Duncan Robbins walked, floppy blonde curls shaking. His gaunt stature was a regular sight to those around Islington or Camden at five in the morning. He crossed the old prison grounds into The Mount. Mount Pleasant sorting office, formally often. Once under darkness he looked older than his twenty-five years. Duncan signed in: Robbins, July 15, 1904. He nodded over to Miguel Duffield, loitering, and knifed the binds on his first bag. Robbins pulled out a stack sandwich of letters onto the table. There were white envelopes for Clement McBean of Newbridge, for Martha Salter of Wigan; inside each, congratulations on the birth of a son. There were several addressed to Sir Joseph Pease, Famouth and Darlington, wishes for a swift recovery. Robbins rolled his eyes, then checked no-one saw him. Four or five envelopes bore the palace’s official seal. They were made out to Ireland, detailing preparation for King Edward VII’s first visit.
There were fourteen envelopes for the London Jews Society: five different locations overseas; more than half of them local. One Reverend C. Lypshytz of Whitechapel, who in the days ahead would read a confession, an apology and a promise to return an item of personal value. At great length, the author detailed his course of self-redemption and ended wishing the Reverend well, with hopes they might work together in the future. The letter also promised the imminent return of stolen items.
In an instant Duncan had it placed in a box and the letter to Montreal in another. He didn’t notice they were inked by the same flamboyant, excited hand. The recipient, Reverend Frank Burt, was the author of the next one the sorter placed, from Montreal to London. Had he been troublesome to open it, he would have read the Society of Jews were required to pay Ignacz Trebitsch an owed wage, with Burt’s p.s. expressing his worries about, ‘that other business, that perhaps might be dealt with soon’. The thought of opening it never entered his freckled head.
Another mail to the Society headquarters, a London postmark, was from Trebitsch. He asked to be considered for work in the colonies. The postal worker had a letter for Reverend Moses Epstein too. Therein, was an enquiry as to whether he’d consider expanding Bristol’s outreach mission? In several days other London Society branches would find folded and salubrious C.V.s and notes of commendation.
Duncan Robbins noticed the same handwriting when he got to a letter for the Archbishop of Canterbury; but there was so much more sorting in front of him.
“For God’s sake,” Robbins said to himself.
Featured Image Attribution: Mount Pleasant Sorting Office, British History: Survey of London