My dear Brother
Feb. 24, 1870
It was quite refreshing to see your handwriting once more. It seems so long since we heard. Mama persuaded herself you were on your way home as you did not write, but no such good news. I was glad to hear you are doing well & wish we could bottle up some of our showers & send across the Atlantic to you, for we have had so many, our ground is like sponge & our house, being by the side of a small river, my back kitchen is very often flooded. The flood gates have to be kept up continually to let the water pass down or we should be flooded altogether. Miles of land near the Thames & all the country round Gloucester is flooded & as it has also frozen, the skaters have had a good time of it. But now we long for dry as much as you long for wet. It has been a very sickly season - nearly every one ill with cold or fever & numerous deaths. Our mother has weathered it hitherto - but she has felt it much.
I am glad you said what you did about the houses, for there she is fussing & worrying herself still. I spent a week with her in November. She is living in one of them & that saves her much fatigue, but it is very lonely for her. She seemed very brisk & active then & younger than last year, but she seemed to want a companion very much & I was quite loth to leave her.
Fanny gives her much trouble, not that F. would do so of herself but she is so completely a slave to her Husband and does his bidding right or wrong & he makes her write & tell Mama every want & then she thinks she must send something & very often sends what she needs herself much more than F. does. You know with the greatest economy she has only enough to pay her way & if I did not send her a few presents, would not have needful clothing, because she gives to John & Fanny what she ought to keep herself. Thinking Fanny did not know this, I wrote & told her & begged her not to mention her wants, especially as to me John boasts that he wants for nothing, "the Lord supplies him fully". John wrote me a most insulting letter - that is, he made Fanny write it, but it was his writing. He has done this several times. I know it is not Fanny because last summer I saw her alone. John was out & she opened her heart to me & told me how she hated this "living on [only?] by Faith" as John calls it & said with tears in her eyes - "Oh if only I were a widow, I should be far happier & better off. I would get a living for my children & not live in this beggarly way!" She told me she was only happy when he was out, he was so tyrannical & said "if I even have a little money at mama's death it will never do me any good, for John will spend it." The money you sent Adela on her marriage, John borrowed & never paid the poor child again, nor even made any allusion to it. Fanny thought he might have uttered a regret but he did not & then he tells me by Fanny he wants for nothing & does not wish Mama to send him anything - then why tell her his wants? He knows she will send something. When he came to London in the Autumn he quartered himself on her & even took three [and?] sixpence she offered him, being all she had then, as her tenants had not paid up. She was on account of his coming obliged to send to us for money she had put by for contingencies. What do you think of such meanness? Do not tell Mama I have told you but I think you ought to know.
My son Philip has a son, so now I have two Grandchildren & my daughter Sarah Ann is to be married in May, when I shall only have my own children at home. Elijah was the first Prizeman last year in his Hospital & brought home 10 splendid volumes received as prizes. He is sticking hard at it & I expect will gain another this April. He is very steady. Walter also but he is in the business at home.
Arthur, whose likeness I enclose, leaves school this year & comes into business too. He is a clean boy - has made a profession & promises to be in every respect a fine fellow. My children are all very tall except Elijah & he is a respectable size. Much bigger than his father. Annie has left school now. She is a very fine, handsome girl - quite takes the shine out of her sisters & will soon be my right hand. She is a most useful girl. How I wish you could see them all.
Give my love to your wife. She is quite right not to come without you. How could she?
All unite in love to her & you.
Your affectionate sister