Dombey and Son
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In this way, Walter, so far from forgetting or losing sight of his
acquaintance with Florence, only remembered it better and better. As
to its adventurous beginning, and all those little circumstances which
gave it a distinctive character and relish, he took them into account,
more as a pleasant story very agreeable to his imagination, and not to
be dismissed from it, than as a part of any matter of fact with which
he was concerned. They set off Florence very much, to his fancy; but
not himself. Sometimes he thought (and then he walked very fast) what
a grand thing it would have been for him to have been going to sea on
the day after that first meeting, and to have gone, and to have done
wonders there, and to have stopped away a long time, and to have come
back an Admiral of all the colours of the dolphin, or at least a
Post-Captain with epaulettes of insupportable brightness, and have
married Florence (then a beautiful young woman) in spite of Mr
Dombey's teeth, cravat, and watch-chain, and borne her away to the
blue shores of somewhere or other, triumphantly. But these flights of
fancy seldom burnished the brass plate of Dombey and Son's Offices
into a tablet of golden hope, or shed a brilliant lustre on their
dirty skylights; and when the Captain and Uncle Sol talked about
Richard Whittington and masters' daughters, Walter felt that he
understood his true position at Dombey and Son's, much better than
So it was that he went on doing what he had to do from day to day,
in a cheerful, pains-taking, merry spirit; and saw through the
sanguine complexion of Uncle Sol and Captain Cuttle; and yet
entertained a thousand indistinct and visionary fancies of his own, to
which theirs were work-a-day probabilities. Such was his condition at
the Pipchin period, when he looked a little older than of yore, but
not much; and was the same light-footed, light-hearted, light-headed
lad, as when he charged into the parlour at the head of Uncle Sol and
the imaginary boarders, and lighted him to bring up the Madeira.
'Uncle Sol,' said Walter, 'I don't think you're well. You haven't
eaten any breakfast. I shall bring a doctor to you, if you go on like
'He can't give me what I want, my boy,' said Uncle Sol. 'At least
he is in good practice if he can - and then he wouldn't.'
'What is it, Uncle? Customers?'
'Ay,' returned Solomon, with a sigh. 'Customers would do.'
'Confound it, Uncle!' said Walter, putting down his breakfast cup
with a clatter, and striking his hand on the table: 'when I see the
people going up and down the street in shoals all day, and passing and
re-passing the shop every minute, by scores, I feel half tempted to
rush out, collar somebody, bring him in, and make him buy fifty
pounds' worth of instruments for ready money. What are you looking in
at the door for? - ' continued Walter, apostrophizing an old gentleman
with a powdered head (inaudibly to him of course), who was staring at
a ship's telescope with all his might and main. 'That's no use. I
could do that. Come in and buy it!'
The old gentleman, however, having satiated his curiosity, walked
'There he goes!' said Walter. 'That's the way with 'em all. But,
Uncle - I say, Uncle Sol' - for the old man was meditating and had not
responded to his first appeal. 'Don't be cast down. Don't be out of
spirits, Uncle. When orders do come, they'll come in such a crowd, you
won't be able to execute 'em.'
'I shall be past executing 'em, whenever they come, my boy,'
returned Solomon Gills. 'They'll never come to this shop again, till I
am out of t.'
'I say, Uncle! You musn't really, you know!' urged Walter. 'Don't!'
Old Sol endeavoured to assume a cheery look, and smiled across the
little table at him as pleasantly as he could.
'There's nothing more than usual the matter; is there, Uncle?' said
Walter, leaning his elbows on the tea tray, and bending over, to speak
the more confidentially and kindly. 'Be open with me, Uncle, if there
is, and tell me all about it.'
'No, no, no,' returned Old Sol. 'More than usual? No, no. What
should there be the matter more than usual?'
Walter answered with an incredulous shake of his head. 'That's what
I want to know,' he said, 'and you ask me! I'll tell you what, Uncle,
when I see you like this, I am quite sorry that I live with you.'
Old Sol opened his eyes involuntarily.
'Yes. Though nobody ever was happier than I am and always have been
with you, I am quite sorry that I live with you, when I see you with
anything in your mind.'
'I am a little dull at such times, I know,' observed Solomon,
meekly rubbing his hands.
