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My Dearest Catherine,

I am quite certain that upon concluding your perusal of my last missive you were all shocked indignation on my behalf. For no older sister would relish the prospect of her younger, and favoured, sister being faced with industry of such magnitude.

I stood thither, in the dungeon, gazing upon that mass of sack cloth and the enormity and nigh on impossibility of the task very near overwhelmed me (a task of which no lady, much less an accomplished seamstress would be desirous, for who would not rather embroider a cushion or add pearls to one’s favourite ball gown to the fashioning of above one hundred coenobites robes; particularly when one has at one’s disposal only the most horrid stuff, Catherine the hue was so reminiscent of dirt that I was afeared to touch it lest it should stain my gown).

But as the veracity of Woodville’s words struck me, this may indeed be our last hope of saving their souls, I concluded I must endeavour to sew as though the Queen herself wanted one hundred robes.

Squandering not a moment more, I took from my netted purse both needle and thread (I now always carry them about my person, as I have, upon many an unhappy occasion loosened the trimming of a favoured bonnet or gown while in pursuit of a treasonous fiend. Indeed when Mr Pravos caused the partial destruction of Woodville Park I lost three buttons and reduced a hem to ruins). I set about my work as though I were once again sixteen years old and under the watchful eye of Aunt Margaret endeavouring to prove myself to be well versed in all feminine accomplishments before Lord Penniton.

In truth, I know not how long it took, though it seemed to last an eternity, it could not have been so very long, but at length I drew my last stitch and before me lay a robe for each sailor. Catherine, I confess that they were so crudely fashioned and sewn that had I presented  such needlework to our governess I would have been all a tremble for fear of admonition, but as my dear husband reminded me every time I lamented a  poorly turned hem and the lack of ornamentation, that the fit and elegance of the robes was but a trifling concern when a man’s life is in the balance. Though I soon discovered that I fitted a dozen of the robes so ill that the wearers would be forced to stoop in a fashion reminiscent of one who suffers from the twisting of the back to render them quite respectable.

As I severed the thread from that final robe, Woodville began to express his admiration and gratitude by serenading me. Though I was much delighted by the adulation, I felt that this, much like  the elegant  coat of arms of the invented brethren I had been desirous of embroidering in silks, may not prove the most prudent use of the time remaining to us. I dissuaded him from a second verse and concentrated our attentions upon releasing the gentlemen, who seemed to still be wholly surrendered to the influences of the snuff.

Sister it would seem that the likelihood of a woman being incarcerated within this dungeon had never been considered, for I was able to unfasten those locks readily enough with my pearl adorned pin, and the door swung quite open upon pleasingly well greased hinges.

Leading them up that roughly hewn staircase and towards the light that shone through the heavily barred window casement. Upon ascending from the tenebrous gloom of the dungeon Woodville and I had agreed betwixt us that, while a stupendous faint may not have been sufficient to divert the attentions away from so large a band of pirates, such a nervous fit could well prove enough to permit a company of monks to pass unheeded (for one seldom accords a second glance to a monk, particularly ones so plainly dressed as these).

Stepping forth from that ingress I made my way toward the very centre of the road beyond at a gait that I felt would best be suited to a woman of a peculiarly nervous disposition who has been very lately distressed. I blush to confess, Catherine, that I walked as you do when you have taken too much air, and cast myself into a pretence of a nervous hysteria I have never known and into the mercy of strangers.

With one eye open askance it was possible for me to see hat I had efficaciously drawn the street’s occupants to my aid. Behind the crush of concerned townsfolk my dear husband had begun to lead the men from the fort’s walls.  Whence he was quite certain that the last sailor was at such a distance from the fort as  not to arouse the suspicions of the Militia (who had shown more genteel inclination than the gaol’s guard and hastened to my aid) he returned to my side and, while saying to the crowd at large; “Pray, forgive my wife, she has but lately learned that a favourite cousin has been lost at sea and I fear the grief has caused to run mad!” he handed me to my feet. Offering me his arm, he guided me away from the curiosity of the townsfolk.

Thus it was that we had walked from the gaol with the sailors purporting to be monks whose hastily fashioned  sack cloth robes of such an uninteresting hue were indicative of a peculiarly impoverished brethren.

We rid ourselves of their tiresome society (after so long a time in their presence the couplets had lost al their previous charms and were now as unwelcome as those ominous sonnets of Mr Pope) by leaving them them in a place we  had deemed to be a suitable refuge for them while they recovered from the ill effects of the snuff and regained their senses sufficiently enough to prove their own lack of culpability in any acts of piracy.

from thither we returned to the carriage (where Lady Hattersley drowsed still Catherine, I can assure you that I was greatly surprised by this propensity for slumber) and commanded our new and temporary coachman to make as though the deuce was at our heels. Reaching the docks in far too short a time to be considered sound or prudent, I scarcely had the patience to wait for my husband to hand me down from the carriage afore I hastened forth onto the water’s edge.

Hither we were met with a sight that at once filled us with sentiments of joy and agitated alarm. For we had found both the churls and the weapon. Handsomely attired as they were in their purloined Merchant Nay coats, trimmed with brocade and powdered wigs, we would not have known them had it not been for the presence among them of the still shrouded weapon and a certain air of disrepute, which had yet to abandon them. They had placed it’s weighty form in a small boat and were, with surprising velocity (six men each pulled an oar) succeeding  to power themselves towards a ship, whose magnitude would rival the finest frigate, and which rested now, anchored in the shelter of the port, but a little beyond the dock.

“Damnation to it al!” Cried Woodville as we watched them retreat towards the horizon and the full consequences of what we were witnessing made themselves quite plain. Catherine,  do not be afeared however, for we were not so easily defeated and we soon were in agreement that we would pursue them and sink whatever clock work demon lay under the ominous cloth.

Tethered to the docks lay a second boat and it was our intention to take into our employ the pair of unhappily featured rustics who stood upon the waters edge attempting, and failing, to disentangle a third such fool from a fisherman’s net, in the hope that they might be all obliging in propelling it in pursuit.

Yet afore we so much as had the opportunity to take one solitary step , there came from behind us the unmistakable and inescapable  sound of stoutly booted feet hastening forwards and rifles being raised. Then there came a voice, which was so astonishingly refined that, at first, I felt sure it could only belong to a duke.

“Halt. Stand as motionless as though you were caught by the icy freeze of an unseasonal frost.”

Catherine, we were powerless to  even reach for our own weapons. For at that very moment we felt the barrels of muskets pushed into our backs and we had little choice but to acquiesce to their request and stood as though caught by a haw frost, as we watched the churls and their weapon evanesce efficaciously from our sights on the water beyond.

Yours in a state of discomposure and suffering sentiments of vexed frustration and fear as to what now lies behind me,

Your affectionate sister,

Maria.

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