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- Miss Gibbie Gault - 1/41 -
Miss Gibbie Gault
by Kate Langley Bosher Author of "Mary Cary," etc.
With Frontispiece By Harriet Roosevelt Richards
To My Husband
Chap. I. The Guild of Gossips II. The Views of Miss Gibbie III. Apple-Blossom Land IV. The Council Chamber V. In Which Mary Cary Speaks VI. Midnight VII. Peggy VIII. Peggy's Party IX. John Maxwell and Mary Cary X. The Forgotten Engagement XI. A Day of Entertainment XII. The Bargain XIII. A Grateful Convalescent XIV. A Morning Talk XV. Buzzie XVI. Men and Husbands XVII. In Which Mary Cary is Puzzled XVIII. Pictures in the Fire XIX. The Testimony Party XX. A Sudden Change XXI. The Release XXII. The News XXIII. The Guild Again XXIV. The Piece of Paper XXV. The Conclusion of a Matter XXVI. The Surrender XXVII. A Tie That Binds
MISS GIBBIE GAULT
THE GUILD OF GOSSIPS
The Needlework Guild, which met every Thursday at eleven o'clock, on this particular Thursday was meeting with Mrs. Tate. It was the last meeting before adjournment for the summer, and though Mrs. Pryor, the president, had personally requested a large attendance, the attendance was small. In consequence, Mrs. Pryor was displeased.
"Mercy, but it's warm in here," said Mrs. Tate, going to a window and opening wide its shutters. "I had no idea it would be as hot as this to-day, though you can nearly always look for heat in May." She slapped her hands together in an attempt to kill a fly that was following her, then stood a moment at the window looking up and down the street.
"Wish to goodness I could have one of those electric fans like Miss Gibbie Gault's got," she went on, coming back to her seat and wiping her face with Mrs. Webb's handkerchief, which happened to be closest to her; "but wishing and getting are not on speaking terms in our house. Have any of you seen Miss Gibbie's new hat?"
"I have." Mrs. Moon took up the large braidbound palm-leaf fan lying on the chair next to her and began to use it in leisurely, rhythmic strokes. "She has five others exactly like it. She says she would have ordered ten, but when a person has passed the sixty-fifth birthday the chances are against ten being used, and six years ahead are sufficient provision for hats. Five of them are put away in camphor."
"Imagine ordering hats for years ahead just to save trouble! I'm thankful to have one for immediate use." Mrs. Corbin put down the work on which she had not been sewing and folded her arms. "Miss Gibbie may be queer, but there's a lot of sense in deciding on a certain style and sticking to it. Fashions come and fashions go, but never is she bothered. Just think of the peace of mind sacrificed to clothes!"
"Who but Miss Gibbie would wear the same kind year after year, year after year?" said Mrs. Pryor, who alone was industriously sewing. "But that's Gibbie Gault. From the time she was born she has snapped her fingers at other people, and, if it's possible to do a thing differently from the way others do it, she will do it that way or--"
"Make them do it. I never will forget the day she marched Beth's boys through the streets and locked them up in her house." Mrs. Tate pointed her needle, which had been unthreaded all the morning, at Mrs. Moon. "Funniest thing I ever saw. Remember it, Beth?"
"Remember? I should think I did." Mrs. Moon smiled quietly. "I have long seen the funny side, but it took me long to see it. Nobody but Miss Gibbie would have done it."
"Please tell me about it, Mrs. Moon," said Mrs. Burnham, who was still something of a stranger in Yorkburg. "Every now and then I hear references to Miss Gibbie Gault's graveyard, and to the way she once got ahead of your boys, and I've often wanted to ask about it. Is there really a graveyard at Tree Hill, and is the gate bricked up so that no one can get in?"
"It certainly is." Mrs. Moon laughed. There isn't very much to tell. Everybody knows about the old Bloodgood graveyard at Tree Hill in which Miss Gibbie's parents and grandparents and great-grandparents are buried. Her mother was a Bloodgood; and everybody knows, also, that since the Yankee soldier, who died during the war at Judge Gault's house, was buried there the gate has been bricked up and nobody has ever been inside but Miss Gibbie and Jackson who cuts the grass."
"But how does she get in?" Mrs. Burnham's voice was puzzled inquiry. "If there's no gate, how--
"She climbs up a ladder on the outside of the wall, which is eight feet high and two feet thick, and down another which is inside," interrupted Mrs. Tate, to whom the question had not been asked. "I wish to goodness I had been there the day she nabbed your boys, Beth. I don't wonder they were scared."
"They were certainly scared." Mrs. Moon wiped her lips and smiled reminiscently. "My boys followed her one day, Mrs. Burnham, and the result was one of the most ridiculous sights ever seen in Yorkburg.
"After finishing what she had to do that day, Miss Gibbie climbed up the ladder she keeps inside and started to get on the one outside, and there was none to get on. The boys had taken her ladder and hidden it, and they themselves were hiding behind an oak-tree some little distance off.
"At first they doubled up with laughter when they saw Miss Gibbie straddling the top of the wall, unable to get down either way; but suddenly, Richard said, she balanced herself on the top of the wall and sat there with her feet hanging over as if going to spend the day, and then in a flash she was down on the ground.
"Half a minute later she had each of them by the arm. Dick said his feet were dead feet, he couldn't budge. Neither could Frederick. The sudden jump had paralyzed them.
"'Moon boys!' she said--'Moon boys! Fine fun, wasn't it? Well, let's go home and have some more fun,' and down the hill she marched them and on into town. All the length of King Street they went, then into St. Mary's Road, then Fitzhugh Street, and back into King, and finally into her home in Pelham Place.
"All the time nothing had been said. Everybody who had seen them had stopped and stared, and some of the boys had started to follow, but Miss Gibbie had nodded her head backward, and a nod was enough. When they got in the house she took them up-stairs to a big bedroom and told them to sit down and cool off; then she locked the door and left them.
"Five hours later the door was opened and dinner was brought in. It was a good dinner, and the boys ate it, every bit of it, and, feeling better, were beginning to look around for means of escape, when in walked Miss Gibbie with two white things in her hand.
"'Didn't we have lots of fun this morning?' she said. 'Awful lot of fun to see a lady play Humpty-Dumpty. Pity nobody else could see. When people look funny everybody ought to see.' And Frederick said, as she didn't seem mad a bit, he thought she was going to tell them to run on home, when she turned to the dining-room servant, who had come in with her, and flung out two big old-fashioned nightgowns of her own. 'Here, Hampton, help these boys take off their hot clothes and put on something cool,' she said, and she made Hampton undress them and put on her gowns, and then sent them flying home."
Miss Matoaca Brockenborough threw back her head and laughed heartily. "I can see them now, as they came running down the street. They were trying to hold their white robes up in front, but behind they were trailing in the dust, and following them were boys and dogs and goats and girls, and I stood still, like all the other grown people, to see what was the matter. I laughed till I cried. Frederick stumbled at every other step, and Dick got his feet so tangled that he fell flat twice. If old Admiral Bloodgood's ghost had been chasing them, they couldn't have run faster. Nobody but Miss Gibbie would have dressed them up that way."
"And nobody but Miss Gibbie would have come back at me as she did when I told her how uneasy I had been by the boys' absence at dinner," said Mrs. Moon, who had moved nearer the window. "It was twelve years ago, but I have never forgotten what she said or the way she said it. I can see her now." Mrs. Moon sat upright. "'My dear Madam,' she said, 'my dear Madam, you will have cause not only for uneasiness, but for shame and sorrow, if you don't let your boys understand early in life that disrespect to ladies means disaster later on.'"
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