Dombey and Son
Part 15 out of 21
such an effect being wrought by such a cause, what grief she would
have felt, what sacrifice she would have tried to make, poor loving
girl, how fast and sure her quiet passage might have been beneath it
to the presence of that higher Father who does not reject his
children's love, or spurn their tried and broken hearts, Heaven knows!
But it was otherwise, and that was well.
No word was ever spoken between Florence and Edith now, on these
subjects. Edith had said there ought to be between them, in that wise,
a division and a silence like the grave itself: and Florence felt she
In this state of affairs her father was brought home, suffering and
disabled; and gloomily retired to his own rooms, where he was tended
by servants, not approached by Edith, and had no friend or companion
but Mr Carker, who withdrew near midnight.
'And nice company he is, Miss Floy,' said Susan Nipper. 'Oh, he's a
precious piece of goods! If ever he wants a character don't let him
come to me whatever he does, that's all I tell him.'
'Dear Susan,' urged Florence, 'don't!'
'Oh, it's very well to say "don't" Miss Floy,' returned the Nipper,
much exasperated; 'but raly begging your pardon we're coming to such
passes that it turns all the blood in a person's body into pins and
needles, with their pints all ways. Don't mistake me, Miss Floy, I
don't mean nothing again your ma-in-law who has always treated me as a
lady should though she is rather high I must say not that I have any
right to object to that particular, but when we come to Mrs Pipchinses
and having them put over us and keeping guard at your Pa's door like
crocodiles (only make us thankful that they lay no eggs!) we are a
growing too outrageous!'
'Papa thinks well of Mrs Pipchin, Susan,' returned Florence, 'and
has a right to choose his housekeeper, you know. Pray don't!'
'Well Miss Floy,' returned the Nipper, 'when you say don't, I never
do I hope but Mrs Pipchin acts like early gooseberries upon me Miss,
and nothing less.'
Susan was unusually emphatic and destitute of punctuation in her
discourse on this night, which was the night of Mr Dombey's being
brought home, because, having been sent downstairs by Florence to
inquire after him, she had been obliged to deliver her message to her
mortal enemy Mrs Pipchin; who, without carrying it in to Mr Dombey,
had taken upon herself to return what Miss Nipper called a huffish
answer, on her own responsibility. This, Susan Nipper construed into
presumption on the part of that exemplary sufferer by the Peruvian
mines, and a deed of disparagement upon her young lady, that was not
to be forgiven; and so far her emphatic state was special. But she had
been in a condition of greatly increased suspicion and distrust, ever
since the marriage; for, like most persons of her quality of mind, who
form a strong and sincere attachment to one in the different station
which Florence occupied, Susan was very jealous, and her jealousy
naturally attached to Edith, who divided her old empire, and came
between them. Proud and glad as Susan Nipper truly was, that her young
mistress should be advanced towards her proper place in the scene of
her old neglect, and that she should have her father's handsome wife
for her companion and protectress, she could not relinquish any part
of her own dominion to the handsome wife, without a grudge and a vague
feeling of ill-will, for which she did not fail to find a
disinterested justification in her sharp perception of the pride and
passion of the lady's character. From the background to which she had
necessarily retired somewhat, since the marriage, Miss Nipper looked
on, therefore, at domestic affairs in general, with a resolute
conviction that no good would come of Mrs Dombey: always being very
careful to publish on all possible occasions, that she had nothing to
say against her.
'Susan,' said Florence, who was sitting thoughtfully at her table,
'it is very late. I shall want nothing more to-night.'
'Ah, Miss Floy!' returned the Nipper, 'I'm sure I often wish for
them old times when I sat up with you hours later than this and fell
asleep through being tired out when you was as broad awake as
spectacles, but you've ma's-in-law to come and sit with you now Miss
Floy and I'm thankful for it I'm sure. I've not a word to say against
'I shall not forget who was my old companion when I had none,
Susan,' returned Florence, gently, 'never!' And looking up, she put
her arm round the neck of her humble friend, drew her face down to
hers, and bidding her good-night, kissed it; which so mollified Miss
Nipper, that she fell a sobbing.
'Now my dear Miss Floy, said Susan, 'let me go downstairs again and
see how your Pa is, I know you're wretched about him, do let me go
downstairs again and knock at his door my own self.'
'No,' said Florence, 'go to bed. We shall hear more in the morning.
I will inquire myself in the morning. Mama has been down, I daresay;'
Florence blushed, for she had no such hope; 'or is there now, perhaps.
Susan was too much softened to express her private opinion on the
probability of Mrs Dombey's being in attendance on her husband, and
silently withdrew. Florence left alone, soon hid her head upon her
hands as she had often done in other days, and did not restrain the
tears from coursing down her face. The misery of this domestic discord
and unhappiness; the withered hope she cherished now, if hope it could
be called, of ever being taken to her father's heart; her doubts and
fears between the two; the yearning of her innocent breast to both;
the heavy disappointment and regret of such an end as this, to what
had been a vision of bright hope and promise to her; all crowded on
her mind and made her tears flow fast. Her mother and her brother
dead, her father unmoved towards her, Edith opposed to him and casting
him away, but loving her, and loved by her, it seemed as if her
affection could never prosper, rest where it would. That weak thought
was soon hushed, but the thoughts in which it had arisen were too true
and strong to be dismissed with it; and they made the night desolate.
Among such reflections there rose up, as there had risen up all
day, the image of her father, wounded and in pain, alone in his own
room, untended by those who should be nearest to him, and passing the
tardy hours in lonely suffering. A frightened thought which made her
start and clasp her hands - though it was not a new one in her mind -
that he might die, and never see her or pronounce her name, thrilled
her whole frame. In her agitation she thought, and trembled while she
thought, of once more stealing downstairs, and venturing to his door.
She listened at her own. The house was quiet, and all the lights
were out. It was a long, long time, she thought, since she used to
make her nightly pilgrimages to his door! It was a long, long time,
she tried to think, since she had entered his room at midnight, and he
had led her back to the stair-foot!
With the same child's heart within her, as of old: even with the
child's sweet timid eyes and clustering hair: Florence, as strange to
her father in her early maiden bloom, as in her nursery time, crept
down the staircase listening as she went, and drew near to his room.
No one was stirring in the house. The door was partly open to admit
air; and all was so still within, that she could hear the burning of
the fire, and count the ticking of the clock that stood upon the
She looked in. In that room, the housekeeper wrapped in a blanket
was fast asleep in an easy chair before the fire. The doors between it
and the next were partly closed, and a screen was drawn before them;
but there was a light there, and it shone upon the cornice of his bed.
All was so very still that she could hear from his breathing that he
was asleep. This gave her courage to pass round the screen, and look
into his chamber.
It was as great a start to come upon his sleeping face as if she
had not expected to see it. Florence stood arrested on the spot, and
if he had awakened then, must have remained there.
There was a cut upon his forehead, and they had been wetting his
hair, which lay bedabbled and entangled on the pillow. One of his
arms, resting outside the bed, was bandaged up, and he was very white.
But it was not this, that after the first quick glance, and first
assurance of his sleeping quietly, held Florence rooted to the ground.
It was something very different from this, and more than this, that
made him look so solemn in her eye
She had never seen his face in all her life, but there had been
upon it - or she fancied so - some disturbing consciousness of her.
She had never seen his face in all her life, but hope had sunk within
her, and her timid glance had dropped before its stern, unloving, and
repelling harshness. As she looked upon it now, she saw it, for the
first time, free from the cloud that had darkened her childhood. Calm,
tranquil night was reigning in its stead. He might have gone to sleep,
for anything she saw there, blessing her.
Awake, unkind father! Awake, now, sullen man! The time is flitting
by; the hour is coming with an angry tread. Awake!
There was no change upon his face; and as she watched it, awfully,
its motionless reponse recalled the faces that were gone. So they
looked, so would he; so she, his weeping child, who should say when!
so all the world of love and hatred and indifference around them! When
that time should come, it would not be the heavier to him, for this
that she was going to do; and it might fall something lighter upon
She stole close to the bed, and drawing in her breath, bent down,
and softly kissed him on the face, and laid her own for one brief
moment by its side, and put the arm, with which she dared not touch
him, round about him on the pillow.
Awake, doomed man, while she is near! The time is flitting by; the
hour is coming with an angry tread; its foot is in the house. Awake!
In her mind, she prayed to God to bless her father, and to soften
him towards her, if it might be so; and if not, to forgive him if he
was wrong, and pardon her the prayer which almost seemed impiety. And
doing so, and looking back at him with blinded eyes, and stealing
timidly away, passed out of his room, and crossed the other, and was
He may sleep on now. He may sleep on while he may. But let him look
for that slight figure when he wakes, and find it near him when the
hour is come!
Sad and grieving was the heart of Florence, as she crept upstairs.
The quiet house had grown more dismal since she came down. The sleep
she had been looking on, in the dead of night, had the solemnity to
her of death and life in one. The secrecy and silence of her own
proceeding made the night secret, silent, and oppressive. She felt
unwilling, almost unable, to go on to her own chamber; and turnIng
into the drawing-rooms, where the clouded moon was shining through the
blinds, looked out into the empty streets.
The wind was blowing drearily. The lamps looked pale, and shook as
if they were cold. There was a distant glimmer of something that was
not quite darkness, rather than of light, in the sky; and foreboding
night was shivering and restless, as the dying are who make a troubled
end. Florence remembered how, as a watcher, by a sick-bed, she had
noted this bleak time, and felt its influence, as if in some hidden
natural antipathy to it; and now it was very, very gloomy.
Her Mama had not come to her room that night, which was one cause
of her having sat late out of her bed. In her general uneasiness, no
less than in her ardent longing to have somebody to speak to, and to
break the spell of gloom and silence, Florence directed her steps
towards the chamber where she slept.
The door was not fastened within, and yielded smoothly to her
hesitating hand. She was surprised to find a bright light burning;
still more surprised, on looking in, to see that her Mama, but
partially undressed, was sitting near the ashes of the fire, which had
crumbled and dropped away. Her eyes were intently bent upon the air;
and in their light, and in her face, and in her form, and in the grasp
with which she held the elbows of her chair as if about to start up,
Florence saw such fierce emotion that it terrified her.
'Mama!' she cried, 'what is the matter?'
Edith started; looking at her with such a strange dread in her
face, that Florence was more frightened than before.
