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Charles Dickens > Dombey And Son > Chapter 57

Dombey And Son

Chapter 57

Another Wedding

Mr Sownds the beadle, and Mrs Miff the pew-opener, are early at
their posts in the fine church where Mr Dombey was married. A
yellow-faced old gentleman from India, is going to take unto himself a
young wife this morning, and six carriages full of company are
expected, and Mrs Miff has been informed that the yellow-faced old
gentleman could pave the road to church with diamonds and hardly miss
them. The nuptial benediction is to be a superior one, proceeding from
a very reverend, a dean, and the lady is to be given away, as an
extraordinary present, by somebody who comes express from the Horse

Mrs Miff is more intolerant of common people this morning, than she
generally is; and she his always strong opinions on that subject, for
it is associated with free sittings. Mrs Miff is not a student of
political economy (she thinks the science is connected with
dissenters; 'Baptists or Wesleyans, or some o' them,' she says), but
she can never understand what business your common folks have to be
married. 'Drat 'em,' says Mrs Miff 'you read the same things over 'em'
and instead of sovereigns get sixpences!'

Mr Sownds the beadle is more liberal than Mrs Miff - but then he is
not a pew-opener. 'It must be done, Ma'am,' he says. 'We must marry
'em. We must have our national schools to walk at the head of, and we
must have our standing armies. We must marry 'em, Ma'am,' says Mr
Sownds, 'and keep the country going.'

Mr Sownds is sitting on the steps and Mrs Miff is dusting in the
church, when a young couple, plainly dressed, come in. The mortified
bonnet of Mrs Miff is sharply turned towards them, for she espies in
this early visit indications of a runaway match. But they don't want
to be married - 'Only,' says the gentleman, 'to walk round the
church.' And as he slips a genteel compliment into the palm of Mrs
Miff, her vinegary face relaxes, and her mortified bonnet and her
spare dry figure dip and crackle.

Mrs Miff resumes her dusting and plumps up her cushions - for the
yellow-faced old gentleman is reported to have tender knees - but
keeps her glazed, pew-opening eye on the young couple who are walking
round the church. 'Ahem,' coughs Mrs Miff whose cough is drier than
the hay in any hassock in her charge, 'you'll come to us one of these
mornings, my dears, unless I'm much mistaken!'

They are looking at a tablet on the wall, erected to the memory of
someone dead. They are a long way off from Mrs Miff, but Mrs Miff can
see with half an eye how she is leaning on his arm, and how his head
is bent down over her. 'Well, well,' says Mrs Miff, 'you might do
worse. For you're a tidy pair!'

There is nothing personal in Mrs Miff's remark. She merely speaks
of stock-in-trade. She is hardly more curious in couples than in
coffins. She is such a spare, straight, dry old lady - such a pew of a
woman - that you should find as many individual sympathies in a chip.
Mr Sownds, now, who is fleshy, and has scarlet in his coat, is of a
different temperament. He says, as they stand upon the steps watching
the young couple away, that she has a pretty figure, hasn't she, and
as well as he could see (for she held her head down coming out), an
uncommon pretty face. 'Altogether, Mrs Miff,' says Mr Sownds with a
relish, 'she is what you may call a rose-bud.'

Mrs Miff assents with a spare nod of her mortified bonnet; but
approves of this so little, that she inwardly resolves she wouldn't be
the wife of Mr Sownds for any money he could give her, Beadle as he

And what are the young couple saying as they leave the church, and
go out at the gate?

'Dear Walter, thank you! I can go away, now, happy.'

'And when we come back, Florence, we will come and see his grave

Florence lifts her eyes, so bright with tears, to his kind face;
and clasps her disengaged hand on that other modest little hand which
clasps his arm.

'It is very early, Walter, and the streets are almost empty yet.
Let us walk.'

'But you will be so tired, my love.'

'Oh no! I was very tired the first time that we ever walked
together, but I shall not be so to-day.' And thus - not much changed -
she, as innocent and earnest-hearted - he, as frank, as hopeful, and
more proud of her - Florence and Walter, on their bridal morning, walk
through the streets together.

