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“You don't say !” ejaculated Miss Martin ; " why I always thought she looked well enough. Wouldn't it be queer if Henry Jorden should be left a widower? I wonder who he'd marry!”
“I don't suppose he has thought so far as that,” replied Mrs. Townsend, smiliug, despite the seriousness of the subject, at the last characteristic remark. “But, as regards Mrs. Jorden, it was only by absolute necessity that she was prevailed to leave her sister this winter. I fear Mrs. Jackson will be, and has been, very lonely.”
“La! I don't see why. There's Jane, one of the best girls in the kitchen I ever saw -she lived with me awhile-and Mrs. Miller's very neighbourly. Besides, she doesn't shut herself up, by any means, not she; for young Dr. Wheelock has been there often, and lawyer McCloud, and she goes out to tea every now and then. She was at Miss Barnard's last week, quite as if nothing had happened, and sung and played, too, though she don't keep her own piano shut, as to that.”
“Just so, Mrs. Smith,” said Miss Martin. “I was saying to Mrs. Folger the other night-last night it was, at Mrs. Harden's
- Mrs. Folger, says I, when people forget their husbands so soon, (and the best of husbands as he was,) begin to take off black when they haven't worn the stiffness out of the crape, and can sing songs just as if they didn't mind being widows a bit, I haven't got much pity for them, that's all.”
“I never shall forget,” pursued Mrs. Smith,“ how cool she was the day of the funcral. I don't believe she shed a tear. I'm sure, the day my first husband was buried, it was just as much as they could do to get me into the carriage. Ma said she never saw anybody go on as I did. But I had reason to feel bad. A kinder man never brought bread into the house than
Mr. Jenkins. He was such a provider. Wasn't it strange, Miss Martin, that he didn't leave a hundred dollars after all was paid off? We all thought the executors must have cheated me. I never will forgive Dr. Trueman as long as I live — never. Though I'm not a bit spiteful, naturally, and I wouldn't lift my hand against him. I ain't one of them kind.”
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 would n'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 “ did n't see why she was n'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, 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. Speak
ing of that, Morrison has got some of the cheapest groceries I ever saw. His six cent sugar is quite good enough, when there's no one in, and as for using Havana in our own family, I won't do that for anybody.”'
“A whisper woke the air,
A soft light tone and low,
very afternoon Mrs. Jackson sat alone by her own fire-side. Alone, in the fullest meaning of that desolate word. Her brother had left that morning
for New York, and the reaction from the little excitement of his visit, had increased her sadness. Besides, the day before she had passed with him at the manufactory, in consultation with Mr. Stone the overseer, and she had looked over memorandams written in that well-known hand, sitting at the very desk that had been her husband's, and had listened to his praises from the grateful operatives, who crowded at the noon hour, to welcome her.
She thought over all of this, and the tears came to her eyes. She looked around that little room where there were still so many tokens of him, and recalled the pleasant smile, and tried to catch the very tone of his nightly greeting. “Gone, and for ever, fro my yearning sight,” was the language in her heart as she wept bit
terly. Archie had gone out with Jane, and there was nothing to prevent the indulgence of this sorrow. It was not often that the fountain of bitterness welled forth, but now she did not seek to check it; she drew his last kind letters from their restingplace, and read again and again those words of deep and manly affection, that had thrilled her heart with delicious happiness when she had first received them, but were now doubly dear, as she remembered they were the last tokens of that love that should ever be hers.
Even those, then speaking so harshly, would have stayed their reproaches could they have seen the weary woman kneeling in very sickness of heart, with her head buried in the cushions of the sofa, and yielding to wild bursts of grief, that sank at times to a low, moaning sob, still more fearful! Yet some there were, even at that hour, who envied her! Envied her beauty, her intelligence, and her worldly position, and spoke of her future prospects as unclouded!
Scarcely had she recovered from this unusual excitement, when the step of a visitor sounded in the hall. In an instant those dear records of the dead, blistered as they were with tears, were hastily put aside; she did not enter the room until the flush had somewhat subsided from her eyelids, and then as she greeted her visitor with cheerful cordiality, none but a heart tremblingly alive to her welfare, could have marked the traces of that fearful storm of emotion.
Mrs. Miller's manner was in marked contrast to this warm greeting. She was cold and embarrassed, spoke in short sentences, which were often broken off, as if they had at first contained the element of some second thought it was best not to speak -- a peculiarly “tantalizing" mode of remark, in which