Книга Dombey and Son. Содержание - CHAPTER 22 A Trifle of Management by Mr Carker the Manager

'Ah! That's very nice. Do you propose, Major?'

'No, Ma'am,' said the Major. 'Couldn't do it.'

'You're a barbarous being,' replied the lady, 'and my hand's destroyed. You are fond of music, Mr Dombey?'

'Eminently so,' was Mr Dombey's answer.

'Yes. It's very nice,' said Cleopatra, looking at her cards. 'So much heart in it — undeveloped recollections of a previous state of existence' — and all that — which is so truly charming. Do you know,' simpered Cleopatra, reversing the knave of clubs, who had come into her game with his heels uppermost, 'that if anything could tempt me to put a period to my life, it would be curiosity to find out what it's all about, and what it means; there are so many provoking mysteries, really, that are hidden from us. Major, you to play.'

The Major played; and Mr Dombey, looking on for his instruction, would soon have been in a state of dire confusion, but that he gave no attention to the game whatever, and sat wondering instead when Edith would come back.

She came at last, and sat down to her harp, and Mr Dombey rose and stood beside her, listening. He had little taste for music, and no knowledge of the strain she played, but he saw her bending over it, and perhaps he heard among the sounding strings some distant music of his own, that tamed the monster of the iron road, and made it less inexorable.

Cleopatra had a sharp eye, verily, at picquet. It glistened like a bird's, and did not fix itself upon the game, but pierced the room from end to end, and gleamed on harp, performer, listener, everything.

When the haughty beauty had concluded, she arose, and receiving Mr Dombey's thanks and compliments in exactly the same manner as before, went with scarcely any pause to the piano, and began there.

Edith Granger, any song but that! Edith Granger, you are very handsome, and your touch upon the keys is brilliant, and your voice is deep and rich; but not the air that his neglected daughter sang to his dead son] Alas, he knows it not; and if he did, what air of hers would stir him, rigid man! Sleep, lonely Florence, sleep! Peace in thy dreams, although the night has turned dark, and the clouds are gathering, and threaten to discharge themselves in hail!


A Trifle of Management by Mr Carker the Manager

Mr Carker the Manager sat at his desk, smooth and soft as usual, reading those letters which were reserved for him to open, backing them occasionally with such memoranda and references as their business purport required, and parcelling them out into little heaps for distribution through the several departments of the House. The post had come in heavy that morning, and Mr Carker the Manager had a good deal to do.

The general action of a man so engaged — pausing to look over a bundle of papers in his hand, dealing them round in various portions, taking up another bundle and examining its contents with knitted brows and pursed-out lips — dealing, and sorting, and pondering by turns — would easily suggest some whimsical resemblance to a player at cards.

The face of Mr Carker the Manager was in good keeping with such a fancy. It was the face of a man who studied his play, warily: who made himself master of all the strong and weak points of the game: who registered the cards in his mind as they fell about him, knew exactly what was on them, what they missed, and what they made: who was crafty to find out what the other players held, and who never betrayed his own hand.

The letters were in various languages, but Mr Carker the Manager read them all. If there had been anything in the offices of Dombey and Son that he could read, there would have been a card wanting in the pack. He read almost at a glance, and made combinations of one letter with another and one business with another as he went on, adding new matter to the heaps — much as a man would know the cards at sight, and work out their combinations in his mind after they were turned.

Something too deep for a partner, and much too deep for an adversary, Mr Carker the Manager sat in the rays of the sun that came down slanting on him through the skylight, playing his game alone.

And although it is not among the instincts wild or domestic of the cat tribe to play at cards, feline from sole to crown was Mr Carker the Manager, as he basked in the strip of summer-light and warmth that shone upon his table and the ground as if they were a crooked dial-plate, and himself the only figure on it. With hair and whiskers deficient in colour at all times, but feebler than common in the rich sunshine, and more like the coat of a sandy tortoise-shell cat; with long nails, nicely pared and sharpened; with a natural antipathy to any speck of dirt, which made him pause sometimes and watch the falling motes of dust, and rub them off his smooth white hand or glossy linen: Mr Carker the Manager, sly of manner, sharp of tooth, soft of foot, watchful of eye, oily of tongue, cruel of heart, nice of habit, sat with a dainty steadfastness and patience at his work, as if he were waiting at a mouse's hole.

At length the letters were disposed of, excepting one which he reserved for a particular audience. Having locked the more confidential correspondence in a drawer, Mr Carker the Manager rang his bell.

'Why do you answer it?' was his reception of his brother.

'The messenger is out, and I am the next,' was the submissive reply.

'You are the next?' muttered the Manager. 'Yes! Creditable to me!


Pointing to the heaps of opened letters, he turned disdainfully away, in his elbow-chair, and broke the seal of that one which he held in his hand.

'I am sorry to trouble you, James,' said the brother, gathering them up, 'but — '

'Oh! you have something to say. I knew that. Well?'

Mr Carker the Manager did not raise his eyes or turn them on his brother, but kept them on his letter, though without opening it.

'Well?' he repeated sharply.

'I am uneasy about Harriet.'

'Harriet who? what Harriet? I know nobody of that name.'

'She is not well, and has changed very much of late.'

'She changed very much, a great many years ago,' replied the Manager; 'and that is all I have to say.

'I think if you would hear me — 'Why should I hear you, Brother John?' returned the Manager, laying a sarcastic emphasis on those two words, and throwing up his head, but not lifting his eyes. 'I tell you, Harriet Carker made her choice many years ago between her two brothers. She may repent it, but she must abide by it.'

'Don't mistake me. I do not say she does repent it. It would be black ingratitude in me to hint at such a thing,' returned the other.

'Though believe me, James, I am as sorry for her sacrifice as you.'

'As I?' exclaimed the Manager. 'As I?'

'As sorry for her choice — for what you call her choice — as you are angry at it,' said the Junior.

'Angry?' repeated the other, with a wide show of his teeth.

'Displeased. Whatever word you like best. You know my meaning.

There is no offence in my intention.'

'There is offence in everything you do,' replied his brother, glancing at him with a sudden scowl, which in a moment gave place to a wider smile than the last. 'Carry those papers away, if you please. I am busy.

His politeness was so much more cutting than his wrath, that the Junior went to the door. But stopping at it, and looking round, he said: 'When Harriet tried in vain to plead for me with you, on your first just indignation, and my first disgrace; and when she left you, James, to follow my broken fortunes, and devote herself, in her mistaken affection, to a ruined brother, because without her he had no one, and was lost; she was young and pretty. I think if you could see her now — if you would go and see her — she would move your admiration and compassion.'

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