Her Fifteenth Letter to Kate – and to her father


Back to the Beginning

Dear Father,

I saw an inverted rain spout today, at one corner of the general store here in town, which lasted all of two minutes, and had thankfully very little effect, this being a dry climate.

It sounds as though my uncle’s pewter soldier collection may have finally overreached itself – but so it has seemed many times before! And I am sure you know you are contributing to the mischief, in notifying him of such things as thumb-sized steamcannons for sale.

Your research is continuing well, I hope? Do give me plenty of notice ahead of when your book will come out, will you?

Your daughter,


Dear Kate,

It has been some time, I know. At present I am reconciling myself to the need for a horse, extravagant an expense as that seems, and daunting logistically as well – all I, myself, need is a room or two, but think of the land one needs for a horse!

We did have fun though, those years ago at our great-uncle’s farm. A pity Irene never got over her fear of animals any larger than a sheepdog.

So perhaps a horse will be worth all the trouble and expense; if I cannot travel about to conduct surveys, what sort of geographer would I be? And at least I have Mrs. Brougham’s advice in seeking lodgings for myself and an equine companion, now that she has come around to seeing me as some helpless, misguided British girl marooned on her doorstep, and I can hardly resent this when she is offering me seconds of her biscuits. I do tend to run her tidbits of wisdom by Mr. Lorelli at the general store, however, in a covert manner, for a second opinion. At the notion that Old Woman Brown up the road might like a lodger (Mrs. Brougham’s current favourite scheme), Mr. Lorelli was a blur of waving hands, and protestations that a young person should not shut themselves up inside a coffin full of doilies.

And no, Mr. Ridgetop has not improved upon further acquaintance, Kate, though I thank you for your unceasing optimism vis-a-vis my working life. He was singularly unhelpful the other day, in fact.

The matter of the restrictions on well-digging was still bothering me, and I had read as much as I could find, over and over, without enlightenment. I had also posed one or two questions to Mr. Ridgetop on the subject, but he always seemed to answer at cross-purposes.

One never likes looking silly for asking the same sorts of questions a thousand times, especially when the other person is so very nonchalant on the subject, as if it were the simplest thing in the world. But I was fairly boiling with frustration and I finally launched an interrogation without any scruples as to how it would demonstrate my own ignorance.

“But why, Mr. Ridgetop? I understand that no more than one well of a depth of 100 feet or greater can sit on two hundred-and-fifty square acres, and the procedures in place, and the levels of approval necessary, but why?”

“As prudence would say, no more than one well per two-fifty acres.”

“Yes, yes, but why? What is one being prudent of?” And here I had to resist pulling on my hair. “What is the risk present?”

Here he blinked, and said of course it was the risk of toxic updraft in this part of New Britain. And here I opened my mouth, and then shut it, and then opened it again to said that was all very well, for a method had been developed, and tested, to identify such problem areas (I had two classes worth of lectures on the subject in one of my courses in senior year). We should be quite all right with digging more wells if we surveyed the sites properly first. There should therefore be no impediment to amending the rules, as requested innumerable times by innumerable (well no, I admit they are very numerable) ranchers.

I believe Mr. Ridgetop was downright suspicious of me, Kate, and I had some work to do in explaining to him the peculiar spiral rock formations, and porous, rocky soils which characterize known sites of toxic updraft in the new land. In the end, however, he shrugged at me.

“Well you’ll have the County Authority to convince, but that’s as you see fit.”

The trouble being that the County Authority is in Taybridge, some twenty miles away, and I have already learned how unwise it is to walk a mere hour’s distance. Another reason for that horse…

Yours ever,



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