Charles is disgraced and Sarah has disappeared – gone to London, apparently, and London is a bit bigger than Lyme. Months of searching prove fruitless, and so Charles begins an impromptu Grand Tour of Europe. It fails to lift his ennui, so he changes direction and heads off to America.
He does it the hard way – by ship from Liverpool to Boston, then onto Manhattan, Philadelphia, Washington, Virginia, the Carolinas, and finally New Orleans. And in this there is yet another parallel:
I, too, have been discovering America and Americans, but the easy way – mostly via this blog – over the past four years, and Charles’s changing perceptions of it and them echo mine very closely. In his case, he being rich and it being 1869, the transformation comes from personal contact. In my case, I being poor and it being the new millennium, the transformation has come from written contact passing through the ether, and by talking on Skype with a rather special American from Philadelphia (or as near as makes no difference.) Charles hears the famous joke:
First prize: a week in Philadelphia. Second prize: two weeks in Philadelphia.
He doesn’t believe it, and neither do I. I even wrote a fairytale set there, remember? He becomes aware of a refreshing directness of approach to life, especially from the women, as I have done. And he witnesses the extremes in a land of contrasts. ‘It has the best of people, and the worst of people,’ as I once wrote to this blog. Hey ho…
But then he gets a telegram from his solicitor friend in London who has been charged with continuing the search for Sarah:
She is found. London. Montague.
He is now about to take ship for a return to the mother land, but I decided to leave discovering our final destiny until another day. My heart was thumping so hard that I felt ill.