‘Do you know, uncle, I think you are growing young again?’

Her uncle shook his head and said, ‘Since when, my dear; since when?’

‘I think,’ returned Little Dorrit, plying her needle, ‘that you have been growing younger for weeks past. So cheerful, uncle, and so ready, and so interested.’

‘My dear child—all you.’

‘All me, uncle!’

‘Yes, yes. You have done me a world of good. You have been so considerate of me, and so tender with me, and so delicate in trying to hide your attentions from me, that I—well, well, well! It’s treasured up, my darling, treasured up.’

‘There is nothing in it but your own fresh fancy, uncle,’ said Little Dorrit, cheerfully.

‘Well, well, well!’ murmured the old man. ‘Thank God!’

She paused for an instant in her work to look at him, and her look revived that former pain in her father’s breast; in his poor weak breast, so full of contradictions, vacillations, inconsistencies, the little peevish perplexities of this ignorant life, mists which the morning without a night only can clear away.

‘I have been freer with you, you see, my dove,’ said the old man, ‘since we have been alone. I say, alone, for I don’t count Mrs General; I don’t care for her; she has nothing to do with me. But I know Fanny was impatient of me. And I don’t wonder at it, or complain of it, for I am sensible that I must be in the way, though I try to keep out of it as well as I can. I know I am not fit company for our company. My brother William,’ said the old man admiringly, ‘is fit company for monarchs; but not so your uncle, my dear. Frederick Dorrit is no credit to William Dorrit, and he knows it quite well. Ah! Why, here’s your father, Amy! My dear William, welcome back! My beloved brother, I am rejoiced to see you!’

(Turning his head in speaking, he had caught sight of him as he stood in the doorway.)

Little Dorrit with a cry of pleasure put her arms about her father’s neck, and kissed him again and again. Her father was a little impatient, and a little querulous. ‘I am glad to find you at last, Amy,’ he said. ‘Ha. Really I am glad to find—hum—any one to receive me at last. I appear to have been—ha—so little expected, that upon my word I began—ha hum—to think it might be right to offer an apology for—ha—taking the liberty of coming back at all.’

‘It was so late, my dear William,’ said his brother, ‘that we had given you up for to-night.’

‘I am stronger than you, dear Frederick,’ returned his brother with an elaboration of fraternity in which there was severity; ‘and I hope I can travel without detriment at—ha—any hour I choose.’

‘Surely, surely,’ returned the other, with a misgiving that he had given offence. ‘Surely, William.’

‘Thank you, Amy,’ pursued Mr Dorrit, as she helped him to put off his wrappers. ‘I can do it without assistance. I—ha—need not trouble you, Amy. Could I have a morsel of bread and a glass of wine, or—hum—would it cause too much inconvenience?’

‘Dear father, you shall have supper in a very few minutes.’

‘Thank you, my love,’ said Mr Dorrit, with a reproachful frost upon him; ‘I—ha—am afraid I am causing inconvenience. Hum. Mrs General pretty well?’

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