Ideas, like ghosts, must be spoken to a little before they will explain themselves

carved wooden face behind bars

Some mist there may have been, issuing from that leaden casket, his cranium

The solitary child lived on, surrounded by this arabesque work of his musing fancy, and no one understood him. Mrs. Blimber thought him “odd,” and sometimes the servants said among themselves that little Dombey “moped,” but that was all.

Unless young Toots had some idea on the subject, to the expression of which he was wholly unequal. Ideas, like ghosts (according to the common notion of ghosts), must be spoken to a little before they will explain themselves; and Toots had long left off asking any questions of his own mind. Some mist there may have been, issuing from that leaden casket, his cranium, which, if it could have taken shape and form, would have become a genie; but it could not; and it only so far followed the example of the smoke in the Arabian story, as to roll out in a thick cloud, and there hang and hover. But it left a little figure visible upon a lonely shore, and Toots was always staring at it.

“How are you?” he would say to Paul, fifty times a day.

“Quite well, Sir, thank you,” Paul would answer.

“Shake hands,” would be Toots’s next advance.

Which Paul, of course, would immediately do. Mr. Toots generally said again, after a long interval of staring and hard breathing,” How are you?” To which Paul again replied, “Quite well, Sir, thank you.”

by Charles Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870)
from Dombey and Son, Chapter XII (1848)

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