My dearest Catherine,
I trust that you are in tolerable health and that no great calamity has seen fit to befall you since my last.
I shall not do you the dishonour of extending your suspense further with an abundance of polite cordiality, but rather shall resume my tale with promptitude.
“Very well, I shall tell you” He allowed himself a moment for his breath to return and, straightening the folds of his flowing garment, he began; “I know not what the weapon is.”
This first declaration filled me with severe vexation.
“Falsehoods!” Was my impassioned cry and Woodville stepped forwards again, quite ready to tickle the fiend once more.
“Nay!” Caterwauled the cloaked fellow in fright. “Nay, tis not falsehoods. I was told very little, very little indeed. I know that it is an elegant and efficacious clockwork contrivance, but I know not it’s nature nor do I know where they have taken it, for it is not yet complete …” He paused to cough, an interruption which not only reminded Woodville and I f the severity of his injury, for what was seemingly an interminable mount of time. When he recommence his elucidations his complexion was gravely altered and he was as pale the lace of aunt Margaret’s night cap.
“It is not yet complete.” Reiterated he. “As to who commissioned it, I know him only as Mr Codswallop, though I doubt the veracity of such a name …” at his words I confess I was forced to suppress a mirthful laugh, for of course, dear Catherine, this name was not a true selfhood. No man, honourable or otherwise is ever called such a thing. Though I would have thought, would not you my dearest sister, that any man or woman for that matter, with any pretence at intelligence would not, when inventing a new selfhood, settle upon the name Codswollop. Would it not be a thousand times wiser to choose a name that is credible to more than simply the most ingenuous rustics?
The cloaked fellow began to cough again and I reflected upon his stupidity as well as that of Mr Codswollop until he once more obliged us by conversing.
“It shall not be complete until it hath reached him. But I know not what it is intended for.”
At length Woodville’s patience took it’s leave of him and, grasping the fools cloak once more he said “And where is he? Where and how shall it reach him? How did it leave this place?”
Met as he was with little more than silence, my husband was so incensed that he tore the fellow’s cloak. Whether he intended to I do not know, but the sound of severing cloth was sufficient inducement and the fiend recommenced his speech. “There is a passage, a passage that leads from hither; a smugglers’ passage.” He paused once more, though on this occasion it was not to cough but rather for the theatrical effect provided by such a cessation of soliloquy.
“Where? For the love of all things of an exotic chintz! Where is the passage?” I cried before my husband could.
“The passage is in the …” He spluttered. “In the … It is in the …in the …”
But where it was we never learned, for the imbecilic fellow chose this moment to expire in a fashion so wholly un-extraordinary that it was equal to his unremarkable features. He simply ceased to live. A fact that was both infuriating and highly inconvenient.
“Damnation to it all!” Was the sole exclamation of which my poor husband was capable. I, however was a little more eloquent.
“Damned fool!” I cried. “Could he not simply have competed his sentence? I cannot understand this mania among those upon their death bed to recommence a sentence thus, for they nearly always fail to speak the crucial words? This confounded repetition is so infuriating, it is as though it has been sent from the very pages of a novel expressly to torment us! Why can they not simply begin at the close of their speech?”
The villains unannounced and decided departure from this world was an occasion which I am certain would have caused many to be desirous of running mad; but instead of abandoning our senses in a manner preferred by self pronounced invalids we simply lamented the misfortune for a moment longer, before we began our search for this smugglers escape.
I had not yet taken five steps when a noise became audible behind a parlour door just beyond the point the churl had chosen to fall. I made haste at once towards the door, now Catherine, afore you become afeared that I would so very recklessly enter a room merely to find the source of so unusual a sound, allow me to assure you that the afore mentioned sound was once which was all familiarity and, in essence, the very opposite of anything threatening. I was gratified, upon opening the door to see that I had been all veracity in my assumptions, for their, upon a chaise sat Lady Hattersley.
I confess, dear sister, that I had quite forgot about Lady Hattersley existence, so diverted had I been by the hostilities of those so very decided upon dispatching me and my husband. But I was, none the less greatly relieved to see that Louis Antoinette had not miss led us, the good woman was indeed, unharmed. Though the devouring of such a quantity of sugared bonbons had brought about in her an alarming, feverish frenzy and she spake with a velocity which rendered her incomprehensible. Despite this, she was all willing contentedness to accompany me from that parlour (only once she had filled her netted purse with more bonbons). So Lady Hattersley safe and in our wake we fled from that room and left the cloaked fiend behind us.
