Dombey and Son
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started on this strange adventure, when, escaping from the clash and
clangour of a narrow street full of carts and waggons, she peeped into
a kind of wharf or landing-place upon the river-side, where there were
a great many packages, casks, and boxes, strewn about; a large pair of
wooden scales; and a little wooden house on wheels, outside of which,
looking at the neighbouring masts and boats, a stout man stood
whistling, with his pen behind his ear, and his hands in his pockets,
as if his day's work were nearly done.
'Now then! 'said this man, happening to turn round. 'We haven't got
anything for you, little girl. Be off!'
'If you please, is this the City?' asked the trembling daughter of
'Ah! It's the City. You know that well enough, I daresay. Be off!
We haven't got anything for you.'
'I don't want anything, thank you,' was the timid answer. 'Except
to know the way to Dombey and Son's.'
The man who had been strolling carelessly towards her, seemed
surprised by this reply, and looking attentively in her face,
'Why, what can you want with Dombey and Son's?'
'To know the way there, if you please.'
The man looked at her yet more curiously, and rubbed the back of
his head so hard in his wonderment that he knocked his own hat off.
'Joe!' he called to another man - a labourer- as he picked it up
and put it on again.
'Joe it is!' said Joe.
'Where's that young spark of Dombey's who's been watching the
shipment of them goods?'
'Just gone, by t'other gate,' said Joe.
'Call him back a minute.'
Joe ran up an archway, bawling as he went, and very soon returned
with a blithe-looking boy.
'You're Dombey's jockey, ain't you?' said the first man.
'I'm in Dombey's House, Mr Clark,' returned the boy.
'Look'ye here, then,' said Mr Clark.
Obedient to the indication of Mr Clark's hand, the boy approached
towards Florence, wondering, as well he might, what he had to do with
her. But she, who had heard what passed, and who, besides the relief
of so suddenly considering herself safe at her journey's end, felt
reassured beyond all measure by his lively youthful face and manner,
ran eagerly up to him, leaving one of the slipshod shoes upon the
ground and caught his hand in both of hers.
'I am lost, if you please!' said Florence.
'Lost!' cried the boy.
'Yes, I was lost this morning, a long way from here - and I have
had my clothes taken away, since - and I am not dressed in my own now
- and my name is Florence Dombey, my little brother's only sister -
and, oh dear, dear, take care of me, if you please!' sobbed Florence,
giving full vent to the childish feelings she had so long suppressed,
and bursting into tears. At the same time her miserable bonnet falling
off, her hair came tumbling down about her face: moving to speechless
admiration and commiseration, young Walter, nephew of Solomon Gills,
Ships' Instrument-maker in general.
Mr Clark stood rapt in amazement: observing under his breath, I
never saw such a start on this wharf before. Walter picked up the
shoe, and put it on the little foot as the Prince in the story might
have fitted Cinderella's slipper on. He hung the rabbit-skin over his
left arm; gave the right to Florence; and felt, not to say like
Richard Whittington - that is a tame comparison - but like Saint
George of England, with the dragon lying dead before him.
'Don't cry, Miss Dombey,' said Walter, in a transport of
'What a wonderful thing for me that I am here! You are as safe now
as if you were guarded by a whole boat's crew of picked men from a
man-of-war. Oh, don't cry.'
'I won't cry any more,' said Florence. 'I am only crying for joy.'
'Crying for joy!' thought Walter, 'and I'm the cause of it! Come
along, Miss Dombey. There's the other shoe off now! Take mine, Miss
'No, no, no,' said Florence, checking him in the act of impetuously
pulling off his own. 'These do better. These do very well.'
'Why, to be sure,' said Walter, glancing at her foot, 'mine are a
mile too large. What am I thinking about! You never could walk in
mine! Come along, Miss Dombey. Let me see the villain who will dare
molest you now.'
