Dombey and Son
Part 17 out of 21
sugar-tongs, and the canister, and laying them on the table, swept
them with his great hand into Walter's hat; but in handing that
singular strong box to Walter, he was so overcome again, that he was
fain to make another retreat into the shop, and absent himself for a
longer space of time than on his first retirement.
But Walter sought him out, and brought him back; and then the
Captain's great apprehension was, that Florence would suffer from this
new shock. He felt it so earnestly, that he turned quite rational, and
positively interdicted any further allusion to Walter's adventures for
some days to come. Captain Cuttle then became sufficiently composed to
relieve himself of the toast in his hat, and to take his place at the
tea-board; but finding Walter's grasp upon his shoulder, on one side,
and Florence whispering her tearful congratulations on the other, the
Captain suddenly bolted again, and was missing for a good ten minutes.
But never in all his life had the Captain's face so shone and
glistened, as when, at last, he sat stationary at the tea-board,
looking from Florence to Walter, and from Walter to Florence. Nor was
this effect produced or at all heightened by the immense quantity of
polishing he had administered to his face with his coat-sleeve during
the last half-hour. It was solely the effect of his internal emotions.
There was a glory and delight within the Captain that spread itself
over his whole visage, and made a perfect illumination there.
The pride with which the Captain looked upon the bronzed cheek and
the courageous eyes of his recovered boy; with which he saw the
generous fervour of his youth, and all its frank and hopeful
qualities, shining once more, in the fresh, wholesome manner, and the
ardent face, would have kindled something of this light in his
countenance. The admiration and sympathy with which he turned his eyes
on Florence, whose beauty, grace, and innocence could have won no
truer or more zealous champion than himself, would have had an equal
influence upon him. But the fulness of the glow he shed around him
could only have been engendered in his contemplation of the two
together, and in all the fancies springing out of that association,
that came sparkling and beaming into his head, and danced about it.
How they talked of poor old Uncle Sol, and dwelt on every little
circumstance relating to his disappearance; how their joy was
moderated by the old man's absence and by the misfortunes of Florence;
how they released Diogenes, whom the Captain had decoyed upstairs some
time before, lest he should bark again; the Captain, though he was in
one continual flutter, and made many more short plunges into the shop,
fully comprehended. But he no more dreamed that Walter looked on
Florence, as it were, from a new and far-off place; that while his
eyes often sought the lovely face, they seldom met its open glance of
sisterly affection, but withdrew themselves when hers were raised
towards him; than he believed that it was Walter's ghost who sat
beside him. He saw them together in their youth and beauty, and he
knew the story of their younger days, and he had no inch of room
beneath his great blue waistcoat for anything save admiration of such
a pair, and gratitude for their being reunited.
They sat thus, until it grew late. The Captain would have been
content to sit so for a week. But Walter rose, to take leave for the
'Going, Walter!' said Florence. 'Where?'
'He slings his hammock for the present, lady lass,' said Captain
Cuttle, 'round at Brogley's. Within hail, Heart's Delight.'
'I am the cause of your going away, Walter,' said Florence. 'There
is a houseless sister in your place.'
'Dear Miss Dombey,' replied Walter, hesitating - 'if it is not too
bold to call you so!
Walter!' she exclaimed, surprised.
'If anything could make me happier in being allowed to see and
speak to you, would it not be the discovery that I had any means on
earth of doing you a moment's service! Where would I not go, what
would I not do, for your sake?'
She smiled, and called him brother.
'You are so changed,' said Walter -
'I changed!' she interrupted.
'To me,' said Walter, softly, as if he were thinking aloud,
'changed to me. I left you such a child, and find you - oh! something
so different - '
'But your sister, Walter. You have not forgotten what we promised
to each other, when we parted?'
'Forgotten!' But he said no more.
'And if you had - if suffering and danger had driven it from your
thoughts - which it has not - you would remember it now, Walter, when
you find me poor and abandoned, with no home but this, and no friends
but the two who hear me speak!'
'I would! Heaven knows I would!' said Walter.
'Oh, Walter,' exclaimed Florence, through her sobs and tears. 'Dear
brother! Show me some way through the world - some humble path that I
may take alone, and labour in, and sometimes think of you as one who
will protect and care for me as for a sister! Oh, help me, Walter, for
I need help so much!'
'Miss Dombey! Florence! I would die to help you. But your friends
are proud and rich. Your father - '
'No, no! Walter!' She shrieked, and put her hands up to her head,
in an attitude of terror that transfixed him where he stood. 'Don't
say that word!'
He never, from that hour, forgot the voice and look with which she
stopped him at the name. He felt that if he were to live a hundred
years, he never could forget it.
Somewhere - anywhere - but never home! All past, all gone, all
lost, and broken up! The whole history of her untold slight and
suffering was in the cry and look; and he felt he never could forget
it, and he never did.
She laid her gentle face upon the Captain's shoulder, and related
how and why she had fled. If every sorrowing tear she shed in doing
so, had been a curse upon the head of him she never named or blamed,
it would have been better for him, Walter thought, with awe, than to
be renounced out of such a strength and might of love.
'There, precious!' said the Captain, when she ceased; and deep
attention the Captain had paid to her while she spoke; listening, with
his glazed hat all awry and his mouth wide open. 'Awast, awast, my
eyes! Wal'r, dear lad, sheer off for to-night, and leave the pretty
one to me!'
Walter took her hand in both of his, and put it to his lips, and
kissed it. He knew now that she was, indeed, a homeless wandering
fugitive; but, richer to him so, than in all the wealth and pride of
her right station, she seemed farther off than even on the height that
had made him giddy in his boyish dreams.
Captain Cuttle, perplexed by no such meditations, guarded Florence
to her room, and watched at intervals upon the charmed ground outside
her door - for such it truly was to him - until he felt sufficiently
easy in his mind about her, to turn in under the counter. On
abandoning his watch for that purpose, he could not help calling once,
rapturously, through the keyhole, 'Drownded. Ain't he, pretty?' - or,
when he got downstairs, making another trial at that verse of Lovely
Peg. But it stuck in his throat somehow, and he could make nothing of
it; so he went to bed, and dreamed that old Sol Gills was married to
Mrs MacStinger, and kept prisoner by that lady in a secret chamber on
a short allowance of victuals.
Mr Toots's Complaint
There was an empty room above-stairs at the wooden Midshipman's,
which, in days of yore, had been Walter's bedroom. Walter, rousing up
the Captain betimes in the morning, proposed that they should carry
thither such furniture out of the little parlour as would grace it
best, so that Florence might take possession of it when she rose. As
nothing could be more agreeable to Captain Cuttle than making himself
very red and short of breath in such a cause, he turned to (as he
himself said) with a will; and, in a couple of hours, this garret was
transformed into a species of land-cabin, adorned with all the
choicest moveables out of the parlour, inclusive even of the Tartar
frigate, which the Captain hung up over the chimney-piece with such
extreme delight, that he could do nothing for half-an-hour afterwards
but walk backward from it, lost in admiration.
The Captain could be indueed by no persuasion of Walter's to wind
up the big watch, or to take back the canister, or to touch the
sugar-tongs and teaspoons. 'No, no, my lad;' was the Captain's
invariable reply to any solicitation of the kind, 'I've made that
there little property over, jintly.' These words he repeated with
great unction and gravity, evidently believing that they had the
virtue of an Act of Parliament, and that unless he committed himself
by some new admission of ownership, no flaw could be found in such a
form of conveyance.
It was an advantage of the new arrangement, that besides the
greater seclusion it afforded Florence, it admitted of the Midshipman
being restored to his usual post of observation, and also of the shop
shutters being taken down. The latter ceremony, however little
importance the unconscious Captain attached to it, was not wholly
superfluous; for, on the previous day, so much excitement had been
occasioned in the neighbourhood, by the shutters remaining unopened,
that the Instrument-maker's house had been honoured with an unusual
share of public observation, and had been intently stared at from the
opposite side of the way, by groups of hungry gazers, at any time
between sunrise and sunset. The idlers and vagabonds had been
particularly interested in the Captain's fate; constantly grovelling
in the mud to apply their eyes to the cellar-grating, under the
shop-window, and delighting their imaginations with the fancy that
they could see a piece of his coat as he hung in a corner; though this
settlement of him was stoutly disputed by an opposite faction, who
were of opinion that he lay murdered with a hammer, on the stairs. It
was not without exciting some discontent, therefore, that the subject
of these rumours was seen early in the morning standing at his
shop-door as hale and hearty as if nothing had happened; and the
beadle of that quarter, a man of an ambitious character, who had
expected to have the distinction of being present at the breaking open
of the door, and of giving evidence in full uniform before the
coroner, went so far as to say to an opposite neighbour, that the chap
in the glazed hat had better not try it on there - without more
particularly mentioning what - and further, that he, the beadle, would
keep his eye upon him.
'Captain Cuttle,' said Walter, musing, when they stood resting from
their labours at the shop-door, looking down the old familiar street;
it being still early in the morning; 'nothing at all of Uncle Sol, in
all that time!'
'Nothing at all, my lad,' replied the Captain, shaking his head.
'Gone in search of me, dear, kind old man,' said Walter: 'yet never
write to you! But why not? He says, in effect, in this packet that you
gave me,' taking the paper from his pocket, which had been opened in
the presence of the enlightened Bunsby, 'that if you never hear from
him before opening it, you may believe him dead. Heaven forbid! But
you would have heard of him, even if he were dead! Someone would have
written, surely, by his desire, if he could not; and have said, "on
such a day, there died in my house," or "under my care," or so forth,
"Mr Solomon Gills of London, who left this last remembrance and this
last request to you".'
The Captain, who had never climbed to such a clear height of
probability before, was greatly impressed by the wide prospect it
opened, and answered, with a thoughtful shake of his head, 'Well said,
my lad; wery well said.'
