Don't Mention it by T. S. Arthur
"DON'T mention it again for your life."
"No, of course not. The least said about such things the better."
"Don't for the world. I have told you in perfect confidence, and
you are the only one to whom I have breathed it. I wouldn't have it
get out for any consideration."
"Give yourself no uneasiness. I shall not allude to the subject."
"I merely told you because I knew you were a friend, and would let
it go no farther. But would you have thought it?"
"I certainly am very much surprised."
"So am I. But when things pass right before your eyes and ears,
there is no gainsaying them."
"No. Seeing is said to be believing."
"Of course it is."
"But, Mrs. Grimes, are you very sure that you heard aright?"
"I am positive, Mrs. Raynor. It occurred only an hour ago, and the
whole thing is distinctly remembered. I called in to see Mrs.
Comegys, and while I was there, the bundle of goods came home. I was
present when she opened it, and she showed me the lawn dress it
contained. There were twelve yards in it. 'I must see if there is
good measure,' she said, and she got a yard-stick and measured it
off. There were fifteen yards instead of twelve. 'How is this?' she
remarked. 'I am sure I paid for only twelve yards, and here are
fifteen.' The yard-stick was applied again. There was no mistake; the
lawn measured fifteen yards. 'What are you going to do with the
surplus?' I asked. 'Keep it, of course,' said Mrs. Comegys. 'There is
just enough to make little Julia a frock. Won't she look sweet in
it?,' I was so confounded that I couldn't say a word. Indeed, I could
hardly look her in the face. At first I thought of calling her
attention to the dishonesty of the act; but then I reflected that, as
it was none of my business, I might get her ill-will for meddling in
what didn't concern me."
"And you really think, then, that she meant to keep the three yards
without paying for them?
"Oh, certainly! But then I wouldn't say anything about it for the
world. I wouldn't name it, on any consideration. Of course you will
not repeat it."
"No. If I cannot find any good to tell of my friends, I try to
refrain from saying anything evil."
"A most excellent rule, Mrs. Raynor, and one that I always follow.
I never speak evil of my friends, for it always does more harm than
good. No one can say that I ever tried to injure another."
"I hope Mrs. Comegys thought better of the matter, upon
reflection," said Mrs. Raynor.
"So do I. But I am afraid not. Two or three little things occur to
me now, that I have seen in my intercourse with her, which go to
satisfy my mind that her moral perceptions are not the best in the
world. Mrs. Comegys is a pleasant friend, and much esteemed by every
one. It could do no good to spread this matter abroad, but harm."
After repeating over and over again her injunction to Mrs. Raynor
not to repeat a word of what she had told her, Mrs. Grimes bade this
lady, upon whom she had called, good morning, and went on her way.
Ten minutes after, she was in the parlor of an acquaintance, named
Mrs. Florence, entertaining her with the gossip she had picked up
since their last meeting. She had not been there long, before,
lowering her voice, she said in a confidential way—
"I was at Mrs. Comegys' to-day, and saw something that amazed me
beyond every thing."
"Yes. You will be astonished when you hear it. Suppose you had
purchased a dress and paid for a certain number of yards; and when
the dress was sent home, you should find that the storekeeper had
made a mistake and sent you three or four yards more than you had
settled for. What would you do?"
"Send it back, of course."
"Of course, so say I. To act differently would not be honest. Do
you think so?"
"It would not be honest for me."
"No, nor for any one. Now, would you have believed it? Mrs. Comegys
not only thinks but acts differently."
"You must be mistaken, certainly, Mrs. Grimes."
"Seeing is believing, Mrs. Florence."
"So it is said, but I could hardly believe my eyes against Mrs.
Comegys' integrity of character. I think I ought to know her well,
for we have been very intimate for years."
"And I thought I knew her, too. But it seems that I was mistaken."
Mrs. Grimes then repeated the story of the lawn dress.
"Gracious me! Can it be possible?" exclaimed Mrs. Florence. "I can
hardly credit it."
"It occurred just as I tell you. But Mrs. Florence, you musn't tell
it again for the world. I have mentioned it to you in the strictest
confidence. But I need hardly say this to you, for I know how
discreet you are."
"I shall not mention it."
"It could do no good."
"None in the world."
