13 Norwich Street, Yorke, Cumbria
21 January 1016
My dear cousin Amelia,
I must humbly apologize. But two days ago I asked for your advice regarding my situation here, which I am sure will be worth reading; and yet I have taken steps that will ensure that I ignore it. But there is good news as well: I hope to visit you in Toulouse in the next week or so.
Yes, Amelia, Wackspallen has come through for me, and you may well laugh at me when you see how simple it all is.
Wackspallen had directed me to come to him “at any time”; taking him at his word, I entered his chambers yesterday morning at ten of the clock. His clerk ushered me into his presence.
“Mr. Massey,” he greeted me with what might have been the hint of a smile, and rose to take my hand. “I have a solution for you. But please be seated.”
As I did so, a young man, of similar years to mine, entered and stood by the door. I presumed him to be a clerk.
Wackspallen continued, “It perhaps will not surprise you that your circumstances are in no way unique.”
I looked at him blankly, I confess, Amelia. “I had not thought of it,” I said.
“They are not,” he said. “You still intend to return to Armorica, yes?”
“You know that I do.”
“In that case, Mr. Massey, you must put your father’s estate into a trust, to be administered for the benefit of your mother and yourself, until such time as your father is deceased.”
“A…trust?” I said; and now I am sure, Amelia, that you are laughing at me.
“A trust is a legal arrangement in which control of property is given over to men who presumably can be trusted. The usual number of trustees is three: one to manage the day-to-day business, and two to approve his actions. No action can be taken without the approval of at least two of the three.”
“And who would these three be?”
“That is for you to decide, Mr. Massey. Whom do you trust? But if I may suggest….”
“Oh, yes, please, do.”
“Please allow me to make known to you Mr. Cuthbert.” The young man at the door bowed in my direction. “He has finished reading law, and so I am taking him into my chambers to assist me.” Wackspallen pursed his lips, then said, “He is also my nephew.”
“Your successor, in fact.”
“Indeed,” he said.
“You are suggesting that Mr. Cuthbert would be one of these trustees, handling the ‘day-to-day business’, as you call it.”
“Yes, sir,” said Cuthbert, speaking for the first time. “Though he called it ‘dog work’ when speaking of it to me,” he said, smiling broadly.
Wackspallen gave him a quelling look, mixed with a hint of resignation, and nodded.
“You, of course, would need to appoint the other two, from those who will have your mother’s best interests at heart. I will take the liberty of proposing Mr. George Montjoy.”
I felt my eyebrows shoot up, even as my spirits did the same. “Why, yes,” I said, “Uncle George would be perfect. I know he would take the whole burden upon himself if I asked him to, but I thought it unfair to take advantage of him so. But this, when he would be keeping an eye on her in any event, this is ideal.”
Wackspallen nodded. “Just so. As for the third, I suggest you present this to your mother and uncle, and see if they might have a suggestion.”
I took my leave, and went to Madrigal Place with all speed, as you might well imagine, Amelia, to broach the subject with your father.
“Of course, Armand,” he said. “I am only too happy; I would gladly do more.”
“There is something more, as it happens. Who would you suggest as the third trustee?”
“There is no difficulty there,” he said, and chuckled softly. “Netherington-Coates is your man.”
“Really? But he is doing so much for Father already, I hate to burden him further, and in any event—”
But your father was shaking his head. “You’ve come to know John Netherington-Coates, Armand,” he said. “Have you never wondered how he and your father came to be rivals? I assure you, it wasn’t over guild matters.”
I stared at him, thunderstruck. Your father chuckled again.
“It was as good as a play, Armand; but in the end she chose your father.” He paused. “It was a close-run thing, too, or so it seemed to us. Could have gone either way.”
He rose, and offered me his hand. “Go see him, Armand. I assure you, he’s the man you’re looking for.” He paused. “He never married, you know.”
It is an odd feeling, Amelia, to reflect that one’s mother once had suitors. I was still puzzling over my sentiments in this regard when I reached the Guild Hall.
“Of course,” Netherington-Coates said to me. “Tell Wackspallen that I will attend on him at his convenience.”
And that was that.
All Mother said was, “That will do nicely, dear,” with a cheery ring in her voice that I remember from when I was small, a ring that has become increasingly common in the past weeks.
It will take a few days to get the trust in place, days I will spend acquiring what texts I can find on the arts of shipbuilding and Abyssal navigation; and then I will come to Toulouse, there to do the same—and not at all to visit my affectionate and wizardly cousin Amelia.
And thence, of course, to Armorica and my family.
Your eager cousin,