'Then Gowan is the name of a puppy, that's all I have got to say! If it was worth my while, I'd pull his nose. But it isn't worth my while--fortunately for him. How's his wife, Amy?
I suppose you know. You generally know things of that sort.'
'She is better, Edward. But they are not going to-day.'
'Oh! They are not going to-day! Fortunately for that fellow too,' said Tip, 'or he and I might have come into collision.'
'It is thought better here that she should lie quiet to-day, and not be fatigued and shaken by the ride down until to-morrow.'
'With all my heart. But you talk as if you had been nursing her. You haven't been relapsing into (Mrs General is not here) into old habits, have you, Amy?'
He asked her the question with a sly glance of observation at Miss Fanny, and at his father too.
'I have only been in to ask her if I could do anything for her, Tip,' said Little Dorrit.
'You needn't call me Tip, Amy child,' returned that young gentleman with a frown; 'because that's an old habit, and one you may as well lay aside.'
'I didn't mean to say so, Edward dear. I forgot. It was so natural once, that it seemed at the moment the right word.'
'Oh yes!' Miss Fanny struck in. 'Natural, and right word, and once, and all the rest of it! Nonsense, you little thing! I know perfectly well why you have been taking such an interest in this Mrs Gowan. You can't blind me.'
'I will not try to, Fanny. Don't be angry.'
'Oh! angry!' returned that young lady with a flounce. 'I have no patience' (which indeed was the truth). 'Pray, Fanny,' said Mr Dorrit, raising his eyebrows, 'what do you mean? Explain yourself.'
'Oh! Never mind, Pa,' replied Miss Fanny, 'it's no great matter. Amy will understand me. She knew, or knew of, this Mrs Gowan before yesterday, and she may as well admit that she did.'
'My child,' said Mr Dorrit, turning to his younger daughter, 'has your sister--any--ha--authority for this curious statement?'
'However meek we are,' Miss Fanny struck in before she could answer, 'we don't go creeping into people's rooms on the tops of cold mountains, and sitting perishing in the frost with people, unless we know something about them beforehand. It's not very hard to divine whose friend Mrs Gowan is.'
'Whose friend?' inquired her father.
'Pa, I am sorry to say,' returned Miss Fanny, who had by this time succeeded in goading herself into a state of much ill-usage and grievance, which she was often at great pains to do: 'that I believe her to be a friend of that very objectionable and unpleasant person, who, with a total absence of all delicacy, which our experience might have led us to expect from him, insulted us and outraged our feelings in so public and wilful a manner on an occasion to which it is understood among us that we will not more pointedly allude.'
'Amy, my child,' said Mr Dorrit, tempering a bland severity with a dignified affection, 'is this the case?'
Little Dorrit mildly answered, yes it was.
'Yes it is!' cried Miss Fanny. 'Of course! I said so! And now, Pa, I do declare once for all'--this young lady was in the habit of declaring the same thing once for all every day of her life, and even several times in a day--'that this is shameful! I do declare once for all that it ought to be put a stop to. Is it not enough that we have gone through what is only known to ourselves, but are we to have it thrown in our faces, perseveringly and systematically, by the very person who should spare our feelings most? Are we to be exposed to this unnatural conduct every moment of our lives? Are we never to be permitted to forget? I say again, it is absolutely infamous!'
'Well, Amy,' observed her brother, shaking his head, 'you know I stand by you whenever I can, and on most occasions. But I must say, that, upon my soul, I do consider it rather an unaccountable mode of showing your sisterly affection, that you should back up a man who treated me in the most ungentlemanly way in which one man can treat another.