Dombey and Son
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somewhere near your mother's house this afternoon. I shall leave this
at five o'clock, and ride there on horseback. Now, give me the
Rob repeated it slowly, as Mr Carker wrote it down. Rob even spelt
it over a second time, letter by letter, as if he thought that the
omission of a dot or scratch would lead to his destruction. Mr Carker
then handed him out of the room; and Rob, keeping his round eyes fixed
upon his patron to the last, vanished for the time being.
Mr Carker the Manager did a great deal of business in the course of
the day, and stowed his teeth upon a great many people. In the office,
in the court, in the street, and on 'Change, they glistened and
bristled to a terrible extent. Five o'clock arriving, and with it Mr
Carker's bay horse, they got on horseback, and went gleaming up
As no one can easily ride fast, even if inclined to do so, through
the press and throng of the City at that hour, and as Mr Carker was
not inclined, he went leisurely along, picking his way among the carts
and carriages, avoiding whenever he could the wetter and more dirty
places in the over-watered road, and taking infinite pains to keep
himself and his steed clean. Glancing at the passersby while he was
thus ambling on his way, he suddenly encountered the round eyes of the
sleek-headed Rob intently fixed upon his face as if they had never
been taken off, while the boy himself, with a pocket-handkerchief
twisted up like a speckled eel and girded round his waist, made a very
conspicuous demonstration of being prepared to attend upon him, at
whatever pace he might think proper to go.
This attention, however flattering, being one of an unusual kind,
and attracting some notice from the other passengers, Mr Carker took
advantage of a clearer thoroughfare and a cleaner road, and broke into
a trot. Rob immediately did the same. Mr Carker presently tried a
canter; Rob Was still in attendance. Then a short gallop; it Was all
one to the boy. Whenever Mr Carker turned his eyes to that side of the
road, he still saw Toodle Junior holding his course, apparently
without distress, and working himself along by the elbows after the
most approved manner of professional gentlemen who get over the ground
Ridiculous as this attendance was, it was a sign of an influence
established over the boy, and therefore Mr Carker, affecting not to
notice it, rode away into the neighbourhood of Mr Toodle's house. On
his slackening his pace here, Rob appeared before him to point out the
turnings; and when he called to a man at a neighbouring gateway to
hold his horse, pending his visit to the buildings that had succeeded
Staggs's Gardens, Rob dutifully held the stirrup, while the Manager
'Now, Sir,' said Mr Carker, taking him by the shoulder, 'come
The prodigal son was evidently nervous of visiting the parental
abode; but Mr Carker pushing him on before, he had nothing for it but
to open the right door, and suffer himself to be walked into the midst
of his brothers and sisters, mustered in overwhelming force round the
family tea-table. At sight of the prodigal in the grasp of a stranger,
these tender relations united in a general howl, which smote upon the
prodigal's breast so sharply when he saw his mother stand up among
them, pale and trembling, with the baby in her arms, that he lent his
own voice to the chorus.
Nothing doubting now that the stranger, if not Mr Ketch' in person,
was one of that company, the whole of the young family wailed the
louder, while its more infantine members, unable to control the
transports of emotion appertaining to their time of life, threw
themselves on their backs like young birds when terrified by a hawk,
and kicked violently. At length, poor Polly making herself audible,
said, with quivering lips, 'Oh Rob, my poor boy, what have you done at
'Nothing, mother,' cried Rob, in a piteous voice, 'ask the
'Don't be alarmed,' said Mr Carker, 'I want to do him good.'
At this announcement, Polly, who had not cried yet, began to do so.
The elder Toodles, who appeared to have been meditating a rescue,
unclenched their fists. The younger Toodles clustered round their
mother's gown, and peeped from under their own chubby arms at their
desperado brother and his unknown friend. Everybody blessed the
gentleman with the beautiful teeth, who wanted to do good.
'This fellow,' said Mr Carker to Polly, giving him a gentle shake,
'is your son, eh, Ma'am?'
'Yes, Sir,' sobbed Polly, with a curtsey; 'yes, Sir.'
'A bad son, I am afraid?' said Mr Carker.
'Never a bad son to me, Sir,' returned Polly.
'To whom then?' demanded Mr Carker.
