Monday, March 22, 2010

"One of That Amiable Sisterhood"

It's been two weeks since we've heard from the original Gossips of Rivertown, so it's time for another excerpt. This passage features Miss Martin, the seamstress, who carries tales, along with her needle-book and scissors, from client to client in Rivertown.

Miss Margaret Martin was a maiden lady of thirty-nine. She was, as our readers may have seen, a perfect Athenian so far as regards a propensity for "hearing and telling some new thing," and her peculiar mode of life did not tend to lessen this natural disposition.

From Mrs. Smith's her needle-book and scissors were in requisition at Mrs. Miller's, of whom we have before spoken, and who was on intimate terms with Mrs. Jorden. It is not to be supposed that so grand, so peculiar a bit of gossip was long with held from that lady's ears. Of her own part in the discovery, Miss Margaret said not a word, but while commiserating poor Mrs. Jorden, she most innocently wondered who could have started such a story? The way she heard of it was this:—Two young ladies (she couldn't mention names) had been paying a call on Mary Butler, and were surprised to find Mr. Jorden's miniature on her centre-table. They thought nothing of it, of course, (it might have been left there by Mrs. Jorden herself,) but when they were coming out they stopped to fasten the garden-gate, and looking back accidentally, they distinctly saw Mary Butler kiss the very miniature as she stood by the window! Then it was afterwards discovered that he, Mr. Jorden, was in the habit of writing to her two or three times a week, and one of the letters, by the merest accident, had been found, and was full of the most love-like expressions. Moreover, she herself chanced to know that Mr. Jorden frequently passed the evening there, and sometimes without his wife. Miss Margaret had seen him going in once alone; she remembered it distinctly, because it was the night of the terrible high wind that blew down Sprague & Skinner's new sign. She thought it was strange then that Mrs. Jorden should not have been with him—did Mrs. Miller recollect that terrible stormy night?

Mrs. Miller had not forgotten the evening in question, and she smiled as she thought his being out alone was not strange that night at least.

"To be sure," continued Miss Martin, (calling Mrs. Miller's little girl at the same time, to come and have a waist-lining tried on,) "to be sure, Miss Barnard says they practise together; that Mrs. Jorden hates music, and he's all bound up in it, so he goes over and takes his flute. But to my mind it's as clear as day-light, that it's only an excuse. I declare, I can hardly keep still when I think how that girl goes on, and--"

Miss Margaret's attention was here arrested by a sharp cry from the patient little martyr before her. She had become so interested in her story, that she had quite forgotten the particular branch of business she was attending to, and so had gone on drawing up the lining here, and sticking in a pin there, until the poor child could scarcely breathe. At last, as she absently pinned through shoulder and all, the cry escaped which recalled her to her task.

Now the child had just been learning a history lesson for the next day, wherein the misdeeds of the Salem witches were recorded. And as she sobbed with the fright and the pain, the terrible suspicion flashed through her mind that Miss Martin was one of that amiable sisterhood revived; and, indeed, the face that bent over her favoured the conclusion. From that instant, it was only by bribes, threats, and, in fact, ofttimes punishment, that she could be induced to enter her tormentor's presence.

Sketch the Second. More of Mary Butler. Chapter IV

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