Dombey and Son
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while she pressed her hands upon it, a terrible tremble crept over her
whole frame. It was quickly gone; and with her usual step, she passed
out of the room.
The maid who should have been a skeleton, then reappeared, and
giving one arm to her mistress, who appeared to have taken off her
manner with her charms, and to have put on paralysis with her flannel
gown, collected the ashes of Cleopatra, and carried them away in the
other, ready for tomorrow's revivification.
'So the day has come at length, Susan,' said Florence to the
excellent Nipper, 'when we are going back to our quiet home!'
Susan drew in her breath with an amount of expression not easily
described, further relieving her feelings with a smart cough,
answered, 'Very quiet indeed, Miss Floy, no doubt. Excessive so.'
'When I was a child,' said Florence, thoughtfully, and after musing
for some moments, 'did you ever see that gentleman who has taken the
trouble to ride down here to speak to me, now three times - three
times, I think, Susan?'
'Three times, Miss,' returned the Nipper. 'Once when you was out a
walking with them Sket- '
Florence gently looked at her, and Miss Nipper checked herself.
'With Sir Barnet and his lady, I mean to say, Miss, and the young
gentleman. And two evenings since then.'
'When I was a child, and when company used to come to visit Papa,
did you ever see that gentleman at home, Susan?' asked Florence.
'Well, Miss,' returned her maid, after considering, 'I really
couldn't say I ever did. When your poor dear Ma died, Miss Floy, I was
very new in the family, you see, and my element:' the Nipper bridled,
as opining that her merits had been always designedly extinguished by
Mr Dombey: 'was the floor below the attics.'
'To be sure,' said Florence, still thoughtfully; 'you are not
likely to have known who came to the house. I quite forgot.'
'Not, Miss, but what we talked about the family and visitors,' said
Susan, 'and but what I heard much said, although the nurse before Mrs
Richards make unpleasant remarks when I was in company, and hint at
little Pitchers, but that could only be attributed, poor thing,'
observed Susan, with composed forbearance, 'to habits of intoxication,
for which she was required to leave, and did.'
Florence, who was seated at her chamber window, with her face
resting on her hand, sat looking out, and hardly seemed to hear what
Susan said, she was so lost in thought.
'At all events, Miss,' said Susan, 'I remember very well that this
same gentleman, Mr Carker, was almost, if not quite, as great a
gentleman with your Papa then, as he is now. It used to be said in the
house then, Miss, that he was at the head of all your Pa's affairs in
the City, and managed the whole, and that your Pa minded him more than
anybody, which, begging your pardon, Miss Floy, he might easy do, for
he never minded anybody else. I knew that, Pitcher as I might have
Susan Nipper, with an injured remembrance of the nurse before Mrs
Richards, emphasised 'Pitcher' strongly.
'And that Mr Carker has not fallen off, Miss,' she pursued, 'but
has stood his ground, and kept his credit with your Pa, I know from
what is always said among our people by that Perch, whenever he comes
to the house; and though he's the weakest weed in the world, Miss
Floy, and no one can have a moment's patience with the man, he knows
what goes on in the City tolerable well, and says that your Pa does
nothing without Mr Carker, and leaves all to Mr Carker, and acts
according to Mr Carker, and has Mr Carker always at his elbow, and I
do believe that he believes (that washiest of Perches!) that after
your Pa, the Emperor of India is the child unborn to Mr Carker.'
Not a word of this was lost on Florence, who, with an awakened
interest in Susan's speech, no longer gazed abstractedly on the
prospect without, but looked at her, and listened with attention.
'Yes, Susan,' she said, when that young lady had concluded. 'He is
in Papa's confidence, and is his friend, I am sure.'
Florence's mind ran high on this theme, and had done for some days.
Mr Carker, in the two visits with which he had followed up his first
one, had assumed a confidence between himself and her - a right on his
part to be mysterious and stealthy, in telling her that the ship was
still unheard of - a kind of mildly restrained power and authority
over her - that made her wonder, and caused her great uneasiness. She
had no means of repelling it, or of freeing herself from the web he
was gradually winding about her; for that would have required some art
and knowledge of the world, opposed to such address as his; and
Florence had none. True, he had said no more to her than that there
was no news of the ship, and that he feared the worst; but how he came
to know that she was interested in the ship, and why he had the right
to signify his knowledge to her, so insidiously and darkly, troubled
Florence very much.