"Isn't it surprising, that a woman who is so well off in the world
as Mrs. Comegys, should stoop to a petty act like this?"
"It is, certainly."
"Perhaps there is something wrong here," and Mrs. Grimes placed her
finger to her forehead and looked sober.
"How do you mean?" asked the friend.
"You've heard of people's having a dishonest monomania. Don't you
remember the case of Mrs. Y——?"
"She had every thing that heart could desire. Her husband was rich,
and let her have as much money as she wanted. I wish we could all say
that, Mrs. Florence, don't you?"
"It would be very pleasant, certainly, to have as much money as we
"But, notwithstanding all this, Mrs. Y—— had such a propensity to
take things not her own, that she never went into a dry goods store
without purloining something, and rarely took tea with a friend
without slipping a teaspoon into her pocket. Mr. Y—— had a great
deal of trouble with her, and, in several cases, paid handsomely to
induce parties disposed to prosecute her for theft, to let the matter
drop. Now do you know that it has occurred to me that, perhaps, Mrs.
Comegys is afflicted in this way? I shouldn't at all wonder if it were
"I'm afraid it is as I suspect. A number of suspicious
circumstances have happened when she has been about, that this would
explain. But for your life, Mrs. Florence, don't repeat this to any
"I shall certainly not speak of it, Mrs. Grimes. It is too serious
a matter. I wish I had not heard of it, for I can never feel toward
Mrs. Comegys as I have done. She is a very pleasant woman, and one
with whom it is always agreeable and profitable to spend an hour."
"It is a little matter, after all," remarked Mrs. Grimes, "and,
perhaps, we treat it too seriously."
"We should never think lightly of dishonest practices, Mrs. Grimes.
"Whoever is dishonest in little things, will be dishonest in great
things, if a good opportunity offer. Mrs. Comegys can never be to me
what she has been. That is impossible."
"Of course you will not speak of it again."
"You need have no fear of that."
A few days after, Mrs. Raynor made a call upon a friend, who said
"Have you heard about Mrs. Comegys?"
"What about her?"
"I supposed you knew it. _I've_ heard it from half a dozen persons.
It is said that Perkins, through a mistake of one of his clerks, sent
her home some fifteen or twenty yards of lawn more than she had paid
for, and that, instead of sending it back, she kept it and made it up
for her children. Did you ever hear of such a trick for an honest
"I don't think any honest woman would be guilty of such an act.
Yes, I heard of it a few days ago as a great secret, and have not
mentioned it to a living soul."
"Secret? bless me! it is no secret. It is in every one's mouth."
"Is it possible? I must say that Mrs. Grimes has been very
"Mrs. Grimes! Did it come from her in the first place?"
"Yes. She told me that she was present when the lawn came home, and
saw Mrs. Comegys measure it, and heard her say that she meant to keep
"Which she has done. For I saw her in the street, yesterday, with a
beautiful new lawn, and her little Julia was with her, wearing one
precisely like it."
"How any woman can do so is more than I can understand."
"So it is, Mrs. Raynor. Just to think of dressing your child up in
a frock as good as stolen! Isn't it dreadful?"
"It is, indeed!"
"Mrs. Comegys is not an honest woman. That is clear. I am told that
this is not the first trick of the kind of which she has been guilty.
They say that she has a natural propensity to take things that are not
"I can hardly believe that."
"Nor can I. But it's no harder to believe this than to believe that
she would cheat Perkins out of fifteen of twenty yards of lawn. It's
a pity; for Mrs. Comegys, in every thing else, is certainly a very
nice woman. In fact, I don't know any one I visit with so much
Thus the circle of detraction widened, until there was scarcely a
friend or acquaintance of Mrs. Comegys, near or remote, who had not
heard of her having cheated a dry goods dealer out of several yards
of lawn. Three, it had first been alleged; but the most common
version of the story made it fifteen or twenty. Meantime, Mrs.
Comegys remained in entire ignorance of what was alleged against her,
although she noticed in two or three of her acquaintances, a trifling
coldness that struck her as rather singular.
One day her husband, seeing that she looked quite sober, said—
"You seem quite dull to-day, dear. Don't you feel well?"
"Yes, I feel as well as usual, in body."
