ately attired for that purpose in a very youthful
costume, with short sleeves. At present, however,
her ripe charms are blooming in the shade of her
own apartments, whence she has not emerged since
she took possession of them a few hours ago, and
•where she is fast growing fretful, on account of the
postponement of dinner. The maid who ought to
DOMBEY AND SON. 319
be a skeleton, but is in truth a buxom damsel, is, oa
the other hand, in a most amiable state ; considering
her quarterly stipend much safer than heretofore,
and foreseeing a great improvement in her board
Where are the happy pair for whom this brave
home is waiting ? Do steam, tide, wind, and horses
all abate their speed, to linger on such happiness ?
Does the swarm of loves and graces hovering about
them retard their progress by its numbers ? Are
there so many flowers in their happy path, that
they can scarcely move along, without entanglement
in thornless roses and sweetest brier ?
They are here at last ! The noise of wheels is
heard, grows louder, and a carriage drives up to the
door ! A thundering knock from the obnoxious for-
eigner anticipates the rush of Mr. Towlinson and
party to open it; and Mr. Dombey and his bride
alight, and walk in arm-and-arm.
*' My sweetest Edith ! " cries an agitated voice
upon the stairs. " My dearest Dombey ! " and the
short sleeves wreathe themselves about the happy
couple in turn, and embrace them.
Florence had come down to the hall too, but did
not advance : reserving her timid welcome until
these nearer and dearer transports should subside.
But the eyes of Edith sought her out upon the
threshold ; and, dismissing her sensitive parent
with a slight kiss on her cheek, she hurried on to
Florence and embraced her.
" How do you do, Florence ? " said Mr. Dombey,
putting out his hand.
As Florence, trembling, raised it to her lips, she
met his glance. The look was cold and distant
320 DOMBEY AND SOX.
enough, but it stirred her heart to think that she
observed in it something more of interest than he
had ever shown before. It even expressed a kind
of faint surprise, and not a disagreeable surprise, at
sight of her. She dared not raise her eyes to his
any more ; but she felt that he looked at her once
again, and not less favorably. Oh ! what a thrill of
joy shot through her, awakened by even this in-
tangible and baseless confirmation of her hope that
she would learn to win him through her new and
beautiful mamma !
" You will not be long dressing, Mrs. Dombey, I
presume ? " said Mr. Dombey.
" I shall be ready immediately."
" Let them send up dinner in a quarter of an
With that Mr. Dombey stalked away to his own
dressing-room, and Mrs. Dombey went upstairs to
hers. Mrs. Skewton and Florence repaired to the
drawing-room, where that excellent mother con-
sidered it incumbent on her to shed a few irrepres-
sible tears, supposed to be forced from her by her
daughter's felicity ; and which she was still drying,
very gingerly, with a laced corner of her pocket-
handkerchief, when her son-in-law appeared.
" And how, my dearest Dombey, did you find that
delightf ullest of cities, Paris ? " she asked, sub-
duing her emotion.
" It was cold," returned Mr. Dombey.
"Gay as ever," said Mrs. Skewton, "of course."
" Not particularly. I thought it dull," said Mr.
" Fie, my dearest Dombey ! " archly ; " dull ! "
" It made that impression upon me, madam," said
DOMBEY AXD SON. 321
Mr. Dombey with grave politeness, " I believe
Mrs. Dombey found it dull too. She mentioned
once or twice that she thought it so."
" Why, you naughty girl ! " cried Mrs. Skewton,
rallying her dear child, who now entered, "what
dreadfully heretical things have you been saying
about Paris ? "
Edith raised her eyebrows with an air of weari-
ness ; and passing the folding doors, which were
thrown open to display the suite of rooms in their
new and handsome garniture, and barely glancing
at them as she passed, sat down by Florence.
" My dear Dombey," said Mrs. Skewton, " how
charmingly these people have carried out every idea
that we hinted ! They have made a perfect palace
of the house, positively."
" It is handsome," said Mr. Dombey, looking
round. "I directed that no expense should be
spared; and all that money could do has been
done, I believe."
" And what can it not do, dear Dombey ? " ob-
" It is powerful, madam," said Mr. Dombey.
He looked in his solemn way towards his wife,
but not a word said she.
