Dombey and Son
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 Next page
'Down, Di, down. Don't you remember who first made us friends, Di?
Oh! Well may Di lay his loving cheek against her hand, and run off,
and run back, and run round her, barking, and run headlong at anybody
coming by, to show his devotion. Mr Toots would run headlong at
anybody, too. A military gentleman goes past, and Mr Toots would like
nothing better than to run at him, full tilt.
'Diogenes is quite in his native air, isn't he, Miss Dombey?' says
Florence assents, with a grateful smile.
'Miss Dombey,' says Mr Toots, 'beg your pardon, but if you would
like to walk to Blimber's, I - I'm going there.'
Florence puts her arm in that of Mr Toots without a word, and they
walk away together, with Diogenes going on before. Mr Toots's legs
shake under him; and though he is splendidly dressed, he feels
misfits, and sees wrinkles, in the masterpieces of Burgess and Co.,
and wishes he had put on that brightest pair of boots.
Doctor Blimber's house, outside, has as scholastic and studious an
air as ever; and up there is the window where she used to look for the
pale face, and where the pale face brightened when it saw her, and the
wasted little hand waved kisses as she passed. The door is opened by
the same weak-eyed young man, whose imbecility of grin at sight of Mr
Toots is feebleness of character personified. They are shown into the
Doctor's study, where blind Homer and Minerva give them audience as of
yore, to the sober ticking of the great clock in the hall; and where
the globes stand still in their accustomed places, as if the world
were stationary too, and nothing in it ever perished in obedience to
the universal law, that, while it keeps it on the roll, calls
everything to earth.
And here is Doctor Blimber, with his learned legs; and here is Mrs
Blimber, with her sky-blue cap; and here Cornelia, with her sandy
little row of curls, and her bright spectacles, still working like a
sexton in the graves of languages. Here is the table upon which he sat
forlorn and strange, the 'new boy' of the school; and hither comes the
distant cooing of the old boys, at their old lives in the old room on
the old principle!
'Toots,' says Doctor Blimber, 'I am very glad to see you, Toots.'
Mr Toots chuckles in reply.
'Also to see you, Toots, in such good company,' says Doctor
Mr Toots, with a scarlet visage, explains that he has met Miss
Dombey by accident, and that Miss Dombey wishing, like himself, to see
the old place, they have come together.
'You will like,' says Doctor Blimber, 'to step among our young
friends, Miss Dombey, no doubt. All fellow-students of yours, Toots,
once. I think we have no new disciples in our little portico, my
dear,' says Doctor Blimber to Cornelia, 'since Mr Toots left us.'
'Except Bitherstone,' returns Cornelia.
'Ay, truly,' says the Doctor. 'Bitherstone is new to Mr Toots.'
New to Florence, too, almost; for, in the schoolroom, Bitherstone -
no longer Master Bitherstone of Mrs Pipchin's - shows in collars and a
neckcloth, and wears a watch. But Bitherstone, born beneath some
Bengal star of ill-omen, is extremely inky; and his Lexicon has got so
dropsical from constant reference, that it won't shut, and yawns as if
it really could not bear to be so bothered. So does Bitherstone its
master, forced at Doctor Blimber's highest pressure; but in the yawn
of Bitherstone there is malice and snarl, and he has been heard to say
that he wishes he could catch 'old Blimber' in India. He'd precious
soon find himself carried up the country by a few of his
(Bitherstone's) Coolies, and handed over to the Thugs; he can tell him
Briggs is still grinding in the mill of knowledge; and Tozer, too;
and Johnson, too; and all the rest; the older pupils being principally
engaged in forgetting, with prodigious labour, everything they knew
when they were younger. All are as polite and as pale as ever; and
among them, Mr Feeder, B.A., with his bony hand and bristly head, is
still hard at it; with his Herodotus stop on just at present, and his
other barrels on a shelf behind him.
A mighty sensation is created, even among these grave young
gentlemen, by a visit from the emancipated Toots; who is regarded with
a kind of awe, as one who has passed the Rubicon, and is pledged never
to come back, and concerning the cut of whose clothes, and fashion of
whose jewellery, whispers go about, behind hands; the bilious
Bitherstone, who is not of Mr Toots's time, affecting to despise the
latter to the smaller boys, and saying he knows better, and that he
should like to see him coming that sort of thing in Bengal, where his
mother had got an emerald belonging to him that was taken out of the
footstool of a Rajah. Come now!
Bewildering emotions are awakened also by the sight of Florence,
with whom every young gentleman immediately falls in love, again;
except, as aforesaid, the bilious Bitherstone, who declines to do so,
out of contradiction. Black jealousies of Mr Toots arise, and Briggs
is of opinion that he ain't so very old after all. But this
disparaging insinuation is speedily made nought by Mr Toots saying
aloud to Mr Feeder, B.A., 'How are you, Feeder?' and asking him to
come and dine with him to-day at the Bedford; in right of which feats
he might set up as Old Parr, if he chose, unquestioned.
