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Recognizant and Reflective
Among sundry minor alterations in Mr Carker's life and habits that
began to take place at this time, none was more remarkable than the
extraordinary diligence with which he applied himself to business, and
the closeness with which he investigated every detail that the affairs
of the House laid open to him. Always active and penetrating in such
matters, his lynx-eyed vigilance now increased twenty-fold. Not only
did his weary watch keep pace with every present point that every day
presented to him in some new form, but in the midst of these
engrossing occupations he found leisure - that is, he made it - to
review the past transactions of the Firm, and his share in them,
during a long series of years. Frequently when the clerks were all
gone, the offices dark and empty, and all similar places of business
shut up, Mr Carker, with the whole anatomy of the iron room laid bare
before him, would explore the mysteries of books and papers, with the
patient progress of a man who was dissecting the minutest nerves and
fibres of his subject. Perch, the messenger, who usually remained on
these occasions, to entertain himself with the perusal of the Price
Current by the light of one candle, or to doze over the fire in the
outer office, at the imminent risk every moment of diving head
foremost into the coal-box, could not withhold the tribute of his
admiration from this zealous conduct, although it much contracted his
domestic enjoyments; and again, and again, expatiated to Mrs Perch
(now nursing twins) on the industry and acuteness of their managing
gentleman in the City.
The same increased and sharp attention that Mr Carker bestowed on
the business of the House, he applied to his own personal affairs.
Though not a partner in the concern - a distinction hitherto reserved
solely to inheritors of the great name of Dombey - he was in the
receipt of some percentage on its dealings; and, participating in all
its facilities for the employment of money to advantage, was
considered, by the minnows among the tritons of the East, a rich man.
It began to be said, among these shrewd observers, that Jem Carker, of
Dombey's, was looking about him to see what he was worth; and that he
was calling in his money at a good time, like the long-headed fellow
he was; and bets were even offered on the Stock Exchange that Jem was
going to marry a rich widow.
Yet these cares did not in the least interfere with Mr Carker's
watching of his chief, or with his cleanness, neatness, sleekness, or
any cat-like quality he possessed. It was not so much that there was a
change in him, in reference to any of his habits, as that the whole
man was intensified. Everything that had been observable in him
before, was observable now, but with a greater amount of
concentration. He did each single thing, as if he did nothing else - a
pretty certain indication in a man of that range of ability and
purpose, that he is doing something which sharpens and keeps alive his
The only decided alteration in him was, that as he rode to and fro
along the streets, he would fall into deep fits of musing, like that
in which he had come away from Mr Dombey's house, on the morning of
that gentleman's disaster. At such times, he would keep clear of the
obstacles in his way, mechanically; and would appear to see and hear
nothing until arrival at his destination, or some sudden chance or
effort roused him.
Walking his white-legged horse thus, to the counting-house of
Dombey and Son one day, he was as unconscious of the observation of
two pairs of women's eyes, as of the fascinated orbs of Rob the
Grinder, who, in waiting a street's length from the appointed place,
as a demonstration of punctuality, vainly touched and retouched his
hat to attract attention, and trotted along on foot, by his master's
side, prepared to hold his stirrup when he should alight.
'See where he goes!' cried one of these two women, an old creature,
who stretched out her shrivelled arm to point him out to her
companion, a young woman, who stood close beside her, withdrawn like
herself into a gateway.
Mrs Brown's daughter looked out, at this bidding on the part of Mrs
Brown; and there were wrath and vengeance in her face.
'I never thought to look at him again,' she said, in a low voice;
'but it's well I should, perhaps. I see. I see!'
'Not changed!' said the old woman, with a look of eager malice.
'He changed!' returned the other. 'What for? What has he suffered?
There is change enough for twenty in me. Isn't that enough?'
'See where he goes!' muttered the old woman, watching her daughter
with her red eyes; 'so easy and so trim a-horseback, while we are in
'And of it,' said her daughter impatiently. 'We are mud, underneath
his horse's feet. What should we be?'
In the intentness with which she looked after him again, she made a
hasty gesture with her hand when the old woman began to reply, as if
her view could be obstructed by mere sound. Her mother watching her,
and not him, remained silent; until her kindling glance subsided, and
she drew a long breath, as if in the relief of his being gone.
