nestness in it that made the very tremble in her
voice a part of her firmness, "and proud of him.
Sir, you who strangely know the story of his life,
and repeated it to me when you were here last — "
" Merely to make my way into your confidence,"
interposed the gentleman. "For Heaven's sake,
don't suppose — "
"I am sure," she said, "you revived it, in my
hearing, with a kind and good purpose. I am quite
sure of it."
"I thank you," returned her visitor, pressing her
hand hastily. "I am much obliged to you. You
do me justice, I assure you. You were going to
say that I, who know the story of John Carker's
"May think it pride in me," she continued,
" when I say that I am proud of him ! I am. You
know the time was when I was not — when I could
286 DOMBEY AXD SON.
not be — but that is past. The humility of many
years, the uncomplaining expiation, the true repent-
ance, the terrible regret, the pain I know he has
even in my affection, which he thinks has cost me
dear, though Heaven knows I am happy, but for
his sorrow ! — oh, sir, after what I have seen, let me
conjure you, if you are in any place of power, and
are ever wronged, never, for any wrong, inflict a
punishment that cannot be recalled ; while there
is a God above us to work changes in the hearts
''Your brother is an altered man," returned the
gentleman compassionately. " I assure you, I don't
''He was an altered man when he did wrong,"
said Harriet. " He is an altered man again, and is
his true self now, believe me, sir."
"But we go on," said her visitor, rubbing his
forehead, in an absent manner, with his hand, and
then drumming thoughtfully on the table, '•' we go
on in our clockwork routine, from day to day, and
can't make out, or follow, these changes. They —
they're a metaphysical sort of thing. We — we
haven't leisure for it. We — we haven't courage.
They're not taught at schools or colleges, and we
don't know how to set about it. In short, we are
so d d business-like," said the gentleman, walk-
ing to the window and back, and sitting down again,
in a state of extreme dissatisfaction and vexation.
"I am sure," said the gentleman, rubbing his
forehead again, and drumming on the table as
before; "I have good reason to believe that a jog-
trot life, the same from day to day, would reconcile
one to anything. One don't see anything, one don't
DOMBEY AND SON. 287
hear anything, one don't know anything ; that's the
fact. We go on taking everything for granted, and
so we go on, until whatever we do, good, bad, or
indifferent, we do from habit. Habit is all I shall
have to report, when I am called upon to plead to
my conscience on my death-bed. ' Habit,' says I ;
' I was deaf, dumb, blind, and paralytic to a million
things, from habit.' ' Very business-like indeed,
Mr. What's-your-name/ says Conscience, 'but it
won't do here ! ' "
The gentleman got up and walked to the window
again and back : seriously uneasy, though giving
his uneasiness this peculiar expression.
"Miss Harriet," he said, resuming his chair, "I
wish you would let me serve you. Look at me;
I ought to look honest, for I know I am so at
present. Do I ? "
" Yes," she answered with a smile.
"I believe every word you have said," he re-
turned. "I am full of self-reproach that I might
have known this and seen this, and known you and
seen you, any time these dozen years, and that I
never have. I hardly know how I ever got here —
creature that I am, not only of my own habit, but
of other people's ! But, having done so, let me do
something. I ask it in all honor and respect. You
inspire me with both, in the highest degree. Let
me do something."
"We are contented, sir."
"No, no, not quite," returned the gentleman.
" I think not quite. There are some little comforts
that might smooth your life, and his. And his ! "
he repeated, fancying that had made some impres-
sion on her. " I have been in the habit of thinking
288 DOMBEY AND SON.
that there was nothing wanting to be done for him ;
that it was all settled and over ; in short, of not
thinking at all about it. I am different now. Let
me do something for him. You too," said the visi-
tor with careful delicacy, " have need to watch your
health closely, for his sake, and I fear it fails."
"Whoever you may be, sir," answered Harriet,
raising her eyes to his face, " I am deeply grateful
to you. I feel certain that, in all you say, you have
no object in the world but kindness to us. But
years have passed since we began this life ; and to
take from my brother any part of what has so
endeared him to me, and so proved his better reso-
lution — any fragment of the merit of his unassisted,
obscure, and forgotten reparation — would be to
diminish the comfort it will be to him and me, when
that time comes to each of us, of which you spoke
just now. I thank you better with these tears than
any words. Believe it, pray."
