Dombey and Son
Part 3 out of 21
And yet his interest in youth and hopefulness was not extinguished
with the other embers of his soul, for he watched the boy's earnest
countenance as he spoke with unusual sympathy, though with an
inexplicable show of trouble and compassion, which escaped into his
looks, however hard he strove to hold it prisoner. When Walter, in
conclusion, put to him the question he had put to Florence, he still
stood glancing at him with the same expression, as if he had read some
fate upon his face, mournfully at variance with its present
'What do you advise, Mr Carker?' said Walter, smiling. 'You always
give me good advice, you know, when you do speak to me. That's not
'I think your own idea is the best,' he answered: looking from
Florence to Walter, and back again.
'Mr Carker,' said Walter, brightening with a generous thought,
'Come! Here's a chance for you. Go you to Mr Dombey's, and be the
messenger of good news. It may do you some good, Sir. I'll remain at
home. You shall go.'
'I!' returned the other.
'Yes. Why not, Mr Carker?' said the boy.
He merely shook him by the hand in answer; he seemed in a manner
ashamed and afraid even to do that; and bidding him good-night, and
advising him to make haste, turned away.
'Come, Miss Dombey,' said Walter, looking after him as they turned
away also, 'we'll go to my Uncle's as quick as we can. Did you ever
hear Mr Dombey speak of Mr Carker the Junior, Miss Florence?'
'No,' returned the child, mildly, 'I don't often hear Papa speak.'
'Ah! true! more shame for him,' thought Walter. After a minute's
pause, during which he had been looking down upon the gentle patient
little face moving on at his side, he said, 'The strangest man, Mr
Carker the Junior is, Miss Florence, that ever you heard of. If you
could understand what an extraordinary interest he takes in me, and
yet how he shuns me and avoids me; and what a low place he holds in
our office, and how he is never advanced, and never complains, though
year after year he sees young men passed over his head, and though his
brother (younger than he is), is our head Manager, you would be as
much puzzled about him as I am.'
As Florence could hardly be expected to understand much about it,
Walter bestirred himself with his accustomed boyish animation and
restlessness to change the subject; and one of the unfortunate shoes
coming off again opportunely, proposed to carry Florence to his
uncle's in his arms. Florence, though very tired, laughingly declined
the proposal, lest he should let her fall; and as they were already
near the wooden Midshipman, and as Walter went on to cite various
precedents, from shipwrecks and other moving accidents, where younger
boys than he had triumphantly rescued and carried off older girls than
Florence, they were still in full conversation about it when they
arrived at the Instrument-maker's door.
'Holloa, Uncle Sol!' cried Walter, bursting into the shop, and
speaking incoherently and out of breath, from that time forth, for the
rest of the evening. 'Here's a wonderful adventure! Here's Mr Dombey's
daughter lost in the streets, and robbed of her clothes by an old
witch of a woman - found by me - brought home to our parlour to rest -
'Good Heaven!' said Uncle Sol, starting back against his favourite
compass-case. 'It can't be! Well, I - '
'No, nor anybody else,' said Walter, anticipating the rest. 'Nobody
would, nobody could, you know. Here! just help me lift the little sofa
near the fire, will you, Uncle Sol - take care of the plates - cut
some dinner for her, will you, Uncle - throw those shoes under the
grate. Miss Florence - put your feet on the fender to dry - how damp
they are - here's an adventure, Uncle, eh? - God bless my soul, how
hot I am!'
Solomon Gills was quite as hot, by sympathy, and in excessive
bewilderment. He patted Florence's head, pressed her to eat, pressed
her to drink, rubbed the soles of her feet with his
pocket-handkerchief heated at the fire, followed his locomotive nephew
with his eyes, and ears, and had no clear perception of anything
except that he was being constantly knocked against and tumbled over
by that excited young gentleman, as he darted about the room
attempting to accomplish twenty things at once, and doing nothing at
'Here, wait a minute, Uncle,' he continued, catching up a candle,
'till I run upstairs, and get another jacket on, and then I'll be off.
I say, Uncle, isn't this an adventure?'
'My dear boy,' said Solomon, who, with his spectacles on his
forehead and the great chronometer in his pocket, was incessantly
oscillating between Florence on the sofa, and his nephew in all parts
of the parlour, 'it's the most extraordinary - '
'No, but do, Uncle, please - do, Miss Florence - dinner, you know,
'Yes, yes, yes,' cried Solomon, cutting instantly into a leg of
mutton, as if he were catering for a giant. 'I'll take care of her,
Wally! I understand. Pretty dear! Famished, of course. You go and get
ready. Lord bless me! Sir Richard Whittington thrice Lord Mayor of
Walter was not very long in mounting to his lofty garret and
descending from it, but in the meantime Florence, overcome by fatigue,
had sunk into a doze before the fire. The short interval of quiet,
though only a few minutes in duration, enabled Solomon Gills so far to
collect his wits as to make some little arrangements for her comfort,
and to darken the room, and to screen her from the blaze. Thus, when
the boy returned, she was sleeping peacefully.
'That's capital!' he whispered, giving Solomon such a hug that it
squeezed a new expression into his face. 'Now I'm off. I'll just take
a crust of bread with me, for I'm very hungry - and don't wake her,
'No, no,' said Solomon. 'Pretty child.'
'Pretty, indeed!' cried Walter. 'I never saw such a face, Uncle
Sol. Now I'm off.'
'That's right,' said Solomon, greatly relieved.
'I say, Uncle Sol,' cried Walter, putting his face in at the door.
'Here he is again,' said Solomon.
'How does she look now?'
'Quite happy,' said Solomon.
'That's famous! now I'm off.'
'I hope you are,' said Solomon to himself.
'I say, Uncle Sol,' cried Walter, reappearing at the door.
'Here he is again!' said Solomon.
'We met Mr Carker the Junior in the street, queerer than ever. He
bade me good-bye, but came behind us here - there's an odd thing! -
for when we reached the shop door, I looked round, and saw him going
quietly away, like a servant who had seen me home, or a faithful dog.
How does she look now, Uncle?'
'Pretty much the same as before, Wally,' replied Uncle Sol.
'That's right. Now I am off!'
And this time he really was: and Solomon Gills, with no appetite
for dinner, sat on the opposite side of the fire, watching Florence in
her slumber, building a great many airy castles of the most fantastic
architecture; and looking, in the dim shade, and in the close vicinity
of all the instruments, like a magician disguised in a Welsh wig and a
suit of coffee colour, who held the child in an enchanted sleep.
In the meantime, Walter proceeded towards Mr Dombey's house at a
pace seldom achieved by a hack horse from the stand; and yet with his
head out of window every two or three minutes, in impatient
remonstrance with the driver. Arriving at his journey's end, he leaped
out, and breathlessly announcing his errand to the servant, followed
him straight into the library, we there was a great confusion of
tongues, and where Mr Dombey, his sister, and Miss Tox, Richards, and
Nipper, were all congregated together.
'Oh! I beg your pardon, Sir,' said Walter, rushing up to him, 'but
I'm happy to say it's all right, Sir. Miss Dombey's found!'
The boy with his open face, and flowing hair, and sparkling eyes,
panting with pleasure and excitement, was wonderfully opposed to Mr
Dombey, as he sat confronting him in his library chair.
'I told you, Louisa, that she would certainly be found,' said Mr
Dombey, looking slightly over his shoulder at that lady, who wept in
company with Miss Tox. 'Let the servants know that no further steps
are necessary. This boy who brings the information, is young Gay, from
the office. How was my daughter found, Sir? I know how she was lost.'
Here he looked majestically at Richards. 'But how was she found? Who
'Why, I believe I found Miss Dombey, Sir,' said Walter modestly,
'at least I don't know that I can claim the merit of having exactly
found her, Sir, but I was the fortunate instrument of - '
'What do you mean, Sir,' interrupted Mr Dombey, regarding the boy's
evident pride and pleasure in his share of the transaction with an
instinctive dislike, 'by not having exactly found my daughter, and by
being a fortunate instrument? Be plain and coherent, if you please.'
It was quite out of Walter's power to be coherent; but he rendered
himself as explanatory as he could, in his breathless state, and
stated why he had come alone.
'You hear this, girl?' said Mr Dombey sternly to the black-eyed.
'Take what is necessary, and return immediately with this young man to
fetch Miss Florence home. Gay, you will be rewarded to-morrow.
'Oh! thank you, Sir,' said Walter. 'You are very kind. I'm sure I
was not thinking of any reward, Sir.'
'You are a boy,' said Mr Dombey, suddenly and almost fiercely; 'and
what you think of, or affect to think of, is of little consequence.
You have done well, Sir. Don't undo it. Louisa, please to give the lad
Mr Dombey's glance followed Walter Gay with sharp disfavour, as he
left the room under the pilotage of Mrs Chick; and it may be that his
mind's eye followed him with no greater relish, as he rode back to his
Uncle's with Miss Susan Nipper.
There they found that Florence, much refreshed by sleep, had dined,
and greatly improved the acquaintance of Solomon Gills, with whom she
was on terms of perfect confidence and ease. The black-eyed (who had
cried so much that she might now be called the red-eyed, and who was
very silent and depressed) caught her in her arms without a word of
contradiction or reproach, and made a very hysterical meeting of it.
Then converting the parlour, for the nonce, into a private tiring
room, she dressed her, with great care, in proper clothes; and
presently led her forth, as like a Dombey as her natural
disqualifications admitted of her being made.
'Good-night!' said Florence, running up to Solomon. 'You have been
very good to me.
Old Sol was quite delighted, and kissed her like her grand-father.
'Good-night, Walter! Good-bye!' said Florence.
'Good-bye!' said Walter, giving both his hands.
'I'll never forget you,' pursued Florence. 'No! indeed I never
will. Good-bye, Walter!' In the innocence of her grateful heart, the
child lifted up her face to his. Walter, bending down his own, raised
it again, all red and burning; and looked at Uncle Sol, quite
'Where's Walter?' 'Good-night, Walter!' 'Good-bye, Walter!' 'Shake
hands once more, Walter!' This was still Florence's cry, after she was
shut up with her little maid, in the coach. And when the coach at
length moved off, Walter on the door-step gaily turned the waving of
her handkerchief, while the wooden Midshipman behind him seemed, like
himself, intent upon that coach alone, excluding all the other passing
coaches from his observation.
In good time Mr Dombey's mansion was gained again, and again there
was a noise of tongues in the library. Again, too, the coach was
ordered to wait - 'for Mrs Richards,' one of Susan's fellow-servants
ominously whispered, as she passed with Florence.
The entrance of the lost child made a slight sensation, but not
much. Mr Dombey, who had never found her, kissed her once upon the
forehead, and cautioned her not to run away again, or wander anywhere
with treacherous attendants. Mrs Chick stopped in her lamentations on
the corruption of human nature, even when beckoned to the paths of
virtue by a Charitable Grinder; and received her with a welcome
something short of the reception due to none but perfect Dombeys. Miss
Tox regulated her feelings by the models before her. Richards, the
culprit Richards, alone poured out her heart in broken words of
welcome, and bowed herself over the little wandering head as if she
really loved it.