'Deary!' said the old woman then. 'Alice! Handsome gall Ally!' She
gently shook her sleeve to arouse her attention. 'Will you let him go
like that, when you can wring money from him? Why, it's a wickedness,
'Haven't I told you, that I will not have money from him?' she
returned. 'And don't you yet believe me? Did I take his sister's
money? Would I touch a penny, if I knew it, that had gone through his
white hands - unless it was, indeed, that I could poison it, and send
it back to him? Peace, mother, and come away.
'And him so rich?' murmured the old woman. 'And us so poor!'
'Poor in not being able to pay him any of the harm we owe him,'
returned her daughter. 'Let him give me that sort of riches, and I'll
take them from him, and use them. Come away. Its no good looking at
his horse. Come away, mother!'
But the old woman, for whom the spectacle of Rob the Grinder
returning down the street, leading the riderless horse, appeared to
have some extraneous interest that it did not possess in itself,
surveyed that young man with the utmost earnestness; and seeming to
have whatever doubts she entertained, resolved as he drew nearer,
glanced at her daughter with brightened eyes and with her finger on
her lip, and emerging from the gateway at the moment of his passing,
touched him on the shoulder.
'Why, where's my sprightly Rob been, all this time!' she said, as
he turned round.
The sprightly Rob, whose sprightliness was very much diminished by
the salutation, looked exceedingly dismayed, and said, with the water
rising in his eyes:
'Oh! why can't you leave a poor cove alone, Misses Brown, when he's
getting an honest livelihood and conducting himself respectable? What
do you come and deprive a cove of his character for, by talking to him
in the streets, when he's taking his master's horse to a honest stable
- a horse you'd go and sell for cats' and dogs' meat if you had your
way! Why, I thought,' said the Grinder, producing his concluding
remark as if it were the climax of all his injuries, 'that you was
dead long ago!'
'This is the way,' cried the old woman, appealing to her daughter,
'that he talks to me, who knew him weeks and months together, my
deary, and have stood his friend many and many a time among the
pigeon-fancying tramps and bird-catchers.'
'Let the birds be, will you, Misses Brown?' retorted Rob, in a tone
of the acutest anguish. 'I think a cove had better have to do with
lions than them little creeturs, for they're always flying back in
your face when you least expect it. Well, how d'ye do and what do you
want?' These polite inquiries the Grinder uttered, as it were under
protest, and with great exasperation and vindictiveness.
'Hark how he speaks to an old friend, my deary!' said Mrs Brown,
again appealing to her daughter. 'But there's some of his old friends
not so patient as me. If I was to tell some that he knows, and has
spotted and cheated with, where to find him - '
'Will you hold your tongue, Misses Brown?' interrupted the
miserable Grinder, glancing quickly round, as though he expected to
see his master's teeth shining at his elbow. 'What do you take a
pleasure in ruining a cove for? At your time of life too! when you
ought to be thinking of a variety of things!'
'What a gallant horse!' said the old woman, patting the animal's
'Let him alone, will you, Misses Brown?' cried Rob, pushing away
her hand. 'You're enough to drive a penitent cove mad!'
'Why, what hurt do I do him, child?' returned the old woman.
'Hurt?' said Rob. 'He's got a master that would find it out if he
was touched with a straw.' And he blew upon the place where the old
woman's hand had rested for a moment, and smoothed it gently with his
finger, as if he seriously believed what he said.
The old woman looking back to mumble and mouth at her daughter, who
followed, kept close to Rob's heels as he walked on with the bridle in
his hand; and pursued the conversation.
'A good place, Rob, eh?' said she. 'You're in luck, my child.'
'Oh don't talk about luck, Misses Brown,' returned the wretched
Grinder, facing round and stopping. 'If you'd never come, or if you'd
go away, then indeed a cove might be considered tolerable lucky. Can't
you go along, Misses Brown, and not foller me!' blubbered Rob, with
sudden defiance. 'If the young woman's a friend of yours, why don't
she take you away, instead of letting you make yourself so
'What!' croaked the old woman, putting her face close to his, with
a malevolent grin upon it that puckered up the loose skin down in her
very throat. 'Do you deny your old chum! Have you lurked to my house
fifty times, and slept sound in a corner when you had no other bed but
the paving-stones, and do you talk to me like this! Have I bought and
sold with you, and helped you in my way of business, schoolboy, sneak,
and what not, and do you tell me to go along? Could I raise a crowd of
old company about you to-morrow morning, that would follow you to ruin
like copies of your own shadow, and do you turn on me with your bold
looks! I'll go. Come, Alice.'
