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Книга Dombey and Son. Содержание - CHAPTER 51 Mr Dombey and the World

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Mr Dombey and the World

What is the proud man doing, while the days go by? Does he ever think of his daughter, or wonder where she is gone? Does he suppose she has come home, and is leading her old life in the weary house? No one can answer for him. He has never uttered her name, since. His household dread him too much to approach a subject on which he is resolutely dumb; and the only person who dares question him, he silences immediately.

'My dear Paul!' murmurs his sister, sidling into the room, on the day of Florence's departure, 'your wife! that upstart woman! Is it possible that what I hear confusedly, is true, and that this is her return for your unparalleled devotion to her; extending, I am sure, even to the sacrifice of your own relations, to her caprices and haughtiness? My poor brother!'

With this speech feelingly reminiscent of her not having been asked to dinner on the day of the first party, Mrs Chick makes great use of her pocket-handkerchief, and falls on Mr Dombey's neck. But Mr Dombey frigidly lifts her off, and hands her to a chair.

'I thank you, Louisa,' he says, 'for this mark of your affection; but desire that our conversation may refer to any other subject. When I bewail my fate, Louisa, or express myself as being in want of consolation, you can offer it, if you will have the goodness.'

'My dear Paul,' rejoins his sister, with her handkerchief to her face, and shaking her head, 'I know your great spirit, and will say no more upon a theme so painful and revolting;' on the heads of which two adjectives, Mrs Chick visits scathing indignation; 'but pray let me ask you — though I dread to hear something that will shock and distress me — that unfortunate child Florence — 'Louisa!' says her brother, sternly, 'silence! Not another word of this!'

Mrs Chick can only shake her head, and use her handkerchief, and moan over degenerate Dombeys, who are no Dombeys. But whether Florence has been inculpated in the flight of Edith, or has followed her, or has done too much, or too little, or anything, or nothing, she has not the least idea.

He goes on, without deviation, keeping his thoughts and feelings close within his own breast, and imparting them to no one. He makes no search for his daughter. He may think that she is with his sister, or that she is under his own roof. He may think of her constantly, or he may never think about her. It is all one for any sign he makes.

But this is sure; he does not think that he has lost her. He has no suspicion of the truth. He has lived too long shut up in his towering supremacy, seeing her, a patient gentle creature, in the path below it, to have any fear of that. Shaken as he is by his disgrace, he is not yet humbled to the level earth. The root is broad and deep, and in the course of years its fibres have spread out and gathered nourishment from everything around it. The tree is struck, but not down.

Though he hide the world within him from the world without — which he believes has but one purpose for the time, and that, to watch him eagerly wherever he goes — he cannot hide those rebel traces of it, which escape in hollow eyes and cheeks, a haggard forehead, and a moody, brooding air. Impenetrable as before, he is still an altered man; and, proud as ever, he is humbled, or those marks would not be there.

The world. What the world thinks of him, how it looks at him, what it sees in him, and what it says — this is the haunting demon of his mind. It is everywhere where he is; and, worse than that, it is everywhere where he is not. It comes out with him among his servants, and yet he leaves it whispering behind; he sees it pointing after him in the street; it is waiting for him in his counting-house; it leers over the shoulders of rich men among the merchants; it goes beckoning and babbling among the crowd; it always anticipates him, in every place; and is always busiest, he knows, when he has gone away. When he is shut up in his room at night, it is in his house, outside it, audible in footsteps on the pavement, visible in print upon the table, steaming to and fro on railroads and in ships; restless and busy everywhere, with nothing else but him.

It is not a phantom of his imagination. It is as active in other people's minds as in his. Witness Cousin Feenix, who comes from Baden-Baden, purposely to talk to him. Witness Major Bagstock, who accompanies Cousin Feenix on that friendly mission.

Mr Dombey receives them with his usual dignity, and stands erect, in his old attitude, before the fire. He feels that the world is looking at him out of their eyes. That it is in the stare of the pictures. That Mr Pitt, upon the bookcase, represents it. That there are eyes in its own map, hanging on the wall.

'An unusually cold spring,' says Mr Dombey — to deceive the world.

'Damme, Sir,' says the Major, in the warmth of friendship, 'Joseph Bagstock is a bad hand at a counterfeit. If you want to hold your friends off, Dombey, and to give them the cold shoulder, J. B. is not the man for your purpose. Joe is rough and tough, Sir; blunt, Sir, blunt, is Joe. His Royal Highness the late Duke of York did me the honour to say, deservedly or undeservedly — never mind that — "If there is a man in the service on whom I can depend for coming to the point, that man is Joe — Joe Bagstock."'

Mr Dombey intimates his acquiescence.

'Now, Dombey,' says the Major, 'I am a man of the world. Our friend Feenix — if I may presume to — '

'Honoured, I am sure,' says Cousin Feenix.

' — is,' proceeds the Major, with a wag of his head, 'also a man of the world. Dombey, you are a man of the world. Now, when three men of the world meet together, and are friends — as I believe — ' again appealing to Cousin Feenix.

'I am sure,' says Cousin Feenix, 'most friendly.'

' — and are friends,' resumes the Major, 'Old Joe's opinion is (I may be wrong), that the opinion of the world on any particular subject, is very easily got at.

'Undoubtedly,' says Cousin Feenix. 'In point of fact, it's quite a self-evident sort of thing. I am extremely anxious, Major, that my friend Dombey should hear me express my very great astonishment and regret, that my lovely and accomplished relative, who was possessed of every qualification to make a man happy, should have so far forgotten what was due to — in point of fact, to the world — as to commit herself in such a very extraordinary manner. I have been in a devilish state of depression ever since; and said indeed to Long Saxby last night — man of six foot ten, with whom my friend Dombey is probably acquainted — that it had upset me in a confounded way, and made me bilious. It induces a man to reflect, this kind of fatal catastrophe,' says Cousin Feenix, 'that events do occur in quite a providential manner; for if my Aunt had been living at the time, I think the effect upon a devilish lively woman like herself, would have been prostration, and that she would have fallen, in point of fact, a victim.'

'Now, Dombey! — ' says the Major, resuming his discourse with great energy.

'I beg your pardon,' interposes Cousin Feenix. 'Allow me another word. My friend Dombey will permit me to say, that if any circumstance could have added to the most infernal state of pain in which I find myself on this occasion, it would be the natural amazement of the world at my lovely and accomplished relative (as I must still beg leave to call her) being supposed to have so committed herself with a person — man with white teeth, in point of fact — of very inferior station to her husband. But while I must, rather peremptorily, request my friend Dombey not to criminate my lovely and accomplished relative until her criminality is perfectly established, I beg to assure my friend Dombey that the family I represent, and which is now almost extinct (devilish sad reflection for a man), will interpose no obstacle in his way, and will be happy to assent to any honourable course of proceeding, with a view to the future, that he may point out. I trust my friend Dombey will give me credit for the intentions by which I am animated in this very melancholy affair, and — a — in point of fact, I am not aware that I need trouble my friend Dombey with any further observations.'

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