« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
stone arm-part of a figure off some tomb, she says is raised to strike her. At last it falls; and then a dumb old woman lies upon the bed, and she is crooked and shrunk up, and half of her is dead.
Such is the figure, painted and patched for the sun to mock, that is drawn slowly through the crowd from day to day; looking, as it goes, for the good old creature who was such a mother, and making mouths as it peers among the crowd in vain. Such is the figure that is often wheeled down to the margin of the sea, and stationed there; but on which no wind can blow freshness, and for which the murmur of the ocean has no soothing word. She lies and listens to it by the hour; but its speech is dark and gloomy to her, and a dread is on her face, and when her eyes wander over the expanse, they see but a broad stretch of desolation between earth and heaven.
Florence she seldom sees, and when she does, is angry ith and mows at. Edith is beside her always, and keeps Florence away; and Florence, in her bed at night, trembles at the thought of death in such a shape, and often wakes and listens, thinking it has come. No one attends on her but Edith. It is better that few eyes should see her; and her daughter watches alone by the bedside.
A shadow even on that shadowed face, a sharpening even of the sharpened features, and a thickening of the veil before the eyes into a pall that shuts the dim world, is come. Her wandering hands upon the coverlet join feebly palm to palm, and move towards her daughter; and a voice-not like hers, not like any voice that speaks our mortal language-says, "For I nursed you!"
Edith, without a tear, kneels down to bring her voice closer to the sinking head, and answers:
"Mother, can you hear me?"
Staring wide, she tries to nod in answer.
"Can you recollect the night before I married?"
The head is motionless, but it expresses somehow that she does.
"I told you then that I forgave your part in it, and prayed God to forgive my own. I told you that the past was at an end between us. I say so now, again. Kiss me, mother."
Edith touches the white lips, and for a moment all is still. A moment afterwards, her mother, with her girlish laugh, and the skeleton of a Cleopatra manner, rises in her bed.
Draw the rose-colored curtains. There is something else upon its flight besides the wind and clouds. Draw the rose-colored curtains close!
Intelligence of the event is sent to Mr. Dombey in town, who waits upon Cousin Feenix (not yet able to make up his mind for Baden-Baden), who has just received it too. A good-natured creature like Cousin Feenix is the very man for a marriage or a funeral, and his position in the family renders it right that he should be consulted.
"Dombey," says Cousin Feenix, "upon my soul, I am very much shocked to see you on such a melancholy occasion. My poor aunt! She was a devilish lively woman."
Mr. Dombey replies, " Very much so.'
"And made up," says Cousin Feenix, "really young, you know, considering. I am sure, on the day of your marriage, I thought she was good for another twenty years. In point of fact, I said so to a man at Brooks's-little Billy Joper-you know him, no doubt-man with a glass in his eye?"
Mr. Dombey bows a negative. "In reference to the obsequies," he hints, "whether there is any suggestion"
"Well, upon my life," says Cousin Feenix, stroking his chin, which he has just enough of hand below his wristbands to do; "I really don't know. There's a Mausoleum down at my place, in the park, but I'm afraid it's in bad repair, and, in point of fact, in a devil of a state. But for being a little out at elbows, I should have had it put to rights; but I believe the people come and make pic-nic parties there inside the iron railings."
Mr. Dombey is clear that this won't do.
"There's an uncommon good church in the village," says Cousin Feenix, thoughtfully; "pure specimen of the early Anglo-Norman style, and admirably well sketched too by Lady Jane Finchbury-woman with tight stays-but they've spoilt it with whitewash, I understand, and it's a long journey."
"Perhaps Brighton itself," Mr. Dombey suggests.
Upon my honor, Dombey, I don't think we could do better,"
says Cousin Feenix. "It's on the spot, you see, and a very cheerful place."
"And when," hints Mr. Dombey, "would it be convenient ?" "I shall make a point," says Cousin Feenix, "of pledging myself for any day you think best. I shall have great pleasure (melancholy pleasure, of course) in following my poor aunt to the confines of the- -in point of fact, to the grave," says Cousin Feenix, failing in the other turn of speech.
"Would Monday do for leaving town ?" says Mr. Dombey. "Monday would suit me to perfection," replies Cousin Feenix. Therefore Mr. Dombey arranges to take Cousin Feenix down on that day, and presently takes his leave, attended to the stairs by Cousin Feenix, who says, at parting, "I'm really excessively sorry, Dombey, that you should have so much tronble about it;" to which Mr. Dombey answers, "Not at all."
At the appointed time, Cousin Feenix and Mr. Dombey meet, and go down to Brighton, and representing, in their two selves, all the other mourners for the deceased lady's loss, attend her remains to their place of rest. Cousin Feenix, sitting in the mourning-coach, recognises innumerable acquaintances on the road, but takes no other notice of them, in decorum, than checking them off aloud, as they go by, for Mr. Dombey's information, as "Tom Johnson. Man with cork leg, from White's. What, are you here, Tommy? Foley on a blood mare. The Smalder girls" and so forth. At the ceremony Cousin Feenix is depressed, observing, that these are the occasions to make a man think, in point of fact, that he is getting shaky; and his eyes are really moistened, when it is over. But he soon recovers; and so do the rest of Mrs. Skewton's relatives and friends, of whom the Major continually tells the club that she never did wrap up enough; while the young lady with the back, who has so much trouble with her eyelids, says, with a little scream, that she must have been enormously old, and that she died of all kinds of horrors, and you mustn't mention it.
So Edith's mother lies unmentioned of her dear friends, who are deaf to the waves that are hoarse with repetition of their mystery, and blind to the dust that is piled upon the shore, and to the white arms that are beckoning, in the moonlight, to the in
visible country far away. But all goes on, as it was wont, upon the margin of the unknown sea; and Edith standing there alone, and listening to its waves, has dank weed cast up at her feet, to strew her path in life withal.
Confidential and Accidental.
ATTIRED no more in Captain Cuttle's sable slops and sou'-wester hat, but dressed in a substantial suit of brown livery, which, while it affected to be a very sober and demure livery indeed, was really as self-satisfied and confident a one as tailor need desire to make, Rob the Grinder, thus transformed as to his outer man, and all regardless within of the Captain and the Midshipman, except when he devoted a few minutes of his leisure time to crowing over those inseparable worthies, and recalling, with much applauding music from that brazen instrument, his conscience, the triumphant manner in which he had disembarrassed himself of their company, now served his patron, Mr. Carker. Inmate of Mr. Carker's house, and serving about his person, Rob kept his round eyes on the white teeth with fear and trembling, and felt that he had need to open them wider than ever.
He could not have quaked more, through his whole being, before the teeth, though he had come into the service of some powerful enchanter, and they had been his strongest spells. The boy had a sense of power and authority in this patron of his that engrossed his whole attention, and exacted his most implicit submission and obedience. He hardly considered himself safe in thinking about him when he was absent, lest he should feel himself immediately taken by the throat again, as on the morning when he first became bound to him, and should see every one of the teeth finding him out, and taxing him with every fancy of his mind. Face to face with him, Rob had no more doubt that Mr. Carker read his secret thoughts, or that he could read them by the least exertion of his will if he were so inclined, than he had that Mr. Carker saw him when he looked at him. The ascendency was so complete, and held him in such enthralment, that, hardly daring to think at all, but with his mind filled with a constantly dilating impres