Collected Letters of Francis St. James, Letter 5 |



Collected Letters of Francis St. James, Letter 5

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First day at the island

My dearest Theodora,

I must apologize, my love, for this missive long delayed, and will prove, I fear, to be quite abbreviated. To the first point I can no longer plead excessive business with shipboard matters - to the contrary, I have been quite inactive over the past weeks (aside from experiments in Mechanistic Philosophy, of which I am quite sure you will disapprove) and should have had ample time to send you volume upon volume.

Why, then, my silence? Sheer melancholy, my dear; the black humour has quite overtaken my being. While my surroundings possess a certain bleak loveliness, all that is beautiful is but a reminder that it pales next to the merest hint of you. While I am beginning to find friendship, of sorts, amongst certain members of the crew, their wit lacks your sparkle and their voices fail to elicit that delicious shiver in my heart. In short, bereft of your presence, I am in the depths of despair; not only that, I find myself missing the most prosaic details of the life I left behind, even those rare moments where I did not thrill to your gentle accompaniment - the joy of walking past the Fleet ditch early on a Sunday morn; the bitter sting of the endlessly brewing coffee on Zakharov’s sideboard; the gloom of the fog and the muted silver of the full moon - Ah! how I miss the life I have left, your sweet presence most of all.

But, to the point, I spoke of this letter’s briefness - I fear now that I must first explain myself and then bid, for now, adieu. After upwards of five weeks without landfall, I have managed to persuade the masters (such as they are) of this vessel to divert the ship towards an island I espied in the distance. Since my position is of Ship’s Naturalist, and since there is precious little by way of nature to be found aboard, I can only fulfill my responsibilities on those rare moments when I can ‘go to ground.’ And now, I must take my chance: it is a small island we are docked at (though docked be a lie, since there is no sign civilization or even of humanity), scarcely a mile long and barely half that in breadth. It is covered with a strange sparse growth, that, from this distance, looks like no plant I have ever seen. There is a glow coming from the growth, and by that pale light the surface of the island gleams like cold iron.

And now I must bid a reluctant farewell - I have been allowed use of the ship’s ‘dinghy,’ and am now to row myself ashore, to explore where I may, to take what specimens I might find, and to truly begin the work of travelling back to my home in your arms.

I remain always
Your love,
Francis St. James