Page:Dombey and Son.djvu/251

This page needs to be proofread.
195
DOMBEY AND SON.

"Miss Tox is a very good sort of person, I believe," replied Mr. Dombey.

The haughty coldness of the reply seemed to afford Major Bagstock infinite delight. He swelled and swelled, exceedingly: and even laid down his knife and fork for a moment, to rub his hands.

"Old Joe, Sir," said the Major, "was a bit of a favourite in that quarter once. But Joe has had his day. J. Bagstock is extinguished—outrivalled—floored, Sir. I tell you what, Dombey." The Major paused in his eating, and looked mysteriously indignant. "That’s a de-vilish ambitious woman, Sir."

Mr. Dombey said "Indeed?" with frigid indifference: mingled perhaps with some contemptuous incredulity as to Miss Tox having the presumption to harbour such a superior quality.

"That woman, Sir," said the Major, "is, in her way, a Lucifer. Joey B. has had his day, Sir, but he keeps his eyes. He sees, does Joe. His Royal Highness the late Duke of York observed of Joey, at a levee, that he saw."

The Major accompanied this with such a look, and, between eating, drinking, hot tea, devilled grill, muffins, and meaning, was altogether so swollen and inflamed about the head, that even Mr. Dombey showed some anxiety for him.

"That ridiculous old spectacle, Sir," pursued the Major, "aspires. She aspires sky-high, Sir. Matrimonially, Dombey."

"I am sorry for her," said Mr. Dombey.

"Don’t say that, Dombey," returned the Major in a warning voice.

"Why should I not, Major?" said Mr. Dombey.

The Major gave no answer but the horse’s cough, and went on eating vigorously.

"She has taken an interest in your household," said the Major, stopping short again, "and has been a frequent visitor at your house for some time now."

"Yes," replied Mr. Dombey with great stateliness, "Miss Tox was originally received there, at the time of Mrs. Dombey’s death, as a friend of my sister’s; and being a well-behaved person, and showing a liking for the poor infant, she was permitted—may I say encouraged—to repeat her visits with my sister, and gradually to occupy a kind of footing of familiarity in the family. I have," said Mr. Dombey, in the tone of a man who was making a great and valuable concession, "I have a respect for Miss Tox. She his been so obliging as to render many little services in my house: trifling and insignificant services perhaps, Major, but not to be disparaged on that account: and I hope I have had the good fortune to be enabled to acknowledge them by such attention and notice as it has been in my power to bestow. I hold myself indebted to Miss Tox, Major," added Mr. Dombey, with a slight wave of his hand, "for the pleasure of your acquaintance."

"Dombey," said the Major, warmly: "no! No, Sir! Joseph Bagstock can never permit that assertion to pass uncontradicted. Your knowledge of old Joe, Sir, such as he is, and old Joe’s knowledge of you, Sir, had its origin in a noble fellow, Sir—in a great creature, Sir. Dombey!" said the Major, with a struggle which it was not very difficult to parade, his whole life