The attendant gondola, having skimmed forward again, with some swift trace of an eye in the
window, Fanny laughed coquettishly and said, 'Did you ever see such a fool, my love?'
'Do you think he means to follow you all the way?' asked Little Dorrit.
'My precious child,' returned Fanny, 'I can't possibly answer for what an idiot in a state of desperation may do, but I should think it highly probable. It's not such an enormous distance. All Venice would scarcely be that, I imagine, if he's dying for a glimpse of me.'
'And is he?' asked Little Dorrit in perfect simplicity.
'Well, my love, that really is an awkward question for me to answer,' said her sister. 'I believe he is. You had better ask Edward. He tells Edward he is, I believe. I understand he makes a perfect spectacle of himself at the Casino, and that sort of places, by going on about me. But you had better ask Edward if you want to know.'
'I wonder he doesn't call,' said Little Dorrit after thinking a moment.
'My dear Amy, your wonder will soon cease, if I am rightly informed. I should not be at all surprised if he called to-day. The creature has only been waiting to get his courage up, I suspect.'
'Will you see him?'
'Indeed, my darling,' said Fanny, 'that's just as it may happen. Here he is again. Look at him. O, you simpleton!'
Mr Sparkler had, undeniably, a weak appearance; with his eye in the window like a knot in the glass, and no reason on earth for stopping his bark suddenly, except the real reason.
'When you asked me if I will see him, my dear,' said Fanny, almost as well composed in the graceful indifference of her attitude as Mrs Merdle herself, 'what do you mean?' 'I mean,' said Little Dorrit--'I think I rather mean what do you mean, dear Fanny?'
Fanny laughed again, in a manner at once condescending, arch, and affable; and said, putting her arm round her sister in a playfully affectionate way:
'Now tell me, my little pet. When we saw that woman at Martigny, how did you think she carried it off? Did you see what she decided on in a moment?'
'Then I'll tell you, Amy. She settled with herself, now I'll never refer to that meeting under such different circumstances, and I'll never pretend to have any idea that these are the same girls. That's her way out of a difficulty. What did I tell you when we came away from Harley Street that time? She is as insolent and false as any woman in the world. But in the first capacity, my love, she may find people who can match her.'
A significant turn of the Spanish fan towards Fanny's bosom, indicated with great expression where one of these people was to be found.
'Not only that,' pursued Fanny, 'but she gives the same charge to Young Sparkler; and doesn't let him come after me until she has got it thoroughly into his most ridiculous of all ridiculous noddles (for one really can't call it a head), that he is to pretend to have been first struck with me in that Inn Yard.'
'Why?' asked Little Dorrit.
'Why? Good gracious, my love!' (again very much in the tone of You stupid little creature) 'how can you ask? Don't you see that I may have become a rather desirable match for a noddle? And don't you see that she puts the deception upon us, and makes a pretence, while she shifts it from her own shoulders (very good shoulders they are too, I must say),' observed Miss Fanny, glancing complacently at herself, 'of considering our feelings?'
'But we can always go back to the plain truth.'
'Yes, but if you please we won't,' retorted Fanny. 'No; I am not going to have that done, Amy. The pretext is none of mine; it's hers, and she shall have enough of it.'
In the triumphant exaltation of her feelings, Miss Fanny, using her Spanish fan with one hand, squeezed her sister's waist with the other, as if she were crushing Mrs Merdle.
'No,' repeated Fanny. 'She shall find me go her way. She took it, and I'll follow it. And, with the blessing of fate and fortune, I'll go on improving that woman's acquaintance until I have given her maid, before her eyes, things from my dressmaker's ten times as handsome and expensive as she once gave me from hers!'
Little Dorrit was silent; sensible that she was not to be heard on any question affecting the family dignity, and unwilling to lose to no purpose her sister's newly and unexpectedly restored favour. She could not concur, but she was silent.