Unless, indeed, it chanced to be doubted by the object of Mr Sparkler's affections. Miss Fanny was now in the difficult situation of being universally known in that light, and of not having dismissed Mr Sparkler, however capriciously she used him. Hence, she was sufficiently identified with the gentleman to feel compromised by his being more than usually ridiculous; and hence, being by no means deficient in quickness, she sometimes came to his rescue against Gowan, and did him very good service. But, while doing this, she was ashamed of him, undetermined whether to get rid of him or more decidedly encourage him, distracted with apprehensions that she was every day becoming more and more immeshed in her uncertainties, and tortured by misgivings that Mrs Merdle triumphed in her distress. With this tumult in her mind, it is no subject for surprise that Miss Fanny came home one night in a state of agitation from a concert and ball at Mrs Merdle's house, and on her sister affectionately trying to soothe her, pushed that sister away from the toilette-table at which she sat angrily trying to cry, and declared with a heaving bosom that she detested everybody, and she wished she was dead.
'Dear Fanny, what is the matter? Tell me.'
'Matter, you little Mole,' said Fanny. 'If you were not the blindest of the blind, you would have no occasion to ask me. The idea of daring to pretend to assert that you have eyes in your head, and yet ask me what's the matter!'
'Is it Mr Sparkler, dear?' 'Mis-ter Spark-ler!' repeated Fanny, with unbounded scorn, as if he were the last subject in the Solar system that could possibly be near her mind. 'No, Miss Bat, it is not.'
Immediately afterwards, she became remorseful for having called her sister names; declaring with sobs that she knew she made herself hateful, but that everybody drove her to it.
'I don't think you are well to-night, dear Fanny.'
'Stuff and nonsense!' replied the young lady, turning angry again; 'I am as well as you are. Perhaps I might say better, and yet make no boast of it.'
Poor Little Dorrit, not seeing her way to the offering of any soothing words that would escape repudiation, deemed it best to remain quiet. At first, Fanny took this ill, too; protesting to her looking-glass, that of all the trying sisters a girl could have, she did think the most trying sister was a flat sister. That she knew she was at times a wretched temper; that she knew she made herself hateful; that when she made herself hateful, nothing would do her half the good as being told so; but that, being afflicted with a flat sister, she never WAS told so, and the consequence resulted that she was absolutely tempted and goaded into making herself disagreeable. Besides (she angrily told her looking- glass), she didn't want to be forgiven. It was not a right example, that she should be constantly stooping to be forgiven by a younger sister. And this was the Art of it--that she was always being placed in the position of being forgiven, whether she liked it or not. Finally she burst into violent weeping, and, when her sister came and sat close at her side to comfort her, said, 'Amy, you're an Angel!'
'But, I tell you what, my Pet,' said Fanny, when her sister's gentleness had calmed her, 'it now comes to this; that things cannot and shall not go on as they are at present going on, and that there must be an end of this, one way or another.'
As the announcement was vague, though very peremptory, Little Dorrit returned, 'Let us talk about it.'
'Quite so, my dear,' assented Fanny, as she dried her eyes. 'Let us talk about it. I am rational again now, and you shall advise me. Will you advise me, my sweet child?'
Even Amy smiled at this notion, but she said, 'I will, Fanny, as well as I can.'
'Thank you, dearest Amy,' returned Fanny, kissing her. 'You are my anchor.'
Having embraced her Anchor with great affection, Fanny took a bottle of sweet toilette water from the table, and called to her maid for