Dombey and Son
Part 8 out of 21
without her aid, and against her will. She knew that she was
beautiful: it was impossible that it could be otherwise: but she
seemed with her own pride to defy her very self.
Whether she held cheap attractions that could only call forth
admiration that was worthless to her, or whether she designed to
render them more precious to admirers by this usage of them, those to
whom they were precious seldom paused to consider.
'I hope, Mrs Granger,' said Mr Dombey, advancing a step towards
her, 'we are not the cause of your ceasing to play?'
'You! oh no!'
'Why do you not go on then, my dearest Edith?' said Cleopatra.
'I left off as I began - of my own fancy.'
The exquisite indifference of her manner in saying this: an
indifference quite removed from dulness or insensibility, for it was
pointed with proud purpose: was well set off by the carelessness with
which she drew her hand across the strings, and came from that part of
'Do you know, Mr Dombey,' said her languishing mother, playing with
a hand-screen, 'that occasionally my dearest Edith and myself actually
almost differ - '
'Not quite, sometimes, Mama?' said Edith.
'Oh never quite, my darling! Fie, fie, it would break my heart,'
returned her mother, making a faint attempt to pat her with the
screen, which Edith made no movement to meet, ' - about these old
conventionalities of manner that are observed in little things? Why
are we not more natural? Dear me! With all those yearnings, and
gushings, and impulsive throbbings that we have implanted in our
souls, and which are so very charming, why are we not more natural?'
Mr Dombey said it was very true, very true.
'We could be more natural I suppose if we tried?' said Mrs Skewton.
Mr Dombey thought it possible.
'Devil a bit, Ma'am,' said the Major. 'We couldn't afford it.
Unless the world was peopled with J.B.'s - tough and blunt old Joes,
Ma'am, plain red herrings with hard roes, Sir - we couldn't afford it.
It wouldn't do.'
'You naughty Infidel,' said Mrs Skewton, 'be mute.'
'Cleopatra commands,' returned the Major, kissing his hand, 'and
Antony Bagstock obeys.'
'The man has no sensitiveness,' said Mrs Skewton, cruelly holding
up the hand-screen so as to shut the Major out. 'No sympathy. And what
do we live for but sympathy! What else is so extremely charming!
Without that gleam of sunshine on our cold cold earth,' said Mrs
Skewton, arranging her lace tucker, and complacently observing the
effect of her bare lean arm, looking upward from the wrist, 'how could
we possibly bear it? In short, obdurate man!' glancing at the Major,
round the screen, 'I would have my world all heart; and Faith is so
excessively charming, that I won't allow you to disturb it, do you
The Major replied that it was hard in Cleopatra to require the
world to be all heart, and yet to appropriate to herself the hearts of
all the world; which obliged Cleopatra to remind him that flattery was
insupportable to her, and that if he had the boldness to address her
in that strain any more, she would positively send him home.
Withers the Wan, at this period, handing round the tea, Mr Dombey
again addressed himself to Edith.
'There is not much company here, it would seem?' said Mr Dombey, in
his own portentous gentlemanly way.
'I believe not. We see none.'
'Why really,' observed Mrs Skewton fom her couch, 'there are no
people here just now with whom we care to associate.'
'They have not enough heart,' said Edith, with a smile. The very
twilight of a smile: so singularly were its light and darkness
'My dearest Edith rallies me, you see!' said her mother, shaking
her head: which shook a little of itself sometimes, as if the palsy
Bed now and then in opposition to the diamonds. 'Wicked one!'
'You have been here before, if I am not mistaken?' said Mr Dombey.
Still to Edith.
'Oh, several times. I think we have been everywhere.'
'A beautiful country!'
'I suppose it is. Everybody says so.'
'Your cousin Feenix raves about it, Edith,' interposed her mother
from her couch.
The daughter slightly turned her graceful head, and raising her
eyebrows by a hair's-breadth, as if her cousin Feenix were of all the
mortal world the least to be regarded, turned her eyes again towards
'I hope, for the credit of my good taste, that I am tired of the
neighbourhood,' she said.
'You have almost reason to be, Madam,' he replied, glancing at a
variety of landscape drawings, of which he had already recognised
several as representing neighbouring points of view, and which were
strewn abundantly about the room, 'if these beautiful productions are
from your hand.'
She gave him no reply, but sat in a disdainful beauty, quite
'Have they that interest?' said Mr Dombey. 'Are they yours?'
'And you play, I already know.'
She answered all these questions with a strange reluctance; and
with that remarkable air of opposition to herself, already noticed as
belonging to her beauty. Yet she was not embarrassed, but wholly
self-possessed. Neither did she seem to wish to avoid the
conversation, for she addressed her face, and - so far as she could -
her manner also, to him; and continued to do so, when he was silent.
'You have many resources against weariness at least,' said Mr
'Whatever their efficiency may be,' she returned, 'you know them
all now. I have no more.
'May I hope to prove them all?' said Mr Dombey, with solemn
gallantry, laying down a drawing he had held, and motioning towards
'Oh certainly] If you desire it!'
She rose as she spoke, and crossing by her mother's couch, and
directing a stately look towards her, which was instantaneous in its
duration, but inclusive (if anyone had seen it) of a multitude of
expressions, among which that of the twilight smile, without the smile
itself, overshadowed all the rest, went out of the room.
The Major, who was quite forgiven by this time, had wheeled a
little table up to Cleopatra, and was sitting down to play picquet
with her. Mr Dombey, not knowing the game, sat down to watch them for
his edification until Edith should return.
'We are going to have some music, Mr Dombey, I hope?' said
'Mrs Granger has been kind enough to promise so,' said Mr Dombey.
'Ah! That's very nice. Do you propose, Major?'
'No, Ma'am,' said the Major. 'Couldn't do it.'
'You're a barbarous being,' replied the lady, 'and my hand's
destroyed. You are fond of music, Mr Dombey?'
'Eminently so,' was Mr Dombey's answer.
'Yes. It's very nice,' said Cleopatra, looking at her cards. 'So
much heart in it - undeveloped recollections of a previous state of
existence' - and all that - which is so truly charming. Do you know,'
simpered Cleopatra, reversing the knave of clubs, who had come into
her game with his heels uppermost, 'that if anything could tempt me to
put a period to my life, it would be curiosity to find out what it's
all about, and what it means; there are so many provoking mysteries,
really, that are hidden from us. Major, you to play.'
The Major played; and Mr Dombey, looking on for his instruction,
would soon have been in a state of dire confusion, but that he gave no
attention to the game whatever, and sat wondering instead when Edith
would come back.
She came at last, and sat down to her harp, and Mr Dombey rose and
stood beside her, listening. He had little taste for music, and no
knowledge of the strain she played, but he saw her bending over it,
and perhaps he heard among the sounding strings some distant music of
his own, that tamed the monster of the iron road, and made it less
Cleopatra had a sharp eye, verily, at picquet. It glistened like a
bird's, and did not fix itself upon the game, but pierced the room
from end to end, and gleamed on harp, performer, listener, everything.
When the haughty beauty had concluded, she arose, and receiving Mr
Dombey's thanks and compliments in exactly the same manner as before,
went with scarcely any pause to the piano, and began there.
Edith Granger, any song but that! Edith Granger, you are very
handsome, and your touch upon the keys is brilliant, and your voice is
deep and rich; but not the air that his neglected daughter sang to his
Alas, he knows it not; and if he did, what air of hers would stir
him, rigid man! Sleep, lonely Florence, sleep! Peace in thy dreams,
although the night has turned dark, and the clouds are gathering, and
threaten to discharge themselves in hail!
A Trifle of Management by Mr Carker the Manager
Mr Carker the Manager sat at his desk, smooth and soft as usual,
reading those letters which were reserved for him to open, backing
them occasionally with such memoranda and references as their business
purport required, and parcelling them out into little heaps for
distribution through the several departments of the House. The post
had come in heavy that morning, and Mr Carker the Manager had a good
deal to do.
The general action of a man so engaged - pausing to look over a
bundle of papers in his hand, dealing them round in various portions,
taking up another bundle and examining its contents with knitted brows
and pursed-out lips - dealing, and sorting, and pondering by turns -
would easily suggest some whimsical resemblance to a player at cards.
The face of Mr Carker the Manager was in good keeping with such a
fancy. It was the face of a man who studied his play, warily: who made
himself master of all the strong and weak points of the game: who
registered the cards in his mind as they fell about him, knew exactly
what was on them, what they missed, and what they made: who was crafty
to find out what the other players held, and who never betrayed his
The letters were in various languages, but Mr Carker the Manager
read them all. If there had been anything in the offices of Dombey and
Son that he could read, there would have been a card wanting in the
pack. He read almost at a glance, and made combinations of one letter
with another and one business with another as he went on, adding new
matter to the heaps - much as a man would know the cards at sight, and
work out their combinations in his mind after they were turned.
Something too deep for a partner, and much too deep for an adversary,
Mr Carker the Manager sat in the rays of the sun that came down
slanting on him through the skylight, playing his game alone.
And although it is not among the instincts wild or domestic of the
cat tribe to play at cards, feline from sole to crown was Mr Carker
the Manager, as he basked in the strip of summer-light and warmth that
shone upon his table and the ground as if they were a crooked
dial-plate, and himself the only figure on it. With hair and whiskers
deficient in colour at all times, but feebler than common in the rich
sunshine, and more like the coat of a sandy tortoise-shell cat; with
long nails, nicely pared and sharpened; with a natural antipathy to
any speck of dirt, which made him pause sometimes and watch the
falling motes of dust, and rub them off his smooth white hand or
glossy linen: Mr Carker the Manager, sly of manner, sharp of tooth,
soft of foot, watchful of eye, oily of tongue, cruel of heart, nice of
habit, sat with a dainty steadfastness and patience at his work, as if
he were waiting at a mouse's hole.
At length the letters were disposed of, excepting one which he
reserved for a particular audience. Having locked the more
confidential correspondence in a drawer, Mr Carker the Manager rang
'Why do you answer it?' was his reception of his brother.
'The messenger is out, and I am the next,' was the submissive
'You are the next?' muttered the Manager. 'Yes! Creditable to me!
Pointing to the heaps of opened letters, he turned disdainfully
away, in his elbow-chair, and broke the seal of that one which he held
in his hand.
'I am sorry to trouble you, James,' said the brother, gathering
them up, 'but - '
'Oh! you have something to say. I knew that. Well?'
Mr Carker the Manager did not raise his eyes or turn them on his
brother, but kept them on his letter, though without opening it.
'Well?' he repeated sharply.
'I am uneasy about Harriet.'
