Dombey and Son
Part 13 out of 21
Mr Dombey's face was not a changeful one, and being cast in its
mould of state that day, showed little other apprehension of the
story, if any, than that which he expressed when he said solemnly,
amidst the silence, that it was 'Very good.' There was a rapid glance
from Edith towards Florence, but otherwise she remained, externally,
impassive and unconscious.
Through the various stages of rich meats and wines, continual gold
and silver, dainties of earth, air, fire, and water, heaped-up fruits,
and that unnecessary article in Mr Dombey's banquets - ice- the dinner
slowly made its way: the later stages being achieved to the sonorous
music of incessant double knocks, announcing the arrival of visitors,
whose portion of the feast was limited to the smell thereof. When Mrs
Dombey rose, it was a sight to see her lord, with stiff throat and
erect head, hold the door open for the withdrawal of the ladies; and
to see how she swept past him with his daughter on her arm.
Mr Dombey was a grave sight, behind the decanters, in a state of
dignity; and the East India Director was a forlorn sight near the
unoccupied end of the table, in a state of solitude; and the Major was
a military sight, relating stories of the Duke of York to six of the
seven mild men (the ambitious one was utterly quenched); and the Bank
Director was a lowly sight, making a plan of his little attempt at a
pinery, with dessert-knives, for a group of admirers; and Cousin
Feenix was a thoughtful sight, as he smoothed his long wristbands and
stealthily adjusted his wig. But all these sights were of short
duration, being speedily broken up by coffee, and the desertion of the
There was a throng in the state-rooms upstairs, increasing every
minute; but still Mr Dombey's list of visitors appeared to have some
native impossibility of amalgamation with Mrs Dombey's list, and no
one could have doubted which was which. The single exception to this
rule perhaps was Mr Carker, who now smiled among the company, and who,
as he stood in the circle that was gathered about Mrs Dombey -
watchful of her, of them, his chief, Cleopatra and the Major,
Florence, and everything around - appeared at ease with both divisions
of guests, and not marked as exclusively belonging to either.
Florence had a dread of him, which made his presence in the room a
nightmare to her. She could not avoid the recollection of it, for her
eyes were drawn towards him every now and then, by an attraction of
dislike and distrust that she could not resist. Yet her thoughts were
busy with other things; for as she sat apart - not unadmired or
unsought, but in the gentleness of her quiet spirit - she felt how
little part her father had in what was going on, and saw, with pain,
how ill at ease he seemed to be, and how little regarded he was as he
lingered about near the door, for those visitors whom he wished to
distinguish with particular attention, and took them up to introduce
them to his wife, who received them with proud coldness, but showed no
interest or wish to please, and never, after the bare ceremony of
reception, in consultation of his wishes, or in welcome of his
friends, opened her lips. It was not the less perplexing or painful to
Florence, that she who acted thus, treated her so kindly and with such
loving consideration, that it almost seemed an ungrateful return on
her part even to know of what was passing before her eyes.
Happy Florence would have been, might she have ventured to bear her
father company, by so much as a look; and happy Florence was, in
little suspecting the main cause of his uneasiness. But afraid of
seeming to know that he was placed at any did advantage, lest he
should be resentful of that knowledge; and divided between her impulse
towards him, and her grateful affection for Edith; she scarcely dared
to raise her eyes towards either. Anxious and unhappy for them both,
the thought stole on her through the crowd, that it might have been
better for them if this noise of tongues and tread of feet had never
come there, - if the old dulness and decay had never been replaced by
novelty and splendour, - if the neglected child had found no friend in
Edith, but had lived her solitary life, unpitied and forgotten.
Mrs Chick had some such thoughts too, but they were not so quietly
developed in her mind. This good matron had been outraged in the first
instance by not receiving an invitation to dinner. That blow partially
recovered, she had gone to a vast expense to make such a figure before
Mrs Dombey at home, as should dazzle the senses of that lady, and heap
mortification, mountains high, on the head of Mrs Skewton.
'But I am made,' said Mrs Chick to Mr Chick, 'of no more account
than Florence! Who takes the smallest notice of me? No one!'
'No one, my dear,' assented Mr Chick, who was seated by the side of
Mrs Chick against the wall, and could console himself, even there, by
'Does it at all appear as if I was wanted here?' exclaimed Mrs
Chick, with flashing eyes.
'No, my dear, I don't think it does,' said Mr Chic
'Paul's mad!' said Mrs Chic
Mr Chick whistled.
'Unless you are a monster, which I sometimes think you are,' said
Mrs Chick with candour, 'don't sit there humming tunes. How anyone
with the most distant feelings of a man, can see that mother-in-law of
Paul's, dressed as she is, going on like that, with Major Bagstock,
for whom, among other precious things, we are indebted to your
'My Lucretia Tox, my dear!' said Mr Chick, astounded.
'Yes,' retorted Mrs Chick, with great severity, 'your Lucretia Tox
- I say how anybody can see that mother-in-law of Paul's, and that
haughty wife of Paul's, and these indecent old frights with their
backs and shoulders, and in short this at home generally, and hum - '
on which word Mrs Chick laid a scornful emphasis that made Mr Chick
start, 'is, I thank Heaven, a mystery to me!
Mr Chick screwed his mouth into a form irreconcilable with humming
or whistling, and looked very contemplative.
'But I hope I know what is due to myself,' said Mrs Chick, swelling
with indignation, 'though Paul has forgotten what is due to me. I am
not going to sit here, a member of this family, to be taken no notice
of. I am not the dirt under Mrs Dombey's feet, yet - not quite yet,'
said Mrs Chick, as if she expected to become so, about the day after
to-morrow. 'And I shall go. I will not say (whatever I may think) that
this affair has been got up solely to degrade and insult me. I shall
merely go. I shall not be missed!'
Mrs Chick rose erect with these words, and took the arm of Mr
Chick, who escorted her from the room, after half an hour's shady
sojourn there. And it is due to her penetration to observe that she
certainly was not missed at all.
But she was not the only indignant guest; for Mr Dombey's list
(still constantly in difficulties) were, as a body, indignant with Mrs
Dombey's list, for looking at them through eyeglasses, and audibly
wondering who all those people were; while Mrs Dombey's list
complained of weariness, and the young thing with the shoulders,
deprived of the attentions of that gay youth Cousin Feenix (who went
away from the dinner-table), confidentially alleged to thirty or forty
friends that she was bored to death. All the old ladies with the
burdens on their heads, had greater or less cause of complaint against
Mr Dombey; and the Directors and Chairmen coincided in thinking that
if Dombey must marry, he had better have married somebody nearer his
own age, not quite so handsome, and a little better off. The general
opinion among this class of gentlemen was, that it was a weak thing in
Dombey, and he'd live to repent it. Hardly anybody there, except the
mild men, stayed, or went away, without considering himself or herself
neglected and aggrieved by Mr Dombey or Mrs Dombey; and the speechless
female in the black velvet hat was found to have been stricken mute,
because the lady in the crimson velvet had been handed down before
her. The nature even of the mild men got corrupted, either from their
curdling it with too much lemonade, or from the general inoculation
that prevailed; and they made sarcastic jokes to one another, and
whispered disparagement on stairs and in bye-places. The general
dissatisfaction and discomfort so diffused itself, that the assembled
footmen in the hall were as well acquainted with it as the company
above. Nay, the very linkmen outside got hold of it, and compared the
party to a funeral out of mourning, with none of the company
remembered in the will. At last, the guests were all gone, and the
linkmen too; and the street, crowded so long with carriages, was
clear; and the dying lights showed no one in the rooms, but Mr Dombey
and Mr Carker, who were talking together apart, and Mrs Dombey and her
mother: the former seated on an ottoman; the latter reclining in the
Cleopatra attitude, awaiting the arrival of her maid. Mr Dombey having
finished his communication to Carker, the latter advanced obsequiously
to take leave.
'I trust,' he said, 'that the fatigues of this delightful evening
will not inconvenience Mrs Dombey to-morrow.'
'Mrs Dombey,' said Mr Dombey, advancing, 'has sufficiently spared
herself fatigue, to relieve you from any anxiety of that kind. I
regret to say, Mrs Dombey, that I could have wished you had fatigued
yourself a little more on this occasion.
She looked at him with a supercilious glance, that it seemed not
worth her while to protract, and turned away her eyes without
'I am sorry, Madam,' said Mr Dombey, 'that you should not have
thought it your duty -
She looked at him again.
'Your duty, Madam,' pursued Mr Dombey, 'to have received my friends
with a little more deference. Some of those whom you have been pleased
to slight to-night in a very marked manner, Mrs Dombey, confer a
distinction upon you, I must tell you, in any visit they pay you.
'Do you know that there is someone here?' she returned, now looking
at him steadily.
'No! Carker! I beg that you do not. I insist that you do not,'
cried Mr Dombey, stopping that noiseless gentleman in his withdrawal.
'Mr Carker, Madam, as you know, possesses my confidence. He is as well
acquainted as myself with the subject on which I speak. I beg to tell
you, for your information, Mrs Dombey, that I consider these wealthy
and important persons confer a distinction upon me:' and Mr Dombey
drew himself up, as having now rendered them of the highest possible
'I ask you,' she repeated, bending her disdainful, steady gaze upon
him, 'do you know that there is someone here, Sir?'
'I must entreat,' said Mr Carker, stepping forward, 'I must beg, I
must demand, to be released. Slight and unimportant as this difference
is - '
Mrs Skewton, who had been intent upon her daughter's face, took him
'My sweetest Edith,' she said, 'and my dearest Dombey; our
excellent friend Mr Carker, for so I am sure I ought to mention him -
Mr Carker murmured, 'Too much honour.'
' - has used the very words that were in my mind, and that I have
been dying, these ages, for an opportunity of introducing. Slight and
unimportant! My sweetest Edith, and my dearest Dombey, do we not know
that any difference between you two - No, Flowers; not now.
Flowers was the maid, who, finding gentlemen present, retreated
'That any difference between you two,' resumed Mrs Skewton, 'with
the Heart you possess in common, and the excessively charming bond of
feeling that there is between you, must be slight and unimportant?
What words could better define the fact? None. Therefore I am glad to
take this slight occasion - this trifling occasion, that is so replete
with Nature, and your individual characters, and all that - so truly
calculated to bring the tears into a parent's eyes - to say that I
attach no importance to them in the least, except as developing these
minor elements of Soul; and that, unlike most Mamas-in-law (that
odious phrase, dear Dombey!) as they have been represented to me to
exist in this I fear too artificial world, I never shall attempt to
interpose between you, at such a time, and never can much regret,
after all, such little flashes of the torch of What's-his-name - not
Cupid, but the other delightful creature.
There was a sharpness in the good mother's glance at both her
children as she spoke, that may have been expressive of a direct and
well-considered purpose hidden between these rambling words. That
purpose, providently to detach herself in the beginning from all the
clankings of their chain that were to come, and to shelter herself
with the fiction of her innocent belief in their mutual affection, and
their adaptation to each other.
