Part 20 out of 21
'Turn!' cried the old woman, 'but why not hers as soon as my gal's!
The mother must have changed - she looked as old as me, and full as
wrinkled through her paint - but she was handsome. What have I done,
I, what have I done worse than her, that only my gal is to lie there
fading!' With another of those wild cries, she went running out into
the room from which she had come; but immediately, in her uncertain
mood, returned, and creeping up to Harriet, said:
'That's what Alice bade me tell you, deary. That's all. I found it
out when I began to ask who she was, and all about her, away in
Warwickshire there, one summer-time. Such relations was no good to me,
then. They wouldn't have owned me, and had nothing to give me. I
should have asked 'em, maybe, for a little money, afterwards, if it
hadn't been for my Alice; she'd a'most have killed me, if I had, I
think She was as proud as t'other in her way,' said the old woman,
touching the face of her daughter fearfully, and withdrawing her hand,
'for all she's so quiet now; but she'll shame 'em with her good looks
yet. Ha, ha! She'll shame 'em, will my handsome daughter!'
Her laugh, as she retreated, was worse than her cry; worse than the
burst of imbecile lamentation in which it ended; worse than the doting
air with which she sat down in her old seat, and stared out at the
The eyes of Alice had all this time been fixed on Harriet, whose
hand she had never released. She said now:
'I have felt, lying here, that I should like you to know this. It
might explain, I have thought, something that used to help to harden
me. I had heard so much, in my wrongdoing, of my neglected duty, that
I took up with the belief that duty had not been done to me, and that
as the seed was sown, the harvest grew. I somehow made it out that
when ladies had bad homes and mothers, they went wrong in their way,
too; but that their way was not so foul a one as mine, and they had
need to bless God for it.' That is all past. It is like a dream, now,
which I cannot quite remember or understand. It has been more and more
like a dream, every day, since you began to sit here, and to read to
me. I only tell it you, as I can recollect it. Will you read to me a
Harriet was withdrawing her hand to open the book, when Alice
detained it for a moment.
'You will not forget my mother? I forgive her, if I have any cause.
I know that she forgives me, and is sorry in her heart. You will not
'A moment yet. Lay your head so, dear, that as you read I may see
the words in your kind face.'
Harriet complied and read - read the eternal book for all the
weary, and the heavy-laden; for all the wretched, fallen, and
neglected of this earth - read the blessed history, in which the blind
lame palsied beggar, the criminal, the woman stained with shame, the
shunned of all our dainty clay, has each a portion, that no human
pride, indifference, or sophistry, through all the ages that this
world shall last, can take away, or by the thousandth atom of a grain
reduce - read the ministry of Him who, through the round of human
life, and all its hopes and griefs, from birth to death, from infancy
to age, had sweet compassion for, and interest in, its every scene and
stage, its every suffering and sorrow.
'I shall come,' said Harriet, when she shut the book, 'very early
in the morning.'
The lustrous eyes, yet fixed upon her face, closed for a moment,
then opened; and Alice kissed and blest her.
The same eyes followed her to the door; and in their light, and on
the tranquil face, there was a smile when it was closed.
They never turned away. She laid her hand upon her breast,
murmuring the sacred name that had been read to her; and life passed
from her face, like light removed.
Nothing lay there, any longer, but the ruin of the mortal house on
which the rain had beaten, and the black hair that had fluttered in
the wintry wind.
Changes have come again upon the great house in the long dull
street, once the scene of Florence's childhood and loneliness. It is a
great house still, proof against wind and weather, without breaches in
the roof, or shattered windows, or dilapidated walls; but it is a ruin
none the less, and the rats fly from it.
Mr Towlinson and company are, at first, incredulous in respect of
the shapeless rumours that they hear. Cook says our people's credit
ain't so easy shook as that comes to, thank God; and Mr Towlinson
expects to hear it reported next, that the Bank of England's a-going
to break, or the jewels in the Tower to be sold up. But, next come the
Gazette, and Mr Perch; and Mr Perch brings Mrs Perch to talk it over
in the kitchen, and to spend a pleasant evening.
As soon as there is no doubt about it, Mr Towlinson's main anxiety
is that the failure should be a good round one - not less than a
hundred thousand pound. Mr Perch don't think himself that a hundred
thousand pound will nearly cover it. The women, led by Mrs Perch and
Cook, often repeat 'a hun-dred thou-sand pound!' with awful
satisfaction - as if handling the words were like handling the money;
and the housemaid, who has her eye on Mr Towlinson, wishes she had
only a hundredth part of the sum to bestow on the man of her choice.
Mr Towlinson, still mindful of his old wrong, opines that a foreigner
would hardly know what to do with so much money, unless he spent it on
his whiskers; which bitter sarcasm causes the housemaid to withdraw in
But not to remain long absent; for Cook, who has the reputation of
being extremely good-hearted, says, whatever they do, let 'em stand by
one another now, Towlinson, for there's no telling how soon they may
be divided. They have been in that house (says Cook) through a
funeral, a wedding, and a running-away; and let it not be said that
they couldn't agree among themselves at such a time as the present.
Mrs Perch is immensely affected by this moving address, and openly
remarks that Cook is an angel. Mr Towlinson replies to Cook, far be it
from him to stand in the way of that good feeling which he could wish
to see; and adjourning in quest of the housemaid, and presently
returning with that young lady on his arm, informs the kitchen that
foreigners is only his fun, and that him and Anne have now resolved to
take one another for better for worse, and to settle in Oxford Market
in the general greengrocery and herb and leech line, where your kind
favours is particular requested. This announcement is received with
acclamation; and Mrs Perch, projecting her soul into futurity, says,
'girls,' in Cook's ear, in a solemn whisper.
Misfortune in the family without feasting, in these lower regions,
couldn't be. Therefore Cook tosses up a hot dish or two for supper,
and Mr Towlinson compounds a lobster salad to be devoted to the same
hospitable purpose. Even Mrs Pipchin, agitated by the occasion, rings
her bell, and sends down word that she requests to have that little
bit of sweetbread that was left, warmed up for her supper, and sent to
her on a tray with about a quarter of a tumbler-full of mulled sherry;
for she feels poorly.
There is a little talk about Mr Dombey, but very little. It is
chiefly speculation as to how long he has known that this was going to
happen. Cook says shrewdly, 'Oh a long time, bless you! Take your oath
of that.' And reference being made to Mr Perch, he confirms her view
of the case. Somebody wonders what he'll do, and whether he'll go out
in any situation. Mr Towlinson thinks not, and hints at a refuge in
one of them genteel almshouses of the better kind. 'Ah, where he'll
have his little garden, you know,' says Cook plaintively, 'and bring
up sweet peas in the spring.' 'Exactly so,' says Mr Towlinson, 'and be
one of the Brethren of something or another.' 'We are all brethren,'
says Mrs Perch, in a pause of her drink. 'Except the sisters,' says Mr
Perch. 'How are the mighty fallen!' remarks Cook. 'Pride shall have a
fall, and it always was and will be so!' observes the housemaid.
It is wonderful how good they feel, in making these reflections;
and what a Christian unanimity they are sensible of, in bearing the
common shock with resignation. There is only one interruption to this
excellent state of mind, which is occasioned by a young kitchen-maid
of inferior rank - in black stockings - who, having sat with her mouth
open for a long time, unexpectedly discharges from it words to this
effect, 'Suppose the wages shouldn't be paid!' The company sit for a
moment speechless; but Cook recovering first, turns upon the young
woman, and requests to know how she dares insult the family, whose
bread she eats, by such a dishonest supposition, and whether she
thinks that anybody, with a scrap of honour left, could deprive poor
servants of their pittance? 'Because if that is your religious
feelings, Mary Daws,' says Cook warmly, 'I don't know where you mean
to go to.
Mr Towlinson don't know either; nor anybody; and the young
kitchen-maid, appearing not to know exactly, herself, and scouted by
the general voice, is covered with confusion, as with a garment.
After a few days, strange people begin to call at the house, and to
make appointments with one another in the dining-room, as if they
lived there. Especially, there is a gentleman, of a Mosaic Arabian
cast of countenance, with a very massive watch-guard, who whistles in
the drawing-room, and, while he is waiting for the other gentleman,
who always has pen and ink in his pocket, asks Mr Towlinson (by the
easy name of 'Old Cock,') if he happens to know what the figure of
them crimson and gold hangings might have been, when new bought. The
callers and appointments in the dining-room become more numerous every
day, and every gentleman seems to have pen and ink in his pocket, and
to have some occasion to use it. At last it is said that there is
going to be a Sale; and then more people arrive, with pen and ink in
their pockets, commanding a detachment of men with carpet caps, who
immediately begin to pull up the carpets, and knock the furniture
about, and to print off thousands of impressions of their shoes upon
the hall and staircase.
The council downstairs are in full conclave all this time, and,
having nothing to do, perform perfect feats of eating. At length, they
are one day summoned in a body to Mrs Pipchin's room, and thus
addressed by the fair Peruvian:
'Your master's in difficulties,' says Mrs Pipchin, tartly. 'You
know that, I suppose?'
Mr Towlinson, as spokesman, admits a general knowledge of the fact.
'And you're all on the look-out for yourselves, I warrant you, says
Mrs Pipchin, shaking her head at them.
A shrill voice from the rear exclaims, 'No more than yourself!'
'That's your opinion, Mrs Impudence, is it?' says the ireful
Pipchin, looking with a fiery eye over the intermediate heads.
'Yes, Mrs Pipchin, it is,' replies Cook, advancing. 'And what then,
'Why, then you may go as soon as you like,' says Mrs Pipchin. 'The
sooner the better; and I hope I shall never see your face again.'
With this the doughty Pipchin produces a canvas bag; and tells her
wages out to that day, and a month beyond it; and clutches the money
tight, until a receipt for the same is duly signed, to the last
upstroke; when she grudgingly lets it go. This form of proceeding Mrs
Pipchin repeats with every member of the household, until all are
'Now those that choose, can go about their business,' says Mrs
Pipchin, 'and those that choose can stay here on board wages for a
week or so, and make themselves useful. Except,' says the inflammable
Pipchin, 'that slut of a cook, who'll go immediately.'
'That,' says Cook, 'she certainly will! I wish you good day, Mrs
Pipchin, and sincerely wish I could compliment you on the sweetness of
'Get along with you,' says Mrs Pipchin, stamping her foot.
Cook sails off with an air of beneficent dignity, highly
exasperating to Mrs Pipchin, and is shortly joined below stairs by the
rest of the confederation.
Mr Towlinson then says that, in the first place, he would beg to
propose a little snack of something to eat; and over that snack would
desire to offer a suggestion which he thinks will meet the position in
which they find themselves. The refreshment being produced, and very
heartily partaken of, Mr Towlinson's suggestion is, in effect, that
Cook is going, and that if we are not true to ourselves, nobody will
be true to us. That they have lived in that house a long time, and
exerted themselves very much to be sociable together. (At this, Cook
says, with emotion, 'Hear, hear!' and Mrs Perch, who is there again,
and full to the throat, sheds tears.) And that he thinks, at the
present time, the feeling ought to be 'Go one, go all!' The housemaid
is much affected by this generous sentiment, and warmly seconds it.
