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Dombey and Son

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CHAPTER XI. 
Paul’s Introduction to a New Scene

Mrs Pipchin’s constitution was made of such hard metal, in spite of its liability to the fleshly weaknesses of standing in need of repose after chops, and of requiring to be coaxed to sleep by the soporific agency of sweet-breads, that it utterly set at naught the predictions of Mrs Wickam, and showed no symptoms of decline. Yet, as Paul’s rapt interest in the old lady continued unbated, Mrs Wickam would not budge an inch from the position she had taken up. Fortifying and entrenching herself on the strong ground of her Uncle’s Betsey Jane, she advised Miss Berry, as a friend, to prepare herself for the worst; and forewarned her that her aunt might, at any time, be expected to go off suddenly, like a powder-mill.

“I hope, Miss Berry,” Mrs Wickam would observe, “that you’ll come into whatever little property there may be to leave. You deserve it, I am sure, for yours is a trying life. Though there don’t seem much worth coming into—you’ll excuse my being so open—in this dismal den.”

Poor Berry took it all in good part, and drudged and slaved away as usual; perfectly convinced that Mrs Pipchin was one of the most meritorious persons in the world, and making every day innumerable sacrifices of herself upon the altar of that noble old woman. But all these immolations of Berry were somehow carried to the credit of Mrs Pipchin by Mrs Pipchin’s friends and admirers; and were made to harmonise with, and carry out, that melancholy fact of the deceased Mr Pipchin having broken his heart in the Peruvian mines.

For example, there was an honest grocer and general dealer in the retail line of business, between whom and Mrs Pipchin there was a small memorandum book, with a greasy red cover, perpetually in question, and concerning which divers secret councils and conferences were continually being held between the parties to that register, on the mat in the passage, and with closed doors in the parlour. Nor were there wanting dark hints from Master Bitherstone (whose temper had been made revengeful by the solar heats of India acting on his blood), of balances unsettled, and of a failure, on one occasion within his memory, in the supply of moist sugar at tea-time. This grocer being a bachelor and not a man who looked upon the surface for beauty, had once made honourable offers for the hand of Berry, which Mrs Pipchin had, with contumely and scorn, rejected. Everybody said how laudable this was in Mrs Pipchin, relict of a man who had died of the Peruvian mines; and what a staunch, high, independent spirit the old lady had. But nobody said anything about poor Berry, who cried for six weeks (being soundly rated by her good aunt all the time), and lapsed into a state of hopeless spinsterhood.

“Berry’s very fond of you, ain’t she?” Paul once asked Mrs Pipchin when they were sitting by the fire with the cat.

“Yes,” said Mrs Pipchin.

“Why?” asked Paul.

“Why!” returned the disconcerted old lady. “How can you ask such things, Sir! why are you fond of your sister Florence?”

“Because she’s very good,” said Paul. “There’s nobody like Florence.”

“Well!” retorted Mrs Pipchin, shortly, “and there’s nobody like me, I suppose.”

“Ain’t there really though?” asked Paul, leaning forward in his chair, and looking at her very hard.

“No,” said the old lady.

“I am glad of that,” observed Paul, rubbing his hands thoughtfully. “That’s a very good thing.”

Mrs Pipchin didn’t dare to ask him why, lest she should receive some perfectly annihilating answer. But as a compensation to her wounded feelings, she harassed Master Bitherstone to that extent until bed-time, that he began that very night to make arrangements for an overland return to India, by secreting from his supper a quarter of a round of bread and a fragment of moist Dutch cheese, as the beginning of a stock of provision to support him on the voyage.

Mrs Pipchin had kept watch and ward over little Paul and his sister for nearly twelve months. They had been home twice, but only for a few days; and had been constant in their weekly visits to Mr Dombey at the hotel. By little and little Paul had grown stronger, and had become able to dispense with his carriage; though he still looked thin and delicate; and still remained the same old, quiet, dreamy child that he had been when first consigned to Mrs Pipchin’s care. One Saturday afternoon, at dusk, great consternation was occasioned in the Castle by the unlooked-for announcement of Mr Dombey as a visitor to Mrs Pipchin. The population of the parlour was immediately swept upstairs as on the wings of a whirlwind, and after much slamming of bedroom doors, and trampling overhead, and some knocking about of Master Bitherstone by Mrs Pipchin, as a relief to the perturbation of her spirits, the black bombazeen garments of the worthy old lady darkened the audience-chamber where Mr Dombey was contemplating the vacant arm-chair of his son and heir.

“Mrs Pipchin,” said Mr Dombey, “How do you do?”

“Thank you, Sir,” said Mrs Pipchin, “I am pretty well, considering.”

Mrs Pipchin always used that form of words. It meant, considering her virtues, sacrifices, and so forth.

“I can’t expect, Sir, to be very well,” said Mrs Pipchin, taking a chair and fetching her breath; “but such health as I have, I am grateful for.”

Mr Dombey inclined his head with the satisfied air of a patron, who felt that this was the sort of thing for which he paid so much a quarter. After a moment’s silence he went on to say:

“Mrs Pipchin, I have taken the liberty of calling, to consult you in reference to my son. I have had it in my mind to do so for some time past; but have deferred it from time to time, in order that his health might be thoroughly re-established. You have no misgivings on that subject, Mrs Pipchin?”

“Brighton has proved very beneficial, Sir,” returned Mrs Pipchin. “Very beneficial, indeed.”

“I purpose,” said Mr Dombey, “his remaining at Brighton.”

Mrs Pipchin rubbed her hands, and bent her grey eyes on the fire.

“But,” pursued Mr Dombey, stretching out his forefinger, “but possibly that he should now make a change, and lead a different kind of life here. In short, Mrs Pipchin, that is the object of my visit. My son is getting on, Mrs Pipchin. Really, he is getting on.”

There was something melancholy in the triumphant air with which Mr Dombey said this. It showed how long Paul’s childish life had been to him, and how his hopes were set upon a later stage of his existence. Pity may appear a strange word to connect with anyone so haughty and so cold, and yet he seemed a worthy subject for it at that moment.

“Six years old!” said Mr Dombey, settling his neckcloth—perhaps to hide an irrepressible smile that rather seemed to strike upon the surface of his face and glance away, as finding no resting-place, than to play there for an instant. “Dear me, six will be changed to sixteen, before we have time to look about us.”

“Ten years,” croaked the unsympathetic Pipchin, with a frosty glistening of her hard grey eye, and a dreary shaking of her bent head, “is a long time.”

“It depends on circumstances, returned Mr Dombey; “at all events, Mrs Pipchin, my son is six years old, and there is no doubt, I fear, that in his studies he is behind many children of his age—or his youth,” said Mr Dombey, quickly answering what he mistrusted was a shrewd twinkle of the frosty eye, “his youth is a more appropriate expression. Now, Mrs Pipchin, instead of being behind his peers, my son ought to be before them; far before them. There is an eminence ready for him to mount upon. There is nothing of chance or doubt in the course before my son. His way in life was clear and prepared, and marked out before he existed. The education of such a young gentleman must not be delayed. It must not be left imperfect. It must be very steadily and seriously undertaken, Mrs Pipchin.”

“Well, Sir,” said Mrs Pipchin, “I can say nothing to the contrary.”

“I was quite sure, Mrs Pipchin,” returned Mr Dombey, approvingly, “that a person of your good sense could not, and would not.”

“There is a great deal of nonsense—and worse—talked about young people not being pressed too hard at first, and being tempted on, and all the rest of it, Sir,” said Mrs Pipchin, impatiently rubbing her hooked nose. “It never was thought of in my time, and it has no business to be thought of now. My opinion is ‘keep ’em at it’.”

“My good madam,” returned Mr Dombey, “you have not acquired your reputation undeservedly; and I beg you to believe, Mrs Pipchin, that I am more than satisfied with your excellent system of management, and shall have the greatest pleasure in commending it whenever my poor commendation—” Mr Dombey’s loftiness when he affected to disparage his own importance, passed all bounds—“can be of any service. I have been thinking of Doctor Blimber’s, Mrs Pipchin.”

“My neighbour, Sir?” said Mrs Pipchin. “I believe the Doctor’s is an excellent establishment. I’ve heard that it’s very strictly conducted, and there is nothing but learning going on from morning to night.”

“And it’s very expensive,” added Mr Dombey.

“And it’s very expensive, Sir,” returned Mrs Pipchin, catching at the fact, as if in omitting that, she had omitted one of its leading merits.

“I have had some communication with the Doctor, Mrs Pipchin,” said Mr Dombey, hitching his chair anxiously a little nearer to the fire, “and he does not consider Paul at all too young for his purpose. He mentioned several instances of boys in Greek at about the same age. If I have any little uneasiness in my own mind, Mrs Pipchin, on the subject of this change, it is not on that head. My son not having known a mother has gradually concentrated much—too much—of his childish affection on his sister. Whether their separation—” Mr Dombey said no more, but sat silent.

“Hoity-toity!” exclaimed Mrs Pipchin, shaking out her black bombazeen skirts, and plucking up all the ogress within her. “If she don’t like it, Mr Dombey, she must be taught to lump it.” The good lady apologised immediately afterwards for using so common a figure of speech, but said (and truly) that that was the way she reasoned with ’em.

Mr Dombey waited until Mrs Pipchin had done bridling and shaking her head, and frowning down a legion of Bitherstones and Pankeys; and then said quietly, but correctively, “He, my good madam, he.”

Mrs Pipchin’s system would have applied very much the same mode of cure to any uneasiness on the part of Paul, too; but as the hard grey eye was sharp enough to see that the recipe, however Mr Dombey might admit its efficacy in the case of the daughter, was not a sovereign remedy for the son, she argued the point; and contended that change, and new society, and the different form of life he would lead at Doctor Blimber’s, and the studies he would have to master, would very soon prove sufficient alienations. As this chimed in with Mr Dombey’s own hope and belief, it gave that gentleman a still higher opinion of Mrs Pipchin’s understanding; and as Mrs Pipchin, at the same time, bewailed the loss of her dear little friend (which was not an overwhelming shock to her, as she had long expected it, and had not looked, in the beginning, for his remaining with her longer than three months), he formed an equally good opinion of Mrs Pipchin’s disinterestedness. It was plain that he had given the subject anxious consideration, for he had formed a plan, which he announced to the ogress, of sending Paul to the Doctor’s as a weekly boarder for the first half year, during which time Florence would remain at the Castle, that she might receive her brother there, on Saturdays. This would wean him by degrees, Mr Dombey said; possibly with a recollection of his not having been weaned by degrees on a former occasion.

Mr Dombey finished the interview by expressing his hope that Mrs Pipchin would still remain in office as general superintendent and overseer of his son, pending his studies at Brighton; and having kissed Paul, and shaken hands with Florence, and beheld Master Bitherstone in his collar of state, and made Miss Pankey cry by patting her on the head (in which region she was uncommonly tender, on account of a habit Mrs Pipchin had of sounding it with her knuckles, like a cask), he withdrew to his hotel and dinner: resolved that Paul, now that he was getting so old and well, should begin a vigorous course of education forthwith, to qualify him for the position in which he was to shine; and that Doctor Blimber should take him in hand immediately.

Whenever a young gentleman was taken in hand by Doctor Blimber, he might consider himself sure of a pretty tight squeeze. The Doctor only undertook the charge of ten young gentlemen, but he had, always ready, a supply of learning for a hundred, on the lowest estimate; and it was at once the business and delight of his life to gorge the unhappy ten with it.

In fact, Doctor Blimber’s establishment was a great hot-house, in which there was a forcing apparatus incessantly at work. All the boys blew before their time. Mental green-peas were produced at Christmas, and intellectual asparagus all the year round. Mathematical gooseberries (very sour ones too) were common at untimely seasons, and from mere sprouts of bushes, under Doctor Blimber’s cultivation. Every description of Greek and Latin vegetable was got off the driest twigs of boys, under the frostiest circumstances. Nature was of no consequence at all. No matter what a young gentleman was intended to bear, Doctor Blimber made him bear to pattern, somehow or other.

This was all very pleasant and ingenious, but the system of forcing was attended with its usual disadvantages. There was not the right taste about the premature productions, and they didn’t keep well. Moreover, one young gentleman, with a swollen nose and an excessively large head (the oldest of the ten who had “gone through” everything), suddenly left off blowing one day, and remained in the establishment a mere stalk. And people did say that the Doctor had rather overdone it with young Toots, and that when he began to have whiskers he left off having brains.

There young Toots was, at any rate; possessed of the gruffest of voices and the shrillest of minds; sticking ornamental pins into his shirt, and keeping a ring in his waistcoat pocket to put on his little finger by stealth, when the pupils went out walking; constantly falling in love by sight with nurserymaids, who had no idea of his existence; and looking at the gas-lighted world over the little iron bars in the left-hand corner window of the front three pairs of stairs, after bed-time, like a greatly overgrown cherub who had sat up aloft much too long.

The Doctor was a portly gentleman in a suit of black, with strings at his knees, and stockings below them. He had a bald head, highly polished; a deep voice; and a chin so very double, that it was a wonder how he ever managed to shave into the creases. He had likewise a pair of little eyes that were always half shut up, and a mouth that was always half expanded into a grin, as if he had, that moment, posed a boy, and were waiting to convict him from his own lips. Insomuch, that when the Doctor put his right hand into the breast of his coat, and with his other hand behind him, and a scarcely perceptible wag of his head, made the commonest observation to a nervous stranger, it was like a sentiment from the sphynx, and settled his business.

The Doctor’s was a mighty fine house, fronting the sea. Not a joyful style of house within, but quite the contrary. Sad-coloured curtains, whose proportions were spare and lean, hid themselves despondently behind the windows. The tables and chairs were put away in rows, like figures in a sum; fires were so rarely lighted in the rooms of ceremony, that they felt like wells, and a visitor represented the bucket; the dining-room seemed the last place in the world where any eating or drinking was likely to occur; there was no sound through all the house but the ticking of a great clock in the hall, which made itself audible in the very garrets; and sometimes a dull cooing of young gentlemen at their lessons, like the murmurings of an assemblage of melancholy pigeons.

Miss Blimber, too, although a slim and graceful maid, did no soft violence to the gravity of the house. There was no light nonsense about Miss Blimber. She kept her hair short and crisp, and wore spectacles. She was dry and sandy with working in the graves of deceased languages. None of your live languages for Miss Blimber. They must be dead—stone dead—and then Miss Blimber dug them up like a Ghoul.

Mrs Blimber, her Mama, was not learned herself, but she pretended to be, and that did quite as well. She said at evening parties, that if she could have known Cicero, she thought she could have died contented. It was the steady joy of her life to see the Doctor’s young gentlemen go out walking, unlike all other young gentlemen, in the largest possible shirt-collars, and the stiffest possible cravats. It was so classical, she said.

As to Mr Feeder, B.A., Doctor Blimber’s assistant, he was a kind of human barrel-organ, with a little list of tunes at which he was continually working, over and over again, without any variation. He might have been fitted up with a change of barrels, perhaps, in early life, if his destiny had been favourable; but it had not been; and he had only one, with which, in a monotonous round, it was his occupation to bewilder the young ideas of Doctor Blimber’s young gentlemen. The young gentlemen were prematurely full of carking anxieties. They knew no rest from the pursuit of stony-hearted verbs, savage noun-substantives, inflexible syntactic passages, and ghosts of exercises that appeared to them in their dreams. Under the forcing system, a young gentleman usually took leave of his spirits in three weeks. He had all the cares of the world on his head in three months. He conceived bitter sentiments against his parents or guardians in four; he was an old misanthrope, in five; envied Curtius that blessed refuge in the earth, in six; and at the end of the first twelvemonth had arrived at the conclusion, from which he never afterwards departed, that all the fancies of the poets, and lessons of the sages, were a mere collection of words and grammar, and had no other meaning in the world.

But he went on blow, blow, blowing, in the Doctor’s hothouse, all the time; and the Doctor’s glory and reputation were great, when he took his wintry growth home to his relations and friends.

Upon the Doctor’s door-steps one day, Paul stood with a fluttering heart, and with his small right hand in his father’s. His other hand was locked in that of Florence. How tight the tiny pressure of that one; and how loose and cold the other!

Mrs Pipchin hovered behind the victim, with her sable plumage and her hooked beak, like a bird of ill-omen. She was out of breath—for Mr Dombey, full of great thoughts, had walked fast—and she croaked hoarsely as she waited for the opening of the door.

“Now, Paul,” said Mr Dombey, exultingly. “This is the way indeed to be Dombey and Son, and have money. You are almost a man already.”

“Almost,” returned the child.

Even his childish agitation could not master the sly and quaint yet touching look, with which he accompanied the reply.

It brought a vague expression of dissatisfaction into Mr Dombey’s face; but the door being opened, it was quickly gone.

“Doctor Blimber is at home, I believe?” said Mr Dombey.

The man said yes; and as they passed in, looked at Paul as if he were a little mouse, and the house were a trap. He was a weak-eyed young man, with the first faint streaks or early dawn of a grin on his countenance. It was mere imbecility; but Mrs Pipchin took it into her head that it was impudence, and made a snap at him directly.

“How dare you laugh behind the gentleman’s back?” said Mrs Pipchin. “And what do you take me for?”

“I ain’t a laughing at nobody, and I’m sure I don’t take you for nothing, Ma’am,” returned the young man, in consternation.

“A pack of idle dogs!” said Mrs Pipchin, “only fit to be turnspits. Go and tell your master that Mr Dombey’s here, or it’ll be worse for you!”

The weak-eyed young man went, very meekly, to discharge himself of this commission; and soon came back to invite them to the Doctor’s study.

“You’re laughing again, Sir,” said Mrs Pipchin, when it came to her turn, bringing up the rear, to pass him in the hall.

“I ain’t,” returned the young man, grievously oppressed. “I never see such a thing as this!”

“What is the matter, Mrs Pipchin?” said Mr Dombey, looking round. “Softly! Pray!”

Mrs Pipchin, in her deference, merely muttered at the young man as she passed on, and said, “Oh! he was a precious fellow”—leaving the young man, who was all meekness and incapacity, affected even to tears by the incident. But Mrs Pipchin had a way of falling foul of all meek people; and her friends said who could wonder at it, after the Peruvian mines!

The Doctor was sitting in his portentous study, with a globe at each knee, books all round him, Homer over the door, and Minerva on the mantel-shelf. “And how do you do, Sir?” he said to Mr Dombey, “and how is my little friend?” Grave as an organ was the Doctor’s speech; and when he ceased, the great clock in the hall seemed (to Paul at least) to take him up, and to go on saying, “how, is, my, lit, tle, friend? how, is, my, lit, tle, friend?” over and over and over again.

The little friend being something too small to be seen at all from where the Doctor sat, over the books on his table, the Doctor made several futile attempts to get a view of him round the legs; which Mr Dombey perceiving, relieved the Doctor from his embarrassment by taking Paul up in his arms, and sitting him on another little table, over against the Doctor, in the middle of the room.

“Ha!” said the Doctor, leaning back in his chair with his hand in his breast. “Now I see my little friend. How do you do, my little friend?”

The clock in the hall wouldn’t subscribe to this alteration in the form of words, but continued to repeat how, is, my, lit, tle, friend? how, is, my, lit, tle, friend?”

“Very well, I thank you, Sir,” returned Paul, answering the clock quite as much as the Doctor.

“Ha!” said Doctor Blimber. “Shall we make a man of him?”

“Do you hear, Paul?” added Mr Dombey; Paul being silent.

“Shall we make a man of him?” repeated the Doctor.

“I had rather be a child,” replied Paul.

“Indeed!” said the Doctor. “Why?”

The child sat on the table looking at him, with a curious expression of suppressed emotion in his face, and beating one hand proudly on his knee as if he had the rising tears beneath it, and crushed them. But his other hand strayed a little way the while, a little farther—farther from him yet—until it lighted on the neck of Florence. “This is why,” it seemed to say, and then the steady look was broken up and gone; the working lip was loosened; and the tears came streaming forth.

“Mrs Pipchin,” said his father, in a querulous manner, “I am really very sorry to see this.”

“Come away from him, do, Miss Dombey,” quoth the matron.

“Never mind,” said the Doctor, blandly nodding his head, to keep Mrs Pipchin back. “Never mind; we shall substitute new cares and new impressions, Mr Dombey, very shortly. You would still wish my little friend to acquire—”

“Everything, if you please, Doctor,” returned Mr Dombey, firmly.

“Yes,” said the Doctor, who, with his half-shut eyes, and his usual smile, seemed to survey Paul with the sort of interest that might attach to some choice little animal he was going to stuff. “Yes, exactly. Ha! We shall impart a great variety of information to our little friend, and bring him quickly forward, I daresay. I daresay. Quite a virgin soil, I believe you said, Mr Dombey?”

