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"Haven't I taken an oath," retorted the old woman, won't I keep it?"
“Well, I'm sure I hope you will, Misses Brown," returned Rob, somewhat doubtfully, and not without a latent threatening in his manner. "For your own sake, quite as much as mine!”
He looked at her as he gave her this friendly caution, and einphasized it with a nodding of his head; but finding it uncomfortable to encounter the yellow face with its grotesque action, and the ferret eyes with their keen old wintry gaze, so close to his own, he looked down uneasily, and sat shuffling in his chair, as if he were trying to bring himself to a sullen declaration that he would answer no more questions. The old woman, still holding him as before, took this opportunity of raising the forefinger of her right hand in the air, as a stealthy signal to the concealed observer to give particular attention to what was about to follow.
Rob," she said, in her most coaxing tone.
"Good gracious Misses Brown, what's the matter now ?" returned the exasperated Grinder.
"Rob! where did the lady and master appoint to meet ?"
Rob shuffled more and more, and looked up and looked down, and bit his thumb, and dried it on his waistcoat, and finally said, eyeing his tormentor askant, "How should I know, Misses Brown ?"
The old woman held up her finger again, as before, and replying, "Come, lad! It's no use leading me to that, and there leaving me. I want to know"-waited for his answer.
Rob, after a discomfited pause, suddenly broke out with, “How can I pronounce the names of foreign places, Mrs. Brown? What an unreasonable woman you are!"
"But you have heard it said, Robby," she retorted firmly, “and you know what it sounded like. Come!"
"I never heard it said, Misses Brown," returned the Grinder.
Then," retorted the old woman, quickly, "you have seen it written, and you can spell it."
Rob, with a petulant exclamation between laughing and crying -for he was penetrated with some admiration of Mrs. Brown's cunning, even through this persecution-after some reluctant fumbling in his waistcoat pocket, produced from it a little piece of chalk. The old woman's eyes sparkled when she saw it be
tween his thumb and finger, and hastily clearing a space on the deal table that he might write the word there, she once more made her signal with a shaking hand.
"Now I tell you beforehand what it is, Misses Brown," said Rob, "it's no use asking me anything else. I won't answer anything else; I can't. How long it was to be before they met, or whose plan it was that they was to go away alone, I don't know no more than you do. I don't know any more about it, If I was to tell you how I found out this word, you'd believe that. Shall I tell you, Misses Brown ?"
"Well, then, Misses Brown. The way-now you won't ask any more, you know ?" said Rob, turning his eyes, which were now fast getting drowsy and stupid, upon her.
"Not another word," said Mrs. Brown.
"Well then, the way was this. When a certain person left the lady with me, he put a piece of paper with a direction written on it in the lady's hand, saying it was in case she should forget. She wasn't afraid of forgetting, for she tore it up as soon as his back was turned, and when I put up the carriage steps, I shook out one of the pieces-she sprinkled the rest out of the window, I suppose, for there was none there afterwards, though I looked for 'em. There was only one word on it, and that was this, if you must and will know. But remember! You're upon your oath,
Mrs. Brown knew that, she said. Rob, having nothing more to say, began to chalk, slowly and laboriously, on the table.
"D" the old woman read aloud, when he had formed the letter.
"Will you hold your tongue, Misses Brown?" he exclaimed, covering it with his hand, and turning impatiently upon her, "I won't have it read out. Be quiet, will you?"
"Then write large, Rob," she returned, repeating her secret signal; "for my eyes are not good, even at print."
Muttering to himself, and returning to his work with an ill will, Rob went on with the word. As he bent his head down, the person for whose information he so unconsciously labored, moved from the door behind him to within a short stride of his shoulder, and looked eagerly towards the creeping track of his hand upon
the table. At the same time, Alice, from her opposite chair, watched it narrowly as it shaped the letters, and repeated each one on her lips as he made it, without articulating it aloud. At the end of every letter her eyes and Mr. Dombey's met, as if each of them sought to be confirmed by the other; and thus they both spelt, D. I. J. O. N.
"There!" said the Grinder, moistening the palm of his hand hastily, to obliterate the word; and not content with smearing it out, rubbing and planing all trace of it away with his coat-sleeve, until the very color of the chalk was gone from the table. "Now, I hope you're contented, Misses Brown!"
The old woman, in token of her being so, released his arm and patted his back; and the Grinder, overcome with mortification, cross-examination, and liquor, folded his arms on the table, laid his head upon them, and fell asleep.