'Harriet who? what Harriet? I know nobody of that name.'
'She is not well, and has changed very much of late.'
'She changed very much, a great many years ago,' replied the
Manager; 'and that is all I have to say.
'I think if you would hear me -
'Why should I hear you, Brother John?' returned the Manager, laying
a sarcastic emphasis on those two words, and throwing up his head, but
not lifting his eyes. 'I tell you, Harriet Carker made her choice many
years ago between her two brothers. She may repent it, but she must
abide by it.'
'Don't mistake me. I do not say she does repent it. It would be
black ingratitude in me to hint at such a thing,' returned the other.
'Though believe me, James, I am as sorry for her sacrifice as you.'
'As I?' exclaimed the Manager. 'As I?'
'As sorry for her choice - for what you call her choice - as you
are angry at it,' said the Junior.
'Angry?' repeated the other, with a wide show of his teeth.
'Displeased. Whatever word you like best. You know my meaning.
There is no offence in my intention.'
'There is offence in everything you do,' replied his brother,
glancing at him with a sudden scowl, which in a moment gave place to a
wider smile than the last. 'Carry those papers away, if you please. I
His politeness was so much more cutting than his wrath, that the
Junior went to the door. But stopping at it, and looking round, he
'When Harriet tried in vain to plead for me with you, on your first
just indignation, and my first disgrace; and when she left you, James,
to follow my broken fortunes, and devote herself, in her mistaken
affection, to a ruined brother, because without her he had no one, and
was lost; she was young and pretty. I think if you could see her now -
if you would go and see her - she would move your admiration and
The Manager inclined his head, and showed his teeth, as who should
say, in answer to some careless small-talk, 'Dear me! Is that the
case?' but said never a word.
'We thought in those days: you and I both: that she would marry
young, and lead a happy and light-hearted life,' pursued the other.
'Oh if you knew how cheerfully she cast those hopes away; how
cheerfully she has gone forward on the path she took, and never once
looked back; you never could say again that her name was strange in
your ears. Never!'
Again the Manager inclined his head and showed his teeth, and
seemed to say, 'Remarkable indeed! You quite surprise me!' And again
he uttered never a word.
'May I go on?' said John Carker, mildly.
'On your way?' replied his smiling brother. 'If you will have the
John Carker, with a sigh, was passing slowly out at the door, when
his brother's voice detained him for a moment on the threshold.
'If she has gone, and goes, her own way cheerfully,' he said,
throwing the still unfolded letter on his desk, and putting his hands
firmly in his pockets, 'you may tell her that I go as cheerfully on
mine. If she has never once looked back, you may tell her that I have,
sometimes, to recall her taking part with you, and that my resolution
is no easier to wear away;' he smiled very sweetly here; 'than
'I tell her nothing of you. We never speak about you. Once a year,
on your birthday, Harriet says always, "Let us remember James by name,
and wish him happy," but we say no more'
'Tell it then, if you please,' returned the other, 'to yourself.
You can't repeat it too often, as a lesson to you to avoid the subject
in speaking to me. I know no Harriet Carker. There is no such person.
You may have a sister; make much of her. I have none.'
Mr Carker the Manager took up the letter again, and waved it with a
smile of mock courtesy towards the door. Unfolding it as his brother
withdrew, and looking darkly aiter him as he left the room, he once
more turned round in his elbow-chair, and applied himself to a
diligent perusal of its contents.
It was in the writing of his great chief, Mr Dombey, and dated from
Leamington. Though he was a quick reader of all other letters, Mr
Carker read this slowly; weighing the words as he went, and bringing
every tooth in his head to bear upon them. When he had read it through
once, he turned it over again, and picked out these passages. 'I find
myself benefited by the change, and am not yet inclined to name any
time for my return.' 'I wish, Carker, you would arrange to come down
once and see me here, and let me know how things are going on, in
person.' 'I omitted to speak to you about young Gay. If not gone per
Son and Heir, or if Son and Heir still lying in the Docks, appoint
some other young man and keep him in the City for the present. I am
not decided.' 'Now that's unfortunate!' said Mr Carker the Manager,
expanding his mouth, as if it were made of India-rubber: 'for he's far
Still that passage, which was in a postscript, attracted his
attention and his teeth, once more.
'I think,' he said, 'my good friend Captain Cuttle mentioned
something about being towed along in the wake of that day. What a pity
he's so far away!'
He refolded the letter, and was sitting trifling with it, standing
it long-wise and broad-wise on his table, and turning it over and over
on all sides - doing pretty much the same thing, perhaps, by its
contents - when Mr Perch the messenger knocked softly at the door, and
coming in on tiptoe, bending his body at every step as if it were the
delight of his life to bow, laid some papers on the table.
'Would you please to be engaged, Sir?' asked Mr Perch, rubbing his
hands, and deferentially putting his head on one side, like a man who
felt he had no business to hold it up in such a presence, and would
keep it as much out of the way as possible.
'Who wants me?'
'Why, Sir,' said Mr Perch, in a soft voice, 'really nobody, Sir, to
speak of at present. Mr Gills the Ship's Instrument-maker, Sir, has
looked in, about a little matter of payment, he says: but I mentioned
to him, Sir, that you was engaged several deep; several deep.'
Mr Perch coughed once behind his hand, and waited for further
'Well, Sir,' said Mr Perch, 'I wouldn't of my own self take the
liberty of mentioning, Sir, that there was anybody else; but that same
young lad that was here yesterday, Sir, and last week, has been
hanging about the place; and it looks, Sir,' added Mr Perch, stopping
to shut the door, 'dreadful unbusiness-like to see him whistling to
the sparrows down the court, and making of 'em answer him.'
'You said he wanted something to do, didn't you, Perch?' asked Mr
Carker, leaning back in his chair and looking at that officer.
'Why, Sir,' said Mr Perch, coughing behind his hand again, 'his
expression certainly were that he was in wants of a sitiwation, and
that he considered something might be done for him about the Docks,
being used to fishing with a rod and line: but - ' Mr Perch shook his
head very dubiously indeed.
'What does he say when he comes?' asked Mr Carker.
'Indeed, Sir,' said Mr Perch, coughing another cough behind his
hand, which was always his resource as an expression of humility when
nothing else occurred to him, 'his observation generally air that he
would humbly wish to see one of the gentlemen, and that he wants to
earn a living. But you see, Sir,' added Perch, dropping his voice to a
whisper, and turning, in the inviolable nature of his confidence, to
give the door a thrust with his hand and knee, as if that would shut
it any more when it was shut already, 'it's hardly to be bore, Sir,
that a common lad like that should come a prowling here, and saying
that his mother nursed our House's young gentleman, and that he hopes
our House will give him a chance on that account. I am sure, Sir,'
observed Mr Perch, 'that although Mrs Perch was at that time nursing
as thriving a little girl, Sir, as we've ever took the liberty of
adding to our family, I wouldn't have made so free as drop a hint of
her being capable of imparting nourishment, not if it was never so!'
Mr Carker grinned at him like a shark, but in an absent, thoughtful
'Whether,' submitted Mr Perch, after a short silence, and another
cough, 'it mightn't be best for me to tell him, that if he was seen
here any more he would be given into custody; and to keep to it! With
respect to bodily fear,' said Mr Perch, 'I'm so timid, myself, by
nature, Sir, and my nerves is so unstrung by Mrs Perch's state, that I
could take my affidavit easy.'
'Let me see this fellow, Perch,' said Mr Carker. 'Bring him in!'
'Yes, Sir. Begging your pardon, Sir,' said Mr Perch, hesitating at
the door, 'he's rough, Sir, in appearance.'
'Never mind. If he's there, bring him in. I'll see Mr Gills
directly. Ask him to wait.'
Mr Perch bowed; and shutting the door, as precisely and carefully
as if he were not coming back for a week, went on his quest among the
sparrows in the court. While he was gone, Mr Carker assumed his
favourite attitude before the fire-place, and stood looking at the
door; presenting, with his under lip tucked into the smile that showed
his whole row of upper teeth, a singularly crouching apace.
The messenger was not long in returning, followed by a pair of
heavy boots that came bumping along the passage like boxes. With the
unceremonious words 'Come along with you!' - a very unusual form of
introduction from his lips - Mr Perch then ushered into the presence a
strong-built lad of fifteen, with a round red face, a round sleek
head, round black eyes, round limbs, and round body, who, to carry out
the general rotundity of his appearance, had a round hat in his hand,
without a particle of brim to it.
Obedient to a nod from Mr Carker, Perch had no sooner confronted
the visitor with that gentleman than he withdrew. The moment they were
face to face alone, Mr Carker, without a word of preparation, took him
by the throat, and shook him until his head seemed loose upon his
The boy, who in the midst of his astonishment could not help
staring wildly at the gentleman with so many white teeth who was
choking him, and at the office walls, as though determined, if he were
choked, that his last look should be at the mysteries for his
intrusion into which he was paying such a severe penalty, at last
contrived to utter -
'Come, Sir! You let me alone, will you!'
'Let you alone!' said Mr Carker. 'What! I have got you, have I?'
There was no doubt of that, and tightly too. 'You dog,' said Mr
Carker, through his set jaws, 'I'll strangle you!'
Biler whimpered, would he though? oh no he wouldn't - and what was
he doing of - and why didn't he strangle some- body of his own size
and not him: but Biler was quelled by the extraordinary nature of his
reception, and, as his head became stationary, and he looked the
gentleman in the face, or rather in the teeth, and saw him snarling at
him, he so far forgot his manhood as to cry.
'I haven't done nothing to you, Sir,' said Biler, otherwise Rob,
otherwise Grinder, and always Toodle.
'You young scoundrel!' replied Mr Carker, slowly releasing him, and
moving back a step into his favourite position. 'What do you mean by
daring to come here?'
'I didn't mean no harm, Sir,' whimpered Rob, putting one hand to
his throat, and the knuckles of the other to his eyes. 'I'll never
come again, Sir. I only wanted work.'
'Work, young Cain that you are!' repeated Mr Carker, eyeing him
narrowly. 'Ain't you the idlest vagabond in London?'
The impeachment, while it much affected Mr Toodle Junior, attached
to his character so justly, that he could not say a word in denial. He
stood looking at the gentleman, therefore, with a frightened,
self-convicted, and remorseful air. As to his looking at him, it may
be observed that he was fascinated by Mr Carker, and never took his
round eyes off him for an instant.
'Ain't you a thief?' said Mr Carker, with his hands behind him in
'No, sir,' pleaded Rob.
'You are!' said Mr Carker.
