Mr Sparkler, in absence of mind—perhaps in a more literal absence of mind than is usually understood by the phrase—had smelt so hard at a sprig in his hand as to be on the verge of the offence in question. He smiled, said, ‘I ask your pardon, my dear,’ and threw it out of window.

‘You make my head ache by remaining in that position, Edmund,’ said Mrs Sparkler, raising her eyes to him after another minute; ‘you look so aggravatingly large by this light. Do sit down.’

‘Certainly, my dear,’ said Mr Sparkler, and took a chair on the same spot.

‘If I didn’t know that the longest day was past,’ said Fanny, yawning in a dreary manner, ‘I should have felt certain this was the longest day. I never did experience such a day.’

‘Is that your fan, my love?’ asked Mr Sparkler, picking up one and presenting it.

‘Edmund,’ returned his wife, more wearily yet, ‘don’t ask weak questions, I entreat you not. Whose can it be but mine?’

‘Yes, I thought it was yours,’ said Mr Sparkler.

‘Then you shouldn’t ask,’ retorted Fanny. After a little while she turned on her sofa and exclaimed, ‘Dear me, dear me, there never was such a long day as this!’ After another little while, she got up slowly, walked about, and came back again.

‘My dear,’ said Mr Sparkler, flashing with an original conception, ‘I think you must have got the fidgets.’

‘Oh, Fidgets!’ repeated Mrs Sparkler. ‘Don’t.’

‘My adorable girl,’ urged Mr Sparkler, ‘try your aromatic vinegar. I have often seen my mother try it, and it seemingly refreshed her.

And she is, as I believe you are aware, a remarkably fine woman, with no non—’

‘Good Gracious!’ exclaimed Fanny, starting up again. ‘It’s beyond all patience! This is the most wearisome day that ever did dawn upon the world, I am certain.’

Mr Sparkler looked meekly after her as she lounged about the room, and he appeared to be a little frightened. When she had tossed a few trifles about, and had looked down into the darkening street out of all the three windows, she returned to her sofa, and threw herself among its pillows.

‘Now Edmund, come here! Come a little nearer, because I want to be able to touch you with my fan, that I may impress you very much with what I am going to say. That will do. Quite close enough. Oh, you do look so big!’

Mr Sparkler apologised for the circumstance, pleaded that he couldn’t help it, and said that ‘our fellows,’ without more particularly indicating whose fellows, used to call him by the name of Quinbus Flestrin, Junior, or the Young Man Mountain.

‘You ought to have told me so before,’ Fanny complained.

‘My dear,’ returned Mr Sparkler, rather gratified, ‘I didn’t know It would interest you, or I would have made a point of telling you.’ ‘There! For goodness sake, don’t talk,’ said Fanny; ‘I want to talk, myself. Edmund, we must not be alone any more. I must take such precautions as will prevent my being ever again reduced to the state of dreadful depression in which I am this evening.’

‘My dear,’ answered Mr Sparkler; ‘being as you are well known to be, a remarkably fine woman with no—’

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