Dombey and Son
Part 14 out of 21
as hard a master as the Devil in dark fables.
Towards his first wife, Mr Dombey, in his cold and lofty arrogance,
had borne himself like the removed Being he almost conceived himself
to be. He had been 'Mr Dombey' with her when she first saw him, and he
was 'Mr Dombey' when she died. He had asserted his greatness during
their whole married life, and she had meekly recognised it. He had
kept his distant seat of state on the top of his throne, and she her
humble station on its lowest step; and much good it had done him, so
to live in solitary bondage to his one idea. He had imagined that the
proud character of his second wife would have been added to his own -
would have merged into it, and exalted his greatness. He had pictured
himself haughtier than ever, with Edith's haughtiness subservient to
his. He had never entertained the possibility of its arraying itself
against him. And now, when he found it rising in his path at every
step and turn of his daily life, fixing its cold, defiant, and
contemptuous face upon him, this pride of his, instead of withering,
or hanging down its head beneath the shock, put forth new shoots,
became more concentrated and intense, more gloomy, sullen, irksome,
and unyielding, than it had ever been before.
Who wears such armour, too, bears with him ever another heavy
retribution. It is of proof against conciliation, love, and
confidence; against all gentle sympathy from without, all trust, all
tenderness, all soft emotion; but to deep stabs in the self-love, it
is as vulnerable as the bare breast to steel; and such tormenting
festers rankle there, as follow on no other wounds, no, though dealt
with the mailed hand of Pride itself, on weaker pride, disarmed and
Such wounds were his. He felt them sharply, in the solitude of his
old rooms; whither he now began often to retire again, and pass long
solitary hours. It seemed his fate to be ever proud and powerful; ever
humbled and powerless where he would be most strong. Who seemed fated
to work out that doom?
Who? Who was it who could win his wife as she had won his boy? Who
was it who had shown him that new victory, as he sat in the dark
corner? Who was it whose least word did what his utmost means could
not? Who was it who, unaided by his love, regard or notice, thrived
and grew beautiful when those so aided died? Who could it be, but the
same child at whom he had often glanced uneasily in her motherless
infancy, with a kind of dread, lest he might come to hate her; and of
whom his foreboding was fulfilled, for he DID hate her in his heart?
Yes, and he would have it hatred, and he made it hatred, though
some sparkles of the light in which she had appeared before him on the
memorable night of his return home with his Bride, occasionally hung
about her still. He knew now that she was beautiful; he did not
dispute that she was graceful and winning, and that in the bright dawn
of her womanhood she had come upon him, a surprise. But he turned even
this against her. In his sullen and unwholesome brooding, the unhappy
man, with a dull perception of his alienation from all hearts, and a
vague yearning for what he had all his life repelled, made a distorted
picture of his rights and wrongs, and justified himself with it
against her. The worthier she promised to be of him, the greater claim
he was disposed to antedate upon her duty and submission. When had she
ever shown him duty and submission? Did she grace his life - or
Edith's? Had her attractions been manifested first to him - or Edith?
Why, he and she had never been, from her birth, like father and child!
They had always been estranged. She had crossed him every way and
everywhere. She was leagued against him now. Her very beauty softened
natures that were obdurate to him, and insulted him with an unnatural
It may have been that in all this there were mutterings of an
awakened feeling in his breast, however selfishly aroused by his
position of disadvantage, in comparison with what she might have made
his life. But he silenced the distant thunder with the rolling of his
sea of pride. He would bear nothing but his pride. And in his pride, a
heap of inconsistency, and misery, and self-inflicted torment, he
To the moody, stubborn, sullen demon, that possessed him, his wife
opposed her different pride in its full force. They never could have
led a happy life together; but nothing could have made it more
unhappy, than the wilful and determined warfare of such elements. His
pride was set upon maintaining his magnificent supremacy, and forcing
recognition of it from her. She would have been racked to death, and
turned but her haughty glance of calm inflexible disdain upon him, to
the last. Such recognition from Edith! He little knew through what a
storm and struggle she had been driven onward to the crowning honour
of his hand. He little knew how much she thought she had conceded,
when she suffered him to call her wife.
Mr Dombey was resolved to show her that he was supreme. There must
be no will but his. Proud he desired that she should be, but she must
be proud for, not against him. As he sat alone, hardening, he would
often hear her go out and come home, treading the round of London life
with no more heed of his liking or disliking, pleasure or displeasure,
than if he had been her groom. Her cold supreme indifference - his own
unquestioned attribute usurped - stung him more than any other kind of
treatment could have done; and he determined to bend her to his
magnificent and stately will.
He had been long communing with these thoughts, when one night he
sought her in her own apartment, after he had heard her return home
late. She was alone, in her brilliant dress, and had but that moment
come from her mother's room. Her face was melancholy and pensive, when
he came upon her; but it marked him at the door; for, glancing at the
mirror before it, he saw immediately, as in a picture-frame, the
knitted brow, and darkened beauty that he knew so well.
'Mrs Dombey,' he said, entering, 'I must beg leave to have a few
words with you.'
'To-morrow,' she replied.
'There is no time like the present, Madam,' he returned. 'You
mistake your position. I am used to choose my own times; not to have
them chosen for me. I think you scarcely understand who and what I am,
'I think,' she answered, 'that I understand you very well.'
She looked upon him as she said so, and folding her white arms,
sparkling with gold and gems, upon her swelling breast, turned away
If she had been less handsome, and less stately in her cold
composure, she might not have had the power of impressing him with the
sense of disadvantage that penetrated through his utmost pride. But
she had the power, and he felt it keenly. He glanced round the room:
saw how the splendid means of personal adornment, and the luxuries of
dress, were scattered here and there, and disregarded; not in mere
caprice and carelessness (or so he thought), but in a steadfast
haughty disregard of costly things: and felt it more and more.
Chaplets of flowers, plumes of feathers, jewels, laces, silks and
satins; look where he would, he saw riches, despised, poured out, and.
made of no account. The very diamonds - a marriage gift - that rose
and fell impatiently upon her bosom, seemed to pant to break the chain
that clasped them round her neck, and roll down on the floor where she
might tread upon them.
He felt his disadvantage, and he showed it. Solemn and strange
among this wealth of colour and voluptuous glitter, strange and
constrained towards its haughty mistress, whose repellent beauty it
repeated, and presented all around him, as in so many fragments of a
mirror, he was conscious of embarrassment and awkwardness. Nothing
that ministered to her disdainful self-possession could fail to gall
him. Galled and irritated with himself, he sat down, and went on, in
no improved humour:
'Mrs Dombey, it is very necessary that there should be some
understanding arrived at between us. Your conduct does not please me,
She merely glanced at him again, and again averted her eyes; but
she might have spoken for an hour, and expressed less.
'I repeat, Mrs Dombey, does not please me. I have already taken
occasion to request that it may be corrected. I now insist upon it.'
'You chose a fitting occasion for your first remonstrance, Sir, and
you adopt a fitting manner, and a fitting word for your second. You
insist! To me!'
'Madam,' said Mr Dombey, with his most offensive air of state, 'I
have made you my wife. You bear my name. You are associated with my
position and my reputation. I will not say that the world in general
may be disposed to think you honoured by that association; but I will
say that I am accustomed to "insist," to my connexions and
'Which may you be pleased to consider me? she asked.
'Possibly I may think that my wife should partake - or does
partake, and cannot help herself - of both characters, Mrs Dombey.'
She bent her eyes upon him steadily, and set her trembling lips. He
saw her bosom throb, and saw her face flush and turn white. All this
he could know, and did: but he could not know that one word was
whispering in the deep recesses of her heart, to keep her quiet; and
that the word was Florence.
Blind idiot, rushing to a precipice! He thought she stood in awe of
'You are too expensive, Madam,' said Mr Dombey. 'You are
extravagant. You waste a great deal of money - or what would be a
great deal in the pockets of most gentlemen - in cultivating a kind of
society that is useless to me, and, indeed, that upon the whole is
disagreeable to me. I have to insist upon a total change in all these
respects. I know that in the novelty of possessing a tithe of such
means as Fortune has placed at your disposal, ladies are apt to run
into a sudden extreme. There has been more than enough of that
extreme. I beg that Mrs Granger's very different experiences may now
come to the instruction of Mrs Dombey.'
Still the fixed look, the trembling lips, the throbbing breast, the
face now crimson and now white; and still the deep whisper Florence,
Florence, speaking to her in the beating of her heart.
His insolence of self-importance dilated as he saw this alteration
in her. Swollen no less by her past scorn of him, and his so recent
feeling of disadvantage, than by her present submission (as he took it
to be), it became too mighty for his breast, and burst all bounds.
Why, who could long resist his lofty will and pleasure! He had
resolved to conquer her, and look here!
'You will further please, Madam,' said Mr Dombey, in a tone of
sovereign command, 'to understand distinctly, that I am to be deferred
to and obeyed. That I must have a positive show and confession of
deference before the world, Madam. I am used to this. I require it as
my right. In short I will have it. I consider it no unreasonable
return for the worldly advancement that has befallen you; and I
believe nobody will be surprised, either at its being required from
you, or at your making it. - To Me - To Me!' he added, with emphasis.
No word from her. No change in her. Her eyes upon him.
'I have learnt from your mother, Mrs Dombey,' said Mr Dombey, with
magisterial importance, what no doubt you know, namely, that Brighton
is recommended for her health. Mr Carker has been so good
She changed suddenly. Her face and bosom glowed as if the red light
of an angry sunset had been flung upon them. Not unobservant of the
change, and putting his own interpretation upon it, Mr Dombey resumed:
'Mr Carker has been so good as to go down and secure a house there,
for a time. On the return of the establishment to London, I shall take
such steps for its better management as I consider necessary. One of
these, will be the engagement at Brighton (if it is to be effected),
of a very respectable reduced person there, a Mrs Pipchin, formerly
employed in a situation of trust in my family, to act as housekeeper.
An establishment like this, presided over but nominally, Mrs Dombey,
requires a competent head.'
She had changed her attitude before he arrived at these words, and
now sat - still looking at him fixedly - turning a bracelet round and
round upon her arm; not winding it about with a light, womanly touch,
but pressing and dragging it over the smooth skin, until the white
limb showed a bar of red.
'I observed,' said Mr Dombey - 'and this concludes what I deem it
necessary to say to you at present, Mrs Dombey - I observed a moment
ago, Madam, that my allusion to Mr Carker was received in a peculiar
manner. On the occasion of my happening to point out to you, before
that confidential agent, the objection I had to your mode of receiving
my visitors, you were pleased to object to his presence. You will have
to get the better of that objection, Madam, and to accustom yourself
to it very probably on many similar occasions; unless you adopt the
remedy which is in your own hands, of giving me no cause of complaint.