'I ain't indeed, Sir,' whimpered Rob. 'I never did such a thing as
thieve, Sir, if you'll believe me. I know I've been a going wrong,
Sir, ever since I took to bird-catching' and walking-matching. I'm
sure a cove might think,' said Mr Toodle Junior, with a burst of
penitence, 'that singing birds was innocent company, but nobody knows
what harm is in them little creeturs and what they brings you down
They seemed to have brought him down to a velveteen jacket and
trousers very much the worse for wear, a particularly small red
waistcoat like a gorget, an interval of blue check, and the hat before
'I ain't been home twenty times since them birds got their will of
me,' said Rob, 'and that's ten months. How can I go home when
everybody's miserable to see me! I wonder,' said Biler, blubbering
outright, and smearing his eyes with his coat-cuff, 'that I haven't
been and drownded myself over and over again.'
All of which, including his expression of surprise at not having
achieved this last scarce performance, the boy said, just as if the
teeth of Mr Carker drew it out ofhim, and he had no power of
concealing anything with that battery of attraction in full play.
'You're a nice young gentleman!' said Mr Carker, shaking his head
at him. 'There's hemp-seed sown for you, my fine fellow!'
'I'm sure, Sir,' returned the wretched Biler, blubbering again, and
again having recourse to his coat-cuff: 'I shouldn't care, sometimes,
if it was growed too. My misfortunes all began in wagging, Sir; but
what could I do, exceptin' wag?'
'Excepting what?' said Mr Carker.
'Wag, Sir. Wagging from school.'
'Do you mean pretending to go there, and not going?' said Mr
'Yes, Sir, that's wagging, Sir,' returned the quondam Grinder, much
affected. 'I was chivied through the streets, Sir, when I went there,
and pounded when I got there. So I wagged, and hid myself, and that
'And you mean to tell me,' said Mr Carker, taking him by the throat
again, holding him out at arm's-length, and surveying him in silence
for some moments, 'that you want a place, do you?'
'I should be thankful to be tried, Sir,' returned Toodle Junior,
Mr Carker the Manager pushed him backward into a corner - the boy
submitting quietly, hardly venturing to breathe, and never once
removing his eyes from his face - and rang the bell.
'Tell Mr Gills to come here.'
Mr Perch was too deferential to express surprise or recognition of
the figure in the corner: and Uncle Sol appeared immediately.
'Mr Gills!' said Carker, with a smile, 'sit down. How do you do?
You continue to enjoy your health, I hope?'
'Thank you, Sir,' returned Uncle Sol, taking out his pocket-book,
and handing over some notes as he spoke. 'Nothing ails me in body but
old age. Twenty-five, Sir.'
'You are as punctual and exact, Mr Gills,' replied the smiling
Manager, taking a paper from one of his many drawers, and making an
endorsement on it, while Uncle Sol looked over him, 'as one of your
own chronometers. Quite right.'
'The Son and Heir has not been spoken, I find by the list, Sir,'
said Uncle Sol, with a slight addition to the usual tremor in his
'The Son and Heir has not been spoken,' returned Carker. 'There
seems to have been tempestuous weather, Mr Gills, and she has probably
been driven out of her course.'
'She is safe, I trust in Heaven!' said old Sol.
'She is safe, I trust in Heaven!' assented Mr Carker in that
voiceless manner of his: which made the observant young Toodle
trernble again. 'Mr Gills,' he added aloud, throwing himself back in
his chair, 'you must miss your nephew very much?'
Uncle Sol, standing by him, shook his head and heaved a deep sigh.
'Mr Gills,' said Carker, with his soft hand playing round his
mouth, and looking up into the Instrument-maker's face, 'it would be
company to you to have a young fellow in your shop just now, and it
would be obliging me if you would give one house-room for the present.
No, to be sure,' he added quickly, in anticipation of what the old man
was going to say, 'there's not much business doing there, I know; but
you can make him clean the place out, polish up the instruments;
drudge, Mr Gills. That's the lad!'
Sol Gills pulled down his spectacles from his forehead to his eyes,
and looked at Toodle Junior standing upright in the corner: his head
presenting the appearance (which it always did) of having been newly
drawn out of a bucket of cold water; his small waistcoat rising and
falling quickly in the play of his emotions; and his eyes intently
fixed on Mr Carker, without the least reference to his proposed
'Will you give him house-room, Mr Gills?' said the Manager.
Old Sol, without being quite enthusiastic on the subject, replied
that he was glad of any opportunity, however slight, to oblige Mr
Carker, whose wish on such a point was a command: and that the wooden
Midshipman would consider himself happy to receive in his berth any
visitor of Mr Carker's selecting.
Mr Carker bared himself to the tops and bottoms of his gums: making
the watchful Toodle Junior tremble more and more: and acknowledged the
Instrument-maker's politeness in his most affable manner.
'I'll dispose of him so, then, Mr Gills,' he answered, rising, and
shaking the old man by the hand, 'until I make up my mind what to do
with him, and what he deserves. As I consider myself responsible for
him, Mr Gills,' here he smiled a wide smile at Rob, who shook before
it: 'I shall be glad if you'll look sharply after him, and report his
behaviour to me. I'll ask a question or two of his parents as I ride
home this afternoon - respectable people - to confirm some particulars
in his own account of himself; and that done, Mr Gills, I'll send him
round to you to-morrow morning. Goodbye!'
His smile at parting was so full of teeth, that it confused old
Sol, and made him vaguely uncomfortable. He went home, thinking of
raging seas, foundering ships, drowning men, an ancient bottle of
Madeira never brought to light, and other dismal matters.
'Now, boy!' said Mr Carker, putting his hand on young Toodle's
shoulder, and bringing him out into the middle of the room. 'You have
Rob said, 'Yes, Sir.'
'Perhaps you understand,' pursued his patron, 'that if you ever
deceive or play tricks with me, you had better have drowned yourself,
indeed, once for all, before you came here?'
There was nothing in any branch of mental acquisition that Rob
seemed to understand better than that.
'If you have lied to me,' said Mr Carker, 'in anything, never come
in my way again. If not, you may let me find you waiting for me
somewhere near your mother's house this afternoon. I shall leave this
at five o'clock, and ride there on horseback. Now, give me the
Rob repeated it slowly, as Mr Carker wrote it down. Rob even spelt
it over a second time, letter by letter, as if he thought that the
omission of a dot or scratch would lead to his destruction. Mr Carker
then handed him out of the room; and Rob, keeping his round eyes fixed
upon his patron to the last, vanished for the time being.
Mr Carker the Manager did a great deal of business in the course of
the day, and stowed his teeth upon a great many people. In the office,
in the court, in the street, and on 'Change, they glistened and
bristled to a terrible extent. Five o'clock arriving, and with it Mr
Carker's bay horse, they got on horseback, and went gleaming up
As no one can easily ride fast, even if inclined to do so, through
the press and throng of the City at that hour, and as Mr Carker was
not inclined, he went leisurely along, picking his way among the carts
and carriages, avoiding whenever he could the wetter and more dirty
places in the over-watered road, and taking infinite pains to keep
himself and his steed clean. Glancing at the passersby while he was
thus ambling on his way, he suddenly encountered the round eyes of the
sleek-headed Rob intently fixed upon his face as if they had never
been taken off, while the boy himself, with a pocket-handkerchief
twisted up like a speckled eel and girded round his waist, made a very
conspicuous demonstration of being prepared to attend upon him, at
whatever pace he might think proper to go.
This attention, however flattering, being one of an unusual kind,
and attracting some notice from the other passengers, Mr Carker took
advantage of a clearer thoroughfare and a cleaner road, and broke into
a trot. Rob immediately did the same. Mr Carker presently tried a
canter; Rob Was still in attendance. Then a short gallop; it Was all
one to the boy. Whenever Mr Carker turned his eyes to that side of the
road, he still saw Toodle Junior holding his course, apparently
without distress, and working himself along by the elbows after the
most approved manner of professional gentlemen who get over the ground
Ridiculous as this attendance was, it was a sign of an influence
established over the boy, and therefore Mr Carker, affecting not to
notice it, rode away into the neighbourhood of Mr Toodle's house. On
his slackening his pace here, Rob appeared before him to point out the
turnings; and when he called to a man at a neighbouring gateway to
hold his horse, pending his visit to the buildings that had succeeded
Staggs's Gardens, Rob dutifully held the stirrup, while the Manager
'Now, Sir,' said Mr Carker, taking him by the shoulder, 'come
The prodigal son was evidently nervous of visiting the parental
abode; but Mr Carker pushing him on before, he had nothing for it but
to open the right door, and suffer himself to be walked into the midst
of his brothers and sisters, mustered in overwhelming force round the
family tea-table. At sight of the prodigal in the grasp of a stranger,
these tender relations united in a general howl, which smote upon the
prodigal's breast so sharply when he saw his mother stand up among
them, pale and trembling, with the baby in her arms, that he lent his
own voice to the chorus.
Nothing doubting now that the stranger, if not Mr Ketch' in person,
was one of that company, the whole of the young family wailed the
louder, while its more infantine members, unable to control the
transports of emotion appertaining to their time of life, threw
themselves on their backs like young birds when terrified by a hawk,
and kicked violently. At length, poor Polly making herself audible,
said, with quivering lips, 'Oh Rob, my poor boy, what have you done at
'Nothing, mother,' cried Rob, in a piteous voice, 'ask the
'Don't be alarmed,' said Mr Carker, 'I want to do him good.'
At this announcement, Polly, who had not cried yet, began to do so.
The elder Toodles, who appeared to have been meditating a rescue,
unclenched their fists. The younger Toodles clustered round their
mother's gown, and peeped from under their own chubby arms at their
desperado brother and his unknown friend. Everybody blessed the
gentleman with the beautiful teeth, who wanted to do good.
'This fellow,' said Mr Carker to Polly, giving him a gentle shake,
'is your son, eh, Ma'am?'
'Yes, Sir,' sobbed Polly, with a curtsey; 'yes, Sir.'
'A bad son, I am afraid?' said Mr Carker.
'Never a bad son to me, Sir,' returned Polly.
'To whom then?' demanded Mr Carker.
'He has been a little wild, Sir,' returned Polly, checking the
baby, who was making convulsive efforts with his arms and legs to
launch himself on Biler, through the ambient air, 'and has gone with
wrong companions: but I hope he has seen the misery of that, Sir, and
will do well again.'
Mr Carker looked at Polly, and the clean room, and the clean
children, and the simple Toodle face, combined of father and mother,
that was reflected and repeated everywhere about him - and seemed to
have achieved the real purpose of his visit.
'Your husband, I take it, is not at home?' he said.
