Page:Dombey and Son.djvu/561

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"No! I would not rise, and go away, and save you the utterance of one word," she repeated, exactly as before, "if the room were burning."

"It may be natural enough, Mrs. Dombey," he pursued, "that you should be uneasy in the presence of any auditors of these disagreeable truths; though why"—he could not hide his real feeling here, or keep his eyes from glancing gloomily at Florence—"why anyone can give them greater force and point than myself, whom they so nearly concern, I do not pretend to understand. It may be natural enough that you should object to hear, in any body’s presence, that there is a rebellious principle within you which you cannot curb too soon; which you must curb, Mrs. Dombey; and which, I regret to say, I remember to have seen manifested—with some doubt and displeasure, on more than one occasion before our marriage—towards your deceased mother. But you have the remedy in your own hands. I by no means forgot, when I began, that my daughter was present, Mrs. Dombey. I beg you will not forget, to-morrow, that there are several persons present; and that, with some regard to appearances, you will receive your company in a becoming manner."

"So it is not enough," said Edith, "that you know what has passed between yourself and me; it is not enough that you can look here," pointing at Carker, who still listened, with his eyes cast down, "and be reminded of the affronts you have put upon me; it is not enough that you can look here," pointing to Florence with a hand that slightly trembled for the first and only time, "and think of what you have done, and of the ingenious agony, daily, hourly, constant, you have made me feel in doing it; it is not enough that this day, of all others in the year, is memorable to me for a struggle (well-deserved, but not conceivable by such as you) in which I wish I had died! You add to all this, do you, the last crowning meanness of making her a witness of the depth to which I have fallen; when you know that you have made me sacrifice to her peace, the only gentle feeling and interest of my life, when you know that for her sake, I would now if I could—but I can not, my soul recoils from you too much—submit myself wholly to your will, and be the meekest vassal that you have!"

This was not the way to minister to Mr. Dombey’s greatness. The old feeling was roused by what she said, into a stronger and fiercer existence than it had ever had. Again, his neglected child, at this rough passage of his life, put forth by even this rebellious woman, as powerful where he was powerless, and everything where he was nothing!

He turned on Florence, as if it were she who had spoken, and bade her leave the room. Florence with her covered face obeyed, trembling and weeping as she went.

"I understand, Madam," said Mr. Dombey, with an angry flush of triumph, "the spirit of opposition that turned your affections in that channel, but they have been met, Mrs. Dombey; they have been met, and turned back!"

"The worse for you!" she answered, with her voice and manner still unchanged. "Aye!" for he turned sharply when she said so, "what is the worse for me, is twenty million times the worse for you. Heed that, if you heed nothing else."

The arch of diamonds spanning her dark hair, flashed and glittered like a starry bridge. There was no warning in them, or they would have