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Charles Dickens > Dombey And Son > Chapter 18

Dombey And Son

Chapter 18

Father and Daughter

There is a hush through Mr Dombey's house. Servants gliding up and
down stairs rustle, but make no sound of footsteps. They talk together
constantly, and sit long at meals, making much of their meat and
drink, and enjoying themselves after a grim unholy fashion. Mrs
Wickam, with her eyes suffused with tears, relates melancholy
anecdotes; and tells them how she always said at Mrs Pipchin's that it
would be so, and takes more table-ale than usual, and is very sorry
but sociable. Cook's state of mind is similar. She promises a little
fry for supper, and struggles about equally against her feelings and
the onions. Towlinson begins to think there's a fate in it, and wants
to know if anybody can tell him ofany good that ever came of living in
a corner house. It seems to all of them as having happened a long time
ago; though yet the child lies, calm and beautiful, upon his little

After dark there come some visitors - noiseless visitors, with
shoes of felt - who have been there before; and with them comes that
bed of rest which is so strange a one for infant sleepers. All this
time, the bereaved father has not been seen even by his attendant; for
he sits in an inner corner of his own dark room when anyone is there,
and never seems to move at other times, except to pace it to and fro.
But in the morning it is whispered among the household that he was
heard to go upstairs in the dead night, and that he stayed there - in
the room - until the sun was shining.

At the offices in the City, the ground-glass windows are made more
dim by shutters; and while the lighted lamps upon the desks are half
extinguished by the day that wanders in, the day is half extinguished
by the lamps, and an unusual gloom prevails. There is not much
business done. The clerks are indisposed to work; and they make
assignations to eat chops in the afternoon, and go up the river.
Perch, the messenger, stays long upon his errands; and finds himself
in bars of public-houses, invited thither by friends, and holding
forth on the uncertainty of human affairs. He goes home to Ball's Pond
earlier in the evening than usual, and treats Mrs Perch to a veal
cutlet and Scotch ale. Mr Carker the Manager treats no one; neither is
he treated; but alone in his own room he shows his teeth all day; and
it would seem that there is something gone from Mr Carker's path -
some obstacle removed - which clears his way before him.

Now the rosy children living opposite to Mr Dombey's house, peep
from their nursery windows down into the street; for there are four
black horses at his door, with feathers on their heads; and feathers
tremble on the carriage that they draw; and these, and an array of men
with scarves and staves, attract a crowd. The juggler who was going to
twirl the basin, puts his loose coat on again over his fine dress; and
his trudging wife, one-sided with her heavy baby in her arms, loiters
to see the company come out. But closer to her dingy breast she
presses her baby, when the burden that is so easily carried is borne
forth; and the youngest of the rosy children at the high window
opposite, needs no restraining hand to check her in her glee, when,
pointing with her dimpled finger, she looks into her nurse's face, and
asks 'What's that?'

And now, among the knot of servants dressed in mourning, and the
weeping women, Mr Dombey passes through the hall to the other carriage
that is waiting to receive him. He is not 'brought down,' these
observers think, by sorrow and distress of mind. His walk is as erect,
his bearing is as stiff as ever it has been. He hides his face behind
no handkerchief, and looks before him. But that his face is something
sunk and rigid, and is pale, it bears the same expression as of old.
He takes his place within the carriage, and three other gentlemen
follow. Then the grand funeral moves slowly down the street. The
feathers are yet nodding in the distance, when the juggler has the
basin spinning on a cane, and has the same crowd to admire it. But the
juggler's wife is less alert than usual with the money-box, for a
child's burial has set her thinking that perhaps the baby underneath
her shabby shawl may not grow up to be a man, and wear a sky-blue
fillet round his head, and salmon-coloured worsted drawers, and tumble
in the mud.

The feathers wind their gloomy way along the streets, and come
within the sound of a church bell. In this same church, the pretty boy
received all that will soon be left of him on earth - a name. All of
him that is dead, they lay there, near the perishable substance of his
mother. It is well. Their ashes lie where Florence in her walks - oh
lonely, lonely walks! - may pass them any day.

