Dombey and Son
Part 2 out of 21
'Confound the admiral!' returned Solomon Gills. 'You mean the Lord
'No I don't!' cried the boy. 'Hurrah for the admiral! Hurrah for
the admiral! For-ward!'
At this word of command, the Welsh wig and its wearer were borne
without resistance into the back parlour, as at the head of a boarding
party of five hundred men; and Uncle Sol and his nephew were speedily
engaged on a fried sole with a prospect of steak to follow.
'The Lord Mayor, Wally,' said Solomon, 'for ever! No more admirals.
The Lord Mayor's your admiral.'
'Oh, is he though!' said the boy, shaking his head. 'Why, the Sword
Bearer's better than him. He draws his sword sometimes.
'And a pretty figure he cuts with it for his pains,' returned the
Uncle. 'Listen to me, Wally, listen to me. Look on the mantelshelf.'
'Why who has cocked my silver mug up there, on a nail?' exclaimed
I have,' said his Uncle. 'No more mugs now. We must begin to drink
out of glasses to-day, Walter. We are men of business. We belong to
the City. We started in life this morning.
'Well, Uncle,' said the boy, 'I'll drink out of anything you like,
so long as I can drink to you. Here's to you, Uncle Sol, and Hurrah
'Lord Mayor,' interrupted the old man.
'For the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, Common Council, and Livery,' said
the boy. 'Long life to 'em!'
The uncle nodded his head with great satisfaction. 'And now,' he
said, 'let's hear something about the Firm.'
'Oh! there's not much to be told about the Firm, Uncle,' said the
boy, plying his knife and fork.' It's a precious dark set of offices,
and in the room where I sit, there's a high fender, and an iron safe,
and some cards about ships that are going to sail, and an almanack,
and some desks and stools, and an inkbottle, and some books, and some
boxes, and a lot of cobwebs, and in one of 'em, just over my head, a
shrivelled-up blue-bottle that looks as if it had hung there ever so
'Nothing else?' said the Uncle.
'No, nothing else, except an old birdcage (I wonder how that ever
came there!) and a coal-scuttle.'
'No bankers' books, or cheque books, or bills, or such tokens of
wealth rolling in from day to day?' said old Sol, looking wistfully at
his nephew out of the fog that always seemed to hang about him, and
laying an unctuous emphasis upon the words.
'Oh yes, plenty of that I suppose,' returned his nephew carelessly;
'but all that sort of thing's in Mr Carker's room, or Mr Morfin's, or
'Has Mr Dombey been there to-day?' inquired the Uncle.
'Oh yes! In and out all day.'
'He didn't take any notice of you, I suppose?'.
'Yes he did. He walked up to my seat, - I wish he wasn't so solemn
and stiff, Uncle, - and said, "Oh! you are the son of Mr Gills the
Ships' Instrument-maker." "Nephew, Sir," I said. "I said nephew, boy,"
said he. But I could take my oath he said son, Uncle.'
'You're mistaken I daresay. It's no matter.
'No, it's no matter, but he needn't have been so sharp, I thought.
There was no harm in it though he did say son. Then he told me that
you had spoken to him about me, and that he had found me employment in
the House accordingly, and that I was expected to be attentive and
punctual, and then he went away. I thought he didn't seem to like me
'You mean, I suppose,' observed the Instrument-maker, 'that you
didn't seem to like him much?'
'Well, Uncle,' returned the boy, laughing. 'Perhaps so; I never
thought of that.'
Solomon looked a little graver as he finished his dinner, and
glanced from time to time at the boy's bright face. When dinner was
done, and the cloth was cleared away (the entertainment had been
brought from a neighbouring eating-house), he lighted a candle, and
went down below into a little cellar, while his nephew, standing on
the mouldy staircase, dutifully held the light. After a moment's
groping here and there, he presently returned with a very
ancient-looking bottle, covered with dust and dirt.
'Why, Uncle Sol!' said the boy, 'what are you about? that's the
wonderful Madeira! - there's only one more bottle!'
Uncle Sol nodded his head, implying that he knew very well what he
was about; and having drawn the cork in solemn silence, filled two
glasses and set the bottle and a third clean glass on the table.
'You shall drink the other bottle, Wally,' he said, 'when you come
to good fortune; when you are a thriving, respected, happy man; when
the start in life you have made to-day shall have brought you, as I
pray Heaven it may! - to a smooth part of the course you have to run,
my child. My love to you!'
Some of the fog that hung about old Sol seemed to have got into his
throat; for he spoke huskily. His hand shook too, as he clinked his
glass against his nephew's. But having once got the wine to his lips,
he tossed it off like a man, and smacked them afterwards.
'Dear Uncle,' said the boy, affecting to make light of it, while
the tears stood in his eyes, 'for the honour you have done me, et
cetera, et cetera. I shall now beg to propose Mr Solomon Gills with
three times three and one cheer more. Hurrah! and you'll return
thanks, Uncle, when we drink the last bottle together; won't you?'
They clinked their glasses again; and Walter, who was hoarding his
wine, took a sip of it, and held the glass up to his eye with as
critical an air as he could possibly assume.
His Uncle sat looking at him for some time in silence. When their
eyes at last met, he began at once to pursue the theme that had
occupied his thoughts, aloud, as if he had been speaking all the time.
'You see, Walter,' he said, 'in truth this business is merely a
habit with me. I am so accustomed to the habit that I could hardly
live if I relinquished it: but there's nothing doing, nothing doing.
When that uniform was worn,' pointing out towards the little
Midshipman, 'then indeed, fortunes were to be made, and were made. But
competition, competition - new invention, new invention - alteration,
alteration - the world's gone past me. I hardly know where I am
myself, much less where my customers are.
'Never mind 'em, Uncle!'
'Since you came home from weekly boarding-school at Peckham, for
instance - and that's ten days,' said Solomon, 'I don't remember more
than one person that has come into the shop.'
'Two, Uncle, don't you recollect? There was the man who came to ask
for change for a sovereign - '
'That's the one,' said Solomon.
'Why Uncle! don't you call the woman anybody, who came to ask the
way to Mile-End Turnpike?'
'Oh! it's true,' said Solomon, 'I forgot her. Two persons.'
'To be sure, they didn't buy anything,' cried the boy.
'No. They didn't buy anything,' said Solomon, quietly.
'Nor want anything,' cried the boy.
'No. If they had, they'd gone to another shop,' said Solomon, in
the same tone.
'But there were two of 'em, Uncle,' cried the boy, as if that were
a great triumph. 'You said only one.'
'Well, Wally,' resumed the old man, after a short pause: 'not being
like the Savages who came on Robinson Crusoe's Island, we can't live
on a man who asks for change for a sovereign, and a woman who inquires
the way to Mile-End Turnpike. As I said just now, the world has gone
past me. I don't blame it; but I no longer understand it. Tradesmen
are not the same as they used to be, apprentices are not the same,
business is not the same, business commodities are not the same.
Seven-eighths of my stock is old-fashioned. I am an old-fashioned man
in an old-fashioned shop, in a street that is not the same as I
remember it. I have fallen behind the time, and am too old to catch it
again. Even the noise it makes a long way ahead, confuses me.'
Walter was going to speak, but his Uncle held up his hand.
'Therefore, Wally - therefore it is that I am anxious you should be
early in the busy world, and on the world's track. I am only the ghost
of this business - its substance vanished long ago; and when I die,
its ghost will be laid. As it is clearly no inheritance for you then,
I have thought it best to use for your advantage, almost the only
fragment of the old connexion that stands by me, through long habit.
Some people suppose me to be wealthy. I wish for your sake they were
right. But whatever I leave behind me, or whatever I can give you, you
in such a House as Dombey's are in the road to use well and make the
most of. Be diligent, try to like it, my dear boy, work for a steady
independence, and be happy!'
'I'll do everything I can, Uncle, to deserve your affection. Indeed
I will,' said the boy, earnestly
'I know it,' said Solomon. 'I am sure of it,' and he applied
himself to a second glass of the old Madeira, with increased relish.
'As to the Sea,' he pursued, 'that's well enough in fiction, Wally,
but it won't do in fact: it won't do at all. It's natural enough that
you should think about it, associating it with all these familiar
things; but it won't do, it won't do.'
Solomon Gills rubbed his hands with an air of stealthy enjoyment,
as he talked of the sea, though; and looked on the seafaring objects
about him with inexpressible complacency.
'Think of this wine for instance,' said old Sol, 'which has been to
the East Indies and back, I'm not able to say how often, and has been
once round the world. Think of the pitch-dark nights, the roaring
winds, and rolling seas:'
'The thunder, lightning, rain, hail, storm of all kinds,' said the
'To be sure,' said Solomon, - 'that this wine has passed through.
Think what a straining and creaking of timbers and masts: what a
whistling and howling of the gale through ropes and rigging:'
'What a clambering aloft of men, vying with each other who shall
lie out first upon the yards to furl the icy sails, while the ship
rolls and pitches, like mad!' cried his nephew.
'Exactly so,' said Solomon: 'has gone on, over the old cask that
held this wine. Why, when the Charming Sally went down in the - '
'In the Baltic Sea, in the dead of night; five-and-twenty minutes
past twelve when the captain's watch stopped in his pocket; he lying
dead against the main-mast - on the fourteenth of February, seventeen
forty-nine!' cried Walter, with great animation.
'Ay, to be sure!' cried old Sol, 'quite right! Then, there were
five hundred casks of such wine aboard; and all hands (except the
first mate, first lieutenant, two seamen, and a lady, in a leaky boat)
going to work to stave the casks, got drunk and died drunk, singing
"Rule Britannia", when she settled and went down, and ending with one
awful scream in chorus.'
'But when the George the Second drove ashore, Uncle, on the coast
of Cornwall, in a dismal gale, two hours before daybreak, on the
fourth of March, 'seventy-one, she had near two hundred horses aboard;
and the horses breaking loose down below, early in the gale, and
tearing to and fro, and trampling each other to death, made such
noises, and set up such human cries, that the crew believing the ship
to be full of devils, some of the best men, losing heart and head,
went overboard in despair, and only two were left alive, at last, to
tell the tale.'
'And when,' said old Sol, 'when the Polyphemus - '
'Private West India Trader, burden three hundred and fifty tons,
Captain, John Brown of Deptford. Owners, Wiggs and Co.,' cried Walter.
