Home | Site Map
Mr Carker the Manager rose with the lark, and went out, walking in
the summer day. His meditations - and he meditated with contracted
brows while he strolled along - hardly seemed to soar as high as the
lark, or to mount in that direction; rather they kept close to their
nest upon the earth, and looked about, among the dust and worms. But
there was not a bird in the air, singing unseen, farther beyond the
reach of human eye than Mr Carker's thoughts. He had his face so
perfectly under control, that few could say more, in distinct terms,
of its expression, than that it smiled or that it pondered. It
pondered now, intently. As the lark rose higher, he sank deeper in
thought. As the lark poured out her melody clearer and stronger, he
fell into a graver and profounder silence. At length, when the lark
came headlong down, with an accumulating stream of song, and dropped
among the green wheat near him, rippling in the breath of the morning
like a river, he sprang up from his reverie, and looked round with a
sudden smile, as courteous and as soft as if he had had numerous
observers to propitiate; nor did he relapse, after being thus
awakened; but clearing his face, like one who bethought himself that
it might otherwise wrinkle and tell tales, went smiling on, as if for
Perhaps with an eye to first impressions, Mr Carker was very
carefully and trimly dressed, that morning. Though always somewhat
formal, in his dress, in imitation of the great man whom he served, he
stopped short of the extent of Mr Dombey's stiffness: at once perhaps
because he knew it to be ludicrous, and because in doing so he found
another means of expressing his sense of the difference and distance
between them. Some people quoted him indeed, in this respect, as a
pointed commentary, and not a flattering one, on his icy patron - but
the world is prone to misconstruction, and Mr Carker was not
accountable for its bad propensity.
- Clean and florid
- with his light complexion, fading as it were, in
the sun, and his dainty step enhancing the softness of the turf: Mr
Carker the Manager strolled about meadows, and green lanes, and glided
among avenues of trees, until it was time to return to breakfast.
Taking a nearer way back, Mr Carker pursued it, airing his teeth, and
said aloud as he did so, 'Now to see the second Mrs Dombey!'
He had strolled beyond the town, and re-entered it by a pleasant
walk, where there was a deep shade of leafy trees, and where there
were a few benches here and there for those who chose to rest. It not
being a place of general resort at any hour, and wearing at that time
of the still morning the air of being quite deserted and retired, Mr
Carker had it, or thought he had it, all to himself. So, with the whim
of an idle man, to whom there yet remained twenty minutes for reaching
a destination easily able in ten, Mr Carker threaded the great boles
of the trees, and went passing in and out, before this one and behind
that, weaving a chain of footsteps on the dewy ground.
But he found he was mistaken in supposing there was no one in the
grove, for as he softly rounded the trunk of one large tree, on which
the obdurate bark was knotted and overlapped like the hide of a
rhinoceros or some kindred monster of the ancient days before the
Flood, he saw an unexpected figure sitting on a bench near at hand,
about which, in another moment, he would have wound the chain he was
It was that of a lady, elegantly dressed and very handsome, whose
dark proud eyes were fixed upon the ground, and in whom some passion
or struggle was raging. For as she sat looking down, she held a corner
of her under lip within her mouth, her bosom heaved, her nostril
quivered, her head trembled, indignant tears were on her cheek, and
her foot was set upon the moss as though she would have crushed it
into nothing. And yet almost the self-same glance that showed him
this, showed him the self-same lady rising with a scornful air of
weariness and lassitude, and turning away with nothing expressed in
face or figure but careless beauty and imperious disdain.
A withered and very ugly old woman, dressed not so much like a
gipsy as like any of that medley race of vagabonds who tramp about the
country, begging, and stealing, and tinkering, and weaving rushes, by
turns, or all together, had been observing the lady, too; for, as she
rose, this second figure strangely confronting the first, scrambled up
from the ground - out of it, it almost appeared - and stood in the
'Let me tell your fortune, my pretty lady,' said the old woman,
munching with her jaws, as if the Death's Head beneath her yellow skin
were impatient to get out.
'I can tell it for myself,' was the reply.
'Ay, ay, pretty lady; but not right. You didn't tell it right when
you were sitting there. I see you! Give me a piece of silver, pretty
lady, and I'll tell your fortune true. There's riches, pretty lady, in
'I know,' returned the lady, passing her with a dark smile, and a
proud step. 'I knew it before.
