My Dearest Darling Huthbert,
Every day I look for your letters. Today, I feel that
cupid is in the air.
A terrible thing happened at the Hollis’ grand mansion next door to my home this week. A terrible man attempted to kill the neighbor’s entire family, except for the young wife, Hippolia, a woman who might be mis- taken as my twin.
After clubbing the husband, Rhynos Hollis, to death, and presuming that the children were all asleep in bed, the villain set the house on fire. Thank the Lord above that all eight Hollis children were spending the week in London’s Marshalsea Children’s Prison because of a misunderstanding over the property rights of a beaten elder, or they all would have perished in that fire.
During the blaze, the wife, Hippolia, was dragged outside only to be violated repeatedly until the rapist dragged her blindfolded down to Cornwall, where she was spotted, by drunkards no less, laughing at the Duck n’ Fishes pub. The rough beast continued his assault upon Mrs. Hollis the entire weekend, attracting numerous noise complaints at the inn. Mrs. Hollis had managed to escape from the brute and seems to be handling her weekend of terror quite well. She did tell me that the impetuous monster has threatened to return again, here to Bristol! The cheeky devil warned Hippolia that he will hunt her down like a fox, and imprison her royal suite at the notorious Saint Germaine Hotel in Paris and prod her day and night until her wicked spell upon him is broken. The poor woman. How dreadful!
There is some good news for you, my hero.
My husband, Owen, has left me, knowing that my heart belongs only to you—and his own heart belongs to his ballet coach, Fabricio. My two children are both fourteen years old and have moved away with their own large families. I sit, all alone, waiting only for you, my love. I pray that I may be worthy of such a pure soul.
More good news! My consumption has disappeared entirely since I changed my diet to simple sweets. You will find that there is much more of your dear Penelope to love when you return.
I hope you are well. Please tell me when your ship, The Obbrobrio, comes in, my heart of hearts. My love, you are forever in my thoughts and dreams.
If the recipient of this letter is not my beloved Huthbert, please disregard, I prefer chocolates.
London June 1, 1784
One last abysmal letter from Lady Penelope Weeps
Sent from Kent on Birminghanfordkingshire
To Lord Thaddeus Huthbert Grieves by way of Lord Ward Toady, Wraithamwichshire
February 21, 1790
My Poor Dear Lord Huthbert!
I am in distress! Since you wrote “Oops!” as the only and last word in your final letter, I’ve had troubling cogitations, my dearest. For aught I know you may soon be with the angels, and after losing half of your face, one third of your manhood, one nipple, and discovering that an acid roach that had entered your brain at Hominahomina has affected the remaining two-thirds of your huk-huk!
Three days ago, I found out that you were alive, my darling. Joy of joys! While I was relaxing at the Drivel Pub in East Piffle I overheard the sailors talking about how their frigate, the Countess of Cachtice, rescued a man who called himself “Huthbert” within the hold of an abandoned Chinese junk(?). One of the sailors at the pub, who’d been given the epithet Jack the Gaff by his ship- mates (curiously, it was neither of Jack’s rough hands that were shaped like a hook), said that you were found nearly dead aboard a ghost ship adrift among the treach- erous whirlpools of Vodu, West Africa.
Oh dear, what were you doing in China?
The Daily Advertiser directed me to Charity Hospi- tal in Piffle. Alas, I was barred from visiting your room by the empiric Dr. Phineus Osândâ who instructed me to come back later in the week, as your medical situation was “extremely distasteful.” What could that mean? I thought.
While resting at the Piffle Inn, I came across this story on the front page of the Journal. A similar story regarding your recent condition also appeared in Lloyd’s Post.
“One unfortunate passenger, identified as London’s Lord Thaddeus ‘Huthbert’ Grieves was found below decks, soaked in his own blood. Specialists from Shire Bedlam Hospital reported the Lord Huthbert’s colon was ‘severely damaged by an Asian swamp eel’ (monopterus albus). The grotesque fish had chewed through the poor fellow’s colon.”
Huthbert, my love, how on earth did that abhorrent creature end up inside your lower intestine? What were you doing in China, my heart of hearts? Who were these “opium men” who were “playing a trick” on you, as per the article?
I fear that this may be the last chance to tell you that you have always been the love of my life, my greatest thrill, equal to my recent swim in a vat of chocolate, with the two equally pale Cadbury Brothers at their new dessert parlor in London. The brothers playfully nicknamed me “Bonbon.”
