Dombey and Son
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face to face alone, Mr Carker, without a word of preparation, took him
by the throat, and shook him until his head seemed loose upon his
The boy, who in the midst of his astonishment could not help
staring wildly at the gentleman with so many white teeth who was
choking him, and at the office walls, as though determined, if he were
choked, that his last look should be at the mysteries for his
intrusion into which he was paying such a severe penalty, at last
contrived to utter -
'Come, Sir! You let me alone, will you!'
'Let you alone!' said Mr Carker. 'What! I have got you, have I?'
There was no doubt of that, and tightly too. 'You dog,' said Mr
Carker, through his set jaws, 'I'll strangle you!'
Biler whimpered, would he though? oh no he wouldn't - and what was
he doing of - and why didn't he strangle some- body of his own size
and not him: but Biler was quelled by the extraordinary nature of his
reception, and, as his head became stationary, and he looked the
gentleman in the face, or rather in the teeth, and saw him snarling at
him, he so far forgot his manhood as to cry.
'I haven't done nothing to you, Sir,' said Biler, otherwise Rob,
otherwise Grinder, and always Toodle.
'You young scoundrel!' replied Mr Carker, slowly releasing him, and
moving back a step into his favourite position. 'What do you mean by
daring to come here?'
'I didn't mean no harm, Sir,' whimpered Rob, putting one hand to
his throat, and the knuckles of the other to his eyes. 'I'll never
come again, Sir. I only wanted work.'
'Work, young Cain that you are!' repeated Mr Carker, eyeing him
narrowly. 'Ain't you the idlest vagabond in London?'
The impeachment, while it much affected Mr Toodle Junior, attached
to his character so justly, that he could not say a word in denial. He
stood looking at the gentleman, therefore, with a frightened,
self-convicted, and remorseful air. As to his looking at him, it may
be observed that he was fascinated by Mr Carker, and never took his
round eyes off him for an instant.
'Ain't you a thief?' said Mr Carker, with his hands behind him in
'No, sir,' pleaded Rob.
'You are!' said Mr Carker.
'I ain't indeed, Sir,' whimpered Rob. 'I never did such a thing as
thieve, Sir, if you'll believe me. I know I've been a going wrong,
Sir, ever since I took to bird-catching' and walking-matching. I'm
sure a cove might think,' said Mr Toodle Junior, with a burst of
penitence, 'that singing birds was innocent company, but nobody knows
what harm is in them little creeturs and what they brings you down
They seemed to have brought him down to a velveteen jacket and
trousers very much the worse for wear, a particularly small red
waistcoat like a gorget, an interval of blue check, and the hat before
'I ain't been home twenty times since them birds got their will of
me,' said Rob, 'and that's ten months. How can I go home when
everybody's miserable to see me! I wonder,' said Biler, blubbering
outright, and smearing his eyes with his coat-cuff, 'that I haven't
been and drownded myself over and over again.'
All of which, including his expression of surprise at not having
achieved this last scarce performance, the boy said, just as if the
teeth of Mr Carker drew it out ofhim, and he had no power of
concealing anything with that battery of attraction in full play.
'You're a nice young gentleman!' said Mr Carker, shaking his head
at him. 'There's hemp-seed sown for you, my fine fellow!'
'I'm sure, Sir,' returned the wretched Biler, blubbering again, and
again having recourse to his coat-cuff: 'I shouldn't care, sometimes,
if it was growed too. My misfortunes all began in wagging, Sir; but
what could I do, exceptin' wag?'
'Excepting what?' said Mr Carker.
'Wag, Sir. Wagging from school.'
'Do you mean pretending to go there, and not going?' said Mr
'Yes, Sir, that's wagging, Sir,' returned the quondam Grinder, much
affected. 'I was chivied through the streets, Sir, when I went there,
and pounded when I got there. So I wagged, and hid myself, and that
'And you mean to tell me,' said Mr Carker, taking him by the throat
again, holding him out at arm's-length, and surveying him in silence
for some moments, 'that you want a place, do you?'
