428 DOMBEY AND SON.
kind of fearful admiration ; now in a giggling,
foolish, effort to move it to a smile ; now with ca-
pricious tears and jealous shakings of her head, as
imagining herself neglected by it ; always with an
attraction towards it, that never fluctuated like her
other ideas, but had constant possession of her.
From Edith she would sometimes look at Florence,
and back again at Edith, in a manner that was wild
enough ; and sometimes she would try to look else-
where, as if to escape from her daughter's face ; but
back to it she seemed forced to come, although it
never sought hers unless sought, or troubled her
with one single glance.
The breakfast concluded, Mrs. Skewton, affecting
to lean girlishly upon the major's arm, but heavily
supported on the other side by Flowers the maid,
and propped up behind by Withers the page, was
conducted to the carriage, which was to take her,
Florence, and Edith to Brighton.
" And is Joseph absolutely banished ? " said the
major, thrusting in his purple face over the steps.
"Damme, ma'am, is Cleopatra so hard-hearted as to
forbid her faithful Antony Bagstock to approach
the presence ? "
" Go along ! " said Cleopatra ; " I can't bear you.
You shall see me when I come back, if you are very
" Tell Joseph he may live in hope, ma'am," said
the major; " or he'll die in despair."
Cleopatra shuddered and leaned back. "Edith,
my dear," she said. " Tell him â€” "
" What ? "
" Such dreadful words," said Cleopatra. " He
uses such dreadful words ! "
DOMBEY AND SON. 429
Edith signed to him to retire, gave the word to go
on, and left the objectionable major to Mr. Dombey.
To whom he returned whistliusr.
" I'll tell you what, sir," said the major, with his
hands behind him, and his legs very wide asunder,
" a fair friend of ours has removed to Queer Street."
" What do you mean, major ? " inquired Mr.
"I mean to say, Dombey," returned the major,
**' that you'll soon be an orphan-in-law,"
Mr. Dombey appeared to relish this waggish de-
scription of himself so very little that the major
wound up with the horse's cough as an expression
"Damme, sir," said the major, "there is no use in
disguising a fact. Joe is blunt, sir. That's his
nature. If you take old Josh at all, you take him
as you find him ; and a de-vilish rusty, old rasper,
of a close-toothed, J. B. file you do find him. Dom-
bey," said the major, " your wife's mother is on the
" I fear," returned Mr. Dombey with much philos-
ophy, "that Mrs. Skewton is shaken."
" Shaken, Dombey ! " said the major. " Smashed ! "
" Change, however," pursued Mr. Dombey, " and
attention may do much yet."
"Don't believe it, sir," returned the major.
" Damme, sir, she never wrapped up enough. If a
man don't wrap up," said the major, taking in
another button of his buff waistcoat, " he has
nothing to fall back upon. But some people will
die. They tvill do it. Damme, they will. They're
obstinate. I tell you what, Dombey, it may not be
ornamental ; it may not be refined ; it may be rough
430 DOMBEY AXD SON.
and tough ; but a little of the genuine old English
Bagstock stamina, sir, would do all the good in the
world to the human breed."
After imparting this precious piece of informa-
tion, the major, who was certainly true blue, what-
ever other endowments he may have possessed or
wanted, coming within the "genuine old English"
classification, which has never been exactly ascer-
tained, took his lobster eyes and his apoplexy to
the club, and choked there all day.
Cleopatra, at one time fretful, at another self-
complacent, sometimes awake, sometimes asleep, at
all times juvenile, reached Brighton the same night,
fell to pieces as usual, and was put away in bed ;
where a gloomy fancy might have pictured a more
potent skeleton than the maid who should have
been one, watching at the rose-colored curtains,
which were carried down to shed their bloom upon
It was settled in high council of medical authority
that she should take a carriage airing every day, and
that it was important she should get out every day
and walk if she could. Edith was ready to attend
her â€” always ready to attend her, with the same
mechanical attention and immovable beauty â€” and
they drove out alone ; for Edith had an uneasiness
in the presence of Florence, now that her mother
was worse, and told Florence, with a kiss, that she
would rather they two went alone.
Mrs. Skewton, on one particular day, was in the
irresolute, exacting, jealous temper that had devel-
oped itself on her recovery from her first attack.
After sitting silent in the carriage watching Edith
for some time, she took her hand and kissed it pas-
DOMBEY AND SON. 431
sionately. The hand was neither given nor with-
drawn, but simply yielded to her raising of it, and
being released, dropped down again, almost as if it
were insensible. At this she began to whimper and
moan, and say what a mother she had been, and how
she was forgotten! This she continued to do at
capricious intervals, even when they had alighted ;
when she herself was halting along with the joint
support of Withers and a stick, and Edith was walk-
ing by her side, and the carriage slowly following at
a little distance.
