Dombey and Son
Part 4 out of 21
Walter, who had by this time recovered his breath, and lost his
spirits - or such temporary spirits as his rapid journey had given him
- looked at his questioner for a moment, said 'Oh, Captain Cuttle!'
and burst into tears.
No words can describe the Captain's consternation at this sight Mrs
MacStinger faded into nothing before it. He dropped the potato and the
fork - and would have dropped the knife too if he could - and sat
gazing at the boy, as if he expected to hear next moment that a gulf
had opened in the City, which had swallowed up his old friend,
coffee-coloured suit, buttons, chronometer, spectacles, and all.
But when Walter told him what was really the matter, Captain
Cuttle, after a moment's reflection, started up into full activity. He
emptied out of a little tin canister on the top shelf of the cupboard,
his whole stock of ready money (amounting to thirteen pounds and
half-a-crown), which he transferred to one of the pockets of his
square blue coat; further enriched that repository with the contents
of his plate chest, consisting of two withered atomies of tea-spoons,
and an obsolete pair of knock-knee'd sugar-tongs; pulled up his
immense double-cased silver watch from the depths in which it reposed,
to assure himself that that valuable was sound and whole; re-attached
the hook to his right wrist; and seizing the stick covered over with
knobs, bade Walter come along.
Remembering, however, in the midst of his virtuous excitement, that
Mrs MacStinger might be lying in wait below, Captain Cuttle hesitated
at last, not without glancing at the window, as if he had some
thoughts of escaping by that unusual means of egress, rather than
encounter his terrible enemy. He decided, however, in favour of
'Wal'r,' said the Captain, with a timid wink, 'go afore, my lad.
Sing out, "good-bye, Captain Cuttle," when you're in the passage, and
shut the door. Then wait at the corner of the street 'till you see me.
These directions were not issued without a previous knowledge of
the enemy's tactics, for when Walter got downstairs, Mrs MacStinger
glided out of the little back kitchen, like an avenging spirit. But
not gliding out upon the Captain, as she had expected, she merely made
a further allusion to the knocker, and glided in again.
Some five minutes elapsed before Captain Cuttle could summon
courage to attempt his escape; for Walter waited so long at the street
corner, looking back at the house, before there were any symptoms of
the hard glazed hat. At length the Captain burst out of the door with
the suddenness of an explosion, and coming towards him at a great
pace, and never once looking over his shoulder, pretended, as soon as
they were well out of the street, to whistle a tune.
'Uncle much hove down, Wal'r?' inquired the Captain, as they were
'I am afraid so. If you had seen him this morning, you would never
have forgotten it.'
'Walk fast, Wal'r, my lad,' returned the Captain, mending his pace;
'and walk the same all the days of your life. Overhaul the catechism
for that advice, and keep it!'
The Captain was too busy with his own thoughts of Solomon Gills,
mingled perhaps with some reflections on his late escape from Mrs
MacStinger, to offer any further quotations on the way for Walter's
moral improvement They interchanged no other word until they arrived
at old Sol's door, where the unfortunate wooden Midshipman, with his
instrument at his eye, seemed to be surveying the whole horizon in
search of some friend to help him out of his difficulty.
'Gills!' said the Captain, hurrying into the back parlour, and
taking him by the hand quite tenderly. 'Lay your head well to the
wind, and we'll fight through it. All you've got to do,' said the
Captain, with the solemnity of a man who was delivering himself of one
of the most precious practical tenets ever discovered by human wisdom,
'is to lay your head well to the wind, and we'll fight through it!'
Old Sol returned the pressure of his hand, and thanked him.
Captain Cuttle, then, with a gravity suitable to the nature of the
occasion, put down upon the table the two tea-spoons and the
sugar-tongs, the silver watch, and the ready money; and asked Mr
Brogley, the broker, what the damage was.
'Come! What do you make of it?' said Captain Cuttle.
'Why, Lord help you!' returned the broker; 'you don't suppose that
property's of any use, do you?'
'Why not?' inquired the Captain.
'Why? The amount's three hundred and seventy, odd,' replied the
'Never mind,' returned the Captain, though he was evidently
dismayed by the figures: 'all's fish that comes to your net, I
'Certainly,' said Mr Brogley. 'But sprats ain't whales, you know.'
The philosophy of this observation seemed to strike the Captain. He
ruminated for a minute; eyeing the broker, meanwhile, as a deep
genius; and then called the Instrument-maker aside.
'Gills,' said Captain Cuttle, 'what's the bearings of this
business? Who's the creditor?'
'Hush!' returned the old man. 'Come away. Don't speak before Wally.
It's a matter of security for Wally's father - an old bond. I've paid
a good deal of it, Ned, but the times are so bad with me that I can't
do more just now. I've foreseen it, but I couldn't help it. Not a word
before Wally, for all the world.'
'You've got some money, haven't you?' whispered the Captain.
'Yes, yes - oh yes- I've got some,' returned old Sol, first putting
his hands into his empty pockets, and then squeezing his Welsh wig
between them, as if he thought he might wring some gold out of it;
'but I - the little I have got, isn't convertible, Ned; it can't be
got at. I have been trying to do something with it for Wally, and I'm
old fashioned, and behind the time. It's here and there, and - and, in
short, it's as good as nowhere,' said the old man, looking in
bewilderment about him.
He had so much the air of a half-witted person who had been hiding
his money in a variety of places, and had forgotten where, that the
Captain followed his eyes, not without a faint hope that he might
remember some few hundred pounds concealed up the chimney, or down in
the cellar. But Solomon Gills knew better than that.
'I'm behind the time altogether, my dear Ned,' said Sol, in
resigned despair, 'a long way. It's no use my lagging on so far behind
it. The stock had better be sold - it's worth more than this debt -
and I had better go and die somewhere, on the balance. I haven't any
energy left. I don't understand things. This had better be the end of
it. Let 'em sell the stock and take him down,' said the old man,
pointing feebly to the wooden Midshipman, 'and let us both be broken
'And what d'ye mean to do with Wal'r?'said the Captain. 'There,
there! Sit ye down, Gills, sit ye down, and let me think o' this. If I
warn't a man on a small annuity, that was large enough till to-day, I
hadn't need to think of it. But you only lay your head well to the
wind,' said the Captain, again administering that unanswerable piece
of consolation, 'and you're all right!'
Old Sol thanked him from his heart, and went and laid it against
the back parlour fire-place instead.
Captain Cuttle walked up and down the shop for some time,
cogitating profoundly, and bringing his bushy black eyebrows to bear
so heavily on his nose, like clouds setting on a mountain, that Walter
was afraid to offer any interruption to the current of his
reflections. Mr Brogley, who was averse to being any constraint upon
the party, and who had an ingenious cast of mind, went, softly
whistling, among the stock; rattling weather-glasses, shaking
compasses as if they were physic, catching up keys with loadstones,
looking through telescopes, endeavouring to make himself acquainted
with the use of the globes, setting parallel rulers astride on to his
nose, and amusing himself with other philosophical transactions.
'Wal'r!' said the Captain at last. 'I've got it.'
'Have you, Captain Cuttle?' cried Walter, with great animation.
'Come this way, my lad,' said the Captain. 'The stock's the
security. I'm another. Your governor's the man to advance money.'
'Mr Dombey!' faltered Walter.
The Captain nodded gravely. 'Look at him,' he said. 'Look at Gills.
If they was to sell off these things now, he'd die of it. You know he
would. We mustn't leave a stone unturned - and there's a stone for
'A stone! - Mr Dombey!' faltered Walter.
'You run round to the office, first of all, and see if he's there,'
said Captain Cuttle, clapping him on the back. 'Quick!'
Walter felt he must not dispute the command - a glance at his Uncle
would have determined him if he had felt otherwise - and disappeared
to execute it. He soon returned, out of breath, to say that Mr Dombey
was not there. It was Saturday, and he had gone to Brighton.
'I tell you what, Wal'r!' said the Captain, who seemed to have
prepared himself for this contingency in his absence. 'We'll go to
Brighton. I'll back you, my boy. I'll back you, Wal'r. We'll go to
Brighton by the afternoon's coach.'
If the application must be made to Mr Dombey at all, which was
awful to think of, Walter felt that he would rather prefer it alone
and unassisted, than backed by the personal influence of Captain
Cuttle, to which he hardly thought Mr Dombey would attach much weight.
But as the Captain appeared to be of quite another opinion, and was
bent upon it, and as his friendship was too zealous and serious to be
trifled with by one so much younger than himself, he forbore to hint
the least objection. Cuttle, therefore, taking a hurried leave of
Solomon Gills, and returning the ready money, the teaspoons, the
sugar-tongs, and the silver watch, to his pocket - with a view, as
Walter thought, with horror, to making a gorgeous impression on Mr
Dombey - bore him off to the coach-office, with- out a minute's delay,
and repeatedly assured him, on the road, that he would stick by him to
Containing the Sequel of the Midshipman's Disaster
Major Bagstock, after long and frequent observation of Paul, across
Princess's Place, through his double-barrelled opera-glass; and after
receiving many minute reports, daily, weekly, and monthly, on that
subject, from the native who kept himself in constant communication
with Miss Tox's maid for that purpose; came to the conclusion that
Dombey, Sir, was a man to be known, and that J. B. was the boy to make
Miss Tox, however, maintaining her reserved behaviour, and frigidly
declining to understand the Major whenever he called (which he often
did) on any little fishing excursion connected with this project, the
Major, in spite of his constitutional toughness and slyness, was fain
to leave the accomplishment of his desire in some measure to chance,
'which,' as he was used to observe with chuckles at his club, 'has
been fifty to one in favour of Joey B., Sir, ever since his elder
brother died of Yellow Jack in the West Indies.'
It was some time coming to his aid in the present instance, but it
befriended him at last. When the dark servant, with full particulars,
reported Miss Tox absent on Brighton service, the Major was suddenly
touched with affectionate reminiscences of his friend Bill Bitherstone
of Bengal, who had written to ask him, if he ever went that way, to
bestow a call upon his only son. But when the same dark servant
reported Paul at Mrs Pipchin's, and the Major, referring to the letter
favoured by Master Bitherstone on his arrival in England - to which he
had never had the least idea of paying any attention - saw the opening
that presented itself, he was made so rabid by the gout, with which he
happened to be then laid up, that he threw a footstool at the dark
servant in return for his intelligence, and swore he would be the
death of the rascal before he had done with him: which the dark
servant was more than half disposed to believe.
At length the Major being released from his fit, went one Saturday
growling down to Brighton, with the native behind him; apostrophizing
Miss Tox all the way, and gloating over the prospect of carrying by
storm the distinguished friend to whom she attached so much mystery,
and for whom she had deserted him,
'Would you, Ma'am, would you!' said the Major, straining with
vindictiveness, and swelling every already swollen vein in his head.
'Would you give Joey B. the go-by, Ma'am? Not yet, Ma'am, not yet!
