Dombey and Son
Part 5 out of 21
'I am going out for a constitutional,' resumed Miss Blimber; 'and
while I am gone, that is to say in the interval between this and
breakfast, Dombey, I wish you to read over what I have marked in these
books, and to tell me if you quite understand what you have got to
learn. Don't lose time, Dombey, for you have none to spare, but take
them downstairs, and begin directly.'
'Yes, Ma'am,' answered Paul.
There were so many of them, that although Paul put one hand under
the bottom book and his other hand and his chin on the top book, and
hugged them all closely, the middle book slipped out before he reached
the door, and then they all tumbled down on the floor. Miss Blimber
said, 'Oh, Dombey, Dombey, this is really very careless!' and piled
them up afresh for him; and this time, by dint of balancing them with
great nicety, Paul got out of the room, and down a few stairs before
two of them escaped again. But he held the rest so tight, that he only
left one more on the first floor, and one in the passage; and when he
had got the main body down into the schoolroom, he set off upstairs
again to collect the stragglers. Having at last amassed the whole
library, and climbed into his place, he fell to work, encouraged by a
remark from Tozer to the effect that he 'was in for it now;' which was
the only interruption he received till breakfast time. At that meal,
for which he had no appetite, everything was quite as solemn and
genteel as at the others; and when it was finished, he followed Miss
'Now, Dombey,' said Miss Blimber. 'How have you got on with those
They comprised a little English, and a deal of Latin - names of
things, declensions of articles and substantives, exercises thereon,
and preliminary rules - a trifle of orthography, a glance at ancient
history, a wink or two at modern ditto, a few tables, two or three
weights and measures, and a little general information. When poor Paul
had spelt out number two, he found he had no idea of number one;
fragments whereof afterwards obtruded themselves into number three,
which slided into number four, which grafted itself on to number two.
So that whether twenty Romuluses made a Remus, or hic haec hoc was
troy weight, or a verb always agreed with an ancient Briton, or three
times four was Taurus a bull, were open questions with him.
'Oh, Dombey, Dombey!' said Miss Blimber, 'this is very shocking.'
'If you please,' said Paul, 'I think if I might sometimes talk a
little to old Glubb, I should be able to do better.'
'Nonsense, Dombey,' said Miss Blimber. 'I couldn't hear of it. This
is not the place for Glubbs of any kind. You must take the books down,
I suppose, Dombey, one by one, and perfect yourself in the day's
instalment of subject A, before you turn at all to subject B. I am
sorry to say, Dombey, that your education appears to have been very
'So Papa says,' returned Paul; 'but I told you - I have been a weak
child. Florence knows I have. So does Wickam.'
'Who is Wickam?' asked Miss Blimber.
'She has been my nurse,' Paul answered.
'I must beg you not to mention Wickam to me, then,' said Miss
Blimber.'I couldn't allow it'.
'You asked me who she was,' said Paul.
'Very well,' returned Miss Blimber; 'but this is all very different
indeed from anything of that sort, Dombey, and I couldn't think of
permitting it. As to having been weak, you must begin to be strong.
And now take away the top book, if you please, Dombey, and return when
you are master of the theme.'
Miss Blimber expressed her opinions on the subject of Paul's
uninstructed state with a gloomy delight, as if she had expected this
result, and were glad to find that they must be in constant
communication. Paul withdrew with the top task, as he was told, and
laboured away at it, down below: sometimes remembering every word of
it, and sometimes forgetting it all, and everything else besides:
until at last he ventured upstairs again to repeat the lesson, when it
was nearly all driven out of his head before he began, by Miss
Blimber's shutting up the book, and saying, 'Good, Dombey!' a
proceeding so suggestive of the knowledge inside of her, that Paul
looked upon the young lady with consternation, as a kind of learned
Guy Faux, or artificial Bogle, stuffed full of scholastic straw.
He acquitted himself very well, nevertheless; and Miss Blimber,
commending him as giving promise of getting on fast, immediately
provided him with subject B; from which he passed to C, and even D
before dinner. It was hard work, resuming his studies, soon after
dinner; and he felt giddy and confused and drowsy and dull. But all
the other young gentlemen had similar sensations, and were obliged to
resume their studies too, if there were any comfort in that. It was a
wonder that the great clock in the hall, instead of being constant to
its first inquiry, never said, 'Gentlemen, we will now resume our
studies,' for that phrase was often enough repeated in its
neighbourhood. The studies went round like a mighty wheel, and the
young gentlemen were always stretched upon it.
After tea there were exercises again, and preparations for next day
by candlelight. And in due course there was bed; where, but for that
resumption of the studies which took place in dreams, were rest and
Oh Saturdays! Oh happy Saturdays, when Florence always came at
noon, and never would, in any weather, stay away, though Mrs Pipchin
snarled and growled, and worried her bitterly. Those Saturdays were
Sabbaths for at least two little Christians among all the Jews, and
did the holy Sabbath work of strengthening and knitting up a brother's
and a sister's love.
Not even Sunday nights - the heavy Sunday nights, whose shadow
darkened the first waking burst of light on Sunday mornings - could
mar those precious Saturdays. Whether it was the great sea-shore,
where they sat, and strolled together; or whether it was only Mrs
Pipchin's dull back room, in which she sang to him so softly, with his
drowsy head upon her arm; Paul never cared. It was Florence. That was
all he thought of. So, on Sunday nights, when the Doctor's dark door
stood agape to swallow him up for another week, the time was come for
taking leave of Florence; no one else.
Mrs Wickam had been drafted home to the house in town, and Miss
Nipper, now a smart young woman, had come down. To many a single
combat with Mrs Pipchin, did Miss Nipper gallantly devote herself, and
if ever Mrs Pipchin in all her life had found her match, she had found
it now. Miss Nipper threw away the scabbard the first morning she
arose in Mrs Pipchin's house. She asked and gave no quarter. She said
it must be war, and war it was; and Mrs Pipchin lived from that time
in the midst of surprises, harassings, and defiances, and skirmishing
attacks that came bouncing in upon her from the passage, even in
unguarded moments of chops, and carried desolation to her very toast.
Miss Nipper had returned one Sunday night with Florence, from
walking back with Paul to the Doctor's, when Florence took from her
bosom a little piece of paper, on which she had pencilled down some
'See here, Susan,' she said. 'These are the names of the little
books that Paul brings home to do those long exercises with, when he
is so tired. I copied them last night while he was writing.'
'Don't show 'em to me, Miss Floy, if you please,' returned Nipper,
'I'd as soon see Mrs Pipchin.'
'I want you to buy them for me, Susan, if you will, tomorrow
morning. I have money enough,' said Florence.
'Why, goodness gracious me, Miss Floy,' returned Miss Nipper, 'how
can you talk like that, when you have books upon books already, and
masterses and mississes a teaching of you everything continual, though
my belief is that your Pa, Miss Dombey, never would have learnt you
nothing, never would have thought of it, unless you'd asked him - when
he couldn't well refuse; but giving consent when asked, and offering
when unasked, Miss, is quite two things; I may not have my objections
to a young man's keeping company with me, and when he puts the
question, may say "yes," but that's not saying "would you be so kind
as like me."'
'But you can buy me the books, Susan; and you will, when you know
why I want them.'
'Well, Miss, and why do you want 'em?' replied Nipper; adding, in a
lower voice, 'If it was to fling at Mrs Pipchin's head, I'd buy a
'Paul has a great deal too much to do, Susan,' said Florence, 'I am
sure of it.'
'And well you may be, Miss,' returned her maid, 'and make your mind
quite easy that the willing dear is worked and worked away. If those
is Latin legs,' exclaimed Miss Nipper, with strong feeling - in
allusion to Paul's; 'give me English ones.'
'I am afraid he feels lonely and lost at Doctor Blimber's, Susan,'
pursued Florence, turning away her face.
'Ah,' said Miss Nipper, with great sharpness, 'Oh, them "Blimbers"'
'Don't blame anyone,' said Florence. 'It's a mistake.'
'I say nothing about blame, Miss,' cried Miss Nipper, 'for I know
that you object, but I may wish, Miss, that the family was set to work
to make new roads, and that Miss Blimber went in front and had the
After this speech, Miss Nipper, who was perfectly serious, wiped
'I think I could perhaps give Paul some help, Susan, if I had these
books,' said Florence, 'and make the coming week a little easier to
him. At least I want to try. So buy them for me, dear, and I will
never forget how kind it was of you to do it!'
It must have been a harder heart than Susan Nipper's that could
have rejected the little purse Florence held out with these words, or
the gentle look of entreaty with which she seconded her petition.
Susan put the purse in her pocket without reply, and trotted out at
once upon her errand.
The books were not easy to procure; and the answer at several shops
was, either that they were just out of them, or that they never kept
them, or that they had had a great many last month, or that they
expected a great many next week But Susan was not easily baffled in
such an enterprise; and having entrapped a white-haired youth, in a
black calico apron, from a library where she was known, to accompany
her in her quest, she led him such a life in going up and down, that
he exerted himself to the utmost, if it were only to get rid of her;
and finally enabled her to return home in triumph.
With these treasures then, after her own daily lessons were over,
Florence sat down at night to track Paul's footsteps through the
thorny ways of learning; and being possessed of a naturally quick and
sound capacity, and taught by that most wonderful of masters, love, it
was not long before she gained upon Paul's heels, and caught and
Not a word of this was breathed to Mrs Pipchin: but many a night
when they were all in bed, and when Miss Nipper, with her hair in
papers and herself asleep in some uncomfortable attitude, reposed
unconscious by her side; and when the chinking ashes in the grate were
cold and grey; and when the candles were burnt down and guttering out;
- Florence tried so hard to be a substitute for one small Dombey, that
her fortitude and perseverance might have almost won her a free right
to bear the name herself.
And high was her reward, when one Saturday evening, as little Paul
was sitting down as usual to 'resume his studies,' she sat down by his
side, and showed him all that was so rough, made smooth, and all that
was so dark, made clear and plain, before him. It was nothing but a
startled look in Paul's wan face - a flush - a smile - and then a
close embrace - but God knows how her heart leapt up at this rich
payment for her trouble.
'Oh, Floy!' cried her brother, 'how I love you! How I love you,
'And I you, dear!'
'Oh! I am sure of that, Floy.'
He said no more about it, but all that evening sat close by her,
very quiet; and in the night he called out from his little room within
hers, three or four times, that he loved her.
Regularly, after that, Florence was prepared to sit down with Paul
on Saturday night, and patiently assist him through so much as they
could anticipate together of his next week's work. The cheering
thought that he was labouring on where Florence had just toiled before
him, would, of itself, have been a stimulant to Paul in the perpetual
resumption of his studies; but coupled with the actual lightening of
his load, consequent on this assistance, it saved him, possibly, from
sinking underneath the burden which the fair Cornelia Blimber piled
upon his back.
It was not that Miss Blimber meant to be too hard upon him, or that
Doctor Blimber meant to bear too heavily on the young gentlemen in
general. Cornelia merely held the faith in which she had been bred;
and the Doctor, in some partial confusion of his ideas, regarded the
young gentlemen as if they were all Doctors, and were born grown up.