" I hope, Mrs. Dombey," addressing her after a
moment's silence, with especial distinctness, " that
these alterations meet with your approval ? "
" They are as handsome as they can be," she re-
turned with haughty carelessness. "They should
be so, of course. And I suppose they are."
An expression of scorn was habitual to the proud
face, and seemed inseparable from it ; but the con-
tempt with which it received any appeal to admira-
322 DOMBEY AND SON.
tion, respect, or consideration on the ground of his
riches, no matter how slight or ordinary in itself,
was a new and different expression, unequalled in
intensity by any other of which it was capable.
Whether Mr. Dorabey, wrapped in his own great-
ness, was at all aware of this, or no, there had not
been wanting opportunities already for his complete
enlightenment ; and at that moment it might have
been effected by the one glance of the dark eye that
lighted on him, after it had rapidly and scornfully
surveyed the theme of his self-glorification. He
might have read in that one glance that nothing
that his wealth could do, though it were increased
ten thousand fold, could win him, for its own sake,
one look of softened recognition from the defiant
woman linked to him, but arrayed with her whole
soul against him. He might have read in that one
glance that even for its sordid and mercenary influ-
ence upon herself she spurned it, while she claimed
its utmost power as her right, her bargain — as the
base and worthless recompense for which she had
become his wife. He might have read in it that,
ever baring her own head for the lightning of her
own contempt and pride to strike, the most innocent
allusion to the power ot his riches degraded her
anew, sunk her deeper in her own respect, and made
the blight and waste within her more complete.
But dinner was announced, and Mr. Dombey led
down Cleopatra ; Edith and his daughter following.
Sweeping past the gold and silver demonstration on
the sideboard as if it were heaped-up dirt, and
deigning to bestow no look upon the elegancies
around her, she took her place at his board for the
first time, and sat, like a statue, at the feast.
DOMBEY AND SON. 323
Mr. Dombey, being a good deal in the statue way
himself, was well enough pleased to see his hand-
some wife immovable and proud and cold. Her
deportment being always elegant and graceful, this
as a general behavior was agreeable and congenial
to him. Presiding, therefore, with his accustomed
dignity, and not at all reflecting on his wife by any
warmth or hilarity of his own, he performed his
share of the honors of the table with a cool satis-
faction ; and the installation dinner, though not re-
garded downstairs as a great success, or very prom-
ising beginning, passed olf, above, in a sufficiently
polite, genteel, and frosty manner.
Soon after tea, Mrs. Skewtou, who affected to be
quite overcome and worn out by her emotions of
happiness, arising in the contemplation of her dear
child united to the man of her heart, but who,
there is reason to suppose, found this family party
somewhat dull, as she yawned for one hour con-
tinually behind her fan, retired to bed. Edith, also,
silently withdrew, and came back no more. Thus,
it happened that Florence, who had been upstairs to
have some conversation with Diogenes, returning to
the drawing-room with her little work-basket, found
no one there but her father, who was walking to and
fro in dreary magnificence.
"I beg your pardon. Shall I go away, papa?"
said Florence faintly, hesitating at the door.
" No," returned Mr. Dombey, looking round over
his shoulder; "you can come and go here, Florence,
as you please. This is not my private room."
Florence entered, and sat down at a distant little
table with her work ; finding herself for the first
time in her life — for the very first time within her
324 DOMBEY AND SON.
memory from her infancy to that hour — alone with
her father as his companion. She, his natural com-
panion, his only child, who in her lonely life and
grief had known the suffering of a breaking heart ;
who, in her rejected love, had never breathed his
name to God at night, but with a tearful blessing,
heavier on him than a curse ; who had prayed to
die young, so she might only die in his arms ; who
had, all through, repaid the agony of slight and
coldness, and dislike, with patient unexacting love,
excusing him, and pleading for him, like his better
She trembled, and her eyes were dim. His figure
seemed to grow in height and bulk before her as he
paced the room : now it was all blurred and indis-
tinct; now clear again, and plain; and now she
seemed to think that this had happened, just the
same, a multitude of years ago. She yearned
towards him, and yet shrank from his approach.
Unnatural emotion in a child, innocent of wrong !
Unnatural the hand that had directed the sharp
plough, which furrowed up her gentle nature for the
sowing of its seeds !
