Dombey and Son
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great weight with him; for he knew that they were jealous of any
interference with their charge, and he never for a moment took it into
account that they might be solicitous to divide a responsibility, of
which he had, as shown just now, his own established views. Broke his
heart of the Peruvian mines, mused Mr Dombey. Well! a very respectable
way of doing It.
'Supposing we should decide, on to-morrow's inquiries, to send Paul
down to Brighton to this lady, who would go with him?' inquired Mr
Dombey, after some reflection.
'I don't think you could send the child anywhere at present without
Florence, my dear Paul,' returned his sister, hesitating. 'It's quite
an infatuation with him. He's very young, you know, and has his
Mr Dombey turned his head away, and going slowly to the bookcase,
and unlocking it, brought back a book to read.
'Anybody else, Louisa?' he said, without looking up, and turning
over the leaves.
'Wickam, of course. Wickam would be quite sufficient, I should
say,' returned his sister. 'Paul being in such hands as Mrs Pipchin's,
you could hardly send anybody who would be a further check upon her.
You would go down yourself once a week at least, of course.'
'Of course,' said Mr Dombey; and sat looking at one page for an
hour afterwards, without reading one word.
This celebrated Mrs Pipchin was a marvellous ill-favoured,
ill-conditioned old lady, of a stooping figure, with a mottled face,
like bad marble, a hook nose, and a hard grey eye, that looked as if
it might have been hammered at on an anvil without sustaining any
injury. Forty years at least had elapsed since the Peruvian mines had
been the death of Mr Pipchin; but his relict still wore black
bombazeen, of such a lustreless, deep, dead, sombre shade, that gas
itself couldn't light her up after dark, and her presence was a
quencher to any number of candles. She was generally spoken of as 'a
great manager' of children; and the secret of her management was, to
give them everything that they didn't like, and nothing that they did
- which was found to sweeten their dispositions very much. She was
such a bitter old lady, that one was tempted to believe there had been
some mistake in the application of the Peruvian machinery, and that
all her waters of gladness and milk of human kindness, had been pumped
out dry, instead of the mines.
The Castle of this ogress and child-queller was in a steep
by-street at Brighton; where the soil was more than usually chalky,
flinty, and sterile, and the houses were more than usually brittle and
thin; where the small front-gardens had the unaccountable property of
producing nothing but marigolds, whatever was sown in them; and where
snails were constantly discovered holding on to the street doors, and
other public places they were not expected to ornament, with the
tenacity of cupping-glasses. In the winter time the air couldn't be
got out of the Castle, and in the summer time it couldn't be got in.
There was such a continual reverberation of wind in it, that it
sounded like a great shell, which the inhabitants were obliged to hold
to their ears night and day, whether they liked it or no. It was not,
naturally, a fresh-smelling house; and in the window of the front
parlour, which was never opened, Mrs Pipchin kept a collection of
plants in pots, which imparted an earthy flavour of their own to the
establishment. However choice examples of their kind, too, these
plants were of a kind peculiarly adapted to the embowerment of Mrs
Pipchin. There were half-a-dozen specimens of the cactus, writhing
round bits of lath, like hairy serpents; another specimen shooting out
broad claws, like a green lobster; several creeping vegetables,
possessed of sticky and adhesive leaves; and one uncomfortable
flower-pot hanging to the ceiling, which appeared to have boiled over,
and tickling people underneath with its long green ends, reminded them
of spiders - in which Mrs Pipchin's dwelling was uncommonly prolific,
though perhaps it challenged competition still more proudly, in the
season, in point of earwigs.
Mrs Pipchin's scale of charges being high, however, to all who
could afford to pay, and Mrs Pipchin very seldom sweetening the
equable acidity of her nature in favour of anybody, she was held to be
an old 'lady of remarkable firmness, who was quite scientific in her
knowledge of the childish character.' On this reputation, and on the
broken heart of Mr Pipchin, she had contrived, taking one year with
another, to eke out a tolerable sufficient living since her husband's
demise. Within three days after Mrs Chick's first allusion to her,
this excellent old lady had the satisfaction of anticipating a
handsome addition to her current receipts, from the pocket of Mr
Dombey; and of receiving Florence and her little brother Paul, as
inmates of the Castle.
Mrs Chick and Miss Tox, who had brought them down on the previous
night (which they all passed at an Hotel), had just driven away from
the door, on their journey home again; and Mrs Pipchin, with her back
to the fire, stood, reviewing the new-comers, like an old soldier. Mrs
Pipchin's middle-aged niece, her good-natured and devoted slave, but
possessing a gaunt and iron-bound aspect, and much afflicted with
boils on her nose, was divesting Master Bitherstone of the clean
collar he had worn on parade. Miss Pankey, the only other little
boarder at present, had that moment been walked off to the Castle
Dungeon (an empty apartment at the back, devoted to correctional
purposes), for having sniffed thrice, in the presence of visitors.
'Well, Sir,' said Mrs Pipchin to Paul, 'how do you think you shall
'I don't think I shall like you at all,' replied Paul. 'I want to
go away. This isn't my house.'
