Secret Intelligence

GOOD Mrs. Brown and her daughter Alice kept silent company together, in their own dwelling. It was early in the evening, and late in the spring. But a few days had elapsed since Mr. Dombey had told major Bagstock of his singular intelligence, singularly obtained, which might turn out to be valueless, and might turn out to be true; and the world was not satisfied yet.

The mother and daughter sat for a long time without inter-changing a word: almost without motion. The old woman's face was shrewdly anxious and expectant; that of her daughter was expectant too, but in a less sharp degree, and sometimes it darkened, as if with gathering disappointment and incredulity. The old woman, without heeding these changes in its expression, though her eyes were often turned towards it, sat mumbling and munching, and listening confidently.

Their abode, though poor and miserable, was not so utterly wretched as in the days when only Good Mrs. Brown inhabited it. Some few attempts at cleanliness and order were manifest, though made in a reckless, gipsy way, that might have connected them, at a glance, with the younger woman. The shades of evening thickened and deepened as the two kept silence, until the blackened walls were nearly lost in the prevailing gloom.

Then Alice broke the silence which had lasted so long, and said:

`You may give him up, mother. He'll not come here.'

`Death give him up!' returned the old woman, impatiently. `He will come here.'

`We shall see,' said Alice.

`We shall see him,' returned her mother.

`And doomsday,' said the daughter.

`You think I'm in my second childhood, I know!' croaked the old woman. `That's the respect and duty that I get from my own gal, but I'm wiser than you take me for. He'll come. T'other day when I touched his coat in the street, he looked round as if I was a toad. But Lord, to see him when I said their names, and asked him if he'd like to find out where they was!'

`Was it so angry?' asked her daughter, roused to interest in a moment.

`Angry? ask if it was bloody. That's more like the word. Angry? Ha, ha! To call that only angry!' said the old woman, hobbling to the cupboard, and lighting a candle, which displayed the workings of her mouth to ugly advantage, as she brought it to the table. `I might as well call your face only angry, when you think or talk about 'em.'

It was something different from that, truly, as she sat as still as a crouched tigress, with her kindling eyes.

`Hark!' said the old woman, triumphantly. `I hear a step coming. It's not the tread of any one that lives about here, or comes this way often. We don't walk like that. We should grow proud on such neighbours! Do you hear him?'

`I believe you are right, mother,' replied Alice, in a low voice. `Peace! open the door.'

As she drew herself within her shawl, and gathered it about her, the old woman complied; and peering out, and beckoning, gave admission to Mr. Dombey, who stopped when he had set his foot within the door, and looked distrustfully around.

`It's a poor place for a great gentleman like your worship,' said the old woman, curtseying and chattering. `I told you so, but there's no harm in it.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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