My dear Catherine, the very instant that I lay my eyes upon Foot I cried “Foot, your arrival here is the very essence of perfection, for I was quite ready to despair!” I turned to Miss Winifred and enquired if she had enjoyed the ball.
“Indeed,” Said she with feeling, “it was a splendid affair. I have been in raptures this entire evening! My dance card was quite full. I danced the first two with Foot …”
“Ladies please!” Interrupted Foot. “We are not at liberty to converse at leisure, no matter how pleasant a topic we have before us.” He exclaimed.
I realised that he was quite correct and focused myself once more upon the difficulties at hand.
“Miss Winifred, my sister is in that parlour and has been exposed to a novel of questionable taste. She will be in some distress. Pray tend to her” I said regaining command of my senses, “Foot, my poor dear Woodville was taken to the blue room where the French scoundrel is reading him a sermon of considerable length, you will need to save him.” I continued in a tone I believed would be suited to a captain of the Militia. I have oft wondered if I would look well in a regimental coat and breeches. I had concluded that the red hue would not be beneficial to my complexion, before a thought occurred to me. Sister I realised that if justice were to be done I would need some method of irrefutably proving Mr. Harris’ culpability and the Prince’s innocence. Relying upon my ability to be a sound judge of character and countenance I went to Mr. Harris’ desk and prized open a drawer.
My judgement was indeed shrewd, for there lay a heavy leather bound volume with the initials W.R.D.T.G..J.J.H. (He has an abundance of middle names that I always found most disagreeable). Like all men who have acquired a taste for villainous conduct Mr. Harris indulged in the folly of keeping a journal so that he might, at his leisure, recollect his moments of brilliance! I took up the volume and glanced amongst the pages. It made for sensational reading, for he was in possession of a descriptive flair and an ability to speak plainly.
“Lady Woodville,” Miss Winifred had returned with Henrietta. “I have your sister, she is well I believe.”
I looked upon Henrietta and saw no cause for alarm, for other that an apparent neglect of her toilette, she seemed unaltered. Her bloom had not faded.
“Henrietta, my dearest sister! These few weeks have been a torment …” My sentiments and our embrace was interrupted by Foot.
“Lady Woodville, the door is secured I cannot open it.” Said he.
Remembering the sword still concealed beneath my skirts, I assisted Foot in forcing the door open. However to my dismay the Blue Room was empty! Standing open across the room was a pair of lacquered folding panels influenced by the oriental style, unpatriotic as this was it created an altogether pleasing effect.
“We must pursue the peasant vagabonds who have taken him!” Said Foot. “Lady Woodville, I have brought you a pistol. However I feel that to avoid detection we should use our swords to dispatch the enemy silently.” He handed me the pistol but I kept my sword drawn before me.
We moved silently, Foot and I leading our party with Henrietta and Miss Winifred behind. The great palace seemed entirely devoid of occupants.
“Where can they be?” Enquired Miss Winifred.
“They have most likely taken him to the stables, for that is the custom with such things.” Replied Foot.
“Why Foot, I rather wonder at your knowing so much about such things.” I said as I quietly ran another of Harris’ liveried servants through with my blade.
“Madam I have read a great many novels, I find them to be an excellent source of fact.” Answered he. Upon Foot’s utterance of the word novel I thought my poor sister should faint, however her constitution seemed robust enough.
It was not long before we had left the gilt interior of the Pavillion and were crossing the gardens. We had stopped to admire a shrubbery populated with the most gloriously scented flowers, when we heard a shriek of agony that was discernable as Lord Woodville’s. It did in fact come from the stables. I nearly to succumbed to girlish folly, and was utterly fixed upon running directly to him when Foot called me back.
“Lady Woodville. There are a number of men guarding the stable block. We must employ the utmost caution and decorum when approaching them.” Whispered Foot.
I followed Foot’s lead until we were well concealed deep in the ornamental rose garden which provided both an excellent view of the stables, as well as a pleasing sea breeze, the benefit of which to one‘s health was instantly apparent.
“Pray, Lady Maria, remain here with Henrietta and Miss Winifred, I do not believe their constitutions could support such a battle as may ensue. I shall advance alone.” Said Foot, he checked his weapon and departed.
Henrietta it would seem had not the fortitude of spirit to remain calm and was beginning to become hysterical. I have never been of an indulgent nature in matters of hysteria and thus I struck her heartily to prevent her alerting anyone to our presence. Before I could strike her again however, Miss Winifred uttered a terrified gasp.
“Nay he is going to kill Foot!” She said, allowing the warmth of her affection to become so apparent, I fear only matrimony could render it respectable. Upon her words I turned from my sister and saw a man of quite unaccountable proportions advancing upon Foot with a long blade, he struck Foot violently in the shoulder and poor Foot fell to the ground. Foot was not only an excellent footman but an accomplished darner, such a bond deserves the fiercest loyalty. The man raised his blade to finish Foot, but I was ready for him, I fired my own gun and dispatched the worthless fiend.
“Miss Winifred, make all haste we must save Foot.” I gathered my skirts and my weapon to me and ran as fast as propriety would permit. Whence we had reached him I took my sash from my gown and bound the wound.
“The blade has passed straight through, you are not mortally wounded but you cannot remain here. My weapon will have alerted all to our presence. Peril shall be upon us by and by.” I said handing him to his feet.
“Madam we must leave this instant” he said.
“Nay Foot that is an impossibility, I cannot leave my husband here to a fate that would certainly include an inconceivable amount of pain! I am decided. You must leave at once, take my sister and Miss Winifred and flee, whence you are safe send our footmen to aid my escape.” I then pressed Mr. Harris’ journal into his hands. “This journal contains a full account of all that has passed. It is of the utmost importance that the scandalous falsehoods that have been spread by Mr. Harris do not take root in society.”
Foot seemed inclined to debate the matter further, so I continued. “Foot, if you disobey me I shall dismiss from our service. Now give me your word that you will do as I ask!”
He did as I bid and left with Henrietta and Miss Winifred. I was left quite alone, but I found I had no opportunity to reflect upon my solitude in a melancholy manner, for my poor dear Woodville had issued another cry of agony! Dear Catherine I knew what I must do, I gathered and composed myself, tightened my grip upon my weapons and advanced!