DOROTHY MAKES UP HER MIND
It was true that most ill-natured things had been said at Lessboro’ and at Nuncombe Putney about Mrs Stanbury and the visitors at the Clock House, and that these ill-natured things had spread themselves to Exeter. Mrs Ellison of Lessboro’, who was not the most good-natured woman in the world, had told Mrs Merton of Nuncombe that she had been told that the Colonel’s visit to the lady had been made by express arrangement between the Colonel and Mrs Stanbury. Mrs Merton, who was very good-natured, but not the wisest woman in the world, had declared that any such conduct on the part of Mrs Stanbury was quite impossible ‘What does it matter which it is Priscilla or her mother?’ Mrs Ellison had said. ’These are the facts. Mrs Trevelyan has been sent there to be out of the way of this Colonel; and the Colonel immediately comes down and sees her at the Clock House. But when people are very poor they do get driven to do almost anything.’
Mrs Merton, not being very wise, had conceived it to be her duty to repeat this to Priscilla; and Mrs Ellison, not being very good-natured, had conceived it to be hers to repeat it to Mrs MacHugh at Exeter. And then Bozzle’s coming had become known.
’Yes, Mrs MacHugh, a policeman in mufti down at Nuncombe! I wonder what our friend in the Close here will think about it! I have always said, you know, that if she wanted to keep things straight at Nuncombe, she should have opened her purse-strings.’
From all which it may be understood, that Priscilla Stanbury’s desire to go back to their old way of living had not been without reason.
It may be imagined that Miss Stanbury of the Close did not receive with equanimity the reports which reached her. And, of course, when she discussed the matter either with Martha or with Dorothy, she fell back upon her own early appreciation of the folly of the Clock House arrangement. Nevertheless, she had called Mrs Ellison very bad names, when she learned from her friend Mrs MacHugh what reports were being spread by the lady from Lessboro’.
’Mrs Ellison! Yes; we all know Mrs Ellison. The bitterest tongue in Devonshire, and the falsest! There are some people at Lessboro’ who would be well pleased if she paid her way there as well as those poor women do at Nuncombe. I don’t think much of what Mrs Ellison says.’
‘But it is bad about the policeman,’ said Mrs MacHugh.
’Of course it’s bad. It’s all bad. I’m not saying that it’s not bad. I’m glad I’ve got this other young woman out of it. It’s all that young man’s doing. If I had a son of my own, I’d sooner follow him to the grave than hear him call himself a Radical.’
Then, on a sudden, there came to the Close news that Mrs Trevelyan and her sister were gone. On the very Monday on which they went, Priscilla sent a note on to her sister, in which no special allusion was made to Aunt Stanbury, but which was no doubt written with the intention that the news should be communicated.