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the 20th letter

Posted by valancy_s on 2006.04.07 at 14:28
Hamper’s Boarding House
No. 12 Bricksworth Road

Tuesday, June 18th

Dear Alice,

This letter, the best I can produce in half an hour, may cross one of yours, but now things are settling down I thought it worthwhile to pull out your last letter (much crumpled from moving house) and give you a proper though condensed reply. No doubt my last epistle was flavored with more than a tinge of melodrama, but my mood is much improved, my philosophy returned, and I assure you that I can now see this as an adventure. More -- I can recognize that Grandmother’s offense, though deeply upsetting, has had the agreeable consequence of making me just what I’ve longed to be: independent and self-supporting.

Thank you for the letters of introduction, which I will put into use soon. My grateful thanks to Dr. P as well, though I still wish he were not involved (but should these prove miraculously useful, perhaps I will change my mind). I suppose I ought to thank his friend as well, but I’m afraid I am not that generous. Has that gentleman continued to avoid you? I hope so, for your sake.

You asked, in passing, if I still saw much of Miss Mitton. I will answer, in passing: not really. Clarinda is, as Miss Austen might have said, “a very good sort of girl” -- but I don’t think we’re destined to be great friends. Hannah’s friendship, on the other hand, has saved my soul alive this past week. I really don’t know what I would have done without her -- sat down on the stoop of Windleigh House and cried, I imagine, like Dora when she “ran away” from Hollyfield at the age of seven. As you say, I’m blest to have found a real friend here in London.

Speaking of friends, please give Jane Frederickson my heartiest congratulations. You and I may not admire the iron-grey style in men, but most people would consider Dr. Martin a fine catch… and if Jane is one of them, that’s what matters! I did think he was one who’d never marry, though. The ban might have been lifted twenty years ago, but it does seem like a lot of dons (even younger ones) still think of themselves as married to their bookshelves.

Did you know that this romance of Jane’s has set Oxford gossip spinning in more than one direction? Now it’s known that Peter Lewis was never courting Jane, people have begun to remark on all the time he’s been spending with another single young lady, who happens to be his mentor’s daughter! Or so my other correspondents tell me. You’ve shared every one of your (remarkably few) romantic entanglements with me, since you were five and confessed your starry-eyed passion for Aunt Sylvia’s boot boy, so I’m sure this is pure gossip (not unlike the case of myself and Henry the Younger). Still, I just thought I’d mention it.

Nor would I be against such an thing, mind you. Peter is a dear charming fellow. I daresay I might have fallen for him myself, were it not for his freckles.

Speaking of the dreaded Henry, did I mention that that gentleman specifically sought me out yesterday, after I registered my change of address with the Reader’s clerk? He was all concern and sympathy -- wanting to know if I needed to adjust my working schedule, or could use advice in arranging transportation -- with a smirk in his eyes all the while, I’m certain of it. Horrid cheek.

I don’t like your inference that he can “get the better of me,” though. Surely you know me well enough to know that would never happen! He may never acknowledge my competence as a reporter or a person, but I shall go on being competent all the same. If anyone can ruffle me, it’s that maddening brother of his! I believe one would require psychical gifts to comprehend his behavior. I have too few minutes before post time to tell the full tale, but I can’t help sharing the kernel of it: Walter Davenforth has given me a kitten. And no, before you attempt to repay me for quizzing you about Peter, it was not at all given in a spirit of affectionate tribute. But the rest must wait for my next letter...

...the pages of which will contain more important matters too. When I next hear from you I want to know what you’ve learned from Aunt Sylvia and from Mr. Bexton Page in vino. And when you next hear from me, Dr. Pomeroy’s friends will know my name (and tremble at it, probably) and Edmund Morrow’s secrets will be in my keeping!

Much love,


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