Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Doing Their Duty As Friends

It's been a while since we've heard from the original Gossips of Rivertown, so here's another excerpt. In this passage, Miss Martin shares her slanderous tale with Mrs. Miller, "who was on intimate terms with Mrs. Jorden," and all the good ladies of Rivertown decide it's their duty to let the betrayed wife know what they believe to be true.

Again the sentence was left unfinished, for the very people in question passed the window, and as they did so, Mr. Jorden gave Mary a letter, which she quickly slipped into her bag. Mrs. Miller was made a witness to that, as well as the peculiar eagerness of Mary's manner as she received it, and for the first time she began to think there was a foundation, at least, for what Miss Martin had told her. She had allowed that lady to finish her recital because she knew it was useless to attempt to check the tide; paying little regard to it meanwhile, although she was vexed that her friend's name should be brought with a gossip of that character. Now, although she well knew Miss Martin's talent for the embroidery of unvarnished facts quite exceeded her skill in plain-sewing, she was sure there was some cause, at least, though she doubted not it was a perfectly innocent one, for this really slanderous tale.

She, as well as Miss Martin, came to the resolution that Mrs. Jorden should know it, but from a different reason. She hoped that she could and would explain the mystery to the satisfaction of all, and she thought such an explanation was due to all the parties concerned. So she resolved that the next time she saw her friend she would have the riddle solved, and that she would call on her soon for that very purpose. But she was busy all that week assisting Miss Margaret with the children's spring dresses, and the next it rained every day. In fact, after Miss Martin's departure, she had almost forgotten the circumstance, until it was recalled by Miss Barnard, who came to pay her a sociable visit the first day of fair weather.

What was her surprise at learning from her visitor, that the same tale, exaggerated, and "with assurance made doubly sure," by real or pretended confirmations, was the popular topic of discussion throughout Rivertown! and Miss Barnard, being highly indignant, revealed Miss Martin's share in the tale, and entreated Mrs. Miller, as a most intimate friend, to beg that Mrs. Jorden would discountenance it at once. That very afternoon, as soon as Miss Barnard was gone, Mrs. Miller left the house on her friendly errand.

She had always been accustomed to enter Mrs. Jorden's parlours without ringing--a neighbourly practice called "running in" at Rivertown--and as she opened the hall-door, she entered the more confidently as she heard visitors in the parlour. She readily understood the somewhat extraordinary scene that met her view.

Mrs. Jorden was standing with a coldly dignified air, nearly in the centre of the room; her face was flushed as if with the struggle of overmastering some passionate emotion; and her eyes flashed proudly, as she said to the ladies who were about leaving—

"Allow me to thank you for the kind interest you take in my welfare; and, at the same time, to assure you that I consider my husband to be the most competent guardian, both of himself, and of our domestic aflairs."

Not a word in reply from the two, who turned so hastily that they stumbled upon Mrs. Miller, who stood perfectly quiet with the door-knob still in her hand.

"Good evening, Mrs. Harden, Mrs. Smith," said she, as the ladies recovered themselves. But there was no response, for, with unexampled quickness, they had hurried past. They gained the street before either spoke a word, and then, to Mrs. Harden's exclamation of "Did you ever?" Mrs. Smith replied with equal solemnity of tone, "I never was so struck!"

"After I took the trouble to go and tell her," said Mrs. Harden.

"Doing our duty as friends," said Mrs. Smith. "To burst out in that way!"

"I saw her bite her lips long before you'd got through."

"Well, I've done my part by her, that's all I can say;" and Mrs. Harden indignantly twitched her unoffending green veil more closely over her face.

Sketch the Second. More of Mary Butler. Chapter IV

No comments:

Post a Comment