Dombey and Son
16. What the Waves were always saying
Paul had never risen from his little bed. He lay there, listening to the noises in the street,
quite tranquilly; not caring much how the time went, but watching it and watching
everything about him with observing eyes.
When the sunbeams struck into his room through the rustling blinds, and quivered on
the opposite wall like golden water, he knew that evening was coming on, and that the
sky was red and beautiful. As the reflection died away, and a gloom went creeping up
the wall, he watched it deepen, deepen, deepen, into night. Then he thought how the
long streets were dotted with lamps, and how the peaceful stars were shining overhead.
His fancy had a strange tendency to wander to the river, which he knew was flowing
through the great city; and now he thought how black it was, and how deep it would
look, reflecting the hosts of stars - and more than all, how steadily it rolled away to meet
As it grew later in the night, and footsteps in the street became so rare that he could
hear them coming, count them as they passed, and lose them in the hollow distance, he
would lie and watch the many-coloured ring about the candle, and wait patiently for day.
His only trouble was, the swift and rapid river. He felt forced, sometimes, to try to stop it
- to stem it with his childish hands - or choke its way with sand - and when he saw it
coming on, resistless, he cried out! But a word from Florence, who was always at his
side, restored him to himself; and leaning his poor head upon her breast, he told Floy of
his dream, and smiled.
When day began to dawn again, he watched for the sun; and when its cheerful light
began to sparkle in the room, he pictured to himself - pictured! he saw - the high church
towers rising up into the morning sky, the town reviving, waking, starting into life once
more, the river glistening as it rolled (but rolling fast as ever), and the country bright with
dew. Familiar sounds and cries came by degrees into the street below; the servants in
the house were roused and busy; faces looked in at the door, and voices asked his
attendants softly how he was. Paul always answered for himself, 'I am better. I am a
great deal better, thank you! Tell Papa so!'
By little and little, he got tired of the bustle of the day, the noise of carriages and carts,
and people passing and repassing; and would fall asleep, or be troubled with a restless
and uneasy sense again - the child could hardly tell whether this were in his sleeping or
his waking moments - of that rushing river. 'Why, will it never stop, Floy?' he would
sometimes ask her. 'It is bearing me away, I think!'
But Floy could always soothe and reassure him; and it was his daily delight to make her
lay her head down on his pillow, and take some rest.