13 Norwich Street, Yorke, Cumbria
17 March 1016
My dear cousin Amelia,
I had intended to come to you today, and perhaps walk with you if the weather holds fine; but I had an appointment with my solicitor, Wackspallen, this morning, and I returned to Norwich Street to find that I have been summoned back to Camp Moorhen. As the summoner kindly gave me the latest news from Provençe, I feel that I must respond to his request. I shall be departing as soon as I have dispatched this letter.
First, then, to what will concern you the most: for good or ill, there is as yet no word of your Maximilian. Indeed, I am told that His Majesty’s forces have had little time to look, for they are in pursuit of Le Maréchal and his remaining troops. The cochon is crafty, ever planning for contingency upon contingency, and when you destroyed virtually all of what remained of his fleet he called his forces from Toulouse and from the regions nearest the Approaches and withdrew into the Navarrine mountains. At once Admiral Austen moved to pursue; but naval force is of limited use on such rugged terrain, and it has taken time to bring the Royal Army forward. And as few Maréchalists remain under arms in Toulouse, so His Majesty’s ground forces there are also but few.
But we know that our embassy and your school are unharmed, and I am told that Lord Ellesmere has men seeking to find your Maximilian. His staff—the name Gainsborough was mentioned—believes that Maximilian was never taken, that the cochons lied to you, and that your husband has gone to ground somewhere outside of the city.
You might also wish to know that Colonel Marchant’s body was found dead at the foot of a wall outside of his headquarters. It is unclear just what happened, but the embassy guesses that Marchant undertook to engage your services on his own initiative and that Le Maréchal gave orders for him to be shot.
Alas, I know nothing more at this time.
You may wonder that I am returning to Camp Moorhen after my protestations that I would no longer make weapons of war. That remains true. But perhaps you will recall that I had a second project at Camp Moorhen: plans to build a fast packet capable of the journey from Cumbria or Toulouse to Armorica using the same techniques as my war-wagons. Such a packet would be able to ignore the abyssal winds, and should be ever so much more speedy than any vessel of sail. We had laid the keel and much of the hull before I was consumed by other things.
Now His Majesty’s government wishes me to complete the work. Never was a general or admiral who did not wish for faster lines of communication; nor are His Majesty’s diplomats behind-hand in this. And there is more: I have gotten from them a promise that I may take copies of my notes; and ere long I intend that Tuppenny Wagons will be a builder of packets as well as wagons.
I shall certainly return to Yorke to see you soon; and I have hope that I might return you to Toulouse my very self—for whether or not you choose to return to your studies I have no doubt that you will wish to return to Toulouse as soon as you are able!
You shall hear from me soon.