s a very nasty one,’ said Paul.

‘There’s a worse place in it than this though,’ said Mrs Pipchin, ‘where
we shut up our bad boys.’

‘Has he ever been in it?’ asked Paul: pointing out Master Bitherstone.

Mrs Pipchin nodded assent; and Paul had enough to do, for the rest
of that day, in surveying Master Bitherstone from head to foot,
and watching all the workings of his countenance, with the interest
attaching to a boy of mysterious and terrible experiences.

At one o’clock there was a dinner, chiefly of the farinaceous and
vegetable kind, when Miss Pankey (a mild little blue-eyed morsel of a
child, who was shampoo’d every morning, and seemed in danger of being
rubbed away, altogether) was led in from captivity by the ogress
herself, and instructed that nobody who sniffed before visitors ever
went to Heaven. When this great truth had been thoroughly impressed upon
her, she was regaled with rice; and subsequently repeated the form of
grace established in the Castle, in which there was a special clause,
thanking Mrs Pipchin for a good dinner. Mrs Pipchin’s niece, Berinthia,
took cold pork. Mrs Pipchin, whose constitution required warm
nourishment, made a special repast of mutton-chops, which were brought
in hot and hot, between two plates, and smelt very nice.

As it rained after dinner, and they couldn’t go out walking on the
beach, and Mrs Pipchin’s constitution required rest after chops, they
went away with Berry (otherwise Berinthia) to the Dungeon; an empty room
looking out upon a chalk wall and a water-butt, and made ghastly by a
ragged fireplace without any stove in it. Enlivened by company, however,
this was the best place after all; for Berry played with them there, and
seemed to enjoy a game at romps as much as they did; until Mrs Pipchin
knocking angrily at the wall, like the Cock Lane Ghost revived, they
left off, and Berry told them stories in a whisper until twilight.

For tea there was plenty of milk and water, and bread and butter, with
a little black tea-pot for Mrs Pipchin and Berry, and buttered toast
unlimited for Mrs Pipchin, which was brought in, hot and hot, like the
chops. Though Mrs Pipchin got very greasy, outside, over this dish, it
didn’t seem to lubricate her internally, at all; for she was as fierce
as ever, and the hard grey eye knew no softening.

After tea, Berry brought out a little work-box, with the Royal Pavilion
on the lid, and fell to working busily; while Mrs Pipchin, having put on
her spectacles and opened a great volume bound in green baize, began to
nod. And whenever Mrs Pipchin caught herself falling forward into the
fire, and woke up, she filliped Master Bitherstone on the nose for
nodding too.

At last it was the children’s bedtime, and after prayers they went to
bed. As little Miss Pankey was afraid of sleeping alone in the dark,
Mrs Pipchin always made a point of driving her upstairs herself, like a
sheep; and it was cheerful to hear Miss Pankey moaning long afterwards,
in the least eligible chamber, and Mrs Pipchin now and then going in
to shake her. At about half-past nine o’clock the odour of a warm
sweet-bread (Mrs Pipchin’s constitution wouldn’t go to sleep without
sweet-bread) diversified the prevailing fragrance of the house, which
Mrs Wickam said was ‘a smell of building;’ and slumber fell upon the
Castle shortly after.

The breakfast next morning was like the tea over night, except that Mrs
Pipchin took her roll instead of toast, and seemed a little more irate
when it was over. Master Bitherstone read aloud to the rest a pedigree
from Genesis (judiciously selected by Mrs Pipchin), getting over the
names with the ease and clearness of a person tumbling up the treadmill.
That done, Miss Pankey was borne away to be shampoo’d; and Master
Bitherstone to have something else done to him with salt water, from
which he always returned very blue and dejected. Paul and Florence went
out in the meantime on the beach with Wickam--who was constantly in
tears--and at about noon Mrs Pipchin presided over some Early Readings.
It being a part of Mrs Pipchin’s system not to encourage a child’s mind
to develop and expand itself like a young flower, but to open it by
force like an oyster, the moral of these lessons was usually of a
violent and stunning character: the hero--a naughty boy--seldom, in the
mildest catastrophe, being finished off anything less than a lion, or a

Such was life at Mrs Pipchin’s. On Saturday Mr Dombey came down; and
Florence and Paul would go to his Hotel, and have tea They passed the
whole of Sunday with him, and generally rode out before dinner; and on
these occasions Mr Dombey seemed to grow, like Falstaff’s assailants,
and instead of being one man in buckram, to become a dozen. Sunday
evening was the most melancholy evening in the week; for Mrs Pipchin
always made a point of being particularly cross on Sunday nights. Miss
Pankey was generally brought back from an aunt’s at Rottingdean, in deep
distress; and Master Bitherstone, whose relatives were all in India, and
who was required to sit, between the services, in an erect position
with his head against the parlour wall, neither moving hand nor foot,
suffered so acutely in his young spirits that he once asked Florence,
on a Sunday night, if she could give him any idea of the way back to

But it was generally said that Mrs Pipchin was a woman of system with
children; and no doubt she was. Certainly the wild ones went home tame
enough, after sojourning for a few months beneath her hospitable roof.
It was generally said, too, that it was highly creditable of Mrs Pipchin
to have devoted herself to this way of life, and to have made such
a sacrifice of her feelings, and such a resolute stand against her
troubles, when Mr Pipchin broke his heart in the Peruvian mines.

At this exemplary old lady, Paul would sit staring in his little
arm-chair by the fire, for any length of time. He never seemed to know
what weariness was, when he was looking fixedly at Mrs Pipchin. He was
not fond of her; he was not afraid of her; but in those old, old moods
of his, she seemed to have a grotesque attraction for him. There he
would sit, looking at her, and warming his hands, and looking at her,
until he sometimes quite confounded Mrs Pipchin, Ogress as she was. Once
she asked him, when they were alone, what he was thinking about.

‘You,’ said Paul, without the least reserve.

‘And what are you thinking about me?’ asked Mrs Pipchin.

‘I’m thinking how old you must be,’ said Paul.

‘You mustn’t say such things as that, young gentleman,’ returned the
dame. ‘That’ll never do.’

‘Why not?’ asked Paul.

‘Because it’s not polite,’ said Mrs Pipchin, snappishly.

‘Not polite?’ said Paul.


‘It’s not polite,’ said Paul, innocently, ‘to eat all the mutton chops
and toast’, Wickam says.

‘Wickam,’ retorted Mrs Pipchin, colouring, ‘is a wicked, impudent,
bold-faced hussy.’

‘What’s that?’ inquired Paul.

‘Never you mind, Sir,’ retorted Mrs Pipchin. ‘Remember the story of the
little boy that was gored to death by a mad bull for asking questions.’

‘If the bull was mad,’ said Paul, ‘how did he know that the boy had
asked questions? Nobody can go and whisper secrets to a mad bull. I
don’t believe that story.’

‘You don’t believe it, Sir?’ repeated Mrs Pipchin, amazed.

‘No,’ said Paul.

‘Not if it should happen to have been a tame bull, you little Infidel?’
said Mrs Pipchin.

As Paul had not considered the subject in that light, and had founded
his conclusions on the alleged lunacy of the bull, he allowed himself
to be put down for the present. But he sat turning it over in his mind,
with such an obvious intention of fixing Mrs Pipchin presently, that
even that hardy old lady deemed it prudent to retreat until he should
have forgotten the subject.

From that time, Mrs Pipchin appeared to have something of the same odd
kind of attraction towards Paul, as Paul had towards her. She would make
him move his chair to her side of the fire, instead of sitting opposite;
and there he would remain in a nook between Mrs Pipchin and the fender,
with all the light of his little face absorbed into the black bombazeen
drapery, studying every line and wrinkle of her countenance, and peering
at the hard grey eye, until Mrs Pipchin was sometimes fain to shut it,
on pretence of dozing. Mrs Pipchin had an old black cat, who generally
lay coiled upon the centre foot of the fender, purring egotistically,
and winking at the fire until the contracted pupils of his eyes were
like two notes of admiration. The good old lady might have been--not
to record it disrespectfully--a witch, and Paul and the cat her two
familiars, as they all sat by the fire together. It would have been
quite in keeping with the appearance of the party if they had all sprung
up the chimney in a high wind one night, and never been heard of any

This, however, never came to pass. The cat, and Paul, and Mrs Pipchin,
were constantly to be found in their usual places after dark; and Paul,
eschewing the companionship of Master Bitherstone, went on studying Mrs
Pipchin, and the cat, and the fire, night after night, as if they were a
book of necromancy, in three volumes.

Mrs Wickam put her own construction on Paul’s eccentricities; and being
confirmed in her low spirits by a perplexed view of chimneys from the
room where she was accustomed to sit, and by the noise of the wind, and
by the general dulness (gashliness was Mrs Wickam’s strong expression)
of her present life, deduced the most dismal reflections from the
foregoing premises. It was a part of Mrs Pipchin’s policy to prevent
her own ‘young hussy’--that was Mrs Pipchin’s generic name for female
servant--from communicating with Mrs Wickam: to which end she devoted
much of her time to concealing herself behind doors, and springing
out on that devoted maiden, whenever she made an approach towards Mrs
Wickam’s apartment. But Berry was free to hold what converse she could
in that quarter, consistently with the discharge of the multifarious
duties at which she toiled incessantly from morning to night; and to
Berry Mrs Wickam unburdened her mind.

‘What a pretty fellow he is when he’s asleep!’ said Berry, stopping to
look at Paul in bed, one night when she took up Mrs Wickam’s supper.

‘Ah!’ sighed Mrs Wickam. ‘He need be.’

‘Why, he’s not ugly when he’s awake,’ observed Berry.

‘No, Ma’am. Oh, no. No more was my Uncle’s Betsey Jane,’ said Mrs

Berry looked as if she would like to trace the connexion of ideas
between Paul Dombey and Mrs Wickam’s Uncle’s Betsey Jane.

‘My Uncle’s wife,’ Mrs Wickam went on to say, ‘died just like his Mama.
My Uncle’s child took on just as Master Paul do.’

‘Took on! You don’t think he grieves for his Mama, sure?’ argued Berry,
sitting down on the side of the bed. ‘He can’t remember anything about
her, you know, Mrs Wickam. It’s not possible.’

‘No, Ma’am,’ said Mrs Wickam ‘No more did my Uncle’s child. But my
Uncle’s child said very strange things sometimes, and looked very
strange, and went on very strange, and was very strange altogether. My
Uncle’s child made people’s blood run cold, some times, she did!’

‘How?’ asked Berry.

‘I wouldn’t have sat up all night alone with Betsey Jane!’ said Mrs
Wickam, ‘not if you’d have put Wickam into business next morning for
himself. I couldn’t have done it, Miss Berry.

Miss Berry naturally asked why not? But Mrs Wickam, agreeably to the
usage of some ladies in her condition, pursued her own branch of the
subject, without any compunction.

‘Betsey Jane,’ said Mrs Wickam, ‘was as sweet a child as I could wish
to see. I couldn’t wish to see a sweeter. Everything that a child could
have in the way of illnesses, Betsey Jane had come through. The cramps
was as common to her,’ said Mrs Wickam, ‘as biles is to yourself, Miss
Berry.’ Miss Berry involuntarily wrinkled her nose.

‘But Betsey Jane,’ said Mrs Wickam, lowering her voice, and looking
round the room, and towards Paul in bed, ‘had been minded, in her
cradle, by her departed mother. I couldn’t say how, nor I couldn’t say
when, nor I couldn’t say whether the dear child knew it or not, but
Betsey Jane had been watched by her mother, Miss Berry!’ and Mrs Wickam,
with a very white face, and with watery eyes, and with a tremulous
voice, again looked fearfully round the room, and towards Paul in bed.

‘Nonsense!’ cried Miss Berry--somewhat resentful of the idea.

‘You may say nonsense! I ain’t offended, Miss. I hope you may be able
to think in your own conscience that it is nonsense; you’ll find
your spirits all the better for it in this--you’ll excuse my being so
free--in this burying-ground of a place; which is wearing of me down.
Master Paul’s a little restless in his sleep. Pat his back, if you

‘Of course you think,’ said Berry, gently doing what she was asked,
‘that he has been nursed by his mother, too?’

‘Betsey Jane,’ returned Mrs Wickam in her most solemn tones, ‘was put
upon as that child has been put upon, and changed as that child has
changed. I have seen her sit, often and often, think, think, thinking,
like him. I have seen her look, often and often, old, old, old, like
him. I have heard her, many a time, talk just like him. I consider that
child and Betsey Jane on the same footing entirely, Miss Berry.’

‘Is your Uncle’s child alive?’ asked Berry.

‘Yes, Miss, she is alive,’ returned Mrs Wickam with an air of triumph,
for it was evident. Miss Berry expected the reverse; ‘and is married to
a silver-chaser. Oh yes, Miss, SHE is alive,’ said Mrs Wickam, laying
strong stress on her nominative case.

It being clear that somebody was dead, Mrs Pipchin’s niece inquired who
it was.

‘I wouldn’t wish to make you uneasy,’ returned Mrs Wickam, pursuing her
supper. ‘Don’t ask me.’

This was the surest way of being asked again. Miss Berry repeated her
question, therefore; and after some resistance, and reluctance, Mrs
Wickam laid down her knife, and again glancing round the room and at
Paul in bed, replied:

‘She took fancies to people; whimsical fancies, some of them; others,
affections that one might expect to see--only stronger than common. They
all died.’

This was so very unexpected and awful to Mrs Pipchin’s niece, that
she sat upright on the hard edge of the bedstead, breathing short, and
surveying her informant with looks of undisguised alarm.

Mrs Wickam shook her left fore-finger stealthily towards the bed where
Florence lay; then turned it upside down, and made several emphatic
points at the floor; immediately below which was the parlour in which
Mrs Pipchin habitually consumed the toast.

‘Remember my words, Miss Berry,’ said Mrs Wickam, ‘and be thankful that
Master Paul is not too fond of you. I am, that he’s not too fond of
me, I assure you; though there isn’t much to live for--you’ll excuse my
being so free--in this jail of a house!’

Miss Berry’s emotion might have led to her patting Paul too hard on the
back, or might have produced a cessation of that soothing monotony, but
he turned in his bed just now, and, presently awaking, sat up in it with
his hair hot and wet from the effects of some childish dream, and asked
for Florence.

She was out of her own bed at the first sound of his voice; and bending
over his pillow immediately, sang him to sleep again. Mrs Wickam shaking
her head, and letting fall several tears, pointed out the little group
to Berry, and turned her eyes up to the ceiling.

‘He’s asleep now, my dear,’ said Mrs Wickam after a pause, ‘you’d better
go to bed again. Don’t you feel cold?’

‘No, nurse,’ said Florence, laughing. ‘Not at all.’

‘Ah!’ sighed Mrs Wickam, and she shook her head again, expressing to the
watchful Berry, ‘we shall be cold enough, some of us, by and by!’

Berry took the frugal supper-tray, with which Mrs Wickam had by this
time done, and bade her good-night.

‘Good-night, Miss!’ returned Wickam softly. ‘Good-night! Your aunt is an
old lady, Miss Berry, and it’s what you must have looked for, often.’

This consolatory farewell, Mrs Wickam accompanied with a look of
heartfelt anguish; and being left alone with the two children again, and
becoming conscious that the wind was blowing mournfully, she indulged in
melancholy--that cheapest and most accessible of luxuries--until she was
overpowered by slumber.

Although the niece of Mrs Pipchin did not expect to find that exemplary
dragon prostrate on the hearth-rug when she went downstairs, she was
relieved to find her unusually fractious and severe, and with every
present appearance of intending to live a long time to be a comfort to
all who knew her. Nor had she any symptoms of declining, in the course
of the ensuing week, when the constitutional viands still continued to
disappear in regular succession, notwithstanding that Paul studied her
as attentively as ever, and occupied his usual seat between the black
skirts and the fender, with unwavering constancy.

But as Paul himself was no stronger at the expiration of that time than
he had been on his first arrival, though he looked much healthier in the
face, a little carriage was got for him, in which he could lie at his
ease, with an alphabet and other elementary works of reference, and be
wheeled down to the sea-side. Consistent in his odd tastes, the child
set aside a ruddy-faced lad who was proposed as the drawer of this
carriage, and selected, instead, his grandfather--a weazen, old,
crab-faced man, in a suit of battered oilskin, who had got tough and
stringy from long pickling in salt water, and who smelt like a weedy
sea-beach when the tide is out.

With this notable attendant to pull him along, and Florence always
walking by his side, and the despondent Wickam bringing up the rear, he
went down to the margin of the ocean every day; and there he would sit
or lie in his carriage for hours together: never so distressed as by the
company of children--Florence alone excepted, always.

‘Go away, if you please,’ he would say to any child who came to bear him
company. ‘Thank you, but I don’t want you.’

Some small voice, near his ear, would ask him how he was, perhaps.

‘I am very well, I thank you,’ he would answer. ‘But you had better go
and play, if you please.’

Then he would turn his head, and watch the child away, and say to
Florence, ‘We don’t want any others, do we? Kiss me, Floy.’

He had even a dislike, at such times, to the company of Wickam, and was
well pleased when she strolled away, as she generally did, to pick up
shells and acquaintances. His favourite spot was quite a lonely one, far
away from most loungers; and with Florence sitting by his side at work,
or reading to him, or talking to him, and the wind blowing on his face,
and the water coming up among the wheels of his bed, he wanted nothing

‘Floy,’ he said one day, ‘where’s India, where that boy’s friends live?’

‘Oh, it’s a long, long distance off,’ said Florence, raising her eyes
from her work.

‘Weeks off?’ asked Paul.

‘Yes dear. Many weeks’ journey, night and day.’

‘If you were in India, Floy,’ said Paul, after being silent for a
minute, ‘I should--what is it that Mama did? I forget.’

‘Loved me!’ answered Florence.

‘No, no. Don’t I love you now, Floy? What is it?--Died. If you were in
India, I should die, Floy.’

She hurriedly put her work aside, and laid her head down on his pillow,
caressing him. And so would she, she said, if he were there. He would be
better soon.

‘Oh! I am a great deal better now!’ he answered. ‘I don’t mean that. I
mean that I should die of being so sorry and so lonely, Floy!’

Another time, in the same place, he fell asleep, and slept quietly for a
long time. Awaking suddenly, he listened, started up, and sat listening.

Florence asked him what he thought he heard.

‘I want to know what it says,’ he answered, looking steadily in her
face. ‘The sea’ Floy, what is it that it keeps on saying?’

She told him that it was only the noise of the rolling waves.

‘Yes, yes,’ he said. ‘But I know that they are always saying something.
Always the same thing. What place is over there?’ He rose up, looking
eagerly at the horizon.

She told him that there was another country opposite, but he said he
didn’t mean that: he meant further away--farther away!

Very often afterwards, in the midst of their talk, he would break off,
to try to understand what it was that the waves were always saying; and
would rise up in his couch to look towards that invisible region, far

CHAPTER 9. In which the Wooden Midshipman gets into Trouble

That spice of romance and love of the marvellous, of which there was a
pretty strong infusion in the nature of young Walter Gay, and which the
guardianship of his Uncle, old Solomon Gills, had not very much weakened
by the waters of stern practical experience, was the occasion of his
attaching an uncommon and delightful interest to the adventure of
Florence with Good Mrs Brown. He pampered and cherished it in his
memory, especially that part of it with which he had been associated:
until it became the spoiled child of his fancy, and took its own way,
and did what it liked with it.

The recollection of those incidents, and his own share in them, may have
been made the more captivating, perhaps, by the weekly dreamings of
old Sol and Captain Cuttle on Sundays. Hardly a Sunday passed, without
mysterious references being made by one or other of those worthy chums
to Richard Whittington; and the latter gentleman had even gone so far as
to purchase a ballad of considerable antiquity, that had long fluttered
among many others, chiefly expressive of maritime sentiments, on a dead
wall in the Commercial Road: which poetical performance set forth the
courtship and nuptials of a promising young coal-whipper with a certain
‘lovely Peg,’ the accomplished daughter of the master and part-owner of
a Newcastle collier. In this stirring legend, Captain Cuttle descried a
profound metaphysical bearing on the case of Walter and Florence; and it
excited him so much, that on very festive occasions, as birthdays and a
few other non-Dominical holidays, he would roar through the whole song
in the little back parlour; making an amazing shake on the word Pe-e-eg,
with which every verse concluded, in compliment to the heroine of the

But a frank, free-spirited, open-hearted boy, is not much given to
analysing the nature of his own feelings, however strong their hold upon
him: and Walter would have found it difficult to decide this point. He
had a great affection for the wharf where he had encountered Florence,
and for the streets (albeit not enchanting in themselves) by which they
had come home. The shoes that had so often tumbled off by the way, he
preserved in his own room; and, sitting in the little back parlour of
an evening, he had drawn a whole gallery of fancy portraits of Good Mrs
Brown. It may be that he became a little smarter in his dress after that
memorable occasion; and he certainly liked in his leisure time to walk
towards that quarter of the town where Mr Dombey’s house was situated,
on the vague chance of passing little Florence in the street. But the
sentiment of all this was as boyish and innocent as could be. Florence
was very pretty, and it is pleasant to admire a pretty face. Florence
was defenceless and weak, and it was a proud thought that he had been
able to render her any protection and assistance. Florence was the most
grateful little creature in the world, and it was delightful to see her
bright gratitude beaming in her face. Florence was neglected and coldly
looked upon, and his breast was full of youthful interest for the
slighted child in her dull, stately home.

Thus it came about that, perhaps some half-a-dozen times in the course
of the year, Walter pulled off his hat to Florence in the street,
and Florence would stop to shake hands. Mrs Wickam (who, with a
characteristic alteration of his name, invariably spoke of him as
‘Young Graves’) was so well used to this, knowing the story of their
acquaintance, that she took no heed of it at all. Miss Nipper, on the
other hand, rather looked out for these occasions: her sensitive young
heart being secretly propitiated by Walter’s good looks, and inclining
to the belief that its sentiments were responded to.

In this way, Walter, so far from forgetting or losing sight of his
acquaintance with Florence, only remembered it better and better. As to
its adventurous beginning, and all those little circumstances which gave
it a distinctive character and relish, he took them into account, more
as a pleasant story very agreeable to his imagination, and not to be
dismissed from it, than as a part of any matter of fact with which he
was concerned. They set off Florence very much, to his fancy; but not
himself. Sometimes he thought (and then he walked very fast) what a
grand thing it would have been for him to have been going to sea on the
day after that first meeting, and to have gone, and to have done wonders
there, and to have stopped away a long time, and to have come back an
Admiral of all the colours of the dolphin, or at least a Post-Captain
with epaulettes of insupportable brightness, and have married Florence
(then a beautiful young woman) in spite of Mr Dombey’s teeth, cravat,
and watch-chain, and borne her away to the blue shores of somewhere or
other, triumphantly. But these flights of fancy seldom burnished the
brass plate of Dombey and Son’s Offices into a tablet of golden hope, or
shed a brilliant lustre on their dirty skylights; and when the Captain
and Uncle Sol talked about Richard Whittington and masters’ daughters,
Walter felt that he understood his true position at Dombey and Son’s,
much better than they did.

So it was that he went on doing what he had to do from day to day, in
a cheerful, pains-taking, merry spirit; and saw through the sanguine
complexion of Uncle Sol and Captain Cuttle; and yet entertained a
thousand indistinct and visionary fancies of his own, to which theirs
were work-a-day probabilities. Such was his condition at the Pipchin
period, when he looked a little older than of yore, but not much; and
was the same light-footed, light-hearted, light-headed lad, as when
he charged into the parlour at the head of Uncle Sol and the imaginary
boarders, and lighted him to bring up the Madeira.

‘Uncle Sol,’ said Walter, ‘I don’t think you’re well. You haven’t eaten
any breakfast. I shall bring a doctor to you, if you go on like this.’

‘He can’t give me what I want, my boy,’ said Uncle Sol. ‘At least he is
in good practice if he can--and then he wouldn’t.’

‘What is it, Uncle? Customers?’

‘Ay,’ returned Solomon, with a sigh. ‘Customers would do.’

‘Confound it, Uncle!’ said Walter, putting down his breakfast cup with
a clatter, and striking his hand on the table: ‘when I see the people
going up and down the street in shoals all day, and passing and
re-passing the shop every minute, by scores, I feel half tempted to rush
out, collar somebody, bring him in, and make him buy fifty pounds’ worth
of instruments for ready money. What are you looking in at the door
for?--’ continued Walter, apostrophizing an old gentleman with a
powdered head (inaudibly to him of course), who was staring at a ship’s
telescope with all his might and main. ‘That’s no use. I could do that.
Come in and buy it!’

The old gentleman, however, having satiated his curiosity, walked calmly

‘There he goes!’ said Walter. ‘That’s the way with ‘em all. But,
Uncle--I say, Uncle Sol’--for the old man was meditating and had not
responded to his first appeal. ‘Don’t be cast down. Don’t be out of
spirits, Uncle. When orders do come, they’ll come in such a crowd, you
won’t be able to execute ‘em.’

‘I shall be past executing ‘em, whenever they come, my boy,’ returned
Solomon Gills. ‘They’ll never come to this shop again, till I am out of

‘I say, Uncle! You musn’t really, you know!’ urged Walter. ‘Don’t!’

Old Sol endeavoured to assume a cheery look, and smiled across the
little table at him as pleasantly as he could.

‘There’s nothing more than usual the matter; is there, Uncle?’ said
Walter, leaning his elbows on the tea tray, and bending over, to speak
the more confidentially and kindly. ‘Be open with me, Uncle, if there
is, and tell me all about it.’

‘No, no, no,’ returned Old Sol. ‘More than usual? No, no. What should
there be the matter more than usual?’

Walter answered with an incredulous shake of his head. ‘That’s what I
want to know,’ he said, ‘and you ask me! I’ll tell you what, Uncle, when
I see you like this, I am quite sorry that I live with you.’

Old Sol opened his eyes involuntarily.

‘Yes. Though nobody ever was happier than I am and always have been with
you, I am quite sorry that I live with you, when I see you with anything
in your mind.’

‘I am a little dull at such times, I know,’ observed Solomon, meekly
rubbing his hands.

‘What I mean, Uncle Sol,’ pursued Walter, bending over a little more
to pat him on the shoulder, ‘is, that then I feel you ought to have,
sitting here and pouring out the tea instead of me, a nice little
dumpling of a wife, you know,--a comfortable, capital, cosy old lady,
who was just a match for you, and knew how to manage you, and keep you
in good heart. Here am I, as loving a nephew as ever was (I am sure I
ought to be!) but I am only a nephew, and I can’t be such a companion
to you when you’re low and out of sorts as she would have made herself,
years ago, though I’m sure I’d give any money if I could cheer you up.
And so I say, when I see you with anything on your mind, that I feel
quite sorry you haven’t got somebody better about you than a blundering
young rough-and-tough boy like me, who has got the will to console you,
Uncle, but hasn’t got the way--hasn’t got the way,’ repeated Walter,
reaching over further yet, to shake his Uncle by the hand.

‘Wally, my dear boy,’ said Solomon, ‘if the cosy little old lady had
taken her place in this parlour five and forty years ago, I never could
have been fonder of her than I am of you.’

‘I know that, Uncle Sol,’ returned Walter. ‘Lord bless you, I know that.
But you wouldn’t have had the whole weight of any uncomfortable secrets
if she had been with you, because she would have known how to relieve
you of ‘em, and I don’t.’

‘Yes, yes, you do,’ returned the Instrument-maker.

‘Well then, what’s the matter, Uncle Sol?’ said Walter, coaxingly.
‘Come! What’s the matter?’

Solomon Gills persisted that there was nothing the matter; and
maintained it so resolutely, that his nephew had no resource but to make
a very indifferent imitation of believing him.

‘All I can say is, Uncle Sol, that if there is--’

‘But there isn’t,’ said Solomon.

‘Very well,’ said Walter. ‘Then I’ve no more to say; and that’s lucky,
for my time’s up for going to business. I shall look in by-and-by when
I’m out, to see how you get on, Uncle. And mind, Uncle! I’ll never
believe you again, and never tell you anything more about Mr Carker the
Junior, if I find out that you have been deceiving me!’

Solomon Gills laughingly defied him to find out anything of the kind;
and Walter, revolving in his thoughts all sorts of impracticable ways
of making fortunes and placing the wooden Midshipman in a position of
independence, betook himself to the offices of Dombey and Son with a
heavier countenance than he usually carried there.

There lived in those days, round the corner--in Bishopsgate Street
Without--one Brogley, sworn broker and appraiser, who kept a shop where
every description of second-hand furniture was exhibited in the most
uncomfortable aspect, and under circumstances and in combinations the
most completely foreign to its purpose. Dozens of chairs hooked on to
washing-stands, which with difficulty poised themselves on the shoulders
of sideboards, which in their turn stood upon the wrong side of
dining-tables, gymnastic with their legs upward on the tops of other
dining-tables, were among its most reasonable arrangements. A banquet
array of dish-covers, wine-glasses, and decanters was generally to
be seen, spread forth upon the bosom of a four-post bedstead, for the
entertainment of such genial company as half-a-dozen pokers, and a hall
lamp. A set of window curtains with no windows belonging to them, would
be seen gracefully draping a barricade of chests of drawers, loaded with
little jars from chemists’ shops; while a homeless hearthrug severed
from its natural companion the fireside, braved the shrewd east wind
in its adversity, and trembled in melancholy accord with the shrill
complainings of a cabinet piano, wasting away, a string a day, and
faintly resounding to the noises of the street in its jangling and
distracted brain. Of motionless clocks that never stirred a finger, and
seemed as incapable of being successfully wound up, as the pecuniary
affairs of their former owners, there was always great choice in Mr
Brogley’s shop; and various looking-glasses, accidentally placed at
compound interest of reflection and refraction, presented to the eye an
eternal perspective of bankruptcy and ruin.

Mr Brogley himself was a moist-eyed, pink-complexioned, crisp-haired
man, of a bulky figure and an easy temper--for that class of Caius
Marius who sits upon the ruins of other people’s Carthages, can keep up
his spirits well enough. He had looked in at Solomon’s shop sometimes,
to ask a question about articles in Solomon’s way of business; and
Walter knew him sufficiently to give him good day when they met in the
street. But as that was the extent of the broker’s acquaintance with
Solomon Gills also, Walter was not a little surprised when he came back
in the course of the forenoon, agreeably to his promise, to find Mr
Brogley sitting in the back parlour with his hands in his pockets, and
his hat hanging up behind the door.

‘Well, Uncle Sol!’ said Walter. The old man was sitting ruefully on the
opposite side of the table, with his spectacles over his eyes, for a
wonder, instead of on his forehead. ‘How are you now?’

Solomon shook his head, and waved one hand towards the broker, as
introducing him.

‘Is there anything the matter?’ asked Walter, with a catching in his

‘No, no. There’s nothing the matter, said Mr Brogley. ‘Don’t let it put
you out of the way.’

Walter looked from the broker to his Uncle in mute

‘The fact is,’ said Mr Brogley, ‘there’s a little payment on a bond debt
--three hundred and seventy odd, overdue: and I’m in possession.’

‘In possession!’ cried Walter, looking round at the shop.

‘Ah!’ said Mr Brogley, in confidential assent, and nodding his head
as if he would urge the advisability of their all being comfortable
together. ‘It’s an execution. That’s what it is. Don’t let it put you
out of the way. I come myself, because of keeping it quiet and sociable.
You know me. It’s quite private.’

‘Uncle Sol!’ faltered Walter.

‘Wally, my boy,’ returned his uncle. ‘It’s the first time. Such a
calamity never happened to me before. I’m an old man to begin.’ Pushing
up his spectacles again (for they were useless any longer to conceal his
emotion), he covered his face with his hand, and sobbed aloud, and his
tears fell down upon his coffee-coloured waistcoat.

‘Uncle Sol! Pray! oh don’t!’ exclaimed Walter, who really felt a thrill
of terror in seeing the old man weep. ‘For God’s sake don’t do that. Mr
Brogley, what shall I do?’

‘I should recommend you looking up a friend or so,’ said Mr Brogley,
‘and talking it over.’

‘To be sure!’ cried Walter, catching at anything. ‘Certainly! Thankee.
Captain Cuttle’s the man, Uncle. Wait till I run to Captain Cuttle.
Keep your eye upon my Uncle, will you, Mr Brogley, and make him as
comfortable as you can while I am gone? Don’t despair, Uncle Sol. Try
and keep a good heart, there’s a dear fellow!’

Saying this with great fervour, and disregarding the old man’s broken
remonstrances, Walter dashed out of the shop again as hard as he could
go; and, having hurried round to the office to excuse himself on the
plea of his Uncle’s sudden illness, set off, full speed, for Captain
Cuttle’s residence.

Everything seemed altered as he ran along the streets. There were the
usual entanglement and noise of carts, drays, omnibuses, waggons,
and foot passengers, but the misfortune that had fallen on the wooden
Midshipman made it strange and new. Houses and shops were different from
what they used to be, and bore Mr Brogley’s warrant on their fronts
in large characters. The broker seemed to have got hold of the very
churches; for their spires rose into the sky with an unwonted air. Even
the sky itself was changed, and had an execution in it plainly.

Captain Cuttle lived on the brink of a little canal near the India
Docks, where there was a swivel bridge which opened now and then to
let some wandering monster of a ship come roaming up the street like
a stranded leviathan. The gradual change from land to water, on the
approach to Captain Cuttle’s lodgings, was curious. It began with the
erection of flagstaffs, as appurtenances to public-houses; then came
slop-sellers’ shops, with Guernsey shirts, sou’wester hats, and canvas
pantaloons, at once the tightest and the loosest of their order, hanging
up outside. These were succeeded by anchor and chain-cable forges, where
sledgehammers were dinging upon iron all day long. Then came rows of
houses, with little vane-surmounted masts uprearing themselves from
among the scarlet beans. Then, ditches. Then, pollard willows. Then,
more ditches. Then, unaccountable patches of dirty water, hardly to be
descried, for the ships that covered them. Then, the air was perfumed
with chips; and all other trades were swallowed up in mast, oar,
and block-making, and boatbuilding. Then, the ground grew marshy and
unsettled. Then, there was nothing to be smelt but rum and sugar. Then,
Captain Cuttle’s lodgings--at once a first floor and a top storey, in
Brig Place--were close before you.

The Captain was one of those timber-looking men, suits of oak as well
as hearts, whom it is almost impossible for the liveliest imagination
to separate from any part of their dress, however insignificant.
Accordingly, when Walter knocked at the door, and the Captain instantly
poked his head out of one of his little front windows, and hailed him,
with the hard glared hat already on it, and the shirt-collar like a
sail, and the wide suit of blue, all standing as usual, Walter was as
fully persuaded that he was always in that state, as if the Captain had
been a bird and those had been his feathers.

‘Wal’r, my lad!’ said Captain Cuttle. ‘Stand by and knock again. Hard!
It’s washing day.’

Walter, in his impatience, gave a prodigious thump with the knocker.

‘Hard it is!’ said Captain Cuttle, and immediately drew in his head, as
if he expected a squall.

Nor was he mistaken: for a widow lady, with her sleeves rolled up to
her shoulders, and her arms frothy with soap-suds and smoking with hot
water, replied to the summons with startling rapidity. Before she looked
at Walter she looked at the knocker, and then, measuring him with her
eyes from head to foot, said she wondered he had left any of it.

‘Captain Cuttle’s at home, I know,’ said Walter with a conciliatory

‘Is he?’ replied the widow lady. ‘In-deed!’

‘He has just been speaking to me,’ said Walter, in breathless

‘Has he?’ replied the widow lady. ‘Then p’raps you’ll give him Mrs
MacStinger’s respects, and say that the next time he lowers himself and
his lodgings by talking out of the winder she’ll thank him to come down
and open the door too.’ Mrs MacStinger spoke loud, and listened for any
observations that might be offered from the first floor.

‘I’ll mention it,’ said Walter, ‘if you’ll have the goodness to let me
in, Ma’am.’

For he was repelled by a wooden fortification extending across the
doorway, and put there to prevent the little MacStingers in their
moments of recreation from tumbling down the steps.

‘A boy that can knock my door down,’ said Mrs MacStinger,
contemptuously, ‘can get over that, I should hope!’ But Walter, taking
this as a permission to enter, and getting over it, Mrs MacStinger
immediately demanded whether an Englishwoman’s house was her castle
or not; and whether she was to be broke in upon by ‘raff.’ On these
subjects her thirst for information was still very importunate,
when Walter, having made his way up the little staircase through an
artificial fog occasioned by the washing, which covered the banisters
with a clammy perspiration, entered Captain Cuttle’s room, and found
that gentleman in ambush behind the door.

‘Never owed her a penny, Wal’r,’ said Captain Cuttle, in a low voice,
and with visible marks of trepidation on his countenance. ‘Done her
a world of good turns, and the children too. Vixen at times, though.

‘I should go away, Captain Cuttle,’ said Walter.

‘Dursn’t do it, Wal’r,’ returned the Captain. ‘She’d find me out,
wherever I went. Sit down. How’s Gills?’

The Captain was dining (in his hat) off cold loin of mutton, porter, and
some smoking hot potatoes, which he had cooked himself, and took out of
a little saucepan before the fire as he wanted them. He unscrewed his
hook at dinner-time, and screwed a knife into its wooden socket instead,
with which he had already begun to peel one of these potatoes for
Walter. His rooms were very small, and strongly impregnated with
tobacco-smoke, but snug enough: everything being stowed away, as if
there were an earthquake regularly every half-hour.

‘How’s Gills?’ inquired the Captain.

Walter, who had by this time recovered his breath, and lost his
spirits--or such temporary spirits as his rapid journey had given
him--looked at his questioner for a moment, said ‘Oh, Captain Cuttle!’
and burst into tears.

No words can describe the Captain’s consternation at this sight Mrs
MacStinger faded into nothing before it. He dropped the potato and the
fork--and would have dropped the knife too if he could--and sat gazing
at the boy, as if he expected to hear next moment that a gulf had opened
in the City, which had swallowed up his old friend, coffee-coloured
suit, buttons, chronometer, spectacles, and all.

But when Walter told him what was really the matter, Captain Cuttle,
after a moment’s reflection, started up into full activity. He emptied
out of a little tin canister on the top shelf of the cupboard, his whole
stock of ready money (amounting to thirteen pounds and half-a-crown),
which he transferred to one of the pockets of his square blue coat;
further enriched that repository with the contents of his plate chest,
consisting of two withered atomies of tea-spoons, and an obsolete pair
of knock-knee’d sugar-tongs; pulled up his immense double-cased silver
watch from the depths in which it reposed, to assure himself that that
valuable was sound and whole; re-attached the hook to his right wrist;
and seizing the stick covered over with knobs, bade Walter come along.

Remembering, however, in the midst of his virtuous excitement, that Mrs
MacStinger might be lying in wait below, Captain Cuttle hesitated at
last, not without glancing at the window, as if he had some thoughts
of escaping by that unusual means of egress, rather than encounter his
terrible enemy. He decided, however, in favour of stratagem.

‘Wal’r,’ said the Captain, with a timid wink, ‘go afore, my lad. Sing
out, “good-bye, Captain Cuttle,” when you’re in the passage, and shut
the door. Then wait at the corner of the street ‘till you see me.

These directions were not issued without a previous knowledge of the
enemy’s tactics, for when Walter got downstairs, Mrs MacStinger glided
out of the little back kitchen, like an avenging spirit. But not gliding
out upon the Captain, as she had expected, she merely made a further
allusion to the knocker, and glided in again.

Some five minutes elapsed before Captain Cuttle could summon courage
to attempt his escape; for Walter waited so long at the street corner,
looking back at the house, before there were any symptoms of the
hard glazed hat. At length the Captain burst out of the door with the
suddenness of an explosion, and coming towards him at a great pace, and
never once looking over his shoulder, pretended, as soon as they were
well out of the street, to whistle a tune.

‘Uncle much hove down, Wal’r?’ inquired the Captain, as they were
walking along.

‘I am afraid so. If you had seen him this morning, you would never have
forgotten it.’

‘Walk fast, Wal’r, my lad,’ returned the Captain, mending his pace; ‘and
walk the same all the days of your life. Overhaul the catechism for that
advice, and keep it!’

The Captain was too busy with his own thoughts of Solomon Gills, mingled
perhaps with some reflections on his late escape from Mrs MacStinger, to
offer any further quotations on the way for Walter’s moral improvement
They interchanged no other word until they arrived at old Sol’s door,
where the unfortunate wooden Midshipman, with his instrument at his eye,
seemed to be surveying the whole horizon in search of some friend to
help him out of his difficulty.

‘Gills!’ said the Captain, hurrying into the back parlour, and taking
him by the hand quite tenderly. ‘Lay your head well to the wind, and
we’ll fight through it. All you’ve got to do,’ said the Captain, with
the solemnity of a man who was delivering himself of one of the most
precious practical tenets ever discovered by human wisdom, ‘is to lay
your head well to the wind, and we’ll fight through it!’

Old Sol returned the pressure of his hand, and thanked him.

Captain Cuttle, then, with a gravity suitable to the nature of
the occasion, put down upon the table the two tea-spoons and the
sugar-tongs, the silver watch, and the ready money; and asked Mr
Brogley, the broker, what the damage was.

‘Come! What do you make of it?’ said Captain Cuttle.

‘Why, Lord help you!’ returned the broker; ‘you don’t suppose that
property’s of any use, do you?’

‘Why not?’ inquired the Captain.

‘Why? The amount’s three hundred and seventy, odd,’ replied the broker.

‘Never mind,’ returned the Captain, though he was evidently dismayed by
the figures: ‘all’s fish that comes to your net, I suppose?’

‘Certainly,’ said Mr Brogley. ‘But sprats ain’t whales, you know.’

The philosophy of this observation seemed to strike the Captain. He
ruminated for a minute; eyeing the broker, meanwhile, as a deep genius;
and then called the Instrument-maker aside.

‘Gills,’ said Captain Cuttle, ‘what’s the bearings of this business?
Who’s the creditor?’

‘Hush!’ returned the old man. ‘Come away. Don’t speak before Wally. It’s
a matter of security for Wally’s father--an old bond. I’ve paid a good
deal of it, Ned, but the times are so bad with me that I can’t do more
just now. I’ve foreseen it, but I couldn’t help it. Not a word before
Wally, for all the world.’

‘You’ve got some money, haven’t you?’ whispered the Captain.

‘Yes, yes--oh yes--I’ve got some,’ returned old Sol, first putting his
hands into his empty pockets, and then squeezing his Welsh wig between
them, as if he thought he might wring some gold out of it; ‘but I--the
little I have got, isn’t convertible, Ned; it can’t be got at. I have
been trying to do something with it for Wally, and I’m old fashioned,
and behind the time. It’s here and there, and--and, in short, it’s as
good as nowhere,’ said the old man, looking in bewilderment about him.

He had so much the air of a half-witted person who had been hiding his
money in a variety of places, and had forgotten where, that the Captain
followed his eyes, not without a faint hope that he might remember some
few hundred pounds concealed up the chimney, or down in the cellar. But
Solomon Gills knew better than that.

‘I’m behind the time altogether, my dear Ned,’ said Sol, in resigned
despair, ‘a long way. It’s no use my lagging on so far behind it. The
stock had better be sold--it’s worth more than this debt--and I had
better go and die somewhere, on the balance. I haven’t any energy left.
I don’t understand things. This had better be the end of it. Let ‘em
sell the stock and take him down,’ said the old man, pointing feebly to
the wooden Midshipman, ‘and let us both be broken up together.’

‘And what d’ye mean to do with Wal’r?’ said the Captain. ‘There, there!
Sit ye down, Gills, sit ye down, and let me think o’ this. If I warn’t a
man on a small annuity, that was large enough till to-day, I hadn’t need
to think of it. But you only lay your head well to the wind,’ said the
Captain, again administering that unanswerable piece of consolation,
‘and you’re all right!’

Old Sol thanked him from his heart, and went and laid it against the
back parlour fire-place instead.

Captain Cuttle walked up and down the shop for some time, cogitating
profoundly, and bringing his bushy black eyebrows to bear so heavily on
his nose, like clouds setting on a mountain, that Walter was afraid to
offer any interruption to the current of his reflections. Mr Brogley,
who was averse to being any constraint upon the party, and who had
an ingenious cast of mind, went, softly whistling, among the stock;
rattling weather-glasses, shaking compasses as if they were physic,
catching up keys with loadstones, looking through telescopes,
endeavouring to make himself acquainted with the use of the globes,
setting parallel rulers astride on to his nose, and amusing himself with
other philosophical transactions.

‘Wal’r!’ said the Captain at last. ‘I’ve got it.’

‘Have you, Captain Cuttle?’ cried Walter, with great animation.

‘Come this way, my lad,’ said the Captain. ‘The stock’s the security.
I’m another. Your governor’s the man to advance money.’

‘Mr Dombey!’ faltered Walter.

The Captain nodded gravely. ‘Look at him,’ he said. ‘Look at Gills.
If they was to sell off these things now, he’d die of it. You know he
would. We mustn’t leave a stone unturned--and there’s a stone for you.’

‘A stone!--Mr Dombey!’ faltered Walter.

‘You run round to the office, first of all, and see if he’s there,’ said
Captain Cuttle, clapping him on the back. ‘Quick!’

Walter felt he must not dispute the command--a glance at his Uncle would
have determined him if he had felt otherwise--and disappeared to execute
it. He soon returned, out of breath, to say that Mr Dombey was not
there. It was Saturday, and he had gone to Brighton.

‘I tell you what, Wal’r!’ said the Captain, who seemed to have prepared
himself for this contingency in his absence. ‘We’ll go to Brighton.
I’ll back you, my boy. I’ll back you, Wal’r. We’ll go to Brighton by the
afternoon’s coach.’

If the application must be made to Mr Dombey at all, which was awful
to think of, Walter felt that he would rather prefer it alone and
unassisted, than backed by the personal influence of Captain Cuttle, to
which he hardly thought Mr Dombey would attach much weight. But as the
Captain appeared to be of quite another opinion, and was bent upon it,
and as his friendship was too zealous and serious to be trifled with
by one so much younger than himself, he forbore to hint the least
objection. Cuttle, therefore, taking a hurried leave of Solomon Gills,
and returning the ready money, the teaspoons, the sugar-tongs, and
the silver watch, to his pocket--with a view, as Walter thought, with
horror, to making a gorgeous impression on Mr Dombey--bore him off to
the coach-office, without a minute’s delay, and repeatedly assured
him, on the road, that he would stick by him to the last.

CHAPTER 10. Containing the Sequel of the Midshipman’s Disaster

Major Bagstock, after long and frequent observation of Paul, across
Princess’s Place, through his double-barrelled opera-glass; and after
receiving many minute reports, daily, weekly, and monthly, on that
subject, from the native who kept himself in constant communication with
Miss Tox’s maid for that purpose; came to the conclusion that Dombey,
Sir, was a man to be known, and that J. B. was the boy to make his

Miss Tox, however, maintaining her reserved behaviour, and frigidly
declining to understand the Major whenever he called (which he often
did) on any little fishing excursion connected with this project, the
Major, in spite of his constitutional toughness and slyness, was fain
to leave the accomplishment of his desire in some measure to chance,
‘which,’ as he was used to observe with chuckles at his club, ‘has been
fifty to one in favour of Joey B., Sir, ever since his elder brother
died of Yellow Jack in the West Indies.’

It was some time coming to his aid in the present instance, but it
befriended him at last. When the dark servant, with full particulars,
reported Miss Tox absent on Brighton service, the Major was suddenly
touched with affectionate reminiscences of his friend Bill Bitherstone
of Bengal, who had written to ask him, if he ever went that way, to
bestow a call upon his only son. But when the same dark servant reported
Paul at Mrs Pipchin’s, and the Major, referring to the letter favoured
by Master Bitherstone on his arrival in England--to which he had
never had the least idea of paying any attention--saw the opening
that presented itself, he was made so rabid by the gout, with which
he happened to be then laid up, that he threw a footstool at the dark
servant in return for his intelligence, and swore he would be the death
of the rascal before he had done with him: which the dark servant was
more than half disposed to believe.

At length the Major being released from his fit, went one Saturday
growling down to Brighton, with the native behind him; apostrophizing
Miss Tox all the way, and gloating over the prospect of carrying by
storm the distinguished friend to whom she attached so much mystery, and
for whom she had deserted him.

‘Would you, Ma’am, would you!’ said the Major, straining with
vindictiveness, and swelling every already swollen vein in his head.
‘Would you give Joey B. the go-by, Ma’am? Not yet, Ma’am, not yet!
Damme, not yet, Sir. Joe is awake, Ma’am. Bagstock is alive, Sir. J. B.
knows a move or two, Ma’am. Josh has his weather-eye open, Sir. You’ll
find him tough, Ma’am. Tough, Sir, tough is Joseph. Tough, and de-vilish

And very tough indeed Master Bitherstone found him, when he took that
young gentleman out for a walk. But the Major, with his complexion
like a Stilton cheese, and his eyes like a prawn’s, went roving about,
perfectly indifferent to Master Bitherstone’s amusement, and dragging
Master Bitherstone along, while he looked about him high and low, for Mr
Dombey and his children.

In good time the Major, previously instructed by Mrs Pipchin, spied
out Paul and Florence, and bore down upon them; there being a stately
gentleman (Mr Dombey, doubtless) in their company. Charging with Master
Bitherstone into the very heart of the little squadron, it fell out, of
course, that Master Bitherstone spoke to his fellow-sufferers. Upon that
the Major stopped to notice and admire them; remembered with amazement
that he had seen and spoken to them at his friend Miss Tox’s in
Princess’s Place; opined that Paul was a devilish fine fellow, and his
own little friend; inquired if he remembered Joey B. the Major; and
finally, with a sudden recollection of the conventionalities of life,
turned and apologised to Mr Dombey.

‘But my little friend here, Sir,’ said the Major, ‘makes a boy of me
again: An old soldier, Sir--Major Bagstock, at your service--is not
ashamed to confess it.’ Here the Major lifted his hat. ‘Damme, Sir,’
cried the Major with sudden warmth, ‘I envy you.’ Then he recollected
himself, and added, ‘Excuse my freedom.’

Mr Dombey begged he wouldn’t mention it.

‘An old campaigner, Sir,’ said the Major, ‘a smoke-dried, sun-burnt,
used-up, invalided old dog of a Major, Sir, was not afraid of being
condemned for his whim by a man like Mr Dombey. I have the honour of
addressing Mr Dombey, I believe?’

‘I am the present unworthy representative of that name, Major,’ returned
Mr Dombey.

‘By G--, Sir!’ said the Major, ‘it’s a great name. It’s a name, Sir,’
said the Major firmly, as if he defied Mr Dombey to contradict him, and
would feel it his painful duty to bully him if he did, ‘that is known
and honoured in the British possessions abroad. It is a name, Sir,
that a man is proud to recognise. There is nothing adulatory in Joseph
Bagstock, Sir. His Royal Highness the Duke of York observed on more than
one occasion, “there is no adulation in Joey. He is a plain old soldier
is Joe. He is tough to a fault is Joseph:” but it’s a great name, Sir.
By the Lord, it’s a great name!’ said the Major, solemnly.

‘You are good enough to rate it higher than it deserves, perhaps,
Major,’ returned Mr Dombey.

‘No, Sir,’ said the Major, in a severe tone. No, Mr Dombey, let us
understand each other. That is not the Bagstock vein, Sir. You don’t
know Joseph B. He is a blunt old blade is Josh. No flattery in him, Sir.
Nothing like it.’

Mr Dombey inclined his head, and said he believed him to be in earnest,
and that his high opinion was gratifying.

‘My little friend here, Sir,’ croaked the Major, looking as amiably
as he could, on Paul, ‘will certify for Joseph Bagstock that he is a
thorough-going, down-right, plain-spoken, old Trump, Sir, and nothing
more. That boy, Sir,’ said the Major in a lower tone, ‘will live in
history. That boy, Sir, is not a common production. Take care of him, Mr

Mr Dombey seemed to intimate that he would endeavour to do so.

‘Here is a boy here, Sir,’ pursued the Major, confidentially, and
giving him a thrust with his cane. ‘Son of Bitherstone of Bengal. Bill
Bitherstone formerly of ours. That boy’s father and myself, Sir, were
sworn friends. Wherever you went, Sir, you heard of nothing but Bill
Bitherstone and Joe Bagstock. Am I blind to that boy’s defects? By no
means. He’s a fool, Sir.’

Mr Dombey glanced at the libelled Master Bitherstone, of whom he knew at
least as much as the Major did, and said, in quite a complacent manner,

‘That is what he is, sir,’ said the Major. ‘He’s a fool. Joe Bagstock
never minces matters. The son of my old friend Bill Bitherstone, of
Bengal, is a born fool, Sir.’ Here the Major laughed till he was almost
black. ‘My little friend is destined for a public school, I presume,
Mr Dombey?’ said the Major when he had recovered.

‘I am not quite decided,’ returned Mr Dombey. ‘I think not. He is

‘If he’s delicate, Sir,’ said the Major, ‘you are right. None but the
tough fellows could live through it, Sir, at Sandhurst. We put each
other to the torture there, Sir. We roasted the new fellows at a slow
fire, and hung ‘em out of a three pair of stairs window, with their
heads downwards. Joseph Bagstock, Sir, was held out of the window by the
heels of his boots, for thirteen minutes by the college clock.’

The Major might have appealed to his countenance in corroboration of
this story. It certainly looked as if he had hung out a little too long.

‘But it made us what we were, Sir,’ said the Major, settling his shirt
frill. ‘We were iron, Sir, and it forged us. Are you remaining here, Mr

‘I generally come down once a week, Major,’ returned that gentleman. ‘I
stay at the Bedford.’

‘I shall have the honour of calling at the Bedford, Sir, if you’ll
permit me,’ said the Major. ‘Joey B., Sir, is not in general a calling
man, but Mr Dombey’s is not a common name. I am much indebted to my
little friend, Sir, for the honour of this introduction.’

Mr Dombey made a very gracious reply; and Major Bagstock, having patted
Paul on the head, and said of Florence that her eyes would play the
Devil with the youngsters before long--‘and the oldsters too, Sir, if
you come to that,’ added the Major, chuckling very much--stirred up
Master Bitherstone with his walking-stick, and departed with that young
gentleman, at a kind of half-trot; rolling his head and coughing with
great dignity, as he staggered away, with his legs very wide asunder.

In fulfilment of his promise, the Major afterwards called on Mr Dombey;
and Mr Dombey, having referred to the army list, afterwards called on
the Major. Then the Major called at Mr Dombey’s house in town; and came
down again, in the same coach as Mr Dombey. In short, Mr Dombey and
the Major got on uncommonly well together, and uncommonly fast: and Mr
Dombey observed of the Major, to his sister, that besides being quite
a military man he was really something more, as he had a very admirable
idea of the importance of things unconnected with his own profession.

At length Mr Dombey, bringing down Miss Tox and Mrs Chick to see the
children, and finding the Major again at Brighton, invited him to dinner
at the Bedford, and complimented Miss Tox highly, beforehand, on her
neighbour and acquaintance.

‘My dearest Louisa,’ said Miss Tox to Mrs Chick, when they were alone
together, on the morning of the appointed day, ‘if I should seem at all
reserved to Major Bagstock, or under any constraint with him, promise me
not to notice it.’

‘My dear Lucretia,’ returned Mrs Chick, ‘what mystery is involved in
this remarkable request? I must insist upon knowing.’

‘Since you are resolved to extort a confession from me, Louisa,’ said
Miss Tox instantly, ‘I have no alternative but to confide to you that
the Major has been particular.’

‘Particular!’ repeated Mrs Chick.

‘The Major has long been very particular indeed, my love, in his
attentions,’ said Miss Tox, ‘occasionally they have been so very marked,
that my position has been one of no common difficulty.’

‘Is he in good circumstances?’ inquired Mrs Chick.

‘I have every reason to believe, my dear--indeed I may say I know,’
returned Miss Tox, ‘that he is wealthy. He is truly military, and full
of anecdote. I have been informed that his valour, when he was in active
service, knew no bounds. I am told that he did all sorts of things in
the Peninsula, with every description of fire-arm; and in the East and
West Indies, my love, I really couldn’t undertake to say what he did not

‘Very creditable to him indeed,’ said Mrs Chick, ‘extremely so; and you
have given him no encouragement, my dear?’

‘If I were to say, Louisa,’ replied Miss Tox, with every demonstration
of making an effort that rent her soul, ‘that I never encouraged Major
Bagstock slightly, I should not do justice to the friendship which
exists between you and me. It is, perhaps, hardly in the nature of
woman to receive such attentions as the Major once lavished upon myself
without betraying some sense of obligation. But that is past--long past.
Between the Major and me there is now a yawning chasm, and I will not
feign to give encouragement, Louisa, where I cannot give my heart. My
affections,’ said Miss Tox--‘but, Louisa, this is madness!’ and departed
from the room.

All this Mrs Chick communicated to her brother before dinner: and it
by no means indisposed Mr Dombey to receive the Major with unwonted
cordiality. The Major, for his part, was in a state of plethoric
satisfaction that knew no bounds: and he coughed, and choked, and
chuckled, and gasped, and swelled, until the waiters seemed positively
afraid of him.

‘Your family monopolises Joe’s light, Sir,’ said the Major, when he had
saluted Miss Tox. ‘Joe lives in darkness. Princess’s Place is changed
into Kamschatka in the winter time. There is no ray of sun, Sir, for
Joey B., now.’

‘Miss Tox is good enough to take a great deal of interest in Paul,
Major,’ returned Mr Dombey on behalf of that blushing virgin.

‘Damme Sir,’ said the Major, ‘I’m jealous of my little friend. I’m
pining away Sir. The Bagstock breed is degenerating in the forsaken
person of old Joe.’ And the Major, becoming bluer and bluer and puffing
his cheeks further and further over the stiff ridge of his tight cravat,
stared at Miss Tox, until his eyes seemed as if he were at that moment
being overdone before the slow fire at the military college.

Notwithstanding the palpitation of the heart which these allusions
occasioned her, they were anything but disagreeable to Miss Tox, as they
enabled her to be extremely interesting, and to manifest an occasional
incoherence and distraction which she was not at all unwilling to
display. The Major gave her abundant opportunities of exhibiting this
emotion: being profuse in his complaints, at dinner, of her desertion of
him and Princess’s Place: and as he appeared to derive great enjoyment
from making them, they all got on very well.

None the worse on account of the Major taking charge of the whole
conversation, and showing as great an appetite in that respect as in
regard of the various dainties on the table, among which he may
be almost said to have wallowed: greatly to the aggravation of his
inflammatory tendencies. Mr Dombey’s habitual silence and reserve
yielding readily to this usurpation, the Major felt that he was coming
out and shining: and in the flow of spirits thus engendered, rang
such an infinite number of new changes on his own name that he quite
astonished himself. In a word, they were all very well pleased. The
Major was considered to possess an inexhaustible fund of conversation;
and when he took a late farewell, after a long rubber, Mr Dombey again
complimented the blushing Miss Tox on her neighbour and acquaintance.

But all the way home to his own hotel, the Major incessantly said to
himself, and of himself, ‘Sly, Sir--sly, Sir--de-vil-ish sly!’ And
when he got there, sat down in a chair, and fell into a silent fit
of laughter, with which he was sometimes seized, and which was always
particularly awful. It held him so long on this occasion that the dark
servant, who stood watching him at a distance, but dared not for his
life approach, twice or thrice gave him over for lost. His whole form,
but especially his face and head, dilated beyond all former experience;
and presented to the dark man’s view, nothing but a heaving mass of
indigo. At length he burst into a violent paroxysm of coughing, and when
that was a little better burst into such ejaculations as the following:

‘Would you, Ma’am, would you? Mrs Dombey, eh, Ma’am? I think not, Ma’am.
Not while Joe B. can put a spoke in your wheel, Ma’am. J. B.’s even
with you now, Ma’am. He isn’t altogether bowled out, yet, Sir, isn’t
Bagstock. She’s deep, Sir, deep, but Josh is deeper. Wide awake is old
Joe--broad awake, and staring, Sir!’ There was no doubt of this last
assertion being true, and to a very fearful extent; as it continued to
be during the greater part of that night, which the Major chiefly passed
in similar exclamations, diversified with fits of coughing and choking
that startled the whole house.

It was on the day after this occasion (being Sunday) when, as Mr Dombey,
Mrs Chick, and Miss Tox were sitting at breakfast, still eulogising the
Major, Florence came running in: her face suffused with a bright colour,
and her eyes sparkling joyfully: and cried,

‘Papa! Papa! Here’s Walter! and he won’t come in.’

‘Who?’ cried Mr Dombey. ‘What does she mean? What is this?’

‘Walter, Papa!’ said Florence timidly; sensible of having approached the
presence with too much familiarity. ‘Who found me when I was lost.’

‘Does she mean young Gay, Louisa?’ inquired Mr Dombey, knitting his
brows. ‘Really, this child’s manners have become very boisterous. She
cannot mean young Gay, I think. See what it is, will you?’

Mrs Chick hurried into the passage, and returned with the information
that it was young Gay, accompanied by a very strange-looking person; and
that young Gay said he would not take the liberty of coming in, hearing
Mr Dombey was at breakfast, but would wait until Mr Dombey should
signify that he might approach.

‘Tell the boy to come in now,’ said Mr Dombey. ‘Now, Gay, what is the
matter? Who sent you down here? Was there nobody else to come?’

‘I beg your pardon, Sir,’ returned Walter. ‘I have not been sent. I have
been so bold as to come on my own account, which I hope you’ll pardon
when I mention the cause.

But Mr Dombey, without attending to what he said, was looking
impatiently on either side of him (as if he were a pillar in his way) at
some object behind.

‘What’s that?’ said Mr Dombey. ‘Who is that? I think you have made some
mistake in the door, Sir.’

‘Oh, I’m very sorry to intrude with anyone, Sir,’ cried Walter, hastily:
‘but this is--this is Captain Cuttle, Sir.’

‘Wal’r, my lad,’ observed the Captain in a deep voice: ‘stand by!’

At the same time the Captain, coming a little further in, brought out
his wide suit of blue, his conspicuous shirt-collar, and his knobby
nose in full relief, and stood bowing to Mr Dombey, and waving his hook
politely to the ladies, with the hard glazed hat in his one hand, and a
red equator round his head which it had newly imprinted there.

Mr Dombey regarded this phenomenon with amazement and indignation, and
seemed by his looks to appeal to Mrs Chick and Miss Tox against it.
Little Paul, who had come in after Florence, backed towards Miss Tox as
the Captain waved his hook, and stood on the defensive.

‘Now, Gay,’ said Mr Dombey. ‘What have you got to say to me?’

Again the Captain observed, as a general opening of the conversation
that could not fail to propitiate all parties, ‘Wal’r, standby!’

‘I am afraid, Sir,’ began Walter, trembling, and looking down at the
ground, ‘that I take a very great liberty in coming--indeed, I am sure
I do. I should hardly have had the courage to ask to see you, Sir, even
after coming down, I am afraid, if I had not overtaken Miss Dombey,

‘Well!’ said Mr Dombey, following his eyes as he glanced at the
attentive Florence, and frowning unconsciously as she encouraged him
with a smile. ‘Go on, if you please.’

‘Ay, ay,’ observed the Captain, considering it incumbent on him, as a
point of good breeding, to support Mr Dombey. ‘Well said! Go on, Wal’r.’

Captain Cuttle ought to have been withered by the look which Mr Dombey
bestowed upon him in acknowledgment of his patronage. But quite innocent
of this, he closed one eye in reply, and gave Mr Dombey to understand,
by certain significant motions of his hook, that Walter was a little
bashful at first, and might be expected to come out shortly.

‘It is entirely a private and personal matter, that has brought me here,
Sir,’ continued Walter, faltering, ‘and Captain Cuttle--’

‘Here!’ interposed the Captain, as an assurance that he was at hand, and
might be relied upon.

‘Who is a very old friend of my poor Uncle’s, and a most excellent man,
Sir,’ pursued Walter, raising his eyes with a look of entreaty in the
Captain’s behalf, ‘was so good as to offer to come with me, which I
could hardly refuse.’

‘No, no, no;’ observed the Captain complacently. ‘Of course not. No call
for refusing. Go on, Wal’r.’

‘And therefore, Sir,’ said Walter, venturing to meet Mr Dombey’s eye,
and proceeding with better courage in the very desperation of the case,
now that there was no avoiding it, ‘therefore I have come, with him,
Sir, to say that my poor old Uncle is in very great affliction and
distress. That, through the gradual loss of his business, and not being
able to make a payment, the apprehension of which has weighed very
heavily upon his mind, months and months, as indeed I know, Sir, he has
an execution in his house, and is in danger of losing all he has, and
breaking his heart. And that if you would, in your kindness, and in your
old knowledge of him as a respectable man, do anything to help him out
of his difficulty, Sir, we never could thank you enough for it.’

Walter’s eyes filled with tears as he spoke; and so did those of
Florence. Her father saw them glistening, though he appeared to look at
Walter only.

‘It is a very large sum, Sir,’ said Walter. ‘More than three hundred
pounds. My Uncle is quite beaten down by his misfortune, it lies so
heavy on him; and is quite unable to do anything for his own relief. He
doesn’t even know yet, that I have come to speak to you. You would wish
me to say, Sir,’ added Walter, after a moment’s hesitation, ‘exactly
what it is I want. I really don’t know, Sir. There is my Uncle’s stock,
on which I believe I may say, confidently, there are no other demands,
and there is Captain Cuttle, who would wish to be security too. I--I
hardly like to mention,’ said Walter, ‘such earnings as mine; but if
you would allow them--accumulate--payment--advance--Uncle--frugal,
honourable, old man.’ Walter trailed off, through these broken
sentences, into silence: and stood with downcast head, before his

Considering this a favourable moment for the display of the valuables,
Captain Cuttle advanced to the table; and clearing a space among the
breakfast-cups at Mr Dombey’s elbow, produced the silver watch, the
ready money, the teaspoons, and the sugar-tongs; and piling them up into
a heap that they might look as precious as possible, delivered himself
of these words:

‘Half a loaf’s better than no bread, and the same remark holds good with
crumbs. There’s a few. Annuity of one hundred pound premium also ready
to be made over. If there is a man chock full of science in the world,
it’s old Sol Gills. If there is a lad of promise--one flowing,’ added
the Captain, in one of his happy quotations, ‘with milk and honey--it’s
his nevy!’

The Captain then withdrew to his former place, where he stood arranging
his scattered locks with the air of a man who had given the finishing
touch to a difficult performance.

When Walter ceased to speak, Mr Dombey’s eyes were attracted to little
Paul, who, seeing his sister hanging down her head and silently weeping
in her commiseration for the distress she had heard described, went over
to her, and tried to comfort her: looking at Walter and his father as he
did so, with a very expressive face. After the momentary distraction of
Captain Cuttle’s address, which he regarded with lofty indifference, Mr
Dombey again turned his eyes upon his son, and sat steadily regarding
the child, for some moments, in silence.

‘What was this debt contracted for?’ asked Mr Dombey, at length. ‘Who is
the creditor?’

‘He don’t know,’ replied the Captain, putting his hand on Walter’s
shoulder. ‘I do. It came of helping a man that’s dead now, and that’s
cost my friend Gills many a hundred pound already. More particulars in
private, if agreeable.’

‘People who have enough to do to hold their own way,’ said Mr Dombey,
unobservant of the Captain’s mysterious signs behind Walter, and still
looking at his son, ‘had better be content with their own obligations
and difficulties, and not increase them by engaging for other men. It
is an act of dishonesty and presumption, too,’ said Mr Dombey, sternly;
‘great presumption; for the wealthy could do no more. Paul, come here!’

The child obeyed: and Mr Dombey took him on his knee.

‘If you had money now--’ said Mr Dombey. ‘Look at me!’

Paul, whose eyes had wandered to his sister, and to Walter, looked his
father in the face.

‘If you had money now,’ said Mr Dombey; ‘as much money as young Gay has
talked about; what would you do?’

‘Give it to his old Uncle,’ returned Paul.

‘Lend it to his old Uncle, eh?’ retorted Mr Dombey. ‘Well! When you
are old enough, you know, you will share my money, and we shall use it

‘Dombey and Son,’ interrupted Paul, who had been tutored early in the

‘Dombey and Son,’ repeated his father. ‘Would you like to begin to be
Dombey and Son, now, and lend this money to young Gay’s Uncle?’

‘Oh! if you please, Papa!’ said Paul: ‘and so would Florence.’

‘Girls,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘have nothing to do with Dombey and Son. Would
you like it?’

‘Yes, Papa, yes!’

‘Then you shall do it,’ returned his father. ‘And you see, Paul,’ he
added, dropping his voice, ‘how powerful money is, and how anxious
people are to get it. Young Gay comes all this way to beg for money,
and you, who are so grand and great, having got it, are going to let him
have it, as a great favour and obligation.’

Paul turned up the old face for a moment, in which there was a sharp
understanding of the reference conveyed in these words: but it was a
young and childish face immediately afterwards, when he slipped down
from his father’s knee, and ran to tell Florence not to cry any more,
for he was going to let young Gay have the money.

Mr Dombey then turned to a side-table, and wrote a note and sealed it.
During the interval, Paul and Florence whispered to Walter, and
Captain Cuttle beamed on the three, with such aspiring and ineffably
presumptuous thoughts as Mr Dombey never could have believed in. The
note being finished, Mr Dombey turned round to his former place, and
held it out to Walter.

‘Give that,’ he said, ‘the first thing to-morrow morning, to Mr Carker.
He will immediately take care that one of my people releases your Uncle
from his present position, by paying the amount at issue; and that such
arrangements are made for its repayment as may be consistent with your
Uncle’s circumstances. You will consider that this is done for you by
Master Paul.’

Walter, in the emotion of holding in his hand the means of releasing his
good Uncle from his trouble, would have endeavoured to express something
of his gratitude and joy. But Mr Dombey stopped him short.

‘You will consider that it is done,’ he repeated, ‘by Master Paul. I
have explained that to him, and he understands it. I wish no more to be

As he motioned towards the door, Walter could only bow his head and
retire. Miss Tox, seeing that the Captain appeared about to do the same,

‘My dear Sir,’ she said, addressing Mr Dombey, at whose munificence
both she and Mrs Chick were shedding tears copiously; ‘I think you have
overlooked something. Pardon me, Mr Dombey, I think, in the nobility
of your character, and its exalted scope, you have omitted a matter of

‘Indeed, Miss Tox!’ said Mr Dombey.

‘The gentleman with the--Instrument,’ pursued Miss Tox, glancing at
Captain Cuttle, ‘has left upon the table, at your elbow--’

‘Good Heaven!’ said Mr Dombey, sweeping the Captain’s property from
him, as if it were so much crumb indeed. ‘Take these things away. I am
obliged to you, Miss Tox; it is like your usual discretion. Have the
goodness to take these things away, Sir!’

Captain Cuttle felt he had no alternative but to comply. But he was so
much struck by the magnanimity of Mr Dombey, in refusing treasures lying
heaped up to his hand, that when he had deposited the teaspoons and
sugar-tongs in one pocket, and the ready money in another, and had
lowered the great watch down slowly into its proper vault, he could not
refrain from seizing that gentleman’s right hand in his own solitary
left, and while he held it open with his powerful fingers, bringing the
hook down upon its palm in a transport of admiration. At this touch of
warm feeling and cold iron, Mr Dombey shivered all over.

Captain Cuttle then kissed his hook to the ladies several times, with
great elegance and gallantry; and having taken a particular leave of
Paul and Florence, accompanied Walter out of the room. Florence was
running after them in the earnestness of her heart, to send some message
to old Sol, when Mr Dombey called her back, and bade her stay where she

‘Will you never be a Dombey, my dear child!’ said Mrs Chick, with
pathetic reproachfulness.

‘Dear aunt,’ said Florence. ‘Don’t be angry with me. I am so thankful to

She would have run and thrown her arms about his neck if she had dared;
but as she did not dare, she glanced with thankful eyes towards him, as
he sat musing; sometimes bestowing an uneasy glance on her, but, for the
most part, watching Paul, who walked about the room with the new-blown
dignity of having let young Gay have the money.

And young Gay--Walter--what of him?

He was overjoyed to purge the old man’s hearth from bailiffs and
brokers, and to hurry back to his Uncle with the good tidings. He was
overjoyed to have it all arranged and settled next day before noon;
and to sit down at evening in the little back parlour with old Sol and
Captain Cuttle; and to see the Instrument-maker already reviving, and
hopeful for the future, and feeling that the wooden Midshipman was his
own again. But without the least impeachment of his gratitude to Mr
Dombey, it must be confessed that Walter was humbled and cast down. It
is when our budding hopes are nipped beyond recovery by some rough wind,
that we are the most disposed to picture to ourselves what flowers they
might have borne, if they had flourished; and now, when Walter found
himself cut off from that great Dombey height, by the depth of a new
and terrible tumble, and felt that all his old wild fancies had been
scattered to the winds in the fall, he began to suspect that they might
have led him on to harmless visions of aspiring to Florence in the
remote distance of time.

The Captain viewed the subject in quite a different light. He appeared
to entertain a belief that the interview at which he had assisted was so
very satisfactory and encouraging, as to be only a step or two removed
from a regular betrothal of Florence to Walter; and that the late
transaction had immensely forwarded, if not thoroughly established,
the Whittingtonian hopes. Stimulated by this conviction, and by the
improvement in the spirits of his old friend, and by his own consequent
gaiety, he even attempted, in favouring them with the ballad of ‘Lovely
Peg’ for the third time in one evening, to make an extemporaneous
substitution of the name ‘Florence;’ but finding this difficult, on
account of the word Peg invariably rhyming to leg (in which personal
beauty the original was described as having excelled all competitors),
he hit upon the happy thought of changing it to Fle-e-eg; which he
accordingly did, with an archness almost supernatural, and a voice quite
vociferous, notwithstanding that the time was close at hand when he must
seek the abode of the dreadful Mrs MacStinger.

That same evening the Major was diffuse at his club, on the subject of
his friend Dombey in the City. ‘Damme, Sir,’ said the Major, ‘he’s a
prince, is my friend Dombey in the City. I tell you what, Sir. If you
had a few more men among you like old Joe Bagstock and my friend Dombey
in the City, Sir, you’d do!’

CHAPTER 11. Paul’s Introduction to a New Scene

Mrs Pipchin’s constitution was made of such hard metal, in spite of its
liability to the fleshly weaknesses of standing in need of repose after
chops, and of requiring to be coaxed to sleep by the soporific agency
of sweet-breads, that it utterly set at naught the predictions of Mrs
Wickam, and showed no symptoms of decline. Yet, as Paul’s rapt interest
in the old lady continued unbated, Mrs Wickam would not budge an inch
from the position she had taken up. Fortifying and entrenching herself
on the strong ground of her Uncle’s Betsey Jane, she advised Miss Berry,
as a friend, to prepare herself for the worst; and forewarned her that
her aunt might, at any time, be expected to go off suddenly, like a

‘I hope, Miss Berry,’ Mrs Wickam would observe, ‘that you’ll come into
whatever little property there may be to leave. You deserve it, I am
sure, for yours is a trying life. Though there don’t seem much worth
coming into--you’ll excuse my being so open--in this dismal den.’

Poor Berry took it all in good part, and drudged and slaved away
as usual; perfectly convinced that Mrs Pipchin was one of the most
meritorious persons in the world, and making every day innumerable
sacrifices of herself upon the altar of that noble old woman. But all
these immolations of Berry were somehow carried to the credit of
Mrs Pipchin by Mrs Pipchin’s friends and admirers; and were made to
harmonise with, and carry out, that melancholy fact of the deceased Mr
Pipchin having broken his heart in the Peruvian mines.

For example, there was an honest grocer and general dealer in the
retail line of business, between whom and Mrs Pipchin there was a small
memorandum book, with a greasy red cover, perpetually in question, and
concerning which divers secret councils and conferences were continually
being held between the parties to that register, on the mat in the
passage, and with closed doors in the parlour. Nor were there wanting
dark hints from Master Bitherstone (whose temper had been made
revengeful by the solar heats of India acting on his blood), of balances
unsettled, and of a failure, on one occasion within his memory, in the
supply of moist sugar at tea-time. This grocer being a bachelor and not
a man who looked upon the surface for beauty, had once made honourable
offers for the hand of Berry, which Mrs Pipchin had, with contumely and
scorn, rejected. Everybody said how laudable this was in Mrs Pipchin,
relict of a man who had died of the Peruvian mines; and what a staunch,
high, independent spirit the old lady had. But nobody said anything
about poor Berry, who cried for six weeks (being soundly rated by
her good aunt all the time), and lapsed into a state of hopeless

‘Berry’s very fond of you, ain’t she?’ Paul once asked Mrs Pipchin when
they were sitting by the fire with the cat.

‘Yes,’ said Mrs Pipchin.

‘Why?’ asked Paul.

‘Why!’ returned the disconcerted old lady. ‘How can you ask such things,
Sir! why are you fond of your sister Florence?’

‘Because she’s very good,’ said Paul. ‘There’s nobody like Florence.’

‘Well!’ retorted Mrs Pipchin, shortly, ‘and there’s nobody like me, I

‘Ain’t there really though?’ asked Paul, leaning forward in his chair,
and looking at her very hard.

‘No,’ said the old lady.

‘I am glad of that,’ observed Paul, rubbing his hands thoughtfully.
‘That’s a very good thing.’

Mrs Pipchin didn’t dare to ask him why, lest she should receive some
perfectly annihilating answer. But as a compensation to her wounded
feelings, she harassed Master Bitherstone to that extent until bed-time,
that he began that very night to make arrangements for an overland
return to India, by secreting from his supper a quarter of a round of
bread and a fragment of moist Dutch cheese, as the beginning of a stock
of provision to support him on the voyage.

Mrs Pipchin had kept watch and ward over little Paul and his sister for
nearly twelve months. They had been home twice, but only for a few days;
and had been constant in their weekly visits to Mr Dombey at the hotel.
By little and little Paul had grown stronger, and had become able to
dispense with his carriage; though he still looked thin and delicate;
and still remained the same old, quiet, dreamy child that he had been
when first consigned to Mrs Pipchin’s care. One Saturday afternoon,
at dusk, great consternation was occasioned in the Castle by the
unlooked-for announcement of Mr Dombey as a visitor to Mrs Pipchin. The
population of the parlour was immediately swept upstairs as on the wings
of a whirlwind, and after much slamming of bedroom doors, and trampling
overhead, and some knocking about of Master Bitherstone by Mrs Pipchin,
as a relief to the perturbation of her spirits, the black bombazeen
garments of the worthy old lady darkened the audience-chamber where Mr
Dombey was contemplating the vacant arm-chair of his son and heir.

‘Mrs Pipchin,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘How do you do?’

‘Thank you, Sir,’ said Mrs Pipchin, ‘I am pretty well, considering.’

Mrs Pipchin always used that form of words. It meant, considering her
virtues, sacrifices, and so forth.

‘I can’t expect, Sir, to be very well,’ said Mrs Pipchin, taking a chair
and fetching her breath; ‘but such health as I have, I am grateful for.’

Mr Dombey inclined his head with the satisfied air of a patron, who felt
that this was the sort of thing for which he paid so much a quarter.
After a moment’s silence he went on to say:

‘Mrs Pipchin, I have taken the liberty of calling, to consult you in
reference to my son. I have had it in my mind to do so for some time
past; but have deferred it from time to time, in order that his health
might be thoroughly re-established. You have no misgivings on that
subject, Mrs Pipchin?’

‘Brighton has proved very beneficial, Sir,’ returned Mrs Pipchin. ‘Very
beneficial, indeed.’

‘I purpose,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘his remaining at Brighton.’

Mrs Pipchin rubbed her hands, and bent her grey eyes on the fire.

‘But,’ pursued Mr Dombey, stretching out his forefinger, ‘but possibly
that he should now make a change, and lead a different kind of life
here. In short, Mrs Pipchin, that is the object of my visit. My son is
getting on, Mrs Pipchin. Really, he is getting on.’

There was something melancholy in the triumphant air with which Mr
Dombey said this. It showed how long Paul’s childish life had been to
him, and how his hopes were set upon a later stage of his existence.
Pity may appear a strange word to connect with anyone so haughty and so
cold, and yet he seemed a worthy subject for it at that moment.

‘Six years old!’ said Mr Dombey, settling his neckcloth--perhaps to hide
an irrepressible smile that rather seemed to strike upon the surface
of his face and glance away, as finding no resting-place, than to play
there for an instant. ‘Dear me, six will be changed to sixteen, before
we have time to look about us.’

‘Ten years,’ croaked the unsympathetic Pipchin, with a frosty glistening
of her hard grey eye, and a dreary shaking of her bent head, ‘is a long

‘It depends on circumstances, returned Mr Dombey; ‘at all events, Mrs
Pipchin, my son is six years old, and there is no doubt, I fear, that in
his studies he is behind many children of his age--or his youth,’ said
Mr Dombey, quickly answering what he mistrusted was a shrewd twinkle of
the frosty eye, ‘his youth is a more appropriate expression. Now, Mrs
Pipchin, instead of being behind his peers, my son ought to be before
them; far before them. There is an eminence ready for him to mount upon.
There is nothing of chance or doubt in the course before my son. His way
in life was clear and prepared, and marked out before he existed. The
education of such a young gentleman must not be delayed. It must not be
left imperfect. It must be very steadily and seriously undertaken, Mrs

‘Well, Sir,’ said Mrs Pipchin, ‘I can say nothing to the contrary.’

‘I was quite sure, Mrs Pipchin,’ returned Mr Dombey, approvingly, ‘that
a person of your good sense could not, and would not.’

‘There is a great deal of nonsense--and worse--talked about young people
not being pressed too hard at first, and being tempted on, and all the
rest of it, Sir,’ said Mrs Pipchin, impatiently rubbing her hooked
nose. ‘It never was thought of in my time, and it has no business to be
thought of now. My opinion is “keep ‘em at it”.’

