Dombey and Son
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made as much of as a prince, and is petted and patted till it wishes
its friends further, but when a sweet young pretty innocent, that
never ought to have a cross word spoken to or of it, is rundown, the
case is very different indeed. My goodness gracious me, Miss Floy, you
naughty, sinful child, if you don't shut your eyes this minute, I'll
call in them hobgoblins that lives in the cock-loft to come and eat
you up alive!'
Here Miss Nipper made a horrible lowing, supposed to issue from a
conscientious goblin of the bull species, impatient to discharge the
severe duty of his position. Having further composed her young charge
by covering her head with the bedclothes, and making three or four
angry dabs at the pillow, she folded her arms, and screwed up her
mouth, and sat looking at the fire for the rest of the evening.
Though little Paul was said, in nursery phrase, 'to take a deal of
notice for his age,' he took as little notice of all this as of the
preparations for his christening on the next day but one; which
nevertheless went on about him, as to his personal apparel, and that
of his sister and the two nurses, with great activity. Neither did he,
on the arrival of the appointed morning, show any sense of its
importance; being, on the contrary, unusually inclined to sleep, and
unusually inclined to take it ill in his attendants that they dressed
him to go out.
It happened to be an iron-grey autumnal day, with a shrewd east
wind blowing - a day in keeping with the proceedings. Mr Dombey
represented in himself the wind, the shade, and the autumn of the
christening. He stood in his library to receive the company, as hard
and cold as the weather; and when he looked out through the glass
room, at the trees in the little garden, their brown and yellow leaves
came fluttering down, as if he blighted them.
Ugh! They were black, cold rooms; and seemed to be in mourning,
like the inmates of the house. The books precisely matched as to size,
and drawn up in line, like soldiers, looked in their cold, hard,
slippery uniforms, as if they had but one idea among them, and that
was a freezer. The bookcase, glazed and locked, repudiated all
familiarities. Mr Pitt, in bronze, on the top, with no trace of his
celestial origin' about him, guarded the unattainable treasure like an
enchanted Moor. A dusty urn at each high corner, dug up from an
ancient tomb, preached desolation and decay, as from two pulpits; and
the chimney-glass, reflecting Mr Dombey and his portrait at one blow,
seemed fraught with melancholy meditations.
The stiff and stark fire-irons appeared to claim a nearer
relationship than anything else there to Mr Dombey, with his buttoned
coat, his white cravat, his heavy gold watch-chain, and his creaking
But this was before the arrival of Mr and Mrs Chick, his lawful
relatives, who soon presented themselves.
'My dear Paul,' Mrs Chick murmured, as she embraced him, 'the
beginning, I hope, of many joyful days!'
'Thank you, Louisa,' said Mr Dombey, grimly. 'How do you do, Mr
'How do you do, Sir?' said Chick.
He gave Mr Dombey his hand, as if he feared it might electrify him.
Mr Dombey tool: it as if it were a fish, or seaweed, or some such
clammy substance, and immediately returned it to him with exalted
'Perhaps, Louisa,' said Mr Dombey, slightly turning his head in his
cravat, as if it were a socket, 'you would have preferred a fire?'
'Oh, my dear Paul, no,' said Mrs Chick, who had much ado to keep
her teeth from chattering; 'not for me.'
'Mr John,' said Mr Dombey, 'you are not sensible of any chill?'
Mr John, who had already got both his hands in his pockets over the
wrists, and was on the very threshold of that same canine chorus which
had given Mrs Chick so much offence on a former occasion, protested
that he was perfectly comfortable.
He added in a low voice, 'With my tiddle tol toor rul' - when he
was providentially stopped by Towlinson, who announced:
And enter that fair enslaver, with a blue nose and indescribably
frosty face, referable to her being very thinly clad in a maze of
fluttering odds and ends, to do honour to the ceremony.
'How do you do, Miss Tox?' said Mr Dombey.
Miss Tox, in the midst of her spreading gauzes, went down
altogether like an opera-glass shutting-up; she curtseyed so low, in
acknowledgment of Mr Dombey's advancing a step or two to meet her.
'I can never forget this occasion, Sir,' said Miss Tox, softly.
