Dombey and Son
Part 7 out of 21
house. But that she ever thought of it, or watched it, was a secret
which she kept within her own young breast.
And did that breast of Florence - Florence, so ingenuous and true -
so worthy of the love that he had borne her, and had whispered in his
last faint words - whose guileless heart was mirrored in the beauty of
her face, and breathed in every accent of her gentle voice - did that
young breast hold any other secret? Yes. One more.
When no one in the house was stirring, and the lights were all
extinguished, she would softly leave her own room, and with noiseless
feet descend the staircase, and approach her father's door. Against
it, scarcely breathing, she would rest her face and head, and press
her lips, in the yearning of her love. She crouched upon the cold
stone floor outside it, every night, to listen even for his breath;
and in her one absorbing wish to be allowed to show him some
affection, to be a consolation to him, to win him over to the
endurance of some tenderness from her, his solitary child, she would
have knelt down at his feet, if she had dared, in humble supplication.
No one knew it' No one thought of it. The door was ever closed, and
he shut up within. He went out once or twice, and it was said in the
house that he was very soon going on his country journey; but he lived
in those rooms, and lived alone, and never saw her, or inquired for
her. Perhaps he did not even know that she was in the house.
One day, about a week after the funeral, Florence was sitting at
her work, when Susan appeared, with a face half laughing and half
crying, to announce a visitor.
'A visitor! To me, Susan!' said Florence, looking up in
'Well, it is a wonder, ain't it now, Miss Floy?' said Susan; 'but I
wish you had a many visitors, I do, indeed, for you'd be all the
better for it, and it's my opinion that the sooner you and me goes
even to them old Skettleses, Miss, the better for both, I may not wish
to live in crowds, Miss Floy, but still I'm not a oyster.'
To do Miss Nipper justice, she spoke more for her young mistress
than herself; and her face showed it.
'But the visitor, Susan,' said Florence.
Susan, with an hysterical explosion that was as much a laugh as a
sob, and as much a sob as a laugh, answered,
The smile that appeared on Florence's face passed from it in a
moment, and her eyes filled with tears. But at any rate it was a
smile, and that gave great satisfaction to Miss Nipper.
'My own feelings exactly, Miss Floy,' said Susan, putting her apron
to her eyes, and shaking her head. 'Immediately I see that Innocent in
the Hall, Miss Floy, I burst out laughing first, and then I choked.'
Susan Nipper involuntarily proceeded to do the like again on the
spot. In the meantime Mr Toots, who had come upstairs after her, all
unconscious of the effect he produced, announced himself with his
knuckles on the door, and walked in very brisKly.
'How d'ye do, Miss Dombey?' said Mr Toots. 'I'm very well, I thank
you; how are you?'
Mr Toots - than whom there were few better fellows in the world,
though there may have been one or two brighter spirits - had
laboriously invented this long burst of discourse with the view of
relieving the feelings both of Florence and himself. But finding that
he had run through his property, as it were, in an injudicious manner,
by squandering the whole before taking a chair, or before Florence had
uttered a word, or before he had well got in at the door, he deemed it
advisable to begin again.
'How d'ye do, Miss Dombey?' said Mr Toots. 'I'm very well, I thank
you; how are you?'
Florence gave him her hand, and said she was very well.
'I'm very well indeed,' said Mr Toots, taking a chair. 'Very well
indeed, I am. I don't remember,' said Mr Toots, after reflecting a
little, 'that I was ever better, thank you.'
'It's very kind of you to come,' said Florence, taking up her work,
'I am very glad to see you.'
Mr Toots responded with a chuckle. Thinking that might be too
lively, he corrected it with a sigh. Thinking that might be too
melancholy, he corrected it with a chuckle. Not thoroughly pleasing
himself with either mode of reply, he breathed hard.
'You were very kind to my dear brother,' said Florence, obeying her
own natural impulse to relieve him by saying so. 'He often talked to
me about you.'
'Oh it's of no consequence,' said Mr Toots hastily. 'Warm, ain't
'It is beautiful weather,' replied Florence.
'It agrees with me!' said Mr Toots. 'I don't think I ever was so
well as I find myself at present, I'm obliged to you.
After stating this curious and unexpected fact, Mr Toots fell into
a deep well of silence.
'You have left Dr Blimber's, I think?' said Florence, trying to
help him out.
'I should hope so,' returned Mr Toots. And tumbled in again.
He remained at the bottom, apparently drowned, for at least ten
minutes. At the expiration of that period, he suddenly floated, and
'Well! Good morning, Miss Dombey.'
'Are you going?' asked Florence, rising.
'I don't know, though. No, not just at present,' said Mr Toots,
sitting down again, most unexpectedly. 'The fact is - I say, Miss
'Don't be afraid to speak to me,' said Florence, with a quiet
smile, 'I should he very glad if you would talk about my brother.'
'Would you, though?' retorted Mr Toots, with sympathy in every
fibre of his otherwise expressionless face. 'Poor Dombey! I'm sure I
never thought that Burgess and Co. - fashionable tailors (but very
dear), that we used to talk about - would make this suit of clothes
for such a purpose.' Mr Toots was dressed in mourning. 'Poor Dombey! I
say! Miss Dombey!' blubbered Toots.
'Yes,' said Florence.
'There's a friend he took to very much at last. I thought you'd
lIke to have him, perhaps, as a sort of keepsake. You remember his
'Oh yes! oh yes' cried Florence.
'Poor Dombey! So do I,' said Mr Toots.
Mr Toots, seeing Florence in tears, had great difficulty in getting
beyond this point, and had nearly tumbled into the well again. But a
chucKle saved him on the brink.
'I say,' he proceeded, 'Miss Dombey! I could have had him stolen
for ten shillings, if they hadn't given him up: and I would: but they
were glad to get rid of him, I think. If you'd like to have him, he's
at the door. I brought him on purpose for you. He ain't a lady's dog,
you know,' said Mr Toots, 'but you won't mind that, will you?'
In fact, Diogenes was at that moment, as they presently ascertained
from looking down into the street, staring through the window of a
hackney cabriolet, into which, for conveyance to that spot, he had
been ensnared, on a false pretence of rats among the straw. Sooth to
say, he was as unlike a lady's dog as might be; and in his gruff
anxiety to get out, presented an appearance sufficiently unpromising,
as he gave short yelps out of one side of his mouth, and overbalancing
himself by the intensity of every one of those efforts, tumbled down
into the straw, and then sprung panting up again, putting out his
tongue, as if he had come express to a Dispensary to be examined for
But though Diogenes was as ridiculous a dog as one would meet with
on a summer's day; a blundering, ill-favoured, clumsy, bullet-headed
dog, continually acting on a wrong idea that there was an enemy in the
neighbourhood, whom it was meritorious to bark at; and though he was
far from good-tempered, and certainly was not clever, and had hair all
over his eyes, and a comic nose, and an inconsistent tail, and a gruff
voice; he was dearer to Florence, in virtue of that parting
remembrance of him, and that request that he might be taken care of,
than the most valuable and beautiful of his kind. So dear, indeed, was
this same ugly Diogenes, and so welcome to her, that she took the
jewelled hand of Mr Toots and kissed it in her gratitude. And when
Diogenes, released, came tearing up the stairs and bouncing into the
room (such a business as there was, first, to get him out of the
cabriolet!), dived under all the furniture, and wound a long iron
chain, that dangled from his neck, round legs of chairs and tables,
and then tugged at it until his eyes became unnaturally visible, in
consequence of their nearly starting out of his head; and when he
growled at Mr Toots, who affected familiarity; and went pell-mell at
Towlinson, morally convinced that he was the enemy whom he had barked
at round the corner all his life and had never seen yet; Florence was
as pleased with him as if he had been a miracle of discretion.
Mr Toots was so overjoyed by the success of his present, and was so
delighted to see Florence bending down over Diogenes, smoothing his
coarse back with her little delicate hand - Diogenes graciously
allowing it from the first moment of their acquaintance - that he felt
it difficult to take leave, and would, no doubt, have been a much
longer time in making up his mind to do so, if he had not been
assisted by Diogenes himself, who suddenly took it into his head to
bay Mr Toots, and to make short runs at him with his mouth open. Not
exactly seeing his way to the end of these demonstrations, and
sensible that they placed the pantaloons constructed by the art of
Burgess and Co. in jeopardy, Mr Toots, with chuckles, lapsed out at
the door: by which, after looking in again two or three times, without
any object at all, and being on each occasion greeted with a fresh run
from Diogenes, he finally took himself off and got away.
'Come, then, Di! Dear Di! Make friends with your new mistress. Let
us love each other, Di!'said Florence, fondling his shaggy head. And
Di, the rough and gruff, as if his hairy hide were pervious to the
tear that dropped upon it, and his dog's heart melted as it fell, put
his nose up to her face, and swore fidelity.
Diogenes the man did not speak plainer to Alexander the Great than
Diogenes the dog spoke to Florence.' He subscribed to the offer of his
little mistress cheerfully, and devoted himself to her service. A
banquet was immediately provided for him in a corner; and when he had
eaten and drunk his fill, he went to the window where Florence was
sitting, looking on, rose up on his hind legs, with his awkward fore
paws on her shoulders, licked her face and hands, nestled his great
head against her heart, and wagged his tail till he was tired.
Finally, Diogenes coiled himself up at her feet and went to sleep.
Although Miss Nipper was nervous in regard of dogs, and felt it
necessary to come into the room with her skirts carefully collected
about her, as if she were crossing a brook on stepping-stones; also to
utter little screams and stand up on chairs when Diogenes stretched
himself, she was in her own manner affected by the kindness of Mr
Toots, and could not see Florence so alive to the attachment and
society of this rude friend of little Paul's, without some mental
comments thereupon that brought the water to her eyes. Mr Dombey, as a
part of her reflections, may have been, in the association of ideas,
connected with the dog; but, at any rate, after observing Diogenes and
his mistress all the evening, and after exerting herself with much
good-will to provide Diogenes a bed in an ante-chamber outside his
mistress's door, she said hurriedly to Florence, before leaving her
for the night:
'Your Pa's a going off, Miss Floy, tomorrow morning.'
'To-morrow morning, Susan?'
'Yes, Miss; that's the orders. Early.'
'Do you know,' asked Florence, without looking at her, 'where Papa
is going, Susan?'
'Not exactly, Miss. He's going to meet that precious Major first,
and I must say if I was acquainted with any Major myself (which
Heavens forbid), it shouldn't be a blue one!'
'Hush, Susan!' urged Florence gently.
'Well, Miss Floy,' returned Miss Nipper, who was full of burning
indignation, and minded her stops even less than usual. 'I can't help
it, blue he is, and while I was a Christian, although humble, I would
have natural-coloured friends, or none.'