Comforted by the applause of the young gentlemen's nearest relations,
and urged on by their blind vanity and ill-considered haste, it would
have been strange if Doctor Blimber had discovered his mistake, or
trimmed his swelling sails to any other tack.
Thus in the case of Paul. When Doctor Blimber said he made great
progress and was naturally clever, Mr Dombey was more bent than ever
on his being forced and crammed. In the case of Briggs, when Doctor
Blimber reported that he did not make great progress yet, and was not
naturally clever, Briggs senior was inexorable in the same purpose. In
short, however high and false the temperature at which the Doctor kept
his hothouse, the owners of the plants were always ready to lend a
helping hand at the bellows, and to stir the fire.
Such spirits as he had in the outset, Paul soon lost of course. But
he retained all that was strange, and old, and thoughtful in his
character: and under circumstances so favourable to the development of
those tendencies, became even more strange, and old, and thoughtful,
The only difference was, that he kept his character to himself. He
grew more thoughtful and reserved, every day; and had no such
curiosity in any living member of the Doctor's household, as he had
had in Mrs Pipchin. He loved to be alone; and in those short intervals
when he was not occupied with his books, liked nothing so well as
wandering about the house by himself, or sitting on the stairs,
listening to the great clock in the hall. He was intimate with all the
paperhanging in the house; saw things that no one else saw in the
patterns; found out miniature tigers and lions running up the bedroom
walls, and squinting faces leering in the squares and diamonds of the
The solitary child lived on, surrounded by this arabesque work of
his musing fancy, and no one understood him. Mrs Blimber thought him
'odd,' and sometimes the servants said among themselves that little
Dombey 'moped;' but that was all.
Unless young Toots had some idea on the subject, to the expression
of which he was wholly unequal. Ideas, like ghosts (according to the
common notion of ghosts), must be spoken to a little before they will
explain themselves; and Toots had long left off asking any questions
of his own mind. Some mist there may have been, issuing from that
leaden casket, his cranium, which, if it could have taken shape and
form, would have become a genie; but it could not; and it only so far
followed the example of the smoke in the Arabian story, as to roll out
in a thick cloud, and there hang and hover. But it left a little
figure visible upon a lonely shore, and Toots was always staring at
'How are you?' he would say to Paul, fifty times a day. 'Quite
well, Sir, thank you,' Paul would answer. 'Shake hands,' would be
Toots's next advance.
Which Paul, of course, would immediately do. Mr Toots generally
said again, after a long interval of staring and hard breathing, 'How
are you?' To which Paul again replied, 'Quite well, Sir, thank you.'
One evening Mr Toots was sitting at his desk, oppressed by
correspondence, when a great purpose seemed to flash upon him. He laid
down his pen, and went off to seek Paul, whom he found at last, after
a long search, looking through the window of his little bedroom.
'I say!' cried Toots, speaking the moment he entered the room, lest
he should forget it; 'what do you think about?'
'Oh! I think about a great many things,' replied Paul.
'Do you, though?' said Toots, appearing to consider that fact in
itself surprising. 'If you had to die,' said Paul, looking up into his
face - Mr Toots started, and seemed much disturbed.
'Don't you think you would rather die on a moonlight night, when
the sky was quite clear, and the wind blowing, as it did last night?'
Mr Toots said, looking doubtfully at Paul, and shaking his head,
that he didn't know about that.
'Not blowing, at least,' said Paul, 'but sounding in the air like
the sea sounds in the shells. It was a beautiful night. When I had
listened to the water for a long time, I got up and looked out. There
was a boat over there, in the full light of the moon; a boat with a
The child looked at him so steadfastly, and spoke so earnestly,
that Mr Toots, feeling himself called upon to say something about this
boat, said, 'Smugglers.' But with an impartial remembrance of there
being two sides to every question, he added, 'or Preventive.'
'A boat with a sail,' repeated Paul, 'in the full light of the
moon. The sail like an arm, all silver. It went away into the
distance, and what do you think it seemed to do as it moved with the
'Pitch,' said Mr Toots.
'It seemed to beckon,' said the child, 'to beckon me to come! -
There she is! There she is!'
Toots was almost beside himself with dismay at this sudden
exclamation, after what had gone before, and cried 'Who?'
'My sister Florence!' cried Paul, 'looking up here, and waving her
hand. She sees me - she sees me! Good-night, dear, good-night,
His quick transition to a state of unbounded pleasure, as he stood
at his window, kissing and clapping his hands: and the way in which
the light retreated from his features as she passed out of his view,
and left a patient melancholy on the little face: were too remarkable
wholly to escape even Toots's notice. Their interview being
interrupted at this moment by a visit from Mrs Pipchin, who usually
brought her black skirts to bear upon Paul just before dusk, once or
twice a week, Toots had no opportunity of improving the occasion: but
it left so marked an impression on his mind that he twice returned,
after having exchanged the usual salutations, to ask Mrs Pipchin how
she did. This the irascible old lady conceived to be a deeply devised
and long-meditated insult, originating in the diabolical invention of
the weak-eyed young man downstairs, against whom she accordingly
lodged a formal complaint with Doctor Blimber that very night; who
mentioned to the young man that if he ever did it again, he should be
obliged to part with him.
The evenings being longer now, Paul stole up to his window every
evening to look out for Florence. She always passed and repassed at a
certain time, until she saw him; and their mutual recognition was a
gleam of sunshine in Paul's daily life. Often after dark, one other
figure walked alone before the Doctor's house. He rarely joined them
on the Saturdays now. He could not bear it. He would rather come
unrecognised, and look up at the windows where his son was qualifying
for a man; and wait, and watch, and plan, and hope.
Oh! could he but have seen, or seen as others did, the slight spare
boy above, watching the waves and clouds at twilight, with his earnest
eyes, and breasting the window of his solitary cage when birds flew
by, as if he would have emulated them, and soared away!
Shipping Intelligence and Office Business
Mr Dombey's offices were in a court where there was an
old-established stall of choice fruit at the corner: where
perambulating merchants, of both sexes, offered for sale at any time
between the hours of ten and five, slippers, pocket-books, sponges,
dogs' collars, and Windsor soap; and sometimes a pointer or an
The pointer always came that way, with a view to the Stock
Exchange, where a sporting taste (originating generally in bets of new
hats) is much in vogue. The other commodities were addressed to the
general public; but they were never offered by the vendors to Mr
Dombey. When he appeared, the dealers in those wares fell off
respectfully. The principal slipper and dogs' collar man - who
considered himself a public character, and whose portrait was screwed
on to an artist's door in Cheapside - threw up his forefinger to the
brim of his hat as Mr Dombey went by. The ticket-porter, if he were
not absent on a job, always ran officiously before, to open Mr
Dombey's office door as wide as possible, and hold it open, with his
hat off, while he entered.
The clerks within were not a whit behind-hand in their
demonstrations of respect. A solemn hush prevailed, as Mr Dombey
passed through the outer office. The wit of the Counting-House became
in a moment as mute as the row of leathern fire-buckets hanging up
behind him. Such vapid and flat daylight as filtered through the
ground-glass windows and skylights, leaving a black sediment upon the
panes, showed the books and papers, and the figures bending over them,
enveloped in a studious gloom, and as much abstracted in appearance,
from the world without, as if they were assembled at the bottom of the
sea; while a mouldy little strong room in the obscure perspective,
where a shaded lamp was always burning, might have represented the
cavern of some ocean monster, looking on with a red eye at these
mysteries of the deep.
When Perch the messenger, whose place was on a little bracket, like
a timepiece, saw Mr Dombey come in - or rather when he felt that he
was coming, for he had usually an instinctive sense of his approach -
he hurried into Mr Dombey's room, stirred the fire, carried fresh
coals from the bowels of the coal-box, hung the newspaper to air upon
the fender, put the chair ready, and the screen in its place, and was
round upon his heel on the instant of Mr Dombey's entrance, to take
his great-coat and hat, and hang them up. Then Perch took the
newspaper, and gave it a turn or two in his hands before the fire, and
laid it, deferentially, at Mr Dombey's elbow. And so little objection
had Perch to being deferential in the last degree, that if he might
have laid himself at Mr Dombey's feet, or might have called him by
some such title as used to be bestowed upon the Caliph Haroun
Alraschid, he would have been all the better pleased.
As this honour would have been an innovation and an experiment,
Perch was fain to content himself by expressing as well as he could,
in his manner, You are the light of my Eyes. You are the Breath of my
Soul. You are the commander of the Faithful Perch! With this imperfect
happiness to cheer him, he would shut the door softly, walk away on
tiptoe, and leave his great chief to be stared at, through a
dome-shaped window in the leads, by ugly chimney-pots and backs of
houses, and especially by the bold window of a hair-cutting saloon on
a first floor, where a waxen effigy, bald as a Mussulman in the
morning, and covered, after eleven o'clock in the day, with luxuriant
hair and whiskers in the latest Christian fashion, showed him the
wrong side of its head for ever.
Between Mr Dombey and the common world, as it was accessible
through the medium of the outer office - to which Mr Dombey's presence
in his own room may be said to have struck like damp, or cold air -
there were two degrees of descent. Mr Carker in his own office was the
first step; Mr Morfin, in his own office, was the second. Each of
these gentlemen occupied a little chamber like a bath-room, opening
from the passage outside Mr Dombey's door. Mr Carker, as Grand Vizier,
inhabited the room that was nearest to the Sultan. Mr Morfin, as an
officer of inferior state, inhabited the room that was nearest to the
The gentleman last mentioned was a cheerful-looking, hazel-eyed
elderly bachelor: gravely attired, as to his upper man, in black; and
as to his legs, in pepper-and-salt colour. His dark hair was just
touched here and there with specks of gray, as though the tread of
Time had splashed it; and his whiskers were already white. He had a
mighty respect for Mr Dombey, and rendered him due homage; but as he
was of a genial temper himself, and never wholly at his ease in that
stately presence, he was disquieted by no jealousy of the many
conferences enjoyed by Mr Carker, and felt a secret satisfaction in
having duties to discharge, which rarely exposed him to be singled out
for such distinction. He was a great musical amateur in his way -
after business; and had a paternal affection for his violoncello,
which was once in every week transported from Islington, his place of
abode, to a certain club-room hard by the Bank, where quartettes of
the most tormenting and excruciating nature were executed every
Wednesday evening by a private party.
Mr Carker was a gentleman thirty-eight or forty years old, of a
florid complexion, and with two unbroken rows of glistening teeth,
whose regularity and whiteness were quite distressing. It was
impossible to escape the observation of them, for he showed them
whenever he spoke; and bore so wide a smile upon his countenance (a
smile, however, very rarely, indeed, extending beyond his mouth), that
there was something in it like the snarl of a cat. He affected a stiff
white cravat, after the example of his principal, and was always
closely buttoned up and tightly dressed. His manner towards Mr Dombey
was deeply conceived and perfectly expressed. He was familiar with
him, in the very extremity of his sense of the distance between them.