'I have been thinking of this, or, at least,' said Walter,
colouring, 'I have been thinking of one thing and another, all through
a sleepless night, and I cannot believe, Captain Cuttle, but that my
Uncle Sol (Lord bless him!) is alive, and will return. I don't so much
wonder at his going away, because, leaving out of consideration that
spice of the marvellous which was always in his character, and his
great affection for me, before which every other consideration of his
life became nothing, as no one ought to know so well as I who had the
best of fathers in him,' - Walter's voice was indistinct and husky
here, and he looked away, along the street, - 'leaving that out of
consideration, I say, I have often read and heard of people who,
having some near and dear relative, who was supposed to be shipwrecked
at sea, have gone down to live on that part of the sea-shore where any
tidings of the missing ship might be expected to arrive, though only
an hour or two sooner than elsewhere, or have even gone upon her track
to the place whither she was bound, as if their going would create
intelligence. I think I should do such a thing myself, as soon as
another, or sooner than many, perhaps. But why my Uncle shouldn't
write to you, when he so clearly intended to do so, or how he should
die abroad, and you not know it through some other hand, I cannot make
Captain Cuttle observed, with a shake of his head, that Jack Bunsby
himself hadn't made it out, and that he was a man as could give a
pretty taut opinion too.
'If my Uncle had been a heedless young man, likely to be entrapped
by jovial company to some drinking-place, where he was to be got rid
of for the sake of what money he might have about him,' said Walter;
'or if he had been a reckless sailor, going ashore with two or three
months' pay in his pocket, I could understand his disappearing, and
leaving no trace behind. But, being what he was - and is, I hope - I
can't believe it.'
'Wal'r, my lad,' inquired the Captain, wistfully eyeing him as he
pondered and pondered, 'what do you make of it, then?'
'Captain Cuttle,' returned Walter, 'I don't know what to make of
it. I suppose he never has written! There is no doubt about that?'
'If so be as Sol Gills wrote, my lad,' replied the Captain,
argumentatively, 'where's his dispatch?'
'Say that he entrusted it to some private hand,' suggested Walter,
'and that it has been forgotten, or carelessly thrown aside, or lost.
Even that is more probable to me, than the other event. In short, I
not only cannot bear to contemplate that other event, Captain Cuttle,
but I can't, and won't.'
'Hope, you see, Wal'r,' said the Captain, sagely, 'Hope. It's that
as animates you. Hope is a buoy, for which you overhaul your Little
Warbler, sentimental diwision, but Lord, my lad, like any other buoy,
it only floats; it can't be steered nowhere. Along with the
figure-head of Hope,' said the Captain, 'there's a anchor; but what's
the good of my having a anchor, if I can't find no bottom to let it go
Captain Cuttle said this rather in his character of a sagacious
citizen and householder, bound to impart a morsel from his stores of
wisdom to an inexperienced youth, than in his own proper person.
Indeed, his face was quite luminous as he spoke, with new hope, caught
from Walter; and he appropriately concluded by slapping him on the
back; and saying, with enthusiasm, 'Hooroar, my lad! Indiwidually, I'm
o' your opinion.' Walter, with his cheerful laugh, returned the
salutation, and said:
'Only one word more about my Uncle at present' Captain Cuttle. I
suppose it is impossible that he can have written in the ordinary
course - by mail packet, or ship letter, you understand - '
'Ay, ay, my lad,' said the Captain approvingly.
And that you have missed the letter, anyhow?'
'Why, Wal'r,' said the Captain, turning his eyes upon him with a
faint approach to a severe expression, 'ain't I been on the look-out
for any tidings of that man o' science, old Sol Gills, your Uncle, day
and night, ever since I lost him? Ain't my heart been heavy and
watchful always, along of him and you? Sleeping and waking, ain't I
been upon my post, and wouldn't I scorn to quit it while this here
Midshipman held together!'
'Yes, Captain Cuttle,' replied Walter, grasping his hand, 'I know
you would, and I know how faithful and earnest all you say and feel
is. I am sure of it. You don't doubt that I am as sure of it as I am
that my foot is again upon this door-step, or that I again have hold
of this true hand. Do you?'
'No, no, Wal'r,' returned the Captain, with his beaming
'I'll hazard no more conjectures,' said Walter, fervently shaking
the hard hand of the Captain, who shook his with no less goodwill.
'All I will add is, Heaven forbid that I should touch my Uncle's
possessions, Captain Cuttle! Everything that he left here, shall
remain in the care of the truest of stewards and kindest of men - and
if his name is not Cuttle, he has no name! Now, best of friends, about
- Miss Dombey.'
There was a change in Walter's manner, as he came to these two
words; and when he uttered them, all his confidence and cheerfulness
appeared to have deserted him.
'I thought, before Miss Dombey stopped me when I spoke of her
father last night,' said Walter, ' - you remember how?'
The Captain well remembered, and shook his head.
'I thought,' said Walter, 'before that, that we had but one hard
duty to perform, and that it was, to prevail upon her to communicate
with her friends, and to return home.'
The Captain muttered a feeble 'Awast!' or a 'Stand by!' or
something or other, equally pertinent to the occasion; but it was
rendered so extremely feeble by the total discomfiture with which he
received this announcement, that what it was, is mere matter of
'But,' said Walter, 'that is over. I think so, no longer. I would
sooner be put back again upon that piece of wreck, on which I have so
often floated, since my preservation, in my dreams, and there left to
drift, and drive, and die!'
'Hooroar, my lad!' exclaimed the Captain, in a burst of
uncontrollable satisfaction. 'Hooroar! hooroar! hooroar!'
'To think that she, so young, so good, and beautiful,' said Walter,
'so delicately brought up, and born to such a different fortune,
should strive with the rough world! But we have seen the gulf that
cuts off all behind her, though no one but herself can know how deep
it is; and there is no return.
Captain Cuttle, without quite understanding this, greatly approved
of it, and observed in a tone of strong corroboration, that the wind
was quite abaft.
'She ought not to be alone here; ought she, Captain Cuttle?' said
'Well, my lad,' replied the Captain, after a little sagacious
consideration. 'I don't know. You being here to keep her company, you
see, and you two being jintly - '
'Dear Captain Cuttle!' remonstrated Walter. 'I being here! Miss
Dombey, in her guileless innocent heart, regards me as her adopted
brother; but what would the guile and guilt of my heart be, if I
pretended to believe that I had any right to approach her, familiarly,
in that character - if I pretended to forget that I am bound, in
honour, not to do it?'
'Wal'r, my lad,' hinted the Captain, with some revival of his
discomfiture, 'ain't there no other character as - '
'Oh!' returned Walter, 'would you have me die in her esteem - in
such esteem as hers - and put a veil between myself and her angel's
face for ever, by taking advantage of her being here for refuge, so
trusting and so unprotected, to endeavour to exalt myself into her
lover? What do I say? There is no one in the world who would be more
opposed to me if I could do so, than you.'
'Wal'r, my lad,' said the Captain, drooping more and more,
'prowiding as there is any just cause or impediment why two persons
should not be jined together in the house of bondage, for which you'll
overhaul the place and make a note, I hope I should declare it as
promised and wowed in the banns. So there ain't no other character;
ain't there, my lad?'
Walter briskly waved his hand in the negative.
'Well, my lad,' growled the Captain slowly, 'I won't deny but what
I find myself wery much down by the head, along o' this here, or but
what I've gone clean about. But as to Lady lass, Wal'r, mind you,
wot's respect and duty to her, is respect and duty in my articles,
howsumever disapinting; and therefore I follows in your wake, my lad,
and feel as you are, no doubt, acting up to yourself. And there ain't
no other character, ain't there?' said the Captain, musing over the
ruins of his fallen castle, with a very despondent face.
'Now, Captain Cuttle,' said Walter, starting a fresh point with a
gayer air, to cheer the Captain up - but nothing could do that; he was
too much concerned - 'I think we should exert ourselves to find
someone who would be a proper attendant for Miss Dombey while she
remains here, and who may be trusted. None of her relations may. It's
clear Miss Dombey feels that they are all subservient to her father.
What has become of Susan?'
'The young woman?' returned the Captain. 'It's my belief as she was
sent away again the will of Heart's Delight. I made a signal for her
when Lady lass first come, and she rated of her wery high, and said
she had been gone a long time.'
'Then,' said Walter, 'do you ask Miss Dombey where she's gone, and
we'll try to find her. The morning's getting on, and Miss Dombey will
soon be rising. You are her best friend. Wait for her upstairs, and
leave me to take care of all down here.'
The Captain, very crest-fallen indeed, echoed the sigh with which
Walter said this, and complied. Florence was delighted with her new
room, anxious to see Walter, and overjoyed at the prospect of greeting
her old friend Susan. But Florence could not say where Susan was gone,
except that it was in Essex, and no one could say, she remembered,
unless it were Mr Toots.
With this information the melancholy Captain returned to Walter,
and gave him to understand that Mr Toots was the young gentleman whom
he had encountered on the door-step, and that he was a friend of his,
and that he was a young gentleman of property, and that he hopelessly
adored Miss Dombey. The Captain also related how the intelligence of
Walter's supposed fate had first made him acquainted with Mr Toots,
and how there was solemn treaty and compact between them, that Mr
Toots should be mute upon the subject of his love.
The question then was, whether Florence could trust Mr Toots; and
Florence saying, with a smile, 'Oh, yes, with her whole heart!' it
became important to find out where Mr Toots lived. This, Florence
didn't know, and the Captain had forgotten; and the Captain was
telling Walter, in the little parlour, that Mr Toots was sure to be
there soon, when in came Mr Toots himself.
'Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, rushing into the parlour without
any ceremony, 'I'm in a state of mind bordering on distraction!'
Mr Toots had discharged those words, as from a mortar, before he
observed Walter, whom he recognised with what may be described as a
chuckle of misery.
'You'll excuse me, Sir,' said Mr Toots, holding his forehead, 'but
I'm at present in that state that my brain is going, if not gone, and
anything approaching to politeness in an individual so situated would
be a hollow mockery. Captain Gills, I beg to request the favour of a
'Why, Brother,' returned the Captain, taking him by the hand, 'you
are the man as we was on the look-out for.'
'Oh, Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'what a look-out that must be,
of which I am the object! I haven't dared to shave, I'm in that rash
state. I haven't had my clothes brushed. My hair is matted together. I
told the Chicken that if he offered to clean my boots, I'd stretch him
a Corpse before me!'
All these indications of a disordered mind were verified in Mr
Toots's appearance, which was wild and savage.
'See here, Brother,' said the Captain. 'This here's old Sol Gills's
nevy Wal'r. Him as was supposed to have perished at sea'
Mr Toots took his hand from his forehead, and stared at Walter.
'Good gracious me!' stammered Mr Toots. 'What a complication of
misery! How-de-do? I - I - I'm afraid you must have got very wet.
Captain Gills, will you allow me a word in the shop?'