'What! You won't give me nothing?' cried the old woman. 'You won't
give me nothing to tell your fortune, pretty lady? How much will you
give me to tell it, then? Give me something, or I'll call it after
you!' croaked the old woman, passionately.
Mr Carker, whom the lady was about to pass close, slinking against
his tree as she crossed to gain the path, advanced so as to meet her,
and pulling off his hat as she went by, bade the old woman hold her
peace. The lady acknowledged his interference with an inclination of
the head, and went her way.
'You give me something then, or I'll call it after her!' screamed
the old woman, throwing up her arms, and pressing forward against his
outstretched hand. 'Or come,' she added, dropping her voice suddenly,
looking at him earnestly, and seeming in a moment to forget the object
of her wrath, 'give me something, or I'll call it after you! '
'After me, old lady!' returned the Manager, putting his hand in his
'Yes,' said the woman, steadfast in her scrutiny, and holding out
her shrivelled hand. 'I know!'
'What do you know?' demanded Carker, throwing her a shilling. 'Do
you know who the handsome lady is?'
Munching like that sailor's wife of yore, who had chestnuts In her
lap, and scowling like the witch who asked for some in vain, the old
woman picked the shilling up, and going backwards, like a crab, or
like a heap of crabs: for her alternately expanding and contracting
hands might have represented two of that species, and her creeping
face, some half-a-dozen more: crouched on the veinous root of an old
tree, pulled out a short black pipe from within the crown of her
bonnet, lighted it with a match, and smoked in silence, looking
fixedly at her questioner.
Mr Carker laughed, and turned upon his heel.
'Good!' said the old woman. 'One child dead, and one child living:
one wife dead, and one wife coming. Go and meet her!'
In spite of himself, the Manager looked round again, and stopped.
The old woman, who had not removed her pipe, and was munching and
mumbling while she smoked, as if in conversation with an invisible
familiar, pointed with her finger in the direction he was going, and
'What was that you said, Beldamite?' he demanded.
The woman mumbled, and chattered, and smoked, and still pointed
before him; but remained silent Muttering a farewell that was not
complimentary, Mr Carker pursued his way; but as he turned out of that
place, and looked over his shoulder at the root of the old tree, he
could yet see the finger pointing before him, and thought he heard the
woman screaming, 'Go and meet her!'
Preparations for a choice repast were completed, he found, at the
hotel; and Mr Dombey, and the Major, and the breakfast, were awaiting
the ladies. Individual constitution has much to do with the
development of such facts, no doubt; but in this case, appetite
carried it hollow over the tender passion; Mr Dombey being very cool
and collected, and the Major fretting and fuming in a state of violent
heat and irritation. At length the door was thrown open by the Native,
and, after a pause, occupied by her languishing along the gallery, a
very blooming, but not very youthful lady, appeared.
'My dear Mr Dombey,' said the lady, 'I am afraid we are late, but
Edith has been out already looking for a favourable point of view for
a sketch, and kept me waiting for her. Falsest of Majors,' giving him
her little finger, 'how do you do?'
'Mrs Skewton,' said Mr Dombey, 'let me gratify my friend Carker:'
Mr Dombey unconsciously emphasised the word friend, as saying "no
really; I do allow him to take credit for that distinction:" 'by
presenting him to you. You have heard me mention Mr Carker.'
'I am charmed, I am sure,' said Mrs Skewton, graciously.
Mr Carker was charmed, of course. Would he have been more charmed
on Mr Dombey's behalf, if Mrs Skewton had been (as he at first
supposed her) the Edith whom they had toasted overnight?
'Why, where, for Heaven's sake, is Edith?' exclaimed Mrs Skewton,
looking round. 'Still at the door, giving Withers orders about the
mounting of those drawings! My dear Mr Dombey, will you have the
Mr Dombey was already gone to seek her. Next moment he returned,
bearing on his arm the same elegantly dressed and very handsome lady
whom Mr Carker had encountered underneath the trees.
'Carker - ' began Mr Dombey. But their recognition of each other
was so manifest, that Mr Dombey stopped surprised.
'I am obliged to the gentleman,' said Edith, with a stately bend,
'for sparing me some annoyance from an importunate beggar just now.'
'I am obliged to my good fortune,' said Mr Carker, bowing low, 'for
the opportunity of rendering so slight a service to one whose servant
I am proud to be.'
As her eye rested on him for an instant, and then lighted on the
ground, he saw in its bright and searching glance a suspicion that he
had not come up at the moment of his interference, but had secretly
observed her sooner. As he saw that, she saw in his eye that her
distrust was not without foundation.
