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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Freedom and Necessity

Steven Brust and Emma Bull

Orb Books

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From The Times
July 26,1849


Mr roebuck also begged to enter his protest against this ill-considered and crude piece of legislation, which he described as the result of a species of cant which was almost as dangerous as vice.
Mr mowatt had also felt himself obliged to oppose the bill, because it was calculated to mislead the people for whose benefit they affected to legislate, namely, the parents of females in humble life, by teaching them to dispense with the moral education and training of their children, and lean only on the legislature. (Hear, bear.)
LATEST FROM PARIS
By Electric Telegraph

The sentence of death pronounced by court-martial on four privates of the 7th regiment of Light Infantry for having resisted the arrest of Sergeant-Major Boichot, and a similar sentence passed on a grenadier of the 15 th of the Line, for having deserted his post in presence of the insurgents of the 13 th of June, were confirmed Jby the Council of Revision held on Tuesday.
A Socialist writer, named Louvet, has been sentenced by the Court of Orleans to imprisonment for two years and to pay a fine of 4,000f for having published an incendiary address to the people, exciting them to revolt against the established Government.

The posting-house the Grey Hound
Langstone, Near Portsmouth
9th october, 1849

My Dear Cousin,

I wonder how you will greet these words; indeed, I wonder how you will receive into your hands the paper that bears them, as I think you cannot be in expectation of correspondence from me. You have always been a hardy soul—body and mind—and so I don't imagine you the central figure in some Gothick tale, clutching at these pages and your disordered locks and changing colour six times in a minute.
I am sorry; I am too frivolous; I shall begin again, taking care to keep better governance of my near-ungovernable fancy. But truly, what ought I to anchor my senses to but nonsense, in a situation so out of common, so utterly outside of the natural, as the one I've got myself pitched into?
In short, I have been given to understand that I am believed dead by all my family and acquaintance—that I was seen to die, in fact, or at least, was seen to sink beneath the water a last time, and my corpse never recovered, though long and passionately sought for. You may imagine the fascination with which I heard this account, though you will imagine, too, that my fascination was accompanied by horror, which is far from the case. I cannot tell how it is, but though I know the thought of myself as a corpse should by all rights cause me distress, I find it holds only the interest, raises only the feelings, that such a thing might in verse or fiction.
What should distress me yet more, and what may, as my sensibilities recover Somewhat from the curious flattened state they are now in, is that, for all I can recall, I may indeed have drowned. I have no knowledge of any act, any word, any thing at all that occurred between the conclusion of that pleasant luncheon on the lake shore, and my discovery—rediscovery— of my wits and person at the bottom of the garden behind this respectable inn at an hour when almost none of the respectable inhabitants of it were conscious. I have read, I suppose, too many fables and fairy-tales, for the first thing I asked of the good landlord, upon gathering my straying thoughts and finding my voice, was the month, day, and year. How relieved I was to find I had not been whisked away for seven times seven years, but for a scant two months! And yet, how and, where were those two months passed? For anything I could tell, I might indeed have spent them happily in Fairyland, but for sundry signs about my person that it might not have been an unalloyed happiness.
You must choose how you, and even I, proceed now, for I confess I cannot. I have trusted in that natural reserve and discretion that I know to be so strong in you, that others of our family have wrongly termed coldness or even slyness, to keep the source and contents of this letter from the knowledge of any other, unless the time and company be such as to recommend their revelation. Cousin, re-introduce me living to my family, or do not, as seems wise to you. I know you are wise; and though I may be clever, cleverness owes something to experience, and the experience of returning from the dead has not come much in my way previously. If it is best that my existence and abode be known only to you at this time, I shall keep silence—very like the grave, I suppose.
I fall into nonsense again—I am heartily sorry for any distress it may cause you; it is meant only to fend off any of my own. Weigh this matter for as long as you will, knowing I am very comfortable where I am. The landlord and his wife are kind people and disposed to be uninformative about curious doings, as I suppose must be often observed of those who run public houses near the coast. When you write or come, make your enquiries for Jack Cobb, as I have chosen that for my nom de discretion. You will laugh—at least, I believe you will laugh—I am employed as the new head groom. Were you to share that fact with my Aunt Louisa, I know that the role in which I could not cast you, that of High Gothick tragedian, would be quite satisfactorily filled after all.
I cannot write more; you know, I hope, how much I would wish to say, what a multitude of questions I would ply you with, which of our mutual acquaintance I would most urgently enquire after. I trust you to do what you can for me, as you always have done, in good fortune or adversity. Merely addressing you on the page has served to clear away some of the fog which besets my thoughts, and to give me greater resolution altogether. Though my gratitude is beyond any measurement, it is still less than you deserve, and you will, as a result, find me always
Your most faithful relative and friend,
James Cobham

Copyright © 1997 by Steven Brust and Emma Bull