My dearest Kate,
If you say I am being silly calling myself an old maid then I must believe you, and thank you, and send you my love as best I am able with this sorry excuse for a pen. I declare I have to sharpen it every letter.
Some boundary troubles emerged between two farmers last week, but I am happy to say that I could leave the matter to Mr. Ridgetop, so that I could continue with my map of what I have decided to call the Marlin Plateau. Therein lies the limestone, and I am drawing it most delightfully if I do say so myself, and there will be an accompanying report. It shall take a great deal of time I think, and I shall have to ride out innumerable times more. Which is all for the good, because I do believe Lorenzo enjoys the exercise, however little he wishes to let on.
Mr. Ridgetop has not asked what I am working on, and I have not nerved myself to mention the redoubled irregularity of his office hours. It is quiet as a library in this dusty Office.
I was summoned to the Haverly at lunchtime today to recover two items I had forgotten – my hairbrush, and trade paperback romance that I do wish had not come to Mrs. Brougham’s notice. I was also subject to a barrage of inquiries, and told a great many lies about how I am settled in the cabin.
“That so? Good enough, then. And I imagine now you’re due for tea with the Thurstons or the Dells (I was not – I was going back to work!). Fine folk.”
And she looked at me with a piercing eye, as if to say that I did not look the part. But in fact, at the young ladies’ behest I have ordered three dresses, Kate, a near-intolerable expense, and I laid up the entire night afterwards unable to sleep. I am hoping I will feel less awful about it once the dresses are actually made.
So I am still going out in my usual attire. And there has been another dance, too, only I did not write to you about it, for somehow nothing really occurred there. I seem to be smiling more and more without knowing quite why everyone else is smiling.
Anyway, a day or two after Mrs. Brougham’s remark I was in fact taking tea with the Thurstons and the Coopers, parents and daughters all, and one unruly six-year old son who had Mrs. Cooper most distracted. There was a very languid, pleasant sort of conversation going on about the summer heat, and the cows that sometimes get sunstruck. And Mr. Cooper mentioned that “it should all be much easier, if only the well weren’t so far.”
There I perked up, Kate, for I felt as though I actually had a chance to speak about something real. I asked Mr. Cooper if he were constrained by the restrictions on well-digging, and when he naturally said that was the case, I told the assembled party that I might try the County Authority when I had the chance, and see if I could change the rule.
“Change it, Miss Walker?” Mrs. Thurston asked. “You don’t say.”
She sounded doubtful, and I very nearly took off, a whole speech unrolling my head about the iniquities of the present system, its basis in outdated science, etc. etc. But I didn’t get further than four syllables before Mr. Thurston clapped his knee.
“Right-o, jolly good! Always said we ought to be able to have more wells drilled so we can water our cattle, eh, Cooper?”
“Why, that sounds fine, Miss Walker. When can I give you a lift up to Taybridge? Only say the word.”
“Oh dear,” Miss Cooper turned to me, “only it is such a long road, and I am afraid our carriage is hardly sprung like it used to me. You must wait for mama and I to badger papa into buying the new one.”
“The new one?” Mr. Cooper guffawed. “You talk as if it were already a done thing, pet!”
In such a way nothing was said about the advancement of human knowledge, the unique features of the land beneath our feet, or the status of the aquifer. We passed into a thorough discussion of carriage upholstery, and I sat there, as agreeable as any other piece of furniture in the room, eating more than my share of the biscuits.