'No, Sir,' replied Polly. 'He's down the line at present.'
The prodigal Rob seemed very much relieved to hear it: though still
in the absorption of all his faculties in his patron, he hardly took
his eyes from Mr Carker's face, unless for a moment at a time to steal
a sorrowful glance at his mother.
'Then,' said Mr Carker, 'I'll tell you how I have stumbled on this
boy of yours, and who I am, and what I am going to do for him.'
This Mr Carker did, in his own way; saying that he at first
intended to have accumulated nameless terrors on his presumptuous
head, for coming to the whereabout of Dombey and Son. That he had
relented, in consideration of his youth, his professed contrition, and
his friends. That he was afraid he took a rash step in doing anything
for the boy, and one that might expose him to the censure of the
prudent; but that he did it of himself and for himself, and risked the
consequences single-handed; and that his mother's past connexion with
Mr Dombey's family had nothing to do with it, and that Mr Dombey had
nothing to do with it, but that he, Mr Carker, was the be-all and the
end-all of this business. Taking great credit to himself for his
goodness, and receiving no less from all the family then present, Mr
Carker signified, indirectly but still pretty plainly, that Rob's
implicit fidelity, attachment, and devotion, were for evermore his
due, and the least homage he could receive. And with this great truth
Rob himself was so impressed, that, standing gazing on his patron with
tears rolling down his cheeks, he nodded his shiny head until it
seemed almost as loose as it had done under the same patron's hands
Polly, who had passed Heaven knows how many sleepless nights on
account of this her dissipated firstborn, and had not seen him for
weeks and weeks, could have almost kneeled to Mr Carker the Manager,
as to a Good Spirit - in spite of his teeth. But Mr Carker rising to
depart, she only thanked him with her mother's prayers and blessings;
thanks so rich when paid out of the Heart's mint, especially for any
service Mr Carker had rendered, that he might have given back a large
amount of change, and yet been overpaid.
As that gentleman made his way among the crowding children to the
door, Rob retreated on his mother, and took her and the baby in the
same repentant hug.
'I'll try hard, dear mother, now. Upon my soul I will!' said Rob.
'Oh do, my dear boy! I am sure you will, for our sakes and your
own!' cried Polly, kissing him. 'But you're coming back to speak to
me, when you have seen the gentleman away?'
'I don't know, mother.' Rob hesitated, and looked down. 'Father -
when's he coming home?'
'Not till two o'clock to-morrow morning.'
'I'll come back, mother dear!' cried Rob. And passing through the
shrill cry of his brothers and sisters in reception of this promise,
he followed Mr Carker out.
'What!' said Mr Carker, who had heard this. 'You have a bad father,
'No, Sir!' returned Rob, amazed. 'There ain't a better nor a kinder
father going, than mine is.'
'Why don't you want to see him then?' inquired his patron.
'There's such a difference between a father and a mother, Sir,'
said Rob, after faltering for a moment. 'He couldn't hardly believe
yet that I was doing to do better - though I know he'd try to but a
mother - she always believes what's,' good, Sir; at least I know my
mother does, God bless her!'
Mr Carker's mouth expanded, but he said no more until he was
mounted on his horse, and had dismissed the man who held it, when,
looking down from the saddle steadily into the attentive and watchful
face of the boy, he said:
'You'll come to me tomorrow morning, and you shall be shown where
that old gentleman lives; that old gentleman who was with me this
morning; where you are going, as you heard me say.'
'Yes, Sir,' returned Rob.
'I have a great interest in that old gentleman, and in serving him,
you serve me, boy, do you understand? Well,' he added, interrupting
him, for he saw his round face brighten when he was told that: 'I see
you do. I want to know all about that old gentleman, and how he goes
on from day to day - for I am anxious to be of service to him - and
especially who comes there to see him. Do you understand?'
Rob nodded his steadfast face, and said 'Yes, Sir,' again.
'I should like to know that he has friends who are attentive to
him, and that they don't desert him - for he lives very much alone
now, poor fellow; but that they are fond of him, and of his nephew who
has gone abroad. There is a very young lady who may perhaps come to
see him. I want particularly to know all about her.'
'I'll take care, Sir,' said the boy.
'And take care,' returned his patron, bending forward to advance
his grinning face closer to the boy's, and pat him on the shoulder
with the handle of his whip: 'take care you talk about affairs of mine
to nobody but me.'
'To nobody in the world, Sir,' replied Rob, shaking his head.
'Neither there,' said Mr CarHer, pointing to the place they had
just left, 'nor anywhere else. I'll try how true and grateful you can
be. I'll prove you!' Making this, by his display of teeth and by the
action of his head, as much a threat as a promise, he turned from
Rob's eyes, which were nailed upon him as if he had won the boy by a
charm, body and soul, and rode away. But again becoming conscious,
after trotting a short distance, that his devoted henchman, girt as
before, was yielding him the same attendance, to the great amusement
of sundry spectators, he reined up, and ordered him off. To ensure his
obedience, he turned in the saddle and watched him as he retired. It
was curious to see that even then Rob could not keep his eyes wholly
averted from his patron's face, but, constantly turning and turning
again to look after him' involved himself in a tempest of buffetings
and jostlings from the other passengers in the street: of which, in
the pursuit of the one paramount idea, he was perfectly heedless.
Mr Carker the Manager rode on at a foot-pace, with the easy air of
one who had performed all the business of the day in a satisfactory
manner, and got it comfortably off his mind. Complacent and affable as
man could be, Mr Carker picked his way along the streets and hummed a
soft tune as he went He seemed to purr, he was so glad.
And in some sort, Mr Carker, in his fancy, basked upon a hearth
too. Coiled up snugly at certain feet, he was ready for a spring, Or
for a tear, or for a scratch, or for a velvet touch, as the humour
took him and occasion served. Was there any bird in a cage, that came
in for a share ofhis regards?
'A very young lady!' thought Mr Carker the Manager, through his
song. 'Ay! when I saw her last, she was a little child. With dark eyes
and hair, I recollect, and a good face; a very good face! I daresay
More affable and pleasant yet, and humming his song until his many
teeth vibrated to it, Mr Carker picked his way along, and turned at
last into the shady street where Mr Dombey's house stood. He had been
so busy, winding webs round good faces, and obscuring them with
meshes, that he hardly thought of being at this point of his ride,
until, glancing down the cold perspective of tall houses, he reined in
his horse quickly within a few yards of the door. But to explain why
Mr Carker reined in his horse quickly, and what he looked at in no
small surprise, a few digressive words are necessary.
Mr Toots, emancipated from the Blimber thraldom and coming into the
possession of a certain portion of his wordly wealth, 'which,' as he
had been wont, during his last half-year's probation, to communicate
to Mr Feeder every evening as a new discovery, 'the executors couldn't
keep him out of' had applied himself with great diligence, to the
science of Life. Fired with a noble emulation to pursue a brilliant
and distinguished career, Mr Toots had furnished a choice set of
apartments; had established among them a sporting bower, embellished
with the portraits of winning horses, in which he took no particle of
interest; and a divan, which made him poorly. In this delicious abode,
Mr Toots devoted himself to the cultivation of those gentle arts which
refine and humanise existence, his chief instructor in which was an
interesting character called the Game Chicken, who was always to be
heard of at the bar of the Black Badger, wore a shaggy white
great-coat in the warmest weather, and knocked Mr Toots about the head
three times a week, for the small consideration of ten and six per
The Game Chicken, who was quite the Apollo of Mr Toots's Pantheon,
had introduced to him a marker who taught billiards, a Life Guard who
taught fencing, a jobmaster who taught riding, a Cornish gentleman who
was up to anything in the athletic line, and two or three other
friends connected no less intimately with the fine arts. Under whose
auspices Mr Toots could hardly fail to improve apace, and under whose
tuition he went to work.
But however it came about, it came to pass, even while these
gentlemen had the gloss of novelty upon them, that Mr Toots felt, he
didn't know how, unsettled and uneasy. There were husks in his corn,
that even Game Chickens couldn't peck up; gloomy giants in his
leisure, that even Game Chickens couldn't knock down. Nothing seemed
to do Mr Toots so much good as incessantly leaving cards at Mr
Dombey's door. No taxgatherer in the British Dominions - that
wide-spread territory on which the sun never sets, and where the
tax-gatherer never goes to bed - was more regular and persevering in
his calls than Mr Toots.
Mr Toots never went upstairs; and always performed the same
ceremonies, richly dressed for the purpose, at the hall door.
'Oh! Good morning!' would be Mr Toots's first remark to the
servant. 'For Mr Dombey,' would be Mr Toots's next remark, as he
handed in a card. 'For Miss Dombey,' would be his next, as he handed
Mr Toots would then turn round as if to go away; but the man knew
him by this time, and knew he wouldn't.
'Oh, I beg your pardon,' Mr Toots would say, as if a thought had
suddenly descended on him. 'Is the young woman at home?'
The man would rather think she was;, but wouldn't quite know. Then
he would ring a bell that rang upstairs, and would look up the
staircase, and would say, yes, she was at home, and was coming down.
Then Miss Nipper would appear, and the man would retire.
'Oh! How de do?' Mr Toots would say, with a chuckle and a blush.
Susan would thank him, and say she was very well.
'How's Diogenes going on?' would be Mr Toots's second
Very well indeed. Miss Florence was fonder and fonder of him every
day. Mr Toots was sure to hail this with a burst of chuckles, like the
opening of a bottle of some effervescent beverage.
'Miss Florence is quite well, Sir,' Susan would add.
Oh, it's of no consequence, thank'ee,' was the invariable reply of
Mr Toots; and when he had said so, he always went away very fast.
Now it is certain that Mr Toots had a filmy something in his mind,
which led him to conclude that if he could aspire successfully in the
fulness of time, to the hand of Florence, he would be fortunate and
blest. It is certain that Mr Toots, by some remote and roundabout
road, had got to that point, and that there he made a stand. His heart
was wounded; he was touched; he was in love. He had made a desperate
attempt, one night, and had sat up all night for the purpose, to write
an acrostic on Florence, which affected him to tears in the
conception. But he never proceeded in the execution further than the
words 'For when I gaze,' - the flow of imagination in which he had
previously written down the initial letters of the other seven lines,
deserting him at that point.
Beyond devising that very artful and politic measure of leaving a
card for Mr Dombey daily, the brain of Mr Toots had not worked much in
reference to the subject that held his feelings prisoner. But deep
consideration at length assured Mr Toots that an important step to
gain, was, the conciliation of Miss Susan Nipper, preparatory to
giving her some inkling of his state of mind.