'Ah, Richards!' said Mrs Chick, with a sigh. 'It would have been
much more satisfactory to those who wish to think well of their fellow
creatures, and much more becoming in you, if you had shown some proper
feeling, in time, for the little child that is now going to be
prematurely deprived of its natural nourishment.
'Cut off,' said Miss Tox, in a plaintive whisper, 'from one common
'If it was ungrateful case,' said Mrs Chick, solemnly, 'and I had
your reflections, Richards, I should feel as if the Charitable
Grinders' dress would blight my child, and the education choke him.'
For the matter of that - but Mrs Chick didn't know it - he had been
pretty well blighted by the dress already; and as to the education,
even its retributive effect might be produced in time, for it was a
storm of sobs and blows.
'Louisa!' said Mr Dombey. 'It is not necessary to prolong these
observations. The woman is discharged and paid. You leave this house,
Richards, for taking my son - my son,' said Mr Dombey, emphatically
repeating these two words, 'into haunts and into society which are not
to be thought of without a shudder. As to the accident which befel
Miss Florence this morning, I regard that as, in one great sense, a
happy and fortunate circumstance; inasmuch as, but for that
occurrence, I never could have known - and from your own lips too - of
what you had been guilty. I think, Louisa, the other nurse, the young
person,' here Miss Nipper sobbed aloud, 'being so much younger, and
necessarily influenced by Paul's nurse, may remain. Have the goodness
to direct that this woman's coach is paid to' - Mr Dombey stopped and
winced - 'to Staggs's Gardens.'
Polly moved towards the door, with Florence holding to her dress,
and crying to her in the most pathetic manner not to go away. It was a
dagger in the haughty father's heart, an arrow in his brain, to see
how the flesh and blood he could not disown clung to this obscure
stranger, and he sitting by. Not that he cared to whom his daughter
turned, or from whom turned away. The swift sharp agony struck through
him, as he thought of what his son might do.
His son cried lustily that night, at all events. Sooth to say, poor
Paul had better reason for his tears than sons of that age often have,
for he had lost his second mother - his first, so far as he knew - by
a stroke as sudden as that natural affliction which had darkened the
beginning of his life. At the same blow, his sister too, who cried
herself to sleep so mournfully, had lost as good and true a friend.
But that is quite beside the question. Let us waste no words about it.
A Bird's-eye Glimpse of Miss Tox's Dwelling-place: also
of the State of Miss Tox's Affections
Miss Tox inhabited a dark little house that had been squeezed, at
some remote period of English History, into a fashionable
neighbourhood at the west end of the town, where it stood in the shade
like a poor relation of the great street round the corner, coldly
looked down upon by mighty mansions. It was not exactly in a court,
and it was not exactly in a yard; but it was in the dullest of
No-Thoroughfares, rendered anxious and haggard by distant double
knocks. The name of this retirement, where grass grew between the
chinks in the stone pavement, was Princess's Place; and in Princess's
Place was Princess's Chapel, with a tinkling bell, where sometimes as
many as five-and-twenty people attended service on a Sunday. The
Princess's Arms was also there, and much resorted to by splendid
footmen. A sedan chair was kept inside the railing before the
Princess's Arms, but it had never come out within the memory of man;
and on fine mornings, the top of every rail (there were
eight-and-forty, as Miss Tox had often counted) was decorated with a
There was another private house besides Miss Tox's in Princess's
Place: not to mention an immense Pair of gates, with an immense pair
of lion-headed knockers on them, which were never opened by any
chance, and were supposed to constitute a disused entrance to
somebody's stables. Indeed, there was a smack of stabling in the air
of Princess's Place; and Miss Tox's bedroom (which was at the back)
commanded a vista of Mews, where hostlers, at whatever sort of work
engaged, were continually accompanying themselves with effervescent
noises; and where the most domestic and confidential garments of
coachmen and their wives and families, usually hung, like Macbeth's
banners, on the outward walls.'
At this other private house in Princess's Place, tenanted by a
retired butler who had married a housekeeper, apartments were let
Furnished, to a single gentleman: to wit, a wooden-featured,
blue-faced Major, with his eyes starting out of his head, in whom Miss
Tox recognised, as she herself expressed it, 'something so truly
military;' and between whom and herself, an occasional interchange of
newspapers and pamphlets, and such Platonic dalliance, was effected
through the medium of a dark servant of the Major's who Miss Tox was
quite content to classify as a 'native,' without connecting him with
any geographical idea whatever.
Perhaps there never was a smaller entry and staircase, than the
entry and staircase of Miss Tox's house. Perhaps, taken altogether,
from top to bottom, it was the most inconvenient little house in
England, and the crookedest; but then, Miss Tox said, what a
situation! There was very little daylight to be got there in the
winter: no sun at the best of times: air was out of the question, and
traffic was walled out. Still Miss Tox said, think of the situation!
So said the blue-faced Major, whose eyes were starting out of his
head: who gloried in Princess's Place: and who delighted to turn the
conversation at his club, whenever he could, to something connected
with some of the great people in the great street round the corner,
that he might have the satisfaction of saying they were his
In short, with Miss Tox and the blue-faced Major, it was enough for
Princess's Place - as with a very small fragment of society, it is
enough for many a little hanger-on of another sort - to be well
connected, and to have genteel blood in its veins. It might be poor,
mean, shabby, stupid, dull. No matter. The great street round the
corner trailed off into Princess's Place; and that which of High
Holborn would have become a choleric word, spoken of Princess's Place
became flat blasphemy.
The dingy tenement inhabited by Miss Tox was her own; having been
devised and bequeathed to her by the deceased owner of the fishy eye
in the locket, of whom a miniature portrait, with a powdered head and
a pigtail, balanced the kettle-holder on opposite sides of the parlour
fireplace. The greater part of the furniture was of the powdered-head
and pig-tail period: comprising a plate-warmer, always languishing and
sprawling its four attenuated bow legs in somebody's way; and an
obsolete harpsichord, illuminated round the maker's name with a
painted garland of sweet peas. In any part of the house, visitors were
usually cognizant of a prevailing mustiness; and in warm weather Miss
Tox had been seen apparently writing in sundry chinks and crevices of
the wainscoat with the the wrong end of a pen dipped in spirits of
Although Major Bagstock had arrived at what is called in polite
literature, the grand meridian of life, and was proceeding on his
journey downhill with hardly any throat, and a very rigid pair of
jaw-bones, and long-flapped elephantine ears, and his eyes and
complexion in the state of artificial excitement already mentioned, he
was mightily proud of awakening an interest in Miss Tox, and tickled
his vanity with the fiction that she was a splendid woman who had her
eye on him. This he had several times hinted at the club: in connexion
with little jocularities, of which old Joe Bagstock, old Joey
Bagstock, old J. Bagstock, old Josh Bagstock, or so forth, was the
perpetual theme: it being, as it were, the Major's stronghold and
donjon-keep of light humour, to be on the most familiar terms with his
'Joey B., Sir,'the Major would say, with a flourish of his
walking-stick, 'is worth a dozen of you. If you had a few more of the
Bagstock breed among you, Sir, you'd be none the worse for it. Old
Joe, Sir, needn't look far for a wile even now, if he was on the
look-out; but he's hard-hearted, Sir, is Joe - he's tough, Sir, tough,
and de-vilish sly!' After such a declaration, wheezing sounds would be
heard; and the Major's blue would deepen into purple, while his eyes
strained and started convulsively.
Notwithstanding his very liberal laudation of himself, however, the
Major was selfish. It may be doubted whether there ever was a more
entirely selfish person at heart; or at stomach is perhaps a better
expression, seeing that he was more decidedly endowed with that latter
organ than with the former. He had no idea of being overlooked or
slighted by anybody; least of all, had he the remotest comprehension
of being overlooked and slighted by Miss Tox.
And yet, Miss Tox, as it appeared, forgot him - gradually forgot
him. She began to forget him soon after her discovery of the Toodle
family. She continued to forget him up to the time of the christening.
She went on forgetting him with compound interest after that.
Something or somebody had superseded him as a source of interest.
'Good morning, Ma'am,' said the Major, meeting Miss Tox in
Princess's Place, some weeks after the changes chronicled in the last
'Good morning, Sir,' said Miss Tox; very coldly.
'Joe Bagstock, Ma'am,' observed the Major, with his usual
gallantry, 'has not had the happiness of bowing to you at your window,
for a considerable period. Joe has been hardly used, Ma'am. His sun
has been behind a cloud.'
Miss Tox inclined her head; but very coldly indeed.
'Joe's luminary has been out of town, Ma'am, perhaps,' inquired the
'I? out of town? oh no, I have not been out of town,' said Miss
Tox. 'I have been much engaged lately. My time is nearly all devoted
to some very intimate friends. I am afraid I have none to spare, even
now. Good morning, Sir!'
As Miss Tox, with her most fascinating step and carriage,
disappeared from Princess's Place, the Major stood looking after her
with a bluer face than ever: muttering and growling some not at all
'Why, damme, Sir,' said the Major, rolling his lobster eyes round
and round Princess's Place, and apostrophizing its fragrant air, 'six
months ago, the woman loved the ground Josh Bagstock walked on. What's
the meaning of it?'
The Major decided, after some consideration, that it meant
mantraps; that it meant plotting and snaring; that Miss Tox was
digging pitfalls. 'But you won't catch Joe, Ma'am,' said the Major.
'He's tough, Ma'am, tough, is J.B. Tough, and de-vilish sly!' over
which reflection he chuckled for the rest of the day.
But still, when that day and many other days were gone and past, it
seemed that Miss Tox took no heed whatever of the Major, and thought
nothing at all about him. She had been wont, once upon a time, to look
out at one of her little dark windows by accident, and blushingly
return the Major's greeting; but now, she never gave the Major a
chance, and cared nothing at all whether he looked over the way or
not. Other changes had come to pass too. The Major, standing in the
shade of his own apartment, could make out that an air of greater
smartness had recently come over Miss Tox's house; that a new cage
with gilded wires had been provided for the ancient little canary
bird; that divers ornaments, cut out of coloured card-boards and
paper, seemed to decorate the chimney-piece and tables; that a plant
or two had suddenly sprung up in the windows; that Miss Tox
occasionally practised on the harpsichord, whose garland of sweet peas
was always displayed ostentatiously, crowned with the Copenhagen and
Bird Waltzes in a Music Book of Miss Tox's own copying.
Over and above all this, Miss Tox had long been dressed with
uncommon care and elegance in slight mourning. But this helped the
Major out of his difficulty; and be determined within himself that she
had come into a small legacy, and grown proud.
It was on the very next day after he had eased his mind by arriving
at this decision, that the Major, sitting at his breakfast, saw an
apparition so tremendous and wonderful in Miss Tox's little
drawing-room, that he remained for some time rooted to his chair;
then, rushing into the next room, returned with a double-barrelled
opera-glass, through which he surveyed it intently for some minutes.
