Chapters 39-41 Summary
Captain Cuttle spends the year after Sol Gills’s disappearance in a self-inflicted retirement, comparing himself to Robinson Crusoe. He sells no instruments, as when Sol lacked customers, but he makes note of when people come into the shop and feels that business is picking up. The only person with whom he has contact is Rob, who one day tells him that he is leaving. This makes Captain Cuttle even more morose, feeling that everyone has left him.
Mr. Toots comes to see him and confesses that he is in love with Florence. Captain Cuttle is surprised one day when Captain Bunsby arrives. Together they open the letter that Sol had left. There is a letter addressed to Captain Cuttle, telling him that he left to go to Barbados to find Walter without telling Cuttle lest he should try to dissuade him. He enclosed his will, leaving everything to Walter, or to the captain if Walter should not appear. As they are discussing this, Mrs. MacStinger arrives along with all of her children, demanding to know when Captain Cuttle is returning. He manages to get rid of her. Captain Bunsby moves his things to the shop, although he returns to his ship.
Mr. Dombey realizes that he hates Florence. He never has had any affection for her, but now she has come between him and Edith; his wife spends more time with Florence than she does with her husband. Mr. Dombey tells Edith that he is sending Mrs. Skewton to Brighton for her health and that Mrs. Pipchin will be coming to fill the position of housekeeper. He also demands that Edith show him more deference. He complains that her tastes are too expensive.
Edith calmly tells him that she has never loved him, as he has known all along, nor does he love her. She refuses to change. He reiterates his demand. Mrs. Skewton and Edith leave for Brighton. As they walk, they encounter Good Mrs. Brown and Alice, who seem to be shadows of their former selves. Mrs. Skewton stops to talk with them, telling Mrs. Brown that she can tell she is a good mother. She gives them money, but Alice, looking at Edith, whispers to herself that neither good looks nor pride will save her.
Mr. Toots encounters Florence in Brighton and tells her that he loves her, but she begs him not to, fearing that they will lose the friendship she relies on. Mrs. Skewton begins to fail. One night, she tells Edith that she sees a stone arm ready to strike her; indeed, she has another stroke, rendering her speechless and immobile. Edith reminds her that she forgives her for her part in her forced marriage. Mrs. Skewton dies, and Mr. Dombey and Cousin Feenix decide that it is cheaper to bury her in Brighton.