Madrigal Court, Yorke, Cumbria
22 August 1015
My dearest cousin Armand,
I have been arguing with you in my head for the past week, and I want it to stop.
It is not your fault, but merely that I am so worried about Aunt Jane. I say to you, “Armand, please, you must come home!” And you say, “But I am essential to Tuppenny Wagons! They can’t form the necessary parts without me! The workers will sit idle! The company will go bankrupt!” And I say, “Can’t Luc handle the forming for you, at least for a time?” And you say, “But he’s not ready. And besides, I swore never to return to Greater Britonia!” And I say, “I quite understand that Armorica is your home now. But your mother needs you!”
And then we go round and round again, and most often when I should much prefer to be sleeping.
At other times of day my worries are more measured, and I see how foolish it is to argue with someone who is not here and will not even see my last letter for another seven weeks and will no doubt board the first packet back to Yorke in any event. But then I feel foolish for choosing to write at all; for if you respond as I feel sure you must, this letter will lie forlorn in Bois-de-Bas for many months before you return home to read it.
And so, I suppose, feelings of foolishness are conserved.
Do you like that word, “conserved”? It is from my books on wizardry, and means that magical force is never lost, but simply moves from place to place. Or something like that; I do not pretend to understand it all just yet. Dr. Tillotson says that magical force is gathered, and then expended, and then scattered, but the force available remains constant. Where it is gathered from, and where it goes when it scatters, and how one gathers it in the first place, I am not at all sure.
But though I feel foolish I have chosen to write to you anyway; for I suppose it may take you some weeks to get your affairs in order, and then perhaps my worries might serve to spur you on your way, or perhaps make you laugh in your distress.
But enough of my foolishness!
Maximilian has written me to say that he is winding up his affairs in Camberwell. His cousin’s home might be beyond help, but the property itself is desirable, and he says that two of the local luminaries have nearly come to blows over it. This can only be good news for our future life together.
Oh, Armand, listen to me! How I have changed! Less than a year ago I should have laughed at the notion of applying the word “luminary” to anyone outside of Yorke. That a person should be desirous, nay, eager! to purchase a “town home” in a small country town, and would regard it is as a step up, well, I would have found it preposterous! And yet, now that I have come to love Wickshire I understand. Perhaps Maximilian and I shall live there; or perhaps we may reside for a time in Edenford, for Dr. Tillotson is still encouraging me in my studies. I shall always love Yorke, but I do not think I shall reside there again.
But speaking of Yorke, Mama and I are still here, as are Edward and Jane. They are so happy, Armand! And it is good that they have not yet returned to The Elms, for we have made trial of several cooks this past week and were able to find one that Mama, Edward, and Jane all agree is the best. M. Curasou is from Grenobile, in Provençe; his home was destroyed in the Maréchal’s wars, and so came to Yorke to find work; for you know that a skilled Provençese chef de cuisine is always in demand in Cumbria. He has a wife and a small child, and I do believe that Jane will engage Mme. Curasou as her lady’s maid.
For the rest, I have spent the week in fittings at the dressmaker’s—my new gowns and other articles of clothing are now complete, but I shan’t bore you with the details—and in social visits. I shan’t bore you with those, either, but I must relate one singular occurrence that I believe will delight you. It most certainly delighted me.
Mama and I were walking in the Park one morning several days ago, when I began to feel I was being watched. I looked up and saw a figure on a fine bay mare riding in our direction. Yes, Armand, it was That Man.
Our eyes met across a distance of perhaps thirty yards. I did not sneer, or start, or curl my lip. I made no sign of recognition but simply regarded him blankly, and turned back to reply to Lady Montserrat, who was walking with us at the time. I was surprised to hear her laugh softly in response, for I had said nothing that was witty in even the slightest degree.
“Well done, Miss Montjoy, very well done,” she said. “You have routed him completely.”
I looked up to see him vanishing in the distance.
Your ever-so-satisfied cousin,