Dombey and Son
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rows of mudbespattered cows and oxen were tied up for sale in the long
narrow streets, butting and lowing, and receiving blows on their blunt
heads from bludgeons that might have beaten them in; of bridges,
crosses, churches, postyards, new horses being put in against their
wills, and the horses of the last stage reeking, panting, and laying
their drooping heads together dolefully at stable doors; of little
cemeteries with black crosses settled sideways in the graves, and
withered wreaths upon them dropping away; again of long, long roads,
dragging themselves out, up hill and down, to the treacherous horizon.
Of morning, noon, and sunset; night, and the rising of an early
moon. Of long roads temporarily left behind, and a rough pavement
reached; of battering and clattering over it, and looking up, among
house-roofs, at a great church-tower; of getting out and eating
hastily, and drinking draughts of wine that had no cheering influence;
of coming forth afoot, among a host of beggars - blind men with
quivering eyelids, led by old women holding candles to their faces;
idiot girls; the lame, the epileptic, and the palsied - of passing
through the clamour, and looking from his seat at the upturned
countenances and outstretched hands, with a hurried dread of
recognising some pursuer pressing forward - of galloping away again,
upon the long, long road, gathered up, dull and stunned, in his
corner, or rising to see where the moon shone faintly on a patch of
the same endless road miles away, or looking back to see who followed.
Of never sleeping, but sometimes dozing with unclosed eyes, and
springing up with a start, and a reply aloud to an imaginary voice. Of
cursing himself for being there, for having fled, for having let her
go, for not having confronted and defied him. Of having a deadly
quarrel with the whole world, but chiefly with himself. Of blighting
everything with his black mood as he was carried on and away.
It was a fevered vision of things past and present all confounded
together; of his life and journey blended into one. Of being madly
hurried somewhere, whither he must go. Of old scenes starting up among
the novelties through which he travelled. Of musing and brooding over
what was past and distant, and seeming to take no notice of the actual
objects he encountered, but with a wearisome exhausting consciousness
of being bewildered by them, and having their images all crowded in
his hot brain after they were gone.
A vision of change upon change, and still the same monotony of
bells and wheels, and horses' feet, and no rest. Of town and country,
postyards, horses, drivers, hill and valley, light and darkness, road
and pavement, height and hollow, wet weather and dry, and still the
same monotony of bells and wheels, and horses' feet, and no rest. A
vision of tending on at last, towards the distant capital, by busier
roads, and sweeping round, by old cathedrals, and dashing through
small towns and villages, less thinly scattered on the road than
formerly, and sitting shrouded in his corner, with his cloak up to his
face, as people passing by looked at him.
Of rolling on and on, always postponing thought, and always racked
with thinking; of being unable to reckon up the hours he had been upon
the road, or to comprehend the points of time and place in his
journey. Of being parched and giddy, and half mad. Of pressing on, in
spite of all, as if he could not stop, and coming into Paris, where
the turbid river held its swift course undisturbed, between two
brawling streams of life and motion.
A troubled vision, then, of bridges, quays, interminable streets;
of wine-shops, water-carriers, great crowds of people, soldiers,
coaches, military drums, arcades. Of the monotony of bells and wheels
and horses' feet being at length lost in the universal din and uproar.
Of the gradual subsidence of that noise as he passed out in another
carriage by a different barrier from that by which he had entered. Of
the restoration, as he travelled on towards the seacoast, of the
monotony of bells and wheels, and horses' feet, and no rest.
Of sunset once again, and nightfall. Of long roads again, and dead
of night, and feeble lights in windows by the roadside; and still the
old monotony of bells and wheels, and horses' feet, and no rest. Of
dawn, and daybreak, and the rising of the sun. Of tolling slowly up a
hill, and feeling on its top the fresh sea-breeze; and seeing the
morning light upon the edges of the distant waves. Of coming down into
a harbour when the tide was at its full, and seeing fishing-boats
float on, and glad women and children waiting for them. Of nets and
seamen's clothes spread out to dry upon the shore; of busy saIlors,
and their voices high among ships' masts and rigging; of the buoyancy
and brightness of the water, and the universal sparkling.
Of receding from the coast, and looking back upon it from the deck
when it was a haze upon the water, with here and there a little
opening of bright land where the Sun struck. Of the swell, and flash,
and murmur of the calm sea. Of another grey line on the ocean, on the
vessel's track, fast growing clearer and higher. Of cliffs and
buildings, and a windmill, and a church, becoming more and more
visible upon it. Of steaming on at last into smooth water, and mooring
to a pier whence groups of people looked down, greeting friends on
board. Of disembarking, passing among them quickly, shunning every
one; and of being at last again in England.
