all made before she came back, and which must be set about immediately, as there was no saying how soon she might come back; for she had a great many engagements, and all sorts of people to call upon. Withers received these directions with becoming deference, and gave his guarantee for their execution; but when he withdrew a pace or two behind her, it appeared as if he couldn’t help looking strangely at the Major, who couldn’t help looking strangely at Mr. Dombey, who couldn’t help looking strangely at Cleopatra, who couldn’t help nodding her bonnet over one eye, and rattling her knife and fork upon her plate in using them, as if she were playing castanets.
Edith alone never lifted her eyes to any face at the table, and never seemed dismayed by anything her mother said or did. She listened to her disjointed talk, or at least, turned her head towards her when addressed; replied in a few low words when necessary; and sometimes stopped her when she was rambling, or brought her thoughts back with a monosyllable, to the point from which they had strayed. The mother, however unsteady in other things, was constant in this—that she was always observant of her. She would look at the beautiful face, in its marble stillness and severity, now with a kind of fearful admiration; now in a giggling foolish effort to move it to a smile; now with capricious 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 elsewhere, 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 good."
"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—"
"Such dreadful words," said Cleopatra. "He uses such dreadful words!"
Edith signed to him to retire, gave the word to go on, and left the objectionable Major to Mr. Dombey. To whom he returned, whistling.
"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. Dombey.
"I mean to say, Dombey," returned the Major, "that you ’ll soon be an orphan-in-law."