Dombey and Son
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retail line of business, between whom and Mrs Pipchin there was a
small memorandum book, with a greasy red cover, perpetually in
question, and concerning which divers secret councils and conferences
were continually being held between the parties to that register, on
the mat in the passage, and with closed doors in the parlour. Nor were
there wanting dark hints from Master Bitherstone (whose temper had
been made revengeful by the solar heats of India acting on his blood),
of balances unsettled, and of a failure, on one occasion within his
memory, in the supply of moist sugar at tea-time. This grocer being a
bachelor and not a man who looked upon the surface for beauty, had
once made honourable offers for the hand of Berry, which Mrs Pipchin
had, with contumely and scorn, rejected. Everybody said how laudable
this was in Mrs Pipchin, relict of a man who had died of the Peruvian
mines; and what a staunch, high, independent spirit the old lady had.
But nobody said anything about poor Berry, who cried for six weeks
(being soundly rated by her good aunt all the time), and lapsed into a
state of hopeless spinsterhood.
'Berry's very fond of you, ain't she?' Paul once asked Mrs Pipchin
when they were sitting by the fire with the cat.
'Yes,' said Mrs Pipchin.
'Why?' asked Paul.
'Why!' returned the disconcerted old lady. 'How can you ask such
things, Sir! why are you fond of your sister Florence?'
'Because she's very good,' said Paul. 'There's nobody like
'Well!' retorted Mrs Pipchin, shortly, 'and there's nobody like me,
'Ain't there really though?' asked Paul, leaning forward in his
chair, and looking at her very hard.
'No,' said the old lady.
'I am glad of that,' observed Paul, rubbing his hands thoughtfully.
'That's a very good thing.'
Mrs Pipchin didn't dare to ask him why, lest she should receive
some perfectly annihilating answer. But as a compensation to her
wounded feelings, she harassed Master Bitherstone to that extent until
bed-time, that he began that very night to make arrangements for an
overland return to India, by secreting from his supper a quarter of a
round of bread and a fragment of moist Dutch cheese, as the beginning
of a stock of provision to support him on the voyage.
Mrs Pipchin had kept watch and ward over little Paul and his sister
for nearly twelve months. They had been home twice, but only for a few
days; and had been constant in their weekly visits to Mr Dombey at the
hotel. By little and little Paul had grown stronger, and had become
able to dispense with his carriage; though he still looked thin and
delicate; and still remained the same old, quiet, dreamy child that he
had been when first consigned to Mrs Pipchin's care. One Saturday
afternoon, at dusk, great consternation was occasioned in the Castle
by the unlooked-for announcement of Mr Dombey as a visitor to Mrs
Pipchin. The population of the parlour was immediately swept upstairs
as on the wings of a whirlwind, and after much slamming of bedroom
doors, and trampling overhead, and some knocking about of Master
Bitherstone by Mrs Pipchin, as a relief to the perturbation of her
spirits, the black bombazeen garments of the worthy old lady darkened
the audience-chamber where Mr Dombey was contemplating the vacant
arm-chair of his son and heir.
'Mrs Pipchin,' said Mr Dombey, 'How do you do?'
'Thank you, Sir,' said Mrs Pipchin, 'I am pretty well,
Mrs Pipchin always used that form of words. It meant, considering
her virtues, sacrifices, and so forth.
'I can't expect, Sir, to be very well,' said Mrs Pipchin, taking a
chair and fetching her breath; 'but such health as I have, I am
Mr Dombey inclined his head with the satisfied air of a patron, who
felt that this was the sort of thing for which he paid so much a
quarter. After a moment's silence he went on to say:
'Mrs Pipchin, I have taken the liberty of calling, to consult you
in reference to my son. I have had it in my mind to do so for some
time past; but have deferred it from time to time, in order that his
health might be thoroughly re-established. You have no misgivings on
that subject, Mrs Pipchin?'
'Brighton has proved very beneficial, Sir,' returned Mrs Pipchin.
'Very beneficial, indeed.'
'I purpose,' said Mr Dombey, 'his remaining at Brighton.'
Mrs Pipchin rubbed her hands, and bent her grey eyes on the fire.
'But,' pursued Mr Dombey, stretching out his forefinger, 'but
possibly that he should now make a change, and lead a different kind
of life here. In short, Mrs Pipchin, that is the object of my visit.
My son is getting on, Mrs Pipchin. Really, he is getting on.'
There was something melancholy in the triumphant air with which Mr
Dombey said this. It showed how long Paul's childish life had been to
him, and how his hopes were set upon a later stage of his existence.
Pity may appear a strange word to connect with anyone so haughty and
so cold, and yet he seemed a worthy subject for it at that moment.