Not even in that childish walk of long ago, were they so far
removed from all the world about them as to-day. The childish feet of
long ago, did not tread such enchanted ground as theirs do now. The
confidence and love of children may be given many times, and will
spring up in many places; but the woman's heart of Florence, with its
undivided treasure, can be yielded only once, and under slight or
change, can only droop and die.

They take the streets that are the quietest, and do not go near
that in which her old home stands. It is a fair, warm summer morning,
and the sun shines on them, as they walk towards the darkening mist
that overspreads the City. Riches are uncovering in shops; jewels,
gold, and silver flash in the goldsmith's sunny windows; and great
houses cast a stately shade upon them as they pass. But through the
light, and through the shade, they go on lovingly together, lost to
everything around; thinking of no other riches, and no prouder home,
than they have now in one another.

Gradually they come into the darker, narrower streets, where the
sun, now yellow, and now red, is seen through the mist, only at street
corners, and in small open spaces where there is a tree, or one of the
innumerable churches, or a paved way and a flight of steps, or a
curious little patch of garden, or a burying-ground, where the few
tombs and tombstones are almost black. Lovingly and trustfully,
through all the narrow yards and alleys and the shady streets,
Florence goes, clinging to his arm, to be his wife.

Her heart beats quicker now, for Walter tells her that their church
is very near. They pass a few great stacks of warehouses, with waggons
at the doors, and busy carmen stopping up the way - but Florence does
not see or hear them - and then the air is quiet, and the day is
darkened, and she is trembling in a church which has a strange smell
like a cellar.

The shabby little old man, ringer of the disappointed bell, is
standing in the porch, and has put his hat in the font - for he is
quite at home there, being sexton. He ushers them into an old brown,
panelled, dusty vestry, like a corner-cupboard with the shelves taken
out; where the wormy registers diffuse a smell like faded snuff, which
has set the tearful Nipper sneezing.

Youthful, and how beautiful, the young bride looks, in this old
dusty place, with no kindred object near her but her husband. There is
a dusty old clerk, who keeps a sort of evaporated news shop underneath
an archway opposite, behind a perfect fortification of posts. There is
a dusty old pew-opener who only keeps herself, and finds that quite
enough to do. There is a dusty old beadle (these are Mr Toots's beadle
and pew-opener of last Sunday), who has something to do with a
Worshipful Company who have got a Hall in the next yard, with a
stained-glass window in it that no mortal ever saw. There are dusty
wooden ledges and cornices poked in and out over the altar, and over
the screen and round the gallery, and over the inscription about what
the Master and Wardens of the Worshipful Company did in one thousand
six hundred and ninety-four. There are dusty old sounding-boards over
the pulpit and reading-desk, looking like lids to be let down on the
officiating ministers in case of their giving offence. There is every
possible provision for the accommodation of dust, except in the
churchyard, where the facilities in that respect are very limited. The
Captain, Uncle Sol, and Mr Toots are come; the clergyman is putting on
his surplice in the vestry, while the clerk walks round him, blowing
the dust off it; and the bride and bridegroom stand before the altar.
There is no bridesmaid, unless Susan Nipper is one; and no better
father than Captain Cuttle. A man with a wooden leg, chewing a faint
apple and carrying a blue bag in has hand, looks in to see what is
going on; but finding it nothing entertaining, stumps off again, and
pegs his way among the echoes out of doors.

No gracious ray of light is seen to fall on Florence, kneeling at
the altar with her timid head bowed down. The morning luminary is
built out, and don't shine there. There is a meagre tree outside,
where the sparrows are chirping a little; and there is a blackbird in
an eyelet-hole of sun in a dyer's garret, over against the window, who
whistles loudly whilst the service is performing; and there is the man
with the wooden leg stumping away. The amens of the dusty clerk
appear, like Macbeth's, to stick in his throat a little'; but Captain
Cuttle helps him out, and does it with so much goodwill that he
interpolates three entirely new responses of that word, never
introduced into the service before.

They are married, and have signed their names in one of the old
sneezy registers, and the clergyman's surplice is restored to the
dust, and the clergymam is gone home. In a dark corner of the dark
church, Florence has turned to Susan Nipper, and is weeping in her
arms. Mr Toots's eyes are red. The Captain lubricates his nose. Uncle
Sol has pulled down his spectacles from his forehead, and walked out
to the door.

