Mon cher M. Fournier,
I have an urgent need, which I hope you will be able to address. You see, we have run out of books. My wife Amelie has learned to read over the last year, and having read and re-read has exhausted our supply. And there is worse: our home was occupied by soldiers over the last several months, and those books we left behind (for we took what we could with us) were treated most abominably and are now unreadable.
When last we spoke, many, many months you were rapidly running out of stock; and it is possible that you have nothing at all left. Still, I should be happy to receive whatever you have, up to perhaps thirty or forty volumes. We have here a mere handful of books, some of them exceedingly dry; most of the rest are by the novelist Jacques Renaud. (These last belonged to Amelie's late mother.) I have included a list of the titles. You will note its extreme brevity.
But please to remember, this is your friend Armand—I am not looking for beautiful leather spines to line the shelves of my find home in Mont-Havre, I am looking for books to read. I know very little about Provençese literature, so I hesitate to make any suggestions, but may I say that my Amelie likes dashing, romantic adventure and tales about far off lands? Though of course even Provençe is a far off land for her. For my part, I would delight in anything new, anything at all. Winter is fast approaching, and if I have to read one more time about Renaud's simple country milkmaid who becomes one of the great ladies of Provençe without losing a shred of her virtue or simplicity, leaving all of her social enemies agog, discountenanced, or converted by her simple goodness, I fear I shall I shall go mad. But truly, anything new will do, even if it is by M. Renaud. If necessary, you might even make arrangements with M. Harte for some of his remaining stock, low as it is.
Please work out what you can spare, if anything. I am a trader these days, as you know, and I have an account with the firm of Suprenant et Fils; and the bearer of this note can help you work out the payment with them, and will transport the books back to Bois-de-Bas.
In the meantime, I have made inquiries to my family in Cumbria about a source of Cumbrian books; but of course I have heard very little from them over the past year. My father is feeling well-disposed towards me these days, I do believe, and with trade resuming, at least with Cumbria and her allies, I think it may be time for you to make inquiries. I shall write his direction below, and you may use my name.
But beware! As grandmaster of the Former's Guild, my father is a great man in his own opinion, and, I suppose, in reality as well. If you wish to win his aid, you must address him as such, though it pains me to say it. (You will note that I am in Bois-de-Bas, rather than by his side, in part because I refused to do so.) But as I say, he is well-disposed towards me at the moment, and I am sure that everyone in Yorke sees the virtue in increasing trade with Armorica at Le Maréchal's expense. I think you must strike while the iron is hot, as we would say back home.
And please, let me know how you do. I have worried for you very much this past year.
photo credit: Biblioteca Rector Machado y Nuñez “Lion”. via photopin (license)