Dombey and Son
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Mr Sownds the Beadle, who is sitting in the sun upon the church steps
all this time (and seldom does anything else, except, in cold weather,
sitting by the fire), approves of Mrs Miff's discourse, and asks if
Mrs Miff has heard it said, that the lady is uncommon handsome? The
information Mrs Miff has received, being of this nature, Mr Sownds the
Beadle, who, though orthodox and corpulent, is still an admirer of
female beauty, observes, with unction, yes, he hears she is a spanker
- an expression that seems somewhat forcible to Mrs Miff, or would,
from any lips but those of Mr Sownds the Beadle.
In Mr Dombey's house, at this same time, there is great stir and
bustle, more especially among the women: not one of whom has had a
wink of sleep since four o'clock, and all of whom were fully dressed
before six. Mr Towlinson is an object of greater consideration than
usual to the housemaid, and the cook says at breakfast time that one
wedding makes many, which the housemaid can't believe, and don't think
true at all. Mr Towlinson reserves his sentiments on this question;
being rendered something gloomy by the engagement of a foreigner with
whiskers (Mr Towlinson is whiskerless himself), who has been hired to
accompany the happy pair to Paris, and who is busy packing the new
chariot. In respect of this personage, Mr Towlinson admits, presently,
that he never knew of any good that ever come of foreigners; and being
charged by the ladies with prejudice, says, look at Bonaparte who was
at the head of 'em, and see what he was always up to! Which the
housemaid says is very true.
The pastry-cook is hard at work in the funereal room in Brook
Street, and the very tall young men are busy looking on. One of the
very tall young men already smells of sherry, and his eyes have a
tendency to become fixed in his head, and to stare at objects without
seeing them. The very tall young man is conscious of this failing in
himself; and informs his comrade that it's his 'exciseman.' The very
tall young man would say excitement, but his speech is hazy.
The men who play the bells have got scent of the marriage; and the
marrow-bones and cleavers too; and a brass band too. The first, are
practising in a back settlement near Battlebridge; the second, put
themselves in communication, through their chief, with Mr Towlinson,
to whom they offer terms to be bought off; and the third, in the
person of an artful trombone, lurks and dodges round the corner,
waiting for some traitor tradesman to reveal the place and hour of
breakfast, for a bribe. Expectation and excitement extend further yet,
and take a wider range. From Balls Pond, Mr Perch brings Mrs Perch to
spend the day with Mr Dombey's servants, and accompany them,
surreptitiously, to see the wedding. In Mr Toots's lodgings, Mr Toots
attires himself as if he were at least the Bridegroom; determined to
behold the spectacle in splendour from a secret corner of the gallery,
and thither to convey the Chicken: for it is Mr Toots's desperate
intent to point out Florence to the Chicken, then and there, and
openly to say, 'Now, Chicken, I will not deceive you any longer; the
friend I have sometimes mentioned to you is myself; Miss Dombey is the
object of my passion; what are your opinions, Chicken, in this state
of things, and what, on the spot, do you advise? The
so-much-to-be-astonished Chicken, in the meanwhile, dips his beak into
a tankard of strong beer, in Mr Toots's kitchen, and pecks up two
pounds of beefsteaks. In Princess's Place, Miss Tox is up and doing;
for she too, though in sore distress, is resolved to put a shilling in
the hands of Mrs Miff, and see the ceremony which has a cruel
fascination for her, from some lonely corner. The quarters of the
wooden Midshipman are all alive; for Captain Cuttle, in his
ankle-jacks and with a huge shirt-collar, is seated at his breakfast,
listening to Rob the Grinder as he reads the marriage service to him
beforehand, under orders, to the end that the Captain may perfectly
understand the solemnity he is about to witness: for which purpose,
the Captain gravely lays injunctions on his chaplain, from time to
time, to 'put about,' or to 'overhaul that 'ere article again,' or to
stick to his own duty, and leave the Amens to him, the Captain; one of
which he repeats, whenever a pause is made by Rob the Grinder, with
Besides all this, and much more, twenty nursery-maids in Mr
Dombey's street alone, have promised twenty families of little women,
whose instinctive interest in nuptials dates from their cradles, that
they shall go and see the marriage. Truly, Mr Sownds the Beadle has
good reason to feel himself in office, as he suns his portly figure on
the church steps, waiting for the marriage hour. Truly, Mrs Miff has
cause to pounce on an unlucky dwarf child, with a giant baby, who
peeps in at the porch, and drive her forth with indignation!
Cousin Feenix has come over from abroad, expressly to attend the
marriage. Cousin Feenix was a man about town, forty years ago; but he
is still so juvenile in figure and in manner, and so well got up, that
strangers are amazed when they discover latent wrinkles in his
lordship's face, and crows' feet in his eyes: and first observe him,
not exactly certain when he walks across a room, of going quite
straight to where he wants to go. But Cousin Feenix, getting up at
half-past seven o'clock or so, is quite another thing from Cousin
Feenix got up; and very dim, indeed, he looks, while being shaved at
Long's Hotel, in Bond Street.