It appeared from what she added and had gleaned downstairs, that
Mrs Chick had proposed the Major for Mr Dombey's companion, and that
Mr Dombey, after some hesitation, had invited him.
'Talk of him being a change, indeed!' observed Miss Nipper to
herself with boundless contempt. 'If he's a change, give me a
'Good-night, Susan,' said Florence.
'Good-night, my darling dear Miss Floy.'
Her tone of commiseration smote the chord so often roughly touched,
but never listened to while she or anyone looked on. Florence left
alone, laid her head upon her hand, and pressing the other over her
swelling heart, held free communication with her sorrows.
It was a wet night; and the melancholy rain fell pattering and
dropping with a weary sound. A sluggish wind was blowing, and went
moaning round the house, as if it were in pain or grief. A shrill
noise quivered through the trees. While she sat weeping, it grew late,
and dreary midnight tolled out from the steeples.
Florence was little more than a child in years - not yet fourteen-
and the loneliness and gloom of such an hour in the great house where
Death had lately made its own tremendous devastation, might have set
an older fancy brooding on vague terrors. But her innocent imagination
was too full of one theme to admit them. Nothing wandered in her
thoughts but love - a wandering love, indeed, and castaway - but
turning always to her father. There was nothing in the dropping of the
rain, the moaning of the wind, the shuddering of the trees, the
striking of the solemn clocks, that shook this one thought, or
diminished its interest' Her recollections of the dear dead boy - and
they were never absent - were itself, the same thing. And oh, to be
shut out: to be so lost: never to have looked into her father's face
or touched him, since that hour!
She could not go to bed, poor child, and never had gone yet, since
then, without making her nightly pilgrimage to his door. It would have
been a strange sad sight, to see her' now, stealing lightly down the
stairs through the thick gloom, and stopping at it with a beating
heart, and blinded eyes, and hair that fell down loosely and unthought
of; and touching it outside with her wet cheek. But the night covered
it, and no one knew.
The moment that she touched the door on this night, Florence found
that it was open. For the first time it stood open, though by but a
hair's-breadth: and there was a light within. The first impulse of the
timid child - and she yielded to it - was to retire swiftly. Her next,
to go back, and to enter; and this second impulse held her in
irresolution on the staircase.
In its standing open, even by so much as that chink, there seemed
to be hope. There was encouragement in seeing a ray of light from
within, stealing through the dark stern doorway, and falling in a
thread upon the marble floor. She turned back, hardly knowing what she
did, but urged on by the love within her, and the trial they had
undergone together, but not shared: and with her hands a little raised
and trembling, glided in.
Her father sat at his old table in the middle room. He had been
arranging some papers, and destroying others, and the latter lay in
fragile ruins before him. The rain dripped heavily upon the glass
panes in the outer room, where he had so often watched poor Paul, a
baby; and the low complainings of the wind were heard without.
But not by him. He sat with his eyes fixed on the table, so
immersed in thought, that a far heavier tread than the light foot of
his child could make, might have failed to rouse him. His face was
turned towards her. By the waning lamp, and at that haggard hour, it
looked worn and dejected; and in the utter loneliness surrounding him,
there was an appeal to Florence that struck home.
'Papa! Papa! speak to me, dear Papa!'
He started at her voice, and leaped up from his seat. She was close
before him' with extended arms, but he fell back.
'What is the matter?' he said, sternly. 'Why do you come here? What
has frightened you?'
If anything had frightened her, it was the face he turned upon her.
The glowing love within the breast of his young daughter froze before
it, and she stood and looked at him as if stricken into stone.
There was not one touch of tenderness or pity in it. There was not
one gleam of interest, parental recognition, or relenting in it. There
was a change in it, but not of that kind. The old indifference and
cold constraint had given place to something: what, she never thought
and did not dare to think, and yet she felt it in its force, and knew
it well without a name: that as it looked upon her, seemed to cast a
shadow on her head.
Did he see before him the successful rival of his son, in health
and life? Did he look upon his own successful rival in that son's
affection? Did a mad jealousy and withered pride, poison sweet
remembrances that should have endeared and made her precious to him?
Could it be possible that it was gall to him to look upon her in her
beauty and her promise: thinking of his infant boy!
Florence had no such thoughts. But love is quick to know when it is
spurned and hopeless: and hope died out of hers, as she stood looking
in her father's face.
'I ask you, Florence, are you frightened? Is there anything the
matter, that you come here?'
'I came, Papa - '
'Against my wishes. Why?'
She saw he knew why: it was written broadly on his face: and
dropped her head upon her hands with one prolonged low cry.
Let him remember it in that room, years to come. It has faded from
the air, before he breaks the silence. It may pass as quickly from his
brain, as he believes, but it is there. Let him remember it in that
room, years to come!
He took her by the arm. His hand was cold, and loose, and scarcely
closed upon her.
'You are tired, I daresay,' he said, taking up the light, and
leading her towards the door, 'and want rest. We all want rest. Go,
Florence. You have been dreaming.'
The dream she had had, was over then, God help her! and she felt
that it could never more come back
'I will remain here to light you up the stairs. The whole house is
yours above there,' said her father, slowly. 'You are its mistress
Still covering her face, she sobbed, and answered 'Good-night, dear
Papa,' and silently ascended. Once she looked back as if she would
have returned to him, but for fear. It was a mommentary thought, too
hopeless to encourage; and her father stood there with the light -
hard, unresponsive, motionless - until the fluttering dress of his
fair child was lost in the darkness.
Let him remember it in that room, years to come. The rain that
falls upon the roof: the wind that mourns outside the door: may have
foreknowledge in their melancholy sound. Let him remember it in that
room, years to come!
The last time he had watched her, from the same place, winding up
those stairs, she had had her brother in her arms. It did not move his
heart towards her now, it steeled it: but he went into his room, and
locked his door, and sat down in his chair, and cried for his lost
Diogenes was broad awake upon his post, and waiting for his little
'Oh, Di! Oh, dear Di! Love me for his sake!'
Diogenes already loved her for her own, and didn't care how much he
showed it. So he made himself vastly ridiculous by performing a
variety of uncouth bounces in the ante-chamber, and concluded, when
poor Florence was at last asleep, and dreaming of the rosy children
opposite, by scratching open her bedroom door: rolling up his bed into
a pillow: lying down on the boards, at the full length of his tether,
with his head towards her: and looking lazily at her, upside down, out
of the tops of his eyes, until from winking and winking he fell asleep
himself, and dreamed, with gruff barks, of his enemy.
Walter goes away
The wooden Midshipman at the Instrument-maker's door, like the
hard-hearted little Midshipman he was, remained supremely indifferent
to Walter's going away, even when the very last day of his sojourn in
the back parlour was on the decline. With his quadrant at his round
black knob of an eye, and his figure in its old attitude of
indomitable alacrity, the Midshipman displayed his elfin small-clothes
to the best advantage, and, absorbed in scientific pursuits, had no
sympathy with worldly concerns. He was so far the creature of
circumstances, that a dry day covered him with dust, and a misty day
peppered him with little bits of soot, and a wet day brightened up his
tarnished uniform for the moment, and a very hot day blistered him;
but otherwise he was a callous, obdurate, conceited Midshipman, intent
on his own discoveries, and caring as little for what went on about
him, terrestrially, as Archimedes at the taking of Syracuse.
Such a Midshipman he seemed to be, at least, in the then position
of domestic affairs. Walter eyed him kindly many a time in passing in
and out; and poor old Sol, when Walter was not there, would come and
lean against the doorpost, resting his weary wig as near the
shoe-buckles of the guardian genius of his trade and shop as he could.
But no fierce idol with a mouth from ear to ear, and a murderous
visage made of parrot's feathers, was ever more indifferent to the
appeals of its savage votaries, than was the Midshipman to these marks
Walter's heart felt heavy as he looked round his old bedroom, up
among the parapets and chimney-pots, and thought that one more night
already darkening would close his acquaintance with it, perhaps for
ever. Dismantled of his little stock of books and pictures, it looked
coldly and reproachfully on him for his desertion, and had already a
foreshadowing upon it of its coming strangeness. 'A few hours more,'
thought Walter, 'and no dream I ever had here when I was a schoolboy
will be so little mine as this old room. The dream may come back in my
sleep, and I may return waking to this place, it may be: but the dream
at least will serve no other master, and the room may have a score,
and every one of them may change, neglect, misuse it.'
But his Uncle was not to be left alone in the little back parlour,
where he was then sitting by himself; for Captain Cuttle, considerate
in his roughness, stayed away against his will, purposely that they
should have some talk together unobserved: so Walter, newly returned
home from his last day's bustle, descended briskly, to bear him
'Uncle,' he said gaily, laying his hand upon the old man's
shoulder, 'what shall I send you home from Barbados?'
'Hope, my dear Wally. Hope that we shall meet again, on this side
of the grave. Send me as much of that as you can.'
'So I will, Uncle: I have enough and to spare, and I'll not be
chary of it! And as to lively turtles, and limes for Captain Cuttle's
punch, and preserves for you on Sundays, and all that sort of thing,
why I'll send you ship-loads, Uncle: when I'm rich enough.'
Old Sol wiped his spectacles, and faintly smiled.
'That's right, Uncle!' cried Walter, merrily, and clapping him half
a dozen times more upon the shoulder. 'You cheer up me! I'll cheer up
you! We'll be as gay as larks to-morrow morning, Uncle, and we'll fly
as high! As to my anticipations, they are singing out of sight now.
'Wally, my dear boy,' returned the old man, 'I'll do my best, I'll
do my best.'
'And your best, Uncle,' said Walter, with his pleasant laugh, 'is
the best best that I know. You'll not forget what you're to send me,
'No, Wally, no,' replied the old man; 'everything I hear about Miss
Dombey, now that she is left alone, poor lamb, I'll write. I fear it
won't be much though, Wally.'
'Why, I'll tell you what, Uncle,' said Walter, after a moment's
hesitation, 'I have just been up there.'
'Ay, ay, ay?' murmured the old man, raising his eyebrows, and his
spectacles with them.
'Not to see her,' said Walter, 'though I could have seen her, I
daresay, if I had asked, Mr Dombey being out of town: but to say a
parting word to Susan. I thought I might venture to do that, you know,
under the circumstances, and remembering when I saw Miss Dombey last.'
'Yes, my boy, yes,' replied his Uncle, rousing himself from a
'So I saw her,' pursued Walter, 'Susan, I mean: and I told her I
was off and away to-morrow. And I said, Uncle, that you had always had
an interest in Miss Dombey since that night when she was here, and
always wished her well and happy, and always would be proud and glad
to serve her in the least: I thought I might say that, you know, under
the circumstances. Don't you think so ?'
'Yes, my boy, yes,' replied his Uncle, in the tone as before.
