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Dearest Catherine,
I am certain that you are in a flurry of nervous fever and I am afraid that this letter will not be able to alleviate such complaints. However you may take small comfort in the fact that I have no great declaration of peril to include in this correspondence. We arrived at Woodville Park in a satisfying number of hours, due to the quality of the roads in the county. The house itself is a wonderfully imposing sight, for Lord Woodville has carried out a great many improvements, Catherine, it has a lime walk!
Whence we had been shown into a parlour of pleasing proportions Lord Woodville summoned his head footman, the aptly named Mr Foot,
“Foot,” said he “I shall need you to bring all the maps I possess, and tell the footmen and coachmen to make ready to leave as soon as I know our destination.”
Foot looked visibly startled by his masters words.
“Is there something afoot sir?”
“Yes Foot, there is indeed, Miss Maria’s sister has been captured and is being held we know not where and we have limited time to retrieve the poor creature before her bloom is quite gone!”
“Very good sir.” Foot turned to leave but Lord Woodville quite suddenly called him back. “And Foot, where is my sister?”
“I believe Miss Elizabeth is in the library, engaged in counting the number of times the letter O appears in the Bible, Sir.”
I was shocked to hear of such a dangerous occupation.
“Goodness, Lord Woodville that is a task not lightly undertaken, is your sister quite well?” I enquired.
“Quite well I thank you, she has partiality for the counting of things, Foot, ask Miss Elizabeth to come here directly?”
Foot nodded and left us. It was not long before a dozen footmen arrived carrying a collection of maps of the finest quality.
“Sir, your maps are a credit to you.” I said in genuine admiration, I noticed my Aunt Margaret threw me one of her sour looks at my warm speech and could not help but feel a little cheered by the simple pleasure of vexing her.
“The collection was made by my late father. Ah, and here is my sister, Elizabeth may I present Miss Maria Ashby.” I bowed as Miss Elizabeth a girl of no more than one and twenty entered the room.
“Elizabeth, I have a task for you of the utmost importance. Miss Maria received a letter this morning. I need you to examine it and tell me what you can of its writer.”
I handed her the well worn paper and she seated herself hastily at a table giving her full attention to the letter. As her eyes perused it she gasped.
” Is it true? Has your sister been taken?” Before I could respond however Lord Woodville spoke with a sharpness I had never heard before.
“Yes Elizabeth it is true, Now how long until that parchment reveals it’s secrets to you?”
“It would be considerably less, Henry, if you were to cease scolding me thus!” Elizabeth spoke with surprising authority for one so fair.
“The penmanship is poor, it would seem to be the work of a left hand. The sharp inclination of the letter T suggests a tall personage and perhaps poor vision in the left eye.” Elizabeth hesitated “There is a feminine quality to the Qs.”
” A woman?” I asked overcome with such a peculiarity.
“No, not a woman, but a man with a fondness for wearing muslin gowns.” She replied.
“What of the senders location, Elizabeth can anything be discovered on that score?” Lord Woodville pressed on.
“This particular paper is purchased only in London, and this soot here upon the corner is of a quality more commonly associated with Town. I can also make out the faint smell of intoxicating liquor, the writer was most likely residing next to an inn. Cheapside” She concluded to my astonishment. At her words Lord Woodville unfurled a map of London closely tracing Cheapside with his finger.
“Miss Elizabeth, I believe you have not an equal for your accomplishments.” Said I with feeling, Elizabeth froze seemingly unused to such praise. To avoid causing her further anguish, I too began tracing the map. My fingers met that that of Lord Woodville upon a building exactly meeting Elizabeth’s description. I confess I dared not look at our aunt at this moment, though I could feel her disapproval.
My dear Catherine we leave for London as soon as the footmen have loaded the weapons into the carriages. I know not what danger lies before us but I wish to vow to you that I shall do whatever is in my power to save our sister and her reputation.
Your affectionate sister,
Post Script, On reflection I think perhaps your new bonnet trimming leans towards vulgarity.