'Mr Dombey, to a man in your position from a man in mine, there is no
show of subservience compatible with the transaction of business
between us, that I should think sufficient. I frankly tell you, Sir, I
give it up altogether. I feel that I could not satisfy my own mind;
and Heaven knows, Mr Dombey, you can afford to dispense with the
endeavour.' If he had carried these words about with him printed on a
placard, and had constantly offered it to Mr Dombey's perusal on the
breast of his coat, he could not have been more explicit than he was.
This was Carker the Manager. Mr Carker the Junior, Walter's friend,
was his brother; two or three years older than he, but widely removed
in station. The younger brother's post was on the top of the official
ladder; the elder brother's at the bottom. The elder brother never
gained a stave, or raised his foot to mount one. Young men passed
above his head, and rose and rose; but he was always at the bottom. He
was quite resigned to occupy that low condition: never complained of
it: and certainly never hoped to escape from it.
'How do you do this morning?' said Mr Carker the Manager, entering
Mr Dombey's room soon after his arrival one day: with a bundle of
papers in his hand.
'How do you do, Carker?' said Mr Dombey.
'Coolish!' observed Carker, stirring the fire.
'Rather,' said Mr Dombey.
'Any news of the young gentleman who is so important to us all?'
asked Carker, with his whole regiment of teeth on parade.
'Yes - not direct news- I hear he's very well,' said Mr Dombey. Who
had come from Brighton over-night. But no one knew It.
'Very well, and becoming a great scholar, no doubt?' observed the
'I hope so,' returned Mr Dombey.
'Egad!' said Mr Carker, shaking his head, 'Time flies!'
'I think so, sometimes,' returned Mr Dombey, glancing at his
'Oh! You! You have no reason to think so,' observed Carker. 'One
who sits on such an elevation as yours, and can sit there, unmoved, in
all seasons - hasn't much reason to know anything about the flight of
time. It's men like myself, who are low down and are not superior in
circumstances, and who inherit new masters in the course of Time, that
have cause to look about us. I shall have a rising sun to worship,
'Time enough, time enough, Carker!' said Mr Dombey, rising from his
chair, and standing with his back to the fire. 'Have you anything
there for me?'
'I don't know that I need trouble you,' returned Carker, turning
over the papers in his hand. 'You have a committee today at three, you
'And one at three, three-quarters,' added Mr Dombey.
'Catch you forgetting anything!' exclaimed Carker, still turning
over his papers. 'If Mr Paul inherits your memory, he'll be a
troublesome customer in the House. One of you is enough'
'You have an accurate memory of your own,' said Mr Dombey.
'Oh! I!' returned the manager. 'It's the only capital of a man like
Mr Dombey did not look less pompous or at all displeased, as he
stood leaning against the chimney-piece, surveying his (of course
unconscious) clerk, from head to foot. The stiffness and nicety of Mr
Carker's dress, and a certain arrogance of manner, either natural to
him or imitated from a pattern not far off, gave great additional
effect to his humility. He seemed a man who would contend against the
power that vanquished him, if he could, but who was utterly borne down
by the greatness and superiority of Mr Dombey.
'Is Morfin here?' asked Mr Dombey after a short pause, during which
Mr Carker had been fluttering his papers, and muttering little
abstracts of their contents to himself.
'Morfin's here,' he answered, looking up with his widest and almost
sudden smile; 'humming musical recollections - of his last night's
quartette party, I suppose - through the walls between us, and driving
me half mad. I wish he'd make a bonfire of his violoncello, and burn
his music-books in it.'
'You respect nobody, Carker, I think,' said Mr Dombey.
'No?' inquired Carker, with another wide and most feline show of
his teeth. 'Well! Not many people, I believe. I wouldn't answer
perhaps,' he murmured, as if he were only thinking it, 'for more than
A dangerous quality, if real; and a not less dangerous one, if
feigned. But Mr Dombey hardly seemed to think so, as he still stood
with his back to the fire, drawn up to his full height, and looking at
his head-clerk with a dignified composure, in which there seemed to
lurk a stronger latent sense of power than usual.
'Talking of Morfin,' resumed Mr Carker, taking out one paper from
the rest, 'he reports a junior dead in the agency at Barbados, and
proposes to reserve a passage in the Son and Heir - she'll sail in a
month or so - for the successor. You don't care who goes, I suppose?
We have nobody of that sort here.'
Mr Dombey shook his head with supreme indifference.
'It's no very precious appointment,' observed Mr Carker, taking up
a pen, with which to endorse a memorandum on the back of the paper. 'I
hope he may bestow it on some orphan nephew of a musical friend. It
may perhaps stop his fiddle-playing, if he has a gift that way. Who's
that? Come in!'
'I beg your pardon, Mr Carker. I didn't know you were here, Sir,'
answered Walter; appearing with some letters in his hand, unopened,
and newly arrived. 'Mr Carker the junior, Sir - '
At the mention of this name, Mr Carker the Manager was or affected
to be, touched to the quick with shame and humiliation. He cast his
eyes full on Mr Dombey with an altered and apologetic look, abased
them on the ground, and remained for a moment without speaking.
'I thought, Sir,' he said suddenly and angrily, turning on Walter,
'that you had been before requested not to drag Mr Carker the Junior
into your conversation.'
'I beg your pardon,' returned Walter. 'I was only going to say that
Mr Carker the Junior had told me he believed you were gone out, or I
should not have knocked at the door when you were engaged with Mr
Dombey. These are letters for Mr Dombey, Sir.'
'Very well, Sir,' returned Mr Carker the Manager, plucking them
sharply from his hand. 'Go about your business.'
But in taking them with so little ceremony, Mr Carker dropped one
on the floor, and did not see what he had done; neither did Mr Dombey
observe the letter lying near his feet. Walter hesitated for a moment,
thinking that one or other of them would notice it; but finding that
neither did, he stopped, came back, picked it up, and laid it himself
on Mr Dombey's desk. The letters were post-letters; and it happened
that the one in question was Mrs Pipchin's regular report, directed as
usual - for Mrs Pipchin was but an indifferent penwoman - by Florence.
Mr Dombey, having his attention silently called to this letter by
Walter, started, and looked fiercely at him, as if he believed that he
had purposely selected it from all the rest.
'You can leave the room, Sir!' said Mr Dombey, haughtily.
He crushed the letter in his hand; and having watched Walter out at
the door, put it in his pocket without breaking the seal.
'These continual references to Mr Carker the Junior,' Mr Carker the
Manager began, as soon as they were alone, 'are, to a man in my
position, uttered before one in yours, so unspeakably distressing - '
'Nonsense, Carker,' Mr Dombey interrupted. 'You are too sensitive.'
'I am sensitive,' he returned. 'If one in your position could by
any possibility imagine yourself in my place: which you cannot: you
would be so too.'
As Mr Dombey's thoughts were evidently pursuing some other subject,
his discreet ally broke off here, and stood with his teeth ready to
present to him, when he should look up.
'You want somebody to send to the West Indies, you were saying,'
observed Mr Dombey, hurriedly.
'Yes,' replied Carker.
'Send young Gay.'
'Good, very good indeed. Nothing easier,' said Mr Carker, without
any show of surprise, and taking up the pen to re-endorse the letter,
as coolly as he had done before. '"Send young Gay."'
'Call him back,' said Mr Dombey.
Mr Carker was quick to do so, and Walter was quick to return.
'Gay,' said Mr Dombey, turning a little to look at him over his
shoulder. 'Here is a -
'An opening,' said Mr Carker, with his mouth stretched to the
'In the West Indies. At Barbados. I am going to send you,' said Mr
Dombey, scorning to embellish the bare truth, 'to fill a junior
situation in the counting-house at Barbados. Let your Uncle know from
me, that I have chosen you to go to the West Indies.'
Walter's breath was so completely taken away by his astonishment,
that he could hardly find enough for the repetition of the words 'West
'Somebody must go,' said Mr Dombey, 'and you are young and healthy,
and your Uncle's circumstances are not good. Tell your Uncle that you
are appointed. You will not go yet. There will be an interval of a
month - or two perhaps.'
'Shall I remain there, Sir?' inquired Walter.
'Will you remain there, Sir!' repeated Mr Dombey, turning a little
more round towards him. 'What do you mean? What does he mean, Carker?'
'Live there, Sir,' faltered Walter.
'Certainly,' returned Mr Dombey.
'That's all,' said Mr Dombey, resuming his letters. 'You will
explain to him in good time about the usual outfit and so forth,
Carker, of course. He needn't wait, Carker.'
'You needn't wait, Gay,' observed Mr Carker: bare to the gums.
'Unless,' said Mr Dombey, stopping in his reading without looking
off the letter, and seeming to listen. 'Unless he has anything to
'No, Sir,' returned Walter, agitated and confused, and almost
stunned, as an infinite variety of pictures presented themselves to
his mind; among which Captain Cuttle, in his glazed hat, transfixed
with astonishment at Mrs MacStinger's, and his uncle bemoaning his
loss in the little back parlour, held prominent places. 'I hardly know
- I - I am much obliged, Sir.'
'He needn't wait, Carker,' said Mr Dombey.
And as Mr Carker again echoed the words, and also collected his
papers as if he were going away too, Walter felt that his lingering
any longer would be an unpardonable intrusion - especially as he had
nothing to say - and therefore walked out quite confounded.
Going along the passage, with the mingled consciousness and
helplessness of a dream, he heard Mr Dombey's door shut again, as Mr
Carker came out: and immediately afterwards that gentleman called to
'Bring your friend Mr Carker the Junior to my room, Sir, if you
Walter went to the outer office and apprised Mr Carker the Junior
of his errand, who accordingly came out from behind a partition where
he sat alone in one corner, and returned with him to the room of Mr
Carker the Manager.
That gentleman was standing with his back to the fire, and his
hands under his coat-tails, looking over his white cravat, as
unpromisingly as Mr Dombey himself could have looked. He received them
without any change in his attitude or softening of his harsh and black
expression: merely signing to Walter to close the door.
'John Carker,' said the Manager, when this was done, turning
suddenly upon his brother, with his two rows of teeth bristling as if
he would have bitten him, 'what is the league between you and this
young man, in virtue of which I am haunted and hunted by the mention
of your name? Is it not enough for you, John Carker, that I am your
near relation, and can't detach myself from that - '
'Say disgrace, James,' interposed the other in a low voice, finding
that he stammered for a word. 'You mean it, and have reason, say
'From that disgrace,' assented his brother with keen emphasis, 'but
is the fact to be blurted out and trumpeted, and proclaimed
continually in the presence of the very House! In moments of
confidence too? Do you think your name is calculated to harmonise in
this place with trust and confidence, John Carker?'
'No,' returned the other. 'No, James. God knows I have no such
'What is your thought, then?' said his brother, 'and why do you
thrust yourself in my way? Haven't you injured me enough already?'
'I have never injured you, James, wilfully.'
'You are my brother,' said the Manager. 'That's injury enough.'
'I wish I could undo it, James.'
'I wish you could and would.'
During this conversation, Walter had looked from one brother to the
other, with pain and amazement. He who was the Senior in years, and
Junior in the House, stood, with his eyes cast upon the ground, and
his head bowed, humbly listening to the reproaches of the other.