'Mama!' said Florence, hurriedly advancing. 'Dear Mama! what is the
'I have not been well,' said Edith, shaking, and still looking at
her in the same strange way. 'I have had had dreams, my love.'
'And not yet been to bed, Mama?'
'No,' she returned. 'Half-waking dreams.'
Her features gradually softened; and suffering Florence to come
closer to her, within her embrace, she said in a tender manner, 'But
what does my bird do here? What does my bird do here?'
'I have been uneasy, Mama, in not seeing you to-night, and in not
knowing how Papa was; and I - '
Florence stopped there, and said no more.
'Is it late?' asked Edith, fondly putting back the curls that
mingled with her own dark hair, and strayed upon her face.
'Very late. Near day.'
'Near day!' she repeated in surprise.
'Dear Mama, what have you done to your hand?' said Florence.
Edith drew it suddenly away, and, for a moment, looked at her with
the same strange dread (there was a sort of wild avoidance in it) as
before; but she presently said, 'Nothing, nothing. A blow.' And then
she said, 'My Florence!' and then her bosom heaved, and she was
'Mama!' said Florence. 'Oh Mama, what can I do, what should I do,
to make us happier? Is there anything?'
'Nothing,' she replied.
'Are you sure of that? Can it never be? If I speak now of what is
in my thoughts, in spite of what we have agreed,' said Florence, 'you
will not blame me, will you?'
'It is useless,' she replied, 'useless. I have told you, dear, that
I have had bad dreams. Nothing can change them, or prevent them coming
'I do not understand,' said Florence, gazing on her agitated face
which seemed to darken as she looked.
'I have dreamed,' said Edith in a low voice, 'of a pride that is
all powerless for good, all powerful for evil; of a pride that has
been galled and goaded, through many shameful years, and has never
recoiled except upon itself; a pride that has debased its owner with
the consciousness of deep humiliation, and never helped its owner
boldly to resent it or avoid it, or to say, "This shall not be!" a
pride that, rightly guided, might have led perhaps to better things,
but which, misdirected and perverted, like all else belonging to the
same possessor, has been self-contempt, mere hardihood and ruin.'
She neither looked nor spoke to Florence now, but went on as if she
'I have dreamed,' she said, 'of such indifference and callousness,
arising from this self-contempt; this wretched, inefficient, miserable
pride; that it has gone on with listless steps even to the altar,
yielding to the old, familiar, beckoning finger, - oh mother, oh
mother! - while it spurned it; and willing to be hateful to itself for
once and for all, rather than to be stung daily in some new form.
Mean, poor thing!'
And now with gathering and darkening emotion, she looked as she had
looked when Florence entered.
'And I have dreamed,' she said, 'that in a first late effort to
achieve a purpose, it has been trodden on, and trodden down by a base
foot, but turns and looks upon him. I have dreamed that it is wounded,
hunted, set upon by dogs, but that it stands at hay, and will not
yield; no, that it cannot if it would; but that it is urged on to hate
Her clenched hand tightened on the trembling arm she had in hers,
and as she looked down on the alarmed and wondering face, frown
subsided. 'Oh Florence!' she said, 'I think I have been nearly mad
to-night!' and humbled her proud head upon her neck and wept again.
'Don't leave me! be near me! I have no hope but in you! These words
she said a score of times.
Soon she grew calmer, and was full of pity for the tears of
Florence, and for her waking at such untimely hours. And the day now
dawning, with folded her in her arms and laid her down upon her bed,
and, not lying down herself, sat by her, and bade her try to sleep.
'For you are weary, dearest, and unhappy, and should rest.'
'I am indeed unhappy, dear Mama, tonight,' said Florence. 'But you
are weary and unhappy, too.'
'Not when you lie asleep so near me, sweet.'
They kissed each other, and Florence, worn out, gradually fell into
a gentle slumber; but as her eyes closed on the face beside her, it
was so sad to think upon the face downstairs, that her hand drew
closer to Edith for some comfort; yet, even in the act, it faltered,
lest it should be deserting him. So, in her sleep, she tried to
reconcile the two together, and to show them that she loved them both,
but could not do it, and her waking grief was part of her dreams.
Edith, sitting by, looked down at the dark eyelashes lying wet on
the flushed cheeks, and looked with gentleness and pity, for she knew
the truth. But no sleep hung upon her own eyes. As the day came on she
still sat watching and waking, with the placid hand in hers, and
sometimes whispered, as she looked at the hushed face, 'Be near me,
Florence. I have no hope but in you!'
With the day, though not so early as the sun, uprose Miss Susan
Nipper. There was a heaviness in this young maiden's exceedingly sharp
black eyes, that abated somewhat of their sparkling, and suggested -
which was not their usual character - the possibility of their being
sometimes shut. There was likewise a swollen look about them, as if
they had been crying over-night. But the Nipper, so far from being
cast down, was singularly brisk and bold, and all her energies
appeared to be braced up for some great feat. This was noticeable even
in her dress, which was much more tight and trim than usual; and in
occasional twitches of her head as she went about the house, which
were mightily expressive of determination.
In a word, she had formed a determination, and an aspiring one: it
being nothing less than this - to penetrate to Mr Dombey's presence,
and have speech of that gentleman alone. 'I have often said I would,'
she remarked, in a threatening manner, to herself, that morning, with
many twitches of her head, 'and now I will!'
Spurring herself on to the accomplishment of this desperate design,
with a sharpness that was peculiar to herself, Susan Nipper haunted
the hall and staircase during the whole forenoon, without finding a
favourable opportunity for the assault. Not at all baffled by this
discomfiture, which indeed had a stimulating effect, and put her on
her mettle, she diminished nothing of her vigilance; and at last
discovered, towards evening, that her sworn foe Mrs Pipchin, under
pretence of having sat up all night, was dozing in her own room, and
that Mr Dombey was lying on his sofa, unattended.
With a twitch - not of her head merely, this time, but of her whole
self - the Nipper went on tiptoe to Mr Dombey's door, and knocked.
'Come in!' said Mr Dombey. Susan encouraged herself with a final
twitch, and went in.
Mr Dombey, who was eyeing the fire, gave an amazed look at his
visitor, and raised himself a little on his arm. The Nipper dropped a
'What do you want?' said Mr Dombey.
'If you please, Sir, I wish to speak to you,' said Susan.
Mr Dombey moved his lips as if he were repeating the words, but he
seemed so lost in astonishment at the presumption of the young woman
as to be incapable of giving them utterance.
'I have been in your service, Sir,' said Susan Nipper, with her
usual rapidity, 'now twelve 'year a waiting on Miss Floy my own young
lady who couldn't speak plain when I first come here and I was old in
this house when Mrs Richards was new, I may not be Meethosalem, but I
am not a child in arms.'
Mr Dombey, raised upon his arm and looking at her, offered no
comment on this preparatory statement of fact.
'There never was a dearer or a blesseder young lady than is my
young lady, Sir,' said Susan, 'and I ought to know a great deal better
than some for I have seen her in her grief and I have seen her in her
joy (there's not been much of it) and I have seen her with her brother
and I have seen her in her loneliness and some have never seen her,
and I say to some and all - I do!' and here the black-eyed shook her
head, and slightly stamped her foot; 'that she's the blessedest and
dearest angel is Miss Floy that ever drew the breath of life, the more
that I was torn to pieces Sir the more I'd say it though I may not be
a Fox's Martyr..'
Mr Dombey turned yet paler than his fall had made him, with
indignation and astonishment; and kept his eyes upon the speaker as if
he accused them, and his ears too, of playing him false.
'No one could be anything but true and faithful to Miss Floy, Sir,'
pursued Susan, 'and I take no merit for my service of twelve year, for
I love her - yes, I say to some and all I do!' - and here the
black-eyed shook her head again, and slightly stamped her foot again,
and checked a sob; 'but true and faithful service gives me right to
speak I hope, and speak I must and will now, right or wrong.
'What do you mean, woman?' said Mr Dombey, glaring at her. 'How do
'What I mean, Sir, is to speak respectful and without offence, but
out, and how I dare I know not but I do!'said Susan. 'Oh! you don't
know my young lady Sir you don't indeed, you'd never know so little of
her, if you did.'
Mr Dombey, in a fury, put his hand out for the bell-rope; but there
was no bell-rope on that side of the fire, and he could not rise and
cross to the other without assistance. The quick eye of the Nipper
detected his helplessness immediately, and now, as she afterwards
observed, she felt she had got him.
'Miss Floy,' said Susan Nipper, 'is the most devoted and most
patient and most dutiful and beautiful of daughters, there ain't no
gentleman, no Sir, though as great and rich as all the greatest and
richest of England put together, but might be proud of her and would
and ought. If he knew her value right, he'd rather lose his greatness
and his fortune piece by piece and beg his way in rags from door to
door, I say to some and all, he would!' cried Susan Nipper, bursting
into tears, 'than bring the sorrow on her tender heart that I have
seen it suffer in this house!'
'Woman,' cried Mr Dombey, 'leave the room.
'Begging your pardon, not even if I am to leave the situation,
Sir,' replied the steadfast Nipper, 'in which I have been so many
years and seen so much - although I hope you'd never have the heart to
send me from Miss Floy for such a cause - will I go now till I have
said the rest, I may not be a Indian widow Sir and I am not and I
would not so become but if I once made up my mind to burn myself
alive, I'd do it! And I've made my mind up to go on.'
Which was rendered no less clear by the expression of Susan
Nipper's countenance, than by her words.
'There ain't a person in your service, Sir,' pursued the
black-eyed, 'that has always stood more in awe of you than me and you
may think how true it is when I make so bold as say that I have
hundreds and hundreds of times thought of speaking to you and never
been able to make my mind up to it till last night, but last night
decided of me.'
Mr Dombey, in a paroxysm of rage, made another grasp at the
bell-rope that was not there, and, in its absence, pulled his hair
rather than nothing.
'I have seen,' said Susan Nipper, 'Miss Floy strive and strive when
nothing but a child so sweet and patient that the best of women might
have copied from her, I've seen her sitting nights together half the
night through to help her delicate brother with his learning, I've
seen her helping him and watching him at other times - some well know
when - I've seen her, with no encouragement and no help, grow up to be
a lady, thank God! that is the grace and pride of every company she
goes in, and I've always seen her cruelly neglected and keenly feeling
of it - I say to some and all, I have! - and never said one word, but
ordering one's self lowly and reverently towards one's betters, is not
to be a worshipper of graven images, and I will and must speak!'
