Книга Dombey and Son. Содержание - CHAPTER 59 Retribution

'I shall come,' said Harriet, when she shut the book, 'very early in the morning.'

The lustrous eyes, yet fixed upon her face, closed for a moment, then opened; and Alice kissed and blest her.

The same eyes followed her to the door; and in their light, and on the tranquil face, there was a smile when it was closed.

They never turned away. She laid her hand upon her breast, murmuring the sacred name that had been read to her; and life passed from her face, like light removed.

Nothing lay there, any longer, but the ruin of the mortal house on which the rain had beaten, and the black hair that had fluttered in the wintry wind.



Changes have come again upon the great house in the long dull street, once the scene of Florence's childhood and loneliness. It is a great house still, proof against wind and weather, without breaches in the roof, or shattered windows, or dilapidated walls; but it is a ruin none the less, and the rats fly from it.

Mr Towlinson and company are, at first, incredulous in respect of the shapeless rumours that they hear. Cook says our people's credit ain't so easy shook as that comes to, thank God; and Mr Towlinson expects to hear it reported next, that the Bank of England's a-going to break, or the jewels in the Tower to be sold up. But, next come the Gazette, and Mr Perch; and Mr Perch brings Mrs Perch to talk it over in the kitchen, and to spend a pleasant evening.

As soon as there is no doubt about it, Mr Towlinson's main anxiety is that the failure should be a good round one — not less than a hundred thousand pound. Mr Perch don't think himself that a hundred thousand pound will nearly cover it. The women, led by Mrs Perch and Cook, often repeat 'a hun-dred thou-sand pound!' with awful satisfaction — as if handling the words were like handling the money; and the housemaid, who has her eye on Mr Towlinson, wishes she had only a hundredth part of the sum to bestow on the man of her choice.

Mr Towlinson, still mindful of his old wrong, opines that a foreigner would hardly know what to do with so much money, unless he spent it on his whiskers; which bitter sarcasm causes the housemaid to withdraw in tears.

But not to remain long absent; for Cook, who has the reputation of being extremely good-hearted, says, whatever they do, let 'em stand by one another now, Towlinson, for there's no telling how soon they may be divided. They have been in that house (says Cook) through a funeral, a wedding, and a running-away; and let it not be said that they couldn't agree among themselves at such a time as the present.

Mrs Perch is immensely affected by this moving address, and openly remarks that Cook is an angel. Mr Towlinson replies to Cook, far be it from him to stand in the way of that good feeling which he could wish to see; and adjourning in quest of the housemaid, and presently returning with that young lady on his arm, informs the kitchen that foreigners is only his fun, and that him and Anne have now resolved to take one another for better for worse, and to settle in Oxford Market in the general greengrocery and herb and leech line, where your kind favours is particular requested. This announcement is received with acclamation; and Mrs Perch, projecting her soul into futurity, says, 'girls,' in Cook's ear, in a solemn whisper.

Misfortune in the family without feasting, in these lower regions, couldn't be. Therefore Cook tosses up a hot dish or two for supper, and Mr Towlinson compounds a lobster salad to be devoted to the same hospitable purpose. Even Mrs Pipchin, agitated by the occasion, rings her bell, and sends down word that she requests to have that little bit of sweetbread that was left, warmed up for her supper, and sent to her on a tray with about a quarter of a tumbler-full of mulled sherry; for she feels poorly.

There is a little talk about Mr Dombey, but very little. It is chiefly speculation as to how long he has known that this was going to happen. Cook says shrewdly, 'Oh a long time, bless you! Take your oath of that.' And reference being made to Mr Perch, he confirms her view of the case. Somebody wonders what he'll do, and whether he'll go out in any situation. Mr Towlinson thinks not, and hints at a refuge in one of them genteel almshouses of the better kind. 'Ah, where he'll have his little garden, you know,' says Cook plaintively, 'and bring up sweet peas in the spring.' 'Exactly so,' says Mr Towlinson, 'and be one of the Brethren of something or another.' 'We are all brethren,' says Mrs Perch, in a pause of her drink. 'Except the sisters,' says Mr Perch. 'How are the mighty fallen!' remarks Cook. 'Pride shall have a fall, and it always was and will be so!' observes the housemaid.

It is wonderful how good they feel, in making these reflections; and what a Christian unanimity they are sensible of, in bearing the common shock with resignation. There is only one interruption to this excellent state of mind, which is occasioned by a young kitchen-maid of inferior rank — in black stockings — who, having sat with her mouth open for a long time, unexpectedly discharges from it words to this effect, 'Suppose the wages shouldn't be paid!' The company sit for a moment speechless; but Cook recovering first, turns upon the young woman, and requests to know how she dares insult the family, whose bread she eats, by such a dishonest supposition, and whether she thinks that anybody, with a scrap of honour left, could deprive poor servants of their pittance? 'Because if that is your religious feelings, Mary Daws,' says Cook warmly, 'I don't know where you mean to go to.

Mr Towlinson don't know either; nor anybody; and the young kitchen-maid, appearing not to know exactly, herself, and scouted by the general voice, is covered with confusion, as with a garment.

After a few days, strange people begin to call at the house, and to make appointments with one another in the dining-room, as if they lived there. Especially, there is a gentleman, of a Mosaic Arabian cast of countenance, with a very massive watch-guard, who whistles in the drawing-room, and, while he is waiting for the other gentleman, who always has pen and ink in his pocket, asks Mr Towlinson (by the easy name of 'Old Cock,') if he happens to know what the figure of them crimson and gold hangings might have been, when new bought. The callers and appointments in the dining-room become more numerous every day, and every gentleman seems to have pen and ink in his pocket, and to have some occasion to use it. At last it is said that there is going to be a Sale; and then more people arrive, with pen and ink in their pockets, commanding a detachment of men with carpet caps, who immediately begin to pull up the carpets, and knock the furniture about, and to print off thousands of impressions of their shoes upon the hall and staircase.

The council downstairs are in full conclave all this time, and, having nothing to do, perform perfect feats of eating. At length, they are one day summoned in a body to Mrs Pipchin's room, and thus addressed by the fair Peruvian: 'Your master's in difficulties,' says Mrs Pipchin, tartly. 'You know that, I suppose?'

Mr Towlinson, as spokesman, admits a general knowledge of the fact.

'And you're all on the look-out for yourselves, I warrant you, says Mrs Pipchin, shaking her head at them.

A shrill voice from the rear exclaims, 'No more than yourself!'

'That's your opinion, Mrs Impudence, is it?' says the ireful Pipchin, looking with a fiery eye over the intermediate heads.

'Yes, Mrs Pipchin, it is,' replies Cook, advancing. 'And what then, pray?'

'Why, then you may go as soon as you like,' says Mrs Pipchin. 'The sooner the better; and I hope I shall never see your face again.'

With this the doughty Pipchin produces a canvas bag; and tells her wages out to that day, and a month beyond it; and clutches the money tight, until a receipt for the same is duly signed, to the last upstroke; when she grudgingly lets it go. This form of proceeding Mrs Pipchin repeats with every member of the household, until all are paid.

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