'And I added,' pursued Walter, 'that if she - Susan, I mean - could
ever let you know, either through herself, or Mrs Richards, or anybody
else who might be coming this way, that Miss Dombey was well and
happy, you would take it very kindly, and would write so much to me,
and I should take it very kindly too. There! Upon my word, Uncle,'
said Walter, 'I scarcely slept all last night through thinking of
doing this; and could not make up my mind when I was out, whether to
do it or not; and yet I am sure it is the true feeling of my heart,
and I should have been quite miserable afterwards if I had not
His honest voice and manner corroborated what he said, and quite
established its ingenuousness.
'So, if you ever see her, Uncle,' said Walter, 'I mean Miss Dombey
now - and perhaps you may, who knows! - tell her how much I felt for
her; how much I used to think of her when I was here; how I spoke of
her, with the tears in my eyes, Uncle, on this last night before I
went away. Tell her that I said I never could forget her gentle
manner, or her beautiful face, or her sweet kind disposition that was
better than all. And as I didn't take them from a woman's feet, or a
young lady's: only a little innocent child's,' said Walter: 'tell her,
if you don't mind, Uncle, that I kept those shoes - she'll remember
how often they fell off, that night - and took them away with me as a
They were at that very moment going out at the door in one of
Walter's trunks. A porter carrying off his baggage on a truck for
shipment at the docks on board the Son and Heir, had got possession of
them; and wheeled them away under the very eye of the insensible
Midshipman before their owner had well finished speaking.
But that ancient mariner might have been excused his insensibility
to the treasure as it rolled away. For, under his eye at the same
moment, accurately within his range of observation, coming full into
the sphere of his startled and intensely wide-awake look-out, were
Florence and Susan Nipper: Florence looking up into his face half
timidly, and receiving the whole shock of his wooden ogling!
More than this, they passed into the shop, and passed in at the
parlour door before they were observed by anybody but the Midshipman.
And Walter, having his back to the door, would have known nothing of
their apparition even then, but for seeing his Uncle spring out of his
own chair, and nearly tumble over another.
'Why, Uncle!' exclaimed Walter. 'What's the matter?'
Old Solomon replied, 'Miss Dombey!'
'Is it possible?' cried Walter, looking round and starting up in
his turn. 'Here!'
Why, It was so possible and so actual, that, while the words were
on his lips, Florence hurried past him; took Uncle Sol's
snuff-coloured lapels, one in each hand; kissed him on the cheek; and
turning, gave her hand to Walter with a simple truth and earnestness
that was her own, and no one else's in the world!
'Going away, Walter!' said Florence.
'Yes, Miss Dombey,' he replied, but not so hopefully as he
endeavoured: 'I have a voyage before me.'
'And your Uncle,' said Florence, looking back at Solomon. 'He is
sorry you are going, I am sure. Ah! I see he is! Dear Walter, I am
very sorry too.'
'Goodness knows,' exclaimed Miss Nipper, 'there's a many we could
spare instead, if numbers is a object, Mrs Pipchin as a overseer would
come cheap at her weight in gold, and if a knowledge of black slavery
should be required, them Blimbers is the very people for the
With that Miss Nipper untied her bonnet strings, and alter looking
vacantly for some moments into a little black teapot that was set
forth with the usual homely service on the table, shook her head and a
tin canister, and began unasked to make the tea.
In the meantime Florence had turned again to the Instrument-maker,
who was as full of admiration as surprise. 'So grown!' said old Sol.
'So improved! And yet not altered! Just the same!'
'Indeed!' said Florence.
'Ye - yes,' returned old Sol, rubbing his hands slowly, and
considering the matter half aloud, as something pensive in the bright
eyes looking at him arrested his attention. 'Yes, that expression was
in the younger face, too!'
'You remember me,' said Florence with a smile, 'and what a little
creature I was then?'
'My dear young lady,' returned the Instrument-maker, 'how could I
forget you, often as I have thought of you and heard of you since! At
the very moment, indeed, when you came in, Wally was talking about you
to me, and leaving messages for you, and - '
'Was he?' said Florence. 'Thank you, Walter! Oh thank you, Walter!
I was afraid you might be going away and hardly thinking of me;' and
again she gave him her little hand so freely and so faithfully that
Walter held it for some moments in his own, and could not bear to let
Yet Walter did not hold it as he might have held it once, nor did
its touch awaken those old day-dreams of his boyhood that had floated
past him sometimes even lately, and confused him with their indistinct
and broken shapes. The purity and innocence of her endearing manner,
and its perfect trustfulness, and the undisguised regard for him that
lay so deeply seated in her constant eyes, and glowed upon her fair
face through the smile that shaded - for alas! it was a smile too sad
to brighten - it, were not of their romantic race. They brought back
to his thoughts the early death-bed he had seen her tending, and the
love the child had borne her; and on the wings of such remembrances
she seemed to rise up, far above his idle fancies, into clearer and
'I - I am afraid I must call you Walter's Uncle, Sir,' said
Florence to the old man, 'if you'll let me.'
'My dear young lady,' cried old Sol. 'Let you! Good gracious!'
'We always knew you by that name, and talked of you,' said
Florence, glancing round, and sighing gently. 'The nice old parlour!
Just the same! How well I recollect it!'
Old Sol looked first at her, then at his nephew, and then rubbed
his hands, and rubbed his spectacles, and said below his breath, 'Ah!
time, time, time!'
There was a short silence; during which Susan Nipper skilfully
impounded two extra cups and saucers from the cupboard, and awaited
the drawing of the tea with a thoughtful air.
'I want to tell Walter's Uncle,' said Florence, laying her hand
timidly upon the old man's as it rested on the table, to bespeak his
attention, 'something that I am anxious about. He is going to be left
alone, and if he will allow me - not to take Walter's place, for that
I couldn't do, but to be his true friend and help him if I ever can
while Walter is away, I shall be very much obliged to him indeed. Will
you? May I, Walter's Uncle?'
The Instrument-maker, without speaking, put her hand to his lips,
and Susan Nipper, leaning back with her arms crossed, in the chair of
presidency into which she had voted herself, bit one end of her bonnet
strings, and heaved a gentle sigh as she looked up at the skylight.
'You will let me come to see you,' said Florence, 'when I can; and
you will tell me everything about yourself and Walter; and you will
have no secrets from Susan when she comes and I do not, but will
confide in us, and trust us, and rely upon us. And you'll try to let
us be a comfort to you? Will you, Walter's Uncle?'
The sweet face looking into his, the gentle pleading eyes, the soft
voice, and the light touch on his arm made the more winning by a
child's respect and honour for his age, that gave to all an air of
graceful doubt and modest hesitation - these, and her natural
earnestness, so overcame the poor old Instrument-maker, that he only
'Wally! say a word for me, my dear. I'm very grateful.'
'No, Walter,' returned Florence with her quiet smile. 'Say nothing
for him, if you please. I understand him very well, and we must learn
to talk together without you, dear Walter.'
The regretful tone in which she said these latter words, touched
Walter more than all the rest.
'Miss Florence,' he replied, with an effort to recover the cheerful
manner he had preserved while talking with his Uncle, 'I know no more
than my Uncle, what to say in acknowledgment of such kindness, I am
sure. But what could I say, after all, if I had the power of talking
for an hour, except that it is like you?'
Susan Nipper began upon a new part of her bonnet string, and nodded
at the skylight, in approval of the sentiment expressed.
'Oh! but, Walter,' said Florence, 'there is something that I wish
to say to you before you go away, and you must call me Florence, if
you please, and not speak like a stranger.'
'Like a stranger!' returned Walter, 'No. I couldn't speak so. I am
sure, at least, I couldn't feel like one.'
'Ay, but that is not enough, and is not what I mean. For, Walter,'
added Florence, bursting into tears, 'he liked you very much, and said
before he died that he was fond of you, and said "Remember Walter!"
and if you'll be a brother to me, Walter, now that he is gone and I
have none on earth, I'll be your sister all my life, and think of you
like one wherever we may be! This is what I wished to say, dear
Walter, but I cannot say it as I would, because my heart is full.'
And in its fulness and its sweet simplicity, she held out both her
hands to him. Walter taking them, stooped down and touched the tearful
face that neither shrunk nor turned away, nor reddened as he did so,
but looked up at him with confidence and truth. In that one moment,
every shadow of doubt or agitation passed away from Walter's soul. It
seemed to him that he responded to her innocent appeal, beside the
dead child's bed: and, in the solemn presence he had seen there,
pledged himself to cherish and protect her very image, in his
banishment, with brotherly regard; to garner up her simple faith,
inviolate; and hold himself degraded if he breathed upon it any
thought that was not in her own breast when she gave it to him.
Susan Nipper, who had bitten both her bonnet strings at once, and
imparted a great deal of private emotion to the skylight, during this
transaction, now changed the subject by inquiring who took milk and
who took sugar; and being enlightened on these points, poured out the
tea. They all four gathered socially about the little table, and took
tea under that young lady's active superintendence; and the presence
of Florence in the back parlour, brightened the Tartar frigate on the
Half an hour ago Walter, for his life, would have hardly called her
by her name. But he could do so now when she entreated him. He could
think of her being there, without a lurking misgiving that it would
have been better if she had not come. He could calmly think how
beautiful she was, how full of promise, what a home some happy man
would find in such a heart one day. He could reflect upon his own
place in that heart, with pride; and with a brave determination, if
not to deserve it - he still thought that far above him - never to
deserve it less
Some fairy influence must surely have hovered round the hands of
Susan Nipper when she made the tea, engendering the tranquil air that
reigned in the back parlour during its discussion. Some
counter-influence must surely have hovered round the hands of Uncle
Sol's chronometer, and moved them faster than the Tartar frigate ever
went before the wind. Be this as it may, the visitors had a coach in
waiting at a quiet corner not far off; and the chronometer, on being
incidentally referred to, gave such a positive opinion that it had
been waiting a long time, that it was impossible to doubt the fact,
especially when stated on such unimpeachable authority. If Uncle Sol
had been going to be hanged by his own time, he never would have
allowed that the chronometer was too fast, by the least fraction of a
Florence at parting recapitulated to the old man all that she had
said before, and bound him to the compact. Uncle Sol attended her
lovingly to the legs of the wooden Midshipman, and there resigned her
to Walter, who was ready to escort her and Susan Nipper to the coach.
'Walter,' said Florence by the way, 'I have been afraid to ask
before your Uncle. Do you think you will be absent very long?'
'Indeed,' said Walter, 'I don't know. I fear so. Mr Dombey
signified as much, I thought, when he appointed me.'
'Is it a favour, Walter?' inquired Florence, after a moment's
hesitation, and looking anxiously in his face.
'The appointment?' returned Walter.
Walter would have given anything to have answered in the
affirmative, but his face answered before his lips could, and Florence
was too attentive to it not to understand its reply.
