Dombey and Son
Part 9 out of 21
Florence saw immediately - it would have been difficult to help
seeing - that there was a singular, indescribable change in the old
man, and that while his manner was far more restless and unsettled
than usual, there was yet a curious, contradictory decision in it,
that perplexed her very much. She fancied once that he spoke wildly,
and at random; for on her saying she regretted not to have seen him
when she had been there before that morning, he at first replied that
he had been to see her, and directly afterwards seemed to wish to
recall that answer.
'You have been to see me?' said Florence. 'To-day?'
'Yes, my dear young lady,' returned Uncle Sol, looking at her and
away from her in a confused manner. 'I wished to see you with my own
eyes, and to hear you with my own ears, once more before - ' There he
'Before when? Before what?' said Florence, putting her hand upon
'Did I say "before?"' replied old Sol. 'If I did, I must have meant
before we should have news of my dear boy.'
'You are not well,' said Florence, tenderly. 'You have been so very
anxious I am sure you are not well.'
'I am as well,' returned the old man, shutting up his right hand,
and holding it out to show her: 'as well and firm as any man at my
time of life can hope to be. See! It's steady. Is its master not as
capable of resolution and fortitude as many a younger man? I think so.
We shall see.'
There was that in his manner more than in his words, though they
remained with her too, which impressed Florence so much, that she
would have confided her uneasiness to Captain Cuttle at that moment,
if the Captain had not seized that moment for expounding the state of
circumstance, on which the opinion of the sagacious Bunsby was
requested, and entreating that profound authority to deliver the same.
Bunsby, whose eye continued to be addressed to somewhere about the
half-way house between London and Gravesend, two or three times put
out his rough right arm, as seeking to wind it for inspiration round
the fair form of Miss Nipper; but that young female having withdrawn
herself, in displeasure, to the opposite side of the table, the soft
heart of the Commander of the Cautious Clara met with no response to
its impulses. After sundry failures in this wise, the Commander,
addressing himself to nobody, thus spake; or rather the voice within
him said of its own accord, and quite independent of himself, as if he
were possessed by a gruff spirit:
'My name's Jack Bunsby!'
'He was christened John,' cried the delighted Captain Cuttle. 'Hear
'And what I says,' pursued the voice, after some deliberation, 'I
The Captain, with Florence on his arm, nodded at the auditory, and
seemed to say, 'Now he's coming out. This is what I meant when I
'Whereby,' proceeded the voice, 'why not? If so, what odds? Can any
man say otherwise? No. Awast then!'
When it had pursued its train of argument to this point, the voice
stopped, and rested. It then proceeded very slowly, thus:
'Do I believe that this here Son and Heir's gone down, my lads?
Mayhap. Do I say so? Which? If a skipper stands out by Sen' George's
Channel, making for the Downs, what's right ahead of him? The
Goodwins. He isn't foroed to run upon the Goodwins, but he may. The
bearings of this observation lays in the application on it. That ain't
no part of my duty. Awast then, keep a bright look-out for'ard, and
good luck to you!'
The voice here went out of the back parlour and into the street,
taking the Commander of the Cautious Clara with it, and accompanying
him on board again with all convenient expedition, where he
immediately turned in, and refreshed his mind with a nap.
The students of the sage's precepts, left to their own application
of his wisdom - upon a principle which was the main leg of the Bunsby
tripod, as it is perchance of some other oracular stools - looked upon
one another in a little uncertainty; while Rob the Grinder, who had
taken the innocent freedom of peering in, and listening, through the
skylight in the roof, came softly down from the leads, in a state of
very dense confusion. Captain Cuttle, however, whose admiration of
Bunsby was, if possible, enhanced by the splendid manner in which he
had justified his reputation and come through this solemn reference,
proceeded to explain that Bunsby meant nothing but confidence; that
Bunsby had no misgivings; and that such an opinion as that man had
given, coming from such a mind as his, was Hope's own anchor, with
good roads to cast it in. Florence endeavoured to believe that the
Captain was right; but the Nipper, with her arms tight folded, shook
her head in resolute denial, and had no more trust m Bunsby than in Mr
The philosopher seemed to have left Uncle Sol pretty much where he
had found him, for he still went roaming about the watery world,
compasses in hand, and discovering no rest for them. It was in
pursuance of a whisper in his ear from Florence, while the old man was
absorbed in this pursuit, that Captain Cuttle laid his heavy hand upon
'What cheer, Sol Gills?' cried the Captain, heartily.
'But so-so, Ned,' returned the Instrument-maker. 'I have been
remembering, all this afternoon, that on the very day when my boy
entered Dombey's House, and came home late to dinner, sitting just
there where you stand, we talked of storm and shipwreck, and I could
hardly turn him from the subject'
But meeting the eyes of Florence, which were fixed with earnest
scrutiny upon his face, the old man stopped and smiled.
'Stand by, old friend!' cried the Captain. 'Look alive! I tell you
what, Sol Gills; arter I've convoyed Heart's-delight safe home,' here
the Captain kissed his hook to Florence, 'I'll come back and take you
in tow for the rest of this blessed day. You'll come and eat your
dinner along with me, Sol, somewheres or another.'
'Not to-day, Ned!' said the old man quickly, and appearing to be
unaccountably startled by the proposition. 'Not to-day. I couldn't do
'Why not?' returned the Captain, gazing at him in astonishment.
'I - I have so much to do. I - I mean to think of, and arrange. I
couldn't do it, Ned, indeed. I must go out again, and be alone, and
turn my mind to many things to-day.'
The Captain looked at the Instrument-maker, and looked at Florence,
and again at the Instrument-maker. 'To-morrow, then,' he suggested, at
'Yes, yes. To-morrow,' said the old man. 'Think of me to-morrow.
'I shall come here early, mind, Sol Gills,' stipulated the Captain.
'Yes, yes. The first thing tomorrow morning,' said old Sol; 'and
now good-bye, Ned Cuttle, and God bless you!'
Squeezing both the Captain's hands, with uncommon fervour, as he
said it, the old man turned to Florence, folded hers in his own, and
put them to his lips; then hurried her out to the coach with very
singular precipitation. Altogether, he made such an effect on Captain
Cuttle that the Captain lingered behind, and instructed Rob to be
particularly gentle and attentive to his master until the morning:
which injunction he strengthened with the payment of one shilling
down, and the promise of another sixpence before noon next day. This
kind office performed, Captain Cuttle, who considered himself the
natural and lawful body-guard of Florence, mounted the box with a
mighty sense of his trust, and escorted her home. At parting, he
assured her that he would stand by Sol Gills, close and true; and once
again inquired of Susan Nipper, unable to forget her gallant words in
reference to Mrs MacStinger, 'Would you, do you think my dear,
When the desolate house had closed upon the two, the Captain's
thoughts reverted to the old Instrument-maker, and he felt
uncomfortable. Therefore, instead of going home, he walked up and down
the street several times, and, eking out his leisure until evening,
dined late at a certain angular little tavern in the City, with a
public parlour like a wedge, to which glazed hats much resorted. The
Captain's principal intention was to pass Sol Gills's, after dark, and
look in through the window: which he did, The parlour door stood open,
and he could see his old friend writing busily and steadily at the
table within, while the little Midshipman, already sheltered from the
night dews, watched him from the counter; under which Rob the Grinder
made his own bed, preparatory to shutting the shop. Reassured by the
tranquillity that reigned within the precincts of the wooden mariner,
the Captain headed for Brig Place, resolving to weigh anchor betimes
in the morning.
The Study of a Loving Heart
Sir Barnet and Lady Skettles, very good people, resided in a pretty
villa at Fulham, on the banks of the Thames; which was one of the most
desirable residences in the world when a rowing-match happened to be
going past, but had its little inconveniences at other times, among
which may be enumerated the occasional appearance of the river in the
drawing-room, and the contemporaneous disappearance of the lawn and
Sir Barnet Skettles expressed his personal consequence chiefly
through an antique gold snuffbox, and a ponderous silk
pocket-kerchief, which he had an imposing manner of drawing out of his
pocket like a banner and using with both hands at once. Sir Barnet's
object in life was constantly to extend the range of his acquaintance.
Like a heavy body dropped into water - not to disparage so worthy a
gentleman by the comparison - it was in the nature of things that Sir
Barnet must spread an ever widening circle about him, until there was
no room left. Or, like a sound in air, the vibration of which,
according to the speculation of an ingenious modern philosopher, may
go on travelling for ever through the interminable fields of space,
nothing but coming to the end of his moral tether could stop Sir
Barnet Skettles in his voyage of discovery through the social system.
Sir Barnet was proud of making people acquainted with people. He
liked the thing for its own sake, and it advanced his favourite object
too. For example, if Sir Barnet had the good fortune to get hold of a
law recruit, or a country gentleman, and ensnared him to his
hospitable villa, Sir Barnet would say to him, on the morning after
his arrival, 'Now, my dear Sir, is there anybody you would like to
know? Who is there you would wish to meet? Do you take any interest in
writing people, or in painting or sculpturing people, or in acting
people, or in anything of that sort?' Possibly the patient answered
yes, and mentioned somebody, of whom Sir Barnet had no more personal
knowledge than of Ptolemy the Great. Sir Barnet replied, that nothing
on earth was easier, as he knew him very well: immediately called on
the aforesaid somebody, left his card, wrote a short note, - 'My dear
Sir - penalty of your eminent position - friend at my house naturally
desirous - Lady Skettles and myself participate - trust that genius
being superior to ceremonies, you will do us the distinguished favour
of giving us the pleasure,' etc, etc. - and so killed a brace of birds
with one stone, dead as door-nails.
With the snuff-box and banner in full force, Sir Barnet Skettles
propounded his usual inquiry to Florence on the first morning of her
visit. When Florence thanked him, and said there was no one in
particular whom she desired to see, it was natural she should think
with a pang, of poor lost Walter. When Sir Barnet Skettles, urging his
kind offer, said, 'My dear Miss Dombey, are you sure you can remember
no one whom your good Papa - to whom I beg you present the best
compliments of myself and Lady Skettles when you write - might wish
you to know?' it was natural, perhaps, that her poor head should droop
a little, and that her voice should tremble as it softly answered in
Skettles Junior, much stiffened as to his cravat, and sobered down
as to his spirits' was at home for the holidays, and appeared to feel
himself aggrieved by the solicitude of his excellent mother that he
should be attentive to Florence. Another and a deeper injury under
which the soul of young Barnet chafed, was the company of Dr and Mrs
Blimber, who had been invited on a visit to the paternal roof-tree,
and of whom the young gentleman often said he would have preferred
their passing the vacation at Jericho.