Bent upon not distressing or offending him by
her distress, Florence controlled herself, and sat
quietly at her work. After a few more turns across
and across the room, he left off pacing it ; and
withdrawing into a shadowy corner at some dis-
tance, where there was an easy-chair, covered his
head with a handkerchief, and composed himself to
It was enough for Florence to sit there watching
him ; turning her eyes towards his chair from time
to time ; watching him with her thoughts, when
DOMBEY AND SON. 325
her face was intent upon her work ; and sorrowfully
glad to think that he could sleep while she was
there, and that he was not made restless by her
strange and long-forbidden presence.
What would have been her thoughts if she had
known that he was steadily regarding her ; that the
veil upon his face, by accident or by design, was so
adjusted that his sight was free, and that it never
wandered from her face an instant ! That when
she looked towards him, in the obscure dark corner,
her speaking eyes, more earnest and pathetic in
their voiceless speech than all the orators of all the
world, and impeaching him more nearly in their
mute address, met his, and did not know it ! That
when she bent her head again over her work, he drew
his breath more easily, but with the same attention
looked upon her still — upon her white brow and
her falling hair and busy hands ; and, once attracted,
seemed to have no power to turn his eyes away!
And what were his thoughts meanwhile ? With
what emotions did he prolong the attentive gaze
covertly directed on his unknown daughter ? Was
there reproach to him in the quiet figure and the
mild eyes ? Had he begun to feel her disregarded
claims, and did they touch him home at last, and
waken him to some sense of his cruel injustice ?
There are yielding moments in the lives of the
sternest and harshest men, though such men often
keep their secret well. The sight of her in her
beauty, almost changed into a woman without his
knowledge, may have struck out some such moments
even in his life of pride. Some passing thought
that he had had a happy home within his reach —
had had a household spirit bending at his feet —
326 DOMBEY AND SON.
had overlooked it in his stiff-necked, sullen arro-
gance, and wandered away and lost himself — may
have engendered them. Some simple eloquence
distinctly heard, though only uttered in her eyes,
unconscious that he read them, as, ''By the death-
beds I have tended, by the childhood I have suffered,
by our meeting in this dreary house at midnight, by
the cry wrung from me in the anguish of my heart,
O father, turn to me and seek a refuge in my love
before it is too late ! " may have arrested them.
Meaner and lower thoughts, as that his dead boy
was now superseded by new ties, and he could for-
give the having been supplanted in his affection,
may have occasioned them. The mere association
of her as an ornament, with all the ornament and
pomp about him, may have been sufficient. But, as
he looked, he softened to her more and more. As
he looked, she became blended with the child he had
loved, and he could hardly separate the two. As he
looked, he saw her for an instant by a clearer and
a brighter light, not bending over that child's pillow
as his rival — monstrous thought ! — but as the
spirit of his home, and in the action tending him-
self no less, as he sat once more with his bowed-
down head upon his hand at the foot of the little
bed. He felt inclined to speak to her, and call her
to him. The words ''Florence, come here!" were
rising to his lips — slowly and with difficulty, they
were so very strange — when they were checked
and stifled by a footstep on the stair.
It was his wife's. She had exchanged her dinner
dress for a loose robe, and had unbound her hair,
which fell freely about her neck. But this was not
the change in her that startled him.
DOMBEY AND SON. 327
" Florence dear," she said, " I have been looking
for you everywhere."
As she sat down by the side of Florence, she
stooped and kissed her hand. He hardly knew his
wife. She was so changed. It was not merely that
her smile was new to him — though that he had
never seen ; but her manner, the tone of her voice,
the light of her eyes, the interest and confidence,
and winning wish to please, expressed in all — this
was not Edith.
" Softly, dear mamma. Papa is asleep."
It was Edith now. She looked towards the cor-
ner where was, and he knew that face and manner
"I scarcely thought you could be here, Florence."
Again, how altered and how softened in an
"I left here early," pursued Edith, "purposely
to sit upstairs and talk with you. But, going to
your room, I found my bird was flown, and I have
been waiting there ever since, expecting its re-
If it had been a bird indeed, she could not have
taken it more tenderly and gently to her breast than
she did Florence.
" Come, dear ! "
" Papa will not expect to find me, I suppose, when
he wakes ? " hesitated Florence.
" Do you think he will, Florence ? " said Edith,
looking full upon her.
