To Elizabeth, From Anne [Part 2 of 3]

Third of May, Seventeen Fifty Three

Elizabeth, I write to you now from my new quarters; a tidy, albeit dank, corner of the cellar.  The ladies of the house, including the servants of course, moved down here ten days hence.  I apologize for the state of this letter, my nerves are too jangled for proper penwomanship.

I suppose it would be proper for me to begin at the beginning.  You remember how travelers had vanished?  A messenger delivered a bulletin two weeks ago.  The newsletter proclaimed that a horde of feral men were approaching from every corner of Essex.  Families with other estates immediately dispatched carriages, either to fetch their kinsmen, or hide them.  The townspeople barricaded the roads, but that later proved futile.  Louis and the men nailed stout boards over all the lower windows and locked the front gate.  They trampled all my flowers in the process.  Louis snapped and shouted that we had more pressing concerns to tend to than my “womanly whims.”

The mob arrived that night.  Is mob the right term?  I saw shapes through the wooden slats, heard them clawing and howling at the brickwork.  Oh God, Elizabeth, the ceaseless howling!  It is quieter in the cellar, I could not sleep upstairs in the suite.  All through the night, groaning and banging.

The stable-boys fire our muskets from the roof.  The cooks say we are nearly out of provisions.  More than enough tea, of course, but insufficient meat and potatoes.  The well is outside, I can hardly glimpse it through the roiling mass of filthy shuffling bodies.

What are they?  I know it is proper to ask “who,” but we have tried reasoning with them, shouting over their incessant clamor, but they pay us no heed.  They have no leader, not that I can discern.  They follow no battle plan or tactic, beyond trying to knock down the walls.  I am at a loss.

The ladies and I make bandages.  I fear we will need to use them soon.  Proper decorum has fled the premises.  All day, I sit with the other women around the lantern in the center of the stone floor.  The maids tell the most bawdy jokes!  I hesitate to laugh, since I must maintain an illusion of propriety, hunched on the dirty floor, but they brighten the day.  They are lovely girls, but after so long, I grow weary of their company.  At least their laughter drowns out the sound of black powder, thumping footsteps, and gnashing teeth.

Three days ago the monsters broke through the East drawing room window.  Splinters and glass covered the distressingly filthy carpet.  Bony arms stretched into the room.  The footman pulled me from the threshold and shot at one who bled black on the chaise.  My ears rang until I stumbled down the treacherous cellar steps.  There were too many shots to count, but eventually they blocked the shattered window with the oak bookcase.

Is this happening everywhere?  How is Warwickshire?  Are you safe?  Is the town overrun?  Are we the last ones left alive in Essex?  I do not know.  I pray that you are doing well.  I fear for Louis.  He jumps into every surge, every breach like a general astride a fiery stallion.  As if he will save us all through his own strength.  I hope he can.  I hope the food and water lasts.  I hope everything gets back to normal soon.

-Anne

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