Mr Tulliver had a good-natured fibre in him, and did not like to give harsh refusals even to a sister, who had not only come into the world in that superfluous way characteristic of sisters, creating a necessity for mortgages, but had quite thrown herself away in marriage and had crowned her mistakes by having an eighth baby. On this point Mr Tulliver was conscious of being a little weak, but he apologised to himself by saying that poor Gritty had been a good-looking wench before she married Moss - he would sometimes say this even with a slight tremulousness in his voice. But this morning he was in a mood more becoming a man a business, and in the course of his ride along the Basset lanes, with their deep ruts, lying so far away from a market-town that the labour of drawing produce and manure was enough to take away the best part of the profits on such poor land as that parish was made of, he got up a due amount of irritation against Moss as a man without capital, who if murrain and blight were abroad was sure to have his share of them, and who, the more you tried to help him out of the mud, would sink the further in. It would do him good rather than harm, now, if he were obliged to raise this three hundred pounds: it would make him look about him better, and not act so foolishly about his wool this year as he did the last: in fact, Mr Tulliver had been too easy with his brother-in-law, and because he had let the interest run on for two years, Moss was likely enough to think that he should never be troubled about the principal. But Mr Tulliver was determined not to encourage such shuffling people any longer, and a ride along the Basset lanes was not likely to enervate a man's resolution by softening his temper. The deep-trodden hoof-marks made in the muddiest days of winter gave him a shake now and then which suggested a rash but stimulating snarl at the father of lawyers who, whether by means of his hoof or otherwise, had doubtless something to do with this state of the roads; and the abundance of foul land and neglected fences that met his eye, though they made no part of his brother Moss's farm, strongly contributed to his dissatisfaction with that unlucky agriculturist. If this wasn't Moss's fallow, it might have been: Basset was all alike; it was a beggarly parish in Mr Tulliver's opinion, and his opinion was certainly not groundless. Basset had a poor soil, poor roads, a poor non-resident landlord, a poor non-resident vicar, and rather less than half a curate, also poor. If any one strongly impressed with the power of the human mind to triumph over circumstances, will contend that the parishioners of Basset might nevertheless have been a very superior class of people, I have nothing to urge against that abstract proposition: I only know that in point of fact the Basset mind was in strict keeping with its circumstances. The muddy lanes, green or clayey, that seemed to the unaccustomed eye to lead nowhere but into each other, did really lead, with patience, to a distant high-road, but there were many feet in Basset which they led more frequently to a centre of dissipation spoken of formally as the `Markis o' Granby' but among intimates as `Dickison's.' A large low room with a sanded floor, a cold scent of tobacco modified by undetected beer-dregs, Mr Dickison leaning against the doorpost with a melancholy pimpled face looking as irrelevant to the daylight as a last night's guttered candle - all this may not seem a very seductive form of temptation; but the majority of men in Basset found it fatally alluring when encountered on their road towards four o'clock on a wintry afternoon; and if any wife in Basset wished to indicate that her husband was not a pleasure-seeking man, she could hardly do it more emphatically than by saying that he didn't spend a shilling at Dickison's from one Whitsuntide to another. Mrs Moss had said so of her husband more than once, when her brother was in a mood to find fault with him, as he certainly was to-day. And nothing could be less pacifying to Mr Tulliver than the behaviour of the farmyard gate, which he no sooner attempted to push open with his riding stick than it acted as gates without the upper hinge are known to do, to the peril of shins, whether equine or human. He was about to get down and lead his horse through the damp dirt of the hollow farmyard, shadowed drearily by the large half-tim-bered buildings, up to the long line of tumble-down dwelling-house standing on a raised causeway, but the timely appearance of a cowboy saved him that frustration of a plan he had determined on, namely not to get down from his horse during this visit. If a man means to be hard, let him keep in his saddle and speak from that height, above the level of pleading eyes, and with the command of a distant horizon. Mrs Moss heard the sound of the horse's feet and when her brother rode up, was already outside the kitchen door with a half-weary smile on her face, and a black-eyed baby in her arms. Mrs Moss's face bore a faded resemblance to her brother's: baby's little fat hand pressed against her cheek seemed to show more strikingly that the cheek was faded.

`Brother, I'm glad to see you,' she said, in an affectionate tone. `I didn't look for you today. How do you do?'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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