Part 3 out of 4
And many times thereafter was he likewise lost in admiration of his
little friend, who continued her business as of old, only without the
burden of responsibility by which her life had heretofore been clouded,
and more able to give her imagination free play along the lines of her
interests, without the pressure of home care resting upon her poor
Our last glimpse of her, is as usual, before her little workbench, at
work upon a full-dressed, large sized doll, when there comes a knock
upon the door. When it is opened there is disclosed a young fellow known
to his friends and employer, as Sloppy.
Sloppy was full private No 1 in the Awkward Squad of the rank and file
of life, and yet had his glimmering notions of standing true to his
colors, and in instinctive refinement of feeling was much above others
who outranked him in birth and education.
"Come in, sir," said Miss Wren, "and who may you be?"
Mr. Sloppy introduced himself by name and buttons.
"Oh, indeed," cried Jenny, "I have heard of you."
Sloppy, grinning, was so glad to hear it that he threw back his head and
"Bless us!" exclaimed Miss Wren, with a start, "Don't open your mouth as
wide as that, young man, or it'll catch so, and not shut again,
Mr. Sloppy opened it, if possible, wider, and kept it open, until his
laugh was out.
"Why, you're like the giant," said Miss Wren, "when he came home in the
land of Beanstalk, and wanted Jack for supper."
"Was he good looking, Miss?" asked Sloppy.
"No," said Miss Wren. "Ugly."
Her visitor glanced round the room--which had many comforts in it now,
that it had not had before--and said:
"This is a pretty place, Miss.
"Glad you think so, sir," returned Miss Wren. "And what do you think of
The honesty of Mr. Sloppy being severely taxed by the question, he
twisted a button, grinned, and faltered.
"Out with it," said Miss Wren, with an arch look. "Don't you think me a
queer little comicality?" In shaking her head at him after asking the
question, she shook her hair down.
"Oh!" cried Sloppy in a burst of admiration. "What a lot, and what a
Miss Wren with her usual expressive hitch, went on with her work. But
left her hair as it was, not displeased by the effect it had made.
"You don't live here alone, do you, Miss?" asked Sloppy.
"No," said Miss Wren with a chop. "Live here with my fairy godmother."
"With;" Mr. Sloppy couldn't make it out; "with, who did you say, Miss?"
"Well!" replied Miss Wren more seriously. "With my second father. Or
with my first, for that matter." And she shook her head and drew a sigh.
"If you had known a poor child I used to have here," she added, "you'd
have understood me. But you didn't and you can't. All the better!"
"You must have been taught a long time, Miss," said Sloppy, glancing at
the array of dolls on hand, "before you came to work so neatly, Miss,
and with such a pretty taste."
"Never was taught a stitch, young man!" returned the dressmaker, tossing
her head. "Just gobbled and gobbled, till I found out how to do it.
Badly enough at first, but better now."
"And here have I," said Sloppy, in a self-reproachful tone, "been
a-learning and a-learning at cabinet-making, ever so long! I'll tell you
what, Miss, I should like to make you something."
"Much obliged, but what?"
"I could make you," said Sloppy, surveying the room, "a handy set of
nests to lay the dolls in. Or a little set of drawers to keep your silks
and threads and scraps in. Or I could turn you a rare handle for that
crutch-stick, if it belongs to him you call your father."
"It belongs to me," said the little creature, with a quick flush of her
face and neck. "I am lame."
Poor Sloppy flushed too, for there was an instinctive delicacy behind
his buttons. He said perhaps, the best thing in the way of amends that
could be said. "I am very glad it's yours, because I'd rather ornament
it for you than for any one else. Please, may I look at it?"
Miss Wren was in the act of handing it over to him when she paused.
"But you had better see me use it," she said sharply. "This is the way.
Hoppetty, kicketty, peg-peg-peg. Not pretty, is it?"
"It seems to me that you hardly want it at all," said Sloppy.
The little dressmaker sat down again, and gave it into his hand, saying
with that better look upon her, and with a smile:
"Thank you! You are a very kind young man, a really kind young man. I
accept your offer--I suppose _He_ won't mind," she added as an
afterthought, shrugging her shoulders; "and if he does, he may!"
"Meaning him you call your father, Miss?" said Sloppy.
"No, no," replied Miss Wren. "Him, _him_, HIM!"
"_Him_, HIM, HIM?" repeated Sloppy, staring about, as if for him.
"Him who is coming to court and marry me," returned Miss Wren. "Dear me,
how slow you are!"
"Oh! HIM!" said Sloppy, "I never thought of him. When is he coming,
"What a question!" cried Miss Wren. "How should I know?"
"Where is he coming from, Miss?"
"Why, good gracious, how can I tell! He is coming from somewhere or
other, I suppose, and he is coming some day or other, I suppose. I don't
know any more about him, at present."
This tickled Mr. Sloppy as an extraordinarily good joke, and he threw
back his head and laughed with measureless enjoyment. At the sight of
him laughing in that absurd way, the dolls' dressmaker laughed very
heartily indeed. So they both laughed till they were tired.
"There, there, there!" said Miss Wren. "For goodness sake, stop, Giant,
or I shall be swallowed up alive, before I know it. And to this minute
you haven't said what you've come for?"
"I have come for little Miss Harmonses' doll," said Sloppy.
"I thought as much," remarked Miss Wren, "and here is little Miss
Harmonses' doll waiting for you. She's folded up in silver paper, you
see, as if she was wrapped from head to foot in new banknotes. Take care
of her--and there's my hand--and thank you again."
"I'll take more care of her than if she was a gold image," said Sloppy,
"and there's _both_ my hands, Miss, and I'll soon come back again!"
Here we leave the little dolls' dressmaker, under the protecting care of
her "godmother," the first real guardian she has ever known, and with a
new friendship to supply her life with that youthful intercourse which
has never been hers. And so in leaving her our hearts are light, for
Miss Jenny Wren is brighter now, and happier now, and younger now, than
[Illustration: SISSY JUPE AND HER FATHER]
"Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but
Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out
everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon
Facts: nothing else will be of any service to them. This is the
principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle
on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!"
The scene was a bare, plain, monotonous vault of a schoolroom, and the
speaker's square forefinger emphasized his observation. The emphasis was
helped by his square wall of a forehead, by his thin and hardset mouth,
by his inflexible and dictatorial voice, and by the hair which bristled
on the skirts of his bald head, as if the head had scarcely warehouse
room for the hard facts stowed inside. The speaker's obstinate carriage,
square coat, square legs, square shoulders,--nay, his very neckcloth,
trained to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp, like a
stubborn fact, as it was,--all helped the emphasis.
"In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir! Nothing but Facts!"
The speaker, Mr. Thomas Gradgrind, and the schoolmaster, Mr.
M'Choakumchild, and the third grown person present, all backed a little,
and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and
there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of Facts poured
into them until they were full to the brim.
"Girl number twenty," said Mr. Gradgrind, squarely pointing with his
square forefinger, "I don't know that girl. Who is that girl?"
"Sissy Jupe, sir," explained number twenty, blushing, standing up, and
"Sissy is not a name," said Mr. Gradgrind. "Call yourself Cecilia."
"It's father as calls me Sissy, sir," returned the young girl with
"Then he has no business to do it," said Mr. Gradgrind. "Tell him he
mustn't. Cecilia Jupe. Let me see. What is your father?"
"He belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir."
Mr. Gradgrind frowned, and waved off the objectionable calling with his
"We don't want to know anything about that here. Your father breaks
horses, don't he?"
"If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break
horses in the ring."
"You mustn't tell us about the ring here. Very well, then. Describe your
father as a horse-breaker. He doctors sick horses, I dare say?"
"Oh, yes, sir."
"Very well, then. He is a veterinary surgeon, a farrier and
horse-breaker. Give me your definition of a horse."
(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand).
"Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!" said Mr. Gradgrind, for
the general behoof of all the little pitchers. "Girl number twenty
possessed of no facts in reference to one of the commonest of animals!
Some boy's definition of a horse. Bitzer, yours!"
"Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders,
four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy
countries, sheds hoofs too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with
iron. Age known by marks in mouth." Thus (and much more) Bitzer.
"Now, girl number twenty," said Mr. Gradgrind, "you know what a horse
She curtsied again, blushed, and sat down, and the third gentleman
present stepped forth, briskly smiling and folding his arms. "That's a
horse," he said. "Now, let me ask you, boys and girls, would you paper a
room with representations of horses?"
After a pause, one-half of the children cried in chorus, "Yes, sir!"
Upon which the other half, seeing in the gentleman's face that Yes was
wrong, cried out in chorus, "No, sir!"
"Of course, No. Why wouldn't you?"
A pause. One boy ventured the answer, because he wouldn't paper a room
at all, but would paint it.
"You must paper it," said Thomas Gradgrind, "whether you like it or not.
Don't tell us you wouldn't paper it. What do you mean, boy?"
"I'll explain to you then," said the gentleman, after another pause,
"why you wouldn't paper a room with a representation of horses. Do you
ever see horses walking up and down the sides of rooms in reality--in
fact? Of course, No. Why then, you are not to see anywhere what you
don't see in fact; you are not to have anywhere what you don't have in
fact. This is a new principle, a great discovery," said the gentleman.
"Now I'll try you again. Would you use a carpet having a representation
of flowers upon it?"
"There being a general conviction by this time that, 'No sir!' was
always the right answer to this gentleman, the chorus of No was very
strong. Only a few feeble stragglers said Yes; among them Sissy Jupe."
"Girl number twenty," said the gentleman, "why would you carpet your
room with representations of flowers?"
"If you please, sir, I'm very fond of flowers," returned the girl.
"And is that why you would put tables and chairs upon them, and have
people walking over them with heavy boots?"
"It wouldn't hurt them, sir. They wouldn't crush and wither, please sir.
They would be the pictures of what was very pretty and pleasant, sir,
and I would fancy--"
"Ay, ay, ay! but you mustn't fancy," cried the gentleman, quite elated
by coming so happily to his point. "You are never to fancy."
"You are not, Cecilia Jupe," Thomas Gradgrind solemnly repeated, "to do
anything of that kind. You don't walk upon flowers in fact; you cannot
be allowed to walk upon flowers in carpets. You don't find that foreign
birds and butterflies come and perch upon your crockery; you cannot be
permitted to paint foreign birds and butterflies upon your crockery. You
never meet with quadrupeds going up and down walls; you must not have
quadrupeds represented upon walls. You must use," said the gentleman,
"for all these purposes, combinations and modifications in primary
colors of mathematical figures which are susceptible of proof and
demonstration. This is the new discovery. This is fact. This is taste."
