Sketches by Boz HTML version

3. The Four Sisters
The row of houses in which the old lady and her troublesome neighbour reside,
comprises, beyond all doubt, a greater number of characters within its circumscribed
limits, than all the rest of the parish put together. As we cannot, consistently with our
present plan, however, extend the number of our parochial sketches beyond six, it will
be better perhaps, to select the most peculiar, and to introduce them at once without
further preface.
The four Miss Willises, then, settled in our parish thirteen years ago. It is a melancholy
reflection that the old adage, 'time and tide wait for no man,' applies with equal force to
the fairer portion of the creation; and willingly would we conceal the fact, that even
thirteen years ago the Miss Willises were far from juvenile. Our duty as faithful parochial
chroniclers, however, is paramount to every other consideration, and we are bound to
state, that thirteen years since, the authorities in matrimonial cases, considered the
youngest Miss Willis in a very precarious state, while the eldest sister was positively
given over, as being far beyond all human hope. Well, the Miss Willises took a lease of
the house; it was fresh painted and papered from top to bottom: the paint inside was all
wainscoted, the marble all cleaned, the old grates taken down, and register-stoves, you
could see to dress by, put up; four trees were planted in the back garden, several small
baskets of gravel sprinkled over the front one, vans of elegant furniture arrived, spring
blinds were fitted to the windows, carpenters who had been employed in the various
preparations, alterations, and repairs, made confidential statements to the different
maid-servants in the row, relative to the magnificent scale on which the Miss Willises
were commencing; the maid-servants told their 'Missises,' the Missises told their friends,
and vague rumours were circulated throughout the parish, that No. 25, in Gordon-place,
had been taken by four maiden ladies of immense property.
At last, the Miss Willises moved in; and then the 'calling' began. The house was the
perfection of neatness - so were the four Miss Willises. Everything was formal, stiff, and
cold - so were the four Miss Willises. Not a single chair of the whole set was ever seen
out of its place - not a single Miss Willis of the whole four was ever seen out of hers.
There they always sat, in the same places, doing precisely the same things at the same
hour. The eldest Miss Willis used to knit, the second to draw, the two others to play
duets on the piano. They seemed to have no separate existence, but to have made up
their minds just to winter through life together. They were three long graces in drapery,
with the addition, like a school-dinner, of another long grace afterwards - the three fates
with another sister - the Siamese twins multiplied by two. The eldest Miss Willis grew
bilious - the four Miss Willises grew bilious immediately. The eldest Miss Willis grew ill-