Dombey and Son
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'Thank you, Lucretia,' said Mrs Chick, 'I have. I took an early
breakfast' - the good lady seemed curious on the subject of Princess's
Place, and looked all round it as she spoke - 'with my brother, who
has come home.'
'He is better, I trust, my love,' faltered Miss Tox.
'He is greatly better, thank you. Hem!'
'My dear Louisa must be careful of that cough' remarked Miss Tox.
'It's nothing,' returned Mrs Chic 'It's merely change of weather.
We must expect change.'
'Of weather?' asked Miss Tox, in her simplicity.
'Of everything' returned Mrs Chick 'Of course we must. It's a world
of change. Anyone would surprise me very much, Lucretia, and would
greatly alter my opinion of their understanding, if they attempted to
contradict or evade what is so perfectly evident. Change!' exclaimed
Mrs Chick, with severe philosophy. 'Why, my gracious me, what is there
that does not change! even the silkworm, who I am sure might be
supposed not to trouble itself about such subjects, changes into all
sorts of unexpected things continually.'
'My Louisa,' said the mild Miss Tox, 'is ever happy in her
'You are so kind, Lucretia,' returned Mrs Chick, a little softened,
'as to say so, and to think so, I believe. I hope neither of us may
ever have any cause to lessen our opinion of the other, Lucretia.'
'I am sure of it,' returned Miss Tox.
Mrs Chick coughed as before, and drew lines on the carpet with the
ivory end of her parasol. Miss Tox, who had experience of her fair
friend, and knew that under the pressure of any slight fatigue or
vexation she was prone to a discursive kind of irritability, availed
herself of the pause, to change the subject.
'Pardon me, my dear Louisa,' said Miss Tox, 'but have I caught
sight of the manly form of Mr Chick in the carriage?'
'He is there,' said Mrs Chick, 'but pray leave him there. He has
his newspaper, and would be quite contented for the next two hours. Go
on with your flowers, Lucretia, and allow me to sit here and rest.'
'My Louisa knows,' observed Miss Tox, 'that between friends like
ourselves, any approach to ceremony would be out of the question.
Therefore - ' Therefore Miss Tox finished the sentence, not in words
but action; and putting on her gloves again, which she had taken off,
and arming herself once more with her scissors, began to snip and clip
among the leaves with microscopic industry.
'Florence has returned home also,' said Mrs Chick, after sitting
silent for some time, with her head on one side, and her parasol
sketching on the floor; 'and really Florence is a great deal too old
now, to continue to lead that solitary life to which she has been
accustomed. Of course she is. There can be no doubt about it. I should
have very little respect, indeed, for anybody who could advocate a
different opinion. Whatever my wishes might be, I could not respect
them. We cannot command our feelings to such an extent as that.'
Miss Tox assented, without being particular as to the
intelligibility of the proposition.
'If she's a strange girl,' said Mrs Chick, 'and if my brother Paul
cannot feel perfectly comfortable in her society, after all the sad
things that have happened, and all the terrible disappointments that
have been undergone, then, what is the reply? That he must make an
effort. That he is bound to make an effort. We have always been a
family remarkable for effort. Paul is at the head of the family;
almost the only representative of it left - for what am I - I am of no
consequence - '
'My dearest love,' remonstrated Miss Tox.
Mrs Chick dried her eyes, which were, for the moment, overflowing;
'And consequently he is more than ever bound to make an effort. And
though his having done so, comes upon me with a sort of shock - for
mine is a very weak and foolish nature; which is anything but a
blessing I am sure; I often wish my heart was a marble slab, or a
'My sweet Louisa,' remonstrated Miss Tox again.
'Still, it is a triumph to me to know that he is so true to
himself, and to his name of Dombey; although, of course, I always knew
he would be. I only hope,' said Mrs Chick, after a pause, 'that she
may be worthy of the name too.
Miss Tox filled a little green watering-pot from a jug, and
happening to look up when she had done so, was so surprised by the
amount of expression Mrs Chick had conveyed into her face, and was
bestowing upon her, that she put the little watering-pot on the table
for the present, and sat down near it.
'My dear Louisa,' said Miss Tox, 'will it be the least satisfaction
to you, if I venture to observe in reference to that remark, that I,
as a humble individual, think your sweet niece in every way most
promising?~ 'What do you mean, Lucretia?' returned Mrs Chick, with
increased stateliness of manner. 'To what remark of mine, my dear, do
'Her being worthy of her name, my love,' replied Miss Tox.