Damme, not yet, Sir. Joe is awake, Ma'am. Bagstock is alive, Sir. J.
B. knows a move or two, Ma'am. Josh has his weather-eye open, Sir.
You'll find him tough, Ma'am. Tough, Sir, tough is Joseph. Tough, and
And very tough indeed Master Bitherstone found him, when he took
that young gentleman out for a walk. But the Major, with his
complexion like a Stilton cheese, and his eyes like a prawn's, went
roving about, perfectly indifferent to Master Bitherstone's amusement,
and dragging Master Bitherstone along, while he looked about him high
and low, for Mr Dombey and his children.
In good time the Major, previously instructed by Mrs Pipchin, spied
out Paul and Florence, and bore down upon them; there being a stately
gentleman (Mr Dombey, doubtless) in their company. Charging with
Master Bitherstone into the very heart of the little squadron, it fell
out, of course, that Master Bitherstone spoke to his fellow-sufferers.
Upon that the Major stopped to notice and admire them; remembered with
amazement that he had seen and spoken to them at his friend Miss Tox's
in Princess's Place; opined that Paul was a devilish fine fellow, and
his own little friend; inquired if he remembered Joey B. the Major;
and finally, with a sudden recollection of the conventionalities of
life, turned and apologised to Mr Dombey.
'But my little friend here, Sir,' said the Major, 'makes a boy of
me again: An old soldier, Sir - Major Bagstock, at your service - is
not ashamed to confess it.' Here the Major lifted his hat. 'Damme,
Sir,' cried the Major with sudden warmth, 'I envy you.' Then he
recollected himself, and added, 'Excuse my freedom.'
Mr Dombey begged he wouldn't mention it.
'An old campaigner, Sir,' said the Major, 'a smoke-dried,
sun-burnt, used-up, invalided old dog of a Major, Sir, was not afraid
of being condemned for his whim by a man like Mr Dombey. I have the
honour of addressing Mr Dombey, I believe?'
'I am the present unworthy representative of that name, Major,'
returned Mr Dombey.
'By G-, Sir!' said the Major, 'it's a great name. It's a name,
Sir,' said the Major firmly, as if he defied Mr Dombey to contradict
him, and would feel it his painful duty to bully him if he did, 'that
is known and honoured in the British possessions abroad. It is a name,
Sir, that a man is proud to recognise. There is nothing adulatory in
Joseph Bagstock, Sir. His Royal Highness the Duke of York observed on
more than one occasion, "there is no adulation in Joey. He is a plain
old soldier is Joe. He is tough to a fault is Joseph:" but it's a
great name, Sir. By the Lord, it's a great name!' said the Major,
'You are good enough to rate it higher than it deserves, perhaps,
Major,' returned Mr Dombey.
'No, Sir,' said the Major, in a severe tone. No, Mr Dombey, let us
understand each other. That is not the Bagstock vein, Sir. You don't
know Joseph B. He is a blunt old blade is Josh. No flattery in him,
Sir. Nothing like it.'
Mr Dombey inclined his head, and said he believed him to be in
earnest, and that his high opinion was gratifying.
'My little friend here, Sir,' croaked the Major, looking as amiably
as he could, on Paul, 'will certify for Joseph Bagstock that he is a
thorough-going, down-right, plain-spoken, old Trump, Sir, and nothing
more. That boy, Sir,' said the Major in a lower tone, 'will live in
history. That boy, Sir, is not a common production. Take care of him,
Mr Dombey seemed to intimate that he would endeavour to do so.
'Here is a boy here, Sir,' pursued the Major, confidentially, and
giving him a thrust with his cane. 'Son of Bitherstone of Bengal. Bill
Bitherstone formerly of ours. That boy's father and myself, Sir, were
sworn friends. Wherever you went, Sir, you heard of nothing but Bill
Bitherstone and Joe Bagstock. Am I blind to that boy's defects? By no
means. He's a fool, Sir.'
Mr Dombey glanced at the libelled Master Bitherstone, of whom he
knew at least as much as the Major did, and said, in quite a
complacent manner, 'Really?'
'That is what he is, sir,' said the Major. 'He's a fool. Joe
Bagstock never minces matters. The son of my old friend Bill
Bitherstone, of Bengal, is a born fool, Sir.' Here the Major laughed
till he was almost black. 'My little friend is destined for a public
school,' I' presume, Mr Dombey?' said the Major when he had recovered.
'I am not quite decided,' returned Mr Dombey. 'I think not. He is
'If he's delicate, Sir,' said the Major, 'you are right. None but
the tough fellows could live through it, Sir, at Sandhurst. We put
each other to the torture there, Sir. We roasted the new fellows at a
slow fire, and hung 'em out of a three pair of stairs window, with
their heads downwards. Joseph Bagstock, Sir, was held out of the
window by the heels of his boots, for thirteen minutes by the college
The Major might have appealed to his countenance in corroboration
of this story. It certainly looked as if he had hung out a little too
'But it made us what we were, Sir,' said the Major, settling his
shirt frill. 'We were iron, Sir, and it forged us. Are you remaining
here, Mr Dombey?'
'I generally come down once a week, Major,' returned that
gentleman. 'I stay at the Bedford.'
'I shall have the honour of calling at the Bedford, Sir, if you'll
permit me,' said the Major. 'Joey B., Sir, is not in general a calling
man, but Mr Dombey's is not a common name. I am much indebted to my
little friend, Sir, for the honour of this introduction.'
Mr Dombey made a very gracious reply; and Major Bagstock, having
patted Paul on the head, and said of Florence that her eyes would play
the Devil with the youngsters before long - 'and the oldsters too,
Sir, if you come to that,' added the Major, chuckling very much -
stirred up Master Bitherstone with his walking-stick, and departed
with that young gentleman, at a kind of half-trot; rolling his head
and coughing with great dignity, as he staggered away, with his legs
very wide asunder.
In fulfilment of his promise, the Major afterwards called on Mr
Dombey; and Mr Dombey, having referred to the army list, afterwards
called on the Major. Then the Major called at Mr Dombey's house in
town; and came down again, in the same coach as Mr Dombey. In short,
Mr Dombey and the Major got on uncommonly well together, and
uncommonly fast: and Mr Dombey observed of the Major, to his sister,
that besides being quite a military man he was really something more,
as he had a very admirable idea of the importance of things
unconnected with his own profession.
At length Mr Dombey, bringing down Miss Tox and Mrs Chick to see
the children, and finding the Major again at Brighton, invited him to
dinner at the Bedford, and complimented Miss Tox highly, beforehand,
on her neighbour and acquaintance.
'My dearest Louisa,' said Miss Tox to Mrs Chick, when they were
alone together, on the morning of the appointed day, 'if I should seem
at all reserved to Major Bagstock, or under any constraint with him,
promise me not to notice it.'
'My dear Lucretia,' returned Mrs Chick, 'what mystery is involved
in this remarkable request? I must insist upon knowing.'
'Since you are resolved to extort a confession from me, Louisa,'
said Miss Tox instantly, 'I have no alternative but to confide to you
that the Major has been particular.'
'Particular!' repeated Mrs Chick.
'The Major has long been very particular indeed, my love, in his
attentions,' said Miss Tox, 'occasionally they have been so very
marked, that my position has been one of no common difficulty.'
'Is he in good circumstances?' inquired Mrs Chick.
'I have every reason to believe, my dear - indeed I may say I
know,' returned Miss Tox, 'that he is wealthy. He is truly military,
and full of anecdote. I have been informed that his valour, when he
was in active service, knew no bounds. I am told that he did all sorts
of things in the Peninsula, with every description of fire-arm; and in
the East and West Indies, my love, I really couldn't undertake to say
what he did not do.'
'Very creditable to him indeed,' said Mrs Chick, 'extremely so; and
you have given him no encouragement, my dear?'
'If I were to say, Louisa,' replied Miss Tox, with every
demonstration of making an effort that rent her soul, 'that I never
encouraged Major Bagstock slightly, I should not do justice to the
friendship which exists between you and me. It is, perhaps, hardly in
the nature of woman to receive such attentions as the Major once
lavished upon myself without betraying some sense of obligation. But
that is past - long past. Between the Major and me there is now a
yawning chasm, and I will not feign to give encouragement, Louisa,
where I cannot give my heart. My affections,' said Miss Tox - 'but,
Louisa, this is madness!' and departed from the room.
All this Mrs Chick communicated to her brother before dinner: and
it by no means indisposed Mr Dombey to receive the Major with unwonted
cordiality. The Major, for his part, was in a state of plethoric
satisfaction that knew no bounds: and he coughed, and choked, and
chuckled, and gasped, and swelled, until the waiters seemed positively
afraid of him.
'Your family monopolises Joe's light, Sir,' said the Major, when he
had saluted Miss Tox. 'Joe lives in darkness. Princess's Place is
changed into Kamschatka in the winter time. There is no ray of sun,
Sir, for Joey B., now.'
'Miss Tox is good enough to take a great deal of interest in Paul,
Major,' returned Mr Dombey on behalf of that blushing virgin.
'Damme Sir,' said the Major, 'I'm jealous of my little friend. I'm
pining away Sir. The Bagstock breed is degenerating in the forsaken
person of old Joe.' And the Major, becoming bluer and bluer and
puffing his cheeks further and further over the stiff ridge of his
tight cravat, stared at Miss Tox, until his eyes seemed as if he were
at that moment being overdone before the slow fire at the military
Notwithstanding the palpitation of the heart which these allusions
occasioned her, they were anything but disagreeable to Miss Tox, as
they enabled her to be extremely interesting, and to manifest an
occasional incoherence and distraction which she was not at all
unwilling to display. The Major gave her abundant opportunities of
exhibiting this emotion: being profuse in his complaints, at dinner,
of her desertion of him and Princess's Place: and as he appeared to
derive great enjoyment from making them, they all got on very well.
None the worse on account of the Major taking charge of the whole
conversation, and showing as great an appetite in that respect as in
regard of the various dainties on the table, among which he may be
almost said to have wallowed: greatly to the aggravation of his
inflammatory tendencies. Mr Dombey's habitual silence and reserve
yielding readily to this usurpation, the Major felt that he was coming
out and shining: and in the flow of spirits thus engendered, rang such
an infinite number of new changes on his own name that he quite
astonished himself. In a word, they were all very well pleased. The
Major was considered to possess an inexhaustible fund of conversation;
and when he took a late farewell, after a long rubber, Mr Dombey again
complimented the blushing Miss Tox on her neighbour and acquaintance.
But all the way home to his own hotel, the Major incessantly said
to himself, and of himself, 'Sly, Sir - sly, Sir - de-vil-ish sly!'