Florence drooped her head, and rose, and put up
her work-basket. Edith drew her hand through
her arm, and they went out of the room like sisters.
Her very step was different and new to him, Mr.
328 DOMBEY AND SON.
Dombey thought, as his eyes followed her to the
He sat in his shadowy corner so long, that the
church clocks struck the hour three times before he
moved that night. All that while his face was still
intent upon the spot where Florence had been
seated. The room grew darker as the candles
waned and went out; but a darkness gathered on
his face, exceeding any that the night could cast,
and rested there.
Florence and Edith, seated before the fire in the
remote room where little Paul had died, talked to-
gether for a long time. Diogenes, who was of the
party, had at first objected to the admission of
Edith, and, even in deference to his mistress's wish,
had only permitted it under growling protest. But,
emerging by little and little from the ante-room,
whither he had retired in dudgeon, he soon appeared
to comprehend that, with the most amiable inten-
tions, he had made one of those mistakes which will
occasionally arise in the best-regulated dogs' minds ;
as a friendly apology for which he stuck himself up
on end between the two, in a very hot place in front
of the fire, and sat panting at it, with his tongue
out, and a most imbecile expression of countenance,
listening to the conversation.
It turned, at first, on Florence's books and favor-
ite pursuits, and on the manner in which she had
beguiled the interval since the marriage. The last
theme opened up to her a subject which lay very
near her heart, and she said, with the tears starting
to her eyes, —
" Oh, mamma ! I have had a great sorrow since
DOMBEY AND SON". 329
" You a great sorrow, Florence ! "
" Yes. Poor Walter is drowned."
Florence spread her hands before her face, and
wept with all her heart. Many as were the secret
tears which Walter's fate had cost her, they flowed
yet when she thought or spoke of him.
"But tell me, dear," said Edith, soothing her,
" who was Walter ? What was he to you ? "
" He was my brother, mamma. After dear Paul
died, we said we would be brother and sister. I
had known him a long time — from a little child.
He knew Paul, who liked him very much ; Paul
said, almost at the last, ' Take care of Walter, dear
papa ! I was fond of him ! ' Walter had been
brought in to see him, and was there then — in this
" And did he take care of Walter ? " inquired
" Papa ? He appointed him to go abroad. He
was drowned in shipwreck on his voyage," said
" Does he know that he is dead ? " asked Edith.
"I cannot tell, mamma. I have no means of
knowing. Dear mamma ! " cried Florence, clinging
to her as for help, and hiding her face upon her
bosom, " I know that you have seen — "
" Stay ! Stop, Florence ! " Edith turned so pale,
and spoke so earnestly, that Florence did not need
her restraining hand upon her lips. "Tell me all
about Walter first ; let me understand this history
Florence related it, and everything belonging to
it, even down to the friendship of Mr. Toots, of
whom she could hardly speak in her distress without
330 DOMBEY AND SON.
a tearful smile, although she was deeply grateful to
him. When she had concluded her account, to the
whole of which Edith, holding her hand, listened
with close attention, and when a silence had suc-
ceeded, Edith said, —
"What is it that you know I have seen,
Florence ? "
" That I am not," said Florence, with the same
mute appeal, and the same quick concealment of
her face as before, " that I am not a favorite child,
mamma. I never have been. I have never known
how to be. I have missed the way, and had no one
to show it to me. Oh, let me learn from you how
to become dearer to papa ! Teach me ! you, who
can so well ! " and clinging closer to her, with some
broken, fervent words of gratitude and endearment,
Florence, relieved of her sad secret, wept long, but
not as painfully as of yore, within the encircling
arms of her new mother.
Pale, even to her lips, and with a face that strove
for composure until its proud beauty was as fixed as
death, Edith looked down upon the weeping girl,
and once kissed her. Then gradually disengaging
herself, and putting Florence away, she said, stately
and quiet as a marble image, and in a voice that
deepened as she spoke, but had no other token of
emotion in it, —
" Florence, you do not know me ! Heaven forbid
that you should learn from me ! "
"Not learn from you?" repeated Florence in
" That I should teach you how to love, or be loved.
Heaven forbid ! " said Edith. " If you could teach
me, that were better ; but it is too late. You are
DOMBEY AND SON. 331
dear to me, Florence. I did not think that anything
could ever be so dear to me as you are in this little
She saw that Florence would have spoken here,
so checked her with her hand and went on.