'I am afraid you have scarcely been a favourite with Papa,' she
'There is no reason,' replied Walter, smiling, 'why I should be.'
'No reason, Walter!'
'There was no reason,' said Walter, understanding what she meant.
'There are many people employed in the House. Between Mr Dombey and a
young man like me, there's a wide space of separation. If I do my
duty, I do what I ought, and do no more than all the rest.'
Had Florence any misgiving of which she was hardly conscious: any
misgiving that had sprung into an indistinct and undefined existence
since that recent night when she had gone down to her father's room:
that Walter's accidental interest in her, and early knowledge of her,
might have involved him in that powerful displeasure and dislike? Had
Walter any such idea, or any sudden thought that it was in her mind at
that moment? Neither of them hinted at it. Neither of them spoke at
all, for some short time. Susan, walking on the other side of Walter,
eyed them both sharply; and certainly Miss Nipper's thoughts travelled
in that direction, and very confidently too.
'You may come back very soon,' said Florence, 'perhaps, Walter.'
'I may come back,' said Walter, 'an old man, and find you an old
lady. But I hope for better things.'
'Papa,' said Florence, after a moment, 'will - will recover from
his grief, and - speak more freely to me one day, perhaps; and if he
should, I will tell him how much I wish to see you back again, and ask
him to recall you for my sake.'
There was a touching modulation in these words about her father,
that Walter understood too well.
The coach being close at hand, he would have left her without
speaking, for now he felt what parting was; but Florence held his hand
when she was seated, and then he found there was a little packet in
'Walter,' she said, looking full upon him with her affectionate
eyes, 'like you, I hope for better things. I will pray for them, and
believe that they will arrive. I made this little gift for Paul. Pray
take it with my love, and do not look at it until you are gone away.
And now, God bless you, Walter! never forget me. You are my brother,
He was glad that Susan Nipper came between them, or he might have
left her with a sorrowful remembrance of him. He was glad too that she
did not look out of the coach again, but waved the little hand to him
instead, as long as he could see it.
In spite of her request, he could not help opening the packet that
night when he went to bed. It was a little purse: and there was was
money in it.
Bright rose the sun next morning, from his absence in strange
countries and up rose Walter with it to receive the Captain, who was
already at the door: having turned out earlier than was necessary, in
order to get under weigh while Mrs MacStinger was still slumbering.
The Captain pretended to be in tip-top spirits, and brought a very
smoky tongue in one of the pockets of the of the broad blue coat for
'And, Wal'r,' said the Captain, when they took their seats at
table, if your Uncle's the man I think him, he'll bring out the last
bottle of the Madeira on the present occasion.'
'No, no, Ned,' returned the old man. 'No! That shall be opened when
Walter comes home again.'
'Well said!' cried the Captain. 'Hear him!'
'There it lies,' said Sol Gills, 'down in the little cellar,
covered with dirt and cobwebs. There may be dirt and cobwebs over you
and me perhaps, Ned, before it sees the light.'
'Hear him! 'cried the Captain. 'Good morality! Wal'r, my lad. Train
up a fig-tree in the way it should go, and when you are old sit under
the shade on it. Overhaul the - Well,' said the Captain on second
thoughts, 'I ain't quite certain where that's to be found, but when
found, make a note of. Sol Gills, heave ahead again!'
'But there or somewhere, it shall lie, Ned, until Wally comes back
to claim it,' said the old man. 'That's all I meant to say.'
'And well said too,' returned the Captain; 'and if we three don't
crack that bottle in company, I'll give you two leave to.'
Notwithstanding the Captain's excessive joviality, he made but a
poor hand at the smoky tongue, though he tried very hard, when anybody
looked at him, to appear as if he were eating with a vast apetite. He
was terribly afraid, likewise, of being left alone with either Uncle
or nephew; appearing to consider that his only chance of safety as to
keeping up appearances, was in there being always three together. This
terror on the part of the Captain, reduced him to such ingenious
evasions as running to the door, when Solomon went to put his coat on,
under pretence of having seen an extraordinary hackney-coach pass: and
darting out into the road when Walter went upstairs to take leave of
the lodgers, on a feint of smelling fire in a neighbouring chimney.
These artifices Captain Cuttle deemed inscrutable by any uninspired
Walter was coming down from his parting expedition upstairs, and
was crossing the shop to go back to the little parlour, when he saw a
faded face he knew, looking in at the door, and darted towards it.
'Mr Carker!' cried Walter, pressing the hand of John Carker the
Junior. 'Pray come in! This is kind of you, to be here so early to say
good-bye to me. You knew how glad it would make me to shake hands with
you, once, before going away. I cannot say how glad I am to have this
opportunity. Pray come in.'
'It is not likely that we may ever meet again, Walter,' returned
the other, gently resisting his invitation, 'and I am glad of this
opportunity too. I may venture to speak to you, and to take you by the
hand, on the eve of separation. I shall not have to resist your frank
approaches, Walter, any more.
There was a melancholy in his smile as he said it, that showed he
had found some company and friendship for his thoughts even in that.
'Ah, Mr Carker!' returned Walter. 'Why did you resist them? You
could have done me nothing but good, I am very sure.
He shook his head. 'If there were any good,' he said, 'I could do
on this earth, I would do it, Walter, for you. The sight of you from
day to day, has been at once happiness and remorse to me. But the
pleasure has outweighed the pain. I know that, now, by knowing what I
'Come in, Mr Carker, and make acquaintance with my good old Uncle,'
urged Walter. 'I have often talked to him about you, and he will be
glad to tell you all he hears from me. I have not,' said Walter,
noticing his hesitation, and speaking with embarrassment himself: 'I
have not told him anything about our last conversation, Mr Carker; not
even him, believe me.
The grey Junior pressed his hand, and tears rose in his eyes.
'If I ever make acquaintance with him, Walter,' he returned, 'it
will be that I may hear tidings of you. Rely on my not wronging your
forbearance and consideration. It would be to wrong it, not to tell
him all the truth, before I sought a word of confidence from him. But
I have no friend or acquaintance except you: and even for your sake,
am little likely to make any.'
'I wish,' said Walter, 'you had suffered me to be your friend
indeed. I always wished it, Mr Carker, as you know; but never half so
much as now, when we are going to part'
'It is enough replied the other, 'that you have been the friend of
my own breast, and that when I have avoided you most, my heart
inclined the most towards you, and was fullest of you. Walter,
'Good-bye, Mr Carker. Heaven be with you, Sir!' cried Walter with
'If,' said the other, retaining his hand while he spoke; 'if when
you come back, you miss me from my old corner, and should hear from
anyone where I am lying, come and look upon my grave. Think that I
might have been as honest and as happy as you! And let me think, when
I know time is coming on, that some one like my former self may stand
there, for a moment, and remember me with pity and forgiveness!
His figure crept like a shadow down the bright, sun-lighted street,
so cheerful yet so solemn in the early summer morning; and slowly
The relentless chronometer at last announced that Walter must turn
his back upon the wooden Midshipman: and away they went, himself, his
Uncle, and the Captain, in a hackney-coach to a wharf, where they were
to take steam-boat for some Reach down the river, the name of which,
as the Captain gave it out, was a hopeless mystery to the ears of
landsmen. Arrived at this Reach (whither the ship had repaired by last
night's tide), they were boarded by various excited watermen, and
among others by a dirty Cyclops of the Captain's acquaintance, who,
with his one eye, had made the Captain out some mile and a half off,
and had been exchanging unintelligible roars with him ever since.
Becoming the lawful prize of this personage, who was frightfully
hoarse and constitutionally in want of shaving, they were all three
put aboard the Son and Heir. And the Son and Heir was in a pretty
state of confusion, with sails lying all bedraggled on the wet decks,
loose ropes tripping people up, men in red shirts running barefoot to
and fro, casks blockading every foot of space, and, in the thickest of
the fray, a black cook in a black caboose up to his eyes in vegetables
and blinded with smoke.
The Captain immediately drew Walter into a corner, and with a great
effort, that made his face very red, pulled up the silver watch, which
was so big, and so tight in his pocket, that it came out like a bung.
'Wal'r,' said the Captain, handing it over, and shaking him
heartily by the hand, 'a parting gift, my lad. Put it back half an
hour every morning, and about another quarter towards the arternoon,
and it's a watch that'll do you credit.'
'Captain Cuttle! I couldn't think of it!' cried Walter, detaining
him, for he was running away. 'Pray take it back. I have one already.'
'Then, Wal'r,' said the Captain, suddenly diving into one of his
pockets and bringing up the two teaspoons and the sugar-tongs, with
which he had armed himself to meet such an objection, 'take this here
trifle of plate, instead.'
'No, no, I couldn't indeed!' cried Walter, 'a thousand thanks!
Don't throw them away, Captain Cuttle!' for the Captain was about to
jerk them overboard. 'They'll be of much more use to you than me. Give
me your stick. I have often thought I should like to have it. There!
Good-bye, Captain Cuttle! Take care of my Uncle! Uncle Sol, God bless
They were over the side in the confusion, before Walter caught
another glimpse of either; and when he ran up to the stern, and looked
after them, he saw his Uncle hanging down his head in the boat, and
Captain Cuttle rapping him on the back with the great silver watch (it
must have been very painful), and gesticulating hopefully with the
teaspoons and sugar-tongs. Catching sight of Walter, Captain Cuttle
dropped the property into the bottom of the boat with perfect
unconcern, being evidently oblivious of its existence, and pulling off
the glazed hat hailed him lustily. The glazed hat made quite a show in
the sun with its glistening, and the Captain continued to wave it
until he could be seen no longer. Then the confusion on board, which
had been rapidly increasing, reached its height; two or three other
boats went away with a cheer; the sails shone bright and full above,
as Walter watched them spread their surface to the favourable breeze;
the water flew in sparkles from the prow; and off upon her voyage went
the Son and Heir, as hopefully and trippingly as many another son and
heir, gone down, had started on his way before her.
Day after day, old Sol and Captain Cuttle kept her reckoning in the
little hack parlour and worked out her course, with the chart spread
before them on the round table. At night, when old Sol climbed
upstairs, so lonely, to the attic where it sometimes blew great guns,
he looked up at the stars and listened to the wind, and kept a longer
watch than would have fallen to his lot on board the ship. The last
bottle of the old Madeira, which had had its cruising days, and known
its dangers of the deep, lay silently beneath its dust and cobwebs, in
the meanwhile, undisturbed.
Mr Dombey goes upon a Journey
'Mr Dombey, Sir,' said Major Bagstock, 'Joee' B. is not in general
a man of sentiment, for Joseph is tough. But Joe has his feelings,
Sir, and when they are awakened - Damme, Mr Dombey,? cried the Major
with sudden ferocity, 'this is weakness, and I won't submit to it]'
Major Bagstock delivered himself of these expressions on receiving
Mr Dombey as his guest at the head of his own staircase in Princess's
Place. Mr Dombey had come to breakfast with the Major, previous to
their setting forth on their trip; and the ill-starved Native had
already undergone a world of misery arising out of the muffins, while,
in connexion with the general question of boiled eggs, life was a
burden to him.