He took the Captain by the coat, and going out with him whispered:
'That then, Captain Gills, is the party you spoke of, when you said
that he and Miss Dombey were made for one another?'
'Why, ay, my lad,' replied the disconsolate Captain; 'I was of that
'And at this time!' exclaimed Mr Toots, with his hand to his
forehead again. 'Of all others! - a hated rival! At least, he ain't a
hated rival,' said Mr Toots, stopping short, on second thoughts, and
taking away his hand; 'what should I hate him for? No. If my affection
has been truly disinterested, Captain Gills, let me prove it now!'
Mr Toots shot back abruptly into the parlour, and said, wringing
Walter by the hand:
'How-de-do? I hope you didn't take any cold. I - I shall be very
glad if you'll give me the pleasure of your acquaintance. I wish you
many happy returns of the day. Upon my word and honour,' said Mr
Toots, warming as he became better acquainted with Walter's face and
figure, 'I'm very glad to see you!'
'Thank you, heartily,' said Walter. 'I couldn't desire a more
genuine and genial welcome.'
'Couldn't you, though?' said Mr Toots, still shaking his hand.
'It's very kind of you. I'm much obliged to you. How-de-do? I hope you
left everybody quite well over the - that is, upon the - I mean
wherever you came from last, you know.'
All these good wishes, and better intentions, Walter responded to
'Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'I should wish to be strictly
honourable; but I trust I may be allowed now, to allude to a certain
subject that - '
'Ay, ay, my lad,' returned the Captain. 'Freely, freely.'
'Then, Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'and Lieutenant Walters - are
you aware that the most dreadful circumstances have been happening at
Mr Dombey's house, and that Miss Dombey herself has left her father,
who, in my opinion,' said Mr Toots, with great excitement, 'is a
Brute, that it would be a flattery to call a - a marble monument, or a
bird of prey, - and that she is not to be found, and has gone no one
'May I ask how you heard this?' inquired Walter.
'Lieutenant Walters,' said Mr Toots, who had arrived at that
appellation by a process peculiar to himself; probably by jumbling up
his Christian name with the seafaring profession, and supposing some
relationship between him and the Captain, which would extend, as a
matter of course, to their titles; 'Lieutenant Walters, I can have no
objection to make a straightforward reply. The fact is, that feeling
extremely interested in everything that relates to Miss Dombey - not
for any selfish reason, Lieutenant Walters, for I am well aware that
the most able thing I could do for all parties would be to put an end
to my existence, which can only be regarded as an inconvenience - I
have been in the habit of bestowing a trifle now and then upon a
footman; a most respectable young man, of the name of Towlinson, who
has lived in the family some time; and Towlinson informed me,
yesterday evening, that this was the state of things. Since which,
Captain Gills - and Lieutenant Walters - I have been perfectly
frantic, and have been lying down on the sofa all night, the Ruin you
'Mr Toots,' said Walter, 'I am happy to be able to relieve your
mind. Pray calm yourself. Miss Dombey is safe and well.'
'Sir!' cried Mr Toots, starting from his chair and shaking hands
with him anew, 'the relief is so excessive, and unspeakable, that if
you were to tell me now that Miss Dombey was married even, I could
smile. Yes, Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, appealing to him, 'upon my
soul and body, I really think, whatever I might do to myself
immediately afterwards, that I could smile, I am so relieved.'
'It will be a greater relief and delight still, to such a generous
mind as yours,' said Walter, not at all slow in returning his
greeting, 'to find that you can render service to Miss Dombey. Captain
Cuttle, will you have the kindness to take Mr Toots upstairs?'
The Captain beckoned to Mr Toots, who followed him with a
bewildered countenance, and, ascending to the top of the house, was
introduced, without a word of preparation from his conductor, into
Florence's new retreat.
Poor Mr Toots's amazement and pleasure at sight of her were such,
that they could find a vent in nothing but extravagance. He ran up to
her, seized her hand, kissed it, dropped it, seized it again, fell
upon one knee, shed tears, chuckled, and was quite regardless of his
danger of being pinned by Diogenes, who, inspired by the belief that
there was something hostile to his mistress in these demonstrations,
worked round and round him, as if only undecided at what particular
point to go in for the assault, but quite resolved to do him a fearful
'Oh Di, you bad, forgetful dog! Dear Mr Toots, I am so rejoiced to
'Thankee,' said Mr Toots, 'I am pretty well, I'm much obliged to
you, Miss Dombey. I hope all the family are the same.'
Mr Toots said this without the least notion of what he was talking
about, and sat down on a chair, staring at Florence with the liveliest
contention of delight and despair going on in his face that any face
'Captain Gills and Lieutenant Walters have mentioned, Miss Dombey,'
gasped Mr Toots, 'that I can do you some service. If I could by any
means wash out the remembrance of that day at Brighton, when I
conducted myself - much more like a Parricide than a person of
independent property,' said Mr Toots, with severe self-accusation, 'I
should sink into the silent tomb with a gleam of joy.'
'Pray, Mr Toots,' said Florence, 'do not wish me to forget anything
in our acquaintance. I never can, believe me. You have been far too
kind and good to me always.'
'Miss Dombey,' returned Mr Toots, 'your consideration for my
feelings is a part of your angelic character. Thank you a thousand
times. It's of no consequence at all.'
'What we thought of asking you,' said Florence, 'is, whether you
remember where Susan, whom you were so kind as to accompany to the
coach-office when she left me, is to be found.'
'Why I do not certainly, Miss Dombey,' said Mr Toots, after a
little consideration, 'remember the exact name of the place that was
on the coach; and I do recollect that she said she was not going to
stop there, but was going farther on. But, Miss Dombey, if your object
is to find her, and to have her here, myself and the Chicken will
produce her with every dispatch that devotion on my part, and great
intelligence on the Chicken's, can ensure.
Mr Toots was so manifestly delighted and revived by the prospect of
being useful, and the disinterested sincerity of his devotion was so
unquestionable, that it would have been cruel to refuse him. Florence,
with an instinctive delicacy, forbore to urge the least obstacle,
though she did not forbear to overpower him with thanks; and Mr Toots
proudly took the commission upon himself for immediate execution.
'Miss Dombey,' said Mr Toots, touching her proffered hand, with a
pang of hopeless love visibly shooting through him, and flashing out
in his face, 'Good-bye! Allow me to take the liberty of saying, that
your misfortunes make me perfectly wretched, and that you may trust
me, next to Captain Gills himself. I am quite aware, Miss Dombey, of
my own deficiencies - they're not of the least consequence, thank you
- but I am entirely to be relied upon, I do assure you, Miss Dombey.'
With that Mr Toots came out of the room, again accompanied by the
Captain, who, standing at a little distance, holding his hat under his
arm and arranging his scattered locks with his hook, had been a not
uninterested witness of what passed. And when the door closed behind
them, the light of Mr Toots's life was darkly clouded again.
'Captain Gills,' said that gentleman, stopping near the bottom of
the stairs, and turning round, 'to tell you the truth, I am not in a
frame of mind at the present moment, in which I could see Lieutenant
Walters with that entirely friendly feeling towards him that I should
wish to harbour in my breast. We cannot always command our feelings,
Captain Gills, and I should take it as a particular favour if you'd
let me out at the private door.'
'Brother,' returned the Captain, 'you shall shape your own course.
Wotever course you take, is plain and seamanlike, I'm wery sure.
'Captain Gills,' said Mr Toots, 'you're extremely kind. Your good
opinion is a consolation to me. There is one thing,' said Mr Toots,
standing in the passage, behind the half-opened door, 'that I hope
you'll bear in mind, Captain Gills, and that I should wish Lieutenant
Walters to be made acquainted with. I have quite come into my property
now, you know, and - and I don't know what to do with it. If I could
be at all useful in a pecuniary point of view, I should glide into the
silent tomb with ease and smoothness.'
Mr Toots said no more, but slipped out quietly and shut the door
upon himself, to cut the Captain off from any reply.
Florence thought of this good creature, long after he had left her,
with mingled emotions of pain and pleasure. He was so honest and
warm-hearted, that to see him again and be assured of his truth to her
in her distress, was a joy and comfort beyond all price; but for that
very reason, it was so affecting to think that she caused him a
moment's unhappiness, or ruffled, by a breath, the harmless current of
his life, that her eyes filled with tears, and her bosom overflowed
with pity. Captain Cuttle, in his different way, thought much of Mr
Toots too; and so did Walter; and when the evening came, and they were
all sitting together in Florence's new room, Walter praised him in a
most impassioned manner, and told Florence what he had said on leaving
the house, with every graceful setting-off in the way of comment and
appreciation that his own honesty and sympathy could surround it with.
Mr Toots did not return upon the next day, or the next, or for
several days; and in the meanwhile Florence, without any new alarm,
lived like a quiet bird in a cage, at the top of the old
Instrument-maker's house. But Florence drooped and hung her head more
and more plainly, as the days went on; and the expression that had
been seen in the face of the dead child, was often turned to the sky
from her high window, as if it sought his angel out, on the bright
shore of which he had spoken: lying on his little bed.
Florence had been weak and delicate of late, and the agitation she
had undergone was not without its influences on her health. But it was
no bodily illness that affected her now. She was distressed in mind;
and the cause of her distress was Walter.
Interested in her, anxious for her, proud and glad to serve her,
and showing all this with the enthusiasm and ardour of his character,
Florence saw that he avoided her. All the long day through, he seldom
approached her room. If she asked for him, he came, again for the
moment as earnest and as bright as she remembered him when she was a
lost child in the staring streets; but he soon became constrained -
her quick affection was too watchful not to know it - and uneasy, and
soon left her. Unsought, he never came, all day, between the morning
and the night. When the evening closed in, he was always there, and
that was her happiest time, for then she half believed that the old
Walter of her childhood was not changed. But, even then, some trivial
word, look, or circumstance would show her that there was an
indefinable division between them which could not be passed.
And she could not but see that these revealings of a great
alteration in Walter manifested themselves in despite of his utmost
efforts to hide them. In his consideration for her, she thought, and
in the earnestness of his desire to spare her any wound from his kind
hand, he resorted to innumerable little artifices and disguises. So
much the more did Florence feel the greatness of the alteration in
him; so much the oftener did she weep at this estrangement of her
The good Captain - her untiring, tender, ever zealous friend - saw
it, too, Florence thought, and it pained him. He was less cheerful and
hopeful than he had been at first, and would steal looks at her and
Walter, by turns, when they were all three together of an evening,
with quite a sad face.