Mr Carker,' said Mr Dombey, who, after the emotion he had just seen,
set great store by this means of reducing his proud wife, and who was
perhaps sufficiently willing to exhibit his power to that gentleman in
a new and triumphant aspect, 'Mr Carker being in my confidence, Mrs
Dombey, may very well be in yours to such an extent. I hope, Mrs
Dombey,' he continued, after a few moments, during which, in his
increasing haughtiness, he had improved on his idea, 'I may not find
it necessary ever to entrust Mr Carker with any message of objection
or remonstrance to you; but as it would be derogatory to my position
and reputation to be frequently holding trivial disputes with a lady
upon whom I have conferred the highest distinction that it is in my
power to bestow, I shall not scruple to avail myself of his services
if I see occasion.'
'And now,' he thought, rising in his moral magnificence, and rising
a stiffer and more impenetrable man than ever, 'she knows me and my
The hand that had so pressed the bracelet was laid heavily upon her
breast, but she looked at him still, with an unaltered face, and said
in a low voice:
'Wait! For God's sake! I must speak to you.'
Why did she not, and what was the inward struggle that rendered her
incapable of doing so, for minutes, while, in the strong constraint
she put upon her face, it was as fixed as any statue's - looking upon
him with neither yielding nor unyielding, liking nor hatred, pride not
humility: nothing but a searching gaze?
'Did I ever tempt you to seek my hand? Did I ever use any art to
win you? Was I ever more conciliating to you when you pursued me, than
I have been since our marriage? Was I ever other to you than I am?'
'It is wholly unnecessary, Madam,' said Mr Dombey, 'to enter upon
'Did you think I loved you? Did you know I did not? Did you ever
care, Man! for my heart, or propose to yourself to win the worthless
thing? Was there any poor pretence of any in our bargain? Upon your
side, or on mine?'
'These questions,' said Mr Dombey, 'are all wide of the purpose,
She moved between him and the door to prevent his going away, and
drawing her majestic figure to its height, looked steadily upon him
'You answer each of them. You answer me before I speak, I see. How
can you help it; you who know the miserable truth as well as I? Now,
tell me. If I loved you to devotion, could I do more than render up my
whole will and being to you, as you have just demanded? If my heart
were pure and all untried, and you its idol, could you ask more; could
you have more?'
'Possibly not, Madam,' he returned coolly.
'You know how different I am. You see me looking on you now, and
you can read the warmth of passion for you that is breathing in my
face.' Not a curl of the proud lip, not a flash of the dark eye,
nothing but the same intent and searching look, accompanied these
words. 'You know my general history. You have spoken of my mother. Do
you think you can degrade, or bend or break, me to submission and
Mr Dombey smiled, as he might have smiled at an inquiry whether he
thought he could raise ten thousand pounds.
'If there is anything unusual here,' she said, with a slight motion
of her hand before her brow, which did not for a moment flinch from
its immovable and otherwise expressionless gaze, 'as I know there are
unusual feelings here,' raising the hand she pressed upon her bosom,
and heavily returning it, 'consider that there is no common meaning in
the appeal I am going to make you. Yes, for I am going;' she said it
as in prompt reply to something in his face; 'to appeal to you.'
Mr Dombey, with a slightly condescending bend of his chin that
rustled and crackled his stiff cravat, sat down on a sofa that was
near him, to hear the appeal.
'If you can believe that I am of such a nature now,' - he fancied
he saw tears glistening in her eyes, and he thought, complacently,
that he had forced them from her, though none fell on her cheek, and
she regarded him as steadily as ever, - 'as would make what I now say
almost incredible to myself, said to any man who had become my
husband, but, above all, said to you, you may, perhaps, attach the
greater weight to it. In the dark end to which we are tending, and may
come, we shall not involve ourselves alone (that might not be much)
Others! He knew at whom that word pointed, and frowned heavily.
'I speak to you for the sake of others. Also your own sake; and for
mine. Since our marriage, you have been arrogant to me; and I have
repaid you in kind. You have shown to me and everyone around us, every
day and hour, that you think I am graced and distinguished by your
alliance. I do not think so, and have shown that too. It seems you do
not understand, or (so far as your power can go) intend that each of
us shall take a separate course; and you expect from me instead, a
homage you will never have.'
Although her face was still the same, there was emphatic
confirmation of this 'Never' in the very breath she drew.
'I feel no tenderness towards you; that you know. You would care
nothing for it, if I did or could. I know as well that you feel none
towards me. But we are linked together; and in the knot that ties us,
as I have said, others are bound up. We must both die; we are both
connected with the dead already, each by a little child. Let us
Mr Dombey took a long respiration, as if he would have said, Oh!
was this all!
'There is no wealth,' she went on, turning paler as she watched
him, while her eyes grew yet more lustrous in their earnestness, 'that
could buy these words of me, and the meaning that belongs to them.
Once cast away as idle breath, no wealth or power can bring them back.
I mean them; I have weighed them; and I will be true to what I
undertake. If you will promise to forbear on your part, I will promise
to forbear on mine. We are a most unhappy pair, in whom, from
different causes, every sentiment that blesses marriage, or justifies
it, is rooted out; but in the course of time, some friendship, or some
fitness for each other, may arise between us. I will try to hope so,
if you will make the endeavour too; and I will look forward to a
better and a happier use of age than I have made of youth or prime.
Throughout she had spoken in a low plain voice, that neither rose
nor fell; ceasing, she dropped the hand with which she had enforced
herself to be so passionless and distinct, but not the eyes with which
she had so steadily observed him.
'Madam,' said Mr Dombey, with his utmost dignity, 'I cannot
entertain any proposal of this extraordinary nature.
She looked at him yet, without the least change.
'I cannot,' said Mr Dombey, rising as he spoke, 'consent to
temporise or treat with you, Mrs Dombey, upon a subject as to which
you are in possession of my opinions and expectations. I have stated
my ultimatum, Madam, and have only to request your very serious
attention to it.'
To see the face change to its old expression, deepened in
intensity! To see the eyes droop as from some mean and odious object!
To see the lighting of the haughty brow! To see scorn, anger,
indignation, and abhorrence starting into sight, and the pale blank
earnestness vanish like a mist! He could not choose but look, although
he looked to his dismay.
'Go, Sir!' she said, pointing with an imperious hand towards the
door. 'Our first and last confidence is at an end. Nothing can make us
stranger to each other than we are henceforth.'
'I shall take my rightful course, Madam,' said Mr Dombey,
'undeterred, you may be sure, by any general declamation.'
She turned her back upon him, and, without reply, sat down before
'I place my reliance on your improved sense of duty, and more
correct feeling, and better reflection, Madam,' said Mr Dombey.
She answered not one word. He saw no more expression of any heed of
him, in the mirror, than if he had been an unseen spider on the wall,
or beetle on the floor, or rather, than if he had been the one or
other, seen and crushed when she last turned from him, and forgotten
among the ignominious and dead vermin of the ground.
He looked back, as he went out at the door, upon the well-lighted
and luxurious room, the beautiful and glittering objects everywhere
displayed, the shape of Edith in its rich dress seated before her
glass, and the face of Edith as the glass presented it to him; and
betook himself to his old chamber of cogitation, carrying away with
him a vivid picture in his mind of all these things, and a rambling
and unaccountable speculation (such as sometimes comes into a man's
head) how they would all look when he saw them next.
For the rest, Mr Dombey was very taciturn, and very dignified, and
very confident of carrying out his purpose; and remained so.
He did not design accompanying the family to Brighton; but he
graciously informed Cleopatra at breakfast, on the morning of
departure, which arrived a day or two afterwards, that he might be
expected down, soon. There was no time to be lost in getting Cleopatra
to any place recommended as being salutary; for, indeed, she seemed
upon the wane, and turning of the earth, earthy.
Without having undergone any decided second attack of her malady,
the old woman seemed to have crawled backward in her recovery from the
first. She was more lean and shrunken, more uncertain in her
imbecility, and made stranger confusions in her mind and memory. Among
other symptoms of this last affliction, she fell into the habit of
confounding the names of her two sons-in-law, the living and the
deceased; and in general called Mr Dombey, either 'Grangeby,' or
'Domber,' or indifferently, both.
But she was youthful, very youthful still; and in her youthfulness
appeared at breakfast, before going away, in a new bonnet made
express, and a travelling robe that was embroidered and braided like
an old baby's. It was not easy to put her into a fly-away bonnet now,
or to keep the bonnet in its place on the back of her poor nodding
head, when it was got on. In this instance, it had not only the
extraneous effect of being always on one side, but of being
perpetually tapped on the crown by Flowers the maid, who attended in
the background during breakfast to perform that duty.
'Now, my dearest Grangeby,' said Mrs Skewton, 'you must posively
prom,' she cut some of her words short, and cut out others altogether,
'come down very soon.'
'I said just now, Madam,' returned Mr Dombey, loudly and
laboriously, 'that I am coming in a day or two.'
'Bless you, Domber!'
Here the Major, who was come to take leave of the ladies, and who
was staring through his apoplectic eyes at Mrs Skewton's face with the
disinterested composure of an immortal being, said:
'Begad, Ma'am, you don't ask old Joe to come!'
'Sterious wretch, who's he?' lisped Cleopatra. But a tap on the
bonnet from Flowers seeming to jog her memory, she added, 'Oh! You
mean yourself, you naughty creature!'
'Devilish queer, Sir,' whispered the Major to Mr Dombey. 'Bad case.
Never did wrap up enough;' the Major being buttoned to the chin. 'Why
who should J. B. mean by Joe, but old Joe Bagstock - Joseph - your
slave - Joe, Ma'am? Here! Here's the man! Here are the Bagstock
bellows, Ma'am!' cried the Major, striking himself a sounding blow on
'My dearest Edith - Grangeby - it's most trordinry thing,' said
Cleopatra, pettishly, 'that Major - '
'Bagstock! J. B.!' cried the Major, seeing that she faltered for
'Well, it don't matter,' said Cleopatra. 'Edith, my love, you know
I never could remember names - what was it? oh! - most trordinry thing
that so many people want to come down to see me. I'm not going for
long. I'm coming back. Surely they can wait, till I come back!'
Cleopatra looked all round the table as she said it, and appeared
'I won't have Vistors - really don't want visitors,' she said;
'little repose - and all that sort of thing - is what I quire. No
odious brutes must proach me till I've shaken off this numbness;' and
in a grisly resumption of her coquettish ways, she made a dab at the
Major with her fan, but overset Mr Dombey's breakfast cup instead,
which was in quite a different direction.
