Chapters 17-19 Summary

Because of Paul's death, Captain Cuttle comes home from Dombey’s without talking to Mr. Dombey. Walter returns to his uncle’s and sees that Captain Cuttle has not yet broken the news to him about Walter’s impending departure. Walter tells him, and Uncle Sol is sure that Walter is happy to go. Walter is upset, thinking that his uncle believes that he wants to leave, but Uncle Sol tells him that he meant simply that Walter will do his duty. Uncle Sol is clearly morose about Walter leaving.

Captain Cuttle goes to Dombey’s firm to talk to Mr. Carker the Manager about Walter’s prospects. Mr. Carker agrees to all of the captain’s questions about Walter making his fortune in Barbados. Captain Carker accepts all of Mr. Carker’s remarks at face value, believing him to be sincere. He also hints as to Walter’s prospects with respect to Florence, with which Mr. Carker also agrees. Satisfied, Captain Cuttle leaves, and Walter also prepares to leave as his orders of departure are due the following day.

Paul is buried by his mother, and Mr. Dombey orders a memorial tablet to be placed in the church. He gives the sculptor what he wants written on it, that Paul is his “beloved and only child.” The sculptor suggests that the word “child” be substituted with “son.” Mr. Dombey agrees, although seemingly reluctantly.

Sir Barnet and Lady Skettles send their condolences and invite Florence to visit them, but Florence feels the need to stay with her father for now. Florence waits outside her father’s bedroom door each night, wishing that she could go in and feel his love for her, but the door remains closed. She watches the family next door, with a father and four daughters, and envies the love that the father shows his girls. Florence receives an unexpected visitor from Doctor Blimber’s: Toots. He brings Diogenes for her as a gift.

Susan tells Florence that Mr. Dombey is leaving the next day. That night, Florence goes once again to his bedroom door, but this time she finds it open. She goes in, startling her father, who sends her back to her room.

The time has come for Walter to leave. He asks his uncle to let him know how Florence gets on. Soon Florence herself, accompanied by Susan Nipper, shows up at Uncle Sol’s shop to bid Walter good-bye. She asks Walter to be her “brother,” which he agrees to do, despite the state of his feelings for her. She gives him a gift, which she says she had made for Paul. She bids him good-bye, saying that she is sure that he will be back soon. Walter opens the gift to find a purse with money inside. Captain Cuttle and Uncle Sol walk Walter to his ship, ironically named “The Son and Heir.” After Walter leaves, the two old men mentally keep track of his progress across the ocean.