Cook says she feels it's right, and only hopes it's not done as a
compliment to her, but from a sense of duty. Mr Towlinson replies,
from a sense of duty; and that now he is driven to express his
opinions, he will openly say, that he does not think it
over-respectable to remain in a house where Sales and such-like are
carrying forwards. The housemaid is sure of it; and relates, in
confirmation, that a strange man, in a carpet cap, offered, this very
morning, to kiss her on the stairs. Hereupon, Mr Towlinson is starting
from his chair, to seek and 'smash' the offender; when he is laid hold
on by the ladies, who beseech him to calm himself, and to reflect that
it is easier and wiser to leave the scene of such indecencies at once.
Mrs Perch, presenting the case in a new light, even shows that
delicacy towards Mr Dombey, shut up in his own rooms, imperatively
demands precipitate retreat. 'For what,' says the good woman, 'must
his feelings be, if he was to come upon any of the poor servants that
he once deceived into thinking him immensely rich!' Cook is so struck
by this moral consideration, that Mrs Perch improves it with several
pious axioms, original and selected. It becomes a clear case that they
must all go. Boxes are packed, cabs fetched, and at dusk that evening
there is not one member of the party left.
The house stands, large and weather-proof, in the long dull street;
but it is a ruin, and the rats fly from it.
The men in the carpet caps go on tumbling the furniture about; and
the gentlemen with the pens and ink make out inventories of it, and
sit upon pieces of furniture never made to be sat upon, and eat bread
and cheese from the public-house on other pieces of furniture never
made to be eaten on, and seem to have a delight in appropriating
precious articles to strange uses. Chaotic combinations of furniture
also take place. Mattresses and bedding appear in the dining-room; the
glass and china get into the conservatory; the great dinner service is
set out in heaps on the long divan in the large drawing-room; and the
stair-wires, made into fasces, decorate the marble chimneypieces.
Finally, a rug, with a printed bill upon it, is hung out from the
balcony; and a similar appendage graces either side of the hall door.
Then, all day long, there is a retinue of mouldy gigs and
chaise-carts in the street; and herds of shabby vampires, Jew and
Christian, over-run the house, sounding the plate-glass minors with
their knuckles, striking discordant octaves on the Grand Piano,
drawing wet forefingers over the pictures, breathing on the blades of
the best dinner-knives, punching the squabs of chairs and sofas with
their dirty fists, touzling the feather beds, opening and shutting all
the drawers, balancing the silver spoons and forks, looking into the
very threads of the drapery and linen, and disparaging everything.
There is not a secret place in the whole house. Fluffy and snuffy
strangers stare into the kitchen-range as curiously as into the attic
clothes-press. Stout men with napless hats on, look out of the bedroom
windows, and cut jokes with friends in the street. Quiet, calculating
spirits withdraw into the dressing-rooms with catalogues, and make
marginal notes thereon, with stumps of pencils. Two brokers invade the
very fire-escape, and take a panoramic survey of the neighbourhood
from the top of the house. The swarm and buzz, and going up and down,
endure for days. The Capital Modern Household Furniture, &c., is on
Then there is a palisade of tables made in the best drawing-room;
and on the capital, french-polished, extending, telescopic range of
Spanish mahogany dining-tables with turned legs, the pulpit of the
Auctioneer is erected; and the herds of shabby vampires, Jew and
Christian, the strangers fluffy and snuffy, and the stout men with the
napless hats, congregate about it and sit upon everything within
reach, mantel-pieces included, and begin to bid. Hot, humming, and
dusty are the rooms all day; and - high above the heat, hum, and dust
- the head and shoulders, voice and hammer, of the Auctioneer, are
ever at work. The men in the carpet caps get flustered and vicious
with tumbling the Lots about, and still the Lots are going, going,
gone; still coming on. Sometimes there is joking and a general roar.
This lasts all day and three days following. The Capital Modern
Household Furniture, &c., is on sale.
Then the mouldy gigs and chaise-carts reappear; and with them come
spring-vans and waggons, and an army of porters with knots. All day
long, the men with carpet caps are screwing at screw-drivers and
bed-winches, or staggering by the dozen together on the staircase
under heavy burdens, or upheaving perfect rocks of Spanish mahogany,
best rose-wood, or plate-glass, into the gigs and chaise-carts, vans
and waggons. All sorts of vehicles of burden are in attendance, from a
tilted waggon to a wheelbarrow. Poor Paul's little bedstead is carried
off in a donkey-tandem. For nearly a whole week, the Capital Modern
Household Furniture, & c., is in course of removal.
At last it is all gone. Nothing is left about the house but
scattered leaves of catalogues, littered scraps of straw and hay, and
a battery of pewter pots behind the hall-door. The men with the
carpet-caps gather up their screw-drivers and bed-winches into bags,
shoulder them, and walk off. One of the pen-and-ink gentlemen goes
over the house as a last attention; sticking up bills in the windows
respecting the lease of this desirable family mansion, and shutting
the shutters. At length he follows the men with the carpet caps. None
of the invaders remain. The house is a ruin, and the rats fly from it.
Mrs Pipchin's apartments, together with those locked rooms on the
ground-floor where the window-blinds are drawn down close, have been
spared the general devastation. Mrs Pipchin has remained austere and
stony during the proceedings, in her own room; or has occasionally
looked in at the sale to see what the goods are fetching, and to bid
for one particular easy chair. Mrs Pipchin has been the highest bidder
for the easy chair, and sits upon her property when Mrs Chick comes to
'How is my brother, Mrs Pipchin?' says Mrs Chick.
'I don't know any more than the deuce,' says Mrs Pipchin. 'He never
does me the honour to speak to me. He has his meat and drink put in
the next room to his own; and what he takes, he comes out and takes
when there's nobody there. It's no use asking me. I know no more about
him than the man in the south who burnt his mouth by eating cold plum
This the acrimonious Pipchin says with a flounce.
'But good gracious me!' cries Mrs Chick blandly. 'How long is this
to last! If my brother will not make an effort, Mrs Pipchin, what is
to become of him? I am sure I should have thought he had seen enough
of the consequences of not making an effort, by this time, to be
warned against that fatal error.'
'Hoity toity!' says Mrs Pipchin, rubbing her nose. 'There's a great
fuss, I think, about it. It ain't so wonderful a case. People have had
misfortunes before now, and been obliged to part with their furniture.
I'm sure I have!'
'My brother,' pursues Mrs Chick profoundly, 'is so peculiar - so
strange a man. He is the most peculiar man I ever saw. Would anyone
believe that when he received news of the marriage and emigration of
that unnatural child - it's a comfort to me, now, to remember that I
always said there was something extraordinary about that child: but
nobody minds me - would anybody believe, I say, that he should then
turn round upon me and say he had supposed, from my manner, that she
had come to my house? Why, my gracious! And would anybody believe that
when I merely say to him, "Paul, I may be very foolish, and I have no
doubt I am, but I cannot understand how your affairs can have got into
this state," he should actually fly at me, and request that I will
come to see him no more until he asks me! Why, my goodness!'
'Ah'!' says Mrs Pipchin. 'It's a pity he hadn't a little more to do
with mines. They'd have tried his temper for him.'
'And what,' resumes Mrs Chick, quite regardless of Mrs Pipchin's
observations, 'is it to end in? That's what I want to know. What does
my brother mean to do? He must do something. It's of no use remaining
shut up in his own rooms. Business won't come to him. No. He must go
to it. Then why don't he go? He knows where to go, I suppose, having
been a man of business all his life. Very good. Then why not go
Mrs Chick, after forging this powerful chain of reasoning, remains
silent for a minute to admire it.
'Besides,' says the discreet lady, with an argumentative air, 'who
ever heard of such obstinacy as his staying shut up here through all
these dreadful disagreeables? It's not as if there was no place for
him to go to. Of course he could have come to our house. He knows he
is at home there, I suppose? Mr Chick has perfectly bored about it,
and I said with my own lips, "Why surely, Paul, you don't imagine that
because your affairs have got into this state, you are the less at
home to such near relatives as ourselves? You don't imagine that we
are like the rest of the world?" But no; here he stays all through,
and here he is. Why, good gracious me, suppose the house was to be
let! What would he do then? He couldn't remain here then. If he
attempted to do so, there would be an ejectment, an action for Doe,
and all sorts of things; and then he must go. Then why not go at first
instead of at last? And that brings me back to what I said just now,
and I naturally ask what is to be the end of it?'
'I know what's to be the end of it, as far as I am concerned,'
replies Mrs Pipchin, 'and that's enough for me. I'm going to take
myself off in a jiffy.'
'In a which, Mrs Pipchin,' says Mrs Chick.
'In a jiffy,' retorts Mrs Pipchin sharply.
'Ah, well! really I can't blame you, Mrs Pipchin,' says Mrs Chick,
'It would be pretty much the same to me, if you could,' replies the
sardonic Pipchin. 'At any rate I'm going. I can't stop here. I should
be dead in a week. I had to cook my own pork chop yesterday, and I'm
not used to it. My constitution will be giving way next. Besides, I
had a very fair connexion at Brighton when I came here - little
Pankey's folks alone were worth a good eighty pounds a-year to me -
and I can't afford to throw it away. I've written to my niece, and she
expects me by this time.'
'Have you spoken to my brother?' inquires Mrs Chick
'Oh, yes, it's very easy to say speak to him,' retorts Mrs Pipchin.
'How is it done? I called out to him yesterday, that I was no use
here, and that he had better let me send for Mrs Richards. He grunted
something or other that meant yes, and I sent. Grunt indeed! If he had
been Mr Pipchin, he'd have had some reason to grunt. Yah! I've no
patience with it!'
Here this exemplary female, who has pumped up so much fortitude and
virtue from the depths of the Peruvian mines, rises from her cushioned
property to see Mrs Chick to the door. Mrs Chick, deploring to the
last the peculiar character of her brother, noiselessly retires, much
occupied with her own sagacity and clearness of head.
In the dusk of the evening Mr Toodle, being off duty, arrives with
Polly and a box, and leaves them, with a sounding kiss, in the hall of
the empty house, the retired character of which affects Mr Toodle's
'I tell you what, Polly, me dear,' says Mr Toodle, 'being now an
ingine-driver, and well to do in the world, I shouldn't allow of your
coming here, to be made dull-like, if it warn't for favours past. But
favours past, Polly, is never to be forgot. To them which is in
adversity, besides, your face is a cord'l. So let's have another kiss
on it, my dear. You wish no better than to do a right act, I know; and
my views is, that it's right and dutiful to do this. Good-night,
Mrs Pipchin by this time looms dark in her black bombazeen skirts,
black bonnet, and shawl; and has her personal property packed up; and
has her chair (late a favourite chair of Mr Dombey's and the dead
bargain of the sale) ready near the street door; and is only waiting
for a fly-van, going to-night to Brighton on private service, which is
to call for her, by private contract, and convey her home.
