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
the little party by the moral weight and heroism of his character, was
scarcely ornamental to it, physically speaking, on account of his
plasters; which were numerous. But the Chicken had registered a vow,
in secret, that he would never leave Mr Toots (who was secretly pining
to get rid of him), for any less consideration than the good-will and
fixtures of a public-house; and being ambitious to go into that line,
and drink himself to death as soon as possible, he felt it his cue to
make his company unacceptable.
The night-coach by which Susan was to go, was on the point of
departure. Mr Toots having put her inside, lingered by the window,
irresolutely, until the driver was about to mount; when, standing on
the step, and putting in a face that by the light of the lamp was
anxious and confused, he said abruptly:
'I say, Susan! Miss Dombey, you know - '
'Do you think she could - you know - eh?'
'I beg your pardon, Mr Toots,' said Susan, 'but I don't hear you.
'Do you think she could be brought, you know - not exactly at once,
but in time - in a long time - to - to love me, you know? There!' said
poor Mr Toots.
'Oh dear no!' returned Susan, shaking her head. 'I should say,
'Thank'ee!' said Mr Toots. 'It's of no consequence. Good-night.
It's of no consequence, thank'ee!'
The Trusty Agent
Edith went out alone that day, and returned home early. It was but
a few minutes after ten o'clock, when her carriage rolled along the
street in which she lived.
There was the same enforced composure on her face, that there had
been when she was dressing; and the wreath upon her head encircled the
same cold and steady brow. But it would have been better to have seen
its leaves and flowers reft into fragments by her passionate hand, or
rendered shapeless by the fitful searches of a throbbing and
bewildered brain for any resting-place, than adorning such
tranquillity. So obdurate, so unapproachable, so unrelenting, one
would have thought that nothing could soften such a woman's nature,
and that everything in life had hardened it.
Arrived at her own door, she was alighting, when some one coming
quietly from the hall, and standing bareheaded, offered her his arm.
The servant being thrust aside, she had no choice but to touch it; and
she then knew whose arm it was.
'How is your patient, Sir?' she asked, with a curled lip.
'He is better,' returned Carker. 'He is doing very well. I have
left him for the night.'
She bent her head, and was passing up the staircase, when he
followed and said, speaking at the bottom:
'Madam! May I beg the favour of a minute's audience?'
She stopped and turned her eyes back 'It is an unseasonable time,
Sir, and I am fatigued. Is your business urgent?'
'It is very urgent, returned Carker. 'As I am so fortunate as to
have met you, let me press my petition.'
She looked down for a moment at his glistening mouth; and he looked
up at her, standing above him in her stately dress, and thought,
again, how beautiful she was.
'Where is Miss Dombey?' she asked the servant, aloud.
'In the morning room, Ma'am.'
'Show the way there!' Turning her eyes again on the attentive
gentleman at the bottom of the stairs, and informing him with a slight
motion of her head, that he was at liberty to follow, she passed on.
'I beg your pardon! Madam! Mrs Dombey!' cried the soft and nimble
Carker, at her side in a moment. 'May I be permitted to entreat that
Miss Dombey is not present?'
She confronted him, with a quick look, but with the same
self-possession and steadiness.
'I would spare Miss Dombey,' said Carker, in a low voice, 'the
knowledge of what I have to say. At least, Madam, I would leave it to
you to decide whether she shall know of it or not. I owe that to you.
It is my bounden duty to you. After our former interview, it would be
monstrous in me if I did otherwise.'
She slowly withdrew her eyes from his face, and turning to the
servant, said, 'Some other room.' He led the way to a drawing-room,
which he speedily lighted up and then left them. While he remained,
not a word was spoken. Edith enthroned herself upon a couch by the
fire; and Mr Carker, with his hat in his hand and his eyes bent upon
the carpet, stood before her, at some little distance.
'Before I hear you, Sir,' said Edith, when the door was closed, 'I
wish you to hear me.'
'To be addressed by Mrs Dombey,' he returned, 'even in accents of
unmerited reproach, is an honour I so greatly esteem, that although I
were not her servant in all things, I should defer to such a wish,
'If you are charged by the man whom you have just now left, Sir;'
Mr Carker raised his eyes, as if he were going to counterfeit
surprise, but she met them, and stopped him, if such were his
intention; 'with any message to me, do not attempt to deliver it, for
I will not receive it. I need scarcely ask you if you are come on such
an errand. I have expected you some time.
'It is my misfortune,' he replied, 'to be here, wholly against my
will, for such a purpose. Allow me to say that I am here for two
purposes. That is one.'
'That one, Sir,' she returned, 'is ended. Or, if you return to it -
'Can Mrs Dombey believe,' said Carker, coming nearer, 'that I would
return to it in the face of her prohibition? Is it possible that Mrs
Dombey, having no regard to my unfortunate position, is so determined
to consider me inseparable from my instructor as to do me great and
'Sir,' returned Edith, bending her dark gaze full upon him, and
speaking with a rising passion that inflated her proud nostril and her
swelling neck, and stirred the delicate white down upon a robe she
wore, thrown loosely over shoulders that could hear its snowy
neighbourhood. 'Why do you present yourself to me, as you have done,
and speak to me of love and duty to my husband, and pretend to think
that I am happily married, and that I honour him? How dare you venture
so to affront me, when you know - I do not know better, Sir: I have
seen it in your every glance, and heard it in your every word - that
in place of affection between us there is aversion and contempt, and
that I despise him hardly less than I despise myself for being his!
Injustice! If I had done justice to the torment you have made me feel,
and to my sense of the insult you have put upon me, I should have
She had asked him why he did this. Had she not been blinded by her
pride and wrath, and self-humiliation, - which she was, fiercely as
she bent her gaze upon him, - she would have seen the answer in his
face. To bring her to this declaration.
She saw it not, and cared not whether it was there or no. She saw
only the indignities and struggles she had undergone and had to
undergo, and was writhing under them. As she sat looking fixedly at
them, rather than at him, she plucked the feathers from a pinion of
some rare and beautiful bird, which hung from her wrist by a golden
thread, to serve her as a fan, and rained them on the ground.
He did not shrink beneath her gaze, but stood, until such outward
signs of her anger as had escaped her control subsided, with the air
of a man who had his sufficient reply in reserve and would presently
deliver it. And he then spoke, looking straight into her kindling
'Madam,' he said, 'I know, and knew before to-day, that I have
found no favour with you; and I knew why. Yes. I knew why. You have
spoken so openly to me; I am so relieved by the possession of your
confidence - '
'Confidence!' she repeated, with disdain.
He passed it over.
' - that I will make no pretence of concealment. I did see from the
first, that there was no affection on your part for Mr Dombey - how
could it possibly exist between such different subjects? And I have
seen, since, that stronger feelings than indifference have been
engendered in your breast - how could that possibly be otherwise,
either, circumstanced as you have been? But was it for me to presume
to avow this knowledge to you in so many words?'
'Was it for you, Sir,' she replied, 'to feign that other belief,
and audaciously to thrust it on me day by day?'
'Madam, it was,' he eagerly retorted. 'If I had done less, if I had
done anything but that, I should not be speaking to you thus; and I
foresaw - who could better foresee, for who has had greater experience
of Mr Dombey than myself? - that unless your character should prove to
be as yielding and obedient as that of his first submissive lady,
which I did not believe - '
A haughty smile gave him reason to observe that he might repeat
'I say, which I did not believe, - the time was likely to come,
when such an understanding as we have now arrived at, would be
'Serviceable to whom, Sir?' she demanded scornfully.