'God bless you, Susan; dearest Susan! If you ever can bear witness
to the love I have for Walter, and the reason that I have to love him,
do it for his sake. Good-bye! Good-bye!'

They have thought it better not to go back to the Midshipman, but
to part so; a coach is waiting for them, near at hand.

Miss Nipper cannot speak; she only sobs and chokes, and hugs her
mistress. Mr Toots advances, urges her to cheer up, and takes charge
of her. Florence gives him her hand - gives him, in the fulness of her
heart, her lips - kisses Uncle Sol, and Captain Cuttle, and is borne
away by her young husband.

But Susan cannot bear that Florence should go away with a mournful
recollection of her. She had meant to be so different, that she
reproaches herself bitterly. Intent on making one last effort to
redeem her character, she breaks from Mr Toots and runs away to find
the coach, and show a parting smile. The Captain, divining her object,
sets off after her; for he feels it his duty also to dismiss them with
a cheer, if possible. Uncle Sol and Mr Toots are left behind together,
outside the church, to wait for them.

The coach is gone, but the street is steep, and narrow, and blocked
up, and Susan can see it at a stand-still in the distance, she is
sure. Captain Cuttle follows her as she flies down the hill, and waves
his glazed hat as a general signal, which may attract the right coach
and which may not.

Susan outstrips the Captain, and comes up with it. She looks in at
the window, sees Walter, with the gentle face beside him, and claps
her hands and screams:

'Miss Floy, my darling! look at me! We are all so happy now, dear!
One more good-bye, my precious, one more!'

How Susan does it, she don't know, but she reaches to the window,
kisses her, and has her arms about her neck, in a moment.

We are all so happy now, my dear Miss Floy!' says Susan, with a
suspicious catching in her breath. 'You, you won't be angry with me
now. Now will you?'

'Angry, Susan!'

'No, no; I am sure you won't. I say you won't, my pet, my dearest!'
exclaims Susan; 'and here's the Captain too - your friend the Captain,
you know - to say good-bye once more!'

'Hooroar, my Heart's Delight!' vociferates the Captain, with a
countenance of strong emotion. 'Hooroar, Wal'r my lad. Hooroar!

What with the young husband at one window, and the young wife at
the other; the Captain hanging on at this door, and Susan Nipper
holding fast by that; the coach obliged to go on whether it will or
no, and all the other carts and coaches turbulent because it
hesitates; there never was so much confusion on four wheels. But Susan
Nipper gallantly maintains her point. She keeps a smiling face upon
her mistress, smiling through her tears, until the last. Even when she
is left behind, the Captain continues to appear and disappear at the
door, crying 'Hooroar, my lad! Hooroar, my Heart's Delight!' with his
shirt-collar in a violent state of agitation, until it is hopeless to
attempt to keep up with the coach any longer. Finally, when the coach
is gone, Susan Nipper, being rejoined by the Captain, falls into a
state of insensibility, and is taken into a baker's shop to recover.

Uncle Sol and Mr Toots wait patiently in the churchyard, sitting on
the coping-stone of the railings, until Captain Cuttle and Susan come
back, Neither being at all desirous to speak, or to be spoken to, they
are excellent company, and quite satisfied. When they all arrive again
at the little Midshipman, and sit down to breakfast, nobody can touch
a morsel. Captain Cuttle makes a feint of being voracious about toast,
but gives it up as a swindle. Mr Toots says, after breakfast, he will
come back in the evening; and goes wandering about the town all day,
with a vague sensation upon him as if he hadn't been to bed for a

There is a strange charm in the house, and in the room, in which
they have been used to be together, and out of which so much is gone.
It aggravates, and yet it soothes, the sorrow of the separation. Mr
Toots tells Susan Nipper when he comes at night, that he hasn't been
so wretched all day long, and yet he likes it. He confides in Susan
Nipper, being alone with her, and tells her what his feelings were
when she gave him that candid opinion as to the probability of Miss
Dombey's ever loving him. In the vein of confidence engendered by
these common recollections, and their tears, Mr Toots proposes that
they shall go out together, and buy something for supper. Miss Nipper
assenting, they buy a good many little things; and, with the aid of
Mrs Richards, set the supper out quite showily before the Captain and
old Sol came home.