Then she called for Withers, and charged him to see particularly
that word was left about some trivial alterations in her room, which
must be all made before she came back, and which must be set about
immediately, as there was no saying how soon she might come back; for
she had a great many engagements, and all sorts of people to call
upon. Withers received these directions with becoming deference, and
gave his guarantee for their execution; but when he withdrew a pace or
two behind her, it appeared as if he couldn't help looking strangely
at the Major, who couldn't help looking strangely at Mr Dombey, who
couldn't help looking strangely at Cleopatra, who couldn't help
nodding her bonnet over one eye, and rattling her knife and fork upon
her plate in using them, as if she were playing castanets.
Edith alone never lifted her eyes to any face at the table, and
never seemed dismayed by anything her mother said or did. She listened
to her disjointed talk, or at least, turned her head towards her when
addressed; replied in a few low words when necessary; and sometimes
stopped her when she was rambling, or brought her thoughts back with a
monosyllable, to the point from which they had strayed. The mother,
however unsteady in other things, was constant in this - that she was
always observant of her. She would look at the beautiful face, in its
marble stillness and severity, now with a kind of fearful admiration;
now in a giggling foolish effort to move it to a smile; now with
capricious tears and jealous shakings of her head, as imagining
herself neglected by it; always with an attraction towards it, that
never fluctuated like her other ideas, but had constant possession of
her. From Edith she would sometimes look at Florence, and back again
at Edith, in a manner that was wild enough; and sometimes she would
try to look elsewhere, as if to escape from her daughter's face; but
back to it she seemed forced to come, although it never sought hers
unless sought, or troubled her with one single glance.
The best concluded, Mrs Skewton, affecting to lean girlishly upon
the Major's arm, but heavily supported on the other side by Flowers
the maid, and propped up behind by Withers the page, was conducted to
the carriage, which was to take her, Florence, and Edith to Brighton.
'And is Joseph absolutely banished?' said the Major, thrusting in
his purple face over the steps. 'Damme, Ma'am, is Cleopatra so
hard-hearted as to forbid her faithful Antony Bagstock to approach the
'Go along!' said Cleopatra, 'I can't bear you. You shall see me
when I come back, if you are very good.'
'Tell Joseph, he may live in hope, Ma'am,' said the Major; 'or
he'll die in despair.'
Cleopatra shuddered, and leaned back. 'Edith, my dear,' she said.
'Tell him - '
'Such dreadful words,' said Cleopatra. 'He uses such dreadful
Edith signed to him to retire, gave the word to go on, and left the
objectionable Major to Mr Dombey. To whom he returned, whistling.
'I'll tell you what, Sir,' said the Major, with his hands behind
him, and his legs very wide asunder, 'a fair friend of ours has
removed to Queer Street.'
'What do you mean, Major?' inquired Mr Dombey.
'I mean to say, Dombey,' returned the Major, 'that you'll soon be
Mr Dombey appeared to relish this waggish description of himself so
very little, that the Major wound up with the horse's cough, as an
expression of gravity.
'Damme, Sir,' said the Major, 'there is no use in disguising a
fact. Joe is blunt, Sir. That's his nature. If you take old Josh at
all, you take him as you find him; and a devilish rusty, old rasper,
of a close-toothed, J. B. file, you do find him. Dombey,' said the
Major, 'your wife's mother is on the move, Sir.'
'I fear,' returned Mr Dombey, with much philosophy, 'that Mrs
Skewton is shaken.'
'Shaken, Dombey!' said the Major. 'Smashed!'
'Change, however,' pursued Mr Dombey, 'and attention, may do much
'Don't believe it, Sir,' returned the Major. 'Damme, Sir, she never
wrapped up enough. If a man don't wrap up,' said the Major, taking in
another button of his buff waistcoat, 'he has nothing to fall back
upon. But some people will die. They will do it. Damme, they will.
They're obstinate. I tell you what, Dombey, it may not be ornamental;
it may not be refined; it may be rough and tough; but a little of the
genuine old English Bagstock stamina, Sir, would do all the good in
the world to the human breed.'
After imparting this precious piece of information, the Major, who
was certainly true-blue, whatever other endowments he may have had or
wanted, coming within the 'genuine old English' classification, which
has never been exactly ascertained, took his lobster-eyes and his
apoplexy to the club, and choked there all day.
Cleopatra, at one time fretful, at another self-complacent,
sometimes awake, sometimes asleep, and at all times juvenile, reached
Brighton the same night, fell to pieces as usual, and was put away in
bed; where a gloomy fancy might have pictured a more potent skeleton
than the maid, who should have been one, watching at the rose-coloured
curtains, which were carried down to shed their bloom upon her.
It was settled in high council of medical authority that she should
take a carriage airing every day, and that it was important she should
get out every day, and walk if she could. Edith was ready to attend
her - always ready to attend her, with the same mechanical attention
and immovable beauty - and they drove out alone; for Edith had an
uneasiness in the presence of Florence, now that her mother was worse,
and told Florence, with a kiss, that she would rather they two went
Mrs Skewton, on one particular day, was in the irresolute,
exacting, jealous temper that had developed itself on her recovery
from her first attack. After sitting silent in the carriage watching
Edith for some time, she took her hand and kissed it passionately. The
hand was neither given nor withdrawn, but simply yielded to her
raising of it, and being released, dropped down again, almost as if it
were insensible. At this she began to whimper and moan, and say what a
mother she had been, and how she was forgotten! This she continued to
do at capricious intervals, even when they had alighted: when she
herself was halting along with the joint support of Withers and a
stick, and Edith was walking by her side, and the carriage slowly
following at a little distance.
It was a bleak, lowering, windy day, and they were out upon the
Downs with nothing but a bare sweep of land between them and the sky.
The mother, with a querulous satisfaction in the monotony of her
complaint, was still repeating it in a low voice from time to time,
and the proud form of her daughter moved beside her slowly, when there
came advancing over a dark ridge before them, two other figures, which
in the distance, were so like an exaggerated imitation of their own,
that Edith stopped.
Almost as she stopped, the two figures stopped; and that one which
to Edith's thinking was like a distorted shadow of her mother, spoke
to the other, earnestly, and with a pointing hand towards them. That
one seemed inclined to turn back, but the other, in which Edith
recognised enough that was like herself to strike her with an unusual
feeling, not quite free from fear, came on; and then they came on
The greater part of this observation, she made while walking
towards them, for her stoppage had been momentary. Nearer observation
showed her that they were poorly dressed, as wanderers about the
country; that the younger woman carried knitted work or some such
goods for sale; and that the old one toiled on empty-handed.
And yet, however far removed she was in dress, in dignity, in
beauty, Edith could not but compare the younger woman with herself,
still. It may have been that she saw upon her face some traces which
she knew were lingering in her own soul, if not yet written on that
index; but, as the woman came on, returning her gaze, fixing her
shining eyes upon her, undoubtedly presenting something of her own air
and stature, and appearing to reciprocate her own thoughts, she felt a
chill creep over her, as if the day were darkening, and the wind were
They had now come up. The old woman, holding out her hand
importunately, stopped to beg of Mrs Skewton. The younger one stopped
too, and she and Edith looked in one another's eyes.
'What is it that you have to sell?' said Edith.
'Only this,' returned the woman, holding out her wares, without
looking at them. 'I sold myself long ago.'
'My Lady, don't believe her,' croaked the old woman to Mrs Skewton;
'don't believe what she says. She loves to talk like that. She's my
handsome and undutiful daughter. She gives me nothing but reproaches,
my Lady, for all I have done for her. Look at her now, my Lady, how
she turns upon her poor old mother with her looks.'
As Mrs Skewton drew her purse out with a trembling hand, and
eagerly fumbled for some money, which the other old woman greedily
watched for - their heads all but touching, in their hurry and
decrepitude - Edith interposed:
'I have seen you,' addressing the old woman, 'before.'
'Yes, my Lady,' with a curtsey. 'Down in Warwickshire. The morning
among the trees. When you wouldn't give me nothing. But the gentleman,
he give me something! Oh, bless him, bless him!' mumbled the old
woman, holding up her skinny hand, and grinning frightfully at her
'It's of no use attempting to stay me, Edith!' said Mrs Skewton,
angrily anticipating an objection from her. 'You know nothing about
it. I won't be dissuaded. I am sure this is an excellent woman, and a
'Yes, my Lady, yes,' chattered the old woman, holding out her
avaricious hand. 'Thankee, my Lady. Lord bless you, my Lady. Sixpence
more, my pretty Lady, as a good mother yourself.'
'And treated undutifully enough, too, my good old creature,
sometimes, I assure you,' said Mrs Skewton, whimpering. 'There! Shake
hands with me. You're a very good old creature - full of
what's-his-name - and all that. You're all affection and et cetera,
'Oh, yes, my Lady!'
'Yes, I'm sure you are; and so's that gentlemanly creature
Grangeby. I must really shake hands with you again. And now you can
go, you know; and I hope,' addressing the daughter, 'that you'll show
more gratitude, and natural what's-its-name, and all the rest of it -
but I never remember names - for there never was a better mother than
the good old creature's been to you. Come, Edith!'
As the ruin of Cleopatra tottered off whimpering, and wiping its
eyes with a gingerly remembrance of rouge in their neighbourhood, the
old woman hobbled another way, mumbling and counting her money. Not
one word more, nor one other gesture, had been exchanged between Edith
and the younger woman, but neither had removed her eyes from the other
for a moment. They had remained confronted until now, when Edith, as
awakening from a dream, passed slowly on.
'You're a handsome woman,' muttered her shadow, looking after her;
'but good looks won't save us. And you're a proud woman; but pride
won't save us. We had need to know each other when we meet again!'
New Voices in the Waves
All is going on as it was wont. The waves are hoarse with
repetition of their mystery; the dust lies piled upon the shore; the
sea-birds soar and hover; the winds and clouds go forth upon their
trackless flight; the white arms beckon, in the moonlight, to the
invisible country far away.
With a tender melancholy pleasure, Florence finds herself again on
the old ground so sadly trodden, yet so happily, and thinks of him in
the quiet place, where he and she have many and many a time conversed
together, with the water welling up about his couch. And now, as she
sits pensive there, she hears in the wild low murmur of the sea, his
little story told again, his very words repeated; and finds that all
her life and hopes, and griefs, since - in the solitary house, and in
the pageant it has changed to - have a portion in the burden of the
And gentle Mr Toots, who wanders at a distance, looking wistfully
towards the figure that he dotes upon, and has followed there, but
cannot in his delicacy disturb at such a time, likewise hears the
requiem of little Dombey on the waters, rising and falling in the
lulls of their eternal madrigal in praise of Florence. Yes! and he
faintly understands, poor Mr Toots, that they are saying something of
a time when he was sensible of being brighter and not addle-brained;
and the tears rising in his eyes when he fears that he is dull and
stupid now, and good for little but to be laughed at, diminish his
satisfaction in their soothing reminder that he is relieved from
present responsibility to the Chicken, by the absence of that game
head of poultry in the country, training (at Toots's cost) for his
great mill with the Larkey Boy.
