And who,' he added convincingly, must be a low- minded thief, you know, or he never could have conducted himself as he did.'
'And see,' said Miss Fanny, 'see what is involved in this! Can we ever hope to be respected by our servants? Never. Here are our two women, and Pa's valet, and a footman, and a courier, and all sorts of dependents, and yet in the midst of these, we are to have one of ourselves rushing about with tumblers of cold water, like a menial! Why, a policeman,' said Miss Fanny, 'if a beggar had a fit in the street, could but go plunging about with tumblers, as this very Amy did in this very room before our very eyes last night!'
'I don't so much mind that, once in a way,' remarked Mr Edward; 'but your Clennam, as he thinks proper to call himself, is another thing.' 'He is part of the same thing,' returned Miss Fanny, 'and of a piece with all the rest. He obtruded himself upon us in the first instance. We never wanted him. I always showed him, for one, that I could have dispensed with his company with the greatest pleasure.
He then commits that gross outrage upon our feelings, which he never could or would have committed but for the delight he took in exposing us; and then we are to be demeaned for the service of his friends! Why, I don't wonder at this Mr Gowan's conduct towards you. What else was to be expected when he was enjoying our past misfortunes--gloating over them at the moment!' 'Father--Edward--no indeed!' pleaded Little Dorrit. 'Neither Mr nor Mrs Gowan had ever heard our name. They were, and they are, quite ignorant of our history.'
'So much the worse,' retorted Fanny, determined not to admit anything in extenuation, 'for then you have no excuse. If they had known about us, you might have felt yourself called upon to conciliate them. That would have been a weak and ridiculous mistake, but I can respect a mistake, whereas I can't respect a wilful and deliberate abasing of those who should be nearest and dearest to us. No. I can't respect that. I can do nothing but denounce that.'
'I never offend you wilfully, Fanny,' said Little Dorrit, 'though you are so hard with me.'
'Then you should be more careful, Amy,' returned her sister. 'If you do such things by accident, you should be more careful. If I happened to have been born in a peculiar place, and under peculiar circumstances that blunted my knowledge of propriety, I fancy I should think myself bound to consider at every step, "Am I going, ignorantly, to compromise any near and dear relations?" That is what I fancy I should do, if it was my case.'
Mr Dorrit now interposed, at once to stop these painful subjects by his authority, and to point their moral by his wisdom.
'My dear,' said he to his younger daughter, 'I beg you to--ha--to say no more. Your sister Fanny expresses herself strongly, but not without considerable reason. You have now a--hum--a great position to support. That great position is not occupied by yourself alone, but by--ha--by me, and--ha hum--by us. Us. Now, it is incumbent upon all people in an exalted position, but it is particularly so on this family, for reasons which I--ha--will not dwell upon, to make themselves respected. To be vigilant in making themselves respected. Dependants, to respect us, must be--ha--kept at a distance and--hum--kept down. Down. Therefore, your not exposing yourself to the remarks of our attendants by appearing to have at any time dispensed with their services and performed them for yourself, is--ha--highly important.'
'Why, who can doubt it?' cried Miss Fanny. 'It's the essence of everything.' 'Fanny,' returned her father, grandiloquently, 'give me leave, my dear. We then come to--ha--to Mr Clennam. I am free to say that I do not, Amy, share your sister's sentiments--that is to say altogether--hum--altogether--in reference to Mr Clennam. I am content to regard that individual in the light of--ha--generally-- a well-behaved person. Hum. A well-behaved person. Nor will I inquire whether Mr Clennam did, at any time, obtrude himself on-- ha--my society.