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Charles Dickens > Dombey And Son > Chapter 44

Dombey And Son

Chapter 44

A Separation

With the day, though not so early as the sun, uprose Miss Susan
Nipper. There was a heaviness in this young maiden's exceedingly sharp
black eyes, that abated somewhat of their sparkling, and suggested -
which was not their usual character - the possibility of their being
sometimes shut. There was likewise a swollen look about them, as if
they had been crying over-night. But the Nipper, so far from being
cast down, was singularly brisk and bold, and all her energies
appeared to be braced up for some great feat. This was noticeable even
in her dress, which was much more tight and trim than usual; and in
occasional twitches of her head as she went about the house, which
were mightily expressive of determination.

In a word, she had formed a determination, and an aspiring one: it
being nothing less than this - to penetrate to Mr Dombey's presence,
and have speech of that gentleman alone. 'I have often said I would,'
she remarked, in a threatening manner, to herself, that morning, with
many twitches of her head, 'and now I will!'

Spurring herself on to the accomplishment of this desperate design,
with a sharpness that was peculiar to herself, Susan Nipper haunted
the hall and staircase during the whole forenoon, without finding a
favourable opportunity for the assault. Not at all baffled by this
discomfiture, which indeed had a stimulating effect, and put her on
her mettle, she diminished nothing of her vigilance; and at last
discovered, towards evening, that her sworn foe Mrs Pipchin, under
pretence of having sat up all night, was dozing in her own room, and
that Mr Dombey was lying on his sofa, unattended.

With a twitch - not of her head merely, this time, but of her whole
self - the Nipper went on tiptoe to Mr Dombey's door, and knocked.
'Come in!' said Mr Dombey. Susan encouraged herself with a final
twitch, and went in.

Mr Dombey, who was eyeing the fire, gave an amazed look at his
visitor, and raised himself a little on his arm. The Nipper dropped a

'What do you want?' said Mr Dombey.

'If you please, Sir, I wish to speak to you,' said Susan.

Mr Dombey moved his lips as if he were repeating the words, but he
seemed so lost in astonishment at the presumption of the young woman
as to be incapable of giving them utterance.

'I have been in your service, Sir,' said Susan Nipper, with her
usual rapidity, 'now twelve 'year a waiting on Miss Floy my own young
lady who couldn't speak plain when I first come here and I was old in
this house when Mrs Richards was new, I may not be Meethosalem, but I
am not a child in arms.'

Mr Dombey, raised upon his arm and looking at her, offered no
comment on this preparatory statement of fact.

'There never was a dearer or a blesseder young lady than is my
young lady, Sir,' said Susan, 'and I ought to know a great deal better
than some for I have seen her in her grief and I have seen her in her
joy (there's not been much of it) and I have seen her with her brother
and I have seen her in her loneliness and some have never seen her,
and I say to some and all - I do!' and here the black-eyed shook her
head, and slightly stamped her foot; 'that she's the blessedest and
dearest angel is Miss Floy that ever drew the breath of life, the more
that I was torn to pieces Sir the more I'd say it though I may not be
a Fox's Martyr..'

Mr Dombey turned yet paler than his fall had made him, with
indignation and astonishment; and kept his eyes upon the speaker as if
he accused them, and his ears too, of playing him false.

'No one could be anything but true and faithful to Miss Floy, Sir,'
pursued Susan, 'and I take no merit for my service of twelve year, for
I love her - yes, I say to some and all I do!' - and here the
black-eyed shook her head again, and slightly stamped her foot again,
and checked a sob; 'but true and faithful service gives me right to
speak I hope, and speak I must and will now, right or wrong.

'What do you mean, woman?' said Mr Dombey, glaring at her. 'How do
you dare?'

'What I mean, Sir, is to speak respectful and without offence, but
out, and how I dare I know not but I do!'said Susan. 'Oh! you don't
know my young lady Sir you don't indeed, you'd never know so little of
her, if you did.'

Mr Dombey, in a fury, put his hand out for the bell-rope; but there
was no bell-rope on that side of the fire, and he could not rise and
cross to the other without assistance. The quick eye of the Nipper
detected his helplessness immediately, and now, as she afterwards
observed, she felt she had got him.

