'Really? Bless me, how much some people know of some subjects! They say every one has a subject, and I certainly seem to have hit upon yours, Amy. There, you little thing, I was only in fun,' dabbing her sister's forehead; 'but don't you be a silly puss, and don't you think flightily and eloquently about degenerate impossibilities. There! Now, I'll go back to myself.'
'Dear Fanny, let me say first, that I would far rather we worked for a scanty living again than I would see you rich and married to Mr Sparkler.'
'Let you say, my dear?' retorted Fanny. 'Why, of course, I will let you say anything. There is no constraint upon you, I hope. We are together to talk it over. And as to marrying Mr Sparkler, I have not the slightest intention of doing so to-night, my dear, or to-morrow morning either.'
'But at some time?'
'At no time, for anything I know at present,' answered Fanny, with indifference. Then, suddenly changing her indifference into a burning restlessness, she added, 'You talk about the clever men, you little thing! It's all very fine and easy to talk about the clever men; but where are they? I don't see them anywhere near me!'
'My dear Fanny, so short a time--'
'Short time or long time,' interrupted Fanny. 'I am impatient of our situation. I don't like our situation, and very little would induce me to change it. Other girls, differently reared and differently circumstanced altogether, might wonder at what I say or may do. Let them. They are driven by their lives and characters; I am driven by mine.'
'Fanny, my dear Fanny, you know that you have qualities to make you the wife of one very superior to Mr Sparkler.'
'Amy, my dear Amy,' retorted Fanny, parodying her words, 'I know that I wish to have a more defined and distinct position, in which I can assert myself with greater effect against that insolent woman.'
'Would you therefore--forgive my asking, Fanny--therefore marry her son?'
'Why, perhaps,' said Fanny, with a triumphant smile. 'There may be many less promising ways of arriving at an end than that, MY dear. That piece of insolence may think, now, that it would be a great success to get her son off upon me, and shelve me. But, perhaps, she little thinks how I would retort upon her if I married her son.
I would oppose her in everything, and compete with her. I would make it the business of my life.'
Fanny set down the bottle when she came to this, and walked about the room; always stopping and standing still while she spoke.
'One thing I could certainly do, my child: I could make her older. And I would!'
This was followed by another walk.
'I would talk of her as an old woman. I would pretend to know --if I didn't, but I should from her son--all about her age. And she should hear me say, Amy: affectionately, quite dutifully and affectionately: how well she looked, considering her time of life. I could make her seem older at once, by being myself so much younger. I may not be as handsome as she is; I am not a fair judge of that question, I suppose; but I know I am handsome enough to be a thorn in her side. And I would be!'
'My dear sister, would you condemn yourself to an unhappy life for this?'
'It wouldn't be an unhappy life, Amy. It would be the life I am fitted for. Whether by disposition, or whether by circumstances, is no matter; I am better fitted for such a life than for almost any other.'
There was something of a desolate tone in those words; but, with a short proud laugh she took another walk, and after passing a great looking-glass came to another stop.
'Figure! Figure, Amy! Well. The woman has a good figure. I will give her her due, and not deny it. But is it so far beyond all others that it is altogether unapproachable? Upon my word, I am not so sure of it. Give some much younger woman the latitude as to dress that she has, being married; and we would see about that, my dear!'
Something in the thought that was agreeable and flattering, brought her back to her seat in a gayer temper.