'I have pointed out to Mrs Dombey,' said Mr Dombey, in his most
stately manner, 'that in her conduct thus early in our married life,
to which I object, and which, I request, may be corrected. Carker,'
with a nod of dismissal, 'good-night to you!'
Mr Carker bowed to the imperious form of the Bride, whose sparkling
eye was fixed upon her husband; and stopping at Cleopatra's couch on
his way out, raised to his lips the hand she graciously extended to
him, in lowly and admiring homage.
If his handsome wife had reproached him, or even changed
countenance, or broken the silence in which she remained, by one word,
now that they were alone (for Cleopatra made off with all speed), Mr
Dombey would have been equal to some assertion of his case against
her. But the intense, unutterable, withering scorn, with which, after
looking upon him, she dropped her eyes, as if he were too worthless
and indifferent to her to be challenged with a syllable - the
ineffable disdain and haughtiness in which she sat before him - the
cold inflexible resolve with which her every feature seemed to bear
him down, and put him by - these, he had no resource against; and he
left her, with her whole overbearing beauty concentrated on despising
Was he coward enough to watch her, an hour afterwards, on the old
well staircase, where he had once seen Florence in the moonlight,
toiling up with Paul? Or was he in the dark by accident, when, looking
up, he saw her coming, with a light, from the room where Florence lay,
and marked again the face so changed, which he could not subdue?
But it could never alter as his own did. It never, in its uttermost
pride and passion, knew the shadow that had fallen on his, in the dark
corner, on the night of the return; and often since; and which
deepened on it now, as he looked up.
More Warnings than One
Florence, Edith, and Mrs Skewton were together next day, and the
carriage was waiting at the door to take them out. For Cleopatra had
her galley again now, and Withers, no longer the-wan, stood upright in
a pigeon-breasted jacket and military trousers, behind her wheel-less
chair at dinner-time and butted no more. The hair of Withers was
radiant with pomatum, in these days of down, and he wore kid gloves
and smelt of the water of Cologne.
They were assembled in Cleopatra's room The Serpent of old Nile
(not to mention her disrespectfully) was reposing on her sofa, sipping
her morning chocolate at three o'clock in the afternoon, and Flowers
the Maid was fastening on her youthful cuffs and frills, and
performing a kind of private coronation ceremony on her, with a
peach-coloured velvet bonnet; the artificial roses in which nodded to
uncommon advantage, as the palsy trifled with them, like a breeze.
'I think I am a little nervous this morning, Flowers,' said Mrs
Skewton. 'My hand quite shakes.'
'You were the life of the party last night, Ma'am, you know,'
returned Flowers, ' and you suffer for it, to-day, you see.'
Edith, who had beckoned Florence to the window, and was looking
out, with her back turned on the toilet of her esteemed mother,
suddenly withdrew from it, as if it had lightened.
'My darling child,' cried Cleopatra, languidly, 'you are not
nervous? Don't tell me, my dear Edith, that you, so enviably
self-possessed, are beginning to be a martyr too, like your
unfortunately constituted mother! Withers, someone at the door.'
'Card, Ma'am,' said Withers, taking it towards Mrs Dombey.
'I am going out,' she said without looking at it.
'My dear love,' drawled Mrs Skewton, 'how very odd to send that
message without seeing the name! Bring it here, Withers. Dear me, my
love; Mr Carker, too! That very sensible person!'
'I am going out,' repeated Edith, in so imperious a tone that
Withers, going to the door, imperiously informed the servant who was
waiting, 'Mrs Dombey is going out. Get along with you,' and shut it on
But the servant came back after a short absence, and whispered to
Withers again, who once more, and not very willingly, presented
himself before Mrs Dombey.
'If you please, Ma'am, Mr Carker sends his respectful compliments,
and begs you would spare him one minute, if you could - for business,
Ma'am, if you please.'
'Really, my love,' said Mrs Skewton in her mildest manner; for her
daughter's face was threatening; 'if you would allow me to offer a
word, I should recommend - '
'Show him this way,' said Edith. As Withers disappeared to execute
the command, she added, frowning on her mother, 'As he comes at your
recommendation, let him come to your room.'
'May I - shall I go away?' asked Florence, hurriedly.
Edith nodded yes, but on her way to the door Florence met the
visitor coming in. With the same disagreeable mixture of familiarity
and forbearance, with which he had first addressed her, he addressed
her now in his softest manner - hoped she was quite well - needed not
to ask, with such looks to anticipate the answer - had scarcely had
the honour to know her, last night, she was so greatly changed - and
held the door open for her to pass out; with a secret sense of power
in her shrinking from him, that all the deference and politeness of
his manner could not quite conceal.
He then bowed himself for a moment over Mrs Skewton's condescending
hand, and lastly bowed to Edith. Coldly returning his salute without
looking at him, and neither seating herself nor inviting him to be
seated, she waited for him to speak.
Entrenched in her pride and power, and with all the obduracy of her
spirit summoned about her, still her old conviction that she and her
mother had been known by this man in their worst colours, from their
first acquaintance; that every degradation she had suffered in her own
eyes was as plain to him as to herself; that he read her life as
though it were a vile book, and fluttered the leaves before her in
slight looks and tones of voice which no one else could detect;
weakened and undermined her. Proudly as she opposed herself to him,
with her commanding face exacting his humility, her disdainful lip
repulsing him, her bosom angry at his intrusion, and the dark lashes
of her eyes sullenly veiling their light, that no ray of it might
shine upon him - and submissively as he stood before her, with an
entreating injured manner, but with complete submission to her will -
she knew, in her own soul, that the cases were reversed, and that the
triumph and superiority were his, and that he knew it full well.
'I have presumed,' said Mr Carker, 'to solicit an interview, and I
have ventured to describe it as being one of business, because - '
'Perhaps you are charged by Mr Dombey with some message of
reproof,' said Edit 'You possess Mr Dombey's confidence in such an
unusual degree, Sir, that you would scarcely surprise me if that were
'I have no message to the lady who sheds a lustre upon his name,'
said Mr Carker. 'But I entreat that lady, on my own behalf to be just
to a very humble claimant for justice at her hands - a mere dependant
of Mr Dombey's - which is a position of humility; and to reflect upon
my perfect helplessness last night, and the impossibility of my
avoiding the share that was forced upon me in a very painful
'My dearest Edith,' hinted Cleopatra in a low voice, as she held
her eye-glass aside, 'really very charming of Mr What's-his-name. And
full of heart!'
'For I do,' said Mr Carker, appealing to Mrs Skewton with a look of
grateful deference, - 'I do venture to call it a painful occasion,
though merely because it was so to me, who had the misfortune to be
present. So slight a difference, as between the principals - between
those who love each other with disinterested devotion, and would make
any sacrifice of self in such a cause - is nothing. As Mrs Skewton
herself expressed, with so much truth and feeling last night, it is
Edith could not look at him, but she said after a few moments,
'And your business, Sir - '
'Edith, my pet,' said Mrs Skewton, 'all this time Mr Carker is
standing! My dear Mr Carker, take a seat, I beg.'
He offered no reply to the mother, but fixed his eyes on the proud
daughter, as though he would only be bidden by her, and was resolved
to he bidden by her. Edith, in spite of herself sat down, and slightly
motioned with her hand to him to be seated too. No action could be
colder, haughtier, more insolent in its air of supremacy and
disrespect, but she had struggled against even that concession
ineffectually, and it was wrested from her. That was enough! Mr Carker
'May I be allowed, Madam,' said Carker, turning his white teeth on
Mrs Skewton like a light - 'a lady of your excellent sense and quick
feeling will give me credit, for good reason, I am sure - to address
what I have to say, to Mrs Dombey, and to leave her to impart it to
you who are her best and dearest friend - next to Mr Dombey?'
Mrs Skewton would have retired, but Edith stopped her. Edith would
have stopped him too, and indignantly ordered him to speak openly or
not at all, but that he said, in a low Voice - 'Miss Florence - the
young lady who has just left the room - '
Edith suffered him to proceed. She looked at him now. As he bent
forward, to be nearer, with the utmost show of delicacy and respect,
and with his teeth persuasively arrayed, in a self-depreciating smile,
she felt as if she could have struck him dead.
'Miss Florence's position,' he began, 'has been an unfortunate one.
I have a difficulty in alluding to it to you, whose attachment to her
father is naturally watchful and jealous of every word that applies to
him.' Always distinct and soft in speech, no language could describe
the extent of his distinctness and softness, when he said these words,
or came to any others of a similar import. 'But, as one who is devoted
to Mr Dombey in his different way, and whose life is passed in
admiration of Mr Dombey's character, may I say, without offence to
your tenderness as a wife, that Miss Florence has unhappily been
neglected - by her father. May I say by her father?'
Edith replied, 'I know it.'
'You know it!' said Mr Carker, with a great appearance of relief.
'It removes a mountain from my breast. May I hope you know how the
neglect originated; in what an amiable phase of Mr Dombey's pride -
character I mean?'
'You may pass that by, Sir,' she returned, 'and come the sooner to
the end of what you have to say.'
'Indeed, I am sensible, Madam,' replied Carker, - 'trust me, I am
deeply sensible, that Mr Dombey can require no justification in
anything to you. But, kindly judge of my breast by your own, and you
will forgive my interest in him, if in its excess, it goes at all
What a stab to her proud heart, to sit there, face to face with
him, and have him tendering her false oath at the altar again and
again for her acceptance, and pressing it upon her like the dregs of a
sickening cup she could not own her loathing of or turn away from'.
How shame, remorse, and passion raged within her, when, upright and
majestic in her beauty before him, she knew that in her spirit she was
down at his feet!
'Miss Florence,' said Carker, 'left to the care - if one may call
it care - of servants and mercenary people, in every way her
inferiors, necessarily wanted some guide and compass in her younger
days, and, naturally, for want of them, has been indiscreet, and has
in some degree forgotten her station. There was some folly about one
Walter, a common lad, who is fortunately dead now: and some very
undesirable association, I regret to say, with certain coasting
sailors, of anything but good repute, and a runaway old bankrupt.'
'I have heard the circumstances, Sir,' said Edith, flashing her
disdainful glance upon him, 'and I know that you pervert them. You may
not know it. I hope so.'
'Pardon me,' said Mr Carker, 'I believe that nobody knows them so
well as I. Your generous and ardent nature, Madam - the same nature
which is so nobly imperative in vindication of your beloved and
honoured husband, and which has blessed him as even his merits deserve
- I must respect, defer to, bow before. But, as regards the
circumstances, which is indeed the business I presumed to solicit your
attention to, I can have no doubt, since, in the execution of my trust
as Mr Dombey's confidential - I presume to say - friend, I have fully
ascertained them. In my execution of that trust; in my deep concern,
which you can so well understand, for everything relating to him,
intensified, if you will (for I fear I labour under your displeasure),
by the lower motive of desire to prove my diligence, and make myself
the more acceptable; I have long pursued these circumstances by myself
and trustworthy instruments, and have innumerable and most minute
She raised her eyes no higher than his mouth, but she saw the means
of mischief vaunted in every tooth it contained.
