Monday, March 8, 2010

Whose Miniature Was It?

For those who have been waiting impatiently all weekend, the identity of the person portrayed in the miniature is now revealed in this excerpt from The Gossips of Rivertown.

"Do you know whose miniature that is?" were the first agitated words as they regained the street.

"I haven't the slightest idea. I wonder how Mr. Jorden came to send it to her."

"Oh, well,--Adeline Mitchell,--as sure as you're walking Main street, it was Henry Jorden himself!"

Her companion absolutely turned pale. Even she could not believe so entire a confirmation of their worst suspicions.

"But, Harriet," she faltered, "you didn't dare"--

"Yes, but I did; it was lying right before me on the centre table--anything there is always public property--and what's more, the note was half open, and I couldn't resist the opportunity to read just a line. Now if you ever tell, I'll never speak to you again as long as I live."

"Well, I won't--I won't. Mercy, I never should have"--

"Yes you would, though, if you had sat where I did. I couldn't help reading the first line and then I went on a little further--I heard her coming before I got near through. I didn't touch it at all, so it's not so very bad. It was more than half open, and I poked it with my pencil a little nearer."

"What was it about?"

"What do you suppose a man would write when he sends a lady his miniature? It was all love from beginning to end, and I'd swear to the handwriting and signature any day. I remember every word I read--let me think--it began 'Dear Mary,' and then there was something about 'as the original couldn't be always near her, he sent the copy as soon as it came from New York'--(it seems it was painted there)--'and hoped it would prove a substitute until the original was always by her, to 'give her that love which the picture, faithful as it was, could not bestow.' These were the very words; I did not see how it ended, but I read his name signed in full at the bottom of the page, just as I heard her step."

"I can't believe you, Harriet."

"I can't believe my own eyes yet; but I tell you the living truth. What will ma say? such bold-faced, shameless conduct"--(Miss Harriet was not alluding to her own, dear ladies)--"I never heard of before. I think Mrs. Jorden ought to know it."

At this crisis they were interrupted by "ma" herself, who was "cheapening" a piece of bleached muslin at the front counter of Gurnsey & Yerry's, and called to them as they passed. After a wonder at the length of their visit, and a promise to the polite shopman that she would call some other day, (an indefinite promissory note which he well understood, as meaning his goods were too high, and she would go where they could be purchased cheaper,) the happy trio proceeded down the street.

Harriet's information produced an effect even greater than she had anticipated. Mrs. Harden was absolutely horror struck! She protested such things should not be allowed in a Christian community; that every woman in Rivertown ought to set her face against such a bold piece as Mary; and, for her part, Harriet was forbidden, from that day, to darken Mrs. Butler's door.

Sketch the Second. More of Mary Butler. Chapter III

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