Presently it comes. Mrs Pipchin's wardrobe being handed in and
stowed away, Mrs Pipchin's chair is next handed in, and placed in a
convenient corner among certain trusses of hay; it being the intention
of the amiable woman to occupy the chair during her journey. Mrs
Pipchin herself is next handed in, and grimly takes her seat. There is
a snaky gleam in her hard grey eye, as of anticipated rounds of
buttered toast, relays of hot chops, worryings and quellings of young
children, sharp snappings at poor Berry, and all the other delights of
her Ogress's castle. Mrs Pipchin almost laughs as the fly-van drives
off, and she composes her black bombazeen skirts, and settles herself
among the cushions of her easy chair.
The house is such a ruin that the rats have fled, and there is not
But Polly, though alone in the deserted mansion - for there is no
companionship in the shut-up rooms in which its late master hides his
head - is not alone long. It is night; and she is sitting at work in
the housekeeper's room, trying to forget what a lonely house it is,
and what a history belongs to it; when there is a knock at the hall
door, as loud sounding as any knock can be, striking into such an
empty place. Opening it, she returns across the echoing hall,
accompanied by a female figure in a close black bonnet. It is Miss
Tox, and Miss Tox's eyes are red.
'Oh, Polly,' says Miss Tox, 'when I looked in to have a little
lesson with the children just now, I got the message that you left for
me; and as soon as I could recover my spirits at all, I came on after
you. Is there no one here but you?'
'Ah! not a soul,' says Polly.
'Have you seen him?' whispers Miss Tox.
'Bless you,' returns Polly, 'no; he has not been seen this many a
day. They tell me he never leaves his room.'
'Is he said to be ill?' inquires Miss Tox.
'No, Ma'am, not that I know of,' returns Polly, 'except in his
mind. He must be very bad there, poor gentleman!'
Miss Tox's sympathy is such that she can scarcely speak. She is no
chicken, but she has not grown tough with age and celibacy. Her heart
is very tender, her compassion very genuine, her homage very real.
Beneath the locket with the fishy eye in it, Miss Tox bears better
qualities than many a less whimsical outside; such qualities as will
outlive, by many courses of the sun, the best outsides and brightest
husks that fall in the harvest of the great reaper.
It is long before Miss Tox goes away, and before Polly, with a
candle flaring on the blank stairs, looks after her, for company, down
the street, and feels unwilling to go back into the dreary house, and
jar its emptiness with the heavy fastenings of the door, and glide
away to bed. But all this Polly does; and in the morning sets in one
of those darkened rooms such matters as she has been advised to
prepare, and then retires and enters them no more until next morning
at the same hour. There are bells there, but they never ring; and
though she can sometimes hear a footfall going to and fro, it never
Miss Tox returns early in the day. It then begins to be Miss Tox's
occupation to prepare little dainties - or what are such to her - to
be carried into these rooms next morning. She derives so much
satisfaction from the pursuit, that she enters on it regularly from
that time; and brings daily in her little basket, various choice
condiments selected from the scanty stores of the deceased owner of
the powdered head and pigtail. She likewise brings, in sheets of
curl-paper, morsels of cold meats, tongues of sheep, halves of fowls,
for her own dinner; and sharing these collations with Polly, passes
the greater part of her time in the ruined house that the rats have
fled from: hiding, in a fright at every sound, stealing in and out
like a criminal; only desiring to be true to the fallen object of her
admiration, unknown to him, unknown to all the world but one poor
The Major knows it; but no one is the wiser for that, though the
Major is much the merrier. The Major, in a fit of curiosity, has
charged the Native to watch the house sometimes, and find out what
becomes of Dombey. The Native has reported Miss Tox's fidelity, and
the Major has nearly choked himself dead with laughter. He is
permanently bluer from that hour, and constantly wheezes to himself,
his lobster eyes starting out of his head, 'Damme, Sir, the woman's a
And the ruined man. How does he pass the hours, alone?
'Let him remember it in that room, years to come!' He did remember
it. It was heavy on his mind now; heavier than all the rest.
'Let him remember it in that room, years to come! The rain that
falls upon the roof, the wind that mourns outside the door, may have
foreknowledge in their melancholy sound. Let him remember it in that
room, years to come!'
He did remember it. In the miserable night he thought of it; in the
dreary day, the wretched dawn, the ghostly, memory-haunted twilight.
He did remember it. In agony, in sorrow, in remorse, in despair!
'Papa! Papa! Speak to me, dear Papa!' He heard the words again, and
saw the face. He saw it fall upon the trembling hands, and heard the
one prolonged low cry go upward.
He was fallen, never to be raised up any more. For the night of his
worldly ruin there was no to-morrow's sun; for the stain of his
domestic shame there was no purification; nothing, thank Heaven, could
bring his dead child back to life. But that which he might have made
so different in all the Past - which might have made the Past itself
so different, though this he hardly thought of now - that which was
his own work, that which he could so easily have wrought into a
blessing, and had set himself so steadily for years to form into a
curse: that was the sharp grief of his soul.
Oh! He did remember it! The rain that fell upon the roof, the wind
that mourned outside the door that night, had had foreknowledge in
their melancholy sound. He knew, now, what he had done. He knew, now,
that he had called down that upon his head, which bowed it lower than
the heaviest stroke of fortune. He knew, now, what it was to be
rejected and deserted; now, when every loving blossom he had withered
in his innocent daughter's heart was snowing down in ashes on him.
He thought of her, as she had been that night when he and his bride
came home. He thought of her as she had been, in all the home-events
of the abandoned house. He thought, now, that of all around him, she
alone had never changed. His boy had faded into dust, his proud wife
had sunk into a polluted creature, his flatterer and friend had been
transformed into the worst of villains, his riches had melted away,
the very walls that sheltered him looked on him as a stranger; she
alone had turned the same mild gentle look upon him always. Yes, to
the latest and the last. She had never changed to him - nor had he
ever changed to her - and she was lost.
As, one by one, they fell away before his mind - his baby- hope,
his wife, his friend, his fortune - oh how the mist, through which he
had seen her, cleared, and showed him her true self! Oh, how much
better than this that he had loved her as he had his boy, and lost her
as he had his boy, and laid them in their early grave together!
In his pride - for he was proud yet - he let the world go from him
freely. As it fell away, he shook it off. Whether he imagined its face
as expressing pity for him, or indifference to him, he shunned it
alike. It was in the same degree to be avoided, in either aspect. He
had no idea of any one companion in his misery, but the one he had
driven away. What he would have said to her, or what consolation
submitted to receive from her, he never pictured to himself. But he
always knew she would have been true to him, if he had suffered her.
He always knew she would have loved him better now, than at any other
time; he was as certain that it was in her nature, as he was that
there was a sky above him; and he sat thinking so, in his loneliness,
from hour to hour. Day after day uttered this speech; night after
night showed him this knowledge.
It began, beyond all doubt (however slow it advanced for some
time), in the receipt of her young husband's letter, and the certainty
that she was gone. And yet - so proud he was in his ruin, or so
reminiscent of her only as something that might have been his, but was
lost beyond redemption - that if he could have heard her voice in an
adjoining room, he would not have gone to her. If he could have seen
her in the street, and she had done no more than look at him as she
had been used to look, he would have passed on with his old cold
unforgiving face, and not addressed her, or relaxed it, though his
heart should have broken soon afterwards. However turbulent his
thoughts, or harsh his anger had been, at first, concerning her
marriage, or her husband, that was all past now. He chiefly thought of
what might have been, and what was not. What was, was all summed up in
this: that she was lost, and he bowed down with sorrow and remorse.
And now he felt that he had had two children born to him in that
house, and that between him and the bare wide empty walls there was a
tie, mournful, but hard to rend asunder, connected with a double
childhood, and a double loss. He had thought to leave the house -
knowing he must go, not knowing whither - upon the evening of the day
on which this feeling first struck root in his breast; but he resolved
to stay another night, and in the night to ramble through the rooms
He came out of his solitude when it was the dead of night, and with
a candle in his hand went softly up the stairs. Of all the footmarks
there, making them as common as the common street, there was not one,
he thought, but had seemed at the time to set itself upon his brain
while he had kept close, listening. He looked at their number, and
their hurry, and contention - foot treading foot out, and upward track
and downward jostling one another - and thought, with absolute dread
and wonder, how much he must have suffered during that trial, and what
a changed man he had cause to be. He thought, besides, oh was there,
somewhere in the world, a light footstep that might have worn out in a
moment half those marks! - and bent his head, and wept as he went up.
He almost saw it, going on before. He stopped, looking up towards
the skylight; and a figure, childish itself, but carrying a child, and
singing as it went, seemed to be there again. Anon, it was the same
figure, alone, stopping for an instant, with suspended breath; the
bright hair clustering loosely round its tearful face; and looking
back at him.
He wandered through the rooms: lately so luxurious; now so bare and
dismal and so changed, apparently, even in their shape and size. The
press of footsteps was as thick here; and the same consideration of
the suffering he had had, perplexed and terrified him. He began to
fear that all this intricacy in his brain would drive him mad; and
that his thoughts already lost coherence as the footprints did, and
were pieced on to one another, with the same trackless involutions,
and varieties of indistinct shapes.
He did not so much as know in which of these rooms she had lived,
when she was alone. He was glad to leave them, and go wandering higher
up. Abundance of associations were here, connected with his false
wife, his false friend and servant, his false grounds of pride; but he
put them all by now, and only recalled miserably, weakly, fondly, his
Everywhere, the footsteps! They had had no respect for the old room
high up, where the little bed had been; he could hardly find a clear
space there, to throw himself down, on the floor, against the wall,
poor broken man, and let his tears flow as they would. He had shed so
many tears here, long ago, that he was less ashamed of his weakness in
this place than in any other - perhaps, with that consciousness, had
made excuses to himself for coming here. Here, with stooping
shoulders, and his chin dropped on his breast, he had come. Here,
thrown upon the bare boards, in the dead of night, he wept, alone - a
proud man, even then; who, if a kind hand could have been stretched
out, or a kind face could have looked in, would have risen up, and
turned away, and gone down to his cell.
When the day broke he was shut up in his rooms again. He had meant
to go away to-day, but clung to this tie in the house as the last and
only thing left to him. He would go to-morrow. To-morrow came. He
would go to-morrow. Every night, within the knowledge of no human
creature, he came forth, and wandered through the despoiled house like
a ghost. Many a morning when the day broke, his altered face, drooping
behind the closed blind in his window, imperfectly transparent to the
light as yet, pondered on the loss of his two children. It was one
child no more. He reunited them in his thoughts, and they were never
asunder. Oh, that he could have united them in his past love, and in
death, and that one had not been so much worse than dead!
Strong mental agitation and disturbance was no novelty to him, even
before his late sufferings. It never is, to obstinate and sullen
natures; for they struggle hard to be such. Ground, long undermined,
will often fall down in a moment; what was undermined here in so many
ways, weakened, and crumbled, little by little, more and more, as the
hand moved on the dial.