“Except some ordinary preparation at home, and from this lady,” replied Mr Dombey, introducing Mrs Pipchin, who instantly communicated a rigidity to her whole muscular system, and snorted defiance beforehand, in case the Doctor should disparage her; “except so far, Paul has, as yet, applied himself to no studies at all.”

Doctor Blimber inclined his head, in gentle tolerance of such insignificant poaching as Mrs Pipchin’s, and said he was glad to hear it. It was much more satisfactory, he observed, rubbing his hands, to begin at the foundation. And again he leered at Paul, as if he would have liked to tackle him with the Greek alphabet, on the spot.

“That circumstance, indeed, Doctor Blimber,” pursued Mr Dombey, glancing at his little son, “and the interview I have already had the pleasure of holding with you, renders any further explanation, and consequently, any further intrusion on your valuable time, so unnecessary, that—”

“Now, Miss Dombey!” said the acid Pipchin.

“Permit me,” said the Doctor, “one moment. Allow me to present Mrs Blimber and my daughter; who will be associated with the domestic life of our young Pilgrim to Parnassus Mrs Blimber,” for the lady, who had perhaps been in waiting, opportunely entered, followed by her daughter, that fair Sexton in spectacles, “Mr Dombey. My daughter Cornelia, Mr Dombey. Mr Dombey, my love,” pursued the Doctor, turning to his wife, “is so confiding as to—do you see our little friend?”

Mrs Blimber, in an excess of politeness, of which Mr Dombey was the object, apparently did not, for she was backing against the little friend, and very much endangering his position on the table. But, on this hint, she turned to admire his classical and intellectual lineaments, and turning again to Mr Dombey, said, with a sigh, that she envied his dear son.

“Like a bee, Sir,” said Mrs Blimber, with uplifted eyes, “about to plunge into a garden of the choicest flowers, and sip the sweets for the first time Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Terence, Plautus, Cicero. What a world of honey have we here. It may appear remarkable, Mr Dombey, in one who is a wife—the wife of such a husband—”

“Hush, hush,” said Doctor Blimber. “Fie for shame.”

“Mr Dombey will forgive the partiality of a wife,” said Mrs Blimber, with an engaging smile.

Mr Dombey answered “Not at all:” applying those words, it is to be presumed, to the partiality, and not to the forgiveness.

“And it may seem remarkable in one who is a mother also,” resumed Mrs Blimber.

“And such a mother,” observed Mr Dombey, bowing with some confused idea of being complimentary to Cornelia.

“But really,” pursued Mrs Blimber, “I think if I could have known Cicero, and been his friend, and talked with him in his retirement at Tusculum (beau-ti-ful Tusculum!), I could have died contented.”

A learned enthusiasm is so very contagious, that Mr Dombey half believed this was exactly his case; and even Mrs Pipchin, who was not, as we have seen, of an accommodating disposition generally, gave utterance to a little sound between a groan and a sigh, as if she would have said that nobody but Cicero could have proved a lasting consolation under that failure of the Peruvian Mines, but that he indeed would have been a very Davy-lamp of refuge.

Cornelia looked at Mr Dombey through her spectacles, as if she would have liked to crack a few quotations with him from the authority in question. But this design, if she entertained it, was frustrated by a knock at the room-door.

“Who is that?” said the Doctor. “Oh! Come in, Toots; come in. Mr Dombey, Sir.” Toots bowed. “Quite a coincidence!” said Doctor Blimber. “Here we have the beginning and the end. Alpha and Omega. Our head boy, Mr Dombey.”

The Doctor might have called him their head and shoulders boy, for he was at least that much taller than any of the rest. He blushed very much at finding himself among strangers, and chuckled aloud.

“An addition to our little Portico, Toots,” said the Doctor; “Mr Dombey’s son.”

Young Toots blushed again; and finding, from a solemn silence which prevailed, that he was expected to say something, said to Paul, “How are you?” in a voice so deep, and a manner so sheepish, that if a lamb had roared it couldn’t have been more surprising.

“Ask Mr Feeder, if you please, Toots,” said the Doctor, “to prepare a few introductory volumes for Mr Dombey’s son, and to allot him a convenient seat for study. My dear, I believe Mr Dombey has not seen the dormitories.”

“If Mr Dombey will walk upstairs,” said Mrs Blimber, “I shall be more than proud to show him the dominions of the drowsy god.”

With that, Mrs Blimber, who was a lady of great suavity, and a wiry figure, and who wore a cap composed of sky-blue materials, proceeded upstairs with Mr Dombey and Cornelia; Mrs Pipchin following, and looking out sharp for her enemy the footman.

While they were gone, Paul sat upon the table, holding Florence by the hand, and glancing timidly from the Doctor round and round the room, while the Doctor, leaning back in his chair, with his hand in his breast as usual, held a book from him at arm’s length, and read. There was something very awful in this manner of reading. It was such a determined, unimpassioned, inflexible, cold-blooded way of going to work. It left the Doctor’s countenance exposed to view; and when the Doctor smiled suspiciously at his author, or knit his brows, or shook his head and made wry faces at him, as much as to say, “Don’t tell me, Sir; I know better,” it was terrific.

Toots, too, had no business to be outside the door, ostentatiously examining the wheels in his watch, and counting his half-crowns. But that didn’t last long; for Doctor Blimber, happening to change the position of his tight plump legs, as if he were going to get up, Toots swiftly vanished, and appeared no more.

Mr Dombey and his conductress were soon heard coming downstairs again, talking all the way; and presently they re-entered the Doctor’s study.

“I hope, Mr Dombey,” said the Doctor, laying down his book, “that the arrangements meet your approval.”

“They are excellent, Sir,” said Mr Dombey.

“Very fair, indeed,” said Mrs Pipchin, in a low voice; never disposed to give too much encouragement.

“Mrs Pipchin,” said Mr Dombey, wheeling round, “will, with your permission, Doctor and Mrs Blimber, visit Paul now and then.”

“Whenever Mrs Pipchin pleases,” observed the Doctor.

“Always happy to see her,” said Mrs Blimber.

“I think,” said Mr Dombey, “I have given all the trouble I need, and may take my leave. Paul, my child,” he went close to him, as he sat upon the table. “Good-bye.”

“Good-bye, Papa.”

The limp and careless little hand that Mr Dombey took in his, was singularly out of keeping with the wistful face. But he had no part in its sorrowful expression. It was not addressed to him. No, no. To Florence—all to Florence.

If Mr Dombey in his insolence of wealth, had ever made an enemy, hard to appease and cruelly vindictive in his hate, even such an enemy might have received the pang that wrung his proud heart then, as compensation for his injury.

He bent down, over his boy, and kissed him. If his sight were dimmed as he did so, by something that for a moment blurred the little face, and made it indistinct to him, his mental vision may have been, for that short time, the clearer perhaps.

“I shall see you soon, Paul. You are free on Saturdays and Sundays, you know.”

“Yes, Papa,” returned Paul: looking at his sister. “On Saturdays and Sundays.”

“And you’ll try and learn a great deal here, and be a clever man,” said Mr Dombey; “won’t you?”

“I’ll try,” returned the child, wearily.

“And you’ll soon be grown up now!” said Mr Dombey.

“Oh! very soon!” replied the child. Once more the old, old look passed rapidly across his features like a strange light. It fell on Mrs Pipchin, and extinguished itself in her black dress. That excellent ogress stepped forward to take leave and to bear off Florence, which she had long been thirsting to do. The move on her part roused Mr Dombey, whose eyes were fixed on Paul. After patting him on the head, and pressing his small hand again, he took leave of Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber, and Miss Blimber, with his usual polite frigidity, and walked out of the study.

Despite his entreaty that they would not think of stirring, Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber, and Miss Blimber all pressed forward to attend him to the hall; and thus Mrs Pipchin got into a state of entanglement with Miss Blimber and the Doctor, and was crowded out of the study before she could clutch Florence. To which happy accident Paul stood afterwards indebted for the dear remembrance, that Florence ran back to throw her arms round his neck, and that hers was the last face in the doorway: turned towards him with a smile of encouragement, the brighter for the tears through which it beamed.

It made his childish bosom heave and swell when it was gone; and sent the globes, the books, blind Homer and Minerva, swimming round the room. But they stopped, all of a sudden; and then he heard the loud clock in the hall still gravely inquiring “how, is, my, lit, tle, friend? how, is, my, lit, tle, friend?” as it had done before.

He sat, with folded hands, upon his pedestal, silently listening. But he might have answered “weary, weary! very lonely, very sad!” And there, with an aching void in his young heart, and all outside so cold, and bare, and strange, Paul sat as if he had taken life unfurnished, and the upholsterer were never coming.

CHAPTER XII. 
Paul’s Education

After the lapse of some minutes, which appeared an immense time to little Paul Dombey on the table, Doctor Blimber came back. The Doctor’s walk was stately, and calculated to impress the juvenile mind with solemn feelings. It was a sort of march; but when the Doctor put out his right foot, he gravely turned upon his axis, with a semi-circular sweep towards the left; and when he put out his left foot, he turned in the same manner towards the right. So that he seemed, at every stride he took, to look about him as though he were saying, “Can anybody have the goodness to indicate any subject, in any direction, on which I am uninformed? I rather think not.”

Mrs Blimber and Miss Blimber came back in the Doctor’s company; and the Doctor, lifting his new pupil off the table, delivered him over to Miss Blimber.

“Cornelia,” said the Doctor, “Dombey will be your charge at first. Bring him on, Cornelia, bring him on.”

Miss Blimber received her young ward from the Doctor’s hands; and Paul, feeling that the spectacles were surveying him, cast down his eyes.

“How old are you, Dombey?” said Miss Blimber.

“Six,” answered Paul, wondering, as he stole a glance at the young lady, why her hair didn’t grow long like Florence’s, and why she was like a boy.

“How much do you know of your Latin Grammar, Dombey?” said Miss Blimber.

“None of it,” answered Paul. Feeling that the answer was a shock to Miss Blimber’s sensibility, he looked up at the three faces that were looking down at him, and said:

“I haven’t been well. I have been a weak child. I couldn’t learn a Latin Grammar when I was out, every day, with old Glubb. I wish you’d tell old Glubb to come and see me, if you please.”

“What a dreadfully low name” said Mrs Blimber. “Unclassical to a degree! Who is the monster, child?”

“What monster?” inquired Paul.

“Glubb,” said Mrs Blimber, with a great disrelish.

“He’s no more a monster than you are,” returned Paul.

“What!” cried the Doctor, in a terrible voice. “Ay, ay, ay? Aha! What’s that?”

Paul was dreadfully frightened; but still he made a stand for the absent Glubb, though he did it trembling.

“He’s a very nice old man, Ma’am,” he said. “He used to draw my couch. He knows all about the deep sea, and the fish that are in it, and the great monsters that come and lie on rocks in the sun, and dive into the water again when they’re startled, blowing and splashing so, that they can be heard for miles. There are some creatures, said Paul, warming with his subject, “I don’t know how many yards long, and I forget their names, but Florence knows, that pretend to be in distress; and when a man goes near them, out of compassion, they open their great jaws, and attack him. But all he has got to do,” said Paul, boldly tendering this information to the very Doctor himself, “is to keep on turning as he runs away, and then, as they turn slowly, because they are so long, and can’t bend, he’s sure to beat them. And though old Glubb don’t know why the sea should make me think of my Mama that’s dead, or what it is that it is always saying—always saying! he knows a great deal about it. And I wish,” the child concluded, with a sudden falling of his countenance, and failing in his animation, as he looked like one forlorn, upon the three strange faces, “that you’d let old Glubb come here to see me, for I know him very well, and he knows me.”

“Ha!” said the Doctor, shaking his head; “this is bad, but study will do much.”

Mrs Blimber opined, with something like a shiver, that he was an unaccountable child; and, allowing for the difference of visage, looked at him pretty much as Mrs Pipchin had been used to do.

“Take him round the house, Cornelia,” said the Doctor, “and familiarise him with his new sphere. Go with that young lady, Dombey.”

Dombey obeyed; giving his hand to the abstruse Cornelia, and looking at her sideways, with timid curiosity, as they went away together. For her spectacles, by reason of the glistening of the glasses, made her so mysterious, that he didn’t know where she was looking, and was not indeed quite sure that she had any eyes at all behind them.

Cornelia took him first to the schoolroom, which was situated at the back of the hall, and was approached through two baize doors, which deadened and muffled the young gentlemen’s voices. Here, there were eight young gentlemen in various stages of mental prostration, all very hard at work, and very grave indeed. Toots, as an old hand, had a desk to himself in one corner: and a magnificent man, of immense age, he looked, in Paul’s young eyes, behind it.

Mr Feeder, B.A., who sat at another little desk, had his Virgil stop on, and was slowly grinding that tune to four young gentlemen. Of the remaining four, two, who grasped their foreheads convulsively, were engaged in solving mathematical problems; one with his face like a dirty window, from much crying, was endeavouring to flounder through a hopeless number of lines before dinner; and one sat looking at his task in stony stupefaction and despair—which it seemed had been his condition ever since breakfast time.

The appearance of a new boy did not create the sensation that might have been expected. Mr Feeder, B.A. (who was in the habit of shaving his head for coolness, and had nothing but little bristles on it), gave him a bony hand, and told him he was glad to see him—which Paul would have been very glad to have told him, if he could have done so with the least sincerity. Then Paul, instructed by Cornelia, shook hands with the four young gentlemen at Mr Feeder’s desk; then with the two young gentlemen at work on the problems, who were very feverish; then with the young gentleman at work against time, who was very inky; and lastly with the young gentleman in a state of stupefaction, who was flabby and quite cold.

Paul having been already introduced to Toots, that pupil merely chuckled and breathed hard, as his custom was, and pursued the occupation in which he was engaged. It was not a severe one; for on account of his having “gone through” so much (in more senses than one), and also of his having, as before hinted, left off blowing in his prime, Toots now had licence to pursue his own course of study: which was chiefly to write long letters to himself from persons of distinction, adds “P. Toots, Esquire, Brighton, Sussex,” and to preserve them in his desk with great care.

These ceremonies passed, Cornelia led Paul upstairs to the top of the house; which was rather a slow journey, on account of Paul being obliged to land both feet on every stair, before he mounted another. But they reached their journey’s end at last; and there, in a front room, looking over the wild sea, Cornelia showed him a nice little bed with white hangings, close to the window, on which there was already beautifully written on a card in round text—down strokes very thick, and up strokes very fine—DOMBEY; while two other little bedsteads in the same room were announced, through like means, as respectively appertaining unto BRIGGS and TOZER.

Just as they got downstairs again into the hall, Paul saw the weak-eyed young man who had given that mortal offence to Mrs Pipchin, suddenly seize a very large drumstick, and fly at a gong that was hanging up, as if he had gone mad, or wanted vengeance. Instead of receiving warning, however, or being instantly taken into custody, the young man left off unchecked, after having made a dreadful noise. Then Cornelia Blimber said to Dombey that dinner would be ready in a quarter of an hour, and perhaps he had better go into the schoolroom among his “friends.”

So Dombey, deferentially passing the great clock which was still as anxious as ever to know how he found himself, opened the schoolroom door a very little way, and strayed in like a lost boy: shutting it after him with some difficulty. His friends were all dispersed about the room except the stony friend, who remained immoveable. Mr Feeder was stretching himself in his grey gown, as if, regardless of expense, he were resolved to pull the sleeves off.

“Heigh ho hum!” cried Mr Feeder, shaking himself like a cart-horse. “Oh dear me, dear me! Ya-a-a-ah!”

Paul was quite alarmed by Mr Feeder’s yawning; it was done on such a great scale, and he was so terribly in earnest. All the boys too (Toots excepted) seemed knocked up, and were getting ready for dinner—some newly tying their neckcloths, which were very stiff indeed; and others washing their hands or brushing their hair, in an adjoining ante-chamber—as if they didn’t think they should enjoy it at all.

Young Toots who was ready beforehand, and had therefore nothing to do, and had leisure to bestow upon Paul, said, with heavy good nature:

“Sit down, Dombey.”

“Thank you, Sir,” said Paul.

His endeavouring to hoist himself on to a very high window-seat, and his slipping down again, appeared to prepare Toots’s mind for the reception of a discovery.

“You’re a very small chap;” said Mr Toots.

“Yes, Sir, I’m small,” returned Paul. “Thank you, Sir.”

For Toots had lifted him into the seat, and done it kindly too.

“Who’s your tailor?” inquired Toots, after looking at him for some moments.

“It’s a woman that has made my clothes as yet,” said Paul. “My sister’s dressmaker.”

“My tailor’s Burgess and Co.,” said Toots. “Fash’nable. But very dear.”

Paul had wit enough to shake his head, as if he would have said it was easy to see that; and indeed he thought so.

“Your father’s regularly rich, ain’t he?” inquired Mr Toots.

“Yes, Sir,” said Paul. “He’s Dombey and Son.”

“And which?” demanded Toots.

“And Son, Sir,” replied Paul.

Mr Toots made one or two attempts, in a low voice, to fix the Firm in his mind; but not quite succeeding, said he would get Paul to mention the name again to-morrow morning, as it was rather important. And indeed he purposed nothing less than writing himself a private and confidential letter from Dombey and Son immediately.

By this time the other pupils (always excepting the stony boy) gathered round. They were polite, but pale; and spoke low; and they were so depressed in their spirits, that in comparison with the general tone of that company, Master Bitherstone was a perfect Miller, or complete Jest Book.” And yet he had a sense of injury upon him, too, had Bitherstone.

“You sleep in my room, don’t you?” asked a solemn young gentleman, whose shirt-collar curled up the lobes of his ears.

“Master Briggs?” inquired Paul.

“Tozer,” said the young gentleman.

Paul answered yes; and Tozer pointing out the stony pupil, said that was Briggs. Paul had already felt certain that it must be either Briggs or Tozer, though he didn’t know why.

“Is yours a strong constitution?” inquired Tozer.

Paul said he thought not. Tozer replied that he thought not also, judging from Paul’s looks, and that it was a pity, for it need be. He then asked Paul if he were going to begin with Cornelia; and on Paul saying “yes,” all the young gentlemen (Briggs excepted) gave a low groan.

It was drowned in the tintinnabulation of the gong, which sounding again with great fury, there was a general move towards the dining-room; still excepting Briggs the stony boy, who remained where he was, and as he was; and on its way to whom Paul presently encountered a round of bread, genteelly served on a plate and napkin, and with a silver fork lying crosswise on the top of it. Doctor Blimber was already in his place in the dining-room, at the top of the table, with Miss Blimber and Mrs Blimber on either side of him. Mr Feeder in a black coat was at the bottom. Paul’s chair was next to Miss Blimber; but it being found, when he sat in it, that his eyebrows were not much above the level of the table-cloth, some books were brought in from the Doctor’s study, on which he was elevated, and on which he always sat from that time— carrying them in and out himself on after occasions, like a little elephant and castle.

Grace having been said by the Doctor, dinner began. There was some nice soup; also roast meat, boiled meat, vegetables, pie, and cheese. Every young gentleman had a massive silver fork, and a napkin; and all the arrangements were stately and handsome. In particular, there was a butler in a blue coat and bright buttons, who gave quite a winey flavour to the table beer; he poured it out so superbly.

Nobody spoke, unless spoken to, except Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber, and Miss Blimber, who conversed occasionally. Whenever a young gentleman was not actually engaged with his knife and fork or spoon, his eye, with an irresistible attraction, sought the eye of Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber, or Miss Blimber, and modestly rested there. Toots appeared to be the only exception to this rule. He sat next Mr Feeder on Paul’s side of the table, and frequently looked behind and before the intervening boys to catch a glimpse of Paul.

Only once during dinner was there any conversation that included the young gentlemen. It happened at the epoch of the cheese, when the Doctor, having taken a glass of port wine, and hemmed twice or thrice, said:

“It is remarkable, Mr Feeder, that the Romans—”

At the mention of this terrible people, their implacable enemies, every young gentleman fastened his gaze upon the Doctor, with an assumption of the deepest interest. One of the number who happened to be drinking, and who caught the Doctor’s eye glaring at him through the side of his tumbler, left off so hastily that he was convulsed for some moments, and in the sequel ruined Doctor Blimber’s point.

“It is remarkable, Mr Feeder,” said the Doctor, beginning again slowly, “that the Romans, in those gorgeous and profuse entertainments of which we read in the days of the Emperors, when luxury had attained a height unknown before or since, and when whole provinces were ravaged to supply the splendid means of one Imperial Banquet—”

Here the offender, who had been swelling and straining, and waiting in vain for a full stop, broke out violently.

“Johnson,” said Mr Feeder, in a low reproachful voice, “take some water.”

The Doctor, looking very stern, made a pause until the water was brought, and then resumed:

“And when, Mr Feeder—”

But Mr Feeder, who saw that Johnson must break out again, and who knew that the Doctor would never come to a period before the young gentlemen until he had finished all he meant to say, couldn’t keep his eye off Johnson; and thus was caught in the fact of not looking at the Doctor, who consequently stopped.

