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"I wonder if he's rich. See how he tucks the buffalo around her—I declare, how loving that 'thank you' was! Well!”
“It must be excellent sleighing,” remarked Mrs. Harden, as the light vehicle glided out of sight.
The curtain was rolled down, Miss Harriet recommenced her practice, despite the previous conversation, and Mrs. Harden departed to communicate the late observations to Hannah, who, by the way, was Mrs. Harden's confidant, and even counsellor that is, she always volunteered her opinion on every subject under family discussion.
The expected visiters arrived, with the exception of Miss Martin. She was engaged “half a day" at Miss Barnard's, and had promised Mrs. Harden to run in and take her place at the quilt, “by way of change," the rest of the day.
Mrs. Folger did not bring Bobby, who had a bad cold, but the twins were there in very short dresses, and very wide pantalettes. They had somewhat increased in stature since we made their acquaintance two years before, and were now at that interesting age graphically described as “just old enough to be all the time in mischief.”
There was some little trouble in getting comfortably settled o the quilt. The frame was too high for Mrs. Smith, and, when altered, too low for Mrs. Folger; when this difficulty was obviated by placing “ the bars" upon the backs of eight chairs,— a movement which made the centre of gravity very indeterminate, and consequently insecure, -it was discovered that the chalk marks were all rubbed out while they had been at work. Then Mrs. Folger's thimble was misssing, though she was sure she had it on leaving home. Mrs. Harden's did duty as a substitute, but being somewhat too large, it was constantly falling off and rolling
into the little hollow in the centre of the quilt, thus causing a deal of stretching over and poking about, before it could be regained.
At length all was adjusted, and the “border" was commenced. Mrs. Harden had waited but till now for the communication of the morning's observations.
“Was it possible!”_"Could any woman forget her husband so soon!” — (Mrs. Smith seemed not to remember that her second marriage had taken place within the year after her husband's death.)
“Let's see,” said she. “It's just three months, day before yesterday, since the funeral. I had my cloak made the day after it, and Miss Martin and I talked it all over together.”
“By the way, your cloak is elegant,” chimed in Mrs. Harden. “But about the funeral—don't you remember what I said to you as we came home? Mrs. Smith, says I, as true as you a’re alive, if that man ain't married, or going to be, 't will make a match.”
“Oh, it was plain enough the very night he came. Don't you remember how she fairly threw herself into his arms? Something said to me then, (though I had no idea of who he was,) 6 Mrs. Jackson will
!' “ Then, you know, I carried the salts into her room, and he was hanging over her and calling her all kinds of things. He kissed her even, and her husband lying dead in the house !”
“Horrors ! you never told me that—(hand me the scissors.) -I should have thought they would have been afraid he would have risen up before them.”
“ And then her setting herself up to go on with that factory. It's all of a piece. I've heard she planned it all out the very day of the funeral."
“ And she pretending to feel so bad, Mrs. Harden. The hypocrisy of some people!”
“I never thought she cared much about her husband, between you and I,” replied that lady. “How she went on with young Dr. Wheelock, long before his death!”
“How many times has Edward Jackson been up, since then ?” asked Mrs. Folger.
“ This is the third time. To be sure, it's not far to come, and I thought nothing about it”—as we have seen, dear reader)— “ until after the river closed. But any man that wants to see a woman enough to pay stage fare all the way from New York, and to take such a ride in the middle of winter, must be pretty deep in love. That's all I can say."
Here Mrs. Harden quilted into Mrs. Smith's elbow; and as they had come to such uncomfortably close quarters, she concladed to “mark” awhile, until they were ready to roll up.
Before that operation was concluded, Miss Martin arrived, who, breathlessly, told them to go to the window “ quick.” In the agitation of the moment, the front of the quilt was knocked down; but they did not stop to repair the disaster.
“Come to this window," said Mrs. Smith to Harriet; “ they're just at the door. Talk of"
“Oh! don't-now isn't he handsome!”
“That's a new-fashioned overcoat,” said Miss Martin; how oddly the seams are closed. Have you seen one like it before ?"
The ladies were not so observant as Miss Martin of the gentleman's apparel; but they all saw Mrs. Jackson lifted from the sleigh, and almost carried into the house.
This, certainly, seemed an unnecessary piece of devotedness
to all present, and they came to the conclusion that, whatever doubt had existed before, there was certainly none now with regard to their positive engagement.
“It's not every one that's so easily consoled," said Mrs. Folger, as they once more readjusted the quilt; “though I have heard of people who were married within a year. Mr. Alger, you know; it was only six months after his wife died.”
Mrs. Smith winced a little, but did not betray her uneasiness. Her second wedding-day had occurred just nine months from the first day of her widowhood.
“By the way," said Miss Martin, suddenly, “who do you think I saw to-day, Harriet ?--Adeline Mitchell, your particular friend,” for all present were aware of the new antagonism.
“Ah!” said Harriet, with a most contemptuous wreathing of her thin lips.
“Yes; and she had on the sweetest new silk dress. I wonder who made it !”
“It's likely that people who can afford new silk dresses every fall, have them made in New York. I do like to see people get above themselves now and then!”
There was plainly no hope that the “breach of peace” could ever be closed. Adeline Mitchell's extravagance created quite a diversion from Mrs. Jackson. Miss Martin stitched
industriously with terribly long needlefulls” of thread. Mrs. Folger now and then had a little chase for the unfortunate thimble, and Mrs. Smith, as usual, talked a great deal and sewed very little. As the days were very short, lights were introduced soon after Miss Martin's arrival, when a new difficulty ensued.
There were but two flat-bottomed candlesticks in the house; these Hannah had that morning rescued from the threatened
oblivion of the “closet under the stairs,'' and had spent much time and labour in polishing. Two lights were not sufficient, and the expedient of a lamp set upon a large plate was mentioned. The plate would not do, there was too mnch danger of its upsetting
At length, Miss Martin suggested that the little tea-tray would be just the thing; and this, when tried, was found to answer admirably.
“Now, Harriet, I'll take your place, and you give us a tune. I haven't heard a bit of music this
know a piece called 'Flow Gently, Sweet Afton?'” asked Mrs. Smith.
“I haven't played it I can't tell the time when,” responded the fair musician; “ but I've got a beautiful new thing called Norma," she added, taking up a simple arrangement of the Druid's march in that celebrated opera.
“Norma - I suppose that's a girl's name," said Mrs. Folger, complacently.
“Well, let's have that, then," continued Miss Martin.
Harriet forthwith commenced in a loud, dashing style, in which forte and piano, diminuendo and crescendo passages were so mingled, as to be entirely undistinguishable.
Mrs. Folger nodded her head to keep time, while Mrs. Smith, glad of an excuse for open idleness, laid down her needle and rested her elbow on the quilt-frame to listen, while Miss Martin's notes of admiration, as “ Ain't that a sweet strain ?"_“Don't that put you in mind of Bonaparte crossing the Rhine ?'” were continued at intervals.
Animated by such " distinguished applause,” Harriet played still more loudly as she neared the conclusion; but alas for the finale!