We had not long been returned to the storehouse’s capacious inner chamber and our search was only just begun when we noted that dirt, a peculiar accumulation of wooden shavings, dust and other such discarded shreds had been noticeably and singularly disarranged at the room’s furthest end.
We perambulated all about this disturbed portion of the floor, all the while exchanging remarks upon the possible causes of such an occurrence, when I saw at my feet a small and rusted object. I knelt hastily, that I might better scrutinise it’s form, and I was nigh on overwhelmed by my sensibilities once more when I realised what I had uncovered; sister t’was a lock almost wholly embedded within one of the floor timbres.
“Forsooth, Henry come hither” Said I summoning him to my side, my voice all urgent zeal. “Look, tis a lock. Though it is barely distinguishable in such light as this and I imagine that it is the sort of object that might be concealed quite readily, had it not been for the haste in which they fled.”
Woodville knelt now, at my side and essayed to open whatever portal the lock guarded. “Damnation!” Cursed he again. “Tis locked!”
By way of answer to his oath I drew one of my decorous hair slide, you recall it Catherine, it bears the dragonfly elegantly fashioned in pearls. It was worth the detrimental affect it’s withdrawal had upon my coiffure, for after but a little effort the lock gave and the trapdoor was opened.
As we preyed that egress my dear husband and I found that we now stood aside of each other in the mouth of the smugglers passage. T’was a steeply inclined path that descended from where we stood into what resembled a subterranean road (of a surprising quality, if one considers the ruffians who both constructed and used it). The sap it was possible to see, despite it’s being but poorly illuminated by the burning torches, was of generous proportions. Certainly large enough for a wagon and horses bearing a smuggler’s hoard to be driven comfortably through it.
While the discovery of the passage had, unquestionably delighted us and restored to us the hope of capturing these pestilent beasts, we were also afforded a new sense of fear of what might lay beyond. Turning his eyes from the ingress of the tunnel whose crespucular shadow was of an alarming profundity, and onto me, his eyes all grave solemnity.
“It is nigh on impossible to tell where this path leads to, nor what perils we may face within that deuced cavern, but if we wish to to stop them and uncover what scheme that weapon is intended for afore it is too late, I fear it may be our only hope.” Said he in tones so grave it was as though he were a parson delivering a sermon to a particularly wicked congregation.
“It is our only hope.” Rejoined I sans lifting my gaze from the road road beyond. Then in a swift unison befitting our marital harmony, we cast our gaze backward to our own elegant chaise and four, which stood, still, where the churls had halted it as it first entered the storehouse. Dear Sister you might well wonder at the horses not bolting from hither or indeed at the churls failing to commandeer so handsome a rig, however, as I am sure you will recall from my previous missive, they were horses of splendid lineage and temperament. Thus they would not be persuaded to depart without word from either their master or his coachman.
We ran forth to the carriage quite decided upon imminent pursuit. It was not until Woodville had handed me into the carriage that we recalled that we had bid the coachman to flee afore sending the carriage on. We were now acutely aware that with every moment spent in consideration of our want of servants the churls and the weapon grew further from our grasp.
It was this knowledge that prompted my dear Woodville to act in a manner that I blush to recount. Indeed, Catherine, I fear you may find it more harmful to your nervous disposition that my being shot. Catherine, Woodville drove the carriage himself. Having ensured that Lady Hattersley and I were ensconced safely within, where I was at least at my leisure to repose a while, for I was far from recovered, he ascended to the coachman’s box and with reins and whip in hand he urged the horses on. Setting them to a gallop more usually associated with a messenger’s horse than pulling a gentleman’s carriage.
Catherine you shall be all amusement when I tell you that no sooner had the carriage begun to move, than Lady Hattersley was overcome by fatigue, and fell from the couch and into slumber.
As the carriage began to descend through that cavernous ingress and into the smuggler’s path, Woodville called above the sound of the horses hooves, which was akin to a thunderclap.
“My dear, we know not what awaits us, I beg you keep your sword about you and make ready the pistols. I believe we are well enough acquainted with these knaves to know that, like as not, there is a veritable regiment of fiends lying in wait not four and twenty feet from hither.”
So, dear Catherine, I leave you now as we cast ourselves into the abyss and it’s dark peril.
Your affectionate sister,