‘My good madam,’ returned Mr Dombey, ‘you have not acquired your
reputation undeservedly; and I beg you to believe, Mrs Pipchin, that
I am more than satisfied with your excellent system of management,
and shall have the greatest pleasure in commending it whenever my poor
commendation--’ Mr Dombey’s loftiness when he affected to disparage his
own importance, passed all bounds--‘can be of any service. I have been
thinking of Doctor Blimber’s, Mrs Pipchin.’

‘My neighbour, Sir?’ said Mrs Pipchin. ‘I believe the Doctor’s is an
excellent establishment. I’ve heard that it’s very strictly conducted,
and there is nothing but learning going on from morning to night.’

‘And it’s very expensive,’ added Mr Dombey.

‘And it’s very expensive, Sir,’ returned Mrs Pipchin, catching at the
fact, as if in omitting that, she had omitted one of its leading merits.

‘I have had some communication with the Doctor, Mrs Pipchin,’ said Mr
Dombey, hitching his chair anxiously a little nearer to the fire, ‘and
he does not consider Paul at all too young for his purpose. He mentioned
several instances of boys in Greek at about the same age. If I have any
little uneasiness in my own mind, Mrs Pipchin, on the subject of this
change, it is not on that head. My son not having known a mother has
gradually concentrated much--too much--of his childish affection on
his sister. Whether their separation--’ Mr Dombey said no more, but sat

‘Hoity-toity!’ exclaimed Mrs Pipchin, shaking out her black bombazeen
skirts, and plucking up all the ogress within her. ‘If she don’t like
it, Mr Dombey, she must be taught to lump it.’ The good lady apologised
immediately afterwards for using so common a figure of speech, but said
(and truly) that that was the way she reasoned with ‘em.

Mr Dombey waited until Mrs Pipchin had done bridling and shaking her
head, and frowning down a legion of Bitherstones and Pankeys; and then
said quietly, but correctively, ‘He, my good madam, he.’

Mrs Pipchin’s system would have applied very much the same mode of cure
to any uneasiness on the part of Paul, too; but as the hard grey eye was
sharp enough to see that the recipe, however Mr Dombey might admit its
efficacy in the case of the daughter, was not a sovereign remedy for the
son, she argued the point; and contended that change, and new society,
and the different form of life he would lead at Doctor Blimber’s, and
the studies he would have to master, would very soon prove sufficient
alienations. As this chimed in with Mr Dombey’s own hope and belief,
it gave that gentleman a still higher opinion of Mrs Pipchin’s
understanding; and as Mrs Pipchin, at the same time, bewailed the loss
of her dear little friend (which was not an overwhelming shock to her,
as she had long expected it, and had not looked, in the beginning, for
his remaining with her longer than three months), he formed an equally
good opinion of Mrs Pipchin’s disinterestedness. It was plain that he
had given the subject anxious consideration, for he had formed a plan,
which he announced to the ogress, of sending Paul to the Doctor’s as a
weekly boarder for the first half year, during which time Florence
would remain at the Castle, that she might receive her brother there, on
Saturdays. This would wean him by degrees, Mr Dombey said; possibly
with a recollection of his not having been weaned by degrees on a former

Mr Dombey finished the interview by expressing his hope that Mrs Pipchin
would still remain in office as general superintendent and overseer of
his son, pending his studies at Brighton; and having kissed Paul, and
shaken hands with Florence, and beheld Master Bitherstone in his collar
of state, and made Miss Pankey cry by patting her on the head (in which
region she was uncommonly tender, on account of a habit Mrs Pipchin had
of sounding it with her knuckles, like a cask), he withdrew to his hotel
and dinner: resolved that Paul, now that he was getting so old and well,
should begin a vigorous course of education forthwith, to qualify him
for the position in which he was to shine; and that Doctor Blimber
should take him in hand immediately.

Whenever a young gentleman was taken in hand by Doctor Blimber, he
might consider himself sure of a pretty tight squeeze. The Doctor only
undertook the charge of ten young gentlemen, but he had, always ready, a
supply of learning for a hundred, on the lowest estimate; and it was at
once the business and delight of his life to gorge the unhappy ten with

In fact, Doctor Blimber’s establishment was a great hot-house, in which
there was a forcing apparatus incessantly at work. All the boys blew
before their time. Mental green-peas were produced at Christmas, and
intellectual asparagus all the year round. Mathematical gooseberries
(very sour ones too) were common at untimely seasons, and from mere
sprouts of bushes, under Doctor Blimber’s cultivation. Every description
of Greek and Latin vegetable was got off the driest twigs of boys, under
the frostiest circumstances. Nature was of no consequence at all. No
matter what a young gentleman was intended to bear, Doctor Blimber made
him bear to pattern, somehow or other.

This was all very pleasant and ingenious, but the system of forcing was
attended with its usual disadvantages. There was not the right taste
about the premature productions, and they didn’t keep well. Moreover,
one young gentleman, with a swollen nose and an excessively large head
(the oldest of the ten who had ‘gone through’ everything), suddenly left
off blowing one day, and remained in the establishment a mere stalk. And
people did say that the Doctor had rather overdone it with young Toots,
and that when he began to have whiskers he left off having brains.

There young Toots was, at any rate; possessed of the gruffest of voices
and the shrillest of minds; sticking ornamental pins into his shirt, and
keeping a ring in his waistcoat pocket to put on his little finger by
stealth, when the pupils went out walking; constantly falling in love by
sight with nurserymaids, who had no idea of his existence; and looking
at the gas-lighted world over the little iron bars in the left-hand
corner window of the front three pairs of stairs, after bed-time, like a
greatly overgrown cherub who had sat up aloft much too long.

The Doctor was a portly gentleman in a suit of black, with strings
at his knees, and stockings below them. He had a bald head, highly
polished; a deep voice; and a chin so very double, that it was a wonder
how he ever managed to shave into the creases. He had likewise a pair of
little eyes that were always half shut up, and a mouth that was always
half expanded into a grin, as if he had, that moment, posed a boy, and
were waiting to convict him from his own lips. Insomuch, that when the
Doctor put his right hand into the breast of his coat, and with his
other hand behind him, and a scarcely perceptible wag of his head, made
the commonest observation to a nervous stranger, it was like a sentiment
from the sphynx, and settled his business.

The Doctor’s was a mighty fine house, fronting the sea. Not a joyful
style of house within, but quite the contrary. Sad-coloured curtains,
whose proportions were spare and lean, hid themselves despondently
behind the windows. The tables and chairs were put away in rows, like
figures in a sum; fires were so rarely lighted in the rooms of ceremony,
that they felt like wells, and a visitor represented the bucket; the
dining-room seemed the last place in the world where any eating or
drinking was likely to occur; there was no sound through all the house
but the ticking of a great clock in the hall, which made itself audible
in the very garrets; and sometimes a dull cooing of young gentlemen
at their lessons, like the murmurings of an assemblage of melancholy

Miss Blimber, too, although a slim and graceful maid, did no soft
violence to the gravity of the house. There was no light nonsense about
Miss Blimber. She kept her hair short and crisp, and wore spectacles.
She was dry and sandy with working in the graves of deceased languages.
None of your live languages for Miss Blimber. They must be dead--stone
dead--and then Miss Blimber dug them up like a Ghoul.

Mrs Blimber, her Mama, was not learned herself, but she pretended to
be, and that did quite as well. She said at evening parties, that if she
could have known Cicero, she thought she could have died contented. It
was the steady joy of her life to see the Doctor’s young gentlemen go
out walking, unlike all other young gentlemen, in the largest possible
shirt-collars, and the stiffest possible cravats. It was so classical,
she said.

As to Mr Feeder, B.A., Doctor Blimber’s assistant, he was a kind
of human barrel-organ, with a little list of tunes at which he was
continually working, over and over again, without any variation. He
might have been fitted up with a change of barrels, perhaps, in early
life, if his destiny had been favourable; but it had not been; and he
had only one, with which, in a monotonous round, it was his occupation
to bewilder the young ideas of Doctor Blimber’s young gentlemen. The
young gentlemen were prematurely full of carking anxieties. They knew no
rest from the pursuit of stony-hearted verbs, savage noun-substantives,
inflexible syntactic passages, and ghosts of exercises that appeared
to them in their dreams. Under the forcing system, a young gentleman
usually took leave of his spirits in three weeks. He had all the cares
of the world on his head in three months. He conceived bitter sentiments
against his parents or guardians in four; he was an old misanthrope, in
five; envied Curtius that blessed refuge in the earth, in six; and at
the end of the first twelvemonth had arrived at the conclusion, from
which he never afterwards departed, that all the fancies of the poets,
and lessons of the sages, were a mere collection of words and grammar,
and had no other meaning in the world.

But he went on blow, blow, blowing, in the Doctor’s hothouse, all the
time; and the Doctor’s glory and reputation were great, when he took his
wintry growth home to his relations and friends.

Upon the Doctor’s door-steps one day, Paul stood with a fluttering
heart, and with his small right hand in his father’s. His other hand was
locked in that of Florence. How tight the tiny pressure of that one; and
how loose and cold the other!

Mrs Pipchin hovered behind the victim, with her sable plumage and her
hooked beak, like a bird of ill-omen. She was out of breath--for
Mr Dombey, full of great thoughts, had walked fast--and she croaked
hoarsely as she waited for the opening of the door.

‘Now, Paul,’ said Mr Dombey, exultingly. ‘This is the way indeed to be
Dombey and Son, and have money. You are almost a man already.’

‘Almost,’ returned the child.

Even his childish agitation could not master the sly and quaint yet
touching look, with which he accompanied the reply.

It brought a vague expression of dissatisfaction into Mr Dombey’s face;
but the door being opened, it was quickly gone.

‘Doctor Blimber is at home, I believe?’ said Mr Dombey.

The man said yes; and as they passed in, looked at Paul as if he were a
little mouse, and the house were a trap. He was a weak-eyed young man,
with the first faint streaks or early dawn of a grin on his countenance.
It was mere imbecility; but Mrs Pipchin took it into her head that it
was impudence, and made a snap at him directly.

‘How dare you laugh behind the gentleman’s back?’ said Mrs Pipchin. ‘And
what do you take me for?’

‘I ain’t a laughing at nobody, and I’m sure I don’t take you for
nothing, Ma’am,’ returned the young man, in consternation.

‘A pack of idle dogs!’ said Mrs Pipchin, ‘only fit to be turnspits. Go
and tell your master that Mr Dombey’s here, or it’ll be worse for you!’

The weak-eyed young man went, very meekly, to discharge himself of this
commission; and soon came back to invite them to the Doctor’s study.

‘You’re laughing again, Sir,’ said Mrs Pipchin, when it came to her
turn, bringing up the rear, to pass him in the hall.

‘I ain’t,’ returned the young man, grievously oppressed. ‘I never see
such a thing as this!’

‘What is the matter, Mrs Pipchin?’ said Mr Dombey, looking round.
‘Softly! Pray!’

Mrs Pipchin, in her deference, merely muttered at the young man as she
passed on, and said, ‘Oh! he was a precious fellow’--leaving the young
man, who was all meekness and incapacity, affected even to tears by the
incident. But Mrs Pipchin had a way of falling foul of all meek people;
and her friends said who could wonder at it, after the Peruvian mines!

The Doctor was sitting in his portentous study, with a globe at each
knee, books all round him, Homer over the door, and Minerva on the
mantel-shelf. ‘And how do you do, Sir?’ he said to Mr Dombey, ‘and how
is my little friend?’ Grave as an organ was the Doctor’s speech; and
when he ceased, the great clock in the hall seemed (to Paul at least) to
take him up, and to go on saying, ‘how, is, my, lit, tle, friend? how,
is, my, lit, tle, friend?’ over and over and over again.

The little friend being something too small to be seen at all from where
the Doctor sat, over the books on his table, the Doctor made several
futile attempts to get a view of him round the legs; which Mr Dombey
perceiving, relieved the Doctor from his embarrassment by taking Paul up
in his arms, and sitting him on another little table, over against the
Doctor, in the middle of the room.

‘Ha!’ said the Doctor, leaning back in his chair with his hand in his
breast. ‘Now I see my little friend. How do you do, my little friend?’

The clock in the hall wouldn’t subscribe to this alteration in the form
of words, but continued to repeat how, is, my, lit, tle, friend? how,
is, my, lit, tle, friend?’

‘Very well, I thank you, Sir,’ returned Paul, answering the clock quite
as much as the Doctor.

‘Ha!’ said Doctor Blimber. ‘Shall we make a man of him?’

‘Do you hear, Paul?’ added Mr Dombey; Paul being silent.

‘Shall we make a man of him?’ repeated the Doctor.

‘I had rather be a child,’ replied Paul.

‘Indeed!’ said the Doctor. ‘Why?’

The child sat on the table looking at him, with a curious expression of
suppressed emotion in his face, and beating one hand proudly on his
knee as if he had the rising tears beneath it, and crushed them. But
his other hand strayed a little way the while, a little farther--farther
from him yet--until it lighted on the neck of Florence. ‘This is why,’
it seemed to say, and then the steady look was broken up and gone; the
working lip was loosened; and the tears came streaming forth.

‘Mrs Pipchin,’ said his father, in a querulous manner, ‘I am really very
sorry to see this.’

‘Come away from him, do, Miss Dombey,’ quoth the matron.

‘Never mind,’ said the Doctor, blandly nodding his head, to keep
Mrs Pipchin back. ‘Never mind; we shall substitute new cares and new
impressions, Mr Dombey, very shortly. You would still wish my little
friend to acquire--’

‘Everything, if you please, Doctor,’ returned Mr Dombey, firmly.

‘Yes,’ said the Doctor, who, with his half-shut eyes, and his usual
smile, seemed to survey Paul with the sort of interest that might attach
to some choice little animal he was going to stuff. ‘Yes, exactly. Ha!
We shall impart a great variety of information to our little friend, and
bring him quickly forward, I daresay. I daresay. Quite a virgin soil, I
believe you said, Mr Dombey?’

‘Except some ordinary preparation at home, and from this lady,’ replied
Mr Dombey, introducing Mrs Pipchin, who instantly communicated a
rigidity to her whole muscular system, and snorted defiance beforehand,
in case the Doctor should disparage her; ‘except so far, Paul has, as
yet, applied himself to no studies at all.’

Doctor Blimber inclined his head, in gentle tolerance of such
insignificant poaching as Mrs Pipchin’s, and said he was glad to hear
it. It was much more satisfactory, he observed, rubbing his hands, to
begin at the foundation. And again he leered at Paul, as if he would
have liked to tackle him with the Greek alphabet, on the spot.

‘That circumstance, indeed, Doctor Blimber,’ pursued Mr Dombey, glancing
at his little son, ‘and the interview I have already had the pleasure of
holding with you, renders any further explanation, and consequently, any
further intrusion on your valuable time, so unnecessary, that--’

‘Now, Miss Dombey!’ said the acid Pipchin.

‘Permit me,’ said the Doctor, ‘one moment. Allow me to present Mrs
Blimber and my daughter; who will be associated with the domestic life
of our young Pilgrim to Parnassus Mrs Blimber,’ for the lady, who had
perhaps been in waiting, opportunely entered, followed by her daughter,
that fair Sexton in spectacles, ‘Mr Dombey. My daughter Cornelia, Mr
Dombey. Mr Dombey, my love,’ pursued the Doctor, turning to his wife,
‘is so confiding as to--do you see our little friend?’

Mrs Blimber, in an excess of politeness, of which Mr Dombey was the
object, apparently did not, for she was backing against the little
friend, and very much endangering his position on the table. But,
on this hint, she turned to admire his classical and intellectual
lineaments, and turning again to Mr Dombey, said, with a sigh, that she
envied his dear son.

‘Like a bee, Sir,’ said Mrs Blimber, with uplifted eyes, ‘about to
plunge into a garden of the choicest flowers, and sip the sweets for the
first time Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Terence, Plautus, Cicero. What a world
of honey have we here. It may appear remarkable, Mr Dombey, in one who
is a wife--the wife of such a husband--’

‘Hush, hush,’ said Doctor Blimber. ‘Fie for shame.’

‘Mr Dombey will forgive the partiality of a wife,’ said Mrs Blimber,
with an engaging smile.

Mr Dombey answered ‘Not at all:’ applying those words, it is to be
presumed, to the partiality, and not to the forgiveness.

‘And it may seem remarkable in one who is a mother also,’ resumed Mrs

‘And such a mother,’ observed Mr Dombey, bowing with some confused idea
of being complimentary to Cornelia.

‘But really,’ pursued Mrs Blimber, ‘I think if I could have known
Cicero, and been his friend, and talked with him in his retirement at
Tusculum (beau-ti-ful Tusculum!), I could have died contented.’

A learned enthusiasm is so very contagious, that Mr Dombey half believed
this was exactly his case; and even Mrs Pipchin, who was not, as we have
seen, of an accommodating disposition generally, gave utterance to a
little sound between a groan and a sigh, as if she would have said that
nobody but Cicero could have proved a lasting consolation under that
failure of the Peruvian Mines, but that he indeed would have been a very
Davy-lamp of refuge.

Cornelia looked at Mr Dombey through her spectacles, as if she would
have liked to crack a few quotations with him from the authority in
question. But this design, if she entertained it, was frustrated by a
knock at the room-door.

‘Who is that?’ said the Doctor. ‘Oh! Come in, Toots; come in. Mr Dombey,
Sir.’ Toots bowed. ‘Quite a coincidence!’ said Doctor Blimber. ‘Here
we have the beginning and the end. Alpha and Omega. Our head boy, Mr

The Doctor might have called him their head and shoulders boy, for he
was at least that much taller than any of the rest. He blushed very much
at finding himself among strangers, and chuckled aloud.

‘An addition to our little Portico, Toots,’ said the Doctor; ‘Mr
Dombey’s son.’

Young Toots blushed again; and finding, from a solemn silence which
prevailed, that he was expected to say something, said to Paul, ‘How are
you?’ in a voice so deep, and a manner so sheepish, that if a lamb had
roared it couldn’t have been more surprising.

‘Ask Mr Feeder, if you please, Toots,’ said the Doctor, ‘to prepare
a few introductory volumes for Mr Dombey’s son, and to allot him a
convenient seat for study. My dear, I believe Mr Dombey has not seen the

‘If Mr Dombey will walk upstairs,’ said Mrs Blimber, ‘I shall be more
than proud to show him the dominions of the drowsy god.’

With that, Mrs Blimber, who was a lady of great suavity, and a wiry
figure, and who wore a cap composed of sky-blue materials, proceeded
upstairs with Mr Dombey and Cornelia; Mrs Pipchin following, and looking
out sharp for her enemy the footman.

While they were gone, Paul sat upon the table, holding Florence by the
hand, and glancing timidly from the Doctor round and round the room,
while the Doctor, leaning back in his chair, with his hand in his breast
as usual, held a book from him at arm’s length, and read. There
was something very awful in this manner of reading. It was such a
determined, unimpassioned, inflexible, cold-blooded way of going to
work. It left the Doctor’s countenance exposed to view; and when the
Doctor smiled suspiciously at his author, or knit his brows, or shook
his head and made wry faces at him, as much as to say, ‘Don’t tell me,
Sir; I know better,’ it was terrific.

Toots, too, had no business to be outside the door, ostentatiously
examining the wheels in his watch, and counting his half-crowns. But
that didn’t last long; for Doctor Blimber, happening to change the
position of his tight plump legs, as if he were going to get up, Toots
swiftly vanished, and appeared no more.

Mr Dombey and his conductress were soon heard coming downstairs again,
talking all the way; and presently they re-entered the Doctor’s study.

‘I hope, Mr Dombey,’ said the Doctor, laying down his book, ‘that the
arrangements meet your approval.’

‘They are excellent, Sir,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Very fair, indeed,’ said Mrs Pipchin, in a low voice; never disposed to
give too much encouragement.

‘Mrs Pipchin,’ said Mr Dombey, wheeling round, ‘will, with your
permission, Doctor and Mrs Blimber, visit Paul now and then.’

‘Whenever Mrs Pipchin pleases,’ observed the Doctor.

‘Always happy to see her,’ said Mrs Blimber.

‘I think,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘I have given all the trouble I need, and may
take my leave. Paul, my child,’ he went close to him, as he sat upon the
table. ‘Good-bye.’

‘Good-bye, Papa.’

The limp and careless little hand that Mr Dombey took in his, was
singularly out of keeping with the wistful face. But he had no part
in its sorrowful expression. It was not addressed to him. No, no. To
Florence--all to Florence.

If Mr Dombey in his insolence of wealth, had ever made an enemy, hard
to appease and cruelly vindictive in his hate, even such an enemy might
have received the pang that wrung his proud heart then, as compensation
for his injury.

He bent down, over his boy, and kissed him. If his sight were dimmed as
he did so, by something that for a moment blurred the little face, and
made it indistinct to him, his mental vision may have been, for that
short time, the clearer perhaps.

‘I shall see you soon, Paul. You are free on Saturdays and Sundays, you

‘Yes, Papa,’ returned Paul: looking at his sister. ‘On Saturdays and

‘And you’ll try and learn a great deal here, and be a clever man,’ said
Mr Dombey; ‘won’t you?’

‘I’ll try,’ returned the child, wearily.

‘And you’ll soon be grown up now!’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Oh! very soon!’ replied the child. Once more the old, old look passed
rapidly across his features like a strange light. It fell on Mrs
Pipchin, and extinguished itself in her black dress. That excellent
ogress stepped forward to take leave and to bear off Florence, which she
had long been thirsting to do. The move on her part roused Mr Dombey,
whose eyes were fixed on Paul. After patting him on the head, and
pressing his small hand again, he took leave of Doctor Blimber, Mrs
Blimber, and Miss Blimber, with his usual polite frigidity, and walked
out of the study.

Despite his entreaty that they would not think of stirring, Doctor
Blimber, Mrs Blimber, and Miss Blimber all pressed forward to attend him
to the hall; and thus Mrs Pipchin got into a state of entanglement with
Miss Blimber and the Doctor, and was crowded out of the study before
she could clutch Florence. To which happy accident Paul stood afterwards
indebted for the dear remembrance, that Florence ran back to throw her
arms round his neck, and that hers was the last face in the doorway:
turned towards him with a smile of encouragement, the brighter for the
tears through which it beamed.

It made his childish bosom heave and swell when it was gone; and sent
the globes, the books, blind Homer and Minerva, swimming round the room.
But they stopped, all of a sudden; and then he heard the loud clock in
the hall still gravely inquiring ‘how, is, my, lit, tle, friend? how,
is, my, lit, tle, friend?’ as it had done before.

He sat, with folded hands, upon his pedestal, silently listening. But
he might have answered ‘weary, weary! very lonely, very sad!’ And there,
with an aching void in his young heart, and all outside so cold, and
bare, and strange, Paul sat as if he had taken life unfurnished, and the
upholsterer were never coming.

CHAPTER 12. Paul’s Education

After the lapse of some minutes, which appeared an immense time to
little Paul Dombey on the table, Doctor Blimber came back. The Doctor’s
walk was stately, and calculated to impress the juvenile mind with
solemn feelings. It was a sort of march; but when the Doctor put out his
right foot, he gravely turned upon his axis, with a semi-circular sweep
towards the left; and when he put out his left foot, he turned in the
same manner towards the right. So that he seemed, at every stride he
took, to look about him as though he were saying, ‘Can anybody have
the goodness to indicate any subject, in any direction, on which I am
uninformed? I rather think not.’

Mrs Blimber and Miss Blimber came back in the Doctor’s company; and the
Doctor, lifting his new pupil off the table, delivered him over to Miss

‘Cornelia,’ said the Doctor, ‘Dombey will be your charge at first. Bring
him on, Cornelia, bring him on.’

Miss Blimber received her young ward from the Doctor’s hands; and Paul,
feeling that the spectacles were surveying him, cast down his eyes.

‘How old are you, Dombey?’ said Miss Blimber.

‘Six,’ answered Paul, wondering, as he stole a glance at the young lady,
why her hair didn’t grow long like Florence’s, and why she was like a

‘How much do you know of your Latin Grammar, Dombey?’ said Miss Blimber.

‘None of it,’ answered Paul. Feeling that the answer was a shock to Miss
Blimber’s sensibility, he looked up at the three faces that were looking
down at him, and said:

‘I haven’t been well. I have been a weak child. I couldn’t learn a
Latin Grammar when I was out, every day, with old Glubb. I wish you’d
tell old Glubb to come and see me, if you please.’

‘What a dreadfully low name’ said Mrs Blimber. ‘Unclassical to a degree!
Who is the monster, child?’

‘What monster?’ inquired Paul.

‘Glubb,’ said Mrs Blimber, with a great disrelish.

‘He’s no more a monster than you are,’ returned Paul.

‘What!’ cried the Doctor, in a terrible voice. ‘Ay, ay, ay? Aha! What’s

Paul was dreadfully frightened; but still he made a stand for the absent
Glubb, though he did it trembling.

‘He’s a very nice old man, Ma’am,’ he said. ‘He used to draw my couch.
He knows all about the deep sea, and the fish that are in it, and the
great monsters that come and lie on rocks in the sun, and dive into the
water again when they’re startled, blowing and splashing so, that they
can be heard for miles. There are some creatures, said Paul, warming
with his subject, ‘I don’t know how many yards long, and I forget their
names, but Florence knows, that pretend to be in distress; and when a
man goes near them, out of compassion, they open their great jaws, and
attack him. But all he has got to do,’ said Paul, boldly tendering this
information to the very Doctor himself, ‘is to keep on turning as he
runs away, and then, as they turn slowly, because they are so long, and
can’t bend, he’s sure to beat them. And though old Glubb don’t know why
the sea should make me think of my Mama that’s dead, or what it is that
it is always saying--always saying! he knows a great deal about it. And
I wish,’ the child concluded, with a sudden falling of his countenance,
and failing in his animation, as he looked like one forlorn, upon the
three strange faces, ‘that you’d let old Glubb come here to see me, for
I know him very well, and he knows me.’

‘Ha!’ said the Doctor, shaking his head; ‘this is bad, but study will do

Mrs Blimber opined, with something like a shiver, that he was an
unaccountable child; and, allowing for the difference of visage, looked
at him pretty much as Mrs Pipchin had been used to do.

‘Take him round the house, Cornelia,’ said the Doctor, ‘and familiarise
him with his new sphere. Go with that young lady, Dombey.’

Dombey obeyed; giving his hand to the abstruse Cornelia, and looking at
her sideways, with timid curiosity, as they went away together. For
her spectacles, by reason of the glistening of the glasses, made her
so mysterious, that he didn’t know where she was looking, and was not
indeed quite sure that she had any eyes at all behind them.

Cornelia took him first to the schoolroom, which was situated at the
back of the hall, and was approached through two baize doors, which
deadened and muffled the young gentlemen’s voices. Here, there were
eight young gentlemen in various stages of mental prostration, all very
hard at work, and very grave indeed. Toots, as an old hand, had a desk
to himself in one corner: and a magnificent man, of immense age, he
looked, in Paul’s young eyes, behind it.

Mr Feeder, B.A., who sat at another little desk, had his Virgil stop
on, and was slowly grinding that tune to four young gentlemen. Of the
remaining four, two, who grasped their foreheads convulsively, were
engaged in solving mathematical problems; one with his face like a
dirty window, from much crying, was endeavouring to flounder through a
hopeless number of lines before dinner; and one sat looking at his
task in stony stupefaction and despair--which it seemed had been his
condition ever since breakfast time.

The appearance of a new boy did not create the sensation that might have
been expected. Mr Feeder, B.A. (who was in the habit of shaving his head
for coolness, and had nothing but little bristles on it), gave him a
bony hand, and told him he was glad to see him--which Paul would have
been very glad to have told him, if he could have done so with the least
sincerity. Then Paul, instructed by Cornelia, shook hands with the four
young gentlemen at Mr Feeder’s desk; then with the two young gentlemen
at work on the problems, who were very feverish; then with the young
gentleman at work against time, who was very inky; and lastly with the
young gentleman in a state of stupefaction, who was flabby and quite

Paul having been already introduced to Toots, that pupil merely chuckled
and breathed hard, as his custom was, and pursued the occupation in
which he was engaged. It was not a severe one; for on account of his
having ‘gone through’ so much (in more senses than one), and also of his
having, as before hinted, left off blowing in his prime, Toots now had
licence to pursue his own course of study: which was chiefly to write
long letters to himself from persons of distinction, adds ‘P. Toots,
Esquire, Brighton, Sussex,’ and to preserve them in his desk with great

These ceremonies passed, Cornelia led Paul upstairs to the top of the
house; which was rather a slow journey, on account of Paul being obliged
to land both feet on every stair, before he mounted another. But they
reached their journey’s end at last; and there, in a front room, looking
over the wild sea, Cornelia showed him a nice little bed with white
hangings, close to the window, on which there was already beautifully
written on a card in round text--down strokes very thick, and up strokes
very fine--DOMBEY; while two other little bedsteads in the same room
were announced, through like means, as respectively appertaining unto

Just as they got downstairs again into the hall, Paul saw the weak-eyed
young man who had given that mortal offence to Mrs Pipchin, suddenly
seize a very large drumstick, and fly at a gong that was hanging up, as
if he had gone mad, or wanted vengeance. Instead of receiving warning,
however, or being instantly taken into custody, the young man left off
unchecked, after having made a dreadful noise. Then Cornelia Blimber
said to Dombey that dinner would be ready in a quarter of an hour, and
perhaps he had better go into the schoolroom among his ‘friends.’

So Dombey, deferentially passing the great clock which was still as
anxious as ever to know how he found himself, opened the schoolroom door
a very little way, and strayed in like a lost boy: shutting it after
him with some difficulty. His friends were all dispersed about the
room except the stony friend, who remained immoveable. Mr Feeder was
stretching himself in his grey gown, as if, regardless of expense, he
were resolved to pull the sleeves off.

‘Heigh ho hum!’ cried Mr Feeder, shaking himself like a cart-horse. ‘Oh
dear me, dear me! Ya-a-a-ah!’

Paul was quite alarmed by Mr Feeder’s yawning; it was done on such a
great scale, and he was so terribly in earnest. All the boys too (Toots
excepted) seemed knocked up, and were getting ready for dinner--some
newly tying their neckcloths, which were very stiff indeed; and
others washing their hands or brushing their hair, in an adjoining
ante-chamber--as if they didn’t think they should enjoy it at all.

Young Toots who was ready beforehand, and had therefore nothing to do,
and had leisure to bestow upon Paul, said, with heavy good nature:

‘Sit down, Dombey.’

‘Thank you, Sir,’ said Paul.

His endeavouring to hoist himself on to a very high window-seat, and his
slipping down again, appeared to prepare Toots’s mind for the reception
of a discovery.

‘You’re a very small chap;’ said Mr Toots.

‘Yes, Sir, I’m small,’ returned Paul. ‘Thank you, Sir.’

For Toots had lifted him into the seat, and done it kindly too.

‘Who’s your tailor?’ inquired Toots, after looking at him for some

‘It’s a woman that has made my clothes as yet,’ said Paul. ‘My sister’s

‘My tailor’s Burgess and Co.,’ said Toots. ‘Fash’nable. But very dear.’

Paul had wit enough to shake his head, as if he would have said it was
easy to see that; and indeed he thought so.

‘Your father’s regularly rich, ain’t he?’ inquired Mr Toots.

‘Yes, Sir,’ said Paul. ‘He’s Dombey and Son.’

‘And which?’ demanded Toots.

‘And Son, Sir,’ replied Paul.

Mr Toots made one or two attempts, in a low voice, to fix the Firm in
his mind; but not quite succeeding, said he would get Paul to mention
the name again to-morrow morning, as it was rather important. And indeed
he purposed nothing less than writing himself a private and confidential
letter from Dombey and Son immediately.

By this time the other pupils (always excepting the stony boy) gathered
round. They were polite, but pale; and spoke low; and they were so
depressed in their spirits, that in comparison with the general tone of
that company, Master Bitherstone was a perfect Miller, or complete Jest
Book.’ And yet he had a sense of injury upon him, too, had Bitherstone.

‘You sleep in my room, don’t you?’ asked a solemn young gentleman, whose
shirt-collar curled up the lobes of his ears.

‘Master Briggs?’ inquired Paul.

‘Tozer,’ said the young gentleman.

Paul answered yes; and Tozer pointing out the stony pupil, said that was
Briggs. Paul had already felt certain that it must be either Briggs or
Tozer, though he didn’t know why.

‘Is yours a strong constitution?’ inquired Tozer.

Paul said he thought not. Tozer replied that he thought not also,
judging from Paul’s looks, and that it was a pity, for it need be. He
then asked Paul if he were going to begin with Cornelia; and on Paul
saying ‘yes,’ all the young gentlemen (Briggs excepted) gave a low

It was drowned in the tintinnabulation of the gong, which sounding again
with great fury, there was a general move towards the dining-room; still
excepting Briggs the stony boy, who remained where he was, and as he
was; and on its way to whom Paul presently encountered a round of bread,
genteelly served on a plate and napkin, and with a silver fork lying
crosswise on the top of it. Doctor Blimber was already in his place in
the dining-room, at the top of the table, with Miss Blimber and Mrs
Blimber on either side of him.  Mr Feeder in a black coat was at the
bottom. Paul’s chair was next to Miss Blimber; but it being found, when
he sat in it, that his eyebrows were not much above the level of the
table-cloth, some books were brought in from the Doctor’s study, on
which he was elevated, and on which he always sat from that time--
carrying them in and out himself on after occasions, like a little
elephant and castle.

Grace having been said by the Doctor, dinner began. There was some nice
soup; also roast meat, boiled meat, vegetables, pie, and cheese. Every
young gentleman had a massive silver fork, and a napkin; and all the
arrangements were stately and handsome. In particular, there was a
butler in a blue coat and bright buttons, who gave quite a winey flavour
to the table beer; he poured it out so superbly.

Nobody spoke, unless spoken to, except Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber, and
Miss Blimber, who conversed occasionally. Whenever a young gentleman was
not actually engaged with his knife and fork or spoon, his eye, with an
irresistible attraction, sought the eye of Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber,
or Miss Blimber, and modestly rested there. Toots appeared to be the
only exception to this rule. He sat next Mr Feeder on Paul’s side of the
table, and frequently looked behind and before the intervening boys to
catch a glimpse of Paul.

Only once during dinner was there any conversation that included the
young gentlemen. It happened at the epoch of the cheese, when the
Doctor, having taken a glass of port wine, and hemmed twice or thrice,

‘It is remarkable, Mr Feeder, that the Romans--’

At the mention of this terrible people, their implacable enemies, every
young gentleman fastened his gaze upon the Doctor, with an assumption of
the deepest interest. One of the number who happened to be drinking,
and who caught the Doctor’s eye glaring at him through the side of his
tumbler, left off so hastily that he was convulsed for some moments, and
in the sequel ruined Doctor Blimber’s point.

‘It is remarkable, Mr Feeder,’ said the Doctor, beginning again slowly,
‘that the Romans, in those gorgeous and profuse entertainments of which
we read in the days of the Emperors, when luxury had attained a height
unknown before or since, and when whole provinces were ravaged to supply
the splendid means of one Imperial Banquet--’

Here the offender, who had been swelling and straining, and waiting in
vain for a full stop, broke out violently.

‘Johnson,’ said Mr Feeder, in a low reproachful voice, ‘take some

The Doctor, looking very stern, made a pause until the water was
brought, and then resumed:

‘And when, Mr Feeder--’

But Mr Feeder, who saw that Johnson must break out again, and who knew
that the Doctor would never come to a period before the young gentlemen
until he had finished all he meant to say, couldn’t keep his eye off
Johnson; and thus was caught in the fact of not looking at the Doctor,
who consequently stopped.

‘I beg your pardon, Sir,’ said Mr Feeder, reddening. ‘I beg your pardon,
Doctor Blimber.’

‘And when,’ said the Doctor, raising his voice, ‘when, Sir, as we
read, and have no reason to doubt--incredible as it may appear to the
vulgar--of our time--the brother of Vitellius prepared for him a feast,
in which were served, of fish, two thousand dishes--’

‘Take some water, Johnson--dishes, Sir,’ said Mr Feeder.

‘Of various sorts of fowl, five thousand dishes.’

‘Or try a crust of bread,’ said Mr Feeder.

‘And one dish,’ pursued Doctor Blimber, raising his voice still higher
as he looked all round the table, ‘called, from its enormous dimensions,
the Shield of Minerva, and made, among other costly ingredients, of the
brains of pheasants--’

‘Ow, ow, ow!’ (from Johnson.)


‘Ow, ow, ow!’

‘The sounds of the fish called scari--’

‘You’ll burst some vessel in your head,’ said Mr Feeder. ‘You had better
let it come.’

‘And the spawn of the lamprey, brought from the Carpathian Sea,’
pursued the Doctor, in his severest voice; ‘when we read of costly
entertainments such as these, and still remember, that we have a

‘What would be your mother’s feelings if you died of apoplexy!’ said Mr

‘A Domitian--’

‘And you’re blue, you know,’ said Mr Feeder.

‘A Nero, a Tiberius, a Caligula, a Heliogabalus, and many more, pursued
the Doctor; ‘it is, Mr Feeder--if you are doing me the honour to
attend--remarkable; VERY remarkable, Sir--’

But Johnson, unable to suppress it any longer, burst at that moment into
such an overwhelming fit of coughing, that although both his immediate
neighbours thumped him on the back, and Mr Feeder himself held a glass
of water to his lips, and the butler walked him up and down several
times between his own chair and the sideboard, like a sentry, it was a
full five minutes before he was moderately composed. Then there was a
profound silence.

‘Gentlemen,’ said Doctor Blimber, ‘rise for Grace! Cornelia, lift Dombey
down’--nothing of whom but his scalp was accordingly seen above
the tablecloth. ‘Johnson will repeat to me tomorrow morning before
breakfast, without book, and from the Greek Testament, the first chapter
of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians. We will resume our
studies, Mr Feeder, in half-an-hour.’

The young gentlemen bowed and withdrew. Mr Feeder did likewise.
During the half-hour, the young gentlemen, broken into pairs, loitered
arm-in-arm up and down a small piece of ground behind the house, or
endeavoured to kindle a spark of animation in the breast of Briggs. But
nothing happened so vulgar as play. Punctually at the appointed time,
the gong was sounded, and the studies, under the joint auspices of
Doctor Blimber and Mr Feeder, were resumed.

As the Olympic game of lounging up and down had been cut shorter than
usual that day, on Johnson’s account, they all went out for a walk
before tea. Even Briggs (though he hadn’t begun yet) partook of this
dissipation; in the enjoyment of which he looked over the cliff two or
three times darkly. Doctor Blimber accompanied them; and Paul had the
honour of being taken in tow by the Doctor himself: a distinguished
state of things, in which he looked very little and feeble.

Tea was served in a style no less polite than the dinner; and after tea,
the young gentlemen rising and bowing as before, withdrew to fetch up
the unfinished tasks of that day, or to get up the already looming tasks
of to-morrow. In the meantime Mr Feeder withdrew to his own room; and
Paul sat in a corner wondering whether Florence was thinking of him, and
what they were all about at Mrs Pipchin’s.

Mr Toots, who had been detained by an important letter from the Duke of
Wellington, found Paul out after a time; and having looked at him for a
long while, as before, inquired if he was fond of waistcoats.

Paul said ‘Yes, Sir.’

‘So am I,’ said Toots.

No word more spoke Toots that night; but he stood looking at Paul as
if he liked him; and as there was company in that, and Paul was not
inclined to talk, it answered his purpose better than conversation.

At eight o’clock or so, the gong sounded again for prayers in the
dining-room, where the butler afterwards presided over a side-table, on
which bread and cheese and beer were spread for such young gentlemen as
desired to partake of those refreshments. The ceremonies concluded by
the Doctor’s saying, ‘Gentlemen, we will resume our studies at seven
to-morrow;’ and then, for the first time, Paul saw Cornelia Blimber’s
eye, and saw that it was upon him. When the Doctor had said these words,
‘Gentlemen, we will resume our studies at seven tomorrow,’ the pupils
bowed again, and went to bed.

In the confidence of their own room upstairs, Briggs said his head ached
ready to split, and that he should wish himself dead if it wasn’t for
his mother, and a blackbird he had at home. Tozer didn’t say much, but he
sighed a good deal, and told Paul to look out, for his turn would come
to-morrow. After uttering those prophetic words, he undressed himself
moodily, and got into bed. Briggs was in his bed too, and Paul in
his bed too, before the weak-eyed young man appeared to take away the
candle, when he wished them good-night and pleasant dreams. But
his benevolent wishes were in vain, as far as Briggs and Tozer were
concerned; for Paul, who lay awake for a long while, and often woke
afterwards, found that Briggs was ridden by his lesson as a nightmare:
and that Tozer, whose mind was affected in his sleep by similar causes,
in a minor degree talked unknown tongues, or scraps of Greek and
Latin--it was all one to Paul--which, in the silence of night, had an
inexpressibly wicked and guilty effect.

Paul had sunk into a sweet sleep, and dreamed that he was walking hand
in hand with Florence through beautiful gardens, when they came to a
large sunflower which suddenly expanded itself into a gong, and began
to sound. Opening his eyes, he found that it was a dark, windy morning,
with a drizzling rain: and that the real gong was giving dreadful note
of preparation, down in the hall.

So he got up directly, and found Briggs with hardly any eyes, for
nightmare and grief had made his face puffy, putting his boots on: while
Tozer stood shivering and rubbing his shoulders in a very bad humour.
Poor Paul couldn’t dress himself easily, not being used to it, and asked
them if they would have the goodness to tie some strings for him; but as
Briggs merely said ‘Bother!’ and Tozer, ‘Oh yes!’ he went down when he
was otherwise ready, to the next storey, where he saw a pretty young
woman in leather gloves, cleaning a stove. The young woman seemed
surprised at his appearance, and asked him where his mother was. When
Paul told her she was dead, she took her gloves off, and did what he
wanted; and furthermore rubbed his hands to warm them; and gave him a
kiss; and told him whenever he wanted anything of that sort--meaning in
the dressing way--to ask for ‘Melia; which Paul, thanking her very
much, said he certainly would. He then proceeded softly on his journey
downstairs, towards the room in which the young gentlemen resumed their
studies, when, passing by a door that stood ajar, a voice from within
cried, ‘Is that Dombey?’ On Paul replying, ‘Yes, Ma’am:’ for he knew the
voice to be Miss Blimber’s: Miss Blimber said, ‘Come in, Dombey.’ And in
he went.

Miss Blimber presented exactly the appearance she had presented
yesterday, except that she wore a shawl. Her little light curls were as
crisp as ever, and she had already her spectacles on, which made
Paul wonder whether she went to bed in them. She had a cool little
sitting-room of her own up there, with some books in it, and no fire But
Miss Blimber was never cold, and never sleepy.

Now, Dombey,’ said Miss Blimber, ‘I am going out for a constitutional.’

Paul wondered what that was, and why she didn’t send the footman out to
get it in such unfavourable weather. But he made no observation on the
subject: his attention being devoted to a little pile of new books, on
which Miss Blimber appeared to have been recently engaged.

‘These are yours, Dombey,’ said Miss Blimber.

‘All of ‘em, Ma’am?’ said Paul.

‘Yes,’ returned Miss Blimber; ‘and Mr Feeder will look you out some more
very soon, if you are as studious as I expect you will be, Dombey.’

‘Thank you, Ma’am,’ said Paul.

‘I am going out for a constitutional,’ resumed Miss Blimber; ‘and while
I am gone, that is to say in the interval between this and breakfast,
Dombey, I wish you to read over what I have marked in these books, and
to tell me if you quite understand what you have got to learn. Don’t
lose time, Dombey, for you have none to spare, but take them downstairs,
and begin directly.’

‘Yes, Ma’am,’ answered Paul.

There were so many of them, that although Paul put one hand under the
bottom book and his other hand and his chin on the top book, and hugged
them all closely, the middle book slipped out before he reached the
door, and then they all tumbled down on the floor. Miss Blimber said,
‘Oh, Dombey, Dombey, this is really very careless!’ and piled them up
afresh for him; and this time, by dint of balancing them with great
nicety, Paul got out of the room, and down a few stairs before two of
them escaped again. But he held the rest so tight, that he only left one
more on the first floor, and one in the passage; and when he had got the
main body down into the schoolroom, he set off upstairs again to collect
the stragglers. Having at last amassed the whole library, and climbed
into his place, he fell to work, encouraged by a remark from Tozer to
the effect that he ‘was in for it now;’ which was the only interruption
he received till breakfast time. At that meal, for which he had no
appetite, everything was quite as solemn and genteel as at the others;
and when it was finished, he followed Miss Blimber upstairs.

‘Now, Dombey,’ said Miss Blimber. ‘How have you got on with those

They comprised a little English, and a deal of Latin--names of things,
declensions of articles and substantives, exercises thereon, and
preliminary rules--a trifle of orthography, a glance at ancient history,
a wink or two at modern ditto, a few tables, two or three weights and
measures, and a little general information. When poor Paul had spelt
out number two, he found he had no idea of number one; fragments whereof
afterwards obtruded themselves into number three, which slided into
number four, which grafted itself on to number two. So that whether
twenty Romuluses made a Remus, or hic haec hoc was troy weight, or
a verb always agreed with an ancient Briton, or three times four was
Taurus a bull, were open questions with him.

‘Oh, Dombey, Dombey!’ said Miss Blimber, ‘this is very shocking.’

‘If you please,’ said Paul, ‘I think if I might sometimes talk a little
to old Glubb, I should be able to do better.’

‘Nonsense, Dombey,’ said Miss Blimber. ‘I couldn’t hear of it. This is
not the place for Glubbs of any kind. You must take the books down,
I suppose, Dombey, one by one, and perfect yourself in the day’s
instalment of subject A, before you turn at all to subject B. I am
sorry to say, Dombey, that your education appears to have been very much

‘So Papa says,’ returned Paul; ‘but I told you--I have been a weak
child. Florence knows I have. So does Wickam.’

‘Who is Wickam?’ asked Miss Blimber.

‘She has been my nurse,’ Paul answered.

‘I must beg you not to mention Wickam to me, then,’ said Miss Blimber. ‘I
couldn’t allow it’.

‘You asked me who she was,’ said Paul.

‘Very well,’ returned Miss Blimber; ‘but this is all very different
indeed from anything of that sort, Dombey, and I couldn’t think of
permitting it. As to having been weak, you must begin to be strong. And
now take away the top book, if you please, Dombey, and return when you
are master of the theme.’

Miss Blimber expressed her opinions on the subject of Paul’s
uninstructed state with a gloomy delight, as if she had expected
this result, and were glad to find that they must be in constant
communication. Paul withdrew with the top task, as he was told, and
laboured away at it, down below: sometimes remembering every word of it,
and sometimes forgetting it all, and everything else besides: until at
last he ventured upstairs again to repeat the lesson, when it was nearly
all driven out of his head before he began, by Miss Blimber’s shutting
up the book, and saying, ‘Go on, Dombey!’ a proceeding so suggestive of
the knowledge inside of her, that Paul looked upon the young lady with
consternation, as a kind of learned Guy Fawkes, or artificial Bogle,
stuffed full of scholastic straw.

He acquitted himself very well, nevertheless; and Miss Blimber,
commending him as giving promise of getting on fast, immediately
provided him with subject B; from which he passed to C, and even D
before dinner. It was hard work, resuming his studies, soon after
dinner; and he felt giddy and confused and drowsy and dull. But all the
other young gentlemen had similar sensations, and were obliged to resume
their studies too, if there were any comfort in that. It was a wonder
that the great clock in the hall, instead of being constant to its first
inquiry, never said, ‘Gentlemen, we will now resume our studies,’ for
that phrase was often enough repeated in its neighbourhood. The studies
went round like a mighty wheel, and the young gentlemen were always
stretched upon it.

After tea there were exercises again, and preparations for next day
by candlelight. And in due course there was bed; where, but for that
resumption of the studies which took place in dreams, were rest and
sweet forgetfulness.

Oh Saturdays! Oh happy Saturdays, when Florence always came at noon, and
never would, in any weather, stay away, though Mrs Pipchin snarled and
growled, and worried her bitterly. Those Saturdays were Sabbaths for at
least two little Christians among all the Jews, and did the holy Sabbath
work of strengthening and knitting up a brother’s and a sister’s love.

Not even Sunday nights--the heavy Sunday nights, whose shadow darkened
the first waking burst of light on Sunday mornings--could mar those
precious Saturdays. Whether it was the great sea-shore, where they sat,
and strolled together; or whether it was only Mrs Pipchin’s dull back
room, in which she sang to him so softly, with his drowsy head upon her
arm; Paul never cared. It was Florence. That was all he thought of. So,
on Sunday nights, when the Doctor’s dark door stood agape to swallow him
up for another week, the time was come for taking leave of Florence; no
one else.

Mrs Wickam had been drafted home to the house in town, and Miss Nipper,
now a smart young woman, had come down. To many a single combat with
Mrs Pipchin, did Miss Nipper gallantly devote herself, and if ever Mrs
Pipchin in all her life had found her match, she had found it now.
Miss Nipper threw away the scabbard the first morning she arose in Mrs
Pipchin’s house. She asked and gave no quarter. She said it must be war,
and war it was; and Mrs Pipchin lived from that time in the midst of
surprises, harassings, and defiances, and skirmishing attacks that came
bouncing in upon her from the passage, even in unguarded moments of
chops, and carried desolation to her very toast.

Miss Nipper had returned one Sunday night with Florence, from walking
back with Paul to the Doctor’s, when Florence took from her bosom a
little piece of paper, on which she had pencilled down some words.

‘See here, Susan,’ she said. ‘These are the names of the little books
that Paul brings home to do those long exercises with, when he is so
tired. I copied them last night while he was writing.’

‘Don’t show ‘em to me, Miss Floy, if you please,’ returned Nipper, ‘I’d
as soon see Mrs Pipchin.’

‘I want you to buy them for me, Susan, if you will, tomorrow morning. I
have money enough,’ said Florence.

‘Why, goodness gracious me, Miss Floy,’ returned Miss Nipper, ‘how
can you talk like that, when you have books upon books already, and
masterses and mississes a teaching of you everything continual, though
my belief is that your Pa, Miss Dombey, never would have learnt you
nothing, never would have thought of it, unless you’d asked him--when he
couldn’t well refuse; but giving consent when asked, and offering when
unasked, Miss, is quite two things; I may not have my objections to a
young man’s keeping company with me, and when he puts the question, may
say “yes,” but that’s not saying “would you be so kind as like me.”’

‘But you can buy me the books, Susan; and you will, when you know why I
want them.’

‘Well, Miss, and why do you want ‘em?’ replied Nipper; adding, in
a lower voice, ‘If it was to fling at Mrs Pipchin’s head, I’d buy a

‘Paul has a great deal too much to do, Susan,’ said Florence, ‘I am sure
of it.’

‘And well you may be, Miss,’ returned her maid, ‘and make your mind
quite easy that the willing dear is worked and worked away. If those is
Latin legs,’ exclaimed Miss Nipper, with strong feeling--in allusion to
Paul’s; ‘give me English ones.’

‘I am afraid he feels lonely and lost at Doctor Blimber’s, Susan,’
pursued Florence, turning away her face.

‘Ah,’ said Miss Nipper, with great sharpness, ‘Oh, them “Blimbers”’

‘Don’t blame anyone,’ said Florence. ‘It’s a mistake.’

‘I say nothing about blame, Miss,’ cried Miss Nipper, ‘for I know that
you object, but I may wish, Miss, that the family was set to work
to make new roads, and that Miss Blimber went in front and had the

After this speech, Miss Nipper, who was perfectly serious, wiped her

‘I think I could perhaps give Paul some help, Susan, if I had these
books,’ said Florence, ‘and make the coming week a little easier to
him. At least I want to try. So buy them for me, dear, and I will never
forget how kind it was of you to do it!’

It must have been a harder heart than Susan Nipper’s that could have
rejected the little purse Florence held out with these words, or the
gentle look of entreaty with which she seconded her petition. Susan put
the purse in her pocket without reply, and trotted out at once upon her

The books were not easy to procure; and the answer at several shops was,
either that they were just out of them, or that they never kept them, or
that they had had a great many last month, or that they expected a great
many next week But Susan was not easily baffled in such an enterprise;
and having entrapped a white-haired youth, in a black calico apron, from
a library where she was known, to accompany her in her quest, she led
him such a life in going up and down, that he exerted himself to the
utmost, if it were only to get rid of her; and finally enabled her to
return home in triumph.

With these treasures then, after her own daily lessons were over,
Florence sat down at night to track Paul’s footsteps through the thorny
ways of learning; and being possessed of a naturally quick and sound
capacity, and taught by that most wonderful of masters, love, it was not
long before she gained upon Paul’s heels, and caught and passed him.

Not a word of this was breathed to Mrs Pipchin: but many a night when
they were all in bed, and when Miss Nipper, with her hair in papers and
herself asleep in some uncomfortable attitude, reposed unconscious by
her side; and when the chinking ashes in the grate were cold and grey;
and when the candles were burnt down and guttering out;--Florence tried
so hard to be a substitute for one small Dombey, that her fortitude and
perseverance might have almost won her a free right to bear the name

And high was her reward, when one Saturday evening, as little Paul was
sitting down as usual to ‘resume his studies,’ she sat down by his side,
and showed him all that was so rough, made smooth, and all that was so
dark, made clear and plain, before him. It was nothing but a startled
look in Paul’s wan face--a flush--a smile--and then a close embrace--but
God knows how her heart leapt up at this rich payment for her trouble.

‘Oh, Floy!’ cried her brother, ‘how I love you! How I love you, Floy!’

‘And I you, dear!’

‘Oh! I am sure of that, Floy.’

He said no more about it, but all that evening sat close by her, very
quiet; and in the night he called out from his little room within hers,
three or four times, that he loved her.

Regularly, after that, Florence was prepared to sit down with Paul on
Saturday night, and patiently assist him through so much as they could
anticipate together of his next week’s work. The cheering thought that
he was labouring on where Florence had just toiled before him, would, of
itself, have been a stimulant to Paul in the perpetual resumption of his
studies; but coupled with the actual lightening of his load, consequent
on this assistance, it saved him, possibly, from sinking underneath the
burden which the fair Cornelia Blimber piled upon his back.

It was not that Miss Blimber meant to be too hard upon him, or that
Doctor Blimber meant to bear too heavily on the young gentlemen in
general. Cornelia merely held the faith in which she had been bred; and
the Doctor, in some partial confusion of his ideas, regarded the young
gentlemen as if they were all Doctors, and were born grown up. Comforted
by the applause of the young gentlemen’s nearest relations, and urged
on by their blind vanity and ill-considered haste, it would have been
strange if Doctor Blimber had discovered his mistake, or trimmed his
swelling sails to any other tack.

Thus in the case of Paul. When Doctor Blimber said he made great
progress and was naturally clever, Mr Dombey was more bent than ever on
his being forced and crammed. In the case of Briggs, when Doctor Blimber
reported that he did not make great progress yet, and was not naturally
clever, Briggs senior was inexorable in the same purpose. In short,
however high and false the temperature at which the Doctor kept his
hothouse, the owners of the plants were always ready to lend a helping
hand at the bellows, and to stir the fire.

Such spirits as he had in the outset, Paul soon lost of course. But he
retained all that was strange, and old, and thoughtful in his character:
and under circumstances so favourable to the development of those
tendencies, became even more strange, and old, and thoughtful, than

The only difference was, that he kept his character to himself. He grew
more thoughtful and reserved, every day; and had no such curiosity
in any living member of the Doctor’s household, as he had had in Mrs
Pipchin. He loved to be alone; and in those short intervals when he was
not occupied with his books, liked nothing so well as wandering about
the house by himself, or sitting on the stairs, listening to the great
clock in the hall. He was intimate with all the paperhanging in the
house; saw things that no one else saw in the patterns; found out
miniature tigers and lions running up the bedroom walls, and squinting
faces leering in the squares and diamonds of the floor-cloth.

The solitary child lived on, surrounded by this arabesque work of his
musing fancy, and no one understood him. Mrs Blimber thought him ‘odd,’
and sometimes the servants said among themselves that little Dombey
‘moped;’ but that was all.

Unless young Toots had some idea on the subject, to the expression of
which he was wholly unequal. Ideas, like ghosts (according to the common
notion of ghosts), must be spoken to a little before they will explain
themselves; and Toots had long left off asking any questions of his own
mind. Some mist there may have been, issuing from that leaden casket,
his cranium, which, if it could have taken shape and form, would have
become a genie; but it could not; and it only so far followed the
example of the smoke in the Arabian story, as to roll out in a thick
cloud, and there hang and hover. But it left a little figure visible
upon a lonely shore, and Toots was always staring at it.

‘How are you?’ he would say to Paul, fifty times a day. ‘Quite well,
Sir, thank you,’ Paul would answer. ‘Shake hands,’ would be Toots’s next

Which Paul, of course, would immediately do. Mr Toots generally said
again, after a long interval of staring and hard breathing, ‘How are
you?’ To which Paul again replied, ‘Quite well, Sir, thank you.’

One evening Mr Toots was sitting at his desk, oppressed by
correspondence, when a great purpose seemed to flash upon him. He laid
down his pen, and went off to seek Paul, whom he found at last, after a
long search, looking through the window of his little bedroom.

‘I say!’ cried Toots, speaking the moment he entered the room, lest he
should forget it; ‘what do you think about?’

‘Oh! I think about a great many things,’ replied Paul.

‘Do you, though?’ said Toots, appearing to consider that fact in itself
surprising. ‘If you had to die,’ said Paul, looking up into his face--Mr
Toots started, and seemed much disturbed.

‘Don’t you think you would rather die on a moonlight night, when the sky
was quite clear, and the wind blowing, as it did last night?’

Mr Toots said, looking doubtfully at Paul, and shaking his head, that he
didn’t know about that.

‘Not blowing, at least,’ said Paul, ‘but sounding in the air like the
sea sounds in the shells. It was a beautiful night. When I had listened
to the water for a long time, I got up and looked out. There was a boat
over there, in the full light of the moon; a boat with a sail.’

The child looked at him so steadfastly, and spoke so earnestly, that
Mr Toots, feeling himself called upon to say something about this boat,
said, ‘Smugglers.’ But with an impartial remembrance of there being two
sides to every question, he added, ‘or Preventive.’

‘A boat with a sail,’ repeated Paul, ‘in the full light of the moon. The
sail like an arm, all silver. It went away into the distance, and what
do you think it seemed to do as it moved with the waves?’

‘Pitch,’ said Mr Toots.

‘It seemed to beckon,’ said the child, ‘to beckon me to come!--There she
is! There she is!’

Toots was almost beside himself with dismay at this sudden exclamation,
after what had gone before, and cried ‘Who?’

‘My sister Florence!’ cried Paul, ‘looking up here, and waving her hand.
She sees me--she sees me! Good-night, dear, good-night, good-night.’

His quick transition to a state of unbounded pleasure, as he stood at
his window, kissing and clapping his hands: and the way in which the
light retreated from his features as she passed out of his view, and
left a patient melancholy on the little face: were too remarkable wholly
to escape even Toots’s notice. Their interview being interrupted at this
moment by a visit from Mrs Pipchin, who usually brought her black skirts
to bear upon Paul just before dusk, once or twice a week, Toots had
no opportunity of improving the occasion: but it left so marked an
impression on his mind that he twice returned, after having exchanged
the usual salutations, to ask Mrs Pipchin how she did. This the
irascible old lady conceived to be a deeply devised and long-meditated
insult, originating in the diabolical invention of the weak-eyed young
man downstairs, against whom she accordingly lodged a formal complaint
with Doctor Blimber that very night; who mentioned to the young man that
if he ever did it again, he should be obliged to part with him.

The evenings being longer now, Paul stole up to his window every evening
to look out for Florence. She always passed and repassed at a certain
time, until she saw him; and their mutual recognition was a gleam of
sunshine in Paul’s daily life. Often after dark, one other figure walked
alone before the Doctor’s house. He rarely joined them on the Saturdays
now. He could not bear it. He would rather come unrecognised, and look
up at the windows where his son was qualifying for a man; and wait, and
watch, and plan, and hope.

Oh! could he but have seen, or seen as others did, the slight spare boy
above, watching the waves and clouds at twilight, with his earnest eyes,
and breasting the window of his solitary cage when birds flew by, as if
he would have emulated them, and soared away!

CHAPTER 13. Shipping Intelligence and Office Business

Mr Dombey’s offices were in a court where there was an old-established
stall of choice fruit at the corner: where perambulating merchants, of
both sexes, offered for sale at any time between the hours of ten and
five, slippers, pocket-books, sponges, dogs’ collars, and Windsor soap;
and sometimes a pointer or an oil-painting.

The pointer always came that way, with a view to the Stock Exchange,
where a sporting taste (originating generally in bets of new hats)
is much in vogue. The other commodities were addressed to the general
public; but they were never offered by the vendors to Mr Dombey. When
he appeared, the dealers in those wares fell off respectfully. The
principal slipper and dogs’ collar man--who considered himself a public
character, and whose portrait was screwed on to an artist’s door in
Cheapside--threw up his forefinger to the brim of his hat as Mr Dombey
went by. The ticket-porter, if he were not absent on a job, always ran
officiously before, to open Mr Dombey’s office door as wide as possible,
and hold it open, with his hat off, while he entered.

The clerks within were not a whit behind-hand in their demonstrations of
respect. A solemn hush prevailed, as Mr Dombey passed through the outer
office. The wit of the Counting-House became in a moment as mute as the
row of leathern fire-buckets hanging up behind him. Such vapid and flat
daylight as filtered through the ground-glass windows and skylights,
leaving a black sediment upon the panes, showed the books and papers,
and the figures bending over them, enveloped in a studious gloom, and as
much abstracted in appearance, from the world without, as if they were
assembled at the bottom of the sea; while a mouldy little strong room in
the obscure perspective, where a shaded lamp was always burning, might
have represented the cavern of some ocean monster, looking on with a red
eye at these mysteries of the deep.

When Perch the messenger, whose place was on a little bracket, like a
timepiece, saw Mr Dombey come in--or rather when he felt that he was
coming, for he had usually an instinctive sense of his approach--he
hurried into Mr Dombey’s room, stirred the fire, carried fresh coals
from the bowels of the coal-box, hung the newspaper to air upon the
fender, put the chair ready, and the screen in its place, and was
round upon his heel on the instant of Mr Dombey’s entrance, to take his
great-coat and hat, and hang them up. Then Perch took the newspaper,
and gave it a turn or two in his hands before the fire, and laid it,
deferentially, at Mr Dombey’s elbow. And so little objection had Perch
to being deferential in the last degree, that if he might have laid
himself at Mr Dombey’s feet, or might have called him by some such title
as used to be bestowed upon the Caliph Haroun Alraschid, he would have
been all the better pleased.

As this honour would have been an innovation and an experiment, Perch
was fain to content himself by expressing as well as he could, in his
manner, You are the light of my Eyes. You are the Breath of my Soul. You
are the commander of the Faithful Perch! With this imperfect happiness
to cheer him, he would shut the door softly, walk away on tiptoe, and
leave his great chief to be stared at, through a dome-shaped window in
the leads, by ugly chimney-pots and backs of houses, and especially by
the bold window of a hair-cutting saloon on a first floor, where a waxen
effigy, bald as a Mussulman in the morning, and covered, after eleven
o’clock in the day, with luxuriant hair and whiskers in the latest
Christian fashion, showed him the wrong side of its head for ever.

Between Mr Dombey and the common world, as it was accessible through
the medium of the outer office--to which Mr Dombey’s presence in his own
room may be said to have struck like damp, or cold air--there were two
degrees of descent. Mr Carker in his own office was the first step;
Mr Morfin, in his own office, was the second. Each of these gentlemen
occupied a little chamber like a bath-room, opening from the passage
outside Mr Dombey’s door. Mr Carker, as Grand Vizier, inhabited the room
that was nearest to the Sultan. Mr Morfin, as an officer of inferior
state, inhabited the room that was nearest to the clerks.

The gentleman last mentioned was a cheerful-looking, hazel-eyed elderly
bachelor: gravely attired, as to his upper man, in black; and as to his
legs, in pepper-and-salt colour. His dark hair was just touched here and
there with specks of gray, as though the tread of Time had splashed
it; and his whiskers were already white. He had a mighty respect for Mr
Dombey, and rendered him due homage; but as he was of a genial temper
himself, and never wholly at his ease in that stately presence, he was
disquieted by no jealousy of the many conferences enjoyed by Mr Carker,
and felt a secret satisfaction in having duties to discharge, which
rarely exposed him to be singled out for such distinction. He was a
great musical amateur in his way--after business; and had a paternal
affection for his violoncello, which was once in every week transported
from Islington, his place of abode, to a certain club-room hard by the
Bank, where quartettes of the most tormenting and excruciating nature
were executed every Wednesday evening by a private party.

Mr Carker was a gentleman thirty-eight or forty years old, of a florid
complexion, and with two unbroken rows of glistening teeth, whose
regularity and whiteness were quite distressing. It was impossible to
escape the observation of them, for he showed them whenever he spoke;
and bore so wide a smile upon his countenance (a smile, however, very
rarely, indeed, extending beyond his mouth), that there was something in
it like the snarl of a cat. He affected a stiff white cravat, after the
example of his principal, and was always closely buttoned up and tightly
dressed. His manner towards Mr Dombey was deeply conceived and perfectly
expressed. He was familiar with him, in the very extremity of his sense
of the distance between them. ‘Mr Dombey, to a man in your position
from a man in mine, there is no show of subservience compatible with the
transaction of business between us, that I should think sufficient. I
frankly tell you, Sir, I give it up altogether. I feel that I could
not satisfy my own mind; and Heaven knows, Mr Dombey, you can afford to
dispense with the endeavour.’ If he had carried these words about with
him printed on a placard, and had constantly offered it to Mr Dombey’s
perusal on the breast of his coat, he could not have been more explicit
than he was.

This was Carker the Manager. Mr Carker the Junior, Walter’s friend, was
his brother; two or three years older than he, but widely removed in
station. The younger brother’s post was on the top of the official
ladder; the elder brother’s at the bottom. The elder brother never
gained a stave, or raised his foot to mount one. Young men passed above
his head, and rose and rose; but he was always at the bottom. He was
quite resigned to occupy that low condition: never complained of it: and
certainly never hoped to escape from it.

‘How do you do this morning?’ said Mr Carker the Manager, entering Mr
Dombey’s room soon after his arrival one day: with a bundle of papers in
his hand.

‘How do you do, Carker?’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Coolish!’ observed Carker, stirring the fire.

‘Rather,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Any news of the young gentleman who is so important to us all?’ asked
Carker, with his whole regiment of teeth on parade.

‘Yes--not direct news--I hear he’s very well,’ said Mr Dombey. Who had
come from Brighton over-night. But no one knew It.

‘Very well, and becoming a great scholar, no doubt?’ observed the

‘I hope so,’ returned Mr Dombey.

‘Egad!’ said Mr Carker, shaking his head, ‘Time flies!’

‘I think so, sometimes,’ returned Mr Dombey, glancing at his newspaper.

‘Oh! You! You have no reason to think so,’ observed Carker. ‘One who
sits on such an elevation as yours, and can sit there, unmoved, in all
seasons--hasn’t much reason to know anything about the flight of
time. It’s men like myself, who are low down and are not superior in
circumstances, and who inherit new masters in the course of Time, that
have cause to look about us. I shall have a rising sun to worship,

‘Time enough, time enough, Carker!’ said Mr Dombey, rising from his
chair, and standing with his back to the fire. ‘Have you anything there
for me?’

‘I don’t know that I need trouble you,’ returned Carker, turning over
the papers in his hand. ‘You have a committee today at three, you know.’

‘And one at three, three-quarters,’ added Mr Dombey.

‘Catch you forgetting anything!’ exclaimed Carker, still turning over
his papers. ‘If Mr Paul inherits your memory, he’ll be a troublesome
customer in the House. One of you is enough.’

‘You have an accurate memory of your own,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Oh! I!’ returned the manager. ‘It’s the only capital of a man like me.’

Mr Dombey did not look less pompous or at all displeased, as he stood
leaning against the chimney-piece, surveying his (of course unconscious)
clerk, from head to foot. The stiffness and nicety of Mr Carker’s dress,
and a certain arrogance of manner, either natural to him or imitated
from a pattern not far off, gave great additional effect to his
humility. He seemed a man who would contend against the power that
vanquished him, if he could, but who was utterly borne down by the
greatness and superiority of Mr Dombey.

‘Is Morfin here?’ asked Mr Dombey after a short pause, during which Mr
Carker had been fluttering his papers, and muttering little abstracts of
their contents to himself.

‘Morfin’s here,’ he answered, looking up with his widest and almost
sudden smile; ‘humming musical recollections--of his last night’s
quartette party, I suppose--through the walls between us, and driving
me half mad. I wish he’d make a bonfire of his violoncello, and burn his
music-books in it.’

‘You respect nobody, Carker, I think,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘No?’ inquired Carker, with another wide and most feline show of his
teeth. ‘Well! Not many people, I believe. I wouldn’t answer perhaps,’ he
murmured, as if he were only thinking it, ‘for more than one.’

A dangerous quality, if real; and a not less dangerous one, if feigned.
But Mr Dombey hardly seemed to think so, as he still stood with his back
to the fire, drawn up to his full height, and looking at his head-clerk
with a dignified composure, in which there seemed to lurk a stronger
latent sense of power than usual.

‘Talking of Morfin,’ resumed Mr Carker, taking out one paper from the
rest, ‘he reports a junior dead in the agency at Barbados, and proposes
to reserve a passage in the Son and Heir--she’ll sail in a month or
so--for the successor. You don’t care who goes, I suppose? We have
nobody of that sort here.’

Mr Dombey shook his head with supreme indifference.

‘It’s no very precious appointment,’ observed Mr Carker, taking up a
pen, with which to endorse a memorandum on the back of the paper. ‘I
hope he may bestow it on some orphan nephew of a musical friend. It may
perhaps stop his fiddle-playing, if he has a gift that way. Who’s that?
Come in!’

‘I beg your pardon, Mr Carker. I didn’t know you were here, Sir,’
answered Walter; appearing with some letters in his hand, unopened, and
newly arrived. ‘Mr Carker the junior, Sir--’

At the mention of this name, Mr Carker the Manager was or affected to
be, touched to the quick with shame and humiliation. He cast his eyes
full on Mr Dombey with an altered and apologetic look, abased them on
the ground, and remained for a moment without speaking.

‘I thought, Sir,’ he said suddenly and angrily, turning on Walter, ‘that
you had been before requested not to drag Mr Carker the Junior into your

‘I beg your pardon,’ returned Walter. ‘I was only going to say that Mr
Carker the Junior had told me he believed you were gone out, or I should
not have knocked at the door when you were engaged with Mr Dombey. These
are letters for Mr Dombey, Sir.’

‘Very well, Sir,’ returned Mr Carker the Manager, plucking them sharply
from his hand. ‘Go about your business.’

But in taking them with so little ceremony, Mr Carker dropped one on the
floor, and did not see what he had done; neither did Mr Dombey observe
the letter lying near his feet. Walter hesitated for a moment, thinking
that one or other of them would notice it; but finding that neither did,
he stopped, came back, picked it up, and laid it himself on Mr Dombey’s
desk. The letters were post-letters; and it happened that the one in
question was Mrs Pipchin’s regular report, directed as usual--for Mrs
Pipchin was but an indifferent penwoman--by Florence. Mr Dombey, having
his attention silently called to this letter by Walter, started, and
looked fiercely at him, as if he believed that he had purposely selected
it from all the rest.

‘You can leave the room, Sir!’ said Mr Dombey, haughtily.

He crushed the letter in his hand; and having watched Walter out at the
door, put it in his pocket without breaking the seal.

‘These continual references to Mr Carker the Junior,’ Mr Carker
the Manager began, as soon as they were alone, ‘are, to a man in my
position, uttered before one in yours, so unspeakably distressing--’

‘Nonsense, Carker,’ Mr Dombey interrupted. ‘You are too sensitive.’

‘I am sensitive,’ he returned. ‘If one in your position could by any
possibility imagine yourself in my place: which you cannot: you would be
so too.’

As Mr Dombey’s thoughts were evidently pursuing some other subject, his
discreet ally broke off here, and stood with his teeth ready to present
to him, when he should look up.

‘You want somebody to send to the West Indies, you were saying,’
observed Mr Dombey, hurriedly.

‘Yes,’ replied Carker.

‘Send young Gay.’

‘Good, very good indeed. Nothing easier,’ said Mr Carker, without any
show of surprise, and taking up the pen to re-endorse the letter, as
coolly as he had done before. ‘“Send young Gay.”’

‘Call him back,’ said Mr Dombey.

Mr Carker was quick to do so, and Walter was quick to return.

‘Gay,’ said Mr Dombey, turning a little to look at him over his
shoulder. ‘Here is a--’

‘An opening,’ said Mr Carker, with his mouth stretched to the utmost.

‘In the West Indies. At Barbados. I am going to send you,’ said
Mr Dombey, scorning to embellish the bare truth, ‘to fill a junior
situation in the counting-house at Barbados. Let your Uncle know from
me, that I have chosen you to go to the West Indies.’

Walter’s breath was so completely taken away by his astonishment,
that he could hardly find enough for the repetition of the words ‘West

‘Somebody must go,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘and you are young and healthy, and
your Uncle’s circumstances are not good. Tell your Uncle that you are
appointed. You will not go yet. There will be an interval of a month--or
two perhaps.’

‘Shall I remain there, Sir?’ inquired Walter.

‘Will you remain there, Sir!’ repeated Mr Dombey, turning a little more
round towards him. ‘What do you mean? What does he mean, Carker?’

‘Live there, Sir,’ faltered Walter.

‘Certainly,’ returned Mr Dombey.

Walter bowed.

‘That’s all,’ said Mr Dombey, resuming his letters. ‘You will explain to
him in good time about the usual outfit and so forth, Carker, of course.
He needn’t wait, Carker.’

‘You needn’t wait, Gay,’ observed Mr Carker: bare to the gums.

‘Unless,’ said Mr Dombey, stopping in his reading without looking off
the letter, and seeming to listen. ‘Unless he has anything to say.’

‘No, Sir,’ returned Walter, agitated and confused, and almost stunned,
as an infinite variety of pictures presented themselves to his
mind; among which Captain Cuttle, in his glazed hat, transfixed with
astonishment at Mrs MacStinger’s, and his uncle bemoaning his loss in
the little back parlour, held prominent places. ‘I hardly know--I--I am
much obliged, Sir.’

‘He needn’t wait, Carker,’ said Mr Dombey.

And as Mr Carker again echoed the words, and also collected his papers
as if he were going away too, Walter felt that his lingering any longer
would be an unpardonable intrusion--especially as he had nothing to
say--and therefore walked out quite confounded.

Going along the passage, with the mingled consciousness and helplessness
of a dream, he heard Mr Dombey’s door shut again, as Mr Carker came out:
and immediately afterwards that gentleman called to him.

‘Bring your friend Mr Carker the Junior to my room, Sir, if you please.’

Walter went to the outer office and apprised Mr Carker the Junior of his
errand, who accordingly came out from behind a partition where he sat
alone in one corner, and returned with him to the room of Mr Carker the

That gentleman was standing with his back to the fire, and his hands
under his coat-tails, looking over his white cravat, as unpromisingly as
Mr Dombey himself could have looked. He received them without any change
in his attitude or softening of his harsh and black expression: merely
signing to Walter to close the door.

‘John Carker,’ said the Manager, when this was done, turning suddenly
upon his brother, with his two rows of teeth bristling as if he would
have bitten him, ‘what is the league between you and this young man, in
virtue of which I am haunted and hunted by the mention of your name? Is
it not enough for you, John Carker, that I am your near relation, and
can’t detach myself from that--’

‘Say disgrace, James,’ interposed the other in a low voice, finding that
he stammered for a word. ‘You mean it, and have reason, say disgrace.’

‘From that disgrace,’ assented his brother with keen emphasis, ‘but is
the fact to be blurted out and trumpeted, and proclaimed continually
in the presence of the very House! In moments of confidence too? Do you
think your name is calculated to harmonise in this place with trust and
confidence, John Carker?’

‘No,’ returned the other. ‘No, James. God knows I have no such thought.’

‘What is your thought, then?’ said his brother, ‘and why do you thrust
yourself in my way? Haven’t you injured me enough already?’

‘I have never injured you, James, wilfully.’

‘You are my brother,’ said the Manager. ‘That’s injury enough.’

‘I wish I could undo it, James.’

‘I wish you could and would.’

During this conversation, Walter had looked from one brother to the
other, with pain and amazement. He who was the Senior in years, and
Junior in the House, stood, with his eyes cast upon the ground, and
his head bowed, humbly listening to the reproaches of the other. Though
these were rendered very bitter by the tone and look with which they
were accompanied, and by the presence of Walter whom they so much
surprised and shocked, he entered no other protest against them than by
slightly raising his right hand in a deprecatory manner, as if he would
have said, ‘Spare me!’ So, had they been blows, and he a brave man,
under strong constraint, and weakened by bodily suffering, he might have
stood before the executioner.

Generous and quick in all his emotions, and regarding himself as the
innocent occasion of these taunts, Walter now struck in, with all the
earnestness he felt.

‘Mr Carker,’ he said, addressing himself to the Manager. ‘Indeed,
indeed, this is my fault solely. In a kind of heedlessness, for which I
cannot blame myself enough, I have, I have no doubt, mentioned Mr Carker
the Junior much oftener than was necessary; and have allowed his name
sometimes to slip through my lips, when it was against your expressed
wish. But it has been my own mistake, Sir. We have never exchanged one
word upon the subject--very few, indeed, on any subject. And it has not
been,’ added Walter, after a moment’s pause, ‘all heedlessness on my
part, Sir; for I have felt an interest in Mr Carker ever since I have
been here, and have hardly been able to help speaking of him sometimes,
when I have thought of him so much!’

Walter said this from his soul, and with the very breath of honour. For
he looked upon the bowed head, and the downcast eyes, and upraised hand,
and thought, ‘I have felt it; and why should I not avow it in behalf of
this unfriended, broken man!’

Mr Carker the Manager looked at him, as he spoke, and when he had
finished speaking, with a smile that seemed to divide his face into two

‘You are an excitable youth, Gay,’ he said; ‘and should endeavour to
cool down a little now, for it would be unwise to encourage feverish
predispositions. Be as cool as you can, Gay. Be as cool as you can.
You might have asked Mr John Carker himself (if you have not done so)
whether he claims to be, or is, an object of such strong interest.’

‘James, do me justice,’ said his brother. ‘I have claimed nothing; and I
claim nothing. Believe me, on my--’

‘Honour?’ said his brother, with another smile, as he warmed himself
before the fire.

‘On my Me--on my fallen life!’ returned the other, in the same low
voice, but with a deeper stress on his words than he had yet seemed
capable of giving them. ‘Believe me, I have held myself aloof, and kept
alone. This has been unsought by me. I have avoided him and everyone.

‘Indeed, you have avoided me, Mr Carker,’ said Walter, with the tears
rising to his eyes; so true was his compassion. ‘I know it, to my
disappointment and regret. When I first came here, and ever since, I
am sure I have tried to be as much your friend, as one of my age could
presume to be; but it has been of no use.

‘And observe,’ said the Manager, taking him up quickly, ‘it will be of
still less use, Gay, if you persist in forcing Mr John Carker’s name on
people’s attention. That is not the way to befriend Mr John Carker. Ask
him if he thinks it is.’

‘It is no service to me,’ said the brother. ‘It only leads to such a
conversation as the present, which I need not say I could have well
spared. No one can be a better friend to me:’ he spoke here very
distinctly, as if he would impress it upon Walter: ‘than in forgetting
me, and leaving me to go my way, unquestioned and unnoticed.’

‘Your memory not being retentive, Gay, of what you are told by others,’
said Mr Carker the Manager, warming himself with great and increased
satisfaction, ‘I thought it well that you should be told this from the
best authority,’ nodding towards his brother. ‘You are not likely to
forget it now, I hope. That’s all, Gay. You can go.’

Walter passed out at the door, and was about to close it after him,
when, hearing the voices of the brothers again, and also the mention of
his own name, he stood irresolutely, with his hand upon the lock, and
the door ajar, uncertain whether to return or go away. In this position
he could not help overhearing what followed.

‘Think of me more leniently, if you can, James,’ said John Carker, ‘when
I tell you I have had--how could I help having, with my history, written
here’--striking himself upon the breast--‘my whole heart awakened by
my observation of that boy, Walter Gay. I saw in him when he first came
here, almost my other self.’

‘Your other self!’ repeated the Manager, disdainfully.

‘Not as I am, but as I was when I first came here too; as sanguine,
giddy, youthful, inexperienced; flushed with the same restless and
adventurous fancies; and full of the same qualities, fraught with the
same capacity of leading on to good or evil.’

‘I hope not,’ said his brother, with some hidden and sarcastic meaning
in his tone.

‘You strike me sharply; and your hand is steady, and your thrust is very
deep,’ returned the other, speaking (or so Walter thought) as if some
cruel weapon actually stabbed him as he spoke. ‘I imagined all this when
he was a boy. I believed it. It was a truth to me. I saw him lightly
walking on the edge of an unseen gulf where so many others walk with
equal gaiety, and from which--’

‘The old excuse,’ interrupted his brother, as he stirred the fire. ‘So
many. Go on. Say, so many fall.’

‘From which ONE traveller fell,’ returned the other, ‘who set forward,
on his way, a boy like him, and missed his footing more and more, and
slipped a little and a little lower; and went on stumbling still, until
he fell headlong and found himself below a shattered man. Think what I
suffered, when I watched that boy.’

‘You have only yourself to thank for it,’ returned the brother.

