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Dombey and Son

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CHAPTER VI. 
Paul’s Second Deprivation

Polly was beset by so many misgivings in the morning, that but for the incessant promptings of her black-eyed companion, she would have abandoned all thoughts of the expedition, and formally petitioned for leave to see number one hundred and forty-seven, under the awful shadow of Mr Dombey’s roof. But Susan who was personally disposed in favour of the excursion, and who (like Tony Lumpkin), if she could bear the disappointments of other people with tolerable fortitude, could not abide to disappoint herself, threw so many ingenious doubts in the way of this second thought, and stimulated the original intention with so many ingenious arguments, that almost as soon as Mr Dombey’s stately back was turned, and that gentleman was pursuing his daily road towards the City, his unconscious son was on his way to Staggs’s Gardens.

This euphonious locality was situated in a suburb, known by the inhabitants of Staggs’s Gardens by the name of Camberling Town; a designation which the Strangers’ Map of London, as printed (with a view to pleasant and commodious reference) on pocket handkerchiefs, condenses, with some show of reason, into Camden Town. Hither the two nurses bent their steps, accompanied by their charges; Richards carrying Paul, of course, and Susan leading little Florence by the hand, and giving her such jerks and pokes from time to time, as she considered it wholesome to administer.

The first shock of a great earthquake had, just at that period, rent the whole neighbourhood to its centre. Traces of its course were visible on every side. Houses were knocked down; streets broken through and stopped; deep pits and trenches dug in the ground; enormous heaps of earth and clay thrown up; buildings that were undermined and shaking, propped by great beams of wood. Here, a chaos of carts, overthrown and jumbled together, lay topsy-turvy at the bottom of a steep unnatural hill; there, confused treasures of iron soaked and rusted in something that had accidentally become a pond. Everywhere were bridges that led nowhere; thoroughfares that were wholly impassable; Babel towers of chimneys, wanting half their height; temporary wooden houses and enclosures, in the most unlikely situations; carcases of ragged tenements, and fragments of unfinished walls and arches, and piles of scaffolding, and wildernesses of bricks, and giant forms of cranes, and tripods straddling above nothing. There were a hundred thousand shapes and substances of incompleteness, wildly mingled out of their places, upside down, burrowing in the earth, aspiring in the air, mouldering in the water, and unintelligible as any dream. Hot springs and fiery eruptions, the usual attendants upon earthquakes, lent their contributions of confusion to the scene. Boiling water hissed and heaved within dilapidated walls; whence, also, the glare and roar of flames came issuing forth; and mounds of ashes blocked up rights of way, and wholly changed the law and custom of the neighbourhood.

In short, the yet unfinished and unopened Railroad was in progress; and, from the very core of all this dire disorder, trailed smoothly away, upon its mighty course of civilisation and improvement.

But as yet, the neighbourhood was shy to own the Railroad. One or two bold speculators had projected streets; and one had built a little, but had stopped among the mud and ashes to consider farther of it. A bran-new Tavern, redolent of fresh mortar and size, and fronting nothing at all, had taken for its sign The Railway Arms; but that might be rash enterprise—and then it hoped to sell drink to the workmen. So, the Excavators’ House of Call had sprung up from a beer-shop; and the old-established Ham and Beef Shop had become the Railway Eating House, with a roast leg of pork daily, through interested motives of a similar immediate and popular description. Lodging-house keepers were favourable in like manner; and for the like reasons were not to be trusted. The general belief was very slow. There were frowzy fields, and cow-houses, and dunghills, and dustheaps, and ditches, and gardens, and summer-houses, and carpet-beating grounds, at the very door of the Railway. Little tumuli of oyster shells in the oyster season, and of lobster shells in the lobster season, and of broken crockery and faded cabbage leaves in all seasons, encroached upon its high places. Posts, and rails, and old cautions to trespassers, and backs of mean houses, and patches of wretched vegetation, stared it out of countenance. Nothing was the better for it, or thought of being so. If the miserable waste ground lying near it could have laughed, it would have laughed it to scorn, like many of the miserable neighbours.

Staggs’s Gardens was uncommonly incredulous. It was a little row of houses, with little squalid patches of ground before them, fenced off with old doors, barrel staves, scraps of tarpaulin, and dead bushes; with bottomless tin kettles and exhausted iron fenders, thrust into the gaps. Here, the Staggs’s Gardeners trained scarlet beans, kept fowls and rabbits, erected rotten summer-houses (one was an old boat), dried clothes, and smoked pipes. Some were of opinion that Staggs’s Gardens derived its name from a deceased capitalist, one Mr Staggs, who had built it for his delectation. Others, who had a natural taste for the country, held that it dated from those rural times when the antlered herd, under the familiar denomination of Staggses, had resorted to its shady precincts. Be this as it may, Staggs’s Gardens was regarded by its population as a sacred grove not to be withered by Railroads; and so confident were they generally of its long outliving any such ridiculous inventions, that the master chimney-sweeper at the corner, who was understood to take the lead in the local politics of the Gardens, had publicly declared that on the occasion of the Railroad opening, if ever it did open, two of his boys should ascend the flues of his dwelling, with instructions to hail the failure with derisive cheers from the chimney-pots.

To this unhallowed spot, the very name of which had hitherto been carefully concealed from Mr Dombey by his sister, was little Paul now borne by Fate and Richards

“That’s my house, Susan,” said Polly, pointing it out.

“Is it, indeed, Mrs Richards?” said Susan, condescendingly.

“And there’s my sister Jemima at the door, I do declare” cried Polly, “with my own sweet precious baby in her arms!”

The sight added such an extensive pair of wings to Polly’s impatience, that she set off down the Gardens at a run, and bouncing on Jemima, changed babies with her in a twinkling; to the unutterable astonishment of that young damsel, on whom the heir of the Dombeys seemed to have fallen from the clouds.

“Why, Polly!” cried Jemima. “You! what a turn you have given me! who’d have thought it! come along in Polly! How well you do look to be sure! The children will go half wild to see you Polly, that they will.”

That they did, if one might judge from the noise they made, and the way in which they dashed at Polly and dragged her to a low chair in the chimney corner, where her own honest apple face became immediately the centre of a bunch of smaller pippins, all laying their rosy cheeks close to it, and all evidently the growth of the same tree. As to Polly, she was full as noisy and vehement as the children; and it was not until she was quite out of breath, and her hair was hanging all about her flushed face, and her new christening attire was very much dishevelled, that any pause took place in the confusion. Even then, the smallest Toodle but one remained in her lap, holding on tight with both arms round her neck; while the smallest Toodle but two mounted on the back of the chair, and made desperate efforts, with one leg in the air, to kiss her round the corner.

“Look! there’s a pretty little lady come to see you,” said Polly; “and see how quiet she is! what a beautiful little lady, ain’t she?”

This reference to Florence, who had been standing by the door not unobservant of what passed, directed the attention of the younger branches towards her; and had likewise the happy effect of leading to the formal recognition of Miss Nipper, who was not quite free from a misgiving that she had been already slighted.

“Oh do come in and sit down a minute, Susan, please,” said Polly. “This is my sister Jemima, this is. Jemima, I don’t know what I should ever do with myself, if it wasn’t for Susan Nipper; I shouldn’t be here now but for her.”

“Oh do sit down, Miss Nipper, if you please,” quoth Jemima.

Susan took the extreme corner of a chair, with a stately and ceremonious aspect.

“I never was so glad to see anybody in all my life; now really I never was, Miss Nipper,” said Jemima.

Susan relaxing, took a little more of the chair, and smiled graciously.

“Do untie your bonnet-strings, and make yourself at home, Miss Nipper, please,” entreated Jemima. “I am afraid it’s a poorer place than you’re used to; but you’ll make allowances, I’m sure.”

The black-eyed was so softened by this deferential behaviour, that she caught up little Miss Toodle who was running past, and took her to Banbury Cross immediately.

“But where’s my pretty boy?” said Polly. “My poor fellow? I came all this way to see him in his new clothes.”

“Ah what a pity!” cried Jemima. “He’ll break his heart, when he hears his mother has been here. He’s at school, Polly.”

“Gone already!”

“Yes. He went for the first time yesterday, for fear he should lose any learning. But it’s half-holiday, Polly: if you could only stop till he comes home—you and Miss Nipper, leastways,” said Jemima, mindful in good time of the dignity of the black-eyed.

“And how does he look, Jemima, bless him!” faltered Polly.

“Well, really he don’t look so bad as you’d suppose,” returned Jemima.

“Ah!” said Polly, with emotion, “I knew his legs must be too short.”

“His legs is short,” returned Jemima; “especially behind; but they’ll get longer, Polly, every day.”

It was a slow, prospective kind of consolation; but the cheerfulness and good nature with which it was administered, gave it a value it did not intrinsically possess. After a moment’s silence, Polly asked, in a more sprightly manner:

“And where’s Father, Jemima dear?”—for by that patriarchal appellation, Mr Toodle was generally known in the family.

“There again!” said Jemima. “What a pity! Father took his dinner with him this morning, and isn’t coming home till night. But he’s always talking of you, Polly, and telling the children about you; and is the peaceablest, patientest, best-temperedest soul in the world, as he always was and will be!”

“Thankee, Jemima,” cried the simple Polly; delighted by the speech, and disappointed by the absence.

“Oh you needn’t thank me, Polly,” said her sister, giving her a sounding kiss upon the cheek, and then dancing little Paul cheerfully. “I say the same of you sometimes, and think it too.”

In spite of the double disappointment, it was impossible to regard in the light of a failure a visit which was greeted with such a reception; so the sisters talked hopefully about family matters, and about Biler, and about all his brothers and sisters: while the black-eyed, having performed several journeys to Banbury Cross and back, took sharp note of the furniture, the Dutch clock, the cupboard, the castle on the mantel-piece with red and green windows in it, susceptible of illumination by a candle-end within; and the pair of small black velvet kittens, each with a lady’s reticule in its mouth; regarded by the Staggs’s Gardeners as prodigies of imitative art. The conversation soon becoming general lest the black-eyed should go off at score and turn sarcastic, that young lady related to Jemima a summary of everything she knew concerning Mr Dombey, his prospects, family, pursuits, and character. Also an exact inventory of her personal wardrobe, and some account of her principal relations and friends. Having relieved her mind of these disclosures, she partook of shrimps and porter, and evinced a disposition to swear eternal friendship.

Little Florence herself was not behind-hand in improving the occasion; for, being conducted forth by the young Toodles to inspect some toad-stools and other curiosities of the Gardens, she entered with them, heart and soul, on the formation of a temporary breakwater across a small green pool that had collected in a corner. She was still busily engaged in that labour, when sought and found by Susan; who, such was her sense of duty, even under the humanizing influence of shrimps, delivered a moral address to her (punctuated with thumps) on her degenerate nature, while washing her face and hands; and predicted that she would bring the grey hairs of her family in general, with sorrow to the grave. After some delay, occasioned by a pretty long confidential interview above stairs on pecuniary subjects, between Polly and Jemima, an interchange of babies was again effected—for Polly had all this time retained her own child, and Jemima little Paul—and the visitors took leave.

But first the young Toodles, victims of a pious fraud, were deluded into repairing in a body to a chandler’s shop in the neighbourhood, for the ostensible purpose of spending a penny; and when the coast was quite clear, Polly fled: Jemima calling after her that if they could only go round towards the City Road on their way back, they would be sure to meet little Biler coming from school.

“Do you think that we might make time to go a little round in that direction, Susan?” inquired Polly, when they halted to take breath.

“Why not, Mrs Richards?” returned Susan.

“It’s getting on towards our dinner time you know,” said Polly.

But lunch had rendered her companion more than indifferent to this grave consideration, so she allowed no weight to it, and they resolved to go “a little round.”

Now, it happened that poor Biler’s life had been, since yesterday morning, rendered weary by the costume of the Charitable Grinders. The youth of the streets could not endure it. No young vagabond could be brought to bear its contemplation for a moment, without throwing himself upon the unoffending wearer, and doing him a mischief. His social existence had been more like that of an early Christian, than an innocent child of the nineteenth century. He had been stoned in the streets. He had been overthrown into gutters; bespattered with mud; violently flattened against posts. Entire strangers to his person had lifted his yellow cap off his head, and cast it to the winds. His legs had not only undergone verbal criticisms and revilings, but had been handled and pinched. That very morning, he had received a perfectly unsolicited black eye on his way to the Grinders’ establishment, and had been punished for it by the master: a superannuated old Grinder of savage disposition, who had been appointed schoolmaster because he didn’t know anything, and wasn’t fit for anything, and for whose cruel cane all chubby little boys had a perfect fascination.

Thus it fell out that Biler, on his way home, sought unfrequented paths; and slunk along by narrow passages and back streets, to avoid his tormentors. Being compelled to emerge into the main road, his ill fortune brought him at last where a small party of boys, headed by a ferocious young butcher, were lying in wait for any means of pleasurable excitement that might happen. These, finding a Charitable Grinder in the midst of them—unaccountably delivered over, as it were, into their hands—set up a general yell and rushed upon him.

But it so fell out likewise, that, at the same time, Polly, looking hopelessly along the road before her, after a good hour’s walk, had said it was no use going any further, when suddenly she saw this sight. She no sooner saw it than, uttering a hasty exclamation, and giving Master Dombey to the black-eyed, she started to the rescue of her unhappy little son.

Surprises, like misfortunes, rarely come alone. The astonished Susan Nipper and her two young charges were rescued by the bystanders from under the very wheels of a passing carriage before they knew what had happened; and at that moment (it was market day) a thundering alarm of “Mad Bull!” was raised.

With a wild confusion before her, of people running up and down, and shouting, and wheels running over them, and boys fighting, and mad bulls coming up, and the nurse in the midst of all these dangers being torn to pieces, Florence screamed and ran. She ran till she was exhausted, urging Susan to do the same; and then, stopping and wringing her hands as she remembered they had left the other nurse behind, found, with a sensation of terror not to be described, that she was quite alone.

“Susan! Susan!” cried Florence, clapping her hands in the very ecstasy of her alarm. “Oh, where are they? where are they?”

“Where are they?” said an old woman, coming hobbling across as fast as she could from the opposite side of the way. “Why did you run away from ’em?”

“I was frightened,” answered Florence. “I didn’t know what I did. I thought they were with me. Where are they?”

The old woman took her by the wrist, and said, “I’ll show you.”

She was a very ugly old woman, with red rims round her eyes, and a mouth that mumbled and chattered of itself when she was not speaking. She was miserably dressed, and carried some skins over her arm. She seemed to have followed Florence some little way at all events, for she had lost her breath; and this made her uglier still, as she stood trying to regain it: working her shrivelled yellow face and throat into all sorts of contortions.

Florence was afraid of her, and looked, hesitating, up the street, of which she had almost reached the bottom. It was a solitary place—more a back road than a street—and there was no one in it but her-self and the old woman.

“You needn’t be frightened now,” said the old woman, still holding her tight. “Come along with me.”

“I—I don’t know you. What’s your name?” asked Florence.

“Mrs Brown,” said the old woman. “Good Mrs Brown.”

“Are they near here?” asked Florence, beginning to be led away.

“Susan ain’t far off,” said Good Mrs Brown; “and the others are close to her.”

“Is anybody hurt?” cried Florence.

“Not a bit of it,” said Good Mrs Brown.

The child shed tears of delight on hearing this, and accompanied the old woman willingly; though she could not help glancing at her face as they went along—particularly at that industrious mouth—and wondering whether Bad Mrs Brown, if there were such a person, was at all like her.

They had not gone far, but had gone by some very uncomfortable places, such as brick-fields and tile-yards, when the old woman turned down a dirty lane, where the mud lay in deep black ruts in the middle of the road. She stopped before a shabby little house, as closely shut up as a house that was full of cracks and crevices could be. Opening the door with a key she took out of her bonnet, she pushed the child before her into a back room, where there was a great heap of rags of different colours lying on the floor; a heap of bones, and a heap of sifted dust or cinders; but there was no furniture at all, and the walls and ceiling were quite black.

The child became so terrified the she was stricken speechless, and looked as though about to swoon.

“Now don’t be a young mule,” said Good Mrs Brown, reviving her with a shake. “I’m not a going to hurt you. Sit upon the rags.”

Florence obeyed her, holding out her folded hands, in mute supplication.

“I’m not a going to keep you, even, above an hour,” said Mrs Brown. “D’ye understand what I say?”

The child answered with great difficulty, “Yes.”

“Then,” said Good Mrs Brown, taking her own seat on the bones, “don’t vex me. If you don’t, I tell you I won’t hurt you. But if you do, I’ll kill you. I could have you killed at any time—even if you was in your own bed at home. Now let’s know who you are, and what you are, and all about it.”

The old woman’s threats and promises; the dread of giving her offence; and the habit, unusual to a child, but almost natural to Florence now, of being quiet, and repressing what she felt, and feared, and hoped; enabled her to do this bidding, and to tell her little history, or what she knew of it. Mrs Brown listened attentively, until she had finished.

“So your name’s Dombey, eh?” said Mrs Brown.

“I want that pretty frock, Miss Dombey,” said Good Mrs Brown, “and that little bonnet, and a petticoat or two, and anything else you can spare. Come! Take ’em off.”

Florence obeyed, as fast as her trembling hands would allow; keeping, all the while, a frightened eye on Mrs Brown. When she had divested herself of all the articles of apparel mentioned by that lady, Mrs B. examined them at leisure, and seemed tolerably well satisfied with their quality and value.

“Humph!” she said, running her eyes over the child’s slight figure, “I don’t see anything else—except the shoes. I must have the shoes, Miss Dombey.”

Poor little Florence took them off with equal alacrity, only too glad to have any more means of conciliation about her. The old woman then produced some wretched substitutes from the bottom of the heap of rags, which she turned up for that purpose; together with a girl’s cloak, quite worn out and very old; and the crushed remains of a bonnet that had probably been picked up from some ditch or dunghill. In this dainty raiment, she instructed Florence to dress herself; and as such preparation seemed a prelude to her release, the child complied with increased readiness, if possible.

In hurriedly putting on the bonnet, if that may be called a bonnet which was more like a pad to carry loads on, she caught it in her hair which grew luxuriantly, and could not immediately disentangle it. Good Mrs Brown whipped out a large pair of scissors, and fell into an unaccountable state of excitement.

“Why couldn’t you let me be!” said Mrs Brown, “when I was contented? You little fool!”

“I beg your pardon. I don’t know what I have done,” panted Florence. “I couldn’t help it.”

“Couldn’t help it!” cried Mrs Brown. “How do you expect I can help it? Why, Lord!” said the old woman, ruffling her curls with a furious pleasure, “anybody but me would have had ’em off, first of all.”