The service over, and the clergyman withdrawn, Mr Dombey looks
round, demanding in a low voice, whether the person who has been
requested to attend to receive instructions for the tablet, is there?

Someone comes forward, and says 'Yes.'

Mr Dombey intimates where he would have it placed; and shows him,
with his hand upon the wall, the shape and size; and how it is to
follow the memorial to the mother. Then, with his pencil, he writes
out the inscription, and gives it to him: adding, 'I wish to have it
done at once.

'It shall be done immediately, Sir.'

'There is really nothing to inscribe but name and age, you see.'

The man bows, glancing at the paper, but appears to hesitate. Mr
Dombey not observing his hesitation, turns away, and leads towards the

'I beg your pardon, Sir;' a touch falls gently on his mourning
cloak; 'but as you wish it done immediately, and it may be put in hand
when I get back - '


'Will you be so good as read it over again? I think there's a


The statuary gives him back the paper, and points out, with his
pocket rule, the words, 'beloved and only child.'

'It should be, "son," I think, Sir?'

'You are right. Of course. Make the correction.'

The father, with a hastier step, pursues his way to the coach. When
the other three, who follow closely, take their seats, his face is
hidden for the first time - shaded by his cloak. Nor do they see it
any more that day. He alights first, and passes immediately into his
own room. The other mourners (who are only Mr Chick, and two of the
medical attendants) proceed upstairs to the drawing-room, to be
received by Mrs Chick and Miss Tox. And what the face is, in the
shut-up chamber underneath: or what the thoughts are: what the heart
is, what the contest or the suffering: no one knows.

The chief thing that they know, below stairs, in the kitchen, is
that 'it seems like Sunday.' They can hardly persuade themselves but
that there is something unbecoming, if not wicked, in the conduct of
the people out of doors, who pursue their ordinary occupations, and
wear their everyday attire. It is quite a novelty to have the blinds
up, and the shutters open; and they make themselves dismally
comfortable over bottles of wine, which are freely broached as on a
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
wise matron.

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
identical words.'

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.

And was there no one nearer and dearer than Susan, to uphold the
striving heart in its anguish? Was there no other neck to clasp; no
other face to turn to? no one else to say a soothing word to such deep
sorrow? Was Florence so alone in the bleak world that nothing else
remained to her? Nothing. Stricken motherless and brotherless at once
- for in the loss of little Paul, that first and greatest loss fell
heavily upon her - this was the only help she had. Oh, who can tell
how much she needed help at first!

At first, when the house subsided into its accustomed course, and
they had all gone away, except the servants, and her father shut up in
his own rooms, Florence could do nothing but weep, and wander up and
down, and sometimes, in a sudden pang of desolate remembrance, fly to
her own chamber, wring her hands, lay her face down on her bed, and
know no consolation: nothing but the bitterness and cruelty of grief.
This commonly ensued upon the recognition of some spot or object very
tenderly dated with him; and it made the ale house, at first, a place
of agony.

But it is not in the nature of pure love to burn so fiercely and
unkindly long. The flame that in its grosser composition has the taint
of earth may prey upon the breast that gives it shelter; but the fire
from heaven is as gentle in the heart, as when it rested on the heads
of the assembled twelve, and showed each man his brother, brightened
and unhurt. The image conjured up, there soon returned the placid
face, the softened voice, the loving looks, the quiet trustfulness and
peace; and Florence, though she wept still, wept more tranquilly, and
courted the remembrance.

It was not very long before the golden water, dancing on the wall,
in the old place, at the old serene time, had her calm eye fixed upon
it as it ebbed away. It was not very long before that room again knew
her, often; sitting there alone, as patient and as mild as when she
had watched beside the little bed. When any sharp sense of its being
empty smote upon her, she could kneel beside it, and pray GOD - it was
the pouring out of her full heart - to let one angel love her and
remember her.

It was not very long before, in the midst of the dismal house so
wide and dreary, her low voice in the twilight, slowly and stopping
sometimes, touched the old air to which he had so often listened, with
his drooping head upon her arm. And after that, and when it was quite
dark, a little strain of music trembled in the room: so softly played
and sung, that it was more lIke the mournful recollection of what she
had done at his request on that last night, than the reality repeated.
But it was repeated, often - very often, in the shadowy solitude; and
broken murmurs of the strain still trembled on the keys, when the
sweet voice was hushed in tears.

