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A Trifle of Management by Mr Carker the Manager
Mr Carker the Manager sat at his desk, smooth and soft as usual,
reading those letters which were reserved for him to open, backing
them occasionally with such memoranda and references as their business
purport required, and parcelling them out into little heaps for
distribution through the several departments of the House. The post
had come in heavy that morning, and Mr Carker the Manager had a good
deal to do.
The general action of a man so engaged - pausing to look over a
bundle of papers in his hand, dealing them round in various portions,
taking up another bundle and examining its contents with knitted brows
and pursed-out lips - dealing, and sorting, and pondering by turns -
would easily suggest some whimsical resemblance to a player at cards.
The face of Mr Carker the Manager was in good keeping with such a
fancy. It was the face of a man who studied his play, warily: who made
himself master of all the strong and weak points of the game: who
registered the cards in his mind as they fell about him, knew exactly
what was on them, what they missed, and what they made: who was crafty
to find out what the other players held, and who never betrayed his
The letters were in various languages, but Mr Carker the Manager
read them all. If there had been anything in the offices of Dombey and
Son that he could read, there would have been a card wanting in the
pack. He read almost at a glance, and made combinations of one letter
with another and one business with another as he went on, adding new
matter to the heaps - much as a man would know the cards at sight, and
work out their combinations in his mind after they were turned.
Something too deep for a partner, and much too deep for an adversary,
Mr Carker the Manager sat in the rays of the sun that came down
slanting on him through the skylight, playing his game alone.
And although it is not among the instincts wild or domestic of the
cat tribe to play at cards, feline from sole to crown was Mr Carker
the Manager, as he basked in the strip of summer-light and warmth that
shone upon his table and the ground as if they were a crooked
dial-plate, and himself the only figure on it. With hair and whiskers
deficient in colour at all times, but feebler than common in the rich
sunshine, and more like the coat of a sandy tortoise-shell cat; with
long nails, nicely pared and sharpened; with a natural antipathy to
any speck of dirt, which made him pause sometimes and watch the
falling motes of dust, and rub them off his smooth white hand or
glossy linen: Mr Carker the Manager, sly of manner, sharp of tooth,
soft of foot, watchful of eye, oily of tongue, cruel of heart, nice of
habit, sat with a dainty steadfastness and patience at his work, as if
he were waiting at a mouse's hole.
At length the letters were disposed of, excepting one which he
reserved for a particular audience. Having locked the more
confidential correspondence in a drawer, Mr Carker the Manager rang
'Why do you answer it?' was his reception of his brother.
'The messenger is out, and I am the next,' was the submissive
'You are the next?' muttered the Manager. 'Yes! Creditable to me!
Pointing to the heaps of opened letters, he turned disdainfully
away, in his elbow-chair, and broke the seal of that one which he held
in his hand.
'I am sorry to trouble you, James,' said the brother, gathering
them up, 'but - '
'Oh! you have something to say. I knew that. Well?'
Mr Carker the Manager did not raise his eyes or turn them on his
brother, but kept them on his letter, though without opening it.
'Well?' he repeated sharply.
'I am uneasy about Harriet.'
'Harriet who? what Harriet? I know nobody of that name.'
'She is not well, and has changed very much of late.'
'She changed very much, a great many years ago,' replied the
Manager; 'and that is all I have to say.
'I think if you would hear me -
'Why should I hear you, Brother John?' returned the Manager, laying
a sarcastic emphasis on those two words, and throwing up his head, but
not lifting his eyes. 'I tell you, Harriet Carker made her choice many
years ago between her two brothers. She may repent it, but she must
abide by it.'
'Don't mistake me. I do not say she does repent it. It would be
black ingratitude in me to hint at such a thing,' returned the other.
'Though believe me, James, I am as sorry for her sacrifice as you.'
'As I?' exclaimed the Manager. 'As I?'
'As sorry for her choice - for what you call her choice - as you
are angry at it,' said the Junior.
'Angry?' repeated the other, with a wide show of his teeth.
'Displeased. Whatever word you like best. You know my meaning.
There is no offence in my intention.'
'There is offence in everything you do,' replied his brother,
glancing at him with a sudden scowl, which in a moment gave place to a
wider smile than the last. 'Carry those papers away, if you please. I
His politeness was so much more cutting than his wrath, that the
Junior went to the door. But stopping at it, and looking round, he
'When Harriet tried in vain to plead for me with you, on your first
just indignation, and my first disgrace; and when she left you, James,
to follow my broken fortunes, and devote herself, in her mistaken
affection, to a ruined brother, because without her he had no one, and
was lost; she was young and pretty. I think if you could see her now -
if you would go and see her - she would move your admiration and
The Manager inclined his head, and showed his teeth, as who should
say, in answer to some careless small-talk, 'Dear me! Is that the
case?' but said never a word.
'We thought in those days: you and I both: that she would marry
young, and lead a happy and light-hearted life,' pursued the other.
