Augusta; Lady Dolphinton

Considerably to their surprise, and not a little to their relief, Lady Dolphinton received the engaged couple later in the evening with a degree of affability which was as rare as it was unexpected. She was a hard-featured woman, with a predatory mouth, a smile that never reached her eyes, and an air of consequence. At no time had she been popular with her deceased husband's relations, for she was both proud and ill-natured, insolent to persons whom she considered to be her social inferiors, tyrannical to her son, and ruthless in the methods she employed to achieve her ends. Even Lady Legerwood, always prone to take the kindliest view of everyone, could not like Augusta. In her eyes, Augusta was a bad mother, whose treatment of her dull-witted son had, she maintained, done much to increase his imbecility. She could say no worse of anyone. The younger members of the family were frightened of her when children, and avoided her when they grew up. Mr Penicuik detested her. He made very little secret of his belief that his nephew's untimely decease might be laid at her door; and none at all of his conviction that his great-nephew's peculiarities were directly inherited from her. He said that all the Skirlings were loose screws, adding darkly that he didn't blame them for setting it about that old James Skirling had been drowned while fishing on a Scottish loch. No one, he said, could be expected to advertize the fact that a member of the family had to be confined in a room at the top of the house, with a couple of attendants to see that he came to no harm.
(ch. x)