'Stop, Misses Brown!' cried the distracted Grinder. 'What are you
doing of? Don't put yourself in a passion! Don't let her go, if you
please. I haven't meant any offence. I said "how d'ye do," at first,
didn't I? But you wouldn't answer. How you do? Besides,' said Rob
piteously, 'look here! How can a cove stand talking in the street with
his master's prad a wanting to be took to be rubbed down, and his
master up to every individgle thing that happens!'
The old woman made a show of being partially appeased, but shook
her head, and mouthed and muttered still.
'Come along to the stables, and have a glass of something that's
good for you, Misses Brown, can't you?' said Rob, 'instead of going
on, like that, which is no good to you, nor anybody else. Come along
with her, will you be so kind?' said Rob. 'I'm sure I'm delighted to
see her, if it wasn't for the horse!'
With this apology, Rob turned away, a rueful picture of despair,
and walked his charge down a bye street' The old woman, mouthing at
her daughter, followed close upon him. The daughter followed.
Turning into a silent little square or court-yard that had a great
church tower rising above it, and a packer's warehouse, and a
bottle-maker's warehouse, for its places of business, Rob the Grinder
delivered the white-legged horse to the hostler of a quaint stable at
the corner; and inviting Mrs Brown and her daughter to seat themselves
upon a stone bench at the gate of that establishment, soon reappeared
from a neighbouring public-house with a pewter measure and a glass.
'Here's master - Mr Carker, child!' said the old woman, slowly, as
her sentiment before drinking. 'Lord bless him!'
'Why, I didn't tell you who he was,' observed Rob, with staring
'We know him by sight,' said Mrs Brown, whose working mouth and
nodding head stopped for the moment, in the fixedness of her
attention. 'We saw him pass this morning, afore he got off his horse;
when you were ready to take it.'
'Ay, ay,' returned Rob, appearing to wish that his readiness had
carried him to any other place. - 'What's the matter with her? Won't
This inquiry had reference to Alice, who, folded in her cloak, sat
a little apart, profoundly inattentive to his offer of the replenished
The old woman shook her head. 'Don't mind her,' she said; 'she's a
strange creetur, if you know'd her, Rob. But Mr Carker
'Hush!' said Rob, glancing cautiously up at the packer's, and at
the bottle-maker's, as if, from any one of the tiers of warehouses, Mr
Carker might be looking down. 'Softly.'
'Why, he ain't here!' cried Mrs Brown.
'I don't know that,' muttered Rob, whose glance even wandered to
the church tower, as if he might be there, with a supernatural power
'Good master?' inquired Mrs Brown.
Rob nodded; and added, in a low voice, 'precious sharp.'
'Lives out of town, don't he, lovey?' said the old woman.
'When he's at home,' returned Rob; 'but we don't live at home just
'Where then?' asked the old woman.
'Lodgings; up near Mr Dombey's,' returned Rob.
The younger woman fixed her eyes so searchingly upon him, and so
suddenly, that Rob was quite confounded, and offered the glass again,
but with no more effect upon her than before.
'Mr Dombey - you and I used to talk about him, sometimes, you
know,' said Rob to Mrs Brown. 'You used to get me to talk about him.'
The old woman nodded.
'Well, Mr Dombey, he's had a fall from his horse,' said Rob,
unwillingly; 'and my master has to be up there, more than usual,
either with him, or Mrs Dombey, or some of 'em; and so we've come to
'Are they good friends, lovey?'asked the old woman.
'Who?' retorted Rob.
'He and she?'
'What, Mr and Mrs Dombey?' said Rob. 'How should I know!'
'Not them - Master and Mrs Dombey, chick,' replied the old woman,
'I don't know,' said Rob, looking round him again. 'I suppose so.
How curious you are, Misses Brown! Least said, soonest mended.'
'Why there's no harm in it!' exclaimed the old woman, with a laugh,
and a clap of her hands. 'Sprightly Rob, has grown tame since he has
been well off! There's no harm in It.