At last he began to think he need not go at all. He might yet give
up what his creditors had spared him (that they had not spared him
more, was his own act), and only sever the tie between him and the
ruined house, by severing that other link -
It was then that his footfall was audible in the late housekeeper's
room, as he walked to and fro; but not audible in its true meaning, or
it would have had an appalling sound.
The world was very busy and restless about him. He became aware of
that again. It was whispering and babbling. It was never quiet. This,
and the intricacy and complication of the footsteps, harassed him to
death. Objects began to take a bleared and russet colour in his eyes.
Dombey and Son was no more - his children no more. This must be
thought of, well, to-morrow.
He thought of it to-morrow; and sitting thinking in his chair, saw
in the glass, from time to time, this picture:
A spectral, haggard, wasted likeness of himself, brooded and
brooded over the empty fireplace. Now it lifted up its head, examining
the lines and hollows in its face; now hung it down again, and brooded
afresh. Now it rose and walked about; now passed into the next room,
and came back with something from the dressing-table in its breast.
Now, it was looking at the bottom of the door, and thinking.
Hush! what? It was thinking that if blood were to trickle that way,
and to leak out into the hall, it must be a long time going so far. It
would move so stealthily and slowly, creeping on, with here a lazy
little pool, and there a start, and then another little pool, that a
desperately wounded man could only be discovered through its means,
either dead or dying. When it had thought of this a long while, it got
up again, and walked to and fro with its hand in its breast. He
glanced at it occasionally, very curious to watch its motions, and he
marked how wicked and murderous that hand looked.
Now it was thinking again! What was it thinking?
Whether they would tread in the blood when it crept so far, and
carry it about the house among those many prints of feet, or even out
into the street.
It sat down, with its eyes upon the empty fireplace, and as it lost
itself in thought there shone into the room a gleam of light; a ray of
sun. It was quite unmindful, and sat thinking. Suddenly it rose, with
a terrible face, and that guilty hand grasping what was in its breast.
Then it was arrested by a cry - a wild, loud, piercing, loving,
rapturous cry - and he only saw his own reflection in the glass, and
at his knees, his daughter!
Yes. His daughter! Look at her! Look here! Down upon the ground,
clinging to him, calling to him, folding her hands, praying to him.
'Papa! Dearest Papa! Pardon me, forgive me! I have come back to ask
forgiveness on my knees. I never can be happy more, without it!'
Unchanged still. Of all the world, unchanged. Raising the same face
to his, as on that miserable night. Asking his forgiveness!
'Dear Papa, oh don't look strangely on me! I never meant to leave
you. I never thought of it, before or afterwards. I was frightened
when I went away, and could not think. Papa, dear, I am changed. I am
penitent. I know my fault. I know my duty better now. Papa, don't cast
me off, or I shall die!'
He tottered to his chair. He felt her draw his arms about her neck;
he felt her put her own round his; he felt her kisses on his face; he
felt her wet cheek laid against his own; he felt - oh, how deeply! -
all that he had done.
Upon the breast that he had bruised, against the heart that he had
almost broken, she laid his face, now covered with his hands, and
'Papa, love, I am a mother. I have a child who will soon call
Walter by the name by which I call you. When it was born, and when I
knew how much I loved it, I knew what I had done in leaving you.
Forgive me, dear Papa! oh say God bless me, and my little child!'
He would have said it, if he could. He would have raised his hands
and besought her for pardon, but she caught them in her own, and put
them down, hurriedly.
'My little child was born at sea, Papa I prayed to God (and so did
Walter for me) to spare me, that I might come home. The moment I could
land, I came back to you. Never let us be parted any more, Papa. Never
let us be parted any more!'
His head, now grey, was encircled by her arm; and he groaned to
think that never, never, had it rested so before.
'You will come home with me, Papa, and see my baby. A boy, Papa.
His name is Paul. I think - I hope - he's like - '
Her tears stopped her.
'Dear Papa, for the sake of my child, for the sake of the name we
have given him, for my sake, pardon Walter. He is so kind and tender
to me. I am so happy with him. It was not his fault that we were
married. It was mine. I loved him so much.'
She clung closer to him, more endearing and more earnest.
'He is the darling of my heart, Papa I would die for him. He will
love and honour you as I will. We will teach our little child to love
and honour you; and we will tell him, when he can understand, that you
had a son of that name once, and that he died, and you were very
sorry; but that he is gone to Heaven, where we all hope to see him
when our time for resting comes. Kiss me, Papa, as a promise that you
will be reconciled to Walter - to my dearest husband - to the father
of the little child who taught me to come back, Papa Who taught me to
As she clung closer to him, in another burst of tears, he kissed
her on her lips, and, lifting up his eyes, said, 'Oh my God, forgive
me, for I need it very much!'
With that he dropped his head again, lamenting over and caressing
her, and there was not a sound in all the house for a long, long time;
they remaining clasped in one another's arms, in the glorious sunshine
that had crept in with Florence.
He dressed himself for going out, with a docile submission to her
entreaty; and walking with a feeble gait, and looking back, with a
tremble, at the room in which he had been so long shut up, and where
he had seen the picture in the glass, passed out with her into the
hall. Florence, hardly glancing round her, lest she should remind him
freshly of their last parting - for their feet were on the very stones
where he had struck her in his madness - and keeping close to him,
with her eyes upon his face, and his arm about her, led him out to a
coach that was waiting at the door, and carried him away.
Then, Miss Tox and Polly came out of their concealment, and exulted
tearfully. And then they packed his clothes, and books, and so forth,
with great care; and consigned them in due course to certain persons
sent by Florence, in the evening, to fetch them. And then they took a
last cup of tea in the lonely house.
'And so Dombey and Son, as I observed upon a certain sad occasion,'
said Miss Tox, winding up a host of recollections, 'is indeed a
daughter, Polly, after all.'
'And a good one!' exclaimed Polly.
'You are right,' said Miss Tox; 'and it's a credit to you, Polly,
that you were always her friend when she was a little child. You were
her friend long before I was, Polly,' said Miss Tox; 'and you're a
good creature. Robin!'
Miss Tox addressed herself to a bullet-headed young man, who
appeared to be in but indifferent circumstances, and in depressed
spirits, and who was sitting in a remote corner. Rising, he disclosed
to view the form and features of the Grinder.
'Robin,' said Miss Tox, 'I have just observed to your mother, as
you may have heard, that she is a good creature.
'And so she is, Miss,' quoth the Grinder, with some feeling.
'Very well, Robin,' said Miss Tox, 'I am glad to hear you say so.
Now, Robin, as I am going to give you a trial, at your urgent request,
as my domestic, with a view to your restoration to respectability, I
will take this impressive occasion of remarking that I hope you will
never forget that you have, and have always had, a good mother, and
that you will endeavour so to conduct yourself as to be a comfort to
'Upon my soul I will, Miss,' returned the Grinder. 'I have come
through a good deal, and my intentions is now as straightfor'ard,
Miss, as a cove's - '
'I must get you to break yourself of that word, Robin, if you
Please,' interposed Miss Tox, politely.
'If you please, Miss, as a chap's - '
'Thankee, Robin, no,' returned Miss Tox, 'I should prefer
'As a indiwiddle's,' said the Grinder.
'Much better,' remarked Miss Tox, complacently; 'infinitely more
' - can be,' pursued Rob. 'If I hadn't been and got made a Grinder
on, Miss and Mother, which was a most unfortunate circumstance for a
young co - indiwiddle.'
'Very good indeed,' observed Miss Tox, approvingly.
' - and if I hadn't been led away by birds, and then fallen into a
bad service,' said the Grinder, 'I hope I might have done better. But
it's never too late for a - '
'Indi - ' suggested Miss Tox.
' - widdle,' said the Grinder, 'to mend; and I hope to mend, Miss,
with your kind trial; and wishing, Mother, my love to father, and
brothers and sisters, and saying of it.'
'I am very glad indeed to hear it,' observed Miss Tox. 'Will you
take a little bread and butter, and a cup of tea, before we go,
'Thankee, Miss,' returned the Grinder; who immediately began to use
his own personal grinders in a most remarkable manner, as if he had
been on very short allowance for a considerable period.
Miss Tox, being, in good time, bonneted and shawled, and Polly too,
Rob hugged his mother, and followed his new mistress away; so much to
the hopeful admiration of Polly, that something in her eyes made
luminous rings round the gas-lamps as she looked after him. Polly then
put out her light, locked the house-door, delivered the key at an
agent's hard by, and went home as fast as she could go; rejoicing in
the shrill delight that her unexpected arrival would occasion there.
The great house, dumb as to all that had been suffered in it, and the
changes it had witnessed, stood frowning like a dark mute on the
street; baulking any nearer inquiries with the staring announcement
that the lease of this desirable Family Mansion was to be disposed of.
The grand half-yearly festival holden by Doctor and Mrs Blimber, on
which occasion they requested the pleasure of the company of every
young gentleman pursuing his studies in that genteel establishment, at
an early party, when the hour was half-past seven o'clock, and when
the object was quadrilles, had duly taken place, about this time; and
the young gentlemen, with no unbecoming demonstrations of levity, had
betaken themselves, in a state of scholastic repletion, to their own
homes. Mr Skettles had repaired abroad, permanently to grace the
establishment of his father Sir Barnet Skettles, whose popular manners
had obtained him a diplomatic appointment, the honours of which were
discharged by himself and Lady Skettles, to the satisfaction even of
their own countrymen and countrywomen: which was considered almost
miraculous. Mr Tozer, now a young man of lofty stature, in Wellington
boots, was so extremely full of antiquity as to be nearly on a par
with a genuine ancient Roman in his knowledge of English: a triumph
that affected his good parents with the tenderest emotions, and caused
the father and mother of Mr Briggs (whose learning, like ill-arranged
luggage, was so tightly packed that he couldn't get at anything he
wanted) to hide their diminished heads. The fruit laboriously gathered
from the tree of knowledge by this latter young gentleman, in fact,
had been subjected to so much pressure, that it had become a kind of
intellectual Norfolk Biffin, and had nothing of its original form or
flavour remaining. Master Bitherstone now, on whom the forcing system
had the happier and not uncommon effect of leaving no impression
whatever, when the forcing apparatus ceased to work, was in a much
more comfortable plight; and being then on shipboard, bound for
Bengal, found himself forgetting, with such admirable rapidity, that
it was doubtful whether his declensions of noun-substantives would
hold out to the end of the voyage.
When Doctor Blimber, in pursuance of the usual course, would have
said to the young gentlemen, on the morning of the party, 'Gentlemen,
we will resume our studies on the twenty-fifth of next month,' he
departed from the usual course, and said, 'Gentlemen, when our friend
Cincinnatus retired to his farm, he did not present to the senate any
Roman who he sought to nominate as his successor.' But there is a
Roman here,' said Doctor Blimber, laying his hand on the shoulder of
Mr Feeder, B.A., adolescens imprimis gravis et doctus, gentlemen, whom
I, a retiring Cincinnatus, wish to present to my little senate, as
their future Dictator. Gentlemen, we will resume our studies on the
twenty-fifth of next month, under the auspices of Mr Feeder, B.A.' At
this (which Doctor Blimber had previously called upon all the parents,
and urbanely explained), the young gentlemen cheered; and Mr Tozer, on
behalf of the rest, instantly presented the Doctor with a silver
inkstand, in a speech containing very little of the mother-tongue, but
fifteen quotations from the Latin, and seven from the Greek, which
moved the younger of the young gentlemen to discontent and envy: they
remarking, 'Oh, ah. It was all very well for old Tozer, but they
didn't subscribe money for old Tozer to show off with, they supposed;
did they? What business was it of old Tozer's more than anybody
else's? It wasn't his inkstand. Why couldn't he leave the boys'
property alone?' and murmuring other expressions of their
dissatisfaction, which seemed to find a greater relief in calling him
old Tozer, than in any other available vent.