'It's a Baby, Sir,' said the Major, shutting up the glass again,
'for fifty thousand pounds!'
The Major couldn't forget it. He could do nothing but whistle, and
stare to that extent, that his eyes, compared with what they now
became, had been in former times quite cavernous and sunken. Day after
day, two, three, four times a week, this Baby reappeared. The Major
continued to stare and whistle. To all other intents and purposes he
was alone in Princess's Place. Miss Tox had ceased to mind what he
did. He might have been black as well as blue, and it would have been
of no consequence to her.
The perseverance with which she walked out of Princess's Place to
fetch this baby and its nurse, and walked back with them, and walked
home with them again, and continually mounted guard over them; and the
perseverance with which she nursed it herself, and fed it, and played
with it, and froze its young blood with airs upon the harpsichord, was
extraordinary. At about this same period too, she was seized with a
passion for looking at a certain bracelet; also with a passion for
looking at the moon, of which she would take long observations from
her chamber window. But whatever she looked at; sun, moon, stars, or
bracelet; she looked no more at the Major. And the Major whistled, and
stared, and wondered, and dodged about his room, and could make
nothing of it.
'You'll quite win my brother Paul's heart, and that's the truth, my
dear,' said Mrs Chick, one day.
Miss Tox turned pale.
'He grows more like Paul every day,' said Mrs Chick.
Miss Tox returned no other reply than by taking the little Paul in
her arms, and making his cockade perfectly flat and limp with her
'His mother, my dear,' said Miss Tox, 'whose acquaintance I was to
have made through you, does he at all resemble her?'
'Not at all,' returned Louisa
'She was - she was pretty, I believe?' faltered Miss Tox.
'Why, poor dear Fanny was interesting,' said Mrs Chick, after some
judicial consideration. 'Certainly interesting. She had not that air
of commanding superiority which one would somehow expect, almost as a
matter of course, to find in my brother's wife; nor had she that
strength and vigour of mind which such a man requires.'
Miss Tox heaved a deep sigh.
'But she was pleasing:' said Mrs Chick: 'extremely so. And she
meant! - oh, dear, how well poor Fanny meant!'
'You Angel!' cried Miss Tox to little Paul. 'You Picture of your
If the Major could have known how many hopes and ventures, what a
multitude of plans and speculations, rested on that baby head; and
could have seen them hovering, in all their heterogeneous confusion
and disorder, round the puckered cap of the unconscious little Paul;
he might have stared indeed. Then would he have recognised, among the
crowd, some few ambitious motes and beams belonging to Miss Tox; then
would he perhaps have understood the nature of that lady's faltering
investment in the Dombey Firm.
If the child himself could have awakened in the night, and seen,
gathered about his cradle-curtains, faint reflections of the dreams
that other people had of him, they might have scared him, with good
reason. But he slumbered on, alike unconscious of the kind intentions
of Miss Tox, the wonder of the Major, the early sorrows of his sister,
and the stern visions of his father; and innocent that any spot of
earth contained a Dombey or a Son.
Paul's Further Progress, Growth and Character
Beneath the watching and attentive eyes of Time - so far another
Major - Paul's slumbers gradually changed. More and more light broke
in upon them; distincter and distincter dreams disturbed them; an
accumulating crowd of objects and impressions swarmed about his rest;
and so he passed from babyhood to childhood, and became a talking,
walking, wondering Dombey.
On the downfall and banishment of Richards, the nursery may be said
to have been put into commission: as a Public Department is sometimes,
when no individual Atlas can be found to support it The Commissioners
were, of course, Mrs Chick and Miss Tox: who devoted themselves to
their duties with such astonishing ardour that Major Bagstock had
every day some new reminder of his being forsaken, while Mr Chick,
bereft of domestic supervision, cast himself upon the gay world, dined
at clubs and coffee-houses, smelt of smoke on three different
occasions, went to the play by himself, and in short, loosened (as Mrs
Chick once told him) every social bond, and moral obligation.
Yet, in spite of his early promise, all this vigilance and care
could not make little Paul a thriving boy. Naturally delicate,
perhaps, he pined and wasted after the dismissal of his nurse, and,
for a long time, seemed but to wait his opportunity of gliding through
their hands, and seeking his lost mother. This dangerous ground in his
steeple-chase towards manhood passed, he still found it very rough
riding, and was grievously beset by all the obstacles in his course.
Every tooth was a break-neck fence, and every pimple in the measles a
stone wall to him. He was down in every fit of the hooping-cough, and
rolled upon and crushed by a whole field of small diseases, that came
trooping on each other's heels to prevent his getting up again. Some
bird of prey got into his throat instead of the thrush; and the very
chickens turning ferocious - if they have anything to do with that
infant malady to which they lend their name - worried him like
The chill of Paul's christening had struck home, perhaps to some
sensitive part of his nature, which could not recover itself in the
cold shade of his father; but he was an unfortunate child from that
day. Mrs Wickam often said she never see a dear so put upon.
Mrs Wickam was a waiter's wife - which would seem equivalent to
being any other man's widow - whose application for an engagement in
Mr Dombey's service had been favourably considered, on account of the
apparent impossibility of her having any followers, or anyone to
follow; and who, from within a day or two of Paul's sharp weaning, had
been engaged as his nurse. Mrs Wickam was a meek woman, of a fair
complexion, with her eyebrows always elevated, and her head always
drooping; who was always ready to pity herself, or to be pitied, or to
pity anybody else; and who had a surprising natural gift of viewing
all subjects in an utterly forlorn and pitiable light, and bringing
dreadful precedents to bear upon them, and deriving the greatest
consolation from the exercise of that talent.
It is hardly necessary to observe, that no touch of this quality
ever reached the magnificent knowledge of Mr Dombey. It would have
been remarkable, indeed, if any had; when no one in the house - not
even Mrs Chick or Miss Tox - dared ever whisper to him that there had,
on any one occasion, been the least reason for uneasiness in reference
to little Paul. He had settled, within himself, that the child must
necessarily pass through a certain routine of minor maladies, and that
the sooner he did so the better. If he could have bought him off, or
provided a substitute, as in the case of an unlucky drawing for the
militia, he would have been glad to do so, on liberal terms. But as
this was not feasible, he merely wondered, in his haughty-manner, now
and then, what Nature meant by it; and comforted himself with the
reflection that there was another milestone passed upon the road, and
that the great end of the journey lay so much the nearer. For the
feeling uppermost in his mind, now and constantly intensifying, and
increasing in it as Paul grew older, was impatience. Impatience for
the time to come, when his visions of their united consequence and
grandeur would be triumphantly realized.
Some philosophers tell us that selfishness is at the root of our
best loves and affections.' Mr Dombey's young child was, from the
beginning, so distinctly important to him as a part of his own
greatness, or (which is the same thing) of the greatness of Dombey and
Son, that there is no doubt his parental affection might have been
easily traced, like many a goodly superstructure of fair fame, to a
very low foundation. But he loved his son with all the love he had. If
there were a warm place in his frosty heart, his son occupied it; if
its very hard surface could receive the impression of any image, the
image of that son was there; though not so much as an infant, or as a
boy, but as a grown man - the 'Son' of the Firm. Therefore he was
impatient to advance into the future, and to hurry over the
intervening passages of his history. Therefore he had little or no
anxiety' about them, in spite of his love; feeling as if the boy had a
charmed life, and must become the man with whom he held such constant
communication in his thoughts, and for whom he planned and projected,
as for an existing reality, every day.
Thus Paul grew to be nearly five years old. He was a pretty little
fellow; though there was something wan and wistful in his small face,
that gave occasion to many significant shakes of Mrs Wickam's head,
and many long-drawn inspirations of Mrs Wickam's breath. His temper
gave abundant promise of being imperious in after-life; and he had as
hopeful an apprehension of his own importance, and the rightful
subservience of all other things and persons to it, as heart could
desire. He was childish and sportive enough at times, and not of a
sullen disposition; but he had a strange, old-fashioned, thoughtful
way, at other times, of sitting brooding in his miniature arm-chair,
when he looked (and talked) like one of those terrible little Beings
in the Fairy tales, who, at a hundred and fifty or two hundred years
of age, fantastically represent the children for whom they have been
substituted. He would frequently be stricken with this precocious mood
upstairs in the nursery; and would sometimes lapse into it suddenly,
exclaiming that he was tired: even while playing with Florence, or
driving Miss Tox in single harness. But at no time did he fall into it
so surely, as when, his little chair being carried down into his
father's room, he sat there with him after dinner, by the fire. They
were the strangest pair at such a time that ever firelight shone upon.
Mr Dombey so erect and solemn, gazing at the blare; his little image,
with an old, old face, peering into the red perspective with the fixed
and rapt attention of a sage. Mr Dombey entertaining complicated
worldly schemes and plans; the little image entertaining Heaven knows
what wild fancies, half-formed thoughts, and wandering speculations.
Mr Dombey stiff with starch and arrogance; the little image by
inheritance, and in unconscious imitation. The two so very much alike,
and yet so monstrously contrasted.
On one of these occasions, when they had both been perfectly quiet
for a long time, and Mr Dombey only knew that the child was awake by
occasionally glancing at his eye, where the bright fire was sparkling
like a jewel, little Paul broke silence thus:
'Papa! what's money?'
The abrupt question had such immediate reference to the subject of
Mr Dombey's thoughts, that Mr Dombey was quite disconcerted.
'What is money, Paul?' he answered. 'Money?'
'Yes,' said the child, laying his hands upon the elbows of his
little chair, and turning the old face up towards Mr Dombey's; 'what
Mr Dombey was in a difficulty. He would have liked to give him some
explanation involving the terms circulating-medium, currency,
depreciation of currency', paper, bullion, rates of exchange, value of
precious metals in the market, and so forth; but looking down at the
little chair, and seeing what a long way down it was, he answered:
'Gold, and silver, and copper. Guineas, shillings, half-pence. You
know what they are?'
'Oh yes, I know what they are,' said Paul. 'I don't mean that,
Papa. I mean what's money after all?'
Heaven and Earth, how old his face was as he turned it up again
towards his father's!
'What is money after all!' said Mr Dombey, backing his chair a
little, that he might the better gaze in sheer amazement at the
presumptuous atom that propounded such an inquiry.
'I mean, Papa, what can it do?' returned Paul, folding his arms
(they were hardly long enough to fold), and looking at the fire, and
up at him, and at the fire, and up at him again.
Mr Dombey drew his chair back to its former place, and patted him
on the head. 'You'll know better by-and-by, my man,' he said. 'Money,
Paul, can do anything.' He took hold of the little hand, and beat it
softly against one of his own, as he said so.
But Paul got his hand free as soon as he could; and rubbing it
gently to and fro on the elbow of his chair, as if his wit were in the
palm, and he were sharpening it - and looking at the fire again, as
though the fire had been his adviser and prompter - repeated, after a
'Yes. Anything - almost,' said Mr Dombey.