‘Only myself,’ he assented with a sigh. ‘I don’t seek to divide the
blame or shame.’

‘You have divided the shame,’ James Carker muttered through his teeth.
And, through so many and such close teeth, he could mutter well.

‘Ah, James,’ returned his brother, speaking for the first time in an
accent of reproach, and seeming, by the sound of his voice, to have
covered his face with his hands, ‘I have been, since then, a useful foil
to you. You have trodden on me freely in your climbing up. Don’t spurn
me with your heel!’

A silence ensued. After a time, Mr Carker the Manager was heard rustling
among his papers, as if he had resolved to bring the interview to a
conclusion. At the same time his brother withdrew nearer to the door.

‘That’s all,’ he said. ‘I watched him with such trembling and such fear,
as was some little punishment to me, until he passed the place where I
first fell; and then, though I had been his father, I believe I never
could have thanked God more devoutly. I didn’t dare to warn him, and
advise him; but if I had seen direct cause, I would have shown him my
example. I was afraid to be seen speaking with him, lest it should be
thought I did him harm, and tempted him to evil, and corrupted him: or
lest I really should. There may be such contagion in me; I don’t know.
Piece out my history, in connexion with young Walter Gay, and what he
has made me feel; and think of me more leniently, James, if you can.’

With these words he came out to where Walter was standing. He turned a
little paler when he saw him there, and paler yet when Walter caught him
by the hand, and said in a whisper:

‘Mr Carker, pray let me thank you! Let me say how much I feel for you!
How sorry I am, to have been the unhappy cause of all this! How I almost
look upon you now as my protector and guardian! How very, very much,
I feel obliged to you and pity you!’ said Walter, squeezing both his
hands, and hardly knowing, in his agitation, what he did or said.

Mr Morfin’s room being close at hand and empty, and the door wide open,
they moved thither by one accord: the passage being seldom free from
someone passing to or fro. When they were there, and Walter saw in Mr
Carker’s face some traces of the emotion within, he almost felt as if he
had never seen the face before; it was so greatly changed.

‘Walter,’ he said, laying his hand on his shoulder. ‘I am far removed
from you, and may I ever be. Do you know what I am?’

‘What you are!’ appeared to hang on Walter’s lips, as he regarded him

‘It was begun,’ said Carker, ‘before my twenty-first birthday--led up
to, long before, but not begun till near that time. I had robbed them
when I came of age. I robbed them afterwards. Before my twenty-second
birthday, it was all found out; and then, Walter, from all men’s
society, I died.’

Again his last few words hung trembling upon Walter’s lips, but he could
neither utter them, nor any of his own.

‘The House was very good to me. May Heaven reward the old man for his
forbearance! This one, too, his son, who was then newly in the Firm,
where I had held great trust! I was called into that room which is now
his--I have never entered it since--and came out, what you know me. For
many years I sat in my present seat, alone as now, but then a known
and recognised example to the rest. They were all merciful to me, and
I lived. Time has altered that part of my poor expiation; and I think,
except the three heads of the House, there is no one here who knows my
story rightly. Before the little boy grows up, and has it told to him,
my corner may be vacant. I would rather that it might be so! This is the
only change to me since that day, when I left all youth, and hope, and
good men’s company, behind me in that room. God bless you, Walter! Keep
you, and all dear to you, in honesty, or strike them dead!’

Some recollection of his trembling from head to foot, as if with
excessive cold, and of his bursting into tears, was all that Walter
could add to this, when he tried to recall exactly what had passed
between them.

When Walter saw him next, he was bending over his desk in his old
silent, drooping, humbled way. Then, observing him at his work, and
feeling how resolved he evidently was that no further intercourse should
arise between them, and thinking again and again on all he had seen and
heard that morning in so short a time, in connexion with the history of
both the Carkers, Walter could hardly believe that he was under orders
for the West Indies, and would soon be lost to Uncle Sol, and Captain
Cuttle, and to glimpses few and far between of Florence Dombey--no, he
meant Paul--and to all he loved, and liked, and looked for, in his daily

But it was true, and the news had already penetrated to the outer
office; for while he sat with a heavy heart, pondering on these things,
and resting his head upon his arm, Perch the messenger, descending from
his mahogany bracket, and jogging his elbow, begged his pardon, but
wished to say in his ear, Did he think he could arrange to send home to
England a jar of preserved Ginger, cheap, for Mrs Perch’s own eating, in
the course of her recovery from her next confinement?

CHAPTER 14. Paul grows more and more Old-fashioned, and goes Home for
the Holidays

When the Midsummer vacation approached, no indecent manifestations
of joy were exhibited by the leaden-eyed young gentlemen assembled at
Doctor Blimber’s. Any such violent expression as ‘breaking up,’ would
have been quite inapplicable to that polite establishment. The young
gentlemen oozed away, semi-annually, to their own homes; but they never
broke up. They would have scorned the action.

Tozer, who was constantly galled and tormented by a starched white
cambric neckerchief, which he wore at the express desire of Mrs Tozer,
his parent, who, designing him for the Church, was of opinion that he
couldn’t be in that forward state of preparation too soon--Tozer said,
indeed, that choosing between two evils, he thought he would rather stay
where he was, than go home. However inconsistent this declaration might
appear with that passage in Tozer’s Essay on the subject, wherein he had
observed ‘that the thoughts of home and all its recollections, awakened
in his mind the most pleasing emotions of anticipation and delight,’
and had also likened himself to a Roman General, flushed with a recent
victory over the Iceni, or laden with Carthaginian spoil, advancing
within a few hours’ march of the Capitol, presupposed, for the purposes
of the simile, to be the dwelling-place of Mrs Tozer, still it was very
sincerely made. For it seemed that Tozer had a dreadful Uncle, who
not only volunteered examinations of him, in the holidays, on abstruse
points, but twisted innocent events and things, and wrenched them to the
same fell purpose. So that if this Uncle took him to the Play, or, on a
similar pretence of kindness, carried him to see a Giant, or a Dwarf,
or a Conjuror, or anything, Tozer knew he had read up some classical
allusion to the subject beforehand, and was thrown into a state of
mortal apprehension: not foreseeing where he might break out, or what
authority he might not quote against him.

As to Briggs, his father made no show of artifice about it. He never
would leave him alone. So numerous and severe were the mental trials of
that unfortunate youth in vacation time, that the friends of the family
(then resident near Bayswater, London) seldom approached the ornamental
piece of water in Kensington Gardens, without a vague expectation of
seeing Master Briggs’s hat floating on the surface, and an unfinished
exercise lying on the bank. Briggs, therefore, was not at all sanguine
on the subject of holidays; and these two sharers of little Paul’s
bedroom were so fair a sample of the young gentlemen in general, that
the most elastic among them contemplated the arrival of those festive
periods with genteel resignation.

It was far otherwise with little Paul. The end of these first holidays
was to witness his separation from Florence, but who ever looked forward
to the end of holidays whose beginning was not yet come! Not Paul,
assuredly. As the happy time drew near, the lions and tigers climbing up
the bedroom walls became quite tame and frolicsome. The grim sly faces
in the squares and diamonds of the floor-cloth, relaxed and peeped out
at him with less wicked eyes. The grave old clock had more of personal
interest in the tone of its formal inquiry; and the restless sea went
rolling on all night, to the sounding of a melancholy strain--yet it was
pleasant too--that rose and fell with the waves, and rocked him, as it
were, to sleep.

Mr Feeder, B.A., seemed to think that he, too, would enjoy the holidays
very much. Mr Toots projected a life of holidays from that time forth;
for, as he regularly informed Paul every day, it was his ‘last half’ at
Doctor Blimber’s, and he was going to begin to come into his property

It was perfectly understood between Paul and Mr Toots, that they were
intimate friends, notwithstanding their distance in point of years and
station. As the vacation approached, and Mr Toots breathed harder and
stared oftener in Paul’s society, than he had done before, Paul knew
that he meant he was sorry they were going to lose sight of each other,
and felt very much obliged to him for his patronage and good opinion.

It was even understood by Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber, and Miss Blimber,
as well as by the young gentlemen in general, that Toots had somehow
constituted himself protector and guardian of Dombey, and the
circumstance became so notorious, even to Mrs Pipchin, that the good old
creature cherished feelings of bitterness and jealousy against Toots;
and, in the sanctuary of her own home, repeatedly denounced him as a
‘chuckle-headed noodle.’ Whereas the innocent Toots had no more idea
of awakening Mrs Pipchin’s wrath, than he had of any other definite
possibility or proposition. On the contrary, he was disposed to consider
her rather a remarkable character, with many points of interest about
her. For this reason he smiled on her with so much urbanity, and asked
her how she did, so often, in the course of her visits to little Paul,
that at last she one night told him plainly, she wasn’t used to it,
whatever he might think; and she could not, and she would not bear
it, either from himself or any other puppy then existing: at which
unexpected acknowledgment of his civilities, Mr Toots was so alarmed
that he secreted himself in a retired spot until she had gone. Nor did
he ever again face the doughty Mrs Pipchin, under Doctor Blimber’s roof.

They were within two or three weeks of the holidays, when, one day,
Cornelia Blimber called Paul into her room, and said, ‘Dombey, I am
going to send home your analysis.’

‘Thank you, Ma’am,’ returned Paul.

‘You know what I mean, do you, Dombey?’ inquired Miss Blimber, looking
hard at him, through the spectacles.

‘No, Ma’am,’ said Paul.

‘Dombey, Dombey,’ said Miss Blimber, ‘I begin to be afraid you are a
sad boy. When you don’t know the meaning of an expression, why don’t you
seek for information?’

‘Mrs Pipchin told me I wasn’t to ask questions,’ returned Paul.

‘I must beg you not to mention Mrs Pipchin to me, on any account,
Dombey,’ returned Miss Blimber. ‘I couldn’t think of allowing it. The
course of study here, is very far removed from anything of that sort. A
repetition of such allusions would make it necessary for me to request
to hear, without a mistake, before breakfast-time to-morrow morning,
from Verbum personale down to simillimia cygno.’

‘I didn’t mean, Ma’am--’ began little Paul.

‘I must trouble you not to tell me that you didn’t mean, if you please,
Dombey,’ said Miss Blimber, who preserved an awful politeness in
her admonitions. ‘That is a line of argument I couldn’t dream of

Paul felt it safest to say nothing at all, so he only looked at Miss
Blimber’s spectacles. Miss Blimber having shaken her head at him
gravely, referred to a paper lying before her.

‘“Analysis of the character of P. Dombey.” If my recollection serves
me,’ said Miss Blimber breaking off, ‘the word analysis as opposed to
synthesis, is thus defined by Walker. “The resolution of an object,
whether of the senses or of the intellect, into its first elements.”
 As opposed to synthesis, you observe. Now you know what analysis is,

Dombey didn’t seem to be absolutely blinded by the light let in upon his
intellect, but he made Miss Blimber a little bow.

‘“Analysis,”’ resumed Miss Blimber, casting her eye over the paper, ‘“of
the character of P. Dombey.” I find that the natural capacity of Dombey
is extremely good; and that his general disposition to study may be
stated in an equal ratio. Thus, taking eight as our standard and
highest number, I find these qualities in Dombey stated each at six

Miss Blimber paused to see how Paul received this news. Being undecided
whether six three-fourths meant six pounds fifteen, or sixpence three
farthings, or six foot three, or three quarters past six, or six
somethings that he hadn’t learnt yet, with three unknown something elses
over, Paul rubbed his hands and looked straight at Miss Blimber. It
happened to answer as well as anything else he could have done; and
Cornelia proceeded.

‘“Violence two. Selfishness two. Inclination to low company, as evinced
in the case of a person named Glubb, originally seven, but since
reduced. Gentlemanly demeanour four, and improving with advancing
years.” Now what I particularly wish to call your attention to, Dombey,
is the general observation at the close of this analysis.’

Paul set himself to follow it with great care.

‘“It may be generally observed of Dombey,”’ said Miss Blimber, reading
in a loud voice, and at every second word directing her spectacles
towards the little figure before her: ‘“that his abilities and
inclinations are good, and that he has made as much progress as under
the circumstances could have been expected. But it is to be lamented
of this young gentleman that he is singular (what is usually termed
old-fashioned) in his character and conduct, and that, without
presenting anything in either which distinctly calls for reprobation,
he is often very unlike other young gentlemen of his age and social
position.” Now, Dombey,’ said Miss Blimber, laying down the paper, ‘do
you understand that?’

‘I think I do, Ma’am,’ said Paul.

‘This analysis, you see, Dombey,’ Miss Blimber continued, ‘is going to
be sent home to your respected parent. It will naturally be very painful
to him to find that you are singular in your character and conduct. It
is naturally painful to us; for we can’t like you, you know, Dombey, as
well as we could wish.’

She touched the child upon a tender point. He had secretly become more
and more solicitous from day to day, as the time of his departure drew
more near, that all the house should like him. From some hidden reason,
very imperfectly understood by himself--if understood at all--he felt a
gradually increasing impulse of affection, towards almost everything and
everybody in the place. He could not bear to think that they would be
quite indifferent to him when he was gone. He wanted them to remember
him kindly; and he had made it his business even to conciliate a
great hoarse shaggy dog, chained up at the back of the house, who had
previously been the terror of his life: that even he might miss him when
he was no longer there.

Little thinking that in this, he only showed again the difference
between himself and his compeers, poor tiny Paul set it forth to Miss
Blimber as well as he could, and begged her, in despite of the official
analysis, to have the goodness to try and like him. To Mrs Blimber,
who had joined them, he preferred the same petition: and when that lady
could not forbear, even in his presence, from giving utterance to her
often-repeated opinion, that he was an odd child, Paul told her that he
was sure she was quite right; that he thought it must be his bones, but
he didn’t know; and that he hoped she would overlook it, for he was fond
of them all.

‘Not so fond,’ said Paul, with a mixture of timidity and perfect
frankness, which was one of the most peculiar and most engaging
qualities of the child, ‘not so fond as I am of Florence, of course;
that could never be. You couldn’t expect that, could you, Ma’am?’

‘Oh! the old-fashioned little soul!’ cried Mrs Blimber, in a whisper.

‘But I like everybody here very much,’ pursued Paul, ‘and I should
grieve to go away, and think that anyone was glad that I was gone, or
didn’t care.’

Mrs Blimber was now quite sure that Paul was the oddest child in the
world; and when she told the Doctor what had passed, the Doctor did not
controvert his wife’s opinion. But he said, as he had said before, when
Paul first came, that study would do much; and he also said, as he had
said on that occasion, ‘Bring him on, Cornelia! Bring him on!’

Cornelia had always brought him on as vigorously as she could; and Paul
had had a hard life of it. But over and above the getting through his
tasks, he had long had another purpose always present to him, and to
which he still held fast. It was, to be a gentle, useful, quiet little
fellow, always striving to secure the love and attachment of the rest;
and though he was yet often to be seen at his old post on the stairs, or
watching the waves and clouds from his solitary window, he was oftener
found, too, among the other boys, modestly rendering them some little
voluntary service. Thus it came to pass, that even among those rigid and
absorbed young anchorites, who mortified themselves beneath the roof of
Doctor Blimber, Paul was an object of general interest; a fragile little
plaything that they all liked, and that no one would have thought of
treating roughly. But he could not change his nature, or rewrite the
analysis; and so they all agreed that Dombey was old-fashioned.

There were some immunities, however, attaching to the character enjoyed
by no one else. They could have better spared a newer-fashioned child,
and that alone was much. When the others only bowed to Doctor Blimber
and family on retiring for the night, Paul would stretch out his morsel
of a hand, and boldly shake the Doctor’s; also Mrs Blimber’s; also
Cornelia’s. If anybody was to be begged off from impending punishment,
Paul was always the delegate. The weak-eyed young man himself had once
consulted him, in reference to a little breakage of glass and china. And
it was darkly rumoured that the butler, regarding him with favour such
as that stern man had never shown before to mortal boy, had sometimes
mingled porter with his table-beer to make him strong.

Over and above these extensive privileges, Paul had free right of entry
to Mr Feeder’s room, from which apartment he had twice led Mr Toots
into the open air in a state of faintness, consequent on an unsuccessful
attempt to smoke a very blunt cigar: one of a bundle which that young
gentleman had covertly purchased on the shingle from a most desperate
smuggler, who had acknowledged, in confidence, that two hundred pounds
was the price set upon his head, dead or alive, by the Custom House. It
was a snug room, Mr Feeder’s, with his bed in another little room inside
of it; and a flute, which Mr Feeder couldn’t play yet, but was going to
make a point of learning, he said, hanging up over the fireplace. There
were some books in it, too, and a fishing-rod; for Mr Feeder said he
should certainly make a point of learning to fish, when he could find
time. Mr Feeder had amassed, with similar intentions, a beautiful little
curly secondhand key-bugle, a chess-board and men, a Spanish Grammar,
a set of sketching materials, and a pair of boxing-gloves. The art
of self-defence Mr Feeder said he should undoubtedly make a point of
learning, as he considered it the duty of every man to do; for it might
lead to the protection of a female in distress.

But Mr Feeder’s great possession was a large green jar of snuff, which Mr
Toots had brought down as a present, at the close of the last vacation;
and for which he had paid a high price, having been the genuine property
of the Prince Regent. Neither Mr Toots nor Mr Feeder could partake of
this or any other snuff, even in the most stinted and moderate degree,
without being seized with convulsions of sneezing. Nevertheless it was
their great delight to moisten a box-full with cold tea, stir it up on a
piece of parchment with a paper-knife, and devote themselves to its
consumption then and there. In the course of which cramming of their
noses, they endured surprising torments with the constancy of martyrs:
and, drinking table-beer at intervals, felt all the glories of

To little Paul sitting silent in their company, and by the side of
his chief patron, Mr Toots, there was a dread charm in these reckless
occasions: and when Mr Feeder spoke of the dark mysteries of London, and
told Mr Toots that he was going to observe it himself closely in all its
ramifications in the approaching holidays, and for that purpose had
made arrangements to board with two old maiden ladies at Peckham, Paul
regarded him as if he were the hero of some book of travels or wild
adventure, and was almost afraid of such a slashing person.

Going into this room one evening, when the holidays were very near, Paul
found Mr Feeder filling up the blanks in some printed letters, while
some others, already filled up and strewn before him, were being folded
and sealed by Mr Toots. Mr Feeder said, ‘Aha, Dombey, there you are, are
you?’--for they were always kind to him, and glad to see him--and then
said, tossing one of the letters towards him, ‘And there you are, too,
Dombey. That’s yours.’

‘Mine, Sir?’ said Paul.

‘Your invitation,’ returned Mr Feeder.

Paul, looking at it, found, in copper-plate print, with the exception
of his own name and the date, which were in Mr Feeder’s penmanship, that
Doctor and Mrs Blimber requested the pleasure of Mr P. Dombey’s company
at an early party on Wednesday Evening the Seventeenth Instant; and
that the hour was half-past seven o’clock; and that the object was
Quadrilles. Mr Toots also showed him, by holding up a companion sheet of
paper, that Doctor and Mrs Blimber requested the pleasure of Mr Toots’s
company at an early party on Wednesday Evening the Seventeenth Instant,
when the hour was half-past seven o’clock, and when the object was
Quadrilles. He also found, on glancing at the table where Mr Feeder sat,
that the pleasure of Mr Briggs’s company, and of Mr Tozer’s company,
and of every young gentleman’s company, was requested by Doctor and Mrs
Blimber on the same genteel Occasion.

Mr Feeder then told him, to his great joy, that his sister was invited,
and that it was a half-yearly event, and that, as the holidays began
that day, he could go away with his sister after the party, if he liked,
which Paul interrupted him to say he would like, very much. Mr Feeder
then gave him to understand that he would be expected to inform Doctor
and Mrs Blimber, in superfine small-hand, that Mr P. Dombey would be
happy to have the honour of waiting on them, in accordance with their
polite invitation. Lastly, Mr Feeder said, he had better not refer to
the festive occasion, in the hearing of Doctor and Mrs Blimber; as these
preliminaries, and the whole of the arrangements, were conducted on
principles of classicality and high breeding; and that Doctor and Mrs
Blimber on the one hand, and the young gentlemen on the other, were
supposed, in their scholastic capacities, not to have the least idea of
what was in the wind.

Paul thanked Mr Feeder for these hints, and pocketing his invitation,
sat down on a stool by the side of Mr Toots, as usual. But Paul’s head,
which had long been ailing more or less, and was sometimes very heavy
and painful, felt so uneasy that night, that he was obliged to support
it on his hand. And yet it dropped so, that by little and little it sunk
on Mr Toots’s knee, and rested there, as if it had no care to be ever
lifted up again.

That was no reason why he should be deaf; but he must have been, he
thought, for, by and by, he heard Mr Feeder calling in his ear, and
gently shaking him to rouse his attention. And when he raised his head,
quite scared, and looked about him, he found that Doctor Blimber had
come into the room; and that the window was open, and that his forehead
was wet with sprinkled water; though how all this had been done without
his knowledge, was very curious indeed.

‘Ah! Come, come! That’s well! How is my little friend now?’ said Doctor
Blimber, encouragingly.

‘Oh, quite well, thank you, Sir,’ said Paul.

But there seemed to be something the matter with the floor, for he
couldn’t stand upon it steadily; and with the walls too, for they were
inclined to turn round and round, and could only be stopped by being
looked at very hard indeed. Mr Toots’s head had the appearance of being
at once bigger and farther off than was quite natural; and when he took
Paul in his arms, to carry him upstairs, Paul observed with astonishment
that the door was in quite a different place from that in which he had
expected to find it, and almost thought, at first, that Mr Toots was
going to walk straight up the chimney.

It was very kind of Mr Toots to carry him to the top of the house so
tenderly; and Paul told him that it was. But Mr Toots said he would do
a great deal more than that, if he could; and indeed he did more as
it was: for he helped Paul to undress, and helped him to bed, in the
kindest manner possible, and then sat down by the bedside and chuckled
very much; while Mr Feeder, B.A., leaning over the bottom of the
bedstead, set all the little bristles on his head bolt upright with his
bony hands, and then made believe to spar at Paul with great science, on
account of his being all right again, which was so uncommonly facetious,
and kind too in Mr Feeder, that Paul, not being able to make up his mind
whether it was best to laugh or cry at him, did both at once.

How Mr Toots melted away, and Mr Feeder changed into Mrs Pipchin, Paul
never thought of asking; neither was he at all curious to know; but
when he saw Mrs Pipchin standing at the bottom of the bed, instead of Mr
Feeder, he cried out, ‘Mrs Pipchin, don’t tell Florence!’

‘Don’t tell Florence what, my little Paul?’ said Mrs Pipchin, coming
round to the bedside, and sitting down in the chair.

‘About me,’ said Paul.

‘No, no,’ said Mrs Pipchin.

‘What do you think I mean to do when I grow up, Mrs Pipchin?’ inquired
Paul, turning his face towards her on his pillow, and resting his chin
wistfully on his folded hands.

Mrs Pipchin couldn’t guess.

‘I mean,’ said Paul, ‘to put my money all together in one Bank, never
try to get any more, go away into the country with my darling Florence,
have a beautiful garden, fields, and woods, and live there with her all
my life!’

‘Indeed!’ cried Mrs Pipchin.

‘Yes,’ said Paul. ‘That’s what I mean to do, when I--’ He stopped, and
pondered for a moment.

Mrs Pipchin’s grey eye scanned his thoughtful face.

‘If I grow up,’ said Paul. Then he went on immediately to tell Mrs
Pipchin all about the party, about Florence’s invitation, about the
pride he would have in the admiration that would be felt for her by all
the boys, about their being so kind to him and fond of him, about his
being so fond of them, and about his being so glad of it. Then he
told Mrs Pipchin about the analysis, and about his being certainly
old-fashioned, and took Mrs Pipchin’s opinion on that point, and whether
she knew why it was, and what it meant. Mrs Pipchin denied the fact
altogether, as the shortest way of getting out of the difficulty; but
Paul was far from satisfied with that reply, and looked so searchingly
at Mrs Pipchin for a truer answer, that she was obliged to get up and
look out of the window to avoid his eyes.

There was a certain calm Apothecary, who attended at the establishment
when any of the young gentlemen were ill, and somehow he got into the
room and appeared at the bedside, with Mrs Blimber. How they came there,
or how long they had been there, Paul didn’t know; but when he saw them,
he sat up in bed, and answered all the Apothecary’s questions at full
length, and whispered to him that Florence was not to know anything
about it, if he pleased, and that he had set his mind upon her coming
to the party. He was very chatty with the Apothecary, and they parted
excellent friends. Lying down again with his eyes shut, he heard the
Apothecary say, out of the room and quite a long way off--or he dreamed
it--that there was a want of vital power (what was that, Paul wondered!)
and great constitutional weakness. That as the little fellow had set his
heart on parting with his school-mates on the seventeenth, it would be
better to indulge the fancy if he grew no worse. That he was glad to
hear from Mrs Pipchin, that the little fellow would go to his friends
in London on the eighteenth. That he would write to Mr Dombey, when he
should have gained a better knowledge of the case, and before that day.
That there was no immediate cause for--what? Paul lost that word. And
that the little fellow had a fine mind, but was an old-fashioned boy.

What old fashion could that be, Paul wondered with a palpitating heart,
that was so visibly expressed in him; so plainly seen by so many people!

He could neither make it out, nor trouble himself long with the effort.
Mrs Pipchin was again beside him, if she had ever been away (he thought
she had gone out with the Doctor, but it was all a dream perhaps),
and presently a bottle and glass got into her hands magically, and
she poured out the contents for him. After that, he had some real good
jelly, which Mrs Blimber brought to him herself; and then he was so
well, that Mrs Pipchin went home, at his urgent solicitation, and Briggs
and Tozer came to bed. Poor Briggs grumbled terribly about his own
analysis, which could hardly have discomposed him more if it had been a
chemical process; but he was very good to Paul, and so was Tozer, and so
were all the rest, for they every one looked in before going to bed,
and said, ‘How are you now, Dombey?’ ‘Cheer up, little Dombey!’ and
so forth. After Briggs had got into bed, he lay awake for a long time,
still bemoaning his analysis, and saying he knew it was all wrong, and
they couldn’t have analysed a murderer worse, and--how would Doctor
Blimber like it if his pocket-money depended on it? It was very easy,
Briggs said, to make a galley-slave of a boy all the half-year, and then
score him up idle; and to crib two dinners a-week out of his board, and
then score him up greedy; but that wasn’t going to be submitted to, he
believed, was it? Oh! Ah!

Before the weak-eyed young man performed on the gong next morning, he
came upstairs to Paul and told him he was to lie still, which Paul very
gladly did. Mrs Pipchin reappeared a little before the Apothecary, and a
little after the good young woman whom Paul had seen cleaning the stove
on that first morning (how long ago it seemed now!) had brought him his
breakfast. There was another consultation a long way off, or else Paul
dreamed it again; and then the Apothecary, coming back with Doctor and
Mrs Blimber, said:

‘Yes, I think, Doctor Blimber, we may release this young gentleman from
his books just now; the vacation being so very near at hand.’

‘By all means,’ said Doctor Blimber. ‘My love, you will inform Cornelia,
if you please.’

‘Assuredly,’ said Mrs Blimber.

The Apothecary bending down, looked closely into Paul’s eyes, and felt
his head, and his pulse, and his heart, with so much interest and care,
that Paul said, ‘Thank you, Sir.’

‘Our little friend,’ observed Doctor Blimber, ‘has never complained.’

‘Oh no!’ replied the Apothecary. ‘He was not likely to complain.’

‘You find him greatly better?’ said Doctor Blimber.

‘Oh! he is greatly better, Sir,’ returned the Apothecary.

Paul had begun to speculate, in his own odd way, on the subject that
might occupy the Apothecary’s mind just at that moment; so musingly
had he answered the two questions of Doctor Blimber. But the Apothecary
happening to meet his little patient’s eyes, as the latter set off on
that mental expedition, and coming instantly out of his abstraction with
a cheerful smile, Paul smiled in return and abandoned it.

He lay in bed all that day, dozing and dreaming, and looking at Mr
Toots; but got up on the next, and went downstairs. Lo and behold, there
was something the matter with the great clock; and a workman on a pair
of steps had taken its face off, and was poking instruments into the
works by the light of a candle! This was a great event for Paul, who sat
down on the bottom stair, and watched the operation attentively: now
and then glancing at the clock face, leaning all askew, against the wall
hard by, and feeling a little confused by a suspicion that it was ogling

The workman on the steps was very civil; and as he said, when he
observed Paul, ‘How do you do, Sir?’ Paul got into conversation with
him, and told him he hadn’t been quite well lately. The ice being thus
broken, Paul asked him a multitude of questions about chimes and clocks:
as, whether people watched up in the lonely church steeples by night
to make them strike, and how the bells were rung when people died, and
whether those were different bells from wedding bells, or only sounded
dismal in the fancies of the living. Finding that his new acquaintance
was not very well informed on the subject of the Curfew Bell of ancient
days, Paul gave him an account of that institution; and also asked
him, as a practical man, what he thought about King Alfred’s idea of
measuring time by the burning of candles; to which the workman replied,
that he thought it would be the ruin of the clock trade if it was
to come up again. In fine, Paul looked on, until the clock had quite
recovered its familiar aspect, and resumed its sedate inquiry; when the
workman, putting away his tools in a long basket, bade him good day,
and went away. Though not before he had whispered something, on
the door-mat, to the footman, in which there was the phrase
‘old-fashioned’--for Paul heard it.

What could that old fashion be, that seemed to make the people sorry!
What could it be!

Having nothing to learn now, he thought of this frequently; though not
so often as he might have done, if he had had fewer things to think of.
But he had a great many; and was always thinking, all day long.

First, there was Florence coming to the party. Florence would see that
the boys were fond of him; and that would make her happy. This was his
great theme. Let Florence once be sure that they were gentle and good to
him, and that he had become a little favourite among them, and then the
would always think of the time he had passed there, without being very
sorry. Florence might be all the happier too for that, perhaps, when he
came back.

When he came back! Fifty times a day, his noiseless little feet went up
the stairs to his own room, as he collected every book, and scrap, and
trifle that belonged to him, and put them all together there, down to
the minutest thing, for taking home! There was no shade of coming back
on little Paul; no preparation for it, or other reference to it, grew
out of anything he thought or did, except this slight one in connexion
with his sister. On the contrary, he had to think of everything familiar
to him, in his contemplative moods and in his wanderings about the
house, as being to be parted with; and hence the many things he had to
think of, all day long.

He had to peep into those rooms upstairs, and think how solitary they
would be when he was gone, and wonder through how many silent days,
weeks, months, and years, they would continue just as grave and
undisturbed. He had to think--would any other child (old-fashioned, like
himself) stray there at any time, to whom the same grotesque distortions
of pattern and furniture would manifest themselves; and would anybody
tell that boy of little Dombey, who had been there once?

He had to think of a portrait on the stairs, which always looked
earnestly after him as he went away, eyeing it over his shoulder; and
which, when he passed it in the company of anyone, still seemed to gaze
at him, and not at his companion. He had much to think of, in
association with a print that hung up in another place, where, in the
centre of a wondering group, one figure that he knew, a figure with a
light about its head--benignant, mild, and merciful--stood pointing

At his own bedroom window, there were crowds of thoughts that mixed
with these, and came on, one upon another, like the rolling waves. Where
those wild birds lived, that were always hovering out at sea in troubled
weather; where the clouds rose and first began; whence the wind issued
on its rushing flight, and where it stopped; whether the spot where
he and Florence had so often sat, and watched, and talked about these
things, could ever be exactly as it used to be without them; whether it
could ever be the same to Florence, if he were in some distant place,
and she were sitting there alone.

He had to think, too, of Mr Toots, and Mr Feeder, B.A., of all the boys;
and of Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber, and Miss Blimber; of home, and of
his aunt and Miss Tox; of his father; Dombey and Son, Walter with the
poor old Uncle who had got the money he wanted, and that gruff-voiced
Captain with the iron hand. Besides all this, he had a number of little
visits to pay, in the course of the day; to the schoolroom, to Doctor
Blimber’s study, to Mrs Blimber’s private apartment, to Miss Blimber’s,
and to the dog. For he was free of the whole house now, to range it
as he chose; and, in his desire to part with everybody on affectionate
terms, he attended, in his way, to them all. Sometimes he found places
in books for Briggs, who was always losing them; sometimes he looked up
words in dictionaries for other young gentlemen who were in extremity;
sometimes he held skeins of silk for Mrs Blimber to wind; sometimes he
put Cornelia’s desk to rights; sometimes he would even creep into the
Doctor’s study, and, sitting on the carpet near his learned feet, turn
the globes softly, and go round the world, or take a flight among the
far-off stars.

In those days immediately before the holidays, in short, when the
other young gentlemen were labouring for dear life through a general
resumption of the studies of the whole half-year, Paul was such a
privileged pupil as had never been seen in that house before. He could
hardly believe it himself; but his liberty lasted from hour to hour,
and from day to day; and little Dombey was caressed by everyone. Doctor
Blimber was so particular about him, that he requested Johnson to retire
from the dinner-table one day, for having thoughtlessly spoken to him as
‘poor little Dombey;’ which Paul thought rather hard and severe, though
he had flushed at the moment, and wondered why Johnson should pity him.
It was the more questionable justice, Paul thought, in the Doctor, from
his having certainly overheard that great authority give his assent on
the previous evening, to the proposition (stated by Mrs Blimber) that
poor dear little Dombey was more old-fashioned than ever. And now it
was that Paul began to think it must surely be old-fashioned to be
very thin, and light, and easily tired, and soon disposed to lie down
anywhere and rest; for he couldn’t help feeling that these were more and
more his habits every day.

At last the party-day arrived; and Doctor Blimber said at breakfast,
‘Gentlemen, we will resume our studies on the twenty-fifth of next
month.’ Mr Toots immediately threw off his allegiance, and put on
his ring: and mentioning the Doctor in casual conversation shortly
afterwards, spoke of him as ‘Blimber’! This act of freedom inspired
the older pupils with admiration and envy; but the younger spirits were
appalled, and seemed to marvel that no beam fell down and crushed him.

Not the least allusion was made to the ceremonies of the evening, either
at breakfast or at dinner; but there was a bustle in the house all day,
and in the course of his perambulations, Paul made acquaintance with
various strange benches and candlesticks, and met a harp in a green
greatcoat standing on the landing outside the drawing-room door. There
was something queer, too, about Mrs Blimber’s head at dinner-time, as if
she had screwed her hair up too tight; and though Miss Blimber showed
a graceful bunch of plaited hair on each temple, she seemed to have her
own little curls in paper underneath, and in a play-bill too; for
Paul read ‘Theatre Royal’ over one of her sparkling spectacles, and
‘Brighton’ over the other.

There was a grand array of white waistcoats and cravats in the young
gentlemen’s bedrooms as evening approached; and such a smell of singed
hair, that Doctor Blimber sent up the footman with his compliments, and
wished to know if the house was on fire. But it was only the hairdresser
curling the young gentlemen, and over-heating his tongs in the ardour of

When Paul was dressed--which was very soon done, for he felt unwell and
drowsy, and was not able to stand about it very long--he went down into
the drawing-room; where he found Doctor Blimber pacing up and down the
room full dressed, but with a dignified and unconcerned demeanour, as
if he thought it barely possible that one or two people might drop in by
and by. Shortly afterwards, Mrs Blimber appeared, looking lovely, Paul
thought; and attired in such a number of skirts that it was quite an
excursion to walk round her. Miss Blimber came down soon after her Mama;
a little squeezed in appearance, but very charming.

Mr Toots and Mr Feeder were the next arrivals. Each of these gentlemen
brought his hat in his hand, as if he lived somewhere else; and when
they were announced by the butler, Doctor Blimber said, ‘Ay, ay, ay! God
bless my soul!’ and seemed extremely glad to see them. Mr Toots was
one blaze of jewellery and buttons; and he felt the circumstance so
strongly, that when he had shaken hands with the Doctor, and had bowed
to Mrs Blimber and Miss Blimber, he took Paul aside, and said, ‘What do
you think of this, Dombey?’

But notwithstanding this modest confidence in himself, Mr Toots appeared
to be involved in a good deal of uncertainty whether, on the whole, it
was judicious to button the bottom button of his waistcoat, and whether,
on a calm revision of all the circumstances, it was best to wear his
waistbands turned up or turned down. Observing that Mr Feeder’s were
turned up, Mr Toots turned his up; but the waistbands of the next
arrival being turned down, Mr Toots turned his down. The differences
in point of waistcoat-buttoning, not only at the bottom, but at the top
too, became so numerous and complicated as the arrivals thickened, that
Mr Toots was continually fingering that article of dress, as if he
were performing on some instrument; and appeared to find the incessant
execution it demanded, quite bewildering.

All the young gentlemen, tightly cravatted, curled, and pumped, and with
their best hats in their hands, having been at different times announced
and introduced, Mr Baps, the dancing-master, came, accompanied by Mrs
Baps, to whom Mrs Blimber was extremely kind and condescending. Mr Baps
was a very grave gentleman, with a slow and measured manner of speaking;
and before he had stood under the lamp five minutes, he began to talk to
Toots (who had been silently comparing pumps with him) about what you
were to do with your raw materials when they came into your ports in
return for your drain of gold. Mr Toots, to whom the question seemed
perplexing, suggested ‘Cook ‘em.’ But Mr Baps did not appear to think
that would do.

Paul now slipped away from the cushioned corner of a sofa, which had
been his post of observation, and went downstairs into the tea-room to
be ready for Florence, whom he had not seen for nearly a fortnight, as
he had remained at Doctor Blimber’s on the previous Saturday and Sunday,
lest he should take cold. Presently she came: looking so beautiful in
her simple ball dress, with her fresh flowers in her hand, that when she
knelt down on the ground to take Paul round the neck and kiss him (for
there was no one there, but his friend and another young woman waiting
to serve out the tea), he could hardly make up his mind to let her go
again, or to take away her bright and loving eyes from his face.

‘But what is the matter, Floy?’ asked Paul, almost sure that he saw a
tear there.

‘Nothing, darling; nothing,’ returned Florence.

Paul touched her cheek gently with his finger--and it was a tear! ‘Why,
Floy!’ said he.

‘We’ll go home together, and I’ll nurse you, love,’ said Florence.

‘Nurse me!’ echoed Paul.

Paul couldn’t understand what that had to do with it, nor why the two
young women looked on so seriously, nor why Florence turned away her
face for a moment, and then turned it back, lighted up again with

‘Floy,’ said Paul, holding a ringlet of her dark hair in his hand. ‘Tell
me, dear, Do you think I have grown old-fashioned?’

His sister laughed, and fondled him, and told him ‘No.’

‘Because I know they say so,’ returned Paul, ‘and I want to know what
they mean, Floy.’

But a loud double knock coming at the door, and Florence hurrying to the
table, there was no more said between them.  Paul wondered again when he
saw his friend whisper to Florence, as if she were comforting her; but a
new arrival put that out of his head speedily.

It was Sir Barnet Skettles, Lady Skettles, and Master Skettles. Master
Skettles was to be a new boy after the vacation, and Fame had been busy,
in Mr Feeder’s room, with his father, who was in the House of Commons,
and of whom Mr Feeder had said that when he did catch the Speaker’s
eye (which he had been expected to do for three or four years), it was
anticipated that he would rather touch up the Radicals.

‘And what room is this now, for instance?’ said Lady Skettles to Paul’s
friend, ‘Melia.

‘Doctor Blimber’s study, Ma’am,’ was the reply.

Lady Skettles took a panoramic survey of it through her glass, and said
to Sir Barnet Skettles, with a nod of approval, ‘Very good.’ Sir Barnet
assented, but Master Skettles looked suspicious and doubtful.

‘And this little creature, now,’ said Lady Skettles, turning to Paul.
‘Is he one of the--’

‘Young gentlemen, Ma’am; yes, Ma’am,’ said Paul’s friend.

‘And what is your name, my pale child?’ said Lady Skettles.

‘Dombey,’ answered Paul.

Sir Barnet Skettles immediately interposed, and said that he had had the
honour of meeting Paul’s father at a public dinner, and that he hoped
he was very well. Then Paul heard him say to Lady Skettles, ‘City--very
rich--most respectable--Doctor mentioned it.’ And then he said to Paul,
‘Will you tell your good Papa that Sir Barnet Skettles rejoiced to hear
that he was very well, and sent him his best compliments?’

‘Yes, Sir,’ answered Paul.

‘That is my brave boy,’ said Sir Barnet Skettles. ‘Barnet,’ to Master
Skettles, who was revenging himself for the studies to come, on the
plum-cake, ‘this is a young gentleman you ought to know. This is a
young gentleman you may know, Barnet,’ said Sir Barnet Skettles, with an
emphasis on the permission.

‘What eyes! What hair! What a lovely face!’ exclaimed Lady Skettles
softly, as she looked at Florence through her glass.

‘My sister,’ said Paul, presenting her.

The satisfaction of the Skettleses was now complete. And as Lady Skettles
had conceived, at first sight, a liking for Paul, they all went upstairs
together: Sir Barnet Skettles taking care of Florence, and young Barnet

Young Barnet did not remain long in the background after they had
reached the drawing-room, for Dr Blimber had him out in no time, dancing
with Florence. He did not appear to Paul to be particularly happy, or
particularly anything but sulky, or to care much what he was about; but
as Paul heard Lady Skettles say to Mrs Blimber, while she beat time with
her fan, that her dear boy was evidently smitten to death by that angel
of a child, Miss Dombey, it would seem that Skettles Junior was in a
state of bliss, without showing it.

Little Paul thought it a singular coincidence that nobody had occupied
his place among the pillows; and that when he came into the room again,
they should all make way for him to go back to it, remembering it was
his. Nobody stood before him either, when they observed that he liked to
see Florence dancing, but they left the space in front quite clear, so
that he might follow her with his eyes. They were so kind, too, even
the strangers, of whom there were soon a great many, that they came and
spoke to him every now and then, and asked him how he was, and if his
head ached, and whether he was tired. He was very much obliged to them
for all their kindness and attention, and reclining propped up in
his corner, with Mrs Blimber and Lady Skettles on the same sofa, and
Florence coming and sitting by his side as soon as every dance was
ended, he looked on very happily indeed.

Florence would have sat by him all night, and would not have danced at
all of her own accord, but Paul made her, by telling her how much
it pleased him. And he told her the truth, too; for his small heart
swelled, and his face glowed, when he saw how much they all admired her,
and how she was the beautiful little rosebud of the room.

From his nest among the pillows, Paul could see and hear almost
everything that passed as if the whole were being done for his
amusement. Among other little incidents that he observed, he observed Mr
Baps the dancing-master get into conversation with Sir Barnet Skettles,
and very soon ask him, as he had asked Mr Toots, what you were to do
with your raw materials, when they came into your ports in return for
your drain of gold--which was such a mystery to Paul that he was quite
desirous to know what ought to be done with them. Sir Barnet Skettles
had much to say upon the question, and said it; but it did not appear
to solve the question, for Mr Baps retorted, Yes, but supposing Russia
stepped in with her tallows; which struck Sir Barnet almost dumb, for
he could only shake his head after that, and say, Why then you must fall
back upon your cottons, he supposed.

Sir Barnet Skettles looked after Mr Baps when he went to cheer up
Mrs Baps (who, being quite deserted, was pretending to look over the
music-book of the gentleman who played the harp), as if he thought him a
remarkable kind of man; and shortly afterwards he said so in those words
to Doctor Blimber, and inquired if he might take the liberty of asking
who he was, and whether he had ever been in the Board of Trade.
Doctor Blimber answered no, he believed not; and that in fact he was a
Professor of--’

‘Of something connected with statistics, I’ll swear?’ observed Sir
Barnet Skettles.

‘Why no, Sir Barnet,’ replied Doctor Blimber, rubbing his chin. ‘No, not

‘Figures of some sort, I would venture a bet,’ said Sir Barnet Skettles.

‘Why yes,’ said Doctor Blimber, yes, but not of that sort. Mr Baps is a
very worthy sort of man, Sir Barnet, and--in fact he’s our Professor of

Paul was amazed to see that this piece of information quite altered Sir
Barnet Skettles’s opinion of Mr Baps, and that Sir Barnet flew into
a perfect rage, and glowered at Mr Baps over on the other side of the
room. He even went so far as to D-- Mr Baps to Lady Skettles, in telling
her what had happened, and to say that it was like his most con-sum-mate
and con-foun-ded impudence.

There was another thing that Paul observed. Mr Feeder, after imbibing
several custard-cups of negus, began to enjoy himself. The dancing in
general was ceremonious, and the music rather solemn--a little like
church music in fact--but after the custard-cups, Mr Feeder told Mr
Toots that he was going to throw a little spirit into the thing. After
that, Mr Feeder not only began to dance as if he meant dancing and
nothing else, but secretly to stimulate the music to perform wild tunes.
Further, he became particular in his attentions to the ladies; and
dancing with Miss Blimber, whispered to her--whispered to her!--though
not so softly but that Paul heard him say this remarkable poetry,

             ‘Had I a heart for falsehood framed,
              I ne’er could injure You!’

This, Paul heard him repeat to four young ladies, in succession. Well
might Mr Feeder say to Mr Toots, that he was afraid he should be the
worse for it to-morrow!

Mrs Blimber was a little alarmed by this--comparatively
speaking--profligate behaviour; and especially by the alteration in the
character of the music, which, beginning to comprehend low melodies that
were popular in the streets, might not unnaturally be supposed to give
offence to Lady Skettles. But Lady Skettles was so very kind as to beg
Mrs Blimber not to mention it; and to receive her explanation that
Mr Feeder’s spirits sometimes betrayed him into excesses on these
occasions, with the greatest courtesy and politeness; observing, that
he seemed a very nice sort of person for his situation, and that she
particularly liked the unassuming style of his hair--which (as already
hinted) was about a quarter of an inch long.

Once, when there was a pause in the dancing, Lady Skettles told Paul
that he seemed very fond of music. Paul replied, that he was; and if
she was too, she ought to hear his sister, Florence, sing. Lady Skettles
presently discovered that she was dying with anxiety to have that
gratification; and though Florence was at first very much frightened at
being asked to sing before so many people, and begged earnestly to be
excused, yet, on Paul calling her to him, and saying, ‘Do, Floy! Please!
For me, my dear!’ she went straight to the piano, and began. When they
all drew a little away, that Paul might see her; and when he saw her
sitting there all alone, so young, and good, and beautiful, and kind
to him; and heard her thrilling voice, so natural and sweet, and such
a golden link between him and all his life’s love and happiness, rising
out of the silence; he turned his face away, and hid his tears. Not,
as he told them when they spoke to him, not that the music was too
plaintive or too sorrowful, but it was so dear to him.

They all loved Florence. How could they help it! Paul had known
beforehand that they must and would; and sitting in his cushioned
corner, with calmly folded hands; and one leg loosely doubled under him,
few would have thought what triumph and delight expanded his childish
bosom while he watched her, or what a sweet tranquillity he felt. Lavish
encomiums on ‘Dombey’s sister’ reached his ears from all the boys:
admiration of the self-possessed and modest little beauty was on every
lip: reports of her intelligence and accomplishments floated past him,
constantly; and, as if borne in upon the air of the summer night, there
was a half intelligible sentiment diffused around, referring to Florence
and himself, and breathing sympathy for both, that soothed and touched

He did not know why. For all that the child observed, and felt, and
thought, that night--the present and the absent; what was then and
what had been--were blended like the colours in the rainbow, or in
the plumage of rich birds when the sun is shining on them, or in the
softening sky when the same sun is setting. The many things he had had
to think of lately, passed before him in the music; not as claiming
his attention over again, or as likely evermore to occupy it, but as
peacefully disposed of and gone. A solitary window, gazed through years
ago, looked out upon an ocean, miles and miles away; upon its waters,
fancies, busy with him only yesterday, were hushed and lulled to rest
like broken waves. The same mysterious murmur he had wondered at, when
lying on his couch upon the beach, he thought he still heard sounding
through his sister’s song, and through the hum of voices, and the tread
of feet, and having some part in the faces flitting by, and even in the
heavy gentleness of Mr Toots, who frequently came up to shake him by
the hand. Through the universal kindness he still thought he heard it,
speaking to him; and even his old-fashioned reputation seemed to be
allied to it, he knew not how. Thus little Paul sat musing, listening,
looking on, and dreaming; and was very happy.

Until the time arrived for taking leave: and then, indeed, there was a
sensation in the party. Sir Barnet Skettles brought up Skettles Junior
to shake hands with him, and asked him if he would remember to tell his
good Papa, with his best compliments, that he, Sir Barnet Skettles,
had said he hoped the two young gentlemen would become intimately
acquainted. Lady Skettles kissed him, and patted his hair upon his brow,
and held him in her arms; and even Mrs Baps--poor Mrs Baps! Paul was
glad of that--came over from beside the music-book of the gentleman who
played the harp, and took leave of him quite as heartily as anybody in
the room.

‘Good-bye, Doctor Blimber,’ said Paul, stretching out his hand.

‘Good-bye, my little friend,’ returned the Doctor.

‘I’m very much obliged to you, Sir,’ said Paul, looking innocently up
into his awful face. ‘Ask them to take care of Diogenes, if you please.’

Diogenes was the dog: who had never in his life received a friend into
his confidence, before Paul. The Doctor promised that every attention
should be paid to Diogenes in Paul’s absence, and Paul having again
thanked him, and shaken hands with him, bade adieu to Mrs Blimber and
Cornelia with such heartfelt earnestness that Mrs Blimber forgot from
that moment to mention Cicero to Lady Skettles, though she had fully
intended it all the evening. Cornelia, taking both Paul’s hands in hers,
said, ‘Dombey, Dombey, you have always been my favourite pupil. God bless
you!’ And it showed, Paul thought, how easily one might do injustice to
a person; for Miss Blimber meant it--though she was a Forcer--and felt

A buzz then went round among the young gentlemen, of ‘Dombey’s going!’
‘Little Dombey’s going!’ and there was a general move after Paul and
Florence down the staircase and into the hall, in which the whole
Blimber family were included. Such a circumstance, Mr Feeder said aloud,
as had never happened in the case of any former young gentleman within
his experience; but it would be difficult to say if this were sober fact
or custard-cups. The servants, with the butler at their head, had all an
interest in seeing Little Dombey go; and even the weak-eyed young man,
taking out his books and trunks to the coach that was to carry him and
Florence to Mrs Pipchin’s for the night, melted visibly.

Not even the influence of the softer passion on the young gentlemen--and
they all, to a boy, doted on Florence--could restrain them from taking
quite a noisy leave of Paul; waving hats after him, pressing downstairs
to shake hands with him, crying individually ‘Dombey, don’t forget me!’
and indulging in many such ebullitions of feeling, uncommon among those
young Chesterfields. Paul whispered Florence, as she wrapped him up
before the door was opened, Did she hear them? Would she ever forget
it? Was she glad to know it? And a lively delight was in his eyes as he
spoke to her.

Once, for a last look, he turned and gazed upon the faces thus addressed
to him, surprised to see how shining and how bright, and numerous they
were, and how they were all piled and heaped up, as faces are at crowded
theatres. They swam before him as he looked, like faces in an agitated
glass; and next moment he was in the dark coach outside, holding close
to Florence. From that time, whenever he thought of Doctor Blimber’s, it
came back as he had seen it in this last view; and it never seemed to be
a real place again, but always a dream, full of eyes.

This was not quite the last of Doctor Blimber’s, however. There was
something else. There was Mr Toots. Who, unexpectedly letting down
one of the coach-windows, and looking in, said, with a most egregious
chuckle, ‘Is Dombey there?’ and immediately put it up again, without
waiting for an answer. Nor was this quite the last of Mr Toots, even;
for before the coachman could drive off, he as suddenly let down the
other window, and looking in with a precisely similar chuckle, said in
a precisely similar tone of voice, ‘Is Dombey there?’ and disappeared
precisely as before.

How Florence laughed! Paul often remembered it, and laughed himself
whenever he did so.

But there was much, soon afterwards--next day, and after that--which
Paul could only recollect confusedly. As, why they stayed at Mrs
Pipchin’s days and nights, instead of going home; why he lay in bed,
with Florence sitting by his side; whether that had been his father in
the room, or only a tall shadow on the wall; whether he had heard his
doctor say, of someone, that if they had removed him before the occasion
on which he had built up fancies, strong in proportion to his own
weakness, it was very possible he might have pined away.

He could not even remember whether he had often said to Florence, ‘Oh
Floy, take me home, and never leave me!’ but he thought he had. He
fancied sometimes he had heard himself repeating, ‘Take me home, Floy!
take me home!’

But he could remember, when he got home, and was carried up the
well-remembered stairs, that there had been the rumbling of a coach for
many hours together, while he lay upon the seat, with Florence still
beside him, and old Mrs Pipchin sitting opposite. He remembered his old
bed too, when they laid him down in it: his aunt, Miss Tox, and Susan:
but there was something else, and recent too, that still perplexed him.

‘I want to speak to Florence, if you please,’ he said. ‘To Florence by
herself, for a moment!’

She bent down over him, and the others stood away.

‘Floy, my pet, wasn’t that Papa in the hall, when they brought me from
the coach?’

‘Yes, dear.’

‘He didn’t cry, and go into his room, Floy, did he, when he saw me
coming in?’

Florence shook her head, and pressed her lips against his cheek.

‘I’m very glad he didn’t cry,’ said little Paul. ‘I thought he did.
Don’t tell them that I asked.’

CHAPTER 15. Amazing Artfulness of Captain Cuttle, and a new Pursuit for
Walter Gay

Walter could not, for several days, decide what to do in the Barbados
business; and even cherished some faint hope that Mr Dombey might not
have meant what he had said, or that he might change his mind, and tell
him he was not to go. But as nothing occurred to give this idea (which
was sufficiently improbable in itself) any touch of confirmation, and as
time was slipping by, and he had none to lose, he felt that he must act,
without hesitating any longer.

Walter’s chief difficulty was, how to break the change in his affairs to
Uncle Sol, to whom he was sensible it would be a terrible blow. He
had the greater difficulty in dashing Uncle Sol’s spirits with such an
astounding piece of intelligence, because they had lately recovered
very much, and the old man had become so cheerful, that the little back
parlour was itself again. Uncle Sol had paid the first appointed portion
of the debt to Mr Dombey, and was hopeful of working his way through
the rest; and to cast him down afresh, when he had sprung up so manfully
from his troubles, was a very distressing necessity.

Yet it would never do to run away from him. He must know of it
beforehand; and how to tell him was the point. As to the question of
going or not going, Walter did not consider that he had any power of
choice in the matter. Mr Dombey had truly told him that he was young,
and that his Uncle’s circumstances were not good; and Mr Dombey had
plainly expressed, in the glance with which he had accompanied that
reminder, that if he declined to go he might stay at home if he chose,
but not in his counting-house. His Uncle and he lay under a great
obligation to Mr Dombey, which was of Walter’s own soliciting. He might
have begun in secret to despair of ever winning that gentleman’s favour,
and might have thought that he was now and then disposed to put a slight
upon him, which was hardly just. But what would have been duty without
that, was still duty with it--or Walter thought so--and duty must be

When Mr Dombey had looked at him, and told him he was young, and that
his Uncle’s circumstances were not good, there had been an expression of
disdain in his face; a contemptuous and disparaging assumption that he
would be quite content to live idly on a reduced old man, which stung
the boy’s generous soul. Determined to assure Mr Dombey, in so far as it
was possible to give him the assurance without expressing it in words,
that indeed he mistook his nature, Walter had been anxious to show even
more cheerfulness and activity after the West Indian interview than he
had shown before: if that were possible, in one of his quick and zealous
disposition. He was too young and inexperienced to think, that possibly
this very quality in him was not agreeable to Mr Dombey, and that it
was no stepping-stone to his good opinion to be elastic and hopeful of
pleasing under the shadow of his powerful displeasure, whether it were
right or wrong. But it may have been--it may have been--that the great
man thought himself defied in this new exposition of an honest spirit,
and purposed to bring it down.

‘Well! at last and at least, Uncle Sol must be told,’ thought Walter,
with a sigh. And as Walter was apprehensive that his voice might perhaps
quaver a little, and that his countenance might not be quite as hopeful
as he could wish it to be, if he told the old man himself, and saw the
first effects of his communication on his wrinkled face, he resolved to
avail himself of the services of that powerful mediator, Captain Cuttle.
Sunday coming round, he set off therefore, after breakfast, once more to
beat up Captain Cuttle’s quarters.

It was not unpleasant to remember, on the way thither, that Mrs
MacStinger resorted to a great distance every Sunday morning, to attend
the ministry of the Reverend Melchisedech Howler, who, having been one
day discharged from the West India Docks on a false suspicion (got up
expressly against him by the general enemy) of screwing gimlets into
puncheons, and applying his lips to the orifice, had announced the
destruction of the world for that day two years, at ten in the morning,
and opened a front parlour for the reception of ladies and gentlemen
of the Ranting persuasion, upon whom, on the first occasion of their
assemblage, the admonitions of the Reverend Melchisedech had produced
so powerful an effect, that, in their rapturous performance of a sacred
jig, which closed the service, the whole flock broke through into a
kitchen below, and disabled a mangle belonging to one of the fold.

This the Captain, in a moment of uncommon conviviality, had confided
to Walter and his Uncle, between the repetitions of lovely Peg, on the
night when Brogley the broker was paid out. The Captain himself was
punctual in his attendance at a church in his own neighbourhood, which
hoisted the Union Jack every Sunday morning; and where he was good
enough--the lawful beadle being infirm--to keep an eye upon the boys,
over whom he exercised great power, in virtue of his mysterious hook.
Knowing the regularity of the Captain’s habits, Walter made all the
haste he could, that he might anticipate his going out; and he made such
good speed, that he had the pleasure, on turning into Brig Place, to
behold the broad blue coat and waistcoat hanging out of the Captain’s
open window, to air in the sun.

It appeared incredible that the coat and waistcoat could be seen by
mortal eyes without the Captain; but he certainly was not in them,
otherwise his legs--the houses in Brig Place not being lofty--would have
obstructed the street door, which was perfectly clear. Quite wondering
at this discovery, Walter gave a single knock.

‘Stinger,’ he distinctly heard the Captain say, up in his room, as if
that were no business of his. Therefore Walter gave two knocks.

‘Cuttle,’ he heard the Captain say upon that; and immediately afterwards
the Captain, in his clean shirt and braces, with his neckerchief hanging
loosely round his throat like a coil of rope, and his glazed hat
on, appeared at the window, leaning out over the broad blue coat and

‘Wal’r!’ cried the Captain, looking down upon him in amazement.

‘Ay, ay, Captain Cuttle,’ returned Walter, ‘only me’

‘What’s the matter, my lad?’ inquired the Captain, with great concern.
‘Gills an’t been and sprung nothing again?’

‘No, no,’ said Walter. ‘My Uncle’s all right, Captain Cuttle.’

The Captain expressed his gratification, and said he would come down
below and open the door, which he did.

‘Though you’re early, Wal’r,’ said the Captain, eyeing him still
doubtfully, when they got upstairs:

‘Why, the fact is, Captain Cuttle,’ said Walter, sitting down, ‘I was
afraid you would have gone out, and I want to benefit by your friendly

‘So you shall,’ said the Captain; ‘what’ll you take?’

‘I want to take your opinion, Captain Cuttle,’ returned Walter, smiling.
‘That’s the only thing for me.’

‘Come on then,’ said the Captain. ‘With a will, my lad!’

Walter related to him what had happened; and the difficulty in which he
felt respecting his Uncle, and the relief it would be to him if Captain
Cuttle, in his kindness, would help him to smooth it away; Captain
Cuttle’s infinite consternation and astonishment at the prospect
unfolded to him, gradually swallowing that gentleman up, until it left
his face quite vacant, and the suit of blue, the glazed hat, and the
hook, apparently without an owner.

‘You see, Captain Cuttle,’ pursued Walter, ‘for myself, I am young, as
Mr Dombey said, and not to be considered. I am to fight my way through
the world, I know; but there are two points I was thinking, as I came
along, that I should be very particular about, in respect to my Uncle.
I don’t mean to say that I deserve to be the pride and delight of his
life--you believe me, I know--but I am. Now, don’t you think I am?’

The Captain seemed to make an endeavour to rise from the depths of
his astonishment, and get back to his face; but the effort being
ineffectual, the glazed hat merely nodded with a mute, unutterable

‘If I live and have my health,’ said Walter, ‘and I am not afraid of
that, still, when I leave England I can hardly hope to see my Uncle
again. He is old, Captain Cuttle; and besides, his life is a life of

‘Steady, Wal’r! Of a want of custom?’ said the Captain, suddenly

‘Too true,’ returned Walter, shaking his head: ‘but I meant a life of
habit, Captain Cuttle--that sort of custom. And if (as you very truly
said, I am sure) he would have died the sooner for the loss of the
stock, and all those objects to which he has been accustomed for so many
years, don’t you think he might die a little sooner for the loss of--’

‘Of his Nevy,’ interposed the Captain. ‘Right!’

‘Well then,’ said Walter, trying to speak gaily, ‘we must do our best to
make him believe that the separation is but a temporary one, after all;
but as I know better, or dread that I know better, Captain Cuttle, and
as I have so many reasons for regarding him with affection, and duty,
and honour, I am afraid I should make but a very poor hand at that, if
I tried to persuade him of it. That’s my great reason for wishing you to
break it out to him; and that’s the first point.’

‘Keep her off a point or so!’ observed the Captain, in a comtemplative

‘What did you say, Captain Cuttle?’ inquired Walter.

‘Stand by!’ returned the Captain, thoughtfully.

Walter paused to ascertain if the Captain had any particular information
to add to this, but as he said no more, went on.

‘Now, the second point, Captain Cuttle. I am sorry to say, I am not a
favourite with Mr Dombey. I have always tried to do my best, and I have
always done it; but he does not like me. He can’t help his likings and
dislikings, perhaps. I say nothing of that. I only say that I am certain
he does not like me. He does not send me to this post as a good one; he
disclaims to represent it as being better than it is; and I doubt very
much if it will ever lead me to advancement in the House--whether it
does not, on the contrary, dispose of me for ever, and put me out of the
way. Now, we must say nothing of this to my Uncle, Captain Cuttle, but
must make it out to be as favourable and promising as we can; and when I
tell you what it really is, I only do so, that in case any means should
ever arise of lending me a hand, so far off, I may have one friend at
home who knows my real situation.

‘Wal’r, my boy,’ replied the Captain, ‘in the Proverbs of Solomon you
will find the following words, “May we never want a friend in need, nor
a bottle to give him!” When found, make a note of.’

Here the Captain stretched out his hand to Walter, with an air of
downright good faith that spoke volumes; at the same time repeating (for
he felt proud of the accuracy and pointed application of his quotation),
‘When found, make a note of.’

‘Captain Cuttle,’ said Walter, taking the immense fist extended to him
by the Captain in both his hands, which it completely filled, next to
my Uncle Sol, I love you. There is no one on earth in whom I can more
safely trust, I am sure. As to the mere going away, Captain Cuttle, I
don’t care for that; why should I care for that! If I were free to seek
my own fortune--if I were free to go as a common sailor--if I were free
to venture on my own account to the farthest end of the world--I would
gladly go! I would have gladly gone, years ago, and taken my chance of
what might come of it. But it was against my Uncle’s wishes, and against
the plans he had formed for me; and there was an end of that. But what I
feel, Captain Cuttle, is that we have been a little mistaken all along,
and that, so far as any improvement in my prospects is concerned, I
am no better off now than I was when I first entered Dombey’s
House--perhaps a little worse, for the House may have been kindly
inclined towards me then, and it certainly is not now.’

‘Turn again, Whittington,’ muttered the disconsolate Captain, after
looking at Walter for some time.

‘Ay,’ replied Walter, laughing, ‘and turn a great many times, too,
Captain Cuttle, I’m afraid, before such fortune as his ever turns
up again. Not that I complain,’ he added, in his lively, animated,
energetic way. ‘I have nothing to complain of. I am provided for. I can
live. When I leave my Uncle, I leave him to you; and I can leave him
to no one better, Captain Cuttle. I haven’t told you all this because
I despair, not I; it’s to convince you that I can’t pick and choose in
Dombey’s House, and that where I am sent, there I must go, and what I
am offered, that I must take. It’s better for my Uncle that I should
be sent away; for Mr Dombey is a valuable friend to him, as he proved
himself, you know when, Captain Cuttle; and I am persuaded he won’t be
less valuable when he hasn’t me there, every day, to awaken his dislike.
So hurrah for the West Indies, Captain Cuttle! How does that tune go
that the sailors sing?

              ‘For the Port of Barbados, Boys!


              Leaving old England behind us, Boys!

Here the Captain roared in chorus--

              ‘Oh cheerily, cheerily!

                                            Oh cheer-i-ly!’

The last line reaching the quick ears of an ardent skipper not quite
sober, who lodged opposite, and who instantly sprung out of bed, threw
up his window, and joined in, across the street, at the top of his
voice, produced a fine effect. When it was impossible to sustain the
concluding note any longer, the skipper bellowed forth a terrific
‘ahoy!’ intended in part as a friendly greeting, and in part to show
that he was not at all breathed. That done, he shut down his window, and
went to bed again.

‘And now, Captain Cuttle,’ said Walter, handing him the blue coat and
waistcoat, and bustling very much, ‘if you’ll come and break the news to
Uncle Sol (which he ought to have known, days upon days ago, by
rights), I’ll leave you at the door, you know, and walk about until the

The Captain, however, scarcely appeared to relish the commission, or to
be by any means confident of his powers of executing it. He had arranged
the future life and adventures of Walter so very differently, and so
entirely to his own satisfaction; he had felicitated himself so often on
the sagacity and foresight displayed in that arrangement, and had found
it so complete and perfect in all its parts; that to suffer it to go
to pieces all at once, and even to assist in breaking it up, required a
great effort of his resolution. The Captain, too, found it difficult to
unload his old ideas upon the subject, and to take a perfectly new
cargo on board, with that rapidity which the circumstances required,
or without jumbling and confounding the two. Consequently, instead of
putting on his coat and waistcoat with anything like the impetuosity
that could alone have kept pace with Walter’s mood, he declined to
invest himself with those garments at all at present; and informed
Walter that on such a serious matter, he must be allowed to ‘bite his
nails a bit’.

‘It’s an old habit of mine, Wal’r,’ said the Captain, ‘any time these
fifty year. When you see Ned Cuttle bite his nails, Wal’r, then you may
know that Ned Cuttle’s aground.’

Thereupon the Captain put his iron hook between his teeth, as if it
were a hand; and with an air of wisdom and profundity that was the very
concentration and sublimation of all philosophical reflection and grave
inquiry, applied himself to the consideration of the subject in its
various branches.

‘There’s a friend of mine,’ murmured the Captain, in an absent manner,
‘but he’s at present coasting round to Whitby, that would deliver such
an opinion on this subject, or any other that could be named, as would
give Parliament six and beat ‘em. Been knocked overboard, that man,’
said the Captain, ‘twice, and none the worse for it. Was beat in his
apprenticeship, for three weeks (off and on), about the head with a
ring-bolt. And yet a clearer-minded man don’t walk.’

In spite of his respect for Captain Cuttle, Walter could not help
inwardly rejoicing at the absence of this sage, and devoutly hoping that
his limpid intellect might not be brought to bear on his difficulties
until they were quite settled.

‘If you was to take and show that man the buoy at the Nore,’ said
Captain Cuttle in the same tone, ‘and ask him his opinion of it, Wal’r,
he’d give you an opinion that was no more like that buoy than your
Uncle’s buttons are. There ain’t a man that walks--certainly not on two
legs--that can come near him. Not near him!’

‘What’s his name, Captain Cuttle?’ inquired Walter, determined to be
interested in the Captain’s friend.

‘His name’s Bunsby,’ said the Captain. ‘But Lord, it might be anything
for the matter of that, with such a mind as his!’

The exact idea which the Captain attached to this concluding piece of
praise, he did not further elucidate; neither did Walter seek to draw
it forth. For on his beginning to review, with the vivacity natural to
himself and to his situation, the leading points in his own affairs, he
soon discovered that the Captain had relapsed into his former profound
state of mind; and that while he eyed him steadfastly from beneath his
bushy eyebrows, he evidently neither saw nor heard him, but remained
immersed in cogitation.

In fact, Captain Cuttle was labouring with such great designs, that far
from being aground, he soon got off into the deepest of water, and could
find no bottom to his penetration. By degrees it became perfectly plain
to the Captain that there was some mistake here; that it was undoubtedly
much more likely to be Walter’s mistake than his; that if there were
really any West India scheme afoot, it was a very different one from
what Walter, who was young and rash, supposed; and could only be some
new device for making his fortune with unusual celerity. ‘Or if there
should be any little hitch between ‘em,’ thought the Captain, meaning
between Walter and Mr Dombey, ‘it only wants a word in season from a
friend of both parties, to set it right and smooth, and make all taut
again.’ Captain Cuttle’s deduction from these considerations was, that
as he already enjoyed the pleasure of knowing Mr Dombey, from having
spent a very agreeable half-hour in his company at Brighton (on the
morning when they borrowed the money); and that, as a couple of men of
the world, who understood each other, and were mutually disposed to make
things comfortable, could easily arrange any little difficulty of this
sort, and come at the real facts; the friendly thing for him to do would
be, without saying anything about it to Walter at present, just to step
up to Mr Dombey’s house--say to the servant ‘Would ye be so good, my
lad, as report Cap’en Cuttle here?’--meet Mr Dombey in a confidential
spirit--hook him by the button-hole--talk it over--make it all
right--and come away triumphant!

As these reflections presented themselves to the Captain’s mind, and
by slow degrees assumed this shape and form, his visage cleared like
a doubtful morning when it gives place to a bright noon. His eyebrows,
which had been in the highest degree portentous, smoothed their rugged
bristling aspect, and became serene; his eyes, which had been nearly
closed in the severity of his mental exercise, opened freely; a smile
which had been at first but three specks--one at the right-hand corner
of his mouth, and one at the corner of each eye--gradually overspread
his whole face, and, rippling up into his forehead, lifted the glazed
hat: as if that too had been aground with Captain Cuttle, and were now,
like him, happily afloat again.

Finally, the Captain left off biting his nails, and said, ‘Now, Wal’r,
my boy, you may help me on with them slops.’ By which the Captain meant
his coat and waistcoat.

Walter little imagined why the Captain was so particular in the
arrangement of his cravat, as to twist the pendent ends into a sort of
pigtail, and pass them through a massive gold ring with a picture of
a tomb upon it, and a neat iron railing, and a tree, in memory of some
deceased friend. Nor why the Captain pulled up his shirt-collar to
the utmost limits allowed by the Irish linen below, and by so doing
decorated himself with a complete pair of blinkers; nor why he changed
his shoes, and put on an unparalleled pair of ankle-jacks, which he only
wore on extraordinary occasions. The Captain being at length attired to
his own complete satisfaction, and having glanced at himself from
head to foot in a shaving-glass which he removed from a nail for that
purpose, took up his knotted stick, and said he was ready.

The Captain’s walk was more complacent than usual when they got out
into the street; but this Walter supposed to be the effect of the
ankle-jacks, and took little heed of. Before they had gone very far,
they encountered a woman selling flowers; when the Captain stopping
short, as if struck by a happy idea, made a purchase of the largest
bundle in her basket: a most glorious nosegay, fan-shaped, some two feet
and a half round, and composed of all the jolliest-looking flowers that

Armed with this little token which he designed for Mr Dombey, Captain
Cuttle walked on with Walter until they reached the Instrument-maker’s
door, before which they both paused.

‘You’re going in?’ said Walter.

‘Yes,’ returned the Captain, who felt that Walter must be got rid
of before he proceeded any further, and that he had better time his
projected visit somewhat later in the day.

‘And you won’t forget anything?’

‘No,’ returned the Captain.

‘I’ll go upon my walk at once,’ said Walter, ‘and then I shall be out of
the way, Captain Cuttle.’

‘Take a good long ‘un, my lad!’ replied the Captain, calling after him.
Walter waved his hand in assent, and went his way.

His way was nowhere in particular; but he thought he would go out into
the fields, where he could reflect upon the unknown life before him, and
resting under some tree, ponder quietly. He knew no better fields than
those near Hampstead, and no better means of getting at them than by
passing Mr Dombey’s house.

It was as stately and as dark as ever, when he went by and glanced up
at its frowning front. The blinds were all pulled down, but the upper
windows stood wide open, and the pleasant air stirring those curtains
and waving them to and fro was the only sign of animation in the whole
exterior. Walter walked softly as he passed, and was glad when he had
left the house a door or two behind.

He looked back then; with the interest he had always felt for the place
since the adventure of the lost child, years ago; and looked especially
at those upper windows. While he was thus engaged, a chariot drove to
the door, and a portly gentleman in black, with a heavy watch-chain,
alighted, and went in. When he afterwards remembered this gentleman and
his equipage together, Walter had no doubt he was a physician; and then
he wondered who was ill; but the discovery did not occur to him until he
had walked some distance, thinking listlessly of other things.

Though still, of what the house had suggested to him; for Walter
pleased himself with thinking that perhaps the time might come, when the
beautiful child who was his old friend and had always been so grateful
to him and so glad to see him since, might interest her brother in his
behalf and influence his fortunes for the better. He liked to imagine
this--more, at that moment, for the pleasure of imagining her continued
remembrance of him, than for any worldly profit he might gain: but
another and more sober fancy whispered to him that if he were alive
then, he would be beyond the sea and forgotten; she married, rich,
proud, happy. There was no more reason why she should remember him with
any interest in such an altered state of things, than any plaything she
ever had. No, not so much.

Yet Walter so idealised the pretty child whom he had found wandering in
the rough streets, and so identified her with her innocent gratitude
of that night and the simplicity and truth of its expression, that he
blushed for himself as a libeller when he argued that she could ever
grow proud. On the other hand, his meditations were of that fantastic
order that it seemed hardly less libellous in him to imagine her grown a
woman: to think of her as anything but the same artless, gentle, winning
little creature, that she had been in the days of Good Mrs Brown. In
a word, Walter found out that to reason with himself about Florence at
all, was to become very unreasonable indeed; and that he could do
no better than preserve her image in his mind as something precious,
unattainable, unchangeable, and indefinite--indefinite in all but its
power of giving him pleasure, and restraining him like an angel’s hand
from anything unworthy.

It was a long stroll in the fields that Walter took that day, listening
to the birds, and the Sunday bells, and the softened murmur of the
town--breathing sweet scents; glancing sometimes at the dim horizon
beyond which his voyage and his place of destination lay; then looking
round on the green English grass and the home landscape. But he hardly
once thought, even of going away, distinctly; and seemed to put off
reflection idly, from hour to hour, and from minute to minute, while he
yet went on reflecting all the time.

Walter had left the fields behind him, and was plodding homeward in
the same abstracted mood, when he heard a shout from a man, and then
a woman’s voice calling to him loudly by name. Turning quickly in his
surprise, he saw that a hackney-coach, going in the contrary direction,
had stopped at no great distance; that the coachman was looking back
from his box and making signals to him with his whip; and that a young
woman inside was leaning out of the window, and beckoning with immense
energy. Running up to this coach, he found that the young woman was
Miss Nipper, and that Miss Nipper was in such a flutter as to be almost
beside herself.

‘Staggs’s Gardens, Mr Walter!’ said Miss Nipper; ‘if you please, oh do!’

‘Eh?’ cried Walter; ‘what is the matter?’

‘Oh, Mr Walter, Staggs’s Gardens, if you please!’ said Susan.

‘There!’ cried the coachman, appealing to Walter, with a sort of
exalting despair; ‘that’s the way the young lady’s been a goin’ on
for up’ards of a mortal hour, and me continivally backing out of no
thoroughfares, where she would drive up. I’ve had a many fares in this
coach, first and last, but never such a fare as her.’

‘Do you want to go to Staggs’s Gardens, Susan?’ inquired Walter.

‘Ah! She wants to go there! WHERE IS IT?’ growled the coachman.

‘I don’t know where it is!’ exclaimed Susan, wildly. ‘Mr Walter, I was
there once myself, along with Miss Floy and our poor darling Master
Paul, on the very day when you found Miss Floy in the City, for we lost
her coming home, Mrs Richards and me, and a mad bull, and Mrs Richards’s
eldest, and though I went there afterwards, I can’t remember where it
is, I think it’s sunk into the ground. Oh, Mr Walter, don’t desert
me, Staggs’s Gardens, if you please! Miss Floy’s darling--all our
darlings--little, meek, meek Master Paul! Oh Mr Walter!’

‘Good God!’ cried Walter. ‘Is he very ill?’

‘The pretty flower!’ cried Susan, wringing her hands, ‘has took the
fancy that he’d like to see his old nurse, and I’ve come to bring her to
his bedside, Mrs Staggs, of Polly Toodle’s Gardens, someone pray!’

Greatly moved by what he heard, and catching Susan’s earnestness
immediately, Walter, now that he understood the nature of her errand,
dashed into it with such ardour that the coachman had enough to do
to follow closely as he ran before, inquiring here and there and
everywhere, the way to Staggs’s Gardens.

There was no such place as Staggs’s Gardens. It had vanished from the
earth. Where the old rotten summer-houses once had stood, palaces now
reared their heads, and granite columns of gigantic girth opened a
vista to the railway world beyond. The miserable waste ground, where the
refuse-matter had been heaped of yore, was swallowed up and gone; and in
its frowsy stead were tiers of warehouses, crammed with rich goods and
costly merchandise. The old by-streets now swarmed with passengers and
vehicles of every kind: the new streets that had stopped disheartened
in the mud and waggon-ruts, formed towns within themselves, originating
wholesome comforts and conveniences belonging to themselves, and never
tried nor thought of until they sprung into existence. Bridges that had
led to nothing, led to villas, gardens, churches, healthy public walks.
The carcasses of houses, and beginnings of new thoroughfares, had
started off upon the line at steam’s own speed, and shot away into the
country in a monster train.

As to the neighbourhood which had hesitated to acknowledge the railroad
in its straggling days, that had grown wise and penitent, as any
Christian might in such a case, and now boasted of its powerful and
prosperous relation. There were railway patterns in its drapers’ shops,
and railway journals in the windows of its newsmen. There were railway
hotels, office-houses, lodging-houses, boarding-houses; railway plans,
maps, views, wrappers, bottles, sandwich-boxes, and time-tables;
railway hackney-coach and stands; railway omnibuses, railway streets and
buildings, railway hangers-on and parasites, and flatterers out of all
calculation. There was even railway time observed in clocks, as if
the sun itself had given in. Among the vanquished was the master
chimney-sweeper, whilom incredulous at Staggs’s Gardens, who now lived
in a stuccoed house three stories high, and gave himself out, with
golden flourishes upon a varnished board, as contractor for the
cleansing of railway chimneys by machinery.

To and from the heart of this great change, all day and night, throbbing
currents rushed and returned incessantly like its life’s blood. Crowds
of people and mountains of goods, departing and arriving scores upon
scores of times in every four-and-twenty hours, produced a fermentation
in the place that was always in action. The very houses seemed disposed
to pack up and take trips. Wonderful Members of Parliament, who, little
more than twenty years before, had made themselves merry with the wild
railroad theories of engineers, and given them the liveliest rubs in
cross-examination, went down into the north with their watches in their
hands, and sent on messages before by the electric telegraph, to say
that they were coming. Night and day the conquering engines rumbled at
their distant work, or, advancing smoothly to their journey’s end, and
gliding like tame dragons into the allotted corners grooved out to the
inch for their reception, stood bubbling and trembling there, making the
walls quake, as if they were dilating with the secret knowledge of great
powers yet unsuspected in them, and strong purposes not yet achieved.

But Staggs’s Gardens had been cut up root and branch. Oh woe the day
when ‘not a rood of English ground’--laid out in Staggs’s Gardens--is

At last, after much fruitless inquiry, Walter, followed by the coach and
Susan, found a man who had once resided in that vanished land, and who
was no other than the master sweep before referred to, grown stout,
and knocking a double knock at his own door. He knowed Toodle, he said,
well. Belonged to the Railroad, didn’t he?

‘Yes sir, yes!’ cried Susan Nipper from the coach window.

Where did he live now? hastily inquired Walter.

He lived in the Company’s own Buildings, second turning to the right,
down the yard, cross over, and take the second on the right again. It
was number eleven; they couldn’t mistake it; but if they did, they had
only to ask for Toodle, Engine Fireman, and any one would show them
which was his house. At this unexpected stroke of success Susan Nipper
dismounted from the coach with all speed, took Walter’s arm, and set
off at a breathless pace on foot; leaving the coach there to await their

‘Has the little boy been long ill, Susan?’ inquired Walter, as they
hurried on.

‘Ailing for a deal of time, but no one knew how much,’ said Susan;
adding, with excessive sharpness, ‘Oh, them Blimbers!’

‘Blimbers?’ echoed Walter.

‘I couldn’t forgive myself at such a time as this, Mr Walter,’ said
Susan, ‘and when there’s so much serious distress to think about, if
I rested hard on anyone, especially on them that little darling Paul
speaks well of, but I may wish that the family was set to work in a
stony soil to make new roads, and that Miss Blimber went in front, and
had the pickaxe!’

Miss Nipper then took breath, and went on faster than before, as if this
extraordinary aspiration had relieved her. Walter, who had by this time
no breath of his own to spare, hurried along without asking any more
questions; and they soon, in their impatience, burst in at a little door
and came into a clean parlour full of children.

‘Where’s Mrs Richards?’ exclaimed Susan Nipper, looking round. ‘Oh Mrs
Richards, Mrs Richards, come along with me, my dear creetur!’

‘Why, if it ain’t Susan!’ cried Polly, rising with her honest face and
motherly figure from among the group, in great surprise.

