Dombey and Son
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speech, a something like a snarl; and, for a moment, one might have
thought that the white teeth were prone to bite the hand they fawned
upon. But the Major thought nothing about it; and Mr Dombey lay
meditating with his eyes half shut, during the whole of the play,
which lasted until bed-time.
By that time, Mr Carker, though the winner, had mounted high into
the Major's good opinion, insomuch that when he left the Major at his
own room before going to bed, the Major as a special attention, sent
the Native - who always rested on a mattress spread upon the ground at
his master's door - along the gallery, to light him to his room in
There was a faint blur on the surface of the mirror in Mr Carker's
chamber, and its reflection was, perhaps, a false one. But it showed,
that night, the image of a man, who saw, in his fancy, a crowd of
people slumbering on the ground at his feet, like the poor Native at
his master's door: who picked his way among them: looking down,
maliciously enough: but trod upon no upturned face - as yet.
Mr Carker the Manager rose with the lark, and went out, walking in
the summer day. His meditations - and he meditated with contracted
brows while he strolled along - hardly seemed to soar as high as the
lark, or to mount in that direction; rather they kept close to their
nest upon the earth, and looked about, among the dust and worms. But
there was not a bird in the air, singing unseen, farther beyond the
reach of human eye than Mr Carker's thoughts. He had his face so
perfectly under control, that few could say more, in distinct terms,
of its expression, than that it smiled or that it pondered. It
pondered now, intently. As the lark rose higher, he sank deeper in
thought. As the lark poured out her melody clearer and stronger, he
fell into a graver and profounder silence. At length, when the lark
came headlong down, with an accumulating stream of song, and dropped
among the green wheat near him, rippling in the breath of the morning
like a river, he sprang up from his reverie, and looked round with a
sudden smile, as courteous and as soft as if he had had numerous
observers to propitiate; nor did he relapse, after being thus
awakened; but clearing his face, like one who bethought himself that
it might otherwise wrinkle and tell tales, went smiling on, as if for
Perhaps with an eye to first impressions, Mr Carker was very
carefully and trimly dressed, that morning. Though always somewhat
formal, in his dress, in imitation of the great man whom he served, he
stopped short of the extent of Mr Dombey's stiffness: at once perhaps
because he knew it to be ludicrous, and because in doing so he found
another means of expressing his sense of the difference and distance
between them. Some people quoted him indeed, in this respect, as a
pointed commentary, and not a flattering one, on his icy patron - but
the world is prone to misconstruction, and Mr Carker was not
accountable for its bad propensity.
Clean and florid: with his light complexion, fading as it were, in
the sun, and his dainty step enhancing the softness of the turf: Mr
Carker the Manager strolled about meadows, and green lanes, and glided
among avenues of trees, until it was time to return to breakfast.
Taking a nearer way back, Mr Carker pursued it, airing his teeth, and
said aloud as he did so, 'Now to see the second Mrs Dombey!'
He had strolled beyond the town, and re-entered it by a pleasant
walk, where there was a deep shade of leafy trees, and where there
were a few benches here and there for those who chose to rest. It not
being a place of general resort at any hour, and wearing at that time
of the still morning the air of being quite deserted and retired, Mr
Carker had it, or thought he had it, all to himself. So, with the whim
of an idle man, to whom there yet remained twenty minutes for reaching
a destination easily able in ten, Mr Carker threaded the great boles
of the trees, and went passing in and out, before this one and behind
that, weaving a chain of footsteps on the dewy ground.
But he found he was mistaken in supposing there was no one in the
grove, for as he softly rounded the trunk of one large tree, on which
the obdurate bark was knotted and overlapped like the hide of a
rhinoceros or some kindred monster of the ancient days before the
Flood, he saw an unexpected figure sitting on a bench near at hand,
about which, in another moment, he would have wound the chain he was
It was that of a lady, elegantly dressed and very handsome, whose
dark proud eyes were fixed upon the ground, and in whom some passion
or struggle was raging. For as she sat looking down, she held a corner
of her under lip within her mouth, her bosom heaved, her nostril
quivered, her head trembled, indignant tears were on her cheek, and
her foot was set upon the moss as though she would have crushed it
into nothing. And yet almost the self-same glance that showed him
this, showed him the self-same lady rising with a scornful air of
weariness and lassitude, and turning away with nothing expressed in
face or figure but careless beauty and imperious disdain.