'No, there's no harm in it, I know,' returned Rob, with the same
distrustful glance at the packer's and the bottle-maker's, and the
church; 'but blabbing, if it's only about the number of buttons on my
master's coat, won't do. I tell you it won't do with him. A cove had
better drown himself. He says so. I shouldn't have so much as told you
what his name was, if you hadn't known it. Talk about somebody else.'
As Rob took another cautious survey of the yard, the old woman made
a secret motion to her daughter. It was momentary, but the daughter,
with a slight look of intelligence, withdrew her eyes from the boy's
face, and sat folded in her cloak as before.
'Rob, lovey!' said the old woman, beckoning him to the other end of
the bench. 'You were always a pet and favourite of mine. Now, weren't
you? Don't you know you were?'
'Yes, Misses Brown,' replied the Grinder, with a very bad grace.
'And you could leave me!' said the old woman, flinging her arms
about his neck. 'You could go away, and grow almost out of knowledge,
and never come to tell your poor old friend how fortunate you were,
proud lad! Oho, Oho!'
'Oh here's a dreadful go for a cove that's got a master wide awake
in the neighbourhood!' exclaimed the wretched Grinder. 'To be howled
over like this here!'
'Won't you come and see me, Robby?' cried Mrs Brown. 'Oho, won't
you ever come and see me?'
'Yes, I tell you! Yes, I will!' returned the Grinder.
'That's my own Rob! That's my lovey!' said Mrs Brown, drying the
tears upon her shrivelled face, and giving him a tender squeeze. 'At
the old place, Rob?'
'Yes,' replied the Grinder.
'Soon, Robby dear?' cried Mrs Brown; 'and often?'
'Yes. Yes. Yes,' replied Rob. 'I will indeed, upon my soul and
'And then,' said Mrs Brown, with her arms uplifted towards the sky,
and her head thrown back and shaking, 'if he's true to his word, I'll
never come a-near him though I know where he is, and never breathe a
syllable about him! Never!'
This ejaculation seemed a drop of comfort to the miserable Grinder,
who shook Mrs Brown by the hand upon it, and implored her with tears
in his eyes, to leave a cove and not destroy his prospects. Mrs Brown,
with another fond embrace, assented; but in the act of following her
daughter, turned back, with her finger stealthily raised, and asked in
a hoarse whisper for some money.
'A shilling, dear!' she said, with her eager avaricious face, 'or
sixpence! For old acquaintance sake. I'm so poor. And my handsome gal'
- looking over her shoulder - 'she's my gal, Rob - half starves me.
But as the reluctant Grinder put it in her hand, her daughter,
coming quietly back, caught the hand in hen, and twisted out the coin.
'What,' she said, 'mother! always money! money from the first, and
to the last' Do you mind so little what I said but now? Here. Take
The old woman uttered a moan as the money was restored, but without
in any other way opposing its restoration, hobbled at her daughter's
side out of the yard, and along the bye street upon which it opened.
The astonished and dismayed Rob staring after them, saw that they
stopped, and fell to earnest conversation very soon; and more than
once observed a darkly threatening action of the younger woman's hand
(obviously having reference to someone of whom they spoke), and a
crooning feeble imitation of it on the part of Mrs Brown, that made
him earnestly hope he might not be the subject of their discourse.
With the present consolation that they were gone, and with the
prospective comfort that Mrs Brown could not live for ever, and was
not likely to live long to trouble him, the Grinder, not otherwise
regretting his misdeeds than as they were attended with such
disagreeable incidental consequences, composed his ruffled features to
a more serene expression by thinking of the admirable manner in which
he had disposed of Captain Cuttle (a reflection that seldom failed to
put him in a flow of spirits), and went to the Dombey Counting House
to receive his master's orders.
There his master, so subtle and vigilant of eye, that Rob quaked
before him, more than half expecting to be taxed with Mrs Brown, gave
him the usual morning's box of papers for Mr Dombey, and a note for
Mrs Dombey: merely nodding his head as an enjoinder to be careful, and
to use dispatch - a mysterious admonition, fraught in the Grinder's
imagination with dismal warnings and threats; and more powerful with
him than any words.
Alone again, in his own room, Mr Carker applied himself to work,
and worked all day. He saw many visitors; overlooked a number of
documents; went in and out, to and from, sundry places of mercantile
resort; and indulged in no more abstraction until the day's business
was done. But, when the usual clearance of papers from his table was
made at last, he fell into his thoughtful mood once more.
