Dombey and Son
Part 11 out of 21
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 displeasure.
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 room.
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
'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
'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
'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'
'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
'I have no engagements. I am always at your disposal. Let it be
when you like.'
'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
'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 life.
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 proses! - to condemn me to
'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 undutiful.'
'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
'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
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,
'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, after all my pains and labour, and
when you are going, through me, to be rendered independent,' her
mother almost shrieked in her passion, while her palsied head shook
like a leaf, 'that there is corruption and contagion in me, and that I
am not fit company for a girl! What are you, pray? What are you?'
'I have put the question to myself,' said Edith, ashy pale, and
pointing to the window, 'more than once when I have been sitting
there, and something in the faded likeness of my sex has wandered past
outside; and God knows I have met with my reply. Oh mother, mother, if
you had but left me to my natural heart when I too was a girl - a
younger girl than Florence - how different I might have been!'
Sensible that any show of anger was useless here, her mother
restrained herself, and fell a whimpering, and bewailed that she had
lived too long, and that her only child had cast her off, and that
duty towards parents was forgotten in these evil days, and that she
had heard unnatural taunts, and cared for life no longer.
'If one is to go on living through continual scenes like this,' she
whined,'I am sure it would be much better for me to think of some
means of putting an end to my existence. Oh! The idea of your being my
daughter, Edith, and addressing me in such a strain!'
'Between us, mother,' returned Edith, mournfully, 'the time for
mutual reproaches is past.
'Then why do you revive it?' whimpered her mother. 'You know that
you are lacerating me in the cruellest manner. You know how sensitive
I am to unkindness. At such a moment, too, when I have so much to
think of, and am naturally anxious to appear to the best advantage! I
wonder at you, Edith. To make your mother a fright upon your
Edith bent the same fixed look upon her, as she sobbed and rubbed
her eyes; and said in the same low steady voice, which had neither
risen nor fallen since she first addressed her, 'I have said that
Florence must go home.'
'Let her go!' cried the afflicted and affrighted parent, hastily.
'I am sure I am willing she should go. What is the girl to me?'
'She is so much to me, that rather than communicate, or suffer to
be communicated to her, one grain of the evil that is in my breast,
mother, I would renounce you, as I would (if you gave me cause)
renounce him in the church to-morrow,' replied Edith. 'Leave her
alone. She shall not, while I can interpose, be tampered with and
tainted by the lessons I have learned. This is no hard condition on
this bitter night.'
'If you had proposed it in a filial manner, Edith,' whined her
mother, 'perhaps not; very likely not. But such extremely cutting
words - '
'They are past and at an end between us now,' said Edith. 'Take
your own way, mother; share as you please in what you have gained;
spend, enjoy, make much of it; and be as happy as you will. The object
of our lives is won. Henceforth let us wear it silently. My lips are
closed upon the past from this hour. I forgive you your part in
to-morrow's wickedness. May God forgive my own!'
Without a tremor in her voice, or frame, and passing onward with a
foot that set itself upon the neck of every soft emotion, she bade her
mother good-night, and repaired to her own room.
But not to rest; for there was no rest in the tumult of her
agitation when alone to and fro, and to and fro, and to and fro again,
five hundred times, among the splendid preparations for her adornment
on the morrow; with her dark hair shaken down, her dark eyes flashing
with a raging light, her broad white bosom red with the cruel grasp of
the relentless hand with which she spurned it from her, pacing up and
down with an averted head, as if she would avoid the sight of her own
fair person, and divorce herself from its companionship. Thus, In the
dead time of the night before her bridal, Edith Granger wrestled with
her unquiet spirit, tearless, friendless, silent, proud, and
At length it happened that she touched the open door which led into
the room where Florence lay.
She started, stopped, and looked in.
A light was burning there, and showed her Florence in her bloom of
innocence and beauty, fast asleep. Edith held her breath, and felt
herself drawn on towards her.
Drawn nearer, nearer, nearer yet; at last, drawn so near, that
stooping down, she pressed her lips to the gentle hand that lay
outside the bed, and put it softly to her neck. Its touch was like the
prophet's rod of old upon the rock. Her tears sprung forth beneath it,
as she sunk upon her knees, and laid her aching head and streaming
hair upon the pillow by its side.
Thus Edith Granger passed the night before her bridal. Thus the sun
found her on her bridal morning.
Dawn with its passionless blank face, steals shivering to the
church beneath which lies the dust of little Paul and his mother, and
looks in at the windows. It is cold and dark. Night crouches yet, upon
the pavement, and broods, sombre and heavy, in nooks and corners of
the building. The steeple-clock, perched up above the houses, emerging
from beneath another of the countless ripples in the tide of time that
regularly roll and break on the eternal shore, is greyly visible, like
a stone beacon, recording how the sea flows on; but within doors,
dawn, at first, can only peep at night, and see that it is there.
Hovering feebly round the church, and looking in, dawn moans and
weeps for its short reign, and its tears trickle on the window-glass,
and the trees against the church-wall bow their heads, and wring their
many hands in sympathy. Night, growing pale before it, gradually fades
out of the church, but lingers in the vaults below, and sits upon the
coffins. And now comes bright day, burnishing the steeple-clock, and
reddening the spire, and drying up the tears of dawn, and stifling its
complaining; and the dawn, following the night, and chasing it from
its last refuge, shrinks into the vaults itself and hides, with a
frightened face, among the dead, until night returns, refreshed, to
drive it out.
And now, the mice, who have been busier with the prayer-books than
their proper owners, and with the hassocks, more worn by their little
teeth than by human knees, hide their bright eyes in their holes, and
gather close together in affright at the resounding clashing of the
church-door. For the beadle, that man of power, comes early this
morning with the sexton; and Mrs Miff, the wheezy little pew-opener -
a mighty dry old lady, sparely dressed, with not an inch of fulness
anywhere about her - is also here, and has been waiting at the
church-gate half-an-hour, as her place is, for the beadle.
A vinegary face has Mrs Miff, and a mortified bonnet, and eke a
thirsty soul for sixpences and shillings. Beckoning to stray people to
come into pews, has given Mrs Miff an air of mystery; and there is
reservation in the eye of Mrs Miff, as always knowing of a softer
seat, but having her suspicions of the fee. There is no such fact as
Mr Miff, nor has there been, these twenty years, and Mrs Miff would
rather not allude to him. He held some bad opinions, it would seem,
about free seats; and though Mrs Miff hopes he may be gone upwards,
she couldn't positively undertake to say so.
Busy is Mrs Miff this morning at the church-door, beating and
dusting the altar-cloth, the carpet, and the cushions; and much has
Mrs Miff to say, about the wedding they are going to have. Mrs Miff is
told, that the new furniture and alterations in the house cost full
five thousand pound if they cost a penny; and Mrs Miff has heard, upon
the best authority, that the lady hasn't got a sixpence wherewithal to
bless herself. Mrs Miff remembers, like wise, as if it had happened
yesterday, the first wife's funeral, and then the christening, and
then the other funeral; and Mrs Miff says, by-the-bye she'll
soap-and-water that 'ere tablet presently, against the company arrive.
Mr Sownds the Beadle, who is sitting in the sun upon the church steps
all this time (and seldom does anything else, except, in cold weather,
sitting by the fire), approves of Mrs Miff's discourse, and asks if
Mrs Miff has heard it said, that the lady is uncommon handsome? The
information Mrs Miff has received, being of this nature, Mr Sownds the
Beadle, who, though orthodox and corpulent, is still an admirer of
female beauty, observes, with unction, yes, he hears she is a spanker
- an expression that seems somewhat forcible to Mrs Miff, or would,
from any lips but those of Mr Sownds the Beadle.
In Mr Dombey's house, at this same time, there is great stir and
bustle, more especially among the women: not one of whom has had a
wink of sleep since four o'clock, and all of whom were fully dressed
before six. Mr Towlinson is an object of greater consideration than
usual to the housemaid, and the cook says at breakfast time that one
wedding makes many, which the housemaid can't believe, and don't think
true at all. Mr Towlinson reserves his sentiments on this question;
being rendered something gloomy by the engagement of a foreigner with
whiskers (Mr Towlinson is whiskerless himself), who has been hired to
accompany the happy pair to Paris, and who is busy packing the new
chariot. In respect of this personage, Mr Towlinson admits, presently,
that he never knew of any good that ever come of foreigners; and being
charged by the ladies with prejudice, says, look at Bonaparte who was
at the head of 'em, and see what he was always up to! Which the
housemaid says is very true.
The pastry-cook is hard at work in the funereal room in Brook
Street, and the very tall young men are busy looking on. One of the
very tall young men already smells of sherry, and his eyes have a
tendency to become fixed in his head, and to stare at objects without
seeing them. The very tall young man is conscious of this failing in
himself; and informs his comrade that it's his 'exciseman.' The very
tall young man would say excitement, but his speech is hazy.