Florence resolved, at last, to speak to Walter. She believed she
knew now what the cause of his estrangement was, and she thought it
would be a relief to her full heart, and would set him more at ease,
if she told him she had found it out, and quite submitted to it, and
did not reproach him.
It was on a certain Sunday afternoon, that Florence took this
resolution. The faithful Captain, in an amazing shirt-collar, was
sitting by her, reading with his spectacles on, and she asked him
where Walter was.
'I think he's down below, my lady lass,' returned the Captain.
'I should like to speak to him,' said Florence, rising hurriedly as
if to go downstairs.
'I'll rouse him up here, Beauty,' said the Captain, 'in a trice.'
Thereupon the Captain, with much alacrity, shouldered his book -
for he made it a point of duty to read none but very large books on a
Sunday, as having a more staid appearance: and had bargained, years
ago, for a prodigious volume at a book-stall, five lines of which
utterly confounded him at any time, insomuch that he had not yet
ascertained of what subject it treated - and withdrew. Walter soon
'Captain Cuttle tells me, Miss Dombey,' he eagerly began on coming
in - but stopped when he saw her face.
'You are not so well to-day. You look distressed. You have been
He spoke so kindly, and with such a fervent tremor in his voice,
that the tears gushed into her eyes at the sound of his words.
'Walter,' said Florence, gently, 'I am not quite well, and I have
been weeping. I want to speak to you.'
He sat down opposite to her, looking at her beautiful and innocent
face; and his own turned pale, and his lips trembled.
'You said, upon the night when I knew that you were saved - and oh!
dear Walter, what I felt that night, and what I hoped!' - '
He put his trembling hand upon the table between them, and sat
looking at her.
- 'that I was changed. I was surprised to hear you say so, but I
understand, now, that I am. Don't be angry with me, Walter. I was too
much overjoyed to think of it, then.'
She seemed a child to him again. It was the ingenuous, confiding,
loving child he saw and heard. Not the dear woman, at whose feet he
would have laid the riches of the earth.
'You remember the last time I saw you, Walter, before you went
He put his hand into his breast, and took out a little purse.
'I have always worn it round my neck! If I had gone down in the
deep, it would have been with me at the bottom of the sea.'
'And you will wear it still, Walter, for my old sake?'
'Until I die!'
She laid her hand on his, as fearlessly and simply, as if not a day
had intervened since she gave him the little token of remembrance.
'I am glad of that. I shall be always glad to think so, Walter. Do
you recollect that a thought of this change seemed to come into our
minds at the same time that evening, when we were talking together?'
'No!' he answered, in a wondering tone.
'Yes, Walter. I had been the means of injuring your hopes and
prospects even then. I feared to think so, then, but I know it now. If
you were able, then, in your generosity, to hide from me that you knew
it too, you cannot do so now, although you try as generously as
before. You do. I thank you for it, Walter, deeply, truly; but you
cannot succeed. You have suffered too much in your own hardships, and
in those of your dearest relation, quite to overlook the innocent
cause of all the peril and affliction that has befallen you. You
cannot quite forget me in that character, and we can be brother and
sister no longer. But, dear Walter, do not think that I complain of
you in this. I might have known it - ought to have known it - but
forgot it in my joy. All I hope is that you may think of me less
irksomely when this feeling is no more a secret one; and all I ask is,
Walter, in the name of the poor child who was your sister once, that
you will not struggle with yourself, and pain yourself, for my sake,
now that I know all!'
Walter had looked upon her while she said this, with a face so full
of wonder and amazement, that it had room for nothing else. Now he
caught up the hand that touched his, so entreatingly, and held it
between his own.
'Oh, Miss Dombey,' he said, 'is it possible that while I have been
suffering so much, in striving with my sense of what is due to you,
and must be rendered to you, I have made you suffer what your words
disclose to me? Never, never, before Heaven, have I thought of you but
as the single, bright, pure, blessed recollection of my boyhood and my
youth. Never have I from the first, and never shall I to the last,
regard your part in my life, but as something sacred, never to be
lightly thought of, never to be esteemed enough, never, until death,
to be forgotten. Again to see you look, and hear you speak, as you did
on that night when we parted, is happiness to me that there are no
words to utter; and to be loved and trusted as your brother, is the
next gift I could receive and prize!'
'Walter,' said Florence, looking at him earnestly, but with a
changing face, 'what is that which is due to me, and must be rendered
to me, at the sacrifice of all this?'
'Respect,' said Walter, in a low tone. 'Reverence.
The colour dawned in her face, and she timidly and thoughtfully
withdrew her hand; still looking at him with unabated earnestness.
'I have not a brother's right,' said Walter. 'I have not a
brother's claim. I left a child. I find a woman.'
The colour overspread her face. She made a gesture as if of
entreaty that he would say no more, and her face dropped upon her
They were both silent for a time; she weeping.
'I owe it to a heart so trusting, pure, and good,' said Walter,
'even to tear myself from it, though I rend my own. How dare I say it
is my sister's!'
She was weeping still.
'If you had been happy; surrounded as you should be by loving and
admiring friends, and by all that makes the station you were born to
enviable,' said Walter; 'and if you had called me brother, then, in
your affectionate remembrance of the past, I could have answered to
the name from my distant place, with no inward assurance that I
wronged your spotless truth by doing so. But here - and now!'
'Oh thank you, thank you, Walter! Forgive my having wronged you so
much. I had no one to advise me. I am quite alone.'
'Florence!' said Walter, passionately. 'I am hurried on to say,
what I thought, but a few moments ago, nothing could have forced from
my lips. If I had been prosperous; if I had any means or hope of being
one day able to restore you to a station near your own; I would have
told you that there was one name you might bestow upon - me - a right
above all others, to protect and cherish you - that I was worthy of in
nothing but the love and honour that I bore you, and in my whole heart
being yours. I would have told you that it was the only claim that you
could give me to defend and guard you, which I dare accept and dare
assert; but that if I had that right, I would regard it as a trust so
precious and so priceless, that the undivided truth and fervour of my
life would poorly acknowledge its worth.'
The head was still bent down, the tears still falling, and the
bosom swelling with its sobs.
'Dear Florence! Dearest Florence! whom I called so in my thoughts
before I could consider how presumptuous and wild it was. One last
time let me call you by your own dear name, and touch this gentle hand
in token of your sisterly forgetfulness of what I have said.'
She raised her head, and spoke to him with such a solemn sweetness
in her eyes; with such a calm, bright, placid smile shining on him
through her tears; with such a low, soft tremble in her frame and
voice; that the innermost chords of his heart were touched, and his
sight was dim as he listened.
'No, Walter, I cannot forget it. I would not forget it, for the
world. Are you - are you very poor?'
'I am but a wanderer,' said Walter, 'making voyages to live, across
the sea. That is my calling now.
'Are you soon going away again, Walter?'
She sat looking at him for a moment; then timidly put her trembling
hand in his.
'If you will take me for your wife, Walter, I will love you dearly.
If you will let me go with you, Walter, I will go to the world's end
without fear. I can give up nothing for you - I have nothing to
resign, and no one to forsake; but all my love and life shall be
devoted to you, and with my last breath I will breathe your name to
God if I have sense and memory left.'
He caught her to his heart, and laid her cheek against his own, and
now, no more repulsed, no more forlorn, she wept indeed, upon the
breast of her dear lover.
Blessed Sunday Bells, ringing so tranquilly in their entranced and
happy ears! Blessed Sunday peace and quiet, harmonising with the
calmness in their souls, and making holy air around them! Blessed
twilight stealing on, and shading her so soothingly and gravely, as
she falls asleep, like a hushed child, upon the bosom she has clung
Oh load of love and trustfulness that lies to lightly there! Ay,
look down on the closed eyes, Walter, with a proudly tender gaze; for
in all the wide wide world they seek but thee now - only thee!
The Captain remained in the little parlour until it was quite dark.
He took the chair on which Walter had been sitting, and looked up at
the skylight, until the day, by little and little, faded away, and the
stars peeped down. He lighted a candle, lighted a pipe, smoked it out,
and wondered what on earth was going on upstairs, and why they didn't
call him to tea.
Florence came to his side while he was in the height of his
'Ay! lady lass!' cried the Captain. 'Why, you and Wal'r have had a
long spell o' talk, my beauty.'
Florence put her little hand round one of the great buttons of his
coat, and said, looking down into his face:
'Dear Captain, I want to tell you something, if you please.
The Captain raised his head pretty smartly, to hear what it was.
Catching by this means a more distinct view of Florence, he pushed
back his chair, and himself with it, as far as they could go.
'What! Heart's Delight!' cried the Captain, suddenly elated, 'Is it
'Yes!' said Florence, eagerly.
'Wal'r! Husband! THAT?' roared the Captain, tossing up his glazed
hat into the skylight.
'Yes!' cried Florence, laughing and crying together.
The Captain immediately hugged her; and then, picking up the glazed
hat and putting it on, drew her arm through his, and conducted her
upstairs again; where he felt that the great joke of his life was now
to be made.
'What, Wal'r my lad!' said the Captain, looking in at the door,
with his face like an amiable warming-pan. 'So there ain't NO other
character, ain't there?'
He had like to have suffocated himself with this pleasantry, which
he repeated at least forty times during tea; polishing his radiant
face with the sleeve of his coat, and dabbing his head all over with
his pocket-handkerchief, in the intervals. But he was not without a
graver source of enjoyment to fall back upon, when so disposed, for he
was repeatedly heard to say in an undertone, as he looked with
ineffable delight at Walter and Florence:
'Ed'ard Cuttle, my lad, you never shaped a better course in your
life, than when you made that there little property over, jintly!'
Mr Dombey and the World
What is the proud man doing, while the days go by? Does he ever
think of his daughter, or wonder where she is gone? Does he suppose
she has come home, and is leading her old life in the weary house? No
one can answer for him. He has never uttered her name, since. His
household dread him too much to approach a subject on which he is
resolutely dumb; and the only person who dares question him, he
'My dear Paul!' murmurs his sister, sidling into the room, on the
day of Florence's departure, 'your wife! that upstart woman! Is it
possible that what I hear confusedly, is true, and that this is her
return for your unparalleled devotion to her; extending, I am sure,
even to the sacrifice of your own relations, to her caprices and
haughtiness? My poor brother!'
