My dearest Catherine,
I once more, hope that my missive finds you well you will have undoubtedly have noted, from the fact that this letter reached by the two penny post, that I am safe returned to England. However, if you believe that such a return is indicative of our success is seizing the churls upon, then I am afraid dear sister that you . I have no such happy tidings to share with you. For despite our leave taking form the governor’s house being, in nature, everything hasty and our subsequent swift journey (which, dearest Catherine, was rendered intolerable by Lieutenant Quaid’s manifold vices and partiality towards delivering sermon’s upon his elevation to his lofty status) we were thwarted, entirely thwarted.
We wasted as little time descending from the carriage as we did getting into it. Indeed the wheels had not yet finished moving when Woodville handed me down. Catherine, I know that we were warned since children of the perils of refusing to wait for the carriage to have halted absolutely. However I felt that the urgent nature of the circumstance was enough to permit my neglecting to take heed of even Papa’s advice. After all, if one cannot leap from a moving carriage when the King’s life could well be at stake, when can one?
We ran to the docks at a pace which was quite tenfold as fast as propriety dictates and returned to the very place where we had stood and watched the weapon building churls row towards their ship. But as we stood hither, our eyes fixed upon the place that we had last seen them , my husband and I were united in our despair.
Catherine, both ship and churls had gone. There was nought moored in the port now, save for a few fishing vessels too inconsequential to be deserving of more than this brief mention. Casting our eye to the horizon offered little comfort, an ocean mist had begun to unfurl its tendrils across the port and rendered our view quite hindered.
“Damnation to it all!” Cried Woodville.
The phrase, despite its brevity and in-eloquent language seemed to perfectly convey our sentiments. In fact, Catherine, I found myself to be more than a little tempted to utter curses of my own. Fortunately for my reputation, such indelicacy was prevented by my catching sight of the harbour master.
The gentleman was engaged in writing within a large ledger and did not, at first, notice our approach. Though when he did his expression was one of stern ferocity and he lost not a moment in admonishing us.
“Do not run upon the docks! Have you no mind for safety?” Called he in tones of vexation, his brow more furrowed than could be considered necessary. As he strode forth to meet us I noted with little surprise that he had, as so many in his profession (indeed it seems to be absolutely rudimentary to sea faring men) a wooden leg.
Woodville met him with this enquiry; “Sir I am Lord Woodville, May I present my wife?”
Although Quaid had pursued us onto the docks my husband made no attempt to introduce him and I had scarcely had time to bow my head afore my husband had continued. “Pray, are you the master of this harbour?”
“I am he, and I do not permit running upon the docks in my port.” Returned he, quite determined to scold us further, in spite of our elevated rank.
“Forgive us Sir, but this is a matter of great urgency. There was a ship moored thither?” Woodville indicated the place.
“Argh, that there was. The HMS Dissimulation, a ship of the merchant navy, though I had ne’er afore heard of her.” The harbour master had hastily glanced at the ledger afore replying, “She weighed anchor two hours since. With the wind as it is any ship will have put a good deal distance behind it.”
But Woodville would not be so easily discouraged and instead was all polite civility as he asked to borrow the harbour master’s scope. With it full extended and raised to his eye in, the perfect likeness of the most handsome and adventurous of sea captain’s he perused the horizon.
“Hazzar! A ship. Maria if we make haste we may yet catch them.” Was his jubilant cry as he continued to look through the scope. I had expected Quaid and perchance, the harbour master to display at least a little joyous outpouring at so pleasing a discovery. Therefore I was surprised when, afore Quaid had been even been presented with the opportunity for such joy, the harbour’s master was overcome by a mocking mirth.
“Oh that ship will be the HMS Erroneous.” Returned he through a laugh which was as infuriating as any common rustic I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. “The port has been monstrous busy today. The East India trading company have dispatched nigh on a whole fleet in one day see. They was deferring their departure on account of the tempestuous squall out in those waters. But that’ll not be Dissimulation or whatever name she truly goes by.” His tone had altered swiftly and he was now all seriousness as he continued in a tone that I believed was, by every fourth syllable, indicative that he was of the belief that there was something peculiar in that ship and her crew.
“Ye know Sir, I am of the belief that there was something peculiar in that ship and her crew. To be quite candid Sir, I should have thought they were smugglers.”
Woodville, abandoning his perusal of the view and lowering the scope, turned to him instantaneously and spake with poorly concealed rage. “Smugglers? And you let them sail? Sir, you are the master of this harbour and you would let smugglers sail? This is unaccountable of you!”
The gentleman was all eagerness to defend himself before Woodville and hastily replied; “I am not a naval officer, and I did my duty. I reported my suspicions to the militia. As a matter of fact I relayed the notion to that gentleman there.” Without ceasing to speak he extended his arm and pointed at Quaid, who had not even the decency to appear abashed (Catherine I believe there is no man more discourteous than he in all my acquaintance. “But if truth were to be told, he was nigh on indifferent to it. He was all distrait anxiety over his pursuit of two wretches and a band of friars.”
My eyes had not left Quaid’s vexing visage since the harbour master had pointed to him, and I did not withdraw them as piqued choler rose within me. Such was my anger, that for the second time in nigh on as few hours Quaid’s conduct had robbed me of my speech. My husband however suffered no such ill effects, and instead, rounded upon Quaid with a pleasing flourish of his blue coat.