'Really,' cried Mrs Skewton, who had taken this opportunity of
inspecting Mr Carker through her glass, and satisfying herself (as she
lisped audibly to the Major) that he was all heart; 'really now, this
is one of the most enchanting coincidences that I ever heard of. The
idea! My dearest Edith, there is such an obvious destiny in it, that
really one might almost be induced to cross one's arms upon one's
frock, and say, like those wicked Turks, there is no What's-his-name
but Thingummy, and What-you-may-call-it is his prophet!'
Edith designed no revision of this extraordinary quotation from the
Koran, but Mr Dombey felt it necessary to offer a few polite remarks.
'It gives me great pleasure,' said Mr Dombey, with cumbrous
gallantry, 'that a gentleman so nearly connected with myself as Carker
is, should have had the honour and happiness of rendering the least
assistance to Mrs Granger.' Mr Dombey bowed to her. 'But it gives me
some pain, and it occasions me to be really envious of Carker;' he
unconsciously laid stress on these words, as sensible that they must
appear to involve a very surprising proposition; 'envious of Carker,
that I had not that honour and that happiness myself.' Mr Dombey bowed
again. Edith, saving for a curl of her lip, was motionless.
'By the Lord, Sir,' cried the Major, bursting into speech at sight
of the waiter, who was come to announce breakfast, 'it's an
extraordinary thing to me that no one can have the honour and
happiness of shooting all such beggars through the head without being
brought to book for it. But here's an arm for Mrs Granger if she'll do
B. the honour to accept it; and the greatest service Joe can render
you, Ma'am, just now, is, to lead you into table!'
With this, the Major gave his arm to Edith; Mr Dombey led the way
with Mrs Skewton; Mrs Carker went last, smiling on the party.
'I am quite rejoiced, Mr Carker,' said the lady-mother, at
breakfast, after another approving survey of him through her glass,
'that you have timed your visit so happily, as to go with us to-day.
It is the most enchanting expedition!'
'Any expedition would be enchanting in such society,' returned
Carker; 'but I believe it is, in itself, full of interest.'
'Oh!' cried Mrs Skewton, with a faded little scream of rapture,
'the Castle is charming! - associations of the Middle Ages - and all
that - which is so truly exquisite. Don't you dote upon the Middle
Ages, Mr Carker?'
'Very much, indeed,' said Mr Carker.
'Such charming times!' cried Cleopatra. 'So full of faith! So
vigorous and forcible! So picturesque! So perfectly removed from
commonplace! Oh dear! If they would only leave us a little more of the
poetry of existence in these terrible days!'
Mrs Skewton was looking sharp after Mr Dombey all the time she said
this, who was looking at Edith: who was listening, but who never
lifted up her eyes.
'We are dreadfully real, Mr Carker,' said Mrs Skewton; 'are we
Few people had less reason to complain of their reality than
Cleopatra, who had as much that was false about her as could well go
to the composition of anybody with a real individual existence. But Mr
Carker commiserated our reality nevertheless, and agreed that we were
very hardly used in that regard.
'Pictures at the Castle, quite divine!' said Cleopatra. 'I hope you
dote upon pictures?'
'I assure you, Mrs Skewton,' said Mr Dombey, with solemn
encouragement of his Manager, 'that Carker has a very good taste for
pictures; quite a natural power of appreciating them. He is a very
creditable artist himself. He will be delighted, I am sure, with Mrs
Granger's taste and skill.'
'Damme, Sir!' cried Major Bagstock, 'my opinion is, that you're the
admirable Carker, and can do anything.'
'Oh!' smiled Carker, with humility, 'you are much too sanguine,
Major Bagstock. I can do very little. But Mr Dombey is so generous in
his estimation of any trivial accomplishment a man like myself may
find it almost necessary to acquire, and to which, in his very
different sphere, he is far superior, that - ' Mr Carker shrugged his
shoulders, deprecating further praise, and said no more.
All this time, Edith never raised her eyes, unless to glance
towards her mother when that lady's fervent spirit shone forth in
words. But as Carker ceased, she looked at Mr Dombey for a moment. For
a moment only; but with a transient gleam of scornful wonder on her
face, not lost on one observer, who was smiling round the board.
Mr Dombey caught the dark eyelash in its descent, and took the
opportunity of arresting it.
'You have been to Warwick often, unfortunately?' said Mr Dombey.
