Dombey and Son
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This ejaculation seemed a drop of comfort to the miserable Grinder,
who shook Mrs Brown by the hand upon it, and implored her with tears
in his eyes, to leave a cove and not destroy his prospects. Mrs Brown,
with another fond embrace, assented; but in the act of following her
daughter, turned back, with her finger stealthily raised, and asked in
a hoarse whisper for some money.
'A shilling, dear!' she said, with her eager avaricious face, 'or
sixpence! For old acquaintance sake. I'm so poor. And my handsome gal'
- looking over her shoulder - 'she's my gal, Rob - half starves me.
But as the reluctant Grinder put it in her hand, her daughter,
coming quietly back, caught the hand in hen, and twisted out the coin.
'What,' she said, 'mother! always money! money from the first, and
to the last' Do you mind so little what I said but now? Here. Take
The old woman uttered a moan as the money was restored, but without
in any other way opposing its restoration, hobbled at her daughter's
side out of the yard, and along the bye street upon which it opened.
The astonished and dismayed Rob staring after them, saw that they
stopped, and fell to earnest conversation very soon; and more than
once observed a darkly threatening action of the younger woman's hand
(obviously having reference to someone of whom they spoke), and a
crooning feeble imitation of it on the part of Mrs Brown, that made
him earnestly hope he might not be the subject of their discourse.
With the present consolation that they were gone, and with the
prospective comfort that Mrs Brown could not live for ever, and was
not likely to live long to trouble him, the Grinder, not otherwise
regretting his misdeeds than as they were attended with such
disagreeable incidental consequences, composed his ruffled features to
a more serene expression by thinking of the admirable manner in which
he had disposed of Captain Cuttle (a reflection that seldom failed to
put him in a flow of spirits), and went to the Dombey Counting House
to receive his master's orders.
There his master, so subtle and vigilant of eye, that Rob quaked
before him, more than half expecting to be taxed with Mrs Brown, gave
him the usual morning's box of papers for Mr Dombey, and a note for
Mrs Dombey: merely nodding his head as an enjoinder to be careful, and
to use dispatch - a mysterious admonition, fraught in the Grinder's
imagination with dismal warnings and threats; and more powerful with
him than any words.
Alone again, in his own room, Mr Carker applied himself to work,
and worked all day. He saw many visitors; overlooked a number of
documents; went in and out, to and from, sundry places of mercantile
resort; and indulged in no more abstraction until the day's business
was done. But, when the usual clearance of papers from his table was
made at last, he fell into his thoughtful mood once more.
He was standing in his accustomed place and attitude, with his eyes
intently fixed upon the ground, when his brother entered to bring back
some letters that had been taken out in the course of the day. He put
them quietly on the table, and was going immediately, when Mr Carker
the Manager, whose eyes had rested on him, on his entrance, as if they
had all this time had him for the subject of their contemplation,
instead of the office-floor, said:
'Well, John Carker, and what brings you here?'
His brother pointed to the letters, and was again withdrawing.
'I wonder,' said the Manager, 'that you can come and go, without
inquiring how our master is'.
'We had word this morning in the Counting House, that Mr Dombey was
doing well,' replied his brother.
'You are such a meek fellow,' said the Manager, with a smile, -
'but you have grown so, in the course of years - that if any harm came
to him, you'd be miserable, I dare swear now.'
'I should be truly sorry, James,' returned the other.
'He would be sorry!' said the Manager, pointing at him, as if there
were some other person present to whom he was appealing. 'He would be
truly sorry! This brother of mine! This junior of the place, this
slighted piece of lumber, pushed aside with his face to the wall, like
a rotten picture, and left so, for Heaven knows how many years he's
all gratitude and respect, and devotion too, he would have me
'I would have you believe nothing, James,' returned the other. 'Be
as just to me as you would to any other man below you. You ask a
question, and I answer it.'
'And have you nothing, Spaniel,' said the Manager, with unusual
irascibility, 'to complain of in him? No proud treatment to resent, no
insolence, no foolery of state, no exaction of any sort! What the
devil! are you man or mouse?'