Florence was so relieved to find that it was only her hair and not her head which Mrs Brown coveted, that she offered no resistance or entreaty, and merely raised her mild eyes towards the face of that good soul.

“If I hadn’t once had a gal of my own—beyond seas now—that was proud of her hair,” said Mrs Brown, “I’d have had every lock of it. She’s far away, she’s far away! Oho! Oho!”

Mrs Brown’s was not a melodious cry, but, accompanied with a wild tossing up of her lean arms, it was full of passionate grief, and thrilled to the heart of Florence, whom it frightened more than ever. It had its part, perhaps, in saving her curls; for Mrs Brown, after hovering about her with the scissors for some moments, like a new kind of butterfly, bade her hide them under the bonnet and let no trace of them escape to tempt her. Having accomplished this victory over herself, Mrs Brown resumed her seat on the bones, and smoked a very short black pipe, mowing and mumbling all the time, as if she were eating the stem.

When the pipe was smoked out, she gave the child a rabbit-skin to carry, that she might appear the more like her ordinary companion, and told her that she was now going to lead her to a public street whence she could inquire her way to her friends. But she cautioned her, with threats of summary and deadly vengeance in case of disobedience, not to talk to strangers, nor to repair to her own home (which may have been too near for Mrs Brown’s convenience), but to her father’s office in the City; also to wait at the street corner where she would be left, until the clock struck three. These directions Mrs Brown enforced with assurances that there would be potent eyes and ears in her employment cognizant of all she did; and these directions Florence promised faithfully and earnestly to observe.

At length, Mrs Brown, issuing forth, conducted her changed and ragged little friend through a labyrinth of narrow streets and lanes and alleys, which emerged, after a long time, upon a stable yard, with a gateway at the end, whence the roar of a great thoroughfare made itself audible. Pointing out this gateway, and informing Florence that when the clocks struck three she was to go to the left, Mrs Brown, after making a parting grasp at her hair which seemed involuntary and quite beyond her own control, told her she knew what to do, and bade her go and do it: remembering that she was watched.

With a lighter heart, but still sore afraid, Florence felt herself released, and tripped off to the corner. When she reached it, she looked back and saw the head of Good Mrs Brown peeping out of the low wooden passage, where she had issued her parting injunctions; likewise the fist of Good Mrs Brown shaking towards her. But though she often looked back afterwards—every minute, at least, in her nervous recollection of the old woman—she could not see her again.

Florence remained there, looking at the bustle in the street, and more and more bewildered by it; and in the meanwhile the clocks appeared to have made up their minds never to strike three any more. At last the steeples rang out three o’clock; there was one close by, so she couldn’t be mistaken; and—after often looking over her shoulder, and often going a little way, and as often coming back again, lest the all-powerful spies of Mrs Brown should take offence—she hurried off, as fast as she could in her slipshod shoes, holding the rabbit-skin tight in her hand.

All she knew of her father’s offices was that they belonged to Dombey and Son, and that that was a great power belonging to the City. So she could only ask the way to Dombey and Son’s in the City; and as she generally made inquiry of children—being afraid to ask grown people—she got very little satisfaction indeed. But by dint of asking her way to the City after a while, and dropping the rest of her inquiry for the present, she really did advance, by slow degrees, towards the heart of that great region which is governed by the terrible Lord Mayor.

Tired of walking, repulsed and pushed about, stunned by the noise and confusion, anxious for her brother and the nurses, terrified by what she had undergone, and the prospect of encountering her angry father in such an altered state; perplexed and frightened alike by what had passed, and what was passing, and what was yet before her; Florence went upon her weary way with tearful eyes, and once or twice could not help stopping to ease her bursting heart by crying bitterly. But few people noticed her at those times, in the garb she wore: or if they did, believed that she was tutored to excite compassion, and passed on. Florence, too, called to her aid all the firmness and self-reliance of a character that her sad experience had prematurely formed and tried: and keeping the end she had in view steadily before her, steadily pursued it.

It was full two hours later in the afternoon than when she had started on this strange adventure, when, escaping from the clash and clangour of a narrow street full of carts and waggons, she peeped into a kind of wharf or landing-place upon the river-side, where there were a great many packages, casks, and boxes, strewn about; a large pair of wooden scales; and a little wooden house on wheels, outside of which, looking at the neighbouring masts and boats, a stout man stood whistling, with his pen behind his ear, and his hands in his pockets, as if his day’s work were nearly done.

“Now then!” said this man, happening to turn round. “We haven’t got anything for you, little girl. Be off!”

“If you please, is this the City?” asked the trembling daughter of the Dombeys.

“Ah! It’s the City. You know that well enough, I daresay. Be off! We haven’t got anything for you.”

“I don’t want anything, thank you,” was the timid answer. “Except to know the way to Dombey and Son’s.”

The man who had been strolling carelessly towards her, seemed surprised by this reply, and looking attentively in her face, rejoined:

“Why, what can you want with Dombey and Son’s?”

“To know the way there, if you please.”

The man looked at her yet more curiously, and rubbed the back of his head so hard in his wonderment that he knocked his own hat off.

“Joe!” he called to another man—a labourer—as he picked it up and put it on again.

“Joe it is!” said Joe.

“Where’s that young spark of Dombey’s who’s been watching the shipment of them goods?”

“Just gone, by tt’other gate,” said Joe.

“Call him back a minute.”

Joe ran up an archway, bawling as he went, and very soon returned with a blithe-looking boy.

“You’re Dombey’s jockey, ain’t you?” said the first man.

“I’m in Dombey’s House, Mr Clark,” returned the boy.

“Look’ye here, then,” said Mr Clark.

Obedient to the indication of Mr Clark’s hand, the boy approached towards Florence, wondering, as well he might, what he had to do with her. But she, who had heard what passed, and who, besides the relief of so suddenly considering herself safe at her journey’s end, felt reassured beyond all measure by his lively youthful face and manner, ran eagerly up to him, leaving one of the slipshod shoes upon the ground and caught his hand in both of hers.

“I am lost, if you please!” said Florence.

“Lost!” cried the boy.

“Yes, I was lost this morning, a long way from here—and I have had my clothes taken away, since—and I am not dressed in my own now—and my name is Florence Dombey, my little brother’s only sister—and, oh dear, dear, take care of me, if you please!” sobbed Florence, giving full vent to the childish feelings she had so long suppressed, and bursting into tears. At the same time her miserable bonnet falling off, her hair came tumbling down about her face: moving to speechless admiration and commiseration, young Walter, nephew of Solomon Gills, Ships’ Instrument-maker in general.

Mr Clark stood rapt in amazement: observing under his breath, I never saw such a start on this wharf before. Walter picked up the shoe, and put it on the little foot as the Prince in the story might have fitted Cinderella’s slipper on. He hung the rabbit-skin over his left arm; gave the right to Florence; and felt, not to say like Richard Whittington—that is a tame comparison—but like Saint George of England, with the dragon lying dead before him.

“Don’t cry, Miss Dombey,” said Walter, in a transport of enthusiasm. “What a wonderful thing for me that I am here! You are as safe now as if you were guarded by a whole boat’s crew of picked men from a man-of-war. Oh, don’t cry.”

“I won’t cry any more,” said Florence. “I am only crying for joy.”

“Crying for joy!” thought Walter, “and I’m the cause of it! Come along, Miss Dombey. There’s the other shoe off now! Take mine, Miss Dombey.”

“No, no, no,” said Florence, checking him in the act of impetuously pulling off his own. “These do better. These do very well.”

“Why, to be sure,” said Walter, glancing at her foot, “mine are a mile too large. What am I thinking about! You never could walk in mine! Come along, Miss Dombey. Let me see the villain who will dare molest you now.”

So Walter, looking immensely fierce, led off Florence, looking very happy; and they went arm-in-arm along the streets, perfectly indifferent to any astonishment that their appearance might or did excite by the way.

It was growing dark and foggy, and beginning to rain too; but they cared nothing for this: being both wholly absorbed in the late adventures of Florence, which she related with the innocent good faith and confidence of her years, while Walter listened as if, far from the mud and grease of Thames Street, they were rambling alone among the broad leaves and tall trees of some desert island in the tropics—as he very likely fancied, for the time, they were.

“Have we far to go?” asked Florence at last, lilting up her eyes to her companion’s face.

“Ah! By-the-bye,” said Walter, stopping, “let me see; where are we? Oh! I know. But the offices are shut up now, Miss Dombey. There’s nobody there. Mr Dombey has gone home long ago. I suppose we must go home too? or, stay. Suppose I take you to my Uncle’s, where I live—it’s very near here—and go to your house in a coach to tell them you are safe, and bring you back some clothes. Won’t that be best?”

“I think so,” answered Florence. “Don’t you? What do you think?”

As they stood deliberating in the street, a man passed them, who glanced quickly at Walter as he went by, as if he recognised him; but seeming to correct that first impression, he passed on without stopping.

“Why, I think it’s Mr Carker,” said Walter. “Carker in our House. Not Carker our Manager, Miss Dombey—the other Carker; the Junior—Halloa! Mr Carker!”

“Is that Walter Gay?” said the other, stopping and returning. “I couldn’t believe it, with such a strange companion.”

As he stood near a lamp, listening with surprise to Walter’s hurried explanation, he presented a remarkable contrast to the two youthful figures arm-in-arm before him. He was not old, but his hair was white; his body was bent, or bowed as if by the weight of some great trouble: and there were deep lines in his worn and melancholy face. The fire of his eyes, the expression of his features, the very voice in which he spoke, were all subdued and quenched, as if the spirit within him lay in ashes. He was respectably, though very plainly dressed, in black; but his clothes, moulded to the general character of his figure, seemed to shrink and abase themselves upon him, and to join in the sorrowful solicitation which the whole man from head to foot expressed, to be left unnoticed, and alone in his humility.

And yet his interest in youth and hopefulness was not extinguished with the other embers of his soul, for he watched the boy’s earnest countenance as he spoke with unusual sympathy, though with an inexplicable show of trouble and compassion, which escaped into his looks, however hard he strove to hold it prisoner. When Walter, in conclusion, put to him the question he had put to Florence, he still stood glancing at him with the same expression, as if he had read some fate upon his face, mournfully at variance with its present brightness.

“What do you advise, Mr Carker?” said Walter, smiling. “You always give me good advice, you know, when you do speak to me. That’s not often, though.”

“I think your own idea is the best,” he answered: looking from Florence to Walter, and back again.

“Mr Carker,” said Walter, brightening with a generous thought, “Come! Here’s a chance for you. Go you to Mr Dombey’s, and be the messenger of good news. It may do you some good, Sir. I’ll remain at home. You shall go.”

“I!” returned the other.

“Yes. Why not, Mr Carker?” said the boy.

He merely shook him by the hand in answer; he seemed in a manner ashamed and afraid even to do that; and bidding him good-night, and advising him to make haste, turned away.

“Come, Miss Dombey,” said Walter, looking after him as they turned away also, “we’ll go to my Uncle’s as quick as we can. Did you ever hear Mr Dombey speak of Mr Carker the Junior, Miss Florence?”

“No,” returned the child, mildly, “I don’t often hear Papa speak.”

“Ah! true! more shame for him,” thought Walter. After a minute’s pause, during which he had been looking down upon the gentle patient little face moving on at his side, he said, “The strangest man, Mr Carker the Junior is, Miss Florence, that ever you heard of. If you could understand what an extraordinary interest he takes in me, and yet how he shuns me and avoids me; and what a low place he holds in our office, and how he is never advanced, and never complains, though year after year he sees young men passed over his head, and though his brother (younger than he is), is our head Manager, you would be as much puzzled about him as I am.”

As Florence could hardly be expected to understand much about it, Walter bestirred himself with his accustomed boyish animation and restlessness to change the subject; and one of the unfortunate shoes coming off again opportunely, proposed to carry Florence to his uncle’s in his arms. Florence, though very tired, laughingly declined the proposal, lest he should let her fall; and as they were already near the wooden Midshipman, and as Walter went on to cite various precedents, from shipwrecks and other moving accidents, where younger boys than he had triumphantly rescued and carried off older girls than Florence, they were still in full conversation about it when they arrived at the Instrument-maker’s door.

“Holloa, Uncle Sol!” cried Walter, bursting into the shop, and speaking incoherently and out of breath, from that time forth, for the rest of the evening. “Here’s a wonderful adventure! Here’s Mr Dombey’s daughter lost in the streets, and robbed of her clothes by an old witch of a woman—found by me—brought home to our parlour to rest—look here!”

“Good Heaven!” said Uncle Sol, starting back against his favourite compass-case. “It can’t be! Well, I—”

“No, nor anybody else,” said Walter, anticipating the rest. “Nobody would, nobody could, you know. Here! just help me lift the little sofa near the fire, will you, Uncle Sol—take care of the plates—cut some dinner for her, will you, Uncle—throw those shoes under the grate. Miss Florence—put your feet on the fender to dry—how damp they are—here’s an adventure, Uncle, eh?—God bless my soul, how hot I am!”

Solomon Gills was quite as hot, by sympathy, and in excessive bewilderment. He patted Florence’s head, pressed her to eat, pressed her to drink, rubbed the soles of her feet with his pocket-handkerchief heated at the fire, followed his locomotive nephew with his eyes, and ears, and had no clear perception of anything except that he was being constantly knocked against and tumbled over by that excited young gentleman, as he darted about the room attempting to accomplish twenty things at once, and doing nothing at all.

“Here, wait a minute, Uncle,” he continued, catching up a candle, “till I run upstairs, and get another jacket on, and then I’ll be off. I say, Uncle, isn’t this an adventure?”

“My dear boy,” said Solomon, who, with his spectacles on his forehead and the great chronometer in his pocket, was incessantly oscillating between Florence on the sofa, and his nephew in all parts of the parlour, “it’s the most extraordinary—”

“No, but do, Uncle, please—do, Miss Florence—dinner, you know, Uncle.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” cried Solomon, cutting instantly into a leg of mutton, as if he were catering for a giant. “I’ll take care of her, Wally! I understand. Pretty dear! Famished, of course. You go and get ready. Lord bless me! Sir Richard Whittington thrice Lord Mayor of London.”

Walter was not very long in mounting to his lofty garret and descending from it, but in the meantime Florence, overcome by fatigue, had sunk into a doze before the fire. The short interval of quiet, though only a few minutes in duration, enabled Solomon Gills so far to collect his wits as to make some little arrangements for her comfort, and to darken the room, and to screen her from the blaze. Thus, when the boy returned, she was sleeping peacefully.

“That’s capital!” he whispered, giving Solomon such a hug that it squeezed a new expression into his face. “Now I’m off. I’ll just take a crust of bread with me, for I’m very hungry—and don’t wake her, Uncle Sol.”

“No, no,” said Solomon. “Pretty child.”

“Pretty, indeed!” cried Walter. “I never saw such a face, Uncle Sol. Now I’m off.”

“That’s right,” said Solomon, greatly relieved.

“I say, Uncle Sol,” cried Walter, putting his face in at the door.

“Here he is again,” said Solomon.

“How does she look now?”

“Quite happy,” said Solomon.

“That’s famous! now I’m off.”

“I hope you are,” said Solomon to himself.

“I say, Uncle Sol,” cried Walter, reappearing at the door.

“Here he is again!” said Solomon.

“We met Mr Carker the Junior in the street, queerer than ever. He bade me good-bye, but came behind us here—there’s an odd thing!—for when we reached the shop door, I looked round, and saw him going quietly away, like a servant who had seen me home, or a faithful dog. How does she look now, Uncle?”

“Pretty much the same as before, Wally,” replied Uncle Sol.

“That’s right. Now I am off!”

And this time he really was: and Solomon Gills, with no appetite for dinner, sat on the opposite side of the fire, watching Florence in her slumber, building a great many airy castles of the most fantastic architecture; and looking, in the dim shade, and in the close vicinity of all the instruments, like a magician disguised in a Welsh wig and a suit of coffee colour, who held the child in an enchanted sleep.

In the meantime, Walter proceeded towards Mr Dombey’s house at a pace seldom achieved by a hack horse from the stand; and yet with his head out of window every two or three minutes, in impatient remonstrance with the driver. Arriving at his journey’s end, he leaped out, and breathlessly announcing his errand to the servant, followed him straight into the library, we there was a great confusion of tongues, and where Mr Dombey, his sister, and Miss Tox, Richards, and Nipper, were all congregated together.

“Oh! I beg your pardon, Sir,” said Walter, rushing up to him, “but I’m happy to say it’s all right, Sir. Miss Dombey’s found!”

The boy with his open face, and flowing hair, and sparkling eyes, panting with pleasure and excitement, was wonderfully opposed to Mr Dombey, as he sat confronting him in his library chair.

“I told you, Louisa, that she would certainly be found,” said Mr Dombey, looking slightly over his shoulder at that lady, who wept in company with Miss Tox. “Let the servants know that no further steps are necessary. This boy who brings the information, is young Gay, from the office. How was my daughter found, Sir? I know how she was lost.” Here he looked majestically at Richards. “But how was she found? Who found her?”

“Why, I believe I found Miss Dombey, Sir,” said Walter modestly, “at least I don’t know that I can claim the merit of having exactly found her, Sir, but I was the fortunate instrument of—”

“What do you mean, Sir,” interrupted Mr Dombey, regarding the boy’s evident pride and pleasure in his share of the transaction with an instinctive dislike, “by not having exactly found my daughter, and by being a fortunate instrument? Be plain and coherent, if you please.”

It was quite out of Walter’s power to be coherent; but he rendered himself as explanatory as he could, in his breathless state, and stated why he had come alone.

“You hear this, girl?” said Mr Dombey sternly to the black-eyed. “Take what is necessary, and return immediately with this young man to fetch Miss Florence home. Gay, you will be rewarded to-morrow.”

“Oh! thank you, Sir,” said Walter. “You are very kind. I’m sure I was not thinking of any reward, Sir.”

“You are a boy,” said Mr Dombey, suddenly and almost fiercely; “and what you think of, or affect to think of, is of little consequence. You have done well, Sir. Don’t undo it. Louisa, please to give the lad some wine.”

Mr Dombey’s glance followed Walter Gay with sharp disfavour, as he left the room under the pilotage of Mrs Chick; and it may be that his mind’s eye followed him with no greater relish, as he rode back to his Uncle’s with Miss Susan Nipper.

