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Florence Dombey
by [?]

With that he disappeared into an inner room, and Polly felt that she had fallen into disgrace without the least advancement of her purpose; but next night when she came down, he called her to him. “If you really think that kind of society is good for the child,” he said sharply, as if there had been no interval since she proposed it, “where’s Miss Florence?”

“Nothing could be better than Miss Florence, sir,” said Polly eagerly, “but I understood from her little maid that they were not to–” But Mr. Dombey rang the bell, and gave his orders before she had a chance to finish the sentence.

“Tell them always to let Miss Florence be with Richards when she chooses,” he commanded; and, the iron being hot, Richards striking on it boldly, requested that the child might be sent down at once to make friends with her little brother.

When Florence timidly presented herself, had Mr. Dombey looked towards her with a father’s eye, he might have read in her keen glance the passionate desire to run to him, crying, “Oh, father, try to love me,–there is no one else”; the dread of a repulse; the fear of being too bold and of offending him. But he saw nothing of this. He saw her pause at the door and look towards him, and he saw no more.

“Come here, Florence,” said her father coldly. “Have you nothing to say to me?”

The tears that stood in her eyes as she raised them quickly to his face, were frozen by the expression it wore. She looked down again, and put out her trembling hand, which Mr. Dombey took loosely in his own.

“There! be a good girl,” he said, patting her on the head, and regarding her with a disturbed and doubtful look, “go to Richards! go!”

His little daughter hesitated for another instant, as though she would have clung about him still, or had some lingering hope that he might raise her in his arms and kiss her. But he dropped her hand and turned away. Still Polly persevered, and managed so well with little Paul as to make it very plain that he was all the livelier for his sister’s company. When it was time for Florence to go to bed, the nurse urged her to say good night to her father, but the child hesitated, and Mr. Dombey called from the inner room; “It doesn’t matter. You can let her come and go without regarding me.”

The child shrunk as she listened, and was gone before her humble friend looked around again.

* * * * *

Just around the corner from Mr. Dombey’s office was the little shop of a nautical-instrument maker whose name was Solomon Gills. The stock-in-trade of this old gentleman comprised chronometers, barometers, telescopes, compasses, charts, maps, and every kind of an 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 discovery. Old prints of ships hung in frames upon the walls; outlandish shells, seaweeds and mosses decorated the chimney-piece; the little wainscoted parlor was lighted by a skylight, like a cabin, The shop itself seemed almost to become a sea-going ship-shape concern, wanting only good sea room, in the event of an unexpected launch, to work its way securely to any desert island in the world.

Here Solomon Gills lived, in skipper-like state, all alone with his nephew, Walter; a boy of fourteen, who looked quite enough like a midshipman to carry out the prevailing idea.

It is half past five o’clock, and an autumn afternoon. Solomon Gills is wondering where Walter is, when a voice exclaims, “Halloa, Uncle Sol!” and the instrument-maker, turning briskly around, sees a cheerful-looking, merry boy fresh with running home in the rain; fair-faced, bright-eyed and curly-haired.