Page:Dombey and Son.djvu/334

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had not his match in all the world—"in short, a de-vilish intelligent and able fellow," as he often afterwards declared—was not going to let him off with a little slyness personal to Mr. Dombey. Therefore, on the removal of the cloth, the Major developed himself as a choice spirit in the broader and more comprehensive range of narrating regimental stories, and cracking regimental jokes, which he did with such prodigal exuberance, that Carker was (or feigned to be) quite exhausted with laughter and admiration: while Mr. Dombey looked on over his starched cravat, like the Major’s proprietor, or like a stately showman who was glad to see his bear dancing well.

When the Major was too hoarse with meat and drink, and the display of his social powers, to render himself intelligible any longer, they adjourned to coffee. After which, the Major inquired of Mr. Carker the Manager, with little apparent hope of an answer in the affirmative, if he played picquet.

"Yes, I play picquet a little," said Mr. Carker.

"Backgammon, perhaps?" observed the Major, hesitating.

"Yes, I play backgammon a little too," replied the man of teeth.

"Carker plays at all games, I believe," said Mr. Dombey, laying himself on a sofa like a man of wood, without a hinge or a joint in him; "and plays them well."

In sooth, he played the two in question, to such perfection, that the Major was astonished, and asked him, at random, if he played chess.

"Yes, I play chess a little," answered Carker. "I have sometimes played, and won a game—it’s a mere trick—without seeing the board."

"By Gad, Sir!" said the Major, staring, "you are a contrast to Dombey, who plays nothing."

"Oh! He!" returned the Manager. "He has never had occasion to acquire such little arts. To men like me, they are sometimes useful. As at present, Major Bagstock, when they enable me to take a hand with you."

It might be only the false mouth, so smooth and wide; and yet there seemed to lurk beneath the humility and subserviency of this short speech, a something like a snarl; and, for a moment, one might have thought that the white teeth were prone to bite the hand they fawned upon. But the Major thought nothing about it; and Mr. Dombey lay meditating with his eyes half shut, during the whole of the play, which lasted until bed-time.

By that time, Mr. Carker, though the winner, had mounted high into the Major’s good opinion, insomuch that when he left the Major at his own room before going to bed, the Major as a special attention, sent the Native—who always rested on a mattress spread upon the ground at his master’s door—along the gallery, to light him to his room in state.

There was a faint blur on the surface of the mirror in Mr. Carker’s chamber, and its reflection was, perhaps, a false one. But it showed, that night, the image of a man, who saw, in his fancy, a crowd of people slumbering on the ground at his feet, like the poor Native at his master’s door: who picked his way among them: looking down, maliciously enough: but trod upon no upturned face—as yet.