"But not in mind?"
"I do not feel quite comfortable in mind, certainly, though I don't
know that I have any serious cause of uneasiness."
"Though a slight cause exists. May I ask what it is?"
"It is nothing more nor less than that I was coolly _cut_ by an old
friend to-day, whom I met in a store on Chesnut street. And as she is
a woman that I highly esteem, both for the excellence of her
character, and the agreeable qualities, as a friend, that she
possesses. I cannot but feel a little bad about it. If she were one
of that capricious class who get offended with you, once a month, for
no just cause whatever, I should not care a fig. But Mrs. Markle is a
woman of character, good sense and good feeling, whose friendship I
have always prized."
"Was it Mrs. Markle?" said the husband, with some surprise.
"What can possibly be the cause?"
"I cannot tell."
"Have you thought over every thing?"
"Yes, I have turned and turned the matter in my mind, but can
imagine no reason why she, of all others, could treat me coolly."
"Have you never spoken of her in a way to have your words
misinterpreted by some evil-minded person—Mrs. Grimes, for
instance—whose memory, or moral sense, one or the other, is very
"I have never spoken of her to any one, except in terms of praise.
I could not do otherwise, for I look upon her as one of the most
faultless women I know."
"She has at least shown that she possesses one fault."
"What is that?"
"If she has heard any thing against you of a character so serious
as to make her wish to give up your acquaintance, she should at least
have afforded you the chance of defending yourself before condemning
"I think that, myself."
"It may be that she did not see you," Mr. Comegys suggested.
"She looked me in the face, and nodded with cold formality."
"Perhaps her mind was abstracted."
"It might have been so. Mine would have been very abstracted,
indeed, to keep me from a more cordial recognition of a friend."
"How would it do to call and see her?"
"I have been thinking of that. But my feelings naturally oppose it.
I am not conscious of having done any thing to merit a withdrawal of
the friendly sentiments she has held towards me; still, if she wishes
to withdraw them, my pride says, let her do so."
"But pride, you know, is not always the best adviser."
"No. Perhaps the less regard we pay to its promptings, the better."
"I think so."
"It is rather awkward to go to a person and ask why you have been
"I know it is. But in a choice of evils, is it not always wisest to
choose the least?"
"But is any one's bad opinion of you, if it be not correctly
formed, an evil?"
"Certainly it is."
"I don't know. I have a kind of independence about me which says,
'Let people think what they please, so you are conscious of no
"Indifference to the world's good or bad opinion is all very well,"
replied the husband, "if the world will misjudge us. Still, as any
thing that prejudices the minds of people against us, tends to
destroy our usefulness, it is our duty to take all proper care of our
reputations, even to the sacrifice of a little feeling in doing so."
Thus argued with by her husband, Mrs. Comegys, after turning the
matter over in her mind, finally concluded to go and see Mrs. Markle.
It was a pretty hard trial for her, but urged on by a sense of right,
she called upon her two or three days after having been treated so
coldly. She sent up her name by the servant. In about five minutes,
Mrs. Markle descended to the parlor, where her visitor was awaiting
her, and met her in a reserved and formal manner, that was altogether
unlike her former cordiality. It was as much as Mrs. Comegys could do
to keep from retiring instantly, and without a word, from the house.
But she compelled herself to go through with what she had begun.
Mrs. Markle did, indeed, offer her hand; or rather the tips of her
fingers; which Mrs. Comegys, in mere reciprocation of the formality,
accepted. Then came an embarrassing pause, after which the latter
"I see that I was not mistaken in supposing that there was a marked
coldness in your manner at our last meeting."
Mrs. Markle inclined her head slightly.
"Of course there is a cause for this. May I, in justice to myself
as well as others, inquire what it is?"
"I did not suppose you would press an inquiry on the subject,"
replied Mrs. Markle. "But as you have done so, you are, of course,
entitled to an answer."
There came another pause, after which, with a disturbed voice, Mrs.
"For some time, I have heard a rumor in regard to you, that I could
not credit. Of late it has been so often repeated that I felt it to
be my duty to ascertain its truth or falsehood. On tracing, with some
labor, the report to its origin, I am grieved to find that it is too
"Please say what it is," said Mrs. Comegys, in a firm voice.