“I beg your pardon, Sir,” said Mr Feeder, reddening. “I beg your pardon, Doctor Blimber.”

“And when,” said the Doctor, raising his voice, “when, Sir, as we read, and have no reason to doubt—incredible as it may appear to the vulgar—of our time—the brother of Vitellius prepared for him a feast, in which were served, of fish, two thousand dishes—”

“Take some water, Johnson—dishes, Sir,” said Mr Feeder.

“Of various sorts of fowl, five thousand dishes.”

“Or try a crust of bread,” said Mr Feeder.

“And one dish,” pursued Doctor Blimber, raising his voice still higher as he looked all round the table, “called, from its enormous dimensions, the Shield of Minerva, and made, among other costly ingredients, of the brains of pheasants—”

“Ow, ow, ow!” (from Johnson.)

“Woodcocks—”

“Ow, ow, ow!”

“The sounds of the fish called scari—”

“You’ll burst some vessel in your head,” said Mr Feeder. “You had better let it come.”

“And the spawn of the lamprey, brought from the Carpathian Sea,” pursued the Doctor, in his severest voice; “when we read of costly entertainments such as these, and still remember, that we have a Titus—”

“What would be your mother’s feelings if you died of apoplexy!” said Mr Feeder.

“A Domitian—”

“And you’re blue, you know,” said Mr Feeder.

“A Nero, a Tiberius, a Caligula, a Heliogabalus, and many more, pursued the Doctor; “it is, Mr Feeder—if you are doing me the honour to attend—remarkable; VERY remarkable, Sir—”

But Johnson, unable to suppress it any longer, burst at that moment into such an overwhelming fit of coughing, that although both his immediate neighbours thumped him on the back, and Mr Feeder himself held a glass of water to his lips, and the butler walked him up and down several times between his own chair and the sideboard, like a sentry, it was a full five minutes before he was moderately composed. Then there was a profound silence.

“Gentlemen,” said Doctor Blimber, “rise for Grace! Cornelia, lift Dombey down”—nothing of whom but his scalp was accordingly seen above the tablecloth. “Johnson will repeat to me tomorrow morning before breakfast, without book, and from the Greek Testament, the first chapter of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians. We will resume our studies, Mr Feeder, in half-an-hour.”

The young gentlemen bowed and withdrew. Mr Feeder did likewise. During the half-hour, the young gentlemen, broken into pairs, loitered arm-in-arm up and down a small piece of ground behind the house, or endeavoured to kindle a spark of animation in the breast of Briggs. But nothing happened so vulgar as play. Punctually at the appointed time, the gong was sounded, and the studies, under the joint auspices of Doctor Blimber and Mr Feeder, were resumed.

As the Olympic game of lounging up and down had been cut shorter than usual that day, on Johnson’s account, they all went out for a walk before tea. Even Briggs (though he hadn’t begun yet) partook of this dissipation; in the enjoyment of which he looked over the cliff two or three times darkly. Doctor Blimber accompanied them; and Paul had the honour of being taken in tow by the Doctor himself: a distinguished state of things, in which he looked very little and feeble.

Tea was served in a style no less polite than the dinner; and after tea, the young gentlemen rising and bowing as before, withdrew to fetch up the unfinished tasks of that day, or to get up the already looming tasks of to-morrow. In the meantime Mr Feeder withdrew to his own room; and Paul sat in a corner wondering whether Florence was thinking of him, and what they were all about at Mrs Pipchin’s.

Mr Toots, who had been detained by an important letter from the Duke of Wellington, found Paul out after a time; and having looked at him for a long while, as before, inquired if he was fond of waistcoats.

Paul said “Yes, Sir.”

“So am I,” said Toots.

No word more spoke Toots that night; but he stood looking at Paul as if he liked him; and as there was company in that, and Paul was not inclined to talk, it answered his purpose better than conversation.

At eight o’clock or so, the gong sounded again for prayers in the dining-room, where the butler afterwards presided over a side-table, on which bread and cheese and beer were spread for such young gentlemen as desired to partake of those refreshments. The ceremonies concluded by the Doctor’s saying, “Gentlemen, we will resume our studies at seven to-morrow;” and then, for the first time, Paul saw Cornelia Blimber’s eye, and saw that it was upon him. When the Doctor had said these words, “Gentlemen, we will resume our studies at seven tomorrow,” the pupils bowed again, and went to bed.

In the confidence of their own room upstairs, Briggs said his head ached ready to split, and that he should wish himself dead if it wasn’t for his mother, and a blackbird he had at home. Tozer didn’t say much, but he sighed a good deal, and told Paul to look out, for his turn would come to-morrow. After uttering those prophetic words, he undressed himself moodily, and got into bed. Briggs was in his bed too, and Paul in his bed too, before the weak-eyed young man appeared to take away the candle, when he wished them good-night and pleasant dreams. But his benevolent wishes were in vain, as far as Briggs and Tozer were concerned; for Paul, who lay awake for a long while, and often woke afterwards, found that Briggs was ridden by his lesson as a nightmare: and that Tozer, whose mind was affected in his sleep by similar causes, in a minor degree talked unknown tongues, or scraps of Greek and Latin—it was all one to Paul—which, in the silence of night, had an inexpressibly wicked and guilty effect.

Paul had sunk into a sweet sleep, and dreamed that he was walking hand in hand with Florence through beautiful gardens, when they came to a large sunflower which suddenly expanded itself into a gong, and began to sound. Opening his eyes, he found that it was a dark, windy morning, with a drizzling rain: and that the real gong was giving dreadful note of preparation, down in the hall.

So he got up directly, and found Briggs with hardly any eyes, for nightmare and grief had made his face puffy, putting his boots on: while Tozer stood shivering and rubbing his shoulders in a very bad humour. Poor Paul couldn’t dress himself easily, not being used to it, and asked them if they would have the goodness to tie some strings for him; but as Briggs merely said “Bother!” and Tozer, “Oh yes!” he went down when he was otherwise ready, to the next storey, where he saw a pretty young woman in leather gloves, cleaning a stove. The young woman seemed surprised at his appearance, and asked him where his mother was. When Paul told her she was dead, she took her gloves off, and did what he wanted; and furthermore rubbed his hands to warm them; and gave him a kiss; and told him whenever he wanted anything of that sort—meaning in the dressing way—to ask for “Melia; which Paul, thanking her very much, said he certainly would. He then proceeded softly on his journey downstairs, towards the room in which the young gentlemen resumed their studies, when, passing by a door that stood ajar, a voice from within cried, “Is that Dombey?” On Paul replying, “Yes, Ma’am:” for he knew the voice to be Miss Blimber’s: Miss Blimber said, “Come in, Dombey.” And in he went.

Miss Blimber presented exactly the appearance she had presented yesterday, except that she wore a shawl. Her little light curls were as crisp as ever, and she had already her spectacles on, which made Paul wonder whether she went to bed in them. She had a cool little sitting-room of her own up there, with some books in it, and no fire But Miss Blimber was never cold, and never sleepy.

Now, Dombey,” said Miss Blimber, “I am going out for a constitutional.”

Paul wondered what that was, and why she didn’t send the footman out to get it in such unfavourable weather. But he made no observation on the subject: his attention being devoted to a little pile of new books, on which Miss Blimber appeared to have been recently engaged.

“These are yours, Dombey,” said Miss Blimber.

“All of ’em, Ma’am?” said Paul.

“Yes,” returned Miss Blimber; “and Mr Feeder will look you out some more very soon, if you are as studious as I expect you will be, Dombey.”

“Thank you, Ma’am,” said Paul.

“I am going out for a constitutional,” resumed Miss Blimber; “and while I am gone, that is to say in the interval between this and breakfast, Dombey, I wish you to read over what I have marked in these books, and to tell me if you quite understand what you have got to learn. Don’t lose time, Dombey, for you have none to spare, but take them downstairs, and begin directly.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” answered Paul.

There were so many of them, that although Paul put one hand under the bottom book and his other hand and his chin on the top book, and hugged them all closely, the middle book slipped out before he reached the door, and then they all tumbled down on the floor. Miss Blimber said, “Oh, Dombey, Dombey, this is really very careless!” and piled them up afresh for him; and this time, by dint of balancing them with great nicety, Paul got out of the room, and down a few stairs before two of them escaped again. But he held the rest so tight, that he only left one more on the first floor, and one in the passage; and when he had got the main body down into the schoolroom, he set off upstairs again to collect the stragglers. Having at last amassed the whole library, and climbed into his place, he fell to work, encouraged by a remark from Tozer to the effect that he “was in for it now;” which was the only interruption he received till breakfast time. At that meal, for which he had no appetite, everything was quite as solemn and genteel as at the others; and when it was finished, he followed Miss Blimber upstairs.

“Now, Dombey,” said Miss Blimber. “How have you got on with those books?”

They comprised a little English, and a deal of Latin—names of things, declensions of articles and substantives, exercises thereon, and preliminary rules—a trifle of orthography, a glance at ancient history, a wink or two at modern ditto, a few tables, two or three weights and measures, and a little general information. When poor Paul had spelt out number two, he found he had no idea of number one; fragments whereof afterwards obtruded themselves into number three, which slided into number four, which grafted itself on to number two. So that whether twenty Romuluses made a Remus, or hic haec hoc was troy weight, or a verb always agreed with an ancient Briton, or three times four was Taurus a bull, were open questions with him.

“Oh, Dombey, Dombey!” said Miss Blimber, “this is very shocking.”

“If you please,” said Paul, “I think if I might sometimes talk a little to old Glubb, I should be able to do better.”

“Nonsense, Dombey,” said Miss Blimber. “I couldn’t hear of it. This is not the place for Glubbs of any kind. You must take the books down, I suppose, Dombey, one by one, and perfect yourself in the day’s instalment of subject A, before you turn at all to subject B. I am sorry to say, Dombey, that your education appears to have been very much neglected.”

“So Papa says,” returned Paul; “but I told you—I have been a weak child. Florence knows I have. So does Wickam.”

“Who is Wickam?” asked Miss Blimber.

“She has been my nurse,” Paul answered.

“I must beg you not to mention Wickam to me, then,” said Miss Blimber. “I couldn’t allow it”.

“You asked me who she was,” said Paul.

“Very well,” returned Miss Blimber; “but this is all very different indeed from anything of that sort, Dombey, and I couldn’t think of permitting it. As to having been weak, you must begin to be strong. And now take away the top book, if you please, Dombey, and return when you are master of the theme.”

Miss Blimber expressed her opinions on the subject of Paul’s uninstructed state with a gloomy delight, as if she had expected this result, and were glad to find that they must be in constant communication. Paul withdrew with the top task, as he was told, and laboured away at it, down below: sometimes remembering every word of it, and sometimes forgetting it all, and everything else besides: until at last he ventured upstairs again to repeat the lesson, when it was nearly all driven out of his head before he began, by Miss Blimber’s shutting up the book, and saying, “Go on, Dombey!” a proceeding so suggestive of the knowledge inside of her, that Paul looked upon the young lady with consternation, as a kind of learned Guy Fawkes, or artificial Bogle, stuffed full of scholastic straw.

He acquitted himself very well, nevertheless; and Miss Blimber, commending him as giving promise of getting on fast, immediately provided him with subject B; from which he passed to C, and even D before dinner. It was hard work, resuming his studies, soon after dinner; and he felt giddy and confused and drowsy and dull. But all the other young gentlemen had similar sensations, and were obliged to resume their studies too, if there were any comfort in that. It was a wonder that the great clock in the hall, instead of being constant to its first inquiry, never said, “Gentlemen, we will now resume our studies,” for that phrase was often enough repeated in its neighbourhood. The studies went round like a mighty wheel, and the young gentlemen were always stretched upon it.

After tea there were exercises again, and preparations for next day by candlelight. And in due course there was bed; where, but for that resumption of the studies which took place in dreams, were rest and sweet forgetfulness.

Oh Saturdays! Oh happy Saturdays, when Florence always came at noon, and never would, in any weather, stay away, though Mrs Pipchin snarled and growled, and worried her bitterly. Those Saturdays were Sabbaths for at least two little Christians among all the Jews, and did the holy Sabbath work of strengthening and knitting up a brother’s and a sister’s love.

Not even Sunday nights—the heavy Sunday nights, whose shadow darkened the first waking burst of light on Sunday mornings—could mar those precious Saturdays. Whether it was the great sea-shore, where they sat, and strolled together; or whether it was only Mrs Pipchin’s dull back room, in which she sang to him so softly, with his drowsy head upon her arm; Paul never cared. It was Florence. That was all he thought of. So, on Sunday nights, when the Doctor’s dark door stood agape to swallow him up for another week, the time was come for taking leave of Florence; no one else.

Mrs Wickam had been drafted home to the house in town, and Miss Nipper, now a smart young woman, had come down. To many a single combat with Mrs Pipchin, did Miss Nipper gallantly devote herself, and if ever Mrs Pipchin in all her life had found her match, she had found it now. Miss Nipper threw away the scabbard the first morning she arose in Mrs Pipchin’s house. She asked and gave no quarter. She said it must be war, and war it was; and Mrs Pipchin lived from that time in the midst of surprises, harassings, and defiances, and skirmishing attacks that came bouncing in upon her from the passage, even in unguarded moments of chops, and carried desolation to her very toast.

Miss Nipper had returned one Sunday night with Florence, from walking back with Paul to the Doctor’s, when Florence took from her bosom a little piece of paper, on which she had pencilled down some words.

“See here, Susan,” she said. “These are the names of the little books that Paul brings home to do those long exercises with, when he is so tired. I copied them last night while he was writing.”

“Don’t show ’em to me, Miss Floy, if you please,” returned Nipper, “I’d as soon see Mrs Pipchin.”

“I want you to buy them for me, Susan, if you will, tomorrow morning. I have money enough,” said Florence.

“Why, goodness gracious me, Miss Floy,” returned Miss Nipper, “how can you talk like that, when you have books upon books already, and masterses and mississes a teaching of you everything continual, though my belief is that your Pa, Miss Dombey, never would have learnt you nothing, never would have thought of it, unless you’d asked him—when he couldn’t well refuse; but giving consent when asked, and offering when unasked, Miss, is quite two things; I may not have my objections to a young man’s keeping company with me, and when he puts the question, may say ‘yes,’ but that’s not saying ‘would you be so kind as like me.’”

“But you can buy me the books, Susan; and you will, when you know why I want them.”

“Well, Miss, and why do you want ’em?” replied Nipper; adding, in a lower voice, “If it was to fling at Mrs Pipchin’s head, I’d buy a cart-load.”

“Paul has a great deal too much to do, Susan,” said Florence, “I am sure of it.”

“And well you may be, Miss,” returned her maid, “and make your mind quite easy that the willing dear is worked and worked away. If those is Latin legs,” exclaimed Miss Nipper, with strong feeling—in allusion to Paul’s; “give me English ones.”

“I am afraid he feels lonely and lost at Doctor Blimber’s, Susan,” pursued Florence, turning away her face.

“Ah,” said Miss Nipper, with great sharpness, “Oh, them ‘Blimbers’”

“Don’t blame anyone,” said Florence. “It’s a mistake.”

“I say nothing about blame, Miss,” cried Miss Nipper, “for I know that you object, but I may wish, Miss, that the family was set to work to make new roads, and that Miss Blimber went in front and had the pickaxe.”

After this speech, Miss Nipper, who was perfectly serious, wiped her eyes.

“I think I could perhaps give Paul some help, Susan, if I had these books,” said Florence, “and make the coming week a little easier to him. At least I want to try. So buy them for me, dear, and I will never forget how kind it was of you to do it!”

It must have been a harder heart than Susan Nipper’s that could have rejected the little purse Florence held out with these words, or the gentle look of entreaty with which she seconded her petition. Susan put the purse in her pocket without reply, and trotted out at once upon her errand.

The books were not easy to procure; and the answer at several shops was, either that they were just out of them, or that they never kept them, or that they had had a great many last month, or that they expected a great many next week But Susan was not easily baffled in such an enterprise; and having entrapped a white-haired youth, in a black calico apron, from a library where she was known, to accompany her in her quest, she led him such a life in going up and down, that he exerted himself to the utmost, if it were only to get rid of her; and finally enabled her to return home in triumph.

With these treasures then, after her own daily lessons were over, Florence sat down at night to track Paul’s footsteps through the thorny ways of learning; and being possessed of a naturally quick and sound capacity, and taught by that most wonderful of masters, love, it was not long before she gained upon Paul’s heels, and caught and passed him.

Not a word of this was breathed to Mrs Pipchin: but many a night when they were all in bed, and when Miss Nipper, with her hair in papers and herself asleep in some uncomfortable attitude, reposed unconscious by her side; and when the chinking ashes in the grate were cold and grey; and when the candles were burnt down and guttering out;—Florence tried so hard to be a substitute for one small Dombey, that her fortitude and perseverance might have almost won her a free right to bear the name herself.

And high was her reward, when one Saturday evening, as little Paul was sitting down as usual to “resume his studies,” she sat down by his side, and showed him all that was so rough, made smooth, and all that was so dark, made clear and plain, before him. It was nothing but a startled look in Paul’s wan face—a flush—a smile—and then a close embrace—but God knows how her heart leapt up at this rich payment for her trouble.

“Oh, Floy!” cried her brother, “how I love you! How I love you, Floy!”

“And I you, dear!”

“Oh! I am sure of that, Floy.”

He said no more about it, but all that evening sat close by her, very quiet; and in the night he called out from his little room within hers, three or four times, that he loved her.

Regularly, after that, Florence was prepared to sit down with Paul on Saturday night, and patiently assist him through so much as they could anticipate together of his next week’s work. The cheering thought that he was labouring on where Florence had just toiled before him, would, of itself, have been a stimulant to Paul in the perpetual resumption of his studies; but coupled with the actual lightening of his load, consequent on this assistance, it saved him, possibly, from sinking underneath the burden which the fair Cornelia Blimber piled upon his back.

It was not that Miss Blimber meant to be too hard upon him, or that Doctor Blimber meant to bear too heavily on the young gentlemen in general. Cornelia merely held the faith in which she had been bred; and the Doctor, in some partial confusion of his ideas, regarded the young gentlemen as if they were all Doctors, and were born grown up. Comforted by the applause of the young gentlemen’s nearest relations, and urged on by their blind vanity and ill-considered haste, it would have been strange if Doctor Blimber had discovered his mistake, or trimmed his swelling sails to any other tack.

Thus in the case of Paul. When Doctor Blimber said he made great progress and was naturally clever, Mr Dombey was more bent than ever on his being forced and crammed. In the case of Briggs, when Doctor Blimber reported that he did not make great progress yet, and was not naturally clever, Briggs senior was inexorable in the same purpose. In short, however high and false the temperature at which the Doctor kept his hothouse, the owners of the plants were always ready to lend a helping hand at the bellows, and to stir the fire.

Such spirits as he had in the outset, Paul soon lost of course. But he retained all that was strange, and old, and thoughtful in his character: and under circumstances so favourable to the development of those tendencies, became even more strange, and old, and thoughtful, than before.

The only difference was, that he kept his character to himself. He grew more thoughtful and reserved, every day; and had no such curiosity in any living member of the Doctor’s household, as he had had in Mrs Pipchin. He loved to be alone; and in those short intervals when he was not occupied with his books, liked nothing so well as wandering about the house by himself, or sitting on the stairs, listening to the great clock in the hall. He was intimate with all the paperhanging in the house; saw things that no one else saw in the patterns; found out miniature tigers and lions running up the bedroom walls, and squinting faces leering in the squares and diamonds of the floor-cloth.

The solitary child lived on, surrounded by this arabesque work of his musing fancy, and no one understood him. Mrs Blimber thought him “odd,” and sometimes the servants said among themselves that little Dombey “moped;” but that was all.

Unless young Toots had some idea on the subject, to the expression of which he was wholly unequal. Ideas, like ghosts (according to the common notion of ghosts), must be spoken to a little before they will explain themselves; and Toots had long left off asking any questions of his own mind. Some mist there may have been, issuing from that leaden casket, his cranium, which, if it could have taken shape and form, would have become a genie; but it could not; and it only so far followed the example of the smoke in the Arabian story, as to roll out in a thick cloud, and there hang and hover. But it left a little figure visible upon a lonely shore, and Toots was always staring at it.

“How are you?” he would say to Paul, fifty times a day. “Quite well, Sir, thank you,” Paul would answer. “Shake hands,” would be Toots’s next advance.

Which Paul, of course, would immediately do. Mr Toots generally said again, after a long interval of staring and hard breathing, “How are you?” To which Paul again replied, “Quite well, Sir, thank you.”