'Miss Floy,' said Susan Nipper, 'is the most devoted and most
patient and most dutiful and beautiful of daughters, there ain't no
gentleman, no Sir, though as great and rich as all the greatest and
richest of England put together, but might be proud of her and would
and ought. If he knew her value right, he'd rather lose his greatness
and his fortune piece by piece and beg his way in rags from door to
door, I say to some and all, he would!' cried Susan Nipper, bursting
into tears, 'than bring the sorrow on her tender heart that I have
seen it suffer in this house!'

'Woman,' cried Mr Dombey, 'leave the room.

'Begging your pardon, not even if I am to leave the situation,
Sir,' replied the steadfast Nipper, 'in which I have been so many
years and seen so much - although I hope you'd never have the heart to
send me from Miss Floy for such a cause - will I go now till I have
said the rest, I may not be a Indian widow Sir and I am not and I
would not so become but if I once made up my mind to burn myself
alive, I'd do it! And I've made my mind up to go on.'

Which was rendered no less clear by the expression of Susan
Nipper's countenance, than by her words.

'There ain't a person in your service, Sir,' pursued the
black-eyed, 'that has always stood more in awe of you than me and you
may think how true it is when I make so bold as say that I have
hundreds and hundreds of times thought of speaking to you and never
been able to make my mind up to it till last night, but last night
decided of me.'

Mr Dombey, in a paroxysm of rage, made another grasp at the
bell-rope that was not there, and, in its absence, pulled his hair
rather than nothing.

'I have seen,' said Susan Nipper, 'Miss Floy strive and strive when
nothing but a child so sweet and patient that the best of women might
have copied from her, I've seen her sitting nights together half the
night through to help her delicate brother with his learning, I've
seen her helping him and watching him at other times - some well know
when - I've seen her, with no encouragement and no help, grow up to be
a lady, thank God! that is the grace and pride of every company she
goes in, and I've always seen her cruelly neglected and keenly feeling
of it - I say to some and all, I have! - and never said one word, but
ordering one's self lowly and reverently towards one's betters, is not
to be a worshipper of graven images, and I will and must speak!'

'Is there anybody there?' cried Mr Dombey, calling out. 'Where are
the men? where are the women? Is there no one there?'

'I left my dear young lady out of bed late last night,' said Susan,
nothing checked, 'and I knew why, for you was ill Sir and she didn't
know how ill and that was enough to make her wretched as I saw it did.
I may not be a Peacock; but I have my eyes - and I sat up a little in
my own room thinking she might be lonesome and might want me, and I
saw her steal downstairs and come to this door as if it was a guilty
thing to look at her own Pa, and then steal back again and go into
them lonely drawing-rooms, a-crying so, that I could hardly bear to
hear it. I can not bear to hear it,' said Susan Nipper, wiping her
black eyes, and fixing them undauntingly on Mr Dombey's infuriated
face. 'It's not the first time I have heard it, not by many and many a
time you don't know your own daughter, Sir, you don't know what you're
doing, Sir, I say to some and all,' cried Susan Nipper, in a final
burst, 'that it's a sinful shame!'

'Why, hoity toity!' cried the voice of Mrs Pipchin, as the black
bombazeen garments of that fair Peruvian Miner swept into the room.
'What's this, indeed?'

Susan favoured Mrs Pipchin with a look she had invented expressly
for her when they first became acquainted, and resigned the reply to
Mr Dombey.

'What's this?' repeated Mr Dombey, almost foaming. 'What's this,
Madam? You who are at the head of this household, and bound to keep it
in order, have reason to inquire. Do you know this woman?'

'I know very little good of her, Sir,' croaked Mrs Pipchin. 'How
dare you come here, you hussy? Go along with you!'

But the inflexible Nipper, merely honouring Mrs Pipchin with
another look, remained.

'Do you call it managing this establishment, Madam,' said Mr
Dombey, 'to leave a person like this at liberty to come and talk to
me! A gentleman - in his own house - in his own room - assailed with
the impertinences of women-servants!'

'Well, Sir,' returned Mrs Pipchin, with vengeance in her hard grey
eye, 'I exceedingly deplore it; nothing can be more irregular; nothing
can be more out of all bounds and reason; but I regret to say, Sir,
that this young woman is quite beyond control. She has been spoiled by
Miss Dombey, and is amenable to nobody. You know you're not,' said Mrs
Pipchin, sharply, and shaking her head at Susan Nipper. 'For shame,
you hussy! Go along with you!'