A withered and very ugly old woman, dressed not so much like a
gipsy as like any of that medley race of vagabonds who tramp about the
country, begging, and stealing, and tinkering, and weaving rushes, by
turns, or all together, had been observing the lady, too; for, as she
rose, this second figure strangely confronting the first, scrambled up
from the ground - out of it, it almost appeared - and stood in the
'Let me tell your fortune, my pretty lady,' said the old woman,
munching with her jaws, as if the Death's Head beneath her yellow skin
were impatient to get out.
'I can tell it for myself,' was the reply.
'Ay, ay, pretty lady; but not right. You didn't tell it right when
you were sitting there. I see you! Give me a piece of silver, pretty
lady, and I'll tell your fortune true. There's riches, pretty lady, in
'I know,' returned the lady, passing her with a dark smile, and a
proud step. 'I knew it before.
'What! You won't give me nothing?' cried the old woman. 'You won't
give me nothing to tell your fortune, pretty lady? How much will you
give me to tell it, then? Give me something, or I'll call it after
you!' croaked the old woman, passionately.
Mr Carker, whom the lady was about to pass close, slinking against
his tree as she crossed to gain the path, advanced so as to meet her,
and pulling off his hat as she went by, bade the old woman hold her
peace. The lady acknowledged his interference with an inclination of
the head, and went her way.
'You give me something then, or I'll call it after her!' screamed
the old woman, throwing up her arms, and pressing forward against his
outstretched hand. 'Or come,' she added, dropping her voice suddenly,
looking at him earnestly, and seeming in a moment to forget the object
of her wrath, 'give me something, or I'll call it after you! '
'After me, old lady!' returned the Manager, putting his hand in his
'Yes,' said the woman, steadfast in her scrutiny, and holding out
her shrivelled hand. 'I know!'
'What do you know?' demanded Carker, throwing her a shilling. 'Do
you know who the handsome lady is?'
Munching like that sailor's wife of yore, who had chestnuts In her
lap, and scowling like the witch who asked for some in vain, the old
woman picked the shilling up, and going backwards, like a crab, or
like a heap of crabs: for her alternately expanding and contracting
hands might have represented two of that species, and her creeping
face, some half-a-dozen more: crouched on the veinous root of an old
tree, pulled out a short black pipe from within the crown of her
bonnet, lighted it with a match, and smoked in silence, looking
fixedly at her questioner.
Mr Carker laughed, and turned upon his heel.
'Good!' said the old woman. 'One child dead, and one child living:
one wife dead, and one wife coming. Go and meet her!'
In spite of himself, the Manager looked round again, and stopped.
The old woman, who had not removed her pipe, and was munching and
mumbling while she smoked, as if in conversation with an invisible
familiar, pointed with her finger in the direction he was going, and
'What was that you said, Beldamite?' he demanded.
The woman mumbled, and chattered, and smoked, and still pointed
before him; but remained silent Muttering a farewell that was not
complimentary, Mr Carker pursued his way; but as he turned out of that
place, and looked over his shoulder at the root of the old tree, he
could yet see the finger pointing before him, and thought he heard the
woman screaming, 'Go and meet her!'
Preparations for a choice repast were completed, he found, at the
hotel; and Mr Dombey, and the Major, and the breakfast, were awaiting
the ladies. Individual constitution has much to do with the
development of such facts, no doubt; but in this case, appetite
carried it hollow over the tender passion; Mr Dombey being very cool
and collected, and the Major fretting and fuming in a state of violent
heat and irritation. At length the door was thrown open by the Native,
and, after a pause, occupied by her languishing along the gallery, a
very blooming, but not very youthful lady, appeared.
'My dear Mr Dombey,' said the lady, 'I am afraid we are late, but
Edith has been out already looking for a favourable point of view for
a sketch, and kept me waiting for her. Falsest of Majors,' giving him
her little finger, 'how do you do?'
'Mrs Skewton,' said Mr Dombey, 'let me gratify my friend Carker:'
Mr Dombey unconsciously emphasised the word friend, as saying "no
really; I do allow him to take credit for that distinction:" 'by
presenting him to you. You have heard me mention Mr Carker.'
'I am charmed, I am sure,' said Mrs Skewton, graciously.
Mr Carker was charmed, of course. Would he have been more charmed
on Mr Dombey's behalf, if Mrs Skewton had been (as he at first
supposed her) the Edith whom they had toasted overnight?
'Why, where, for Heaven's sake, is Edith?' exclaimed Mrs Skewton,
looking round. 'Still at the door, giving Withers orders about the
mounting of those drawings! My dear Mr Dombey, will you have the