'Anything means everything, don't it, Papa?' asked his son: not
observing, or possibly not understanding, the qualification.
'It includes it: yes,' said Mr Dombey.
'Why didn't money save me my Mama?' returned the child. 'It isn't
cruel, is it?'
'Cruel!' said Mr Dombey, settling his neckcloth, and seeming to
resent the idea. 'No. A good thing can't be cruel.'
'If it's a good thing, and can do anything,' said the little
fellow, thoughtfully, as he looked back at the fire, 'I wonder why it
didn't save me my Mama.'
He didn't ask the question of his father this time. Perhaps he had
seen, with a child's quickness, that it had already made his father
uncomfortable. But he repeated the thought aloud, as if it were quite
an old one to him, and had troubled him very much; and sat with his
chin resting on his hand, still cogitating and looking for an
explanation in the fire.
Mr Dombey having recovered from his surprise, not to say his alarm
(for it was the very first occasion on which the child had ever
broached the subject of his mother to him, though he had had him
sitting by his side, in this same manner, evening after evening),
expounded to him how that money, though a very potent spirit, never to
be disparaged on any account whatever, could not keep people alive
whose time was come to die; and how that we must all die,
unfortunately, even in the City, though we were never so rich. But how
that money caused us to be honoured, feared, respected, courted, and
admired, and made us powerful and glorious in the eyes of all men; and
how that it could, very often, even keep off death, for a long time
together. How, for example, it had secured to his Mama the services of
Mr Pilkins, by which be, Paul, had often profited himself; likewise of
the great Doctor Parker Peps, whom he had never known. And how it
could do all, that could be done. This, with more to the same purpose,
Mr Dombey instilled into the mind of his son, who listened
attentively, and seemed to understand the greater part of what was
said to him.
'It can't make me strong and quite well, either, Papa; can it?'
asked Paul, after a short silence; rubbing his tiny hands.
'Why, you are strong and quite well,' returned Mr Dombey. 'Are you
Oh! the age of the face that was turned up again, with an
expression, half of melancholy, half of slyness, on it!
'You are as strong and well as such little people usually are? Eh?'
said Mr Dombey.
'Florence is older than I am, but I'm not as strong and well as
Florence, 'I know,' returned the child; 'and I believe that when
Florence was as little as me, she could play a great deal longer at a
time without tiring herself. I am so tired sometimes,' said little
Paul, warming his hands, and looking in between the bars of the grate,
as if some ghostly puppet-show were performing there, 'and my bones
ache so (Wickam says it's my bones), that I don't know what to do.'
'Ay! But that's at night,' said Mr Dombey, drawing his own chair
closer to his son's, and laying his hand gently on his back; 'little
people should be tired at night, for then they sleep well.'
'Oh, it's not at night, Papa,' returned the child, 'it's in the
day; and I lie down in Florence's lap, and she sings to me. At night I
dream about such cu-ri-ous things!'
And he went on, warming his hands again, and thinking about them,
like an old man or a young goblin.
Mr Dombey was so astonished, and so uncomfortable, and so perfectly
at a loss how to pursue the conversation, that he could only sit
looking at his son by the light of the fire, with his hand resting on
his back, as if it were detained there by some magnetic attraction.
Once he advanced his other hand, and turned the contemplative face
towards his own for a moment. But it sought the fire again as soon as
he released it; and remained, addressed towards the flickering blaze,
until the nurse appeared, to summon him to bed.
'I want Florence to come for me,' said Paul.
'Won't you come with your poor Nurse Wickam, Master Paul?' inquired
that attendant, with great pathos.
'No, I won't,' replied Paul, composing himself in his arm-chair
again, like the master of the house.
Invoking a blessing upon his innocence, Mrs Wickam withdrew, and
presently Florence appeared in her stead. The child immediately
started up with sudden readiness and animation, and raised towards his
father in bidding him good-night, a countenance so much brighter, so
much younger, and so much more child-like altogether, that Mr Dombey,
while he felt greatly reassured by the change, was quite amazed at it.
After they had left the room together, he thought he heard a soft
voice singing; and remembering that Paul had said his sister sung to
him, he had the curiosity to open the door and listen, and look after
them. She was toiling up the great, wide, vacant staircase, with him
in her arms; his head was lying on her shoulder, one of his arms
thrown negligently round her neck. So they went, toiling up; she
singing all the way, and Paul sometimes crooning out a feeble
accompaniment. Mr Dombey looked after them until they reached the top
of the staircase - not without halting to rest by the way - and passed
out of his sight; and then he still stood gazing upwards, until the
dull rays of the moon, glimmering in a melancholy manner through the
dim skylight, sent him back to his room.
Mrs Chick and Miss Tox were convoked in council at dinner next day;
and when the cloth was removed, Mr Dombey opened the proceedings by
requiring to be informed, without any gloss or reservation, whether
there was anything the matter with Paul, and what Mr Pilkins said
'For the child is hardly,' said Mr Dombey, 'as stout as I could
'My dear Paul,' returned Mrs Chick, 'with your usual happy
discrimination, which I am weak enough to envy you, every time I am in
your company; and so I think is Miss Tox
'Oh my dear!' said Miss Tox, softly, 'how could it be otherwise?
Presumptuous as it is to aspire to such a level; still, if the bird of
night may - but I'll not trouble Mr Dombey with the sentiment. It
merely relates to the Bulbul.'
Mr Dombey bent his head in stately recognition of the Bulbuls as an
'With your usual happy discrimination, my dear Paul,' resumed Mrs
Chick, 'you have hit the point at once. Our darling is altogether as
stout as we could wish. The fact is, that his mind is too much for
him. His soul is a great deal too large for his frame. I am sure the
way in which that dear child talks!'said Mrs Chick, shaking her head;
'no one would believe. His expressions, Lucretia, only yesterday upon
the subject of Funerals!
'I am afraid,' said Mr Dombey, interrupting her testily, 'that some
of those persons upstairs suggest improper subjects to the child. He
was speaking to me last night about his - about his Bones,' said Mr
Dombey, laying an irritated stress upon the word. 'What on earth has
anybody to do with the - with the - Bones of my son? He is not a
living skeleton, I suppose.
'Very far from it,' said Mrs Chick, with unspeakable expression.
'I hope so,' returned her brother. 'Funerals again! who talks to
the child of funerals? We are not undertakers, or mutes, or
grave-diggers, I believe.'
'Very far from it,' interposed Mrs Chick, with the same profound
expression as before.
'Then who puts such things into his head?' said Mr Dombey. 'Really
I was quite dismayed and shocked last night. Who puts such things into
his head, Louisa?'
'My dear Paul,' said Mrs Chick, after a moment's silence, 'it is of
no use inquiring. I do not think, I will tell you candidly that Wickam
is a person of very cheerful spirit, or what one would call a - '
'A daughter of Momus,' Miss Tox softly suggested.
'Exactly so,' said Mrs Chick; 'but she is exceedingly attentive and
useful, and not at all presumptuous; indeed I never saw a more
biddable woman. I would say that for her, if I was put upon my trial
before a Court of Justice.'
'Well! you are not put upon your trial before a Court of Justice,
at present, Louisa,' returned Mr Dombey, chafing,' and therefore it
'My dear Paul,' said Mrs Chick, in a warning voice, 'I must be
spoken to kindly, or there is an end of me,' at the same time a
premonitory redness developed itself in Mrs Chick's eyelids which was
an invariable sign of rain, unless the weather changed directly.
'I was inquiring, Louisa,' observed Mr Dombey, in an altered voice,
and after a decent interval, 'about Paul's health and actual state.
'If the dear child,' said Mrs Chick, in the tone of one who was
summing up what had been previously quite agreed upon, instead of
saying it all for the first time, 'is a little weakened by that last
attack, and is not in quite such vigorous health as we could wish; and
if he has some temporary weakness in his system, and does occasionally
seem about to lose, for the moment, the use of his - '
Mrs Chick was afraid to say limbs, after Mr Dombey's recent
objection to bones, and therefore waited for a suggestion from Miss
Tox, who, true to her office, hazarded 'members.'
'Members!' repeated Mr Dombey.
'I think the medical gentleman mentioned legs this morning, my dear
Louisa, did he not?' said Miss Tox.
'Why, of course he did, my love,' retorted Mrs Chick, mildly
reproachful. 'How can you ask me? You heard him. I say, if our dear
Paul should lose, for the moment, the use of his legs, these are
casualties common to many children at his time of life, and not to be
prevented by any care or caution. The sooner you understand that,
Paul, and admit that, the better. If you have any doubt as to the
amount of care, and caution, and affection, and self-sacrifice, that
has been bestowed upon little Paul, I should wish to refer the
question to your medical attendant, or to any of your dependants in
this house. Call Towlinson,' said Mrs Chick, 'I believe he has no
prejudice in our favour; quite the contrary. I should wish to hear
what accusation Towlinson can make!'
'Surely you must know, Louisa,' observed Mr Dombey, 'that I don't
question your natural devotion to, and regard for, the future head of
'I am glad to hear it, Paul,' said Mrs Chick; 'but really you are
very odd, and sometimes talk very strangely, though without meaning
it, I know. If your dear boy's soul is too much for his body, Paul,
you should remember whose fault that is - who he takes after, I mean -
and make the best of it. He's as like his Papa as he can be. People
have noticed it in the streets. The very beadle, I am informed,
observed it, so long ago as at his christening. He's a very
respectable man, with children of his own. He ought to know.'
'Mr Pilkins saw Paul this morning, I believe?' said Mr Dombey.
'Yes, he did,' returned his sister. 'Miss Tox and myself were
present. Miss Tox and myself are always present. We make a point of
it. Mr Pilkins has seen him for some days past, and a very clever man
I believe him to be. He says it is nothing to speak of; which I can
confirm, if that is any consolation; but he recommended, to-day,
sea-air. Very wisely, Paul, I feel convinced.'
'Sea-air,' repeated Mr Dombey, looking at his sister.
'There is nothing to be made uneasy by, in that,'said Mrs Chick.
'My George and Frederick were both ordered sea-air, when they were
about his age; and I have been ordered it myself a great many times. I
quite agree with you, Paul, that perhaps topics may be incautiously
mentioned upstairs before him, which it would be as well for his
little mind not to expatiate upon; but I really don't see how that is
to be helped, in the case of a child of his quickness. If he were a
common child, there would be nothing in it. I must say I think, with
Miss Tox, that a short absence from this house, the air of Brighton,
and the bodily and mental training of so judicious a person as Mrs
Pipchin for instance - '
'Who is Mrs Pipchin, Louisa?' asked Mr Dombey; aghast at this
familiar introduction of a name he had never heard before.
'Mrs Pipchin, my dear Paul,' returned his sister, 'is an elderly
lady - Miss Tox knows her whole history - who has for some time
devoted all the energies of her mind, with the greatest success, to
the study and treatment of infancy, and who has been extremely well
connected. Her husband broke his heart in - how did you say her
husband broke his heart, my dear? I forget the precise circumstances.
