Dombey and Son
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spotted and cheated with, where to find him - '
'Will you hold your tongue, Misses Brown?' interrupted the
miserable Grinder, glancing quickly round, as though he expected to
see his master's teeth shining at his elbow. 'What do you take a
pleasure in ruining a cove for? At your time of life too! when you
ought to be thinking of a variety of things!'
'What a gallant horse!' said the old woman, patting the animal's
'Let him alone, will you, Misses Brown?' cried Rob, pushing away
her hand. 'You're enough to drive a penitent cove mad!'
'Why, what hurt do I do him, child?' returned the old woman.
'Hurt?' said Rob. 'He's got a master that would find it out if he
was touched with a straw.' And he blew upon the place where the old
woman's hand had rested for a moment, and smoothed it gently with his
finger, as if he seriously believed what he said.
The old woman looking back to mumble and mouth at her daughter, who
followed, kept close to Rob's heels as he walked on with the bridle in
his hand; and pursued the conversation.
'A good place, Rob, eh?' said she. 'You're in luck, my child.'
'Oh don't talk about luck, Misses Brown,' returned the wretched
Grinder, facing round and stopping. 'If you'd never come, or if you'd
go away, then indeed a cove might be considered tolerable lucky. Can't
you go along, Misses Brown, and not foller me!' blubbered Rob, with
sudden defiance. 'If the young woman's a friend of yours, why don't
she take you away, instead of letting you make yourself so
'What!' croaked the old woman, putting her face close to his, with
a malevolent grin upon it that puckered up the loose skin down in her
very throat. 'Do you deny your old chum! Have you lurked to my house
fifty times, and slept sound in a corner when you had no other bed but
the paving-stones, and do you talk to me like this! Have I bought and
sold with you, and helped you in my way of business, schoolboy, sneak,
and what not, and do you tell me to go along? Could I raise a crowd of
old company about you to-morrow morning, that would follow you to ruin
like copies of your own shadow, and do you turn on me with your bold
looks! I'll go. Come, Alice.'
'Stop, Misses Brown!' cried the distracted Grinder. 'What are you
doing of? Don't put yourself in a passion! Don't let her go, if you
please. I haven't meant any offence. I said "how d'ye do," at first,
didn't I? But you wouldn't answer. How you do? Besides,' said Rob
piteously, 'look here! How can a cove stand talking in the street with
his master's prad a wanting to be took to be rubbed down, and his
master up to every individgle thing that happens!'
The old woman made a show of being partially appeased, but shook
her head, and mouthed and muttered still.
'Come along to the stables, and have a glass of something that's
good for you, Misses Brown, can't you?' said Rob, 'instead of going
on, like that, which is no good to you, nor anybody else. Come along
with her, will you be so kind?' said Rob. 'I'm sure I'm delighted to
see her, if it wasn't for the horse!'
With this apology, Rob turned away, a rueful picture of despair,
and walked his charge down a bye street' The old woman, mouthing at
her daughter, followed close upon him. The daughter followed.
Turning into a silent little square or court-yard that had a great
church tower rising above it, and a packer's warehouse, and a
bottle-maker's warehouse, for its places of business, Rob the Grinder
delivered the white-legged horse to the hostler of a quaint stable at
the corner; and inviting Mrs Brown and her daughter to seat themselves
upon a stone bench at the gate of that establishment, soon reappeared
from a neighbouring public-house with a pewter measure and a glass.
'Here's master - Mr Carker, child!' said the old woman, slowly, as
her sentiment before drinking. 'Lord bless him!'
'Why, I didn't tell you who he was,' observed Rob, with staring
'We know him by sight,' said Mrs Brown, whose working mouth and
nodding head stopped for the moment, in the fixedness of her
attention. 'We saw him pass this morning, afore he got off his horse;
when you were ready to take it.'