'Is there anybody you can suggest now, Doctor Blimber?' said Sir
Barnet Skettles, turning to that gentleman.
'You are very kind, Sir Barnet,' returned Doctor Blimber. 'Really I
am not aware that there is, in particular. I like to know my
fellow-men in general, Sir Barnet. What does Terence say? Anyone who
is the parent of a son is interesting to me.
'Has Mrs Blimber any wish to see any remarkable person?' asked Sir
Mrs Blimber replied, with a sweet smile and a shake of her sky-blue
cap, that if Sir Barnet could have made her known to Cicero, she would
have troubled him; but such an introduction not being feasible, and
she already enjoying the friendship of himself and his amiable lady,
and possessing with the Doctor her husband their joint confidence in
regard to their dear son - here young Barnet was observed to curl his
nose - she asked no more.
Sir Barnet was fain, under these circumstances, to content himself
for the time with the company assembled. Florence was glad of that;
for she had a study to pursue among them, and it lay too near her
heart, and was too precious and momentous, to yield to any other
There were some children staying in the house. Children who were as
frank and happy with fathers and with mothers as those rosy faces
opposite home. Children who had no restraint upon their love. and
freely showed it. Florence sought to learn their secret; sought to
find out what it was she had missed; what simple art they knew, and
she knew not; how she could be taught by them to show her father that
she loved him, and to win his love again.
Many a day did Florence thoughtfully observe these children. On
many a bright morning did she leave her bed when the glorious sun
rose, and walking up and down upon the river's bank' before anyone in
the house was stirring, look up at the windows of their rooms, and
think of them, asleep, so gently tended and affectionately thought of.
Florence would feel more lonely then, than in the great house all
alone; and would think sometimes that she was better there than here,
and that there was greater peace in hiding herself than in mingling
with others of her age, and finding how unlike them all she was. But
attentive to her study, though it touched her to the quick at every
little leaf she turned in the hard book, Florence remained among them,
and tried with patient hope, to gain the knowledge that she wearied
Ah! how to gain it! how to know the charm in its beginning! There
were daughters here, who rose up in the morning, and lay down to rest
at night, possessed of fathers' hearts already. They had no repulse to
overcome, no coldness to dread, no frown to smooth away. As the
morning advanced, and the windows opened one by one, and the dew began
to dry upon the flowers and and youthful feet began to move upon the
lawn, Florence, glancing round at the bright faces, thought what was
there she could learn from these children? It was too late to learn
from them; each could approach her father fearlessly, and put up her
lips to meet the ready kiss, and wind her arm about the neck that bent
down to caress her. She could not begin by being so bold. Oh! could it
be that there was less and less hope as she studied more and more!
She remembered well, that even the old woman who had robbed her
when a little child - whose image and whose house, and all she had
said and done, were stamped upon her recollection, with the enduring
sharpness of a fearful impression made at that early period of life -
had spoken fondly of her daughter, and how terribly even she had cried
out in the pain of hopeless separation from her child But her own
mother, she would think again, when she recalled this, had loved her
well. Then, sometimes, when her thoughts reverted swiftly to the void
between herself and her father, Florence would tremble, and the tears
would start upon her face, as she pictured to herself her mother
living on, and coming also to dislike her, because of her wanting the
unknown grace that should conciliate that father naturally, and had
never done so from her cradle She knew that this imagination did wrong
to her mother's memory, and had no truth in it, or base to rest upon;
and yet she tried so hard to justify him, and to find the whole blame
in herself, that she could not resist its passing, like a wild cloud,
through the distance of her mind.
There came among the other visitors, soon after Florence, one
beautiful girl, three or four years younger than she, who was an
orphan child, and who was accompanied by her aunt, a grey-haired lady,
who spoke much to Florence, and who greatly liked (but that they all
did) to hear her sing of an evening, and would always sit near her at
that time, with motherly interest. They had only been two days in the
house, when Florence, being in an arbour in the garden one warm
morning, musingly observant of a youthful group upon the turf, through
some intervening boughs, - and wreathing flowers for the head of one
little creature among them who was the pet and plaything of the rest,
heard this same lady and her niece, in pacing up and down a sheltered
nook close by, speak of herself.
'Is Florence an orphan like me, aunt?' said the child.
'No, my love. She has no mother, but her father is living.'
'Is she in mourning for her poor Mama, now?' inquired the child
'No; for her only brother.'
'Has she no other brother?'
'I am very, very sorry!' said the little girL
As they stopped soon afterwards to watch some boats, and had been
silent in the meantime, Florence, who had risen when she heard her
name, and had gathered up her flowers to go and meet them, that they
might know of her being within hearing, resumed her seat and work,
expecting to hear no more; but the conversation recommenced next
'Florence is a favourite with everyone here, and deserves to be, I
am sure,' said the child, earnestly. 'Where is her Papa?'
The aunt replied, after a moment's pause, that she did not know.
Her tone of voice arrested Florence, who had started from her seat
again; and held her fastened to the spot, with her work hastily caught
up to her bosom, and her two hands saving it from being scattered on
'He is in England, I hope, aunt?' said the child.
'I believe so. Yes; I know he is, indeed.'
'Has he ever been here?'
'I believe not. No.'
'Is he coming here to see her?'
'I believe not.
'Is he lame, or blind, or ill, aunt?' asked the child.
The flowers that Florence held to her breast began to fall when she
heard those words, so wonderingly spoke She held them closer; and her
face hung down upon them'
'Kate,' said the lady, after another moment of silence, 'I will
tell you the whole truth about Florence as I have heard it, and
believe it to be. Tell no one else, my dear, because it may be little
known here, and your doing so would give her pain.'
'I never will!' exclaimed the child.
'I know you never will,' returned the lady. 'I can trust you as
myself. I fear then, Kate, that Florence's father cares little for
her, very seldom sees her, never was kind to her in her life, and now
quite shuns her and avoids her. She would love him dearly if he would
suffer her, but he will not - though for no fault of hers; and she is
greatly to be loved and pitied by all gentle hearts.'
More of the flowers that Florence held fell scattering on the
ground; those that remained were wet, but not with dew; and her face
dropped upon her laden hands.
'Poor Florence! Dear, good Florence!' cried the child.
'Do you know why I have told you this, Kate?' said the lady.
'That I may be very kind to her, and take great care to try to
please her. Is that the reason, aunt?'
'Partly,' said the lady, 'but not all. Though we see her so
cheerful; with a pleasant smile for everyone; ready to oblige us all,
and bearing her part in every amusement here: she can hardly be quite
happy, do you think she can, Kate?'
'I am afraid not,' said the little girl.
'And you can understand,' pursued the lady, 'why her observation of
children who have parents who are fond of them, and proud of them -
like many here, just now - should make her sorrowful in secret?'
'Yes, dear aunt,' said the child, 'I understand that very well.
More flowers strayed upon the ground, and those she yet held to her
breast trembled as if a wintry wind were rustling them.
'My Kate,' said the lady, whose voice was serious, but very calm
and sweet, and had so impressed Florence from the first moment of her
hearing it, 'of all the youthful people here, you are her natural and
harmless friend; you have not the innocent means, that happier
children have - '
'There are none happier, aunt!' exclaimed the child, who seemed to
cling about her.
'As other children have, dear Kate, of reminding her of her
misfortune. Therefore I would have you, when you try to be her little
friend, try all the more for that, and feel that the bereavement you
sustained - thank Heaven! before you knew its weight- gives you claim
and hold upon poor Florence.'
'But I am not without a parent's love, aunt, and I never have
been,' said the child, 'with you.'
'However that may be, my dear,' returned the lady, 'your misfortune
is a lighter one than Florence's; for not an orphan in the wide world
can be so deserted as the child who is an outcast from a living
The flowers were scattered on the ground like dust; the empty hands
were spread upon the face; and orphaned Florence, shrinking down upon
the ground, wept long and bitterly.
But true of heart and resolute in her good purpose, Florence held
to it as her dying mother held by her upon the day that gave Paul
life. He did not know how much she loved him. However long the time in
coming, and however slow the interval, she must try to bring that
knowledge to her father's heart one day or other. Meantime she must be
careful in no thoughtless word, or look, or burst of feeling awakened
by any chance circumstance, to complain against him, or to give
occasion for these whispers to his prejudice.
Even in the response she made the orphan child, to whom she was
attracted strongly, and whom she had such occasion to remember,
Florence was mindful of him' If she singled her out too plainly
(Florence thought) from among the rest, she would confirm - in one
mind certainly: perhaps in more - the belief that he was cruel and
unnatural. Her own delight was no set-off to this, 'What she had
overheard was a reason, not for soothing herself, but for saving him;
and Florence did it, in pursuance of the study of her heart.
She did so always. If a book were read aloud, and there were
anything in the story that pointed at an unkind father, she was in
pain for their application of it to him; not for herself. So with any
trifle of an interlude that was acted, or picture that was shown, or
game that was played, among them. The occasions for such tenderness
towards him were so many, that her mind misgave her often, it would
indeed be better to go back to the old house, and live again within
the shadow of its dull walls, undisturbed. How few who saw sweet
Florence, in her spring of womanhood, the modest little queen of those
small revels, imagined what a load of sacred care lay heavy in her
breast! How few of those who stiffened in her father's freezing
atmosphere, suspected what a heap of fiery coals was piled upon his
Florence pursued her study patiently, and, failing to acquire the
secret of the nameless grace she sought, among the youthful company
who were assembled in the house, often walked out alone, in the early
morning, among the children of the poor. But still she found them all
too far advanced to learn from. They had won their household places
long ago, and did not stand without, as she did, with a bar across the
There was one man whom she several times observed at work very
early, and often with a girl of about her own age seated near him' He
was a very poor man, who seemed to have no regular employment, but now
went roaming about the banks of the river when the tide was low,
looking out for bits and scraps in the mud; and now worked at the
unpromising little patch of garden-ground before his cottage; and now
tinkered up a miserable old boat that belonged to him; or did some job
of that kind for a neighbour, as chance occurred. Whatever the man's
labour, the girl was never employed; but sat, when she was with him,
in a listless, moping state, and idle.