But Mr Toots takes courage, when they whisper a kind thought to
him; and by slow degrees and with many indecisive stoppages on the
way, approaches Florence. Stammering and blushing, Mr Toots affects
amazement when he comes near her, and says (having followed close on
the carriage in which she travelled, every inch of the way from
London, loving even to be choked by the dust of its wheels) that he
never was so surprised in all his life.
'And you've brought Diogenes, too, Miss Dombey!' says Mr Toots,
thrilled through and through by the touch of the small hand so
pleasantly and frankly given him.
No doubt Diogenes is there, and no doubt Mr Toots has reason to
observe him, for he comes straightway at Mr Toots's legs, and tumbles
over himself in the desperation with which he makes at him, like a
very dog of Montargis. But he is checked by his sweet mistress.
'Down, Di, down. Don't you remember who first made us friends, Di?
Oh! Well may Di lay his loving cheek against her hand, and run off,
and run back, and run round her, barking, and run headlong at anybody
coming by, to show his devotion. Mr Toots would run headlong at
anybody, too. A military gentleman goes past, and Mr Toots would like
nothing better than to run at him, full tilt.
'Diogenes is quite in his native air, isn't he, Miss Dombey?' says
Florence assents, with a grateful smile.
'Miss Dombey,' says Mr Toots, 'beg your pardon, but if you would
like to walk to Blimber's, I - I'm going there.'
Florence puts her arm in that of Mr Toots without a word, and they
walk away together, with Diogenes going on before. Mr Toots's legs
shake under him; and though he is splendidly dressed, he feels
misfits, and sees wrinkles, in the masterpieces of Burgess and Co.,
and wishes he had put on that brightest pair of boots.
Doctor Blimber's house, outside, has as scholastic and studious an
air as ever; and up there is the window where she used to look for the
pale face, and where the pale face brightened when it saw her, and the
wasted little hand waved kisses as she passed. The door is opened by
the same weak-eyed young man, whose imbecility of grin at sight of Mr
Toots is feebleness of character personified. They are shown into the
Doctor's study, where blind Homer and Minerva give them audience as of
yore, to the sober ticking of the great clock in the hall; and where
the globes stand still in their accustomed places, as if the world
were stationary too, and nothing in it ever perished in obedience to
the universal law, that, while it keeps it on the roll, calls
everything to earth.
And here is Doctor Blimber, with his learned legs; and here is Mrs
Blimber, with her sky-blue cap; and here Cornelia, with her sandy
little row of curls, and her bright spectacles, still working like a
sexton in the graves of languages. Here is the table upon which he sat
forlorn and strange, the 'new boy' of the school; and hither comes the
distant cooing of the old boys, at their old lives in the old room on
the old principle!
'Toots,' says Doctor Blimber, 'I am very glad to see you, Toots.'
Mr Toots chuckles in reply.
'Also to see you, Toots, in such good company,' says Doctor
Mr Toots, with a scarlet visage, explains that he has met Miss
Dombey by accident, and that Miss Dombey wishing, like himself, to see
the old place, they have come together.
'You will like,' says Doctor Blimber, 'to step among our young
friends, Miss Dombey, no doubt. All fellow-students of yours, Toots,
once. I think we have no new disciples in our little portico, my
dear,' says Doctor Blimber to Cornelia, 'since Mr Toots left us.'
'Except Bitherstone,' returns Cornelia.
'Ay, truly,' says the Doctor. 'Bitherstone is new to Mr Toots.'
New to Florence, too, almost; for, in the schoolroom, Bitherstone -
no longer Master Bitherstone of Mrs Pipchin's - shows in collars and a
neckcloth, and wears a watch. But Bitherstone, born beneath some
Bengal star of ill-omen, is extremely inky; and his Lexicon has got so
dropsical from constant reference, that it won't shut, and yawns as if
it really could not bear to be so bothered. So does Bitherstone its
master, forced at Doctor Blimber's highest pressure; but in the yawn
of Bitherstone there is malice and snarl, and he has been heard to say
that he wishes he could catch 'old Blimber' in India. He'd precious
soon find himself carried up the country by a few of his
(Bitherstone's) Coolies, and handed over to the Thugs; he can tell him
Briggs is still grinding in the mill of knowledge; and Tozer, too;
and Johnson, too; and all the rest; the older pupils being principally
engaged in forgetting, with prodigious labour, everything they knew
when they were younger. All are as polite and as pale as ever; and
among them, Mr Feeder, B.A., with his bony hand and bristly head, is
still hard at it; with his Herodotus stop on just at present, and his
other barrels on a shelf behind him.
A mighty sensation is created, even among these grave young
gentlemen, by a visit from the emancipated Toots; who is regarded with
a kind of awe, as one who has passed the Rubicon, and is pledged never
to come back, and concerning the cut of whose clothes, and fashion of
whose jewellery, whispers go about, behind hands; the bilious
Bitherstone, who is not of Mr Toots's time, affecting to despise the
latter to the smaller boys, and saying he knows better, and that he
should like to see him coming that sort of thing in Bengal, where his
mother had got an emerald belonging to him that was taken out of the
footstool of a Rajah. Come now!
Bewildering emotions are awakened also by the sight of Florence,
with whom every young gentleman immediately falls in love, again;
except, as aforesaid, the bilious Bitherstone, who declines to do so,
out of contradiction. Black jealousies of Mr Toots arise, and Briggs
is of opinion that he ain't so very old after all. But this
disparaging insinuation is speedily made nought by Mr Toots saying
aloud to Mr Feeder, B.A., 'How are you, Feeder?' and asking him to
come and dine with him to-day at the Bedford; in right of which feats
he might set up as Old Parr, if he chose, unquestioned.
There is much shaking of hands, and much bowing, and a great desire
on the part of each young gentleman to take Toots down in Miss
Dombey's good graces; and then, Mr Toots having bestowed a chuckle on
his old desk, Florence and he withdraw with Mrs Blimber and Cornelia;
and Doctor Blimber is heard to observe behind them as he comes out
last, and shuts the door, 'Gentlemen, we will now resume our studies,'
For that and little else is what the Doctor hears the sea say, or has
heard it saying all his life.
Florence then steals away and goes upstairs to the old bedroom with
Mrs Blimber and Cornelia; Mr Toots, who feels that neither he nor
anybody else is wanted there, stands talking to the Doctor at the
study-door, or rather hearing the Doctor talk to him, and wondering
how he ever thought the study a great sanctuary, and the Doctor, with
his round turned legs, like a clerical pianoforte, an awful man.
Florence soon comes down and takes leave; Mr Toots takes leave; and
Diogenes, who has been worrying the weak-eyed young man pitilessly all
the time, shoots out at the door, and barks a glad defiance down the
cliff; while Melia, and another of the Doctor's female domestics,
looks out of an upper window, laughing 'at that there Toots,' and
saying of Miss Dombey, 'But really though, now - ain't she like her
brother, only prettier?'
Mr Toots, who saw when Florence came down that there were tears
upon her face, is desperately anxious and uneasy, and at first fears
that he did wrong in proposing the visit. But he is soon relieved by
her saying she is very glad to have been there again, and by her
talking quite cheerfully about it all, as they walked on by the sea.
What with the voices there, and her sweet voice, when they come near
Mr Dombey's house, and Mr Toots must leave her, he is so enslaved that
he has not a scrap of free-will left; when she gives him her hand at
parting, he cannot let it go.
'Miss Dombey, I beg your pardon,' says Mr Toots, in a sad fluster,
'but if you would allow me to - to -
The smiling and unconscious look of Florence brings him to a dead
'If you would allow me to - if you would not consider it a liberty,
Miss Dombey, if I was to - without any encouragement at all, if I was
to hope, you know,' says Mr Toots.
Florence looks at him inquiringly.
'Miss Dombey,' says Mr Toots, who feels that he is in for it now,
'I really am in that state of adoration of you that I don't know what
to do with myself. I am the most deplorable wretch. If it wasn't at
the corner of the Square at present, I should go down on my knees, and
beg and entreat of you, without any encouragement at all, just to let
me hope that I may - may think it possible that you -
'Oh, if you please, don't!' cries Florence, for the moment quite
alarmed and distressed. 'Oh, pray don't, Mr Toots. Stop, if you
please. Don't say any more. As a kindness and a favour to me, don't.'
Mr Toots is dreadfully abashed, and his mouth opens.
'You have been so good to me,' says Florence, 'I am so grateful to
you, I have such reason to like you for being a kind friend to me, and
I do like you so much;' and here the ingenuous face smiles upon him
with the pleasantest look of honesty in the world; 'that I am sure you
are only going to say good-bye!'
'Certainly, Miss Dombey,' says Mr Toots, 'I - I - that's exactly
what I mean. It's of no consequence.'
'Good-bye!' cries Florence.
'Good-bye, Miss Dombey!' stammers Mr Toots. 'I hope you won't think
anything about it. It's - it's of no consequence, thank you. It's not
of the least consequence in the world.'
Poor Mr Toots goes home to his hotel in a state of desperation,
locks himself into his bedroom, flings himself upon his bed, and lies
there for a long time; as if it were of the greatest consequence,
nevertheless. But Mr Feeder, B.A., is coming to dinner, which happens
well for Mr Toots, or there is no knowing when he might get up again.
Mr Toots is obliged to get up to receive him, and to give him
And the generous influence of that social virtue, hospitality (to
make no mention of wine and good cheer), opens Mr Toots's heart, and
warms him to conversation. He does not tell Mr Feeder, B.A., what
passed at the corner of the Square; but when Mr Feeder asks him 'When
it is to come off?' Mr Toots replies, 'that there are certain
subjects' - which brings Mr Feeder down a peg or two immediately. Mr
Toots adds, that he don't know what right Blimber had to notice his
being in Miss Dombey's company, and that if he thought he meant
impudence by it, he'd have him out, Doctor or no Doctor; but he
supposes its only his ignorance. Mr Feeder says he has no doubt of it.
Mr Feeder, however, as an intimate friend, is not excluded from the
subject. Mr Toots merely requires that it should be mentioned
mysteriously, and with feeling. After a few glasses of wine, he gives
Miss Dombey's health, observing, 'Feeder, you have no idea of the
sentiments with which I propose that toast.' Mr Feeder replies, 'Oh,
yes, I have, my dear Toots; and greatly they redound to your honour,
old boy.' Mr Feeder is then agitated by friendship, and shakes hands;
and says, if ever Toots wants a brother, he knows where to find him,
either by post or parcel. Mr Feeder like-wise says, that if he may
advise, he would recommend Mr Toots to learn the guitar, or, at least
the flute; for women like music, when you are paying your addresses to
'em, and he has found the advantage of it himself.