'Oh if you knew how cheerfully she cast those hopes away; how
cheerfully she has gone forward on the path she took, and never once
looked back; you never could say again that her name was strange in
your ears. Never!'
Again the Manager inclined his head and showed his teeth, and
seemed to say, 'Remarkable indeed! You quite surprise me!' And again
he uttered never a word.
'May I go on?' said John Carker, mildly.
'On your way?' replied his smiling brother. 'If you will have the
John Carker, with a sigh, was passing slowly out at the door, when
his brother's voice detained him for a moment on the threshold.
'If she has gone, and goes, her own way cheerfully,' he said,
throwing the still unfolded letter on his desk, and putting his hands
firmly in his pockets, 'you may tell her that I go as cheerfully on
mine. If she has never once looked back, you may tell her that I have,
sometimes, to recall her taking part with you, and that my resolution
is no easier to wear away;' he smiled very sweetly here; 'than
'I tell her nothing of you. We never speak about you. Once a year,
on your birthday, Harriet says always, "Let us remember James by name,
and wish him happy," but we say no more'
'Tell it then, if you please,' returned the other, 'to yourself.
You can't repeat it too often, as a lesson to you to avoid the subject
in speaking to me. I know no Harriet Carker. There is no such person.
You may have a sister; make much of her. I have none.'
Mr Carker the Manager took up the letter again, and waved it with a
smile of mock courtesy towards the door. Unfolding it as his brother
withdrew, and looking darkly aiter him as he left the room, he once
more turned round in his elbow-chair, and applied himself to a
diligent perusal of its contents.
It was in the writing of his great chief, Mr Dombey, and dated from
Leamington. Though he was a quick reader of all other letters, Mr
Carker read this slowly; weighing the words as he went, and bringing
every tooth in his head to bear upon them. When he had read it through
once, he turned it over again, and picked out these passages. 'I find
myself benefited by the change, and am not yet inclined to name any
time for my return.' 'I wish, Carker, you would arrange to come down
once and see me here, and let me know how things are going on, in
person.' 'I omitted to speak to you about young Gay. If not gone per
Son and Heir, or if Son and Heir still lying in the Docks, appoint
some other young man and keep him in the City for the present. I am
not decided.' 'Now that's unfortunate!' said Mr Carker the Manager,
expanding his mouth, as if it were made of India-rubber: 'for he's far
Still that passage, which was in a postscript, attracted his
attention and his teeth, once more.
'I think,' he said, 'my good friend Captain Cuttle mentioned
something about being towed along in the wake of that day. What a pity
he's so far away!'
He refolded the letter, and was sitting trifling with it, standing
it long-wise and broad-wise on his table, and turning it over and over
on all sides - doing pretty much the same thing, perhaps, by its
contents - when Mr Perch the messenger knocked softly at the door, and
coming in on tiptoe, bending his body at every step as if it were the
delight of his life to bow, laid some papers on the table.
'Would you please to be engaged, Sir?' asked Mr Perch, rubbing his
hands, and deferentially putting his head on one side, like a man who
felt he had no business to hold it up in such a presence, and would
keep it as much out of the way as possible.
'Who wants me?'
'Why, Sir,' said Mr Perch, in a soft voice, 'really nobody, Sir, to
speak of at present. Mr Gills the Ship's Instrument-maker, Sir, has
looked in, about a little matter of payment, he says: but I mentioned
to him, Sir, that you was engaged several deep; several deep.'
Mr Perch coughed once behind his hand, and waited for further
'Well, Sir,' said Mr Perch, 'I wouldn't of my own self take the
liberty of mentioning, Sir, that there was anybody else; but that same
young lad that was here yesterday, Sir, and last week, has been
hanging about the place; and it looks, Sir,' added Mr Perch, stopping
to shut the door, 'dreadful unbusiness-like to see him whistling to
the sparrows down the court, and making of 'em answer him.'
'You said he wanted something to do, didn't you, Perch?' asked Mr
Carker, leaning back in his chair and looking at that officer.
'Why, Sir,' said Mr Perch, coughing behind his hand again, 'his
expression certainly were that he was in wants of a sitiwation, and
that he considered something might be done for him about the Docks,
being used to fishing with a rod and line: but - ' Mr Perch shook his
head very dubiously indeed.
'What does he say when he comes?' asked Mr Carker.
'Indeed, Sir,' said Mr Perch, coughing another cough behind his
hand, which was always his resource as an expression of humility when
nothing else occurred to him, 'his observation generally air that he
would humbly wish to see one of the gentlemen, and that he wants to
earn a living. But you see, Sir,' added Perch, dropping his voice to a
whisper, and turning, in the inviolable nature of his confidence, to
give the door a thrust with his hand and knee, as if that would shut
it any more when it was shut already, 'it's hardly to be bore, Sir,
that a common lad like that should come a prowling here, and saying
that his mother nursed our House's young gentleman, and that he hopes
our House will give him a chance on that account. I am sure, Sir,'
observed Mr Perch, 'that although Mrs Perch was at that time nursing
as thriving a little girl, Sir, as we've ever took the liberty of
adding to our family, I wouldn't have made so free as drop a hint of
her being capable of imparting nourishment, not if it was never so!'