" I will be your true friend always. I will cherish
you as much, if not as well, as any one in this
world could. You may trust in me — I know it,
and I say it, dear — with the whole confidence even
of your pure heart. There are hosts of women
whom he might have married, better and truer in
all other respects than I am, Florence ; but there is
not one who could come here, his wife, whose heart
could beat with greater truth to you than mine
"I know it, dear mamma!" cried Florence.
"From that first most happy day I have known
" Most happy day ! " Edith seemed to repeat
the words involuntarily, and went on. *' Though
the merit is not mine, for I thought little of you
until I saw you, let the undeserved reward be mine
in your trust and love. And in this — in this,
Florence ; on the first night of my taking up my
abode here ; I am led on, as it is best I should be,
to say it for the first and last time."
Florence, without knowing why, felt almost
afraid to hear her proceed, but kept her eyes riveted
on the beautiful face so fixed upon her own.
"Never seek to find in me," said Edith, laying
her hand upon her breast, " what is not here. Never,
if you can help it, Florence, fall off from me because
it is not here. Little by little you will know me
better, and the time will come when you will know
332 DOMBEY AND SON.
me as I know myself. Then, be as lenient to me as
you can, and do not turn to bitterness the only
sweet remembrance I shall have."
The tears that were visible in her eyes, as she
kept them fixed on Florence, showed that the com-
posed face was but as a handsome mask ; but she
preserved it, and continued, —
" I have seen what you say, and know how true it
is. But believe me — you will soon, if you cannot
now — there is no one on this earth less qualified to
set it right or help you, Florence, than I, Never
ask me why, or speak to me about it, or of my hus-
band more. There should be, so far, a division and
a silence between us two, like the grave itself."
She sat for some time silent ; Florence scarcely
venturing to breathe meanwhile, as dim and imper-
fect shadows of the truth, and all its daily conse-
quences, chased each other through her terrified, yet
incredulous imagination. Almost as soon as she
had ceased to speak, Edith's face began to subside
from its set composure to that quieter and more
relenting aspect which it usually wore when she and
Florence were alone together. She shaded it, after
this change, with her hands ; and when she arose,
and with an affectionate embrace bade Florence good-
night, went quickly, and without looking round.
But, when Florence was in bed, and the room was
dark except for the glow of the fire, Edith returned,
and saying that she could not sleep, and that her
dressing-room was lonely, drew a chair upon the
hearth, and watched the embers as they died away.
Florence watched them too from her bed, until they,
and the noble figure before them, crowned with its
flowing hair, and in its thoughtful eyes reflecting
DOMBEY AND SON. 333
back their light, became confused and indistinct, and
finally were lost in slumber.
In her sleep, however, Florence could not lose
an undefined impression of what had so recently
passed. It formed the subject of her dreams, and
haunted her; now in one shape, now in another;
but always oppressively ; and with a sense of fear.
She dreamed of seeking her father in wildernesses,
of following his track up fearful heights, and down
into deep mines and caverns ; of being charged with
something that would release him from extraordi-
nary suffering — she knew not what, or why — yet
never being able to attain the goal and set him free.
Then she saw him dead, upon that very bed, and in
that very room, and knew that he had never loved
her to the last, and fell upon his cold breast, pas-
sionately weeping. Then a prospect opened, and
a river flowed, and a plaintive voice she knew cried,
" It is running on, Floy ! It has never stopped !
You are moving with it ! " And she saw him at a
distance stretching out his arms towards her, while
a figure, such as Walter's used to be, stood near him,
awfully serene and still. In every vision Edith
came and went, sometimes to her joy, sometimes to
her sorrow, until they were alone upon the brink of
a dark grave, and Edith pointing down, she looked
and saw — what ? — another Edith lying at the
In the terror of this dream, she cried out, and
awoke, she thought. A soft voice seemed to whisper
in her ear, " Florence, dear Florence, it is nothing
but a dream ! " and, stretching out her arms, she
returned the caress of her new mamma, who then
went out at the door in the light of the gray morn-
334 DOMBEY AND SON.
ing. In a moment Florence sat up, wondering
whether this had really taken place or not ; but she
was only certain that it was gray morning indeed,