The men who play the bells have got scent of the marriage; and the
marrow-bones and cleavers too; and a brass band too. The first, are
practising in a back settlement near Battlebridge; the second, put
themselves in communication, through their chief, with Mr Towlinson,
to whom they offer terms to be bought off; and the third, in the
person of an artful trombone, lurks and dodges round the corner,
waiting for some traitor tradesman to reveal the place and hour of
breakfast, for a bribe. Expectation and excitement extend further yet,
and take a wider range. From Balls Pond, Mr Perch brings Mrs Perch to
spend the day with Mr Dombey's servants, and accompany them,
surreptitiously, to see the wedding. In Mr Toots's lodgings, Mr Toots
attires himself as if he were at least the Bridegroom; determined to
behold the spectacle in splendour from a secret corner of the gallery,
and thither to convey the Chicken: for it is Mr Toots's desperate
intent to point out Florence to the Chicken, then and there, and
openly to say, 'Now, Chicken, I will not deceive you any longer; the
friend I have sometimes mentioned to you is myself; Miss Dombey is the
object of my passion; what are your opinions, Chicken, in this state
of things, and what, on the spot, do you advise? The
so-much-to-be-astonished Chicken, in the meanwhile, dips his beak into
a tankard of strong beer, in Mr Toots's kitchen, and pecks up two
pounds of beefsteaks. In Princess's Place, Miss Tox is up and doing;
for she too, though in sore distress, is resolved to put a shilling in
the hands of Mrs Miff, and see the ceremony which has a cruel
fascination for her, from some lonely corner. The quarters of the
wooden Midshipman are all alive; for Captain Cuttle, in his
ankle-jacks and with a huge shirt-collar, is seated at his breakfast,
listening to Rob the Grinder as he reads the marriage service to him
beforehand, under orders, to the end that the Captain may perfectly
understand the solemnity he is about to witness: for which purpose,
the Captain gravely lays injunctions on his chaplain, from time to
time, to 'put about,' or to 'overhaul that 'ere article again,' or to
stick to his own duty, and leave the Amens to him, the Captain; one of
which he repeats, whenever a pause is made by Rob the Grinder, with
Besides all this, and much more, twenty nursery-maids in Mr
Dombey's street alone, have promised twenty families of little women,
whose instinctive interest in nuptials dates from their cradles, that
they shall go and see the marriage. Truly, Mr Sownds the Beadle has
good reason to feel himself in office, as he suns his portly figure on
the church steps, waiting for the marriage hour. Truly, Mrs Miff has
cause to pounce on an unlucky dwarf child, with a giant baby, who
peeps in at the porch, and drive her forth with indignation!
Cousin Feenix has come over from abroad, expressly to attend the
marriage. Cousin Feenix was a man about town, forty years ago; but he
is still so juvenile in figure and in manner, and so well got up, that
strangers are amazed when they discover latent wrinkles in his
lordship's face, and crows' feet in his eyes: and first observe him,
not exactly certain when he walks across a room, of going quite
straight to where he wants to go. But Cousin Feenix, getting up at
half-past seven o'clock or so, is quite another thing from Cousin
Feenix got up; and very dim, indeed, he looks, while being shaved at
Long's Hotel, in Bond Street.
Mr Dombey leaves his dressing-room, amidst a general whisking away
of the women on the staircase, who disperse in all directions, with a
great rustling of skirts, except Mrs Perch, who, being (but that she
always is) in an interesting situation, is not nimble, and is obliged
to face him, and is ready to sink with confusion as she curtesys; -
may Heaven avert all evil consequences from the house of Perch! Mr
Dombey walks up to the drawing-room, to bide his time. Gorgeous are Mr
Dombey's new blue coat, fawn-coloured pantaloons, and lilac waistcoat;
and a whisper goes about the house, that Mr Dombey's hair is curled.
A double knock announces the arrival of the Major, who is gorgeous
too, and wears a whole geranium in his button-hole, and has his hair
curled tight and crisp, as well the Native knows.
'Dombey!' says the Major, putting out both hands, 'how are you?'
'Major,' says Mr Dombey, 'how are You?'
'By Jove, Sir,' says the Major, 'Joey B. is in such case this
morning, Sir,' - and here he hits himself hard upon the breast - 'In
such case this morning, Sir, that, damme, Dombey, he has half a mind
to make a double marriage of it, Sir, and take the mother.'
Mr Dombey smiles; but faintly, even for him; for Mr Dombey feels
that he is going to be related to the mother, and that, under those
circumstances, she is not to be joked about.
'Dombey,' says the Major, seeing this, 'I give you joy. I
congratulate you, Dombey. By the Lord, Sir,' says the Major, 'you are
more to be envied, this day, than any man in England!'
Here again Mr Dombey's assent is qualified; because he is going to
confer a great distinction on a lady; and, no doubt, she is to be
'As to Edith Granger, Sir,' pursues the Major, 'there is not a
woman in all Europe but might - and would, Sir, you will allow
Bagstock to add - and would- give her ears, and her earrings, too, to
be in Edith Granger's place.'
'You are good enough to say so, Major,' says Mr Dombey.
'Dombey,' returns the Major, 'you know it. Let us have no false
delicacy. You know it. Do you know it, or do you not, Dombey?' says
the Major, almost in a passion.
'Oh, really, Major - '
'Damme, Sir,' retorts the Major, 'do you know that fact, or do you
not? Dombey! Is old Joe your friend? Are we on that footing of
unreserved intimacy, Dombey, that may justify a man - a blunt old
Joseph B., Sir - in speaking out; or am I to take open order, Dombey,
and to keep my distance, and to stand on forms?'
'My dear Major Bagstock,' says Mr Dombey, with a gratified air,
'you are quite warm.'
'By Gad, Sir,' says the Major, 'I am warm. Joseph B. does not deny
it, Dombey. He is warm. This is an occasion, Sir, that calls forth all
the honest sympathies remaining in an old, infernal, battered,
used-up, invalided, J. B. carcase. And I tell you what, Dombey - at
such a time a man must blurt out what he feels, or put a muzzle on;
and Joseph Bagstock tells you to your face, Dombey, as he tells his
club behind your back, that he never will be muzzled when Paul Dombey
is in question. Now, damme, Sir,' concludes the Major, with great
firmness, 'what do you make of that?'
'Major,' says Mr Dombey, 'I assure you that I am really obliged to
you. I had no idea of checking your too partial friendship.'
'Not too partial, Sir!' exclaims the choleric Major. 'Dombey, I
'Your friendship I will say then,' pursues Mr Dombey, 'on any
account. Nor can I forget, Major, on such an occasion as the present,
how much I am indebted to it.'
'Dombey,' says the Major, with appropriate action, 'that is the
hand of Joseph Bagstock: of plain old Joey B., Sir, if you like that
better! That is the hand, of which His Royal Highness the late Duke of
York, did me the honour to observe, Sir, to His Royal Highness the
late Duke of Kent, that it was the hand of Josh: a rough and tough,
and possibly an up-to-snuff, old vagabond. Dombey, may the present
moment be the least unhappy of our lives. God bless you!'
Now enters Mr Carker, gorgeous likewise, and smiling like a
wedding-guest indeed. He can scarcely let Mr Dombey's hand go, he is
so congratulatory; and he shakes the Major's hand so heartily at the
same time, that his voice shakes too, in accord with his arms, as it
comes sliding from between his teeth.
'The very day is auspicious,' says Mr Carker. 'The brightest and
most genial weather! I hope I am not a moment late?'
'Punctual to your time, Sir,' says the Major.
'I am rejoiced, I am sure,' says Mr Carker. 'I was afraid I might
be a few seconds after the appointed time, for I was delayed by a
procession of waggons; and I took the liberty of riding round to Brook
Street' - this to Mr Dombey - 'to leave a few poor rarities of flowers
for Mrs Dombey. A man in my position, and so distinguished as to be
invited here, is proud to offer some homage in acknowledgment of his
vassalage: and as I have no doubt Mrs Dombey is overwhelmed with what
is costly and magnificent;' with a strange glance at his patron; 'I
hope the very poverty of my offering, may find favour for it.'
'Mrs Dombey, that is to be,' returns Mr Dombey, condescendingly,
'will be very sensible of your attention, Carker, I am sure.'
'And if she is to be Mrs Dombey this morning, Sir,' says the Major,
putting down his coffee-cup, and looking at his watch, 'it's high time
we were off!'
Forth, in a barouche, ride Mr Dombey, Major Bagstock, and Mr
Carker, to the church. Mr Sownds the Beadle has long risen from the
steps, and is in waiting with his cocked hat in his hand. Mrs Miff
curtseys and proposes chairs in the vestry. Mr Dombey prefers
remaining in the church. As he looks up at the organ, Miss Tox in the
gallery shrinks behind the fat leg of a cherubim on a monument, with
cheeks like a young Wind. Captain Cuttle, on the contrary, stands up
and waves his hook, in token of welcome and encouragement. Mr Toots
informs the Chicken, behind his hand, that the middle gentleman, he in
the fawn-coloured pantaloons, is the father of his love. The Chicken
hoarsely whispers Mr Toots that he's as stiff a cove as ever he see,
but that it is within the resources of Science to double him up, with
one blow in the waistcoat.
Mr Sownds and Mrs Miff are eyeing Mr Dombey from a little distance,
when the noise of approaching wheels is heard, and Mr Sownds goes out.
Mrs Miff, meeting Mr Dombey's eye as it is withdrawn from the
presumptuous maniac upstairs, who salutes him with so much urbanity,
drops a curtsey, and informs him that she believes his 'good lady' is
come. Then there is a crowding and a whispering at the door, and the
good lady enters, with a haughty step.
There is no sign upon her face, of last night's suffering; there is
no trace in her manner, of the woman on the bended knees, reposing her
wild head, in beautiful abandonment, upon the pillow of the sleeping
girl. That girl, all gentle and lovely, is at her side - a striking
contrast to her own disdainful and defiant figure, standing there,
composed, erect, inscrutable of will, resplendent and majestic in the
zenith of its charms, yet beating down, and treading on, the
admiration that it challenges.