Not a word had been said to the young gentlemen, nor a hint
dropped, of anything like a contemplated marriage between Mr Feeder,
B.A., and the fair Cornelia Blimber. Doctor Blimber, especially,
seemed to take pains to look as if nothing would surprise him more;
but it was perfectly well known to all the young gentlemen
nevertheless, and when they departed for the society of their
relations and friends, they took leave of Mr Feeder with awe.
Mr Feeder's most romantic visions were fulfilled. The Doctor had
determined to paint the house outside, and put it in thorough repair;
and to give up the business, and to give up Cornelia. The painting and
repairing began upon the very day of the young gentlemen's departure,
and now behold! the wedding morning was come, and Cornelia, in a new
pair of spectacles, was waiting to be led to the hymeneal altar.
The Doctor with his learned legs, and Mrs Blimber in a lilac
bonnet, and Mr Feeder, B.A., with his long knuckles and his bristly
head of hair, and Mr Feeder's brother, the Reverend Alfred Feeder,
M.A., who was to perform the ceremony, were all assembled in the
drawing-room, and Cornelia with her orange-flowers and bridesmaids had
just come down, and looked, as of old, a little squeezed in
appearance, but very charming, when the door opened, and the weak-eyed
young man, in a loud voice, made the following proclamation:
'MR AND MRS TOOTS!'
Upon which there entered Mr Toots, grown extremely stout, and on
his arm a lady very handsomely and becomingly dressed, with very
bright black eyes. 'Mrs Blimber,' said Mr Toots, 'allow me to present
Mrs Blimber was delighted to receive her. Mrs Blimber was a little
condescending, but extremely kind.
'And as you've known me for a long time, you know,' said Mr Toots,
'let me assure you that she is one of the most remarkable women that
'My dear!' remonstrated Mrs Toots.
'Upon my word and honour she is,' said Mr Toots. 'I - I assure you,
Mrs Blimber, she's a most extraordinary woman.'
Mrs Toots laughed merrily, and Mrs Blimber led her to Cornelia. Mr
Toots having paid his respects in that direction and having saluted
his old preceptor, who said, in allusion to his conjugal state, 'Well,
Toots, well, Toots! So you are one of us, are you, Toots?' - retired
with Mr Feeder, B.A., into a window.
Mr Feeder, B.A., being in great spirits, made a spar at Mr Toots,
and tapped him skilfully with the back of his hand on the breastbone.
'Well, old Buck!' said Mr Feeder with a laugh. 'Well! Here we are!
Taken in and done for. Eh?'
'Feeder,' returned Mr Toots. 'I give you joy. If you're as - as- as
perfectly blissful in a matrimonial life, as I am myself, you'll have
nothing to desire.'
'I don't forget my old friends, you see,' said Mr Feeder. 'I ask em
to my wedding, Toots.'
'Feeder,' replied Mr Toots gravely, 'the fact is, that there were
several circumstances which prevented me from communicating with you
until after my marriage had been solemnised. In the first place, I had
made a perfect Brute of myself to you, on the subject of Miss Dombey;
and I felt that if you were asked to any wedding of mine, you would
naturally expect that it was with Miss Dombey, which involved
explanations, that upon my word and honour, at that crisis, would have
knocked me completely over. In the second place, our wedding was
strictly private; there being nobody present but one friend of myself
and Mrs Toots's, who is a Captain in - I don't exactly know in what,'
said Mr Toots, 'but it's of no consequence. I hope, Feeder, that in
writing a statement of what had occurred before Mrs Toots and myself
went abroad upon our foreign tour, I fully discharged the offices of
'Toots, my boy,' said Mr Feeder, shaking his hands, 'I was joking.'
'And now, Feeder,' said Mr Toots, 'I should be glad to know what
you think of my union.'
'Capital!' returned Mr Feeder.
'You think it's capital, do you, Feeder?'said Mr Toots solemnly.
'Then how capital must it be to Me! For you can never know what an
extraordinary woman that is.'
Mr Feeder was willing to take it for granted. But Mr Toots shook
his head, and wouldn't hear of that being possible.
'You see,' said Mr Toots, 'what I wanted in a wife was - in short,
was sense. Money, Feeder, I had. Sense I - I had not, particularly.'
Mr Feeder murmured, 'Oh, yes, you had, Toots!' But Mr Toots said:
'No, Feeder, I had not. Why should I disguise it? I had not. I knew
that sense was There,' said Mr Toots, stretching out his hand towards
his wife, 'in perfect heaps. I had no relation to object or be
offended, on the score of station; for I had no relation. I have never
had anybody belonging to me but my guardian, and him, Feeder, I have
always considered as a Pirate and a Corsair. Therefore, you know it
was not likely,' said Mr Toots, 'that I should take his opinion.'
'No,' said Mr Feeder.
'Accordingly,' resumed Mr Toots, 'I acted on my own. Bright was the
day on which I did so! Feeder! Nobody but myself can tell what the
capacity of that woman's mind is. If ever the Rights of Women, and all
that kind of thing, are properly attended to, it will be through her
powerful intellect - Susan, my dear!' said Mr Toots, looking abruptly
out of the windows 'pray do not exert yourself!'
'My dear,' said Mrs Toots, 'I was only talking.'
'But, my love,' said Mr Toots, 'pray do not exert yourself. You
really must be careful. Do not, my dear Susan, exert yourself. She's
so easily excited,' said Mr Toots, apart to Mrs Blimber, 'and then she
forgets the medical man altogether.'
Mrs Blimber was impressing on Mrs Toots the necessity of caution,
when Mr Feeder, B.A., offered her his arm, and led her down to the
carriages that were waiting to go to church. Doctor Blimber escorted
Mrs Toots. Mr Toots escorted the fair bride, around whose lambent
spectacles two gauzy little bridesmaids fluttered like moths. Mr
Feeder's brother, Mr Alfred Feeder, M.A., had already gone on, in
advance, to assume his official functions.
The ceremony was performed in an admirable manner. Cornelia, with
her crisp little curls, 'went in,' as the Chicken might have said,
with great composure; and Doctor Blimber gave her away, like a man who
had quite made up his mind to it. The gauzy little bridesmaids
appeared to suffer most. Mrs Blimber was affected, but gently so; and
told the Reverend Mr Alfred Feeder, M.A., on the way home, that if she
could only have seen Cicero in his retirement at Tusculum, she would
not have had a wish, now, ungratified.
There was a breakfast afterwards, limited to the same small party;
at which the spirits of Mr Feeder, B.A., were tremendous, and so
communicated themselves to Mrs Toots that Mr Toots was several times
heard to observe, across the table, 'My dear Susan, don't exert
yourself!' The best of it was, that Mr Toots felt it incunbent on him
to make a speech; and in spite of a whole code of telegraphic
dissuasions from Mrs Toots, appeared on his legs for the first time in
'I really,' said Mr Toots, 'in this house, where whatever was done
to me in the way of - of any mental confusion sometimes - which is of
no consequence and I impute to nobody - I was always treated like one
of Doctor Blimber's family, and had a desk to myself for a
considerable period - can - not - allow - my friend Feeder to be - '
Mrs Toots suggested 'married.'
'It may not be inappropriate to the occasion, or altogether
uninteresting,' said Mr Toots with a delighted face, 'to observe that
my wife is a most extraordinary woman, and would do this much better
than myself - allow my friend Feeder to be married - especially to - '
Mrs Toots suggested 'to Miss Blimber.'
'To Mrs Feeder, my love!' said Mr Toots, in a subdued tone of
private discussion: "'whom God hath joined," you know, "let no man" -
don't you know? I cannot allow my friend Feeder to be married -
especially to Mrs Feeder - without proposing their - their - Toasts;
and may,' said Mr Toots, fixing his eyes on his wife, as if for
inspiration in a high flight, 'may the torch of Hymen be the beacon of
joy, and may the flowers we have this day strewed in their path, be
the - the banishers of- of gloom!'
Doctor Blimber, who had a taste for metaphor, was pleased with
this, and said, 'Very good, Toots! Very well said, indeed, Toots!' and
nodded his head and patted his hands. Mr Feeder made in reply, a comic
speech chequered with sentiment. Mr Alfred Feeder, M.A, was afterwards
very happy on Doctor and Mrs Blimber; Mr Feeder, B.A., scarcely less
so, on the gauzy little bridesmaids. Doctor Blimber then, in a
sonorous voice, delivered a few thoughts in the pastoral style,
relative to the rushes among which it was the intention of himself and
Mrs Blimber to dwell, and the bee that would hum around their cot.
Shortly after which, as the Doctor's eyes were twinkling in a
remarkable manner, and his son-in-law had already observed that time
was made for slaves, and had inquired whether Mrs Toots sang, the
discreet Mrs Blimber dissolved the sitting, and sent Cornelia away,
very cool and comfortable, in a post-chaise, with the man of her heart
Mr and Mrs Toots withdrew to the Bedford (Mrs Toots had been there
before in old times, under her maiden name of Nipper), and there found
a letter, which it took Mr Toots such an enormous time to read, that
Mrs Toots was frightened.
'My dear Susan,' said Mr Toots, 'fright is worse than exertion.
Pray be calm!'
'Who is it from?' asked Mrs Toots.
'Why, my love,' said Mr Toots, 'it's from Captain Gills. Do not
excite yourself. Walters and Miss Dombey are expected home!'
'My dear,' said Mrs Toots, raising herself quickly from the sofa,
very pale, 'don't try to deceive me, for it's no use, they're come
home - I see it plainly in your face!'
'She's a most extraordinary woman!' exclaimed Mr Toots, in
rapturous admiration. 'You're perfectly right, my love, they have come
home. Miss Dombey has seen her father, and they are reconciled!'
'Reconciled!' cried Mrs Toots, clapping her hands.
'My dear,' said Mr Toots; 'pray do not exert yourself. Do remember
the medical man! Captain Gills says - at least he don't say, but I
imagine, from what I can make out, he means - that Miss Dombey has
brought her unfortunate father away from his old house, to one where
she and Walters are living; that he is lying very ill there - supposed
to be dying; and that she attends upon him night and day.'
Mrs Toots began to cry quite bitterly.
'My dearest Susan,' replied Mr Toots, 'do, do, if you possibly can,
remember the medical man! If you can't, it's of no consequence - but
do endeavour to!'
