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Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

Part 21 out of 21

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Tell him I wish it never had been.'

'May I say,' said Florence, 'that you grieved to hear of the
afflictions he has suffered?'

'Not,' she replied, 'if they have taught him that his daughter is
very dear to him. He will not grieve for them himself, one day, if
they have brought that lesson, Florence.'

'You wish well to him, and would have him happy. I am sure you
would!' said Florence. 'Oh! let me be able, if I have the occasion at
some future time, to say so?'

Edith sat with her dark eyes gazing steadfastly before her, and did
not reply until Florence had repeated her entreaty; when she drew her
hand within her arm, and said, with the same thoughtful gaze upon the
night outside:

'Tell him that if, in his own present, he can find any reason to
compassionate my past, I sent word that I asked him to do so. Tell him
that if, in his own present, he can find a reason to think less
bitterly of me, I asked him to do so. Tell him, that, dead as we are
to one another, never more to meet on this side of eternity, he knows
there is one feeling in common between us now, that there never was

Her sternness seemed to yield, and there were tears in her dark

'I trust myself to that,' she said, 'for his better thoughts of me,
and mine of him. When he loves his Florence most, he will hate me
least. When he is most proud and happy in her and her children, he
will be most repentant of his own part in the dark vision of our
married life. At that time, I will be repentant too - let him know it
then - and think that when I thought so much of all the causes that
had made me what I was, I needed to have allowed more for the causes
that had made him what he was. I will try, then, to forgive him his
share of blame. Let him try to forgive me mine!'

'Oh Mama!' said Florence. 'How it lightens my heart, even in such a
strange meeting and parting, to hear this!'

'Strange words in my own ears,' said Edith, 'and foreign to the
sound of my own voice! But even if I had been the wretched creature I
have given him occasion to believe me, I think I could have said them
still, hearing that you and he were very dear to one another. Let him,
when you are dearest, ever feel that he is most forbearing in his
thoughts of me - that I am most forbearing in my thoughts of him!
Those are the last words I send him! Now, goodbye, my life!'

She clasped her in her arms, and seemed to pour out all her woman's
soul of love and tenderness at once.

'This kiss for your child! These kisses for a blessing on your
head! My own dear Florence, my sweet girl, farewell!'

'To meet again!' cried Florence.

'Never again! Never again! When you leave me in this dark room,
think that you have left me in the grave. Remember only that I was
once, and that I loved you!'

And Florence left her, seeing her face no more, but accompanied by
her embraces and caresses to the last.

Cousin Feenix met her at the door, and took her down to Walter in
the dingy dining room, upon whose shoulder she laid her head weeping.

'I am devilish sorry,' said Cousin Feenix, lifting his wristbands
to his eyes in the simplest manner possible, and without the least
concealment, 'that the lovely and accomplished daughter of my friend
Dombey and amiable wife of my friend Gay, should have had her
sensitive nature so very much distressed and cut up by the interview
which is just concluded. But I hope and trust I have acted for the
best, and that my honourable friend Dombey will find his mind relieved
by the disclosures which have taken place. I exceedingly lament that
my friend Dombey should have got himself, in point of fact, into the
devil's own state of conglomeration by an alliance with our family;
but am strongly of opinion that if it hadn't been for the infernal
scoundrel Barker - man with white teeth - everything would have gone
on pretty smoothly. In regard to my relative who does me the honour to
have formed an uncommonly good opinion of myself, I can assure the
amiable wife of my friend Gay, that she may rely on my being, in point
of fact, a father to her. And in regard to the changes of human life,
and the extraordinary manner in which we are perpetually conducting
ourselves, all I can say is, with my friend Shakespeare - man who
wasn't for an age but for all time, and with whom my friend Gay is no
doubt acquainted - that its like the shadow of a dream.'



A bottle that has been long excluded from the light of day, and is
hoary with dust and cobwebs, has been brought into the sunshine; and
the golden wine within it sheds a lustre on the table.

It is the last bottle of the old Madiera.