Thus she gained heart to look upon the work with which her fingers
had been busy by his side on the sea-shore; and thus it was not very
long before she took to it again - with something of a human love for
it, as if it had been sentient and had known him; and, sitting in a
window, near her mother's picture, in the unused room so long
deserted, wore away the thoughtful hours.

Why did the dark eyes turn so often from this work to where the
rosy children lived? They were not immediate!y suggestive of her loss;
for they were all girls: four little sisters. But they were motherless
like her - and had a father.

It was easy to know when he had gone out and was expected home, for
the elder child was always dressed and waiting for him at the
drawing-room window, or n the balcony; and when he appeared, her
expectant face lighted up with joy, while the others at the high
window, and always on the watch too, clapped their hands, and drummed
them on the sill, and called to him. The elder child would come down
to the hall, and put her hand in his, and lead him up the stairs; and
Florence would see her afterwards sitting by his side, or on his knee,
or hanging coaxingly about his neck and talking to him: and though
they were always gay together, he would often watch her face as if he
thought her like her mother that was dead. Florence would sometimes
look no more at this, and bursting into tears would hide behind the
curtain as if she were frightened, or would hurry from the window. Yet
she could not help returning; and her work would soon fall unheeded
from her hands again.

It was the house that had been empty, years ago. It had remained so
for a long time. At last, and while she had been away from home, this
family had taken it; and it was repaired and newly painted; and there
were birds and flowers about it; and it looked very different from its
old self. But she never thought of the house. The children and their
father were all in all.

When he had dined, she could see them, through the open windows, go
down with their governess or nurse, and cluster round the table; and
in the still summer weather, the sound of their childish voices and
clear laughter would come ringing across the street, into the drooping
air of the room in which she sat. Then they would climb and clamber
upstairs with him, and romp about him on the sofa, or group themselves
at his knee, a very nosegay of little faces, while he seemed to tell
them some story. Or they would come running out into the balcony; and
then Florence would hide herself quickly, lest it should check them in
their joy, to see her in her black dress, sitting there alone.

The elder child remained with her father when the rest had gone
away, and made his tea for him - happy little house-keeper she was
then! - and sat conversing with him, sometimes at the window,
sometimes in the room, until the candles came. He made her his
companion, though she was some years younger than Florence; and she
could be as staid and pleasantly demure, with her little book or
work-box, as a woman. When they had candles, Florence from her own
dark room was not afraid to look again. But when the time came for the
child to say 'Good-night, Papa,' and go to bed, Florence would sob and
tremble as she raised her face to him, and could look no more.

Though still she would turn, again and again, before going to bed
herself from the simple air that had lulled him to rest so often, long
ago, and from the other low soft broken strain of music, back to that
house. But that she ever thought of it, or watched it, was a secret
which she kept within her own young breast.

And did that breast of Florence - Florence, so ingenuous and true -
so worthy of the love that he had borne her, and had whispered in his
last faint words - whose guileless heart was mirrored in the beauty of
her face, and breathed in every accent of her gentle voice - did that
young breast hold any other secret? Yes. One more.

When no one in the house was stirring, and the lights were all
extinguished, she would softly leave her own room, and with noiseless
feet descend the staircase, and approach her father's door. Against
it, scarcely breathing, she would rest her face and head, and press
her lips, in the yearning of her love. She crouched upon the cold
stone floor outside it, every night, to listen even for his breath;
and in her one absorbing wish to be allowed to show him some
affection, to be a consolation to him, to win him over to the
endurance of some tenderness from her, his solitary child, she would
have knelt down at his feet, if she had dared, in humble supplication.

No one knew it' No one thought of it. The door was ever closed, and
he shut up within. He went out once or twice, and it was said in the
house that he was very soon going on his country journey; but he lived
in those rooms, and lived alone, and never saw her, or inquired for
her. Perhaps he did not even know that she was in the house.