He had thought, in his dream, of going down into a remote
country-place he knew, and lying quiet there, while he secretly
informed himself of what transpired, and determined how to act, Still
in the same stunned condition, he remembered a certain station on the
railway, where he would have to branch off to his place of
destination, and where there was a quiet Inn. Here, he indistinctly
resolved to tarry and rest.
With this purpose he slunk into a railway carriage as quickly as he
could, and lying there wrapped in his cloak as if he were asleep, was
soon borne far away from the sea, and deep into the inland green.
Arrived at his destination he looked out, and surveyed it carefully.
He was not mistaken in his impression of the place. It was a retired
spot, on the borders of a little wood. Only one house, newly-built or
altered for the purpose, stood there, surrounded by its neat garden;
the small town that was nearest, was some miles away. Here he alighted
then; and going straight into the tavern, unobserved by anyone,
secured two rooms upstairs communicating with each other, and
His object was to rest, and recover the command of himself, and the
balance of his mind. Imbecile discomfiture and rage - so that, as he
walked about his room, he ground his teeth - had complete possession
of him. His thoughts, not to be stopped or directed, still wandered
where they would, and dragged him after them. He was stupefied, and he
was wearied to death.
But, as if there were a curse upon him that he should never rest
again, his drowsy senses would not lose their consciousness. He had no
more influence with them, in this regard, than if they had been
another man's. It was not that they forced him to take note of present
sounds and objects, but that they would not be diverted from the whole
hurried vision of his journey. It was constantly before him all at
once. She stood there, with her dark disdainful eyes again upon him;
and he was riding on nevertheless, through town and country, light and
darkness, wet weather and dry, over road and pavement, hill and
valley, height and hollow, jaded and scared by the monotony of bells
and wheels, and horses' feet, and no rest.
'What day is this?' he asked of the waiter, who was making
preparations for his dinner.
'Is it Wednesday?'
'Wednesday, Sir? No, Sir. Thursday, Sir.'
'I forgot. How goes the time? My watch is unwound.'
'Wants a few minutes of five o'clock, Sir. Been travelling a long
time, Sir, perhaps?'
'By rail, Sir?'
'Very confusing, Sir. Not much in the habit of travelling by rail
myself, Sir, but gentlemen frequently say so.'
'Do many gentlemen come here?
'Pretty well, Sir, in general. Nobody here at present. Rather slack
just now, Sir. Everything is slack, Sir.'
He made no answer; but had risen into a sitting posture on the sofa
where he had been lying, and leaned forward with an arm on each knee,
staring at the ground. He could not master his own attention for a
minute together. It rushed away where it would, but it never, for an
instant, lost itself in sleep.
He drank a quantity of wine after dinner, in vain. No such
artificial means would bring sleep to his eyes. His thoughts, more
incoherent, dragged him more unmercifully after them - as if a wretch,
condemned to such expiation, were drawn at the heels of wild horses.
No oblivion, and no rest.
How long he sat, drinking and brooding, and being dragged in
imagination hither and thither, no one could have told less correctly
than he. But he knew that he had been sitting a long time by
candle-light, when he started up and listened, in a sudden terror.
For now, indeed, it was no fancy. The ground shook, the house
rattled, the fierce impetuous rush was in the air! He felt it come up,
and go darting by; and even when he had hurried to the window, and saw
what it was, he stood, shrinking from it, as if it were not safe to
A curse upon the fiery devil, thundering along so smoothly, tracked
through the distant valley by a glare of light and lurid smoke, and
gone! He felt as if he had been plucked out of its path, and saved
from being torn asunder. It made him shrink and shudder even now, when
its faintest hum was hushed, and when the lines of iron road he could
trace in the moonlight, running to a point, were as empty and as
silent as a desert.
Unable to rest, and irresistibly attracted - or he thought so - to
this road, he went out, and lounged on the brink of it, marking the
way the train had gone, by the yet smoking cinders that were lying in
its track. After a lounge of some half hour in the direction by which
it had disappeared, he turned and walked the other way - still keeping
to the brink of the road - past the inn garden, and a long way down;
looking curiously at the bridges, signals, lamps, and wondering when
another Devil would come by.
A trembling of the ground, and quick vibration in his ears; a