Dombey and Son
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festival. They are much inclined to moralise. Mr Towlinson proposes
with a sigh, 'Amendment to us all!' for which, as Cook says with
another sigh, 'There's room enough, God knows.' In the evening, Mrs
Chick and Miss Tox take to needlework again. In the evening also, Mr
Towlinson goes out to take the air, accompanied by the housemaid, who
has not yet tried her mourning bonnet. They are very tender to each
other at dusky street-corners, and Towlinson has visions of leading an
altered and blameless existence as a serious greengrocer in Oxford
There is sounder sleep and deeper rest in Mr Dombey's house
tonight, than there has been for many nights. The morning sun awakens
the old household, settled down once more in their old ways. The rosy
children opposite run past with hoops. There is a splendid wedding in
the church. The juggler's wife is active with the money-box in another
quarter of the town. The mason sings and whistles as he chips out
P-A-U-L in the marble slab before him.
And can it be that in a world so full and busy, the loss of one
weak creature makes a void in any heart, so wide and deep that nothing
but the width and depth of vast eternity can fill it up! Florence, in
her innocent affliction, might have answered, 'Oh my brother, oh my
dearly loved and loving brother! Only friend and companion of my
slighted childhood! Could any less idea shed the light already dawning
on your early grave, or give birth to the softened sorrow that is
springing into life beneath this rain of tears!'
'My dear child,' said Mrs Chick, who held it as a duty incumbent on
her, to improve the occasion, 'when you are as old as I am - '
'Which will be the prime of life,' observed Miss Tox.
'You will then,' pursued Mrs Chick, gently squeezing Miss Tox's
hand in acknowledgment of her friendly remark, 'you will then know
that all grief is unavailing, and that it is our duty to submit.'
'I will try, dear aunt I do try,' answered Florence, sobbing.
'I am glad to hear it,' said Mrs Chick, 'because; my love, as our
dear Miss Tox - of whose sound sense and excellent judgment, there
cannot possibly be two opinions - '
'My dear Louisa, I shall really be proud, soon,' said Miss Tox
- 'will tell you, and confirm by her experience,' pursued Mrs
Chick, 'we are called upon on all occasions to make an effort It is
required of us. If any - my dear,' turning to Miss Tox, 'I want a
word. Mis- Mis-'
'Demeanour?' suggested Miss Tox.
'No, no, no,' said Mrs Chic 'How can you! Goodness me, it's on, the
end of my tongue. Mis-'
Placed affection?' suggested Miss Tox, timidly.
'Good gracious, Lucretia!' returned Mrs Chick 'How very monstrous!
Misanthrope, is the word I want. The idea! Misplaced affection! I say,
if any misanthrope were to put, in my presence, the question "Why were
we born?" I should reply, "To make an effort"'
'Very good indeed,' said Miss Tox, much impressed by the
originality of the sentiment 'Very good.'
'Unhappily,' pursued Mrs Chick, 'we have a warning under our own
eyes. We have but too much reason to suppose, my dear child, that if
an effort had been made in time, in this family, a train of the most
trying and distressing circumstances might have been avoided. Nothing
shall ever persuade me,' observed the good matron, with a resolute
air, 'but that if that effort had been made by poor dear Fanny, the
poor dear darling child would at least have had a stronger
Mrs Chick abandoned herself to her feelings for half a moment; but,
as a practical illustration of her doctrine, brought herself up short,
in the middle of a sob, and went on again.
'Therefore, Florence, pray let us see that you have some strength
of mind, and do not selfishly aggravate the distress in which your
poor Papa is plunged.'
'Dear aunt!' said Florence, kneeling quickly down before her, that
she might the better and more earnestly look into her face. 'Tell me
more about Papa. Pray tell me about him! Is he quite heartbroken?'