There is a pause while Mr Sownds the Beadle glides into the vestry
for the clergyman and clerk. At this juncture, Mrs Skewton speaks to
Mr Dombey: more distinctly and emphatically than her custom is, and
moving at the same time, close to Edith.
'My dear Dombey,' said the good Mama, 'I fear I must relinquish
darling Florence after all, and suffer her to go home, as she herself
proposed. After my loss of to-day, my dear Dombey, I feel I shall not
have spirits, even for her society.'
'Had she not better stay with you?' returns the Bridegroom.
'I think not, my dear Dombey. No, I think not. I shall be better
alone. Besides, my dearest Edith will be her natural and constant
guardian when you return, and I had better not encroach upon her
trust, perhaps. She might be jealous. Eh, dear Edith?'
The affectionate Mama presses her daughter's arm, as she says this;
perhaps entreating her attention earnestly.
'To be serious, my dear Dombey,' she resumes, 'I will relinquish
our dear child, and not inflict my gloom upon her. We have settled
that, just now. She fully understands, dear Dombey. Edith, my dear, -
she fully understands.'
Again, the good mother presses her daughter's arm. Mr Dombey offers
no additional remonstrance; for the clergyman and clerk appear; and
Mrs Miff, and Mr Sownds the Beadle, group the party in their proper
places at the altar rails.
The sun is shining down, upon the golden letters of the ten
commandments. Why does the Bride's eye read them, one by one? Which
one of all the ten appears the plainest to her in the glare of light?
False Gods; murder; theft; the honour that she owes her mother; -
which is it that appears to leave the wall, and printing itself in
glowing letters, on her book!
"Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?"'
Cousin Feenix does that. He has come from Baden-Baden on purpose.
'Confound it,' Cousin Feenix says - good-natured creature, Cousin
Feenix - 'when we do get a rich City fellow into the family, let us
show him some attention; let us do something for him.' I give this
woman to be married to this man,' saith Cousin Feenix therefore.
Cousin Feenix, meaning to go in a straight line, but turning off
sideways by reason of his wilful legs, gives the wrong woman to be
married to this man, at first - to wit, a brides- maid of some
condition, distantly connected with the family, and ten years Mrs
Skewton's junior - but Mrs Miff, interposing her mortified bonnet,
dexterously turns him back, and runs him, as on castors, full at the
'good lady:' whom Cousin Feenix giveth to married to this man
accordingly. And will they in the sight of heaven - ? Ay, that they
will: Mr Dombey says he will. And what says Edith? She will. So, from
that day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in
sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do them
part, they plight their troth to one another, and are married. In a
firm, free hand, the Bride subscribes her name in the register, when
they adjourn to the vestry. 'There ain't a many ladies come here,' Mrs
Miff says with a curtsey - to look at Mrs Miff, at such a season, is
to make her mortified bonnet go down with a dip - writes their names
like this good lady!' Mr Sownds the Beadle thinks it is a truly
spanking signature, and worthy of the writer - this, however, between
himself and conscience. Florence signs too, but unapplauded, for her
hand shakes. All the party sign; Cousin Feenix last; who puts his
noble name into a wrong place, and enrols himself as having been born
that morning. The Major now salutes the Bride right gallantly, and
carries out that branch of military tactics in reference to all the
ladies: notwithstanding Mrs Skewton's being extremely hard to kiss,
and squeaking shrilly in the sacred edIfice. The example is followed
by Cousin. Feenix and even by Mr Dombey. Lastly, Mr Carker, with hIs
white teeth glistening, approaches Edith, more as if he meant to bite
her, than to taste the sweets that linger on her lips.
There is a glow upon her proud cheek, and a flashing in her eyes,
that may be meant to stay him; but it does not, for he salutes her as
the rest have done, and wishes her all happiness.
'If wishes,' says he in a low voice, 'are not superfluous, applied
to such a union.'
'I thank you, Sir,' she answers, with a curled lip, and a heaving
But, does Edith feel still, as on the night when she knew that Mr
Dombey would return to offer his alliance, that Carker knows her
thoroughly, and reads her right, and that she is more degraded by his
knowledge of her, than by aught else? Is it for this reason that her
haughtiness shrinks beneath his smile, like snow within the hands that
grasps it firmly, and that her imperious glance droops In meeting his,
and seeks the ground?
'I am proud to see,' said Mr Carker, with a servile stooping of his
neck, which the revelations making by his eyes and teeth proclaim to
be a lie, 'I am proud to see that my humble offering is graced by Mrs
Dombey's hand, and permitted to hold so favoured a place in so joyful
Though she bends her head, in answer, there is something in the
momentary action of her hand, as if she would crush the flowers it
holds, and fling them, with contempt, upon the ground. But, she puts
the hand through the arm of her new husband, who has been standing
near, conversing with the Major, and is proud again, and motionless,
The carriages are once more at the church door. Mr Dombey, with his
bride upon his arm, conducts her through the twenty families of little
women who are on the steps, and every one of whom remembers the
fashion and the colour of her every article of dress from that moment,
and reproduces it on her doll, who is for ever being married.
Cleopatra and Cousin Feenix enter the same carriage. The Major hands
into a second carriage, Florence, and the bridesmaid who so narrowly
escaped being given away by mistake, and then enters it himself, and
is followed by Mr Carker. Horses prance and caper; coachmen and
footmen shine in fluttering favours, flowers, and new-made liveries.
Away they dash and rattle through the streets; and as they pass along,
a thousand heads are turned to look at them, and a thousand sober
moralists revenge themselves for not being married too, that morning,
by reflecting that these people little think such happiness can't
Miss Tox emerges from behind the cherubim's leg, when all is quiet,
and comes slowly down from the gallery. Miss Tox's eyes are red, and
her pocket-handkerchief is damp. She is wounded, but not exasperated,
and she hopes they may be happy. She quite admits to herself the
beauty of the bride, and her own comparatively feeble and faded
attractions; but the stately image of Mr Dombey in his lilac
waistcoat, and his fawn-coloured pantaloons, is present to her mind,
and Miss Tox weeps afresh, behind her veil, on her way home to
Princess's Place. Captain Cuttle, having joined in all the amens and
responses, with a devout growl, feels much improved by his religious
exercises; and in a peaceful frame of mind pervades the body of the
church, glazed hat in hand, and reads the tablet to the memory of
little Paul. The gallant Mr Toots, attended by the faithful Chicken,
leaves the building in torments of love. The Chicken is as yet unable
to elaborate a scheme for winning Florence, but his first idea has
gained possession of him, and he thinks the doubling up of Mr Dombey
would be a move in the right direction. Mr Dombey's servants come out
of their hiding-places, and prepare to rush to Brook Street, when they
are delayed by symptoms of indisposition on the part of Mrs Perch, who
entreats a glass of water, and becomes alarming; Mrs Perch gets better
soon, however, and is borne away; and Mrs Miff, and Mr Sownds the
Beadle, sit upon the steps to count what they have gained by the
affair, and talk it over, while the sexton tolls a funeral.
Now, the carriages arrive at the Bride's residence, and the players
on the bells begin to jingle, and the band strikes up, and Mr Punch,
that model of connubial bliss, salutes his wife. Now, the people run,
and push, and press round in a gaping throng, while Mr Dombey, leading
Mrs Dombey by the hand, advances solemnly into the Feenix Halls. Now,
the rest of the wedding party alight, and enter after them. And why
does Mr Carker, passing through the people to the hall-door, think of
the old woman who called to him in the Grove that morning? Or why does
Florence, as she passes, think, with a tremble, of her childhood, when
she was lost, and of the visage of Good Mrs Brown?
Now, there are more congratulations on this happiest of days, and
more company, though not much; and now they leave the drawing-room,
and range themselves at table in the dark-brown dining-room, which no
confectioner can brighten up, let him garnish the exhausted negroes
with as many flowers and love-knots as he will.
The pastry-cook has done his duty like a man, though, and a rich
breakfast is set forth. Mr and Mrs Chick have joined the party, among
others. Mrs Chick admires that Edith should be, by nature, such a
perfect Dombey; and is affable and confidential to Mrs Skewton, whose
mind is relieved of a great load, and who takes her share of the
champagne. The very tall young man who suffered from excitement early,
is better; but a vague sentiment of repentance has seized upon him,
and he hates the other very tall young man, and wrests dishes from him
by violence, and takes a grim delight in disobliging the company. The
company are cool and calm, and do not outrage the black hatchments of
pictures looking down upon them, by any excess of mirth. Cousin Feenix
and the Major are the gayest there; but Mr Carker has a smile for the
whole table. He has an especial smile for the Bride, who very, very
seldom meets it.
Cousin Feenix rises, when the company have breakfasted, and the
servants have left the room; and wonderfully young he looks, with his
white wristbands almost covering his hands (otherwise rather bony),
and the bloom of the champagne in his cheeks.
'Upon my honour,' says Cousin Feenix, 'although it's an unusual
sort of thing in a private gentleman's house, I must beg leave to call
upon you to drink what is usually called a - in fact a toast.
The Major very hoarsely indicates his approval. Mr Carker, bending
his head forward over the table in the direction of Cousin Feenix,
smiles and nods a great many times.
'A - in fact it's not a - ' Cousin Feenix beginning again, thus,
comes to a dead stop.
'Hear, hear!' says the Major, in a tone of conviction.
