“Of course,” was the reply. “Our object is to elicit the truth, and I am willing to help probe this matter to the bottom.”
“Now,” said Betsey Pryor, when they were again upon the street, “we will stir up some excitement, I guess. Let’s go to the minister’s as straight as ever we can.”
Miss Pryor had never uttered a truer remark than the one at the close of our last chapter. There was an excitement in the little village, before which the sensation created by the pretty schoolmistress, became as nothing. The wordy war raged fiercely, and life-long enmities were created between those who had been intimate friends, endeared to each other by years of pleasant intercourse.
Meanwhile the offending Garnets were socially ostracized. Only little Mrs. Swan resolutely defended them. It seemed that this determined lady was destined to become the champion of all the persecuted of her own sex in the tiny village.
Of course, this matter found its way before the dignitaries of the church, over which the worthy Elder presided. Dr. Little, as one of its most influential members, hastened to give his support to his professional brother, and bitterly denounced these intruders, who sought to create disturbance by their idle tales. The minister’s wife and the doctor’s lady became like sisters in their friendship, and it followed that the feminine portion of the Garnet family were under a ban that excluded them from speech or friendly intercourse with any but the single exception we have before mentioned.
If that had been all, these innocent objects of aversion might have stood aloof and cared little, in the conscious power of rectitude. At first they trusted that some new excitement might arise to absorb public attention, and they be released from their painful position and disagreeable notoriety. But, with time, their trouble seemed to increase instead of diminish, and only added to the difficulties of their situation.
At length old Mr. Garnet rose in righteous wrath. “Wife,” he said, emphatically, “I never had anything to do with a woman’s quarrel before. I did think that after this Prudence Penrose, that has imposed upon the parson, found we wasn’t going to say nothin’ about her half-witted daughter, that she’d take the hint and let us alone; but I see she needs a lesson. I am sorry, seein’ how things has turned out, that I hadn’t interfered before the affair went so far, but it isn’t too late now. There’s the minister, and Dr. Little, and Deacon Jones, and a lot more of them, goin’ to hold a meetin’ about sueing my little daughter-in-law for slander, against the character of a woman that never had any to lose. So I reckon I will have my say on the subject, too.” Which he set about doing directly.
Shortly after the irate old gentleman was seen in close conversation with the village constable, and after some plotting, that worthy started with the swiftest team in all Waveland for Ainsworth, the former residence of both the Garnet family and the minister’s lady.