Gossip and scandal are the refuge of the bored, and our stories abound in people who have too little to do and too much time to take an interest in the doings of their neighbours, sometimes with malicious intent.
Today, I’m looking for excerpts where gossip, or the consequences of gossip, take centre stage. Mine is from House of Thorns.
Two weeks of mostly fine weather saw the standing part of Thorne Hall made weather tight, and had the local farmers scurrying to salvage what they could of the harvest. Papa seemed slightly better, too, enjoying daily outings in his chair as he lectured Brownlee on herbal lore and the romance poetry of medieval France.
Rosa’s new gown was delivered, and she wore it to Matins on the second fine Sunday with the new bonnet and shawl, feeling a guilty delight at outshining those who had scorned her. With an effort, she reminded herself that she was here to pray, not to show off her fine feathers, and she did penance by praying for the Pelmans and the Benfords.
The two women were waiting outside, talking to the vicar who had ridden over from a neighbouring parish since the rector had gone to stay with relatives for his convalescence. He was a young man, new to the area, and employed to cover the parish for an incumbent who had another living in Lancashire. “The wages of sin, I assure you,” Rosa heard Maud Benford say.
Rosa set her jaw, straightened her back and swept up to them, holding out her hand to the vicar as the other two drew away as if to avoid contamination. “Vicar Watson. I am Mrs Hugh Gavenor My husband and I own and are restoring Thorne Hall. I see you have already met my cousin, Maud, and her friend.
The vicar, with a nervous look at the other two women, tentatively took her hand and bowed slightly. “Mrs Gavenor. Ah… Er…”
Before he could figure out a way not to take sides, or to decide which side to take, a relief force of Rosa’s supporters joined them, introducing themselves and taking over the conversation. Miss Pelman and Mrs Benford withdrew, and the vicar, though not without several sideways glances at Rosa, accepted her presence in the middle of the chattering group.