December 18, 1889 (afternoon)
Lady Claire Trevelyan
Have no fear for the children—they are with me. Toll Cottage, I very much regret to tell you, burned to the ground last night under circumstances which are murky at best. Lewis, being a young man of surprising resourcefulness for one normally so timid, realized at once the peril in which he and the others lay. By some means which I shudder to contemplate, he bundled Granny Protheroe and the two youngest children into the walking coop with the hens, and steered it all the way here to Blackfriars. The boy deserves a medal.
The others piled into a river barge that was tied up at the dock, and from their account, watched the conflagration as they floated downstream to Blackfriars Bridge, whereupon they grounded the skiff and likewise came to the laboratory.
Lewis says I am to tell you, “The cudgel done it,” though I suspect he suffers from considerable trauma and is not quite coherent. He will not be separated from the hens, which are, to a bird, engaged in digging up the soil surrounding this warehouse with a focus and abandon which I find astonishing.
I very much regret to interrupt your Christmas, but I suspect that, from what I have overheard, these children need the comfort and sense of safety which you, the Mopsies, and your secretary can provide much more than does her ladyship. Please let me know your plans with all possible speed.