The gentleman was moved, and put the hand she
held out to his lips, much as a tender father might
kiss the hand of a dutiful child. But more rever-
"If the day should ever come," said Harriet,
"when he is restored, in part, to the position he
lost — "
" Restored ! " cried the gentleman quickly. " How
can that be hoped for ? In whose hands does the
power of any restoration lie ? It is no mistake of
mine, surely, to suppose that his having gained the
priceless blessing of his life is one cause of the
animosity shown to him by his brother."
"You touch upon a subject that is never breathed
between us ; not even between us," said Harriet.
DOMBEY AND SON. 289
"I beg your forgiveness," said the visitor. "I
should have known it. I entreat you to forget that
I have done so inadvertently. And now, as I dare
urge no more — as I am not sure that I have a right
to do so — though Heaven knows even that doubt
may be habit," said the gentleman, rubbing his
head, as despondently as before, " let me : though
a stranger, yet no stranger : ask two favors."
" What are they ? " she inquired,
" The first, that if you should see cause to change
your resolution, you will suffer me to be as your
right hand. My name shall then be at your service;
it is useless now, and always insignificant."
" Our choice of friends," she answered, smiling
faintly, " is not so great that I need any time for
consideration. I can promise that."
*' The second, that you will allow me sometimes,
say every Monday morning, at nine o'clock — habit
again — I must be business-like," said the gentle-
man, with a whimsical inclination to quarrel with
himself on that head, " in walking past, to see you
at the door or window. I don't ask to come in, as
your brother will be gone out at that hour. I don't
ask to speak to you. I merely ask to see, for the
satisfaction of my own mind, that you are well, and
without intrusion to remind you, by the sight of
me, that you have a friend — an elderly friend,
gray-haired already, and fast growing grayer — ■
whom you may ever command."
The cordial face looked up in his ; confided in it ;
"I understand, as before," said the gentleman,
rising, " that you purpose not to mention my visit
to John Carker, lest he should be at all distressed
290 DOMBEY AND SON.
bj my acquaintance with his history. I am glad of
it, for it is out of the ordinary course of things, and
— habit again ! " said the gentleman, checking him-
self impatiently, " as if there were no better course
than the ordinary course ! "
With that he turned to go, and walking, bare-
headed, to the outside of the little porch, took leave
of her with such a happy mixture of unconstrained
respect and unaffected interest as no breeding could
have taught, no truth mistrusted, and nothing but a
pure and single heart expressed.
Many half-forgotten emotions were awakened in
the sister's mind by this visit. It was so very long
since any other visitor had crossed their threshold ;
it was so very long since any voice of sympathy had
made sad music in her ears ; that the stranger's fig-
ure remained present to her hours afterwards, when
she sat at the window, plying her needle ; and his
words seemed newly spoken, again and again. He
had touched the spring that opened her whole life ;
and if she lost him for a short space, it was only
among the many shapes of the one great recollection
of which that life was made.
Musing and working by turns ; now constraining
herself to be steady at her needle for a long time
together, and now letting her work fall, unregarded,
on her lap, and straying wheresoever her busier
thoughts led, Harriet Carker found the hours glide
by her, and the day steal on. The morning, which
had been bright and clear, gradually became over-
cast; a sharp wind set in; the rain fell heavily;
and a dark mist, drooping over the distant town,
hid it from the view.
She often looked with compassion, at such a time,
DOMBEY AND SON. 291
upon the stragglers who came wandering into Lon-
don by the great highway hard by, and who, footsore
and weary, and gazing fearfully at the huge town
before them, as if foreboding that their misery there
would be but as a drop of water in the sea, or as a
grain of sea-sand on the shore, went shrinking on,
cowering before the angry weather, and looking as
if the very elements rejected them. Day after day,
such travellers crept past, but always, as she thought,
in one direction — always towards the town. Swal-
lowed up in one phase or other of its immensity,
towards which they seemed impelled by a desperate
fascination, they never returned. Food for the hos-
pitals, the churchyards, the prisons, the river, fever,
madness, vice, and death, — they passed on to the
monster, roaring in the distance, and were lost.
The chill wind was howling, and the rain was fall-
ing, and the day was darkening moodily, when Har-
riet, raising her eyes from the work on which she
had long since been engaged with unremitting con-
stancy, saw one of these travellers approaching.