Florence had often wished to speak to this man; yet she had never
taken courage to do so, as he made no movement towards her. But one
morning when she happened to come upon him suddenly, from a by-path
among some pollard willows which terminated in the little shelving
piece of stony ground that lay between his dwelling and the water,
where he was bending over a fire he had made to caulk the old boat
which was lying bottom upwards, close by, he raised his head at the
sound of her footstep, and gave her Good morning.
'Good morning,' said Florence, approaching nearer, 'you are at work
'I'd be glad to be often at work earlier, Miss, if I had work to
'Is it so hard to get?' asked Florence.
'I find it so,' replied the man.
Florence glanced to where the girl was sitting, drawn together,
with her elbows on her knees, and her chin on her hands, and said:
'Is that your daughter?'
He raised his head quickly, and looking towards the girl with a
brightened face, nodded to her, and said 'Yes,' Florence looked
towards her too, and gave her a kind salutation; the girl muttered
something in return, ungraciously and sullenly.
'Is she in want of employment also?' said Florence.
The man shook his head. 'No, Miss,' he said. 'I work for both,'
'Are there only you two, then?' inquired Florence.
'Only us two,' said the man. 'Her mother his been dead these ten
year. Martha!' lifted up his head again, and whistled to her) 'won't
you say a word to the pretty young lady?'
The girl made an impatient gesture with her cowering shoulders, and
turned her head another way. Ugly, misshapen, peevish,
ill-conditioned, ragged, dirty - but beloved! Oh yes! Florence had
seen her father's look towards her, and she knew whose look it had no
'I'm afraid she's worse this morning, my poor girl!' said the man,
suspending his work, and contemplating his ill-favoured child, with a
compassion that was the more tender for being rougher.
'She is ill, then!' said Florence,
The man drew a deep sigh 'I don't believe my Martha's had five
short days' good health,' he answered, looking at her still, 'in as
many long years'
'Ay! and more than that, John,' said a neighbour, who had come down
to help him with the boat.
'More than that, you say, do you?' cried the other, pushing back
his battered hat, and drawing his hand across his forehead. 'Very
like. It seems a long, long time.'
'And the more the time,' pursued the neighbour, 'the more you've
favoured and humoured her, John, till she's got to be a burden to
herself, and everybody else'
'Not to me,' said her father, falling to his work. 'Not to me.'
Florence could feel - who better? - how truly he spoke. She drew a
little closer to him, and would have been glad to touch his rugged
hand, and thank him for his goodness to the miserable object that he
looked upon with eyes so different from any other man's.
'Who would favour my poor girl - to call it favouring - if I
didn't?' said the father.
'Ay, ay,' cried the neighbour. 'In reason, John. But you! You rob
yourself to give to her. You bind yourself hand and foot on her
account. You make your life miserable along of her. And what does she
care! You don't believe she knows it?'
The father lifted up his head again, and whistled to her. Martha
made the same impatient gesture with her crouching shoulders, in
reply; and he was glad and happy.
'Only for that, Miss,' said the neighbour, with a smile, in which
there was more of secret sympathy than he expressed; 'only to get
that, he never lets her out of his sight!'
'Because the day'll come, and has been coming a long while,'
observed the other, bending low over his work, 'when to get half as
much from that unfort'nate child of mine - to get the trembling of a
finger, or the waving of a hair - would be to raise the dead.'
Florence softly put some money near his hand on the old boat, and
And now Florence began to think, if she were to fall ill, if she
were to fade like her dear brother, would he then know that she had
loved him; would she then grow dear to him; would he come to her
bedside, when she was weak and dim of sight, and take her into his
embrace, and cancel all the past? Would he so forgive her, in that
changed condition, for not having been able to lay open her childish
heart to him, as to make it easy to relate with what emotions she had
gone out of his room that night; what she had meant to say if she had
had the courage; and how she had endeavoured, afterwards, to learn the
way she never knew in infancy?
Yes, she thought if she were dying, he would relent. She thought,
that if she lay, serene and not unwilling to depart, upon the bed that
was curtained round with recollections of their darling boy, he would
be touched home, and would say, 'Dear Florence, live for me, and we
will love each other as we might have done, and be as happy as we
might have been these many years!' She thought that if she heard such
words from him, and had her arms clasped round him' she could answer
with a smile, 'It is too late for anything but this; I never could be
happier, dear father!' and so leave him, with a blessing on her lips.
The golden water she remembered on the wall, appeared to Florence,
in the light of such reflections, only as a current flowing on to
rest, and to a region where the dear ones, gone before, were waiting,
hand in hand; and often when she looked upon the darker river rippling
at her feet, she thought with awful wonder, but not terror, of that
river which her brother had so often said was bearing him away.
The father and his sick daughter were yet fresh in Florence's mind,
and, indeed, that incident was not a week old, when Sir Barnet and his
lady going out walking in the lanes one afternoon, proposed to her to
bear them company. Florence readily consenting, Lady Skettles ordered
out young Barnet as a matter of course. For nothing delighted Lady
Skettles so much, as beholding her eldest son with Florence on his
Barnet, to say the truth, appeared to entertain an opposite
sentiment on the subject, and on such occasions frequently expressed
himself audibly, though indefinitely, in reference to 'a parcel of
girls.' As it was not easy to ruffle her sweet temper, however,
Florence generally reconciled the young gentleman to his fate after a
few minutes, and they strolled on amicably: Lady Skettles and Sir
Barnet following, in a state of perfect complacency and high
This was the order of procedure on the afternoon in question; and
Florence had almost succeeded in overruling the present objections of
Skettles Junior to his destiny, when a gentleman on horseback came
riding by, looked at them earnestly as he passed, drew in his rein,
wheeled round, and came riding back again, hat in hand.
The gentleman had looked particularly at Florence; and when the
little party stopped, on his riding back, he bowed to her, before
saluting Sir Barnet and his lady. Florence had no remembrance of
having ever seen him, but she started involuntarily when he came near
her, and drew back.
'My horse is perfectly quiet, I assure you,' said the gentleman.
It was not that, but something in the gentleman himself - Florence
could not have said what - that made her recoil as if she had been
'I have the honour to address Miss Dombey, I believe?' said the
gentleman, with a most persuasive smile. On Florence inclining her
head, he added, 'My name is Carker. I can hardly hope to be remembered
by Miss Dombey, except by name. Carker.'
Florence, sensible of a strange inclination to shiver, though the
day was hot, presented him to her host and hostess; by whom he was
very graciously received.
'I beg pardon,' said Mr Carker, 'a thousand times! But I am going
down tomorrow morning to Mr Dombey, at Leamington, and if Miss Dombey
can entrust me with any commission, need I say how very happy I shall
Sir Barnet immediately divining that Florence would desire to write
a letter to her father, proposed to return, and besought Mr Carker to
come home and dine in his riding gear. Mr Carker had the misfortune to
be engaged to dinner, but if Miss Dombey wished to write, nothing
would delight him more than to accompany them back, and to be her
faithful slave in waiting as long as she pleased. As he said this with
his widest smile, and bent down close to her to pat his horse's neck,
Florence meeting his eyes, saw, rather than heard him say, 'There is
no news of the ship!'
Confused, frightened, shrinking from him, and not even sure that he
had said those words, for he seemed to have shown them to her in some
extraordinary manner through his smile, instead of uttering them,
Florence faintly said that she was obliged to him, but she would not
write; she had nothing to say.
'Nothing to send, Miss Dombey?' said the man of teeth.
'Nothing,' said Florence, 'but my - but my dear love- if you
Disturbed as Florence was, she raised her eyes to his face with an
imploring and expressive look, that plainly besought him, if he knew -
which he as plainly did - that any message between her and her father
was an uncommon charge, but that one most of all, to spare her. Mr
Carker smiled and bowed low, and being charged by Sir Barnet with the
best compliments of himself and Lady Skettles, took his leave, and
rode away: leaving a favourable impression on that worthy couple.
Florence was seized with such a shudder as he went, that Sir Barnet,
adopting the popular superstition, supposed somebody was passing over
her grave. Mr Carker turning a corner, on the instant, looked back,
and bowed, and disappeared, as if he rode off to the churchyard
straight, to do it.
Strange News of Uncle Sol
Captain Cuttle, though no sluggard, did not turn out so early on
the morning after he had seen Sol Gills, through the shop-window,
writing in the parlour, with the Midshipman upon the counter, and Rob
the Grinder making up his bed below it, but that the clocks struck six
as he raised himself on his elbow, and took a survey of his little
chamber. The Captain's eyes must have done severe duty, if he usually
opened them as wide on awaking as he did that morning; and were but
roughly rewarded for their vigilance, if he generally rubbed them half
as hard. But the occasion was no common one, for Rob the Grinder had
certainly never stood in the doorway of Captain Cuttle's room before,
and in it he stood then, panting at the Captain, with a flushed and
touzled air of Bed about him, that greatly heightened both his colour
'Holloa!' roared the Captain. 'What's the matter?'
Before Rob could stammer a word in answer, Captain Cuttle turned
out, all in a heap, and covered the boy's mouth with his hand.
'Steady, my lad,' said the Captain, 'don't ye speak a word to me as
The Captain, looking at his visitor in great consternation, gently
shouldered him into the next room, after laying this injunction upon
him; and disappearing for a few moments, forthwith returned in the
blue suit. Holding up his hand in token of the injunction not yet
being taken off, Captain Cuttle walked up to the cupboard, and poured
himself out a dram; a counterpart of which he handed to the messenger.
The Captain then stood himself up in a corner, against the wall, as if
to forestall the possibility of being knocked backwards by the
communication that was to be made to him; and having swallowed his
liquor, with his eyes fixed on the messenger, and his face as pale as
his face could be, requested him to 'heave ahead.'
'Do you mean, tell you, Captain?' asked Rob, who had been greatly
impressed by these precautions
'Ay!' said the Captain.
'Well, Sir,' said Rob, 'I ain't got much to tell. But look here!'
Rob produced a bundle of keys. The Captain surveyed them, remained
in his corner, and surveyed the messenger.
'And look here!' pursued Rob.
The boy produced a sealed packet, which Captain Cuttle stared at as
he had stared at the keys.
'When I woke this morning, Captain,' said Rob, 'which was about a
quarter after five, I found these on my pillow. The shop-door was
unbolted and unlocked, and Mr Gills gone.'