'The visit will be tedious to you, I am afraid.'
'Oh no; not at all.'
'Ah! You are like your cousin Feenix, my dearest Edith,' said Mrs
Skewton. 'He has been to Warwick Castle fifty times, if he has been
there once; yet if he came to Leamington to-morrow - I wish he would,
dear angel! - he would make his fifty-second visit next day.'
'We are all enthusiastic, are we not, Mama?' said Edith, with a
'Too much so, for our peace, perhaps, my dear,' returned her
mother; 'but we won't complain. Our own emotions are our recompense.
If, as your cousin Feenix says, the sword wears out the
'The scabbard, perhaps,' said Edith.
'Exactly - a little too fast, it is because it is bright and
glowing, you know, my dearest love.'
Mrs Skewton heaved a gentle sigh, supposed to cast a shadow on the
surface of that dagger of lath, whereof her susceptible bosom was the
sheath: and leaning her head on one side, in the Cleopatra manner,
looked with pensive affection on her darling child.
Edith had turned her face towards Mr Dombey when he first addressed
her, and had remained in that attitude, while speaking to her mother,
and while her mother spoke to her, as though offering him her
attention, if he had anything more to say. There was something in the
manner of this simple courtesy: almost defiant, and giving it the
character of being rendered on compulsion, or as a matter of traffic
to which she was a reluctant party again not lost upon that same
observer who was smiling round the board. It set him thinking of her
as he had first seen her, when she had believed herself to be alone
among the trees.
Mr Dombey having nothing else to say, proposed - the breakfast
being now finished, and the Major gorged, like any Boa Constrictor -
that they should start. A barouche being in waiting, according to the
orders of that gentleman, the two ladies, the Major and himself, took
their seats in it; the Native and the wan page mounted the box, Mr
Towlinson being left behind; and Mr Carker, on horseback, brought up
the rear. Mr Carker cantered behind the carriage. at the distance of a
hundred yards or so, and watched it, during all the ride, as if he
were a cat, indeed, and its four occupants, mice. Whether he looked to
one side of the road, or to the other - over distant landscape, with
its smooth undulations, wind-mills, corn, grass, bean fields,
wild-flowers, farm-yards, hayricks, and the spire among the wood - or
upwards in the sunny air, where butterflies were sporting round his
head, and birds were pouring out their songs - or downward, where the
shadows of the branches interlaced, and made a trembling carpet on the
road - or onward, where the overhanging trees formed aisles and
arches, dim with the softened light that steeped through leaves - one
corner of his eye was ever on the formal head of Mr Dombey, addressed
towards him, and the feather in the bonnet, drooping so neglectfully
and scornfully between them; much as he had seen the haughty eyelids
droop; not least so, when the face met that now fronting it. Once, and
once only, did his wary glance release these objects; and that was,
when a leap over a low hedge, and a gallop across a field, enabled him
to anticipate the carriage coming by the road, and to be standing
ready, at the journey's end, to hand the ladies out. Then, and but
then, he met her glance for an instant in her first surprise; but when
he touched her, in alighting, with his soft white hand, it overlooked
him altogether as before.
Mrs Skewton was bent on taking charge of Mr Carker herself, and
showing him the beauties of the Castle. She was determined to have his
arm, and the Major's too. It would do that incorrigible creature: who
was the most barbarous infidel in point of poetry: good to be in such
company. This chance arrangement left Mr Dombey at liberty to escort
Edith: which he did: stalking before them through the apartments with
a gentlemanly solemnity.
'Those darling byegone times, Mr Carker,' said Cleopatra, 'with
their delicious fortresses, and their dear old dungeons, and their
delightful places of torture, and their romantic vengeances, and their
picturesque assaults and sieges, and everything that makes life truly
charming! How dreadfully we have degenerated!'
'Yes, we have fallen off deplorably,' said Mr Carker.
The peculiarity of their conversation was, that Mrs Skewton, in
spite of her ecstasies, and Mr Carker, in spite of his urbanity, were
both intent on watching Mr Dombey and Edith. With all their
conversational endowments, they spoke somewhat distractedly, and at
random, in consequence.
'We have no Faith left, positively,' said Mrs Skewton, advancing
her shrivelled ear; for Mr Dombey was saying something to Edith. 'We
have no Faith in the dear old Barons, who were the most delightful
creatures - or in the dear old Priests, who were the most warlike of
men - or even in the days of that inestimable Queen Bess, upon the
wall there, which were so extremely golden. Dear creature! She was all
Heart And that charming father of hers! I hope you dote on Harry the
'I admire him very much,' said Carker.
