Dombey and Son
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 Next page
'Madam,' said Mr Dombey, with his utmost dignity, 'I cannot
entertain any proposal of this extraordinary nature.
She looked at him yet, without the least change.
'I cannot,' said Mr Dombey, rising as he spoke, 'consent to
temporise or treat with you, Mrs Dombey, upon a subject as to which
you are in possession of my opinions and expectations. I have stated
my ultimatum, Madam, and have only to request your very serious
attention to it.'
To see the face change to its old expression, deepened in
intensity! To see the eyes droop as from some mean and odious object!
To see the lighting of the haughty brow! To see scorn, anger,
indignation, and abhorrence starting into sight, and the pale blank
earnestness vanish like a mist! He could not choose but look, although
he looked to his dismay.
'Go, Sir!' she said, pointing with an imperious hand towards the
door. 'Our first and last confidence is at an end. Nothing can make us
stranger to each other than we are henceforth.'
'I shall take my rightful course, Madam,' said Mr Dombey,
'undeterred, you may be sure, by any general declamation.'
She turned her back upon him, and, without reply, sat down before
'I place my reliance on your improved sense of duty, and more
correct feeling, and better reflection, Madam,' said Mr Dombey.
She answered not one word. He saw no more expression of any heed of
him, in the mirror, than if he had been an unseen spider on the wall,
or beetle on the floor, or rather, than if he had been the one or
other, seen and crushed when she last turned from him, and forgotten
among the ignominious and dead vermin of the ground.
He looked back, as he went out at the door, upon the well-lighted
and luxurious room, the beautiful and glittering objects everywhere
displayed, the shape of Edith in its rich dress seated before her
glass, and the face of Edith as the glass presented it to him; and
betook himself to his old chamber of cogitation, carrying away with
him a vivid picture in his mind of all these things, and a rambling
and unaccountable speculation (such as sometimes comes into a man's
head) how they would all look when he saw them next.
For the rest, Mr Dombey was very taciturn, and very dignified, and
very confident of carrying out his purpose; and remained so.
He did not design accompanying the family to Brighton; but he
graciously informed Cleopatra at breakfast, on the morning of
departure, which arrived a day or two afterwards, that he might be
expected down, soon. There was no time to be lost in getting Cleopatra
to any place recommended as being salutary; for, indeed, she seemed
upon the wane, and turning of the earth, earthy.
Without having undergone any decided second attack of her malady,
the old woman seemed to have crawled backward in her recovery from the
first. She was more lean and shrunken, more uncertain in her
imbecility, and made stranger confusions in her mind and memory. Among
other symptoms of this last affliction, she fell into the habit of
confounding the names of her two sons-in-law, the living and the
deceased; and in general called Mr Dombey, either 'Grangeby,' or
'Domber,' or indifferently, both.
But she was youthful, very youthful still; and in her youthfulness
appeared at breakfast, before going away, in a new bonnet made
express, and a travelling robe that was embroidered and braided like
an old baby's. It was not easy to put her into a fly-away bonnet now,
or to keep the bonnet in its place on the back of her poor nodding
head, when it was got on. In this instance, it had not only the
extraneous effect of being always on one side, but of being
perpetually tapped on the crown by Flowers the maid, who attended in
the background during breakfast to perform that duty.
'Now, my dearest Grangeby,' said Mrs Skewton, 'you must posively
prom,' she cut some of her words short, and cut out others altogether,
'come down very soon.'
'I said just now, Madam,' returned Mr Dombey, loudly and
laboriously, 'that I am coming in a day or two.'
'Bless you, Domber!'
Here the Major, who was come to take leave of the ladies, and who
was staring through his apoplectic eyes at Mrs Skewton's face with the
disinterested composure of an immortal being, said:
'Begad, Ma'am, you don't ask old Joe to come!'
'Sterious wretch, who's he?' lisped Cleopatra. But a tap on the
bonnet from Flowers seeming to jog her memory, she added, 'Oh! You
mean yourself, you naughty creature!'
'Devilish queer, Sir,' whispered the Major to Mr Dombey. 'Bad case.
