Dombey and Son
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He talked much, and told stories; and Mr Dombey was disposed to regard
him as a choice spirit who shone in society, and who had not that
poisonous ingredient of poverty with which choice spirits in general
are too much adulterated. His station was undeniable. Altogether the
Major was a creditable companion, well accustomed to a life of
leisure, and to such places as that they were about to visit, and
having an air of gentlemanly ease about him that mixed well enough
with his own City character, and did not compete with it at all. If Mr
Dombey had any lingering idea that the Major, as a man accustomed, in
the way of his calling, to make light of the ruthless hand that had
lately crushed his hopes, might unconsciously impart some useful
philosophy to him, and scare away his weak regrets, he hid it from
himself, and left it lying at the bottom of his pride, unexamined.
'Where is my scoundrel?' said the Major, looking wrathfully round
The Native, who had no particular name, but answered to any
vituperative epithet, presented himself instantly at the door and
ventured to come no nearer.
'You villain!' said the choleric Major, 'where's the breakfast?'
The dark servant disappeared in search of it, and was quickly heard
reascending the stairs in such a tremulous state, that the plates and
dishes on the tray he carried, trembling sympathetically as he came,
rattled again, all the way up.
'Dombey,' said the Major, glancing at the Native as he arranged the
table, and encouraging him with an awful shake of his fist when he
upset a spoon, 'here is a devilled grill, a savoury pie, a dish of
kidneys, and so forth. Pray sit down. Old Joe can give you nothing but
camp fare, you see.
'Very excellent fare, Major,' replied his guest; and not in mere
politeness either; for the Major always took the best possible care of
himself, and indeed ate rather more of rich meats than was good for
him, insomuch that his Imperial complexion was mainly referred by the
faculty to that circumstance.
'You have been looking over the way, Sir,' observed the Major.
'Have you seen our friend?'
'You mean Miss Tox,' retorted Mr Dombey. 'No.'
'Charming woman, Sir,' said the Major, with a fat laugh rising in
his short throat, and nearly suffocating him.
'Miss Tox is a very good sort of person, I believe,' replied Mr
The haughty coldness of the reply seemed to afford Major Bagstock
infinite delight. He swelled and swelled, exceedingly: and even laid
down his knife and fork for a moment, to rub his hands.
'Old Joe, Sir,' said the Major, 'was a bit ofa favourite in that
quarter once. But Joe has had his day. J. Bagstock is extinguished -
outrivalled - floored, Sir.'
'I should have supposed,' Mr Dombey replied, 'that the lady's day
for favourites was over: but perhaps you are jesting, Major.'
'Perhaps you are jesting, Dombey?' was the Major's rejoinder.
There never was a more unlikely possiblity. It was so clearly
expressed in Mr Dombey's face, that the Major apologised.
'I beg your pardon,' he said. 'I see you are in earnest. I tell you
what, Dombey.' The Major paused in his eating, and looked mysteriously
indignant. 'That's a de-vilish ambitious woman, Sir.'
Mr Dombey said 'Indeed?' with frigid indifference: mingled perhaps
with some contemptuous incredulity as to Miss Tox having the
presumption to harbour such a superior quality.
'That woman, Sir,' said the Major, 'is, in her way, a Lucifer. Joey
B. has had his day, Sir, but he keeps his eyes. He sees, does Joe. His
Royal Highness the late Duke of York observed of Joey, at a levee,
that he saw.'
The Major accompanied this with such a look, and, between eating,
drinking, hot tea, devilled grill, muffins, and meaning, was
altogether so swollen and inflamed about the head, that even Mr Dombey
showed some anxiety for him.
'That ridiculous old spectacle, Sir,' pursued the Major, 'aspires.
She aspires sky-high, Sir. Matrimonially, Dombey.'
'I am sorry for her,' said Mr Dombey.
'Don't say that, Dombey,' returned the Major in a warning voice.
'Why should I not, Major?' said Mr Dombey.
The Major gave no answer but the horse's cough, and went on eating
'She has taken an interest in your household,' said the Major,
stopping short again, 'and has been a frequent visitor at your house
for some time now.'
'Yes,' replied Mr Dombey with great stateliness, 'Miss Tox was
originally received there, at the time of Mrs Dombey's death, as a
friend of my sister's; and being a well-behaved person, and showing a
liking for the poor infant, she was permitted - may I say encouraged -
to repeat her visits with my sister, and gradually to occupy a kind of
footing of familiarity in the family. I have,' said Mr Dombey, in the
tone of a man who was making a great and valuable concession, 'I have
a respect for Miss Tox. She his been so obliging as to render many
little services in my house: trifling and insignificant services
perhaps, Major, but not to be disparaged on that account: and I hope I
have had the good fortune to be enabled to acknowledge them by such
attention and notice as it has been in my power to bestow. I hold
myself indebted to Miss Tox, Major,' added Mr Dombey, with a slight
wave of his hand, 'for the pleasure of your acquaintance.'
