Dombey and Son
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going to work to stave the casks, got drunk and died drunk, singing
"Rule Britannia", when she settled and went down, and ending with one
awful scream in chorus.'
'But when the George the Second drove ashore, Uncle, on the coast
of Cornwall, in a dismal gale, two hours before daybreak, on the
fourth of March, 'seventy-one, she had near two hundred horses aboard;
and the horses breaking loose down below, early in the gale, and
tearing to and fro, and trampling each other to death, made such
noises, and set up such human cries, that the crew believing the ship
to be full of devils, some of the best men, losing heart and head,
went overboard in despair, and only two were left alive, at last, to
tell the tale.'
'And when,' said old Sol, 'when the Polyphemus - '
'Private West India Trader, burden three hundred and fifty tons,
Captain, John Brown of Deptford. Owners, Wiggs and Co.,' cried Walter.
'The same,' said Sol; 'when she took fire, four days' sail with a
fair wind out of Jamaica Harbour, in the night - '
'There were two brothers on board,' interposed his nephew, speaking
very fast and loud, 'and there not being room for both of them in the
only boat that wasn't swamped, neither of them would consent to go,
until the elder took the younger by the waist, and flung him in. And
then the younger, rising in the boat, cried out, "Dear Edward, think
of your promised wife at home. I'm only a boy. No one waits at home
for me. Leap down into my place!" and flung himself in the sea!'
The kindling eye and heightened colour of the boy, who had risen
from his seat in the earnestness of what he said and felt, seemed to
remind old Sol of something he had forgotten, or that his encircling
mist had hitherto shut out. Instead of proceeding with any more
anecdotes, as he had evidently intended but a moment before, he gave a
short dry cough, and said, 'Well! suppose we change the subject.'
The truth was, that the simple-minded Uncle in his secret
attraction towards the marvellous and adventurous - of which he was,
in some sort, a distant relation, by his trade - had greatly
encouraged the same attraction in the nephew; and that everything that
had ever been put before the boy to deter him from a life of
adventure, had had the usual unaccountable effect of sharpening his
taste for it. This is invariable. It would seem as if there never was
a book written, or a story told, expressly with the object of keeping
boys on shore, which did not lure and charm them to the ocean, as a
matter of course.
But an addition to the little party now made its appearance, in the
shape of a gentleman in a wide suit of blue, with a hook instead of a
hand attached to his right wrist; very bushy black eyebrows; and a
thick stick in his left hand, covered all over (like his nose) with
knobs. He wore a loose black silk handkerchief round his neck, and
such a very large coarse shirt collar, that it looked like a small
sail. He was evidently the person for whom the spare wine-glass was
intended, and evidently knew it; for having taken off his rough outer
coat, and hung up, on a particular peg behind the door, such a hard
glazed hat as a sympathetic person's head might ache at the sight of,
and which left a red rim round his own forehead as if he had been
wearing a tight basin, he brought a chair to where the clean glass
was, and sat himself down behind it. He was usually addressed as
Captain, this visitor; and had been a pilot, or a skipper, or a
privateersman, or all three perhaps; and was a very salt-looking man
His face, remarkable for a brown solidity, brightened as he shook
hands with Uncle and nephew; but he seemed to be of a laconic
disposition, and merely said:
'How goes it?'
'All well,' said Mr Gills, pushing the bottle towards him.
He took it up, and having surveyed and smelt it, said with
'The,' returned the Instrument-maker.
Upon that he whistled as he filled his glass, and seemed to think
they were making holiday indeed.
'Wal'r!' he said, arranging his hair (which was thin) with his
hook, and then pointing it at the Instrument-maker, 'Look at him!
Love! Honour! And Obey! Overhaul your catechism till you find that
passage, and when found turn the leaf down. Success, my boy!'
He was so perfectly satisfied both with his quotation and his
reference to it, that he could not help repeating the words again in a
low voice, and saying he had forgotten 'em these forty year.
'But I never wanted two or three words in my life that I didn't
know where to lay my hand upon 'em, Gills,' he observed. 'It comes of
not wasting language as some do.'
