Dombey and Son
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mysteriously, and with feeling. After a few glasses of wine, he gives
Miss Dombey's health, observing, 'Feeder, you have no idea of the
sentiments with which I propose that toast.' Mr Feeder replies, 'Oh,
yes, I have, my dear Toots; and greatly they redound to your honour,
old boy.' Mr Feeder is then agitated by friendship, and shakes hands;
and says, if ever Toots wants a brother, he knows where to find him,
either by post or parcel. Mr Feeder like-wise says, that if he may
advise, he would recommend Mr Toots to learn the guitar, or, at least
the flute; for women like music, when you are paying your addresses to
'em, and he has found the advantage of it himself.
This brings Mr Feeder, B.A., to the confession that he has his eye
upon Cornelia Blimber. He informs Mr Toots that he don't object to
spectacles, and that if the Doctor were to do the handsome thing and
give up the business, why, there they are - provided for. He says it's
his opinion that when a man has made a handsome sum by his business,
he is bound to give it up; and that Cornelia would be an assistance in
it which any man might be proud of. Mr Toots replies by launching
wildly out into Miss Dombey's praises, and by insinuations that
sometimes he thinks he should like to blow his brains out. Mr Feeder
strongly urges that it would be a rash attempt, and shows him, as a
reconcilement to existence, Cornelia's portrait, spectacles and all.
Thus these quiet spirits pass the evening; and when it has yielded
place to night, Mr Toots walks home with Mr Feeder, and parts with him
at Doctor Blimber's door. But Mr Feeder only goes up the steps, and
when Mr Toots is gone, comes down again, to stroll upon the beach
alone, and think about his prospects. Mr Feeder plainly hears the
waves informing him, as he loiters along, that Doctor Blimber will
give up the business; and he feels a soft romantic pleasure in looking
at the outside of the house, and thinking that the Doctor will first
paint it, and put it into thorough repair.
Mr Toots is likewise roaming up and down, outside the casket that
contains his jewel; and in a deplorable condition of mind, and not
unsuspected by the police, gazes at a window where he sees a light,
and which he has no doubt is Florence's. But it is not, for that is
Mrs Skewton's room; and while Florence, sleeping in another chamber,
dreams lovingly, in the midst of the old scenes, and their old
associations live again, the figure which in grim reality is
substituted for the patient boy's on the same theatre, once more to
connect it - but how differently! - with decay and death, is stretched
there, wakeful and complaining. Ugly and haggard it lies upon its bed
of unrest; and by it, in the terror of her unimpassioned loveliness -
for it has terror in the sufferer's failing eyes - sits Edith. What do
the waves say, in the stillness of the night, to them?
'Edith, what is that stone arm raised to strike me? Don't you see
There is nothing, mother, but your fancy.'
'But my fancy! Everything is my fancy. Look! Is it possible that
you don't see it?'
'Indeed, mother, there is nothing. Should I sit unmoved, if there
were any such thing there?'
'Unmoved?' looking wildly at her - 'it's gone now - and why are you
so unmoved? That is not my fancy, Edith. It turns me cold to see you
sitting at my side.'
'I am sorry, mother.'
'Sorry! You seem always sorry. But it is not for me!'
With that, she cries; and tossing her restless head from side to
side upon her pillow, runs on about neglect, and the mother she has
been, and the mother the good old creature was, whom they met, and the
cold return the daughters of such mothers make. In the midst of her
incoherence, she stops, looks at her daughter, cries out that her wits
are going, and hides her face upon the bed.
Edith, in compassion, bends over her and speaks to her. The sick
old woman clutches her round the neck, and says, with a look of
'Edith! we are going home soon; going back. You mean that I shall
go home again?'
'Yes, mother, yes.'
'And what he said - what's-his-name, I never could remember names -
Major - that dreadful word, when we came away - it's not true? Edith!'
with a shriek and a stare, 'it's not that that is the matter with me.'
Night after night, the lights burn in the window, and the figure
lies upon the bed, and Edith sits beside it, and the restless waves
are calling to them both the whole night long. Night after night, the
waves are hoarse with repetition of their mystery; the dust lies piled
upon the shore; the sea-birds soar and hover; the winds and clouds are
on their trackless flight; the white arms beckon, in the moonlight, to
the invisible country far away.
