Time for another excerpt from The Gossips of Rivertown. Mr. Jorden is married to Mrs. Jackson's sister, but that's not stopping the gossips from talking about him and Mary Butler and the scandalous liaison they imagine exists between them. This time, Miss Martin, the dressmaker, is the principal bearer of news.
This particular morning the conversation turned upon Mrs. Jorden, and as Miss Martin had been employed by that lady for a day or two previous, there was much to be said, and a variety of questions asked. It was at length settled by Miss Martin's testimony, that the back parlour curtains were worsted damask instead of silk; that Mrs. Jorden always wore a cap at breakfast, and never came to dinner in her morning dress—("Such airs!" exclaimed Mrs. Smith)—that Mr. Jorden often passed whole evenings out of the house—and here Miss Martin became quite mysterious, and could not be prevailed upon to give any information with regard to the employment of said evenings.
"He hain't joined the Odd Fellows?" said Mrs. Smith, throwing up both hands.
"No," was the concise reply.
"You don't say he goes to that shocking ten-pin alley?"
"Not that ever I heard of," vouchsafed Miss Martin; and then, urged by her listener, she at length disclosed that she believed quite too much of his time was passed at Mary Butler's.
"Of all things!" exclaimed Mrs. Smith rocking back energetically upon the kitten's tail, who sent forth a piteous yell as the door opened to admit Adeline Mitchell.
"Oh, Adeline, I'm so glad to see you," was the greeting. "What do you think Miss Martin says? Mr. Jorden is absolutely half his time at Mary Butler's."
"Perhaps not quite half," mildly interposed the informant; "and if you'll never tell—but no, I've no right to mention such things," and Miss Martin industriously waxed a needleful of silk.
"Ah, come, go on, we'll never mention it, you may depend," said Adeline Mitchell, with breathless eagerness.
"Never—that is, only to Harriet Harden; you'll let me tell her, won't you; but it shan't go a step farther."
"Well, then—but I guess I'd better not, after all."
"Oh, do now."
"I've seen him give her letters, and she'd blush terribly, and hide them in her pocket as quick as thought. Then he always calls her 'Mary,' which is quite too familiar to suit me, and worse than all, Mrs. Jorden's found it out.
"You don't say so!"
"What did she do?"
"It was only last night—(now if you ever whisper this, I shall never forgive you). I'll tell you how I happened to hear it. I was sewing in the dining-room (as she will call it; I should say sitting-room), and as I'd got the sleeves basted in and the hooks and eyes on, I thought I'd get her to try on the waist, so I just stepped to the back parlour door, but as I got there I stopped a minute, for I thought I heard high words, and the first I heard was—'You spend quite too much of your time at Mrs. Butler's, and I won't allow it any more!'—then he said something I could not quite understand, and she answered 'No, I 'm not naturally inclined to be jealous; but I shall put a stop to this, I assure you.' Then they talked lower, and so I just walked in, quite unconcerned, and there they stood by the fire-place. Just as I opened the door, he tried to put his arm round her waist, to make up, I suppose, and she pushed it away—there, like that," and Miss Martin, suiting the action to the word, gave Miss Adeline a somewhat ungentle repulse.
"Well, I always said, from the first, there was no good in their acquaintance. You remember what a time Mrs. Jackson made a year ago about it?" said Mrs. Smith, appealing to Adeline Mitchell.
"Don't I though—if they did pretend to be such good friends afterwards? I've always thought the Jacksons took her up because she happened to get a little money about that time. To be sure, she runs there now every day of her life; but I'll warrant Mrs. Jackson would like to put a stop to it if she could."
Suddenly, Miss Mitchell recollected that she had promised to run in and see Harriet a little while that morning.
"Oh, stay to dinner," said Mrs. Smith, "and we can talk it all over. I'm most through in the kitchen, and then I'm going to cover cord for Miss Martin; I've got nothing in the world to do."
But Miss Adeline was already tying on her bonnet.
"We're going to have pot-pie," urged her hostess.
"And apple-dumplings," suggested Miss Martin, whose choice in dessert had just been consulted.
But the love of gossip prevailed over that of apple-dumplings, and Miss Mitchell disappeared just as Mrs. Smith was summoned to the kitchen by the hired girl's announcement that "the crust was riz."
Sketch the Second. More of Mary Butler. Chapter II