A Family Party

MAGGIE left her good aunt Gritty at the end of the week, and went to Garum Firs to pay her visit to aunt Pullet according to agreement. In the mean time, very unexpected things had happened, and there was to be a family party at Garum to discuss and celebrate a change in the fortunes of the Tullivers, which was likely finally to carry away the shadow of their demerits like the last limb of an eclipse, and cause their hitherto obscured virtues to shine forth in full-rounded splendour. It is pleasant to know that a new ministry just come into office are not the only fellow-men who enjoy a period of high appreciation and full-blown eulogy: in many respectable families throughout this realm relatives becoming creditable meet with a similar cordiality of recognition, which in its fine freedom from the coercion of any antecedents, suggests the hopeful possibility that we may some day without any notice find ourselves in full millennium, with cockatrices who have ceased to bite and wolves that no longer show their teeth with any but the blandest intentions. Lucy came so early as to have the start even of aunt Glegg; for the longed to have some undisturbed talk with Maggie about the wonderful news. It seemed - did it not? said Lucy, with her prettiest air of wisdom - as if everything, even other people's misfortunes (poor creatures!) were conspiring now to make poor dear aunt Tulliver, and cousin Tom, and haughty Maggie too, if she were not obstinately bent on the contrary, as happy as they deserved to be after all their troubles. To think that the very day - the very day - after Tom had come back from Newcastle, that unfortunate young Jetsome, whom Mr Wakem had placed at the Mill, had been pitched off his horse in a drunken fit, and was lying at St Ogg's in a dangerous state, so that Wakem had signified his wish that the new purchasers should enter on the premises at once! It was very dreadful for that unhappy young man, but it did seem as if the misfortune had happened then, rather than at any other time, in order that cousin Tom might all the sooner have the fit reward of his exemplary conduct - papa thought so very highly of him. Aunt Tulliver must certainly go to the Mill now and keep house for Tom: that was rather a loss to Lucy in the matter of household comfort; but then, to think of poor aunty being in her old place again and gradually getting comforts about her there!

On this last point Lucy had her cunning projects, and when she and Maggie had made their dangerous way down the bright stairs into the handsome parlour where the very sunbeams seemed cleaner than elsewhere, she directed her manoeuvres as any other great tactician would have done, against the weaker side of the enemy.

`Aunt Pullet,' she said, seating herself on the sofa, and caressingly adjusting that lady's floating cap-string, `I want you to make up your mind what linen and things you will give Tom towards housekeeping; because you're always so generous, you give such nice things, you know; and if you set the example, aunt Glegg will follow.'

`That she never can, my dear,' said Mrs Pullet, with unusual vigour, `for she hasn't got the linen to follow suit wi' mine, I can tell you. She'd niver the taste, not if she'd spend the money. Big checks and live things, like stags and foxes, all her table-linen is - not a spot nor a diamont among 'em. But it's poor work, dividing one's linen before one dies - I niver thought to ha' done that, Bessy,' Mrs Pullet continued, shaking her head and looking at her sister Tulliver, `when you and me chose the double diamont, the first flax iver we'd spun - and the Lord knows where yours is gone.'

`I'd no choice, I'm sure, sister,' said poor Mrs Tulliver, accustomed to consider herself in the light of an accused person. `I'm sure it was no wish o' mine, iver, as I should lie awake o' nights thinking o' my best bleached linen all over the country.'

`Take a peppermint, Mrs Tulliver,' said uncle Pullet, feeling that he was offering a cheap and wholesome form of comfort, which he was recommending by example.

`O but, aunt Pullet,' said Lucy, `you've so much beautiful linen. And suppose you had had daughters! Then you must have divided it, when they were married.'

`Well, I don't say as I won't do it,' said Mrs Pullet, `for now Tom's so lucky, it's nothing but right his friends should look on him and help him. There's the table-cloths I bought at your sale, Bessy, it was nothing

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