that you do not," cried Mr. Dombey, stopping that
noiseless gentleman in his withdrawal. " Mr.
Carker, madam, as you know, possesses my confi-
dence. He is as well acquainted as myself with
the subject on which I speak.
I beg to tell you,
for your information, Mrs. Dombey, that I consider
these wealthy and important persons confer a dis-
tinction upon me : " and Mr. Dombey drew himself
up, as having now rendered them of the highest
" I ask you," she repeated, bending her disdainful
steady gaze upon him, '' do you know that there is
some one here, sir ? "
"I must entreat," said Mr. Carker, stepping for-
ward, " I must beg, I must demand, to be released.
Slight and unimportant as this difference is — "
Mrs. Skewton, who had been intent upon her
daughter's face, took him up here.
"My sweetest Edith," she said, "and my dearest
Dombey, our excellent friend Mr. Carker, for so I
am sure I ought to mention him — "
Mr. Carker murmured, "Too much honor."
" — Has used the very words that were in my
mind, and that I have been dying, these ages, for an
opportunity of introducing. Slight and unimpor-
tant ! My sweetest Edith, and my dearest Dombey,
do we not know that any difference between you
two — No, Flowers ; not now."
DOMBEY AND SON. 351
Flowers was the maid, who, finding gentlemen
present, retreated with precipitation.
" — That any difference between you two," re-
sumed Mrs. Skewton, "with the heart you possess
in common, and the excessively charming bond of
feeling that there is between you, must be slight
and unimportant ? What words could better define
the fact ? None. Therefore I am glad to take this
slight occasion — this trifling occasion that is so
replete with Nature, and your individual characters,
and all that — so truly calculated to bring the tears
into a parent's eyes — to say that I attach no impor-
tance to them in the least, except as developing
these minor elements of Soul ; and that, unlike most
mammas-in-law (that odious phrase, dear Dombey ! )
as they have been represented to me to exist in this
I fear too artificial world, I never shall attempt to
interpose between you at such a time, and never
can much regret, after all, such little flashes of the
torch of what's-his-name — not Cupid, but the other
There was a sharpness in the good mother's
glance at both her children, as she spoke, that may
have been expressive of a direct and well-considered
purpose hidden between these rambling words.
That purpose, providently to detach herself in the
beginning from all the clankings of their chain that
were to come, and to shelter herself with the fiction
of her innocent belief in their mutual affection, and
their adaptation to each other.
"I have pointed out to Mrs. Dombey," said Mr.
Dombey in his most stately manner, "that in her
conduct, thus early in our married life, to which I
object, and which I request may be corrected.
352 DOMBEY AND SON.
Carker," with a nod of dismissal, "good-night to
you ! "
Mr. Carker bowed to the imperious form of the
bride, whose sparkling eye was fixed upon her
husband ; and stopping at Cleopatra's couch on his
way out, raised to his lips the hand she graciously
extended to him, in lowly and admiring homage.
If his handsome wife had reproached him, or even
changed countenance, or broken the silence in which
she remained by one word, now that they were
alone (for Cleopatra made off with all speed), Mr.
Dombey would have been equal to some assertion
of his case against her. But the intense, unutter-
able, withering scorn with which, after looking upon
him, she dropped her eyes as if he were too worth-
less and indifferent to her to be challenged with a
syllable — the ineffable disdain and haughtiness in
which she sat before him — the cold, inflexible
resolve with which her every feature seemed to
bear him down, and put him by — he had no
resource against; and he left her, with her whole
overbearing beauty concentrated on despising him.
Was he coward enough to watch her, an hour
afterwards, on the old well staircase, where he had
once seen Florence in the moonlight, toiling up with
Paul ? Or was he in the dark by accident, when,
looking up, he saw her coming, with a light, from the
room where Florence lay, and marked again the face
so changed, which he could not subdue ?
But, it could never alter as his own did. It
never, in its utmost pride and passion, knew the
shadow that had fallen on his, in the dark corner,
on the night of the return and often since j and
which deepened on it now as he looked up.
MORE WARNINGS THAN ONE.