And when he got there, sat down in a chair, and fell into a silent fit
of laughter, with which he was sometimes seized, and which was always
particularly awful. It held him so long on this occasion that the dark
servant, who stood watching him at a distance, but dared not for his
life approach, twice or thrice gave him over for lost. His whole form,
but especially his face and head, dilated beyond all former
experience; and presented to the dark man's view, nothing but a
heaving mass of indigo. At length he burst into a violent paroxysm of
coughing, and when that was a little better burst into such
ejaculations as the following:
'Would you, Ma'am, would you? Mrs Dombey, eh, Ma'am? I think not,
Ma'am. Not while Joe B. can put a spoke in your wheel, Ma'am. J. B.'s
even with you now, Ma'am. He isn't altogether bowled out, yet, Sir,
isn't Bagstock. She's deep, Sir, deep, but Josh is deeper. Wide awake
is old Joe - broad awake, and staring, Sir!' There was no doubt of
this last assertion being true, and to a very fearful extent; as it
continued to be during the greater part of that night, which the Major
chiefly passed in similar exclamations, diversified with fits of
coughing and choking that startled the whole house.
It was on the day after this occasion (being Sunday) when, as Mr
Dombey, Mrs Chick, and Miss Tox were sitting at breakfast, still
eulogising the Major, Florence came running in: her face suffused with
a bright colour, and her eyes sparkling joyfully: and cried,
'Papa! Papa! Here's Walter! and he won't come in.'
'Who?' cried Mr Dombey. 'What does she mean? What is this?'
'Walter, Papa!' said Florence timidly; sensible of having
approached the presence with too much familiarity. 'Who found me when
I was lost.'
'Does she mean young Gay, Louisa?' inquired Mr Dombey, knitting his
brows. 'Really, this child's manners have become very boisterous. She
cannot mean young Gay, I think. See what it is, will you?'
Mrs Chick hurried into the passage, and returned with the
information that it was young Gay, accompanied by a very
strange-looking person; and that young Gay said he would not take the
liberty of coming in, hearing Mr Dombey was at breakfast, but would
wait until Mr Dombey should signify that he might approach.
'Tell the boy to come in now,' said Mr Dombey. 'Now, Gay, what is
the matter? Who sent you down here? Was there nobody else to come?'
'I beg your pardon, Sir,' returned Walter. 'I have not been sent. I
have been so bold as to come on my own account, which I hope you'll
pardon when I mention the cause.
But Mr Dombey, without attending to what he said, was looking
impatiently on either side of him (as if he were a pillar in his way)
at some object behind.
'What's that?' said Mr Dombey. 'Who is that? I think you have made
some mistake in the door, Sir.'
'Oh, I'm very sorry to intrude with anyone, Sir,' cried Walter,
hastily: 'but this is - this is Captain Cuttle, Sir.'
'Wal'r, my lad,' observed the Captain in a deep voice: 'stand by!'
At the same time the Captain, coming a little further in, brought
out his wide suit of blue, his conspicuous shirt-collar, and his
knobby nose in full relief, and stood bowing to Mr Dombey, and waving
his hook politely to the ladies, with the hard glazed hat in his one
hand, and a red equator round his head which it had newly imprinted
Mr Dombey regarded this phenomenon with amazement and indignation,
and seemed by his looks to appeal to Mrs Chick and Miss Tox against
it. Little Paul, who had come in after Florence, backed towards Miss
Tox as the Captain waved his book, and stood on the defensive.
'Now, Gay,' said Mr Dombey. 'What have you got to say to me?'
Again the Captain observed, as a general opening of the
conversation that could not fail to propitiate all parties, 'Wal'r,
'I am afraid, Sir,' began Walter, trembling, and looking down at
the ground, 'that I take a very great liberty in coming - indeed, I am
sure I do. I should hardly have had the courage to ask to see you,
Sir, even after coming down, I am afraid, if I had not overtaken Miss
Dombey, and - '
'Well!' said Mr Dombey, following his eyes as he glanced at the
attentive Florence, and frowning unconsciously as she encouraged him
with a smile. 'Go on, if you please.'
'Ay, ay,' observed the Captain, considering it incumbent on him, as
a point of good breeding, to support Mr Dombey. 'Well said! Go on,
Captain Cuttle ought to have been withered by the look which Mr
Dombey bestowed upon him in acknowledgment of his patronage. But quite
innocent of this, he closed one eye in reply, and gave Mr Dombey to
understand, by certain significant motions of his hook, that Walter
was a little bashful at first, and might be expected to come out
'It is entirely a private and personal matter, that has brought me
here, Sir,' continued Walter, faltering, 'and Captain Cuttle
'Here!' interposed the Captain, as an assurance that he was at
hand, and might be relied upon.
'Who is a very old friend of my poor Uncle's, and a most excellent
man, Sir,' pursued Walter, raising his eyes with a look of entreaty in
the Captain's behalf, 'was so good as to offer to come with me, which
I could hardly refuse.'
'No, no, no;' observed the Captain complacently. 'Of course not. No
call for refusing. Go on, Wal'r.'
'And therefore, Sir,' said Walter, venturing to meet Mr Dombey's
eye, and proceeding with better courage in the very desperation of the
case, now that there was no avoiding it, 'therefore I have come, with
him, Sir, to say that my poor old Uncle is in very great affliction
and distress. That, through the gradual loss of his business, and not
being able to make a payment, the apprehension of which has weighed
very heavily upon his mind, months and months, as indeed I know, Sir,
he has an execution in his house, and is in danger of losing all he
has, and breaking his heart. And that if you would, in your kindness,
and in your old knowledge of him as a respectable man, do anything to
help him out of his difficulty, Sir, we never could thank you enough
Walter's eyes filled with tears as he spoke; and so did those of
Florence. Her father saw them glistening, though he appeared to look
at Walter only.
'It is a very large sum, Sir,' said Walter. 'More than three
hundred pounds. My Uncle is quite beaten down by his misfortune, it
lies so heavy on him; and is quite unable to do anything for his own
relief. He doesn't even know yet, that I have come to speak to you.
You would wish me to say, Sir,' added Walter, after a moment's
hesitation, 'exactly what it is I want. I really don't know, Sir.
There is my Uncle's stock, on which I believe I may say, confidently,
there are no other demands, and there is Captain Cuttle, who would
wish to be security too. I - I hardly like to mention,' said Walter,
'such earnings as mine; but if you would allow them - accumulate -
payment - advance - Uncle - frugal, honourable, old man.' Walter
trailed off, through these broken sentences, into silence: and stood
with downcast head, before his employer.
Considering this a favourable moment for the display of the
valuables, Captain Cuttle advanced to the table; and clearing a space
among the breakfast-cups at Mr Dombey's elbow, produced the silver
watch, the ready money, the teaspoons, and the sugar-tongs; and piling
them up into a heap that they might look as precious as possible,
delivered himself of these words:
'Half a loaf's better than no bread, and the same remark holds good
with crumbs. There's a few. Annuity of one hundred pound premium also
ready to be made over. If there is a man chock full of science in the
world, it's old Sol Gills. If there is a lad of promise - one
flowing,' added the Captain, in one of his happy quotations, 'with
milk and honey - it's his nevy!'
The Captain then withdrew to his former place, where he stood
arranging his scattered locks with the air of a man who had given the
finishing touch to a difficult performance.
When Walter ceased to speak, Mr Dombey's eyes were attracted to
little Paul, who, seeing his sister hanging down her head and silently
weeping in her commiseration for the distress she had heard described,
went over to her, and tried to comfort her: looking at Walter and his
father as he did so, with a very expressive face. After the momentary
distraction of Captain Cuttle's address, which he regarded with lofty
indifference, Mr Dombey again turned his eyes upon his son, and sat
steadily regarding the child, for some moments, in silence.
'What was this debt contracted for?' asked Mr Dombey, at length.
'Who is the creditor?'
'He don't know,' replied the Captain, putting his hand on Walter's
shoulder. 'I do. It came of helping a man that's dead now, and that's
cost my friend Gills many a hundred pound already. More particulars in
private, if agreeable.'
'People who have enough to do to hold their own way,' said Mr
Dombey, unobservant of the Captain's mysterious signs behind Walter,
and still looking at his son, 'had better be content with their own
obligations and difficulties, and not increase them by engaging for
other men. It is an act of dishonesty and presumption, too,' said Mr
Dombey, sternly; 'great presumption; for the wealthy could do no more.
Paul, come here!'
The child obeyed: and Mr Dombey took him on his knee.
'If you had money now - ' said Mr Dombey. 'Look at me!'
Paul, whose eyes had wandered to his sister, and to Walter, looked
his father in the face.
'If you had money now,' said Mr Dombey; 'as much money as young Gay
has talked about; what would you do?'
'Give it to his old Uncle,' returned Paul.
'Lend it to his old Uncle, eh?' retorted Mr Dombey. 'Well! When you
are old enough, you know, you will share my money, and we shall use it
'Dombey and Son,' interrupted Paul, who had been tutored early in
'Dombey and Son,' repeated his father. 'Would you like to begin to
be Dombey and Son, now, and lend this money to young Gay's Uncle?'
'Oh! if you please, Papa!' said Paul: 'and so would Florence.'
'Girls,' said Mr Dombey, 'have nothing to do with Dombey and Son.
Would you like it?'
'Yes, Papa, yes!'
'Then you shall do it,' returned his father. 'And you see, Paul,'
he added, dropping his voice, 'how powerful money is, and how anxious
people are to get it. Young Gay comes all this way to beg for money,
and you, who are so grand and great, having got it, are going to let
him have it, as a great favour and obligation.'
Paul turned up the old face for a moment, in which there was a
sharp understanding of the reference conveyed in these words: but it
was a young and childish face immediately afterwards, when he slipped
down from his father's knee, and ran to tell Florence not to cry any
more, for he was going to let young Gay have the money.
Mr Dombey then turned to a side-table, and wrote a note and sealed
it. During the interval, Paul and Florence whispered to Walter, and
Captain Cuttle beamed on the three, with such aspiring and ineffably
presumptuous thoughts as Mr Dombey never could have believed in. The
note being finished, Mr Dombey turned round to his former place, and
held it out to Walter.
'Give that,' he said, 'the first thing to-morrow morning, to Mr
Carker. He will immediately take care that one of my people releases
your Uncle from his present position, by paying the amount at issue;
and that such arrangements are made for its repayment as may be
consistent with your Uncle's circumstances. You will consider that
this is done for you by Master Paul.'
Walter, in the emotion of holding in his hand the means of
releasing his good Uncle from his trouble, would have endeavoured to
express something of his gratitude and joy. But Mr Dombey stopped him
'You will consider that it is done,' he repeated, 'by Master Paul.
I have explained that to him, and he understands it. I wish no more to
As he motioned towards the door, Walter could only bow his head and
retire. Miss Tox, seeing that the Captain appeared about to do the
'My dear Sir,' she said, addressing Mr Dombey, at whose munificence
both she and Mrs Chick were shedding tears copiously; 'I think you
have overlooked something. Pardon me, Mr Dombey, I think, in the
nobility of your character, and its exalted scope, you have omitted a
matter of detail.'
'Indeed, Miss Tox!' said Mr Dombey.