'Gone!' roared the Captain.
'Flowed, Sir,' returned Rob.
The Captain's voice was so tremendous, and he came out of his
corner with such way on him, that Rob retreated before him into
another corner: holding out the keys and packet, to prevent himself
from being run down.
'"For Captain Cuttle," Sir,' cried Rob, 'is on the keys, and on the
packet too. Upon my word and honour, Captain Cuttle, I don't know
anything more about it. I wish I may die if I do! Here's a sitiwation
for a lad that's just got a sitiwation,' cried the unfortunate
Grinder, screwing his cuff into his face: 'his master bolted with his
place, and him blamed for it!'
These lamentations had reference to Captain Cuttle's gaze, or
rather glare, which was full of vague suspicions, threatenings, and
denunciations. Taking the proffered packet from his hand, the Captain
opened it and read as follows:-
'My dear Ned Cuttle. Enclosed is my will!' The Captain turned it
over, with a doubtful look - 'and Testament - Where's the Testament?'
said the Captain, instantly impeaching the ill-fated Grinder. 'What
have you done with that, my lad?'
'I never see it,' whimpered Rob. 'Don't keep on suspecting an
innocent lad, Captain. I never touched the Testament.'
Captain Cuttle shook his head, implying that somebody must be made
answerable for it; and gravely proceeded:
'Which don't break open for a year, or until you have decisive
intelligence of my dear Walter, who is dear to you, Ned, too, I am
sure.' The Captain paused and shook his head in some emotion; then, as
a re-establishment of his dignity in this trying position, looked with
exceeding sternness at the Grinder. 'If you should never hear of me,
or see me more, Ned, remember an old friend as he will remember you to
the last - kindly; and at least until the period I have mentioned has
expired, keep a home in the old place for Walter. There are no debts,
the loan from Dombey's House is paid off and all my keys I send with
this. Keep this quiet, and make no inquiry for me; it is useless. So
no more, dear Ned, from your true friend, Solomon Gills.' The Captain
took a long breath, and then read these words written below: '"The boy
Rob, well recommended, as I told you, from Dombey's House. If all else
should come to the hammer, take care, Ned, of the little Midshipman."'
To convey to posterity any idea of the manner in which the Captain,
after turning this letter over and over, and reading it a score of
times, sat down in his chair, and held a court-martial on the subject
in his own mind, would require the united genius of all the great men,
who, discarding their own untoward days, have determined to go down to
posterity, and have never got there. At first the Captain was too much
confounded and distressed to think of anything but the letter itself;
and even when his thoughts began to glance upon the various attendant
facts, they might, perhaps, as well have occupied themselves with
their former theme, for any light they reflected on them. In this
state of mind, Captain Cuttle having the Grinder before the court, and
no one else, found it a great relief to decide, generally, that he was
an object of suspicion: which the Captain so clearly expressed in his
visage, that Rob remonstrated.
'Oh, don't, Captain!' cried the Grinder. 'I wonder how you can!
what have I done to be looked at, like that?'
'My lad,' said Captain Cuttle, 'don't you sing out afore you're
hurt. And don't you commit yourself, whatever you do.'
'I haven't been and committed nothing, Captain!' answered Rob.
'Keep her free, then,' said the Captain, impressively, 'and ride
With a deep sense of the responsibility imposed upon him' and the
necessity of thoroughly fathoming this mysterious affair as became a
man in his relations with the parties, Captain Cuttle resolved to go
down and examine the premises, and to keep the Grinder with him.
Considering that youth as under arrest at present, the Captain was in
some doubt whether it might not be expedient to handcuff him, or tie
his ankles together, or attach a weight to his legs; but not being
clear as to the legality of such formalities, the Captain decided
merely to hold him by the shoulder all the way, and knock him down if
he made any objection.
However, he made none, and consequently got to the
Instrument-maker's house without being placed under any more stringent
restraint. As the shutters were not yet taken down, the Captain's
first care was to have the shop opened; and when the daylight was
freely admitted, he proceeded, with its aid, to further investigation.
The Captain's first care was to establish himself in a chair in the
shop, as President of the solemn tribunal that was sitting within him;
and to require Rob to lie down in his bed under the counter, show
exactly where he discovered the keys and packet when he awoke, how he
found the door when he went to try it, how he started off to Brig
Place - cautiously preventing the latter imitation from being carried
farther than the threshold - and so on to the end of the chapter. When
all this had been done several times, the Captain shook his head and
seemed to think the matter had a bad look.
Next, the Captain, with some indistinct idea of finding a body,
instituted a strict search over the whole house; groping in the
cellars with a lighted candle, thrusting his hook behind doors,
bringing his head into violent contact with beams, and covering
himself with cobwebs. Mounting up to the old man's bed-room, they
found that he had not been in bed on the previous night, but had
merely lain down on the coverlet, as was evident from the impression
yet remaining there.
'And I think, Captain,' said Rob, looking round the room, 'that
when Mr Gills was going in and out so often, these last few days, he
was taking little things away, piecemeal, not to attract attention.'
'Ay!' said the Captain, mysteriously. 'Why so, my lad?'
'Why,' returned Rob, looking about, 'I don't see his shaving
tackle. Nor his brushes, Captain. Nor no shirts. Nor yet his shoes.'
As each of these articles was mentioned, Captain Cuttle took
particular notice of the corresponding department of the Grinder, lest
he should appear to have been in recent use, or should prove to be in
present possession thereof. But Rob had no occasion to shave, was not
brushed, and wore the clothes he had on for a long time past, beyond
all possibility of a mistake.
'And what should you say,' said the Captain - 'not committing
yourself - about his time of sheering off? Hey?'
'Why, I think, Captain,' returned Rob, 'that he must have gone
pretty soon after I began to snore.'
'What o'clock was that?' said the Captain, prepared to be very
particular about the exact time.
'How can I tell, Captain!' answered Rob. 'I only know that I'm a
heavy sleeper at first, and a light one towards morning; and if Mr
Gills had come through the shop near daybreak, though ever so much on
tiptoe, I'm pretty sure I should have heard him shut the door at all
On mature consideration of this evidence, Captain Cuttle began to
think that the Instrument-maker must have vanished of his own accord;
to which logical conclusion he was assisted by the letter addressed to
himself, which, as being undeniably in the old man's handwriting,
would seem, with no great forcing, to bear the construction, that he
arranged of his own will to go, and so went. The Captain had next to
consider where and why? and as there was no way whatsoever that he saw
to the solution of the first difficulty, he confined his meditations
to the second.
Remembering the old man's curious manner, and the farewell he had
taken of him; unaccountably fervent at the time, but quite
intelligible now: a terrible apprehension strengthened on the Captain,
that, overpowered by his anxieties and regrets for Walter, he had been
driven to commit suicide. Unequal to the wear and tear of daily life,
as he had often professed himself to be, and shaken as he no doubt was
by the uncertainty and deferred hope he had undergone, it seemed no
violently strained misgiving, but only too probable. Free from debt,
and with no fear for his personal liberty, or the seizure of his
goods, what else but such a state of madness could have hurried him
away alone and secretly? As to his carrying some apparel with him, if
he had really done so - and they were not even sure of that - he might
have done so, the Captain argued, to prevent inquiry, to distract
attention from his probable fate, or to ease the very mind that was
now revolving all these possibilities. Such, reduced into plain
language, and condensed within a small compass, was the final result
and substance of Captain Cuttle's deliberations: which took a long
time to arrive at this pass, and were, like some more public
deliberations, very discursive and disorderly.
Dejected and despondent in the extreme, Captain Cuttle felt it just
to release Rob from the arrest in which he had placed him, and to
enlarge him, subject to a kind of honourable inspection which he still
resolved to exercise; and having hired a man, from Brogley the Broker,
to sit in the shop during their absence, the Captain, taking Rob with
him, issued forth upon a dismal quest after the mortal remains of
Not a station-house, or bone-house, or work-house in the metropolis
escaped a visitation from the hard glazed hat. Along the wharves,
among the shipping on the bank-side, up the river, down the river,
here, there, everywhere, it went gleaming where men were thickest,
like the hero's helmet in an epic battle. For a whole week the Captain
read of all the found and missing people in all the newspapers and
handbills, and went forth on expeditions at all hours of the day to
identify Solomon Gills, in poor little ship-boys who had fallen
overboard, and in tall foreigners with dark beards who had taken
poison - 'to make sure,' Captain Cuttle said, 'that it wam't him.' It
is a sure thing that it never was, and that the good Captain had no
Captain Cuttle at last abandoned these attempts as hopeless, and
set himself to consider what was to be done next. After several new
perusals of his poor friend's letter, he considered that the
maintenance of' a home in the old place for Walter' was the primary
duty imposed upon him. Therefore, the Captain's decision was, that he
would keep house on the premises of Solomon Gills himself, and would
go into the instrument-business, and see what came of it.
But as this step involved the relinquishment of his apartments at
Mrs MacStinger's, and he knew that resolute woman would never hear of
his deserting them, the Captain took the desperate determination of
'Now, look ye here, my lad,' said the Captain to Rob, when he had
matured this notable scheme, 'to-morrow, I shan't be found in this
here roadstead till night - not till arter midnight p'rhaps. But you
keep watch till you hear me knock, and the moment you do, turn-to, and
open the door.'
'Very good, Captain,' said Rob.
'You'll continue to be rated on these here books,' pursued the
Captain condescendingly, 'and I don't say but what you may get
promotion, if you and me should pull together with a will. But the
moment you hear me knock to-morrow night, whatever time it is, turn-to
and show yourself smart with the door.'
'I'll be sure to do it, Captain,' replied Rob.
'Because you understand,' resumed the Captain, coming back again to
enforce this charge upon his mind, 'there may be, for anything I can
say, a chase; and I might be took while I was waiting, if you didn't
show yourself smart with the door.'
Rob again assured the Captain that he would be prompt and wakeful;
and the Captain having made this prudent arrangement, went home to Mrs
MacStinger's for the last time.
The sense the Captain had of its being the last time, and of the
awful purpose hidden beneath his blue waistcoat, inspired him with
such a mortal dread of Mrs MacStinger, that the sound of that lady's
foot downstairs at any time of the day, was sufficient to throw him
into a fit of trembling. It fell out, too, that Mrs MacStinger was in
a charming temper - mild and placid as a house- lamb; and Captain
Cuttle's conscience suffered terrible twinges, when she came up to
inquire if she could cook him nothing for his dinner.