A woman. A solitary woman of some thirty
years of age ; tall ; well formed ; handsome ; mis-
erably dressed ; the soil of many country roads in
varied weather — dust, chalk, clay, gravel — clotted
on her gray cloak by the streaming wet ; no bonnet
on her head, nothing to defend her rich black hair
from the rain but a torn handkerchief; with the
fluttering ends of which, and with her hair, the wind
blinded her so that she often stopped to push them
back, and look upon the way she was going.
She was in the act of doing so when Harriet ob-
served her. As her hands, parting on her sunburnt
forehead, swept across her face, and threw aside the
292 DOMBEY AND SON.
hindrances that encroached upon it, there was a reck-
less and regardless beauty in it : a dauntless and
depraved indifference to more than weather : a care-
lessness of what was cast upon her bare head from
heaven or earth : that, coupled with her misery and
loneliness, touched the heart of her fellow-woman.
She thought of all that was perverted and debased
within her, no less than without : of modest graces
of the mind, hardened and steeled, like these attrac-
tions of the person ; of the many gifts of the Crea-
tor flung to the winds like the wild hair ; of all the
beautiful ruin upon which the storm was beating and
the night was coming.
Thinking of this, she did not turn away with a
delicate indignation — too many of her own compas-
sionate and tender sex too often do — but pitied her.
Her fallen sister came on, looking far before her,
trying with her eager eyes to pierce the mist in
which the city was enshrouded, and glancing, now
and then, from side to side, with the bewildered and
uncertain aspect of a stranger. Though her tread
was bold and courageous, she was fatigued, and
after a moment of irresolution, sat down upon a
heap of stones ; seeking no shelter from the rain,
but letting it rain on her as it would.
She was now opposite the house. Raising her
head after resting it for a moment on both hands,
her eyes met those of Harriet.
In a moment Harriet was at the door; and the
other, rising from her seat at her beck, came slowly,
and with no conciliatory look, towards her.
" Why do you rest in the rain ? " said Harriet
" Because I have no other resting-place," was the
DOMBEY AND SON. 293
" But there are many places of shelter near here.
This," referring to the little porch, "is better than
where you were. You are very welcome to rest
The wanderer looked at her, in doubt and sur-
prise, but without any expression of thankfulness ;
and sitting down, and taking off one of her worn
shoes to beat out the fragments of stone and dust
that were inside, showed that her foot was cut and
Harriet uttering an expression of pity, the travel-
ler looked up with a contemptuous and incredulous
" Why, what's a torn foot to such as me ? " she
said. " And what's a torn foot, in such as me, to
such as you ? "
" Come in and wash it," answered Harriet mildly,
"and let me give you something to bind it up."
The woman caught her arm, and, drawing it before
her own eyes, hid them against it, and wept. Not
like a woman, but like a stern man surprised into
that weakness ; with a violent heaving of her breast,
and struggle for recovery, that showed how unusual
the emotion was with her.
She submitted to be led into the house, and, evi-
dently more in gratitude than in any care for her-
self, washed and bound the injured place. Harriet
then put before her fragments of her own frugal
dinner, and when she had eaten of them, though
sparingly, besought her, before resuming her road
(which she showed her anxiety to do), to dry her
clothes before the fire. Again, more in gratitude
than with any evidence of concern in her own be-
half, she sat down in front of it, and unbinding the
294 DOMBEY AND SON.
handkerchief about her head, and letting her thick
wet hair fall down below her waist, sat drying it
with the palms of her hands, and looking at the
" I dare say you are thinking," she said, lifting
her head suddenly, ''that I used to be handsome
once. I believe I was — I know I was. Look
here ! "
She held up her hair roughly with both hands ;
seizing it as if she would have torn it out ; then,
threw it down again, and flung it back as though it
were a heap of serpents.
''Are you a stranger in this place ?" asked Harriet.
" A stranger ! " she returned, stopping between
each short reply, and looking at the fire. "Yes.
Ten or a dozen years a stranger. I have had no
almanac where I have been. Ten or a dozen years.
I don't know this part. It's much altered since I
" Have you been far ? "
"Very far. Months upon months over the sea,
and far away even then. I have been where con-
victs go," she added, looking full upon her enter-
tainer. " I have been one myself."