With this speech feelingly reminiscent of her not having been asked
to dinner on the day of the first party, Mrs Chick makes great use of
her pocket-handkerchief, and falls on Mr Dombey's neck. But Mr Dombey
frigidly lifts her off, and hands her to a chair.
'I thank you, Louisa,' he says, 'for this mark of your affection;
but desire that our conversation may refer to any other subject. When
I bewail my fate, Louisa, or express myself as being in want of
consolation, you can offer it, if you will have the goodness.'
'My dear Paul,' rejoins his sister, with her handkerchief to her
face, and shaking her head, 'I know your great spirit, and will say no
more upon a theme so painful and revolting;' on the heads of which two
adjectives, Mrs Chick visits scathing indignation; 'but pray let me
ask you - though I dread to hear something that will shock and
distress me - that unfortunate child Florence -
'Louisa!' says her brother, sternly, 'silence! Not another word of
Mrs Chick can only shake her head, and use her handkerchief, and
moan over degenerate Dombeys, who are no Dombeys. But whether Florence
has been inculpated in the flight of Edith, or has followed her, or
has done too much, or too little, or anything, or nothing, she has not
the least idea.
He goes on, without deviation, keeping his thoughts and feelings
close within his own breast, and imparting them to no one. He makes no
search for his daughter. He may think that she is with his sister, or
that she is under his own roof. He may think of her constantly, or he
may never think about her. It is all one for any sign he makes.
But this is sure; he does not think that he has lost her. He has no
suspicion of the truth. He has lived too long shut up in his towering
supremacy, seeing her, a patient gentle creature, in the path below
it, to have any fear of that. Shaken as he is by his disgrace, he is
not yet humbled to the level earth. The root is broad and deep, and in
the course of years its fibres have spread out and gathered
nourishment from everything around it. The tree is struck, but not
Though he hide the world within him from the world without - which
he believes has but one purpose for the time, and that, to watch him
eagerly wherever he goes - he cannot hide those rebel traces of it,
which escape in hollow eyes and cheeks, a haggard forehead, and a
moody, brooding air. Impenetrable as before, he is still an altered
man; and, proud as ever, he is humbled, or those marks would not be
The world. What the world thinks of him, how it looks at him, what
it sees in him, and what it says - this is the haunting demon of his
mind. It is everywhere where he is; and, worse than that, it is
everywhere where he is not. It comes out with him among his servants,
and yet he leaves it whispering behind; he sees it pointing after him
in the street; it is waiting for him in his counting-house; it leers
over the shoulders of rich men among the merchants; it goes beckoning
and babbling among the crowd; it always anticipates him, in every
place; and is always busiest, he knows, when he has gone away. When he
is shut up in his room at night, it is in his house, outside it,
audible in footsteps on the pavement, visible in print upon the table,
steaming to and fro on railroads and in ships; restless and busy
everywhere, with nothing else but him.
It is not a phantom of his imagination. It is as active in other
people's minds as in his. Witness Cousin Feenix, who comes from
Baden-Baden, purposely to talk to him. Witness Major Bagstock, who
accompanies Cousin Feenix on that friendly mission.
Mr Dombey receives them with his usual dignity, and stands erect,
in his old attitude, before the fire. He feels that the world is
looking at him out of their eyes. That it is in the stare of the
pictures. That Mr Pitt, upon the bookcase, represents it. That there
are eyes in its own map, hanging on the wall.
'An unusually cold spring,' says Mr Dombey - to deceive the world.
'Damme, Sir,' says the Major, in the warmth of friendship, 'Joseph
Bagstock is a bad hand at a counterfeit. If you want to hold your
friends off, Dombey, and to give them the cold shoulder, J. B. is not
the man for your purpose. Joe is rough and tough, Sir; blunt, Sir,
blunt, is Joe. His Royal Highness the late Duke of York did me the
honour to say, deservedly or undeservedly - never mind that - "If
there is a man in the service on whom I can depend for coming to the
point, that man is Joe - Joe Bagstock."'
Mr Dombey intimates his acquiescence.
'Now, Dombey,' says the Major, 'I am a man of the world. Our friend
Feenix - if I may presume to - '
'Honoured, I am sure,' says Cousin Feenix.
' - is,' proceeds the Major, with a wag of his head, 'also a man of
the world. Dombey, you are a man of the world. Now, when three men of
the world meet together, and are friends - as I believe - ' again
appealing to Cousin Feenix.
'I am sure,' says Cousin Feenix, 'most friendly.'
' - and are friends,' resumes the Major, 'Old Joe's opinion is (I
may be wrong), that the opinion of the world on any particular
subject, is very easily got at.
'Undoubtedly,' says Cousin Feenix. 'In point of fact, it's quite a
self-evident sort of thing. I am extremely anxious, Major, that my
friend Dombey should hear me express my very great astonishment and
regret, that my lovely and accomplished relative, who was possessed of
every qualification to make a man happy, should have so far forgotten
what was due to - in point of fact, to the world - as to commit
herself in such a very extraordinary manner. I have been in a devilish
state of depression ever since; and said indeed to Long Saxby last
night - man of six foot ten, with whom my friend Dombey is probably
acquainted - that it had upset me in a confounded way, and made me
bilious. It induces a man to reflect, this kind of fatal catastrophe,'
says Cousin Feenix, 'that events do occur in quite a providential
manner; for if my Aunt had been living at the time, I think the effect
upon a devilish lively woman like herself, would have been
prostration, and that she would have fallen, in point of fact, a
'Now, Dombey! - ' says the Major, resuming his discourse with great
'I beg your pardon,' interposes Cousin Feenix. 'Allow me another
word. My friend Dombey will permit me to say, that if any circumstance
could have added to the most infernal state of pain in which I find
myself on this occasion, it would be the natural amazement of the
world at my lovely and accomplished relative (as I must still beg
leave to call her) being supposed to have so committed herself with a
person - man with white teeth, in point of fact - of very inferior
station to her husband. But while I must, rather peremptorily, request
my friend Dombey not to criminate my lovely and accomplished relative
until her criminality is perfectly established, I beg to assure my
friend Dombey that the family I represent, and which is now almost
extinct (devilish sad reflection for a man), will interpose no
obstacle in his way, and will be happy to assent to any honourable
course of proceeding, with a view to the future, that he may point
out. I trust my friend Dombey will give me credit for the intentions
by which I am animated in this very melancholy affair, and - a - in
point of fact, I am not aware that I need trouble my friend Dombey
with any further observations.'
Mr Dombey bows, without raising his eyes, and is silent.
'Now, Dombey,' says the Major, 'our friend Feenix having, with an
amount of eloquence that Old Joe B. has never heard surpassed - no, by
the Lord, Sir! never!' - says the Major, very blue, indeed, and
grasping his cane in the middle - 'stated the case as regards the
lady, I shall presume upon our friendship, Dombey, to offer a word on
another aspect of it. Sir,' says the Major, with the horse's cough,
'the world in these things has opinions, which must be satisfied.'
'I know it,' rejoins Mr Dombey.
'Of course you know it, Dombey,' says the Major, 'Damme, Sir, I
know you know it. A man of your calibre is not likely to be ignorant
'I hope not,' replies Mr Dombey.
'Dombey!' says the Major, 'you will guess the rest. I speak out -
prematurely, perhaps - because the Bagstock breed have always spoke
out. Little, Sir, have they ever got by doing it; but it's in the
Bagstock blood. A shot is to be taken at this man. You have J. B. at
your elbow. He claims the name of friend. God bless you!'
'Major,' returns Mr Dombey, 'I am obliged. I shall put myself in
your hands when the time comes. The time not being come, I have
forborne to speak to you.'
'Where is the fellow, Dombey?' inquires the Major, after gasping
and looking at him, for a minute.
'I don't know.'
'Any intelligence of him?' asks the Major.
'Dombey, I am rejoiced to hear it,' says the Major. 'I congratulate
'You will excuse - even you, Major,' replies Mr Dombey, 'my
entering into any further detail at present. The intelligence is of a
singular kind, and singularly obtained. It may turn out to be
valueless; it may turn out to be true; I cannot say at present. My
explanation must stop here.'
Although this is but a dry reply to the Major's purple enthusiasm,
the Major receives it graciously, and is delighted to think that the
world has such a fair prospect of soon receiving its due. Cousin
Feenix is then presented with his meed of acknowledgment by the
husband of his lovely and accomplished relative, and Cousin Feenix and
Major Bagstock retire, leaving that husband to the world again, and to
ponder at leisure on their representation of its state of mind
concerning his affairs, and on its just and reasonable expectations.
But who sits in the housekeeper's room, shedding tears, and talking
to Mrs Pipchin in a low tone, with uplifted hands? It is a lady with
her face concealed in a very close black bonnet, which appears not to
belong to her. It is Miss Tox, who has borrowed this disguise from her
servant, and comes from Princess's Place, thus secretly, to revive her
old acquaintance with Mrs Pipchin, in order to get certain information
of the state of Mr Dombey.
'How does he bear it, my dear creature?' asks Miss Tox.
'Well,' says Mrs Pipchin, in her snappish way, 'he's pretty much as
'Externally,' suggests Miss Tox 'But what he feels within!'
Mrs Pipchin's hard grey eye looks doubtful as she answers, in three
distinct jerks, 'Ah! Perhaps. I suppose so.'
'To tell you my mind, Lucretia,' says Mrs Pipchin; she still calls
Miss Tox Lucretia, on account of having made her first experiments in
the child-quelling line of business on that lady, when an unfortunate
and weazen little girl of tender years; 'to tell you my mind,
Lucretia, I think it's a good riddance. I don't want any of your
brazen faces here, myself!'
'Brazen indeed! Well may you say brazen, Mrs Pipchin!' returned
Miss Tox. 'To leave him! Such a noble figure of a man!' And here Miss
Tox is overcome.
'I don't know about noble, I'm sure,' observes Mrs Pipchin;
irascibly rubbing her nose. 'But I know this - that when people meet
with trials, they must bear 'em. Hoity, toity! I have had enough to
bear myself, in my time! What a fuss there is! She's gone, and well
got rid of. Nobody wants her back, I should think!' This hint of the
Peruvian Mines, causes Miss Tox to rise to go away; when Mrs Pipchin
rings the bell for Towlinson to show her out, Mr Towlinson, not having
seen Miss Tox for ages, grins, and hopes she's well; observing that he
didn't know her at first, in that bonnet.
