Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.
13 Norwich Street, Yorke, Cumbria
11 December 1015
My dear cousin Amelia,
Thank you for your latest; I am glad to hear that you have made new inroads on the Provençese tongue. I am glad, in point of fact, to hear about anything other than our own troubles here.
I had a grand and glorious idea this past week. I, acting as Father’s agent, would sell our house here in Norwich Street, along with all of our furniture and other movables, and take Mother to Bois-de-Bas. The funds would remain here, in Father’s name; and after Father’s death, however remote that might be, could be sent to me in Armorica or divided between Mother and Father’s actual heir as the results of Mr. Wackspallen’s inquiries dictate.
Wackspallen, however, has assured me that taking any such action prior to the conclusion of his inquiries would be “most unwise,” and could “prejudice His Majesty’s courts” against me. He did not go so far as to remind me that Armorica is now a Crown Colony; he did not need to. Even were I minded to abscond to Armorica with Mother and as much of Father’s fortune as I could manage, His Majesty’s law is inexorable and would reach me there in the fullness of time.
And I had reckoned without Mother, who truly does not wish to leave Yorke. She wishes to meet my Amelie, as who wouldn’t, and her granddaughters; but she is settled in here and wishes to remain here. She would be best pleased if I brought my family here to live, but you are well aware why I cannot.
And then, Father is here; and she does not wish to leave him behind. She can hardly bear to visit him in his confinement, for he takes her to be an outsider who might free him from his bondage, despite the fiendish machinations of his wicked wife and the treacherous John Netherington-Coates. It is truly heart-breaking; for however poorly he and I may have gotten along he was always good to Mother until the madness began to set in.
And yet she does visit him; and so do I, though at different times. I believe he takes me for one of the friends of his youth, perhaps one of his fellow journeymen, though precisely who I could not say.
I wish that we had a country house, with a man of business like your Blightwell; I could install her there and not worry, trusting that Father’s funds and whatever income there was from the land would support her. But of course Wickshire would be no better than Armorica for Mother: too far from her acquaintance, and too far from Father.
On the plus side of the ledger, I am making headway with Mother’s business affairs. One of the tradesmen, a butcher, had gone so far as to speak to a solicitor about bringing a suit against Father for lack of payment. He had supplied meat to our house for many years, and when he came to make inquiries Father called him a fool and a cretin and other hard names and ordered a footman to “throw him into the street.” The footman laid hands on him and dragged him from Father’s presence—and then apologized profusely and saw him to the door. I have given him a bonus for his quick thinking.
This was just shortly before Father’s scandalous behavior at the Guildhall, and if your parents had not taken Mother in she would have gone without meat until my arrival.
I spoke humbly to the man, apologizing for my father’s behavior and paying him what he was owed; I told him that father hadn’t been feeling well, and that it wouldn’t happen again. It cost me an hour of my time, and much of my patience, but he has agreed to return to service.
I have had several similar discussions, and am not yet done; I am only fortunate that Father grew more penurious as his malady grew, rather than more profligate, for the money is there to pay all of these good people. It is simply a question of determining how much and to whom, for the records on Father’s side are at first confused, and then wholly absent, and not all of the tradesmen are to be trusted. There is one man in particular about whom I have grave reservations, for I do not think we can possibly have gone through as much coal as he suggests. I should replace him with another, but it seems that he has a piece of paper entitling him to deliver coal in the vicinity of Norwich Street, and that no other may do so. He was offensive, and I may have to bring in Wackspallen before I am done.
I wish there were some more rapid way to communicate with Amelie and my partners in Mont-Havre and Bois-de-Bas. Were there such a thing, I might remain here with a lighter heart. But at least Mother is looking better.
Please continue to write; your letters are a great comfort.
Your impatient cousin,