Though these were rendered very bitter by the tone and look with which
they were accompanied, and by the presence of Walter whom they so much
surprised and shocked, he entered no other protest against them than
by slightly raising his right hand in a deprecatory manner, as if he
would have said, 'Spare me!' So, had they been blows, and he a brave
man, under strong constraint, and weakened by bodily suffering, he
might have stood before the executioner.
Generous and quick in all his emotions, and regarding himself as
the innocent occasion of these taunts, Walter now struck in, with all
the earnestness he felt.
'Mr Carker,' he said, addressing himself to the Manager. 'Indeed,
indeed, this is my fault solely. In a kind of heedlessness, for which
I cannot blame myself enough, I have, I have no doubt, mentioned Mr
Carker the Junior much oftener than was necessary; and have allowed
his name sometimes to slip through my lips, when it was against your
expressed wish. But it has been my own mistake, Sir. We have never
exchanged one word upon the subject - very few, indeed, on any
subject. And it has not been,' added Walter, after a moment's pause,
'all heedlessness on my part, Sir; for I have felt an interest in Mr
Carker ever since I have been here, and have hardly been able to help
speaking of him sometimes, when I have thought of him so much!'
Walter said this from his soul, and with the very breath of honour.
For he looked upon the bowed head, and the downcast eyes, and upraised
hand, and thought, 'I have felt it; and why should I not avow it in
behalf of this unfriended, broken man!'
Mr Carker the Manager looked at him, as he spoke, and when he had
finished speaking, with a smile that seemed to divide his face into
'You are an excitable youth, Gay,' he said; 'and should endeavour
to cool down a little now, for it would be unwise to encourage
feverish predispositions. Be as cool as you can, Gay. Be as cool as
you can. You might have asked Mr John Carker himself (if you have not
done so) whether he claims to be, or is, an object of such strong
'James, do me justice,' said his brother. 'I have claimed nothing;
and I claim nothing. Believe me, on my -
'Honour?' said his brother, with another smile, as he warmed
himself before the fire.
'On my Me - on my fallen life!' returned the other, in the same low
voice, but with a deeper stress on his words than he had yet seemed
capable of giving them. 'Believe me, I have held myself aloof, and
kept alone. This has been unsought by me. I have avoided him and
'Indeed, you have avoided me, Mr Carker,' said Walter, with the
tears rising to his eyes; so true was his compassion. 'I know it, to
my disappointment and regret. When I first came here, and ever since,
I am sure I have tried to be as much your friend, as one of my age
could presume to be; but it has been of no use.
'And observe,' said the Manager, taking him up quickly, 'it will be
of still less use, Gay, if you persist in forcing Mr John Carker's
name on people's attention. That is not the way to befriend Mr John
Carker. Ask him if he thinks it is.'
'It is no service to me,' said the brother. 'It only leads to such
a conversation as the present, which I need not say I could have well
spared. No one can be a better friend to me:' he spoke here very
distinctly, as if he would impress it upon Walter: 'than in forgetting
me, and leaving me to go my way, unquestioned and unnoticed.'
'Your memory not being retentive, Gay, of what you are told by
others,' said Mr Carker the Manager, warming himself with great and
increased satisfaction, 'I thought it well that you should be told
this from the best authority,' nodding towards his brother. 'You are
not likely to forget it now, I hope. That's all, Gay. You can go.
Walter passed out at the door, and was about to close it after him,
when, hearing the voices of the brothers again, and also the mention
of his own name, he stood irresolutely, with his hand upon the lock,
and the door ajar, uncertain whether to return or go away. In this
position he could not help overhearing what followed.
'Think of me more leniently, if you can, James,' said John Carker,
'when I tell you I have had - how could I help having, with my
history, written here' - striking himself upon the breast - 'my whole
heart awakened by my observation of that boy, Walter Gay. I saw in him
when he first came here, almost my other self.'
'Your other self!' repeated the Manager, disdainfully.
'Not as I am, but as I was when I first came here too; as sanguine,
giddy, youthful, inexperienced; flushed with the same restless and
adventurous fancies; and full of the same qualities, fraught with the
same capacity of leading on to good or evil.'
'I hope not,' said his brother, with some hidden and sarcastic
meaning in his tone.
'You strike me sharply; and your hand is steady, and your thrust is
very deep,' returned the other, speaking (or so Walter thought) as if
some cruel weapon actually stabbed him as he spoke. 'I imagined all
this when he was a boy. I believed it. It was a truth to me. I saw him
lightly walking on the edge of an unseen gulf where so many others
walk with equal gaiety, and from which
'The old excuse,' interrupted his brother, as he stirred the fire.
'So many. Go on. Say, so many fall.'
'From which ONE traveller fell,' returned the other, 'who set
forward, on his way, a boy like him, and missed his footing more and
more, and slipped a little and a little lower; and went on stumbling
still, until he fell headlong and found himself below a shattered man.
Think what I suffered, when I watched that boy.'
'You have only yourself to thank for it,' returned the brother.
'Only myself,' he assented with a sigh. 'I don't seek to divide the
blame or shame.'
'You have divided the shame,' James Carker muttered through his
teeth. And, through so many and such close teeth, he could mutter
'Ah, James,' returned his brother, speaking for the first time in
an accent of reproach, and seeming, by the sound of his voice, to have
covered his face with his hands, 'I have been, since then, a useful
foil to you. You have trodden on me freely in your climbing up. Don't
spurn me with your heel!'
A silence ensued. After a time, Mr Carker the Manager was heard
rustling among his papers, as if he had resolved to bring the
interview to a conclusion. At the same time his brother withdrew
nearer to the door.
'That's all,' he said. 'I watched him with such trembling and such
fear, as was some little punishment to me, until he passed the place
where I first fell; and then, though I had been his father, I believe
I never could have thanked God more devoutly. I didn't dare to warn
him, and advise him; but if I had seen direct cause, I would have
shown him my example. I was afraid to be seen speaking with him, lest
it should be thought I did him harm, and tempted him to evil, and
corrupted him: or lest I really should. There may be such contagion in
me; I don't know. Piece out my history, in connexion with young Walter
Gay, and what he has made me feel; and think of me more leniently,
James, if you can.
With these words he came out to where Walter was standing. He
turned a little paler when he saw him there, and paler yet when Walter
caught him by the hand, and said in a whisper:
'Mr Carker, pray let me thank you! Let me say how much I feel for
you! How sorry I am, to have been the unhappy cause of all this! How I
almost look upon you now as my protector and guardian! How very, very
much, I feel obliged to you and pity you!' said Walter, squeezing both
his hands, and hardly knowing, in his agitation, what he did or said.
Mr Morfin's room being close at hand and empty, and the door wide
open, they moved thither by one accord: the passage being seldom free
from someone passing to or fro. When they were there, and Walter saw
in Mr Carker's face some traces of the emotion within, he almost felt
as if he had never seen the face before; it was so greatly changed.
'Walter,' he said, laying his hand on his shoulder. 'I am far
removed from you, and may I ever be. Do you know what I am?'
'What you are!' appeared to hang on Walter's lips, as he regarded
'It was begun,' said Carker, 'before my twenty-first birthday - led
up to, long before, but not begun till near that time. I had robbed
them when I came of age. I robbed them afterwards. Before my
twenty-second birthday, it was all found out; and then, Walter, from
all men's society, I died.'
Again his last few words hung trembling upon Walter's lips, but he
could neither utter them, nor any of his own.
'The House was very good to me. May Heaven reward the old man for
his forbearance! This one, too, his son, who was then newly in the
Firm, where I had held great trust! I was called into that room which
is now his - I have never entered it since - and came out, what you
know me. For many years I sat in my present seat, alone as now, but
then a known and recognised example to the rest. They were all
merciful to me, and I lived. Time has altered that part of my poor
expiation; and I think, except the three heads of the House, there is
no one here who knows my story rightly. Before the little boy grows
up, and has it told to him, my corner may be vacant. I would rather
that it might be so! This is the only change to me since that day,
when I left all youth, and hope, and good men's company, behind me in
that room. God bless you, Walter! Keep you, and all dear to you, in
honesty, or strike them dead!'
Some recollection of his trembling from head to foot, as if with
excessive cold, and of his bursting into tears, was all that Walter
could add to this, when he tried to recall exactly what had passed
When Walter saw him next, he was bending over his desk in his old
silent, drooping, humbled way. Then, observing him at his work, and
feeling how resolved he evidently was that no further intercourse
should arise between them, and thinking again and again on all he had
seen and heard that morning in so short a time, in connexion with the
history of both the Carkers, Walter could hardly believe that he was
under orders for the West Indies, and would soon be lost to Uncle Sol,
and Captain Cuttle, and to glimpses few and far between of Florence
Dombey - no, he meant Paul - and to all he loved, and liked, and
looked for, in his daily life.
But it was true, and the news had already penetrated to the outer
office; for while he sat with a heavy heart, pondering on these
things, and resting his head upon his arm, Perch the messenger,
descending from his mahogany bracket, and jogging his elbow, begged
his pardon, but wished to say in his ear, Did he think he could
arrange to send home to England a jar of preserved Ginger, cheap, for
Mrs Perch's own eating, in the course of her recovery from her next
Paul grows more and more Old-fashioned, and goes Home for the Holidays
When the Midsummer vacation approached, no indecent manifestations
of joy were exhibited by the leaden-eyed young gentlemen assembled at
Doctor Blimber's. Any such violent expression as 'breaking up,' would
have been quite inapplicable to that polite establishment. The young
gentlemen oozed away, semi-annually, to their own homes; but they
never broke up. They would have scorned the action.
Tozer, who was constantly galled and tormented by a starched white
cambric neckerchief, which he wore at the express desire of Mrs Tozer,
his parent, who, designing him for the Church, was of opinion that he
couldn't be in that forward state of preparation too soon - Tozer
said, indeed, that choosing between two evils, he thought he would
rather stay where he was, than go home. However inconsistent this
declaration might appear with that passage in Tozer's Essay on the
subject, wherein he had observed 'that the thoughts of home and all
its recollections, awakened in his mind the most pleasing emotions of
anticipation and delight,' and had also likened himself to a Roman
General, flushed with a recent victory over the Iceni, or laden with
Carthaginian spoil, advancing within a few hours' march of the
Capitol, presupposed, for the purposes of the simile, to be the
dwelling-place of Mrs Tozer, still it was very sincerely made. For it
seemed that Tozer had a dreadful Uncle, who not only volunteered
examinations of him, in the holidays, on abstruse points, but twisted
innocent events and things, and wrenched them to the same fell
purpose. So that if this Uncle took him to the Play, or, on a similar
pretence of kindness, carried him to see a Giant, or a Dwarf, or a
Conjuror, or anything, Tozer knew he had read up some classical
allusion to the subject beforehand, and was thrown into a state of
mortal apprehension: not foreseeing where he might break out, or what
authority he might not quote against him.
