Suddenly remembering Mrs. Eliakim Rogers, the busiest gossip in town, she turned Bedouin in the direction of the low brown house, standing at a little distance from the road, and was soon seated in Mrs. Eliakim’s kitchen, her ostensible errand being to inquire about some plain sewing the good lady was doing for her, while her real object was to communicate as much of Arthur’s story as she thought proper. Incidentally she spoke of Mr. St. Claire, and when the widow asked “What under the sun possessed him to live as he did,” she replied by telling of Nina, his ward, who, she said, had recently come to Grassy Spring from the Asylum, adding a few items as to how Arthur chanced to be her guardian, talking as if she had known of it all the time, and saying she did not wonder that a young man like him should shrink from having it generally understood that he had a crazy girl upon his hands. He was very kind to her indeed, and no brother could treat his sister more tenderly than he treated Nina.
To every thing she said, Mrs. Eliakim smilingly assented, drawing her own conclusions the while and feeling vastly relieved when, at last, her visitor departed, leaving her at liberty to don her green calash and start for the neighbors with this precious morsel of gossip. Turning back, Edith saw her hurrying across the fields, and knew it would not be long ere all Shannondale were talking of Arthur’s ward.
Arrived at home she found the dinner waiting for her, and when asked by Richard what had kept her she replied by repeating to him in substance what she had already told Mrs. Eliakim Rogers. There was this difference however, between the two stories—the one told to Richard was longer and contained more of the particulars. She did not, however, tell him of Arthur’s love for Nina, or of the neglected wife, the mother of little Miggie, though why she withheld that part of the story she could not tell. She felt a strange interest in that young mother dying alone in the noisome city, and in the little child buried upon her bosom, but she had far rather talk of Nina and her marvellous beauty, feeling sure that she had at least one interested auditor, Victor, who was perfectly delighted to have the mystery of Grassy Spring unravelled, though he felt a little disappointed that it should amount to nothing more than a crazy girl, to whom Mr. St. Claire was guardian.
This feeling of Victor was in a great measure shared by the villagers, and, indeed, after a day or two of talking and wondering, the general opinion seemed to be that Arthur had magnified the evil and been altogether too much afraid of Madam Rumor, who was inclined to be rather lenient toward him, particularly as Edith Hastings took pains to tell how kind he was to Nina, who gave him oftentimes so much trouble. The tide of popular feeling was in his favor, and the sympathy which many openly expressed for him was like a dagger to the young man, who knew he did not