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Dombey and Son

4. In which some more First Appearances are made on the
Stage of these Adventures
Though the offices of Dombey and Son were within the liberties of the City of London,
and within hearing of Bow Bells, when their clashing voices were not drowned by the
uproar in the streets, yet were there hints of adventurous and romantic story to be
observed in some of the adjacent objects. Gog and Magog held their state within ten
minutes' walk; the Royal Exchange was close at hand; the Bank of England, with its
vaults of gold and silver 'down among the dead men' underground, was their
magnificent neighbour. Just round the corner stood the rich East India House, teeming
with suggestions of precious stuffs and stones, tigers, elephants, howdahs, hookahs,
umbrellas, palm trees, palanquins, and gorgeous princes of a brown complexion sitting
on carpets, with their slippers very much turned up at the toes. Anywhere in the
immediate vicinity there might be seen pictures of ships speeding away full sail to all
parts of the world; outfitting warehouses ready to pack off anybody anywhere, fully
equipped in half an hour; and little timber midshipmen in obsolete naval uniforms,
eternally employed outside the shop doors of nautical Instrument-makers in taking
observations of the hackney carriages.
Sole master and proprietor of one of these effigies - of that which might be called,
familiar!y, the woodenest - of that which thrust itself out above the pavement, right leg
foremost, with a suavity the least endurable, and had the shoe buckles and flapped
waistcoat the least reconcileable to human reason, and bore at its right eye the most
offensively disproportionate piece of machinery - sole master and proprietor of that
Midshipman, and proud of him too, an elderly gentleman in a Welsh wig had paid
house-rent, taxes, rates, and dues, for more years than many a full-grown midshipman
of flesh and blood has numbered in his life; and midshipmen who have attained a pretty
green old age, have not been wanting in the English Navy.
The stock-in-trade of this old gentleman comprised chronometers, barometers,
telescopes, compasses, charts, maps, sextants, quadrants, and specimens of every
kind of instrument used in the working of a ship's course, or the keeping of a ship's
reckoning, or the prosecuting of a ship's discoveries. Objects in brass and glass were in
his drawers and on his shelves, which none but the initiated could have found the top of,
or guessed the use of, or having once examined, could have ever got back again into
their mahogany nests without assistance. Everything was jammed into the tightest
cases, fitted into the narrowest corners, fenced up behind the most impertinent
cushions, and screwed into the acutest angles, to prevent its philosophical composure
from being disturbed by the rolling of the sea. Such extraordinary precautions were
taken in every instance to save room, and keep the thing compact; and so much
practical navigation was fitted, and cushioned, and screwed into every box (whether the
box was a mere slab, as some were, or something between a cocked hat and a star-
fish, as others were, and those quite mild and modest boxes as compared with others);
that the shop itself, partaking of the general infection, seemed almost to become a
 
 
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