The Mill on the Floss
III.3. 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 parlor, 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
parlor, 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.
"Oh, sister, what a world this is!" she exclaimed as she entered; "what trouble, oh
Mrs. Deane was a thin-lipped woman, who made small well-considered
speeches on peculiar occasions, repeating them afterward 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