'It is not for an old soldier of the Bagstock breed,' observed the
Major, relapsing into a mild state, 'to deliver himself up, a prey to
his own emotions; but - damme, Sir,' cried the Major, in another spasm
of ferocity, 'I condole with you!'
The Major's purple visage deepened in its hue, and the Major's
lobster eyes stood out in bolder relief, as he shook Mr Dombey by the
hand, imparting to that peaceful action as defiant a character as if
it had been the prelude to his immediately boxing Mr Dombey for a
thousand pounds a side and the championship of England. With a
rotatory motion of his head, and a wheeze very like the cough of a
horse, the Major then conducted his visitor to the sitting-room, and
there welcomed him (having now composed his feelings) with the freedom
and frankness ofa travelling companion.
'Dombey,' said the Major, 'I'm glad to see you. I'm proud to see
you. There are not many men in Europe to whom J. Bagstock would say
that - for Josh is blunt. Sir: it's his nature - but Joey B. is proud
to see you, Dombey.'
'Major,' returned Mr Dombey, 'you are very obliging.'
'No, Sir,' said the Major, 'Devil a bit! That's not my character.
If that had been Joe's character, Joe might have been, by this time,
Lieutenant-General Sir Joseph Bagstock, K.C.B., and might have
received you in very different quarters. You don't know old Joe yet, I
find. But this occasion, being special, is a source of pride to me. By
the Lord, Sir,' said the Major resolutely, 'it's an honour to me!'
Mr Dombey, in his estimation of himself and his money, felt that
this was very true, and therefore did not dispute the point. But the
instinctive recognition of such a truth by the Major, and his plain
avowal of it, were very able. It was a confirmation to Mr Dombey, if
he had required any, of his not being mistaken in the Major. It was an
assurance to him that his power extended beyond his own immediate
sphere; and that the Major, as an officer and a gentleman, had a no
less becoming sense of it, than the beadle of the Royal Exchange.
And if it were ever consolatory to know this, or the like of this,
it was consolatory then, when the impotence of his will, the
instability of his hopes, the feebleness of wealth, had been so
direfully impressed upon him. What could it do, his boy had asked him.
Sometimes, thinking of the baby question, he could hardly forbear
inquiring, himself, what could it do indeed: what had it done?
But these were lonely thoughts, bred late at night in the sullen
despondency and gloom of his retirement, and pride easily found its
reassurance in many testimonies to the truth, as unimpeachable and
precious as the Major's. Mr Dombey, in his friendlessness, inclined to
the Major. It cannot be said that he warmed towards him, but he thawed
a little, The Major had had some part - and not too much - in the days
by the seaside. He was a man of the world, and knew some great people.
He talked much, and told stories; and Mr Dombey was disposed to regard
him as a choice spirit who shone in society, and who had not that
poisonous ingredient of poverty with which choice spirits in general
are too much adulterated. His station was undeniable. Altogether the
Major was a creditable companion, well accustomed to a life of
leisure, and to such places as that they were about to visit, and
having an air of gentlemanly ease about him that mixed well enough
with his own City character, and did not compete with it at all. If Mr
Dombey had any lingering idea that the Major, as a man accustomed, in
the way of his calling, to make light of the ruthless hand that had
lately crushed his hopes, might unconsciously impart some useful
philosophy to him, and scare away his weak regrets, he hid it from
himself, and left it lying at the bottom of his pride, unexamined.
'Where is my scoundrel?' said the Major, looking wrathfully round
The Native, who had no particular name, but answered to any
vituperative epithet, presented himself instantly at the door and
ventured to come no nearer.
'You villain!' said the choleric Major, 'where's the breakfast?'
The dark servant disappeared in search of it, and was quickly heard
reascending the stairs in such a tremulous state, that the plates and
dishes on the tray he carried, trembling sympathetically as he came,
rattled again, all the way up.
'Dombey,' said the Major, glancing at the Native as he arranged the
table, and encouraging him with an awful shake of his fist when he
upset a spoon, 'here is a devilled grill, a savoury pie, a dish of
kidneys, and so forth. Pray sit down. Old Joe can give you nothing but
camp fare, you see.
'Very excellent fare, Major,' replied his guest; and not in mere
politeness either; for the Major always took the best possible care of
himself, and indeed ate rather more of rich meats than was good for
him, insomuch that his Imperial complexion was mainly referred by the
faculty to that circumstance.
'You have been looking over the way, Sir,' observed the Major.
'Have you seen our friend?'
'You mean Miss Tox,' retorted Mr Dombey. 'No.'
'Charming woman, Sir,' said the Major, with a fat laugh rising in
his short throat, and nearly suffocating him.
'Miss Tox is a very good sort of person, I believe,' replied Mr
The haughty coldness of the reply seemed to afford Major Bagstock
infinite delight. He swelled and swelled, exceedingly: and even laid
down his knife and fork for a moment, to rub his hands.
'Old Joe, Sir,' said the Major, 'was a bit ofa favourite in that
quarter once. But Joe has had his day. J. Bagstock is extinguished -
outrivalled - floored, Sir.'
'I should have supposed,' Mr Dombey replied, 'that the lady's day
for favourites was over: but perhaps you are jesting, Major.'
'Perhaps you are jesting, Dombey?' was the Major's rejoinder.
There never was a more unlikely possiblity. It was so clearly
expressed in Mr Dombey's face, that the Major apologised.
'I beg your pardon,' he said. 'I see you are in earnest. I tell you
what, Dombey.' The Major paused in his eating, and looked mysteriously
indignant. 'That's a de-vilish ambitious woman, Sir.'
Mr Dombey said 'Indeed?' with frigid indifference: mingled perhaps
with some contemptuous incredulity as to Miss Tox having the
presumption to harbour such a superior quality.
'That woman, Sir,' said the Major, 'is, in her way, a Lucifer. Joey
B. has had his day, Sir, but he keeps his eyes. He sees, does Joe. His
Royal Highness the late Duke of York observed of Joey, at a levee,
that he saw.'
The Major accompanied this with such a look, and, between eating,
drinking, hot tea, devilled grill, muffins, and meaning, was
altogether so swollen and inflamed about the head, that even Mr Dombey
showed some anxiety for him.
'That ridiculous old spectacle, Sir,' pursued the Major, 'aspires.
She aspires sky-high, Sir. Matrimonially, Dombey.'
'I am sorry for her,' said Mr Dombey.
'Don't say that, Dombey,' returned the Major in a warning voice.
'Why should I not, Major?' said Mr Dombey.
The Major gave no answer but the horse's cough, and went on eating
'She has taken an interest in your household,' said the Major,
stopping short again, 'and has been a frequent visitor at your house
for some time now.'
'Yes,' replied Mr Dombey with great stateliness, 'Miss Tox was
originally received there, at the time of Mrs Dombey's death, as a
friend of my sister's; and being a well-behaved person, and showing a
liking for the poor infant, she was permitted - may I say encouraged -
to repeat her visits with my sister, and gradually to occupy a kind of
footing of familiarity in the family. I have,' said Mr Dombey, in the
tone of a man who was making a great and valuable concession, 'I have
a respect for Miss Tox. She his been so obliging as to render many
little services in my house: trifling and insignificant services
perhaps, Major, but not to be disparaged on that account: and I hope I
have had the good fortune to be enabled to acknowledge them by such
attention and notice as it has been in my power to bestow. I hold
myself indebted to Miss Tox, Major,' added Mr Dombey, with a slight
wave of his hand, 'for the pleasure of your acquaintance.'
'Dombey,' said the Major, warmly: 'no! No, Sir! Joseph Bagstock can
never permit that assertion to pass uncontradicted. Your knowledge of
old Joe, Sir, such as he is, and old Joe's knowledge of you, Sir, had
its origin in a noble fellow, Sir - in a great creature, Sir. Dombey!'
said the Major, with a struggle which it was not very difficult to
parade, his whole life being a struggle against all kinds of
apoplectic symptoms, 'we knew each other through your boy.'
Mr Dombey seemed touched, as it is not improbable the Major
designed he should be, by this allusion. He looked down and sighed:
and the Major, rousing himself fiercely, again said, in reference to
the state of mind into which he felt himself in danger of falling,
that this was weakness, and nothing should induce him to submit to it.
'Our friend had a remote connexion with that event,' said the
Major, 'and all the credit that belongs to her, J. B. is willing to
give her, Sir. Notwithstanding which, Ma'am,' he added, raising his
eyes from his plate, and casting them across Princess's Place, to
where Miss Tox was at that moment visible at her window watering her
flowers, 'you're a scheming jade, Ma'am, and your ambition is a piece
of monstrous impudence. If it only made yourself ridiculous, Ma'am,'
said the Major, rolling his head at the unconscious Miss Tox, while
his starting eyes appeared to make a leap towards her, 'you might do
that to your heart's content, Ma'am, without any objection, I assure
you, on the part of Bagstock.' Here the Major laughed frightfully up
in the tips of his ears and in the veins of his head. 'But when,
Ma'am,' said the Major, 'you compromise other people, and generous,
unsuspicious people too, as a repayment for their condescension, you
stir the blood of old Joe in his body.'
'Major,' said Mr Dombey, reddening, 'I hope you do not hint at
anything so absurd on the part of Miss Tox as - '
'Dombey,' returned the Major, 'I hint at nothing. But Joey B. has
lived in the world, Sir: lived in the world with his eyes open, Sir,
and his ears cocked: and Joe tells you, Dombey, that there's a
devilish artful and ambitious woman over the way.'
Mr Dombey involuntarily glanced over the way; and an angry glance
he sent in that direction, too.
'That's all on such a subject that shall pass the lips of Joseph
Bagstock,' said the Major firmly. 'Joe is not a tale-bearer, but there
are times when he must speak, when he will speak! - confound your
arts, Ma'am,' cried the Major, again apostrophising his fair
neighbour, with great ire, - 'when the provocation is too strong to
admit of his remaining silent.'
The emotion of this outbreak threw the Major into a paroxysm of
horse's coughs, which held him for a long time. On recovering he
'And now, Dombey, as you have invited Joe - old Joe, who has no
other merit, Sir, but that he is tough and hearty - to be your guest
and guide at Leamington, command him in any way you please, and he is
wholly yours. I don't know, Sir,' said the Major, wagging his double
chin with a jocose air, 'what it is you people see in Joe to make you
hold him in such great request, all of you; but this I know, Sir, that
if he wasn't pretty tough, and obstinate in his refusals, you'd kill
him among you with your invitations and so forth, in double-quick
Mr Dombey, in a few words, expressed his sense of the preference he
received over those other distinguished members of society who were
clamouring for the possession of Major Bagstock. But the Major cut him
short by giving him to understand that he followed his own
inclinations, and that they had risen up in a body and said with one
accord, 'J. B., Dombey is the man for you to choose as a friend.'
