Dombey and Son
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Florence dropped upon the stairs in a swoon; and was found there by
Mrs Pipchin, she supposed. She knew nothing more, until she found
herself lying on her own bed, with Mrs Pipchin and some servants
standing round her.
'Where is Mama?' was her first question.
'Gone out to dinner,' said Mrs Pipchin.
'Mr Dombey is in his own room, Miss Dombey,' said Mrs Pipchin, 'and
the best thing you can do, is to take off your things and go to bed
this minute.' This was the sagacious woman's remedy for all
complaints, particularly lowness of spirits, and inability to sleep;
for which offences, many young victims in the days of the Brighton
Castle had been committed to bed at ten o'clock in the morning.
Without promising obedience, but on the plea of desiring to be very
quiet, Florence disengaged herself, as soon as she could, from the
ministration of Mrs Pipchin and her attendants. Left alone, she
thought of what had happened on the staircase, at first in doubt of
its reality; then with tears; then with an indescribable and terrible
alarm, like that she had felt the night before.
She determined not to go to bed until Edith returned, and if she
could not speak to her, at least to be sure that she was safe at home.
What indistinct and shadowy dread moved Florence to this resolution,
she did not know, and did not dare to think. She only knew that until
Edith came back, there was no repose for her aching head or throbbing
The evening deepened into night; midnight came; no Edith.
Florence could not read, or rest a moment. She paced her own room,
opened the door and paced the staircase-gallery outside, looked out of
window on the night, listened to the wind blowing and the rain
falling, sat down and watched the faces in the fire, got up and
watched the moon flying like a storm-driven ship through the sea of
All the house was gone to bed, except two servants who were waiting
the return of their mistress, downstairs.
One o'clock. The carriages that rumbled in the distance, turned
away, or stopped short, or went past; the silence gradually deepened,
and was more and more rarely broken, save by a rush of wind or sweep
of rain. Two o'clock. No Edith!
Florence, more agitated, paced her room; and paced the gallery
outside; and looked out at the night, blurred and wavy with the
raindrops on the glass, and the tears in her own eyes; and looked up
at the hurry in the sky, so different from the repose below, and yet
so tranquil and solitary. Three o'clock! There was a terror in every
ash that dropped out of the fire. No Edith yet.
More and more agitated, Florence paced her room, and paced the
gallery, and looked out at the moon with a new fancy of her likeness
to a pale fugitive hurrying away and hiding her guilty face. Four
struck! Five! No Edith yet.
But now there was some cautious stir in the house; and Florence
found that Mrs Pipchin had been awakened by one of those who sat up,
had risen and had gone down to her father's door. Stealing lower down
the stairs, and observing what passed, she saw her father come out in
his morning gown, and start when he was told his wife had not come
home. He dispatched a messenger to the stables to inquire whether the
coachman was there; and while the man was gone, dressed himself very
The man came back, in great haste, bringing the coachman with him,
who said he had been at home and in bed, since ten o'clock. He had
driven his mistress to her old house in Brook Street, where she had
been met by Mr Carker -
Florence stood upon the very spot where she had seen him coming
down. Again she shivered with the nameless terror of that sight, and
had hardly steadiness enough to hear and understand what followed.
- Who had told him, the man went on to say, that his mistress would
not want the carriage to go home in; and had dismissed him.
She saw her father turn white in the face, and heard him ask in a
quick, trembling voice, for Mrs Dombey's maid. The whole house was
roused; for she was there, in a moment, very pale too, and speaking
She said she had dressed her mistress early - full two hours before
she went out - and had been told, as she often was, that she would not
be wanted at night. She had just come from her mistress's rooms, but -
'But what! what was it?' Florence heard her father demand like a
'But the inner dressing-room was locked and the key gone.'
Her father seized a candle that was flaming on the ground - someone
had put it down there, and forgotten it - and came running upstairs
with such fury, that Florence, in her fear, had hardly time to fly
before him. She heard him striking in the door, as she ran on, with
her hands widely spread, and her hair streaming, and her face like a
distracted person's, back to her own room.
