The Mill on the Floss HTML version

I.7. Enter the Aunts and Uncles
The Dodsons were certainly a handsome family, and Mrs. Glegg was not the
least handsome of the sisters. As she sat in Mrs. Tulliver's arm-chair, no impartial
observer could have denied that for a woman of fifty she had a very comely face
and figure, though Tom and Maggie considered their aunt Glegg as the type of
ugliness. It is true she despised the advantages of costume, for though, as she
often observed, no woman had better clothes, it was not her way to wear her new
things out before her old ones. Other women, if they liked, might have their best
thread-lace in every wash; but when Mrs. Glegg died, it would be found that she
had better lace laid by in the right-hand drawer of her wardrobe in the Spotted
Chamber than ever Mrs. Wooll of St. Ogg's had bought in her life, although Mrs.
Wooll wore her lace before it was paid for. So of her curled fronts: Mrs. Glegg
had doubtless the glossiest and crispest brown curls in her drawers, as well as
curls in various degrees of fuzzy laxness; but to look out on the week-day world
from under a crisp and glossy front would be to introduce a most dreamlike and
unpleasant confusion between the sacred and the secular. Occasionally, indeed,
Mrs. Glegg wore one of her third-best fronts on a week-day visit, but not at a
sister's house; especially not at Mrs. Tulliver's, who, since her marriage, had hurt
her sister's feelings greatly by wearing her own hair, though, as Mrs. Glegg
observed to Mrs. Deane, a mother of a family, like Bessy, with a husband always
going to law, might have been expected to know better. But Bessy was always
So if Mrs. Glegg's front to-day was more fuzzy and lax than usual, she had a
design under it: she intended the most pointed and cutting allusion to Mrs.
Tulliver's bunches of blond curls, separated from each other by a due wave of
smoothness on each side of the parting. Mrs. Tulliver had shed tears several
times at sister Glegg's unkindness on the subject of these unmatronly curls, but
the consciousness of looking the handsomer for them naturally administered
support. Mrs. Glegg chose to wear her bonnet in the house to-day,--united and
tilted slightly, of course--a frequent practice of hers when she was on a visit, and
happened to be in a severe humor: she didn't know what draughts there might be
in strange houses. For the same reason she wore a small sable tippet, which
reached just to her shoulders, and was very far from meeting across her well-
formed chest, while her long neck was protected by a chevaux-de-frise of
miscellaneous frilling. One would need to be learned in the fashions of those
times to know how far in the rear of them Mrs. Glegg's slate-colored silk gown
must have been; but from certain constellations of small yellow spots upon it, and
a mouldy odor about it suggestive of a damp clothes-chest, it was probable that it
belonged to a stratum of garments just old enough to have come recently into
Mrs. Glegg held her large gold watch in her hand with the many-doubled chain
round her fingers, and observed to Mrs. Tulliver, who had just returned from a
visit to the kitchen, that whatever it might be by other people's clocks and
watches, it was gone half-past twelve by hers.