Charles Dickens

a fine handkerchief. She then dismissed that attendant for the night, and went on to be advised; dabbing her eyes and forehead from time to time to cool them.

'My love,' Fanny began, 'our characters and points of view are sufficiently different (kiss me again, my darling), to make it very probable that I shall surprise you by what I am going to say. What I am going to say, my dear, is, that notwithstanding our property, we labour, socially speaking, under disadvantages. You don't quite understand what I mean, Amy?'

'I have no doubt I shall,' said Amy, mildly, 'after a few words more.'

'Well, my dear, what I mean is, that we are, after all, newcomers into fashionable life.'

'I am sure, Fanny,' Little Dorrit interposed in her zealous admiration, 'no one need find that out in you.'

'Well, my dear child, perhaps not,' said Fanny, 'though it's most kind and most affectionate in you, you precious girl, to say so.' Here she dabbed her sister's forehead, and blew upon it a little. 'But you are,' resumed Fanny, 'as is well known, the dearest little thing that ever was! To resume, my child. Pa is extremely gentlemanly and extremely well informed, but he is, in some trifling respects, a little different from other gentlemen of his fortune: partly on account of what he has gone through, poor dear: partly, I fancy, on account of its often running in his mind that other people are thinking about that, while he is talking to them. Uncle, my love, is altogether unpresentable. Though a dear creature to whom I am tenderly attached, he is, socially speaking, shocking. Edward is frightfully expensive and dissipated. I don't mean that there is anything ungenteel in that itself--far from it-- but I do mean that he doesn't do it well, and that he doesn't, if I may so express myself, get the money's-worth in the sort of dissipated reputation that attaches to him.'

'Poor Edward!' sighed Little Dorrit, with the whole family history in the sigh.

'Yes. And poor you and me, too,' returned Fanny, rather sharply.

'Very true! Then, my dear, we have no mother, and we have a Mrs General. And I tell you again, darling, that Mrs General, if I may reverse a common proverb and adapt it to her, is a cat in gloves who WILL catch mice. That woman, I am quite sure and confident, will be our mother-in-law.'

'I can hardly think, Fanny-' Fanny stopped her.

'Now, don't argue with me about it, Amy,' said she, 'because I know better.' Feeling that she had been sharp again, she dabbed her sister's forehead again, and blew upon it again. 'To resume once more, my dear. It then becomes a question with me (I am proud and spirited, Amy, as you very well know: too much so, I dare say) whether I shall make up my mind to take it upon myself to carry the family through.' 'How?' asked her sister, anxiously.

'I will not,' said Fanny, without answering the question, 'submit to be mother-in-lawed by Mrs General; and I will not submit to be, in any respect whatever, either patronised or tormented by Mrs Merdle.'

Little Dorrit laid her hand upon the hand that held the bottle of sweet water, with a still more anxious look. Fanny, quite punishing her own forehead with the vehement dabs she now began to give it, fitfully went on.

'That he has somehow or other, and how is of no consequence, attained a very good position, no one can deny. That it is a very good connection, no one can deny. And as to the question of clever or not clever, I doubt very much whether a clever husband would be suitable to me. I cannot submit. I should not be able to defer to him enough.'

'O, my dear Fanny!' expostulated Little Dorrit, upon whom a kind of terror had been stealing as she perceived what her sister meant. 'If you loved any one, all this feeling would change. If you loved any one, you would no more be yourself, but you would quite lose and forget yourself in your devotion to him. If you loved him, Fanny--' Fanny had stopped the dabbing hand, and was looking at her fixedly.

'O, indeed!' cried Fanny.