What is the gossip Mama and Aunt Loma repeat concerning Love's past in Cold Sassy Tree?
On page 25, it is revealed that a milliner from another town told Loma some gossip concerning Love, which Loma repeated to the rest of Cold Sassy. The rumor was that Love was engaged to a Texas rancher, who had an affair and eloped with Love's best friend.
Aunt Loma said that if her fee-ance and her best friend were that kind of trash, "it don't speak so well for Love Simpson."
Mary Willis is never said to have helped spread this gossip, but we know she is aware of it as at the end of the first chapter she shushes Loma when she begins to speak of it in front of Will.
We get our first indication that this rumor is untrue in Chapter 21 with the arrival of Clayton McAllister, the Texas rancher himself.
"Love," he whispered, "you're the only woman I could ever marry. You know that." (Gosh, then he'd never eloped with Miss Love's best friend! Loma must of made that up.)
The whole story comes out in chapter 41, as Miss Love confides to Rucker that her father (?) had raped her when she was young. She had told Mr. McAllister as well, who initially said that it didn't matter but eventually broke their engagement as a result.