He was standing in his accustomed place and attitude, with his eyes
intently fixed upon the ground, when his brother entered to bring back
some letters that had been taken out in the course of the day. He put
them quietly on the table, and was going immediately, when Mr Carker
the Manager, whose eyes had rested on him, on his entrance, as if they
had all this time had him for the subject of their contemplation,
instead of the office-floor, said:
'Well, John Carker, and what brings you here?'
His brother pointed to the letters, and was again withdrawing.
'I wonder,' said the Manager, 'that you can come and go, without
inquiring how our master is'.
'We had word this morning in the Counting House, that Mr Dombey was
doing well,' replied his brother.
'You are such a meek fellow,' said the Manager, with a smile, -
'but you have grown so, in the course of years - that if any harm came
to him, you'd be miserable, I dare swear now.'
'I should be truly sorry, James,' returned the other.
'He would be sorry!' said the Manager, pointing at him, as if there
were some other person present to whom he was appealing. 'He would be
truly sorry! This brother of mine! This junior of the place, this
slighted piece of lumber, pushed aside with his face to the wall, like
a rotten picture, and left so, for Heaven knows how many years he's
all gratitude and respect, and devotion too, he would have me
'I would have you believe nothing, James,' returned the other. 'Be
as just to me as you would to any other man below you. You ask a
question, and I answer it.'
'And have you nothing, Spaniel,' said the Manager, with unusual
irascibility, 'to complain of in him? No proud treatment to resent, no
insolence, no foolery of state, no exaction of any sort! What the
devil! are you man or mouse?'
'It would be strange if any two persons could be together for so
many years, especially as superior and inferior, without each having
something to complain of in the other - as he thought, at all events,
replied John Carker. 'But apart from my history here - '
'His history here!' exclaimed the Manager. 'Why, there it is. The
very fact that makes him an extreme case, puts him out of the whole
'Apart from that, which, as you hint, gives me a reason to be
thankful that I alone (happily for all the rest) possess, surely there
is no one in the House who would not say and feel at least as much.
You do not think that anybody here would be indifferent to a mischance
or misfortune happening to the head of the House, or anything than
truly sorry for it?'
'You have good reason to be bound to him too!' said the Manager,
contemptuously. 'Why, don't you believe that you are kept here, as a
cheap example, and a famous instance of the clemency of Dombey and
Son, redounding to the credit of the illustrious House?'
'No,' replied his brother, mildly, 'I have long believed that I am
kept here for more kind and disinterested reasons.
'But you were going,' said the Manager, with the snarl of a
tiger-cat, 'to recite some Christian precept, I observed.'
'Nay, James,' returned the other, 'though the tie of brotherhood
between us has been long broken and thrown away - '
'Who broke it, good Sir?' said the Manager.
'I, by my misconduct. I do not charge it upon you.'
The Manager replied, with that mute action of his bristling mouth,
'Oh, you don't charge it upon me!' and bade him go on.
'I say, though there is not that tie between us, do not, I entreat,
assail me with unnecessary taunts, or misinterpret what I say, or
would say. I was only going to suggest to you that it would be a
mistake to suppose that it is only you, who have been selected here,
above all others, for advancement, confidence and distinction
(selected, in the beginning, I know, for your great ability and
trustfulness), and who communicate more freely with Mr Dombey than
anyone, and stand, it may be said, on equal terms with him, and have
been favoured and enriched by him - that it would be a mistake to
suppose that it is only you who are tender of his welfare and
reputation. There is no one in the House, from yourself down to the
lowest, I sincerely believe, who does not participate in that
'You lie!' said the Manager, red with sudden anger. 'You're a
hypocrite, John Carker, and you lie.'
