Everyone understood the Tobiases: Charles Tobias preferred the dog, Essie, to his wife. The Tobiases themselves seemed to understand that they were perceived this way, and even to encourage it. They would draw visitors' attention to the silhouette, which was hanging in a place of honor, near the fireplace, and before which Essie lolled "like a pasha, just like a pasha," Charles said, stooping down to tickle her under the neck. How long was he planning to stay like that? His wife smiled at the guests, who busied themselves looking at the image.
It wasn't very flattering to the wife's figure, which hadn't improved since then, either. "A remarkable frame," the guests often said. Mrs. Tobias sometimes offered the address of the frame-maker; no one was sure whether she did this out of malice.
Some guests ventured, "Who did this?' Luckily, the artist was now dead and her address could not be fetched. She'd been a distant cousin of Charles's. Some guests wondered whether she'd had marital designs on Charles; perhaps that was the reason the image of Mrs. Tobias was so unflatteringly true to life?
That the Tobiases might have known what was being said about them did not make evenings at their house any more pleasant, one reason they remained at the periphery (or beneath the table) of polite society in Youngstown--"such as it was," Mrs. Duffy would usually add. (Mrs. Duffy had been married to a "large landholder" in Surrey, she said...