As to Briggs, his father made no show of artifice about it. He
never would leave him alone. So numerous and severe were the mental
trials of that unfortunate youth in vacation time, that the friends of
the family (then resident near Bayswater, London) seldom approached
the ornamental piece of water in Kensington Gardens,' without a vague
expectation of seeing Master Briggs's hat floating on the surface, and
an unfinished exercise lying on the bank. Briggs, therefore, was not
at all sanguine on the subject of holidays; and these two sharers of
little Paul's bedroom were so fair a sample of the young gentlemen in
general, that the most elastic among them contemplated the arrival of
those festive periods with genteel resignation.
It was far otherwise with little Paul. The end of these first
holidays was to witness his separation from Florence, but who ever
looked forward to the end of holidays whose beginning was not yet
come! Not Paul, assuredly. As the happy time drew near, the lions and
tigers climbing up the bedroom walls became quite tame and frolicsome.
The grim sly faces in the squares and diamonds of the floor-cloth,
relaxed and peeped out at him with less wicked eyes. The grave old
clock had more of personal interest in the tone of its formal inquiry;
and the restless sea went rolling on all night, to the sounding of a
melancholy strain - yet it was pleasant too - that rose and fell with
the waves, and rocked him, as it were, to sleep.
Mr Feeder, B.A., seemed to think that he, too, would enjoy the
holidays very much. Mr Toots projected a life of holidays from that
time forth; for, as he regularly informed Paul every day, it was his
'last half' at Doctor Blimber's, and he was going to begin to come
into his property directly.
It was perfectly understood between Paul and Mr Toots, that they
were intimate friends, notwithstanding their distance in point of
years and station. As the vacation approached, and Mr Toots breathed
harder and stared oftener in Paul's society, than he had done before,
Paul knew that he meant he was sorry they were going to lose sight of
each other, and felt very much obliged to him for his patronage and
It was even understood by Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber, and Miss
Blimber, as well as by the young gentlemen in general, that Toots had
somehow constituted himself protector and guardian of Dombey, and the
circumstance became so notorious, even to Mrs Pipchin, that the good
old creature cherished feelings of bitterness and jealousy against
Toots; and, in the sanctuary of her own home, repeatedly denounced him
as a 'chuckle-headed noodle.' Whereas the innocent Toots had no more
idea of awakening Mrs Pipchin's wrath, than he had of any other
definite possibility or proposition. On the contrary, he was disposed
to consider her rather a remarkable character, with many points of
interest about her. For this reason he smiled on her with so much
urbanity, and asked her how she did, so often, in the course of her
visits to little Paul, that at last she one night told him plainly,
she wasn't used to it, whatever he might think; and she could not, and
she would not bear it, either from himself or any other puppy then
existing: at which unexpected acknowledgment of his civilities, Mr
Toots was so alarmed that he secreted himself in a retired spot until
she had gone. Nor did he ever again face the doughty Mrs Pipchin,
under Doctor Blimber's roof.
They were within two or three weeks of the holidays, when, one day,
Cornelia Blimber called Paul into her room, and said, 'Dombey, I am
going to send home your analysis.'
'Thank you, Ma'am,' returned Paul.
'You know what I mean, do you, Dombey?' inquired Miss Blimber,
looking hard at him, through the spectacles.
'No, Ma'am,' said Paul.
'Dombey, Dombey,' said Miss Blimber, 'I begin to be afraid you are
a sad boy. When you don't know the meaning of an expression, why don't
you seek for information?'
'Mrs Pipchin told me I wasn't to ask questions,' returned Paul.
'I must beg you not to mention Mrs Pipchin to me, on any account,
Dombey,' returned Miss Blimber. 'I couldn't think of allowing it. The
course of study here, is very far removed from anything of that sort.
A repetition of such allusions would make it necessary for me to
request to hear, without a mistake, before breakfast-time to-morrow
morning, from Verbum personale down to simillimia cygno.'
'I didn't mean, Ma'am - ' began little Paul.
'I must trouble you not to tell me that you didn't mean, if you
please, Dombey,' said Miss Blimber, who preserved an awful politeness
in her admonitions. 'That is a line of argument I couldn't dream of
Paul felt it safest to say nothing at all, so he only looked at
Miss Blimber's spectacles. Miss Blimber having shaken her head at him
gravely, referred to a paper lying before her.
'"Analysis of the character of P. Dombey." If my recollection
serves me,' said Miss Blimber breaking off, 'the word analysis as
opposed to synthesis, is thus defined by Walker. "The resolution of an
object, whether of the senses or of the intellect, into its first
elements." As opposed to synthesis, you observe. Now you know what
analysis is, Dombey.'
Dombey didn't seem to be absolutely blinded by the light let in
upon his intellect, but he made Miss Blimber a little bow.
'"Analysis,"' resumed Miss Blimber, casting her eye over the paper,
'"of the character of P. Dombey." I find that the natural capacity of
Dombey is extremely good; and that his general disposition to study
may be stated in an equal ratio. Thus, taking eight as our standard
and highest number, I find these qualities in Dombey stated each at
Miss Blimber paused to see how Paul received this news. Being
undecided whether six three-fourths meant six pounds fifteen, or
sixpence three farthings, or six foot three, or three quarters past
six, or six somethings that he hadn't learnt yet, with three unknown
something elses over, Paul rubbed his hands and looked straight at
Miss Blimber. It happened to answer as well as anything else he could
have done; and Cornelia proceeded.
'"Violence two. Selfishness two. Inclination to low company, as
evinced in the case of a person named Glubb, originally seven, but
since reduced. Gentlemanly demeanour four, and improving with
advancing years." Now what I particularly wish to call your attention
to, Dombey, is the general observation at the close of this analysis.'
Paul set himself to follow it with great care.
'"It may be generally observed of Dombey,"' said Miss Blimber,
reading in a loud voice, and at every second word directing her
spectacles towards the little figure before her: '"that his abilities
and inclinations are good, and that he has made as much progress as
under the circumstances could have been expected. But it is to be
lamented of this young gentleman that he is singular (what is usually
termed old-fashioned) in his character and conduct, and that, without
presenting anything in either which distinctly calls for reprobation,
he is often very unlike other young gentlemen of his age and social
position." Now, Dombey,' said Miss Blimber, laying down the paper, 'do
you understand that?'
'I think I do, Ma'am,' said Paul.
'This analysis, you see, Dombey,' Miss Blimber continued, 'is going
to be sent home to your respected parent. It will naturally be very
painful to him to find that you are singular in your character and
conduct. It is naturally painful to us; for we can't like you, you
know, Dombey, as well as we could wish.'
She touched the child upon a tender point. He had secretly become
more and more solicitous from day to day, as the time of his departure
drew more near, that all the house should like him. From some hidden
reason, very imperfectly understood by himself - if understood at all
- he felt a gradually increasing impulse of affection, towards almost
everything and everybody in the place. He could not bear to think that
they would be quite indifferent to him when he was gone. He wanted
them to remember him kindly; and he had made it his business even to
conciliate a great hoarse shaggy dog, chained up at the back of the
house, who had previously been the terror of his life: that even he
might miss him when he was no longer there.
Little thinking that in this, he only showed again the difference
between himself and his compeers, poor tiny Paul set it forth to Miss
Blimber as well as he could, and begged her, in despite of the
official analysis, to have the goodness to try and like him. To Mrs
Blimber, who had joined them, he preferred the same petition: and when
that lady could not forbear, even in his presence, from giving
utterance to her often-repeated opinion, that he was an odd child,
Paul told her that he was sure she was quite right; that he thought it
must be his bones, but he didn't know; and that he hoped she would
overlook it, for he was fond of them all.
'Not so fond,' said Paul, with a mixture of timidity and perfect
frankness, which was one of the most peculiar and most engaging
qualities of the child, 'not so fond as I am of Florence, of course;
that could never be. You couldn't expect that, could you, Ma'am?'
'Oh! the old-fashioned little soul!' cried Mrs Blimber, in a
'But I like everybody here very much,' pursued Paul, 'and I should
grieve to go away, and think that anyone was glad that I was gone, or
Mrs Blimber was now quite sure that Paul was the oddest child in
the world; and when she told the Doctor what had passed, the Doctor
did not controvert his wife's opinion. But he said, as he had said
before, when Paul first came, that study would do much; and he also
said, as he had said on that occasion, 'Bring him on, Cornelia! Bring
Cornelia had always brought him on as vigorously as she could; and
Paul had had a hard life of it. But over and above the getting through
his tasks, he had long had another purpose always present to him, and
to which he still held fast. It was, to be a gentle, useful, quiet
little fellow, always striving to secure the love and attachment of
the rest; and though he was yet often to be seen at his old post on
the stairs, or watching the waves and clouds from his solitary window,
he was oftener found, too, among the other boys, modestly rendering
them some little voluntary service. Thus it came to pass, that even
among those rigid and absorbed young anchorites, who mortified
themselves beneath the roof of Doctor Blimber, Paul was an object of
general interest; a fragile little plaything that they all liked, and
that no one would have thought of treating roughly. But he could not
change his nature, or rewrite the analysis; and so they all agreed
that Dombey was old-fashioned.
There were some immunities, however, attaching to the character
enjoyed by no one else. They could have better spared a
newer-fashioned child, and that alone was much. When the others only
bowed to Doctor Blimber and family on retiring for the night, Paul
would stretch out his morsel of a hand, and boldly shake the Doctor's;
also Mrs Blimber's; also Cornelia's. If anybody was to be begged off
from impending punishment, Paul was always the delegate. The weak-eyed
young man himself had once consulted him, in reference to a little
breakage of glass and china. And it was darKly rumoured that the
butler, regarding him with favour such as that stern man had never
shown before to mortal boy, had sometimes mingled porter with his
table-beer to make him strong.
Over and above these extensive privileges, Paul had free right of
entry to Mr Feeder's room, from which apartment he had twice led Mr
Toots into the open air in a state of faintness, consequent on an
unsuccessful attempt to smoke a very blunt cigar: one of a bundle
which that young gentleman had covertly purchased on the shingle from
a most desperate smuggler, who had acknowledged, in confidence, that
two hundred pounds was the price set upon his head, dead or alive, by
the Custom House. It was a snug room, Mr Feeder's, with his bed in
another little room inside of it; and a flute, which Mr Feeder
couldn't play yet, but was going to make a point of learning, he said,
hanging up over the fireplace. There were some books in it, too, and a
fishing-rod; for Mr Feeder said he should certainly make a point of
learning to fish, when he could find time. Mr Feeder had amassed, with
similar intentions, a beautiful little curly secondhand key-bugle, a
chess-board and men, a Spanish Grammar, a set of sketching materials,
and a pair of boxing-gloves. The art of self-defence Mr Feeder said he
should undoubtedly make a point of learning, as he considered it the
duty of every man to do; for it might lead to the protection of a
female in distress. But Mr Feeder's great possession was a large green
jar of snuff, which Mr Toots had brought down as a present, at the
close of the last vacation; and for which he had paid a high price,
having been the genuine property of the Prince Regent. Neither Mr
Toots nor Mr Feeder could partake of this or any other snuff, even in
the most stinted and moderate degree, without being seized with
convulsions of sneezing. Nevertheless it was their great delight to
moisten a box-full with cold tea, stir it up on a piece of parchment
with a paper-knife, and devote themselves to its consumption then and
there. In the course of which cramming of their noses, they endured
surprising torments with the constancy of martyrs: and, drinking
table-beer at intervals, felt all the glories of dissipation.
