London Docks, 1802, Just After Luncheon:
The coarse din of London’s industrious docks was what roused me first. The stench awoke me further, and I became aware that I lay visage down upon the vaporous ground. The attitude in which I lay was not only one of great discomfort but also displayed a wanton lack of dignity. For strewn as I was, I bore more than a passing resemblance to a rustic who has partaken in the follies of inebriation.
“Sir, you bare more than a passing resemblance to a rustic who has partaken in the follies of inebriation!” Said I to myself.
I hastily attempted to correct so shocking a vulgarity, and handed myself to my feet.
However I instantaneously regretted this action. For at once, I was nigh on overcome by pain of such acute severity coming from I knew not where, that I was quite robbed of my breath, in a manner that might be more usually associated with a young girl at the close of her first quadrille! Glancing down I saw the sinister stain of blood upon my once elegant chemise. Afore I could lament so regrettable a stain my eyes were struck by light so bright that t’was as though a thousand candles were being borne aloft before me.
“This light is unfathomable!” Was my subsequent cry of confusion and pain, which had the dual effect of causing me to lose what balance I had regained, and shocking a genteel woman who was promenading close by. As I fell backwards, almost consumed by an obscuring dimness I heard her cry in tones of scandalised alarm, “Make all haste, fetch my father the apothecary! This poor peasant seems to be quite taken by a seizure!”
I fervently wished to counter her claim that I was nought but a peasant; much to my chagrin no such argument fled from my lips, for at that very moment the dim obscurity declared itself the victor of our little duel and I knew no more.
T’was almost a full six and twenty hours until I once more was drawn from so deep a stupor. Upon this occasion, however, my awakening was far more agreeable to me. I found myself to be upon a bed of substantial enough proportions to be considered fashionable.
“Ah sir, you have awoken.” said a voice that would have been perfectly suited to an ailing dowager. But in fact emanated from a man of such a disagreeably hued complexion and unsightly powdered wig, that he could only have been an apothecary. “Cease your movement.” continued he. “You shall dislodge the leeches.”
“Leeches?” Was my sole astounded appellation.
“Indeed sir. You had so severe a fever of the brain that Leeches were too cautious a precaution to dismiss. Thus I applied them abundantly!” Replied he. ” T’would appear you had been struck about the head and perchance almost run through with a sword, were you duelling for the hand a certain lady Mr …Mr? Forgive me, my daughter had not a moment to spare afore summoning me to aid you , therefore she neglected polite convention and did not discover your name.”
I was all eagerness in preparing to answer, for fever or nay, polite convention ought never be ignored, however I found replying was an impossibility, I knew not my own name.
“Forgive me Sir, it would seem replying is an impossibility, I know not my own name!” Said I “Indeed the more I endeavour to recollect the fewer recollections I have. I do not know who I am! This is the most peculiar peculiarity?!”
The apothecary did me the great disservice of plying me with patronising platitudes.
“Tis not unusual with fevers of the brain. You ought not concern yourself with trivialities. Besides I may have found some indication of your selfhood; within these.” With a light flourish the apothecary cast my under drawers to me, causing me a pang of unhappy bewilderment as I noticed I had been robbed in a woman’s nightgown. Yet I hastily caste my eye over the undergarments. There, just below the hem, embroidered in a fluid and refined hand were two words; Narks Club.
The physician plainly saw the look of confusion upon my visage for he said, “Narks, tis a gentleman’s club in the better part of town.”
“Then to Narks’ I must away and discover why their name has been so beauteously embroidered upon my underthings.”
However the apothecary seized my draws from me and spoke in anxious tones. “But Sir you are not yet adequately recovered to take your leave …”
I was in no humour to indulge him, thus I interrupted; “See here you little milksop, you shall give me back my undergarments this instant and permit me to leave your home. For comfortable though it may be it, it does not hold sufficient diversion to tempt me!”
I could see him hesitate and knew that he was full ready to unleash a sermon of considerable length upon the perils neglecting weak health. So I hastily continued. “Pray attend to this, I may be unfamiliar with my own name but it would seem I am well enough acquainted with the Parry and the Piste that I might happily dispatch you at my earliest convenience. Now step aside!”
He obliged me by turning the hue of the coward’s feather and fainting.
The feeble physician had been correct in his estimation that The Narks Club For Gentlemen Of Elevated Rank was situated in the most fashionable part of town. So advantageous a situation, while rendering it pleasingly un-laborious to find, did mean that I soon wished I had paused long enough to retrieve all my clothes. As it was the footman was distinctly uncomfortable at my entering so delightful a building in a lady’s nightgown and my drawers. However it was with a flush of recognition that the he granted me admittance.
I longed to step forth and say “Pray tell dear fellow, what is the epithet of my sobriquet?” in order that he might reveal my name. However It occurred to me that perchance, so forceful an enquiry compounded with my questionable attire, may lead him to believe that I escaped from the asylum. I knew not why but I was certain that making myself an object of gossip was distinctly undesirable.
Waltzing forward in a manner that showed my figure to its best advantage I took a tour of reconnoitre about the building and soon discovered what I was fervently searching for. In a small but well appointed parlour I found a bureau in the Italian style, despite its being a little unpatriotic, it’s pleasingly carved form contained a miniature. A miniature whose features were as familiar to me as though I gazed into a glass. The small portrait had been executed with some excellence, and I found myself to be in a state of rapturous flattery as I glanced upon so very decided a likeness of my own visage. Therefore it was above two dozen minutes afore I cast my eyes over the inscription at the bottom of the page. The Artist had completed the delightful painting with three words …Colonel Charles Lethe.
I was suddenly overcome with every happy sentiment of contentment, for not only had I a name. But I had one of such melodic sounding sweetness that I was surely the beau of many an eligible young lady! Though I had no recollection of who I was, I knew who I was, I was a noble browed man of the militia; I was Colonel Charles Lethe.