Mr Carker grinned at him like a shark, but in an absent, thoughtful
'Whether,' submitted Mr Perch, after a short silence, and another
cough, 'it mightn't be best for me to tell him, that if he was seen
here any more he would be given into custody; and to keep to it! With
respect to bodily fear,' said Mr Perch, 'I'm so timid, myself, by
nature, Sir, and my nerves is so unstrung by Mrs Perch's state, that I
could take my affidavit easy.'
'Let me see this fellow, Perch,' said Mr Carker. 'Bring him in!'
'Yes, Sir. Begging your pardon, Sir,' said Mr Perch, hesitating at
the door, 'he's rough, Sir, in appearance.'
'Never mind. If he's there, bring him in. I'll see Mr Gills
directly. Ask him to wait.'
Mr Perch bowed; and shutting the door, as precisely and carefully
as if he were not coming back for a week, went on his quest among the
sparrows in the court. While he was gone, Mr Carker assumed his
favourite attitude before the fire-place, and stood looking at the
door; presenting, with his under lip tucked into the smile that showed
his whole row of upper teeth, a singularly crouching apace.
The messenger was not long in returning, followed by a pair of
heavy boots that came bumping along the passage like boxes. With the
unceremonious words 'Come along with you!' - a very unusual form of
introduction from his lips - Mr Perch then ushered into the presence a
strong-built lad of fifteen, with a round red face, a round sleek
head, round black eyes, round limbs, and round body, who, to carry out
the general rotundity of his appearance, had a round hat in his hand,
without a particle of brim to it.
Obedient to a nod from Mr Carker, Perch had no sooner confronted
the visitor with that gentleman than he withdrew. The moment they were
face to face alone, Mr Carker, without a word of preparation, took him
by the throat, and shook him until his head seemed loose upon his
The boy, who in the midst of his astonishment could not help
staring wildly at the gentleman with so many white teeth who was
choking him, and at the office walls, as though determined, if he were
choked, that his last look should be at the mysteries for his
intrusion into which he was paying such a severe penalty, at last
contrived to utter -
'Come, Sir! You let me alone, will you!'
'Let you alone!' said Mr Carker. 'What! I have got you, have I?'
There was no doubt of that, and tightly too. 'You dog,' said Mr
Carker, through his set jaws, 'I'll strangle you!'
Biler whimpered, would he though? oh no he wouldn't - and what was
he doing of - and why didn't he strangle some- body of his own size
and not him: but Biler was quelled by the extraordinary nature of his
reception, and, as his head became stationary, and he looked the
gentleman in the face, or rather in the teeth, and saw him snarling at
him, he so far forgot his manhood as to cry.
'I haven't done nothing to you, Sir,' said Biler, otherwise Rob,
otherwise Grinder, and always Toodle.
'You young scoundrel!' replied Mr Carker, slowly releasing him, and
moving back a step into his favourite position. 'What do you mean by
daring to come here?'
'I didn't mean no harm, Sir,' whimpered Rob, putting one hand to
his throat, and the knuckles of the other to his eyes. 'I'll never
come again, Sir. I only wanted work.'
'Work, young Cain that you are!' repeated Mr Carker, eyeing him
narrowly. 'Ain't you the idlest vagabond in London?'
The impeachment, while it much affected Mr Toodle Junior, attached
to his character so justly, that he could not say a word in denial. He
stood looking at the gentleman, therefore, with a frightened,
self-convicted, and remorseful air. As to his looking at him, it may
be observed that he was fascinated by Mr Carker, and never took his
round eyes off him for an instant.
'Ain't you a thief?' said Mr Carker, with his hands behind him in
'No, sir,' pleaded Rob.
'You are!' said Mr Carker.
'I ain't indeed, Sir,' whimpered Rob. 'I never did such a thing as
thieve, Sir, if you'll believe me. I know I've been a going wrong,
Sir, ever since I took to bird-catching' and walking-matching. I'm
sure a cove might think,' said Mr Toodle Junior, with a burst of
penitence, 'that singing birds was innocent company, but nobody knows
what harm is in them little creeturs and what they brings you down
They seemed to have brought him down to a velveteen jacket and
trousers very much the worse for wear, a particularly small red
waistcoat like a gorget, an interval of blue check, and the hat before
'I ain't been home twenty times since them birds got their will of
me,' said Rob, 'and that's ten months. How can I go home when
everybody's miserable to see me! I wonder,' said Biler, blubbering
outright, and smearing his eyes with his coat-cuff, 'that I haven't
been and drownded myself over and over again.'
All of which, including his expression of surprise at not having
achieved this last scarce performance, the boy said, just as if the
teeth of Mr Carker drew it out ofhim, and he had no power of
concealing anything with that battery of attraction in full play.