'So bluff!' cried Mrs Skewton, 'wasn't he? So burly. So truly
English. Such a picture, too, he makes, with his dear little peepy
eyes, and his benevolent chin!'
'Ah, Ma'am!' said Carker, stopping short; 'but if you speak of
pictures, there's a composition! What gallery in the world can produce
the counterpart of that?'
As the smiling gentleman thus spake, he pointed through a doorway
to where Mr Dombey and Edith were standing alone in the centre of
They were not interchanging a word or a look. Standing together,
arm in arm, they had the appearance of being more divided than if seas
had rolled between them. There was a difference even in the pride of
the two, that removed them farther from each other, than if one had
been the proudest and the other the humblest specimen of humanity in
all creation. He, self-important, unbending, formal, austere. She,
lovely and graceful, in an uncommon degree, but totally regardless of
herself and him and everything around, and spurning her own
attractions with her haughty brow and lip, as if they were a badge or
livery she hated. So unmatched were they, and opposed, so forced and
linked together by a chain which adverse hazard and mischance had
forged: that fancy might have imagined the pictures on the walls
around them, startled by the unnatural conjunction, and observant of
it in their several expressions. Grim knights and warriors looked
scowling on them. A churchman, with his hand upraised, denounced the
mockery of such a couple coming to God's altar. Quiet waters in
landscapes, with the sun reflected in their depths, asked, if better
means of escape were not at hand, was there no drowning left? Ruins
cried, 'Look here, and see what We are, wedded to uncongenial Time!'
Animals, opposed by nature, worried one another, as a moral to them.
Loves and Cupids took to flight afraid, and Martyrdom had no such
torment in its painted history of suffering.
Nevertheless, Mrs Skewton was so charmed by the sight to which Mr
Carker invoked her attention, that she could not refraIn from saying,
half aloud, how sweet, how very full of soul it was! Edith,
overhearing, looked round, and flushed indignant scarlet to her hair.
'My dearest Edith knows I was admiring her!' said Cleopatra,
tapping her, almost timidly, on the back with her parasol. 'Sweet
Again Mr Carker saw the strife he had witnessed so unexpectedly
among the trees. Again he saw the haughty languor and indifference
come over it, and hide it like a cloud.
She did not raise her eyes to him; but with a slight peremptory
motion of them, seemed to bid her mother come near. Mrs Skewton
thought it expedient to understand the hint, and advancing quickly,
with her two cavaliers, kept near her daughter from that time,
Mr Carker now, having nothing to distract his attention, began to
discourse upon the pictures and to select the best, and point them out
to Mr Dombey: speaking with his usual familiar recognition of Mr
Dombey's greatness, and rendering homage by adjusting his eye-glass
for him, or finding out the right place in his catalogue, or holding
his stick, or the like. These services did not so much originate with
Mr Carker, in truth, as with Mr Dombey himself, who was apt to assert
his chieftainship by saying, with subdued authority, and in an easy
way - for him - 'Here, Carker, have the goodness to assist me, will
you?' which the smiling gentleman always did with pleasure.
They made the tour of the pictures, the walls, crow's nest, and so
forth; and as they were still one little party, and the Major was
rather in the shade: being sleepy during the process of digestion: Mr
Carker became communicative and agreeable. At first, he addressed
himself for the most part to Mrs Skewton; but as that sensitive lady
was in such ecstasies with the works of art, after the first quarter
of an hour, that she could do nothing but yawn (they were such perfect
inspirations, she observed as a reason for that mark of rapture), he
transferred his attentions to Mr Dombey. Mr Dombey said little beyond
an occasional 'Very true, Carker,' or 'Indeed, Carker,' but he tacitly
encouraged Carker to proceed, and inwardly approved of his behaviour
very much: deeming it as well that somebody should talk, and thinking
that his remarks, which were, as one might say, a branch of the parent
establishment, might amuse Mrs Granger. Mr Carker, who possessed an
excellent discretion, never took the liberty of addressing that lady,
direct; but she seemed to listen, though she never looked at him; and
once or twice, when he was emphatic in his peculiar humility, the
twilight smile stole over her face, not as a light, but as a deep
Warwick Castle being at length pretty well exhausted, and the Major
very much so: to say nothing of Mrs Skewton, whose peculiar
demonstrations of delight had become very frequent Indeed: the
carriage was again put In requisition, and they rode to several
admired points of view In the neighbourhood. Mr Dombey ceremoniously
observed of one of these, that a sketch, however slight, from the fair
hand of Mrs Granger, would be a remembrance to him of that agreeable
day: though he wanted no artificial remembrance, he was sure (here Mr
Dombey made another of his bows), which he must always highly value.
