13 Norwich Street, Yorke, Cumbria
19 January 1016
My dear cousin Amelia,
Wackspallen has spoken: I am, most surprisingly, my father’s only surviving male relation—at least so far as testamentary law is concerned. He did not enumerate all of the late members of the family, but merely showed me a large family tree—it quite filled his desk—with neat red X’s marking every branch but my own.
“With this finding,” he said, “the differences between your father’s two wills are rendered moot and could be proven so in a Court of Chancery.” That is, I will receive the body of his possessions either way.
The more relevant consequence, however, is that Wackspallen is now prepared to take orders from me regarding the management of Father’s holdings, as the “heir to an incompetent principle.”
He did insist on an interview with Father, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, so he said; so I escorted him to the Guild Hall and let him pay Father a visit in private. He came out much shaken, but assured me that he was quite all right.
“Intimations of mortality, young man,” he said in muted tones, “and there but for the grace of God go I.” Then he collected himself, and told me in his more usual dry voice, “Please come to me at any time.”
I bundled him into a cab, and then returned into the Guild Hall to visit Father myself.
He was cheerful, as he most often is these days, and spent the visit telling me about his son, a lively lad, rising six, bound to be a former, he showed all the signs. “He’ll be grandmaster here one day, see if he don’t,” he said. “He’ll go far. Mark my words, young man. My son will go far.”
It was all I could do not to weep, Amelia. Though I knew (who better!) how frequently I had disappointed him, I had never before turned it around and considered his feelings in the matter.
Father had set up a golden destiny for me, a dream in which I would achieve all that he had and ever so much more, and he was bent on my fulfilling it exactly as he had foreseen it. It was wrong for him to assume that my inclinations were the same as his, or to try to force me to embrace his ambitions. But now I see more clearly what he was trying to do. He wanted to teach me all of the lessons life had taught him, so that I could use them in my turn; and by the sad nature of things, most of those lessons involved political acumen rather than forming. Had he pushed me to excel as a former I should have been far more biddable.
So I do not regret my decision to leave for Armorica—especially when I consider that Father had rivals while I have friends.
I did not mean to go so deeply into this, but I believe I will let it stand. Thank you for your loving ear, Amelia.
And now I must decide what orders to give to Wackspallen, and what else to set in train. I must soon return to Armorica, but first I must see Mother settled.
She still refuses to leave this house, though your parents would gladly have her come to live with them—and may I say, I am beyond glad that your mother is Mother’s younger sister. Your parents say that they will be sure to keep an eye on her, and I know they will; but it would not be fair to expect Uncle George to manage the bills and other business of Mother’s household. And yet, she cannot do so herself, what little training she had being decades in the past and long forgotten; nor can I remain to attend to it.
Wackspallen can see to it for now, a fine thing, for I trust him. But though all solicitors seem to be preternaturally aged by their calling, Wackspallen is aged in truth. He is a capable reed, but a slender one. I am reluctant to return to Armorica leaving him to handle everything on his own.
Would that I could hire a man of business, like your Blightwell. But Blightwell had your father’s trust well before he left him to oversee things in Wickshire on his own. I have no desire to hire some stranger only to have him batten himself on Father’s fortune.
Have you any thoughts on this matter, Amelia? Your experience is not of the widest, as yet, but I have come to trust your good sense—and isn’t that one of the strangest occurrences of these past five years, when I recall you as a young girl. (Feel free to indulge yourself in any vulgar reminiscences to which you are inclined regarding my own state at a similar age; but you needn’t share them with me, as I remember my younger self all too well. You can share them with your Maximilian, if you like.)
Your homesick cousin,