'Pretty well, Towlinson, I thank you,' says Miss Tox. 'I beg you'll
have the goodness, when you happen to see me here, not to mention it.
My visits are merely to Mrs Pipchin.'
'Very good, Miss,' says Towlinson.
'Shocking circumstances occur, Towlinson,' says Miss Tox.
'Very much so indeed, Miss,' rejoins Towlinson.
'I hope, Towlinson,' says Miss Tox, who, in her instruction of the
Toodle family, has acquired an admonitorial tone, and a habit of
improving passing occasions, 'that what has happened here, will be a
warning to you, Towlinson.'
'Thank you, Miss, I'm sure,' says Towlinson.
He appears to be falling into a consideration of the manner in
which this warning ought to operate in his particular case, when the
vinegary Mrs Pipchin, suddenly stirring him up with a 'What are you
doing? Why don't you show the lady to the door?' he ushers Miss Tox
forth. As she passes Mr Dombey's room, she shrinks into the inmost
depths of the black bonnet, and walks, on tip-toe; and there is not
another atom in the world which haunts him so, that feels such sorrow
and solicitude about him, as Miss Tox takes out under the black bonnet
into the street, and tries to carry home shadowed it from the
But Miss Tox is not a part of Mr Dombey's world. She comes back
every evening at dusk; adding clogs and an umbrella to the bonnet on
wet nights; and bears the grins of Towlinson, and the huffs and
rebuffs of Mrs Pipchin, and all to ask how he does, and how he bears
his misfortune: but she has nothing to do with Mr Dombey's world.
Exacting and harassing as ever, it goes on without her; and she, a by
no means bright or particular star, moves in her little orbit in the
corner of another system, and knows it quite well, and comes, and
cries, and goes away, and is satisfied. Verily Miss Tox is easier of
satisfaction than the world that troubles Mr Dombey so much!
At the Counting House, the clerks discuss the great disaster in all
its lights and shades, but chiefly wonder who will get Mr Carker's
place. They are generally of opinion that it will be shorn of some of
its emoluments, and made uncomfortable by newly-devised checks and
restrictions; and those who are beyond all hope of it are quite sure
they would rather not have it, and don't at all envy the person for
whom it may prove to be reserved. Nothing like the prevailing
sensation has existed in the Counting House since Mr Dombey's little
son died; but all such excitements there take a social, not to say a
jovial turn, and lead to the cultivation of good fellowship. A
reconciliation is established on this propitious occasion between the
acknowledged wit of the Counting House and an aspiring rival, with
whom he has been at deadly feud for months; and a little dinner being
proposed, in commemoration of their happily restored amity, takes
place at a neighbouring tavern; the wit in the chair; the rival acting
as Vice-President. The orations following the removal of the cloth are
opened by the Chair, who says, Gentlemen, he can't disguise from
himself that this is not a time for private dissensions. Recent
occurrences to which he need not more particularly allude, but which
have not been altogether without notice in some Sunday Papers,' and in
a daily paper which he need not name (here every other member of the
company names it in an audible murmur), have caused him to reflect;
and he feels that for him and Robinson to have any personal
differences at such a moment, would be for ever to deny that good
feeling in the general cause, for which he has reason to think and
hope that the gentlemen in Dombey's House have always been
distinguished. Robinson replies to this like a man and a brother; and
one gentleman who has been in the office three years, under continual
notice to quit on account of lapses in his arithmetic, appears in a
perfectly new light, suddenly bursting out with a thrilling speech, in
which he says, May their respected chief never again know the
desolation which has fallen on his hearth! and says a great variety of
things, beginning with 'May he never again,' which are received with
thunders of applause. In short, a most delightful evening is passed,
only interrupted by a difference between two juniors, who, quarrelling
about the probable amount of Mr Carker's late receipts per annum, defy
each other with decanters, and are taken out greatly excited. Soda
water is in general request at the office next day, and most of the
party deem the bill an imposition.
As to Perch, the messenger, he is in a fair way of being ruined for
life. He finds himself again constantly in bars of public-houses,
being treated and lying dreadfully. It appears that he met everybody
concerned in the late transaction, everywhere, and said to them,
'Sir,' or 'Madam,' as the case was, 'why do you look so pale?' at
which each shuddered from head to foot, and said, 'Oh, Perch!' and ran
away. Either the consciousness of these enormities, or the reaction
consequent on liquor, reduces Mr Perch to an extreme state of low
spirits at that hour of the evening when he usually seeks consolation
in the society of Mrs Perch at Balls Pond; and Mrs Perch frets a good
deal, for she fears his confidence in woman is shaken now, and that he
half expects on coming home at night to find her gone off with some
Viscount - 'which,' as she observes to an intimate female friend, 'is
what these wretches in the form of woman have to answer for, Mrs P. It
ain't the harm they do themselves so much as what they reflect upon
us, Ma'am; and I see it in Perch's eye.
Mr Dombey's servants are becoming, at the same time, quite
dissipated, and unfit for other service. They have hot suppers every
night, and 'talk it over' with smoking drinks upon the board. Mr
Towlinson is always maudlin after half-past ten, and frequently begs
to know whether he didn't say that no good would ever come of living
in a corner house? They whisper about Miss Florence, and wonder where
she is; but agree that if Mr Dombey don't know, Mrs Dombey does. This
brings them to the latter, of whom Cook says, She had a stately way
though, hadn't she? But she was too high! They all agree that she was
too high, and Mr Towlinson's old flame, the housemaid (who is very
virtuous), entreats that you will never talk to her any more about
people who hold their heads up, as if the ground wasn't good enough
Everything that is said and done about it, except by Mr Dombey, is
done in chorus. Mr Dombey and the world are alone together.
Good Mrs Brown and her daughter Alice kept silent company together,
in their own dwelling. It was early in the evening, and late in the
spring. But a few days had elapsed since Mr Dombey had told Major
Bagstock of his singular intelligence, singularly obtained, which
might turn out to be valueless, and might turn out to be true; and the
world was not satisfied yet.
The mother and daughter sat for a long time without interchanging a
word: almost without motion. The old woman's face was shrewdly anxious
and expectant; that of her daughter was expectant too, but in a less
sharp degree, and sometimes it darkened, as if with gathering
disappointment and incredulity. The old woman, without heeding these
changes in its expression, though her eyes were often turned towards
it, sat mumbling and munching, and listening confidently.
Their abode, though poor and miserable, was not so utterly wretched
as in the days when only Good Mrs Brown inhabited it. Some few
attempts at cleanliness and order were manifest, though made in a
reckless, gipsy way, that might have connected them, at a glance, with
the younger woman. The shades of evening thickened and deepened as the
two kept silence, until the blackened walls were nearly lost in the
Then Alice broke the silence which had lasted so long, and said:
'You may give him up, mother. He'll not come here.'
'Death give him up!' returned the old woman, impatiently. 'He will
'We shall see,' said Alice.
'We shall see him,' returned her mother.
'And doomsday,' said the daughter.
'You think I'm in my second childhood, I know!' croaked the old
woman. 'That's the respect and duty that I get from my own gal, but
I'm wiser than you take me for. He'll come. T'other day when I touched
his coat in the street, he looked round as if I was a toad. But Lord,
to see him when I said their names, and asked him if he'd like to find
out where they was!'
'Was it so angry?' asked her daughter, roused to interest in a
'Angry? ask if it was bloody. That's more like the word. Angry? Ha,
ha! To call that only angry!' said the old woman, hobbling to the
cupboard, and lighting a candle, which displayed the workings of her
mouth to ugly advantage, as she brought it to the table. 'I might as
well call your face only angry, when you think or talk about 'em.'
It was something different from that, truly, as she sat as still as
a crouched tigress, with her kindling eyes.
'Hark!' said the old woman, triumphantly. 'I hear a step coming.
It's not the tread of anyone that lives about here, or comes this way
often. We don't walk like that. We should grow proud on such
neighbours! Do you hear him?'
'I believe you are right, mother,' replied Alice, in a low voice.
'Peace! open the door.'
As she drew herself within her shawl, and gathered it about her,
the old woman complied; and peering out, and beckoning, gave admission
to Mr Dombey, who stopped when he had set his foot within the door,
and looked distrustfully around.
'It's a poor place for a great gentleman like your worship,' said
the old woman, curtseying and chattering. 'I told you so, but there's
no harm in it.'
'Who is that?' asked Mr Dombey, looking at her companion.
'That's my handsome daughter,' said the old woman. 'Your worship
won't mind her. She knows all about it.'
A shadow fell upon his face not less expressive than if he had
groaned aloud, 'Who does not know all about it!' but he looked at her
steadily, and she, without any acknowledgment of his presence, looked
at him. The shadow on his face was darker when he turned his glance
away from her; and even then it wandered back again, furtively, as if
he were haunted by her bold eyes, and some remembrance they inspired.
'Woman,' said Mr Dombey to the old witch who was chucKling and
leering close at his elbow, and who, when he turned to address her,
pointed stealthily at her daughter, and rubbed her hands, and pointed
again, 'Woman! I believe that I am weak and forgetful of my station in
coming here, but you know why I come, and what you offered when you
stopped me in the street the other day. What is it that you have to
tell me concerning what I want to know; and how does it happen that I
can find voluntary intelligence in a hovel like this,' with a
disdainful glance about him, 'when I have exerted my power and means
to obtain it in vain? I do not think,' he said, after a moment's
pause, during which he had observed her, sternly, 'that you are so
audacious as to mean to trifle with me, or endeavour to impose upon
me. But if you have that purpose, you had better stop on the threshold
of your scheme. My humour is not a trifling one, and my acknowledgment
will be severe.'
'Oh a proud, hard gentleman!' chuckled the old woman, shaking her
head, and rubbing her shrivelled hands, 'oh hard, hard, hard! But your
worship shall see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears; not
with ours - and if your worship's put upon their track, you won't mind
paying something for it, will you, honourable deary?'
'Money,' returned Mr Dombey, apparently relieved, and assured by
this inquiry, 'will bring about unlikely things, I know. It may turn
even means as unexpected and unpromising as these, to account. Yes.
For any reliable information I receive, I will pay. But I must have
the information first, and judge for myself of its value.'