'A nice small kidney-pudding now, Cap'en Cuttle,' said his
landlady: 'or a sheep's heart. Don't mind my trouble.'
'No thank'ee, Ma'am,' returned the Captain.
'Have a roast fowl,' said Mrs MacStinger, 'with a bit of weal
stuffing and some egg sauce. Come, Cap'en Cuttle! Give yourself a
'No thank'ee, Ma'am,' returned the Captain very humbly.
'I'm sure you're out of sorts, and want to be stimulated,' said Mrs
MacStinger. 'Why not have, for once in a way, a bottle of sherry
'Well, Ma'am,' rejoined the Captain, 'if you'd be so good as take a
glass or two, I think I would try that. Would you do me the favour,
Ma'am,' said the Captain, torn to pieces by his conscience, 'to accept
a quarter's rent ahead?'
'And why so, Cap'en Cuttle?' retorted Mrs MacStinger - sharply, as
the Captain thought.
The Captain was frightened to dead 'If you would Ma'am,' he said
with submission, 'it would oblige me. I can't keep my money very well.
It pays itself out. I should take it kind if you'd comply.'
'Well, Cap'en Cuttle,' said the unconscious MacStinger, rubbing her
hands, 'you can do as you please. It's not for me, with my family, to
refuse, no more than it is to ask'
'And would you, Ma'am,' said the Captain, taking down the tin
canister in which he kept his cash' from the top shelf of the
cupboard, 'be so good as offer eighteen-pence a-piece to the little
family all round? If you could make it convenient, Ma'am, to pass the
word presently for them children to come for'ard, in a body, I should
be glad to see 'em'
These innocent MacStingers were so many daggers to the Captain's
breast, when they appeared in a swarm, and tore at him with the
confiding trustfulness he so little deserved. The eye of Alexander
MacStinger, who had been his favourite, was insupportable to the
Captain; the voice of Juliana MacStinger, who was the picture of her
mother, made a coward of him.
Captain Cuttle kept up appearances, nevertheless, tolerably well,
and for an hour or two was very hardly used and roughly handled by the
young MacStingers: who in their childish frolics, did a little damage
also to the glazed hat, by sitting in it, two at a time, as in a nest,
and drumming on the inside of the crown with their shoes. At length
the Captain sorrowfully dismissed them: taking leave of these cherubs
with the poignant remorse and grief of a man who was going to
In the silence of night, the Captain packed up his heavier property
in a chest, which he locked, intending to leave it there, in all
probability for ever, but on the forlorn chance of one day finding a
man sufficiently bold and desperate to come and ask for it. Of his
lighter necessaries, the Captain made a bundle; and disposed his plate
about his person, ready for flight. At the hour of midnight, when Brig
Place was buried in slumber, and Mrs MacStinger was lulled in sweet
oblivion, with her infants around her, the guilty Captain, stealing
down on tiptoe, in the dark, opened the door, closed it softly after
him, and took to his heels
Pursued by the image of Mrs MacStinger springing out of bed, and,
regardless of costume, following and bringing him back; pursued also
by a consciousness of his enormous crime; Captain Cuttle held on at a
great pace, and allowed no grass to grow under his feet, between Brig
Place and the Instrument-maker's door. It opened when he knocked - for
Rob was on the watch - and when it was bolted and locked behind him,
Captain Cuttle felt comparatively safe.
'Whew!' cried the Captain, looking round him. 'It's a breather!'
'Nothing the matter, is there, Captain?' cried the gaping Rob.
'No, no!' said Captain Cuttle, after changing colour, and listening
to a passing footstep in the street. 'But mind ye, my lad; if any
lady, except either of them two as you see t'other day, ever comes and
asks for Cap'en Cuttle, be sure to report no person of that name
known, nor never heard of here; observe them orders, will you?'
'I'll take care, Captain,' returned Rob.
'You might say - if you liked,' hesitated the Captain, 'that you'd
read in the paper that a Cap'en of that name was gone to Australia,
emigrating, along with a whole ship's complement of people as had all
swore never to come back no more.
Rob nodded his understanding of these instructions; and Captain
Cuttle promising to make a man of him, if he obeyed orders, dismissed
him, yawning, to his bed under the counter, and went aloft to the
chamber of Solomon Gills.
What the Captain suffered next day, whenever a bonnet passed, or
how often he darted out of the shop to elude imaginary MacStingers,
and sought safety in the attic, cannot be told. But to avoid the
fatigues attendant on this means of self-preservation, the Captain
curtained the glass door of communication between the shop and
parlour, on the inside; fitted a key to it from the bunch that had
been sent to him; and cut a small hole of espial in the wall. The
advantage of this fortification is obvious. On a bonnet appearing, the
Captain instantly slipped into his garrison, locked himself up, and
took a secret observation of the enemy. Finding it a false alarm, the
Captain instantly slipped out again. And the bonnets in the street
were so very numerous, and alarms were so inseparable from their
appearance, that the Captain was almost incessantly slipping in and
out all day long.
Captain Cuttle found time, however, in the midst of this fatiguing
service to inspect the stock; in connexion with which he had the
general idea (very laborious to Rob) that too much friction could not
be bestowed upon it, and that it could not be made too bright. He also
ticketed a few attractive-looking articles at a venture, at prices
ranging from ten shillings to fifty pounds, and exposed them in the
window to the great astonishment of the public.
After effecting these improvements, Captain Cuttle, surrounded by
the instruments, began to feel scientific: and looked up at the stars
at night, through the skylight, when he was smoking his pipe in the
little back parlour before going to bed, as if he had established a
kind of property in them. As a tradesman in the City, too, he began to
have an interest in the Lord Mayor, and the Sheriffs, and in Public
Companies; and felt bound to read the quotations of the Funds every
day, though he was unable to make out, on any principle of navigation,
what the figures meant, and could have very well dispensed with the
fractions. Florence, the Captain waited on, with his strange news of
Uncle Sol, immediately after taking possession of the Midshipman; but
she was away from home. So the Captain sat himself down in his altered
station of life, with no company but Rob the Grinder; and losing count
of time, as men do when great changes come upon them, thought musingly
of Walter, and of Solomon Gills, and even of Mrs MacStinger herself,
as among the things that had been.
Shadows of the Past and Future
'Your most obedient, Sir,' said the Major. 'Damme, Sir, a friend of
my friend Dombey's is a friend of mine, and I'm glad to see you!'
'I am infinitely obliged, Carker,' explained Mr Dombey, 'to Major
Bagstock, for his company and conversation. 'Major Bagstock has
rendered me great service, Carker.'
Mr Carker the Manager, hat in hand, just arrived at Leamington, and
just introduced to the Major, showed the Major his whole double range
of teeth, and trusted he might take the liberty of thanking him with
all his heart for having effected so great an Improvement in Mr
Dombey's looks and spirits'
'By Gad, Sir,' said the Major, in reply, 'there are no thanks due
to me, for it's a give and take affair. A great creature like our
friend Dombey, Sir,' said the Major, lowering his voice, but not
lowering it so much as to render it inaudible to that gentleman,
'cannot help improving and exalting his friends. He strengthens and
invigorates a man, Sir, does Dombey, in his moral nature.'
Mr Carker snapped at the expression. In his moral nature. Exactly.
The very words he had been on the point of suggesting.
'But when my friend Dombey, Sir,' added the Major, 'talks to you of
Major Bagstock, I must crave leave to set him and you right. He means
plain Joe, Sir - Joey B. - Josh. Bagstock - Joseph- rough and tough
Old J., Sir. At your service.'
Mr Carker's excessively friendly inclinations towards the Major,
and Mr Carker's admiration of his roughness, toughness, and plainness,
gleamed out of every tooth in Mr Carker's head.
'And now, Sir,' said the Major, 'you and Dombey have the devil's
own amount of business to talk over.'
'By no means, Major,' observed Mr Dombey.
'Dombey,' said the Major, defiantly, 'I know better; a man of your
mark - the Colossus of commerce - is not to be interrupted. Your
moments are precious. We shall meet at dinner-time. In the interval,
old Joseph will be scarce. The dinner-hour is a sharp seven, Mr
With that, the Major, greatly swollen as to his face, withdrew; but
immediately putting in his head at the door again, said:
'I beg your pardon. Dombey, have you any message to 'em?'
Mr Dombey in some embarrassment, and not without a glance at the
courteous keeper of his business confidence, entrusted the Major with
'By the Lord, Sir,' said the Major, 'you must make it something
warmer than that, or old Joe will be far from welcome.'
'Regards then, if you will, Major,' returned Mr Dombey.
'Damme, Sir,' said the Major, shaking his shoulders and his great
cheeks jocularly: 'make it something warmer than that.'
'What you please, then, Major,' observed Mr Dombey.
'Our friend is sly, Sir, sly, Sir, de-vilish sly,' said the Major,
staring round the door at Carker. 'So is Bagstock.' But stopping in
the midst of a chuckle, and drawing himself up to his full height, the
Major solemnly exclaimed, as he struck himself on the chest, 'Dombey!
I envy your feelings. God bless you!' and withdrew.
'You must have found the gentleman a great resource,' said Carker,
following him with his teeth.
'Very great indeed,' said Mr Dombey.
'He has friends here, no doubt,' pursued Carker. 'I perceive, from
what he has said, that you go into society here. Do you know,' smiling
horribly, 'I am so very glad that you go into society!'
Mr Dombey acknowledged this display of interest on the part of his
second in command, by twirling his watch-chain, and slightly moving
'You were formed for society,' said Carker. 'Of all the men I know,
you are the best adapted, by nature and by position, for society. Do
you know I have been frequently amazed that you should have held it at
arm's length so long!'
'I have had my reasons, Carker. I have been alone, and indifferent
to it. But you have great social qualifications yourself, and are the
more likely to have been surprised.'
'Oh! I!' returned the other, with ready self-disparagement. 'It's
quite another matter in the case of a man like me. I don't come into
comparison with you.'
Mr Dombey put his hand to his neckcloth, settled his chin in it,
coughed, and stood looking at his faithful friend and servant for a
few moments in silence.
