My dear Eliza, you shall doubtless be reassured to learn that I had the good sense to not recover my sense until the creature had evanesced (to where I neither knew nor cared), but while my sensibilities had returned to me my abilities to move and speak took a little longer. Thus I remained whither I had fallen and found myself at liberty to reflect upon the troubling fact that I just evaded a fantastical being.
When, at last, Sir John handed me to my feet I spake in tones which I believed were, by every second syllable, the very essence of dignified wit.
“Sirs, I am of the belief that I believe you.”
Eliza, I confess that my nerves required a little more tonic than could be considered quite polite to full recover from such an occurrence and as I reclined in a chaise and tended to them I heard the gentlemen converse in tones that were everything hushed.
“Could we, perchance be mistaken? For she is scarcely what the prophecy promised.” Said one.
“She is the appointed.” Returned another who I recognised to be Sir John. “She is but sixteen years old, the proper age, of the proper height and she wore a green gown upon the third Thursday of the month. Aside from the particulars she has the quality so oft described in the text. Her manner is everything we had been told to await. It is her fate.”
“Sir John, if by her manner you mean impropriety which wavers perilously close towards scandalous vulgarity then I am certain the same could be said of a hundred ill bred girls.” Concluded yet another.
While his words piqued me greatly, and I longed to smite him with the sword for suggesting that I was not of noble birth, they also filled me with a peculiar hope.
” Mistaken? You could be mistaken? Sir, allow me to tell you that the only fate that holds any interest for me is one where I become the new Lady Winterbourne, mistress of Winterbourne lodge and wife of a baronet. Thus I beg you tell me is there any chance, nay hope, that you are mistaken?” Cried I more passionately that I had intended.
“The prophecy, the wisdom of the elders foretold of a …
Eliza I know not what it is about a monk’s habit but it seems to rob any man within of the power of brevity and candour.
“Sir, pray, do not employ one hundred words when one would suffice. Are you mistaken, Yay or Nay?” I had now wholly lost my temper and thus my vociferations closely resembled a woman of the docks who is endeavouring to barter away fish of questionable quality.
“Nay.” Returned Sir John.
“And what if were to simply refuse to acquiesce to your request? What if I said Nay?” Enquired I “If I were to spurn my fate as though it were the hand of a butcher’s son?”
“The appointed refusing her duty? Such a notion is so very laughable that it is the very essence of nonsensical, the consequences would be …”
But I did not permit him to conclude his sentiments upon the consequences for I was not envious of another sermon. Instead I rose to my feet and, drawing a fan from my netted purse, I fanned my visage, in a manner I had seen so oft in my aunt when she is plagued by a nervous fit, and was all pretence that I was a creature to delicate to duel a creature so foul.
“Madam, allow me to assure you that we too are all astonishment that the stars of whatever God rules over this world should prefer a weak and feeble creature to defend all it holds dear. It is wholly unfathomable that a lady should be the appointed, indeed I have always found the notion quite laughable.” Said a hooded gentleman that I took to be the commander of the brethren.
I confess Eliza that his words, although spoken in acquiescence to my own sentiments upon the frailty of our sex, filled me with a nigh on disproportionate rage and desire to prove him to that I was, ten to one, better suited to the task than any gentleman.
I seized the sword, replaced the pearls and ribbons which had come loose from my coiffure and turned to face the gentleman who had caused me great vexation.
“Whither is the beast?” Enquired I in tones I felt quite certain would not betray my fear.
“Miss Cecilia, perchance you ought wait to regain your strength.” Said Sir John in a manner which revealed him to be all anxious concern for my delicate sensibilities.
“Thank you, I am sufficiently restored, now whither is the beast?” Returned I.
But still Sir John was not so easily persuaded. “I really ought counsel you …” Began he, only to be interrupted.
“Sir John, If she wishes to attempt the trial again you ought not endeavour to dissuade her, for she must be prepared.
Eliza, I blush to profess that this assay was no more fruitful than the last, indeed t’was so very long afore I had regained my senses that I was quite nearly belated for the Winterbourne’s dinner. As it was there was displeasingly little time to attend to my toilette and I had to abandon the notion of adorning my tresses with above two hundred pearls and employed two of the most resplendent feathers in their stead.
The evening, my dear Eliza, was everything charming as was the gentleman in question. Indeed we sang a duet at the piano forte above thrice and the young Lord George’s attention to the task was such that he did not glance upon me even once. He is truly the most dignified gentleman I have e’er known, for despite the diversions all about him, which were plentiful, he never succumbed to the temptation of exuberant feelings and instead retained what some may have perceived as forbidding disdain, but I recognised to be the cool reserve of so elevated a rank.