'Ay, ay,' returned Rob, appearing to wish that his readiness had
carried him to any other place. - 'What's the matter with her? Won't
This inquiry had reference to Alice, who, folded in her cloak, sat
a little apart, profoundly inattentive to his offer of the replenished
The old woman shook her head. 'Don't mind her,' she said; 'she's a
strange creetur, if you know'd her, Rob. But Mr Carker
'Hush!' said Rob, glancing cautiously up at the packer's, and at
the bottle-maker's, as if, from any one of the tiers of warehouses, Mr
Carker might be looking down. 'Softly.'
'Why, he ain't here!' cried Mrs Brown.
'I don't know that,' muttered Rob, whose glance even wandered to
the church tower, as if he might be there, with a supernatural power
'Good master?' inquired Mrs Brown.
Rob nodded; and added, in a low voice, 'precious sharp.'
'Lives out of town, don't he, lovey?' said the old woman.
'When he's at home,' returned Rob; 'but we don't live at home just
'Where then?' asked the old woman.
'Lodgings; up near Mr Dombey's,' returned Rob.
The younger woman fixed her eyes so searchingly upon him, and so
suddenly, that Rob was quite confounded, and offered the glass again,
but with no more effect upon her than before.
'Mr Dombey - you and I used to talk about him, sometimes, you
know,' said Rob to Mrs Brown. 'You used to get me to talk about him.'
The old woman nodded.
'Well, Mr Dombey, he's had a fall from his horse,' said Rob,
unwillingly; 'and my master has to be up there, more than usual,
either with him, or Mrs Dombey, or some of 'em; and so we've come to
'Are they good friends, lovey?'asked the old woman.
'Who?' retorted Rob.
'He and she?'
'What, Mr and Mrs Dombey?' said Rob. 'How should I know!'
'Not them - Master and Mrs Dombey, chick,' replied the old woman,
'I don't know,' said Rob, looking round him again. 'I suppose so.
How curious you are, Misses Brown! Least said, soonest mended.'
'Why there's no harm in it!' exclaimed the old woman, with a laugh,
and a clap of her hands. 'Sprightly Rob, has grown tame since he has
been well off! There's no harm in It.
'No, there's no harm in it, I know,' returned Rob, with the same
distrustful glance at the packer's and the bottle-maker's, and the
church; 'but blabbing, if it's only about the number of buttons on my
master's coat, won't do. I tell you it won't do with him. A cove had
better drown himself. He says so. I shouldn't have so much as told you
what his name was, if you hadn't known it. Talk about somebody else.'
As Rob took another cautious survey of the yard, the old woman made
a secret motion to her daughter. It was momentary, but the daughter,
with a slight look of intelligence, withdrew her eyes from the boy's
face, and sat folded in her cloak as before.
'Rob, lovey!' said the old woman, beckoning him to the other end of
the bench. 'You were always a pet and favourite of mine. Now, weren't
you? Don't you know you were?'
'Yes, Misses Brown,' replied the Grinder, with a very bad grace.
'And you could leave me!' said the old woman, flinging her arms
about his neck. 'You could go away, and grow almost out of knowledge,
and never come to tell your poor old friend how fortunate you were,
proud lad! Oho, Oho!'
'Oh here's a dreadful go for a cove that's got a master wide awake
in the neighbourhood!' exclaimed the wretched Grinder. 'To be howled
over like this here!'
'Won't you come and see me, Robby?' cried Mrs Brown. 'Oho, won't
you ever come and see me?'
'Yes, I tell you! Yes, I will!' returned the Grinder.
'That's my own Rob! That's my lovey!' said Mrs Brown, drying the
tears upon her shrivelled face, and giving him a tender squeeze. 'At
the old place, Rob?'
'Yes,' replied the Grinder.
'Soon, Robby dear?' cried Mrs Brown; 'and often?'
'Yes. Yes. Yes,' replied Rob. 'I will indeed, upon my soul and
'And then,' said Mrs Brown, with her arms uplifted towards the sky,
and her head thrown back and shaking, 'if he's true to his word, I'll
never come a-near him though I know where he is, and never breathe a
syllable about him! Never!'