'It would be strange if any two persons could be together for so
many years, especially as superior and inferior, without each having
something to complain of in the other - as he thought, at all events,
replied John Carker. 'But apart from my history here - '
'His history here!' exclaimed the Manager. 'Why, there it is. The
very fact that makes him an extreme case, puts him out of the whole
'Apart from that, which, as you hint, gives me a reason to be
thankful that I alone (happily for all the rest) possess, surely there
is no one in the House who would not say and feel at least as much.
You do not think that anybody here would be indifferent to a mischance
or misfortune happening to the head of the House, or anything than
truly sorry for it?'
'You have good reason to be bound to him too!' said the Manager,
contemptuously. 'Why, don't you believe that you are kept here, as a
cheap example, and a famous instance of the clemency of Dombey and
Son, redounding to the credit of the illustrious House?'
'No,' replied his brother, mildly, 'I have long believed that I am
kept here for more kind and disinterested reasons.
'But you were going,' said the Manager, with the snarl of a
tiger-cat, 'to recite some Christian precept, I observed.'
'Nay, James,' returned the other, 'though the tie of brotherhood
between us has been long broken and thrown away - '
'Who broke it, good Sir?' said the Manager.
'I, by my misconduct. I do not charge it upon you.'
The Manager replied, with that mute action of his bristling mouth,
'Oh, you don't charge it upon me!' and bade him go on.
'I say, though there is not that tie between us, do not, I entreat,
assail me with unnecessary taunts, or misinterpret what I say, or
would say. I was only going to suggest to you that it would be a
mistake to suppose that it is only you, who have been selected here,
above all others, for advancement, confidence and distinction
(selected, in the beginning, I know, for your great ability and
trustfulness), and who communicate more freely with Mr Dombey than
anyone, and stand, it may be said, on equal terms with him, and have
been favoured and enriched by him - that it would be a mistake to
suppose that it is only you who are tender of his welfare and
reputation. There is no one in the House, from yourself down to the
lowest, I sincerely believe, who does not participate in that
'You lie!' said the Manager, red with sudden anger. 'You're a
hypocrite, John Carker, and you lie.'
'James!' cried the other, flushing in his turn. 'What do you mean
by these insulting words? Why do you so basely use them to me,
'I tell you,' said the Manager, 'that your hypocrisy and meekness -
that all the hypocrisy and meekness of this place - is not worth that
to me,' snapping his thumb and finger, 'and that I see through it as
if it were air! There is not a man employed here, standing between
myself and the lowest in place (of whom you are very considerate, and
with reason, for he is not far off), who wouldn't be glad at heart to
see his master humbled: who does not hate him, secretly: who does not
wish him evil rather than good: and who would not turn upon him, if he
had the power and boldness. The nearer to his favour, the nearer to
his insolence; the closer to him, the farther from him. That's the
'I don't know,' said his brother, whose roused feelings had soon
yielded to surprise, 'who may have abused your ear with such
representations; or why you have chosen to try me, rather than
another. But that you have been trying me, and tampering with me, I am
now sure. You have a different manner and a different aspect from any
that I ever saw m you. I will only say to you, once more, you are
'I know I am,' said the Manager. 'I have told you so.'
'Not by me,' returned his brother. 'By your informant, if you have
one. If not, by your own thoughts and suspicions.'
'I have no suspicions,' said the Manager. 'Mine are certainties.
You pusillanimous, abject, cringing dogs! All making the same show,
all canting the same story, all whining the same professions, all
harbouring the same transparent secret.'
His brother withdrew, without saying more, and shut the door as he
concluded. Mr Carker the Manager drew a chair close before the fire,
and fell to beating the coals softly with the poker.
'The faint-hearted, fawning knaves,' he muttered, with his two
shining rows of teeth laid bare. 'There's not one among them, who
wouldn't feign to be so shocked and outraged - ! Bah! There's not one
among them, but if he had at once the power, and the wit and daring to
use it, would scatter Dombey's pride and lay it low, as ruthlessly as
I rake out these ashes.'
As he broke them up and strewed them in the grate, he looked on
with a thoughtful smile at what he was doing. 'Without the same queen
beckoner too!' he added presently; 'and there is pride there, not to
be forgotten - witness our own acquaintance!' With that he fell into a
deeper reverie, and sat pondering over the blackening grate, until he
rose up like a man who had been absorbed in a book, and looking round
him took his hat and gloves, went to where his horse was waiting,