'The same,' said Sol; 'when she took fire, four days' sail with a
fair wind out of Jamaica Harbour, in the night - '
'There were two brothers on board,' interposed his nephew, speaking
very fast and loud, 'and there not being room for both of them in the
only boat that wasn't swamped, neither of them would consent to go,
until the elder took the younger by the waist, and flung him in. And
then the younger, rising in the boat, cried out, "Dear Edward, think
of your promised wife at home. I'm only a boy. No one waits at home
for me. Leap down into my place!" and flung himself in the sea!'
The kindling eye and heightened colour of the boy, who had risen
from his seat in the earnestness of what he said and felt, seemed to
remind old Sol of something he had forgotten, or that his encircling
mist had hitherto shut out. Instead of proceeding with any more
anecdotes, as he had evidently intended but a moment before, he gave a
short dry cough, and said, 'Well! suppose we change the subject.'
The truth was, that the simple-minded Uncle in his secret
attraction towards the marvellous and adventurous - of which he was,
in some sort, a distant relation, by his trade - had greatly
encouraged the same attraction in the nephew; and that everything that
had ever been put before the boy to deter him from a life of
adventure, had had the usual unaccountable effect of sharpening his
taste for it. This is invariable. It would seem as if there never was
a book written, or a story told, expressly with the object of keeping
boys on shore, which did not lure and charm them to the ocean, as a
matter of course.
But an addition to the little party now made its appearance, in the
shape of a gentleman in a wide suit of blue, with a hook instead of a
hand attached to his right wrist; very bushy black eyebrows; and a
thick stick in his left hand, covered all over (like his nose) with
knobs. He wore a loose black silk handkerchief round his neck, and
such a very large coarse shirt collar, that it looked like a small
sail. He was evidently the person for whom the spare wine-glass was
intended, and evidently knew it; for having taken off his rough outer
coat, and hung up, on a particular peg behind the door, such a hard
glazed hat as a sympathetic person's head might ache at the sight of,
and which left a red rim round his own forehead as if he had been
wearing a tight basin, he brought a chair to where the clean glass
was, and sat himself down behind it. He was usually addressed as
Captain, this visitor; and had been a pilot, or a skipper, or a
privateersman, or all three perhaps; and was a very salt-looking man
His face, remarkable for a brown solidity, brightened as he shook
hands with Uncle and nephew; but he seemed to be of a laconic
disposition, and merely said:
'How goes it?'
'All well,' said Mr Gills, pushing the bottle towards him.
He took it up, and having surveyed and smelt it, said with
'The,' returned the Instrument-maker.
Upon that he whistled as he filled his glass, and seemed to think
they were making holiday indeed.
'Wal'r!' he said, arranging his hair (which was thin) with his
hook, and then pointing it at the Instrument-maker, 'Look at him!
Love! Honour! And Obey! Overhaul your catechism till you find that
passage, and when found turn the leaf down. Success, my boy!'
He was so perfectly satisfied both with his quotation and his
reference to it, that he could not help repeating the words again in a
low voice, and saying he had forgotten 'em these forty year.
'But I never wanted two or three words in my life that I didn't
know where to lay my hand upon 'em, Gills,' he observed. 'It comes of
not wasting language as some do.'
The reflection perhaps reminded him that he had better, like young
Norval's father, '"ncrease his store." At any rate he became silent,
and remained so, until old Sol went out into the shop to light it up,
when he turned to Walter, and said, without any introductory remark:
'I suppose he could make a clock if he tried?'
'I shouldn't wonder, Captain Cuttle,' returned the boy.
'And it would go!' said Captain Cuttle, making a species of serpent
in the air with his hook. 'Lord, how that clock would go!'
For a moment or two he seemed quite lost in contemplating the pace
of this ideal timepiece, and sat looking at the boy as if his face
were the dial.
'But he's chockful of science,' he observed, waving his hook
towards the stock-in-trade. 'Look'ye here! Here's a collection of 'em.
Earth, air, or water. It's all one. Only say where you'll have it. Up
in a balloon? There you are. Down in a bell? There you are. D'ye want
to put the North Star in a pair of scales and weigh it? He'll do it
It may be gathered from these remarks that Captain Cuttle's
reverence for the stock of instruments was profound, and that his
philosophy knew little or no distinction between trading in it and
'Ah!' he said, with a sigh, 'it's a fine thing to understand 'em.
And yet it's a fine thing not to understand 'em. I hardly know which
is best. It's so comfortable to sit here and feel that you might be
weighed, measured, magnified, electrified, polarized, played the very
devil with: and never know how.'
Nothing short of the wonderful Madeira, combined with the occasion
(which rendered it desirable to improve and expand Walter's mind),
could have ever loosened his tongue to the extent of giving utterance
to this prodigious oration. He seemed quite amazed himself at the
manner in which it opened up to view the sources of the taciturn
delight he had had in eating Sunday dinners in that parlour for ten
years. Becoming a sadder and a wiser man, he mused and held his peace.
'Come!' cried the subject of this admiration, returning. 'Before
you have your glass of grog, Ned, we must finish the bottle.'
'Stand by!' said Ned, filling his glass. 'Give the boy some more.'
'No more, thank'e, Uncle!'
'Yes, yes,' said Sol, 'a little more. We'll finish the bottle, to
the House, Ned - Walter's House. Why it may be his House one of these
days, in part. Who knows? Sir Richard Whittington married his master's
'"Turn again Whittington, Lord Mayor of London, and when you are
old you will never depart from it,"' interposed the Captain. 'Wal'r!
Overhaul the book, my lad.'
'And although Mr Dombey hasn't a daughter,' Sol began.
'Yes, yes, he has, Uncle,' said the boy, reddening and laughing.
'Has he?' cried the old man. 'Indeed I think he has too.
'Oh! I know he has,' said the boy. 'Some of 'em were talking about
it in the office today. And they do say, Uncle and Captain Cuttle,'
lowering his voice, 'that he's taken a dislike to her, and that she's
left, unnoticed, among the servants, and that his mind's so set all
the while upon having his son in the House, that although he's only a
baby now, he is going to have balances struck oftener than formerly,
and the books kept closer than they used to be, and has even been seen
(when he thought he wasn't) walking in the Docks, looking at his ships
and property and all that, as if he was exulting like, over what he
and his son will possess together. That's what they say. Of course, I
'He knows all about her already, you see,' said the
'Nonsense, Uncle,' cried the boy, still reddening and laughing,
boy-like. 'How can I help hearing what they tell me?'
'The Son's a little in our way at present, I'm afraid, Ned,' said
the old man, humouring the joke.
'Very much,' said the Captain.
'Nevertheless, we'll drink him,' pursued Sol. 'So, here's to Dombey
'Oh, very well, Uncle,' said the boy, merrily. 'Since you have
introduced the mention of her, and have connected me with her and have
said that I know all about her, I shall make bold to amend the toast.
So here's to Dombey - and Son - and Daughter!'
Paul's Progress and Christening
Little Paul, suffering no contamination from the blood of the
Toodles, grew stouter and stronger every day. Every day, too, he was
more and more ardently cherished by Miss Tox, whose devotion was so
far appreciated by Mr Dombey that he began to regard her as a woman of
great natural good sense, whose feelings did her credit and deserved
encouragement. He was so lavish of this condescension, that he not
only bowed to her, in a particular manner, on several occasions, but
even entrusted such stately recognitions of her to his sister as 'pray
tell your friend, Louisa, that she is very good,' or 'mention to Miss
Tox, Louisa, that I am obliged to her;'specialities which made a deep
impression on the lady thus distinguished.
Whether Miss Tox conceived that having been selected by the Fates
to welcome the little Dombey before he was born, in Kirby, Beard and
Kirby's Best Mixed Pins, it therefore naturally devolved upon her to
greet him with all other forms of welcome in all other early stages of
his existence - or whether her overflowing goodness induced her to
volunteer into the domestic militia as a substitute in some sort for
his deceased Mama - or whether she was conscious of any other motives
- are questions which in this stage of the Firm's history herself only
could have solved. Nor have they much bearing on the fact (of which
there is no doubt), that Miss Tox's constancy and zeal were a heavy
discouragement to Richards, who lost flesh hourly under her patronage,
and was in some danger of being superintended to death.
Miss Tox was often in the habit of assuring Mrs Chick, that nothing
could exceed her interest in all connected with the development of
that sweet child;' and an observer of Miss Tox's proceedings might
have inferred so much without declaratory confirmation. She would
preside over the innocent repasts of the young heir, with ineffable
satisfaction, almost with an air of joint proprietorship with Richards
in the entertainment. At the little ceremonies of the bath and
toilette, she assisted with enthusiasm. The administration of
infantine doses of physic awakened all the active sympathy of her
character; and being on one occasion secreted in a cupboard (whither
she had fled in modesty), when Mr Dombey was introduced into the
nursery by his sister, to behold his son, in the course of preparation
for bed, taking a short walk uphill over Richards's gown, in a short
and airy linen jacket, Miss Tox was so transported beyond the ignorant
present as to be unable to refrain from crying out, 'Is he not
beautiful Mr Dombey! Is he not a Cupid, Sir!' and then almost sinking
behind the closet door with confusion and blushes.
'Louisa,' said Mr Dombey, one day, to his sister, 'I really think I
must present your friend with some little token, on the occasion of
Paul's christening. She has exerted herself so warmly in the child's
behalf from the first, and seems to understand her position so
thoroughly (a very rare merit in this world, I am sorry to say), that
it would really be agreeable to me to notice her.'
Let it be no detraction from the merits of Miss Tox, to hint that
in Mr Dombey's eyes, as in some others that occasionally see the
light, they only achieved that mighty piece of knowledge, the
understanding of their own position, who showed a fitting reverence
for his. It was not so much their merit that they knew themselves, as
that they knew him, and bowed low before him.
'My dear Paul,' returned his sister, 'you do Miss Tox but justice,
as a man of your penetration was sure, I knew, to do. I believe if
there are three words in the English language for which she has a
respect amounting almost to veneration, those words are, Dombey and
'Well,' said Mr Dombey, 'I believe it. It does Miss Tox credit.'
'And as to anything in the shape of a token, my dear Paul,' pursued
his sister, 'all I can say is that anything you give Miss Tox will be
hoarded and prized, I am sure, like a relic. But there is a way, my
dear Paul, of showing your sense of Miss Tox's friendliness in a still
more flattering and acceptable manner, if you should be so inclined.'
'How is that?' asked Mr Dombey.
'Godfathers, of course,' continued Mrs Chick, 'are important in
point of connexion and influence.'
