A TULLIVER TEA-PARTY
GEORGE ELIOT (The Mitt on the Floss)
MR TULLIVER, a stout man of medium height. About fifty
MRS TULLIVER, his wife, a blonde, comely woman. She has rather
a timid, retiring, apologetic manner, especially when conversing
with Mrs Glegg.
MRS GLEGG, her sister, a tall, handsome woman of commanding
presence and domineering manner. She is some fifty years
MRS PULLET, a tall, good-looking woman and wry smartly dressed
in a handsome silk dress.
MR PULLET, her husband, a small man, with small twinkling eyes,
thin lips, and a high nose.
KEZIA, a maidservant.
PERIOD . . 1830
SCENE. The sitting-room at the TULUVER’S. It is
furnished in the heavy ugly fashion, common to the
earlier part of the nineteenth century. There is a
small window at back and a door R. Above the
fireplace L. is a chimney – piece upon which are
a number of ornaments and a clock which ticks
loudly. There is a round table C. partly set
5 6 A TULLIVER TEA-PARTY
for tea, about which uncomfortable – looking chairs
are placed. When the curtain rises MRS TULLIVER
is discovered seated in an armchair before the fire-
place. Her eyes are closed, and she gives the
impression that she is about to snatch a surreptitious
forty winks. MRS GLEGG is also discovered, seated
stiffly upon a sofa R. 0.
MRS GLEGG (sharply). What is the time, Sister
MRS TULLIVER (opening her eyes with a start and
glancing at the clock). I think it is about twelve after
MRS GLEGG (pulling out and consulting a large gold
watch). Well, I don’t know about your clock, but by
my watch it has gone the half -hour.
MRS TULLIVER (mildly). Has it indeed, sister ?
MRS GLEGG. I don’t know what ails our Sister Pullet,
I’m sure I don’t. It used to be the way in our family
for one to be as early as the other, and not for one
sister to sit for half an hour before the other came.
In my poor father’s time she used to be more like
me. If you’ll take my advice, Bessy, you’ll put the
tea forrard a bit, sooner than back, because folks are
late as ought to know better.
MRS TULLIVER. Oh, dear, there’s no fear but what
they’ll all be here in time, Jane. And the tea won’t
be ready till the half hour.
(Mas GLEGG snorts her disapproval.)
MRS TULLIVER. But if it’s too long for you to wait,
let me fetch you a cheese cake and a glass o’ wine.
MRS GLEGG. Well, Bessy, I should ha’ thought you’d
A TULLIVER TEA-PARTY 57
known your own sister better. / never eat between
meals and I’m not going to begin. Not but what I
hate this nonsense of having your tea at half past four
when you might have it at four.
MRS TULLTVER (in a plaintively peevish voice}. Well,
Jane, what can I do ? Mr Tulliver doesn’t like his
tea before five o’clock but I put it half an hour earlier
because of you.
MRS GLEGG. Yes, yes, I know how it is with
husbands they’re for putting off everything they’ll
put the tea off till after supper if they’ve wives as
are weak enough to give in to such work; it’s a
pity for you, Bessy, as you haven’t more strength of
mind, an’ it’s a pity for your children’s sake too. I
hope they don’t live to suffer. (She pauses but MRS
TULLTVER vouchsafes no reply.) I hope, sister, you’ve
not gone and got a great tea for us going to expense
for your sisters as ‘ud sooner eat a crust o’ dry bread
nor help to ruin you with extravagance.
MRS TULLIVER (dolefully). Well, I’m sure, sister,
Mr Tulliver has a right to have a good tea in his own
house if he likes to pay for it.
MRS GLEQG. Very well, Bessy, we’ll say no more
about it, but, remember, I can’t leave your children
enough out o’ my savings to keep ’em from ruin.
(The sound of a carriage drawing up outside is
MRS TULUVER (rising with relief at the interruption).
That must be Sister Pullet ; it was a four-wheel.
MRS GLEGG (with a sniff of disapprobation). Four-
wheel, indeed sinful waste, / call it !
MRS TULLIVER (looking sideways through the window).
5 8 A TULLIVER TEA-PARTY
Yes, it is her. Why, whatever can be the matter ?
She’s a-crying like anything.
Enter MRS PULLET. She holds a handkerchief before her
eyes and is shedding tears profusely,
MRS TULLIVER. Why, whatever is wrong, sister ?
