Dombey and Son
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from the passage outside Mr Dombey's door. Mr Carker, as Grand Vizier,
inhabited the room that was nearest to the Sultan. Mr Morfin, as an
officer of inferior state, inhabited the room that was nearest to the
The gentleman last mentioned was a cheerful-looking, hazel-eyed
elderly bachelor: gravely attired, as to his upper man, in black; and
as to his legs, in pepper-and-salt colour. His dark hair was just
touched here and there with specks of gray, as though the tread of
Time had splashed it; and his whiskers were already white. He had a
mighty respect for Mr Dombey, and rendered him due homage; but as he
was of a genial temper himself, and never wholly at his ease in that
stately presence, he was disquieted by no jealousy of the many
conferences enjoyed by Mr Carker, and felt a secret satisfaction in
having duties to discharge, which rarely exposed him to be singled out
for such distinction. He was a great musical amateur in his way -
after business; and had a paternal affection for his violoncello,
which was once in every week transported from Islington, his place of
abode, to a certain club-room hard by the Bank, where quartettes of
the most tormenting and excruciating nature were executed every
Wednesday evening by a private party.
Mr Carker was a gentleman thirty-eight or forty years old, of a
florid complexion, and with two unbroken rows of glistening teeth,
whose regularity and whiteness were quite distressing. It was
impossible to escape the observation of them, for he showed them
whenever he spoke; and bore so wide a smile upon his countenance (a
smile, however, very rarely, indeed, extending beyond his mouth), that
there was something in it like the snarl of a cat. He affected a stiff
white cravat, after the example of his principal, and was always
closely buttoned up and tightly dressed. His manner towards Mr Dombey
was deeply conceived and perfectly expressed. He was familiar with
him, in the very extremity of his sense of the distance between them.
'Mr Dombey, to a man in your position from a man in mine, there is no
show of subservience compatible with the transaction of business
between us, that I should think sufficient. I frankly tell you, Sir, I
give it up altogether. I feel that I could not satisfy my own mind;
and Heaven knows, Mr Dombey, you can afford to dispense with the
endeavour.' If he had carried these words about with him printed on a
placard, and had constantly offered it to Mr Dombey's perusal on the
breast of his coat, he could not have been more explicit than he was.
This was Carker the Manager. Mr Carker the Junior, Walter's friend,
was his brother; two or three years older than he, but widely removed
in station. The younger brother's post was on the top of the official
ladder; the elder brother's at the bottom. The elder brother never
gained a stave, or raised his foot to mount one. Young men passed
above his head, and rose and rose; but he was always at the bottom. He
was quite resigned to occupy that low condition: never complained of
it: and certainly never hoped to escape from it.
'How do you do this morning?' said Mr Carker the Manager, entering
Mr Dombey's room soon after his arrival one day: with a bundle of
papers in his hand.
'How do you do, Carker?' said Mr Dombey.
'Coolish!' observed Carker, stirring the fire.
'Rather,' said Mr Dombey.
'Any news of the young gentleman who is so important to us all?'
asked Carker, with his whole regiment of teeth on parade.
'Yes - not direct news- I hear he's very well,' said Mr Dombey. Who
had come from Brighton over-night. But no one knew It.
'Very well, and becoming a great scholar, no doubt?' observed the
'I hope so,' returned Mr Dombey.
'Egad!' said Mr Carker, shaking his head, 'Time flies!'
'I think so, sometimes,' returned Mr Dombey, glancing at his
'Oh! You! You have no reason to think so,' observed Carker. 'One
who sits on such an elevation as yours, and can sit there, unmoved, in
all seasons - hasn't much reason to know anything about the flight of
time. It's men like myself, who are low down and are not superior in
circumstances, and who inherit new masters in the course of Time, that
have cause to look about us. I shall have a rising sun to worship,
'Time enough, time enough, Carker!' said Mr Dombey, rising from his
chair, and standing with his back to the fire. 'Have you anything
there for me?'
'I don't know that I need trouble you,' returned Carker, turning
over the papers in his hand. 'You have a committee today at three, you
'And one at three, three-quarters,' added Mr Dombey.
'Catch you forgetting anything!' exclaimed Carker, still turning
over his papers. 'If Mr Paul inherits your memory, he'll be a
troublesome customer in the House. One of you is enough'
'You have an accurate memory of your own,' said Mr Dombey.
