Dombey and Son
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right, down the yard, cross over, and take the second on the right
again. It was number eleven; they couldn't mistake it; but if they
did, they had only to ask for Toodle, Engine Fireman, and any one
would show them which was his house. At this unexpected stroke of
success Susan Nipper dismounted from the coach with all speed, took
Walter's arm, and set off at a breathless pace on foot; leaving the
coach there to await their return.
'Has the little boy been long ill, Susan?' inquired Walter, as they
'Ailing for a deal of time, but no one knew how much,' said Susan;
adding, with excessive sharpness, 'Oh, them Blimbers!'
'Blimbers?' echoed Walter.
'I couldn't forgive myself at such a time as this, Mr Walter,' said
Susan, 'and when there's so much serious distress to think about, if I
rested hard on anyone, especially on them that little darling Paul
speaks well of, but I may wish that the family was set to work in a
stony soil to make new roads, and that Miss Blimber went in front, and
had the pickaxe!'
Miss Nipper then took breath, and went on faster than before, as if
this extraordinary aspiration had relieved her. Walter, who had by
this time no breath of his own to spare, hurried along without asking
any more questions; and they soon, in their impatience, burst in at a
little door and came into a clean parlour full of children.
'Where's Mrs Richards?' exclaimed Susan Nipper, looking round. 'Oh
Mrs Richards, Mrs Richards, come along with me, my dear creetur!'
'Why, if it ain't Susan!' cried Polly, rising with her honest face
and motherly figure from among the group, in great surprIse.
'Yes, Mrs Richards, it's me,' said Susan, 'and I wish it wasn't,
though I may not seem to flatter when I say so, but little Master Paul
is very ill, and told his Pa today that he would like to see the face
of his old nurse, and him and Miss Floy hope you'll come along with me
- and Mr Walter, Mrs Richards - forgetting what is past, and do a
kindness to the sweet dear that is withering away. Oh, Mrs Richards,
withering away!' Susan Nipper crying, Polly shed tears to see her, and
to hear what she had said; and all the children gathered round
(including numbers of new babies); and Mr Toodle, who had just come
home from Birmingham, and was eating his dinner out of a basin, laid
down his knife and fork, and put on his wife's bonnet and shawl for
her, which were hanging up behind the door; then tapped her on the
back; and said, with more fatherly feeling than eloquence, 'Polly! cut
So they got back to the coach, long before the coachman expected
them; and Walter, putting Susan and Mrs Richards inside, took his seat
on the box himself that there might be no more mistakes, and deposited
them safely in the hall of Mr Dombey's house - where, by the bye, he
saw a mighty nosegay lying, which reminded him of the one Captain
Cuttle had purchased in his company that morning. He would have
lingered to know more of the young invalid, or waited any length of
time to see if he could render the least service; but, painfully
sensible that such conduct would be looked upon by Mr Dombey as
presumptuous and forward, he turned slowly, sadly, anxiously, away.
He had not gone five minutes' walk from the door, when a man came
running after him, and begged him to return. Walter retraced his steps
as quickly as he could, and entered the gloomy house with a sorrowful
What the Waves were always saying
Paul had never risen from his little bed. He lay there, listening
to the noises in the street, quite tranquilly; not caring much how the
time went, but watching it and watching everything about him with
When the sunbeams struck into his room through the rustling blinds,
and quivered on the opposite wall like golden water, he knew that
evening was coming on, and that the sky was red and beautiful. As the
reflection died away, and a gloom went creeping up the wall, he
watched it deepen, deepen, deepen, into night. Then he thought how the
long streets were dotted with lamps, and how the peaceful stars were
shining overhead. His fancy had a strange tendency to wander to the
river, which he knew was flowing through the great city; and now he
thought how black it was, and how deep it would look, reflecting the
hosts of stars - and more than all, how steadily it rolled away to
meet the sea.
As it grew later in the night, and footsteps in the street became
so rare that he could hear them coming, count them as they passed, and
lose them in the hollow distance, he would lie and watch the
many-coloured ring about the candle, and wait patiently for day. His
only trouble was, the swift and rapid river. He felt forced,
sometimes, to try to stop it - to stem it with his childish hands - or
choke its way with sand - and when he saw it coming on, resistless, he
cried out! But a word from Florence, who was always at his side,
restored him to himself; and leaning his poor head upon her breast, he
told Floy of his dream, and smiled.