"It is said that you bought a dress at a dry goods store in this
city, and that on its being sent home, there proved to be some yards
more in the piece of goods than you paid for and that instead of
returning what was not your own, you kept it and had it made up for
one of your children."
The face of Mrs. Comegys instantly became like crimson; and she
turned her head away to hide the confusion into which this unexpected
allegation had thrown her. As soon as she could command her voice, she
"You will, of course, give me the author of this charge."
"You are entitled to know, I suppose," replied Mrs. Markle. "The
person who originated this report is Mrs. Grimes. And she says that
she was present when the dress was sent home. That you measured it in
her presence, and that, finding there were several yards over, you
declared your intention to keep it and make of it a frock for your
little girl. And, moreover, that she saw Julia wearing a frock
afterwards, exactly like the pattern of the one you had, which she
well remembers. This seems to me pretty conclusive evidence. At least
it was so to my mind, and I acted accordingly."
Mrs. Comegys sat for the full space of a minute with her eyes upon
the floor, without speaking. When she looked up, the flush that had
covered her face had gone. It was very pale, instead. Rising from her
chair, she bowed formally, and without saying a word, withdrew.
"Ah me! Isn't it sad?" murmured Mrs. Markle, as she heard the
street door close upon her visitor. "So much that is agreeable and
excellent, all dimmed by the want of principle. It seems hardly
credible that a woman, with every thing she needs, could act
dishonestly for so small a matter. A few yards of lawn against
integrity and character! What a price to set upon virtue!"
Not more than half an hour after the departure of Mrs. Comegys,
Mrs. Grimes called in to see Mrs. Markle.
"I hope," she said, shortly after she was seated, "that you won't
say a word about what I told you a few days ago; I shouldn't have
opened my lips on the subject if you hadn't asked me about it. I only
mentioned it in the first place to a friend in whom I had the greatest
confidence in the world. She has told some one, very improperly, for
it was imparted to her as a secret, and in that way it has been spread
abroad. I regret it exceedingly, for I would be the last person in the
world to say a word to injure any one. I am particularly guarded in
"If it's the truth, Mrs. Grimes, I don't see that you need be so
anxious about keeping it a secret," returned Mrs. Markle.
"The truth! Do you think I would utter a word that was not true?"
"I did not mean to infer that you would. I believe that what you
said in regard to Mrs. Comegys was the fact."
"It certainly was. But then, it will do no good to make a
disturbance about it. What has made me call in to see you is this;
some one told me that, in consequence of this matter, you had dropped
the acquaintance of Mrs. Comegys."
"It is true; I cannot associate on intimate terms with a woman who
lacks honest principles."
"But don't you see that this will bring matters to a head, and that
I shall be placed in a very awkward position?"
"You are ready to adhere to your statement in regard to Mrs.
"Oh, certainly; I have told nothing but the truth. But still, you
can see that it will make me feel exceedingly unpleasant."
"Things of this kind are never very agreeable, I know, Mrs. Grimes.
Still we must act as we think right, let what will follow. Mrs.
Comegys has already called upon me to ask an explanation of my
conduct wards her."
"She has!" Mrs. Grimes seemed sadly distressed. "What did you say
"I told her just what I had heard."
"Did she ask your author?" Mrs. Grimes was most pale with suspense.
"Of course you did not mention my name."
"She asked the author of the charge, and I named you."
"Oh dear, Mrs. Markle! I wish you hadn't done that. I shall be
involved in a world of trouble, and the reputation of a tattler and
mischief-maker. What did she say?"
"Not one word."
"She didn't deny it?"
"Of course she could not. Well, that is some satisfaction at least.
She might have denied it, and tried make me out a liar, and there
would have been plenty to believe her word against mine. I am glad
she didn't deny it. She didn't say a word?"
"Did she look guilty?"
"You would have thought so, if you had seen her."
"What did she do?"
"She sat with her eyes upon the floor for some time, and then rose
up, and without uttering a word, left the house."
"I wish she had said something. It would have been a satisfaction
to know what she thought. But I suppose the poor woman was so
confounded, that she didn't know what to say."