Mr Carker softly claps his hands, and bending forward over the
table again, smiles and nods a great many more times than before, as
if he were particularly struck by this last observation, and desired
personally to express his sense of the good it has done
'It is,' says Cousin Feenix, 'an occasion in fact, when the general
usages of life may be a little departed from, without impropriety; and
although I never was an orator in my life, and when I was in the House
of Commons, and had the honour of seconding the address, was - in
fact, was laid up for a fortnight with the consciousness of failure -
The Major and Mr Carker are so much delighted by this fragment of
personal history, that Cousin Feenix laughs, and addressing them
individually, goes on to say:
'And in point of fact, when I was devilish ill - still, you know, I
feel that a duty devolves upon me. And when a duty devolves upon an
Englishman, he is bound to get out of it, in my opinion, in the best
way he can. Well! our family has had the gratification, to-day, of
connecting itself, in the person of my lovely and accomplished
relative, whom I now see - in point of fact, present - '
Here there is general applause.
'Present,' repeats Cousin Feenix, feeling that it is a neat point
which will bear repetition, - 'with one who - that is to say, with a
man, at whom the finger of scorn can never - in fact, with my
honourable friend Dombey, if he will allow me to call him so.'
Cousin Feenix bows to Mr Dombey; Mr Dombey solemnly returns the
bow; everybody is more or less gratified and affected by this
extraordinary, and perhaps unprecedented, appeal to the feelings.
'I have not,' says Cousin Feenix, 'enjoyed those opportunities
which I could have desired, of cultivating the acquaintance of my
friend Dombey, and studying those qualities which do equal honour to
his head, and, in point of fact, to his heart; for it has been my
misfortune to be, as we used to say in my time in the House of
Commons, when it was not the custom to allude to the Lords, and when
the order of parliamentary proceedings was perhaps better observed
than it is now - to be in - in point of fact,' says Cousin Feenix,
cherishing his joke, with great slyness, and finally bringing it out
with a jerk, "'in another place!"'
The Major falls into convulsions, and is recovered with difficulty.
'But I know sufficient of my friend Dombey,' resumes Cousin Feenix
in a graver tone, as if he had suddenly become a sadder and wiser man'
'to know that he is, in point of fact, what may be emphatically called
a - a merchant - a British merchant - and a - and a man. And although
I have been resident abroad, for some years (it would give me great
pleasure to receive my friend Dombey, and everybody here, at
Baden-Baden, and to have an opportunity of making 'em known to the
Grand Duke), still I know enough, I flatter myself, of my lovely and
accomplished relative, to know that she possesses every requisite to
make a man happy, and that her marriage with my friend Dombey is one
of inclination and affection on both sides.'
Many smiles and nods from Mr Carker.
'Therefore,' says Cousin Feenix, 'I congratulate the family of
which I am a member, on the acquisition of my friend Dombey. I
congratulate my friend Dombey on his union with my lovely and
accomplished relative who possesses every requisite to make a man
happy; and I take the liberty of calling on you all, in point of fact,
to congratulate both my friend Dombey and my lovely and accomplished
relative, on the present occasion.'
The speech of Cousin Feenix is received with great applause, and Mr
Dombey returns thanks on behalf of himself and Mrs Dombey. J. B.
shortly afterwards proposes Mrs Skewton. The breakfast languishes when
that is done, the violated hatchments are avenged, and Edith rises to
assume her travelling dress.
All the servants in the meantime, have been breakfasting below.
Champagne has grown too common among them to be mentioned, and roast
fowls, raised pies, and lobster-salad, have become mere drugs. The
very tall young man has recovered his spirits, and again alludes to
the exciseman. His comrade's eye begins to emulate his own, and he,
too, stares at objects without taking cognizance thereof. There is a
general redness in the faces of the ladies; in the face of Mrs Perch
particularly, who is joyous and beaming, and lifted so far above the
cares of life, that if she were asked just now to direct a wayfarer to
Ball's Pond, where her own cares lodge, she would have some difficulty
in recalling the way. Mr Towlinson has proposed the happy pair; to
which the silver-headed butler has responded neatly, and with emotion;
for he half begins to think he is an old retainer of the family, and
that he is bound to be affected by these changes. The whole party, and
especially the ladies, are very frolicsome. Mr Dombey's cook, who
generally takes the lead in society, has said, it is impossible to
settle down after this, and why not go, in a party, to the play?
Everybody (Mrs Perch included) has agreed to this; even the Native,
who is tigerish in his drink, and who alarms the ladies (Mrs Perch
particularly) by the rolling of his eyes. One of the very tall young
men has even proposed a ball after the play, and it presents itself to
no one (Mrs Perch included) in the light of an impossibility. Words
have arisen between the housemaid and Mr Towlinson; she, on the
authority of an old saw, asserting marriages to be made in Heaven: he,
affecting to trace the manufacture elsewhere; he, supposing that she
says so, because she thinks of being married her own self: she,
saying, Lord forbid, at any rate, that she should ever marry him. To
calm these flying taunts, the silver-headed butler rises to propose
the health of Mr Towlinson, whom to know is to esteem, and to esteem
is to wish well settled in life with the object of his choice,
wherever (here the silver-headed butler eyes the housemaid) she may
be. Mr Towlinson returns thanks in a speech replete with feeling, of
which the peroration turns on foreigners, regarding whom he says they
may find favour, sometimes, with weak and inconstant intellects that
can be led away by hair, but all he hopes, is, he may never hear of no
foreigner never boning nothing out of no travelling chariot. The eye
of Mr Towlinson is so severe and so expressive here, that the
housemaid is turning hysterical, when she and all the rest, roused by
the intelligence that the Bride is going away, hurry upstairs to
witness her departure.
The chariot is at the door; the Bride is descending to the hall,
where Mr Dombey waits for her. Florence is ready on the staircase to
depart too; and Miss Nipper, who has held a middle state between the
parlour and the kitchen, is prepared to accompany her. As Edith
appears, Florence hastens towards her, to bid her farewell.
Is Edith cold, that she should tremble! Is there anything unnatural
or unwholesome in the touch of Florence, that the beautiful form
recedes and contracts, as if it could not bear it! Is there so much
hurry in this going away, that Edith, with a wave of her hand, sweeps
on, and is gone!
Mrs Skewton, overpowered by her feelings as a mother, sinks on her
sofa in the Cleopatra attitude, when the clatter of the chariot wheels
is lost, and sheds several tears. The Major, coming with the rest of
the company from table, endeavours to comfort her; but she will not be
comforted on any terms, and so the Major takes his leave. Cousin
Feenix takes his leave, and Mr Carker takes his leave. The guests all
go away. Cleopatra, left alone, feels a little giddy from her strong
emotion, and falls asleep.
Giddiness prevails below stairs too. The very tall young man whose
excitement came on so soon, appears to have his head glued to the
table in the pantry, and cannot be detached from - it. A violent
revulsion has taken place in the spirits of Mrs Perch, who is low on
account of Mr Perch, and tells cook that she fears he is not so much
attached to his home, as he used to be, when they were only nine in
family. Mr Towlinson has a singing in his ears and a large wheel going
round and round inside his head. The housemaid wishes it wasn't wicked
to wish that one was dead.
There is a general delusion likewise, in these lower regions, on
the subject of time; everybody conceiving that it ought to be, at the
earliest, ten o'clock at night, whereas it is not yet three in the
afternoon. A shadowy idea of wickedness committed, haunts every
individual in the party; and each one secretly thinks the other a
companion in guilt, whom it would be agreeable to avoid. No man or
woman has the hardihood to hint at the projected visit to the play.
Anyone reviving the notion of the ball, would be scouted as a
Mrs Skewton sleeps upstairs, two hours afterwards, and naps are not
yet over in the kitchen. The hatchments in the dining-room look down
on crumbs, dirty plates, spillings of wine, half-thawed ice, stale
discoloured heel-taps, scraps of lobster, drumsticks of fowls, and
pensive jellies, gradually resolving themselves into a lukewarm gummy
soup. The marriage is, by this time, almost as denuded of its show and
garnish as the breakfast. Mr Dombey's servants moralise so much about
it, and are so repentant over their early tea, at home, that by eight
o'clock or so, they settle down into confirmed seriousness; and Mr
Perch, arriving at that time from the City, fresh and jocular, with a
white waistcoat and a comic song, ready to spend the evening, and
prepared for any amount of dissipation, is amazed to find himself
coldly received, and Mrs Perch but poorly, and to have the pleasing
duty of escorting that lady home by the next omnibus.
Night closes in. Florence, having rambled through the handsome
house, from room to room, seeks her own chamber, where the care of
Edith has surrounded her with luxuries and comforts; and divesting
herself of her handsome dress, puts on her old simple mourning for
dear Paul, and sits down to read, with Diogenes winking and blinking
on the ground beside her. But Florence cannot read tonight. The house
seems strange and new, and there are loud echoes in it. There is a
shadow on her heart: she knows not why or what: but it is heavy.
Florence shuts her book, and gruff Diogenes, who takes that for a
signal, puts his paws upon her lap, and rubs his ears against her
caressing hands. But Florence cannot see him plainly, in a little
time, for there is a mist between her eyes and him, and her dead
brother and dead mother shine in it like angels. Walter, too, poor
wandering shipwrecked boy, oh, where is he?
