Madrigal Court, Yorke, Cumbria
15 August 1015
My dearest cousin Armand,
You will never guess where I am, no never, not in a thousand years! Though I suppose you won’t need to do so, as I have written it plainly at the top of the page.
Yes, I am in Yorke! It has been fully eight months since I was last here, and yet it is just as I have remembered it. You may well say that Yorke in the middle of August is no great treat, most of our acquaintance being in the country, yet I am delighted to be here—and for the most excellent of reasons, too!
I had not expected to return to Yorke until some time after my wedding in October—and how I thrill at those words, Armand!—but dear Mama surprised me on Sunday afternoon.
“Soon, my dear, we will be making the journey to Nexinghamshire. You have already won Maximilian’s heart, but you must also make a favorable impression upon Mr. and Mrs. Archer. We must buy you some new gowns.”
“But Mama, surely country fashions will do for Nexinghamshire,” I said—though I assure you I was nothing loath to having new gowns. “They do not change so quickly as all that; and my tweeds could have been purchased any time these last forty years, I am sure. Surely what I have will do?”
“Exactly so: for the journey, and for outings, and for the daytime. But your country things will not do for the dinner hour, and certainly not for the ball I feel sure they will throw in your honor. They are of the ton, you know, and often in Yorke, and though they are by no means frivolous Mrs. Archer will be conversant with the latest fashions from Toulouse. And then, of course, we must also find a cook for The Elms.”
And so, having made a nod to prudence, here I am!
We spent a lively afternoon at dear Mama’s dress-maker, a curt woman from Provençe who whose vocabulary consists of “Non!,” “Jamais!,” “ Pas ça!,” and other similar expressions, ending with a quiet, satisfied “Bon!.” I am to have—
But there, let me not weary you beyond all endurance. I have enclosed a note for your Amelie; please pass it along to her.
Tomorrow we shall promenade in the Park, and I shall renew my acquaintance with those few of our circle who are in Town, and with my faithful duckpond, and we shall begin to interview cooks.
But now I must turn to darker matters.
This morning we paid a call on your mother. She is in a difficult way, Armand! She misses you desperately, and I fear that your father has grown no easier to share a domicile with. He was not present, for he was at the guild house, but you should know that Master Netherington-Coates is now the guild master here, and your father blames you.
There is worse, for he has grown erratic of late: more dictatorial, yet also more mercurial. Some days ago, so says Aunt Jane, he began by praising your accomplishments in Armorica—though always in terms of your political acumen, a capability he had thought you utterly lacked, and never in terms of your skill as a former. But his pride soon turned to envy, and his thoughts to his own loss of position, and he began ranting so that his face turned purple and your mother feared he might do himself an injury. And he has become forgetful, and careless of details, and it is this, so she assures me, that led to his replacement, rather than any doings of yours.
“Master Netherington-Coates has been all that is most amiable,” she said to me, sadly. “I do believe he has even more trouble with your uncle in the guild hall that I do here.”
But I do believe she is coming to the end of her tether, Armand.
You will say that your father has always been irascible, Armand. But his has always been a cold, cutting anger, as you have more cause to know than any; this rage is unlike him. Do not doubt my words, for Aunt Jane assures me that he has degenerated noticeably in just the span Mama has spent with me in Wickshire.
Mama is writing to you, but I must add my appeal to hers. Come home, Armand! I know you have made a new life in Bois-de-Bas, but I must beg of you to come home, at least for a time. Your mother needs your support and assistance. I fear your father will soon require to be restrained, lest tragedy befall; and for all of his threats, you remain his heir, and little can be done without you.
I know it is a long journey; I must not look to see you before December. I pray it will not be too late.
Your joyful yet apprehensive cousin,