‘Yes, Mrs Richards, it’s me,’ said Susan, ‘and I wish it wasn’t, though
I may not seem to flatter when I say so, but little Master Paul is very
ill, and told his Pa today that he would like to see the face of his
old nurse, and him and Miss Floy hope you’ll come along with me--and Mr
Walter, Mrs Richards--forgetting what is past, and do a kindness to the
sweet dear that is withering away. Oh, Mrs Richards, withering away!’
Susan Nipper crying, Polly shed tears to see her, and to hear what she
had said; and all the children gathered round (including numbers of new
babies); and Mr Toodle, who had just come home from Birmingham, and was
eating his dinner out of a basin, laid down his knife and fork, and put
on his wife’s bonnet and shawl for her, which were hanging up behind the
door; then tapped her on the back; and said, with more fatherly feeling
than eloquence, ‘Polly! cut away!’

So they got back to the coach, long before the coachman expected them;
and Walter, putting Susan and Mrs Richards inside, took his seat on the
box himself that there might be no more mistakes, and deposited them
safely in the hall of Mr Dombey’s house--where, by the bye, he saw a
mighty nosegay lying, which reminded him of the one Captain Cuttle had
purchased in his company that morning. He would have lingered to know
more of the young invalid, or waited any length of time to see if
he could render the least service; but, painfully sensible that such
conduct would be looked upon by Mr Dombey as presumptuous and forward,
he turned slowly, sadly, anxiously, away.

He had not gone five minutes’ walk from the door, when a man came
running after him, and begged him to return. Walter retraced his steps
as quickly as he could, and entered the gloomy house with a sorrowful

CHAPTER 16. What the Waves were always saying

Paul had never risen from his little bed. He lay there, listening to
the noises in the street, quite tranquilly; not caring much how the time
went, but watching it and watching everything about him with observing

When the sunbeams struck into his room through the rustling blinds, and
quivered on the opposite wall like golden water, he knew that evening
was coming on, and that the sky was red and beautiful. As the reflection
died away, and a gloom went creeping up the wall, he watched it deepen,
deepen, deepen, into night. Then he thought how the long streets were
dotted with lamps, and how the peaceful stars were shining overhead. His
fancy had a strange tendency to wander to the river, which he knew was
flowing through the great city; and now he thought how black it was,
and how deep it would look, reflecting the hosts of stars--and more than
all, how steadily it rolled away to meet the sea.

As it grew later in the night, and footsteps in the street became so
rare that he could hear them coming, count them as they passed, and lose
them in the hollow distance, he would lie and watch the many-coloured
ring about the candle, and wait patiently for day. His only trouble was,
the swift and rapid river. He felt forced, sometimes, to try to stop
it--to stem it with his childish hands--or choke its way with sand--and
when he saw it coming on, resistless, he cried out! But a word from
Florence, who was always at his side, restored him to himself; and
leaning his poor head upon her breast, he told Floy of his dream, and

When day began to dawn again, he watched for the sun; and when
its cheerful light began to sparkle in the room, he pictured to
himself--pictured! he saw--the high church towers rising up into the
morning sky, the town reviving, waking, starting into life once more,
the river glistening as it rolled (but rolling fast as ever), and the
country bright with dew. Familiar sounds and cries came by degrees into
the street below; the servants in the house were roused and busy; faces
looked in at the door, and voices asked his attendants softly how he
was. Paul always answered for himself, ‘I am better. I am a great deal
better, thank you! Tell Papa so!’

By little and little, he got tired of the bustle of the day, the noise
of carriages and carts, and people passing and repassing; and would fall
asleep, or be troubled with a restless and uneasy sense again--the
child could hardly tell whether this were in his sleeping or his waking
moments--of that rushing river. ‘Why, will it never stop, Floy?’ he
would sometimes ask her. ‘It is bearing me away, I think!’

But Floy could always soothe and reassure him; and it was his daily
delight to make her lay her head down on his pillow, and take some rest.

‘You are always watching me, Floy, let me watch you, now!’ They would
prop him up with cushions in a corner of his bed, and there he would
recline the while she lay beside him: bending forward oftentimes to kiss
her, and whispering to those who were near that she was tired, and how
she had sat up so many nights beside him.

Thus, the flush of the day, in its heat and light, would gradually
decline; and again the golden water would be dancing on the wall.

He was visited by as many as three grave doctors--they used to assemble
downstairs, and come up together--and the room was so quiet, and Paul
was so observant of them (though he never asked of anybody what they
said), that he even knew the difference in the sound of their watches.
But his interest centred in Sir Parker Peps, who always took his seat
on the side of the bed. For Paul had heard them say long ago, that that
gentleman had been with his Mama when she clasped Florence in her arms,
and died. And he could not forget it, now. He liked him for it. He was
not afraid.

The people round him changed as unaccountably as on that first night at
Doctor Blimber’s--except Florence; Florence never changed--and what had
been Sir Parker Peps, was now his father, sitting with his head upon
his hand. Old Mrs Pipchin dozing in an easy chair, often changed to Miss
Tox, or his aunt; and Paul was quite content to shut his eyes again, and
see what happened next, without emotion. But this figure with its head
upon its hand returned so often, and remained so long, and sat so still
and solemn, never speaking, never being spoken to, and rarely lifting up
its face, that Paul began to wonder languidly, if it were real; and in
the night-time saw it sitting there, with fear.

‘Floy!’ he said. ‘What is that?’

‘Where, dearest?’

‘There! at the bottom of the bed.’

‘There’s nothing there, except Papa!’

The figure lifted up its head, and rose, and coming to the bedside,
said: ‘My own boy! Don’t you know me?’

Paul looked it in the face, and thought, was this his father? But the
face so altered to his thinking, thrilled while he gazed, as if it were
in pain; and before he could reach out both his hands to take it between
them, and draw it towards him, the figure turned away quickly from the
little bed, and went out at the door.

Paul looked at Florence with a fluttering heart, but he knew what she
was going to say, and stopped her with his face against her lips. The
next time he observed the figure sitting at the bottom of the bed, he
called to it.

‘Don’t be sorry for me, dear Papa! Indeed I am quite happy!’

His father coming and bending down to him--which he did quickly, and
without first pausing by the bedside--Paul held him round the neck, and
repeated those words to him several times, and very earnestly; and Paul
never saw him in his room again at any time, whether it were day or
night, but he called out, ‘Don’t be sorry for me! Indeed I am quite
happy!’ This was the beginning of his always saying in the morning that
he was a great deal better, and that they were to tell his father so.

How many times the golden water danced upon the wall; how many nights
the dark, dark river rolled towards the sea in spite of him; Paul never
counted, never sought to know. If their kindness, or his sense of it,
could have increased, they were more kind, and he more grateful every
day; but whether they were many days or few, appeared of little moment
now, to the gentle boy.

One night he had been thinking of his mother, and her picture in the
drawing-room downstairs, and thought she must have loved sweet Florence
better than his father did, to have held her in her arms when she felt
that she was dying--for even he, her brother, who had such dear love
for her, could have no greater wish than that. The train of thought
suggested to him to inquire if he had ever seen his mother? for he could
not remember whether they had told him, yes or no, the river running
very fast, and confusing his mind.

‘Floy, did I ever see Mama?’

‘No, darling, why?’

‘Did I ever see any kind face, like Mama’s, looking at me when I was a
baby, Floy?’

He asked, incredulously, as if he had some vision of a face before him.

‘Oh yes, dear!’

‘Whose, Floy?’

‘Your old nurse’s. Often.’

‘And where is my old nurse?’ said Paul. ‘Is she dead too? Floy, are we
all dead, except you?’

There was a hurry in the room, for an instant--longer, perhaps; but it
seemed no more--then all was still again; and Florence, with her face
quite colourless, but smiling, held his head upon her arm. Her arm
trembled very much.

‘Show me that old nurse, Floy, if you please!’

‘She is not here, darling. She shall come to-morrow.’

‘Thank you, Floy!’

Paul closed his eyes with those words, and fell asleep. When he awoke,
the sun was high, and the broad day was clear and warm. He lay a little,
looking at the windows, which were open, and the curtains rustling in
the air, and waving to and fro: then he said, ‘Floy, is it tomorrow? Is
she come?’

Someone seemed to go in quest of her. Perhaps it was Susan. Paul thought
he heard her telling him when he had closed his eyes again, that she
would soon be back; but he did not open them to see. She kept her
word--perhaps she had never been away--but the next thing that happened
was a noise of footsteps on the stairs, and then Paul woke--woke mind
and body--and sat upright in his bed. He saw them now about him. There
was no grey mist before them, as there had been sometimes in the night.
He knew them every one, and called them by their names.

‘And who is this? Is this my old nurse?’ said the child, regarding with
a radiant smile, a figure coming in.

Yes, yes. No other stranger would have shed those tears at sight of
him, and called him her dear boy, her pretty boy, her own poor blighted
child. No other woman would have stooped down by his bed, and taken up
his wasted hand, and put it to her lips and breast, as one who had some
right to fondle it. No other woman would have so forgotten everybody
there but him and Floy, and been so full of tenderness and pity.

‘Floy! this is a kind good face!’ said Paul. ‘I am glad to see it again.
Don’t go away, old nurse! Stay here.’

His senses were all quickened, and he heard a name he knew.

‘Who was that, who said “Walter”?’ he asked, looking round. ‘Someone
said Walter. Is he here? I should like to see him very much.’

Nobody replied directly; but his father soon said to Susan, ‘Call him
back, then: let him come up!’ Alter a short pause of expectation, during
which he looked with smiling interest and wonder, on his nurse, and saw
that she had not forgotten Floy, Walter was brought into the room.
His open face and manner, and his cheerful eyes, had always made him a
favourite with Paul; and when Paul saw him’ he stretched Out his hand,
and said ‘Good-bye!’

‘Good-bye, my child!’ said Mrs Pipchin, hurrying to his bed’s head. ‘Not

For an instant, Paul looked at her with the wistful face with which he
had so often gazed upon her in his corner by the fire. ‘Yes,’ he said
placidly, ‘good-bye! Walter dear, good-bye!’--turning his head to where
he stood, and putting out his hand again. ‘Where is Papa?’

He felt his father’s breath upon his cheek, before the words had parted
from his lips.

‘Remember Walter, dear Papa,’ he whispered, looking in his face.
‘Remember Walter. I was fond of Walter!’ The feeble hand waved in the
air, as if it cried ‘good-bye!’ to Walter once again.

‘Now lay me down,’ he said, ‘and, Floy, come close to me, and let me see

Sister and brother wound their arms around each other, and the golden
light came streaming in, and fell upon them, locked together.

‘How fast the river runs, between its green banks and the rushes, Floy!
But it’s very near the sea. I hear the waves! They always said so!’

Presently he told her the motion of the boat upon the stream was lulling
him to rest. How green the banks were now, how bright the flowers
growing on them, and how tall the rushes! Now the boat was out at sea,
but gliding smoothly on. And now there was a shore before him. Who stood
on the bank?--

He put his hands together, as he had been used to do at his prayers. He
did not remove his arms to do it; but they saw him fold them so, behind
her neck.

‘Mama is like you, Floy. I know her by the face! But tell them that the
print upon the stairs at school is not divine enough. The light about
the head is shining on me as I go!’

The golden ripple on the wall came back again, and nothing else stirred
in the room. The old, old fashion! The fashion that came in with our
first garments, and will last unchanged until our race has run its
course, and the wide firmament is rolled up like a scroll. The old, old

Oh thank GOD, all who see it, for that older fashion yet, of
Immortality! And look upon us, angels of young children, with regards
not quite estranged, when the swift river bears us to the ocean!

‘Dear me, dear me! To think,’ said Miss Tox, bursting out afresh that
night, as if her heart were broken, ‘that Dombey and Son should be a
Daughter after all!’

CHAPTER 17. Captain Cuttle does a little Business for the Young People

Captain Cuttle, in the exercise of that surprising talent for deep-laid
and unfathomable scheming, with which (as is not unusual in men of
transparent simplicity) he sincerely believed himself to be endowed by
nature, had gone to Mr Dombey’s house on the eventful Sunday, winking
all the way as a vent for his superfluous sagacity, and had presented
himself in the full lustre of the ankle-jacks before the eyes of
Towlinson. Hearing from that individual, to his great concern, of the
impending calamity, Captain Cuttle, in his delicacy, sheered off
again confounded; merely handing in the nosegay as a small mark of his
solicitude, and leaving his respectful compliments for the family in
general, which he accompanied with an expression of his hope that they
would lay their heads well to the wind under existing circumstances, and
a friendly intimation that he would ‘look up again’ to-morrow.

The Captain’s compliments were never heard of any more. The Captain’s
nosegay, after lying in the hall all night, was swept into the dust-bin
next morning; and the Captain’s sly arrangement, involved in one
catastrophe with greater hopes and loftier designs, was crushed to
pieces. So, when an avalanche bears down a mountain-forest, twigs and
bushes suffer with the trees, and all perish together.

When Walter returned home on the Sunday evening from his long walk, and
its memorable close, he was too much occupied at first by the tidings he
had to give them, and by the emotions naturally awakened in his breast
by the scene through which he had passed, to observe either that his
Uncle was evidently unacquainted with the intelligence the Captain had
undertaken to impart, or that the Captain made signals with his hook,
warning him to avoid the subject. Not that the Captain’s signals were
calculated to have proved very comprehensible, however attentively
observed; for, like those Chinese sages who are said in their
conferences to write certain learned words in the air that are wholly
impossible of pronunciation, the Captain made such waves and flourishes
as nobody without a previous knowledge of his mystery, would have been
at all likely to understand.

Captain Cuttle, however, becoming cognisant of what had happened,
relinquished these attempts, as he perceived the slender chance that now
existed of his being able to obtain a little easy chat with Mr Dombey
before the period of Walter’s departure. But in admitting to himself,
with a disappointed and crestfallen countenance, that Sol Gills must
be told, and that Walter must go--taking the case for the present as he
found it, and not having it enlightened or improved beforehand by the
knowing management of a friend--the Captain still felt an unabated
confidence that he, Ned Cuttle, was the man for Mr Dombey; and that, to
set Walter’s fortunes quite square, nothing was wanted but that they two
should come together. For the Captain never could forget how well he and
Mr Dombey had got on at Brighton; with what nicety each of them had put
in a word when it was wanted; how exactly they had taken one another’s
measure; nor how Ned Cuttle had pointed out that resources in the first
extremity, and had brought the interview to the desired termination. On
all these grounds the Captain soothed himself with thinking that though
Ned Cuttle was forced by the pressure of events to ‘stand by’ almost
useless for the present, Ned would fetch up with a wet sail in good
time, and carry all before him.

Under the influence of this good-natured delusion, Captain Cuttle even
went so far as to revolve in his own bosom, while he sat looking at
Walter and listening with a tear on his shirt-collar to what he related,
whether it might not be at once genteel and politic to give Mr Dombey a
verbal invitation, whenever they should meet, to come and cut his mutton
in Brig Place on some day of his own naming, and enter on the question
of his young friend’s prospects over a social glass. But the uncertain
temper of Mrs MacStinger, and the possibility of her setting up her rest
in the passage during such an entertainment, and there delivering
some homily of an uncomplimentary nature, operated as a check on the
Captain’s hospitable thoughts, and rendered him timid of giving them

One fact was quite clear to the Captain, as Walter, sitting thoughtfully
over his untasted dinner, dwelt on all that had happened; namely, that
however Walter’s modesty might stand in the way of his perceiving it
himself, he was, as one might say, a member of Mr Dombey’s family.
He had been, in his own person, connected with the incident he so
pathetically described; he had been by name remembered and commended
in close association with it; and his fortunes must have a particular
interest in his employer’s eyes. If the Captain had any lurking doubt
whatever of his own conclusions, he had not the least doubt that they
were good conclusions for the peace of mind of the Instrument-maker.
Therefore he availed himself of so favourable a moment for breaking
the West Indian intelligence to his friend, as a piece of extraordinary
preferment; declaring that for his part he would freely give a hundred
thousand pounds (if he had it) for Walter’s gain in the long-run, and
that he had no doubt such an investment would yield a handsome premium.

Solomon Gills was at first stunned by the communication, which fell
upon the little back-parlour like a thunderbolt, and tore up the hearth
savagely. But the Captain flashed such golden prospects before his dim
sight: hinted so mysteriously at Whittingtonian consequences; laid such
emphasis on what Walter had just now told them: and appealed to it so
confidently as a corroboration of his predictions, and a great advance
towards the realisation of the romantic legend of Lovely Peg: that he
bewildered the old man. Walter, for his part, feigned to be so full of
hope and ardour, and so sure of coming home again soon, and backed up
the Captain with such expressive shakings of his head and rubbings of
his hands, that Solomon, looking first at him then at Captain Cuttle,
began to think he ought to be transported with joy.

‘But I’m behind the time, you understand,’ he observed in apology,
passing his hand nervously down the whole row of bright buttons on his
coat, and then up again, as if they were beads and he were telling
them twice over: ‘and I would rather have my dear boy here. It’s
an old-fashioned notion, I daresay. He was always fond of the sea
He’s’--and he looked wistfully at Walter--‘he’s glad to go.’

‘Uncle Sol!’ cried Walter, quickly, ‘if you say that, I won’t go. No,
Captain Cuttle, I won’t. If my Uncle thinks I could be glad to leave
him, though I was going to be made Governor of all the Islands in the
West Indies, that’s enough. I’m a fixture.’

‘Wal’r, my lad,’ said the Captain. ‘Steady! Sol Gills, take an
observation of your nevy.’

Following with his eyes the majestic action of the Captain’s hook, the
old man looked at Walter.

‘Here is a certain craft,’ said the Captain, with a magnificent sense of
the allegory into which he was soaring, ‘a-going to put out on a certain
voyage. What name is wrote upon that craft indelibly? Is it The Gay?
or,’ said the Captain, raising his voice as much as to say, observe the
point of this, ‘is it The Gills?’

‘Ned,’ said the old man, drawing Walter to his side, and taking his
arm tenderly through his, ‘I know. I know. Of course I know that Wally
considers me more than himself always. That’s in my mind. When I say
he is glad to go, I mean I hope he is. Eh? look you, Ned and you too,
Wally, my dear, this is new and unexpected to me; and I’m afraid my
being behind the time, and poor, is at the bottom of it. Is it really
good fortune for him, do you tell me, now?’ said the old man, looking
anxiously from one to the other. ‘Really and truly? Is it? I can
reconcile myself to almost anything that advances Wally, but I won’t
have Wally putting himself at any disadvantage for me, or keeping
anything from me. You, Ned Cuttle!’ said the old man, fastening on the
Captain, to the manifest confusion of that diplomatist; ‘are you dealing
plainly by your old friend? Speak out, Ned Cuttle. Is there anything
behind? Ought he to go? How do you know it first, and why?’

As it was a contest of affection and self-denial, Walter struck in
with infinite effect, to the Captain’s relief; and between them they
tolerably reconciled old Sol Gills, by continued talking, to the
project; or rather so confused him, that nothing, not even the pain of
separation, was distinctly clear to his mind.

He had not much time to balance the matter; for on the very next day,
Walter received from Mr Carker the Manager, the necessary credentials
for his passage and outfit, together with the information that the Son
and Heir would sail in a fortnight, or within a day or two afterwards at
latest. In the hurry of preparation: which Walter purposely enhanced as
much as possible: the old man lost what little self-possession he ever
had; and so the time of departure drew on rapidly.

The Captain, who did not fail to make himself acquainted with all that
passed, through inquiries of Walter from day to day, found the time
still tending on towards his going away, without any occasion offering
itself, or seeming likely to offer itself, for a better understanding
of his position. It was after much consideration of this fact, and much
pondering over such an unfortunate combination of circumstances, that
a bright idea occurred to the Captain. Suppose he made a call on Mr
Carker, and tried to find out from him how the land really lay!

Captain Cuttle liked this idea very much. It came upon him in a moment
of inspiration, as he was smoking an early pipe in Brig Place after
breakfast; and it was worthy of the tobacco. It would quiet his
conscience, which was an honest one, and was made a little uneasy by
what Walter had confided to him, and what Sol Gills had said; and it
would be a deep, shrewd act of friendship. He would sound Mr Carker
carefully, and say much or little, just as he read that gentleman’s
character, and discovered that they got on well together or the reverse.

Accordingly, without the fear of Walter before his eyes (who he knew
was at home packing), Captain Cuttle again assumed his ankle-jacks
and mourning brooch, and issued forth on this second expedition. He
purchased no propitiatory nosegay on the present occasion, as he was
going to a place of business; but he put a small sunflower in his
button-hole to give himself an agreeable relish of the country; and
with this, and the knobby stick, and the glazed hat, bore down upon the
offices of Dombey and Son.

After taking a glass of warm rum-and-water at a tavern close by, to
collect his thoughts, the Captain made a rush down the court, lest its
good effects should evaporate, and appeared suddenly to Mr Perch.

‘Matey,’ said the Captain, in persuasive accents. ‘One of your Governors
is named Carker.’

Mr Perch admitted it; but gave him to understand, as in official duty
bound, that all his Governors were engaged, and never expected to be
disengaged any more.

‘Look’ee here, mate,’ said the Captain in his ear; ‘my name’s Cap’en

The Captain would have hooked Perch gently to him, but Mr Perch eluded
the attempt; not so much in design, as in starting at the sudden thought
that such a weapon unexpectedly exhibited to Mrs Perch might, in her
then condition, be destructive to that lady’s hopes.

‘If you’ll be so good as just report Cap’en Cuttle here, when you get a
chance,’ said the Captain, ‘I’ll wait.’

Saying which, the Captain took his seat on Mr Perch’s bracket, and
drawing out his handkerchief from the crown of the glazed hat which he
jammed between his knees (without injury to its shape, for nothing human
could bend it), rubbed his head well all over, and appeared refreshed.
He subsequently arranged his hair with his hook, and sat looking round
the office, contemplating the clerks with a serene respect.

The Captain’s equanimity was so impenetrable, and he was altogether so
mysterious a being, that Perch the messenger was daunted.

‘What name was it you said?’ asked Mr Perch, bending down over him as he
sat on the bracket.

‘Cap’en,’ in a deep hoarse whisper.

‘Yes,’ said Mr Perch, keeping time with his head.


‘Oh!’ said Mr Perch, in the same tone, for he caught it, and couldn’t
help it; the Captain, in his diplomacy, was so impressive. ‘I’ll see if
he’s disengaged now. I don’t know. Perhaps he may be for a minute.’

‘Ay, ay, my lad, I won’t detain him longer than a minute,’ said the
Captain, nodding with all the weighty importance that he felt within
him. Perch, soon returning, said, ‘Will Captain Cuttle walk this way?’

Mr Carker the Manager, standing on the hearth-rug before the empty
fireplace, which was ornamented with a castellated sheet of brown paper,
looked at the Captain as he came in, with no very special encouragement.

‘Mr Carker?’ said Captain Cuttle.

‘I believe so,’ said Mr Carker, showing all his teeth.

The Captain liked his answering with a smile; it looked pleasant. ‘You
see,’ began the Captain, rolling his eyes slowly round the little
room, and taking in as much of it as his shirt-collar permitted; ‘I’m a
seafaring man myself, Mr Carker, and Wal’r, as is on your books here, is
almost a son of mine.’

‘Walter Gay?’ said Mr Carker, showing all his teeth again.

‘Wal’r Gay it is,’ replied the Captain, ‘right!’ The Captain’s manner
expressed a warm approval of Mr Carker’s quickness of perception. ‘I’m a
intimate friend of his and his Uncle’s. Perhaps,’ said the Captain, ‘you
may have heard your head Governor mention my name?--Captain Cuttle.’

‘No!’ said Mr Carker, with a still wider demonstration than before.

‘Well,’ resumed the Captain, ‘I’ve the pleasure of his acquaintance.
I waited upon him down on the Sussex coast there, with my young friend
Wal’r, when--in short, when there was a little accommodation wanted.’
The Captain nodded his head in a manner that was at once comfortable,
easy, and expressive. ‘You remember, I daresay?’

‘I think,’ said Mr Carker, ‘I had the honour of arranging the business.’

‘To be sure!’ returned the Captain. ‘Right again! you had. Now I’ve took
the liberty of coming here--

‘Won’t you sit down?’ said Mr Carker, smiling.

‘Thank’ee,’ returned the Captain, availing himself of the offer. ‘A man
does get more way upon himself, perhaps, in his conversation, when he
sits down. Won’t you take a cheer yourself?’

‘No thank you,’ said the Manager, standing, perhaps from the force of
winter habit, with his back against the chimney-piece, and looking down
upon the Captain with an eye in every tooth and gum. ‘You have taken the
liberty, you were going to say--though it’s none--’

‘Thank’ee kindly, my lad,’ returned the Captain: ‘of coming here, on
account of my friend Wal’r. Sol Gills, his Uncle, is a man of science,
and in science he may be considered a clipper; but he ain’t what I
should altogether call a able seaman--not man of practice. Wal’r is as
trim a lad as ever stepped; but he’s a little down by the head in one
respect, and that is, modesty. Now what I should wish to put to
you,’ said the Captain, lowering his voice, and speaking in a kind of
confidential growl, ‘in a friendly way, entirely between you and me, and
for my own private reckoning, ‘till your head Governor has wore round a
bit, and I can come alongside of him, is this.--Is everything right and
comfortable here, and is Wal’r out’ard bound with a pretty fair wind?’

‘What do you think now, Captain Cuttle?’ returned Carker, gathering up
his skirts and settling himself in his position. ‘You are a practical
man; what do you think?’

The acuteness and the significance of the Captain’s eye as he cocked
it in reply, no words short of those unutterable Chinese words before
referred to could describe.

‘Come!’ said the Captain, unspeakably encouraged, ‘what do you say? Am I
right or wrong?’

So much had the Captain expressed in his eye, emboldened and incited
by Mr Carker’s smiling urbanity, that he felt himself in as fair a
condition to put the question, as if he had expressed his sentiments
with the utmost elaboration.

‘Right,’ said Mr Carker, ‘I have no doubt.’

‘Out’ard bound with fair weather, then, I say,’ cried Captain Cuttle.

Mr Carker smiled assent.

‘Wind right astarn, and plenty of it,’ pursued the Captain.

Mr Carker smiled assent again.

‘Ay, ay!’ said Captain Cuttle, greatly relieved and pleased. ‘I know’d
how she headed, well enough; I told Wal’r so. Thank’ee, thank’ee.’

‘Gay has brilliant prospects,’ observed Mr Carker, stretching his mouth
wider yet: ‘all the world before him.’

‘All the world and his wife too, as the saying is,’ returned the
delighted Captain.

At the word ‘wife’ (which he had uttered without design), the Captain
stopped, cocked his eye again, and putting the glazed hat on the top
of the knobby stick, gave it a twirl, and looked sideways at his always
smiling friend.

‘I’d bet a gill of old Jamaica,’ said the Captain, eyeing him
attentively, ‘that I know what you’re a smiling at.’

Mr Carker took his cue, and smiled the more.

‘It goes no farther?’ said the Captain, making a poke at the door with
the knobby stick to assure himself that it was shut.

‘Not an inch,’ said Mr Carker.

‘You’re thinking of a capital F perhaps?’ said the Captain.

Mr Carker didn’t deny it.

‘Anything about a L,’ said the Captain, ‘or a O?’

Mr Carker still smiled.

‘Am I right, again?’ inquired the Captain in a whisper, with the scarlet
circle on his forehead swelling in his triumphant joy.

Mr Carker, in reply, still smiling, and now nodding assent, Captain
Cuttle rose and squeezed him by the hand, assuring him, warmly, that
they were on the same tack, and that as for him (Cuttle) he had laid his
course that way all along. ‘He know’d her first,’ said the Captain, with
all the secrecy and gravity that the subject demanded, ‘in an uncommon
manner--you remember his finding her in the street when she was a’most
a babby--he has liked her ever since, and she him, as much as two
youngsters can. We’ve always said, Sol Gills and me, that they was cut
out for each other.’

A cat, or a monkey, or a hyena, or a death’s-head, could not have shown
the Captain more teeth at one time, than Mr Carker showed him at this
period of their interview.

‘There’s a general indraught that way,’ observed the happy Captain.
‘Wind and water sets in that direction, you see. Look at his being
present t’other day!’

‘Most favourable to his hopes,’ said Mr Carker.

‘Look at his being towed along in the wake of that day!’ pursued the
Captain. ‘Why what can cut him adrift now?’

‘Nothing,’ replied Mr Carker.

‘You’re right again,’ returned the Captain, giving his hand another
squeeze. ‘Nothing it is. So! steady! There’s a son gone: pretty little
creetur. Ain’t there?’

‘Yes, there’s a son gone,’ said the acquiescent Carker.

‘Pass the word, and there’s another ready for you,’ quoth the Captain.
‘Nevy of a scientific Uncle! Nevy of Sol Gills! Wal’r! Wal’r, as is
already in your business! And’--said the Captain, rising gradually to
a quotation he was preparing for a final burst, ‘who--comes from Sol
Gills’s daily, to your business, and your buzzums.’

The Captain’s complacency as he gently jogged Mr Carker with his elbow,
on concluding each of the foregoing short sentences, could be surpassed
by nothing but the exultation with which he fell back and eyed him when
he had finished this brilliant display of eloquence and sagacity; his
great blue waistcoat heaving with the throes of such a masterpiece, and
his nose in a state of violent inflammation from the same cause.

‘Am I right?’ said the Captain.

‘Captain Cuttle,’ said Mr Carker, bending down at the knees, for a
moment, in an odd manner, as if he were falling together to hug the
whole of himself at once, ‘your views in reference to Walter Gay are
thoroughly and accurately right. I understand that we speak together in

‘Honour!’ interposed the Captain. ‘Not a word.’

‘To him or anyone?’ pursued the Manager.

Captain Cuttle frowned and shook his head.

‘But merely for your own satisfaction and guidance--and guidance, of
course,’ repeated Mr Carker, ‘with a view to your future proceedings.’

‘Thank’ee kindly, I am sure,’ said the Captain, listening with great

‘I have no hesitation in saying, that’s the fact. You have hit the
probabilities exactly.’

‘And with regard to your head Governor,’ said the Captain, ‘why an
interview had better come about nat’ral between us. There’s time

Mr Carker, with his mouth from ear to ear, repeated, ‘Time enough.’ Not
articulating the words, but bowing his head affably, and forming them
with his tongue and lips.

‘And as I know--it’s what I always said--that Wal’r’s in a way to make
his fortune,’ said the Captain.

‘To make his fortune,’ Mr Carker repeated, in the same dumb manner.

‘And as Wal’r’s going on this little voyage is, as I may say, in his
day’s work, and a part of his general expectations here,’ said the

‘Of his general expectations here,’ assented Mr Carker, dumbly as

‘Why, so long as I know that,’ pursued the Captain, ‘there’s no hurry,
and my mind’s at ease.

Mr Carker still blandly assenting in the same voiceless manner, Captain
Cuttle was strongly confirmed in his opinion that he was one of the most
agreeable men he had ever met, and that even Mr Dombey might improve
himself on such a model. With great heartiness, therefore, the Captain
once again extended his enormous hand (not unlike an old block in
colour), and gave him a grip that left upon his smoother flesh a proof
impression of the chinks and crevices with which the Captain’s palm was
liberally tattooed.

‘Farewell!’ said the Captain. ‘I ain’t a man of many words, but I take
it very kind of you to be so friendly, and above-board. You’ll excuse me
if I’ve been at all intruding, will you?’ said the Captain.

‘Not at all,’ returned the other.

‘Thank’ee. My berth ain’t very roomy,’ said the Captain, turning back
again, ‘but it’s tolerably snug; and if you was to find yourself near
Brig Place, number nine, at any time--will you make a note of it?--and
would come upstairs, without minding what was said by the person at the
door, I should be proud to see you.

With that hospitable invitation, the Captain said ‘Good day!’ and walked
out and shut the door; leaving Mr Carker still reclining against the
chimney-piece. In whose sly look and watchful manner; in whose false
mouth, stretched but not laughing; in whose spotless cravat and very
whiskers; even in whose silent passing of his soft hand over his white
linen and his smooth face; there was something desperately cat-like.

The unconscious Captain walked out in a state of self-glorification that
imparted quite a new cut to the broad blue suit. ‘Stand by, Ned!’
said the Captain to himself. ‘You’ve done a little business for the
youngsters today, my lad!’

In his exultation, and in his familiarity, present and prospective,
with the House, the Captain, when he reached the outer office, could
not refrain from rallying Mr Perch a little, and asking him whether he
thought everybody was still engaged. But not to be bitter on a man who
had done his duty, the Captain whispered in his ear, that if he felt
disposed for a glass of rum-and-water, and would follow, he would be
happy to bestow the same upon him.

Before leaving the premises, the Captain, somewhat to the astonishment
of the clerks, looked round from a central point of view, and took a
general survey of the officers part and parcel of a project in which his
young friend was nearly interested. The strong-room excited his especial
admiration; but, that he might not appear too particular, he limited
himself to an approving glance, and, with a graceful recognition of the
clerks as a body, that was full of politeness and patronage, passed
out into the court. Being promptly joined by Mr Perch, he conveyed that
gentleman to the tavern, and fulfilled his pledge--hastily, for Perch’s
time was precious.

‘I’ll give you for a toast,’ said the Captain, ‘Wal’r!’

‘Who?’ submitted Mr Perch.

‘Wal’r!’ repeated the Captain, in a voice of thunder.

Mr Perch, who seemed to remember having heard in infancy that there was
once a poet of that name, made no objection; but he was much astonished
at the Captain’s coming into the City to propose a poet; indeed, if
he had proposed to put a poet’s statue up--say Shakespeare’s for
example--in a civic thoroughfare, he could hardly have done a greater
outrage to Mr Perch’s experience. On the whole, he was such a mysterious
and incomprehensible character, that Mr Perch decided not to mention
him to Mrs Perch at all, in case of giving rise to any disagreeable

Mysterious and incomprehensible, the Captain, with that lively sense
upon him of having done a little business for the youngsters, remained
all day, even to his most intimate friends; and but that Walter
attributed his winks and grins, and other such pantomimic reliefs of
himself, to his satisfaction in the success of their innocent deception
upon old Sol Gills, he would assuredly have betrayed himself before
night. As it was, however, he kept his own secret; and went home late
from the Instrument-maker’s house, wearing the glazed hat so much on
one side, and carrying such a beaming expression in his eyes, that Mrs
MacStinger (who might have been brought up at Doctor Blimber’s, she was
such a Roman matron) fortified herself, at the first glimpse of
him, behind the open street door, and refused to come out to the
contemplation of her blessed infants, until he was securely lodged in
his own room.

CHAPTER 18. Father and Daughter

There is a hush through Mr Dombey’s house. Servants gliding up and
down stairs rustle, but make no sound of footsteps. They talk together
constantly, and sit long at meals, making much of their meat and drink,
and enjoying themselves after a grim unholy fashion. Mrs Wickam, with
her eyes suffused with tears, relates melancholy anecdotes; and tells
them how she always said at Mrs Pipchin’s that it would be so, and takes
more table-ale than usual, and is very sorry but sociable. Cook’s state
of mind is similar. She promises a little fry for supper, and struggles
about equally against her feelings and the onions. Towlinson begins to
think there’s a fate in it, and wants to know if anybody can tell him
of any good that ever came of living in a corner house. It seems to all
of them as having happened a long time ago; though yet the child lies,
calm and beautiful, upon his little bed.

After dark there come some visitors--noiseless visitors, with shoes of
felt--who have been there before; and with them comes that bed of
rest which is so strange a one for infant sleepers. All this time, the
bereaved father has not been seen even by his attendant; for he sits
in an inner corner of his own dark room when anyone is there, and never
seems to move at other times, except to pace it to and fro. But in the
morning it is whispered among the household that he was heard to go
upstairs in the dead night, and that he stayed there--in the room--until
the sun was shining.

At the offices in the City, the ground-glass windows are made more
dim by shutters; and while the lighted lamps upon the desks are half
extinguished by the day that wanders in, the day is half extinguished
by the lamps, and an unusual gloom prevails. There is not much business
done. The clerks are indisposed to work; and they make assignations to
eat chops in the afternoon, and go up the river. Perch, the messenger,
stays long upon his errands; and finds himself in bars of public-houses,
invited thither by friends, and holding forth on the uncertainty of
human affairs. He goes home to Ball’s Pond earlier in the evening than
usual, and treats Mrs Perch to a veal cutlet and Scotch ale. Mr Carker
the Manager treats no one; neither is he treated; but alone in his
own room he shows his teeth all day; and it would seem that there is
something gone from Mr Carker’s path--some obstacle removed--which
clears his way before him.

Now the rosy children living opposite to Mr Dombey’s house, peep from
their nursery windows down into the street; for there are four black
horses at his door, with feathers on their heads; and feathers tremble
on the carriage that they draw; and these, and an array of men with
scarves and staves, attract a crowd. The juggler who was going to twirl
the basin, puts his loose coat on again over his fine dress; and his
trudging wife, one-sided with her heavy baby in her arms, loiters to
see the company come out. But closer to her dingy breast she presses her
baby, when the burden that is so easily carried is borne forth; and
the youngest of the rosy children at the high window opposite, needs
no restraining hand to check her in her glee, when, pointing with her
dimpled finger, she looks into her nurse’s face, and asks ‘What’s that?’

And now, among the knot of servants dressed in mourning, and the weeping
women, Mr Dombey passes through the hall to the other carriage that is
waiting to receive him. He is not ‘brought down,’ these observers think,
by sorrow and distress of mind. His walk is as erect, his bearing is as
stiff as ever it has been. He hides his face behind no handkerchief, and
looks before him. But that his face is something sunk and rigid, and is
pale, it bears the same expression as of old. He takes his place within
the carriage, and three other gentlemen follow. Then the grand funeral
moves slowly down the street. The feathers are yet nodding in the
distance, when the juggler has the basin spinning on a cane, and has the
same crowd to admire it. But the juggler’s wife is less alert than
usual with the money-box, for a child’s burial has set her thinking that
perhaps the baby underneath her shabby shawl may not grow up to be a
man, and wear a sky-blue fillet round his head, and salmon-coloured
worsted drawers, and tumble in the mud.

The feathers wind their gloomy way along the streets, and come within
the sound of a church bell. In this same church, the pretty boy received
all that will soon be left of him on earth--a name. All of him that is
dead, they lay there, near the perishable substance of his mother. It
is well. Their ashes lie where Florence in her walks--oh lonely, lonely
walks!--may pass them any day.

The service over, and the clergyman withdrawn, Mr Dombey looks round,
demanding in a low voice, whether the person who has been requested to
attend to receive instructions for the tablet, is there?

Someone comes forward, and says ‘Yes.’

Mr Dombey intimates where he would have it placed; and shows him, with
his hand upon the wall, the shape and size; and how it is to follow
the memorial to the mother. Then, with his pencil, he writes out the
inscription, and gives it to him: adding, ‘I wish to have it done at

‘It shall be done immediately, Sir.’

‘There is really nothing to inscribe but name and age, you see.’

The man bows, glancing at the paper, but appears to hesitate. Mr Dombey
not observing his hesitation, turns away, and leads towards the porch.

‘I beg your pardon, Sir;’ a touch falls gently on his mourning cloak;
‘but as you wish it done immediately, and it may be put in hand when I
get back--’


‘Will you be so good as read it over again? I think there’s a mistake.’


The statuary gives him back the paper, and points out, with his pocket
rule, the words, ‘beloved and only child.’

‘It should be, “son,” I think, Sir?’

‘You are right. Of course. Make the correction.’

The father, with a hastier step, pursues his way to the coach. When the
other three, who follow closely, take their seats, his face is hidden
for the first time--shaded by his cloak. Nor do they see it any more
that day. He alights first, and passes immediately into his own room.
The other mourners (who are only Mr Chick, and two of the medical
attendants) proceed upstairs to the drawing-room, to be received by
Mrs Chick and Miss Tox. And what the face is, in the shut-up chamber
underneath: or what the thoughts are: what the heart is, what the
contest or the suffering: no one knows.

The chief thing that they know, below stairs, in the kitchen, is that
‘it seems like Sunday.’ They can hardly persuade themselves but that
there is something unbecoming, if not wicked, in the conduct of the
people out of doors, who pursue their ordinary occupations, and wear
their everyday attire. It is quite a novelty to have the blinds up, and
the shutters open; and they make themselves dismally comfortable over
bottles of wine, which are freely broached as on a festival. They are
much inclined to moralise. Mr Towlinson proposes with a sigh, ‘Amendment
to us all!’ for which, as Cook says with another sigh, ‘There’s room
enough, God knows.’ In the evening, Mrs Chick and Miss Tox take to
needlework again. In the evening also, Mr Towlinson goes out to take the
air, accompanied by the housemaid, who has not yet tried her mourning
bonnet. They are very tender to each other at dusky street-corners, and
Towlinson has visions of leading an altered and blameless existence as a
serious greengrocer in Oxford Market.

There is sounder sleep and deeper rest in Mr Dombey’s house tonight,
than there has been for many nights. The morning sun awakens the old
household, settled down once more in their old ways. The rosy children
opposite run past with hoops. There is a splendid wedding in the church.
The juggler’s wife is active with the money-box in another quarter of
the town. The mason sings and whistles as he chips out P-A-U-L in the
marble slab before him.

And can it be that in a world so full and busy, the loss of one weak
creature makes a void in any heart, so wide and deep that nothing but
the width and depth of vast eternity can fill it up! Florence, in her
innocent affliction, might have answered, ‘Oh my brother, oh my dearly
loved and loving brother! Only friend and companion of my slighted
childhood! Could any less idea shed the light already dawning on your
early grave, or give birth to the softened sorrow that is springing into
life beneath this rain of tears!’

‘My dear child,’ said Mrs Chick, who held it as a duty incumbent on her,
to improve the occasion, ‘when you are as old as I am--’

‘Which will be the prime of life,’ observed Miss Tox.

‘You will then,’ pursued Mrs Chick, gently squeezing Miss Tox’s hand
in acknowledgment of her friendly remark, ‘you will then know that all
grief is unavailing, and that it is our duty to submit.’

‘I will try, dear aunt I do try,’ answered Florence, sobbing.

‘I am glad to hear it,’ said Mrs Chick, ‘because; my love, as our dear
Miss Tox--of whose sound sense and excellent judgment, there cannot
possibly be two opinions--’

‘My dear Louisa, I shall really be proud, soon,’ said Miss Tox.

‘--will tell you, and confirm by her experience,’ pursued Mrs Chick,
‘we are called upon on all occasions to make an effort It is required of
us. If any--my dear,’ turning to Miss Tox, ‘I want a word. Mis--Mis-’

‘Demeanour?’ suggested Miss Tox.

‘No, no, no,’ said Mrs Chic ‘How can you! Goodness me, it’s on, the end
of my tongue. Mis-’

‘Placed affection?’ suggested Miss Tox, timidly.

‘Good gracious, Lucretia!’ returned Mrs Chick ‘How very monstrous!
Misanthrope, is the word I want. The idea! Misplaced affection! I say,
if any misanthrope were to put, in my presence, the question “Why were
we born?” I should reply, “To make an effort”.’

‘Very good indeed,’ said Miss Tox, much impressed by the originality of
the sentiment ‘Very good.’

‘Unhappily,’ pursued Mrs Chick, ‘we have a warning under our own eyes.
We have but too much reason to suppose, my dear child, that if an effort
had been made in time, in this family, a train of the most trying and
distressing circumstances might have been avoided. Nothing shall ever
persuade me,’ observed the good matron, with a resolute air, ‘but that
if that effort had been made by poor dear Fanny, the poor dear darling
child would at least have had a stronger constitution.’

Mrs Chick abandoned herself to her feelings for half a moment; but, as a
practical illustration of her doctrine, brought herself up short, in the
middle of a sob, and went on again.

‘Therefore, Florence, pray let us see that you have some strength of
mind, and do not selfishly aggravate the distress in which your poor
Papa is plunged.’

‘Dear aunt!’ said Florence, kneeling quickly down before her, that she
might the better and more earnestly look into her face. ‘Tell me more
about Papa. Pray tell me about him! Is he quite heartbroken?’

Miss Tox was of a tender nature, and there was something in this appeal
that moved her very much. Whether she saw it in a succession, on the
part of the neglected child, to the affectionate concern so often
expressed by her dead brother--or a love that sought to twine itself
about the heart that had loved him, and that could not bear to be shut
out from sympathy with such a sorrow, in such sad community of love and
grief--or whether she only recognised the earnest and devoted spirit
which, although discarded and repulsed, was wrung with tenderness long
unreturned, and in the waste and solitude of this bereavement cried
to him to seek a comfort in it, and to give some, by some small
response--whatever may have been her understanding of it, it moved Miss
Tox. For the moment she forgot the majesty of Mrs Chick, and, patting
Florence hastily on the cheek, turned aside and suffered the tears to
gush from her eyes, without waiting for a lead from that wise matron.

Mrs Chick herself lost, for a moment, the presence of mind on which
she so much prided herself; and remained mute, looking on the beautiful
young face that had so long, so steadily, and patiently, been turned
towards the little bed. But recovering her voice--which was synonymous
with her presence of mind, indeed they were one and the same thing--she
replied with dignity:

‘Florence, my dear child, your poor Papa is peculiar at times; and to
question me about him, is to question me upon a subject which I really
do not pretend to understand. I believe I have as much influence with
your Papa as anybody has. Still, all I can say is, that he has said very
little to me; and that I have only seen him once or twice for a minute
at a time, and indeed have hardly seen him then, for his room has been
dark. I have said to your Papa, “Paul!”--that is the exact expression
I used--“Paul! why do you not take something stimulating?” Your Papa’s
reply has always been, “Louisa, have the goodness to leave me. I
want nothing. I am better by myself.” If I was to be put upon my oath
to-morrow, Lucretia, before a magistrate,’ said Mrs Chick, ‘I have no
doubt I could venture to swear to those identical words.’

Miss Tox expressed her admiration by saying, ‘My Louisa is ever

‘In short, Florence,’ resumed her aunt, ‘literally nothing has passed
between your poor Papa and myself, until to-day; when I mentioned to
your Papa that Sir Barnet and Lady Skettles had written exceedingly kind
notes--our sweet boy! Lady Skettles loved him like a--where’s my pocket

Miss Tox produced one.

‘Exceedingly kind notes, proposing that you should visit them for change
of scene. Mentioning to your Papa that I thought Miss Tox and myself
might now go home (in which he quite agreed), I inquired if he had any
objection to your accepting this invitation. He said, “No, Louisa, not
the least!”’

Florence raised her tearful eye.

‘At the same time, if you would prefer staying here, Florence, to paying
this visit at present, or to going home with me--’

‘I should much prefer it, aunt,’ was the faint rejoinder.

‘Why then, child,’ said Mrs Chick, ‘you can. It’s a strange choice, I
must say. But you always were strange. Anybody else at your time of
life, and after what has passed--my dear Miss Tox, I have lost my pocket
handkerchief again--would be glad to leave here, one would suppose.’

‘I should not like to feel,’ said Florence, ‘as if the house was
avoided. I should not like to think that the--his--the rooms upstairs
were quite empty and dreary, aunt. I would rather stay here, for the
present. Oh my brother! oh my brother!’

It was a natural emotion, not to be suppressed; and it would make way
even between the fingers of the hands with which she covered up her
face. The overcharged and heavy-laden breast must some times have that
vent, or the poor wounded solitary heart within it would have fluttered
like a bird with broken wings, and sunk down in the dust.

‘Well, child!’ said Mrs Chick, after a pause ‘I wouldn’t on any account
say anything unkind to you, and that I’m sure you know. You will remain
here, then, and do exactly as you like. No one will interfere with you,
Florence, or wish to interfere with you, I’m sure.’

Florence shook her head in sad assent.

‘I had no sooner begun to advise your poor Papa that he really ought to
seek some distraction and restoration in a temporary change,’ said Mrs
Chick, ‘than he told me he had already formed the intention of going
into the country for a short time. I’m sure I hope he’ll go very
soon. He can’t go too soon. But I suppose there are some arrangements
connected with his private papers and so forth, consequent on the
affliction that has tried us all so much--I can’t think what’s become of
mine: Lucretia, lend me yours, my dear--that may occupy him for one or
two evenings in his own room. Your Papa’s a Dombey, child, if ever there
was one,’ said Mrs Chick, drying both her eyes at once with great care
on opposite corners of Miss Tox’s handkerchief ‘He’ll make an effort.
There’s no fear of him.’

‘Is there nothing, aunt,’ said Florence, trembling, ‘I might do to--’

‘Lord, my dear child,’ interposed Mrs Chick, hastily, ‘what are you
talking about? If your Papa said to Me--I have given you his exact
words, “Louisa, I want nothing; I am better by myself”--what do you
think he’d say to you? You mustn’t show yourself to him, child. Don’t
dream of such a thing.’

‘Aunt,’ said Florence, ‘I will go and lie down on my bed.’

Mrs Chick approved of this resolution, and dismissed her with a
kiss. But Miss Tox, on a faint pretence of looking for the mislaid
handkerchief, went upstairs after her; and tried in a few stolen minutes
to comfort her, in spite of great discouragement from Susan Nipper. For
Miss Nipper, in her burning zeal, disparaged Miss Tox as a crocodile;
yet her sympathy seemed genuine, and had at least the vantage-ground of
disinterestedness--there was little favour to be won by it.

And was there no one nearer and dearer than Susan, to uphold the
striving heart in its anguish? Was there no other neck to clasp; no
other face to turn to? no one else to say a soothing word to such deep
sorrow? Was Florence so alone in the bleak world that nothing else
remained to her? Nothing. Stricken motherless and brotherless at
once--for in the loss of little Paul, that first and greatest loss fell
heavily upon her--this was the only help she had. Oh, who can tell how
much she needed help at first!

At first, when the house subsided into its accustomed course, and they
had all gone away, except the servants, and her father shut up in his
own rooms, Florence could do nothing but weep, and wander up and down,
and sometimes, in a sudden pang of desolate remembrance, fly to her
own chamber, wring her hands, lay her face down on her bed, and know
no consolation: nothing but the bitterness and cruelty of grief.
This commonly ensued upon the recognition of some spot or object very
tenderly associated with him; and it made the miserable house, at first,
a place of agony.

But it is not in the nature of pure love to burn so fiercely and
unkindly long. The flame that in its grosser composition has the taint
of earth may prey upon the breast that gives it shelter; but the fire
from heaven is as gentle in the heart, as when it rested on the heads
of the assembled twelve, and showed each man his brother, brightened and
unhurt. The image conjured up, there soon returned the placid face, the
softened voice, the loving looks, the quiet trustfulness and peace; and
Florence, though she wept still, wept more tranquilly, and courted the

It was not very long before the golden water, dancing on the wall, in
the old place, at the old serene time, had her calm eye fixed upon it
as it ebbed away. It was not very long before that room again knew
her, often; sitting there alone, as patient and as mild as when she had
watched beside the little bed. When any sharp sense of its being empty
smote upon her, she could kneel beside it, and pray GOD--it was the
pouring out of her full heart--to let one angel love her and remember

It was not very long before, in the midst of the dismal house so
wide and dreary, her low voice in the twilight, slowly and stopping
sometimes, touched the old air to which he had so often listened, with
his drooping head upon her arm. And after that, and when it was quite
dark, a little strain of music trembled in the room: so softly played
and sung, that it was more like the mournful recollection of what she
had done at his request on that last night, than the reality repeated.
But it was repeated, often--very often, in the shadowy solitude; and
broken murmurs of the strain still trembled on the keys, when the sweet
voice was hushed in tears.

Thus she gained heart to look upon the work with which her fingers had
been busy by his side on the sea-shore; and thus it was not very long
before she took to it again--with something of a human love for it, as
if it had been sentient and had known him; and, sitting in a window,
near her mother’s picture, in the unused room so long deserted, wore
away the thoughtful hours.

Why did the dark eyes turn so often from this work to where the rosy
children lived? They were not immediately suggestive of her loss; for
they were all girls: four little sisters. But they were motherless like
her--and had a father.

It was easy to know when he had gone out and was expected home, for the
elder child was always dressed and waiting for him at the drawing-room
window, or on the balcony; and when he appeared, her expectant face
lighted up with joy, while the others at the high window, and always on
the watch too, clapped their hands, and drummed them on the sill, and
called to him. The elder child would come down to the hall, and put
her hand in his, and lead him up the stairs; and Florence would see her
afterwards sitting by his side, or on his knee, or hanging coaxingly
about his neck and talking to him: and though they were always gay
together, he would often watch her face as if he thought her like her
mother that was dead. Florence would sometimes look no more at this,
and bursting into tears would hide behind the curtain as if she were
frightened, or would hurry from the window. Yet she could not help
returning; and her work would soon fall unheeded from her hands again.

It was the house that had been empty, years ago. It had remained so for
a long time. At last, and while she had been away from home, this family
had taken it; and it was repaired and newly painted; and there were
birds and flowers about it; and it looked very different from its old
self. But she never thought of the house. The children and their father
were all in all.

When he had dined, she could see them, through the open windows, go down
with their governess or nurse, and cluster round the table; and in
the still summer weather, the sound of their childish voices and clear
laughter would come ringing across the street, into the drooping air of
the room in which she sat. Then they would climb and clamber upstairs
with him, and romp about him on the sofa, or group themselves at his
knee, a very nosegay of little faces, while he seemed to tell them
some story. Or they would come running out into the balcony; and then
Florence would hide herself quickly, lest it should check them in their
joy, to see her in her black dress, sitting there alone.

The elder child remained with her father when the rest had gone away,
and made his tea for him--happy little house-keeper she was then!--and
sat conversing with him, sometimes at the window, sometimes in the room,
until the candles came. He made her his companion, though she was some
years younger than Florence; and she could be as staid and pleasantly
demure, with her little book or work-box, as a woman. When they had
candles, Florence from her own dark room was not afraid to look again.
But when the time came for the child to say ‘Good-night, Papa,’ and go
to bed, Florence would sob and tremble as she raised her face to him,
and could look no more.

Though still she would turn, again and again, before going to bed
herself from the simple air that had lulled him to rest so often, long
ago, and from the other low soft broken strain of music, back to that
house. But that she ever thought of it, or watched it, was a secret
which she kept within her own young breast.

And did that breast of Florence--Florence, so ingenuous and true--so
worthy of the love that he had borne her, and had whispered in his last
faint words--whose guileless heart was mirrored in the beauty of her
face, and breathed in every accent of her gentle voice--did that young
breast hold any other secret? Yes. One more.

When no one in the house was stirring, and the lights were all
extinguished, she would softly leave her own room, and with noiseless
feet descend the staircase, and approach her father’s door. Against
it, scarcely breathing, she would rest her face and head, and press
her lips, in the yearning of her love. She crouched upon the cold stone
floor outside it, every night, to listen even for his breath; and in
her one absorbing wish to be allowed to show him some affection, to be a
consolation to him, to win him over to the endurance of some tenderness
from her, his solitary child, she would have knelt down at his feet, if
she had dared, in humble supplication.

No one knew it. No one thought of it. The door was ever closed, and he
shut up within. He went out once or twice, and it was said in the house
that he was very soon going on his country journey; but he lived in
those rooms, and lived alone, and never saw her, or inquired for her.
Perhaps he did not even know that she was in the house.

One day, about a week after the funeral, Florence was sitting at her
work, when Susan appeared, with a face half laughing and half crying, to
announce a visitor.

‘A visitor! To me, Susan!’ said Florence, looking up in astonishment.

‘Well, it is a wonder, ain’t it now, Miss Floy?’ said Susan; ‘but I wish
you had a many visitors, I do, indeed, for you’d be all the better for
it, and it’s my opinion that the sooner you and me goes even to them old
Skettleses, Miss, the better for both, I may not wish to live in crowds,
Miss Floy, but still I’m not a oyster.’

To do Miss Nipper justice, she spoke more for her young mistress than
herself; and her face showed it.

‘But the visitor, Susan,’ said Florence.

Susan, with an hysterical explosion that was as much a laugh as a sob,
and as much a sob as a laugh, answered,

‘Mr Toots!’

The smile that appeared on Florence’s face passed from it in a moment,
and her eyes filled with tears. But at any rate it was a smile, and that
gave great satisfaction to Miss Nipper.

‘My own feelings exactly, Miss Floy,’ said Susan, putting her apron to
her eyes, and shaking her head. ‘Immediately I see that Innocent in the
Hall, Miss Floy, I burst out laughing first, and then I choked.’

Susan Nipper involuntarily proceeded to do the like again on the
spot. In the meantime Mr Toots, who had come upstairs after her, all
unconscious of the effect he produced, announced himself with his
knuckles on the door, and walked in very briskly.

‘How d’ye do, Miss Dombey?’ said Mr Toots. ‘I’m very well, I thank you;
how are you?’

Mr Toots--than whom there were few better fellows in the world, though
there may have been one or two brighter spirits--had laboriously
invented this long burst of discourse with the view of relieving the
feelings both of Florence and himself. But finding that he had
run through his property, as it were, in an injudicious manner, by
squandering the whole before taking a chair, or before Florence had
uttered a word, or before he had well got in at the door, he deemed it
advisable to begin again.

‘How d’ye do, Miss Dombey?’ said Mr Toots. ‘I’m very well, I thank you;
how are you?’

Florence gave him her hand, and said she was very well.

‘I’m very well indeed,’ said Mr Toots, taking a chair. ‘Very well
indeed, I am. I don’t remember,’ said Mr Toots, after reflecting a
little, ‘that I was ever better, thank you.’

‘It’s very kind of you to come,’ said Florence, taking up her work, ‘I
am very glad to see you.’

Mr Toots responded with a chuckle. Thinking that might be too lively,
he corrected it with a sigh. Thinking that might be too melancholy, he
corrected it with a chuckle. Not thoroughly pleasing himself with either
mode of reply, he breathed hard.

‘You were very kind to my dear brother,’ said Florence, obeying her
own natural impulse to relieve him by saying so. ‘He often talked to me
about you.’

‘Oh it’s of no consequence,’ said Mr Toots hastily. ‘Warm, ain’t it?’

‘It is beautiful weather,’ replied Florence.

‘It agrees with me!’ said Mr Toots. ‘I don’t think I ever was so well as
I find myself at present, I’m obliged to you.

After stating this curious and unexpected fact, Mr Toots fell into a
deep well of silence.

‘You have left Dr Blimber’s, I think?’ said Florence, trying to help him

‘I should hope so,’ returned Mr Toots. And tumbled in again.

He remained at the bottom, apparently drowned, for at least ten minutes.
At the expiration of that period, he suddenly floated, and said,

‘Well! Good morning, Miss Dombey.’

‘Are you going?’ asked Florence, rising.

‘I don’t know, though. No, not just at present,’ said Mr Toots, sitting
down again, most unexpectedly. ‘The fact is--I say, Miss Dombey!’

‘Don’t be afraid to speak to me,’ said Florence, with a quiet smile, ‘I
should be very glad if you would talk about my brother.’

‘Would you, though?’ retorted Mr Toots, with sympathy in every fibre
of his otherwise expressionless face. ‘Poor Dombey! I’m sure I never
thought that Burgess and Co.--fashionable tailors (but very dear),
that we used to talk about--would make this suit of clothes for such a
purpose.’ Mr Toots was dressed in mourning. ‘Poor Dombey! I say! Miss
Dombey!’ blubbered Toots.

‘Yes,’ said Florence.

‘There’s a friend he took to very much at last. I thought you’d lIke to
have him, perhaps, as a sort of keepsake. You remember his remembering

‘Oh yes! oh yes’ cried Florence.

‘Poor Dombey! So do I,’ said Mr Toots.

Mr Toots, seeing Florence in tears, had great difficulty in getting
beyond this point, and had nearly tumbled into the well again. But a
chuckle saved him on the brink.

‘I say,’ he proceeded, ‘Miss Dombey! I could have had him stolen for ten
shillings, if they hadn’t given him up: and I would: but they were glad
to get rid of him, I think. If you’d like to have him, he’s at the door.
I brought him on purpose for you. He ain’t a lady’s dog, you know,’ said
Mr Toots, ‘but you won’t mind that, will you?’

In fact, Diogenes was at that moment, as they presently ascertained from
looking down into the street, staring through the window of a hackney
cabriolet, into which, for conveyance to that spot, he had been
ensnared, on a false pretence of rats among the straw. Sooth to say, he
was as unlike a lady’s dog as might be; and in his gruff anxiety to get
out, presented an appearance sufficiently unpromising, as he gave short
yelps out of one side of his mouth, and overbalancing himself by the
intensity of every one of those efforts, tumbled down into the straw,
and then sprung panting up again, putting out his tongue, as if he had
come express to a Dispensary to be examined for his health.

But though Diogenes was as ridiculous a dog as one would meet with on
a summer’s day; a blundering, ill-favoured, clumsy, bullet-headed
dog, continually acting on a wrong idea that there was an enemy in the
neighbourhood, whom it was meritorious to bark at; and though he was far
from good-tempered, and certainly was not clever, and had hair all over
his eyes, and a comic nose, and an inconsistent tail, and a gruff voice;
he was dearer to Florence, in virtue of that parting remembrance of him,
and that request that he might be taken care of, than the most valuable
and beautiful of his kind. So dear, indeed, was this same ugly Diogenes,
and so welcome to her, that she took the jewelled hand of Mr Toots and
kissed it in her gratitude. And when Diogenes, released, came tearing
up the stairs and bouncing into the room (such a business as there was,
first, to get him out of the cabriolet!), dived under all the furniture,
and wound a long iron chain, that dangled from his neck, round legs
of chairs and tables, and then tugged at it until his eyes became
unnaturally visible, in consequence of their nearly starting out of his
head; and when he growled at Mr Toots, who affected familiarity; and
went pell-mell at Towlinson, morally convinced that he was the enemy
whom he had barked at round the corner all his life and had never seen
yet; Florence was as pleased with him as if he had been a miracle of

Mr Toots was so overjoyed by the success of his present, and was so
delighted to see Florence bending down over Diogenes, smoothing his
coarse back with her little delicate hand--Diogenes graciously allowing
it from the first moment of their acquaintance--that he felt it
difficult to take leave, and would, no doubt, have been a much longer
time in making up his mind to do so, if he had not been assisted by
Diogenes himself, who suddenly took it into his head to bay Mr Toots,
and to make short runs at him with his mouth open. Not exactly seeing
his way to the end of these demonstrations, and sensible that they
placed the pantaloons constructed by the art of Burgess and Co. in
jeopardy, Mr Toots, with chuckles, lapsed out at the door: by which,
after looking in again two or three times, without any object at all,
and being on each occasion greeted with a fresh run from Diogenes, he
finally took himself off and got away.

‘Come, then, Di! Dear Di! Make friends with your new mistress. Let us
love each other, Di!’ said Florence, fondling his shaggy head. And Di,
the rough and gruff, as if his hairy hide were pervious to the tear that
dropped upon it, and his dog’s heart melted as it fell, put his nose up
to her face, and swore fidelity.

Diogenes the man did not speak plainer to Alexander the Great than
Diogenes the dog spoke to Florence. He subscribed to the offer of
his little mistress cheerfully, and devoted himself to her service. A
banquet was immediately provided for him in a corner; and when he had
eaten and drunk his fill, he went to the window where Florence was
sitting, looking on, rose up on his hind legs, with his awkward fore
paws on her shoulders, licked her face and hands, nestled his great
head against her heart, and wagged his tail till he was tired. Finally,
Diogenes coiled himself up at her feet and went to sleep.

Although Miss Nipper was nervous in regard of dogs, and felt it
necessary to come into the room with her skirts carefully collected
about her, as if she were crossing a brook on stepping-stones; also
to utter little screams and stand up on chairs when Diogenes stretched
himself, she was in her own manner affected by the kindness of Mr Toots,
and could not see Florence so alive to the attachment and society
of this rude friend of little Paul’s, without some mental comments
thereupon that brought the water to her eyes. Mr Dombey, as a part of
her reflections, may have been, in the association of ideas, connected
with the dog; but, at any rate, after observing Diogenes and his
mistress all the evening, and after exerting herself with much good-will
to provide Diogenes a bed in an ante-chamber outside his mistress’s
door, she said hurriedly to Florence, before leaving her for the night:

‘Your Pa’s a going off, Miss Floy, tomorrow morning.’

‘To-morrow morning, Susan?’

‘Yes, Miss; that’s the orders. Early.’

‘Do you know,’ asked Florence, without looking at her, ‘where Papa is
going, Susan?’

‘Not exactly, Miss. He’s going to meet that precious Major first, and
I must say if I was acquainted with any Major myself (which Heavens
forbid), it shouldn’t be a blue one!’

‘Hush, Susan!’ urged Florence gently.

‘Well, Miss Floy,’ returned Miss Nipper, who was full of burning
indignation, and minded her stops even less than usual. ‘I can’t help
it, blue he is, and while I was a Christian, although humble, I would
have natural-coloured friends, or none.’

It appeared from what she added and had gleaned downstairs, that Mrs
Chick had proposed the Major for Mr Dombey’s companion, and that Mr
Dombey, after some hesitation, had invited him.

‘Talk of him being a change, indeed!’ observed Miss Nipper to herself
with boundless contempt. ‘If he’s a change, give me a constancy.’

‘Good-night, Susan,’ said Florence.

‘Good-night, my darling dear Miss Floy.’

Her tone of commiseration smote the chord so often roughly touched, but
never listened to while she or anyone looked on. Florence left alone,
laid her head upon her hand, and pressing the other over her swelling
heart, held free communication with her sorrows.

It was a wet night; and the melancholy rain fell pattering and dropping
with a weary sound. A sluggish wind was blowing, and went moaning round
the house, as if it were in pain or grief. A shrill noise quivered
through the trees. While she sat weeping, it grew late, and dreary
midnight tolled out from the steeples.

Florence was little more than a child in years--not yet fourteen--and the
loneliness and gloom of such an hour in the great house where Death
had lately made its own tremendous devastation, might have set an older
fancy brooding on vague terrors. But her innocent imagination was too
full of one theme to admit them. Nothing wandered in her thoughts but
love--a wandering love, indeed, and castaway--but turning always to her

There was nothing in the dropping of the rain, the moaning of the wind,
the shuddering of the trees, the striking of the solemn clocks, that
shook this one thought, or diminished its interest. Her recollections of
the dear dead boy--and they were never absent--were itself, the same
thing. And oh, to be shut out: to be so lost: never to have looked into
her father’s face or touched him, since that hour!

She could not go to bed, poor child, and never had gone yet, since then,
without making her nightly pilgrimage to his door. It would have been
a strange sad sight, to see her now, stealing lightly down the stairs
through the thick gloom, and stopping at it with a beating heart, and
blinded eyes, and hair that fell down loosely and unthought of; and
touching it outside with her wet cheek. But the night covered it, and no
one knew.

The moment that she touched the door on this night, Florence found
that it was open. For the first time it stood open, though by but a
hair’s-breadth: and there was a light within. The first impulse of the
timid child--and she yielded to it--was to retire swiftly. Her next, to
go back, and to enter; and this second impulse held her in irresolution
on the staircase.

In its standing open, even by so much as that chink, there seemed to
be hope. There was encouragement in seeing a ray of light from within,
stealing through the dark stern doorway, and falling in a thread upon
the marble floor. She turned back, hardly knowing what she did, but
urged on by the love within her, and the trial they had undergone
together, but not shared: and with her hands a little raised and
trembling, glided in.

Her father sat at his old table in the middle room. He had been
arranging some papers, and destroying others, and the latter lay in
fragile ruins before him. The rain dripped heavily upon the glass panes
in the outer room, where he had so often watched poor Paul, a baby; and
the low complainings of the wind were heard without.

But not by him. He sat with his eyes fixed on the table, so immersed in
thought, that a far heavier tread than the light foot of his child could
make, might have failed to rouse him. His face was turned towards
her. By the waning lamp, and at that haggard hour, it looked worn and
dejected; and in the utter loneliness surrounding him, there was an
appeal to Florence that struck home.

‘Papa! Papa! speak to me, dear Papa!’

He started at her voice, and leaped up from his seat. She was close
before him with extended arms, but he fell back.

‘What is the matter?’ he said, sternly. ‘Why do you come here? What has
frightened you?’

If anything had frightened her, it was the face he turned upon her. The
glowing love within the breast of his young daughter froze before it,
and she stood and looked at him as if stricken into stone.

There was not one touch of tenderness or pity in it. There was not one
gleam of interest, parental recognition, or relenting in it. There was
a change in it, but not of that kind. The old indifference and cold
constraint had given place to something: what, she never thought and did
not dare to think, and yet she felt it in its force, and knew it well
without a name: that as it looked upon her, seemed to cast a shadow on
her head.

Did he see before him the successful rival of his son, in health and
life? Did he look upon his own successful rival in that son’s affection?
Did a mad jealousy and withered pride, poison sweet remembrances that
should have endeared and made her precious to him? Could it be possible
that it was gall to him to look upon her in her beauty and her promise:
thinking of his infant boy!

Florence had no such thoughts. But love is quick to know when it is
spurned and hopeless: and hope died out of hers, as she stood looking in
her father’s face.

‘I ask you, Florence, are you frightened? Is there anything the matter,
that you come here?’

‘I came, Papa--’

‘Against my wishes. Why?’

She saw he knew why: it was written broadly on his face: and dropped her
head upon her hands with one prolonged low cry.

Let him remember it in that room, years to come. It has faded from
the air, before he breaks the silence. It may pass as quickly from his
brain, as he believes, but it is there. Let him remember it in that
room, years to come!

He took her by the arm. His hand was cold, and loose, and scarcely
closed upon her.

‘You are tired, I daresay,’ he said, taking up the light, and leading
her towards the door, ‘and want rest. We all want rest. Go, Florence.
You have been dreaming.’

The dream she had had, was over then, God help her! and she felt that it
could never more come back.

‘I will remain here to light you up the stairs. The whole house is
yours above there,’ said her father, slowly. ‘You are its mistress now.

Still covering her face, she sobbed, and answered ‘Good-night, dear
Papa,’ and silently ascended. Once she looked back as if she would have
returned to him, but for fear. It was a momentary thought, too
hopeless to encourage; and her father stood there with the light--hard,
unresponsive, motionless--until the fluttering dress of his fair child
was lost in the darkness.

Let him remember it in that room, years to come. The rain that
falls upon the roof: the wind that mourns outside the door: may have
foreknowledge in their melancholy sound. Let him remember it in that
room, years to come!

The last time he had watched her, from the same place, winding up those
stairs, she had had her brother in her arms. It did not move his heart
towards her now, it steeled it: but he went into his room, and locked
his door, and sat down in his chair, and cried for his lost boy.

Diogenes was broad awake upon his post, and waiting for his little

‘Oh, Di! Oh, dear Di! Love me for his sake!’

Diogenes already loved her for her own, and didn’t care how much he
showed it. So he made himself vastly ridiculous by performing a variety
of uncouth bounces in the ante-chamber, and concluded, when poor
Florence was at last asleep, and dreaming of the rosy children opposite,
by scratching open her bedroom door: rolling up his bed into a pillow:
lying down on the boards, at the full length of his tether, with his
head towards her: and looking lazily at her, upside down, out of the
tops of his eyes, until from winking and winking he fell asleep himself,
and dreamed, with gruff barks, of his enemy.

CHAPTER 19. Walter goes away

The wooden Midshipman at the Instrument-maker’s door, like the
hard-hearted little Midshipman he was, remained supremely indifferent to
Walter’s going away, even when the very last day of his sojourn in the
back parlour was on the decline. With his quadrant at his round black
knob of an eye, and his figure in its old attitude of indomitable
alacrity, the Midshipman displayed his elfin small-clothes to the best
advantage, and, absorbed in scientific pursuits, had no sympathy with
worldly concerns. He was so far the creature of circumstances, that a
dry day covered him with dust, and a misty day peppered him with little
bits of soot, and a wet day brightened up his tarnished uniform for
the moment, and a very hot day blistered him; but otherwise he was a
callous, obdurate, conceited Midshipman, intent on his own discoveries,
and caring as little for what went on about him, terrestrially, as
Archimedes at the taking of Syracuse.

Such a Midshipman he seemed to be, at least, in the then position of
domestic affairs. Walter eyed him kindly many a time in passing in and
out; and poor old Sol, when Walter was not there, would come and lean
against the doorpost, resting his weary wig as near the shoe-buckles
of the guardian genius of his trade and shop as he could. But no fierce
idol with a mouth from ear to ear, and a murderous visage made of
parrot’s feathers, was ever more indifferent to the appeals of its
savage votaries, than was the Midshipman to these marks of attachment.

Walter’s heart felt heavy as he looked round his old bedroom, up among
the parapets and chimney-pots, and thought that one more night already
darkening would close his acquaintance with it, perhaps for ever.
Dismantled of his little stock of books and pictures, it looked
coldly and reproachfully on him for his desertion, and had already a
foreshadowing upon it of its coming strangeness. ‘A few hours more,’
thought Walter, ‘and no dream I ever had here when I was a schoolboy
will be so little mine as this old room. The dream may come back in my
sleep, and I may return waking to this place, it may be: but the dream
at least will serve no other master, and the room may have a score, and
every one of them may change, neglect, misuse it.’

But his Uncle was not to be left alone in the little back parlour, where
he was then sitting by himself; for Captain Cuttle, considerate in his
roughness, stayed away against his will, purposely that they should have
some talk together unobserved: so Walter, newly returned home from his
last day’s bustle, descended briskly, to bear him company.

‘Uncle,’ he said gaily, laying his hand upon the old man’s shoulder,
‘what shall I send you home from Barbados?’

‘Hope, my dear Wally. Hope that we shall meet again, on this side of the
grave. Send me as much of that as you can.’

‘So I will, Uncle: I have enough and to spare, and I’ll not be chary of
it! And as to lively turtles, and limes for Captain Cuttle’s punch, and
preserves for you on Sundays, and all that sort of thing, why I’ll send
you ship-loads, Uncle: when I’m rich enough.’

Old Sol wiped his spectacles, and faintly smiled.

‘That’s right, Uncle!’ cried Walter, merrily, and clapping him half a
dozen times more upon the shoulder. ‘You cheer up me! I’ll cheer up
you! We’ll be as gay as larks to-morrow morning, Uncle, and we’ll fly as
high! As to my anticipations, they are singing out of sight now.’

‘Wally, my dear boy,’ returned the old man, ‘I’ll do my best, I’ll do my

‘And your best, Uncle,’ said Walter, with his pleasant laugh, ‘is the
best best that I know. You’ll not forget what you’re to send me, Uncle?’

‘No, Wally, no,’ replied the old man; ‘everything I hear about Miss
Dombey, now that she is left alone, poor lamb, I’ll write. I fear it
won’t be much though, Wally.’

‘Why, I’ll tell you what, Uncle,’ said Walter, after a moment’s
hesitation, ‘I have just been up there.’

‘Ay, ay, ay?’ murmured the old man, raising his eyebrows, and his
spectacles with them.

‘Not to see her,’ said Walter, ‘though I could have seen her, I daresay,
if I had asked, Mr Dombey being out of town: but to say a parting word
to Susan. I thought I might venture to do that, you know, under the
circumstances, and remembering when I saw Miss Dombey last.’

‘Yes, my boy, yes,’ replied his Uncle, rousing himself from a temporary

‘So I saw her,’ pursued Walter, ‘Susan, I mean: and I told her I was
off and away to-morrow. And I said, Uncle, that you had always had an
interest in Miss Dombey since that night when she was here, and always
wished her well and happy, and always would be proud and glad to serve
her in the least: I thought I might say that, you know, under the
circumstances. Don’t you think so?’

‘Yes, my boy, yes,’ replied his Uncle, in the tone as before.

‘And I added,’ pursued Walter, ‘that if she--Susan, I mean--could ever
let you know, either through herself, or Mrs Richards, or anybody else
who might be coming this way, that Miss Dombey was well and happy, you
would take it very kindly, and would write so much to me, and I should
take it very kindly too. There! Upon my word, Uncle,’ said Walter, ‘I
scarcely slept all last night through thinking of doing this; and could
not make up my mind when I was out, whether to do it or not; and yet I
am sure it is the true feeling of my heart, and I should have been quite
miserable afterwards if I had not relieved it.’

His honest voice and manner corroborated what he said, and quite
established its ingenuousness.

‘So, if you ever see her, Uncle,’ said Walter, ‘I mean Miss Dombey
now--and perhaps you may, who knows!--tell her how much I felt for her;
how much I used to think of her when I was here; how I spoke of her,
with the tears in my eyes, Uncle, on this last night before I went away.
Tell her that I said I never could forget her gentle manner, or her
beautiful face, or her sweet kind disposition that was better than all.
And as I didn’t take them from a woman’s feet, or a young lady’s: only
a little innocent child’s,’ said Walter: ‘tell her, if you don’t mind,
Uncle, that I kept those shoes--she’ll remember how often they fell off,
that night--and took them away with me as a remembrance!’

They were at that very moment going out at the door in one of Walter’s
trunks. A porter carrying off his baggage on a truck for shipment at the
docks on board the Son and Heir, had got possession of them; and wheeled
them away under the very eye of the insensible Midshipman before their
owner had well finished speaking.

But that ancient mariner might have been excused his insensibility to
the treasure as it rolled away. For, under his eye at the same moment,
accurately within his range of observation, coming full into the sphere
of his startled and intensely wide-awake look-out, were Florence and
Susan Nipper: Florence looking up into his face half timidly, and
receiving the whole shock of his wooden ogling!

More than this, they passed into the shop, and passed in at the parlour
door before they were observed by anybody but the Midshipman. And
Walter, having his back to the door, would have known nothing of their
apparition even then, but for seeing his Uncle spring out of his own
chair, and nearly tumble over another.

‘Why, Uncle!’ exclaimed Walter. ‘What’s the matter?’

Old Solomon replied, ‘Miss Dombey!’

‘Is it possible?’ cried Walter, looking round and starting up in his
turn. ‘Here!’

Why, It was so possible and so actual, that, while the words were on his
lips, Florence hurried past him; took Uncle Sol’s snuff-coloured lapels,
one in each hand; kissed him on the cheek; and turning, gave her hand to
Walter with a simple truth and earnestness that was her own, and no one
else’s in the world!

‘Going away, Walter?’ said Florence.

‘Yes, Miss Dombey,’ he replied, but not so hopefully as he endeavoured:
‘I have a voyage before me.’

‘And your Uncle,’ said Florence, looking back at Solomon. ‘He is sorry
you are going, I am sure. Ah! I see he is! Dear Walter, I am very sorry

‘Goodness knows,’ exclaimed Miss Nipper, ‘there’s a many we could spare
instead, if numbers is a object, Mrs Pipchin as a overseer would come
cheap at her weight in gold, and if a knowledge of black slavery should
be required, them Blimbers is the very people for the sitiwation.’

With that Miss Nipper untied her bonnet strings, and after looking
vacantly for some moments into a little black teapot that was set forth
with the usual homely service on the table, shook her head and a tin
canister, and began unasked to make the tea.

In the meantime Florence had turned again to the Instrument-maker, who
was as full of admiration as surprise. ‘So grown!’ said old Sol. ‘So
improved! And yet not altered! Just the same!’

‘Indeed!’ said Florence.

‘Ye--yes,’ returned old Sol, rubbing his hands slowly, and considering
the matter half aloud, as something pensive in the bright eyes looking
at him arrested his attention. ‘Yes, that expression was in the younger
face, too!’

‘You remember me,’ said Florence with a smile, ‘and what a little
creature I was then?’

‘My dear young lady,’ returned the Instrument-maker, ‘how could I forget
you, often as I have thought of you and heard of you since! At the very
moment, indeed, when you came in, Wally was talking about you to me, and
leaving messages for you, and--’

‘Was he?’ said Florence. ‘Thank you, Walter! Oh thank you, Walter! I was
afraid you might be going away and hardly thinking of me;’ and again she
gave him her little hand so freely and so faithfully that Walter held it
for some moments in his own, and could not bear to let it go.

Yet Walter did not hold it as he might have held it once, nor did its
touch awaken those old day-dreams of his boyhood that had floated past
him sometimes even lately, and confused him with their indistinct and
broken shapes. The purity and innocence of her endearing manner, and
its perfect trustfulness, and the undisguised regard for him that lay
so deeply seated in her constant eyes, and glowed upon her fair face
through the smile that shaded--for alas! it was a smile too sad to
brighten--it, were not of their romantic race. They brought back to his
thoughts the early death-bed he had seen her tending, and the love the
child had borne her; and on the wings of such remembrances she seemed to
rise up, far above his idle fancies, into clearer and serener air.

‘I--I am afraid I must call you Walter’s Uncle, Sir,’ said Florence to
the old man, ‘if you’ll let me.’

‘My dear young lady,’ cried old Sol. ‘Let you! Good gracious!’

‘We always knew you by that name, and talked of you,’ said Florence,
glancing round, and sighing gently. ‘The nice old parlour! Just the
same! How well I recollect it!’

Old Sol looked first at her, then at his nephew, and then rubbed his
hands, and rubbed his spectacles, and said below his breath, ‘Ah! time,
time, time!’

There was a short silence; during which Susan Nipper skilfully impounded
two extra cups and saucers from the cupboard, and awaited the drawing of
the tea with a thoughtful air.

‘I want to tell Walter’s Uncle,’ said Florence, laying her hand timidly
upon the old man’s as it rested on the table, to bespeak his attention,
‘something that I am anxious about. He is going to be left alone, and
if he will allow me--not to take Walter’s place, for that I couldn’t
do, but to be his true friend and help him if I ever can while Walter
is away, I shall be very much obliged to him indeed. Will you? May I,
Walter’s Uncle?’

The Instrument-maker, without speaking, put her hand to his lips,
and Susan Nipper, leaning back with her arms crossed, in the chair of
presidency into which she had voted herself, bit one end of her bonnet
strings, and heaved a gentle sigh as she looked up at the skylight.