The Major being by this time in a state of repletion, with essence
of savoury pie oozing out at the corners of his eyes, and devilled
grill and kidneys tightening his cravat: and the time moreover
approaching for the departure of the railway train to Birmingham, by
which they were to leave town: the Native got him into his great-coat
with immense difficulty, and buttoned him up until his face looked
staring and gasping, over the top of that garment, as if he were in a
barrel. The Native then handed him separately, and with a decent
interval between each supply, his washleather gloves, his thick stick,
and his hat; which latter article the Major wore with a rakish air on
one side of his head, by way of toning down his remarkable visage. The
Native had previously packed, in all possible and impossible parts of
Mr Dombey's chariot, which was in waiting, an unusual quantity of
carpet-bags and small portmanteaus, no less apoplectic in appearance
than the Major himself: and having filled his own pockets with Seltzer
water, East India sherry, sandwiches, shawls, telescopes, maps, and
newspapers, any or all of which light baggage the Major might require
at any instant of the journey, he announced that everything was ready.
To complete the equipment of this unfortunate foreigner (currently
believed to be a prince in his own country), when he took his seat in
the rumble by the side of Mr Towlinson, a pile of the Major's cloaks
and great-coats was hurled upon him by the landlord, who aimed at him
from the pavement with those great missiles like a Titan, and so
covered him up, that he proceeded, in a living tomb, to the railroad
But before the carriage moved away, and while the Native was in the
act of sepulture, Miss Tox appearing at her window, waved a lilywhite
handkerchief. Mr Dombey received this parting salutation very coldly -
very coldly even for him - and honouring her with the slightest
possible inclination of his head, leaned back in the carriage with a
very discontented look. His marked behaviour seemed to afford the
Major (who was all politeness in his recognition of Miss Tox)
unbounded satisfaction; and he sat for a long time afterwards,
leering, and choking, like an over-fed Mephistopheles.
During the bustle of preparation at the railway, Mr Dombey and the
Major walked up and down the platform side by side; the former
taciturn and gloomy, and the latter entertaining him, or entertaining
himself, with a variety of anecdotes and reminiscences, in most of
which Joe Bagstock was the principal performer. Neither of the two
observed that in the course of these walks, they attracted the
attention of a working man who was standing near the engine, and who
touched his hat every time they passed; for Mr Dombey habitually
looked over the vulgar herd, not at them; and the Major was looking,
at the time, into the core of one of his stories. At length, however,
this man stepped before them as they turned round, and pulling his hat
off, and keeping it off, ducked his head to Mr Dombey.
'Beg your pardon, Sir,' said the man, 'but I hope you're a doin'
pretty well, Sir.'
He was dressed in a canvas suit abundantly besmeared with coal-dust
and oil, and had cinders in his whiskers, and a smell of half-slaked
ashes all over him. He was not a bad-looking fellow, nor even what
could be fairly called a dirty-looking fellow, in spite of this; and,
in short, he was Mr Toodle, professionally clothed.
'I shall have the honour of stokin' of you down, Sir,' said Mr
Toodle. 'Beg your pardon, Sir. - I hope you find yourself a coming
Mr Dombey looked at him, in return for his tone of interest, as if
a man like that would make his very eyesight dirty.
''Scuse the liberty, Sir,' said Toodle, seeing he was not clearly
remembered, 'but my wife Polly, as was called Richards in your family
A change in Mr Dombey's face, which seemed to express recollection
of him, and so it did, but it expressed in a much stronger degree an
angry sense of humiliation, stopped Mr Toodle short.
'Your wife wants money, I suppose,' said Mr Dombey, putting his
hand in his pocket, and speaking (but that he always did) haughtily.
'No thank'ee, Sir,' returned Toodle, 'I can't say she does. I
Mr Dombey was stopped short now in his turn: and awkwardly: with
his hand in his pocket.
'No, Sir,' said Toodle, turning his oilskin cap round and round;
'we're a doin' pretty well, Sir; we haven't no cause to complain in
the worldly way, Sir. We've had four more since then, Sir, but we rubs
Mr Dombey would have rubbed on to his own carriage, though in so
doing he had rubbed the stoker underneath the wheels; but his
attention was arrested by something in connexion with the cap still
going slowly round and round in the man's hand.
'We lost one babby,' observed Toodle, 'there's no denyin'.'
'Lately,' added Mr Dombey, looking at the cap.
'No, Sir, up'ard of three years ago, but all the rest is hearty.
And in the matter o readin', Sir,' said Toodle, ducking again, as if
to remind Mr Dombey of what had passed between them on that subject
long ago, 'them boys o' mine, they learned me, among 'em, arter all.
They've made a wery tolerable scholar of me, Sir, them boys.'
'Come, Major!' said Mr Dombey.
'Beg your pardon, Sir,' resumed Toodle, taking a step before them
and deferentially stopping them again, still cap in hand: 'I wouldn't
have troubled you with such a pint except as a way of gettin' in the
name of my son Biler - christened Robin - him as you was so good as to
make a Charitable Grinder on.'
'Well, man,' said Mr Dombey in his severest manner. 'What about
'Why, Sir,' returned Toodle, shaking his head with a face of great
anxiety and distress, 'I'm forced to say, Sir, that he's gone wrong.
'He has gone wrong, has he?' said Mr Dombey, with a hard kind of
'He has fell into bad company, you see, genelmen,' pursued the
father, looking wistfully at both, and evidently taking the Major into
the conversation with the hope of having his sympathy. 'He has got
into bad ways. God send he may come to again, genelmen, but he's on
the wrong track now! You could hardly be off hearing of it somehow,
Sir,' said Toodle, again addressing Mr Dombey individually; 'and it's
better I should out and say my boy's gone rather wrong. Polly's
dreadful down about it, genelmen,' said Toodle with the same dejected
look, and another appeal to the Major.
'A son of this man's whom I caused to be educated, Major,' said Mr
Dombey, giving him his arm. 'The usual return!'
'Take advice from plain old Joe, and never educate that sort of
people, Sir,' returned the Major. 'Damme, Sir, it never does! It
The simple father was beginning to submit that he hoped his son,
the quondam Grinder, huffed and cuffed, and flogged and badged, and
taught, as parrots are, by a brute jobbed into his place of
schoolmaster with as much fitness for it as a hound, might not have
been educated on quite a right plan in some undiscovered respect, when
Mr Dombey angrily repeating 'The usual return!' led the Major away.
And the Major being heavy to hoist into Mr Dombey's carriage, elevated
in mid-air, and having to stop and swear that he would flay the Native
alive, and break every bone in his skin, and visit other physical
torments upon him, every time he couldn't get his foot on the step,
and fell back on that dark exile, had barely time before they started
to repeat hoarsely that it would never do: that it always failed: and
that if he were to educate 'his own vagabond,' he would certainly be
Mr Dombey assented bitterly; but there was something more in his
bitterness, and in his moody way of falling back in the carriage, and
looking with knitted brows at the changing objects without, than the
failure of that noble educational system administered by the Grinders'
Company. He had seen upon the man's rough cap a piece of new crape,
and he had assured himself, from his manner and his answers, that he
wore it for his son.
So] from high to low, at home or abroad, from Florence in his great
house to the coarse churl who was feeding the fire then smoking before
them, everyone set up some claim or other to a share in his dead boy,
and was a bidder against him! Could he ever forget how that woman had
wept over his pillow, and called him her own child! or how he, waking
from his sleep, had asked for her, and had raised himself in his bed
and brightened when she carne in!
To think of this presumptuous raker among coals and ashes going on
before there, with his sign of mourning! To think that he dared to
enter, even by a common show like that, into the trial and
disappointrnent of a proud gentleman's secret heart! To think that
this lost child, who was to have divided with him his riches, and his
projects, and his power, and allied with whom he was to have shut out
all the world as with a double door of gold, should have let in such a
herd to insult him with their knowledge of his defeated hopes, and
their boasts of claiming community of feeling with himself, so far
removed: if not of having crept into the place wherein he would have
lorded it, alone!
He found no pleasure or relief in the journey. Tortured by these
thoughts he carried monotony with him, through the rushing landscape,
and hurried headlong, not through a rich and varied country, but a
wilderness of blighted plans and gnawing jealousies. The very speed at
which the train was whirled along, mocked the swift course of the
young life that had been borne away so steadily and so inexorably to
its foredoomed end. The power that forced itself upon its iron way -
its own - defiant of all paths and roads, piercing through the heart
of every obstacle, and dragging living creatures of all classes, ages,
and degrees behind it, was a type of the triumphant monster, Death.
Away, with a shriek, and a roar, and a rattle, from the town,
burrowmg among the dwellings of men and making the streets hum,
flashing out into the meadows for a moment, mining in through the damp
earth, booming on in darkness and heavy air, bursting out again into
the sunny day so bright and wide; away, with a shriek, and a roar, and
a rattle, through the fields, through the woods, through the corn,
through the hay, through the chalk, through the mould, through the
clay, through the rock, among objects close at hand and almost in the
grasp, ever flying from the traveller, and a deceitful distance ever
moving slowly within him: like as in the track of the remorseless
Through the hollow, on the height, by the heath, by the orchard, by
the park, by the garden, over the canal, across the river, where the
sheep are feeding, where the mill is going, where the barge is
floating, where the dead are lying, where the factory is smoking,
where the stream is running, where the village clusters, where the
great cathedral rises, where the bleak moor lies, and the wild breeze
smooths or ruffles it at its inconstant will; away, with a shriek, and
a roar, and a rattle, and no trace to leave behind but dust and
vapour: like as in the track of the remorseless monster, Death!
Breasting the wind and light, the shower and sunshine, away, and
still away, it rolls and roars, fierce and rapid, smooth and certain,
and great works and massive bridges crossing up above, fall like a
beam of shadow an inch broad, upon the eye, and then are lost. Away,
and still away, onward and onward ever: glimpses of cottage-homes, of
houses, mansions, rich estates, of husbandry and handicraft, of
people, of old roads and paths that look deserted, small, and
insignificant as they are left behind: and so they do, and what else
is there but such glimpses, in the track of the indomitable monster,
Away, with a shriek, and a roar, and a rattle, plunging down into
the earth again, and working on in such a storm of energy and
perseverance, that amidst the darkness and whirlwind the motion seems
reversed, and to tend furiously backward, until a ray of light upon
the Wet wall shows its surface flying past like a fierce stream, Away
once more into the day, and through the day, with a shrill yell of
exultation, roaring, rattling, tearing on, spurning everything with
its dark breath, sometimes pausing for a minute where a crowd of faces
are, that in a minute more are not; sometimes lapping water greedily,
and before the spout at which it drinks' has ceased to drip upon the
ground, shrieking, roaring, rattling through the purple distance!
