Dombey and Son
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'A Nero, a Tiberius, a Caligula, a Heliogabalus, and many more,
pursued the Doctor; 'it is, Mr Feeder - if you are doing me the honour
to attend - remarkable; VERY remarkable, Sir - '
But Johnson, unable to suppress it any longer, burst at that moment
into such an overwhelming fit of coughing, that although both his
immediate neighbours thumped him on the back, and Mr Feeder himself
held a glass of water to his lips, and the butler walked him up and
down several times between his own chair and the sideboard, like a
sentry, it was a full five minutes before he was moderately composed.
Then there was a profound silence.
'Gentlemen,' said Doctor Blimber, 'rise for Grace! Cornelia, lift
Dombey down' - nothing of whom but his scalp was accordingly seen
above the tablecloth. 'Johnson will repeat to me tomorrow morning
before breakfast, without book, and from the Greek Testament, the
first chapter of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians. We will
resume our studies, Mr Feeder, in half-an-hour.'
The young gentlemen bowed and withdrew. Mr Feeder did likewise.
During the half-hour, the young gentlemen, broken into pairs, loitered
arm-in-arm up and down a small piece of ground behind the house, or
endeavoured to kindle a spark of animation in the breast of Briggs.
But nothing happened so vulgar as play. Punctually at the appointed
time, the gong was sounded, and the studies, under the joint auspices
of Doctor Blimber and Mr Feeder, were resumed.
As the Olympic game of lounging up and down had been cut shorter
than usual that day, on Johnson's account, they all went out for a
walk before tea. Even Briggs (though he hadn't begun yet) partook of
this dissipation; in the enjoyment of which he looked over the cliff
two or three times darkly. Doctor Blimber accompanied them; and Paul
had the honour of being taken in tow by the Doctor himself: a
distinguished state of things, in which he looked very little and
Tea was served in a style no less polite than the dinner; and after
tea, the young gentlemen rising and bowing as before, withdrew to
fetch up the unfinished tasks of that day, or to get up the already
looming tasks of to-morrow. In the meantime Mr Feeder withdrew to his
own room; and Paul sat in a corner wondering whether Florence was
thinking of him, and what they were all about at Mrs Pipchin's.
Mr Toots, who had been detained by an important letter from the
Duke of Wellington, found Paul out after a time; and having looked at
him for a long while, as before, inquired if he was fond of
Paul said 'Yes, Sir.'
'So am I,' said Toots.
No word more spoke Toots that night; but he stood looking at Paul
as if he liked him; and as there was company in that, and Paul was not
inclined to talk, it answered his purpose better than conversation.
At eight o'clock or so, the gong sounded again for prayers in the
dining-room, where the butler afterwards presided over a side-table,
on which bread and cheese and beer were spread for such young
gentlemen as desired to partake of those refreshments. The ceremonies
concluded by the Doctor's saying, 'Gentlemen, we will resume our
studies at seven to-morrow;' and then, for the first time, Paul saw
Cornelia Blimber's eye, and saw that it was upon him. When the Doctor
had said these words, 'Gentlemen, we will resume our studies at seven
tomorrow,' the pupils bowed again, and went to bed.
In the confidence of their own room upstairs, Briggs said his head
ached ready to split, and that he should wish himself dead if it
wasn't for his mother, and a blackbird he had at home Tozer didn't say
much, but he sighed a good deal, and told Paul to look out, for his
turn would come to-morrow. After uttering those prophetic words, he
undressed himself moodily, and got into bed. Briggs was in his bed
too, and Paul in his bed too, before the weak-eyed young man appeared
to take away the candle, when he wished them good-night and pleasant
dreams. But his benevolent wishes were in vain, as far as Briggs and
Tozer were concerned; for Paul, who lay awake for a long while, and
often woke afterwards, found that Briggs was ridden by his lesson as a
nightmare: and that Tozer, whose mind was affected in his sleep by
similar causes, in a minor degree talked unknown tongues, or scraps of
Greek and Latin - it was all one to Paul- which, in the silence of
night, had an inexpressibly wicked and guilty effect.
Paul had sunk into a sweet sleep, and dreamed that he was walking
hand in hand with Florence through beautiful gardens, when they came
to a large sunflower which suddenly expanded itself into a gong, and
began to sound. Opening his eyes, he found that it was a dark, windy
morning, with a drizzling rain: and that the real gong was giving
dreadful note of preparation, down in the hall.