'I don't know why they should be, to my son, said Mr Dombey,
'Very true, my dear Paul,' retorted Mrs Chick, with an
extraordinary show of animation, to cover the suddenness of her
conversion; 'and spoken like yourself. I might have expected nothing
else from you. I might have known that such would have been your
opinion. Perhaps;' here Mrs Chick faltered again, as not quite
comfortably feeling her way; 'perhaps that is a reason why you might
have the less objection to allowing Miss Tox to be godmother to the
dear thing, if it were only as deputy and proxy for someone else. That
it would be received as a great honour and distinction, Paul, I need
'Louisa,' said Mr Dombey, after a short pause, 'it is not to be
supposed - '
'Certainly not,' cried Mrs Chick, hastening to anticipate a
refusal, 'I never thought it was.'
Mr Dombey looked at her impatiently.
'Don't flurry me, my dear Paul,' said his sister; 'for that
destroys me. I am far from strong. I have not been quite myself, since
poor dear Fanny departed.'
Mr Dombey glanced at the pocket-handkerchief which his sister
applied to her eyes, and resumed:
'It is not be supposed, I say 'And I say,' murmured Mrs Chick,
'that I never thought it was.'
'Good Heaven, Louisa!' said Mr Dombey.
'No, my dear Paul,' she remonstrated with tearful dignity, 'I must
really be allowed to speak. I am not so clever, or so reasoning, or so
eloquent, or so anything, as you are. I know that very well. So much
the worse for me. But if they were the last words I had to utter - and
last words should be very solemn to you and me, Paul, after poor dear
Fanny - I would still say I never thought it was. And what is more,'
added Mrs Chick with increased dignity, as if she had withheld her
crushing argument until now, 'I never did think it was.' Mr Dombey
walked to the window and back again.
'It is not to be supposed, Louisa,' he said (Mrs Chick had nailed
her colours to the mast, and repeated 'I know it isn't,' but he took
no notice of it), 'but that there are many persons who, supposing that
I recognised any claim at all in such a case, have a claim upon me
superior to Miss Tox's. But I do not. I recognise no such thing. Paul
and myself will be able, when the time comes, to hold our own - the
House, in other words, will be able to hold its own, and maintain its
own, and hand down its own of itself, and without any such
common-place aids. The kind of foreign help which people usually seek
for their children, I can afford to despise; being above it, I hope.
So that Paul's infancy and childhood pass away well, and I see him
becoming qualified without waste of time for the career on which he is
destined to enter, I am satisfied. He will make what powerful friends
he pleases in after-life, when he is actively maintaining - and
extending, if that is possible - the dignity and credit of the Firm.
Until then, I am enough for him, perhaps, and all in all. I have no
wish that people should step in between us. I would much rather show
my sense of the obliging conduct of a deserving person like your
friend. Therefore let it be so; and your husband and myself will do
well enough for the other sponsors, I daresay.'
In the course of these remarks, delivered with great majesty and
grandeur, Mr Dombey had truly revealed the secret feelings of his
breast. An indescribable distrust of anybody stepping in between
himself and his son; a haughty dread of having any rival or partner in
the boy's respect and deference; a sharp misgiving, recently acquired,
that he was not infallible in his power of bending and binding human
wills; as sharp a jealousy of any second check or cross; these were,
at that time the master keys of his soul. In all his life, he had
never made a friend. His cold and distant nature had neither sought
one, nor found one. And now, when that nature concentrated its whole
force so strongly on a partial scheme of parental interest and
ambition, it seemed as if its icy current, instead of being released
by this influence, and running clear and free, had thawed for but an
instant to admit its burden, and then frozen with it into one
Elevated thus to the godmothership of little Paul, in virtue of her
insignificance, Miss Tox was from that hour chosen and appointed to
office; and Mr Dombey further signified his pleasure that the
ceremony, already long delayed, should take place without further
postponement. His sister, who had been far from anticipating so signal
a success, withdrew as soon as she could, to communicate it to her
best of friends; and Mr Dombey was left alone in his library. He had
already laid his hand upon the bellrope to convey his usual summons to
Richards, when his eye fell upon a writing-desk, belonging to his
deceased wife, which had been taken, among other things, from a
cabinet in her chamber. It was not the first time that his eye had
lighted on it He carried the key in his pocket; and he brought it to
his table and opened it now - having previously locked the room door -
with a well-accustomed hand.
From beneath a leaf of torn and cancelled scraps of paper, he took
one letter that remained entire. Involuntarily holding his breath as
he opened this document, and 'bating in the stealthy action something
of his arrogant demeanour, he s at down, resting his head upon one
hand, and read it through.
He read it slowly and attentively, and with a nice particularity to
every syllable. Otherwise than as his great deliberation seemed
unnatural, and perhaps the result of an effort equally great, he
allowed no sign of emotion to escape him. When he had read it through,
he folded and refolded it slowly several times, and tore it carefully
into fragments. Checking his hand in the act of throwing these away,
he put them in his pocket, as if unwilling to trust them even to the
chances of being re-united and deciphered; and instead of ringing, as
usual, for little Paul, he sat solitary, all the evening, in his
There was anything but solitude in the nursery; for there, Mrs
Chick and Miss Tox were enjoying a social evening, so much to the
disgust of Miss Susan Nipper, that that young lady embraced every
opportunity of making wry faces behind the door. Her feelings were so
much excited on the occasion, that she found it indispensable to
afford them this relief, even without having the comfort of any
audience or sympathy whatever. As the knight-errants of old relieved
their minds by carving their mistress's names in deserts, and
wildernesses, and other savage places where there was no probability
of there ever being anybody to read them, so did Miss Susan Nipper
curl her snub nose into drawers and wardrobes, put away winks of
disparagement in cupboards, shed derisive squints into stone pitchers,
and contradict and call names out in the passage.
The two interlopers, however, blissfully unconscious of the young
lady's sentiments, saw little Paul safe through all the stages of
undressing, airy exercise, supper and bed; and then sat down to tea
before the fire. The two children now lay, through the good offices of
Polly, in one room; and it was not until the ladies were established
at their tea-table that, happening to look towards the little beds,
they thought of Florence.
'How sound she sleeps!' said Miss Tox.
'Why, you know, my dear, she takes a great deal of exercise in the
course of the day,' returned Mrs Chick, 'playing about little Paul so
'She is a curious child,' said Miss Tox.
'My dear,' retorted Mrs Chick, in a low voice: 'Her Mama, all
'In deed!' said Miss Tox. 'Ah dear me!'
A tone of most extraordinary compassion Miss Tox said it in, though
she had no distinct idea why, except that it was expected of her.
'Florence will never, never, never be a Dombey,'said Mrs Chick,
'not if she lives to be a thousand years old.'
Miss Tox elevated her eyebrows, and was again full of
'I quite fret and worry myself about her,' said Mrs Chick, with a
sigh of modest merit. 'I really don't see what is to become of her
when she grows older, or what position she is to take. She don't gain
on her Papa in the least. How can one expect she should, when she is
so very unlike a Dombey?'
Miss Tox looked as if she saw no way out of such a cogent argument
as that, at all.
'And the child, you see,' said Mrs Chick, in deep confidence, 'has
poor dear Fanny's nature. She'll never make an effort in after-life,
I'll venture to say. Never! She'll never wind and twine herself about
her Papa's heart like - '
'Like the ivy?' suggested Miss Tox.
'Like the ivy,' Mrs Chick assented. 'Never! She'll never glide and
nestle into the bosom of her Papa's affections like - the - '
'Startled fawn?' suggested Miss Tox.
'Like the startled fawn,' said Mrs Chick. 'Never! Poor Fanny! Yet,
how I loved her!'
'You must not distress yourself, my dear,' said Miss Tox, in a
soothing voice. 'Now really! You have too much feeling.'
'We have all our faults,' said Mrs Chick, weeping and shaking her
head. 'I daresay we have. I never was blind to hers. I never said I
was. Far from it. Yet how I loved her!'
What a satisfaction it was to Mrs Chick - a common-place piece of
folly enough, compared with whom her sister-in-law had been a very
angel of womanly intelligence and gentleness - to patronise and be
tender to the memory of that lady: in exact pursuance of her conduct
to her in her lifetime: and to thoroughly believe herself, and take
herself in, and make herself uncommonly comfortable on the strength of
her toleration! What a mighty pleasant virtue toleration should be
when we are right, to be so very pleasant when we are wrong, and quite
unable to demonstrate how we come to be invested with the privilege of
Mrs Chick was yet drying her eyes and shaking her head, when
Richards made bold to caution her that Miss Florence was awake and
sitting in her bed. She had risen, as the nurse said, and the lashes
of her eyes were wet with tears. But no one saw them glistening save
Polly. No one else leant over her, and whispered soothing words to
her, or was near enough to hear the flutter of her beating heart.
'Oh! dear nurse!' said the child, looking earnestly up in her face,
'let me lie by my brother!'
'Why, my pet?' said Richards.
'Oh! I think he loves me,' cried the child wildly. 'Let me lie by
him. Pray do!'
Mrs Chick interposed with some motherly words about going to sleep
like a dear, but Florence repeated her supplication, with a frightened
look, and in a voice broken by sobs and tears.
'I'll not wake him,' she said, covering her face and hanging down
her head. 'I'll only touch him with my hand, and go to sleep. Oh,
pray, pray, let me lie by my brother to-night, for I believe he's fond
Richards took her without a word, and carrying her to the little
bed in which the infant was sleeping, laid her down by his side. She
crept as near him as she could without disturbing his rest; and
stretching out one arm so that it timidly embraced his neck, and
hiding her face on the other, over which her damp and scattered hair
fell loose, lay motionless.
'Poor little thing,' said Miss Tox; 'she has been dreaming, I
Dreaming, perhaps, of loving tones for ever silent, of loving eyes
for ever closed, of loving arms again wound round her, and relaxing in
that dream within the dam which no tongue can relate. Seeking, perhaps
- in dreams - some natural comfort for a heart, deeply and sorely
wounded, though so young a child's: and finding it, perhaps, in
dreams, if not in waking, cold, substantial truth. This trivial
incident had so interrupted the current of conversation, that it was
difficult of resumption; and Mrs Chick moreover had been so affected
by the contemplation of her own tolerant nature, that she was not in
spirits. The two friends accordingly soon made an end of their tea,
and a servant was despatched to fetch a hackney cabriolet for Miss
Tox. Miss Tox had great experience in hackney cabs, and her starting
in one was generally a work of time, as she was systematic in the
'Have the goodness, if you please, Towlinson,' said Miss Tox,
'first of all, to carry out a pen and ink and take his number
'Yes, Miss,' said Towlinson.
