Friday, December 17, 2010

A Visit from Mrs. Townsend (continued)

Here's the continuation of the chapter from the original Gossips of Rivertown that we started yesterday.

Mrs. Townsend tried in vain for some time to turn the conversation. These gossiping details were painful to her, for she felt that, as a listener, she was becoming a party to them. Although she knew very little of Mrs. Jackson—the acquaintance having commenced accidentally on Mr. Townsend's having been called to officiate at Mr. Jackson's funeral, in the absence of their own clergyman,—she had conceived the deepest regard for her. She thought she understood fully Mrs. Jackson's motives in conducting her late husband's business affairs for the time, although no conversation on the subject had passed between them. Moreover, the absurdity of the charges made against her, put the affair in almost a ludicrous light, as she hastily reviewed it in her own mind.

"Ladies," said she, at the first pause in the tirade, "I came partly on business this afternoon. You have heard of course about the meeting of the committee of ladies with regard to establishing an orphan asylum."

"Mrs. Folger was speaking of it last night, don't you remember?" said Mrs. Smith, "and I thought we had orphans enough of our own to see to, without gathering up all the little beggars in town, and washing their faces for them. Besides, if the Bernards and Seymours and that Mrs. Jackson are going to have it all in their own hands, let them manage it among themselves. I wouldn't go a step out of my way to help them. Would you, Miss Martin?"

The lady thus appealed to thought not; no, decidedly.

The key of the indignation was this. Mrs. Smith was affronted that she had not been called upon at first; Mrs. Harden had been, Mrs. Folger was, one of the original committee. She "didn't see why she wasn't as good as other people!"

Mrs. Townsend tried in vain to soothe her; Mrs. Smith was one of those obstinately jealous people who are always imagining affronts where none are intended, and who are never willing to be convinced that they, by any possibility, can be wrong. She had determined from the first to do all that she could against the new movement, which in itself was truly praiseworthy, and was glad of an opportunity to vent the ill-humour that had been slowly gathering, like an autumnal storm, for many days.

Finding her remonstrances only increased the belligerent determination of the lady, Mrs. Townsend soon after took leave, after engaging Miss Martin to sew a day for her the ensuing week.

No sooner had the hall door closed, than Mrs. Smith began commenting on the extravagance of ministers' wives generally, and Mrs. Townsend in particular.

"Now you just see," said she, stitching vigorously the seam of a sleeve, "if there is not more sugar used in that house in one week than there is in mine for a month. I wonder what sort of a dress it is she wants you to make."

"A silk, she said."

"Another new silk dress! Why she had one only a year ago, that cheeny with so many colours in it. I do hate to see my own money wasted in that way. Twelve dollars a year for pew rent is something taken out of a family now-a-days, I can tell you. Particularly when flour's eight dollars a barrel. Speaking of that, Morrison has got some of the cheapest groceries I ever saw. His six cent sugar is quite good enough, when there 'a no one in, and as for using Havana in our own family, I won't do that for anybody.

Sketch the Fourth. Mrs. Harden's Quilting. Chapter II.

Establishing an orphan asylum in Hudson was something that happened in 1845, just five years before The Gossips of Rivertown was published. The Albany Evening Journal reported that the Hudson Orphan Asylum was incorporated by an act of the State Legislature on April 25, 1845. It was originally located in the brick building on the northwest corner of State and Seventh streets, now owned by Eric Galloway. In 1881, the Hudson Orphan Asylum moved to 400 State Street, now the Hudson Area Library.

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