The Major don't know; that's for certain; and don't care. The
Major, having choked and slumbered, all the afternoon, has taken a
late dinner at his club, and now sits over his pint of wine, driving a
modest young man, with a fresh-coloured face, at the next table (who
would give a handsome sum to be able to rise and go away, but cannot
do it) to the verge of madness, by anecdotes of Bagstock, Sir, at
Dombey's wedding, and Old Joe's devilish gentle manly friend, Lord
Feenix. While Cousin Feenix, who ought to be at Long's, and in bed,
finds himself, instead, at a gaming-table, where his wilful legs have
taken him, perhaps, in his own despite.
Night, like a giant, fills the church, from pavement to roof, and
holds dominion through the silent hours. Pale dawn again comes peeping
through the windows: and, giving place to day, sees night withdraw
into the vaults, and follows it, and drives it out, and hides among
the dead. The timid mice again cower close together, when the great
door clashes, and Mr Sownds and Mrs Miff treading the circle of their
daily lives, unbroken as a marriage ring, come in. Again, the cocked
hat and the mortified bonnet stand in the background at the marriage
hour; and again this man taketh this woman, and this woman taketh this
man, on the solemn terms:
'To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse,
for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to
cherish, until death do them part.'
The very words that Mr Carker rides into town repeating, with his
mouth stretched to the utmost, as he picks his dainty way.
The Wooden Midshipman goes to Pieces
Honest Captain Cuttle, as the weeks flew over him in his fortified
retreat, by no means abated any of his prudent provisions against
surprise, because of the non-appearance of the enemy. The Captain
argued that his present security was too profound and wonderful to
endure much longer; he knew that when the wind stood in a fair
quarter, the weathercock was seldom nailed there; and he was too well
acquainted with the determined and dauntless character of Mrs
MacStinger, to doubt that that heroic woman had devoted herself to the
task of his discovery and capture. Trembling beneath the weight of
these reasons, Captain Cuttle lived a very close and retired life;
seldom stirring abroad until after dark; venturing even then only into
the obscurest streets; never going forth at all on Sundays; and both
within and without the walls of his retreat, avoiding bonnets, as if
they were worn by raging lions.
The Captain never dreamed that in the event of his being pounced
upon by Mrs MacStinger, in his walks, it would be possible to offer
resistance. He felt that it could not be done. He saw himself, in his
mind's eye, put meekly in a hackney-coach, and carried off to his old
lodgings. He foresaw that, once immured there, he was a lost man: his
hat gone; Mrs MacStinger watchful of him day and night; reproaches
heaped upon his head, before the infant family; himself the guilty
object of suspicion and distrust; an ogre in the children's eyes, and
in their mother's a detected traitor.
A violent perspiration, and a lowness of spirits, always came over
the Captain as this gloomy picture presented itself to his
imagination. It generally did so previous to his stealing out of doors
at night for air and exercise. Sensible of the risk he ran, the
Captain took leave of Rob, at those times, with the solemnity which
became a man who might never return: exhorting him, in the event of
his (the Captain's) being lost sight of, for a time, to tread in the
paths of virtue, and keep the brazen instruments well polished.
But not to throw away a chance; and to secure to himself a means,
in case of the worst, of holding communication with the external
world; Captain Cuttle soon conceived the happy idea of teaching Rob
the Grinder some secret signal, by which that adherent might make his
presence and fidelity known to his commander, in the hour of
adversity. After much cogitation, the Captain decided in favour of
instructing him to whistle the marine melody, 'Oh cheerily, cheerily!'
and Rob the Grinder attaining a point as near perfection in that
accomplishment as a landsman could hope to reach, the Captain
impressed these mysterious instructions on his mind:
'Now, my lad, stand by! If ever I'm took - '
'Took, Captain!' interposed Rob, with his round eyes wide open.
'Ah!' said Captain Cuttle darkly, 'if ever I goes away, meaning to
come back to supper, and don't come within hail again, twenty-four
hours arter my loss, go you to Brig Place and whistle that 'ere tune
near my old moorings - not as if you was a meaning of it, you
understand, but as if you'd drifted there, promiscuous. If I answer in
that tune, you sheer off, my lad, and come back four-and-twenty hours
arterwards; if I answer in another tune, do you stand off and on, and
wait till I throw out further signals. Do you understand them orders,
'What am I to stand off and on of, Captain?' inquired Rob. 'The
'Here's a smart lad for you!' cried the Captain eyeing him sternly,
'as don't know his own native alphabet! Go away a bit and come back
again alternate - d'ye understand that?'
'Yes, Captain,' said Rob.
'Very good my lad, then,' said the Captain, relenting. 'Do it!'
That he might do it the better, Captain Cuttle sometimes
condescended, of an evening after the shop was shut, to rehearse this
scene: retiring into the parlour for the purpose, as into the lodgings
of a supposititious MacStinger, and carefully observing the behaviour
of his ally, from the hole of espial he had cut in the wall. Rob the
Grinder discharged himself of his duty with so much exactness and
judgment, when thus put to the proof, that the Captain presented him,
at divers times, with seven sixpences, in token of satisfaction; and
gradually felt stealing over his spirit the resignation of a man who
had made provision for the worst, and taken every reasonable
precaution against an unrelenting fate.
Nevertheless, the Captain did not tempt ill-fortune, by being a
whit more venturesome than before. Though he considered it a point of
good breeding in himself, as a general friend of the family, to attend
Mr Dombey's wedding (of which he had heard from Mr Perch), and to show
that gentleman a pleasant and approving countenance from the gallery,
he had repaired to the church in a hackney cabriolet with both windows
up; and might have scrupled even to make that venture, in his dread of
Mrs MacStinger, but that the lady's attendance on the ministry of the
Reverend Melchisedech rendered it peculiarly unlikely that she would
be found in communion with the Establishment.
The Captain got safe home again, and fell into the ordinary routine
of his new life, without encountering any more direct alarm from the
enemy, than was suggested to him by the daily bonnets in the street.
But other subjects began to lay heavy on the Captain's mind. Walter's
ship was still unheard of. No news came of old Sol Gills. Florence did
not even know of the old man's disappearance, and Captain Cuttle had
not the heart to tell her. Indeed the Captain, as his own hopes of the
generous, handsome, gallant-hearted youth, whom he had loved,
according to his rough manner, from a child, began to fade, and faded
more and more from day to day, shrunk with instinctive pain from the
thought of exchanging a word with Florence. If he had had good news to
carry to her, the honest Captain would have braved the newly decorated
house and splendid furniture - though these, connected with the lady
he had seen at church, were awful to him - and made his way into her
presence. With a dark horizon gathering around their common hopes,
however, that darkened every hour, the Captain almost felt as if he
were a new misfortune and affliction to her; and was scarcely less
afraid of a visit from Florence, than from Mrs MacStinger herself.
It was a chill dark autumn evening, and Captain Cuttle had ordered
a fire to be kindled in the little back parlour, now more than ever
like the cabin of a ship. The rain fell fast, and the wind blew hard;
and straying out on the house-top by that stormy bedroom of his old
friend, to take an observation of the weather, the Captain's heart
died within him, when he saw how wild and desolate it was. Not that he
associated the weather of that time with poor Walter's destiny, or
doubted that if Providence had doomed him to be lost and shipwrecked,
it was over, long ago; but that beneath an outward influence, quite
distinct from the subject-matter of his thoughts, the Captain's
spirits sank, and his hopes turned pale, as those of wiser men had
often done before him, and will often do again.
Captain Cuttle, addressing his face to the sharp wind and slanting
rain, looked up at the heavy scud that was flying fast over the
wilderness of house-tops, and looked for something cheery there in
vain. The prospect near at hand was no better. In sundry tea-chests
and other rough boxes at his feet, the pigeons of Rob the Grinder were
cooing like so many dismal breezes getting up. A crazy weathercock of
a midshipman, with a telescope at his eye, once visible from the
street, but long bricked out, creaked and complained upon his rusty
pivot as the shrill blast spun him round and round, and sported with
him cruelly. Upon the Captain's coarse blue vest the cold raindrops
started like steel beads; and he could hardly maintain himself aslant
against the stiff Nor'-Wester that came pressing against him,
importunate to topple him over the parapet, and throw him on the
pavement below. If there were any Hope alive that evening, the Captain
thought, as he held his hat on, it certainly kept house, and wasn't
out of doors; so the Captain, shaking his head in a despondent manner,
went in to look for it.
Captain Cuttle descended slowly to the little back parlour, and,
seated in his accustomed chair, looked for it in the fire; but it was
not there, though the fire was bright. He took out his tobacco-box and
pipe, and composing himself to smoke, looked for it in the red glow
from the bowl, and in the wreaths of vapour that curled upward from
his lips; but there was not so much as an atom of the rust of Hope's
anchor in either. He tried a glass of grog; but melancholy truth was
at the bottom of that well, and he couldn't finish it. He made a turn
or two in the shop, and looked for Hope among the instruments; but
they obstinately worked out reckonings for the missing ship, in spite
of any opposition he could offer, that ended at the bottom of the lone
The wind still rushing, and the rain still pattering, against the
closed shutters, the Captain brought to before the wooden Midshipman
upon the counter, and thought, as he dried the little officer's
uniform with his sleeve, how many years the Midshipman had seen,
during which few changes - hardly any - had transpired among his
ship's company; how the changes had come all together, one day, as it
might be; and of what a sweeping kind they web Here was the little
society of the back parlour broken up, and scattered far and wide.