Mr Dombey leaves his dressing-room, amidst a general whisking away
of the women on the staircase, who disperse in all directions, with a
great rustling of skirts, except Mrs Perch, who, being (but that she
always is) in an interesting situation, is not nimble, and is obliged
to face him, and is ready to sink with confusion as she curtesys; -
may Heaven avert all evil consequences from the house of Perch! Mr
Dombey walks up to the drawing-room, to bide his time. Gorgeous are Mr
Dombey's new blue coat, fawn-coloured pantaloons, and lilac waistcoat;
and a whisper goes about the house, that Mr Dombey's hair is curled.
A double knock announces the arrival of the Major, who is gorgeous
too, and wears a whole geranium in his button-hole, and has his hair
curled tight and crisp, as well the Native knows.
'Dombey!' says the Major, putting out both hands, 'how are you?'
'Major,' says Mr Dombey, 'how are You?'
'By Jove, Sir,' says the Major, 'Joey B. is in such case this
morning, Sir,' - and here he hits himself hard upon the breast - 'In
such case this morning, Sir, that, damme, Dombey, he has half a mind
to make a double marriage of it, Sir, and take the mother.'
Mr Dombey smiles; but faintly, even for him; for Mr Dombey feels
that he is going to be related to the mother, and that, under those
circumstances, she is not to be joked about.
'Dombey,' says the Major, seeing this, 'I give you joy. I
congratulate you, Dombey. By the Lord, Sir,' says the Major, 'you are
more to be envied, this day, than any man in England!'
Here again Mr Dombey's assent is qualified; because he is going to
confer a great distinction on a lady; and, no doubt, she is to be
'As to Edith Granger, Sir,' pursues the Major, 'there is not a
woman in all Europe but might - and would, Sir, you will allow
Bagstock to add - and would- give her ears, and her earrings, too, to
be in Edith Granger's place.'
'You are good enough to say so, Major,' says Mr Dombey.
'Dombey,' returns the Major, 'you know it. Let us have no false
delicacy. You know it. Do you know it, or do you not, Dombey?' says
the Major, almost in a passion.
'Oh, really, Major - '
'Damme, Sir,' retorts the Major, 'do you know that fact, or do you
not? Dombey! Is old Joe your friend? Are we on that footing of
unreserved intimacy, Dombey, that may justify a man - a blunt old
Joseph B., Sir - in speaking out; or am I to take open order, Dombey,
and to keep my distance, and to stand on forms?'
'My dear Major Bagstock,' says Mr Dombey, with a gratified air,
'you are quite warm.'
'By Gad, Sir,' says the Major, 'I am warm. Joseph B. does not deny
it, Dombey. He is warm. This is an occasion, Sir, that calls forth all
the honest sympathies remaining in an old, infernal, battered,
used-up, invalided, J. B. carcase. And I tell you what, Dombey - at
such a time a man must blurt out what he feels, or put a muzzle on;
and Joseph Bagstock tells you to your face, Dombey, as he tells his
club behind your back, that he never will be muzzled when Paul Dombey
is in question. Now, damme, Sir,' concludes the Major, with great
firmness, 'what do you make of that?'
'Major,' says Mr Dombey, 'I assure you that I am really obliged to
you. I had no idea of checking your too partial friendship.'
'Not too partial, Sir!' exclaims the choleric Major. 'Dombey, I
'Your friendship I will say then,' pursues Mr Dombey, 'on any
account. Nor can I forget, Major, on such an occasion as the present,
how much I am indebted to it.'
'Dombey,' says the Major, with appropriate action, 'that is the
hand of Joseph Bagstock: of plain old Joey B., Sir, if you like that
better! That is the hand, of which His Royal Highness the late Duke of
York, did me the honour to observe, Sir, to His Royal Highness the
late Duke of Kent, that it was the hand of Josh: a rough and tough,
and possibly an up-to-snuff, old vagabond. Dombey, may the present
moment be the least unhappy of our lives. God bless you!'
Now enters Mr Carker, gorgeous likewise, and smiling like a
wedding-guest indeed. He can scarcely let Mr Dombey's hand go, he is
so congratulatory; and he shakes the Major's hand so heartily at the
same time, that his voice shakes too, in accord with his arms, as it
comes sliding from between his teeth.
'The very day is auspicious,' says Mr Carker. 'The brightest and
most genial weather! I hope I am not a moment late?'
'Punctual to your time, Sir,' says the Major.
'I am rejoiced, I am sure,' says Mr Carker. 'I was afraid I might
be a few seconds after the appointed time, for I was delayed by a
procession of waggons; and I took the liberty of riding round to Brook
Street' - this to Mr Dombey - 'to leave a few poor rarities of flowers
for Mrs Dombey. A man in my position, and so distinguished as to be
invited here, is proud to offer some homage in acknowledgment of his
vassalage: and as I have no doubt Mrs Dombey is overwhelmed with what
is costly and magnificent;' with a strange glance at his patron; 'I
hope the very poverty of my offering, may find favour for it.'
'Mrs Dombey, that is to be,' returns Mr Dombey, condescendingly,
'will be very sensible of your attention, Carker, I am sure.'
'And if she is to be Mrs Dombey this morning, Sir,' says the Major,