'In pumping water out of the Peruvian Mines,' replied Miss Tox.
'Not being a Pumper himself, of course,' said Mrs Chick, glancing
at her brother; and it really did seem necessary to offer the
explanation, for Miss Tox had spoken of him as if he had died at the
handle; 'but having invested money in the speculation, which failed. I
believe that Mrs Pipchin's management of children is quite
astonishing. I have heard it commended in private circles ever since I
was - dear me - how high!' Mrs Chick's eye wandered about the bookcase
near the bust of Mr Pitt, which was about ten feet from the ground.
'Perhaps I should say of Mrs Pipchin, my dear Sir,' observed Miss
Tox, with an ingenuous blush, 'having been so pointedly referred to,
that the encomium which has been passed upon her by your sweet sister
is well merited. Many ladies and gentleman, now grown up to be
interesting members of society, have been indebted to her care. The
humble individual who addresses you was once under her charge. I
believe juvenile nobility itself is no stranger to her establishment.'
'Do I understand that this respectable matron keeps an
establishment, Miss Tox?' the Mr Dombey, condescendingly.
'Why, I really don't know,' rejoined that lady, 'whether I am
justified in calling it so. It is not a Preparatory School by any
means. Should I express my meaning,' said Miss Tox, with peculiar
sweetness,'if I designated it an infantine Boarding-House of a very
'On an exceedingly limited and particular scale,' suggested Mrs
Chick, with a glance at her brother.
'Oh! Exclusion itself!' said Miss Tox.
There was something in this. Mrs Pipchin's husband having broken
his heart of the Peruvian mines was good. It had a rich sound.
Besides, Mr Dombey was in a state almost amounting to consternation at
the idea of Paul remaining where he was one hour after his removal had
been recommended by the medical practitioner. It was a stoppage and
delay upon the road the child must traverse, slowly at the best,
before the goal was reached. Their recommendation of Mrs Pipchin had
great weight with him; for he knew that they were jealous of any
interference with their charge, and he never for a moment took it into
account that they might be solicitous to divide a responsibility, of
which he had, as shown just now, his own established views. Broke his
heart of the Peruvian mines, mused Mr Dombey. Well! a very respectable
way of doing It.
'Supposing we should decide, on to-morrow's inquiries, to send Paul
down to Brighton to this lady, who would go with him?' inquired Mr
Dombey, after some reflection.
'I don't think you could send the child anywhere at present without
Florence, my dear Paul,' returned his sister, hesitating. 'It's quite
an infatuation with him. He's very young, you know, and has his
Mr Dombey turned his head away, and going slowly to the bookcase,
and unlocking it, brought back a book to read.
'Anybody else, Louisa?' he said, without looking up, and turning
over the leaves.
'Wickam, of course. Wickam would be quite sufficient, I should
say,' returned his sister. 'Paul being in such hands as Mrs Pipchin's,
you could hardly send anybody who would be a further check upon her.
You would go down yourself once a week at least, of course.'
'Of course,' said Mr Dombey; and sat looking at one page for an
hour afterwards, without reading one word.
This celebrated Mrs Pipchin was a marvellous ill-favoured,
ill-conditioned old lady, of a stooping figure, with a mottled face,
like bad marble, a hook nose, and a hard grey eye, that looked as if
it might have been hammered at on an anvil without sustaining any
injury. Forty years at least had elapsed since the Peruvian mines had
been the death of Mr Pipchin; but his relict still wore black
bombazeen, of such a lustreless, deep, dead, sombre shade, that gas
itself couldn't light her up after dark, and her presence was a
quencher to any number of candles. She was generally spoken of as 'a
great manager' of children; and the secret of her management was, to
give them everything that they didn't like, and nothing that they did
- which was found to sweeten their dispositions very much. She was
such a bitter old lady, that one was tempted to believe there had been
some mistake in the application of the Peruvian machinery, and that
all her waters of gladness and milk of human kindness, had been pumped
out dry, instead of the mines.
The Castle of this ogress and child-queller was in a steep
by-street at Brighton; where the soil was more than usually chalky,
flinty, and sterile, and the houses were more than usually brittle and
thin; where the small front-gardens had the unaccountable property of
producing nothing but marigolds, whatever was sown in them; and where
snails were constantly discovered holding on to the street doors, and
other public places they were not expected to ornament, with the
tenacity of cupping-glasses. In the winter time the air couldn't be
got out of the Castle, and in the summer time it couldn't be got in.
There was such a continual reverberation of wind in it, that it
sounded like a great shell, which the inhabitants were obliged to hold
to their ears night and day, whether they liked it or no. It was not,
naturally, a fresh-smelling house; and in the window of the front
parlour, which was never opened, Mrs Pipchin kept a collection of
plants in pots, which imparted an earthy flavour of their own to the
establishment. However choice examples of their kind, too, these
plants were of a kind peculiarly adapted to the embowerment of Mrs
Pipchin. There were half-a-dozen specimens of the cactus, writhing
round bits of lath, like hairy serpents; another specimen shooting out
broad claws, like a green lobster; several creeping vegetables,
possessed of sticky and adhesive leaves; and one uncomfortable
flower-pot hanging to the ceiling, which appeared to have boiled over,
and tickling people underneath with its long green ends, reminded them
of spiders - in which Mrs Pipchin's dwelling was uncommonly prolific,
though perhaps it challenged competition still more proudly, in the
season, in point of earwigs.
Mrs Pipchin's scale of charges being high, however, to all who
could afford to pay, and Mrs Pipchin very seldom sweetening the
equable acidity of her nature in favour of anybody, she was held to be
an old 'lady of remarkable firmness, who was quite scientific in her
knowledge of the childish character.' On this reputation, and on the
broken heart of Mr Pipchin, she had contrived, taking one year with
another, to eke out a tolerable sufficient living since her husband's
demise. Within three days after Mrs Chick's first allusion to her,
this excellent old lady had the satisfaction of anticipating a
handsome addition to her current receipts, from the pocket of Mr
Dombey; and of receiving Florence and her little brother Paul, as
inmates of the Castle.
Mrs Chick and Miss Tox, who had brought them down on the previous
night (which they all passed at an Hotel), had just driven away from
the door, on their journey home again; and Mrs Pipchin, with her back
to the fire, stood, reviewing the new-comers, like an old soldier. Mrs
Pipchin's middle-aged niece, her good-natured and devoted slave, but
possessing a gaunt and iron-bound aspect, and much afflicted with
boils on her nose, was divesting Master Bitherstone of the clean
collar he had worn on parade. Miss Pankey, the only other little
boarder at present, had that moment been walked off to the Castle
Dungeon (an empty apartment at the back, devoted to correctional
purposes), for having sniffed thrice, in the presence of visitors.
'Well, Sir,' said Mrs Pipchin to Paul, 'how do you think you shall
'I don't think I shall like you at all,' replied Paul. 'I want to
go away. This isn't my house.'
'No. It's mine,' retorted Mrs Pipchin.
'It's a very nasty one,' said Paul.
'There's a worse place in it than this though,' said Mrs Pipchin,
'where we shut up our bad boys.'
'Has he ever been in it?' asked Paul: pointing out Master
Mrs Pipchin nodded assent; and Paul had enough to do, for the rest
of that day, in surveying Master Bitherstone from head to foot, and
watching all the workings of his countenance, with the interest
attaching to a boy of mysterious and terrible experiences.
At one o'clock there was a dinner, chiefly of the farinaceous and
vegetable kind, when Miss Pankey (a mild little blue-eyed morsel of a
child, who was shampoo'd every morning, and seemed in danger of being
rubbed away, altogether) was led in from captivity by the ogress
herself, and instructed that nobody who sniffed before visitors ever
went to Heaven. When this great truth had been thoroughly impressed
upon her, she was regaled with rice; and subsequently repeated the
form of grace established in the Castle, in which there was a special
clause, thanking Mrs Pipchin for a good dinner. Mrs Pipchin's niece,
Berinthia, took cold pork. Mrs Pipchin, whose constitution required
warm nourishment, made a special repast of mutton-chops, which were
brought in hot and hot, between two plates, and smelt very nice.
As it rained after dinner, and they couldn't go out walking on the
beach, and Mrs Pipchin's constitution required rest after chops, they
went away with Berry (otherwise Berinthia) to the Dungeon; an empty
room looking out upon a chalk wall and a water-butt, and made ghastly
by a ragged fireplace without any stove in it. Enlivened by company,
however, this was the best place after all; for Berry played with them
there, and seemed to enjoy a game at romps as much as they did; until
Mrs Pipchin knocking angrily at the wall, like the Cock Lane Ghost'
revived, they left off, and Berry told them stories in a whisper until
For tea there was plenty of milk and water, and bread and butter,
with a little black tea-pot for Mrs Pipchin and Berry, and buttered
toast unlimited for Mrs Pipchin, which was brought in, hot and hot,
like the chops. Though Mrs Pipchin got very greasy, outside, over this
dish, it didn't seem to lubricate her internally, at all; for she was
as fierce as ever, and the hard grey eye knew no softening.
After tea, Berry brought out a little work-box, with the Royal
Pavilion on the lid, and fell to working busily; while Mrs Pipchin,
having put on her spectacles and opened a great volume bound in green
baize, began to nod. And whenever Mrs Pipchin caught herself falling
forward into the fire, and woke up, she filliped Master Bitherstone on
the nose for nodding too.
At last it was the children's bedtime, and after prayers they went
to bed. As little Miss Pankey was afraid of sleeping alone in the
dark, Mrs Pipchin always made a point of driving her upstairs herself,
like a sheep; and it was cheerful to hear Miss Pankey moaning long
afterwards, in the least eligible chamber, and Mrs Pipchin now and
then going in to shake her. At about half-past nine o'clock the odour
of a warm sweet-bread (Mrs Pipchin's constitution wouldn't go to sleep
without sweet-bread) diversified the prevailing fragrance of the
house, which Mrs Wickam said was 'a smell of building;' and slumber
fell upon the Castle shortly after.
The breakfast next morning was like the tea over night, except that
Mrs Pipchin took her roll instead of toast, and seemed a little more
irate when it was over. Master Bitherstone read aloud to the rest a
pedigree from Genesis judiciously selected by Mrs Pipchin), getting
over the names with the ease and clearness of a person tumbling up the
treadmill. That done, Miss Pankey was borne away to be shampoo'd; and
Master Bitherstone to have something else done to him with salt water,
from which he always returned very blue and dejected. Paul and
Florence went out in the meantime on the beach with Wickam - who was
constantly in tears - and at about noon Mrs Pipchin presided over some
Early Readings. It being a part of Mrs Pipchin's system not to
encourage a child's mind to develop and expand itself like a young
flower, but to open it by force like an oyster, the moral of these
lessons was usually of a violent and stunning character: the hero - a
naughty boy - seldom, in the mildest catastrophe, being finished off
anything less than a lion, or a bear.