One evening Mr Toots was sitting at his desk, oppressed by correspondence, when a great purpose seemed to flash upon him. He laid down his pen, and went off to seek Paul, whom he found at last, after a long search, looking through the window of his little bedroom.

“I say!” cried Toots, speaking the moment he entered the room, lest he should forget it; “what do you think about?”

“Oh! I think about a great many things,” replied Paul.

“Do you, though?” said Toots, appearing to consider that fact in itself surprising. “If you had to die,” said Paul, looking up into his face—Mr Toots started, and seemed much disturbed.

“Don’t you think you would rather die on a moonlight night, when the sky was quite clear, and the wind blowing, as it did last night?”

Mr Toots said, looking doubtfully at Paul, and shaking his head, that he didn’t know about that.

“Not blowing, at least,” said Paul, “but sounding in the air like the sea sounds in the shells. It was a beautiful night. When I had listened to the water for a long time, I got up and looked out. There was a boat over there, in the full light of the moon; a boat with a sail.”

The child looked at him so steadfastly, and spoke so earnestly, that Mr Toots, feeling himself called upon to say something about this boat, said, “Smugglers.” But with an impartial remembrance of there being two sides to every question, he added, “or Preventive.”

“A boat with a sail,” repeated Paul, “in the full light of the moon. The sail like an arm, all silver. It went away into the distance, and what do you think it seemed to do as it moved with the waves?”

“Pitch,” said Mr Toots.

“It seemed to beckon,” said the child, “to beckon me to come!—There she is! There she is!”

Toots was almost beside himself with dismay at this sudden exclamation, after what had gone before, and cried “Who?”

“My sister Florence!” cried Paul, “looking up here, and waving her hand. She sees me—she sees me! Good-night, dear, good-night, good-night.”

His quick transition to a state of unbounded pleasure, as he stood at his window, kissing and clapping his hands: and the way in which the light retreated from his features as she passed out of his view, and left a patient melancholy on the little face: were too remarkable wholly to escape even Toots’s notice. Their interview being interrupted at this moment by a visit from Mrs Pipchin, who usually brought her black skirts to bear upon Paul just before dusk, once or twice a week, Toots had no opportunity of improving the occasion: but it left so marked an impression on his mind that he twice returned, after having exchanged the usual salutations, to ask Mrs Pipchin how she did. This the irascible old lady conceived to be a deeply devised and long-meditated insult, originating in the diabolical invention of the weak-eyed young man downstairs, against whom she accordingly lodged a formal complaint with Doctor Blimber that very night; who mentioned to the young man that if he ever did it again, he should be obliged to part with him.

The evenings being longer now, Paul stole up to his window every evening to look out for Florence. She always passed and repassed at a certain time, until she saw him; and their mutual recognition was a gleam of sunshine in Paul’s daily life. Often after dark, one other figure walked alone before the Doctor’s house. He rarely joined them on the Saturdays now. He could not bear it. He would rather come unrecognised, and look up at the windows where his son was qualifying for a man; and wait, and watch, and plan, and hope.

Oh! could he but have seen, or seen as others did, the slight spare boy above, watching the waves and clouds at twilight, with his earnest eyes, and breasting the window of his solitary cage when birds flew by, as if he would have emulated them, and soared away!

CHAPTER XIII. 
Shipping Intelligence and Office Business

Mr Dombey’s offices were in a court where there was an old-established stall of choice fruit at the corner: where perambulating merchants, of both sexes, offered for sale at any time between the hours of ten and five, slippers, pocket-books, sponges, dogs’ collars, and Windsor soap; and sometimes a pointer or an oil-painting.

The pointer always came that way, with a view to the Stock Exchange, where a sporting taste (originating generally in bets of new hats) is much in vogue. The other commodities were addressed to the general public; but they were never offered by the vendors to Mr Dombey. When he appeared, the dealers in those wares fell off respectfully. The principal slipper and dogs’ collar man—who considered himself a public character, and whose portrait was screwed on to an artist’s door in Cheapside—threw up his forefinger to the brim of his hat as Mr Dombey went by. The ticket-porter, if he were not absent on a job, always ran officiously before, to open Mr Dombey’s office door as wide as possible, and hold it open, with his hat off, while he entered.

The clerks within were not a whit behind-hand in their demonstrations of respect. A solemn hush prevailed, as Mr Dombey passed through the outer office. The wit of the Counting-House became in a moment as mute as the row of leathern fire-buckets hanging up behind him. Such vapid and flat daylight as filtered through the ground-glass windows and skylights, leaving a black sediment upon the panes, showed the books and papers, and the figures bending over them, enveloped in a studious gloom, and as much abstracted in appearance, from the world without, as if they were assembled at the bottom of the sea; while a mouldy little strong room in the obscure perspective, where a shaded lamp was always burning, might have represented the cavern of some ocean monster, looking on with a red eye at these mysteries of the deep.

When Perch the messenger, whose place was on a little bracket, like a timepiece, saw Mr Dombey come in—or rather when he felt that he was coming, for he had usually an instinctive sense of his approach—he hurried into Mr Dombey’s room, stirred the fire, carried fresh coals from the bowels of the coal-box, hung the newspaper to air upon the fender, put the chair ready, and the screen in its place, and was round upon his heel on the instant of Mr Dombey’s entrance, to take his great-coat and hat, and hang them up. Then Perch took the newspaper, and gave it a turn or two in his hands before the fire, and laid it, deferentially, at Mr Dombey’s elbow. And so little objection had Perch to being deferential in the last degree, that if he might have laid himself at Mr Dombey’s feet, or might have called him by some such title as used to be bestowed upon the Caliph Haroun Alraschid, he would have been all the better pleased.

As this honour would have been an innovation and an experiment, Perch was fain to content himself by expressing as well as he could, in his manner, You are the light of my Eyes. You are the Breath of my Soul. You are the commander of the Faithful Perch! With this imperfect happiness to cheer him, he would shut the door softly, walk away on tiptoe, and leave his great chief to be stared at, through a dome-shaped window in the leads, by ugly chimney-pots and backs of houses, and especially by the bold window of a hair-cutting saloon on a first floor, where a waxen effigy, bald as a Mussulman in the morning, and covered, after eleven o’clock in the day, with luxuriant hair and whiskers in the latest Christian fashion, showed him the wrong side of its head for ever.

Between Mr Dombey and the common world, as it was accessible through the medium of the outer office—to which Mr Dombey’s presence in his own room may be said to have struck like damp, or cold air—there were two degrees of descent. Mr Carker in his own office was the first step; Mr Morfin, in his own office, was the second. Each of these gentlemen occupied a little chamber like a bath-room, opening from the passage outside Mr Dombey’s door. Mr Carker, as Grand Vizier, inhabited the room that was nearest to the Sultan. Mr Morfin, as an officer of inferior state, inhabited the room that was nearest to the clerks.

The gentleman last mentioned was a cheerful-looking, hazel-eyed elderly bachelor: gravely attired, as to his upper man, in black; and as to his legs, in pepper-and-salt colour. His dark hair was just touched here and there with specks of gray, as though the tread of Time had splashed it; and his whiskers were already white. He had a mighty respect for Mr Dombey, and rendered him due homage; but as he was of a genial temper himself, and never wholly at his ease in that stately presence, he was disquieted by no jealousy of the many conferences enjoyed by Mr Carker, and felt a secret satisfaction in having duties to discharge, which rarely exposed him to be singled out for such distinction. He was a great musical amateur in his way—after business; and had a paternal affection for his violoncello, which was once in every week transported from Islington, his place of abode, to a certain club-room hard by the Bank, where quartettes of the most tormenting and excruciating nature were executed every Wednesday evening by a private party.

Mr Carker was a gentleman thirty-eight or forty years old, of a florid complexion, and with two unbroken rows of glistening teeth, whose regularity and whiteness were quite distressing. It was impossible to escape the observation of them, for he showed them whenever he spoke; and bore so wide a smile upon his countenance (a smile, however, very rarely, indeed, extending beyond his mouth), that there was something in it like the snarl of a cat. He affected a stiff white cravat, after the example of his principal, and was always closely buttoned up and tightly dressed. His manner towards Mr Dombey was deeply conceived and perfectly expressed. He was familiar with him, in the very extremity of his sense of the distance between them. “Mr Dombey, to a man in your position from a man in mine, there is no show of subservience compatible with the transaction of business between us, that I should think sufficient. I frankly tell you, Sir, I give it up altogether. I feel that I could not satisfy my own mind; and Heaven knows, Mr Dombey, you can afford to dispense with the endeavour.” If he had carried these words about with him printed on a placard, and had constantly offered it to Mr Dombey’s perusal on the breast of his coat, he could not have been more explicit than he was.

This was Carker the Manager. Mr Carker the Junior, Walter’s friend, was his brother; two or three years older than he, but widely removed in station. The younger brother’s post was on the top of the official ladder; the elder brother’s at the bottom. The elder brother never gained a stave, or raised his foot to mount one. Young men passed above his head, and rose and rose; but he was always at the bottom. He was quite resigned to occupy that low condition: never complained of it: and certainly never hoped to escape from it.

“How do you do this morning?” said Mr Carker the Manager, entering Mr Dombey’s room soon after his arrival one day: with a bundle of papers in his hand.

“How do you do, Carker?” said Mr Dombey.

“Coolish!” observed Carker, stirring the fire.

“Rather,” said Mr Dombey.

“Any news of the young gentleman who is so important to us all?” asked Carker, with his whole regiment of teeth on parade.

“Yes—not direct news—I hear he’s very well,” said Mr Dombey. Who had come from Brighton over-night. But no one knew It.

“Very well, and becoming a great scholar, no doubt?” observed the Manager.

“I hope so,” returned Mr Dombey.

“Egad!” said Mr Carker, shaking his head, “Time flies!”

“I think so, sometimes,” returned Mr Dombey, glancing at his newspaper.

“Oh! You! You have no reason to think so,” observed Carker. “One who sits on such an elevation as yours, and can sit there, unmoved, in all seasons—hasn’t much reason to know anything about the flight of time. It’s men like myself, who are low down and are not superior in circumstances, and who inherit new masters in the course of Time, that have cause to look about us. I shall have a rising sun to worship, soon.”

“Time enough, time enough, Carker!” said Mr Dombey, rising from his chair, and standing with his back to the fire. “Have you anything there for me?”

“I don’t know that I need trouble you,” returned Carker, turning over the papers in his hand. “You have a committee today at three, you know.”

“And one at three, three-quarters,” added Mr Dombey.

“Catch you forgetting anything!” exclaimed Carker, still turning over his papers. “If Mr Paul inherits your memory, he’ll be a troublesome customer in the House. One of you is enough.”

“You have an accurate memory of your own,” said Mr Dombey.

“Oh! I!” returned the manager. “It’s the only capital of a man like me.”

Mr Dombey did not look less pompous or at all displeased, as he stood leaning against the chimney-piece, surveying his (of course unconscious) clerk, from head to foot. The stiffness and nicety of Mr Carker’s dress, and a certain arrogance of manner, either natural to him or imitated from a pattern not far off, gave great additional effect to his humility. He seemed a man who would contend against the power that vanquished him, if he could, but who was utterly borne down by the greatness and superiority of Mr Dombey.

“Is Morfin here?” asked Mr Dombey after a short pause, during which Mr Carker had been fluttering his papers, and muttering little abstracts of their contents to himself.

“Morfin’s here,” he answered, looking up with his widest and almost sudden smile; “humming musical recollections—of his last night’s quartette party, I suppose—through the walls between us, and driving me half mad. I wish he’d make a bonfire of his violoncello, and burn his music-books in it.”

“You respect nobody, Carker, I think,” said Mr Dombey.

“No?” inquired Carker, with another wide and most feline show of his teeth. “Well! Not many people, I believe. I wouldn’t answer perhaps,” he murmured, as if he were only thinking it, “for more than one.”

A dangerous quality, if real; and a not less dangerous one, if feigned. But Mr Dombey hardly seemed to think so, as he still stood with his back to the fire, drawn up to his full height, and looking at his head-clerk with a dignified composure, in which there seemed to lurk a stronger latent sense of power than usual.

“Talking of Morfin,” resumed Mr Carker, taking out one paper from the rest, “he reports a junior dead in the agency at Barbados, and proposes to reserve a passage in the Son and Heir—she’ll sail in a month or so—for the successor. You don’t care who goes, I suppose? We have nobody of that sort here.”

Mr Dombey shook his head with supreme indifference.

“It’s no very precious appointment,” observed Mr Carker, taking up a pen, with which to endorse a memorandum on the back of the paper. “I hope he may bestow it on some orphan nephew of a musical friend. It may perhaps stop his fiddle-playing, if he has a gift that way. Who’s that? Come in!”

“I beg your pardon, Mr Carker. I didn’t know you were here, Sir,” answered Walter; appearing with some letters in his hand, unopened, and newly arrived. “Mr Carker the junior, Sir—”

At the mention of this name, Mr Carker the Manager was or affected to be, touched to the quick with shame and humiliation. He cast his eyes full on Mr Dombey with an altered and apologetic look, abased them on the ground, and remained for a moment without speaking.

“I thought, Sir,” he said suddenly and angrily, turning on Walter, “that you had been before requested not to drag Mr Carker the Junior into your conversation.”

“I beg your pardon,” returned Walter. “I was only going to say that Mr Carker the Junior had told me he believed you were gone out, or I should not have knocked at the door when you were engaged with Mr Dombey. These are letters for Mr Dombey, Sir.”

“Very well, Sir,” returned Mr Carker the Manager, plucking them sharply from his hand. “Go about your business.”

But in taking them with so little ceremony, Mr Carker dropped one on the floor, and did not see what he had done; neither did Mr Dombey observe the letter lying near his feet. Walter hesitated for a moment, thinking that one or other of them would notice it; but finding that neither did, he stopped, came back, picked it up, and laid it himself on Mr Dombey’s desk. The letters were post-letters; and it happened that the one in question was Mrs Pipchin’s regular report, directed as usual—for Mrs Pipchin was but an indifferent penwoman—by Florence. Mr Dombey, having his attention silently called to this letter by Walter, started, and looked fiercely at him, as if he believed that he had purposely selected it from all the rest.

“You can leave the room, Sir!” said Mr Dombey, haughtily.

He crushed the letter in his hand; and having watched Walter out at the door, put it in his pocket without breaking the seal.

“These continual references to Mr Carker the Junior,” Mr Carker the Manager began, as soon as they were alone, “are, to a man in my position, uttered before one in yours, so unspeakably distressing—”

“Nonsense, Carker,” Mr Dombey interrupted. “You are too sensitive.”

“I am sensitive,” he returned. “If one in your position could by any possibility imagine yourself in my place: which you cannot: you would be so too.”

As Mr Dombey’s thoughts were evidently pursuing some other subject, his discreet ally broke off here, and stood with his teeth ready to present to him, when he should look up.

“You want somebody to send to the West Indies, you were saying,” observed Mr Dombey, hurriedly.

“Yes,” replied Carker.

“Send young Gay.”

“Good, very good indeed. Nothing easier,” said Mr Carker, without any show of surprise, and taking up the pen to re-endorse the letter, as coolly as he had done before. “‘Send young Gay.’”

“Call him back,” said Mr Dombey.

Mr Carker was quick to do so, and Walter was quick to return.

“Gay,” said Mr Dombey, turning a little to look at him over his shoulder. “Here is a—”

“An opening,” said Mr Carker, with his mouth stretched to the utmost.

“In the West Indies. At Barbados. I am going to send you,” said Mr Dombey, scorning to embellish the bare truth, “to fill a junior situation in the counting-house at Barbados. Let your Uncle know from me, that I have chosen you to go to the West Indies.”

Walter’s breath was so completely taken away by his astonishment, that he could hardly find enough for the repetition of the words “West Indies.”

“Somebody must go,” said Mr Dombey, “and you are young and healthy, and your Uncle’s circumstances are not good. Tell your Uncle that you are appointed. You will not go yet. There will be an interval of a month—or two perhaps.”

“Shall I remain there, Sir?” inquired Walter.

“Will you remain there, Sir!” repeated Mr Dombey, turning a little more round towards him. “What do you mean? What does he mean, Carker?”

“Live there, Sir,” faltered Walter.

“Certainly,” returned Mr Dombey.

Walter bowed.

“That’s all,” said Mr Dombey, resuming his letters. “You will explain to him in good time about the usual outfit and so forth, Carker, of course. He needn’t wait, Carker.”

“You needn’t wait, Gay,” observed Mr Carker: bare to the gums.

“Unless,” said Mr Dombey, stopping in his reading without looking off the letter, and seeming to listen. “Unless he has anything to say.”

“No, Sir,” returned Walter, agitated and confused, and almost stunned, as an infinite variety of pictures presented themselves to his mind; among which Captain Cuttle, in his glazed hat, transfixed with astonishment at Mrs MacStinger’s, and his uncle bemoaning his loss in the little back parlour, held prominent places. “I hardly know—I—I am much obliged, Sir.”

“He needn’t wait, Carker,” said Mr Dombey.

And as Mr Carker again echoed the words, and also collected his papers as if he were going away too, Walter felt that his lingering any longer would be an unpardonable intrusion—especially as he had nothing to say—and therefore walked out quite confounded.

Going along the passage, with the mingled consciousness and helplessness of a dream, he heard Mr Dombey’s door shut again, as Mr Carker came out: and immediately afterwards that gentleman called to him.

“Bring your friend Mr Carker the Junior to my room, Sir, if you please.”

Walter went to the outer office and apprised Mr Carker the Junior of his errand, who accordingly came out from behind a partition where he sat alone in one corner, and returned with him to the room of Mr Carker the Manager.

That gentleman was standing with his back to the fire, and his hands under his coat-tails, looking over his white cravat, as unpromisingly as Mr Dombey himself could have looked. He received them without any change in his attitude or softening of his harsh and black expression: merely signing to Walter to close the door.

“John Carker,” said the Manager, when this was done, turning suddenly upon his brother, with his two rows of teeth bristling as if he would have bitten him, “what is the league between you and this young man, in virtue of which I am haunted and hunted by the mention of your name? Is it not enough for you, John Carker, that I am your near relation, and can’t detach myself from that—”

“Say disgrace, James,” interposed the other in a low voice, finding that he stammered for a word. “You mean it, and have reason, say disgrace.”

“From that disgrace,” assented his brother with keen emphasis, “but is the fact to be blurted out and trumpeted, and proclaimed continually in the presence of the very House! In moments of confidence too? Do you think your name is calculated to harmonise in this place with trust and confidence, John Carker?”

“No,” returned the other. “No, James. God knows I have no such thought.”

“What is your thought, then?” said his brother, “and why do you thrust yourself in my way? Haven’t you injured me enough already?”

“I have never injured you, James, wilfully.”

“You are my brother,” said the Manager. “That’s injury enough.”

“I wish I could undo it, James.”

“I wish you could and would.”

During this conversation, Walter had looked from one brother to the other, with pain and amazement. He who was the Senior in years, and Junior in the House, stood, with his eyes cast upon the ground, and his head bowed, humbly listening to the reproaches of the other. Though these were rendered very bitter by the tone and look with which they were accompanied, and by the presence of Walter whom they so much surprised and shocked, he entered no other protest against them than by slightly raising his right hand in a deprecatory manner, as if he would have said, “Spare me!” So, had they been blows, and he a brave man, under strong constraint, and weakened by bodily suffering, he might have stood before the executioner.

Generous and quick in all his emotions, and regarding himself as the innocent occasion of these taunts, Walter now struck in, with all the earnestness he felt.

“Mr Carker,” he said, addressing himself to the Manager. “Indeed, indeed, this is my fault solely. In a kind of heedlessness, for which I cannot blame myself enough, I have, I have no doubt, mentioned Mr Carker the Junior much oftener than was necessary; and have allowed his name sometimes to slip through my lips, when it was against your expressed wish. But it has been my own mistake, Sir. We have never exchanged one word upon the subject—very few, indeed, on any subject. And it has not been,” added Walter, after a moment’s pause, “all heedlessness on my part, Sir; for I have felt an interest in Mr Carker ever since I have been here, and have hardly been able to help speaking of him sometimes, when I have thought of him so much!”

Walter said this from his soul, and with the very breath of honour. For he looked upon the bowed head, and the downcast eyes, and upraised hand, and thought, “I have felt it; and why should I not avow it in behalf of this unfriended, broken man!”

Mr Carker the Manager looked at him, as he spoke, and when he had finished speaking, with a smile that seemed to divide his face into two parts.

“You are an excitable youth, Gay,” he said; “and should endeavour to cool down a little now, for it would be unwise to encourage feverish predispositions. Be as cool as you can, Gay. Be as cool as you can. You might have asked Mr John Carker himself (if you have not done so) whether he claims to be, or is, an object of such strong interest.”

“James, do me justice,” said his brother. “I have claimed nothing; and I claim nothing. Believe me, on my—”

“Honour?” said his brother, with another smile, as he warmed himself before the fire.

