Letters from Armorica: The Return (3 December 1015)

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

13 Norwich Street, Yorke, Cumbria
3 December 1015

My dear cousin Amelia,

I am at last in Yorke, as you can see, and have stolen a moment to send you a short note. You did not exaggerate the situation here in Norwich Street in the slightest, and so my time is much taken up. Thank you for leaving your most recent letters in Madrigal Place with Aunt Maggie, or I fear I should be entirely lost. I left Armorica post-haste—an interesting phrase, now I come to think of it, the speed of the post. It is entirely apt.

But let me slow down. It is late, and I can do nothing more until the morrow, and I am far too angry to sleep yet. Perhaps laying it all out for you will be calming.

I received your letter with word of my father’s condition on September 21st. I was in Mont-Havre three days later, to arrange passage; and with Jack’s help was able to talk my way onto a Cumbrian sloop-of-war that was returning home with Lord Doncaster’s dispatches. (His Lordship was good enough to hold it for a day.) The sloop, the Pollyanna, was brought into the service after being taken from the Provençese during the war, and as it was of familiar construction to me I found it surprisingly homey—if not especially comfortable.

But the long and the short of it is that I have seen none of the letters you’ve written between July 22nd and 9 September. I see that you have indeed married your Maximilian, and rather than remaining to provide me your aid and support have gallivanted off to Toulouse. Whether or not I shall be able to visit you there or not, I am unsure.

As you see from my direction above, I am currently in residence in Norwich Street. I arrived in Yorke this morning, and spent the afternoon at Madrigal Place with Mother and your parents. Mother and I returned to Norwich Street this evening, and have been catching up with one another—the calm before the storm. And now she has gone off to bed, and I am catching up with your letters, and planning for tomorrow.

Mother has grown so frail, so worn with worry and fatigue. She has had to hold the household together, a hard task for a woman who was never allowed to keep the accounts; but it seems Father has been unable to see to them adequately for a longer time than I should have credited, and has done nothing at all with them for some months now. But in his domineering and controlling way, he has refused to speak of them or let anyone else see to them. I fear he has blackened his name—it is no longer mine—with the local tradesmen. His affairs are all quite tangled, and it shall be my task to unsnarl them.

As an aside, may I say how highly I esteem Aunt Maggie and Uncle George during this crisis? That anything can be preserved from this disaster is due to their aid, and yours, dear cousin! And Aunt Maggie assures me that as weak as Mother appears now, she was much worse when she came to them after Father’s, ah, what shall I call it. Rampage? Rampage will do.

Norwich Street will be an uncomfortable place for me to stay, as I learned just a few hours ago that Father had my remaining belongings disposed of within a week after my first letter: all of my old clothes, and my old boyhood treasures, save for a few which Mother managed to hide away. It is fortunate that I said my last goodbyes to all of it four years ago, or I should be even more angry—and I am quite angry enough, I do assure you.

So here I am with nothing more than the one clean and hopelessly provincial suit that I could carry with me in a small valise. I shall have to purchase new clothes directly, or I shall disgrace myself whenever I shall step out of doors. And Father can very well pay for them, the poor old tyrant; it would not have been necessary but for him.

I have not yet seen him; he remains under restraint at the Guild Hall. I shall see him tomorrow, and take council with Grandmaster Netherington-Coates; and then I shall have to speak to Father’s solicitor and see what is to be done.

And how quickly—for I cannot stay here, Amelia. I have business in Bois-de-Bas to attend to, and a wife and two little girls who need me. Indeed, I am wondering whether I should bring Mother to Armorica with me. It would not be what she is used to, and all of her friends are here; but all of her grandchildren are there.

You might say a prayer for us, dear Amelia, and for me particularly as I navigate through this one plodding step at a time.

I have never been one for drinking to excess, Amelia, but I’ve a good mind to go downstairs and wrap myself around a good quantity of the best wine in Father’s cellar. Perhaps then I should be able to sleep.

But even that is denied me, for I must be at my best tomorrow.

Your greatly irritated cousin,

Armand

Next letter

____

Photo by David Hawkes on Unsplash

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