Such was life at Mrs Pipchin's. On Saturday Mr Dombey came down;
and Florence and Paul would go to his Hotel, and have tea They passed
the whole of Sunday with him, and generally rode out before dinner;
and on these occasions Mr Dombey seemed to grow, like Falstaff's
assailants, and instead of being one man in buckram, to become a
dozen. Sunday evening was the most melancholy evening in the week; for
Mrs Pipchin always made a point of being particularly cross on Sunday
nights. Miss Pankey was generally brought back from an aunt's at
Rottingdean, in deep distress; and Master Bitherstone, whose relatives
were all in India, and who was required to sit, between the services,
in an erect position with his head against the parlour wall, neither
moving hand nor foot, suffered so acutely in his young spirits that he
once asked Florence, on a Sunday night, if she could give him any idea
of the way back to Bengal.
But it was generally said that Mrs Pipchin was a woman of system
with children; and no doubt she was. Certainly the wild ones went home
tame enough, after sojourning for a few months beneath her hospitable
roof. It was generally said, too, that it was highly creditable of Mrs
Pipchin to have devoted herself to this way of life, and to have made
such a sacrifice of her feelings, and such a resolute stand against
her troubles, when Mr Pipchin broke his heart in the Peruvian mines.
At this exemplary old lady, Paul would sit staring in his little
arm-chair by the fire, for any length of time. He never seemed to know
what weariness was, when he was looking fixedly at Mrs Pipchin. He was
not fond of her; he was not afraid of her; but in those old, old moods
of his, she seemed to have a grotesque attraction for him. There he
would sit, looking at her, and warming his hands, and looking at her,
until he sometimes quite confounded Mrs Pipchin, Ogress as she was.
Once she asked him, when they were alone, what he was thinking about.
'You,' said Paul, without the least reserve.
'And what are you thinking about me?' asked Mrs Pipchin.
'I'm thinking how old you must be,' said Paul.
'You mustn't say such things as that, young gentleman,' returned
the dame. 'That'll never do.'
'Why not?' asked Paul.
'Because it's not polite,' said Mrs Pipchin, snappishly.
'Not polite?' said Paul.
'It's not polite,' said Paul, innocently, 'to eat all the mutton
chops and toast, Wickam says.
'Wickam,' retorted Mrs Pipchin, colouring, 'is a wicked, impudent,
'What's that?' inquired Paul.
'Never you mind, Sir,' retorted Mrs Pipchin. 'Remember the story of
the little boy that was gored to death by a mad bull for asking
'If the bull was mad,' said Paul, 'how did he know that the boy had
asked questions? Nobody can go and whisper secrets to a mad bull. I
don't believe that story.
'You don't believe it, Sir?' repeated Mrs Pipchin, amazed.
'No,' said Paul.
'Not if it should happen to have been a tame bull, you little
Infidel?' said Mrs Pipchin.
As Paul had not considered the subject in that light, and had
founded his conclusions on the alleged lunacy of the bull, he allowed
himself to be put down for the present. But he sat turning it over in
his mind, with such an obvious intention of fixing Mrs Pipchin
presently, that even that hardy old lady deemed it prudent to retreat
until he should have forgotten the subject.
From that time, Mrs Pipchin appeared to have something of the same
odd kind of attraction towards Paul, as Paul had towards her. She
would make him move his chair to her side of the fire, instead of
sitting opposite; and there he would remain in a nook between Mrs
Pipchin and the fender, with all the light of his little face absorbed
into the black bombazeen drapery, studying every line and wrinkle of
her countenance, and peering at the hard grey eye, until Mrs Pipchin
was sometimes fain to shut it, on pretence of dozing. Mrs Pipchin had
an old black cat, who generally lay coiled upon the centre foot of the
fender, purring egotistically, and winking at the fire until the
contracted pupils of his eyes were like two notes of admiration. The
good old lady might have been - not to record it disrespectfully - a
witch, and Paul and the cat her two familiars, as they all sat by the
fire together. It would have been quite in keeping with the appearance
of the party if they had all sprung up the chimney in a high wind one
night, and never been heard of any more.
This, however, never came to pass. The cat, and Paul, and Mrs
Pipchin, were constantly to be found in their usual places after dark;
and Paul, eschewing the companionship of Master Bitherstone, went on
studying Mrs Pipchin, and the cat, and the fire, night after night, as
if they were a book of necromancy, in three volumes.
Mrs Wickam put her own construction on Paul's eccentricities; and
being confirmed in her low spirits by a perplexed view of chimneys
from the room where she was accustomed to sit, and by the noise of the
wind, and by the general dulness (gashliness was Mrs Wickam's strong
expression) of her present life, deduced the most dismal reflections
from the foregoing premises. It was a part of Mrs Pipchin's policy to
prevent her own 'young hussy' - that was Mrs Pipchin's generic name
for female servant - from communicating with Mrs Wickam: to which end
she devoted much of her time to concealing herself behind doors, and
springing out on that devoted maiden, whenever she made an approach
towards Mrs Wickam's apartment. But Berry was free to hold what
converse she could in that quarter, consistently with the discharge of
the multifarious duties at which she toiled incessantly from morning
to night; and to Berry Mrs Wickam unburdened her mind.
'What a pretty fellow he is when he's asleep!' said Berry, stopping
to look at Paul in bed, one night when she took up Mrs Wickam's
'Ah!' sighed Mrs Wickam. 'He need be.'
'Why, he's not ugly when he's awake,' observed Berry.
'No, Ma'am. Oh, no. No more was my Uncle's Betsey Jane,' said Mrs
Berry looked as if she would like to trace the connexion of ideas
between Paul Dombey and Mrs Wickam's Uncle's Betsey Jane
'My Uncle's wife,' Mrs Wickam went on to say, 'died just like his
Mama. My Uncle's child took on just as Master Paul do.'
'Took on! You don't think he grieves for his Mama, sure?' argued
Berry, sitting down on the side of the bed. 'He can't remember
anything about her, you know, Mrs Wickam. It's not possible.'
'No, Ma'am,' said Mrs Wickam 'No more did my Uncle's child. But my
Uncle's child said very strange things sometimes, and looked very
strange, and went on very strange, and was very strange altogether. My
Uncle's child made people's blood run cold, some times, she did!'
'How?' asked Berry.
'I wouldn't have sat up all night alone with Betsey Jane!' said Mrs
Wickam, 'not if you'd have put Wickam into business next morning for
himself. I couldn't have done it, Miss Berry.
Miss Berry naturally asked why not? But Mrs Wickam, agreeably to
the usage of some ladies in her condition, pursued her own branch of
the subject, without any compunction.
'Betsey Jane,' said Mrs Wickam, 'was as sweet a child as I could
wish to see. I couldn't wish to see a sweeter. Everything that a child
could have in the way of illnesses, Betsey Jane had come through. The
cramps was as common to her,' said Mrs Wickam, 'as biles is to
yourself, Miss Berry.' Miss Berry involuntarily wrinkled her nose.
'But Betsey Jane,' said Mrs Wickam, lowering her voice, and looking
round the room, and towards Paul in bed, 'had been minded, in her
cradle, by her departed mother. I couldn't say how, nor I couldn't say
when, nor I couldn't say whether the dear child knew it or not, but
Betsey Jane had been watched by her mother, Miss Berry!' and Mrs
Wickam, with a very white face, and with watery eyes, and with a
tremulous voice, again looked fearfully round the room, and towards
Paul in bed.
'Nonsense!' cried Miss Berry - somewhat resentful of the idea.
'You may say nonsense! I ain't offended, Miss. I hope you may be
able to think in your own conscience that it is nonsense; you'll find
your spirits all the better for it in this - you'll excuse my being so
free - in this burying-ground of a place; which is wearing of me down.
Master Paul's a little restless in his sleep. Pat his back, if you
'Of course you think,' said Berry, gently doing what she was asked,
'that he has been nursed by his mother, too?'
'Betsey Jane,' returned Mrs Wickam in her most solemn tones, 'was
put upon as that child has been put upon, and changed as that child
has changed. I have seen her sit, often and often, think, think,
thinking, like him. I have seen her look, often and often, old, old,
old, like him. I have heard her, many a time, talk just like him. I
consider that child and Betsey Jane on the same footing entirely, Miss
'Is your Uncle's child alive?' asked Berry.
'Yes, Miss, she is alive,' returned Mrs Wickam with an air of
triumph, for it was evident. Miss Berry expected the reverse; 'and is
married to a silver-chaser. Oh yes, Miss, SHE is alive,' said Mrs
Wickam, laying strong stress on her nominative case.
It being clear that somebody was dead, Mrs Pipchin's niece inquired
who it was.
'I wouldn't wish to make you uneasy,' returned Mrs Wickam, pursuing
her supper. Don't ask me.'
This was the surest way of being asked again. Miss Berry repeated
her question, therefore; and after some resistance, and reluctance,
Mrs Wickam laid down her knife, and again glancing round the room and
at Paul in bed, replied:
'She took fancies to people; whimsical fancies, some of them;
others, affections that one might expect to see - only stronger than
common. They all died.'
This was so very unexpected and awful to Mrs Pipchin's niece, that
she sat upright on the hard edge of the bedstead, breathing short, and
surveying her informant with looks of undisguised alarm.
Mrs Wickam shook her left fore-finger stealthily towards the bed
where Florence lay; then turned it upside down, and made several
emphatic points at the floor; immediately below which was the parlour
in which Mrs Pipchin habitually consumed the toast.
'Remember my words, Miss Berry,' said Mrs Wickam, 'and be thankful
that Master Paul is not too fond of you. I am, that he's not too fond
of me, I assure you; though there isn't much to live for - you'll
excuse my being so free - in this jail of a house!'
Miss Berry's emotion might have led to her patting Paul too hard on
the back, or might have produced a cessation of that soothing
monotony, but he turned in his bed just now, and, presently awaking,
sat up in it with his hair hot and wet from the effects of some
childish dream, and asked for Florence.
She was out of her own bed at the first sound of his voice; and
bending over his pillow immediately, sang him to sleep again. Mrs
Wickam shaking her head, and letting fall several tears, pointed out
the little group to Berry, and turned her eyes up to the ceiling.
'He's asleep now, my dear,' said Mrs Wickam after a pause, 'you'd
better go to bed again. Don't you feel cold?'
'No, nurse,' said Florence, laughing. 'Not at all.'
'Ah!' sighed Mrs Wickam, and she shook her head again, expressing
to the watchful Berry, 'we shall be cold enough, some of us, by and
Berry took the frugal supper-tray, with which Mrs Wickam had by
this time done, and bade her good-night.
'Good-night, Miss!' returned Wickam softly. 'Good-night! Your aunt
is an old lady, Miss Berry, and it's what you must have looked for,
This consolatory farewell, Mrs Wickam accompanied with a look of
heartfelt anguish; and being left alone with the two children again,
and becoming conscious that the wind was blowing mournfully, she
indulged in melancholy - that cheapest and most accessible of luxuries
- until she was overpowered by slumber.
