Dombey and Son
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'You are too expensive, Madam,' said Mr Dombey. 'You are
extravagant. You waste a great deal of money - or what would be a
great deal in the pockets of most gentlemen - in cultivating a kind of
society that is useless to me, and, indeed, that upon the whole is
disagreeable to me. I have to insist upon a total change in all these
respects. I know that in the novelty of possessing a tithe of such
means as Fortune has placed at your disposal, ladies are apt to run
into a sudden extreme. There has been more than enough of that
extreme. I beg that Mrs Granger's very different experiences may now
come to the instruction of Mrs Dombey.'
Still the fixed look, the trembling lips, the throbbing breast, the
face now crimson and now white; and still the deep whisper Florence,
Florence, speaking to her in the beating of her heart.
His insolence of self-importance dilated as he saw this alteration
in her. Swollen no less by her past scorn of him, and his so recent
feeling of disadvantage, than by her present submission (as he took it
to be), it became too mighty for his breast, and burst all bounds.
Why, who could long resist his lofty will and pleasure! He had
resolved to conquer her, and look here!
'You will further please, Madam,' said Mr Dombey, in a tone of
sovereign command, 'to understand distinctly, that I am to be deferred
to and obeyed. That I must have a positive show and confession of
deference before the world, Madam. I am used to this. I require it as
my right. In short I will have it. I consider it no unreasonable
return for the worldly advancement that has befallen you; and I
believe nobody will be surprised, either at its being required from
you, or at your making it. - To Me - To Me!' he added, with emphasis.
No word from her. No change in her. Her eyes upon him.
'I have learnt from your mother, Mrs Dombey,' said Mr Dombey, with
magisterial importance, what no doubt you know, namely, that Brighton
is recommended for her health. Mr Carker has been so good
She changed suddenly. Her face and bosom glowed as if the red light
of an angry sunset had been flung upon them. Not unobservant of the
change, and putting his own interpretation upon it, Mr Dombey resumed:
'Mr Carker has been so good as to go down and secure a house there,
for a time. On the return of the establishment to London, I shall take
such steps for its better management as I consider necessary. One of
these, will be the engagement at Brighton (if it is to be effected),
of a very respectable reduced person there, a Mrs Pipchin, formerly
employed in a situation of trust in my family, to act as housekeeper.
An establishment like this, presided over but nominally, Mrs Dombey,
requires a competent head.'
She had changed her attitude before he arrived at these words, and
now sat - still looking at him fixedly - turning a bracelet round and
round upon her arm; not winding it about with a light, womanly touch,
but pressing and dragging it over the smooth skin, until the white
limb showed a bar of red.
'I observed,' said Mr Dombey - 'and this concludes what I deem it
necessary to say to you at present, Mrs Dombey - I observed a moment
ago, Madam, that my allusion to Mr Carker was received in a peculiar
manner. On the occasion of my happening to point out to you, before
that confidential agent, the objection I had to your mode of receiving
my visitors, you were pleased to object to his presence. You will have
to get the better of that objection, Madam, and to accustom yourself
to it very probably on many similar occasions; unless you adopt the
remedy which is in your own hands, of giving me no cause of complaint.
Mr Carker,' said Mr Dombey, who, after the emotion he had just seen,
set great store by this means of reducing his proud wife, and who was
perhaps sufficiently willing to exhibit his power to that gentleman in
a new and triumphant aspect, 'Mr Carker being in my confidence, Mrs
Dombey, may very well be in yours to such an extent. I hope, Mrs
Dombey,' he continued, after a few moments, during which, in his
increasing haughtiness, he had improved on his idea, 'I may not find
it necessary ever to entrust Mr Carker with any message of objection
or remonstrance to you; but as it would be derogatory to my position
and reputation to be frequently holding trivial disputes with a lady
upon whom I have conferred the highest distinction that it is in my
power to bestow, I shall not scruple to avail myself of his services
if I see occasion.'
'And now,' he thought, rising in his moral magnificence, and rising
a stiffer and more impenetrable man than ever, 'she knows me and my
The hand that had so pressed the bracelet was laid heavily upon her
breast, but she looked at him still, with an unaltered face, and said
in a low voice:
'Wait! For God's sake! I must speak to you.'
Why did she not, and what was the inward struggle that rendered her
incapable of doing so, for minutes, while, in the strong constraint
she put upon her face, it was as fixed as any statue's - looking upon
him with neither yielding nor unyielding, liking nor hatred, pride not
humility: nothing but a searching gaze?