'If,' said Mrs Chick, with solemn patience, 'I have not expressed
myself with clearness, Lucretia, the fault of course is mine. There
is, perhaps, no reason why I should express myself at all, except the
intimacy that has subsisted between us, and which I very much hope,
Lucretia - confidently hope - nothing will occur to disturb. Because,
why should I do anything else? There is no reason; it would be absurd.
But I wish to express myself clearly, Lucretia; and therefore to go
back to that remark, I must beg to say that it was not intended to
relate to Florence, in any way.'
'Indeed!' returned Miss Tox.
'No,' said Mrs Chick shortly and decisively.
'Pardon me, my dear,' rejoined her meek friend; 'but I cannot have
understood it. I fear I am dull.'
Mrs Chick looked round the room and over the way; at the plants, at
the bird, at the watering-pot, at almost everything within view,
except Miss Tox; and finally dropping her glance upon Miss Tox, for a
moment, on its way to the ground, said, looking meanwhile with
elevated eyebrows at the carpet:
'When I speak, Lucretia, of her being worthy of the name, I speak
of my brother Paul's second wife. I believe I have already said, in
effect, if not in the very words I now use, that it is his intention
to marry a second wife.'
Miss Tox left her seat in a hurry, and returned to her plants;
clipping among the stems and leaves, with as little favour as a barber
working at so many pauper heads of hair.
'Whether she will be fully sensible of the distinction conferred
upon her,' said Mrs Chick, in a lofty tone, 'is quite another
question. I hope she may be. We are bound to think well of one another
in this world, and I hope she may be. I have not been advised with
myself If I had been advised with, I have no doubt my advice would
have been cavalierly received, and therefore it is infinitely better
as it is. I much prefer it as it is.'
Miss Tox, with head bent down, still clipped among the plants. Mrs
Chick, with energetic shakings of her own head from time to time,
continued to hold forth, as if in defiance of somebody. 'If my brother
Paul had consulted with me, which he sometimes does - or rather,
sometimes used to do; for he will naturally do that no more now, and
this is a circumstance which I regard as a relief from
responsibility,' said Mrs Chick, hysterically, 'for I thank Heaven I
am not jealous - ' here Mrs Chick again shed tears: 'if my brother
Paul had come to me, and had said, "Louisa, what kind of qualities
would you advise me to look out for, in a wife?" I should certainly
have answered, "Paul, you must have family, you must have beauty, you
must have dignity, you must have connexion." Those are the words I
should have used. You might have led me to the block immediately
afterwards,' said Mrs Chick, as if that consequence were highly
probable, 'but I should have used them. I should have said, "Paul! You
to marry a second time without family! You to marry without beauty!
You to marry without dignity! You to marry without connexion! There is
nobody in the world, not mad, who could dream of daring to entertain
such a preposterous idea!"'
Miss Tox stopped clipping; and with her head among the plants,
listened attentively. Perhaps Miss Tox thought there was hope in this
exordium, and the warmth of Mrs Chick.
I should have adopted this course of argument,' pursued the
discreet lady, 'because I trust I am not a fool. I make no claim to be
considered a person of superior intellect - though I believe some
people have been extraordinary enough to consider me so; one so little
humoured as I am, would very soon be disabused of any such notion; but
I trust I am not a downright fool. And to tell ME,' said Mrs Chick
with ineffable disdain, 'that my brother Paul Dombey could ever
contemplate the possibility of uniting himself to anybody - I don't
care who' - she was more sharp and emphatic in that short clause than
in any other part of her discourse - 'not possessing these requisites,
would be to insult what understanding I have got, as much as if I was
to be told that I was born and bred an elephant, which I may be told
next,' said Mrs Chick, with resignation. 'It wouldn't surprise me at
all. I expect it.'
In the moment's silence that ensued, Miss Tox's scissors gave a
feeble clip or two; but Miss Tox's face was still invisible, and Miss
Tox's morning gown was agitated. Mrs Chick looked sideways at her,
through the intervening plants, and went on to say, in a tone of bland
conviction, and as one dwelling on a point of fact that hardly
required to be stated:
'Therefore, of course my brother Paul has done what was to be
expected of him, and what anybody might have foreseen he would do, if
he entered the marriage state again. I confess it takes me rather by
surprise, however gratifying; because when Paul went out of town I had
no idea at all that he would form any attachment out of town, and he
certainly had no attachment when he left here. However, it seems to be