'You're a nice young gentleman!' said Mr Carker, shaking his head
at him. 'There's hemp-seed sown for you, my fine fellow!'
'I'm sure, Sir,' returned the wretched Biler, blubbering again, and
again having recourse to his coat-cuff: 'I shouldn't care, sometimes,
if it was growed too. My misfortunes all began in wagging, Sir; but
what could I do, exceptin' wag?'
'Excepting what?' said Mr Carker.
'Wag, Sir. Wagging from school.'
'Do you mean pretending to go there, and not going?' said Mr
'Yes, Sir, that's wagging, Sir,' returned the quondam Grinder, much
affected. 'I was chivied through the streets, Sir, when I went there,
and pounded when I got there. So I wagged, and hid myself, and that
'And you mean to tell me,' said Mr Carker, taking him by the throat
again, holding him out at arm's-length, and surveying him in silence
for some moments, 'that you want a place, do you?'
'I should be thankful to be tried, Sir,' returned Toodle Junior,
Mr Carker the Manager pushed him backward into a corner - the boy
submitting quietly, hardly venturing to breathe, and never once
removing his eyes from his face - and rang the bell.
'Tell Mr Gills to come here.'
Mr Perch was too deferential to express surprise or recognition of
the figure in the corner: and Uncle Sol appeared immediately.
'Mr Gills!' said Carker, with a smile, 'sit down. How do you do?
You continue to enjoy your health, I hope?'
'Thank you, Sir,' returned Uncle Sol, taking out his pocket-book,
and handing over some notes as he spoke. 'Nothing ails me in body but
old age. Twenty-five, Sir.'
'You are as punctual and exact, Mr Gills,' replied the smiling
Manager, taking a paper from one of his many drawers, and making an
endorsement on it, while Uncle Sol looked over him, 'as one of your
own chronometers. Quite right.'
'The Son and Heir has not been spoken, I find by the list, Sir,'
said Uncle Sol, with a slight addition to the usual tremor in his
'The Son and Heir has not been spoken,' returned Carker. 'There
seems to have been tempestuous weather, Mr Gills, and she has probably
been driven out of her course.'
'She is safe, I trust in Heaven!' said old Sol.
'She is safe, I trust in Heaven!' assented Mr Carker in that
voiceless manner of his: which made the observant young Toodle
trernble again. 'Mr Gills,' he added aloud, throwing himself back in
his chair, 'you must miss your nephew very much?'
Uncle Sol, standing by him, shook his head and heaved a deep sigh.
'Mr Gills,' said Carker, with his soft hand playing round his
mouth, and looking up into the Instrument-maker's face, 'it would be
company to you to have a young fellow in your shop just now, and it
would be obliging me if you would give one house-room for the present.
No, to be sure,' he added quickly, in anticipation of what the old man
was going to say, 'there's not much business doing there, I know; but
you can make him clean the place out, polish up the instruments;
drudge, Mr Gills. That's the lad!'
Sol Gills pulled down his spectacles from his forehead to his eyes,
and looked at Toodle Junior standing upright in the corner: his head
presenting the appearance (which it always did) of having been newly
drawn out of a bucket of cold water; his small waistcoat rising and
falling quickly in the play of his emotions; and his eyes intently
fixed on Mr Carker, without the least reference to his proposed
'Will you give him house-room, Mr Gills?' said the Manager.
Old Sol, without being quite enthusiastic on the subject, replied
that he was glad of any opportunity, however slight, to oblige Mr
Carker, whose wish on such a point was a command: and that the wooden
Midshipman would consider himself happy to receive in his berth any
visitor of Mr Carker's selecting.
Mr Carker bared himself to the tops and bottoms of his gums: making
the watchful Toodle Junior tremble more and more: and acknowledged the
Instrument-maker's politeness in his most affable manner.
'I'll dispose of him so, then, Mr Gills,' he answered, rising, and
shaking the old man by the hand, 'until I make up my mind what to do
with him, and what he deserves. As I consider myself responsible for
him, Mr Gills,' here he smiled a wide smile at Rob, who shook before
it: 'I shall be glad if you'll look sharply after him, and report his
behaviour to me. I'll ask a question or two of his parents as I ride
home this afternoon - respectable people - to confirm some particulars
in his own account of himself; and that done, Mr Gills, I'll send him
round to you to-morrow morning. Goodbye!'
His smile at parting was so full of teeth, that it confused old
Sol, and made him vaguely uncomfortable. He went home, thinking of
raging seas, foundering ships, drowning men, an ancient bottle of
Madeira never brought to light, and other dismal matters.
'Now, boy!' said Mr Carker, putting his hand on young Toodle's
shoulder, and bringing him out into the middle of the room. 'You have
Rob said, 'Yes, Sir.'
'Perhaps you understand,' pursued his patron, 'that if you ever
deceive or play tricks with me, you had better have drowned yourself,
indeed, once for all, before you came here?'
There was nothing in any branch of mental acquisition that Rob
seemed to understand better than that.