One day, about a week after the funeral, Florence was sitting at
her work, when Susan appeared, with a face half laughing and half
crying, to announce a visitor.

'A visitor! To me, Susan!' said Florence, looking up in

'Well, it is a wonder, ain't it now, Miss Floy?' said Susan; 'but I
wish you had a many visitors, I do, indeed, for you'd be all the
better for it, and it's my opinion that the sooner you and me goes
even to them old Skettleses, Miss, the better for both, I may not wish
to live in crowds, Miss Floy, but still I'm not a oyster.'

To do Miss Nipper justice, she spoke more for her young mistress
than herself; and her face showed it.

'But the visitor, Susan,' said Florence.

Susan, with an hysterical explosion that was as much a laugh as a
sob, and as much a sob as a laugh, answered,

'Mr Toots!'

The smile that appeared on Florence's face passed from it in a
moment, and her eyes filled with tears. But at any rate it was a
smile, and that gave great satisfaction to Miss Nipper.

'My own feelings exactly, Miss Floy,' said Susan, putting her apron
to her eyes, and shaking her head. 'Immediately I see that Innocent in
the Hall, Miss Floy, I burst out laughing first, and then I choked.'

Susan Nipper involuntarily proceeded to do the like again on the
spot. In the meantime Mr Toots, who had come upstairs after her, all
unconscious of the effect he produced, announced himself with his
knuckles on the door, and walked in very brisKly.

'How d'ye do, Miss Dombey?' said Mr Toots. 'I'm very well, I thank
you; how are you?'

Mr Toots - than whom there were few better fellows in the world,
though there may have been one or two brighter spirits - had
laboriously invented this long burst of discourse with the view of
relieving the feelings both of Florence and himself. But finding that
he had run through his property, as it were, in an injudicious manner,
by squandering the whole before taking a chair, or before Florence had
uttered a word, or before he had well got in at the door, he deemed it
advisable to begin again.

'How d'ye do, Miss Dombey?' said Mr Toots. 'I'm very well, I thank
you; how are you?'

Florence gave him her hand, and said she was very well.

'I'm very well indeed,' said Mr Toots, taking a chair. 'Very well
indeed, I am. I don't remember,' said Mr Toots, after reflecting a
little, 'that I was ever better, thank you.'

'It's very kind of you to come,' said Florence, taking up her work,
'I am very glad to see you.'

Mr Toots responded with a chuckle. Thinking that might be too
lively, he corrected it with a sigh. Thinking that might be too
melancholy, he corrected it with a chuckle. Not thoroughly pleasing
himself with either mode of reply, he breathed hard.

'You were very kind to my dear brother,' said Florence, obeying her
own natural impulse to relieve him by saying so. 'He often talked to
me about you.'

'Oh it's of no consequence,' said Mr Toots hastily. 'Warm, ain't

'It is beautiful weather,' replied Florence.

'It agrees with me!' said Mr Toots. 'I don't think I ever was so
well as I find myself at present, I'm obliged to you.

After stating this curious and unexpected fact, Mr Toots fell into
a deep well of silence.

'You have left Dr Blimber's, I think?' said Florence, trying to
help him out.

'I should hope so,' returned Mr Toots. And tumbled in again.

He remained at the bottom, apparently drowned, for at least ten
minutes. At the expiration of that period, he suddenly floated, and

'Well! Good morning, Miss Dombey.'

'Are you going?' asked Florence, rising.

'I don't know, though. No, not just at present,' said Mr Toots,
sitting down again, most unexpectedly. 'The fact is - I say, Miss

'Don't be afraid to speak to me,' said Florence, with a quiet
smile, 'I should he very glad if you would talk about my brother.'

'Would you, though?' retorted Mr Toots, with sympathy in every
fibre of his otherwise expressionless face. 'Poor Dombey! I'm sure I
never thought that Burgess and Co. - fashionable tailors (but very
dear), that we used to talk about - would make this suit of clothes
for such a purpose.' Mr Toots was dressed in mourning. 'Poor Dombey! I
say! Miss Dombey!' blubbered Toots.

'Yes,' said Florence.

