You ask whether my lot has improved since that dinner at the Thurstons. I am afraid it has only gotten worse.
I dropped your previous letter in the post-office box on Monday morning, and Miss Thurston and Miss Dell came to the Office on Monday afternoon. Ostensibly for tea, each with a picnic basket under her arm, but we all three knew why they were really there. Veritable steel under their smiles.
Blessedly, Mr. Ridgetop stepped out partway through this torturous interval. Miss Dell, with her dark eyes very large and serious, relieved Miss Thurston in taking the offensive, but when the same arguments did not produce the effect she desired, she disarmed me by asking whether or not I was happy in Kingstowne.
My uncertainty plainly showed, although I answered in the positive. Miss Dell tossed her head, and said that I should not be happy unless I determined to like the place instead of looking down upon it – that she saw in me a person determined always to be reserved and unsatisfied – and that I could begin doing better, by having more care for my acquaintances. Otherwise, I had no real business staying, and should do better giving the Office up to someone else.
With that assault they left, taking the last of the crumpets with them.
I believe I was still in shock, Kate, when Mr. Ridgetop returned on the heels of the ladies’ departure. When he asked me what “that” had been all about, words slipped out rather in spite of me. I told him that I had the prospect of going to the County Authority in Taybridge the very next day, in order to argue in favour of digging more wells. I had intended to wait until I could bring other development projects as well – but it seemed people thought that unwise – although I had also intended to prepare myself better, in general… I said a number of things, all of them confused.
Mr. Ridgetop just looked at me, and finally said, “I suppose its no surprise, with all the dances and teas those ranchers have been giving you.”
Perhaps a ten second delay, it was, before I took his meaning and felt myself go red from tip to toe. It was most unjust – I had not even decided to go – and even if I were to go, why should he insinuate such a thing?
I turned around, back to my desk, and I heard Mr. Ridgetop sit down as well, and his pen began scratching away. But I could not read a single word. I took a handful of papers at random and now I am home, with the cabin door barred although it is broad daylight, still unable to read and mostly just dreaming of other ways I could block out the world.
P.S. I have been through my accounts and I have enough to buy my passage back to England and return with some savings to show for myself. But England means Edward, and Edward has not written. How small I am, Kate, and yet I have something humiliating awaiting me on two separate landmasses.