Never did wrap up enough;' the Major being buttoned to the chin. 'Why
who should J. B. mean by Joe, but old Joe Bagstock - Joseph - your
slave - Joe, Ma'am? Here! Here's the man! Here are the Bagstock
bellows, Ma'am!' cried the Major, striking himself a sounding blow on
'My dearest Edith - Grangeby - it's most trordinry thing,' said
Cleopatra, pettishly, 'that Major - '
'Bagstock! J. B.!' cried the Major, seeing that she faltered for
'Well, it don't matter,' said Cleopatra. 'Edith, my love, you know
I never could remember names - what was it? oh! - most trordinry thing
that so many people want to come down to see me. I'm not going for
long. I'm coming back. Surely they can wait, till I come back!'
Cleopatra looked all round the table as she said it, and appeared
'I won't have Vistors - really don't want visitors,' she said;
'little repose - and all that sort of thing - is what I quire. No
odious brutes must proach me till I've shaken off this numbness;' and
in a grisly resumption of her coquettish ways, she made a dab at the
Major with her fan, but overset Mr Dombey's breakfast cup instead,
which was in quite a different direction.
Then she called for Withers, and charged him to see particularly
that word was left about some trivial alterations in her room, which
must be all made before she came back, and which must be set about
immediately, as there was no saying how soon she might come back; for
she had a great many engagements, and all sorts of people to call
upon. Withers received these directions with becoming deference, and
gave his guarantee for their execution; but when he withdrew a pace or
two behind her, it appeared as if he couldn't help looking strangely
at the Major, who couldn't help looking strangely at Mr Dombey, who
couldn't help looking strangely at Cleopatra, who couldn't help
nodding her bonnet over one eye, and rattling her knife and fork upon
her plate in using them, as if she were playing castanets.
Edith alone never lifted her eyes to any face at the table, and
never seemed dismayed by anything her mother said or did. She listened
to her disjointed talk, or at least, turned her head towards her when
addressed; replied in a few low words when necessary; and sometimes
stopped her when she was rambling, or brought her thoughts back with a
monosyllable, to the point from which they had strayed. The mother,
however unsteady in other things, was constant in this - that she was
always observant of her. She would look at the beautiful face, in its
marble stillness and severity, now with a kind of fearful admiration;
now in a giggling foolish effort to move it to a smile; now with
capricious tears and jealous shakings of her head, as imagining
herself neglected by it; always with an attraction towards it, that
never fluctuated like her other ideas, but had constant possession of
her. From Edith she would sometimes look at Florence, and back again
at Edith, in a manner that was wild enough; and sometimes she would
try to look elsewhere, as if to escape from her daughter's face; but
back to it she seemed forced to come, although it never sought hers
unless sought, or troubled her with one single glance.
The best concluded, Mrs Skewton, affecting to lean girlishly upon
the Major's arm, but heavily supported on the other side by Flowers
the maid, and propped up behind by Withers the page, was conducted to
the carriage, which was to take her, Florence, and Edith to Brighton.
'And is Joseph absolutely banished?' said the Major, thrusting in
his purple face over the steps. 'Damme, Ma'am, is Cleopatra so
hard-hearted as to forbid her faithful Antony Bagstock to approach the
'Go along!' said Cleopatra, 'I can't bear you. You shall see me
when I come back, if you are very good.'
'Tell Joseph, he may live in hope, Ma'am,' said the Major; 'or
he'll die in despair.'
Cleopatra shuddered, and leaned back. 'Edith, my dear,' she said.
'Tell him - '
'Such dreadful words,' said Cleopatra. 'He uses such dreadful
Edith signed to him to retire, gave the word to go on, and left the
objectionable Major to Mr Dombey. To whom he returned, whistling.
'I'll tell you what, Sir,' said the Major, with his hands behind
him, and his legs very wide asunder, 'a fair friend of ours has
removed to Queer Street.'
'What do you mean, Major?' inquired Mr Dombey.
'I mean to say, Dombey,' returned the Major, 'that you'll soon be
Mr Dombey appeared to relish this waggish description of himself so
very little, that the Major wound up with the horse's cough, as an
expression of gravity.
'Damme, Sir,' said the Major, 'there is no use in disguising a
fact. Joe is blunt, Sir. That's his nature. If you take old Josh at
all, you take him as you find him; and a devilish rusty, old rasper,
of a close-toothed, J. B. file, you do find him. Dombey,' said the
Major, 'your wife's mother is on the move, Sir.'