I ended up marrying the elder of the brothers, Sir Richard Cadbury. I never saw his very wealthy brother, Sir Simon, alive after our dip. The police had come over one afternoon asking questions about a public argument that the two brothers had had in the Lamb’s Lair pub. It is as though the thick London fog had swallowed Simon. He was a nice lad.
My new husband, Sir Richard, it seems, has had a number of wives but only keeps a picture of his first, Hermia, upon the piano. The sorrowful man had lost Hermia along with his only two children when the three sailed into a maelstrom, though, this time, near the is- land of Bermuda. Richard often talks of her beauty and her long red hair and warned me that his deceased and beloved Hermia, managed to ruin his following six marriages and mysteriously drove all the ensuing wives away! Richard fears that I will also disappear because of an apparition. You, of all people realize that I am made of sterner stuff.
Oh goodness! As I look from the front window into the moonlight, I can see a woman with long red hair, with two barely clothed moppets in tow. Poor things, so pale and hungry. I will not wake the butler, Heaves, who has already turned in for the night.
I’ll try to write again, soon. The children are crying just outside my door. They seem to be asking for pudding, of all things. Poor dears. Their cries are weak. I’ll offer them a warm fireplace and something to eat.
My heart-root, I have addressed this letter to your very close friend, Ward Toady, at Wraitham, as I can- not seem to locate you, my love, my life.
Yours in eternity,
Lady Penelope Cadbury
P.S. Richard said that he would post this for me on the morrow. It is time to greet the poor family outside. More crying. I must go and answer the door.
From Lord Ward Toady, Wraitham Hospital, South- east Londonshireham
To Lady Penelope, Cadbury, London
August 6, 1790
My Lady Penelope Weeps Cadbury,
My god woman, did you not hear? It is with great
sadness that I must inform you that your love, my oldest and dearest friend, Lord Huthbert Grieves, had been brutally murdered in the early hours of February 18. I pray that you will not take umbrage. I was certain that you yourself had been murdered back in February. The Lord’s assailant was a maniacal woman with long red tresses followed by two young children.
The trio were seen by my own hospital staff, hovering near the stone path leading into to the hospital grounds at two in the morning.
No one knows how the fiends had gained access to Lord Huthbert’s private room, as several members of my hospital staff were awake and on duty!
My primary nurse, Mrs. Walinkova, was first alerted when she heard the voice of a woman screaming your name from the garden. “Penelope! Penelope’s gray matter will be my…pudding!” The woman’s screeching was followed by the wailing of children (“Pudding! Pudding!”), which was heard by the entire hospital staff.
The cacophony outside was followed by the agoniz ing scream of our dear Lord Huthbert. His private room was on the second story. The staff and I ran to Lord Huthbert’s door. It took four people, ten minutes to force the door open as it was being held shut by a ghostly gale of wind. When my four servants were able to gain access the wind came to a sudden halt. They found Lord Huthbert in the closet, hanging by the neck. My scullery maid, Fifi LaDerrier, reported that the poor man’s skull had been gnawed through as if by a giant rodent.
After the staff and I had taken Lord Huthbert’s body from the closet and lay him on the bed, Fifi whispered in my ear—with hot breath—in French, that poor tortured Lord Huthbert was finally at peace. As we drew a sheet over Lord Huthbert’s face, we both caught a glimpse of the Arden’s Creeper (the acid roach from the jungles of Hominahomina) crawling behind the headboard. I could no longer blame Lord Huthbert’s insanity on my souple pâtisserie Fifi! Indeed, it was the roach, boring into the afflicted man’s brain that drove him mad enough to harbor eels in his bottom!
As the lord’s body lie covered, a quartet of my ser- vants, who were embracing and adjusting one another’s bed clothes at the chamber window, were frozen by a spine-chilling scene in the garden below. They had become transfixed by three pale figures beneath the cold moon, screeching like Irish banshees and dressed in thin white shrouds—it was the red-haired demon and what must have been her two children. As if gliding on wheels, the phantoms left a trail of fresh sea algae along the cobblestones before vanishing into the woods. Wraitham is a two-day journey to the nearest coast.
Dearest Penelope, I am so sorry to be the one to impart this terrible news. May our Huthbert rest in peace.
P.S. Mrs. Walinkova says that she was familiar with you from the circus days at the Drury Lane theatre. She asked me to relay this message:
“Cheers, Penny! I am well, and though I no longer soar above the crowds at Drury, Toady says that I still defy gravity. The silly man! Please stop by for draught someday.”