Dombey and Son
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'I will!' said Florence. 'I will bring it you, if you will let me;
and then, perhaps, we may take leave of each other, more like what we
used to be to one another. I have not,' said Florence very gently, and
drawing nearer to her, 'I have not shrunk back from you, Mama, because
I fear you, or because I dread to be disgraced by you. I only wish to
do my duty to Papa. I am very dear to him, and he is very dear to me.
But I never can forget that you were very good to me. Oh, pray to
Heaven,' cried Florence, falling on her bosom, 'pray to Heaven, Mama,
to forgive you all this sin and shame, and to forgive me if I cannot
help doing this (if it is wrong), when I remember what you used to
Edith, as if she fell beneath her touch, sunk down on her knees,
and caught her round the neck.
'Florence!' she cried. 'My better angel! Before I am mad again,
before my stubbornness comes back and strikes me dumb, believe me,
upon my soul I am innocent!'
'Guilty of much! Guilty of that which sets a waste between us
evermore. Guilty of what must separate me, through the whole remainder
of my life, from purity and innocence - from you, of all the earth.
Guilty of a blind and passionate resentment, of which I do not,
cannot, will not, even now, repent; but not guilty with that dead man.
Upon her knees upon the ground, she held up both her hands, and
'Florence!' she said, 'purest and best of natures, - whom I love -
who might have changed me long ago, and did for a time work some
change even in the woman that I am, - believe me, I am innocent of
that; and once more, on my desolate heart, let me lay this dear head,
for the last time!'
She was moved and weeping. Had she been oftener thus in older days,
she had been happier now.
'There is nothing else in all the world,' she said, 'that would
have wrung denial from me. No love, no hatred, no hope, no threat. I
said that I would die, and make no sign. I could have done so, and I
would, if we had never met, Florence.
'I trust,' said Cousin Feenix, ambling in at the door, and
speaking, half in the room, and half out of it, 'that my lovely and
accomplished relative will excuse my having, by a little stratagem,
effected this meeting. I cannot say that I was, at first, wholly
incredulous as to the possibility of my lovely and accomplished
relative having, very unfortunately, committed herself with the
deceased person with white teeth; because in point of fact, one does
see, in this world - which is remarkable for devilish strange
arrangements, and for being decidedly the most unintelligible thing
within a man's experience - very odd conjunctions of that sort. But as
I mentioned to my friend Dombey, I could not admit the criminality of
my lovely and accomplished relative until it was perfectly
established. And feeling, when the deceased person was, in point of
fact, destroyed in a devilish horrible manner, that her position was a
very painful one - and feeling besides that our family had been a
little to blame in not paying more attention to her, and that we are a
careless family - and also that my aunt, though a devilish lively
woman, had perhaps not been the very best of mothers - I took the
liberty of seeking her in France, and offering her such protection as
a man very much out at elbows could offer. Upon which occasion, my
lovely and accomplished relative did me the honour to express that she
believed I was, in my way, a devilish good sort of fellow; and that
therefore she put herself under my protection. Which in point of fact
I understood to be a kind thing on the part of my lovely and
accomplished relative, as I am getting extremely shaky, and have
derived great comfort from her solicitude.'
Edith, who had taken Florence to a sofa, made a gesture with her
hand as if she would have begged him to say no more.
'My lovely and accomplished relative,' resumed Cousin Feenix, still
ambling about at the door, 'will excuse me, if, for her satisfaction,
and my own, and that of my friend Dombey, whose lovely and
accomplished daughter we so much admire, I complete the thread of my
observations. She will remember that, from the first, she and I never
alluded to the subject of her elopement. My impression, certainly, has
always been, that there was a mystery in the affair which she could
explain if so inclined. But my lovely and accomplished relative being
a devilish resolute woman, I knew that she was not, in point of fact,
to be trifled with, and therefore did not involve myself in any
discussions. But, observing lately, that her accessible point did
appear to be a very strong description of tenderness for the daughter
of my friend Dombey, it occurred to me that if I could bring about a
meeting, unexpected on both sides, it might lead to beneficial
results. Therefore, we being in London, in the present private way,
before going to the South of Italy, there to establish ourselves, in
point of fact, until we go to our long homes, which is a devilish
disagreeable reflection for a man, I applied myself to the discovery
of the residence of my friend Gay - handsome man of an uncommonly
frank disposition, who is probably known to my lovely and accomplished
relative - and had the happiness of bringing his amiable wife to the
present place. And now,' said Cousin Feenix, with a real and genuine
earnestness shining through the levity of his manner and his slipshod
speech, 'I do conjure my relative, not to stop half way, but to set
right, as far as she can, whatever she has done wrong - not for the
honour of her family, not for her own fame, not for any of those
considerations which unfortunate circumstances have induced her to
regard as hollow, and in point of fact, as approaching to humbug - but
because it is wrong, and not right.'