Louder and louder yet, it shrieks and cries as it comes tearing on
resistless to the goal: and now its way, still like the way of Death,
is strewn with ashes thickly. Everything around is blackened. There
are dark pools of water, muddy lanes, and miserable habitations far
below. There are jagged walls and falling houses close at hand, and
through the battered roofs and broken windows, wretched rooms are
seen, where 'want and fever hide themselves in many wretched shapes,
while smoke and crowded gables, and distorted chimneys, and deformity
of brick and mortar penning up deformity of mind and body, choke the
murky distance. As Mr Dombey looks out of his carriage window, it is
never in his thoughts that the monster who has brought him there has
let the light of day in on these things: not made or caused them. It
was the journey's fitting end, and might have been the end of
everything; it was so ruinous and dreary.'
So, pursuing the one course of thought, he had the one relentless
monster still before him. All things looked black, and cold, and
deadly upon him, and he on them. He found a likeness to his misfortune
everywhere. There was a remorseless triumph going on about him, and it
galled and stung him in his pride and jealousy, whatever form it took:
though most of all when it divided with him the love and memory of his
There was a face - he had looked upon it, on the previous night,
and it on him with eyes that read his soul, though they were dim with
tears, and hidden soon behind two quivering hands - that often had
attended him in fancy, on this ride. He had seen it, with the
expression of last night, timidly pleading to him. It was not
reproachful, but there was something of doubt, almost of hopeful
incredulity in it, which, as he once more saw that fade away into a
desolate certainty of his dislike, was like reproach. It was a trouble
to him to think of this face of Florence.
Because he felt any new compunction towards it? No. Because the
feeling it awakened in him - of which he had had some old
foreshadowing in older times - was full-formed now, and spoke out
plainly, moving him too much, and threatening to grow too strong for
his composure. Because the face was abroad, in the expression of
defeat and persecution that seemed to encircle him like the air.
Because it barbed the arrow of that cruel and remorseless enemy on
which his thoughts so ran, and put into its grasp a double-handed
sword. Because he knew full well, in his own breast, as he stood
there, tinging the scene of transition before him with the morbid
colours of his own mind, and making it a ruin and a picture of decay,
instead of hopeful change, and promise of better things, that life had
quite as much to do with his complainings as death. One child was
gone, and one child left. Why was the object of his hope removed
instead of her?
The sweet, calm, gentle presence in his fancy, moved him to no
reflection but that. She had been unwelcome to him from the first; she
was an aggravation of his bitterness now. If his son had been his only
child, and the same blow had fallen on him, it would have been heavy
to bear; but infinitely lighter than now, when it might have fallen on
her (whom he could have lost, or he believed it, without a pang), and
had not. Her loving and innocent face rising before him, had no
softening or winning influence. He rejected the angel, and took up
with the tormenting spirit crouching in his bosom. Her patience,
goodness, youth, devotion, love, were as so many atoms in the ashes
upon which he set his heel. He saw her image in the blight and
blackness all around him, not irradiating but deepening the gloom.
More than once upon this journey, and now again as he stood pondering
at this journey's end, tracing figures in the dust with his stick, the
thought came into his mind, what was there he could interpose between
himself and it?
The Major, who had been blowing and panting all the way down, like
another engine, and whose eye had often wandered from his newspaper to
leer at the prospect, as if there were a procession of discomfited
Miss Toxes pouring out in the smoke of the train, and flying away over
the fields to hide themselves in any place of refuge, aroused his
friends by informing him that the post-horses were harnessed and the
'Dombey,' said the Major, rapping him on the arm with his cane,
'don't be thoughtful. It's a bad habit, Old Joe, Sir, wouldn't be as
tough as you see him, if he had ever encouraged it. You are too great
a man, Dombey, to be thoughtful. In your position, Sir, you're far
above that kind of thing.'
The Major even in his friendly remonstrrnces, thus consulting the
dignity and honour of Mr Dombey, and showing a lively sense of their
importance, Mr Dombey felt more than ever disposed to defer to a
gentleman possessing so much good sense and such a well-regulated
mind; acoordingly he made an effort to listen to the Major's stories,
as they trotted along the turnpike road; and the Major, finding both
the pace and the road a great deal better adapted to his
conversational powers than the mode of travelling they had just
relinquished, came out of his entertainment,
But still the Major, blunt and tough as he was, and as he so very
often said he was, administered some palatable catering to his
companion's appetite. He related, or rather suffered it to escape him,
accidentally, and as one might say, grudgingly and against his will,
how there was great curiosity and excitement at the club, in regard of
his friend Dombey. How he was suffocated with questions, Sir. How old
Joe Bagstock was a greater man than ever, there, on the strength of
Dombey. How they said, 'Bagstock, your friend Dombey now, what is the
view he takes of such and such a question? Though, by the Rood, Sir,'
said the Major, with a broad stare, 'how they discovered that J. B.
ever came to know you, is a mystery!'
In this flow of spirits and conversation, only interrupted by his
usual plethoric symptoms, and by intervals of lunch, and from time to
time by some violent assault upon the Native, who wore a pair of
ear-rings in his dark-brown ears, and on whom his European clothes sat
with an outlandish impossibility of adjustment - being, of their own
accord, and without any reference to the tailor's art, long where they
ought to be short, short where they ought to be long, tight where they
ought to be loose, and loose where they ought to be tight - and to
which he imparted a new grace, whenever the Major attacked him, by
shrinking into them like a shrivelled nut, or a cold monkey - in this
flow of spirits and conversation, the Major continued all day: so that
when evening came on, and found them trotting through the green and
leafy road near Leamington, the Major's voice, what with talking and
eating and chuckling and choking, appeared to be in the box under the
rumble, or in some neighbouring hay-stack. Nor did the Major improve
it at the Royal Hotel, where rooms and dinner had been ordered, and
where he so oppressed his organs of speech by eating and drinking,
that when he retired to bed he had no voice at all, except to cough
with, and could only make himself intelligible to the dark servant by
gasping at him.
He not only rose next morning, however, like a giant refreshed, but
conducted himself, at breakfast like a giant refreshing. At this meal
they arranged their daily habits. The Major was to take the
responsibility of ordering evrything to eat and drink; and they were
to have a late breakfast together every morning, and a late dinner
together every day. Mr Dombey would prefer remaining in his own room,
or walking in the country by himself, on that first day of their
sojourn at Leamington; but next morning he would be happy to accompany
the Major to the Pump-room, and about the town. So they parted until
dinner-time. Mr Dombey retired to nurse his wholesome thoughts in his
own way. The Major, attended by the Native carrying a camp-stool, a
great-coat, and an umbrella, swaggered up and down through all the
public places: looking into subscription books to find out who was
there, looking up old ladies by whom he was much admired, reporting J.
B. tougher than ever, and puffing his rich friend Dombey wherever he
went. There never was a man who stood by a friend more staunchly than
the Major, when in puffing him, he puffed himself.
It was surprising how much new conversation the Major had to let
off at dinner-time, and what occasion he gave Mr Dombey to admire his
social qualities. At breakfast next morning, he knew the contents of
the latest newspapers received; and mentioned several subjects in
connexion with them, on which his opinion had recently been sought by
persons of such power and might, that they were only to be obscurely
hinted at. Mr Dombey, who had been so long shut up within himself, and
who had rarely, at any time, overstepped the enchanted circle within
which the operations of Dombey and Son were conducted, began to think
this an improvement on his solitary life; and in place of excusing
himself for another day, as he had thought of doing when alone, walked
out with the Major arm-in-arm.
The MAJOR, more blue-faced and staring - more over-ripe, as it
were, than ever - and giving vent, every now and then, to one of the
horse's coughs, not so much of necessity as in a spontaneous explosion
of importance, walked arm-in-arm with Mr Dombey up the sunny side of
the way, with his cheeks swelling over his tight stock, his legs
majestically wide apart, and his great head wagging from side to side,
as if he were remonstrating within himself for being such a
captivating object. They had not walked many yards, before the Major
encountered somebody he knew, nor many yards farther before the Major
encountered somebody else he knew, but he merely shook his fingers at
them as he passed, and led Mr Dombey on: pointing out the localities
as they went, and enlivening the walk with any current scandal
suggested by them.
In this manner the Major and Mr Dombey were walking arm-in-arm,
much to their own satisfaction, when they beheld advancing towards
them, a wheeled chair, in which a lady was seated, indolently steering
her carriage by a kind of rudder in front, while it was propelled by
some unseen power in the rear. Although the lady was not young, she
was very blooming in the face - quite rosy- and her dress and attitude
were perfectly juvenile. Walking by the side of the chair, and
carrying her gossamer parasol with a proud and weary air, as if so
great an effort must be soon abandoned and the parasol dropped,
sauntered a much younger lady, very handsome, very haughty, very
wilful, who tossed her head and drooped her eyelids, as though, if
there were anything in all the world worth looking into, save a
mirror, it certainly was not the earth or sky.
'Why, what the devil have we here, Sir!' cried the Major, stopping
as this little cavalcade drew near.
'My dearest Edith!' drawled the lady in the chair, 'Major
The Major no sooner heard the voice, than he relinquished Mr
Dombey's arm, darted forward, took the hand of the lady in the chair
and pressed it to his lips. With no less gallantry, the Major folded
both his gloves upon his heart, and bowed low to the other lady. And
now, the chair having stopped, the motive power became visible in the
shape of a flushed page pushing behind, who seemed to have in part
outgrown and in part out-pushed his strength, for when he stood
upright he was tall, and wan, and thin, and his plight appeared the
more forlorn from his having injured the shape of his hat, by butting
at the carriage with his head to urge it forward, as is sometimes done
by elephants in Oriental countries.
'Joe Bagstock,' said the Major to both ladies, 'is a proud and
happy man for the rest of his life.'
'You false creature! said the old lady in the chair, insipidly.
'Where do you come from? I can't bear you.'
'Then suffer old Joe to present a friend, Ma'am,' said the Major,
promptly, 'as a reason for being tolerated. Mr Dombey, Mrs Skewton.'
The lady in the chair was gracious. 'Mr Dombey, Mrs Granger.' The lady
with the parasol was faintly conscious of Mr Dombey's taking off his
hat, and bowing low. 'I am delighted, Sir,' said the Major, 'to have
The Major seemed in earnest, for he looked at all the three, and
leered in his ugliest manner.
'Mrs Skewton, Dombey,' said the Major, 'makes havoc in the heart of
Mr Dombey signified that he didn't wonder at it.
'You perfidious goblin,' said the lady in the chair, 'have done!