‘You will let me come to see you,’ said Florence, ‘when I can; and you
will tell me everything about yourself and Walter; and you will have no
secrets from Susan when she comes and I do not, but will confide in us,
and trust us, and rely upon us. And you’ll try to let us be a comfort to
you? Will you, Walter’s Uncle?’

The sweet face looking into his, the gentle pleading eyes, the soft
voice, and the light touch on his arm made the more winning by a child’s
respect and honour for his age, that gave to all an air of graceful
doubt and modest hesitation--these, and her natural earnestness, so
overcame the poor old Instrument-maker, that he only answered:

‘Wally! say a word for me, my dear. I’m very grateful.’

‘No, Walter,’ returned Florence with her quiet smile. ‘Say nothing for
him, if you please. I understand him very well, and we must learn to
talk together without you, dear Walter.’

The regretful tone in which she said these latter words, touched Walter
more than all the rest.

‘Miss Florence,’ he replied, with an effort to recover the cheerful
manner he had preserved while talking with his Uncle, ‘I know no more
than my Uncle, what to say in acknowledgment of such kindness, I am
sure. But what could I say, after all, if I had the power of talking for
an hour, except that it is like you?’

Susan Nipper began upon a new part of her bonnet string, and nodded at
the skylight, in approval of the sentiment expressed.

‘Oh! but, Walter,’ said Florence, ‘there is something that I wish to say
to you before you go away, and you must call me Florence, if you please,
and not speak like a stranger.’

‘Like a stranger!’ returned Walter, ‘No. I couldn’t speak so. I am sure,
at least, I couldn’t feel like one.’

‘Ay, but that is not enough, and is not what I mean. For, Walter,’ added
Florence, bursting into tears, ‘he liked you very much, and said before
he died that he was fond of you, and said “Remember Walter!” and if
you’ll be a brother to me, Walter, now that he is gone and I have none
on earth, I’ll be your sister all my life, and think of you like one
wherever we may be! This is what I wished to say, dear Walter, but I
cannot say it as I would, because my heart is full.’

And in its fulness and its sweet simplicity, she held out both her hands
to him. Walter taking them, stooped down and touched the tearful face
that neither shrunk nor turned away, nor reddened as he did so, but
looked up at him with confidence and truth. In that one moment, every
shadow of doubt or agitation passed away from Walter’s soul. It seemed
to him that he responded to her innocent appeal, beside the dead child’s
bed: and, in the solemn presence he had seen there, pledged himself to
cherish and protect her very image, in his banishment, with brotherly
regard; to garner up her simple faith, inviolate; and hold himself
degraded if he breathed upon it any thought that was not in her own
breast when she gave it to him.

Susan Nipper, who had bitten both her bonnet strings at once, and
imparted a great deal of private emotion to the skylight, during this
transaction, now changed the subject by inquiring who took milk and who
took sugar; and being enlightened on these points, poured out the tea.
They all four gathered socially about the little table, and took tea
under that young lady’s active superintendence; and the presence of
Florence in the back parlour, brightened the Tartar frigate on the wall.

Half an hour ago Walter, for his life, would have hardly called her by
her name. But he could do so now when she entreated him. He could think
of her being there, without a lurking misgiving that it would have been
better if she had not come. He could calmly think how beautiful she was,
how full of promise, what a home some happy man would find in such a
heart one day. He could reflect upon his own place in that heart, with
pride; and with a brave determination, if not to deserve it--he still
thought that far above him--never to deserve it less.

Some fairy influence must surely have hovered round the hands of Susan
Nipper when she made the tea, engendering the tranquil air that reigned
in the back parlour during its discussion. Some counter-influence must
surely have hovered round the hands of Uncle Sol’s chronometer, and
moved them faster than the Tartar frigate ever went before the wind. Be
this as it may, the visitors had a coach in waiting at a quiet corner
not far off; and the chronometer, on being incidentally referred to,
gave such a positive opinion that it had been waiting a long time, that
it was impossible to doubt the fact, especially when stated on such
unimpeachable authority. If Uncle Sol had been going to be hanged by his
own time, he never would have allowed that the chronometer was too fast,
by the least fraction of a second.

Florence at parting recapitulated to the old man all that she had said
before, and bound him to their compact. Uncle Sol attended her lovingly
to the legs of the wooden Midshipman, and there resigned her to Walter,
who was ready to escort her and Susan Nipper to the coach.

‘Walter,’ said Florence by the way, ‘I have been afraid to ask before
your Uncle. Do you think you will be absent very long?’

‘Indeed,’ said Walter, ‘I don’t know. I fear so. Mr Dombey signified as
much, I thought, when he appointed me.’

‘Is it a favour, Walter?’ inquired Florence, after a moment’s
hesitation, and looking anxiously in his face.

‘The appointment?’ returned Walter.


Walter would have given anything to have answered in the affirmative,
but his face answered before his lips could, and Florence was too
attentive to it not to understand its reply.

‘I am afraid you have scarcely been a favourite with Papa,’ she said,

‘There is no reason,’ replied Walter, smiling, ‘why I should be.’

‘No reason, Walter!’

‘There was no reason,’ said Walter, understanding what she meant. ‘There
are many people employed in the House. Between Mr Dombey and a young man
like me, there’s a wide space of separation. If I do my duty, I do what
I ought, and do no more than all the rest.’

Had Florence any misgiving of which she was hardly conscious: any
misgiving that had sprung into an indistinct and undefined existence
since that recent night when she had gone down to her father’s room:
that Walter’s accidental interest in her, and early knowledge of her,
might have involved him in that powerful displeasure and dislike? Had
Walter any such idea, or any sudden thought that it was in her mind at
that moment? Neither of them hinted at it. Neither of them spoke at all,
for some short time. Susan, walking on the other side of Walter, eyed
them both sharply; and certainly Miss Nipper’s thoughts travelled in
that direction, and very confidently too.

‘You may come back very soon,’ said Florence, ‘perhaps, Walter.’

‘I may come back,’ said Walter, ‘an old man, and find you an old lady.
But I hope for better things.’

‘Papa,’ said Florence, after a moment, ‘will--will recover from his
grief, and--speak more freely to me one day, perhaps; and if he should,
I will tell him how much I wish to see you back again, and ask him to
recall you for my sake.’

There was a touching modulation in these words about her father, that
Walter understood too well.

The coach being close at hand, he would have left her without speaking,
for now he felt what parting was; but Florence held his hand when she
was seated, and then he found there was a little packet in her own.

‘Walter,’ she said, looking full upon him with her affectionate eyes,
‘like you, I hope for better things. I will pray for them, and believe
that they will arrive. I made this little gift for Paul. Pray take it
with my love, and do not look at it until you are gone away. And now,
God bless you, Walter! never forget me. You are my brother, dear!’

He was glad that Susan Nipper came between them, or he might have left
her with a sorrowful remembrance of him. He was glad too that she
did not look out of the coach again, but waved the little hand to him
instead, as long as he could see it.

In spite of her request, he could not help opening the packet that night
when he went to bed. It was a little purse: and there was was money in

Bright rose the sun next morning, from his absence in strange countries
and up rose Walter with it to receive the Captain, who was already at
the door: having turned out earlier than was necessary, in order to
get under weigh while Mrs MacStinger was still slumbering. The Captain
pretended to be in tip-top spirits, and brought a very smoky tongue in
one of the pockets of the broad blue coat for breakfast.

‘And, Wal’r,’ said the Captain, when they took their seats at table, if
your Uncle’s the man I think him, he’ll bring out the last bottle of the
Madeira on the present occasion.’

‘No, no, Ned,’ returned the old man. ‘No! That shall be opened when
Walter comes home again.’

‘Well said!’ cried the Captain. ‘Hear him!’

‘There it lies,’ said Sol Gills, ‘down in the little cellar, covered
with dirt and cobwebs. There may be dirt and cobwebs over you and me
perhaps, Ned, before it sees the light.’

‘Hear him!’ cried the Captain. ‘Good morality! Wal’r, my lad. Train up
a fig-tree in the way it should go, and when you are old sit under the
shade on it. Overhaul the--Well,’ said the Captain on second thoughts,
‘I ain’t quite certain where that’s to be found, but when found, make a
note of. Sol Gills, heave ahead again!’

‘But there or somewhere, it shall lie, Ned, until Wally comes back to
claim it,’ said the old man. ‘That’s all I meant to say.’

‘And well said too,’ returned the Captain; ‘and if we three don’t crack
that bottle in company, I’ll give you two leave to.’

Notwithstanding the Captain’s excessive joviality, he made but a poor
hand at the smoky tongue, though he tried very hard, when anybody looked
at him, to appear as if he were eating with a vast appetite. He was
terribly afraid, likewise, of being left alone with either Uncle or
nephew; appearing to consider that his only chance of safety as to
keeping up appearances, was in there being always three together.
This terror on the part of the Captain, reduced him to such ingenious
evasions as running to the door, when Solomon went to put his coat on,
under pretence of having seen an extraordinary hackney-coach pass: and
darting out into the road when Walter went upstairs to take leave of the
lodgers, on a feint of smelling fire in a neighbouring chimney. These
artifices Captain Cuttle deemed inscrutable by any uninspired observer.

Walter was coming down from his parting expedition upstairs, and was
crossing the shop to go back to the little parlour, when he saw a faded
face he knew, looking in at the door, and darted towards it.

‘Mr Carker!’ cried Walter, pressing the hand of John Carker the Junior.
‘Pray come in! This is kind of you, to be here so early to say good-bye
to me. You knew how glad it would make me to shake hands with you, once,
before going away. I cannot say how glad I am to have this opportunity.
Pray come in.’

‘It is not likely that we may ever meet again, Walter,’ returned
the other, gently resisting his invitation, ‘and I am glad of this
opportunity too. I may venture to speak to you, and to take you by the
hand, on the eve of separation. I shall not have to resist your frank
approaches, Walter, any more.’

There was a melancholy in his smile as he said it, that showed he had
found some company and friendship for his thoughts even in that.

‘Ah, Mr Carker!’ returned Walter. ‘Why did you resist them? You could
have done me nothing but good, I am very sure.’

He shook his head. ‘If there were any good,’ he said, ‘I could do on
this earth, I would do it, Walter, for you. The sight of you from day to
day, has been at once happiness and remorse to me. But the pleasure has
outweighed the pain. I know that, now, by knowing what I lose.’

‘Come in, Mr Carker, and make acquaintance with my good old Uncle,’
urged Walter. ‘I have often talked to him about you, and he will be glad
to tell you all he hears from me. I have not,’ said Walter, noticing his
hesitation, and speaking with embarrassment himself: ‘I have not told
him anything about our last conversation, Mr Carker; not even him,
believe me.

The grey Junior pressed his hand, and tears rose in his eyes.

‘If I ever make acquaintance with him, Walter,’ he returned, ‘it will be
that I may hear tidings of you. Rely on my not wronging your forbearance
and consideration. It would be to wrong it, not to tell him all the
truth, before I sought a word of confidence from him. But I have no
friend or acquaintance except you: and even for your sake, am little
likely to make any.’

‘I wish,’ said Walter, ‘you had suffered me to be your friend indeed. I
always wished it, Mr Carker, as you know; but never half so much as now,
when we are going to part.’

‘It is enough replied the other, ‘that you have been the friend of my
own breast, and that when I have avoided you most, my heart inclined the
most towards you, and was fullest of you. Walter, good-bye!’

‘Good-bye, Mr Carker. Heaven be with you, Sir!’ cried Walter with

‘If,’ said the other, retaining his hand while he spoke; ‘if when you
come back, you miss me from my old corner, and should hear from anyone
where I am lying, come and look upon my grave. Think that I might have
been as honest and as happy as you! And let me think, when I know time
is coming on, that some one like my former self may stand there, for a
moment, and remember me with pity and forgiveness! Walter, good-bye!’

His figure crept like a shadow down the bright, sun-lighted street, so
cheerful yet so solemn in the early summer morning; and slowly passed

The relentless chronometer at last announced that Walter must turn his
back upon the wooden Midshipman: and away they went, himself, his Uncle,
and the Captain, in a hackney-coach to a wharf, where they were to take
steam-boat for some Reach down the river, the name of which, as the
Captain gave it out, was a hopeless mystery to the ears of landsmen.
Arrived at this Reach (whither the ship had repaired by last night’s
tide), they were boarded by various excited watermen, and among others
by a dirty Cyclops of the Captain’s acquaintance, who, with his one
eye, had made the Captain out some mile and a half off, and had been
exchanging unintelligible roars with him ever since. Becoming the lawful
prize of this personage, who was frightfully hoarse and constitutionally
in want of shaving, they were all three put aboard the Son and Heir. And
the Son and Heir was in a pretty state of confusion, with sails lying
all bedraggled on the wet decks, loose ropes tripping people up, men in
red shirts running barefoot to and fro, casks blockading every foot of
space, and, in the thickest of the fray, a black cook in a black caboose
up to his eyes in vegetables and blinded with smoke.

The Captain immediately drew Walter into a corner, and with a great
effort, that made his face very red, pulled up the silver watch, which
was so big, and so tight in his pocket, that it came out like a bung.

‘Wal’r,’ said the Captain, handing it over, and shaking him heartily
by the hand, ‘a parting gift, my lad. Put it back half an hour every
morning, and about another quarter towards the arternoon, and it’s a
watch that’ll do you credit.’

‘Captain Cuttle! I couldn’t think of it!’ cried Walter, detaining him,
for he was running away. ‘Pray take it back. I have one already.’

‘Then, Wal’r,’ said the Captain, suddenly diving into one of his pockets
and bringing up the two teaspoons and the sugar-tongs, with which he
had armed himself to meet such an objection, ‘take this here trifle of
plate, instead.’

‘No, no, I couldn’t indeed!’ cried Walter, ‘a thousand thanks! Don’t
throw them away, Captain Cuttle!’ for the Captain was about to jerk them
overboard. ‘They’ll be of much more use to you than me. Give me your
stick. I have often thought I should like to have it. There! Good-bye,
Captain Cuttle! Take care of my Uncle! Uncle Sol, God bless you!’

They were over the side in the confusion, before Walter caught another
glimpse of either; and when he ran up to the stern, and looked after
them, he saw his Uncle hanging down his head in the boat, and Captain
Cuttle rapping him on the back with the great silver watch (it must have
been very painful), and gesticulating hopefully with the teaspoons
and sugar-tongs. Catching sight of Walter, Captain Cuttle dropped the
property into the bottom of the boat with perfect unconcern, being
evidently oblivious of its existence, and pulling off the glazed hat
hailed him lustily. The glazed hat made quite a show in the sun with its
glistening, and the Captain continued to wave it until he could be
seen no longer. Then the confusion on board, which had been rapidly
increasing, reached its height; two or three other boats went away with
a cheer; the sails shone bright and full above, as Walter watched
them spread their surface to the favourable breeze; the water flew in
sparkles from the prow; and off upon her voyage went the Son and Heir,
as hopefully and trippingly as many another son and heir, gone down, had
started on his way before her.

Day after day, old Sol and Captain Cuttle kept her reckoning in the
little hack parlour and worked out her course, with the chart spread
before them on the round table. At night, when old Sol climbed upstairs,
so lonely, to the attic where it sometimes blew great guns, he looked
up at the stars and listened to the wind, and kept a longer watch than
would have fallen to his lot on board the ship. The last bottle of the
old Madeira, which had had its cruising days, and known its dangers of
the deep, lay silently beneath its dust and cobwebs, in the meanwhile,

CHAPTER 20. Mr Dombey goes upon a Journey

‘Mr Dombey, Sir,’ said Major Bagstock, ‘Joey’ B. is not in general a man
of sentiment, for Joseph is tough. But Joe has his feelings, Sir, and
when they are awakened--Damme, Mr Dombey,’ cried the Major with sudden
ferocity, ‘this is weakness, and I won’t submit to it!’

Major Bagstock delivered himself of these expressions on receiving
Mr Dombey as his guest at the head of his own staircase in Princess’s
Place. Mr Dombey had come to breakfast with the Major, previous to their
setting forth on their trip; and the ill-starved Native had already
undergone a world of misery arising out of the muffins, while, in
connexion with the general question of boiled eggs, life was a burden to

‘It is not for an old soldier of the Bagstock breed,’ observed the
Major, relapsing into a mild state, ‘to deliver himself up, a prey to
his own emotions; but--damme, Sir,’ cried the Major, in another spasm of
ferocity, ‘I condole with you!’

The Major’s purple visage deepened in its hue, and the Major’s lobster
eyes stood out in bolder relief, as he shook Mr Dombey by the hand,
imparting to that peaceful action as defiant a character as if it had
been the prelude to his immediately boxing Mr Dombey for a thousand
pounds a side and the championship of England. With a rotatory motion
of his head, and a wheeze very like the cough of a horse, the Major
then conducted his visitor to the sitting-room, and there welcomed him
(having now composed his feelings) with the freedom and frankness of a
travelling companion.

‘Dombey,’ said the Major, ‘I’m glad to see you. I’m proud to see you.
There are not many men in Europe to whom J. Bagstock would say that--for
Josh is blunt. Sir: it’s his nature--but Joey B. is proud to see you,

‘Major,’ returned Mr Dombey, ‘you are very obliging.’

‘No, Sir,’ said the Major, ‘Devil a bit! That’s not my character.
If that had been Joe’s character, Joe might have been, by this time,
Lieutenant-General Sir Joseph Bagstock, K.C.B., and might have received
you in very different quarters. You don’t know old Joe yet, I find. But
this occasion, being special, is a source of pride to me. By the Lord,
Sir,’ said the Major resolutely, ‘it’s an honour to me!’

Mr Dombey, in his estimation of himself and his money, felt that
this was very true, and therefore did not dispute the point. But the
instinctive recognition of such a truth by the Major, and his plain
avowal of it, were very able. It was a confirmation to Mr Dombey, if
he had required any, of his not being mistaken in the Major. It was
an assurance to him that his power extended beyond his own immediate
sphere; and that the Major, as an officer and a gentleman, had a no less
becoming sense of it, than the beadle of the Royal Exchange.

And if it were ever consolatory to know this, or the like of this, it
was consolatory then, when the impotence of his will, the instability
of his hopes, the feebleness of wealth, had been so direfully impressed
upon him. What could it do, his boy had asked him. Sometimes, thinking
of the baby question, he could hardly forbear inquiring, himself, what
could it do indeed: what had it done?

But these were lonely thoughts, bred late at night in the sullen
despondency and gloom of his retirement, and pride easily found its
reassurance in many testimonies to the truth, as unimpeachable and
precious as the Major’s. Mr Dombey, in his friendlessness, inclined to
the Major. It cannot be said that he warmed towards him, but he thawed
a little, The Major had had some part--and not too much--in the days by
the seaside. He was a man of the world, and knew some great people. He
talked much, and told stories; and Mr Dombey was disposed to regard him
as a choice spirit who shone in society, and who had not that poisonous
ingredient of poverty with which choice spirits in general are too much
adulterated. His station was undeniable. Altogether the Major was a
creditable companion, well accustomed to a life of leisure, and to
such places as that they were about to visit, and having an air of
gentlemanly ease about him that mixed well enough with his own City
character, and did not compete with it at all. If Mr Dombey had any
lingering idea that the Major, as a man accustomed, in the way of his
calling, to make light of the ruthless hand that had lately crushed his
hopes, might unconsciously impart some useful philosophy to him, and
scare away his weak regrets, he hid it from himself, and left it lying
at the bottom of his pride, unexamined.

‘Where is my scoundrel?’ said the Major, looking wrathfully round the

The Native, who had no particular name, but answered to any vituperative
epithet, presented himself instantly at the door and ventured to come no

‘You villain!’ said the choleric Major, ‘where’s the breakfast?’

The dark servant disappeared in search of it, and was quickly heard
reascending the stairs in such a tremulous state, that the plates and
dishes on the tray he carried, trembling sympathetically as he came,
rattled again, all the way up.

‘Dombey,’ said the Major, glancing at the Native as he arranged the
table, and encouraging him with an awful shake of his fist when he upset
a spoon, ‘here is a devilled grill, a savoury pie, a dish of kidneys,
and so forth. Pray sit down. Old Joe can give you nothing but camp fare,
you see.’

‘Very excellent fare, Major,’ replied his guest; and not in mere
politeness either; for the Major always took the best possible care of
himself, and indeed ate rather more of rich meats than was good for him,
insomuch that his Imperial complexion was mainly referred by the faculty
to that circumstance.

‘You have been looking over the way, Sir,’ observed the Major. ‘Have you
seen our friend?’

‘You mean Miss Tox,’ retorted Mr Dombey. ‘No.’

‘Charming woman, Sir,’ said the Major, with a fat laugh rising in his
short throat, and nearly suffocating him.

‘Miss Tox is a very good sort of person, I believe,’ replied Mr Dombey.

The haughty coldness of the reply seemed to afford Major Bagstock
infinite delight. He swelled and swelled, exceedingly: and even laid
down his knife and fork for a moment, to rub his hands.

‘Old Joe, Sir,’ said the Major, ‘was a bit of a favourite in
that quarter once. But Joe has had his day. J. Bagstock is
extinguished--outrivalled--floored, Sir.’

‘I should have supposed,’ Mr Dombey replied, ‘that the lady’s day for
favourites was over: but perhaps you are jesting, Major.’

‘Perhaps you are jesting, Dombey?’ was the Major’s rejoinder.

There never was a more unlikely possibility. It was so clearly expressed
in Mr Dombey’s face, that the Major apologised.

‘I beg your pardon,’ he said. ‘I see you are in earnest. I tell you
what, Dombey.’ The Major paused in his eating, and looked mysteriously
indignant. ‘That’s a de-vilish ambitious woman, Sir.’

Mr Dombey said ‘Indeed?’ with frigid indifference: mingled perhaps with
some contemptuous incredulity as to Miss Tox having the presumption to
harbour such a superior quality.

‘That woman, Sir,’ said the Major, ‘is, in her way, a Lucifer. Joey
B. has had his day, Sir, but he keeps his eyes. He sees, does Joe. His
Royal Highness the late Duke of York observed of Joey, at a levee, that
he saw.’

The Major accompanied this with such a look, and, between eating,
drinking, hot tea, devilled grill, muffins, and meaning, was altogether
so swollen and inflamed about the head, that even Mr Dombey showed some
anxiety for him.

‘That ridiculous old spectacle, Sir,’ pursued the Major, ‘aspires. She
aspires sky-high, Sir. Matrimonially, Dombey.’

‘I am sorry for her,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Don’t say that, Dombey,’ returned the Major in a warning voice.

‘Why should I not, Major?’ said Mr Dombey.

The Major gave no answer but the horse’s cough, and went on eating

‘She has taken an interest in your household,’ said the Major, stopping
short again, ‘and has been a frequent visitor at your house for some
time now.’

‘Yes,’ replied Mr Dombey with great stateliness, ‘Miss Tox was
originally received there, at the time of Mrs Dombey’s death, as a
friend of my sister’s; and being a well-behaved person, and showing a
liking for the poor infant, she was permitted--may I say encouraged--to
repeat her visits with my sister, and gradually to occupy a kind of
footing of familiarity in the family. I have,’ said Mr Dombey, in the
tone of a man who was making a great and valuable concession, ‘I have a
respect for Miss Tox. She his been so obliging as to render many little
services in my house: trifling and insignificant services perhaps,
Major, but not to be disparaged on that account: and I hope I have had
the good fortune to be enabled to acknowledge them by such attention and
notice as it has been in my power to bestow. I hold myself indebted to
Miss Tox, Major,’ added Mr Dombey, with a slight wave of his hand, ‘for
the pleasure of your acquaintance.’

‘Dombey,’ said the Major, warmly: ‘no! No, Sir! Joseph Bagstock can
never permit that assertion to pass uncontradicted. Your knowledge of
old Joe, Sir, such as he is, and old Joe’s knowledge of you, Sir, had
its origin in a noble fellow, Sir--in a great creature, Sir. Dombey!’
said the Major, with a struggle which it was not very difficult to
parade, his whole life being a struggle against all kinds of apoplectic
symptoms, ‘we knew each other through your boy.’

Mr Dombey seemed touched, as it is not improbable the Major designed he
should be, by this allusion. He looked down and sighed: and the Major,
rousing himself fiercely, again said, in reference to the state of mind
into which he felt himself in danger of falling, that this was weakness,
and nothing should induce him to submit to it.

‘Our friend had a remote connexion with that event,’ said the Major,
‘and all the credit that belongs to her, J. B. is willing to give her,
Sir. Notwithstanding which, Ma’am,’ he added, raising his eyes from his
plate, and casting them across Princess’s Place, to where Miss Tox was
at that moment visible at her window watering her flowers, ‘you’re
a scheming jade, Ma’am, and your ambition is a piece of monstrous
impudence. If it only made yourself ridiculous, Ma’am,’ said the Major,
rolling his head at the unconscious Miss Tox, while his starting eyes
appeared to make a leap towards her, ‘you might do that to your heart’s
content, Ma’am, without any objection, I assure you, on the part of
Bagstock.’ Here the Major laughed frightfully up in the tips of his ears
and in the veins of his head. ‘But when, Ma’am,’ said the Major, ‘you
compromise other people, and generous, unsuspicious people too, as a
repayment for their condescension, you stir the blood of old Joe in his

‘Major,’ said Mr Dombey, reddening, ‘I hope you do not hint at anything
so absurd on the part of Miss Tox as--’

‘Dombey,’ returned the Major, ‘I hint at nothing. But Joey B. has lived
in the world, Sir: lived in the world with his eyes open, Sir, and his
ears cocked: and Joe tells you, Dombey, that there’s a devilish artful
and ambitious woman over the way.’

Mr Dombey involuntarily glanced over the way; and an angry glance he
sent in that direction, too.

‘That’s all on such a subject that shall pass the lips of Joseph
Bagstock,’ said the Major firmly. ‘Joe is not a tale-bearer, but there
are times when he must speak, when he will speak!--confound your arts,
Ma’am,’ cried the Major, again apostrophising his fair neighbour,
with great ire,--‘when the provocation is too strong to admit of his
remaining silent.’

The emotion of this outbreak threw the Major into a paroxysm of horse’s
coughs, which held him for a long time. On recovering he added:

‘And now, Dombey, as you have invited Joe--old Joe, who has no other
merit, Sir, but that he is tough and hearty--to be your guest and guide
at Leamington, command him in any way you please, and he is wholly
yours. I don’t know, Sir,’ said the Major, wagging his double chin with
a jocose air, ‘what it is you people see in Joe to make you hold him in
such great request, all of you; but this I know, Sir, that if he wasn’t
pretty tough, and obstinate in his refusals, you’d kill him among you
with your invitations and so forth, in double-quick time.’

Mr Dombey, in a few words, expressed his sense of the preference he
received over those other distinguished members of society who were
clamouring for the possession of Major Bagstock. But the Major cut him
short by giving him to understand that he followed his own inclinations,
and that they had risen up in a body and said with one accord, ‘J. B.,
Dombey is the man for you to choose as a friend.’

The Major being by this time in a state of repletion, with essence of
savoury pie oozing out at the corners of his eyes, and devilled grill
and kidneys tightening his cravat: and the time moreover approaching for
the departure of the railway train to Birmingham, by which they were
to leave town: the Native got him into his great-coat with immense
difficulty, and buttoned him up until his face looked staring and
gasping, over the top of that garment, as if he were in a barrel. The
Native then handed him separately, and with a decent interval between
each supply, his washleather gloves, his thick stick, and his hat; which
latter article the Major wore with a rakish air on one side of his head,
by way of toning down his remarkable visage. The Native had previously
packed, in all possible and impossible parts of Mr Dombey’s chariot,
which was in waiting, an unusual quantity of carpet-bags and small
portmanteaus, no less apoplectic in appearance than the Major himself:
and having filled his own pockets with Seltzer water, East India sherry,
sandwiches, shawls, telescopes, maps, and newspapers, any or all of
which light baggage the Major might require at any instant of the
journey, he announced that everything was ready. To complete the
equipment of this unfortunate foreigner (currently believed to be a
prince in his own country), when he took his seat in the rumble by the
side of Mr Towlinson, a pile of the Major’s cloaks and great-coats was
hurled upon him by the landlord, who aimed at him from the pavement
with those great missiles like a Titan, and so covered him up, that he
proceeded, in a living tomb, to the railroad station.

But before the carriage moved away, and while the Native was in the
act of sepulture, Miss Tox appearing at her window, waved a lilywhite
handkerchief. Mr Dombey received this parting salutation very
coldly--very coldly even for him--and honouring her with the slightest
possible inclination of his head, leaned back in the carriage with a
very discontented look. His marked behaviour seemed to afford the
Major (who was all politeness in his recognition of Miss Tox) unbounded
satisfaction; and he sat for a long time afterwards, leering, and
choking, like an over-fed Mephistopheles.

During the bustle of preparation at the railway, Mr Dombey and the Major
walked up and down the platform side by side; the former taciturn and
gloomy, and the latter entertaining him, or entertaining himself, with
a variety of anecdotes and reminiscences, in most of which Joe Bagstock
was the principal performer. Neither of the two observed that in the
course of these walks, they attracted the attention of a working man who
was standing near the engine, and who touched his hat every time they
passed; for Mr Dombey habitually looked over the vulgar herd, not at
them; and the Major was looking, at the time, into the core of one of
his stories. At length, however, this man stepped before them as they
turned round, and pulling his hat off, and keeping it off, ducked his
head to Mr Dombey.

‘Beg your pardon, Sir,’ said the man, ‘but I hope you’re a doin’ pretty
well, Sir.’

He was dressed in a canvas suit abundantly besmeared with coal-dust and
oil, and had cinders in his whiskers, and a smell of half-slaked ashes
all over him. He was not a bad-looking fellow, nor even what could be
fairly called a dirty-looking fellow, in spite of this; and, in short,
he was Mr Toodle, professionally clothed.

‘I shall have the honour of stokin’ of you down, Sir,’ said Mr Toodle.
‘Beg your pardon, Sir.--I hope you find yourself a coming round?’

Mr Dombey looked at him, in return for his tone of interest, as if a man
like that would make his very eyesight dirty.

‘’Scuse the liberty, Sir,’ said Toodle, seeing he was not clearly
remembered, ‘but my wife Polly, as was called Richards in your family--’

A change in Mr Dombey’s face, which seemed to express recollection of
him, and so it did, but it expressed in a much stronger degree an angry
sense of humiliation, stopped Mr Toodle short.

‘Your wife wants money, I suppose,’ said Mr Dombey, putting his hand in
his pocket, and speaking (but that he always did) haughtily.

‘No thank’ee, Sir,’ returned Toodle, ‘I can’t say she does. I don’t.’

Mr Dombey was stopped short now in his turn: and awkwardly: with his
hand in his pocket.

‘No, Sir,’ said Toodle, turning his oilskin cap round and round; ‘we’re
a doin’ pretty well, Sir; we haven’t no cause to complain in the worldly
way, Sir. We’ve had four more since then, Sir, but we rubs on.’

Mr Dombey would have rubbed on to his own carriage, though in so doing
he had rubbed the stoker underneath the wheels; but his attention was
arrested by something in connexion with the cap still going slowly round
and round in the man’s hand.

‘We lost one babby,’ observed Toodle, ‘there’s no denyin’.’

‘Lately,’ added Mr Dombey, looking at the cap.

‘No, Sir, up’ard of three years ago, but all the rest is hearty. And in
the matter o readin’, Sir,’ said Toodle, ducking again, as if to remind
Mr Dombey of what had passed between them on that subject long ago,
‘them boys o’ mine, they learned me, among ‘em, arter all. They’ve made
a wery tolerable scholar of me, Sir, them boys.’

‘Come, Major!’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Beg your pardon, Sir,’ resumed Toodle, taking a step before them and
deferentially stopping them again, still cap in hand: ‘I wouldn’t have
troubled you with such a pint except as a way of gettin’ in the name
of my son Biler--christened Robin--him as you was so good as to make a
Charitable Grinder on.’

‘Well, man,’ said Mr Dombey in his severest manner. ‘What about him?’

‘Why, Sir,’ returned Toodle, shaking his head with a face of great
anxiety and distress, ‘I’m forced to say, Sir, that he’s gone wrong.’

‘He has gone wrong, has he?’ said Mr Dombey, with a hard kind of

‘He has fell into bad company, you see, genelmen,’ pursued the father,
looking wistfully at both, and evidently taking the Major into the
conversation with the hope of having his sympathy. ‘He has got into bad
ways. God send he may come to again, genelmen, but he’s on the wrong
track now! You could hardly be off hearing of it somehow, Sir,’ said
Toodle, again addressing Mr Dombey individually; ‘and it’s better I
should out and say my boy’s gone rather wrong. Polly’s dreadful down
about it, genelmen,’ said Toodle with the same dejected look, and
another appeal to the Major.

‘A son of this man’s whom I caused to be educated, Major,’ said Mr
Dombey, giving him his arm. ‘The usual return!’

‘Take advice from plain old Joe, and never educate that sort of people,
Sir,’ returned the Major. ‘Damme, Sir, it never does! It always fails!’

The simple father was beginning to submit that he hoped his son, the
quondam Grinder, huffed and cuffed, and flogged and badged, and taught,
as parrots are, by a brute jobbed into his place of schoolmaster with as
much fitness for it as a hound, might not have been educated on quite
a right plan in some undiscovered respect, when Mr Dombey angrily
repeating ‘The usual return!’ led the Major away. And the Major being
heavy to hoist into Mr Dombey’s carriage, elevated in mid-air, and
having to stop and swear that he would flay the Native alive, and break
every bone in his skin, and visit other physical torments upon him,
every time he couldn’t get his foot on the step, and fell back on that
dark exile, had barely time before they started to repeat hoarsely that
it would never do: that it always failed: and that if he were to educate
‘his own vagabond,’ he would certainly be hanged.

Mr Dombey assented bitterly; but there was something more in his
bitterness, and in his moody way of falling back in the carriage, and
looking with knitted brows at the changing objects without, than the
failure of that noble educational system administered by the Grinders’
Company. He had seen upon the man’s rough cap a piece of new crape, and
he had assured himself, from his manner and his answers, that he wore it
for his son.

Sol from high to low, at home or abroad, from Florence in his great
house to the coarse churl who was feeding the fire then smoking before
them, everyone set up some claim or other to a share in his dead boy,
and was a bidder against him! Could he ever forget how that woman had
wept over his pillow, and called him her own child! or how he, waking
from his sleep, had asked for her, and had raised himself in his bed and
brightened when she came in!

To think of this presumptuous raker among coals and ashes going on
before there, with his sign of mourning! To think that he dared
to enter, even by a common show like that, into the trial and
disappointment of a proud gentleman’s secret heart! To think that
this lost child, who was to have divided with him his riches, and his
projects, and his power, and allied with whom he was to have shut out
all the world as with a double door of gold, should have let in such a
herd to insult him with their knowledge of his defeated hopes, and their
boasts of claiming community of feeling with himself, so far removed:
if not of having crept into the place wherein he would have lorded it,

He found no pleasure or relief in the journey. Tortured by these
thoughts he carried monotony with him, through the rushing landscape,
and hurried headlong, not through a rich and varied country, but a
wilderness of blighted plans and gnawing jealousies. The very speed at
which the train was whirled along, mocked the swift course of the young
life that had been borne away so steadily and so inexorably to its
foredoomed end. The power that forced itself upon its iron way--its
own--defiant of all paths and roads, piercing through the heart of
every obstacle, and dragging living creatures of all classes, ages, and
degrees behind it, was a type of the triumphant monster, Death.

Away, with a shriek, and a roar, and a rattle, from the town, burrowing
among the dwellings of men and making the streets hum, flashing out into
the meadows for a moment, mining in through the damp earth, booming
on in darkness and heavy air, bursting out again into the sunny day so
bright and wide; away, with a shriek, and a roar, and a rattle, through
the fields, through the woods, through the corn, through the hay,
through the chalk, through the mould, through the clay, through the
rock, among objects close at hand and almost in the grasp, ever flying
from the traveller, and a deceitful distance ever moving slowly within
him: like as in the track of the remorseless monster, Death!

Through the hollow, on the height, by the heath, by the orchard, by the
park, by the garden, over the canal, across the river, where the sheep
are feeding, where the mill is going, where the barge is floating, where
the dead are lying, where the factory is smoking, where the stream is
running, where the village clusters, where the great cathedral rises,
where the bleak moor lies, and the wild breeze smooths or ruffles it at
its inconstant will; away, with a shriek, and a roar, and a rattle, and
no trace to leave behind but dust and vapour: like as in the track of
the remorseless monster, Death!

Breasting the wind and light, the shower and sunshine, away, and still
away, it rolls and roars, fierce and rapid, smooth and certain, and
great works and massive bridges crossing up above, fall like a beam of
shadow an inch broad, upon the eye, and then are lost. Away, and still
away, onward and onward ever: glimpses of cottage-homes, of houses,
mansions, rich estates, of husbandry and handicraft, of people, of old
roads and paths that look deserted, small, and insignificant as they are
left behind: and so they do, and what else is there but such glimpses,
in the track of the indomitable monster, Death!

Away, with a shriek, and a roar, and a rattle, plunging down into the
earth again, and working on in such a storm of energy and perseverance,
that amidst the darkness and whirlwind the motion seems reversed, and
to tend furiously backward, until a ray of light upon the wet wall shows
its surface flying past like a fierce stream. Away once more into the
day, and through the day, with a shrill yell of exultation, roaring,
rattling, tearing on, spurning everything with its dark breath,
sometimes pausing for a minute where a crowd of faces are, that in a
minute more are not; sometimes lapping water greedily, and before the
spout at which it drinks has ceased to drip upon the ground, shrieking,
roaring, rattling through the purple distance!

Louder and louder yet, it shrieks and cries as it comes tearing on
resistless to the goal: and now its way, still like the way of Death,
is strewn with ashes thickly. Everything around is blackened. There are
dark pools of water, muddy lanes, and miserable habitations far below.
There are jagged walls and falling houses close at hand, and through the
battered roofs and broken windows, wretched rooms are seen, where want
and fever hide themselves in many wretched shapes, while smoke and
crowded gables, and distorted chimneys, and deformity of brick and
mortar penning up deformity of mind and body, choke the murky distance.
As Mr Dombey looks out of his carriage window, it is never in his
thoughts that the monster who has brought him there has let the light
of day in on these things: not made or caused them. It was the journey’s
fitting end, and might have been the end of everything; it was so
ruinous and dreary.

So, pursuing the one course of thought, he had the one relentless
monster still before him. All things looked black, and cold, and
deadly upon him, and he on them. He found a likeness to his misfortune
everywhere. There was a remorseless triumph going on about him, and it
galled and stung him in his pride and jealousy, whatever form it took:
though most of all when it divided with him the love and memory of his
lost boy.

There was a face--he had looked upon it, on the previous night, and it
on him with eyes that read his soul, though they were dim with tears,
and hidden soon behind two quivering hands--that often had attended
him in fancy, on this ride. He had seen it, with the expression of last
night, timidly pleading to him. It was not reproachful, but there was
something of doubt, almost of hopeful incredulity in it, which, as he
once more saw that fade away into a desolate certainty of his dislike,
was like reproach. It was a trouble to him to think of this face of

Because he felt any new compunction towards it? No. Because the feeling
it awakened in him--of which he had had some old foreshadowing in older
times--was full-formed now, and spoke out plainly, moving him too much,
and threatening to grow too strong for his composure. Because the face
was abroad, in the expression of defeat and persecution that seemed to
encircle him like the air. Because it barbed the arrow of that cruel and
remorseless enemy on which his thoughts so ran, and put into its grasp a
double-handed sword. Because he knew full well, in his own breast, as he
stood there, tinging the scene of transition before him with the morbid
colours of his own mind, and making it a ruin and a picture of decay,
instead of hopeful change, and promise of better things, that life had
quite as much to do with his complainings as death. One child was gone,
and one child left. Why was the object of his hope removed instead of

The sweet, calm, gentle presence in his fancy, moved him to no
reflection but that. She had been unwelcome to him from the first; she
was an aggravation of his bitterness now. If his son had been his only
child, and the same blow had fallen on him, it would have been heavy to
bear; but infinitely lighter than now, when it might have fallen on her
(whom he could have lost, or he believed it, without a pang), and had
not. Her loving and innocent face rising before him, had no softening
or winning influence. He rejected the angel, and took up with the
tormenting spirit crouching in his bosom. Her patience, goodness, youth,
devotion, love, were as so many atoms in the ashes upon which he set his
heel. He saw her image in the blight and blackness all around him, not
irradiating but deepening the gloom. More than once upon this journey,
and now again as he stood pondering at this journey’s end, tracing
figures in the dust with his stick, the thought came into his mind, what
was there he could interpose between himself and it?

The Major, who had been blowing and panting all the way down, like
another engine, and whose eye had often wandered from his newspaper to
leer at the prospect, as if there were a procession of discomfited Miss
Toxes pouring out in the smoke of the train, and flying away over the
fields to hide themselves in any place of refuge, aroused his friends
by informing him that the post-horses were harnessed and the carriage

‘Dombey,’ said the Major, rapping him on the arm with his cane, ‘don’t
be thoughtful. It’s a bad habit, Old Joe, Sir, wouldn’t be as tough
as you see him, if he had ever encouraged it. You are too great a man,
Dombey, to be thoughtful. In your position, Sir, you’re far above that
kind of thing.’

The Major even in his friendly remonstrances, thus consulting the
dignity and honour of Mr Dombey, and showing a lively sense of their
importance, Mr Dombey felt more than ever disposed to defer to a
gentleman possessing so much good sense and such a well-regulated mind;
accordingly he made an effort to listen to the Major’s stories, as they
trotted along the turnpike road; and the Major, finding both the pace
and the road a great deal better adapted to his conversational powers
than the mode of travelling they had just relinquished, came out of his

But still the Major, blunt and tough as he was, and as he so very often
said he was, administered some palatable catering to his companion’s
appetite. He related, or rather suffered it to escape him, accidentally,
and as one might say, grudgingly and against his will, how there was
great curiosity and excitement at the club, in regard of his friend
Dombey. How he was suffocated with questions, Sir. How old Joe Bagstock
was a greater man than ever, there, on the strength of Dombey. How they
said, ‘Bagstock, your friend Dombey now, what is the view he takes of
such and such a question? Though, by the Rood, Sir,’ said the Major,
with a broad stare, ‘how they discovered that J. B. ever came to know
you, is a mystery!’

In this flow of spirits and conversation, only interrupted by his usual
plethoric symptoms, and by intervals of lunch, and from time to time by
some violent assault upon the Native, who wore a pair of ear-rings
in his dark-brown ears, and on whom his European clothes sat with an
outlandish impossibility of adjustment--being, of their own accord, and
without any reference to the tailor’s art, long where they ought to be
short, short where they ought to be long, tight where they ought to be
loose, and loose where they ought to be tight--and to which he imparted
a new grace, whenever the Major attacked him, by shrinking into them
like a shrivelled nut, or a cold monkey--in this flow of spirits and
conversation, the Major continued all day: so that when evening came
on, and found them trotting through the green and leafy road near
Leamington, the Major’s voice, what with talking and eating and
chuckling and choking, appeared to be in the box under the rumble, or in
some neighbouring hay-stack. Nor did the Major improve it at the
Royal Hotel, where rooms and dinner had been ordered, and where he so
oppressed his organs of speech by eating and drinking, that when he
retired to bed he had no voice at all, except to cough with, and could
only make himself intelligible to the dark servant by gasping at him.

He not only rose next morning, however, like a giant refreshed, but
conducted himself, at breakfast like a giant refreshing. At this
meal they arranged their daily habits. The Major was to take the
responsibility of ordering everything to eat and drink; and they were to
have a late breakfast together every morning, and a late dinner together
every day. Mr Dombey would prefer remaining in his own room, or walking
in the country by himself, on that first day of their sojourn at
Leamington; but next morning he would be happy to accompany the Major to
the Pump-room, and about the town. So they parted until dinner-time.
Mr Dombey retired to nurse his wholesome thoughts in his own way. The
Major, attended by the Native carrying a camp-stool, a great-coat,
and an umbrella, swaggered up and down through all the public places:
looking into subscription books to find out who was there, looking up
old ladies by whom he was much admired, reporting J. B. tougher than
ever, and puffing his rich friend Dombey wherever he went. There never
was a man who stood by a friend more staunchly than the Major, when in
puffing him, he puffed himself.

It was surprising how much new conversation the Major had to let off at
dinner-time, and what occasion he gave Mr Dombey to admire his social
qualities. At breakfast next morning, he knew the contents of the latest
newspapers received; and mentioned several subjects in connexion with
them, on which his opinion had recently been sought by persons of such
power and might, that they were only to be obscurely hinted at. Mr
Dombey, who had been so long shut up within himself, and who had
rarely, at any time, overstepped the enchanted circle within which the
operations of Dombey and Son were conducted, began to think this an
improvement on his solitary life; and in place of excusing himself for
another day, as he had thought of doing when alone, walked out with the
Major arm-in-arm.

CHAPTER 21. New Faces

The MAJOR, more blue-faced and staring--more over-ripe, as it were, than
ever--and giving vent, every now and then, to one of the horse’s coughs,
not so much of necessity as in a spontaneous explosion of importance,
walked arm-in-arm with Mr Dombey up the sunny side of the way, with his
cheeks swelling over his tight stock, his legs majestically wide
apart, and his great head wagging from side to side, as if he were
remonstrating within himself for being such a captivating object. They
had not walked many yards, before the Major encountered somebody he
knew, nor many yards farther before the Major encountered somebody else
he knew, but he merely shook his fingers at them as he passed, and led
Mr Dombey on: pointing out the localities as they went, and enlivening
the walk with any current scandal suggested by them.

In this manner the Major and Mr Dombey were walking arm-in-arm, much
to their own satisfaction, when they beheld advancing towards them,
a wheeled chair, in which a lady was seated, indolently steering her
carriage by a kind of rudder in front, while it was propelled by some
unseen power in the rear. Although the lady was not young, she was
very blooming in the face--quite rosy--and her dress and attitude were
perfectly juvenile. Walking by the side of the chair, and carrying her
gossamer parasol with a proud and weary air, as if so great an effort
must be soon abandoned and the parasol dropped, sauntered a much younger
lady, very handsome, very haughty, very wilful, who tossed her head and
drooped her eyelids, as though, if there were anything in all the world
worth looking into, save a mirror, it certainly was not the earth or

‘Why, what the devil have we here, Sir!’ cried the Major, stopping as
this little cavalcade drew near.

‘My dearest Edith!’ drawled the lady in the chair, ‘Major Bagstock!’

The Major no sooner heard the voice, than he relinquished Mr Dombey’s
arm, darted forward, took the hand of the lady in the chair and pressed
it to his lips. With no less gallantry, the Major folded both his gloves
upon his heart, and bowed low to the other lady. And now, the chair
having stopped, the motive power became visible in the shape of a
flushed page pushing behind, who seemed to have in part outgrown and in
part out-pushed his strength, for when he stood upright he was tall, and
wan, and thin, and his plight appeared the more forlorn from his having
injured the shape of his hat, by butting at the carriage with his
head to urge it forward, as is sometimes done by elephants in Oriental

‘Joe Bagstock,’ said the Major to both ladies, ‘is a proud and happy man
for the rest of his life.’

‘You false creature!’ said the old lady in the chair, insipidly. ‘Where
do you come from? I can’t bear you.’

‘Then suffer old Joe to present a friend, Ma’am,’ said the Major,
promptly, ‘as a reason for being tolerated. Mr Dombey, Mrs Skewton.’ The
lady in the chair was gracious. ‘Mr Dombey, Mrs Granger.’ The lady with
the parasol was faintly conscious of Mr Dombey’s taking off his hat,
and bowing low. ‘I am delighted, Sir,’ said the Major, ‘to have this

The Major seemed in earnest, for he looked at all the three, and leered
in his ugliest manner.

‘Mrs Skewton, Dombey,’ said the Major, ‘makes havoc in the heart of old

Mr Dombey signified that he didn’t wonder at it.

‘You perfidious goblin,’ said the lady in the chair, ‘have done! How
long have you been here, bad man?’

‘One day,’ replied the Major.

‘And can you be a day, or even a minute,’ returned the lady, slightly
settling her false curls and false eyebrows with her fan, and showing
her false teeth, set off by her false complexion, ‘in the garden of

‘Eden, I suppose, Mama,’ interrupted the younger lady, scornfully.

‘My dear Edith,’ said the other, ‘I cannot help it. I never can remember
those frightful names--without having your whole Soul and Being inspired
by the sight of Nature; by the perfume,’ said Mrs Skewton, rustling a
handkerchief that was faint and sickly with essences, ‘of her artless
breath, you creature!’

The discrepancy between Mrs Skewton’s fresh enthusiasm of words, and
forlornly faded manner, was hardly less observable than that between
her age, which was about seventy, and her dress, which would have been
youthful for twenty-seven. Her attitude in the wheeled chair (which she
never varied) was one in which she had been taken in a barouche, some
fifty years before, by a then fashionable artist who had appended to his
published sketch the name of Cleopatra: in consequence of a discovery
made by the critics of the time, that it bore an exact resemblance to
that Princess as she reclined on board her galley. Mrs Skewton was a
beauty then, and bucks threw wine-glasses over their heads by dozens in
her honour. The beauty and the barouche had both passed away, but she
still preserved the attitude, and for this reason expressly, maintained
the wheeled chair and the butting page: there being nothing whatever,
except the attitude, to prevent her from walking.

‘Mr Dombey is devoted to Nature, I trust?’ said Mrs Skewton, settling
her diamond brooch. And by the way, she chiefly lived upon the
reputation of some diamonds, and her family connexions.

‘My friend Dombey, Ma’am,’ returned the Major, ‘may be devoted to her
in secret, but a man who is paramount in the greatest city in the

‘No one can be a stranger,’ said Mrs Skewton, ‘to Mr Dombey’s immense

As Mr Dombey acknowledged the compliment with a bend of his head, the
younger lady glancing at him, met his eyes.

‘You reside here, Madam?’ said Mr Dombey, addressing her.

‘No, we have been to a great many places. To Harrogate and Scarborough,
and into Devonshire. We have been visiting, and resting here and there.
Mama likes change.’

‘Edith of course does not,’ said Mrs Skewton, with a ghastly archness.

‘I have not found that there is any change in such places,’ was the
answer, delivered with supreme indifference.

‘They libel me. There is only one change, Mr Dombey,’ observed Mrs
Skewton, with a mincing sigh, ‘for which I really care, and that I
fear I shall never be permitted to enjoy. People cannot spare one. But
seclusion and contemplation are my what-his-name--’

‘If you mean Paradise, Mama, you had better say so, to render yourself
intelligible,’ said the younger lady.

‘My dearest Edith,’ returned Mrs Skewton, ‘you know that I am wholly
dependent upon you for those odious names. I assure you, Mr Dombey,
Nature intended me for an Arcadian. I am thrown away in society. Cows
are my passion. What I have ever sighed for, has been to retreat to a
Swiss farm, and live entirely surrounded by cows--and china.’

This curious association of objects, suggesting a remembrance of the
celebrated bull who got by mistake into a crockery shop, was received
with perfect gravity by Mr Dombey, who intimated his opinion that Nature
was, no doubt, a very respectable institution.

‘What I want,’ drawled Mrs Skewton, pinching her shrivelled throat, ‘is
heart.’ It was frightfully true in one sense, if not in that in which
she used the phrase. ‘What I want, is frankness, confidence, less
conventionality, and freer play of soul. We are so dreadfully

We were, indeed.

‘In short,’ said Mrs Skewton, ‘I want Nature everywhere. It would be so
extremely charming.’

‘Nature is inviting us away now, Mama, if you are ready,’ said the
younger lady, curling her handsome lip. At this hint, the wan page, who
had been surveying the party over the top of the chair, vanished behind
it, as if the ground had swallowed him up.

‘Stop a moment, Withers!’ said Mrs Skewton, as the chair began to move;
calling to the page with all the languid dignity with which she had
called in days of yore to a coachman with a wig, cauliflower nosegay,
and silk stockings. ‘Where are you staying, abomination?’

The Major was staying at the Royal Hotel, with his friend Dombey.

‘You may come and see us any evening when you are good,’ lisped Mrs
Skewton. ‘If Mr Dombey will honour us, we shall be happy. Withers, go

The Major again pressed to his blue lips the tips of the fingers
that were disposed on the ledge of the wheeled chair with careful
carelessness, after the Cleopatra model: and Mr Dombey bowed. The elder
lady honoured them both with a very gracious smile and a girlish wave
of her hand; the younger lady with the very slightest inclination of her
head that common courtesy allowed.

The last glimpse of the wrinkled face of the mother, with that patched
colour on it which the sun made infinitely more haggard and dismal
than any want of colour could have been, and of the proud beauty of the
daughter with her graceful figure and erect deportment, engendered such
an involuntary disposition on the part of both the Major and Mr Dombey
to look after them, that they both turned at the same moment. The Page,
nearly as much aslant as his own shadow, was toiling after the chair,
uphill, like a slow battering-ram; the top of Cleopatra’s bonnet was
fluttering in exactly the same corner to the inch as before; and the
Beauty, loitering by herself a little in advance, expressed in all
her elegant form, from head to foot, the same supreme disregard of
everything and everybody.

‘I tell you what, Sir,’ said the Major, as they resumed their walk
again. ‘If Joe Bagstock were a younger man, there’s not a woman in the
world whom he’d prefer for Mrs Bagstock to that woman. By George, Sir!’
said the Major, ‘she’s superb!’

‘Do you mean the daughter?’ inquired Mr Dombey.

‘Is Joey B. a turnip, Dombey,’ said the Major, ‘that he should mean the

‘You were complimentary to the mother,’ returned Mr Dombey.

‘An ancient flame, Sir,’ chuckled Major Bagstock. ‘Devilish ancient. I
humour her.’

‘She impresses me as being perfectly genteel,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Genteel, Sir,’ said the Major, stopping short, and staring in his
companion’s face. ‘The Honourable Mrs Skewton, Sir, is sister to the
late Lord Feenix, and aunt to the present Lord. The family are not
wealthy--they’re poor, indeed--and she lives upon a small jointure; but
if you come to blood, Sir!’ The Major gave a flourish with his stick and
walked on again, in despair of being able to say what you came to, if
you came to that.

‘You addressed the daughter, I observed,’ said Mr Dombey, after a short
pause, ‘as Mrs Granger.’

‘Edith Skewton, Sir,’ returned the Major, stopping short again, and
punching a mark in the ground with his cane, to represent her, ‘married
(at eighteen) Granger of Ours;’ whom the Major indicated by another
punch. ‘Granger, Sir,’ said the Major, tapping the last ideal portrait,
and rolling his head emphatically, ‘was Colonel of Ours; a de-vilish
handsome fellow, Sir, of forty-one. He died, Sir, in the second year of
his marriage.’ The Major ran the representative of the deceased Granger
through and through the body with his walking-stick, and went on again,
carrying his stick over his shoulder.

‘How long is this ago?’ asked Mr Dombey, making another halt.

‘Edith Granger, Sir,’ replied the Major, shutting one eye, putting his
head on one side, passing his cane into his left hand, and smoothing his
shirt-frill with his right, ‘is, at this present time, not quite thirty.
And damme, Sir,’ said the Major, shouldering his stick once more, and
walking on again, ‘she’s a peerless woman!’

‘Was there any family?’ asked Mr Dombey presently.

‘Yes, Sir,’ said the Major. ‘There was a boy.’

Mr Dombey’s eyes sought the ground, and a shade came over his face.

‘Who was drowned, Sir,’ pursued the Major. ‘When a child of four or five
years old.’

‘Indeed?’ said Mr Dombey, raising his head.

‘By the upsetting of a boat in which his nurse had no business to have
put him,’ said the Major. ‘That’s his history. Edith Granger is Edith
Granger still; but if tough old Joey B., Sir, were a little younger and
a little richer, the name of that immortal paragon should be Bagstock.’

The Major heaved his shoulders, and his cheeks, and laughed more like an
over-fed Mephistopheles than ever, as he said the words.

‘Provided the lady made no objection, I suppose?’ said Mr Dombey coldly.

‘By Gad, Sir,’ said the Major, ‘the Bagstock breed are not accustomed
to that sort of obstacle. Though it’s true enough that Edith might have
married twenty times, but for being proud, Sir, proud.’

Mr Dombey seemed, by his face, to think no worse of her for that.

‘It’s a great quality after all,’ said the Major. ‘By the Lord, it’s a
high quality! Dombey! You are proud yourself, and your friend, Old Joe,
respects you for it, Sir.’

With this tribute to the character of his ally, which seemed to be wrung
from him by the force of circumstances and the irresistible tendency
of their conversation, the Major closed the subject, and glided into a
general exposition of the extent to which he had been beloved and doted
on by splendid women and brilliant creatures.

On the next day but one, Mr Dombey and the Major encountered the
Honourable Mrs Skewton and her daughter in the Pump-room; on the day
after, they met them again very near the place where they had met them
first. After meeting them thus, three or four times in all, it became
a point of mere civility to old acquaintances that the Major should go
there one evening. Mr Dombey had not originally intended to pay visits,
but on the Major announcing this intention, he said he would have the
pleasure of accompanying him. So the Major told the Native to go round
before dinner, and say, with his and Mr Dombey’s compliments, that they
would have the honour of visiting the ladies that same evening, if the
ladies were alone. In answer to which message, the Native brought back a
very small note with a very large quantity of scent about it, indited by
the Honourable Mrs Skewton to Major Bagstock, and briefly saying, ‘You
are a shocking bear and I have a great mind not to forgive you, but
if you are very good indeed,’ which was underlined, ‘you may come.
Compliments (in which Edith unites) to Mr Dombey.’

The Honourable Mrs Skewton and her daughter, Mrs Granger, resided, while
at Leamington, in lodgings that were fashionable enough and dear enough,
but rather limited in point of space and conveniences; so that the
Honourable Mrs Skewton, being in bed, had her feet in the window and
her head in the fireplace, while the Honourable Mrs Skewton’s maid was
quartered in a closet within the drawing-room, so extremely small, that,
to avoid developing the whole of its accommodations, she was obliged to
writhe in and out of the door like a beautiful serpent. Withers, the
wan page, slept out of the house immediately under the tiles at a
neighbouring milk-shop; and the wheeled chair, which was the stone of
that young Sisyphus, passed the night in a shed belonging to the same
dairy, where new-laid eggs were produced by the poultry connected with
the establishment, who roosted on a broken donkey-cart, persuaded, to
all appearance, that it grew there, and was a species of tree.

Mr Dombey and the Major found Mrs Skewton arranged, as Cleopatra,
among the cushions of a sofa: very airily dressed; and certainly not
resembling Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, whom age could not wither. On their
way upstairs they had heard the sound of a harp, but it had ceased
on their being announced, and Edith now stood beside it handsomer and
haughtier than ever. It was a remarkable characteristic of this lady’s
beauty that it appeared to vaunt and assert itself without her aid, and
against her will. She knew that she was beautiful: it was impossible
that it could be otherwise: but she seemed with her own pride to defy
her very self.

Whether she held cheap attractions that could only call forth admiration
that was worthless to her, or whether she designed to render them more
precious to admirers by this usage of them, those to whom they were
precious seldom paused to consider.

‘I hope, Mrs Granger,’ said Mr Dombey, advancing a step towards her, ‘we
are not the cause of your ceasing to play?’

‘You! oh no!’

‘Why do you not go on then, my dearest Edith?’ said Cleopatra.

‘I left off as I began--of my own fancy.’

The exquisite indifference of her manner in saying this: an indifference
quite removed from dulness or insensibility, for it was pointed with
proud purpose: was well set off by the carelessness with which she drew
her hand across the strings, and came from that part of the room.

‘Do you know, Mr Dombey,’ said her languishing mother, playing with a
hand-screen, ‘that occasionally my dearest Edith and myself actually
almost differ--’

‘Not quite, sometimes, Mama?’ said Edith.

‘Oh never quite, my darling! Fie, fie, it would break my heart,’
returned her mother, making a faint attempt to pat her with the
screen, which Edith made no movement to meet, ‘--about these old
conventionalities of manner that are observed in little things? Why are
we not more natural? Dear me! With all those yearnings, and gushings,
and impulsive throbbings that we have implanted in our souls, and which
are so very charming, why are we not more natural?’

Mr Dombey said it was very true, very true.

‘We could be more natural I suppose if we tried?’ said Mrs Skewton.

Mr Dombey thought it possible.

‘Devil a bit, Ma’am,’ said the Major. ‘We couldn’t afford it. Unless the
world was peopled with J.B.’s--tough and blunt old Joes, Ma’am, plain
red herrings with hard roes, Sir--we couldn’t afford it. It wouldn’t

‘You naughty Infidel,’ said Mrs Skewton, ‘be mute.’

‘Cleopatra commands,’ returned the Major, kissing his hand, ‘and Antony
Bagstock obeys.’

‘The man has no sensitiveness,’ said Mrs Skewton, cruelly holding up the
hand-screen so as to shut the Major out. ‘No sympathy. And what do we
live for but sympathy! What else is so extremely charming! Without that
gleam of sunshine on our cold cold earth,’ said Mrs Skewton, arranging
her lace tucker, and complacently observing the effect of her bare lean
arm, looking upward from the wrist, ‘how could we possibly bear it? In
short, obdurate man!’ glancing at the Major, round the screen, ‘I would
have my world all heart; and Faith is so excessively charming, that I
won’t allow you to disturb it, do you hear?’

The Major replied that it was hard in Cleopatra to require the world to
be all heart, and yet to appropriate to herself the hearts of all
the world; which obliged Cleopatra to remind him that flattery was
insupportable to her, and that if he had the boldness to address her in
that strain any more, she would positively send him home.

Withers the Wan, at this period, handing round the tea, Mr Dombey again
addressed himself to Edith.

‘There is not much company here, it would seem?’ said Mr Dombey, in his
own portentous gentlemanly way.

‘I believe not. We see none.’

‘Why really,’ observed Mrs Skewton from her couch, ‘there are no people
here just now with whom we care to associate.’

‘They have not enough heart,’ said Edith, with a smile. The very
twilight of a smile: so singularly were its light and darkness blended.

‘My dearest Edith rallies me, you see!’ said her mother, shaking her
head: which shook a little of itself sometimes, as if the palsy twinkled
now and then in opposition to the diamonds. ‘Wicked one!’

‘You have been here before, if I am not mistaken?’ said Mr Dombey. Still
to Edith.

‘Oh, several times. I think we have been everywhere.’

‘A beautiful country!’

‘I suppose it is. Everybody says so.’

‘Your cousin Feenix raves about it, Edith,’ interposed her mother from
her couch.

The daughter slightly turned her graceful head, and raising her eyebrows
by a hair’s-breadth, as if her cousin Feenix were of all the mortal
world the least to be regarded, turned her eyes again towards Mr Dombey.

‘I hope, for the credit of my good taste, that I am tired of the
neighbourhood,’ she said.

‘You have almost reason to be, Madam,’ he replied, glancing at a variety
of landscape drawings, of which he had already recognised several
as representing neighbouring points of view, and which were strewn
abundantly about the room, ‘if these beautiful productions are from your

She gave him no reply, but sat in a disdainful beauty, quite amazing.

‘Have they that interest?’ said Mr Dombey. ‘Are they yours?’


‘And you play, I already know.’


‘And sing?’


She answered all these questions with a strange reluctance; and with
that remarkable air of opposition to herself, already noticed as
belonging to her beauty. Yet she was not embarrassed, but wholly
self-possessed. Neither did she seem to wish to avoid the conversation,
for she addressed her face, and--so far as she could--her manner also,
to him; and continued to do so, when he was silent.

‘You have many resources against weariness at least,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Whatever their efficiency may be,’ she returned, ‘you know them all
now. I have no more.’

‘May I hope to prove them all?’ said Mr Dombey, with solemn gallantry,
laying down a drawing he had held, and motioning towards the harp.

‘Oh certainly! If you desire it!’

She rose as she spoke, and crossing by her mother’s couch, and directing
a stately look towards her, which was instantaneous in its duration, but
inclusive (if anyone had seen it) of a multitude of expressions, among
which that of the twilight smile, without the smile itself, overshadowed
all the rest, went out of the room.

The Major, who was quite forgiven by this time, had wheeled a little
table up to Cleopatra, and was sitting down to play picquet with her. Mr
Dombey, not knowing the game, sat down to watch them for his edification
until Edith should return.

‘We are going to have some music, Mr Dombey, I hope?’ said Cleopatra.

‘Mrs Granger has been kind enough to promise so,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Ah! That’s very nice. Do you propose, Major?’

‘No, Ma’am,’ said the Major. ‘Couldn’t do it.’

‘You’re a barbarous being,’ replied the lady, ‘and my hand’s destroyed.
You are fond of music, Mr Dombey?’

‘Eminently so,’ was Mr Dombey’s answer.

‘Yes. It’s very nice,’ said Cleopatra, looking at her cards. ‘So
much heart in it--undeveloped recollections of a previous state of
existence--and all that--which is so truly charming. Do you know,’
simpered Cleopatra, reversing the knave of clubs, who had come into her
game with his heels uppermost, ‘that if anything could tempt me to put
a period to my life, it would be curiosity to find out what it’s all
about, and what it means; there are so many provoking mysteries, really,
that are hidden from us. Major, you to play!’

The Major played; and Mr Dombey, looking on for his instruction,
would soon have been in a state of dire confusion, but that he gave no
attention to the game whatever, and sat wondering instead when Edith
would come back.

She came at last, and sat down to her harp, and Mr Dombey rose and stood
beside her, listening. He had little taste for music, and no knowledge
of the strain she played, but he saw her bending over it, and perhaps
he heard among the sounding strings some distant music of his own, that
tamed the monster of the iron road, and made it less inexorable.

Cleopatra had a sharp eye, verily, at picquet. It glistened like a
bird’s, and did not fix itself upon the game, but pierced the room from
end to end, and gleamed on harp, performer, listener, everything.

When the haughty beauty had concluded, she arose, and receiving Mr
Dombey’s thanks and compliments in exactly the same manner as before,
went with scarcely any pause to the piano, and began there.

Edith Granger, any song but that! Edith Granger, you are very handsome,
and your touch upon the keys is brilliant, and your voice is deep and
rich; but not the air that his neglected daughter sang to his dead son!

Alas, he knows it not; and if he did, what air of hers would stir him,
rigid man! Sleep, lonely Florence, sleep! Peace in thy dreams, although
the night has turned dark, and the clouds are gathering, and threaten to
discharge themselves in hail!

CHAPTER 22. A Trifle of Management by Mr Carker the Manager

Mr Carker the Manager sat at his desk, smooth and soft as usual,
reading those letters which were reserved for him to open, backing
them occasionally with such memoranda and references as their business
purport required, and parcelling them out into little heaps for
distribution through the several departments of the House. The post had
come in heavy that morning, and Mr Carker the Manager had a good deal to

The general action of a man so engaged--pausing to look over a bundle
of papers in his hand, dealing them round in various portions, taking
up another bundle and examining its contents with knitted brows and
pursed-out lips--dealing, and sorting, and pondering by turns--would
easily suggest some whimsical resemblance to a player at cards. The face
of Mr Carker the Manager was in good keeping with such a fancy. It was
the face of a man who studied his play, warily: who made himself master
of all the strong and weak points of the game: who registered the cards
in his mind as they fell about him, knew exactly what was on them, what
they missed, and what they made: who was crafty to find out what the
other players held, and who never betrayed his own hand.

The letters were in various languages, but Mr Carker the Manager read
them all. If there had been anything in the offices of Dombey and Son
that he could read, there would have been a card wanting in the pack.
He read almost at a glance, and made combinations of one letter with
another and one business with another as he went on, adding new matter
to the heaps--much as a man would know the cards at sight, and work out
their combinations in his mind after they were turned. Something too
deep for a partner, and much too deep for an adversary, Mr Carker
the Manager sat in the rays of the sun that came down slanting on him
through the skylight, playing his game alone.

And although it is not among the instincts wild or domestic of the cat
tribe to play at cards, feline from sole to crown was Mr Carker the
Manager, as he basked in the strip of summer-light and warmth that shone
upon his table and the ground as if they were a crooked dial-plate,
and himself the only figure on it. With hair and whiskers deficient in
colour at all times, but feebler than common in the rich sunshine,
and more like the coat of a sandy tortoise-shell cat; with long nails,
nicely pared and sharpened; with a natural antipathy to any speck of
dirt, which made him pause sometimes and watch the falling motes of
dust, and rub them off his smooth white hand or glossy linen: Mr Carker
the Manager, sly of manner, sharp of tooth, soft of foot, watchful of
eye, oily of tongue, cruel of heart, nice of habit, sat with a dainty
steadfastness and patience at his work, as if he were waiting at a
mouse’s hole.

At length the letters were disposed of, excepting one which he
reserved for a particular audience. Having locked the more confidential
correspondence in a drawer, Mr Carker the Manager rang his bell.

‘Why do you answer it?’ was his reception of his brother.

‘The messenger is out, and I am the next,’ was the submissive reply.

‘You are the next?’ muttered the Manager. ‘Yes! Creditable to me!

Pointing to the heaps of opened letters, he turned disdainfully away,
in his elbow-chair, and broke the seal of that one which he held in his

‘I am sorry to trouble you, James,’ said the brother, gathering them up,

‘Oh! you have something to say. I knew that. Well?’

Mr Carker the Manager did not raise his eyes or turn them on his
brother, but kept them on his letter, though without opening it.

‘Well?’ he repeated sharply.

‘I am uneasy about Harriet.’

‘Harriet who? what Harriet? I know nobody of that name.’

‘She is not well, and has changed very much of late.’

‘She changed very much, a great many years ago,’ replied the Manager;
‘and that is all I have to say.

‘I think if you would hear me--

‘Why should I hear you, Brother John?’ returned the Manager, laying a
sarcastic emphasis on those two words, and throwing up his head, but not
lifting his eyes. ‘I tell you, Harriet Carker made her choice many years
ago between her two brothers. She may repent it, but she must abide by

‘Don’t mistake me. I do not say she does repent it. It would be black
ingratitude in me to hint at such a thing,’ returned the other. ‘Though
believe me, James, I am as sorry for her sacrifice as you.’

‘As I?’ exclaimed the Manager. ‘As I?’

‘As sorry for her choice--for what you call her choice--as you are angry
at it,’ said the Junior.

‘Angry?’ repeated the other, with a wide show of his teeth.

‘Displeased. Whatever word you like best. You know my meaning. There is
no offence in my intention.’

‘There is offence in everything you do,’ replied his brother, glancing
at him with a sudden scowl, which in a moment gave place to a wider
smile than the last. ‘Carry those papers away, if you please. I am busy.

His politeness was so much more cutting than his wrath, that the Junior
went to the door. But stopping at it, and looking round, he said:

‘When Harriet tried in vain to plead for me with you, on your first just
indignation, and my first disgrace; and when she left you, James,
to follow my broken fortunes, and devote herself, in her mistaken
affection, to a ruined brother, because without her he had no one, and
was lost; she was young and pretty. I think if you could see her
now--if you would go and see her--she would move your admiration and

The Manager inclined his head, and showed his teeth, as who should say,
in answer to some careless small-talk, ‘Dear me! Is that the case?’ but
said never a word.

‘We thought in those days: you and I both: that she would marry young,
and lead a happy and light-hearted life,’ pursued the other. ‘Oh if you
knew how cheerfully she cast those hopes away; how cheerfully she has
gone forward on the path she took, and never once looked back; you never
could say again that her name was strange in your ears. Never!’

Again the Manager inclined his head and showed his teeth, and seemed to
say, ‘Remarkable indeed! You quite surprise me!’ And again he uttered
never a word.

‘May I go on?’ said John Carker, mildly.

‘On your way?’ replied his smiling brother. ‘If you will have the

John Carker, with a sigh, was passing slowly out at the door, when his
brother’s voice detained him for a moment on the threshold.

‘If she has gone, and goes, her own way cheerfully,’ he said, throwing
the still unfolded letter on his desk, and putting his hands firmly in
his pockets, ‘you may tell her that I go as cheerfully on mine. If she
has never once looked back, you may tell her that I have, sometimes, to
recall her taking part with you, and that my resolution is no easier to
wear away;’ he smiled very sweetly here; ‘than marble.’

‘I tell her nothing of you. We never speak about you. Once a year, on
your birthday, Harriet says always, “Let us remember James by name, and
wish him happy,” but we say no more.’

‘Tell it then, if you please,’ returned the other, ‘to yourself. You
can’t repeat it too often, as a lesson to you to avoid the subject in
speaking to me. I know no Harriet Carker. There is no such person. You
may have a sister; make much of her. I have none.’

Mr Carker the Manager took up the letter again, and waved it with a
smile of mock courtesy towards the door. Unfolding it as his brother
withdrew, and looking darkly after him as he left the room, he once
more turned round in his elbow-chair, and applied himself to a diligent
perusal of its contents.

It was in the writing of his great chief, Mr Dombey, and dated from
Leamington. Though he was a quick reader of all other letters, Mr Carker
read this slowly; weighing the words as he went, and bringing every
tooth in his head to bear upon them. When he had read it through once,
he turned it over again, and picked out these passages. ‘I find myself
benefited by the change, and am not yet inclined to name any time for my
return.’ ‘I wish, Carker, you would arrange to come down once and see me
here, and let me know how things are going on, in person.’ ‘I omitted
to speak to you about young Gay. If not gone per Son and Heir, or if Son
and Heir still lying in the Docks, appoint some other young man and
keep him in the City for the present. I am not decided.’ ‘Now that’s
unfortunate!’ said Mr Carker the Manager, expanding his mouth, as if it
were made of India-rubber: ‘for he’s far away.’

Still that passage, which was in a postscript, attracted his attention
and his teeth, once more.

‘I think,’ he said, ‘my good friend Captain Cuttle mentioned something
about being towed along in the wake of that day. What a pity he’s so far

He refolded the letter, and was sitting trifling with it, standing it
long-wise and broad-wise on his table, and turning it over and over
on all sides--doing pretty much the same thing, perhaps, by its
contents--when Mr Perch the messenger knocked softly at the door, and
coming in on tiptoe, bending his body at every step as if it were the
delight of his life to bow, laid some papers on the table.

‘Would you please to be engaged, Sir?’ asked Mr Perch, rubbing his
hands, and deferentially putting his head on one side, like a man who
felt he had no business to hold it up in such a presence, and would keep
it as much out of the way as possible.

‘Who wants me?’

‘Why, Sir,’ said Mr Perch, in a soft voice, ‘really nobody, Sir, to
speak of at present. Mr Gills the Ship’s Instrument-maker, Sir, has
looked in, about a little matter of payment, he says: but I mentioned to
him, Sir, that you was engaged several deep; several deep.’

Mr Perch coughed once behind his hand, and waited for further orders.

‘Anybody else?’

‘Well, Sir,’ said Mr Perch, ‘I wouldn’t of my own self take the liberty
of mentioning, Sir, that there was anybody else; but that same young lad
that was here yesterday, Sir, and last week, has been hanging about the
place; and it looks, Sir,’ added Mr Perch, stopping to shut the door,
‘dreadful unbusiness-like to see him whistling to the sparrows down the
court, and making of ‘em answer him.’

‘You said he wanted something to do, didn’t you, Perch?’ asked Mr
Carker, leaning back in his chair and looking at that officer.

‘Why, Sir,’ said Mr Perch, coughing behind his hand again, ‘his
expression certainly were that he was in wants of a sitiwation, and that
he considered something might be done for him about the Docks, being
used to fishing with a rod and line: but--’ Mr Perch shook his head very
dubiously indeed.

‘What does he say when he comes?’ asked Mr Carker.

‘Indeed, Sir,’ said Mr Perch, coughing another cough behind his hand,
which was always his resource as an expression of humility when nothing
else occurred to him, ‘his observation generally air that he would
humbly wish to see one of the gentlemen, and that he wants to earn a
living. But you see, Sir,’ added Perch, dropping his voice to a whisper,
and turning, in the inviolable nature of his confidence, to give the
door a thrust with his hand and knee, as if that would shut it any more
when it was shut already, ‘it’s hardly to be bore, Sir, that a common
lad like that should come a prowling here, and saying that his mother
nursed our House’s young gentleman, and that he hopes our House will
give him a chance on that account. I am sure, Sir,’ observed Mr Perch,
‘that although Mrs Perch was at that time nursing as thriving a little
girl, Sir, as we’ve ever took the liberty of adding to our family,
I wouldn’t have made so free as drop a hint of her being capable of
imparting nourishment, not if it was never so!’

Mr Carker grinned at him like a shark, but in an absent, thoughtful

‘Whether,’ submitted Mr Perch, after a short silence, and another cough,
‘it mightn’t be best for me to tell him, that if he was seen here any
more he would be given into custody; and to keep to it! With respect to
bodily fear,’ said Mr Perch, ‘I’m so timid, myself, by nature, Sir,
and my nerves is so unstrung by Mrs Perch’s state, that I could take my
affidavit easy.’

‘Let me see this fellow, Perch,’ said Mr Carker. ‘Bring him in!’

‘Yes, Sir. Begging your pardon, Sir,’ said Mr Perch, hesitating at the
door, ‘he’s rough, Sir, in appearance.’

‘Never mind. If he’s there, bring him in. I’ll see Mr Gills directly.
Ask him to wait.’

Mr Perch bowed; and shutting the door, as precisely and carefully as if
he were not coming back for a week, went on his quest among the sparrows
in the court. While he was gone, Mr Carker assumed his favourite
attitude before the fire-place, and stood looking at the door;
presenting, with his under lip tucked into the smile that showed his
whole row of upper teeth, a singularly crouching apace.

The messenger was not long in returning, followed by a pair of
heavy boots that came bumping along the passage like boxes. With the
unceremonious words ‘Come along with you!’--a very unusual form of
introduction from his lips--Mr Perch then ushered into the presence a
strong-built lad of fifteen, with a round red face, a round sleek head,
round black eyes, round limbs, and round body, who, to carry out the
general rotundity of his appearance, had a round hat in his hand,
without a particle of brim to it.

Obedient to a nod from Mr Carker, Perch had no sooner confronted the
visitor with that gentleman than he withdrew. The moment they were face
to face alone, Mr Carker, without a word of preparation, took him by the
throat, and shook him until his head seemed loose upon his shoulders.

The boy, who in the midst of his astonishment could not help staring
wildly at the gentleman with so many white teeth who was choking him,
and at the office walls, as though determined, if he were choked, that
his last look should be at the mysteries for his intrusion into which he
was paying such a severe penalty, at last contrived to utter--

‘Come, Sir! You let me alone, will you!’

‘Let you alone!’ said Mr Carker. ‘What! I have got you, have I?’ There
was no doubt of that, and tightly too. ‘You dog,’ said Mr Carker,
through his set jaws, ‘I’ll strangle you!’

Biler whimpered, would he though? oh no he wouldn’t--and what was he
doing of--and why didn’t he strangle some--body of his own size and not
him: but Biler was quelled by the extraordinary nature of his reception,
and, as his head became stationary, and he looked the gentleman in the
face, or rather in the teeth, and saw him snarling at him, he so far
forgot his manhood as to cry.

‘I haven’t done nothing to you, Sir,’ said Biler, otherwise Rob,
otherwise Grinder, and always Toodle.

‘You young scoundrel!’ replied Mr Carker, slowly releasing him, and
moving back a step into his favourite position. ‘What do you mean by
daring to come here?’

‘I didn’t mean no harm, Sir,’ whimpered Rob, putting one hand to his
throat, and the knuckles of the other to his eyes. ‘I’ll never come
again, Sir. I only wanted work.’

‘Work, young Cain that you are!’ repeated Mr Carker, eyeing him
narrowly. ‘Ain’t you the idlest vagabond in London?’

The impeachment, while it much affected Mr Toodle Junior, attached to
his character so justly, that he could not say a word in denial.
He stood looking at the gentleman, therefore, with a frightened,
self-convicted, and remorseful air. As to his looking at him, it may be
observed that he was fascinated by Mr Carker, and never took his round
eyes off him for an instant.

‘Ain’t you a thief?’ said Mr Carker, with his hands behind him in his

‘No, sir,’ pleaded Rob.

‘You are!’ said Mr Carker.

‘I ain’t indeed, Sir,’ whimpered Rob. ‘I never did such a thing as
thieve, Sir, if you’ll believe me. I know I’ve been a going wrong, Sir,
ever since I took to bird-catching and walking-matching. I’m sure a
cove might think,’ said Mr Toodle Junior, with a burst of penitence,
‘that singing birds was innocent company, but nobody knows what harm is
in them little creeturs and what they brings you down to.’

They seemed to have brought him down to a velveteen jacket and trousers
very much the worse for wear, a particularly small red waistcoat like a
gorget, an interval of blue check, and the hat before mentioned.

‘I ain’t been home twenty times since them birds got their will of me,’
said Rob, ‘and that’s ten months. How can I go home when everybody’s
miserable to see me! I wonder,’ said Biler, blubbering outright, and
smearing his eyes with his coat-cuff, ‘that I haven’t been and drownded
myself over and over again.’

All of which, including his expression of surprise at not having
achieved this last scarce performance, the boy said, just as if the
teeth of Mr Carker drew it out of him, and he had no power of concealing
anything with that battery of attraction in full play.

‘You’re a nice young gentleman!’ said Mr Carker, shaking his head at
him. ‘There’s hemp-seed sown for you, my fine fellow!’

‘I’m sure, Sir,’ returned the wretched Biler, blubbering again, and
again having recourse to his coat-cuff: ‘I shouldn’t care, sometimes,
if it was growed too. My misfortunes all began in wagging, Sir; but what
could I do, exceptin’ wag?’

‘Excepting what?’ said Mr Carker.

‘Wag, Sir. Wagging from school.’

‘Do you mean pretending to go there, and not going?’ said Mr Carker.

‘Yes, Sir, that’s wagging, Sir,’ returned the quondam Grinder, much
affected. ‘I was chivied through the streets, Sir, when I went there,
and pounded when I got there. So I wagged, and hid myself, and that
began it.’

