Книга Dombey and Son. Содержание - CHAPTER 20 Mr Dombey goes upon a Journey

Day after day, old Sol and Captain Cuttle kept her reckoning in the little hack parlour and worked out her course, with the chart spread before them on the round table. At night, when old Sol climbed upstairs, so lonely, to the attic where it sometimes blew great guns, he looked up at the stars and listened to the wind, and kept a longer watch than would have fallen to his lot on board the ship. The last bottle of the old Madeira, which had had its cruising days, and known its dangers of the deep, lay silently beneath its dust and cobwebs, in the meanwhile, undisturbed.


Mr Dombey goes upon a Journey

'Mr Dombey, Sir,' said Major Bagstock, 'Joee' B. is not in general a man of sentiment, for Joseph is tough. But Joe has his feelings, Sir, and when they are awakened — Damme, Mr Dombey,? cried the Major with sudden ferocity, 'this is weakness, and I won't submit to it]'

Major Bagstock delivered himself of these expressions on receiving Mr Dombey as his guest at the head of his own staircase in Princess's Place. Mr Dombey had come to breakfast with the Major, previous to their setting forth on their trip; and the ill-starved Native had already undergone a world of misery arising out of the muffins, while, in connexion with the general question of boiled eggs, life was a burden to him.

'It is not for an old soldier of the Bagstock breed,' observed the Major, relapsing into a mild state, 'to deliver himself up, a prey to his own emotions; but — damme, Sir,' cried the Major, in another spasm of ferocity, 'I condole with you!'

The Major's purple visage deepened in its hue, and the Major's lobster eyes stood out in bolder relief, as he shook Mr Dombey by the hand, imparting to that peaceful action as defiant a character as if it had been the prelude to his immediately boxing Mr Dombey for a thousand pounds a side and the championship of England. With a rotatory motion of his head, and a wheeze very like the cough of a horse, the Major then conducted his visitor to the sitting-room, and there welcomed him (having now composed his feelings) with the freedom and frankness ofa travelling companion.

'Dombey,' said the Major, 'I'm glad to see you. I'm proud to see you. There are not many men in Europe to whom J. Bagstock would say that — for Josh is blunt. Sir: it's his nature — but Joey B. is proud to see you, Dombey.'

'Major,' returned Mr Dombey, 'you are very obliging.'

'No, Sir,' said the Major, 'Devil a bit! That's not my character.

If that had been Joe's character, Joe might have been, by this time, Lieutenant-General Sir Joseph Bagstock, K.C.B., and might have received you in very different quarters. You don't know old Joe yet, I find. But this occasion, being special, is a source of pride to me. By the Lord, Sir,' said the Major resolutely, 'it's an honour to me!'

Mr Dombey, in his estimation of himself and his money, felt that this was very true, and therefore did not dispute the point. But the instinctive recognition of such a truth by the Major, and his plain avowal of it, were very able. It was a confirmation to Mr Dombey, if he had required any, of his not being mistaken in the Major. It was an assurance to him that his power extended beyond his own immediate sphere; and that the Major, as an officer and a gentleman, had a no less becoming sense of it, than the beadle of the Royal Exchange.

And if it were ever consolatory to know this, or the like of this, it was consolatory then, when the impotence of his will, the instability of his hopes, the feebleness of wealth, had been so direfully impressed upon him. What could it do, his boy had asked him.

Sometimes, thinking of the baby question, he could hardly forbear inquiring, himself, what could it do indeed: what had it done?

But these were lonely thoughts, bred late at night in the sullen despondency and gloom of his retirement, and pride easily found its reassurance in many testimonies to the truth, as unimpeachable and precious as the Major's. Mr Dombey, in his friendlessness, inclined to the Major. It cannot be said that he warmed towards him, but he thawed a little, The Major had had some part — and not too much — in the days by the seaside. He was a man of the world, and knew some great people.

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 room.

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 Dombey.

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.'

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