My dearest Sister,
I write to you with such a feeling of delight and pleasure I can scarce contain myself! Catherine, I am Married, I am Lady Maria Woodville! I shall allow you to compose yourself before I continue for I know that if I were the recipient of such surprising news I would need some form of strong beverage to recover my senses.
Now, allow me to convey to you every detail that led to this happy occasion.
Before we could decide on the meaning of so sudden an end to the trail of pages there was a rumble from a rooftop, a whistling, and our carriage was hit with a blow of such force that it overturned and splintered about us! we were thrown with a severe lack of ceremony, to the ground as the wreckage of the chaise fell, pinning us to where we lay, trapped by the shattered wood and torn velvet.
“It is cannon fire!” Foot shouted from I know not where. “Keep your visages to the ground!”
The blasts of cannon fire were joined by a volley of rifle shots. I covered my head with my arms to shield it from falling shards of wood. We heard as the rest of our carriages were similarly blighted, and the horses who had been freed from the carriage shafts unscathed, galloped off into the night.
“Miss Maria, Pray, are you alright?” Lord Woodville enquired from the other side of the ruined carriage
“Indeed Sir, I am not too severely wounded.” I called through the gun fire. “But I believe my gown is trapped I cannot free myself.” As Lord Woodville attended the hem of my best muslin I chanced to glance around me. My poor aunt lay a short distance off as motionless and undignified as her inebriated husband. At first I believed her to have perished but a small stir of her arm relieved such terror.
“Aunt? Aunt?” I tried to rouse her.
“Miss Maria, do you still have your pistol?” Lord Woodville asked.
“You tend to your aunt, I am going to assist Foot and the rest in their attempt to slay this enemy! If anyone who is not of our intimate acquaintance approaches do not hesitate to dispatch them” He seized his weapons and left.
I sat oblivious to the battle around me, but my attempts to revive Aunt Margaret were to little avail for she was rendered incapable of sense, save for the phrase. “What an imprudent marriage.”
I was just reaching for her smelling salts when I saw the barrel of a gun directed at my head, I hastily reached for my own pistol and pulled the trigger, but Alas! My ears were met only with the most disagreeable click of the unloaded weapon!
Quite torn between praying and cursing, I closed my eyes and heard the terrible sound of gunshot, but to my delighted surprise my immediate death did not occur. I opened my eyes to see Lord Woodville, smoking weapon raised and a villain dead at his feet.
“Miss Maria, Come we must not remain here, I fear not too many hours shall pass before our foe send reinforcements.”
“But my aunt Sir. I cannot leave her thus.” I said
“There is little more that can be done for her at the present time. She shall be delivered to Woodville Park with the rest of the wounded, where I am certain her society will prove most instructive to my sister.”
I did not respond to his kindness for my spirits had plummeted with the weight of the very cannon balls that had wounded them. For if Aunt Margaret were conveyed away I would have little choice but to accompany her as I could hardly continue such a perilous journey without a chaperone. Such follies would ruin me perhaps forever. I voiced my concerns for the propriety and respectability to Lord Woodville, he took no more than a moment to reflect upon such a predicament before speaking in all earnest.
“I know of only one solution to such moral obligation. I hope the suggestion I shall put forth shall be as pleasing to you as it is to me.” And without further delay Lord Woodville went down upon bended knee before me. “Miss Maria, I have loved you since the first instant I saw you wield a weapon with such decided authority, … nay since before that, I believe my admiration can be traced back to my first seeing you at Bath, when we danced the quadrille … I know that you are the only conceivable partner for my future life and happiness. Maria, will you do me the honour of accepting my hand?”
The shock of such an unexpected proposal left me quite lost for words. I looked about me at the burning fractured carriages and wounded or deceased men strewn carelessly across the cannon scorched ground. A less romantic scene was impossible to imagine and yet I found it to be conducive to my finer sentiments. I knew that my answer would be affirmative. Not merely because I wished to remain for the duration of our search. Or the obvious advantage of his wealth, for Lord Woodville has twenty thousand a year, but because the warmth of his affection and the qualities of his character meant that I understood myself to be irrevocably in love with him.
“Yes Sir, I will.” He smiled broadly and we exchanged the briefest embrace, as my aunt still stirred on the ground and I did not wish to add insult to injury.
It did not take us long to for us to secure both church and parson. For witnesses we appealed to Foot and the rector’s own daughter, a Miss Winifred, who was in possession of such a fine head of dark curls as to leave me quite envious. They both proved themselves obliging spectators of to our joyous union. As for my wedding trousseau, well Catherine I am afraid I have had to neglect such desirable luxuries. I was wed in my torn muslin gown with my hair in a shocking state of disarray though I could not have been in better spirits.
We have still not had word from Miss Elizabeth concerning the translation of the parchment, and have, therefore, decided to use the delay to take a sojourn in the country. We shall resume our hunt the moment we have the slightest indication as to Henrietta’s whereabouts.
Yours in a state of simultaneous joy and distress,
Lady Maria Woodville
Post Script, do you not find it to be a well sounding name?