'I shall have the pleasure, Carker,' said Mr Dombey at length:
making as if he swallowed something a little too large for his throat:
'to present you to my - to the Major's friends. Highly agreeable
'Ladies among them, I presume?' insinuated the smooth Manager.
'They are all - that is to say, they are both - ladies,' replied Mr
'Only two?' smiled Carker.
'They are only two. I have confined my visits to their residence,
and have made no other acquaintance here.'
'Sisters, perhaps?' quoth Carker.
'Mother and daughter,' replied Mr Dombey.
As Mr Dombey dropped his eyes, and adjusted his neckcloth again,
the smiling face of Mr Carker the Manager became in a moment, and
without any stage of transition, transformed into a most intent and
frowning face, scanning his closely, and with an ugly sneer. As Mr
Dombey raised his eyes, it changed back, no less quickly, to its old
expression, and showed him every gum of which it stood possessed.
'You are very kind,' said Carker, 'I shall be delighted to know
them. Speaking of daughters, I have seen Miss Dombey.'
There was a sudden rush of blood to Mr Dombey's face.
'I took the liberty of waiting on her,' said Carker, 'to inquire if
she could charge me with any little commission. I am not so fortunate
as to be the bearer of any but her - but her dear love.'
Wolf's face that it was then, with even the hot tongue revealing
itself through the stretched mouth, as the eyes encountered Mr
'What business intelligence is there?' inquired the latter
gentleman, after a silence, during which Mr Carker had produced some
memoranda and other papers.
'There is very little,' returned Carker. 'Upon the whole we have
not had our usual good fortune of late, but that is of little moment
to you. At Lloyd's, they give up the Son and Heir for lost. Well, she
was insured, from her keel to her masthead.'
'Carker,' said Mr Dombey, taking a chair near him, 'I cannot say
that young man, Gay, ever impressed me favourably
'Nor me,' interposed the Manager.
'But I wish,' said Mr Dombey, without heeding the interruption, 'he
had never gone on board that ship. I wish he had never been sent out.
'It is a pity you didn't say so, in good time, is it not?' retorted
Carker, coolly. 'However, I think it's all for the best. I really,
think it's all for the best. Did I mention that there was something
like a little confidence between Miss Dombey and myself?'
'No,' said Mr Dombey, sternly.
'I have no doubt,' returned Mr Carker, after an impressive pause,
'that wherever Gay is, he is much better where he is, than at home
here. If I were, or could be, in your place, I should be satisfied of
that. I am quite satisfied of it myself. Miss Dombey is confiding and
young - perhaps hardly proud enough, for your daughter - if she have a
fault. Not that that is much though, I am sure. Will you check these
balances with me?'
Mr Dombey leaned back in his chair, instead of bending over the
papers that were laid before him, and looked the Manager steadily in
the face. The Manager, with his eyelids slightly raised, affected to
be glancing at his figures, and to await the leisure of his principal.
He showed that he affected this, as if from great delicacy, and with a
design to spare Mr Dombey's feelings; and the latter, as he looked at
him, was cognizant of his intended consideration, and felt that but
for it, this confidential Carker would have said a great deal more,
which he, Mr Dombey, was too proud to ask for. It was his way in
business, often. Little by little, Mr Dombey's gaze relaxed, and his
attention became diverted to the papers before him; but while busy
with the occupation they afforded him, he frequently stopped, and
looked at Mr Carker again. Whenever he did so, Mr Carker was
demonstrative, as before, in his delicacy, and impressed it on his
great chief more and more.
While they were thus engaged; and under the skilful culture of the
Manager, angry thoughts in reference to poor Florence brooded and bred
in Mr Dombey's breast, usurping the place of the cold dislike that
generally reigned there; Major Bagstock, much admired by the old
ladies of Leamington, and followed by the Native, carrying the usual
amount of light baggage, straddled along the shady side of the way, to
make a morning call on Mrs Skewton. It being midday when the Major
reached the bower of Cleopatra, he had the good fortune to find his
Princess on her usual sofa, languishing over a cup of coffee, with the
room so darkened and shaded for her more luxurious repose, that
Withers, who was in attendance on her, loomed like a phantom page.
'What insupportable creature is this, coming in?' said Mrs Skewton,
'I cannot hear it. Go away, whoever you are!'
'You have not the heart to banish J. B., Ma'am!' said the Major
halting midway, to remonstrate, with his cane over his shoulder.
'Oh it's you, is it? On second thoughts, you may enter,' observed
The Major entered accordingly, and advancing to the sofa pressed
her charming hand to his lips.
'Sit down,' said Cleopatra, listlessly waving her fan, 'a long way
off. Don't come too near me, for I am frightfully faint and sensitive
this morning, and you smell of the Sun. You are absolutely tropical.'
'By George, Ma'am,' said the Major, 'the time has been when Joseph
Bagstock has been grilled and blistered by the Sun; then time was,
when he was forced, Ma'am, into such full blow, by high hothouse heat
in the West Indies, that he was known as the Flower. A man never heard
of Bagstock, Ma'am, in those days; he heard of the Flower - the Flower
of Ours. The Flower may have faded, more or less, Ma'am,' observed the
Major, dropping into a much nearer chair than had been indicated by
his cruel Divinity, 'but it is a tough plant yet, and constant as the
Here the Major, under cover of the dark room, shut up one eye,
rolled his head like a Harlequin, and, in his great self-satisfaction,
perhaps went nearer to the confines of apoplexy than he had ever gone
'Where is Mrs Granger?' inquired Cleopatra of her page.
Withers believed she was in her own room.
'Very well,' said Mrs Skewton. 'Go away, and shut the door. I am
As Withers disappeared, Mrs Skewton turned her head languidly
towards the Major, without otherwise moving, and asked him how his
'Dombey, Ma'am,' returned the Major, with a facetious gurgling in
his throat, 'is as well as a man in his condition can be. His
condition is a desperate one, Ma'am. He is touched, is Dombey!
Touched!' cried the Major. 'He is bayonetted through the body.'
Cleopatra cast a sharp look at the Major, that contrasted forcibly
with the affected drawl in which she presently said:
'Major Bagstock, although I know but little of the world, - nor can
I really regret my experience, for I fear it is a false place, full of
withering conventionalities: where Nature is but little regarded, and
where the music of the heart, and the gushing of the soul, and all
that sort of thing, which is so truly poetical, is seldom heard, - I
cannot misunderstand your meaning. There is an allusion to Edith - to
my extremely dear child,' said Mrs Skewton, tracing the outline of her
eyebrows with her forefinger, 'in your words, to which the tenderest
of chords vibrates excessively.'
'Bluntness, Ma'am,' returned the Major, 'has ever been the
characteristic of the Bagstock breed. You are right. Joe admits it.'
'And that allusion,' pursued Cleopatra, 'would involve one of the
most - if not positively the most - touching, and thrilling, and
sacred emotions of which our sadly-fallen nature is susceptible, I
The Major laid his hand upon his lips, and wafted a kiss to
Cleopatra, as if to identify the emotion in question.
'I feel that I am weak. I feel that I am wanting in that energy,
which should sustain a Mama: not to say a parent: on such a subject,'
said Mrs Skewton, trimming her lips with the laced edge of her
pocket-handkerchief; 'but I can hardly approach a topic so excessively
momentous to my dearest Edith without a feeling of faintness.
Nevertheless, bad man, as you have boldly remarked upon it, and as it
has occasioned me great anguish:' Mrs Skewton touched her left side
with her fan: 'I will not shrink from my duty.'
The Major, under cover of the dimness, swelled, and swelled, and
rolled his purple face about, and winked his lobster eye, until he
fell into a fit of wheezing, which obliged him to rise and take a turn
or two about the room, before his fair friend could proceed.
'Mr Dombey,' said Mrs Skewton, when she at length resumed, 'was
obliging enough, now many weeks ago, to do us the honour of visiting
us here; in company, my dear Major, with yourself. I acknowledge - let
me be open - that it is my failing to be the creature of impulse, and
to wear my heart as it were, outside. I know my failing full well. My
enemy cannot know it better. But I am not penitent; I would rather not
be frozen by the heartless world, and am content to bear this
Mrs Skewton arranged her tucker, pinched her wiry throat to give it
a soft surface, and went on, with great complacency.
'It gave me (my dearest Edith too, I am sure) infinite pleasure to
receive Mr Dombey. As a friend of yours, my dear Major, we were
naturally disposed to be prepossessed in his favour; and I fancied
that I observed an amount of Heart in Mr Dombey, that was excessively
'There is devilish little heart in Dombey now, Ma'am,' said the
'Wretched man!' cried Mrs Skewton, looking at him languidly, 'pray
'J. B. is dumb, Ma'am,' said the Major.
'Mr Dombey,' pursued Cleopatra, smoothing the rosy hue upon her
cheeks, 'accordingly repeated his visit; and possibly finding some
attraction in the simplicity and primitiveness of our tastes - for
there is always a charm in nature - it is so very sweet - became one
of our little circle every evening. Little did I think of the awful
responsibility into which I plunged when I encouraged Mr Dombey - to -
'To beat up these quarters, Ma'am,' suggested Major Bagstock.
'Coarse person! 'said Mrs Skewton, 'you anticipate my meaning,
though in odious language.
Here Mrs Skewton rested her elbow on the little table at her side,
and suffering her wrist to droop in what she considered a graceful and
becoming manner, dangled her fan to and fro, and lazily admired her
hand while speaking.
'The agony I have endured,' she said mincingly, 'as the truth has
by degrees dawned upon me, has been too exceedingly terrific to dilate
upon. My whole existence is bound up in my sweetest Edith; and to see
her change from day to day - my beautiful pet, who has positively
garnered up her heart since the death of that most delightful
creature, Granger - is the most affecting thing in the world.'
Mrs Skewton's world was not a very trying one, if one might judge
of it by the influence of its most affecting circumstance upon her;
but this by the way.
'Edith,' simpered Mrs Skewton, 'who is the perfect pearl of my
life, is said to resemble me. I believe we are alike.'
'There is one man in the world who never will admit that anyone
resembles you, Ma'am,' said the Major; 'and that man's name is Old Joe
Cleopatra made as if she would brain the flatterer with her fan,
but relenting, smiled upon him and proceeded:
'If my charming girl inherits any advantages from me, wicked one!':
the Major was the wicked one: 'she inherits also my foolish nature.
