CHAPTER 7. A Bird's-eye Glimpse of Miss Tox's Dwelling-place: also of the State of Miss Tox's Affections
Miss Tox inhabited a dark little house that had been squeezed, at some remote period
of English History, into a fashionable
neighbourhood at the west end of the town, where it stood in the shade like a poor relation
of the great street round the corner
, coldly looked down upon by mighty
mansions. It was not exactly in a court
, and it was not exactly in a yard
; but it was in the dullest of No-Thoroughfares, rendered anxious
double knocks. The name of this retirement
, where grass grew between the chinks in the stone pavement, was Princess's Place; and in Princess's Place was Princess's Chapel, with a tinkling bell, where sometimes as many as five-and-twenty people attended service
on a Sunday. The Princess's Arms was also there, and much resorted to by splendid
footmen. A sedan chair was kept inside the railing before the Princess's Arms, but it had never come out within the memory
of man; and on fine mornings, the top of every rail
(there were eight-and-forty, as Miss Tox had often counted) was decorated with a pewter-pot.
There was another private
house besides Miss Tox's in Princess's Place: not to mention
Pair of gates, with an immense pair
of lion-headed knockers on them, which were never opened by any chance, and were supposed
a disused entrance
to somebody's stables. Indeed, there was a smack of stabling in the air of Princess's Place; and Miss Tox's bedroom (which was at the back) commanded a vista
of Mews, where hostlers, at whatever sort of work engaged
, were continually accompanying
themselves with effervescent
noises; and where the most domestic
garments of coachmen and their wives and families, usually hung, like Macbeth's banners, on the outward walls.
At this other private
house in Princess's Place, tenanted by a retired butler who had married a housekeeper, apartments were let Furnished, to a single gentleman: to wit
, a wooden-featured, blue-faced Major, with his eyes starting out of his head, in whom Miss Tox recognised, as she herself expressed it, 'something so truly military
;' and between whom and herself, an occasional
interchange of newspapers and pamphlets, and such Platonic dalliance
, was effected through
of a dark servant
of the Major's who Miss Tox was quite content
as a 'native
,' without connecting him with any geographical idea whatever.
Perhaps there never was a smaller entry
and staircase, than the entry
and staircase of Miss Tox's house. Perhaps, taken altogether, from top to bottom, it was the most inconvenient
little house in England, and the crookedest; but then, Miss Tox said, what a situation
! There was very little daylight to be got there in the winter: no sun at the best of times: air was out of the question, and traffic
was walled out. Still Miss Tox said, think of the situation
! So said the blue-faced Major, whose eyes were starting out of his head: who gloried in Princess's Place: and who delighted
to turn the conversation
at his club, whenever he could, to something connected with some of the great people in the great street round the corner
, that he might
have the satisfaction
of saying they were his neighbours.
In short, with Miss Tox and the blue-faced Major, it was enough for Princess's Place-as with a very small fragment
, it is enough for many a little hanger-on of another sort-to be well connected, and to have genteel
blood in its veins. It might
be poor, mean
, stupid, dull
. No matter
. The great street round the corner
trailed off into Princess's Place; and that which of High Holborn would have become a choleric
word, spoken of Princess's Place became flat blasphemy
The dingy tenement
inhabited by Miss Tox was her own; having been devised and bequeathed to her by the deceased
owner of the fishy
eye in the locket
, of whom a miniature portrait
, with a powdered head and a pigtail, balanced
the kettle-holder on opposite
sides of the parlour fireplace. The greater part of the furniture was of the powdered-head and pig-tail period
: comprising a plate-warmer, always languishing and sprawling
its four attenuated
bow legs in somebody's way; and an obsolete
harpsichord, illuminated round the maker's name with a painted garland
of sweet peas. In any part of the house, visitors were usually cognizant
of a prevailing mustiness
; and in warm weather
Miss Tox had been seen apparently
writing in sundry
chinks and crevices of the wainscoat with the the wrong end of a pen dipped in spirits of turpentine.