The girl curtseyed and sat down. She was very young, and she looked as
if she were frightened by the matter-of-fact prospect the world
afforded; while the teacher proceeded to give a lesson based upon hard
Fact for the benefit of his visitors.
Mr. Gradgrind walked homeward from the school, in a state of
considerable satisfaction. It was his school, and he intended it to be a
model. He intended every child in it to be a model, just as the five
young Gradgrinds were all models.
No little Gradgrind had ever seen a face in the moon; no little
Gradgrind had ever learnt the silly jingle, "Twinkle, twinkle, little
star, How I wonder what you are"; each little Gradgrind having at five
years old dissected the Great Bear, and driven Charles's Wain like a
locomotive engine-driver. No little Gradgrind had ever associated a cow
in a field with that famous cow with a crumpled horn who tossed the dog,
who worried the cat, who killed the rat, who ate the malt, or with that
more famous cow who swallowed Tom Thumb. It had never heard of those
celebrities, and had only been introduced to a cow as a graminivorous,
ruminating quadruped with several stomachs.
To his matter-of-fact home, which was called Stone Lodge, Mr. Gradgrind
directed his steps, walking on in a hopeful and satisfied frame of mind.
He was an affectionate father, after his manner; but allowed no foolish
sentiment to interfere with the practical basis of his childrens'
education and bringing-up.
He had reached the outskirts of the town, when his ears were invaded by
the sound of the band attached to the horse-riding establishment, which
had there set up its rest in a wooden pavilion. A flag floating from the
summit of the temple, proclaimed to mankind that it was Sleary's
Horse-Riding which claimed their suffrages. Among the many pleasing
wonders which must be seen to be believed, Signor Jupe was that
afternoon to "elucidate the diverting accomplishments of his highly
trained performing dog, Merrylegs," He was also to exhibit "his
astounding feat of throwing seventy-five hundred weight in rapid
succession back-handed over his head, thus forming a fountain of solid
iron in midair, a feat never before attempted in this or any other
country, and which having elicited such rapturous plaudits from
enthusiastic throngs it cannot be withdrawn." The same Signor Jupe was
to "enliven the varied performances at frequent intervals with his
chaste Shakesperean quips and retorts." Lastly, he was to wind them up
by appearing in his favorite character of Mr. William Button, of Tooley
Street, in "the highly novel and laughable Hippo Comedietta of The
Tailor's Journey to Brentford."
Thomas Gradgrind took no heed of these trivialities, but passed on, as a
practical man ought to pass on. But, at the back of the booth he saw a
number of children congregated in a number of stealthy attitudes,
striving to peep in at the hidden glories of the place. What did he then
behold but his own Louisa peeping with all her might through a hole in a
deal board, and his own Thomas abasing himself on the ground to catch
but a hoof of the graceful Tyrolean Flower-act!
Dumb with amazement, Mr. Gradgrind crossed to the spot where his family
was thus disgraced, laid his hand upon each erring child, and said:
Both rose, red and disconcerted.
"In the name of wonder, idleness, and folly!" said Mr. Gradgrind,
leading each away by a hand; "what do you do here?"
"Wanted to see what it was like," returned Louisa shortly.
"You!" exclaimed Mr. Gradgrind. "Thomas and you, to whom the circle of
the sciences is open; who may be said to be replete with Fact; who have
been trained to mathematical exactness; Thomas and you, here! In this
degraded position! I am amazed."
"I was tired, father," said Louisa.
"Tired? Of what?" asked the astonished father.
"I don't know of what--of everything, I think."
"Say not another word," returned Mr. Gradgrind. "You are childish. I
will hear no more." With which remark he led the culprits to their home
in silence, into the presence of their fretful invalid mother, who was
much annoyed at the disturbance they had created. While she was
peevishly expressing her mind on the subject, Mr. Gradgrind was gravely
pondering upon the matter.
"Whether," he said, "whether any instructor or servant can have
suggested anything? Whether, in spite of all precautions, any idle
story-book can have got into the house for Louisa or Thomas to read?
Because in minds that have been practically formed by rule and line,
from the cradle upwards, this is incomprehensible."
"Stop a bit!" cried his friend Bounderby. "You have one of those
Stroller's children in the school, Cecilia Jupe by name! I tell you
what, Gradgrind, turn this girl to the right-about, and there is an
end of it."
"I am much of your opinion."
"Do it at once," said Bounderby, "has always been my motto. Do you the
same. Do this at once!"
"I have the father's address," said his friend. "Perhaps you would not
mind walking to town with me?"
"Not the least in the world," said Mr. Bounderby, "as long as you do it
So Mr. Gradgrind and his friend immediately set out to find Cecilia
Jupe, and to order her from henceforth to remain away from school. On
the way there they met her. "Now, girl," said Mr. Gradgrind, "take this
gentleman and me to your father's; we are going there. What have you got
in that bottle you are carrying?"
"It's the nine oils."
"The what?" cried Mr. Bounderby.
"The nine oils, sir, to rub father with. It is what our people always
use, sir, when they get any hurts in the ring," replied the girl, "they
bruise themselves very bad sometimes."
"Serves them right," said Mr. Bounderby, "for being idle." The girl
glanced up at his face with mingled astonishment and dread as he said
this, but she led them on down a narrow road, until they stopped at the
door of a little public house.
"This is it, sir," she said. "It's only crossing the bar, sir, and up
the stairs, if you wouldn't mind; and waiting there for a moment till I
get a candle. If you should hear a dog, sir, it's only Merrylegs, and he
They followed the girl up some steep stairs, and stopped while she went
on for a candle. Reappearing, with a face of great surprise, she said,
"Father is not in our room, sir. If you wouldn't mind walking in, sir?
I'll find him directly."
They walked in; and Sissy having set two chairs for them, sped away with
a quick, light step. They heard the doors of rooms above opening and
shutting, as Sissy went from one to another in quest of her father. She
came bounding down again in a great hurry, opened an old hair trunk,
found it empty, and looked around with her face full of terror.
"Father must have gone down to the Booth, sir. I'll bring him in a
minute!" She was gone directly, without her bonnet; with her long, dark,
childish hair streaming behind her.
"What does she mean!" said Mr. Gradgrind. "Back in a minute? It's more
than a mile off."
Before Mr. Bounderby could reply, a young man mentioned in the bills of
the day as Mr. E.W.B. Childers,--justly celebrated for his daring
vaulting act as the wild huntsman of the North American prairies,
appeared. Upon entering into conversation with Mr. Gradgrind he informed
that gentleman of his opinion that Jupe was off.
"Do you mean that he has deserted his daughter?" asked Mr. Gradgrind.
"I mean," said Mr. Childers with a nod, "that he has cut. He has been
short in his leaps and bad in his tumbling lately, missed his tip
several times, too. He was goosed last night, he was goosed the night
before last, he was goosed to-day. He has lately got in the way of being
always goosed, and he can't stand it."
"Why has he been--so very much--goosed?" asked Mr. Gradgrind, forcing
the word out of himself, with great solemnity and reluctance.
"His joints are turning stiff, and he is getting used up," said
Childers. "He has his points as a Cackler still, a speaker, if the
gentleman likes it better--but he can't get a living out of _that_. Now
it's a remarkable fact, sir, that it cut that man deeper to know that
his daughter knew of his being goosed than to go through with it. Jupe
sent her out on an errand not an hour ago, and then was seen to slip out
himself, with his dog behind him and a bundle under his arm. She will
never believe it of her father, but he has cut away and left her.
"Poor Sissy! he had better have apprenticed her," added Mr. Childers,
"Now, he leaves her without anything to take to. Her father always had
it in his head, that she was to be taught the deuce-and-all of
education. He has been picking up a bit of reading for her, here--and a
bit of writing for her, there--and a bit of ciphering for her, somewhere
else--these seven years. When Sissy got into the school here," he
pursued, "he was as pleased as Punch. I suppose he had this move in his
mind--he was always half cracked--and then considered her provided for.
If you should have happened to have looked in to-night to tell him that
you were going to do her any little service," added Mr. Childers, "it
would be very fortunate and well-timed."
"On the contrary," returned Mr. Gradgrind, "I came to tell her that she
could not attend our school any more. Still, if her father really has
left her without any connivance on her part!--Bounderby, let me have a
word with you."
Upon this, Mr. Childers politely betook himself outside the door, and
there stood while the two gentlemen were engaged in conversation.
Meanwhile the various members of Sleary's company gathered together in
the room. Last of all appeared Mr. Sleary himself, who was stout, and
troubled with asthma, and whose breath came far too thick and heavy for
the letter s. Bowing to Mr. Gradgrind, he asked:
"Ith it your intention to do anything for the poor girl, Thquire?"
"I shall have something to propose to her when she comes back," said Mr.
"Glad to hear it, Thquire. Not that I want to get rid of the child, any
more than I want to thtand in her way. I'm willing to take her
prenthith, though at her age ith late."
Here his daughter Josephine--a pretty, fair-haired girl of eighteen, who
had been tied on a horse at two years old, and had made a will at
twelve, which she always carried about with her, expressive of her dying
desire to be drawn to the grave by two piebald ponies--cried "Father,
hush! she has come back!" Then came Sissy Jupe, running into the room
as she had run out of it. And when she saw them all assembled, and saw
their looks, and saw no father there, she broke into a most deplorable
cry, and took refuge on the bosom of the most accomplished tight-rope
lady, who knelt down on the floor to nurse her, and to weep over her.
"Ith an infernal shame, upon my thoul it ith," said Sleary.
"O my dear father, my good, kind father, where are you gone? You are
gone to try to do me some good, I know! You are gone away for my sake, I
am sure. And how miserable and helpless you will be without me, poor,
poor father, until you come back!" It was so pathetic to hear her saying
many things of this kind, with her face turned upward, and her arms
stretched out as if she were trying to stop his departing shadow and
embrace it, that no one spoke a word until Mr. Bounderby (growing
impatient) took the case in hand.
"Now, good people all," said he, "this is wanton waste of time. Let the
girl understand the fact. Here, what's your name! Your father has
absconded, deserted you--and you mustn't expect to see him again as long
as you live."
They cared so little for plain fact, these people, that instead of being
impressed by the speaker's strong common sense, they took it in
extraordinary dudgeon. The men muttered "Shame!" and the women, "Brute!"
Whereupon Mr. Gradgrind found an opening for his eminently practical
exposition of the subject.
"It is of no moment," said he, "whether this person is to be expected
back at any time, or the contrary. He is gone away, and there is no
present expectation of his return. That, I believe, is agreed on
"Thath agreed, Thquire. Thtick to that!" from Sleary.