“On my Me—on my fallen life!” returned the other, in the same low voice, but with a deeper stress on his words than he had yet seemed capable of giving them. “Believe me, I have held myself aloof, and kept alone. This has been unsought by me. I have avoided him and everyone.

“Indeed, you have avoided me, Mr Carker,” said Walter, with the tears rising to his eyes; so true was his compassion. “I know it, to my disappointment and regret. When I first came here, and ever since, I am sure I have tried to be as much your friend, as one of my age could presume to be; but it has been of no use.

“And observe,” said the Manager, taking him up quickly, “it will be of still less use, Gay, if you persist in forcing Mr John Carker’s name on people’s attention. That is not the way to befriend Mr John Carker. Ask him if he thinks it is.”

“It is no service to me,” said the brother. “It only leads to such a conversation as the present, which I need not say I could have well spared. No one can be a better friend to me:” he spoke here very distinctly, as if he would impress it upon Walter: “than in forgetting me, and leaving me to go my way, unquestioned and unnoticed.”

“Your memory not being retentive, Gay, of what you are told by others,” said Mr Carker the Manager, warming himself with great and increased satisfaction, “I thought it well that you should be told this from the best authority,” nodding towards his brother. “You are not likely to forget it now, I hope. That’s all, Gay. You can go.”

Walter passed out at the door, and was about to close it after him, when, hearing the voices of the brothers again, and also the mention of his own name, he stood irresolutely, with his hand upon the lock, and the door ajar, uncertain whether to return or go away. In this position he could not help overhearing what followed.

“Think of me more leniently, if you can, James,” said John Carker, “when I tell you I have had—how could I help having, with my history, written here”—striking himself upon the breast—“my whole heart awakened by my observation of that boy, Walter Gay. I saw in him when he first came here, almost my other self.”

“Your other self!” repeated the Manager, disdainfully.

“Not as I am, but as I was when I first came here too; as sanguine, giddy, youthful, inexperienced; flushed with the same restless and adventurous fancies; and full of the same qualities, fraught with the same capacity of leading on to good or evil.”

“I hope not,” said his brother, with some hidden and sarcastic meaning in his tone.

“You strike me sharply; and your hand is steady, and your thrust is very deep,” returned the other, speaking (or so Walter thought) as if some cruel weapon actually stabbed him as he spoke. “I imagined all this when he was a boy. I believed it. It was a truth to me. I saw him lightly walking on the edge of an unseen gulf where so many others walk with equal gaiety, and from which—”

“The old excuse,” interrupted his brother, as he stirred the fire. “So many. Go on. Say, so many fall.”

“From which ONE traveller fell,” returned the other, “who set forward, on his way, a boy like him, and missed his footing more and more, and slipped a little and a little lower; and went on stumbling still, until he fell headlong and found himself below a shattered man. Think what I suffered, when I watched that boy.”

“You have only yourself to thank for it,” returned the brother.

“Only myself,” he assented with a sigh. “I don’t seek to divide the blame or shame.”

“You have divided the shame,” James Carker muttered through his teeth. And, through so many and such close teeth, he could mutter well.

“Ah, James,” returned his brother, speaking for the first time in an accent of reproach, and seeming, by the sound of his voice, to have covered his face with his hands, “I have been, since then, a useful foil to you. You have trodden on me freely in your climbing up. Don’t spurn me with your heel!”

A silence ensued. After a time, Mr Carker the Manager was heard rustling among his papers, as if he had resolved to bring the interview to a conclusion. At the same time his brother withdrew nearer to the door.

“That’s all,” he said. “I watched him with such trembling and such fear, as was some little punishment to me, until he passed the place where I first fell; and then, though I had been his father, I believe I never could have thanked God more devoutly. I didn’t dare to warn him, and advise him; but if I had seen direct cause, I would have shown him my example. I was afraid to be seen speaking with him, lest it should be thought I did him harm, and tempted him to evil, and corrupted him: or lest I really should. There may be such contagion in me; I don’t know. Piece out my history, in connexion with young Walter Gay, and what he has made me feel; and think of me more leniently, James, if you can.”

With these words he came out to where Walter was standing. He turned a little paler when he saw him there, and paler yet when Walter caught him by the hand, and said in a whisper:

“Mr Carker, pray let me thank you! Let me say how much I feel for you! How sorry I am, to have been the unhappy cause of all this! How I almost look upon you now as my protector and guardian! How very, very much, I feel obliged to you and pity you!” said Walter, squeezing both his hands, and hardly knowing, in his agitation, what he did or said.

Mr Morfin’s room being close at hand and empty, and the door wide open, they moved thither by one accord: the passage being seldom free from someone passing to or fro. When they were there, and Walter saw in Mr Carker’s face some traces of the emotion within, he almost felt as if he had never seen the face before; it was so greatly changed.

“Walter,” he said, laying his hand on his shoulder. “I am far removed from you, and may I ever be. Do you know what I am?”

“What you are!” appeared to hang on Walter’s lips, as he regarded him attentively.

“It was begun,” said Carker, “before my twenty-first birthday—led up to, long before, but not begun till near that time. I had robbed them when I came of age. I robbed them afterwards. Before my twenty-second birthday, it was all found out; and then, Walter, from all men’s society, I died.”

Again his last few words hung trembling upon Walter’s lips, but he could neither utter them, nor any of his own.

“The House was very good to me. May Heaven reward the old man for his forbearance! This one, too, his son, who was then newly in the Firm, where I had held great trust! I was called into that room which is now his—I have never entered it since—and came out, what you know me. For many years I sat in my present seat, alone as now, but then a known and recognised example to the rest. They were all merciful to me, and I lived. Time has altered that part of my poor expiation; and I think, except the three heads of the House, there is no one here who knows my story rightly. Before the little boy grows up, and has it told to him, my corner may be vacant. I would rather that it might be so! This is the only change to me since that day, when I left all youth, and hope, and good men’s company, behind me in that room. God bless you, Walter! Keep you, and all dear to you, in honesty, or strike them dead!”

Some recollection of his trembling from head to foot, as if with excessive cold, and of his bursting into tears, was all that Walter could add to this, when he tried to recall exactly what had passed between them.

When Walter saw him next, he was bending over his desk in his old silent, drooping, humbled way. Then, observing him at his work, and feeling how resolved he evidently was that no further intercourse should arise between them, and thinking again and again on all he had seen and heard that morning in so short a time, in connexion with the history of both the Carkers, Walter could hardly believe that he was under orders for the West Indies, and would soon be lost to Uncle Sol, and Captain Cuttle, and to glimpses few and far between of Florence Dombey—no, he meant Paul—and to all he loved, and liked, and looked for, in his daily life.

But it was true, and the news had already penetrated to the outer office; for while he sat with a heavy heart, pondering on these things, and resting his head upon his arm, Perch the messenger, descending from his mahogany bracket, and jogging his elbow, begged his pardon, but wished to say in his ear, Did he think he could arrange to send home to England a jar of preserved Ginger, cheap, for Mrs Perch’s own eating, in the course of her recovery from her next confinement?

CHAPTER XIV. 
Paul grows more and more Old-fashioned, and goes Home for the Holidays

When the Midsummer vacation approached, no indecent manifestations of joy were exhibited by the leaden-eyed young gentlemen assembled at Doctor Blimber’s. Any such violent expression as “breaking up,” would have been quite inapplicable to that polite establishment. The young gentlemen oozed away, semi-annually, to their own homes; but they never broke up. They would have scorned the action.

Tozer, who was constantly galled and tormented by a starched white cambric neckerchief, which he wore at the express desire of Mrs Tozer, his parent, who, designing him for the Church, was of opinion that he couldn’t be in that forward state of preparation too soon—Tozer said, indeed, that choosing between two evils, he thought he would rather stay where he was, than go home. However inconsistent this declaration might appear with that passage in Tozer’s Essay on the subject, wherein he had observed “that the thoughts of home and all its recollections, awakened in his mind the most pleasing emotions of anticipation and delight,” and had also likened himself to a Roman General, flushed with a recent victory over the Iceni, or laden with Carthaginian spoil, advancing within a few hours’ march of the Capitol, presupposed, for the purposes of the simile, to be the dwelling-place of Mrs Tozer, still it was very sincerely made. For it seemed that Tozer had a dreadful Uncle, who not only volunteered examinations of him, in the holidays, on abstruse points, but twisted innocent events and things, and wrenched them to the same fell purpose. So that if this Uncle took him to the Play, or, on a similar pretence of kindness, carried him to see a Giant, or a Dwarf, or a Conjuror, or anything, Tozer knew he had read up some classical allusion to the subject beforehand, and was thrown into a state of mortal apprehension: not foreseeing where he might break out, or what authority he might not quote against him.

As to Briggs, his father made no show of artifice about it. He never would leave him alone. So numerous and severe were the mental trials of that unfortunate youth in vacation time, that the friends of the family (then resident near Bayswater, London) seldom approached the ornamental piece of water in Kensington Gardens, without a vague expectation of seeing Master Briggs’s hat floating on the surface, and an unfinished exercise lying on the bank. Briggs, therefore, was not at all sanguine on the subject of holidays; and these two sharers of little Paul’s bedroom were so fair a sample of the young gentlemen in general, that the most elastic among them contemplated the arrival of those festive periods with genteel resignation.

It was far otherwise with little Paul. The end of these first holidays was to witness his separation from Florence, but who ever looked forward to the end of holidays whose beginning was not yet come! Not Paul, assuredly. As the happy time drew near, the lions and tigers climbing up the bedroom walls became quite tame and frolicsome. The grim sly faces in the squares and diamonds of the floor-cloth, relaxed and peeped out at him with less wicked eyes. The grave old clock had more of personal interest in the tone of its formal inquiry; and the restless sea went rolling on all night, to the sounding of a melancholy strain—yet it was pleasant too—that rose and fell with the waves, and rocked him, as it were, to sleep.

Mr Feeder, B.A., seemed to think that he, too, would enjoy the holidays very much. Mr Toots projected a life of holidays from that time forth; for, as he regularly informed Paul every day, it was his “last half” at Doctor Blimber’s, and he was going to begin to come into his property directly.

It was perfectly understood between Paul and Mr Toots, that they were intimate friends, notwithstanding their distance in point of years and station. As the vacation approached, and Mr Toots breathed harder and stared oftener in Paul’s society, than he had done before, Paul knew that he meant he was sorry they were going to lose sight of each other, and felt very much obliged to him for his patronage and good opinion.

It was even understood by Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber, and Miss Blimber, as well as by the young gentlemen in general, that Toots had somehow constituted himself protector and guardian of Dombey, and the circumstance became so notorious, even to Mrs Pipchin, that the good old creature cherished feelings of bitterness and jealousy against Toots; and, in the sanctuary of her own home, repeatedly denounced him as a “chuckle-headed noodle.” Whereas the innocent Toots had no more idea of awakening Mrs Pipchin’s wrath, than he had of any other definite possibility or proposition. On the contrary, he was disposed to consider her rather a remarkable character, with many points of interest about her. For this reason he smiled on her with so much urbanity, and asked her how she did, so often, in the course of her visits to little Paul, that at last she one night told him plainly, she wasn’t used to it, whatever he might think; and she could not, and she would not bear it, either from himself or any other puppy then existing: at which unexpected acknowledgment of his civilities, Mr Toots was so alarmed that he secreted himself in a retired spot until she had gone. Nor did he ever again face the doughty Mrs Pipchin, under Doctor Blimber’s roof.

They were within two or three weeks of the holidays, when, one day, Cornelia Blimber called Paul into her room, and said, “Dombey, I am going to send home your analysis.”

“Thank you, Ma’am,” returned Paul.

“You know what I mean, do you, Dombey?” inquired Miss Blimber, looking hard at him, through the spectacles.

“No, Ma’am,” said Paul.

“Dombey, Dombey,” said Miss Blimber, “I begin to be afraid you are a sad boy. When you don’t know the meaning of an expression, why don’t you seek for information?”

“Mrs Pipchin told me I wasn’t to ask questions,” returned Paul.

“I must beg you not to mention Mrs Pipchin to me, on any account, Dombey,” returned Miss Blimber. “I couldn’t think of allowing it. The course of study here, is very far removed from anything of that sort. A repetition of such allusions would make it necessary for me to request to hear, without a mistake, before breakfast-time to-morrow morning, from Verbum personale down to simillimia cygno.”

“I didn’t mean, Ma’am—” began little Paul.

“I must trouble you not to tell me that you didn’t mean, if you please, Dombey,” said Miss Blimber, who preserved an awful politeness in her admonitions. “That is a line of argument I couldn’t dream of permitting.”

Paul felt it safest to say nothing at all, so he only looked at Miss Blimber’s spectacles. Miss Blimber having shaken her head at him gravely, referred to a paper lying before her.

“‘Analysis of the character of P. Dombey.’ If my recollection serves me,” said Miss Blimber breaking off, “the word analysis as opposed to synthesis, is thus defined by Walker. ‘The resolution of an object, whether of the senses or of the intellect, into its first elements.’ As opposed to synthesis, you observe. Now you know what analysis is, Dombey.”

Dombey didn’t seem to be absolutely blinded by the light let in upon his intellect, but he made Miss Blimber a little bow.

“‘Analysis,’” resumed Miss Blimber, casting her eye over the paper, “‘of the character of P. Dombey.’ I find that the natural capacity of Dombey is extremely good; and that his general disposition to study may be stated in an equal ratio. Thus, taking eight as our standard and highest number, I find these qualities in Dombey stated each at six three-fourths!”

Miss Blimber paused to see how Paul received this news. Being undecided whether six three-fourths meant six pounds fifteen, or sixpence three farthings, or six foot three, or three quarters past six, or six somethings that he hadn’t learnt yet, with three unknown something elses over, Paul rubbed his hands and looked straight at Miss Blimber. It happened to answer as well as anything else he could have done; and Cornelia proceeded.

“‘Violence two. Selfishness two. Inclination to low company, as evinced in the case of a person named Glubb, originally seven, but since reduced. Gentlemanly demeanour four, and improving with advancing years.’ Now what I particularly wish to call your attention to, Dombey, is the general observation at the close of this analysis.”

Paul set himself to follow it with great care.

“‘It may be generally observed of Dombey,’” said Miss Blimber, reading in a loud voice, and at every second word directing her spectacles towards the little figure before her: “‘that his abilities and inclinations are good, and that he has made as much progress as under the circumstances could have been expected. But it is to be lamented of this young gentleman that he is singular (what is usually termed old-fashioned) in his character and conduct, and that, without presenting anything in either which distinctly calls for reprobation, he is often very unlike other young gentlemen of his age and social position.’ Now, Dombey,” said Miss Blimber, laying down the paper, “do you understand that?”

“I think I do, Ma’am,” said Paul.

“This analysis, you see, Dombey,” Miss Blimber continued, “is going to be sent home to your respected parent. It will naturally be very painful to him to find that you are singular in your character and conduct. It is naturally painful to us; for we can’t like you, you know, Dombey, as well as we could wish.”

She touched the child upon a tender point. He had secretly become more and more solicitous from day to day, as the time of his departure drew more near, that all the house should like him. From some hidden reason, very imperfectly understood by himself—if understood at all—he felt a gradually increasing impulse of affection, towards almost everything and everybody in the place. He could not bear to think that they would be quite indifferent to him when he was gone. He wanted them to remember him kindly; and he had made it his business even to conciliate a great hoarse shaggy dog, chained up at the back of the house, who had previously been the terror of his life: that even he might miss him when he was no longer there.

Little thinking that in this, he only showed again the difference between himself and his compeers, poor tiny Paul set it forth to Miss Blimber as well as he could, and begged her, in despite of the official analysis, to have the goodness to try and like him. To Mrs Blimber, who had joined them, he preferred the same petition: and when that lady could not forbear, even in his presence, from giving utterance to her often-repeated opinion, that he was an odd child, Paul told her that he was sure she was quite right; that he thought it must be his bones, but he didn’t know; and that he hoped she would overlook it, for he was fond of them all.

“Not so fond,” said Paul, with a mixture of timidity and perfect frankness, which was one of the most peculiar and most engaging qualities of the child, “not so fond as I am of Florence, of course; that could never be. You couldn’t expect that, could you, Ma’am?”

“Oh! the old-fashioned little soul!” cried Mrs Blimber, in a whisper.

“But I like everybody here very much,” pursued Paul, “and I should grieve to go away, and think that anyone was glad that I was gone, or didn’t care.”

Mrs Blimber was now quite sure that Paul was the oddest child in the world; and when she told the Doctor what had passed, the Doctor did not controvert his wife’s opinion. But he said, as he had said before, when Paul first came, that study would do much; and he also said, as he had said on that occasion, “Bring him on, Cornelia! Bring him on!”

Cornelia had always brought him on as vigorously as she could; and Paul had had a hard life of it. But over and above the getting through his tasks, he had long had another purpose always present to him, and to which he still held fast. It was, to be a gentle, useful, quiet little fellow, always striving to secure the love and attachment of the rest; and though he was yet often to be seen at his old post on the stairs, or watching the waves and clouds from his solitary window, he was oftener found, too, among the other boys, modestly rendering them some little voluntary service. Thus it came to pass, that even among those rigid and absorbed young anchorites, who mortified themselves beneath the roof of Doctor Blimber, Paul was an object of general interest; a fragile little plaything that they all liked, and that no one would have thought of treating roughly. But he could not change his nature, or rewrite the analysis; and so they all agreed that Dombey was old-fashioned.

There were some immunities, however, attaching to the character enjoyed by no one else. They could have better spared a newer-fashioned child, and that alone was much. When the others only bowed to Doctor Blimber and family on retiring for the night, Paul would stretch out his morsel of a hand, and boldly shake the Doctor’s; also Mrs Blimber’s; also Cornelia’s. If anybody was to be begged off from impending punishment, Paul was always the delegate. The weak-eyed young man himself had once consulted him, in reference to a little breakage of glass and china. And it was darkly rumoured that the butler, regarding him with favour such as that stern man had never shown before to mortal boy, had sometimes mingled porter with his table-beer to make him strong.

Over and above these extensive privileges, Paul had free right of entry to Mr Feeder’s room, from which apartment he had twice led Mr Toots into the open air in a state of faintness, consequent on an unsuccessful attempt to smoke a very blunt cigar: one of a bundle which that young gentleman had covertly purchased on the shingle from a most desperate smuggler, who had acknowledged, in confidence, that two hundred pounds was the price set upon his head, dead or alive, by the Custom House. It was a snug room, Mr Feeder’s, with his bed in another little room inside of it; and a flute, which Mr Feeder couldn’t play yet, but was going to make a point of learning, he said, hanging up over the fireplace. There were some books in it, too, and a fishing-rod; for Mr Feeder said he should certainly make a point of learning to fish, when he could find time. Mr Feeder had amassed, with similar intentions, a beautiful little curly secondhand key-bugle, a chess-board and men, a Spanish Grammar, a set of sketching materials, and a pair of boxing-gloves. The art of self-defence Mr Feeder said he should undoubtedly make a point of learning, as he considered it the duty of every man to do; for it might lead to the protection of a female in distress.

But Mr Feeder’s great possession was a large green jar of snuff, which Mr Toots had brought down as a present, at the close of the last vacation; and for which he had paid a high price, having been the genuine property of the Prince Regent. Neither Mr Toots nor Mr Feeder could partake of this or any other snuff, even in the most stinted and moderate degree, without being seized with convulsions of sneezing. Nevertheless it was their great delight to moisten a box-full with cold tea, stir it up on a piece of parchment with a paper-knife, and devote themselves to its consumption then and there. In the course of which cramming of their noses, they endured surprising torments with the constancy of martyrs: and, drinking table-beer at intervals, felt all the glories of dissipation.

To little Paul sitting silent in their company, and by the side of his chief patron, Mr Toots, there was a dread charm in these reckless occasions: and when Mr Feeder spoke of the dark mysteries of London, and told Mr Toots that he was going to observe it himself closely in all its ramifications in the approaching holidays, and for that purpose had made arrangements to board with two old maiden ladies at Peckham, Paul regarded him as if he were the hero of some book of travels or wild adventure, and was almost afraid of such a slashing person.

Going into this room one evening, when the holidays were very near, Paul found Mr Feeder filling up the blanks in some printed letters, while some others, already filled up and strewn before him, were being folded and sealed by Mr Toots. Mr Feeder said, “Aha, Dombey, there you are, are you?”—for they were always kind to him, and glad to see him—and then said, tossing one of the letters towards him, “And there you are, too, Dombey. That’s yours.”

“Mine, Sir?” said Paul.

“Your invitation,” returned Mr Feeder.