She has great force of character - mine has been said to be immense,
though I don't believe it - but once moved, she is susceptible and
sensitive to the last extent. What are my feelings when I see her
pining! They destroy me.
The Major advancing his double chin, and pursing up his blue lips
into a soothing expression, affected the profoundest sympathy.
'The confidence,' said Mrs Skewton, 'that has subsisted between us
- the free development of soul, and openness of sentiment - is
touching to think of. We have been more like sisters than Mama and
'J. B.'s own sentiment,' observed the Major, 'expressed by J. B.
fifty thousand times!'
'Do not interrupt, rude man!' said Cleopatra. 'What are my
feelings, then, when I find that there is one subject avoided by us!
That there is a what's-his-name - a gulf - opened between us. That my
own artless Edith is changed to me! They are of the most poignant
description, of course.'
The Major left his chair, and took one nearer to the little table.
'From day to day I see this, my dear Major,' proceeded Mrs Skewton.
'From day to day I feel this. From hour to hour I reproach myself for
that excess of faith and trustfulness which has led to such
distressing consequences; and almost from minute to minute, I hope
that Mr Dombey may explain himself, and relieve the torture I undergo,
which is extremely wearing. But nothing happens, my dear Major; I am
the slave of remorse - take care of the coffee-cup: you are so very
awkward - my darling Edith is an altered being; and I really don't see
what is to be done, or what good creature I can advise with.'
Major Bagstock, encouraged perhaps by the softened and confidential
tone into which Mrs Skewton, after several times lapsing into it for a
moment, seemed now to have subsided for good, stretched out his hand
across the little table, and said with a leer,
'Advise with Joe, Ma'am.'
'Then, you aggravating monster,' said Cleopatra, giving one hand to
the Major, and tapping his knuckles with her fan, which she held in
the other: 'why don't you talk to me? you know what I mean. Why don't
you tell me something to the purpose?'
The Major laughed, and kissed the hand she had bestowed upon him,
and laughed again immensely.
'Is there as much Heart in Mr Dombey as I gave him credit for?'
languished Cleopatra tenderly. 'Do you think he is in earnest, my dear
Major? Would you recommend his being spoken to, or his being left
alone? Now tell me, like a dear man, what would you advise.'
'Shall we marry him to Edith Granger, Ma'am?' chuckled the Major,
'Mysterious creature!' returned Cleopatra, bringing her fan to bear
upon the Major's nose. 'How can we marry him?'
'Shall we marry him to Edith Granger, Ma'am, I say?' chuckled the
Mrs Skewton returned no answer in words, but smiled upon the Major
with so much archness and vivacity, that that gallant officer
considering himself challenged, would have imprinted a kiss on her
exceedingly red lips, but for her interposing the fan with a very
winning and juvenile dexterity. It might have been in modesty; it
might have been in apprehension of some danger to their bloom.
'Dombey, Ma'am,' said the Major, 'is a great catch.'
'Oh, mercenary wretch!' cried Cleopatra, with a little shriek, 'I
'And Dombey, Ma'am,' pursued the Major, thrusting forward his head,
and distending his eyes, 'is in earnest. Joseph says it; Bagstock
knows it; J. B. keeps him to the mark. Leave Dombey to himself, Ma'am.
Dombey is safe, Ma'am. Do as you have done; do no more; and trust to
J. B. for the end.'
'You really think so, my dear Major?' returned Cleopatra, who had
eyed him very cautiously, and very searchingly, in spite of her
'Sure of it, Ma'am,' rejoined the Major. 'Cleopatra the peerless,
and her Antony Bagstock, will often speak of this, triumphantly, when
sharing the elegance and wealth of Edith Dombey's establishment.
Dombey's right-hand man, Ma'am,' said the Major, stopping abruptly in
a chuckle, and becoming serious, 'has arrived.'
'This morning?' said Cleopatra.
'This morning, Ma'am,' returned the Major. 'And Dombey's anxiety
for his arrival, Ma'am, is to be referred - take J. B.'s word for
this; for Joe is devilish sly' - the Major tapped his nose, and
screwed up one of his eyes tight: which did not enhance his native
beauty - 'to his desire that what is in the wind should become known
to him' without Dombey's telling and consulting him. For Dombey is as
proud, Ma'am,' said the Major, 'as Lucifer.'
'A charming quality,' lisped Mrs Skewton; 'reminding one of dearest
'Well, Ma'am,' said the Major. 'I have thrown out hints already,
and the right-hand man understands 'em; and I'll throw out more,
before the day is done. Dombey projected this morning a ride to
Warwick Castle, and to Kenilworth, to-morrow, to be preceded by a
breakfast with us. I undertook the delivery of this invitation. Will
you honour us so far, Ma'am?' said the Major, swelling with shortness
of breath and slyness, as he produced a note, addressed to the
Honourable Mrs Skewton, by favour of Major Bagstock, wherein hers ever
faithfully, Paul Dombey, besought her and her amiable and accomplished
daughter to consent to the proposed excursion; and in a postscript
unto which, the same ever faithfully Paul Dombey entreated to be
recalled to the remembrance of Mrs Granger.
'Hush!' said Cleopatra, suddenly, 'Edith!'
The loving mother can scarcely be described as resuming her insipid
and affected air when she made this exclamation; for she had never
cast it off; nor was it likely that she ever would or could, in any
other place than in the grave. But hurriedly dismissing whatever
shadow of earnestness, or faint confession of a purpose, laudable or
wicked, that her face, or voice, or manner: had, for the moment,
betrayed, she lounged upon the couch, her most insipid and most
languid self again, as Edith entered the room.
Edith, so beautiful and stately, but so cold and so repelling. Who,
slightly acknowledging the presence of Major Bagstock, and directing a
keen glance at her mother, drew back the from a window, and sat down
there, looking out.
'My dearest Edith,' said Mrs Skewton, 'where on earth have you
been? I have wanted you, my love, most sadly.'
'You said you were engaged, and I stayed away,' she answered,
without turning her head.
'It was cruel to Old Joe, Ma'am,' said the Major in his gallantry.
'It was very cruel, I know,' she said, still looking out - and said
with such calm disdain, that the Major was discomfited, and could
think of nothing in reply.
'Major Bagstock, my darling Edith,' drawled her mother, 'who is
generally the most useless and disagreeable creature in the world: as
you know - '
'It is surely not worthwhile, Mama,' said Edith, looking round, 'to
observe these forms of speech. We are quite alone. We know each
The quiet scorn that sat upon her handsome face - a scorn that
evidently lighted on herself, no less than them - was so intense and
deep, that her mother's simper, for the instant, though of a hardy
constitution, drooped before it.
'My darling girl,' she began again.
'Not woman yet?' said Edith, with a smile.
'How very odd you are to-day, my dear! Pray let me say, my love,
that Major Bagstock has brought the kindest of notes from Mr Dombey,
proposing that we should breakfast with him to-morrow, and ride to
Warwick and Kenilworth. Will you go, Edith?'
'Will I go!' she repeated, turning very red, and breathing quickly
as she looked round at her mother.
'I knew you would, my own, observed the latter carelessly. 'It is,
as you say, quite a form to ask. Here is Mr Dombey's letter, Edith.'
'Thank you. I have no desire to read it,' was her answer.
'Then perhaps I had better answer it myself,' said Mrs Skewton,
'though I had thought of asking you to be my secretary, darling.' As
Edith made no movement, and no answer, Mrs Skewton begged the Major to
wheel her little table nearer, and to set open the desk it contained,
and to take out pen and paper for her; all which congenial offices of
gallantry the Major discharged, with much submission and devotion.
'Your regards, Edith, my dear?' said Mrs Skewton, pausing, pen in
hand, at the postscript.
'What you will, Mama,' she answered, without turning her head, and
with supreme indifference.
Mrs Skewton wrote what she would, without seeking for any more
explicit directions, and handed her letter to the Major, who receiving
it as a precious charge, made a show of laying it near his heart, but
was fain to put it in the pocket of his pantaloons on account of the
insecurity of his waistcoat The Major then took a very polished and
chivalrous farewell of both ladies, which the elder one acknowledged
in her usual manner, while the younger, sitting with her face
addressed to the window, bent her head so slightly that it would have
been a greater compliment to the Major to have made no sign at all,
and to have left him to infer that he had not been heard or thought
'As to alteration in her, Sir,' mused the Major on his way back; on
which expedition - the afternoon being sunny and hot - he ordered the
Native and the light baggage to the front, and walked in the shadow of
that expatriated prince: 'as to alteration, Sir, and pining, and so
forth, that won't go down with Joseph Bagstock, None of that, Sir. It
won't do here. But as to there being something of a division between
'em - or a gulf as the mother calls it - damme, Sir, that seems true
enough. And it's odd enough! Well, Sir!' panted the Major, 'Edith
Granger and Dombey are well matched; let 'em fight it out! Bagstock
backs the winner!'
The Major, by saying these latter words aloud, in the vigour of his
thoughts, caused the unhappy Native to stop, and turn round, in the
belief that he was personally addressed. Exasperated to the last
degree by this act of insubordination, the Major (though he was
swelling with enjoyment of his own humour, at the moment of its
occurrence instantly thrust his cane among the Native's ribs, and
continued to stir him up, at short intervals, all the way to the
Nor was the Major less exasperated as he dressed for dinner, during
which operation the dark servant underwent the pelting of a shower of
miscellaneous objects, varying in size from a boot to a hairbrush, and
including everything that came within his master's reach. For the
Major plumed himself on having the Native in a perfect state of drill,
and visited the least departure from strict discipline with this kind
of fatigue duty. Add to this, that he maintained the Native about his
person as a counter-irritant against the gout, and all other
vexations, mental as well as bodily; and the Native would appear to
have earned his pay - which was not large.
At length, the Major having disposed of all the missiles that were
convenient to his hand, and having called the Native so many new names
as must have given him great occasion to marvel at the resources of
the English language, submitted to have his cravat put on; and being
dressed, and finding himself in a brisk flow of spirits after this
exercise, went downstairs to enliven 'Dombey' and his right-hand man.
Dombey was not yet in the room, but the right-hand man was there,
and his dental treasures were, as usual, ready for the Major.
'Well, Sir!' said the Major. 'How have you passed the time since I
had the happiness of meeting you? Have you walked at all?'
'A saunter of barely half an hour's duration,' returned Carker. 'We
have been so much occupied.'
'Business, eh?' said the Major.
