Mrs. Edward Leigh
A WORD TO THE WISE A SPIRITUAL INDISCRETION REBUKED. A LILLIPUTIAN.
"Character Deal gently with character do not utter a whisper if you can help it, to anybody's disadvantage".
steals my purse steals trash! tis something, nothing,
One of the peculiar privileges of villages is gossip. In this respect Macon is, and ever has been a village, though it claims the title of a City'. Its ordinances, and the newspapers, combine to call it the City of Macon'. The statutes wherein it is called a City should have ever in brackets this provisory clause, "Provided, nevertheless, that females of the said city of Macon, shall have the full and free privilege of gossip, and tattle, the same as when the said city of Macon was a village, all laws and parts of laws to the contrary notwithstanding." Then, with the statutes in their favor, they would violate no law except those of morality, truth, and God!
In this respect Macon is not singular. It is a type of all the cities, and towns, and villages, of my knowing, not even excepting the great Capital of the Empire State of the South itself. I know my errors and grieve over my defects of character, and my past follies as well as present ones. But I can proudly claim, that no sister of my sex has had her character made worse by any word that has ever escaped my lips. I may, therefore, pause one moment, with propriety, to speak of the detestable gossiping habit of my sex, by which they are constantly distorting the features of their absent acquaintances, by every pencil stroke of their conversations; and sometimes they sweep over the surface of the fair fame of a sister, with a broad blacking-brush, as expertly as if they had been trained up professional boot blacks!
I know that very, very many, women in this planet, called the Earth, have nothing else to do but congregate, drink tea, ply a few knitting needles, and exercise their tongues with gossip, more or less mischievous, not to say criminal. This is generally the fault of those to whom their training in early life was entrusted, as much as their own; to foolish mothers, to vicious boarding-schools, which imparted the smattering pretense of education, which the Yankee teachers (imported as the only wise of the earth capable of teaching the Southern idea how to shoot,) were in the habit of imparting. I am aware that the cause is not always a deliberate and wicked malice on the part of my fair sisters, incenting them to blast the reputation of their neighbors; but I am sure that it is, in most instances, the result of mere emptiness of their heads, while their sociable hearts must have some tongue-clatter at their assemblages.
A modern authoress, and one of my own sex, beautifully says, The Indian women, to correct the loathsome habit of tattling, fill their mouths with water'. Our women', she continues, fill their mouths with tea and gossip the more'. This was written before the war, when no blockade shut out our supplies of tea, and when the price was moderate. The price of tea is now said to be fifty dollars a pound. Would it were a million, if such a prohibitory price could seal the lips of defamation! On reading the sentence just quoted, the other day, I could not help exclaiming, thank God for the scarcity of tea!' But my joy was short-lived when I reflected that the absence of tea still leaves jealous and envious hearts, empty heads, and idle, and sometimes malicious tongues to work out the odious problem of defamation. While woman envies her better-dressed, more beautiful, more intellectual, better-married, or (by the male sex) better flattered, sister of our sex, her tongue will wag, with or without tea.
The innocent victim of the neighborhood gossip awakes to find the arrows of slander flying through the air on every side; and taken by surprise, some times even the panoply of truth, virtue, and uprightness, do not entirely suffice to protect her from temporary wounds. Thank God, however, they are never fatal when the heart is covered by such righteous panoply. Public opinion, in which man's great rough, but just voice comes in to form a mighty component part, sifts mere foibles from the real crimes, and never condemns where innocence is found, burning brightly in the female heart.
No happy wife makes a gay woman of the world. My own unsparing sex well know that the reckless votary of fashionable life bears within her bosom disappointed affections, which have been rolled back on her heart as a mountain load of misery. Why not spare her? oh! not only spare her, but say unto her words of compassion and kindness.
the rude waste of human error bear
Let the truly innocent cast the first stone: would there be one cast? No! I answer no; and let those who have in vain tried to blacken the name of Ella King, come to her now in her days of happiness, and repentance for imprudences, (not crimes God knows she was not guilty of them,) and she can tell you a secret that you thought securely locked in your own breast alone; which secret, if your husbands knew, they would cast you aside forever. It is no new secret, and yet undivulged. Ella has known it long. Even while you were shaking her name most unmercifully, she did not even shake your name enough to raise the slightest dust. This is not a threat, but a warning, and if the shaking system is resumed she will see if the rule will not work two ways.
Why is it that men, real gentlemen I mean, not the scum of the earth, who pollute the atmosphere with their very presence, have much more charity for the failings of women, in general, than the softer sex. They, for instance, look at their friend's pretty wife, admire her, praise her even to their own wives, (that is if they have sufficient courage,) pity her if she is slandered, and end by making love to her, and even, if possible, blasting her character, and breaking her heart, all without saying a single word against her! How generous, kind, and just! And yet, we fools love these men! Is it not strange? I am forgetting myself; where in the world are my flirtations? It will not do to leave out the dessert, or best flirtations of all, even if I do feel spiteful at the world, in general, and the women in particular. If each one knew their husband, whose portrait I have drawn in this gallery, they would open their mouths a little wider, and use their precious tongues with more freedom than they ever did before; but it would be to beg me not to publish my confessions.
For instance, that dear, little, high-tempered woman, who I don't believe cares two straws for her good-for-nothing husband, and I don't blame her; for he does care for other men's wives much more than he does his own. For her sake he shall not act love to me, although he talked it to me years. I had known him a long, long time, and thought he entertained for me the warmest friendship. He called to see me, or my husband, he said, often; but it generally happened that Walter was away from home, at the time the calls were made. He sent me such nice presents. Fish, fruit, wine, apples, &c. How acceptable they were! It is true he would often press my hands rather hard; but that was nothing unusual, and especial friends shake hands hard you know, sometimes.