"Well, then. I, who came here to inform the father of the poor girl,
Jupe, that she could not be received at the school any more, in
consequence of there being practical objections, into which I need not
enter, to the reception there of the children of persons so employed, am
prepared in these altered circumstances to make a proposal. I am willing
to take charge of you, Jupe, and to educate you, and provide for you.
The only condition (over and above your good behavior) I make is, that
you decide now, at once, whether to accompany me or remain here. Also,
that if you accompany me now, it is understood that you communicate no
more with any of your friends who are here present. These observations
comprise the whole of the case."
"At the thame time," said Sleary, "I muth put in my word, Thquire, tho
that both thides of the banner may be equally theen. If you like,
Thethillia, to be prentitht, you know the natur' of the work, and you
know your companionth. Emma Gordon, in whothe lap you're a lying at
prethent, would be a mother to you, and Joth'phine would be a thithther
to you. I don't pretend to be of the angel breed myself, and I don't
thay but what, when you mith'd your tip, you'd find me cut up rough, and
thwear a oath or two at you. But what I thay, Thquire, ith, that good
tempered or bad tempered, I never did a horthe a injury yet, no more
than thwearing at him went, and that I don't expect I thall begin
otherwithe at my time of life, with a rider. I never wath much of a
cackler, Thquire, and I have thed my thay."
The latter part of this speech was addressed to Mr. Gradgrind, who
received it with a grave inclination of his head, and then remarked:
"The only observation I will make to you, Jupe, in the way of
influencing your decision, is, that it is highly desirable to have a
sound practical education, and that even your father himself (from what
I understand) appears, on your behalf, to have known and felt
The last words had a visible effect upon her. She stopped in her wild
crying, and turned her face full upon her patron. The whole company
perceived the force of the change, and drew a long breath, together,
that plainly said, "She will go!"
"Be sure you know your own mind, Jupe," Mr. Gradgrind cautioned her; "I
say no more. Be sure you know your own mind!"
"When father comes back," cried the girl, bursting into tears again
after a minute's silence, "how will he ever find me if I go away!"
"You may be quite at ease," said Mr. Gradgrind calmly; he worked out the
whole matter like a sum; "you may be quite at ease, Jupe, on that score.
In such a case, your father, I apprehend, must find out Mr. Sleary, who
would then let him know where you went. I should have no power of
keeping you against his wish."
There was another silence; and then Sissy exclaimed sobbing, "Oh, give
me my clothes, give me my clothes, and let me go away before I break
The women sadly bestirred themselves to get the clothes together, and to
pack them. They then brought Sissy's bonnet to her and put it on. Then
they pressed about her, kissing and embracing her: and brought the
children to take leave of her; and were a tender-hearted, simple,
foolish, set of women altogether. Then she had to take her farewell of
the male part of the company, and last of all of Mr. Sleary.
"Farewell, Thethilia!" he said, "my latht wordth to you ith thith:
Thtick to the termth of your engagement, be obedient to the Thquire, and
forget uth. But if, when you're grown up and married and well off, you
come upon any horthe-riding ever, don't be hard upon it, don't be croth
with it, give it a Bethpeak if you can, and think you might do worth.
People must be amuthed, Thquire, thomehow," continued Sleary, "they
can't be alwayth a working, nor yet they can't be alwayth a learning.
Make the betht of uth; not the wurtht. I've got my living out of
horthe-riding all my life, I know, but I conthider that I lay down the
philothophy of the thubject when I thay to you, Thquire, make the betht
of uth; not the wurtht!"
The Sleary philosophy was propounded as they went downstairs; and the
fixed eye of Philosophy--and its rolling eye, too,--soon lost the three
figures, and the basket in the darkness of the street.
To Mr. Bounderby's house the weeping Sissy was conducted, and remained
there while Mr. Gradgrind returned to Stone Lodge to mature his plans
for the clown's daughter. He soon came back to Mr. Bounderby's, bringing
his daughter Louisa with him, and Sissy Jupe stood before them, with
downcast eyes, while Mr. Gradgrind thus addressed her:
"Jupe, I have made up my mind to take you into my house; and when you
are not at school, to employ you about Mrs. Gradgrind, who is rather an
invalid. I have explained to Miss Louisa--this is Miss Louisa--the
miserable but natural end of your late career; and you are to understand
that the subject is not to be referred to any more. From this time you
begin your history. You are at present ignorant, I know."
"Yes, sir, very," she answered curtseying.
"I shall have the satisfaction of causing you to be strictly educated;
and you will be a living proof of the advantages of the training you
will receive. You will be reclaimed and formed. You have been in the
habit now of reading to your father, and those people I found you among,
I dare say?" said Mr. Gradgrind.
"Only to father and to Merrylegs, sir. At least I mean to father, when
Merrylegs was always there."
"Never mind Merrylegs, Jupe," said Mr. Gradgrind with a frown. "I don't
ask about him. I understand you have been in the habit of reading to
your father, and what did you read to him, Jupe?"
"About the fairies, sir, and the Dwarf, and the Hunchback, and the
Genies," she sobbed out: "And about--"
"Hush!" exclaimed Mr. Gradgrind, "that is enough. Never breathe a word
of such destructive nonsense any more."
Then Mr. Gradgrind and his daughter took Cecilia Jupe off with them to
Stone Lodge, where she speedily grew as pale as wax, and as heavy-eyed
as all the other victims of Mr. Gradgrind's practical system of
training. She had not an easy time of it, between Mr. M'Choakumchild and
Mrs. Gradgrind, and was not without strong impulses, in the first months
of her probation, to run away. It hailed facts all day long, so very
hard, and life in general was opened to her as such a closely ruled
ciphering book, that assuredly she would have run away, but for only one
restraint. She believed that her father had not deserted her; she lived
in the hope that he would come back, and in the faith that he would be
made the happier by her remaining where she was.
The wretched ignorance with which Jupe clung to this consolation,
rejecting the superior comfort of knowing on a sound arithmetical basis
that her father was an unnatural vagabond, filled Mr. Gradgrind with
pity. Yet, what was to be done? Mr. M'Choakumchild reported that she had
a very dense head for figures; that, once possessed with a general idea
of the globe, she took the smallest conceivable interest in its exact
measurements; that after eight weeks of induction into the elements of
Political Economy, she had only yesterday returned to the question,
"What is the first principle of this science?" the absurd answer, "To do
unto others as I would that they should do unto me."
Mr. Gradgrind observed, shaking his head, that all this was very bad;
that it showed the necessity of infinite grinding at the mill of
knowledge, and that Jupe must be "kept to it." So Jupe was kept to it,
and became low spirited, but no wiser.
"It would be a fine thing to be you, Miss Louisa!" She said one night,
when Louisa had endeavored to make her perplexities for next day
something clearer to her, to which Louisa answered, "I don't know that,
Sissy. You are more useful to my mother. You are pleasanter to yourself,
than _I_ am to _myself._"
"But, if you please, Miss Louisa," Sissy pleaded, "I am--Oh so stupid!
All through school hours I make mistakes. To-day for instance, Mr.
M'Choakumchild was explaining to us about Natural Prosperity."
"National, I think it must have been," observed Louisa.
"National Prosperity," corrected Sissy, "and he said, Now, this
schoolroom is a Nation, and in this nation there are fifty millions of
money. Isn't this a prosperous nation? Girl number twenty. Isn't this a
prosperous nation, and a'n't you in a thriving state? Miss Louisa, I
said I didn't know. I thought I couldn't know whether it was a
prosperous nation or not, and whether I was in a thriving state or not,
unless I knew who had got the money, and whether any of it was mine. But
that had nothing to do with it. It was not in the figures at all," said
Sissy, wiping her eyes.
"That was a great mistake of yours," observed Louisa.
"Yes, Miss Louisa, I know it was now. Then Mr. M'Choakumchild said he
would try me again. And he said, This Schoolroom is an immense town, and
in it there are a million inhabitants, and only five-and-twenty are
starved to death in the streets, in the course of a year. What is your
remark on that proportion? And my remark was, that I thought it must be
just as hard upon those who were starved, whether the others were a
million or a million million. And that was wrong too. Then Mr.
M'Choakumchild said he would try me once more. And he said That in a
given time a hundred thousand persons went to sea on long voyages, and
only five hundred of them were drowned or burned to death. What is the
percentage? And I said, Miss;" here Sissy fairly sobbed in confessing to
her great error; "I said it was nothing, Miss--to the relations and
friends of the people who were killed--I shall never learn," said Sissy.
"And the worst of all is, that although my poor father wished me so much
to learn, and although I am so anxious to learn, because he wished me
to, I am afraid I don't like it."
Louisa stood looking at the pretty, modest head, as it drooped abashed
before her, until it was raised again to glance at her face. Then
"Did your father know so much himself, that he wished you to be well
Sissy hesitated before replying, for this was forbidden ground, but
Louisa insisted upon continuing the conversation.
"No, Miss Louisa," answered Sissy, "father knows very little indeed. But
he said mother was quite a scholar. She died when I was born. She
was"--Sissy made the terrible communication, nervously--"she was a
dancer. We travelled about the country. Father's a"--Sissy whispered the
awful word--"a clown."
"To make the people laugh?" said Louisa with a nod of intelligence.
"Yes." But they wouldn't laugh sometimes. Lately they very often
wouldn't, and he used to come home despairing.
I tried to comfort him the best I could, and father said I did. I used
to read to him to cheer up his courage, and he was very fond of that.
Often and often of a night, he used to forget all his troubles in
wondering whether the Sultan would let the lady go on with her story, or
would have her head cut off before it was finished."
"And your father was always kind?" asked Louisa.
"Always, always!" returned Sissy, clasping her hands. "Kinder and kinder
than I can tell. He was angry only one night, and that was not at me,
but Merrylegs, his performing dog. After he beat the dog, he lay down
crying on the floor with him in his arms, and the dog licked his face."
Louisa saw that she was sobbing, and going to her, kissed her, took her
hand, and sat down beside her.
"Finish by telling me how your father left you, Sissy. The blame of
telling the story, if there is any blame, is mine, not yours."