'Then, if you please, Towlinson,'said Miss Tox, 'have the goodness
to turn the cushion. Which,' said Miss Tox apart to Mrs Chick, 'is
generally damp, my dear.'
'Yes, Miss,' said Towlinson.
'I'll trouble you also, if you please, Towlinson,' said Miss Tox,
'with this card and this shilling. He's to drive to the card, and is
to understand that he will not on any account have more than the
'No, Miss,' said Towlinson.
'And - I'm sorry to give you so much trouble, Towlinson,' said Miss
Tox, looking at him pensively.
'Not at all, Miss,' said Towlinson.
'Mention to the man, then, if you please, Towlinson,' said Miss
Tox, 'that the lady's uncle is a magistrate, and that if he gives her
any of his impertinence he will be punished terribly. You can pretend
to say that, if you please, Towlinson, in a friendly way, and because
you know it was done to another man, who died.'
'Certainly, Miss,' said Towlinson.
'And now good-night to my sweet, sweet, sweet, godson,' said Miss
Tox, with a soft shower of kisses at each repetition of the adjective;
'and Louisa, my dear friend, promise me to take a little something
warm before you go to bed, and not to distress yourself!'
It was with extreme difficulty that Nipper, the black-eyed, who
looked on steadfastly, contained herself at this crisis, and until the
subsequent departure of Mrs Chick. But the nursery being at length
free of visitors, she made herself some recompense for her late
'You might keep me in a strait-waistcoat for six weeks,' said
Nipper, 'and when I got it off I'd only be more aggravated, who ever
heard the like of them two Griffins, Mrs Richards?'
'And then to talk of having been dreaming, poor dear!' said Polly.
'Oh you beauties!' cried Susan Nipper, affecting to salute the door
by which the ladies had departed. 'Never be a Dombey won't she? It's
to be hoped she won't, we don't want any more such, one's enough.'
'Don't wake the children, Susan dear,' said Polly.
'I'm very much beholden to you, Mrs Richards,' said Susan, who was
not by any means discriminating in her wrath, 'and really feel it as a
honour to receive your commands, being a black slave and a mulotter.
Mrs Richards, if there's any other orders, you can give me, pray
'Nonsense; orders,' said Polly.
'Oh! bless your heart, Mrs Richards,' cried Susan, 'temporaries
always orders permanencies here, didn't you know that, why wherever
was you born, Mrs Richards? But wherever you was born, Mrs Richards,'
pursued Spitfire, shaking her head resolutely, 'and whenever, and
however (which is best known to yourself), you may bear in mind,
please, that it's one thing to give orders, and quite another thing to
take 'em. A person may tell a person to dive off a bridge head
foremost into five-and-forty feet of water, Mrs Richards, but a person
may be very far from diving.'
'There now,' said Polly, 'you're angry because you're a good little
thing, and fond of Miss Florence; and yet you turn round on me,
because there's nobody else.'
'It's very easy for some to keep their tempers, and be soft-spoken,
Mrs Richards,' returned Susan, slightly mollified, 'when their child's
made as much of as a prince, and is petted and patted till it wishes
its friends further, but when a sweet young pretty innocent, that
never ought to have a cross word spoken to or of it, is rundown, the
case is very different indeed. My goodness gracious me, Miss Floy, you
naughty, sinful child, if you don't shut your eyes this minute, I'll
call in them hobgoblins that lives in the cock-loft to come and eat
you up alive!'
Here Miss Nipper made a horrible lowing, supposed to issue from a
conscientious goblin of the bull species, impatient to discharge the
severe duty of his position. Having further composed her young charge
by covering her head with the bedclothes, and making three or four
angry dabs at the pillow, she folded her arms, and screwed up her
mouth, and sat looking at the fire for the rest of the evening.
Though little Paul was said, in nursery phrase, 'to take a deal of
notice for his age,' he took as little notice of all this as of the
preparations for his christening on the next day but one; which
nevertheless went on about him, as to his personal apparel, and that
of his sister and the two nurses, with great activity. Neither did he,
on the arrival of the appointed morning, show any sense of its
importance; being, on the contrary, unusually inclined to sleep, and
unusually inclined to take it ill in his attendants that they dressed
him to go out.
It happened to be an iron-grey autumnal day, with a shrewd east
wind blowing - a day in keeping with the proceedings. Mr Dombey
represented in himself the wind, the shade, and the autumn of the
christening. He stood in his library to receive the company, as hard
and cold as the weather; and when he looked out through the glass
room, at the trees in the little garden, their brown and yellow leaves
came fluttering down, as if he blighted them.
Ugh! They were black, cold rooms; and seemed to be in mourning,
like the inmates of the house. The books precisely matched as to size,
and drawn up in line, like soldiers, looked in their cold, hard,
slippery uniforms, as if they had but one idea among them, and that
was a freezer. The bookcase, glazed and locked, repudiated all
familiarities. Mr Pitt, in bronze, on the top, with no trace of his
celestial origin' about him, guarded the unattainable treasure like an
enchanted Moor. A dusty urn at each high corner, dug up from an
ancient tomb, preached desolation and decay, as from two pulpits; and
the chimney-glass, reflecting Mr Dombey and his portrait at one blow,
seemed fraught with melancholy meditations.
The stiff and stark fire-irons appeared to claim a nearer
relationship than anything else there to Mr Dombey, with his buttoned
coat, his white cravat, his heavy gold watch-chain, and his creaking
But this was before the arrival of Mr and Mrs Chick, his lawful
relatives, who soon presented themselves.
'My dear Paul,' Mrs Chick murmured, as she embraced him, 'the
beginning, I hope, of many joyful days!'
'Thank you, Louisa,' said Mr Dombey, grimly. 'How do you do, Mr
'How do you do, Sir?' said Chick.
He gave Mr Dombey his hand, as if he feared it might electrify him.
Mr Dombey tool: it as if it were a fish, or seaweed, or some such
clammy substance, and immediately returned it to him with exalted
'Perhaps, Louisa,' said Mr Dombey, slightly turning his head in his
cravat, as if it were a socket, 'you would have preferred a fire?'
'Oh, my dear Paul, no,' said Mrs Chick, who had much ado to keep
her teeth from chattering; 'not for me.'
'Mr John,' said Mr Dombey, 'you are not sensible of any chill?'
Mr John, who had already got both his hands in his pockets over the
wrists, and was on the very threshold of that same canine chorus which
had given Mrs Chick so much offence on a former occasion, protested
that he was perfectly comfortable.
He added in a low voice, 'With my tiddle tol toor rul' - when he
was providentially stopped by Towlinson, who announced:
And enter that fair enslaver, with a blue nose and indescribably
frosty face, referable to her being very thinly clad in a maze of
fluttering odds and ends, to do honour to the ceremony.
'How do you do, Miss Tox?' said Mr Dombey.
Miss Tox, in the midst of her spreading gauzes, went down
altogether like an opera-glass shutting-up; she curtseyed so low, in
acknowledgment of Mr Dombey's advancing a step or two to meet her.
'I can never forget this occasion, Sir,' said Miss Tox, softly.
''Tis impossible. My dear Louisa, I can hardly believe the evidence of
If Miss Tox could believe the evidence of one of her senses, it was
a very cold day. That was quite clear. She took an early opportunity
of promoting the circulation in the tip of her nose by secretly
chafing it with her pocket handkerchief, lest, by its very low
temperature, it should disagreeably astonish the baby when she came to
The baby soon appeared, carried in great glory by Richards; while
Florence, in custody of that active young constable, Susan Nipper,
brought up the rear. Though the whole nursery party were dressed by
this time in lighter mourning than at first, there was enough in the
appearance of the bereaved children to make the day no brighter. The
baby too - it might have been Miss Tox's nose - began to cry. Thereby,
as it happened, preventing Mr Chick from the awkward fulfilment of a
very honest purpose he had; which was, to make much of Florence. For
this gentleman, insensible to the superior claims of a perfect Dombey
(perhaps on account of having the honour to be united to a Dombey
himself, and being familiar with excellence), really liked her, and
showed that he liked her, and was about to show it in his own way now,
when Paul cried, and his helpmate stopped him short
'Now Florence, child!' said her aunt, briskly, 'what are you doing,
love? Show yourself to him. Engage his attention, my dear!'
The atmosphere became or might have become colder and colder, when
Mr Dombey stood frigidly watching his little daughter, who, clapping
her hands, and standing On tip-toe before the throne of his son and
heir, lured him to bend down from his high estate, and look at her.
Some honest act of Richards's may have aided the effect, but he did
look down, and held his peace. As his sister hid behind her nurse, he
followed her with his eyes; and when she peeped out with a merry cry
to him, he sprang up and crowed lustily - laughing outright when she
ran in upon him; and seeming to fondle her curls with his tiny hands,
while she smothered him with kisses.
Was Mr Dombey pleased to see this? He testified no pleasure by the
relaxation of a nerve; but outward tokens of any kind of feeling were
unusual with him. If any sunbeam stole into the room to light the
children at their play, it never reached his face. He looked on so
fixedly and coldly, that the warm light vanished even from the
laughing eyes of little Florence, when, at last, they happened to meet
It was a dull, grey, autumn day indeed, and in a minute's pause and
silence that took place, the leaves fell sorrowfully.
'Mr John,' said Mr Dombey, referring to his watch, and assuming his
hat and gloves. 'Take my sister, if you please: my arm today is Miss
Tox's. You had better go first with Master Paul, Richards. Be very
In Mr Dombey's carriage, Dombey and Son, Miss Tox, Mrs Chick,
Richards, and Florence. In a little carriage following it, Susan
Nipper and the owner Mr Chick. Susan looking out of window, without
intermission, as a relief from the embarrassment of confronting the
large face of that gentleman, and thinking whenever anything rattled
that he was putting up in paper an appropriate pecuniary compliment
Once upon the road to church, Mr Dombey clapped his hands for the
amusement of his son. At which instance of parental enthusiasm Miss
Tox was enchanted. But exclusive of this incident, the chief
difference between the christening party and a party in a mourning
coach consisted in the colours of the carriage and horses.
Arrived at the church steps, they were received by a portentous
beadle.' Mr Dombey dismounting first to help the ladies out, and
standing near him at the church door, looked like another beadle. A
beadle less gorgeous but more dreadful; the beadle of private life;
the beadle of our business and our bosoms.
Miss Tox's hand trembled as she slipped it through Mr Dombey's arm,
and felt herself escorted up the steps, preceded by a cocked hat and a
Babylonian collar. It seemed for a moment like that other solemn
institution, 'Wilt thou have this man, Lucretia?' 'Yes, I will.'