A little light and playful gallantry towards this lady seemed the
means to employ in that early chapter of the history, for winning her
to his interests. Not being able quite to make up his mind about it,
he consulted the Chicken - without taking that gentleman into his
confidence; merely informing him that a friend in Yorkshire had
written to him (Mr Toots) for his opinion on such a question. The
Chicken replying that his opinion always was, 'Go in and win,' and
further, 'When your man's before you and your work cut out, go in and
do it,' Mr Toots considered this a figurative way of supporting his
own view of the case, and heroically resolved to kiss Miss Nipper next
Upon the next day, therefore, Mr Toots, putting into requisition
some of the greatest marvels that Burgess and Co. had ever turned out,
went off to Mr Dotnbey's upon this design. But his heart failed him so
much as he approached the scene of action, that, although he arrived
on the ground at three o'clock in the afternoon, it was six before he
knocked at the door.
Everything happened as usual, down to the point where Susan said
her young mistress was well, and Mr Toots said it was ofno
consequence. To her amazement, Mr Toots, instead of going off, like a
rocket, after that observation, lingered and chuckled.
'Perhaps you'd like to walk upstairs, Sir!' said Susan.
'Well, I think I will come in!' said Mr Toots.
But instead of walking upstairs, the bold Toots made an awkward
plunge at Susan when the door was shut, and embracing that fair
creature, kissed her on the cheek
'Go along with you!~ cried Susan, 'or Ill tear your eyes out.'
'Just another!' said Mr Toots.
'Go along with you!' exclaimed Susan, giving him a push 'Innocents
like you, too! Who'll begin next? Go along, Sir!'
Susan was not in any serious strait, for she could hardly speak for
laughing; but Diogenes, on the staircase, hearing a rustling against
the wall, and a shuffling of feet, and seeing through the banisters
that there was some contention going on, and foreign invasion in the
house, formed a different opinion, dashed down to the rescue, and in
the twinkling of an eye had Mr Toots by the leg.
Susan screamed, laughed, opened the street-door, and ran
downstairs; the bold Toots tumbled staggering out into the street,
with Diogenes holding on to one leg of his pantaioons, as if Burgess
and Co. were his cooks, and had provided that dainty morsel for his
holiday entertainment; Diogenes shaken off, rolled over and over in
the dust, got up' again, whirled round the giddy Toots and snapped at
him: and all this turmoil Mr Carker, reigning up his horse and sitting
a little at a distance, saw to his amazement, issue from the stately
house of Mr Dombey.
Mr Carker remained watching the discomfited Toots, when Diogenes
was called in, and the door shut: and while that gentleman, taking
refuge in a doorway near at hand, bound up the torn leg of his
pantaloons with a costly silk handkerchief that had formed part of his
expensive outfit for the advent
'I beg your pardon, Sir,' said Mr Carker, riding up, with his most
propitiatory smile. 'I hope you are not hurt?'
'Oh no, thank you,' replied Mr Toots, raising his flushed face,
'it's of no consequence' Mr Toots would have signified, if he could,
that he liked it very much.
'If the dog's teeth have entered the leg, Sir - ' began Carker,
with a display of his own'
'No, thank you,' said Mr Toots, 'it's all quite right. It's very
comfortable, thank you.'
'I have the pleasure of knowing Mr Dombey,' observed Carker.
'Have you though?' rejoined the blushing Took
'And you will allow me, perhaps, to apologise, in his absence,'
said Mr Carker, taking off his hat, 'for such a misadventure, and to
wonder how it can possibly have happened.'
Mr Toots is so much gratified by this politeness, and the lucky
chance of making frends with a friend of Mr Dombey, that he pulls out
his card-case which he never loses an opportunity of using, and hands
his name and address to Mr Carker: who responds to that courtesy by
giving him his own, and with that they part.
As Mr Carker picks his way so softly past the house, looking up at
the windows, and trying to make out the pensive face behind the
curtain looking at the children opposite, the rough head of Diogenes
came clambering up close by it, and the dog, regardless of all
soothing, barks and growls, and makes at him from that height, as ifhe
would spring down and tear him limb from limb.
Well spoken, Di, so near your Mistress! Another, and another with
your head up, your eyes flashing, and your vexed mouth worrying
itself, for want of him! Another, as he picks his way along! You have
a good scent, Di, - cats, boy, cats!
Florence solitary, and the Midshipman mysterious
Florence lived alone in the great dreary house, and day succeeded
day, and still she lived alone; and the blank walls looked down upon
her with a vacant stare, as if they had a Gorgon-like mind to stare
her youth and beauty into stone.
No magic dwelling-place in magic story, shut up in the heart of a
thick wood, was ever more solitary and deserted to the fancy, than was
her father's mansion in its grim reality, as it stood lowering on the
street: always by night, when lights were shining from neighbouring
windows, a blot upon its scanty brightness; always by day, a frown
upon its never-smiling face.
There were not two dragon sentries keeping ward before the gate of
this above, as in magic legend are usually found on duty over the
wronged innocence imprisoned; but besides a glowering visage, with its
thin lips parted wickedly, that surveyed all comers from above the
archway of the door, there was a monstrous fantasy of rusty iron,
curling and twisting like a petrifaction of an arbour over threshold,
budding in spikes and corkscrew points, and bearing, one on either
side, two ominous extinguishers, that seemed to say, 'Who enter here,
leave light behind!' There were no talismanic characters engraven on
the portal, but the house was now so neglected in appearance, that
boys chalked the railings and the pavement - particularly round the
corner where the side wall was - and drew ghosts on the stable door;
and being sometimes driven off by Mr Towlinson, made portraits of him,
in return, with his ears growing out horizontally from under his hat.
Noise ceased to be, within the shadow of the roof. The brass band that
came into the street once a week, in the morning, never brayed a note
in at those windows; but all such company, down to a poor little
piping organ of weak intellect, with an imbecile party of automaton
dancers, waltzing in and out at folding-doors, fell off from it with
one accord, and shunned it as a hopeless place.
The spell upon it was more wasting than the spell that used to set
enchanted houses sleeping once upon a time, but left their waking
freshness unimpaired. The passive desolation of disuse was everywhere
silently manifest about it. Within doors, curtains, drooping heavily,
lost their old folds and shapes, and hung like cumbrous palls.
Hecatombs of furniture, still piled and covered up, shrunk like
imprisoned and forgotten men, and changed insensibly. Mirrors were dim
as with the breath of years. Patterns of carpets faded and became
perplexed and faint, like the memory of those years' trifling
incidents. Boards, starting at unwonted footsteps, creaked and shook.
Keys rusted in the locks of doors. Damp started on the walls, and as
the stains came out, the pictures seemed to go in and secrete
themselves. Mildew and mould began to lurk in closets. Fungus trees
grew in corners of the cellars. Dust accumulated, nobody knew whence
nor how; spiders, moths, and grubs were heard of every day. An
exploratory blackbeetle now and then was found immovable upon the
stairs, or in an upper room, as wondering how he got there. Rats began
to squeak and scuffle in the night time, through dark galleries they
mined behind the panelling.
The dreary magnificence of the state rooms, seen imperfectly by the
doubtful light admitted through closed shutters, would have answered
well enough for an enchanted abode. Such as the tarnished paws of
gilded lions, stealthily put out from beneath their wrappers; the
marble lineaments of busts on pedestals, fearfully revealing
themselves through veils; the clocks that never told the time, or, if
wound up by any chance, told it wrong, and struck unearthly numbers,
which are not upon the dial; the accidental tinklings among the
pendant lustres, more startling than alarm-bells; the softened sounds
and laggard air that made their way among these objects, and a phantom
crowd of others, shrouded and hooded, and made spectral of shape. But,
besides, there was the great staircase, where the lord of the place so
rarely set his foot, and by which his little child had gone up to
Heaven. There were other staircases and passages where no one went for
weeks together; there were two closed rooms associated with dead
members of the family, and with whispered recollections of them; and
to all the house but Florence, there was a gentle figure moving
through the solitude and gloom, that gave to every lifeless thing a
touch of present human interest and wonder,
For Florence lived alone in the deserted house, and day succeeded
day, and still she lived alone, and the cold walls looked down upon
her with a vacant stare, as if they had a Gorgon-like mind to stare
her youth and beauty into stone
The grass began to grow upon the roof, and in the crevices of the
basement paving. A scaly crumbling vegetation sprouted round the
window-sills. Fragments of mortar lost their hold upon the insides of
the unused chimneys, and came dropping down. The two trees with the
smoky trunks were blighted high up, and the withered branches
domineered above the leaves, Through the whole building white had
turned yellow, yellow nearly black; and since the time when the poor
lady died, it had slowly become a dark gap in the long monotonous
But Florence bloomed there, like the king's fair daughter in the
story. Her books, her music, and her daily teachers, were her only
real companions, Susan Nipper and Diogenes excepted: of whom the
former, in her attendance on the studies of her young mistress, began
to grow quite learned herself, while the latter, softened possibly by
the same influences, would lay his head upon the window-ledge, and
placidly open and shut his eyes upon the street, all through a summer
morning; sometimes pricking up his head to look with great
significance after some noisy dog in a cart, who was barking his way
along, and sometimes, with an exasperated and unaccountable
recollection of his supposed enemy in the neighbourhood, rushing to
the door, whence, after a deafening disturbance, he would come jogging
back with a ridiculous complacency that belonged to him, and lay his
jaw upon the window-ledge again, with the air of a dog who had done a
So Florence lived in her wilderness of a home, within the circle of
her innocent pursuits and thoughts, and nothing harmed her. She could
go down to her father's rooms now, and think of him, and suffer her
loving heart humbly to approach him, without fear of repulse. She
could look upon the objects that had surrounded him in his sorrow, and
could nestle near his chair, and not dread the glance that she so well
remembered. She could render him such little tokens of her duty and
service' as putting everything in order for him with her own hands,
binding little nosegays for table, changing them as one by one they
withered and he did not come back, preparing something for him every'
day, and leaving some timid mark of her presence near his usual seat.
To-day, it was a little painted stand for his watch; tomorrow she
would be afraid to leave it, and would substitute some other trifle of
her making not so likely to attract his eye. Waking in the night,
perhaps, she would tremble at the thought of his coming home and
angrily rejecting it, and would hurry down with slippered feet and
quickly beating heart, and bring it away. At another time, she would
only lay her face upon his desk, and leave a kiss there, and a tear.
Still no one knew of this. Unless the household found it out when
she was not there - and they all held Mr Dombey's rooms in awe - it
was as deep a secret in her breast as what had gone before it.
