My dear Catherine,
I shall do away with any pretence at cordiality and civility, for what are they when a sister has closed her last missive in so terrible a manner.
Sister, I am sure that you find yourself to be of the decided opinion that I have been held at pistol point far too frequently of late to be considered quite proper for a lady of my standing, or indeed any lady. Such a notion has occurred to me also. Yet hither I was standing upon the dock aside of my husband looking out to the horizon, whither the churls were vanished from our sight with indecent rapidity, as a rifle pressed into my fine sprigged muslin gown. I shall not endeavour to capture and recount my sentiments for I am sure that you can guess at them. The man behind us spake again.
“Raise your arms in surrender and turn about to face your captors.”
Again, sister, we were forced, regrettably to do as he bid. I raised my arms, realising as I did so that the coiffure Woodville had so admired was more than a little disarranged.
Now dear Catherine, you must prepare for something very dreadful, for our captors were no mere churls attempting to aid their compatriots escape. Nay, instead of such ruffians, we turned to face Red Coats.
There before us was nigh on a whole regiment of the militia, all with their weapons raised and many of these were adorned with well sharpened bayonets. Upon meeting with such a sight I was overcome with a confusion of the deepest profundity and rendered entirely sans speech, which was perchance as well, for I doubt that any speech of mine, no matter how impassioned, would have done other than enrage the regiment.
Instead I stood by silent as the man whose voice was of such a peculiar elocution, stepped forth and commanded that we be shackled. As he drew from his coat, whose blue hue was indicative of his high rank among these men, warrants for our arrest.
It soon became apparent that my dear Woodville had not been cast into so silent a state as I, for as the gyves were fastened about our wrists, in a fashion which showed so great a want of respect for the gentry that my own speechlessness was redoubled, he demanded in tones so authoritative that I wonder they did not shake at it; “What, pray, is the meaning of this? You cannot simply arrest the innocent thus, particularly when they are members of the nobility!”
“Nobility or nay Sir, you are not innocent, nor is your wife. Or I should not have in my possession the warrants for your arrest.” Here the lieutenant, I deemed him to be so on account of the brocade on his coat and feather in his hat, afforded himself an indulgent glance at the sheafs of parchment in his hand.
“Indeed you are very far from innocent, for it would seem that you are accused of crimes of some severity. ” Said he with what I believed to be a grievously malicious smile which he seemed quite desirous of Woodville seeing. Then he continued with an eloquence that was perhaps more befitting to a marriage proposal.
“Indeed with charges such as these, for you are charged with conspiring to set free above 100 men convicted of crimes against the crown and empire, men who had been sentenced to death but this is just one of a multitude of breaches to the law, Lord Woodville, lady Woodville, I believe there is little hope of ever regaining your liberty. Fie Lord Woodville, I would not be you, nor any of your relations for anything.” He closed this speech, with an infuriating laugh which with every peal was indicative of self satisfaction. Catherine, I believed that such a sentiment was greatly lacking in solemnity for such an occasion as this.
Although his inexplicable air of delight at our supposed malfeasance had me all a tremble at the apparently insurmountable difficulty, we found ourselves in, I had now regained my usual ability to speak. However, before I could enquire what further charges had been brought against us, in indignant vexation equal to my husband’s, Woodville had become quite still. I recognised upon his visage, for I have oft seen I have oft late, the flush of recognition.
“Mr Quaid?” Woodville’s voice filled me with a greater terror than both the shackles and the gaol cell that indubitably awaited me. Driving from my mind any thoughts of the curious rapidity with which they had found us, and wonder at how the militia had managed such a thing.
“Lieutenant Quaid.” Said the fellow, stepping forth with excessive pride. “But yes, it is I, William Quaid. You are no doubt astonished to see how far I have risen, while, I confess I am not in the least surprised to witness your depraved descent from honour. Nor that you have chosen for yourself a lady equally lacking in virtue!”
Catherine, upon his words I was all aggrieved rage. Such insults to my person proved to be more than a little provoking to my husband also, for Woodville stepped closer.
“Quaid, upon my word you shall regret your sharp tongue before the day is out for not a man on this wretched earth is at liberty to insult my wife!” Said he with malice before continuing. “The charges brought against us are nought but laughable folly! We have been lured hither from England with the express purpose of preventing my wife and I from uncovering the truth behind that” He indicated, with shackled hands the churls boat, which was now little more than a distinguishable speck as it neared the ship. “Upon that boat, crewed by pirates you believe to have in your cells, but who had, in fact, taken the places of a crew of the merchant navy, lies the gravest of perils. You were upon the brink of hanging above one hundred innocent men. And those knaves, thither hold in their possession a weapon of unknown clockwork devilry. We must stop it leaving these shores. All our actions since our arrival hither have had the sole purpose of endeavouring to do so. We had nigh on succeeded until you prevented us with your warrant.” Henry did not end his soliloquy yet, scarcely halting to draw breath afore saying; “I demand you take us to the governor that we might enlist his aid afore it is too late for us all!” Concluded he at length.
