‘Oh, good GRACIOUS!’ cried Fanny.

Mr Sparkler was so discomposed by the energy of this exclamation, accompanied with a flouncing up from the sofa and a flouncing down again, that a minute or two elapsed before he felt himself equal to saying in explanation:

‘I mean, my dear, that everybody knows you are calculated to shine in society.’

‘Calculated to shine in society,’ retorted Fanny with great irritability; ‘yes, indeed! And then what happens? I no sooner recover, in a visiting point of view, the shock of poor dear papa’s death, and my poor uncle’s—though I do not disguise from myself that the last was a happy release, for, if you are not presentable you had much better die—’

‘You are not referring to me, my love, I hope?’ Mr Sparkler humbly interrupted.

‘Edmund, Edmund, you would wear out a Saint. Am I not expressly speaking of my poor uncle?’

‘You looked with so much expression at myself, my dear girl,’ said Mr Sparkler, ‘that I felt a little uncomfortable. Thank you, my love.’

‘Now you have put me out,’ observed Fanny with a resigned toss of her fan, ‘and I had better go to bed.’

‘Don’t do that, my love,’ urged Mr Sparkler. ‘Take time.’

Fanny took a good deal of time: lying back with her eyes shut, and her eyebrows raised with a hopeless expression as if she had utterly given up all terrestrial affairs. At length, without the slightest notice, she opened her eyes again, and recommenced in a short, sharp manner:

‘What happens then, I ask! What happens? Why, I find myself at the very period when I might shine most in society, and should most like for very momentous reasons to shine in society—I find myself in a situation which to a certain extent disqualifies me for going into society. it’s too bad, really!’

‘My dear,’ said Mr Sparkler. ‘I don’t think it need keep you at home.’ ‘Edmund, you ridiculous creature,’ returned Fanny, with great indignation; ‘do you suppose that a woman in the bloom of youth and not wholly devoid of personal attractions, can put herself, at such a time, in competition as to figure with a woman in every other way her inferior? If you do suppose such a thing, your folly is boundless.’

Mr Sparkler submitted that he had thought ‘it might be got over.’ ‘Got over!’ repeated Fanny, with immeasurable scorn.

‘For a time,’ Mr Sparkler submitted.

Honouring the last feeble suggestion with no notice, Mrs Sparkler declared with bitterness that it really was too bad, and that positively it was enough to make one wish one was dead!

‘However,’ she said, when she had in some measure recovered from her sense of personal ill-usage; ‘provoking as it is, and cruel as it seems, I suppose it must be submitted to.’

‘Especially as it was to be expected,’ said Mr Sparkler.

‘Edmund,’ returned his wife, ‘if you have nothing more becoming to do than to attempt to insult the woman who has honoured you with her hand, when she finds herself in adversity, I think YOU had better go to bed!’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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