My dearest Harriet,
I write to you today, on what I believe to be a Thursday, in the grip of desperation, a sentiment caused not only by the fact that I have been exposed too long to the cruel effects of the sun and I now resemble a rustic who has spent too many hours labouring in the fields. My sentiments are worsened because every hope for our escape from this isle seem to have undergone a most indecent evanescence!
It had not yet been five and forty hours since I launched my six and twenty bottles containing pleas for help, into the ocean and yet the tide had returned each and every one with a decided defiance only nature can display. I conveyed this to my companions and observed them as they became as forlorn as I.Indeed two of the churls abandoned all faith and sense of reason, they made all haste in running mad and cast themselves into the rolling waves, never to be seen again. Admiral Inkpen astonished me once again by resorting to that most feminine of sensibilities, hysteria. He wept inconsolably. At first I confess I felt his reaction to be entirely lacking in dignity, I found however that my sympathy returned when he cried. “Oh I am a sailor! A sailor I tell you! What will I become if I am trapped on dry land? How am I to go on?”
I understood that he believed he had been robbed of his purpose, much as woman who finds that her husband has no intention of seeking her advice before he alters the window dressings in the drawing room. Although I felt for him most sincerely, I confess that it was not long before his ceaseless lamentations began to cause disproportionate irritation. I left him to his weeping and bemoaning the evils of so cruel a world.
Despite such a blow, I knew that we really ought not abandon our efforts to communicate with the world beyond so soon as, if one takes into account the laws of reason and the gamblers odds one was forced to conclude that sooner or later one of these attempts would succeed. I conveyed this to Monsieur De Toulouse who was not only a man of quite an excellent countenance but of reasonable sense. He listened intently and as I finished he spoke in fervent earnestness.
“Madame, je suis désolé mais je ne comprend rien du tout. Je ne parle pas L’Anglais.”
I gave his words careful consideration. He had , dear Harriet, such a melodic tendency to his voice that I was rendered as full of amorous feelings as the most foolish young woman as she glimpses the uniform of the Militia on a man for the first time.
It was not above two minutes before the meaning of his speech became quite clear, and my eager response was thus,
“Why, indeed Sir, you are quite right. We ought to use the birds, for if carrier pigeons are an efficient form of corresponding in England why can it not be so here? My dear Monsieur De Toulouse you are surprisingly intelligent for a Frenchman, are you not?” I was all eager animation and warmth as I spoke for the delightful sense of girlish hope once more filled my heart. Monsieur De Toulouse was quite right of course, for there was an abundance of birds with plumage of the most wonderful colours. These birds had of late become quite the fashion marvel amongst the ladies of rank on the beach. In fact any woman seen boasting a headdress sans plumage would certainly be considered to be burdened with a lack of refined taste that would unquestionably damage the prospects of a good marriage. Indeed I was at that very moment sporting three such feathers in my elaborate chignon.
I knew instantly that Monsieur De Toulouse was correct, that these birds of the tropics with their curved bills, so reminiscent of a colonel in the militia who has engaged in one too many inebriated fights only to have his nose broken. These avian creatures could in fact be our only hope.
“Sir, you are right. We must this very moment attempt to train those birds to carry our messages, for they would not be thus affected by the tide! Sir this may perhaps be a little forward and lacking in womanly delicacy, but allow me to declare that you have a superior intellect, a positive propensity for genius.” I said with feeling.
Although he seemed a little mortified by the open warmth of the comment, for he shrugged his shoulders in that self deprecating manner belonging to gentleman of nobility and said, “Madame je ne parle pas l’Anglais!”
I knew he was gratified by the compliment and had taken it with the admiration I had intended. I ought to tell you, dearest Harriet, That his French features were rendered doubly handsome during this fit of modesty. We walked together toward the beach. By this time the churls had completed many elegant houses and a veritable town was beginning to flourish, which given three score years would rival Bath. Although our pump room was not so large.
Monsieur De Toulouse and I had neared the large aviary where these birds were kept by Mrs Eansworth, a seamstress by trade in England who had found herself in demand in our small society. She was a most accomplished woman, indeed I was quite enraptured over the elegant gown she had fashioned for me from the ships sails. She had not however, been blessed with a visage to equate her skill. Confess that when I first made her acquaintance I had taken her to be a man who overindulged every inclination toward greed, and I had curtseyed before her in a manner perfectly calculated for such a person.
I had placed my hand upon the ornate door of the aviary which had been fashioned from the captain’s dining table whence it had reached it had reached the shore, whence I heard a cry.
“ Whom goes there?” the voice was that of the seamstress, then upon seeing me she continued. “Miss Charlotte, pray, why are you attempting to trespass in my aviary.”
“Ma’am” Said I full of eager anticipation of her delight at our scheme. “Monsieur De Toulouse has found a way to send a message of our considerable distress to England, he believes that we could use the birds like pigeons to alert …” But here I was interrupted with gross vulgarity. I had imagined that she would be overwhelmed by joyous gratitude of our ingenuity, however her unhappy visage suddenly took on a scandalised countenance.
“And you mean to use my birds for your wretched plan? I shall not allow it!” Said she.
“Madam these exotic creatures could be our chance to return from this godforsaken Isle!” was my earnest reply.
“Nay, you may not take my birds. I need their plumes, for if you send them forth what shall I use for the construction of my headdresses, and how without these refined garments are we to retain our standing among any polite society whence we rejoin it?”
And with that she concluded, yet during her outburst which greatly lacked civility, she had moved to her left in order to block the aviary door.
If I were to pretend to you, my dear Harriet, that I thought her reasoning to be beyond lunacy you could denounce me as a liar, for I appreciate the benefits of fine headwear as much as you and I do still hold hopes for an advantageous marriage. However I was utterly unwilling to allow her vanity to prevent our escape. Despite this resolve there was no way of entering the aviary for she guarded it with the zeal that could only be equalled by that of an officer defending the king. My companion, Monsieur De Toulouse was conspicuous by his brooding French silence, which indicated to me that he was once again formulating a scheme of some brilliance within the confines of his beauteous head. We feigned expressions of defeat and took our leave of Mrs Earnsworthy whose hair seemed to be entirely in agreement with her humour for it had escaped it’s elegant coiffure and was attempting to strike fear into our hearts.
I found that I was correct in my earlier assumption that Monsieur De Toulouse had an ingenious plan, for when we had retreated a safe distance from the seamstress and her curls he voiced his thoughts.
“Mademoiselle Charlotte, je vous a déjà dis que je ne vous comprend pas, je vous en pris de parles en Français. Je ne parle pas l’anglais.” he spoke in tones of such gentle optimism that despite my feeble command of the language I understood him perfectly.
“You are quite right sir, we ought return after dark and poach the birds!” Said I. …
To be continued.