Mrs. Pipchin had kept watch and ward over little Paul and his sister for nearly twelve months. They had been home twice, but only for a few days; and had been constant in their weekly visits to Mr. Dombey at the hotel. By little and little Paul had grown stronger, and had become able to dispense with his carriage; though he still looked thin and delicate; and still remained the same old, quiet, dreamy child that he had been when first consigned to Mrs. Pipchin's care. One Saturday afternoon, at dusk, great consternation was occasioned in the castle by the unlooked-for announcement of Mr. Dombey as a visitor to Mrs. Pipchin. The population of the parlour wasimmediately swept up stairs as on the wings of a whirlwind, and after much slamming of bedroom doors, and trampling overhead, and some knocking about of Master Bitherstone by Mrs. Pipchin, as a relief to the perturbation of her spirits, the black bombazeen garments of the worthy old lady darkened the audience-chamber where Mr. Dombey was contemplating the vacant arm-chair of his son and heir.
`Mrs. Pipchin,' said Mr. Dombey, `How do you do?'
`Thank you, Sir,' said Mrs. Pipchin, `I am pretty well, considering.'
Mrs. Pipchin always used that form of words. It meant, considering her virtues, sacrifices, and so forth.
`I can't expect, Sir, to be very well,' said Mrs. Pipchin, taking a chair and fetching her breath; `but such health as I have, I am grateful for.'
Mr. Dombey inclined his head with the satisfied air of a patron, who felt that this was the sort of thing for which he paid so much a quarter. After a moment's silence he went on to say:
`Mrs. Pipchin, I have taken the liberty of calling, to consult you in reference to my son. I have had it in my mind to do so for some time past; but have deferred it from time to time, in order that his health might be thoroughly re-established. You have no misgivings on that subject, Mrs. Pipchin?'
`Brighton has proved very beneficial, Sir,' returned Mrs. Pipchin. `Very beneficial, indeed.'
`I purpose,' said Mr. Dombey, `his remaining at Brighton.'
Mrs. Pipchin rubbed her hands, and bent her grey eyes on the fire.
`But,' pursued Mr. Dombey, stretching out his forefinger, `but possibly that he should now make a change, and lead different kind of life here. In short, Mrs. Pipchin, that is the object of my visit. My son is getting on, Mrs. Pipchin. Really he is getting on.'
There was something melancholy in the triumphant air with which Mr. Dombey said this. It showed how long Paul's childish life had been to him, and how his hopes were set upon a later stage of his existence. Pity may appear a strange word to connect with any one so haughty and so cold, and yet he seemed a worthy subject for it at that moment.
`Six years old!' said Mr. Dombey, settling his neckcloth--perhaps to hide an irrepressible smile that rather seemed to strike upon the surface of his face and glance away, as finding no resting-place, than to play there for an instant. `Dear me, six will be changed to sixteen, before we have time to look about us.'
`Ten years,' croaked the unsympathetic Pipchin, with a frosty glistening of her hard grey eye, and a dreary shaking of her bent head, `is a long time.'
`It depends on circumstances,' returned Mr. Dombey; `at all events, Mrs. Pipchin, my son is six years old, and there is no doubt, I fear, that in his studies he is behind many children of his age--or his youth,' said Mr. Dombey, quickly answering what he mistrusted was a shrewd twinkle of the frosty eye, `his youth is a more appropriate expression. Now, Mrs. Pipchin, instead of being behind his peers, my son ought to be before them; far before them. There is an eminence ready for him to mount upon. There is nothing of chance or doubt in the course before my son. His way in life was clear and prepared, and marked out
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