His wife, with her old manner suddenly restored, so pathetically
entreated him to take her to her precious pet, her little mistress,
her own darling, and the like, that Mr Toots, whose sympathy and
admiration were of the strongest kind, consented from his very heart
of hearts; and they agreed to depart immediately, and present
themselves in answer to the Captain's letter.
Now some hidden sympathies of things, or some coincidences, had
that day brought the Captain himself (toward whom Mr and Mrs Toots
were soon journeying) into the flowery train of wedlock; not as a
principal, but as an accessory. It happened accidentally, and thus:
The Captain, having seen Florence and her baby for a moment, to his
unbounded content, and having had a long talk with Walter, turned out
for a walk; feeling it necessary to have some solitary meditation on
the changes of human affairs, and to shake his glazed hat profoundly
over the fall of Mr Dombey, for whom the generosity and simplicity of
his nature were awakened in a lively manner. The Captain would have
been very low, indeed, on the unhappy gentleman's account, but for the
recollection of the baby; which afforded him such intense satisfaction
whenever it arose, that he laughed aloud as he went along the street,
and, indeed, more than once, in a sudden impulse of joy, threw up his
glazed hat and caught it again; much to the amazement of the
spectators. The rapid alternations of light and shade to which these
two conflicting subjects of reflection exposed the Captain, were so
very trying to his spirits, that he felt a long walk necessary to his
composure; and as there is a great deal in the influence of harmonious
associations, he chose, for the scene of this walk, his old
neighbourhood, down among the mast, oar, and block makers,
ship-biscuit bakers, coal-whippers, pitch-kettles, sailors, canals,
docks, swing-bridges, and other soothing objects.
These peaceful scenes, and particularly the region of Limehouse
Hole and thereabouts, were so influential in calming the Captain, that
he walked on with restored tranquillity, and was, in fact, regaling
himself, under his breath, with the ballad of Lovely Peg, when, on
turning a corner, he was suddenly transfixed and rendered speechless
by a triumphant procession that he beheld advancing towards him.
This awful demonstration was headed by that determined woman Mrs
MacStinger, who, preserving a countenance of inexorable resolution,
and wearing conspicuously attached to her obdurate bosom a stupendous
watch and appendages, which the Captain recognised at a glance as the
property of Bunsby, conducted under her arm no other than that
sagacious mariner; he, with the distraught and melancholy visage of a
captive borne into a foreign land, meekly resigning himself to her
will. Behind them appeared the young MacStingers, in a body, exulting.
Behind them, M~ two ladies of a terrible and steadfast
aspect, leading between them a short gentleman in a tall hat, who
likewise exulted. In the wake, appeared Bunsby's boy, bearing
umbrellas. The whole were in good marching order; and a dreadful
smartness that pervaded the party would have sufficiently announced,
if the intrepid countenances of the ladies had been wanting, that it
was a procession of sacrifice, and that the victim was Bunsby.
The first impulse of the Captain was to run away. This also
appeared to be the first impulse of Bunsby, hopeless as its execution
must have proved. But a cry of recognition proceeding from the party,
and Alexander MacStinger running up to the Captain with open arms, the
'Well, Cap'en Cuttle!' said Mrs MacStinger. 'This is indeed a
meeting! I bear no malice now, Cap'en Cuttle - you needn't fear that
I'm a going to cast any reflections. I hope to go to the altar in
another spirit.' Here Mrs MacStinger paused, and drawing herself up,
and inflating her bosom with a long breath, said, in allusion to the
victim, 'My 'usband, Cap'en Cuttle!'
The abject Bunsby looked neither to the right nor to the left, nor
at his bride, nor at his friend, but straight before him at nothing.
The Captain putting out his hand, Bunsby put out his; but, in answer
to the Captain's greeting, spake no word.
'Cap'en Cuttle,' said Mrs MacStinger, 'if you would wish to heal up
past animosities, and to see the last of your friend, my 'usband, as a
single person, we should be 'appy of your company to chapel. Here is a
lady here,' said Mrs MacStinger, turning round to the more intrepid of
the two, 'my bridesmaid, that will be glad of your protection, Cap'en
The short gentleman in the tall hat, who it appeared was the
husband of the other lady, and who evidently exulted at the reduction
of a fellow creature to his own condition, gave place at this, and
resigned the lady to Captain Cuttle. The lady immediately seized him,
and, observing that there was no time to lose, gave the word, in a
strong voice, to advance.
The Captain's concern for his friend, not unmingled, at first, with
some concern for himself - for a shadowy terror that he might be
married by violence, possessed him, until his knowledge of the service
came to his relief, and remembering the legal obligation of saying, 'I
will,' he felt himself personally safe so long as he resolved, if
asked any question, distinctly to reply I won't' - threw him into a
profuse perspiration; and rendered him, for a time, insensible to the
movements of the procession, of which he now formed a feature, and to
the conversation of his fair companion. But as he became less
agitated, he learnt from this lady that she was the widow of a Mr
Bokum, who had held an employment in the Custom House; that she was
the dearest friend of Mrs MacStinger, whom she considered a pattern
for her sex; that she had often heard of the Captain, and now hoped he
had repented of his past life; that she trusted Mr Bunsby knew what a
blessing he had gained, but that she feared men seldom did know what
such blessings were, until they had lost them; with more to the same
All this time, the Captain could not but observe that Mrs Bokum
kept her eyes steadily on the bridegroom, and that whenever they came
near a court or other narrow turning which appeared favourable for
flight, she was on the alert to cut him off if he attempted escape.
The other lady, too, as well as her husband, the short gentleman with
the tall hat, were plainly on guard, according to a preconcerted plan;
and the wretched man was so secured by Mrs MacStinger, that any effort
at self-preservation by flight was rendered futile. This, indeed, was
apparent to the mere populace, who expressed their perception of the
fact by jeers and cries; to all of which, the dread MacStinger was
inflexibly indifferent, while Bunsby himself appeared in a state of
The Captain made many attempts to accost the philosopher, if only
in a monosyllable or a signal; but always failed, in consequence of
the vigilance of the guard, and the difficulty, at all times peculiar
to Bunsby's constitution, of having his attention aroused by any
outward and visible sign whatever. Thus they approached the chapel, a
neat whitewashed edifice, recently engaged by the Reverend
Melchisedech Howler, who had consented, on very urgent solicitation,
to give the world another two years of existence, but had informed his
followers that, then, it must positively go.
While the Reverend Melchisedech was offering up some extemporary
orisons, the Captain found an opportunity of growling in the
'What cheer, my lad, what cheer?'
To which Bunsby replied, with a forgetfulness of the Reverend
Melchisedech, which nothing but his desperate circumstances could have
'Jack Bunsby,' whispered the Captain, 'do you do this here, of your
own free will?'
Mr Bunsby answered 'No.'
'Why do you do it, then, my lad?' inquired the Captain, not
Bunsby, still looking, and always looking with an immovable
countenance, at the opposite side of the world, made no reply.
'Why not sheer off?' said the Captain. 'Eh?' whispered Bunsby, with
a momentary gleam of hope. 'Sheer off,' said the Captain.
'Where's the good?' retorted the forlorn sage. 'She'd capter me
'Try!' replied the Captain. 'Cheer up! Come! Now's your time. Sheer
off, Jack Bunsby!'
Jack Bunsby, however, instead of profiting by the advice, said in a
'It all began in that there chest o' yourn. Why did I ever conwoy
her into port that night?'
'My lad,' faltered the Captain, 'I thought as you had come over
her; not as she had come over you. A man as has got such opinions as
Mr Bunsby merely uttered a suppressed groan.
'Come!' said the Captain, nudging him with his elbow, 'now's your
time! Sheer off! I'll cover your retreat. The time's a flying. Bunsby!
It's for liberty. Will you once?'
Bunsby was immovable. 'Bunsby!' whispered the Captain, 'will you
twice ?' Bunsby wouldn't twice.
'Bunsby!' urged the Captain, 'it's for liberty; will you three
times? Now or never!'
Bunsby didn't then, and didn't ever; for Mrs MacStinger immediately
afterwards married him.
One of the most frightful circumstances of the ceremony to the
Captain, was the deadly interest exhibited therein by Juliana
MacStinger; and the fatal concentration of her faculties, with which
that promising child, already the image of her parent, observed the
whole proceedings. The Captain saw in this a succession of man-traps
stretching out infinitely; a series of ages of oppression and
coercion, through which the seafaring line was doomed. It was a more
memorable sight than the unflinching steadiness of Mrs Bokum and the
other lady, the exultation of the short gentleman in the tall hat, or
even the fell inflexibility of Mrs MacStinger. The Master MacStingers
understood little of what was going on, and cared less; being chiefly
engaged, during the ceremony, in treading on one another's half-boots;
but the contrast afforded by those wretched infants only set off and
adorned the precocious woman in Juliana. Another year or two, the
Captain thought, and to lodge where that child was, would be
The ceremony was concluded by a general spring of the young family
on Mr Bunsby, whom they hailed by the endearing name of father, and
from whom they solicited half-pence. These gushes of affection over,
the procession was about to issue forth again, when it was delayed for
some little time by an unexpected transport on the part of Alexander
MacStinger. That dear child, it seemed, connecting a chapel with
tombstones, when it was entered for any purpose apart from the
ordinary religious exercises, could not be persuaded but that his
mother was now to be decently interred, and lost to him for ever. In
the anguish of this conviction, he screamed with astonishing force,
and turned black in the face. However touching these marks of a tender
disposition were to his mother, it was not in the character of that
remarkable woman to permit her recognition of them to degenerate into
weakness. Therefore, after vainly endeavouring to convince his reason
by shakes, pokes, bawlings-out, and similar applications to his head,
she led him into the air, and tried another method; which was
manifested to the marriage party by a quick succession of sharp
sounds, resembling applause, and subsequently, by their seeing
Alexander in contact with the coolest paving-stone in the court,
greatly flushed, and loudly lamenting.
The procession being then in a condition to form itself once more,
and repair to Brig Place, where a marriage feast was in readiness,
returned as it had come; not without the receipt, by Bunsby, of many
humorous congratulations from the populace on his recently-acquired
happiness. The Captain accompanied it as far as the house-door, but,
being made uneasy by the gentler manner of Mrs Bokum, who, now that
she was relieved from her engrossing duty - for the watchfulness and
alacrity of the ladies sensibly diminished when the bridegroom was
safely married - had greater leisure to show an interest in his
behalf, there left it and the captive; faintly pleading an
appointment, and promising to return presently. The Captain had
another cause for uneasiness, in remorsefully reflecting that he had
been the first means of Bunsby's entrapment, though certainly without
intending it, and through his unbounded faith in the resources of that
To go back to old Sol Gills at the wooden Midshipman's, and not
first go round to ask how Mr Dombey was - albeit the house where he
lay was out of London, and away on the borders of a fresh heath - was
quite out of the Captain's course. So he got a lift when he was tired,
and made out the journey gaily.
The blinds were pulled down, and the house so quiet, that the
Captain was almost afraid to knock; but listening at the door, he
heard low voices within, very near it, and, knocking softly, was
admitted by Mr Toots. Mr Toots and his wife had, in fact, just arrived
there; having been at the Midshipman's to seek him, and having there
obtained the address.