When day began to dawn again, he watched for the sun; and when its
cheerful light began to sparkle in the room, he pictured to himself -
pictured! he saw - the high church towers rising up into the morning
sky, the town reviving, waking, starting into life once more, the
river glistening as it rolled (but rolling fast as ever), and the
country bright with dew. Familiar sounds and cries came by degrees
into the street below; the servants in the house were roused and busy;
faces looked in at the door, and voices asked his attendants softly
how he was. Paul always answered for himself, 'I am better. I am a
great deal better, thank you! Tell Papa so!'
By little and little, he got tired of the bustle of the day, the
noise of carriages and carts, and people passing and repassing; and
would fall asleep, or be troubled with a restless and uneasy sense
again - the child could hardly tell whether this were in his sleeping
or his waking moments - of that rushing river. 'Why, will it never
stop, Floy?' he would sometimes ask her. 'It is bearing me away, I
But Floy could always soothe and reassure him; and it was his daily
delight to make her lay her head down on his pillow, and take some
'You are always watching me, Floy, let me watch you, now!' They
would prop him up with cushions in a corner of his bed, and there he
would recline the while she lay beside him: bending forward oftentimes
to kiss her, and whispering to those who were near that she was tired,
and how she had sat up so many nights beside him.
Thus, the flush of the day, in its heat and light, would gradually
decline; and again the golden water would be dancing on the wall.
He was visited by as many as three grave doctors - they used to
assemble downstairs, and come up together - and the room was so quiet,
and Paul was so observant of them (though he never asked of anybody
what they said), that he even knew the difference in the sound of
their watches. But his interest centred in Sir Parker Peps, who always
took his seat on the side of the bed. For Paul had heard them say long
ago, that that gentleman had been with his Mama when she clasped
Florence in her arms, and died. And he could not forget it, now. He
liked him for it. He was not afraid.
The people round him changed as unaccountably as on that first
night at Doctor Blimber's - except Florence; Florence never changed -
and what had been Sir Parker Peps, was now his father, sitting with
his head upon his hand. Old Mrs Pipchin dozing in an easy chair, often
changed to Miss Tox, or his aunt; and Paul was quite content to shut
his eyes again, and see what happened next, without emotion. But this
figure with its head upon its hand returned so often, and remained so
long, and sat so still and solemn, never speaking, never being spoken
to, and rarely lifting up its face, that Paul began to wonder
languidly, if it were real; and in the night-time saw it sitting
there, with fear.
'Floy!' he said. 'What is that?'
'There! at the bottom of the bed.'
'There's nothing there, except Papa!'
The figure lifted up its head, and rose, and coming to the bedside,
'My own boy! Don't you know me?'
Paul looked it in the face, and thought, was this his father? But
the face so altered to his thinking, thrilled while he gazed, as if it
were in pain; and before he could reach out both his hands to take it
between them, and draw it towards him, the figure turned away quickly
from the little bed, and went out at the door.
Paul looked at Florence with a fluttering heart, but he knew what
she was going to say, and stopped her with his face against her lips.
The next time he observed the figure sitting at the bottom of the bed,
he called to it.
'Don't be sorry for me, dear Papa! Indeed I am quite happy!'
His father coming and bending down to him - which he did quickly,
and without first pausing by the bedside - Paul held him round the
neck, and repeated those words to him several times, and very
earnestly; and Paul never saw him in his room again at any time,
whether it were day or night, but he called out, 'Don't be sorry for
me! Indeed I am quite happy!' This was the beginning of his always
saying in the morning that he was a great deal better, and that they
were to tell his father so.
How many times the golden water danced upon the wall; how many
nights the dark, dark river rolled towards the sea in spite of him;
Paul never counted, never sought to know. If their kindness, or his
sense of it, could have increased, they were more kind, and he more
grateful every day; but whether they were many days or few, appeared
of little moment now, to the gentle boy.
One night he had been thinking of his mother, and her picture in
the drawing-room downstairs, and thought she must have loved sweet
Florence better than his father did, to have held her in her arms when
she felt that she was dying - for even he, her brother, who had such
dear love for her, could have no greater wish than that. The train of
thought suggested to him to inquire if he had ever seen his mother?