'Please to bring the child in quick out of the air there,'
whispered the beadle, holding open the inner door of the church.
Little Paul might have asked with Hamlet 'into my grave?' so chill
and earthy was the place. The tall shrouded pulpit and reading desk;
the dreary perspective of empty pews stretching away under the
galleries, and empty benches mounting to the roof and lost in the
shadow of the great grim organ; the dusty matting and cold stone
slabs; the grisly free seats' in the aisles; and the damp corner by
the bell-rope, where the black trestles used for funerals were stowed
away, along with some shovels and baskets, and a coil or two of
deadly-looking rope; the strange, unusual, uncomfortable smell, and
the cadaverous light; were all in unison. It was a cold and dismal
'There's a wedding just on, Sir,' said the beadle, 'but it'll be
over directly, if you'll walk into the westry here.
Before he turned again to lead the way, he gave Mr Dombey a bow and
a half smile of recognition, importing that he (the beadle) remembered
to have had the pleasure of attending on him when he buried his wife,
and hoped he had enjoyed himself since.
The very wedding looked dismal as they passed in front of the
altar. The bride was too old and the bridegroom too young, and a
superannuated beau with one eye and an eyeglass stuck in its blank
companion, was giving away the lady, while the friends were shivering.
In the vestry the fire was smoking; and an over-aged and over-worked
and under-paid attorney's clerk, 'making a search,' was running his
forefinger down the parchment pages of an immense register (one of a
long series of similar volumes) gorged with burials. Over the
fireplace was a ground-plan of the vaults underneath the church; and
Mr Chick, skimming the literary portion of it aloud, by way of
enlivening the company, read the reference to Mrs Dombey's tomb in
full, before he could stop himself.
After another cold interval, a wheezy little pew-opener afflicted
with an asthma, appropriate to the churchyard, if not to the church,
summoned them to the font - a rigid marble basin which seemed to have
been playing a churchyard game at cup and ball with its matter of fact
pedestal, and to have been just that moment caught on the top of it.
Here they waited some little time while the marriage party enrolled
themselves; and meanwhile the wheezy little pew-opener - partly in
consequence of her infirmity, and partly that the marriage party might
not forget her - went about the building coughing like a grampus.
Presently the clerk (the only cheerful-looking object there, and he
was an undertaker) came up with a jug of warm water, and said
something, as he poured it into the font, about taking the chill off;
which millions of gallons boiling hot could not have done for the
occasion. Then the clergyman, an amiable and mild-looking young
curate, but obviously afraid of the baby, appeared like the principal
character in a ghost-story, 'a tall figure all in white;' at sight of
whom Paul rent the air with his cries, and never left off again till
he was taken out black in the face.
Even when that event had happened, to the great relief of
everybody, he was heard under the portico, during the rest of the
ceremony, now fainter, now louder, now hushed, now bursting forth
again with an irrepressible sense of his wrongs. This so distracted
the attention of the two ladies, that Mrs Chick was constantly
deploying into the centre aisle, to send out messages by the
pew-opener, while Miss Tox kept her Prayer-book open at the Gunpowder
Plot, and occasionally read responses from that service.
During the whole of these proceedings, Mr Dombey remained as
impassive and gentlemanly as ever, and perhaps assisted in making it
so cold, that the young curate smoked at the mouth as he read. The
only time that he unbent his visage in the least, was when the
clergyman, in delivering (very unaffectedly and simply) the closing
exhortation, relative to the future examination of the child by the
sponsors, happened to rest his eye on Mr Chick; and then Mr Dombey
might have been seen to express by a majestic look, that he would like
to catch him at it.
It might have been well for Mr Dombey, if he had thought of his own
dignity a little less; and had thought of the great origin and purpose
of the ceremony in which he took so formal and so stiff a part, a
little more. His arrogance contrasted strangely with its history.
When it was all over, he again gave his arm to Miss Tox, and
conducted her to the vestry, where he informed the clergyman how much
pleasure it would have given him to have solicited the honour of his
company at dinner, but for the unfortunate state of his household
affairs. The register signed, and the fees paid, and the pew-opener
(whose cough was very bad again) remembered, and the beadle gratified,
and the sexton (who was accidentally on the doorsteps, looking with
great interest at the weather) not forgotten, they got into the
carriage again, and drove home in the same bleak fellowship.
There they found Mr Pitt turning up his nose at a cold collation,
set forth in a cold pomp of glass and silver, and looking more like a
dead dinner lying in state than a social refreshment. On their arrival
Miss Tox produced a mug for her godson, and Mr Chick a knife and fork
and spoon in a case. Mr Dombey also produced a bracelet for Miss Tox;
and, on the receipt of this token, Miss Tox was tenderly affected.
'Mr John,' said Mr Dombey, 'will you take the bottom of the table,
if you please? What have you got there, Mr John?'
'I have got a cold fillet of veal here, Sir,' replied Mr Chick,
rubbing his numbed hands hard together. 'What have you got there,
'This,' returned Mr Dombey, 'is some cold preparation of calf's
head, I think. I see cold fowls - ham - patties - salad - lobster.
Miss Tox will do me the honour of taking some wine? Champagne to Miss
There was a toothache in everything. The wine was so bitter cold
that it forced a little scream from Miss Tox, which she had great
difficulty in turning into a 'Hem!' The veal had come from such an
airy pantry, that the first taste of it had struck a sensation as of
cold lead to Mr Chick's extremities. Mr Dombey alone remained unmoved.
He might have been hung up for sale at a Russian fair as a specimen of
a frozen gentleman.
The prevailing influence was too much even for his sister. She made
no effort at flattery or small talk, and directed all her efforts to
looking as warm as she could.
'Well, Sir,' said Mr Chick, making a desperate plunge, after a long
silence, and filling a glass of sherry; 'I shall drink this, if you'll
allow me, Sir, to little Paul.'
'Bless him!' murmured Miss Tox, taking a sip of wine.
'Dear little Dombey!' murmured Mrs Chick.
'Mr John,' said Mr Dombey, with severe gravity, 'my son would feel
and express himself obliged to you, I have no doubt, if he could
appreciate the favour you have done him. He will prove, in time to
come, I trust, equal to any responsibility that the obliging
disposition of his relations and friends, in private, or the onerous
nature of our position, in public, may impose upon him.'
The tone in which this was said admitting of nothing more, Mr Chick
relapsed into low spirits and silence. Not so Miss Tox, who, having
listened to Mr Dombey with even a more emphatic attention than usual,
and with a more expressive tendency of her head to one side, now leant
across the table, and said to Mrs Chick softly:
'My dear,' said Mrs Chick.
'Onerous nature of our position in public may - I have forgotten
the exact term.'
'Expose him to,' said Mrs Chick.
'Pardon me, my dear,' returned Miss Tox, 'I think not. It was more
rounded and flowing. Obliging disposition of relations and friends in
private, or onerous nature of position in public - may - impose upon
'Impose upon him, to be sure,' said Mrs Chick.
Miss Tox struck her delicate hands together lightly, in triumph;
and added, casting up her eyes, 'eloquence indeed!'
Mr Dombey, in the meanwhile, had issued orders for the attendance
of Richards, who now entered curtseying, but without the baby; Paul
being asleep after the fatigues of the morning. Mr Dombey, having
delivered a glass of wine to this vassal, addressed her in the
following words: Miss Tox previously settling her head on one side,
and making other little arrangements for engraving them on her heart.
'During the six months or so, Richards, which have seen you an
inmate of this house, you have done your duty. Desiring to connect
some little service to you with this occasion, I considered how I
could best effect that object, and I also advised with my sister, Mrs
'Chick,' interposed the gentleman of that name.
'Oh, hush if you please!' said Miss Tox.
'I was about to say to you, Richards,' resumed Mr Dombey, with an
appalling glance at Mr John, 'that I was further assisted in my
decision, by the recollection of a conversation I held with your
husband in this room, on the occasion of your being hired, when he
disclosed to me the melancholy fact that your family, himself at the
head, were sunk and steeped in ignorance.
Richards quailed under the magnificence of the reproof.
'I am far from being friendly,' pursued Mr Dombey, 'to what is
called by persons of levelling sentiments, general education. But it
is necessary that the inferior classes should continue to be taught to
know their position, and to conduct themselves properly. So far I
approve of schools. Having the power of nominating a child on the
foundation of an ancient establishment, called (from a worshipful
company) the Charitable Grinders; where not only is a wholesome
education bestowed upon the scholars, but where a dress and badge is
likewise provided for them; I have (first communicating, through Mrs
Chick, with your family) nominated your eldest son to an existing
vacancy; and he has this day, I am informed, assumed the habit. The
number of her son, I believe,' said Mr Dombey, turning to his sister
and speaking of the child as if he were a hackney-coach, is one
hundred and forty-seven. Louisa, you can tell her.'
'One hundred and forty-seven,' said Mrs Chick 'The dress, Richards,
is a nice, warm, blue baize tailed coat and cap, turned up with orange
coloured binding; red worsted stockings; and very strong leather
small-clothes. One might wear the articles one's self,' said Mrs
Chick, with enthusiasm, 'and be grateful.'
'There, Richards!' said Miss Tox. 'Now, indeed, you may be proud.
The Charitable Grinders!'
'I am sure I am very much obliged, Sir,' returned Richards faintly,
'and take it very kind that you should remember my little ones.' At
the same time a vision of Biler as a Charitable Grinder, with his very
small legs encased in the serviceable clothing described by Mrs Chick,
swam before Richards's eyes, and made them water.
'I am very glad to see you have so much feeling, Richards,' said
'It makes one almost hope, it really does,' said Mrs Chick, who
prided herself on taking trustful views of human nature, 'that there
may yet be some faint spark of gratitude and right feeling in the
Richards deferred to these compliments by curtseying and murmuring
her thanks; but finding it quite impossible to recover her spirits
from the disorder into which they had been thrown by the image of her
son in his precocious nether garments, she gradually approached the
door and was heartily relieved to escape by it.