Florence, Edith, and Mrs. Skewton were to-
gether next day, and the carriage was waiting at
the door to take them out. For Cleopatra had her
galley again now, and Withers, no longer the wan,
stood upright in a pigeon-breasted jacket and mili-
tary trousers, behind her wheel-less chair at dinner-
time, and butted no more. The hair of Withers
was radiant with pomatum in these days of down,
and he wore kid gloves, and smelt of the water of
They were assembled in Cleopatra's room. The
Serpent of old Nile (not to mention her disrespect-
fully) was reposing on her sofa, sipping her morn-
ing chocolate at three o'clock in the afternoon, and
Flowers the maid was fastening on her youthful
cuffs and frills, and performing a kind of private
coronation ceremony on her with a peach-colored
velvet bonnet ; the artificial roses in which nodded
to uncommon advantage, as the palsy trifled with
them like the breeze.
"I think I am a little nervous this morning,
Flowers," said Mrs. Skewton. "My hand quite
354 DOIVIBEY AND SON.
" You were the life of the party last night, ma'am,
you know," returned Flowers, *' and you suffer for
it to-day, you see."
Edith, who had beckoned Florence to the window,
and was looking out, with her back turned on the
toilet of her esteemed mother, suddenly withdrew
from it, as if it had lightened.
"My darling child," cried Cleopatra languidly,
" you are not nervous ? Don't tell me, my dear
Edith, that you, so enviably self-possessed, are
beginuing to be a martyr too, like your unfortu-
nately constituted mother. Withers, some one at
" Card, ma'am," said Withers, taking it towards
" I am going out," she said, without looking at it.
"My dear love," drawled Mrs. Skewton, "how
very odd to send that message without seeing the
name ! Bring it here, Withers. Dear me, my love ;
Mr. Carker too ! that very sensible person ! "
" I am going out," repeated Edith in so imperious
a tone, that Withers, going to the door, imperiously
informed the servant who was waiting, " Mrs. Dom-
bey is going out. Get along with you," and shut it
But the servant came back after a short absence,
and whispered to Withers again, who once more,
and not very willingly, presented himself before
"If you please, ma'am, Mr. Carker sends his
respectful compliments, and begs you would spare
him one minute, if you could — for business,
ma'am, if you please."
"Really, my love," said Mrs. Skewton in her
DOMBEY AND SON. 355
mildest manner; for her daughter's face was threat-
ening ; " if you would allow me to offer a word, I
should recommend — "
" Show him this way," said Edith. As Withers
disappeared to execute the command, she added,
frowning on her mother, "As he comes at your
recommendation, let him come to your room,"
" May I — shall I go away ? " asked Florence
Edith nodded yes, but, on her way to the door,
Florence met the visitor coming in. With the same
disagreeable mixture of familiarity and forbearance
with which he had first addressed her, he addressed
her now in his softest manner — hoped she was
quite well — needed not to ask with such looks
to anticipate the answer — had scarcely had the
honor to know her last night, she was so greatly
changed — and held the door open for her to pass
out ; with a secret sense of power in her shrinking
from him, that all the deference and politeness of
his manner could not quite conceal.
He then bowed himself for a moment over Mrs.
Skewton's condescending hand, and lastly bowed to
Edith. Coldly returning his salute without looking
at him, and neither seating herself nor inviting
him to be seated, she waited for him to speak.
Intrenched in her pride and power, and with all
the obduracy of her spirit summoned about her, still
her old conviction that she and her mother had been
known by this man in their worst colors from their
first acquaintance ; that every degradation she had
suffered in her own eyes was as plain to him as to
herself ; that he read her life as though it were a
vile book, and fluttered the leaves before her in
356 dojVIBey axd son.
slight looks and tones of voice which no one else
could detect; weakened and undermined her.
Proudly as she opposed herself to him, with her
commanding face exacting his humility, her dis-
dainful lip repulsing him, her bosom angry at his
intrusion, and the dark lashes of her eye sullenly
veiling their light, that no ray of it might shine
upon him — and submissively as he stood before
her, with an entreating, injured manner, but with
complete submission to her will — she knew, in her
own soul, that the cases were reversed, and that the
triumph and superiority were his, and that he knew
it full well.
" I have presumed," said Mr. Carker, " to solicit
an interview, and I have ventured to describe it as
being one of business, because — "
" Perhaps you are charged by Mr. Dombey with
some message of reproof," said Edith. " You pos-
sess Mr. Dombey's confidence in such an unusual
degree, sir, that you would scarcely surprise me if
that were your business."