'You are quite right, Mr Gills,' says Mr Dombey. 'This is a very
rare and most delicious wine.'

The Captain, who is of the party, beams with joy. There is a very
halo of delight round his glowing forehead.

'We always promised ourselves, Sir,' observes Mr Gills,' Ned and
myself, I mean - '

Mr Dombey nods at the Captain, who shines more and more with
speechless gratification.

'-that we would drink this, one day or other, to Walter safe at
home: though such a home we never thought of. If you don't object to
our old whim, Sir, let us devote this first glass to Walter and his

'To Walter and his wife!' says Mr Dombey. 'Florence, my child' -
and turns to kiss her.

'To Walter and his wife!' says Mr Toots.

'To Wal'r and his wife!' exclaims the Captain. 'Hooroar!' and the
Captain exhibiting a strong desire to clink his glass against some
other glass, Mr Dombey, with a ready hand, holds out his. The others
follow; and there is a blithe and merry ringing, as of a little peal
of marriage bells.

Other buried wine grows older, as the old Madeira did in its time;
and dust and cobwebs thicken on the bottles.

Mr Dombey is a white-haired gentleman, whose face bears heavy marks
of care and suffering; but they are traces of a storm that has passed
on for ever, and left a clear evening in its track.

Ambitious projects trouble him no more. His only pride is in his
daughter and her husband. He has a silent, thoughtful, quiet manner,
and is always with his daughter. Miss Tox is not infrequently of the
family party, and is quite devoted to it, and a great favourite. Her
admiration of her once stately patron is, and has been ever since the
morning of her shock in Princess's Place, platonic, but not weakened
in the least.

Nothing has drifted to him from the wreck of his fortunes, but a
certain annual sum that comes he knows not how, with an earnest
entreaty that he will not seek to discover, and with the assurance
that it is a debt, and an act of reparation. He has consulted with his
old clerk about this, who is clear it may be honourably accepted, and
has no doubt it arises out of some forgotten transaction in the times
of the old House.

That hazel-eyed bachelor, a bachelor no more, is married now, and
to the sister of the grey-haired Junior. He visits his old chief
sometimes, but seldom. There is a reason in the greyhaired Junior's
history, and yet a stronger reason in his name, why he should keep
retired from his old employer; and as he lives with his sister and her
husband, they participate in that retirement. Walter sees them
sometimes - Florence too - and the pleasant house resounds with
profound duets arranged for the Piano-Forte and Violoncello, and with
the labours of Harmonious Blacksmiths.

And how goes the wooden Midshipman in these changed days? Why, here
he still is, right leg foremost, hard at work upon the hackney
coaches, and more on the alert than ever, being newly painted from his
cocked hat to his buckled shoes; and up above him, in golden
characters, these names shine refulgent, GILLS AND CUTTLE.

Not another stroke of business does the Midshipman achieve beyond
his usual easy trade. But they do say, in a circuit of some half-mile
round the blue umbrella in Leadenhall Market, that some of Mr Gills's
old investments are coming out wonderfully well; and that instead of
being behind the time in those respects, as he supposed, he was, in
truth, a little before it, and had to wait the fulness of the time and
the design. The whisper is that Mr Gills's money has begun to turn
itself, and that it is turning itself over and over pretty briskly.
Certain it is that, standing at his shop-door, in his coffee-coloured
suit, with his chronometer in his pocket, and his spectacles on his
forehead, he don't appear to break his heart at customers not coming,
but looks very jovial and contented, though full as misty as of yore.

As to his partner, Captain Cuttle, there is a fiction of a business
in the Captain's mind which is better than any reality. The Captain is
as satisfied of the Midshipman's importance to the commerce and
navigation of the country, as he could possibly be, if no ship left
the Port of London without the Midshipman's assistance. His delight in
his own name over the door, is inexhaustible. He crosses the street,
twenty times a day, to look at it from the other side of the way; and
invariably says, on these occasions, 'Ed'ard Cuttle, my lad, if your
mother could ha' know'd as you would ever be a man o' science, the
good old creetur would ha' been took aback in-deed!'