'Is there anybody there?' cried Mr Dombey, calling out. 'Where are
the men? where are the women? Is there no one there?'
'I left my dear young lady out of bed late last night,' said Susan,
nothing checked, 'and I knew why, for you was ill Sir and she didn't
know how ill and that was enough to make her wretched as I saw it did.
I may not be a Peacock; but I have my eyes - and I sat up a little in
my own room thinking she might be lonesome and might want me, and I
saw her steal downstairs and come to this door as if it was a guilty
thing to look at her own Pa, and then steal back again and go into
them lonely drawing-rooms, a-crying so, that I could hardly bear to
hear it. I can not bear to hear it,' said Susan Nipper, wiping her
black eyes, and fixing them undauntingly on Mr Dombey's infuriated
face. 'It's not the first time I have heard it, not by many and many a
time you don't know your own daughter, Sir, you don't know what you're
doing, Sir, I say to some and all,' cried Susan Nipper, in a final
burst, 'that it's a sinful shame!'
'Why, hoity toity!' cried the voice of Mrs Pipchin, as the black
bombazeen garments of that fair Peruvian Miner swept into the room.
'What's this, indeed?'
Susan favoured Mrs Pipchin with a look she had invented expressly
for her when they first became acquainted, and resigned the reply to
'What's this?' repeated Mr Dombey, almost foaming. 'What's this,
Madam? You who are at the head of this household, and bound to keep it
in order, have reason to inquire. Do you know this woman?'
'I know very little good of her, Sir,' croaked Mrs Pipchin. 'How
dare you come here, you hussy? Go along with you!'
But the inflexible Nipper, merely honouring Mrs Pipchin with
another look, remained.
'Do you call it managing this establishment, Madam,' said Mr
Dombey, 'to leave a person like this at liberty to come and talk to
me! A gentleman - in his own house - in his own room - assailed with
the impertinences of women-servants!'
'Well, Sir,' returned Mrs Pipchin, with vengeance in her hard grey
eye, 'I exceedingly deplore it; nothing can be more irregular; nothing
can be more out of all bounds and reason; but I regret to say, Sir,
that this young woman is quite beyond control. She has been spoiled by
Miss Dombey, and is amenable to nobody. You know you're not,' said Mrs
Pipchin, sharply, and shaking her head at Susan Nipper. 'For shame,
you hussy! Go along with you!'
'If you find people in my service who are not to be controlled, Mrs
Pipchin,' said Mr Dombey, turning back towards the fire, 'you know
what to do with them, I presume. You know what you are here for? Take
'Sir, I know what to do,' retorted Mrs Pipchin, 'and of course
shall do it' Susan Nipper,' snapping her up particularly short, 'a
month's warning from this hour.'
'Oh indeed!' cried Susan, loftily.
'Yes,' returned Mrs Pipchin, 'and don't smile at me, you minx, or
I'll know the reason why! Go along with you this minute!'
'I intend to go this minute, you may rely upon it,' said the
voluble Nipper. 'I have been in this house waiting on my young lady a
dozen year and I won't stop in it one hour under notice from a person
owning to the name of Pipchin trust me, Mrs P.'
'A good riddance of bad rubbish!' said that wrathful old lady. 'Get
along with you, or I'll have you carried out!'
'My comfort is,' said Susan, looking back at Mr Dombey, 'that I
have told a piece of truth this day which ought to have been told long
before and can't be told too often or too plain and that no amount of
Pipchinses - I hope the number of 'em mayn't be great' (here Mrs
Pipchin uttered a very sharp 'Go along with you!' and Miss Nipper
repeated the look) 'can unsay what I have said, though they gave a
whole year full of warnings beginning at ten o'clock in the forenoon
and never leaving off till twelve at night and died of the exhaustion
which would be a Jubilee!'
With these words, Miss Nipper preceded her foe out of the room; and
walking upstairs to her own apartments in great state, to the choking
exasperation of the ireful Pipchin, sat down among her boxes and began
From this soft mood she was soon aroused, with a very wholesome and
refreshing effect, by the voice of Mrs Pipchin outside the door.
'Does that bold-faced slut,' said the fell Pipchin, 'intend to take
her warning, or does she not?'
Miss Nipper replied from within that the person described did not
inhabit that part of the house, but that her name was Pipchin, and she
was to be found in the housekeeper's room.
'You saucy baggage!' retorted Mrs Pipchin, rattling at the handle
of the door. 'Go along with you this minute. Pack up your things
directly! How dare you talk in this way to a gentle-woman who has seen
To which Miss Nipper rejoined from her castle, that she pitied the
better days that had seen Mrs Pipchin; and that for her part she
considered the worst days in the year to be about that lady's mark,
except that they were much too good for her.
'But you needn't trouble yourself to make a noise at my door,' said
Susan Nipper, 'nor to contaminate the key-hole with your eye, I'm
packing up and going you may take your affidavit.'
The Dowager expressed her lively satisfaction at this intelligence,
and with some general opinions upon young hussies as a race, and
especially upon their demerits after being spoiled by Miss Dombey,
withdrew to prepare the Nipper~s wages. Susan then bestirred herself
to get her trunks in order, that she might take an immediate and
dignified departure; sobbing heartily all the time, as she thought of
The object of her regret was not long in coming to her, for the
news soon spread over the house that Susan Nipper had had a
disturbance with Mrs Pipchin, and that they had both appealed to Mr
Dombey, and that there had been an unprecedented piece of work in Mr
Dombey's room, and that Susan was going. The latter part of this
confused rumour, Florence found to be so correct, that Susan had
locked the last trunk and was sitting upon it with her bonnet on, when
she came into her room.
'Susan!' cried Florence. 'Going to leave me! You!'
'Oh for goodness gracious sake, Miss Floy,' said Susan, sobbing,
'don't speak a word to me or I shall demean myself before them'
Pipchinses, and I wouldn't have 'em see me cry Miss Floy for worlds!'
'Susan!' said Florence. 'My dear girl, my old friend! What shall I
do without you! Can you bear to go away so?'
'No-n-o-o, my darling dear Miss Floy, I can't indeed,' sobbed
Susan. 'But it can't be helped, I've done my duty' Miss, I have
indeed. It's no fault of mine. I am quite resigned. I couldn't stay my
month or I could never leave you then my darling and I must at last as
well as at first, don't speak to me Miss Floy, for though I'm pretty
firm I'm not a marble doorpost, my own dear.'
'What is it? Why is it?' said Florence, 'Won't you tell me?' For
Susan was shaking her head.
'No-n-no, my darling,' returned Susan. 'Don't ask me, for I
mustn't, and whatever you do don't put in a word for me to stop, for
it couldn't be and you'd only wrong yourself, and so God bless you my
own precious and forgive me any harm I have done, or any temper I have
showed in all these many years!'
With which entreaty, very heartily delivered, Susan hugged her
mistress in her arms.
'My darling there's a many that may come to serve you and be glad
to serve you and who'll serve you well and true,' said Susan, 'but
there can't be one who'll serve you so affectionate as me or love you
half as dearly, that's my comfort' Good-bye, sweet Miss Floy!'
'Where will you go, Susan?' asked her weeping mistress.
'I've got a brother down in the country Miss - a farmer in Essex
said the heart-broken Nipper, 'that keeps ever so many co-o-ows and
pigs and I shall go down there by the coach and sto-op with him, and
don't mind me, for I've got money in the Savings Banks my dear, and
needn't take another service just yet, which I couldn't, couldn't,
couldn't do, my heart's own mistress!' Susan finished with a burst of
sorrow, which was opportunely broken by the voice of Mrs Pipchin
talking downstairs; on hearing which, she dried her red and swollen
eyes, and made a melancholy feint of calling jauntily to Mr Towlinson
to fetch a cab and carry down her boxes.
Florence, pale and hurried and distressed, but withheld from
useless interference even here, by her dread of causing any new
division between her father and his wife (whose stern, indignant face
had been a warning to her a few moments since), and by her
apprehension of being in some way unconsciously connected already with
the dismissal of her old servant and friend, followed, weeping,
downstairs to Edith's dressing-room, whither Susan betook herself to
make her parting curtsey.
'Now, here's the cab, and here's the boxes, get along with you,
do!' said Mrs Pipchin, presenting herself at the same moment. 'I beg
your pardon, Ma'am, but Mr Dombey's orders are imperative.'
Edith, sitting under the hands of her maid - she was going out to
dinner - preserved her haughty face, and took not the least notice.
'There's your money,' said Mrs Pipchin, who in pursuance of her
system, and in recollection of the Mines, was accustomed to rout the
servants about, as she had routed her young Brighton boarders; to the
everlasting acidulation of Master Bitherstone, 'and the sooner this
house sees your back the better.
Susan had no spirits even for the look that belonged to Ma Pipchin
by right; so she dropped her curtsey to Mrs Dombey (who inclined her
head without one word, and whose eye avoided everyone but Florence),
and gave one last parting hug to her young mistress, and received her
parting embrace in return. Poor Susan's face at this crisis, in the
intensity of her feelings and the determined suffocation of her sobs,
lest one should become audible and be a triumph to Mrs Pipchin,
presented a series of the most extraordinary physiognomical phenomena
'I beg your pardon, Miss, I'm sure,' said Towlinson, outside the
door with the boxes, addressing Florence, 'but Mr Toots is in the
drawing-room, and sends his compliments, and begs to know how Diogenes
and Master is.'
Quick as thought, Florence glided out and hastened downstairs,
where Mr Toots, in the most splendid vestments, was breathing very
hard with doubt and agitation on the subject of her coming.
'Oh, how de do, Miss Dombey,' said Mr Toots, 'God bless my soul!'
This last ejaculation was occasioned by Mr Toots's deep concern at
the distress he saw in Florence's face; which caused him to stop short
in a fit of chuckles, and become an image of despair.
'Dear Mr Toots,' said Florence, 'you are so friendly to me, and so
honest, that I am sure I may ask a favour of you.
'Miss Dombey,' returned Mr Toots, 'if you'll only name one, you'll
- you'll give me an appetite. To which,' said Mr Toots, with some
sentiment, 'I have long been a stranger.
'Susan, who is an old friend of mine, the oldest friend I have,'
said Florence, 'is about to leave here suddenly, and quite alone, poor
girl. She is going home, a little way into the country. Might I ask
you to take care of her until she is in the coach?'