Here was no audience for Lovely Peg, even if there had been anybody to
sing it, which there was not; for the Captain was as morally certain
that nobody but he could execute that ballad, he was that he had not
the spirit, under existing circumstances, to attempt it. There was no
bright face of 'Wal'r' In the house; - here the Captain transferred
his sleeve for a moment from the Midshipman's uniform to his own
cheek; - the familiar wig and buttons of Sol Gills were a vision of
the past; Richard Whittington was knocked on the head; and every plan
and project in connexion with the Midshipman, lay drifting, without
mast or rudder, on the waste of waters.
As the Captain, with a dejected face, stood revolving these
thoughts, and polishing the Midshipman, partly in the tenderness of
old acquaintance, and partly in the absence of his mind, a knocking at
the shop-door communicated a frightful start to the frame of Rob the
Grinder, seated on the counter, whose large eyes had been intently
fixed on the Captain's face, and who had been debating within himself,
for the five hundredth time, whether the Captain could have done a
murder, that he had such an evil conscience, and was always running
'What's that?' said Captain Cuttle, softly.
'Somebody's knuckles, Captain,' answered Rob the Grinder.
The Captain, with an abashed and guilty air, immediately walked on
tiptoe to the little parlour and locked himself in. Rob, opening the
door, would have parleyed with the visitor on the threshold if the
visitor had come in female guise; but the figure being of the male
sex, and Rob's orders only applying to women, Rob held the door open
and allowed it to enter: which it did very quickly, glad to get out of
the driving rain.
'A job for Burgess and Co. at any rate,' said the visitor, looking
over his shoulder compassionately at his own legs, which were very wet
and covered with splashes. 'Oh, how-de-do, Mr Gills?'
The salutation was addressed to the Captain, now emerging from the
back parlour with a most transparent and utterly futile affectation of
coming out by accidence.
'Thankee,' the gentleman went on to say in the same breath; 'I'm
very well indeed, myself, I'm much obliged to you. My name is Toots, -
The Captain remembered to have seen this young gentleman at the
wedding, and made him a bow. Mr Toots replied with a chuckle; and
being embarrassed, as he generally was, breathed hard, shook hands
with the Captain for a long time, and then falling on Rob the Grinder,
in the absence of any other resource, shook hands with him in a most
affectionate and cordial manner.
'I say! I should like to speak a word to you, Mr Gills, if you
please,' said Toots at length, with surprising presence of mind. 'I
say! Miss D.O.M. you know!'
The Captain, with responsive gravity and mystery, immediately waved
his hook towards the little parlour, whither Mr Toots followed him.
'Oh! I beg your pardon though,' said Mr Toots, looking up In the
Captain's face as he sat down in a chair by the fire, which the
Captain placed for him; 'you don't happen to know the Chicken at all;
do you, Mr Gills?'
'The Chicken?' said the Captain.
'The Game Chicken,' said Mr Toots.
The Captain shaking his head, Mr Toots explained that the man
alluded to was the celebrated public character who had covered himself
and his country with glory in his contest with the Nobby Shropshire
One; but this piece of information did not appear to enlighten the
Captain very much.
'Because he's outside: that's all,' said Mr Toots. 'But it's of no
consequence; he won't get very wet, perhaps.'
'I can pass the word for him in a moment,' said the Captain.
'Well, if you would have the goodness to let him sit in the shop
with your young man,' chuckled Mr Toots, 'I should be glad; because,
you know, he's easily offended, and the damp's rather bad for his
stamina. I'll call him in, Mr Gills.'
With that, Mr Toots repairing to the shop-door, sent a peculiar
whistle into the night, which produced a stoical gentleman in a shaggy
white great-coat and a flat-brimmed hat, with very short hair, a
broken nose, and a considerable tract of bare and sterile country
behind each ear.
'Sit down, Chicken,' said Mr Toots.
The compliant Chicken spat out some small pieces of straw on which
he was regaling himself, and took in a fresh supply from a reserve he
carried in his hand.
'There ain't no drain of nothing short handy, is there?' said the
Chicken, generally. 'This here sluicing night is hard lines to a man
as lives on his condition.
Captain Cuttle proffered a glass of rum, which the Chicken,
throwing back his head, emptied into himself, as into a cask, after
proposing the brief sentiment, 'Towards us!' Mr Toots and the Captain
returning then to the parlour, and taking their seats before the fire,
Mr Toots began:
'Mr Gills - '
'Awast!' said the Captain. 'My name's Cuttle.'
Mr Toots looked greatly disconcerted, while the Captain proceeded
'Cap'en Cuttle is my name, and England is my nation, this here is
my dwelling-place, and blessed be creation - Job,' said the Captain,
as an index to his authority.
'Oh! I couldn't see Mr Gills, could I?' said Mr Toots; 'because - '
'If you could see Sol Gills, young gen'l'm'n,' said the Captain,
impressively, and laying his heavy hand on Mr Toots's knee, 'old Sol,
mind you - with your own eyes - as you sit there - you'd be welcomer
to me, than a wind astern, to a ship becalmed. But you can't see Sol
Gills. And why can't you see Sol Gills?' said the Captain, apprised by
the face of Mr Toots that he was making a profound impression on that
gentleman's mind. 'Because he's inwisible.'
Mr Toots in his agitation was going to reply that it was of no
consequence at all. But he corrected himself, and said, 'Lor bless
'That there man,' said the Captain, 'has left me in charge here by
a piece of writing, but though he was a'most as good as my sworn
brother, I know no more where he's gone, or why he's gone; if so be to
seek his nevy, or if so be along of being not quite settled in his
mind; than you do. One morning at daybreak, he went over the side,'
said the Captain, 'without a splash, without a ripple I have looked
for that man high and low, and never set eyes, nor ears, nor nothing
else, upon him from that hour.'
'But, good Gracious, Miss Dombey don't know - ' Mr Toots began.
'Why, I ask you, as a feeling heart,' said the Captain, dropping
his voice, 'why should she know? why should she be made to know, until
such time as there wam't any help for it? She took to old Sol Gills,
did that sweet creetur, with a kindness, with a affability, with a -
what's the good of saying so? you know her.'
'I should hope so,' chuckled Mr Toots, with a conscious blush that
suffused his whole countenance.
'And you come here from her?' said the Captain.
'I should think so,' chuckled Mr Toots.
'Then all I need observe, is,' said the Captain, 'that you know a
angel, and are chartered a angel.'
Mr Toots instantly seized the Captain's hand, and requested the
favour of his friendship.
'Upon my word and honour,' said Mr Toots, earnestly, 'I should be
very much obliged to you if you'd improve my acquaintance I should
like to know you, Captain, very much. I really am In want of a friend,
I am. Little Dombey was my friend at old Blimber's, and would have
been now, if he'd have lived. The Chicken,' said Mr Toots, in a
forlorn whisper, 'is very well - admirable in his way - the sharpest
man perhaps in the world; there's not a move he isn't up to, everybody
says so - but I don't know - he's not everything. So she is an angel,
Captain. If there is an angel anywhere, it's Miss Dombey. That's what
I've always said. Really though, you know,' said Mr Toots, 'I should
be very much obliged to you if you'd cultivate my acquaintance.'
Captain Cuttle received this proposal in a polite manner, but still
without committing himself to its acceptance; merely observing, 'Ay,
ay, my lad. We shall see, we shall see;' and reminding Mr Toots of his
immediate mission, by inquiring to what he was indebted for the honour
of that visit.
'Why the fact is,' replied Mr Toots, 'that it's the young woman I
come from. Not Miss Dombey - Susan, you know.
The Captain nodded his head once, with a grave expression of face
indicative of his regarding that young woman with serious respect.
'And I'll tell you how it happens,' said Mr Toots. 'You know, I go
and call sometimes, on Miss Dombey. I don't go there on purpose, you
know, but I happen to be in the neighbourhood very often; and when I
find myself there, why - why I call.'
'Nat'rally,' observed the Captain.
'Yes,' said Mr Toots. 'I called this afternoon. Upon my word and
honour, I don't think it's possible to form an idea of the angel Miss
Dombey was this afternoon.'
The Captain answered with a jerk of his head, implying that it
might not be easy to some people, but was quite so to him.
'As I was coming out,' said Mr Toots, 'the young woman, in the most
unexpected manner, took me into the pantry.
The Captain seemed, for the moment, to object to this proceeding;
and leaning back in his chair, looked at Mr Toots with a distrustful,
if not threatening visage.
'Where she brought out,' said Mr Toots, 'this newspaper. She told
me that she had kept it from Miss Dombey all day, on account of
something that was in it, about somebody that she and Dombey used to
know; and then she read the passage to me. Very well. Then she said -
wait a minute; what was it she said, though!'
Mr Toots, endeavouring to concentrate his mental powers on this
question, unintentionally fixed the Captain's eye, and was so much
discomposed by its stern expression, that his difficulty in resuming
the thread of his subject was enhanced to a painful extent.
'Oh!' said Mr Toots after long consideration. 'Oh, ah! Yes! She
said that she hoped there was a bare possibility that it mightn't be
true; and that as she couldn't very well come out herself, without
surprising Miss Dombey, would I go down to Mr Solomon Gills the
Instrument-maker's in this street, who was the party's Uncle, and ask
whether he believed it was true, or had heard anything else in the
City. She said, if he couldn't speak to me, no doubt Captain Cuttle
could. By the bye!' said Mr Toots, as the discovery flashed upon him,
'you, you know!'
The Captain glanced at the newspaper in Mr Toots's hand, and
breathed short and hurriedly.
