etter to Mr Stanhope, Bellefonte, Center County, Pennsylvania
June 18th 1857
I am writing to you to share my knowledge and personal experience with a dreadful and bizarre creature; The Nauga.
The creature is, I conjecture, a mutation of the common English-common dwelling Womble commonly found in parts of southwest London. A natural scavenger in its homeland, the more demanding environment has forced it to adopt a curious change in metabolism.
The Nauga sheds its skin, some say the process occurs in cycles, others that it is akin to the salamander fire-lizard that sheds its tail when under attack. Both views are poppycock. The skin itself is not unlike leather but with a shinier texture, and it is more easily torn than the tough wearing hides many of the men over here wear for protection. Some even say the skin is gaudy, poor creature. To be born a victim of human fashion!
How dare I compare the Nauga to the Womble? One is a hairless hide-shedding beast whilst the other is a hairy tool-manipulating rodent? At first this was mere conjecture, hot air warming the evenings in some of the most respectable clubs in London town. Being over in America on various businesses I ventured to catch one of these curious beasts and return with it to England.
I set off armed with only a net and some corn for bait, for I have no real stomach for the gamesman’s hunt of shooting first and ruminating over the head later. Many hours I wasted in the wilderness searching for the creature, until one night, as I lay half-dozing, I heard something rummaging in my belongings. I swung a leg at my pack only to glimpse, too late, the shiny hide of the Nauga!
It reacted, of course, like any small mammal or child does when presented with a clumsy kick and bit me on the leg before fleeing. At first I made chase but grew feverish, most likely from the bite, and so returned to my belongings to rest.
In the morning, by great chance as I wandered dazed through a wilderness, I stumbled into the arms of your daughter, out picking flowers, who is of a most high and admirable character. She took me to your home to have the wound treated.
There I began to feel faint and though your daughter is admirable and her character is of the highest, I cannot help but notice that her social graces are less than graceful, for she led me to her room to where I could lay down. Were I in my right mind I would have demanded to be left on some sort of sofa or simply laid upon the dining-room floor rather than to be put into such a compromising position as to be left alone in a young lady’s quarters.
I was not, however, in my right mind. The Nauga bite had set my temples ablaze. I must have shed my clothes like the Nauga; so you see this curious quirk of the creature is not a part of its basic nature but more akin to some sort of disease of which the Nauga is simply a carrier.
This is why I believe this creature shares some familiar genus with the Womble, another beast whom I have the misfortune to be bitten by. Those who know of the Womble cheerily talk of the creature’s penchant for using refuse as ‘making good use of the things that it finds’. Applied not to furry paw but to human hand, such as my own, this penchant becomes a dead albatross pendant around my neck. You may have noticed some small items missing from around your house, remember it is a disease and it cannot be helped!
I have heard professionals of a medical bent even attribute to the domestic feline this capacity to transfer behavioral modifiers in its scratch and bite. This seems rather far-fetched although it might explain the growing number of young ruffians and rogues that prowl London like alley cats.
I fear this dreadful plague has passed onto your daughter. I can only apologize for what your maid may have mistaken for an inappropriate scene at the lake down by your home. She had stumbled on two sets of clothes, one mine, the other your daughter’s. We had had the misfortune to be subjected to Nauga shedding at the same time and realizing, like Adam and Eve, our immodesty, had dashed into the lake. I find it most reassuring that you employ a woman of such iron character and recommend her for any pugilistic competition in the land based on how she went about me and drove me fleeing into the woods.
Given the truth of the matter, which your maid was ill acquainted with at the time, I can understand the misconception of the scene which dawned in her brain. Were I a harsher man I would demand recompense, but being a good hearted sort, a letter of apology would do. However I fear I must leave the area and live, for a while, in solitude until I can cure myself of this shedding syndrome, thus I have no forwarding address for the apology. I will write again as soon as I find a cure.
Yours very truly,