'If you have lied to me,' said Mr Carker, 'in anything, never come
in my way again. If not, you may let me find you waiting for me
somewhere near your mother's house this afternoon. I shall leave this
at five o'clock, and ride there on horseback. Now, give me the
Rob repeated it slowly, as Mr Carker wrote it down. Rob even spelt
it over a second time, letter by letter, as if he thought that the
omission of a dot or scratch would lead to his destruction. Mr Carker
then handed him out of the room; and Rob, keeping his round eyes fixed
upon his patron to the last, vanished for the time being.
Mr Carker the Manager did a great deal of business in the course of
the day, and stowed his teeth upon a great many people. In the office,
in the court, in the street, and on 'Change, they glistened and
bristled to a terrible extent. Five o'clock arriving, and with it Mr
Carker's bay horse, they got on horseback, and went gleaming up
As no one can easily ride fast, even if inclined to do so, through
the press and throng of the City at that hour, and as Mr Carker was
not inclined, he went leisurely along, picking his way among the carts
and carriages, avoiding whenever he could the wetter and more dirty
places in the over-watered road, and taking infinite pains to keep
himself and his steed clean. Glancing at the passersby while he was
thus ambling on his way, he suddenly encountered the round eyes of the
sleek-headed Rob intently fixed upon his face as if they had never
been taken off, while the boy himself, with a pocket-handkerchief
twisted up like a speckled eel and girded round his waist, made a very
conspicuous demonstration of being prepared to attend upon him, at
whatever pace he might think proper to go.
This attention, however flattering, being one of an unusual kind,
and attracting some notice from the other passengers, Mr Carker took
advantage of a clearer thoroughfare and a cleaner road, and broke into
a trot. Rob immediately did the same. Mr Carker presently tried a
canter; Rob Was still in attendance. Then a short gallop; it Was all
one to the boy. Whenever Mr Carker turned his eyes to that side of the
road, he still saw Toodle Junior holding his course, apparently
without distress, and working himself along by the elbows after the
most approved manner of professional gentlemen who get over the ground
Ridiculous as this attendance was, it was a sign of an influence
established over the boy, and therefore Mr Carker, affecting not to
notice it, rode away into the neighbourhood of Mr Toodle's house. On
his slackening his pace here, Rob appeared before him to point out the
turnings; and when he called to a man at a neighbouring gateway to
hold his horse, pending his visit to the buildings that had succeeded
Staggs's Gardens, Rob dutifully held the stirrup, while the Manager
'Now, Sir,' said Mr Carker, taking him by the shoulder, 'come
The prodigal son was evidently nervous of visiting the parental
abode; but Mr Carker pushing him on before, he had nothing for it but
to open the right door, and suffer himself to be walked into the midst
of his brothers and sisters, mustered in overwhelming force round the
family tea-table. At sight of the prodigal in the grasp of a stranger,
these tender relations united in a general howl, which smote upon the
prodigal's breast so sharply when he saw his mother stand up among
them, pale and trembling, with the baby in her arms, that he lent his
own voice to the chorus.
Nothing doubting now that the stranger, if not Mr Ketch' in person,
was one of that company, the whole of the young family wailed the
louder, while its more infantine members, unable to control the
transports of emotion appertaining to their time of life, threw
themselves on their backs like young birds when terrified by a hawk,
and kicked violently. At length, poor Polly making herself audible,
said, with quivering lips, 'Oh Rob, my poor boy, what have you done at
'Nothing, mother,' cried Rob, in a piteous voice, 'ask the
'Don't be alarmed,' said Mr Carker, 'I want to do him good.'
At this announcement, Polly, who had not cried yet, began to do so.
The elder Toodles, who appeared to have been meditating a rescue,
unclenched their fists. The younger Toodles clustered round their
mother's gown, and peeped from under their own chubby arms at their
desperado brother and his unknown friend. Everybody blessed the
gentleman with the beautiful teeth, who wanted to do good.
'This fellow,' said Mr Carker to Polly, giving him a gentle shake,
'is your son, eh, Ma'am?'
'Yes, Sir,' sobbed Polly, with a curtsey; 'yes, Sir.'
'A bad son, I am afraid?' said Mr Carker.
'Never a bad son to me, Sir,' returned Polly.
'To whom then?' demanded Mr Carker.
'He has been a little wild, Sir,' returned Polly, checking the
baby, who was making convulsive efforts with his arms and legs to
launch himself on Biler, through the ambient air, 'and has gone with
wrong companions: but I hope he has seen the misery of that, Sir, and
will do well again.'
Mr Carker looked at Polly, and the clean room, and the clean
children, and the simple Toodle face, combined of father and mother,
that was reflected and repeated everywhere about him - and seemed to
have achieved the real purpose of his visit.
'Your husband, I take it, is not at home?' he said.
'No, Sir,' replied Polly. 'He's down the line at present.'
The prodigal Rob seemed very much relieved to hear it: though still
in the absorption of all his faculties in his patron, he hardly took
his eyes from Mr Carker's face, unless for a moment at a time to steal
a sorrowful glance at his mother.
