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
battling in my breast. I am ashamed to speak the words, but I relent.
I despise myself; I have fought with myself all day, and all last
night; but I relent towards him without reason, and wish to repair
what I have done, if it is possible. I wouldn't have them come
together while his pursuer is so blind and headlong. If you had seen
him as he went out last night, you would know the danger better.
'How can it be prevented? What can I do?' cried Harriet.
'All night long,' pursued the other, hurriedly, 'I had dreams of
him - and yet I didn't sleep - in his blood. All day, I have had him
'What can I do?' cried Harriet, shuddering at these words.
'If there is anyone who'll write, or send, or go to him, let them
lose no time. He is at Dijon. Do you know the name, and where it is?'
'Warn him that the man he has made his enemy is in a frenzy, and
that he doesn't know him if he makes light of his approach. Tell him
that he is on the road - I know he is! - and hurrying on. Urge him to
get away while there is time - if there is time - and not to meet him
yet. A month or so will make years of difference. Let them not
encounter, through me. Anywhere but there! Any time but now! Let his
foe follow him, and find him for himself, but not through me! There is
enough upon my head without.'
The fire ceased to be reflected in her jet black hair, uplifted
face, and eager eyes; her hand was gone from Harriet's arm; and the
place where she had been was empty.
Tea-time, an hour short of midnight; the place, a French apartment,
comprising some half-dozen rooms; - a dull cold hall or corridor, a
dining-room, a drawing-room, a bed-room, and an inner drawingroom, or
boudoir, smaller and more retired than the rest. All these shut in by
one large pair of doors on the main staircase, but each room provided
with two or three pairs of doors of its own, establishing several
means of communication with the remaining portion of the apartment, or
with certain small passages within the wall, leading, as is not
unusual in such houses, to some back stairs with an obscure outlet
below. The whole situated on the first floor of so large an Hotel,
that it did not absorb one entire row of windows upon one side of the
square court-yard in the centre, upon which the whole four sides of
the mansion looked.
An air of splendour, sufficiently faded to be melancholy, and
sufficiently dazzling to clog and embarrass the details of life with a
show of state, reigned in these rooms The walls and ceilings were
gilded and painted; the floors were waxed and polished; crimson
drapery hung in festoons from window, door, and mirror; and
candelabra, gnarled and intertwisted like the branches of trees, or
horns of animals, stuck out from the panels of the wall. But in the
day-time, when the lattice-blinds (now closely shut) were opened, and
the light let in, traces were discernible among this finery, of wear
and tear and dust, of sun and damp and smoke, and lengthened intervals
of want of use and habitation, when such shows and toys of life seem
sensitive like life, and waste as men shut up in prison do. Even
night, and clusters of burning candles, could not wholly efface them,
though the general glitter threw them in the shade.
The glitter of bright tapers, and their reflection in
looking-glasses, scraps of gilding and gay colours, were confined, on
this night, to one room - that smaller room within the rest, just now
enumerated. Seen from the hall, where a lamp was feebly burning,
through the dark perspective of open doors, it looked as shining and
precious as a gem. In the heart of its radiance sat a beautiful woman
She was alone. The same defiant, scornful woman still. The cheek a
little worn, the eye a little larger in appearance, and more lustrous,
but the haughty bearing just the same. No shame upon her brow; no late
repentance bending her disdainful neck. Imperious and stately yet, and
yet regardless of herself and of all else, she sat wIth her dark eyes
cast down, waiting for someone.
No book, no work, no occupation of any kind but her own thought,
beguiled the tardy time. Some purpose, strong enough to fill up any
pause, possessed her. With her lips pressed together, and quivering if
for a moment she released them from her control; with her nostril
inflated; her hands clasped in one another; and her purpose swelling
in her breast; she sat, and waited.
At the sound of a key in the outer door, and a footstep in the
hall, she started up, and cried 'Who's that?' The answer was in
French, and two men came in with jingling trays, to make preparation
'Who had bade them to do so?' she asked.