'Pardon me, Madam,' he continued, 'if in my perplexity, I presume
to take counsel with you, and to consult your pleasure. I think I have
observed that you are greatly interested in Miss Florence?'
What was there in her he had not observed, and did not know?
Humbled and yet maddened by the thought, in every new presentment of
it, however faint, she pressed her teeth upon her quivering lip to
force composure on it, and distantly inclined her head in reply.
'This interest, Madam - so touching an evidence of everything
associated with Mr Dombey being dear to you - induces me to pause
before I make him acquainted with these circumstances, which, as yet,
he does not know. It so shakes me, if I may make the confession, in my
allegiance, that on the intimation of the least desire to that effect
from you, I would suppress them.'
Edith raised her head quickly, and starting back, bent her dark
glance upon him. He met it with his blandest and most deferential
smile, and went on.
'You say that as I describe them, they are perverted. I fear not -
I fear not: but let us assume that they are. The uneasiness I have for
some time felt on the subject, arises in this: that the mere
circumstance of such association often repeated, on the part of Miss
Florence, however innocently and confidingly, would be conclusive with
Mr Dombey, already predisposed against her, and would lead him to take
some step (I know he has occasionally contemplated it) of separation
and alienation of her from his home. Madam, bear with me, and remember
my intercourse with Mr Dombey, and my knowledge of him, and my
reverence for him, almost from childhood, when I say that if he has a
fault, it is a lofty stubbornness, rooted in that noble pride and
sense of power which belong to him, and which we must all defer to;
which is not assailable like the obstinacy of other characters; and
which grows upon itself from day to day, and year to year.
She bent her glance upon him still; but, look as steadfast as she
would, her haughty nostrils dilated, and her breath came somewhat
deeper, and her lip would slightly curl, as he described that in his
patron to which they must all bow down. He saw it; and though his
expression did not change, she knew he saw it.
'Even so slight an incident as last night's,' he said, 'if I might
refer to it once more, would serve to illustrate my meaning, better
than a greater one. Dombey and Son know neither time, nor place, nor
season, but bear them all down. But I rejoice in its occurrence, for
it has opened the way for me to approach Mrs Dombey with this subject
to-day, even if it has entailed upon me the penalty of her temporary
displeasure. Madam, in the midst of my uneasiness and apprehension on
this subject, I was summoned by Mr Dombey to Leamington. There I saw
you. There I could not help knowing what relation you would shortly
occupy towards him - to his enduring happiness and yours. There I
resolved to await the time of your establishment at home here, and to
do as I have now done. I have, at heart, no fear that I shall be
wanting in my duty to Mr Dombey, if I bury what I know in your breast;
for where there is but one heart and mind between two persons - as in
such a marriage - one almost represents the other. I can acquit my
conscience therefore, almost equally, by confidence, on such a theme,
in you or him. For the reasons I have mentioned I would select you.
May I aspire to the distinction of believing that my confidence is
accepted, and that I am relieved from my responsibility?'
He long remembered the look she gave him - who could see it, and
forget it? - and the struggle that ensued within her. At last she
'I accept it, Sir You will please to consider this matter at an
end, and that it goes no farther.'
He bowed low, and rose. She rose too, and he took leave with all
humility. But Withers, meeting him on the stairs, stood amazed at the
beauty of his teeth, and at his brilliant smile; and as he rode away
upon his white-legged horse, the people took him for a dentist, such
was the dazzling show he made. The people took her, when she rode out
in her carriage presently, for a great lady, as happy as she was rich
and fine. But they had not seen her, just before, in her own room with
no one by; and they had not heard her utterance of the three words,
'Oh Florence, Florence!'
Mrs Skewton, reposing on her sofa, and sipping her chocolate, had
heard nothing but the low word business, for which she had a mortal
aversion, insomuch that she had long banished it from her vocabulary,
and had gone nigh, in a charming manner and with an immense amount of
heart, to say nothing of soul, to ruin divers milliners and others in
consequence. Therefore Mrs Skewton asked no questions, and showed no
curiosity. Indeed, the peach-velvet bonnet gave her sufficient
occupation out of doors; for being perched on the back of her head,
and the day being rather windy, it was frantic to escape from Mrs
Skewton's company, and would be coaxed into no sort of compromise.
When the carriage was closed, and the wind shut out, the palsy played
among the artificial roses again like an almshouse-full of
superannuated zephyrs; and altogether Mrs Skewton had enough to do,
and got on but indifferently.
She got on no better towards night; for when Mrs Dombey, in her
dressing-room, had been dressed and waiting for her half an hour, and
Mr Dombey, in the drawing-room, had paraded himself into a state of
solemn fretfulness (they were all three going out to dinner), Flowers
the Maid appeared with a pale face to Mrs Dombey, saying:
'If you please, Ma'am, I beg your pardon, but I can't do nothing
'What do you mean?' asked Edith.
'Well, Ma'am,' replied the frightened maid, 'I hardly know. She's
Edith hurried with her to her mother's room. Cleopatra was arrayed
in full dress, with the diamonds, short sleeves, rouge, curls, teeth,
and other juvenility all complete; but Paralysis was not to be
deceived, had known her for the object of its errand, and had struck
her at her glass, where she lay like a horrible doll that had tumbled
They took her to pieces in very shame, and put the little of her
that was real on a bed. Doctors were sent for, and soon came. Powerful
remedies were resorted to; opinions given that she would rally from
this shock, but would not survive another; and there she lay
speechless, and staring at the ceiling, for days; sometimes making
inarticulate sounds in answer to such questions as did she know who
were present, and the like: sometimes giving no reply either by sign
or gesture, or in her unwinking eyes.
At length she began to recover consciousness, and in some degree
the power of motion, though not yet of speech. One day the use of her
right hand returned; and showing it to her maid who was in attendance
on her, and appearing very uneasy in her mind, she made signs for a
pencil and some paper. This the maid immediately provided, thinking
she was going to make a will, or write some last request; and Mrs
Dombey being from home, the maid awaited the result with solemn
After much painful scrawling and erasing, and putting in of wrong
characters, which seemed to tumble out of the pencil of their own
accord, the old woman produced this document:
The maid being perfectly transfixed, and with tolerable reason,
Cleopatra amended the manuscript by adding two words more, when it
'Rose-coloured curtains for doctors.'
The maid now perceived remotely that she wished these articles to
be provided for the better presentation of her complexion to the
faculty; and as those in the house who knew her best, had no doubt of
the correctness of this opinion, which she was soon able to establish
for herself the rose-coloured curtains were added to her bed, and she
mended with increased rapidity from that hour. She was soon able to
sit up, in curls and a laced cap and nightgown, and to have a little
artificial bloom dropped into the hollow caverns of her cheeks.
It was a tremendous sight to see this old woman in her finery
leering and mincing at Death, and playing off her youthful tricks upon
him as if he had been the Major; but an alteration in her mind that
ensued on the paralytic stroke was fraught with as much matter for
reflection, and was quite as ghastly.
Whether the weakening of her intellect made her more cunning and
false than before, or whether it confused her between what she had
assumed to be and what she really had been, or whether it had awakened
any glimmering of remorse, which could neither struggle into light nor
get back into total darkness, or whether, in the jumble of her
faculties, a combination of these effects had been shaken up, which is
perhaps the more likely supposition, the result was this: - That she
became hugely exacting in respect of Edith's affection and gratitude
and attention to her; highly laudatory of herself as a most
inestimable parent; and very jealous of having any rival in Edith's
regard. Further, in place of remembering that compact made between
them for an avoidance of the subject, she constantly alluded to her
daughter's marriage as a proof of her being an incomparable mother;
and all this, with the weakness and peevishness of such a state,
always serving for a sarcastic commentary on her levity and
'Where is Mrs Dombey? she would say to her maid.
'Gone out, Ma'am.'
'Gone out! Does she go out to shun her Mama, Flowers?'
'La bless you, no, Ma'am. Mrs Dombey has only gone out for a ride
with Miss Florence.'
'Miss Florence. Who's Miss Florence? Don't tell me about Miss
Florence. What's Miss Florence to her, compared to me?'
The apposite display of the diamonds, or the peach-velvet bonnet
(she sat in the bonnet to receive visitors, weeks before she could
stir out of doors), or the dressing of her up in some gaud or other,
usually stopped the tears that began to flow hereabouts; and she would
remain in a complacent state until Edith came to see her; when, at a
glance of the proud face, she would relapse again.
'Well, I am sure, Edith!' she would cry, shaking her head.
'What is the matter, mother?'
'Matter! I really don't know what is the matter. The world is
coming to such an artificial and ungrateful state, that I begin to
think there's no Heart - or anything of that sort - left in it,
positively. Withers is more a child to me than you are. He attends to
me much more than my own daughter. I almost wish I didn't look so
young - and all that kind of thing - and then perhaps I should be more
'What would you have, mother?'
'Oh, a great deal, Edith,' impatiently.
'Is there anything you want that you have not? It is your own fault
if there be.'
'My own fault!' beginning to whimper. 'The parent I have been to
you, Edith: making you a companion from your cradle! And when you
neglect me, and have no more natural affection for me than if I was a
stranger - not a twentieth part of the affection that you have for
Florence - but I am only your mother, and should corrupt her in a day!
- you reproach me with its being my own fault.'
'Mother, mother, I reproach you with nothing. Why will you always
dwell on this?'
'Isn't it natural that I should dwell on this, when I am all
affection and sensitiveness, and am wounded in the cruellest way,
whenever you look at me?'
'I do not mean to wound you, mother. Have you no remembrance of
what has been said between us? Let the Past rest.'
'Yes, rest! And let gratitude to me rest; and let affection for me
rest; and let me rest in my out-of-the-way room, with no society and
no attention, while you find new relations to make much of, who have
no earthly claim upon you! Good gracious, Edith, do you know what an
elegant establishment you are at the head of?'
'And that gentlemanly creature, Dombey? Do you know that you are
married to him, Edith, and that you have a settlement and a position,
and a carriage, and I don't know what?'
'Indeed, I know it, mother; well.'
'As you would have had with that delightful good soul - what did
they call him? - Granger - if he hadn't died. And who have you to
thank for all this, Edith?'
'You, mother; you.'
'Then put your arms round my neck, and kiss me; and show me, Edith,
that you know there never was a better Mama than I have been to you.
And don't let me become a perfect fright with teasing and wearing
myself at your ingratitude, or when I'm out again in society no soul
will know me, not even that hateful animal, the Major.'
But, sometimes, when Edith went nearer to her, and bending down her
stately head, Put her cold cheek to hers, the mother would draw back
as If she were afraid of her, and would fall into a fit of trembling,
and cry out that there was a wandering in her wits. And sometimes she
would entreat her, with humility, to sit down on the chair beside her
bed, and would look at her (as she sat there brooding) with a face
that even the rose-coloured curtains could not make otherwise than
scared and wild.
