My dearest Catherine,
I hope this missive reaches you safely and finds you in good health and robust spirit. It has been of concern to, dear sister, that of late my letters to you are greatly lacking in sentiment and declarations of sisterly affection and for that I crave your forgiveness, but I fear that it is too late to mend my ways now, and thus I shall fill the pages before me in the same vain and merely offer you a continuation of the account of our endeavours to defeat the churlish Mr Turner.
You will recall, I am quite certain, the unfortunate fact that we had been granted so few hours in which to apprehend this ruffian and thus we were the very essence of promptitude in loading the carriages, indeed our hasty departure was impeded for but a moment by Woodville’s protestations at my intention to be one of the party
“Maria, surely you do not mean to accompany us, for while there is no one I should rather see standing at my side when facing grievous peril, you have but lately been shot. I should rather that you remain hither, for I am quite sure this is not what the physician had in mind when he bid you not exert yourself.” Said he with gentlemanly concer
“Henry, I should have thought that you are sufficiently acquainted with my character to know that nothing could induce me to remain hither while you cast you into danger. I vowed to remain by your side, and I do not intend to break such a promise. Besides, my love, you know that I believe that there is nought so detrimental to a woman’s charms than her being rendered an invalid
Catherine, I do not think I flatter myself when I say that upon hearing this declaration Woodville’s already handsome visage was improved by a look which was, in its nature, equally relieved contentedness at the prospect of my companionship and amusement at my determination. Thus he handed me into the carriage and we were once more ensconced side by side, our hands clasped together in sentiments of trepidatious anticipation, travelling towards London
It was only once we were journeying at a haste that was everything urgent that we prevailed upon Captain Bryson to reveal all he knew of Turner’s villainous scheme. Catherine, we are fortunate indeed that the roads in our part of the world are so very superior; for listening to such tidings on a road of inferior quality would have rendered such a trial doubly unpleasant.
As it was the captain caused me not inconsequential suffering, not only in his manner of his recounting, which I shall alter for your benefit, but also with the content of it.
“Mr Turner’s scheme,” began he in a manner which was all indicative of one preparing to reveal something truly shocking in it’s dreadfulness, “is one which is truly shocking in it’s dreadfulness. It would seem that after he was cast asunder from his party he fled to the Indies and plotted his devious revenge, commissioning thither the weapon you saw. He intends to strike upon the morrow when he shall be in attendance at Lord Morley’s home. Lord Morley, as you will undoubtedly be aware, has a particular fondness for the hosting of grand evenings and tomorrow is one such occasion, with upwards five and forty gentlemen of rank and influence and their wives expected to dine at Morley House.”
“But Lord Morley is acquainted with some of the most significant personages in the country. Indeed much of Westminster is considered to be an intimate friend of his.” Said I as realised that one of Lord Morley’s dinner’s, even one so small as this one, would certainly provide a rapscallion such as Turner with a multitude of satisfactory captives. What is worse, Catherine, is that Turner had the foresight to acquire a warm welcome from his lordship two days afore the guests are expected, that he might prepare at his leisure, and he shall indubitably be at his leisure for he is reputed to have brought a good many servants with him, more than can be considered wholly necessary even for one with such an abundance of powered wigs
“And the weapon? What of that?” Enquired Woodville.
“That is a callous design indeed.” Returned Bryson “I blush at discussing such horrors before so delicate a creature as Lady Woodville. Had these horrors perhaps, not best be deferred until the lady is no longer present?”
Catherine, I confess that while I do not deny that I am an elegant female and one who takes as much pleasure as any other woman in fine and beautiful things, I am all outraged affront at this continuous insistence that this feminine state ought be treated as a great affliction, for the fact that I am a delicate creature with a peculiar lightness of foot has yet to impede my ability to wield both sword and pistol with decided authority and defeat treasonous churls.
Fortunately my dear husband is of the same opinion and expressed it to the captain in a manner which was very nearly uncivil. Thus, with no further protestations Bryson continued to explicate that the shrouded mass we had pursued on that fateful day in the Indies is a weapon of dual devilry, for you see Catherine, it is not only a contrivance that contains a vast amount of gun powder, enough to raise Lord Morley’s town house to the ground along with several others (this would be a great shame as it is in the better part of town and the windows alone cost upwards of five thousand pounds) but it has been combined with a devilish concoction of Turner’s own making whither, and Catherine I feel you ought prepare your salts and wine (no one is desirous of another nervous fit not after the last one) as this really is too wicked, he has combined as many poisons as he could acquire, I shall not list them as I do not wish to alarm you and I expect that you are still ignorant of a good many of these and I am not eager to alter such innocence. He had placed the poisons within the deuced mechanism of his wretched contraption thus ensuring that after the first thunder flash of the powder had claimed it’s victims, a noxious vapour would fill the air for miles around, bringing with it ruination to all of London.