'No. It's mine,' retorted Mrs Pipchin.
'It's a very nasty one,' said Paul.
'There's a worse place in it than this though,' said Mrs Pipchin,
'where we shut up our bad boys.'
'Has he ever been in it?' asked Paul: pointing out Master
Mrs Pipchin nodded assent; and Paul had enough to do, for the rest
of that day, in surveying Master Bitherstone from head to foot, and
watching all the workings of his countenance, with the interest
attaching to a boy of mysterious and terrible experiences.
At one o'clock there was a dinner, chiefly of the farinaceous and
vegetable kind, when Miss Pankey (a mild little blue-eyed morsel of a
child, who was shampoo'd every morning, and seemed in danger of being
rubbed away, altogether) was led in from captivity by the ogress
herself, and instructed that nobody who sniffed before visitors ever
went to Heaven. When this great truth had been thoroughly impressed
upon her, she was regaled with rice; and subsequently repeated the
form of grace established in the Castle, in which there was a special
clause, thanking Mrs Pipchin for a good dinner. Mrs Pipchin's niece,
Berinthia, took cold pork. Mrs Pipchin, whose constitution required
warm nourishment, made a special repast of mutton-chops, which were
brought in hot and hot, between two plates, and smelt very nice.
As it rained after dinner, and they couldn't go out walking on the
beach, and Mrs Pipchin's constitution required rest after chops, they
went away with Berry (otherwise Berinthia) to the Dungeon; an empty
room looking out upon a chalk wall and a water-butt, and made ghastly
by a ragged fireplace without any stove in it. Enlivened by company,
however, this was the best place after all; for Berry played with them
there, and seemed to enjoy a game at romps as much as they did; until
Mrs Pipchin knocking angrily at the wall, like the Cock Lane Ghost'
revived, they left off, and Berry told them stories in a whisper until
For tea there was plenty of milk and water, and bread and butter,
with a little black tea-pot for Mrs Pipchin and Berry, and buttered
toast unlimited for Mrs Pipchin, which was brought in, hot and hot,
like the chops. Though Mrs Pipchin got very greasy, outside, over this
dish, it didn't seem to lubricate her internally, at all; for she was
as fierce as ever, and the hard grey eye knew no softening.
After tea, Berry brought out a little work-box, with the Royal
Pavilion on the lid, and fell to working busily; while Mrs Pipchin,
having put on her spectacles and opened a great volume bound in green
baize, began to nod. And whenever Mrs Pipchin caught herself falling
forward into the fire, and woke up, she filliped Master Bitherstone on
the nose for nodding too.
At last it was the children's bedtime, and after prayers they went
to bed. As little Miss Pankey was afraid of sleeping alone in the
dark, Mrs Pipchin always made a point of driving her upstairs herself,
like a sheep; and it was cheerful to hear Miss Pankey moaning long
afterwards, in the least eligible chamber, and Mrs Pipchin now and
then going in to shake her. At about half-past nine o'clock the odour
of a warm sweet-bread (Mrs Pipchin's constitution wouldn't go to sleep
without sweet-bread) diversified the prevailing fragrance of the
house, which Mrs Wickam said was 'a smell of building;' and slumber
fell upon the Castle shortly after.
The breakfast next morning was like the tea over night, except that
Mrs Pipchin took her roll instead of toast, and seemed a little more
irate when it was over. Master Bitherstone read aloud to the rest a
pedigree from Genesis judiciously selected by Mrs Pipchin), getting
over the names with the ease and clearness of a person tumbling up the
treadmill. That done, Miss Pankey was borne away to be shampoo'd; and
Master Bitherstone to have something else done to him with salt water,
from which he always returned very blue and dejected. Paul and
Florence went out in the meantime on the beach with Wickam - who was
constantly in tears - and at about noon Mrs Pipchin presided over some
Early Readings. It being a part of Mrs Pipchin's system not to
encourage a child's mind to develop and expand itself like a young
flower, but to open it by force like an oyster, the moral of these
lessons was usually of a violent and stunning character: the hero - a
naughty boy - seldom, in the mildest catastrophe, being finished off
anything less than a lion, or a bear.
Such was life at Mrs Pipchin's. On Saturday Mr Dombey came down;
and Florence and Paul would go to his Hotel, and have tea They passed
the whole of Sunday with him, and generally rode out before dinner;
and on these occasions Mr Dombey seemed to grow, like Falstaff's
assailants, and instead of being one man in buckram, to become a
dozen. Sunday evening was the most melancholy evening in the week; for
Mrs Pipchin always made a point of being particularly cross on Sunday
nights. Miss Pankey was generally brought back from an aunt's at
Rottingdean, in deep distress; and Master Bitherstone, whose relatives
were all in India, and who was required to sit, between the services,
in an erect position with his head against the parlour wall, neither
moving hand nor foot, suffered so acutely in his young spirits that he
once asked Florence, on a Sunday night, if she could give him any idea
of the way back to Bengal.