On the Road
The bright morning sun dazzled the eyes, the snow had ceased, the mists had vanished, the mountain air was so clear and light that the new sensation of breathing it was like the having entered on a new existence. To help the delusion, the solid ground itself seemed gone, and the mountain, a shining waste of immense white heaps and masses, to be a region of cloud floating between the blue sky above and the earth far below.
Some dark specks in the snow, like knots upon a little thread, beginning at the convent door and winding away down the descent in broken lengths which were not yet pieced together, showed where the Brethren were at work in several places clearing the track. Already the snow had begun to be foot-thawed again about the door. Mules were busily brought out, tied to the rings in the wall, and laden; strings of bells were buckled on, burdens were adjusted, the voices of drivers and riders sounded musically. Some of the earliest had even already resumed their journey; and, both on the level summit by the dark water near the convent, and on the downward way of yesterdays ascent, little moving figures of men and mules, reduced to miniatures by the immensity around, went with a clear tinkling of bells and a pleasant harmony of tongues.
In the supper-room of last night, a new fire, piled upon the feathery ashes of the old one, shone upon a homely breakfast of loaves, butter, and milk. It also shone on the courier of the Dorrit family, making tea for his party from a supply he had brought up with him, together with several other small stores which were chiefly laid in for the use of the strong body of inconvenience. Mr Gowan and Blandois of Paris had already breakfasted, and were walking up and down by the lake, smoking their cigars. Gowan, eh? muttered Tip, otherwise Edward Dorrit, Esquire, turning over the leaves of the book, when the courier had left them to breakfast. Then Gowan is the name of a puppy, thats all I have got to say! If it was worth my while, Id pull his nose. But it isnt worth my whilefortunately for him. Hows his wife, Amy?
I suppose you know. You generally know things of that sort.
She is better, Edward. But they are not going to-day.
Oh! They are not going to-day! Fortunately for that fellow too, said Tip, or he and I might have come into collision.
It is thought better here that she should lie quiet to-day, and not be fatigued and shaken by the ride down until to-morrow.
With all my heart. But you talk as if you had been nursing her. You havent been relapsing into (Mrs General is not here) into old habits, have you, Amy?
He asked her the question with a sly glance of observation at Miss Fanny, and at his father too.
I have only been in to ask her if I could do anything for her, Tip, said Little Dorrit.
You neednt call me Tip, Amy child, returned that young gentleman with a frown; because thats an old habit, and one you may as well lay aside.
I didnt mean to say so, Edward dear. I forgot. It was so natural once, that it seemed at the moment the right word.
Oh yes! Miss Fanny struck in. Natural, and right word, and once, and all the rest of it! Nonsense, you little thing! I know perfectly well why you have been taking such an interest in this Mrs Gowan. You cant blind me.
I will not try to, Fanny. Dont be angry.
Oh! angry! returned that young lady with a flounce. I have no patience (which indeed was the truth). Pray, Fanny, said Mr Dorrit, raising his eyebrows, what do you mean? Explain yourself.
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