" Heaven help you and forgive you ! " was the
" Ah ! Heaven help me and forgive me ! " she
returned, nodding her head at the fire. " If man
would help some of us a little more, God would
forgive us all the sooner, perhaps."
But she was softened by the earnest manner, and
the cordial face so full of mildness and so free from
judgment of her, and said, less hardily, —
" We may be about the same age, you and I. If
DOMBEY AND SON. 295
I am older, it is not above a year or two. Oh, think
of that ! "
She opened her arms, as though the exhibition of
her outward form would show the moral wretch she
was ; and letting them drop at her sides, hung down
" There is nothing we may not hope to repair ; it
is never too late to amend," said Harriet. "You
are penitent — "
" No," she answered. " I am not ! I can't be. I
am no such thing. Why should / be penitent, and
all the world go free ? They talk to me of my
penitence. Who's penitent for the wrongs that
have been done to me ? "
She rose up, bound her handkerchief about her
head, and turned to move away.
" Where are you going ? " said Harriet.
" Yonder," she answered, pointing with her hand.
" Have you any home to go to ? "
"I think I have a mother. She's as much a
mother as her dwelling is a home," she answered
with a bitter laugh.
" Take this," cried Harriet, putting money in her
hand. "Try to do well. It is very little, but for
one day it may keep you from harm."
" Are you married ? " said the other faintly, as
she took it.
"No. I live here with my brother. We have
not much to spare, or I would give you more."
" Will you let me kiss you ? "
Seeing no scorn or repugnance in her face, the
object of her charity bent over her as she asked the
question, and pressed her lips against her cheek.
296 DOMBEY AND SON.
Once more slie caught her arm, and covered her
eyes with it ; and then was gone.
Gone into the deepening night, and howling
wind, and pelting rain ; urging her way on towards
the mist-enshrouded city, where the blurred lights
gleamed ; and with her black hair and disordered
headgear fluttering round her reckless face.
ANOTHER MOTHER AND DAUGHTER.
In an ugly and dark room, an old ■woman, ugly
and dark too, sat listening to the wind and rain, and
crouching over a meagre fire. More constant to
the last-named occupation than the first, she never
changed her attitude, unless, when any stray drops
of rain fell hissing on the smouldering embers, to
raise her head with an awakened attention to the
whistling and pattering outside, and gradually to
let it fall again lower and lower and lower as she
sunk into a brooding state of thought, in which the
noises of the night were as indistinctly regarded as
is the monotonous rolling of a sea by one who sits
in contemplation on its shore.
There was no light in the room save that which
the fire afforded. Glaring sullenly from time to
time like the eye of a fierce beast half asleep, it
revealed no objects that needed to be jealous of a
better display. A heap of rags, a heap of bones,
a wretched bed, two or three mutilated chairs or
stools, the black walls and blacker ceiling, were all
its winking brightness shone upon. As the old
woman, with a gigantic and distorted image of her-
self, thrown half upon the wall behind her, half
298 DOJIBEY AND SON.
upon the roof above, sat bending over the few loose
bricks within which it was pent, on the damp hearth
of the chimney — for there was no stove — she
looked as if she were watching at some witch's
altar for a favorable token ; and but that the move-
ment of her chattering jaws and trembling chin was
too frequent and too fast for the slow flickering of
the fire, it would have seemed an illusion wrought
by the light, as it came and went, upon a face as
motionless as the form to which it belonged.
If Florence could have stood within the room,
and looked upon the original of the shadow thrown
upon the wall and roof, as it cowered thus over the
fire, a glance might have sufficed to recall the figure
of Good Mrs. Brown; notwithstanding that her
childish recollection of that terrible old woman was
as grotesque and exaggerated a presentment of the
truth, perhaps, as the shadow on the wall. But
Florence was not there to look on ; and Good Mrs.
Brown remained unrecognized, and sat staring at
her fire, unobserved.
Attracted by a louder sputtering than usual, as
the rain came hissing down the chimney in a little
stream, the old woman raised her head impatiently,
to listen afresh. And this time she did not drop it
again ; for there was a hand upon the door, and a
footstep in the room.
" Who's that ? " she said, looking over her shoulder.