Such temporary indications of a partial thaw that had appeared with
her, vanished with her; and the frost set in again, as cold and hard
as ever. Mr Chick was twice heard to hum a tune at the bottom of the
table, but on both occasions it was a fragment of the Dead March in
Saul. The party seemed to get colder and colder, and to be gradually
resolving itself into a congealed and solid state, like the collation
round which it was assembled. At length Mrs Chick looked at Miss Tox,
and Miss Tox returned the look, and they both rose and said it was
really time to go. Mr Dombey receiving this announcement with perfect
equanimity, they took leave of that gentleman, and presently departed
under the protection of Mr Chick; who, when they had turned their
backs upon the house and left its master in his usual solitary state,
put his hands in his pockets, threw himself back in the carriage, and
whistled 'With a hey ho chevy!' all through; conveying into his face
as he did so, an expression of such gloomy and terrible defiance, that
Mrs Chick dared not protest, or in any way molest him.
Richards, though she had little Paul on her lap, could not forget
her own first-born. She felt it was ungrateful; but the influence of
the day fell even on the Charitable Grinders, and she could hardly
help regarding his pewter badge, number one hundred and forty-seven,
as, somehow, a part of its formality and sternness. She spoke, too, in
the nursery, of his 'blessed legs,' and was again troubled by his
spectre in uniform.
'I don't know what I wouldn't give,' said Polly, 'to see the poor
little dear before he gets used to 'em.'
'Why, then, I tell you what, Mrs Richards,' retorted Nipper, who
had been admitted to her confidence, 'see him and make your mind
'Mr Dombey wouldn't like it,' said Polly.
'Oh, wouldn't he, Mrs Richards!' retorted Nipper, 'he'd like it
very much, I think when he was asked.'
'You wouldn't ask him, I suppose, at all?' said Polly.
'No, Mrs Richards, quite contrairy,' returned Susan, 'and them two
inspectors Tox and Chick, not intending to be on duty tomorrow, as I
heard 'em say, me and Mid Floy will go along with you tomorrow
morning, and welcome, Mrs Richards, if you like, for we may as well
walk there as up and down a street, and better too.'
Polly rejected the idea pretty stoutly at first; but by little and
little she began to entertain it, as she entertained more and more
distinctly the forbidden pictures of her children, and her own home.
At length, arguing that there could be no great harm in calling for a
moment at the door, she yielded to the Nipper proposition.
The matter being settled thus, little Paul began to cry most
piteously, as if he had a foreboding that no good would come of it.
'What's the matter with the child?' asked Susan.
'He's cold, I think,' said Polly, walking with him to and fro, and
It was a bleak autumnal afternoon indeed; and as she walked, and
hushed, and, glancing through the dreary windows, pressed the little
fellow closer to her breast, the withered leaves came showering down.
Paul's Second Deprivation
Polly was beset by so many misgivings in the morning, that but for
the incessant promptings of her black-eyed companion, she would have
abandoned all thoughts of the expedition, and formally petitioned for
leave to see number one hundred and forty-seven, under the awful
shadow of Mr Dombey's roof. But Susan who was personally disposed in
favour of the excursion, and who (like Tony Lumpkin), if she could
bear the disappointments of other people with tolerable fortitude,
could not abide to disappoint herself, threw so many ingenious doubts
in the way of this second thought, and stimulated the original
intention with so many ingenious arguments, that almost as soon as Mr
Dombey's stately back was turned, and that gentleman was pursuing his
daily road towards the City, his unconscious son was on his way to
This euphonious locality was situated in a suburb, known by the
inhabitants of Staggs's Gardens by the name of Camberling Town; a
designation which the Strangers' Map of London, as printed (with a
view to pleasant and commodious reference) on pocket handkerchiefs,
condenses, with some show of reason, into Camden Town. Hither the two
nurses bent their steps, accompanied by their charges; Richards
carrying Paul, of course, and Susan leading little Florence by the
hand, and giving her such jerks and pokes from time to time, as she
considered it wholesome to administer.
The first shock of a great earthquake had, just at that period,
rent the whole neighbourhood to its centre. Traces of its course were
visible on every side. Houses were knocked down; streets broken
through and stopped; deep pits and trenches dug in the ground;
enormous heaps of earth and clay thrown up; buildings that were
undermined and shaking, propped by great beams of wood. Here, a chaos
of carts, overthrown and jumbled together, lay topsy-turvy at the
bottom of a steep unnatural hill; there, confused treasures of iron
soaked and rusted in something that had accidentally become a pond.
Everywhere were bridges that led nowhere; thoroughfares that were
wholly impassable; Babel towers of chimneys, wanting half their
height; temporary wooden houses and enclosures, in the most unlikely
situations; carcases of ragged tenements, and fragments of unfinished
walls and arches, and piles of scaffolding, and wildernesses of
bricks, and giant forms of cranes, and tripods straddling above
nothing. There were a hundred thousand shapes and substances of
incompleteness, wildly mingled out of their places, upside down,
burrowing in the earth, aspiring in the air, mouldering in the water,
and unintelligible as any dream. Hot springs and fiery eruptions, the
usual attendants upon earthquakes, lent their contributions of
confusion to the scene. Boiling water hissed and heaved within
dilapidated walls; whence, also, the glare and roar of flames came
issuing forth; and mounds of ashes blocked up rights of way, and
wholly changed the law and custom of the neighbourhood.
In short, the yet unfinished and unopened Railroad was in progress;
and, from the very core of all this dire disorder, trailed smoothly
away, upon its mighty course of civilisation and improvement.
But as yet, the neighbourhood was shy to own the Railroad. One or
two bold speculators had projected streets; and one had built a
little, but had stopped among the mud and ashes to consider farther of
it. A bran-new Tavern, redolent of fresh mortar and size, and fronting
nothing at all, had taken for its sign The Railway Arms; but that
might be rash enterprise - and then it hoped to sell drink to the
workmen. So, the Excavators' House of Call had sprung up from a
beer-shop; and the old-established Ham and Beef Shop had become the
Railway Eating House, with a roast leg of pork daily, through
interested motives of a similar immediate and popular description.
Lodging-house keepers were favourable in like manner; and for the like
reasons were not to be trusted. The general belief was very slow.
There were frowzy fields, and cow-houses, and dunghills, and
dustheaps, and ditches, and gardens, and summer-houses, and
carpet-beating grounds, at the very door of the Railway. Little tumuli
of oyster shells in the oyster season, and of lobster shells in the
lobster season, and of broken crockery and faded cabbage leaves in all
seasons, encroached upon its high places. Posts, and rails, and old
cautions to trespassers, and backs of mean houses, and patches of
wretched vegetation, stared it out of countenance. Nothing was the
better for it, or thought of being so. If the miserable waste ground
lying near it could have laughed, it would have laughed it to scorn,
like many of the miserable neighbours.
Staggs's Gardens was uncommonly incredulous. It was a little row of
houses, with little squalid patches of ground before them, fenced off
with old doors, barrel staves, scraps of tarpaulin, and dead bushes;
with bottomless tin kettles and exhausted iron fenders, thrust into
the gaps. Here, the Staggs's Gardeners trained scarlet beans, kept
fowls and rabbits, erected rotten summer-houses (one was an old boat),
dried clothes, and smoked pipes. Some were of opinion that Staggs's
Gardens derived its name from a deceased capitalist, one Mr Staggs,
who had built it for his delectation. Others, who had a natural taste
for the country, held that it dated from those rural times when the
antlered herd, under the familiar denomination of Staggses, had
resorted to its shady precincts. Be this as it may, Staggs's Gardens
was regarded by its population as a sacred grove not to be withered by
Railroads; and so confident were they generally of its long outliving
any such ridiculous inventions, that the master chimney-sweeper at the
corner, who was understood to take the lead in the local politics of
the Gardens, had publicly declared that on the occasion of the
Railroad opening, if ever it did open, two of his boys should ascend
the flues of his dwelling, with instructions to hail the failure with
derisive cheers from the chimney-pots.
To this unhallowed spot, the very name of which had hitherto been
carefully concealed from Mr Dombey by his sister, was little Paul now
borne by Fate and Richards
'That's my house, Susan,' said Polly, pointing it out.
'Is it, indeed, Mrs Richards?' said Susan, condescendingly.
'And there's my sister Jemima at the door, I do declare' cried
Polly, 'with my own sweet precious baby in her arms!'
The sight added such an extensive pair of wings to Polly's
impatience, that she set off down the Gardens at a run, and bouncing
on Jemima, changed babies with her in a twinkling; to the unutterable
astonishment of that young damsel, on whom the heir of the Dombeys
seemed to have fallen from the clouds.
'Why, Polly!' cried Jemima. 'You! what a turn you have given me!
who'd have thought it! come along in Polly! How well you do look to be
sure! The children will go half wild to see you Polly, that they
That they did, if one might judge from the noise they made, and the
way in which they dashed at Polly and dragged her to a low chair in
the chimney corner, where her own honest apple face became immediately
the centre of a bunch of smaller pippins, all laying their rosy cheeks
close to it, and all evidently the growth of the same tree. As to
Polly, she was full as noisy and vehement as the children; and it was
not until she was quite out of breath, and her hair was hanging all
about her flushed face, and her new christening attire was very much
dishevelled, that any pause took place in the confusion. Even then,
the smallest Toodle but one remained in her lap, holding on tight with
both arms round her neck; while the smallest Toodle but two mounted on
the back of the chair, and made desperate efforts, with one leg in the
air, to kiss her round the corner.
'Look! there's a pretty little lady come to see you,' said Polly;
'and see how quiet she is! what a beautiful little lady, ain't she?'
This reference to Florence, who had been standing by the door not
unobservant of what passed, directed the attention of the younger
branches towards her; and had likewise the happy effect of leading to
the formal recognition of Miss Nipper, who was not quite free from a
misgiving that she had been already slighted.
'Oh do come in and sit down a minute, Susan, please,' said Polly.
'This is my sister Jemima, this is. Jemima, I don't know what I should
ever do with myself, if it wasn't for Susan Nipper; I shouldn't be
here now but for her.'
'Oh do sit down, Miss Nipper, if you please,' quoth Jemima.
Susan took the extreme corner of a chair, with a stately and
'I never was so glad to see anybody in all my life; now really I
never was, Miss Nipper,' said Jemima.
Susan relaxing, took a little more of the chair, and smiled
'Do untie your bonnet-strings, and make yourself at home, Miss
Nipper, please,' entreated Jemima. 'I am afraid it's a poorer place
than you're used to; but you'll make allowances, I'm sure.'
The black-eyed was so softened by this deferential behaviour, that
she caught up little Miss Toodle who was running past, and took her to
Banbury Cross immediately.
'But where's my pretty boy?' said Polly. 'My poor fellow? I came
all this way to see him in his new clothes.'
'Ah what a pity!' cried Jemima. 'He'll break his heart, when he
hears his mother has been here. He's at school, Polly.'