'Well, pursued Mr Toots, 'the reason why I'm rather late is,
because I went up as far as Finchley first, to get some uncommonly
fine chickweed that grows there, for Miss Dombey's bird. But I came on
here, directly afterwards. You've seen the paper, I suppose?'
The Captain, who had become cautious of reading the news, lest he
should find himself advertised at full length by Mrs MacStinger, shook
'Shall I read the passage to you?' inquired Mr Toots.
The Captain making a sign in the affirmative, Mr Toots read as
follows, from the Shipping Intelligence:
'"Southampton. The barque Defiance, Henry James, Commander, arrived
in this port to-day, with a cargo of sugar, coffee, and rum, reports
that being becalmed on the sixth day of her passage home from Jamaica,
in" - in such and such a latitude, you know,' said Mr Toots, after
making a feeble dash at the figures, and tumbling over them.
'Ay!' cried the Captain, striking his clenched hand on the table.
'Heave ahead, my lad!'
' - latitude,' repeated Mr Toots, with a startled glance at the
Captain, 'and longitude so-and-so, - "the look-out observed, half an
hour before sunset, some fragments of a wreck, drifting at about the
distance of a mile. The weather being clear, and the barque making no
way, a boat was hoisted out, with orders to inspect the same, when
they were found to consist of sundry large spars, and a part of the
main rigging of an English brig, of about five hundred tons burden,
together with a portion of the stem on which the words and letters
'Son and H-' were yet plainly legible. No vestige of any dead body was
to be seen upon the floating fragments. Log of the Defiance states,
that a breeze springing up in the night, the wreck was seen no more.
There can be no doubt that all surmises as to the fate of the missing
vessel, the Son and Heir, port of London, bound for Barbados, are now
set at rest for ever; that she broke up in the last hurricane; and
that every soul on board perished."'
Captain Cuttle, like all mankind, little knew how much hope had
survived within him under discouragement, until he felt its
death-shock. During the reading of the paragraph, and for a minute or
two afterwards, he sat with his gaze fixed on the modest Mr Toots,
like a man entranced; then, suddenly rising, and putting on his glazed
hat, which, in his visitor's honour, he had laid upon the table, the
Captain turned his back, and bent his head down on the little
'Oh' upon my word and honour,' cried Mr Toots, whose tender heart
was moved by the Captain's unexpected distress, 'this is a most
wretched sort of affair this world is! Somebody's always dying, or
going and doing something uncomfortable in it. I'm sure I never should
have looked forward so much, to coming into my property, if I had
known this. I never saw such a world. It's a great deal worse than
Captain Cuttle, without altering his position, signed to Mr Toots
not to mind him; and presently turned round, with his glazed hat
thrust back upon his ears, and his hand composing and smoothing his
'Wal'r, my dear lad,' said the Captain, 'farewell! Wal'r my child,
my boy, and man, I loved you! He warn't my flesh and blood,' said the
Captain, looking at the fire - 'I ain't got none - but something of
what a father feels when he loses a son, I feel in losing Wal'r. For
why?' said the Captain. 'Because it ain't one loss, but a round dozen.
Where's that there young school-boy with the rosy face and curly hair,
that used to be as merry in this here parlour, come round every week,
as a piece of music? Gone down with Wal'r. Where's that there fresh
lad, that nothing couldn't tire nor put out, and that sparkled up and
blushed so, when we joked him about Heart's Delight, that he was
beautiful to look at? Gone down with Wal'r. Where's that there man's
spirit, all afire, that wouldn't see the old man hove down for a
minute, and cared nothing for itself? Gone down with Wal'r. It ain't
one Wal'r. There was a dozen Wal'rs that I know'd and loved, all
holding round his neck when he went down, and they're a-holding round
Mr Toots sat silent: folding and refolding the newspaper as small
as possible upon his knee.
'And Sol Gills,' said the Captain, gazing at the fire, 'poor
nevyless old Sol, where are you got to! you was left in charge of me;
his last words was, "Take care of my Uncle!" What came over you, Sol,
when you went and gave the go-bye to Ned Cuttle; and what am I to put
In my accounts that he's a looking down upon, respecting you! Sol
Gills, Sol Gills!' said the Captain, shaking his head slowly, 'catch
sight of that there newspaper, away from home, with no one as know'd
Wal'r by, to say a word; and broadside to you broach, and down you
pitch, head foremost!'
Drawing a heavy sigh, the Captain turned to Mr Toots, and roused
himself to a sustained consciousness of that gentleman's presence.
'My lad,' said the Captain, 'you must tell the young woman honestly
that this here fatal news is too correct. They don't romance, you see,
on such pints. It's entered on the ship's log, and that's the truest
book as a man can write. To-morrow morning,' said the Captain, 'I'll
step out and make inquiries; but they'll lead to no good. They can't
do it. If you'll give me a look-in in the forenoon, you shall know
what I have heerd; but tell the young woman from Cap'en Cuttle, that
it's over. Over!' And the Captain, hooking off his glazed hat, pulled
his handkerchief out of the crown, wiped his grizzled head
despairingly, and tossed the handkerchief in again, with the
indifference of deep dejection.
'Oh! I assure you,' said Mr Toots, 'really I am dreadfully sorry.
Upon my word I am, though I wasn't acquainted with the party. Do you
think Miss Dombey will be very much affected, Captain Gills - I mean
'Why, Lord love you,' returned the Captain, with something of
compassion for Mr Toots's innocence. When she warn't no higher than
that, they were as fond of one another as two young doves.'
'Were they though!' said Mr Toots, with a considerably lengthened
'They were made for one another,' said the Captain, mournfully;
'but what signifies that now!'
'Upon my word and honour,' cried Mr Toots, blurting out his words
through a singular combination of awkward chuckles and emotion, 'I'm
even more sorry than I was before. You know, Captain Gills, I - I
positively adore Miss Dombey; - I - I am perfectly sore with loving
her;' the burst with which this confession forced itself out of the
unhappy Mr Toots, bespoke the vehemence of his feelings; 'but what
would be the good of my regarding her in this manner, if I wasn't
truly sorry for her feeling pain, whatever was the cause of it. Mine
ain't a selfish affection, you know,' said Mr Toots, in the confidence
engendered by his having been a witness of the Captain's tenderness.
'It's the sort of thing with me, Captain Gills, that if I could be run
over - or - or trampled upon - or - or thrown off a very high place
-or anything of that sort - for Miss Dombey's sake, it would be the
most delightful thing that could happen to me.
All this, Mr Toots said in a suppressed voice, to prevent its
reaching the jealous ears of the Chicken, who objected to the softer
emotions; which effort of restraint, coupled with the intensity of his
feelings, made him red to the tips of his ears, and caused him to
present such an affecting spectacle of disinterested love to the eyes
of Captain Cuttle, that the good Captain patted him consolingly on the
back, and bade him cheer up.
'Thankee, Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'it's kind of you, in the
midst of your own troubles, to say so. I'm very much obliged to you.
As I said before, I really want a friend, and should be glad to have
your acquaintance. Although I am very well off,' said Mr Toots, with
energy, 'you can't think what a miserable Beast I am. The hollow
crowd, you know, when they see me with the Chicken, and characters of
distinction like that, suppose me to be happy; but I'm wretched. I
suffer for Miss Dombey, Captain Gills. I can't get through my meals; I
have no pleasure in my tailor; I often cry when I'm alone. I assure
you it'll be a satisfaction to me to come back to-morrow, or to come
back fifty times.'
Mr Toots, with these words, shook the Captain's hand; and
disguising such traces of his agitation as could be disguised on so
short a notice, before the Chicken's penetrating glance, rejoined that
eminent gentleman in the shop. The Chicken, who was apt to be jealous
of his ascendancy, eyed Captain Cuttle with anything but favour as he
took leave of Mr Toots, but followed his patron without being
otherwise demonstrative of his ill-will: leaving the Captain oppressed
with sorrow; and Rob the Grinder elevated with joy, on account of
having had the honour of staring for nearly half an hour at the
conqueror of the Nobby Shropshire One.
Long after Rob was fast asleep in his bed under the counter, the
Captain sat looking at the fire; and long after there was no fire to
look at, the Captain sat gazing on the rusty bars, with unavailing
thoughts of Walter and old Sol crowding through his mind. Retirement
to the stormy chamber at the top of the house brought no rest with it;
and the Captain rose up in the morning, sorrowful and unrefreshed.
As soon as the City offices were opened, the Captain issued forth
to the counting-house of Dombey and Son. But there was no opening of
the Midshipman's windows that morning. Rob the Grinder, by the
Captain's orders, left the shutters closed, and the house was as a
house of death.
It chanced that Mr Carker was entering the office, as Captain
Cuttle arrived at the door. Receiving the Manager's benison gravely
and silently, Captain Cuttle made bold to accompany him into his own
'Well, Captain Cuttle,' said Mr Carker, taking up his usual
position before the fireplace, and keeping on his hat, 'this is a bad
'You have received the news as was in print yesterday, Sir?' said
'Yes,' said Mr Carker, 'we have received it! It was accurately
stated. The underwriters suffer a considerable loss. We are very
sorry. No help! Such is life!'
Mr Carker pared his nails delicately with a penknife, and smiled at
the Captain, who was standing by the door looking at him.
'I excessively regret poor Gay,' said Carker, 'and the crew. I
understand there were some of our very best men among 'em. It always
happens so. Many men with families too. A comfort to reflect that poor
Gay had no family, Captain Cuttle!'
