The Little Willowford Mission (7)

Report Seven

Most esteemed Commander, may I offer you excesses of gratitude for forwarding me the legal opinion you so generously sought on my behalf. I am extraordinarily relieved to discover that I am not required to install all the missing horticultural elements in the garden of my dwelling. Indeed, if I had taken the trouble to read the Tenancy Agreement carefully and in less haste, I would not have leapt to these erroneous conclusions. The words are perfectly clear and I can only apologise for mistaking them. ‘As at the start of the tenancy’ should have been beyond misinterpretation to a being of my advanced intelligence and I resolve to do better from this point.

Nonetheless, my relief on reading your response was somewhat tempered by my anxiety relating to Pam. As you will remember, I had used the poor condition of the garden at my dwelling to initiate a conversation with her, with the hope that it could lead to further interactions. Unfortunately, this has not occurred. In the week since my previous report, we have had five communications as follows:

Weather related: 2

Refuse collection related: 1

Good morning/afternoon: 2

I am perfectly aware that these fall very short of the promise shown during our first meeting, and I can only conclude that an initial display of friendship such as that shown by Pam is not necessarily an indication of a lasting relationship. On the contrary, she seems in recent days to be avoiding any conversation at all. I have yet to establish what purpose the invitation to drink tea served for her, as she gained nothing material from the interaction. In fact, she expended two teabags and a small volume of milk from her supplies. I will continue to ponder this.

Commander, I trust your disappointment at the collapse of the Pam initiative will not lead you to imagine I have been idle. This is far from the truth and I have news of such import that you will cease to concern yourself about Pam. As it became clear that no further cups of tea were to be offered, I decided today to make another journey into the larger settlement which is known locally as ‘Town’ although that is not its name. My purpose was to discover more about the reasons why the population make this journey. I assume that at least a proportion of the passengers I met on the first occasion must travel in this way on a regular basis, as many of them knew each other. It is impossible to believe they could choose to visit the ASDA anything other than occasionally, so what were they doing?

Having boarded the bus, I was surprised to find it almost empty. Only three other people were already seated and we were joined by just two more throughout the entire journey. This was most disappointing, but then it occurred to me that I was an hour later than previously. Clearly the bus’s function as a social venue is intermittent and the 10:20am service is designed for transport only.

You will be pleased to learn that I did not allow yet another set-back to affect my plan. No, I chose at random one of the passengers and vowed to follow her wherever she went, taking notes as I went. Unfortunately, I selected this passenger unwisely, as her purpose in making the journey remains very unclear. Although she entered seven shops, she bought items in only two and wandered in an apparently aimless fashion for such a time that it became increasingly challenging to avoid being seen by her. Commander, I was about to dismiss my whole day as a waste of precious time when she entered a building I had not noticed before, and what I discovered there was so fascinating, so important, that it makes all the frustration I experienced beforehand worthwhile.

The building was a library. I had not thought to find such a thing, believing them to be confined to the dwellings of the wealthy as described in many of our set texts. You will remember the library at Pemberley being mentioned as particularly fine, but there are other references too, if I had the time or inclination to find them. No, Commander, this library is nothing like those of which I have read and, indeed, hoped to visit before my return. It is open to the public and requires not even a subscription. My surprise on entering and seeing before me such a multitude of books, was such that I forgot my original reason for entering. I have no idea what the woman did whilst she was there, nor how long she remained, but that is of little significance compared to what I discovered.

Commander, I hesitate to impart such momentous news at this distance. Would that I could stand before you to say these words, but it cannot be avoided. The awful truth is that humans do not always write the truth. This is not limited, as might be imagined, to a few unscrupulous individuals who seek to trick or deceive their readers. No, it is much more serious and widespread than that, and I must confess that I found it hard to believe myself.

On entering the library, I was quite unable to comprehend what I saw. I stood, transfixed, for such a time that I was approached by a woman who asked me the now familiar question concerning help she could offer. My response was quite possibly incoherent, but I replied in the affirmative to her next suggestion, which was that she would accompany me on a tour of the library.

‘This is the fiction section,’ said she, indicating rows of shelves. ‘So you can see here we have the romance section, over there is science fiction and this is the general …’

‘Please forgive my interruption,’ I cried, ‘but pray, what is this fiction of which you speak?’

The woman appeared most disconcerted. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, I thought … Well, fiction is the word we use for anything that is made up … invented. Stories and …’

She looked at me, clearly quite disturbed by my obvious surprise and dismay, but bade me follow her to the shelves on the other side of the room.

‘This is the non-fiction section. Everything here is factual. Based on fact. Everything in the fiction section is the opposite. It’s made up for people’s entertainment and enjoyment. Have I explained that well? I’m sorry, it’s not a question I’m asked very often.’

I hastened to reassure her that she had, indeed, explained the difference very well. I then invented some inadequate excuses for why I must leave in great haste, and left the building. Commander, the body shook from head to foot as I guided it to a bench. Could this really be true? If so, it throws much of our learning about this planet into doubt. I returned to the dwelling as soon as the body had sufficiently recovered and wrote this report with no further delay.

I remain your most faithful servant,

Jane Brown (Mrs)


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