Книга Dombey and Son. Содержание - CHAPTER 45 The Trusty Agent
No one. No one.
Mr Toots, like the leal and trusty soul he was, stopped the cabriolet in a twinkling, and told Susan Nipper of his commission, at which she cried more than before.
'Upon my soul and body!' said Mr Toots, taking his seat beside her.
'I feel for you. Upon my word and honour I think you can hardly know your own feelings better than I imagine them. I can conceive nothing more dreadful than to have to leave Miss Dombey.'
Susan abandoned herself to her grief now, and it really was touching to see her.
'I say,' said Mr Toots, 'now, don't! at least I mean now do, you know!'
'Do what, Mr Toots!' cried Susan.
'Why, come home to my place, and have some dinner before you start,' said Mr Toots. 'My cook's a most respectable woman — one of the most motherly people I ever saw — and she'll be delighted to make you comfortable. Her son,' said Mr Toots, as an additional recommendation, 'was educated in the Bluecoat School,' and blown up in a powder-mill.'
Susan accepting this kind offer, Mr Toots conducted her to his dwelling, where they were received by the Matron in question who fully justified his character of her, and by the Chicken who at first supposed, on seeing a lady in the vehicle, that Mr Dombey had been doubled up, ably to his old recommendation, and Miss Dombey abducted.
This gentleman awakened in Miss Nipper some considerable astonishment; for, having been defeated by the Larkey Boy, his visage was in a state of such great dilapidation, as to be hardly presentable in society with comfort to the beholders. The Chicken himself attributed this punishment to his having had the misfortune to get into Chancery early in the proceedings, when he was severely fibbed by the Larkey one, and heavily grassed. But it appeared from the published records of that great contest that the Larkey Boy had had it all his own way from the beginning, and that the Chicken had been tapped, and bunged, and had received pepper, and had been made groggy, and had come up piping, and had endured a complication of similar strange inconveniences, until he had been gone into and finished.
After a good repast, and much hospitality, Susan set out for the coach-office in another cabriolet, with Mr Toots inside, as before, and the Chicken on the box, who, whatever distinction he conferred on the little party by the moral weight and heroism of his character, was scarcely ornamental to it, physically speaking, on account of his plasters; which were numerous. But the Chicken had registered a vow, in secret, that he would never leave Mr Toots (who was secretly pining to get rid of him), for any less consideration than the good-will and fixtures of a public-house; and being ambitious to go into that line, and drink himself to death as soon as possible, he felt it his cue to make his company unacceptable.
The night-coach by which Susan was to go, was on the point of departure. Mr Toots having put her inside, lingered by the window, irresolutely, until the driver was about to mount; when, standing on the step, and putting in a face that by the light of the lamp was anxious and confused, he said abruptly: 'I say, Susan! Miss Dombey, you know — '
'Do you think she could — you know — eh?'
'I beg your pardon, Mr Toots,' said Susan, 'but I don't hear you.
'Do you think she could be brought, you know — not exactly at once, but in time — in a long time — to — to love me, you know? There!' said poor Mr Toots.
'Oh dear no!' returned Susan, shaking her head. 'I should say, never. Never!'
'Thank'ee!' said Mr Toots. 'It's of no consequence. Good-night.
It's of no consequence, thank'ee!'
The Trusty Agent
Edith went out alone that day, and returned home early. It was but a few minutes after ten o'clock, when her carriage rolled along the street in which she lived.
There was the same enforced composure on her face, that there had been when she was dressing; and the wreath upon her head encircled the same cold and steady brow. But it would have been better to have seen its leaves and flowers reft into fragments by her passionate hand, or rendered shapeless by the fitful searches of a throbbing and bewildered brain for any resting-place, than adorning such tranquillity. So obdurate, so unapproachable, so unrelenting, one would have thought that nothing could soften such a woman's nature, and that everything in life had hardened it.
Arrived at her own door, she was alighting, when some one coming quietly from the hall, and standing bareheaded, offered her his arm.
The servant being thrust aside, she had no choice but to touch it; and she then knew whose arm it was.
'How is your patient, Sir?' she asked, with a curled lip.
'He is better,' returned Carker. 'He is doing very well. I have left him for the night.'
She bent her head, and was passing up the staircase, when he followed and said, speaking at the bottom: 'Madam! May I beg the favour of a minute's audience?'
She stopped and turned her eyes back 'It is an unseasonable time, Sir, and I am fatigued. Is your business urgent?'
'It is very urgent, returned Carker. 'As I am so fortunate as to have met you, let me press my petition.'
She looked down for a moment at his glistening mouth; and he looked up at her, standing above him in her stately dress, and thought, again, how beautiful she was.
'Where is Miss Dombey?' she asked the servant, aloud.
'In the morning room, Ma'am.'
'Show the way there!' Turning her eyes again on the attentive gentleman at the bottom of the stairs, and informing him with a slight motion of her head, that he was at liberty to follow, she passed on.
'I beg your pardon! Madam! Mrs Dombey!' cried the soft and nimble Carker, at her side in a moment. 'May I be permitted to entreat that Miss Dombey is not present?'
She confronted him, with a quick look, but with the same self-possession and steadiness.
'I would spare Miss Dombey,' said Carker, in a low voice, 'the knowledge of what I have to say. At least, Madam, I would leave it to you to decide whether she shall know of it or not. I owe that to you.
It is my bounden duty to you. After our former interview, it would be monstrous in me if I did otherwise.'
She slowly withdrew her eyes from his face, and turning to the servant, said, 'Some other room.' He led the way to a drawing-room, which he speedily lighted up and then left them. While he remained, not a word was spoken. Edith enthroned herself upon a couch by the fire; and Mr Carker, with his hat in his hand and his eyes bent upon the carpet, stood before her, at some little distance.
'Before I hear you, Sir,' said Edith, when the door was closed, 'I wish you to hear me.'
'To be addressed by Mrs Dombey,' he returned, 'even in accents of unmerited reproach, is an honour I so greatly esteem, that although I were not her servant in all things, I should defer to such a wish, most readily.'
'If you are charged by the man whom you have just now left, Sir;'
Mr Carker raised his eyes, as if he were going to counterfeit surprise, but she met them, and stopped him, if such were his intention; 'with any message to me, do not attempt to deliver it, for I will not receive it. I need scarcely ask you if you are come on such an errand. I have expected you some time.
'It is my misfortune,' he replied, 'to be here, wholly against my will, for such a purpose. Allow me to say that I am here for two purposes. That is one.'
'That one, Sir,' she returned, 'is ended. Or, if you return to it — '
'Can Mrs Dombey believe,' said Carker, coming nearer, 'that I would return to it in the face of her prohibition? Is it possible that Mrs Dombey, having no regard to my unfortunate position, is so determined to consider me inseparable from my instructor as to do me great and wilful injustice?'