This brings Mr Feeder, B.A., to the confession that he has his eye
upon Cornelia Blimber. He informs Mr Toots that he don't object to
spectacles, and that if the Doctor were to do the handsome thing and
give up the business, why, there they are - provided for. He says it's
his opinion that when a man has made a handsome sum by his business,
he is bound to give it up; and that Cornelia would be an assistance in
it which any man might be proud of. Mr Toots replies by launching
wildly out into Miss Dombey's praises, and by insinuations that
sometimes he thinks he should like to blow his brains out. Mr Feeder
strongly urges that it would be a rash attempt, and shows him, as a
reconcilement to existence, Cornelia's portrait, spectacles and all.
Thus these quiet spirits pass the evening; and when it has yielded
place to night, Mr Toots walks home with Mr Feeder, and parts with him
at Doctor Blimber's door. But Mr Feeder only goes up the steps, and
when Mr Toots is gone, comes down again, to stroll upon the beach
alone, and think about his prospects. Mr Feeder plainly hears the
waves informing him, as he loiters along, that Doctor Blimber will
give up the business; and he feels a soft romantic pleasure in looking
at the outside of the house, and thinking that the Doctor will first
paint it, and put it into thorough repair.
Mr Toots is likewise roaming up and down, outside the casket that
contains his jewel; and in a deplorable condition of mind, and not
unsuspected by the police, gazes at a window where he sees a light,
and which he has no doubt is Florence's. But it is not, for that is
Mrs Skewton's room; and while Florence, sleeping in another chamber,
dreams lovingly, in the midst of the old scenes, and their old
associations live again, the figure which in grim reality is
substituted for the patient boy's on the same theatre, once more to
connect it - but how differently! - with decay and death, is stretched
there, wakeful and complaining. Ugly and haggard it lies upon its bed
of unrest; and by it, in the terror of her unimpassioned loveliness -
for it has terror in the sufferer's failing eyes - sits Edith. What do
the waves say, in the stillness of the night, to them?
'Edith, what is that stone arm raised to strike me? Don't you see
There is nothing, mother, but your fancy.'
'But my fancy! Everything is my fancy. Look! Is it possible that
you don't see it?'
'Indeed, mother, there is nothing. Should I sit unmoved, if there
were any such thing there?'
'Unmoved?' looking wildly at her - 'it's gone now - and why are you
so unmoved? That is not my fancy, Edith. It turns me cold to see you
sitting at my side.'
'I am sorry, mother.'
'Sorry! You seem always sorry. But it is not for me!'
With that, she cries; and tossing her restless head from side to
side upon her pillow, runs on about neglect, and the mother she has
been, and the mother the good old creature was, whom they met, and the
cold return the daughters of such mothers make. In the midst of her
incoherence, she stops, looks at her daughter, cries out that her wits
are going, and hides her face upon the bed.
Edith, in compassion, bends over her and speaks to her. The sick
old woman clutches her round the neck, and says, with a look of
'Edith! we are going home soon; going back. You mean that I shall
go home again?'
'Yes, mother, yes.'
'And what he said - what's-his-name, I never could remember names -
Major - that dreadful word, when we came away - it's not true? Edith!'
with a shriek and a stare, 'it's not that that is the matter with me.'
Night after night, the lights burn in the window, and the figure
lies upon the bed, and Edith sits beside it, and the restless waves
are calling to them both the whole night long. Night after night, the
waves are hoarse with repetition of their mystery; the dust lies piled
upon the shore; the sea-birds soar and hover; the winds and clouds are
on their trackless flight; the white arms beckon, in the moonlight, to
the invisible country far away.
And still the sick old woman looks into the corner, where the stone
arm - part of a figure of some tomb, she says - is raised to strike
her. At last it falls; and then a dumb old woman lies upon the the
bed, and she is crooked and shrunk up, and half of her is dead.
Such is the figure, painted and patched for the sun to mock, that
is drawn slowly through the crowd from day to day; looking, as it
goes, for the good old creature who was such a mother, and making
mouths as it peers among the crowd in vain. Such is the figure that is
often wheeled down to the margin of the sea, and stationed there; but
on which no wind can blow freshness, and for which the murmur of the
ocean has no soothing word. She lies and listens to it by the hour;
but its speech is dark and gloomy to her, and a dread is on her face,
and when her eyes wander over the expanse, they see but a broad
stretch of desolation between earth and heaven.
Florence she seldom sees, and when she does, is angry with and mows
at. Edith is beside her always, and keeps Florence away; and Florence,
in her bed at night, trembles at the thought of death in such a shape,
and often wakes and listens, thinking it has come. No one attends on
her but Edith. It is better that few eyes should see her; and her
daughter watches alone by the bedside.
A shadow even on that shadowed face, a sharpening even of the
sharpened features, and a thickening of the veil before the eyes into
a pall that shuts out the dim world, is come. Her wandering hands upon
the coverlet join feebly palm to palm, and move towards her daughter;
and a voice not like hers, not like any voice that speaks our mortal
language - says, 'For I nursed you!'
Edith, without a tear, kneels down to bring her voice closer to the
sinking head, and answers:
'Mother, can you hear me?'
Staring wide, she tries to nod in answer.
'Can you recollect the night before I married?'
The head is motionless, but it expresses somehow that she does.
'I told you then that I forgave your part in it, and prayed God to
forgive my own. I told you that time past was at an end between us. I
say so now, again. Kiss me, mother.'
Edith touches the white lips, and for a moment all is still. A
moment afterwards, her mother, with her girlish laugh, and the
skeleton of the Cleopatra manner, rises in her bed.
Draw the rose-coloured curtains. There is something else upon its
flight besides the wind and clouds. Draw the rose-coloured curtains
Intelligence of the event is sent to Mr Dombey in town, who waits
upon Cousin Feenix (not yet able to make up his mind for Baden-Baden),
who has just received it too. A good-natured creature like Cousin
Feenix is the very man for a marriage or a funeral, and his position
in the family renders it right that he should be consulted.
'Dombey,' said Cousin Feenix, 'upon my soul, I am very much shocked
to see you on such a melancholy occasion. My poor aunt! She was a
devilish lively woman.'
Mr Dombey replies, 'Very much so.'
'And made up,' says Cousin Feenix, 'really young, you know,
considering. I am sure, on the day of your marriage, I thought she was
good for another twenty years. In point of fact, I said so to a man at
Brooks's - little Billy Joper - you know him, no doubt - man with a
glass in his eye?'
Mr Dombey bows a negative. 'In reference to the obsequies,' he
hints, 'whether there is any suggestion - '
'Well, upon my life,' says Cousin Feenix, stroking his chin, which
he has just enough of hand below his wristbands to do; 'I really don't
know. There's a Mausoleum down at my place, in the park, but I'm
afraid it's in bad repair, and, in point of fact, in a devil of a
state. But for being a little out at elbows, I should have had it put
to rights; but I believe the people come and make pic-nic parties
there inside the iron railings.'
Mr Dombey is clear that this won't do.
'There's an uncommon good church in the village,' says Cousin
Feenix, thoughtfully; 'pure specimen of the Anglo-Norman style, and
admirably well sketched too by Lady Jane Finchbury - woman with tight
stays - but they've spoilt it with whitewash, I understand, and it's a
'Perhaps Brighton itself,' Mr Dombey suggests.
'Upon my honour, Dombey, I don't think we could do better,' says
Cousin Feenix. 'It's on the spot, you see, and a very cheerful place.'
'And when,' hints Mr Dombey, 'would it be convenient?'
'I shall make a point,' says Cousin Feenix, 'of pledging myself for
any day you think best. I shall have great pleasure (melancholy
pleasure, of course) in following my poor aunt to the confines of the
- in point of fact, to the grave,' says Cousin Feenix, failing in the
other turn of speech.
'Would Monday do for leaving town?' says Mr Dombey.
'Monday would suit me to perfection,' replies Cousin Feenix.
Therefore Mr Dombey arranges to take Cousin Feenix down on that day,
and presently takes his leave, attended to the stairs by Cousin
Feenix, who says, at parting, 'I'm really excessively sorry, Dombey,
that you should have so much trouble about it;' to which Mr Dombey
answers, 'Not at all.'
At the appointed time, Cousin Feenix and Mr Dombey meet, and go
down to Brighton, and representing, in their two selves, all the other
mourners for the deceased lady's loss, attend her remains to their
place of rest. Cousin Feenix, sitting in the mourning-coach,
recognises innumerable acquaintances on the road, but takes no other
notice of them, in decorum, than checking them off aloud, as they go
by, for Mr Dombey's information, as 'Tom Johnson. Man with cork leg,
from White's. What, are you here, Tommy? Foley on a blood mare. The
Smalder girls' - and so forth. At the ceremony Cousin Feenix is
depressed, observing, that these are the occasions to make a man
think, in point of fact, that he is getting shaky; and his eyes are
really moistened, when it is over. But he soon recovers; and so do the
rest of Mrs Skewton's relatives and friends, of whom the Major
continually tells the club that she never did wrap up enough; while
the young lady with the back, who has so much trouble with her
eyelids, says, with a little scream, that she must have been
enormously old, and that she died of all kinds of horrors, and you
mustn't mention it.
So Edith's mother lies unmentioned of her dear friends, who are
deaf to the waves that are hoarse with repetition of their mystery,
and blind to the dust that is piled upon the shore, and to the white
arms that are beckoning, in the moonlight, to the invisible country
far away. But all goes on, as it was wont, upon the margin of the
unknown sea; and Edith standing there alone, and listening to its
waves, has dank weed cast up at her feet, to strew her path in life
Confidential and Accidental
Attired no more in Captain Cuttle's sable slops and sou'-wester
hat, but dressed in a substantial suit of brown livery, which, while
it affected to be a very sober and demure livery indeed, was really as
self-satisfied and confident a one as tailor need desire to make, Rob
the Grinder, thus transformed as to his outer man, and all regardless
within of the Captain and the Midshipman, except when he devoted a few
minutes of his leisure time to crowing over those inseparable
worthies, and recalling, with much applauding music from that brazen
instrument, his conscience, the triumphant manner in which he had
disembarrassed himself of their company, now served his patron, Mr
Carker. Inmate of Mr Carker's house, and serving about his person, Rob
kept his round eyes on the white teeth with fear and trembling, and
felt that he had need to open them wider than ever.