‘And you mean to tell me,’ said Mr Carker, taking him by the throat
again, holding him out at arm’s-length, and surveying him in silence for
some moments, ‘that you want a place, do you?’

‘I should be thankful to be tried, Sir,’ returned Toodle Junior,

Mr Carker the Manager pushed him backward into a corner--the boy
submitting quietly, hardly venturing to breathe, and never once removing
his eyes from his face--and rang the bell.

‘Tell Mr Gills to come here.’

Mr Perch was too deferential to express surprise or recognition of the
figure in the corner: and Uncle Sol appeared immediately.

‘Mr Gills!’ said Carker, with a smile, ‘sit down. How do you do? You
continue to enjoy your health, I hope?’

‘Thank you, Sir,’ returned Uncle Sol, taking out his pocket-book, and
handing over some notes as he spoke. ‘Nothing ails me in body but old
age. Twenty-five, Sir.’

‘You are as punctual and exact, Mr Gills,’ replied the smiling Manager,
taking a paper from one of his many drawers, and making an endorsement
on it, while Uncle Sol looked over him, ‘as one of your own
chronometers. Quite right.’

‘The Son and Heir has not been spoken, I find by the list, Sir,’ said
Uncle Sol, with a slight addition to the usual tremor in his voice.

‘The Son and Heir has not been spoken,’ returned Carker. ‘There seems
to have been tempestuous weather, Mr Gills, and she has probably been
driven out of her course.’

‘She is safe, I trust in Heaven!’ said old Sol.

‘She is safe, I trust in Heaven!’ assented Mr Carker in that voiceless
manner of his: which made the observant young Toodle tremble again. ‘Mr
Gills,’ he added aloud, throwing himself back in his chair, ‘you must
miss your nephew very much?’

Uncle Sol, standing by him, shook his head and heaved a deep sigh.

‘Mr Gills,’ said Carker, with his soft hand playing round his mouth, and
looking up into the Instrument-maker’s face, ‘it would be company to you
to have a young fellow in your shop just now, and it would be obliging
me if you would give one house-room for the present. No, to be sure,’
he added quickly, in anticipation of what the old man was going to say,
‘there’s not much business doing there, I know; but you can make him
clean the place out, polish up the instruments; drudge, Mr Gills. That’s
the lad!’

Sol Gills pulled down his spectacles from his forehead to his eyes,
and looked at Toodle Junior standing upright in the corner: his head
presenting the appearance (which it always did) of having been newly
drawn out of a bucket of cold water; his small waistcoat rising and
falling quickly in the play of his emotions; and his eyes intently fixed
on Mr Carker, without the least reference to his proposed master.

‘Will you give him house-room, Mr Gills?’ said the Manager.

Old Sol, without being quite enthusiastic on the subject, replied that
he was glad of any opportunity, however slight, to oblige Mr Carker,
whose wish on such a point was a command: and that the wooden Midshipman
would consider himself happy to receive in his berth any visitor of Mr
Carker’s selecting.

Mr Carker bared himself to the tops and bottoms of his gums: making
the watchful Toodle Junior tremble more and more: and acknowledged the
Instrument-maker’s politeness in his most affable manner.

‘I’ll dispose of him so, then, Mr Gills,’ he answered, rising, and
shaking the old man by the hand, ‘until I make up my mind what to do
with him, and what he deserves. As I consider myself responsible for
him, Mr Gills,’ here he smiled a wide smile at Rob, who shook before
it: ‘I shall be glad if you’ll look sharply after him, and report his
behaviour to me. I’ll ask a question or two of his parents as I ride
home this afternoon--respectable people--to confirm some particulars in
his own account of himself; and that done, Mr Gills, I’ll send him round
to you to-morrow morning. Goodbye!’

His smile at parting was so full of teeth, that it confused old Sol, and
made him vaguely uncomfortable. He went home, thinking of raging seas,
foundering ships, drowning men, an ancient bottle of Madeira never
brought to light, and other dismal matters.

‘Now, boy!’ said Mr Carker, putting his hand on young Toodle’s shoulder,
and bringing him out into the middle of the room. ‘You have heard me?’

Rob said, ‘Yes, Sir.’

‘Perhaps you understand,’ pursued his patron, ‘that if you ever deceive
or play tricks with me, you had better have drowned yourself, indeed,
once for all, before you came here?’

There was nothing in any branch of mental acquisition that Rob seemed to
understand better than that.

‘If you have lied to me,’ said Mr Carker, ‘in anything, never come in my
way again. If not, you may let me find you waiting for me somewhere near
your mother’s house this afternoon. I shall leave this at five o’clock,
and ride there on horseback. Now, give me the address.’

Rob repeated it slowly, as Mr Carker wrote it down. Rob even spelt it
over a second time, letter by letter, as if he thought that the omission
of a dot or scratch would lead to his destruction. Mr Carker then handed
him out of the room; and Rob, keeping his round eyes fixed upon his
patron to the last, vanished for the time being.

Mr Carker the Manager did a great deal of business in the course of the
day, and bestowed his teeth upon a great many people. In the office, in
the court, in the street, and on ‘Change, they glistened and bristled
to a terrible extent. Five o’clock arriving, and with it Mr Carker’s bay
horse, they got on horseback, and went gleaming up Cheapside.

As no one can easily ride fast, even if inclined to do so, through the
press and throng of the City at that hour, and as Mr Carker was not
inclined, he went leisurely along, picking his way among the carts and
carriages, avoiding whenever he could the wetter and more dirty places
in the over-watered road, and taking infinite pains to keep himself and
his steed clean. Glancing at the passersby while he was thus ambling on
his way, he suddenly encountered the round eyes of the sleek-headed Rob
intently fixed upon his face as if they had never been taken off, while
the boy himself, with a pocket-handkerchief twisted up like a speckled
eel and girded round his waist, made a very conspicuous demonstration
of being prepared to attend upon him, at whatever pace he might think
proper to go.

This attention, however flattering, being one of an unusual kind,
and attracting some notice from the other passengers, Mr Carker took
advantage of a clearer thoroughfare and a cleaner road, and broke into a
trot. Rob immediately did the same. Mr Carker presently tried a canter;
Rob was still in attendance. Then a short gallop; it was all one to the
boy. Whenever Mr Carker turned his eyes to that side of the road, he
still saw Toodle Junior holding his course, apparently without distress,
and working himself along by the elbows after the most approved manner
of professional gentlemen who get over the ground for wagers.

Ridiculous as this attendance was, it was a sign of an influence
established over the boy, and therefore Mr Carker, affecting not to
notice it, rode away into the neighbourhood of Mr Toodle’s house. On
his slackening his pace here, Rob appeared before him to point out the
turnings; and when he called to a man at a neighbouring gateway to
hold his horse, pending his visit to the buildings that had succeeded
Staggs’s Gardens, Rob dutifully held the stirrup, while the Manager

‘Now, Sir,’ said Mr Carker, taking him by the shoulder, ‘come along!’

The prodigal son was evidently nervous of visiting the parental abode;
but Mr Carker pushing him on before, he had nothing for it but to open
the right door, and suffer himself to be walked into the midst of his
brothers and sisters, mustered in overwhelming force round the family
tea-table. At sight of the prodigal in the grasp of a stranger,
these tender relations united in a general howl, which smote upon the
prodigal’s breast so sharply when he saw his mother stand up among them,
pale and trembling, with the baby in her arms, that he lent his own
voice to the chorus.

Nothing doubting now that the stranger, if not Mr Ketch in person, was
one of that company, the whole of the young family wailed the louder,
while its more infantine members, unable to control the transports of
emotion appertaining to their time of life, threw themselves on their
backs like young birds when terrified by a hawk, and kicked violently.
At length, poor Polly making herself audible, said, with quivering lips,
‘Oh Rob, my poor boy, what have you done at last!’

‘Nothing, mother,’ cried Rob, in a piteous voice, ‘ask the gentleman!’

‘Don’t be alarmed,’ said Mr Carker, ‘I want to do him good.’

At this announcement, Polly, who had not cried yet, began to do so. The
elder Toodles, who appeared to have been meditating a rescue, unclenched
their fists. The younger Toodles clustered round their mother’s gown,
and peeped from under their own chubby arms at their desperado brother
and his unknown friend. Everybody blessed the gentleman with the
beautiful teeth, who wanted to do good.

‘This fellow,’ said Mr Carker to Polly, giving him a gentle shake, ‘is
your son, eh, Ma’am?’

‘Yes, Sir,’ sobbed Polly, with a curtsey; ‘yes, Sir.’

‘A bad son, I am afraid?’ said Mr Carker.

‘Never a bad son to me, Sir,’ returned Polly.

‘To whom then?’ demanded Mr Carker.

‘He has been a little wild, Sir,’ returned Polly, checking the baby, who
was making convulsive efforts with his arms and legs to launch himself
on Biler, through the ambient air, ‘and has gone with wrong companions:
but I hope he has seen the misery of that, Sir, and will do well again.’

Mr Carker looked at Polly, and the clean room, and the clean children,
and the simple Toodle face, combined of father and mother, that was
reflected and repeated everywhere about him--and seemed to have achieved
the real purpose of his visit.

‘Your husband, I take it, is not at home?’ he said.

‘No, Sir,’ replied Polly. ‘He’s down the line at present.’

The prodigal Rob seemed very much relieved to hear it: though still in
the absorption of all his faculties in his patron, he hardly took his
eyes from Mr Carker’s face, unless for a moment at a time to steal a
sorrowful glance at his mother.

‘Then,’ said Mr Carker, ‘I’ll tell you how I have stumbled on this boy
of yours, and who I am, and what I am going to do for him.’

This Mr Carker did, in his own way; saying that he at first intended to
have accumulated nameless terrors on his presumptuous head, for
coming to the whereabout of Dombey and Son. That he had relented, in
consideration of his youth, his professed contrition, and his friends.
That he was afraid he took a rash step in doing anything for the boy,
and one that might expose him to the censure of the prudent; but that
he did it of himself and for himself, and risked the consequences
single-handed; and that his mother’s past connexion with Mr Dombey’s
family had nothing to do with it, and that Mr Dombey had nothing to do
with it, but that he, Mr Carker, was the be-all and the end-all of this
business. Taking great credit to himself for his goodness, and
receiving no less from all the family then present, Mr Carker signified,
indirectly but still pretty plainly, that Rob’s implicit fidelity,
attachment, and devotion, were for evermore his due, and the least
homage he could receive. And with this great truth Rob himself was so
impressed, that, standing gazing on his patron with tears rolling down
his cheeks, he nodded his shiny head until it seemed almost as loose as
it had done under the same patron’s hands that morning.

Polly, who had passed Heaven knows how many sleepless nights on account
of this her dissipated firstborn, and had not seen him for weeks and
weeks, could have almost kneeled to Mr Carker the Manager, as to a Good
Spirit--in spite of his teeth. But Mr Carker rising to depart, she only
thanked him with her mother’s prayers and blessings; thanks so rich when
paid out of the Heart’s mint, especially for any service Mr Carker had
rendered, that he might have given back a large amount of change, and
yet been overpaid.

As that gentleman made his way among the crowding children to the door,
Rob retreated on his mother, and took her and the baby in the same
repentant hug.

‘I’ll try hard, dear mother, now. Upon my soul I will!’ said Rob.

‘Oh do, my dear boy! I am sure you will, for our sakes and your own!’
cried Polly, kissing him. ‘But you’re coming back to speak to me, when
you have seen the gentleman away?’

‘I don’t know, mother.’ Rob hesitated, and looked down. ‘Father--when’s
he coming home?’

‘Not till two o’clock to-morrow morning.’

‘I’ll come back, mother dear!’ cried Rob. And passing through the
shrill cry of his brothers and sisters in reception of this promise, he
followed Mr Carker out.

‘What!’ said Mr Carker, who had heard this. ‘You have a bad father, have

‘No, Sir!’ returned Rob, amazed. ‘There ain’t a better nor a kinder
father going, than mine is.’

‘Why don’t you want to see him then?’ inquired his patron.

‘There’s such a difference between a father and a mother, Sir,’ said
Rob, after faltering for a moment. ‘He couldn’t hardly believe yet that
I was doing to do better--though I know he’d try to--but a mother--she
always believes what’s good, Sir; at least, I know my mother does, God
bless her!’

Mr Carker’s mouth expanded, but he said no more until he was mounted
on his horse, and had dismissed the man who held it, when, looking down
from the saddle steadily into the attentive and watchful face of the
boy, he said:

‘You’ll come to me tomorrow morning, and you shall be shown where that
old gentleman lives; that old gentleman who was with me this morning;
where you are going, as you heard me say.’

‘Yes, Sir,’ returned Rob.

‘I have a great interest in that old gentleman, and in serving him, you
serve me, boy, do you understand? Well,’ he added, interrupting him, for
he saw his round face brighten when he was told that: ‘I see you do. I
want to know all about that old gentleman, and how he goes on from day
to day--for I am anxious to be of service to him--and especially who
comes there to see him. Do you understand?’

Rob nodded his steadfast face, and said ‘Yes, Sir,’ again.

‘I should like to know that he has friends who are attentive to him,
and that they don’t desert him--for he lives very much alone now, poor
fellow; but that they are fond of him, and of his nephew who has gone
abroad. There is a very young lady who may perhaps come to see him. I
want particularly to know all about her.’

‘I’ll take care, Sir,’ said the boy.

‘And take care,’ returned his patron, bending forward to advance his
grinning face closer to the boy’s, and pat him on the shoulder with the
handle of his whip: ‘take care you talk about affairs of mine to nobody
but me.’

‘To nobody in the world, Sir,’ replied Rob, shaking his head.

‘Neither there,’ said Mr Carker, pointing to the place they had just
left, ‘nor anywhere else. I’ll try how true and grateful you can be.
I’ll prove you!’ Making this, by his display of teeth and by the action
of his head, as much a threat as a promise, he turned from Rob’s eyes,
which were nailed upon him as if he had won the boy by a charm, body
and soul, and rode away. But again becoming conscious, after trotting a
short distance, that his devoted henchman, girt as before, was yielding
him the same attendance, to the great amusement of sundry spectators,
he reined up, and ordered him off. To ensure his obedience, he turned
in the saddle and watched him as he retired. It was curious to see that
even then Rob could not keep his eyes wholly averted from his patron’s
face, but, constantly turning and turning again to look after him,
involved himself in a tempest of buffetings and jostlings from the other
passengers in the street: of which, in the pursuit of the one paramount
idea, he was perfectly heedless.

Mr Carker the Manager rode on at a foot-pace, with the easy air of one
who had performed all the business of the day in a satisfactory manner,
and got it comfortably off his mind. Complacent and affable as man could
be, Mr Carker picked his way along the streets and hummed a soft tune as
he went. He seemed to purr, he was so glad.

And in some sort, Mr Carker, in his fancy, basked upon a hearth too.
Coiled up snugly at certain feet, he was ready for a spring, Or for a
tear, or for a scratch, or for a velvet touch, as the humour took him
and occasion served. Was there any bird in a cage, that came in for a
share of his regards?

‘A very young lady!’ thought Mr Carker the Manager, through his song.
‘Ay! when I saw her last, she was a little child. With dark eyes and
hair, I recollect, and a good face; a very good face! I daresay she’s

More affable and pleasant yet, and humming his song until his many teeth
vibrated to it, Mr Carker picked his way along, and turned at last into
the shady street where Mr Dombey’s house stood. He had been so busy,
winding webs round good faces, and obscuring them with meshes, that he
hardly thought of being at this point of his ride, until, glancing down
the cold perspective of tall houses, he reined in his horse quickly
within a few yards of the door. But to explain why Mr Carker reined in
his horse quickly, and what he looked at in no small surprise, a few
digressive words are necessary.

Mr Toots, emancipated from the Blimber thraldom and coming into the
possession of a certain portion of his worldly wealth, ‘which,’ as he had
been wont, during his last half-year’s probation, to communicate to Mr
Feeder every evening as a new discovery, ‘the executors couldn’t keep
him out of’ had applied himself with great diligence, to the science
of Life. Fired with a noble emulation to pursue a brilliant and
distinguished career, Mr Toots had furnished a choice set of apartments;
had established among them a sporting bower, embellished with the
portraits of winning horses, in which he took no particle of interest;
and a divan, which made him poorly. In this delicious abode, Mr Toots
devoted himself to the cultivation of those gentle arts which refine
and humanise existence, his chief instructor in which was an interesting
character called the Game Chicken, who was always to be heard of at the
bar of the Black Badger, wore a shaggy white great-coat in the warmest
weather, and knocked Mr Toots about the head three times a week, for the
small consideration of ten and six per visit.

The Game Chicken, who was quite the Apollo of Mr Toots’s Pantheon, had
introduced to him a marker who taught billiards, a Life Guard who taught
fencing, a jobmaster who taught riding, a Cornish gentleman who was
up to anything in the athletic line, and two or three other friends
connected no less intimately with the fine arts. Under whose auspices
Mr Toots could hardly fail to improve apace, and under whose tuition he
went to work.

But however it came about, it came to pass, even while these gentlemen
had the gloss of novelty upon them, that Mr Toots felt, he didn’t know
how, unsettled and uneasy. There were husks in his corn, that even Game
Chickens couldn’t peck up; gloomy giants in his leisure, that even Game
Chickens couldn’t knock down. Nothing seemed to do Mr Toots so much good
as incessantly leaving cards at Mr Dombey’s door. No taxgatherer in the
British Dominions--that wide-spread territory on which the sun never
sets, and where the tax-gatherer never goes to bed--was more regular and
persevering in his calls than Mr Toots.

Mr Toots never went upstairs; and always performed the same ceremonies,
richly dressed for the purpose, at the hall door.

‘Oh! Good morning!’ would be Mr Toots’s first remark to the servant.
‘For Mr Dombey,’ would be Mr Toots’s next remark, as he handed in a
card. ‘For Miss Dombey,’ would be his next, as he handed in another.

Mr Toots would then turn round as if to go away; but the man knew him by
this time, and knew he wouldn’t.

‘Oh, I beg your pardon,’ Mr Toots would say, as if a thought had
suddenly descended on him. ‘Is the young woman at home?’

The man would rather think she was, but wouldn’t quite know. Then he
would ring a bell that rang upstairs, and would look up the staircase,
and would say, yes, she was at home, and was coming down. Then Miss
Nipper would appear, and the man would retire.

‘Oh! How de do?’ Mr Toots would say, with a chuckle and a blush.

Susan would thank him, and say she was very well.

‘How’s Diogenes going on?’ would be Mr Toots’s second interrogation.

Very well indeed. Miss Florence was fonder and fonder of him every
day. Mr Toots was sure to hail this with a burst of chuckles, like the
opening of a bottle of some effervescent beverage.

‘Miss Florence is quite well, Sir,’ Susan would add.

‘Oh, it’s of no consequence, thank’ee,’ was the invariable reply of Mr
Toots; and when he had said so, he always went away very fast.

Now it is certain that Mr Toots had a filmy something in his mind, which
led him to conclude that if he could aspire successfully in the fulness
of time, to the hand of Florence, he would be fortunate and blest. It
is certain that Mr Toots, by some remote and roundabout road, had got
to that point, and that there he made a stand. His heart was wounded; he
was touched; he was in love. He had made a desperate attempt, one
night, and had sat up all night for the purpose, to write an acrostic
on Florence, which affected him to tears in the conception. But he
never proceeded in the execution further than the words ‘For when I
gaze,’--the flow of imagination in which he had previously written down
the initial letters of the other seven lines, deserting him at that

Beyond devising that very artful and politic measure of leaving a
card for Mr Dombey daily, the brain of Mr Toots had not worked much
in reference to the subject that held his feelings prisoner. But deep
consideration at length assured Mr Toots that an important step to gain,
was, the conciliation of Miss Susan Nipper, preparatory to giving her
some inkling of his state of mind.

A little light and playful gallantry towards this lady seemed the means
to employ in that early chapter of the history, for winning her to
his interests. Not being able quite to make up his mind about it,
he consulted the Chicken--without taking that gentleman into his
confidence; merely informing him that a friend in Yorkshire had written
to him (Mr Toots) for his opinion on such a question. The Chicken
replying that his opinion always was, ‘Go in and win,’ and further,
‘When your man’s before you and your work cut out, go in and do it,’ Mr
Toots considered this a figurative way of supporting his own view of the
case, and heroically resolved to kiss Miss Nipper next day.

Upon the next day, therefore, Mr Toots, putting into requisition some of
the greatest marvels that Burgess and Co. had ever turned out, went off
to Mr Dombey’s upon this design. But his heart failed him so much as he
approached the scene of action, that, although he arrived on the ground
at three o’clock in the afternoon, it was six before he knocked at the

Everything happened as usual, down to the point where Susan said her
young mistress was well, and Mr Toots said it was of no consequence. To
her amazement, Mr Toots, instead of going off, like a rocket, after that
observation, lingered and chuckled.

‘Perhaps you’d like to walk upstairs, Sir!’ said Susan.

‘Well, I think I will come in!’ said Mr Toots.

But instead of walking upstairs, the bold Toots made an awkward plunge
at Susan when the door was shut, and embracing that fair creature,
kissed her on the cheek.

‘Go along with you!’ cried Susan, ‘or Ill tear your eyes out.’

‘Just another!’ said Mr Toots.

‘Go along with you!’ exclaimed Susan, giving him a push ‘Innocents like
you, too! Who’ll begin next? Go along, Sir!’

Susan was not in any serious strait, for she could hardly speak for
laughing; but Diogenes, on the staircase, hearing a rustling against
the wall, and a shuffling of feet, and seeing through the banisters that
there was some contention going on, and foreign invasion in the house,
formed a different opinion, dashed down to the rescue, and in the
twinkling of an eye had Mr Toots by the leg.

Susan screamed, laughed, opened the street-door, and ran downstairs; the
bold Toots tumbled staggering out into the street, with Diogenes holding
on to one leg of his pantaloons, as if Burgess and Co. were his cooks,
and had provided that dainty morsel for his holiday entertainment;
Diogenes shaken off, rolled over and over in the dust, got up again,
whirled round the giddy Toots and snapped at him: and all this turmoil
Mr Carker, reigning up his horse and sitting a little at a distance, saw
to his amazement, issue from the stately house of Mr Dombey.

Mr Carker remained watching the discomfited Toots, when Diogenes was
called in, and the door shut: and while that gentleman, taking refuge in
a doorway near at hand, bound up the torn leg of his pantaloons with a
costly silk handkerchief that had formed part of his expensive outfit
for the advent.

‘I beg your pardon, Sir,’ said Mr Carker, riding up, with his most
propitiatory smile. ‘I hope you are not hurt?’

‘Oh no, thank you,’ replied Mr Toots, raising his flushed face, ‘it’s
of no consequence’ Mr Toots would have signified, if he could, that he
liked it very much.

‘If the dog’s teeth have entered the leg, Sir--’ began Carker, with a
display of his own.

‘No, thank you,’ said Mr Toots, ‘it’s all quite right. It’s very
comfortable, thank you.’

‘I have the pleasure of knowing Mr Dombey,’ observed Carker.

‘Have you though?’ rejoined the blushing Took

‘And you will allow me, perhaps, to apologise, in his absence,’ said Mr
Carker, taking off his hat, ‘for such a misadventure, and to wonder how
it can possibly have happened.’

Mr Toots is so much gratified by this politeness, and the lucky chance
of making friends with a friend of Mr Dombey, that he pulls out his
card-case which he never loses an opportunity of using, and hands his
name and address to Mr Carker: who responds to that courtesy by giving
him his own, and with that they part.

As Mr Carker picks his way so softly past the house, looking up at the
windows, and trying to make out the pensive face behind the curtain
looking at the children opposite, the rough head of Diogenes came
clambering up close by it, and the dog, regardless of all soothing,
barks and growls, and makes at him from that height, as if he would
spring down and tear him limb from limb.

Well spoken, Di, so near your Mistress! Another, and another with your
head up, your eyes flashing, and your vexed mouth worrying itself, for
want of him! Another, as he picks his way along! You have a good scent,
Di,--cats, boy, cats!

CHAPTER 23. Florence solitary, and the Midshipman mysterious

Florence lived alone in the great dreary house, and day succeeded day,
and still she lived alone; and the blank walls looked down upon her with
a vacant stare, as if they had a Gorgon-like mind to stare her youth and
beauty into stone.

No magic dwelling-place in magic story, shut up in the heart of a thick
wood, was ever more solitary and deserted to the fancy, than was her
father’s mansion in its grim reality, as it stood lowering on the
street: always by night, when lights were shining from neighbouring
windows, a blot upon its scanty brightness; always by day, a frown upon
its never-smiling face.

There were not two dragon sentries keeping ward before the gate of this
above, as in magic legend are usually found on duty over the wronged
innocence imprisoned; but besides a glowering visage, with its thin lips
parted wickedly, that surveyed all comers from above the archway of the
door, there was a monstrous fantasy of rusty iron, curling and twisting
like a petrifaction of an arbour over threshold, budding in spikes
and corkscrew points, and bearing, one on either side, two ominous
extinguishers, that seemed to say, ‘Who enter here, leave light behind!’
There were no talismanic characters engraven on the portal, but the
house was now so neglected in appearance, that boys chalked the railings
and the pavement--particularly round the corner where the side wall
was--and drew ghosts on the stable door; and being sometimes driven off
by Mr Towlinson, made portraits of him, in return, with his ears growing
out horizontally from under his hat. Noise ceased to be, within the
shadow of the roof. The brass band that came into the street once a
week, in the morning, never brayed a note in at those windows; but all
such company, down to a poor little piping organ of weak intellect,
with an imbecile party of automaton dancers, waltzing in and out at
folding-doors, fell off from it with one accord, and shunned it as a
hopeless place.

The spell upon it was more wasting than the spell that used to set
enchanted houses sleeping once upon a time, but left their waking
freshness unimpaired.

The passive desolation of disuse was everywhere silently manifest about
it. Within doors, curtains, drooping heavily, lost their old folds and
shapes, and hung like cumbrous palls. Hecatombs of furniture, still
piled and covered up, shrunk like imprisoned and forgotten men, and
changed insensibly. Mirrors were dim as with the breath of years.
Patterns of carpets faded and became perplexed and faint, like the
memory of those years’ trifling incidents. Boards, starting at unwonted
footsteps, creaked and shook. Keys rusted in the locks of doors. Damp
started on the walls, and as the stains came out, the pictures seemed to
go in and secrete themselves. Mildew and mould began to lurk in closets.
Fungus trees grew in corners of the cellars.  Dust accumulated, nobody
knew whence nor how; spiders, moths, and grubs were heard of every day.
An exploratory blackbeetle now and then was found immovable upon the
stairs, or in an upper room, as wondering how he got there. Rats began
to squeak and scuffle in the night time, through dark galleries they
mined behind the panelling.

The dreary magnificence of the state rooms, seen imperfectly by the
doubtful light admitted through closed shutters, would have answered
well enough for an enchanted abode. Such as the tarnished paws of
gilded lions, stealthily put out from beneath their wrappers; the marble
lineaments of busts on pedestals, fearfully revealing themselves through
veils; the clocks that never told the time, or, if wound up by any
chance, told it wrong, and struck unearthly numbers, which are not
upon the dial; the accidental tinklings among the pendant lustres, more
startling than alarm-bells; the softened sounds and laggard air that
made their way among these objects, and a phantom crowd of others,
shrouded and hooded, and made spectral of shape. But, besides, there was
the great staircase, where the lord of the place so rarely set his foot,
and by which his little child had gone up to Heaven. There were other
staircases and passages where no one went for weeks together; there were
two closed rooms associated with dead members of the family, and with
whispered recollections of them; and to all the house but Florence,
there was a gentle figure moving through the solitude and gloom, that
gave to every lifeless thing a touch of present human interest and

For Florence lived alone in the deserted house, and day succeeded day,
and still she lived alone, and the cold walls looked down upon her with
a vacant stare, as if they had a Gorgon-like mind to stare her youth and
beauty into stone.

The grass began to grow upon the roof, and in the crevices of the
basement paving. A scaly crumbling vegetation sprouted round the
window-sills. Fragments of mortar lost their hold upon the insides of
the unused chimneys, and came dropping down. The two trees with the
smoky trunks were blighted high up, and the withered branches domineered
above the leaves, Through the whole building white had turned yellow,
yellow nearly black; and since the time when the poor lady died, it had
slowly become a dark gap in the long monotonous street.

But Florence bloomed there, like the king’s fair daughter in the
story. Her books, her music, and her daily teachers, were her only real
companions, Susan Nipper and Diogenes excepted: of whom the former, in
her attendance on the studies of her young mistress, began to grow
quite learned herself, while the latter, softened possibly by the same
influences, would lay his head upon the window-ledge, and placidly
open and shut his eyes upon the street, all through a summer morning;
sometimes pricking up his head to look with great significance after
some noisy dog in a cart, who was barking his way along, and sometimes,
with an exasperated and unaccountable recollection of his supposed enemy
in the neighbourhood, rushing to the door, whence, after a deafening
disturbance, he would come jogging back with a ridiculous complacency
that belonged to him, and lay his jaw upon the window-ledge again, with
the air of a dog who had done a public service.

So Florence lived in her wilderness of a home, within the circle of her
innocent pursuits and thoughts, and nothing harmed her. She could go
down to her father’s rooms now, and think of him, and suffer her loving
heart humbly to approach him, without fear of repulse. She could look
upon the objects that had surrounded him in his sorrow, and could nestle
near his chair, and not dread the glance that she so well remembered.
She could render him such little tokens of her duty and service, as
putting everything in order for him with her own hands, binding little
nosegays for table, changing them as one by one they withered and he did
not come back, preparing something for him every day, and leaving some
timid mark of her presence near his usual seat. To-day, it was a little
painted stand for his watch; tomorrow she would be afraid to leave it,
and would substitute some other trifle of her making not so likely to
attract his eye. Waking in the night, perhaps, she would tremble at the
thought of his coming home and angrily rejecting it, and would hurry
down with slippered feet and quickly beating heart, and bring it away.
At another time, she would only lay her face upon his desk, and leave a
kiss there, and a tear.

Still no one knew of this. Unless the household found it out when she
was not there--and they all held Mr Dombey’s rooms in awe--it was as
deep a secret in her breast as what had gone before it. Florence stole
into those rooms at twilight, early in the morning, and at times when
meals were served downstairs. And although they were in every nook the
better and the brighter for her care, she entered and passed out as
quietly as any sunbeam, opting that she left her light behind.

Shadowy company attended Florence up and down the echoing house, and
sat with her in the dismantled rooms. As if her life were an enchanted
vision, there arose out of her solitude ministering thoughts, that made
it fanciful and unreal. She imagined so often what her life would have
been if her father could have loved her and she had been a favourite
child, that sometimes, for the moment, she almost believed it was so,
and, borne on by the current of that pensive fiction, seemed to remember
how they had watched her brother in his grave together; how they had
freely shared his heart between them; how they were united in the dear
remembrance of him; how they often spoke about him yet; and her kind
father, looking at her gently, told her of their common hope and trust
in God. At other times she pictured to herself her mother yet alive. And
oh the happiness of falling on her neck, and clinging to her with
the love and confidence of all her soul! And oh the desolation of the
solitary house again, with evening coming on, and no one there!

But there was one thought, scarcely shaped out to herself, yet fervent
and strong within her, that upheld Florence when she strove and filled
her true young heart, so sorely tried, with constancy of purpose. Into
her mind, as into all others contending with the great affliction of
our mortal nature, there had stolen solemn wonderings and hopes, arising
in the dim world beyond the present life, and murmuring, like faint
music, of recognition in the far-off land between her brother and her
mother: of some present consciousness in both of her: some love and
commiseration for her: and some knowledge of her as she went her way
upon the earth. It was a soothing consolation to Florence to give
shelter to these thoughts, until one day--it was soon after she had last
seen her father in his own room, late at night--the fancy came upon her,
that, in weeping for his alienated heart, she might stir the spirits of
the dead against him. Wild, weak, childish, as it may have been to think
so, and to tremble at the half-formed thought, it was the impulse of
her loving nature; and from that hour Florence strove against the cruel
wound in her breast, and tried to think of him whose hand had made it,
only with hope.

Her father did not know--she held to it from that time--how much she
loved him. She was very young, and had no mother, and had never learned,
by some fault or misfortune, how to express to him that she loved him.
She would be patient, and would try to gain that art in time, and win
him to a better knowledge of his only child.

This became the purpose of her life. The morning sun shone down upon the
faded house, and found the resolution bright and fresh within the bosom
of its solitary mistress, Through all the duties of the day, it
animated her; for Florence hoped that the more she knew, and the more
accomplished she became, the more glad he would be when he came to know
and like her. Sometimes she wondered, with a swelling heart and rising
tear, whether she was proficient enough in anything to surprise him when
they should become companions. Sometimes she tried to think if there
were any kind of knowledge that would bespeak his interest more readily
than another. Always: at her books, her music, and her work: in her
morning walks, and in her nightly prayers: she had her engrossing aim
in view. Strange study for a child, to learn the road to a hard parent’s

There were many careless loungers through the street, as the summer
evening deepened into night, who glanced across the road at the sombre
house, and saw the youthful figure at the window, such a contrast to it,
looking upward at the stars as they began to shine, who would have slept
the worse if they had known on what design she mused so steadfastly. The
reputation of the mansion as a haunted house, would not have been
the gayer with some humble dwellers elsewhere, who were struck by its
external gloom in passing and repassing on their daily avocations, and
so named it, if they could have read its story in the darkening face.
But Florence held her sacred purpose, unsuspected and unaided: and
studied only how to bring her father to the understanding that she loved
him, and made no appeal against him in any wandering thought.

Thus Florence lived alone in the deserted house, and day succeeded day,
and still she lived alone, and the monotonous walls looked down upon her
with a stare, as if they had a Gorgon-like intent to stare her youth and
beauty into stone.

Susan Nipper stood opposite to her young mistress one morning, as she
folded and sealed a note she had been writing: and showed in her looks
an approving knowledge of its contents.

‘Better late than never, dear Miss Floy,’ said Susan, ‘and I do say,
that even a visit to them old Skettleses will be a Godsend.’

‘It is very good of Sir Barnet and Lady Skettles, Susan,’ returned
Florence, with a mild correction of that young lady’s familiar mention
of the family in question, ‘to repeat their invitation so kindly.’

Miss Nipper, who was perhaps the most thoroughgoing partisan on the face
of the earth, and who carried her partisanship into all matters great or
small, and perpetually waged war with it against society, screwed up
her lips and shook her head, as a protest against any recognition of
disinterestedness in the Skettleses, and a plea in bar that they would
have valuable consideration for their kindness, in the company of

‘They know what they’re about, if ever people did,’ murmured Miss
Nipper, drawing in her breath ‘oh! trust them Skettleses for that!’

‘I am not very anxious to go to Fulham, Susan, I confess,’ said Florence
thoughtfully: ‘but it will be right to go. I think it will be better.’

‘Much better,’ interposed Susan, with another emphatic shake of her

‘And so,’ said Florence, ‘though I would prefer to have gone when there
was no one there, instead of in this vacation time, when it seems there
are some young people staying in the house, I have thankfully said yes.’

‘For which I say, Miss Floy, Oh be joyful!’ returned Susan, ‘Ah! h--h!’

This last ejaculation, with which Miss Nipper frequently wound up a
sentence, at about that epoch of time, was supposed below the level of
the hall to have a general reference to Mr Dombey, and to be expressive
of a yearning in Miss Nipper to favour that gentleman with a piece of
her mind. But she never explained it; and it had, in consequence,
the charm of mystery, in addition to the advantage of the sharpest

‘How long it is before we have any news of Walter, Susan!’ observed
Florence, after a moment’s silence.

‘Long indeed, Miss Floy!’ replied her maid. ‘And Perch said, when he
came just now to see for letters--but what signifies what he says!’
exclaimed Susan, reddening and breaking off. ‘Much he knows about it!’

Florence raised her eyes quickly, and a flush overspread her face.

‘If I hadn’t,’ said Susan Nipper, evidently struggling with some
latent anxiety and alarm, and looking full at her young mistress,
while endeavouring to work herself into a state of resentment with the
unoffending Mr Perch’s image, ‘if I hadn’t more manliness than that
insipidest of his sex, I’d never take pride in my hair again, but turn
it up behind my ears, and wear coarse caps, without a bit of border,
until death released me from my insignificance. I may not be a Amazon,
Miss Floy, and wouldn’t so demean myself by such disfigurement, but
anyways I’m not a giver up, I hope.’

‘Give up! What?’ cried Florence, with a face of terror.

‘Why, nothing, Miss,’ said Susan. ‘Good gracious, nothing! It’s only
that wet curl-paper of a man, Perch, that anyone might almost make
away with, with a touch, and really it would be a blessed event for all
parties if someone would take pity on him, and would have the goodness!’

‘Does he give up the ship, Susan?’ inquired Florence, very pale.

‘No, Miss,’ returned Susan, ‘I should like to see him make so bold as
do it to my face! No, Miss, but he goes on about some bothering ginger
that Mr Walter was to send to Mrs Perch, and shakes his dismal head, and
says he hopes it may be coming; anyhow, he says, it can’t come now in
time for the intended occasion, but may do for next, which really,’ said
Miss Nipper, with aggravated scorn, ‘puts me out of patience with the
man, for though I can bear a great deal, I am not a camel, neither am
I,’ added Susan, after a moment’s consideration, ‘if I know myself, a
dromedary neither.’

‘What else does he say, Susan?’ inquired Florence, earnestly. ‘Won’t you
tell me?’

‘As if I wouldn’t tell you anything, Miss Floy, and everything!’ said
Susan. ‘Why, nothing Miss, he says that there begins to be a general
talk about the ship, and that they have never had a ship on that voyage
half so long unheard of, and that the Captain’s wife was at the office
yesterday, and seemed a little put out about it, but anyone could say
that, we knew nearly that before.’

‘I must visit Walter’s uncle,’ said Florence, hurriedly, ‘before I leave
home. I will go and see him this morning. Let us walk there, directly,

Miss Nipper having nothing to urge against the proposal, but being
perfectly acquiescent, they were soon equipped, and in the streets, and
on their way towards the little Midshipman.

The state of mind in which poor Walter had gone to Captain Cuttle’s,
on the day when Brogley the broker came into possession, and when there
seemed to him to be an execution in the very steeples, was pretty much
the same as that in which Florence now took her way to Uncle Sol’s; with
this difference, that Florence suffered the added pain of thinking that
she had been, perhaps, the innocent occasion of involving Walter in
peril, and all to whom he was dear, herself included, in an agony of
suspense. For the rest, uncertainty and danger seemed written upon
everything. The weathercocks on spires and housetops were mysterious
with hints of stormy wind, and pointed, like so many ghostly fingers,
out to dangerous seas, where fragments of great wrecks were drifting,
perhaps, and helpless men were rocked upon them into a sleep as deep as
the unfathomable waters. When Florence came into the City, and passed
gentlemen who were talking together, she dreaded to hear them speaking
of the ship, and saying it was lost. Pictures and prints of vessels
fighting with the rolling waves filled her with alarm. The smoke and
clouds, though moving gently, moved too fast for her apprehensions, and
made her fear there was a tempest blowing at that moment on the ocean.

Susan Nipper may or may not have been affected similarly, but having her
attention much engaged in struggles with boys, whenever there was any
press of people--for, between that grade of human kind and herself,
there was some natural animosity that invariably broke out, whenever
they came together--it would seem that she had not much leisure on the
road for intellectual operations.

Arriving in good time abreast of the wooden Midshipman on the opposite
side of the way, and waiting for an opportunity to cross the street,
they were a little surprised at first to see, at the Instrument-maker’s
door, a round-headed lad, with his chubby face addressed towards the
sky, who, as they looked at him, suddenly thrust into his capacious
mouth two fingers of each hand, and with the assistance of that
machinery whistled, with astonishing shrillness, to some pigeons at a
considerable elevation in the air.

‘Mrs Richards’s eldest, Miss!’ said Susan, ‘and the worrit of Mrs
Richards’s life!’

As Polly had been to tell Florence of the resuscitated prospects of her
son and heir, Florence was prepared for the meeting: so, a favourable
moment presenting itself, they both hastened across, without any
further contemplation of Mrs Richards’s bane. That sporting character,
unconscious of their approach, again whistled with his utmost might, and
then yelled in a rapture of excitement, ‘Strays! Whoo-oop! Strays!’ which
identification had such an effect upon the conscience-stricken pigeons,
that instead of going direct to some town in the North of England, as
appeared to have been their original intention, they began to wheel and
falter; whereupon Mrs Richards’s first born pierced them with another
whistle, and again yelled, in a voice that rose above the turmoil of the
street, ‘Strays! Whoo-oop! Strays!’

From this transport, he was abruptly recalled to terrestrial objects, by
a poke from Miss Nipper, which sent him into the shop.

‘Is this the way you show your penitence, when Mrs Richards has been
fretting for you months and months?’ said Susan, following the poke.
‘Where’s Mr Gills?’

Rob, who smoothed his first rebellious glance at Miss Nipper when he
saw Florence following, put his knuckles to his hair, in honour of the
latter, and said to the former, that Mr Gills was out.’

‘Fetch him home,’ said Miss Nipper, with authority, ‘and say that my
young lady’s here.’

‘I don’t know where he’s gone,’ said Rob.

‘Is that your penitence?’ cried Susan, with stinging sharpness.

‘Why how can I go and fetch him when I don’t know where to go?’
whimpered the baited Rob. ‘How can you be so unreasonable?’

‘Did Mr Gills say when he should be home?’ asked Florence.

‘Yes, Miss,’ replied Rob, with another application of his knuckles to
his hair. ‘He said he should be home early in the afternoon; in about a
couple of hours from now, Miss.’

‘Is he very anxious about his nephew?’ inquired Susan.

‘Yes, Miss,’ returned Rob, preferring to address himself to Florence and
slighting Nipper; ‘I should say he was, very much so. He ain’t indoors,
Miss, not a quarter of an hour together. He can’t settle in one place
five minutes. He goes about, like a--just like a stray,’ said Rob,
stooping to get a glimpse of the pigeons through the window, and
checking himself, with his fingers half-way to his mouth, on the verge
of another whistle.

‘Do you know a friend of Mr Gills, called Captain Cuttle?’ inquired
Florence, after a moment’s reflection.

‘Him with a hook, Miss?’ rejoined Rob, with an illustrative twist of his
left hand. Yes, Miss. He was here the day before yesterday.’

‘Has he not been here since?’ asked Susan.

‘No, Miss,’ returned Rob, still addressing his reply to Florence.

‘Perhaps Walter’s Uncle has gone there, Susan,’ observed Florence,
turning to her.

‘To Captain Cuttle’s, Miss?’ interposed Rob; ‘no, he’s not gone there,
Miss. Because he left particular word that if Captain Cuttle called, I
should tell him how surprised he was, not to have seen him yesterday,
and should make him stop till he came back.’

‘Do you know where Captain Cuttle lives?’ asked Florence.

Rob replied in the affirmative, and turning to a greasy parchment book
on the shop desk, read the address aloud.

Florence again turned to her maid and took counsel with her in a low
voice, while Rob the round-eyed, mindful of his patron’s secret charge,
looked on and listened. Florence proposed that they could go to Captain
Cuttle’s house; hear from his own lips, what he thought of the absence
of any tidings of the Son and Heir; and bring him, if they could, to
comfort Uncle Sol. Susan at first objected slightly, on the score of
distance; but a hackney-coach being mentioned by her mistress, withdrew
that opposition, and gave in her assent. There were some minutes of
discussion between them before they came to this conclusion, during
which the staring Rob paid close attention to both speakers, and
inclined his ear to each by turns, as if he were appointed arbitrator of
the argument.

In time, Rob was despatched for a coach, the visitors keeping shop
meanwhile; and when he brought it, they got into it, leaving word for
Uncle Sol that they would be sure to call again, on their way back. Rob
having stared after the coach until it was as invisible as the
pigeons had now become, sat down behind the desk with a most assiduous
demeanour; and in order that he might forget nothing of what had
transpired, made notes of it on various small scraps of paper, with
a vast expenditure of ink. There was no danger of these documents
betraying anything, if accidentally lost; for long before a word was
dry, it became as profound a mystery to Rob, as if he had had no part
whatever in its production.

While he was yet busy with these labours, the hackney-coach, after
encountering unheard-of difficulties from swivel-bridges, soft roads,
impassable canals, caravans of casks, settlements of scarlet-beans and
little wash-houses, and many such obstacles abounding in that country,
stopped at the corner of Brig Place. Alighting here, Florence and Susan
Nipper walked down the street, and sought out the abode of Captain

It happened by evil chance to be one of Mrs MacStinger’s great cleaning
days. On these occasions, Mrs MacStinger was knocked up by the policeman
at a quarter before three in the morning, and rarely such before twelve
o’clock next night. The chief object of this institution appeared to be,
that Mrs MacStinger should move all the furniture into the back garden
at early dawn, walk about the house in pattens all day, and move the
furniture back again after dark. These ceremonies greatly fluttered
those doves the young MacStingers, who were not only unable at such
times to find any resting-place for the soles of their feet, but
generally came in for a good deal of pecking from the maternal bird
during the progress of the solemnities.

At the moment when Florence and Susan Nipper presented themselves at Mrs
MacStinger’s door, that worthy but redoubtable female was in the act of
conveying Alexander MacStinger, aged two years and three months, along
the passage, for forcible deposition in a sitting posture on the street
pavement: Alexander being black in the face with holding his breath
after punishment, and a cool paving-stone being usually found to act as
a powerful restorative in such cases.

The feelings of Mrs MacStinger, as a woman and a mother, were outraged
by the look of pity for Alexander which she observed on Florence’s face.
Therefore, Mrs MacStinger asserting those finest emotions of our nature,
in preference to weakly gratifying her curiosity, shook and buffeted
Alexander both before and during the application of the paving-stone,
and took no further notice of the strangers.

‘I beg your pardon, Ma’am,’ said Florence, when the child had found his
breath again, and was using it. ‘Is this Captain Cuttle’s house?’

‘No,’ said Mrs MacStinger.

‘Not Number Nine?’ asked Florence, hesitating.

‘Who said it wasn’t Number Nine?’ said Mrs MacStinger.

Susan Nipper instantly struck in, and begged to inquire what Mrs
MacStinger meant by that, and if she knew whom she was talking to.

Mrs MacStinger in retort, looked at her all over. ‘What do you want with
Captain Cuttle, I should wish to know?’ said Mrs MacStinger.

‘Should you? Then I’m sorry that you won’t be satisfied,’ returned Miss

‘Hush, Susan! If you please!’ said Florence. ‘Perhaps you can have the
goodness to tell us where Captain Cuttle lives, Ma’am as he don’t live

‘Who says he don’t live here?’ retorted the implacable MacStinger. ‘I
said it wasn’t Cap’en Cuttle’s house--and it ain’t his house--and forbid
it, that it ever should be his house--for Cap’en Cuttle don’t know how
to keep a house--and don’t deserve to have a house--it’s my house--and
when I let the upper floor to Cap’en Cuttle, oh I do a thankless thing,
and cast pearls before swine!’

Mrs MacStinger pitched her voice for the upper windows in offering these
remarks, and cracked off each clause sharply by itself as if from
a rifle possessing an infinity of barrels. After the last shot, the
Captain’s voice was heard to say, in feeble remonstrance from his own
room, ‘Steady below!’

‘Since you want Cap’en Cuttle, there he is!’ said Mrs MacStinger, with
an angry motion of her hand. On Florence making bold to enter, without
any more parley, and on Susan following, Mrs MacStinger recommenced her
pedestrian exercise in pattens, and Alexander MacStinger (still on
the paving-stone), who had stopped in his crying to attend to the
conversation, began to wail again, entertaining himself during that
dismal performance, which was quite mechanical, with a general survey of
the prospect, terminating in the hackney-coach.

The Captain in his own apartment was sitting with his hands in his
pockets and his legs drawn up under his chair, on a very small desolate
island, lying about midway in an ocean of soap and water. The Captain’s
windows had been cleaned, the walls had been cleaned, the stove had been
cleaned, and everything the stove excepted, was wet, and shining with
soft soap and sand: the smell of which dry-saltery impregnated the
air. In the midst of the dreary scene, the Captain, cast away upon his
island, looked round on the waste of waters with a rueful countenance,
and seemed waiting for some friendly bark to come that way, and take him

But when the Captain, directing his forlorn visage towards the door, saw
Florence appear with her maid, no words can describe his astonishment.
Mrs MacStinger’s eloquence having rendered all other sounds but
imperfectly distinguishable, he had looked for no rarer visitor than the
potboy or the milkman; wherefore, when Florence appeared, and coming to
the confines of the island, put her hand in his, the Captain stood up,
aghast, as if he supposed her, for the moment, to be some young member
of the Flying Dutchman’s family.

Instantly recovering his self-possession, however, the Captain’s first
care was to place her on dry land, which he happily accomplished, with
one motion of his arm. Issuing forth, then, upon the main, Captain
Cuttle took Miss Nipper round the waist, and bore her to the island
also. Captain Cuttle, then, with great respect and admiration, raised
the hand of Florence to his lips, and standing off a little (for the
island was not large enough for three), beamed on her from the soap and
water like a new description of Triton.

‘You are amazed to see us, I am sure,’ said Florence, with a smile.

The inexpressibly gratified Captain kissed his hook in reply, and
growled, as if a choice and delicate compliment were included in the
words, ‘Stand by! Stand by!’

‘But I couldn’t rest,’ said Florence, ‘without coming to ask you what
you think about dear Walter--who is my brother now--and whether there is
anything to fear, and whether you will not go and console his poor Uncle
every day, until we have some intelligence of him?’

At these words Captain Cuttle, as by an involuntary gesture, clapped
his hand to his head, on which the hard glazed hat was not, and looked

‘Have you any fears for Walter’s safety?’ inquired Florence, from whose
face the Captain (so enraptured he was with it) could not take his eyes:
while she, in her turn, looked earnestly at him, to be assured of the
sincerity of his reply.

‘No, Heart’s-delight,’ said Captain Cuttle, ‘I am not afeard. Wal’r is a
lad as’ll go through a deal o’ hard weather. Wal’r is a lad as’ll bring
as much success to that ‘ere brig as a lad is capable on. Wal’r,’ said
the Captain, his eyes glistening with the praise of his young friend,
and his hook raised to announce a beautiful quotation, ‘is what you may
call a out’ard and visible sign of an in’ard and spirited grasp, and
when found make a note of.’

Florence, who did not quite understand this, though the Captain
evidently thought it full of meaning, and highly satisfactory, mildly
looked to him for something more.

‘I am not afeard, my Heart’s-delight,’ resumed the Captain, ‘There’s
been most uncommon bad weather in them latitudes, there’s no denyin’,
and they have drove and drove and been beat off, may be t’other side
the world. But the ship’s a good ship, and the lad’s a good lad; and it
ain’t easy, thank the Lord,’ the Captain made a little bow, ‘to break
up hearts of oak, whether they’re in brigs or buzzums. Here we have ‘em
both ways, which is bringing it up with a round turn, and so I ain’t a
bit afeard as yet.’

‘As yet?’ repeated Florence.

‘Not a bit,’ returned the Captain, kissing his iron hand; ‘and afore
I begin to be, my Hearts-delight, Wal’r will have wrote home from
the island, or from some port or another, and made all taut and
ship-shape.’ And with regard to old Sol Gills, here the Captain became
solemn, ‘who I’ll stand by, and not desert until death do us part,
and when the stormy winds do blow, do blow, do blow--overhaul the
Catechism,’ said the Captain parenthetically, ‘and there you’ll find
them expressions--if it would console Sol Gills to have the opinion of a
seafaring man as has got a mind equal to any undertaking that he puts
it alongside of, and as was all but smashed in his ‘prenticeship, and of
which the name is Bunsby, that ‘ere man shall give him such an opinion
in his own parlour as’ll stun him. Ah!’ said Captain Cuttle, vauntingly,
‘as much as if he’d gone and knocked his head again a door!’

‘Let us take this gentleman to see him, and let us hear what he says,’
cried Florence. ‘Will you go with us now? We have a coach here.’

Again the Captain clapped his hand to his head, on which the hard
glazed hat was not, and looked discomfited. But at this instant a most
remarkable phenomenon occurred. The door opening, without any note of
preparation, and apparently of itself, the hard glazed hat in question
skimmed into the room like a bird, and alighted heavily at the Captain’s
feet. The door then shut as violently as it had opened, and nothing
ensued in explanation of the prodigy.

Captain Cuttle picked up his hat, and having turned it over with a look
of interest and welcome, began to polish it on his sleeve. While doing
so, the Captain eyed his visitors intently, and said in a low voice,

‘You see I should have bore down on Sol Gills yesterday, and this
morning, but she--she took it away and kept it. That’s the long and short
of the subject.’

‘Who did, for goodness sake?’ asked Susan Nipper.

‘The lady of the house, my dear,’ returned the Captain, in a gruff
whisper, and making signals of secrecy. ‘We had some words about the
swabbing of these here planks, and she--In short,’ said the Captain,
eyeing the door, and relieving himself with a long breath, ‘she stopped
my liberty.’

‘Oh! I wish she had me to deal with!’ said Susan, reddening with the
energy of the wish. ‘I’d stop her!’

‘Would you, do you, my dear?’ rejoined the Captain, shaking his head
doubtfully, but regarding the desperate courage of the fair aspirant
with obvious admiration. ‘I don’t know. It’s difficult navigation. She’s
very hard to carry on with, my dear. You never can tell how she’ll head,
you see. She’s full one minute, and round upon you next. And when she in
a tartar,’ said the Captain, with the perspiration breaking out upon
his forehead. There was nothing but a whistle emphatic enough for the
conclusion of the sentence, so the Captain whistled tremulously. After
which he again shook his head, and recurring to his admiration of Miss
Nipper’s devoted bravery, timidly repeated, ‘Would you, do you think, my

Susan only replied with a bridling smile, but that was so very full of
defiance, that there is no knowing how long Captain Cuttle might have
stood entranced in its contemplation, if Florence in her anxiety had not
again proposed their immediately resorting to the oracular Bunsby. Thus
reminded of his duty, Captain Cuttle Put on the glazed hat firmly, took
up another knobby stick, with which he had supplied the place of that
one given to Walter, and offering his arm to Florence, prepared to cut
his way through the enemy.

It turned out, however, that Mrs MacStinger had already changed her
course, and that she headed, as the Captain had remarked she often did,
in quite a new direction. For when they got downstairs, they found that
exemplary woman beating the mats on the doorsteps, with Alexander,
still upon the paving-stone, dimly looming through a fog of dust; and
so absorbed was Mrs MacStinger in her household occupation, that when
Captain Cuttle and his visitors passed, she beat the harder, and neither
by word nor gesture showed any consciousness of their vicinity. The
Captain was so well pleased with this easy escape--although the effect
of the door-mats on him was like a copious administration of snuff, and
made him sneeze until the tears ran down his face--that he could hardly
believe his good fortune; but more than once, between the door and the
hackney-coach, looked over his shoulder, with an obvious apprehension of
Mrs MacStinger’s giving chase yet.

However, they got to the corner of Brig Place without any molestation
from that terrible fire-ship; and the Captain mounting the
coach-box--for his gallantry would not allow him to ride inside with the
ladies, though besought to do so--piloted the driver on his course for
Captain Bunsby’s vessel, which was called the Cautious Clara, and was
lying hard by Ratcliffe.

Arrived at the wharf off which this great commander’s ship was jammed
in among some five hundred companions, whose tangled rigging looked
like monstrous cobwebs half swept down, Captain Cuttle appeared at the
coach-window, and invited Florence and Miss Nipper to accompany him
on board; observing that Bunsby was to the last degree soft-hearted
in respect of ladies, and that nothing would so much tend to bring his
expansive intellect into a state of harmony as their presentation to the
Cautious Clara.

Florence readily consented; and the Captain, taking her little hand
in his prodigious palm, led her, with a mixed expression of patronage,
paternity, pride, and ceremony, that was pleasant to see, over several
very dirty decks, until, coming to the Clara, they found that cautious
craft (which lay outside the tier) with her gangway removed, and
half-a-dozen feet of river interposed between herself and her nearest
neighbour. It appeared, from Captain Cuttle’s explanation, that the
great Bunsby, like himself, was cruelly treated by his landlady, and
that when her usage of him for the time being was so hard that he could
bear it no longer, he set this gulf between them as a last resource.

‘Clara a-hoy!’ cried the Captain, putting a hand to each side of his

‘A-hoy!’ cried a boy, like the Captain’s echo, tumbling up from below.

‘Bunsby aboard?’ cried the Captain, hailing the boy in a stentorian
voice, as if he were half-a-mile off instead of two yards.

‘Ay, ay!’ cried the boy, in the same tone.

The boy then shoved out a plank to Captain Cuttle, who adjusted it
carefully, and led Florence across: returning presently for Miss Nipper.
So they stood upon the deck of the Cautious Clara, in whose standing
rigging, divers fluttering articles of dress were curing, in company
with a few tongues and some mackerel.

Immediately there appeared, coming slowly up above the bulk-head of the
cabin, another bulk-head--human, and very large--with one stationary eye
in the mahogany face, and one revolving one, on the principle of some
lighthouses. This head was decorated with shaggy hair, like oakum,
which had no governing inclination towards the north, east, west, or
south, but inclined to all four quarters of the compass, and to every
point upon it. The head was followed by a perfect desert of chin, and by
a shirt-collar and neckerchief, and by a dreadnought pilot-coat, and by
a pair of dreadnought pilot-trousers, whereof the waistband was so very
broad and high, that it became a succedaneum for a waistcoat: being
ornamented near the wearer’s breastbone with some massive wooden
buttons, like backgammon men. As the lower portions of these pantaloons
became revealed, Bunsby stood confessed; his hands in their pockets,
which were of vast size; and his gaze directed, not to Captain Cuttle or
the ladies, but the mast-head.

The profound appearance of this philosopher, who was bulky and strong,
and on whose extremely red face an expression of taciturnity sat
enthroned, not inconsistent with his character, in which that quality
was proudly conspicuous, almost daunted Captain Cuttle, though on
familiar terms with him. Whispering to Florence that Bunsby had never
in his life expressed surprise, and was considered not to know what it
meant, the Captain watched him as he eyed his mast-head, and afterwards
swept the horizon; and when the revolving eye seemed to be coming round
in his direction, said:

‘Bunsby, my lad, how fares it?’

A deep, gruff, husky utterance, which seemed to have no connexion with
Bunsby, and certainly had not the least effect upon his face, replied,
‘Ay, ay, shipmet, how goes it?’ At the same time Bunsby’s right hand and
arm, emerging from a pocket, shook the Captain’s, and went back again.

‘Bunsby,’ said the Captain, striking home at once, ‘here you are; a man
of mind, and a man as can give an opinion. Here’s a young lady as wants
to take that opinion, in regard of my friend Wal’r; likewise my t’other
friend, Sol Gills, which is a character for you to come within hail of,
being a man of science, which is the mother of invention, and knows no
law. Bunsby, will you wear, to oblige me, and come along with us?’

The great commander, who seemed by expression of his visage to be always
on the look-out for something in the extremest distance, and to have no
ocular knowledge of anything within ten miles, made no reply whatever.

‘Here is a man,’ said the Captain, addressing himself to his fair
auditors, and indicating the commander with his outstretched hook, ‘that
has fell down, more than any man alive; that has had more accidents
happen to his own self than the Seamen’s Hospital to all hands; that
took as many spars and bars and bolts about the outside of his head
when he was young, as you’d want a order for on Chatham-yard to build
a pleasure yacht with; and yet that his opinions in that way, it’s my
belief, for there ain’t nothing like ‘em afloat or ashore.’

The stolid commander appeared by a very slight vibration in his elbows,
to express some satisfaction in this encomium; but if his face had
been as distant as his gaze was, it could hardly have enlightened
the beholders less in reference to anything that was passing in his

‘Shipmet,’ said Bunsby, all of a sudden, and stooping down to look out
under some interposing spar, ‘what’ll the ladies drink?’

Captain Cuttle, whose delicacy was shocked by such an inquiry in
connection with Florence, drew the sage aside, and seeming to explain in
his ear, accompanied him below; where, that he might not take offence,
the Captain drank a dram himself, which Florence and Susan, glancing
down the open skylight, saw the sage, with difficulty finding room for
himself between his berth and a very little brass fireplace, serve out
for self and friend. They soon reappeared on deck, and Captain Cuttle,
triumphing in the success of his enterprise, conducted Florence back to
the coach, while Bunsby followed, escorting Miss Nipper, whom he
hugged upon the way (much to that young lady’s indignation) with his
pilot-coated arm, like a blue bear.

The Captain put his oracle inside, and gloried so much in having secured
him, and having got that mind into a hackney-coach, that he could not
refrain from often peeping in at Florence through the little window
behind the driver, and testifying his delight in smiles, and also in
taps upon his forehead, to hint to her that the brain of Bunsby was
hard at it. In the meantime, Bunsby, still hugging Miss Nipper (for his
friend, the Captain, had not exaggerated the softness of his heart),
uniformly preserved his gravity of deportment, and showed no other
consciousness of her or anything.

Uncle Sol, who had come home, received them at the door, and ushered
them immediately into the little back parlour: strangely altered by the
absence of Walter. On the table, and about the room, were the charts
and maps on which the heavy-hearted Instrument-maker had again and again
tracked the missing vessel across the sea, and on which, with a pair of
compasses that he still had in his hand, he had been measuring, a minute
before, how far she must have driven, to have driven here or there:
and trying to demonstrate that a long time must elapse before hope was

‘Whether she can have run,’ said Uncle Sol, looking wistfully over the
chart; ‘but no, that’s almost impossible or whether she can have been
forced by stress of weather,--but that’s not reasonably likely. Or
whether there is any hope she so far changed her course as--but even I
can hardly hope that!’ With such broken suggestions, poor old Uncle Sol
roamed over the great sheet before him, and could not find a speck of
hopeful probability in it large enough to set one small point of the
compasses upon.

Florence saw immediately--it would have been difficult to help
seeing--that there was a singular, indescribable change in the old
man, and that while his manner was far more restless and unsettled
than usual, there was yet a curious, contradictory decision in it, that
perplexed her very much. She fancied once that he spoke wildly, and at
random; for on her saying she regretted not to have seen him when she
had been there before that morning, he at first replied that he had
been to see her, and directly afterwards seemed to wish to recall that

‘You have been to see me?’ said Florence. ‘To-day?’

‘Yes, my dear young lady,’ returned Uncle Sol, looking at her and away
from her in a confused manner. ‘I wished to see you with my own eyes,
and to hear you with my own ears, once more before--’ There he stopped.

‘Before when? Before what?’ said Florence, putting her hand upon his

‘Did I say “before?”’ replied old Sol. ‘If I did, I must have meant
before we should have news of my dear boy.’

‘You are not well,’ said Florence, tenderly. ‘You have been so very
anxious I am sure you are not well.’

‘I am as well,’ returned the old man, shutting up his right hand, and
holding it out to show her: ‘as well and firm as any man at my time of
life can hope to be. See! It’s steady. Is its master not as capable of
resolution and fortitude as many a younger man? I think so. We shall

There was that in his manner more than in his words, though they
remained with her too, which impressed Florence so much, that she would
have confided her uneasiness to Captain Cuttle at that moment, if
the Captain had not seized that moment for expounding the state
of circumstance, on which the opinion of the sagacious Bunsby was
requested, and entreating that profound authority to deliver the same.

Bunsby, whose eye continued to be addressed to somewhere about the
half-way house between London and Gravesend, two or three times put out
his rough right arm, as seeking to wind it for inspiration round
the fair form of Miss Nipper; but that young female having withdrawn
herself, in displeasure, to the opposite side of the table, the soft
heart of the Commander of the Cautious Clara met with no response to its
impulses. After sundry failures in this wise, the Commander, addressing
himself to nobody, thus spake; or rather the voice within him said
of its own accord, and quite independent of himself, as if he were
possessed by a gruff spirit:

‘My name’s Jack Bunsby!’

‘He was christened John,’ cried the delighted Captain Cuttle. ‘Hear

‘And what I says,’ pursued the voice, after some deliberation, ‘I stands

The Captain, with Florence on his arm, nodded at the auditory, and
seemed to say, ‘Now he’s coming out. This is what I meant when I brought

‘Whereby,’ proceeded the voice, ‘why not? If so, what odds? Can any man
say otherwise? No. Awast then!’

When it had pursued its train of argument to this point, the voice
stopped, and rested. It then proceeded very slowly, thus:

‘Do I believe that this here Son and Heir’s gone down, my lads? Mayhap.
Do I say so? Which? If a skipper stands out by Sen’ George’s Channel,
making for the Downs, what’s right ahead of him? The Goodwins. He
isn’t forced to run upon the Goodwins, but he may. The bearings of this
observation lays in the application on it. That ain’t no part of my
duty. Awast then, keep a bright look-out for’ard, and good luck to you!’

The voice here went out of the back parlour and into the street, taking
the Commander of the Cautious Clara with it, and accompanying him on
board again with all convenient expedition, where he immediately turned
in, and refreshed his mind with a nap.

The students of the sage’s precepts, left to their own application
of his wisdom--upon a principle which was the main leg of the Bunsby
tripod, as it is perchance of some other oracular stools--looked upon
one another in a little uncertainty; while Rob the Grinder, who had
taken the innocent freedom of peering in, and listening, through the
skylight in the roof, came softly down from the leads, in a state of
very dense confusion. Captain Cuttle, however, whose admiration of
Bunsby was, if possible, enhanced by the splendid manner in which he
had justified his reputation and come through this solemn reference,
proceeded to explain that Bunsby meant nothing but confidence; that
Bunsby had no misgivings; and that such an opinion as that man had
given, coming from such a mind as his, was Hope’s own anchor, with good
roads to cast it in. Florence endeavoured to believe that the Captain
was right; but the Nipper, with her arms tight folded, shook her head
in resolute denial, and had no more trust in Bunsby than in Mr Perch

The philosopher seemed to have left Uncle Sol pretty much where he had
found him, for he still went roaming about the watery world, compasses
in hand, and discovering no rest for them. It was in pursuance of a
whisper in his ear from Florence, while the old man was absorbed in this
pursuit, that Captain Cuttle laid his heavy hand upon his shoulder.

‘What cheer, Sol Gills?’ cried the Captain, heartily.

‘But so-so, Ned,’ returned the Instrument-maker. ‘I have been
remembering, all this afternoon, that on the very day when my boy
entered Dombey’s House, and came home late to dinner, sitting just there
where you stand, we talked of storm and shipwreck, and I could hardly
turn him from the subject.’

But meeting the eyes of Florence, which were fixed with earnest scrutiny
upon his face, the old man stopped and smiled.

‘Stand by, old friend!’ cried the Captain. ‘Look alive! I tell you what,
Sol Gills; arter I’ve convoyed Heart’s-delight safe home,’ here the
Captain kissed his hook to Florence, ‘I’ll come back and take you in tow
for the rest of this blessed day. You’ll come and eat your dinner along
with me, Sol, somewheres or another.’

‘Not to-day, Ned!’ said the old man quickly, and appearing to be
unaccountably startled by the proposition. ‘Not to-day. I couldn’t do

‘Why not?’ returned the Captain, gazing at him in astonishment.

‘I--I have so much to do. I--I mean to think of, and arrange. I couldn’t
do it, Ned, indeed. I must go out again, and be alone, and turn my mind
to many things to-day.’

The Captain looked at the Instrument-maker, and looked at Florence, and
again at the Instrument-maker. ‘To-morrow, then,’ he suggested, at last.

‘Yes, yes. To-morrow,’ said the old man. ‘Think of me to-morrow. Say

‘I shall come here early, mind, Sol Gills,’ stipulated the Captain.

‘Yes, yes. The first thing tomorrow morning,’ said old Sol; ‘and now
good-bye, Ned Cuttle, and God bless you!’

Squeezing both the Captain’s hands, with uncommon fervour, as he said
it, the old man turned to Florence, folded hers in his own, and put
them to his lips; then hurried her out to the coach with very singular
precipitation. Altogether, he made such an effect on Captain Cuttle
that the Captain lingered behind, and instructed Rob to be particularly
gentle and attentive to his master until the morning: which injunction
he strengthened with the payment of one shilling down, and the promise
of another sixpence before noon next day. This kind office performed,
Captain Cuttle, who considered himself the natural and lawful body-guard
of Florence, mounted the box with a mighty sense of his trust, and
escorted her home. At parting, he assured her that he would stand by Sol
Gills, close and true; and once again inquired of Susan Nipper, unable
to forget her gallant words in reference to Mrs MacStinger, ‘Would you,
do you think my dear, though?’

When the desolate house had closed upon the two, the Captain’s thoughts
reverted to the old Instrument-maker, and he felt uncomfortable.
Therefore, instead of going home, he walked up and down the street
several times, and, eking out his leisure until evening, dined late at a
certain angular little tavern in the City, with a public parlour like
a wedge, to which glazed hats much resorted. The Captain’s principal
intention was to pass Sol Gills’s, after dark, and look in through the
window: which he did, The parlour door stood open, and he could see his
old friend writing busily and steadily at the table within, while the
little Midshipman, already sheltered from the night dews, watched
him from the counter; under which Rob the Grinder made his own bed,
preparatory to shutting the shop. Reassured by the tranquillity that
reigned within the precincts of the wooden mariner, the Captain headed
for Brig Place, resolving to weigh anchor betimes in the morning.

CHAPTER 24. The Study of a Loving Heart

Sir Barnet and Lady Skettles, very good people, resided in a pretty
villa at Fulham, on the banks of the Thames; which was one of the most
desirable residences in the world when a rowing-match happened to be
going past, but had its little inconveniences at other times, among
which may be enumerated the occasional appearance of the river in the
drawing-room, and the contemporaneous disappearance of the lawn and

Sir Barnet Skettles expressed his personal consequence chiefly through
an antique gold snuffbox, and a ponderous silk pocket-kerchief, which
he had an imposing manner of drawing out of his pocket like a banner
and using with both hands at once. Sir Barnet’s object in life was
constantly to extend the range of his acquaintance. Like a heavy body
dropped into water--not to disparage so worthy a gentleman by the
comparison--it was in the nature of things that Sir Barnet must spread
an ever widening circle about him, until there was no room left.
Or, like a sound in air, the vibration of which, according to the
speculation of an ingenious modern philosopher, may go on travelling for
ever through the interminable fields of space, nothing but coming to the
end of his moral tether could stop Sir Barnet Skettles in his voyage of
discovery through the social system.

Sir Barnet was proud of making people acquainted with people. He liked
the thing for its own sake, and it advanced his favourite object too.
For example, if Sir Barnet had the good fortune to get hold of a law
recruit, or a country gentleman, and ensnared him to his hospitable
villa, Sir Barnet would say to him, on the morning after his arrival,
‘Now, my dear Sir, is there anybody you would like to know? Who is there
you would wish to meet? Do you take any interest in writing people, or
in painting or sculpturing people, or in acting people, or in anything
of that sort?’ Possibly the patient answered yes, and mentioned
somebody, of whom Sir Barnet had no more personal knowledge than of
Ptolemy the Great. Sir Barnet replied, that nothing on earth was easier,
as he knew him very well: immediately called on the aforesaid somebody,
left his card, wrote a short note,--‘My dear Sir--penalty of your
eminent position--friend at my house naturally desirous--Lady Skettles
and myself participate--trust that genius being superior to ceremonies,
you will do us the distinguished favour of giving us the pleasure,’ etc,
etc.--and so killed a brace of birds with one stone, dead as door-nails.

With the snuff-box and banner in full force, Sir Barnet Skettles
propounded his usual inquiry to Florence on the first morning of
her visit. When Florence thanked him, and said there was no one in
particular whom she desired to see, it was natural she should think with
a pang, of poor lost Walter. When Sir Barnet Skettles, urging his kind
offer, said, ‘My dear Miss Dombey, are you sure you can remember no one
whom your good Papa--to whom I beg you present the best compliments of
myself and Lady Skettles when you write--might wish you to know?’ it was
natural, perhaps, that her poor head should droop a little, and that her
voice should tremble as it softly answered in the negative.

Skettles Junior, much stiffened as to his cravat, and sobered down as to
his spirits, was at home for the holidays, and appeared to feel himself
aggrieved by the solicitude of his excellent mother that he should be
attentive to Florence. Another and a deeper injury under which the soul
of young Barnet chafed, was the company of Dr and Mrs Blimber, who had
been invited on a visit to the paternal roof-tree, and of whom the young
gentleman often said he would have preferred their passing the vacation
at Jericho.

‘Is there anybody you can suggest now, Doctor Blimber?’ said Sir Barnet
Skettles, turning to that gentleman.

‘You are very kind, Sir Barnet,’ returned Doctor Blimber. ‘Really I am
not aware that there is, in particular. I like to know my fellow-men in
general, Sir Barnet. What does Terence say? Anyone who is the parent of
a son is interesting to me.’

‘Has Mrs Blimber any wish to see any remarkable person?’ asked Sir
Barnet, courteously.

Mrs Blimber replied, with a sweet smile and a shake of her sky-blue cap,
that if Sir Barnet could have made her known to Cicero, she would have
troubled him; but such an introduction not being feasible, and she
already enjoying the friendship of himself and his amiable lady, and
possessing with the Doctor her husband their joint confidence in regard
to their dear son--here young Barnet was observed to curl his nose--she
asked no more.

Sir Barnet was fain, under these circumstances, to content himself for
the time with the company assembled. Florence was glad of that; for she
had a study to pursue among them, and it lay too near her heart, and was
too precious and momentous, to yield to any other interest.

There were some children staying in the house. Children who were as
frank and happy with fathers and with mothers as those rosy faces
opposite home. Children who had no restraint upon their love, and freely
showed it. Florence sought to learn their secret; sought to find out
what it was she had missed; what simple art they knew, and she knew not;
how she could be taught by them to show her father that she loved him,
and to win his love again.

Many a day did Florence thoughtfully observe these children. On many
a bright morning did she leave her bed when the glorious sun rose, and
walking up and down upon the river’s bank, before anyone in the house
was stirring, look up at the windows of their rooms, and think of them,
asleep, so gently tended and affectionately thought of. Florence would
feel more lonely then, than in the great house all alone; and would
think sometimes that she was better there than here, and that there was
greater peace in hiding herself than in mingling with others of her age,
and finding how unlike them all she was. But attentive to her study,
though it touched her to the quick at every little leaf she turned in
the hard book, Florence remained among them, and tried, with patient
hope, to gain the knowledge that she wearied for.

Ah! how to gain it! how to know the charm in its beginning! There were
daughters here, who rose up in the morning, and lay down to rest at
night, possessed of fathers’ hearts already. They had no repulse to
overcome, no coldness to dread, no frown to smooth away. As the morning
advanced, and the windows opened one by one, and the dew began to dry
upon the flowers and and youthful feet began to move upon the lawn,
Florence, glancing round at the bright faces, thought what was there
she could learn from these children? It was too late to learn from them;
each could approach her father fearlessly, and put up her lips to meet
the ready kiss, and wind her arm about the neck that bent down to caress
her. She could not begin by being so bold. Oh! could it be that there
was less and less hope as she studied more and more!

She remembered well, that even the old woman who had robbed her when
a little child--whose image and whose house, and all she had said and
done, were stamped upon her recollection, with the enduring sharpness
of a fearful impression made at that early period of life--had spoken
fondly of her daughter, and how terribly even she had cried out in the
pain of hopeless separation from her child. But her own mother, she
would think again, when she recalled this, had loved her well. Then,
sometimes, when her thoughts reverted swiftly to the void between
herself and her father, Florence would tremble, and the tears would
start upon her face, as she pictured to herself her mother living on,
and coming also to dislike her, because of her wanting the unknown grace
that should conciliate that father naturally, and had never done so
from her cradle. She knew that this imagination did wrong to her mother’s
memory, and had no truth in it, or base to rest upon; and yet she tried
so hard to justify him, and to find the whole blame in herself, that she
could not resist its passing, like a wild cloud, through the distance of
her mind.

There came among the other visitors, soon after Florence, one beautiful
girl, three or four years younger than she, who was an orphan child, and
who was accompanied by her aunt, a grey-haired lady, who spoke much to
Florence, and who greatly liked (but that they all did) to hear her sing
of an evening, and would always sit near her at that time, with motherly
interest. They had only been two days in the house, when Florence, being
in an arbour in the garden one warm morning, musingly observant of a
youthful group upon the turf, through some intervening boughs,--and
wreathing flowers for the head of one little creature among them who was
the pet and plaything of the rest, heard this same lady and her niece,
in pacing up and down a sheltered nook close by, speak of herself.

‘Is Florence an orphan like me, aunt?’ said the child.

‘No, my love. She has no mother, but her father is living.’

‘Is she in mourning for her poor Mama, now?’ inquired the child quickly.

‘No; for her only brother.’

‘Has she no other brother?’


‘No sister?’


‘I am very, very sorry!’ said the little girl

As they stopped soon afterwards to watch some boats, and had been silent
in the meantime, Florence, who had risen when she heard her name, and
had gathered up her flowers to go and meet them, that they might know of
her being within hearing, resumed her seat and work, expecting to hear
no more; but the conversation recommenced next moment.

‘Florence is a favourite with everyone here, and deserves to be, I am
sure,’ said the child, earnestly. ‘Where is her Papa?’

The aunt replied, after a moment’s pause, that she did not know. Her
tone of voice arrested Florence, who had started from her seat again;
and held her fastened to the spot, with her work hastily caught up
to her bosom, and her two hands saving it from being scattered on the

‘He is in England, I hope, aunt?’ said the child.

‘I believe so. Yes; I know he is, indeed.’

‘Has he ever been here?’

‘I believe not. No.’

‘Is he coming here to see her?’

‘I believe not.’

‘Is he lame, or blind, or ill, aunt?’ asked the child.

The flowers that Florence held to her breast began to fall when she
heard those words, so wonderingly spoke She held them closer; and her
face hung down upon them.

‘Kate,’ said the lady, after another moment of silence, ‘I will tell you
the whole truth about Florence as I have heard it, and believe it to be.
Tell no one else, my dear, because it may be little known here, and your
doing so would give her pain.’

‘I never will!’ exclaimed the child.

‘I know you never will,’ returned the lady. ‘I can trust you as myself.
I fear then, Kate, that Florence’s father cares little for her, very
seldom sees her, never was kind to her in her life, and now quite shuns
her and avoids her. She would love him dearly if he would suffer her,
but he will not--though for no fault of hers; and she is greatly to be
loved and pitied by all gentle hearts.’

More of the flowers that Florence held fell scattering on the ground;
those that remained were wet, but not with dew; and her face dropped
upon her laden hands.

‘Poor Florence! Dear, good Florence!’ cried the child.

‘Do you know why I have told you this, Kate?’ said the lady.

‘That I may be very kind to her, and take great care to try to please
her. Is that the reason, aunt?’

‘Partly,’ said the lady, ‘but not all. Though we see her so cheerful;
with a pleasant smile for everyone; ready to oblige us all, and bearing
her part in every amusement here: she can hardly be quite happy, do you
think she can, Kate?’

‘I am afraid not,’ said the little girl.

‘And you can understand,’ pursued the lady, ‘why her observation of
children who have parents who are fond of them, and proud of them--like
many here, just now--should make her sorrowful in secret?’

‘Yes, dear aunt,’ said the child, ‘I understand that very well. Poor

More flowers strayed upon the ground, and those she yet held to her
breast trembled as if a wintry wind were rustling them.

‘My Kate,’ said the lady, whose voice was serious, but very calm and
sweet, and had so impressed Florence from the first moment of her
hearing it, ‘of all the youthful people here, you are her natural and
harmless friend; you have not the innocent means, that happier children

‘There are none happier, aunt!’ exclaimed the child, who seemed to cling
about her.

‘--As other children have, dear Kate, of reminding her of her misfortune.
Therefore I would have you, when you try to be her little friend,
try all the more for that, and feel that the bereavement you
sustained--thank Heaven! before you knew its weight--gives you claim and
hold upon poor Florence.’

‘But I am not without a parent’s love, aunt, and I never have been,’
said the child, ‘with you.’

‘However that may be, my dear,’ returned the lady, ‘your misfortune is a
lighter one than Florence’s; for not an orphan in the wide world can be
so deserted as the child who is an outcast from a living parent’s love.’

The flowers were scattered on the ground like dust; the empty hands were
spread upon the face; and orphaned Florence, shrinking down upon the
ground, wept long and bitterly.

But true of heart and resolute in her good purpose, Florence held to it
as her dying mother held by her upon the day that gave Paul life. He did
not know how much she loved him. However long the time in coming, and
however slow the interval, she must try to bring that knowledge to her
father’s heart one day or other. Meantime she must be careful in no
thoughtless word, or look, or burst of feeling awakened by any chance
circumstance, to complain against him, or to give occasion for these
whispers to his prejudice.

Even in the response she made the orphan child, to whom she was
attracted strongly, and whom she had such occasion to remember, Florence
was mindful of him. If she singled her out too plainly (Florence
thought) from among the rest, she would confirm--in one mind certainly:
perhaps in more--the belief that he was cruel and unnatural. Her own
delight was no set-off to this. What she had overheard was a reason,
not for soothing herself, but for saving him; and Florence did it, in
pursuance of the study of her heart.

She did so always. If a book were read aloud, and there were anything
in the story that pointed at an unkind father, she was in pain for their
application of it to him; not for herself. So with any trifle of an
interlude that was acted, or picture that was shown, or game that was
played, among them. The occasions for such tenderness towards him were
so many, that her mind misgave her often, it would indeed be better to
go back to the old house, and live again within the shadow of its dull
walls, undisturbed. How few who saw sweet Florence, in her spring of
womanhood, the modest little queen of those small revels, imagined what
a load of sacred care lay heavy in her breast! How few of those who
stiffened in her father’s freezing atmosphere, suspected what a heap of
fiery coals was piled upon his head!