'There's a friend he took to very much at last. I thought you'd
lIke to have him, perhaps, as a sort of keepsake. You remember his
remembering Diogenes?'

'Oh yes! oh yes' cried Florence.

'Poor Dombey! So do I,' said Mr Toots.

Mr Toots, seeing Florence in tears, had great difficulty in getting
beyond this point, and had nearly tumbled into the well again. But a
chucKle saved him on the brink.

'I say,' he proceeded, 'Miss Dombey! I could have had him stolen
for ten shillings, if they hadn't given him up: and I would: but they
were glad to get rid of him, I think. If you'd like to have him, he's
at the door. I brought him on purpose for you. He ain't a lady's dog,
you know,' said Mr Toots, 'but you won't mind that, will you?'

In fact, Diogenes was at that moment, as they presently ascertained
from looking down into the street, staring through the window of a
hackney cabriolet, into which, for conveyance to that spot, he had
been ensnared, on a false pretence of rats among the straw. Sooth to
say, he was as unlike a lady's dog as might be; and in his gruff
anxiety to get out, presented an appearance sufficiently unpromising,
as he gave short yelps out of one side of his mouth, and overbalancing
himself by the intensity of every one of those efforts, tumbled down
into the straw, and then sprung panting up again, putting out his
tongue, as if he had come express to a Dispensary to be examined for
his health.

But though Diogenes was as ridiculous a dog as one would meet with
on a summer's day; a blundering, ill-favoured, clumsy, bullet-headed
dog, continually acting on a wrong idea that there was an enemy in the
neighbourhood, whom it was meritorious to bark at; and though he was
far from good-tempered, and certainly was not clever, and had hair all
over his eyes, and a comic nose, and an inconsistent tail, and a gruff
voice; he was dearer to Florence, in virtue of that parting
remembrance of him, and that request that he might be taken care of,
than the most valuable and beautiful of his kind. So dear, indeed, was
this same ugly Diogenes, and so welcome to her, that she took the
jewelled hand of Mr Toots and kissed it in her gratitude. And when
Diogenes, released, came tearing up the stairs and bouncing into the
room (such a business as there was, first, to get him out of the
cabriolet!), dived under all the furniture, and wound a long iron
chain, that dangled from his neck, round legs of chairs and tables,
and then tugged at it until his eyes became unnaturally visible, in
consequence of their nearly starting out of his head; and when he
growled at Mr Toots, who affected familiarity; and went pell-mell at
Towlinson, morally convinced that he was the enemy whom he had barked
at round the corner all his life and had never seen yet; Florence was
as pleased with him as if he had been a miracle of discretion.

Mr Toots was so overjoyed by the success of his present, and was so
delighted to see Florence bending down over Diogenes, smoothing his
coarse back with her little delicate hand - Diogenes graciously
allowing it from the first moment of their acquaintance - that he felt
it difficult to take leave, and would, no doubt, have been a much
longer time in making up his mind to do so, if he had not been
assisted by Diogenes himself, who suddenly took it into his head to
bay Mr Toots, and to make short runs at him with his mouth open. Not
exactly seeing his way to the end of these demonstrations, and
sensible that they placed the pantaloons constructed by the art of
Burgess and Co. in jeopardy, Mr Toots, with chuckles, lapsed out at
the door: by which, after looking in again two or three times, without
any object at all, and being on each occasion greeted with a fresh run
from Diogenes, he finally took himself off and got away.

'Come, then, Di! Dear Di! Make friends with your new mistress. Let
us love each other, Di!'said Florence, fondling his shaggy head. And
Di, the rough and gruff, as if his hairy hide were pervious to the
tear that dropped upon it, and his dog's heart melted as it fell, put
his nose up to her face, and swore fidelity.

Diogenes the man did not speak plainer to Alexander the Great than
Diogenes the dog spoke to Florence.' He subscribed to the offer of his
little mistress cheerfully, and devoted himself to her service. A
banquet was immediately provided for him in a corner; and when he had
eaten and drunk his fill, he went to the window where Florence was
sitting, looking on, rose up on his hind legs, with his awkward fore
paws on her shoulders, licked her face and hands, nestled his great
head against her heart, and wagged his tail till he was tired.
Finally, Diogenes coiled himself up at her feet and went to sleep.