Although the niece of Mrs Pipchin did not expect to find that
exemplary dragon prostrate on the hearth-rug when she went downstairs,
she was relieved to find her unusually fractious and severe, and with
every present appearance of intending to live a long time to be a
comfort to all who knew her. Nor had she any symptoms of declining, in
the course of the ensuing week, when the constitutional viands still
continued to disappear in regular succession, notwithstanding that
Paul studied her as attentively as ever, and occupied his usual seat
between the black skirts and the fender, with unwavering constancy.
But as Paul himself was no stronger at the expiration of that time
than he had been on his first arrival, though he looked much healthier
in the face, a little carriage was got for him, in which he could lie
at his ease, with an alphabet and other elementary works of reference,
and be wheeled down to the sea-side. Consistent in his odd tastes, the
child set aside a ruddy-faced lad who was proposed as the drawer of
this carriage, and selected, instead, his grandfather - a weazen, old,
crab-faced man, in a suit of battered oilskin, who had got tough and
stringy from long pickling in salt water, and who smelt like a weedy
sea-beach when the tide is out.
With this notable attendant to pull him along, and Florence always
walking by his side, and the despondent Wickam bringing up the rear,
he went down to the margin of the ocean every day; and there he would
sit or lie in his carriage for hours together: never so distressed as
by the company of children - Florence alone excepted, always.
'Go away, if you please,' he would say to any child who came to
bear him company. Thank you, but I don't want you.'
Some small voice, near his ear, would ask him how he was, perhaps.
'I am very well, I thank you,' he would answer. 'But you had better
go and play, if you please.'
Then he would turn his head, and watch the child away, and say to
Florence, 'We don't want any others, do we? Kiss me, Floy.'
He had even a dislike, at such times, to the company of Wickam, and
was well pleased when she strolled away, as she generally did, to pick
up shells and acquaintances. His favourite spot was quite a lonely
one, far away from most loungers; and with Florence sitting by his
side at work, or reading to him, or talking to him, and the wind
blowing on his face, and the water coming up among the wheels of his
bed, he wanted nothing more.
'Floy,' he said one day, 'where's India, where that boy's friends
'Oh, it's a long, long distance off,' said Florence, raising her
eyes from her work.
'Weeks off?' asked Paul.
'Yes dear. Many weeks' journey, night and day.'
'If you were in India, Floy,' said Paul, after being silent for a
minute, 'I should - what is it that Mama did? I forget.'
'Loved me!' answered Florence.
'No, no. Don't I love you now, Floy? What is it? - Died. in you
were in India, I should die, Floy.'
She hurriedly put her work aside, and laid her head down on his
pillow, caressing him. And so would she, she said, if he were there.
He would be better soon.
'Oh! I am a great deal better now!' he answered. 'I don't mean
that. I mean that I should die of being so sorry and so lonely, Floy!'
Another time, in the same place, he fell asleep, and slept quietly
for a long time. Awaking suddenly, he listened, started up, and sat
Florence asked him what he thought he heard.
'I want to know what it says,' he answered, looking steadily in her
face. 'The sea' Floy, what is it that it keeps on saying?'
She told him that it was only the noise of the rolling waves.
'Yes, yes,' he said. 'But I know that they are always saying
something. Always the same thing. What place is over there?' He rose
up, looking eagerly at the horizon.
She told him that there was another country opposite, but he said
he didn't mean that: he meant further away - farther away!
Very often afterwards, in the midst of their talk, he would break
off, to try to understand what it was that the waves were always
saying; and would rise up in his couch to look towards that invisible
region, far away.
In which the Wooden Midshipman gets into Trouble
That spice of romance and love of the marvellous, of which there
was a pretty strong infusion in the nature of young Walter Gay, and
which the guardianship of his Uncle, old Solomon Gills, had not very
much weakened by the waters of stern practical experience, was the
occasion of his attaching an uncommon and delightful interest to the
adventure of Florence with Good Mrs Brown. He pampered and cherished
it in his memory, especially that part of it with which he had been
associated: until it became the spoiled child of his fancy, and took
its own way, and did what it liked with it.
The recollection of those incidents, and his own share in them, may
have been made the more captivating, perhaps, by the weekly dreamings
of old Sol and Captain Cuttle on Sundays. Hardly a Sunday passed,
without mysterious references being made by one or other of those
worthy chums to Richard Whittington; and the latter gentleman had even
gone so far as to purchase a ballad of considerable antiquity, that
had long fluttered among many others, chiefly expressive of maritime
sentiments, on a dead wall in the Commercial Road: which poetical
performance set forth the courtship and nuptials of a promising young
coal-whipper with a certain 'lovely Peg,' the accomplished daughter of
the master and part-owner of a Newcastle collier. In this stirring
legend, Captain Cuttle descried a profound metaphysical bearing on the
case of Walter and Florence; and it excited him so much, that on very
festive occasions, as birthdays and a few other non-Dominical
holidays, he would roar through the whole song in the little back
parlour; making an amazing shake on the word Pe-e-eg, with which every
verse concluded, in compliment to the heroine of the piece.
But a frank, free-spirited, open-hearted boy, is not much given to
analysing the nature of his own feelings, however strong their hold
upon him: and Walter would have found it difficult to decide this
point. He had a great affection for the wharf where he had encountered
Florence, and for the streets (albeit not enchanting in themselves) by
which they had come home. The shoes that had so often tumbled off by
the way, he preserved in his own room; and, sitting in the little back
parlour of an evening, he had drawn a whole gallery of fancy portraits
of Good Mrs Brown. It may be that he became a little smarter in his
dress after that memorable occasion; and he certainly liked in his
leisure time to walk towards that quarter of the town where Mr
Dombey's house was situated, on the vague chance of passing little
Florence in the street. But the sentiment of all this was as boyish
and innocent as could be. Florence was very pretty, and it is pleasant
to admire a pretty face. Florence was defenceless and weak, and it was
a proud thought that he had been able to render her any protection and
assistance. Florence was the most grateful little creature in the
world, and it was delightful to see her bright gratitude beaming in
her face. Florence was neglected and coldly looked upon, and his
breast was full of youthful interest for the slighted child in her
dull, stately home.
Thus it came about that, perhaps some half-a-dozen times in the
course of the year, Walter pulled off his hat to Florence in the
street, and Florence would stop to shake hands. Mrs Wickam (who, with
a characteristic alteration of his name, invariably spoke of him as
'Young Graves') was so well used to this, knowing the story of their
acquaintance, that she took no heed of it at all. Miss Nipper, on the
other hand, rather looked out for these occasions: her sensitive young
heart being secretly propitiated by Walter's good looks, and inclining
to the belief that its sentiments were responded to.
In this way, Walter, so far from forgetting or losing sight of his
acquaintance with Florence, only remembered it better and better. As
to its adventurous beginning, and all those little circumstances which
gave it a distinctive character and relish, he took them into account,
more as a pleasant story very agreeable to his imagination, and not to
be dismissed from it, than as a part of any matter of fact with which
he was concerned. They set off Florence very much, to his fancy; but
not himself. Sometimes he thought (and then he walked very fast) what
a grand thing it would have been for him to have been going to sea on
the day after that first meeting, and to have gone, and to have done
wonders there, and to have stopped away a long time, and to have come
back an Admiral of all the colours of the dolphin, or at least a
Post-Captain with epaulettes of insupportable brightness, and have
married Florence (then a beautiful young woman) in spite of Mr
Dombey's teeth, cravat, and watch-chain, and borne her away to the
blue shores of somewhere or other, triumphantly. But these flights of
fancy seldom burnished the brass plate of Dombey and Son's Offices
into a tablet of golden hope, or shed a brilliant lustre on their
dirty skylights; and when the Captain and Uncle Sol talked about
Richard Whittington and masters' daughters, Walter felt that he
understood his true position at Dombey and Son's, much better than
So it was that he went on doing what he had to do from day to day,
in a cheerful, pains-taking, merry spirit; and saw through the
sanguine complexion of Uncle Sol and Captain Cuttle; and yet
entertained a thousand indistinct and visionary fancies of his own, to
which theirs were work-a-day probabilities. Such was his condition at
the Pipchin period, when he looked a little older than of yore, but
not much; and was the same light-footed, light-hearted, light-headed
lad, as when he charged into the parlour at the head of Uncle Sol and
the imaginary boarders, and lighted him to bring up the Madeira.
'Uncle Sol,' said Walter, 'I don't think you're well. You haven't
eaten any breakfast. I shall bring a doctor to you, if you go on like
'He can't give me what I want, my boy,' said Uncle Sol. 'At least
he is in good practice if he can - and then he wouldn't.'
'What is it, Uncle? Customers?'
'Ay,' returned Solomon, with a sigh. 'Customers would do.'
'Confound it, Uncle!' said Walter, putting down his breakfast cup
with a clatter, and striking his hand on the table: 'when I see the
people going up and down the street in shoals all day, and passing and
re-passing the shop every minute, by scores, I feel half tempted to
rush out, collar somebody, bring him in, and make him buy fifty
pounds' worth of instruments for ready money. What are you looking in
at the door for? - ' continued Walter, apostrophizing an old gentleman
with a powdered head (inaudibly to him of course), who was staring at
a ship's telescope with all his might and main. 'That's no use. I
could do that. Come in and buy it!'
The old gentleman, however, having satiated his curiosity, walked
'There he goes!' said Walter. 'That's the way with 'em all. But,
Uncle - I say, Uncle Sol' - for the old man was meditating and had not
responded to his first appeal. 'Don't be cast down. Don't be out of
spirits, Uncle. When orders do come, they'll come in such a crowd, you
won't be able to execute 'em.'
'I shall be past executing 'em, whenever they come, my boy,'
returned Solomon Gills. 'They'll never come to this shop again, till I
am out of t.'
'I say, Uncle! You musn't really, you know!' urged Walter. 'Don't!'
Old Sol endeavoured to assume a cheery look, and smiled across the
little table at him as pleasantly as he could.
'There's nothing more than usual the matter; is there, Uncle?' said
Walter, leaning his elbows on the tea tray, and bending over, to speak
the more confidentially and kindly. 'Be open with me, Uncle, if there
is, and tell me all about it.'
'No, no, no,' returned Old Sol. 'More than usual? No, no. What
should there be the matter more than usual?'
Walter answered with an incredulous shake of his head. 'That's what
I want to know,' he said, 'and you ask me! I'll tell you what, Uncle,
when I see you like this, I am quite sorry that I live with you.'
Old Sol opened his eyes involuntarily.
'Yes. Though nobody ever was happier than I am and always have been
with you, I am quite sorry that I live with you, when I see you with
anything in your mind.'
'I am a little dull at such times, I know,' observed Solomon,
meekly rubbing his hands.