'If you find people in my service who are not to be controlled, Mrs
Pipchin,' said Mr Dombey, turning back towards the fire, 'you know
what to do with them, I presume. You know what you are here for? Take
her away!'

'Sir, I know what to do,' retorted Mrs Pipchin, 'and of course
shall do it' Susan Nipper,' snapping her up particularly short, 'a
month's warning from this hour.'

'Oh indeed!' cried Susan, loftily.

'Yes,' returned Mrs Pipchin, 'and don't smile at me, you minx, or
I'll know the reason why! Go along with you this minute!'

'I intend to go this minute, you may rely upon it,' said the
voluble Nipper. 'I have been in this house waiting on my young lady a
dozen year and I won't stop in it one hour under notice from a person
owning to the name of Pipchin trust me, Mrs P.'

'A good riddance of bad rubbish!' said that wrathful old lady. 'Get
along with you, or I'll have you carried out!'

'My comfort is,' said Susan, looking back at Mr Dombey, 'that I
have told a piece of truth this day which ought to have been told long
before and can't be told too often or too plain and that no amount of
Pipchinses - I hope the number of 'em mayn't be great' (here Mrs
Pipchin uttered a very sharp 'Go along with you!' and Miss Nipper
repeated the look) 'can unsay what I have said, though they gave a
whole year full of warnings beginning at ten o'clock in the forenoon
and never leaving off till twelve at night and died of the exhaustion
which would be a Jubilee!'

With these words, Miss Nipper preceded her foe out of the room; and
walking upstairs to her own apartments in great state, to the choking
exasperation of the ireful Pipchin, sat down among her boxes and began
to cry.

From this soft mood she was soon aroused, with a very wholesome and
refreshing effect, by the voice of Mrs Pipchin outside the door.

'Does that bold-faced slut,' said the fell Pipchin, 'intend to take
her warning, or does she not?'

Miss Nipper replied from within that the person described did not
inhabit that part of the house, but that her name was Pipchin, and she
was to be found in the housekeeper's room.

'You saucy baggage!' retorted Mrs Pipchin, rattling at the handle
of the door. 'Go along with you this minute. Pack up your things
directly! How dare you talk in this way to a gentle-woman who has seen
better days?'

To which Miss Nipper rejoined from her castle, that she pitied the
better days that had seen Mrs Pipchin; and that for her part she
considered the worst days in the year to be about that lady's mark,
except that they were much too good for her.

'But you needn't trouble yourself to make a noise at my door,' said
Susan Nipper, 'nor to contaminate the key-hole with your eye, I'm
packing up and going you may take your affidavit.'

The Dowager expressed her lively satisfaction at this intelligence,
and with some general opinions upon young hussies as a race, and
especially upon their demerits after being spoiled by Miss Dombey,
withdrew to prepare the Nipper~s wages. Susan then bestirred herself
to get her trunks in order, that she might take an immediate and
dignified departure; sobbing heartily all the time, as she thought of

The object of her regret was not long in coming to her, for the
news soon spread over the house that Susan Nipper had had a
disturbance with Mrs Pipchin, and that they had both appealed to Mr
Dombey, and that there had been an unprecedented piece of work in Mr
Dombey's room, and that Susan was going. The latter part of this
confused rumour, Florence found to be so correct, that Susan had
locked the last trunk and was sitting upon it with her bonnet on, when
she came into her room.

'Susan!' cried Florence. 'Going to leave me! You!'

'Oh for goodness gracious sake, Miss Floy,' said Susan, sobbing,
'don't speak a word to me or I shall demean myself before them'
Pipchinses, and I wouldn't have 'em see me cry Miss Floy for worlds!'

'Susan!' said Florence. 'My dear girl, my old friend! What shall I
do without you! Can you bear to go away so?'

'No-n-o-o, my darling dear Miss Floy, I can't indeed,' sobbed
Susan. 'But it can't be helped, I've done my duty' Miss, I have
indeed. It's no fault of mine. I am quite resigned. I couldn't stay my
month or I could never leave you then my darling and I must at last as
well as at first, don't speak to me Miss Floy, for though I'm pretty
firm I'm not a marble doorpost, my own dear.'

'What is it? Why is it?' said Florence, 'Won't you tell me?' For
Susan was shaking her head.

