Enter the Aunts and Uncles

THE Dodsons were certainly a handsome family, and Mrs Glegg was not the least handsome of the sisters. As she sat in Mrs Tulliver's arm-chair, no impartial observer could have denied that for a woman of fifty she had a very comely face and figure, though Tom and Maggie considered their aunt Glegg as the type of ugliness. It is true she despised the advantages of costume, for though, as she often observed, no woman had better clothes, it was not her way to wear her new things out before her old ones. Other women, if they liked, might have their best thread lace in every wash, but when Mrs Glegg died, it would be found that she had better lace laid by in the right-hand drawer of her wardrobe, in the Spotted Chamber, than ever Mrs Wooll of St Ogg's had bought in her life, although Mrs Wooll wore her lace before it was paid for. So of her curled fronts. Mrs Glegg had doubtless the glossiest and crispest brown curls in her drawers, as well as curls in various degrees of fuzzy laxness; but to look out on the week-day world from under a crisp and glossy front would be to introduce a most dream-like and unpleasant confusion between the sacred and the secular. Occasionally, indeed, Mrs Glegg wore one of her third- best fronts on a week-day visit, but not at a sister's house; especially not at Mrs Tulliver's, who since her marriage had hurt her sisters' feelings greatly by wearing her own hair, though, as Mrs Glegg observed to Mrs Deane, a mother of a family, like Bessy, with a husband always going to law, might have been expected to know better. But Bessy was always weak! So if Mrs Glegg's front to-day was more fuzzy and lax than usual, she had a design under it: she intended the most pointed and cutting allusion to Mrs Tulliver's bunches of blond curls separated from each other by a due wave of smoothness on each side of the parting. Mrs Tulliver had shed tears several times at sister Glegg's unkindness on the subject of these unmatronly curls, but the consciousness of looking the handsomer for them naturally administered support. Mrs Glegg chose to wear her bonnet in the house to-day - united and tilted slightly, of course - a frequent practice of hers when she was on a visit and happened to be in a severe humour: she didn't know what draughts there might be in strange houses. For the same reason she wore a small sable tippet which reached just to her shoulders and was very far from meeting across her well-formed chest, while her long neck was protected by a chevaux-de-frise of miscellaneous frilling. One would need to be learned in the fashions of those times to know how far in the rear of them Mrs Glegg's slate-coloured silk gown must have been, but from certain constellations of small yellow spots upon it, and a mouldy odour about it suggestive of a damp clothes-chest, it was probable that it belonged to a stratum of garments just old enough to have come recently into wear.

Mrs Glegg held her large gold watch in her hand with the many-doubled chain round her fingers, and observed to Mrs Tulliver who had just returned from a visit to the kitchen, that whatever it might be by other people's clocks and watches, it was gone half-past twelve by hers.

`I don't know what ails sister Pullet,' she continued. `It used to be the way in our family for one to be as early as another - I'm sure it was so in my poor father's time - and not for one sister to sit half an hour before the others came. But if the ways o' the family are altered it shan't be my fault - I'll never be the one to come into a house when all the rest are going away. I wonder at sister Deane - she used to be more like me. But if you'll take my advice, Bessy, you'll put the dinner forrard a bit, sooner than put it back, because folks are late as ought to ha' known better.'

`O dear, there's no fear but what they'll be all here in time, sister,' said Mrs Tulliver, in her mild-peevish tone. `The dinner won't be ready till half-past one. But if it's long for you to wait, let me fetch you a cheese- cake and a glass o' wine.'

`Well, Bessy!' said Mrs Glegg, with a bitter smile and a scarcely perceptible toss of her head, `I should ha' thought you'd know your own sister better. I never did eat between meals, and I'm not going to begin. Not but what I hate that nonsense of having your dinner at half-past one when you might have it at one. You was never brought up in that way, Bessy.'

`Why, Jane, what can I do? Mr Tulliver doesn't like his dinner before two o'clock, but I put it half an hour earlier because o' you.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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