It was all misfortune that I had found myself inclined to believe the Brethren and accept that I may indeed be the appointed, for it meant that the very next morning, scarcely three hours after I had breakfasted, I had made my excuses to my aunt (she again was all belief that I had fallen prey to a headache) and evanesced from my room to ride direct to the cavern ‘neath the church.
I was afforded no rest once thither either, for I was armed with my sword as again and again that fearful beast was set upon me and I endeavoured to defeat it. Eliza, I truthfully had no notion that I was so very peculiarly inclined to faint.
Then upon the seven and twentieth endeavour I was all gratified pride in my own success, for not only did I not surrender to the faint which so wickedly tempted me with oblivion, but I also succeeded in smiting the villainous wretch. I confess t’was mostly good fortune than my own superior accomplishments for as I stood afore it I was aware of nervous hysteria coming to claim me once more, yet I did not deem it prudent to fall whither I stood lest that churlish wretch should tread upon my gown. Thus in a motion which was all swift elegance I cotillioned from its reach and in so doing, quite by happy accident, struck the fiend’s leg with my sword causing him to fall forth and strike his head upon the rocks, thus ending him.
Sir John was so very joyous that he declared me quite splendid and concluded I was full prepared to begin defeating true demons.
Thus not two and twenty hours hence I fled from my bed chamber once more (this time I had robed myself in sprigged muslin, a gown altogether better suited to battling creatures of the under world whilst still shewing my figure off to its best advantage) and rejoined Sir John in what I am afeared I can only describe to you as a churchyard.
Eliza, I must inform you that there is, in truth, nought better calculated to improve both one’s swordsmanship and complexion that fighting demonic creatures to the death. I soon found that when one knows that one cannot be saved by a clandestine brethren (who it would seem seldom venture forth from there caverns save to attend an assembly or some theatricals) one does not faint. I danced all about that churchyard, so pretty when illuminated by the moonlight that it would not have been out of place in a novel of romance, striking and smiting whatever devils of the undead chose to rise from their tombs. Only thrice was I the recipient of a blow severe enough to render me insensible.
As I defeated a particularly demon, whose name and purpose I do not recall half so well as his unfortunate features, I was greatly aggrieved to be admonished by Sir John.
“Miss Cecilia.” Said he. “Have not I warned you against such flamboyance in your swordsmanship? And I believe taunting the creature quite so mercilessly does in truth show a grave want of form. The poor wretch cannot help his situation.”
“I struck him down, did I not?” Was my defiant reply.
“Indeed, but such spectacles serve only as diversions, you could have struck him down twice so swiftly had not you been so very determined to inform that his coat was everything inelegant.”
Eliza, I am ashamed to say that while I have acquired the ability to defeat creatures of the deuce, my temper remains unchanged and thus upon hearing Sir John’s animadversion I succumbed to my tempestuous nature and cried out in fury.
” Well if my distaste for the fashions of the deuce displeases you so perchance you ought battle the fiends!” And with that I cast both my sword and my crossbow into a pretty little wilderness that stood nearby.
It was not long, however, afore I came to regret so hasty an outburst. For as I paced back and forth in vexation and vented a good deal of spleen that, had I not been almost alone in a churchyard in the dead of the night, it would have quite ruined my reputation, I did not perceive the creature of the undead approaching from behind me.
“Miss Cecilia, take heed!” Cried Sir John in considerable alarm. But t’was already too late. The friend had seized me about the waist and pitched me forth not only with considerable velocity but also in a manner that caused me to land, with a great want of propriety, a goodly distance from whither I had stood. Yet afore I was presented with the opportunity to rise to my feet the demon was upon me once more and, bearing villainous fangs, was full prepared to bite me. Pray forgive me Eliza, I had quite forgot that you have not been so well acquainted as I with the underworld and thus must be greatly shocked by such a notion but it is a peculiar preference of the undead, to bite. I hope I have not induced in you a nervous malady.
Entrapped upon the ground as I was I felt, most acutely, my severe want of weapons as the demon descended , quite ready to cause my expiration. I was all instinctive reactions as I reached for the decorous barrette that had been holding my holding my tresses in their coiffure, for not only was it ornamented with pearls but it was also possessed of a sharp edge.
Yet as I struck at the demon I knew it was to no avail for no barrette would be sufficient to even wound him, pearls or nay. You may wonder Eliza at my not calling out to Sir John and his not rushing to my aid, but that too would have been fruitless for his strength is equal only to that of an ailing dowager who has long abandoned any sustenance save the gruel and thus he too would have been unable to assist me in my plight, which I knew was quite considerable. Indeed, as my arms wavered ‘neath the exhaustion of my endeavours to fight the fiend I prepared to make peace with my faiths and bid adieu to the world, and closed my eyes.