Dombey and Son
Part 6 out of 21
Not even the influence of the softer passion on the young gentlemen
- and they all, to a boy, doted on Florence - could restrain them from
taking quite a noisy leave of Paul; waving hats after him, pressing
downstairs to shake hands with him, crying individually 'Dombey, don't
forget me!' and indulging in many such ebullitions of feeling,
uncommon among those young Chesterfields. Paul whispered Florence, as
she wrapped him up before the door was opened, Did she hear them?
Would she ever forget it? Was she glad to know it? And a lively
delight was in his eyes as he spoke to her.
Once, for a last look, he turned and gazed upon the faces thus
addressed to him, surprised to see how shining and how bright, and
numerous they were, and how they were all piled and heaped up, as
faces are at crowded theatres. They swam before him as he looked, like
faces in an agitated glass; and next moment he was in the dark coach
outside, holding close to Florence. From that time, whenever he
thought of Doctor Blimber's, it came back as he had seen it in this
last view; and it never seemed to be a real place again, but always a
dream, full of eyes.
This was not quite the last of Doctor Blimber's, however. There was
something else. There was Mr Toots. Who, unexpectedly letting down one
of the coach-windows, and looking in, said, with a most egregious
chuckle, 'Is Dombey there?' and immediately put it up again, without
waiting for an answer. Nor was this quite the last of Mr Toots, even;
for before the coachman could drive off, he as suddenly let down the
other window, and looking in with a precisely similar chuckle, said in
a precisely similar tone of voice, 'Is Dombey there?' and disappeared
precisely as before.
How Florence laughed! Paul often remembered it, and laughed himself
whenever he did so.
But there was much, soon afterwards - next day, and after that -
which Paul could only recollect confusedly. As, why they stayed at Mrs
Pipchin's days and nights, instead of going home; why he lay in bed,
with Florence sitting by his side; whether that had been his father in
the room, or only a tall shadow on the wall; whether he had heard his
doctor say, of someone, that if they had removed him before the
occasion on which he had built up fancies, strong in proportion to his
own weakness, it was very possible he might have pined away.
He could not even remember whether he had often said to Florence,
'Oh Floy, take me home, and never leave me!' but he thought he had. He
fancied sometimes he had heard himself repeating, 'Take me home, Floy!
take me home!'
But he could remember, when he got home, and was carried up the
well-remembered stairs, that there had been the rumbling of a coach
for many hours together, while he lay upon the seat, with Florence
still beside him, and old Mrs Pipchin sitting opposite. He remembered
his old bed too, when they laid him down in it: his aunt, Miss Tox,
and Susan: but there was something else, and recent too, that still
'I want to speak to Florence, if you please,' he said. 'To Florence
by herself, for a moment!'
She bent down over him, and the others stood away.
'Floy, my pet, wasn't that Papa in the hall, when they brought me
from the coach?'
'He didn't cry, and go into his room, Floy, did he, when he saw me
Florence shook her head, and pressed her lips against his cheek.
'I'm very glad he didn't cry,' said little Paul. 'I thought he did.
Don't tell them that I asked.'
Amazing Artfulness of Captain Cuttle, and a new Pursuit for Walter Gay
Walter could not, for several days, decide what to do in the
Barbados business; and even cherished some faint hope that Mr Dombey
might not have meant what he had said, or that he might change his
mind, and tell him he was not to go. But as nothing occurred to give
this idea (which was sufficiently improbable in itself) any touch of
confirmation, and as time was slipping by, and he had none to lose, he
felt that he must act, without hesitating any longer.
Walter's chief difficulty was, how to break the change in his
affairs to Uncle Sol, to whom he was sensible it would he a terrible
blow. He had the greater difficulty in dashing Uncle Sol's spirits
with such an astounding piece of intelligence, because they had lately
recovered very much, and the old man had become so cheerful, that the
little back parlour was itself again. Uncle Sol had paid the first
appointed portion of the debt to Mr Dombey, and was hopeful of working
his way through the rest; and to cast him down afresh, when he had
sprung up so manfully from his troubles, was a very distressing
Yet it would never do to run away from him. He must know of it
beforehand; and how to tell him was the point. As to the question of
going or not going, Walter did not consider that he had any power of
choice in the matter. Mr Dombey had truly told him that he was young,
and that his Uncle's circumstances were not good; and Mr Dombey had
plainly expressed, in the glance with which he had accompanied that
reminder, that if he declined to go he might stay at home if he chose,
but not in his counting-house. His Uncle and he lay under a great
obligation to Mr Dombey, which was of Walter's own soliciting. He
might have begun in secret to despair of ever winning that gentleman's
favour, and might have thought that he was now and then disposed to
put a slight upon him, which was hardly just. But what would have been
duty without that, was still duty with it - or Walter thought so- and
duty must be done.
When Mr Dombey had looked at him, and told him he was young, and
that his Uncle's circumstances were not good, there had been an
expression of disdain in his face; a contemptuous and disparaging
assumption that he would be quite content to live idly on a reduced
old man, which stung the boy's generous soul. Determined to assure Mr
Dombey, in so far as it was possible to give him the assurance without
expressing it in words, that indeed he mistook his nature, Walter had
been anxious to show even more cheerfulness and activity after the
West Indian interview than he had shown before: if that were possible,
in one of his quick and zealous disposition. He was too young and
inexperienced to think, that possibly this very quality in him was not
agreeable to Mr Dombey, and that it was no stepping-stone to his good
opinion to be elastic and hopeful of pleasing under the shadow of his
powerful displeasure, whether it were right or wrong. But it may have
been - it may have been- that the great man thought himself defied in
this new exposition of an honest spirit, and purposed to bring it
'Well! at last and at least, Uncle Sol must be told,' thought
Walter, with a sigh. And as Walter was apprehensive that his voice
might perhaps quaver a little, and that his countenance might not be
quite as hopeful as he could wish it to be, if he told the old man
himself, and saw the first effects of his communication on his
wrinkled face, he resolved to avail himself of the services of that
powerful mediator, Captain Cuttle. Sunday coming round, he set off
therefore, after breakfast, once more to beat up Captain Cuttle's
It was not unpleasant to remember, on the way thither, that Mrs
MacStinger resorted to a great distance every Sunday morning, to
attend the ministry of the Reverend Melchisedech Howler, who, having
been one day discharged from the West India Docks on a false suspicion
(got up expressly against him by the general enemy) of screwing
gimlets into puncheons, and applying his lips to the orifice, had
announced the destruction of the world for that day two years, at ten
in the morning, and opened a front parlour for the reception of ladies
and gentlemen of the Ranting persuasion, upon whom, on the first
occasion of their assemblage, the admonitions of the Reverend
Melchisedech had produced so powerful an effect, that, in their
rapturous performance of a sacred jig, which closed the service, the
whole flock broke through into a kitchen below, and disabled a mangle
belonging to one of the fold.
This the Captain, in a moment of uncommon conviviality, had
confided to Walter and his Uncle, between the repetitions of lovely
Peg, on the night when Brogley the broker was paid out. The Captain
himself was punctual in his attendance at a church in his own
neighbourhood, which hoisted the Union Jack every Sunday morning; and
where he was good enough - the lawful beadle being infirm - to keep an
eye upon the boys, over whom he exercised great power, in virtue of
his mysterious hook. Knowing the regularity of the Captain's habits,
Walter made all the haste he could, that he might anticipate his going
out; and he made such good speed, that he had the pleasure, on turning
into Brig Place, to behold the broad blue coat and waistcoat hanging
out of the Captain's oPen window, to air in the sun.
It appeared incredible that the coat and waistcoat could be seen by
mortal eyes without the Captain; but he certainly was not in them,
otherwise his legs - the houses in Brig Place not being lofty- would
have obstructed the street door, which was perfectly clear. Quite
wondering at this discovery, Walter gave a single knock.
'Stinger,' he distinctly heard the Captain say, up in his room, as
if that were no business of his. Therefore Walter gave two knocks.
'Cuttle,' he heard the Captain say upon that; and immediately
afterwards the Captain, in his clean shirt and braces, with his
neckerchief hanging loosely round his throat like a coil of rope, and
his glazed hat on, appeared at the window, leaning out over the broad
blue coat and waistcoat.
'Wal'r!' cried the Captain, looking down upon him in amazement.
'Ay, ay, Captain Cuttle,' returned Walter, 'only me'
'What's the matter, my lad?' inquired the Captain, with great
concern. 'Gills an't been and sprung nothing again?'
'No, no,' said Walter. 'My Uncle's all right, Captain Cuttle.'
The Captain expressed his gratification, and said he would come
down below and open the door, which he did.
'Though you're early, Wal'r,' said the Captain, eyeing him still
doubtfully, when they got upstairs:
'Why, the fact is, Captain Cuttle,' said Walter, sitting down, 'I
was afraid you would have gone out, and I want to benefit by your
'So you shall,' said the Captain; 'what'll you take?'
'I want to take your opinion, Captain Cuttle,' returned Walter,
smiling. 'That's the only thing for me.'
'Come on then,' said the Captain. 'With a will, my lad!'
Walter related to him what had happened; and the difficulty in
which he felt respecting his Uncle, and the relief it would be to him
if Captain Cuttle, in his kindness, would help him to smooth it away;
Captain Cuttle's infinite consternation and astonishment at the
prospect unfolded to him, gradually swallowing that gentleman up,
until it left his face quite vacant, and the suit of blue, the glazed
hat, and the hook, apparently without an owner.
'You see, Captain Cuttle,' pursued Walter, 'for myself, I am young,
as Mr Dombey said, and not to be considered. I am to fight my way
through the world, I know; but there are two points I was thinking, as
I came along, that I should be very particular about, in respect to my
Uncle. I don't mean to say that I deserve to be the pride and delight
of his life - you believe me, I know - but I am. Now, don't you think
The Captain seemed to make an endeavour to rise from the depths of
his astonishment, and get back to his face; but the effort being
ineffectual, the glazed hat merely nodded with a mute, unutterable
'If I live and have my health,' said Walter, 'and I am not afraid
of that, still, when I leave England I can hardly hope to see my Uncle
again. He is old, Captain Cuttle; and besides, his life is a life of
custom - '
'Steady, Wal'r! Of a want of custom?' said the Captain, suddenly
'Too true,' returned Walter, shaking his head: 'but I meant a life
of habit, Captain Cuttle - that sort of custom. And if (as you very
truly said, I am sure) he would have died the sooner for the loss of
the stock, and all those objects to which he has been accustomed for
so many years, don't you think he might die a little sooner for the
loss of - '
'Of his Nevy,' interposed the Captain. 'Right!'
