Mysterious Room [13/18]

Thirteenth evening.

On the appointed day, Mr. and Mrs. Briggs, with Priscilla, made the important trip to Boston. The Pendleton girls had both been in Boston several times, and Priscilla was not so ignorant of city ways as one would have expected; but she often did and said things while on this shopping trip that brought mortification to her companions, and gave occasion for much sport on the part of the clerks.

Her money was carried in a bead bag or purse that she had borrowed for the day of Mrs Briggs; it was well filled. The dealers, when seeing the quantity of coins from which they were paid for their goods, and the apparent freedom with which their customer distributed it, became unusually attentive to the purchasers, all the time deriving much amusement from their conversation with them.

“Is that what you sell for a wedding gown? ” said

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Priscilla to a smiling clerk, while she began to pull over some pieces of gaudy fabrics before him.

“Yes,” replied the clerk with a roguish curl of the mouth, “if any one wants it; but here is the very article so very becoming to one of your style of beauty.”

[ interior sketch ]
[[ Buying the Wedding Garments. ]]
“Is that what you sell for a wedding gown?”

This interested Priscilla, whose joy now seemed beyond expression. To be called handsome, for she understood it thus, and with a sure prospect of marriage in the near future, she needed nothing more to perfect her happiness. She really seemed overcome with joy, and had she been making her purchases unattended, might have become the victim of wholesale imposition and the object of ridicule. I must say, although not to the credit of clerks, that in those

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days, as well as in these, when business is very differently conducted, purchasers were often made sport of when innocently looking about for those things which they were ready to procure. It mattered not where they were from, some peculiarity was often detected, and the thoughtless person behind the counter revealed his ill-manners in making fun, while he thought he was displaying his wit in creating a laugh in others as ungentlemanly as himself. The clerk had riveted Priscilla’s attention by his seeming flattery, and she continued her inquiry by saying, “Do you think it fit for me when I am going to marry a minister?”

On being assured that it was well adapted to the purpose, she exclaimed to Mrs. Briggs, who had lingered at another counter, [^1] “I have got it; just the thing for a minister’s wife,” he says, [^2] starting to meet her adviser, while holding the end of the web of silk with one hand and grasping her bead bag by the other.

Mrs. Briggs, however, persuaded her that another shade would be more desirable, and a more subdued pattern would be quite as becoming for one who was to occupy the important position of a minister’s wife. Priscilla, as ever, was perfectly willing to listen to Mrs. Briggs, and the selection was made at another counter, to the apparent displeasure of the clerk who had interested himself so much in the customer from the country, and who had already begun to anticipate a word of commendation from his employer when he should inform him that he had disposed of a shopworn pattern which had been on hand a long time. A generous number of yards were purchased, more than Mrs. Briggs thought necessary, but as Priscilla

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was anxious to have everything made in the very best of style, a large pattern of each kind selected was decided upon. [*1] Priscilla opened the bead bag and paid the price of the wedding gown with some of the identical money that was taken from the mysterious room. She did not fail to inform the attending salesmen in every store which the purchasing party entered, the occasion of this visit to Boston; and when any inquiry was made on the part of the clerk, the whole story was told, and it seemed as though the whole town must know of the plans of Priscilla Pendleton before the goods were all selected. The entire day was spent and many stores were visited before the list was filled.

Priscilla did not intend to be outdone by any one in the way of fine dress and trimmings, and as she had been deprived for so many years of the real necessaries of life, now that she had the power and the opportunity, she was the more determined to go to the opposite extreme. She was to learn that fine clothes would not make a lady; and that Priscilla Pendleton in the finest and most costly attire could not appear as one. She had had no training in manners and customs outside of the limited sphere in which she had always moved, and being far behind the ruling customs of her immediate neighbors, she was regarded an object of pity by the thoughtful and kind-hearted. She, with the whole Pendleton family, were the occasion of many a joke among the thoughtless; but not so much so since they had come into the possession of wealth. It was noticeable that people who seldom spoke to Saul, Sally and Priscilla before the death of their father, were now very attentive and polite, and in some instances made

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special exertions to take notice of them. The one whose friendship is aroused by selfish motives like this is not the true friend and should never be trusted.