'Dombey,' said the Major, warmly: 'no! No, Sir! Joseph Bagstock can
never permit that assertion to pass uncontradicted. Your knowledge of
old Joe, Sir, such as he is, and old Joe's knowledge of you, Sir, had
its origin in a noble fellow, Sir - in a great creature, Sir. Dombey!'
said the Major, with a struggle which it was not very difficult to
parade, his whole life being a struggle against all kinds of
apoplectic symptoms, 'we knew each other through your boy.'
Mr Dombey seemed touched, as it is not improbable the Major
designed he should be, by this allusion. He looked down and sighed:
and the Major, rousing himself fiercely, again said, in reference to
the state of mind into which he felt himself in danger of falling,
that this was weakness, and nothing should induce him to submit to it.
'Our friend had a remote connexion with that event,' said the
Major, 'and all the credit that belongs to her, J. B. is willing to
give her, Sir. Notwithstanding which, Ma'am,' he added, raising his
eyes from his plate, and casting them across Princess's Place, to
where Miss Tox was at that moment visible at her window watering her
flowers, 'you're a scheming jade, Ma'am, and your ambition is a piece
of monstrous impudence. If it only made yourself ridiculous, Ma'am,'
said the Major, rolling his head at the unconscious Miss Tox, while
his starting eyes appeared to make a leap towards her, 'you might do
that to your heart's content, Ma'am, without any objection, I assure
you, on the part of Bagstock.' Here the Major laughed frightfully up
in the tips of his ears and in the veins of his head. 'But when,
Ma'am,' said the Major, 'you compromise other people, and generous,
unsuspicious people too, as a repayment for their condescension, you
stir the blood of old Joe in his body.'
'Major,' said Mr Dombey, reddening, 'I hope you do not hint at
anything so absurd on the part of Miss Tox as - '
'Dombey,' returned the Major, 'I hint at nothing. But Joey B. has
lived in the world, Sir: lived in the world with his eyes open, Sir,
and his ears cocked: and Joe tells you, Dombey, that there's a
devilish artful and ambitious woman over the way.'
Mr Dombey involuntarily glanced over the way; and an angry glance
he sent in that direction, too.
'That's all on such a subject that shall pass the lips of Joseph
Bagstock,' said the Major firmly. 'Joe is not a tale-bearer, but there
are times when he must speak, when he will speak! - confound your
arts, Ma'am,' cried the Major, again apostrophising his fair
neighbour, with great ire, - 'when the provocation is too strong to
admit of his remaining silent.'
The emotion of this outbreak threw the Major into a paroxysm of
horse's coughs, which held him for a long time. On recovering he
'And now, Dombey, as you have invited Joe - old Joe, who has no
other merit, Sir, but that he is tough and hearty - to be your guest
and guide at Leamington, command him in any way you please, and he is
wholly yours. I don't know, Sir,' said the Major, wagging his double
chin with a jocose air, 'what it is you people see in Joe to make you
hold him in such great request, all of you; but this I know, Sir, that
if he wasn't pretty tough, and obstinate in his refusals, you'd kill
him among you with your invitations and so forth, in double-quick
Mr Dombey, in a few words, expressed his sense of the preference he
received over those other distinguished members of society who were
clamouring for the possession of Major Bagstock. But the Major cut him
short by giving him to understand that he followed his own
inclinations, and that they had risen up in a body and said with one
accord, 'J. B., Dombey is the man for you to choose as a friend.'
The Major being by this time in a state of repletion, with essence
of savoury pie oozing out at the corners of his eyes, and devilled
grill and kidneys tightening his cravat: and the time moreover
approaching for the departure of the railway train to Birmingham, by
which they were to leave town: the Native got him into his great-coat
with immense difficulty, and buttoned him up until his face looked
staring and gasping, over the top of that garment, as if he were in a
barrel. The Native then handed him separately, and with a decent
interval between each supply, his washleather gloves, his thick stick,
and his hat; which latter article the Major wore with a rakish air on
one side of his head, by way of toning down his remarkable visage. The
Native had previously packed, in all possible and impossible parts of
Mr Dombey's chariot, which was in waiting, an unusual quantity of
carpet-bags and small portmanteaus, no less apoplectic in appearance
than the Major himself: and having filled his own pockets with Seltzer