'Well then,' said Walter, trying to speak gaily, 'we must do our
best to make him believe that the separation is but a temporary one,
after all; but as I know better, or dread that I know better, Captain
Cuttle, and as I have so many reasons for regarding him with
affection, and duty, and honour, I am afraid I should make but a very
poor hand at that, if I tried to persuade him of it. That's my great
reason for wishing you to break it out to him; and that's the first
'Keep her off a point or so!' observed the Captain, in a
'What did you say, Captain Cuttle?' inquired Walter.
'Stand by!' returned the Captain, thoughtfully.
Walter paused to ascertain if the Captain had any particular
information to add to this, but as he said no more, went on.
'Now, the second point, Captain Cuttle. I am sorry to say, I am not
a favourite with Mr Dombey. I have always tried to do my best, and I
have always done it; but he does not like me. He can't help his
likings and dislikings, perhaps. I say nothing of that. I only say
that I am certain he does not like me. He does not send me to this
post as a good one; he disclaims to represent it as being better than
it is; and I doubt very much if it will ever lead me to advancement in
the House - whether it does not, on the contrary, dispose of me for
ever, and put me out of the way. Now, we must say nothing of this to
my Uncle, Captain Cuttle, but must make it out to be as favourable and
promising as we can; and when I tell you what it really is, I only do
so, that in case any means should ever arise of lending me a hand, so
far off, I may have one friend at home who knows my real situation.
'Wal'r, my boy,' replied the Captain, 'in the Proverbs of Solomon
you will find the following words, "May we never want a friend in
need, nor a bottle to give him!" When found, make a note of.'
Here the Captain stretched out his hand to Walter, with an air of
downright good faith that spoke volumes; at the same time repeating
(for he felt proud of the accuracy and pointed application of his
quotation), 'When found, make a note of.'
'Captain Cuttle,' said Walter, taking the immense fist extended to
him by the Captain in both his hands, which it completely filled, next
to my Uncle Sol, I love you. There is no one on earth in whom I can
more safely trust, I am sure. As to the mere going away, Captain
Cuttle, I don't care for that; why should I care for that! If I were
free to seek my own fortune - if I were free to go as a common sailor
- if I were free to venture on my own account to the farthest end of
the world - I would gladly go! I would have gladly gone, years ago,
and taken my chance of what might come of it. But it was against my
Uncle's wishes, and against the plans he had formed for me; and there
was an end of that. But what I feel, Captain Cuttle, is that we have
been a little mistaken all along, and that, so far as any improvement
in my prospects is concerned, I am no better off now than I was when I
first entered Dombey's House - perhaps a little worse, for the House
may have been kindly inclined towards me then, and it certainly is not
'Turn again, Whittington,' muttered the disconsolate Captain, after
looking at Walter for some time.
'Ay,' replied Walter, laughing, 'and turn a great many times, too,
Captain Cuttle, I'm afraid, before such fortune as his ever turns up
again. Not that I complain,' he added, in his lively, animated,
energetic way. 'I have nothing to complain of. I am provided for. I
can live. When I leave my Uncle, I leave him to you; and I can leave
him to no one better, Captain Cuttle. I haven't told you all this
because I despair, not I; it's to convince you that I can't pick and
choose in Dombey's House, and that where I am sent, there I must go,
and what I am offered, that I must take. It's better for my Uncle that
I should be sent away; for Mr Dombey is a valuable friend to him, as
he proved himself, you know when, Captain Cuttle; and I am persuaded
he won't be less valuable when he hasn't me there, every day, to
awaken his dislike. So hurrah for the West Indies, Captain Cuttle! How
does that tune go that the sailors sing?
'For the Port of Barbados, Boys!
Leaving old England behind us, Boys!
Here the Captain roared in chorus -
'Oh cheerily, cheerily!
The last line reaching the quick ears of an ardent skipper not
quite sober, who lodged opposite, and who instantly sprung out of bed,
threw up his window, and joined in, across the street, at the top of
his voice, produced a fine effect. When it was impossible to sustain
the concluding note any longer, the skipper bellowed forth a terrific
'ahoy!' intended in part as a friendly greeting, and in part to show
that he was not at all breathed. That done, he shut down his window,
and went to bed again.
'And now, Captain Cuttle,' said Walter, handing him the blue coat
and waistcoat, and bustling very much, 'if you'll come and break the
news to Uncle Sol (which he ought to have known, days upon days ago,
by rights), I'll leave you at the door, you know, and walk about until
The Captain, however, scarcely appeared to relish the commission,
or to be by any means confident of his powers of executing it. He had
arranged the future life and adventures of Walter so very differently,
and so entirely to his own satisfaction; he had felicitated himself so
often on the sagacity and foresight displayed in that arrangement, and
had found it so complete and perfect in all its parts; that to suffer
it to go to pieces all at once, and even to assist in breaking it up,
required a great effort of his resolution. The Captain, too, found it
difficult to unload his old ideas upon the subject, and to take a
perfectly new cargo on board, with that rapidity which the
circumstances required, or without jumbling and confounding the two.
Consequently, instead of putting on his coat and waistcoat with
anything like the impetuosity that could alone have kept pace with
Walter's mood, he declined to invest himself with those garments at
all at present; and informed Walter that on such a serious matter, he
must be allowed to 'bite his nails a bit'
'It's an old habit of mine, Wal'r,' said the Captain, 'any time
these fifty year. When you see Ned Cuttle bite his nails, Wal'r, then
you may know that Ned Cuttle's aground.'
Thereupon the Captain put his iron hook between his teeth, as if it
were a hand; and with an air of wisdom and profundity that was the
very concentration and sublimation of all philosophical reflection and
grave inquiry, applied himself to the consideration of the subject in
its various branches.
'There's a friend of mine,' murmured the Captain, in an absent
manner, 'but he's at present coasting round to Whitby, that would
deliver such an opinion on this subject, or any other that could be
named, as would give Parliament six and beat 'em. Been knocked
overboard, that man,' said the Captain, 'twice, and none the worse for
it. Was beat in his apprenticeship, for three weeks (off and on),
about the head with a ring-bolt. And yet a clearer-minded man don't
Despite of his respect for Captain Cuttle, Walter could not help
inwardly rejoicing at the absence of this sage, and devoutly hoping
that his limpid intellect might not be brought to bear on his
difficulties until they were quite settled.
'If you was to take and show that man the buoy at the Nore,' said
Captain Cuttle in the same tone, 'and ask him his opinion of it,
Wal'r, he'd give you an opinion that was no more like that buoy than
your Uncle's buttons are. There ain't a man that walks - certainly not
on two legs - that can come near him. Not near him!'
'What's his name, Captain Cuttle?' inquired Walter, determined to
be interested in the Captain's friend.
'His name's Bunsby, said the Captain. 'But Lord, it might be
anything for the matter of that, with such a mind as his!'
The exact idea which the Captain attached to this concluding piece
of praise, he did not further elucidate; neither did Walter seek to
draw it forth. For on his beginning to review, with the vivacity
natural to himself and to his situation, the leading points in his own
affairs, he soon discovered that the Captain had relapsed into his
former profound state of mind; and that while he eyed him steadfastly
from beneath his bushy eyebrows, he evidently neither saw nor heard
him, but remained immersed in cogitation.
In fact, Captain Cuttle was labouring with such great designs, that
far from being aground, he soon got off into the deepest of water, and
could find no bottom to his penetration. By degrees it became
perfectly plain to the Captain that there was some mistake here; that
it was undoubtedly much more likely to be Walter's mistake than his;
that if there were really any West India scheme afoot, it was a very
different one from what Walter, who was young and rash, supposed; and
could only be some new device for making his fortune with unusual
celerity. 'Or if there should be any little hitch between 'em,'
thought the Captain, meaning between Walter and Mr Dombey, 'it only
wants a word in season from a friend of both parties, to set it right
and smooth, and make all taut again.' Captain Cuttle's deduction from
these considerations was, that as he already enjoyed the pleasure of
knowing Mr Dombey, from having spent a very agreeable half-hour in his
company at Brighton (on the morning when they borrowed the money); and
that, as a couple of men of the world, who understood each other, and
were mutually disposed to make things comfortable, could easily
arrange any little difficulty of this sort, and come at the real
facts; the friendly thing for him to do would be, without saying
anything about it to Walter at present, just to step up to Mr Dombey's
house - say to the servant 'Would ye be so good, my lad, as report
Cap'en Cuttle here?' - meet Mr Dombey in a confidential spirit- hook
him by the button-hole - talk it over - make it all right - and come
As these reflections presented themselves to the Captain's mind,
and by slow degrees assumed this shape and form, his visage cleared
like a doubtful morning when it gives place to a bright noon. His
eyebrows, which had been in the highest degree portentous, smoothed
their rugged bristling aspect, and became serene; his eyes, which had
been nearly closed in the severity of his mental exercise, opened
freely; a smile which had been at first but three specks - one at the
right-hand corner of his mouth, and one at the corner of each eye -
gradually overspread his whole face, and, rippling up into his
forehead, lifted the glazed hat: as if that too had been aground with
Captain Cuttle, and were now, like him, happily afloat again.
Finally, the Captain left off biting his nails, and said, 'Now,
Wal'r, my boy, you may help me on with them slops.' By which the
Captain meant his coat and waistcoat.
Walter little imagined why the Captain was so particular in the
arrangement of his cravat, as to twist the pendent ends into a sort of
pigtail, and pass them through a massive gold ring with a picture of a
tomb upon it, and a neat iron railing, and a tree, in memory of some
deceased friend. Nor why the Captain pulled up his shirt-collar to the
utmost limits allowed by the Irish linen below, and by so doing
decorated himself with a complete pair of blinkers; nor why he changed
his shoes, and put on an unparalleled pair of ankle-jacks, which he
only wore on extraordinary occasions. The Captain being at length
attired to his own complete satisfaction, and having glanced at
himself from head to foot in a shaving-glass which he removed from a
nail for that purpose, took up his knotted stick, and said he was
The Captain's walk was more complacent than usual when they got out
into the street; but this Walter supposed to be the effect of the
ankle-jacks, and took little heed of. Before they had gone very far,
they encountered a woman selling flowers; when the Captain stopping
short, as if struck by a happy idea, made a purchase of the largest
bundle in her basket: a most glorious nosegay, fan-shaped, some two
feet and a half round, and composed of all the jolliest-looking
flowers that blow.
Armed with this little token which he designed for Mr Dombey,
Captain Cuttle walked on with Walter until they reached the
Instrument-maker's door, before which they both paused.
'You're going in?' said Walter.