There they found that Florence, much refreshed by sleep, had dined, and greatly improved the acquaintance of Solomon Gills, with whom she was on terms of perfect confidence and ease. The black-eyed (who had cried so much that she might now be called the red-eyed, and who was very silent and depressed) caught her in her arms without a word of contradiction or reproach, and made a very hysterical meeting of it. Then converting the parlour, for the nonce, into a private tiring room, she dressed her, with great care, in proper clothes; and presently led her forth, as like a Dombey as her natural disqualifications admitted of her being made.

“Good-night!” said Florence, running up to Solomon. “You have been very good to me.”

Old Sol was quite delighted, and kissed her like her grand-father.

“Good-night, Walter! Good-bye!” said Florence.

“Good-bye!” said Walter, giving both his hands.

“I’ll never forget you,” pursued Florence. “No! indeed I never will. Good-bye, Walter!”

In the innocence of her grateful heart, the child lifted up her face to his. Walter, bending down his own, raised it again, all red and burning; and looked at Uncle Sol, quite sheepishly.

“Where’s Walter?” “Good-night, Walter!” “Good-bye, Walter!” “Shake hands once more, Walter!” This was still Florence’s cry, after she was shut up with her little maid, in the coach. And when the coach at length moved off, Walter on the door-step gaily returned the waving of her handkerchief, while the wooden Midshipman behind him seemed, like himself, intent upon that coach alone, excluding all the other passing coaches from his observation.

In good time Mr Dombey’s mansion was gained again, and again there was a noise of tongues in the library. Again, too, the coach was ordered to wait—“for Mrs Richards,” one of Susan’s fellow-servants ominously whispered, as she passed with Florence.

The entrance of the lost child made a slight sensation, but not much. Mr Dombey, who had never found her, kissed her once upon the forehead, and cautioned her not to run away again, or wander anywhere with treacherous attendants. Mrs Chick stopped in her lamentations on the corruption of human nature, even when beckoned to the paths of virtue by a Charitable Grinder; and received her with a welcome something short of the reception due to none but perfect Dombeys. Miss Tox regulated her feelings by the models before her. Richards, the culprit Richards, alone poured out her heart in broken words of welcome, and bowed herself over the little wandering head as if she really loved it.

“Ah, Richards!” said Mrs Chick, with a sigh. “It would have been much more satisfactory to those who wish to think well of their fellow creatures, and much more becoming in you, if you had shown some proper feeling, in time, for the little child that is now going to be prematurely deprived of its natural nourishment.

“Cut off,” said Miss Tox, in a plaintive whisper, “from one common fountain!”

“If it was my ungrateful case,” said Mrs Chick, solemnly, “and I had your reflections, Richards, I should feel as if the Charitable Grinders’ dress would blight my child, and the education choke him.”

For the matter of that—but Mrs Chick didn’t know it—he had been pretty well blighted by the dress already; and as to the education, even its retributive effect might be produced in time, for it was a storm of sobs and blows.

“Louisa!” said Mr Dombey. “It is not necessary to prolong these observations. The woman is discharged and paid. You leave this house, Richards, for taking my son—my son,” said Mr Dombey, emphatically repeating these two words, “into haunts and into society which are not to be thought of without a shudder. As to the accident which befel Miss Florence this morning, I regard that as, in one great sense, a happy and fortunate circumstance; inasmuch as, but for that occurrence, I never could have known—and from your own lips too—of what you had been guilty. I think, Louisa, the other nurse, the young person,” here Miss Nipper sobbed aloud, “being so much younger, and necessarily influenced by Paul’s nurse, may remain. Have the goodness to direct that this woman’s coach is paid to”—Mr Dombey stopped and winced—“to Staggs’s Gardens.”

Polly moved towards the door, with Florence holding to her dress, and crying to her in the most pathetic manner not to go away. It was a dagger in the haughty father’s heart, an arrow in his brain, to see how the flesh and blood he could not disown clung to this obscure stranger, and he sitting by. Not that he cared to whom his daughter turned, or from whom turned away. The swift sharp agony struck through him, as he thought of what his son might do.

His son cried lustily that night, at all events. Sooth to say, poor Paul had better reason for his tears than sons of that age often have, for he had lost his second mother—his first, so far as he knew—by a stroke as sudden as that natural affliction which had darkened the beginning of his life. At the same blow, his sister too, who cried herself to sleep so mournfully, had lost as good and true a friend. But that is quite beside the question. Let us waste no words about it.

CHAPTER VII. 
A Bird’s-eye Glimpse of Miss Tox’s Dwelling-place: also of the State of Miss Tox’s Affections

Miss Tox inhabited a dark little house that had been squeezed, at some remote period of English History, into a fashionable neighbourhood at the west end of the town, where it stood in the shade like a poor relation of the great street round the corner, coldly looked down upon by mighty mansions. It was not exactly in a court, and it was not exactly in a yard; but it was in the dullest of No-Thoroughfares, rendered anxious and haggard by distant double knocks. The name of this retirement, where grass grew between the chinks in the stone pavement, was Princess’s Place; and in Princess’s Place was Princess’s Chapel, with a tinkling bell, where sometimes as many as five-and-twenty people attended service on a Sunday. The Princess’s Arms was also there, and much resorted to by splendid footmen. A sedan chair was kept inside the railing before the Princess’s Arms, but it had never come out within the memory of man; and on fine mornings, the top of every rail (there were eight-and-forty, as Miss Tox had often counted) was decorated with a pewter-pot.

There was another private house besides Miss Tox’s in Princess’s Place: not to mention an immense Pair of gates, with an immense pair of lion-headed knockers on them, which were never opened by any chance, and were supposed to constitute a disused entrance to somebody’s stables. Indeed, there was a smack of stabling in the air of Princess’s Place; and Miss Tox’s bedroom (which was at the back) commanded a vista of Mews, where hostlers, at whatever sort of work engaged, were continually accompanying themselves with effervescent noises; and where the most domestic and confidential garments of coachmen and their wives and families, usually hung, like Macbeth’s banners, on the outward walls.

At this other private house in Princess’s Place, tenanted by a retired butler who had married a housekeeper, apartments were let Furnished, to a single gentleman: to wit, a wooden-featured, blue-faced Major, with his eyes starting out of his head, in whom Miss Tox recognised, as she herself expressed it, “something so truly military;” and between whom and herself, an occasional interchange of newspapers and pamphlets, and such Platonic dalliance, was effected through the medium of a dark servant of the Major’s who Miss Tox was quite content to classify as a “native,” without connecting him with any geographical idea whatever.

Perhaps there never was a smaller entry and staircase, than the entry and staircase of Miss Tox’s house. Perhaps, taken altogether, from top to bottom, it was the most inconvenient little house in England, and the crookedest; but then, Miss Tox said, what a situation! There was very little daylight to be got there in the winter: no sun at the best of times: air was out of the question, and traffic was walled out. Still Miss Tox said, think of the situation! So said the blue-faced Major, whose eyes were starting out of his head: who gloried in Princess’s Place: and who delighted to turn the conversation at his club, whenever he could, to something connected with some of the great people in the great street round the corner, that he might have the satisfaction of saying they were his neighbours.

In short, with Miss Tox and the blue-faced Major, it was enough for Princess’s Place—as with a very small fragment of society, it is enough for many a little hanger-on of another sort—to be well connected, and to have genteel blood in its veins. It might be poor, mean, shabby, stupid, dull. No matter. The great street round the corner trailed off into Princess’s Place; and that which of High Holborn would have become a choleric word, spoken of Princess’s Place became flat blasphemy.

The dingy tenement inhabited by Miss Tox was her own; having been devised and bequeathed to her by the deceased owner of the fishy eye in the locket, of whom a miniature portrait, with a powdered head and a pigtail, balanced the kettle-holder on opposite sides of the parlour fireplace. The greater part of the furniture was of the powdered-head and pig-tail period: comprising a plate-warmer, always languishing and sprawling its four attenuated bow legs in somebody’s way; and an obsolete harpsichord, illuminated round the maker’s name with a painted garland of sweet peas. In any part of the house, visitors were usually cognizant of a prevailing mustiness; and in warm weather Miss Tox had been seen apparently writing in sundry chinks and crevices of the wainscoat with the wrong end of a pen dipped in spirits of turpentine.

Although Major Bagstock had arrived at what is called in polite literature, the grand meridian of life, and was proceeding on his journey downhill with hardly any throat, and a very rigid pair of jaw-bones, and long-flapped elephantine ears, and his eyes and complexion in the state of artificial excitement already mentioned, he was mightily proud of awakening an interest in Miss Tox, and tickled his vanity with the fiction that she was a splendid woman who had her eye on him. This he had several times hinted at the club: in connexion with little jocularities, of which old Joe Bagstock, old Joey Bagstock, old J. Bagstock, old Josh Bagstock, or so forth, was the perpetual theme: it being, as it were, the Major’s stronghold and donjon-keep of light humour, to be on the most familiar terms with his own name.

“Joey B., Sir,” the Major would say, with a flourish of his walking-stick, “is worth a dozen of you. If you had a few more of the Bagstock breed among you, Sir, you’d be none the worse for it. Old Joe, Sir, needn’t look far for a wife even now, if he was on the look-out; but he’s hard-hearted, Sir, is Joe—he’s tough, Sir, tough, and de-vilish sly!” After such a declaration, wheezing sounds would be heard; and the Major’s blue would deepen into purple, while his eyes strained and started convulsively.

Notwithstanding his very liberal laudation of himself, however, the Major was selfish. It may be doubted whether there ever was a more entirely selfish person at heart; or at stomach is perhaps a better expression, seeing that he was more decidedly endowed with that latter organ than with the former. He had no idea of being overlooked or slighted by anybody; least of all, had he the remotest comprehension of being overlooked and slighted by Miss Tox.

And yet, Miss Tox, as it appeared, forgot him—gradually forgot him. She began to forget him soon after her discovery of the Toodle family. She continued to forget him up to the time of the christening. She went on forgetting him with compound interest after that. Something or somebody had superseded him as a source of interest.

“Good morning, Ma’am,” said the Major, meeting Miss Tox in Princess’s Place, some weeks after the changes chronicled in the last chapter.

“Good morning, Sir,” said Miss Tox; very coldly.

“Joe Bagstock, Ma’am,” observed the Major, with his usual gallantry, “has not had the happiness of bowing to you at your window, for a considerable period. Joe has been hardly used, Ma’am. His sun has been behind a cloud.”

Miss Tox inclined her head; but very coldly indeed.

“Joe’s luminary has been out of town, Ma’am, perhaps,” inquired the Major.

“I? out of town? oh no, I have not been out of town,” said Miss Tox. “I have been much engaged lately. My time is nearly all devoted to some very intimate friends. I am afraid I have none to spare, even now. Good morning, Sir!”

As Miss Tox, with her most fascinating step and carriage, disappeared from Princess’s Place, the Major stood looking after her with a bluer face than ever: muttering and growling some not at all complimentary remarks.

“Why, damme, Sir,” said the Major, rolling his lobster eyes round and round Princess’s Place, and apostrophizing its fragrant air, “six months ago, the woman loved the ground Josh Bagstock walked on. What’s the meaning of it?”

The Major decided, after some consideration, that it meant mantraps; that it meant plotting and snaring; that Miss Tox was digging pitfalls. “But you won’t catch Joe, Ma’am,” said the Major. “He’s tough, Ma’am, tough, is J.B. Tough, and de-vilish sly!” over which reflection he chuckled for the rest of the day.

But still, when that day and many other days were gone and past, it seemed that Miss Tox took no heed whatever of the Major, and thought nothing at all about him. She had been wont, once upon a time, to look out at one of her little dark windows by accident, and blushingly return the Major’s greeting; but now, she never gave the Major a chance, and cared nothing at all whether he looked over the way or not. Other changes had come to pass too. The Major, standing in the shade of his own apartment, could make out that an air of greater smartness had recently come over Miss Tox’s house; that a new cage with gilded wires had been provided for the ancient little canary bird; that divers ornaments, cut out of coloured card-boards and paper, seemed to decorate the chimney-piece and tables; that a plant or two had suddenly sprung up in the windows; that Miss Tox occasionally practised on the harpsichord, whose garland of sweet peas was always displayed ostentatiously, crowned with the Copenhagen and Bird Waltzes in a Music Book of Miss Tox’s own copying.

Over and above all this, Miss Tox had long been dressed with uncommon care and elegance in slight mourning. But this helped the Major out of his difficulty; and he determined within himself that she had come into a small legacy, and grown proud.

It was on the very next day after he had eased his mind by arriving at this decision, that the Major, sitting at his breakfast, saw an apparition so tremendous and wonderful in Miss Tox’s little drawing-room, that he remained for some time rooted to his chair; then, rushing into the next room, returned with a double-barrelled opera-glass, through which he surveyed it intently for some minutes.

“It’s a Baby, Sir,” said the Major, shutting up the glass again, “for fifty thousand pounds!”

The Major couldn’t forget it. He could do nothing but whistle, and stare to that extent, that his eyes, compared with what they now became, had been in former times quite cavernous and sunken. Day after day, two, three, four times a week, this Baby reappeared. The Major continued to stare and whistle. To all other intents and purposes he was alone in Princess’s Place. Miss Tox had ceased to mind what he did. He might have been black as well as blue, and it would have been of no consequence to her.

The perseverance with which she walked out of Princess’s Place to fetch this baby and its nurse, and walked back with them, and walked home with them again, and continually mounted guard over them; and the perseverance with which she nursed it herself, and fed it, and played with it, and froze its young blood with airs upon the harpsichord, was extraordinary. At about this same period too, she was seized with a passion for looking at a certain bracelet; also with a passion for looking at the moon, of which she would take long observations from her chamber window. But whatever she looked at; sun, moon, stars, or bracelet; she looked no more at the Major. And the Major whistled, and stared, and wondered, and dodged about his room, and could make nothing of it.

“You’ll quite win my brother Paul’s heart, and that’s the truth, my dear,” said Mrs Chick, one day.

Miss Tox turned pale.

“He grows more like Paul every day,” said Mrs Chick.

Miss Tox returned no other reply than by taking the little Paul in her arms, and making his cockade perfectly flat and limp with her caresses.

“His mother, my dear,” said Miss Tox, “whose acquaintance I was to have made through you, does he at all resemble her?”

“Not at all,” returned Louisa

“She was—she was pretty, I believe?” faltered Miss Tox.

“Why, poor dear Fanny was interesting,” said Mrs Chick, after some judicial consideration. “Certainly interesting. She had not that air of commanding superiority which one would somehow expect, almost as a matter of course, to find in my brother’s wife; nor had she that strength and vigour of mind which such a man requires.”

Miss Tox heaved a deep sigh.

“But she was pleasing:” said Mrs Chick: “extremely so. And she meant!—oh, dear, how well poor Fanny meant!”

“You Angel!” cried Miss Tox to little Paul. “You Picture of your own Papa!”

If the Major could have known how many hopes and ventures, what a multitude of plans and speculations, rested on that baby head; and could have seen them hovering, in all their heterogeneous confusion and disorder, round the puckered cap of the unconscious little Paul; he might have stared indeed. Then would he have recognised, among the crowd, some few ambitious motes and beams belonging to Miss Tox; then would he perhaps have understood the nature of that lady’s faltering investment in the Dombey Firm.

If the child himself could have awakened in the night, and seen, gathered about his cradle-curtains, faint reflections of the dreams that other people had of him, they might have scared him, with good reason. But he slumbered on, alike unconscious of the kind intentions of Miss Tox, the wonder of the Major, the early sorrows of his sister, and the stern visions of his father; and innocent that any spot of earth contained a Dombey or a Son.

CHAPTER VIII. 
Paul’s Further Progress, Growth and Character

Beneath the watching and attentive eyes of Time—so far another Major—Paul’s slumbers gradually changed. More and more light broke in upon them; distincter and distincter dreams disturbed them; an accumulating crowd of objects and impressions swarmed about his rest; and so he passed from babyhood to childhood, and became a talking, walking, wondering Dombey.

On the downfall and banishment of Richards, the nursery may be said to have been put into commission: as a Public Department is sometimes, when no individual Atlas can be found to support it The Commissioners were, of course, Mrs Chick and Miss Tox: who devoted themselves to their duties with such astonishing ardour that Major Bagstock had every day some new reminder of his being forsaken, while Mr Chick, bereft of domestic supervision, cast himself upon the gay world, dined at clubs and coffee-houses, smelt of smoke on three different occasions, went to the play by himself, and in short, loosened (as Mrs Chick once told him) every social bond, and moral obligation.

Yet, in spite of his early promise, all this vigilance and care could not make little Paul a thriving boy. Naturally delicate, perhaps, he pined and wasted after the dismissal of his nurse, and, for a long time, seemed but to wait his opportunity of gliding through their hands, and seeking his lost mother. This dangerous ground in his steeple-chase towards manhood passed, he still found it very rough riding, and was grievously beset by all the obstacles in his course. Every tooth was a break-neck fence, and every pimple in the measles a stone wall to him. He was down in every fit of the hooping-cough, and rolled upon and crushed by a whole field of small diseases, that came trooping on each other’s heels to prevent his getting up again. Some bird of prey got into his throat instead of the thrush; and the very chickens turning ferocious—if they have anything to do with that infant malady to which they lend their name—worried him like tiger-cats.

The chill of Paul’s christening had struck home, perhaps to some sensitive part of his nature, which could not recover itself in the cold shade of his father; but he was an unfortunate child from that day. Mrs Wickam often said she never see a dear so put upon.

Mrs Wickam was a waiter’s wife—which would seem equivalent to being any other man’s widow—whose application for an engagement in Mr Dombey’s service had been favourably considered, on account of the apparent impossibility of her having any followers, or anyone to follow; and who, from within a day or two of Paul’s sharp weaning, had been engaged as his nurse. Mrs Wickam was a meek woman, of a fair complexion, with her eyebrows always elevated, and her head always drooping; who was always ready to pity herself, or to be pitied, or to pity anybody else; and who had a surprising natural gift of viewing all subjects in an utterly forlorn and pitiable light, and bringing dreadful precedents to bear upon them, and deriving the greatest consolation from the exercise of that talent.

It is hardly necessary to observe, that no touch of this quality ever reached the magnificent knowledge of Mr Dombey. It would have been remarkable, indeed, if any had; when no one in the house—not even Mrs Chick or Miss Tox—dared ever whisper to him that there had, on any one occasion, been the least reason for uneasiness in reference to little Paul. He had settled, within himself, that the child must necessarily pass through a certain routine of minor maladies, and that the sooner he did so the better. If he could have bought him off, or provided a substitute, as in the case of an unlucky drawing for the militia, he would have been glad to do so, on liberal terms. But as this was not feasible, he merely wondered, in his haughty manner, now and then, what Nature meant by it; and comforted himself with the reflection that there was another milestone passed upon the road, and that the great end of the journey lay so much the nearer. For the feeling uppermost in his mind, now and constantly intensifying, and increasing in it as Paul grew older, was impatience. Impatience for the time to come, when his visions of their united consequence and grandeur would be triumphantly realized.