To little Paul sitting silent in their company, and by the side of
his chief patron, Mr Toots, there was a dread charm in these reckless
occasions: and when Mr Feeder spoke of the dark mysteries of London,
and told Mr Toots that he was going to observe it himself closely in
all its ramifications in the approaching holidays, and for that
purpose had made arrangements to board with two old maiden ladies at
Peckham, Paul regarded him as if he were the hero of some book of
travels or wild adventure, and was almost afraid of such a slashing
Going into this room one evening, when the holidays were very near,
Paul found Mr Feeder filling up the blanks in some printed letters,
while some others, already filled up and strewn before him, were being
folded and sealed by Mr Toots. Mr Feeder said, 'Aha, Dombey, there you
are, are you?' - for they were always kind to him, and glad to see him
- and then said, tossing one of the letters towards him, 'And there
you are, too, Dombey. That's yours.'
'Mine, Sir?' said Paul.
'Your invitation,' returned Mr Feeder.
Paul, looking at it, found, in copper-plate print, with the
exception of his own name and the date, which were in Mr Feeder's
penmanship, that Doctor and Mrs Blimber requested the pleasure of Mr
P. Dombey's company at an early party on Wednesday Evening the
Seventeenth Instant; and that the hour was half-past seven o'clock;
and that the object was Quadrilles. Mr Toots also showed him, by
holding up a companion sheet of paper, that Doctor and Mrs Blimber
requested the pleasure of Mr Toots's company at an early party on
Wednesday Evening the Seventeenth Instant, when the hour was half-past
seven o'clock, and when the object was Quadrilles. He also found, on
glancing at the table where Mr Feeder sat, that the pleasure of Mr
Briggs's company, and of Mr Tozer's company, and of every young
gentleman's company, was requested by Doctor and Mrs Blimber on the
same genteel Occasion.
Mr Feeder then told him, to his great joy, that his sister was
invited, and that it was a half-yearly event, and that, as the
holidays began that day, he could go away with his sister after the
party, if he liked, which Paul interrupted him to say he would like,
very much. Mr Feeder then gave him to understand that he would be
expected to inform Doctor and Mrs Blimber, in superfine small-hand,
that Mr P. Dombey would be happy to have the honour of waiting on
them, in accordance with their polite invitation. Lastly, Mr Feeder
said, he had better not refer to the festive occasion, in the hearing
of Doctor and Mrs Blimber; as these preliminaries, and the whole of
the arrangements, were conducted on principles of classicality and
high breeding; and that Doctor and Mrs Blimber on the one hand, and
the young gentlemen on the other, were supposed, in their scholastic
capacities, not to have the least idea of what was in the wind.
Paul thanked Mr Feeder for these hints, and pocketing his
invitation, sat down on a stool by the side of Mr Toots, as usual. But
Paul's head, which had long been ailing more or less, and was
sometimes very heavy and painful, felt so uneasy that night, that he
was obliged to support it on his hand. And yet it dropped so, that by
little and little it sunk on Mr Toots's knee, and rested there, as if
it had no care to be ever lifted up again.
That was no reason why he should be deaf; but he must have been, he
thought, for, by and by, he heard Mr Feeder calling in his ear, and
gently shaking him to rouse his attention. And when he raised his
head, quite scared, and looked about him, he found that Doctor Blimber
had come into the room; and that the window was open, and that his
forehead was wet with sprinkled water; though how all this had been
done without his knowledge, was very curious indeed.
'Ah! Come, come! That's well! How is my little friend now?' said
Doctor Blimber, encouragingly.
'Oh, quite well, thank you, Sir,' said Paul.
But there seemed to be something the matter with the floor, for he
couldn't stand upon it steadily; and with the walls too, for they were
inclined to turn round and round, and could only be stopped by being
looked at very hard indeed. Mr Toots's head had the appearance of
being at once bigger and farther off than was quite natural; and when
he took Paul in his arms, to carry him upstairs, Paul observed with
astonishment that the door was in quite a different place from that in
which he had expected to find it, and almost thought, at first, that
Mr Toots was going to walk straight up the chimney.
It was very kind of Mr Toots to carry him to the top of the house
so tenderly; and Paul told him that it was. But Mr Toots said he would
do a great deal more than that, if he could; and indeed he did more as
it was: for he helped Paul to undress, and helped him to bed, in the
kindest manner possible, and then sat down by the bedside and chuckled
very much; while Mr Feeder, B.A., leaning over the bottom of the
bedstead, set all the little bristles on his head bolt upright with
his bony hands, and then made believe to spar at Paul with great
science, on account of his being all right again, which was so
uncommonly facetious, and kind too in Mr Feeder, that Paul, not being
able to make up his mind whether it was best to laugh or cry at him,
did both at once.
How Mr Toots melted away, and Mr Feeder changed into Mrs Pipchin,
Paul never thought of asking; neither was he at all curious to know;
but when he saw Mrs Pipchin standing at the bottom of the bed, instead
of Mr Feeder, he cried out, 'Mrs Pipchin, don't tell Florence!'
'Don't tell Florence what, my little Paul?' said Mrs Pipchin,
coming round to the bedside, and sitting down in the chair.
'About me,' said Paul.
'No, no,' said Mrs Pipchin.
'What do you think I mean to do when I grow up, Mrs Pipchin?'
inquired Paul, turning his face towards her on his pillow, and resting
his chin wistfully on his folded hands.
Mrs Pipchin couldn't guess.
'I mean,' said Paul, 'to put my money all together in one Bank,
never try to get any more, go away into the country with my darling
Florence, have a beautiful garden, fields, and woods, and live there
with her all my life!'
'Indeed!' cried Mrs Pipchin.
'Yes,' said Paul. 'That's what I mean to do, when I - ' He stopped,
and pondered for a moment.
Mrs Pipchin's grey eye scanned his thoughtful face.
'If I grow up,' said Paul. Then he went on immediately to tell Mrs
Pipchin all about the party, about Florence's invitation, about the
pride he would have in the admiration that would be felt for her by
all the boys, about their being so kind to him and fond of him, about
his being so fond of them, and about his being so glad of it. Then he
told Mrs Pipchin about the analysis, and about his being certainly
old-fashioned, and took Mrs Pipchin's opinion on that point, and
whether she knew why it was, and what it meant. Mrs Pipchin denied the
fact altogether, as the shortest way of getting out of the difficulty;
but Paul was far from satisfied with that reply, and looked so
searchingly at Mrs Pipchin for a truer answer, that she was obliged to
get up and look out of the window to avoid his eyes.
There was a certain calm Apothecary, 'who attended at the
establishment when any of the young gentlemen were ill, and somehow he
got into the room and appeared at the bedside, with Mrs Blimber. How
they came there, or how long they had been there, Paul didn't know;
but when he saw them, he sat up in bed, and answered all the
Apothecary's questions at full length, and whispered to him that
Florence was not to know anything about it, if he pleased, and that he
had set his mind upon her coming to the party. He was very chatty with
the Apothecary, and they parted excellent friends. Lying down again
with his eyes shut, he heard the Apothecary say, out of the room and
quite a long way off - or he dreamed it - that there was a want of
vital power (what was that, Paul wondered!) and great constitutional
weakness. That as the little fellow had set his heart on parting with
his school-mates on the seventeenth, it would be better to indulge the
fancy if he grew no worse. That he was glad to hear from Mrs Pipchin,
that the little fellow would go to his friends in London on the
eighteenth. That he would write to Mr Dombey, when he should have
gained a better knowledge of the case, and before that day. That there
was no immediate cause for - what? Paul lost that word And that the
little fellow had a fine mind, but was an old-fashioned boy.
What old fashion could that be, Paul wondered with a palpitating
heart, that was so visibly expressed in him; so plainly seen by so
He could neither make it out, nor trouble himself long with the
effort. Mrs Pipchin was again beside him, if she had ever been away
(he thought she had gone out with the Doctor, but it was all a dream
perhaps), and presently a bottle and glass got into her hands
magically, and she poured out the contents for him. After that, he had
some real good jelly, which Mrs Blimber brought to him herself; and
then he was so well, that Mrs Pipchin went home, at his urgent
solicitation, and Briggs and Tozer came to bed. Poor Briggs grumbled
terribly about his own analysis, which could hardly have discomposed
him more if it had been a chemical process; but he was very good to
Paul, and so was Tozer, and so were all the rest, for they every one
looked in before going to bed, and said, 'How are you now, Dombey?'
'Cheer up, little Dombey!' and so forth. After Briggs had got into
bed, he lay awake for a long time, still bemoaning his analysis, and
saying he knew it was all wrong, and they couldn't have analysed a
murderer worse, and - how would Doctor Blimber like it if his
pocket-money depended on it? It was very easy, Briggs said, to make a
galley-slave of a boy all the half-year, and then score him up idle;
and to crib two dinners a-week out of his board, and then score him up
greedy; but that wasn't going to be submitted to, he believed, was it?
Before the weak-eyed young man performed on the gong next morning,
he came upstairs to Paul and told him he was to lie still, which Paul
very gladly did. Mrs Pipchin reappeared a little before the
Apothecary, and a little after the good young woman whom Paul had seen
cleaning the stove on that first morning (how long ago it seemed now!)
had brought him his breakfast. There was another consultation a long
way off, or else Paul dreamed it again; and then the Apothecary,
coming back with Doctor and Mrs Blimber, said:
'Yes, I think, Doctor Blimber, we may release this young gentleman
from his books just now; the vacation being so very near at hand.'
'By all means,' said Doctor Blimber. 'My love, you will inform
Cornelia, if you please.'
'Assuredly,' said Mrs Blimber.
The Apothecary bending down, looked closely into Paul's eyes, and
felt his head, and his pulse, and his heart, with so much interest and
care, that Paul said, 'Thank you, Sir.'
'Our little friend,' observed Doctor Blimber, 'has never
'Oh no!' replied the Apothecary. 'He was not likely to complain.'
'You find him greatly better?' said Doctor Blimber.
'Oh! he is greatly better, Sir,' returned the Apothecary.
Paul had begun to speculate, in his own odd way, on the subject
that might occupy the Apothecary's mind just at that moment; so
musingly had he answered the two questions of Doctor Blimber. But the
Apothecary happening to meet his little patient's eyes, as the latter
set off on that mental expedition, and coming instantly out of his
abstraction with a cheerful smile, Paul smiled in return and abandoned
He lay in bed all that day, dozing and dreaming, and looking at Mr
Toots; but got up on the next, and went downstairs. Lo and behold,
there was something the matter with the great clock; and a workman on
a pair of steps had taken its face off, and was poking instruments
into the works by the light of a candle! This was a great event for
Paul, who sat down on the bottom stair, and watched the operation
attentively: now and then glancing at the clock face, leaning all
askew, against the wall hard by, and feeling a little confused by a
suspicion that it was ogling him.