'No-n-no, my darling,' returned Susan. 'Don't ask me, for I
mustn't, and whatever you do don't put in a word for me to stop, for
it couldn't be and you'd only wrong yourself, and so God bless you my
own precious and forgive me any harm I have done, or any temper I have
showed in all these many years!'

With which entreaty, very heartily delivered, Susan hugged her
mistress in her arms.

'My darling there's a many that may come to serve you and be glad
to serve you and who'll serve you well and true,' said Susan, 'but
there can't be one who'll serve you so affectionate as me or love you
half as dearly, that's my comfort' Good-bye, sweet Miss Floy!'

'Where will you go, Susan?' asked her weeping mistress.

'I've got a brother down in the country Miss - a farmer in Essex
said the heart-broken Nipper, 'that keeps ever so many co-o-ows and
pigs and I shall go down there by the coach and sto-op with him, and
don't mind me, for I've got money in the Savings Banks my dear, and
needn't take another service just yet, which I couldn't, couldn't,
couldn't do, my heart's own mistress!' Susan finished with a burst of
sorrow, which was opportunely broken by the voice of Mrs Pipchin
talking downstairs; on hearing which, she dried her red and swollen
eyes, and made a melancholy feint of calling jauntily to Mr Towlinson
to fetch a cab and carry down her boxes.

Florence, pale and hurried and distressed, but withheld from
useless interference even here, by her dread of causing any new
division between her father and his wife (whose stern, indignant face
had been a warning to her a few moments since), and by her
apprehension of being in some way unconsciously connected already with
the dismissal of her old servant and friend, followed, weeping,
downstairs to Edith's dressing-room, whither Susan betook herself to
make her parting curtsey.

'Now, here's the cab, and here's the boxes, get along with you,
do!' said Mrs Pipchin, presenting herself at the same moment. 'I beg
your pardon, Ma'am, but Mr Dombey's orders are imperative.'

Edith, sitting under the hands of her maid - she was going out to
dinner - preserved her haughty face, and took not the least notice.

'There's your money,' said Mrs Pipchin, who in pursuance of her
system, and in recollection of the Mines, was accustomed to rout the
servants about, as she had routed her young Brighton boarders; to the
everlasting acidulation of Master Bitherstone, 'and the sooner this
house sees your back the better.

Susan had no spirits even for the look that belonged to Ma Pipchin
by right; so she dropped her curtsey to Mrs Dombey (who inclined her
head without one word, and whose eye avoided everyone but Florence),
and gave one last parting hug to her young mistress, and received her
parting embrace in return. Poor Susan's face at this crisis, in the
intensity of her feelings and the determined suffocation of her sobs,
lest one should become audible and be a triumph to Mrs Pipchin,
presented a series of the most extraordinary physiognomical phenomena
ever witnessed.

'I beg your pardon, Miss, I'm sure,' said Towlinson, outside the
door with the boxes, addressing Florence, 'but Mr Toots is in the
drawing-room, and sends his compliments, and begs to know how Diogenes
and Master is.'

Quick as thought, Florence glided out and hastened downstairs,
where Mr Toots, in the most splendid vestments, was breathing very
hard with doubt and agitation on the subject of her coming.

'Oh, how de do, Miss Dombey,' said Mr Toots, 'God bless my soul!'

This last ejaculation was occasioned by Mr Toots's deep concern at
the distress he saw in Florence's face; which caused him to stop short
in a fit of chuckles, and become an image of despair.

'Dear Mr Toots,' said Florence, 'you are so friendly to me, and so
honest, that I am sure I may ask a favour of you.

'Miss Dombey,' returned Mr Toots, 'if you'll only name one, you'll
- you'll give me an appetite. To which,' said Mr Toots, with some
sentiment, 'I have long been a stranger.

'Susan, who is an old friend of mine, the oldest friend I have,'
said Florence, 'is about to leave here suddenly, and quite alone, poor
girl. She is going home, a little way into the country. Might I ask
you to take care of her until she is in the coach?'