When the door yielded, and he rushed in, what did he see there? No
one knew. But thrown down in a costly mass upon the ground, was every
ornament she had had, since she had been his wife; every dress she had
worn; and everything she had possessed. This was the room in which he
had seen, in yonder mirror, the proud face discard him. This was the
room in which he had wondered, idly, how these things would look when
he should see them next!
Heaping them back into the drawers, and locking them up in a rage
of haste, he saw some papers on the table. The deed of settlement he
had executed on their marriage, and a letter. He read that she was
gone. He read that he was dishonoured. He read that she had fled, upon
her shameful wedding-day, with the man whom he had chosen for her
humiliation; and he tore out of the room, and out of the house, with a
frantic idea of finding her yet, at the place to which she had been
taken, and beating all trace of beauty out of the triumphant face with
his bare hand.
Florence, not knowing what she did, put on a shawl and bonnet, in a
dream of running through the streets until she found Edith, and then
clasping her in her arms, to save and bring her back. But when she
hurried out upon the staircase, and saw the frightened servants going
up and down with lights, and whispering together, and falling away
from her father as he passed down, she awoke to a sense of her own
powerlessness; and hiding in one of the great rooms that had been made
gorgeous for this, felt as if her heart would burst with grief.
Compassion for her father was the first distinct emotion that made
head against the flood of sorrow which overwhelmed her. Her constant
nature turned to him in his distress, as fervently and faithfully, as
if, in his prosperity, he had been the embodiment of that idea which
had gradually become so faint and dim. Although she did not know,
otherwise than through the suggestions of a shapeless fear, the full
extent of his calamity, he stood before her, wronged and deserted; and
again her yearning love impelled her to his side.
He was not long away; for Florence was yet weeping in the great
room and nourishing these thoughts, when she heard him come back. He
ordered the servants to set about their ordinary occupations, and went
into his own apartment, where he trod so heavily that she could hear
him walking up and down from end to end.
Yielding at once to the impulse of her affection, timid at all
other times, but bold in its truth to him in his adversity, and
undaunted by past repulse, Florence, dressed as she was, hurried
downstairs. As she set her light foot in the hall, he came out of his
room. She hastened towards him unchecked, with her arms stretched out,
and crying 'Oh dear, dear Papa!' as if she would have clasped him
round the neck.
And so she would have done. But in his frenzy, he lifted up his
cruel arm, and struck her, crosswise, with that heaviness, that she
tottered on the marble floor; and as he dealt the blow, he told her
what Edith was, and bade her follow her, since they had always been in
She did not sink down at his feet; she did not shut out the sight
of him with her trembling hands; she did not weep; she did not utter
one word of reproach. But she looked at him, and a cry of desolation
issued from her heart. For as she looked, she saw him murdering that
fond idea to which she had held in spite of him. She saw his cruelty,
neglect, and hatred dominant above it, and stamping it down. She saw
she had no father upon earth, and ran out, orphaned, from his house.
Ran out of his house. A moment, and her hand was on the lock, the
cry was on her lips, his face was there, made paler by the yellow
candles hastily put down and guttering away, and by the daylight
coming in above the door. Another moment, and the close darkness of
the shut-up house (forgotten to be opened, though it was long since
day) yielded to the unexpected glare and freedom of the morning; and
Florence, with her head bent down to hide her agony of tears, was in
The Flight of Florence
In the wildness of her sorrow, shame, and terror, the forlorn girl
hurried through the sunshine of a bright morning, as if it were the
darkness of a winter night. Wringing her hands and weeping bitterly,
insensible to everything but the deep wound in her breast, stunned by
the loss of all she loved, left like the sole survivor on a lonely
shore from the wreck of a great vessel, she fled without a thought,
without a hope, without a purpose, but to fly somewhere anywhere.
The cheerful vista of the long street, burnished by the morning
light, the sight of the blue sky and airy clouds, the vigorous
freshness of the day, so flushed and rosy in its conquest of the
night, awakened no responsive feelings in her so hurt bosom.
Somewhere, anywhere, to hide her head! somewhere, anywhere, for
refuge, never more to look upon the place from which she fled!
But there were people going to and fro; there were opening shops,
and servants at the doors of houses; there was the rising clash and
roar of the day's struggle. Florence saw surprise and curiosity in the
faces flitting past her; saw long shadows coming back upon the
pavement; and heard voices that were strange to her asking her where