'Then,' said Mr Carker, 'I'll tell you how I have stumbled on this
boy of yours, and who I am, and what I am going to do for him.'
This Mr Carker did, in his own way; saying that he at first
intended to have accumulated nameless terrors on his presumptuous
head, for coming to the whereabout of Dombey and Son. That he had
relented, in consideration of his youth, his professed contrition, and
his friends. That he was afraid he took a rash step in doing anything
for the boy, and one that might expose him to the censure of the
prudent; but that he did it of himself and for himself, and risked the
consequences single-handed; and that his mother's past connexion with
Mr Dombey's family had nothing to do with it, and that Mr Dombey had
nothing to do with it, but that he, Mr Carker, was the be-all and the
end-all of this business. Taking great credit to himself for his
goodness, and receiving no less from all the family then present, Mr
Carker signified, indirectly but still pretty plainly, that Rob's
implicit fidelity, attachment, and devotion, were for evermore his
due, and the least homage he could receive. And with this great truth
Rob himself was so impressed, that, standing gazing on his patron with
tears rolling down his cheeks, he nodded his shiny head until it
seemed almost as loose as it had done under the same patron's hands
Polly, who had passed Heaven knows how many sleepless nights on
account of this her dissipated firstborn, and had not seen him for
weeks and weeks, could have almost kneeled to Mr Carker the Manager,
as to a Good Spirit - in spite of his teeth. But Mr Carker rising to
depart, she only thanked him with her mother's prayers and blessings;
thanks so rich when paid out of the Heart's mint, especially for any
service Mr Carker had rendered, that he might have given back a large
amount of change, and yet been overpaid.
As that gentleman made his way among the crowding children to the
door, Rob retreated on his mother, and took her and the baby in the
same repentant hug.
'I'll try hard, dear mother, now. Upon my soul I will!' said Rob.
'Oh do, my dear boy! I am sure you will, for our sakes and your
own!' cried Polly, kissing him. 'But you're coming back to speak to
me, when you have seen the gentleman away?'
'I don't know, mother.' Rob hesitated, and looked down. 'Father -
when's he coming home?'
'Not till two o'clock to-morrow morning.'
'I'll come back, mother dear!' cried Rob. And passing through the
shrill cry of his brothers and sisters in reception of this promise,
he followed Mr Carker out.
'What!' said Mr Carker, who had heard this. 'You have a bad father,
'No, Sir!' returned Rob, amazed. 'There ain't a better nor a kinder
father going, than mine is.'
'Why don't you want to see him then?' inquired his patron.
'There's such a difference between a father and a mother, Sir,'
said Rob, after faltering for a moment. 'He couldn't hardly believe
yet that I was doing to do better - though I know he'd try to but a
mother - she always believes what's,' good, Sir; at least I know my
mother does, God bless her!'
Mr Carker's mouth expanded, but he said no more until he was
mounted on his horse, and had dismissed the man who held it, when,
looking down from the saddle steadily into the attentive and watchful
face of the boy, he said:
'You'll come to me tomorrow morning, and you shall be shown where
that old gentleman lives; that old gentleman who was with me this
morning; where you are going, as you heard me say.'
'Yes, Sir,' returned Rob.
'I have a great interest in that old gentleman, and in serving him,
you serve me, boy, do you understand? Well,' he added, interrupting
him, for he saw his round face brighten when he was told that: 'I see
you do. I want to know all about that old gentleman, and how he goes
on from day to day - for I am anxious to be of service to him - and
especially who comes there to see him. Do you understand?'
Rob nodded his steadfast face, and said 'Yes, Sir,' again.
'I should like to know that he has friends who are attentive to
him, and that they don't desert him - for he lives very much alone
now, poor fellow; but that they are fond of him, and of his nephew who
has gone abroad. There is a very young lady who may perhaps come to
see him. I want particularly to know all about her.'
'I'll take care, Sir,' said the boy.
'And take care,' returned his patron, bending forward to advance
his grinning face closer to the boy's, and pat him on the shoulder
with the handle of his whip: 'take care you talk about affairs of mine
to nobody but me.'
'To nobody in the world, Sir,' replied Rob, shaking his head.
'Neither there,' said Mr CarHer, pointing to the place they had
just left, 'nor anywhere else. I'll try how true and grateful you can
be. I'll prove you!' Making this, by his display of teeth and by the
action of his head, as much a threat as a promise, he turned from
Rob's eyes, which were nailed upon him as if he had won the boy by a
charm, body and soul, and rode away. But again becoming conscious,
after trotting a short distance, that his devoted henchman, girt as
before, was yielding him the same attendance, to the great amusement
of sundry spectators, he reined up, and ordered him off. To ensure his
obedience, he turned in the saddle and watched him as he retired. It
was curious to see that even then Rob could not keep his eyes wholly
averted from his patron's face, but, constantly turning and turning
again to look after him' involved himself in a tempest of buffetings
and jostlings from the other passengers in the street: of which, in
the pursuit of the one paramount idea, he was perfectly heedless.