The Captain and old Sol have been on board the ship, and have
established Di there, and have seen the chests put aboard. They have
much to tell about the popularity of Walter, and the comforts he will
have about him, and the quiet way in which it seems he has been
working early and late, to make his cabin what the Captain calls 'a
picter,' to surprise his little wife. 'A admiral's cabin, mind you,'
says the Captain, 'ain't more trim.'

But one of the Captain's chief delights is, that he knows the big
watch, and the sugar-tongs, and tea-spoons, are on board: and again
and again he murmurs to himself, 'Ed'ard Cuttle, my lad, you never
shaped a better course in your life than when you made that there
little property over jintly. You see how the land bore, Ed'ard,' says
the Captain, 'and it does you credit, my lad.'

The old Instrument-maker is more distraught and misty than he used
to be, and takes the marriage and the parting very much to heart. But
he is greatly comforted by having his old ally, Ned Cuttle, at his
side; and he sits down to supper with a grateful and contented face.

'My boy has been preserved and thrives,' says old Sol Gills,
rubbing his hands. 'What right have I to be otherwise than thankful
and happy!'

The Captain, who has not yet taken his seat at the table, but who
has been fidgeting about for some time, and now stands hesitating in
his place, looks doubtfully at Mr Gills, and says:

'Sol! There's the last bottle of the old Madeira down below. Would
you wish to have it up to-night, my boy, and drink to Wal'r and his

The Instrument-maker, looking wistfully at the Captain, puts his
hand into the breast-pocket of his coffee-coloured coat, brings forth
his pocket-book, and takes a letter out.

'To Mr Dombey,' says the old man. 'From Walter. To be sent in three
weeks' time. I'll read it.'

'"Sir. I am married to your daughter. She is gone with me upon a
distant voyage. To be devoted to her is to have no claim on her or
you, but God knows that I am.

'"Why, loving her beyond all earthly things, I have yet, without
remorse, united her to the uncertainties and dangers of my life, I
will not say to you. You know why, and you are her father.

'"Do not reproach her. She has never reproached you.

'"I do not think or hope that you will ever forgive me. There is
nothing I expect less. But if an hour should come when it will comfort
you to believe that Florence has someone ever near her, the great
charge of whose life is to cancel her remembrance of past sorrow, I
solemnly assure you, you may, in that hour, rest in that belief."'

Solomon puts back the letter carefully in his pocket-book, and puts
back his pocket-book in his coat.

'We won't drink the last bottle of the old Madeira yet, Ned,' says
the old man thoughtfully. 'Not yet.

'Not yet,' assents the Captain. 'No. Not yet.'

Susan and Mr Toots are of the same opinion. After a silence they
all sit down to supper, and drink to the young husband and wife in
something else; and the last bottle of the old Madeira still remains
among its dust and cobwebs, undisturbed.

A few days have elapsed, and a stately ship is out at sea,
spreading its white wings to the favouring wind.

Upon the deck, image to the roughest man on board of something that
is graceful, beautiful, and harmless - something that it is good and
pleasant to have there, and that should make the voyage prosperous -
is Florence. It is night, and she and Walter sit alone, watching the
solemn path of light upon the sea between them and the moon.

At length she cannot see it plainly, for the tears that fill her
eyes; and then she lays her head down on his breast, and puts her arms
around his neck, saying, 'Oh Walter, dearest love, I am so happy!'

Her husband holds her to his heart, and they are very quiet, and
the stately ship goes on serenely.

'As I hear the sea,' says Florence, 'and sit watching it, it brings
so many days into my mind. It makes me think so much - '

'Of Paul, my love. I know it does.'

Of Paul and Walter. And the voices in the waves are always
whispering to Florence, in their ceaseless murmuring, of love - of
love, eternal and illimitable, not bounded by the confines of this
world, or by the end of time, but ranging still, beyond the sea,
beyond the sky, to the invisible country far away!

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