'The gentleman with the - Instrument,' pursued Miss Tox, glancing
at Captain Cuttle, 'has left upon the table, at your elbow - '
'Good Heaven!' said Mr Dombey, sweeping the Captain's property from
him, as if it were so much crumb indeed. 'Take these things away. I am
obliged to you, Miss Tox; it is like your usual discretion. Have the
goodness to take these things away, Sir!'
Captain Cuttle felt he had no alternative but to comply. But he was
so much struck by the magnanimity of Mr Dombey, in refusing treasures
lying heaped up to his hand, that when he had deposited the teaspoons
and sugar-tongs in one pocket, and the ready money in another, and had
lowered the great watch down slowly into its proper vault, he could
not refrain from seizing that gentleman's right hand in his own
solitary left, and while he held it open with his powerful fingers,
bringing the hook down upon its palm in a transport of admiration. At
this touch of warm feeling and cold iron, Mr Dombey shivered all over.
Captain Cuttle then kissed his hook to the ladies several times,
with great elegance and gallantry; and having taken a particular leave
of Paul and Florence, accompanied Walter out of the room. Florence was
running after them in the earnestness of her heart, to send some
message to old Sol, when Mr Dombey called her back, and bade her stay
where she was.
'Will you never be a Dombey, my dear child!' said Mrs Chick, with
'Dear aunt,' said Florence. 'Don't be angry with me. I am so
thankful to Papa!'
She would have run and thrown her arms about his neck if she had
dared; but as she did not dare, she glanced with thankful eyes towards
him, as he sat musing; sometimes bestowing an uneasy glance on her,
but, for the most part, watching Paul, who walked about the room with
the new-blown dignity of having let young Gay have the money.
And young Gay - Walter- what of him?
He was overjoyed to purge the old man's hearth from bailiffs and
brokers, and to hurry back to his Uncle with the good tidings. He was
overjoyed to have it all arranged and settled next day before noon;
and to sit down at evening in the little back parlour with old Sol and
Captain Cuttle; and to see the Instrument-maker already reviving, and
hopeful for the future, and feeling that the wooden Midshipman was his
own again. But without the least impeachment of his gratitude to Mr
Dombey, it must be confessed that Walter was humbled and cast down. It
is when our budding hopes are nipped beyond recovery by some rough
wind, that we are the most disposed to picture to ourselves what
flowers they might have borne, if they had flourished; and now, when
Walter found himself cut off from that great Dombey height, by the
depth of a new and terrible tumble, and felt that all his old wild
fancies had been scattered to the winds in the fall, he began to
suspect that they might have led him on to harmless visions of
aspiring to Florence in the remote distance of time.
The Captain viewed the subject in quite a different light. He
appeared to entertain a belief that the interview at which he had
assisted was so very satisfactory and encouraging, as to be only a
step or two removed from a regular betrothal of Florence to Walter;
and that the late transaction had immensely forwarded, if not
thoroughly established, the Whittingtonian hopes. Stimulated by this
conviction, and by the improvement in the spirits of his old friend,
and by his own consequent gaiety, he even attempted, in favouring them
with the ballad of 'Lovely Peg' for the third time in one evening, to
make an extemporaneous substitution of the name 'Florence;' but
finding this difficult, on account of the word Peg invariably rhyming
to leg (in which personal beauty the original was described as having
excelled all competitors), he hit upon the happy thought of changing
it to Fle-e-eg; which he accordingly did, with an archness almost
supernatural, and a voice quite vociferous, notwithstanding that the
time was close at band when he must seek the abode of the dreadful Mrs
That same evening the Major was diffuse at his club, on the subject
of his friend Dombey in the City. 'Damme, Sir,' said the Major, 'he's
a prince, is my friend Dombey in the City. I tell you what, Sir. If
you had a few more men among you like old Joe Bagstock and my friend
Dombey in the City, Sir, you'd do!'
Paul's Introduction to a New Scene
Mrs Pipchin's constitution was made of such hard metal, in spite of
its liability to the fleshly weaknesses of standing in need of repose
after chops, and of requiring to be coaxed to sleep by the soporific
agency of sweet-breads, that it utterly set at naught the predictions
of Mrs Wickam, and showed no symptoms of decline. Yet, as Paul's rapt
interest in the old lady continued unbated, Mrs Wickam would not budge
an inch from the position she had taken up. Fortifying and entrenching
herself on the strong ground of her Uncle's Betsey Jane, she advised
Miss Berry, as a friend, to prepare herself for the worst; and
forewarned her that her aunt might, at any time, be expected to go off
suddenly, like a powder-mill.
'I hope, Miss Berry,' Mrs Wickam would observe, 'that you'll come
into whatever little property there may be to leave. You deserve it, I
am sure, for yours is a trying life. Though there don't seem much
worth coming into - you'll excuse my being so open - in this dismal
Poor Berry took it all in good part, and drudged and slaved away as
usual; perfectly convinced that Mrs Pipchin was one of the most
meritorious persons in the world, and making every day innumerable
sacrifices of herself upon the altar of that noble old woman. But all
these immolations of Berry were somehow carried to the credit of Mrs
Pipchin by Mrs Pipchin's friends and admirers; and were made to
harmonise with, and carry out, that melancholy fact of the deceased Mr
Pipchin having broken his heart in the Peruvian mines.
For example, there was an honest grocer and general dealer in the
retail line of business, between whom and Mrs Pipchin there was a
small memorandum book, with a greasy red cover, perpetually in
question, and concerning which divers secret councils and conferences
were continually being held between the parties to that register, on
the mat in the passage, and with closed doors in the parlour. Nor were
there wanting dark hints from Master Bitherstone (whose temper had
been made revengeful by the solar heats of India acting on his blood),
of balances unsettled, and of a failure, on one occasion within his
memory, in the supply of moist sugar at tea-time. This grocer being a
bachelor and not a man who looked upon the surface for beauty, had
once made honourable offers for the hand of Berry, which Mrs Pipchin
had, with contumely and scorn, rejected. Everybody said how laudable
this was in Mrs Pipchin, relict of a man who had died of the Peruvian
mines; and what a staunch, high, independent spirit the old lady had.
But nobody said anything about poor Berry, who cried for six weeks
(being soundly rated by her good aunt all the time), and lapsed into a
state of hopeless spinsterhood.
'Berry's very fond of you, ain't she?' Paul once asked Mrs Pipchin
when they were sitting by the fire with the cat.
'Yes,' said Mrs Pipchin.
'Why?' asked Paul.
'Why!' returned the disconcerted old lady. 'How can you ask such
things, Sir! why are you fond of your sister Florence?'
'Because she's very good,' said Paul. 'There's nobody like
'Well!' retorted Mrs Pipchin, shortly, 'and there's nobody like me,
'Ain't there really though?' asked Paul, leaning forward in his
chair, and looking at her very hard.
'No,' said the old lady.
'I am glad of that,' observed Paul, rubbing his hands thoughtfully.
'That's a very good thing.'
Mrs Pipchin didn't dare to ask him why, lest she should receive
some perfectly annihilating answer. But as a compensation to her
wounded feelings, she harassed Master Bitherstone to that extent until
bed-time, that he began that very night to make arrangements for an
overland return to India, by secreting from his supper a quarter of a
round of bread and a fragment of moist Dutch cheese, as the beginning
of a stock of provision to support him on the voyage.
Mrs Pipchin had kept watch and ward over little Paul and his sister
for nearly twelve months. They had been home twice, but only for a few
days; and had been constant in their weekly visits to Mr Dombey at the
hotel. By little and little Paul had grown stronger, and had become
able to dispense with his carriage; though he still looked thin and
delicate; and still remained the same old, quiet, dreamy child that he
had been when first consigned to Mrs Pipchin's care. One Saturday
afternoon, at dusk, great consternation was occasioned in the Castle
by the unlooked-for announcement of Mr Dombey as a visitor to Mrs
Pipchin. The population of the parlour was immediately swept upstairs
as on the wings of a whirlwind, and after much slamming of bedroom
doors, and trampling overhead, and some knocking about of Master
Bitherstone by Mrs Pipchin, as a relief to the perturbation of her
spirits, the black bombazeen garments of the worthy old lady darkened
the audience-chamber where Mr Dombey was contemplating the vacant
arm-chair of his son and heir.
'Mrs Pipchin,' said Mr Dombey, 'How do you do?'
'Thank you, Sir,' said Mrs Pipchin, 'I am pretty well,
Mrs Pipchin always used that form of words. It meant, considering
her virtues, sacrifices, and so forth.
'I can't expect, Sir, to be very well,' said Mrs Pipchin, taking a
chair and fetching her breath; 'but such health as I have, I am
Mr Dombey inclined his head with the satisfied air of a patron, who
felt that this was the sort of thing for which he paid so much a
quarter. After a moment's silence he went on to say:
'Mrs Pipchin, I have taken the liberty of calling, to consult you
in reference to my son. I have had it in my mind to do so for some
time past; but have deferred it from time to time, in order that his
health might be thoroughly re-established. You have no misgivings on
that subject, Mrs Pipchin?'
'Brighton has proved very beneficial, Sir,' returned Mrs Pipchin.
'Very beneficial, indeed.'
'I purpose,' said Mr Dombey, 'his remaining at Brighton.'
Mrs Pipchin rubbed her hands, and bent her grey eyes on the fire.
'But,' pursued Mr Dombey, stretching out his forefinger, 'but
possibly that he should now make a change, and lead a different kind
of life here. In short, Mrs Pipchin, that is the object of my visit.
My son is getting on, Mrs Pipchin. Really, he is getting on.'
There was something melancholy in the triumphant air with which Mr
Dombey said this. It showed how long Paul's childish life had been to
him, and how his hopes were set upon a later stage of his existence.
Pity may appear a strange word to connect with anyone so haughty and
so cold, and yet he seemed a worthy subject for it at that moment.
'Six years old!' said Mr Dombey, settling his neckcloth - perhaps
to hide an irrepressible smile that rather seemed to strike upon the
surface of his face and glance away, as finding no resting-place, than
to play there for an instant. 'Dear me, six will be changed to
sixteen, before we have time to look about us.'
'Ten years,' croaked the unsympathetic Pipchin, with a frosty
glistening of her hard grey eye, and a dreary shaking of her bent
head, 'is a long time.'
'It depends on circumstances, returned Mr Dombey; 'at all events,
Mrs Pipchin, my son is six years old, and there is no doubt, I fear,
that in his studies he is behind many children of his age - or his
youth,' said Mr Dombey, quickly answering what he mistrusted was a
shrewd twinkle of the frosty eye, 'his youth is a more appropriate
expression. Now, Mrs Pipchin, instead of being behind his peers, my
son ought to be before them; far before them. There is an eminence
ready for him to mount upon. There is nothing of chance or doubt in
the course before my son. His way in life was clear and prepared, and
marked out before he existed. The education of such a young gentleman
must not be delayed. It must not be left imperfect. It must be very
steadily and seriously undertaken, Mrs Pipchin.'