Florence pursued her study patiently, and, failing to acquire the secret
of the nameless grace she sought, among the youthful company who were
assembled in the house, often walked out alone, in the early morning,
among the children of the poor. But still she found them all too far
advanced to learn from. They had won their household places long ago,
and did not stand without, as she did, with a bar across the door.

There was one man whom she several times observed at work very early,
and often with a girl of about her own age seated near him. He was a
very poor man, who seemed to have no regular employment, but now went
roaming about the banks of the river when the tide was low, looking out
for bits and scraps in the mud; and now worked at the unpromising
little patch of garden-ground before his cottage; and now tinkered up
a miserable old boat that belonged to him; or did some job of that kind
for a neighbour, as chance occurred. Whatever the man’s labour, the
girl was never employed; but sat, when she was with him, in a listless,
moping state, and idle.

Florence had often wished to speak to this man; yet she had never taken
courage to do so, as he made no movement towards her. But one morning
when she happened to come upon him suddenly, from a by-path among some
pollard willows which terminated in the little shelving piece of stony
ground that lay between his dwelling and the water, where he was bending
over a fire he had made to caulk the old boat which was lying bottom
upwards, close by, he raised his head at the sound of her footstep, and
gave her Good morning.

‘Good morning,’ said Florence, approaching nearer, ‘you are at work

‘I’d be glad to be often at work earlier, Miss, if I had work to do.’

‘Is it so hard to get?’ asked Florence.

‘I find it so,’ replied the man.

Florence glanced to where the girl was sitting, drawn together, with her
elbows on her knees, and her chin on her hands, and said:

‘Is that your daughter?’

He raised his head quickly, and looking towards the girl with a
brightened face, nodded to her, and said ‘Yes,’ Florence looked towards
her too, and gave her a kind salutation; the girl muttered something in
return, ungraciously and sullenly.

‘Is she in want of employment also?’ said Florence.

The man shook his head. ‘No, Miss,’ he said. ‘I work for both,’

‘Are there only you two, then?’ inquired Florence.

‘Only us two,’ said the man. ‘Her mother his been dead these ten year.
Martha!’ (he lifted up his head again, and whistled to her) ‘won’t you
say a word to the pretty young lady?’

The girl made an impatient gesture with her cowering shoulders, and
turned her head another way. Ugly, misshapen, peevish, ill-conditioned,
ragged, dirty--but beloved! Oh yes! Florence had seen her father’s look
towards her, and she knew whose look it had no likeness to.

‘I’m afraid she’s worse this morning, my poor girl!’ said the man,
suspending his work, and contemplating his ill-favoured child, with a
compassion that was the more tender for being rougher.

‘She is ill, then!’ said Florence.

The man drew a deep sigh. ‘I don’t believe my Martha’s had five short
days’ good health,’ he answered, looking at her still, ‘in as many long

‘Ay! and more than that, John,’ said a neighbour, who had come down to
help him with the boat.

‘More than that, you say, do you?’ cried the other, pushing back his
battered hat, and drawing his hand across his forehead. ‘Very like. It
seems a long, long time.’

‘And the more the time,’ pursued the neighbour, ‘the more you’ve
favoured and humoured her, John, till she’s got to be a burden to
herself, and everybody else.’

‘Not to me,’ said her father, falling to his work. ‘Not to me.’

Florence could feel--who better?--how truly he spoke. She drew a little
closer to him, and would have been glad to touch his rugged hand, and
thank him for his goodness to the miserable object that he looked upon
with eyes so different from any other man’s.

‘Who would favour my poor girl--to call it favouring--if I didn’t?’ said
the father.

‘Ay, ay,’ cried the neighbour. ‘In reason, John. But you! You rob
yourself to give to her. You bind yourself hand and foot on her account.
You make your life miserable along of her. And what does she care! You
don’t believe she knows it?’

The father lifted up his head again, and whistled to her. Martha made
the same impatient gesture with her crouching shoulders, in reply; and
he was glad and happy.

‘Only for that, Miss,’ said the neighbour, with a smile, in which there
was more of secret sympathy than he expressed; ‘only to get that, he
never lets her out of his sight!’

‘Because the day’ll come, and has been coming a long while,’ observed
the other, bending low over his work, ‘when to get half as much from
that unfort’nate child of mine--to get the trembling of a finger, or the
waving of a hair--would be to raise the dead.’

Florence softly put some money near his hand on the old boat, and left

And now Florence began to think, if she were to fall ill, if she were to
fade like her dear brother, would he then know that she had loved him;
would she then grow dear to him; would he come to her bedside, when she
was weak and dim of sight, and take her into his embrace, and cancel all
the past? Would he so forgive her, in that changed condition, for not
having been able to lay open her childish heart to him, as to make it
easy to relate with what emotions she had gone out of his room that
night; what she had meant to say if she had had the courage; and how she
had endeavoured, afterwards, to learn the way she never knew in infancy?

Yes, she thought if she were dying, he would relent. She thought, that
if she lay, serene and not unwilling to depart, upon the bed that was
curtained round with recollections of their darling boy, he would be
touched home, and would say, ‘Dear Florence, live for me, and we will
love each other as we might have done, and be as happy as we might have
been these many years!’ She thought that if she heard such words from
him, and had her arms clasped round him, she could answer with a smile,
‘It is too late for anything but this; I never could be happier, dear
father!’ and so leave him, with a blessing on her lips.

The golden water she remembered on the wall, appeared to Florence, in
the light of such reflections, only as a current flowing on to rest,
and to a region where the dear ones, gone before, were waiting, hand in
hand; and often when she looked upon the darker river rippling at her
feet, she thought with awful wonder, but not terror, of that river which
her brother had so often said was bearing him away.

The father and his sick daughter were yet fresh in Florence’s mind, and,
indeed, that incident was not a week old, when Sir Barnet and his lady
going out walking in the lanes one afternoon, proposed to her to bear
them company. Florence readily consenting, Lady Skettles ordered out
young Barnet as a matter of course. For nothing delighted Lady Skettles
so much, as beholding her eldest son with Florence on his arm.

Barnet, to say the truth, appeared to entertain an opposite sentiment on
the subject, and on such occasions frequently expressed himself audibly,
though indefinitely, in reference to ‘a parcel of girls.’ As it was not
easy to ruffle her sweet temper, however, Florence generally reconciled
the young gentleman to his fate after a few minutes, and they strolled
on amicably: Lady Skettles and Sir Barnet following, in a state of
perfect complacency and high gratification.

This was the order of procedure on the afternoon in question; and
Florence had almost succeeded in overruling the present objections
of Skettles Junior to his destiny, when a gentleman on horseback came
riding by, looked at them earnestly as he passed, drew in his rein,
wheeled round, and came riding back again, hat in hand.

The gentleman had looked particularly at Florence; and when the little
party stopped, on his riding back, he bowed to her, before saluting Sir
Barnet and his lady. Florence had no remembrance of having ever seen
him, but she started involuntarily when he came near her, and drew back.

‘My horse is perfectly quiet, I assure you,’ said the gentleman.

It was not that, but something in the gentleman himself--Florence could
not have said what--that made her recoil as if she had been stung.

‘I have the honour to address Miss Dombey, I believe?’ said the
gentleman, with a most persuasive smile. On Florence inclining her head,
he added, ‘My name is Carker. I can hardly hope to be remembered by Miss
Dombey, except by name. Carker.’

Florence, sensible of a strange inclination to shiver, though the day
was hot, presented him to her host and hostess; by whom he was very
graciously received.

‘I beg pardon,’ said Mr Carker, ‘a thousand times! But I am going down
tomorrow morning to Mr Dombey, at Leamington, and if Miss Dombey can
entrust me with any commission, need I say how very happy I shall be?’

Sir Barnet immediately divining that Florence would desire to write a
letter to her father, proposed to return, and besought Mr Carker to come
home and dine in his riding gear. Mr Carker had the misfortune to be
engaged to dinner, but if Miss Dombey wished to write, nothing would
delight him more than to accompany them back, and to be her faithful
slave in waiting as long as she pleased. As he said this with his widest
smile, and bent down close to her to pat his horse’s neck, Florence
meeting his eyes, saw, rather than heard him say, ‘There is no news of
the ship!’

Confused, frightened, shrinking from him, and not even sure that he
had said those words, for he seemed to have shown them to her in some
extraordinary manner through his smile, instead of uttering them,
Florence faintly said that she was obliged to him, but she would not
write; she had nothing to say.

‘Nothing to send, Miss Dombey?’ said the man of teeth.

‘Nothing,’ said Florence, ‘but my--but my dear love--if you please.’

Disturbed as Florence was, she raised her eyes to his face with
an imploring and expressive look, that plainly besought him, if he
knew--which he as plainly did--that any message between her and her
father was an uncommon charge, but that one most of all, to spare her.
Mr Carker smiled and bowed low, and being charged by Sir Barnet with the
best compliments of himself and Lady Skettles, took his leave, and rode
away: leaving a favourable impression on that worthy couple. Florence
was seized with such a shudder as he went, that Sir Barnet, adopting the
popular superstition, supposed somebody was passing over her grave. Mr
Carker turning a corner, on the instant, looked back, and bowed, and
disappeared, as if he rode off to the churchyard straight, to do it.

CHAPTER 25. Strange News of Uncle Sol

Captain 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 room 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

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.

‘Ay!’ 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 read as follows:--

‘“My dear Ned Cuttle. Enclosed is my will!”’ The Captain turned it over,
with a doubtful look--‘“and Testament”--Where’s the Testament?’ said the
Captain, instantly impeaching the ill-fated Grinder. ‘What have you done
with that, my lad?’

‘I never see it,’ whimpered Rob. ‘Don’t keep on suspecting an innocent
lad, Captain. I never touched the Testament.’

Captain Cuttle shook his head, implying that somebody must be made
answerable for it; and gravely proceeded:

‘“Which don’t break open for a year, or until you have decisive
intelligence of my dear Walter, who is dear to you, Ned, too, I am
sure.”’ The Captain paused and shook his head in some emotion; then, as
a re-establishment of his dignity in this trying position, looked with
exceeding sternness at the Grinder. ‘“If you should never hear of me, or
see me more, Ned, remember an old friend as he will remember you to
the last--kindly; and at least until the period I have mentioned has
expired, keep a home in the old place for Walter. There are no debts,
the loan from Dombey’s House is paid off and all my keys I send with
this. Keep this quiet, and make no inquiry for me; it is useless. So no
more, dear Ned, from your true friend, Solomon Gills.”’ The Captain took
a long breath, and then read these words written below: ‘“The boy Rob,
well recommended, as I told you, from Dombey’s House. If all else should
come to the hammer, take care, Ned, of the little Midshipman.”’

To convey to posterity any idea of the manner in which the Captain,
after turning this letter over and over, and reading it a score of
times, sat down in his chair, and held a court-martial on the subject in
his own mind, would require the united genius of all the great men,
who, discarding their own untoward days, have determined to go down to
posterity, and have never got there. At first the Captain was too much
confounded and distressed to think of anything but the letter itself;
and even when his thoughts began to glance upon the various attendant
facts, they might, perhaps, as well have occupied themselves with their
former theme, for any light they reflected on them. In this state of
mind, Captain Cuttle having the Grinder before the court, and no one
else, found it a great relief to decide, generally, that he was an
object of suspicion: which the Captain so clearly expressed in his
visage, that Rob remonstrated.

‘Oh, don’t, Captain!’ cried the Grinder. ‘I wonder how you can! what
have I done to be looked at, like that?’

‘My lad,’ said Captain Cuttle, ‘don’t you sing out afore you’re hurt.
And don’t you commit yourself, whatever you do.’

‘I haven’t been and committed nothing, Captain!’ answered Rob.

‘Keep her free, then,’ said the Captain, impressively, ‘and ride easy.’

With a deep sense of the responsibility imposed upon him, and the
necessity of thoroughly fathoming this mysterious affair as became a man
in his relations with the parties, Captain Cuttle resolved to go down
and examine the premises, and to keep the Grinder with him. Considering
that youth as under arrest at present, the Captain was in some doubt
whether it might not be expedient to handcuff him, or tie his ankles
together, or attach a weight to his legs; but not being clear as to the
legality of such formalities, the Captain decided merely to hold him by
the shoulder all the way, and knock him down if he made any objection.

However, he made none, and consequently got to the Instrument-maker’s
house without being placed under any more stringent restraint. As the
shutters were not yet taken down, the Captain’s first care was to
have the shop opened; and when the daylight was freely admitted, he
proceeded, with its aid, to further investigation.

The Captain’s first care was to establish himself in a chair in the
shop, as President of the solemn tribunal that was sitting within
him; and to require Rob to lie down in his bed under the counter, show
exactly where he discovered the keys and packet when he awoke, how
he found the door when he went to try it, how he started off to Brig
Place--cautiously preventing the latter imitation from being carried
farther than the threshold--and so on to the end of the chapter. When
all this had been done several times, the Captain shook his head and
seemed to think the matter had a bad look.

Next, the Captain, with some indistinct idea of finding a body,
instituted a strict search over the whole house; groping in the cellars
with a lighted candle, thrusting his hook behind doors, bringing his
head into violent contact with beams, and covering himself with cobwebs.
Mounting up to the old man’s bed-room, they found that he had not been
in bed on the previous night, but had merely lain down on the coverlet,
as was evident from the impression yet remaining there.

‘And I think, Captain,’ said Rob, looking round the room, ‘that when Mr
Gills was going in and out so often, these last few days, he was taking
little things away, piecemeal, not to attract attention.’

‘Ay!’ said the Captain, mysteriously. ‘Why so, my lad?’

‘Why,’ returned Rob, looking about, ‘I don’t see his shaving tackle. Nor
his brushes, Captain. Nor no shirts. Nor yet his shoes.’

As each of these articles was mentioned, Captain Cuttle took particular
notice of the corresponding department of the Grinder, lest he should
appear to have been in recent use, or should prove to be in present
possession thereof. But Rob had no occasion to shave, was not brushed,
and wore the clothes he had on for a long time past, beyond all
possibility of a mistake.

‘And what should you say,’ said the Captain--‘not committing
yourself--about his time of sheering off? Hey?’

‘Why, I think, Captain,’ returned Rob, ‘that he must have gone pretty
soon after I began to snore.’

‘What o’clock was that?’ said the Captain, prepared to be very
particular about the exact time.

‘How can I tell, Captain!’ answered Rob. ‘I only know that I’m a heavy
sleeper at first, and a light one towards morning; and if Mr Gills had
come through the shop near daybreak, though ever so much on tiptoe, I’m
pretty sure I should have heard him shut the door at all events.’

On mature consideration of this evidence, Captain Cuttle began to think
that the Instrument-maker must have vanished of his own accord; to which
logical conclusion he was assisted by the letter addressed to himself,
which, as being undeniably in the old man’s handwriting, would seem,
with no great forcing, to bear the construction, that he arranged of his
own will to go, and so went. The Captain had next to consider where and
why? and as there was no way whatsoever that he saw to the solution of
the first difficulty, he confined his meditations to the second.

Remembering the old man’s curious manner, and the farewell he had taken
of him; unaccountably fervent at the time, but quite intelligible now: a
terrible apprehension strengthened on the Captain, that, overpowered
by his anxieties and regrets for Walter, he had been driven to commit
suicide. Unequal to the wear and tear of daily life, as he had
often professed himself to be, and shaken as he no doubt was by the
uncertainty and deferred hope he had undergone, it seemed no violently
strained misgiving, but only too probable.

Free from debt, and with no fear for his personal liberty, or the seizure
of his goods, what else but such a state of madness could have hurried
him away alone and secretly? As to his carrying some apparel with him, if
he had really done so--and they were not even sure of that--he might have
done so, the Captain argued, to prevent inquiry, to distract attention
from his probable fate, or to ease the very mind that was now revolving
all these possibilities. Such, reduced into plain language, and condensed
within a small compass, was the final result and substance of Captain
Cuttle’s deliberations: which took a long time to arrive at this pass,
and were, like some more public deliberations, very discursive and

Dejected and despondent in the extreme, Captain Cuttle felt it just to
release Rob from the arrest in which he had placed him, and to enlarge
him, subject to a kind of honourable inspection which he still resolved
to exercise; and having hired a man, from Brogley the Broker, to sit in
the shop during their absence, the Captain, taking Rob with him, issued
forth upon a dismal quest after the mortal remains of Solomon Gills.

Not a station-house, or bone-house, or work-house in the metropolis
escaped a visitation from the hard glazed hat. Along the wharves, among
the shipping on the bank-side, up the river, down the river, here,
there, everywhere, it went gleaming where men were thickest, like the
hero’s helmet in an epic battle. For a whole week the Captain read of
all the found and missing people in all the newspapers and handbills,
and went forth on expeditions at all hours of the day to identify
Solomon Gills, in poor little ship-boys who had fallen overboard, and in
tall foreigners with dark beards who had taken poison--‘to make sure,’
Captain Cuttle said, ‘that it wam’t him.’ It is a sure thing that it
never was, and that the good Captain had no other satisfaction.

Captain Cuttle at last abandoned these attempts as hopeless, and set
himself to consider what was to be done next. After several new perusals
of his poor friend’s letter, he considered that the maintenance of ‘a
home in the old place for Walter’ was the primary duty imposed upon him.
Therefore, the Captain’s decision was, that he would keep house on
the premises of Solomon Gills himself, and would go into the
instrument-business, and see what came of it.

But as this step involved the relinquishment of his apartments at Mrs
MacStinger’s, and he knew that resolute woman would never hear of his
deserting them, the Captain took the desperate determination of running

‘Now, look ye here, my lad,’ said the Captain to Rob, when he had
matured this notable scheme, ‘to-morrow, I shan’t be found in this here
roadstead till night--not till arter midnight p’rhaps. But you keep
watch till you hear me knock, and the moment you do, turn-to, and open
the door.’

‘Very good, Captain,’ said Rob.

‘You’ll continue to be rated on these here books,’ pursued the Captain
condescendingly, ‘and I don’t say but what you may get promotion, if
you and me should pull together with a will. But the moment you hear me
knock to-morrow night, whatever time it is, turn-to and show yourself
smart with the door.’

‘I’ll be sure to do it, Captain,’ replied Rob.

‘Because you understand,’ resumed the Captain, coming back again to
enforce this charge upon his mind, ‘there may be, for anything I can
say, a chase; and I might be took while I was waiting, if you didn’t
show yourself smart with the door.’

Rob again assured the Captain that he would be prompt and wakeful;
and the Captain having made this prudent arrangement, went home to Mrs
MacStinger’s for the last time.

The sense the Captain had of its being the last time, and of the awful
purpose hidden beneath his blue waistcoat, inspired him with such a
mortal dread of Mrs MacStinger, that the sound of that lady’s foot
downstairs at any time of the day, was sufficient to throw him into
a fit of trembling. It fell out, too, that Mrs MacStinger was in a
charming temper--mild and placid as a house--lamb; and Captain Cuttle’s
conscience suffered terrible twinges, when she came up to inquire if she
could cook him nothing for his dinner.

‘A nice small kidney-pudding now, Cap’en Cuttle,’ said his landlady: ‘or
a sheep’s heart. Don’t mind my trouble.’

‘No thank’ee, Ma’am,’ returned the Captain.

‘Have a roast fowl,’ said Mrs MacStinger, ‘with a bit of weal stuffing
and some egg sauce. Come, Cap’en Cuttle! Give yourself a little treat!’

‘No thank’ee, Ma’am,’ returned the Captain very humbly.

‘I’m sure you’re out of sorts, and want to be stimulated,’ said Mrs
MacStinger. ‘Why not have, for once in a way, a bottle of sherry wine?’

‘Well, Ma’am,’ rejoined the Captain, ‘if you’d be so good as take a
glass or two, I think I would try that. Would you do me the favour,
Ma’am,’ said the Captain, torn to pieces by his conscience, ‘to accept a
quarter’s rent ahead?’

‘And why so, Cap’en Cuttle?’ retorted Mrs MacStinger--sharply, as the
Captain thought.

The Captain was frightened to dead ‘If you would Ma’am,’ he said with
submission, ‘it would oblige me. I can’t keep my money very well. It
pays itself out. I should take it kind if you’d comply.’

‘Well, Cap’en Cuttle,’ said the unconscious MacStinger, rubbing her
hands, ‘you can do as you please. It’s not for me, with my family, to
refuse, no more than it is to ask.’

‘And would you, Ma’am,’ said the Captain, taking down the tin canister
in which he kept his cash, from the top shelf of the cupboard, ‘be so
good as offer eighteen-pence a-piece to the little family all round? If
you could make it convenient, Ma’am, to pass the word presently for them
children to come for’ard, in a body, I should be glad to see ‘em.’

These innocent MacStingers were so many daggers to the Captain’s breast,
when they appeared in a swarm, and tore at him with the confiding
trustfulness he so little deserved. The eye of Alexander MacStinger, who
had been his favourite, was insupportable to the Captain; the voice of
Juliana MacStinger, who was the picture of her mother, made a coward of

Captain Cuttle kept up appearances, nevertheless, tolerably well, and
for an hour or two was very hardly used and roughly handled by the young
MacStingers: who in their childish frolics, did a little damage also
to the glazed hat, by sitting in it, two at a time, as in a nest, and
drumming on the inside of the crown with their shoes. At length the
Captain sorrowfully dismissed them: taking leave of these cherubs with
the poignant remorse and grief of a man who was going to execution.

In the silence of night, the Captain packed up his heavier property in a
chest, which he locked, intending to leave it there, in all probability
for ever, but on the forlorn chance of one day finding a man
sufficiently bold and desperate to come and ask for it. Of his lighter
necessaries, the Captain made a bundle; and disposed his plate about his
person, ready for flight. At the hour of midnight, when Brig Place was
buried in slumber, and Mrs MacStinger was lulled in sweet oblivion, with
her infants around her, the guilty Captain, stealing down on tiptoe, in
the dark, opened the door, closed it softly after him, and took to his

Pursued by the image of Mrs MacStinger springing out of bed, and,
regardless of costume, following and bringing him back; pursued also by
a consciousness of his enormous crime; Captain Cuttle held on at a great
pace, and allowed no grass to grow under his feet, between Brig Place
and the Instrument-maker’s door. It opened when he knocked--for Rob
was on the watch--and when it was bolted and locked behind him, Captain
Cuttle felt comparatively safe.

‘Whew!’ cried the Captain, looking round him. ‘It’s a breather!’

‘Nothing the matter, is there, Captain?’ cried the gaping Rob.

‘No, no!’ said Captain Cuttle, after changing colour, and listening to
a passing footstep in the street. ‘But mind ye, my lad; if any lady,
except either of them two as you see t’other day, ever comes and asks
for Cap’en Cuttle, be sure to report no person of that name known, nor
never heard of here; observe them orders, will you?’

‘I’ll take care, Captain,’ returned Rob.

‘You might say--if you liked,’ hesitated the Captain, ‘that you’d
read in the paper that a Cap’en of that name was gone to Australia,
emigrating, along with a whole ship’s complement of people as had all
swore never to come back no more.’

Rob nodded his understanding of these instructions; and Captain Cuttle
promising to make a man of him, if he obeyed orders, dismissed him,
yawning, to his bed under the counter, and went aloft to the chamber of
Solomon Gills.

What the Captain suffered next day, whenever a bonnet passed, or how
often he darted out of the shop to elude imaginary MacStingers, and
sought safety in the attic, cannot be told. But to avoid the fatigues
attendant on this means of self-preservation, the Captain curtained the
glass door of communication between the shop and parlour, on the inside;
fitted a key to it from the bunch that had been sent to him; and cut a
small hole of espial in the wall. The advantage of this fortification is
obvious. On a bonnet appearing, the Captain instantly slipped into his
garrison, locked himself up, and took a secret observation of the enemy.
Finding it a false alarm, the Captain instantly slipped out again. And
the bonnets in the street were so very numerous, and alarms were
so inseparable from their appearance, that the Captain was almost
incessantly slipping in and out all day long.

Captain Cuttle found time, however, in the midst of this fatiguing
service to inspect the stock; in connexion with which he had the
general idea (very laborious to Rob) that too much friction could not
be bestowed upon it, and that it could not be made too bright. He also
ticketed a few attractive-looking articles at a venture, at prices
ranging from ten shillings to fifty pounds, and exposed them in the
window to the great astonishment of the public.

After effecting these improvements, Captain Cuttle, surrounded by the
instruments, began to feel scientific: and looked up at the stars at
night, through the skylight, when he was smoking his pipe in the little
back parlour before going to bed, as if he had established a kind of
property in them. As a tradesman in the City, too, he began to have an
interest in the Lord Mayor, and the Sheriffs, and in Public Companies;
and felt bound to read the quotations of the Funds every day, though he
was unable to make out, on any principle of navigation, what the figures
meant, and could have very well dispensed with the fractions. Florence,
the Captain waited on, with his strange news of Uncle Sol, immediately
after taking possession of the Midshipman; but she was away from home.
So the Captain sat himself down in his altered station of life, with no
company but Rob the Grinder; and losing count of time, as men do when
great changes come upon them, thought musingly of Walter, and of Solomon
Gills, and even of Mrs MacStinger herself, as among the things that had

CHAPTER 26. Shadows of the Past and Future

‘Your most obedient, Sir,’ said the Major. ‘Damme, Sir, a friend of my
friend Dombey’s is a friend of mine, and I’m glad to see you!’

‘I am infinitely obliged, Carker,’ explained Mr Dombey, ‘to Major
Bagstock, for his company and conversation. Major Bagstock has rendered
me great service, Carker.’

Mr Carker the Manager, hat in hand, just arrived at Leamington, and
just introduced to the Major, showed the Major his whole double range
of teeth, and trusted he might take the liberty of thanking him with
all his heart for having effected so great an Improvement in Mr Dombey’s
looks and spirits.

‘By Gad, Sir,’ said the Major, in reply, ‘there are no thanks due to
me, for it’s a give and take affair. A great creature like our friend
Dombey, Sir,’ said the Major, lowering his voice, but not lowering it so
much as to render it inaudible to that gentleman, ‘cannot help improving
and exalting his friends. He strengthens and invigorates a man, Sir,
does Dombey, in his moral nature.’

Mr Carker snapped at the expression. In his moral nature. Exactly. The
very words he had been on the point of suggesting.

‘But when my friend Dombey, Sir,’ added the Major, ‘talks to you of
Major Bagstock, I must crave leave to set him and you right. He means
plain Joe, Sir--Joey B.--Josh. Bagstock--Joseph--rough and tough Old J.,
Sir. At your service.’

Mr Carker’s excessively friendly inclinations towards the Major, and Mr
Carker’s admiration of his roughness, toughness, and plainness, gleamed
out of every tooth in Mr Carker’s head.

‘And now, Sir,’ said the Major, ‘you and Dombey have the devil’s own
amount of business to talk over.’

‘By no means, Major,’ observed Mr Dombey.

‘Dombey,’ said the Major, defiantly, ‘I know better; a man of your
mark--the Colossus of commerce--is not to be interrupted. Your moments
are precious. We shall meet at dinner-time. In the interval, old Joseph
will be scarce. The dinner-hour is a sharp seven, Mr Carker.’

With that, the Major, greatly swollen as to his face, withdrew; but
immediately putting in his head at the door again, said:

‘I beg your pardon. Dombey, have you any message to ‘em?’

Mr Dombey in some embarrassment, and not without a glance at the
courteous keeper of his business confidence, entrusted the Major with
his compliments.

‘By the Lord, Sir,’ said the Major, ‘you must make it something warmer
than that, or old Joe will be far from welcome.’

‘Regards then, if you will, Major,’ returned Mr Dombey.

‘Damme, Sir,’ said the Major, shaking his shoulders and his great cheeks
jocularly: ‘make it something warmer than that.’

‘What you please, then, Major,’ observed Mr Dombey.

‘Our friend is sly, Sir, sly, Sir, de-vilish sly,’ said the Major,
staring round the door at Carker. ‘So is Bagstock.’ But stopping in the
midst of a chuckle, and drawing himself up to his full height, the Major
solemnly exclaimed, as he struck himself on the chest, ‘Dombey! I envy
your feelings. God bless you!’ and withdrew.

‘You must have found the gentleman a great resource,’ said Carker,
following him with his teeth.

‘Very great indeed,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘He has friends here, no doubt,’ pursued Carker. ‘I perceive, from
what he has said, that you go into society here. Do you know,’ smiling
horribly, ‘I am so very glad that you go into society!’

Mr Dombey acknowledged this display of interest on the part of his
second in command, by twirling his watch-chain, and slightly moving his

‘You were formed for society,’ said Carker. ‘Of all the men I know, you
are the best adapted, by nature and by position, for society. Do you
know I have been frequently amazed that you should have held it at arm’s
length so long!’

‘I have had my reasons, Carker. I have been alone, and indifferent to
it. But you have great social qualifications yourself, and are the more
likely to have been surprised.’

‘Oh! I!’ returned the other, with ready self-disparagement. ‘It’s
quite another matter in the case of a man like me. I don’t come into
comparison with you.’

Mr Dombey put his hand to his neckcloth, settled his chin in it,
coughed, and stood looking at his faithful friend and servant for a few
moments in silence.

‘I shall have the pleasure, Carker,’ said Mr Dombey at length: making as
if he swallowed something a little too large for his throat: ‘to present
you to my--to the Major’s friends. Highly agreeable people.’

‘Ladies among them, I presume?’ insinuated the smooth Manager.

‘They are all--that is to say, they are both--ladies,’ replied Mr

‘Only two?’ smiled Carker.

‘They are only two. I have confined my visits to their residence, and
have made no other acquaintance here.’

‘Sisters, perhaps?’ quoth Carker.

‘Mother and daughter,’ replied Mr Dombey.

As Mr Dombey dropped his eyes, and adjusted his neckcloth again, the
smiling face of Mr Carker the Manager became in a moment, and without
any stage of transition, transformed into a most intent and frowning
face, scanning his closely, and with an ugly sneer. As Mr Dombey raised
his eyes, it changed back, no less quickly, to its old expression, and
showed him every gum of which it stood possessed.

‘You are very kind,’ said Carker, ‘I shall be delighted to know them.
Speaking of daughters, I have seen Miss Dombey.’

There was a sudden rush of blood to Mr Dombey’s face.

‘I took the liberty of waiting on her,’ said Carker, ‘to inquire if she
could charge me with any little commission. I am not so fortunate as to
be the bearer of any but her--but her dear love.’

Wolf’s face that it was then, with even the hot tongue revealing itself
through the stretched mouth, as the eyes encountered Mr Dombey’s!

‘What business intelligence is there?’ inquired the latter gentleman,
after a silence, during which Mr Carker had produced some memoranda and
other papers.

‘There is very little,’ returned Carker. ‘Upon the whole we have not had
our usual good fortune of late, but that is of little moment to you. At
Lloyd’s, they give up the Son and Heir for lost. Well, she was insured,
from her keel to her masthead.’

‘Carker,’ said Mr Dombey, taking a chair near him, ‘I cannot say that
young man, Gay, ever impressed me favourably--’

‘Nor me,’ interposed the Manager.

‘--But I wish,’ said Mr Dombey, without heeding the interruption, ‘he had
never gone on board that ship. I wish he had never been sent out.

‘It is a pity you didn’t say so, in good time, is it not?’ retorted
Carker, coolly. ‘However, I think it’s all for the best. I really, think
it’s all for the best. Did I mention that there was something like a
little confidence between Miss Dombey and myself?’

‘No,’ said Mr Dombey, sternly.

‘I have no doubt,’ returned Mr Carker, after an impressive pause, ‘that
wherever Gay is, he is much better where he is, than at home here. If
I were, or could be, in your place, I should be satisfied of that. I
am quite satisfied of it myself. Miss Dombey is confiding and
young--perhaps hardly proud enough, for your daughter--if she have a
fault. Not that that is much though, I am sure. Will you check these
balances with me?’

Mr Dombey leaned back in his chair, instead of bending over the papers
that were laid before him, and looked the Manager steadily in the face.
The Manager, with his eyelids slightly raised, affected to be glancing
at his figures, and to await the leisure of his principal. He showed
that he affected this, as if from great delicacy, and with a design to
spare Mr Dombey’s feelings; and the latter, as he looked at him, was
cognizant of his intended consideration, and felt that but for it, this
confidential Carker would have said a great deal more, which he, Mr
Dombey, was too proud to ask for. It was his way in business, often.
Little by little, Mr Dombey’s gaze relaxed, and his attention became
diverted to the papers before him; but while busy with the occupation
they afforded him, he frequently stopped, and looked at Mr Carker again.
Whenever he did so, Mr Carker was demonstrative, as before, in his
delicacy, and impressed it on his great chief more and more.

While they were thus engaged; and under the skilful culture of the
Manager, angry thoughts in reference to poor Florence brooded and bred
in Mr Dombey’s breast, usurping the place of the cold dislike that
generally reigned there; Major Bagstock, much admired by the old ladies
of Leamington, and followed by the Native, carrying the usual amount
of light baggage, straddled along the shady side of the way, to make a
morning call on Mrs Skewton. It being midday when the Major reached the
bower of Cleopatra, he had the good fortune to find his Princess on her
usual sofa, languishing over a cup of coffee, with the room so darkened
and shaded for her more luxurious repose, that Withers, who was in
attendance on her, loomed like a phantom page.

‘What insupportable creature is this, coming in?’ said Mrs Skewton, ‘I
cannot hear it. Go away, whoever you are!’

‘You have not the heart to banish J. B., Ma’am!’ said the Major halting
midway, to remonstrate, with his cane over his shoulder.

‘Oh it’s you, is it? On second thoughts, you may enter,’ observed

The Major entered accordingly, and advancing to the sofa pressed her
charming hand to his lips.

‘Sit down,’ said Cleopatra, listlessly waving her fan, ‘a long way off.
Don’t come too near me, for I am frightfully faint and sensitive this
morning, and you smell of the Sun. You are absolutely tropical.’

‘By George, Ma’am,’ said the Major, ‘the time has been when Joseph
Bagstock has been grilled and blistered by the Sun; then time was, when
he was forced, Ma’am, into such full blow, by high hothouse heat in
the West Indies, that he was known as the Flower. A man never heard of
Bagstock, Ma’am, in those days; he heard of the Flower--the Flower of
Ours. The Flower may have faded, more or less, Ma’am,’ observed the
Major, dropping into a much nearer chair than had been indicated by
his cruel Divinity, ‘but it is a tough plant yet, and constant as the

Here the Major, under cover of the dark room, shut up one eye, rolled
his head like a Harlequin, and, in his great self-satisfaction, perhaps
went nearer to the confines of apoplexy than he had ever gone before.

‘Where is Mrs Granger?’ inquired Cleopatra of her page.

Withers believed she was in her own room.

‘Very well,’ said Mrs Skewton. ‘Go away, and shut the door. I am

As Withers disappeared, Mrs Skewton turned her head languidly towards
the Major, without otherwise moving, and asked him how his friend was.

‘Dombey, Ma’am,’ returned the Major, with a facetious gurgling in his
throat, ‘is as well as a man in his condition can be. His condition is
a desperate one, Ma’am. He is touched, is Dombey! Touched!’ cried the
Major. ‘He is bayonetted through the body.’

Cleopatra cast a sharp look at the Major, that contrasted forcibly with
the affected drawl in which she presently said:

‘Major Bagstock, although I know but little of the world,--nor can I
really regret my experience, for I fear it is a false place, full of
withering conventionalities: where Nature is but little regarded, and
where the music of the heart, and the gushing of the soul, and all that
sort of thing, which is so truly poetical, is seldom heard,--I cannot
misunderstand your meaning. There is an allusion to Edith--to my
extremely dear child,’ said Mrs Skewton, tracing the outline of her
eyebrows with her forefinger, ‘in your words, to which the tenderest of
chords vibrates excessively.’

‘Bluntness, Ma’am,’ returned the Major, ‘has ever been the
characteristic of the Bagstock breed. You are right. Joe admits it.’

‘And that allusion,’ pursued Cleopatra, ‘would involve one of the
most--if not positively the most--touching, and thrilling, and sacred
emotions of which our sadly-fallen nature is susceptible, I conceive.’

The Major laid his hand upon his lips, and wafted a kiss to Cleopatra,
as if to identify the emotion in question.

‘I feel that I am weak. I feel that I am wanting in that energy, which
should sustain a Mama: not to say a parent: on such a subject,’ said
Mrs Skewton, trimming her lips with the laced edge of her
pocket-handkerchief; ‘but I can hardly approach a topic so excessively
momentous to my dearest Edith without a feeling of faintness.
Nevertheless, bad man, as you have boldly remarked upon it, and as it
has occasioned me great anguish:’ Mrs Skewton touched her left side with
her fan: ‘I will not shrink from my duty.’

The Major, under cover of the dimness, swelled, and swelled, and rolled
his purple face about, and winked his lobster eye, until he fell into a
fit of wheezing, which obliged him to rise and take a turn or two about
the room, before his fair friend could proceed.

‘Mr Dombey,’ said Mrs Skewton, when she at length resumed, ‘was obliging
enough, now many weeks ago, to do us the honour of visiting us here;
in company, my dear Major, with yourself. I acknowledge--let me be
open--that it is my failing to be the creature of impulse, and to wear
my heart as it were, outside. I know my failing full well. My enemy
cannot know it better. But I am not penitent; I would rather not be
frozen by the heartless world, and am content to bear this imputation

Mrs Skewton arranged her tucker, pinched her wiry throat to give it a
soft surface, and went on, with great complacency.

‘It gave me (my dearest Edith too, I am sure) infinite pleasure
to receive Mr Dombey. As a friend of yours, my dear Major, we were
naturally disposed to be prepossessed in his favour; and I fancied
that I observed an amount of Heart in Mr Dombey, that was excessively

‘There is devilish little heart in Dombey now, Ma’am,’ said the Major.

‘Wretched man!’ cried Mrs Skewton, looking at him languidly, ‘pray be

‘J. B. is dumb, Ma’am,’ said the Major.

‘Mr Dombey,’ pursued Cleopatra, smoothing the rosy hue upon her cheeks,
‘accordingly repeated his visit; and possibly finding some attraction
in the simplicity and primitiveness of our tastes--for there is always
a charm in nature--it is so very sweet--became one of our little circle
every evening. Little did I think of the awful responsibility into which
I plunged when I encouraged Mr Dombey--to’--

‘To beat up these quarters, Ma’am,’ suggested Major Bagstock.

‘Coarse person!’ said Mrs Skewton, ‘you anticipate my meaning, though in
odious language.’

Here Mrs Skewton rested her elbow on the little table at her side,
and suffering her wrist to droop in what she considered a graceful and
becoming manner, dangled her fan to and fro, and lazily admired her hand
while speaking.

‘The agony I have endured,’ she said mincingly, ‘as the truth has by
degrees dawned upon me, has been too exceedingly terrific to dilate
upon. My whole existence is bound up in my sweetest Edith; and to
see her change from day to day--my beautiful pet, who has positively
garnered up her heart since the death of that most delightful creature,
Granger--is the most affecting thing in the world.’

Mrs Skewton’s world was not a very trying one, if one might judge of it
by the influence of its most affecting circumstance upon her; but this
by the way.

‘Edith,’ simpered Mrs Skewton, ‘who is the perfect pearl of my life, is
said to resemble me. I believe we are alike.’

‘There is one man in the world who never will admit that anyone
resembles you, Ma’am,’ said the Major; ‘and that man’s name is Old Joe

Cleopatra made as if she would brain the flatterer with her fan, but
relenting, smiled upon him and proceeded:

‘If my charming girl inherits any advantages from me, wicked one!’: the
Major was the wicked one: ‘she inherits also my foolish nature. She has
great force of character--mine has been said to be immense, though I
don’t believe it--but once moved, she is susceptible and sensitive
to the last extent. What are my feelings when I see her pining! They
destroy me.

The Major advancing his double chin, and pursing up his blue lips into a
soothing expression, affected the profoundest sympathy.

‘The confidence,’ said Mrs Skewton, ‘that has subsisted between us--the
free development of soul, and openness of sentiment--is touching to
think of. We have been more like sisters than Mama and child.’

‘J. B.’s own sentiment,’ observed the Major, ‘expressed by J. B. fifty
thousand times!’

‘Do not interrupt, rude man!’ said Cleopatra. ‘What are my feelings,
then, when I find that there is one subject avoided by us! That there is
a what’s-his-name--a gulf--opened between us. That my own artless Edith
is changed to me! They are of the most poignant description, of course.’

The Major left his chair, and took one nearer to the little table.

‘From day to day I see this, my dear Major,’ proceeded Mrs Skewton.
‘From day to day I feel this. From hour to hour I reproach myself for
that excess of faith and trustfulness which has led to such distressing
consequences; and almost from minute to minute, I hope that Mr Dombey
may explain himself, and relieve the torture I undergo, which is
extremely wearing. But nothing happens, my dear Major; I am the slave
of remorse--take care of the coffee-cup: you are so very awkward--my
darling Edith is an altered being; and I really don’t see what is to be
done, or what good creature I can advise with.’

Major Bagstock, encouraged perhaps by the softened and confidential
tone into which Mrs Skewton, after several times lapsing into it for
a moment, seemed now to have subsided for good, stretched out his hand
across the little table, and said with a leer,

‘Advise with Joe, Ma’am.’

‘Then, you aggravating monster,’ said Cleopatra, giving one hand to
the Major, and tapping his knuckles with her fan, which she held in the
other: ‘why don’t you talk to me? you know what I mean. Why don’t you
tell me something to the purpose?’

The Major laughed, and kissed the hand she had bestowed upon him, and
laughed again immensely.

‘Is there as much Heart in Mr Dombey as I gave him credit for?’
languished Cleopatra tenderly. ‘Do you think he is in earnest, my dear
Major? Would you recommend his being spoken to, or his being left alone?
Now tell me, like a dear man, what would you advise.’

‘Shall we marry him to Edith Granger, Ma’am?’ chuckled the Major,

‘Mysterious creature!’ returned Cleopatra, bringing her fan to bear upon
the Major’s nose. ‘How can we marry him?’

‘Shall we marry him to Edith Granger, Ma’am, I say?’ chuckled the Major

Mrs Skewton returned no answer in words, but smiled upon the Major with
so much archness and vivacity, that that gallant officer considering
himself challenged, would have imprinted a kiss on her exceedingly red
lips, but for her interposing the fan with a very winning and juvenile
dexterity. It might have been in modesty; it might have been in
apprehension of some danger to their bloom.

‘Dombey, Ma’am,’ said the Major, ‘is a great catch.’

‘Oh, mercenary wretch!’ cried Cleopatra, with a little shriek, ‘I am

‘And Dombey, Ma’am,’ pursued the Major, thrusting forward his head, and
distending his eyes, ‘is in earnest. Joseph says it; Bagstock knows it;
J. B. keeps him to the mark. Leave Dombey to himself, Ma’am. Dombey is
safe, Ma’am. Do as you have done; do no more; and trust to J. B. for the

‘You really think so, my dear Major?’ returned Cleopatra, who had eyed
him very cautiously, and very searchingly, in spite of her listless

‘Sure of it, Ma’am,’ rejoined the Major. ‘Cleopatra the peerless,
and her Antony Bagstock, will often speak of this, triumphantly,
when sharing the elegance and wealth of Edith Dombey’s establishment.
Dombey’s right-hand man, Ma’am,’ said the Major, stopping abruptly in a
chuckle, and becoming serious, ‘has arrived.’

‘This morning?’ said Cleopatra.

‘This morning, Ma’am,’ returned the Major. ‘And Dombey’s anxiety for his
arrival, Ma’am, is to be referred--take J. B.’s word for this; for Joe
is devilish sly’--the Major tapped his nose, and screwed up one of his
eyes tight: which did not enhance his native beauty--‘to his desire that
what is in the wind should become known to him’ without Dombey’s telling
and consulting him. For Dombey is as proud, Ma’am,’ said the Major, ‘as

‘A charming quality,’ lisped Mrs Skewton; ‘reminding one of dearest

‘Well, Ma’am,’ said the Major. ‘I have thrown out hints already, and the
right-hand man understands ‘em; and I’ll throw out more, before the day
is done. Dombey projected this morning a ride to Warwick Castle, and
to Kenilworth, to-morrow, to be preceded by a breakfast with us. I
undertook the delivery of this invitation. Will you honour us so far,
Ma’am?’ said the Major, swelling with shortness of breath and slyness,
as he produced a note, addressed to the Honourable Mrs Skewton, by
favour of Major Bagstock, wherein hers ever faithfully, Paul Dombey,
besought her and her amiable and accomplished daughter to consent to
the proposed excursion; and in a postscript unto which, the same ever
faithfully Paul Dombey entreated to be recalled to the remembrance of
Mrs Granger.

‘Hush!’ said Cleopatra, suddenly, ‘Edith!’

The loving mother can scarcely be described as resuming her insipid and
affected air when she made this exclamation; for she had never cast it
off; nor was it likely that she ever would or could, in any other
place than in the grave. But hurriedly dismissing whatever shadow of
earnestness, or faint confession of a purpose, laudable or wicked,
that her face, or voice, or manner: had, for the moment, betrayed, she
lounged upon the couch, her most insipid and most languid self again, as
Edith entered the room.

Edith, so beautiful and stately, but so cold and so repelling. Who,
slightly acknowledging the presence of Major Bagstock, and directing
a keen glance at her mother, drew back the from a window, and sat down
there, looking out.

‘My dearest Edith,’ said Mrs Skewton, ‘where on earth have you been? I
have wanted you, my love, most sadly.’

‘You said you were engaged, and I stayed away,’ she answered, without
turning her head.

‘It was cruel to Old Joe, Ma’am,’ said the Major in his gallantry.

‘It was very cruel, I know,’ she said, still looking out--and said with
such calm disdain, that the Major was discomfited, and could think of
nothing in reply.

‘Major Bagstock, my darling Edith,’ drawled her mother, ‘who is
generally the most useless and disagreeable creature in the world: as
you know--’

‘It is surely not worthwhile, Mama,’ said Edith, looking round, ‘to
observe these forms of speech. We are quite alone. We know each other.’

The quiet scorn that sat upon her handsome face--a scorn that evidently
lighted on herself, no less than them--was so intense and deep, that
her mother’s simper, for the instant, though of a hardy constitution,
drooped before it.

‘My darling girl,’ she began again.

‘Not woman yet?’ said Edith, with a smile.

‘How very odd you are to-day, my dear! Pray let me say, my love,
that Major Bagstock has brought the kindest of notes from Mr Dombey,
proposing that we should breakfast with him to-morrow, and ride to
Warwick and Kenilworth. Will you go, Edith?’

‘Will I go!’ she repeated, turning very red, and breathing quickly as
she looked round at her mother.

‘I knew you would, my own, observed the latter carelessly. ‘It is, as
you say, quite a form to ask. Here is Mr Dombey’s letter, Edith.’

‘Thank you. I have no desire to read it,’ was her answer.

‘Then perhaps I had better answer it myself,’ said Mrs Skewton, ‘though
I had thought of asking you to be my secretary, darling.’ As Edith made
no movement, and no answer, Mrs Skewton begged the Major to wheel her
little table nearer, and to set open the desk it contained, and to take
out pen and paper for her; all which congenial offices of gallantry the
Major discharged, with much submission and devotion.

‘Your regards, Edith, my dear?’ said Mrs Skewton, pausing, pen in hand,
at the postscript.

‘What you will, Mama,’ she answered, without turning her head, and with
supreme indifference.

Mrs Skewton wrote what she would, without seeking for any more explicit
directions, and handed her letter to the Major, who receiving it as a
precious charge, made a show of laying it near his heart, but was fain
to put it in the pocket of his pantaloons on account of the insecurity
of his waistcoat The Major then took a very polished and chivalrous
farewell of both ladies, which the elder one acknowledged in her usual
manner, while the younger, sitting with her face addressed to the
window, bent her head so slightly that it would have been a greater
compliment to the Major to have made no sign at all, and to have left
him to infer that he had not been heard or thought of.

‘As to alteration in her, Sir,’ mused the Major on his way back; on
which expedition--the afternoon being sunny and hot--he ordered the
Native and the light baggage to the front, and walked in the shadow
of that expatriated prince: ‘as to alteration, Sir, and pining, and so
forth, that won’t go down with Joseph Bagstock, None of that, Sir. It
won’t do here. But as to there being something of a division between
‘em--or a gulf as the mother calls it--damme, Sir, that seems true
enough. And it’s odd enough! Well, Sir!’ panted the Major, ‘Edith
Granger and Dombey are well matched; let ‘em fight it out! Bagstock
backs the winner!’

The Major, by saying these latter words aloud, in the vigour of his
thoughts, caused the unhappy Native to stop, and turn round, in the
belief that he was personally addressed. Exasperated to the last degree
by this act of insubordination, the Major (though he was swelling with
enjoyment of his own humour), at the moment of its occurrence instantly
thrust his cane among the Native’s ribs, and continued to stir him up,
at short intervals, all the way to the hotel.

Nor was the Major less exasperated as he dressed for dinner, during
which operation the dark servant underwent the pelting of a shower of
miscellaneous objects, varying in size from a boot to a hairbrush, and
including everything that came within his master’s reach. For the Major
plumed himself on having the Native in a perfect state of drill, and
visited the least departure from strict discipline with this kind of
fatigue duty. Add to this, that he maintained the Native about his
person as a counter-irritant against the gout, and all other vexations,
mental as well as bodily; and the Native would appear to have earned his
pay--which was not large.

At length, the Major having disposed of all the missiles that were
convenient to his hand, and having called the Native so many new names
as must have given him great occasion to marvel at the resources of
the English language, submitted to have his cravat put on; and being
dressed, and finding himself in a brisk flow of spirits after this
exercise, went downstairs to enliven ‘Dombey’ and his right-hand man.

Dombey was not yet in the room, but the right-hand man was there, and
his dental treasures were, as usual, ready for the Major.

‘Well, Sir!’ said the Major. ‘How have you passed the time since I had
the happiness of meeting you? Have you walked at all?’

‘A saunter of barely half an hour’s duration,’ returned Carker. ‘We have
been so much occupied.’

‘Business, eh?’ said the Major.

‘A variety of little matters necessary to be gone through,’ replied
Carker. ‘But do you know--this is quite unusual with me, educated in
a distrustful school, and who am not generally disposed to be
communicative,’ he said, breaking off, and speaking in a charming tone
of frankness--‘but I feel quite confidential with you, Major Bagstock.’

‘You do me honour, Sir,’ returned the Major. ‘You may be.’

‘Do you know, then,’ pursued Carker, ‘that I have not found my
friend--our friend, I ought rather to call him--’

‘Meaning Dombey, Sir?’ cried the Major. ‘You see me, Mr Carker, standing
here! J. B.?’

He was puffy enough to see, and blue enough; and Mr Carker intimated the
he had that pleasure.

‘Then you see a man, Sir, who would go through fire and water to serve
Dombey,’ returned Major Bagstock.

Mr Carker smiled, and said he was sure of it. ‘Do you know, Major,’ he
proceeded: ‘to resume where I left off: that I have not found our friend
so attentive to business today, as usual?’

‘No?’ observed the delighted Major.

‘I have found him a little abstracted, and with his attention disposed
to wander,’ said Carker.

‘By Jove, Sir,’ cried the Major, ‘there’s a lady in the case.’

‘Indeed, I begin to believe there really is,’ returned Carker; ‘I
thought you might be jesting when you seemed to hint at it; for I know
you military men’--

The Major gave the horse’s cough, and shook his head and shoulders, as
much as to say, ‘Well! we are gay dogs, there’s no denying.’ He then
seized Mr Carker by the button-hole, and with starting eyes whispered in
his ear, that she was a woman of extraordinary charms, Sir. That she was
a young widow, Sir. That she was of a fine family, Sir. That Dombey was
over head and ears in love with her, Sir, and that it would be a good
match on both sides; for she had beauty, blood, and talent, and Dombey
had fortune; and what more could any couple have? Hearing Mr Dombey’s
footsteps without, the Major cut himself short by saying, that Mr Carker
would see her tomorrow morning, and would judge for himself; and between
his mental excitement, and the exertion of saying all this in wheezy
whispers, the Major sat gurgling in the throat and watering at the eyes,
until dinner was ready.

The Major, like some other noble animals, exhibited himself to great
advantage at feeding-time. On this occasion, he shone resplendent at
one end of the table, supported by the milder lustre of Mr Dombey at
the other; while Carker on one side lent his ray to either light, or
suffered it to merge into both, as occasion arose.

During the first course or two, the Major was usually grave; for the
Native, in obedience to general orders, secretly issued, collected every
sauce and cruet round him, and gave him a great deal to do, in taking
out the stoppers, and mixing up the contents in his plate. Besides
which, the Native had private zests and flavours on a side-table,
with which the Major daily scorched himself; to say nothing of strange
machines out of which he spirited unknown liquids into the Major’s
drink. But on this occasion, Major Bagstock, even amidst these many
occupations, found time to be social; and his sociality consisted in
excessive slyness for the behoof of Mr Carker, and the betrayal of Mr
Dombey’s state of mind.

‘Dombey,’ said the Major, ‘you don’t eat; what’s the matter?’

‘Thank you,’ returned the gentleman, ‘I am doing very well; I have no
great appetite today.’

‘Why, Dombey, what’s become of it?’ asked the Major. ‘Where’s it gone?
You haven’t left it with our friends, I’ll swear, for I can answer for
their having none to-day at luncheon. I can answer for one of ‘em, at
least: I won’t say which.’

Then the Major winked at Carker, and became so frightfully sly, that his
dark attendant was obliged to pat him on the back, without orders, or he
would probably have disappeared under the table.

In a later stage of the dinner: that is to say, when the Native stood
at the Major’s elbow ready to serve the first bottle of champagne: the
Major became still slyer.

‘Fill this to the brim, you scoundrel,’ said the Major, holding up his
glass. ‘Fill Mr Carker’s to the brim too. And Mr Dombey’s too. By Gad,
gentlemen,’ said the Major, winking at his new friend, while Mr Dombey
looked into his plate with a conscious air, ‘we’ll consecrate this
glass of wine to a Divinity whom Joe is proud to know, and at a distance
humbly and reverently to admire. Edith,’ said the Major, ‘is her name;
angelic Edith!’

‘To angelic Edith!’ cried the smiling Carker.

‘Edith, by all means,’ said Mr Dombey.

The entrance of the waiters with new dishes caused the Major to be
slyer yet, but in a more serious vein. ‘For though among ourselves, Joe
Bagstock mingles jest and earnest on this subject, Sir,’ said the Major,
laying his finger on his lips, and speaking half apart to Carker, ‘he
holds that name too sacred to be made the property of these fellows, or
of any fellows. Not a word, Sir, while they are here!’

This was respectful and becoming on the Major’s part, and Mr Dombey
plainly felt it so. Although embarrassed in his own frigid way, by the
Major’s allusions, Mr Dombey had no objection to such rallying, it was
clear, but rather courted it. Perhaps the Major had been pretty near the
truth, when he had divined that morning that the great man who was too
haughty formally to consult with, or confide in his prime minister, on
such a matter, yet wished him to be fully possessed of it. Let this
be how it may, he often glanced at Mr Carker while the Major plied his
light artillery, and seemed watchful of its effect upon him.

But the Major, having secured an attentive listener, and a smiler who
had not his match in all the world--‘in short, a devilish intelligent
and able fellow,’ as he often afterwards declared--was not going to let
him off with a little slyness personal to Mr Dombey. Therefore, on the
removal of the cloth, the Major developed himself as a choice spirit
in the broader and more comprehensive range of narrating regimental
stories, and cracking regimental jokes, which he did with such prodigal
exuberance, that Carker was (or feigned to be) quite exhausted with
laughter and admiration: while Mr Dombey looked on over his starched
cravat, like the Major’s proprietor, or like a stately showman who was
glad to see his bear dancing well.

When the Major was too hoarse with meat and drink, and the display
of his social powers, to render himself intelligible any longer, they
adjourned to coffee. After which, the Major inquired of Mr Carker the
Manager, with little apparent hope of an answer in the affirmative, if
he played picquet.

‘Yes, I play picquet a little,’ said Mr Carker.

‘Backgammon, perhaps?’ observed the Major, hesitating.

‘Yes, I play backgammon a little too,’ replied the man of teeth.

‘Carker plays at all games, I believe,’ said Mr Dombey, laying himself
on a sofa like a man of wood, without a hinge or a joint in him; ‘and
plays them well.’

In sooth, he played the two in question, to such perfection, that the
Major was astonished, and asked him, at random, if he played chess.

‘Yes, I play chess a little,’ answered Carker. ‘I have sometimes played,
and won a game--it’s a mere trick--without seeing the board.’

‘By Gad, Sir!’ said the Major, staring, ‘you are a contrast to Dombey,
who plays nothing.’

‘Oh! He!’ returned the Manager. ‘He has never had occasion to acquire
such little arts. To men like me, they are sometimes useful. As at
present, Major Bagstock, when they enable me to take a hand with you.’

It might be only the false mouth, so smooth and wide; and yet there
seemed to lurk beneath the humility and subserviency of this short
speech, a something like a snarl; and, for a moment, one might have
thought that the white teeth were prone to bite the hand they fawned
upon. But the Major thought nothing about it; and Mr Dombey lay
meditating with his eyes half shut, during the whole of the play, which
lasted until bed-time.

By that time, Mr Carker, though the winner, had mounted high into the
Major’s good opinion, insomuch that when he left the Major at his own
room before going to bed, the Major as a special attention, sent the
Native--who always rested on a mattress spread upon the ground at his
master’s door--along the gallery, to light him to his room in state.

There was a faint blur on the surface of the mirror in Mr Carker’s
chamber, and its reflection was, perhaps, a false one. But it showed,
that night, the image of a man, who saw, in his fancy, a crowd of
people slumbering on the ground at his feet, like the poor Native at his
master’s door: who picked his way among them: looking down, maliciously
enough: but trod upon no upturned face--as yet.

CHAPTER 27. Deeper Shadows

Mr Carker the Manager rose with the lark, and went out, walking in the
summer day. His meditations--and he meditated with contracted brows
while he strolled along--hardly seemed to soar as high as the lark, or
to mount in that direction; rather they kept close to their nest upon
the earth, and looked about, among the dust and worms. But there was not
a bird in the air, singing unseen, farther beyond the reach of human eye
than Mr Carker’s thoughts. He had his face so perfectly under control,
that few could say more, in distinct terms, of its expression, than that
it smiled or that it pondered. It pondered now, intently. As the lark
rose higher, he sank deeper in thought. As the lark poured out her
melody clearer and stronger, he fell into a graver and profounder
silence. At length, when the lark came headlong down, with an
accumulating stream of song, and dropped among the green wheat near him,
rippling in the breath of the morning like a river, he sprang up from
his reverie, and looked round with a sudden smile, as courteous and
as soft as if he had had numerous observers to propitiate; nor did he
relapse, after being thus awakened; but clearing his face, like one who
bethought himself that it might otherwise wrinkle and tell tales, went
smiling on, as if for practice.

Perhaps with an eye to first impressions, Mr Carker was very carefully
and trimly dressed, that morning. Though always somewhat formal, in his
dress, in imitation of the great man whom he served, he stopped short of
the extent of Mr Dombey’s stiffness: at once perhaps because he knew
it to be ludicrous, and because in doing so he found another means of
expressing his sense of the difference and distance between them. Some
people quoted him indeed, in this respect, as a pointed commentary,
and not a flattering one, on his icy patron--but the world is prone
to misconstruction, and Mr Carker was not accountable for its bad

Clean and florid: with his light complexion, fading as it were, in the
sun, and his dainty step enhancing the softness of the turf: Mr Carker
the Manager strolled about meadows, and green lanes, and glided among
avenues of trees, until it was time to return to breakfast. Taking a
nearer way back, Mr Carker pursued it, airing his teeth, and said aloud
as he did so, ‘Now to see the second Mrs Dombey!’

He had strolled beyond the town, and re-entered it by a pleasant walk,
where there was a deep shade of leafy trees, and where there were a few
benches here and there for those who chose to rest. It not being a place
of general resort at any hour, and wearing at that time of the still
morning the air of being quite deserted and retired, Mr Carker had it,
or thought he had it, all to himself. So, with the whim of an idle man,
to whom there yet remained twenty minutes for reaching a destination
easily able in ten, Mr Carker threaded the great boles of the trees,
and went passing in and out, before this one and behind that, weaving a
chain of footsteps on the dewy ground.

But he found he was mistaken in supposing there was no one in the grove,
for as he softly rounded the trunk of one large tree, on which the
obdurate bark was knotted and overlapped like the hide of a rhinoceros
or some kindred monster of the ancient days before the Flood, he saw
an unexpected figure sitting on a bench near at hand, about which, in
another moment, he would have wound the chain he was making.

It was that of a lady, elegantly dressed and very handsome, whose dark
proud eyes were fixed upon the ground, and in whom some passion or
struggle was raging. For as she sat looking down, she held a corner of
her under lip within her mouth, her bosom heaved, her nostril quivered,
her head trembled, indignant tears were on her cheek, and her foot was
set upon the moss as though she would have crushed it into nothing. And
yet almost the self-same glance that showed him this, showed him the
self-same lady rising with a scornful air of weariness and lassitude,
and turning away with nothing expressed in face or figure but careless
beauty and imperious disdain.

A withered and very ugly old woman, dressed not so much like a gipsy as
like any of that medley race of vagabonds who tramp about the country,
begging, and stealing, and tinkering, and weaving rushes, by turns, or
all together, had been observing the lady, too; for, as she rose, this
second figure strangely confronting the first, scrambled up from the
ground--out of it, it almost appeared--and stood in the way.

‘Let me tell your fortune, my pretty lady,’ said the old woman, munching
with her jaws, as if the Death’s Head beneath her yellow skin were
impatient to get out.

‘I can tell it for myself,’ was the reply.

‘Ay, ay, pretty lady; but not right. You didn’t tell it right when you
were sitting there. I see you! Give me a piece of silver, pretty lady,
and I’ll tell your fortune true. There’s riches, pretty lady, in your

‘I know,’ returned the lady, passing her with a dark smile, and a proud
step. ‘I knew it before.

‘What! You won’t give me nothing?’ cried the old woman. ‘You won’t give
me nothing to tell your fortune, pretty lady? How much will you give me
to tell it, then? Give me something, or I’ll call it after you!’ croaked
the old woman, passionately.

Mr Carker, whom the lady was about to pass close, slinking against his
tree as she crossed to gain the path, advanced so as to meet her, and
pulling off his hat as she went by, bade the old woman hold her peace.
The lady acknowledged his interference with an inclination of the head,
and went her way.

‘You give me something then, or I’ll call it after her!’ screamed
the old woman, throwing up her arms, and pressing forward against his
outstretched hand. ‘Or come,’ she added, dropping her voice suddenly,
looking at him earnestly, and seeming in a moment to forget the object
of her wrath, ‘give me something, or I’ll call it after you!’

‘After me, old lady!’ returned the Manager, putting his hand in his

‘Yes,’ said the woman, steadfast in her scrutiny, and holding out her
shrivelled hand. ‘I know!’

‘What do you know?’ demanded Carker, throwing her a shilling. ‘Do you
know who the handsome lady is?’

Munching like that sailor’s wife of yore, who had chestnuts in her lap,
and scowling like the witch who asked for some in vain, the old woman
picked the shilling up, and going backwards, like a crab, or like a heap
of crabs: for her alternately expanding and contracting hands might
have represented two of that species, and her creeping face, some
half-a-dozen more: crouched on the veinous root of an old tree, pulled
out a short black pipe from within the crown of her bonnet, lighted it
with a match, and smoked in silence, looking fixedly at her questioner.

Mr Carker laughed, and turned upon his heel.

‘Good!’ said the old woman. ‘One child dead, and one child living: one
wife dead, and one wife coming. Go and meet her!’

In spite of himself, the Manager looked round again, and stopped. The
old woman, who had not removed her pipe, and was munching and mumbling
while she smoked, as if in conversation with an invisible familiar,
pointed with her finger in the direction he was going, and laughed.

‘What was that you said, Bedlamite?’ he demanded.

The woman mumbled, and chattered, and smoked, and still pointed
before him; but remained silent Muttering a farewell that was not
complimentary, Mr Carker pursued his way; but as he turned out of that
place, and looked over his shoulder at the root of the old tree, he
could yet see the finger pointing before him, and thought he heard the
woman screaming, ‘Go and meet her!’

Preparations for a choice repast were completed, he found, at the hotel;
and Mr Dombey, and the Major, and the breakfast, were awaiting the
ladies. Individual constitution has much to do with the development of
such facts, no doubt; but in this case, appetite carried it hollow over
the tender passion; Mr Dombey being very cool and collected, and the
Major fretting and fuming in a state of violent heat and irritation.
At length the door was thrown open by the Native, and, after a pause,
occupied by her languishing along the gallery, a very blooming, but not
very youthful lady, appeared.

‘My dear Mr Dombey,’ said the lady, ‘I am afraid we are late, but
Edith has been out already looking for a favourable point of view for a
sketch, and kept me waiting for her. Falsest of Majors,’ giving him her
little finger, ‘how do you do?’

‘Mrs Skewton,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘let me gratify my friend Carker:’ Mr
Dombey unconsciously emphasised the word friend, as saying “no really; I
do allow him to take credit for that distinction:” ‘by presenting him to
you. You have heard me mention Mr Carker.’

‘I am charmed, I am sure,’ said Mrs Skewton, graciously.

Mr Carker was charmed, of course. Would he have been more charmed on Mr
Dombey’s behalf, if Mrs Skewton had been (as he at first supposed her)
the Edith whom they had toasted overnight?

‘Why, where, for Heaven’s sake, is Edith?’ exclaimed Mrs Skewton,
looking round. ‘Still at the door, giving Withers orders about the
mounting of those drawings! My dear Mr Dombey, will you have the

Mr Dombey was already gone to seek her. Next moment he returned, bearing
on his arm the same elegantly dressed and very handsome lady whom Mr
Carker had encountered underneath the trees.

‘Carker--’ began Mr Dombey. But their recognition of each other was so
manifest, that Mr Dombey stopped surprised.

‘I am obliged to the gentleman,’ said Edith, with a stately bend, ‘for
sparing me some annoyance from an importunate beggar just now.’

‘I am obliged to my good fortune,’ said Mr Carker, bowing low, ‘for the
opportunity of rendering so slight a service to one whose servant I am
proud to be.’

As her eye rested on him for an instant, and then lighted on the ground,
he saw in its bright and searching glance a suspicion that he had not
come up at the moment of his interference, but had secretly observed
her sooner. As he saw that, she saw in his eye that her distrust was not
without foundation.

‘Really,’ cried Mrs Skewton, who had taken this opportunity of
inspecting Mr Carker through her glass, and satisfying herself (as she
lisped audibly to the Major) that he was all heart; ‘really now, this is
one of the most enchanting coincidences that I ever heard of. The idea!
My dearest Edith, there is such an obvious destiny in it, that really
one might almost be induced to cross one’s arms upon one’s frock, and
say, like those wicked Turks, there is no What’s-his-name but Thingummy,
and What-you-may-call-it is his prophet!’

Edith designed no revision of this extraordinary quotation from the
Koran, but Mr Dombey felt it necessary to offer a few polite remarks.

‘It gives me great pleasure,’ said Mr Dombey, with cumbrous gallantry,
‘that a gentleman so nearly connected with myself as Carker is, should
have had the honour and happiness of rendering the least assistance to
Mrs Granger.’ Mr Dombey bowed to her. ‘But it gives me some pain, and
it occasions me to be really envious of Carker;’ he unconsciously laid
stress on these words, as sensible that they must appear to involve a
very surprising proposition; ‘envious of Carker, that I had not that
honour and that happiness myself.’ Mr Dombey bowed again. Edith, saving
for a curl of her lip, was motionless.

‘By the Lord, Sir,’ cried the Major, bursting into speech at sight of
the waiter, who was come to announce breakfast, ‘it’s an extraordinary
thing to me that no one can have the honour and happiness of shooting
all such beggars through the head without being brought to book for
it. But here’s an arm for Mrs Granger if she’ll do J. B. the honour to
accept it; and the greatest service Joe can render you, Ma’am, just now,
is, to lead you into table!’

With this, the Major gave his arm to Edith; Mr Dombey led the way with
Mrs Skewton; Mrs Carker went last, smiling on the party.

‘I am quite rejoiced, Mr Carker,’ said the lady-mother, at breakfast,
after another approving survey of him through her glass, ‘that you have
timed your visit so happily, as to go with us to-day. It is the most
enchanting expedition!’

‘Any expedition would be enchanting in such society,’ returned Carker;
‘but I believe it is, in itself, full of interest.’

‘Oh!’ cried Mrs Skewton, with a faded little scream of rapture,
‘the Castle is charming!--associations of the Middle Ages--and all
that--which is so truly exquisite. Don’t you dote upon the Middle Ages,
Mr Carker?’

‘Very much, indeed,’ said Mr Carker.

‘Such charming times!’ cried Cleopatra. ‘So full of faith! So vigorous
and forcible! So picturesque! So perfectly removed from commonplace!
Oh dear! If they would only leave us a little more of the poetry of
existence in these terrible days!’

Mrs Skewton was looking sharp after Mr Dombey all the time she said
this, who was looking at Edith: who was listening, but who never lifted
up her eyes.

‘We are dreadfully real, Mr Carker,’ said Mrs Skewton; ‘are we not?’

Few people had less reason to complain of their reality than Cleopatra,
who had as much that was false about her as could well go to the
composition of anybody with a real individual existence. But Mr Carker
commiserated our reality nevertheless, and agreed that we were very
hardly used in that regard.

‘Pictures at the Castle, quite divine!’ said Cleopatra. ‘I hope you dote
upon pictures?’

‘I assure you, Mrs Skewton,’ said Mr Dombey, with solemn encouragement
of his Manager, ‘that Carker has a very good taste for pictures; quite
a natural power of appreciating them. He is a very creditable artist
himself. He will be delighted, I am sure, with Mrs Granger’s taste and

‘Damme, Sir!’ cried Major Bagstock, ‘my opinion is, that you’re the
admirable Carker, and can do anything.’

‘Oh!’ smiled Carker, with humility, ‘you are much too sanguine, Major
Bagstock. I can do very little. But Mr Dombey is so generous in his
estimation of any trivial accomplishment a man like myself may find it
almost necessary to acquire, and to which, in his very different
sphere, he is far superior, that--’ Mr Carker shrugged his shoulders,
deprecating further praise, and said no more.

All this time, Edith never raised her eyes, unless to glance towards
her mother when that lady’s fervent spirit shone forth in words. But as
Carker ceased, she looked at Mr Dombey for a moment. For a moment only;
but with a transient gleam of scornful wonder on her face, not lost on
one observer, who was smiling round the board.

Mr Dombey caught the dark eyelash in its descent, and took the
opportunity of arresting it.

‘You have been to Warwick often, unfortunately?’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Several times.’

‘The visit will be tedious to you, I am afraid.’

‘Oh no; not at all.’

‘Ah! You are like your cousin Feenix, my dearest Edith,’ said Mrs
Skewton. ‘He has been to Warwick Castle fifty times, if he has been
there once; yet if he came to Leamington to-morrow--I wish he would,
dear angel!--he would make his fifty-second visit next day.’

‘We are all enthusiastic, are we not, Mama?’ said Edith, with a cold

‘Too much so, for our peace, perhaps, my dear,’ returned her mother;
‘but we won’t complain. Our own emotions are our recompense. If, as your
cousin Feenix says, the sword wears out the what’s-its-name--’

‘The scabbard, perhaps,’ said Edith.

‘Exactly--a little too fast, it is because it is bright and glowing, you
know, my dearest love.’

Mrs Skewton heaved a gentle sigh, supposed to cast a shadow on the
surface of that dagger of lath, whereof her susceptible bosom was the
sheath: and leaning her head on one side, in the Cleopatra manner,
looked with pensive affection on her darling child.

Edith had turned her face towards Mr Dombey when he first addressed her,
and had remained in that attitude, while speaking to her mother, and
while her mother spoke to her, as though offering him her attention, if
he had anything more to say. There was something in the manner of this
simple courtesy: almost defiant, and giving it the character of being
rendered on compulsion, or as a matter of traffic to which she was a
reluctant party again not lost upon that same observer who was smiling
round the board. It set him thinking of her as he had first seen her,
when she had believed herself to be alone among the trees.

Mr Dombey having nothing else to say, proposed--the breakfast being
now finished, and the Major gorged, like any Boa Constrictor--that they
should start. A barouche being in waiting, according to the orders of
that gentleman, the two ladies, the Major and himself, took their seats
in it; the Native and the wan page mounted the box, Mr Towlinson being
left behind; and Mr Carker, on horseback, brought up the rear.

Mr Carker cantered behind the carriage at the distance of a hundred yards
or so, and watched it, during all the ride, as if he were a cat, indeed,
and its four occupants, mice. Whether he looked to one side of the road,
or to the other--over distant landscape, with its smooth undulations,
wind-mills, corn, grass, bean fields, wild-flowers, farm-yards, hayricks,
and the spire among the wood--or upwards in the sunny air, where
butterflies were sporting round his head, and birds were pouring out
their songs--or downward, where the shadows of the branches interlaced,
and made a trembling carpet on the road--or onward, where the overhanging
trees formed aisles and arches, dim with the softened light that steeped
through leaves--one corner of his eye was ever on the formal head of Mr
Dombey, addressed towards him, and the feather in the bonnet, drooping
so neglectfully and scornfully between them; much as he had seen the
haughty eyelids droop; not least so, when the face met that now fronting
it. Once, and once only, did his wary glance release these objects; and
that was, when a leap over a low hedge, and a gallop across a field,
enabled him to anticipate the carriage coming by the road, and to be
standing ready, at the journey’s end, to hand the ladies out. Then, and
but then, he met her glance for an instant in her first surprise; but
when he touched her, in alighting, with his soft white hand, it
overlooked him altogether as before.

Mrs Skewton was bent on taking charge of Mr Carker herself, and showing
him the beauties of the Castle. She was determined to have his arm, and
the Major’s too. It would do that incorrigible creature: who was the
most barbarous infidel in point of poetry: good to be in such company.
This chance arrangement left Mr Dombey at liberty to escort Edith: which
he did: stalking before them through the apartments with a gentlemanly

‘Those darling byegone times, Mr Carker,’ said Cleopatra, ‘with their
delicious fortresses, and their dear old dungeons, and their delightful
places of torture, and their romantic vengeances, and their picturesque
assaults and sieges, and everything that makes life truly charming! How
dreadfully we have degenerated!’

‘Yes, we have fallen off deplorably,’ said Mr Carker.

The peculiarity of their conversation was, that Mrs Skewton, in spite of
her ecstasies, and Mr Carker, in spite of his urbanity, were both
intent on watching Mr Dombey and Edith. With all their conversational
endowments, they spoke somewhat distractedly, and at random, in

‘We have no Faith left, positively,’ said Mrs Skewton, advancing her
shrivelled ear; for Mr Dombey was saying something to Edith. ‘We have no
Faith in the dear old Barons, who were the most delightful creatures--or
in the dear old Priests, who were the most warlike of men--or even in
the days of that inestimable Queen Bess, upon the wall there, which were
so extremely golden. Dear creature! She was all Heart And that charming
father of hers! I hope you dote on Harry the Eighth!’

‘I admire him very much,’ said Carker.

‘So bluff!’ cried Mrs Skewton, ‘wasn’t he? So burly. So truly English.
Such a picture, too, he makes, with his dear little peepy eyes, and his
benevolent chin!’

‘Ah, Ma’am!’ said Carker, stopping short; ‘but if you speak of pictures,
there’s a composition! What gallery in the world can produce the
counterpart of that?’

As the smiling gentleman thus spake, he pointed through a doorway to
where Mr Dombey and Edith were standing alone in the centre of another

They were not interchanging a word or a look. Standing together, arm
in arm, they had the appearance of being more divided than if seas had
rolled between them. There was a difference even in the pride of the
two, that removed them farther from each other, than if one had been
the proudest and the other the humblest specimen of humanity in all
creation. He, self-important, unbending, formal, austere. She, lovely
and graceful, in an uncommon degree, but totally regardless of herself
and him and everything around, and spurning her own attractions with her
haughty brow and lip, as if they were a badge or livery she hated. So
unmatched were they, and opposed, so forced and linked together by a
chain which adverse hazard and mischance had forged: that fancy might
have imagined the pictures on the walls around them, startled by the
unnatural conjunction, and observant of it in their several expressions.
Grim knights and warriors looked scowling on them. A churchman, with his
hand upraised, denounced the mockery of such a couple coming to God’s
altar. Quiet waters in landscapes, with the sun reflected in their
depths, asked, if better means of escape were not at hand, was there no
drowning left? Ruins cried, ‘Look here, and see what We are, wedded to
uncongenial Time!’ Animals, opposed by nature, worried one another, as a
moral to them. Loves and Cupids took to flight afraid, and Martyrdom had
no such torment in its painted history of suffering.

Nevertheless, Mrs Skewton was so charmed by the sight to which Mr Carker
invoked her attention, that she could not refrain from saying, half
aloud, how sweet, how very full of soul it was! Edith, overhearing,
looked round, and flushed indignant scarlet to her hair.

‘My dearest Edith knows I was admiring her!’ said Cleopatra, tapping
her, almost timidly, on the back with her parasol. ‘Sweet pet!’

Again Mr Carker saw the strife he had witnessed so unexpectedly among
the trees. Again he saw the haughty languor and indifference come over
it, and hide it like a cloud.

She did not raise her eyes to him; but with a slight peremptory motion
of them, seemed to bid her mother come near. Mrs Skewton thought it
expedient to understand the hint, and advancing quickly, with her two
cavaliers, kept near her daughter from that time.

Mr Carker now, having nothing to distract his attention, began to
discourse upon the pictures and to select the best, and point them
out to Mr Dombey: speaking with his usual familiar recognition of Mr
Dombey’s greatness, and rendering homage by adjusting his eye-glass for
him, or finding out the right place in his catalogue, or holding his
stick, or the like. These services did not so much originate with Mr
Carker, in truth, as with Mr Dombey himself, who was apt to assert his
chieftainship by saying, with subdued authority, and in an easy way--for
him--‘Here, Carker, have the goodness to assist me, will you?’ which the
smiling gentleman always did with pleasure.

They made the tour of the pictures, the walls, crow’s nest, and so
forth; and as they were still one little party, and the Major was rather
in the shade: being sleepy during the process of digestion: Mr Carker
became communicative and agreeable. At first, he addressed himself for
the most part to Mrs Skewton; but as that sensitive lady was in such
ecstasies with the works of art, after the first quarter of an hour,
that she could do nothing but yawn (they were such perfect inspirations,
she observed as a reason for that mark of rapture), he transferred his
attentions to Mr Dombey. Mr Dombey said little beyond an occasional
‘Very true, Carker,’ or ‘Indeed, Carker,’ but he tacitly encouraged
Carker to proceed, and inwardly approved of his behaviour very much:
deeming it as well that somebody should talk, and thinking that
his remarks, which were, as one might say, a branch of the parent
establishment, might amuse Mrs Granger. Mr Carker, who possessed an
excellent discretion, never took the liberty of addressing that lady,
direct; but she seemed to listen, though she never looked at him;
and once or twice, when he was emphatic in his peculiar humility, the
twilight smile stole over her face, not as a light, but as a deep black

Warwick Castle being at length pretty well exhausted, and the Major very
much so: to say nothing of Mrs Skewton, whose peculiar demonstrations of
delight had become very frequent Indeed: the carriage was again put
in requisition, and they rode to several admired points of view in the
neighbourhood. Mr Dombey ceremoniously observed of one of these, that
a sketch, however slight, from the fair hand of Mrs Granger, would be a
remembrance to him of that agreeable day: though he wanted no artificial
remembrance, he was sure (here Mr Dombey made another of his bows),
which he must always highly value. Withers the lean having Edith’s
sketch-book under his arm, was immediately called upon by Mrs Skewton
to produce the same: and the carriage stopped, that Edith might make the
drawing, which Mr Dombey was to put away among his treasures.

‘But I am afraid I trouble you too much,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘By no means. Where would you wish it taken from?’ she answered, turning
to him with the same enforced attention as before.

Mr Dombey, with another bow, which cracked the starch in his cravat,
would beg to leave that to the Artist.

‘I would rather you chose for yourself,’ said Edith.

‘Suppose then,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘we say from here. It appears a good
spot for the purpose, or--Carker, what do you think?’

There happened to be in the foreground, at some little distance, a
grove of trees, not unlike that in which Mr Carker had made his chain
of footsteps in the morning, and with a seat under one tree, greatly
resembling, in the general character of its situation, the point where
his chain had broken.

‘Might I venture to suggest to Mrs Granger,’ said Carker, ‘that that is
an interesting--almost a curious--point of view?’

She followed the direction of his riding-whip with her eyes, and raised
them quickly to his face. It was the second glance they had exchanged
since their introduction; and would have been exactly like the first,
but that its expression was plainer.

‘Will you like that?’ said Edith to Mr Dombey.

‘I shall be charmed,’ said Mr Dombey to Edith.

Therefore the carriage was driven to the spot where Mr Dombey was to
be charmed; and Edith, without moving from her seat, and opening her
sketch-book with her usual proud indifference, began to sketch.

‘My pencils are all pointless,’ she said, stopping and turning them

‘Pray allow me,’ said Mr Dombey. ‘Or Carker will do it better, as he
understands these things. Carker, have the goodness to see to these
pencils for Mrs Granger.’

