My dear Catherine,
I write in the hope that you will forgive the tones in which I last wrote to you. I am aware that such splenetic venting can scarcely be considered appropriate comportment for a lady such as myself. My sole defence in the matter was that I was not full recovered from the journey and the shot wound, and I believe the former had done much to worsen the latter.
Catherine I do not wish to alarm you when I tell you that I was in the grips of a malady of some magnitude as we sailed home, for I had expended my entire provision of both the smelling salts and fortified wine upon only the fourth day. Thus I was forced to endure the remaining three and forty with nought to divert me from the pangs of torment caused by the wound and the disagreeable society aboard the ship.
However I am now restored to Woodville Park, and my humour is remarkably improved. For, although the damage inflicted upon the park by Mr Pravos is yet to be fully repaired, (Catherine we are still forced to employ the small staircase instead of the gallery), being once more in my own home has proved more restorative to one’s nerves than five and eighty bottles of fortified wine.
The weeks since our return have been, mercifully, less eventful than many since our marriage day. For my husband had, instantaneously upon our reaching our estate ensured that I was conveyed to my chamber and was all insistence that the King’s own physician be sent for, and despite having been assured by that same excellent gentleman that I was in no danger of expiration (save perhaps from ennui, a complaint I had Woodville alleviate by having him rein-act scenes from my favoured novels, Catherine, he makes an pleasing Cecilia) would not leave my side. Though how he bore it I know not, for I truly feel there is little more disadvantageous to a woman’s charms than her being rendered an invalid.
No sooner had he bid adieu to the physician than he had summoned that most favourable footman, Mr Foot.
“Foot, I shall require my bureau brought hither this moment, for I must dispatch a letter of the utmost urgency to Captain Bryson.”
Catherine, Captain Bryson was a name not yet familiar to me and my curiosity was greatly piqued upon hearing it. Pausing in my perusal for the most entertaining passages for my husband to perform as Foot bowed his ascent and departed, I enquired;
“Henry, pray who is Captain Faye?”
“The captain and I were compatriots in the regiment, I consider him to be among my very closest friends. He is also a most excellent captain of the King’s own guard.” Returned he. “I mean to write to him at once and relate to him all that has occurred and all that I suspect, that he might continue the search for the churls and that deuced weapon.”
“Goodness.” Said I in great astonishment. “You must trust him a great deal if you are so very willing to take him into your confidence thus.”
“Oh indeed, I believe there are few better men alive than he. With the matter entrusted to him we can be certain that it will be taken care of as efficaciously as though we ourselves were still in pursuit. For Bryson will not rest while any whisper of threat pervades.”
The note, written in a hand Woodville had exactly calculated to convey the severity of the subject, yet still retain a charming elegance, was dispatched. I shall readily admit, Catherine, that it was a great relief to both me and my husband to know that, whether the crown fell at the hands of wretches, no longer rested wholly upon our shoulders. We were once more at our leisure to enjoy the delights of so elevated a living.
However dear sister, I am sure that you have by now become too accustomed to my letters to be at all astonished when I tell you that this peace did not long reign over Woodville Park . Indeed I had regained only strength enough to descend to the parlour to recline before the fire afore our tranquility was exposed to ruination as swiftly as a young lady who dances with the blacksmith’s boy. For as we sat together Woodville and I, Henry performing Master Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with surprising conviction for one so very male, the parlour door was cast open and, without affording Foot the courtesy of introducing him, a gentleman strode into our midst.
I had not yet been at liberty to wonder at his identity before my husband was struck by a pallor that made me fear for his health.
“Captain Bryson.” Said he in tones that wholly conveyed the trepidatious nature of his sentiments upon being reunited with his friend so soon after the letter had been sent. Henry’s voice was sufficient to cause me to join him in paling in a manner which, considering my already compromised hue on account of the shot wound, was most unbecoming.
“Lord Woodville, Your Ladyship, pray forgive me arriving thither unannounced thus. Such impoliteness is truly unaccountable and I am certain it makes you desirous of severing all acquaintance with me.” Said he.
Had the captain not been so very distressed I would have informed that I was more shaken by his addressing me directly without Woodville’s formal introduction, as it was I did not.
“However,” Continued he “I could not entrust what I wanted to say to the post.”
“Not even the two penny?” Enquired I in tones of horror.
“Neither the penny nor the two penny Lady Woodville and I believed the messenger I summoned was too sly to be considered trustworthy, thus I concluded to trust not a soul with what I have discovered, save you and your husband.”
“Heavens, this sounds gravely ominous.” Declared I.