Paul, looking at it, found, in copper-plate print, with the exception of his own name and the date, which were in Mr Feeder’s penmanship, that Doctor and Mrs Blimber requested the pleasure of Mr P. Dombey’s company at an early party on Wednesday Evening the Seventeenth Instant; and that the hour was half-past seven o’clock; and that the object was Quadrilles. Mr Toots also showed him, by holding up a companion sheet of paper, that Doctor and Mrs Blimber requested the pleasure of Mr Toots’s company at an early party on Wednesday Evening the Seventeenth Instant, when the hour was half-past seven o’clock, and when the object was Quadrilles. He also found, on glancing at the table where Mr Feeder sat, that the pleasure of Mr Briggs’s company, and of Mr Tozer’s company, and of every young gentleman’s company, was requested by Doctor and Mrs Blimber on the same genteel Occasion.

Mr Feeder then told him, to his great joy, that his sister was invited, and that it was a half-yearly event, and that, as the holidays began that day, he could go away with his sister after the party, if he liked, which Paul interrupted him to say he would like, very much. Mr Feeder then gave him to understand that he would be expected to inform Doctor and Mrs Blimber, in superfine small-hand, that Mr P. Dombey would be happy to have the honour of waiting on them, in accordance with their polite invitation. Lastly, Mr Feeder said, he had better not refer to the festive occasion, in the hearing of Doctor and Mrs Blimber; as these preliminaries, and the whole of the arrangements, were conducted on principles of classicality and high breeding; and that Doctor and Mrs Blimber on the one hand, and the young gentlemen on the other, were supposed, in their scholastic capacities, not to have the least idea of what was in the wind.

Paul thanked Mr Feeder for these hints, and pocketing his invitation, sat down on a stool by the side of Mr Toots, as usual. But Paul’s head, which had long been ailing more or less, and was sometimes very heavy and painful, felt so uneasy that night, that he was obliged to support it on his hand. And yet it dropped so, that by little and little it sunk on Mr Toots’s knee, and rested there, as if it had no care to be ever lifted up again.

That was no reason why he should be deaf; but he must have been, he thought, for, by and by, he heard Mr Feeder calling in his ear, and gently shaking him to rouse his attention. And when he raised his head, quite scared, and looked about him, he found that Doctor Blimber had come into the room; and that the window was open, and that his forehead was wet with sprinkled water; though how all this had been done without his knowledge, was very curious indeed.

“Ah! Come, come! That’s well! How is my little friend now?” said Doctor Blimber, encouragingly.

“Oh, quite well, thank you, Sir,” said Paul.

But there seemed to be something the matter with the floor, for he couldn’t stand upon it steadily; and with the walls too, for they were inclined to turn round and round, and could only be stopped by being looked at very hard indeed. Mr Toots’s head had the appearance of being at once bigger and farther off than was quite natural; and when he took Paul in his arms, to carry him upstairs, Paul observed with astonishment that the door was in quite a different place from that in which he had expected to find it, and almost thought, at first, that Mr Toots was going to walk straight up the chimney.

It was very kind of Mr Toots to carry him to the top of the house so tenderly; and Paul told him that it was. But Mr Toots said he would do a great deal more than that, if he could; and indeed he did more as it was: for he helped Paul to undress, and helped him to bed, in the kindest manner possible, and then sat down by the bedside and chuckled very much; while Mr Feeder, B.A., leaning over the bottom of the bedstead, set all the little bristles on his head bolt upright with his bony hands, and then made believe to spar at Paul with great science, on account of his being all right again, which was so uncommonly facetious, and kind too in Mr Feeder, that Paul, not being able to make up his mind whether it was best to laugh or cry at him, did both at once.

How Mr Toots melted away, and Mr Feeder changed into Mrs Pipchin, Paul never thought of asking; neither was he at all curious to know; but when he saw Mrs Pipchin standing at the bottom of the bed, instead of Mr Feeder, he cried out, “Mrs Pipchin, don’t tell Florence!”

“Don’t tell Florence what, my little Paul?” said Mrs Pipchin, coming round to the bedside, and sitting down in the chair.

“About me,” said Paul.

“No, no,” said Mrs Pipchin.

“What do you think I mean to do when I grow up, Mrs Pipchin?” inquired Paul, turning his face towards her on his pillow, and resting his chin wistfully on his folded hands.

Mrs Pipchin couldn’t guess.

“I mean,” said Paul, “to put my money all together in one Bank, never try to get any more, go away into the country with my darling Florence, have a beautiful garden, fields, and woods, and live there with her all my life!”

“Indeed!” cried Mrs Pipchin.

“Yes,” said Paul. “That’s what I mean to do, when I—” He stopped, and pondered for a moment.

Mrs Pipchin’s grey eye scanned his thoughtful face.

“If I grow up,” said Paul. Then he went on immediately to tell Mrs Pipchin all about the party, about Florence’s invitation, about the pride he would have in the admiration that would be felt for her by all the boys, about their being so kind to him and fond of him, about his being so fond of them, and about his being so glad of it. Then he told Mrs Pipchin about the analysis, and about his being certainly old-fashioned, and took Mrs Pipchin’s opinion on that point, and whether she knew why it was, and what it meant. Mrs Pipchin denied the fact altogether, as the shortest way of getting out of the difficulty; but Paul was far from satisfied with that reply, and looked so searchingly at Mrs Pipchin for a truer answer, that she was obliged to get up and look out of the window to avoid his eyes.

There was a certain calm Apothecary, who attended at the establishment when any of the young gentlemen were ill, and somehow he got into the room and appeared at the bedside, with Mrs Blimber. How they came there, or how long they had been there, Paul didn’t know; but when he saw them, he sat up in bed, and answered all the Apothecary’s questions at full length, and whispered to him that Florence was not to know anything about it, if he pleased, and that he had set his mind upon her coming to the party. He was very chatty with the Apothecary, and they parted excellent friends. Lying down again with his eyes shut, he heard the Apothecary say, out of the room and quite a long way off—or he dreamed it—that there was a want of vital power (what was that, Paul wondered!) and great constitutional weakness. That as the little fellow had set his heart on parting with his school-mates on the seventeenth, it would be better to indulge the fancy if he grew no worse. That he was glad to hear from Mrs Pipchin, that the little fellow would go to his friends in London on the eighteenth. That he would write to Mr Dombey, when he should have gained a better knowledge of the case, and before that day. That there was no immediate cause for—what? Paul lost that word. And that the little fellow had a fine mind, but was an old-fashioned boy.

What old fashion could that be, Paul wondered with a palpitating heart, that was so visibly expressed in him; so plainly seen by so many people!

He could neither make it out, nor trouble himself long with the effort. Mrs Pipchin was again beside him, if she had ever been away (he thought she had gone out with the Doctor, but it was all a dream perhaps), and presently a bottle and glass got into her hands magically, and she poured out the contents for him. After that, he had some real good jelly, which Mrs Blimber brought to him herself; and then he was so well, that Mrs Pipchin went home, at his urgent solicitation, and Briggs and Tozer came to bed. Poor Briggs grumbled terribly about his own analysis, which could hardly have discomposed him more if it had been a chemical process; but he was very good to Paul, and so was Tozer, and so were all the rest, for they every one looked in before going to bed, and said, “How are you now, Dombey?” “Cheer up, little Dombey!” and so forth. After Briggs had got into bed, he lay awake for a long time, still bemoaning his analysis, and saying he knew it was all wrong, and they couldn’t have analysed a murderer worse, and—how would Doctor Blimber like it if his pocket-money depended on it? It was very easy, Briggs said, to make a galley-slave of a boy all the half-year, and then score him up idle; and to crib two dinners a-week out of his board, and then score him up greedy; but that wasn’t going to be submitted to, he believed, was it? Oh! Ah!

Before the weak-eyed young man performed on the gong next morning, he came upstairs to Paul and told him he was to lie still, which Paul very gladly did. Mrs Pipchin reappeared a little before the Apothecary, and a little after the good young woman whom Paul had seen cleaning the stove on that first morning (how long ago it seemed now!) had brought him his breakfast. There was another consultation a long way off, or else Paul dreamed it again; and then the Apothecary, coming back with Doctor and Mrs Blimber, said:

“Yes, I think, Doctor Blimber, we may release this young gentleman from his books just now; the vacation being so very near at hand.”

“By all means,” said Doctor Blimber. “My love, you will inform Cornelia, if you please.”

“Assuredly,” said Mrs Blimber.

The Apothecary bending down, looked closely into Paul’s eyes, and felt his head, and his pulse, and his heart, with so much interest and care, that Paul said, “Thank you, Sir.”

“Our little friend,” observed Doctor Blimber, “has never complained.”

“Oh no!” replied the Apothecary. “He was not likely to complain.”

“You find him greatly better?” said Doctor Blimber.

“Oh! he is greatly better, Sir,” returned the Apothecary.

Paul had begun to speculate, in his own odd way, on the subject that might occupy the Apothecary’s mind just at that moment; so musingly had he answered the two questions of Doctor Blimber. But the Apothecary happening to meet his little patient’s eyes, as the latter set off on that mental expedition, and coming instantly out of his abstraction with a cheerful smile, Paul smiled in return and abandoned it.

He lay in bed all that day, dozing and dreaming, and looking at Mr Toots; but got up on the next, and went downstairs. Lo and behold, there was something the matter with the great clock; and a workman on a pair of steps had taken its face off, and was poking instruments into the works by the light of a candle! This was a great event for Paul, who sat down on the bottom stair, and watched the operation attentively: now and then glancing at the clock face, leaning all askew, against the wall hard by, and feeling a little confused by a suspicion that it was ogling him.

The workman on the steps was very civil; and as he said, when he observed Paul, “How do you do, Sir?” Paul got into conversation with him, and told him he hadn’t been quite well lately. The ice being thus broken, Paul asked him a multitude of questions about chimes and clocks: as, whether people watched up in the lonely church steeples by night to make them strike, and how the bells were rung when people died, and whether those were different bells from wedding bells, or only sounded dismal in the fancies of the living. Finding that his new acquaintance was not very well informed on the subject of the Curfew Bell of ancient days, Paul gave him an account of that institution; and also asked him, as a practical man, what he thought about King Alfred’s idea of measuring time by the burning of candles; to which the workman replied, that he thought it would be the ruin of the clock trade if it was to come up again. In fine, Paul looked on, until the clock had quite recovered its familiar aspect, and resumed its sedate inquiry; when the workman, putting away his tools in a long basket, bade him good day, and went away. Though not before he had whispered something, on the door-mat, to the footman, in which there was the phrase “old-fashioned”—for Paul heard it.

What could that old fashion be, that seemed to make the people sorry! What could it be!

Having nothing to learn now, he thought of this frequently; though not so often as he might have done, if he had had fewer things to think of. But he had a great many; and was always thinking, all day long.

First, there was Florence coming to the party. Florence would see that the boys were fond of him; and that would make her happy. This was his great theme. Let Florence once be sure that they were gentle and good to him, and that he had become a little favourite among them, and then she would always think of the time he had passed there, without being very sorry. Florence might be all the happier too for that, perhaps, when he came back.

When he came back! Fifty times a day, his noiseless little feet went up the stairs to his own room, as he collected every book, and scrap, and trifle that belonged to him, and put them all together there, down to the minutest thing, for taking home! There was no shade of coming back on little Paul; no preparation for it, or other reference to it, grew out of anything he thought or did, except this slight one in connexion with his sister. On the contrary, he had to think of everything familiar to him, in his contemplative moods and in his wanderings about the house, as being to be parted with; and hence the many things he had to think of, all day long.

He had to peep into those rooms upstairs, and think how solitary they would be when he was gone, and wonder through how many silent days, weeks, months, and years, they would continue just as grave and undisturbed. He had to think—would any other child (old-fashioned, like himself) stray there at any time, to whom the same grotesque distortions of pattern and furniture would manifest themselves; and would anybody tell that boy of little Dombey, who had been there once?

He had to think of a portrait on the stairs, which always looked earnestly after him as he went away, eyeing it over his shoulder; and which, when he passed it in the company of anyone, still seemed to gaze at him, and not at his companion. He had much to think of, in association with a print that hung up in another place, where, in the centre of a wondering group, one figure that he knew, a figure with a light about its head—benignant, mild, and merciful—stood pointing upward.

At his own bedroom window, there were crowds of thoughts that mixed with these, and came on, one upon another, like the rolling waves. Where those wild birds lived, that were always hovering out at sea in troubled weather; where the clouds rose and first began; whence the wind issued on its rushing flight, and where it stopped; whether the spot where he and Florence had so often sat, and watched, and talked about these things, could ever be exactly as it used to be without them; whether it could ever be the same to Florence, if he were in some distant place, and she were sitting there alone.

He had to think, too, of Mr Toots, and Mr Feeder, B.A., of all the boys; and of Doctor Blimber, Mrs Blimber, and Miss Blimber; of home, and of his aunt and Miss Tox; of his father; Dombey and Son, Walter with the poor old Uncle who had got the money he wanted, and that gruff-voiced Captain with the iron hand. Besides all this, he had a number of little visits to pay, in the course of the day; to the schoolroom, to Doctor Blimber’s study, to Mrs Blimber’s private apartment, to Miss Blimber’s, and to the dog. For he was free of the whole house now, to range it as he chose; and, in his desire to part with everybody on affectionate terms, he attended, in his way, to them all. Sometimes he found places in books for Briggs, who was always losing them; sometimes he looked up words in dictionaries for other young gentlemen who were in extremity; sometimes he held skeins of silk for Mrs Blimber to wind; sometimes he put Cornelia’s desk to rights; sometimes he would even creep into the Doctor’s study, and, sitting on the carpet near his learned feet, turn the globes softly, and go round the world, or take a flight among the far-off stars.

In those days immediately before the holidays, in short, when the other young gentlemen were labouring for dear life through a general resumption of the studies of the whole half-year, Paul was such a privileged pupil as had never been seen in that house before. He could hardly believe it himself; but his liberty lasted from hour to hour, and from day to day; and little Dombey was caressed by everyone. Doctor Blimber was so particular about him, that he requested Johnson to retire from the dinner-table one day, for having thoughtlessly spoken to him as “poor little Dombey;” which Paul thought rather hard and severe, though he had flushed at the moment, and wondered why Johnson should pity him. It was the more questionable justice, Paul thought, in the Doctor, from his having certainly overheard that great authority give his assent on the previous evening, to the proposition (stated by Mrs Blimber) that poor dear little Dombey was more old-fashioned than ever. And now it was that Paul began to think it must surely be old-fashioned to be very thin, and light, and easily tired, and soon disposed to lie down anywhere and rest; for he couldn’t help feeling that these were more and more his habits every day.

At last the party-day arrived; and Doctor Blimber said at breakfast, “Gentlemen, we will resume our studies on the twenty-fifth of next month.” Mr Toots immediately threw off his allegiance, and put on his ring: and mentioning the Doctor in casual conversation shortly afterwards, spoke of him as “Blimber”! This act of freedom inspired the older pupils with admiration and envy; but the younger spirits were appalled, and seemed to marvel that no beam fell down and crushed him.

Not the least allusion was made to the ceremonies of the evening, either at breakfast or at dinner; but there was a bustle in the house all day, and in the course of his perambulations, Paul made acquaintance with various strange benches and candlesticks, and met a harp in a green greatcoat standing on the landing outside the drawing-room door. There was something queer, too, about Mrs Blimber’s head at dinner-time, as if she had screwed her hair up too tight; and though Miss Blimber showed a graceful bunch of plaited hair on each temple, she seemed to have her own little curls in paper underneath, and in a play-bill too; for Paul read “Theatre Royal” over one of her sparkling spectacles, and “Brighton” over the other.

There was a grand array of white waistcoats and cravats in the young gentlemen’s bedrooms as evening approached; and such a smell of singed hair, that Doctor Blimber sent up the footman with his compliments, and wished to know if the house was on fire. But it was only the hairdresser curling the young gentlemen, and over-heating his tongs in the ardour of business.

When Paul was dressed—which was very soon done, for he felt unwell and drowsy, and was not able to stand about it very long—he went down into the drawing-room; where he found Doctor Blimber pacing up and down the room full dressed, but with a dignified and unconcerned demeanour, as if he thought it barely possible that one or two people might drop in by and by. Shortly afterwards, Mrs Blimber appeared, looking lovely, Paul thought; and attired in such a number of skirts that it was quite an excursion to walk round her. Miss Blimber came down soon after her Mama; a little squeezed in appearance, but very charming.

Mr Toots and Mr Feeder were the next arrivals. Each of these gentlemen brought his hat in his hand, as if he lived somewhere else; and when they were announced by the butler, Doctor Blimber said, “Ay, ay, ay! God bless my soul!” and seemed extremely glad to see them. Mr Toots was one blaze of jewellery and buttons; and he felt the circumstance so strongly, that when he had shaken hands with the Doctor, and had bowed to Mrs Blimber and Miss Blimber, he took Paul aside, and said, “What do you think of this, Dombey?”

But notwithstanding this modest confidence in himself, Mr Toots appeared to be involved in a good deal of uncertainty whether, on the whole, it was judicious to button the bottom button of his waistcoat, and whether, on a calm revision of all the circumstances, it was best to wear his waistbands turned up or turned down. Observing that Mr Feeder’s were turned up, Mr Toots turned his up; but the waistbands of the next arrival being turned down, Mr Toots turned his down. The differences in point of waistcoat-buttoning, not only at the bottom, but at the top too, became so numerous and complicated as the arrivals thickened, that Mr Toots was continually fingering that article of dress, as if he were performing on some instrument; and appeared to find the incessant execution it demanded, quite bewildering.

All the young gentlemen, tightly cravatted, curled, and pumped, and with their best hats in their hands, having been at different times announced and introduced, Mr Baps, the dancing-master, came, accompanied by Mrs Baps, to whom Mrs Blimber was extremely kind and condescending. Mr Baps was a very grave gentleman, with a slow and measured manner of speaking; and before he had stood under the lamp five minutes, he began to talk to Toots (who had been silently comparing pumps with him) about what you were to do with your raw materials when they came into your ports in return for your drain of gold. Mr Toots, to whom the question seemed perplexing, suggested “Cook ’em.” But Mr Baps did not appear to think that would do.

Paul now slipped away from the cushioned corner of a sofa, which had been his post of observation, and went downstairs into the tea-room to be ready for Florence, whom he had not seen for nearly a fortnight, as he had remained at Doctor Blimber’s on the previous Saturday and Sunday, lest he should take cold. Presently she came: looking so beautiful in her simple ball dress, with her fresh flowers in her hand, that when she knelt down on the ground to take Paul round the neck and kiss him (for there was no one there, but his friend and another young woman waiting to serve out the tea), he could hardly make up his mind to let her go again, or to take away her bright and loving eyes from his face.

“But what is the matter, Floy?” asked Paul, almost sure that he saw a tear there.

“Nothing, darling; nothing,” returned Florence.

Paul touched her cheek gently with his finger—and it was a tear! “Why, Floy!” said he.

“We’ll go home together, and I’ll nurse you, love,” said Florence.

“Nurse me!” echoed Paul.

Paul couldn’t understand what that had to do with it, nor why the two young women looked on so seriously, nor why Florence turned away her face for a moment, and then turned it back, lighted up again with smiles.

“Floy,” said Paul, holding a ringlet of her dark hair in his hand. “Tell me, dear, Do you think I have grown old-fashioned?”

His sister laughed, and fondled him, and told him “No.”

“Because I know they say so,” returned Paul, “and I want to know what they mean, Floy.”

But a loud double knock coming at the door, and Florence hurrying to the table, there was no more said between them. Paul wondered again when he saw his friend whisper to Florence, as if she were comforting her; but a new arrival put that out of his head speedily.

It was Sir Barnet Skettles, Lady Skettles, and Master Skettles. Master Skettles was to be a new boy after the vacation, and Fame had been busy, in Mr Feeder’s room, with his father, who was in the House of Commons, and of whom Mr Feeder had said that when he did catch the Speaker’s eye (which he had been expected to do for three or four years), it was anticipated that he would rather touch up the Radicals.

“And what room is this now, for instance?” said Lady Skettles to Paul’s friend, “Melia.

“Doctor Blimber’s study, Ma’am,” was the reply.

Lady Skettles took a panoramic survey of it through her glass, and said to Sir Barnet Skettles, with a nod of approval, “Very good.” Sir Barnet assented, but Master Skettles looked suspicious and doubtful.

“And this little creature, now,” said Lady Skettles, turning to Paul. “Is he one of the—”

“Young gentlemen, Ma’am; yes, Ma’am,” said Paul’s friend.

“And what is your name, my pale child?” said Lady Skettles.

“Dombey,” answered Paul.

Sir Barnet Skettles immediately interposed, and said that he had had the honour of meeting Paul’s father at a public dinner, and that he hoped he was very well. Then Paul heard him say to Lady Skettles, “City—very rich—most respectable—Doctor mentioned it.” And then he said to Paul, “Will you tell your good Papa that Sir Barnet Skettles rejoiced to hear that he was very well, and sent him his best compliments?”

