'If Bout, Edmund,' returned Mrs Sparkler, 'is the slang term for indisposition, he has. If it is not, I am unable to give an opinion on the barbarous language you address to Edward's sister. That he contracted Malaria Fever somewhere, either by travelling day and night to Rome, where, after all, he arrived too late to see poor dear papa before his death--or under some other unwholesome circumstances--is indubitable, if that is what you mean. Likewise that his extremely careless life has made him a very bad subject for it indeed.'
Mr Sparkler considered it a parallel case to that of some of our fellows in the West Indies with Yellow Jack. Mrs Sparkler closed her eyes again, and refused to have any consciousness of our fellows of the West Indies, or of Yellow Jack.
'So, Amy,' she pursued, when she reopened her eyelids, 'will require to be roused from the effects of many tedious and anxious weeks. And lastly, she will require to be roused from a low tendency which I know very well to be at the bottom of her heart. Don't ask me what it is, Edmund, because I must decline to tell you.'
'I am not going to, my dear,' said Mr Sparkler.
'I shall thus have much improvement to effect in my sweet child,' Mrs Sparkler continued, 'and cannot have her near me too soon. Amiable and dear little Twoshoes! As to the settlement of poor papa's affairs, my interest in that is not very selfish. Papa behaved very generously to me when I was married, and I have little or nothing to expect. Provided he had made no will that can come into force, leaving a legacy to Mrs General, I am contented. Dear papa, dear papa.'
She wept again, but Mrs General was the best of restoratives. The name soon stimulated her to dry her eyes and say:
'It is a highly encouraging circumstance in Edward's illness, I am thankful to think, and gives one the greatest confidence in his sense not being impaired, or his proper spirit weakened--down to the time of poor dear papa's death at all events--that he paid off Mrs General instantly, and sent her out of the house. I applaud him for it. I could forgive him a great deal for doing, with such promptitude, so exactly what I would have done myself!'
Mrs Sparkler was in the full glow of her gratification, when a double knock was heard at the door. A very odd knock. Low, as if to avoid making a noise and attracting attention. Long, as if the person knocking were preoccupied in mind, and forgot to leave off.
'Halloa!' said Mr Sparkler. 'Who's this?'
'Not Amy and Edward without notice and without a carriage!' said Mrs Sparkler. 'Look out.'
The room was dark, but the street was lighter, because of its lamps. Mr Sparkler's head peeping over the balcony looked so very bulky and heavy that it seemed on the point of overbalancing him and flattening the unknown below.
'It's one fellow,' said Mr Sparkler. 'I can't see who--stop though!' On this second thought he went out into the balcony again and had another look. He came back as the door was opened, and announced that he believed he had identified 'his governor's tile.' He was not mistaken, for his governor, with his tile in his hand, was introduced immediately afterwards.
'Candles!' said Mrs Sparkler, with a word of excuse for the darkness.
'It's light enough for me,' said Mr Merdle.
When the candles were brought in, Mr Merdle was discovered standing behind the door, picking his lips. 'I thought I'd give you a call,' he said. 'I am rather particularly occupied just now; and, as I happened to be out for a stroll, I thought I'd give you a call.'
As he was in dinner dress, Fanny asked him where he had been dining?
'Well,' said Mr Merdle, 'I haven't been dining anywhere, particularly.'
'Of course you have dined?' said Fanny.
'Why--no, I haven't exactly dined,' said Mr Merdle.
He had passed his hand over his yellow forehead and considered, as if he were not sure about it. Something to eat was proposed. 'No, thank you,' said Mr Merdle, 'I don't feel inclined for it.