The instant the Captain was in receipt of my dear husband’s letter he was all watchful observation of his acquaintances and at first, he confessed that he witnessed nought to cause him alarm. Yet, by and by one gentleman did draw his attentions, for his conduct was altogether too innocent to be considered innocent, therefore he found him suspicious. The fellow goes by the name of Turner. Catherine, ten to one the name shall be unknown to you and thus this revelation will not prove as shocking to you as it did to us. Mr Turner is a politician, forgive me sister, for I know the effect that word has upon your nerves, however it was necessary for me to describe him to you and no singular word would be so efficacious.
That appellation , Mr Turner, had a considerable effect upon both my dear Woodville and myself. We both gasped in a manner that exactly conveyed our astounded alarm.
“Mr Turner?” I was all repetitious in my repetition of the name.
” Surely not he!” Said Woodville. “The gentleman who has lately been excluded from his own party for holding convictions that were believed too strong?”
“Considering that he is not of the Whig persuasion they must be superlatively intemperate beliefs indeed.” Rejoined I.
“They are, Lady Woodville, but it is not those thoughts that concern me, but rather the fact that two days hence that gentleman, if such a word could ever be bestowed upon a politician, shewed himself to be an ill mannered wretch as he abandoned a shooting party and fled north in anticipation of the arrival of a ship from the Indies. He took with him as companions for his ill intended quest a band of ruffians, poachers and vagabonds. Once thither they took receipt of an object. my suspicions thus awakened I knew I ought come to you directly.”
“Was the object cloaked in cloth and mystery? Enquired my husband
“It was.” Was the captain’s solemn reply.
“Was it also shrouded in whispers of a dark purpose, darker than anything we have ever known?” Was Henry’s next question
“It was.” Returned Bryson.
“Then deuce to it all Maria, we have found it. For I shall wager you there are not two such objects in existence.” Woodville addressed me as paced back and forth before the hearth at a gate that expressed not only his deep agitation but also his hunger, we had yet to have luncheon.
“Captain Bryson,” I turned to the fellow in sentiments of trepidatious trepidation “Whither did they take the wicked thing?”
“I regret, Lady Woodville, that I know not.” Said he as a shadow of remorse fell upon his elongated brow.
“Curses to it all! I cried in considerable vexation.
Catherine I fear I ought warn you that my outburst did not end thither, and I displayed a greater want of propriety as I continued thus;
“Then we are no further along! All this is as purposeless as a peasant’s endeavours to better himself. Tis all nought but feculent misfortune! After all we have given Henry. We have journeyed from the the furthest corners of the earth in pursuit of this demon and we have nought to show for our efforts!”
I was full prepared to cast myself down upon the chaise in a fit of despair when the captain continued.
“However, I do know whither he intends to use it, whom he wishes to use it against, when he is desirous of employing it’s wicked powers.”
“Pray, of what do speak?” Enquired I, aghast once more.
“I know what it is the wretch is plotting. I know all the particulars of his scheme.” The Captain spake with a surprising calm for one so very well informed.
“You are familiar with the particulars?” Was my utterance.
“Indeed.” Returned he.
Catherine, upon his reply my vexation redoubled and found itself a new subject, Captain Bryson.
“Deuce it all Captain! Of all the ill witted nonsensical things, why would you not simply begin your answer with this knowledge? If you felt yourself to be impolite in the manner of your arrival hither, allow me to assure you, Sir, that is nought compared with allowing the lady of the house to fall prey to anguish and despair by neglecting to inform her that their is yet hope to cause the villainous fiends to cease and desist afore they unleash their abominably devilish weapon upon Lord knows whom. Particularly when the lady in question has so very lately been fired upon. I confess myself to be all astonishment at your imbecilic want of sensible thought.”
I was full prepared to continue until the captain was heartily abashed, however my husband stepped forth and took my arm.
“Maria, pray, calm yourself.”Said he.
“Forgive me Henry,” replied I realising, I was deserving of this tone. “such conduct is the very essence of incivility.”
“That is not what concerns me my love for Bryson is indeed a fool, but I am not desirous of you exerting yourself thus.” And with that my husband turned to his friend and continued to admonish him until he felt he had exhausted his vocabulary. “Now, Bryson, tell me how long have we to prevent whatever evil lies ahead?”
“Lord Woodville,” returned he in tones which were everything grave. “we have four and twenty hours.”
Catherine, I am at a loss to comprehend why is is always four and twenty hours! Such a phenomenon is entirely unfathomable to me, Why do the villains always shew so positive an inclination towards this number of hours in which noble men may capture them?
Thus with this peculiar peculiarity I bid you adieu for My dear husband has ordered the carriages be readied and he shall be expecting my presence in the gun room.
Yours upon the brink of peril once more,
your affectionate sister,