Page:Dombey and Son.djvu/132

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DOMBEY AND SON.

cried the Major with sudden warmth, "I envy you." Then he recollected himself, and added, "Excuse my freedom."

Mr. Dombey begged he wouldn’t mention it.

"An old campaigner, Sir," said the Major, "a smoke-dried, sun-burnt, used-up, invalided old dog of a Major, Sir, was not afraid of being condemned for his whim by a man like Mr. Dombey. I have the honour of addressing Mr. Dombey, I believe?"

"I am the present unworthy representative of that name, Major," returned Mr. Dombey.

"By G—, Sir!" said the Major, "it’s a great name. It’s a name, Sir," said the Major firmly, as if he defied Mr. Dombey to contradict him, and would feel it his painful duty to bully him if he did, "that is known and honoured in the British possessions abroad. It is a name, Sir, that a man is proud to recognise. There is nothing adulatory in Joseph Bagstock, Sir. His Royal Highness the Duke of York observed on more than one occasion, “there is no adulation in Joey. He is a plain old soldier is Joe. He is tough to a fault is Joseph:” but it’s a great name, Sir. By the Lord, it’s a great name!" said the Major, solemnly.

"You are good enough to rate it higher than it deserves, perhaps, Major," returned Mr. Dombey.

"No, Sir," said the Major. "My little friend here, Sir, will certify for Joseph Bagstock that he is a thorough-going, downright, plain-spoken, old Trump, Sir, and nothing more. That boy, Sir," said the Major in a lower tone, "will live in history. That boy, Sir, is not a common production. Take care of him, Mr. Dombey."

Mr. Dombey seemed to intimate that he would endeavour to do so.

"Here is a boy here, Sir," pursued the Major, confidentially, and giving him a thrust with his cane. "Son of Bitherstone of Bengal. Bill Bitherstone formerly of ours. That boy’s father and myself, Sir, were sworn friends. Wherever you went, Sir, you heard of nothing but Bill Bitherstone and Joe Bagstock. Am I blind to that boy’s defects? By no means. He’s a fool, Sir."

Mr. Dombey glanced at the libelled Master Bitherstone, of whom he knew at least as much as the Major did, and said, in quite a complacent manner, "Really?"

"That is what he is, sir," said the Major. "He’s a fool. Joe Bagstock never minces matters. The son of my old friend Bill Bitherstone, of Bengal, is a born fool, Sir.’ Here the Major laughed till he was almost black. "My little friend is destined for a public school, I presume, Mr. Dombey?" said the Major when he had recovered.

"I am not quite decided," returned Mr. Dombey. "I think not. He is delicate."

"If he’s delicate, Sir," said the Major, "you are right. None but the tough fellows could live through it, Sir, at Sandhurst. We put each other to the torture there, Sir. We roasted the new fellows at a slow fire, and hung 'em out of a three pair of stairs window, with their heads downwards. Joseph Bagstock, Sir, was held out of the window by the heels of his boots, for thirteen minutes by the college clock."

The Major might have appealed to his countenance in corroboration of this story. It certainly looked as if he had hung out a little too long.

"But it made us what we were, Sir," said the Major, settling his shirt