They were not so recently arrived, but that Mrs Toots had caught
the baby from somebody, taken it in her arms, and sat down on the
stairs, hugging and fondling it. Florence was stooping down beside
her; and no one could have said which Mrs Toots was hugging and
fondling most, the mother or the child, or which was the tenderer,
Florence of Mrs Toots, or Mrs Toots of her, or both of the baby; it
was such a little group of love and agitation.
'And is your Pa very ill, my darling dear Miss Floy?' asked Susan.
'He is very, very ill,' said Florence. 'But, Susan, dear, you must
not speak to me as you used to speak. And what's this?' said Florence,
touching her clothes, in amazement. 'Your old dress, dear? Your old
cap, curls, and all?'
Susan burst into tears, and showered kisses on the little hand that
had touched her so wonderingly.
'My dear Miss Dombey,' said Mr Toots, stepping forward, 'I'll
explain. She's the most extraordinary woman. There are not many to
equal her! She has always said - she said before we were married, and
has said to this day - that whenever you came home, she'd come to you
in no dress but the dress she used to serve you in, for fear she might
seem strange to you, and you might like her less. I admire the dress
myself,' said Mr Toots, 'of all things. I adore her in it! My dear
Miss Dombey, she'll be your maid again, your nurse, all that she ever
was, and more. There's no change in her. But, Susan, my dear,' said Mr
Toots, who had spoken with great feeling and high admiration, 'all I
ask is, that you'll remember the medical man, and not exert yourself
Florence had need of help. Her father's need of it was sore, and
made the aid of her old friend invaluable. Death stood at his pillow.
A shade, already, of what he had been, shattered in mind, and
perilously sick in body, he laid his weary head down on the bed his
daughter's hands prepared for him, and had never raised it since.
She was always with him. He knew her, generally; though, in the
wandering of his brain, he often confused the circumstances under
which he spoke to her. Thus he would address her, sometimes, as if his
boy were newly dead; and would tell her, that although he had said
nothing of her ministering at the little bedside, yet he had seen it -
he had seen it; and then would hide his face and sob, and put out his
worn hand. Sometimes he would ask her for herself. 'Where is
Florence?' 'I am here, Papa, I am here.' 'I don't know her!' he would
cry. 'We have been parted so long, that I don't know her!' and then a
staring dread would he upon him, until she could soothe his
perturbation; and recall the tears she tried so hard, at other times,
He rambled through the scenes of his old pursuits - through many
where Florence lost him as she listened - sometimes for hours. He
would repeat that childish question, 'What is money?' and ponder on
it, and think about it, and reason with himself, more or less
connectedly, for a good answer; as if it had never been proposed to
him until that moment. He would go on with a musing repetition of the
title of his old firm twenty thousand times, and at every one of them,
would turn his head upon his pillow. He would count his children - one
- two - stop, and go back, and begin again in the same way.
But this was when his mind was in its most distracted state. In all
the other phases of its illness, and in those to which it was most
constant, it always turned on Florence. What he would oftenest do was
this: he would recall that night he had so recently remembered, the
night on which she came down to his room, and would imagine that his
heart smote him, and that he went out after her, and up the stairs to
seek her. Then, confounding that time with the later days of the many
footsteps, he would be amazed at their number, and begin to count them
as he followed her. Here, of a sudden, was a bloody footstep going on
among the others; and after it there began to be, at intervals, doors
standing open, through which certain terrible pictures were seen, in
mirrors, of haggard men, concealing something in their breasts. Still,
among the many footsteps and the bloody footsteps here and there, was
the step of Florence. Still she was going on before. Still the
restless mind went, following and counting, ever farther, ever higher,
as to the summit of a mighty tower that it took years to climb.
One day he inquired if that were not Susan who had spoken a long
Florence said 'Yes, dear Papa;' and asked him would he like to see
He said 'very much.' And Susan, with no little trepidation, showed
herself at his bedside.
It seemed a great relief to him. He begged her not to go; to
understand that he forgave her what she had said; and that she was to
stay. Florence and he were very different now, he said, and very
happy. Let her look at this! He meant his drawing the gentle head down
to his pillow, and laying it beside him.
He remained like this for days and weeks. At length, lying, the
faint feeble semblance of a man, upon his bed, and speaking in a voice
so low that they could only hear him by listening very near to his
lips, he became quiet. It was dimly pleasant to him now, to lie there,
with the window open, looking out at the summer sky and the trees:
and, in the evening, at the sunset. To watch the shadows of the clouds
and leaves, and seem to feel a sympathy with shadows. It was natural
that he should. To him, life and the world were nothing else.
He began to show now that he thought of Florence's fatigue: and
often taxed his weakness to whisper to her, 'Go and walk, my dearest,
in the sweet air. Go to your good husband!' One time when Walter was
in his room, he beckoned him to come near, and to stoop down; and
pressing his hand, whispered an assurance to him that he knew he could
trust him with his child when he was dead.
It chanced one evening, towards sunset, when Florence and Walter
were sitting in his room together, as he liked to see them, that
Florence, having her baby in her arms, began in a low voice to sing to
the little fellow, and sang the old tune she had so often sung to the
dead child: He could not bear it at the time; he held up his trembling
hand, imploring her to stop; but next day he asked her to repeat it,
and to do so often of an evening: which she did. He listening, with
his face turned away.
Florence was sitting on a certain time by his window, with her
work-basket between her and her old attendant, who was still her
faithful companion. He had fallen into a doze. It was a beautiful
evening, with two hours of light to come yet; and the tranquillity and
quiet made Florence very thoughtful. She was lost to everything for
the moment, but the occasion when the so altered figure on the bed had
first presented her to her beautiful Mama; when a touch from Walter
leaning on the back of her chair, made her start.
'My dear,' said Walter, 'there is someone downstairs who wishes to
speak to you.
She fancied Walter looked grave, and asked him if anything had
'No, no, my love!' said Walter. 'I have seen the gentleman myself,
and spoken with him. Nothing has happened. Will you come?'
Florence put her arm through his; and confiding her father to the
black-eyed Mrs Toots, who sat as brisk and smart at her work as
black-eyed woman could, accompanied her husband downstairs. In the
pleasant little parlour opening on the garden, sat a gentleman, who
rose to advance towards her when she came in, but turned off, by
reason of some peculiarity in his legs, and was only stopped by the
Florence then remembered Cousin Feenix, whom she had not at first
recognised in the shade of the leaves. Cousin Feenix took her hand,
and congratulated her upon her marriage.
'I could have wished, I am sure,' said Cousin Feenix, sitting down
as Florence sat, to have had an earlier opportunity of offering my
congratulations; but, in point of fact, so many painful occurrences
have happened, treading, as a man may say, on one another's heels,
that I have been in a devil of a state myself, and perfectly unfit for
every description of society. The only description of society I have
kept, has been my own; and it certainly is anything but flattering to
a man's good opinion of his own sources, to know that, in point of
fact, he has the capacity of boring himself to a perfectly unlimited
Florence divined, from some indefinable constraint and anxiety in
this gentleman's manner - which was always a gentleman's, in spite of
the harmless little eccentricities that attached to it - and from
Walter's manner no less, that something more immediately tending to
some object was to follow this.
'I have been mentioning to my friend Mr Gay, if I may be allowed to
have the honour of calling him so,' said Cousin Feenix, 'that I am
rejoiced to hear that my friend Dombey is very decidedly mending. I
trust my friend Dombey will not allow his mind to be too much preyed
upon, by any mere loss of fortune. I cannot say that I have ever
experienced any very great loss of fortune myself: never having had,
in point of fact, any great amount of fortune to lose. But as much as
I could lose, I have lost; and I don't find that I particularly care
about it. I know my friend Dombey to be a devilish honourable man; and
it's calculated to console my friend Dombey very much, to know, that
this is the universal sentiment. Even Tommy Screwzer, - a man of an
extremely bilious habit, with whom my friend Gay is probably
acquainted - cannot say a syllable in disputation of the fact.'
Florence felt, more than ever, that there was something to come;
and looked earnestly for it. So earnestly, that Cousin Feenix
answered, as if she had spoken.
'The fact is,' said Cousin Feenix, 'that my friend Gay and myself
have been discussing the propriety of entreating a favour at your
hands; and that I have the consent of my friend Gay - who has met me
in an exceedingly kind and open manner, for which I am very much
indebted to him - to solicit it. I am sensible that so amiable a lady
as the lovely and accomplished daughter of my friend Dombey will not
require much urging; but I am happy to know, that I am supported by my
friend Gay's influence and approval. As in my parliamentary time, when
a man had a motion to make of any sort - which happened seldom in
those days, for we were kept very tight in hand, the leaders on both
sides being regular Martinets, which was a devilish good thing for the
rank and file, like myself, and prevented our exposing ourselves
continually, as a great many of us had a feverish anxiety to do - as'
in my parliamentary time, I was about to say, when a man had leave to
let off any little private popgun, it was always considered a great
point for him to say that he had the happiness of believing that his
sentiments were not without an echo in the breast of Mr Pitt; the
pilot, in point of fact, who had weathered the storm. Upon which, a
devilish large number of fellows immediately cheered, and put him in
spirits. Though the fact is, that these fellows, being under orders to
cheer most excessively whenever Mr Pitt's name was mentioned, became
so proficient that it always woke 'em. And they were so entirely
innocent of what was going on, otherwise, that it used to be commonly
said by Conversation Brown - four-bottle man at the Treasury Board,
with whom the father of my friend Gay was probably acquainted, for it
was before my friend Gay's time - that if a man had risen in his
place, and said that he regretted to inform the house that there was
an Honourable Member in the last stage of convulsions in the Lobby,
and that the Honourable Member's name was Pitt, the approbation would
have been vociferous.'
This postponement of the point, put Florence in a flutter; and she
looked from Cousin Feenix to Walter, in increasing agitatioN
'My love,' said Walter, 'there is nothing the matter.
'There is nothing the matter, upon my honour,' said Cousin Feenix;
'and I am deeply distressed at being the means of causing you a
moment's uneasiness. I beg to assure you that there is nothing the
matter. The favour that I have to ask is, simply - but it really does
seem so exceedingly singular, that I should be in the last degree
obliged to my friend Gay if he would have the goodness to break the -
in point of fact, the ice,' said Cousin Feenix.
Walter thus appealed to, and appealed to no less in the look that
Florence turned towards him, said:
'My dearest, it is no more than this. That you will ride to London
with this gentleman, whom you know.
'And my friend Gay, also - I beg your pardon!' interrupted Cousin
And with me - and make a visit somewhere.'
'To whom?' asked Florence, looking from one to the other.
'If I might entreat,' said Cousin Feenix, 'that you would not press
for an answer to that question, I would venture to take the liberty of
making the request.'
'Do you know, Walter?'
'And think it right?'
'Yes. Only because I am sure that you would too. Though there may
be reasons I very well understand, which make it better that nothing
more should be said beforehand.'
