Книга Dombey and Son. Содержание - CHAPTER 10 Containing the Sequel of the Midshipman's Disaster


Containing the Sequel of the Midshipman's Disaster

Major Bagstock, after long and frequent observation of Paul, across Princess's Place, through his double-barrelled opera-glass; and after receiving many minute reports, daily, weekly, and monthly, on that subject, from the native who kept himself in constant communication with Miss Tox's maid for that purpose; came to the conclusion that Dombey, Sir, was a man to be known, and that J. B. was the boy to make his acquaintance.

Miss Tox, however, maintaining her reserved behaviour, and frigidly declining to understand the Major whenever he called (which he often did) on any little fishing excursion connected with this project, the Major, in spite of his constitutional toughness and slyness, was fain to leave the accomplishment of his desire in some measure to chance, 'which,' as he was used to observe with chuckles at his club, 'has been fifty to one in favour of Joey B., Sir, ever since his elder brother died of Yellow Jack in the West Indies.'

It was some time coming to his aid in the present instance, but it befriended him at last. When the dark servant, with full particulars, reported Miss Tox absent on Brighton service, the Major was suddenly touched with affectionate reminiscences of his friend Bill Bitherstone of Bengal, who had written to ask him, if he ever went that way, to bestow a call upon his only son. But when the same dark servant reported Paul at Mrs Pipchin's, and the Major, referring to the letter favoured by Master Bitherstone on his arrival in England — to which he had never had the least idea of paying any attention — saw the opening that presented itself, he was made so rabid by the gout, with which he happened to be then laid up, that he threw a footstool at the dark servant in return for his intelligence, and swore he would be the death of the rascal before he had done with him: which the dark servant was more than half disposed to believe.

At length the Major being released from his fit, went one Saturday growling down to Brighton, with the native behind him; apostrophizing Miss Tox all the way, and gloating over the prospect of carrying by storm the distinguished friend to whom she attached so much mystery, and for whom she had deserted him, 'Would you, Ma'am, would you!' said the Major, straining with vindictiveness, and swelling every already swollen vein in his head.

'Would you give Joey B. the go-by, Ma'am? Not yet, Ma'am, not yet!

Damme, not yet, Sir. Joe is awake, Ma'am. Bagstock is alive, Sir. J.

B. knows a move or two, Ma'am. Josh has his weather-eye open, Sir.

You'll find him tough, Ma'am. Tough, Sir, tough is Joseph. Tough, and de-vilish sly!'

And very tough indeed Master Bitherstone found him, when he took that young gentleman out for a walk. But the Major, with his complexion like a Stilton cheese, and his eyes like a prawn's, went roving about, perfectly indifferent to Master Bitherstone's amusement, and dragging Master Bitherstone along, while he looked about him high and low, for Mr Dombey and his children.

In good time the Major, previously instructed by Mrs Pipchin, spied out Paul and Florence, and bore down upon them; there being a stately gentleman (Mr Dombey, doubtless) in their company. Charging with Master Bitherstone into the very heart of the little squadron, it fell out, of course, that Master Bitherstone spoke to his fellow-sufferers.

Upon that the Major stopped to notice and admire them; remembered with amazement that he had seen and spoken to them at his friend Miss Tox's in Princess's Place; opined that Paul was a devilish fine fellow, and his own little friend; inquired if he remembered Joey B. the Major; and finally, with a sudden recollection of the conventionalities of life, turned and apologised to Mr Dombey.

'But my little friend here, Sir,' said the Major, 'makes a boy of me again: An old soldier, Sir — Major Bagstock, at your service — is not ashamed to confess it.' Here the Major lifted his hat. 'Damme, Sir,' cried the Major with sudden warmth, 'I envy you.' Then he recollected himself, and added, 'Excuse my freedom.'

Mr Dombey begged he wouldn't mention it.

'An old campaigner, Sir,' said the Major, 'a smoke-dried, sun-burnt, used-up, invalided old dog of a Major, Sir, was not afraid of being condemned for his whim by a man like Mr Dombey. I have the honour of addressing Mr Dombey, I believe?'

'I am the present unworthy representative of that name, Major,' returned Mr Dombey.

'By G-, Sir!' said the Major, 'it's a great name. It's a name, Sir,' said the Major firmly, as if he defied Mr Dombey to contradict him, and would feel it his painful duty to bully him if he did, 'that is known and honoured in the British possessions abroad. It is a name, Sir, that a man is proud to recognise. There is nothing adulatory in Joseph Bagstock, Sir. His Royal Highness the Duke of York observed on more than one occasion, "there is no adulation in Joey. He is a plain old soldier is Joe. He is tough to a fault is Joseph:" but it's a great name, Sir. By the Lord, it's a great name!' said the Major, solemnly.

'You are good enough to rate it higher than it deserves, perhaps, Major,' returned Mr Dombey.

'No, Sir,' said the Major, in a severe tone. No, Mr Dombey, let us understand each other. That is not the Bagstock vein, Sir. You don't know Joseph B. He is a blunt old blade is Josh. No flattery in him, Sir. Nothing like it.'

Mr Dombey inclined his head, and said he believed him to be in earnest, and that his high opinion was gratifying.

'My little friend here, Sir,' croaked the Major, looking as amiably as he could, on Paul, 'will certify for Joseph Bagstock that he is a thorough-going, down-right, plain-spoken, old Trump, Sir, and nothing more. That boy, Sir,' said the Major in a lower tone, 'will live in history. That boy, Sir, is not a common production. Take care of him, Mr Dombey.'

Mr Dombey seemed to intimate that he would endeavour to do so.

'Here is a boy here, Sir,' pursued the Major, confidentially, and giving him a thrust with his cane. 'Son of Bitherstone of Bengal. Bill Bitherstone formerly of ours. That boy's father and myself, Sir, were sworn friends. Wherever you went, Sir, you heard of nothing but Bill Bitherstone and Joe Bagstock. Am I blind to that boy's defects? By no means. He's a fool, Sir.'

Mr Dombey glanced at the libelled Master Bitherstone, of whom he knew at least as much as the Major did, and said, in quite a complacent manner, 'Really?'

'That is what he is, sir,' said the Major. 'He's a fool. Joe Bagstock never minces matters. The son of my old friend Bill Bitherstone, of Bengal, is a born fool, Sir.' Here the Major laughed till he was almost black. 'My little friend is destined for a public school,' I' presume, Mr Dombey?' said the Major when he had recovered.

'I am not quite decided,' returned Mr Dombey. 'I think not. He is delicate.'

'If he's delicate, Sir,' said the Major, 'you are right. None but the tough fellows could live through it, Sir, at Sandhurst. We put each other to the torture there, Sir. We roasted the new fellows at a slow fire, and hung 'em out of a three pair of stairs window, with their heads downwards. Joseph Bagstock, Sir, was held out of the window by the heels of his boots, for thirteen minutes by the college clock'

The Major might have appealed to his countenance in corroboration of this story. It certainly looked as if he had hung out a little too long.

'But it made us what we were, Sir,' said the Major, settling his shirt frill. 'We were iron, Sir, and it forged us. Are you remaining here, Mr Dombey?'

'I generally come down once a week, Major,' returned that gentleman. 'I stay at the Bedford.'

'I shall have the honour of calling at the Bedford, Sir, if you'll permit me,' said the Major. 'Joey B., Sir, is not in general a calling man, but Mr Dombey's is not a common name. I am much indebted to my little friend, Sir, for the honour of this introduction.'

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