Dombey and Son
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Blimber reported that he did not make great progress yet, and was not
naturally clever, Briggs senior was inexorable in the same purpose. In
short, however high and false the temperature at which the Doctor kept
his hothouse, the owners of the plants were always ready to lend a
helping hand at the bellows, and to stir the fire.
Such spirits as he had in the outset, Paul soon lost of course. But
he retained all that was strange, and old, and thoughtful in his
character: and under circumstances so favourable to the development of
those tendencies, became even more strange, and old, and thoughtful,
The only difference was, that he kept his character to himself. He
grew more thoughtful and reserved, every day; and had no such
curiosity in any living member of the Doctor's household, as he had
had in Mrs Pipchin. He loved to be alone; and in those short intervals
when he was not occupied with his books, liked nothing so well as
wandering about the house by himself, or sitting on the stairs,
listening to the great clock in the hall. He was intimate with all the
paperhanging in the house; saw things that no one else saw in the
patterns; found out miniature tigers and lions running up the bedroom
walls, and squinting faces leering in the squares and diamonds of the
The solitary child lived on, surrounded by this arabesque work of
his musing fancy, and no one understood him. Mrs Blimber thought him
'odd,' and sometimes the servants said among themselves that little
Dombey 'moped;' but that was all.
Unless young Toots had some idea on the subject, to the expression
of which he was wholly unequal. Ideas, like ghosts (according to the
common notion of ghosts), must be spoken to a little before they will
explain themselves; and Toots had long left off asking any questions
of his own mind. Some mist there may have been, issuing from that
leaden casket, his cranium, which, if it could have taken shape and
form, would have become a genie; but it could not; and it only so far
followed the example of the smoke in the Arabian story, as to roll out
in a thick cloud, and there hang and hover. But it left a little
figure visible upon a lonely shore, and Toots was always staring at
'How are you?' he would say to Paul, fifty times a day. 'Quite
well, Sir, thank you,' Paul would answer. 'Shake hands,' would be
Toots's next advance.
Which Paul, of course, would immediately do. Mr Toots generally
said again, after a long interval of staring and hard breathing, 'How
are you?' To which Paul again replied, 'Quite well, Sir, thank you.'
One evening Mr Toots was sitting at his desk, oppressed by
correspondence, when a great purpose seemed to flash upon him. He laid
down his pen, and went off to seek Paul, whom he found at last, after
a long search, looking through the window of his little bedroom.
'I say!' cried Toots, speaking the moment he entered the room, lest
he should forget it; 'what do you think about?'
'Oh! I think about a great many things,' replied Paul.
'Do you, though?' said Toots, appearing to consider that fact in
itself surprising. 'If you had to die,' said Paul, looking up into his
face - Mr Toots started, and seemed much disturbed.
'Don't you think you would rather die on a moonlight night, when
the sky was quite clear, and the wind blowing, as it did last night?'
Mr Toots said, looking doubtfully at Paul, and shaking his head,
that he didn't know about that.
'Not blowing, at least,' said Paul, 'but sounding in the air like
the sea sounds in the shells. It was a beautiful night. When I had
listened to the water for a long time, I got up and looked out. There
was a boat over there, in the full light of the moon; a boat with a
The child looked at him so steadfastly, and spoke so earnestly,
that Mr Toots, feeling himself called upon to say something about this
boat, said, 'Smugglers.' But with an impartial remembrance of there
being two sides to every question, he added, 'or Preventive.'
'A boat with a sail,' repeated Paul, 'in the full light of the
moon. The sail like an arm, all silver. It went away into the
distance, and what do you think it seemed to do as it moved with the
'Pitch,' said Mr Toots.
'It seemed to beckon,' said the child, 'to beckon me to come! -
There she is! There she is!'
Toots was almost beside himself with dismay at this sudden
exclamation, after what had gone before, and cried 'Who?'
'My sister Florence!' cried Paul, 'looking up here, and waving her
hand. She sees me - she sees me! Good-night, dear, good-night,
His quick transition to a state of unbounded pleasure, as he stood
at his window, kissing and clapping his hands: and the way in which
the light retreated from his features as she passed out of his view,
and left a patient melancholy on the little face: were too remarkable
wholly to escape even Toots's notice. Their interview being
interrupted at this moment by a visit from Mrs Pipchin, who usually
brought her black skirts to bear upon Paul just before dusk, once or
twice a week, Toots had no opportunity of improving the occasion: but
it left so marked an impression on his mind that he twice returned,
after having exchanged the usual salutations, to ask Mrs Pipchin how
she did. This the irascible old lady conceived to be a deeply devised
and long-meditated insult, originating in the diabolical invention of
the weak-eyed young man downstairs, against whom she accordingly
lodged a formal complaint with Doctor Blimber that very night; who
mentioned to the young man that if he ever did it again, he should be
obliged to part with him.