It was a bleak, lowering, windy day, and they
were out upon the Downs, with nothing but a bare
sweep of land between them and the sky. The
mother, with a querulous satisfaction in the mo-
notony of her complaint, was still repeating it in
a low voice from time to time, and the proud form
of her daughter moved beside her slowly, when there
came advancing over a dark ridge before them two
other figures, which in the distance were so like
an exaggerated imitation of their own, that Edith
Almost as she stopped, the two figures stopped ;
and that one which to Edith's thinking was like a
distorted shadow of her mother, spoke to the other
earnestly, and with a pointing hand towards them.
That one seemed inclined to turn back, but the other,
in which Edith recognized enough that was like her-
self to strike her with an unusual feeling, not quite
free from fear, came on ; and then they came on
The greater part of this observation she made
while walking towards them, for her stoppage had
been momentary. Nearer observation showed her
432 DOMBEY AND SON.
that they were poorly dressed, as wanderers about
the country ; that the yoiinger woman carried knit-
ted work or some such goods for sale ; and that the
old one toiled on empty-handed.
And yet, however far removed she was in dress,
in dignity, in beauty, Edith could not but compare
the younger woman with herself still. It may have
been that she saw upon her face some traces which
she knew were lingering in her own soul, if not yet
written on that index ; but, as the woman came on,
returning her gaze, fixing her shining eyes upon her,
undoubtedly presenting something of her own air
and stature, and appearing to reciprocate her own
thoughts, she felt a chill creep over her, as if the
day were darkening, and the wind were colder.
They had now come up. The old woman holding
out her hand importunately stopped to beg of Mrs.
Skewton. The younger one stopped too, and she
and Edith looked in one another's eyes.
" What is it that you have to sell ? " said
" Only this," returned the woman, holding out her
wares without looking at them. " I sold myself long
"My lady, don't believe her," croaked the old
woman to Mrs. Skewton ; " don't believe what she
says. She loves to talk like that. She's my hand-
some and undutiful daughter. She gives me noth-
ing but reproaches, my lady, for all I have done for
her. Look at her now, my lady, how she turns
upon her poor old mother with her looks."
As Mrs. Skewton drew her purse out with a trem-
bling hand, and eagerly fumbled for some money,
which the other old woman greedily watched for â€”
DOMBEY AND SON. 433
their heads all but touching in their hurry and de-
crepitude â€” Edith interposed, â€”
" I have seen you," addressing the old woman,
" Yes, my lady," with a courtesy. " Down in
Warwickshire. The morning among the trees.
When you wouldn't give me nothing. But the
gentleman, he give me something ! Oh, bless him,
bless him ! " mumbled the old woman, holding up
her skinny hand, and grinning frightfully at her
" It's of no use attempting to stay me, Edith ! "
said Mrs. Skewton, angrily anticipating an objection
from her. "You know nothing about it. I won't
be dissuaded. I am sure this is an excellent woman,
and a good mother."
''Yes, my lady, yes," chattered the old woman,
holding out her avaricious hand. "Thankee, my
lady. Lord bless you, my lady. Sixpence more,
my pretty lady, as a good mother yourself."
" And treated undutif ully enough, too, my good
old creature, sometimes, I assure you," said Mrs.
Skewton, whimpering. " There ! shake hands with
me. You're a very good old creature â€” full of
what's-his-name â€” and all that. You're all affec-
tion and et cetera, ain't you ? "
" Oh, yes, my lady ! "
" Yes, I'm sure you are ; and so's that gentle-
manly creature Grangeby. I must really shake
hands with you again. And now you can go, you
know ; and I hope," addressing the daughter, " that
you'll show more gratitude, and natural what's-its-
name, and all the rest of it â€” but I never did re-
member names â€” for there never was a better
VOL. II. -28.
434 DOMBEY AND SON.
mother than the good old creature's been to you.
Come, Edith ! "
As the ruin of Cleopatra trotted off whimpering,
and wiping its eyes with a gingerly remembrance of
rouge in their neighborhood, the old woman hobbled
another way, mumbling and counting her money.
Not one word more, nor one other gesture, had been
exchanged between Edith and the younger woman,
but neither had removed her eyes from the other
for a moment. They had remained confronted until
now, when Edith, as awakening from a dream, passed
'* You're a handsome woman," muttered her shad-
ow, looking after her ; '' but good looks won't save
us. And you're a proud woman ; but pride won't
save us. We had need to know each other when
we meet again ! "
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