<'I have no message to the lady who sheds a
lustre upon his name," said Mr. Carker. "But I
entreat that lady, on my own behalf, to be just to a
very humble claimant for justice at her hands —
a mere dependent of Mr. Dombey's — which is a
position of humility; and to reflect upon my per-
fect helplessness last night, and the impossibility of
my avoiding the share that was forced upon me in
a very painful occasion."
"My dearest Edith," hinted Cleopatra in a low
voice, as she held her eyeglass aside, " really very
charming of Mr. What's-his-name. And full of
heart ! "
DOMBEY AND SON. 357
" For I do," said Mr. Carker, appealing to ^frs.
Skewton with a look of grateful deference, — "I do
venture to call it a painful occasion, though merely
because it was so to me, who had the misfortune to
be present. So slight a difference, as between the
principals — between those Avho love each other
with disinterested devotion, and would make any
sacrifice of self in such a cause — is nothing. As
Mrs. Skewton herself expressed, with so much truth
and feeling last night, it is nothing."
Edith could not look at him, but she said after
a few moments, —
"And your business, sir — "
"Edith, my pet," said Mrs. Skewton, "all this
time Mr. Carker is standing. My dear Mr. Carker,
take a seat, I beg."
He offered no reply to the mother, but fixed his
eyes on the proud daughter, as though he would
only be bidden by her, and was resolved to be bid-
den by her. Edith, in spite of herself, sat down,
and slightly motioned with her hand to him to be
seated too. No action could be colder, haughtier,
more insolent in its air of supremacy and disre-
spect, but she had struggled against even that con-
cession ineffectually, and it was wrested from her.
That was enough ! Mr. Carker sat down.
" May I be allowed, madam," said Carker, turning
his white teeth on Mrs. Skewton like alight — "a
lady of your excellent sense and quick feeling will
give me credit for good reason, I am sure — to
address what I have to say to Mrs. Dombey, and to
leave her to impart it to you, who are her best and
dearest friend — next to Mr. Dombey ? "
Mrs. Skewton would have retired, but Edith
358 DOMBEY AKD SON.
stopped her. Edith would have stopped him too,
and indignantly ordered him to speak openly, or
not at all, but that he said, in a low voice — " Miss
Florence — the young lady who has just left the
room — "
Edith suffered him to proceed. She looked at
him now. As he bent forward, to be nearer, with
the utmost show of delicacy and respect, and with
his teeth persuasively arrayed in a self-depreciating
smile, she felt as if she could have struck him
'' Miss Florence's position," he began, " has been
an unfortunate one. I have a difficulty in alluding
to it to you, whose attachment to her father is nat-
urally watchful and jealous of every word that
applies to him." Always distinct and soft in
speech, no language could describe the extent of his
distinctness and softness when he said these words,
or came to any others of a similar import. " But,
as one who is devoted to Mr. Dombey in his differ-
ent way, and whose life is passed in admiration of
Mr. Dombey's character, may I say, without offence
to your tenderness as a wife, that Miss Florence
has unhappily been neglected — by her father ?
May I say by her father ? "
Edith replied, "I know it."
" You know it ! " said Mr. Carker, with a great
appearance of relief. " It removes a mountain
from my breast. May I hope you know how the
neglect originated ; in what an amiable phase of
Mr. Dombey's pride — character, I mean ? "
" You may pass that by, sir," she returned, " and
come the sooner to the end of what you have to
DOMBEY AJSTD SON. 359
"Indeed, I am sensible, madam," replied Carker,
— " trust me, I am deeply sensible that Mr. l)om-
bey can require no justiiication in anything to you.
But, kindly judge of my breast by your own, and
you will forgive my interest in him, if, in its excess,
it goes at all astray."
What a stab to her proud heart to sit there, face
to face with him, and have him tendering her false
oath at the altar again and again for her acceptance,
and pressing it upon her like the dregs of a sicken-
ing cup she could not own her loathing of, or turn
away from ! How shame, remorse, and passion
raged within her, when, upright in her beauty
before him, she knew that in her spirit she was
down at his feet !
" Miss Florence," said Carker, " left to the care
— if one may call it care — of servants and merce-
nary people, in every way her inferiors, necessarily
wanted some guide and compass in her younger
days, and, naturally, for want of them, has been
indiscreet, and has in some degree forgotten her
station. There was some folly about one Walter, a
common lad, who is fortunately dead now : and
some very undesirable association, I regret to say,
with certain coasting sailors, of anything but good
repute, and a runaway old bankrupt."