Mr Carker rode up close to the carriage-door on Mrs Granger’s side, and
letting the rein fall on his horse’s neck, took the pencils from her
hand with a smile and a bow, and sat in the saddle leisurely mending
them. Having done so, he begged to be allowed to hold them, and to
hand them to her as they were required; and thus Mr Carker, with many
commendations of Mrs Granger’s extraordinary skill--especially in
trees--remained--close at her side, looking over the drawing as she made
it. Mr Dombey in the meantime stood bolt upright in the carriage like a
highly respectable ghost, looking on too; while Cleopatra and the Major
dallied as two ancient doves might do.

‘Are you satisfied with that, or shall I finish it a little more?’ said
Edith, showing the sketch to Mr Dombey.

Mr Dombey begged that it might not be touched; it was perfection.

‘It is most extraordinary,’ said Carker, bringing every one of his
red gums to bear upon his praise. ‘I was not prepared for anything so
beautiful, and so unusual altogether.’

This might have applied to the sketcher no less than to the sketch; but
Mr Carker’s manner was openness itself--not as to his mouth alone, but
as to his whole spirit. So it continued to be while the drawing was laid
aside for Mr Dombey, and while the sketching materials were put up;
then he handed in the pencils (which were received with a distant
acknowledgment of his help, but without a look), and tightening his
rein, fell back, and followed the carriage again.

Thinking, perhaps, as he rode, that even this trivial sketch had been
made and delivered to its owner, as if it had been bargained for and
bought. Thinking, perhaps, that although she had assented with such
perfect readiness to his request, her haughty face, bent over the
drawing, or glancing at the distant objects represented in it, had
been the face of a proud woman, engaged in a sordid and miserable
transaction. Thinking, perhaps, of such things: but smiling certainly,
and while he seemed to look about him freely, in enjoyment of the air
and exercise, keeping always that sharp corner of his eye upon the

A stroll among the haunted ruins of Kenilworth, and more rides to more
points of view: most of which, Mrs Skewton reminded Mr Dombey, Edith had
already sketched, as he had seen in looking over her drawings: brought
the day’s expedition to a close. Mrs Skewton and Edith were driven to
their own lodgings; Mr Carker was graciously invited by Cleopatra to
return thither with Mr Dombey and the Major, in the evening, to hear
some of Edith’s music; and the three gentlemen repaired to their hotel
to dinner.

The dinner was the counterpart of yesterday’s, except that the Major was
twenty-four hours more triumphant and less mysterious. Edith was toasted
again. Mr Dombey was again agreeably embarrassed. And Mr Carker was full
of interest and praise.

There were no other visitors at Mrs Skewton’s. Edith’s drawings were
strewn about the room, a little more abundantly than usual perhaps; and
Withers, the wan page, handed round a little stronger tea. The harp
was there; the piano was there; and Edith sang and played. But even the
music was played by Edith to Mr Dombey’s order, as it were, in the same
uncompromising way. As thus.

‘Edith, my dearest love,’ said Mrs Skewton, half an hour after tea, ‘Mr
Dombey is dying to hear you, I know.’

‘Mr Dombey has life enough left to say so for himself, Mama, I have no

‘I shall be immensely obliged,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘What do you wish?’

‘Piano?’ hesitated Mr Dombey.

‘Whatever you please. You have only to choose.’

Accordingly, she began with the piano. It was the same with the harp;
the same with her singing; the same with the selection of the pieces
that she sang and played. Such frigid and constrained, yet prompt and
pointed acquiescence with the wishes he imposed upon her, and on no one
else, was sufficiently remarkable to penetrate through all the mysteries
of picquet, and impress itself on Mr Carker’s keen attention. Nor did he
lose sight of the fact that Mr Dombey was evidently proud of his power,
and liked to show it.

Nevertheless, Mr Carker played so well--some games with the Major, and
some with Cleopatra, whose vigilance of eye in respect of Mr Dombey and
Edith no lynx could have surpassed--that he even heightened his position
in the lady-mother’s good graces; and when on taking leave he regretted
that he would be obliged to return to London next morning, Cleopatra
trusted: community of feeling not being met with every day: that it was
far from being the last time they would meet.

‘I hope so,’ said Mr Carker, with an expressive look at the couple in
the distance, as he drew towards the door, following the Major. ‘I think

Mr Dombey, who had taken a stately leave of Edith, bent, or made some
approach to a bend, over Cleopatra’s couch, and said, in a low voice:

‘I have requested Mrs Granger’s permission to call on her to-morrow
morning--for a purpose--and she has appointed twelve o’clock. May I hope
to have the pleasure of finding you at home, Madam, afterwards?’

Cleopatra was so much fluttered and moved, by hearing this, of course,
incomprehensible speech, that she could only shut her eyes, and shake
her head, and give Mr Dombey her hand; which Mr Dombey, not exactly
knowing what to do with, dropped.

‘Dombey, come along!’ cried the Major, looking in at the door. ‘Damme,
Sir, old Joe has a great mind to propose an alteration in the name of
the Royal Hotel, and that it should be called the Three Jolly Bachelors,
in honour of ourselves and Carker.’ With this, the Major slapped Mr
Dombey on the back, and winking over his shoulder at the ladies, with a
frightful tendency of blood to the head, carried him off.

Mrs Skewton reposed on her sofa, and Edith sat apart, by her harp, in
silence. The mother, trifling with her fan, looked stealthily at the
daughter more than once, but the daughter, brooding gloomily with
downcast eyes, was not to be disturbed.

Thus they remained for a long hour, without a word, until Mrs Skewton’s
maid appeared, according to custom, to prepare her gradually for night.
At night, she should have been a skeleton, with dart and hour-glass,
rather than a woman, this attendant; for her touch was as the touch
of Death. The painted object shrivelled underneath her hand; the form
collapsed, the hair dropped off, the arched dark eyebrows changed to
scanty tufts of grey; the pale lips shrunk, the skin became cadaverous
and loose; an old, worn, yellow, nodding woman, with red eyes, alone
remained in Cleopatra’s place, huddled up, like a slovenly bundle, in a
greasy flannel gown.

The very voice was changed, as it addressed Edith, when they were alone

‘Why don’t you tell me,’ it said sharply, ‘that he is coming here
to-morrow by appointment?’

‘Because you know it,’ returned Edith, ‘Mother.’

The mocking emphasis she laid on that one word!

‘You know he has bought me,’ she resumed. ‘Or that he will, to-morrow.
He has considered of his bargain; he has shown it to his friend; he is
even rather proud of it; he thinks that it will suit him, and may be had
sufficiently cheap; and he will buy to-morrow. God, that I have lived
for this, and that I feel it!’

Compress into one handsome face the conscious self-abasement, and the
burning indignation of a hundred women, strong in passion and in pride;
and there it hid itself with two white shuddering arms.

‘What do you mean?’ returned the angry mother. ‘Haven’t you from a

‘A child!’ said Edith, looking at her, ‘when was I a child? What
childhood did you ever leave to me? I was a woman--artful, designing,
mercenary, laying snares for men--before I knew myself, or you, or even
understood the base and wretched aim of every new display I learnt You
gave birth to a woman. Look upon her. She is in her pride tonight.’

And as she spoke, she struck her hand upon her beautiful bosom, as
though she would have beaten down herself.

‘Look at me,’ she said, ‘who have never known what it is to have an
honest heart, and love. Look at me, taught to scheme and plot when
children play; and married in my youth--an old age of design--to one
for whom I had no feeling but indifference. Look at me, whom he left a
widow, dying before his inheritance descended to him--a judgment on you!
well deserved!--and tell me what has been my life for ten years since.’

‘We have been making every effort to endeavour to secure to you a good
establishment,’ rejoined her mother. ‘That has been your life. And now
you have got it.’

‘There is no slave in a market: there is no horse in a fair: so shown
and offered and examined and paraded, Mother, as I have been, for ten
shameful years,’ cried Edith, with a burning brow, and the same bitter
emphasis on the one word. ‘Is it not so? Have I been made the bye-word
of all kinds of men? Have fools, have profligates, have boys, have
dotards, dangled after me, and one by one rejected me, and fallen off,
because you were too plain with all your cunning: yes, and too true,
with all those false pretences: until we have almost come to be
notorious? The licence of look and touch,’ she said, with flashing eyes,
‘have I submitted to it, in half the places of resort upon the map of
England? Have I been hawked and vended here and there, until the last
grain of self-respect is dead within me, and I loathe myself? Has been
my late childhood? I had none before. Do not tell me that I had, tonight
of all nights in my life!’

‘You might have been well married,’ said her mother, ‘twenty times at
least, Edith, if you had given encouragement enough.’

‘No! Who takes me, refuse that I am, and as I well deserve to be,’ she
answered, raising her head, and trembling in her energy of shame and
stormy pride, ‘shall take me, as this man does, with no art of mine put
forth to lure him. He sees me at the auction, and he thinks it well to
buy me. Let him! When he came to view me--perhaps to bid--he required to
see the roll of my accomplishments. I gave it to him. When he would have
me show one of them, to justify his purchase to his men, I require of
him to say which he demands, and I exhibit it. I will do no more. He
makes the purchase of his own will, and with his own sense of its worth,
and the power of his money; and I hope it may never disappoint him. I
have not vaunted and pressed the bargain; neither have you, so far as I
have been able to prevent you.

‘You talk strangely to-night, Edith, to your own Mother.’

‘It seems so to me; stranger to me than you,’ said Edith. ‘But my
education was completed long ago. I am too old now, and have fallen too
low, by degrees, to take a new course, and to stop yours, and to help
myself. The germ of all that purifies a woman’s breast, and makes it
true and good, has never stirred in mine, and I have nothing else to
sustain me when I despise myself.’ There had been a touching sadness in
her voice, but it was gone, when she went on to say, with a curled lip,
‘So, as we are genteel and poor, I am content that we should be made
rich by these means; all I say is, I have kept the only purpose I have
had the strength to form--I had almost said the power, with you at my
side, Mother--and have not tempted this man on.’

‘This man! You speak,’ said her mother, ‘as if you hated him.’

‘And you thought I loved him, did you not?’ she answered, stopping on
her way across the room, and looking round. ‘Shall I tell you,’ she
continued, with her eyes fixed on her mother, ‘who already knows us
thoroughly, and reads us right, and before whom I have even less of
self-respect or confidence than before my own inward self; being so much
degraded by his knowledge of me?’

‘This is an attack, I suppose,’ returned her mother coldly, ‘on poor,
unfortunate what’s-his-name--Mr Carker! Your want of self-respect and
confidence, my dear, in reference to that person (who is very agreeable,
it strikes me), is not likely to have much effect on your establishment.
Why do you look at me so hard? Are you ill?’

Edith suddenly let fall her face, as if it had been stung, and while
she pressed her hands upon it, a terrible tremble crept over her whole
frame. It was quickly gone; and with her usual step, she passed out of
the room.

The maid who should have been a skeleton, then reappeared, and giving
one arm to her mistress, who appeared to have taken off her manner
with her charms, and to have put on paralysis with her flannel gown,
collected the ashes of Cleopatra, and carried them away in the other,
ready for tomorrow’s revivification.

CHAPTER 28. Alterations

‘So the day has come at length, Susan,’ said Florence to the excellent
Nipper, ‘when we are going back to our quiet home!’

Susan drew in her breath with an amount of expression not easily
described, further relieving her feelings with a smart cough, answered,
‘Very quiet indeed, Miss Floy, no doubt. Excessive so.’

‘When I was a child,’ said Florence, thoughtfully, and after musing for
some moments, ‘did you ever see that gentleman who has taken the trouble
to ride down here to speak to me, now three times--three times, I think,

‘Three times, Miss,’ returned the Nipper. ‘Once when you was out a
walking with them Sket--’

Florence gently looked at her, and Miss Nipper checked herself.

‘With Sir Barnet and his lady, I mean to say, Miss, and the young
gentleman. And two evenings since then.’

‘When I was a child, and when company used to come to visit Papa, did
you ever see that gentleman at home, Susan?’ asked Florence.

‘Well, Miss,’ returned her maid, after considering, ‘I really couldn’t
say I ever did. When your poor dear Ma died, Miss Floy, I was very new
in the family, you see, and my element:’ the Nipper bridled, as opining
that her merits had been always designedly extinguished by Mr Dombey:
‘was the floor below the attics.’

‘To be sure,’ said Florence, still thoughtfully; ‘you are not likely to
have known who came to the house. I quite forgot.’

‘Not, Miss, but what we talked about the family and visitors,’ said
Susan, ‘and but what I heard much said, although the nurse before Mrs
Richards make unpleasant remarks when I was in company, and hint
at little Pitchers, but that could only be attributed, poor thing,’
observed Susan, with composed forbearance, ‘to habits of intoxication,
for which she was required to leave, and did.’

Florence, who was seated at her chamber window, with her face resting
on her hand, sat looking out, and hardly seemed to hear what Susan said,
she was so lost in thought.

‘At all events, Miss,’ said Susan, ‘I remember very well that this same
gentleman, Mr Carker, was almost, if not quite, as great a gentleman
with your Papa then, as he is now. It used to be said in the house then,
Miss, that he was at the head of all your Pa’s affairs in the City, and
managed the whole, and that your Pa minded him more than anybody, which,
begging your pardon, Miss Floy, he might easy do, for he never minded
anybody else. I knew that, Pitcher as I might have been.’

Susan Nipper, with an injured remembrance of the nurse before Mrs
Richards, emphasised ‘Pitcher’ strongly.

‘And that Mr Carker has not fallen off, Miss,’ she pursued, ‘but has
stood his ground, and kept his credit with your Pa, I know from what
is always said among our people by that Perch, whenever he comes to the
house; and though he’s the weakest weed in the world, Miss Floy, and no
one can have a moment’s patience with the man, he knows what goes on in
the City tolerable well, and says that your Pa does nothing without Mr
Carker, and leaves all to Mr Carker, and acts according to Mr Carker,
and has Mr Carker always at his elbow, and I do believe that he believes
(that washiest of Perches!) that after your Pa, the Emperor of India is
the child unborn to Mr Carker.’

Not a word of this was lost on Florence, who, with an awakened interest
in Susan’s speech, no longer gazed abstractedly on the prospect without,
but looked at her, and listened with attention.

‘Yes, Susan,’ she said, when that young lady had concluded. ‘He is in
Papa’s confidence, and is his friend, I am sure.’

Florence’s mind ran high on this theme, and had done for some days. Mr
Carker, in the two visits with which he had followed up his first one,
had assumed a confidence between himself and her--a right on his part
to be mysterious and stealthy, in telling her that the ship was still
unheard of--a kind of mildly restrained power and authority over
her--that made her wonder, and caused her great uneasiness. She had
no means of repelling it, or of freeing herself from the web he was
gradually winding about her; for that would have required some art and
knowledge of the world, opposed to such address as his; and Florence had
none. True, he had said no more to her than that there was no news of
the ship, and that he feared the worst; but how he came to know that
she was interested in the ship, and why he had the right to signify
his knowledge to her, so insidiously and darkly, troubled Florence very

This conduct on the part of Mr Carker, and her habit of often
considering it with wonder and uneasiness, began to invest him with
an uncomfortable fascination in Florence’s thoughts. A more distinct
remembrance of his features, voice, and manner: which she sometimes
courted, as a means of reducing him to the level of a real personage,
capable of exerting no greater charm over her than another: did not
remove the vague impression. And yet he never frowned, or looked upon
her with an air of dislike or animosity, but was always smiling and

Again, Florence, in pursuit of her strong purpose with reference to
her father, and her steady resolution to believe that she was herself
unwittingly to blame for their so cold and distant relations, would
recall to mind that this gentleman was his confidential friend, and
would think, with an anxious heart, could her struggling tendency to
dislike and fear him be a part of that misfortune in her, which had
turned her father’s love adrift, and left her so alone? She dreaded that
it might be; sometimes believed it was: then she resolved that she
would try to conquer this wrong feeling; persuaded herself that she was
honoured and encouraged by the notice of her father’s friend; and hoped
that patient observation of him and trust in him would lead her bleeding
feet along that stony road which ended in her father’s heart.

Thus, with no one to advise her--for she could advise with no one
without seeming to complain against him--gentle Florence tossed on an
uneasy sea of doubt and hope; and Mr Carker, like a scaly monster of the
deep, swam down below, and kept his shining eye upon her.

Florence had a new reason in all this for wishing to be at home again.
Her lonely life was better suited to her course of timid hope and doubt;
and she feared sometimes, that in her absence she might miss some
hopeful chance of testifying her affection for her father. Heaven knows,
she might have set her mind at rest, poor child! on this last point; but
her slighted love was fluttering within her, and, even in her sleep, it
flew away in dreams, and nestled, like a wandering bird come home, upon
her father’s neck.

Of Walter she thought often. Ah! how often, when the night was gloomy,
and the wind was blowing round the house! But hope was strong in her
breast. It is so difficult for the young and ardent, even with such
experience as hers, to imagine youth and ardour quenched like a weak
flame, and the bright day of life merging into night, at noon, that hope
was strong yet. Her tears fell frequently for Walter’s sufferings; but
rarely for his supposed death, and never long.

She had written to the old Instrument-maker, but had received no
answer to her note: which indeed required none. Thus matters stood with
Florence on the morning when she was going home, gladly, to her old
secluded life.

Doctor and Mrs Blimber, accompanied (much against his will) by their
valued charge, Master Barnet, were already gone back to Brighton, where
that young gentleman and his fellow-pilgrims to Parnassus were then, no
doubt, in the continual resumption of their studies. The holiday time
was past and over; most of the juvenile guests at the villa had taken
their departure; and Florence’s long visit was come to an end.

There was one guest, however, albeit not resident within the house, who
had been very constant in his attentions to the family, and who still
remained devoted to them. This was Mr Toots, who after renewing, some
weeks ago, the acquaintance he had had the happiness of forming with
Skettles Junior, on the night when he burst the Blimberian bonds and
soared into freedom with his ring on, called regularly every other day,
and left a perfect pack of cards at the hall-door; so many indeed, that
the ceremony was quite a deal on the part of Mr Toots, and a hand at
whist on the part of the servant.

Mr Toots, likewise, with the bold and happy idea of preventing the
family from forgetting him (but there is reason to suppose that
this expedient originated in the teeming brain of the Chicken), had
established a six-oared cutter, manned by aquatic friends of the
Chicken’s and steered by that illustrious character in person, who wore
a bright red fireman’s coat for the purpose, and concealed the perpetual
black eye with which he was afflicted, beneath a green shade. Previous
to the institution of this equipage, Mr Toots sounded the Chicken on a
hypothetical case, as, supposing the Chicken to be enamoured of a young
lady named Mary, and to have conceived the intention of starting a boat
of his own, what would he call that boat? The Chicken replied, with
divers strong asseverations, that he would either christen it Poll or
The Chicken’s Delight. Improving on this idea, Mr Toots, after deep
study and the exercise of much invention, resolved to call his boat
The Toots’s Joy, as a delicate compliment to Florence, of which no man
knowing the parties, could possibly miss the appreciation.

Stretched on a crimson cushion in his gallant bark, with his shoes
in the air, Mr Toots, in the exercise of his project, had come up the
river, day after day, and week after week, and had flitted to and fro,
near Sir Barnet’s garden, and had caused his crew to cut across and
across the river at sharp angles, for his better exhibition to any
lookers-out from Sir Barnet’s windows, and had had such evolutions
performed by the Toots’s Joy as had filled all the neighbouring part
of the water-side with astonishment. But whenever he saw anyone in Sir
Barnet’s garden on the brink of the river, Mr Toots always feigned to be
passing there, by a combination of coincidences of the most singular and
unlikely description.

‘How are you, Toots?’ Sir Barnet would say, waving his hand from the
lawn, while the artful Chicken steered close in shore.

‘How de do, Sir Barnet?’ Mr Toots would answer, ‘What a surprising thing
that I should see you here!’

Mr Toots, in his sagacity, always said this, as if, instead of that
being Sir Barnet’s house, it were some deserted edifice on the banks of
the Nile, or Ganges.

‘I never was so surprised!’ Mr Toots would exclaim.--‘Is Miss Dombey

Whereupon Florence would appear, perhaps.

‘Oh, Diogenes is quite well, Miss Dombey,’ Toots would cry. ‘I called to
ask this morning.’

‘Thank you very much!’ the pleasant voice of Florence would reply.

‘Won’t you come ashore, Toots?’ Sir Barnet would say then. ‘Come! you’re
in no hurry. Come and see us.’

‘Oh, it’s of no consequence, thank you!’ Mr Toots would blushingly
rejoin. ‘I thought Miss Dombey might like to know, that’s all.
Good-bye!’ And poor Mr Toots, who was dying to accept the invitation,
but hadn’t the courage to do it, signed to the Chicken, with an aching
heart, and away went the Joy, cleaving the water like an arrow.

The Joy was lying in a state of extraordinary splendour, at the garden
steps, on the morning of Florence’s departure. When she went downstairs
to take leave, after her talk with Susan, she found Mr Toots awaiting
her in the drawing-room.

‘Oh, how de do, Miss Dombey?’ said the stricken Toots, always dreadfully
disconcerted when the desire of his heart was gained, and he was
speaking to her; ‘thank you, I’m very well indeed, I hope you’re the
same, so was Diogenes yesterday.’

‘You are very kind,’ said Florence.

‘Thank you, it’s of no consequence,’ retorted Mr Toots. ‘I thought
perhaps you wouldn’t mind, in this fine weather, coming home by water,
Miss Dombey. There’s plenty of room in the boat for your maid.’

‘I am very much obliged to you,’ said Florence, hesitating. ‘I really
am--but I would rather not.’

‘Oh, it’s of no consequence,’ retorted Mr Toots. ‘Good morning.’

‘Won’t you wait and see Lady Skettles?’ asked Florence, kindly.

‘Oh no, thank you,’ returned Mr Toots, ‘it’s of no consequence at all.’

So shy was Mr Toots on such occasions, and so flurried! But Lady
Skettles entering at the moment, Mr Toots was suddenly seized with a
passion for asking her how she did, and hoping she was very well; nor
could Mr Toots by any possibility leave off shaking hands with her,
until Sir Barnet appeared: to whom he immediately clung with the
tenacity of desperation.

‘We are losing, today, Toots,’ said Sir Barnet, turning towards
Florence, ‘the light of our house, I assure you’

‘Oh, it’s of no conseq--I mean yes, to be sure,’ faltered the
embarrassed Mr Toots. ‘Good morning!’

Notwithstanding the emphatic nature of this farewell, Mr Toots, instead
of going away, stood leering about him, vacantly. Florence, to relieve
him, bade adieu, with many thanks, to Lady Skettles, and gave her arm to
Sir Barnet.

‘May I beg of you, my dear Miss Dombey,’ said her host, as he conducted
her to the carriage, ‘to present my best compliments to your dear Papa?’

It was distressing to Florence to receive the commission, for she felt
as if she were imposing on Sir Barnet by allowing him to believe that a
kindness rendered to her, was rendered to her father. As she could not
explain, however, she bowed her head and thanked him; and again she
thought that the dull home, free from such embarrassments, and such
reminders of her sorrow, was her natural and best retreat.

Such of her late friends and companions as were yet remaining at the
villa, came running from within, and from the garden, to say good-bye.
They were all attached to her, and very earnest in taking leave of
her. Even the household were sorry for her going, and the servants came
nodding and curtseying round the carriage door. As Florence looked round
on the kind faces, and saw among them those of Sir Barnet and his lady,
and of Mr Toots, who was chuckling and staring at her from a distance,
she was reminded of the night when Paul and she had come from Doctor
Blimber’s: and when the carriage drove away, her face was wet with

Sorrowful tears, but tears of consolation, too; for all the softer
memories connected with the dull old house to which she was returning
made it dear to her, as they rose up. How long it seemed since she had
wandered through the silent rooms: since she had last crept, softly and
afraid, into those her father occupied: since she had felt the solemn
but yet soothing influence of the beloved dead in every action of her
daily life! This new farewell reminded her, besides, of her parting
with poor Walter: of his looks and words that night: and of the gracious
blending she had noticed in him, of tenderness for those he left behind,
with courage and high spirit. His little history was associated with
the old house too, and gave it a new claim and hold upon her heart.

Even Susan Nipper softened towards the home of so many years, as they
were on their way towards it. Gloomy as it was, and rigid justice as she
rendered to its gloom, she forgave it a great deal. ‘I shall be glad to
see it again, I don’t deny, Miss,’ said the Nipper. ‘There ain’t much in
it to boast of, but I wouldn’t have it burnt or pulled down, neither!’

‘You’ll be glad to go through the old rooms, won’t you, Susan?’ said
Florence, smiling.

‘Well, Miss,’ returned the Nipper, softening more and more towards the
house, as they approached it nearer, ‘I won’t deny but what I shall,
though I shall hate ‘em again, to-morrow, very likely.’

Florence felt that, for her, there was greater peace within it than
elsewhere. It was better and easier to keep her secret shut up there,
among the tall dark walls, than to carry it abroad into the light, and
try to hide it from a crowd of happy eyes. It was better to pursue the
study of her loving heart, alone, and find no new discouragements in
loving hearts about her. It was easier to hope, and pray, and love
on, all uncared for, yet with constancy and patience, in the tranquil
sanctuary of such remembrances: although it mouldered, rusted, and
decayed about her: than in a new scene, let its gaiety be what it would.
She welcomed back her old enchanted dream of life, and longed for the
old dark door to close upon her, once again.

Full of such thoughts, they turned into the long and sombre street.
Florence was not on that side of the carriage which was nearest to her
home, and as the distance lessened between them and it, she looked out
of her window for the children over the way.

She was thus engaged, when an exclamation from Susan caused her to turn
quickly round.

‘Why, Gracious me!’ cried Susan, breathless, ‘where’s our house!’

‘Our house!’ said Florence.

Susan, drawing in her head from the window, thrust it out again, drew
it in again as the carriage stopped, and stared at her mistress in

There was a labyrinth of scaffolding raised all round the house, from
the basement to the roof. Loads of bricks and stones, and heaps of
mortar, and piles of wood, blocked up half the width and length of
the broad street at the side. Ladders were raised against the walls;
labourers were climbing up and down; men were at work upon the steps of
the scaffolding; painters and decorators were busy inside; great rolls
of ornamental paper were being delivered from a cart at the door; an
upholsterer’s waggon also stopped the way; no furniture was to be seen
through the gaping and broken windows in any of the rooms; nothing but
workmen, and the implements of their several trades, swarming from
the kitchens to the garrets. Inside and outside alike: bricklayers,
painters, carpenters, masons: hammer, hod, brush, pickaxe, saw, and
trowel: all at work together, in full chorus!

Florence descended from the coach, half doubting if it were, or could be
the right house, until she recognised Towlinson, with a sun-burnt face,
standing at the door to receive her.

‘There is nothing the matter?’ inquired Florence.

‘Oh no, Miss.’

‘There are great alterations going on.’

‘Yes, Miss, great alterations,’ said Towlinson.

Florence passed him as if she were in a dream, and hurried upstairs. The
garish light was in the long-darkened drawing-room and there were steps
and platforms, and men in paper caps, in the high places. Her mother’s
picture was gone with the rest of the moveables, and on the mark where
it had been, was scrawled in chalk, ‘this room in panel. Green and
gold.’ The staircase was a labyrinth of posts and planks like the
outside of the house, and a whole Olympus of plumbers and glaziers was
reclining in various attitudes, on the skylight. Her own room was not
yet touched within, but there were beams and boards raised against
it without, baulking the daylight. She went up swiftly to that other
bedroom, where the little bed was; and a dark giant of a man with a pipe
in his mouth, and his head tied up in a pocket-handkerchief, was staring
in at the window.

It was here that Susan Nipper, who had been in quest of Florence, found
her, and said, would she go downstairs to her Papa, who wished to speak
to her.

‘At home! and wishing to speak to me!’ cried Florence, trembling.

Susan, who was infinitely more distraught than Florence herself,
repeated her errand; and Florence, pale and agitated, hurried down
again, without a moment’s hesitation. She thought upon the way down,
would she dare to kiss him? The longing of her heart resolved her, and
she thought she would.

Her father might have heard that heart beat, when it came into his
presence. One instant, and it would have beat against his breast.

But he was not alone. There were two ladies there; and Florence stopped.
Striving so hard with her emotion, that if her brute friend Di had not
burst in and overwhelmed her with his caresses as a welcome home--at
which one of the ladies gave a little scream, and that diverted her
attention from herself--she would have swooned upon the floor.

‘Florence,’ said her father, putting out his hand: so stiffly that it
held her off: ‘how do you do?’

Florence took the hand between her own, and putting it timidly to her
lips, yielded to its withdrawal. It touched the door in shutting it,
with quite as much endearment as it had touched her.

‘What dog is that?’ said Mr Dombey, displeased.

‘It is a dog, Papa--from Brighton.’

‘Well!’ said Mr Dombey; and a cloud passed over his face, for he
understood her.

‘He is very good-tempered,’ said Florence, addressing herself with her
natural grace and sweetness to the two lady strangers. ‘He is only glad
to see me. Pray forgive him.’

She saw in the glance they interchanged, that the lady who had screamed,
and who was seated, was old; and that the other lady, who stood near her
Papa, was very beautiful, and of an elegant figure.

‘Mrs Skewton,’ said her father, turning to the first, and holding out
his hand, ‘this is my daughter Florence.’

‘Charming, I am sure,’ observed the lady, putting up her glass. ‘So
natural! My darling Florence, you must kiss me, if you please.’

Florence having done so, turned towards the other lady, by whom her
father stood waiting.

‘Edith,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘this is my daughter Florence. Florence, this
lady will soon be your Mama.’

Florence started, and looked up at the beautiful face in a conflict
of emotions, among which the tears that name awakened, struggled for a
moment with surprise, interest, admiration, and an indefinable sort of
fear. Then she cried out, ‘Oh, Papa, may you be happy! may you be very,
very happy all your life!’ and then fell weeping on the lady’s bosom.

There was a short silence. The beautiful lady, who at first had seemed
to hesitate whether or no she should advance to Florence, held her to
her breast, and pressed the hand with which she clasped her, close about
her waist, as if to reassure her and comfort her. Not one word passed
the lady’s lips. She bent her head down over Florence, and she kissed
her on the cheek, but she said no word.

‘Shall we go on through the rooms,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘and see how our
workmen are doing? Pray allow me, my dear madam.’

He said this in offering his arm to Mrs Skewton, who had been looking
at Florence through her glass, as though picturing to herself what she
might be made, by the infusion--from her own copious storehouse, no
doubt--of a little more Heart and Nature. Florence was still sobbing on
the lady’s breast, and holding to her, when Mr Dombey was heard to say
from the Conservatory:

‘Let us ask Edith. Dear me, where is she?’

‘Edith, my dear!’ cried Mrs Skewton, ‘where are you? Looking for Mr
Dombey somewhere, I know. We are here, my love.’

The beautiful lady released her hold of Florence, and pressing her lips
once more upon her face, withdrew hurriedly, and joined them. Florence
remained standing in the same place: happy, sorry, joyful, and in tears,
she knew not how, or how long, but all at once: when her new Mama came
back, and took her in her arms again.

‘Florence,’ said the lady, hurriedly, and looking into her face with
great earnestness. ‘You will not begin by hating me?’

‘By hating you, Mama?’ cried Florence, winding her arm round her neck,
and returning the look.

‘Hush! Begin by thinking well of me,’ said the beautiful lady. ‘Begin by
believing that I will try to make you happy, and that I am prepared to
love you, Florence. Good-bye. We shall meet again soon. Good-bye! Don’t
stay here, now.’

Again she pressed her to her breast she had spoken in a rapid manner,
but firmly--and Florence saw her rejoin them in the other room.

And now Florence began to hope that she would learn from her new and
beautiful Mama, how to gain her father’s love; and in her sleep that
night, in her lost old home, her own Mama smiled radiantly upon the
hope, and blessed it. Dreaming Florence!

CHAPTER 29. The Opening of the Eyes of Mrs Chick

Miss Tox, all unconscious of any such rare appearances in connexion with
Mr Dombey’s house, as scaffoldings and ladders, and men with their heads
tied up in pocket-handkerchiefs, glaring in at the windows like flying
genii or strange birds,--having breakfasted one morning at about this
eventful period of time, on her customary viands; to wit, one French
roll rasped, one egg new laid (or warranted to be), and one little pot
of tea, wherein was infused one little silver scoopful of that herb
on behalf of Miss Tox, and one little silver scoopful on behalf of
the teapot--a flight of fancy in which good housekeepers delight; went
upstairs to set forth the bird waltz on the harpsichord, to water and
arrange the plants, to dust the nick-nacks, and, according to her daily
custom, to make her little drawing-room the garland of Princess’s Place.

Miss Tox endued herself with a pair of ancient gloves, like dead leaves,
in which she was accustomed to perform these avocations--hidden from
human sight at other times in a table drawer--and went methodically to
work; beginning with the bird waltz; passing, by a natural association
of ideas, to her bird--a very high-shouldered canary, stricken in years,
and much rumpled, but a piercing singer, as Princess’s Place well knew;
taking, next in order, the little china ornaments, paper fly-cages, and
so forth; and coming round, in good time, to the plants, which generally
required to be snipped here and there with a pair of scissors, for some
botanical reason that was very powerful with Miss Tox.

Miss Tox was slow in coming to the plants, this morning. The weather was
warm, the wind southerly; and there was a sigh of the summer-time in
Princess’s Place, that turned Miss Tox’s thoughts upon the country. The
pot-boy attached to the Princess’s Arms had come out with a can and
trickled water, in a flowering pattern, all over Princess’s Place, and it
gave the weedy ground a fresh scent--quite a growing scent, Miss Tox
said. There was a tiny blink of sun peeping in from the great street
round the corner, and the smoky sparrows hopped over it and back again,
brightening as they passed: or bathed in it, like a stream, and became
glorified sparrows, unconnected with chimneys. Legends in praise of
Ginger-Beer, with pictorial representations of thirsty customers
submerged in the effervescence, or stunned by the flying corks, were
conspicuous in the window of the Princess’s Arms. They were making late
hay, somewhere out of town; and though the fragrance had a long way to
come, and many counter fragrances to contend with among the dwellings of
the poor (may God reward the worthy gentlemen who stickle for the Plague
as part and parcel of the wisdom of our ancestors, and who do their
little best to keep those dwellings miserable!), yet it was wafted
faintly into Princess’s Place, whispering of Nature and her wholesome
air, as such things will, even unto prisoners and captives, and those who
are desolate and oppressed, in very spite of aldermen and knights to
boot: at whose sage nod--and how they nod!--the rolling world stands

Miss Tox sat down upon the window-seat, and thought of her good Papa
deceased--Mr Tox, of the Customs Department of the public service; and
of her childhood, passed at a seaport, among a considerable quantity of
cold tar, and some rusticity. She fell into a softened remembrance of
meadows, in old time, gleaming with buttercups, like so many
inverted firmaments of golden stars; and how she had made chains of
dandelion-stalks for youthful vowers of eternal constancy, dressed
chiefly in nankeen; and how soon those fetters had withered and broken.

Sitting on the window-seat, and looking out upon the sparrows and
the blink of sun, Miss Tox thought likewise of her good Mama
deceased--sister to the owner of the powdered head and pigtail--of her
virtues and her rheumatism. And when a man with bulgy legs, and a rough
voice, and a heavy basket on his head that crushed his hat into a mere
black muffin, came crying flowers down Princess’s Place, making his
timid little roots of daisies shudder in the vibration of every yell
he gave, as though he had been an ogre, hawking little children, summer
recollections were so strong upon Miss Tox, that she shook her head, and
murmured she would be comparatively old before she knew it--which seemed

In her pensive mood, Miss Tox’s thoughts went wandering on Mr Dombey’s
track; probably because the Major had returned home to his lodgings
opposite, and had just bowed to her from his window. What other reason
could Miss Tox have for connecting Mr Dombey with her summer days
and dandelion fetters? Was he more cheerful? thought Miss Tox. Was he
reconciled to the decrees of fate? Would he ever marry again? and if
yes, whom? What sort of person now!

A flush--it was warm weather--overspread Miss Tox’s face, as, while
entertaining these meditations, she turned her head, and was surprised
by the reflection of her thoughtful image in the chimney-glass. Another
flush succeeded when she saw a little carriage drive into Princess’s
Place, and make straight for her own door. Miss Tox arose, took up her
scissors hastily, and so coming, at last, to the plants, was very busy
with them when Mrs Chick entered the room.

‘How is my sweetest friend!’ exclaimed Miss Tox, with open arms.

A little stateliness was mingled with Miss Tox’s sweetest friend’s
demeanour, but she kissed Miss Tox, and said, ‘Lucretia, thank you, I am
pretty well. I hope you are the same. Hem!’

Mrs Chick was labouring under a peculiar little monosyllabic cough; a
sort of primer, or easy introduction to the art of coughing.

‘You call very early, and how kind that is, my dear!’ pursued Miss Tox.
‘Now, have you breakfasted?’

‘Thank you, Lucretia,’ said Mrs Chick, ‘I have. I took an early
breakfast’--the good lady seemed curious on the subject of Princess’s
Place, and looked all round it as she spoke--‘with my brother, who has
come home.’

‘He is better, I trust, my love,’ faltered Miss Tox.

‘He is greatly better, thank you. Hem!’

‘My dear Louisa must be careful of that cough’ remarked Miss Tox.

‘It’s nothing,’ returned Mrs Chic ‘It’s merely change of weather. We
must expect change.’

‘Of weather?’ asked Miss Tox, in her simplicity.

‘Of everything,’ returned Mrs Chick. ‘Of course we must. It’s a world of
change. Anyone would surprise me very much, Lucretia, and would greatly
alter my opinion of their understanding, if they attempted to contradict
or evade what is so perfectly evident. Change!’ exclaimed Mrs Chick,
with severe philosophy. ‘Why, my gracious me, what is there that does
not change! even the silkworm, who I am sure might be supposed not to
trouble itself about such subjects, changes into all sorts of unexpected
things continually.’

‘My Louisa,’ said the mild Miss Tox, ‘is ever happy in her

‘You are so kind, Lucretia,’ returned Mrs Chick, a little softened, ‘as
to say so, and to think so, I believe. I hope neither of us may ever
have any cause to lessen our opinion of the other, Lucretia.’

‘I am sure of it,’ returned Miss Tox.

Mrs Chick coughed as before, and drew lines on the carpet with the ivory
end of her parasol. Miss Tox, who had experience of her fair friend, and
knew that under the pressure of any slight fatigue or vexation she
was prone to a discursive kind of irritability, availed herself of the
pause, to change the subject.

‘Pardon me, my dear Louisa,’ said Miss Tox, ‘but have I caught sight of
the manly form of Mr Chick in the carriage?’

‘He is there,’ said Mrs Chick, ‘but pray leave him there. He has his
newspaper, and would be quite contented for the next two hours. Go on
with your flowers, Lucretia, and allow me to sit here and rest.’

‘My Louisa knows,’ observed Miss Tox, ‘that between friends like
ourselves, any approach to ceremony would be out of the question.
Therefore--’ Therefore Miss Tox finished the sentence, not in words but
action; and putting on her gloves again, which she had taken off, and
arming herself once more with her scissors, began to snip and clip among
the leaves with microscopic industry.

‘Florence has returned home also,’ said Mrs Chick, after sitting silent
for some time, with her head on one side, and her parasol sketching on
the floor; ‘and really Florence is a great deal too old now, to continue
to lead that solitary life to which she has been accustomed. Of course
she is. There can be no doubt about it. I should have very little
respect, indeed, for anybody who could advocate a different opinion.
Whatever my wishes might be, I could not respect them. We cannot command
our feelings to such an extent as that.’

Miss Tox assented, without being particular as to the intelligibility of
the proposition.

‘If she’s a strange girl,’ said Mrs Chick, ‘and if my brother Paul
cannot feel perfectly comfortable in her society, after all the sad
things that have happened, and all the terrible disappointments that
have been undergone, then, what is the reply? That he must make an
effort. That he is bound to make an effort. We have always been a family
remarkable for effort. Paul is at the head of the family; almost the
only representative of it left--for what am I--I am of no consequence--’

‘My dearest love,’ remonstrated Miss Tox.

Mrs Chick dried her eyes, which were, for the moment, overflowing; and

‘And consequently he is more than ever bound to make an effort. And
though his having done so, comes upon me with a sort of shock--for mine
is a very weak and foolish nature; which is anything but a blessing I am
sure; I often wish my heart was a marble slab, or a paving-stone--’

‘My sweet Louisa,’ remonstrated Miss Tox again.

‘Still, it is a triumph to me to know that he is so true to himself, and
to his name of Dombey; although, of course, I always knew he would be.
I only hope,’ said Mrs Chick, after a pause, ‘that she may be worthy of
the name too.’

Miss Tox filled a little green watering-pot from a jug, and happening
to look up when she had done so, was so surprised by the amount of
expression Mrs Chick had conveyed into her face, and was bestowing upon
her, that she put the little watering-pot on the table for the present,
and sat down near it.

‘My dear Louisa,’ said Miss Tox, ‘will it be the least satisfaction to
you, if I venture to observe in reference to that remark, that I, as a
humble individual, think your sweet niece in every way most promising?’

‘What do you mean, Lucretia?’ returned Mrs Chick, with increased
stateliness of manner. ‘To what remark of mine, my dear, do you refer?’

‘Her being worthy of her name, my love,’ replied Miss Tox.

‘If,’ said Mrs Chick, with solemn patience, ‘I have not expressed
myself with clearness, Lucretia, the fault of course is mine. There
is, perhaps, no reason why I should express myself at all, except the
intimacy that has subsisted between us, and which I very much hope,
Lucretia--confidently hope--nothing will occur to disturb. Because, why
should I do anything else? There is no reason; it would be absurd. But
I wish to express myself clearly, Lucretia; and therefore to go back
to that remark, I must beg to say that it was not intended to relate to
Florence, in any way.’

‘Indeed!’ returned Miss Tox.

‘No,’ said Mrs Chick shortly and decisively.

‘Pardon me, my dear,’ rejoined her meek friend; ‘but I cannot have
understood it. I fear I am dull.’

Mrs Chick looked round the room and over the way; at the plants, at the
bird, at the watering-pot, at almost everything within view, except Miss
Tox; and finally dropping her glance upon Miss Tox, for a moment, on its
way to the ground, said, looking meanwhile with elevated eyebrows at the

‘When I speak, Lucretia, of her being worthy of the name, I speak of my
brother Paul’s second wife. I believe I have already said, in effect,
if not in the very words I now use, that it is his intention to marry a
second wife.’

Miss Tox left her seat in a hurry, and returned to her plants; clipping
among the stems and leaves, with as little favour as a barber working at
so many pauper heads of hair.

‘Whether she will be fully sensible of the distinction conferred upon
her,’ said Mrs Chick, in a lofty tone, ‘is quite another question.
I hope she may be. We are bound to think well of one another in this
world, and I hope she may be. I have not been advised with myself. If
I had been advised with, I have no doubt my advice would have been
cavalierly received, and therefore it is infinitely better as it is. I
much prefer it as it is.’

Miss Tox, with head bent down, still clipped among the plants. Mrs
Chick, with energetic shakings of her own head from time to time,
continued to hold forth, as if in defiance of somebody.

‘If my brother Paul had consulted with me, which he sometimes does--or
rather, sometimes used to do; for he will naturally do that no more now,
and this is a circumstance which I regard as a relief from
responsibility,’ said Mrs Chick, hysterically, ‘for I thank Heaven I am
not jealous--’ here Mrs Chick again shed tears: ‘if my brother Paul had
come to me, and had said, “Louisa, what kind of qualities would you
advise me to look out for, in a wife?” I should certainly have answered,
“Paul, you must have family, you must have beauty, you must have dignity,
you must have connexion.” Those are the words I should have used. You
might have led me to the block immediately afterwards,’ said Mrs Chick,
as if that consequence were highly probable, ‘but I should have used
them. I should have said, “Paul! You to marry a second time without
family! You to marry without beauty! You to marry without dignity! You
to marry without connexion! There is nobody in the world, not mad, who
could dream of daring to entertain such a preposterous idea!”’

Miss Tox stopped clipping; and with her head among the plants, listened
attentively. Perhaps Miss Tox thought there was hope in this exordium,
and the warmth of Mrs Chick.

‘I should have adopted this course of argument,’ pursued the discreet
lady, ‘because I trust I am not a fool. I make no claim to be considered
a person of superior intellect--though I believe some people have been
extraordinary enough to consider me so; one so little humoured as I am,
would very soon be disabused of any such notion; but I trust I am not a
downright fool. And to tell ME,’ said Mrs Chick with ineffable disdain,
‘that my brother Paul Dombey could ever contemplate the possibility of
uniting himself to anybody--I don’t care who’--she was more sharp
and emphatic in that short clause than in any other part of her
discourse--‘not possessing these requisites, would be to insult what
understanding I have got, as much as if I was to be told that I was born
and bred an elephant, which I may be told next,’ said Mrs Chick, with
resignation. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me at all. I expect it.’

In the moment’s silence that ensued, Miss Tox’s scissors gave a feeble
clip or two; but Miss Tox’s face was still invisible, and Miss Tox’s
morning gown was agitated. Mrs Chick looked sideways at her, through the
intervening plants, and went on to say, in a tone of bland conviction,
and as one dwelling on a point of fact that hardly required to be

‘Therefore, of course my brother Paul has done what was to be expected
of him, and what anybody might have foreseen he would do, if he entered
the marriage state again. I confess it takes me rather by surprise,
however gratifying; because when Paul went out of town I had no idea at
all that he would form any attachment out of town, and he certainly
had no attachment when he left here. However, it seems to be extremely
desirable in every point of view. I have no doubt the mother is a most
genteel and elegant creature, and I have no right whatever to dispute
the policy of her living with them: which is Paul’s affair, not
mine--and as to Paul’s choice, herself, I have only seen her picture
yet, but that is beautiful indeed. Her name is beautiful too,’ said Mrs
Chick, shaking her head with energy, and arranging herself in her
chair; ‘Edith is at once uncommon, as it strikes me, and distinguished.
Consequently, Lucretia, I have no doubt you will be happy to hear that
the marriage is to take place immediately--of course, you will:’ great
emphasis again: ‘and that you are delighted with this change in the
condition of my brother, who has shown you a great deal of pleasant
attention at various times.’

Miss Tox made no verbal answer, but took up the little watering-pot
with a trembling hand, and looked vacantly round as if considering what
article of furniture would be improved by the contents. The room door
opening at this crisis of Miss Tox’s feelings, she started, laughed
aloud, and fell into the arms of the person entering; happily insensible
alike of Mrs Chick’s indignant countenance and of the Major at his
window over the way, who had his double-barrelled eye-glass in full
action, and whose face and figure were dilated with Mephistophelean joy.

Not so the expatriated Native, amazed supporter of Miss Tox’s swooning
form, who, coming straight upstairs, with a polite inquiry touching Miss
Tox’s health (in exact pursuance of the Major’s malicious instructions),
had accidentally arrived in the very nick of time to catch the
delicate burden in his arms, and to receive the contents of the little
watering-pot in his shoe; both of which circumstances, coupled with his
consciousness of being closely watched by the wrathful Major, who had
threatened the usual penalty in regard of every bone in his skin in case
of any failure, combined to render him a moving spectacle of mental and
bodily distress.

For some moments, this afflicted foreigner remained clasping Miss Tox
to his heart, with an energy of action in remarkable opposition to his
disconcerted face, while that poor lady trickled slowly down upon him
the very last sprinklings of the little watering-pot, as if he were a
delicate exotic (which indeed he was), and might be almost expected to
blow while the gentle rain descended. Mrs Chick, at length recovering
sufficient presence of mind to interpose, commanded him to drop Miss Tox
upon the sofa and withdraw; and the exile promptly obeying, she applied
herself to promote Miss Tox’s recovery.

But none of that gentle concern which usually characterises the
daughters of Eve in their tending of each other; none of that
freemasonry in fainting, by which they are generally bound together in
a mysterious bond of sisterhood; was visible in Mrs Chick’s demeanour.
Rather like the executioner who restores the victim to sensation
previous to proceeding with the torture (or was wont to do so, in the
good old times for which all true men wear perpetual mourning), did Mrs
Chick administer the smelling-bottle, the slapping on the hands, the
dashing of cold water on the face, and the other proved remedies. And
when, at length, Miss Tox opened her eyes, and gradually became restored
to animation and consciousness, Mrs Chick drew off as from a criminal,
and reversing the precedent of the murdered king of Denmark, regarded
her more in anger than in sorrow.’

‘Lucretia!’ said Mrs Chick ‘I will not attempt to disguise what I feel.
My eyes are opened, all at once. I wouldn’t have believed this, if a
Saint had told it to me.’

‘I am foolish to give way to faintness,’ Miss Tox faltered. ‘I shall be
better presently.’

‘You will be better presently, Lucretia!’ repeated Mrs Chick, with
exceeding scorn. ‘Do you suppose I am blind? Do you imagine I am in my
second childhood? No, Lucretia! I am obliged to you!’

Miss Tox directed an imploring, helpless kind of look towards her
friend, and put her handkerchief before her face.

‘If anyone had told me this yesterday,’ said Mrs Chick, with majesty,
‘or even half-an-hour ago, I should have been tempted, I almost believe,
to strike them to the earth. Lucretia Tox, my eyes are opened to you all
at once. The scales:’ here Mrs Chick cast down an imaginary pair, such
as are commonly used in grocers’ shops: ‘have fallen from my sight. The
blindness of my confidence is past, Lucretia. It has been abused and
played, upon, and evasion is quite out of the question now, I assure

‘Oh! to what do you allude so cruelly, my love?’ asked Miss Tox, through
her tears.

‘Lucretia,’ said Mrs Chick, ‘ask your own heart. I must entreat you not
to address me by any such familiar term as you have just used, if you
please. I have some self-respect left, though you may think otherwise.’

‘Oh, Louisa!’ cried Miss Tox. ‘How can you speak to me like that?’

‘How can I speak to you like that?’ retorted Mrs Chick, who, in default
of having any particular argument to sustain herself upon, relied
principally on such repetitions for her most withering effects. ‘Like
that! You may well say like that, indeed!’

Miss Tox sobbed pitifully.

‘The idea!’ said Mrs Chick, ‘of your having basked at my brother’s
fireside, like a serpent, and wound yourself, through me, almost into
his confidence, Lucretia, that you might, in secret, entertain designs
upon him, and dare to aspire to contemplate the possibility of his
uniting himself to you! Why, it is an idea,’ said Mrs Chick, with
sarcastic dignity, ‘the absurdity of which almost relieves its

‘Pray, Louisa,’ urged Miss Tox, ‘do not say such dreadful things.’

‘Dreadful things!’ repeated Mrs Chick. ‘Dreadful things! Is it not
a fact, Lucretia, that you have just now been unable to command your
feelings even before me, whose eyes you had so completely closed?’

‘I have made no complaint,’ sobbed Miss Tox. ‘I have said nothing. If I
have been a little overpowered by your news, Louisa, and have ever
had any lingering thought that Mr Dombey was inclined to be particular
towards me, surely you will not condemn me.’

‘She is going to say,’ said Mrs Chick, addressing herself to the whole
of the furniture, in a comprehensive glance of resignation and appeal,
‘She is going to say--I know it--that I have encouraged her!’

‘I don’t wish to exchange reproaches, dear Louisa,’ sobbed Miss Tox. ‘Nor
do I wish to complain. But, in my own defence--’

‘Yes,’ cried Mrs Chick, looking round the room with a prophetic smile,
‘that’s what she’s going to say. I knew it. You had better say it.
Say it openly! Be open, Lucretia Tox,’ said Mrs Chick, with desperate
sternness, ‘whatever you are.’

‘In my own defence,’ faltered Miss Tox, ‘and only in my own defence
against your unkind words, my dear Louisa, I would merely ask you if you
haven’t often favoured such a fancy, and even said it might happen, for
anything we could tell?’

‘There is a point,’ said Mrs Chick, rising, not as if she were going to
stop at the floor, but as if she were about to soar up, high, into
her native skies, ‘beyond which endurance becomes ridiculous, if not
culpable. I can bear much; but not too much. What spell was on me when I
came into this house this day, I don’t know; but I had a presentiment--a
dark presentiment,’ said Mrs Chick, with a shiver, ‘that something was
going to happen. Well may I have had that foreboding, Lucretia, when my
confidence of many years is destroyed in an instant, when my eyes are
opened all at once, and when I find you revealed in your true colours.
Lucretia, I have been mistaken in you. It is better for us both that
this subject should end here. I wish you well, and I shall ever wish you
well. But, as an individual who desires to be true to herself in her own
poor position, whatever that position may be, or may not be--and as the
sister of my brother--and as the sister-in-law of my brother’s wife--and
as a connexion by marriage of my brother’s wife’s mother--may I be
permitted to add, as a Dombey?--I can wish you nothing else but good

These words, delivered with cutting suavity, tempered and chastened by a
lofty air of moral rectitude, carried the speaker to the door. There she
inclined her head in a ghostly and statue-like manner, and so withdrew
to her carriage, to seek comfort and consolation in the arms of Mr
Chick, her lord.

Figuratively speaking, that is to say; for the arms of Mr Chick were
full of his newspaper. Neither did that gentleman address his eyes
towards his wife otherwise than by stealth. Neither did he offer any
consolation whatever. In short, he sat reading, and humming fag ends
of tunes, and sometimes glancing furtively at her without delivering
himself of a word, good, bad, or indifferent.

In the meantime Mrs Chick sat swelling and bridling, and tossing her
head, as if she were still repeating that solemn formula of farewell
to Lucretia Tox. At length, she said aloud, ‘Oh the extent to which her
eyes had been opened that day!’

‘To which your eyes have been opened, my dear!’ repeated Mr Chick.

‘Oh, don’t talk to me!’ said Mrs Chic ‘if you can bear to see me in
this state, and not ask me what the matter is, you had better hold your
tongue for ever.’

‘What is the matter, my dear?’ asked Mr Chick

‘To think,’ said Mrs Chick, in a state of soliloquy, ‘that she should
ever have conceived the base idea of connecting herself with our family
by a marriage with Paul! To think that when she was playing at horses
with that dear child who is now in his grave--I never liked it at the
time--she should have been hiding such a double-faced design! I
wonder she was never afraid that something would happen to her. She is
fortunate if nothing does.’

‘I really thought, my dear,’ said Mr Chick slowly, after rubbing the
bridge of his nose for some time with his newspaper, ‘that you had
gone on the same tack yourself, all along, until this morning; and had
thought it would be a convenient thing enough, if it could have been
brought about.’

Mrs Chick instantly burst into tears, and told Mr Chick that if he
wished to trample upon her with his boots, he had better do It.

‘But with Lucretia Tox I have done,’ said Mrs Chick, after abandoning
herself to her feelings for some minutes, to Mr Chick’s great terror.
‘I can bear to resign Paul’s confidence in favour of one who, I hope and
trust, may be deserving of it, and with whom he has a perfect right to
replace poor Fanny if he chooses; I can bear to be informed, in Paul’s
cool manner, of such a change in his plans, and never to be consulted
until all is settled and determined; but deceit I can not bear, and
with Lucretia Tox I have done. It is better as it is,’ said Mrs Chick,
piously; ‘much better. It would have been a long time before I could
have accommodated myself comfortably with her, after this; and I really
don’t know, as Paul is going to be very grand, and these are people of
condition, that she would have been quite presentable, and might not
have compromised myself. There’s a providence in everything; everything
works for the best; I have been tried today but on the whole I do not
regret it.’

In which Christian spirit, Mrs Chick dried her eyes and smoothed her
lap, and sat as became a person calm under a great wrong. Mr Chick
feeling his unworthiness no doubt, took an early opportunity of being
set down at a street corner and walking away whistling, with his
shoulders very much raised, and his hands in his pockets.

While poor excommunicated Miss Tox, who, if she were a fawner and
toad-eater, was at least an honest and a constant one, and had ever
borne a faithful friendship towards her impeacher and had been truly
absorbed and swallowed up in devotion to the magnificence of Mr
Dombey--while poor excommunicated Miss Tox watered her plants with her
tears, and felt that it was winter in Princess’s Place.

CHAPTER 30. The interval before the Marriage

Although the enchanted house was no more, and the working world had
broken into it, and was hammering and crashing and tramping up and
down stairs all day long keeping Diogenes in an incessant paroxysm of
barking, from sunrise to sunset--evidently convinced that his enemy
had got the better of him at last, and was then sacking the premises in
triumphant defiance--there was, at first, no other great change in the
method of Florence’s life. At night, when the workpeople went away, the
house was dreary and deserted again; and Florence, listening to their
voices echoing through the hall and staircase as they departed, pictured
to herself the cheerful homes to which the were returning, and the
children who were waiting for them, and was glad to think that they were
merry and well pleased to go.

She welcomed back the evening silence as an old friend, but it came now
with an altered face, and looked more kindly on her. Fresh hope was in
it. The beautiful lady who had soothed and carressed her, in the very
room in which her heart had been so wrung, was a spirit of promise
to her. Soft shadows of the bright life dawning, when her father’s
affection should be gradually won, and all, or much should be restored,
of what she had lost on the dark day when a mother’s love had faded with
a mother’s last breath on her cheek, moved about her in the twilight and
were welcome company. Peeping at the rosy children her neighbours, it
was a new and precious sensation to think that they might soon speak
together and know each other; when she would not fear, as of old, to
show herself before them, lest they should be grieved to see her in her
black dress sitting there alone!

In her thoughts of her new mother, and in the love and trust overflowing
her pure heart towards her, Florence loved her own dead mother more
and more. She had no fear of setting up a rival in her breast. The new
flower sprang from the deep-planted and long-cherished root, she knew.
Every gentle word that had fallen from the lips of the beautiful lady,
sounded to Florence like an echo of the voice long hushed and silent.
How could she love that memory less for living tenderness, when it was
her memory of all parental tenderness and love!

Florence was, one day, sitting reading in her room, and thinking of
the lady and her promised visit soon--for her book turned on a kindred
subject--when, raising her eyes, she saw her standing in the doorway.

‘Mama!’ cried Florence, joyfully meeting her. ‘Come again!’

‘Not Mama yet,’ returned the lady, with a serious smile, as she
encircled Florence’s neck with her arm.

‘But very soon to be,’ cried Florence.

‘Very soon now, Florence: very soon.’

Edith bent her head a little, so as to press the blooming cheek of
Florence against her own, and for some few moments remained thus silent.
There was something so very tender in her manner, that Florence was even
more sensible of it than on the first occasion of their meeting.

She led Florence to a chair beside her, and sat down: Florence looking
in her face, quite wondering at its beauty, and willingly leaving her
hand in hers.

‘Have you been alone, Florence, since I was here last?’

‘Oh yes!’ smiled Florence, hastily.

She hesitated and cast down her eyes; for her new Mama was very earnest
in her look, and the look was intently and thoughtfully fixed upon her

‘I--I--am used to be alone,’ said Florence. ‘I don’t mind it at all. Di
and I pass whole days together, sometimes.’ Florence might have said,
whole weeks and months.

‘Is Di your maid, love?’

‘My dog, Mama,’ said Florence, laughing. ‘Susan is my maid.’

‘And these are your rooms,’ said Edith, looking round. ‘I was not shown
these rooms the other day. We must have them improved, Florence. They
shall be made the prettiest in the house.’

‘If I might change them, Mama,’ returned Florence; ‘there is one
upstairs I should like much better.’

‘Is this not high enough, dear girl?’ asked Edith, smiling.

‘The other was my brother’s room,’ said Florence, ‘and I am very fond of
it. I would have spoken to Papa about it when I came home, and found the
workmen here, and everything changing; but--’

Florence dropped her eyes, lest the same look should make her falter

‘but I was afraid it might distress him; and as you said you would be
here again soon, Mama, and are the mistress of everything, I determined
to take courage and ask you.’

Edith sat looking at her, with her brilliant eyes intent upon her face,
until Florence raising her own, she, in her turn, withdrew her gaze, and
turned it on the ground. It was then that Florence thought how different
this lady’s beauty was, from what she had supposed. She had thought it
of a proud and lofty kind; yet her manner was so subdued and gentle,
that if she had been of Florence’s own age and character, it scarcely
could have invited confidence more.

Except when a constrained and singular reserve crept over her; and then
she seemed (but Florence hardly understood this, though she could not
choose but notice it, and think about it) as if she were humbled before
Florence, and ill at ease. When she had said that she was not her Mama
yet, and when Florence had called her the mistress of everything there,
this change in her was quick and startling; and now, while the eyes of
Florence rested on her face, she sat as though she would have shrunk and
hidden from her, rather than as one about to love and cherish her, in
right of such a near connexion.

She gave Florence her ready promise, about her new room, and said she
would give directions about it herself. She then asked some questions
concerning poor Paul; and when they had sat in conversation for some
time, told Florence she had come to take her to her own home.

‘We have come to London now, my mother and I,’ said Edith, ‘and you
shall stay with us until I am married. I wish that we should know and
trust each other, Florence.’

‘You are very kind to me,’ said Florence, ‘dear Mama. How much I thank

‘Let me say now, for it may be the best opportunity,’ continued Edith,
looking round to see that they were quite alone, and speaking in a lower
voice, ‘that when I am married, and have gone away for some weeks,
I shall be easier at heart if you will come home here. No matter who
invites you to stay elsewhere. Come home here. It is better to be alone
than--what I would say is,’ she added, checking herself, ‘that I know
well you are best at home, dear Florence.’

‘I will come home on the very day, Mama’

‘Do so. I rely on that promise. Now, prepare to come with me, dear girl.
You will find me downstairs when you are ready.’

Slowly and thoughtfully did Edith wander alone through the mansion of
which she was so soon to be the lady: and little heed took she of all
the elegance and splendour it began to display. The same indomitable
haughtiness of soul, the same proud scorn expressed in eye and lip, the
same fierce beauty, only tamed by a sense of its own little worth, and
of the little worth of everything around it, went through the grand
saloons and halls, that had got loose among the shady trees, and raged
and rent themselves. The mimic roses on the walls and floors were set
round with sharp thorns, that tore her breast; in every scrap of gold
so dazzling to the eye, she saw some hateful atom of her purchase-money;
the broad high mirrors showed her, at full length, a woman with a noble
quality yet dwelling in her nature, who was too false to her better
self, and too debased and lost, to save herself. She believed that all
this was so plain, more or less, to all eyes, that she had no resource
or power of self-assertion but in pride: and with this pride, which
tortured her own heart night and day, she fought her fate out, braved
it, and defied it.

Was this the woman whom Florence--an innocent girl, strong only in her
earnestness and simple truth--could so impress and quell, that by her
side she was another creature, with her tempest of passion hushed, and
her very pride itself subdued? Was this the woman who now sat beside her
in a carriage, with her arms entwined, and who, while she courted and
entreated her to love and trust her, drew her fair head to nestle on her
breast, and would have laid down life to shield it from wrong or harm?

Oh, Edith! it were well to die, indeed, at such a time! Better and
happier far, perhaps, to die so, Edith, than to live on to the end!

The Honourable Mrs Skewton, who was thinking of anything rather than
of such sentiments--for, like many genteel persons who have existed at
various times, she set her face against death altogether, and objected
to the mention of any such low and levelling upstart--had borrowed a
house in Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, from a stately relative (one
of the Feenix brood), who was out of town, and who did not object to
lending it, in the handsomest manner, for nuptial purposes, as the loan
implied his final release and acquittance from all further loans and
gifts to Mrs Skewton and her daughter. It being necessary for the credit
of the family to make a handsome appearance at such a time, Mrs Skewton,
with the assistance of an accommodating tradesman resident in the parish
of Mary-le-bone, who lent out all sorts of articles to the nobility and
gentry, from a service of plate to an army of footmen, clapped into this
house a silver-headed butler (who was charged extra on that account, as
having the appearance of an ancient family retainer), two very tall young
men in livery, and a select staff of kitchen-servants; so that a legend
arose, downstairs, that Withers the page, released at once from his
numerous household duties, and from the propulsion of the wheeled-chair
(inconsistent with the metropolis), had been several times observed
to rub his eyes and pinch his limbs, as if he misdoubted his having
overslept himself at the Leamington milkman’s, and being still in a
celestial dream. A variety of requisites in plate and china being also
conveyed to the same establishment from the same convenient source, with
several miscellaneous articles, including a neat chariot and a pair
of bays, Mrs Skewton cushioned herself on the principal sofa, in the
Cleopatra attitude, and held her court in fair state.

‘And how,’ said Mrs Skewton, on the entrance of her daughter and her
charge, ‘is my charming Florence? You must come and kiss me, Florence,
if you please, my love.’

Florence was timidly stooping to pick out a place in the white part of
Mrs Skewton’s face, when that lady presented her ear, and relieved her
of her difficulty.

‘Edith, my dear,’ said Mrs Skewton, ‘positively, I--stand a little more
in the light, my sweetest Florence, for a moment.’

Florence blushingly complied.

‘You don’t remember, dearest Edith,’ said her mother, ‘what you were
when you were about the same age as our exceedingly precious Florence,
or a few years younger?’

‘I have long forgotten, mother.’

‘For positively, my dear,’ said Mrs Skewton, ‘I do think that I see a
decided resemblance to what you were then, in our extremely fascinating
young friend. And it shows,’ said Mrs Skewton, in a lower voice, which
conveyed her opinion that Florence was in a very unfinished state, ‘what
cultivation will do.’

‘It does, indeed,’ was Edith’s stern reply.

Her mother eyed her sharply for a moment, and feeling herself on unsafe
ground, said, as a diversion:

‘My charming Florence, you must come and kiss me once more, if you
please, my love.’

Florence complied, of course, and again imprinted her lips on Mrs
Skewton’s ear.

‘And you have heard, no doubt, my darling pet,’ said Mrs Skewton,
detaining her hand, ‘that your Papa, whom we all perfectly adore and
dote upon, is to be married to my dearest Edith this day week.’

‘I knew it would be very soon,’ returned Florence, ‘but not exactly

‘My darling Edith,’ urged her mother, gaily, ‘is it possible you have
not told Florence?’

‘Why should I tell Florence?’ she returned, so suddenly and harshly,
that Florence could scarcely believe it was the same voice.

Mrs Skewton then told Florence, as another and safer diversion, that her
father was coming to dinner, and that he would no doubt be charmingly
surprised to see her; as he had spoken last night of dressing in the
City, and had known nothing of Edith’s design, the execution of which,
according to Mrs Skewton’s expectation, would throw him into a perfect
ecstasy. Florence was troubled to hear this; and her distress became so
keen, as the dinner-hour approached, that if she had known how to frame
an entreaty to be suffered to return home, without involving her father
in her explanation, she would have hurried back on foot, bareheaded,
breathless, and alone, rather than incur the risk of meeting his

As the time drew nearer, she could hardly breathe. She dared not
approach a window, lest he should see her from the street. She dared not
go upstairs to hide her emotion, lest, in passing out at the door, she
should meet him unexpectedly; besides which dread, she felt as though
she never could come back again if she were summoned to his presence.
In this conflict of fears; she was sitting by Cleopatra’s couch,
endeavouring to understand and to reply to the bald discourse of that
lady, when she heard his foot upon the stair.

‘I hear him now!’ cried Florence, starting. ‘He is coming!’

Cleopatra, who in her juvenility was always playfully disposed, and who
in her self-engrossment did not trouble herself about the nature of this
agitation, pushed Florence behind her couch, and dropped a shawl over
her, preparatory to giving Mr Dombey a rapture of surprise. It was so
quickly done, that in a moment Florence heard his awful step in the

He saluted his intended mother-in-law, and his intended bride. The
strange sound of his voice thrilled through the whole frame of his

‘My dear Dombey,’ said Cleopatra, ‘come here and tell me how your pretty
Florence is.’

‘Florence is very well,’ said Mr Dombey, advancing towards the couch.

‘At home?’

‘At home,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘My dear Dombey,’ returned Cleopatra, with bewitching vivacity; ‘now are
you sure you are not deceiving me? I don’t know what my dearest Edith
will say to me when I make such a declaration, but upon my honour I am
afraid you are the falsest of men, my dear Dombey.’

Though he had been; and had been detected on the spot, in the most
enormous falsehood that was ever said or done; he could hardly have been
more disconcerted than he was, when Mrs Skewton plucked the shawl away,
and Florence, pale and trembling, rose before him like a ghost. He had
not yet recovered his presence of mind, when Florence had run up to him,
clasped her hands round his neck, kissed his face, and hurried out of
the room. He looked round as if to refer the matter to somebody else,
but Edith had gone after Florence, instantly.

‘Now, confess, my dear Dombey,’ said Mrs Skewton, giving him her hand,
‘that you never were more surprised and pleased in your life.’

‘I never was more surprised,’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Nor pleased, my dearest Dombey?’ returned Mrs Skewton, holding up her

‘I--yes, I am exceedingly glad to meet Florence here,’ said Mr Dombey.
He appeared to consider gravely about it for a moment, and then said,
more decidedly, ‘Yes, I really am very glad indeed to meet Florence

‘You wonder how she comes here?’ said Mrs Skewton, ‘don’t you?’

‘Edith, perhaps--’ suggested Mr Dombey.

‘Ah! wicked guesser!’ replied Cleopatra, shaking her head. ‘Ah! cunning,
cunning man! One shouldn’t tell these things; your sex, my dear Dombey,
are so vain, and so apt to abuse our weakness; but you know my open
soul--very well; immediately.’

This was addressed to one of the very tall young men who announced

‘But Edith, my dear Dombey,’ she continued in a whisper, ‘when she
cannot have you near her--and as I tell her, she cannot expect that
always--will at least have near her something or somebody belonging to
you. Well, how extremely natural that is! And in this spirit, nothing
would keep her from riding off to-day to fetch our darling Florence.
Well, how excessively charming that is!’

As she waited for an answer, Mr Dombey answered, ‘Eminently so.’

‘Bless you, my dear Dombey, for that proof of heart!’ cried Cleopatra,
squeezing his hand. ‘But I am growing too serious! Take me downstairs,
like an angel, and let us see what these people intend to give us for
dinner. Bless you, dear Dombey!’

Cleopatra skipping off her couch with tolerable briskness, after
the last benediction, Mr Dombey took her arm in his and led her
ceremoniously downstairs; one of the very tall young men on hire, whose
organ of veneration was imperfectly developed, thrusting his tongue into
his cheek, for the entertainment of the other very tall young man on
hire, as the couple turned into the dining-room.

Florence and Edith were already there, and sitting side by side.
Florence would have risen when her father entered, to resign her chair
to him; but Edith openly put her hand upon her arm, and Mr Dombey took
an opposite place at the round table.

The conversation was almost entirely sustained by Mrs Skewton. Florence
hardly dared to raise her eyes, lest they should reveal the traces of
tears; far less dared to speak; and Edith never uttered one word,
unless in answer to a question. Verily, Cleopatra worked hard, for the
establishment that was so nearly clutched; and verily it should have
been a rich one to reward her!

‘And so your preparations are nearly finished at last, my dear Dombey?’
said Cleopatra, when the dessert was put upon the table, and the
silver-headed butler had withdrawn. ‘Even the lawyers’ preparations!’

‘Yes, madam,’ replied Mr Dombey; ‘the deed of settlement, the
professional gentlemen inform me, is now ready, and as I was mentioning
to you, Edith has only to do us the favour to suggest her own time for
its execution.’

Edith sat like a handsome statue; as cold, as silent, and as still.

‘My dearest love,’ said Cleopatra, ‘do you hear what Mr Dombey says? Ah,
my dear Dombey!’ aside to that gentleman, ‘how her absence, as the
time approaches, reminds me of the days, when that most agreeable of
creatures, her Papa, was in your situation!’

‘I have nothing to suggest. It shall be when you please,’ said Edith,
scarcely looking over the table at Mr Dombey.

‘To-morrow?’ suggested Mr Dombey.

‘If you please.’

‘Or would next day,’ said Mr Dombey, ‘suit your engagements better?’

‘I have no engagements. I am always at your disposal. Let it be when you

‘No engagements, my dear Edith!’ remonstrated her mother, ‘when you are
in a most terrible state of flurry all day long, and have a thousand and
one appointments with all sorts of trades-people!’

‘They are of your making,’ returned Edith, turning on her with a slight
contraction of her brow. ‘You and Mr Dombey can arrange between you.’

‘Very true indeed, my love, and most considerate of you!’ said
Cleopatra. ‘My darling Florence, you must really come and kiss me once
more, if you please, my dear!’

Singular coincidence, that these gushes of interest in Florence hurried
Cleopatra away from almost every dialogue in which Edith had a share,
however trifling! Florence had certainly never undergone so much
embracing, and perhaps had never been, unconsciously, so useful in her

Mr Dombey was far from quarrelling, in his own breast, with the manner
of his beautiful betrothed. He had that good reason for sympathy
with haughtiness and coldness, which is found in a fellow-feeling. It
flattered him to think how these deferred to him, in Edith’s case, and
seemed to have no will apart from his. It flattered him to picture to
himself, this proud and stately woman doing the honours of his house,
and chilling his guests after his own manner. The dignity of Dombey and
Son would be heightened and maintained, indeed, in such hands.

So thought Mr Dombey, when he was left alone at the dining-table, and
mused upon his past and future fortunes: finding no uncongeniality in an
air of scant and gloomy state that pervaded the room, in colour a
dark brown, with black hatchments of pictures blotching the walls, and
twenty-four black chairs, with almost as many nails in them as so many
coffins, waiting like mutes, upon the threshold of the Turkey carpet;
and two exhausted negroes holding up two withered branches of candelabra
on the sideboard, and a musty smell prevailing as if the ashes of ten
thousand dinners were entombed in the sarcophagus below it. The owner of
the house lived much abroad; the air of England seldom agreed long with
a member of the Feenix family; and the room had gradually put itself
into deeper and still deeper mourning for him, until it was become so
funereal as to want nothing but a body in it to be quite complete.

No bad representation of the body, for the nonce, in his unbending form,
if not in his attitude, Mr Dombey looked down into the cold depths of
the dead sea of mahogany on which the fruit dishes and decanters lay
at anchor: as if the subjects of his thoughts were rising towards the
surface one by one, and plunging down again. Edith was there in all her
majesty of brow and figure; and close to her came Florence, with her
timid head turned to him, as it had been, for an instant, when she
left the room; and Edith’s eyes upon her, and Edith’s hand put out
protectingly. A little figure in a low arm-chair came springing next
into the light, and looked upon him wonderingly, with its bright eyes
and its old-young face, gleaming as in the flickering of an evening
fire. Again came Florence close upon it, and absorbed his whole
attention. Whether as a fore-doomed difficulty and disappointment to
him; whether as a rival who had crossed him in his way, and might again;
whether as his child, of whom, in his successful wooing, he could
stoop to think as claiming, at such a time, to be no more estranged; or
whether as a hint to him that the mere appearance of caring for his
own blood should be maintained in his new relations; he best knew.
Indifferently well, perhaps, at best; for marriage company and marriage
altars, and ambitious scenes--still blotted here and there with
Florence--always Florence--turned up so fast, and so confusedly, that he
rose, and went upstairs to escape them.

It was quite late at night before candles were brought; for at present
they made Mrs Skewton’s head ache, she complained; and in the meantime
Florence and Mrs Skewton talked together (Cleopatra being very anxious
to keep her close to herself), or Florence touched the piano softly
for Mrs Skewton’s delight; to make no mention of a few occasions in
the course of the evening, when that affectionate lady was impelled to
solicit another kiss, and which always happened after Edith had said
anything. They were not many, however, for Edith sat apart by an open
window during the whole time (in spite of her mother’s fears that she
would take cold), and remained there until Mr Dombey took leave. He was
serenely gracious to Florence when he did so; and Florence went to bed
in a room within Edith’s, so happy and hopeful, that she thought of
her late self as if it were some other poor deserted girl who was to be
pitied for her sorrow; and in her pity, sobbed herself to sleep.

The week fled fast. There were drives to milliners, dressmakers,
jewellers, lawyers, florists, pastry-cooks; and Florence was always of
the party. Florence was to go to the wedding. Florence was to cast
off her mourning, and to wear a brilliant dress on the occasion. The
milliner’s intentions on the subject of this dress--the milliner was
a Frenchwoman, and greatly resembled Mrs Skewton--were so chaste and
elegant, that Mrs Skewton bespoke one like it for herself. The milliner
said it would become her to admiration, and that all the world would
take her for the young lady’s sister.

The week fled faster. Edith looked at nothing and cared for nothing. Her
rich dresses came home, and were tried on, and were loudly commended
by Mrs Skewton and the milliners, and were put away without a word from
her. Mrs Skewton made their plans for every day, and executed them.
Sometimes Edith sat in the carriage when they went to make purchases;
sometimes, when it was absolutely necessary, she went into the shops.
But Mrs Skewton conducted the whole business, whatever it happened
to be; and Edith looked on as uninterested and with as much apparent
indifference as if she had no concern in it. Florence might perhaps have
thought she was haughty and listless, but that she was never so to her.
So Florence quenched her wonder in her gratitude whenever it broke out,
and soon subdued it.

The week fled faster. It had nearly winged its flight away. The last
night of the week, the night before the marriage, was come. In the dark
room--for Mrs Skewton’s head was no better yet, though she expected to
recover permanently to-morrow--were that lady, Edith, and Mr Dombey.
Edith was at her open window looking out into the street; Mr Dombey
and Cleopatra were talking softly on the sofa. It was growing late; and
Florence, being fatigued, had gone to bed.

‘My dear Dombey,’ said Cleopatra, ‘you will leave me Florence to-morrow,
when you deprive me of my sweetest Edith.’

Mr Dombey said he would, with pleasure.

‘To have her about me, here, while you are both at Paris, and to
think at her age, I am assisting in the formation of her mind, my dear
Dombey,’ said Cleopatra, ‘will be a perfect balm to me in the extremely
shattered state to which I shall be reduced.’

Edith turned her head suddenly. Her listless manner was exchanged, in
a moment, to one of burning interest, and, unseen in the darkness, she
attended closely to their conversation.

Mr Dombey would be delighted to leave Florence in such admirable

‘My dear Dombey,’ returned Cleopatra, ‘a thousand thanks for your good
opinion. I feared you were going, with malice aforethought, as the
dreadful lawyers say--those horrid prosers!--to condemn me to utter

‘Why do me so great an injustice, my dear madam?’ said Mr Dombey.

‘Because my charming Florence tells me so positively she must go home
tomorrow, returned Cleopatra, that I began to be afraid, my dearest
Dombey, you were quite a Bashaw.’

‘I assure you, madam!’ said Mr Dombey, ‘I have laid no commands on
Florence; and if I had, there are no commands like your wish.’

‘My dear Dombey,’ replied Cleopatra, what a courtier you are! Though
I’ll not say so, either; for courtiers have no heart, and yours pervades
your farming life and character. And are you really going so early, my
dear Dombey!’

Oh, indeed! it was late, and Mr Dombey feared he must.

‘Is this a fact, or is it all a dream!’ lisped Cleopatra. ‘Can I
believe, my dearest Dombey, that you are coming back tomorrow morning to
deprive me of my sweet companion; my own Edith!’

Mr Dombey, who was accustomed to take things literally, reminded Mrs
Skewton that they were to meet first at the church.

‘The pang,’ said Mrs Skewton, ‘of consigning a child, even to you, my
dear Dombey, is one of the most excruciating imaginable, and combined
with a naturally delicate constitution, and the extreme stupidity of the
pastry-cook who has undertaken the breakfast, is almost too much for my
poor strength. But I shall rally, my dear Dombey, in the morning; do not
fear for me, or be uneasy on my account. Heaven bless you! My dearest
Edith!’ she cried archly. ‘Somebody is going, pet.’

Edith, who had turned her head again towards the window, and whose
interest in their conversation had ceased, rose up in her place, but
made no advance towards him, and said nothing. Mr Dombey, with a lofty
gallantry adapted to his dignity and the occasion, betook his creaking
boots towards her, put her hand to his lips, said, ‘Tomorrow morning
I shall have the happiness of claiming this hand as Mrs Dombey’s,’ and
bowed himself solemnly out.

Mrs Skewton rang for candles as soon as the house-door had closed upon
him. With the candles appeared her maid, with the juvenile dress that
was to delude the world to-morrow. The dress had savage retribution in
it, as such dresses ever have, and made her infinitely older and more
hideous than her greasy flannel gown. But Mrs Skewton tried it on with
mincing satisfaction; smirked at her cadaverous self in the glass, as
she thought of its killing effect upon the Major; and suffering her maid
to take it off again, and to prepare her for repose, tumbled into ruins
like a house of painted cards.

All this time, Edith remained at the dark window looking out into the
street. When she and her mother were at last left alone, she moved
from it for the first time that evening, and came opposite to her. The
yawning, shaking, peevish figure of the mother, with her eyes raised to
confront the proud erect form of the daughter, whose glance of fire was
bent downward upon her, had a conscious air upon it, that no levity or
temper could conceal.

‘I am tired to death,’ said she. ‘You can’t be trusted for a moment. You
are worse than a child. Child! No child would be half so obstinate and

‘Listen to me, mother,’ returned Edith, passing these words by with a
scorn that would not descend to trifle with them. ‘You must remain alone
here until I return.’

‘Must remain alone here, Edith, until you return!’ repeated her mother.

‘Or in that name upon which I shall call to-morrow to witness what I do,
so falsely: and so shamefully, I swear I will refuse the hand of this
man in the church. If I do not, may I fall dead upon the pavement!’

The mother answered with a look of quick alarm, in no degree diminished
by the look she met.

‘It is enough,’ said Edith, steadily, ‘that we are what we are. I
will have no youth and truth dragged down to my level. I will have no
guileless nature undermined, corrupted, and perverted, to amuse the
leisure of a world of mothers. You know my meaning. Florence must go

‘You are an idiot, Edith,’ cried her angry mother. ‘Do you expect there
can ever be peace for you in that house, till she is married, and away?’

‘Ask me, or ask yourself, if I ever expect peace in that house,’ said
her daughter, ‘and you know the answer.’

‘And am I to be told to-night, afte