"Dear Miss Louisa," said Sissy, sobbing yet; "I came home from the
school that afternoon, and found poor father just come home too, from
the booth. And he sat rocking himself over the fire, as if he was in
pain. And I said, 'have you hurt yourself father?' and he said, 'A
little, my darling.' Then I saw that he was crying. The more I spoke to
him, the more he hid his face; and shook all over, and said nothing but
'My darling'; and 'My love!' Then he said he never gave any satisfaction
now, that he was a shame and disgrace, and I should have done better
without him all along. I said all the affectionate things to him that
came into my heart, and presently he was quiet, and put his arms around
my neck, and kissed me a great many times. Then he asked me to fetch
some of the stuff he used, for the little hurt he had had, and to get it
at the best place, which was at the other end of town. Then after
kissing me again, he let me go. There is no more to tell, Miss Louisa. I
keep the nine oils ready for him, and I know he will come back. Every
letter that I see in Mr. Gradgrind's hand takes my breath away, and
blinds my eyes, for I think it comes from father, or from Mr. Sleary
After this whenever Sissy dropped a curtsey to Mr. Gradgrind in the
presence of his family, and asked if he had had any letter yet about
her, Louisa would suspend the occupation of the moment, and look for the
reply as earnestly as Sissy did. And when Mr. Gradgrind answered, "No,
Jupe, nothing of the sort," the trembling of Sissy's lips would be
repeated in Louisa's face, and her eyes would follow Sissy with
compassion to the door. Thus a warm friendship sprang up between the
girls, and a similar one between the mathematical Thomas and the
Time with his innumerable horse-power presently turned out young Thomas
Gradgrind a young man and Louisa a young woman. The same great
manufacturer passed Sissy onward in his mill, and worked her up into a
very pretty article, indeed.
"I fear, Jupe," said Mr. Gradgrind, "that your continuance at the school
any longer would be useless."
"I am afraid it would, sir," Sissy answered with a curtsey.
"I cannot disguise from you, Jupe," said Mr. Gradgrind, "that the result
of your probation there has greatly disappointed me. You are extremely
deficient in your facts. Your acquaintance with figures is very limited.
You are altogether backward, and below the mark, yet I believe you have
tried hard. I have observed you, and I can find no fault with you in
"Thank you, sir. I have thought sometimes;" Sissy faltered, "that
perhaps I tried to learn too much, and that if I had asked to be
allowed to try a little less, I might have--"
"No, Jupe, no," said Mr. Gradgrind, shaking his head. "No. The course
you pursued, you pursued according to the system, and there is no more
to be said about it. I can only suppose that the circumstances of your
early life were too unfavorable to the development of your reasoning
powers, and that we began too late. Still, as I have said already, I am
"I wish I could have made a better acknowledgment, sir, of your kindness
to a poor forlorn girl who had no claim upon you, and of your protection
of her." said Sissy, weeping.
"Don't shed tears," added Mr. Gradgrind, "I don't complain of you. You
are an affectionate, earnest, good young woman, and we must make
"Thank you, sir, very much," said Sissy, with a grateful curtsey.
"You are useful to Mrs. Gradgrind, and you are serviceable in the family
also; so I understand from Miss Louisa, and indeed, so I have observed
myself. I therefore hope," said Mr. Gradgrind, "that you can make
yourself happy in those relations."
"I should have nothing to wish, sir, if--"
"I understand you," said Mr. Gradgrind; "you refer to your father. I
have heard from Miss Louisa that you still preserve that bottle. Well!
If your training in the science of arriving at exact results had been
more successful, you would have been wiser on these points. I will
say no more."
He really liked Sissy too well to have contempt for her. Somehow or
other, he had become possessed by an idea that there was something in
this girl which could hardly be set forth in a tabular form; that there
was something in her composition which defied the cold analysis of Fact;
that there was some great virtue in her loving-kindness which more than
compensated for her deficiencies of mind.
From that time Sissy lived at Stone Lodge on equal terms with the rest
of the family, and after Louisa's marriage, cared for fretful Mrs.
Gradgrind in her invalidism, with a sweet patience that endeared her to
the poor woman. Indeed the entire household were deeply attached to
Sissy, and, seeing the unselfishness of her daily life, even Mr.
Gradgrind himself was forced to acknowledge that there was a greater
Teacher than M'Choakumchild, with a system of education superior to the
Gradgrind system, and that the same great Teacher had educated the
clown's daughter to a higher degree of usefulness and courage than the
Gradgrind system had yet been able to produce.
In fact, as time went on, Mr. Gradgrind was slowly discovering the flaws
in his mathematical theories; finding out that laws and logic can never
take the place of love in the development of a nature, and the discovery
was a bitter one to him.
Despite their careful bringing-up by rule and measure, neither Louisa
nor Thomas Gradgrind, in their maturity, did any credit to their
father's system, and when his mistakes with them became evident to the
cold, proud man, and he realized how nearly he had wrecked their lives
by those errors, the weight of his suffering was heavy upon him. Then,
realizing that all the Facts in his storehouse of learning, could not
teach him how to save his children, and win their love, it was to Sissy
that he turned for the information that he needed.
When young Thomas Gradgrind robbed the Bank with which he was connected,
and was obliged to flee from justice, it was Sissy who saved him from
ruin. She sent him, with a note of explanation, to her old friend, Mr.
Sleary,--whose whereabouts she happened to know at the time, and asked
him to hide young Thomas until he should have further advice from her.
Then she and Louisa and Mr. Gradgrind journeyed hurriedly to the town,
where they found the Circus. A performance was just beginning when they
arrived, and they found the culprit in the ring, disguised as a
When the performance was over, Mr. Sleary came out and greeted them with
great heartiness, exclaiming; "Thethilia, it doth me good to thee you.
You wath always a favorite with uth, and you've done uth credit thinth
the old timeth, I'm thure."
He then suggested that such members of his troupe as would remember her
be called to see her, and presently Sissy found herself amid the
familiar scenes of her childhood, surrounded by an eager and
affectionate group of her old comrades. While she was busily talking
with them, Mr. Sleary entered into a consultation with Mr. Gradgrind
upon the subject of his erring son's future. He then told the poor,
distressed father that for Sissy's sake, and because Mr. Gradgrind had
been so kind to her, he would help the culprit to escape from the
country, secretly, by night Then, growing confidential, he added:
"Thquire, you don't need to be told that dogth ith wonderful animalth."
"Their instinct," said Mr. Gradgrind, "is surprising."
"Whatever you call it--and I'm bletht if I know what to call it"--said
Sleary, "it ith athtonithing. Ith fourteen month ago, Thquire, thinthe
we wath at Chethter. One morning there cometh into our Ring, by the
thage door, a dog. He had travelled a long way, he wath in very bad
condition, he wath lame and pretty well blind. He went round as if he
wath a theeking for a child he know'd; and then he comed to me, and
thood on hith two fore-legth, weak ath he wath, and then he wagged hith
tail and died. Thquire, that dog wath Merrylegth."
"Sissy's father's dog!"
"Thethilia's fatherth old dog. Now, Thquire, I can take my oath, from my
knowledge of that dog, that that man wath dead--and buried--afore that
dog came back to me. We talked it over a long time, whether I thould
write or not, but we agreed, No. There'th nothing comfortable to tell;
why unthettle her mind, and make her unhappy? Tho, whether her father
bathely detherted her; or whether he broke his own heart alone, rather
than pull her down along with him, never will be known, now, Thquire,
till we know how the dogth findth uth out!"
"She keeps the bottle that he sent her for, to this hour, and she will
believe in his affection to the last moment of her life," said Mr.
"It theemth to prethent two things to a perthon, don't it?" said Mr.
Sleary musingly, "one, that there ith a love in the world, not all
thelf-interest, after all, but thomething very different; t'other, that
it hath a way of its own of calculating with ith as hard to give a name
to, ath the wayth of the dogth ith!"
Mr. Gradgrind looked out of the window, and made no reply. He was deep
in thought, and the result of his meditation became evident from that
day in a gradual broadening of his nature and purposes. He never again
attempted to replace nature's instincts and affections by his own system
of education, and as the years went by he made no further attempt to
destroy Sissy's loving faith in that father who had left her long ago;
he only tried to compensate her for that loss as best he could;--and
for the education which led to the softening of his hard, cold nature,
the credit belongs to the daughter of a clown, to whom love meant more
[Illustration: FLORENCE DOMBEY]
There never was a child more loving or more lovable than Florence
Dombey. There never was a child more ready to respond to loving
ministrations than she, more eager to yield herself in docile obedience
to a parent's wish; and to her mother she clung with a desperate
affection at variance with her years.
But the sad day came when, clasped in her mother's arms, the little
creature, with her perfectly colorless face, and deep, dark eyes, never
moved her soft cheek from her mother's face, nor looked on those who
stood around, nor shed a tear, understanding that soon she would be
bereft of that mother's care and love.
"Mamma!" cried the child at last, sobbing aloud; "Oh, dear mamma! oh,
Then, clinging fast to that slight spar within her arms, the mother
drifted out upon the dark and unknown sea that rolls round all the
world, leaving Florence and the new-born baby brother in the
Alas for Florence! To that father,--the pompous head of the great firm
of Dombey and Son--girls never showed a sufficient justification for
their existence, and this one of his own was an object of supreme
indifference to him; while upon the tiny boy, his heir and future
partner in the firm, he lavished all his interest, centred all his hopes
After her mother's death, Florence was taken away by an aunt; and a
nurse, named Polly Richards, was secured for baby Paul. A few weeks
later, as Polly was sitting in her own room with her young charge, the
door was quietly opened, and a dark-eyed little girl looked in.
"It's Miss Florence, come home from her aunt's, no doubt," thought
Richards, who had never seen the child before. "Hope I see you
"Is that my brother?" asked the child, pointing to the baby.
"Yes, my pretty," answered Richards, "come and kiss him."
But the child, instead of advancing, looked her earnestly in the face,
"What have you done with my mamma?"
"Lord bless the little creetur!" cried Richards. "What a sad question!
_I_ done? Nothing, miss."
"What have they done with my mamma?" cried the child.
"I never saw such a melting thing in all my life!" said Richards. "Come
nearer here; come, my dear miss! Don't be afraid of me."
"I'm not afraid of you," said the child, drawing nearer, "but I want to
know what they have done with my mamma."
"My darling," said Richards, "come and sit down by me, and I'll tell you
With a quick perception that it was intended to relate to what she had
asked, little Florence sat down on a stool at the nurse's feet, looking
up into her face.
"Once upon a time," said Richards, "there was a lady--a very good lady,
and her little daughter dearly loved her--who, when God thought it right
that it should be so, was taken ill, and died. Died, never to be seen
again by anyone on earth, and was buried in the ground where the
"The cold ground," said the child, shuddering.
"No, the warm ground," returned Polly, seizing her advantage, "where the
ugly little seeds turn into beautiful flowers, and into grass, and into
corn, and I don't know what all besides. Where good people turn into
bright angels, and fly away to heaven!"
The child who had drooped her head, raised it again, and sat looking at
"So; let me see," said Polly, not a little flurried between this earnest
scrutiny, her desire to comfort the child, her sudden success, and her
very slight confidence in her own powers. "So, when this lady died, she
went to God! and she prayed to Him, this lady did," said Polly,
affecting herself beyond measure, being heartily in earnest, "to teach
her little daughter to be sure of that in her heart; and to know that
she was happy there, and loved her still; and to hope and try--oh, all
her life--to meet her there one day, never, never, never to part
"It was my mamma!" exclaimed the child, springing up, and clasping her
around the neck.