Mr Carker the Manager rode on at a foot-pace, with the easy air of
one who had performed all the business of the day in a satisfactory
manner, and got it comfortably off his mind. Complacent and affable as
man could be, Mr Carker picked his way along the streets and hummed a
soft tune as he went He seemed to purr, he was so glad.
And in some sort, Mr Carker, in his fancy, basked upon a hearth
too. Coiled up snugly at certain feet, he was ready for a spring, Or
for a tear, or for a scratch, or for a velvet touch, as the humour
took him and occasion served. Was there any bird in a cage, that came
in for a share ofhis regards?
'A very young lady!' thought Mr Carker the Manager, through his
song. 'Ay! when I saw her last, she was a little child. With dark eyes
and hair, I recollect, and a good face; a very good face! I daresay
More affable and pleasant yet, and humming his song until his many
teeth vibrated to it, Mr Carker picked his way along, and turned at
last into the shady street where Mr Dombey's house stood. He had been
so busy, winding webs round good faces, and obscuring them with
meshes, that he hardly thought of being at this point of his ride,
until, glancing down the cold perspective of tall houses, he reined in
his horse quickly within a few yards of the door. But to explain why
Mr Carker reined in his horse quickly, and what he looked at in no
small surprise, a few digressive words are necessary.
Mr Toots, emancipated from the Blimber thraldom and coming into the
possession of a certain portion of his wordly wealth, 'which,' as he
had been wont, during his last half-year's probation, to communicate
to Mr Feeder every evening as a new discovery, 'the executors couldn't
keep him out of' had applied himself with great diligence, to the
science of Life. Fired with a noble emulation to pursue a brilliant
and distinguished career, Mr Toots had furnished a choice set of
apartments; had established among them a sporting bower, embellished
with the portraits of winning horses, in which he took no particle of
interest; and a divan, which made him poorly. In this delicious abode,
Mr Toots devoted himself to the cultivation of those gentle arts which
refine and humanise existence, his chief instructor in which was an
interesting character called the Game Chicken, who was always to be
heard of at the bar of the Black Badger, wore a shaggy white
great-coat in the warmest weather, and knocked Mr Toots about the head
three times a week, for the small consideration of ten and six per
The Game Chicken, who was quite the Apollo of Mr Toots's Pantheon,
had introduced to him a marker who taught billiards, a Life Guard who
taught fencing, a jobmaster who taught riding, a Cornish gentleman who
was up to anything in the athletic line, and two or three other
friends connected no less intimately with the fine arts. Under whose
auspices Mr Toots could hardly fail to improve apace, and under whose
tuition he went to work.
But however it came about, it came to pass, even while these
gentlemen had the gloss of novelty upon them, that Mr Toots felt, he
didn't know how, unsettled and uneasy. There were husks in his corn,
that even Game Chickens couldn't peck up; gloomy giants in his
leisure, that even Game Chickens couldn't knock down. Nothing seemed
to do Mr Toots so much good as incessantly leaving cards at Mr
Dombey's door. No taxgatherer in the British Dominions - that
wide-spread territory on which the sun never sets, and where the
tax-gatherer never goes to bed - was more regular and persevering in
his calls than Mr Toots.
Mr Toots never went upstairs; and always performed the same
ceremonies, richly dressed for the purpose, at the hall door.
'Oh! Good morning!' would be Mr Toots's first remark to the
servant. 'For Mr Dombey,' would be Mr Toots's next remark, as he
handed in a card. 'For Miss Dombey,' would be his next, as he handed
Mr Toots would then turn round as if to go away; but the man knew
him by this time, and knew he wouldn't.
'Oh, I beg your pardon,' Mr Toots would say, as if a thought had
suddenly descended on him. 'Is the young woman at home?'
The man would rather think she was;, but wouldn't quite know. Then
he would ring a bell that rang upstairs, and would look up the
staircase, and would say, yes, she was at home, and was coming down.
Then Miss Nipper would appear, and the man would retire.
'Oh! How de do?' Mr Toots would say, with a chuckle and a blush.
Susan would thank him, and say she was very well.
'How's Diogenes going on?' would be Mr Toots's second
Very well indeed. Miss Florence was fonder and fonder of him every
day. Mr Toots was sure to hail this with a burst of chuckles, like the
opening of a bottle of some effervescent beverage.
'Miss Florence is quite well, Sir,' Susan would add.
Oh, it's of no consequence, thank'ee,' was the invariable reply of
Mr Toots; and when he had said so, he always went away very fast.
Now it is certain that Mr Toots had a filmy something in his mind,
which led him to conclude that if he could aspire successfully in the
fulness of time, to the hand of Florence, he would be fortunate and
blest. It is certain that Mr Toots, by some remote and roundabout
road, had got to that point, and that there he made a stand. His heart
was wounded; he was touched; he was in love. He had made a desperate
attempt, one night, and had sat up all night for the purpose, to write
an acrostic on Florence, which affected him to tears in the
conception. But he never proceeded in the execution further than the
words 'For when I gaze,' - the flow of imagination in which he had
previously written down the initial letters of the other seven lines,
deserting him at that point.