The workman on the steps was very civil; and as he said, when he
observed Paul, 'How do you do, Sir?' Paul got into conversation with
him, and told him he hadn't been quite well lately. The ice being thus
broken, Paul asked him a multitude of questions about chimes and
clocks: as, whether people watched up in the lonely church steeples by
night to make them strike, and how the bells were rung when people
died, and whether those were different bells from wedding bells, or
only sounded dismal in the fancies of the living. Finding that his new
acquaintance was not very well informed on the subject of the Curfew
Bell of ancient days, Paul gave him an account of that institution;
and also asked him, as a practical man, what he thought about King
Alfred's idea of measuring time by the burning of candles; to which
the workman replied, that he thought it would be the ruin of the clock
trade if it was to come up again. In fine, Paul looked on, until the
clock had quite recovered its familiar aspect, and resumed its sedate
inquiry; when the workman, putting away his tools in a long basket,
bade him good day, and went away. Though not before he had whispered
something, on the door-mat, to the footman, in which there was the
phrase 'old-fashioned' - for Paul heard it. What could that old
fashion be, that seemed to make the people sorry! What could it be!
Having nothing to learn now, he thought of this frequently; though
not so often as he might have done, if he had had fewer things to
think of. But he had a great many; and was always thinking, all day
First, there was Florence coming to the party. Florence would see
that the boys were fond of him; and that would make her happy. This
was his great theme. Let Florence once be sure that they were gentle
and good to him, and that he had become a little favourite among them,
and then the would always think of the time he had passed there,
without being very sorry. Florence might be all the happier too for
that, perhaps, when he came back.
When he came back! Fifty times a day, his noiseless little feet
went up the stairs to his own room, as he collected every book, and
scrap, and trifle that belonged to him, and put them all together
there, down to the minutest thing, for taking home! There was no shade
of coming back on little Paul; no preparation for it, or other
reference to it, grew out of anything he thought or did, except this
slight one in connexion with his sister. On the contrary, he had to
think of everything familiar to him, in his contemplative moods and in
his wanderings about the house, as being to be parted with; and hence
the many things he had to think of, all day long.
He had to peep into those rooms upstairs, and think how solitary
they would be when he was gone, and wonder through how many silent
days, weeks, months, and years, they would continue just as grave and
undisturbed. He had to think - would any other child (old-fashioned,
like himself stray there at any time, to whom the same grotesque
distortions of pattern and furniture would manifest themselves; and
would anybody tell that boy of little Dombey, who had been there once?
He had to think of a portrait on the stairs, which always looked
earnestly after him as he went away, eyeing it over his shoulder; and
which, when he passed it in the company of anyone, still seemed to
gaze at him, and not at his companion. He had much to think of, in
association with a print that hung up in another place, where, in the
centre of a wondering group, one figure that he knew, a figure with a
light about its head - benignant, mild, and merciful - stood pointing
At his own bedroom window, there were crowds of thoughts that mixed
with these, and came on, one upon another, like the rolling waves.
Where those wild birds lived, that were always hovering out at sea in
troubled weather; where the clouds rose and first began; whence the
wind issued on its rushing flight, and where it stopped; whether the
spot where he and Florence had so often sat, and watched, and talked
about these things, could ever be exactly as it used to be without
them; whether it could ever be the same to Florence, if he were in
some distant place, and she were sitting there alone.
He had to think, too, of Mr Toots, and Mr Feeder, B.A., of all the
boys; and of Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber, and Miss Blimber; of home,
and of his aunt and Miss Tox; of his father; Dombey and Son, Walter
with the poor old Uncle who had got the money he wanted, and that
gruff-voiced Captain with the iron hand. Besides all this, he had a
number of little visits to pay, in the course of the day; to the
schoolroom, to Doctor Blimber's study, to Mrs Blimber's private
apartment, to Miss Blimber's, and to the dog. For he was free of the
whole house now, to range it as he chose; and, in his desire to part
with everybody on affectionate terms, he attended, in his way, to them
all. Sometimes he found places in books for Briggs, who was always
losing them; sometimes he looked up words in dictionaries for other
young gentlemen who were in extremity; sometimes he held skeins of
silk for Mrs Blimber to wind; sometimes he put Cornelia's desk to
rights; sometimes he would even creep into the Doctor's study, and,
sitting on the carpet near his learned feet, turn the globes softly,
and go round the world, or take a flight among the far-off stars.
In those days immediately before the holidays, in short, when the
other young gentlemen were labouring for dear life through a general
resumption of the studies of the whole half-year, Paul was such a
privileged pupil as had never been seen in that house before. He could
hardly believe it himself; but his liberty lasted from hour to hour,
and from day to day; and little Dombey was caressed by everyone.
Doctor Blimber was so particular about him, that he requested Johnson
to retire from the dinner-table one day, for having thoughtlessly
spoken to him as 'poor little Dombey;' which Paul thought rather hard
and severe, though he had flushed at the moment, and wondered why
Johnson should pity him. It was the more questionable justice, Paul
thought, in the Doctor, from his having certainly overheard that great
authority give his assent on the previous evening, to the proposition
(stated by Mrs Blimber) that poor dear little Dombey was more
old-fashioned than ever. And now it was that Paul began to think it
must surely be old-fashioned to be very thin, and light, and easily
tired, and soon disposed to lie down anywhere and rest; for he
couldn't help feeling that these were more and more his habits every
At last the party-day arrived; and Doctor Blimber said at
breakfast, 'Gentlemen, we will resume our studies on the twenty-fifth
of next month.' Mr Toots immediately threw off his allegiance, and put
on his ring: and mentioning the Doctor in casual conversation shortly
afterwards, spoke of him as 'Blimber'! This act of freedom inspired
the older pupils with admiration and envy; but the younger spirits
were appalled, and seemed to marvel that no beam fell down and crushed
Not the least allusion was made to the ceremonies of the evening,
either at breakfast or at dinner; but there was a bustle in the house
all day, and in the course of his perambulations, Paul made
acquaintance with various strange benches and candlesticks, and met a
harp in a green greatcoat standing on the landing outside the
drawing-room door. There was something queer, too, about Mrs Blimber's
head at dinner-time, as if she had screwed her hair up too tight; and
though Miss Blimber showed a graceful bunch of plaited hair on each
temple, she seemed to have her own little curls in paper underneath,
and in a play-bill too; for Paul read 'Theatre Royal' over one of her
sparkling spectacles, and 'Brighton' over the other.
There was a grand array of white waistcoats and cravats in the
young gentlemen's bedrooms as evening approached; and such a smell of
singed hair, that Doctor Blimber sent up the footman with his
compliments, and wished to know if the house was on fire. But it was
only the hairdresser curling the young gentlemen, and over-heating his
tongs in the ardour of business.
When Paul was dressed - which was very soon done, for he felt
unwell and drowsy, and was not able to stand about it very long - he
went down into the drawing-room; where he found Doctor Blimber pacing
up and down the room full dressed, but with a dignified and
unconcerned demeanour, as if he thought it barely possible that one or
two people might drop in by and by. Shortly afterwards, Mrs Blimber
appeared, looking lovely, Paul thought; and attired in such a number
of skirts that it was quite an excursion to walk round her. Miss
Blimber came down soon after her Mama; a little squeezed in
appearance, but very charming.
Mr Toots and Mr Feeder were the next arrivals. Each of these
gentlemen brought his hat in his hand, as if he lived somewhere else;
and when they were announced by the butler, Doctor Blimber said, 'Ay,
ay, ay! God bless my soul!' and seemed extremely glad to see them. Mr
Toots was one blaze of jewellery and buttons; and he felt the
circumstance so strongly, that when he had shaken hands with the
Doctor, and had bowed to Mrs Blimber and Miss Blimber, he took Paul
aside, and said, 'What do you think of this, Dombey?'
But notwithstanding this modest confidence in himself, Mr Toots
appeared to be involved in a good deal of uncertainty whether, on the
whole, it was judicious to button the bottom button of his waistcoat,
and whether, on a calm revision of all the circumstances, it was best
to wear his waistbands turned up or turned down. Observing that Mr
Feeder's were turned up, Mr Toots turned his up; but the waistbands of
the next arrival being turned down, Mr Toots turned his down. The
differences in point of waistcoat-buttoning, not only at the bottom,
but at the top too, became so numerous and complicated as the arrivals
thickened, that Mr Toots was continually fingering that article of
dress, as if he were performing on some instrument; and appeared to
find the incessant execution it demanded, quite bewildering. All the
young gentlemen, tightly cravatted, curled, and pumped, and with their
best hats in their hands, having been at different times announced and
introduced, Mr Baps, the dancing-master, came, accompanied by Mrs
Baps, to whom Mrs Blimber was extremely kind and condescending. Mr
Baps was a very grave gentleman, with a slow and measured manner of
speaking; and before he had stood under the lamp five minutes, he
began to talk to Toots (who had been silently comparing pumps with
him) about what you were to do with your raw materials when they came
into your ports in return for your drain of gold. Mr Toots, to whom
the question seemed perplexing, suggested 'Cook 'em.' But Mr Baps did
not appear to think that would do.
Paul now slipped away from the cushioned corner of a sofa, which
had been his post of observation, and went downstairs into the
tea-room to be ready for Florence, whom he had not seen for nearly a
fortnight, as he had remained at Doctor Blimber's on the previous
Saturday and Sunday, lest he should take cold. Presently she came:
looking so beautiful in her simple ball dress, with her fresh flowers
in her hand, that when she knelt down on the ground to take Paul round
the neck and kiss him (for there was no one there, but his friend and
another young woman waiting to serve out the tea), he could hardly
make up his mind to let her go again, or to take away her bright and
loving eyes from his face.
'But what is the matter, Floy?' asked Paul, almost sure that he saw
a tear there.
'Nothing, darling; nothing,' returned Florence.
Paul touched her cheek gently with his finger - and it was a tear!
'Why, Floy!' said he.
'We'll go home together, and I'll nurse you, love,' said Florence.
'Nurse me!' echoed Paul.
Paul couldn't understand what that had to do with it, nor why the
two young women looked on so seriously, nor why Florence turned away
her face for a moment, and then turned it back, lighted up again with
'Floy,' said Paul, holding a ringlet of her dark hair in his hand.
'Tell me, dear, Do you think I have grown old-fashioned?'
His sister laughed, and fondled him, and told him 'No.'
'Because I know they say so,' returned Paul, 'and I want to know
what they mean, Floy.' But a loud double knock coming at the door, and
Florence hurrying to the table, there was no more said between them.
Paul wondered again when he saw his friend whisper to Florence, as if
she were comforting her; but a new arrival put that out of his head
It was Sir Barnet Skettles, Lady Skettles, and Master Skettles.
Master Skettles was to be a new boy after the vacation, and Fame had
been busy, in Mr Feeder's room, with his father, who was in the House
of Commons, and of whom Mr Feeder had said that when he did catch the
Speaker's eye (which he had been expected to do for three or four
years), it was anticipated that he would rather touch up the Radicals.
'And what room is this now, for instance?' said Lady Skettles to
Paul's friend, 'Melia.