'Miss Dombey,' returned Mr Toots, 'you really do me an honour and a
kindness. This proof of your confidence, after the manner in which I
was Beast enough to conduct myself at Brighton - '
'Yes,' said Florence, hurriedly - 'no - don't think of that. Then
would you have the kindness to - to go? and to be ready to meet her
when she comes out? Thank you a thousand times! You ease my mind so
much. She doesn't seem so desolate. You cannot think how grateful I
feel to you, or what a good friend I am sure you are!' and Florence in
her earnestness thanked him again and again; and Mr Toots, in his
earnestness, hurried away - but backwards, that he might lose no
glimpse of her.
Florence had not the courage to go out, when she saw poor Susan in
the hall, with Mrs Pipchin driving her forth, and Diogenes jumping
about her, and terrifying Mrs Pipchin to the last degree by making
snaps at her bombazeen skirts, and howling with anguish at the sound
of her voice - for the good duenna was the dearest and most cherished
aversion of his breast. But she saw Susan shake hands with the
servants all round, and turn once to look at her old home; and she saw
Diogenes bound out after the cab, and want to follow it, and testify
an impossibility of conviction that he had no longer any property in
the fare; and the door was shut, and the hurry over, and her tears
flowed fast for the loss of an old friend, whom no one could replace.
No one. No one.
Mr Toots, like the leal and trusty soul he was, stopped the
cabriolet in a twinkling, and told Susan Nipper of his commission, at
which she cried more than before.
'Upon my soul and body!' said Mr Toots, taking his seat beside her.
'I feel for you. Upon my word and honour I think you can hardly know
your own feelings better than I imagine them. I can conceive nothing
more dreadful than to have to leave Miss Dombey.'
Susan abandoned herself to her grief now, and it really was
touching to see her.
'I say,' said Mr Toots, 'now, don't! at least I mean now do, you
'Do what, Mr Toots!' cried Susan.
'Why, come home to my place, and have some dinner before you
start,' said Mr Toots. 'My cook's a most respectable woman - one of
the most motherly people I ever saw - and she'll be delighted to make
you comfortable. Her son,' said Mr Toots, as an additional
recommendation, 'was educated in the Bluecoat School,' and blown up in
Susan accepting this kind offer, Mr Toots conducted her to his
dwelling, where they were received by the Matron in question who fully
justified his character of her, and by the Chicken who at first
supposed, on seeing a lady in the vehicle, that Mr Dombey had been
doubled up, ably to his old recommendation, and Miss Dombey abducted.
This gentleman awakened in Miss Nipper some considerable astonishment;
for, having been defeated by the Larkey Boy, his visage was in a state
of such great dilapidation, as to be hardly presentable in society
with comfort to the beholders. The Chicken himself attributed this
punishment to his having had the misfortune to get into Chancery early
in the proceedings, when he was severely fibbed by the Larkey one, and
heavily grassed. But it appeared from the published records of that
great contest that the Larkey Boy had had it all his own way from the
beginning, and that the Chicken had been tapped, and bunged, and had
received pepper, and had been made groggy, and had come up piping, and
had endured a complication of similar strange inconveniences, until he
had been gone into and finished.
After a good repast, and much hospitality, Susan set out for the
coach-office in another cabriolet, with Mr Toots inside, as before,
and the Chicken on the box, who, whatever distinction he conferred on
the little party by the moral weight and heroism of his character, was
scarcely ornamental to it, physically speaking, on account of his
plasters; which were numerous. But the Chicken had registered a vow,
in secret, that he would never leave Mr Toots (who was secretly pining
to get rid of him), for any less consideration than the good-will and
fixtures of a public-house; and being ambitious to go into that line,
and drink himself to death as soon as possible, he felt it his cue to
make his company unacceptable.
The night-coach by which Susan was to go, was on the point of
departure. Mr Toots having put her inside, lingered by the window,
irresolutely, until the driver was about to mount; when, standing on
the step, and putting in a face that by the light of the lamp was
anxious and confused, he said abruptly:
'I say, Susan! Miss Dombey, you know - '
'Do you think she could - you know - eh?'
'I beg your pardon, Mr Toots,' said Susan, 'but I don't hear you.
'Do you think she could be brought, you know - not exactly at once,
but in time - in a long time - to - to love me, you know? There!' said
poor Mr Toots.
'Oh dear no!' returned Susan, shaking her head. 'I should say,
'Thank'ee!' said Mr Toots. 'It's of no consequence. Good-night.
It's of no consequence, thank'ee!'
The Trusty Agent
Edith went out alone that day, and returned home early. It was but
a few minutes after ten o'clock, when her carriage rolled along the
street in which she lived.
There was the same enforced composure on her face, that there had
been when she was dressing; and the wreath upon her head encircled the
same cold and steady brow. But it would have been better to have seen
its leaves and flowers reft into fragments by her passionate hand, or
rendered shapeless by the fitful searches of a throbbing and
bewildered brain for any resting-place, than adorning such
tranquillity. So obdurate, so unapproachable, so unrelenting, one
would have thought that nothing could soften such a woman's nature,
and that everything in life had hardened it.
Arrived at her own door, she was alighting, when some one coming
quietly from the hall, and standing bareheaded, offered her his arm.
The servant being thrust aside, she had no choice but to touch it; and
she then knew whose arm it was.
'How is your patient, Sir?' she asked, with a curled lip.
'He is better,' returned Carker. 'He is doing very well. I have
left him for the night.'
She bent her head, and was passing up the staircase, when he
followed and said, speaking at the bottom:
'Madam! May I beg the favour of a minute's audience?'
She stopped and turned her eyes back 'It is an unseasonable time,
Sir, and I am fatigued. Is your business urgent?'
'It is very urgent, returned Carker. 'As I am so fortunate as to
have met you, let me press my petition.'
She looked down for a moment at his glistening mouth; and he looked
up at her, standing above him in her stately dress, and thought,
again, how beautiful she was.
'Where is Miss Dombey?' she asked the servant, aloud.
'In the morning room, Ma'am.'
'Show the way there!' Turning her eyes again on the attentive
gentleman at the bottom of the stairs, and informing him with a slight
motion of her head, that he was at liberty to follow, she passed on.
'I beg your pardon! Madam! Mrs Dombey!' cried the soft and nimble
Carker, at her side in a moment. 'May I be permitted to entreat that
Miss Dombey is not present?'
She confronted him, with a quick look, but with the same
self-possession and steadiness.
'I would spare Miss Dombey,' said Carker, in a low voice, 'the
knowledge of what I have to say. At least, Madam, I would leave it to
you to decide whether she shall know of it or not. I owe that to you.
It is my bounden duty to you. After our former interview, it would be
monstrous in me if I did otherwise.'
She slowly withdrew her eyes from his face, and turning to the
servant, said, 'Some other room.' He led the way to a drawing-room,
which he speedily lighted up and then left them. While he remained,
not a word was spoken. Edith enthroned herself upon a couch by the
fire; and Mr Carker, with his hat in his hand and his eyes bent upon
the carpet, stood before her, at some little distance.
'Before I hear you, Sir,' said Edith, when the door was closed, 'I
wish you to hear me.'
'To be addressed by Mrs Dombey,' he returned, 'even in accents of
unmerited reproach, is an honour I so greatly esteem, that although I
were not her servant in all things, I should defer to such a wish,
'If you are charged by the man whom you have just now left, Sir;'
Mr Carker raised his eyes, as if he were going to counterfeit
surprise, but she met them, and stopped him, if such were his
intention; 'with any message to me, do not attempt to deliver it, for
I will not receive it. I need scarcely ask you if you are come on such
an errand. I have expected you some time.
'It is my misfortune,' he replied, 'to be here, wholly against my
will, for such a purpose. Allow me to say that I am here for two
purposes. That is one.'
'That one, Sir,' she returned, 'is ended. Or, if you return to it -
'Can Mrs Dombey believe,' said Carker, coming nearer, 'that I would
return to it in the face of her prohibition? Is it possible that Mrs
Dombey, having no regard to my unfortunate position, is so determined
to consider me inseparable from my instructor as to do me great and
'Sir,' returned Edith, bending her dark gaze full upon him, and
speaking with a rising passion that inflated her proud nostril and her
swelling neck, and stirred the delicate white down upon a robe she
wore, thrown loosely over shoulders that could hear its snowy
neighbourhood. 'Why do you present yourself to me, as you have done,
and speak to me of love and duty to my husband, and pretend to think
that I am happily married, and that I honour him? How dare you venture
so to affront me, when you know - I do not know better, Sir: I have
seen it in your every glance, and heard it in your every word - that
in place of affection between us there is aversion and contempt, and
that I despise him hardly less than I despise myself for being his!
Injustice! If I had done justice to the torment you have made me feel,
and to my sense of the insult you have put upon me, I should have
She had asked him why he did this. Had she not been blinded by her
pride and wrath, and self-humiliation, - which she was, fiercely as
she bent her gaze upon him, - she would have seen the answer in his
face. To bring her to this declaration.
She saw it not, and cared not whether it was there or no. She saw
only the indignities and struggles she had undergone and had to
undergo, and was writhing under them. As she sat looking fixedly at
them, rather than at him, she plucked the feathers from a pinion of
some rare and beautiful bird, which hung from her wrist by a golden
thread, to serve her as a fan, and rained them on the ground.
He did not shrink beneath her gaze, but stood, until such outward
signs of her anger as had escaped her control subsided, with the air
of a man who had his sufficient reply in reserve and would presently
deliver it. And he then spoke, looking straight into her kindling
'Madam,' he said, 'I know, and knew before to-day, that I have
found no favour with you; and I knew why. Yes. I knew why. You have
spoken so openly to me; I am so relieved by the possession of your
confidence - '
'Confidence!' she repeated, with disdain.
He passed it over.
' - that I will make no pretence of concealment. I did see from the
first, that there was no affection on your part for Mr Dombey - how
could it possibly exist between such different subjects? And I have
seen, since, that stronger feelings than indifference have been
engendered in your breast - how could that possibly be otherwise,
either, circumstanced as you have been? But was it for me to presume
to avow this knowledge to you in so many words?'
'Was it for you, Sir,' she replied, 'to feign that other belief,
and audaciously to thrust it on me day by day?'