"So it appeared to me. She was completely stunned. I really pitied
her from my heart. But want of principle should never be
countenanced. If we are to have social integrity, we must mark with
appropriate condemnation all deviations therefrom. It was exceedingly
painful, but the path of duty was before me, and I walked in it
Mrs. Grimes was neither so clear-sighted, nor so well satisfied
with what she had done, as all this. She left the house of Mrs. Markle
feeling very unhappy. Although she had been using her little unruly
member against Mrs. Comegys with due industry, she was all the while
on the most friendly terms with her, visiting at her house and being
visited. It was only a few days, before that she had taken tea and
spent an evening with her. Not that Mrs. Grimes was deliberately
hypocritical, but she had a free tongue, and, like too many in
society, more cautious about what they said than she, much better
pleased to see evil than good in a neighbour. There are very few of
us, perhaps, who have not something of this fault—an exceedingly bad
fault, by the way. It seems to arise from a consciousness of our own
imperfections and the pleasure we feel in making the discovery that
others are as bad, if not worse than we are.
Two days after Mrs. Comegys had called on Mrs. Markle to ask for
explanations, the latter received a note in the following words:
"MADAM.—I have no doubt you have acted according to your own views
of right in dropping as suddenly as you have done, the acquaintance
of an old friend. Perhaps, if you had called upon me and asked
explanations, you might have acted a little differently. My present
object in addressing you is to ask, as a matter of justice, that you
will call at my house to-morrow at twelve o'clock. I think that I am
entitled to speak a word in my own defense. After you have heard that
I shall not complain of any course you may think it right to pursue.
Mrs. Markle, could do no less than call as she had been desired to.
At twelve o'clock she rang the bell at Mrs. Comegys' door, and was
shown into the parlor, where, to her no small surprise, she found
about twenty ladies, most of them acquaintances, assembled, Mrs.
Grimes among the number. In about ten minutes Mrs. Comegys came into
the room, her countenance wearing a calm but sober aspect. She bowed
slightly, but was not cordial toward, or familiar with, any one
present. Without a pause she said—
"Ladies, I have learned within a few days, very greatly to my
surprise and grief, that there is a report circulated among my
friends, injurious to my character as a woman of honest principles. I
have taken some pains to ascertain those with whom the report is
familiar, and have invited all such to be here to-day. I learn from
several sources, that the report originated with Mrs. Grimes, and
that she has been very industrious in circulating it to my injury."
"Perhaps you wrong Mrs. Grimes there," spoke up Mrs. Markle. "She
did not mention it to me until I inquired of her if the report was
true. And then she told me that she had never told it but to a single
person, in confidence, and that she had inadvertently alluded to it,
and thus it became a common report. So I think that Mrs. Grimes cannot
justly be charged with having sought to circulate the matter to your
"Very well, we will see how far that statement is correct," said
Mrs. Comegys. "Did she mention the subject to you, Mrs. Raynor?"
"She did," replied Mrs. Raynor. "But in strict confidence, and
enjoining it upon me not to mention it to any one, as she had no wish
to injure you."
"Did you tell it to any one?"
"No. It was but a little while afterward that it was told to me by
some one else."
"Was it mentioned to you, Mrs. Florence?" proceeded Mrs. Comegys,
turning to another of the ladies present.
"It was, ma'am."
"By Mrs. Grimes?"
"In confidence, I suppose?"
"I was requested to say nothing about it, for fear that it might
create an unfavorable impression in regard to you."
"Very well; there are two already. How was it in your case, Mrs.
This lady answered as the others had done. The question was then
put to each lady in the room, when it appeared that out of the twenty,
fifteen had received their information on the subject from Mrs.
Grimes, and that upon every one secrecy had been enjoined, although
not in every case maintained.
"So it seems, Mrs. Markle," said Mrs. Comegys, after she had
finished her inquiries, "that Mrs. Grimes has, as I alleged,
industriously circulated this matter to my injury."
"It certainly appears so," returned Mrs. Markle, coldly.
Thus brought into a corner, Mrs. Grimes bristled up like certain
animals, which are good at running and skulking, but which, when
fairly trapped, fight desperately.
"Telling it to a thousand is not half as bad as doing it, Mrs.