Some philosophers tell us that selfishness is at the root of our best loves and affections. Mr Dombey’s young child was, from the beginning, so distinctly important to him as a part of his own greatness, or (which is the same thing) of the greatness of Dombey and Son, that there is no doubt his parental affection might have been easily traced, like many a goodly superstructure of fair fame, to a very low foundation. But he loved his son with all the love he had. If there were a warm place in his frosty heart, his son occupied it; if its very hard surface could receive the impression of any image, the image of that son was there; though not so much as an infant, or as a boy, but as a grown man—the “Son” of the Firm. Therefore he was impatient to advance into the future, and to hurry over the intervening passages of his history. Therefore he had little or no anxiety about them, in spite of his love; feeling as if the boy had a charmed life, and must become the man with whom he held such constant communication in his thoughts, and for whom he planned and projected, as for an existing reality, every day.

Thus Paul grew to be nearly five years old. He was a pretty little fellow; though there was something wan and wistful in his small face, that gave occasion to many significant shakes of Mrs Wickam’s head, and many long-drawn inspirations of Mrs Wickam’s breath. His temper gave abundant promise of being imperious in after-life; and he had as hopeful an apprehension of his own importance, and the rightful subservience of all other things and persons to it, as heart could desire. He was childish and sportive enough at times, and not of a sullen disposition; but he had a strange, old-fashioned, thoughtful way, at other times, of sitting brooding in his miniature arm-chair, when he looked (and talked) like one of those terrible little Beings in the Fairy tales, who, at a hundred and fifty or two hundred years of age, fantastically represent the children for whom they have been substituted. He would frequently be stricken with this precocious mood upstairs in the nursery; and would sometimes lapse into it suddenly, exclaiming that he was tired: even while playing with Florence, or driving Miss Tox in single harness. But at no time did he fall into it so surely, as when, his little chair being carried down into his father’s room, he sat there with him after dinner, by the fire. They were the strangest pair at such a time that ever firelight shone upon. Mr Dombey so erect and solemn, gazing at the glare; his little image, with an old, old face, peering into the red perspective with the fixed and rapt attention of a sage. Mr Dombey entertaining complicated worldly schemes and plans; the little image entertaining Heaven knows what wild fancies, half-formed thoughts, and wandering speculations. Mr Dombey stiff with starch and arrogance; the little image by inheritance, and in unconscious imitation. The two so very much alike, and yet so monstrously contrasted.

On one of these occasions, when they had both been perfectly quiet for a long time, and Mr Dombey only knew that the child was awake by occasionally glancing at his eye, where the bright fire was sparkling like a jewel, little Paul broke silence thus:

“Papa! what’s money?”

The abrupt question had such immediate reference to the subject of Mr Dombey’s thoughts, that Mr Dombey was quite disconcerted.

“What is money, Paul?” he answered. “Money?”

“Yes,” said the child, laying his hands upon the elbows of his little chair, and turning the old face up towards Mr Dombey’s; “what is money?”

Mr Dombey was in a difficulty. He would have liked to give him some explanation involving the terms circulating-medium, currency, depreciation of currency, paper, bullion, rates of exchange, value of precious metals in the market, and so forth; but looking down at the little chair, and seeing what a long way down it was, he answered: “Gold, and silver, and copper. Guineas, shillings, half-pence. You know what they are?”

“Oh yes, I know what they are,” said Paul. “I don’t mean that, Papa. I mean what’s money after all?”

Heaven and Earth, how old his face was as he turned it up again towards his father’s!

“What is money after all!” said Mr Dombey, backing his chair a little, that he might the better gaze in sheer amazement at the presumptuous atom that propounded such an inquiry.

“I mean, Papa, what can it do?” returned Paul, folding his arms (they were hardly long enough to fold), and looking at the fire, and up at him, and at the fire, and up at him again.

Mr Dombey drew his chair back to its former place, and patted him on the head. “You’ll know better by-and-by, my man,” he said. “Money, Paul, can do anything.” He took hold of the little hand, and beat it softly against one of his own, as he said so.

But Paul got his hand free as soon as he could; and rubbing it gently to and fro on the elbow of his chair, as if his wit were in the palm, and he were sharpening it—and looking at the fire again, as though the fire had been his adviser and prompter—repeated, after a short pause:

“Anything, Papa?”

“Yes. Anything—almost,” said Mr Dombey.

“Anything means everything, don’t it, Papa?” asked his son: not observing, or possibly not understanding, the qualification.

“It includes it: yes,” said Mr Dombey.

“Why didn’t money save me my Mama?” returned the child. “It isn’t cruel, is it?”

“Cruel!” said Mr Dombey, settling his neckcloth, and seeming to resent the idea. “No. A good thing can’t be cruel.”

“If it’s a good thing, and can do anything,” said the little fellow, thoughtfully, as he looked back at the fire, “I wonder why it didn’t save me my Mama.”

He didn’t ask the question of his father this time. Perhaps he had seen, with a child’s quickness, that it had already made his father uncomfortable. But he repeated the thought aloud, as if it were quite an old one to him, and had troubled him very much; and sat with his chin resting on his hand, still cogitating and looking for an explanation in the fire.

Mr Dombey having recovered from his surprise, not to say his alarm (for it was the very first occasion on which the child had ever broached the subject of his mother to him, though he had had him sitting by his side, in this same manner, evening after evening), expounded to him how that money, though a very potent spirit, never to be disparaged on any account whatever, could not keep people alive whose time was come to die; and how that we must all die, unfortunately, even in the City, though we were never so rich. But how that money caused us to be honoured, feared, respected, courted, and admired, and made us powerful and glorious in the eyes of all men; and how that it could, very often, even keep off death, for a long time together. How, for example, it had secured to his Mama the services of Mr Pilkins, by which he, Paul, had often profited himself; likewise of the great Doctor Parker Peps, whom he had never known. And how it could do all, that could be done. This, with more to the same purpose, Mr Dombey instilled into the mind of his son, who listened attentively, and seemed to understand the greater part of what was said to him.

“It can’t make me strong and quite well, either, Papa; can it?” asked Paul, after a short silence; rubbing his tiny hands.

“Why, you are strong and quite well,” returned Mr Dombey. “Are you not?”

Oh! the age of the face that was turned up again, with an expression, half of melancholy, half of slyness, on it!

“You are as strong and well as such little people usually are? Eh?” said Mr Dombey.

“Florence is older than I am, but I’m not as strong and well as Florence, “I know,” returned the child; “and I believe that when Florence was as little as me, she could play a great deal longer at a time without tiring herself. I am so tired sometimes,” said little Paul, warming his hands, and looking in between the bars of the grate, as if some ghostly puppet-show were performing there, “and my bones ache so (Wickam says it’s my bones), that I don’t know what to do.”

“Ay! But that’s at night,” said Mr Dombey, drawing his own chair closer to his son’s, and laying his hand gently on his back; “little people should be tired at night, for then they sleep well.”

“Oh, it’s not at night, Papa,” returned the child, “it’s in the day; and I lie down in Florence’s lap, and she sings to me. At night I dream about such cu-ri-ous things!”

And he went on, warming his hands again, and thinking about them, like an old man or a young goblin.

Mr Dombey was so astonished, and so uncomfortable, and so perfectly at a loss how to pursue the conversation, that he could only sit looking at his son by the light of the fire, with his hand resting on his back, as if it were detained there by some magnetic attraction. Once he advanced his other hand, and turned the contemplative face towards his own for a moment. But it sought the fire again as soon as he released it; and remained, addressed towards the flickering blaze, until the nurse appeared, to summon him to bed.

“I want Florence to come for me,” said Paul.

“Won’t you come with your poor Nurse Wickam, Master Paul?” inquired that attendant, with great pathos.

“No, I won’t,” replied Paul, composing himself in his arm-chair again, like the master of the house.

Invoking a blessing upon his innocence, Mrs Wickam withdrew, and presently Florence appeared in her stead. The child immediately started up with sudden readiness and animation, and raised towards his father in bidding him good-night, a countenance so much brighter, so much younger, and so much more child-like altogether, that Mr Dombey, while he felt greatly reassured by the change, was quite amazed at it.

After they had left the room together, he thought he heard a soft voice singing; and remembering that Paul had said his sister sung to him, he had the curiosity to open the door and listen, and look after them. She was toiling up the great, wide, vacant staircase, with him in her arms; his head was lying on her shoulder, one of his arms thrown negligently round her neck. So they went, toiling up; she singing all the way, and Paul sometimes crooning out a feeble accompaniment. Mr Dombey looked after them until they reached the top of the staircase—not without halting to rest by the way—and passed out of his sight; and then he still stood gazing upwards, until the dull rays of the moon, glimmering in a melancholy manner through the dim skylight, sent him back to his room.

Mrs Chick and Miss Tox were convoked in council at dinner next day; and when the cloth was removed, Mr Dombey opened the proceedings by requiring to be informed, without any gloss or reservation, whether there was anything the matter with Paul, and what Mr Pilkins said about him.

“For the child is hardly,” said Mr Dombey, “as stout as I could wish.”

“My dear Paul,” returned Mrs Chick, “with your usual happy discrimination, which I am weak enough to envy you, every time I am in your company; and so I think is Miss Tox.”

“Oh my dear!” said Miss Tox, softly, “how could it be otherwise? Presumptuous as it is to aspire to such a level; still, if the bird of night may—but I’ll not trouble Mr Dombey with the sentiment. It merely relates to the Bulbul.”

Mr Dombey bent his head in stately recognition of the Bulbuls as an old-established body.

“With your usual happy discrimination, my dear Paul,” resumed Mrs Chick, “you have hit the point at once. Our darling is altogether as stout as we could wish. The fact is, that his mind is too much for him. His soul is a great deal too large for his frame. I am sure the way in which that dear child talks!” said Mrs Chick, shaking her head; “no one would believe. His expressions, Lucretia, only yesterday upon the subject of Funerals!”

“I am afraid,” said Mr Dombey, interrupting her testily, “that some of those persons upstairs suggest improper subjects to the child. He was speaking to me last night about his—about his Bones,” said Mr Dombey, laying an irritated stress upon the word. “What on earth has anybody to do with the—with the—Bones of my son? He is not a living skeleton, I suppose.”

“Very far from it,” said Mrs Chick, with unspeakable expression.

“I hope so,” returned her brother. “Funerals again! who talks to the child of funerals? We are not undertakers, or mutes, or grave-diggers, I believe.”

“Very far from it,” interposed Mrs Chick, with the same profound expression as before.

“Then who puts such things into his head?” said Mr Dombey. “Really I was quite dismayed and shocked last night. Who puts such things into his head, Louisa?”

“My dear Paul,” said Mrs Chick, after a moment’s silence, “it is of no use inquiring. I do not think, I will tell you candidly that Wickam is a person of very cheerful spirit, or what one would call a—”

“A daughter of Momus,” Miss Tox softly suggested.

“Exactly so,” said Mrs Chick; “but she is exceedingly attentive and useful, and not at all presumptuous; indeed I never saw a more biddable woman. I would say that for her, if I was put upon my trial before a Court of Justice.”

“Well! you are not put upon your trial before a Court of Justice, at present, Louisa,” returned Mr Dombey, chafing, “and therefore it don’t matter.”

“My dear Paul,” said Mrs Chick, in a warning voice, “I must be spoken to kindly, or there is an end of me,” at the same time a premonitory redness developed itself in Mrs Chick’s eyelids which was an invariable sign of rain, unless the weather changed directly.

“I was inquiring, Louisa,” observed Mr Dombey, in an altered voice, and after a decent interval, “about Paul’s health and actual state.”

“If the dear child,” said Mrs Chick, in the tone of one who was summing up what had been previously quite agreed upon, instead of saying it all for the first time, “is a little weakened by that last attack, and is not in quite such vigorous health as we could wish; and if he has some temporary weakness in his system, and does occasionally seem about to lose, for the moment, the use of his—”

Mrs Chick was afraid to say limbs, after Mr Dombey’s recent objection to bones, and therefore waited for a suggestion from Miss Tox, who, true to her office, hazarded “members.”

“Members!” repeated Mr Dombey.

“I think the medical gentleman mentioned legs this morning, my dear Louisa, did he not?” said Miss Tox.

“Why, of course he did, my love,” retorted Mrs Chick, mildly reproachful. “How can you ask me? You heard him. I say, if our dear Paul should lose, for the moment, the use of his legs, these are casualties common to many children at his time of life, and not to be prevented by any care or caution. The sooner you understand that, Paul, and admit that, the better. If you have any doubt as to the amount of care, and caution, and affection, and self-sacrifice, that has been bestowed upon little Paul, I should wish to refer the question to your medical attendant, or to any of your dependants in this house. Call Towlinson,” said Mrs Chick, “I believe he has no prejudice in our favour; quite the contrary. I should wish to hear what accusation Towlinson can make!”

“Surely you must know, Louisa,” observed Mr Dombey, “that I don’t question your natural devotion to, and regard for, the future head of my house.”

“I am glad to hear it, Paul,” said Mrs Chick; “but really you are very odd, and sometimes talk very strangely, though without meaning it, I know. If your dear boy’s soul is too much for his body, Paul, you should remember whose fault that is—who he takes after, I mean—and make the best of it. He’s as like his Papa as he can be. People have noticed it in the streets. The very beadle, I am informed, observed it, so long ago as at his christening. He’s a very respectable man, with children of his own. He ought to know.”

“Mr Pilkins saw Paul this morning, I believe?” said Mr Dombey.

“Yes, he did,” returned his sister. “Miss Tox and myself were present. Miss Tox and myself are always present. We make a point of it. Mr Pilkins has seen him for some days past, and a very clever man I believe him to be. He says it is nothing to speak of; which I can confirm, if that is any consolation; but he recommended, today, sea-air. Very wisely, Paul, I feel convinced.”

“Sea-air,” repeated Mr Dombey, looking at his sister.

“There is nothing to be made uneasy by, in that,” said Mrs Chick. “My George and Frederick were both ordered sea-air, when they were about his age; and I have been ordered it myself a great many times. I quite agree with you, Paul, that perhaps topics may be incautiously mentioned upstairs before him, which it would be as well for his little mind not to expatiate upon; but I really don’t see how that is to be helped, in the case of a child of his quickness. If he were a common child, there would be nothing in it. I must say I think, with Miss Tox, that a short absence from this house, the air of Brighton, and the bodily and mental training of so judicious a person as Mrs Pipchin for instance—”

“Who is Mrs Pipchin, Louisa?” asked Mr Dombey; aghast at this familiar introduction of a name he had never heard before.

“Mrs Pipchin, my dear Paul,” returned his sister, “is an elderly lady—Miss Tox knows her whole history—who has for some time devoted all the energies of her mind, with the greatest success, to the study and treatment of infancy, and who has been extremely well connected. Her husband broke his heart in—how did you say her husband broke his heart, my dear? I forget the precise circumstances.

“In pumping water out of the Peruvian Mines,” replied Miss Tox.

“Not being a Pumper himself, of course,” said Mrs Chick, glancing at her brother; and it really did seem necessary to offer the explanation, for Miss Tox had spoken of him as if he had died at the handle; “but having invested money in the speculation, which failed. I believe that Mrs Pipchin’s management of children is quite astonishing. I have heard it commended in private circles ever since I was—dear me—how high!” Mrs Chick’s eye wandered about the bookcase near the bust of Mr Pitt, which was about ten feet from the ground.

“Perhaps I should say of Mrs Pipchin, my dear Sir,” observed Miss Tox, with an ingenuous blush, “having been so pointedly referred to, that the encomium which has been passed upon her by your sweet sister is well merited. Many ladies and gentleman, now grown up to be interesting members of society, have been indebted to her care. The humble individual who addresses you was once under her charge. I believe juvenile nobility itself is no stranger to her establishment.”

“Do I understand that this respectable matron keeps an establishment, Miss Tox?” the Mr Dombey, condescendingly.

“Why, I really don’t know,” rejoined that lady, “whether I am justified in calling it so. It is not a Preparatory School by any means. Should I express my meaning,” said Miss Tox, with peculiar sweetness, “if I designated it an infantine Boarding-House of a very select description?”

“On an exceedingly limited and particular scale,” suggested Mrs Chick, with a glance at her brother.

“Oh! Exclusion itself!” said Miss Tox.

There was something in this. Mrs Pipchin’s husband having broken his heart of the Peruvian mines was good. It had a rich sound. Besides, Mr Dombey was in a state almost amounting to consternation at the idea of Paul remaining where he was one hour after his removal had been recommended by the medical practitioner. It was a stoppage and delay upon the road the child must traverse, slowly at the best, before the goal was reached. Their recommendation of Mrs Pipchin had great weight with him; for he knew that they were jealous of any interference with their charge, and he never for a moment took it into account that they might be solicitous to divide a responsibility, of which he had, as shown just now, his own established views. Broke his heart of the Peruvian mines, mused Mr Dombey. Well! a very respectable way of doing It.

“Supposing we should decide, on to-morrow’s inquiries, to send Paul down to Brighton to this lady, who would go with him?” inquired Mr Dombey, after some reflection.

“I don’t think you could send the child anywhere at present without Florence, my dear Paul,” returned his sister, hesitating. “It’s quite an infatuation with him. He’s very young, you know, and has his fancies.”

Mr Dombey turned his head away, and going slowly to the bookcase, and unlocking it, brought back a book to read.

“Anybody else, Louisa?” he said, without looking up, and turning over the leaves.

“Wickam, of course. Wickam would be quite sufficient, I should say,” returned his sister. “Paul being in such hands as Mrs Pipchin’s, you could hardly send anybody who would be a further check upon her. You would go down yourself once a week at least, of course.”

“Of course,” said Mr Dombey; and sat looking at one page for an hour afterwards, without reading one word.

This celebrated Mrs Pipchin was a marvellous ill-favoured, ill-conditioned old lady, of a stooping figure, with a mottled face, like bad marble, a hook nose, and a hard grey eye, that looked as if it might have been hammered at on an anvil without sustaining any injury. Forty years at least had elapsed since the Peruvian mines had been the death of Mr Pipchin; but his relict still wore black bombazeen, of such a lustreless, deep, dead, sombre shade, that gas itself couldn’t light her up after dark, and her presence was a quencher to any number of candles. She was generally spoken of as “a great manager” of children; and the secret of her management was, to give them everything that they didn’t like, and nothing that they did—which was found to sweeten their dispositions very much. She was such a bitter old lady, that one was tempted to believe there had been some mistake in the application of the Peruvian machinery, and that all her waters of gladness and milk of human kindness, had been pumped out dry, instead of the mines.