Florence stole into those rooms at twilight, early in the morning, and
at times when meals were served downstairs. And although they were in
every nook the better and the brighter for her care, she entered and
passed out as quietly as any sunbeam, opting that she left her light
Shadowy company attended Florence up and down the echoing house,
and sat with her in the dismantled rooms. As if her life were an
enchanted vision, there arose out of her solitude ministering
thoughts, that made it fanciful and unreal. She imagined so often what
her life would have been if her father could have loved her and she
had been a favourite child, that sometimes, for the moment, she almost
believed it was so, and, borne on by the current of that pensive
fiction, seemed to remember how they had watched her brother in his
grave together; how they had freely shared his heart between them; how
they were united in the dear remembrance of him; how they often spoke
about him yet; and her kind father, looking at her gently, told her of
their common hope and trust in God. At other times she pictured to
herself her mother yet alive. And oh the happiness of falling on her
neck, and clinging to her with the love and confidence of all her
soul! And oh the desolation of the solitary house again, with evening
coming on, and no one there!
But there was one thought, scarcely shaped out to herself, yet
fervent and strong within her, that upheld Florence when she strove
and filled her true young heart, so sorely tried, with constancy of
purpose. Into her mind, as 'into all others contending with the great
affliction of our mortal nature, there had stolen solemn wonderings
and hopes, arising in the dim world beyond the present life, and
murmuring, like faint music, of recognition in the far-off land
between her brother and her mother: of some present consciousness in
both of her: some love and commiseration for her: and some knowledge
of her as she went her way upon the earth. It was a soothing
consolation to Florence to give shelter to these thoughts, until one
day - it was soon after she had last seen her father in his own room,
late at night - the fancy came upon her, that, in weeping for his
alienated heart, she might stir the spirits of the dead against him'
Wild, weak, childish, as it may have been to think so, and to tremble
at the half-formed thought, it was the impulse of her loving nature;
and from that hour Florence strove against the cruel wound in her
breast, and tried to think of him whose hand had made it, only with
Her father did not know - she held to it from that time - how much
she loved him. She was very young, and had no mother, and had never
learned, by some fault or misfortune, how to express to him that she
loved him. She would be patient, and would try to gain that art in
time, and win him to a better knowledge of his only child.
This became the purpose of her life. The morning sun shone down
upon the faded house, and found the resolution bright and fresh within
the bosom of its solitary mistress, Through all the duties of the day,
it animated her; for Florence hoped that the more she knew, and the
more accomplished she became, the more glad he would be when he came
to know and like her. Sometimes she wondered, with a swelling heart
and rising tear, whether she was proficient enough in anything to
surprise him when they should become companions. Sometimes she tried
to think if there were any kind of knowledge that would bespeak his
interest more readily than another. Always: at her books, her music,
and her work: in her morning walks, and in her nightly prayers: she
had her engrossing aim in view. Strange study for a child, to learn
the road to a hard parent's heart!
There were many careless loungers through the street, as the summer
evening deepened into night, who glanced across the road at the sombre
house, and saw the youthful figure at the window, such a contrast to
it, looking upward at the stars as they began to shine, who would have
slept the worse if they had known on what design she mused so steady.
The reputation of the mansion as a haunted house, would not have been
the gayer with some humble dwellers elsewhere, who were struck by its
external gloom in passing and repassing on their daily avocations, and
so named it, if they could have read its story in the darkening face.
But Florence held her sacred purpose, unsuspected and unaided: and
studied only how to bring her father to the understanding that she
loved him, and made no appeal against him in any wandering thought.
Thus Florence lived alone in the deserted house, and day succeeded
day, and still she lived alone, and the monotonous walls looked down
upon her with a stare, as if they had a Gorgon-like intent to stare
her youth and beauty into stone.
Susan Nipper stood opposite to her young mistress one morning, as
she folded and sealed a note she had been writing: and showed in her
looks an approving knowledge of its contents.
'Better late than never, dear Miss Floy,' said Susan, 'and I do
say, that even a visit to them old Skettleses will be a Godsend.'
'It is very good of Sir Barnet and Lady Skettles, Susan,' returned
Florence, with a mild correction of that young lady's familiar mention
of the family in question, 'to repeat their invitation so kindly.'
Miss Nipper, who was perhaps the most thoroughgoing partisan on the
face of the earth, and who carried her partisanship into all matters
great or small, and perpetually waged war with it against society,
screwed up her lips and shook her head, as a protest against any
recognition of disinterestedness in the Skettleses, and a plea in bar
that they would have valuable consideration for their kindness, in the
company of Florence.
'They know what they're about, if ever people did,' murmured Miss
Nipper, drawing in her breath 'oh! trust them Skettleses for that!'
'I am not very anxious to go to Fulham, Susan, I confess,' said
Florence thoughtfully: 'but it will be right to go. I think it will be
'Much better,' interposed Susan, with another emphatic shake of her
'And so,' said Florence, 'though I would prefer to have gone when
there was no one there, instead of in this vacation time, when it
seems there are some young people staying in the house, I have
thankfully said yes.'
'For which I say, Miss Floy, Oh be joyful!' returned Susan, 'Ah!
This last ejaculation, with which Miss Nipper frequently wound up a
sentence, at about that epoch of time, was supposed below the level of
the hall to have a general reference to Mr Dombey, and to be
expressive of a yearning in Miss Nipper to favour that gentleman with
a piece of her mind. But she never explained it; and it had, in
consequence, the charm of mystery, in addition to the advantage of the
'How long it is before we have any news of Walter, Susan!' observed
Florence, after a moment's silence.
'Long indeed, Miss Floy!' replied her maid. 'And Perch said, when
he came just now to see for letters - but what signifies what he
says!' exclaimed Susan, reddening and breaking off. 'Much he knows
Florence raised her eyes quickly, and a flush overspread her face.
'If I hadn't,' said Susan Nipper, evidently struggling with some
latent anxiety and alarm, and looking full at her young mistress,
while endeavouring to work herself into a state of resentment with the
unoffending Mr Perch's image, 'if I hadn't more manliness than that
insipidest of his sex, I'd never take pride in my hair again, but turn
it up behind my ears, and wear coarse caps, without a bit of border,
until death released me from my insignificance. I may not be a Amazon,
Miss Floy, and wouldn't so demean myself by such disfigurement, but
anyways I'm not a giver up, I hope'
'Give up! What?' cried Florence, with a face of terror.
'Why, nothing, Miss,' said Susan. 'Good gracious, nothing! It's
only that wet curl-paper of a man, Perch, that anyone might almost
make away with, with a touch, and really it would be a blessed event
for all parties if someone would take pity on him, and would have the
'Does he give up the ship, Susan?' inquired Florence, very pale.
'No, Miss,' returned Susan, 'I should like to see' him make so bold
as do it to my face! No, Miss, but he goes 'on about some bothering
ginger that Mr Walter was to send to Mrs Perch, and shakes his dismal
head, and says he hopes it may be coming; anyhow, he says, it can't
come now in time for the intended occasion, but may do for next, which
really,' said Miss Nipper, with aggravated scorn, 'puts me out of
patience with the man, for though I can bear a great deal, I am not a
camel, neither am I,' added Susan, after a moment's consideration, 'if
I know myself, a dromedary neither.'
'What else does he say, Susan?' inquired Florence, earnestly.
'Won't you tell me?'
'As if I wouldn't tell you anything, Miss Floy, and everything!'
said Susan. 'Why, nothing Miss, he says that there begins to be a
general talk about the ship, and that they have never had a ship on
that voyage half so long unheard of, and that the Captain's wife was
at the office yesterday, and seemed a little put out about it, but
anyone could say that, we knew nearly that before.'
'I must visit Walter's uncle,' said Florence, hurriedly, 'before I
leave home. I will go and see him this morning. Let us walk there,
Miss Nipper having nothing to urge against the proposal, but being
perfectly acquiescent, they were soon equipped, and in the streets,
and on their way towards the little Midshipman.
The state of mind in which poor Walter had gone to Captain
Cuttle's, on the day when Brogley the broker came into possession, and
when there seemed to him to be an execution in the very steeples, was
pretty much the same as that in which Florence now took her way to
Uncle Sol's; with this difference, that Florence suffered the added
pain of thinking that she had been, perhaps, the innocent occasion of
involving Walter in peril, and all to whom he was dear, herself
included, in an agony of suspense. For the rest, uncertainty and
danger seemed written upon everything. The weathercocks on spires and
housetops were mysterious with hints of stormy wind, and pointed, like
so many ghostly fingers, out to dangerous seas, where fragments of
great wrecks were drifting, perhaps, and helpless men were rocked upon
them into a sleep as deep as the unfathomable waters. When Florence
came into the City, and passed gentlemen who were talking together,
she dreaded to hear them speaking of the ship, an'd saying it was
lost. Pictures and prints of vessels fighting with the rolling waves
filled her with alarm. The smoke and clouds, though moving gently,
moved too fast for her apprehensions, and made her fear there was a
tempest blowing at that moment on the ocean.
Susan Nipper may or may not have been affected similarly, but
having her attention much engaged in struggles with boys, whenever
there was any press of people - for, between that grade of human kind
and herself, there was some natural animosity that invariably broke
out, whenever they came together - it would seem that she had not much
leisure on the road for intellectual operations,
Arriving in good time abreast of the wooden Midshipman on the
opposite side of the way, and waiting for an opportunity to cross the
street, they were a little surprised at first to see, at the
Instrument-maker's door, a round-headed lad, with his chubby face
addressed towards the sky, who, as they looked at him, suddenly thrust
into his capacious mouth two fingers of each hand, and with the
assistance of that machinery whistled, with astonishing shrillness, to
some pigeons at a considerable elevation in the air.
'Mrs Richards's eldest, Miss!' said Susan, 'and the worrit of Mrs
As Polly had been to tell Florence of the resuscitated prospects of
her son and heir, Florence was prepared for the meeting: so, a
favourable moment presenting itself, they both hastened across,
without any further contemplation of Mrs Richards's bane' That
sporting character, unconscious of their approach, again whistled with
his utmost might, and then yelled in a rapture of excitement, 'Strays!
Whip! Strays!' which identification had such an effect upon the
conscience-stricken pigeons, that instead of going direct to some town
in the North of England, as appeared to have been their original
intention, they began to wheel and falter; whereupon Mrs Richards's
first born pierced them with another whistle, and again yelled, in a
voice that rose above the turmoil of the street, 'Strays! Who~oop!
From this transport, he was abruptly recalled to terrestrial
objects, by a poke from Miss Nipper, which sent him into the shop,
'Is this the way you show your penitence, when Mrs Richards has
been fretting for you months and months?' said Susan, following the
poke. 'Where's Mr Gills?'
