Книга Dombey and Son. Содержание - CHAPTER 23 Florence solitary, and the Midshipman mysterious

The man would rather think she was;, but wouldn't quite know. Then he would ring a bell that rang upstairs, and would look up the staircase, and would say, yes, she was at home, and was coming down.

Then Miss Nipper would appear, and the man would retire.

'Oh! How de do?' Mr Toots would say, with a chuckle and a blush.

Susan would thank him, and say she was very well.

'How's Diogenes going on?' would be Mr Toots's second interrogation.

Very well indeed. Miss Florence was fonder and fonder of him every day. Mr Toots was sure to hail this with a burst of chuckles, like the opening of a bottle of some effervescent beverage.

'Miss Florence is quite well, Sir,' Susan would add.

Oh, it's of no consequence, thank'ee,' was the invariable reply of Mr Toots; and when he had said so, he always went away very fast.

Now it is certain that Mr Toots had a filmy something in his mind, which led him to conclude that if he could aspire successfully in the fulness of time, to the hand of Florence, he would be fortunate and blest. It is certain that Mr Toots, by some remote and roundabout road, had got to that point, and that there he made a stand. His heart was wounded; he was touched; he was in love. He had made a desperate attempt, one night, and had sat up all night for the purpose, to write an acrostic on Florence, which affected him to tears in the conception. But he never proceeded in the execution further than the words 'For when I gaze,' — the flow of imagination in which he had previously written down the initial letters of the other seven lines, deserting him at that point.

Beyond devising that very artful and politic measure of leaving a card for Mr Dombey daily, the brain of Mr Toots had not worked much in reference to the subject that held his feelings prisoner. But deep consideration at length assured Mr Toots that an important step to gain, was, the conciliation of Miss Susan Nipper, preparatory to giving her some inkling of his state of mind.

A little light and playful gallantry towards this lady seemed the means to employ in that early chapter of the history, for winning her to his interests. Not being able quite to make up his mind about it, he consulted the Chicken — without taking that gentleman into his confidence; merely informing him that a friend in Yorkshire had written to him (Mr Toots) for his opinion on such a question. The Chicken replying that his opinion always was, 'Go in and win,' and further, 'When your man's before you and your work cut out, go in and do it,' Mr Toots considered this a figurative way of supporting his own view of the case, and heroically resolved to kiss Miss Nipper next day.

Upon the next day, therefore, Mr Toots, putting into requisition some of the greatest marvels that Burgess and Co. had ever turned out, went off to Mr Dotnbey's upon this design. But his heart failed him so much as he approached the scene of action, that, although he arrived on the ground at three o'clock in the afternoon, it was six before he knocked at the door.

Everything happened as usual, down to the point where Susan said her young mistress was well, and Mr Toots said it was ofno consequence. To her amazement, Mr Toots, instead of going off, like a rocket, after that observation, lingered and chuckled.

'Perhaps you'd like to walk upstairs, Sir!' said Susan.

'Well, I think I will come in!' said Mr Toots.

But instead of walking upstairs, the bold Toots made an awkward plunge at Susan when the door was shut, and embracing that fair creature, kissed her on the cheek 'Go along with you!~ cried Susan, 'or Ill tear your eyes out.'

'Just another!' said Mr Toots.

'Go along with you!' exclaimed Susan, giving him a push 'Innocents like you, too! Who'll begin next? Go along, Sir!'

Susan was not in any serious strait, for she could hardly speak for laughing; but Diogenes, on the staircase, hearing a rustling against the wall, and a shuffling of feet, and seeing through the banisters that there was some contention going on, and foreign invasion in the house, formed a different opinion, dashed down to the rescue, and in the twinkling of an eye had Mr Toots by the leg.

Susan screamed, laughed, opened the street-door, and ran downstairs; the bold Toots tumbled staggering out into the street, with Diogenes holding on to one leg of his pantaioons, as if Burgess and Co. were his cooks, and had provided that dainty morsel for his holiday entertainment; Diogenes shaken off, rolled over and over in the dust, got up' again, whirled round the giddy Toots and snapped at him: and all this turmoil Mr Carker, reigning up his horse and sitting a little at a distance, saw to his amazement, issue from the stately house of Mr Dombey.

Mr Carker remained watching the discomfited Toots, when Diogenes was called in, and the door shut: and while that gentleman, taking refuge in a doorway near at hand, bound up the torn leg of his pantaloons with a costly silk handkerchief that had formed part of his expensive outfit for the advent 'I beg your pardon, Sir,' said Mr Carker, riding up, with his most propitiatory smile. 'I hope you are not hurt?'

'Oh no, thank you,' replied Mr Toots, raising his flushed face, 'it's of no consequence' Mr Toots would have signified, if he could, that he liked it very much.

'If the dog's teeth have entered the leg, Sir — ' began Carker, with a display of his own'

'No, thank you,' said Mr Toots, 'it's all quite right. It's very comfortable, thank you.'

'I have the pleasure of knowing Mr Dombey,' observed Carker.

'Have you though?' rejoined the blushing Took 'And you will allow me, perhaps, to apologise, in his absence,' said Mr Carker, taking off his hat, 'for such a misadventure, and to wonder how it can possibly have happened.'

Mr Toots is so much gratified by this politeness, and the lucky chance of making frends with a friend of Mr Dombey, that he pulls out his card-case which he never loses an opportunity of using, and hands his name and address to Mr Carker: who responds to that courtesy by giving him his own, and with that they part.

As Mr Carker picks his way so softly past the house, looking up at the windows, and trying to make out the pensive face behind the curtain looking at the children opposite, the rough head of Diogenes came clambering up close by it, and the dog, regardless of all soothing, barks and growls, and makes at him from that height, as ifhe would spring down and tear him limb from limb.

Well spoken, Di, so near your Mistress! Another, and another with your head up, your eyes flashing, and your vexed mouth worrying itself, for want of him! Another, as he picks his way along! You have a good scent, Di, — cats, boy, cats!


Florence solitary, and the Midshipman mysterious

Florence lived alone in the great dreary house, and day succeeded day, and still she lived alone; and the blank walls looked down upon her with a vacant stare, as if they had a Gorgon-like mind to stare her youth and beauty into stone.

No magic dwelling-place in magic story, shut up in the heart of a thick wood, was ever more solitary and deserted to the fancy, than was her father's mansion in its grim reality, as it stood lowering on the street: always by night, when lights were shining from neighbouring windows, a blot upon its scanty brightness; always by day, a frown upon its never-smiling face.

There were not two dragon sentries keeping ward before the gate of this above, as in magic legend are usually found on duty over the wronged innocence imprisoned; but besides a glowering visage, with its thin lips parted wickedly, that surveyed all comers from above the archway of the door, there was a monstrous fantasy of rusty iron, curling and twisting like a petrifaction of an arbour over threshold, budding in spikes and corkscrew points, and bearing, one on either side, two ominous extinguishers, that seemed to say, 'Who enter here, leave light behind!' There were no talismanic characters engraven on the portal, but the house was now so neglected in appearance, that boys chalked the railings and the pavement — particularly round the corner where the side wall was — and drew ghosts on the stable door; and being sometimes driven off by Mr Towlinson, made portraits of him, in return, with his ears growing out horizontally from under his hat.

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