The boat is dreadful. I know a lady should not complain, but should make the best of her situation, but it is impossible, I cannot! The accommodations are cramped, the sailors are lewd and importunate, and every surface is filthy. I must take refuge in my constricted cabin (which I have scrubbed myself) for much of the day, reading the travel narratives you so kindly sent to me -- they are my one consolation. (Although why is it that only men have these adventures?) It is only at night that I may escape and roam the deck freely; the sailors quiet at night, and there is one small brown boy, very sweet, who sits in the bow and sings of England, the old country songs, lo among the rushes, oh, and mairi's wedding, and my bonnie lies over the ocean.
I would that I were back in England now, that you and I were safe in Sutton-Courtenay, in Papa's house, with him cheerfully huffing on his pipe and the fire crackling. Jenny would come in her crisp white apron and ask if the young ladies wanted their tea, and then Cook would send it up, buttery warm scones with clotted cream and your own strawberry jam; I long for your jam, my darling. It is one of your finest accomplishments, and that is saying something! But those days are lost, and I am alone here on this dark boat, tossing in the wind, journeying into the dark subcontinent, home to elephants and tigers and dark-skinned men; I know not what terrors may await me there.
Oh, I am sorry -- I do mean to worry or grieve you. That is not kind of me. It is not so terrible here as all that, for I am traveling to my bonnie after all, to my beloved Charles and our wedding. It will not be quite the wedding I had once hoped for, perhaps, but with Papa and the money gone, I am only grateful that I have my Charles for comfort. I had hardly noticed him when you and I were young and giddy together, but I was so grateful for his kindness in the end. If we are lucky, the Queen may recall him before too many years have passed, and then, perhaps you too will come home to us, and we will all live together in a charming little house, with a rose garden, a plot for your herbs, and even an arbor, climbing with sweet morning glory and honeysuckle.
We will be landing in Calcutta in a few days, and there I may post this and all my other letters. I will send you my address as soon as I know it, and then you must write to me, sister, write and tell me how you are surviving, there in the frozen wilds of America, with your nose and cheeks chapped quite red, and your poor hands rough and dry with cold. It makes me shiver to think of it.
Fondly (and a bit desperately),