But Quaid would not be so easily swayed. “Falsehoods! T’is all scandalous falsehoods. You shall not be taken anywhere save directly to the fort where you shall be locked behind the very bars you helped those wicked pirates to elude.” And with a displeasing turn upon his heel which he no doubt believed to be light footed, but in truth was quite the opposite, he addressed one of his company to summon both his carriage and the gaoler’s wagon.
With his attentions thus diverted I was at liberty to ask Woodville if he was acquainted with Quaid.
“Unhappily yes.” returned he without withdrawing his eyes from the fellow.
“What is the nature of this connexion Henry?” Was my next entreaty.
“He claimed to have a great regard for my sister Elizabeth. He asked me for her had in marriage and I denied him. I am sure I need not elucidate the reasons for my refusal to you, my dear.”
Indeed he did not, for it was quite plain that any brother who had even but a little affection for his sister would spurn the hand of such a suitor as this. With his disagreeable character, intolerable features and objectionable self regard, which would, undoubtedly surpass any he could ever feel for any lady, no matter how abundant her charms.
“I believe that lieutenant, Mr as was, William Quaid has held nought but ardent disdain for me since that day, and he shall no doubt revel in our demise.” Concluded Woodville in tones of great despair.
“Bu Henry, disdain or no, how could they have known it was us who aided the sailors escape?” Asked I.
“My dear, my rebuttal of his advances towards Elizabeth were never a secret. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Pravos, his lady or indeed anyone among that deuced coterie to learn of the ill feeling betwixt us and poison Quaid further against me, until he would believe me capable of the most terrible crimes. Quaid would delight in so doing and would then be wholly at their disposal. They would need only to dispatch a courier pigeon bearing the briefest of notes and Quaid would make all haste to capture us.”
Our exchange, short though it was, had meant that our attentions had been engaged elsewhere and we not taken great heed of the arrival of the carriages. The one, though nothing compared to the many we keep at Woodville park, a barouche which was elegant enough and bore an elaborate coat of arms upon it. The other was the large, wretched, black wagon which conveyed convicts to the gallows. or if they are not so fortunate, away from England’s fine lands and to the continent; it was plainly intended for us.
Dear Sister, I know not if it was the sight of that inelegant chaise, the small windows so heavily defended by iron bars as to render it quite nearly obsolete (for what light could pass beyond such a lattice) or the thought of being placed within it’s confines as though I were little more than a common poacher rather than a lady of high birth and great consequence who has danced at St James’ Palace, but I no longer found myself willing to be taken peacefully in a manner that would indicate my culpability.
Therefore I did not move, I stood as unmoving as fine marble and refused to so much as blink when Quaid vociferated his command that we were to make toward the wagon. Instead, I stood fast and with as much defiance as I could summon to my voice said, “Nay!”
But it would appear that lieutenant Quaid was not of a patient disposition, nor of a trifling humour, and in answer to my contumacy, simply addressed two of his foot-soldiers.
“Bring her.” Said he sans even affording me the courtesy of looking at me.
Being treated thus had left me with sufficient offence and mortification to be quite decided upon fighting the wretched red coats, who now approached me. My resolve did not last long however for their grasp upon my shoulder (I imagine you are greatly shocked that so little propriety was present) tore open anew the shot wound. In the stead of an argument with the soldiers I cried out in pained anguish as I became aware of the blood flowing through the neckcloth once more.
“Unhand Lady Woodville this moment!” Called Woodville quite suddenly with the sort of furious apoplexy one does not often find in a gentleman. “She is an elegant lady, she may faint!” Continued he as struggled to free himself from from the grip of the soldiers.
Quaid smiled once more, revealing teeth which were not uncommonly small but peculiarly pointed.
“Ah yes, she does seem to shew a particular inclination towards fainting, for she has done so twice already today. Such remarkable frailty for one who so very freely fires a weapon. Though this nervous disposition has afforded you with great convenience, has it not? For who would not rush to the aid of an “elegant lady” who has fallen prey to her nerves?” Said he in a manner, that with every curl of his lip revealed that he knew me to be guilty of such deceit.
“Quaid, she has but lately been shot.” Returned Woodville casting off the grasp of the soldiers and standing so close to Quaid that he was required only to raise his voice to the sound of the gentlest of whispers. ” You shall therefore treat her as though she is the most delicate invalid.”
Quaid seemed to notice neither Woodville’s gaze nor his tone for instead, displaying, once more, a severe want of civility, he stepped forth towards me and with his smile broader than e’er before, spake.
“Ah, the shot wound, Lady Woodville, t’is hardly the injury of the innocent.” Then addressing his regiment once more; “Place them both in the carriage.”
Yours upon the very brink of being thrown into the gaoler’s carriage and being incarcerated, perhaps forever,
Your affectionate sister,