This conduct on the part of Mr Carker, and her habit of often
considering it with wonder and uneasiness, began to invest him with an
uncomfortable fascination in Florence's thoughts. A more distinct
remembrance of his features, voice, and manner: which she sometimes
courted, as a means of reducing him to the level of a real personage,
capable of exerting no greater charm over her than another: did not
remove the vague impression. And yet he never frowned, or looked upon
her with an air of dislike or animosity, but was always smiling and
Again, Florence, in pursuit of her strong purpose with reference to
her father, and her steady resolution to believe that she was herself
unwittingly to blame for their so cold and distant relations, would
recall to mind that this gentleman was his confidential friend, and
would think, with an anxious heart, could her struggling tendency to
dislike and fear him be a part of that misfortune in her, which had
turned her father's love adrift, and left her so alone? She dreaded
that it might be; sometimes believed it was: then she resolved that
she would try to conquer this wrong feeling; persuaded herself that
she was honoured and encouraged by the notice of her father's friend;
and hoped that patient observation of him and trust in him would lead
her bleeding feet along that stony road which ended in her father's
Thus, with no one to advise her - for she could advise with no one
without seeming to complain against him - gentle Florence tossed on an
uneasy sea of doubt and hope; and Mr Carker, like a scaly monster of
the deep, swam down below, and kept his shining eye upon her. Florence
had a new reason in all this for wishing to be at home again. Her
lonely life was better suited to her course of timid hope and doubt;
and she feared sometimes, that in her absence she might miss some
hopeful chance of testifying her affection for her father. Heaven
knows, she might have set her mind at rest, poor child! on this last
point; but her slighted love was fluttering within her, and, even in
her sleep, it flew away in dreams, and nestled, like a wandering bird
come home, upon her father's neck.
Of Walter she thought often. Ah! how often, when the night was
gloomy, and the wind was blowing round the house! But hope was strong
in her breast. It is so difficult for the young and ardent, even with
such experience as hers, to imagine youth and ardour quenched like a
weak flame, and the bright day of life merging into night, at noon,
that hope was strong yet. Her tears fell frequently for Walter's
sufferings; but rarely for his supposed death, and never long.
She had written to the old Instrument-maker, but had received no
answer to her note: which indeed required none. Thus matters stood
with Florence on the morning when she was going home, gladly, to her
old secluded life.
Doctor and Mrs Blimber, accompanied (much against his will) by
their valued charge, Master Barnet, were already gone back to
Brighton, where that young gentleman and his fellow-pilgrims to
Parnassus were then, no doubt, in the continual resumption of their
studies. The holiday time was past and over; most of the juvenile
guests at the villa had taken their departure; and Florence's long
visit was come to an end.
There was one guest, however, albeit not resident within the house,
who had been very constant in his attentions to the family, and who
still remained devoted to them. This was Mr Toots, who after renewing,
some weeks ago, the acquaintance he had had the happiness of forming
with Skettles Junior, on the night when he burst the Blimberian bonds
and soared into freedom with his ring on, called regularly every other
day, and left a perfect pack of cards at the hall-door; so many
indeed, that the ceremony was quite a deal on the part of Mr Toots,
and a hand at whist on the part of the servant.
Mr Toots, likewise, with the bold and happy idea of preventing the
family from forgetting him (but there is reason to suppose that this
expedient originated in the teeming brain of the Chicken), had
established a six-oared cutter, manned by aquatic friends of the
Chicken's and steered by that illustrious character in person, who
wore a bright red fireman's coat for the purpose, and concealed the
perpetual black eye with which he was afflicted, beneath a green
shade. Previous to the institution of this equipage, Mr Toots sounded
the Chicken on a hypothetical case, as, supposing the Chicken to be
enamoured of a young lady named Mary, and to have conceived the
intention of starting a boat of his own, what would he call that boat?
The Chicken replied, with divers strong asseverations, that he would
either christen it Poll or The Chicken's Delight. Improving on this
idea, Mr Toots, after deep study and the exercise of much invention,
resolved to call his boat The Toots's Joy, as a delicate compliment to
Florence, of which no man knowing the parties, could possibly miss the
Stretched on a crimson cushion in his gallant bark, with his shoes
in the air, Mr Toots, in the exercise of his project, had come up the
river, day after day, and week after week, and had flitted to and fro,
near Sir Barnet's garden, and had caused his crew to cut across and
across the river at sharp angles, for his better exhibition to any
lookers-out from Sir Barnet's windows, and had had such evolutions
performed by the Toots's Joy as had filled all the neighbouring part
of the water-side with astonishment. But whenever he saw anyone in Sir
Barnet's garden on the brink of the river, Mr Toots always feigned to
be passing there, by a combination of coincidences of the most
singular and unlikely description.