'Madam, it was,' he eagerly retorted. 'If I had done less, if I had
done anything but that, I should not be speaking to you thus; and I
foresaw - who could better foresee, for who has had greater experience
of Mr Dombey than myself? - that unless your character should prove to
be as yielding and obedient as that of his first submissive lady,
which I did not believe - '
A haughty smile gave him reason to observe that he might repeat
'I say, which I did not believe, - the time was likely to come,
when such an understanding as we have now arrived at, would be
'Serviceable to whom, Sir?' she demanded scornfully.
'To you. I will not add to myself, as warning me to refrain even
from that limited commendation of Mr Dombey, in which I can honestly
indulge, in order that I may not have the misfortune of saying
anything distasteful to one whose aversion and contempt,' with great
expression, 'are so keen.'
'Is it honest in you, Sir,' said Edith, 'to confess to your
"limited commendation," and to speak in that tone of disparagement,
even of him: being his chief counsellor and flatterer!'
'Counsellor, - yes,' said Carker. 'Flatterer, - no. A little
reservation I fear I must confess to. But our interest and convenience
commonly oblige many of us to make professions that we cannot feel. We
have partnerships of interest and convenience, friendships of interest
and convenience, dealings of interest and convenience, marriages of
interest and convenience, every day.'
She bit her blood-red lip; but without wavering in the dark, stern
watch she kept upon him.
'Madam,' said Mr Carker, sitting down in a chair that was near her,
with an air of the most profound and most considerate respect, 'why
should I hesitate now, being altogether devoted to your service, to
speak plainly? It was natural that a lady, endowed as you are, should
think it feasible to change her husband's character in some respects,
and mould him to a better form.'
'It was not natural to me, Sir,' she rejoined. 'I had never any
expectation or intention of that kind.'
The proud undaunted face showed him it was resolute to wear no mask
he offered, but was set upon a reckless disclosure of itself,
indifferent to any aspect in which it might present itself to such as
'At least it was natural,' he resumed, 'that you should deem it
quite possible to live with Mr Dombey as his wife, at once without
submitting to him, and without coming into such violent collision with
him. But, Madam, you did not know Mr Dombey (as you have since
ascertained), when you thought that. You did not know how exacting and
how proud he is, or how he is, if I may say so, the slave of his own
greatness, and goes yoked to his own triumphal car like a beast of
burden, with no idea on earth but that it is behind him and is to be
drawn on, over everything and through everything.'
His teeth gleamed through his malicious relish of this conceit, as
he went on talking:
'Mr Dombey is really capable of no more true consideration for you,
Madam, than for me. The comparison is an extreme one; I intend it to
be so; but quite just. Mr Dombey, in the plenitude of his power, asked
me - I had it from his own lips yesterday morning - to be his
go-between to you, because he knows I am not agreeable to you, and
because he intends that I shall be a punishment for your contumacy;
and besides that, because he really does consider, that I, his paid
servant, am an ambassador whom it is derogatory to the dignity - not
of the lady to whom I have the happiness of speaking; she has no
existence in his mind - but of his wife, a part of himself, to
receive. You may imagine how regardless of me, how obtuse to the
possibility of my having any individual sentiment or opinion he is,
when he tells me, openly, that I am so employed. You know how
perfectly indifferent to your feelings he is, when he threatens you
with such a messenger. As you, of course, have not forgotten that he
She watched him still attentively. But he watched her too; and he
saw that this indication of a knowledge on his part, of something that
had passed between herself and her husband, rankled and smarted in her
haughty breast, like a poisoned arrow.
'I do not recall all this to widen the breach between yourself and
Mr Dombey, Madam - Heaven forbid! what would it profit me? - but as an
example of the hopelessness of impressing Mr Dombey with a sense that
anybody is to be considered when he is in question. We who are about
him, have, in our various positions, done our part, I daresay, to
confirm him in his way of thinking; but if we had not done so, others
would - or they would not have been about him; and it has always been,
from the beginning, the very staple of his life. Mr Dombey has had to
deal, in short, with none but submissive and dependent persons, who
have bowed the knee, and bent the neck, before him. He has never known
what it is to have angry pride and strong resentment opposed to him.'
'But he will know it now!' she seemed to say; though her lips did
not part, nor her eyes falter. He saw the soft down tremble once
again, and he saw her lay the plumage of the beautiful bird against
her bosom for a moment; and he unfolded one more ring of the coil into
which he had gathered himself.
'Mr Dombey, though a most honourable gentleman,' he said, 'is so
prone to pervert even facts to his own view, when he is at all
opposed, in consequence of the warp in his mind, that he - can I give
a better instance than this! - he sincerely believes (you will excuse
the folly of what I am about to say; it not being mine) that his
severe expression of opinion to his present wife, on a certain special
occasion she may remember, before the lamented death of Mrs Skewton,
produced a withering effect, and for the moment quite subdued her!'
Edith laughed. How harshly and unmusically need not be described.
It is enough that he was glad to hear her.
'Madam,' he resumed, 'I have done with this. Your own opinions are
so strong, and, I am persuaded, so unalterable,' he repeated those
words slowly and with great emphasis, 'that I am almost afraid to
incur your displeasure anew, when I say that in spite of these defects
and my full knowledge of them, I have become habituated to Mr Dombey,
and esteem him. But when I say so, it is not, believe me, for the mere
sake of vaunting a feeling that is so utterly at variance with your
own, and for which you can have no sympathy' - oh how distinct and
plain and emphasized this was! - 'but to give you an assurance of the
zeal with which, in this unhappy matter, I am yours, and the
indignation with which I regard the part I am to fill!'
She sat as if she were afraid to take her eyes from his face.
And now to unwind the last ring of the coil!
'It is growing late,' said Carker, after a pause, 'and you are, as
you said, fatigued. But the second object of this interview, I must
not forget. I must recommend you, I must entreat you in the most
earnest manner, for sufficient reasons that I have, to be cautious in
your demonstrations of regard for Miss Dombey.'
'Cautious! What do you mean?'
'To be careful how you exhibit too much affection for that young
'Too much affection, Sir!' said Edith, knitting her broad brow and
rising. 'Who judges my affection, or measures it out? You?'
'It is not I who do so.' He was, or feigned to be, perplexed.
'Can you not guess who then?'
'I do not choose to guess,' she answered.
'Madam,' he said after a little hesitation; meantime they had been,
and still were, regarding each other as before; 'I am in a difficulty
here. You have told me you will receive no message, and you have
forbidden me to return to that subject; but the two subjects are so
closely entwined, I find, that unless you will accept this vague
caution from one who has now the honour to possess your confidence,
though the way to it has been through your displeasure, I must violate
the injunction you have laid upon me.'
'You know that you are free to do so, Sir,' said Edith. 'Do it.'
So pale, so trembling, so impassioned! He had not miscalculated the
'His instructions were,' he said, in a low voice, 'that I should
inform you that your demeanour towards Miss Dombey is not agreeable to
him. That it suggests comparisons to him which are not favourable to
himself. That he desires it may be wholly changed; and that if you are
in earnest, he is confident it will be; for your continued show of
affection will not benefit its object.'
'That is a threat,' she said.
'That is a threat,' he answered, in his voiceless manner of assent:
adding aloud, 'but not directed against you.'
Proud, erect, and dignified, as she stood confronting him; and
looking through him as she did, with her full bright flashing eye; and
smiling, as she was, with scorn and bitterness; she sunk as if the
ground had dropped beneath her, and in an instant would have fallen on
the floor, but that he caught her in his arms. As instantaneously she
threw him off, the moment that he touched her, and, drawing back,
confronted him again, immoveable, with her hand stretched out.
'Please to leave me. Say no more to-night.'
'I feel the urgency of this,' said Mr Carker, 'because it is
impossible to say what unforeseen consequences might arise, or how
soon, from your being unacquainted with his state of mind. I
understand Miss Dombey is concerned, now, at the dismissal of her old
servant, which is likely to have been a minor consequence in itself.
You don't blame me for requesting that Miss Dombey might not be
present. May I hope so?'
'I do not. Please to leave me, Sir.'
'I knew that your regard for the young lady, which is very sincere
and strong, I am well persuaded, would render it a great unhappiness
to you, ever to be a prey to the reflection that you had injured her
position and ruined her future hopes,' said Carker hurriedly, but
'No more to-night. Leave me, if you please.'
'I shall be here constantly in my attendance upon him, and in the
transaction of business matters. You will allow me to see you again,
and to consult what should be done, and learn your wishes?'
She motioned him towards the door.
'I cannot even decide whether to tell him I have spoken to you yet;
or to lead him to suppose that I have deferred doing so, for want of
opportunity, or for any other reason. It will be necessary that you
should enable me to consult with you very soon.
'At any time but now,' she answered.
'You will understand, when I wish to see you, that Miss Dombey is
not to be present; and that I seek an interview as one who has the
happiness to possess your confidence, and who comes to render you
every assistance in his power, and, perhaps, on many occasions, to
ward off evil from her?'
Looking at him still with the same apparent dread of releasing him
for a moment from the influence of her steady gaze, whatever that
might be, she answered, 'Yes!' and once more bade him go.
He bowed, as if in compliance; but turning back, when he had nearly
reached the door, said:
'I am forgiven, and have explained my fault. May I - for Miss
Dombey's sake, and for my own - take your hand before I go?'
She gave him the gloved hand she had maimed last night. He took it
in one of his, and kissed it, and withdrew. And when he had closed the
door, he waved the hand with which he had taken hers, and thrust it in
Edith saw no one that night, but locked her door, and kept herself
She did not weep; she showed no greater agitation, outwardly, than
when she was riding home. She laid as proud a head upon her pillow as
she had borne in her carriage; and her prayer ran thus:
'May this man be a liar! For if he has spoken truth, she is lost to
me, and I have no hope left!'
This man, meanwhile, went home musing to bed, thinking, with a
dainty pleasure, how imperious her passion was, how she had sat before
him in her beauty, with the dark eyes that had never turned away but
once; how the white down had fluttered; how the bird's feathers had
been strewn upon the ground.