“Yes, Sir,” answered Paul.

“That is my brave boy,” said Sir Barnet Skettles. “Barnet,” to Master Skettles, who was revenging himself for the studies to come, on the plum-cake, “this is a young gentleman you ought to know. This is a young gentleman you may know, Barnet,” said Sir Barnet Skettles, with an emphasis on the permission.

“What eyes! What hair! What a lovely face!” exclaimed Lady Skettles softly, as she looked at Florence through her glass.

“My sister,” said Paul, presenting her.

The satisfaction of the Skettleses was now complete. And as Lady Skettles had conceived, at first sight, a liking for Paul, they all went upstairs together: Sir Barnet Skettles taking care of Florence, and young Barnet following.

Young Barnet did not remain long in the background after they had reached the drawing-room, for Dr Blimber had him out in no time, dancing with Florence. He did not appear to Paul to be particularly happy, or particularly anything but sulky, or to care much what he was about; but as Paul heard Lady Skettles say to Mrs Blimber, while she beat time with her fan, that her dear boy was evidently smitten to death by that angel of a child, Miss Dombey, it would seem that Skettles Junior was in a state of bliss, without showing it.

Little Paul thought it a singular coincidence that nobody had occupied his place among the pillows; and that when he came into the room again, they should all make way for him to go back to it, remembering it was his. Nobody stood before him either, when they observed that he liked to see Florence dancing, but they left the space in front quite clear, so that he might follow her with his eyes. They were so kind, too, even the strangers, of whom there were soon a great many, that they came and spoke to him every now and then, and asked him how he was, and if his head ached, and whether he was tired. He was very much obliged to them for all their kindness and attention, and reclining propped up in his corner, with Mrs Blimber and Lady Skettles on the same sofa, and Florence coming and sitting by his side as soon as every dance was ended, he looked on very happily indeed.

Florence would have sat by him all night, and would not have danced at all of her own accord, but Paul made her, by telling her how much it pleased him. And he told her the truth, too; for his small heart swelled, and his face glowed, when he saw how much they all admired her, and how she was the beautiful little rosebud of the room.

From his nest among the pillows, Paul could see and hear almost everything that passed as if the whole were being done for his amusement. Among other little incidents that he observed, he observed Mr Baps the dancing-master get into conversation with Sir Barnet Skettles, and very soon ask him, as he had asked Mr Toots, what you were to do with your raw materials, when they came into your ports in return for your drain of gold—which was such a mystery to Paul that he was quite desirous to know what ought to be done with them. Sir Barnet Skettles had much to say upon the question, and said it; but it did not appear to solve the question, for Mr Baps retorted, Yes, but supposing Russia stepped in with her tallows; which struck Sir Barnet almost dumb, for he could only shake his head after that, and say, Why then you must fall back upon your cottons, he supposed.

Sir Barnet Skettles looked after Mr Baps when he went to cheer up Mrs Baps (who, being quite deserted, was pretending to look over the music-book of the gentleman who played the harp), as if he thought him a remarkable kind of man; and shortly afterwards he said so in those words to Doctor Blimber, and inquired if he might take the liberty of asking who he was, and whether he had ever been in the Board of Trade. Doctor Blimber answered no, he believed not; and that in fact he was a Professor of—”

“Of something connected with statistics, I’ll swear?” observed Sir Barnet Skettles.

“Why no, Sir Barnet,” replied Doctor Blimber, rubbing his chin. “No, not exactly.”

“Figures of some sort, I would venture a bet,” said Sir Barnet Skettles.

“Why yes,” said Doctor Blimber, yes, but not of that sort. Mr Baps is a very worthy sort of man, Sir Barnet, and—in fact he’s our Professor of dancing.”

Paul was amazed to see that this piece of information quite altered Sir Barnet Skettles’s opinion of Mr Baps, and that Sir Barnet flew into a perfect rage, and glowered at Mr Baps over on the other side of the room. He even went so far as to D— Mr Baps to Lady Skettles, in telling her what had happened, and to say that it was like his most con-sum-mate and con-foun-ded impudence.

There was another thing that Paul observed. Mr Feeder, after imbibing several custard-cups of negus, began to enjoy himself. The dancing in general was ceremonious, and the music rather solemn—a little like church music in fact—but after the custard-cups, Mr Feeder told Mr Toots that he was going to throw a little spirit into the thing. After that, Mr Feeder not only began to dance as if he meant dancing and nothing else, but secretly to stimulate the music to perform wild tunes. Further, he became particular in his attentions to the ladies; and dancing with Miss Blimber, whispered to her—whispered to her!—though not so softly but that Paul heard him say this remarkable poetry,

“Had I a heart for falsehood framed,
I ne’er could injure You!”

This, Paul heard him repeat to four young ladies, in succession. Well might Mr Feeder say to Mr Toots, that he was afraid he should be the worse for it to-morrow!

Mrs Blimber was a little alarmed by this—comparatively speaking—profligate behaviour; and especially by the alteration in the character of the music, which, beginning to comprehend low melodies that were popular in the streets, might not unnaturally be supposed to give offence to Lady Skettles. But Lady Skettles was so very kind as to beg Mrs Blimber not to mention it; and to receive her explanation that Mr Feeder’s spirits sometimes betrayed him into excesses on these occasions, with the greatest courtesy and politeness; observing, that he seemed a very nice sort of person for his situation, and that she particularly liked the unassuming style of his hair—which (as already hinted) was about a quarter of an inch long.

Once, when there was a pause in the dancing, Lady Skettles told Paul that he seemed very fond of music. Paul replied, that he was; and if she was too, she ought to hear his sister, Florence, sing. Lady Skettles presently discovered that she was dying with anxiety to have that gratification; and though Florence was at first very much frightened at being asked to sing before so many people, and begged earnestly to be excused, yet, on Paul calling her to him, and saying, “Do, Floy! Please! For me, my dear!” she went straight to the piano, and began. When they all drew a little away, that Paul might see her; and when he saw her sitting there all alone, so young, and good, and beautiful, and kind to him; and heard her thrilling voice, so natural and sweet, and such a golden link between him and all his life’s love and happiness, rising out of the silence; he turned his face away, and hid his tears. Not, as he told them when they spoke to him, not that the music was too plaintive or too sorrowful, but it was so dear to him.

They all loved Florence. How could they help it! Paul had known beforehand that they must and would; and sitting in his cushioned corner, with calmly folded hands; and one leg loosely doubled under him, few would have thought what triumph and delight expanded his childish bosom while he watched her, or what a sweet tranquillity he felt. Lavish encomiums on “Dombey’s sister” reached his ears from all the boys: admiration of the self-possessed and modest little beauty was on every lip: reports of her intelligence and accomplishments floated past him, constantly; and, as if borne in upon the air of the summer night, there was a half intelligible sentiment diffused around, referring to Florence and himself, and breathing sympathy for both, that soothed and touched him.

He did not know why. For all that the child observed, and felt, and thought, that night—the present and the absent; what was then and what had been—were blended like the colours in the rainbow, or in the plumage of rich birds when the sun is shining on them, or in the softening sky when the same sun is setting. The many things he had had to think of lately, passed before him in the music; not as claiming his attention over again, or as likely evermore to occupy it, but as peacefully disposed of and gone. A solitary window, gazed through years ago, looked out upon an ocean, miles and miles away; upon its waters, fancies, busy with him only yesterday, were hushed and lulled to rest like broken waves. The same mysterious murmur he had wondered at, when lying on his couch upon the beach, he thought he still heard sounding through his sister’s song, and through the hum of voices, and the tread of feet, and having some part in the faces flitting by, and even in the heavy gentleness of Mr Toots, who frequently came up to shake him by the hand. Through the universal kindness he still thought he heard it, speaking to him; and even his old-fashioned reputation seemed to be allied to it, he knew not how. Thus little Paul sat musing, listening, looking on, and dreaming; and was very happy.

Until the time arrived for taking leave: and then, indeed, there was a sensation in the party. Sir Barnet Skettles brought up Skettles Junior to shake hands with him, and asked him if he would remember to tell his good Papa, with his best compliments, that he, Sir Barnet Skettles, had said he hoped the two young gentlemen would become intimately acquainted. Lady Skettles kissed him, and patted his hair upon his brow, and held him in her arms; and even Mrs Baps—poor Mrs Baps! Paul was glad of that—came over from beside the music-book of the gentleman who played the harp, and took leave of him quite as heartily as anybody in the room.

“Good-bye, Doctor Blimber,” said Paul, stretching out his hand.

“Good-bye, my little friend,” returned the Doctor.

“I’m very much obliged to you, Sir,” said Paul, looking innocently up into his awful face. “Ask them to take care of Diogenes, if you please.”

Diogenes was the dog: who had never in his life received a friend into his confidence, before Paul. The Doctor promised that every attention should be paid to Diogenes in Paul’s absence, and Paul having again thanked him, and shaken hands with him, bade adieu to Mrs Blimber and Cornelia with such heartfelt earnestness that Mrs Blimber forgot from that moment to mention Cicero to Lady Skettles, though she had fully intended it all the evening. Cornelia, taking both Paul’s hands in hers, said, “Dombey, Dombey, you have always been my favourite pupil. God bless you!” And it showed, Paul thought, how easily one might do injustice to a person; for Miss Blimber meant it—though she was a Forcer—and felt it.

A buzz then went round among the young gentlemen, of “Dombey’s going!” “Little Dombey’s going!” and there was a general move after Paul and Florence down the staircase and into the hall, in which the whole Blimber family were included. Such a circumstance, Mr Feeder said aloud, as had never happened in the case of any former young gentleman within his experience; but it would be difficult to say if this were sober fact or custard-cups. The servants, with the butler at their head, had all an interest in seeing Little Dombey go; and even the weak-eyed young man, taking out his books and trunks to the coach that was to carry him and Florence to Mrs Pipchin’s for the night, melted visibly.

Not even the influence of the softer passion on the young gentlemen—and they all, to a boy, doted on Florence—could restrain them from taking quite a noisy leave of Paul; waving hats after him, pressing downstairs to shake hands with him, crying individually “Dombey, don’t forget me!” and indulging in many such ebullitions of feeling, uncommon among those young Chesterfields. Paul whispered Florence, as she wrapped him up before the door was opened, Did she hear them? Would she ever forget it? Was she glad to know it? And a lively delight was in his eyes as he spoke to her.

Once, for a last look, he turned and gazed upon the faces thus addressed to him, surprised to see how shining and how bright, and numerous they were, and how they were all piled and heaped up, as faces are at crowded theatres. They swam before him as he looked, like faces in an agitated glass; and next moment he was in the dark coach outside, holding close to Florence. From that time, whenever he thought of Doctor Blimber’s, it came back as he had seen it in this last view; and it never seemed to be a real place again, but always a dream, full of eyes.

This was not quite the last of Doctor Blimber’s, however. There was something else. There was Mr Toots. Who, unexpectedly letting down one of the coach-windows, and looking in, said, with a most egregious chuckle, “Is Dombey there?” and immediately put it up again, without waiting for an answer. Nor was this quite the last of Mr Toots, even; for before the coachman could drive off, he as suddenly let down the other window, and looking in with a precisely similar chuckle, said in a precisely similar tone of voice, “Is Dombey there?” and disappeared precisely as before.

How Florence laughed! Paul often remembered it, and laughed himself whenever he did so.

But there was much, soon afterwards—next day, and after that—which Paul could only recollect confusedly. As, why they stayed at Mrs Pipchin’s days and nights, instead of going home; why he lay in bed, with Florence sitting by his side; whether that had been his father in the room, or only a tall shadow on the wall; whether he had heard his doctor say, of someone, that if they had removed him before the occasion on which he had built up fancies, strong in proportion to his own weakness, it was very possible he might have pined away.

He could not even remember whether he had often said to Florence, “Oh Floy, take me home, and never leave me!” but he thought he had. He fancied sometimes he had heard himself repeating, “Take me home, Floy! take me home!”

But he could remember, when he got home, and was carried up the well-remembered stairs, that there had been the rumbling of a coach for many hours together, while he lay upon the seat, with Florence still beside him, and old Mrs Pipchin sitting opposite. He remembered his old bed too, when they laid him down in it: his aunt, Miss Tox, and Susan: but there was something else, and recent too, that still perplexed him.

“I want to speak to Florence, if you please,” he said. “To Florence by herself, for a moment!”

She bent down over him, and the others stood away.

“Floy, my pet, wasn’t that Papa in the hall, when they brought me from the coach?”

“Yes, dear.”

“He didn’t cry, and go into his room, Floy, did he, when he saw me coming in?”

Florence shook her head, and pressed her lips against his cheek.

“I’m very glad he didn’t cry,” said little Paul. “I thought he did. Don’t tell them that I asked.”

CHAPTER XV. 
Amazing Artfulness of Captain Cuttle, and a new Pursuit for Walter Gay

Walter could not, for several days, decide what to do in the Barbados business; and even cherished some faint hope that Mr Dombey might not have meant what he had said, or that he might change his mind, and tell him he was not to go. But as nothing occurred to give this idea (which was sufficiently improbable in itself) any touch of confirmation, and as time was slipping by, and he had none to lose, he felt that he must act, without hesitating any longer.

Walter’s chief difficulty was, how to break the change in his affairs to Uncle Sol, to whom he was sensible it would be a terrible blow. He had the greater difficulty in dashing Uncle Sol’s spirits with such an astounding piece of intelligence, because they had lately recovered very much, and the old man had become so cheerful, that the little back parlour was itself again. Uncle Sol had paid the first appointed portion of the debt to Mr Dombey, and was hopeful of working his way through the rest; and to cast him down afresh, when he had sprung up so manfully from his troubles, was a very distressing necessity.

Yet it would never do to run away from him. He must know of it beforehand; and how to tell him was the point. As to the question of going or not going, Walter did not consider that he had any power of choice in the matter. Mr Dombey had truly told him that he was young, and that his Uncle’s circumstances were not good; and Mr Dombey had plainly expressed, in the glance with which he had accompanied that reminder, that if he declined to go he might stay at home if he chose, but not in his counting-house. His Uncle and he lay under a great obligation to Mr Dombey, which was of Walter’s own soliciting. He might have begun in secret to despair of ever winning that gentleman’s favour, and might have thought that he was now and then disposed to put a slight upon him, which was hardly just. But what would have been duty without that, was still duty with it—or Walter thought so—and duty must be done.

When Mr Dombey had looked at him, and told him he was young, and that his Uncle’s circumstances were not good, there had been an expression of disdain in his face; a contemptuous and disparaging assumption that he would be quite content to live idly on a reduced old man, which stung the boy’s generous soul. Determined to assure Mr Dombey, in so far as it was possible to give him the assurance without expressing it in words, that indeed he mistook his nature, Walter had been anxious to show even more cheerfulness and activity after the West Indian interview than he had shown before: if that were possible, in one of his quick and zealous disposition. He was too young and inexperienced to think, that possibly this very quality in him was not agreeable to Mr Dombey, and that it was no stepping-stone to his good opinion to be elastic and hopeful of pleasing under the shadow of his powerful displeasure, whether it were right or wrong. But it may have been—it may have been—that the great man thought himself defied in this new exposition of an honest spirit, and purposed to bring it down.

“Well! at last and at least, Uncle Sol must be told,” thought Walter, with a sigh. And as Walter was apprehensive that his voice might perhaps quaver a little, and that his countenance might not be quite as hopeful as he could wish it to be, if he told the old man himself, and saw the first effects of his communication on his wrinkled face, he resolved to avail himself of the services of that powerful mediator, Captain Cuttle. Sunday coming round, he set off therefore, after breakfast, once more to beat up Captain Cuttle’s quarters.

It was not unpleasant to remember, on the way thither, that Mrs MacStinger resorted to a great distance every Sunday morning, to attend the ministry of the Reverend Melchisedech Howler, who, having been one day discharged from the West India Docks on a false suspicion (got up expressly against him by the general enemy) of screwing gimlets into puncheons, and applying his lips to the orifice, had announced the destruction of the world for that day two years, at ten in the morning, and opened a front parlour for the reception of ladies and gentlemen of the Ranting persuasion, upon whom, on the first occasion of their assemblage, the admonitions of the Reverend Melchisedech had produced so powerful an effect, that, in their rapturous performance of a sacred jig, which closed the service, the whole flock broke through into a kitchen below, and disabled a mangle belonging to one of the fold.

This the Captain, in a moment of uncommon conviviality, had confided to Walter and his Uncle, between the repetitions of lovely Peg, on the night when Brogley the broker was paid out. The Captain himself was punctual in his attendance at a church in his own neighbourhood, which hoisted the Union Jack every Sunday morning; and where he was good enough—the lawful beadle being infirm—to keep an eye upon the boys, over whom he exercised great power, in virtue of his mysterious hook. Knowing the regularity of the Captain’s habits, Walter made all the haste he could, that he might anticipate his going out; and he made such good speed, that he had the pleasure, on turning into Brig Place, to behold the broad blue coat and waistcoat hanging out of the Captain’s open window, to air in the sun.

It appeared incredible that the coat and waistcoat could be seen by mortal eyes without the Captain; but he certainly was not in them, otherwise his legs—the houses in Brig Place not being lofty—would have obstructed the street door, which was perfectly clear. Quite wondering at this discovery, Walter gave a single knock.

“Stinger,” he distinctly heard the Captain say, up in his room, as if that were no business of his. Therefore Walter gave two knocks.

“Cuttle,” he heard the Captain say upon that; and immediately afterwards the Captain, in his clean shirt and braces, with his neckerchief hanging loosely round his throat like a coil of rope, and his glazed hat on, appeared at the window, leaning out over the broad blue coat and waistcoat.

“Wal”r!” cried the Captain, looking down upon him in amazement.

“Ay, ay, Captain Cuttle,” returned Walter, “only me”

“What’s the matter, my lad?” inquired the Captain, with great concern. “Gills an’t been and sprung nothing again?”

“No, no,” said Walter. “My Uncle’s all right, Captain Cuttle.”

The Captain expressed his gratification, and said he would come down below and open the door, which he did.

“Though you’re early, Wal”r,” said the Captain, eyeing him still doubtfully, when they got upstairs:

“Why, the fact is, Captain Cuttle,” said Walter, sitting down, “I was afraid you would have gone out, and I want to benefit by your friendly counsel.”

“So you shall,” said the Captain; “what’ll you take?”

“I want to take your opinion, Captain Cuttle,” returned Walter, smiling. “That’s the only thing for me.”

“Come on then,” said the Captain. “With a will, my lad!”

Walter related to him what had happened; and the difficulty in which he felt respecting his Uncle, and the relief it would be to him if Captain Cuttle, in his kindness, would help him to smooth it away; Captain Cuttle’s infinite consternation and astonishment at the prospect unfolded to him, gradually swallowing that gentleman up, until it left his face quite vacant, and the suit of blue, the glazed hat, and the hook, apparently without an owner.

“You see, Captain Cuttle,” pursued Walter, “for myself, I am young, as Mr Dombey said, and not to be considered. I am to fight my way through the world, I know; but there are two points I was thinking, as I came along, that I should be very particular about, in respect to my Uncle. I don’t mean to say that I deserve to be the pride and delight of his life—you believe me, I know—but I am. Now, don’t you think I am?”

The Captain seemed to make an endeavour to rise from the depths of his astonishment, and get back to his face; but the effort being ineffectual, the glazed hat merely nodded with a mute, unutterable meaning.

“If I live and have my health,” said Walter, “and I am not afraid of that, still, when I leave England I can hardly hope to see my Uncle again. He is old, Captain Cuttle; and besides, his life is a life of custom—”

“Steady, Wal”r! Of a want of custom?” said the Captain, suddenly reappearing.

“Too true,” returned Walter, shaking his head: “but I meant a life of habit, Captain Cuttle—that sort of custom. And if (as you very truly said, I am sure) he would have died the sooner for the loss of the stock, and all those objects to which he has been accustomed for so many years, don’t you think he might die a little sooner for the loss of—”

“Of his Nevy,” interposed the Captain. “Right!”

“Well then,” said Walter, trying to speak gaily, “we must do our best to make him believe that the separation is but a temporary one, after all; but as I know better, or dread that I know better, Captain Cuttle, and as I have so many reasons for regarding him with affection, and duty, and honour, I am afraid I should make but a very poor hand at that, if I tried to persuade him of it. That’s my great reason for wishing you to break it out to him; and that’s the first point.”

“Keep her off a point or so!” observed the Captain, in a comtemplative voice.

“What did you say, Captain Cuttle?” inquired Walter.

“Stand by!” returned the Captain, thoughtfully.

Walter paused to ascertain if the Captain had any particular information to add to this, but as he said no more, went on.