'Well, Sir,' said Mrs Pipchin, 'I can say nothing to the contrary.'
'I was quite sure, Mrs Pipchin,' returned Mr Dombey, approvingly,
'that a person of your good sense could not, and would not.'
'There is a great deal of nonsense - and worse - talked about young
people not being pressed too hard at first, and being tempted on, and
all the rest of it, Sir,' said Mrs Pipchin, impatiently rubbing her
hooked nose. 'It never was thought of in my time, and it has no
business to be thought of now. My opinion is "keep 'em at it".'
'My good madam,' returned Mr Dombey, 'you have not acquired your
reputation undeservedly; and I beg you to believe, Mrs Pipchin, that I
am more than satisfied with your excellent system of management, and
shall have the greatest pleasure in commending it whenever my poor
commendation - ' Mr Dombey's loftiness when he affected to disparage
his own importance, passed all bounds - 'can be of any service. I have
been thinking of Doctor Blimber's, Mrs Pipchin.'
'My neighbour, Sir?' said Mrs Pipchin. 'I believe the Doctor's is
an excellent establishment. I've heard that it's very strictly
conducted, and there is nothing but learning going on from morning to
'And it's very expensive,' added Mr Dombey.
'And it's very expensive, Sir,' returned Mrs Pipchin, catching at
the fact, as if in omitting that, she had omitted one of its leading
'I have had some communication with the Doctor, Mrs Pipchin,' said
Mr Dombey, hitching his chair anxiously a little nearer to the fire,
'and he does not consider Paul at all too young for his purpose. He
mentioned several instances of boys in Greek at about the same age. If
I have any little uneasiness in my own mind, Mrs Pipchin, on the
subject of this change, it is not on that head. My son not having
known a mother has gradually concentrated much - too much - of his
childish affection on his sister. Whether their separation - ' Mr
Dombey said no more, but sat silent.
'Hoity-toity!' exclaimed Mrs Pipchin, shaking out her black
bombazeen skirts, and plucking up all the ogress within her. 'If she
don't like it, Mr Dombey, she must be taught to lump it.' The good
lady apologised immediately afterwards for using so common a figure of
speech, but said (and truly) that that was the way she reasoned with
Mr Dombey waited until Mrs Pipchin had done bridling and shaking
her head, and frowning down a legion of Bitherstones and Pankeys; and
then said quietly, but correctively, 'He, my good madam, he.'
Mrs Pipchin's system would have applied very much the same mode of
cure to any uneasiness on the part of Paul, too; but as the hard grey
eye was sharp enough to see that the recipe, however Mr Dombey might
admit its efficacy in the case of the daughter, was not a sovereign
remedy for the son, she argued the point; and contended that change,
and new society, and the different form of life he would lead at
Doctor Blimber's, and the studies he would have to master, would very
soon prove sufficient alienations. As this chimed in with Mr Dombey's
own hope and belief, it gave that gentleman a still higher opinion of
Mrs Pipchin's understanding; and as Mrs Pipchin, at the same time,
bewailed the loss of her dear little friend (which was not an
overwhelming shock to her, as she had long expected it, and had not
looked, in the beginning, for his remaining with her longer than three
months), he formed an equally good opinion of Mrs Pipchin's
disinterestedness. It was plain that he had given the subject anxious
consideration, for he had formed a plan, which he announced to the
ogress, of sending Paul to the Doctor's as a weekly boarder for the
first half year, during which time Florence would remain at the
Castle, that she might receive her brother there, on Saturdays. This
would wean him by degrees, Mr Dombey said; possibly with a
recollection of his not having been weaned by degrees on a former
Mr Dombey finished the interview by expressing his hope that Mrs
Pipchin would still remain in office as general superintendent and
overseer of his son, pending his studies at Brighton; and having
kissed Paul, and shaken hands with Florence, and beheld Master
Bitherstone in his collar of state, and made Miss Pankey cry by
patting her on the head (in which region she was uncommonly tender, on
account of a habit Mrs Pipchin had of sounding it with her knuckles,
like a cask), he withdrew to his hotel and dinner: resolved that Paul,
now that he was getting so old and well, should begin a vigorous
course of education forthwith, to qualify him for the position in
which he was to shine; and that Doctor Blimber should take him in hand
Whenever a young gentleman was taken in hand by Doctor Blimber, he
might consider himself sure of a pretty tight squeeze. The Doctor only
undertook the charge of ten young gentlemen, but he had, always ready,
a supply of learning for a hundred, on the lowest estimate; and it was
at once the business and delight of his life to gorge the unhappy ten
In fact, Doctor Blimber's establishment was a great hot-house, in
which there was a forcing apparatus incessantly at work. All the boys
blew before their time. Mental green-peas were produced at Christmas,
and intellectual asparagus all the year round. Mathematical
gooseberries (very sour ones too) were common at untimely seasons, and
from mere sprouts of bushes, under Doctor Blimber's cultivation. Every
description of Greek and Latin vegetable was got off the driest twigs
of boys, under the frostiest circumstances. Nature was of no
consequence at all. No matter what a young gentleman was intended to
bear, Doctor Blimber made him bear to pattern, somehow or other.
This was all very pleasant and ingenious, but the system of forcing
was attended with its usual disadvantages. There was not the right
taste about the premature productions, and they didn't keep well.
Moreover, one young gentleman, with a swollen nose and an excessively
large head (the oldest of the ten who had 'gone through' everything),
suddenly left off blowing one day, and remained in the establishment a
mere stalk. And people did say that the Doctor had rather overdone it
with young Toots, and that when he began to have whiskers he left off
There young Toots was, at any rate; possessed of the gruffest of
voices and the shrillest of minds; sticking ornamental pins into his
shirt, and keeping a ring in his waistcoat pocket to put on his little
finger by stealth, when the pupils went out walking; constantly
falling in love by sight with nurserymaids, who had no idea of his
existence; and looking at the gas-lighted world over the little iron
bars in the left-hand corner window of the front three pairs of
stairs, after bed-time, like a greatly overgrown cherub who had sat up
aloft much too long.
The Doctor was a portly gentleman in a suit of black, with strings
at his knees, and stockings below them. He had a bald head, highly
polished; a deep voice; and a chin so very double, that it was a
wonder how he ever managed to shave into the creases. He had likewise
a pair of little eyes that were always half shut up, and a mouth that
was always half expanded into a grin, as if he had, that moment, posed
a boy, and were waiting to convict him from his own lips. Insomuch,
that when the Doctor put his right hand into the breast of his coat,
and with his other hand behind him, and a scarcely perceptible wag of his
head, made the commonest observation to a nervous stranger, it was
like a sentiment from the sphynx, and settled his business.
The Doctor's was a mighty fine house, fronting the sea. Not a
joyful style of house within, but quite the contrary. Sad-coloured
curtains, whose proportions were spare and lean, hid themselves
despondently behind the windows. The tables and chairs were put away
in rows, like figures in a sum; fires were so rarely lighted in the
rooms of ceremony, that they felt like wells, and a visitor
represented the bucket; the dining-room seemed the last place in the
world where any eating or drinking was likely to occur; there was no
sound through all the house but the ticking of a great clock in the
hall, which made itself audible in the very garrets; and sometimes a
dull cooing of young gentlemen at their lessons, like the murmurings
of an assemblage of melancholy pigeons.
Miss Blimber, too, although a slim and graceful maid, did no soft
violence to the gravity of the house. There was no light nonsense
about Miss Blimber. She kept her hair short and crisp, and wore
spectacles. She was dry and sandy with working in the graves of
deceased languages. None of your live languages for Miss Blimber. They
must be dead - stone dead - and then Miss Blimber dug them up like a
Mrs Blimber, her Mama, was not learned herself, but she pretended
to be, and that did quite as well. She said at evening parties, that
if she could have known Cicero, she thought she could have died
contented. It was the steady joy of her life to see the Doctor's young
gentlemen go out walking, unlike all other young gentlemen, in the
largest possible shirt-collars, and the stiffest possible cravats. It
was so classical, she said.
As to Mr Feeder, B.A., Doctor Blimber's assistant, he was a kind of
human barrel-organ, with a little list of tunes at which he was
continually working, over and over again, without any variation. He
might have been fitted up with a change of barrels, perhaps, in early
life, if his destiny had been favourable; but it had not been; and he
had only one, with which, in a monotonous round, it was his occupation
to bewilder the young ideas of Doctor Blimber's young gentlemen. The
young gentlemen were prematurely full of carking anxieties. They knew
no rest from the pursuit of stony-hearted verbs, savage
noun-substantives, inflexible syntactic passages, and ghosts of
exercises that appeared to them in their dreams. Under the forcing
system, a young gentleman usually took leave of his spirits in three
weeks. He had all the cares of the world on his head in three months.
He conceived bitter sentiments against his parents or guardians in
four; he was an old misanthrope, in five; envied Curtius that blessed
refuge in the earth, in six; and at the end of the first twelvemonth
had arrived at the conclusion, from which he never afterwards
departed, that all the fancies of the poets, and lessons of the sages,
were a mere collection of words and grammar, and had no other meaning
in the world.
But he went on blow, blow, blowing, in the Doctor's hothouse, all
the time; and the Doctor's glory and reputation were great, when he
took his wintry growth home to his relations and friends.
Upon the Doctor's door-steps one day, Paul stood with a fluttering
heart, and with his small right hand in his father's. His other hand
was locked in that of Florence. How tight the tiny pressure of that
one; and how loose and cold the other!
Mrs Pipchin hovered behind the victim, with her sable plumage and
her hooked beak, like a bird of ill-omen. She was out of breath - for
Mr Dombey, full of great thoughts, had walked fast - and she croaked
hoarsely as she waited for the opening of the door.
'Now, Paul,' said Mr Dombey, exultingly. 'This is the way indeed to
be Dombey and Son, and have money. You are almost a man already.'
'Almost,' returned the child.
Even his childish agitation could not master the sly and quaint yet
touching look, with which he accompanied the reply.
It brought a vague expression of dissatisfaction into Mr Dombey's
face; but the door being opened, it was quickly gone
'Doctor Blimber is at home, I believe?' said Mr Dombey.
The man said yes; and as they passed in, looked at Paul as if he
were a little mouse, and the house were a trap. He was a weak-eyed
young man, with the first faint streaks or early dawn of a grin on his
countenance. It was mere imbecility; but Mrs Pipchin took it into her
head that it was impudence, and made a snap at him directly.
'How dare you laugh behind the gentleman's back?' said Mrs Pipchin.
'And what do you take me for?'
'I ain't a laughing at nobody, and I'm sure I don't take you for
nothing, Ma'am,' returned the young man, in consternation.
'A pack of idle dogs!' said Mrs Pipchin, 'only fit to be turnspits.