(MRS PULLET only sobs.)
MRS TULLIVER. Why, you don’t mean as that girl’s
broke the best bedroom looking-glass again ?
MRS PULLET. No, no !
MRS TULLIVER (in a tone of relief). Well, that’s a
mercy any way.
MRS GLEQG (snappily). Well, something’s the matter,
MRS PULLET (blowing her nose and drying her eyes).
She’s gone ! (She sits down lifting up her mantle care-
fully before doing so.)
MRS GLEGG. Gone ! Who’s gone ?
MRS PULLET (unheeding her and continuing her news
in doleful tones and with a lachrymose accompaniment).
Died only yesterday an’ with legs as thick as my body.
They’d tapped her no end o’ times, and the water
you could ha’ swum in it if you’d wanted to.
MRS GLEGG (with a snort indicating her disapproval of
the manner of the demise). Well, Sophy, I can’t think
who you’re talking of, but it seems to me it’s a mercy
she’s gone, whoever she may be.
MRS PULLET (ruminating gloomily and shaking her
head). There wasn’t such another dropsy in the
MRS GLEGG (a light breaking in upon her). Oh, you
mean old Mrs Sutton, o’ Twentylands ?
(MRS PULLET nods her head.)
A TULLIVER TEA-PARTY 59
MRS GLEGG (indignantly). Well, and she’s no kin nor
much acquaintance neither as I’ve ever heard of.
MRS PULLET (with hurt surprise). She was so much
acquaintance as I’ve seen her legs when they was like
MRS TULLIVER. An’ they say she took as much
physic as ‘ud fill a waggon.
MRS PULLET. Ah, she had another complaint iver so
many years before she had the dropsy, an’ the doctors
couldn’t make out what it was. “Mrs Pullet,” she said
to me, only last Christmas, ” Mrs Pullet, if iver you
have the dropsy you’ll think o’ me.” Those were her
very words, and she’s to be buried o’ Saturday, an’
Pullet’s bid to the funeral. (She relapses again into
MRS GLEGG (rising with great indignation). Sophy, I
wonder at you, fretting and injuring your health about
people as don’t belong to you. Your poor father niver
did so, nor your Aunt Frances neither, nor any of the
family as I iver heard of. Why, you couldn’t fret no
more than this, if we heard as our cousin Abbott had
died sudden without making his will.
Enter MR TULLIVER and MR GLEGG.
TULLIVER (rubbing his hands}. Well, here we are, my
dears. I met Neighbour Glegg on the doorstep. Well,
sisters-in-law, and how do you find yourselves ?
MRS GLEGG. Thank you, Tulliver, / am well enough,
though I am sorry I can’t say the same for Sophy.
(MRS PULLET sniffs.)
TULLIVER. Why, what’s the matter with her ?
MRS GLEGG. You may well ask, Tulliver. There she
60 A TULLIVER TEA-PARTY
has been sitting for the last half hour sniffing and
fretting for a body that was neither kith nor kin.
Enter KEZIA with tea tray, which she sets upon the table.
TULLIVER. Well, well, I dare say a cup o’ tea ‘ull
soon put her right.
(At the the sight of the tea, they all, even
MRS PULLET, visibly brighten.)
TULLIVER. Come along all o’ ye.
(They all take their places at the table, MRS TULLIVER
presiding over the tea-pot.)
TULLIVER. Well, Kezia, where are the children ?
KEZIA. If ye plaize, sir, they’ve gone a’ fishing.
MRS GLEGG. Fishin’ indeed ! With then 1 aunts and
uncle coming to tea. That was not the way when I
TULLIVER (rather testily). Well, well, times have
changed since then, sister-in-law, an’ after all, there’s
no harm in fishin’, is there ?
(MRS GLEGG snorts.)
TULLIVER. And they’re good children.
MRS GLEGG. I hope they are.
MRS PULLET (shaking her head and relapsing into a
deep melancholy). I doubt he’ll outgrow his strength.
( To MRS TULLIVER.) Don’t you think so, sister ?
MRS TULLIVER (nervously). I can’t say, I’m sure,
TULLIVER. Nonsense, nonsense, the boy’s well
enough. I’ve got a piece o’ news, though, about him
that will surprise you all.
A TULLIVER TEA-PARTY 61
MBS PULLET. Oh, dear, I do hope he’s not been
getting into any trouble.