He could not have quaked more, through his whole being, before the
teeth, though he had come into the service of some powerful enchanter,
and they had been his strongest spells. The boy had a sense of power
and authority in this patron of his that engrossed his whole attention
and exacted his most implicit submission and obedience. He hardly
considered himself safe in thinking about him when he was absent, lest
he should feel himself immediately taken by the throat again, as on
the morning when he first became bound to him, and should see every
one of the teeth finding him out, and taxing him with every fancy of
his mind. Face to face with him, Rob had no more doubt that Mr Carker
read his secret thoughts, or that he could read them by the least
exertion of his will if he were so inclined, than he had that Mr
Carker saw him when he looked at him. The ascendancy was so complete,
and held him in such enthralment, that, hardly daring to think at all,
but with his mind filled with a constantly dilating impression of his
patron's irresistible command over him, and power of doing anything
with him, he would stand watching his pleasure, and trying to
anticipate his orders, in a state of mental suspension, as to all
Rob had not informed himself perhaps - in his then state of mind it
would have been an act of no common temerity to inquire - whether he
yielded so completely to this influence in any part, because he had
floating suspicions of his patron's being a master of certain
treacherous arts in which he had himself been a poor scholar at the
Grinders' School. But certainly Rob admired him, as well as feared
him. Mr Carker, perhaps, was better acquainted with the sources of his
power, which lost nothing by his management of it.
On the very night when he left the Captain's service, Rob, after
disposing of his pigeons, and even making a bad bargain in his hurry,
had gone straight down to Mr Carker's house, and hotly presented
himself before his new master with a glowing face that seemed to
'What, scapegrace!' said Mr Carker, glancing at his bundle 'Have
you left your situation and come to me?'
'Oh if you please, Sir,' faltered Rob, 'you said, you know, when I
come here last - '
'I said,' returned Mr Carker, 'what did I say?'
'If you please, Sir, you didn't say nothing at all, Sir,' returned
Rob, warned by the manner of this inquiry, and very much disconcerted.
His patron looked at him with a wide display of gums, and shaking
his forefinger, observed:
'You'll come to an evil end, my vagabond friend, I foresee. There's
ruin in store for you.
'Oh if you please, don't, Sir!' cried Rob, with his legs trembling
under him. ' I'm sure, Sir, I only want to work for you, Sir, and to
wait upon you, Sir, and to do faithful whatever I'm bid, Sir.'
'You had better do faithfully whatever you are bid,' returned his
patron, 'if you have anything to do with me.'
'Yes, I know that, Sir,' pleaded the submissive Rob; 'I'm sure of
that, SIr. If you'll only be so good as try me, Sir! And if ever you
find me out, Sir, doing anything against your wishes, I give you leave
to kill me.'
'You dog!' said Mr Carker, leaning back in his chair, and smiling
at him serenely. 'That's nothing to what I'd do to you, if you tried
to deceive me.'
'Yes, Sir,' replied the abject Grinder, 'I'm sure you would be down
upon me dreadful, Sir. I wouldn't attempt for to go and do it, Sir,
not if I was bribed with golden guineas.'
Thoroughly checked in his expectations of commendation, the
crestfallen Grinder stood looking at his patron, and vainly
endeavouring not to look at him, with the uneasiness which a cur will
often manifest in a similar situation.
'So you have left your old service, and come here to ask me to take
you into mine, eh?' said Mr Carker.
'Yes, if you please, Sir,' returned Rob, who, in doing so, had
acted on his patron's own instructions, but dared not justify himself
by the least insinuation to that effect.
'Well!' said Mr Carker. 'You know me, boy?'
'Please, Sir, yes, Sir,' returned Rob, tumbling with his hat, and
still fixed by Mr Carker's eye, and fruitlessly endeavouring to unfix
Mr Carker nodded. 'Take care, then!'
Rob expressed in a number of short bows his lively understanding of
this caution, and was bowing himself back to the door, greatly
relieved by the prospect of getting on the outside of it, when his
patron stopped him.
'Halloa!' he cried, calling him roughly back. 'You have been - shut
Rob obeyed as if his life had depended on his alacrity.
'You have been used to eaves-dropping. Do you know what that
'Listening, Sir?' Rob hazarded, after some embarrassed reflection.
His patron nodded. 'And watching, and so forth.'
'I wouldn't do such a thing here, Sir,' answered Rob; 'upon my word
and honour, I wouldn't, Sir, I wish I may die if I would, Sir, for
anything that could be promised to me. I should consider it is as much
as all the world was worth, to offer to do such a thing, unless I was
'You had better not' You have been used, too, to babbling and
tattling,' said his patron with perfect coolness. 'Beware of that
here, or you're a lost rascal,' and he smiled again, and again
cautioned him with his forefinger.
The Grinder's breath came short and thick with consternation. He
tried to protest the purity of his intentions, but could only stare at
the smiling gentleman in a stupor of submission, with which the
smiling gentleman seemed well enough satisfied, for he ordered him
downstairs, after observing him for some moments in silence, and gave
him to understand that he was retained in his employment. This was the
manner of Rob the Grinder's engagement by Mr Carker, and his
awe-stricken devotion to that gentleman had strengthened and
increased, if possible, with every minute of his service.
It was a service of some months' duration, when early one morning,
Rob opened the garden gate to Mr Dombey, who was come to breakfast
with his master, by appointment. At the same moment his master himself
came, hurrying forth to receive the distinguished guest, and give him
welcome with all his teeth.
'I never thought,' said Carker, when he had assisted him to alight
from his horse, 'to see you here, I'm sure. This is an extraordinary
day in my calendar. No occasion is very special to a man like you, who
may do anything; but to a man like me, the case is widely different.
'You have a tasteful place here, Carker,' said Mr Dombey,
condescending to stop upon the lawn, to look about him.
'You can afford to say so,' returned Carker. 'Thank you.'
'Indeed,' said Mr Dombey, in his lofty patronage, 'anyone might say
so. As far as it goes, it is a very commodious and well-arranged place
- quite elegant.'
'As far as it goes, truly,' returned Carker, with an air of
disparagement' 'It wants that qualification. Well! we have said enough
about it; and though you can afford to praise it, I thank you
nonetheless. Will you walk in?'
Mr Dombey, entering the house, noticed, as he had reason to do, the
complete arrangement of the rooms, and the numerous contrivances for
comfort and effect that abounded there. Mr Carker, in his ostentation
of humility, received this notice with a deferential smile, and said
he understood its delicate meaning, and appreciated it, but in truth
the cottage was good enough for one in his position - better, perhaps,
than such a man should occupy, poor as it was.
'But perhaps to you, who are so far removed, it really does look
better than it is,' he said, with his false mouth distended to its
fullest stretch. 'Just as monarchs imagine attractions in the lives of
He directed a sharp glance and a sharp smile at Mr Dombey as he
spoke, and a sharper glance, and a sharper smile yet, when Mr Dombey,
drawing himself up before the fire, in the attitude so often copied by
his second in command, looked round at the pictures on the walls.
Cursorily as his cold eye wandered over them, Carker's keen glance
accompanied his, and kept pace with his, marking exactly where it
went, and what it saw. As it rested on one picture in particular,
Carker hardly seemed to breathe, his sidelong scrutiny was so cat-like
and vigilant, but the eye of his great chief passed from that, as from
the others, and appeared no more impressed by it than by the rest.
Carker looked at it - it was the picture that resembled Edith - as
if it were a living thing; and with a wicked, silent laugh upon his
face, that seemed in part addressed to it, though it was all derisive
of the great man standing so unconscious beside him. Breakfast was
soon set upon the table; and, inviting Mr Dombey to a chair which had
its back towards this picture, he took his own seat opposite to it as
Mr Dombey was even graver than it was his custom to be, and quite
silent. The parrot, swinging in the gilded hoop within her gaudy cage,
attempted in vain to attract notice, for Carker was too observant of
his visitor to heed her; and the visitor, abstracted in meditation,
looked fixedly, not to say sullenly, over his stiff neckcloth, without
raising his eyes from the table-cloth. As to Rob, who was in
attendance, all his faculties and energies were so locked up in
observation of his master, that he scarcely ventured to give shelter
to the thought that the visitor was the great gentleman before whom he
had been carried as a certificate of the family health, in his
childhood, and to whom he had been indebted for his leather smalls.
'Allow me,' said Carker suddenly, 'to ask how Mrs Dombey is?'
He leaned forward obsequiously, as he made the inquiry, with his
chin resting on his hand; and at the same time his eyes went up to the
picture, as if he said to it, 'Now, see, how I will lead him on!'
Mr Dombey reddened as he answered:
'Mrs Dombey is quite well. You remind me, Carker, of some
conversation that I wish to have with you.'
'Robin, you can leave us,' said his master, at whose mild tones
Robin started and disappeared, with his eyes fixed on his patron to
the last. 'You don't remember that boy, of course?' he added, when the
enmeshed Grinder was gone.
'No,' said Mr Dombey, with magnificent indifference.
'Not likely that a man like you would. Hardly possible,' murmured
Carker. 'But he is one of that family from whom you took a nurse.
Perhaps you may remember having generously charged yourself with his
'Is it that boy?' said Mr Dombey, with a frown. 'He does little
credit to his education, I believe.'
'Why, he is a young rip, I am afraid,' returned Carker, with a
shrug. 'He bears that character. But the truth is, I took him into my
service because, being able to get no other employment, he conceived
(had been taught at home, I daresay) that he had some sort of claim
upon you, and was constantly trying to dog your heels with his
petition. And although my defined and recognised connexion with your
affairs is merely of a business character, still I have that
spontaneous interest in everything belonging to you, that - '
He stopped again, as if to discover whether he had led Mr Dombey
far enough yet. And again, with his chin resting on his hand, he
leered at the picture.
'Carker,' said Mr Dombey, 'I am sensible that you do not limit your
'Service,' suggested his smiling entertainer.
'No; I prefer to say your regard,' observed Mr Dombey; very
sensible, as he said so, that he was paying him a handsome and
flattering compliment, 'to our mere business relations. Your
consideration for my feelings, hopes, and disappointments, in the
little instance you have just now mentioned, is an example in point. I
I am obliged to you, Carker.'
Mr Carker bent his head slowly, and very softly rubbed his hands,
as if he were afraid by any action to disturb the current of Mr
'Your allusion to it is opportune,' said Mr Dombey, after a little
hesitation; 'for it prepares the way to what I was beginning to say to
you, and reminds me that that involves no absolutely new relations
between us, although it may involve more personal confidence on my
part than I have hitherto - '
'Distinguished me with,' suggested Carker, bending his head again:
'I will not say to you how honoured I am; for a man like you well
knows how much honour he has in his power to bestow at pleasure.'
'Mrs Dombey and myself,' said Mr Dombey, passing this compliment
with august self-denial, 'are not quite agreed upon some points. We do
not appear to understand each other yet' Mrs Dombey has something to
'Mrs Dombey is distinguished by many rare attractions; and has been
accustomed, no doubt, to receive much adulation,' said the smooth,
sleek watcher of his slightest look and tone. 'But where there is
affection, duty, and respect, any little mistakes engendered by such
causes are soon set right.'