Rob, who smoothed his first rebellious glance at Miss Nipper when
he saw Florence following, put his knuckles to his hair, in honour of
the latter, and said to the former, that Mr Gills was out'
Fetch him home,' said Miss Nipper, with authority, 'and say that my
young lady's here.'
'I don't know where he's gone,' said Rob.
'Is that your penitence?' cried Susan, with stinging sharpness.
'Why how can I go and fetch him when I don't know where to go?'
whimpered the baited Rob. 'How can you be so unreasonable?'
'Did Mr Gills say when he should be home?' asked Florence.
'Yes, Miss,' replied Rob, with another application of his knuckles
to his hair. 'He said he should be home early in the afternoon; in
about a couple of hours from now, Miss.'
'Is he very anxious about his nephew?' inquired Susan.
'Yes, Miss,' returned Rob, preferring to address himself to
Florence and slighting Nipper; 'I should say he was, very much so. He
ain't indoors, Miss, not a quarter of an hour together. He can't
settle in one place five minutes. He goes about, like a - just like a
stray,' said Rob, stooping to get a glimpse of the pigeons through the
window, and checking himself, with his fingers half-way to his mouth,
on the verge of another whistle.
'Do you know a friend of Mr Gills, called Captain Cuttle?' inquired
Florence, after a moment's reflection.
'Him with a hook, Miss?' rejoined Rob, with an illustrative twist
of his left hand. Yes, Miss. He was here the day before yesterday.'
'Has he not been here since?' asked Susan.
'No, Miss,' returned Rob, still addressing his reply to Florence.
'Perhaps Walter's Uncle has gone there, Susan,' observed Florence,
turning to her.
'To Captain Cuttle's, Miss?' interposed Rob; 'no, he's not gone
there, Miss. Because he left particular word that if Captain Cuttle
called, I should tell him how surprised he was, not to have seen him
yesterday, and should make him stop till he came back'
'Do you know where Captain Cuttle lives?' asked Florence.
Rob replied in the affirmative, and turning to a greasy parchment
book on the shop desk, read the address aloud.
Florence again turned to her maid and took counsel with her in a
low voice, while Rob the round-eyed, mindful of his patron's secret
charge, looked on and listened. Florence proposed that they kould go
to Captain Cuttle's house; hear from his own lips, what he thought of
the absence of any tidings ofthe Son and Heir; and bring him, if they
could, to comfort Uncle Sol. Susan at first objected slightly, on the
score of distance; but a hackney-coach being mentioned by her
mistress, withdrew that opposition, and gave in her assent. There were
some minutes of discussion between them before they came to this
conclusion, during which the staring Rob paid close attention to both
speakers, and inclined his ear to each by turns, as if he were
appointed arbitrator of the argument.
In time, Rob was despatched for a coach, the visitors keeping shop
meanwhile; and when he brought it, they got into it, leaving word for
Uncle Sol that they would be sure to call again, on their way back.
Rob having stared after the coach until it was as invisible as the
pigeons had now become, sat down behind the desk with a most assiduous
demeanour; and in order that he might forget nothing of what had
transpired, made notes of it on various small scraps of paper, with a
vast expenditure of ink. There was no danger of these documents
betraying anything, if accidentally lost; for long before a word was
dry, it became as profound a mystery to Rob, as if he had had no part
whatever in its production.
While he was yet busy with these labours, the hackney-coach, after
encountering unheard-of difficulties from swivel-bridges, soft roads,
impassable canals, caravans of casks, settlements of scarlet-beans and
little wash-houses, and many such obstacles abounding in that country,
stopped at the corner of Brig Place. Alighting here, Florence and
Susan Nipper walked down the street, and sought out the abode of
It happened by evil chance to be one of Mrs MacStinger's great
cleaning days. On these occasions, Mrs MacStinger was knocked up by
the policeman at a quarter before three in the morning, and rarely
such before twelve o'clock next night. The chief object of this
institution appeared to be, that Mrs MacStinger should move all the
furniture into the back garden at early dawn, walk about the house in
pattens all day, and move the furniture back again after dark. These
ceremonies greatly fluttered those doves the young MacStingers, who
were not only unable at such times to find any resting-place for the
soles of their feet, but generally came in for a good deal of pecking
from the maternal bird during the progress of the solemnities.
At the moment when Florence and Susan Nipper presented themselves
at Mrs MacStinger's door, that worthy but redoubtable female was in
the act of conveying Alexander MacStinger, aged two years and three
months, along the passage, for forcible deposition in a sitting
posture on the street pavement: Alexander being black in the face with
holding his breath after punishment, and a cool paving-stone being
usually found to act as a powerful restorative in such cases.
The feelings of Mrs MacStinger, as a woman and a mother, were
outraged by the look of pity for Alexander which she observed on
Florence's face. Therefore, Mrs MacStinger asserting those finest
emotions of our nature, in preference to weakly gratifying her
curiosity, shook and buffeted Alexander both before and during the
application of the paving-stone, and took no further notice of the
'I beg your pardon, Ma'am,' said Florence, when the child had found
his breath again, and was using it. 'Is this Captain Cuttle's house?'
'No,' said Mrs MacStinger.
'Not Number Nine?' asked Florence, hesitating.
'Who said it wasn't Number Nine?' said Mrs MacStinger.
Susan Nipper instantly struck in, and begged to inquire what Mrs
MacStinger meant by that, and if she knew whom she was talking to.
Mrs MacStinger in retort, looked at her all over. 'What do you want
with Captain Cuttle, I should wish to know?' said Mrs MacStinger.
'Should you? Then I'm sorry that you won't be satisfied,' returned
'Hush, Susan! If you please!' said Florence. 'Perhaps you can have
the goodness to tell us where Captain Cutlle lives, Ma'am as he don't
'Who says he don't live here?' retorted the implacable MacStinger.
'I said it wasn't Cap'en Cuttle's house - and it ain't his house -and
forbid it, that it ever should be his house - for Cap'en Cuttle don't
know how to keep a house - and don't deserve to have a house - it's my
house - and when I let the upper floor to Cap'en Cuttle, oh I do a
thankless thing, and cast pearls before swine!'
Mrs MacStinger pitched her voice for the upper windows in offering
these remarks, and cracked off each clause sharply by itself as if
from a rifle possessing an infinity of barrels. After the last shot,
the Captain's voice was heard to say, in feeble remonstrance from his
own room, 'Steady below!'
'Since you want Cap'en Cuttle, there he is!' said Mrs MacStinger,
with an angry motion of her hand. On Florence making bold to enter,
without any more parley, and on Susan following, Mrs MacStinger
recommenced her pedestrian exercise in pattens, and Alexander
MacStinger (still on the paving-stone), who had stopped in his crying
to attend to the conversation, began to wail again, entertaining
himself during that dismal performance, which was quite mechanical,
with a general survey of the prospect, terminating in the
The Captain in his own apartment was sitting with his hands in his
pockets and his legs drawn up under his chair, on a very small
desolate island, lying about midway in an ocean of soap and water. The
Captain's windows had been cleaned, the walls had been cleaned, the
stove had been cleaned, and everything the stove excepted, was wet,
and shining with soft soap and sand: the smell of which dry-saltery
impregnated the air. In the midst of the dreary scene, the Captain,
cast away upon his island, looked round on the waste of waters with a
rueful countenance, and seemed waiting for some friendly bark to come
that way, and take him off.
But when the Captain, directing his forlorn visage towards the
door, saw Florence appear with her maid, no words can describe his
astonishment. Mrs MacStinger's eloquence having rendered all other
sounds but imperfectly distinguishable, he had looked for no rarer
visitor than the potboy or the milkman; wherefore, when Florence
appeared, and coming to the confines of the island, put her hand in
his, the Captain stood up, aghast, as if he supposed her, for the
moment, to be some young member of the Flying Dutchman's family.'
Instantly recovering his self-possession, however, the Captain's
first care was to place her on dry land, which he happily
accomplished, with one motion of his arm. Issuing forth, then, upon
the main, Captain Cuttle took Miss Nipper round the waist, and bore
her to the island also. Captain Cuttle, then, with great respect and
admiration, raised the hand of Florence to his lips, and standing off
a little(for the island was not large enough for three), beamed on her
from the soap and water like a new description of Triton.
'You are amazed to see us, I am sure,'said Florence, with a smile.
The inexpressibly gratified Captain kissed his hook in reply, and
growled, as if a choice and delicate compliment were included in the
words, 'Stand by! Stand by!'
'But I couldn't rest,' said Florence, 'without coming to ask you
what you think about dear Walter - who is my brother now- and whether
there is anything to fear, and whether you will not go and console his
poor Uncle every day, until we have some intelligence of him?'
At these words Captain Cuttle, as by an involuntary gesture,
clapped his hand to his head, on which the hard glazed hat was not,
and looked discomfited.
'Have you any fears for Walter's safety?' inquired Florence, from
whose face the Captain (so enraptured he was with it) could not take
his eyes: while she, in her turn, looked earnestly at him, to be
assured of the sincerity of his reply.
'No, Heart's-delight,' said Captain Cuttle, 'I am not afeard. Wal'r
is a lad as'll go through a deal o' hard weather. Wal'r is a lad as'll
bring as much success to that 'ere brig as a lad is capable on.
Wal'r,' said the Captain, his eyes glistening with the praise of his
young friend, and his hook raised to announce a beautiful quotation,
'is what you may call a out'ard and visible sign of an in'ard and
spirited grasp, and when found make a note of.'
Florence, who did not quite understand this, though the Captain
evidentllty thought it full of meaning, and highly satisfactory,
mildly looked to him for something more.
'I am not afeard, my Heart's-delight,' resumed the Captain,
'There's been most uncommon bad weather in them latitudes, there's no
denyin', and they have drove and drove and been beat off, may be
t'other side the world. But the ship's a good ship, and the lad's a
good lad; and it ain't easy, thank the Lord,' the Captain made a
little bow, 'to break up hearts of oak, whether they're in brigs or
buzzums. Here we have 'em both ways, which is bringing it up with a
round turn, and so I ain't a bit afeard as yet.'
'As yet?' repeated Florence.