And still the sick old woman looks into the corner, where the stone
arm - part of a figure of some tomb, she says - is raised to strike
her. At last it falls; and then a dumb old woman lies upon the the
bed, and she is crooked and shrunk up, and half of her is dead.
Such is the figure, painted and patched for the sun to mock, that
is drawn slowly through the crowd from day to day; looking, as it
goes, for the good old creature who was such a mother, and making
mouths as it peers among the crowd in vain. Such is the figure that is
often wheeled down to the margin of the sea, and stationed there; but
on which no wind can blow freshness, and for which the murmur of the
ocean has no soothing word. She lies and listens to it by the hour;
but its speech is dark and gloomy to her, and a dread is on her face,
and when her eyes wander over the expanse, they see but a broad
stretch of desolation between earth and heaven.
Florence she seldom sees, and when she does, is angry with and mows
at. Edith is beside her always, and keeps Florence away; and Florence,
in her bed at night, trembles at the thought of death in such a shape,
and often wakes and listens, thinking it has come. No one attends on
her but Edith. It is better that few eyes should see her; and her
daughter watches alone by the bedside.
A shadow even on that shadowed face, a sharpening even of the
sharpened features, and a thickening of the veil before the eyes into
a pall that shuts out the dim world, is come. Her wandering hands upon
the coverlet join feebly palm to palm, and move towards her daughter;
and a voice not like hers, not like any voice that speaks our mortal
language - says, 'For I nursed you!'
Edith, without a tear, kneels down to bring her voice closer to the
sinking head, and answers:
'Mother, can you hear me?'
Staring wide, she tries to nod in answer.
'Can you recollect the night before I married?'
The head is motionless, but it expresses somehow that she does.
'I told you then that I forgave your part in it, and prayed God to
forgive my own. I told you that time past was at an end between us. I
say so now, again. Kiss me, mother.'
Edith touches the white lips, and for a moment all is still. A
moment afterwards, her mother, with her girlish laugh, and the
skeleton of the Cleopatra manner, rises in her bed.
Draw the rose-coloured curtains. There is something else upon its
flight besides the wind and clouds. Draw the rose-coloured curtains
Intelligence of the event is sent to Mr Dombey in town, who waits
upon Cousin Feenix (not yet able to make up his mind for Baden-Baden),
who has just received it too. A good-natured creature like Cousin
Feenix is the very man for a marriage or a funeral, and his position
in the family renders it right that he should be consulted.
'Dombey,' said Cousin Feenix, 'upon my soul, I am very much shocked
to see you on such a melancholy occasion. My poor aunt! She was a
devilish lively woman.'
Mr Dombey replies, 'Very much so.'
'And made up,' says Cousin Feenix, 'really young, you know,
considering. I am sure, on the day of your marriage, I thought she was
good for another twenty years. In point of fact, I said so to a man at
Brooks's - little Billy Joper - you know him, no doubt - man with a
glass in his eye?'
Mr Dombey bows a negative. 'In reference to the obsequies,' he
hints, 'whether there is any suggestion - '
'Well, upon my life,' says Cousin Feenix, stroking his chin, which
he has just enough of hand below his wristbands to do; 'I really don't
know. There's a Mausoleum down at my place, in the park, but I'm
afraid it's in bad repair, and, in point of fact, in a devil of a
state. But for being a little out at elbows, I should have had it put
to rights; but I believe the people come and make pic-nic parties
there inside the iron railings.'
Mr Dombey is clear that this won't do.
'There's an uncommon good church in the village,' says Cousin
Feenix, thoughtfully; 'pure specimen of the Anglo-Norman style, and
admirably well sketched too by Lady Jane Finchbury - woman with tight
stays - but they've spoilt it with whitewash, I understand, and it's a
'Perhaps Brighton itself,' Mr Dombey suggests.
'Upon my honour, Dombey, I don't think we could do better,' says
Cousin Feenix. 'It's on the spot, you see, and a very cheerful place.'
'And when,' hints Mr Dombey, 'would it be convenient?'
'I shall make a point,' says Cousin Feenix, 'of pledging myself for
any day you think best. I shall have great pleasure (melancholy
pleasure, of course) in following my poor aunt to the confines of the
- in point of fact, to the grave,' says Cousin Feenix, failing in the
other turn of speech.
'Would Monday do for leaving town?' says Mr Dombey.
'Monday would suit me to perfection,' replies Cousin Feenix.