Dombey and Son

Page 57

It merely relates to the Bulbul.'

Mr Dombey bent his head in stately recognition of the Bulbuls as an old-established body.

'With your usual happy discrimination, my dear Paul,' resumed Mrs Chick, 'you have hit the point at once. Our darling is altogether as stout as we could wish. The fact is, that his mind is too much for him. His soul is a great deal too large for his frame. I am sure the way in which that dear child talks!'said Mrs Chick, shaking her head; 'no one would believe. His expressions, Lucretia, only yesterday upon the subject of Funerals!

'I am afraid,' said Mr Dombey, interrupting her testily, 'that some of those persons upstairs suggest improper subjects to the child. He was speaking to me last night about his - about his Bones,' said Mr Dombey, laying an irritated stress upon the word. 'What on earth has anybody to do with the - with the - Bones of my son? He is not a living skeleton, I suppose.

'Very far from it,' said Mrs Chick, with unspeakable expression.

'I hope so,' returned her brother. 'Funerals again! who talks to the child of funerals? We are not undertakers, or mutes, or grave-diggers, I believe.'

'Very far from it,' interposed Mrs Chick, with the same profound expression as before.

'Then who puts such things into his head?' said Mr Dombey. 'Really I was quite dismayed and shocked last night. Who puts such things into his head, Louisa?'

'My dear Paul,' said Mrs Chick, after a moment's silence, 'it is of no use inquiring. I do not think, I will tell you candidly that Wickam is a person of very cheerful spirit, or what one would call a - '

'A daughter of Momus,' Miss Tox softly suggested.

'Exactly so,' said Mrs Chick; 'but she is exceedingly attentive and useful, and not at all presumptuous; indeed I never saw a more biddable woman. I would say that for her, if I was put upon my trial before a Court of Justice.'

'Well! you are not put upon your trial before a Court of Justice, at present, Louisa,' returned Mr Dombey, chafing,' and therefore it don't matter.

'My dear Paul,' said Mrs Chick, in a warning voice, 'I must be spoken to kindly, or there is an end of me,' at the same time a premonitory redness developed itself in Mrs Chick's eyelids which was an invariable sign of rain, unless the weather changed directly.

'I was inquiring, Louisa,' observed Mr Dombey, in an altered voice, and after a decent interval, 'about Paul's health and actual state.

'If the dear child,' said Mrs Chick, in the tone of one who was summing up what had been previously quite agreed upon, instead of saying it all for the first time, 'is a little weakened by that last attack, and is not in quite such vigorous health as we could wish; and if he has some temporary weakness in his system, and does occasionally seem about to lose, for the moment, the use of his - '

Mrs Chick was afraid to say limbs, after Mr Dombey's recent objection to bones, and therefore waited for a suggestion from Miss Tox, who, true to her office, hazarded 'members.'

'Members!' repeated Mr Dombey.

'I think the medical gentleman mentioned legs this morning, my dear Louisa, did he not?' said Miss Tox.

'Why, of course he did, my love,' retorted Mrs Chick, mildly reproachful. 'How can you ask me? You heard him. I say, if our dear Paul should lose, for the moment, the use of his legs, these are casualties common to many children at his time of life, and not to be prevented by any care or caution. The sooner you understand that, Paul, and admit that, the better. If you have any doubt as to the amount of care, and caution, and affection, and self-sacrifice, that has been bestowed upon little Paul, I should wish to refer the question to your medical attendant, or to any of your dependants in this house. Call Towlinson,' said Mrs Chick, 'I believe he has no prejudice in our favour; quite the contrary. I should wish to hear what accusation Towlinson can make!'

'Surely you must know, Louisa,' observed Mr Dombey, 'that I don't question your natural devotion to, and regard for, the future head of my house.'

'I am glad to hear it, Paul,' said Mrs Chick; 'but really you are very odd, and sometimes talk very strangely, though without meaning it, I know.

Charles Dickens
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