'Oh! I!' returned the manager. 'It's the only capital of a man like
Mr Dombey did not look less pompous or at all displeased, as he
stood leaning against the chimney-piece, surveying his (of course
unconscious) clerk, from head to foot. The stiffness and nicety of Mr
Carker's dress, and a certain arrogance of manner, either natural to
him or imitated from a pattern not far off, gave great additional
effect to his humility. He seemed a man who would contend against the
power that vanquished him, if he could, but who was utterly borne down
by the greatness and superiority of Mr Dombey.
'Is Morfin here?' asked Mr Dombey after a short pause, during which
Mr Carker had been fluttering his papers, and muttering little
abstracts of their contents to himself.
'Morfin's here,' he answered, looking up with his widest and almost
sudden smile; 'humming musical recollections - of his last night's
quartette party, I suppose - through the walls between us, and driving
me half mad. I wish he'd make a bonfire of his violoncello, and burn
his music-books in it.'
'You respect nobody, Carker, I think,' said Mr Dombey.
'No?' inquired Carker, with another wide and most feline show of
his teeth. 'Well! Not many people, I believe. I wouldn't answer
perhaps,' he murmured, as if he were only thinking it, 'for more than
A dangerous quality, if real; and a not less dangerous one, if
feigned. But Mr Dombey hardly seemed to think so, as he still stood
with his back to the fire, drawn up to his full height, and looking at
his head-clerk with a dignified composure, in which there seemed to
lurk a stronger latent sense of power than usual.
'Talking of Morfin,' resumed Mr Carker, taking out one paper from
the rest, 'he reports a junior dead in the agency at Barbados, and
proposes to reserve a passage in the Son and Heir - she'll sail in a
month or so - for the successor. You don't care who goes, I suppose?
We have nobody of that sort here.'
Mr Dombey shook his head with supreme indifference.
'It's no very precious appointment,' observed Mr Carker, taking up
a pen, with which to endorse a memorandum on the back of the paper. 'I
hope he may bestow it on some orphan nephew of a musical friend. It
may perhaps stop his fiddle-playing, if he has a gift that way. Who's
that? Come in!'
'I beg your pardon, Mr Carker. I didn't know you were here, Sir,'
answered Walter; appearing with some letters in his hand, unopened,
and newly arrived. 'Mr Carker the junior, Sir - '
At the mention of this name, Mr Carker the Manager was or affected
to be, touched to the quick with shame and humiliation. He cast his
eyes full on Mr Dombey with an altered and apologetic look, abased
them on the ground, and remained for a moment without speaking.
'I thought, Sir,' he said suddenly and angrily, turning on Walter,
'that you had been before requested not to drag Mr Carker the Junior
into your conversation.'
'I beg your pardon,' returned Walter. 'I was only going to say that
Mr Carker the Junior had told me he believed you were gone out, or I
should not have knocked at the door when you were engaged with Mr
Dombey. These are letters for Mr Dombey, Sir.'
'Very well, Sir,' returned Mr Carker the Manager, plucking them
sharply from his hand. 'Go about your business.'
But in taking them with so little ceremony, Mr Carker dropped one
on the floor, and did not see what he had done; neither did Mr Dombey
observe the letter lying near his feet. Walter hesitated for a moment,
thinking that one or other of them would notice it; but finding that
neither did, he stopped, came back, picked it up, and laid it himself
on Mr Dombey's desk. The letters were post-letters; and it happened
that the one in question was Mrs Pipchin's regular report, directed as
usual - for Mrs Pipchin was but an indifferent penwoman - by Florence.
Mr Dombey, having his attention silently called to this letter by
Walter, started, and looked fiercely at him, as if he believed that he
had purposely selected it from all the rest.
'You can leave the room, Sir!' said Mr Dombey, haughtily.
He crushed the letter in his hand; and having watched Walter out at
the door, put it in his pocket without breaking the seal.
'These continual references to Mr Carker the Junior,' Mr Carker the
Manager began, as soon as they were alone, 'are, to a man in my
position, uttered before one in yours, so unspeakably distressing - '
'Nonsense, Carker,' Mr Dombey interrupted. 'You are too sensitive.'
'I am sensitive,' he returned. 'If one in your position could by
any possibility imagine yourself in my place: which you cannot: you
would be so too.'
As Mr Dombey's thoughts were evidently pursuing some other subject,
his discreet ally broke off here, and stood with his teeth ready to