Go and tell your master that Mr Dombey's here, or it'll be worse for
The weak-eyed young man went, very meekly, to discharge himself of
this commission; and soon came back to invite them to the Doctor's
'You're laughing again, Sir,' said Mrs Pipchin, when it came to her
turn, bringing up the rear, to pass him in the hall.
'I ain't,' returned the young man, grievously oppressed. 'I never
see such a thing as this!'
'What is the matter, Mrs Pipchin?' said Mr Dombey, looking round.
Mrs Pipchin, in her deference, merely muttered at the young man as
she passed on, and said, 'Oh! he was a precious fellow' - leaving the
young man, who was all meekness and incapacity, affected even to tears
by the incident. But Mrs Pipchin had a way of falling foul of all meek
people; and her friends said who could wonder at it, after the
The Doctor was sitting in his portentous study, with a globe at
each knee, books all round him, Homer over the door, and Minerva on
the mantel-shelf. 'And how do you do, Sir?' he said to Mr Dombey, 'and
how is my little friend?' Grave as an organ was the Doctor's speech;
and when he ceased, the great clock in the hall seemed (to Paul at
least) to take him up, and to go on saying, 'how, is, my, lit, tle,
friend? how, is, my, lit, tle, friend?' over and over and over again.
The little friend being something too small to be seen at all from
where the Doctor sat, over the books on his table, the Doctor made
several futile attempts to get a view of him round the legs; which Mr
Dombey perceiving, relieved the Doctor from his embarrassment by
taking Paul up in his arms, and sitting him on another little table,
over against the Doctor, in the middle of the room.
'Ha!' said the Doctor, leaning back in his chair with his hand in
his breast. 'Now I see my little friend. How do you do, my little
The clock in the hall wouldn't subscribe to this alteration in the
form of words, but continued to repeat how, is, my, lit, tle, friend?
how, is, my, lit, tle, friend?'
'Very well, I thank you, Sir,' returned Paul, answering the clock
quite as much as the Doctor.
'Ha!' said Doctor Blimber. 'Shall we make a man of him?'
'Do you hear, Paul?' added Mr Dombey; Paul being silent.
'Shall we make a man of him?' repeated the Doctor.
'I had rather be a child,' replied Paul.
'Indeed!' said the Doctor. 'Why?'
The child sat on the table looking at him, with a curious
expression of suppressed emotion in his face, and beating one hand
proudly on his knee as if he had the rising tears beneath it, and
crushed them. But his other hand strayed a little way the while, a
little farther - farther from him yet - until it lighted on the neck
of Florence. 'This is why,' it seemed to say, and then the steady look
was broken up and gone; the working lip was loosened; and the tears
came streaming forth.
'Mrs Pipchin,' said his father, in a querulous manner, 'I am really
very sorry to see this.'
'Come away from him, do, Miss Dombey,' quoth the matron.
'Never mind,' said the Doctor, blandly nodding his head, to keep
Mrs Pipchin back. 'Never mind; we shall substitute new cares and new
impressions, Mr Dombey, very shortly. You would still wish my little
friend to acquire - '
'Everything, if you please, Doctor,' returned Mr Dombey, firmly.
'Yes,' said the Doctor, who, with his half-shut eyes, and his usual
smile, seemed to survey Paul with the sort of interest that might
attach to some choice little animal he was going to stuff. 'Yes,
exactly. Ha! We shall impart a great variety of information to our
little friend, and bring him quickly forward, I daresay. I daresay.
Quite a virgin soil, I believe you said, Mr Dombey?'
'Except some ordinary preparation at home, and from this lady,'
replied Mr Dombey, introducing Mrs Pipchin, who instantly communicated
a rigidity to her whole muscular system, and snorted defiance
beforehand, in case the Doctor should disparage her; 'except so far,
Paul has, as yet, applied himself to no studies at all.'
Doctor Blimber inclined his head, in gentle tolerance of such
insignificant poaching as Mrs Pipchin's, and said he was glad to hear
it. It was much more satisfactory, he observed, rubbing his hands, to
begin at the foundation. And again he leered at Paul, as if he would
have liked to tackle him with the Greek alphabet, on the spot.
'That circumstance, indeed, Doctor Blimber,' pursued Mr Dombey,
glancing at his little son, 'and the interview I have already had the
pleasure of holding with you, renders any further explanation, and
consequently, any further intrusion on your valuable time, so
unnecessary, that - '
'Now, Miss Dombey!' said the acid Pipchin.
'Permit me,' said the Doctor, 'one moment. Allow me to present Mrs
Blimber and my daughter; who will be associated with the domestic life
of our young Pilgrim to Parnassus Mrs Blimber,' for the lady, who had
perhaps been in waiting, opportunely entered, followed by her
daughter, that fair Sexton in spectacles, 'Mr Dombey. My daughter
Cornelia, Mr Dombey. Mr Dombey, my love,' pursued the Doctor, turning
to his wife, 'is so confiding as to - do you see our little friend?'
Mrs Blimber, in an excess of politeness, of which Mr Dombey was the
object, apparently did not, for she was backing against the little
friend, and very much endangering his position on the table. But, on
this hint, she turned to admire his classical and intellectual
lineaments, and turning again to Mr Dombey, said, with a sigh, that
she envied his dear son.
'Like a bee, Sir,' said Mrs Blimber, with uplifted eyes, 'about to
plunge into a garden of the choicest flowers, and sip the sweets for
the first time Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Terence, Plautus, Cicero. What a
world of honey have we here. It may appear remarkable, Mr Dombey, in
one who is a wife - the wife of such a husband - '
'Hush, hush,' said Doctor Blimber. 'Fie for shame.'
'Mr Dombey will forgive the partiality of a wife,' said Mrs
Blimber, with an engaging smile.
Mr Dombey answered 'Not at all:' applying those words, it is to be
presumed, to the partiality, and not to the forgiveness.
'And it may seem remarkable in one who is a mother also,' resumed
'And such a mother,' observed Mr Dombey, bowing with some confused
idea of being complimentary to Cornelia.
'But really,' pursued Mrs Blimber, 'I think if I could have known
Cicero, and been his friend, and talked with him in his retirement at
Tusculum (beau-ti-ful Tusculum!), I could have died contented.'
A learned enthusiasm is so very contagious, that Mr Dombey half
believed this was exactly his case; and even Mrs Pipchin, who was not,
as we have seen, of an accommodating disposition generally, gave
utterance to a little sound between a groan and a sigh, as if she
would have said that nobody but Cicero could have proved a lasting
consolation under that failure of the Peruvian MInes, but that he
indeed would have been a very Davy-lamp of refuge.
Cornelia looked at Mr Dombey through her spectacles, as if she
would have liked to crack a few quotations with him from the authority
in question. But this design, if she entertained it, was frustrated by
a knock at the room-door.
'Who is that?' said the Doctor. 'Oh! Come in, Toots; come in. Mr
Dombey, Sir.' Toots bowed. 'Quite a coincidence!' said Doctor Blimber.
'Here we have the beginning and the end. Alpha and Omega Our head boy,
The Doctor might have called him their head and shoulders boy, for
he was at least that much taller than any of the rest. He blushed very
much at finding himself among strangers, and chuckled aloud.
'An addition to our little Portico, Toots,' said the Doctor; 'Mr
Young Toots blushed again; and finding, from a solemn silence which
prevailed, that he was expected to say something, said to Paul, 'How
are you?' in a voice so deep, and a manner so sheepish, that if a lamb
had roared it couldn't have been more surprising.
'Ask Mr Feeder, if you please, Toots,' said the Doctor, 'to prepare
a few introductory volumes for Mr Dombey's son, and to allot him a
convenient seat for study. My dear, I believe Mr Dombey has not seen
'If Mr Dombey will walk upstairs,' said Mrs Blimber, 'I shall be
more than proud to show him the dominions of the drowsy god.'
With that, Mrs Blimber, who was a lady of great suavity, and a wiry
figure, and who wore a cap composed of sky-blue materials, pied
upstairs with Mr Dombey and Cornelia; Mrs Pipchin following, and
looking out sharp for her enemy the footman.
While they were gone, Paul sat upon the table, holding Florence by
the hand, and glancing timidly from the Doctor round and round the
room, while the Doctor, leaning back in his chair, with his hand in
his breast as usual, held a book from him at arm's length, and read.
There was something very awful in this manner of reading. It was such
a determined, unimpassioned, inflexible, cold-blooded way of going to
work. It left the Doctor's countenance exposed to view; and when the
Doctor smiled suspiciously at his author, or knit his brows, or shook
his head and made wry faces at him, as much as to say, 'Don't tell me,
Sir; I know better,' it was terrific.
Toots, too, had no business to be outside the door, ostentatiously
examining the wheels in his watch, and counting his half-crowns. But
that didn't last long; for Doctor Blimber, happening to change the
position of his tight plump legs, as if he were going to get up, Toots
swiftly vanished, and appeared no more.
Mr Dombey and his conductress were soon heard coming downstairs
again, talking all the way; and presently they re-entered the Doctor's
'I hope, Mr Dombey,' said the Doctor, laying down his book, 'that
the arrangements meet your approval.'
'They are excellent, Sir,' said Mr Dombey.
'Very fair, indeed,' said Mrs Pipchin, in a low voice; never
disposed to give too much encouragement.
'Mrs Pipchin,' said Mr Dombey, wheeling round, 'will, with your
permission, Doctor and Mrs Blimber, visit Paul now and then.'
'Whenever Mrs Pipchin pleases,' observed the Doctor.
'Always happy to see her,' said Mrs Blimber.
'I think,' said Mr Dombey, 'I have given all the trouble I need,
and may take my leave. Paul, my child,' he went close to him, as he
sat upon the table. 'Good-bye.'
The limp and careless little hand that Mr Dombey took in his, was
singularly out of keeping with the wistful face. But he had no part in
its sorrowful expression. It was not addressed to him. No, no. To
Florence - all to Florence.
If Mr Dombey in his insolence of wealth, had ever made an enemy,
hard to appease and cruelly vindictive in his hate, even such an enemy
might have received the pang that wrung his proud heart then, as
compensation for his injury.
He bent down, over his boy, and kissed him. If his sight were
dimmed as he did so, by something that for a moment blurred the little
face, and made it indistinct to him, his mental vision may have been,
for that short time, the clearer perhaps.
'I shall see you soon, Paul. You are free on Saturdays and Sundays,
'Yes, Papa,' returned Paul: looking at his sister. 'On Saturdays
'And you'll try and learn a great deal here, and be a clever man,'
said Mr Dombey; 'won't you?'
'I'll try,' returned the child, wearily.
'And you'll soon be grown up now!' said Mr Dombey.
'Oh! very soon!' replied the child. Once more the old, old look
passed rapidly across his features like a strange light. It fell on
Mrs Pipchin, and extinguished itself in her black dress. That
excellent ogress stepped forward to take leave and to bear off
Florence, which she had long been thirsting to do. The move on her
part roused Mr Dombey, whose eyes were fixed on Paul. After patting
him on the head, and pressing his small hand again, he took leave of
Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber, and Miss Blimber, with his usual polite
frigidity, and walked out of the study.