" I have heard the circumstances, sir," said Edith,
flashing her disdainful glance upon him, "and I
know that you pervert them. You may not know
it ; I hope so."
" Pardon me," said Mr. Carker, " I believe that
nobody knows them so well as I. Your generous
and ardent nature, madam — the same nature which
is so nobly imperative in vindication of your beloved
360 DOMBEY AND SON.
and honored husband, and which has blessed him
as even his merits deserve — I must respect, defer
to, bow before. But, as regards the circumstances,
which is, indeed, the business I presumed to solicit
your attention to, I can have no doubt, since in the
execution of my trust as Mr. Dombey's confidential
— I presume to say — friend, I have fully ascer-
tained them. In my execution of that trust ; in
my deep concern, which you can so well understand,
for everything relating to him, intensified, if you
will (for I fear I labor under your displeasure), by
the lower motive of desire to prove my diligence,
and make myself the more acceptable ; I have long
pursued these circumstances by myself and trust-
worthy instruments, and have innumerable and
most minute proofs."
She raised her eyes no higher than his mouth,
but she saw the means of mischief vaunted in every
tooth it contained,
" Pardon me, madam," he continued, " if, in my
perplexity, I presume to take counsel with you, and
to consult your pleasure. I think I have observed
that you are greatly interested in Miss Florence ? "
What was there in her he had not observed, and
did not know ? Humbled and yet maddened by the
thought, in every new presentment of it, however
faint, she pressed her teeth upon her quivering lip
to force composure on it, and distantly inclined her
head in reply.
" This interest, madam — so touching an evidence
of everything associated with Mr. Dombey being
dear to you — induces me to pause before I make
him acquainted with these circumstances, which, as
yet, he does not know. It so far shakes me, if I
DOMBEY AND SON. 361
may make the confession, in my allegiance, that on
the intimation of the least desire to that effect from
you, I would suppress them."
Edith raised her head quickly, and, starting back,
bent her dark glance upon him. He met it with his
blandest and most deferential smile, and went on.
" You say that, as I describe them, they are per-
verted. I fear not — I fear not : but let us assume
that they are. The uneasiness I have for some time
felt on the subject arises in this : that the mere cir-
cumstance of such association, often repeated, on
the part of Miss Florence, however innocently and
confidingly, would be conclusive with Mr. Dombey,
already predisposed against her, and would lead him
to take some step (I know he has occasionally con-
templated it) of separation and alienation of her
from his home. Madam, bear with me, and remem-
ber my intercourse with Mr. Dombey, and my
knowledge of him, and my reverence for him, almost
from childhood, when I say that if he has a fault,
it is a lofty stubbornness, rooted in that noble pride
and sense of power which belong to him, and which
we must all defer to ; which is not assailable like
the obstinacy of other characters ; and which grows
upon itself from day to day, and year to year."
She bent her glance upon him still ; but, look as
steadfast as she would, her haughty nostrils dilated,
and her breath came somewhat deeper, and her lip
would slightly curl as he described that in his patron
to which they must all bow down. He saw it ; and
though his expression did not change, she knew he
" Even so slight an incident as last night's," he
said, " if I might refer to it once more, would serve
362 DOilBEY AND SON.
to illustrate my meaning better than a greater one.
Dombey and Son know neither time, nor place, nor
season, but bear them all down. But I rejoice in its
occurrence, for it has opened the way for me to
approach Mrs. Dombey with this subject to-day,
even if it has entailed upon me the penalty of her
temporary displeasure. Madam, in the midst of
my uneasiness and apprehension on this subject, I
was summoned by Mr. Dombey to Leamington.
There I saw you. There I could not help knowing
what relation you would shortly occupy towards
him — to his enduring happiness and yours. There
I resolved to await the time of your establishment
at home here, and to do as I have now done. I
have, at heart, no fear that I shall be wanting in
my duty to Mr. Dombey if I bury what I know
in your breast ; for where there is but one heart
and mind between two persons — as in such a mar-
riage — one almost represents the other. I can
acquit my conscience therefore, almost equally, by
confidence, on such a theme, in you or him. For the
reasons I have mentioned, I would select you. May
I aspire to the distinction of believing that my con-
fidence is accepted, and that I am relieved from my
responsibility ? "
He long remembered the look she gave him —
who could see it, and forget it ? — and the struggle
that ensued within her. At last she said, —
"I accept it, sir. You will please to consider
this matter at an end, and that it goes no farther."