“Quaid! I knew you to be amongst the most imbecilic of men our acquaintance, however this is pure folly even for you. Pray how doth a man rise to lieutenant if he is so entirely sans the power of deduction, for it plainly did not occur to you that smugglers, pirates and a ship of dubious character may have been interlinked! I … But nay, I am not at my leisure to squander what little time we have chastising you, satisfying though such a thing may be.”
As he spake I took the scope from him and turned my own eye to the sea, whither my gaze was met with the sight of above two score and twenty ships sailing forth into the distance.
“Henry my dear.” Said I in a voice which I hoped conveyed at once sentiments of soothing platitudes and a decisive authority. “We have at our disposal the whole of the militia and the navy. Why do we not simply command a frigate to pursue them. With a favourable wind we may yet catch her.”
“But my love.” My husband’s tone was once more filled with all the warmth of affection. “You heard the harbour master as clearly as I. He believes that the HMS Dissimulation is not the ship’s true appellation and she is but one in a vast fleet sailing away from here at this moment.”
I confess Catherine than the relief initially offered by the smelling salts and the fortified wine were no longer succeeding in combating the pain of the shot wound and I was perhaps not so shrewd of mind as I might have been. I was keen that my dear husband should not guess at what troubled me, thus I was all redoubled focus as he continued to speak.
“Furthermore, Maria, there is nought to stop the churls from transferring the weapon to another vessel when they are free from our sight, there could be such a one lying in wait for them beyond these shores.” Said he in severest dismay. “I am afraid that we have no way of knowing which ship holds our quarry. Even with the aid of Navy we would not have it within our power to search every ship upon the seas. Fortunately not every one among them is bound for the same place. I believe our sole hope now is to dispatch a note to England. Tell the admiralty of Portsmouth to make ready to intercept all ships destined for that fair Isle in their own waters, there cannot be so very many.”
As Woodville said this the harbour master returned to his ledger perused the pages.
“Lord Woodville if I am correct Sir, there be above one hundred ships bound for England at this very moment.” Said he.
Upon hearing this, the choler that had kept me silent now wholly overcame me and afore I was full aware of my actions I had made all haste across the dock to Quaid, and with a severe want of both dignity and ceremony for one so well born, I made myself free to strike him repeatedly about his person.
Both my arms and legs were full engaged in pummelling the fiendish fool. As I did so I showed equal lack of restraint in my addresses to him.
“You deuced Knave! You Prideful wretch, t’is wholly at your hand that the weapon is lost, and with it our hope of saving Lord knows who from Lord knows what! You damned vengeful cretin!” Cried I as sonorously as was within my power.
All the while Quaid vociferated such pitiful cries as “Oh nay unhand me woman!” and “Lord Woodville pray, save me from your wife!”
Catherine, I am sure that you are all shocked horror at reading of your sister’s conduct but you would no doubt have shared in my fury if you too had been faced with so very terrible a prospect. For, my dear sister, think of this horror, the weapon could very soon be anywhere within the world, it could be beyond those corners marked upon maps. We knew not what the weapon, nor it’s creators looked like. We knew not upon which ship it sailed, or whither it was bound. We were, as I have afore mentioned, quite wholly thwarted. As I forcefully struck Quaid upon his nose, a carriage halted a short distance from ours and governor Matelot descended from within.
It would seem Catherine that upon the third bleeding, the leeches succeeded in restoring him to his senses and, though his complexion was all sickly pallor and his gait reminiscent of one who is beyond intoxicated, he felt quite recovered. He was all pride in informing us that the moment he had recollected both our call to see him and his own name, he had summoned the coachman and pursued us in the most determined fashion there is, lest he could be of assistance in this quest.
Afore Woodville could full share the dreadful tidings with him he first had to reassure Matelot that I had not succumbed to that most perilous female vice, nervous hysteria and thus did not also require the leeches. However my apoplectic paroxysm showed little sign that it would soon abate itself, and it was rendered necessary for my husband to take hold of me and remove me from that place. He conveyed me in his arms (Catherine, I blush to tell you that I did not accompany him peacefully and was all angered thrashing against his hold) to the furthest portion of the docks so that I might recover my nerves. This I did by drawing my sword and delivering with it a series of hearty blows to the barrels that stood all about the docks!
Whilst I was so happily diverted it was settled between Woodville and the Governor that Matelot would secure immediate passage for my husband and I to return to England. For there was little to be done hither now, the plantations evidently did not require our attentions, and we were all anxious eagerness to leave.
Matelot proved himself to be quite the proficient in arranging such things for not full three days passed afore we were once more upon those docks preparing to take our leave of that place. We sailed for England clinging to the hope that we may yet be in time to warn the militia and stop the churls.
Yours in sentiments which are nought but turmoil,
Your affectionate sister,
Post Script: Catherine, I have once more excluded an account of our voyage for the sailors were vexingly remiss in their efforts to be swift and the journey lasted quite two times the duration it ought, and I felt that a description of such a thing in this letter would only cause anguish to both author and recipient.
Post Post Script: Pray allow me to alleviate any fears that you may have on account of Lady Hattersley. I had not again forgot her. She had been reposing in the carriage throughout the duration of all that I have transcribed (Catherine, you must remind me, dear sister, never to eat another sugared bonbon) and we have left her at our own home, and instructed the housekeeper to keep her in the style to which she is accustomed until she is full recovered.