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'I have been mentioning to my friend Mr Gay, if I may be allowed to have the honour of calling him so,' said Cousin Feenix, 'that I am rejoiced to hear that my friend Dombey is very decidedly mending. I trust my friend Dombey will not allow his mind to be too much preyed upon, by any mere loss of fortune. I cannot say that I have ever experienced any very great loss of fortune myself: never having had, in point of fact, any great amount of fortune to lose. But as much as I could lose, I have lost; and I don't find that I particularly care about it. I know my friend Dombey to be a devilish honourable man; and it's calculated to console my friend Dombey very much, to know, that this is the universal sentiment. Even Tommy Screwzer, - a man of an extremely bilious habit, with whom my friend Gay is probably acquainted - cannot say a syllable in disputation of the fact.'
Florence felt, more than ever, that there was something to come; and looked earnestly for it. So earnestly, that Cousin Feenix answered, as if she had spoken.
'The fact is,' said Cousin Feenix, 'that my friend Gay and myself have been discussing the propriety of entreating a favour at your hands; and that I have the consent of my friend Gay - who has met me in an exceedingly kind and open manner, for which I am very much indebted to him - to solicit it. I am sensible that so amiable a lady as the lovely and accomplished daughter of my friend Dombey will not require much urging; but I am happy to know, that I am supported by my friend Gay's influence and approval. As in my parliamentary time, when a man had a motion to make of any sort - which happened seldom in those days, for we were kept very tight in hand, the leaders on both sides being regular Martinets, which was a devilish good thing for the rank and file, like myself, and prevented our exposing ourselves continually, as a great many of us had a feverish anxiety to do - as' in my parliamentary time, I was about to say, when a man had leave to let off any little private popgun, it was always considered a great point for him to say that he had the happiness of believing that his sentiments were not without an echo in the breast of Mr Pitt; the pilot, in point of fact, who had weathered the storm. Upon which, a devilish large number of fellows immediately cheered, and put him in spirits. Though the fact is, that these fellows, being under orders to cheer most excessively whenever Mr Pitt's name was mentioned, became so proficient that it always woke 'em. And they were so entirely innocent of what was going on, otherwise, that it used to be commonly said by Conversation Brown - four-bottle man at the Treasury Board, with whom the father of my friend Gay was probably acquainted, for it was before my friend Gay's time - that if a man had risen in his place, and said that he regretted to inform the house that there was an Honourable Member in the last stage of convulsions in the Lobby, and that the Honourable Member's name was Pitt, the approbation would have been vociferous.'
This postponement of the point, put Florence in a flutter; and she looked from Cousin Feenix to Walter, in increasing agitatioN
'My love,' said Walter, 'there is nothing the matter.
'There is nothing the matter, upon my honour,' said Cousin Feenix; 'and I am deeply distressed at being the means of causing you a moment's uneasiness. I beg to assure you that there is nothing the matter. The favour that I have to ask is, simply - but it really does seem so exceedingly singular, that I should be in the last degree obliged to my friend Gay if he would have the goodness to break the - in point of fact, the ice,' said Cousin Feenix.
Walter thus appealed to, and appealed to no less in the look that Florence turned towards him, said:
'My dearest, it is no more than this. That you will ride to London with this gentleman, whom you know.
'And my friend Gay, also - I beg your pardon!' interrupted Cousin Feenix.
And with me - and make a visit somewhere.'
'To whom?' asked Florence, looking from one to the other.
'If I might entreat,' said Cousin Feenix, 'that you would not press for an answer to that question, I would venture to take the liberty of making the request.'
'Do you know, Walter?'
'And think it right?'
'Yes. Only because I am sure that you would too. Though there may be reasons I very well understand, which make it better that nothing more should be said beforehand.'
'If Papa is still asleep, or can spare me if he is awake, I will go immediately,' said Florence. And rising quietly, and glancing at them with a look that was a little alarmed but perfectly confiding, left the room.
When she came back, ready to bear them company, they were talking together, gravely, at the window; and Florence could not but wonder what the topic was, that had made them so well acquainted in so short a time. She did not wonder at the look of pride and love with which her husband broke off as she entered; for she never saw him, but that rested on her.
'I will leave,' said Cousin Feenix, 'a card for my friend Dombey, sincerely trusting that he will pick up health and strength with every returning hour. And I hope my friend Dombey will do me the favour to consider me a man who has a devilish warm admiration of his character, as, in point of fact, a British merchant and a devilish upright gentleman. My place in the country is in a most confounded state of dilapidation, but if my friend Dombey should require a change of air, and would take up his quarters there, he would find it a remarkably healthy spot - as it need be, for it's amazingly dull. If my friend Dombey suffers from bodily weakness, and would allow me to recommend what has frequently done myself good, as a man who has been extremely queer at times, and who lived pretty freely in the days when men lived very freely, I should say, let it be in point of fact the yolk of an egg, beat up with sugar and nutmeg, in a glass of sherry, and taken in the morning with a slice of dry toast. Jackson, who kept the boxing-rooms in Bond Street - man of very superior qualifications, with whose reputation my friend Gay is no doubt acquainted - used to mention that in training for the ring they substituted rum for sherry. I should recommend sherry in this case, on account of my friend Dombey being in an invalided condition; which might occasion rum to fly - in point of fact to his head - and throw him into a devil of a state.'
Of all this, Cousin Feenix delivered himself with an obviously nervous and discomposed air. Then, giving his arm to Florence, and putting the strongest possible constraint upon his wilful legs, which seemed determined to go out into the garden, he led her to the door, and handed her into a carriage that was ready for her reception.
Walter entered after him, and they drove away.
Their ride was six or eight miles long. When they drove through certain dull and stately streets, lying westward in London, it was growing dusk. Florence had, by this time, put her hand in Walter's; and was looking very earnestly, and with increasing agitation, into every new street into which they turned.
When the carriage stopped, at last, before that house in Brook Street, where her father's unhappy marriage had been celebrated, Florence said, 'Walter, what is this? Who is here?' Walter cheering her, and not replying, she glanced up at the house-front, and saw that all the windows were shut, as if it were uninhabited. Cousin Feenix had by this time alighted, and was offering his hand.
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Dombey and Son - by Charles Dickens