There is much shaking of hands, and much bowing, and a great desire
on the part of each young gentleman to take Toots down in Miss
Dombey's good graces; and then, Mr Toots having bestowed a chuckle on
his old desk, Florence and he withdraw with Mrs Blimber and Cornelia;
and Doctor Blimber is heard to observe behind them as he comes out
last, and shuts the door, 'Gentlemen, we will now resume our studies,'
For that and little else is what the Doctor hears the sea say, or has
heard it saying all his life.
Florence then steals away and goes upstairs to the old bedroom with
Mrs Blimber and Cornelia; Mr Toots, who feels that neither he nor
anybody else is wanted there, stands talking to the Doctor at the
study-door, or rather hearing the Doctor talk to him, and wondering
how he ever thought the study a great sanctuary, and the Doctor, with
his round turned legs, like a clerical pianoforte, an awful man.
Florence soon comes down and takes leave; Mr Toots takes leave; and
Diogenes, who has been worrying the weak-eyed young man pitilessly all
the time, shoots out at the door, and barks a glad defiance down the
cliff; while Melia, and another of the Doctor's female domestics,
looks out of an upper window, laughing 'at that there Toots,' and
saying of Miss Dombey, 'But really though, now - ain't she like her
brother, only prettier?'
Mr Toots, who saw when Florence came down that there were tears
upon her face, is desperately anxious and uneasy, and at first fears
that he did wrong in proposing the visit. But he is soon relieved by
her saying she is very glad to have been there again, and by her
talking quite cheerfully about it all, as they walked on by the sea.
What with the voices there, and her sweet voice, when they come near
Mr Dombey's house, and Mr Toots must leave her, he is so enslaved that
he has not a scrap of free-will left; when she gives him her hand at
parting, he cannot let it go.
'Miss Dombey, I beg your pardon,' says Mr Toots, in a sad fluster,
'but if you would allow me to - to -
The smiling and unconscious look of Florence brings him to a dead
'If you would allow me to - if you would not consider it a liberty,
Miss Dombey, if I was to - without any encouragement at all, if I was
to hope, you know,' says Mr Toots.
Florence looks at him inquiringly.
'Miss Dombey,' says Mr Toots, who feels that he is in for it now,
'I really am in that state of adoration of you that I don't know what
to do with myself. I am the most deplorable wretch. If it wasn't at
the corner of the Square at present, I should go down on my knees, and
beg and entreat of you, without any encouragement at all, just to let
me hope that I may - may think it possible that you -
'Oh, if you please, don't!' cries Florence, for the moment quite
alarmed and distressed. 'Oh, pray don't, Mr Toots. Stop, if you
please. Don't say any more. As a kindness and a favour to me, don't.'
Mr Toots is dreadfully abashed, and his mouth opens.
'You have been so good to me,' says Florence, 'I am so grateful to
you, I have such reason to like you for being a kind friend to me, and
I do like you so much;' and here the ingenuous face smiles upon him
with the pleasantest look of honesty in the world; 'that I am sure you
are only going to say good-bye!'
'Certainly, Miss Dombey,' says Mr Toots, 'I - I - that's exactly
what I mean. It's of no consequence.'
'Good-bye!' cries Florence.
'Good-bye, Miss Dombey!' stammers Mr Toots. 'I hope you won't think
anything about it. It's - it's of no consequence, thank you. It's not
of the least consequence in the world.'
Poor Mr Toots goes home to his hotel in a state of desperation,
locks himself into his bedroom, flings himself upon his bed, and lies
there for a long time; as if it were of the greatest consequence,
nevertheless. But Mr Feeder, B.A., is coming to dinner, which happens
well for Mr Toots, or there is no knowing when he might get up again.
Mr Toots is obliged to get up to receive him, and to give him
And the generous influence of that social virtue, hospitality (to
make no mention of wine and good cheer), opens Mr Toots's heart, and
warms him to conversation. He does not tell Mr Feeder, B.A., what
passed at the corner of the Square; but when Mr Feeder asks him 'When
it is to come off?' Mr Toots replies, 'that there are certain
subjects' - which brings Mr Feeder down a peg or two immediately. Mr
Toots adds, that he don't know what right Blimber had to notice his
being in Miss Dombey's company, and that if he thought he meant
impudence by it, he'd have him out, Doctor or no Doctor; but he
supposes its only his ignorance. Mr Feeder says he has no doubt of it.
Mr Feeder, however, as an intimate friend, is not excluded from the
subject. Mr Toots merely requires that it should be mentioned