Recognizant and Reflective
Among sundry minor alterations in Mr Carker's life and habits that
began to take place at this time, none was more remarkable than the
extraordinary diligence with which he applied himself to business, and
the closeness with which he investigated every detail that the affairs
of the House laid open to him. Always active and penetrating in such
matters, his lynx-eyed vigilance now increased twenty-fold. Not only
did his weary watch keep pace with every present point that every day
presented to him in some new form, but in the midst of these
engrossing occupations he found leisure - that is, he made it - to
review the past transactions of the Firm, and his share in them,
during a long series of years. Frequently when the clerks were all
gone, the offices dark and empty, and all similar places of business
shut up, Mr Carker, with the whole anatomy of the iron room laid bare
before him, would explore the mysteries of books and papers, with the
patient progress of a man who was dissecting the minutest nerves and
fibres of his subject. Perch, the messenger, who usually remained on
these occasions, to entertain himself with the perusal of the Price
Current by the light of one candle, or to doze over the fire in the
outer office, at the imminent risk every moment of diving head
foremost into the coal-box, could not withhold the tribute of his
admiration from this zealous conduct, although it much contracted his
domestic enjoyments; and again, and again, expatiated to Mrs Perch
(now nursing twins) on the industry and acuteness of their managing
gentleman in the City.
The same increased and sharp attention that Mr Carker bestowed on
the business of the House, he applied to his own personal affairs.
Though not a partner in the concern - a distinction hitherto reserved
solely to inheritors of the great name of Dombey - he was in the
receipt of some percentage on its dealings; and, participating in all
its facilities for the employment of money to advantage, was
considered, by the minnows among the tritons of the East, a rich man.
It began to be said, among these shrewd observers, that Jem Carker, of
Dombey's, was looking about him to see what he was worth; and that he
was calling in his money at a good time, like the long-headed fellow
he was; and bets were even offered on the Stock Exchange that Jem was
going to marry a rich widow.
Yet these cares did not in the least interfere with Mr Carker's
watching of his chief, or with his cleanness, neatness, sleekness, or
any cat-like quality he possessed. It was not so much that there was a
change in him, in reference to any of his habits, as that the whole
man was intensified. Everything that had been observable in him
before, was observable now, but with a greater amount of
concentration. He did each single thing, as if he did nothing else - a
pretty certain indication in a man of that range of ability and
purpose, that he is doing something which sharpens and keeps alive his
The only decided alteration in him was, that as he rode to and fro
along the streets, he would fall into deep fits of musing, like that
in which he had come away from Mr Dombey's house, on the morning of
that gentleman's disaster. At such times, he would keep clear of the
obstacles in his way, mechanically; and would appear to see and hear
nothing until arrival at his destination, or some sudden chance or
effort roused him.
Walking his white-legged horse thus, to the counting-house of
Dombey and Son one day, he was as unconscious of the observation of
two pairs of women's eyes, as of the fascinated orbs of Rob the
Grinder, who, in waiting a street's length from the appointed place,
as a demonstration of punctuality, vainly touched and retouched his
hat to attract attention, and trotted along on foot, by his master's
side, prepared to hold his stirrup when he should alight.
'See where he goes!' cried one of these two women, an old creature,
who stretched out her shrivelled arm to point him out to her
companion, a young woman, who stood close beside her, withdrawn like
herself into a gateway.
Mrs Brown's daughter looked out, at this bidding on the part of Mrs
Brown; and there were wrath and vengeance in her face.
'I never thought to look at him again,' she said, in a low voice;
'but it's well I should, perhaps. I see. I see!'
'Not changed!' said the old woman, with a look of eager malice.
'He changed!' returned the other. 'What for? What has he suffered?
There is change enough for twenty in me. Isn't that enough?'
'See where he goes!' muttered the old woman, watching her daughter
with her red eyes; 'so easy and so trim a-horseback, while we are in
'And of it,' said her daughter impatiently. 'We are mud, underneath
his horse's feet. What should we be?'
In the intentness with which she looked after him again, she made a
hasty gesture with her hand when the old woman began to reply, as if
her view could be obstructed by mere sound. Her mother watching her,
and not him, remained silent; until her kindling glance subsided, and
she drew a long breath, as if in the relief of his being gone.
'Deary!' said the old woman then. 'Alice! Handsome gall Ally!' She
gently shook her sleeve to arouse her attention. 'Will you let him go
like that, when you can wring money from him? Why, it's a wickedness,
'Haven't I told you, that I will not have money from him?' she
returned. 'And don't you yet believe me? Did I take his sister's
money? Would I touch a penny, if I knew it, that had gone through his
white hands - unless it was, indeed, that I could poison it, and send
it back to him? Peace, mother, and come away.
'And him so rich?' murmured the old woman. 'And us so poor!'
'Poor in not being able to pay him any of the harm we owe him,'
returned her daughter. 'Let him give me that sort of riches, and I'll
take them from him, and use them. Come away. Its no good looking at
his horse. Come away, mother!'
But the old woman, for whom the spectacle of Rob the Grinder
returning down the street, leading the riderless horse, appeared to
have some extraneous interest that it did not possess in itself,
surveyed that young man with the utmost earnestness; and seeming to
have whatever doubts she entertained, resolved as he drew nearer,
glanced at her daughter with brightened eyes and with her finger on
her lip, and emerging from the gateway at the moment of his passing,
touched him on the shoulder.
'Why, where's my sprightly Rob been, all this time!' she said, as
he turned round.
The sprightly Rob, whose sprightliness was very much diminished by
the salutation, looked exceedingly dismayed, and said, with the water
rising in his eyes:
'Oh! why can't you leave a poor cove alone, Misses Brown, when he's
getting an honest livelihood and conducting himself respectable? What
do you come and deprive a cove of his character for, by talking to him
in the streets, when he's taking his master's horse to a honest stable
- a horse you'd go and sell for cats' and dogs' meat if you had your
way! Why, I thought,' said the Grinder, producing his concluding
remark as if it were the climax of all his injuries, 'that you was
dead long ago!'
'This is the way,' cried the old woman, appealing to her daughter,
'that he talks to me, who knew him weeks and months together, my
deary, and have stood his friend many and many a time among the
pigeon-fancying tramps and bird-catchers.'
'Let the birds be, will you, Misses Brown?' retorted Rob, in a tone
of the acutest anguish. 'I think a cove had better have to do with
lions than them little creeturs, for they're always flying back in
your face when you least expect it. Well, how d'ye do and what do you
want?' These polite inquiries the Grinder uttered, as it were under
protest, and with great exasperation and vindictiveness.
'Hark how he speaks to an old friend, my deary!' said Mrs Brown,
again appealing to her daughter. 'But there's some of his old friends
not so patient as me. If I was to tell some that he knows, and has
spotted and cheated with, where to find him - '
'Will you hold your tongue, Misses Brown?' interrupted the
miserable Grinder, glancing quickly round, as though he expected to
see his master's teeth shining at his elbow. 'What do you take a
pleasure in ruining a cove for? At your time of life too! when you
ought to be thinking of a variety of things!'
'What a gallant horse!' said the old woman, patting the animal's
'Let him alone, will you, Misses Brown?' cried Rob, pushing away
her hand. 'You're enough to drive a penitent cove mad!'
'Why, what hurt do I do him, child?' returned the old woman.
'Hurt?' said Rob. 'He's got a master that would find it out if he
was touched with a straw.' And he blew upon the place where the old
woman's hand had rested for a moment, and smoothed it gently with his
finger, as if he seriously believed what he said.
The old woman looking back to mumble and mouth at her daughter, who
followed, kept close to Rob's heels as he walked on with the bridle in
his hand; and pursued the conversation.
'A good place, Rob, eh?' said she. 'You're in luck, my child.'
'Oh don't talk about luck, Misses Brown,' returned the wretched
Grinder, facing round and stopping. 'If you'd never come, or if you'd
go away, then indeed a cove might be considered tolerable lucky. Can't
you go along, Misses Brown, and not foller me!' blubbered Rob, with
sudden defiance. 'If the young woman's a friend of yours, why don't
she take you away, instead of letting you make yourself so
'What!' croaked the old woman, putting her face close to his, with
a malevolent grin upon it that puckered up the loose skin down in her
very throat. 'Do you deny your old chum! Have you lurked to my house
fifty times, and slept sound in a corner when you had no other bed but
the paving-stones, and do you talk to me like this! Have I bought and
sold with you, and helped you in my way of business, schoolboy, sneak,
and what not, and do you tell me to go along? Could I raise a crowd of
old company about you to-morrow morning, that would follow you to ruin
like copies of your own shadow, and do you turn on me with your bold
looks! I'll go. Come, Alice.'
'Stop, Misses Brown!' cried the distracted Grinder. 'What are you
doing of? Don't put yourself in a passion! Don't let her go, if you
please. I haven't meant any offence. I said "how d'ye do," at first,
didn't I? But you wouldn't answer. How you do? Besides,' said Rob
piteously, 'look here! How can a cove stand talking in the street with
his master's prad a wanting to be took to be rubbed down, and his
master up to every individgle thing that happens!'
The old woman made a show of being partially appeased, but shook
her head, and mouthed and muttered still.
'Come along to the stables, and have a glass of something that's
good for you, Misses Brown, can't you?' said Rob, 'instead of going
on, like that, which is no good to you, nor anybody else. Come along
with her, will you be so kind?' said Rob. 'I'm sure I'm delighted to
see her, if it wasn't for the horse!'
With this apology, Rob turned away, a rueful picture of despair,
and walked his charge down a bye street' The old woman, mouthing at
her daughter, followed close upon him. The daughter followed.
Turning into a silent little square or court-yard that had a great
church tower rising above it, and a packer's warehouse, and a
bottle-maker's warehouse, for its places of business, Rob the Grinder
delivered the white-legged horse to the hostler of a quaint stable at
the corner; and inviting Mrs Brown and her daughter to seat themselves
upon a stone bench at the gate of that establishment, soon reappeared
from a neighbouring public-house with a pewter measure and a glass.
'Here's master - Mr Carker, child!' said the old woman, slowly, as
her sentiment before drinking. 'Lord bless him!'
'Why, I didn't tell you who he was,' observed Rob, with staring
'We know him by sight,' said Mrs Brown, whose working mouth and
nodding head stopped for the moment, in the fixedness of her
attention. 'We saw him pass this morning, afore he got off his horse;
when you were ready to take it.'
'Ay, ay,' returned Rob, appearing to wish that his readiness had
carried him to any other place. - 'What's the matter with her? Won't
This inquiry had reference to Alice, who, folded in her cloak, sat
a little apart, profoundly inattentive to his offer of the replenished
The old woman shook her head. 'Don't mind her,' she said; 'she's a
strange creetur, if you know'd her, Rob. But Mr Carker
'Hush!' said Rob, glancing cautiously up at the packer's, and at
the bottle-maker's, as if, from any one of the tiers of warehouses, Mr
Carker might be looking down. 'Softly.'