One night we were at a bridal party. His wife was not well, he said, and did not wish to come. My husband was not there. I was quite at home, as it was the house of a friend. I wished a drink of water; no servant was near, and Adrian Montford, and I, walked together on the back piazza to get some. I had just returned the dipper, and was standing with my back towards Adrian Montford, and my face towards the door. Something prompted me to look around; as I did so, I saw his face was almost touching mine. I sprang in the door, and entered the parlor alone. Adrian soon followed me, and claimed my hand for the next set. I refused to dance with him; he was angry, and said he could compel me to dance with him.
Excuse me sir,' said I, you cannot, and please remember that although my husband is not here to protect me, I have relatives who will act in his place, if I tell them of your conduct'.
Relatives', sneered he, lovers say'.
I called my cousin to me, and quietly told Mr. Montford to leave me, and he left. He seemed more than sorry for his conduct, and attributed it to his intense love for me, and I forgave him, and we became friends again. For a year he visited me, as he had always been doing, until I began to place confidence in him again. He was very kind, and always looked so handsome, that I could not help liking him, just a little. He one night asked Walter if he would allow me to accompany him to a concert. Walter told him certainly. As I could give no excuse without telling the truth, I had to go. He was very attentive while there, and on our return home, he told me of his love. It had been burning in his heart for years, and even if I repulsed him, the confession must be made. He knew it was hopeless, but still, he did not wish me to treat him with contempt. Reader, what would you have done in such a case? Just as I did, I think. I could not be angry with him for only loving me? Who can? I only told him, that I valued him as a friend, nothing more.
But, Dear Ella, my own darling, you will let me keep on loving you, will you not?'
No', I answered, and by that time my home was reached, and I bade him good night. Time rolled on. I had nearly forgotten my old flame Adrian Montford, when one day I received an invitation to a large ball, and also a note from Mr. Montford.
If Mr. King was not at home, might he have the pleasure of escorting Mrs. King to the ball, or of sending his carriage for her'.
Yes', I answered, Mr. Montford might send, if convenient.'
He sent his carriage, and I went to the ball.
When the time came for me to return home, he begged to be allowed to accompany me. Without appearing very prudish, I could not refuse. To my infinite disgust, he renewed his suit, and urged as his principal claim, that he had been worshipping me for four years. He even had the impudence to try and put his arms around me, and attempted to kiss me. The door of the carriage was quite low, and I placed my feet over it on the step, and vowed if he touched me, I would jump out. We reached home, and I scarcely waited for the carriage door to open, before I sprang from the carriage, and rushed into the house, but not before he whispered,
Forgive me, for I cannot help loving you. I vow you shall not stay angry with me.'
The next day I met him on the street, with another gentleman. I spoke to the other by
name, and did not notice Adrian. For two or three days we met in the same distant manner, until he could endure it no longer; so he sent a servant with a box of apples and chestnuts, as a peace offering, together with the following note:
I could not help answering his note, although I knew it was wrong. Here it is:
you! Yes, in time I may,
Reader, I was wrong, all wrong, to carry on these flirtations. I knew it, and yet, habit, and a wish for revenge, actuated and impelled me to keep on, in my evil course. Although not guilty of any real crime, still such an impression was apt to be created in the minds of the beholder. I was aided by some unseen power; for I had only to look at a man, and think that I would like to flirt with him, and he would seek an introduction to me at once, if he was not acquainted, or put himself in my way, if he was.
It is not my object, to relate herein all my flirtations, for indeed, they would fill many volumes, whose sameness would tire the reader; but I will select a few, from different styles of men. The one I have just set before you, is of the common run. Like our Confederate, Mrs. Partington, he aims at mediocrity, and he finds it.
Large cities and even small ones, have among their inhabitants, certain quotas of fledgling fops. Like moths they flutter around the fashionable belles, act as their chaperons, make love to them, and make fools of themselves generally, and are petted, pitied and tolerated for their very insignificance. Such a dear little fellow once burnt his wings in my candle. Oh, he was such a pretty, dear, sweet darling! His head was just as smooth as it could be parted behind so nicely; while every hair, the few composing his dainty moustache, was in its place; not one was rumpled. He was a real pet! I always feel exactly like setting him to draw a string for my kitten, each time he came to see me. I like to study human nature, for you may have use for it some day; for instance as I am using it now, describing it. And then it is so much easier to learn, and certainly more interesting, than books. So I let him run to the end of his line, and even beyond it, just to see how far he would go. The second time he called to see me, he vowed he adored me, and could live on love forever. I laughed, and handed him a stick of sugar cane, and told him, according to my fancy, that was much sweeter than love.
No,' he answered, nothing is sweeter than you are, love. Would that I could be with thee ever.'
I soon got tired of such nonsense, and tried to stop it. No, it was impossible, for the fool could not see when he had gone far enough, and would take no hint; a real kick was what he wanted, and I had not courage to give him one. He visited me often, and seemed to sigh for my presence. At last the little chap had the impertinence to propose calling late at night, so we could have an uninterrupted conversation. Here is his billet:
dearest love! Oh let me come to-night,
I answered thus:
little fool! Didst ever chance to see,
The next time we met, the little fellow offered his hand, but I drew myself up in my dignity: Excuse me sir,' folding my arms. He took the kick, and has been overpoweringly polite, ever since, but at a desirable, and respectful distance.