Despite his entreaty that they would not think of stirring, Doctor
Blimber, Mrs Blimber, and Miss Blimber all pressed forward to attend
him to the hall; and thus Mrs Pipchin got into a state of entanglement
with Miss Blimber and the Doctor, and was crowded out of the study
before she could clutch Florence. To which happy accident Paul stood
afterwards indebted for the dear remembrance, that Florence ran back
to throw her arms round his neck, and that hers was the last face in
the doorway: turned towards him with a smile of encouragement, the
brighter for the tears through which it beamed.
It made his childish bosom heave and swell when it was gone; and
sent the globes, the books, blind Homer and Minerva, swimming round
the room. But they stopped, all of a sudden; and then he heard the
loud clock in the hall still gravely inquiring 'how, is, my, lit, tle,
friend? how, is, my, lit, tle, friend?' as it had done before.
He sat, with folded hands, upon his pedestal, silently listening.
But he might have answered 'weary, weary! very lonely, very sad!' And
there, with an aching void in his young heart, and all outside so
cold, and bare, and strange, Paul sat as if he had taken life
unfurnished, and the upholsterer were never coming.
After the lapse of some minutes, which appeared an immense time to
little Paul Dombey on the table, Doctor Blimber came back. The
Doctor's walk was stately, and calculated to impress the juvenile mind
with solemn feelings. It was a sort of march; but when the Doctor put
out his right foot, he gravely turned upon his axis, with a
semi-circular sweep towards the left; and when he put out his left
foot, he turned in the same manner towards the right. So that he
seemed, at every stride he took, to look about him as though he were
saying, 'Can anybody have the goodness to indicate any subject, in any
direction, on which I am uninformed? I rather think not'
Mrs Blimber and Miss Blimber came back in the Doctor's company; and
the Doctor, lifting his new pupil off the table, delivered him over to
'Cornelia,' said the Doctor, 'Dombey will be your charge at first.
Bring him on, Cornelia, bring him on.'
Miss Blimber received her young ward from the Doctor's hands; and
Paul, feeling that the spectacles were surveying him, cast down his
'How old are you, Dombey?' said Miss Blimber.
'Six,' answered Paul, wondering, as he stole a glance at the young
lady, why her hair didn't grow long like Florence's, and why she was
like a boy.
'How much do you know of your Latin Grammar, Dombey?' said Miss
'None of it,' answered Paul. Feeling that the answer was a shock to
Miss Blimber's sensibility, he looked up at the three faces that were
looking down at him, and said:
'I have'n't been well. I have been a weak child. I couldn't learn a
Latin Grammar when I was out, every day, with old Glubb. I wish you'd
tell old Glubb to come and see me, if you please.'
'What a dreadfully low name' said Mrs Blimber. 'Unclassical to a
degree! Who is the monster, child?'
'What monster?' inquired Paul.
'Glubb,' said Mrs Blimber, with a great disrelish.
'He's no more a monster than you are,' returned Paul.
'What!' cried the Doctor, in a terrible voice. 'Ay, ay, ay? Aha!
Paul was dreadfully frightened; but still he made a stand for the
absent Glubb, though he did it trembling.
'He's a very nice old man, Ma'am,' he said. 'He used to draw my
couch. He knows all about the deep sea, and the fish that are in it,
and the great monsters that come and lie on rocks in the sun, and dive
into the water again when they're startled, blowing and splashing so,
that they can be heard for miles. There are some creatures, said Paul,
warming with his subject, 'I don't know how many yards long, and I
forget their names, but Florence knows, that pretend to be in
distress; and when a man goes near them, out of compassion, they open
their great jaws, and attack him. But all he has got to do,' said
Paul, boldly tendering this information to the very Doctor himself,
'is to keep on turning as he runs away, and then, as they turn slowly,
because they are so long, and can't bend, he's sure to beat them. And
though old Glubb don't know why the sea should make me think of my
Mama that's dead, or what it is that it is always saying - always
saying! he knows a great deal about it. And I wish,' the child
concluded, with a sudden falling of his countenance, and failing in
his animation, as he looked like one forlorn, upon the three strange
faces, 'that you'd let old Glubb come here to see me, for I know him
very well, and he knows me.
'Ha!' said the Doctor, shaking his head; 'this is bad, but study
will do much.'
Mrs Blimber opined, with something like a shiver, that he was an
unaccountable child; and, allowing for the difference of visage,
looked at him pretty much as Mrs Pipchin had been used to do.
'Take him round the house, Cornelia,' said the Doctor, 'and
familiarise him with his new sphere. Go with that young lady, Dombey.'
Dombey obeyed; giving his hand to the abstruse Cornelia, and
looking at her sideways, with timid curiosity, as they went away
together. For her spectacles, by reason of the glistening of the
glasses, made her so mysterious, that he didn't know where she was
looking, and was not indeed quite sure that she had any eyes at all
Cornelia took him first to the schoolroom, which was situated at
the back of the hall, and was approached through two baize doors,
which deadened and muffled the young gentlemen's voices. Here, there
were eight young gentlemen in various stages of mental prostration,
all very hard at work, and very grave indeed. Toots, as an old hand,
had a desk to himself in one corner: and a magnificent man, of immense
age, he looked, in Paul's young eyes, behind it.
Mr Feeder, B.A., who sat at another little desk, had his Virgil
stop on, and was slowly grinding that tune to four young gentlemen. Of
the remaining four, two, who grasped their foreheads convulsively,
were engaged in solving mathematical problems; one with his face like
a dirty window, from much crying, was endeavouring to flounder through
a hopeless number of lines before dinner; and one sat looking at his
task in stony stupefaction and despair - which it seemed had been his
condition ever since breakfast time.
The appearance of a new boy did not create the sensation that might
have been expected. Mr Feeder, B.A. (who was in the habit of shaving
his head for coolness, and had nothing but little bristles on it),
gave him a bony hand, and told him he was glad to see him - which Paul
would have been very glad to have told him, if he could have done so
with the least sincerity. Then Paul, instructed by Cornelia, shook
hands with the four young gentlemen at Mr Feeder's desk; then with the
two young gentlemen at work on the problems, who were very feverish;
then with the young gentleman at work against time, who was very inky;
and lastly with the young gentleman in a state of stupefaction, who
was flabby and quite cold.
Paul having been already introduced to Toots, that pupil merely
chuckled and breathed hard, as his custom was, and pursued the
occupation in which he was engaged. It was not a severe one; for on
account of his having 'gone through' so much (in more senses than
one), and also of his having, as before hinted, left off blowing in
his prime, Toots now had licence to pursue his own course of study:
which was chiefly to write long letters to himself from persons of
distinction, adds 'P. Toots, Esquire, Brighton, Sussex,' and to
preserve them in his desk with great care.
These ceremonies passed, Cornelia led Paul upstairs to the top of
the house; which was rather a slow journey, on account of Paul being
obliged to land both feet on every stair, before he mounted another.
But they reached their journey's end at last; and there, in a front
room, looking over the wild sea, Cornelia showed him a nice little bed
with white hangings, close to the window, on which there was already
beautifully written on a card in round text - down strokes very thick,
and up strokes very fine - DOMBEY; while two other little bedsteads in
the same room were announced, through like means, as respectively
appertaining unto BRIGGS and TOZER.
Just as they got downstairs again into the hall, Paul saw the
weak-eyed young man who had given that mortal offence to Mrs Pipchin,
suddenly seize a very large drumstick, and fly at a gong that was
hanging up, as if he had gone mad, or wanted vengeance. Instead of
receiving warning, however, or being instantly taken into custody, the
young man left off unchecked, after having made a dreadful noise. Then
Cornelia Blimber said to Dombey that dinner would be ready in a
quarter of an hour, and perhaps he had better go into the schoolroom
among his 'friends.'
So Dombey, deferentially passing the great clock which was still as
anxious as ever to know how he found himself, opened the schoolroom
door a very little way, and strayed in like a lost boy: shutting it
after him with some difficulty. His friends were all dispersed about
the room except the stony friend, who remained immoveable. Mr Feeder
was stretching himself in his grey gown, as if, regardless of expense,
he were resolved to pull the sleeves off.
'Heigh ho hum!' cried Mr Feeder, shaking himself like a cart-horse.
'Oh dear me, dear me! Ya-a-a-ah!'
Paul was quite alarmed by Mr Feeder's yawning; it was done on such
a great scale, and he was so terribly in earnest. All the boys too
(Toots excepted) seemed knocked up, and were getting ready for dinner
- some newly tying their neckcloths, which were very stiff indeed; and
others washing their hands or brushing their hair, in an adjoining
ante-chamber - as if they didn't think they should enjoy it at all.
Young Toots who was ready beforehand, and had therefore nothing to
do, and had leisure to bestow upon Paul, said, with heavy good nature:
'Sit down, Dombey.'
'Thank you, Sir,' said Paul.
His endeavouring to hoist himself on to a very high window-seat,
and his slipping down again, appeared to prepare Toots's mind for the
reception of a discovery.
'You're a very small chap;' said Mr Toots.
'Yes, Sir, I'm small,' returned Paul. 'Thank you, Sir.'
For Toots had lifted him into the seat, and done it kindly too.
'Who's your tailor?' inquired Toots, after looking at him for some
'It's a woman that has made my clothes as yet,' said Paul. 'My
'My tailor's Burgess and Co.,' said Toots. 'Fash'nable. But very
Paul had wit enough to shake his head, as if he would have said it
was easy to see that; and indeed he thought so.
'Your father's regularly rich, ain't he?' inquired Mr Toots.
'Yes, Sir,' said Paul. 'He's Dombey and Son.'
'And which?' demanded Toots.
'And Son, Sir,' replied Paul.
Mr Toots made one or two attempts, in a low voice, to fix the Firm
in his mind; but not quite succeeding, said he would get Paul to
mention the name again to-morrow morning, as it was rather important.
And indeed he purposed nothing less than writing himself a private and
confidential letter from Dombey and Son immediately.
By this time the other pupils (always excepting the stony boy)
gathered round. They were polite, but pale; and spoke low; and they
were so depressed in their spirits, that in comparison with the
general tone of that company, Master Bitherstone was a perfect Miller,
or complete Jest Book.' And yet he had a sense of injury upon him,
too, had Bitherstone.
'You sleep in my room, don't you?' asked a solemn young gentleman,
whose shirt-collar curled up the lobes of his ears.
'Master Briggs?' inquired Paul.
'Tozer,' said the young gentleman.
Paul answered yes; and Tozer pointing out the stony pupil, said
that was Briggs. Paul had already felt certain that it must be either
Briggs or Tozer, though he didn't know why.
'Is yours a strong constitution?' inquired Tozer.