Not until he had been heavily asleep some time, and was snoring roundly, did the old woman turn towards the door where Mr. Dombey stood concealed, and beckon him to come through the room, and pass out. Even then, she hovered over Bob, ready to blind him with her hands, or strike his head down, if he should raise it while the secret step was crossing to the door. But though her glance took sharp cognisance of the sleeper, it was sharp too for the waking man; and when he touched her hand with his, and in spite of all his caution, made a chinking, golden sound, it was as bright and greedy as a raven's.
The daughter's dark gaze followed him to the door, and noted well how pale he was, and how his hurried tread indicated that the least delay was an insupportable restraint upon him, and how he was burning to be active and away. As he closed the door behind him, she looked round at her mother. The old woman trotted to her; opened her hand to show what was within; and, tightly closing it again in her jealousy and avarice, whispered: "What will he do, Ally?" "Mischief," said the daughter.
"Murder?" asked the old woman.
"He's a madman, in his wounded pride, and may do that, for anything we can say, or he either."
Her glance was brighter than her mother's, and the fire that
shone in it was fiercer; but her face was colorless, even to her lips.
They said no more, but sat apart: the mother communing with her money; the daughter with her thoughts; the glance of each, shining in the gloom of the feebly-lighted room. Rob slept and snored. The disregarded parrot only was in action. It twisted and pulled at the wires of its cage, with its crooked beak, and crawled up to the dome, and along its roof like a fly, and down again head foremost, and shook, and bit, and rattled at every slender bar, as if it knew its master's danger, and was wild to force a passage out, and fly away to warn him of it.
THERE were two of the traitor's own blood-his renounced brother and sister-on whom the weight of his guilt rested almost more heavily, at this time, than on the man he had so deeply injured. Prying and tormenting as the world was, it did Mr. Dombey the service of nerving him to pursuit and revenge. It roused his passion, stung his pride, twisted the one idea of his life into a new shape, and made some gratification of his wrath, the object into which his whole intellectual existence resolved itself. All the stubbornness and implacability of his nature, all its hard impenetrable quality, all its gloom and moroseness, all its exaggerated sense of personal importance, all its jealous disposition to resent the least flaw in the ample recognition of his importance by others, set this way like many streams united into one, and bore him on upon their tide. The most impetuously passionate and violently impulsive of mankind would have been a milder enemy to encounter than the sullen Mr. Dombey wrought to this. A wild beast would have been easier turned or soothed than the grave gentleman without a wrinkle in his starched cravat.
But the very intensity of his purpose became almost a substitute for action in it. While he was yet uninformed of the
traitor's retreat, it served to divert his mind from his own calamity, and to entertain it with another prospect. The brother and sister of his false favorite had no such relief; everything in their history, past and present, gave his delinquency a more afflicting meaning to them.
The sister may have sometimes sadly thought that if she had remained with him, the companion and friend she had been once, he might have escaped the crime into which he had fallen. If she ever thought so, it was still without regret for what she had done, without the least doubt of her duty, without any pricing or enhancing of her self-devotion. But when this possibility presented itself to the erring and repentant brother, as it sometimes did, it smote upon his heart with such a keen, reproachful touch, as he could hardly bear. No idea of retort upon his cruel brother came into his mind. New accusation of himself, fresh inward lamentings over his own unworthiness, and the ruin in which it was at once his consolation and his self-reproach that he did not stand alone, were the sole kind of reflections to which the discovery gave rise in him.
It was on the very same day whose evening set upon the last chapter, and when Mr. Dombey's world was busiest with the elopement of his wife, that the window of the room in which the brother and sister sat at their early breakfast, was darkened by the unexpected shadow of a man coming to the little porch: which man was Perch the Messenger.
"I've stepped over from Ball's Pond at an early hour," said Mr. Perch, confidentially looking in at the room door, and stopping on the mat to wipe his shoes all round, which had no mud upon them, "agreeable to my instructions last night. They was, to be sure and bring a note to you, Mr. Carker, before you went out in the morning. I should have been here a good hour and a half ago," said Mr. Perch, meekly, "but for the state of health of Mrs. P., who I thought I should have lost in the night, I do assure you, five distinct times."
"Is your wife ill ?" asked Harriet.
"Why, you see," said Mr. Perch, first turning round to shut the door carefully, "she takes what has happened in our House so much to heart, Miss. Her nerves is so very delicate you see, and soon unstrung! Not but what the strongest nerves had good