'Yes,' returned the Captain, who felt that Walter must be got rid
of before he proceeded any further, and that he had better time his
projected visit somewhat later in the day.
'And you won't forget anything?'
'No,' returned the Captain.
'I'll go upon my walk at once,' said Walter, 'and then I shall be
out of the way, Captain Cuttle.'
'Take a good long 'un, my lad!' replied the Captain, calling after
him. Walter waved his hand in assent, and went his way.
His way was nowhere in particular; but he thought he would go out
into the fields, where he could reflect upon the unknown life before
him, and resting under some tree, ponder quietly. He knew no better
fields than those near Hampstead, and no better means of getting at
them than by passing Mr Dombey's house.
It was as stately and as dark as ever, when he went by and glanced
up at its frowning front. The blinds were all pulled down, but the
upper windows stood wide open, and the pleasant air stirring those
curtains and waving them to and fro was the only sign of animation in
the whole exterior. Walter walked softly as he passed, and was glad
when he had left the house a door or two behind.
He looked back then; with the interest he had always felt for the
place since the adventure of the lost child, years ago; and looked
especially at those upper windows. While he was thus engaged, a
chariot drove to the door, and a portly gentleman in black, with a
heavy watch-chain, alighted, and went in. When he afterwards
remembered this gentleman and his equipage together, Walter had no
doubt be was a physician; and then he wondered who was ill; but the
discovery did not occur to him until he had walked some distance,
thinking listlessly of other things.
Though still, of what the house had suggested to him; for Walter
pleased hImself with thinking that perhaps the time might come, when
the beautiful child who was his old friend and had always been so
grateful to him and so glad to see him since, might interest her
brother in his behalf and influence his fortunes for the better. He
liked to imagine this - more, at that moment, for the pleasure of
imagining her continued remembrance of him, than for any worldly
profit he might gain: but another and more sober fancy whispered to
him that if he were alive then, he would be beyond the sea and
forgotten; she married, rich, proud, happy. There was no more reason
why she should remember him with any interest in such an altered state
of things, than any plaything she ever had. No, not so much.
Yet Walter so idealised the pretty child whom he had found
wandering in the rough streets, and so identified her with her
innocent gratitude of that night and the simplicity and truth of its
expression, that he blushed for himself as a libeller when he argued
that she could ever grow proud. On the other hand, his meditations
were of that fantastic order that it seemed hardly less libellous in
him to imagine her grown a woman: to think of her as anything but the
same artless, gentle, winning little creature, that she had been in
the days of Good Mrs Brown. In a word, Walter found out that to reason
with himself about Florence at all, was to become very unreasonable
indeed; and that he could do no better than preserve her image in his
mind as something precious, unattainable, unchangeable, and indefinite
- indefinite in all but its power of giving him pleasure, and
restraining him like an angel's hand from anything unworthy.
It was a long stroll in the fields that Walter took that day,
listening to the birds, and the Sunday bells, and the softened murmur
of the town - breathing sweet scents; glancing sometimes at the dim
horizon beyond which his voyage and his place of destination lay; then
looking round on the green English grass and the home landscape. But
he hardly once thought, even of going away, distinctly; and seemed to
put off reflection idly, from hour to hour, and from minute to minute,
while he yet went on reflecting all the time.
Walter had left the fields behind him, and was plodding homeward in
the same abstracted mood, when he heard a shout from a man, and then a
woman's voice calling to him loudly by name. Turning quickly in his
surprise, he saw that a hackney-coach, going in the contrary
direction, had stopped at no great distance; that the coachman was
looking back from his box and making signals to him with his whip; and
that a young woman inside was leaning out of the window, and beckoning
with immense energy. Running up to this coach, he found that the young
woman was Miss Nipper, and that Miss Nipper was in such a flutter as
to be almost beside herself.
'Staggs's Gardens, Mr Walter!' said Miss Nipper; 'if you please, oh
'Eh?' cried Walter; 'what is the matter?'
'Oh, Mr Walter, Staggs's Gardens, if you please!' said Susan.
'There!' cried the coachman, appealing to Walter, with a sort of
exalting despair; 'that's the way the young lady's been a goin' on for
up'ards of a mortal hour, and me continivally backing out of no
thoroughfares, where she would drive up. I've had a many fares in this
coach, first and last, but never such a fare as her.'
'Do you want to go to Staggs's Gardens, Susan?' inquired Walter.
'Ah! She wants to go there! WHERE IS IT?' growled the coachman.
'I don't know where it is!' exclaimed Susan, wildly. 'Mr Walter, I
was there once myself, along with Miss Floy and our poor darling
Master Paul, on the very day when you found Miss Floy in the City, for
we lost her coming home, Mrs Richards and me, and a mad bull, and Mrs
Richards's eldest, and though I went there afterwards, I can't
remember where it is, I think it's sunk into the ground. Oh, Mr
Walter, don't desert me, Staggs's Gardens, if you please! Miss Floy's
darling - all our darlings - little, meek, meek Master Paul! Oh Mr
'Good God!' cried Walter. 'Is he very ill?'
'The pretty flower!' cried Susan, wringing her hands, 'has took the
fancy that he'd like to see his old nurse, and I've come to bring her
to his bedside, Mrs Staggs, of Polly Toodle's Gardens, someone pray!'
Greatly moved by what he heard, and catching Susan's earnestness
immediately, Walter, now that he understood the nature of her errand,
dashed into it with such ardour that the coachman had enough to do to
follow closely as he ran before, inquiring here and there and
everywhere, the way to Staggs's Gardens.
There was no such place as Staggs's Gardens. It had vanished from
the earth. Where the old rotten summer-houses once had stood, palaces
now reared their heads, and granite columns of gigantic girth opened a
vista to the railway world beyond. The miserable waste ground, where
the refuse-matter had been heaped of yore, was swallowed up and gone;
and in its frowsy stead were tiers of warehouses, crammed with rich
goods and costly merchandise. The old by-streets now swarmed with
passengers and vehicles of every kind: the new streets that had
stopped disheartened in the mud and waggon-ruts, formed towns within
themselves, originating wholesome comforts and conveniences belonging
to themselves, and never tried nor thought of until they sprung into
existence. Bridges that had led to nothing, led to villas, gardens,
churches, healthy public walks. The carcasses of houses, and
beginnings of new thoroughfares, had started off upon the line at
steam's own speed, and shot away into the country in a monster train.'
As to the neighbourhood which had hesitated to acknowledge the
railroad in its straggling days, that had grown wise and penitent, as
any Christian might in such a case, and now boasted of its powerful
and prosperous relation. There were railway patterns in its drapers'
shops, and railway journals in the windows of its newsmen. There were
railway hotels, office-houses, lodging-houses, boarding-houses;
railway plans, maps, views, wrappers, bottles, sandwich-boxes, and
time-tables; railway hackney-coach and stands; railway omnibuses,
railway streets and buildings, railway hangers-on and parasites, and
flatterers out of all calculation. There was even railway time
observed in clocks, as if the sun itself had given in. Among the
vanquished was the master chimney-sweeper, whilom incredulous at
Staggs's Gardens, who now lived in a stuccoed house three stories
high, and gave himself out, with golden flourishes upon a varnished
board, as contractor for the cleansing of railway chimneys by
To and from the heart of this great change, all day and night,
throbbing currents rushed and returned incessantly like its life's
blood. Crowds of people and mountains of goods, departing and arriving
scores upon scores of times in every four-and-twenty hours, produced a
fermentation in the place that was always in action. The very houses
seemed disposed to pack up and take trips. Wonderful Members of
Parliament, who, little more than twenty years before, had made
themselves merry with the wild railroad theories of engineers, and
given them the liveliest rubs in cross-examination, went down into the
north with their watches in their hands, and sent on messages before
by the electric telegraph, to say that they were coming. Night and day
the conquering engines rumbled at their distant work, or, advancing
smoothly to their journey's end, and gliding like tame dragons into
the allotted corners grooved out to the inch for their reception,
stood bubbling and trembling there, making the walls quake, as if they
were dilating with the secret knowledge of great powers yet
unsuspected in them, and strong purposes not yet achieved.
But Staggs's Gardens had been cut up root and branch. Oh woe the
day when 'not a rood of English ground' - laid out in Staggs's Gardens
- is secure!
At last, after much fruitless inquiry, Walter, followed by the
coach and Susan, found a man who had once resided in that vanished
land, and who was no other than the master sweep before referred to,
grown stout, and knocking a double knock at his own door. He knowed
Toodle, he said, well. Belonged to the Railroad, didn't he?
'Yes' sir, yes!' cried Susan Nipper from the coach window.
Where did he live now? hastily inquired Walter.
He lived in the Company's own Buildings, second turning to the
right, down the yard, cross over, and take the second on the right
again. It was number eleven; they couldn't mistake it; but if they
did, they had only to ask for Toodle, Engine Fireman, and any one
would show them which was his house. At this unexpected stroke of
success Susan Nipper dismounted from the coach with all speed, took
Walter's arm, and set off at a breathless pace on foot; leaving the
coach there to await their return.
'Has the little boy been long ill, Susan?' inquired Walter, as they
'Ailing for a deal of time, but no one knew how much,' said Susan;
adding, with excessive sharpness, 'Oh, them Blimbers!'
'Blimbers?' echoed Walter.
'I couldn't forgive myself at such a time as this, Mr Walter,' said
Susan, 'and when there's so much serious distress to think about, if I
rested hard on anyone, especially on them that little darling Paul
speaks well of, but I may wish that the family was set to work in a
stony soil to make new roads, and that Miss Blimber went in front, and
had the pickaxe!'
Miss Nipper then took breath, and went on faster than before, as if
this extraordinary aspiration had relieved her. Walter, who had by
this time no breath of his own to spare, hurried along without asking
any more questions; and they soon, in their impatience, burst in at a
little door and came into a clean parlour full of children.
'Where's Mrs Richards?' exclaimed Susan Nipper, looking round. 'Oh
Mrs Richards, Mrs Richards, come along with me, my dear creetur!'
'Why, if it ain't Susan!' cried Polly, rising with her honest face
and motherly figure from among the group, in great surprIse.
