Letters from Armorica: Mme. Poictesme (14 November 1015)

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

17 Rue Thomas, Toulouse, Provençe
14 November 1015

My dearest cousin Armand,

As you can see, Maximilian and I have moved house and are now residing under the care of the estimable Mme Hanson on the Rue Thomas near L’Ecole du Sorciers. We have two comfortable rooms, a sitting room and a bedchamber, with a view looking out over the Bois d’Albertine. Alas, we cannot see L’Ecole; it seems that all of the houses surrounding the school turn a blind-eye to its grounds. I am not sure if that is a due to some edict by the head of L’Ecole in times past, or due to simple prudence on the part of the builders, but it is so.

Our rooms are not quite so fine as those we had at L’Hôtel d’Esprit, but they are larger and will suit us quite as well. Better, in fact; for the sitting room has space for the table and bookcase that we were compelled to purchase so that I might have a place to pursue my studies. I can sit with my book on la sorcellerie and look out at the street and the trees, and feel the soft Provençese breezes, and curse at the horrid language in which the book is written.

I should not curse at the Provençese language, Armand; in truth it is more logical in its construction than Cumbrian. But I find myself drowning in it; and the esoteric nature of the text is no help. It is one thing to learn to ask directions to the market, and to understand the answer. It is quite another to read obscure wizardly phrases in an unfamiliar language.

And even if I were proficient in Provençese, that would not help. The language of la sorcellerie involves a great deal of metaphor, I find, and is not nearly as mathematical in flavor as that of Cumbrian wizardry, and though they are describing the same things, there appears to be little direct cross-over between the two. I will hazard the guess that wizardry developed separately in the two lands, and is only now being harmonized by the likes of the good doctors Laguerre and Tillotson.

My total immersion in the language began last Wednesday when I presented myself at Mme. Poictesme’s door. She came to the door herself, a round, cheerful looking woman with a red face.

Bonjour, Mme. Archer,” she said, ushering me into a sitting room.

“How do you do, Mme. Poictesme,” I responded.

She said, “Bonjour, Mme. Archer,” and smiled expectantly at me.

“Oh,” I said. “Ah, Bonjour, Mme. Poictesme.

She nodded and repeated, “Bonjour,” at me until I was saying it to her satisfaction. Then she said, “Prendrez-vous du thé?” and indicated a teapot and cups on a table nearby.

I said, “Oui?” and looked appealingly at her.

Avec plaisir, Mme. Poictesme,” she said, and looked me, and I did not get my tea until I said it just right. It had not lost all of its heat, for which I was pathetically grateful.

So that was my Wednesday morning; and Friday and Monday were similar. And also Tuesday and Thursday and Saturday and Sunday (for I will not use the Provençese names for the weekdays in a letter to you, cher Armand), for to my consternation Mme. Poictesme somehow enlisted Maximilian into her scheme.

It has been Provençese morning, noon, and night ever since. And his Provençese is much better than mine, blast the man!

My only respite has been my visits to Dr. Laguerre. She is not a woman much inclined to pity, I believe, but I have found her deeply practical; and as I cannot make progress in my studies without relating the Provençese terms to the Cumbrian wizardry with which I am somewhat familiar, that is where we have spent our time.

Though I confess that I have learned to relish the words Je t’aime on Maximilian’s lips, it is very hard. I have dreams at night that I am caught in a windstorm, grabbing at words blowing by like leaves, and none of them making any sense at all when I catch them.

I hope to hear from you soon, Armand, and not in Provençese! The earliest you could possibly arrive in Yorke is the 21st, and that only if you boarded the very same packet that carried my first letter concerning your father’s difficulties, which is of all things unlikely. I do not believe you are one to let the cobwebs (les araignées) settle upon you, however, so I expect to hear from you in two weeks. I do hope it is not longer than that, for Mama’s letters are growing daily more alarming.

Your hard-pressed cousine,


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Photo by Christoffer Engström on Unsplash

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