The rose-coloured curtains blushed, in course of time, on
Cleopatra's bodily recovery, and on her dress - more juvenile than
ever, to repair the ravages of illness - and on the rouge, and on the
teeth, and on the curls, and on the diamonds, and the short sleeves,
and the whole wardrobe of the doll that had tumbled down before the
mirror. They blushed, too, now and then, upon an indistinctness in her
speech which she turned off with a girlish giggle, and on an
occasional failing In her memory, that had no rule in it, but came and
went fantastically, as if in mockery of her fantastic self.
But they never blushed upon a change in the new manner of her
thought and speech towards her daughter. And though that daughter
often came within their influence, they never blushed upon her
loveliness irradiated by a smile, or softened by the light of filial
love, in its stem beauty.
Miss Tox improves an Old Acquaintance
The forlorn Miss Tox, abandoned by her friend Louisa Chick, and
bereft of Mr Dombey's countenance - for no delicate pair of wedding
cards, united by a silver thread, graced the chimney-glass in
Princess's Place, or the harpsichord, or any of those little posts of
display which Lucretia reserved for holiday occupation - became
depressed in her spirits, and suffered much from melancholy. For a
time the Bird Waltz was unheard in Princess's Place, the plants were
neglected, and dust collected on the miniature of Miss Tox's ancestor
with the powdered head and pigtail.
Miss Tox, however, was not of an age or of a disposition long to
abandon herself to unavailing regrets. Only two notes of the
harpsichord were dumb from disuse when the Bird Waltz again warbled
and trilled in the crooked drawing-room: only one slip of geranium
fell a victim to imperfect nursing, before she was gardening at her
green baskets again, regularly every morning; the powdered-headed
ancestor had not been under a cloud for more than six weeks, when Miss
Tox breathed on his benignant visage, and polished him up with a piece
Still, Miss Tox was lonely, and at a loss. Her attachments, however
ludicrously shown, were real and strong; and she was, as she expressed
it, 'deeply hurt by the unmerited contumely she had met with from
Louisa.' But there was no such thing as anger in Miss Tox's
composition. If she had ambled on through life, in her soft spoken
way, without any opinions, she had, at least, got so far without any
harsh passions. The mere sight of Louisa Chick in the street one day,
at a considerable distance, so overpowered her milky nature, that she
was fain to seek immediate refuge in a pastrycook's, and there, in a
musty little back room usually devoted to the consumption of soups,
and pervaded by an ox-tail atmosphere, relieve her feelings by weeping
Against Mr Dombey Miss Tox hardly felt that she had any reason of
complaint. Her sense of that gentleman's magnificence was such, that
once removed from him, she felt as if her distance always had been
immeasurable, and as if he had greatly condescended in tolerating her
at all. No wife could be too handsome or too stately for him,
according to Miss Tox's sincere opinion. It was perfectly natural that
in looking for one, he should look high. Miss Tox with tears laid down
this proposition, and fully admitted it, twenty times a day. She never
recalled the lofty manner in which Mr Dombey had made her subservient
to his convenience and caprices, and had graciously permitted her to
be one of the nurses of his little son. She only thought, in her own
words, 'that she had passed a great many happy hours in that house,
which she must ever remember with gratification, and that she could
never cease to regard Mr Dombey as one of the most impressive and
dignified of men.'
Cut off, however, from the implacable Louisa, and being shy of the
Major (whom she viewed with some distrust now), Miss Tox found it very
irksome to know nothing of what was going on in Mr Dombey's
establishment. And as she really had got into the habit of considering
Dombey and Son as the pivot on which the world in general turned, she
resolved, rather than be ignorant of intelligence which so strongly
interested her, to cultivate her old acquaintance, Mrs Richards, who
she knew, since her last memorable appearance before Mr Dombey, was in
the habit of sometimes holding communication with his servants.
Perhaps Miss Tox, in seeking out the Toodle family, had the tender
motive hidden in her breast of having somebody to whom she could talk
about Mr Dombey, no matter how humble that somebody might be.
At all events, towards the Toodle habitation Miss Tox directed her
steps one evening, what time Mr Toodle, cindery and swart, was
refreshing himself with tea, in the bosom of his family. Mr Toodle had
only three stages of existence. He was either taking refreshment in
the bosom just mentioned, or he was tearing through the country at
from twenty-five to fifty miles an hour, or he was sleeping after his
fatigues. He was always in a whirlwind or a calm, and a peaceable,
contented, easy-going man Mr Toodle was in either state, who seemed to
have made over all his own inheritance of fuming and fretting to the
engines with which he was connected, which panted, and gasped, and
chafed, and wore themselves out, in a most unsparing manner, while Mr
Toodle led a mild and equable life.
'Polly, my gal,' said Mr Toodle, with a young Toodle on each knee,
and two more making tea for him, and plenty more scattered about - Mr
Toodle was never out of children, but always kept a good supply on
hand - 'you ain't seen our Biler lately, have you?'
'No,' replied Polly, 'but he's almost certain to look in tonight.
It's his right evening, and he's very regular.'
'I suppose,' said Mr Toodle, relishing his meal infinitely, 'as our
Biler is a doin' now about as well as a boy can do, eh, Polly?'
'Oh! he's a doing beautiful!' responded Polly.
'He ain't got to be at all secret-like - has he, Polly?' inquired
'No!' said Mrs Toodle, plumply.
'I'm glad he ain't got to be at all secret-like, Polly,' observed
Mr Toodle in his slow and measured way, and shovelling in his bread
and butter with a clasp knife, as if he were stoking himself, 'because
that don't look well; do it, Polly?'
'Why, of course it don't, father. How can you ask!'
'You see, my boys and gals,' said Mr Toodle, looking round upon his
family, 'wotever you're up to in a honest way, it's my opinion as you
can't do better than be open. If you find yourselves in cuttings or in
tunnels, don't you play no secret games. Keep your whistles going, and
let's know where you are.
The rising Toodles set up a shrill murmur, expressive of their
resolution to profit by the paternal advice.
'But what makes you say this along of Rob, father?' asked his wife,
'Polly, old ooman,' said Mr Toodle, 'I don't know as I said it
partickler along o' Rob, I'm sure. I starts light with Rob only; I
comes to a branch; I takes on what I finds there; and a whole train of
ideas gets coupled on to him, afore I knows where I am, or where they
comes from. What a Junction a man's thoughts is,' said Mr Toodle,
This profound reflection Mr Toodle washed down with a pint mug of
tea, and proceeded to solidify with a great weight of bread and
butter; charging his young daughters meanwhile, to keep plenty of hot
water in the pot, as he was uncommon dry, and should take the
indefinite quantity of 'a sight of mugs,' before his thirst was
In satisfying himself, however, Mr Toodle was not regardless of the
younger branches about him, who, although they had made their own
evening repast, were on the look-out for irregular morsels, as
possessing a relish. These he distributed now and then to the
expectant circle, by holding out great wedges of bread and butter, to
be bitten at by the family in lawful succession, and by serving out
small doses of tea in like manner with a spoon; which snacks had such
a relish in the mouths of these young Toodles, that, after partaking
of the same, they performed private dances of ecstasy among
themselves, and stood on one leg apiece, and hopped, and indulged in
other saltatory tokens of gladness. These vents for their excitement
found, they gradually closed about Mr Toodle again, and eyed him hard
as he got through more bread and butter and tea; affecting, however,
to have no further expectations of their own in reference to those
viands, but to be conversing on foreign subjects, and whispering
Mr Toodle, in the midst of this family group, and setting an awful
example to his children in the way of appetite, was conveying the two
young Toodles on his knees to Birmingham by special engine, and was
contemplating the rest over a barrier of bread and butter, when Rob
the Grinder, in his sou'wester hat and mourning slops, presented
himself, and was received with a general rush of brothers and sisters.
'Well, mother!' said Rob, dutifully kissing her; 'how are you,
'There's my boy!' cried Polly, giving him a hug and a pat on the
back. 'Secret! Bless you, father, not he!'
This was intended for Mr Toodle's private edification, but Rob the
Grinder, whose withers were not unwrung, caught the words as they were
'What! father's been a saying something more again me, has he?'
cried the injured innocent. 'Oh, what a hard thing it is that when a
cove has once gone a little wrong, a cove's own father should be
always a throwing it in his face behind his back! It's enough,' cried
Rob, resorting to his coat-cuff in anguish of spirit, 'to make a cove
go and do something, out of spite!'
'My poor boy!' cried Polly, 'father didn't mean anything.'
'If father didn't mean anything,' blubbered the injured Grinder,
'why did he go and say anything, mother? Nobody thinks half so bad of
me as my own father does. What a unnatural thing! I wish somebody'd
take and chop my head off. Father wouldn't mind doing it, I believe,
and I'd much rather he did that than t'other.'
At these desperate words all the young Toodles shrieked; a pathetic
effect, which the Grinder improved by ironically adjuring them not to
cry for him, for they ought to hate him, they ought, if they was good
boys and girls; and this so touched the youngest Toodle but one, who
was easily moved, that it touched him not only in his spirit but in
his wind too; making him so purple that Mr Toodle in consternation
carried him out to the water-butt, and would have put him under the
tap, but for his being recovered by the sight of that instrument.
Matters having reached this point, Mr Toodle explained, and the
virtuous feelings of his son being thereby calmed, they shook hands,
and harmony reigned again.
'Will you do as I do, Biler, my boy?' inquired his father,
returning to his tea with new strength.
'No, thank'ee, father. Master and I had tea together.'
'And how is master, Rob?' said Polly.
'Well, I don't know, mother; not much to boast on. There ain't no
bis'ness done, you see. He don't know anything about it - the Cap'en
don't. There was a man come into the shop this very day, and says, "I
want a so-and-so," he says - some hard name or another. "A which?"
says the Cap'en. "A so-and-so," says the man. "Brother," says the
Cap'en, "will you take a observation round the shop." "Well," says the
man, "I've done" "Do you see wot you want?" says the Cap'en "No, I
don't," says the man. "Do you know it wen you do see it?" says the
Cap'en. "No, I don't," says the man. "Why, then I tell you wot, my
lad," says the Cap'en, "you'd better go back and ask wot it's like,
outside, for no more don't I!"'
'That ain't the way to make money, though, is it?' said Polly.
'Money, mother! He'll never make money. He has such ways as I never
see. He ain't a bad master though, I'll say that for him. But that
ain't much to me, for I don't think I shall stop with him long.'
'Not stop in your place, Rob!' cried his mother; while Mr Toodle
opened his eyes.
'Not in that place, p'raps,' returned the Grinder, with a wink. 'I
shouldn't wonder - friends at court you know - but never you mind,
mother, just now; I'm all right, that's all.'
The indisputable proof afforded in these hints, and in the
Grinder's mysterious manner, of his not being subject to that failing
which Mr Toodle had, by implication, attributed to him, might have led
to a renewal of his wrongs, and of the sensation in the family, but
for the opportune arrival of another visitor, who, to Polly's great
surprise, appeared at the door, smiling patronage and friendship on
'How do you do, Mrs Richards?' said Miss Tox. 'I have come to see
you. May I come in?'