The Castle of this ogress and child-queller was in a steep by-street at Brighton; where the soil was more than usually chalky, flinty, and sterile, and the houses were more than usually brittle and thin; where the small front-gardens had the unaccountable property of producing nothing but marigolds, whatever was sown in them; and where snails were constantly discovered holding on to the street doors, and other public places they were not expected to ornament, with the tenacity of cupping-glasses. In the winter time the air couldn’t be got out of the Castle, and in the summer time it couldn’t be got in. There was such a continual reverberation of wind in it, that it sounded like a great shell, which the inhabitants were obliged to hold to their ears night and day, whether they liked it or no. It was not, naturally, a fresh-smelling house; and in the window of the front parlour, which was never opened, Mrs Pipchin kept a collection of plants in pots, which imparted an earthy flavour of their own to the establishment. However choice examples of their kind, too, these plants were of a kind peculiarly adapted to the embowerment of Mrs Pipchin. There were half-a-dozen specimens of the cactus, writhing round bits of lath, like hairy serpents; another specimen shooting out broad claws, like a green lobster; several creeping vegetables, possessed of sticky and adhesive leaves; and one uncomfortable flower-pot hanging to the ceiling, which appeared to have boiled over, and tickling people underneath with its long green ends, reminded them of spiders—in which Mrs Pipchin’s dwelling was uncommonly prolific, though perhaps it challenged competition still more proudly, in the season, in point of earwigs.

Mrs Pipchin’s scale of charges being high, however, to all who could afford to pay, and Mrs Pipchin very seldom sweetening the equable acidity of her nature in favour of anybody, she was held to be an old “lady of remarkable firmness, who was quite scientific in her knowledge of the childish character.” On this reputation, and on the broken heart of Mr Pipchin, she had contrived, taking one year with another, to eke out a tolerable sufficient living since her husband’s demise. Within three days after Mrs Chick’s first allusion to her, this excellent old lady had the satisfaction of anticipating a handsome addition to her current receipts, from the pocket of Mr Dombey; and of receiving Florence and her little brother Paul, as inmates of the Castle.

Mrs Chick and Miss Tox, who had brought them down on the previous night (which they all passed at an Hotel), had just driven away from the door, on their journey home again; and Mrs Pipchin, with her back to the fire, stood, reviewing the new-comers, like an old soldier. Mrs Pipchin’s middle-aged niece, her good-natured and devoted slave, but possessing a gaunt and iron-bound aspect, and much afflicted with boils on her nose, was divesting Master Bitherstone of the clean collar he had worn on parade. Miss Pankey, the only other little boarder at present, had that moment been walked off to the Castle Dungeon (an empty apartment at the back, devoted to correctional purposes), for having sniffed thrice, in the presence of visitors.

“Well, Sir,” said Mrs Pipchin to Paul, “how do you think you shall like me?”

“I don’t think I shall like you at all,” replied Paul. “I want to go away. This isn’t my house.”

“No. It’s mine,” retorted Mrs Pipchin.

“It’s a very nasty one,” said Paul.

“There’s a worse place in it than this though,” said Mrs Pipchin, “where we shut up our bad boys.”

“Has he ever been in it?” asked Paul: pointing out Master Bitherstone.

Mrs Pipchin nodded assent; and Paul had enough to do, for the rest of that day, in surveying Master Bitherstone from head to foot, and watching all the workings of his countenance, with the interest attaching to a boy of mysterious and terrible experiences.

At one o’clock there was a dinner, chiefly of the farinaceous and vegetable kind, when Miss Pankey (a mild little blue-eyed morsel of a child, who was shampoo’d every morning, and seemed in danger of being rubbed away, altogether) was led in from captivity by the ogress herself, and instructed that nobody who sniffed before visitors ever went to Heaven. When this great truth had been thoroughly impressed upon her, she was regaled with rice; and subsequently repeated the form of grace established in the Castle, in which there was a special clause, thanking Mrs Pipchin for a good dinner. Mrs Pipchin’s niece, Berinthia, took cold pork. Mrs Pipchin, whose constitution required warm nourishment, made a special repast of mutton-chops, which were brought in hot and hot, between two plates, and smelt very nice.

As it rained after dinner, and they couldn’t go out walking on the beach, and Mrs Pipchin’s constitution required rest after chops, they went away with Berry (otherwise Berinthia) to the Dungeon; an empty room looking out upon a chalk wall and a water-butt, and made ghastly by a ragged fireplace without any stove in it. Enlivened by company, however, this was the best place after all; for Berry played with them there, and seemed to enjoy a game at romps as much as they did; until Mrs Pipchin knocking angrily at the wall, like the Cock Lane Ghost revived, they left off, and Berry told them stories in a whisper until twilight.

For tea there was plenty of milk and water, and bread and butter, with a little black tea-pot for Mrs Pipchin and Berry, and buttered toast unlimited for Mrs Pipchin, which was brought in, hot and hot, like the chops. Though Mrs Pipchin got very greasy, outside, over this dish, it didn’t seem to lubricate her internally, at all; for she was as fierce as ever, and the hard grey eye knew no softening.

After tea, Berry brought out a little work-box, with the Royal Pavilion on the lid, and fell to working busily; while Mrs Pipchin, having put on her spectacles and opened a great volume bound in green baize, began to nod. And whenever Mrs Pipchin caught herself falling forward into the fire, and woke up, she filliped Master Bitherstone on the nose for nodding too.

At last it was the children’s bedtime, and after prayers they went to bed. As little Miss Pankey was afraid of sleeping alone in the dark, Mrs Pipchin always made a point of driving her upstairs herself, like a sheep; and it was cheerful to hear Miss Pankey moaning long afterwards, in the least eligible chamber, and Mrs Pipchin now and then going in to shake her. At about half-past nine o’clock the odour of a warm sweet-bread (Mrs Pipchin’s constitution wouldn’t go to sleep without sweet-bread) diversified the prevailing fragrance of the house, which Mrs Wickam said was “a smell of building;” and slumber fell upon the Castle shortly after.

The breakfast next morning was like the tea over night, except that Mrs Pipchin took her roll instead of toast, and seemed a little more irate when it was over. Master Bitherstone read aloud to the rest a pedigree from Genesis (judiciously selected by Mrs Pipchin), getting over the names with the ease and clearness of a person tumbling up the treadmill. That done, Miss Pankey was borne away to be shampoo’d; and Master Bitherstone to have something else done to him with salt water, from which he always returned very blue and dejected. Paul and Florence went out in the meantime on the beach with Wickam—who was constantly in tears—and at about noon Mrs Pipchin presided over some Early Readings. It being a part of Mrs Pipchin’s system not to encourage a child’s mind to develop and expand itself like a young flower, but to open it by force like an oyster, the moral of these lessons was usually of a violent and stunning character: the hero—a naughty boy—seldom, in the mildest catastrophe, being finished off anything less than a lion, or a bear.

Such was life at Mrs Pipchin’s. On Saturday Mr Dombey came down; and Florence and Paul would go to his Hotel, and have tea. They passed the whole of Sunday with him, and generally rode out before dinner; and on these occasions Mr Dombey seemed to grow, like Falstaff’s assailants, and instead of being one man in buckram, to become a dozen. Sunday evening was the most melancholy evening in the week; for Mrs Pipchin always made a point of being particularly cross on Sunday nights. Miss Pankey was generally brought back from an aunt’s at Rottingdean, in deep distress; and Master Bitherstone, whose relatives were all in India, and who was required to sit, between the services, in an erect position with his head against the parlour wall, neither moving hand nor foot, suffered so acutely in his young spirits that he once asked Florence, on a Sunday night, if she could give him any idea of the way back to Bengal.

But it was generally said that Mrs Pipchin was a woman of system with children; and no doubt she was. Certainly the wild ones went home tame enough, after sojourning for a few months beneath her hospitable roof. It was generally said, too, that it was highly creditable of Mrs Pipchin to have devoted herself to this way of life, and to have made such a sacrifice of her feelings, and such a resolute stand against her troubles, when Mr Pipchin broke his heart in the Peruvian mines.

At this exemplary old lady, Paul would sit staring in his little arm-chair by the fire, for any length of time. He never seemed to know what weariness was, when he was looking fixedly at Mrs Pipchin. He was not fond of her; he was not afraid of her; but in those old, old moods of his, she seemed to have a grotesque attraction for him. There he would sit, looking at her, and warming his hands, and looking at her, until he sometimes quite confounded Mrs Pipchin, Ogress as she was. Once she asked him, when they were alone, what he was thinking about.

“You,” said Paul, without the least reserve.

“And what are you thinking about me?” asked Mrs Pipchin.

“I’m thinking how old you must be,” said Paul.

“You mustn’t say such things as that, young gentleman,” returned the dame. “That’ll never do.”

“Why not?” asked Paul.

“Because it’s not polite,” said Mrs Pipchin, snappishly.

“Not polite?” said Paul.

“No.”

“It’s not polite,” said Paul, innocently, “to eat all the mutton chops and toast”, Wickam says.

“Wickam,” retorted Mrs Pipchin, colouring, “is a wicked, impudent, bold-faced hussy.”

“What’s that?” inquired Paul.

“Never you mind, Sir,” retorted Mrs Pipchin. “Remember the story of the little boy that was gored to death by a mad bull for asking questions.”

“If the bull was mad,” said Paul, “how did he know that the boy had asked questions? Nobody can go and whisper secrets to a mad bull. I don’t believe that story.”

“You don’t believe it, Sir?” repeated Mrs Pipchin, amazed.

“No,” said Paul.

“Not if it should happen to have been a tame bull, you little Infidel?” said Mrs Pipchin.

As Paul had not considered the subject in that light, and had founded his conclusions on the alleged lunacy of the bull, he allowed himself to be put down for the present. But he sat turning it over in his mind, with such an obvious intention of fixing Mrs Pipchin presently, that even that hardy old lady deemed it prudent to retreat until he should have forgotten the subject.

From that time, Mrs Pipchin appeared to have something of the same odd kind of attraction towards Paul, as Paul had towards her. She would make him move his chair to her side of the fire, instead of sitting opposite; and there he would remain in a nook between Mrs Pipchin and the fender, with all the light of his little face absorbed into the black bombazeen drapery, studying every line and wrinkle of her countenance, and peering at the hard grey eye, until Mrs Pipchin was sometimes fain to shut it, on pretence of dozing. Mrs Pipchin had an old black cat, who generally lay coiled upon the centre foot of the fender, purring egotistically, and winking at the fire until the contracted pupils of his eyes were like two notes of admiration. The good old lady might have been—not to record it disrespectfully—a witch, and Paul and the cat her two familiars, as they all sat by the fire together. It would have been quite in keeping with the appearance of the party if they had all sprung up the chimney in a high wind one night, and never been heard of any more.

This, however, never came to pass. The cat, and Paul, and Mrs Pipchin, were constantly to be found in their usual places after dark; and Paul, eschewing the companionship of Master Bitherstone, went on studying Mrs Pipchin, and the cat, and the fire, night after night, as if they were a book of necromancy, in three volumes.

Mrs Wickam put her own construction on Paul’s eccentricities; and being confirmed in her low spirits by a perplexed view of chimneys from the room where she was accustomed to sit, and by the noise of the wind, and by the general dulness (gashliness was Mrs Wickam’s strong expression) of her present life, deduced the most dismal reflections from the foregoing premises. It was a part of Mrs Pipchin’s policy to prevent her own “young hussy”—that was Mrs Pipchin’s generic name for female servant—from communicating with Mrs Wickam: to which end she devoted much of her time to concealing herself behind doors, and springing out on that devoted maiden, whenever she made an approach towards Mrs Wickam’s apartment. But Berry was free to hold what converse she could in that quarter, consistently with the discharge of the multifarious duties at which she toiled incessantly from morning to night; and to Berry Mrs Wickam unburdened her mind.

“What a pretty fellow he is when he’s asleep!” said Berry, stopping to look at Paul in bed, one night when she took up Mrs Wickam’s supper.

“Ah!” sighed Mrs Wickam. “He need be.”

“Why, he’s not ugly when he’s awake,” observed Berry.

“No, Ma’am. Oh, no. No more was my Uncle’s Betsey Jane,” said Mrs Wickam.

Berry looked as if she would like to trace the connexion of ideas between Paul Dombey and Mrs Wickam’s Uncle’s Betsey Jane.

“My Uncle’s wife,” Mrs Wickam went on to say, “died just like his Mama. My Uncle’s child took on just as Master Paul do.”

“Took on! You don’t think he grieves for his Mama, sure?” argued Berry, sitting down on the side of the bed. “He can’t remember anything about her, you know, Mrs Wickam. It’s not possible.”

“No, Ma’am,” said Mrs Wickam “No more did my Uncle’s child. But my Uncle’s child said very strange things sometimes, and looked very strange, and went on very strange, and was very strange altogether. My Uncle’s child made people’s blood run cold, some times, she did!”

“How?” asked Berry.

“I wouldn’t have sat up all night alone with Betsey Jane!” said Mrs Wickam, “not if you’d have put Wickam into business next morning for himself. I couldn’t have done it, Miss Berry.

Miss Berry naturally asked why not? But Mrs Wickam, agreeably to the usage of some ladies in her condition, pursued her own branch of the subject, without any compunction.

“Betsey Jane,” said Mrs Wickam, “was as sweet a child as I could wish to see. I couldn’t wish to see a sweeter. Everything that a child could have in the way of illnesses, Betsey Jane had come through. The cramps was as common to her,” said Mrs Wickam, “as biles is to yourself, Miss Berry.” Miss Berry involuntarily wrinkled her nose.

“But Betsey Jane,” said Mrs Wickam, lowering her voice, and looking round the room, and towards Paul in bed, “had been minded, in her cradle, by her departed mother. I couldn’t say how, nor I couldn’t say when, nor I couldn’t say whether the dear child knew it or not, but Betsey Jane had been watched by her mother, Miss Berry!” and Mrs Wickam, with a very white face, and with watery eyes, and with a tremulous voice, again looked fearfully round the room, and towards Paul in bed.

“Nonsense!” cried Miss Berry—somewhat resentful of the idea.

“You may say nonsense! I ain’t offended, Miss. I hope you may be able to think in your own conscience that it is nonsense; you’ll find your spirits all the better for it in this—you’ll excuse my being so free—in this burying-ground of a place; which is wearing of me down. Master Paul’s a little restless in his sleep. Pat his back, if you please.”

“Of course you think,” said Berry, gently doing what she was asked, “that he has been nursed by his mother, too?”

“Betsey Jane,” returned Mrs Wickam in her most solemn tones, “was put upon as that child has been put upon, and changed as that child has changed. I have seen her sit, often and often, think, think, thinking, like him. I have seen her look, often and often, old, old, old, like him. I have heard her, many a time, talk just like him. I consider that child and Betsey Jane on the same footing entirely, Miss Berry.”

“Is your Uncle’s child alive?” asked Berry.

“Yes, Miss, she is alive,” returned Mrs Wickam with an air of triumph, for it was evident. Miss Berry expected the reverse; “and is married to a silver-chaser. Oh yes, Miss, SHE is alive,” said Mrs Wickam, laying strong stress on her nominative case.

It being clear that somebody was dead, Mrs Pipchin’s niece inquired who it was.

“I wouldn’t wish to make you uneasy,” returned Mrs Wickam, pursuing her supper. “Don’t ask me.”

This was the surest way of being asked again. Miss Berry repeated her question, therefore; and after some resistance, and reluctance, Mrs Wickam laid down her knife, and again glancing round the room and at Paul in bed, replied:

“She took fancies to people; whimsical fancies, some of them; others, affections that one might expect to see—only stronger than common. They all died.”

This was so very unexpected and awful to Mrs Pipchin’s niece, that she sat upright on the hard edge of the bedstead, breathing short, and surveying her informant with looks of undisguised alarm.

Mrs Wickam shook her left fore-finger stealthily towards the bed where Florence lay; then turned it upside down, and made several emphatic points at the floor; immediately below which was the parlour in which Mrs Pipchin habitually consumed the toast.

“Remember my words, Miss Berry,” said Mrs Wickam, “and be thankful that Master Paul is not too fond of you. I am, that he’s not too fond of me, I assure you; though there isn’t much to live for—you’ll excuse my being so free—in this jail of a house!”

Miss Berry’s emotion might have led to her patting Paul too hard on the back, or might have produced a cessation of that soothing monotony, but he turned in his bed just now, and, presently awaking, sat up in it with his hair hot and wet from the effects of some childish dream, and asked for Florence.

She was out of her own bed at the first sound of his voice; and bending over his pillow immediately, sang him to sleep again. Mrs Wickam shaking her head, and letting fall several tears, pointed out the little group to Berry, and turned her eyes up to the ceiling.

“He’s asleep now, my dear,” said Mrs Wickam after a pause, “you’d better go to bed again. Don’t you feel cold?”

“No, nurse,” said Florence, laughing. “Not at all.”

“Ah!” sighed Mrs Wickam, and she shook her head again, expressing to the watchful Berry, “we shall be cold enough, some of us, by and by!”

Berry took the frugal supper-tray, with which Mrs Wickam had by this time done, and bade her good-night.

“Good-night, Miss!” returned Wickam softly. “Good-night! Your aunt is an old lady, Miss Berry, and it’s what you must have looked for, often.”

This consolatory farewell, Mrs Wickam accompanied with a look of heartfelt anguish; and being left alone with the two children again, and becoming conscious that the wind was blowing mournfully, she indulged in melancholy—that cheapest and most accessible of luxuries—until she was overpowered by slumber.

Although the niece of Mrs Pipchin did not expect to find that exemplary dragon prostrate on the hearth-rug when she went downstairs, she was relieved to find her unusually fractious and severe, and with every present appearance of intending to live a long time to be a comfort to all who knew her. Nor had she any symptoms of declining, in the course of the ensuing week, when the constitutional viands still continued to disappear in regular succession, notwithstanding that Paul studied her as attentively as ever, and occupied his usual seat between the black skirts and the fender, with unwavering constancy.

But as Paul himself was no stronger at the expiration of that time than he had been on his first arrival, though he looked much healthier in the face, a little carriage was got for him, in which he could lie at his ease, with an alphabet and other elementary works of reference, and be wheeled down to the sea-side. Consistent in his odd tastes, the child set aside a ruddy-faced lad who was proposed as the drawer of this carriage, and selected, instead, his grandfather—a weazen, old, crab-faced man, in a suit of battered oilskin, who had got tough and stringy from long pickling in salt water, and who smelt like a weedy sea-beach when the tide is out.