Paul said he thought not. Tozer replied that he thought not also,
judging from Paul's looks, and that it was a pity, for it need be. He
then asked Paul if he were going to begin with Cornelia; and on Paul
saying 'yes,' all the young gentlemen (Briggs excepted) gave a low
It was drowned in the tintinnabulation of the gong, which sounding
again with great fury, there was a general move towards the
dining-room; still excepting Briggs the stony boy, who remained where
he was, and as he was; and on its way to whom Paul presently
encountered a round of bread, genteelly served on a plate and napkin,
and with a silver fork lying crosswise on the top of it.
Doctor Blimber was already in his place in the dining-room, at the
top of the table, with Miss Blimber and Mrs Blimber on either side of
him. Mr Feeder in a black coat was at the bottom. Paul's chair was
next to Miss Blimber; but it being found, when he sat in it, that his
eyebrows were not much above the level of the table-cloth, some books
were brought in from the Doctor's study, on which he was elevated, and
on which he always sat from that time - carrying them in and out
himself on after occasions, like a little elephant and castle.'
Grace having been said by the Doctor, dinner began. There was some
nice soup; also roast meat, boiled meat, vegetables, pie, and cheese.
Every young gentleman had a massive silver fork, and a napkin; and all
the arrangements were stately and handsome. In particular, there was a
butler in a blue coat and bright buttons, who gave quite a winey
flavour to the table beer; he poured it out so superbly.
Nobody spoke, unless spoken to, except Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber,
and Miss Blimber, who conversed occasionally. Whenever a young
gentleman was not actually engaged with his knife and fork or spoon,
his eye, with an irresistible attraction, sought the eye of Doctor
Blimber, Mrs Blimber, or Miss Blimber, and modestly rested there.
Toots appeared to be the only exception to this rule. He sat next Mr
Feeder on Paul's side of the table, and frequently looked behind and
before the intervening boys to catch a glimpse of Paul.
Only once during dinner was there any conversation that included
the young gentlemen. It happened at the epoch of the cheese, when the
Doctor, having taken a glass of port wine, and hemmed twice or thrice,
'It is remarkable, Mr Feeder, that the Romans - '
At the mention of this terrible people, their implacable enemies,
every young gentleman fastened his gaze upon the Doctor, with an
assumption of the deepest interest. One of the number who happened to
be drinking, and who caught the Doctor's eye glaring at him through
the side of his tumbler, left off so hastily that he was convulsed for
some moments, and in the sequel ruined Doctor Blimber's point.
'It is remarkable, Mr Feeder,' said the Doctor, beginning again
slowly, 'that the Romans, in those gorgeous and profuse entertainments
of which we read in the days of the Emperors, when luxury had attained
a height unknown before or since, and when whole provinces were
ravaged to supply the splendid means of one Imperial Banquet - '
Here the offender, who had been swelling and straining, and waiting
in vain for a full stop, broke out violently.
'Johnson,' said Mr Feeder, in a low reproachful voice, 'take some
The Doctor, looking very stern, made a pause until the water was
brought, and then resumed:
'And when, Mr Feeder - '
But Mr Feeder, who saw that Johnson must break out again, and who
knew that the Doctor would never come to a period before the young
gentlemen until he had finished all he meant to say, couldn't keep his
eye off Johnson; and thus was caught in the fact of not looking at the
Doctor, who consequently stopped.
'I beg your pardon, Sir,' said Mr Feeder, reddening. 'I beg your
pardon, Doctor Blimber.'
'And when,' said the Doctor, raising his voice, 'when, Sir, as we
read, and have no reason to doubt - incredible as it may appear to the
vulgar - of our time - the brother of Vitellius prepared for him a
feast, in which were served, of fish, two thousand dishes - '
'Take some water, Johnson - dishes, Sir,' said Mr Feeder.
'Of various sorts of fowl, five thousand dishes.'
'Or try a crust of bread,' said Mr Feeder.
'And one dish,' pursued Doctor Blimber, raising his voice still
higher as he looked all round the table, 'called, from its enormous
dimensions, the Shield of Minerva, and made, among other costly
ingredients, of the brains of pheasants - '
'Ow, ow, ow!' (from Johnson.)
'Woodcocks - '
'Ow, ow, ow!'
'The sounds of the fish called scari - '
'You'll burst some vessel in your head,' said Mr Feeder. 'You had
better let it come.'
'And the spawn of the lamprey, brought from the Carpathian Sea,'
pursued the Doctor, in his severest voice; 'when we read of costly
entertainments such as these, and still remember, that we have a Titus
'What would be your mother's feelings if you died of apoplexy!'
said Mr Feeder.
'A Domitian - '
'And you're blue, you know,' said Mr Feeder.
'A Nero, a Tiberius, a Caligula, a Heliogabalus, and many more,
pursued the Doctor; 'it is, Mr Feeder - if you are doing me the honour
to attend - remarkable; VERY remarkable, Sir - '
But Johnson, unable to suppress it any longer, burst at that moment
into such an overwhelming fit of coughing, that although both his
immediate neighbours thumped him on the back, and Mr Feeder himself
held a glass of water to his lips, and the butler walked him up and
down several times between his own chair and the sideboard, like a
sentry, it was a full five minutes before he was moderately composed.
Then there was a profound silence.
'Gentlemen,' said Doctor Blimber, 'rise for Grace! Cornelia, lift
Dombey down' - nothing of whom but his scalp was accordingly seen
above the tablecloth. 'Johnson will repeat to me tomorrow morning
before breakfast, without book, and from the Greek Testament, the
first chapter of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians. We will
resume our studies, Mr Feeder, in half-an-hour.'
The young gentlemen bowed and withdrew. Mr Feeder did likewise.
During the half-hour, the young gentlemen, broken into pairs, loitered
arm-in-arm up and down a small piece of ground behind the house, or
endeavoured to kindle a spark of animation in the breast of Briggs.
But nothing happened so vulgar as play. Punctually at the appointed
time, the gong was sounded, and the studies, under the joint auspices
of Doctor Blimber and Mr Feeder, were resumed.
As the Olympic game of lounging up and down had been cut shorter
than usual that day, on Johnson's account, they all went out for a
walk before tea. Even Briggs (though he hadn't begun yet) partook of
this dissipation; in the enjoyment of which he looked over the cliff
two or three times darkly. Doctor Blimber accompanied them; and Paul
had the honour of being taken in tow by the Doctor himself: a
distinguished state of things, in which he looked very little and
Tea was served in a style no less polite than the dinner; and after
tea, the young gentlemen rising and bowing as before, withdrew to
fetch up the unfinished tasks of that day, or to get up the already
looming tasks of to-morrow. In the meantime Mr Feeder withdrew to his
own room; and Paul sat in a corner wondering whether Florence was
thinking of him, and what they were all about at Mrs Pipchin's.
Mr Toots, who had been detained by an important letter from the
Duke of Wellington, found Paul out after a time; and having looked at
him for a long while, as before, inquired if he was fond of
Paul said 'Yes, Sir.'
'So am I,' said Toots.
No word more spoke Toots that night; but he stood looking at Paul
as if he liked him; and as there was company in that, and Paul was not
inclined to talk, it answered his purpose better than conversation.
At eight o'clock or so, the gong sounded again for prayers in the
dining-room, where the butler afterwards presided over a side-table,
on which bread and cheese and beer were spread for such young
gentlemen as desired to partake of those refreshments. The ceremonies
concluded by the Doctor's saying, 'Gentlemen, we will resume our
studies at seven to-morrow;' and then, for the first time, Paul saw
Cornelia Blimber's eye, and saw that it was upon him. When the Doctor
had said these words, 'Gentlemen, we will resume our studies at seven
tomorrow,' the pupils bowed again, and went to bed.
In the confidence of their own room upstairs, Briggs said his head
ached ready to split, and that he should wish himself dead if it
wasn't for his mother, and a blackbird he had at home Tozer didn't say
much, but he sighed a good deal, and told Paul to look out, for his
turn would come to-morrow. After uttering those prophetic words, he
undressed himself moodily, and got into bed. Briggs was in his bed
too, and Paul in his bed too, before the weak-eyed young man appeared
to take away the candle, when he wished them good-night and pleasant
dreams. But his benevolent wishes were in vain, as far as Briggs and
Tozer were concerned; for Paul, who lay awake for a long while, and
often woke afterwards, found that Briggs was ridden by his lesson as a
nightmare: and that Tozer, whose mind was affected in his sleep by
similar causes, in a minor degree talked unknown tongues, or scraps of
Greek and Latin - it was all one to Paul- which, in the silence of
night, had an inexpressibly wicked and guilty effect.
Paul had sunk into a sweet sleep, and dreamed that he was walking
hand in hand with Florence through beautiful gardens, when they came
to a large sunflower which suddenly expanded itself into a gong, and
began to sound. Opening his eyes, he found that it was a dark, windy
morning, with a drizzling rain: and that the real gong was giving
dreadful note of preparation, down in the hall.
So he got up directly, and found Briggs with hardly any eyes, for
nightmare and grief had made his face puffy, putting his boots on:
while Tozer stood shivering and rubbing his shoulders in a very bad
humour. Poor Paul couldn't dress himself easily, not being used to it,
and asked them if they would have the goodness to tie some strings for
him; but as Briggs merely said 'Bother!' and Tozer, 'Oh yes!' he went
down when he was otherwise ready, to the next storey, where he saw a
pretty young woman in leather gloves, cleaning a stove. The young
woman seemed surprised at his appearance, and asked him where his
mother was. When Paul told her she was dead, she took her gloves off,
and did what he wanted; and furthermore rubbed his hands to warm them;
and gave him a kiss; and told him whenever he wanted anything of that
sort - meaning in the dressing way - to ask for 'Melia; which Paul,
thanking her very much, said he certainly would. He then proceeded
softly on his journey downstairs, towards the room in which the young
gentlemen resumed their studies, when, passing by a door that stood
ajar, a voice from within cried, 'Is that Dombey?' On Paul replying,
'Yes, Ma'am:' for he knew the voice to be Miss Blimber's: Miss Blimber
said, 'Come in, Dombey.' And in he went. Miss Blimber presented
exactly the appearance she had presented yesterday, except that she
wore a shawl. Her little light curls were as crisp as ever, and she
had already her spectacles on, which made Paul wonder whether she went
to bed in them. She had a cool little sitting-room of her own up
there, with some books in it, and no fire But Miss Blimber was never
cold, and never sleepy.
Now, Dombey,' said Miss Blimber, 'I am going out for a
Paul wondered what that was, and why she didn't send the footman
out to get it in such unfavourable weather. But he made no observation
on the subject: his attention being devoted to a little pile of new
books, on which Miss Blimber appeared to have been recently engaged.
'These are yours, Dombey,' said Miss Blimber.
'All of 'em, Ma'am?' said Paul.
'Yes,' returned Miss Blimber; 'and Mr Feeder will look you out some
more very soon, if you are as studious as I expect you will be,
'Thank you, Ma'am,' said Paul.
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