TULLIVER. Nay, nay, not that I know of. Now I’ve
just come from seeing Mr Stelling, the parson at King’s
(MRS GLEGG snorts and mutters to MRS TULLIVER,
” So that’s why he was late for tea.”)
TULLIVER. He’s an uncommon clever fellow is Mr
Stelling, and I’ve managed to send Tom to him.
(An amazed silence falls on the company as MR TULLIVER
glances round to see how his news is received.)
GLEGG (scratching his head). You’ll have to pay a
swinging half-year bill for that, eh, Tulliver ?
TULLIVER. Ay, ay, a cool hundred, but there, eddica-
tion is an expensive thing.
GLEGG. But will this parson be able to teach Tom
to know a good sample o’ wheat when he sees it ?
MRS GLEGG. Well, if I may be allowed to speak, an’
it’s seldom I am, I should like to know what good is to
come to the boy by being brought up above his fortin’.
TULLIVER (becoming rather nettled). I’ve made up my
mind not to bring Tom up to my own business. I want
to give him an eddication as he’ll be even wi’ lawyers
and folks. Tom’s eddication ‘ull be so much capital
GLEGG. Ay, there’s something in that.
” When land is gone and money’s spent
Then learning is most excellent.”
Ha ! Ha !
MRS GLEGG. Mr Glegg, I wonder at you making
jokes when you see your own kin going headlong to
TULLIVER (angrily). If you mean me by that, you
62 A TULLIVER TEA-PARTY
needn’t fret. I can manage my own affairs without
troubling other folks.
GLEGG. But Neighbour Tulliver, what can you be
sending him to a parson for ?
TULLIVER. Because parsons are the best school-
masters by what I can make out, and besides, Wakem,
the lawyer, told me he was going to send his son along
MRS PULLET (in a funereal voice}. But Wakem’s
son’s got a hump back, so it’s more natural to send
him to a clergyman.
MRS GLEGG. You’d better hold your tongue, sister,
far better. Mr Tulliver doesn’t want your opinion,
nor mine neither. There’s folks in the world as know
better than any one else.
TULLIVER. I should think that was you, if we’re
to trust your own tale.
MRS GLEGG. Oh, / say nothing. My advice has
never been asked and I don’t give it.
TULLIVER. It’ll be the first time, then. It’s the
only thing you’re over-ready at giving.
MRS GLEGG. I’ve been over-ready at lending then,
if I haven’t been over-ready at giving. Perhaps I shall
repent o’ lending money to kin.
TULLIVER. Well, you’ve got a bond for your money,
haven’t you ? And you’ve had your five per cent,
kin or no kin.
MRS TULLIVER (plaintively}. Sister, do drink your
tea and let me give you some almonds and raisins.
MRS GLEGG. Bessy, I am sorry for you. It’s poor
work talking o’ almonds and raisins.
MRS PULLET (beginning to weep a little}. Lor, sister,
don’t be so quarrelsome. You may be struck wi’ a
fit, and we are but just out o’ mourning, all o’ us.
A TULLIVER TEA-PARTY 63
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.
MRS TULLIVER. Oh dear, oh dear.
TULLIVER (dashing his fist upon the table). Who
wants to quarrel wi’ you. It’s you as can’t let people
alone. I should never want to quarrel with any
woman if she kept her place.
MRS GLEGG. My place, indeed. Let me tell you,
Mr Tulliver, there’s your betters as are dead and in
their graves, treated me with a different sort o’ respect
to what you do, though I have got a husband as ’11 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.
TULLIVER. My family’s as good as yours any day,
ay, and better, for it hasn’t got a damned ill-tempered
woman in it.
MRS GLEGG (rising and drawing her shawl more closely
about her). Not one minute longer do I stay in this
house. You may think it a fine thing, Mr Glegg, to sit
by and hear me swore at, but I am going home. (She
stalks out of the room.)
GLEGG (rising unhappily and shaking his head).
Dear, dear, she’s a difficult woman. (He follows his
MRS TULLIVER. Oh, Mr Tulliver, how could you talk
so ? Do go after her.
TULLIVER. No, let her go and the sooner the better.
She won’t be trying to domineer over me again in a
hurry. (Seizing his cup and assuming the air of a man
who has burnt his boats.) Here, give me another cup