'A variety of little matters necessary to be gone through,' replied
Carker. 'But do you know - this is quite unusual with me, educated in
a distrustful school, and who am not generally disposed to be
communicative,' he said, breaking off, and speaking in a charming tone
of frankness - 'but I feel quite confidential with you, Major
'You do me honour, Sir,' returned the Major. 'You may be.'
'Do you know, then,' pursued Carker, 'that I have not found my
friend - our friend, I ought rather to call him - '
'Meaning Dombey, Sir?' cried the Major. 'You see me, Mr Carker,
standing here! J. B.?'
He was puffy enough to see, and blue enough; and Mr Carker
intimated the he had that pleasure.
'Then you see a man, Sir, who would go through fire and water to
serve Dombey,' returned Major Bagstock.
Mr Carker smiled, and said he was sure of it. 'Do you know, Major,'
he proceeded: 'to resume where I left off' that I have not found our
friend so attentive to business today, as usual?'
'No?' observed the delighted Major.
'I have found him a little abstracted, and with his attention
disposed to wander,' said Carker.
'By Jove, Sir,' cried the Major, 'there's a lady in the case.'
'Indeed, I begin to believe there really is,' returned Carker; 'I
thought you might be jesting when you seemed to hint at it; for I know
you military men -
The Major gave the horse's cough, and shook his head and shoulders,
as much as to say, 'Well! we are gay dogs, there's no denying.' He
then seized Mr Carker by the button-hole, and with starting eyes
whispered in his ear, that she was a woman of extraordinary charms,
Sir. That she was a young widow, Sir. That she was of a fine family,
Sir. That Dombey was over head and ears in love with her, Sir, and
that it would be a good match on both sides; for she had beauty,
blood, and talent, and Dombey had fortune; and what more could any
couple have? Hearing Mr Dombey's footsteps without, the Major cut
himself short by saying, that Mr Carker would see her tomorrow
morning, and would judge for himself; and between his mental
excitement, and the exertion of saying all this in wheezy whispers,
the Major sat gurgling in the throat and watering at the eyes, until
dinner was ready.
The Major, like some other noble animals, exhibited himself to
great advantage at feeding-time. On this occasion, he shone
resplendent at one end of the table, supported by the milder lustre of
Mr Dombey at the other; while Carker on one side lent his ray to
either light, or suffered it to merge into both, as occasion arose.
During the first course or two, the Major was usually grave; for
the Native, in obedience to general orders, secretly issued, collected
every sauce and cruet round him, and gave him a great deal to do, in
taking out the stoppers, and mixing up the contents in his plate.
Besides which, the Native had private zests and flavours on a
side-table, with which the Major daily scorched himself; to say
nothing of strange machines out of which he spirited unknown liquids
into the Major's drink. But on this occasion, Major Bagstock, even
amidst these many occupations, found time to be social; and his
sociality consisted in excessive slyness for the behoof of Mr Carker,
and the betrayal of Mr Dombey's state of mind.
'Dombey,' said the Major, 'you don't eat; what's the matter?'
'Thank you,' returned the gentleman, 'I am doing very well; I have
no great appetite today.'
'Why, Dombey, what's become of it?' asked the Major. 'Where's it
gone? You haven't left it with our friends, I'll swear, for I can
answer for their having none to-day at luncheon. I can answer for one
of 'em, at least: I won't say which.'
Then the Major winked at Carker, and became so frightfully sly,
that his dark attendant was obliged to pat him on the back, without
orders, or he would probably have disappeared under the table.
In a later stage of the dinner: that is to say, when the Native
stood at the Major's elbow ready to serve the first bottle of
champagne: the Major became still slyer.
'Fill this to the brim, you scoundrel,' said the Major, holding up
his glass. 'Fill Mr Carker's to the brim too. And Mr Dombey's too. By
Gad, gentlemen,' said the Major, winking at his new friend, while Mr
Dombey looked into his plate with a conscious air, 'we'll consecrate
this glass of wine to a Divinity whom Joe is proud to know, and at a
distance humbly and reverently to admire. Edith,' said the Major, 'is
her name; angelic Edith!'
'To angelic Edith!' cried the smiling Carker.
'Edith, by all means,' said Mr Dombey.
The entrance of the waiters with new dishes caused the Major to be
slyer yet, but in a more serious vein. 'For though among ourselves,
Joe Bagstock mingles jest and earnest on this subject, Sir,' said the
Major, laying his finger on his lips, and speaking half apart to
Carker, 'he holds that name too sacred to be made the property of
these fellows, or of any fellows. Not a word!, Sir' while they are
This was respectful and becoming on the Major's part, and Mr Dombey
plainly felt it so. Although embarrassed in his own frigid way, by the
Major's allusions, Mr Dombey had no objection to such rallying, it was
clear, but rather courted it. Perhaps the Major had been pretty near
the truth, when he had divined that morning that the great man who was
too haughty formally to consult with, or confide in his prime
minister, on such a matter, yet wished him to be fully possessed of
it. Let this be how it may, he often glanced at Mr Carker while the
Major plied his light artillery, and seemed watchful of its effect
But the Major, having secured an attentive listener, and a smiler
who had not his match in all the world - 'in short, a devilish
intelligent and able fellow,' as he often afterwards declared - was
not going to let him off with a little slyness personal to Mr Dombey.
Therefore, on the removal of the cloth, the Major developed himself as
a choice spirit in the broader and more comprehensive range of
narrating regimental stories, and cracking regimental jokes, which he
did with such prodigal exuberance, that Carker was (or feigned to be)
quite exhausted with laughter and admiration: while Mr Dombey looked
on over his starched cravat, like the Major's proprietor, or like a
stately showman who was glad to see his bear dancing well.
When the Major was too hoarse with meat and drink, and the display
of his social powers, to render himself intelligible any longer, they
adjourned to coffee. After which, the Major inquired of Mr Carker the
Manager, with little apparent hope of an answer in the affirmative, if
he played picquet.
'Yes, I play picquet a little,' said Mr Carker.
'Backgammon, perhaps?' observed the Major, hesitating.
'Yes, I play backgammon a little too,' replied the man of teeth.
'Carker plays at all games, I believe,' said Mr Dombey, laying
himself on a sofa like a man of wood, without a hinge or a joint in
him; 'and plays them well.'
In sooth, he played the two in question, to such perfection, that
the Major was astonished, and asked him, at random, if he played
'Yes, I play chess a little,' answered Carker. 'I have sometimes
played, and won a game - it's a mere trick - without seeing the
'By Gad, Sir!' said the Major, staring, 'you are a contrast to
Dombey, who plays nothing.'
'Oh! He!' returned the Manager. 'He has never had occasion to
acquire such little arts. To men like me, they are sometimes useful.
As at present, Major Bagstock, when they enable me to take a hand with
It might be only the false mouth, so smooth and wide; and yet there
seemed to lurk beneath the humility and subserviency of this short
speech, a something like a snarl; and, for a moment, one might have
thought that the white teeth were prone to bite the hand they fawned
upon. But the Major thought nothing about it; and Mr Dombey lay
meditating with his eyes half shut, during the whole of the play,
which lasted until bed-time.
By that time, Mr Carker, though the winner, had mounted high into
the Major's good opinion, insomuch that when he left the Major at his
own room before going to bed, the Major as a special attention, sent
the Native - who always rested on a mattress spread upon the ground at
his master's door - along the gallery, to light him to his room in
There was a faint blur on the surface of the mirror in Mr Carker's
chamber, and its reflection was, perhaps, a false one. But it showed,
that night, the image of a man, who saw, in his fancy, a crowd of
people slumbering on the ground at his feet, like the poor Native at
his master's door: who picked his way among them: looking down,
maliciously enough: but trod upon no upturned face - as yet.
Mr Carker the Manager rose with the lark, and went out, walking in
the summer day. His meditations - and he meditated with contracted
brows while he strolled along - hardly seemed to soar as high as the
lark, or to mount in that direction; rather they kept close to their
nest upon the earth, and looked about, among the dust and worms. But
there was not a bird in the air, singing unseen, farther beyond the
reach of human eye than Mr Carker's thoughts. He had his face so
perfectly under control, that few could say more, in distinct terms,
of its expression, than that it smiled or that it pondered. It
pondered now, intently. As the lark rose higher, he sank deeper in
thought. As the lark poured out her melody clearer and stronger, he
fell into a graver and profounder silence. At length, when the lark
came headlong down, with an accumulating stream of song, and dropped
among the green wheat near him, rippling in the breath of the morning
like a river, he sprang up from his reverie, and looked round with a
sudden smile, as courteous and as soft as if he had had numerous
observers to propitiate; nor did he relapse, after being thus
awakened; but clearing his face, like one who bethought himself that
it might otherwise wrinkle and tell tales, went smiling on, as if for
Perhaps with an eye to first impressions, Mr Carker was very
carefully and trimly dressed, that morning. Though always somewhat
formal, in his dress, in imitation of the great man whom he served, he
stopped short of the extent of Mr Dombey's stiffness: at once perhaps
because he knew it to be ludicrous, and because in doing so he found
another means of expressing his sense of the difference and distance
between them. Some people quoted him indeed, in this respect, as a
pointed commentary, and not a flattering one, on his icy patron - but
the world is prone to misconstruction, and Mr Carker was not
accountable for its bad propensity.
Clean and florid: with his light complexion, fading as it were, in
the sun, and his dainty step enhancing the softness of the turf: Mr
Carker the Manager strolled about meadows, and green lanes, and glided
among avenues of trees, until it was time to return to breakfast.
Taking a nearer way back, Mr Carker pursued it, airing his teeth, and
said aloud as he did so, 'Now to see the second Mrs Dombey!'
He had strolled beyond the town, and re-entered it by a pleasant
walk, where there was a deep shade of leafy trees, and where there
were a few benches here and there for those who chose to rest. It not
being a place of general resort at any hour, and wearing at that time
of the still morning the air of being quite deserted and retired, Mr
Carker had it, or thought he had it, all to himself. So, with the whim
of an idle man, to whom there yet remained twenty minutes for reaching
a destination easily able in ten, Mr Carker threaded the great boles
of the trees, and went passing in and out, before this one and behind
that, weaving a chain of footsteps on the dewy ground.
But he found he was mistaken in supposing there was no one in the
grove, for as he softly rounded the trunk of one large tree, on which
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