So he got up directly, and found Briggs with hardly any eyes, for
nightmare and grief had made his face puffy, putting his boots on:
while Tozer stood shivering and rubbing his shoulders in a very bad
humour. Poor Paul couldn't dress himself easily, not being used to it,
and asked them if they would have the goodness to tie some strings for
him; but as Briggs merely said 'Bother!' and Tozer, 'Oh yes!' he went
down when he was otherwise ready, to the next storey, where he saw a
pretty young woman in leather gloves, cleaning a stove. The young
woman seemed surprised at his appearance, and asked him where his
mother was. When Paul told her she was dead, she took her gloves off,
and did what he wanted; and furthermore rubbed his hands to warm them;
and gave him a kiss; and told him whenever he wanted anything of that
sort - meaning in the dressing way - to ask for 'Melia; which Paul,
thanking her very much, said he certainly would. He then proceeded
softly on his journey downstairs, towards the room in which the young
gentlemen resumed their studies, when, passing by a door that stood
ajar, a voice from within cried, 'Is that Dombey?' On Paul replying,
'Yes, Ma'am:' for he knew the voice to be Miss Blimber's: Miss Blimber
said, 'Come in, Dombey.' And in he went. Miss Blimber presented
exactly the appearance she had presented yesterday, except that she
wore a shawl. Her little light curls were as crisp as ever, and she
had already her spectacles on, which made Paul wonder whether she went
to bed in them. She had a cool little sitting-room of her own up
there, with some books in it, and no fire But Miss Blimber was never
cold, and never sleepy.
Now, Dombey,' said Miss Blimber, 'I am going out for a
Paul wondered what that was, and why she didn't send the footman
out to get it in such unfavourable weather. But he made no observation
on the subject: his attention being devoted to a little pile of new
books, on which Miss Blimber appeared to have been recently engaged.
'These are yours, Dombey,' said Miss Blimber.
'All of 'em, Ma'am?' said Paul.
'Yes,' returned Miss Blimber; 'and Mr Feeder will look you out some
more very soon, if you are as studious as I expect you will be,
'Thank you, Ma'am,' said Paul.
'I am going out for a constitutional,' resumed Miss Blimber; 'and
while I am gone, that is to say in the interval between this and
breakfast, Dombey, I wish you to read over what I have marked in these
books, and to tell me if you quite understand what you have got to
learn. Don't lose time, Dombey, for you have none to spare, but take
them downstairs, and begin directly.'
'Yes, Ma'am,' answered Paul.
There were so many of them, that although Paul put one hand under
the bottom book and his other hand and his chin on the top book, and
hugged them all closely, the middle book slipped out before he reached
the door, and then they all tumbled down on the floor. Miss Blimber
said, 'Oh, Dombey, Dombey, this is really very careless!' and piled
them up afresh for him; and this time, by dint of balancing them with
great nicety, Paul got out of the room, and down a few stairs before
two of them escaped again. But he held the rest so tight, that he only
left one more on the first floor, and one in the passage; and when he
had got the main body down into the schoolroom, he set off upstairs
again to collect the stragglers. Having at last amassed the whole
library, and climbed into his place, he fell to work, encouraged by a
remark from Tozer to the effect that he 'was in for it now;' which was
the only interruption he received till breakfast time. At that meal,
for which he had no appetite, everything was quite as solemn and
genteel as at the others; and when it was finished, he followed Miss
'Now, Dombey,' said Miss Blimber. 'How have you got on with those
They comprised a little English, and a deal of Latin - names of
things, declensions of articles and substantives, exercises thereon,
and preliminary rules - a trifle of orthography, a glance at ancient
history, a wink or two at modern ditto, a few tables, two or three
weights and measures, and a little general information. When poor Paul
had spelt out number two, he found he had no idea of number one;
fragments whereof afterwards obtruded themselves into number three,
which slided into number four, which grafted itself on to number two.
So that whether twenty Romuluses made a Remus, or hic haec hoc was
troy weight, or a verb always agreed with an ancient Briton, or three
times four was Taurus a bull, were open questions with him.
'Oh, Dombey, Dombey!' said Miss Blimber, 'this is very shocking.'
'If you please,' said Paul, 'I think if I might sometimes talk a
little to old Glubb, I should be able to do better.'
'Nonsense, Dombey,' said Miss Blimber. 'I couldn't hear of it. This
is not the place for Glubbs of any kind. You must take the books down,
I suppose, Dombey, one by one, and perfect yourself in the day's
instalment of subject A, before you turn at all to subject B. I am
sorry to say, Dombey, that your education appears to have been very
'So Papa says,' returned Paul; 'but I told you - I have been a weak
child. Florence knows I have. So does Wickam.'
'Who is Wickam?' asked Miss Blimber.
'She has been my nurse,' Paul answered.
'I must beg you not to mention Wickam to me, then,' said Miss
Blimber.'I couldn't allow it'.
'You asked me who she was,' said Paul.