"And the child's heart," said Polly, drawing her to her breast, "the
little daughter's heart was so full of the truth of this, that even when
she heard it from a strange nurse that couldn't tell it right, but was a
poor mother herself, and that was all, she found a comfort in it--didn't
feel so lonely--sobbed and cried upon her bosom--took kindly to the baby
lying in her lap--and--there, there, there!" said Polly, smoothing the
child's curls, and dropping tears upon her. "There, poor dear!"
"Oh, well, Miss Floy! and won't your pa be angry neither?" cried a quick
voice at the door, proceeding from a short, brown womanly girl of
fourteen, with little snub nose, and black eyes like jet beads, "when it
was tickerlerly given out that you wasn't to go and worrit the nurse."
"She don't worry me," was the surprised rejoinder of Polly. "I'm very
fond of children. Miss Florence has just come home, hasn't she?"
"Yes, Mrs. Richards, and here, Miss Floy, before you've been in the
house a quarter of an hour, you go a-smearing your wet face against the
expensive mourning that Mrs. Richards is a-wearing for your ma!" With
this remonstrance, young Spitfire, whose real name was Susan Nipper,
detached the child from her new friend by a wrench--as if she were a
tooth. But she seemed to do it more in the sharp exercise of her
official functions, than with any deliberate unkindness.
"She'll be quite happy, now that she's come home again," said Polly,
nodding to her with a smile, "and will be so pleased to see her dear
"Lork, Mrs. Richards!" cried Miss Nipper, taking up her words with a
jerk, "Don't! See her dear papa, indeed! I should like to see her do it!
Her pa's a deal too wrapped up in somebody else; and before there was
somebody else to be wrapped up in, she never was a favorite. Girls are
thrown away in this house, I assure you."
"You surprise me," cried Polly. "Hasn't Mr. Dombey seen her since--"
"No," interrupted Miss Nipper. "Not once since. And he hadn't hardly set
his eyes upon her before that, for months and months, and I don't think
he would know her for his own child if he was to meet her in the streets
to-morrow. Oh, there's a Tartar within a hundred miles of here, I can
tell you, Mrs. Richards!" said Susan Nipper; "Wish you good morning,
Mrs. Richards. Now Miss Floy, you come along with me, and don't go
hanging back like a naughty wicked child, that judgments is no example
In spite of being thus adjured, and in spite also of some hauling on the
part of Susan Nipper, little Florence broke away, and kissed her new
friend affectionately, but Susan Nipper made a charge at her, and swept
her out of the room.
When Polly Richards was left alone, her heart was sore for the
motherless little girl, and she determined to devise some means of
having Florence beside her lawfully and without rebellion. An opening
happened to present itself that very night.
She had been rung down into the conservatory, as usual, and was walking
about with the baby in her arms, when Mr. Dombey came up and
"He looks thriving," said Mr. Dombey, glancing with great interest at
Paul's tiny face, which she uncovered for his observation. "They give
you everything that you want, I hope?"
"Oh, yes, thank you, sir;"
She hesitated so, however, that Mr. Dombey stopped again and looked at
"I believe nothing is so good for making children lively, sir, as seeing
other children playing about them," observed Polly, taking courage.
"I think I mentioned to you, Richards, when you came here," said Mr.
Dombey, with a frown; "that I wished you to see as little of your family
as possible. You can continue your walk, if you please."
With that he disappeared into an inner room, and Polly felt that she had
fallen into disgrace without the least advancement of her purpose; but
next night when she came down, he called her to him. "If you really
think that kind of society is good for the child," he said sharply, as
if there had been no interval since she proposed it, "where's Miss
"Nothing could be better than Miss Florence, sir," said Polly eagerly,
"but I understood from her little maid that they were not to--" But Mr.
Dombey rang the bell, and gave his orders before she had a chance to
finish the sentence.
"Tell them always to let Miss Florence be with Richards when she
chooses," he commanded; and, the iron being hot, Richards striking on it
boldly, requested that the child might be sent down at once to make
friends with her little brother.
When Florence timidly presented herself, had Mr. Dombey looked towards
her with a father's eye, he might have read in her keen glance the
passionate desire to run to him, crying, "Oh, father, try to love
me,--there is no one else"; the dread of a repulse; the fear of being
too bold and of offending him. But he saw nothing of this. He saw her
pause at the door and look towards him, and he saw no more.
"Come here, Florence," said her father coldly. "Have you nothing to say
The tears that stood in her eyes as she raised them quickly to his face,
were frozen by the expression it wore. She looked down again, and put
out her trembling hand, which Mr. Dombey took loosely in his own.
"There! be a good girl," he said, patting her on the head, and regarding
her with a disturbed and doubtful look, "go to Richards! go!"
His little daughter hesitated for another instant, as though she would
have clung about him still, or had some lingering hope that he might
raise her in his arms and kiss her. But he dropped her hand and turned
away. Still Polly persevered, and managed so well with little Paul as to
make it very plain that he was all the livelier for his sister's
company. When it was time for Florence to go to bed, the nurse urged her
to say good night to her father, but the child hesitated, and Mr. Dombey
called from the inner room; "It doesn't matter. You can let her come and
go without regarding me."
The child shrunk as she listened, and was gone before her humble friend
looked around again.
* * * * *
Just around the corner from Mr. Dombey's office was the little shop of a
nautical-instrument maker whose name was Solomon Gills. The
stock-in-trade of this old gentleman comprised chronometers, barometers,
telescopes, compasses, charts, maps, and every kind of an instrument
used in the working of a ship's course, or the keeping of a ship's
reckoning, or the prosecuting of a ship's discovery. Old prints of ships
hung in frames upon the walls; outlandish shells, seaweeds and mosses
decorated the chimney-piece; the little wainscoted parlor was lighted by
a skylight, like a cabin, The shop itself seemed almost to become a
sea-going ship-shape concern, wanting only good sea room, in the event
of an unexpected launch, to work its way securely to any desert island
in the world.
Here Solomon Gills lived, in skipper-like state, all alone with his
nephew, Walter; a boy of fourteen, who looked quite enough like a
midshipman to carry out the prevailing idea.
It is half past five o'clock, and an autumn afternoon. Solomon Gills is
wondering where Walter is, when a voice exclaims, "Halloa, Uncle Sol!"
and the instrument-maker, turning briskly around, sees a
cheerful-looking, merry boy fresh with running home in the rain;
fair-faced, bright-eyed and curly-haired.
"Well, uncle, how have you got on without me all day? Is dinner ready?
I'm so hungry."
"As to getting on," said Solomon, good-naturedly, "It would be odd if I
couldn't get on without a young dog like you a great deal better than
with you. As to dinner being ready, it's been waiting for you this
half-hour. As to being hungry, I am!"
"Come along, then, uncle!" cried the boy, and Uncle Sol and his nephew
were speedily engaged on a fried sole, with a prospect of steak
"Now," said the old man eagerly, "Let's hear something about the Firm."
"Oh! there's not much to be told, uncle," said the boy, plying his knife
and fork. "When Mr. Dombey came in, he walked up to my seat--I wish he
wasn't so solemn and stiff, uncle--and told me you had spoken to him
about me, and that he had found me employment in the House accordingly,
and that I was expected to be attentive and punctual, and then he went
away. I thought he didn't seem to like me much."
"You mean, I suppose." observed the instrument-maker, "that you didn't
seem to like him much."
"Well, uncle," returned the boy laughing, "perhaps so; I never thought
Solomon looked a little graver as he finished his dinner, and glanced
from time to time at the boy's bright face. When dinner was done, he
went down into a little cellar, and returned with a bottle covered with
dust and dirt.
"Why, uncle Sol!" said the boy, "What are you about? that's the
wonderful Madeira--there's only one more bottle!"
Uncle Sol nodded his head, and having drawn the cork in solemn silence,
filled two glasses, and set the bottle and a third clean glass on
"You shall drink the other bottle, Wally," he said, "When you come to
good fortune; when you are a thriving, respected, happy man; when the
start in life you have made to-day shall have brought you--as I pray
Heaven it may!--to a smooth part of the course you have to run, my
child. My love to you!"
They clinked their glasses together, and were deep in conversation, when
an addition to the little party made its appearance, in the shape of a
gentleman with a hook instead of a hand attached to his right wrist;
very bushy black eyebrows; and a thick stick in his left hand, covered
all over (like his nose) with knobs. He wore a loose black silk
handkerchief round his neck, and such a very large shirt-collar that it
looked like a small sail over his wide suit of blue. He was evidently
the person for whom the spare wineglass was intended, and evidently knew
it; for having taken off his coat, and hung up his hard glazed hat, he
brought a chair to where the clean glass was, and sat himself down
behind it. He was usually addressed as Captain, this visitor; and had
been a pilot, or a skipper, or a privateer's man, or all three perhaps;
and was a very salt looking man indeed. His face brightened as he shook
hands with uncle and nephew; but he seemed to be of a laconic
disposition, and merely said: "How goes it?"
"All well," said Mr. Gills, pushing the bottle towards the new-comer,
Captain Cuttle, who thereupon proceeded to fill his glass, and the
wonderful Madeira loosened his tongue to the extent of giving utterance
to a prodigous oration for Walter's benefit.
"Come," cried Solomon Gills, "we must finish the bottle."
"Stand by!" said Captain Cuttle, filling his glass again. "Give the boy
"Yes," said Sol, "a little more. We'll finish the bottle to the
House,--Walter's house. Why, it may be his house one of these days, in
part. Who knows? Sir Richard Whittington married his master's daughter."
"Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London, and when you are old,
you will never depart from it," interposed the Captain. "Wal'r, overhaul
the book, my lad!"
"And although Mr. Dombey hasn't a daughter--" Sol began.
"Yes, yes, he has, uncle," said the boy, reddening and laughing. "I know
he has. Some of them were talking about it in the office to-day. And
they do say that he's taken a dislike to her, and that she's left
unnoticed among the servants, while he thinks of no one but his son.
That's what they say. Of course I don't know."
"He knows all about her already, you see," said the instrument-maker.
"Nonsense, uncle," cried the boy reddening again; "how can I help
hearing what they tell me?"
"The son's a little in our way at present, I'm afraid," added the old
man, humoring the joke. "Nevertheless, we'll drink to him," pursued Sol.
"So, here's to Dombey and Son."