Although Major Bagstock had arrived at what is called in polite literature
, the grand meridian
of life, and was proceeding on his journey
downhill with hardly any throat, and a very rigid pair
of jaw-bones, and long-flapped elephantine
ears, and his eyes and complexion
in the state
of artificial excitement
already mentioned, he was mightily proud
in Miss Tox, and tickled his vanity
with the fiction
that she was a splendid
woman who had her eye on him. This he had several
times hinted at the club: in connexion with little jocularities, of which old Joe Bagstock, old Joey Bagstock, old J. Bagstock, old Josh Bagstock, or so forth, was the perpetual theme
: it being, as it were, the Major's stronghold
and donjon-keep of light humour, to be on the most familiar
terms with his own name.
'Joey B., Sir,' the Major would say, with a flourish
of his walking-stick, 'is worth a dozen of you. If you had a few more of the Bagstock breed
among you, Sir, you'd be none the worse for it. Old Joe, Sir, needn't look far for a wife even now, if he was on the look-out; but he's hard-hearted, Sir, is Joe-he's tough, Sir, tough, and de-vilish sly
!' After such a declaration
, wheezing sounds would be heard; and the Major's blue would deepen into purple, while his eyes strained and started convulsively.
Notwithstanding his very liberal
laudation of himself, however, the Major was selfish
. It may be doubted whether there ever was a more entirely selfish
person at heart
; or at stomach is perhaps a better expression
, seeing that he was more decidedly endowed with that latter organ
than with the former
. He had no idea of being overlooked or slighted by anybody; least of all, had he the remotest comprehension
of being overlooked and slighted by Miss Tox.
And yet, Miss Tox, as it appeared, forgot him-gradually forgot him. She began to forget
him soon after her discovery
of the Toodle family. She continued to forget
him up to the time of the christening. She went on forgetting him with compound interest
after that. Something or somebody had superseded him as a source
'Good morning, Ma'am,' said the Major, meeting Miss Tox in Princess's Place, some weeks after the changes chronicled in the last chapter
'Good morning, Sir,' said Miss Tox; very coldly.
'Joe Bagstock, Ma'am,' observed the Major, with his usual gallantry
, 'has not had the happiness
of bowing to you at your window, for a considerable period
. Joe has been hardly used, Ma'am. His sun has been behind a cloud.'
Miss Tox inclined
her head; but very coldly indeed.
has been out of town, Ma'am, perhaps,' inquired the Major.
'I? out of town? oh no, I have not been out of town,' said Miss Tox. 'I have been much engaged
lately. My time is nearly all devoted
to some very intimate
friends. I am afraid I have none to spare
, even now. Good morning, Sir!'
As Miss Tox, with her most fascinating
step and carriage
, disappeared from Princess's Place, the Major stood looking after her with a bluer face than ever: muttering and growling some not at all complimentary
'Why, damme, Sir,' said the Major, rolling his lobster
eyes round and round Princess's Place, and apostrophizing its fragrant
air, 'six months ago, the woman loved the ground Josh Bagstock walked on. What's the meaning
The Major decided, after some consideration
, that it meant mantraps; that it meant plotting and snaring; that Miss Tox was digging pitfalls. 'But you won't catch Joe, Ma'am,' said the Major. 'He's tough, Ma'am, tough, is J.B. Tough, and de-vilish sly
!' over which reflection
he chuckled for the rest of the day.
But still, when that day and many other days were gone and past, it seemed that Miss Tox took no heed
whatever of the Major, and thought
nothing at all about him. She had been wont
, once upon a time, to look out at one of her little dark windows by accident
, and blushingly return the Major's greeting; but now, she never gave the Major a chance, and cared nothing at all whether he looked over the way or not. Other changes had come to pass too. The Major, standing in the shade of his own apartment, could make out that an air of greater smartness had recently come over Miss Tox's house; that a new cage
wires had been provided for the ancient
little canary bird; that divers ornaments, cut out of coloured card-boards and paper, seemed to decorate
the chimney-piece and tables; that a plant or two had suddenly
sprung up in the windows; that Miss Tox occasionally
practised on the harpsichord, whose garland
of sweet peas was always displayed ostentatiously
, crowned with the Copenhagen and Bird Waltzes in a Music Book of Miss Tox's own copying.
