The Family Council

IT was at eleven o'clock the next morning that the aunts and uncles came to hold their consultation. The fire was lighted in the large parlour, and poor Mrs Tulliver, with a confused impression that it was a great occasion, like a funeral, unbagged the bell-rope tassels and unpinned the curtains, adjusting them in proper folds - looking round and shaking her head sadly at the polished tops and legs of the tables, which sister Pullet herself could not accuse of insufficient brightness. Mr Deane was not coming - he was away on business; but Mrs Deane appeared punctually in that handsome new gig with the head to it and the livery servant driving it, which had thrown so clear a light on several traits in her character to some of her female friends in St Ogg's. Mr Deane had been advancing in the world as rapidly as Mr Tulliver had been going down in it, and in Mrs Deane's house, the Dodson linen and plate were beginning to hold quite a subordinate position as a mere supplement to the handsomer articles of the same kind, purchased in recent years: a change which had caused an occasional coolness in the sisterly intercourse between her and Mrs Glegg, who felt that Susan was getting `like the rest,' and there would soon be little of the true Dodson spirit surviving except in herself, and it might be hoped, in those nephews who supported the Dodson name on the family land far away in the Wolds. People who live at a distance are naturally less faulty than those immediately under our own eyes; and it seems superfluous, when we consider the remote geographical position of the Ethiopians and how very little the Greeks had to do with them, to inquire further why Homer calls them `blameless.'

Mrs Deane was the first to arrive, and when she had taken her seat in the large parlour, Mrs Tulliver came down to her with her comely face a little distorted nearly as it would have been if she had been crying: she was not a woman who could shed abundant tears, except in moments when the prospect of losing her furniture became unusually vivid, but she felt how unfitting it was to be quite calm under present circumstances.

`O sister, what a world this is!' she exclaimed as she entered. `What trouble, O dear!'

Mrs Deane was a thin-lipped woman who made small well-considered speeches on peculiar occasions, repeating them afterwards to her husband and asking him if she had not spoken very properly.

`Yes, sister,' she said deliberately, `this is a changing world, and we don't know to-day what may happen tomorrow. But it's right to be prepared for all things, and if trouble's sent, to remember as it isn't sent without a cause. I'm very sorry for you as a sister, and if the doctor orders jelly for Mr Tulliver, I hope you'll let me know: I'll send it willingly. For it is but right he should have proper attendance while he's ill.'

`Thank you, Susan,' said Mrs Tulliver, rather faintly, withdrawing her fat hand from her sister's thin one. `But there's been no talk o' jelly yet.' Then after a moment's pause, she added, `There's a dozen o' cut jelly-glasses upstairs... . I shall niver put jelly into 'em no more.'

Her voice was rather agitated as she uttered the last words, but the sound of wheels diverted her thoughts. Mr and Mrs Glegg were come and were almost immediately followed by Mr and Mrs Pullet.

Mrs Pullet entered crying, as a compendious mode, at all times, of expressing what were her views of life in general, and what, in brief, were the opinions she held concerning the particular case before her.

Mrs Glegg had on her fuzziest front, and garments which appeared to have had a recent resurrection from rather a creasy form of burial: a costume selected with the high moral purpose of instilling perfect humility into Bessy and her children.

`Mrs G., won't you come nearer the fire?' said her husband, unwilling to take the more comfortable seat without offering it to her.

`You see I've seated myself here, Mr Glegg,' returned this superior woman, `you can roast yourself, if you like.'

`Well,' said Mr Glegg, seating himself good-humouredly, `and how's the poor man upstairs?'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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