My dearest friend, I regret That I am not in sufficient possession of my senses to engage in cordiality or amicable platitudes.
If you recall my previous correspondence I wrote in a flurry of anxiety after we had witnessed the trees beyond the shoreline moving in a manner so decidedly sinister that we came to believe the devil himself was in possession of this isle. The spectacle lasted only mere minutes and yet whence it had concluded only half our party still wished to venture beyond the safety of seaside to try and correspond with the world beyond. We were a procession of only half a dozen, Admiral Inkpen, Monsieur De Toulouse, a Frenchman who possessed a profile of decided distinction, indeed I longed to draw his likeness. Two peasents from Cheapside whom were so disagreeable I find myself disinclined to name them. The final member of our party was a Mrs Sheridan, a woman who so closely resembled a pug that I had to fight the desire to feed her treats.
“ You need not accompany me Mrs Sheridan.” Said I, noticing that we had not yet walked one and twenty feet and her complexion was already puce. “I do not fear whatever devilry lies beyond.”
This was in fact a scandalous falsehood for I trembled at the thought but did not wish to remain idle on the sand.
“ Do not be foolish child. It is not that monstrosity that causes me to fear for your safety but your fellow companions. You may take my word for it, men are at their most dangerous when they find themselves in great peril!” Said she in a voice that was at once conspiratorial and lyrical.
“Goodness, Mrs Sheridan” I began “Was your own husband such a vagabond as to …”
“Husband?” Cried she stoutly “Nay I have never had the misfortune to find myself bound in matrimony.” Noticing my look of deep puzzlement she continued “I began to call myself Mrs many years ago so that I need not be plagued by the disagreeable attentions of men. I was well enough acquainted with my brothers to fully understand the male character. They revel in such grave circumstances, and hasty decisions and imprudent marriages are bound to follow, I shall not stand by silent and allow young women to squander their prospects and be lost from good society for all eternity!”
Thus she concluded her sermon. I was silent, I confess, I found myself I was at a loss as to how to respond to such a speech. It was perhaps fortunate, therefore, that our ascent through the trees soon robbed her of her breath and she was unable to speak. Deciding that I did not wish to suffer any further pearls of bitter wisdom I increased my own speed until I had fallen into step with Monsieur De Toulouse, at which he inclined his head and said.
“Excusez – moi, Madame mais je me trouve peus enclins a parler avec quiconque pas de ma aquaitance intime, et, donc, je vous en prie de me permettre de marcher dans la solitude.”
I summoned all my knowledge of that elegant language and replied, “Oui.”
I walked by his side and attempted to converse, however I began to fear that perhaps the air at such an altitude did not agree with him for he looked decidedly bilious. An ailment that became more acute the longer we walked.
We were soon offered an unexpected respite from the exertion, when a cry came from a thicket behind us. I turned to find that Mrs Sheridan had collapsed in a fit of nervous hysteria and had fallen to the ground in a fashion that lacked the elegant refinement of her rank.
Admiral Inkpen was all chivalry in rushing to her aid.
“ Mrs Sheridan, you are unwell. Pray, allow me to assist you. There is an apothecary among our number perhaps he ought be summoned, or you could return to the beach to regain your strength.”
“Return? Nay sir. Nothing could induce me to return.” Said she with feeling.
“But Madame surely continuing would be detrimental to your health.” Replied the admiral.
They continued to debate the matter in this vain until it was settled that Mrs Sheridan was to be carried the remaining distance in a Sudan-chair which was hastily fashioned and borne by the churls, whom she instructed to run as though the devil were after their souls.
I was, I regret to admit, not entirely thrilled by her restored ability to keep pace and converse with me.
“Do not fear my dear, for all there wicked schemes I would not abandon you to their capricious follies!” She seemed entirely delighted at being restore to her role as my chaperone. “ When you have had nine brothers and all of them disreputable fiends who caused the ruin of many a poor creature …”
I could not tolerate such a lecture a moment longer. Seizing the opportunity as it presented itself I thrust my foot into the path of one of the struggling churls, causing him to fall like a duke who has severely overindulged his inclination for snuff, taking the Sudan-chair with him.
“Oh nay,” I cried in false alarm. “This poor peasant has turned his ankle and there is no one else to carry your chaise, for you could not expect one of the gentlemen present to replace him without breaching every convention of polite society.”
Mercifully Mrs Sheridan was unable to argue the matter and we continued without her or the unfortunate rustic I had wounded.
Upon reaching the crest of the hill we were gratified to find that tea had been laid by the footmen. After we had enjoyed an elegant sufficiency Admiral Inkpen expressed a positive inclination to deploy our distress signal. As I began to unfurl the sail in a manner that showed my features to their best advantage, I became aware of something fluttering in the breeze. I approached it with an increasing dread and was met with a sight that left me as confused as though I had been shunned at a ball.
Harriet you must prepare yourself for a terrible shock … It was another sail! It stood in the very place upon which we had settled for own message. Upon it, in a hand that suggested ill breeding, was written. “WE HAVE RUN AGROUND AND ARE INCARCERATED ON THIS ISLAND! WE REQUIRE IMMEDIATE AID! Post Script: WE HAVE A COUNTESS AMONG OUR PARTY!” The message was dated a full fifteen years prior.
“Oh Merde! Zut alors et vraiment merdes!” Said Monsieur De Toulouse.
“Well quite.” I concurred.
“Forgive me, but I fail to see what it is that causes you such acute alarm.” Admiral Inkpen said presently.
“Sir,” I began, “the presence of such a message indicates not only that we find ourselves in treacherous waters that have claimed many others, reducing our hopes of rescue. But also that whomever wrote this has not yet been saved, else the sail would surely have been removed. I fear that if these wretches were not saved then our own hopes lie in tatters, for they had the advantage of a countess and we have no one of such great circumstance.”
As the irrevocable despair of the situation became apparent to him his complexion assumed the delicate hue of a muslin gown. To my horror he wept.
We found upon our return that we could not bring ourselves to tell the rest of our companions of our predicament, for they were all so very happily engaged in sea bathing. Instead Monsieur De Toulouse and I agreed (at least, I believe we agreed, I have found my French to be greatly wanting and he does speak so very fast) that it would be best to secretly implement another form of communication so as not to induce hysteria and anarchy.
It was this notion that caused me to find myself beside three men so inebriated as to be rendered nonsensical. For it was the suggestion of the uninjured peasant that if we placed a message inside a bottle, cast it out to sea and waited for the tide to take it, it would in all certainty be found by and by. However the only bottles available to us were full of Rum, and we concluded that it would display a wasteful disdain to merely empty the bottles; thus we drank it. Incidentally Harriet, though my knowledge of intoxicating liquors is greatly inferior to yours, Rum is a rather pleasant beverage, if a little strong. The men succumbed to the drink’s influences far sooner than I and their state of inebriation left their letters entirely illegible. Therefore I placed a paper reading “To Whomever finds this bottle, we are perilously unable to find our bearings. Pray come to our aide!” in each of the six of twenty bottles save for one, which I trust will find its way to you.
Yours in a state of joyous intoxication,