'James!' cried the other, flushing in his turn. 'What do you mean
by these insulting words? Why do you so basely use them to me,
'I tell you,' said the Manager, 'that your hypocrisy and meekness -
that all the hypocrisy and meekness of this place - is not worth that
to me,' snapping his thumb and finger, 'and that I see through it as
if it were air! There is not a man employed here, standing between
myself and the lowest in place (of whom you are very considerate, and
with reason, for he is not far off), who wouldn't be glad at heart to
see his master humbled: who does not hate him, secretly: who does not
wish him evil rather than good: and who would not turn upon him, if he
had the power and boldness. The nearer to his favour, the nearer to
his insolence; the closer to him, the farther from him. That's the
'I don't know,' said his brother, whose roused feelings had soon
yielded to surprise, 'who may have abused your ear with such
representations; or why you have chosen to try me, rather than
another. But that you have been trying me, and tampering with me, I am
now sure. You have a different manner and a different aspect from any
that I ever saw m you. I will only say to you, once more, you are
'I know I am,' said the Manager. 'I have told you so.'
'Not by me,' returned his brother. 'By your informant, if you have
one. If not, by your own thoughts and suspicions.'
'I have no suspicions,' said the Manager. 'Mine are certainties.
You pusillanimous, abject, cringing dogs! All making the same show,
all canting the same story, all whining the same professions, all
harbouring the same transparent secret.'
His brother withdrew, without saying more, and shut the door as he
concluded. Mr Carker the Manager drew a chair close before the fire,
and fell to beating the coals softly with the poker.
'The faint-hearted, fawning knaves,' he muttered, with his two
shining rows of teeth laid bare. 'There's not one among them, who
wouldn't feign to be so shocked and outraged - ! Bah! There's not one
among them, but if he had at once the power, and the wit and daring to
use it, would scatter Dombey's pride and lay it low, as ruthlessly as
I rake out these ashes.'
As he broke them up and strewed them in the grate, he looked on
with a thoughtful smile at what he was doing. 'Without the same queen
beckoner too!' he added presently; 'and there is pride there, not to
be forgotten - witness our own acquaintance!' With that he fell into a
deeper reverie, and sat pondering over the blackening grate, until he
rose up like a man who had been absorbed in a book, and looking round
him took his hat and gloves, went to where his horse was waiting,
mounted, and rode away through the lighted streets, for it was
He rode near Mr Dombey's house; and falling into a walk as he
approached it, looked up at the windows The window where he had once
seen Florence sitting with her dog attracted his attention first,
though there was no light in it; but he smiled as he carried his eyes
up the tall front of the house, and seemed to leave that object
'Time was,' he said, 'when it was well to watch even your rising
little star, and know in what quarter there were clouds, to shadow you
if needful. But a planet has arisen, and you are lost in its light.'
He turned the white-legged horse round the street corner, and
sought one shining window from among those at the back of the house.
Associated with it was a certain stately presence, a gloved hand, the
remembrance how the feathers of a beautiful bird's wing had been
showered down upon the floor, and how the light white down upon a robe
had stirred and rustled, as in the rising of a distant storm. These
were the things he carried with him as he turned away again, and rode
through the darkening and deserted Parks at a quick rate.
In fatal truth, these were associated with a woman, a proud woman,
who hated him, but who by slow and sure degrees had been led on by his
craft, and her pride and resentment, to endure his company, and little
by little to receive him as one who had the privilege to talk to her
of her own defiant disregard of her own husband, and her abandonment
of high consideration for herself. They were associated with a woman
who hated him deeply, and who knew him, and who mistrusted him because
she knew him, and because he knew her; but who fed her fierce
resentment by suffering him to draw nearer and yet nearer to her every
day, in spite of the hate she cherished for him. In spite of it! For
that very reason; since in its depths, too far down for her
threatening eye to pierce, though she could see into them dimly, lay
the dark retaliation, whose faintest shadow seen once and shuddered
at, and never seen again, would have been sufficient stain upon her
Did the phantom of such a woman flit about him on his ride; true to
the reality, and obvious to him?
Yes. He saw her in his mind, exactly as she was. She bore him
company with her pride, resentment, hatred, all as plain to him as her
beauty; with nothing plainer to him than her hatred of him. He saw her
sometimes haughty and repellent at his side, and some times down among
his horse's feet, fallen and in the dust. But he always saw her as she
was, without disguise, and watched her on the dangerous way that she
And when his ride was over, and he was newly dressed, and came into
the light of her bright room with his bent head, soft voice, and
soothing smile, he saw her yet as plainly. He even suspected the
mystery of the gloved hand, and held it all the longer in his own for
that suspicion. Upon the dangerous way that she was going, he was,
still; and not a footprint did she mark upon it, but he set his own