The cheery face of Mrs Richards shone with a hospitable reply, and
Miss Tox, accepting the proffered chair, and grab fully recognising Mr
Toodle on her way to it, untied her bonnet strings, and said that in
the first place she must beg the dear children, one and all, to come
and kiss her.
The ill-starred youngest Toodle but one, who would appear, from the
frequency of his domestic troubles, to have been born under an unlucky
planet, was prevented from performing his part in this general
salutation by having fixed the sou'wester hat (with which he had been
previously trifling) deep on his head, hind side before, and being
unable to get it off again; which accident presenting to his terrified
imagination a dismal picture of his passing the rest of his days in
darkness, and in hopeless seclusion from his friends and family,
caused him to struggle with great violence, and to utter suffocating
cries. Being released, his face was discovered to be very hot, and
red, and damp; and Miss Tox took him on her lap, much exhausted.
'You have almost forgotten me, Sir, I daresay,' said Miss Tox to Mr
'No, Ma'am, no,' said Toodle. 'But we've all on us got a little
older since then.'
'And how do you find yourself, Sir?' inquired Miss Tox, blandly.
'Hearty, Ma'am, thank'ee,' replied Toodle. 'How do you find
yourself, Ma'am? Do the rheumaticks keep off pretty well, Ma'am? We
must all expect to grow into 'em, as we gets on.'
'Thank you,' said Miss Tox. 'I have not felt any inconvenience from
that disorder yet.'
'You're wery fortunate, Ma'am,' returned Mr Toodle. 'Many people at
your time of life, Ma'am, is martyrs to it. There was my mother - '
But catching his wife's eye here, Mr Toodle judiciously buried the
rest in another mug of tea
'You never mean to say, Mrs Richards,' cried Miss Tox, looking at
Rob, 'that that is your - '
'Eldest, Ma'am,' said Polly. 'Yes, indeed, it is. That's the little
fellow, Ma'am, that was the innocent cause of so much.'
'This here, Ma'am,' said Toodle, 'is him with the short legs - and
they was,' said Mr Toodle, with a touch of poetry in his tone,
'unusual short for leathers - as Mr Dombey made a Grinder on.'
The recollection almost overpowered Miss Tox. The subject of it had
a peculiar interest for her directly. She asked him to shake hands,
and congratulated his mother on his frank, ingenuous face. Rob,
overhearing her, called up a look, to justify the eulogium, but it was
hardly the right look.
'And now, Mrs Richards,' said Miss Tox, - 'and you too, Sir,'
addressing Toodle - 'I'll tell you, plainly and truly, what I have
come here for. You may be aware, Mrs Richards - and, possibly, you may
be aware too, Sir - that a little distance has interposed itself
between me and some of my friends, and that where I used to visit a
good deal, I do not visit now.'
Polly, who, with a woman's tact, understood this at once, expressed
as much in a little look. Mr Toodle, who had not the faintest idea of
what Miss Tox was talking about, expressed that also, in a stare.
'Of course,' said Miss Tox, 'how our little coolness has arisen is
of no moment, and does not require to be discussed. It is sufficient
for me to say, that I have the greatest possible respect for, and
interest in, Mr Dombey;' Miss Tox's voice faltered; 'and everything
that relates to him.'
Mr Toodle, enlightened, shook his head, and said he had heerd it
said, and, for his own part, he did think, as Mr Dombey was a
'Pray don't say so, Sir, if you please,' returned Miss Tox. 'Let me
entreat you not to say so, Sir, either now, or at any future time.
Such observations cannot but be very painful to me; and to a
gentleman, whose mind is constituted as, I am quite sure, yours is,
can afford no permanent satisfaction.'
Mr Toodle, who had not entertained the least doubt of offering a
remark that would be received with acquiescence, was greatly
'All that I wish to say, Mrs Richards,' resumed Miss Tox, - 'and I
address myself to you too, Sir, - is this. That any intelligence of
the proceedings of the family, of the welfare of the family, of the
health of the family, that reaches you, will be always most acceptable
to me. That I shall be always very glad to chat with Mrs Richards
about the family, and about old time And as Mrs Richards and I never
had the least difference (though I could wish now that we had been
better acquainted, but I have no one but myself to blame for that), I
hope she will not object to our being very good friends now, and to my
coming backwards and forwards here, when I like, without being a
stranger. Now, I really hope, Mrs Richards,' said Miss Tox -
earnestly, 'that you will take this, as I mean it, like a
good-humoured creature, as you always were.'
Polly was gratified, and showed it. Mr Toodle didn't know whether
he was gratified or not, and preserved a stolid calmness.
'You see, Mrs Richards,' said Miss Tox - 'and I hope you see too,
Sir - there are many little ways in which I can be slightly useful to
you, if you will make no stranger of me; and in which I shall be
delighted to be so. For instance, I can teach your children something.
I shall bring a few little books, if you'll allow me, and some work,
and of an evening now and then, they'll learn - dear me, they'll learn
a great deal, I trust, and be a credit to their teacher.'
Mr Toodle, who had a great respect for learning, jerked his head
approvingly at his wife, and moistened his hands with dawning
'Then, not being a stranger, I shall be in nobody's way,' said Miss
Tox, 'and everything will go on just as if I were not here. Mrs
Richards will do her mending, or her ironing, or her nursing, whatever
it is, without minding me: and you'll smoke your pipe, too, if you're
so disposed, Sir, won't you?'
'Thank'ee, Mum,' said Mr Toodle. 'Yes; I'll take my bit of backer.'
'Very good of you to say so, Sir,' rejoined Miss Tox, 'and I really
do assure you now, unfeignedly, that it will be a great comfort to me,
and that whatever good I may be fortunate enough to do the children,
you will more than pay back to me, if you'll enter into this little
bargain comfortably, and easily, and good-naturedly, without another
word about it.'
The bargain was ratified on the spot; and Miss Tox found herself so
much at home already, that without delay she instituted a preliminary
examination of the children all round - which Mr Toodle much admired -
and booked their ages, names, and acquirements, on a piece of paper.
This ceremony, and a little attendant gossip, prolonged the time until
after their usual hour of going to bed, and detained Miss Tox at the
Toodle fireside until it was too late for her to walk home alone. The
gallant Grinder, however, being still there, politely offered to
attend her to her own door; and as it was something to Miss Tox to be
seen home by a youth whom Mr Dombey had first inducted into those
manly garments which are rarely mentioned by name,' she very readily
accepted the proposal.
After shaking hands with Mr Toodle and Polly, and kissing all the
children, Miss Tox left the house, therefore, with unlimited
popularity, and carrying away with her so light a heart that it might
have given Mrs Chick offence if that good lady could have weighed it.
Rob the Grinder, in his modesty, would have walked behind, but Miss
Tox desired him to keep beside her, for conversational purposes; and,
as she afterwards expressed it to his mother, 'drew him out,' upon the
He drew out so bright, and clear, and shining, that Miss Tox was
charmed with him. The more Miss Tox drew him out, the finer he came -
like wire. There never was a better or more promising youth - a more
affectionate, steady, prudent, sober, honest, meek, candid young man -
than Rob drew out, that night.
'I am quite glad,' said Miss Tox, arrived at her own door, 'to know
you. I hope you'll consider me your friend, and that you'll come and
see me as often as you like. Do you keep a money-box?'
'Yes, Ma'am,' returned Rob; 'I'm saving up, against I've got enough
to put in the Bank, Ma'am.
'Very laudable indeed,' said Miss Tox. 'I'm glad to hear it. Put
this half-crown into it, if you please.'
'Oh thank you, Ma'am,' replied Rob, 'but really I couldn't think of
'I commend your independent spirit,' said Miss Tox, 'but it's no
deprivation, I assure you. I shall be offended if you don't take it,
as a mark of my good-will. Good-night, Robin.'
'Good-night, Ma'am,' said Rob, 'and thank you!'
Who ran sniggering off to get change, and tossed it away with a
pieman. But they never taught honour at the Grinders' School, where
the system that prevailed was particularly strong in the engendering
of hypocrisy. Insomuch, that many of the friends and masters of past
Grinders said, if this were what came of education for the common
people, let us have none. Some more rational said, let us have a
better one. But the governing powers of the Grinders' Company were
always ready for them, by picking out a few boys who had turned out
well in spite of the system, and roundly asserting that they could
have only turned out well because of it. Which settled the business of
those objectors out of hand, and established the glory of the
Further Adventures of Captain Edward Cuttle, Mariner
Time, sure of foot and strong of will, had so pressed onward, that
the year enjoined by the old Instrument-maker, as the term during
which his friend should refrain from opening the sealed packet
accompanying the letter he had left for him, was now nearly expired,
and Captain Cuttle began to look at it, of an evening, with feelings
of mystery and uneasiness
The Captain, in his honour, would as soon have thought of opening
the parcel one hour before the expiration of the term, as he would
have thought of opening himself, to study his own anatomy. He merely
brought it out, at a certain stage of his first evening pipe, laid it
on the table, and sat gazing at the outside of it, through the smoke,
in silent gravity, for two or three hours at a spell. Sometimes, when
he had contemplated it thus for a pretty long while, the Captain would
hitch his chair, by degrees, farther and farther off, as if to get
beyond the range of its fascination; but if this were his design, he
never succeeded: for even when he was brought up by the parlour wall,
the packet still attracted him; or if his eyes, in thoughtful
wandering, roved to the ceiling or the fire, its image immediately
followed, and posted itself conspicuously among the coals, or took up
an advantageous position on the whitewash.
In respect of Heart's Delight, the Captain's parental and
admiration knew no change. But since his last interview with Mr
Carker, Captain Cuttle had come to entertain doubts whether his former
intervention in behalf of that young lady and his dear boy Wal'r, had
proved altogether so favourable as he could have wished, and as he at
the time believed. The Captain was troubled with a serious misgiving
that he had done more harm than good, in short; and in his remorse and
modesty he made the best atonement he could think of, by putting
himself out of the way of doing any harm to anyone, and, as it were,
throwing himself overboard for a dangerous person.
Self-buried, therefore, among the instruments, the Captain never
went near Mr Dombey's house, or reported himself in any way to
Florence or Miss Nipper. He even severed himself from Mr Perch, on the
occasion of his next visit, by dryly informing that gentleman, that he
thanked him for his company, but had cut himself adrift from all such
acquaintance, as he didn't know what magazine he mightn't blow up,
without meaning of it. In this self-imposed retirement, the Captain
passed whole days and weeks without interchanging a word with anyone
but Rob the Grinder, whom he esteemed as a pattern of disinterested
attachment and fidelity. In this retirement, the Captain, gazing at
the packet of an evening, would sit smoking, and thinking of Florence
and poor Walter, until they both seemed to his homely fancy to be
dead, and to have passed away into eternal youth, the beautiful and
innocent children of his first remembrance.
The Captain did not, however, in his musings, neglect his own
improvement, or the mental culture of Rob the Grinder. That young man
was generally required to read out of some book to the Captain, for
one hour, every evening; and as the Captain implicitly believed that
all books were true, he accumulated, by this means, many remarkable
facts. On Sunday nights, the Captain always read for himself, before
going to bed, a certain Divine Sermon once delivered on a Mount; and
although he was accustomed to quote the text, without book, after his
own manner, he appeared to read it with as reverent an understanding
of its heavenly spirit, as if he had got it all by heart in Greek, and
had been able to write any number of fierce theological disquisitions
on its every phrase.