But here is Mr Toots descending on the Midshipman with violent
rapidity, and Mr Toots's face is very red as he bursts into the little

'Captain Gills,' says Mr Toots, 'and Mr Sols, I am happy to inform
you that Mrs Toots has had an increase to her family.

'And it does her credit!' cries the Captain.

'I give you joy, Mr Toots!' says old Sol.

'Thank'ee,' chuckles Mr Toots, 'I'm very much obliged to you. I
knew that you'd be glad to hear, and so I came down myself. We're
positively getting on, you know. There's Florence, and Susan, and now
here's another little stranger.'

'A female stranger?' inquires the Captain.

'Yes, Captain Gills,' says Mr Toots, 'and I'm glad of it. The
oftener we can repeat that most extraordinary woman, my opinion is,
the better!'

'Stand by!' says the Captain, turning to the old case-bottle with
no throat - for it is evening, and the Midshipman's usual moderate
provision of pipes and glasses is on the board. 'Here's to her, and
may she have ever so many more!'

'Thank'ee, Captain Gills,' says the delighted Mr Toots. 'I echo the
sentiment. If you'll allow me, as my so doing cannot be unpleasant to
anybody, under the circumstances, I think I'll take a pipe.'

Mr Toots begins to smoke, accordingly, and in the openness of his
heart is very loquacious.

'Of all the remarkable instances that that delightful woman has
given of her excellent sense, Captain Gills and Mr Sols,' said Mr
Toots, 'I think none is more remarkable than the perfection with which
she has understood my devotion to Miss Dombey.'

Both his auditors assent.

'Because you know,' says Mr Toots, 'I have never changed my
sentiments towards Miss Dombey. They are the same as ever. She is the
same bright vision to me, at present, that she was before I made
Walters's acquaintance. When Mrs Toots and myself first began to talk
of - in short, of the tender passion, you know, Captain Gills.'

'Ay, ay, my lad,' says the Captain, 'as makes us all slue round -
for which you'll overhaul the book - '

'I shall certainly do so, Captain Gills,' says Mr Toots, with great
earnestness; 'when we first began to mention such subjects, I
explained that I was what you may call a Blighted Flower, you know.'

The Captain approves of this figure greatly; and murmurs that no
flower as blows, is like the rose.

'But Lord bless me,' pursues Mr Toots, 'she was as entirely
conscious of the state of my feelings as I was myself. There was
nothing I could tell her. She was the only person who could have stood
between me and the silent Tomb, and she did it, in a manner to command
my everlasting admiration. She knows that there's nobody in the world
I look up to, as I do to Miss Dombey. Knows that there's nothing on
earth I wouldn't do for Miss Dombey. She knows that I consider Miss
Dombey the most beautiful, the most amiable, the most angelic of her
sex. What is her observation upon that? The perfection of sense. "My
dear, you're right. I think so too."'

'And so do I!' says the Captain.

'So do I,' says Sol Gills.

'Then,' resumes Mr Toots, after some contemplative pulling at his
pipe, during which his visage has expressed the most contented
reflection, 'what an observant woman my wife is! What sagacity she
possesses! What remarks she makes! It was only last night, when we
were sitting in the enjoyment of connubial bliss - which, upon my word
and honour, is a feeble term to express my feelings in the society of
my wife - that she said how remarkable it was to consider the present
position of our friend Walters. "Here," observes my wife, "he is,
released from sea-going, after that first long voyage with his young
bride" - as you know he was, Mr Sols.'

'Quite true,' says the old Instrument-maker, rubbing his hands.

"'Here he is," says my wife, "released from that, immediately;
appointed by the same establishment to a post of great trust and
confidence at home; showing himself again worthy; mounting up the
ladder with the greatest expedition; beloved by everybody; assisted by
his uncle at the very best possible time of his fortunes" - which I
think is the case, Mr Sols? My wife is always correct.'