'Do you know nothing more powerful than money?' asked the younger
woman, without rising, or altering her attitude.
'Not here, I should imagine,' said Mr Dombey.
'You should know of something that is more powerful elsewhere, as I
judge,' she returned. 'Do you know nothing of a woman's anger?'
'You have a saucy tongue, Jade,' said Mr Dombey.
'Not usually,' she answered, without any show of emotion: 'I speak
to you now, that you may understand us better, and rely more on us. A
woman's anger is pretty much the same here, as in your fine house. I
am angry. I have been so, many years. I have as good cause for my
anger as you have for yours, and its object is the same man.'
He started, in spite of himself, and looked at her with
'Yes,' she said, with a kind of laugh. 'Wide as the distance may
seem between us, it is so. How it is so, is no matter; that is my
story, and I keep my story to myself. I would bring you and him
together, because I have a rage against him. My mother there, is
avaricious and poor; and she would sell any tidings she could glean,
or anything, or anybody, for money. It is fair enough, perhaps, that
you should pay her some, if she can help you to what you want to know.
But that is not my motive. I have told you what mine is, and it would
be as strong and all-sufficient with me if you haggled and bargained
with her for a sixpence. I have done. My saucy tongue says no more, if
you wait here till sunrise tomorrow.'
The old woman, who had shown great uneasiness during this speech,
which had a tendency to depreciate her expected gains, pulled Mr
Dombey softly by the sleeve, and whispered to him not to mind her. He
glared at them both, by turns, with a haggard look, and said, in a
deeper voice than was usual with him:
'Go on - what do you know?'
'Oh, not so fast, your worship! we must wait for someone,' answered
the old woman. 'It's to be got from someone else - wormed out -
screwed and twisted from him.'
'What do you mean?' said Mr Dombey.
'Patience,' she croaked, laying her hand, like a claw, upon his
arm. 'Patience. I'll get at it. I know I can! If he was to hold it
back from me,' said Good Mrs Brown, crooking her ten fingers, 'I'd
tear it out of him!'
Mr Dombey followed her with his eyes as she hobbled to the door,
and looked out again: and then his glance sought her daughter; but she
remained impassive, silent, and regardless of him.
'Do you tell me, woman,' he said, when the bent figure of Mrs Brown
came back, shaking its head and chattering to itself, 'that there is
another person expected here?'
'Yes!' said the old woman, looking up into his face, and nodding.
'From whom you are to exact the intelligence that is to be useful
'Yes,' said the old woman, nodding again.
'Chut!' said the old woman, with a shrill laugh. 'What signifies!
Well, well; no. No stranger to your worship. But he won't see you.
He'd be afraid of you, and wouldn't talk. You'll stand behind that
door, and judge him for yourself. We don't ask to be believed on trust
What! Your worship doubts the room behind the door? Oh the suspicion
of you rich gentlefolks! Look at it, then.'
Her sharp eye had detected an involuntary expression of this
feeling on his part, which was not unreasonable under the
circumstances. In satisfaction of it she now took the candle to the
door she spoke of. Mr Dombey looked in; assured himself that it was an
empty, crazy room; and signed to her to put the light back in its
'How long,' he asked, 'before this person comes?'
'Not long,' she answered. 'Would your worship sit down for a few
He made no answer; but began pacing the room with an irresolute
air, as if he were undecided whether to remain or depart, and as if he
had some quarrel with himself for being there at all. But soon his
tread grew slower and heavier, and his face more sternly thoughtful!;
as the object with which he had come, fixed itself in his mind, and
dilated there again.
While he thus walked up and down with his eyes on the ground, Mrs
Brown, in the chair from which she had risen to receive him, sat
listening anew. The monotony of his step, or the uncertainty of age,
made her so slow of hearing, that a footfall without had sounded in
her daughter's ears for some moments, and she had looked up hastily to
warn her mother of its approach, before the old woman was roused by
it. But then she started from her seat, and whispering 'Here he is!'
hurried her visitor to his place of observation, and put a bottle and
glass upon the table, with such alacrity, as to be ready to fling her
arms round the neck of Rob the Grinder on his appearance at the door.
'And here's my bonny boy,' cried Mrs Brown, 'at last! - oho, oho!
You're like my own son, Robby!'
'Oh! Misses Brown!' remonstrated the Grinder. 'Don't! Can't you be
fond of a cove without squeedging and throttling of him? Take care of
the birdcage in my hand, will you?'
'Thinks of a birdcage, afore me!' cried the old woman,
apostrophizing the ceiling. 'Me that feels more than a mother for
'Well, I'm sure I'm very much obliged to you, Misses Brown,' said
the unfortunate youth, greatly aggravated; 'but you're so jealous of a
cove. I'm very fond of you myself, and all that, of course; but I
don't smother you, do I, Misses Brown?'
He looked and spoke as if he wOuld have been far from objecting to
do so, however, on a favourable occasion.
'And to talk about birdcages, too!' whimpered the Grinder. 'As If
that was a crime! Why, look'ee here! Do you know who this belongs to?'
'To Master, dear?' said the old woman with a grin.
'Ah!' replied the Grinder, lifting a large cage tied up in a
wrapper, on the table, and untying it with his teeth and hands. 'It's
our parrot, this is.'
'Mr Carker's parrot, Rob?'
'Will you hold your tongue, Misses Brown?' returned the goaded
Grinder. 'What do you go naming names for? I'm blest,' said Rob,
pulling his hair with both hands in the exasperation of his feelings,
'if she ain't enough to make a cove run wild!'
'What! Do you snub me, thankless boy!' cried the old woman, with
'Good gracious, Misses Brown, no!' returned the Grinder, with tears
in his eyes. 'Was there ever such a - ! Don't I dote upon you, Misses
'Do you, sweet Rob? Do you truly, chickabiddy?' With that, Mrs
Brown held him in her fond embrace once more; and did not release him
until he had made several violent and ineffectual struggles with his
legs, and his hair was standing on end all over his head.
'Oh!' returned the Grinder, 'what a thing it is to be perfectly
pitched into with affection like this here. I wish she was - How have
you been, Misses Brown?'
'Ah! Not here since this night week!' said the old woman,
contemplating him with a look of reproach.
'Good gracious, Misses Brown,' returned the Grinder, 'I said
tonight's a week, that I'd come tonight, didn't I? And here I am. How
you do go on! I wish you'd be a little rational, Misses Brown. I'm
hoarse with saying things in my defence, and my very face is shiny
with being hugged!' He rubbed it hard with his sleeve, as if to remove
the tender polish in question.
'Drink a little drop to comfort you, my Robin,' said the old woman,
filling the glass from the bottle and giving it to him.
'Thank'ee, Misses Brown,' returned the Grinder. 'Here's your
health. And long may you - et ceterer.' Which, to judge from the
expression of his face, did not include any very choice blessings.
'And here's her health,' said the Grinder, glancing at Alice, who sat
with her eyes fixed, as it seemed to him, on the wall behind him, but
in reality on Mr Dombey's face at the door, 'and wishing her the same
and many of 'em!'
He drained the glass to these two sentiments, and set it down.
'Well, I say, Misses Brown!' he proceeded. 'To go on a little
rational now. You're a judge of birds, and up to their ways, as I know
to my cost.'
'Cost!' repeated Mrs Brown.
'Satisfaction, I mean,' returned the Grinder. 'How you do take up a
cove, Misses Brown! You've put it all out of my head again.'
'Judge of birds, Robby,' suggested the old woman.
'Ah!' said the Grinder. 'Well, I've got to take care of this parrot
- certain things being sold, and a certain establishment broke up -
and as I don't want no notice took at present, I wish you'd attend to
her for a week or so, and give her board and lodging, will you? If I
must come backwards and forwards,' mused the Grinder with a dejected
face, 'I may as well have something to come for.'
'Something to come for?' screamed the old woman.
'Besides you, I mean, Misses Brown,' returned the craven Rob. 'Not
that I want any inducement but yourself, Misses Brown, I'm sure. Don't
begin again, for goodness' sake.'
'He don't care for me! He don't care for me, as I care for him!'
cried Mrs Brown, lifting up her skinny hands. 'But I'll take care of
'Take good care of it too, you know, Mrs Brown,' said Rob, shaking
his head. 'If you was so much as to stroke its feathers once the wrong
way, I believe it would be found out.'
'Ah, so sharp as that, Rob?' said Mrs Brown, quickly.
'Sharp, Misses Brown!' repeated Rob. 'But this is not to be talked
Checking himself abruptly, and not without a fearful glance across
the room, Rob filled the glass again, and having slowly emptied it,
shook his head, and began to draw his fingers across and across the
wires of the parrot's cage by way of a diversion from the dangerous
theme that had just been broached.
The old woman eyed him slily, and hitching her chair nearer his,
and looking in at the parrot, who came down from the gilded dome at
her call, said:
'Out of place now, Robby?'
'Never you mind, Misses Brown,' returned the Grinder, shortly.
'Board wages, perhaps, Rob?' said Mrs Brown.
'Pretty Polly!' said the Grinder.
The old woman darted a glance at him that might have warned him to
consider his ears in danger, but it was his turn to look in at the
parrot now, and however expressive his imagination may have made her
angry scowl, it was unseen by his bodily eyes.
'I wonder Master didn't take you with him, Rob,' said the old
woman, in a wheedling voice, but with increased malignity of aspect.
Rob was so absorbed in contemplation of the parrot, and in trolling
his forefinger on the wires, that he made no answer.
The old woman had her clutch within a hair's breadth of his shock
of hair as it stooped over the table; but she restrained her fingers,
and said, in a voice that choked with its efforts to be coaxing:
'Robby, my child.'
'Well, Misses Brown,' returned the Grinder.
'I say I wonder Master didn't take you with him, dear.'
'Never you mind, Misses Brown,' returned the Grinder.
Mrs Brown instantly directed the clutch of her right hand at his
hair, and the clutch of her left hand at his throat, and held on to
the object of her fond affection with such extraordinary fury, that
his face began to blacken in a moment.
'Misses Brown!' exclaimed the Grinder, 'let go, will you? What are
you doing of? Help, young woman! Misses Brow- Brow- !'