'Yes. He went for the first time yesterday, for fear he should lose
any learning. But it's half-holiday, Polly: if you could only stop
till he comes home - you and Miss Nipper, leastways,' said Jemima,
mindful in good time of the dignity of the black-eyed.
'And how does he look, Jemima, bless him!' faltered Polly.
'Well, really he don't look so bad as you'd suppose,' returned
'Ah!' said Polly, with emotion, 'I knew his legs must be too
His legs is short,' returned Jemima; 'especially behind; but
they'll get longer, Polly, every day.'
It was a slow, prospective kind of consolation; but the
cheerfulness and good nature with which it was administered, gave it a
value it did not intrinsically possess. After a moment's silence,
Polly asked, in a more sprightly manner:
'And where's Father, Jemima dear?' - for by that patriarchal
appellation, Mr Toodle was generally known in the family.
'There again!' said Jemima. 'What a pity! Father took his dinner
with him this morning, and isn't coming home till night. But he's
always talking of you, Polly, and telling the children about you; and
is the peaceablest, patientest, best-temperedest soul in the world, as
he always was and will be!'
'Thankee, Jemima,' cried the simple Polly; delighted by the speech,
and disappointed by the absence.
'Oh you needn't thank me, Polly,' said her sister, giving her a
sounding kiss upon the cheek, and then dancing little Paul cheerfully.
'I say the same of you sometimes, and think it too.'
In spite of the double disappointment, it was impossible to regard
in the light of a failure a visit which was greeted with such a
reception; so the sisters talked hopefully about family matters, and
about Biler, and about all his brothers and sisters: while the
black-eyed, having performed several journeys to Banbury Cross and
back, took sharp note of the furniture, the Dutch clock, the cupboard,
the castle on the mantel-piece with red and green windows in it,
susceptible of illumination by a candle-end within; and the pair of
small black velvet kittens, each with a lady's reticule in its mouth;
regarded by the Staggs's Gardeners as prodigies of imitative art. The
conversation soon becoming general lest the black-eyed should go off
at score and turn sarcastic, that young lady related to Jemima a
summary of everything she knew concerning Mr Dombey, his prospects,
family, pursuits, and character. Also an exact inventory of her
personal wardrobe, and some account of her principal relations and
friends. Having relieved her mind of these disclosures, she partook of
shrimps and porter, and evinced a disposition to swear eternal
Little Florence herself was not behind-hand in improving the
occasion; for, being conducted forth by the young Toodles to inspect
some toad-stools and other curiosities of the Gardens, she entered
with them, heart and soul, on the formation of a temporary breakwater
across a small green pool that had collected in a corner. She was
still busily engaged in that labour, when sought and found by Susan;
who, such was her sense of duty, even under the humanizing influence
of shrimps, delivered a moral address to her (punctuated with thumps)
on her degenerate nature, while washing her face and hands; and
predicted that she would bring the grey hairs of her family in
general, with sorrow to the grave. After some delay, occasioned by a
pretty long confidential interview above stairs on pecuniary subjects,
between Polly and Jemima, an interchange of babies was again effected
- for Polly had all this timeretained her own child, and Jemima little
Paul - and the visitors took leave.
But first the young Toodles, victims of a pious fraud, were deluded
into repairing in a body to a chandler's shop in the neighbourhood,
for the ostensible purpose of spending a penny; and when the coast was
quite clear, Polly fled: Jemima calling after her that if they could
only go round towards the City Road on their way back, they would be
sure to meet little Biler coming from school.
'Do you think that we might make time to go a little round in that
direction, Susan?' inquired Polly, when they halted to take breath.
'Why not, Mrs Richards?' returned Susan.
'It's getting on towards our dinner time you know,' said Polly.
But lunch had rendered her companion more than indifferent to this
grave consideration, so she allowed no weight to it, and they resolved
to go 'a little round.'
Now, it happened that poor Biler's life had been, since yesterday
morning, rendered weary by the costume of the Charitable Grinders. The
youth of the streets could not endure it. No young vagabond could be
brought to bear its contemplation for a moment, without throwing
himself upon the unoffending wearer, and doing him a mischief. His
social existence had been more like that of an early Christian, than
an innocent child of the nineteenth century. He had been stoned in the
streets. He had been overthrown into gutters; bespattered with mud;
violently flattened against posts. Entire strangers to his person had
lifted his yellow cap off his head, and cast it to the winds. His legs
had not only undergone verbal criticisms and revilings, but had been
handled and pinched. That very morning, he had received a perfectly
unsolicited black eye on his way to the Grinders' establishment, and
had been punished for it by the master: a superannuated old Grinder of
savage disposition, who had been appointed schoolmaster because he
didn't know anything, and wasn't fit for anything, and for whose cruel
cane all chubby little boys had a perfect fascination.'
Thus it fell out that Biler, on his way home, sought unfrequented
paths; and slunk along by narrow passages and back streets, to avoid
his tormentors. Being compelled to emerge into the main road, his ill
fortune brought him at last where a small party of boys, headed by a
ferocious young butcher, were lying in wait for any means of
pleasurable excitement that might happen. These, finding a Charitable
Grinder in the midst of them - unaccountably delivered over, as it
were, into their hands - set up a general yell and rushed upon him.
But it so fell out likewise, that, at the same time, Polly, looking
hopelessly along the road before her, after a good hour's walk, had
said it was no use going any further, when suddenly she saw this
sight. She no sooner saw it than, uttering a hasty exclamation, and
giving Master Dombey to the black-eyed, she started to the rescue of
her unhappy little son.
Surprises, like misfortunes, rarely come alone. The astonished
Susan Nipper and her two young charges were rescued by the bystanders
from under the very wheels of a passing carriage before they knew what
had happened; and at that moment (it was market day) a thundering
alarm of 'Mad Bull!' was raised.
With a wild confusion before her, of people running up and down,
and shouting, and wheels running over them, and boys fighting, and mad
bulls coming up, and the nurse in the midst of all these dangers being
torn to pieces, Florence screamed and ran. She ran till she was
exhausted, urging Susan to do the same; and then, stopping and
wringing her hands as she remembered they had left the other nurse
behind, found, with a sensation of terror not to be described, that
she was quite alone.
'Susan! Susan!' cried Florence, clapping her hands in the very
ecstasy of her alarm. 'Oh, where are they? where are they?'
'Where are they?' said an old woman, coming hobbling across as fast
as she could from the opposite side of the way. 'Why did you run away
'I was frightened,' answered Florence. 'I didn't know what I did. I
thought they were with me. Where are they?'
The old woman took her by the wrist, and said, 'I'll show you.'
She was a very ugly old woman, with red rims round her eyes, and a
mouth that mumbled and chattered of itself when she was not speaking.
She was miserably dressed, and carried some skins over her arm. She
seemed to have followed Florence some little way at all events, for
she had lost her breath; and this made her uglier still, as she stood
trying to regain it: working her shrivelled yellow face and throat
into all sorts of contortions.
Florence was afraid of her, and looked, hesitating, up the street,
of which she had almost reached the bottom. It was a solitary place -
more a back road than a street - and there was no one in it but her-
self and the old woman.
'You needn't be frightened now,' said the old woman, still holding
her tight. 'Come along with me.'
'I - I don't know you. What's your name?' asked Florence.
'Mrs Brown,' said the old woman. 'Good Mrs Brown.'
'Are they near here?' asked Florence, beginning to be led away.
'Susan ain't far off,' said Good Mrs Brown; 'and the others are
close to her.'
'Is anybody hurt?' cried Florence.
'Not a bit of it,' said Good Mrs Brown.
The child shed tears of delight on hearing this, and accompanied
the old woman willingly; though she could not help glancing at her
face as they went along - particularly at that industrious mouth - and
wondering whether Bad Mrs Brown, if there were such a person, was at
all like her.
They had not gone far, but had gone by some very uncomfortable
places, such as brick-fields and tile-yards, when the old woman turned
down a dirty lane, where the mud lay in deep black ruts in the middle
of the road. She stopped before a shabby little house, as closely shut
up as a house that was full of cracks and crevices could be. Opening
the door with a key she took out of her bonnet, she pushed the child
before her into a back room, where there was a great heap of rags of
different colours lying on the floor; a heap of bones, and a heap of
sifted dust or cinders; but there was no furniture at all, and the
walls and ceiling were quite black.
The child became so terrified the she was stricken speechless, and
looked as though about to swoon.
'Now don't be a young mule,' said Good Mrs Brown, reviving her with
a shake. 'I'm not a going to hurt you. Sit upon the rags.'
Florence obeyed her, holding out her folded hands, in mute
'I'm not a going to keep you, even, above an hour,' said Mrs Brown.
'D'ye understand what I say?'
The child answered with great difficulty, 'Yes.'
'Then,' said Good Mrs Brown, taking her own seat on the bones,
'don't vex me. If you don't, I tell you I won't hurt you. But if you
do, I'll kill you. I could have you killed at any time - even if you
was in your own bed at home. Now let's know who you are, and what you
are, and all about it.'
The old woman's threats and promises; the dread of giving her
offence; and the habit, unusual to a child, but almost natural to
Florence now, of being quiet, and repressing what she felt, and
feared, and hoped; enabled her to do this bidding, and to tell her
little history, or what she knew of it. Mrs Brown listened
attentively, until she had finished.
'So your name's Dombey, eh?' said Mrs Brown.
'I want that pretty frock, Miss Dombey,' said Good Mrs Brown, 'and
that little bonnet, and a petticoat or two, and anything else you can
spare. Come! Take 'em off.'
Florence obeyed, as fast as her trembling hands would allow;
keeping, all the while, a frightened eye on Mrs Brown. When she had
divested herself of all the articles of apparel mentioned by that
lady, Mrs B. examined them at leisure, and seemed tolerably well
satisfied with their quality and value.
'Humph!' she said, running her eyes over the child's slight figure,
'I don't see anything else - except the shoes. I must have the shoes,
Poor little Florence took them off with equal alacrity, only too
glad to have any more means of conciliation about her. The old woman
then produced some wretched substitutes from the bottom of the heap of
rags, which she turned up for that purpose; together with a girl's
cloak, quite worn out and very old; and the crushed remains of a
bonnet that had probably been picked up from some ditch or dunghill.
In this dainty raiment, she instructed Florence to dress herself; and
as such preparation seemed a prelude to her release, the child
complied with increased readiness, if possible.
In hurriedly putting on the bonnet, if that may be called a bonnet
which was more like a pad to carry loads on, she caught it in her hair
which grew luxuriantly, and could not immediately disentangle it. Good
Mrs Brown whipped out a large pair of scissors, and fell into an
unaccountable state of excitement.