'Why, he ain't here!' cried Mrs Brown.
'I don't know that,' muttered Rob, whose glance even wandered to
the church tower, as if he might be there, with a supernatural power
'Good master?' inquired Mrs Brown.
Rob nodded; and added, in a low voice, 'precious sharp.'
'Lives out of town, don't he, lovey?' said the old woman.
'When he's at home,' returned Rob; 'but we don't live at home just
'Where then?' asked the old woman.
'Lodgings; up near Mr Dombey's,' returned Rob.
The younger woman fixed her eyes so searchingly upon him, and so
suddenly, that Rob was quite confounded, and offered the glass again,
but with no more effect upon her than before.
'Mr Dombey - you and I used to talk about him, sometimes, you
know,' said Rob to Mrs Brown. 'You used to get me to talk about him.'
The old woman nodded.
'Well, Mr Dombey, he's had a fall from his horse,' said Rob,
unwillingly; 'and my master has to be up there, more than usual,
either with him, or Mrs Dombey, or some of 'em; and so we've come to
'Are they good friends, lovey?'asked the old woman.
'Who?' retorted Rob.
'He and she?'
'What, Mr and Mrs Dombey?' said Rob. 'How should I know!'
'Not them - Master and Mrs Dombey, chick,' replied the old woman,
'I don't know,' said Rob, looking round him again. 'I suppose so.
How curious you are, Misses Brown! Least said, soonest mended.'
'Why there's no harm in it!' exclaimed the old woman, with a laugh,
and a clap of her hands. 'Sprightly Rob, has grown tame since he has
been well off! There's no harm in It.
'No, there's no harm in it, I know,' returned Rob, with the same
distrustful glance at the packer's and the bottle-maker's, and the
church; 'but blabbing, if it's only about the number of buttons on my
master's coat, won't do. I tell you it won't do with him. A cove had
better drown himself. He says so. I shouldn't have so much as told you
what his name was, if you hadn't known it. Talk about somebody else.'
As Rob took another cautious survey of the yard, the old woman made
a secret motion to her daughter. It was momentary, but the daughter,
with a slight look of intelligence, withdrew her eyes from the boy's
face, and sat folded in her cloak as before.
'Rob, lovey!' said the old woman, beckoning him to the other end of
the bench. 'You were always a pet and favourite of mine. Now, weren't
you? Don't you know you were?'
'Yes, Misses Brown,' replied the Grinder, with a very bad grace.
'And you could leave me!' said the old woman, flinging her arms
about his neck. 'You could go away, and grow almost out of knowledge,
and never come to tell your poor old friend how fortunate you were,
proud lad! Oho, Oho!'
'Oh here's a dreadful go for a cove that's got a master wide awake
in the neighbourhood!' exclaimed the wretched Grinder. 'To be howled
over like this here!'
'Won't you come and see me, Robby?' cried Mrs Brown. 'Oho, won't
you ever come and see me?'
'Yes, I tell you! Yes, I will!' returned the Grinder.
'That's my own Rob! That's my lovey!' said Mrs Brown, drying the
tears upon her shrivelled face, and giving him a tender squeeze. 'At
the old place, Rob?'
'Yes,' replied the Grinder.
'Soon, Robby dear?' cried Mrs Brown; 'and often?'
'Yes. Yes. Yes,' replied Rob. 'I will indeed, upon my soul and
'And then,' said Mrs Brown, with her arms uplifted towards the sky,
and her head thrown back and shaking, 'if he's true to his word, I'll
never come a-near him though I know where he is, and never breathe a
syllable about him! Never!'
This ejaculation seemed a drop of comfort to the miserable Grinder,
who shook Mrs Brown by the hand upon it, and implored her with tears
in his eyes, to leave a cove and not destroy his prospects. Mrs Brown,
with another fond embrace, assented; but in the act of following her
daughter, turned back, with her finger stealthily raised, and asked in
a hoarse whisper for some money.
'A shilling, dear!' she said, with her eager avaricious face, 'or
sixpence! For old acquaintance sake. I'm so poor. And my handsome gal'
- looking over her shoulder - 'she's my gal, Rob - half starves me.
But as the reluctant Grinder put it in her hand, her daughter,
coming quietly back, caught the hand in hen, and twisted out the coin.
'What,' she said, 'mother! always money! money from the first, and
to the last' Do you mind so little what I said but now? Here. Take
The old woman uttered a moan as the money was restored, but without
in any other way opposing its restoration, hobbled at her daughter's
side out of the yard, and along the bye street upon which it opened.
The astonished and dismayed Rob staring after them, saw that they
stopped, and fell to earnest conversation very soon; and more than
once observed a darkly threatening action of the younger woman's hand
(obviously having reference to someone of whom they spoke), and a
crooning feeble imitation of it on the part of Mrs Brown, that made
him earnestly hope he might not be the subject of their discourse.
With the present consolation that they were gone, and with the
prospective comfort that Mrs Brown could not live for ever, and was
not likely to live long to trouble him, the Grinder, not otherwise
regretting his misdeeds than as they were attended with such
disagreeable incidental consequences, composed his ruffled features to
a more serene expression by thinking of the admirable manner in which
he had disposed of Captain Cuttle (a reflection that seldom failed to
put him in a flow of spirits), and went to the Dombey Counting House
to receive his master's orders.
There his master, so subtle and vigilant of eye, that Rob quaked
before him, more than half expecting to be taxed with Mrs Brown, gave
him the usual morning's box of papers for Mr Dombey, and a note for
Mrs Dombey: merely nodding his head as an enjoinder to be careful, and
to use dispatch - a mysterious admonition, fraught in the Grinder's
imagination with dismal warnings and threats; and more powerful with
him than any words.
Alone again, in his own room, Mr Carker applied himself to work,
and worked all day. He saw many visitors; overlooked a number of
documents; went in and out, to and from, sundry places of mercantile
resort; and indulged in no more abstraction until the day's business
was done. But, when the usual clearance of papers from his table was
made at last, he fell into his thoughtful mood once more.
He was standing in his accustomed place and attitude, with his eyes
intently fixed upon the ground, when his brother entered to bring back
some letters that had been taken out in the course of the day. He put
them quietly on the table, and was going immediately, when Mr Carker
the Manager, whose eyes had rested on him, on his entrance, as if they
had all this time had him for the subject of their contemplation,
instead of the office-floor, said:
'Well, John Carker, and what brings you here?'
His brother pointed to the letters, and was again withdrawing.
'I wonder,' said the Manager, 'that you can come and go, without
inquiring how our master is'.
'We had word this morning in the Counting House, that Mr Dombey was
doing well,' replied his brother.
'You are such a meek fellow,' said the Manager, with a smile, -
'but you have grown so, in the course of years - that if any harm came
to him, you'd be miserable, I dare swear now.'
'I should be truly sorry, James,' returned the other.
'He would be sorry!' said the Manager, pointing at him, as if there
were some other person present to whom he was appealing. 'He would be
truly sorry! This brother of mine! This junior of the place, this
slighted piece of lumber, pushed aside with his face to the wall, like
a rotten picture, and left so, for Heaven knows how many years he's
all gratitude and respect, and devotion too, he would have me
'I would have you believe nothing, James,' returned the other. 'Be
as just to me as you would to any other man below you. You ask a
question, and I answer it.'
'And have you nothing, Spaniel,' said the Manager, with unusual
irascibility, 'to complain of in him? No proud treatment to resent, no
insolence, no foolery of state, no exaction of any sort! What the
devil! are you man or mouse?'
'It would be strange if any two persons could be together for so
many years, especially as superior and inferior, without each having
something to complain of in the other - as he thought, at all events,
replied John Carker. 'But apart from my history here - '
'His history here!' exclaimed the Manager. 'Why, there it is. The
very fact that makes him an extreme case, puts him out of the whole
'Apart from that, which, as you hint, gives me a reason to be
thankful that I alone (happily for all the rest) possess, surely there
is no one in the House who would not say and feel at least as much.
You do not think that anybody here would be indifferent to a mischance
or misfortune happening to the head of the House, or anything than
truly sorry for it?'
'You have good reason to be bound to him too!' said the Manager,
contemptuously. 'Why, don't you believe that you are kept here, as a
cheap example, and a famous instance of the clemency of Dombey and
Son, redounding to the credit of the illustrious House?'
'No,' replied his brother, mildly, 'I have long believed that I am
kept here for more kind and disinterested reasons.
'But you were going,' said the Manager, with the snarl of a
tiger-cat, 'to recite some Christian precept, I observed.'
'Nay, James,' returned the other, 'though the tie of brotherhood
between us has been long broken and thrown away - '
'Who broke it, good Sir?' said the Manager.
'I, by my misconduct. I do not charge it upon you.'
The Manager replied, with that mute action of his bristling mouth,
'Oh, you don't charge it upon me!' and bade him go on.
'I say, though there is not that tie between us, do not, I entreat,
assail me with unnecessary taunts, or misinterpret what I say, or
would say. I was only going to suggest to you that it would be a
mistake to suppose that it is only you, who have been selected here,
above all others, for advancement, confidence and distinction
(selected, in the beginning, I know, for your great ability and
trustfulness), and who communicate more freely with Mr Dombey than
anyone, and stand, it may be said, on equal terms with him, and have
been favoured and enriched by him - that it would be a mistake to
suppose that it is only you who are tender of his welfare and
reputation. There is no one in the House, from yourself down to the
lowest, I sincerely believe, who does not participate in that
'You lie!' said the Manager, red with sudden anger. 'You're a
hypocrite, John Carker, and you lie.'
'James!' cried the other, flushing in his turn. 'What do you mean
by these insulting words? Why do you so basely use them to me,
'I tell you,' said the Manager, 'that your hypocrisy and meekness -
that all the hypocrisy and meekness of this place - is not worth that
to me,' snapping his thumb and finger, 'and that I see through it as
if it were air! There is not a man employed here, standing between
myself and the lowest in place (of whom you are very considerate, and
with reason, for he is not far off), who wouldn't be glad at heart to
see his master humbled: who does not hate him, secretly: who does not
wish him evil rather than good: and who would not turn upon him, if he
had the power and boldness. The nearer to his favour, the nearer to
his insolence; the closer to him, the farther from him. That's the
'I don't know,' said his brother, whose roused feelings had soon
yielded to surprise, 'who may have abused your ear with such
representations; or why you have chosen to try me, rather than
another. But that you have been trying me, and tampering with me, I am
now sure. You have a different manner and a different aspect from any
that I ever saw m you. I will only say to you, once more, you are
'I know I am,' said the Manager. 'I have told you so.'