'I should be thankful to be tried, Sir,' returned Toodle Junior,
Mr Carker the Manager pushed him backward into a corner - the boy
submitting quietly, hardly venturing to breathe, and never once
removing his eyes from his face - and rang the bell.
'Tell Mr Gills to come here.'
Mr Perch was too deferential to express surprise or recognition of
the figure in the corner: and Uncle Sol appeared immediately.
'Mr Gills!' said Carker, with a smile, 'sit down. How do you do?
You continue to enjoy your health, I hope?'
'Thank you, Sir,' returned Uncle Sol, taking out his pocket-book,
and handing over some notes as he spoke. 'Nothing ails me in body but
old age. Twenty-five, Sir.'
'You are as punctual and exact, Mr Gills,' replied the smiling
Manager, taking a paper from one of his many drawers, and making an
endorsement on it, while Uncle Sol looked over him, 'as one of your
own chronometers. Quite right.'
'The Son and Heir has not been spoken, I find by the list, Sir,'
said Uncle Sol, with a slight addition to the usual tremor in his
'The Son and Heir has not been spoken,' returned Carker. 'There
seems to have been tempestuous weather, Mr Gills, and she has probably
been driven out of her course.'
'She is safe, I trust in Heaven!' said old Sol.
'She is safe, I trust in Heaven!' assented Mr Carker in that
voiceless manner of his: which made the observant young Toodle
trernble again. 'Mr Gills,' he added aloud, throwing himself back in
his chair, 'you must miss your nephew very much?'
Uncle Sol, standing by him, shook his head and heaved a deep sigh.
'Mr Gills,' said Carker, with his soft hand playing round his
mouth, and looking up into the Instrument-maker's face, 'it would be
company to you to have a young fellow in your shop just now, and it
would be obliging me if you would give one house-room for the present.
No, to be sure,' he added quickly, in anticipation of what the old man
was going to say, 'there's not much business doing there, I know; but
you can make him clean the place out, polish up the instruments;
drudge, Mr Gills. That's the lad!'
Sol Gills pulled down his spectacles from his forehead to his eyes,
and looked at Toodle Junior standing upright in the corner: his head
presenting the appearance (which it always did) of having been newly
drawn out of a bucket of cold water; his small waistcoat rising and
falling quickly in the play of his emotions; and his eyes intently
fixed on Mr Carker, without the least reference to his proposed
'Will you give him house-room, Mr Gills?' said the Manager.
Old Sol, without being quite enthusiastic on the subject, replied
that he was glad of any opportunity, however slight, to oblige Mr
Carker, whose wish on such a point was a command: and that the wooden
Midshipman would consider himself happy to receive in his berth any
visitor of Mr Carker's selecting.
Mr Carker bared himself to the tops and bottoms of his gums: making
the watchful Toodle Junior tremble more and more: and acknowledged the
Instrument-maker's politeness in his most affable manner.
'I'll dispose of him so, then, Mr Gills,' he answered, rising, and
shaking the old man by the hand, 'until I make up my mind what to do
with him, and what he deserves. As I consider myself responsible for
him, Mr Gills,' here he smiled a wide smile at Rob, who shook before
it: 'I shall be glad if you'll look sharply after him, and report his
behaviour to me. I'll ask a question or two of his parents as I ride
home this afternoon - respectable people - to confirm some particulars
in his own account of himself; and that done, Mr Gills, I'll send him
round to you to-morrow morning. Goodbye!'
His smile at parting was so full of teeth, that it confused old
Sol, and made him vaguely uncomfortable. He went home, thinking of
raging seas, foundering ships, drowning men, an ancient bottle of
Madeira never brought to light, and other dismal matters.
'Now, boy!' said Mr Carker, putting his hand on young Toodle's
shoulder, and bringing him out into the middle of the room. 'You have
Rob said, 'Yes, Sir.'
'Perhaps you understand,' pursued his patron, 'that if you ever
deceive or play tricks with me, you had better have drowned yourself,
indeed, once for all, before you came here?'
There was nothing in any branch of mental acquisition that Rob
seemed to understand better than that.
'If you have lied to me,' said Mr Carker, 'in anything, never come
in my way again. If not, you may let me find you waiting for me