“Now, the second point, Captain Cuttle. I am sorry to say, I am not a favourite with Mr Dombey. I have always tried to do my best, and I have always done it; but he does not like me. He can’t help his likings and dislikings, perhaps. I say nothing of that. I only say that I am certain he does not like me. He does not send me to this post as a good one; he disclaims to represent it as being better than it is; and I doubt very much if it will ever lead me to advancement in the House—whether it does not, on the contrary, dispose of me for ever, and put me out of the way. Now, we must say nothing of this to my Uncle, Captain Cuttle, but must make it out to be as favourable and promising as we can; and when I tell you what it really is, I only do so, that in case any means should ever arise of lending me a hand, so far off, I may have one friend at home who knows my real situation.

“Wal”r, my boy,” replied the Captain, “in the Proverbs of Solomon you will find the following words, ‘May we never want a friend in need, nor a bottle to give him!’ When found, make a note of.”

Here the Captain stretched out his hand to Walter, with an air of downright good faith that spoke volumes; at the same time repeating (for he felt proud of the accuracy and pointed application of his quotation), “When found, make a note of.”

“Captain Cuttle,” said Walter, taking the immense fist extended to him by the Captain in both his hands, which it completely filled, next to my Uncle Sol, I love you. There is no one on earth in whom I can more safely trust, I am sure. As to the mere going away, Captain Cuttle, I don’t care for that; why should I care for that! If I were free to seek my own fortune—if I were free to go as a common sailor—if I were free to venture on my own account to the farthest end of the world—I would gladly go! I would have gladly gone, years ago, and taken my chance of what might come of it. But it was against my Uncle’s wishes, and against the plans he had formed for me; and there was an end of that. But what I feel, Captain Cuttle, is that we have been a little mistaken all along, and that, so far as any improvement in my prospects is concerned, I am no better off now than I was when I first entered Dombey’s House—perhaps a little worse, for the House may have been kindly inclined towards me then, and it certainly is not now.”

“Turn again, Whittington,” muttered the disconsolate Captain, after looking at Walter for some time.

“Ay,” replied Walter, laughing, “and turn a great many times, too, Captain Cuttle, I’m afraid, before such fortune as his ever turns up again. Not that I complain,” he added, in his lively, animated, energetic way. “I have nothing to complain of. I am provided for. I can live. When I leave my Uncle, I leave him to you; and I can leave him to no one better, Captain Cuttle. I haven’t told you all this because I despair, not I; it’s to convince you that I can’t pick and choose in Dombey’s House, and that where I am sent, there I must go, and what I am offered, that I must take. It’s better for my Uncle that I should be sent away; for Mr Dombey is a valuable friend to him, as he proved himself, you know when, Captain Cuttle; and I am persuaded he won’t be less valuable when he hasn’t me there, every day, to awaken his dislike. So hurrah for the West Indies, Captain Cuttle! How does that tune go that the sailors sing?

“For the Port of Barbados, Boys!
Cheerily!
Leaving old England behind us, Boys!
Cheerily!”
Here the Captain roared in chorus—
“Oh cheerily, cheerily!
Oh cheer-i-ly!”

The last line reaching the quick ears of an ardent skipper not quite sober, who lodged opposite, and who instantly sprung out of bed, threw up his window, and joined in, across the street, at the top of his voice, produced a fine effect. When it was impossible to sustain the concluding note any longer, the skipper bellowed forth a terrific “ahoy!” intended in part as a friendly greeting, and in part to show that he was not at all breathed. That done, he shut down his window, and went to bed again.

“And now, Captain Cuttle,” said Walter, handing him the blue coat and waistcoat, and bustling very much, “if you’ll come and break the news to Uncle Sol (which he ought to have known, days upon days ago, by rights), I’ll leave you at the door, you know, and walk about until the afternoon.”

The Captain, however, scarcely appeared to relish the commission, or to be by any means confident of his powers of executing it. He had arranged the future life and adventures of Walter so very differently, and so entirely to his own satisfaction; he had felicitated himself so often on the sagacity and foresight displayed in that arrangement, and had found it so complete and perfect in all its parts; that to suffer it to go to pieces all at once, and even to assist in breaking it up, required a great effort of his resolution. The Captain, too, found it difficult to unload his old ideas upon the subject, and to take a perfectly new cargo on board, with that rapidity which the circumstances required, or without jumbling and confounding the two. Consequently, instead of putting on his coat and waistcoat with anything like the impetuosity that could alone have kept pace with Walter’s mood, he declined to invest himself with those garments at all at present; and informed Walter that on such a serious matter, he must be allowed to “bite his nails a bit”.

“It’s an old habit of mine, Wal”r,” said the Captain, “any time these fifty year. When you see Ned Cuttle bite his nails, Wal”r, then you may know that Ned Cuttle’s aground.”

Thereupon the Captain put his iron hook between his teeth, as if it were a hand; and with an air of wisdom and profundity that was the very concentration and sublimation of all philosophical reflection and grave inquiry, applied himself to the consideration of the subject in its various branches.

“There’s a friend of mine,” murmured the Captain, in an absent manner, “but he’s at present coasting round to Whitby, that would deliver such an opinion on this subject, or any other that could be named, as would give Parliament six and beat ’em. Been knocked overboard, that man,” said the Captain, “twice, and none the worse for it. Was beat in his apprenticeship, for three weeks (off and on), about the head with a ring-bolt. And yet a clearer-minded man don’t walk.”

In spite of his respect for Captain Cuttle, Walter could not help inwardly rejoicing at the absence of this sage, and devoutly hoping that his limpid intellect might not be brought to bear on his difficulties until they were quite settled.

“If you was to take and show that man the buoy at the Nore,” said Captain Cuttle in the same tone, “and ask him his opinion of it, Wal”r, he’d give you an opinion that was no more like that buoy than your Uncle’s buttons are. There ain’t a man that walks—certainly not on two legs—that can come near him. Not near him!”

“What’s his name, Captain Cuttle?” inquired Walter, determined to be interested in the Captain’s friend.

“His name’s Bunsby,” said the Captain. “But Lord, it might be anything for the matter of that, with such a mind as his!”

The exact idea which the Captain attached to this concluding piece of praise, he did not further elucidate; neither did Walter seek to draw it forth. For on his beginning to review, with the vivacity natural to himself and to his situation, the leading points in his own affairs, he soon discovered that the Captain had relapsed into his former profound state of mind; and that while he eyed him steadfastly from beneath his bushy eyebrows, he evidently neither saw nor heard him, but remained immersed in cogitation.

In fact, Captain Cuttle was labouring with such great designs, that far from being aground, he soon got off into the deepest of water, and could find no bottom to his penetration. By degrees it became perfectly plain to the Captain that there was some mistake here; that it was undoubtedly much more likely to be Walter’s mistake than his; that if there were really any West India scheme afoot, it was a very different one from what Walter, who was young and rash, supposed; and could only be some new device for making his fortune with unusual celerity. “Or if there should be any little hitch between ’em,” thought the Captain, meaning between Walter and Mr Dombey, “it only wants a word in season from a friend of both parties, to set it right and smooth, and make all taut again.” Captain Cuttle’s deduction from these considerations was, that as he already enjoyed the pleasure of knowing Mr Dombey, from having spent a very agreeable half-hour in his company at Brighton (on the morning when they borrowed the money); and that, as a couple of men of the world, who understood each other, and were mutually disposed to make things comfortable, could easily arrange any little difficulty of this sort, and come at the real facts; the friendly thing for him to do would be, without saying anything about it to Walter at present, just to step up to Mr Dombey’s house—say to the servant “Would ye be so good, my lad, as report Cap’en Cuttle here?”—meet Mr Dombey in a confidential spirit—hook him by the button-hole—talk it over—make it all right—and come away triumphant!

As these reflections presented themselves to the Captain’s mind, and by slow degrees assumed this shape and form, his visage cleared like a doubtful morning when it gives place to a bright noon. His eyebrows, which had been in the highest degree portentous, smoothed their rugged bristling aspect, and became serene; his eyes, which had been nearly closed in the severity of his mental exercise, opened freely; a smile which had been at first but three specks—one at the right-hand corner of his mouth, and one at the corner of each eye—gradually overspread his whole face, and, rippling up into his forehead, lifted the glazed hat: as if that too had been aground with Captain Cuttle, and were now, like him, happily afloat again.

Finally, the Captain left off biting his nails, and said, “Now, Wal”r, my boy, you may help me on with them slops.” By which the Captain meant his coat and waistcoat.

Walter little imagined why the Captain was so particular in the arrangement of his cravat, as to twist the pendent ends into a sort of pigtail, and pass them through a massive gold ring with a picture of a tomb upon it, and a neat iron railing, and a tree, in memory of some deceased friend. Nor why the Captain pulled up his shirt-collar to the utmost limits allowed by the Irish linen below, and by so doing decorated himself with a complete pair of blinkers; nor why he changed his shoes, and put on an unparalleled pair of ankle-jacks, which he only wore on extraordinary occasions. The Captain being at length attired to his own complete satisfaction, and having glanced at himself from head to foot in a shaving-glass which he removed from a nail for that purpose, took up his knotted stick, and said he was ready.

The Captain’s walk was more complacent than usual when they got out into the street; but this Walter supposed to be the effect of the ankle-jacks, and took little heed of. Before they had gone very far, they encountered a woman selling flowers; when the Captain stopping short, as if struck by a happy idea, made a purchase of the largest bundle in her basket: a most glorious nosegay, fan-shaped, some two feet and a half round, and composed of all the jolliest-looking flowers that blow.

Armed with this little token which he designed for Mr Dombey, Captain Cuttle walked on with Walter until they reached the Instrument-maker’s door, before which they both paused.

“You’re going in?” said Walter.

“Yes,” returned the Captain, who felt that Walter must be got rid of before he proceeded any further, and that he had better time his projected visit somewhat later in the day.

“And you won’t forget anything?”

“No,” returned the Captain.

“I’ll go upon my walk at once,” said Walter, “and then I shall be out of the way, Captain Cuttle.”

“Take a good long “un, my lad!” replied the Captain, calling after him. Walter waved his hand in assent, and went his way.

His way was nowhere in particular; but he thought he would go out into the fields, where he could reflect upon the unknown life before him, and resting under some tree, ponder quietly. He knew no better fields than those near Hampstead, and no better means of getting at them than by passing Mr Dombey’s house.

It was as stately and as dark as ever, when he went by and glanced up at its frowning front. The blinds were all pulled down, but the upper windows stood wide open, and the pleasant air stirring those curtains and waving them to and fro was the only sign of animation in the whole exterior. Walter walked softly as he passed, and was glad when he had left the house a door or two behind.

He looked back then; with the interest he had always felt for the place since the adventure of the lost child, years ago; and looked especially at those upper windows. While he was thus engaged, a chariot drove to the door, and a portly gentleman in black, with a heavy watch-chain, alighted, and went in. When he afterwards remembered this gentleman and his equipage together, Walter had no doubt he was a physician; and then he wondered who was ill; but the discovery did not occur to him until he had walked some distance, thinking listlessly of other things.

Though still, of what the house had suggested to him; for Walter pleased himself with thinking that perhaps the time might come, when the beautiful child who was his old friend and had always been so grateful to him and so glad to see him since, might interest her brother in his behalf and influence his fortunes for the better. He liked to imagine this—more, at that moment, for the pleasure of imagining her continued remembrance of him, than for any worldly profit he might gain: but another and more sober fancy whispered to him that if he were alive then, he would be beyond the sea and forgotten; she married, rich, proud, happy. There was no more reason why she should remember him with any interest in such an altered state of things, than any plaything she ever had. No, not so much.

Yet Walter so idealised the pretty child whom he had found wandering in the rough streets, and so identified her with her innocent gratitude of that night and the simplicity and truth of its expression, that he blushed for himself as a libeller when he argued that she could ever grow proud. On the other hand, his meditations were of that fantastic order that it seemed hardly less libellous in him to imagine her grown a woman: to think of her as anything but the same artless, gentle, winning little creature, that she had been in the days of Good Mrs Brown. In a word, Walter found out that to reason with himself about Florence at all, was to become very unreasonable indeed; and that he could do no better than preserve her image in his mind as something precious, unattainable, unchangeable, and indefinite—indefinite in all but its power of giving him pleasure, and restraining him like an angel’s hand from anything unworthy.

It was a long stroll in the fields that Walter took that day, listening to the birds, and the Sunday bells, and the softened murmur of the town—breathing sweet scents; glancing sometimes at the dim horizon beyond which his voyage and his place of destination lay; then looking round on the green English grass and the home landscape. But he hardly once thought, even of going away, distinctly; and seemed to put off reflection idly, from hour to hour, and from minute to minute, while he yet went on reflecting all the time.

Walter had left the fields behind him, and was plodding homeward in the same abstracted mood, when he heard a shout from a man, and then a woman’s voice calling to him loudly by name. Turning quickly in his surprise, he saw that a hackney-coach, going in the contrary direction, had stopped at no great distance; that the coachman was looking back from his box and making signals to him with his whip; and that a young woman inside was leaning out of the window, and beckoning with immense energy. Running up to this coach, he found that the young woman was Miss Nipper, and that Miss Nipper was in such a flutter as to be almost beside herself.

“Staggs’s Gardens, Mr Walter!” said Miss Nipper; “if you please, oh do!”

“Eh?” cried Walter; “what is the matter?”

“Oh, Mr Walter, Staggs’s Gardens, if you please!” said Susan.

“There!” cried the coachman, appealing to Walter, with a sort of exalting despair; “that’s the way the young lady’s been a goin’ on for up’ards of a mortal hour, and me continivally backing out of no thoroughfares, where she would drive up. I’ve had a many fares in this coach, first and last, but never such a fare as her.”

“Do you want to go to Staggs’s Gardens, Susan?” inquired Walter.

“Ah! She wants to go there! WHERE IS IT?” growled the coachman.

“I don’t know where it is!” exclaimed Susan, wildly. “Mr Walter, I was there once myself, along with Miss Floy and our poor darling Master Paul, on the very day when you found Miss Floy in the City, for we lost her coming home, Mrs Richards and me, and a mad bull, and Mrs Richards’s eldest, and though I went there afterwards, I can’t remember where it is, I think it’s sunk into the ground. Oh, Mr Walter, don’t desert me, Staggs’s Gardens, if you please! Miss Floy’s darling—all our darlings—little, meek, meek Master Paul! Oh Mr Walter!”

“Good God!” cried Walter. “Is he very ill?”

“The pretty flower!” cried Susan, wringing her hands, “has took the fancy that he’d like to see his old nurse, and I’ve come to bring her to his bedside, Mrs Staggs, of Polly Toodle’s Gardens, someone pray!”

Greatly moved by what he heard, and catching Susan’s earnestness immediately, Walter, now that he understood the nature of her errand, dashed into it with such ardour that the coachman had enough to do to follow closely as he ran before, inquiring here and there and everywhere, the way to Staggs’s Gardens.

There was no such place as Staggs’s Gardens. It had vanished from the earth. Where the old rotten summer-houses once had stood, palaces now reared their heads, and granite columns of gigantic girth opened a vista to the railway world beyond. The miserable waste ground, where the refuse-matter had been heaped of yore, was swallowed up and gone; and in its frowsy stead were tiers of warehouses, crammed with rich goods and costly merchandise. The old by-streets now swarmed with passengers and vehicles of every kind: the new streets that had stopped disheartened in the mud and waggon-ruts, formed towns within themselves, originating wholesome comforts and conveniences belonging to themselves, and never tried nor thought of until they sprung into existence. Bridges that had led to nothing, led to villas, gardens, churches, healthy public walks. The carcasses of houses, and beginnings of new thoroughfares, had started off upon the line at steam’s own speed, and shot away into the country in a monster train.

As to the neighbourhood which had hesitated to acknowledge the railroad in its straggling days, that had grown wise and penitent, as any Christian might in such a case, and now boasted of its powerful and prosperous relation. There were railway patterns in its drapers’ shops, and railway journals in the windows of its newsmen. There were railway hotels, office-houses, lodging-houses, boarding-houses; railway plans, maps, views, wrappers, bottles, sandwich-boxes, and time-tables; railway hackney-coach and stands; railway omnibuses, railway streets and buildings, railway hangers-on and parasites, and flatterers out of all calculation. There was even railway time observed in clocks, as if the sun itself had given in. Among the vanquished was the master chimney-sweeper, whilom incredulous at Staggs’s Gardens, who now lived in a stuccoed house three stories high, and gave himself out, with golden flourishes upon a varnished board, as contractor for the cleansing of railway chimneys by machinery.

To and from the heart of this great change, all day and night, throbbing currents rushed and returned incessantly like its life’s blood. Crowds of people and mountains of goods, departing and arriving scores upon scores of times in every four-and-twenty hours, produced a fermentation in the place that was always in action. The very houses seemed disposed to pack up and take trips. Wonderful Members of Parliament, who, little more than twenty years before, had made themselves merry with the wild railroad theories of engineers, and given them the liveliest rubs in cross-examination, went down into the north with their watches in their hands, and sent on messages before by the electric telegraph, to say that they were coming. Night and day the conquering engines rumbled at their distant work, or, advancing smoothly to their journey’s end, and gliding like tame dragons into the allotted corners grooved out to the inch for their reception, stood bubbling and trembling there, making the walls quake, as if they were dilating with the secret knowledge of great powers yet unsuspected in them, and strong purposes not yet achieved.

But Staggs’s Gardens had been cut up root and branch. Oh woe the day when “not a rood of English ground”—laid out in Staggs’s Gardens—is secure!

At last, after much fruitless inquiry, Walter, followed by the coach and Susan, found a man who had once resided in that vanished land, and who was no other than the master sweep before referred to, grown stout, and knocking a double knock at his own door. He knowed Toodle, he said, well. Belonged to the Railroad, didn’t he?

“Yes sir, yes!” cried Susan Nipper from the coach window.

Where did he live now? hastily inquired Walter.

He lived in the Company’s own Buildings, second turning to the right, down the yard, cross over, and take the second on the right again. It was number eleven; they couldn’t mistake it; but if they did, they had only to ask for Toodle, Engine Fireman, and any one would show them which was his house. At this unexpected stroke of success Susan Nipper dismounted from the coach with all speed, took Walter’s arm, and set off at a breathless pace on foot; leaving the coach there to await their return.

“Has the little boy been long ill, Susan?” inquired Walter, as they hurried on.

“Ailing for a deal of time, but no one knew how much,” said Susan; adding, with excessive sharpness, “Oh, them Blimbers!”

“Blimbers?” echoed Walter.

“I couldn’t forgive myself at such a time as this, Mr Walter,” said Susan, “and when there’s so much serious distress to think about, if I rested hard on anyone, especially on them that little darling Paul speaks well of, but I may wish that the family was set to work in a stony soil to make new roads, and that Miss Blimber went in front, and had the pickaxe!”

Miss Nipper then took breath, and went on faster than before, as if this extraordinary aspiration had relieved her. Walter, who had by this time no breath of his own to spare, hurried along without asking any more questions; and they soon, in their impatience, burst in at a little door and came into a clean parlour full of children.

“Where’s Mrs Richards?” exclaimed Susan Nipper, looking round. “Oh Mrs Richards, Mrs Richards, come along with me, my dear creetur!”

“Why, if it ain’t Susan!” cried Polly, rising with her honest face and motherly figure from among the group, in great surprise.

“Yes, Mrs Richards, it’s me,” said Susan, “and I wish it wasn’t, though I may not seem to flatter when I say so, but little Master Paul is very ill, and told his Pa today that he would like to see the face of his old nurse, and him and Miss Floy hope you’ll come along with me—and Mr Walter, Mrs Richards—forgetting what is past, and do a kindness to the sweet dear that is withering away. Oh, Mrs Richards, withering away!” Susan Nipper crying, Polly shed tears to see her, and to hear what she had said; and all the children gathered round (including numbers of new babies); and Mr Toodle, who had just come home from Birmingham, and was eating his dinner out of a basin, laid down his knife and fork, and put on his wife’s bonnet and shawl for her, which were hanging up behind the door; then tapped her on the back; and said, with more fatherly feeling than eloquence, “Polly! cut away!”

So they got back to the coach, long before the coachman expected them; and Walter, putting Susan and Mrs Richards inside, took his seat on the box himself that there might be no more mistakes, and deposited them safely in the hall of Mr Dombey’s house—where, by the bye, he saw a mighty nosegay lying, which reminded him of the one Captain Cuttle had purchased in his company that morning. He would have lingered to know more of the young invalid, or waited any length of time to see if he could render the least service; but, painfully sensible that such conduct would be looked upon by Mr Dombey as presumptuous and forward, he turned slowly, sadly, anxiously, away.

He had not gone five minutes’ walk from the door, when a man came running after him, and begged him to return. Walter retraced his steps as quickly as he could, and entered the gloomy house with a sorrowful foreboding.