More Warnings than One

FLORENCE, Edith, and Mrs. Skewton were together next day, and the carriage was waiting at the door to take them out. For Cleopatra had her galley again now, and Withers, no longer the wan, stood upright in a pigeon-breasted jacket and military trousers, behind her wheel-less chair at dinner-time, and butted no more. The hair of Withers was radiant with pomatum, in these days of down, and he wore kid gloves and smelt of the water of Cologne.

They were assembled in Cleopatra's room. The Serpent of old Nile (not to mention her disrespectfully) was reposing on her sofa, sipping her morning chocolate at three o'clock in the afternoon, and Flowers the Maid was fastening on her youthful cuffs and frills, and performing a kind of private coronation ceremony on her, with a peach-coloured velvet bonnet; the artificial roses in which nodded to uncommon advantage, as the palsy trifled with them, like a breeze.

`I think I am a little nervous this morning, Flowers,' said Mrs. Skewton. `My hand quite shakes.'

`You were the life of the party last night, Ma'am, you know,' returned Flowers, `and you suffer for it, to- day, you see.'

Edith, who had beckoned Florence to the window, and was looking out, with her back turned on the toilet of her esteemed mother, suddenly withdrew from it, as if it had lightened.

`My darling child,' cried Cleopatra, languidly, `you are not nervous? Don't tell me, my dear Edith, that you, so enviably self-possessed, are beginning to be a martyr too, like your unfortunately constituted mother! Withers, some one at the door.'

`Card, Ma'am,' said Withers, taking it towards Mrs. Dombey.

`I am going out,' she said without looking at it.

`My dear love,' drawled Mrs. Skewton, `how very odd to send that message without seeing the name! Bring it here, Withers. Dear me, my love; Mr. Carker, too! That very sensible person!'

`I am going out,' repeated Edith, in so imperious a tone that Withers, going to the door, imperiously informed the servant who was waiting, `Mrs. Dombey is going out. Get along with you,' and shut it on him.

But the servant came back after a short absence, and whispered to Withers again, who once more, and not very willingly, presented himself before Mrs. Dombey.

`If you please, Ma'am, Mr. Carker sends his respectful compliments, and begs you would spare him one minute, if you could--for business, Ma'am, if you please.'

`Really, my love,' said Mrs. Skewton in her mildest manner; for her daughter's face was threatening; `if you would allow me to offer a word, I should recommend--'

`Show him this way,' said Edith. As Withers disappeared to execute the command, she added, frowning on her mother, `As he comes at your recommendation, let him come to your room.'

`May I--shall I go away?' asked Florence, hurriedly.

Edith nodded yes, but on her way to the door Florence met the visitor coming in. With the same disagreeable mixture of familiarity and forbearance with which he had first addressed her, he addressed her now in his softest manner--hoped she was quite well--needed not to ask, with such looks to anticipate the answer--had scarcely had the honour to know her, last night, she was so greatly changed--and held the door open for her to pass out; with a secret sense of power in her shrinking from him, that all the deference and politeness of his manner could not quite conceal.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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