'Not a bit,' returned the Captain, kissing his iron hand; 'and
afore I begin to be, my Hearts-delight, Wal'r will have wrote home
from the island, or from some port or another, and made all taut and
shipsahape'And with regard to old Sol Gills, here the Captain became
solemn, 'who I'll stand by, and not desert until death do us part, and
when the stormy winds do blow, do blow, do blow - overhaul the
Catechism,' said the Captain parenthetically, 'and there you'll find
them expressions - if it would console Sol Gills to have the opinion
of a seafaring man as has got a mind equal to any undertaking that he
puts it alongside of, and as was all but smashed in his'prenticeship,
and of which the name is Bunsby, that 'ere man shall give him such an
opinion in his own parlour as'll stun him. Ah!' said Captain Cuttle,
vauntingly, 'as much as if he'd gone and knocked his head again a
'Let us take this ~gentleman to see him, and let us hear what he
says,' cried Florence. 'Will you go with us now? We have a coach
Again the Captain clapped his hand to his head, on which the hard
glazed hat was not, and looked discomfited. But at this instant a most
remarkable phenomenon occurred. The door opening, without any note of
preparation, and apparently of itself, the hard glazed hat in question
skimmed into the room like a bird, and alighted heavily at the
Captain's feet. The door then shut as violently as it had opened, and
nothIng ensued in explanation of the prodigy.
Captain Cuttle picked up his hat, and having turned it over with a
look of interest and welcome, began to polish it on his sleeve' While
doing so, the Captain eyed his visitors intently, and said in a low
'You see I should have bore down on Sol Gills yesterday, and this
morning, but she - she took it away and kep it. That's the long and
short ofthe subject.'
'Who did, for goodness sake?' asked Susan Nipper.
'The lady of the house, my dear,'returned the Captain, in a gruff
whisper, and making signals of secrecy.'We had some words about the
swabbing of these here planks, and she - In short,' said the Captain,
eyeing the door, and relieving himself with a long breath, 'she
stopped my liberty.'
'Oh! I wish she had me to deal with!' said Susan, reddening with
the energy of the wish. 'I'd stop her!'
'Would you, do you, my dear?' rejoined the Captain, shaking his
head doubtfully, but regarding the desperate courage of the fair
aspirant with obvious admiration. 'I don't know. It's difficult
navigation. She's very hard to carry on with, my dear. You never can
tell how she'll head, you see. She's full one minute, and round upon
you next. And when she in a tartar,' said the Captain, with the
perspiration breaking out upon his forehead. There was nothing but a
whistle emphatic enough for the conclusion of the sentence, so the
Captain whistled tremulously. After which he again shook his head, and
recurring to his admiration of Miss Nipper's devoted bravery, timidly
repeated, 'Would you, do you think, my dear?'
Susan only replied with a bridling smile, but that was so very full
of defiance, that there is no knowing how long Captain Cuttle might
have stood entranced in its contemplation, if Florence in her anxiety
had not again proposed their immediately resorting to the oracular
Bunsby. Thus reminded of his duty, Captain Cuttle Put on the glazed
hat firmly, took up another knobby stick, with which he had supplied
the place of that one given to Walter, and offering his arm to
Florence, prepared to cut his way through the enemy.
It turned out, however, that Mrs MacStinger had already changed her
course, and that she headed, as the Captain had remarked she often
did, in quite a new direction. For when they got downstairs, they
found that exemplary woman beating the mats on the doorsteps, with
Alexander, still upon the paving-stone, dimly looming through a fog of
dust; and so absorbed was Mrs MacStinger in her household occupation,
that when Captain Cuttle and his visitors passed, she beat the harder,
and neither by word nor gesture showed any consciousness of their
vicinity. The Captain was so well pleased with this easy escape -
although the effect of the door-mats on him was like a copious
administration of snuff, and made him sneeze until the tears ran down
his face - that he could hardly believe his good fortune; but more
than once, between the door and the hackney-coach, looked over his
shoulder, with an obvious apprehension of Mrs MacStinger's giving
However, they got to the corner of Brig Place without any
molestation from that terrible fire-ship; and the Captain mounting the
coach-box - for his gallantry would not allow him to ride inside with
the ladies, though besought to do so - piloted the driver on his
course for Captain Bunsby's vessel, which was called the Cautious
Clara, and was lying hard by Ratcliffe.
Arrived at the wharf off which this great commander's ship was
jammed in among some five hundred companions, whose tangled rigging
looked like monstrous cobwebs half swept down, Captain Cuttle appeared
at the coach-window, and invited Florence and Miss Nipper to accompany
him on board; observing that Bunsby was to the last degree
soft-hearted in respect of ladies, and that nothing would so much tend
to bring his expansive intellect into a state of harmony as their
presentation to the Cautious Clara.
Florence readily consented; and the Captain, taking her little hand
in his prodigious palm, led her, with a mixed expression of patronage,
paternity, pride, and ceremony, that was pleasant to see, over several
very dirty decks, until, coming to the Clara, they found that cautious
craft (which lay outside the tier) with her gangway removed, and
half-a-dozen feet of river interposed between herself and her nearest
neighbour. It appeared, from Captain Cuttle's explanation, that the
great Bunsby, like himself, was cruelly treated by his landlady, and
that when her usage of him for the time being was so hard that he
could bear it no longer, he set this gulf between them as a last
'Clara a-hoy!' cried the Captain, putting a hand to each side of
'A-hoy!' cried a boy, like the Captain's echo, tumbling up from
'Bunsby aboard?' cried the Captain, hailing the boy in a stentorian
voice, as if he were half-a-mile off instead of two yards.
'Ay, ay!' cried the boy, in the same tone.
The boy then shoved out a plank to Captain Cuttle, who adjusted it
carefully, and led Florence across: returning presently for Miss
Nipper. So they stood upon the deck of the Cautious Clara, in whose
standing rigging, divers fluttering articles of dress were curing, in
company with a few tongues and some mackerel.
Immediately there appeared, coming slowly up above the bulk-head of
the cabin, another bulk-head 'human, and very large - with one
stationary eye in the mahogany face, and one revolving one, on the
principle of some lighthouses. This head was decorated with shaggy
hair, like oakum,' which had no governing inclination towards the
north, east, west, or south, but inclined to all four quarters of the
compass, and to every point upon it. The head was followed by a
perfect desert of chin, and by a shirt-collar and neckerchief, and by
a dreadnought pilot-coat, and by a pair of dreadnought pilot-trousers,
whereof the waistband was so very broad and high, that it became a
succedaneum for a waistcoat: being ornamented near the wearer's
breastbone with some massive wooden buttons, like backgammon men. As
the lower portions of these pantaloons became revealed, Bunsby stood
confessed; his hands in their pockets, which were of vast size; and
his gaze directed, not to Captain Cuttle or the ladies, but the
The profound appearance of this philosopher, who was bulky and
strong, and on whose extremely red face an expression of taciturnity
sat enthroned, not inconsistent with his character, in which that
quality was proudly conspicuous, almost daunted Captain Cuttle, though
on familiar terms with him. Whispering to Florence that Bunsby had
never in his life expressed surprise, and was considered not to know
what it meant, the Captain watched him as he eyed his mast-head, and
afterwards swept the horizon; and when the revolving eye seemed to be
coming round in his direction, said:
'Bunsby, my lad, how fares it?'
A deep, gruff, husky utterance, which seemed to have no connexion
with Bunsby, and certainly had not the least effect upon his face,
replied, 'Ay, ay, shipmet, how goes it?' At the same time Bunsby's
right hand and arm, emerging from a pocket, shook the Captain's, and
went back again.
'Bunsby,' said the Captain, striking home at once, 'here you are; a
man of mind, and a man as can give an opinion. Here's a young lady as
wants to take that opinion, in regard of my friend Wal'r; likewise my
t'other friend, Sol Gills, which is a character for you to come within
hail of, being a man of science, which is the mother of inwention, and
knows no law. Bunsby, will you wear, to oblige me, and come along with
The great commander, who seemed by expression of his visage to be
always on the look-out for something in the extremest distance' and to
have no ocular knowledge of any anng' within ten miles, made no reply
'Here is a man,' said the Captain, addressing himself to his fair
auditors, and indicating the commander with his outstretched hook,
'that has fell down, more than any man alive; that has had more
accidents happen to his own self than the Seamen's Hospital to all
hands; that took as many spars and bars and bolts about the outside of
his head when he was young, as you'd want a order for on Chatham-yard
to build a pleasure yacht with; and yet that his opinions in that way,
it's my belief, for there ain't nothing like 'em afloat or ashore.'
The stolid commander appeared by a very slight vibration in his
elbows, to express some satisfitction in this encomium; but if his
face had been as distant as his gaze was, it could hardIy have
enlightened the beholders less in reference to anything that was
passing in his thoughts.
'Shipmate,' said Bunsby, all of a sudden, and stooping down to look
out under some interposing spar, 'what'll the ladies drink?'
Captain Cuttle, whose delicacy was shocked by such an inquiry in
connection with Florence, drew the sage aside, and seeming to explain
in his ear, accompanied him below; where, that he might not take
offence, the Captain drank a dram himself' which Florence and Susan,
glancing down the open skylight, saw the sage, with difficulty finding
room for himself between his berth and a very little brass fireplace,
serve out for self and friend. They soon reappeared on deck, and
Captain Cuttle, triumphing in the success of his enterprise, conducted
Florence back to the coach, while Bunsby followed, escorting Miss
Nipper, whom he hugged upon the way (much to that young lady's
indignation) with his pilot-coated arm, like a blue bear.
The Captain put his oracle inside, and gloried so much in having
secured him, and having got that mind into a hackney-coach, that he
could not refrain from often peeping in at Florence through the little
window behind the driver, and testifiing his delight in smiles, and
also in taps upon his forehead, to hint to her that the brain of
Bunsby was hard at it' In the meantime, Bunsby, still hugging Miss
Nipper (for his friend, the Captain, had not exaggerated the softness
of his heart), uniformily preserved his gravity of deportment, and
showed no other consciousness of her or anything.
Uncle Sol, who had come home, received them at the door, and
ushered them immediately into the little back parlour: strangely
altered by the absence of Walter. On the table, and about the room,
were the charts and maps on which the heavy-hearted Instrument-maker
had again and again tracked the missing vessel across the sea, and on
which, with a pair of compasses that he still had in his hand, he had
been measuring, a minute before, how far she must have driven, to have
driven here or there: and trying to demonstrate that a long time must
elapse before hope was exhausted.
'Whether she can have run,' said Uncle Sol, looking wistfully over
the chart; 'but no, that's almost impossible or whether she can have
been forced by stress of weather, - but that's not reasonably likely.
Or whether there is any hope she so far changed her course as - but
even I can hardly hope that!' With such broken suggestions, poor old
Uncle Sol roamed over the great sheet before him, and could not find a
speck of hopeful probability in it large enough to set one small point
of the compasses upon.
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