"Oh, very well, uncle," said the boy merrily. "Since you have introduced
the mention of her, and have said that I know all about her, I shall
make bold to amend the toast. So,--here's to Dombey--and Son--and
Meanwhile, in Mr. Dombey's mansion, baby Paul was thriving under the
watchful care of Polly Richards, Mr. Dombey, and Mr. Dombey's friends,
and the day of his christening arrived. On that important occasion, the
baby's excitement was so great that no one could soothe him until
Florence was summoned. As she hid behind her nurse, he followed her with
his eyes; and when she peeped out with a merry cry to him, he sprang up
and crowed lustily--laughing outright when she ran in upon him, and
seeming to fondle her curls with his tiny hands while she smothered him
Was Mr. Dombey pleased to see this? He did not show it. If any sunbeam
stole into the room to light the children at their play, it never
reached his face. He looked on so coldly that the warm light vanished,
even from the laughing eyes of little Florence when, at last, they
happened to meet his.
The contemplation of Paul in his christening robe made his nurse yearn
for a sight of her own first-born, although this was a pleasure strictly
forbidden by Mr. Dombey's orders. But the longing so overpowered her
that she consulted Miss Nipper as to the possibility of gratifying it,
and that young woman, eager herself for an expedition, urged Polly to
visit her home. So, the next morning the two nurses set out together:
Richards carrying Paul, and Susan leading little Florence by the hand,
and giving her such jerks and pokes as she considered it wholesome to
administer. Then for a brief half-hour, Polly enjoyed the longed-for
pleasure of being again in the bosom of her family, but the visit had a
sad ending, for on the way back, passing through a crowded thoroughfare
the little party became separated. A thundering alarm of Mad Bull! was
raised. With a wild confusion of people running up and down, and
shouting, and wheels running over them, and boys fighting, and mad bulls
coming up, and the nurse in the midst of all these dangers, being torn
to pieces, Florence screamed and ran. She ran until she was exhausted,
then found with a sensation of terror not to be described, that she was
"Susan! Susan!" cried Florence. "Oh, where are they?"
"Where are they?" said an old woman, hobbling across from the opposite
side of the road. "Why did you run away from 'em?"
"I was frightened," answered Florence. "I didn't know what I did. I
thought they were with me. Where are they?"
The old woman took her by the wrist, and said, "I'll show you."
She was a very ugly old woman indeed, miserably dressed, and carried
some skins over her arm. Florence was afraid of her, and looked,
hesitating, up the street. It was a solitary place, and there was no one
in it but herself and the old woman.
"You needn't be frightened now," said the old woman, still holding her
tight "Come along with me."
"I--don't know you. What's your name?" asked Florence.
"Mrs. Brown," said the old woman, "Good Mrs. Brown. Susan ain't far
off," said Good Mrs. Brown, "and the others are close to her, and
The child shed tears of delight on hearing this, and accompanied the old
woman willingly. They had not gone far, when they stopped before a
shabby little house in a dirty little lane. Opening the door with a key
she took out of her pocket, Mrs. Brown pushed the child into a back
room, where there was a great heap of rags lying on the floor, a heap of
bones, and a heap of sifted dust. But there was no furniture at all, and
the walls and ceiling were quite black.
The child became so terrified, that she was stricken speechless, and
looked as though about to swoon.
"Now, don't be a young mule," said Good Mrs. Brown, reviving her with a
shake. "I'm not a' going to keep you, even above an hour. Don't vex me.
If you don't, I tell you, I won't hurt you. But if you do, I'll kill
you. I could have you killed at any time--even if you was in your own
bed at home. Now let's know who you are, and what you are, and all
The old woman's threats and promises, and Florence's habit of being
quiet, and repressing what she felt, enabled her to tell her little
history. Mrs. Brown listened attentively until she had finished.
"I want that pretty frock, Miss Dombey," said Good Mrs. Brown, "and that
little bonnet, and a petticoat or two, and those shoes, Miss Dombey, and
anything else you can spare. Come! take 'em off."
Florence obeyed as fast as her trembling hands could allow, keeping all
the while, a frightened eye on Mrs. Brown, who examined each article of
apparel at leisure, and seemed tolerably well satisfied with their
quality and value; she then produced a worn-out girl's cloak, and the
crushed remnants of a girl's bonnet, as well as other tattered things.
In this dainty raiment she instructed Florence to dress herself, and as
this seemed a prelude to her release, the child complied as fast as
possible. Mrs. Brown then resumed her seat on the bones, and smoked a
very short, black pipe, after which she gave the child a rabbit-skin to
carry, that she might appear like her ordinary companion, and led her
forth into the streets; but she cautioned her, with threats of deadly
vengeance in case of disobedience, to go directly to her father's office
in the city, also to wait at the street corner where she would be left,
until the clock struck three, and these directions Florence promised
faithfully to observe.
At length Mrs. Brown left her changed and ragged little friend at a
corner, where, true to her promise, she remained until the steeple rang
out three o'clock, when after often looking over her shoulder, lest the
all-powerful spies of Mrs. Brown should take offence at that, she
hurried off as fast as she could in her slipshod shoes, holding the
rabbit-skin tight in her hand.
Tired of walking, stunned by the noise and confusion, anxious for her
brother and the nurses, terrified by what she had undergone, and what
was yet before her, Florence once or twice could not help stopping and
crying bitterly, but few people noticed her, in the garb she wore, or if
they did, believed that she was tutored to excite compassion, and passed
on. It was late in the afternoon when she peeped into a kind of wharf,
and asked a stout man there if he could tell her the way to Dombey
The man looked attentively at her, then called another man, who ran up
an archway, and very soon returned with a blithe-looking boy who he said
was in Mr. Dombey's employ.
Hearing this, Florence felt re-assured; ran eagerly up to him, and
caught his hand in both of hers.
"I'm lost, if you please!" said Florence. "I was lost this morning, a
long way from here--and I have had my own clothes taken away since--and
my name is Florence Dombey, and, oh dear, take care of me, if you
please!" sobbed Florence, giving full vent to her childish feelings.
"Don't cry, Miss Dombey," said young Walter Gay, the nephew of Solomon
Gills, in a transport of enthusiasm. "What a wonderful thing for me that
I am here. You are as safe now as if you were guarded by a whole boat's
crew of picked men from a man-of-war. Oh, don't cry!"
"I won't cry any more," said Florence. "I'm only crying for joy."
"Crying for joy!" thought Walter, "and I'm the cause of it. Come along,
Miss Dombey, let me see the villain who will molest you now!"
So Walter, looking immensely fierce, led off Florence looking very
happy; and as Mr. Dombey's office was closed for the night, he led her
to his uncle's, to leave her there while he should go and tell Mr.
Dombey that she was safe, and bring her back some clothes.
"Halloa, Uncle Sol," cried Walter, bursting into the shop; "Here's a
wonderful adventure! Here's Mr. Dombey's daughter lost in the streets,
and robbed of her clothes by an old witch of a woman--found by
me--brought home to our parlor to rest--Here--just help me lift the
little sofa near the fire, will you, uncle Sol?--Cut some dinner for
her, will you, uncle; throw those shoes under the grate, Miss
Florence--put your feet on the fender to dry--how damp they are!--Here's
an adventure, uncle, eh?--God bless my soul, how hot I am!"
Solomon Gills was quite as hot, by sympathy; and in excessive
bewilderment, he patted Florence's head, pressed her to eat, pressed her
to drink, rubbed the soles of her feet with his pocket-handkerchief,
heated at the fire, followed his locomotive nephew with his eyes and
ears, and had no clear perception of anything except that he was being
constantly knocked against, and tumbled over by that excited young
gentleman, as he darted about the room, attempting to accomplish twenty
things at once, and doing nothing at all.
"Here, wait a minute, uncle," he continued, "till I run upstairs and get
another jacket on, and then I'll be off. I say, uncle, isn't this an
"My dear boy," said Solomon, "it is the most extraordinary--"
"No, but do, uncle, please--do, Miss Florence--dinner, you know, uncle."
"Yes, yes, yes," cutting instantly into a leg of mutton, as if he were
catering for a giant. "I'll take care of her, Wally! Pretty dear!
Famished, of course. You go and get ready. Lord bless me! Sir Richard
Whittington, thrice Mayor of London!"
While Walter was preparing to leave, Florence, overcome by fatigue, had
sunk into a doze before the fire and when the boy returned, she was
"That's capital!" he whispered, "Don't wake her, uncle Sol!"
"No, no," answered Solomon, "Pretty child!"
"_Pretty_, indeed!" cried Walter, "I never saw such a face! Now I'm
Arriving at Mr. Dombey's house, and breathlessly announcing his errand
to the servant, Walter was shown into the library, where he confronted
"Oh! beg your pardon, sir," said Walter, rushing up to him; "but I'm
happy to say, it's all right, sir. Miss Dombey's found!"
"I told you she would certainly be found," said Mr. Dombey calmly, to
the others in the room. "Let the servants know that no further steps are
necessary. This boy who brings the information is young Gay from the
office. How was my daughter found, sir? I know how she was lost." Here
he looked majestically at Richards. "But how was she found? Who
It was quite out of Walter's power to be coherent, but he rendered
himself as explanatory as he could, in his breathless state, and told
why he had come alone.
"You hear this, girl?" said Mr. Dombey sternly, to Susan Nipper. "Take
what is necessary and return immediately with this young man to fetch
Miss Florence home. Gay, you will be rewarded to-morrow."
"Oh! thank you, sir," said Walter. "You are very kind. I'm sure I was
not thinking of any reward sir."
"You are a boy," said Mr. Dombey, almost fiercely; "and what you think
of, or what you affect to think of, is of little consequence. You have
done well, sir. Don't undo it."
Returning to his uncle's with Miss Nipper, Walter found that Florence,
much refreshed by sleep, had dined and come to be on terms of perfect
confidence and ease with old Sol. Miss Nipper caught her in her arms,
and made a very hysterical meeting of it. Then, converting the parlor
into a private tiring-room, she dressed her in proper clothes, and
presently led her forth to say farewell.
"Good-night," said Florence to the elder man, "you have been very good
Uncle Sol was quite delighted, and kissed her like her grandfather.
"Good-night, Walter," she said, "I'll never forget you, No! Indeed I
never will. Good-by!"
The entrance of the lost child at home made a slight sensation, but not
much. Mr. Dombey kissed her once upon the forehead, and cautioned her
not to wander anywhere again with treacherous attendants. He then
dismissed the culprit Polly Richards, from his service, telling her to
leave immediately, and it was a dagger in the haughty father's heart to
see Florence holding to her dress, and crying to her not to go. Not that
he cared to whom his daughter turned, or from whom turned away. The
swift, sharp agony struck through him as he thought of what his
son might do.
His son cried lustily that night, at all events; and the next day a new
nurse, Wickam by name, took Polly's place.
