13. Correspondence

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That infuriating man!

So many feelings were rushing and raging inside me as I walked back to the house that I felt like a tiny paper boat being swept along down a gully. How dare he call me a hypocrite. A 'good person' whose good will went no further than the tip of their own noses. Who did he think he was? Who did he think I was? 

He thinks you're the lady with her nose in the air who tossed him aside, that's who.  

Rubbish! He's flexing his muscles and showing Mummy he's a big lad. Nothing more.  

Oh, leave off Olivia, I finally admonished myself, and focus on more important matters. 

Preparations for dinner were in full-swing and I would just have been in the way if I had hovered around on the lower floors, so I made my way up to my room, still steaming a bit as I went. 

Agatha had deposited some private post for me on the edge of my writing desk.

I felt a twinge of guilt as I remembered I hadn't answered Elizabeth Boyd-Scathby yet about taking in some of her vagrants. It did my humour no favours that I was still stumped as a croquet hoop about what to tell her. Taking in several new men all at once was risky.  Especially those who had been living rough for a while. 

A perfect example was the one now lodged in the Infirmary, damn him! 

After father's death and before I had an inkling as to what I was doing, I'd allowed a few men who were already here when the war ended to stay on and work in exchange for food and board. Those men then started coming to me, hat in hand, to plead for crippled friends and battalion mates who were returning home to domestic difficulties and government offices failing to pay disability support. There were beds, work and friends here, couldn't they come, please? 

What could I say to that?

My generosity had backfired a few times. Like with Hughes.  Poor, crazed Hughes. A friend of Morris' he was. Hung himself in the sheep barn after having been here for only a few months. He had survived the Somme but the poor lad couldn't handle the nightmares, the stress attacks. I'd seen it in his eyes when he first arrived, but had thought a new environment and a support net would work miracles. Thought wrong, as it turned out.

We'd had eleven suicides since '18, and with every new man the risk of another inched higher. What did James think it was like to cut down and bury eleven men years after Armistice? Good people. I'd like to tell him a thing or two about good people! 

The letter on top was from Charlotte. 

She reminded me of our date for tea and a jaunt out to the flickers in a fortnight. Oh, and do keep your undergarments on until then, will you, Olivia? I'd hate for our fun to be spoilt.  

Charlotte had obviously set about flushing some appropriate male companionship out of the brambles, and at the same time was warning me off of James. Well, right now, she had my full agreement. 

The second letter was from a Mrs Amelia Thrower, Bath.   

The name was unfamiliar and I had no idea what to expect as I inserted the letter opener under the flap and slit open the small, square envelope.

Dear Mrs Altringham,

My name is Amelia Thrower and I have been in service to Lady Bucking-Coombs of Bath for neigh on 10 years now as housemaid. Her Ladyship no longer has need of me and I have been given my leave. I am a hard worker and have given her Ladyship no reasons to complain in all my time with her and her gracious family.  

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