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Dombey and Son

8. Paul's Further Progress, Growth and Character
Beneath the watching and attentive eyes of Time - so far another Major - Paul's
slumbers gradually changed. More and more light broke in upon them; distincter and
distincter dreams disturbed them; an accumulating crowd of objects and impressions
swarmed about his rest; and so he passed from babyhood to childhood, and became a
talking, walking, wondering Dombey.
On the downfall and banishment of Richards, the nursery may be said to have been put
into commission: as a Public Department is sometimes, when no individual Atlas can be
found to support it The Commissioners were, of course, Mrs Chick and Miss Tox: who
devoted themselves to their duties with such astonishing ardour that Major Bagstock
had every day some new reminder of his being forsaken, while Mr Chick, bereft of
domestic supervision, cast himself upon the gay world, dined at clubs and coffee-
houses, smelt of smoke on three different occasions, went to the play by himself, and in
short, loosened (as Mrs Chick once told him) every social bond, and moral obligation.
Yet, in spite of his early promise, all this vigilance and care could not make little Paul a
thriving boy. Naturally delicate, perhaps, he pined and wasted after the dismissal of his
nurse, and, for a long time, seemed but to wait his opportunity of gliding through their
hands, and seeking his lost mother. This dangerous ground in his steeple-chase
towards manhood passed, he still found it very rough riding, and was grievously beset
by all the obstacles in his course. Every tooth was a break-neck fence, and every
pimple in the measles a stone wall to him. He was down in every fit of the hooping-
cough, and rolled upon and crushed by a whole field of small diseases, that came
trooping on each other's heels to prevent his getting up again. Some bird of prey got
into his throat instead of the thrush; and the very chickens turning ferocious - if they
have anything to do with that infant malady to which they lend their name - worried him
like tiger-cats.
The chill of Paul's christening had struck home, perhaps to some sensitive part of his
nature, which could not recover itself in the cold shade of his father; but he was an
unfortunate child from that day. Mrs Wickam often said she never see a dear so put
upon.
Mrs Wickam was a waiter's wife - which would seem equivalent to being any other
man's widow - whose application for an engagement in Mr Dombey's service had been
favourably considered, on account of the apparent impossibility of her having any
followers, or anyone to follow; and who, from within a day or two of Paul's sharp
weaning, had been engaged as his nurse. Mrs Wickam was a meek woman, of a fair
complexion, with her eyebrows always elevated, and her head always drooping; who
was always ready to pity herself, or to be pitied, or to pity anybody else; and who had a
surprising natural gift of viewing all subjects in an utterly forlorn and pitiable light, and
 
 
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