Letters from Armorica: Arcane Geometry (20 May 37 AF)
The Elms, Wickshire, Cumbria
18 March 1015
My dearest cousin Armand,
I am so glad that you are not here, and that you are already married, for the geometries here in Wickshire are already quite sufficiently tangled; your unmarried presence would be beyond enough. And then, I have no one to offer you but one of the Grimsby sisters, and I hope I am a better hostess than that!
I have spent my week struggling to understand Hopsgood's Arcane Geometry, and I confess to you that it is heavy going. There is something that I do not know what it is, for Hopsgood doesn't tell me, that can flow from node to node. (I do not know what nodes are, either.) And if you draw the geometries properly, which seems to have to do with the arrangement of nodes, then the flows will balance, which is a good thing. Except, sometimes, it seems to be a bad thing. For some circumstances, evidently, it is quite right and proper and socially acceptable for the flows not to balance, provide that the result is symmetrical. Hopsgood does not use this word above half-a-dozen times per page, and I have no idea what it means.
To sum up, after a week of study I do not know what it is that flows, where it comes from, why it flows, or why I should want it to flow, because Hopsgood does not address any of these things. I have read a great deal about different arrangements of nodes, but nothing about how one would go about positioning a node in practice. It is all very well to tell me that a set of nodes arranged as a "reverse-hourglass hypothetical lozenge with Cadwallader insets" both smooths and amplifies the flow ("amplifies" is another word I do not know) when I would not recognize a node if I passed one on the street.
In short, Hopsgood assumes that I already know what wizardry is about, which you will agree, is unhelpful in the extreme.
Needless to say, the library here at The Elms has been utterly useless in this regard. And as the weather has warmed this week, replacing the snow with rain, I have had no opportunity to visit Stourness looking for works on—I do not know what I should call it. Mundane geometry? Plebeian geometry? I should settle for a good dictionary, like the one on the stand in the main reading room at the lending library.
I suppose I shall have to send a letter to Papa and ask him to send me such things, for I am sure any plea to Edward to travel to Yorke on my behalf would fail. He is unlikely to leave me here unattended, now that he is aware of Lieutenant Archer's wizardly interests; nor, now that he is fixated on Jane Willoughby, will he wish to leave Wickshire on his own. Instead, he has been plaguing me to invite her to tea—for the deeper currents of last week's meeting in Stourness entirely eluded him. I have no doubt she would come, if we invited her, and indeed I should be glad to do so if I thought she would come in a spirit of charity and good will.
I have sufficient address, I know, that I could allay her suspicions with a few well-chosen words and a bright smile, and all should be well again—but then I should have to avoid Lieutenant Archer, to smile at him politely and speak to him not at all beyond social nothings, and I find I have no desire to do so. How should I, when he is likely the only person in all of Wickshire who can explain to me what it means for an arrangement of nodes to be symmetrical?
But I cannot say that to my dear Jane, for she would accuse me of being disingenuous. And so I have avoided her this week, to my shame. But I have not been socially idle, oh no! For my dearest brother Edward has had his good friend Edward Hargreaves over to dine three times this week, and to tea twice! Dinner has been a trial, for they will discuss scientific farming through every course, and both Edwards persist in trying to engage me in the conversation, and to explain to me the difficult points. It is beyond enough!
And then, they will not even have the gentlemanly tact to linger over the port and cigars and leave a young lady to gather her scattered wits on her own in the drawing room. No, they must join me not ten minutes after the cloth is drawn, reeking not at all of wine and smoke, and continue their discussion.
If dinner is bad, tea is worse, for Edward has decided to play matchmaker. Clearly I must be in want of a husband, if I am dangling after Lieutenant Archer; and he clearly believes that Edward Hargreaves would make me a solid husband if only I would deign to accept him. Mr. Hargreaves is by no means averse to this plan, for at tea he spreads himself, doing his best to fix his interest with me.
Perhaps I could reconcile myself to that in time, for he looks well and is by no means stupid…but he is so full of himself and his own concerns that he has no room to learn about mine. He is intelligent, I suppose you may say, on one topic only. If I were the clinging sort of female, the brainless sort who would hang on Mr. Hargreave's every word and begin every sentence with "Edward says," well. I should be happy to gaze on his masculine beauty and good manners, and let his words become fixed in my brain without the least understanding. You remember Agatha Crumwell—she would have done quite well for Mr. Hargreaves, I believe. But I am not that sort.
Failing a man of character and understanding, I should do much better with a man of character who could be managed than with a single-minded man like Edward Hargreaves. I should probably contrive to be quite comfortable with a man like Lieutenant Archer's friend Lieutenant Pertwee, given sufficient income; for he would never trouble me with any thoughts but those I should give him. I shouldn't be happy, mind you. But comfortable, yes.
Have I shocked you, dear Armand? This is what it is to be a young lady of our station; I learned to make such calculations in the schoolroom.
And so, I shall write to Papa asking for a good dictionary, and books on geometry; and I shall continue my studies; and perhaps I shall manage to discourage Mr. Hargreaves without marring my reputation in Wickshire.
Your harried cousin,