'Why couldn't you let me be!' said Mrs Brown, 'when I was
contented? You little fool!'
'I beg your pardon. I don't know what I have done,' panted
Florence. 'I couldn't help it.'
'Couldn't help it!' cried Mrs Brown. 'How do you expect I can help
it? Why, Lord!' said the old woman, ruffling her curls with a furious
pleasure, 'anybody but me would have had 'em off, first of all.'
Florence was so relieved to find that it was only her hair and not her
head which Mrs Brown coveted, that she offered no resistance or
entreaty, and merely raised her mild eyes towards the face of that
'If I hadn't once had a gal of my own - beyond seas now- that was
proud of her hair,' said Mrs Brown, 'I'd have had every lock of it.
She's far away, she's far away! Oho! Oho!'
Mrs Brown's was not a melodious cry, but, accompanied with a wild
tossing up of her lean arms, it was full of passionate grief, and
thrilled to the heart of Florence, whom it frightened more than ever.
It had its part, perhaps, in saving her curls; for Mrs Brown, after
hovering about her with the scissors for some moments, like a new kind
of butterfly, bade her hide them under the bonnet and let no trace of
them escape to tempt her. Having accomplished this victory over
herself, Mrs Brown resumed her seat on the bones, and smoked a very
short black pipe, mowing and mumbling all the time, as if she were
eating the stem.
When the pipe was smoked out, she gave the child a rabbit-skin to
carry, that she might appear the more like her ordinary companion, and
told her that she was now going to lead her to a public street whence
she could inquire her way to her friends. But she cautioned her, with
threats of summary and deadly vengeance in case of disobedience, not
to talk to strangers, nor to repair to her own home (which may have
been too near for Mrs Brown's convenience), but to her father's office
in the City; also to wait at the street corner where she would be
left, until the clock struck three. These directions Mrs Brown
enforced with assurances that there would be potent eyes and ears in
her employment cognizant of all she did; and these directions Florence
promised faithfully and earnestly to observe.
At length, Mrs Brown, issuing forth, conducted her changed and
ragged little friend through a labyrinth of narrow streets and lanes
and alleys, which emerged, after a long time, upon a stable yard, with
a gateway at the end, whence the roar of a great thoroughfare made
itself audible. Pointing out this gateway, and informing Florence that
when the clocks struck three she was to go to the left, Mrs Brown,
after making a parting grasp at her hair which seemed involuntary and
quite beyond her own control, told her she knew what to do, and bade
her go and do it: remembering that she was watched.
With a lighter heart, but still sore afraid, Florence felt herself
released, and tripped off to the corner. When she reached it, she
looked back and saw the head of Good Mrs Brown peeping out of the low
wooden passage, where she had issued her parting injunctions; likewise
the fist of Good Mrs Brown shaking towards her. But though she often
looked back afterwards - every minute, at least, in her nervous
recollection of the old woman - she could not see her again.
Florence remained there, looking at the bustle in the street, and
more and more bewildered by it; and in the meanwhile the clocks
appeared to have made up their minds never to strike three any more.
At last the steeples rang out three o'clock; there was one close by,
so she couldn't be mistaken; and - after often looking over her
shoulder, and often going a little way, and as often coming back
again, lest the all-powerful spies of Mrs Brown should take offence -
she hurried off, as fast as she could in her slipshod shoes, holding
the rabbit-skin tight in her hand.
All she knew of her father's offices was that they belonged to
Dombey and Son, and that that was a great power belonging to the City.
So she could only ask the way to Dombey and Son's in the City; and as
she generally made inquiry of children - being afraid to ask grown
people - she got very little satisfaction indeed. But by dint of
asking her way to the City after a while, and dropping the rest of her
inquiry for the present, she really did advance, by slow degrees,
towards the heart of that great region which is governed by the
terrible Lord Mayor.
Tired of walking, repulsed and pushed about, stunned by the noise
and confusion, anxious for her brother and the nurses, terrified by
what she had undergone, and the prospect of encountering her angry
father in such an altered state; perplexed and frightened alike by
what had passed, and what was passing, and what was yet before her;
Florence went upon her weary way with tearful eyes, and once or twice
could not help stopping to ease her bursting heart by crying bitterly.
But few people noticed her at those times, in the garb she wore: or if
they did, believed that she was tutored to excite compassion, and
passed on. Florence, too, called to her aid all the firmness and
self-reliance of a character that her sad experience had prematurely
formed and tried: and keeping the end she had in view steadily before
her, steadily pursued it.
It was full two hours later in the afternoon than when she had
started on this strange adventure, when, escaping from the clash and
clangour of a narrow street full of carts and waggons, she peeped into
a kind of wharf or landing-place upon the river-side, where there were
a great many packages, casks, and boxes, strewn about; a large pair of
wooden scales; and a little wooden house on wheels, outside of which,
looking at the neighbouring masts and boats, a stout man stood
whistling, with his pen behind his ear, and his hands in his pockets,
as if his day's work were nearly done.
'Now then! 'said this man, happening to turn round. 'We haven't got
anything for you, little girl. Be off!'
'If you please, is this the City?' asked the trembling daughter of
'Ah! It's the City. You know that well enough, I daresay. Be off!
We haven't got anything for you.'
'I don't want anything, thank you,' was the timid answer. 'Except
to know the way to Dombey and Son's.'
The man who had been strolling carelessly towards her, seemed
surprised by this reply, and looking attentively in her face,
'Why, what can you want with Dombey and Son's?'
'To know the way there, if you please.'
The man looked at her yet more curiously, and rubbed the back of
his head so hard in his wonderment that he knocked his own hat off.
'Joe!' he called to another man - a labourer- as he picked it up
and put it on again.
'Joe it is!' said Joe.
'Where's that young spark of Dombey's who's been watching the
shipment of them goods?'
'Just gone, by t'other gate,' said Joe.
'Call him back a minute.'
Joe ran up an archway, bawling as he went, and very soon returned
with a blithe-looking boy.
'You're Dombey's jockey, ain't you?' said the first man.
'I'm in Dombey's House, Mr Clark,' returned the boy.
'Look'ye here, then,' said Mr Clark.
Obedient to the indication of Mr Clark's hand, the boy approached
towards Florence, wondering, as well he might, what he had to do with
her. But she, who had heard what passed, and who, besides the relief
of so suddenly considering herself safe at her journey's end, felt
reassured beyond all measure by his lively youthful face and manner,
ran eagerly up to him, leaving one of the slipshod shoes upon the
ground and caught his hand in both of hers.
'I am lost, if you please!' said Florence.
'Lost!' cried the boy.
'Yes, I was lost this morning, a long way from here - and I have
had my clothes taken away, since - and I am not dressed in my own now
- and my name is Florence Dombey, my little brother's only sister -
and, oh dear, dear, take care of me, if you please!' sobbed Florence,
giving full vent to the childish feelings she had so long suppressed,
and bursting into tears. At the same time her miserable bonnet falling
off, her hair came tumbling down about her face: moving to speechless
admiration and commiseration, young Walter, nephew of Solomon Gills,
Ships' Instrument-maker in general.
Mr Clark stood rapt in amazement: observing under his breath, I
never saw such a start on this wharf before. Walter picked up the
shoe, and put it on the little foot as the Prince in the story might
have fitted Cinderella's slipper on. He hung the rabbit-skin over his
left arm; gave the right to Florence; and felt, not to say like
Richard Whittington - that is a tame comparison - but like Saint
George of England, with the dragon lying dead before him.
'Don't cry, Miss Dombey,' said Walter, in a transport of
'What a wonderful thing for me that I am here! You are as safe now
as if you were guarded by a whole boat's crew of picked men from a
man-of-war. Oh, don't cry.'
'I won't cry any more,' said Florence. 'I am only crying for joy.'
'Crying for joy!' thought Walter, 'and I'm the cause of it! Come
along, Miss Dombey. There's the other shoe off now! Take mine, Miss
'No, no, no,' said Florence, checking him in the act of impetuously
pulling off his own. 'These do better. These do very well.'
'Why, to be sure,' said Walter, glancing at her foot, 'mine are a
mile too large. What am I thinking about! You never could walk in
mine! Come along, Miss Dombey. Let me see the villain who will dare
molest you now.'
So Walter, looking immensely fierce, led off Florence, looking very
happy; and they went arm-in-arm along the streets, perfectly
indifferent to any astonishment that their appearance might or did
excite by the way.
It was growing dark and foggy, and beginning to rain too; but they
cared nothing for this: being both wholly absorbed in the late
adventures of Florence, which she related with the innocent good faith
and confidence of her years, while Walter listened as if, far from the
mud and grease of Thames Street, they were rambling alone among the
broad leaves and tall trees of some desert island in the tropics - as
he very likely fancied, for the time, they were.
'Have we far to go?' asked Florence at last, lilting up her eyes to
her companion's face.
'Ah! By-the-bye,' said Walter, stopping, 'let me see; where are we?
Oh! I know. But the offices are shut up now, Miss Dombey. There's
nobody there. Mr Dombey has gone home long ago. I suppose we must go
home too? or, stay. Suppose I take you to my Uncle's, where I live -
it's very near here - and go to your house in a coach to tell them you
are safe, and bring you back some clothes. Won't that be best?'
'I think so,' answered Florence. 'Don't you? What do you think?'
As they stood deliberating in the street, a man passed them, who
glanced quickly at Walter as he went by, as if he recognised him; but
seeming to correct that first impression, he passed on without
'Why, I think it's Mr Carker,' said Walter. 'Carker in our House.
Not Carker our Manager, Miss Dombey - the other Carker; the Junior -
Halloa! Mr Carker!'
'Is that Walter Gay?' said the other, stopping and returning. 'I
couldn't believe it, with such a strange companion.
As he stood near a lamp, listening with surprise to Walter's
hurried explanation, he presented a remarkable contrast to the two
youthful figures arm-in-arm before him. He was not old, but his hair
was white; his body was bent, or bowed as if by the weight of some
great trouble: and there were deep lines in his worn and melancholy
face. The fire of his eyes, the expression of his features, the very
voice in which he spoke, were all subdued and quenched, as if the
spirit within him lay in ashes. He was respectably, though very
plainly dressed, in black; but his clothes, moulded to the general
character of his figure, seemed to shrink and abase themselves upon
him, and to join in the sorrowful solicitation which the whole man
from head to foot expressed, to be left unnoticed, and alone in his
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