The evenings being longer now, Paul stole up to his window every
evening to look out for Florence. She always passed and repassed at a
certain time, until she saw him; and their mutual recognition was a
gleam of sunshine in Paul's daily life. Often after dark, one other
figure walked alone before the Doctor's house. He rarely joined them
on the Saturdays now. He could not bear it. He would rather come
unrecognised, and look up at the windows where his son was qualifying
for a man; and wait, and watch, and plan, and hope.
Oh! could he but have seen, or seen as others did, the slight spare
boy above, watching the waves and clouds at twilight, with his earnest
eyes, and breasting the window of his solitary cage when birds flew
by, as if he would have emulated them, and soared away!
Shipping Intelligence and Office Business
Mr Dombey's offices were in a court where there was an
old-established stall of choice fruit at the corner: where
perambulating merchants, of both sexes, offered for sale at any time
between the hours of ten and five, slippers, pocket-books, sponges,
dogs' collars, and Windsor soap; and sometimes a pointer or an
The pointer always came that way, with a view to the Stock
Exchange, where a sporting taste (originating generally in bets of new
hats) is much in vogue. The other commodities were addressed to the
general public; but they were never offered by the vendors to Mr
Dombey. When he appeared, the dealers in those wares fell off
respectfully. The principal slipper and dogs' collar man - who
considered himself a public character, and whose portrait was screwed
on to an artist's door in Cheapside - threw up his forefinger to the
brim of his hat as Mr Dombey went by. The ticket-porter, if he were
not absent on a job, always ran officiously before, to open Mr
Dombey's office door as wide as possible, and hold it open, with his
hat off, while he entered.
The clerks within were not a whit behind-hand in their
demonstrations of respect. A solemn hush prevailed, as Mr Dombey
passed through the outer office. The wit of the Counting-House became
in a moment as mute as the row of leathern fire-buckets hanging up
behind him. Such vapid and flat daylight as filtered through the
ground-glass windows and skylights, leaving a black sediment upon the
panes, showed the books and papers, and the figures bending over them,
enveloped in a studious gloom, and as much abstracted in appearance,
from the world without, as if they were assembled at the bottom of the
sea; while a mouldy little strong room in the obscure perspective,
where a shaded lamp was always burning, might have represented the
cavern of some ocean monster, looking on with a red eye at these
mysteries of the deep.
When Perch the messenger, whose place was on a little bracket, like
a timepiece, saw Mr Dombey come in - or rather when he felt that he
was coming, for he had usually an instinctive sense of his approach -
he hurried into Mr Dombey's room, stirred the fire, carried fresh
coals from the bowels of the coal-box, hung the newspaper to air upon
the fender, put the chair ready, and the screen in its place, and was
round upon his heel on the instant of Mr Dombey's entrance, to take
his great-coat and hat, and hang them up. Then Perch took the
newspaper, and gave it a turn or two in his hands before the fire, and
laid it, deferentially, at Mr Dombey's elbow. And so little objection
had Perch to being deferential in the last degree, that if he might
have laid himself at Mr Dombey's feet, or might have called him by
some such title as used to be bestowed upon the Caliph Haroun
Alraschid, he would have been all the better pleased.
As this honour would have been an innovation and an experiment,
Perch was fain to content himself by expressing as well as he could,
in his manner, You are the light of my Eyes. You are the Breath of my
Soul. You are the commander of the Faithful Perch! With this imperfect
happiness to cheer him, he would shut the door softly, walk away on
tiptoe, and leave his great chief to be stared at, through a
dome-shaped window in the leads, by ugly chimney-pots and backs of
houses, and especially by the bold window of a hair-cutting saloon on
a first floor, where a waxen effigy, bald as a Mussulman in the
morning, and covered, after eleven o'clock in the day, with luxuriant
hair and whiskers in the latest Christian fashion, showed him the
wrong side of its head for ever.
Between Mr Dombey and the common world, as it was accessible
through the medium of the outer office - to which Mr Dombey's presence
in his own room may be said to have struck like damp, or cold air -
there were two degrees of descent. Mr Carker in his own office was the
first step; Mr Morfin, in his own office, was the second. Each of
these gentlemen occupied a little chamber like a bath-room, opening