" One who brings you news," was the answer in a
'' News ? Where from ? "
" From beyond seas ? " cried the old woman, start-
DOMBEY AND SON. 299
"Ay, from beyond seas."
The old woman raked the fire together hurriedly,
and going close to her visitor, who had entered and
shut the door, and who now stood in the middle of
the room, put her hand upon the drenched cloak,
and turned the unresisting figure, so as to have it in
the full light of the fire. She did not find what she
had expected, whatever that might be ; for she let
the cloak go again, and uttered a querulous cry of
disappointment and misery.
" What is the matter ? " asked her visitor.
" Oho ! Oho ! " cried the old woman, turning her
face upward, with a terrible howl.
" What is the matter ? " asked the visitor again.
" It's not my gal ! " cried the old woman, tossing
up her arms, and clasping her hands above her head.
" Where's my Alice ? Where's my handsome daugh-
ter ? They've been the death of her ! "
" They've not been the death of her yet, if your
name's Marwood," said the visitor.
" Have you seen my gal, then ? " cried the old
woman. " Has she wrote to me ? "
" She said you couldn't read," returned the other.
" No more I can ! " exclaimed the old woman,
wringing her hands.
" Have you no light here ? " said the other, look-
ing round the room.
The old woman, mumbling and shaking her head,
and muttering to herself about her handsome
daughter, brought a candle from a cupboard in the
corner, and thrusting it into the fire with a trem-
bling hand, lighted it with some difficulty, and set
it on the table. Its dirty wick burnt dimly at first,
being choked in its own grease; and when the
300 DOMBEY AND SON.
bleared eyes and failing sight of the old -woman
could distinguish anything by its light, her visitor
was sitting with her arms folded, her eyes turned
downwards, and a handkerchief she had worn upon
her head lying on the table by her side.
" She sent to me by word of mouth, then, my
gal, Alice ? " mumbled the old woman after waiting
for some moments. " What did she say ? "
" Look," returned the visitor.
The old woman repeated the word in a scared,
uncertain way ; and shading her eyes, looked at the
speaker, round the room, and at the speaker once
"Alice said, 'Look again, mother;'" and the
speaker fixed her eyes upon her.
Again the old woman looked round the room,
and at her visitor, and round the room once more.
Hastily seizing the candle, and rising from her seat,
she held it to the visitor's face, uttered a loud cry,
set down the light, and fell upon her neck !
" It's my gal ! It's my Alice ! It's my hand-
some daughter, living and come back!" screamed
the old woman, rocking herself to and fro upon the
breast that coldly suffered her embrace. " It's my
gal ! It's my Alice ! It's my handsome daughter
living and come back ! " she screamed again, drop-
ping on the floor before her, clasping her knees, laying
her head against them, and still rocking herself to
and fro with every frantic demonstration of which
her vitality was capable.
" Yes, mother," returned Alice, stooping forward
for a moment, and kissing her, but endeavoring even
in the act to disengage herself from her embrace.
"I am here at last. Let go, mother; let go. Get
DOMBEY AKD SON. 301
up and sit in your chair. What good does this
" She's come back harder than she went ! " cried
the mother, looking up in her face, and still holding
to her knees. " She don't care for me ! after all
these years, and all the wretched life I've led ! "
" Why, mother ! " said Alice, shaking her ragged
skirts to detach the old woman from them, " there
are two sides to that. There have been years for
me as well as you, and there has been wretchedness
for me as well as you. Get up, get up ! "
Her mother rose, and cried, and wrung her hands,
and stood at a little distance gazing on her. Then
she took the candle again, and going round her, sur-
veyed her from head to foot, making a low moaning
all the time. Then she put the candle down,
resumed her chair, and beating her hands together
to a kind of weary tune, and rolling herself from
side to side, continued moaning and wailing to her-
Alice got up, took off her wet cloak, and laid it
aside. That done, she sat down as before, and with
her arms folded, and her eyes gazing at the fire,
remained silently listening with a contemptuous
face to her old mother's inarticulate complain-
*' Did you expect to see me return as youthful as
I went away, mother ? " she said at length, turning
her eyes upon the old woman. " Did you think a
foreign life, like mine, was good for good looks ?
One would believe so to hear you ! "
" It ain't that ! " cried the mother. " She knows
" What is it, then ? " returned the daughter, " It