I am a monster of my own making, a gargoyle on the lintel, a capricious brownie. I have done badly and I may be committed to a rash course of action.
It is all because I cannot ignore stupid Edward. To like him is very vexing, and to disregard him is intolerable. It should be illegal for a gentleman to be so insensitive to a lady’s sentiments when such trouble as this can result.
At Alexandra’s last night I stood at the far end with the boys who don’t dance, both to keep myself out of the way of partners (who might be nonexistent and/or embarrassing), and to keep myself in the way of easy talk. We somehow got on the subject of New Britain, and Edward threw himself into it remarkably, saying that the future will be made across the Atlantic. Trying to be witty, I immediately interjected that, because things are rather odd over there, the future might be missing a few bolts.
I knew it was a mistake before I finished speaking. I cannot for the life of me recall the set-down that he delivered, but it mocked my tone, refuted my statement, and was much funnier than what I’d said all at once.
You know how easily I turn red, Kate. Worse things have happened to me and yet I was as red as could be.
I should say something dramatic, like the embarrassment was the last straw to my regard for him. But to my vast confusion it is not; he remains as quick-witted, assured, and handsome as ever. And at what he said next I suffered the most horrible, lowly feeling. He said that it has always been his plan to go to New Britain, and those around me even nodded as though they had heard this before, and now that he has finished his studies there’s no doubt he’ll be able to find excellent work there.
Others jokingly disparaged his going away, not a one seeming as dismayed as I. Edward was quite sure, with a curl to his mouth which he sometimes gets, and at that moment I had the strong impression that his mind was already half-submerged in New British gears and gaskets and hydraulics systems.
The misplaced thought, that Edward would know precisely how a waterclock works, surfaced at the time.
Perhaps this is why gentlemen and ladies find themselves at cross purposes so often. Progress has rushed upon us but you and I still grew up thinking of whom we would marry much more so than what work we might do. However, gentlemen grow up with the question of their livelihoods foremost, and they trust that marriage might occur along the way. Certainly this is how I believe Edward and I might be compared, and I have known him now for almost ten years.
Although I have excelled in my schooling I have never really felt excellent – learning is merely what one is supposed to do – whereas his excellence, his ambition with regard to pursuing his craft, are practically tangible. Only now have I been roused to envy. Though I wish it were impossible for me, a whole person, to be of so little import to him, I begin to fear that I am nonsensical; that I ought to be engaged with a passion all my own, and that I have done badly by placing my stock in joys dependent upon another.
But I have no passion of my own, Kate. I am destined for an office with rickety shelving, reviewing municipal plans that I view as crucial and yet mismanaged, with scant chance of changing them. My greatest highlights are knowing when I will next see Edward.
I think that all of this passed through my brain in an instant, and I had not come back to myself when I spoke next. I remember perfectly what I said, clear and from so far away: “Funny, I was thinking of applying to a post out west!”
I saw it in the paper this morning. A part of my token struggle against the future has been reading the Classifieds every day, most diligently, even finding a few typographical errors. It was only the third time in my life that I had seen the Foreign Office advertise for a District Officer in New Britain. That advertisement in its singularity popped fresh into my mind at this party of Alexandra’s, replete with its abundance of capital letters.
The boys looked skeptical and somebody asked whether I hadn’t already found a job, and I said yes, very nonchalantly, but that it didn’t seem like as big of an adventure.
I would strangle my nonchalant self if I could. Some eyes actually rolled, and it was all I could do to keep my countenance as those improvised words of mine echoed as badly as the false bottom in my topmost dresser drawer. I can only be thankful that Alexandra was not nearby to lend her voice to ridicule.
Kate, I may have dug my own grave. You would surely say to hell with what they think, but Edward was watching me with a half-raised eyebrow, and at this rate I might have better chance of seeing him in New Cambridge than anywhere in the Republic of Britain!