Tag Archives: overhearing gossip

The Indiscreet: 1884, 1897

CAUGHT IN THE ACT.

Two Ladles Discover How They Had Made Themselves Disagreeable.

Two ladies were standing on the doorstep of a house in Georgetown, where but a moment before they had rung the bell and were waiting to be admitted. One was talking along very intently, when the taller woman interrupted her. “Be careful,” she said, “somebody may hear you.”

“I’m very particular,” responded the other. “I looked all around before I said anything and there was nobody in sight.”

“That’s what I thought once, too, and I made a serious mistake. I was calling once, just as we now are, and was with a woman who could and did say the meanest things about people I ever heard talk. I’m not given to that kind of thing usually, but I do love a bit of gossip, and sometimes I am led into saying things I shouldn’t. On this occasion the lady we were to call on was not a favorite of mine, and when the other woman said something sarcastic I chimed right in and said I thought she was the silliest and most extravagant and homeliest and dowdiest and stupidest woman of my entire acquaintance, and that I only called from a sense of duty anyhow. And a few other things, like that, I said.

“Well, we were let in after a long wait and the reception we got was the chilliest I ever met with. I couldn’t understand it, for we were really on very good terms, as those things go, and we got out as soon as we could. That night I told my husband about it when he came home, and he wondered at it too. Next evening he came in smiling, and told me that the next time I had anything to say about my neighbors on their own doorsteps I had better first see if there were any speaking tubes to tell on me. That explained it all in a second. A doctor used to live in that same house and he had a speaking tube at the door, as physicians do. The lady we were calling on had never changed it, and as I found out afterward, the main thing, she used to sit close to the other end of that tube and listen to what people might be saying at the door.

“She didn’t make much by listening to me, and she didn’t dare to tell me that she knew what I thought of her, and I didn’t care if she did know, only since that time I have been more careful. There’s a tube up there, see?” and the tall lady pointed to an innocent looking mouthpiece pouting out of the door frame. However, there was no response to their ring, and as they met the lady coming in just as they started away they felt perfectly safe and had a nice call. Washington Star.

The Scranton [PA] Republican 16 October 1897: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The conversational contretemps was a perpetually popular theme for the humourist. Indiscretion is always good for a laugh, particularly when it comes at someone else’s expense.

Two young ladies were once singing a duet in a concert-room. A stranger, who had heard better performances, turned to his neighbor, saying, “Does not that lady in white sing wretchedly?”

“Excuse me, sir. I scarcely feel myself at liberty to express my sentiments; she is my sister.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” answered he, in much confusion, “I mean the lady in blue.”

“You are perfectly right there,” replied the neighbor; “I have often told her so myself. She is my wife.”

The Huddersfield Chronicle and West Yorkshire Advertiser [Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England] 14 July 1855: p. 3

A young man on a train was making fun of a young lady’s hat to an elderly gentleman in the seat with him. “Yes,” said the seatmate, “that’s my wife, and I told her if she wore that bonnet some fool would make fun of it.”

Pittsburg [TX] Gazette 7 October 1892: p. 1

It was also axiomatic that much malicious gossip went on between neighbours over the fence.

Over the Fence.

Mrs. Slingonin put her head over the fence and thus addressed her neighbor, who was hanging out her week’s washing;

“A family has moved in the empty house across the way, Mrs. Clothesline.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Did you notice their furniture?”

“Not particularly.”

“Two loads, and I wouldn’t give a dollar a load for it. Carpets! I wouldn’t put them down in my kitchen, And the children! I won’t allow mine to associate with them. And the mother! She looks as though she had never known a day’s happiness. The father drinks, I expect, Too bad that such people should come into this neighborhood. I wonder who they are.”

“I know them.”

“Do you? Well, l declare. Who are they?”

“The mother is my sister, and the father is superintendent of the Methodist Sunday school.”

A painful pause ensues.

The St Johnsbury [VT[ Index 29 May 1884: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdote

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.