With this notable attendant to pull him along, and Florence always walking by his side, and the despondent Wickam bringing up the rear, he went down to the margin of the ocean every day; and there he would sit or lie in his carriage for hours together: never so distressed as by the company of children—Florence alone excepted, always.

“Go away, if you please,” he would say to any child who came to bear him company. “Thank you, but I don’t want you.”

Some small voice, near his ear, would ask him how he was, perhaps.

“I am very well, I thank you,” he would answer. “But you had better go and play, if you please.”

Then he would turn his head, and watch the child away, and say to Florence, “We don’t want any others, do we? Kiss me, Floy.”

He had even a dislike, at such times, to the company of Wickam, and was well pleased when she strolled away, as she generally did, to pick up shells and acquaintances. His favourite spot was quite a lonely one, far away from most loungers; and with Florence sitting by his side at work, or reading to him, or talking to him, and the wind blowing on his face, and the water coming up among the wheels of his bed, he wanted nothing more.

“Floy,” he said one day, “where’s India, where that boy’s friends live?”

“Oh, it’s a long, long distance off,” said Florence, raising her eyes from her work.

“Weeks off?” asked Paul.

“Yes dear. Many weeks’ journey, night and day.”

“If you were in India, Floy,” said Paul, after being silent for a minute, “I should—what is it that Mama did? I forget.”

“Loved me!” answered Florence.

“No, no. Don’t I love you now, Floy? What is it?—Died. If you were in India, I should die, Floy.”

She hurriedly put her work aside, and laid her head down on his pillow, caressing him. And so would she, she said, if he were there. He would be better soon.

“Oh! I am a great deal better now!” he answered. “I don’t mean that. I mean that I should die of being so sorry and so lonely, Floy!”

Another time, in the same place, he fell asleep, and slept quietly for a long time. Awaking suddenly, he listened, started up, and sat listening.

Florence asked him what he thought he heard.

“I want to know what it says,” he answered, looking steadily in her face. “The sea” Floy, what is it that it keeps on saying?”

She told him that it was only the noise of the rolling waves.

“Yes, yes,” he said. “But I know that they are always saying something. Always the same thing. What place is over there?” He rose up, looking eagerly at the horizon.

She told him that there was another country opposite, but he said he didn’t mean that: he meant further away—farther away!

Very often afterwards, in the midst of their talk, he would break off, to try to understand what it was that the waves were always saying; and would rise up in his couch to look towards that invisible region, far away.

CHAPTER IX. 
In which the Wooden Midshipman gets into Trouble

That spice of romance and love of the marvellous, of which there was a pretty strong infusion in the nature of young Walter Gay, and which the guardianship of his Uncle, old Solomon Gills, had not very much weakened by the waters of stern practical experience, was the occasion of his attaching an uncommon and delightful interest to the adventure of Florence with Good Mrs Brown. He pampered and cherished it in his memory, especially that part of it with which he had been associated: until it became the spoiled child of his fancy, and took its own way, and did what it liked with it.

The recollection of those incidents, and his own share in them, may have been made the more captivating, perhaps, by the weekly dreamings of old Sol and Captain Cuttle on Sundays. Hardly a Sunday passed, without mysterious references being made by one or other of those worthy chums to Richard Whittington; and the latter gentleman had even gone so far as to purchase a ballad of considerable antiquity, that had long fluttered among many others, chiefly expressive of maritime sentiments, on a dead wall in the Commercial Road: which poetical performance set forth the courtship and nuptials of a promising young coal-whipper with a certain “lovely Peg,” the accomplished daughter of the master and part-owner of a Newcastle collier. In this stirring legend, Captain Cuttle descried a profound metaphysical bearing on the case of Walter and Florence; and it excited him so much, that on very festive occasions, as birthdays and a few other non-Dominical holidays, he would roar through the whole song in the little back parlour; making an amazing shake on the word Pe-e-eg, with which every verse concluded, in compliment to the heroine of the piece.

But a frank, free-spirited, open-hearted boy, is not much given to analysing the nature of his own feelings, however strong their hold upon him: and Walter would have found it difficult to decide this point. He had a great affection for the wharf where he had encountered Florence, and for the streets (albeit not enchanting in themselves) by which they had come home. The shoes that had so often tumbled off by the way, he preserved in his own room; and, sitting in the little back parlour of an evening, he had drawn a whole gallery of fancy portraits of Good Mrs Brown. It may be that he became a little smarter in his dress after that memorable occasion; and he certainly liked in his leisure time to walk towards that quarter of the town where Mr Dombey’s house was situated, on the vague chance of passing little Florence in the street. But the sentiment of all this was as boyish and innocent as could be. Florence was very pretty, and it is pleasant to admire a pretty face. Florence was defenceless and weak, and it was a proud thought that he had been able to render her any protection and assistance. Florence was the most grateful little creature in the world, and it was delightful to see her bright gratitude beaming in her face. Florence was neglected and coldly looked upon, and his breast was full of youthful interest for the slighted child in her dull, stately home.

Thus it came about that, perhaps some half-a-dozen times in the course of the year, Walter pulled off his hat to Florence in the street, and Florence would stop to shake hands. Mrs Wickam (who, with a characteristic alteration of his name, invariably spoke of him as “Young Graves”) was so well used to this, knowing the story of their acquaintance, that she took no heed of it at all. Miss Nipper, on the other hand, rather looked out for these occasions: her sensitive young heart being secretly propitiated by Walter’s good looks, and inclining to the belief that its sentiments were responded to.

In this way, Walter, so far from forgetting or losing sight of his acquaintance with Florence, only remembered it better and better. As to its adventurous beginning, and all those little circumstances which gave it a distinctive character and relish, he took them into account, more as a pleasant story very agreeable to his imagination, and not to be dismissed from it, than as a part of any matter of fact with which he was concerned. They set off Florence very much, to his fancy; but not himself. Sometimes he thought (and then he walked very fast) what a grand thing it would have been for him to have been going to sea on the day after that first meeting, and to have gone, and to have done wonders there, and to have stopped away a long time, and to have come back an Admiral of all the colours of the dolphin, or at least a Post-Captain with epaulettes of insupportable brightness, and have married Florence (then a beautiful young woman) in spite of Mr Dombey’s teeth, cravat, and watch-chain, and borne her away to the blue shores of somewhere or other, triumphantly. But these flights of fancy seldom burnished the brass plate of Dombey and Son’s Offices into a tablet of golden hope, or shed a brilliant lustre on their dirty skylights; and when the Captain and Uncle Sol talked about Richard Whittington and masters’ daughters, Walter felt that he understood his true position at Dombey and Son’s, much better than they did.

So it was that he went on doing what he had to do from day to day, in a cheerful, pains-taking, merry spirit; and saw through the sanguine complexion of Uncle Sol and Captain Cuttle; and yet entertained a thousand indistinct and visionary fancies of his own, to which theirs were work-a-day probabilities. Such was his condition at the Pipchin period, when he looked a little older than of yore, but not much; and was the same light-footed, light-hearted, light-headed lad, as when he charged into the parlour at the head of Uncle Sol and the imaginary boarders, and lighted him to bring up the Madeira.

“Uncle Sol,” said Walter, “I don’t think you’re well. You haven’t eaten any breakfast. I shall bring a doctor to you, if you go on like this.”

“He can’t give me what I want, my boy,” said Uncle Sol. “At least he is in good practice if he can—and then he wouldn’t.”

“What is it, Uncle? Customers?”

“Ay,” returned Solomon, with a sigh. “Customers would do.”

“Confound it, Uncle!” said Walter, putting down his breakfast cup with a clatter, and striking his hand on the table: “when I see the people going up and down the street in shoals all day, and passing and re-passing the shop every minute, by scores, I feel half tempted to rush out, collar somebody, bring him in, and make him buy fifty pounds’ worth of instruments for ready money. What are you looking in at the door for?—” continued Walter, apostrophizing an old gentleman with a powdered head (inaudibly to him of course), who was staring at a ship’s telescope with all his might and main. “That’s no use. I could do that. Come in and buy it!”

The old gentleman, however, having satiated his curiosity, walked calmly away.

“There he goes!” said Walter. “That’s the way with ’em all. But, Uncle—I say, Uncle Sol”—for the old man was meditating and had not responded to his first appeal. “Don’t be cast down. Don’t be out of spirits, Uncle. When orders do come, they’ll come in such a crowd, you won’t be able to execute ’em.”

“I shall be past executing ’em, whenever they come, my boy,” returned Solomon Gills. “They’ll never come to this shop again, till I am out of t.”

“I say, Uncle! You musn’t really, you know!” urged Walter. “Don’t!”

Old Sol endeavoured to assume a cheery look, and smiled across the little table at him as pleasantly as he could.

“There’s nothing more than usual the matter; is there, Uncle?” said Walter, leaning his elbows on the tea tray, and bending over, to speak the more confidentially and kindly. “Be open with me, Uncle, if there is, and tell me all about it.”

“No, no, no,” returned Old Sol. “More than usual? No, no. What should there be the matter more than usual?”

Walter answered with an incredulous shake of his head. “That’s what I want to know,” he said, “and you ask me! I’ll tell you what, Uncle, when I see you like this, I am quite sorry that I live with you.”

Old Sol opened his eyes involuntarily.

“Yes. Though nobody ever was happier than I am and always have been with you, I am quite sorry that I live with you, when I see you with anything in your mind.”

“I am a little dull at such times, I know,” observed Solomon, meekly rubbing his hands.

“What I mean, Uncle Sol,” pursued Walter, bending over a little more to pat him on the shoulder, “is, that then I feel you ought to have, sitting here and pouring out the tea instead of me, a nice little dumpling of a wife, you know,—a comfortable, capital, cosy old lady, who was just a match for you, and knew how to manage you, and keep you in good heart. Here am I, as loving a nephew as ever was (I am sure I ought to be!) but I am only a nephew, and I can’t be such a companion to you when you’re low and out of sorts as she would have made herself, years ago, though I’m sure I’d give any money if I could cheer you up. And so I say, when I see you with anything on your mind, that I feel quite sorry you haven’t got somebody better about you than a blundering young rough-and-tough boy like me, who has got the will to console you, Uncle, but hasn’t got the way—hasn’t got the way,” repeated Walter, reaching over further yet, to shake his Uncle by the hand.

“Wally, my dear boy,” said Solomon, “if the cosy little old lady had taken her place in this parlour five and forty years ago, I never could have been fonder of her than I am of you.”

“I know that, Uncle Sol,” returned Walter. “Lord bless you, I know that. But you wouldn’t have had the whole weight of any uncomfortable secrets if she had been with you, because she would have known how to relieve you of ’em, and I don’t.”

“Yes, yes, you do,” returned the Instrument-maker.

“Well then, what’s the matter, Uncle Sol?” said Walter, coaxingly. “Come! What’s the matter?”

Solomon Gills persisted that there was nothing the matter; and maintained it so resolutely, that his nephew had no resource but to make a very indifferent imitation of believing him.

“All I can say is, Uncle Sol, that if there is—”

“But there isn’t,” said Solomon.

“Very well,” said Walter. “Then I’ve no more to say; and that’s lucky, for my time’s up for going to business. I shall look in by-and-by when I’m out, to see how you get on, Uncle. And mind, Uncle! I’ll never believe you again, and never tell you anything more about Mr Carker the Junior, if I find out that you have been deceiving me!”

Solomon Gills laughingly defied him to find out anything of the kind; and Walter, revolving in his thoughts all sorts of impracticable ways of making fortunes and placing the wooden Midshipman in a position of independence, betook himself to the offices of Dombey and Son with a heavier countenance than he usually carried there.

There lived in those days, round the corner—in Bishopsgate Street Without—one Brogley, sworn broker and appraiser, who kept a shop where every description of second-hand furniture was exhibited in the most uncomfortable aspect, and under circumstances and in combinations the most completely foreign to its purpose. Dozens of chairs hooked on to washing-stands, which with difficulty poised themselves on the shoulders of sideboards, which in their turn stood upon the wrong side of dining-tables, gymnastic with their legs upward on the tops of other dining-tables, were among its most reasonable arrangements. A banquet array of dish-covers, wine-glasses, and decanters was generally to be seen, spread forth upon the bosom of a four-post bedstead, for the entertainment of such genial company as half-a-dozen pokers, and a hall lamp. A set of window curtains with no windows belonging to them, would be seen gracefully draping a barricade of chests of drawers, loaded with little jars from chemists’ shops; while a homeless hearthrug severed from its natural companion the fireside, braved the shrewd east wind in its adversity, and trembled in melancholy accord with the shrill complainings of a cabinet piano, wasting away, a string a day, and faintly resounding to the noises of the street in its jangling and distracted brain. Of motionless clocks that never stirred a finger, and seemed as incapable of being successfully wound up, as the pecuniary affairs of their former owners, there was always great choice in Mr Brogley’s shop; and various looking-glasses, accidentally placed at compound interest of reflection and refraction, presented to the eye an eternal perspective of bankruptcy and ruin.

Mr Brogley himself was a moist-eyed, pink-complexioned, crisp-haired man, of a bulky figure and an easy temper—for that class of Caius Marius who sits upon the ruins of other people’s Carthages, can keep up his spirits well enough. He had looked in at Solomon’s shop sometimes, to ask a question about articles in Solomon’s way of business; and Walter knew him sufficiently to give him good day when they met in the street. But as that was the extent of the broker’s acquaintance with Solomon Gills also, Walter was not a little surprised when he came back in the course of the forenoon, agreeably to his promise, to find Mr Brogley sitting in the back parlour with his hands in his pockets, and his hat hanging up behind the door.

“Well, Uncle Sol!” said Walter. The old man was sitting ruefully on the opposite side of the table, with his spectacles over his eyes, for a wonder, instead of on his forehead. “How are you now?”

Solomon shook his head, and waved one hand towards the broker, as introducing him.

“Is there anything the matter?” asked Walter, with a catching in his breath.

“No, no. There’s nothing the matter, said Mr Brogley. “Don’t let it put you out of the way.”

Walter looked from the broker to his Uncle in mute amazement.

“The fact is,” said Mr Brogley, “there’s a little payment on a bond debt —three hundred and seventy odd, overdue: and I’m in possession.”

“In possession!” cried Walter, looking round at the shop.

“Ah!” said Mr Brogley, in confidential assent, and nodding his head as if he would urge the advisability of their all being comfortable together. “It’s an execution. That’s what it is. Don’t let it put you out of the way. I come myself, because of keeping it quiet and sociable. You know me. It’s quite private.”

“Uncle Sol!” faltered Walter.

“Wally, my boy,” returned his uncle. “It’s the first time. Such a calamity never happened to me before. I’m an old man to begin.” Pushing up his spectacles again (for they were useless any longer to conceal his emotion), he covered his face with his hand, and sobbed aloud, and his tears fell down upon his coffee-coloured waistcoat.

“Uncle Sol! Pray! oh don’t!” exclaimed Walter, who really felt a thrill of terror in seeing the old man weep. “For God’s sake don’t do that. Mr Brogley, what shall I do?”

“I should recommend you looking up a friend or so,” said Mr Brogley, “and talking it over.”

“To be sure!” cried Walter, catching at anything. “Certainly! Thankee. Captain Cuttle’s the man, Uncle. Wait till I run to Captain Cuttle. Keep your eye upon my Uncle, will you, Mr Brogley, and make him as comfortable as you can while I am gone? Don’t despair, Uncle Sol. Try and keep a good heart, there’s a dear fellow!”

Saying this with great fervour, and disregarding the old man’s broken remonstrances, Walter dashed out of the shop again as hard as he could go; and, having hurried round to the office to excuse himself on the plea of his Uncle’s sudden illness, set off, full speed, for Captain Cuttle’s residence.

Everything seemed altered as he ran along the streets. There were the usual entanglement and noise of carts, drays, omnibuses, waggons, and foot passengers, but the misfortune that had fallen on the wooden Midshipman made it strange and new. Houses and shops were different from what they used to be, and bore Mr Brogley’s warrant on their fronts in large characters. The broker seemed to have got hold of the very churches; for their spires rose into the sky with an unwonted air. Even the sky itself was changed, and had an execution in it plainly.

Captain Cuttle lived on the brink of a little canal near the India Docks, where there was a swivel bridge which opened now and then to let some wandering monster of a ship come roaming up the street like a stranded leviathan. The gradual change from land to water, on the approach to Captain Cuttle’s lodgings, was curious. It began with the erection of flagstaffs, as appurtenances to public-houses; then came slop-sellers’ shops, with Guernsey shirts, sou’wester hats, and canvas pantaloons, at once the tightest and the loosest of their order, hanging up outside. These were succeeded by anchor and chain-cable forges, where sledgehammers were dinging upon iron all day long. Then came rows of houses, with little vane-surmounted masts uprearing themselves from among the scarlet beans. Then, ditches. Then, pollard willows. Then, more ditches. Then, unaccountable patches of dirty water, hardly to be descried, for the ships that covered them. Then, the air was perfumed with chips; and all other trades were swallowed up in mast, oar, and block-making, and boatbuilding. Then, the ground grew marshy and unsettled. Then, there was nothing to be smelt but rum and sugar. Then, Captain Cuttle’s lodgings—at once a first floor and a top storey, in Brig Place—were close before you.

The Captain was one of those timber-looking men, suits of oak as well as hearts, whom it is almost impossible for the liveliest imagination to separate from any part of their dress, however insignificant. Accordingly, when Walter knocked at the door, and the Captain instantly poked his head out of one of his little front windows, and hailed him, with the hard glared hat already on it, and the shirt-collar like a sail, and the wide suit of blue, all standing as usual, Walter was as fully persuaded that he was always in that state, as if the Captain had been a bird and those had been his feathers.

“Wal”r, my lad!” said Captain Cuttle. “Stand by and knock again. Hard! It’s washing day.”

Walter, in his impatience, gave a prodigious thump with the knocker.

“Hard it is!” said Captain Cuttle, and immediately drew in his head, as if he expected a squall.

Nor was he mistaken: for a widow lady, with her sleeves rolled up to her shoulders, and her arms frothy with soap-suds and smoking with hot water, replied to the summons with startling rapidity. Before she looked at Walter she looked at the knocker, and then, measuring him with her eyes from head to foot, said she wondered he had left any of it.

“Captain Cuttle’s at home, I know,” said Walter with a conciliatory smile.

“Is he?” replied the widow lady. “In-deed!”

“He has just been speaking to me,” said Walter, in breathless explanation.