Mr Dombey's thoughts instinctively flew back to the face that had
looked at him in his wife's dressing-room when an imperious hand was
stretched towards the door; and remembering the affection, duty, and
respect, expressed in it, he felt the blood rush to his own face quite
as plainly as the watchful eyes upon him saw it there.
'Mrs Dombey and myself,' he went on to say, 'had some discussion,
before Mrs Skewton's death, upon the causes of my dissatisfaction; of
which you will have formed a general understanding from having been a
witness of what passed between Mrs Dombey and myself on the evening
when you were at our - at my house.'
'When I so much regretted being present,' said the smiling Carker.
'Proud as a man in my position nay must be of your familiar notice -
though I give you no credit for it; you may do anything you please
without losing caste - and honoured as I was by an early presentation
to Mrs Dombey, before she was made eminent by bearing your name, I
almost regretted that night, I assure you, that I had been the object
of such especial good fortune'
That any man could, under any possible circumstances, regret the
being distinguished by his condescension and patronage, was a moral
phenomenon which Mr Dombey could not comprehend. He therefore
responded, with a considerable accession of dignity. 'Indeed! And why,
'I fear,' returned the confidential agent, 'that Mrs Dombey, never
very much disposed to regard me with favourable interest - one in my
position could not expect that, from a lady naturally proud, and whose
pride becomes her so well - may not easily forgive my innocent part in
that conversation. Your displeasure is no light matter, you must
remember; and to be visited with it before a third party -
'Carker,' said Mr Dombey, arrogantly; 'I presume that I am the
'Oh! Can there be a doubt about it?' replied the other, with the
impatience of a man admitting a notorious and incontrovertible fact'
'Mrs Dombey becomes a secondary consideration, when we are both in
question, I imagine,' said Mr Dombey. 'Is that so?'
'Is it so?' returned Carker. 'Do you know better than anyone, that
you have no need to ask?'
'Then I hope, Carker,' said Mr Dombey, 'that your regret in the
acquisition of Mrs Dombey's displeasure, may be almost counterbalanced
by your satisfaction in retaining my confidence and good opinion.'
'I have the misfortune, I find,' returned Carker, 'to have incurred
that displeasure. Mrs Dombey has expressed it to you?'
'Mrs Dombey has expressed various opinions,' said Mr Dombey, with
majestic coldness and indifference, 'in which I do not participate,
and which I am not inclined to discuss, or to recall. I made Mr's
Dombey acquainted, some time since, as I have already told you, with
certain points of domestic deference and submission on which I felt it
necessary to insist. I failed to convince Mrs Dombey of the expediency
of her immediately altering her conduct in those respects, with a view
to her own peace and welfare, and my dignity; and I informed Mrs
Dombey that if I should find it necessary to object or remonstrate
again, I should express my opinion to her through yourself, my
Blended with the look that Carker bent upon him, was a devilish
look at the picture over his head, that struck upon it like a flash of
'Now, Carker,' said Mr Dombey, 'I do not hesitate to say to you
that I will carry my point. I am not to be trifled with. Mrs Dombey
must understand that my will is law, and that I cannot allow of one
exception to the whole rule of my life. You will have the goodness to
undertake this charge, which, coming from me, is not unacceptable to
you, I hope, whatever regret you may politely profess - for which I am
obliged to you on behalf of Mrs Dombey; and you will have the
goodness, I am persuaded, to discharge it as exactly as any other
'You know,' said Mr Carker, 'that you have only to command me.
'I know,' said Mr Dombey, with a majestic indication of assent,
'that I have only to command you. It is necessary that I should
proceed in this. Mrs Dombey is a lady undoubtedly highly qualified, in
many respects, to -
'To do credit even to your choice,' suggested Carker, with a
yawning show of teeth.
'Yes; if you please to adopt that form of words,' said Mr Dombey,
in his tone of state; 'and at present I do not conceive that Mrs
Dombey does that credit to it, to which it is entitled. There is a
principle of opposition in Mrs Dombey that must be eradicated; that
must be overcome: Mrs Dombey does not appear to understand,' said Mr
Dombey, forcibly, 'that the idea of opposition to Me is monstrous and
'We, in the City, know you better,' replied Carker, with a smile
from ear to ear.
'You know me better,' said Mr Dombey. 'I hope so. Though, indeed, I
am bound to do Mrs Dombey the justice of saying, however inconsistent
it may seem with her subsequent conduct (which remains unchanged),
that on my expressing my disapprobation and determination to her, with
some severity, on the occasion to which I have referred, my admonition
appeared to produce a very powerful effect.' Mr Dombey delivered
himself of those words with most portentous stateliness. 'I wish you
to have the goodness, then, to inform Mrs Dombey, Carker, from me,
that I must recall our former conversation to her remembrance, in some
surprise that it has not yet had its effect. That I must insist upon
her regulating her conduct by the injunctions laid upon her in that
conversation. That I am not satisfied with her conduct. That I am
greatly dissatisfied with it. And that I shall be under the very
disagreeable necessity of making you the bearer of yet more unwelcome
and explicit communications, if she has not the good sense and the
proper feeling to adapt herself to my wishes, as the first Mrs Dombey
did, and, I believe I may add, as any other lady in her place would.'
'The first Mrs Dombey lived very happily,' said Carker.
'The first Mrs Dombey had great good sense,' said Mr Dombey, in a
gentlemanly toleration of the dead, 'and very correct feeling.'
'Is Miss Dombey like her mother, do you think?' said Carker.
Swiftly and darkly, Mr Dombey's face changed. His confidential
agent eyed it keenly.
'I have approached a painful subject,' he said, in a soft regretful
tone of voice, irreconcilable with his eager eye. 'Pray forgive me. I
forget these chains of association in the interest I have. Pray
But for all he said, his eager eye scanned Mr Dombey's downcast
face none the less closely; and then it shot a strange triumphant look
at the picture, as appealing to it to bear witness how he led him on
again, and what was coming.
Carker,' said Mr Dombey, looking here and there upon the table, and
saying in a somewhat altered and more hurried voice, and with a paler
lip, 'there is no occasion for apology. You mistake. The association
is with the matter in hand, and not with any recollection, as you
suppose. I do not approve of Mrs Dombey's behaviour towards my
'Pardon me,' said Mr Carker, 'I don't quite understand.'
'Understand then,' returned Mr Dombey, 'that you may make that -
that you will make that, if you please - matter of direct objection
from me to Mrs Dombey. You will please to tell her that her show of
devotion for my daughter is disagreeable to me. It is likely to be
noticed. It is likely to induce people to contrast Mrs Dombey in her
relation towards my daughter, with Mrs Dombey in her relation towards
myself. You will have the goodness to let Mrs Dombey know, plainly,
that I object to it; and that I expect her to defer, immediately, to
my objection. Mrs Dombey may be in earnest, or she may be pursuing a
whim, or she may be opposing me; but I object to it in any case, and
in every case. If Mrs Dombey is in earnest, so much the less reluctant
should she be to desist; for she will not serve my daughter by any
such display. If my wife has any superfluous gentleness, and duty over
and above her proper submission to me, she may bestow them where she
pleases, perhaps; but I will have submission first! - Carker,' said Mr
Dombey, checking the unusual emotion with which he had spoken, and
falling into a tone more like that in which he was accustomed to
assert his greatness, 'you will have the goodness not to omit or slur
this point, but to consider it a very important part of your
Mr Carker bowed his head, and rising from the table, and standing
thoughtfully before the fire, with his hand to his smooth chin, looked
down at Mr Dombey with the evil slyness of some monkish carving, half
human and half brute; or like a leering face on an old water-spout. Mr
Dombey, recovering his composure by degrees, or cooling his emotion in
his sense of having taken a high position, sat gradually stiffening
again, and looking at the parrot as she swung to and fro, in her great
'I beg your pardon,' said Carker, after a silence, suddenly
resuming his chair, and drawing it opposite to Mr Dombey's, 'but let
me understand. Mrs Dombey is aware of the probability of your making
me the organ of your displeasure?'
'Yes,' replied Mr Dombey. 'I have said so.'
'Yes,' rejoined Carker, quickly; 'but why?'
'Why!' Mr Dombey repeated, not without hesitation. 'Because I told
'Ay,' replied Carker. 'But why did you tell her? You see,' he
continued with a smile, and softly laying his velvet hand, as a cat
might have laid its sheathed claws, on Mr Dombey's arm; 'if I
perfectly understand what is in your mind, I am so much more likely to
be useful, and to have the happiness of being effectually employed. I
think I do understand. I have not the honour of Mrs Dombey's good
opinion. In my position, I have no reason to expect it; but I take the
fact to be, that I have not got it?'
'Possibly not,' said Mr Dombey.
'Consequently,' pursued Carker, 'your making the communications to
Mrs Dombey through me, is sure to be particularly unpalatable to that
'It appears to me,' said Mr Dombey, with haughty reserve, and yet
with some embarrassment, 'that Mrs Dombey's views upon the subject
form no part of it as it presents itself to you and me, Carker. But it
may be so.'
'And - pardon me - do I misconceive you,' said Carker, 'when I
think you descry in this, a likely means of humbling Mrs Dombey's
pride - I use the word as expressive of a quality which, kept within
due bounds, adorns and graces a lady so distinguished for her beauty
and accomplishments - and, not to say of punishing her, but of
reducing her to the submission you so naturally and justly require?'
'I am not accustomed, Carker, as you know,' said Mr Dombey, 'to
give such close reasons for any course of conduct I think proper to
adopt, but I will gainsay nothing of this. If you have any objection
to found upon it, that is indeed another thing, and the mere statement
that you have one will be sufficient. But I have not supposed, I
confess, that any confidence I could entrust to you, would be likely
to degrade you - '
'Oh! I degraded!' exclaimed Carker. 'In your service!'
'or to place you,' pursued Mr Dombey, 'in a false position.'
'I in a false position!' exclaimed Carker. 'I shall be proud -
delighted - to execute your trust. I could have wished, I own, to have
given the lady at whose feet I would lay my humble duty and devotion -
for is she not your wife! - no new cause of dislike; but a wish from
you is, of course, paramount to every other consideration on earth.
Besides, when Mrs Dombey is converted from these little errors of
judgment, incidental, I would presume to say, to the novelty of her
situation, I shall hope that she will perceive in the slight part I
take, only a grain - my removed and different sphere gives room for
little more - of the respect for you, and sacrifice of all
considerations to you, of which it will be her pleasure and privilege
to garner up a great store every day.'
Mr Dombey seemed, at the moment, again to see her with her hand
stretched out towards the door, and again to hear through the mild
speech of his confidential agent an echo of the words, 'Nothing can
make us stranger to each other than we are henceforth!' But he shook
off the fancy, and did not shake in his resolution, and said,
'Certainly, no doubt.'