Rob the Grinder, whose reverence for the inspired writings, under
the admirable system of the Grinders' School, had been developed by a
perpetual bruising of his intellectual shins against all the proper
names of all the tribes of Judah, and by the monotonous repetition of
hard verses, especially by way of punishment, and by the parading of
him at six years old in leather breeches, three times a Sunday, very
high up, in a very hot church, with a great organ buzzing against his
drowsy head, like an exceedingly busy bee - Rob the Grinder made a
mighty show of being edified when the Captain ceased to read, and
generally yawned and nodded while the reading was in progress. The
latter fact being never so much as suspected by the good Captain.
Captain Cuttle, also, as a man of business; took to keeping books.
In these he entered observations on the weather, and on the currents
of the waggons and other vehicles: which he observed, in that quarter,
to set westward in the morning and during the greater part of the day,
and eastward towards the evening. Two or three stragglers appearing in
one week, who 'spoke him' - so the Captain entered it- on the subject
of spectacles, and who, without positively purchasing, said they would
look in again, the Captain decided that the business was improving,
and made an entry in the day-book to that effect: the wind then
blowing (which he first recorded) pretty fresh, west and by north;
having changed in the night.
One of the Captain's chief difficulties was Mr Toots, who called
frequently, and who without saying much seemed to have an idea that
the little back parlour was an eligible room to chuckle in, as he
would sit and avail himself of its accommodations in that regard by
the half-hour together, without at all advancing in intimacy with the
Captain. The Captain, rendered cautious by his late experience, was
unable quite to satisfy his mind whether Mr Toots was the mild subject
he appeared to be, or was a profoundly artful and dissimulating
hypocrite. His frequent reference to Miss Dombey was suspicious; but
the Captain had a secret kindness for Mr Toots's apparent reliance on
him, and forbore to decide against him for the present; merely eyeing
him, with a sagacity not to be described, whenever he approached the
subject that was nearest to his heart.
'Captain Gills,' blurted out Mr Toots, one day all at once, as his
manner was, 'do you think you could think favourably of that
proposition of mine, and give me the pleasure of your acquaintance?'
'Why, I tell you what it is, my lad,' replied the Captain, who had
at length concluded on a course of action; 'I've been turning that
'Captain Gills, it's very kind of you,' retorted Mr Toots. 'I'm
much obliged to you. Upon my word and honour, Captain Gills, it would
be a charity to give me the pleasure of your acquaintance. It really
'You see, brother,' argued the Captain slowly, 'I don't know you.
'But you never can know me, Captain Gills,' replied Mr Toots,
steadfast to his point, 'if you don't give me the pleasure of your
The Captain seemed struck by the originality and power of this
remark, and looked at Mr Toots as if he thought there was a great deal
more in him than he had expected.
'Well said, my lad,' observed the Captain, nodding his head
thoughtfully; 'and true. Now look'ee here: You've made some
observations to me, which gives me to understand as you admire a
certain sweet creetur. Hey?'
'Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, gesticulating violently with the
hand in which he held his hat, 'Admiration is not the word. Upon my
honour, you have no conception what my feelings are. If I could be
dyed black, and made Miss Dombey's slave, I should consider it a
compliment. If, at the sacrifice of all my property, I could get
transmigrated into Miss Dombey's dog - I - I really think I should
never leave off wagging my tail. I should be so perfectly happy,
Mr Toots said it with watery eyes, and pressed his hat against his
bosom with deep emotion.
'My lad,' returned the Captain, moved to compassion, 'if you're in
'Captain Gills,' cried Mr Toots, 'I'm in such a state of mind, and
am so dreadfully in earnest, that if I could swear to it upon a hot
piece of iron, or a live coal, or melted lead, or burning sealing-wax,
Or anything of that sort, I should be glad to hurt myself, as a relief
to my feelings.' And Mr Toots looked hurriedly about the room, as if
for some sufficiently painful means of accomplishing his dread
The Captain pushed his glazed hat back upon his head, stroked his
face down with his heavy hand - making his nose more mottled in the
process - and planting himself before Mr Toots, and hooking him by the
lapel of his coat, addressed him in these words, while Mr Toots looked
up into his face, with much attention and some wonder.
'If you're in arnest, you see, my lad,' said the Captain, 'you're a
object of clemency, and clemency is the brightest jewel in the crown
of a Briton's head, for which you'll overhaul the constitution as laid
down in Rule Britannia, and, when found, that is the charter as them
garden angels was a singing of, so many times over. Stand by! This
here proposal o' you'rn takes me a little aback. And why? Because I
holds my own only, you understand, in these here waters, and haven't
got no consort, and may be don't wish for none. Steady! You hailed me
first, along of a certain young lady, as you was chartered by. Now if
you and me is to keep one another's company at all, that there young
creetur's name must never be named nor referred to. I don't know what
harm mayn't have been done by naming of it too free, afore now, and
thereby I brings up short. D'ye make me out pretty clear, brother?'
'Well, you'll excuse me, Captain Gills,' replied Mr Toots, 'if I
don't quite follow you sometimes. But upon my word I - it's a hard
thing, Captain Gills, not to be able to mention Miss Dombey. I really
have got such a dreadful load here!' - Mr Toots pathetically touched
his shirt-front with both hands - 'that I feel night and day, exactly
as if somebody was sitting upon me.
'Them,' said the Captain, 'is the terms I offer. If they're hard
upon you, brother, as mayhap they are, give 'em a wide berth, sheer
off, and part company cheerily!'
'Captain Gills,' returned Mr Toots, 'I hardly know how it is, but
after what you told me when I came here, for the first time, I - I
feel that I'd rather think about Miss Dombey in your society than talk
about her in almost anybody else's. Therefore, Captain Gills, if
you'll give me the pleasure of your acquaintance, I shall be very
happy to accept it on your own conditions. I wish to be honourable,
Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, holding back his extended hand for a
moment, 'and therefore I am obliged to say that I can not help
thinking about Miss Dombey. It's impossible for me to make a promise
not to think about her.'
'My lad,' said the Captain, whose opinion of Mr Toots was much
improved by this candid avowal, 'a man's thoughts is like the winds,
and nobody can't answer for 'em for certain, any length of time
together. Is it a treaty as to words?'
'As to words, Captain Gills,' returned Mr Toots, 'I think I can
Mr Toots gave Captain Cuttle his hand upon it, then and there; and
the Captain with a pleasant and gracious show of condescension,
bestowed his acquaintance upon him formally. Mr Toots seemed much
relieved and gladdened by the acquisition, and chuckled rapturously
during the remainder of his visit. The Captain, for his part, was not
ill pleased to occupy that position of patronage, and was exceedingly
well satisfied by his own prudence and foresight.
But rich as Captain Cuttle was in the latter quality, he received a
surprise that same evening from a no less ingenuous and simple youth,
than Rob the Grinder. That artless lad, drinking tea at the same
table, and bending meekly over his cup and saucer, having taken
sidelong observations of his master for some time, who was reading the
newspaper with great difficulty, but much dignity, through his
glasses, broke silence by saying -
'Oh! I beg your pardon, Captain, but you mayn't be in want of any
pigeons, may you, Sir?'
'No, my lad,' replied the Captain.
'Because I was wishing to dispose of mine, Captain,' said Rob.
'Ay, ay?' cried the Captain, lifting up his bushy eyebrows a
'Yes; I'm going, Captain, if you please,' said Rob.
'Going? Where are you going?' asked the Captain, looking round at
him over the glasses.
'What? didn't you know that I was going to leave you, Captain?'
asked Rob, with a sneaking smile.
The Captain put down the paper, took off his spectacles, and
brought his eyes to bear on the deserter.
'Oh yes, Captain, I am going to give you warning. I thought you'd
have known that beforehand, perhaps,' said Rob, rubbing his hands, and
getting up. 'If you could be so good as provide yourself soon,
Captain, it would be a great convenience to me. You couldn't provide
yourself by to-morrow morning, I am afraid, Captain: could you, do you
'And you're a going to desert your colours, are you, my lad?' said
the Captain, after a long examination of his face.
'Oh, it's very hard upon a cove, Captain,' cried the tender Rob,
injured and indignant in a moment, 'that he can't give lawful warning,
without being frowned at in that way, and called a deserter. You
haven't any right to call a poor cove names, Captain. It ain't because
I'm a servant and you're a master, that you're to go and libel me.
What wrong have I done? Come, Captain, let me know what my crime is,
The stricken Grinder wept, and put his coat-cuff in his eye.
'Come, Captain,' cried the injured youth, 'give my crime a name!
What have I been and done? Have I stolen any of the property? have I
set the house a-fire? If I have, why don't you give me in charge, and
try it? But to take away the character of a lad that's been a good
servant to you, because he can't afford to stand in his own light for
your good, what a injury it is, and what a bad return for faithful
service! This is the way young coves is spiled and drove wrong. I
wonder at you, Captain, I do.'
All of which the Grinder howled forth in a lachrymose whine, and
backing carefully towards the door.
'And so you've got another berth, have you, my lad?' said the
Captain, eyeing him intently.
'Yes, Captain, since you put it in that shape, I have got another
berth,' cried Rob, backing more and more; 'a better berth than I've
got here, and one where I don't so much as want your good word,
Captain, which is fort'nate for me, after all the dirt you've throw'd
at me, because I'm poor, and can't afford to stand in my own light for
your good. Yes, I have got another berth; and if it wasn't for leaving
you unprovided, Captain, I'd go to it now, sooner than I'd take them
names from you, because I'm poor, and can't afford to stand in my own
light for your good. Why do you reproach me for being poor, and not
standing in my own light for your good, Captain? How can you so demean
'Look ye here, my boy,' replied the peaceful Captain. 'Don't you
pay out no more of them words.'
'Well, then, don't you pay in no more of your words, Captain,'
retorted the roused innocent, getting louder in his whine, and backing
into the shop. 'I'd sooner you took my blood than my character.'
'Because,' pursued the Captain calmly, 'you have heerd, may be, of
such a thing as a rope's end.'
'Oh, have I though, Captain?' cried the taunting Grinder. 'No I
haven't. I never heerd of any such a article!'
'Well,' said the Captain, 'it's my belief as you'll know more about
it pretty soon, if you don't keep a bright look-out. I can read your
signals, my lad. You may go.'
'Oh! I may go at once, may I, Captain?' cried Rob, exulting in his
success. 'But mind! I never asked to go at once, Captain. You are not
to take away my character again, because you send me off of your own
accord. And you're not to stop any of my wages, Captain!'