'Yes, Mrs Richards, it's me,' said Susan, 'and I wish it wasn't,
though I may not seem to flatter when I say so, but little Master Paul
is very ill, and told his Pa today that he would like to see the face
of his old nurse, and him and Miss Floy hope you'll come along with me
- and Mr Walter, Mrs Richards - forgetting what is past, and do a
kindness to the sweet dear that is withering away. Oh, Mrs Richards,
withering away!' Susan Nipper crying, Polly shed tears to see her, and
to hear what she had said; and all the children gathered round
(including numbers of new babies); and Mr Toodle, who had just come
home from Birmingham, and was eating his dinner out of a basin, laid
down his knife and fork, and put on his wife's bonnet and shawl for
her, which were hanging up behind the door; then tapped her on the
back; and said, with more fatherly feeling than eloquence, 'Polly! cut
So they got back to the coach, long before the coachman expected
them; and Walter, putting Susan and Mrs Richards inside, took his seat
on the box himself that there might be no more mistakes, and deposited
them safely in the hall of Mr Dombey's house - where, by the bye, he
saw a mighty nosegay lying, which reminded him of the one Captain
Cuttle had purchased in his company that morning. He would have
lingered to know more of the young invalid, or waited any length of
time to see if he could render the least service; but, painfully
sensible that such conduct would be looked upon by Mr Dombey as
presumptuous and forward, he turned slowly, sadly, anxiously, away.
He had not gone five minutes' walk from the door, when a man came
running after him, and begged him to return. Walter retraced his steps
as quickly as he could, and entered the gloomy house with a sorrowful
What the Waves were always saying
Paul had never risen from his little bed. He lay there, listening
to the noises in the street, quite tranquilly; not caring much how the
time went, but watching it and watching everything about him with
When the sunbeams struck into his room through the rustling blinds,
and quivered on the opposite wall like golden water, he knew that
evening was coming on, and that the sky was red and beautiful. As the
reflection died away, and a gloom went creeping up the wall, he
watched it deepen, deepen, deepen, into night. Then he thought how the
long streets were dotted with lamps, and how the peaceful stars were
shining overhead. His fancy had a strange tendency to wander to the
river, which he knew was flowing through the great city; and now he
thought how black it was, and how deep it would look, reflecting the
hosts of stars - and more than all, how steadily it rolled away to
meet the sea.
As it grew later in the night, and footsteps in the street became
so rare that he could hear them coming, count them as they passed, and
lose them in the hollow distance, he would lie and watch the
many-coloured ring about the candle, and wait patiently for day. His
only trouble was, the swift and rapid river. He felt forced,
sometimes, to try to stop it - to stem it with his childish hands - or
choke its way with sand - and when he saw it coming on, resistless, he
cried out! But a word from Florence, who was always at his side,
restored him to himself; and leaning his poor head upon her breast, he
told Floy of his dream, and smiled.
When day began to dawn again, he watched for the sun; and when its
cheerful light began to sparkle in the room, he pictured to himself -
pictured! he saw - the high church towers rising up into the morning
sky, the town reviving, waking, starting into life once more, the
river glistening as it rolled (but rolling fast as ever), and the
country bright with dew. Familiar sounds and cries came by degrees
into the street below; the servants in the house were roused and busy;
faces looked in at the door, and voices asked his attendants softly
how he was. Paul always answered for himself, 'I am better. I am a
great deal better, thank you! Tell Papa so!'
By little and little, he got tired of the bustle of the day, the
noise of carriages and carts, and people passing and repassing; and
would fall asleep, or be troubled with a restless and uneasy sense
again - the child could hardly tell whether this were in his sleeping
or his waking moments - of that rushing river. 'Why, will it never
stop, Floy?' he would sometimes ask her. 'It is bearing me away, I
But Floy could always soothe and reassure him; and it was his daily
delight to make her lay her head down on his pillow, and take some
'You are always watching me, Floy, let me watch you, now!' They
would prop him up with cushions in a corner of his bed, and there he
would recline the while she lay beside him: bending forward oftentimes
to kiss her, and whispering to those who were near that she was tired,
and how she had sat up so many nights beside him.
Thus, the flush of the day, in its heat and light, would gradually
decline; and again the golden water would be dancing on the wall.
He was visited by as many as three grave doctors - they used to
assemble downstairs, and come up together - and the room was so quiet,
and Paul was so observant of them (though he never asked of anybody
what they said), that he even knew the difference in the sound of
their watches. But his interest centred in Sir Parker Peps, who always
took his seat on the side of the bed. For Paul had heard them say long
ago, that that gentleman had been with his Mama when she clasped
Florence in her arms, and died. And he could not forget it, now. He
liked him for it. He was not afraid.
The people round him changed as unaccountably as on that first
night at Doctor Blimber's - except Florence; Florence never changed -
and what had been Sir Parker Peps, was now his father, sitting with
his head upon his hand. Old Mrs Pipchin dozing in an easy chair, often
changed to Miss Tox, or his aunt; and Paul was quite content to shut
his eyes again, and see what happened next, without emotion. But this
figure with its head upon its hand returned so often, and remained so
long, and sat so still and solemn, never speaking, never being spoken
to, and rarely lifting up its face, that Paul began to wonder
languidly, if it were real; and in the night-time saw it sitting
there, with fear.
'Floy!' he said. 'What is that?'
'There! at the bottom of the bed.'
'There's nothing there, except Papa!'
The figure lifted up its head, and rose, and coming to the bedside,
'My own boy! Don't you know me?'
Paul looked it in the face, and thought, was this his father? But
the face so altered to his thinking, thrilled while he gazed, as if it
were in pain; and before he could reach out both his hands to take it
between them, and draw it towards him, the figure turned away quickly
from the little bed, and went out at the door.
Paul looked at Florence with a fluttering heart, but he knew what
she was going to say, and stopped her with his face against her lips.
The next time he observed the figure sitting at the bottom of the bed,
he called to it.
'Don't be sorry for me, dear Papa! Indeed I am quite happy!'
His father coming and bending down to him - which he did quickly,
and without first pausing by the bedside - Paul held him round the
neck, and repeated those words to him several times, and very
earnestly; and Paul never saw him in his room again at any time,
whether it were day or night, but he called out, 'Don't be sorry for
me! Indeed I am quite happy!' This was the beginning of his always
saying in the morning that he was a great deal better, and that they
were to tell his father so.
How many times the golden water danced upon the wall; how many
nights the dark, dark river rolled towards the sea in spite of him;
Paul never counted, never sought to know. If their kindness, or his
sense of it, could have increased, they were more kind, and he more
grateful every day; but whether they were many days or few, appeared
of little moment now, to the gentle boy.
One night he had been thinking of his mother, and her picture in
the drawing-room downstairs, and thought she must have loved sweet
Florence better than his father did, to have held her in her arms when
she felt that she was dying - for even he, her brother, who had such
dear love for her, could have no greater wish than that. The train of
thought suggested to him to inquire if he had ever seen his mother?
for he could not remember whether they had told him, yes or no, the
river running very fast, and confusing his mind.
'Floy, did I ever see Mama?'
'No, darling, why?'
'Did I ever see any kind face, like Mama's, looking at me when I
was a baby, Floy?'
He asked, incredulously, as if he had some vision of a face before
'Oh yes, dear!'
'Your old nurse's. Often.'
'And where is my old nurse?' said Paul. 'Is she dead too? Floy, are
we all dead, except you?'
There was a hurry in the room, for an instant - longer, perhaps;
but it seemed no more - then all was still again; and Florence, with
her face quite colourless, but smiling, held his head upon her arm.
Her arm trembled very much.
'Show me that old nurse, Floy, if you please!'
'She is not here, darling. She shall come to-morrow.'
'Thank you, Floy!'
Paul closed his eyes with those words, and fell asleep. When he
awoke, the sun was high, and the broad day was clear and He lay a
little, looking at the windows, which were open, and the curtains
rustling in the air, and waving to and fro: then he said, 'Floy, is it
tomorrow? Is she come?'
Someone seemed to go in quest of her. Perhaps it was Susan. Paul
thought he heard her telling him when he had closed his eyes again,
that she would soon be back; but he did not open them to see. She kept
her word - perhaps she had never been away - but the next thing that
happened was a noise of footsteps on the stairs, and then Paul woke -
woke mind and body - and sat upright in his bed. He saw them now about
him. There was no grey mist before them, as there had been sometimes
in the night. He knew them every one, and called them by their names.
'And who is this? Is this my old nurse?' said the child, regarding
with a radiant smile, a figure coming in.
Yes, yes. No other stranger would have shed those tears at sight of
him, and called him her dear boy, her pretty boy, her own poor
blighted child. No other woman would have stooped down by his bed, and
taken up his wasted hand, and put it to her lips and breast, as one
who had some right to fondle it. No other woman would have so
forgotten everybody there but him and Floy, and been so full of
tenderness and pity.
'Floy! this is a kind good face!' said Paul. 'I am glad to see it
again. Don't go away, old nurse! Stay here.'
His senses were all quickened, and he heard a name he knew.
'Who was that, who said "Walter"?' he asked, looking round.
'Someone said Walter. Is he here? I should like to see him very much.'
Nobody replied directly; but his father soon said to Susan, 'Call
him back, then: let him come up!' Alter a short pause of expectation,
during which he looked with smiling interest and wonder, on his nurse,
and saw that she had not forgotten Floy, Walter was brought into the
room. His open face and manner, and his cheerful eyes, had always made
him a favourite with Paul; and when Paul saw him' he stretched Out his
hand, and said 'Good-bye!'
'Good-bye, my child!' said Mrs Pipchin, hurrying to his bed's head.
For an instant, Paul looked at her with the wistful face with which
he had so often gazed upon her in his corner by the fire. 'Yes,' he
said placidly, 'good-bye! Walter dear, good-bye!' - turning his head
to where he stood, and putting out his hand again. 'Where is Papa?'
He felt his father's breath upon his cheek, before the words had
parted from his lips.
'Remember Walter, dear Papa,' he whispered, looking in his face.
'Remember Walter. I was fond of Walter!' The feeble hand waved in the
air, as if it cried 'good-bye!' to Walter once again.
'Now lay me down,' he said, 'and, Floy, come close to me, and let
me see you!'
Sister and brother wound their arms around each other, and the
golden light came streaming in, and fell upon them, locked together.
'How fast the river runs, between its green banks and the rushes,
'Floy! But it's very near the sea. I hear the waves! They always said
Presently he told her the motion of the boat upon the stream was
lulling him to rest. How green the banks were now, how bright the
flowers growing on them, and how tall the rushes! Now the boat was out
at sea, but gliding smoothly on. And now there was a shore before him.
Who stood on the bank! -
He put his hands together, as he had been used to do at his
prayers. He did not remove his arms to do it; but they saw him fold
them so, behind her neck.
'Mama is like you, Floy. I know her by the face! But tell them that
the print upon the stairs at school is not divine enough. The light
about the head is shining on me as I go!'
The golden ripple on the wall came back again, and nothing else
stirred in the room. The old, old fashion! The fashion that came in
with our first garments, and will last unchanged until our race has
run its course, and the wide firmament is rolled up like a scroll. The
old, old fashion - Death!
