‘I know it will do’
Miss Stanbury carried her letter all the way to the chief post-office in the city, having no faith whatever in those little subsidiary receiving houses which are established in different parts of the city. As for the iron pillar boxes which had been erected of late years for the receipt of letters, one of which—a most hateful thing to her—stood almost close to her own hall door, she had not the faintest belief that any letter put into one of them would ever reach its destination. She could not understand why people should not walk with their letters to a respectable post-office instead of chucking them into an iron stump as she called it out in the middle of the street with nobody to look after it. Positive orders had been given that no letter from her house should ever be put into the iron post. Her epistle to her sister-in-law, of whom she never spoke otherwise than as Mrs Stanbury, was as follows:
The Close, Exeter, 22nd April, 186
My dear Sister Stanbury,
Your son, Hugh, has taken to courses of which I do not approve, and therefore I have put an end to my connection with him. I shall be happy to entertain your daughter Dorothy in my house if you and she approve of such a plan. Should you agree to this, she will be welcome to receive you or her sister, not her brother, in my house any Wednesday morning between half-past nine and half-past twelve. I will endeavour to make my house pleasant to her and useful, and will make her an allowance of 25 pounds per annum for her clothes as long as she may remain with me. I shall expect her to be regular at meals, to be constant in going to church, and not to read modern novels.
I intend the arrangement to be permanent, but of course I must retain the power of closing it if, and when, I shall see fit. Its permanence must be contingent on my life. I have no power of providing for any one after my death,
I hope the young lady does not have any false hair about her.’
When this note was received at Nuncombe Putney the amazement which it occasioned was extreme. Mrs Stanbury, the widow of the late vicar, lived in a little morsel of a cottage on the outskirts of the village, with her two daughters, Priscilla and Dorothy. Their whole income, out of which it was necessary that they should pay rent for their cottage, was less than 70 pounds per annum. During the last few months a five-pound note now and again had found its way to Nuncombe Putney out of the coffers of the ‘D. R.’; but the ladies there were most unwilling to be so relieved, thinking that their brother’s career was of infinitely more importance than their comforts or even than their living. They were very poor, but they were accustomed to poverty. The elder sister was older than Hugh, but Dorothy,