Miss Tox was of a tender nature, and there was something in this
appeal that moved her very much. Whether she saw it in a succession,
on the part of the neglected child, to the affectionate concern so
often expressed by her dead brother - or a love that sought to twine
itself about the heart that had loved him, and that could not bear to
be shut out from sympathy with such a sorrow, in such sad community of
love and grief - or whether the only recognised the earnest and
devoted spirit which, although discarded and repulsed, was wrung with
tenderness long unreturned, and in the waste and solitude of this
bereavement cried to him to seek a comfort in it, and to give some, by
some small response - whatever may have been her understanding of it,
it moved Miss Tox. For the moment she forgot the majesty of Mrs Chick,
and, patting Florence hastily on the cheek, turned aside and suffered
the tears to gush from her eyes, without waiting for a lead from that
Mrs Chick herself lost, for a moment, the presence of mind on which
she so much prided herself; and remained mute, looking on the
beautiful young face that had so long, so steadily, and patiently,
been turned towards the little bed. But recovering her voice - which
was synonymous with her presence of mind, indeed they were one and the
same thing - she replied with dignity:
'Florence, my dear child, your poor Papa is peculiar at times; and
to question me about him, is to question me upon a subject which I
really do not pretend to understand. I believe I have as much
influence with your Papa as anybody has. Still, all I can say is, that
he has said very little to me; and that I have only seen him once or
twice for a minute at a time, and indeed have hardly seen him then,
for his room has been dark. I have said to your Papa, "Paul!" - that
is the exact expression I used - "Paul! why do you not take something
stimulating?" Your Papa's reply has always been, "Louisa, have the
goodness to leave me. I want nothing. I am better by myself." If I was
to be put upon my oath to-morrow, Lucretia, before a magistrate,' said
Mrs Chick, 'I have no doubt I could venture to swear to those
Miss Tox expressed her admiration by saying, 'My Louisa is ever
'In short, Florence,' resumed her aunt, 'literally nothing has
passed between your poor Papa and myself, until to-day; when I
mentioned to your Papa that Sir Barnet and Lady Skettles had written
exceedingly kind notes - our sweet boy! Lady Skettles loved him like a
- where's my pocket handkerchief?'
Miss Tox produced one.
'Exceedingly kind notes, proposing that you should visit them for
change of scene. Mentioning to your Papa that I thought Miss Tox and
myself might now go home (in which he quite agreed), I inquired if he
had any objection to your accepting this invitation. He said, "No,
Louisa, not the least!"' Florence raised her tearful eye
'At the same time, if you would prefer staying here, Florence, to
paying this visit at present, or to going home with me - '
'I should much prefer it, aunt,' was the faint rejoinder.
'Why then, child,'said Mrs Chick, 'you can. It's a strange choice,
I must say. But you always were strange. Anybody else at your time of
life, and after what has passed - my dear Miss Tox, I have lost my
pocket handkerchief again - would be glad to leave here, one would
'I should not like to feel,' said Florence, 'as if the house was
avoided. I should not like to think that the - his - the rooms
upstairs were quite empty and dreary, aunt. I would rather stay here,
for the present. Oh my brother! oh my brother!'
It was a natural emotion, not to be suppressed; and it would make
way even between the fingers of the hands with which she covered up
her face. The overcharged and heavy-laden breast must some times have
that vent, or the poor wounded solitary heart within it would have
fluttered like a bird with broken wings, and sunk down in the dust'
'Well, child!' said Mrs Chick, after a pause 'I wouldn't on any
account say anything unkind to you, and that I'm sure you know. You
will remain here, then, and do exactly as you like. No one will
interfere with you, Florence, or wish to interfere with you, I'm sure.
Florence shook her head in sad assent'
'I had no sooner begun to advise your poor Papa that he really
ought to seek some distraction and restoration in a temporary change,'
said Mrs Chick, 'than he told me he had already formed the intention
of going into the country for a short time. I'm sure I hope he'll go
very soon. He can't go too soon. But I suppose there are some
arrangements connected with his private papers and so forth,
consequent on the affliction that has tried us all so much - I can't
think what's become of mine: Lucretia, lend me yours, my dear - that
may occupy him for one or two evenings in his own room. Your Papa's a
Dombey, child, if ever there was one,' said Mrs Chick, drying both her
eyes at once with great care on opposite corners of Miss Tox's
handkerchief 'He'll make an effort. There's no fear of him.'
'Is there nothing, aunt,' said Florence, trembling, 'I might do to
'Lord, my dear child,' interposed Mrs Chick, hastily, 'what are you
talking about? If your Papa said to Me - I have given you his exact
words, "Louisa, I want nothing; I am better by myself" - what do you
think he'd say to you? You mustn't show yourself to him, child. Don't
dream of such a thing.'
'Aunt,' said Florence, 'I will go and lie down on my bed.'
Mrs Chick approved of this resolution, and dismissed her with a
kiss. But Miss Tox, on a faint pretence of looking for the mislaid
handkerchief, went upstairs after her; and tried in a few stolen
minutes to comfort her, in spite of great discouragement from Susan
Nipper. For Miss Nipper, in her burning zeal, disparaged Miss Tox as a
crocodile; yet her sympathy seemed genuine, and had at least the
vantage-ground of disinterestedness - there was little favour to be
won by it.