Oh thank GOD, all who see it, for that older fashion yet, of
Immortality! And look upon us, angels of young children, with regards
not quite estranged, when the swift river bears us to the ocean!
'Dear me, dear me! To think,' said Miss Tox, bursting out afresh
that night, as if her heart were broken, 'that Dombey and Son should
be a Daughter after all!'
Captain Cuttle does a little Business for the Young People
Captain Cuttle, in the exercise of that surprising talent for
deep-laid and unfathomable scheming, with which (as is not unusual in
men of transparent simplicity) he sincerely believed himself to be
endowed by nature, had gone to Mr Dombey's house on the eventful
Sunday, winking all the way as a vent for his superfluous sagacity,
and had presented himself in the full lustre of the ankle-jacks before
the eyes of Towlinson. Hearing from that individual, to his great
concern, of the impending calamity, Captain Cuttle, in his delicacy,
sheered off again confounded; merely handing in the nosegay as a small
mark of his solicitude, and leaving his respectful compliments for the
family in general, which he accompanied with an expression of his hope
that they would lay their heads well to the wind under existing
circumstances, and a friendly intimation that he would 'look up again'
The Captain's compliments were never heard of any more. The
Captain's nosegay, after lying in the hall all night, was swept into
the dust-bin next morning; and the Captain's sly arrangement, involved
in one catastrophe with greater hopes and loftier designs, was crushed
to pieces. So, when an avalanche bears down a mountain-forest, twigs
and bushes suffer with the trees, and all perish together.
When Walter returned home on the Sunday evening from his long walk,
and its memorable close, he was too much occupied at first by the
tidings he had to give them, and by the emotions naturally awakened in
his breast by the scene through which he had passed, to observe either
that his Uncle was evidently unacquainted with the intelligence the
Captain had undertaken to impart, or that the Captain made signals
with his hook, warning him to avoid the subject. Not that the
Captain's signals were calculated to have proved very comprehensible,
however attentively observed; for, like those Chinese sages who are
said in their conferences to write certain learned words in the air
that are wholly impossible of pronunciation, the Captain made such
waves and flourishes as nobody without a previous knowledge of his
mystery, would have been at all likely to understand.
Captain Cuttle, however, becoming cognisant of what had happened,
relinquished these attempts, as he perceived the slender chance that
now existed of his being able to obtain a little easy chat with Mr
Dombey before the period of Walter's departure. But in admitting to
himself, with a disappointed and crestfallen countenance, that Sol
Gills must be told, and that Walter must go - taking the case for the
present as he found it, and not having it enlightened or improved
beforehand by the knowing management of a friend - the Captain still
felt an unabated confidence that he, Ned Cuttle, was the man for Mr
Dombey; and that, to set Walter's fortunes quite square, nothing was
wanted but that they two should come together. For the Captain never
could forget how well he and Mr Dombey had got on at Brighton; with
what nicety each of them had put in a word when it was wanted; how
exactly they had taken one another's measure; nor how Ned Cuttle had
pointed out that resources in the first extremity, and had brought the
interview to the desired termination. On all these grounds the Captain
soothed himself with thinking that though Ned Cuttle was forced by the
pressure of events to 'stand by' almost useless for the present, Ned
would fetch up with a wet sail in good time, and carry all before him.
Under the influence of this good-natured delusion, Captain Cuttle
even went so far as to revolve in his own bosom, while he sat looking
at Walter and listening with a tear on his shirt-collar to what he
related, whether it might not be at once genteel and politic to give
Mr Dombey a verbal invitation, whenever they should meet, to come and
cut his mutton in Brig Place on some day of his own naming, and enter
on the question of his young friend's prospects over a social glass.
But the uncertain temper of Mrs MacStinger, and the possibility of her
setting up her rest in the passage during such an entertainment, and
there delivering some homily of an uncomplimentary nature, operated as
a check on the Captain's hospitable thoughts, and rendered him timid
of giving them encouragement.
One fact was quite clear to the Captain, as Walter, sitting
thoughtfully over his untasted dinner, dwelt on all that had happened;
namely, that however Walter's modesty might stand in the way of his
perceiving it himself, he was, as one might say, a member of Mr
Dombey's family. He had been, in his own person, connected with the
incident he so pathetically described; he had been by name remembered
and commended in close association with it; and his fortunes must have
a particular interest in his employer's eyes. If the Captain had any
lurking doubt whatever of his own conclusions, he had not the least
doubt that they were good conclusions for the peace of mind of the
Instrument-maker. Therefore he availed himself of so favourable a
moment for breaking the West Indian intelligence to his friend, as a
piece of extraordinary preferment; declaring that for his part he
would freely give a hundred thousand pounds (if he had it) for
Walter's gain in the long-run, and that he had no doubt such an
investment would yield a handsome premium.
Solomon Gills was at first stunned by the communication, which fell
upon the little back-parlour like a thunderbolt, and tore up the
hearth savagely. But the Captain flashed such golden prospects before
his dim sight: hinted so mysteriously at 'Whittingtonian consequences;
laid such emphasis on what Walter had just now told them: and appealed
to it so confidently as a corroboration of his predictions, and a
great advance towards the realisation of the romantic legend of Lovely
Peg: that he bewildered the old man. Walter, for his part, feigned to
be so full of hope and ardour, and so sure of coming home again soon,
and backed up the Captain with such expressive shakings of his head
and rubbings of his hands, that Solomon, looking first at him then at
Captain Cuttle, began to think he ought to be transported with joy.
'But I'm behind the time, you understand,' he observed in apology,
passing his hand nervously down the whole row of bright buttons on his
coat, and then up again, as if they were beads and he were telling
them twice over: 'and I would rather have my dear boy here. It's an
old-fashioned notion, I daresay. He was always fond of the sea He's' -
and he looked wistfully at Walter - 'he's glad to go.'
'Uncle Sol!' cried Walter, quickly, 'if you say that, I won't go.
No, Captain Cuttle, I won't. If my Uncle thinks I could be glad to
leave him, though I was going to be made Governor of all the Islands
in the West Indies, that's enough. I'm a fixture.'
'Wal'r, my lad,' said the Captain. 'Steady! Sol Gills, take an
observation of your nevy.
Following with his eyes the majestic action of the Captain's hook,
the old man looked at Walter.
'Here is a certain craft,' said the Captain, with a magnificent
sense of the allegory into which he was soaring, 'a-going to put out
on a certain voyage. What name is wrote upon that craft indelibly? Is
it The Gay? or,' said the Captain, raising his voice as much as to
say, observe the point of this, 'is it The Gills?'
'Ned,' said the old man, drawing Walter to his side, and taking his
arm tenderly through his, 'I know. I know. Of course I know that Wally
considers me more than himself always. That's in my mind. When I say
he is glad to go, I mean I hope he is. Eh? look you, Ned and you too,
Wally, my dear, this is new and unexpected to me; and I'm afraid my
being behind the time, and poor, is at the bottom of it. Is it really
good fortune for him, do you tell me, now?' said the old man, looking
anxiously from one to the other. 'Really and truly? Is it? I can
reconcile myself to almost anything that advances Wally, but I won't
have Wally putting himself at any disadvantage for me, or keeping
anything from me. You, Ned Cuttle!' said the old man, fastening on the
Captain, to the manifest confusion of that diplomatist; 'are you
dealing plainly by your old friend? Speak out, Ned Cuttle. Is there
anything behind? Ought he to go? How do you know it first, and why?'
As it was a contest of affection and self-denial, Walter struck in
with infinite effect, to the Captain's relief; and between them they
tolerably reconciled old Sol Gills, by continued talking, to the
project; or rather so confused him, that nothing, not even the pain of
separation, was distinctly clear to his mind.
He had not much time to balance the matter; for on the very next
day, Walter received from Mr Carker the Manager, the necessary
credentials for his passage and outfit, together with the information
that the Son and Heir would sail in a fortnight, or within a day or
two afterwards at latest. In the hurry of preparation: which Walter
purposely enhanced as much as possible: the old man lost what little
selfpossession he ever had; and so the time of departure drew on
The Captain, who did not fail to make himself acquainted with all
that passed, through inquiries of Walter from day to day, found the
time still tending on towards his going away, without any occasion
offering itself, or seeming likely to offer itself, for a better
understanding of his position. It was after much consideration of this
fact, and much pondering over such an unfortunate combination of
circumstances, that a bright idea occurred to the Captain. Suppose he
made a call on Mr Carker, and tried to find out from him how the land
Captain Cuttle liked this idea very much. It came upon him in a
moment of inspiration, as he was smoking an early pipe in Brig Place
after breakfast; and it was worthy of the tobacco. It would quiet his
conscience, which was an honest one, and was made a little uneasy by
what Walter had confided to him, and what Sol Gills had said; and it
would be a deep, shrewd act of friendship. He would sound Mr Carker
carefully, and say much or little, just as he read that gentleman's
character, and discovered that they got on well together or the
Accordingly, without the fear of Walter before his eyes (who he
knew was at home packing), Captain Cuttle again assumed his
ankle-jacks and mourning brooch, and issued forth on this second
expedition. He purchased no propitiatory nosegay on the present
occasion, as he was going to a place of business; but he put a small
sunflower in his button-hole to give himself an agreeable relish of
the country; and with this, and the knobby stick, and the glazed hat,
bore down upon the offices of Dombey and Son.
After taking a glass of warm rum-and-water at a tavern close by, to
collect his thoughts, the Captain made a rush down the court, lest its
good effects should evaporate, and appeared suddenly to Mr Perch.
'Matey,' said the Captain, in persuasive accents. 'One of your
Governors is named Carker.' Mr Perch admitted it; but gave him to
understand, as in official duty bound, that all his Governors were
engaged, and never expected to be disengaged any more.
'Look'ee here, mate,' said the Captain in his ear; 'my name's
The Captain would have hooked Perch gently to him, but Mr Perch
eluded the attempt; not so much in design, as in starting at the
sudden thought that such a weapon unexpectedly exhibited to Mrs Perch
might, in her then condition, be destructive to that lady's hopes.
'If you'll be so good as just report Cap'en Cuttle here, when you
get a chance,' said the Captain, 'I'll wait.'
Saying which, the Captain took his seat on Mr Perch's bracket, and
drawing out his handkerchief from the crown of the glazed hat which he
jammed between his knees (without injury to its shape, for nothing
human could bend it), rubbed his head well all over, and appeared
refreshed. He subsequently arranged his hair with his hook, and sat
looking round the office, contemplating the clerks with a serene
The Captain's equanimity was so impenetrable, and he was altogether
so mysterious a being, that Perch the messenger was daunted.
