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Chapter 7
Mrs Varden was a lady of what is commonly called an uncertain temper--a phrase which
being interpreted signifies a temper tolerably certain to make everybody more or less
uncomfortable. Thus it generally happened, that when other people were merry, Mrs
Varden was dull; and that when other people were dull, Mrs Varden was disposed to be
amazingly cheerful. Indeed the worthy housewife was of such a capricious nature, that
she not only attained a higher pitch of genius than Macbeth, in respect of her ability to
be wise, amazed, temperate and furious, loyal and neutral in an instant, but would
sometimes ring the changes backwards and forwards on all possible moods and flights
in one short quarter of an hour; performing, as it were, a kind of triple bob major on the
peal of instruments in the female belfry, with a skilfulness and rapidity of execution that
astonished all who heard her.
It had been observed in this good lady (who did not want for personal attractions, being
plump and buxom to look at, though like her fair daughter, somewhat short in stature)
that this uncertainty of disposition strengthened and increased with her temporal
prosperity; and divers wise men and matrons, on friendly terms with the locksmith and
his family, even went so far as to assert, that a tumble down some half-dozen rounds in
the world's ladder--such as the breaking of the bank in which her husband kept his
money, or some little fall of that kind--would be the making of her, and could hardly fail
to render her one of the most agreeable companions in existence. Whether they were
right or wrong in this conjecture, certain it is that minds, like bodies, will often fall into a
pimpled ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort, and like them, are often
successfully cured by remedies in themselves very nauseous and unpalatable.
Mrs Varden's chief aider and abettor, and at the same time her principal victim and
object of wrath, was her single domestic servant, one Miss Miggs; or as she was called,
in conformity with those prejudices of society which lop and top from poor hand-
maidens all such genteel excrescences--Miggs. This Miggs was a tall young lady, very
much addicted to pattens in private life; slender and shrewish, of a rather uncomfortable
figure, and though not absolutely ill-looking, of a sharp and acid visage. As a general
principle and abstract proposition, Miggs held the male sex to be utterly contemptible
and unworthy of notice; to be fickle, false, base, sottish, inclined to perjury, and wholly
undeserving. When particularly exasperated against them (which, scandal said, was
when Sim Tappertit slighted her most) she was accustomed to wish with great
emphasis that the whole race of women could but die off, in order that the men might be
brought to know the real value of the blessings by which they set so little store; nay, her
feeling for her order ran so high, that she sometimes declared, if she could only have
good security for a fair, round number--say ten thousand--of young virgins following her
example, she would, to spite mankind, hang, drown, stab, or poison herself, with a joy
past all expression.