His employer settled the last point by producing the tin canister
and telling the Grinder's money out in full upon the table. Rob,
snivelling and sobbing, and grievously wounded in his feelings, took
up the pieces one by one, with a sob and a snivel for each, and tied
them up separately in knots in his pockethandkerchief; then he
ascended to the roof of the house and filled his hat and pockets with
pigeons; then, came down to his bed under the counter and made up his
bundle, snivelling and sobbing louder, as if he were cut to the heart
by old associations; then he whined, 'Good-night, Captain. I leave you
without malice!' and then, going out upon the door-step, pulled the
little Midshipman's nose as a parting indignity, and went away down
the street grinning triumphantly.
The Captain, left to himself, resumed his perusal of the news as if
nothing unusual or unexpected had taken place, and went reading on
with the greatest assiduity. But never a word did Captain Cuttle
understand, though he read a vast number, for Rob the Grinder was
scampering up one column and down another all through the newspaper.
It is doubtful whether the worthy Captain had ever felt himself
quite abandoned until now; but now, old Sol Gills, Walter, and Heart's
Delight were lost to him indeed, and now Mr Carker deceived and jeered
him cruelly. They were all represented in the false Rob, to whom he
had held forth many a time on the recollections that were warm within
him; he had believed in the false Rob, and had been glad to believe in
him; he had made a companion of him as the last of the old ship's
company; he had taken the command of the little Midshipman with him at
his right hand; he had meant to do his duty by him, and had felt
almost as kindly towards the boy as if they had been shipwrecked and
cast upon a desert place together. And now, that the false Rob had
brought distrust, treachery, and meanness into the very parlour, which
was a kind of sacred place, Captain Cuttle felt as if the parlour
might have gone down next, and not surprised him much by its sinking,
or given him any very great concern.
Therefore Captain Cuttle read the newspaper with profound attention
and no comprehension, and therefore Captain Cuttle said nothing
whatever about Rob to himself, or admitted to himself that he was
thinking about him, or would recognise in the most distant manner that
Rob had anything to do with his feeling as lonely as Robinson Crusoe.
In the same composed, business-like way, the Captain stepped over
to Leadenhall Market in the dusk, and effected an arrangement with a
private watchman on duty there, to come and put up and take down the
shutters of the wooden Midshipman every night and morning. He then
called in at the eating-house to diminish by one half the daily
rations theretofore supplied to the Midshipman, and at the
public-house to stop the traitor's beer. 'My young man,' said the
Captain, in explanation to the young lady at the bar, 'my young man
having bettered himself, Miss.' Lastly, the Captain resolved to take
possession of the bed under the counter, and to turn in there o'
nights instead of upstairs, as sole guardian of the property.
From this bed Captain Cuttle daily rose thenceforth, and clapped on
his glazed hat at six o'clock in the morning, with the solitary air of
Crusoe finishing his toilet with his goat-skin cap; and although his
fears of a visitation from the savage tribe, MacStinger, were somewhat
cooled, as similar apprehensions on the part of that lone mariner used
to be by the lapse of a long interval without any symptoms of the
cannibals, he still observed a regular routine of defensive
operations, and never encountered a bonnet without previous survey
from his castle of retreat. In the meantime (during which he received
no call from Mr Toots, who wrote to say he was out of town) his own
voice began to have a strange sound in his ears; and he acquired such
habits of profound meditation from much polishing and stowing away of
the stock, and from much sitting behind the counter reading, or
looking out of window, that the red rim made on his forehead by the
hard glazed hat, sometimes ached again with excess of reflection.
The year being now expired, Captain Cuttle deemed it expedient to
open the packet; but as he had always designed doing this in the
presence of Rob the Grinder, who had brought it to him, and as he had
an idea that it would be regular and ship-shape to open it in the
presence of somebody, he was sadly put to it for want of a witness. In
this difficulty, he hailed one day with unusual delight the
announcement in the Shipping Intelligence of the arrival of the
Cautious Clara, Captain John Bunsby, from a coasting voyage; and to
that philosopher immediately dispatched a letter by post, enjoining
inviolable secrecy as to his place of residence, and requesting to be
favoured with an early visit, in the evening season.
Bunsby, who was one of those sages who act upon conviction, took
some days to get the conviction thoroughly into his mind, that he had
received a letter to this effect. But when he had grappled with the
fact, and mastered it, he promptly sent his boy with the message,
'He's a coming to-night.' Who being instructed to deliver those words
and disappear, fulfilled his mission like a tarry spirit, charged with
a mysterious warning.
The Captain, well pleased to receive it, made preparation of pipes
and rum and water, and awaited his visitor in the back parlour. At the
hour of eight, a deep lowing, as of a nautical Bull, outside the
shop-door, succeeded by the knocking of a stick on the panel,
announced to the listening ear of Captain Cuttle, that Bunsby was
alongside; whom he instantly admitted, shaggy and loose, and with his
stolid mahogany visage, as usual, appearing to have no consciousness
of anything before it, but to be attentively observing something that
was taking place in quite another part of the world.
'Bunsby,' said the Captain, grasping him by the hand, 'what cheer,
my lad, what cheer?'
'Shipmet,' replied the voice within Bunsby, unaccompanied by any
sign on the part of the Commander himself, 'hearty, hearty.'
'Bunsby!' said the Captain, rendering irrepressible homage to his
genius, 'here you are! a man as can give an opinion as is brighter
than di'monds - and give me the lad with the tarry trousers as shines
to me like di'monds bright, for which you'll overhaul the Stanfell's
Budget, and when found make a note.' Here you are, a man as gave an
opinion in this here very place, that has come true, every letter on
it,' which the Captain sincerely believed.
'Ay, ay?' growled Bunsby.
'Every letter,' said the Captain.
'For why?' growled Bunsby, looking at his friend for the first
time. 'Which way? If so, why not? Therefore.' With these oracular
words - they seemed almost to make the Captain giddy; they launched
him upon such a sea of speculation and conjecture - the sage submitted
to be helped off with his pilot-coat, and accompanied his friend into
the back parlour, where his hand presently alighted on the rum-bottle,
from which he brewed a stiff glass of grog; and presently afterwards
on a pipe, which he filled, lighted, and began to smoke.
Captain Cuttle, imitating his visitor in the matter of these
particulars, though the rapt and imperturbable manner of the great
Commander was far above his powers, sat in the opposite corner of the
fireside, observing him respectfully, and as if he waited for some
encouragement or expression of curiosity on Bunsby's part which should
lead him to his own affairs. But as the mahogany philosopher gave no
evidence of being sentient of anything but warmth and tobacco, except
once, when taking his pipe from his lips to make room for his glass,
he incidentally remarked with exceeding gruffness, that his name was
Jack Bunsby - a declaration that presented but small opening for
conversation - the Captain bespeaking his attention in a short
complimentary exordium, narrated the whole history of Uncle Sol's
departure, with the change it had produced in his own life and
fortunes; and concluded by placing the packet on the table.
After a long pause, Mr Bunsby nodded his head.
'Open?' said the Captain.
Bunsby nodded again.
The Captain accordingly broke the seal, and disclosed to view two
folded papers, of which he severally read the endorsements, thus:
'Last Will and Testament of Solomon Gills.' 'Letter for Ned Cuttle.'
Bunsby, with his eye on the coast of Greenland, seemed to listen
for the contents. The Captain therefore hemmed to clear his throat,
and read the letter aloud.
'"My dear Ned Cuttle. When I left home for the West Indies" - '
Here the Captain stopped, and looked hard at Bunsby, who looked
fixedly at the coast of Greenland.
' - "in forlorn search of intelligence of my dear boy, I knew that
if you were acquainted with my design, you would thwart it, or
accompany me; and therefore I kept it secret. If you ever read this
letter, Ned, I am likely to be dead. You will easily forgive an old
friend's folly then, and will feel for the restlessness and
uncertainty in which he wandered away on such a wild voyage. So no
more of that. I have little hope that my poor boy will ever read these
words, or gladden your eyes with the sight of his frank face any
more." No, no; no more,' said Captain Cuttle, sorrowfully meditating;
'no more. There he lays, all his days - '
Mr Bunsby, who had a musical ear, suddenly bellowed, 'In the Bays
of Biscay, O!' which so affected the good Captain, as an appropriate
tribute to departed worth, that he shook him by the hand in
acknowledgment, and was fain to wipe his eyes.
'Well, well!' said the Captain with a sigh, as the Lament of Bunsby
ceased to ring and vibrate in the skylight. 'Affliction sore, long
time he bore, and let us overhaul the wollume, and there find it.'
'Physicians,' observed Bunsby, 'was in vain."
'Ay, ay, to be sure,' said the Captain, 'what's the good o' them in
two or three hundred fathoms o' water!' Then, returning to the letter,
he read on: - '"But if he should be by, when it is opened;"' the
Captain involuntarily looked round, and shook his head; '"or should
know of it at any other time;"' the Captain shook his head again; '"my
blessing on him! In case the accompanying paper is not legally
written, it matters very little, for there is no one interested but
you and he, and my plain wish is, that if he is living he should have
what little there may be, and if (as I fear) otherwise, that you
should have it, Ned. You will respect my wish, I know. God bless you
for it, and for all your friendliness besides, to Solomon Gills."
Bunsby!' said the Captain, appealing to him solemnly, 'what do you
make of this? There you sit, a man as has had his head broke from
infancy up'ards, and has got a new opinion into it at every seam as
has been opened. Now, what do you make o' this?'
'If so be,' returned Bunsby, with unusual promptitude, 'as he's
dead, my opinion is he won't come back no more. If so be as he's
alive, my opinion is he will. Do I say he will? No. Why not? Because
the bearings of this obserwation lays in the application on it.'
'Bunsby!' said Captain Cuttle, who would seem to have estimated the
value of his distinguished friend's opinions in proportion to the
immensity of the difficulty he experienced in making anything out of
them; 'Bunsby,' said the Captain, quite confounded by admiration, 'you
carry a weight of mind easy, as would swamp one of my tonnage soon.
But in regard o' this here will, I don't mean to take no steps towards
the property - Lord forbid! - except to keep it for a more rightful
owner; and I hope yet as the rightful owner, Sol Gills, is living
and'll come back, strange as it is that he ain't forwarded no
dispatches. Now, what is your opinion, Bunsby, as to stowing of these
here papers away again, and marking outside as they was opened, such a
day, in the presence of John Bunsby and Ed'ard Cuttle?'
Bunsby, descrying no objection, on the coast of Greenland or
elsewhere, to this proposal, it was carried into execution; and that
great man, bringing his eye into the present for a moment, affixed his
sign-manual to the cover, totally abstaining, with characteristic
modesty, from the use of capital letters. Captain Cuttle, having
attached his own left-handed signature, and locked up the packet in
the iron safe, entreated his guest to mix another glass and smoke
another pipe; and doing the like himself, fell a musing over the fire
on the possible fortunes of the poor old Instrument-maker.
And now a surprise occurred, so overwhelming and terrific that
Captain Cuttle, unsupported by the presence of Bunsby, must have sunk
beneath it, and been a lost man from that fatal hour.