Withers the lean having Edith's sketch-book under his arm, was
immediately called upon by Mrs Skewton to produce the same: and the
carriage stopped, that Edith might make the drawing, which Mr Dombey
was to put away among his treasures.
'But I am afraid I trouble you too much,' said Mr Dombey.
'By no means. Where would you wish it taken from?' she answered,
turning to him with the same enforced attention as before.
Mr Dombey, with another bow, which cracked the starch in his
cravat, would beg to leave that to the Artist.
'I would rather you chose for yourself,' said Edith.
'Suppose then,' said Mr Dombey, 'we say from here. It appears a
good spot for the purpose, or - Carker, what do you think?'
There happened to be in the foreground, at some little distance, a
grove of trees, not unlike that In which Mr Carker had made his chain
of footsteps in the morning, and with a seat under one tree, greatly
resembling, in the general character of its situation, the point where
his chain had broken.
'Might I venture to suggest to Mrs Granger,' said Carker, 'that
that is an interesting - almost a curious - point of view?'
She followed the direction of his riding-whip with her eyes, and
raised them quickly to his face. It was the second glance they had
exchanged since their introduction; and would have been exactly like
the first, but that its expression was plainer.
'Will you like that?' said Edith to Mr Dombey.
'I shall be charmed,' said Mr Dombey to Edith.
Therefore the carriage was driven to the spot where Mr Dombey was
to be charmed; and Edith, without moving from her seat, and openIng
her sketch-book with her usual proud indifference, began to sketch.
'My pencils are all pointless,' she said, stopping and turning them
'Pray allow me,' said Mr Dombey. 'Or Carker will do it better, as
he understands these things. Carker, have the goodness to see to these
pencils for Mrs Granger.
Mr Carker rode up close to the carriage-door on Mrs Granger's side,
and letting the rein fall on his horse's neck, took the pencils from
her hand with a smile and a bow, and sat in the saddle leisurely
mending them. Having done so, he begged to be allowed to hold them,
and to hand them to her as they were required; and thus Mr Carker,
with many commendations of Mrs Granger's extraordinary skill -
especially in trees - remained - close at her side, looking over the
drawing as she made it. Mr Dombey in the meantime stood bolt upright
in the carriage like a highly respectable ghost, looking on too; while
Cleopatra and the Major dallied as two ancient doves might do.
'Are you satisfied with that, or shall I finish it a little more?'
said Edith, showing the sketch to Mr Dombey.
Mr Dombey begged that it might not be touched; it was perfection.
'It is most extraordinary,' said Carker, bringing every one of his
red gums to bear upon his praise. 'I was not prepared for anything so
beautiful, and so unusual altogether.'
This might have applied to the sketcher no less than to the sketch;
but Mr Carker's manner was openness itself - not as to his mouth
alone, but as to his whole spirit. So it continued to be while the
drawing was laid aside for Mr Dombey, and while the sketching
materials were put up; then he handed in the pencils (which were
received with a distant acknowledgment of his help, but without a
look), and tightening his rein, fell back, and followed the carriage
Thinking, perhaps, as he rode, that even this trivial sketch had
been made and delivered to its owner, as if it had been bargained for
and bought. Thinking, perhaps, that although she had assented with
such perfect readiness to his request, her haughty face, bent over the
drawing, or glancing at the distant objects represented in it, had
been the face of a proud woman, engaged in a sordid and miserable
transaction. Thinking, perhaps, of such things: but smiling certainly,
and while he seemed to look about him freely, in enjoyment of the air
and exercise, keeping always that sharp corner of his eye upon the
A stroll among the haunted ruins of Kenilworth, and more rides to
more points of view: most of which, Mrs Skewton reminded Mr Dombey,
Edith had already sketched, as he had seen in looking over her
drawings: brought the day's expedition to a close. Mrs Skewton and
Edith were driven to their own lodgings; Mr Carker was graciously
invited by Cleopatra to return thither with Mr Dombey and the Major,
in the evening, to hear some of Edith's music; and the three gentlemen
repaired to their hotel to dinner.