'Doctor Blimber's study, Ma'am,' was the reply.
Lady Skettles took a panoramic survey of it through her glass, and
said to Sir Barnet Skettles, with a nod of approval, 'Very good.' Sir
Barnet assented, but Master Skettles looked suspicious and doubtful.
'And this little creature, now,' said Lady Skettles, turning to
Paul. 'Is he one of the
'Young gentlemen, Ma'am; yes, Ma'am,' said Paul's friend.
'And what is your name, my pale child?' said Lady Skettles.
'Dombey,' answered Paul.
Sir Barnet Skettles immediately interposed, and said that he had
had the honour of meeting Paul's father at a public dinner, and that
he hoped he was very well. Then Paul heard him say to Lady Skettles,
'City - very rich - most respectable - Doctor mentioned it.' And then
he said to Paul, 'Will you tell your good Papa that Sir Barnet
Skettles rejoiced to hear that he was very well, and sent him his best
'Yes, Sir,' answered Paul.
'That is my brave boy,' said Sir Barnet Skettles. 'Barnet,' to
Master Skettles, who was revenging himself for the studies to come, on
the plum-cake, 'this is a young gentleman you ought to know. This is a
young gentleman you may know, Barnet,' said Sir Barnet Skettles, with
an emphasis on the permission.
'What eyes! What hair! What a lovely face!' exclaimed Lady Skettles
softly, as she looked at Florence through her glass. 'My sister,' said
Paul, presenting her.
The satisfaction of the Skettleses was now complex And as Lady
Skettles had conceived, at first sight, a liking for Paul, they all
went upstairs together: Sir Barnet Skettles taking care of Florence,
and young Barnet following.
Young Barnet did not remain long in the background after they had
reached the drawing-room, for Dr Blimber had him out in no time,
dancing with Florence. He did not appear to Paul to be particularly
happy, or particularly anything but sulky, or to care much what he was
about; but as Paul heard Lady Skettles say to Mrs Blimber, while she
beat time with her fan, that her dear boy was evidently smitten to
death by that angel of a child, Miss Dombey, it would seem that
Skettles Junior was in a state of bliss, without showing it.
Little Paul thought it a singular coincidence that nobody had
occupied his place among the pillows; and that when he came into the
room again, they should all make way for him to go back to it,
remembering it was his. Nobody stood before him either, when they
observed that he liked to see Florence dancing, but they left the
space in front quite clear, so that he might follow her with his eyes.
They were so kind, too, even the strangers, of whom there were soon a
great many, that they came and spoke to him every now and then, and
asked him how he was, and if his head ached, and whether he was tired.
He was very much obliged to them for all their kindness and attention,
and reclining propped up in his corner, with Mrs Blimber and Lady
Skettles on the same sofa, and Florence coming and sitting by his side
as soon as every dance was ended, he looked on very happily indeed.
Florence would have sat by him all night, and would not have danced
at all of her own accord, but Paul made her, by telling her how much
it pleased him. And he told her the truth, too; for his small heart
swelled, and his face glowed, when he saw how much they all admired
her, and how she was the beautiful little rosebud of the room.
From his nest among the pillows, Paul could see and hear almost
everything that passed as if the whole were being done for his
amusement. Among other little incidents that he observed, he observed
Mr Baps the dancing-master get into conversation with Sir Barnet
Skettles, and very soon ask him, as he had asked Mr Toots, what you
were to do with your raw materials, when they came into your ports in
return for your drain of gold - which was such a mystery to Paul that
he was quite desirous to know what ought to be done with them. Sir
Barnet Skettles had much to say upon the question, and said it; but it
did not appear to solve the question, for Mr Baps retorted, Yes, but
supposing Russia stepped in with her tallows; which struck Sir Barnet
almost dumb, for he could only shake his head after that, and say, Why
then you must fall back upon your cottons, he supposed.
Sir Barnet Skettles looked after Mr Baps when he went to cheer up
Mrs Baps (who, being quite deserted, was pretending to look over the
music-book of the gentleman who played the harp), as if he thought him
a remarkable kind of man; and shortly afterwards he said so in those
words to Doctor Blimber, and inquired if he might take the liberty of
asking who he was, and whether he had ever been in the Board of Trade.
Doctor Blimber answered no, he believed not; and that in fact he was a
Professor of - '
'Of something connected with statistics, I'll swear?' observed Sir
'Why no, Sir Barnet,' replied Doctor Blimber, rubbing his chin.
'No, not exactly.'
'Figures of some sort, I would venture a bet,' said Sir Barnet
'Why yes,' said Doctor Blimber, yes, but not of that sort. Mr Baps
is a very worthy sort of man, Sir Barnet, and - in fact he's our
Professor of dancing.'
Paul was amazed to see that this piece of information quite altered
Sir Barnet Skettles's opinion of Mr Baps, and that Sir Barnet flew
into a perfect rage, and glowered at Mr Baps over on the other side of
the room. He even went so far as to D Mr Baps to Lady Skettles, in
telling her what had happened, and to say that it was like his most
con-sum-mate and con-foun-ded impudence.
There was another thing that Paul observed. Mr Feeder, after
imbibing several custard-cups of negus, began to enjoy himself. The
dancing in general was ceremonious, and the music rather solemn - a
little like church music in fact - but after the custard-cups, Mr
Feeder told Mr Toots that he was going to throw a little spirit into
the thing. After that, Mr Feeder not only began to dance as if he
meant dancing and nothing else, but secretly to stimulate the music to
perform wild tunes. Further, he became particular in his attentions to
the ladies; and dancing with Miss Blimber, whispered to her -
whispered to her! - though not so softly but that Paul heard him say
this remarkable poetry,
'Had I a heart for falsehood framed,
I ne'er could injure You!'
This, Paul heard him repeat to four young ladies, in succession. Well
might Mr Feeder say to Mr Toots, that he was afraid he should be the
worse for it to-morrow!
Mrs Blimber was a little alarmed by this - comparatively speaking -
profligate behaviour; and especially by the alteration in the
character of the music, which, beginning to comprehend low melodies
that were popular in the streets, might not unnaturally be supposed to
give offence to Lady Skettles. But Lady Skettles was so very kind as
to beg Mrs Blimber not to mention it; and to receive her explanation
that Mr Feeder's spirits sometimes betrayed him into excesses on these
occasions, with the greatest courtesy and politeness; observing, that
he seemed a very nice sort of person for his situation, and that she
particularly liked the unassuming style of his hair - which (as
already hinted) was about a quarter of an inch long.
Once, when there was a pause in the dancing, Lady Skettles told
Paul that he seemed very fond of music. Paul replied, that he was; and
if she was too, she ought to hear his sister, Florence, sing. Lady
Skettles presently discovered that she was dying with anxiety to have
that gratification; and though Florence was at first very much
frightened at being asked to sing before so many people, and begged
earnestly to be excused, yet, on Paul calling her to him, and saying,
'Do, Floy! Please! For me, my dear!' she went straight to the piano,
and began. When they all drew a little away, that Paul might see her;
and when he saw her sitting there all alone, so young, and good, and
beautiful, and kind to him; and heard her thrilling voice, so natural
and sweet, and such a golden link between him and all his life's love
and happiness, rising out of the silence; he turned his face away, and
hid his tears. Not, as he told them when they spoke to him, not that
the music was too plaintive or too sorrowful, but it was so dear to
They all loved Florence. How could they help it! Paul had known
beforehand that they must and would; and sitting in his cushioned
corner, with calmly folded hands; and one leg loosely doubled under
him, few would have thought what triumph and delight expanded his
childish bosom while he watched her, or what a sweet tranquillity he
felt. Lavish encomiums on 'Dombey's sister' reached his ears from all
the boys: admiration of the self-possessed and modest little beauty
was on every lip: reports of her intelligence and accomplishments
floated past him, constantly; and, as if borne in upon the air of the
summer night, there was a half intelligible sentiment diffused around,
referring to Florence and himself, and breathing sympathy for both,
that soothed and touched him.
He did not know why. For all that the child observed, and felt, and
thought, that night - the present and the absent; what was then and
what had been - were blended like the colours in the rainbow, or in
the plumage of rich birds when the sun is shining on them, or in the
softening sky when the same sun is setting. The many things he had had
to think of lately, passed before him in the music; not as claiming
his attention over again, or as likely evermore to occupy it, but as
peacefully disposed of and gone. A solitary window, gazed through
years ago, looked out upon an ocean, miles and miles away; upon its
waters, fancies, busy with him only yesterday, were hushed and lulled
to rest like broken waves. The same mysterious murmur he had wondered
at, when lying on his couch upon the beach, he thought he still heard
sounding through his sister's song, and through the hum of voices, and
the tread of feet, and having some part in the faces flitting by, and
even in the heavy gentleness of Mr Toots, who frequently came up to
shake him by the hand. Through the universal kindness he still thought
he heard it, speaking to him; and even his old-fashioned reputation
seemed to be allied to it, he knew not how. Thus little Paul sat
musing, listening, looking on, and dreaming; and was very happy.
Until the time arrived for taking leave: and then, indeed, there
was a sensation in the party. Sir Barnet Skettles brought up Skettles
Junior to shake hands with him, and asked him if he would remember to
tell his good Papa, with his best compliments, that he, Sir Barnet
Skettles, had said he hoped the two young gentlemen would become
intimately acquainted. Lady Skettles kissed him, and patted his hair
upon his brow, and held him in her arms; and even Mrs Baps - poor Mrs
Baps! Paul was glad of that - came over from beside the music-book of
the gentleman who played the harp, and took leave of him quite as
heartily as anybody in the room.
'Good-bye, Doctor Blimber,' said Paul, stretching out his hand.
'Good-bye, my little friend,' returned the Doctor.
'I'm very much obliged to you, Sir,' said Paul, looking innocently
up into his awful face. 'Ask them to take care of Diogenes, if you
Diogenes was the dog: who had never in his life received a friend
into his confidence, before Paul. The Doctor promised that every
attention should he paid to Diogenes in Paul's absence, and Paul
having again thanked him, and shaken hands with him, bade adieu to Mrs
Blimber and Cornelia with such heartfelt earnestness that Mrs Blimber
forgot from that moment to mention Cicero to Lady Skettles, though she
had fully intended it all the evening. Cornelia, taking both Paul's
hands in hers, said,'Dombey, Dombey, you have always been my favourite
pupil. God bless you!' And it showed, Paul thought, how easily one
might do injustice to a person; for Miss Blimber meant it - though she
was a Forcer - and felt it.
A boy then went round among the young gentlemen, of 'Dombey's
going!' 'Little Dombey's going!' and there was a general move after
Paul and Florence down the staircase and into the hall, in which the
whole Blimber family were included. Such a circumstance, Mr Feeder
said aloud, as had never happened in the case of any former young
gentleman within his experience; but it would be difficult to say if
this were sober fact or custard-cups. The servants, with the butler at
their head, had all an interest in seeing Little Dombey go; and even
the weak-eyed young man, taking out his books and trunks to the coach
that was to carry him and Florence to Mrs Pipchin's for the night,
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