How the Captain, even in the satisfaction of admitting such a
guest, could have only shut the door, and not locked it, of which
negligence he was undoubtedly guilty, is one of those questions that
must for ever remain mere points of speculation, or vague charges
against destiny. But by that unlocked door, at this quiet moment, did
the fell MacStinger dash into the parlour, bringing Alexander
MacStinger in her parental arms, and confusion and vengeance (not to
mention Juliana MacStinger, and the sweet child's brother, Charles
MacStinger, popularly known about the scenes of his youthful sports,
as Chowley) in her train. She came so swiftly and so silently, like a
rushing air from the neighbourhood of the East India Docks, that
Captain Cuttle found himself in the very act of sitting looking at
her, before the calm face with which he had been meditating, changed
to one of horror and dismay.
But the moment Captain Cuttle understood the full extent of his
misfortune, self-preservation dictated an attempt at flight. Darting
at the little door which opened from the parlour on the steep little
range of cellar-steps, the Captain made a rush, head-foremost, at the
latter, like a man indifferent to bruises and contusions, who only
sought to hide himself in the bowels of the earth. In this gallant
effort he would probably have succeeded, but for the affectionate
dispositions of Juliana and Chowley, who pinning him by the legs - one
of those dear children holding on to each - claimed him as their
friend, with lamentable cries. In the meantime, Mrs MacStinger, who
never entered upon any action of importance without previously
inverting Alexander MacStinger, to bring him within the range of a
brisk battery of slaps, and then sitting him down to cool as the
reader first beheld him, performed that solemn rite, as if on this
occasion it were a sacrifice to the Furies; and having deposited the
victim on the floor, made at the Captain with a strength of purpose
that appeared to threaten scratches to the interposing Bunsby.
The cries of the two elder MacStingers, and the wailing of young
Alexander, who may be said to have passed a piebald childhood,
forasmuch as he was black in the face during one half of that fairy
period of existence, combined to make this visitation the more awful.
But when silence reigned again, and the Captain, in a violent
perspiration, stood meekly looking at Mrs MacStinger, its terrors were
at their height.
'Oh, Cap'en Cuttle, Cap'en Cuttle!' said Mrs MacStinger, making her
chin rigid, and shaking it in unison with what, but for the weakness
of her sex, might be described as her fist. 'Oh, Cap'en Cuttle, Cap'en
Cuttle, do you dare to look me in the face, and not be struck down in
The Captain, who looked anything but daring, feebly muttered
'Oh I was a weak and trusting Fool when I took you under my roof,
Cap'en Cuttle, I was!' cried Mrs MacStinger. 'To think of the benefits
I've showered on that man, and the way in which I brought my children
up to love and honour him as if he was a father to 'em, when there
ain't a housekeeper, no nor a lodger in our street, don't know that I
lost money by that man, and by his guzzlings and his muzzlings' - Mrs
MacStinger used the last word for the joint sake of alliteration and
aggravation, rather than for the expression of any idea - 'and when
they cried out one and all, shame upon him for putting upon an
industrious woman, up early and late for the good of her young family,
and keeping her poor place so clean that a individual might have ate
his dinner, yes, and his tea too, if he was so disposed, off any one
of the floors or stairs, in spite of all his guzzlings and his
muzzlings, such was the care and pains bestowed upon him!'
Mrs MacStinger stopped to fetch her breath; and her face flushed
with triumph in this second happy introduction of Captain Cuttle's
'And he runs awa-a-a-y!'cried Mrs MacStinger, with a lengthening
out of the last syllable that made the unfortunate Captain regard
himself as the meanest of men; 'and keeps away a twelve-month! From a
woman! Such is his conscience! He hasn't the courage to meet her
hi-i-igh;' long syllable again; 'but steals away, like a felion. Why,
if that baby of mine,' said Mrs MacStinger, with sudden rapidity, 'was
to offer to go and steal away, I'd do my duty as a mother by him, till
he was covered with wales!'
The young Alexander, interpreting this into a positive promise, to
be shortly redeemed, tumbled over with fear and grief, and lay upon
the floor, exhibiting the soles of his shoes and making such a
deafening outcry, that Mrs MacStinger found it necessary to take him
up in her arms, where she quieted him, ever and anon, as he broke out
again, by a shake that seemed enough to loosen his teeth.
'A pretty sort of a man is Cap'en Cuttle,' said Mrs MacStinger,
with a sharp stress on the first syllable of the Captain's name, 'to
take on for - and to lose sleep for- and to faint along of- and to
think dead forsooth - and to go up and down the blessed town like a
madwoman, asking questions after! Oh, a pretty sort of a man! Ha ha ha
ha! He's worth all that trouble and distress of mind, and much more.
That's nothing, bless you! Ha ha ha ha! Cap'en Cuttle,' said Mrs
MacStinger, with severe reaction in her voice and manner, 'I wish to
know if you're a-coming home.
The frightened Captain looked into his hat, as if he saw nothing
for it but to put it on, and give himself up.
'Cap'en Cuttle,' repeated Mrs MacStinger, in the same determined
manner, 'I wish to know if you're a-coming home, Sir.'
The Captain seemed quite ready to go, but faintly suggested
something to the effect of 'not making so much noise about it.'
'Ay, ay, ay,' said Bunsby, in a soothing tone. 'Awast, my lass,
'And who may you be, if you please!' retorted Mrs MacStinger, with
chaste loftiness. 'Did you ever lodge at Number Nine, Brig Place, Sir?
My memory may be bad, but not with me, I think. There was a Mrs
Jollson lived at Number Nine before me, and perhaps you're mistaking
me for her. That is my only ways of accounting for your familiarity,
'Come, come, my lass, awast, awast!' said Bunsby.
Captain Cuttle could hardly believe it, even of this great man,
though he saw it done with his waking eyes; but Bunsby, advancing
boldly, put his shaggy blue arm round Mrs MacStinger, and so softened
her by his magic way of doing it, and by these few words - he said no
more - that she melted into tears, after looking upon him for a few
moments, and observed that a child might conquer her now, she was so
low in her courage.
Speechless and utterly amazed, the Captain saw him gradually
persuade this inexorable woman into the shop, return for rum and water
and a candle, take them to her, and pacify her without appearing to
utter one word. Presently he looked in with his pilot-coat on, and
said, 'Cuttle, I'm a-going to act as convoy home;' and Captain Cuttle,
more to his confusion than if he had been put in irons himself, for
safe transport to Brig Place, saw the family pacifically filing off,
with Mrs MacStinger at their head. He had scarcely time to take down
his canister, and stealthily convey some money into the hands of
Juliana MacStinger, his former favourite, and Chowley, who had the
claim upon him that he was naturally of a maritime build, before the
Midshipman was abandoned by them all; and Bunsby whispering that he'd
carry on smart, and hail Ned Cuttle again before he went aboard, shut
the door upon himself, as the last member of the party.
Some uneasy ideas that he must be walking in his sleep, or that he
had been troubled with phantoms, and not a family of flesh and blood,
beset the Captain at first, when he went back to the little parlour,
and found himself alone. Illimitable faith in, and immeasurable
admiration of, the Commander of the Cautious Clara, succeeded, and
threw the Captain into a wondering trance.
Still, as time wore on, and Bunsby failed to reappear, the Captain
began to entertain uncomfortable doubts of another kind. Whether
Bunsby had been artfully decoyed to Brig Place, and was there detained
in safe custody as hostage for his friend; in which case it would
become the Captain, as a man of honour, to release him, by the
sacrifice of his own liberty. Whether he had been attacked and
defeated by Mrs MacStinger, and was ashamed to show himself after his
discomfiture. Whether Mrs MacStinger, thinking better of it, in the
uncertainty of her temper, had turned back to board the Midshipman
again, and Bunsby, pretending to conduct her by a short cut, was
endeavouring to lose the family amid the wilds and savage places of
the City. Above all, what it would behove him, Captain Cuttle, to do,
in case of his hearing no more, either of the MacStingers or of
Bunsby, which, in these wonderful and unforeseen conjunctions of
events, might possibly happen.
He debated all this until he was tired; and still no Bunsby. He
made up his bed under the counter, all ready for turning in; and still
no Bunsby. At length, when the Captain had given him up, for that
night at least, and had begun to undress, the sound of approaching
wheels was heard, and, stopping at the door, was succeeded by Bunsby's
The Captain trembled to think that Mrs MacStinger was not to be got
rid of, and had been brought back in a coach.
But no. Bunsby was accompanied by nothing but a large box, which he
hauled into the shop with his own hands, and as soon as he had hauled
in, sat upon. Captain Cuttle knew it for the chest he had left at Mrs
MacStinger's house, and looking, candle in hand, at Bunsby more
attentively, believed that he was three sheets in the wind, or, in
plain words, drunk. It was difficult, however, to be sure of this; the
Commander having no trace of expression in his face when sober.
'Cuttle,' said the Commander, getting off the chest, and opening
the lid, 'are these here your traps?'
Captain Cuttle looked in and identified his property.
'Done pretty taut and trim, hey, shipmet?' said Bunsby.
The grateful and bewildered Captain grasped him by the hand, and
was launching into a reply expressive of his astonished feelings, when
Bunsby disengaged himself by a jerk of his wrist, and seemed to make
an effort to wink with his revolving eye, the only effect of which
attempt, in his condition, was nearly to over-balance him. He then
abruptly opened the door, and shot away to rejoin the Cautious Clara
with all speed - supposed to be his invariable custom, whenever he
considered he had made a point.
As it was not his humour to be often sought, Captain Cuttle decided
not to go or send to him next day, or until he should make his
gracious pleasure known in such wise, or failing that, until some
little time should have lapsed. The Captain, therefore, renewed his
solitary life next morning, and thought profoundly, many mornings,
noons, and nights, of old Sol Gills, and Bunsby's sentiments
concerning him, and the hopes there were of his return. Much of such
thinking strengthened Captain Cuttle's hopes; and he humoured them and
himself by watching for the Instrument-maker at the door - as he
ventured to do now, in his strange liberty - and setting his chair in
its place, and arranging the little parlour as it used to be, in case
he should come home unexpectedly. He likewise, in his thoughtfulness,
took down a certain little miniature of Walter as a schoolboy, from
its accustomed nail, lest it should shock the old man on his return.
The Captain had his presentiments, too, sometimes, that he would come
on such a day; and one particular Sunday, even ordered a double
allowance of dinner, he was so sanguine. But come, old Solomon did
not; and still the neighbours noticed how the seafaring man in the
glazed hat, stood at the shop-door of an evening, looking up and down
It was not in the nature of things that a man of Mr Dombey's mood,
opposed to such a spirit as he had raised against himself, should be
softened in the imperious asperity of his temper; or that the cold
hard armour of pride in which he lived encased, should be made more
flexible by constant collision with haughty scorn and defiance. It is
the curse of such a nature - it is a main part of the heavy
retribution on itself it bears within itself - that while deference
and concession swell its evil qualities, and are the food it grows
upon, resistance and a questioning of its exacting claims, foster it
too, no less. The evil that is in it finds equally its means of growth
and propagation in opposites. It draws support and life from sweets
and bitters; bowed down before, or unacknowledged, it still enslaves
the breast in which it has its throne; and, worshipped or rejected, is
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