Letters from Armorica: The Smotherwack Extinguished (2 September 37)

Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.

The Elms, Wickshire, Cumbria
25 July 1015

My dearest cousin Armand,

Gertrude Grimsby’s accomplice has been found!

Dr. Tillotson came to tea yesterday, direct from Edenford, to tell us the news; and to assure us that the scoundrel will make no further trouble. There were the five of us: Tillotson and I, Edward and Jane, and my dear Maximilian.

You must excuse me, dear Armand, for now I must delve into some ancient history.

Many years ago, when my father had not yet met my mother, the Smotherwacks were one of the notable families of this part of Wickshire. Mr. and Mrs. Smotherwack were highly regarded; Gertrude was a young beauty with a tongue as sharp as a knife; and her young brother Gerald was the district’s leading rake. Orthopractor Simms had this from my father, among others, and all were agreed. Gerald was a well-looking young man, charming and agreeable, and none of the local mamas wanted their daughters to have anything to do with him.

And then Gerald was sent off to Edenford to study…and somehow seems never to have returned to Wickshire.

That is not quite right. He spent most of three years at the University, returning to Wickshire for brief visits between terms; and then his visits ceased. His last visit seems to have coincided with Gertrude’s wedding to John Grimsby. Gertrude and Gerald’s parents died shortly thereafter—of a sickness that passed through Wickshire, Armand—and he was not seen to attend their funeral. It was much spoken of at the time; and since then no one here in Wickshire has heard one word about Gerald Smotherwack.

His name is remembered in Edenford, however, at least in certain circles, for he cut a wide swathe in his first year at Queen’s College. He was everywhere, and everyone seemed to know him. His fellow students thought he would go far.

His second year was less successful—he borrowed money from a number of his fellow students, and ran up bills with local tradesmen, money he was quite unable to repay, and so was forced to limit his activities and stick close to his room. It was this year he began his study of wizardry—at which he met with with only middling success by all accounts.

In his third year he wronged a local girl—and what’s worse, it was shown that he had used wizardry to entrap her. Yes, Armand, you may well exclaim! He was sent down, as they say, and forbidden to return to the university. After that he passes out of record.

I must say, Armand, that Dr. Tillotson became most embarrassed during this part of his recitation. This was due not so much to the matter of Gerald Smotherwack’s sin, as I at first thought, as to the manner of its handling. For, you see, Queen’s College hushed it up. They should have summoned an orthopractor and had Smotherwack dealt with like any other wizardly miscreant, but in the interests of preserving the good name of the University he was let off with a stern talking to.

“I have no doubt that Smotherwack’s charm and address played a role,” Tillotson told us. “I am sure he shed many crocodile tears, and promised to amend his life. He was quite a plausible rogue in those days, you know; I was a student then myself, and I remember.

“And then, having been sent down, he vanished. Until now.”

And here Tillotson gave us a broad smile.

“I take it that the Orthopractor’s inquires have borne fruit,” said my dear Maximilian.

“Quite so. Orthopractor Simms followed the Grimsbys to Yorke, where he found them staying with a well-known gentleman of poor character named Jerome Worthing–well known, that is, in the gambling hells and similar circles. Simms recognized him at once. It seems he has made a tidy life for himself befriending and escorting young men to their own ruination.”

“By wizardly means?” gasped Jane.

“Simms is unsure, though it seems unlikely: Simms thinks we would have gotten onto him long since if he were. Mr. Smotherwack is not a particularly competent wizard, as you all have reason to know. But he certainly was responsible for your recent discomfiture, Miss Willoughby, for Simms found all of the materials in his home, and the signs were plain.”

“What is to be done with him?” asked Brother Edward.

“And what of John Grimsby?” I added.

Tillotson shook his head sadly. “It seems very likely that Mrs. Grimsby acquired her husband with the aid of her brother’s skills, but it is impossible to be sure after so many years have passed. It may be that John Grimsby always was what he is now: polite, cheerful, and somewhat vacant. Certainly we have uncovered nothing to the contrary.

“But as for the former Gerald Smotherwack,” Tillotson said with evident satisfaction, “he has been introduced to the full force of the Royal College of Wizardry. Which is to say, he has been tried, stripped of his wizardly powers, and remanded into the King’s custody. No more shall he prey on Cumbrian youth.”

“And good riddance,” I said.

“And what of Mrs. Grimsby?” asked Maximilian. “For surely she put him up to it.”

“That is in the King’s hands,” said Tillotson. “An open trial would serve no one; but on the other suborning a registered wizard is an act of treachery against the Realm. Smotherwack, however, was never registered, so it is something of a delicate circumstance.” He shook his head. “The whole affair is likely to be sealed, at least as far as the Grimsbys are concerned. But I think you need have no fear of them ever returning to Wickshire.”

And we that we all had to be satisfied, for with that Dr. Tillotson thanked us for the tea, and left us. Maximilian drove him to Stourton in his phaeton, there to catch a mail coach back to Edenford, while the rest of us got on with discussing the final plans for Edward and Jane’s wedding breakfast.

It is this coming Saturday, Armand!

Your satisfied and joyful cousin,

Amelia

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Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

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