Cousin Feenix's legs consented to take him away after this; and
leaving them alone together, he shut the door.
Edith remained silent for some minutes, with Florence sitting close
beside her. Then she took from her bosom a sealed paper.
'I debated with myself a long time,' she said in a low voice,
'whether to write this at all, in case of dying suddenly or by
accident, and feeling the want of it upon me. I have deliberated, ever
since, when and how to destroy it. Take it, Florence. The truth is
written in it.'
'Is it for Papa?' asked Florence.
'It is for whom you will,' she answered. 'It is given to you, and
is obtained by you. He never could have had it otherwise.'
Again they sat silent, in the deepening darkness.
'Mama,' said Florence, 'he has lost his fortune; he has been at the
point of death; he may not recover, even now. Is there any word that I
shall say to him from you?'
'Did you tell me,' asked Edith, 'that you were very dear to him?'
'Yes!' said Florence, in a thrilling voice.
'Tell him I am sorry that we ever met.
'No more?' said Florence after a pause.
'Tell him, if he asks, that I do not repent of what I have done -
not yet - for if it were to do again to-morrow, I should do it. But if
he is a changed man - '
She stopped. There was something in the silent touch of Florence's
hand that stopped her.
'But that being a changed man, he knows, now, it would never be.
Tell him I wish it never had been.'
'May I say,' said Florence, 'that you grieved to hear of the
afflictions he has suffered?'
'Not,' she replied, 'if they have taught him that his daughter is
very dear to him. He will not grieve for them himself, one day, if
they have brought that lesson, Florence.'
'You wish well to him, and would have him happy. I am sure you
would!' said Florence. 'Oh! let me be able, if I have the occasion at
some future time, to say so?'
Edith sat with her dark eyes gazing steadfastly before her, and did
not reply until Florence had repeated her entreaty; when she drew her
hand within her arm, and said, with the same thoughtful gaze upon the
'Tell him that if, in his own present, he can find any reason to
compassionate my past, I sent word that I asked him to do so. Tell him
that if, in his own present, he can find a reason to think less
bitterly of me, I asked him to do so. Tell him, that, dead as we are
to one another, never more to meet on this side of eternity, he knows
there is one feeling in common between us now, that there never was
Her sternness seemed to yield, and there were tears in her dark
'I trust myself to that,' she said, 'for his better thoughts of me,
and mine of him. When he loves his Florence most, he will hate me
least. When he is most proud and happy in her and her children, he
will be most repentant of his own part in the dark vision of our
married life. At that time, I will be repentant too - let him know it
then - and think that when I thought so much of all the causes that
had made me what I was, I needed to have allowed more for the causes
that had made him what he was. I will try, then, to forgive him his
share of blame. Let him try to forgive me mine!'
'Oh Mama!' said Florence. 'How it lightens my heart, even in such a
strange meeting and parting, to hear this!'
'Strange words in my own ears,' said Edith, 'and foreign to the
sound of my own voice! But even if I had been the wretched creature I
have given him occasion to believe me, I think I could have said them
still, hearing that you and he were very dear to one another. Let him,
when you are dearest, ever feel that he is most forbearing in his
thoughts of me - that I am most forbearing in my thoughts of him!
Those are the last words I send him! Now, goodbye, my life!'
She clasped her in her arms, and seemed to pour out all her woman's
soul of love and tenderness at once.
'This kiss for your child! These kisses for a blessing on your
head! My own dear Florence, my sweet girl, farewell!'