'Did I ever tempt you to seek my hand? Did I ever use any art to
win you? Was I ever more conciliating to you when you pursued me, than
I have been since our marriage? Was I ever other to you than I am?'
'It is wholly unnecessary, Madam,' said Mr Dombey, 'to enter upon
'Did you think I loved you? Did you know I did not? Did you ever
care, Man! for my heart, or propose to yourself to win the worthless
thing? Was there any poor pretence of any in our bargain? Upon your
side, or on mine?'
'These questions,' said Mr Dombey, 'are all wide of the purpose,
She moved between him and the door to prevent his going away, and
drawing her majestic figure to its height, looked steadily upon him
'You answer each of them. You answer me before I speak, I see. How
can you help it; you who know the miserable truth as well as I? Now,
tell me. If I loved you to devotion, could I do more than render up my
whole will and being to you, as you have just demanded? If my heart
were pure and all untried, and you its idol, could you ask more; could
you have more?'
'Possibly not, Madam,' he returned coolly.
'You know how different I am. You see me looking on you now, and
you can read the warmth of passion for you that is breathing in my
face.' Not a curl of the proud lip, not a flash of the dark eye,
nothing but the same intent and searching look, accompanied these
words. 'You know my general history. You have spoken of my mother. Do
you think you can degrade, or bend or break, me to submission and
Mr Dombey smiled, as he might have smiled at an inquiry whether he
thought he could raise ten thousand pounds.
'If there is anything unusual here,' she said, with a slight motion
of her hand before her brow, which did not for a moment flinch from
its immovable and otherwise expressionless gaze, 'as I know there are
unusual feelings here,' raising the hand she pressed upon her bosom,
and heavily returning it, 'consider that there is no common meaning in
the appeal I am going to make you. Yes, for I am going;' she said it
as in prompt reply to something in his face; 'to appeal to you.'
Mr Dombey, with a slightly condescending bend of his chin that
rustled and crackled his stiff cravat, sat down on a sofa that was
near him, to hear the appeal.
'If you can believe that I am of such a nature now,' - he fancied
he saw tears glistening in her eyes, and he thought, complacently,
that he had forced them from her, though none fell on her cheek, and
she regarded him as steadily as ever, - 'as would make what I now say
almost incredible to myself, said to any man who had become my
husband, but, above all, said to you, you may, perhaps, attach the
greater weight to it. In the dark end to which we are tending, and may
come, we shall not involve ourselves alone (that might not be much)
Others! He knew at whom that word pointed, and frowned heavily.
'I speak to you for the sake of others. Also your own sake; and for
mine. Since our marriage, you have been arrogant to me; and I have
repaid you in kind. You have shown to me and everyone around us, every
day and hour, that you think I am graced and distinguished by your
alliance. I do not think so, and have shown that too. It seems you do
not understand, or (so far as your power can go) intend that each of
us shall take a separate course; and you expect from me instead, a
homage you will never have.'
Although her face was still the same, there was emphatic
confirmation of this 'Never' in the very breath she drew.
'I feel no tenderness towards you; that you know. You would care
nothing for it, if I did or could. I know as well that you feel none
towards me. But we are linked together; and in the knot that ties us,
as I have said, others are bound up. We must both die; we are both
connected with the dead already, each by a little child. Let us
Mr Dombey took a long respiration, as if he would have said, Oh!
was this all!
'There is no wealth,' she went on, turning paler as she watched
him, while her eyes grew yet more lustrous in their earnestness, 'that
could buy these words of me, and the meaning that belongs to them.
Once cast away as idle breath, no wealth or power can bring them back.
I mean them; I have weighed them; and I will be true to what I
undertake. If you will promise to forbear on your part, I will promise
to forbear on mine. We are a most unhappy pair, in whom, from
different causes, every sentiment that blesses marriage, or justifies
it, is rooted out; but in the course of time, some friendship, or some
fitness for each other, may arise between us. I will try to hope so,
if you will make the endeavour too; and I will look forward to a
better and a happier use of age than I have made of youth or prime.
Throughout she had spoken in a low plain voice, that neither rose
nor fell; ceasing, she dropped the hand with which she had enforced
herself to be so passionless and distinct, but not the eyes with which
she had so steadily observed him.