She lavished every care upon little Paul, yet all her vigilance could
not make him a thriving boy. When he was nearly five years old, he was
a pretty little fellow, but so very delicate that Mr. Dombey became
alarmed about him, and decided to send him at once to the seashore.
So to Brighton, Paul and Florence and nurse Wickam went, and boarded
with a certain Mrs. Pipchin there. On Saturdays Mr. Dombey came down to
a hotel near by, and Paul and Florence would go and have tea with him,
and every day they spent their time upon the sands, and Florence was
always content when Paul was happy.
While the children were thus living at Brighton, a warrant was served
upon old Solomon Gills, by a broker, because of a payment overdue upon a
bond debt. Old Sol was overcome by the extent of this calamity, which he
could not avert, and Walter hurried out to fetch Captain Cuttle to
discuss the situation. To the lad's dismay, the Captain insisted upon
applying to Mr. Dombey at once for the necessary loan which would help
old Sol out of his difficulty. So Walter proceeded with him to Brighton
as fast as coach horses could carry them, and on a Sunday morning while
Mr. Dombey was at breakfast, Florence came running in, her face suffused
with a bright color, and her eyes sparkling joyfully, and cried:
"Papa! Papa! here's Walter, and he won't come in!"
"Who?" cried Mr. Dombey, "What does she mean,--what is this?"
"Walter, Papa," said Florence timidly; "who found me when I was lost!"
"Tell the boy to come in," said Mr. Dombey. "Now, Gay, what is the
Tremblingly Walter Gay stood in the presence of his proud employer, and
made known his uncle's distress, and when he ceased speaking, Captain
Cuttle stepped forward, and clearing a space among the breakfast cups at
Mr. Dombey's elbow, produced a silver watch, ready money to the amount
of thirteen pounds and half a crown, two teaspoons and a pair of
battered sugar-tongs, and piling them up into a heap, that they might
look as precious as possible, said:
"Half a loaf is better than no bread, and the same remark holds good
with crumbs. There's a few. Annuity of one hundred pounds p'rannum also
ready to be made over!"
Florence had listened tearfully to Walter's sad tale and to the
captain's offer of his valuables, and little Paul now tried to comfort
her; but Mr. Dombey, watching them, saw only his son's wistful
expression, thought only of his pleasure, and after taking the child on
his knee, and having a brief consulation with him, he announced
pompously that Master Paul would lend the money to Walter's uncle. Young
Gay tried to express his gratitude for this favor, but Mr. Dombey
stopped him short. Then, sweeping the captain's property from him, he
added, "Have the goodness to take these things away, sir!"
Captain Cuttle was so much struck by the magnanimity of Mr. Dombey, in
refusing treasures lying heaped up to his hand, that when he had
deposited them in his pockets again, he could not refrain from grasping
that gentleman's right hand in his own solitary left, before following
Walter out of the room, and Mr. Dombey shivered at his touch.
Florence was running after them, to send some message to old Sol, when
Mr. Dombey called her back, bidding her stay where she was, and so the
When the children had been nearly twelve months at Mrs. Pipchin's, Mr.
Dombey decided to send Paul to Dr. Blimber's boarding-school where his
education would be properly begun. Accordingly, Paul began his studies
in that hot-bed of learning, where the dreamy, delicate child with his
quaint ways soon became a favorite with teachers and pupils. The
process of being educated was difficult for one so young and frail, and
he might have sunk beneath the burden of his tasks but for looking
forward to the weekly visit to his sister at Mrs. Pipchin's.
Oh, Saturdays! Oh, happy Saturdays! When Florence always came for him at
noon, and never would in any weather stay away: these Saturdays were
Sabbaths for at least two little Christians among all the Jews, and did
the holy Sabbath work of strengthening and knitting up a brother's and a
Seeing her brother's difficulty with his lessons, Florence procured
books similar to his, and sat down at night to track his footsteps
through the thorny ways of learning; and being naturally quick, and
taught by that most wonderful of masters, Love, it was not long before
she gained upon Paul's heels, and caught, and passed him.
And high was her reward, when one Saturday evening she sat down by his
side and made all that was so dark, clear and plain before him. It was
nothing but a startled look in Paul's wan face--a flush--a smile--and
then a close embrace--but God knows how her heart leaped up at this rich
payment for her trouble.
"Oh, Floy!" he cried, "how I love you!"
He said no more about it, but all that evening sat close by her, very
quiet; and in the night he called out from his little room, three or
four times, that he loved her. Regularly after that Florence sat down
with him on Saturday night, and assisted him through so much as they
could anticipate together of his next week's work.
And so the months went by, until the midsummer vacation was near at
hand, and the great party which was to celebrate the breaking up of
school, was about to come off. Some weeks before this, Paul had had a
fainting turn, and had not recovered his strength, in consequence of
which, he was enjoying complete rest from lessons, and it was clear to
every one, that, once at home, he would never come back to Dr. Blimber's
or to any school again, and to no one was the sad truth more evident
than to Florence.
On the evening of the great party Florence came, looking so beautiful in
her simple ball dress, with her fresh flowers in her hand, that she was
the admiration of all the young gentlemen of the school, and
particularly of Mr. Toots, the head boy; a simple youth with an engaging
manner, and the habit of blushing and chuckling when addressed. Mr.
Toots had made Paul his especial favorite and charge, and was well
repaid for his devotion to the boy by the gracious appreciation which
Florence showed him for it, and it was to the care of Mr. Toots that
Paul, when leaving, intrusted the dog Diogenes, who had never received a
friend into his confidence before Paul had become his companion.
The brother and sister remained together for a time at Mrs. Pipchin's,
then went back to their home in London, where little Paul's life ebbed
away, and his father's hopes were crushed by the blow.
There was a hush through Mr. Dombey's great mansion when the child was
gone, and Florence;--was she so alone in the bleak world that nothing
else remained to her except her little maid? Nothing.
At first, when the house subsided into its accustomed course she could
do nothing but weep, and wander up and down, and sometimes, in a sudden
pang of desolate remembrance, fly to her own chamber, lay her face down
on her bed, and know no consolation. But it is not in the nature of pure
love to burn so fiercely and unkindly long. Soon, in the midst of the
dismal house, her low voice in the twilight slowly touched an old air to
which she had so often listened with Paul's head upon her arm. And
after that, and when it was quite dark, a little strain of music
trembled in the room, repeated often, in the shadowy solitude; and
broken murmurs of the strain still trembled on the keys when the sweet
voice was hushed in tears.
One day Florence was amazed at receiving a visit from Mr. Toots, who
entered the room with much hesitation, and, with a series of chuckles,
laughs, and blushes, informed her that he had brought her little Paul's
pet, the dog Diogenes, as a companion in her loneliness.
"He ain't a lady's dog, you know," said Mr. Toots, "but I hope you won't
mind that. If you would like to have him, he's at the door."
In fact, Diogenes was at that moment staring through the window of a
hackney cabriolet, into which he had been ensnared on a false pretence
of rats among the straw. Sooth to say, he was as unlike a lady's dog as
dog might be; and in his gruff anxiety to get out, gave short yelps, and
overbalancing himself by the intensity of his efforts, tumbled down into
the straw, and then sprung up panting again, putting out his tongue, as
if he had come express to a Dispensary to be examined for his health.
But though Diogenes was as ridiculous a dog as one would meet with on a
summer's day; a blundering, ill-favored, clumsy, bullet-headed dog,
continually acting on the wrong idea that there was an enemy in the
neighborhood whom it was meritorious to bark at; and though he was far
from good-tempered, and certainly was not clever, and had hair all over
his eyes, and a comical nose, and an inconsistent tail, and a gruff
voice,--he was dearer to Florence, in virtue of Paul's parting
remembrance of him, and that request that he might be taken care of,
than the most valuable and beautiful of his kind. So dear, indeed, was
this same ugly Diogenes, and so welcome to her, that she kissed the
hand of Mr. Toots in her gratitude. And when Diogenes, released, came
tearing up the stairs and, bouncing into the room, dived under all the
furniture, and wound a long iron chain that dangled from his neck round
legs of chairs and tables, and then tugged at it until his eyes nearly
started out of his head; and when he growled at Mr. Toots, who affected
familiarity, Florence was as pleased with him as if he had been a
miracle of discretion.
Mr. Toots was so overjoyed by the success of his present, and so
delighted to see Florence bending over Diogenes, smoothing his coarse
back with her little delicate hand--Diogenes graciously allowing it from
the first moment of their acquaintance--that he felt it difficult to
take leave, and would, no doubt have been a much longer time in making
up his mind to do so, if he had not been assisted by Diogenes himself,
who suddenly took it into his head to bay at Mr. Toots, and to make
short runs at him with his mouth open. Not exactly seeing his way to the
end of these demonstrations, Mr. Toot with chuckles, lapsed out of the
door, and got away.
"Come, then, Di! Dear Di! Make friends with your new mistress. Let us
love each other, Di!" said Florence, fondling his shaggy head. And Di,
the rough and gruff, as if his hairy hide were pervious to the tear that
dropped upon it, and his dog's heart melted as it fell, put his nose up
to her face and swore fidelity.
A banquet was immediately provided for him, and when he had eaten and
drunk his fill, he went to Florence, rose up on his hind legs, with his
awkward fore-paws on her shoulders, licked her face and hands, nestled
his great head against her heart, and wagged his tail till he was tired
Finally, he coiled himself up at her feet, and went to sleep.
That same night Susan Nipper told her mistress that Mr. Dombey was to
leave home the next day for a trip,--which piece of news filled Florence
with dismay, and she sat musing sadly until midnight.
She was little more than a child in years,--not yet fourteen--and the
loneliness and gloom of such an hour in the great house might have set
an older fancy brooding on vague terrors. But her innocent imagination
was too full of one theme to admit them. Nothing wandered in her thought
but love; a wandering love indeed, and cast away, but turning always to
She could not go to bed, without making her nightly pilgrimage to his
door. The moment she touched it she found that it was open, and there
was a light within. The first impulse of the timid child--and she
yielded to it--was to retire swiftly. A next, to go back, and to enter.
She turned back, urged on by the love within her, and glided in.
Her father sat at his old table, in the middle of the room. His face was
turned towards her. It looked worn and dejected, and in the loneliness
surrounding him, there was an appeal to Florence that struck home, but
when she spoke to him, the sternness of his glance and words so overcame
her that she shrank away,--and sobbing, silently ascended to her
Diogenes was broad awake, and waiting for his little mistress.
"Oh, Di! Oh, dear Di! Love me for his sake!"