'Why yes, yes - some of our lost ships, freighted with gold, have
come home, truly,' returns old Sol, laughing. 'Small craft, Mr Toots,
but serviceable to my boy!'

'Exactly so,' says Mr Toots. 'You'll never find my wife wrong.
"Here he is," says that most remarkable woman, "so situated, - and
what follows? What follows?" observed Mrs Toots. Now pray remark,
Captain Gills, and Mr Sols, the depth of my wife's penetration. "Why
that, under the very eye of Mr Dombey, there is a foundation going on,
upon which a - an Edifice;" that was Mrs Toots's word,' says Mr Toots
exultingly, "'is gradually rising, perhaps to equal, perhaps excel,
that of which he was once the head, and the small beginnings of which
(a common fault, but a bad one, Mrs Toots said) escaped his memory.
Thus," said my wife, "from his daughter, after all, another Dombey and
Son will ascend" - no "rise;" that was Mrs Toots's word -

Mr Toots, with the assistance of his pipe - which he is extremely
glad to devote to oratorical purposes, as its proper use affects him
with a very uncomfortable sensation - does such grand justice to this
prophetic sentence of his wife's, that the Captain, throwing away his
glazed hat in a state of the greatest excitement, cries:

'Sol Gills, you man of science and my ould pardner, what did I tell
Wal'r to overhaul on that there night when he first took to business?
Was it this here quotation, "Turn again Whittington, Lord Mayor of
London, and when you are old you will never depart from it". Was it
them words, Sol Gills?'

'It certainly was, Ned,' replied the old Instrument-maker. 'I
remember well.'

'Then I tell you what,' says the Captain, leaning back in his
chair, and composing his chest for a prodigious roar. 'I'll give you
Lovely Peg right through; and stand by, both on you, for the chorus!'

Buried wine grows older, as the old Madeira did, in its time; and
dust and cobwebs thicken on the bottles.

Autumn days are shining, and on the sea-beach there are often a
young lady, and a white-haired gentleman. With them, or near them, are
two children: boy and girl. And an old dog is generally in their

The white-haired gentleman walks with the little boy, talks with
him, helps him in his play, attends upon him, watches him as if he
were the object of his life. If he be thoughtful, the white-haired
gentleman is thoughtful too; and sometimes when the child is sitting
by his side, and looks up in his face, asking him questions, he takes
the tiny hand in his, and holding it, forgets to answer. Then the
child says:

'What, grandpa! Am I so like my poor little Uncle again?'

'Yes, Paul. But he was weak, and you are very strong.'

'Oh yes, I am very strong.'

'And he lay on a little bed beside the sea, and you can run about.'

And so they range away again, busily, for the white-haired
gentleman likes best to see the child free and stirring; and as they
go about together, the story of the bond between them goes about, and
follows them.

But no one, except Florence, knows the measure of the white-haired
gentleman's affection for the girl. That story never goes about. The
child herself almost wonders at a certain secrecy he keeps in it. He
hoards her in his heart. He cannot bear to see a cloud upon her face.
He cannot bear to see her sit apart. He fancies that she feels a
slight, when there is none. He steals away to look at her, in her
sleep. It pleases him to have her come, and wake him in the morning.
He is fondest of her and most loving to her, when there is no creature
by. The child says then, sometimes:

'Dear grandpapa, why do you cry when you kiss me?'

He only answers, 'Little Florence! little Florence!' and smooths
away the curls that shade her earnest eyes.

The voices in the waves speak low to him of Florence, day and night
- plainest when he, his blooming daughter, and her husband, beside
them in the evening, or sit at an open window, listening to their
roar. They speak to him of Florence and his altered heart; of Florence
and their ceaseless murmuring to her of the love, eternal and
illimitable, extending still, beyond the sea, beyond the sky, to the
invisible country far away.

Never from the mighty sea may voices rise too late, to come between
us and the unseen region on the other shore! Better, far better, that
they whispered of that region in our childish ears, and the swift
river hurried us away!

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