'What name was it you said?' asked Mr Perch, bending down over him
as he sat on the bracket.
'Cap'en,' in a deep hoarse whisper.
'Yes,' said Mr Perch, keeping time with his head.
'Oh!' said Mr Perch, in the same tone, for he caught it, and
couldn't help it; the Captain, in his diplomacy, was so impressive.
'I'll see if he's disengaged now. I don't know. Perhaps he may be for
'Ay, ay, my lad, I won't detain him longer than a minute,' said the
Captain, nodding with all the weighty importance that he felt within
him. Perch, soon returning, said, 'Will Captain Cuttle walk this way?'
Mr Carker the Manager, standing on the hearth-rug before the empty
fireplace, which was ornamented with a castellated sheet of brown
paper, looked at the Captain as he came in, with no very special
'Mr Carker?' said Captain Cuttle.
'I believe so,' said Mr Carker, showing all his teeth.
The Captain liked his answering with a smile; it looked pleasant.
'You see,' began the Captain, rolling his eyes slowly round the little
room, and taking in as much of it as his shirt-collar permitted; 'I'm
a seafaring man myself, Mr Carker, and Wal'r, as is on your books
here, is almost a son of mine.'
'Walter Gay?' said Mr Carker, showing all his teeth again.
'Wal'r Gay it is,' replied the Captain, 'right!' The Captain's
manner expressed a warm approval of Mr Carker's quickness of
perception. 'I'm a intimate friend of his and his Uncle's. Perhaps,'
said the Captain, 'you may have heard your head Governor mention my
name? - Captain Cuttle.'
'No!' said Mr Carker, with a still wider demonstration than before.
'Well,' resumed the Captain, 'I've the pleasure of his
acquaintance. I waited upon him down on the Sussex coast there, with
my young friend Wal'r, when - in short, when there was a little
accommodation wanted.' The Captain nodded his head in a manner that
was at once comfortable, easy, and expressive. 'You remember, I
'I think,' said Mr Carker, 'I had the honour of arranging the
'To be sure!' returned the Captain. 'Right again! you had. Now I've
took the liberty of coming here -
'Won't you sit down?' said Mr Carker, smiling.
'Thank'ee,' returned the Captain, availing himself of the offer. 'A
man does get more way upon himself, perhaps, in his conversation, when
he sits down. Won't you take a cheer yourself?'
'No thank you,' said the Manager, standing, perhaps from the force
of winter habit, with his back against the chimney-piece, and looking
down upon the Captain with an eye in every tooth and gum. 'You have
taken the liberty, you were going to say - though it's none - '
'Thank'ee kindly, my lad,' returned the Captain: 'of coming here,
on account of my friend Wal'r. Sol Gills, his Uncle, is a man of
science, and in science he may be considered a clipper; but he ain't
what I should altogether call a able seaman - not man of practice.
Wal'r is as trim a lad as ever stepped; but he's a little down by the
head in one respect, and that is, modesty. Now what I should wish to
put to you,' said the Captain, lowering his voice, and speaking in a
kind of confidential growl, 'in a friendly way, entirely between you
and me, and for my own private reckoning, 'till your head Governor has
wore round a bit, and I can come alongside of him, is this - Is
everything right and comfortable here, and is Wal'r out'ard bound with
a pretty fair wind?'
'What do you think now, Captain Cuttle?' returned Carker, gathering
up his skirts and settling himself in his position. 'You are a
practical man; what do you think?'
The acuteness and the significance of the Captain's eye as he
cocked it in reply, no words short of those unutterable Chinese words
before referred to could describe.
'Come!' said the Captain, unspeakably encouraged, 'what do you say?
Am I right or wrong?'
So much had the Captain expressed in his eye, emboldened and
incited by Mr Carker's smiling urbanity, that he felt himself in as
fair a condition to put the question, as if he had expressed his
sentiments with the utmost elaboration.
'Right,' said Mr Carker, 'I have no doubt.'
'Out'ard bound with fair weather, then, I say,' cried Captain
Mr Carker smiled assent.
'Wind right astarn, and plenty of it,' pursued the Captain.
Mr Carker smiled assent again.
'Ay, ay!' said Captain Cuttle, greatly relieved and pleased. 'I
know'd how she headed, well enough; I told Wal'r so. Thank'ee,
'Gay has brilliant prospects,' observed Mr Carker, stretching his
mouth wider yet: 'all the world before him.'
'All the world and his wife too, as the saying is,' returned the
At the word 'wife' (which he had uttered without design), the
Captain stopped, cocked his eye again, and putting the glazed hat on
the top of the knobby stick, gave it a twirl, and looked sideways at
his always smiling friend.
'I'd bet a gill of old Jamaica,' said the Captain, eyeing him
attentively, 'that I know what you're a smiling at.'
Mr Carker took his cue, and smiled the more.
'It goes no farther?' said the Captain, making a poke at the door
with the knobby stick to assure himself that it was shut.
'Not an inch,' said Mr Carker.
'You're thinking of a capital F perhaps?' said the Captain.
Mr Carker didn't deny it.
'Anything about a L,' said the Captain, 'or a O?'
Mr Carker still smiled.
'Am I right, again?' inquired the Captain in a whisper, with the
scarlet circle on his forehead swelling in his triumphant joy.
Mr Carker, in reply, still smiling, and now nodding assent, Captain
Cuttle rose and squeezed him by the hand, assuring him, warmly, that
they were on the same tack, and that as for him (Cuttle) he had laid
his course that way all along. 'He know'd her first,' said the
Captain, with all the secrecy and gravity that the subject demanded,
'in an uncommon manner - you remember his finding her in the street
when she was a'most a babby - he has liked her ever since, and she
him, as much as two youngsters can. We've always said, Sol Gills and
me, that they was cut out for each other.'
A cat, or a monkey, or a hyena, or a death's-head, could not have
shown the Captain more teeth at one time, than Mr Carker showed him at
this period of their interview.
'There's a general indraught that way,' observed the happy Captain.
'Wind and water sets in that direction, you see. Look at his being
present t'other day!'
'Most favourable to his hopes,' said Mr Carker.
'Look at his being towed along in the wake of that day!' pursued
the Captain. 'Why what can cut him adrift now?'
'Nothing,' replied Mr Carker.
'You're right again,' returned the Captain, giving his hand another
squeeze. 'Nothing it is. So! steady! There's a son gone: pretty little
creetur. Ain't there?'
'Yes, there's a son gone,' said the acquiescent Carker.
'Pass the word, and there's another ready for you,' quoth the
Captain. 'Nevy of a scientific Uncle! Nevy of Sol Gills! Wal'r! Wal'r,
as is already in your business! And' - said the Captain, rising
gradually to a quotation he was preparing for a final burst, 'who -
comes from Sol Gills's daily, to your business, and your buzzums.' The
Captain's complacency as he gently jogged Mr Carker with his elbow, on
concluding each of the foregoing short sentences, could be surpassed
by nothing but the exultation with which he fell back and eyed him
when he had finished this brilliant display of eloquence and sagacity;
his great blue waistcoat heaving with the throes of such a
masterpiece, and his nose in a state of violent inflammation from the
'Am I right?' said the Captain.
'Captain Cuttle,' said Mr Carker, bending down at the knees, for a
moment, in an odd manner, as if he were falling together to hug the
whole of himself at once, 'your views in reference to Walter Gay are
thoroughly and accurately right. I understand that we speak together
'Honour!' interposed the Captain. 'Not a word.'
'To him or anyone?' pursued the Manager.
Captain Cuttle frowned and shook his head.
'But merely for your own satisfaction and guidance - and guidance,
of course,' repeated Mr Carker, 'with a view to your future
'Thank'ee kindly, I am sure,' said the Captain, listening with
'I have no hesitation in saying, that's the fact. You have hit the
'And with regard to your head Governor,' said the Captain, 'why an
interview had better come about nat'ral between us. There's time
Mr Carker, with his mouth from ear to ear, repeated, 'Time enough.'
Not articulating the words, but bowing his head affably, and forming
them with his tongue and lips.
'And as I know - it's what I always said- that Wal'r's in a way to
make his fortune,' said the Captain.
'To make his fortune,' Mr Carker repeated, in the same dumb manner.
'And as Wal'r's going on this little voyage is, as I may say, in
his day's work, and a part of his general expectations here,' said the
'Of his general expectations here,' assented Mr Carker, dumbly as
'Why, so long as I know that,' pursued the Captain, 'there's no
hurry, and my mind's at ease.
Mr Carker still blandly assenting in the same voiceless manner,
Captain Cuttle was strongly confirmed in his opinion that he was one
of the most agreeable men he had ever met, and that even Mr Dombey
might improve himself on such a model. With great heartiness,
therefore, the Captain once again extended his enormous hand (not
unlike an old block in colour), and gave him a grip that left upon his
smoother flesh a proof impression of the chinks and crevices with
which the Captain's palm was liberally tattooed.
'Farewell!' said the Captain. 'I ain't a man of many words, but I
take it very kind of you to be so friendly, and above-board. You'll
excuse me if I've been at all intruding, will you?' said the Captain.
'Not at all,' returned the other.
'Thank'ee. My berth ain't very roomy,' said the Captain, turning
back again, 'but it's tolerably snug; and if you was to find yourself
near Brig Place, number nine, at any time - will you make a note of
it? - and would come upstairs, without minding what was said by the
person at the door, I should be proud to see you.
With that hospitable invitation, the Captain said 'Good day!' and
walked out and shut the door; leaving Mr Carker still reclining
against the chimney-piece. In whose sly look and watchful manner; in
whose false mouth, stretched but not laughing; in whose spotless
cravat and very whiskers; even in whose silent passing of his soft
hand over his white linen and his smooth face; there was something
The unconscious Captain walked out in a state of self-glorification
that imparted quite a new cut to the broad blue suit. 'Stand by, Ned!'
said the Captain to himself. 'You've done a little business for the
youngsters today, my lad!'
In his exultation, and in his familiarity, present and prospective,
with the House, the Captain, when he reached the outer office, could
not refrain from rallying Mr Perch a little, and asking him whether he
thought everybody was still engaged. But not to be bitter on a man who
had done his duty, the Captain whispered in his ear, that if he felt
disposed for a glass of rum-and-water, and would follow, he would be
happy to bestow the same upon him.
Before leaving the premises, the Captain, somewhat to the
astonishment of the clerks, looked round from a central point of view,
and took a general survey of the officers part and parcel of a project
in which his young friend was nearly interested. The strong-room
excited his especial admiration; but, that he might not appear too
particular, he limited himself to an approving glance, and, with a
graceful recognition of the clerks as a body, that was full of
politeness and patronage, passed out into the court. Being promptly
joined by Mr Perch, he conveyed that gentleman to the tavern, and
fulfilled his pledge - hastily, for Perch's time was precious.