The weeks and months that followed the trip to Boston were busy ones at the home of the Pendletons. The faithful mother kept the wheel going to bring out the good homespun linen for the beds. She was desirous that the first daughter who married “should have a good setting out.” Sally was rather slow to lend a hand at first, not having fully recovered from her disappointment; but she finally listened to the advice of Mrs. Briggs and took hold in earnest, it having been decided that she should have the same amount of things prepared for her future use as Priscilla was having made for her immediate demand. This plan, of course, required twice the time, and months passed before Priscilla was ready to decide upon the day for the marriage.

During these busy days, Priscilla occasionally received a call from Mr. Jones, [*2] but it was seldom of more than an hour’s duration, and often made while the family were present, Sally never being known to stop her work for one moment. On one occasion Mr. Jones was persuaded to stop to tea, and Sally volunteered to prepare the meal, which seemed quite surprising to Priscilla until they were seated at the table and the tea was poured, when catnip flavor was recognized by Priscilla, who, in what she intended for a whisper, said to her sister, “It is catnip, Sally.”

The reply, “‘Tis good enough for him,” easily heard by all at the table, was extremely mortifying to Priscilla, but apparently unheeded by Mr. Jones. Sally also manifested her displeasure by serving her

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guest with a skimmed milk curd instead of their best quality. Mr. Jones saw the situation and turned the joke upon Sally by freely complimenting her for her good taste and remarkable skill in domestic matters.

While Mrs. Briggs was busy at her wheel one afternoon giving instructions to her niece Betsey, who had reached her “teens” without this accomplishment, she heard the familiar “Whoa!” of Mr. Jones, as he stopped his horse at the end door. She hastened down to meet him as she expected a call, and was not disappointed. In the course of conversation Mrs. Briggs ventured to express the same idea to her caller that she had repeatedly in her own family, but in very careful language, for she was not wanting in that unswerving regard for the clergy that prompted universal respect, and in many, a reverential awe. “It seems to me, Mr. Jones, that you hardly stop long enough with Miss Priscilla to become well acquainted.”

“Been acquainted this many a year,” was the prompt reply of the elderly suitor. His arrogant spirit rebelled against this reprimand, and he soon found it best to head his white horse towards his home.

An unexpected difficulty now arose at the Pendleton home. Sally, who had been to all appearances quite contented of late, was not so complacent as she appeared outwardly, and she had succeeded in arousing Saul to an uncomfortable state of mind, and they seemed determined to do something to get even with Priscilla. On the evening of the day that Mr. Jones called and was admonished by Mrs. Briggs, they started down to call on their faithful friends and give vent to their feelings. The burden of their

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whole trouble was the forthcoming marriage of Priscilla. Sally insisted that, as her sister was younger, she had no right to make that change in her relations before she did. Saul had an idea that Hannah Nibbs had been quite attentive of late when he called to see her brother Joseph; and Sally had come to the conclusion that the only way to keep up with her sister was to have just such things made as Priscilla did, and be ready in case she should have an offer. With the ever-ready good and wise counsel of Mr. and Mrs. Briggs, they returned to their home, apparently satisfied, but not to retire to rest, as we shall see on another evening.

“Ned,” said grandma, “you must see that the money which these people had so longed to get into their possession did not bring happiness, and it seldom does when it is unlawfully obtained or falls into hands like the Pendletons. Money is good when honestly obtained and kept for a good use; but when not, it is a curse. You see that it was the want of money that caused the unrest in the Pendleton family for some years, and now the possession of it was really the cause of an equally restless spirit.


SOURCE TEXT


EMENDATIONS

  1. counter, ∨ counnter,
  2. wife,” he says, ∨ wife, he says,”

ANNOTATIONS

  1. “large pattern”: (more than) sufficient amount
  2. “call”: visit

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