Dombey and Son
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rest observances in memory of poor Walter, as he felt within his
power. Rousing himself, and rousing Rob the Grinder (who in the
unnatural twilight was fast asleep), the Captain sallied forth with
his attendant at his heels, and the door-key in his pocket, and
repairing to one of those convenient slop-selling establishments of
which there is abundant choice at the eastern end of London, purchased
on the spot two suits of mourning - one for Rob the Grinder, which was
immensely too small, and one for himself, which was immensely too
large. He also provided Rob with a species of hat, greatly to be
admired for its symmetry and usefulness, as well as for a happy
blending of the mariner with the coal-heaver; which is usually termed
a sou'wester; and which was something of a novelty in connexion with
the instrument business. In their several garments, which the vendor
declared to be such a miracle in point of fit as nothing but a rare
combination of fortuitous circumstances ever brought about, and the
fashion of which was unparalleled within the memory of the oldest
inhabitant, the Captain and Grinder immediately arrayed themselves:
presenting a spectacle fraught with wonder to all who beheld it.
In this altered form, the Captain received Mr Toots. 'I'm took
aback, my lad, at present,' said the Captain, 'and will only confirm
that there ill news. Tell the young woman to break it gentle to the
young lady, and for neither of 'em never to think of me no more -
'special, mind you, that is - though I will think of them, when night
comes on a hurricane and seas is mountains rowling, for which overhaul
your Doctor Watts, brother, and when found make a note on."
The Captain reserved, until some fitter time, the consideration of
Mr Toots's offer of friendship, and thus dismissed him. Captain
Cuttle's spirits were so low, in truth, that he half determined, that
day, to take no further precautions against surprise from Mrs
MacStinger, but to abandon himself recklessly to chance, and be
indifferent to what might happen. As evening came on, he fell into a
better frame of mind, however; and spoke much of Walter to Rob the
Grinder, whose attention and fidelity he likewise incidentally
commended. Rob did not blush to hear the Captain earnest in his
praises, but sat staring at him, and affecting to snivel with
sympathy, and making a feint of being virtuous, and treasuring up
every word he said (like a young spy as he was) with very promising
When Rob had turned in, and was fast asleep, the Captain trimmed
the candle, put on his spectacles - he had felt it appropriate to take
to spectacles on entering into the Instrument Trade, though his eyes
were like a hawk's - and opened the prayer-book at the Burial Service.
And reading softly to himself, in the little back parlour, and
stopping now and then to wipe his eyes, the Captain, In a true and
simple spirit, committed Walter's body to the deep.
Turn we our eyes upon two homes; not lying side by side, but wide
apart, though both within easy range and reach of the great city of
The first is situated in the green and wooded country near Norwood.
It is not a mansion; it is of no pretensions as to size; but it is
beautifully arranged, and tastefully kept. The lawn, the soft, smooth
slope, the flower-garden, the clumps of trees where graceful forms of
ash and willow are not wanting, the conservatory, the rustic verandah
with sweet-smelling creeping plants entwined about the pillars, the
simple exterior of the house, the well-ordered offices, though all
upon the diminutive scale proper to a mere cottage, bespeak an amount
of elegant comfort within, that might serve for a palace. This
indication is not without warrant; for, within, it is a house of
refinement and luxury. Rich colours, excellently blended, meet the eye
at every turn; in the furniture - its proportions admirably devised to
suit the shapes and sizes of the small rooms; on the walls; upon the
floors; tingeing and subduing the light that comes in through the odd
glass doors and windows here and there. There are a few choice prints
and pictures too; in quaint nooks and recesses there is no want of
books; and there are games of skill and chance set forth on tables -
fantastic chessmen, dice, backgammon, cards, and billiards.
And yet amidst this opulence of comfort, there is something in the
general air that is not well. Is it that the carpets and the cushions
are too soft and noiseless, so that those who move or repose among
them seem to act by stealth? Is it that the prints and pictures do not
commemorate great thoughts or deeds, or render nature in the Poetry of
landscape, hall, or hut, but are of one voluptuous cast - mere shows
of form and colour - and no more? Is it that the books have all their
gold outside, and that the titles of the greater part qualify them to
be companions of the prints and pictures? Is it that the completeness
and the beauty of the place are here and there belied by an
affectation of humility, in some unimportant and inexpensive regard,
which is as false as the face of the too truly painted portrait
hanging yonder, or its original at breakfast in his easy chair below
it? Or is it that, with the daily breath of that original and master
of all here, there issues forth some subtle portion of himself, which
gives a vague expression of himself to everything about him?
