The Aunts and Uncles Are Coming

IT was Easter week and Mrs Tulliver's cheese-cakes were more exquisitely light than usual: `a puff o' wind 'ud make 'em blow about like feathers,' kezia, the house-maid said, feeling proud to live under a mistress who could make such pastry; so that no season or circumstances could have been more propitious for a family party, even if it had not been advisable to consult sister Glegg and sister Pullet about Tom's going to school. `I'd as lief not invite sister Deane this time,' said Mrs Tulliver, `for she's as jealous and having as can be, and 's allays trying to make the worst o' my poor children to their aunts and uncles.'

`Yes, yes,' said Mr Tulliver. `Ask her to come. I never hardly get a bit o' talk with Deane now: we haven't had him this six months. What's it matter what she says? - my children need be beholding to nobody.'

`That's what you allays say, Mr Tulliver; but I'm sure there's nobody o' your side, neither aunt nor uncle, to leave 'em so much as a five-pound note for a leggicy. And there's sister Glegg, and sister Pullet too, saving money unknown - for they put by all their own interest and butter-money too - their husbands buy 'em everything.' Mrs Tulliver was a mild woman, but even a sheep will face about a little when she has lambs.

`Tchuh!' said Mr Tulliver. `It takes a big loaf when there's many to breakfast. What signifies your sisters' bits o' money when they've got half-a-dozen nevvies and nieces to divide it among? And your sister Deane won't get 'em to leave all to one, I reckon, and make the country cry shame on 'em when they are dead?'

`I don't know what she won't get 'em to do,' said Mrs Tulliver, `for my children are so awk'ard wi' their aunts and uncles. Maggie's ten times naughtier when they come than she is other days, and Tom doesn't like 'em, bless him - though it's more nat'ral in a boy than a gell - And there's Lucy Deane's such a good child - you may set her on a stool, and there she'll sit for an hour together and never offer to get off - I can't help loving the child as if she was my own, and I'm sure she's more like my child than sister Deane's, for she'd allays a very poor colour for one of our family, sister Deane had.'

`Well, well, if you're fond o' the child, ask her father and mother to bring her with 'em. And won't you ask their aunt and uncle Moss too? and some o' their children?'

`O dear, Mr Tulliver, why, there'd be eight people besides the children, and I must put two more leaves i' the table, besides reaching down more o' the dinner service. And you know as well as I do, as my sisters and your sister don't suit well together.'

`Well, well, do as you like, Bessy,' said Mr Tulliver, taking up his hat and walking out to the mill. Few wives were more submissive than Mrs Tulliver on all points unconnected with her family relations; but she had been a Miss Dodson, and the Dodsons were a very respectable family indeed - as much looked up to as any in their own parish or the next to it. The Miss Dodsons had always been thought to hold up their heads very high, and no one was surprised the two eldest had married so well: - not at an early age, for that was not the practice of the Dodson family. There were particular ways of doing everything in that family: particu-lar ways of bleaching the linen, of making the cowslip wine curing the hams and keeping the bottled gooseberries, so that no daughter of that house could be indifferent to the privilege of having been born a Dodson, rather than a Gibson or a Watson. Funerals were always conducted with peculiar propriety in the Dodson family: the hatbands were never of a blue shade, the gloves never split at the thumb, everybody was mourner who ought to be, and there were always scarfs for the bearers. When one of the family was in trouble or sickness, all the rest went to visit the unfortunate member, usually at the same time, and did not shrink from uttering the most disagreeable truths that correct family feeling dictated: if the illness or trouble was the sufferer's own fault, it was not in the practice of the Dodson family to shrink from saying so. In short, there was in this family a peculiar tradition as to what was the right thing in house-hold management and social demeanour, and the only bitter circumstance attending this superiority was a painful inability to approve the condiments or the conduct of families ungoverned by the Dodson tradition. A female Dodson, when in `strange houses,' always ate dry bread with her tea and declined any sort of preserves, having no confidence in the butter and thinking that the preserves had probably begun to ferment from want of due sugar and boiling. There were some Dodsons less

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