"I've been over-ready at lending, then, if I haven't been over-ready at giving," said Mrs. Glegg. "There's folks I've lent money to, as perhaps I shall repent o' lending money to kin."
"Come, come, come," said Mr. Glegg, soothingly. But Mr. Tulliver was not to be hindered of his retort.
"You've got a bond for it, I reckon," he said; "and you've had your five per cent, kin or no kin."
"Sister," said Mrs. Tulliver, pleadingly, "drink your wine, and let me give you some almonds and raisins."
"Bessy, I'm sorry for you," said Mrs. Glegg, very much with the feeling of a cur that seizes the opportunity of diverting his bark toward the man who carries no stick. "It's poor work talking o' almonds and raisins."
"Lors, sister Glegg, don't be so quarrelsome," said Mrs. Pullet, beginning to cry a little. "You may be struck with a fit, getting so red in the face after dinner, and we are but just out o' mourning, all of us, — and all wi' gowns craped alike and just put by; it's very bad among sisters."
"I should think it is bad," said Mrs. Glegg. "Things are come to a fine pass when one sister invites the other to her house o' purpose to quarrel with her and abuse her."
"Softly, softly, Jane; be reasonable, be reasonable," said Mr. Glegg.
But while he was speaking, Mr. Tulliver, who had by no means said enough to satisfy his anger, burst out again.
"Who wants to quarrel with you?" he said. "It's you as can't let people alone, but must be gnawing at 'em forever. I should never want to quarrel with any woman if she kept her place."
"My place, indeed!" said Mrs. Glegg, getting rather more shrill. "There's your betters, Mr. Tulliver, as are dead and in their grave, treated me with a different sort o' respect to what you do; though I've got a husband as'll sit by and see me abused by them as 'ud never ha' had the chance if there hadn't been them in our family as married worse than they might ha' done."
"If you talk o' that," said Mr. Tulliver, "my family's as good as yours, and better, for it hasn't got a damned ill-tempered woman in it!"
"Well," said Mrs. Glegg, rising from her chair, "I don't know whether you think it's a fine thing to sit by and hear me swore at, Mr. Glegg; but I'm not going to stay a minute longer in this house. You can stay behind, and come home with the gig, and I'll walk home."
"Dear heart, dear heart!" said Mr. Glegg in a melancholy tone, as he followed his wife out of the room.
"Mr. Tulliver, how could you talk so?" said Mrs. Tulliver, with the tears in her eyes.
"Let her go," said Mr. Tulliver, too hot to be damped by any amount of tears. "Let her go, and the sooner the better; she won't be trying to domineer over me again in a hurry."
"Sister Pullet," said Mrs. Tulliver, helplessly, "do you think it 'ud be any use for you to go after her and try to pacify her?"
"Better not, better not," said Mr. Deane. "You'll make it up another day."
"Then, sisters, shall we go and look at the children?" said Mrs. Tulliver, drying her eyes.
No proposition could have been more seasonable. Mr. Tulliver felt very much as if the air had been cleared of obtrusive flies now the women were out of the room. There were few things he liked better than a chat with Mr. Deane, whose close application to business allowed the pleasure very rarely. Mr. Deane, he considered, was the "knowingest" man of his acquaintance, and he had besides a ready causticity of tongue that made an agreeable supplement to Mr. Tulliver's own tendency that way, which had remained in rather an inarticulate condition. And now the women were gone, they could carry on their serious talk without frivolous interruption. They could exchange their views concerning the Duke of Wellington, whose conduct in the Catholic Question had thrown such an entirely new light on his character; and speak slightingly of his conduct at the battle of Waterloo, which he would never have won if there hadn't been a great many Englishmen at his back, not to speak of Blucher and the Prussians, who, as Mr. Tulliver had heard from a person of particular knowledge in that matter, had come up in the very nick of time; though here there was a slight dissidence, Mr. Deane remarking that he was not disposed to give much credit to the Prussians, — the build of their vessels, together with the unsatisfactory character of transactions in Dantzic beer, inclining him to form rather a low view of Prussian pluck generally. Rather beaten on this ground, Mr. Tulliver proceeded to express his fears that the country could never again be what it used to be; but Mr. Deane, attached to a firm of which the returns were on the increase, naturally took a more lively view of the present, and had some details to give concerning the state of the imports, especially in hides and spelter, which soothed Mr. Tulliver's imagination by throwing into more distant perspective the period when the country would become utterly the prey of Papists and Radicals, and there would be no more chance for honest men.
Uncle Pullet sat by and listened with twinkling eyes to these high matters. He didn't understand politics himself, — thought they were a natural gift, — but by what he could make out, this Duke of Wellington was no better than he should be.