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There was anything and everything, coming from here, there, and everywhere: letters from close relatives and faraway correspondents, letters from beer tasters comparing notes, from globetrotters writing to their mothers, from retired steam locomotive firemen listing their bumps and bruises. There were those overly reassuring letters servicemen dispatched from Afghanistan to their anxious wives, and those worried words uncles wrote to their nieces concerning secrets that shouldn’t be revealed for anything in the world, and those Dear John or Dear Mary letters in which circus acrobats in Las Vegas broke up with their former lovers, and there were even hate letters crammed with insults spilling out onto the envelope.
But above all there were love letters. Because even after Valentine’s Day, love remained the most common denominator, the subject linking the greatest number of pens. Love in every grammatical form and every possible tone, dished up in every imaginable shape: passionate letters or courteous ones, sometimes suggestive and sometimes chaste, either calm or dramatic, occasionally violent, often lyrical, and especially moving when the feelings were expressed in simple terms, and never quite so touching as when the emotions hid between the lines, burning away almost invisibly behind a screen of innocuous words.
Once he’d read and reread the letter of the day, had savoured it down to the very marrow, Bilodo made a photocopy of it for his records.
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