'I'll give you for a toast,' said the Captain, 'Wal'r!'
'Who?' submitted Mr Perch.
'Wal'r!' repeated the Captain, in a voice of thunder.
Mr Perch, who seemed to remember having heard in infancy that there
was once a poet of that name, made no objection; but he was much
astonished at the Captain's coming into the City to propose a poet;
indeed, if he had proposed to put a poet's statue up - say
Shakespeare's for example - in a civic thoroughfare, he could hardly
have done a greater outrage to Mr Perch's experience. On the whole, he
was such a mysterious and incomprehensible character, that Mr Perch
decided not to mention him to Mrs Perch at all, in case of giving rise
to any disagreeable consequences.
Mysterious and incomprehensible, the Captain, with that lively
sense upon him of having done a little business for the youngsters,
remained all day, even to his most intimate friends; and but that
Walter attributed his winks and grins, and other such pantomimic
reliefs of himself, to his satisfaction in the success of their
innocent deception upon old Sol Gills, he would assuredly have
betrayed himself before night. As it was, however, he kept his own
secret; and went home late from the Instrument-maker's house, wearing
the glazed hat so much on one side, and carrying such a beaming
expression in his eyes, that Mrs MacStinger (who might have been
brought up at Doctor Blimber's, she was such a Roman matron) fortified
herself, at the first glimpse of him, behind the open street door, and
refused to come out to the contemplation of her blessed infants, until
he was securely lodged in his own room.
Father and Daughter
There is a hush through Mr Dombey's house. Servants gliding up and
down stairs rustle, but make no sound of footsteps. They talk together
constantly, and sit long at meals, making much of their meat and
drink, and enjoying themselves after a grim unholy fashion. Mrs
Wickam, with her eyes suffused with tears, relates melancholy
anecdotes; and tells them how she always said at Mrs Pipchin's that it
would be so, and takes more table-ale than usual, and is very sorry
but sociable. Cook's state of mind is similar. She promises a little
fry for supper, and struggles about equally against her feelings and
the onions. Towlinson begins to think there's a fate in it, and wants
to know if anybody can tell him ofany good that ever came of living in
a corner house. It seems to all of them as having happened a long time
ago; though yet the child lies, calm and beautiful, upon his little
After dark there come some visitors - noiseless visitors, with
shoes of felt - who have been there before; and with them comes that
bed of rest which is so strange a one for infant sleepers. All this
time, the bereaved father has not been seen even by his attendant; for
he sits in an inner corner of his own dark room when anyone is there,
and never seems to move at other times, except to pace it to and fro.
But in the morning it is whispered among the household that he was
heard to go upstairs in the dead night, and that he stayed there - in
the room - until the sun was shining.
At the offices in the City, the ground-glass windows are made more
dim by shutters; and while the lighted lamps upon the desks are half
extinguished by the day that wanders in, the day is half extinguished
by the lamps, and an unusual gloom prevails. There is not much
business done. The clerks are indisposed to work; and they make
assignations to eat chops in the afternoon, and go up the river.
Perch, the messenger, stays long upon his errands; and finds himself
in bars of public-houses, invited thither by friends, and holding
forth on the uncertainty of human affairs. He goes home to Ball's Pond
earlier in the evening than usual, and treats Mrs Perch to a veal
cutlet and Scotch ale. Mr Carker the Manager treats no one; neither is
he treated; but alone in his own room he shows his teeth all day; and
it would seem that there is something gone from Mr Carker's path -
some obstacle removed - which clears his way before him.
Now the rosy children living opposite to Mr Dombey's house, peep
from their nursery windows down into the street; for there are four
black horses at his door, with feathers on their heads; and feathers
tremble on the carriage that they draw; and these, and an array of men
with scarves and staves, attract a crowd. The juggler who was going to
twirl the basin, puts his loose coat on again over his fine dress; and
his trudging wife, one-sided with her heavy baby in her arms, loiters
to see the company come out. But closer to her dingy breast she
presses her baby, when the burden that is so easily carried is borne
forth; and the youngest of the rosy children at the high window
opposite, needs no restraining hand to check her in her glee, when,
pointing with her dimpled finger, she looks into her nurse's face, and
asks 'What's that?'
And now, among the knot of servants dressed in mourning, and the
weeping women, Mr Dombey passes through the hall to the other carriage
that is waiting to receive him. He is not 'brought down,' these
observers think, by sorrow and distress of mind. His walk is as erect,
his bearing is as stiff as ever it has been. He hides his face behind
no handkerchief, and looks before him. But that his face is something
sunk and rigid, and is pale, it bears the same expression as of old.
He takes his place within the carriage, and three other gentlemen
follow. Then the grand funeral moves slowly down the street. The
feathers are yet nodding in the distance, when the juggler has the
basin spinning on a cane, and has the same crowd to admire it. But the
juggler's wife is less alert than usual with the money-box, for a
child's burial has set her thinking that perhaps the baby underneath
her shabby shawl may not grow up to be a man, and wear a sky-blue
fillet round his head, and salmon-coloured worsted drawers, and tumble
in the mud.
The feathers wind their gloomy way along the streets, and come
within the sound of a church bell. In this same church, the pretty boy
received all that will soon be left of him on earth - a name. All of
him that is dead, they lay there, near the perishable substance of his
mother. It is well. Their ashes lie where Florence in her walks - oh
lonely, lonely walks! - may pass them any day.
The service over, and the clergyman withdrawn, Mr Dombey looks
round, demanding in a low voice, whether the person who has been
requested to attend to receive instructions for the tablet, is there?
Someone comes forward, and says 'Yes.'
Mr Dombey intimates where he would have it placed; and shows him,
with his hand upon the wall, the shape and size; and how it is to
follow the memorial to the mother. Then, with his pencil, he writes
out the inscription, and gives it to him: adding, 'I wish to have it
done at once.
'It shall be done immediately, Sir.'
'There is really nothing to inscribe but name and age, you see.'
The man bows, glancing at the paper, but appears to hesitate. Mr
Dombey not observing his hesitation, turns away, and leads towards the
'I beg your pardon, Sir;' a touch falls gently on his mourning
cloak; 'but as you wish it done immediately, and it may be put in hand
when I get back - '
'Will you be so good as read it over again? I think there's a
The statuary gives him back the paper, and points out, with his
pocket rule, the words, 'beloved and only child.'
'It should be, "son," I think, Sir?'
'You are right. Of course. Make the correction.'
The father, with a hastier step, pursues his way to the coach. When
the other three, who follow closely, take their seats, his face is
hidden for the first time - shaded by his cloak. Nor do they see it
any more that day. He alights first, and passes immediately into his
own room. The other mourners (who are only Mr Chick, and two of the
medical attendants) proceed upstairs to the drawing-room, to be
received by Mrs Chick and Miss Tox. And what the face is, in the
shut-up chamber underneath: or what the thoughts are: what the heart
is, what the contest or the suffering: no one knows.
The chief thing that they know, below stairs, in the kitchen, is
that 'it seems like Sunday.' They can hardly persuade themselves but
that there is something unbecoming, if not wicked, in the conduct of
the people out of doors, who pursue their ordinary occupations, and
wear their everyday attire. It is quite a novelty to have the blinds
up, and the shutters open; and they make themselves dismally
comfortable over bottles of wine, which are freely broached as on a
festival. They are much inclined to moralise. Mr Towlinson proposes
with a sigh, 'Amendment to us all!' for which, as Cook says with
another sigh, 'There's room enough, God knows.' In the evening, Mrs
Chick and Miss Tox take to needlework again. In the evening also, Mr
Towlinson goes out to take the air, accompanied by the housemaid, who
has not yet tried her mourning bonnet. They are very tender to each
other at dusky street-corners, and Towlinson has visions of leading an
altered and blameless existence as a serious greengrocer in Oxford
There is sounder sleep and deeper rest in Mr Dombey's house
tonight, than there has been for many nights. The morning sun awakens
the old household, settled down once more in their old ways. The rosy
children opposite run past with hoops. There is a splendid wedding in
the church. The juggler's wife is active with the money-box in another
quarter of the town. The mason sings and whistles as he chips out
P-A-U-L in the marble slab before him.
And can it be that in a world so full and busy, the loss of one
weak creature makes a void in any heart, so wide and deep that nothing
but the width and depth of vast eternity can fill it up! Florence, in
her innocent affliction, might have answered, 'Oh my brother, oh my
dearly loved and loving brother! Only friend and companion of my
slighted childhood! Could any less idea shed the light already dawning
on your early grave, or give birth to the softened sorrow that is
springing into life beneath this rain of tears!'
'My dear child,' said Mrs Chick, who held it as a duty incumbent on
her, to improve the occasion, 'when you are as old as I am - '
'Which will be the prime of life,' observed Miss Tox.
'You will then,' pursued Mrs Chick, gently squeezing Miss Tox's
hand in acknowledgment of her friendly remark, 'you will then know
that all grief is unavailing, and that it is our duty to submit.'
'I will try, dear aunt I do try,' answered Florence, sobbing.
'I am glad to hear it,' said Mrs Chick, 'because; my love, as our
dear Miss Tox - of whose sound sense and excellent judgment, there
cannot possibly be two opinions - '
'My dear Louisa, I shall really be proud, soon,' said Miss Tox
- 'will tell you, and confirm by her experience,' pursued Mrs
Chick, 'we are called upon on all occasions to make an effort It is
required of us. If any - my dear,' turning to Miss Tox, 'I want a
word. Mis- Mis-'
'Demeanour?' suggested Miss Tox.
'No, no, no,' said Mrs Chic 'How can you! Goodness me, it's on, the
end of my tongue. Mis-'
Placed affection?' suggested Miss Tox, timidly.
'Good gracious, Lucretia!' returned Mrs Chick 'How very monstrous!
Misanthrope, is the word I want. The idea! Misplaced affection! I say,
if any misanthrope were to put, in my presence, the question "Why were
we born?" I should reply, "To make an effort"'
'Very good indeed,' said Miss Tox, much impressed by the
originality of the sentiment 'Very good.'
'Unhappily,' pursued Mrs Chick, 'we have a warning under our own
eyes. We have but too much reason to suppose, my dear child, that if
an effort had been made in time, in this family, a train of the most
trying and distressing circumstances might have been avoided. Nothing
shall ever persuade me,' observed the good matron, with a resolute
air, 'but that if that effort had been made by poor dear Fanny, the
poor dear darling child would at least have had a stronger
Mrs Chick abandoned herself to her feelings for half a moment; but,
as a practical illustration of her doctrine, brought herself up short,
in the middle of a sob, and went on again.
