I write this by the guttering light of a candle, melted down so far, it’s mostly wick and puddle now. The darkness around me billows and retreats, billows larger again as a draft creeps in near my feet.
My nib scrapes against this paper, though I can barely read what I am writing. I ignore the repeated, demented, banging that I cannot tell if outside on the street or within this very house. I steady my hand so as to spill no more ink, and start at the beginning, with Thurwell bursting into the Club, a train of snow in his wake. Burton and I beckoned him to join us by the hearth, and sent for brandy. Neither of us had seen him since his return to England, and while he answered our many questions, I took the time to examine the changes five years abroad had wrought on the man. Never thickly set, he had dropped a weight of flesh from his bones but was finely dressed, moustache well waxed, beard curling from his thin chin in an upward hook.
“Gentleman,” he said, raising his tumbler in a toast. ‘To old friends.” In the dancing rosy firelight, his face had a positively Moorish aspect so that his eyes and teeth flashed all the whiter by contrast. “And tomorrow, my lambs, you must come to my rooms, for I have brought back mementos that I believe may amuse, things,” he looked around, “not suitable for such public galleries.”