Comegys," she said, angrily. "You needn't try to screen yourself from
the consequences of your wrong doings, by raising a hue and cry
against me. Go to the fact, madam! Go to the fact, and stand
alongside of what you have done."
"I have no hesitation about doing that, Mrs. Grimes. Pray, what
have I done?"
"It is very strange that you should ask, madam."
"But I am charged, I learn, with having committed a crime against
society; and you are the author of the charge. What is the crime?"
"If it is any satisfaction to you, I will tell you. I was at your
house when the pattern of the lawn dress you now have on was sent
home. You measured it in my presence, and there were several yards in
it more than you had bought and paid for"—
Mrs. Grimes looked confused, and stammered out, "I do not now
"How many did she tell you, Mrs. Raynor?"
"She said there were three yards."
"And you, Mrs. Fisher?"
"And you, Mrs. Florence?"
"Fifteen yards, I think."
"Oh, no, Mrs. Florence; you are entirely mistaken. You
misunderstood me," said Mrs. Grimes, in extreme perturbation.
"Perhaps so. But that is my present impression," replied Mrs.
"That will do," said Mrs. Comegys. "Mrs. Grimes can now go on with
her answer to my inquiry. I will remark, however, that the overplus
was just two yards."
"Then you admit that the lawn overran what you had paid for?"
"Certainly I do. It overran just two yards."
"Very well. One yard or a dozen, the principle is just the same. I
asked you what you meant to do with it, and you replied, 'keep it, of
course.' Do you deny that?"
"No. It is very likely that I did say so, for it was my intention
to keep it."
"Without paying for it?" asked Mrs. Markle.
Mrs. Comegys looked steadily into the face of her interrogator for
some moments, a flush upon her cheek, an indignant light in her eye.
Then, without replying to the question, she stepped to the wall and
rang the parlor bell. In a few moments a servant came in.
"Ask the gentleman in the dining-room if he will be kind enough to
step here." In a little while a step was heard along the passage, and
then a young man entered.
"You are a clerk in Mr. Perkins' store?" said Mrs. Comegys.
"You remember my buying this lawn dress at your store?"
"Very well, ma'am. I should forget a good many incidents before I
"What impressed it upon your memory?"
"This circumstance. I was very much hurried at the time when you
bought it, and in measuring it off, made a mistake against myself of
two yards. There should have been four dresses in the piece. One had
been sold previous to yours. Not long after your dress had been sent
home, two ladies came into the store and chose each a dress from the
pattern. On measuring the piece, I discovered that it was two yards
short, and lost the sale of the dresses in consequence, as the ladies
wished them alike. An hour afterward you called to say that I had made
a mistake and sent you home two yards more than you had paid for; but
that as you liked the pattern very much, you would keep it and buy two
yards more for a dress for your little girl."
"Yes; that is exactly the truth in regard to the dress. I am
obliged to you, Mr. S——, for the trouble I have given you. I will
not keep you any longer."
The young man bowed and withdrew.
The ladies immediately gathered around Mrs. Comegys, with a
thousand apologies for having for a moment entertained the idea that
she had been guilty of wrong, while Mrs. Grimes took refuge in a flood
"I have but one cause of complaint against you all," said the
injured lady, "and it is this. A charge of so serious a nature should
never have been made a subject of common report without my being
offered a chance to defend myself. As for Mrs. Grimes, I can't readily
understand how she fell into the error she did. But she never would
have fallen into it if she had not been more willing to think evil
than good of her friends. I do not say this to hurt her; but to state
a truth that it may be well for her, and perhaps some of the rest of
us, to lay to heart. It is a serious thing to speak evil of another,
and should never be done except on the most unequivocal evidence. It
never occurred to me to say to Mrs. Grimes that I would pay for the
lawn; that I supposed she or any one else would have inferred, when I
said I would keep it."
A great deal was said by all parties, and many apologies were made.
Mrs. Grimes was particularly humble, and begged all present to
forgive and forget what was past. She knew, she said, that she was
apt to talk; it was a failing with her which she would try to
correct. But that she didn't mean to do any one harm.
As to the latter averment, it can be believed or not as suits every
one's fancy. All concerned in this affair felt that they had received
a lesson they would not soon forget. And we doubt not, that some of
our readers might lay it to heart with great advantage to themselves
and benefit to others.