Beyond devising that very artful and politic measure of leaving a
card for Mr Dombey daily, the brain of Mr Toots had not worked much in
reference to the subject that held his feelings prisoner. But deep
consideration at length assured Mr Toots that an important step to
gain, was, the conciliation of Miss Susan Nipper, preparatory to
giving her some inkling of his state of mind.
A little light and playful gallantry towards this lady seemed the
means to employ in that early chapter of the history, for winning her
to his interests. Not being able quite to make up his mind about it,
he consulted the Chicken - without taking that gentleman into his
confidence; merely informing him that a friend in Yorkshire had
written to him (Mr Toots) for his opinion on such a question. The
Chicken replying that his opinion always was, 'Go in and win,' and
further, 'When your man's before you and your work cut out, go in and
do it,' Mr Toots considered this a figurative way of supporting his
own view of the case, and heroically resolved to kiss Miss Nipper next
Upon the next day, therefore, Mr Toots, putting into requisition
some of the greatest marvels that Burgess and Co. had ever turned out,
went off to Mr Dotnbey's upon this design. But his heart failed him so
much as he approached the scene of action, that, although he arrived
on the ground at three o'clock in the afternoon, it was six before he
knocked at the door.
Everything happened as usual, down to the point where Susan said
her young mistress was well, and Mr Toots said it was ofno
consequence. To her amazement, Mr Toots, instead of going off, like a
rocket, after that observation, lingered and chuckled.
'Perhaps you'd like to walk upstairs, Sir!' said Susan.
'Well, I think I will come in!' said Mr Toots.
But instead of walking upstairs, the bold Toots made an awkward
plunge at Susan when the door was shut, and embracing that fair
creature, kissed her on the cheek
'Go along with you!~ cried Susan, 'or Ill tear your eyes out.'
'Just another!' said Mr Toots.
'Go along with you!' exclaimed Susan, giving him a push 'Innocents
like you, too! Who'll begin next? Go along, Sir!'
Susan was not in any serious strait, for she could hardly speak for
laughing; but Diogenes, on the staircase, hearing a rustling against
the wall, and a shuffling of feet, and seeing through the banisters
that there was some contention going on, and foreign invasion in the
house, formed a different opinion, dashed down to the rescue, and in
the twinkling of an eye had Mr Toots by the leg.
Susan screamed, laughed, opened the street-door, and ran
downstairs; the bold Toots tumbled staggering out into the street,
with Diogenes holding on to one leg of his pantaioons, as if Burgess
and Co. were his cooks, and had provided that dainty morsel for his
holiday entertainment; Diogenes shaken off, rolled over and over in
the dust, got up' again, whirled round the giddy Toots and snapped at
him: and all this turmoil Mr Carker, reigning up his horse and sitting
a little at a distance, saw to his amazement, issue from the stately
house of Mr Dombey.
Mr Carker remained watching the discomfited Toots, when Diogenes
was called in, and the door shut: and while that gentleman, taking
refuge in a doorway near at hand, bound up the torn leg of his
pantaloons with a costly silk handkerchief that had formed part of his
expensive outfit for the advent
'I beg your pardon, Sir,' said Mr Carker, riding up, with his most
propitiatory smile. 'I hope you are not hurt?'
'Oh no, thank you,' replied Mr Toots, raising his flushed face,
'it's of no consequence' Mr Toots would have signified, if he could,
that he liked it very much.
'If the dog's teeth have entered the leg, Sir - ' began Carker,
with a display of his own'
'No, thank you,' said Mr Toots, 'it's all quite right. It's very
comfortable, thank you.'
'I have the pleasure of knowing Mr Dombey,' observed Carker.
'Have you though?' rejoined the blushing Took
'And you will allow me, perhaps, to apologise, in his absence,'
said Mr Carker, taking off his hat, 'for such a misadventure, and to
wonder how it can possibly have happened.'
Mr Toots is so much gratified by this politeness, and the lucky
chance of making frends with a friend of Mr Dombey, that he pulls out
his card-case which he never loses an opportunity of using, and hands
his name and address to Mr Carker: who responds to that courtesy by
giving him his own, and with that they part.
As Mr Carker picks his way so softly past the house, looking up at
the windows, and trying to make out the pensive face behind the
curtain looking at the children opposite, the rough head of Diogenes
came clambering up close by it, and the dog, regardless of all
soothing, barks and growls, and makes at him from that height, as ifhe
would spring down and tear him limb from limb.
Well spoken, Di, so near your Mistress! Another, and another with
your head up, your eyes flashing, and your vexed mouth worrying
itself, for want of him! Another, as he picks his way along! You have
a good scent, Di, - cats, boy, cats!