How long have you been here, bad man?'
'One day,' replied the Major.
'And can you be a day, or even a minute,' returned the lady,
slightly settling her false curls and false eyebrows with her fan, and
showing her false teeth, set off by her false complexion, 'in the
garden of what's-its-name
'Eden, I suppose, Mama,' interrupted the younger lady, scornfully.
'My dear Edith,' said the other, 'I cannot help it. I never can
remember those frightful names - without having your whole Soul and
Being inspired by the sight of Nature; by the perfume,' said Mrs
Skewton, rustling a handkerchief that was faint and sickly with
essences, 'of her artless breath, you creature!'
The discrepancy between Mrs Skewton's fresh enthusiasm of words,
and forlornly faded manner, was hardly less observable than that
between her age, which was about seventy, and her dress, which would
have been youthful for twenty-seven. Her attitude in the wheeled chair
(which she never varied) was one in which she had been taken in a
barouche, some fifty years before, by a then fashionable artist who
had appended to his published sketch the name of Cleopatra: in
consequence of a discovery made by the critics of the time, that it
bore an exact resemblance to that Princess as she reclined on board
her galley. Mrs Skewton was a beauty then, and bucks threw
wine-glasses over their heads by dozens in her honour. The beauty and
the barouche had both passed away, but she still preserved the
attitude, and for this reason expressly, maintained the wheeled chair
and the butting page: there being nothing whatever, except the
attitude, to prevent her from walking.
'Mr Dombey is devoted to Nature, I trust?' said Mrs Skewton,
settling her diamond brooch. And by the way, she chiefly lived upon
the reputation of some diamonds, and her family connexions.
'My friend Dombey, Ma'am,' returned the Major, 'may be devoted to
her in secret, but a man who is paramount in the greatest city in the
'No one can be a stranger,' said Mrs Skewton, 'to Mr Dombey's
As Mr Dombey acknowledged the compliment with a bend of his head,
the younger lady glancing at him, met his eyes.
'You reside here, Madam?' said Mr Dombey, addressing her.
'No, we have been to a great many places. To Harrogate and
Scarborough, and into Devonshire. We have been visiting, and resting
here and there. Mama likes change.'
'Edith of course does not,' said Mrs Skewton, with a ghastly
'I have not found that there is any change in such places,' was the
answer, delivered with supreme indifference.
'They libel me. There is only one change, Mr Dombey,' observed Mrs
Skewton, with a mincing sigh, 'for which I really care, and that I
fear I shall never be permitted to enjoy. People cannot spare one. But
seclusion and contemplation are my what-his-name - '
'If you mean Paradise, Mama, you had better say so, to render
yourself intelligible,' said the younger lady.
'My dearest Edith,' returned Mrs Skewton, 'you know that I am
wholly dependent upon you for those odious names. I assure you, Mr
Dombey, Nature intended me for an Arcadian. I am thrown away in
society. Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for, has been to
retreat to a Swiss farm, and live entirely surrounded by cows - and
This curious association of objects, suggesting a remembrance of
the celebrated bull who got by mistake into a crockery shop, was
received with perfect gravity by Mr Dombey, who intimated his opinion
that Nature was, no doubt, a very respectable institution.
'What I want,' drawled Mrs Skewton, pinching her shrivelled throat,
'is heart.' It was frightfully true in one sense, if not in that in
which she used the phrase. 'What I want, is frankness, confidence,
less conventionality, and freer play of soul. We are so dreadfully
We were, indeed.
'In short,' said Mrs Skewton, 'I want Nature everywhere. It would
be so extremely charming.'
'Nature is inviting us away now, Mama, if you are ready,' said the
younger lady, curling her handsome lip. At this hint, the wan page,
who had been surveying the party over the top of the chair, vanished
behind it, as if the ground had swallowed him up.
'Stop a moment, Withers!' said Mrs Skewton, as the chair began to
move; calling to the page with all the languid dignity with which she
had called in days of yore to a coachman with a wig, cauliflower
nosegay, and silk stockings. 'Where are you staying, abomination?' The
Major was staying at the Royal Hotel, with his friend Dombey.
'You may come and see us any evening when you are good,' lisped Mrs
Skewton. 'If Mr Dombey will honour us, we shall be happy. Withers, go
The Major again pressed to his blue lips the tips of the fingers
that were disposed on the ledge of the wheeled chair with careful
carelessness, after the Cleopatra model: and Mr Dombey bowed. The
elder lady honoured them both with a very gracious smile and a girlish
wave of her hand; the younger lady with the very slightest inclination
of her head that common courtesy allowed.
The last glimpse of the wrinkled face of the mother, with that
patched colour on it which the sun made infinitely more haggard and
dismal than any want of colour could have been, and of the proud
beauty of the daughter with her graceful figure and erect deportment,
engendered such an involuntary disposition on the part of both the
Major and Mr Dombey to look after them, that they both turned at the
same moment. The Page, nearly as much aslant as his own shadow, was
toiling after the chair, uphill, like a slow battering-ram; the top of
Cleopatra's bonnet was fluttering in exactly the same corner to the
inch as before; and the Beauty, loitering by herself a little in
advance, expressed in all her elegant form, from head to foot, the
same supreme disregard of everything and everybody.
'I tell you what, Sir,' said the Major, as they resumed their walk
again. 'If Joe Bagstock were a younger man, there's not a woman in the
world whom he'd prefer for Mrs Bagstock to that woman. By George,
Sir!' said the Major, 'she's superb!'
'Do you mean the daughter?' inquired Mr Dombey.
'Is Joey B. a turnip, Dombey,' said the Major, 'that he should mean
'You were complimentary to the mother,' returned Mr Dombey.
'An ancient flame, Sir,' chuckled Major Bagstock. 'Devilish
ancient. I humour her.'
'She impresses me as being perfectly genteel,' said Mr Dombey.
'Genteel, Sir,' said the Major, stopping short, and staring in his
companion's face. 'The Honourable Mrs Skewton, Sir, is sister to the
late Lord Feenix, and aunt to the present Lord. The family are not
wealthy - they're poor, indeed - and she lives upon a small jointure;
but if you come to blood, Sir!' The Major gave a flourish with his
stick and walked on again, in despair of being able to say what you
came to, if you came to that.
'You addressed the daughter, I observed,' said Mr Dombey, after a
short pause, 'as Mrs Granger.'
'Edith Skewton, Sir,' returned the Major, stopping short again, and
punching a mark in the ground with his cane, to represent her,
'married (at eighteen) Granger of Ours;' whom the Major indicated by
another punch. 'Granger, Sir,' said the Major, tapping the last ideal
portrait, and rolling his head emphatically, 'was Colonel of Ours; a
de-vilish handsome fellow, Sir, of forty-one. He died, Sir, in the
second year of his marriage.' The Major ran the representative of the
deceased Granger through and through the body with his walking-stick,
and went on again, carrying his stick over his shoulder.
'How long is this ago?' asked Mr Dombey, making another halt.
'Edith Granger, Sir,' replied the Major, shutting one eye, putting
his head on one side, passing his cane into his left hand, and
smoothing his shirt-frill with his right, 'is, at this present time,
not quite thirty. And damme, Sir,' said the Major, shouldering his
stick once more, and walking on again, 'she's a peerless woman!'
'Was there any family?' asked Mr Dombey presently.
'Yes, Sir,' said the Major. 'There was a boy.'
Mr Dombey's eyes sought the ground, and a shade came over his face.
'Who was drowned, Sir,' pursued the Major. 'When a child of four or
five years old.'
'Indeed?' said Mr Dombey, raising his head.
'By the upsetting of a boat in which his nurse had no business to
have put him,' said the Major. 'That's his history. Edith Granger is
Edith Granger still; but if tough old Joey B., Sir, were a little
younger and a little richer, the name of that immortal paragon should
The Major heaved his shoulders, and his cheeks, and laughed more
like an over-fed Mephistopheles than ever, as he said the words.
'Provided the lady made no objection, I suppose?' said Mr Dombey
'By Gad, Sir,' said the Major, 'the Bagstock breed are not
accustomed to that sort of obstacle. Though it's true enough that
Edith might have married twenty times, but for being proud, Sir,
Mr Dombey seemed, by his face, to think no worse of her for that.
'It's a great quality after all,' said the Major. 'By the Lord,
it's a high quality! Dombey! You are proud yourself, and your friend,
Old Joe, respects you for it, Sir.'
With this tribute to the character of his ally, which seemed to be
wrung from him by the force of circumstances and the irresistible
tendency of their conversation, the Major closed the subject, and
glided into a general exposition of the extent to which he had been
beloved and doted on by splendid women and brilliant creatures.
On the next day but one, Mr Dombey and the Major encountered the
Honourable Mrs Skewton and her daughter in the Pump-room; on the day
after, they met them again very near the place where they had met them
first. After meeting them thus, three or four times in all, it became
a point of mere civility to old acquaintances that the Major should go
there one evening. Mr Dombey had not originally intended to pay
visits, but on the Major announcing this intention, he said he would
have the pleasure of accompanying him. So the Major told the Native to
go round before dinner, and say, with his and Mr Dombey's compliments,
that they would have the honour of visiting the ladies that same
evening, if the ladies were alone. In answer to which message, the
Native brought back a very small note with a very large quantity of
scent about it, indited by the Honourable Mrs Skewton to Major
Bagstock, and briefly saying, 'You are a shocking bear and I have a
great mind not to forgive you, but if you are very good indeed,' which
was underlined, 'you may come. Compliments (in which Edith unites) to
The Honourable Mrs Skewton and her daughter, Mrs Granger, resided,
while at Leamington, in lodgings that were fashionable enough and dear
enough, but rather limited in point of space and conveniences; so that
the Honourable Mrs Skewton, being in bed, had her feet in the window
and her head in the fireplace, while the Honourable Mrs Skewton's maid
was quartered in a closet within the drawing-room, so extremely small,
that, to avoid developing the whole of its accommodations, she was
obliged to writhe in and out of the door like a beautiful serpent.
Withers, the wan page, slept out of the house immediately under the
tiles at a neighbouring milk-shop; and the wheeled chair, which was
the stone of that young Sisyphus, passed the night in a shed belonging
to the same dairy, where new-laid eggs were produced by the poultry
connected with the establishment, who roosted on a broken donkey-cart,
persuaded, to all appearance, that it grew there, and was a species of
Mr Dombey and the Major found Mrs Skewton arranged, as Cleopatra,
among the cushions of a sofa: very airily dressed; and certainly not
resembling Shakespeare's Cleopatra, whom age could not wither. On
their way upstairs they had heard the sound of a harp, but it had
ceased on their being announced, and Edith now stood beside it
handsomer and haughtier than ever. It was a remarkable characteristic
of this lady's beauty that it appeared to vaunt and assert itself
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