He bowed low and rose. She rose too, and he
took leave with all humility. But "Withers, meet-
ing him on the stairs, stood amazed at the beauty of
his teeth, and at his brilliant smile ; and, as he rode
DOMBEY AND SON. 363
away upon his white-legged horse, the people took
him for a dentist, such was the dazzling show he
made. The people took her, when she rode out in
her carriage presently, for a great lady, as happy as
she was rich and fine. But, they had not seen her,
just before, in her own room, with no one by ; and
they had not heard her utterance of the three words,
" Oh, Florence, Florence ! "
Mrs. Skewton, reposing on her sofa, and sipping
her chocolate, had heard nothing but the low word
business, for which she had a mortal aversion, inso-
much that she had long banished it from her vocabu-
lary, and had gone nigh, in a charming manner and
with an immense amount of heart (to say nothing
of soul), to ruin divers milliners and others in con-
sequence. Therefore, Mrs. Skewton asked no ques-
tions, and showed no curiosity. Indeed, the peach-
velvet bonnet gave her sufficient occupation out of
doors : for, being perched on the back of her head,
and the day being rather windy, it was frantic to
escape from Mrs. Skewton's company, and would be
coaxed into no sort of compromise. When the car-
riage was closed, and the wind shut out, the palsy
played among the artificial roses again, like an alms-
house full of superannuated zephyrs ; and altogether
Mrs. Skewton had enough to do, and got on but
She got on no better towards night ; for when
Mrs. Dombey, in her dressing-room, had been dressed
and waiting for her half an hour, and Mr. Dombey,
in the drawing-room, had paraded himself into a
state of solemn fretfulness (they were all three
going out to dinner), Flowers the maid appeared
with a pale face to Mrs. Dombey, saying, —
364 DOMBEY AXD SON.
"If you please, ma'am, I beg your pardon, but I
can't do nothing with missis ! "
" What do you mean ? " asked Edith.
"Well, ma'am," replied the frightened maid, "I
hardly know. She's making faces ! "
Edith hurried with her to her mother's room.
Cleopatra was arrayed in full dress, with the
diamonds, short sleeves, rouge, curls, teeth, and
other juvenility all complete ; but Paralysis was
not to be deceived, had known her for the object of
its errand, and had struck her at her glass, where
she lay like a horrible doll that had tumbled down.
They took her to pieces in very shame, and put
the little of her that was real on a bed. Doctors
were sent for, and soon came. Powerful remedies
were resorted to ; opinions given that she would
rally from this shock, but would not survive
another ; and there she lay speechless, and staring
at the ceiling, for days : sometimes making inarticu-
late sounds in answer to such questions, as did she
know who were present ? and the like : sometimes
giving no reply, either by sign or gesture, or in her
At length she began to recover consciousness, and
in some degree the power of motion, though not yet
of speech. One day the use of her right hand re-
turned; and showing it to her maid, who was in
attendance on her, and appearing very uneasy in
her mind, she made signs for a pencil and some
paper. This the maid immediately provided, think-
ing she was going to make a will, or write some last
request; and Mrs. Dombey being from home, the
maid awaited the result with solemn feelings.
After much painful scrawling and erasing, and
DOMBEY AND SOX. 305
putting in of wrong characters, whicli seemed to
tumble out of the pencil of their own accord, the
old woman produced this document : —
" Rose-colored curtains."
The maid being perfectly transfixed, and with
tolerable reason, Cleopatra amended the manuscript
by adding two words more, when it stood thus : —
"Rose-colored curtains for doctors."
The maid now perceived remotely that she wished
these articles to be provided for the better presenta-
tion of her complexion to the faculty ; and as those
in the house who knew her best had no doubt of the
correctness of this opinion, which she was soon able
to establish for herself, the rose-colored curtains were
added to her bed, and she mended with increased
rapidity from that hour. She was soon able to sit
up, in curls and a laced cap and nightgown, and to
have a little artificial bloom dropped into the hollow
caverns of her cheeks.
It was a tremendous sight to see this old woman
in her finery leering and mincing at Death, and play-