'There is nothing more,' quoth Carker, drawing his chair back to
its old place - for they had taken little breakfast as yet- and
pausing for an answer before he sat down.
'Nothing,' said Mr Dombey, 'but this. You will be good enough to
observe, Carker, that no message to Mrs Dombey with which you are or
may be charged, admits of reply. You will be good enough to bring me
no reply. Mrs Dombey is informed that it does not become me to
temporise or treat upon any matter that is at issue between us, and
that what I say is final.'
Mr Carker signIfied his understanding of these credentials, and
they fell to breakfast with what appetite they might. The Grinder
also, in due time reappeared, keeping his eyes upon his master without
a moment's respite, and passing the time in a reverie of worshipful
tenor. Breakfast concluded, Mr Dombey's horse was ordered out again,
and Mr Carker mounting his own, they rode off for the City together.
Mr Carker was in capital spirits, and talked much. Mr Dombey
received his conversation with the sovereign air of a man who had a
right to be talked to, and occasionally condescended to throw in a few
words to carry on the conversation. So they rode on characteristically
enough. But Mr Dombey, in his dignity, rode with very long stirrups,
and a very loose rein, and very rarely deigned to look down to see
where his horse went. In consequence of which it happened that Mr
Dombey's horse, while going at a round trot, stumbled on some loose
stones, threw him, rolled over him, and lashing out with his iron-shod
feet, in his struggles to get up, kicked him.
Mr Carker, quick of eye, steady of hand, and a good horseman, was
afoot, and had the struggling animal upon his legs and by the bridle,
in a moment. Otherwise that morning's confidence would have been Mr
Dombey's last. Yet even with the flush and hurry of this action red
upon him, he bent over his prostrate chief with every tooth disclosed,
and muttered as he stooped down, 'I have given good cause of offence
to Mrs Dombey now, if she knew it!'
Mr Dombey being insensible, and bleeding from the head and face,
was carried by certain menders of the road, under Carker's direction,
to the nearest public-house, which was not far off, and where he was
soon attended by divers surgeons, who arrived in quick succession from
all parts, and who seemed to come by some mysterious instinct, as
vultures are said to gather about a camel who dies in the desert.
After being at some pains to restore him to consciousness, these
gentlemen examined into the nature of his injuries.
One surgeon who lived hard by was strong for a compound fracture of
the leg, which was the landlord's opinion also; but two surgeons who
lived at a distance, and were only in that neighbourhood by accident,
combated this opinion so disinterestedly, that it was decided at last
that the patient, though severely cut and bruised, had broken no bones
but a lesser rib or so, and might be carefully taken home before
night. His injuries being dressed and bandaged, which was a long
operation, and he at length left to repose, Mr Carker mounted his
horse again, and rode away to carry the intelligence home.
Crafty and cruel as his face was at the best of times, though it
was a sufficiently fair face as to form and regularity of feature, it
was at its worst when he set forth on this errand; animated by the
craft and cruelty of thoughts within him, suggestions of remote
possibility rather than of design or plot, that made him ride as if he
hunted men and women. Drawing rein at length, and slackening in his
speed, as he came into the more public roads, he checked his
white-legged horse into picking his way along as usual, and hid
himself beneath his sleek, hushed, crouched manner, and his ivory
smile, as he best could.
He rode direct to Mr Dombey's house, alighted at the door, and
begged to see Mrs Dombey on an affair of importance. The servant who
showed him to Mr Dombey's own room, soon returned to say that it was
not Mrs Dombey's hour for receiving visitors, and that he begged
pardon for not having mentioned it before.
Mr Carker, who was quite prepared for a cold reception, wrote upon
a card that he must take the liberty of pressing for an interview, and
that he would not be so bold as to do so, for the second time (this he
underlined), if he were not equally sure of the occasion being
sufficient for his justification. After a trifling delay, Mrs Dombey's
maid appeared, and conducted him to a morning room upstairs, where
Edith and Florence were together.
He had never thought Edith half so beautiful before. Much as he
admired the graces of her face and form, and freshly as they dwelt
within his sensual remembrance, he had never thought her half so
Her glance fell haughtily upon him in the doorway; but he looked at
Florence - though only in the act of bending his head, as he came in -
with some irrepressible expression of the new power he held; and it
was his triumph to see the glance droop and falter, and to see that
Edith half rose up to receive him.
He was very sorry, he was deeply grieved; he couldn't say with what
unwillingness he came to prepare her for the intelligence of a very
slight accident. He entreated Mrs Dombey to compose herself. Upon his
sacred word of honour, there was no cause of alarm. But Mr Dombey -
Florence uttered a sudden cry. He did not look at her, but at
Edith. Edith composed and reassured her. She uttered no cry of
distress. No, no.
Mr Dombey had met with an accident in riding. His horse had
slipped, and he had been thrown.
Florence wildly exclaimed that he was badly hurt; that he was
No. Upon his honour, Mr Dombey, though stunned at first, was soon
recovered, and though certainly hurt was in no kind of danger. If this
were not the truth, he, the distressed intruder, never could have had
the courage to present himself before Mrs Dombey. It was the truth
indeed, he solemnly assured her.
All this he said as if he were answering Edith, and not Florence,
and with his eyes and his smile fastened on Edith.
He then went on to tell her where Mr Dombey was lying, and to
request that a carriage might be placed at his disposal to bring him
'Mama,' faltered Florence in tears, 'if I might venture to go!'
Mr Carker, having his eyes on Edith when he heard these words, gave
her a secret look and slightly shook his head. He saw how she battled
with herself before she answered him with her handsome eyes, but he
wrested the answer from her - he showed her that he would have it, or
that he would speak and cut Florence to the heart - and she gave it to
him. As he had looked at the picture in the morning, so he looked at
her afterwards, when she turned her eyes away.
'I am directed to request,' he said, 'that the new housekeeper -
Mrs Pipchin, I think, is the name - '
Nothing escaped him. He saw in an instant, that she was another
slight of Mr Dombey's on his wife.
' - may be informed that Mr Dombey wishes to have his bed prepared
in his own apartments downstairs, as he prefers those rooms to any
other. I shall return to Mr Dombey almost immediately. That every
possible attention has been paid to his comfort, and that he is the
object of every possible solicitude, I need not assure you, Madam. Let
me again say, there is no cause for the least alarm. Even you may be
quite at ease, believe me.'
He bowed himself out, with his extremest show of deference and
conciliation; and having returned to Mr Dombey's room, and there
arranged for a carriage being sent after him to the City, mounted his
horse again, and rode slowly thither. He was very thoughtful as he
went along, and very thoughtful there, and very thoughtful in the
carriage on his way back to the place where Mr Dombey had been left.
It was only when sitting by that gentleman's couch that he was quite
himself again, and conscious of his teeth.
About the time of twilight, Mr Dombey, grievously afflicted with
aches and pains, was helped into his carriage, and propped with cloaks
and pillows on one side of it, while his confidential agent bore him
company upon the other. As he was not to be shaken, they moved at
little more than a foot pace; and hence it was quite dark when he was
brought home. Mrs Pipchin, bitter and grim, and not oblivious of the
Peruvian mines, as the establishment in general had good reason to
know, received him at the door, and freshened the domestics with
several little sprinklings of wordy vinegar, while they assisted in
conveying him to his room. Mr Carker remained in attendance until he
was safe in bed, and then, as he declined to receive any female
visitor, but the excellent Ogress who presided over his household,
waited on Mrs Dombey once more, with his report on her lord's
He again found Edith alone with Florence, and he again addressed
the whole of his soothing speech to Edith, as if she were a prey to
the liveliest and most affectionate anxieties. So earnest he was in
his respectful sympathy, that on taking leave, he ventured - with one
more glance towards Florence at the moment - to take her hand, and
bending over it, to touch it with his lips.
Edith did not withdraw the hand, nor did she strike his fair face
with it, despite the flush upon her cheek, the bright light in her
eyes, and the dilation of her whole form. But when she was alone in
her own room, she struck it on the marble chimney-shelf, so that, at
one blow, it was bruised, and bled; and held it from her, near the
shining fire, as if she could have thrust it in and burned it'
Far into the night she sat alone, by the sinking blaze, in dark and
threatening beauty, watching the murky shadows looming on the wall, as
if her thoughts were tangible, and cast them there. Whatever shapes of
outrage and affront, and black foreshadowings of things that might
happen, flickered, indistinct and giant-like, before her, one resented
figure marshalled them against her. And that figure was her husband.
The Watches of the Night
Florence, long since awakened from her dream, mournfully observed
the estrangement between her father and Edith, and saw it widen more
and more, and knew that there was greater bitterness between them
every day. Each day's added knowledge deepened the shade upon her love
and hope, roused up the old sorrow that had slumbered for a little
time, and made it even heavier to bear than it had been before.
It had been hard - how hard may none but Florence ever know! - to
have the natural affection of a true and earnest nature turned to
agony; and slight, or stern repulse, substituted for the tenderest
protection and the dearest care. It had been hard to feel in her deep
heart what she had felt, and never know the happiness of one touch of
response. But it was much more hard to be compelled to doubt either
her father or Edith, so affectionate and dear to her, and to think of
her love for each of them, by turns, with fear, distrust, and wonder.
Yet Florence now began to do so; and the doing of it was a task
imposed upon her by the very purity of her soul, as one she could not
fly from. She saw her father cold and obdurate to Edith, as to her;
hard, inflexible, unyielding. Could it be, she asked herself with
starting tears, that her own dear mother had been made unhappy by such
treatment, and had pined away and died? Then she would think how proud
and stately Edith was to everyone but her, with what disdain she
treated him, how distantly she kept apart from him, and what she had
said on the night when they came home; and quickly it would come on
Florence, almost as a crime, that she loved one who was set in
opposition to her father, and that her father knowing of it, must
think of her in his solitary room as the unnatural child who added
this wrong to the old fault, so much wept for, of never having won his
fatherly affection from her birth. The next kind word from Edith, the
next kind glance, would shake these thoughts again, and make them seem
like black ingratitude; for who but she had cheered the drooping heart
of Florence, so lonely and so hurt, and been its best of comforters!
Thus, with her gentle nature yearning to them both, feeling for the
misery of both, and whispering doubts of her own duty to both,
Florence in her wider and expanded love, and by the side of Edith,
endured more than when she had hoarded up her undivided secret in the
mournful house, and her beautiful Mama had never dawned upon it.
One exquisite unhappiness that would have far outweighed this,
Florence was spared. She never had the least suspicion that Edith by
her tenderness for her widened the separation from her father, or gave
him new cause of dislike. If Florence had conceived the possIbility of
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