'What I mean, Uncle Sol,' pursued Walter, bending over a little
more to pat him on the shoulder, 'is, that then I feel you ought to
have, sitting here and pouring out the tea instead of me, a nice
little dumpling of a wife, you know, - a comfortable, capital, cosy
old lady, who was just a match for you, and knew how to manage you,
and keep you in good heart. Here am I, as loving a nephew as ever was
(I am sure I ought to be!) but I am only a nephew, and I can't be such
a companion to you when you're low and out of sorts as she would have
made herself, years ago, though I'm sure I'd give any money if I could
cheer you up. And so I say, when I see you with anything on your mind,
that I feel quite sorry you haven't got somebody better about you than
a blundering young rough-and-tough boy like me, who has got the will
to console you, Uncle, but hasn't got the way - hasn't got the way,'
repeated Walter, reaching over further yet, to shake his Uncle by the
'Wally, my dear boy,' said Solomon, 'if the cosy little old lady
had taken her place in this parlour five and forty years ago, I never
could have been fonder of her than I am of you.'
'I know that, Uncle Sol,' returned Walter. 'Lord bless you, I know
that. But you wouldn't have had the whole weight of any uncomfortable
secrets if she had been with you, because she would have known how to
relieve you of 'em, and I don't.'
'Yes, yes, you do,' returned the Instrument-maker.
'Well then, what's the matter, Uncle Sol?' said Walter, coaxingly.
'Come! What's the matter?'
Solomon Gills persisted that there was nothing the matter; and
maintained it so resolutely, that his nephew had no resource but to
make a very indifferent imitation of believing him.
'All I can say is, Uncle Sol, that if there is - '
'But there isn't,' said Solomon.
'Very well,, said Walter. 'Then I've no more to say; and that's
lucky, for my time's up for going to business. I shall look in
by-and-by when I'm out, to see how you get on, Uncle. And mind, Uncle!
I'll never believe you again, and never tell you anything more about
Mr Carker the Junior, if I find out that you have been deceiving me!'
Solomon Gills laughingly defied him to find out anything of the
kind; and Walter, revolving in his thoughts all sorts of impracticable
ways of making fortunes and placing the wooden Midshipman in a
position of independence, betook himself to the offices of Dombey and
Son with a heavier countenance than he usually carried there.
There lived in those days, round the corner - in Bishopsgate Street
Without - one Brogley, sworn broker and appraiser, who kept a shop
where every description of second-hand furniture was exhibited in the
most uncomfortable aspect, and under circumstances and in combinations
the most completely foreign to its purpose. Dozens of chairs hooked on
to washing-stands, which with difficulty poised themselves on the
shoulders of sideboards, which in their turn stood upon the wrong side
of dining-tables, gymnastic with their legs upward on the tops of
other dining-tables, were among its most reasonable arrangements. A
banquet array of dish-covers, wine-glasses, and decanters was
generally to be seen, spread forth upon the bosom of a four-post
bedstead, for the entertainment of such genial company as half-a-dozen
pokers, and a hall lamp. A set of window curtains with no windows
belonging to them, would be seen gracefully draping a barricade of
chests of drawers, loaded with little jars from chemists' shops; while
a homeless hearthrug severed from its natural companion the fireside,
braved the shrewd east wind in its adversity, and trembled in
melancholy accord with the shrill complainings of a cabinet piano,
wasting away, a string a day, and faintly resounding to the noises of
the street in its jangling and distracted brain. Of motionless clocks
that never stirred a finger, and seemed as incapable of being
successfully wound up, as the pecuniary affairs of their former
owners, there was always great choice in Mr Brogley's shop; and
various looking-glasses, accidentally placed at compound interest of
reflection and refraction, presented to the eye an eternal perspective
of bankruptcy and ruin.
Mr Brogley himself was a moist-eyed, pink-complexioned,
crisp-haired man, of a bulky figure and an easy temper - for that
class of Caius Marius who sits upon the ruins of other people's
Carthages, can keep up his spirits well enough. He had looked in at
Solomon's shop sometimes, to ask a question about articles in
Solomon's way of business; and Walter knew him sufficiently to give
him good day when they met in the street. But as that was the extent
of the broker's acquaintance with Solomon Gills also, Walter was not a
little surprised when he came back in the course of the forenoon,
agreeably to his promise, to find Mr Brogley sitting in the back
parlour with his hands in his pockets, and his hat hanging up behind
'Well, Uncle Sol!' said Walter. The old man was sitting ruefully on
the opposite side of the table, with his spectacles over his eyes, for
a wonder, instead of on his forehead. 'How are you now?'
Solomon shook his head, and waved one hand towards the broker, as
'Is there anything the matter?' asked Walter, with a catching in
'No, no. There's nothing the matter, said Mr Brogley. 'Don't let it
put you out of the way.' Walter looked from the broker to his Uncle in
mute amazement. 'The fact is,' said Mr Brogley, 'there's a little
payment on a bond debt - three hundred and seventy odd, overdue: and
I'm in possession.'
'In possession!' cried Walter, looking round at the shop.
'Ah!' said Mr Brogley, in confidential assent, and nodding his head
as if he would urge the advisability of their all being comfortable
together. 'It's an execution. That's what it is. Don't let it put you
out of the way. I come myself, because of keeping it quiet and
sociable. You know me. It's quite private.'
'Uncle Sol!' faltered Walter.
'Wally, my boy,' returned his uncle. 'It's the first time. Such a
calamity never happened to me before. I'm an old man to begin.'
Pushing up his spectacles again (for they were useless any longer to
conceal his emotion), he covered his face with his hand, and sobbed
aloud, and his tears fell down upon his coffee-coloured waistcoat.
'Uncle Sol! Pray! oh don't!' exclaimed Walter, who really felt a
thrill of terror in seeing the old man weep. 'For God's sake don't do
that. Mr Brogley, what shall I do?'
'I should recommend you looking up a friend or so,' said Mr
Brogley, 'and talking it over.'
'To be sure!' cried Walter, catching at anything. 'Certainly!
Thankee. Captain Cuttle's the man, Uncle. Wait till I run to Captain
Cuttle. Keep your eye upon my Uncle, will you, Mr Brogley, and make
him as comfortable as you can while I am gone? Don't despair, Uncle
Sol. Try and keep a good heart, there's a dear fellow!'
Saying this with great fervour, and disregarding the old man's
broken remonstrances, Walter dashed out of the shop again as hard as
he could go; and, having hurried round to the office to excuse himself
on the plea of his Uncle's sudden illness, set off, full speed, for
Captain Cuttle's residence.
Everything seemed altered as he ran along the streets. There were
the usual entanglement and noise of carts, drays, omnibuses, waggons,
and foot passengers, but the misfortune that had fallen on the wooden
Midshipman made it strange and new. Houses and shops were different
from what they used to be, and bore Mr Brogley's warrant on their
fronts in large characters. The broker seemed to have got hold of the
very churches; for their spires rose into the sky with an unwonted
air. Even the sky itself was changed, and had an execution in it
Captain Cuttle lived on the brink of a little canal near the India
Docks, where there was a swivel bridge which opened now and then to
let some wandering monster of a ship come roamIng up the street like a
stranded leviathan. The gradual change from land to water, on the
approach to Captain Cuttle's lodgings, was curious. It began with the
erection of flagstaffs, as appurtenances to public-houses; then came
slop-sellers' shops, with Guernsey shirts, sou'wester hats, and canvas
pantaloons, at once the tightest and the loosest of their order,
hanging up outside. These were succeeded by anchor and chain-cable
forges, where sledgehammers were dinging upon iron all day long. Then
came rows of houses, with little vane-surmounted masts uprearing
themselves from among the scarlet beans. Then, ditches. Then, pollard
willows. Then, more ditches. Then, unaccountable patches of dirty
water, hardly to be descried, for the ships that covered them. Then,
the air was perfumed with chips; and all other trades were swallowed
up in mast, oar, and block-making, and boatbuilding. Then, the ground
grew marshy and unsettled. Then, there was nothing to be smelt but rum
and sugar. Then, Captain Cuttle's lodgings - at once a first floor and
a top storey, in Brig Place - were close before you.
The Captain was one of those timber-looking men, suits of oak as
well as hearts, whom it is almost impossible for the liveliest
imagination to separate from any part of their dress, however
insignificant. Accordingly, when Walter knocked at the door, and the
Captain instantly poked his head out of one of his little front
windows, and hailed him, with the hard glared hat already on it, and
the shirt-collar like a sail, and the wide suit of blue, all standing
as usual, Walter was as fully persuaded that he was always in that
state, as if the Captain had been a bird and those had been his
'Wal'r, my lad!'said Captain Cuttle. 'Stand by and knock again.
Hard! It's washing day.'
Walter, in his impatience, gave a prodigious thump with the
'Hard it is!' said Captain Cuttle, and immediately drew in his
head, as if he expected a squall.
Nor was he mistaken: for a widow lady, with her sleeves rolled up
to her shoulders, and her arms frothy with soap-suds and smoking with
hot water, replied to the summons with startling rapidity. Before she
looked at Walter she looked at the knocker, and then, measuring him
with her eyes from head to foot, said she wondered he had left any of
'Captain Cuttle's at home, I know,' said Walter with a conciliatory
'Is he?' replied the widow lady. 'In-deed!'
'He has just been speaking to me,' said Walter, in breathless
'Has he?' replied the widow lady. 'Then p'raps you'll give him Mrs
MacStinger's respects, and say that the next time he lowers himself
and his lodgings by talking out of the winder she'll thank him to come
down and open the door too.' Mrs MacStinger spoke loud, and listened
for any observations that might be offered from the first floor.
'I'll mention it,' said Walter, 'if you'll have the goodness to let
me in, Ma'am.'
For he was repelled by a wooden fortification extending across the
doorway, and put there to prevent the little MacStingers in their
moments of recreation from tumbling down the steps.
'A boy that can knock my door down,' said Mrs MacStinger,
contemptuously, 'can get over that, I should hope!' But Walter, taking
this as a permission to enter, and getting over it, Mrs MacStinger
immediately demanded whether an Englishwoman's house was her castle or
not; and whether she was to be broke in upon by 'raff.' On these
subjects her thirst for information was still very importunate, when
Walter, having made his way up the little staircase through an
artificial fog occasioned by the washing, which covered the banisters
with a clammy perspiration, entered Captain Cuttle's room, and found
that gentleman in ambush behind the door.
'Never owed her a penny, Wal'r,' said Captain Cuttle, in a low
voice, and with visible marks of trepidation on his countenance. 'Done
her a world of good turns, and the children too. Vixen at times,
'I should go away, Captain Cuttle,' said Walter.
'Dursn't do it, Wal'r,' returned the Captain. 'She'd find me out,
wherever I went. Sit down. How's Gills?'
The Captain was dining (in his hat) off cold loin of mutton,
porter, and some smoking hot potatoes, which he had cooked himself,
and took out of a little saucepan before the fire as he wanted them.
He unscrewed his hook at dinner-time, and screwed a knife into its
wooden socket instead, with which he had already begun to peel one of
these potatoes for Walter. His rooms were very small, and strongly
impregnated with tobacco-smoke, but snug enough: everything being
stowed away, as if there were an earthquake regularly every half-hour.
'How's Gills?' inquired the Captain.
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