'If Papa is still asleep, or can spare me if he is awake, I will go
immediately,' said Florence. And rising quietly, and glancing at them
with a look that was a little alarmed but perfectly confiding, left
When she came back, ready to bear them company, they were talking
together, gravely, at the window; and Florence could not but wonder
what the topic was, that had made them so well acquainted in so short
a time. She did not wonder at the look of pride and love with which
her husband broke off as she entered; for she never saw him, but that
rested on her.
'I will leave,' said Cousin Feenix, 'a card for my friend Dombey,
sincerely trusting that he will pick up health and strength with every
returning hour. And I hope my friend Dombey will do me the favour to
consider me a man who has a devilish warm admiration of his character,
as, in point of fact, a British merchant and a devilish upright
gentleman. My place in the country is in a most confounded state of
dilapidation, but if my friend Dombey should require a change of air,
and would take up his quarters there, he would find it a remarkably
healthy spot - as it need be, for it's amazingly dull. If my friend
Dombey suffers from bodily weakness, and would allow me to recommend
what has frequently done myself good, as a man who has been extremely
queer at times, and who lived pretty freely in the days when men lived
very freely, I should say, let it be in point of fact the yolk of an
egg, beat up with sugar and nutmeg, in a glass of sherry, and taken in
the morning with a slice of dry toast. Jackson, who kept the
boxing-rooms in Bond Street - man of very superior qualifications,
with whose reputation my friend Gay is no doubt acquainted - used to
mention that in training for the ring they substituted rum for sherry.
I should recommend sherry in this case, on account of my friend Dombey
being in an invalided condition; which might occasion rum to fly - in
point of fact to his head - and throw him into a devil of a state.'
Of all this, Cousin Feenix delivered himself with an obviously
nervous and discomposed air. Then, giving his arm to Florence, and
putting the strongest possible constraint upon his wilful legs, which
seemed determined to go out into the garden, he led her to the door,
and handed her into a carriage that was ready for her reception.
Walter entered after him, and they drove away.
Their ride was six or eight miles long. When they drove through
certain dull and stately streets, lying westward in London, it was
growing dusk. Florence had, by this time, put her hand in Walter's;
and was looking very earnestly, and with increasing agitation, into
every new street into which they turned.
When the carriage stopped, at last, before that house in Brook
Street, where her father's unhappy marriage had been celebrated,
Florence said, 'Walter, what is this? Who is here?' Walter cheering
her, and not replying, she glanced up at the house-front, and saw that
all the windows were shut, as if it were uninhabited. Cousin Feenix
had by this time alighted, and was offering his hand.
'Are you not coming, Walter?'
'No, I will remain here. Don't tremble there is nothing to fear,
'I know that, Walter, with you so near. I am sure of that, but - '
The door was softly opened, without any knock, and Cousin Feenix
led her out of the summer evening air into the close dull house. More
sombre and brown than ever, it seemed to have been shut up from the
wedding-day, and to have hoarded darkness and sadness ever since.
Florence ascended the dusky staircase, trembling; and stopped, with
her conductor, at the drawing-room door. He opened it, without
speaking, and signed an entreaty to her to advance into the inner
room, while he remained there. Florence, after hesitating an instant,
Sitting by the window at a table, where she seemed to have been
writing or drawing, was a lady, whose head, turned away towards the
dying light, was resting on her hand. Florence advancing, doubtfully,
all at once stood still, as if she had lost the power of motion. The
lady turned her head.
'Great Heaven!' she said, 'what is this?'
'No, no!' cried Florence, shrinking back as she rose up and putting
out her hands to keep her off. 'Mama!'
They stood looking at each other. Passion and pride had worn it,
but it was the face of Edith, and beautiful and stately yet. It was
the face of Florence, and through all the terrified avoidance it
expressed, there was pity in it, sorrow, a grateful tender memory. On
each face, wonder and fear were painted vividly; each so still and
silent, looking at the other over the black gulf of the irrevocable past.
Florence was the first to change. Bursting into tears, she said
from her full heart, 'Oh, Mama, Mama! why do we meet like this? Why
were you ever kind to me when there was no one else, that we should
meet like this?'
Edith stood before her, dumb and motionless. Her eyes were fixed
upon her face.
'I dare not think of that,' said Florence, 'I am come from Papa's
sick bed. We are never asunder now; we never shall be' any more. If
you would have me ask his pardon, I will do it, Mama. I am almost sure
he will grant it now, if I ask him. May Heaven grant it to you, too,
and comfort you!'
She answered not a word.
'Walter - I am married to him, and we have a son,' said Florence,
timidly - 'is at the door, and has brought me here. I will tell him
that you are repentant; that you are changed,' said Florence, looking
mournfully upon her; 'and he will speak to Papa with me, I know. Is
there anything but this that I can do?'
Edith, breaking her silence, without moving eye or limb, answered
'The stain upon your name, upon your husband's, on your child's.
Will that ever be forgiven, Florence?'
'Will it ever be, Mama? It is! Freely, freely, both by Walter and
by me. If that is any consolation to you, there is nothing that you
may believe more certainly. You do not - you do not,' faltered
Florence, 'speak of Papa; but I am sure you wish that I should ask him
for his forgiveness. I am sure you do.'
She answered not a word.
'I will!' said Florence. 'I will bring it you, if you will let me;
and then, perhaps, we may take leave of each other, more like what we
used to be to one another. I have not,' said Florence very gently, and
drawing nearer to her, 'I have not shrunk back from you, Mama, because
I fear you, or because I dread to be disgraced by you. I only wish to
do my duty to Papa. I am very dear to him, and he is very dear to me.
But I never can forget that you were very good to me. Oh, pray to
Heaven,' cried Florence, falling on her bosom, 'pray to Heaven, Mama,
to forgive you all this sin and shame, and to forgive me if I cannot
help doing this (if it is wrong), when I remember what you used to
Edith, as if she fell beneath her touch, sunk down on her knees,
and caught her round the neck.
'Florence!' she cried. 'My better angel! Before I am mad again,
before my stubbornness comes back and strikes me dumb, believe me,
upon my soul I am innocent!'
'Guilty of much! Guilty of that which sets a waste between us
evermore. Guilty of what must separate me, through the whole remainder
of my life, from purity and innocence - from you, of all the earth.
Guilty of a blind and passionate resentment, of which I do not,
cannot, will not, even now, repent; but not guilty with that dead man.
Upon her knees upon the ground, she held up both her hands, and
'Florence!' she said, 'purest and best of natures, - whom I love -
who might have changed me long ago, and did for a time work some
change even in the woman that I am, - believe me, I am innocent of
that; and once more, on my desolate heart, let me lay this dear head,
for the last time!'
She was moved and weeping. Had she been oftener thus in older days,
she had been happier now.
'There is nothing else in all the world,' she said, 'that would
have wrung denial from me. No love, no hatred, no hope, no threat. I
said that I would die, and make no sign. I could have done so, and I
would, if we had never met, Florence.
'I trust,' said Cousin Feenix, ambling in at the door, and
speaking, half in the room, and half out of it, 'that my lovely and
accomplished relative will excuse my having, by a little stratagem,
effected this meeting. I cannot say that I was, at first, wholly
incredulous as to the possibility of my lovely and accomplished
relative having, very unfortunately, committed herself with the
deceased person with white teeth; because in point of fact, one does
see, in this world - which is remarkable for devilish strange
arrangements, and for being decidedly the most unintelligible thing
within a man's experience - very odd conjunctions of that sort. But as
I mentioned to my friend Dombey, I could not admit the criminality of
my lovely and accomplished relative until it was perfectly
established. And feeling, when the deceased person was, in point of
fact, destroyed in a devilish horrible manner, that her position was a
very painful one - and feeling besides that our family had been a
little to blame in not paying more attention to her, and that we are a
careless family - and also that my aunt, though a devilish lively
woman, had perhaps not been the very best of mothers - I took the
liberty of seeking her in France, and offering her such protection as
a man very much out at elbows could offer. Upon which occasion, my
lovely and accomplished relative did me the honour to express that she
believed I was, in my way, a devilish good sort of fellow; and that
therefore she put herself under my protection. Which in point of fact
I understood to be a kind thing on the part of my lovely and
accomplished relative, as I am getting extremely shaky, and have
derived great comfort from her solicitude.'
Edith, who had taken Florence to a sofa, made a gesture with her
hand as if she would have begged him to say no more.
'My lovely and accomplished relative,' resumed Cousin Feenix, still
ambling about at the door, 'will excuse me, if, for her satisfaction,
and my own, and that of my friend Dombey, whose lovely and
accomplished daughter we so much admire, I complete the thread of my
observations. She will remember that, from the first, she and I never
alluded to the subject of her elopement. My impression, certainly, has
always been, that there was a mystery in the affair which she could
explain if so inclined. But my lovely and accomplished relative being
a devilish resolute woman, I knew that she was not, in point of fact,
to be trifled with, and therefore did not involve myself in any
discussions. But, observing lately, that her accessible point did
appear to be a very strong description of tenderness for the daughter
of my friend Dombey, it occurred to me that if I could bring about a
meeting, unexpected on both sides, it might lead to beneficial
results. Therefore, we being in London, in the present private way,
before going to the South of Italy, there to establish ourselves, in
point of fact, until we go to our long homes, which is a devilish
disagreeable reflection for a man, I applied myself to the discovery
of the residence of my friend Gay - handsome man of an uncommonly
frank disposition, who is probably known to my lovely and accomplished
relative - and had the happiness of bringing his amiable wife to the
present place. And now,' said Cousin Feenix, with a real and genuine
earnestness shining through the levity of his manner and his slipshod
speech, 'I do conjure my relative, not to stop half way, but to set
right, as far as she can, whatever she has done wrong - not for the
honour of her family, not for her own fame, not for any of those
considerations which unfortunate circumstances have induced her to
regard as hollow, and in point of fact, as approaching to humbug - but
because it is wrong, and not right.'
Cousin Feenix's legs consented to take him away after this; and
leaving them alone together, he shut the door.
Edith remained silent for some minutes, with Florence sitting close
beside her. Then she took from her bosom a sealed paper.
'I debated with myself a long time,' she said in a low voice,
'whether to write this at all, in case of dying suddenly or by
accident, and feeling the want of it upon me. I have deliberated, ever
since, when and how to destroy it. Take it, Florence. The truth is
written in it.'
'Is it for Papa?' asked Florence.
'It is for whom you will,' she answered. 'It is given to you, and
is obtained by you. He never could have had it otherwise.'
Again they sat silent, in the deepening darkness.
'Mama,' said Florence, 'he has lost his fortune; he has been at the
point of death; he may not recover, even now. Is there any word that I
shall say to him from you?'
'Did you tell me,' asked Edith, 'that you were very dear to him?'
'Yes!' said Florence, in a thrilling voice.
'Tell him I am sorry that we ever met.
'No more?' said Florence after a pause.
'Tell him, if he asks, that I do not repent of what I have done -
not yet - for if it were to do again to-morrow, I should do it. But if
he is a changed man - '
She stopped. There was something in the silent touch of Florence's
hand that stopped her.
'But that being a changed man, he knows, now, it would never be.