Dombey and Son

Page 06

Miss Tox is ingenuity itself.'

'My dear Louisa,' said Miss Tox. 'Don't say so.

'It is only a pincushion for the toilette table, Paul,' resumed his sister; 'one of those trifles which are insignificant to your sex in general, as it's very natural they should be - we have no business to expect they should be otherwise - but to which we attach some interest.

'Miss Tox is very good,' said Mr Dombey.

'And I do say, and will say, and must say,' pursued his sister, pressing the foot of the wine-glass on Miss Tox's hand, at each of the three clauses, 'that Miss Tox has very prettily adapted the sentiment to the occasion. I call "Welcome little Dombey" Poetry, myself!'

'Is that the device?' inquired her brother.

'That is the device,' returned Louisa.

'But do me the justice to remember, my dear Louisa,' said Miss Toxin a tone of low and earnest entreaty, 'that nothing but the - I have some difficulty in expressing myself - the dubiousness of the result would have induced me to take so great a liberty: "Welcome, Master Dombey," would have been much more congenial to my feelings, as I am sure you know. But the uncertainty attendant on angelic strangers, will, I hope, excuse what must otherwise appear an unwarrantable familiarity.' Miss Tox made a graceful bend as she spoke, in favour of Mr Dombey, which that gentleman graciously acknowledged. Even the sort of recognition of Dombey and Son, conveyed in the foregoing conversation, was so palatable to him, that his sister, Mrs Chick - though he affected to consider her a weak good-natured person - had perhaps more influence over him than anybody else.

'My dear Paul,' that lady broke out afresh, after silently contemplating his features for a few moments, 'I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I look at you, I declare, you do so remind me of that dear baby upstairs.'

'Well!' said Mrs Chick, with a sweet smile, 'after this, I forgive Fanny everything!'

It was a declaration in a Christian spirit, and Mrs Chick felt that it did her good. Not that she had anything particular to forgive in her sister-in-law, nor indeed anything at all, except her having married her brother - in itself a species of audacity - and her having, in the course of events, given birth to a girl instead of a boy: which, as Mrs Chick had frequently observed, was not quite what she had expected of her, and was not a pleasant return for all the attention and distinction she had met with.

Mr Dombey being hastily summoned out of the room at this moment, the two ladies were left alone together. Miss Tox immediately became spasmodic.

'I knew you would admire my brother. I told you so beforehand, my dear,' said Louisa. Miss Tox's hands and eyes expressed how much. 'And as to his property, my dear!'

'Ah!' said Miss Tox, with deep feeling. 'Im-mense!'

'But his deportment, my dear Louisa!' said Miss Tox. 'His presence! His dignity! No portrait that I have ever seen of anyone has been half so replete with those qualities. Something so stately, you know: so uncompromising: so very wide across the chest: so upright! A pecuniary Duke of York, my love, and nothing short of it!' said Miss Tox. 'That's what I should designate him.'

'Why, my dear Paul!' exclaimed his sister, as he returned, 'you look quite pale! There's nothing the matter?'

'I am sorry to say, Louisa, that they tell me that Fanny - '

'Now, my dear Paul,' returned his sister rising, 'don't believe it. Do not allow yourself to receive a turn unnecessarily. Remember of what importance you are to society, and do not allow yourself to be worried by what is so very inconsiderately told you by people who ought to know better. Really I'm surprised at them.'

'I hope I know, Louisa,' said Mr Dombey, stiffly, 'how to bear myself before the world.'

'Nobody better, my dear Paul. Nobody half so well. They would be ignorant and base indeed who doubted it.'

'Ignorant and base indeed!' echoed Miss Tox softly.

'But,' pursued Louisa, 'if you have any reliance on my experience

Charles Dickens
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