'Therefore, Florence, pray let us see that you have some strength
of mind, and do not selfishly aggravate the distress in which your
poor Papa is plunged.'
'Dear aunt!' said Florence, kneeling quickly down before her, that
she might the better and more earnestly look into her face. 'Tell me
more about Papa. Pray tell me about him! Is he quite heartbroken?'
Miss Tox was of a tender nature, and there was something in this
appeal that moved her very much. Whether she saw it in a succession,
on the part of the neglected child, to the affectionate concern so
often expressed by her dead brother - or a love that sought to twine
itself about the heart that had loved him, and that could not bear to
be shut out from sympathy with such a sorrow, in such sad community of
love and grief - or whether the only recognised the earnest and
devoted spirit which, although discarded and repulsed, was wrung with
tenderness long unreturned, and in the waste and solitude of this
bereavement cried to him to seek a comfort in it, and to give some, by
some small response - whatever may have been her understanding of it,
it moved Miss Tox. For the moment she forgot the majesty of Mrs Chick,
and, patting Florence hastily on the cheek, turned aside and suffered
the tears to gush from her eyes, without waiting for a lead from that
Mrs Chick herself lost, for a moment, the presence of mind on which
she so much prided herself; and remained mute, looking on the
beautiful young face that had so long, so steadily, and patiently,
been turned towards the little bed. But recovering her voice - which
was synonymous with her presence of mind, indeed they were one and the
same thing - she replied with dignity:
'Florence, my dear child, your poor Papa is peculiar at times; and
to question me about him, is to question me upon a subject which I
really do not pretend to understand. I believe I have as much
influence with your Papa as anybody has. Still, all I can say is, that
he has said very little to me; and that I have only seen him once or
twice for a minute at a time, and indeed have hardly seen him then,
for his room has been dark. I have said to your Papa, "Paul!" - that
is the exact expression I used - "Paul! why do you not take something
stimulating?" Your Papa's reply has always been, "Louisa, have the
goodness to leave me. I want nothing. I am better by myself." If I was
to be put upon my oath to-morrow, Lucretia, before a magistrate,' said
Mrs Chick, 'I have no doubt I could venture to swear to those
Miss Tox expressed her admiration by saying, 'My Louisa is ever
'In short, Florence,' resumed her aunt, 'literally nothing has
passed between your poor Papa and myself, until to-day; when I
mentioned to your Papa that Sir Barnet and Lady Skettles had written
exceedingly kind notes - our sweet boy! Lady Skettles loved him like a
- where's my pocket handkerchief?'
Miss Tox produced one.
'Exceedingly kind notes, proposing that you should visit them for
change of scene. Mentioning to your Papa that I thought Miss Tox and
myself might now go home (in which he quite agreed), I inquired if he
had any objection to your accepting this invitation. He said, "No,
Louisa, not the least!"' Florence raised her tearful eye
'At the same time, if you would prefer staying here, Florence, to
paying this visit at present, or to going home with me - '
'I should much prefer it, aunt,' was the faint rejoinder.
'Why then, child,'said Mrs Chick, 'you can. It's a strange choice,
I must say. But you always were strange. Anybody else at your time of
life, and after what has passed - my dear Miss Tox, I have lost my
pocket handkerchief again - would be glad to leave here, one would
'I should not like to feel,' said Florence, 'as if the house was
avoided. I should not like to think that the - his - the rooms
upstairs were quite empty and dreary, aunt. I would rather stay here,
for the present. Oh my brother! oh my brother!'
It was a natural emotion, not to be suppressed; and it would make
way even between the fingers of the hands with which she covered up
her face. The overcharged and heavy-laden breast must some times have
that vent, or the poor wounded solitary heart within it would have
fluttered like a bird with broken wings, and sunk down in the dust'
'Well, child!' said Mrs Chick, after a pause 'I wouldn't on any
account say anything unkind to you, and that I'm sure you know. You
will remain here, then, and do exactly as you like. No one will
interfere with you, Florence, or wish to interfere with you, I'm sure.
Florence shook her head in sad assent'
'I had no sooner begun to advise your poor Papa that he really
ought to seek some distraction and restoration in a temporary change,'
said Mrs Chick, 'than he told me he had already formed the intention
of going into the country for a short time. I'm sure I hope he'll go
very soon. He can't go too soon. But I suppose there are some
arrangements connected with his private papers and so forth,
consequent on the affliction that has tried us all so much - I can't
think what's become of mine: Lucretia, lend me yours, my dear - that
may occupy him for one or two evenings in his own room. Your Papa's a
Dombey, child, if ever there was one,' said Mrs Chick, drying both her
eyes at once with great care on opposite corners of Miss Tox's
handkerchief 'He'll make an effort. There's no fear of him.'
'Is there nothing, aunt,' said Florence, trembling, 'I might do to
'Lord, my dear child,' interposed Mrs Chick, hastily, 'what are you
talking about? If your Papa said to Me - I have given you his exact
words, "Louisa, I want nothing; I am better by myself" - what do you
think he'd say to you? You mustn't show yourself to him, child. Don't
dream of such a thing.'
'Aunt,' said Florence, 'I will go and lie down on my bed.'
Mrs Chick approved of this resolution, and dismissed her with a
kiss. But Miss Tox, on a faint pretence of looking for the mislaid
handkerchief, went upstairs after her; and tried in a few stolen
minutes to comfort her, in spite of great discouragement from Susan
Nipper. For Miss Nipper, in her burning zeal, disparaged Miss Tox as a
crocodile; yet her sympathy seemed genuine, and had at least the
vantage-ground of disinterestedness - there was little favour to be
won by it.
And was there no one nearer and dearer than Susan, to uphold the
striving heart in its anguish? Was there no other neck to clasp; no
other face to turn to? no one else to say a soothing word to such deep
sorrow? Was Florence so alone in the bleak world that nothing else
remained to her? Nothing. Stricken motherless and brotherless at once
- for in the loss of little Paul, that first and greatest loss fell
heavily upon her - this was the only help she had. Oh, who can tell
how much she needed help at first!
At first, when the house subsided into its accustomed course, and
they had all gone away, except the servants, and her father shut up in
his own rooms, Florence could do nothing but weep, and wander up and
down, and sometimes, in a sudden pang of desolate remembrance, fly to
her own chamber, wring her hands, lay her face down on her bed, and
know no consolation: nothing but the bitterness and cruelty of grief.
This commonly ensued upon the recognition of some spot or object very
tenderly dated with him; and it made the ale house, at first, a place
But it is not in the nature of pure love to burn so fiercely and
unkindly long. The flame that in its grosser composition has the taint
of earth may prey upon the breast that gives it shelter; but the fire
from heaven is as gentle in the heart, as when it rested on the heads
of the assembled twelve, and showed each man his brother, brightened
and unhurt. The image conjured up, there soon returned the placid
face, the softened voice, the loving looks, the quiet trustfulness and
peace; and Florence, though she wept still, wept more tranquilly, and
courted the remembrance.
It was not very long before the golden water, dancing on the wall,
in the old place, at the old serene time, had her calm eye fixed upon
it as it ebbed away. It was not very long before that room again knew
her, often; sitting there alone, as patient and as mild as when she
had watched beside the little bed. When any sharp sense of its being
empty smote upon her, she could kneel beside it, and pray GOD - it was
the pouring out of her full heart - to let one angel love her and
It was not very long before, in the midst of the dismal house so
wide and dreary, her low voice in the twilight, slowly and stopping
sometimes, touched the old air to which he had so often listened, with
his drooping head upon her arm. And after that, and when it was quite
dark, a little strain of music trembled in the room: so softly played
and sung, that it was more lIke the mournful recollection of what she
had done at his request on that last night, than the reality repeated.
But it was repeated, often - very often, in the shadowy solitude; and
broken murmurs of the strain still trembled on the keys, when the
sweet voice was hushed in tears.
Thus she gained heart to look upon the work with which her fingers
had been busy by his side on the sea-shore; and thus it was not very
long before she took to it again - with something of a human love for
it, as if it had been sentient and had known him; and, sitting in a
window, near her mother's picture, in the unused room so long
deserted, wore away the thoughtful hours.
Why did the dark eyes turn so often from this work to where the
rosy children lived? They were not immediate!y suggestive of her loss;
for they were all girls: four little sisters. But they were motherless
like her - and had a father.
It was easy to know when he had gone out and was expected home, for
the elder child was always dressed and waiting for him at the
drawing-room window, or n the balcony; and when he appeared, her
expectant face lighted up with joy, while the others at the high
window, and always on the watch too, clapped their hands, and drummed
them on the sill, and called to him. The elder child would come down
to the hall, and put her hand in his, and lead him up the stairs; and
Florence would see her afterwards sitting by his side, or on his knee,
or hanging coaxingly about his neck and talking to him: and though
they were always gay together, he would often watch her face as if he
thought her like her mother that was dead. Florence would sometimes
look no more at this, and bursting into tears would hide behind the
curtain as if she were frightened, or would hurry from the window. Yet
she could not help returning; and her work would soon fall unheeded
from her hands again.
It was the house that had been empty, years ago. It had remained so
for a long time. At last, and while she had been away from home, this
family had taken it; and it was repaired and newly painted; and there
were birds and flowers about it; and it looked very different from its
old self. But she never thought of the house. The children and their
father were all in all.
When he had dined, she could see them, through the open windows, go
down with their governess or nurse, and cluster round the table; and
in the still summer weather, the sound of their childish voices and
clear laughter would come ringing across the street, into the drooping
air of the room in which she sat. Then they would climb and clamber
upstairs with him, and romp about him on the sofa, or group themselves
at his knee, a very nosegay of little faces, while he seemed to tell
them some story. Or they would come running out into the balcony; and
then Florence would hide herself quickly, lest it should check them in
their joy, to see her in her black dress, sitting there alone.
The elder child remained with her father when the rest had gone
away, and made his tea for him - happy little house-keeper she was
then! - and sat conversing with him, sometimes at the window,
sometimes in the room, until the candles came. He made her his
companion, though she was some years younger than Florence; and she
could be as staid and pleasantly demure, with her little book or
work-box, as a woman. When they had candles, Florence from her own
dark room was not afraid to look again. But when the time came for the
child to say 'Good-night, Papa,' and go to bed, Florence would sob and
tremble as she raised her face to him, and could look no more.
Though still she would turn, again and again, before going to bed
herself from the simple air that had lulled him to rest so often, long
ago, and from the other low soft broken strain of music, back to that
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