'What I mean, Uncle Sol,' pursued Walter, bending over a little
more to pat him on the shoulder, 'is, that then I feel you ought to
have, sitting here and pouring out the tea instead of me, a nice
little dumpling of a wife, you know, - a comfortable, capital, cosy
old lady, who was just a match for you, and knew how to manage you,
and keep you in good heart. Here am I, as loving a nephew as ever was
(I am sure I ought to be!) but I am only a nephew, and I can't be such
a companion to you when you're low and out of sorts as she would have
made herself, years ago, though I'm sure I'd give any money if I could
cheer you up. And so I say, when I see you with anything on your mind,
that I feel quite sorry you haven't got somebody better about you than
a blundering young rough-and-tough boy like me, who has got the will
to console you, Uncle, but hasn't got the way - hasn't got the way,'
repeated Walter, reaching over further yet, to shake his Uncle by the
'Wally, my dear boy,' said Solomon, 'if the cosy little old lady
had taken her place in this parlour five and forty years ago, I never
could have been fonder of her than I am of you.'
'I know that, Uncle Sol,' returned Walter. 'Lord bless you, I know
that. But you wouldn't have had the whole weight of any uncomfortable
secrets if she had been with you, because she would have known how to
relieve you of 'em, and I don't.'
'Yes, yes, you do,' returned the Instrument-maker.
'Well then, what's the matter, Uncle Sol?' said Walter, coaxingly.
'Come! What's the matter?'
Solomon Gills persisted that there was nothing the matter; and
maintained it so resolutely, that his nephew had no resource but to
make a very indifferent imitation of believing him.
'All I can say is, Uncle Sol, that if there is - '
'But there isn't,' said Solomon.
'Very well,, said Walter. 'Then I've no more to say; and that's
lucky, for my time's up for going to business. I shall look in
by-and-by when I'm out, to see how you get on, Uncle. And mind, Uncle!
I'll never believe you again, and never tell you anything more about
Mr Carker the Junior, if I find out that you have been deceiving me!'
Solomon Gills laughingly defied him to find out anything of the
kind; and Walter, revolving in his thoughts all sorts of impracticable
ways of making fortunes and placing the wooden Midshipman in a
position of independence, betook himself to the offices of Dombey and
Son with a heavier countenance than he usually carried there.
There lived in those days, round the corner - in Bishopsgate Street
Without - one Brogley, sworn broker and appraiser, who kept a shop
where every description of second-hand furniture was exhibited in the
most uncomfortable aspect, and under circumstances and in combinations
the most completely foreign to its purpose. Dozens of chairs hooked on
to washing-stands, which with difficulty poised themselves on the
shoulders of sideboards, which in their turn stood upon the wrong side
of dining-tables, gymnastic with their legs upward on the tops of
other dining-tables, were among its most reasonable arrangements. A
banquet array of dish-covers, wine-glasses, and decanters was
generally to be seen, spread forth upon the bosom of a four-post
bedstead, for the entertainment of such genial company as half-a-dozen
pokers, and a hall lamp. A set of window curtains with no windows
belonging to them, would be seen gracefully draping a barricade of
chests of drawers, loaded with little jars from chemists' shops; while
a homeless hearthrug severed from its natural companion the fireside,
braved the shrewd east wind in its adversity, and trembled in
melancholy accord with the shrill complainings of a cabinet piano,
wasting away, a string a day, and faintly resounding to the noises of
the street in its jangling and distracted brain. Of motionless clocks
that never stirred a finger, and seemed as incapable of being
successfully wound up, as the pecuniary affairs of their former
owners, there was always great choice in Mr Brogley's shop; and
various looking-glasses, accidentally placed at compound interest of
reflection and refraction, presented to the eye an eternal perspective
of bankruptcy and ruin.
Mr Brogley himself was a moist-eyed, pink-complexioned,
crisp-haired man, of a bulky figure and an easy temper - for that
class of Caius Marius who sits upon the ruins of other people's
Carthages, can keep up his spirits well enough. He had looked in at
Solomon's shop sometimes, to ask a question about articles in
Solomon's way of business; and Walter knew him sufficiently to give
him good day when they met in the street. But as that was the extent
of the broker's acquaintance with Solomon Gills also, Walter was not a
little surprised when he came back in the course of the forenoon,
agreeably to his promise, to find Mr Brogley sitting in the back
parlour with his hands in his pockets, and his hat hanging up behind
'Well, Uncle Sol!' said Walter. The old man was sitting ruefully on
the opposite side of the table, with his spectacles over his eyes, for
a wonder, instead of on his forehead. 'How are you now?'
Solomon shook his head, and waved one hand towards the broker, as
'Is there anything the matter?' asked Walter, with a catching in
'No, no. There's nothing the matter, said Mr Brogley. 'Don't let it
put you out of the way.' Walter looked from the broker to his Uncle in
mute amazement. 'The fact is,' said Mr Brogley, 'there's a little
payment on a bond debt - three hundred and seventy odd, overdue: and
I'm in possession.'