'Monsieur had commanded it, when it was his pleasure to take the
apartment. Monsieur had said, when he stayed there for an hour, en
route, and left the letter for Madame - Madame had received it
'A thousand pardons! The sudden apprehension that it might have
been forgotten had struck hIm;' a bald man, with a large beard from a
neighbouring restaurant; 'with despair! Monsieur had said that supper
was to be ready at that hour: also that he had forewarned Madame of
the commands he had given, in his letter. Monsieur had done the Golden
Head the honour to request that the supper should be choice and
delicate. Monsieur would find that his confidence in the Golden Head
was not misplaced.'
Edith said no more, but looked on thoughtfully while they prepared
the table for two persons, and set the wine upon it. She arose before
they had finished, and taking a lamp, passed into the bed-chamber and
into the drawing-room, where she hurriedly but narrowly examined all
the doors; particularly one in the former room that opened on the
passage in the wall. From this she took the key, and put it on the
outer side. She then came back.
The men - the second of whom was a dark, bilious subject, in a
jacket, close shaved, and with a black head of hair close cropped -
had completed their preparation of the table, and were standing
looking at it. He who had spoken before, inquired whether Madame
thought it would be long before Monsieur arrived?
'She couldn't say. It was all one.'
'Pardon! There was the supper! It should be eaten on the instant.
Monsieur (who spoke French like an Angel - or a Frenchman - it was all
the same) had spoken with great emphasis of his punctuality. But the
English nation had so grand a genius for punctuality. Ah! what noise!
Great Heaven, here was Monsieur. Behold him!'
In effect, Monsieur, admitted by the other of the two, came, with
his gleaming teeth, through the dark rooms, like a mouth; and arriving
in that sanctuary of light and colour, a figure at full length,
embraced Madame, and addressed her in the French tongue as his
'My God! Madame is going to faint. Madame is overcome with joy!'
The bald man with the beard observed it, and cried out.
Madame had only shrunk and shivered. Before the words were spoken,
she was standing with her hand upon the velvet back of a great chair;
her figure drawn up to its full height, and her face immoveable.
'Francois has flown over to the Golden Head for supper. He flies on
these occasions like an angel or a bird. The baggage of Monsieur is in
his room. All is arranged. The supper will be here this moment.' These
facts the bald man notified with bows and smiles, and presently the
The hot dishes were on a chafing-dish; the cold already set forth,
with the change of service on a sideboard. Monsieur was satisfied with
this arrangement. The supper table being small, it pleased him very
well. Let them set the chafing-dish upon the floor, and go. He would
remove the dishes with his own hands.
'Pardon!' said the bald man, politely. 'It was impossible!'
Monsieur was of another opinion. He required no further attendance
'But Madame - ' the bald man hinted.
'Madame,' replied Monsieur, 'had her own maid. It was enough.'
'A million pardons! No! Madame had no maid!'
'I came here alone,' said Edith 'It was my choice to do so. I am
well used to travelling; I want no attendance. They need send nobody
Monsieur accordingly, persevering in his first proposed
impossibility, proceeded to follow the two attendants to the outer
door, and secure it after them for the night. The bald man turning
round to bow, as he went out, observed that Madame still stood with
her hand upon the velvet back of the great chair, and that her face
was quite regardless of him, though she was looking straight before
As the sound of Carker's fastening the door resounded through the
intermediate rooms, and seemed to come hushed and stilled into that
last distant one, the sound of the Cathedral clock striking twelve
mingled with it, in Edith's ears She heard him pause, as if he heard
it too and listened; and then came back towards her, laying a long
train of footsteps through the silence, and shutting all the doors
behind him as he came along. Her hand, for a moment, left the velvet
chair to bring a knife within her reach upon the table; then she stood
as she had stood before.
'How strange to come here by yourself, my love!' he said as he
'What?' she returned.
Her tone was so harsh; the quick turn of her head so fierce; her
attitude so repellent; and her frown so black; that he stood, with the
lamp in his hand, looking at her, as if she had struck him motionless.