“Has he?” replied the widow lady. “Then p’raps you’ll give him Mrs MacStinger’s respects, and say that the next time he lowers himself and his lodgings by talking out of the winder she’ll thank him to come down and open the door too.” Mrs MacStinger spoke loud, and listened for any observations that might be offered from the first floor.

“I’ll mention it,” said Walter, “if you’ll have the goodness to let me in, Ma’am.”

For he was repelled by a wooden fortification extending across the doorway, and put there to prevent the little MacStingers in their moments of recreation from tumbling down the steps.

“A boy that can knock my door down,” said Mrs MacStinger, contemptuously, “can get over that, I should hope!” But Walter, taking this as a permission to enter, and getting over it, Mrs MacStinger immediately demanded whether an Englishwoman’s house was her castle or not; and whether she was to be broke in upon by “raff.” On these subjects her thirst for information was still very importunate, when Walter, having made his way up the little staircase through an artificial fog occasioned by the washing, which covered the banisters with a clammy perspiration, entered Captain Cuttle’s room, and found that gentleman in ambush behind the door.

“Never owed her a penny, Wal”r,” said Captain Cuttle, in a low voice, and with visible marks of trepidation on his countenance. “Done her a world of good turns, and the children too. Vixen at times, though. Whew!”

“I should go away, Captain Cuttle,” said Walter.

“Dursn’t do it, Wal”r,” returned the Captain. “She’d find me out, wherever I went. Sit down. How’s Gills?”

The Captain was dining (in his hat) off cold loin of mutton, porter, and some smoking hot potatoes, which he had cooked himself, and took out of a little saucepan before the fire as he wanted them. He unscrewed his hook at dinner-time, and screwed a knife into its wooden socket instead, with which he had already begun to peel one of these potatoes for Walter. His rooms were very small, and strongly impregnated with tobacco-smoke, but snug enough: everything being stowed away, as if there were an earthquake regularly every half-hour.

“How’s Gills?” inquired the Captain.

Walter, who had by this time recovered his breath, and lost his spirits—or such temporary spirits as his rapid journey had given him—looked at his questioner for a moment, said “Oh, Captain Cuttle!” and burst into tears.

No words can describe the Captain’s consternation at this sight. Mrs MacStinger faded into nothing before it. He dropped the potato and the fork—and would have dropped the knife too if he could—and sat gazing at the boy, as if he expected to hear next moment that a gulf had opened in the City, which had swallowed up his old friend, coffee-coloured suit, buttons, chronometer, spectacles, and all.

But when Walter told him what was really the matter, Captain Cuttle, after a moment’s reflection, started up into full activity. He emptied out of a little tin canister on the top shelf of the cupboard, his whole stock of ready money (amounting to thirteen pounds and half-a-crown), which he transferred to one of the pockets of his square blue coat; further enriched that repository with the contents of his plate chest, consisting of two withered atomies of tea-spoons, and an obsolete pair of knock-knee’d sugar-tongs; pulled up his immense double-cased silver watch from the depths in which it reposed, to assure himself that that valuable was sound and whole; re-attached the hook to his right wrist; and seizing the stick covered over with knobs, bade Walter come along.

Remembering, however, in the midst of his virtuous excitement, that Mrs MacStinger might be lying in wait below, Captain Cuttle hesitated at last, not without glancing at the window, as if he had some thoughts of escaping by that unusual means of egress, rather than encounter his terrible enemy. He decided, however, in favour of stratagem.

“Wal”r,” said the Captain, with a timid wink, “go afore, my lad. Sing out, ‘good-bye, Captain Cuttle,’ when you’re in the passage, and shut the door. Then wait at the corner of the street “till you see me.

These directions were not issued without a previous knowledge of the enemy’s tactics, for when Walter got downstairs, Mrs MacStinger glided out of the little back kitchen, like an avenging spirit. But not gliding out upon the Captain, as she had expected, she merely made a further allusion to the knocker, and glided in again.

Some five minutes elapsed before Captain Cuttle could summon courage to attempt his escape; for Walter waited so long at the street corner, looking back at the house, before there were any symptoms of the hard glazed hat. At length the Captain burst out of the door with the suddenness of an explosion, and coming towards him at a great pace, and never once looking over his shoulder, pretended, as soon as they were well out of the street, to whistle a tune.

“Uncle much hove down, Wal”r?” inquired the Captain, as they were walking along.

“I am afraid so. If you had seen him this morning, you would never have forgotten it.”

“Walk fast, Wal”r, my lad,” returned the Captain, mending his pace; “and walk the same all the days of your life. Overhaul the catechism for that advice, and keep it!”

The Captain was too busy with his own thoughts of Solomon Gills, mingled perhaps with some reflections on his late escape from Mrs MacStinger, to offer any further quotations on the way for Walter’s moral improvement They interchanged no other word until they arrived at old Sol’s door, where the unfortunate wooden Midshipman, with his instrument at his eye, seemed to be surveying the whole horizon in search of some friend to help him out of his difficulty.

“Gills!” said the Captain, hurrying into the back parlour, and taking him by the hand quite tenderly. “Lay your head well to the wind, and we’ll fight through it. All you’ve got to do,” said the Captain, with the solemnity of a man who was delivering himself of one of the most precious practical tenets ever discovered by human wisdom, “is to lay your head well to the wind, and we’ll fight through it!”

Old Sol returned the pressure of his hand, and thanked him.

Captain Cuttle, then, with a gravity suitable to the nature of the occasion, put down upon the table the two tea-spoons and the sugar-tongs, the silver watch, and the ready money; and asked Mr Brogley, the broker, what the damage was.

“Come! What do you make of it?” said Captain Cuttle.

“Why, Lord help you!” returned the broker; “you don’t suppose that property’s of any use, do you?”

“Why not?” inquired the Captain.

“Why? The amount’s three hundred and seventy, odd,” replied the broker.

“Never mind,” returned the Captain, though he was evidently dismayed by the figures: “all’s fish that comes to your net, I suppose?”

“Certainly,” said Mr Brogley. “But sprats ain’t whales, you know.”

The philosophy of this observation seemed to strike the Captain. He ruminated for a minute; eyeing the broker, meanwhile, as a deep genius; and then called the Instrument-maker aside.

“Gills,” said Captain Cuttle, “what’s the bearings of this business? Who’s the creditor?”

“Hush!” returned the old man. “Come away. Don’t speak before Wally. It’s a matter of security for Wally’s father—an old bond. I’ve paid a good deal of it, Ned, but the times are so bad with me that I can’t do more just now. I’ve foreseen it, but I couldn’t help it. Not a word before Wally, for all the world.”

“You’ve got some money, haven’t you?” whispered the Captain.

“Yes, yes—oh yes—I’ve got some,” returned old Sol, first putting his hands into his empty pockets, and then squeezing his Welsh wig between them, as if he thought he might wring some gold out of it; “but I—the little I have got, isn’t convertible, Ned; it can’t be got at. I have been trying to do something with it for Wally, and I’m old fashioned, and behind the time. It’s here and there, and—and, in short, it’s as good as nowhere,” said the old man, looking in bewilderment about him.

He had so much the air of a half-witted person who had been hiding his money in a variety of places, and had forgotten where, that the Captain followed his eyes, not without a faint hope that he might remember some few hundred pounds concealed up the chimney, or down in the cellar. But Solomon Gills knew better than that.

“I’m behind the time altogether, my dear Ned,” said Sol, in resigned despair, “a long way. It’s no use my lagging on so far behind it. The stock had better be sold—it’s worth more than this debt—and I had better go and die somewhere, on the balance. I haven’t any energy left. I don’t understand things. This had better be the end of it. Let ’em sell the stock and take him down,” said the old man, pointing feebly to the wooden Midshipman, “and let us both be broken up together.”

“And what d’ye mean to do with Wal”r?” said the Captain. “There, there! Sit ye down, Gills, sit ye down, and let me think o’ this. If I warn’t a man on a small annuity, that was large enough till today, I hadn’t need to think of it. But you only lay your head well to the wind,” said the Captain, again administering that unanswerable piece of consolation, “and you’re all right!”

Old Sol thanked him from his heart, and went and laid it against the back parlour fire-place instead.

Captain Cuttle walked up and down the shop for some time, cogitating profoundly, and bringing his bushy black eyebrows to bear so heavily on his nose, like clouds setting on a mountain, that Walter was afraid to offer any interruption to the current of his reflections. Mr Brogley, who was averse to being any constraint upon the party, and who had an ingenious cast of mind, went, softly whistling, among the stock; rattling weather-glasses, shaking compasses as if they were physic, catching up keys with loadstones, looking through telescopes, endeavouring to make himself acquainted with the use of the globes, setting parallel rulers astride on to his nose, and amusing himself with other philosophical transactions.

“Wal”r!” said the Captain at last. “I’ve got it.”

“Have you, Captain Cuttle?” cried Walter, with great animation.

“Come this way, my lad,” said the Captain. “The stock’s the security. I’m another. Your governor’s the man to advance money.”

“Mr Dombey!” faltered Walter.

The Captain nodded gravely. “Look at him,” he said. “Look at Gills. If they was to sell off these things now, he’d die of it. You know he would. We mustn’t leave a stone unturned—and there’s a stone for you.”

“A stone!—Mr Dombey!” faltered Walter.

“You run round to the office, first of all, and see if he’s there,” said Captain Cuttle, clapping him on the back. “Quick!”

Walter felt he must not dispute the command—a glance at his Uncle would have determined him if he had felt otherwise—and disappeared to execute it. He soon returned, out of breath, to say that Mr Dombey was not there. It was Saturday, and he had gone to Brighton.

“I tell you what, Wal”r!” said the Captain, who seemed to have prepared himself for this contingency in his absence. “We’ll go to Brighton. I’ll back you, my boy. I’ll back you, Wal”r. We’ll go to Brighton by the afternoon’s coach.”

If the application must be made to Mr Dombey at all, which was awful to think of, Walter felt that he would rather prefer it alone and unassisted, than backed by the personal influence of Captain Cuttle, to which he hardly thought Mr Dombey would attach much weight. But as the Captain appeared to be of quite another opinion, and was bent upon it, and as his friendship was too zealous and serious to be trifled with by one so much younger than himself, he forbore to hint the least objection. Cuttle, therefore, taking a hurried leave of Solomon Gills, and returning the ready money, the teaspoons, the sugar-tongs, and the silver watch, to his pocket—with a view, as Walter thought, with horror, to making a gorgeous impression on Mr Dombey—bore him off to the coach-office, without a minute’s delay, and repeatedly assured him, on the road, that he would stick by him to the last.

CHAPTER X. 
Containing the Sequel of the Midshipman’s Disaster

Major Bagstock, after long and frequent observation of Paul, across Princess’s Place, through his double-barrelled opera-glass; and after receiving many minute reports, daily, weekly, and monthly, on that subject, from the native who kept himself in constant communication with Miss Tox’s maid for that purpose; came to the conclusion that Dombey, Sir, was a man to be known, and that J. B. was the boy to make his acquaintance.

Miss Tox, however, maintaining her reserved behaviour, and frigidly declining to understand the Major whenever he called (which he often did) on any little fishing excursion connected with this project, the Major, in spite of his constitutional toughness and slyness, was fain to leave the accomplishment of his desire in some measure to chance, “which,” as he was used to observe with chuckles at his club, “has been fifty to one in favour of Joey B., Sir, ever since his elder brother died of Yellow Jack in the West Indies.”

It was some time coming to his aid in the present instance, but it befriended him at last. When the dark servant, with full particulars, reported Miss Tox absent on Brighton service, the Major was suddenly touched with affectionate reminiscences of his friend Bill Bitherstone of Bengal, who had written to ask him, if he ever went that way, to bestow a call upon his only son. But when the same dark servant reported Paul at Mrs Pipchin’s, and the Major, referring to the letter favoured by Master Bitherstone on his arrival in England—to which he had never had the least idea of paying any attention—saw the opening that presented itself, he was made so rabid by the gout, with which he happened to be then laid up, that he threw a footstool at the dark servant in return for his intelligence, and swore he would be the death of the rascal before he had done with him: which the dark servant was more than half disposed to believe.

At length the Major being released from his fit, went one Saturday growling down to Brighton, with the native behind him; apostrophizing Miss Tox all the way, and gloating over the prospect of carrying by storm the distinguished friend to whom she attached so much mystery, and for whom she had deserted him.

“Would you, Ma’am, would you!” said the Major, straining with vindictiveness, and swelling every already swollen vein in his head. “Would you give Joey B. the go-by, Ma’am? Not yet, Ma’am, not yet! Damme, not yet, Sir. Joe is awake, Ma’am. Bagstock is alive, Sir. J. B. knows a move or two, Ma’am. Josh has his weather-eye open, Sir. You’ll find him tough, Ma’am. Tough, Sir, tough is Joseph. Tough, and de-vilish sly!”

And very tough indeed Master Bitherstone found him, when he took that young gentleman out for a walk. But the Major, with his complexion like a Stilton cheese, and his eyes like a prawn’s, went roving about, perfectly indifferent to Master Bitherstone’s amusement, and dragging Master Bitherstone along, while he looked about him high and low, for Mr Dombey and his children.

In good time the Major, previously instructed by Mrs Pipchin, spied out Paul and Florence, and bore down upon them; there being a stately gentleman (Mr Dombey, doubtless) in their company. Charging with Master Bitherstone into the very heart of the little squadron, it fell out, of course, that Master Bitherstone spoke to his fellow-sufferers. Upon that the Major stopped to notice and admire them; remembered with amazement that he had seen and spoken to them at his friend Miss Tox’s in Princess’s Place; opined that Paul was a devilish fine fellow, and his own little friend; inquired if he remembered Joey B. the Major; and finally, with a sudden recollection of the conventionalities of life, turned and apologised to Mr Dombey.

“But my little friend here, Sir,” said the Major, “makes a boy of me again: An old soldier, Sir—Major Bagstock, at your service—is not ashamed to confess it.” Here the Major lifted his hat. “Damme, Sir,” cried the Major with sudden warmth, “I envy you.” Then he recollected himself, and added, “Excuse my freedom.”

Mr Dombey begged he wouldn’t mention it.

“An old campaigner, Sir,” said the Major, “a smoke-dried, sun-burnt, used-up, invalided old dog of a Major, Sir, was not afraid of being condemned for his whim by a man like Mr Dombey. I have the honour of addressing Mr Dombey, I believe?”

“I am the present unworthy representative of that name, Major,” returned Mr Dombey.

“By G—, Sir!” said the Major, “it’s a great name. It’s a name, Sir,” said the Major firmly, as if he defied Mr Dombey to contradict him, and would feel it his painful duty to bully him if he did, “that is known and honoured in the British possessions abroad. It is a name, Sir, that a man is proud to recognise. There is nothing adulatory in Joseph Bagstock, Sir. His Royal Highness the Duke of York observed on more than one occasion, ‘there is no adulation in Joey. He is a plain old soldier is Joe. He is tough to a fault is Joseph:’ but it’s a great name, Sir. By the Lord, it’s a great name!” said the Major, solemnly.

“You are good enough to rate it higher than it deserves, perhaps, Major,” returned Mr Dombey.

“No, Sir,” said the Major, in a severe tone. No, Mr Dombey, let us understand each other. That is not the Bagstock vein, Sir. You don’t know Joseph B. He is a blunt old blade is Josh. No flattery in him, Sir. Nothing like it.”

Mr Dombey inclined his head, and said he believed him to be in earnest, and that his high opinion was gratifying.

“My little friend here, Sir,” croaked the Major, looking as amiably as he could, on Paul, “will certify for Joseph Bagstock that he is a thorough-going, down-right, plain-spoken, old Trump, Sir, and nothing more. That boy, Sir,” said the Major in a lower tone, “will live in history. That boy, Sir, is not a common production. Take care of him, Mr Dombey.”

Mr Dombey seemed to intimate that he would endeavour to do so.

“Here is a boy here, Sir,” pursued the Major, confidentially, and giving him a thrust with his cane. “Son of Bitherstone of Bengal. Bill Bitherstone formerly of ours. That boy’s father and myself, Sir, were sworn friends. Wherever you went, Sir, you heard of nothing but Bill Bitherstone and Joe Bagstock. Am I blind to that boy’s defects? By no means. He’s a fool, Sir.”

Mr Dombey glanced at the libelled Master Bitherstone, of whom he knew at least as much as the Major did, and said, in quite a complacent manner, “Really?”

“That is what he is, sir,” said the Major. “He’s a fool. Joe Bagstock never minces matters. The son of my old friend Bill Bitherstone, of Bengal, is a born fool, Sir.” Here the Major laughed till he was almost black. “My little friend is destined for a public school, I presume, Mr Dombey?” said the Major when he had recovered.

“I am not quite decided,” returned Mr Dombey. “I think not. He is delicate.”

“If he’s delicate, Sir,” said the Major, “you are right. None but the tough fellows could live through it, Sir, at Sandhurst. We put each other to the torture there, Sir. We roasted the new fellows at a slow fire, and hung ’em out of a three pair of stairs window, with their heads downwards. Joseph Bagstock, Sir, was held out of the window by the heels of his boots, for thirteen minutes by the college clock.”

The Major might have appealed to his countenance in corroboration of this story. It certainly looked as if he had hung out a little too long.

“But it made us what we were, Sir,” said the Major, settling his shirt frill. “We were iron, Sir, and it forged us. Are you remaining here, Mr Dombey?”

“I generally come down once a week, Major,” returned that gentleman. “I stay at the Bedford.”

“I shall have the honour of calling at the Bedford, Sir, if you’ll permit me,” said the Major. “Joey B., Sir, is not in general a calling man, but Mr Dombey’s is not a common name. I am much indebted to my little friend, Sir, for the honour of this introduction.”

Mr Dombey made a very gracious reply; and Major Bagstock, having patted Paul on the head, and said of Florence that her eyes would play the Devil with the youngsters before long—“and the oldsters too, Sir, if you come to that,” added the Major, chuckling very much—stirred up Master Bitherstone with his walking-stick, and departed with that young gentleman, at a kind of half-trot; rolling his head and coughing with great dignity, as he staggered away, with his legs very wide asunder.

In fulfilment of his promise, the Major afterwards called on Mr Dombey; and Mr Dombey, having referred to the army list, afterwards called on the Major. Then the Major called at Mr Dombey’s house in town; and came down again, in the same coach as Mr Dombey. In short, Mr Dombey and the Major got on uncommonly well together, and uncommonly fast: and Mr Dombey observed of the Major, to his sister, that besides being quite a military man he was really something more, as he had a very admirable idea of the importance of things unconnected with his own profession.