The Captain stood rubbing his chin, and looking at the Manager. The
Manager glanced at the unopened letters lying on his desk, and took up
'Is there anything I can do for you, Captain Cuttle?' he asked
looking off it, with a smiling and expressive glance at the door.
'I wish you could set my mind at rest, Sir, on something it's
uneasy about,' returned the Captain.
'Ay!' exclaimed the Manager, 'what's that? Come, Captain Cuttle, I
must trouble you to be quick, if you please. I am much engaged.'
'Lookee here, Sir,' said the Captain, advancing a step. 'Afore my
friend Wal'r went on this here disastrous voyage -
'Come, come, Captain Cuttle,' interposed the smiling Manager,
'don't talk about disastrous voyages in that way. We have nothing to
do with disastrous voyages here, my good fellow. You must have begun
very early on your day's allowance, Captain, if you don't remember
that there are hazards in all voyages, whether by sea or land. You are
not made uneasy by the supposition that young what's-his-name was lost
in bad weather that was got up against him in these offices - are you?
Fie, Captain! Sleep, and soda-water, are the best cures for such
uneasiness as that.
'My lad,' returned the Captain, slowly - 'you are a'most a lad to
me, and so I don't ask your pardon for that slip of a word, - if you
find any pleasure in this here sport, you ain't the gentleman I took
you for. And if you ain't the gentleman I took you for, may be my mind
has call to be uneasy. Now this is what it is, Mr Carker. - Afore that
poor lad went away, according to orders, he told me that he warn't a
going away for his own good, or for promotion, he know'd. It was my
belief that he was wrong, and I told him so, and I come here, your
head governor being absent, to ask a question or two of you in a civil
way, for my own satisfaction. Them questions you answered - free. Now
it'll ease my mind to know, when all is over, as it is, and when what
can't be cured must be endoored - for which, as a scholar, you'll
overhaul the book it's in, and thereof make a note - to know once
more, in a word, that I warn't mistaken; that I warn't back'ard in my
duty when I didn't tell the old man what Wal'r told me; and that the
wind was truly in his sail, when he highsted of it for Barbados
Harbour. Mr Carker,' said the Captain, in the goodness of his nature,
'when I was here last, we was very pleasant together. If I ain't been
altogether so pleasant myself this morning, on account of this poor
lad, and if I have chafed again any observation of yours that I might
have fended off, my name is Ed'ard Cuttle, and I ask your pardon.'
'Captain Cuttle,' returned the Manager, with all possible
politeness, 'I must ask you to do me a favour.'
'And what is it, Sir?' inquired the Captain.
'To have the goodness to walk off, if you please,' rejoined the
Manager, stretching forth his arm, 'and to carry your jargon somewhere
Every knob in the Captain's face turned white with astonishment and
indignation; even the red rim on his forehead faded, like a rainbow
among the gathering clouds.
'I tell you what, Captain Cuttle,' said the Manager, shaking his
forefinger at him, and showing him all his teeth, but still amiably
smiling, 'I was much too lenient with you when you came here before.
You belong to an artful and audacious set of people. In my desire to
save young what's-his-name from being kicked out of this place, neck
and crop, my good Captain, I tolerated you; but for once, and only
once. Now, go, my friend!'
The Captain was absolutely rooted to the ground, and speechless -
'Go,' said the good-humoured Manager, gathering up his skirts, and
standing astride upon the hearth-rug, 'like a sensible fellow, and let
us have no turning out, or any such violent measures. If Mr Dombey
were here, Captain, you might be obliged to leave in a more
ignominious manner, possibly. I merely say, Go!'
The Captain, laying his ponderous hand upon his chest, to assist
himself in fetching a deep breath, looked at Mr Carker from head to
foot, and looked round the little room, as if he did not clearly
understand where he was, or in what company.
'You are deep, Captain Cuttle,' pursued Carker, with the easy and
vivacious frankness of a man of the world who knew the world too well
to be ruffled by any discovery of misdoing, when it did not
immediately concern himself, 'but you are not quite out of soundings,
either - neither you nor your absent friend, Captain. What have you
done with your absent friend, hey?'
Again the Captain laid his hand upon his chest. After drawing
another deep breath, he conjured himself to 'stand by!' But In a
'You hatch nice little plots, and hold nice little councils, and
make nice little appointments, and receive nice little visitors, too,
Captain, hey?' said Carker, bending his brows upon him, without
showing his teeth any the less: 'but it's a bold measure to come here
afterwards. Not like your discretion! You conspirators, and hiders,
and runners-away, should know better than that. Will you oblige me by
'My lad,' gasped the Captain, in a choked and trembling voice, and
with a curious action going on in the ponderous fist; 'there's a many
words I could wish to say to you, but I don't rightly know where
they're stowed just at present. My young friend, Wal'r, was drownded
only last night, according to my reckoning, and it puts me out, you
see. But you and me will come alongside o'one another again, my lad,'
said the Captain, holding up his hook, if we live.'
'It will be anything but shrewd in you, my good fellow, if we do,'
returned the Manager, with the same frankness; 'for you may rely, I
give you fair warning, upon my detecting and exposing you. I don't
pretend to be a more moral man than my neighbours, my good Captain;
but the confidence of this House, or of any member of this House, is
not to be abused and undermined while I have eyes and ears. Good day!'
said Mr Carker, nodding his head.
Captain Cuttle, looking at him steadily (Mr Carker looked full as
steadily at the Captain), went out of the office and left him standing
astride before the fire, as calm and pleasant as if there were no more
spots upon his soul than on his pure white linen, and his smooth sleek
The Captain glanced, in passing through the outer counting-house,
at the desk where he knew poor Walter had been used to sit, now
occupied by another young boy, with a face almost as fresh and hopeful
as his on the day when they tapped the famous last bottle but one of
the old Madeira, in the little back parlour. The nation of ideas, thus
awakened, did the Captain a great deal of good; it softened him in the
very height of his anger, and brought the tears into his eyes.
Arrived at the wooden Midshipman's again, and sitting down in a
corner of the dark shop, the Captain's indignation, strong as it was,
could make no head against his grief. Passion seemed not only to do
wrong and violence to the memory of the dead, but to be infected by
death, and to droop and decline beside it. All the living knaves and
liars in the world, were nothing to the honesty and truth of one dead
The only thing the honest Captain made out clearly, in this state
of mind, besides the loss of Walter, was, that with him almost the
whole world of Captain Cuttle had been drowned. If he reproached
himself sometimes, and keenly too, for having ever connived at
Walter's innocent deceit, he thought at least as often of the Mr
Carker whom no sea could ever render up; and the Mr Dombey, whom he
now began to perceive was as far beyond human recall; and the 'Heart's
Delight,' with whom he must never foregather again; and the Lovely
Peg, that teak-built and trim ballad, that had gone ashore upon a
rock, and split into mere planks and beams of rhyme. The Captain sat
in the dark shop, thinking of these things, to the entire exclusion of
his own injury; and looking with as sad an eye upon the ground, as if
in contemplation of their actual fragments, as they floated past
But the Captain was not unmindful, for all that, of such decent and
rest observances in memory of poor Walter, as he felt within his
power. Rousing himself, and rousing Rob the Grinder (who in the
unnatural twilight was fast asleep), the Captain sallied forth with
his attendant at his heels, and the door-key in his pocket, and
repairing to one of those convenient slop-selling establishments of
which there is abundant choice at the eastern end of London, purchased
on the spot two suits of mourning - one for Rob the Grinder, which was
immensely too small, and one for himself, which was immensely too
large. He also provided Rob with a species of hat, greatly to be
admired for its symmetry and usefulness, as well as for a happy
blending of the mariner with the coal-heaver; which is usually termed
a sou'wester; and which was something of a novelty in connexion with
the instrument business. In their several garments, which the vendor
declared to be such a miracle in point of fit as nothing but a rare
combination of fortuitous circumstances ever brought about, and the
fashion of which was unparalleled within the memory of the oldest
inhabitant, the Captain and Grinder immediately arrayed themselves:
presenting a spectacle fraught with wonder to all who beheld it.
In this altered form, the Captain received Mr Toots. 'I'm took
aback, my lad, at present,' said the Captain, 'and will only confirm
that there ill news. Tell the young woman to break it gentle to the
young lady, and for neither of 'em never to think of me no more -
'special, mind you, that is - though I will think of them, when night
comes on a hurricane and seas is mountains rowling, for which overhaul
your Doctor Watts, brother, and when found make a note on."
The Captain reserved, until some fitter time, the consideration of
Mr Toots's offer of friendship, and thus dismissed him. Captain
Cuttle's spirits were so low, in truth, that he half determined, that
day, to take no further precautions against surprise from Mrs
MacStinger, but to abandon himself recklessly to chance, and be
indifferent to what might happen. As evening came on, he fell into a
better frame of mind, however; and spoke much of Walter to Rob the
Grinder, whose attention and fidelity he likewise incidentally
commended. Rob did not blush to hear the Captain earnest in his
praises, but sat staring at him, and affecting to snivel with
sympathy, and making a feint of being virtuous, and treasuring up
every word he said (like a young spy as he was) with very promising
When Rob had turned in, and was fast asleep, the Captain trimmed
the candle, put on his spectacles - he had felt it appropriate to take
to spectacles on entering into the Instrument Trade, though his eyes
were like a hawk's - and opened the prayer-book at the Burial Service.
And reading softly to himself, in the little back parlour, and
stopping now and then to wipe his eyes, the Captain, In a true and
simple spirit, committed Walter's body to the deep.
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