It is Mr Carker the Manager who sits in the easy chair. A gaudy
parrot in a burnished cage upon the table tears at the wires with her
beak, and goes walking, upside down, in its dome-top, shaking her
house and screeching; but Mr Carker is indifferent to the bird, and
looks with a musing smile at a picture on the opposite wall.
'A most extraordinary accidental likeness, certainly,' says he.
Perhaps it is a Juno; perhaps a Potiphar's Wife'; perhaps some
scornful Nymph - according as the Picture Dealers found the market,
when they christened it. It is the figure of a woman, supremely
handsome, who, turning away, but with her face addressed to the
spectator, flashes her proud glance upon him.
It is like Edith.
With a passing gesture of his hand at the picture - what! a menace?
No; yet something like it. A wave as of triumph? No; yet more like
that. An insolent salute wafted from his lips? No; yet like that too -
he resumes his breakfast, and calls to the chafing and imprisoned
bird, who coming down into a pendant gilded hoop within the cage, like
a great wedding-ring, swings in it, for his delight.
The second home is on the other side of London, near to where the
busy great north road of bygone days is silent and almost deserted,
except by wayfarers who toil along on foot. It is a poor small house,
barely and sparely furnished, but very clean; and there is even an
attempt to decorate it, shown in the homely flowers trained about the
porch and in the narrow garden. The neighbourhood in which it stands
has as little of the country to recommend'it, as it has of the town.
It is neither of the town nor country. The former, like the giant in
his travelling boots, has made a stride and passed it, and has set his
brick-and-mortar heel a long way in advance; but the intermediate
space between the giant's feet, as yet, is only blighted country, and
not town; and, here, among a few tall chimneys belching smoke all day
and night, and among the brick-fields and the lanes where turf is cut,
and where the fences tumble down, and where the dusty nettles grow,
and where a scrap or two of hedge may yet be seen, and where the
bird-catcher still comes occasionally, though he swears every time to
come no more - this second home is to be found.'
She who inhabits it, is she who left the first in her devotion to
an outcast brother. She withdrew from that home its redeeming spirit,
and from its master's breast his solitary angel: but though his liking
for her is gone, after this ungrateful slight as he considers it; and
though he abandons her altogether in return, an old idea of her is not
quite forgotten even by him. Let her flower-garden, in which he never
sets his foot, but which is yet maintained, among all his costly
alterations, as if she had quitted it but yesterday, bear witness!
Harriet Carker has changed since then, and on her beauty there has
fallen a heavier shade than Time of his unassisted self can cast,
all-potent as he is - the shadow of anxiety and sorrow, and the daily
struggle of a poor existence. But it is beauty still; and still a
gentle, quiet, and retiring beauty that must be sought out, for it
cannot vaunt itself; if it could, it would be what it is, no more.
Yes. This slight, small, patient figure, neatly dressed in homely
stuffs, and indicating nothing but the dull, household virtues, that
have so little in common with the received idea of heroism and
greatness, unless, indeed, any ray of them should shine through the
lives of the great ones of the earth, when it becomes a constellation
and is tracked in Heaven straightway - this slight, small, patient
figure, leaning on the man still young but worn and grey, is she, his
sister, who, of all the world, went over to him in his shame and put
her hand in his, and with a sweet composure and determination, led him
hopefully upon his barren way.
'It is early, John,' she said. 'Why do you go so early?'
'Not many minutes earlier than usual, Harriet. If I have the time
to spare, I should like, I think - it's a fancy - to walk once by the
house where I took leave of him.'
'I wish I had ever seen or known him, John.'
'It is better as it is, my dear, remembering his fate.'
'But I could not regret it more, though I had known him. Is not
your sorrow mine? And if I had, perhaps you would feel that I was a
better companion to you in speaking about him, than I may seem now.
'My dearest sister! Is there anything within the range of rejoicing
or regret, in which I am not sure of your companionship?'
'I hope you think not, John, for surely there is nothing!'
'How could you be better to me, or nearer to me then, than you are
in this, or anything?' said her brother. 'I feel that you did know
him, Harriet, and that you shared my feelings towards him.'
She drew the hand which had been resting on his shoulder, round his
neck, and answered, with some hesitation:
'No, not quite.'
'True, true!' he said; 'you think I might have done him no harm if
I had allowed myself to know him better?'
'Think! I know it.'
'Designedly, Heaven knows I would not,' he replied, shaking his
head mournfully; 'but his reputation was too precious to be perilled
by such association. Whether you share that knowledge, or do not, my
dear - '
'I do not,' she said quietly.