At length Mr Dombey, bringing down Miss Tox and Mrs Chick to see the children, and finding the Major again at Brighton, invited him to dinner at the Bedford, and complimented Miss Tox highly, beforehand, on her neighbour and acquaintance.

“My dearest Louisa,” said Miss Tox to Mrs Chick, when they were alone together, on the morning of the appointed day, “if I should seem at all reserved to Major Bagstock, or under any constraint with him, promise me not to notice it.”

“My dear Lucretia,” returned Mrs Chick, “what mystery is involved in this remarkable request? I must insist upon knowing.”

“Since you are resolved to extort a confession from me, Louisa,” said Miss Tox instantly, “I have no alternative but to confide to you that the Major has been particular.”

“Particular!” repeated Mrs Chick.

“The Major has long been very particular indeed, my love, in his attentions,” said Miss Tox, “occasionally they have been so very marked, that my position has been one of no common difficulty.”

“Is he in good circumstances?” inquired Mrs Chick.

“I have every reason to believe, my dear—indeed I may say I know,” returned Miss Tox, “that he is wealthy. He is truly military, and full of anecdote. I have been informed that his valour, when he was in active service, knew no bounds. I am told that he did all sorts of things in the Peninsula, with every description of fire-arm; and in the East and West Indies, my love, I really couldn’t undertake to say what he did not do.”

“Very creditable to him indeed,” said Mrs Chick, “extremely so; and you have given him no encouragement, my dear?”

“If I were to say, Louisa,” replied Miss Tox, with every demonstration of making an effort that rent her soul, “that I never encouraged Major Bagstock slightly, I should not do justice to the friendship which exists between you and me. It is, perhaps, hardly in the nature of woman to receive such attentions as the Major once lavished upon myself without betraying some sense of obligation. But that is past—long past. Between the Major and me there is now a yawning chasm, and I will not feign to give encouragement, Louisa, where I cannot give my heart. My affections,” said Miss Tox—“but, Louisa, this is madness!” and departed from the room.

All this Mrs Chick communicated to her brother before dinner: and it by no means indisposed Mr Dombey to receive the Major with unwonted cordiality. The Major, for his part, was in a state of plethoric satisfaction that knew no bounds: and he coughed, and choked, and chuckled, and gasped, and swelled, until the waiters seemed positively afraid of him.

“Your family monopolises Joe’s light, Sir,” said the Major, when he had saluted Miss Tox. “Joe lives in darkness. Princess’s Place is changed into Kamschatka in the winter time. There is no ray of sun, Sir, for Joey B., now.”

“Miss Tox is good enough to take a great deal of interest in Paul, Major,” returned Mr Dombey on behalf of that blushing virgin.

“Damme Sir,” said the Major, “I’m jealous of my little friend. I’m pining away Sir. The Bagstock breed is degenerating in the forsaken person of old Joe.” And the Major, becoming bluer and bluer and puffing his cheeks further and further over the stiff ridge of his tight cravat, stared at Miss Tox, until his eyes seemed as if he were at that moment being overdone before the slow fire at the military college.

Notwithstanding the palpitation of the heart which these allusions occasioned her, they were anything but disagreeable to Miss Tox, as they enabled her to be extremely interesting, and to manifest an occasional incoherence and distraction which she was not at all unwilling to display. The Major gave her abundant opportunities of exhibiting this emotion: being profuse in his complaints, at dinner, of her desertion of him and Princess’s Place: and as he appeared to derive great enjoyment from making them, they all got on very well.

None the worse on account of the Major taking charge of the whole conversation, and showing as great an appetite in that respect as in regard of the various dainties on the table, among which he may be almost said to have wallowed: greatly to the aggravation of his inflammatory tendencies. Mr Dombey’s habitual silence and reserve yielding readily to this usurpation, the Major felt that he was coming out and shining: and in the flow of spirits thus engendered, rang such an infinite number of new changes on his own name that he quite astonished himself. In a word, they were all very well pleased. The Major was considered to possess an inexhaustible fund of conversation; and when he took a late farewell, after a long rubber, Mr Dombey again complimented the blushing Miss Tox on her neighbour and acquaintance.

But all the way home to his own hotel, the Major incessantly said to himself, and of himself, “Sly, Sir—sly, Sir—de-vil-ish sly!” And when he got there, sat down in a chair, and fell into a silent fit of laughter, with which he was sometimes seized, and which was always particularly awful. It held him so long on this occasion that the dark servant, who stood watching him at a distance, but dared not for his life approach, twice or thrice gave him over for lost. His whole form, but especially his face and head, dilated beyond all former experience; and presented to the dark man’s view, nothing but a heaving mass of indigo. At length he burst into a violent paroxysm of coughing, and when that was a little better burst into such ejaculations as the following:

“Would you, Ma’am, would you? Mrs Dombey, eh, Ma’am? I think not, Ma’am. Not while Joe B. can put a spoke in your wheel, Ma’am. J. B.“s even with you now, Ma’am. He isn’t altogether bowled out, yet, Sir, isn’t Bagstock. She’s deep, Sir, deep, but Josh is deeper. Wide awake is old Joe—broad awake, and staring, Sir!” There was no doubt of this last assertion being true, and to a very fearful extent; as it continued to be during the greater part of that night, which the Major chiefly passed in similar exclamations, diversified with fits of coughing and choking that startled the whole house.

It was on the day after this occasion (being Sunday) when, as Mr Dombey, Mrs Chick, and Miss Tox were sitting at breakfast, still eulogising the Major, Florence came running in: her face suffused with a bright colour, and her eyes sparkling joyfully: and cried,

“Papa! Papa! Here’s Walter! and he won’t come in.”

“Who?” cried Mr Dombey. “What does she mean? What is this?”

“Walter, Papa!” said Florence timidly; sensible of having approached the presence with too much familiarity. “Who found me when I was lost.”

“Does she mean young Gay, Louisa?” inquired Mr Dombey, knitting his brows. “Really, this child’s manners have become very boisterous. She cannot mean young Gay, I think. See what it is, will you?”

Mrs Chick hurried into the passage, and returned with the information that it was young Gay, accompanied by a very strange-looking person; and that young Gay said he would not take the liberty of coming in, hearing Mr Dombey was at breakfast, but would wait until Mr Dombey should signify that he might approach.

“Tell the boy to come in now,” said Mr Dombey. “Now, Gay, what is the matter? Who sent you down here? Was there nobody else to come?”

“I beg your pardon, Sir,” returned Walter. “I have not been sent. I have been so bold as to come on my own account, which I hope you’ll pardon when I mention the cause.

But Mr Dombey, without attending to what he said, was looking impatiently on either side of him (as if he were a pillar in his way) at some object behind.

“What’s that?” said Mr Dombey. “Who is that? I think you have made some mistake in the door, Sir.”

“Oh, I’m very sorry to intrude with anyone, Sir,” cried Walter, hastily: “but this is—this is Captain Cuttle, Sir.”

“Wal”r, my lad,” observed the Captain in a deep voice: “stand by!”

At the same time the Captain, coming a little further in, brought out his wide suit of blue, his conspicuous shirt-collar, and his knobby nose in full relief, and stood bowing to Mr Dombey, and waving his hook politely to the ladies, with the hard glazed hat in his one hand, and a red equator round his head which it had newly imprinted there.

Mr Dombey regarded this phenomenon with amazement and indignation, and seemed by his looks to appeal to Mrs Chick and Miss Tox against it. Little Paul, who had come in after Florence, backed towards Miss Tox as the Captain waved his hook, and stood on the defensive.

“Now, Gay,” said Mr Dombey. “What have you got to say to me?”

Again the Captain observed, as a general opening of the conversation that could not fail to propitiate all parties, “Wal”r, standby!”

“I am afraid, Sir,” began Walter, trembling, and looking down at the ground, “that I take a very great liberty in coming—indeed, I am sure I do. I should hardly have had the courage to ask to see you, Sir, even after coming down, I am afraid, if I had not overtaken Miss Dombey, and—”

“Well!” said Mr Dombey, following his eyes as he glanced at the attentive Florence, and frowning unconsciously as she encouraged him with a smile. “Go on, if you please.”

“Ay, ay,” observed the Captain, considering it incumbent on him, as a point of good breeding, to support Mr Dombey. “Well said! Go on, Wal”r.”

Captain Cuttle ought to have been withered by the look which Mr Dombey bestowed upon him in acknowledgment of his patronage. But quite innocent of this, he closed one eye in reply, and gave Mr Dombey to understand, by certain significant motions of his hook, that Walter was a little bashful at first, and might be expected to come out shortly.

“It is entirely a private and personal matter, that has brought me here, Sir,” continued Walter, faltering, “and Captain Cuttle—”

“Here!” interposed the Captain, as an assurance that he was at hand, and might be relied upon.

“Who is a very old friend of my poor Uncle’s, and a most excellent man, Sir,” pursued Walter, raising his eyes with a look of entreaty in the Captain’s behalf, “was so good as to offer to come with me, which I could hardly refuse.”

“No, no, no;” observed the Captain complacently. “Of course not. No call for refusing. Go on, Wal”r.”

“And therefore, Sir,” said Walter, venturing to meet Mr Dombey’s eye, and proceeding with better courage in the very desperation of the case, now that there was no avoiding it, “therefore I have come, with him, Sir, to say that my poor old Uncle is in very great affliction and distress. That, through the gradual loss of his business, and not being able to make a payment, the apprehension of which has weighed very heavily upon his mind, months and months, as indeed I know, Sir, he has an execution in his house, and is in danger of losing all he has, and breaking his heart. And that if you would, in your kindness, and in your old knowledge of him as a respectable man, do anything to help him out of his difficulty, Sir, we never could thank you enough for it.”

Walter’s eyes filled with tears as he spoke; and so did those of Florence. Her father saw them glistening, though he appeared to look at Walter only.

“It is a very large sum, Sir,” said Walter. “More than three hundred pounds. My Uncle is quite beaten down by his misfortune, it lies so heavy on him; and is quite unable to do anything for his own relief. He doesn’t even know yet, that I have come to speak to you. You would wish me to say, Sir,” added Walter, after a moment’s hesitation, “exactly what it is I want. I really don’t know, Sir. There is my Uncle’s stock, on which I believe I may say, confidently, there are no other demands, and there is Captain Cuttle, who would wish to be security too. I—I hardly like to mention,” said Walter, “such earnings as mine; but if you would allow them—accumulate—payment—advance—Uncle—frugal, honourable, old man.” Walter trailed off, through these broken sentences, into silence: and stood with downcast head, before his employer.

Considering this a favourable moment for the display of the valuables, Captain Cuttle advanced to the table; and clearing a space among the breakfast-cups at Mr Dombey’s elbow, produced the silver watch, the ready money, the teaspoons, and the sugar-tongs; and piling them up into a heap that they might look as precious as possible, delivered himself of these words:

“Half a loaf’s better than no bread, and the same remark holds good with crumbs. There’s a few. Annuity of one hundred pound premium also ready to be made over. If there is a man chock full of science in the world, it’s old Sol Gills. If there is a lad of promise—one flowing,” added the Captain, in one of his happy quotations, “with milk and honey—it’s his nevy!”

The Captain then withdrew to his former place, where he stood arranging his scattered locks with the air of a man who had given the finishing touch to a difficult performance.

When Walter ceased to speak, Mr Dombey’s eyes were attracted to little Paul, who, seeing his sister hanging down her head and silently weeping in her commiseration for the distress she had heard described, went over to her, and tried to comfort her: looking at Walter and his father as he did so, with a very expressive face. After the momentary distraction of Captain Cuttle’s address, which he regarded with lofty indifference, Mr Dombey again turned his eyes upon his son, and sat steadily regarding the child, for some moments, in silence.

“What was this debt contracted for?” asked Mr Dombey, at length. “Who is the creditor?”

“He don’t know,” replied the Captain, putting his hand on Walter’s shoulder. “I do. It came of helping a man that’s dead now, and that’s cost my friend Gills many a hundred pound already. More particulars in private, if agreeable.”

“People who have enough to do to hold their own way,” said Mr Dombey, unobservant of the Captain’s mysterious signs behind Walter, and still looking at his son, “had better be content with their own obligations and difficulties, and not increase them by engaging for other men. It is an act of dishonesty and presumption, too,” said Mr Dombey, sternly; “great presumption; for the wealthy could do no more. Paul, come here!”

The child obeyed: and Mr Dombey took him on his knee.

“If you had money now—” said Mr Dombey. “Look at me!”

Paul, whose eyes had wandered to his sister, and to Walter, looked his father in the face.

“If you had money now,” said Mr Dombey; “as much money as young Gay has talked about; what would you do?”

“Give it to his old Uncle,” returned Paul.

“Lend it to his old Uncle, eh?” retorted Mr Dombey. “Well! When you are old enough, you know, you will share my money, and we shall use it together.”

“Dombey and Son,” interrupted Paul, who had been tutored early in the phrase.

“Dombey and Son,” repeated his father. “Would you like to begin to be Dombey and Son, now, and lend this money to young Gay’s Uncle?”

“Oh! if you please, Papa!” said Paul: “and so would Florence.”

“Girls,” said Mr Dombey, “have nothing to do with Dombey and Son. Would you like it?”

“Yes, Papa, yes!”

“Then you shall do it,” returned his father. “And you see, Paul,” he added, dropping his voice, “how powerful money is, and how anxious people are to get it. Young Gay comes all this way to beg for money, and you, who are so grand and great, having got it, are going to let him have it, as a great favour and obligation.”

Paul turned up the old face for a moment, in which there was a sharp understanding of the reference conveyed in these words: but it was a young and childish face immediately afterwards, when he slipped down from his father’s knee, and ran to tell Florence not to cry any more, for he was going to let young Gay have the money.

Mr Dombey then turned to a side-table, and wrote a note and sealed it. During the interval, Paul and Florence whispered to Walter, and Captain Cuttle beamed on the three, with such aspiring and ineffably presumptuous thoughts as Mr Dombey never could have believed in. The note being finished, Mr Dombey turned round to his former place, and held it out to Walter.

“Give that,” he said, “the first thing to-morrow morning, to Mr Carker. He will immediately take care that one of my people releases your Uncle from his present position, by paying the amount at issue; and that such arrangements are made for its repayment as may be consistent with your Uncle’s circumstances. You will consider that this is done for you by Master Paul.”

Walter, in the emotion of holding in his hand the means of releasing his good Uncle from his trouble, would have endeavoured to express something of his gratitude and joy. But Mr Dombey stopped him short.

“You will consider that it is done,” he repeated, “by Master Paul. I have explained that to him, and he understands it. I wish no more to be said.”

As he motioned towards the door, Walter could only bow his head and retire. Miss Tox, seeing that the Captain appeared about to do the same, interposed.

“My dear Sir,” she said, addressing Mr Dombey, at whose munificence both she and Mrs Chick were shedding tears copiously; “I think you have overlooked something. Pardon me, Mr Dombey, I think, in the nobility of your character, and its exalted scope, you have omitted a matter of detail.”

“Indeed, Miss Tox!” said Mr Dombey.

“The gentleman with the—Instrument,” pursued Miss Tox, glancing at Captain Cuttle, “has left upon the table, at your elbow—”

“Good Heaven!” said Mr Dombey, sweeping the Captain’s property from him, as if it were so much crumb indeed. “Take these things away. I am obliged to you, Miss Tox; it is like your usual discretion. Have the goodness to take these things away, Sir!”

Captain Cuttle felt he had no alternative but to comply. But he was so much struck by the magnanimity of Mr Dombey, in refusing treasures lying heaped up to his hand, that when he had deposited the teaspoons and sugar-tongs in one pocket, and the ready money in another, and had lowered the great watch down slowly into its proper vault, he could not refrain from seizing that gentleman’s right hand in his own solitary left, and while he held it open with his powerful fingers, bringing the hook down upon its palm in a transport of admiration. At this touch of warm feeling and cold iron, Mr Dombey shivered all over.

Captain Cuttle then kissed his hook to the ladies several times, with great elegance and gallantry; and having taken a particular leave of Paul and Florence, accompanied Walter out of the room. Florence was running after them in the earnestness of her heart, to send some message to old Sol, when Mr Dombey called her back, and bade her stay where she was.

“Will you never be a Dombey, my dear child!” said Mrs Chick, with pathetic reproachfulness.

“Dear aunt,” said Florence. “Don’t be angry with me. I am so thankful to Papa!”

She would have run and thrown her arms about his neck if she had dared; but as she did not dare, she glanced with thankful eyes towards him, as he sat musing; sometimes bestowing an uneasy glance on her, but, for the most part, watching Paul, who walked about the room with the new-blown dignity of having let young Gay have the money.

And young Gay—Walter—what of him?

He was overjoyed to purge the old man’s hearth from bailiffs and brokers, and to hurry back to his Uncle with the good tidings. He was overjoyed to have it all arranged and settled next day before noon; and to sit down at evening in the little back parlour with old Sol and Captain Cuttle; and to see the Instrument-maker already reviving, and hopeful for the future, and feeling that the wooden Midshipman was his own again. But without the least impeachment of his gratitude to Mr Dombey, it must be confessed that Walter was humbled and cast down. It is when our budding hopes are nipped beyond recovery by some rough wind, that we are the most disposed to picture to ourselves what flowers they might have borne, if they had flourished; and now, when Walter found himself cut off from that great Dombey height, by the depth of a new and terrible tumble, and felt that all his old wild fancies had been scattered to the winds in the fall, he began to suspect that they might have led him on to harmless visions of aspiring to Florence in the remote distance of time.

The Captain viewed the subject in quite a different light. He appeared to entertain a belief that the interview at which he had assisted was so very satisfactory and encouraging, as to be only a step or two removed from a regular betrothal of Florence to Walter; and that the late transaction had immensely forwarded, if not thoroughly established, the Whittingtonian hopes. Stimulated by this conviction, and by the improvement in the spirits of his old friend, and by his own consequent gaiety, he even attempted, in favouring them with the ballad of “Lovely Peg” for the third time in one evening, to make an extemporaneous substitution of the name “Florence;” but finding this difficult, on account of the word Peg invariably rhyming to leg (in which personal beauty the original was described as having excelled all competitors), he hit upon the happy thought of changing it to Fle-e-eg; which he accordingly did, with an archness almost supernatural, and a voice quite vociferous, notwithstanding that the time was close at hand when he must seek the abode of the dreadful Mrs MacStinger.

That same evening the Major was diffuse at his club, on the subject of his friend Dombey in the City. “Damme, Sir,” said the Major, “he’s a prince, is my friend Dombey in the City. I tell you what, Sir. If you had a few more men among you like old Joe Bagstock and my friend Dombey in the City, Sir, you’d do!”