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They came down-stairs with powder before them and powder behind, the elder sister haughty and the younger sister humbled, and were shut out into unpowdered Harley Street, Cavendish Square.
'Well?' said Fanny, when they had gone a little way without speaking. 'Have you nothing to say, Amy?'
'Oh, I don't know what to say!' she answered, distressed. 'You didn't like this young man, Fanny?'
'Like him? He is almost an idiot.'
'I am so sorry--don't be hurt--but, since you ask me what I have to say, I am so very sorry, Fanny, that you suffered this lady to give you anything.'
'You little Fool!' returned her sister, shaking her with the sharp pull she gave her arm. 'Have you no spirit at all? But that's just the way! You have no self-respect, you have no becoming pride. just as you allow yourself to be followed about by a contemptible little Chivery of a thing,' with the scornfullest emphasis, 'you would let your family be trodden on, and never turn.'
'Don't say that, dear Fanny. I do what I can for them.'
'You do what you can for them!' repeated Fanny, walking her on very fast. 'Would you let a woman like this, whom you could see, if you had any experience of anything, to be as false and insolent as a woman can be--would you let her put her foot upon your family, and thank her for it?'
'No, Fanny, I am sure.' 'Then make her pay for it, you mean little thing. What else can you make her do? Make her pay for it, you stupid child; and do your family some credit with the money!'
They spoke no more all the way back to the lodging where Fanny and her uncle lived. When they arrived there, they found the old man practising his clarionet in the dolefullest manner in a corner of the room. Fanny had a composite meal to make, of chops, and porter, and tea; and indignantly pretended to prepare it for herself, though her sister did all that in quiet reality. When at last Fanny sat down to eat and drink, she threw the table implements about and was angry with her bread, much as her father had been last night.
'If you despise me,' she said, bursting into vehement tears, 'because I am a dancer, why did you put me in the way of being one?
It was your doing. You would have me stoop as low as the ground before this Mrs Merdle, and let her say what she liked and do what she liked, and hold us all in contempt, and tell me so to my face. Because I am a dancer!'
'And Tip, too, poor fellow. She is to disparage him just as much as she likes, without any check--I suppose because he has been in the law, and the docks, and different things. Why, it was your doing, Amy. You might at least approve of his being defended.'
All this time the uncle was dolefully blowing his clarionet in the corner, sometimes taking it an inch or so from his mouth for a moment while he stopped to gaze at them, with a vague impression that somebody had said something.
'And your father, your poor father, Amy. Because he is not free to show himself and to speak for himself, you would let such people insult him with impunity. If you don't feel for yourself because you go out to work, you might at least feel for him, I should think, knowing what he has undergone so long.'
Poor Little Dorrit felt the injustice of this taunt rather sharply.
The remembrance of last night added a barbed point to it. She said nothing in reply, but turned her chair from the table towards the fire. Uncle, after making one more pause, blew a dismal wail and went on again.
Fanny was passionate with the tea-cups and the bread as long as her passion lasted, and then protested that she was the wretchedest girl in the world, and she wished she was dead. After that, her crying became remorseful, and she got up and put her arms round her sister. Little Dorrit tried to stop her from saying anything, but she answered that she would, she must! Thereupon she said again, and again, 'I beg your pardon, Amy,' and 'Forgive me, Amy,' almost as passionately as she had said what she regretted.
'But indeed, indeed, Amy,' she resumed when they were seated in sisterly accord side by side, 'I hope and I think you would have seen this differently, if you had known a little more of Society.'
'Perhaps I might, Fanny,' said the mild Little Dorrit.
'You see, while you have been domestic and resignedly shut up there, Amy,' pursued her sister, gradually beginning to patronise, 'I have been out, moving more in Society, and may have been getting proud and spirited--more than I ought to be, perhaps?'
Little Dorrit answered 'Yes. O yes!'
'And while you have been thinking of the dinner or the clothes, I may have been thinking, you know, of the family. Now, may it not be so, Amy?'
Little Dorrit again nodded 'Yes,' with a more cheerful face than heart.
'Especially as we know,' said Fanny, 'that there certainly is a tone in the place to which you have been so true, which does belong to it, and which does make it different from other aspects of Society. So kiss me once again, Amy dear, and we will agree that we may both be right, and that you are a tranquil, domestic, home- loving, good girl.'
The clarionet had been lamenting most pathetically during this dialogue, but was cut short now by Fanny's announcement that it was time to go; which she conveyed to her uncle by shutting up his scrap of music, and taking the clarionet out of his mouth.
Little Dorrit parted from them at the door, and hastened back to the Marshalsea. It fell dark there sooner than elsewhere, and going into it that evening was like going into a deep trench. The shadow of the wall was on every object. Not least upon the figure in the old grey gown and the black velvet cap, as it turned towards her when she opened the door of the dim room.
'Why not upon me too!' thought Little Dorrit, with the door Yet in her hand. 'It was not unreasonable in Fanny.'
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Little Dorrit -- by Charles Dickens