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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,021 pages of information about He Knew He Was Right.

CHAPTER XXII

SHEWING HOW MISS STANBURY BEHAVED TO HER TWO NIECES

The triumph of Miss Stanbury when she received her niece’s letter was certainly very great—­so great that in its first flush she could not restrain herself from exhibiting it to Dorothy.  ’Well well what do you think, Dolly?’

‘About what, aunt?  I don’t know who the letter is from.’

’Nobody writes to me now so constant as your sister Priscilla.  The letter is from Priscilla.  Colonel Osborne has been at the Clock House, after all.  I knew that he would be there.  I knew it!  I knew it!’

Dorothy, when she heard this, was dumbfounded.  She had rested her defence of her mother and sister on the impossibility of any such visit being admitted.  According to her lights the coming of Colonel Osborne, after all that had been said, would be like the coming of Lucifer himself.  The Colonel was, to her imagination, a horrible roaring lion.  She had no idea that the erratic manoeuvres of such a beast might be milder and more innocent than the wooing of any turtle-dove.  She would have asked whether the roaring lion had gone away again, and, if so, whether he had taken his prey with him, were it not that she was too much frightened at the moment to ask any question.  That her mother and sister should have been wilfully concerned in such iniquity was quite incredible to her, but yet she did not know how to defend them.  ’But are you quite sure of it, Aunt Stanbury?  May there not be another mistake?’

’No mistake this time, I think, my dear.  Any way, Priscilla says that he is there.’  Now in this there was a mistake.  Priscilla had said nothing of the kind.

‘You don’t mean that he is staying at the Clock House, Aunt Stanbury?’

’I don’t know where he is now.  I’m not his keeper.  And, I’m glad to say, I’m not the lady’s keeper either.  Ah, me!  It’s a bad business.  You can’t touch pitch and not be defiled, my dear.  If your mother wanted the Clock House, I would sooner have taken it for her myself than that all this should have happened for the family’s sake.’

But Miss Stanbury, when she was alone, and when she had read her niece’s three letters again and again, began to understand something of Priscilla’s honesty, and began also to perceive that there might have been a great difficulty respecting the Colonel, for which neither her niece nor her sister-in-law could fairly be held to be responsible.  It was perhaps the plainest characteristic of all the Stanburys that they were never wilfully dishonest.  Ignorant, prejudiced, and passionate they might be.  In her anger Miss Stanbury, of Exeter, could be almost malicious; and her niece at Nuncombe Putney was very like her aunt.  Each could say most cruel things, most unjust things, when actuated by a mistaken consciousness of perfect right on her own side.  But neither of them could lie even by silence.  Let an error

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