The young woman, however, equally unmoved by his direct appeal to
her, and by his inarticulate utterance, remained quite neutral, until,
after struggling with his assailant into a corner, Rob disengaged
himself, and stood there panting and fenced in by his own elbows,
while the old woman, panting too, and stamping with rage and
eagerness, appeared to be collecting her energies for another swoop
upon him. At this crisis Alice interposed her voice, but not in the
Grinder's favour, by saying,
'Well done, mother. Tear him to pieces!'
'What, young woman!' blubbered Rob; 'are you against me too? What
have I been and done? What am I to be tore to pieces for, I should
like to know? Why do you take and choke a cove who has never done you
any harm, neither of you? Call yourselves females, too!' said the
frightened and afflicted Grinder, with his coat-cuff at his eye. 'I'm
surprised at you! Where's your feminine tenderness?'
'You thankless dog!' gasped Mrs Brown. 'You impudent insulting
'What have I been and done to go and give you offence, Misses
Brown?' retorted the fearful Rob. 'You was very much attached to me a
'To cut me off with his short answers and his sulky words,' said
the old woman. 'Me! Because I happen to be curious to have a little
bit of gossip about Master and the lady, to dare to play at fast and
loose with me! But I'll talk to you no more, my lad. Now go!'
'I'm sure, Misses Brown,' returned the abject Grinder, 'I never
Insiniwated that I wished to go. Don't talk like that, Misses Brown,
if you please.'
'I won't talk at all,' said Mrs Brown, with an action of her
crooked fingers that made him shrink into half his natural compass in
the corner. 'Not another word with him shall pass my lips. He's an
ungrateful hound. I cast him off. Now let him go! And I'll slip those
after him that shall talk too much; that won't be shook away; that'll
hang to him like leeches, and slink arter him like foxes. What! He
knows 'em. He knows his old games and his old ways. If he's forgotten
'em, they'll soon remind him. Now let him go, and see how he'll do
Master's business, and keep Master's secrets, with such company always
following him up and down. Ha, ha, ha! He'll find 'em a different sort
from you and me, Ally; Close as he is with you and me. Now let him go,
now let him go!'
The old woman, to the unspeakable dismay of the Grinder, walked her
twisted figure round and round, in a ring of some four feet in
diameter, constantly repeating these words, and shaking her fist above
her head, and working her mouth about.
'Misses Brown,' pleaded Rob, coming a little out of his corner,
'I'm sure you wouldn't injure a cove, on second thoughts, and in cold
blood, would you?'
'Don't talk to me,' said Mrs Brown, still wrathfully pursuing her
circle. 'Now let him go, now let him go!'
'Misses Brown,' urged the tormented Grinder, 'I didn't mean to -
Oh, what a thing it is for a cove to get into such a line as this! - I
was only careful of talking, Misses Brown, because I always am, on
account of his being up to everything; but I might have known it
wouldn't have gone any further. I'm sure I'm quite agreeable,' with a
wretched face, 'for any little bit of gossip, Misses Brown. Don't go
on like this, if you please. Oh, couldn't you have the goodness to put
in a word for a miserable cove, here?' said the Grinder, appealing in
desperation to the daughter.
'Come, mother, you hear what he says,' she interposed, in her stern
voice, and with an impatient action of her head; 'try him once more,
and if you fall out with him again, ruin him, if you like, and have
done with him.'
Mrs Brown, moved as it seemed by this very tender exhortation,
presently began to howl; and softening by degrees, took the apologetic
Grinder to her arms, who embraced her with a face of unutterable woe,
and like a victim as he was, resumed his former seat, close by the
side of his venerable friend, whom he suffered, not without much
constrained sweetness of countenance, combating very expressive
physiognomical revelations of an opposite character to draw his arm
through hers, and keep it there.
'And how's Master, deary dear?' said Mrs Brown, when, sitting in
this amicable posture, they had pledged each other.
'Hush! If you'd be so good, Misses Brown, as to speak a little
lower,' Rob implored. 'Why, he's pretty well, thank'ee, I suppose.'
'You're not out of place, Robby?' said Mrs Brown, in a wheedling
'Why, I'm not exactly out of place, nor in,' faltered Rob. 'I - I'm
still in pay, Misses Brown.'
'And nothing to do, Rob?'
'Nothing particular to do just now, Misses Brown, but to - keep my
eyes open, said the Grinder, rolling them in a forlorn way.
'Master abroad, Rob?'
'Oh, for goodness' sake, Misses Brown, couldn't you gossip with a
cove about anything else?' cried the Grinder, in a burst of despair.
The impetuous Mrs Brown rising directly, the tortured Grinder
detained her, stammering 'Ye-es, Misses Brown, I believe he's abroad.
What's she staring at?' he added, in allusion to the daughter, whose
eyes were fixed upon the face that now again looked out behind
'Don't mind her, lad,' said the old woman, holding him closer to
prevent his turning round. 'It's her way - her way. Tell me, Rob. Did
you ever see the lady, deary?'
'Oh, Misses Brown, what lady?' cried the Grinder in a tone of
'What lady?' she retorted. 'The lady; Mrs Dombey.'
'Yes, I believe I see her once,' replied Rob.
'The night she went away, Robby, eh?' said the old woman in his
ear, and taking note of every change in his face. 'Aha! I know it was
'Well, if you know it was that night, you know, Misses Brown,'
replied Rob, 'it's no use putting pinchers into a cove to make him say
'Where did they go that night, Rob? Straight away? How did they go?
Where did you see her? Did she laugh? Did she cry? Tell me all about
it,' cried the old hag, holding him closer yet, patting the hand that
was drawn through his arm against her other hand, and searching every
line in his face with her bleared eyes. 'Come! Begin! I want to be
told all about it. What, Rob, boy! You and me can keep a secret
together, eh? We've done so before now. Where did they go first, Rob?'
The wretched Grinder made a gasp, and a pause.
'Are you dumb?' said the old woman, angrily.
'Lord, Misses Brown, no! You expect a cove to be a flash of
lightning. I wish I was the electric fluency,' muttered the bewildered
Grinder. 'I'd have a shock at somebody, that would settle their
'What do you say?' asked the old woman, with a grin.
'I'm wishing my love to you, Misses Brown,' returned the false Rob,
seeking consolation in the glass. 'Where did they go to first was it?
Him and her, do you mean?'
'Ah!' said the old woman, eagerly. 'Them two.'
'Why, they didn't go nowhere - not together, I mean,' answered Rob.
The old woman looked at him, as though she had a strong impulse
upon her to make another clutch at his head and throat, but was
restrained by a certain dogged mystery in his face.
'That was the art of it,' said the reluctant Grinder; 'that's the
way nobody saw 'em go, or has been able to say how they did go. They
went different ways, I tell you Misses Brown.
'Ay, ay, ay! To meet at an appointed place,' chuckled the old
woman, after a moment's silent and keen scrutiny of his face.
'Why, if they weren't a going to meet somewhere, I suppose they
might as well have stayed at home, mightn't they, Brown?' returned the
'Well, Rob? Well?' said the old woman, drawing his arm yet tighter
through her own, as if, in her eagerness, she were afraid of his
'What, haven't we talked enough yet, Misses Brown?' returned the
Grinder, who, between his sense of injury, his sense of liquor, and
his sense of being on the rack, had become so lachrymose, that at
almost every answer he scooped his coats into one or other of his
eyes, and uttered an unavailing whine of remonstrance. 'Did she laugh
that night, was it? Didn't you ask if she laughed, Misses Brown?'
'Or cried?' added the old woman, nodding assent.
'Neither,' said the Grinder. 'She kept as steady when she and me -
oh, I see you will have it out of me, Misses Brown! But take your
solemn oath now, that you'll never tell anybody.'
This Mrs Brown very readily did: being naturally Jesuitical; and
having no other intention in the matter than that her concealed
visitor should hear for himself.
'She kept as steady, then, when she and me went down to
Southampton,' said the Grinder, 'as a image. In the morning she was
just the same, Misses Brown. And when she went away in the packet
before daylight, by herself - me pretending to be her servant, and
seeing her safe aboard - she was just the same. Now, are you
contented, Misses Brown?'
'No, Rob. Not yet,' answered Mrs Brown, decisively.
'Oh, here's a woman for you!' cried the unfortunate Rob, in an
outburst of feeble lamentation over his own helplessness.
'What did you wish to know next, Misses Brown?'
'What became of Master? Where did he go?' she inquired, still
holding hIm tight, and looking close into his face, with her sharp
'Upon my soul, I don't know, Misses Brown,' answered Rob.
'Upon my soul I don't know what he did, nor where he went, nor
anything about him I only know what he said to me as a caution to hold
my tongue, when we parted; and I tell you this, Misses Brown, as a
friend, that sooner than ever repeat a word of what we're saying now,
you had better take and shoot yourself, or shut yourself up in this
house, and set it a-fire, for there's nothing he wouldn't do, to be
revenged upon you. You don't know him half as well as I do, Misses
Brown. You're never safe from him, I tell you.'
'Haven't I taken an oath,' retorted the old woman, 'and won't I
'Well, I'm sure I hope you will, Misses Brown,' returned Rob,
somewhat doubtfully, and not without a latent threatening in his
manner. 'For your own sake, quite as much as mine'
He looked at her as he gave her this friendly caution, and
emphasized it with a nodding of his head; but finding it uncomfortable
to encounter the yellow face with its grotesque action, and the ferret
eyes with their keen old wintry gaze, so close to his own, he looked
down uneasily and sat skulking in his chair, as if he were trying to
bring hImself to a sullen declaration that he would answer no more
questions. The old woman, still holding him as before, took this
opportunity of raising the forefinger of her right hand, in the air,
as a stealthy signal to the concealed observer to give particular
attention to what was about to follow.
'Rob,' she said, in her most coaxing tone.
'Good gracious, Misses Brown, what's the matter now?' returned the
'Rob! where did the lady and Master appoint to meet?'
Rob shuffled more and more, and looked up and looked down, and bit
his thumb, and dried it on his waistcoat, and finally said, eyeing his
tormentor askance, 'How should I know, Misses Brown?'
The old woman held up her finger again, as before, and replying,
'Come, lad! It's no use leading me to that, and there leaving me. I
want to know' waited for his answer. Rob, after a discomfited pause,
suddenly broke out with, 'How can I pronounce the names of foreign
places, Mrs Brown? What an unreasonable woman you are!'
'But you have heard it said, Robby,' she retorted firmly, 'and you
know what it sounded like. Come!'
'I never heard it said, Misses Brown,' returned the Grinder.
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