''Tis impossible. My dear Louisa, I can hardly believe the evidence of
If Miss Tox could believe the evidence of one of her senses, it was
a very cold day. That was quite clear. She took an early opportunity
of promoting the circulation in the tip of her nose by secretly
chafing it with her pocket handkerchief, lest, by its very low
temperature, it should disagreeably astonish the baby when she came to
The baby soon appeared, carried in great glory by Richards; while
Florence, in custody of that active young constable, Susan Nipper,
brought up the rear. Though the whole nursery party were dressed by
this time in lighter mourning than at first, there was enough in the
appearance of the bereaved children to make the day no brighter. The
baby too - it might have been Miss Tox's nose - began to cry. Thereby,
as it happened, preventing Mr Chick from the awkward fulfilment of a
very honest purpose he had; which was, to make much of Florence. For
this gentleman, insensible to the superior claims of a perfect Dombey
(perhaps on account of having the honour to be united to a Dombey
himself, and being familiar with excellence), really liked her, and
showed that he liked her, and was about to show it in his own way now,
when Paul cried, and his helpmate stopped him short
'Now Florence, child!' said her aunt, briskly, 'what are you doing,
love? Show yourself to him. Engage his attention, my dear!'
The atmosphere became or might have become colder and colder, when
Mr Dombey stood frigidly watching his little daughter, who, clapping
her hands, and standing On tip-toe before the throne of his son and
heir, lured him to bend down from his high estate, and look at her.
Some honest act of Richards's may have aided the effect, but he did
look down, and held his peace. As his sister hid behind her nurse, he
followed her with his eyes; and when she peeped out with a merry cry
to him, he sprang up and crowed lustily - laughing outright when she
ran in upon him; and seeming to fondle her curls with his tiny hands,
while she smothered him with kisses.
Was Mr Dombey pleased to see this? He testified no pleasure by the
relaxation of a nerve; but outward tokens of any kind of feeling were
unusual with him. If any sunbeam stole into the room to light the
children at their play, it never reached his face. He looked on so
fixedly and coldly, that the warm light vanished even from the
laughing eyes of little Florence, when, at last, they happened to meet
It was a dull, grey, autumn day indeed, and in a minute's pause and
silence that took place, the leaves fell sorrowfully.
'Mr John,' said Mr Dombey, referring to his watch, and assuming his
hat and gloves. 'Take my sister, if you please: my arm today is Miss
Tox's. You had better go first with Master Paul, Richards. Be very
In Mr Dombey's carriage, Dombey and Son, Miss Tox, Mrs Chick,
Richards, and Florence. In a little carriage following it, Susan
Nipper and the owner Mr Chick. Susan looking out of window, without
intermission, as a relief from the embarrassment of confronting the
large face of that gentleman, and thinking whenever anything rattled
that he was putting up in paper an appropriate pecuniary compliment
Once upon the road to church, Mr Dombey clapped his hands for the
amusement of his son. At which instance of parental enthusiasm Miss
Tox was enchanted. But exclusive of this incident, the chief
difference between the christening party and a party in a mourning
coach consisted in the colours of the carriage and horses.
Arrived at the church steps, they were received by a portentous
beadle.' Mr Dombey dismounting first to help the ladies out, and
standing near him at the church door, looked like another beadle. A
beadle less gorgeous but more dreadful; the beadle of private life;
the beadle of our business and our bosoms.
Miss Tox's hand trembled as she slipped it through Mr Dombey's arm,
and felt herself escorted up the steps, preceded by a cocked hat and a
Babylonian collar. It seemed for a moment like that other solemn
institution, 'Wilt thou have this man, Lucretia?' 'Yes, I will.'
'Please to bring the child in quick out of the air there,'
whispered the beadle, holding open the inner door of the church.
Little Paul might have asked with Hamlet 'into my grave?' so chill
and earthy was the place. The tall shrouded pulpit and reading desk;
the dreary perspective of empty pews stretching away under the
galleries, and empty benches mounting to the roof and lost in the
shadow of the great grim organ; the dusty matting and cold stone
slabs; the grisly free seats' in the aisles; and the damp corner by
the bell-rope, where the black trestles used for funerals were stowed
away, along with some shovels and baskets, and a coil or two of
deadly-looking rope; the strange, unusual, uncomfortable smell, and
the cadaverous light; were all in unison. It was a cold and dismal
'There's a wedding just on, Sir,' said the beadle, 'but it'll be
over directly, if you'll walk into the westry here.
Before he turned again to lead the way, he gave Mr Dombey a bow and
a half smile of recognition, importing that he (the beadle) remembered
to have had the pleasure of attending on him when he buried his wife,
and hoped he had enjoyed himself since.
The very wedding looked dismal as they passed in front of the
altar. The bride was too old and the bridegroom too young, and a
superannuated beau with one eye and an eyeglass stuck in its blank