The ThunderboltTHE barrier between Mr. Dombey and his wife was not weakened by time. Ill-assorted couple, unhappy in themselves and in each other, bound together by no tie but the manacle that joined their fettered hands, and straining that so harshly, in their shrinking asunder, that it wore and chafed to the bone, Time, consoler of affliction and softener of anger, could do nothing to help them. Their pride, however different in kind and object, was equal in degree; and, in their flinty opposition, struck out fire between them which might smoulder or might blaze, as circumstances were, but burned up everything within their mutual reach, and made their marriage way a road of ashes.
Let us be just to him: In the monstrous delusion of his life, swelling with every grain of sand that shifted in its glass, he urged her on, he little thought to what, or considered how; but still his feeling towards her, such as it was, remained as at first. She had the grand demerit of unaccountably putting herself in opposition to the recognition of his vast importance, and to the acknowledgment of her complete submission to it, and so far it was necessary to correct and reduce her; but otherwise he still considered her, in his cold way, a lady capable of doing honour, if she would, to his choice and name, and of reflecting credit on his proprietorship.
Now, she, with all her might of passionate and proud resentment, bent her dark glance from day to day, and hour to hour--from that night in her own chamber, when she had sat gazing at the shadows on the wall, to the deeper night fast coming--upon one figure directing a crowd of humiliations and exasperations against her; and that figure, still her husband's.
Was Mr. Dombey's master-vice, that ruled him so inexorably, an unnatural characteristic? It might be worth while, sometimes, to inquire what Nature is, and how men work to change her, and whether, in the enforced distortions so produced, it is not natural to be unnatural. Coop any son or daughter of our mighty mother within narrow range, and bind the prisoner to one idea, and foster it by servile worship of it on the part of the few timid or designing people standing round, and what is Nature to the willing captive who has never risen up upon the wings of a free mind--drooping and useless soon--to see her in her comprehensive truth!
Alas! are there so few things in the world, about us, most unnatural, and yet most natural in being so?
Hear the magistrate or judge admonish the unnatural outcasts of society; unnatural in brutal habits, unnatural
in want of decency, unnatural in losing and confounding all distinctions between good and evil; unnatural
in ignorance, in vice, in recklessness, in contumacy, in mind, in looks, in everything. But follow the good
clergyman or doctor, who, with his life imperilled at every breath he draws, goes down into their dens,
lying within the echoes of our carriage wheels and daily tread upon the pavement stones. Look round
upon the world of odious sights--millions of immortal creatures have no other world on earth--at the lightest
mention of which humanity revolts, and dainty delicacy living in the next street, stops her ears, and lisps
`I don't believe it!' Breathe the polluted air, foul with every impurity that is poisonous to health and life; and
have every sense, conferred upon our race for its delight and happiness, offended, sickened and disgusted,
and made a channel by which misery and death alone can enter. Vainly attempt to think of any simple
plant, or flower, or wholesome weed, that, set in this foetid bed, could have its natural growth, or put its
little leaves off to the sun as
Those who study the physical sciences, and bring them to bear upon the health of Man, tell us that if the noxious particles that rise from vitiated air were palpable to the sight, we should see them lowering in a dense black cloud above such haunts, and rolling slowly on to corrupt the better portions of a town. But if the moral pestilence that rises with them and in the eternal laws of outraged Nature, is inseparable from them, could be made discernible too, how terrible the revelation!Then should we see depravity, impiety, drunkenness, theft, murder, and a long train of nameless sins against the natural affections and repulsions of mankind, overhanging the devoted spots, and creeping on, to blight the innocent and spread contagion among the pure. Then should we see how the same poisoned fountains that flow into our hospitals and lazarhouses, inundate the jails, and make the convict-ships swim deep, and roll across
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