The reflection perhaps reminded him that he had better, like young
Norval's father, '"ncrease his store." At any rate he became silent,
and remained so, until old Sol went out into the shop to light it up,
when he turned to Walter, and said, without any introductory remark:
'I suppose he could make a clock if he tried?'
'I shouldn't wonder, Captain Cuttle,' returned the boy.
'And it would go!' said Captain Cuttle, making a species of serpent
in the air with his hook. 'Lord, how that clock would go!'
For a moment or two he seemed quite lost in contemplating the pace
of this ideal timepiece, and sat looking at the boy as if his face
were the dial.
'But he's chockful of science,' he observed, waving his hook
towards the stock-in-trade. 'Look'ye here! Here's a collection of 'em.
Earth, air, or water. It's all one. Only say where you'll have it. Up
in a balloon? There you are. Down in a bell? There you are. D'ye want
to put the North Star in a pair of scales and weigh it? He'll do it
It may be gathered from these remarks that Captain Cuttle's
reverence for the stock of instruments was profound, and that his
philosophy knew little or no distinction between trading in it and
'Ah!' he said, with a sigh, 'it's a fine thing to understand 'em.
And yet it's a fine thing not to understand 'em. I hardly know which
is best. It's so comfortable to sit here and feel that you might be
weighed, measured, magnified, electrified, polarized, played the very
devil with: and never know how.'
Nothing short of the wonderful Madeira, combined with the occasion
(which rendered it desirable to improve and expand Walter's mind),
could have ever loosened his tongue to the extent of giving utterance
to this prodigious oration. He seemed quite amazed himself at the
manner in which it opened up to view the sources of the taciturn
delight he had had in eating Sunday dinners in that parlour for ten
years. Becoming a sadder and a wiser man, he mused and held his peace.
'Come!' cried the subject of this admiration, returning. 'Before
you have your glass of grog, Ned, we must finish the bottle.'
'Stand by!' said Ned, filling his glass. 'Give the boy some more.'
'No more, thank'e, Uncle!'
'Yes, yes,' said Sol, 'a little more. We'll finish the bottle, to
the House, Ned - Walter's House. Why it may be his House one of these
days, in part. Who knows? Sir Richard Whittington married his master's
'"Turn again Whittington, Lord Mayor of London, and when you are
old you will never depart from it,"' interposed the Captain. 'Wal'r!
Overhaul the book, my lad.'
'And although Mr Dombey hasn't a daughter,' Sol began.
'Yes, yes, he has, Uncle,' said the boy, reddening and laughing.
'Has he?' cried the old man. 'Indeed I think he has too.
'Oh! I know he has,' said the boy. 'Some of 'em were talking about
it in the office today. And they do say, Uncle and Captain Cuttle,'
lowering his voice, 'that he's taken a dislike to her, and that she's
left, unnoticed, among the servants, and that his mind's so set all
the while upon having his son in the House, that although he's only a
baby now, he is going to have balances struck oftener than formerly,
and the books kept closer than they used to be, and has even been seen
(when he thought he wasn't) walking in the Docks, looking at his ships
and property and all that, as if he was exulting like, over what he
and his son will possess together. That's what they say. Of course, I
'He knows all about her already, you see,' said the
'Nonsense, Uncle,' cried the boy, still reddening and laughing,
boy-like. 'How can I help hearing what they tell me?'
'The Son's a little in our way at present, I'm afraid, Ned,' said
the old man, humouring the joke.
'Very much,' said the Captain.
'Nevertheless, we'll drink him,' pursued Sol. 'So, here's to Dombey
'Oh, very well, Uncle,' said the boy, merrily. 'Since you have
introduced the mention of her, and have connected me with her and have
said that I know all about her, I shall make bold to amend the toast.
So here's to Dombey - and Son - and Daughter!'
Paul's Progress and Christening
Little Paul, suffering no contamination from the blood of the
Toodles, grew stouter and stronger every day. Every day, too, he was
more and more ardently cherished by Miss Tox, whose devotion was so
far appreciated by Mr Dombey that he began to regard her as a woman of
great natural good sense, whose feelings did her credit and deserved