Diogenes already loved her for his own, and did not care how much he
showed it. So he made himself vastly ridiculous by performing a variety
of uncouth bounces, and concluded, when poor Florence was at last
asleep, by scratching open her bedroom door; rolling up his bed into a
pillow; lying down on the boards at the full length of his tether with
his head toward her; and looking lazily at her, upside down, out of the
tops of his eyes, until, from winking and blinking, he fell asleep
himself, and dreamed with gruff barks, of his enemy.
About this time Walter Gay was informed by Mr. Dombey of his appointment
to a junior position in the firm's counting house in the Barbadoes. The
boy ever since he first saw Florence had thought of her with admiration
and compassion, pitying her loneliness; and now when he was about to
cross the ocean, his first thought was to seek audience with her little
maid, to tell her of his going, to say to her that his uncle had had an
interest in Miss Dombey ever since the night when she was lost, and
always wished her well and happy, and always would be proud and glad to
serve her, if she should need that service.
Upon receiving the message, Florence hastened with Susan Nipper to the
old Instrument-maker's Shop, and they passed into the parlor so suddenly
that Uncle Sol, in surprise at seeing them, sprang out of his own chair
and nearly tumbled over another, as he exclaimed, "Miss Dombey!"
"Is it possible!" cried Walter, starting up in his turn. "Here!"
"Yes," said Florence, advancing to him. "I was afraid you might be going
away, and hardly thinking of me. And, Walter, there is something I wish
to say to you before you go, and you must call me Florence, if you
please, and not speak like a stranger. My dear brother before he died
said that he was very fond of you, and said, 'remember Walter'; and if
you will be a brother to me, Walter, now that I have none on earth, I'll
be your sister all my life, and think of you like one, wherever we
In her sweet simplicity, she held out both her hands, and Walter, taking
them, stooped down and touched the tearful face; and it seemed to him
in doing so, that he responded to her innocent appeal beside the dead
After Walter's departure, Florence lived alone as before, in the great
dreary house, and the blank walls looked down upon her with a vacant
stare, as if they had a Gorgon-like mind to stare her youth and beauty
No magic dwelling-place in magic story, shut up in the heart of a thick
wood, was ever more solitary and deserted to the fancy than was her
father's mansion in its grim reality. The spell upon it was more wasting
than the spell which used to set enchanted houses sleeping once upon a
time, but left their waking freshness unimpaired. But Florence bloomed
there, like the King's fair daughter in the story. Her books, her music,
and her daily teachers were her only real companions, except Susan
Nipper and Diogenes, and she lived within the circle of her innocent
pursuits and thoughts, and nothing harmed her. She could go down to her
father's rooms now without fear of repulse. She could put everything in
order for him, binding little nosegays for his table, changing them as
they withered, and he did not come back, preparing something for him
every day, and leaving some timid mark of her presence near his usual
seat. Waking in the night, perhaps, she would tremble at the thought of
his coming home and angrily rejecting it, and would hurry down and bring
it away. At another time she would only lay her face upon his desk, and
leave a kiss there, and a tear.
Still no one knew of this. Her father did not know--she held it from
that time--how much she loved him. She was very young, and had no
mother, and had never learned, by some fault or misfortune, how to
express to him that she loved him. She would try to gain that art in
time, and win him to a better knowledge of his only child.
Thus Florence lived alone in the deserted house, and day succeeded day
in a monotony of loneliness until yielding to Susan Nipper's constant
request Florence consented to pay a visit to some friends who lived at
Fulham on the Thames.
Just at this time she learned that Walter's ship was overdue, and no
news had been received of her, and, her mind filled with sad
forebodings, she went to see old Sol, She found him tearful and
desolate, broken down by the weight of his anxiety, refusing to be
comforted even by the hopeful words of Captain Cuttle. So it was with a
heavy heart that she went to pay her visit, accompanied by her
There were some other children staying at the Skettleses. Children who
were frank and happy, with fathers and mothers. Children who had no
restraint upon their love, and showed it freely. Florence thoughtfully
observed them, sought to find out from them what simple art they knew,
and she knew not; how she could be taught by them to show her father how
she loved him, and to win his love again. But all her efforts failed to
give her the secret of the nameless grace she sought, among the youthful
company who were assembled in the house, or among the children of the
poor, whom she often visited.
Of Walter she thought constantly. Her tears fell often for his
sufferings, but rarely for his supposed death, and never long. Thus
matters stood with Florence on the day she went home, gladly, to her old
"You'll be glad to go through the old rooms, won't you, Susan," said
Florence as they turned into the familiar street.
"Well, Miss," returned the Nipper, "I wont deny but what I shall, though
I shall hate them again to-morrow, very likely!"--adding
breathlessly--"Why gracious me, _where's our house_?"--
There was a labyrinth of scaffolding raised all around the house. Loads
of bricks and stones, and heaps of mortar, and piles of wood, blocked up
half of the broad street. Ladders were raised against the walls; men
were at work upon the scaffolding; painters and decorators were busy
inside; great rolls of paper were being delivered from a cart at the
door; an upholsterer's wagon also stopped the way; nothing was to be
seen but workmen, swarming from the kitchens to the garret. Inside and
outside alike; bricklayers, painters, carpenters, masons; hammer, hod,
brush, pickaxe, saw, trowel: all at work together, in full chorus.
Florence descended from the coach, half doubting if it could be the
right house, until she recognized Towlinson, the butler, standing at the
door to receive her. She passed him as if she were in a dream, and
hurried upstairs. Her own room was not yet touched within, but there
were beams and boards raised against it without. She went up swiftly to
that other bedroom, where her brother's little bed was; and a dark giant
of a man, with a pipe in his mouth, and his head tied up in a pocket
handkerchief, was staring in at the window.
It was here that Susan Nipper found her, and said would she go
downstairs to her papa, who wished to speak to her?
"At home! and wishing to speak to me!" cried Florence, pale and
agitated, hurrying down without a moment's hesitation. She thought upon
the way down, would she dare to kiss him? Her father might have heard
her heart beat when she came into his presence. He was not alone. There
were two ladies there. One was old, and the other was young and very
beautiful, and of an elegant figure.
"Edith," said Mr. Dombey, "this is my daughter. Florence, this lady will
soon be your mamma."
The girl started, and looked up at the beautiful face in a conflict of
emotions, among which the tears that name awakened struggled for a
moment with surprise, interest, admiration, and an indefinable sort of
fear. Then she cried out, "Oh, papa, may you be happy! May you be very,
very happy all your life!" then fell weeping on the lady's bosom.
The beautiful lady held her to her breast, and pressed the hand with
which she clasped her, as if to reassure and comfort her, and bent her
head down over Florence and kissed her on the cheek.
And now Florence began to hope that she would learn from her new and
beautiful mamma how to gain her father's love. And in her sleep that
night her own mother smiled radiantly upon the hope, and blessed it.
Even in the busy weeks before the wedding-day, the bride-elect had time
to win the heart of the lonely girl, and Florence responded to her
advances with trustful love, and was happy and hopeful, while the new
mother's affection deepened daily. But it soon became evident that the
affection aroused Mr. Dombey's keen jealousy, and his wife thought it
best to repress her feelings for Florence.
The girl soon became aware that there was no real sympathy between her
father and his second wife, and that the happiness in their home, of
which she had dreamed, would never be a reality. In truth the cold,
proud man with all his wealth and power, could not win from his wife one
smile such as she had often bestowed upon Florence in his presence, and
this added to his dislike for the girl.
Once only, as Mr. Dombey sat and watched his daughter, the sight of her
in her beauty, now almost changed into a woman, roused within him a
fleeting feeling of regret at having had a household spirit bending at
his feet, and of having overlooked it in his stiff-necked pride. He felt
inclined to call her to him; the words were rising to his lips, when
they were checked by the entrance of his wife, whose haughty bearing and
indifference to him caused the gentle impulse to flee from him, and it
The breach between husband and wife was daily growing wider, when one
morning, riding to the city, Mr. Dombey was thrown from his horse, and
being brought home, he gloomily retired to his own rooms, where he was
attended by servants, not approached by his wife. Late that night there
arose in Florence's mind the image of her father, wounded and in pain,
alone, in his own home.
With the same child's heart within her as of old, even as with the
child's sweet, timid eyes and clustering hair, Florence, as strange to
her father in her early maiden bloom as in her nursery days, crept down
to his room and looked in. The housekeeper was fast asleep in an
easy-chair before the fire. All was so very still that she knew he was
asleep. There was a cut upon his forehead. One of his arms, resting
outside of the bed, was bandaged up, and he was very white. After the
first assurance of his sleeping quietly, Florence stole close to the
bed, and softly kissed him and put the arm with which she dared not
touch him, waking, round about him on the pillow, praying to God to
bless her father, and to soften him towards her, if it might be so.
On the following day Susan Nipper braced herself for a great feat which
she had long been contemplating; forced an entrance into Mr. Dombey's
room, and told him in most emphatic language what she thought of his
treatment of the motherless little girl who had so long been her charge.
Speechless with rage and amazement, Mr. Dombey attempted to summon some
one to protect him from her flow of language, but there was no bell-rope
near, and he could not move, so he was forced to listen to her tirade
until the entrance of the housekeeper cut it short. Susan Nipper was
then instantly discharged, and bestirred herself to get her trunks in
order, sobbing heartily as she thought of Florence, but exulting at the
memory of Mr. Dombey's discomfiture. Florence dared not interfere with
her father's commands, and took a sad farewell of the faithful little
maid, who had for so long been her companion.
Now Florence was quite alone. She had grown to be seventeen; timid and
retiring as her solitary life had made her, it had not embittered her. A
child in innocent simplicity: a woman in her modest self-reliance and
her deep intensity of feeling, both child and woman seemed at once
expressed in her fair face and fragile delicacy of shape; in her
thrilling voice, her calm eyes, and sometimes in a strange ethereal
light that seemed to rest upon her head.
Mrs. Dombey she seldom saw, and the day soon came when she lost her
entirely. The wife's supreme indifference to himself and his wishes,
stung Mr. Dombey more than any other kind of treatment could have done,
and he determined to bend her to his will. She was the first person who
had ever ventured to oppose him in the slightest particular;--their
pride, however different in kind, was equal in degree, and their flinty
opposition struck out fire which consumed the tie between them--and soon
the final separation came.
One evening after a dispute with her husband, Mrs. Dombey went out to
dinner, and did not return. In the confusion of that dreadful night,
compassion for her father was the first distinct emotion that
overwhelmed Florence. At daybreak she hastened to him with her arms
stretched out, crying, "Oh, dear, dear papa!" as if she would have
clasped him around the neck. But in his frenzy he answered her with
brutal words, and lifted up his cruel arm and struck her, with that
heaviness, that she tottered on the marble floor. She did not sink down
at his feet; she did not shut out the sight of him with her trembling
hands; she did not utter one word of reproach. But she looked at him,