'He has been a little wild, Sir,' returned Polly, checking the
baby, who was making convulsive efforts with his arms and legs to
launch himself on Biler, through the ambient air, 'and has gone with
wrong companions: but I hope he has seen the misery of that, Sir, and
will do well again.'
Mr Carker looked at Polly, and the clean room, and the clean
children, and the simple Toodle face, combined of father and mother,
that was reflected and repeated everywhere about him - and seemed to
have achieved the real purpose of his visit.
'Your husband, I take it, is not at home?' he said.
'No, Sir,' replied Polly. 'He's down the line at present.'
The prodigal Rob seemed very much relieved to hear it: though still
in the absorption of all his faculties in his patron, he hardly took
his eyes from Mr Carker's face, unless for a moment at a time to steal
a sorrowful glance at his mother.
'Then,' said Mr Carker, 'I'll tell you how I have stumbled on this
boy of yours, and who I am, and what I am going to do for him.'
This Mr Carker did, in his own way; saying that he at first
intended to have accumulated nameless terrors on his presumptuous
head, for coming to the whereabout of Dombey and Son. That he had
relented, in consideration of his youth, his professed contrition, and
his friends. That he was afraid he took a rash step in doing anything
for the boy, and one that might expose him to the censure of the
prudent; but that he did it of himself and for himself, and risked the
consequences single-handed; and that his mother's past connexion with
Mr Dombey's family had nothing to do with it, and that Mr Dombey had
nothing to do with it, but that he, Mr Carker, was the be-all and the
end-all of this business. Taking great credit to himself for his
goodness, and receiving no less from all the family then present, Mr
Carker signified, indirectly but still pretty plainly, that Rob's
implicit fidelity, attachment, and devotion, were for evermore his
due, and the least homage he could receive. And with this great truth
Rob himself was so impressed, that, standing gazing on his patron with
tears rolling down his cheeks, he nodded his shiny head until it
seemed almost as loose as it had done under the same patron's hands
Polly, who had passed Heaven knows how many sleepless nights on
account of this her dissipated firstborn, and had not seen him for
weeks and weeks, could have almost kneeled to Mr Carker the Manager,
as to a Good Spirit - in spite of his teeth. But Mr Carker rising to
depart, she only thanked him with her mother's prayers and blessings;
thanks so rich when paid out of the Heart's mint, especially for any
service Mr Carker had rendered, that he might have given back a large
amount of change, and yet been overpaid.
As that gentleman made his way among the crowding children to the
door, Rob retreated on his mother, and took her and the baby in the
same repentant hug.
'I'll try hard, dear mother, now. Upon my soul I will!' said Rob.
'Oh do, my dear boy! I am sure you will, for our sakes and your
own!' cried Polly, kissing him. 'But you're coming back to speak to
me, when you have seen the gentleman away?'
'I don't know, mother.' Rob hesitated, and looked down. 'Father -
when's he coming home?'
'Not till two o'clock to-morrow morning.'
'I'll come back, mother dear!' cried Rob. And passing through the
shrill cry of his brothers and sisters in reception of this promise,
he followed Mr Carker out.
'What!' said Mr Carker, who had heard this. 'You have a bad father,
'No, Sir!' returned Rob, amazed. 'There ain't a better nor a kinder
father going, than mine is.'
'Why don't you want to see him then?' inquired his patron.
'There's such a difference between a father and a mother, Sir,'
said Rob, after faltering for a moment. 'He couldn't hardly believe
yet that I was doing to do better - though I know he'd try to but a
mother - she always believes what's,' good, Sir; at least I know my
mother does, God bless her!'
Mr Carker's mouth expanded, but he said no more until he was
mounted on his horse, and had dismissed the man who held it, when,
looking down from the saddle steadily into the attentive and watchful
face of the boy, he said:
'You'll come to me tomorrow morning, and you shall be shown where
that old gentleman lives; that old gentleman who was with me this
morning; where you are going, as you heard me say.'
'Yes, Sir,' returned Rob.
'I have a great interest in that old gentleman, and in serving him,
you serve me, boy, do you understand? Well,' he added, interrupting
him, for he saw his round face brighten when he was told that: 'I see
you do. I want to know all about that old gentleman, and how he goes
on from day to day - for I am anxious to be of service to him - and
especially who comes there to see him. Do you understand?'
Rob nodded his steadfast face, and said 'Yes, Sir,' again.