Although Miss Nipper was nervous in regard of dogs, and felt it
necessary to come into the room with her skirts carefully collected
about her, as if she were crossing a brook on stepping-stones; also to
utter little screams and stand up on chairs when Diogenes stretched
himself, she was in her own manner affected by the kindness of Mr
Toots, and could not see Florence so alive to the attachment and
society of this rude friend of little Paul's, without some mental
comments thereupon that brought the water to her eyes. Mr Dombey, as a
part of her reflections, may have been, in the association of ideas,
connected with the dog; but, at any rate, after observing Diogenes and
his mistress all the evening, and after exerting herself with much
good-will to provide Diogenes a bed in an ante-chamber outside his
mistress's door, she said hurriedly to Florence, before leaving her
for the night:

'Your Pa's a going off, Miss Floy, tomorrow morning.'

'To-morrow morning, Susan?'

'Yes, Miss; that's the orders. Early.'

'Do you know,' asked Florence, without looking at her, 'where Papa
is going, Susan?'

'Not exactly, Miss. He's going to meet that precious Major first,
and I must say if I was acquainted with any Major myself (which
Heavens forbid), it shouldn't be a blue one!'

'Hush, Susan!' urged Florence gently.

'Well, Miss Floy,' returned Miss Nipper, who was full of burning
indignation, and minded her stops even less than usual. 'I can't help
it, blue he is, and while I was a Christian, although humble, I would
have natural-coloured friends, or none.'

It appeared from what she added and had gleaned downstairs, that
Mrs Chick had proposed the Major for Mr Dombey's companion, and that
Mr Dombey, after some hesitation, had invited him.

'Talk of him being a change, indeed!' observed Miss Nipper to
herself with boundless contempt. 'If he's a change, give me a

'Good-night, Susan,' said Florence.

'Good-night, my darling dear Miss Floy.'

Her tone of commiseration smote the chord so often roughly touched,
but never listened to while she or anyone looked on. Florence left
alone, laid her head upon her hand, and pressing the other over her
swelling heart, held free communication with her sorrows.

It was a wet night; and the melancholy rain fell pattering and
dropping with a weary sound. A sluggish wind was blowing, and went
moaning round the house, as if it were in pain or grief. A shrill
noise quivered through the trees. While she sat weeping, it grew late,
and dreary midnight tolled out from the steeples.

Florence was little more than a child in years - not yet fourteen-
and the loneliness and gloom of such an hour in the great house where
Death had lately made its own tremendous devastation, might have set
an older fancy brooding on vague terrors. But her innocent imagination
was too full of one theme to admit them. Nothing wandered in her
thoughts but love - a wandering love, indeed, and castaway - but
turning always to her father. There was nothing in the dropping of the
rain, the moaning of the wind, the shuddering of the trees, the
striking of the solemn clocks, that shook this one thought, or
diminished its interest' Her recollections of the dear dead boy - and
they were never absent - were itself, the same thing. And oh, to be
shut out: to be so lost: never to have looked into her father's face
or touched him, since that hour!

She could not go to bed, poor child, and never had gone yet, since
then, without making her nightly pilgrimage to his door. It would have
been a strange sad sight, to see her' now, stealing lightly down the
stairs through the thick gloom, and stopping at it with a beating
heart, and blinded eyes, and hair that fell down loosely and unthought
of; and touching it outside with her wet cheek. But the night covered
it, and no one knew.

The moment that she touched the door on this night, Florence found
that it was open. For the first time it stood open, though by but a
hair's-breadth: and there was a light within. The first impulse of the
timid child - and she yielded to it - was to retire swiftly. Her next,
to go back, and to enter; and this second impulse held her in
irresolution on the staircase.

In its standing open, even by so much as that chink, there seemed
to be hope. There was encouragement in seeing a ray of light from
within, stealing through the dark stern doorway, and falling in a
thread upon the marble floor. She turned back, hardly knowing what she
did, but urged on by the love within her, and the trial they had
undergone together, but not shared: and with her hands a little raised
and trembling, glided in.