Catherine, upon the conclusion of Bryson’s soliloquy my dear husband and I were quite overcome with sentiments of such horror that we were robbed both of our senses and our ability to speak for above ten minutes, indeed the absence of this power was so long that the carriages had halted but three streets from Morley House afore it was returned to us. Do not be afeared dear sister such distance from our quarry is not an indication that anything was amiss with the carriages, I know how you fear a broken wheel, t’is merely that we had concluded this was as close to Lord Morley’s residence as we dare be, lest Mr Turner had indulged that foible so particular to the villainous, and ordered a band of ruffians to lie in wait.
I feel that I scarce need to express our sentiments of terror and renewed resolve to banish the threat that lay not five score yards from hither. However these were not my sole sentiments as my husband handed me down from the carriage as gently as though I were made of glass, nor as I stood aside him listening to him endeavour to decide upon upon the safest approach. As I regarded him I soon realised that I was swiftly falling prey to a growing sense of vexation and dismay, which I thought I had done well to conceal. However at length Woodville became acutely aware of so unusual a silence on my part.
“Maria,” said he “I have become acutely aware of so unusual a silence upon your part, such quietude is all indicative of vexation and despair, do you disapprove of my notion to take the guise of peasants to draw closer to Morley’s house?”
“Henry, why must we always take the guise of peasants? It is truly insupportable; not least because this is so pleasing a part of town that no peasant could pass hither unheeded. But that is not what troubles me?”
“Are you unwell?”
“Nay, I am quite well I thank you.”
“Then what ails you?”
“Only this, we have been travelling together for nigh on half a dozen hours, your eyes have scarcely left mine and yet you have yet to remark upon my new gown!” Said I, venting considerable spleen.
“Your new gown?” Enquired he with the air of one truly perplexed.
“Yes Henry, it arrived from the dress maker’s this very morning, it is of my own design. I robed myself thus afore we took our leave of Woodville Park and yet you have spoken not two words about it.” Said I in tones I believed were exactly calculated to convey my wounded pride and affront at Woodville’s severe want of attention
Woodville looked quite aghast and I was full expecting an eloquent apology which was all apologetic in nature, yet his tone was instead all exasperation.
“Maria, forgive me, but at present I have neither the time nor the patience to indulge in the admiration of your new gown. Not when all of London hangs in the balance. Now pray come hither and aid me in deciding which might prove the most efficacious manner in which to gain entrance to Morley’s house.
Catherine, I am quite certain that you will understand that I was all enraged mortification and, therefore, was all defiance in my refusal to share with him my own scheme until he had apologised for both affronts upon my person.
“Maria, pray, forgive me. Such an outburst was wholly unaccountable of me. As your husband I ought always have an abundance of time to admire both you and your gowns, particularly when they are as beauteous as the one before me now.” Was he concession
Thus appeased and consoled I took the map from the captain and instructed the footmen to surround Morley Hall in a fashion which was exactly calculated to express the clandestine nature of our scheme, whence thither they were to await our signal in a state of anticipation more usually associated with a young lady waiting for her dance card to be marked by a favoured beau. Woodville, the captain and I were to gain entrance to the house in the manner we deemed fitting to our rank and circumstance, the front door, under the pretence that we were relations of his Lordship’s bringing word of an ailing cousin on the continent.
However, as is often the case with a flawless plan, t’was flawed. I had scarce placed a delicately booted foot (dear sister you were all correct in your correctness that the kid boots would be everything charming with all my gowns) over the threshold afore I knew that all was gravely amiss within that elegant house.
To my left I saw my dear and precious husband look askance at the footman who had admitted us and knew that he too had noted the fellow’s unfortunate visage, which boasted a nose so ill proportioned that no gentleman of Lord Morley’s consequence would be desirous of it greeting guests. Thus we knew him to be an imposter. … To Be Continued.