Charles Dickens

'Mrs General.'

Mr Tinkler, unused to receive such short orders in connection with the fair varnisher, paused. Mr Dorrit, seeing the whole Marshalsea and all its testimonials in the pause, instantly flew at him with, 'How dare you, sir? What do you mean?'

'I beg your pardon, sir,' pleaded Mr Tinkler, 'I was wishful to know--' 'You wished to know nothing, sir,' cried Mr Dorrit, highly flushed.

'Don't tell me you did. Ha. You didn't. You are guilty of mockery, sir.'

'I assure you, sir--' Mr Tinkler began.

'Don't assure me!' said Mr Dorrit. 'I will not be assured by a domestic. You are guilty of mockery. You shall leave me--hum--the whole establishment shall leave me. What are you waiting for?'

'Only for my orders, sir.'

'It's false,' said Mr Dorrit, 'you have your orders. Ha--hum. MY compliments to Mrs General, and I beg the favour of her coming to me, if quite convenient, for a few minutes. Those are your orders.'

In his execution of this mission, Mr Tinkler perhaps expressed that Mr Dorrit was in a raging fume. However that was, Mrs General's skirts were very speedily heard outside, coming along--one might almost have said bouncing along--with unusual expedition. Albeit, they settled down at the door and swept into the room with their customary coolness.

'Mrs General,' said Mr Dorrit, 'take a chair.'

Mrs General, with a graceful curve of acknowledgment, descended into the chair which Mr Dorrit offered.

'Madam,' pursued that gentleman, 'as you have had the kindness to undertake the--hum--formation of my daughters, and as I am persuaded that nothing nearly affecting them can--ha--be indifferent to you--'

'Wholly impossible,' said Mrs General in the calmest of ways.

'--I therefore wish to announce to you, madam, that my daughter now present--'

Mrs General made a slight inclination of her head to Fanny, who made a very low inclination of her head to Mrs General, and came loftily upright again.

'--That my daughter Fanny is--ha--contracted to be married to Mr Sparkler, with whom you are acquainted. Hence, madam, you will be relieved of half your difficult charge--ha--difficult charge.' Mr Dorrit repeated it with his angry eye on Fanny. 'But not, I hope, to the--hum--diminution of any other portion, direct or indirect, of the footing you have at present the kindness to occupy in my family.'

'Mr Dorrit,' returned Mrs General, with her gloved hands resting on one another in exemplary repose, 'is ever considerate, and ever but too appreciative of my friendly services.'

(Miss Fanny coughed, as much as to say, 'You are right.')

'Miss Dorrit has no doubt exercised the soundest discretion of which the circumstances admitted, and I trust will allow me to offer her my sincere congratulations. When free from the trammels of passion,' Mrs General closed her eyes at the word, as if she could not utter it, and see anybody; 'when occurring with the approbation of near relatives; and when cementing the proud structure of a family edifice; these are usually auspicious events.

I trust Miss Dorrit will allow me to offer her my best congratulations.'

Here Mrs General stopped, and added internally, for the setting of her face, 'Papa, potatoes, poultry, Prunes, and prism.'

'Mr Dorrit,' she superadded aloud, 'is ever most obliging; and for the attention, and I will add distinction, of having this confidence imparted to me by himself and Miss Dorrit at this early time, I beg to offer the tribute of my thanks. My thanks, and my congratulations, are equally the meed of Mr Dorrit and of Miss Dorrit.'

'To me,' observed Miss Fanny, 'they are excessively gratifying-- inexpressibly so. The relief of finding that you have no objection to make, Mrs General, quite takes a load off my mind, I am sure. I hardly know what I should have done,' said Fanny, 'if you had interposed any objection, Mrs General.'

Mrs General changed her gloves, as to the right glove being uppermost and the left undermost, with a Prunes and Prism smile.