Her father sat at his old table in the middle room. He had been
arranging some papers, and destroying others, and the latter lay in
fragile ruins before him. The rain dripped heavily upon the glass
panes in the outer room, where he had so often watched poor Paul, a
baby; and the low complainings of the wind were heard without.

But not by him. He sat with his eyes fixed on the table, so
immersed in thought, that a far heavier tread than the light foot of
his child could make, might have failed to rouse him. His face was
turned towards her. By the waning lamp, and at that haggard hour, it
looked worn and dejected; and in the utter loneliness surrounding him,
there was an appeal to Florence that struck home.

'Papa! Papa! speak to me, dear Papa!'

He started at her voice, and leaped up from his seat. She was close
before him' with extended arms, but he fell back.

'What is the matter?' he said, sternly. 'Why do you come here? What
has frightened you?'

If anything had frightened her, it was the face he turned upon her.
The glowing love within the breast of his young daughter froze before
it, and she stood and looked at him as if stricken into stone.

There was not one touch of tenderness or pity in it. There was not
one gleam of interest, parental recognition, or relenting in it. There
was a change in it, but not of that kind. The old indifference and
cold constraint had given place to something: what, she never thought
and did not dare to think, and yet she felt it in its force, and knew
it well without a name: that as it looked upon her, seemed to cast a
shadow on her head.

Did he see before him the successful rival of his son, in health
and life? Did he look upon his own successful rival in that son's
affection? Did a mad jealousy and withered pride, poison sweet
remembrances that should have endeared and made her precious to him?
Could it be possible that it was gall to him to look upon her in her
beauty and her promise: thinking of his infant boy!

Florence had no such thoughts. But love is quick to know when it is
spurned and hopeless: and hope died out of hers, as she stood looking
in her father's face.

'I ask you, Florence, are you frightened? Is there anything the
matter, that you come here?'

'I came, Papa - '

'Against my wishes. Why?'

She saw he knew why: it was written broadly on his face: and
dropped her head upon her hands with one prolonged low cry.

Let him remember it in that room, years to come. It has faded from
the air, before he breaks the silence. It may pass as quickly from his
brain, as he believes, but it is there. Let him remember it in that
room, years to come!

He took her by the arm. His hand was cold, and loose, and scarcely
closed upon her.

'You are tired, I daresay,' he said, taking up the light, and
leading her towards the door, 'and want rest. We all want rest. Go,
Florence. You have been dreaming.'

The dream she had had, was over then, God help her! and she felt
that it could never more come back

'I will remain here to light you up the stairs. The whole house is
yours above there,' said her father, slowly. 'You are its mistress
now. Good-night!'

Still covering her face, she sobbed, and answered 'Good-night, dear
Papa,' and silently ascended. Once she looked back as if she would
have returned to him, but for fear. It was a mommentary thought, too
hopeless to encourage; and her father stood there with the light -
hard, unresponsive, motionless - until the fluttering dress of his
fair child was lost in the darkness.

Let him remember it in that room, years to come. The rain that
falls upon the roof: the wind that mourns outside the door: may have
foreknowledge in their melancholy sound. Let him remember it in that
room, years to come!

The last time he had watched her, from the same place, winding up
those stairs, she had had her brother in her arms. It did not move his
heart towards her now, it steeled it: but he went into his room, and
locked his door, and sat down in his chair, and cried for his lost

Diogenes was broad awake upon his post, and waiting for his little

'Oh, Di! Oh, dear Di! Love me for his sake!'

Diogenes already loved her for her own, and didn't care how much he
showed it. So he made himself vastly ridiculous by performing a
variety of uncouth bounces in the ante-chamber, and concluded, when
poor Florence was at last asleep, and dreaming of the rosy children
opposite, by scratching open her bedroom door: rolling up his bed into
a pillow: lying down on the boards, at the full length of his tether,
with his head towards her: and looking lazily at her, upside down, out
of the tops of his eyes, until from winking and winking he fell asleep
himself, and dreamed, with gruff barks, of his enemy.

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