The dinner was the counterpart of yesterday's, except that the
Major was twenty-four hours more triumphant and less mysterious. Edith
was toasted again. Mr Dombey was again agreeably embarrassed. And Mr
Carker was full of interest and praise.
There were no other visitors at Mrs Skewton's. Edith's drawings
were strewn about the room, a little more abundantly than usual
perhaps; and Withers, the wan page, handed round a little stronger
tea. The harp was there; the piano was there; and Edith sang and
played. But even the music was played by Edith to Mr Dombey's order,
as it were, in the same uncompromising way. As thus.
'Edith, my dearest love,' said Mrs Skewton, half an hour after tea,
'Mr Dombey is dying to hear you, I know.'
'Mr Dombey has life enough left to say so for himself, Mama, I have
'I shall be immensely obliged,' said Mr Dombey.
'What do you wish?'
'Piano?' hesitated Mr Dombey.
'Whatever you please. You have only to choose.
Accordingly, she began with the piano. It was the same with the
harp; the same with her singing; the same with the selection of the
pieces that she sang and played. Such frigid and constrained, yet
prompt and pointed acquiescence with the wishes he imposed upon her,
and on no one else, was sufficiently remarkable to penetrate through
all the mysteries of picquet, and impress itself on Mr Carker's keen
attention. Nor did he lose sight of the fact that Mr Dombey was
evidently proud of his power, and liked to show it.
Nevertheless, Mr Carker played so well - some games with the Major,
and some with Cleopatra, whose vigilance of eye in respect of Mr
Dombey and Edith no lynx could have surpassed - that he even
heightened his position in the lady-mother's good graces; and when on
taking leave he regretted that he would be obliged to return to London
next morning, Cleopatra trusted: community of feeling not being met
with every day: that it was far from being the last time they would
'I hope so,' said Mr Carker, with an expressive look at the couple
in the distance, as he drew towards the door, following the Major. 'I
Mr Dombey, who had taken a stately leave of Edith, bent, or made
some approach to a bend, over Cleopatra's couch, and said, in a low
'I have requested Mrs Granger's permission to call on her to-morrow
morning - for a purpose - and she has appointed twelve o'clock. May I
hope to have the pleasure of finding you at home, Madam, afterwards?'
Cleopatra was so much fluttered and moved, by hearing this, of
course, incomprehensible speech, that she could only shut her eyes,
and shake her head, and give Mr Dombey her hand; which Mr Dombey, not
exactly knowing what to do with, dropped.
'Dombey, come along!' cried the Major, looking in at the door.
'Damme, Sir, old Joe has a great mind to propose an alteration in the
name of the Royal Hotel, and that it should be called the Three Jolly
Bachelors, in honour of ourselves and Carker.' With this, the Major
slapped Mr Dombey on the back, and winking over his shoulder at the
ladies, with a frightful tendency of blood to the head, carried him
Mrs Skewton reposed on her sofa, and Edith sat apart, by her harp,
in silence. The mother, trifling with her fan, looked stealthily at
the daughter more than once, but the daughter, brooding gloomily with
downcast eyes, was not to be disturbed.
Thus they remained for a long hour, without a word, until Mrs
Skewton's maid appeared, according to custom, to prepare her gradually
for night. At night, she should have been a skeleton, with dart and
hour-glass, rather than a woman, this attendant; for her touch was as
the touch of Death. The painted object shrivelled underneath her hand;
the form collapsed, the hair dropped off, the arched dark eyebrows
changed to scanty tufts of grey; the pale lips shrunk, the skin became
cadaverous and loose; an old, worn, yellow, nodding woman, with red
eyes, alone remained in Cleopatra's place, huddled up, like a slovenly
bundle, in a greasy flannel gown.
The very voice was changed, as it addressed Edith, when they were
'Why don't you tell me,' it said sharply, 'that he is coming here
to-morrow by appointment?'
'Because you know it,' returned Edith, 'Mother.'
The mocking emphasis she laid on that one word!
'You know he has bought me,' she resumed. 'Or that he will,
to-morrow. He has considered of his bargain; he has shown it to his
friend; he is even rather proud of it; he thinks that it will suit
him, and may be had sufficiently cheap; and he will buy to-morrow.
God, that I have lived for this, and that I feel it!'
Compress into one handsome face the conscious self-abasement, and
the burning indignation of a hundred women, strong in passion and in
pride; and there it hid itself with two white shuddering arms.
