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'My lovely and accomplished relative,' resumed Cousin Feenix, still ambling about at the door, 'will excuse me, if, for her satisfaction, and my own, and that of my friend Dombey, whose lovely and accomplished daughter we so much admire, I complete the thread of my observations. She will remember that, from the first, she and I never alluded to the subject of her elopement. My impression, certainly, has always been, that there was a mystery in the affair which she could explain if so inclined. But my lovely and accomplished relative being a devilish resolute woman, I knew that she was not, in point of fact, to be trifled with, and therefore did not involve myself in any discussions. But, observing lately, that her accessible point did appear to be a very strong description of tenderness for the daughter of my friend Dombey, it occurred to me that if I could bring about a meeting, unexpected on both sides, it might lead to beneficial results. Therefore, we being in London, in the present private way, before going to the South of Italy, there to establish ourselves, in point of fact, until we go to our long homes, which is a devilish disagreeable reflection for a man, I applied myself to the discovery of the residence of my friend Gay - handsome man of an uncommonly frank disposition, who is probably known to my lovely and accomplished relative - and had the happiness of bringing his amiable wife to the present place. And now,' said Cousin Feenix, with a real and genuine earnestness shining through the levity of his manner and his slipshod speech, 'I do conjure my relative, not to stop half way, but to set right, as far as she can, whatever she has done wrong - not for the honour of her family, not for her own fame, not for any of those considerations which unfortunate circumstances have induced her to regard as hollow, and in point of fact, as approaching to humbug - but because it is wrong, and not right.'
Cousin Feenix's legs consented to take him away after this; and leaving them alone together, he shut the door.
Edith remained silent for some minutes, with Florence sitting close beside her. Then she took from her bosom a sealed paper.
'I debated with myself a long time,' she said in a low voice, 'whether to write this at all, in case of dying suddenly or by accident, and feeling the want of it upon me. I have deliberated, ever since, when and how to destroy it. Take it, Florence. The truth is written in it.'
'Is it for Papa?' asked Florence.
'It is for whom you will,' she answered. 'It is given to you, and is obtained by you. He never could have had it otherwise.'
Again they sat silent, in the deepening darkness.
'Mama,' said Florence, 'he has lost his fortune; he has been at the point of death; he may not recover, even now. Is there any word that I shall say to him from you?'
'Did you tell me,' asked Edith, 'that you were very dear to him?'
'Yes!' said Florence, in a thrilling voice.
'Tell him I am sorry that we ever met.
'No more?' said Florence after a pause.
'Tell him, if he asks, that I do not repent of what I have done - not yet - for if it were to do again to-morrow, I should do it. But if he is a changed man - '
She stopped. There was something in the silent touch of Florence's hand that stopped her.
'But that being a changed man, he knows, now, it would never be. Tell him I wish it never had been.'
'May I say,' said Florence, 'that you grieved to hear of the afflictions he has suffered?'
'Not,' she replied, 'if they have taught him that his daughter is very dear to him. He will not grieve for them himself, one day, if they have brought that lesson, Florence.'
'You wish well to him, and would have him happy. I am sure you would!' said Florence. 'Oh! let me be able, if I have the occasion at some future time, to say so?'
Edith sat with her dark eyes gazing steadfastly before her, and did not reply until Florence had repeated her entreaty; when she drew her hand within her arm, and said, with the same thoughtful gaze upon the night outside:
'Tell him that if, in his own present, he can find any reason to compassionate my past, I sent word that I asked him to do so. Tell him that if, in his own present, he can find a reason to think less bitterly of me, I asked him to do so. Tell him, that, dead as we are to one another, never more to meet on this side of eternity, he knows there is one feeling in common between us now, that there never was before.'
Her sternness seemed to yield, and there were tears in her dark eyes.
'I trust myself to that,' she said, 'for his better thoughts of me, and mine of him. When he loves his Florence most, he will hate me least. When he is most proud and happy in her and her children, he will be most repentant of his own part in the dark vision of our married life. At that time, I will be repentant too - let him know it then - and think that when I thought so much of all the causes that had made me what I was, I needed to have allowed more for the causes that had made him what he was. I will try, then, to forgive him his share of blame. Let him try to forgive me mine!'
'Oh Mama!' said Florence. 'How it lightens my heart, even in such a strange meeting and parting, to hear this!'
'Strange words in my own ears,' said Edith, 'and foreign to the sound of my own voice! But even if I had been the wretched creature I have given him occasion to believe me, I think I could have said them still, hearing that you and he were very dear to one another. Let him, when you are dearest, ever feel that he is most forbearing in his thoughts of me - that I am most forbearing in my thoughts of him! Those are the last words I send him! Now, goodbye, my life!'
She clasped her in her arms, and seemed to pour out all her woman's soul of love and tenderness at once.
'This kiss for your child! These kisses for a blessing on your head! My own dear Florence, my sweet girl, farewell!'
'To meet again!' cried Florence.
'Never again! Never again! When you leave me in this dark room, think that you have left me in the grave. Remember only that I was once, and that I loved you!'
And Florence left her, seeing her face no more, but accompanied by her embraces and caresses to the last.
Cousin Feenix met her at the door, and took her down to Walter in the dingy dining room, upon whose shoulder she laid her head weeping.
'I am devilish sorry,' said Cousin Feenix, lifting his wristbands to his eyes in the simplest manner possible, and without the least concealment, 'that the lovely and accomplished daughter of my friend Dombey and amiable wife of my friend Gay, should have had her sensitive nature so very much distressed and cut up by the interview which is just concluded. But I hope and trust I have acted for the best, and that my honourable friend Dombey will find his mind relieved by the disclosures which have taken place. I exceedingly lament that my friend Dombey should have got himself, in point of fact, into the devil's own state of conglomeration by an alliance with our family; but am strongly of opinion that if it hadn't been for the infernal scoundrel Barker - man with white teeth - everything would have gone on pretty smoothly. In regard to my relative who does me the honour to have formed an uncommonly good opinion of myself, I can assure the amiable wife of my friend Gay, that she may rely on my being, in point of fact, a father to her. And in regard to the changes of human life, and the extraordinary manner in which we are perpetually conducting ourselves, all I can say is, with my friend Shakespeare - man who wasn't for an age but for all time, and with whom my friend Gay is no doubt acquainted - that its like the shadow of a dream.'
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Dombey and Son - by Charles Dickens