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Had that been an apology? Or at least a show of his acceptance of being struck? When is a blow from a lady welcome? When she strikes you agreeably. 

I stood by the gravel path thinking for a few moments. A cluster of men greeted me, throwing questioning glances at each other as they passed, obviously wondering what I was doing standing in such a strange spot like a piece of misplaced modern sculpture. 

The wind was beginning to pick up and I was not dressed for the out-of-doors. 

When she strikes you agreeably. Was that another indication of his attempt at irritating me? I was most pleasing to him when I was shouting, all red-faced and belligerent? 

Stop mulling it over and get yourself in inside, Olivia, before you catch your death.  

The Hutch office was nearly deserted, but I could hear someone working the typewriter in the main room. The loud clacking echoed hollowly off the walls of the corridor as I approached, still rubbing my shoulders under the light cardigan I had on to warm up.  

An eruption of laughter from one of the smaller working rooms attracted my attention and, peaking only slightly in, I saw Tomkins, Morris and Pritchard sitting around the work table. 

I eavesdropped for a while in the corridor.

They were heatedly discussing football and the possibility of laying out a pitch again in the summer and playing a series of matches like last year.

Oh, that had been a delight. 

Most of the matches had ended nil all, but that had not damped the men's spirits or enthusiasm for the game. Even the less athletic among them had been given a chance to play and we had all cheered them on from the sidelines, shouting encouragement to this or that player.  Even Agatha had come out with a sun parasol and a chair to watch, applauding politely when a rare goal was scored.   

"Hello, gentlemen," I said, walking past the doorframe as if I'd only just arrived. 

"M-miss! Tomkins is here to rep-port on the sowing and you asked for Morris to be summoned."

Had I? I didn't recall. 

"Excellent. Thank you, Pritchard." I joined them at the table. "Tomkins, what do you have for us?"

Pritchard rose and took his leave. Tomkins hunched forward, folding his hands together on the table before drawing a deep breath and launching into his report. 

Everything was going according to schedule, and we'd have all the wheat sown within a day or two. "But, I don't like the look of the sky tonight," he rasped, in his damaged voice. "Storm's a comin'. Hopefully, it won't rain too heavily. We don't have more than one field of corn and two of potatoes in the ground. I won't vouch for what happens if we get too much rain." 

I nodded. "Could we lose what's already been planted?" 

Tomkins shrugged. "Mud's better than flood, as my dad was fond a sayin'. Depends entirely on what mood the sky's in. Same as every year." 

Didn't I know it. 

I thanked him and he unlaced his hands, plucked up his cap, and nodded as he rose to leave. I turned to Morris, who was looking at me with expectantly raised eyebrows. 

"How does a trip to Hertfordshire for a few days sound?" I asked.

"Lovely. Where's Hertfordshire and what doors will I be knocking on when I get there?"

"It's on the other side of London and --."

"London! I've always wanted to see London. I've almost had enough of the Sussex coast, to be wholly honest. I'm sure there are people clamouring for sweets on the other side of London just the same as down Sussex way."

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