Over and above all this, Miss Tox had long been dressed with uncommon care and elegance
in slight mourning
. But this helped the Major out of his difficulty
; and he determined
within himself that she had come into a small legacy
, and grown proud
It was on the very next day after he had eased his mind
by arriving at this decision
, that the Major, sitting at his breakfast, saw an apparition
in Miss Tox's little drawing-room, that he remained for some time rooted to his chair; then, rushing into the next room, returned with a double-barrelled opera-glass, through
which he surveyed it intently
for some minutes.
'It's a Baby, Sir,' said the Major, shutting up the glass again, 'for fifty thousand pounds!'
The Major couldn't forget
it. He could do nothing but whistle
, and stare
to that extent
, that his eyes, compared with what they now became, had been in former
times quite cavernous
and sunken. Day after day, two, three, four times a week, this Baby reappeared. The Major continued to stare
. To all other intents and purposes he was alone in Princess's Place. Miss Tox had ceased to mind
what he did. He might
have been black as well as blue, and it would have been of no consequence
with which she walked out of Princess's Place to fetch
this baby and its nurse, and walked back with them, and walked home with them again, and continually mounted guard
over them; and the perseverance
with which she nursed it herself, and fed it, and played with it, and froze its young blood with airs upon the harpsichord, was . At about this same period
too, she was seized with a passion
for looking at a certain
bracelet; also with a passion
for looking at the moon, of which she would take long observations from her chamber
window. But whatever she looked at; sun, moon, stars, or bracelet; she looked no more at the Major. And the Major whistled, and stared, and wondered, and dodged about his room, and could make nothing of it.
'You'll quite win my brother Paul's heart
, and that's the truth, my dear,' said Mrs Chick, one day.
Miss Tox turned pale
'He grows more like Paul every day,' said Mrs Chick.
Miss Tox returned no other reply than by taking the little Paul in her arms, and making his cockade perfectly flat and limp
with her caresses.
'His mother, my dear,' said Miss Tox, 'whose acquaintance
I was to have made through
you, does he at all resemble
'Not at all,' returned Louisa
'She was-she was pretty, I believe?' faltered Miss Tox.
'Why, poor dear Fanny was interesting,' said Mrs Chick, after some judicial consideration
. 'Certainly interesting. She had not that air of commanding superiority
which one would somehow expect, almost as a matter
of course, to find in my brother's wife; nor had she that strength
and vigour of mind
which such a man requires.'
Miss Tox heaved a deep sigh
'But she was pleasing:' said Mrs Chick: 'extremely
so. And she meant!-oh, dear, how well poor Fanny meant!'
'You Angel!' cried Miss Tox to little Paul. 'You Picture of your own Papa!'
If the Major could have known how many hopes and ventures, what a multitude
of plans and speculations, rested on that baby head; and could have seen them hovering, in all their heterogeneous confusion
, round the puckered cap of the unconscious
little Paul; he might
have stared indeed. Then would he have recognised, among the crowd
, some few ambitious
motes and beams belonging to Miss Tox; then would he perhaps have understood the nature
of that lady's faltering investment
in the Dombey Firm.
If the child himself could have awakened in the night, and seen, gathered about his cradle-curtains, faint
reflections of the dreams that other people had of him, they might
him, with good reason
. But he slumbered on, alike unconscious
of the kind intentions of Miss Tox, the wonder
of the Major, the early sorrows of his sister, and the stern
visions of his father; and innocent
that any spot of earth
contained a Dombey or a Son.