She took her sister's hands in hers, and clapped all four hands above her head as she looked in her sister's face laughing:
'And the dancer, Amy, that she has quite forgotten--the dancer who bore no sort of resemblance to me, and of whom I never remind her, oh dear no!--should dance through her life, and dance in her way, to such a tune as would disturb her insolent placidity a little. just a little, my dear Amy, just a little!'
Meeting an earnest and imploring look in Amy's face, she brought the four hands down, and laid only one on Amy's lips.
'Now, don't argue with me, child,' she said in a sterner way, 'because it is of no use. I understand these subjects much better than you do. I have not nearly made up my mind, but it may be. Now we have talked this over comfortably, and may go to bed. You best and dearest little mouse, Good night!' With those words Fanny weighed her Anchor, and--having taken so much advice--left off being advised for that occasion.
Thenceforward, Amy observed Mr Sparkler's treatment by his enslaver, with new reasons for attaching importance to all that passed between them. There were times when Fanny appeared quite unable to endure his mental feebleness, and when she became so sharply impatient of it that she would all but dismiss him for good. There were other times when she got on much better with him; when he amused her, and when her sense of superiority seemed to counterbalance that opposite side of the scale. If Mr Sparkler had been other than the faithfullest and most submissive of swains, he was sufficiently hard pressed to have fled from the scene of his trials, and have set at least the whole distance from Rome to London between himself and his enchantress. But he had no greater will of his own than a boat has when it is towed by a steam-ship; and he followed his cruel mistress through rough and smooth, on equally strong compulsion.
Mrs Merdle, during these passages, said little to Fanny, but said more about her. She was, as it were, forced to look at her through her eye-glass, and in general conversation to allow commendations of her beauty to be wrung from her by its irresistible demands. The defiant character it assumed when Fanny heard these extollings (as it generally happened that she did), was not expressive of concessions to the impartial bosom; but the utmost revenge the bosom took was, to say audibly, 'A spoilt beauty--but with that face and shape, who could wonder?'
It might have been about a month or six weeks after the night of the new advice, when Little Dorrit began to think she detected some new understanding between Mr Sparkler and Fanny. Mr Sparkler, as if in attendance to some compact, scarcely ever spoke without first looking towards Fanny for leave. That young lady was too discreet ever to look back again; but, if Mr Sparkler had permission to speak, she remained silent; if he had not, she herself spoke. Moreover, it became plain whenever Henry Gowan attempted to perform the friendly office of drawing him out, that he was not to be drawn. And not only that, but Fanny would presently, without any pointed application in the world, chance to say something with such a sting in it that Gowan would draw back as if he had put his hand into a bee-hive.
There was yet another circumstance which went a long way to confirm Little Dorrit in her fears, though it was not a great circumstance in itself. Mr Sparkler's demeanour towards herself changed. It became fraternal. Sometimes, when she was in the outer circle of assemblies--at their own residence, at Mrs Merdle's, or elsewhere-- she would find herself stealthily supported round the waist by Mr Sparkler's arm. Mr Sparkler never offered the slightest explanation of this attention; but merely smiled with an air of blundering, contented, good-natured proprietorship, which, in so heavy a gentleman, was ominously expressive.
Little Dorrit was at home one day, thinking about Fanny with a heavy heart. They had a room at one end of their drawing-room suite, nearly all irregular bay-window, projecting over the street, and commanding all the picturesque life and variety of the Corso, both up and down.