New FacesTHE Major, more blue-faced and staring--more over-ripe, as it were, than ever--and giving vent, every now and then, to one of the horse's coughs, not so much of necessity as in a spontaneous explosion of importance, walked arm-in-arm with Mr. Dombey up the sunny side of the way, with his cheeks swelling over his tight stock, his legs majestically wide apart, and his great head wagging from side to side, as if he were remonstrating within himself for being such a captivating object. They had not walked many yards, before the Major encountered somebody else he knew, nor many yards farther before the Major encountered somebody else he knew, but he merely shook his fingers at them as he passed, and led Mr. Dombey on: pointing out the localities as they went, and enlivening the walk with any current scandal suggested by them.
In this manner the Major and Mr. Dombey were walking arm-in-arm, much to their own satisfaction, when they beheld advancing towards them, a wheeled chair, in which a lady was seated, indolently steering her carriage by a kind of rudder in front, while it was propelled by some unseen power in the rear. Although the lady was not young, she was very blooming in the face--quite rosy--and her dress and attitude were perfectly juvenile. Walking by the side of the chair, and carrying her gossamer parasol with a proud and weary air, as if so great an effort must be soon abandoned and the parasol dropped, sauntered a much younger lady, very handsome, very haughty, very wilful, who tossed her head and drooped her eyelids, as though, if there were anything in all the world worth looking into, save a mirror, it certainly was not the earth or sky.
`Why, what the devil have we here, Sir!' cried the Major, stopping as this little cavalcade drew near.
`My dearest Edith!' drawled the lady in the chair, `Major Bagstock!'
The Major no sooner heard the voice, than he relinquished Mr. Dombey's arm, darted forward, took the hand of the lady in the chair and pressed it to his lips. With no less gallantry, the Major folded both his gloves upon his heart, and bowed low to the other lady. And now, the chair having stopped, the motive power became visible in the shape of a flushed page pushing behind, who seemed to have in part outgrown and in part out-pushed his strength, for when he stood upright he was tall, and wan, and thin, and his plight appeared the more forlorn from his having injured the shape of his hat, by butting at the carriage with his head to urge it forward, as is sometimes done by elephants in Oriental countries.
`Joe Bagstock,' said the Major to both ladies, `is a proud and happy man for the rest of his life.'
`You false creature!' said the old lady in the chair, insipidly. `Where do you come from? I can't bear you.'
`Then suffer old Joe to present a friend, Ma'am,' said the Major, promptly, `as a reason for being tolerated. Mr. Dombey, Mrs. Skewton.' The lady in the chair was gracious. `Mr. Dombey, Mrs. Granger.' The lady with the parasol was faintly conscious of Mr. Dombey's taking off his hat, and bowing low. `I am delighted, Sir,' said the Major, `to have this opportunity.'
The Major seemed in earnest, for he looked at all the three, and leered in his ugliest manner.
`Mrs. Skewton, Dombey,' said the Major, `makes havoc in the heart of old Josh.'
Mr. Dombey signified that he didn't wonder at it.
`You perfidious goblin,' said the lady in the chair, `have done! How long have you been here, bad man?'
`One day,' replied the Major.
`And can you be a day, or even a minute,' returned the lady, slightly settling her false curls and false eyebrows with her fan, and showing her false teeth, set off by her false complexion, `in the garden of what's-its- name--'
`Eden, I suppose Mama,' interrupted the younger lady, scornfully.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|