'Miss Dombey,' returned Mr Toots, 'you really do me an honour and a
kindness. This proof of your confidence, after the manner in which I
was Beast enough to conduct myself at Brighton - '

'Yes,' said Florence, hurriedly - 'no - don't think of that. Then
would you have the kindness to - to go? and to be ready to meet her
when she comes out? Thank you a thousand times! You ease my mind so
much. She doesn't seem so desolate. You cannot think how grateful I
feel to you, or what a good friend I am sure you are!' and Florence in
her earnestness thanked him again and again; and Mr Toots, in his
earnestness, hurried away - but backwards, that he might lose no
glimpse of her.

Florence had not the courage to go out, when she saw poor Susan in
the hall, with Mrs Pipchin driving her forth, and Diogenes jumping
about her, and terrifying Mrs Pipchin to the last degree by making
snaps at her bombazeen skirts, and howling with anguish at the sound
of her voice - for the good duenna was the dearest and most cherished
aversion of his breast. But she saw Susan shake hands with the
servants all round, and turn once to look at her old home; and she saw
Diogenes bound out after the cab, and want to follow it, and testify
an impossibility of conviction that he had no longer any property in
the fare; and the door was shut, and the hurry over, and her tears
flowed fast for the loss of an old friend, whom no one could replace.
No one. No one.

Mr Toots, like the leal and trusty soul he was, stopped the
cabriolet in a twinkling, and told Susan Nipper of his commission, at
which she cried more than before.

'Upon my soul and body!' said Mr Toots, taking his seat beside her.
'I feel for you. Upon my word and honour I think you can hardly know
your own feelings better than I imagine them. I can conceive nothing
more dreadful than to have to leave Miss Dombey.'

Susan abandoned herself to her grief now, and it really was
touching to see her.

'I say,' said Mr Toots, 'now, don't! at least I mean now do, you

'Do what, Mr Toots!' cried Susan.

'Why, come home to my place, and have some dinner before you
start,' said Mr Toots. 'My cook's a most respectable woman - one of
the most motherly people I ever saw - and she'll be delighted to make
you comfortable. Her son,' said Mr Toots, as an additional
recommendation, 'was educated in the Bluecoat School,' and blown up in
a powder-mill.'

Susan accepting this kind offer, Mr Toots conducted her to his
dwelling, where they were received by the Matron in question who fully
justified his character of her, and by the Chicken who at first
supposed, on seeing a lady in the vehicle, that Mr Dombey had been
doubled up, ably to his old recommendation, and Miss Dombey abducted.
This gentleman awakened in Miss Nipper some considerable astonishment;
for, having been defeated by the Larkey Boy, his visage was in a state
of such great dilapidation, as to be hardly presentable in society
with comfort to the beholders. The Chicken himself attributed this
punishment to his having had the misfortune to get into Chancery early
in the proceedings, when he was severely fibbed by the Larkey one, and
heavily grassed. But it appeared from the published records of that
great contest that the Larkey Boy had had it all his own way from the
beginning, and that the Chicken had been tapped, and bunged, and had
received pepper, and had been made groggy, and had come up piping, and
had endured a complication of similar strange inconveniences, until he
had been gone into and finished.

After a good repast, and much hospitality, Susan set out for the
coach-office in another cabriolet, with Mr Toots inside, as before,
and the Chicken on the box, who, whatever distinction he conferred on
the little party by the moral weight and heroism of his character, was
scarcely ornamental to it, physically speaking, on account of his
plasters; which were numerous. But the Chicken had registered a vow,
in secret, that he would never leave Mr Toots (who was secretly pining
to get rid of him), for any less consideration than the good-will and
fixtures of a public-house; and being ambitious to go into that line,
and drink himself to death as soon as possible, he felt it his cue to
make his company unacceptable.

The night-coach by which Susan was to go, was on the point of
departure. Mr Toots having put her inside, lingered by the window,
irresolutely, until the driver was about to mount; when, standing on
the step, and putting in a face that by the light of the lamp was
anxious and confused, he said abruptly:

'I say, Susan! Miss Dombey, you know - '

'Yes, Sir.'

'Do you think she could - you know - eh?'

'I beg your pardon, Mr Toots,' said Susan, 'but I don't hear you.

'Do you think she could be brought, you know - not exactly at once,
but in time - in a long time - to - to love me, you know? There!' said
poor Mr Toots.

'Oh dear no!' returned Susan, shaking her head. 'I should say,
never. Never!'

'Thank'ee!' said Mr Toots. 'It's of no consequence. Good-night.
It's of no consequence, thank'ee!'

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