'What do you mean?' returned the angry mother. 'Haven't you from a
child - '
'A child!' said Edith, looking at her, 'when was I a child? What
childhood did you ever leave to me? I was a woman - artful, designing,
mercenary, laying snares for men - before I knew myself, or you, or
even understood the base and wretched aim of every new display I
learnt You gave birth to a woman. Look upon her. She is in her pride
And as she spoke, she struck her hand upon her beautiful bosom, as
though she would have beaten down herself
'Look at me,' she said, 'who have never known what it is to have an
honest heart, and love. Look at me, taught to scheme and plot when
children play; and married in my youth - an old age of design - to one
for whom I had no feeling but indifference. Look at me, whom he left a
widow, dying before his inheritance descended to him - a judgment on
you! well deserved! - and tell me what has been my life for ten years
'We have been making every effort to endeavour to secure to you a
good establishment,' rejoined her mother. 'That has been your life.
And now you have got it.'
'There is no slave in a market: there is no horse in a fair: so
shown and offered and examined and paraded, Mother, as I have been,
for ten shameful years,' cried Edith, with a burning brow, and the
same bitter emphasis on the one word. 'Is it not so? Have I been made
the bye-word of all kinds of men? Have fools, have profligates, have
boys, have dotards, dangled after me, and one by one rejected me, and
fallen off, because you were too plain with all your cunning: yes, and
too true, with all those false pretences: until we have almost come to
be notorious? The licence of look and touch,' she said, with flashing
eyes, 'have I submitted to it, in half the places of resort upon the
map of England? Have I been hawked and vended here and there, until
the last grain of self-respect is dead within me, and I loathe myself?
Has been my late childhood? I had none before. Do not tell me that I
had, tonight of all nights in my life!'
'You might have been well married,' said her mother, 'twenty times
at least, Edith, if you had given encouragement enough.'
'No! Who takes me, refuse that I am, and as I well deserve to be,'
she answered, raising her head, and trembling in her energy of shame
and stormy pride, 'shall take me, as this man does, with no art of
mine put forth to lure him. He sees me at the auction, and he thinks
it well to buy me. Let him! When he came to view me - perhaps to bid -
he required to see the roll of my accomplishments. I gave it to him.
When he would have me show one of them, to justify his purchase to his
men, I require of him to say which he demands, and I exhibit it. I
will do no more. He makes the purchase of his own will, and with his
own sense of its worth, and the power of his money; and I hope it may
never disappoint him. I have not vaunted and pressed the bargain;
neither have you, so far as I have been able to prevent you.
'You talk strangely to-night, Edith, to your own Mother.'
'It seems so to me; stranger to me than you,' said Edith. 'But my
education was completed long ago. I am too old now, and have fallen
too low, by degrees, to take a new course, and to stop yours, and to
help myself. The germ of all that purifies a woman's breast, and makes
it true and good, has never stirred in mine, and I have nothing else
to sustain me when I despise myself.' There had been a touching
sadness in her voice, but it was gone, when she went on to say, with a
curled lip, 'So, as we are genteel and poor, I am content that we
should be made rich by these means; all I say is, I have kept the only
purpose I have had the strength to form - I had almost said the power,
with you at my side, Mother - and have not tempted this man on.'
'This man! You speak,' said her mother, 'as if you hated him.'
'And you thought I loved him, did you not?' she answered, stopping
on her way across the room, and looking round. 'Shall I tell you,' she
continued, with her eyes fixed on her mother, 'who already knows us
thoroughly, and reads us right, and before whom I have even less of
self-respect or confidence than before my own inward self; being so
much degraded by his knowledge of me?'
'This is an attack, I suppose,' returned her mother coldly, 'on
poor, unfortunate what's-his-name - Mr Carker! Your want of
self-respect and confidence, my dear, in reference to that person (who
is very agreeable, it strikes me), is not likely to have much effect
on your establishment. Why do you look at me so hard? Are you ill?'
Edith suddenly let fall her face, as if it had been stung, and
while she pressed her hands upon it, a terrible tremble crept over her
whole frame. It was quickly gone; and with her usual step, she passed
out of the room.
The maid who should have been a skeleton, then reappeared, and
giving one arm to her mistress, who appeared to have taken off her
manner with her charms, and to have put on paralysis with her flannel
gown, collected the ashes of Cleopatra, and carried them away in the
other, ready for tomorrow's revivification.