'Not by me,' returned his brother. 'By your informant, if you have
one. If not, by your own thoughts and suspicions.'
'I have no suspicions,' said the Manager. 'Mine are certainties.
You pusillanimous, abject, cringing dogs! All making the same show,
all canting the same story, all whining the same professions, all
harbouring the same transparent secret.'
His brother withdrew, without saying more, and shut the door as he
concluded. Mr Carker the Manager drew a chair close before the fire,
and fell to beating the coals softly with the poker.
'The faint-hearted, fawning knaves,' he muttered, with his two
shining rows of teeth laid bare. 'There's not one among them, who
wouldn't feign to be so shocked and outraged - ! Bah! There's not one
among them, but if he had at once the power, and the wit and daring to
use it, would scatter Dombey's pride and lay it low, as ruthlessly as
I rake out these ashes.'
As he broke them up and strewed them in the grate, he looked on
with a thoughtful smile at what he was doing. 'Without the same queen
beckoner too!' he added presently; 'and there is pride there, not to
be forgotten - witness our own acquaintance!' With that he fell into a
deeper reverie, and sat pondering over the blackening grate, until he
rose up like a man who had been absorbed in a book, and looking round
him took his hat and gloves, went to where his horse was waiting,
mounted, and rode away through the lighted streets, for it was
He rode near Mr Dombey's house; and falling into a walk as he
approached it, looked up at the windows The window where he had once
seen Florence sitting with her dog attracted his attention first,
though there was no light in it; but he smiled as he carried his eyes
up the tall front of the house, and seemed to leave that object
'Time was,' he said, 'when it was well to watch even your rising
little star, and know in what quarter there were clouds, to shadow you
if needful. But a planet has arisen, and you are lost in its light.'
He turned the white-legged horse round the street corner, and
sought one shining window from among those at the back of the house.
Associated with it was a certain stately presence, a gloved hand, the
remembrance how the feathers of a beautiful bird's wing had been
showered down upon the floor, and how the light white down upon a robe
had stirred and rustled, as in the rising of a distant storm. These
were the things he carried with him as he turned away again, and rode
through the darkening and deserted Parks at a quick rate.
In fatal truth, these were associated with a woman, a proud woman,
who hated him, but who by slow and sure degrees had been led on by his
craft, and her pride and resentment, to endure his company, and little
by little to receive him as one who had the privilege to talk to her
of her own defiant disregard of her own husband, and her abandonment
of high consideration for herself. They were associated with a woman
who hated him deeply, and who knew him, and who mistrusted him because
she knew him, and because he knew her; but who fed her fierce
resentment by suffering him to draw nearer and yet nearer to her every
day, in spite of the hate she cherished for him. In spite of it! For
that very reason; since in its depths, too far down for her
threatening eye to pierce, though she could see into them dimly, lay
the dark retaliation, whose faintest shadow seen once and shuddered
at, and never seen again, would have been sufficient stain upon her
Did the phantom of such a woman flit about him on his ride; true to
the reality, and obvious to him?
Yes. He saw her in his mind, exactly as she was. She bore him
company with her pride, resentment, hatred, all as plain to him as her
beauty; with nothing plainer to him than her hatred of him. He saw her
sometimes haughty and repellent at his side, and some times down among
his horse's feet, fallen and in the dust. But he always saw her as she
was, without disguise, and watched her on the dangerous way that she
And when his ride was over, and he was newly dressed, and came into
the light of her bright room with his bent head, soft voice, and
soothing smile, he saw her yet as plainly. He even suspected the
mystery of the gloved hand, and held it all the longer in his own for
that suspicion. Upon the dangerous way that she was going, he was,
still; and not a footprint did she mark upon it, but he set his own
The barrier between Mr Dombey and his wife was not weakened by
time. Ill-assorted couple, unhappy in themselves and in each other,
bound together by no tie but the manacle that joined their fettered
hands, and straining that so harshly, in their shrinking asunder, that
it wore and chafed to the bone, Time, consoler of affliction and
softener of anger, could do nothing to help them. Their pride, however
different in kind and object, was equal in degree; and, in their
flinty opposition, struck out fire between them which might smoulder
or might blaze, as circumstances were, but burned up everything within
their mutual reach, and made their marriage way a road of ashes.
Let us be just to him. In the monstrous delusion of his life,
swelling with every grain of sand that shifted in its glass, he urged
her on, he little thought to what, or considered how; but still his
feeling towards her, such as it was, remained as at first. She had the
grand demerit of unaccountably putting herself in opposition to the
recognition of his vast importance, and to the acknowledgment of her
complete submission to it, and so far it was necessary to correct and
reduce her; but otherwise he still considered her, in his cold way, a
lady capable of doing honour, if she would, to his choice and name,
and of reflecting credit on his proprietorship.
Now, she, with all her might of passionate and proud resentment,
bent her dark glance from day to day, and hour to hour - from that
night in her own chamber, when she had sat gazing at the shadows on
the wall, to the deeper night fast coming - upon one figure directing
a crowd of humiliations and exasperations against her; and that
figure, still her husband's.
Was Mr Dombey's master-vice, that ruled him so inexorably, an
unnatural characteristic? It might be worthwhile, sometimes, to
inquire what Nature is, and how men work to change her, and whether,
in the enforced distortions so produced, it is not natural to be
unnatural. Coop any son or daughter of our mighty mother within narrow
range, and bind the prisoner to one idea, and foster it by servile
worship of it on the part of the few timid or designing people
standing round, and what is Nature to the willing captive who has
never risen up upon the wings of a free mind - drooping and useless
soon - to see her in her comprehensive truth!
Alas! are there so few things in the world, about us, most
unnatural, and yet most natural in being so? Hear the magistrate or
judge admonish the unnatural outcasts of society; unnatural in brutal
habits, unnatural in want of decency, unnatural in losing and
confounding all distinctions between good and evil; unnatural in
ignorance, in vice, in recklessness, in contumacy, in mind, in looks,
in everything. But follow the good clergyman or doctor, who, with his
life imperilled at every breath he draws, goes down into their dens,
lying within the echoes of our carriage wheels and daily tread upon
the pavement stones. Look round upon the world of odious sights -
millions of immortal creatures have no other world on earth - at the
lightest mention of which humanity revolts, and dainty delicacy living
in the next street, stops her ears, and lisps 'I don't believe it!'
Breathe the polluted air, foul with every impurity that is poisonous
to health and life; and have every sense, conferred upon our race for
its delight and happiness, offended, sickened and disgusted, and made
a channel by which misery and death alone can enter. Vainly attempt to
think of any simple plant, or flower, or wholesome weed, that, set in
this foetid bed, could have its natural growth, or put its little
leaves off to the sun as GOD designed it. And then, calling up some
ghastly child, with stunted form and wicked face, hold forth on its
unnatural sinfulness, and lament its being, so early, far away from
Heaven - but think a little of its having been conceived, and born and
bred, in Hell!
Those who study the physical sciences, and bring them to bear upon
the health of Man, tell us that if the noxious particles that rise
from vitiated air were palpable to the sight, we should see them
lowering in a dense black cloud above such haunts, and rolling slowly
on to corrupt the better portions of a town. But if the moral
pestilence that rises with them, and in the eternal laws of our
Nature, is inseparable from them, could be made discernible too, how
terrible the revelation! Then should we see depravity, impiety,
drunkenness, theft, murder, and a long train of nameless sins against
the natural affections and repulsions of mankind, overhanging the
devoted spots, and creeping on, to blight the innocent and spread
contagion among the pure. Then should we see how the same poisoned
fountains that flow into our hospitals and lazar-houses, inundate the
jails, and make the convict-ships swim deep, and roll across the seas,
and over-run vast continents with crime. Then should we stand appalled
to know, that where we generate disease to strike our children down
and entail itself on unborn generations, there also we breed, by the
same certain process, infancy that knows no innocence, youth without
modesty or shame, maturity that is mature in nothing but in suffering
and guilt, blasted old age that is a scandal on the form we bear.
unnatural humanity! When we shall gather grapes from thorns, and figs
from thistles; when fields of grain shall spring up from the offal in
the bye-ways of our wicked cities, and roses bloom in the fat
churchyards that they cherish; then we may look for natural humanity,
and find it growing from such seed.
Oh for a good spirit who would take the house-tops off, with a mole
potent and benignant hand than the lame demon in the tale, and show a
Christian people what dark shapes issue from amidst their homes, to
swell the retinue of the Destroying Angel as he moves forth among
them! For only one night's view of the pale phantoms rising from the
scenes of our too-long neglect; and from the thick and sullen air
where Vice and Fever propagate together, raining the tremendous social
retributions which are ever pouring down, and ever coming thicker!
Bright and blest the morning that should rise on such a night: for
men, delayed no more by stumbling-blocks of their own making, which
are but specks of dust upon the path between them and eternity, would
then apply themselves, like creatures of one common origin, owing one
duty to the Father of one family, and tending to one common end, to
make the world a better place!
Not the less bright and blest would that day be for rousing some
who never have looked out upon the world of human life around them, to
a knowledge of their own relation to it, and for making them
acquainted with a perversion of nature in their own contracted
sympathies and estimates; as great, and yet as natural in its
development when once begun, as the lowest degradation known.'
But no such day had ever dawned on Mr Dombey, or his wife; and the
course of each was taken.
Through six months that ensued upon his accident, they held the
same relations one towards the other. A marble rock could not have
stood more obdurately in his way than she; and no chilled spring,
lying uncheered by any ray of light in the depths of a deep cave,
could be more sullen or more cold than he.
The hope that had fluttered within her when the promise of her new
home dawned, was quite gone from the heart of Florence now. That home
was nearly two years old; and even the patient trust that was in her,
could not survive the daily blight of such experience. If she had any
lingering fancy in the nature of hope left, that Edith and her father
might be happier together, in some distant time, she had none, now,
that her father would ever love her. The little interval in which she
had imagined that she saw some small relenting in him, was forgotten
in the long remembrance of his coldness since and before, or only
remembered as a sorrowful delusion.
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