'Six years old!' said Mr Dombey, settling his neckcloth - perhaps
to hide an irrepressible smile that rather seemed to strike upon the
surface of his face and glance away, as finding no resting-place, than
to play there for an instant. 'Dear me, six will be changed to
sixteen, before we have time to look about us.'
'Ten years,' croaked the unsympathetic Pipchin, with a frosty
glistening of her hard grey eye, and a dreary shaking of her bent
head, 'is a long time.'
'It depends on circumstances, returned Mr Dombey; 'at all events,
Mrs Pipchin, my son is six years old, and there is no doubt, I fear,
that in his studies he is behind many children of his age - or his
youth,' said Mr Dombey, quickly answering what he mistrusted was a
shrewd twinkle of the frosty eye, 'his youth is a more appropriate
expression. Now, Mrs Pipchin, instead of being behind his peers, my
son ought to be before them; far before them. There is an eminence
ready for him to mount upon. There is nothing of chance or doubt in
the course before my son. His way in life was clear and prepared, and
marked out before he existed. The education of such a young gentleman
must not be delayed. It must not be left imperfect. It must be very
steadily and seriously undertaken, Mrs Pipchin.'
'Well, Sir,' said Mrs Pipchin, 'I can say nothing to the contrary.'
'I was quite sure, Mrs Pipchin,' returned Mr Dombey, approvingly,
'that a person of your good sense could not, and would not.'
'There is a great deal of nonsense - and worse - talked about young
people not being pressed too hard at first, and being tempted on, and
all the rest of it, Sir,' said Mrs Pipchin, impatiently rubbing her
hooked nose. 'It never was thought of in my time, and it has no
business to be thought of now. My opinion is "keep 'em at it".'
'My good madam,' returned Mr Dombey, 'you have not acquired your
reputation undeservedly; and I beg you to believe, Mrs Pipchin, that I
am more than satisfied with your excellent system of management, and
shall have the greatest pleasure in commending it whenever my poor
commendation - ' Mr Dombey's loftiness when he affected to disparage
his own importance, passed all bounds - 'can be of any service. I have
been thinking of Doctor Blimber's, Mrs Pipchin.'
'My neighbour, Sir?' said Mrs Pipchin. 'I believe the Doctor's is
an excellent establishment. I've heard that it's very strictly
conducted, and there is nothing but learning going on from morning to
'And it's very expensive,' added Mr Dombey.
'And it's very expensive, Sir,' returned Mrs Pipchin, catching at
the fact, as if in omitting that, she had omitted one of its leading
'I have had some communication with the Doctor, Mrs Pipchin,' said
Mr Dombey, hitching his chair anxiously a little nearer to the fire,
'and he does not consider Paul at all too young for his purpose. He
mentioned several instances of boys in Greek at about the same age. If
I have any little uneasiness in my own mind, Mrs Pipchin, on the
subject of this change, it is not on that head. My son not having
known a mother has gradually concentrated much - too much - of his
childish affection on his sister. Whether their separation - ' Mr
Dombey said no more, but sat silent.
'Hoity-toity!' exclaimed Mrs Pipchin, shaking out her black
bombazeen skirts, and plucking up all the ogress within her. 'If she
don't like it, Mr Dombey, she must be taught to lump it.' The good
lady apologised immediately afterwards for using so common a figure of
speech, but said (and truly) that that was the way she reasoned with
Mr Dombey waited until Mrs Pipchin had done bridling and shaking
her head, and frowning down a legion of Bitherstones and Pankeys; and
then said quietly, but correctively, 'He, my good madam, he.'
Mrs Pipchin's system would have applied very much the same mode of
cure to any uneasiness on the part of Paul, too; but as the hard grey
eye was sharp enough to see that the recipe, however Mr Dombey might
admit its efficacy in the case of the daughter, was not a sovereign
remedy for the son, she argued the point; and contended that change,
and new society, and the different form of life he would lead at
Doctor Blimber's, and the studies he would have to master, would very
soon prove sufficient alienations. As this chimed in with Mr Dombey's
own hope and belief, it gave that gentleman a still higher opinion of
Mrs Pipchin's understanding; and as Mrs Pipchin, at the same time,
bewailed the loss of her dear little friend (which was not an
overwhelming shock to her, as she had long expected it, and had not
looked, in the beginning, for his remaining with her longer than three
months), he formed an equally good opinion of Mrs Pipchin's
disinterestedness. It was plain that he had given the subject anxious
consideration, for he had formed a plan, which he announced to the
ogress, of sending Paul to the Doctor's as a weekly boarder for the
first half year, during which time Florence would remain at the
Castle, that she might receive her brother there, on Saturdays. This