Its solution, after some little mystery and secrecy, Miss Fanny herself announced to her sister.
'Now, my child,' said she, seeking her out one day, 'I am going to tell you something. It is only this moment broached; and naturally I hurry to you the moment it IS broached.'
'Your marriage, Fanny?'
'My precious child,' said Fanny, 'don't anticipate me. Let me impart my confidence to you, you flurried little thing, in my own way. As to your guess, if I answered it literally, I should answer no. For really it is not my marriage that is in question, half as much as it is Edmund's.'
Little Dorrit looked, and perhaps not altogether without cause, somewhat at a loss to understand this fine distinction.
'I am in no difficulty,' exclaimed Fanny, 'and in no hurry. I am not wanted at any public office, or to give any vote anywhere else.
But Edmund is. And Edmund is deeply dejected at the idea of going away by himself, and, indeed, I don't like that he should be trusted by himself. For, if it's possible--and it generally is--to do a foolish thing, he is sure to do it.'
As she concluded this impartial summary of the reliance that might be safely placed upon her future husband, she took off, with an air of business, the bonnet she wore, and dangled it by its strings upon the ground.
'It is far more Edmund's question, therefore, than mine. However, we need say no more about that. That is self-evident on the face of it. Well, my dearest Amy! The point arising, is he to go by himself, or is he not to go by himself, this other point arises, are we to be married here and shortly, or are we to be married at home months hence?'
'I see I am going to lose you, Fanny.'
'What a little thing you are,' cried Fanny, half tolerant and half impatient, 'for anticipating one! Pray, my darling, hear me out. That woman,' she spoke of Mrs Merdle, of course, 'remains here until after Easter; so, in the case of my being married here and going to London with Edmund, I should have the start of her. That is something. Further, Amy. That woman being out of the way, I don't know that I greatly object to Mr Merdle's proposal to Pa that Edmund and I should take up our abode in that house -.you know-- where you once went with a dancer, my dear, until our own house can be chosen and fitted up. Further still, Amy. Papa having always intended to go to town himself, in the spring,--you see, if Edmund and I were married here, we might go off to Florence, where papa might join us, and we might all three travel home together. Mr Merdle has entreated Pa to stay with him in that same mansion I have mentioned, and I suppose he will. But he is master of his own actions; and upon that point (which is not at all material) I can't speak positively.' The difference between papa's being master of his own actions and Mr Sparkler's being nothing of the sort, was forcibly expressed by Fanny in her manner of stating the case. Not that her sister noticed it; for she was divided between regret at the coming separation, and a lingering wish that she had been included in the plans for visiting England.
'And these are the arrangements, Fanny dear?'
'Arrangements!' repeated Fanny. 'Now, really, child, you are a little trying. You know I particularly guarded myself against laying my words open to any such construction. What I said was, that certain questions present themselves; and these are the questions.'
Little Dorrit's thoughtful eyes met hers, tenderly and quietly.
'Now, my own sweet girl,' said Fanny, weighing her bonnet by the strings with considerable impatience, 'it's no use staring. A little owl could stare. I look to you for advice, Amy. What do you advise me to do?'
'Do you think,' asked Little Dorrit, persuasively, after a short hesitation, 'do you think, Fanny, that if you were to put it off for a few months, it might be, considering all things, best?'
'No, little Tortoise,' retorted Fanny, with exceeding sharpness. 'I don't think anything of the kind.'
Here, she threw her bonnet from her altogether, and flounced into a chair.