So Walter, looking immensely fierce, led off Florence, looking very
happy; and they went arm-in-arm along the streets, perfectly
indifferent to any astonishment that their appearance might or did
excite by the way.
It was growing dark and foggy, and beginning to rain too; but they
cared nothing for this: being both wholly absorbed in the late
adventures of Florence, which she related with the innocent good faith
and confidence of her years, while Walter listened as if, far from the
mud and grease of Thames Street, they were rambling alone among the
broad leaves and tall trees of some desert island in the tropics - as
he very likely fancied, for the time, they were.
'Have we far to go?' asked Florence at last, lilting up her eyes to
her companion's face.
'Ah! By-the-bye,' said Walter, stopping, 'let me see; where are we?
Oh! I know. But the offices are shut up now, Miss Dombey. There's
nobody there. Mr Dombey has gone home long ago. I suppose we must go
home too? or, stay. Suppose I take you to my Uncle's, where I live -
it's very near here - and go to your house in a coach to tell them you
are safe, and bring you back some clothes. Won't that be best?'
'I think so,' answered Florence. 'Don't you? What do you think?'
As they stood deliberating in the street, a man passed them, who
glanced quickly at Walter as he went by, as if he recognised him; but
seeming to correct that first impression, he passed on without
'Why, I think it's Mr Carker,' said Walter. 'Carker in our House.
Not Carker our Manager, Miss Dombey - the other Carker; the Junior -
Halloa! Mr Carker!'
'Is that Walter Gay?' said the other, stopping and returning. 'I
couldn't believe it, with such a strange companion.
As he stood near a lamp, listening with surprise to Walter's
hurried explanation, he presented a remarkable contrast to the two
youthful figures arm-in-arm before him. He was not old, but his hair
was white; his body was bent, or bowed as if by the weight of some
great trouble: and there were deep lines in his worn and melancholy
face. The fire of his eyes, the expression of his features, the very
voice in which he spoke, were all subdued and quenched, as if the
spirit within him lay in ashes. He was respectably, though very
plainly dressed, in black; but his clothes, moulded to the general
character of his figure, seemed to shrink and abase themselves upon
him, and to join in the sorrowful solicitation which the whole man
from head to foot expressed, to be left unnoticed, and alone in his
And yet his interest in youth and hopefulness was not extinguished
with the other embers of his soul, for he watched the boy's earnest
countenance as he spoke with unusual sympathy, though with an
inexplicable show of trouble and compassion, which escaped into his
looks, however hard he strove to hold it prisoner. When Walter, in
conclusion, put to him the question he had put to Florence, he still
stood glancing at him with the same expression, as if he had read some
fate upon his face, mournfully at variance with its present
'What do you advise, Mr Carker?' said Walter, smiling. 'You always
give me good advice, you know, when you do speak to me. That's not
'I think your own idea is the best,' he answered: looking from
Florence to Walter, and back again.
'Mr Carker,' said Walter, brightening with a generous thought,
'Come! Here's a chance for you. Go you to Mr Dombey's, and be the
messenger of good news. It may do you some good, Sir. I'll remain at
home. You shall go.'
'I!' returned the other.
'Yes. Why not, Mr Carker?' said the boy.
He merely shook him by the hand in answer; he seemed in a manner
ashamed and afraid even to do that; and bidding him good-night, and
advising him to make haste, turned away.
'Come, Miss Dombey,' said Walter, looking after him as they turned
away also, 'we'll go to my Uncle's as quick as we can. Did you ever
hear Mr Dombey speak of Mr Carker the Junior, Miss Florence?'
'No,' returned the child, mildly, 'I don't often hear Papa speak.'
'Ah! true! more shame for him,' thought Walter. After a minute's
pause, during which he had been looking down upon the gentle patient
little face moving on at his side, he said, 'The strangest man, Mr
Carker the Junior is, Miss Florence, that ever you heard of. If you
could understand what an extraordinary interest he takes in me, and
yet how he shuns me and avoids me; and what a low place he holds in