Книга Dombey and Son. Содержание - CHAPTER 52 Secret Intelligence
As to Perch, the messenger, he is in a fair way of being ruined for life. He finds himself again constantly in bars of public-houses, being treated and lying dreadfully. It appears that he met everybody concerned in the late transaction, everywhere, and said to them, 'Sir,' or 'Madam,' as the case was, 'why do you look so pale?' at which each shuddered from head to foot, and said, 'Oh, Perch!' and ran away. Either the consciousness of these enormities, or the reaction consequent on liquor, reduces Mr Perch to an extreme state of low spirits at that hour of the evening when he usually seeks consolation in the society of Mrs Perch at Balls Pond; and Mrs Perch frets a good deal, for she fears his confidence in woman is shaken now, and that he half expects on coming home at night to find her gone off with some Viscount — 'which,' as she observes to an intimate female friend, 'is what these wretches in the form of woman have to answer for, Mrs P. It ain't the harm they do themselves so much as what they reflect upon us, Ma'am; and I see it in Perch's eye.
Mr Dombey's servants are becoming, at the same time, quite dissipated, and unfit for other service. They have hot suppers every night, and 'talk it over' with smoking drinks upon the board. Mr Towlinson is always maudlin after half-past ten, and frequently begs to know whether he didn't say that no good would ever come of living in a corner house? They whisper about Miss Florence, and wonder where she is; but agree that if Mr Dombey don't know, Mrs Dombey does. This brings them to the latter, of whom Cook says, She had a stately way though, hadn't she? But she was too high! They all agree that she was too high, and Mr Towlinson's old flame, the housemaid (who is very virtuous), entreats that you will never talk to her any more about people who hold their heads up, as if the ground wasn't good enough for 'em.
Everything that is said and done about it, except by Mr Dombey, is done in chorus. Mr Dombey and the world are alone together.
Good Mrs Brown and her daughter Alice kept silent company together, in their own dwelling. It was early in the evening, and late in the spring. But a few days had elapsed since Mr Dombey had told Major Bagstock of his singular intelligence, singularly obtained, which might turn out to be valueless, and might turn out to be true; and the world was not satisfied yet.
The mother and daughter sat for a long time without interchanging a word: almost without motion. The old woman's face was shrewdly anxious and expectant; that of her daughter was expectant too, but in a less sharp degree, and sometimes it darkened, as if with gathering disappointment and incredulity. The old woman, without heeding these changes in its expression, though her eyes were often turned towards it, sat mumbling and munching, and listening confidently.
Their abode, though poor and miserable, was not so utterly wretched as in the days when only Good Mrs Brown inhabited it. Some few attempts at cleanliness and order were manifest, though made in a reckless, gipsy way, that might have connected them, at a glance, with the younger woman. The shades of evening thickened and deepened as the two kept silence, until the blackened walls were nearly lost in the prevailing gloom.
Then Alice broke the silence which had lasted so long, and said: 'You may give him up, mother. He'll not come here.'
'Death give him up!' returned the old woman, impatiently. 'He will come here.'
'We shall see,' said Alice.
'We shall see him,' returned her mother.
'And doomsday,' said the daughter.
'You think I'm in my second childhood, I know!' croaked the old woman. 'That's the respect and duty that I get from my own gal, but I'm wiser than you take me for. He'll come. T'other day when I touched his coat in the street, he looked round as if I was a toad. But Lord, to see him when I said their names, and asked him if he'd like to find out where they was!'
'Was it so angry?' asked her daughter, roused to interest in a moment.
'Angry? ask if it was bloody. That's more like the word. Angry? Ha, ha! To call that only angry!' said the old woman, hobbling to the cupboard, and lighting a candle, which displayed the workings of her mouth to ugly advantage, as she brought it to the table. 'I might as well call your face only angry, when you think or talk about 'em.'
It was something different from that, truly, as she sat as still as a crouched tigress, with her kindling eyes.
'Hark!' said the old woman, triumphantly. 'I hear a step coming.
It's not the tread of anyone that lives about here, or comes this way often. We don't walk like that. We should grow proud on such neighbours! Do you hear him?'
'I believe you are right, mother,' replied Alice, in a low voice.
'Peace! open the door.'
As she drew herself within her shawl, and gathered it about her, the old woman complied; and peering out, and beckoning, gave admission to Mr Dombey, who stopped when he had set his foot within the door, and looked distrustfully around.
'It's a poor place for a great gentleman like your worship,' said the old woman, curtseying and chattering. 'I told you so, but there's no harm in it.'
'Who is that?' asked Mr Dombey, looking at her companion.
'That's my handsome daughter,' said the old woman. 'Your worship won't mind her. She knows all about it.'
A shadow fell upon his face not less expressive than if he had groaned aloud, 'Who does not know all about it!' but he looked at her steadily, and she, without any acknowledgment of his presence, looked at him. The shadow on his face was darker when he turned his glance away from her; and even then it wandered back again, furtively, as if he were haunted by her bold eyes, and some remembrance they inspired.
'Woman,' said Mr Dombey to the old witch who was chucKling and leering close at his elbow, and who, when he turned to address her, pointed stealthily at her daughter, and rubbed her hands, and pointed again, 'Woman! I believe that I am weak and forgetful of my station in coming here, but you know why I come, and what you offered when you stopped me in the street the other day. What is it that you have to tell me concerning what I want to know; and how does it happen that I can find voluntary intelligence in a hovel like this,' with a disdainful glance about him, 'when I have exerted my power and means to obtain it in vain? I do not think,' he said, after a moment's pause, during which he had observed her, sternly, 'that you are so audacious as to mean to trifle with me, or endeavour to impose upon me. But if you have that purpose, you had better stop on the threshold of your scheme. My humour is not a trifling one, and my acknowledgment will be severe.'
'Oh a proud, hard gentleman!' chuckled the old woman, shaking her head, and rubbing her shrivelled hands, 'oh hard, hard, hard! But your worship shall see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears; not with ours — and if your worship's put upon their track, you won't mind paying something for it, will you, honourable deary?'
'Money,' returned Mr Dombey, apparently relieved, and assured by this inquiry, 'will bring about unlikely things, I know. It may turn even means as unexpected and unpromising as these, to account. Yes.
For any reliable information I receive, I will pay. But I must have the information first, and judge for myself of its value.'
'Do you know nothing more powerful than money?' asked the younger woman, without rising, or altering her attitude.
'Not here, I should imagine,' said Mr Dombey.
'You should know of something that is more powerful elsewhere, as I judge,' she returned. 'Do you know nothing of a woman's anger?'
'You have a saucy tongue, Jade,' said Mr Dombey.