1 Rue St. Albert, Toulouse, Provençe
14 April 1016
My dearest cousin Armand,
Your visit to L’École du Sorciers was a triumph in every way. Many were the scoffers before your arrival, notably Dr. Equinrien and my dear, dear fellow student M. Lavigne, whose disdain for me and mine seems impenetrable.
As I waited with the Masters of L’École for your arrival, I heard Dr. Equinrien say to Dr. Guisman, “Belazel? Bah! He is a myth. Whatever this artisan may do, it is not that.” Dr. Guisman raised an eyebrow but did not respond in kind; I have been given to understand that they have been arguing this back and forth for two decades at the least. Dr. Laguerre smiled, the merest hint of a smile, as is her wont, but made no remark.
I also made no remark. My presence in the hall was due only to my relation with you, and so I made not a peep. My endeavors over the Approaches to Provençe may have gained me a certain standing with His Majesty’s Navy, but were of little note in this company, indeed would have been abominated save that I had permission from the Masters to use my learning in such a way and at such a time and place. Any of my fellow students could have done the same, I am told, and M. Lavigne, at least, seems to consider my actions to be of the most vulgar. I have not asked him what I ought to have done instead.
It was a great joy to see you, and to introduce you to the Masters, many of whom plainly expected a figure in a peasant smock with wood shavings in his hair. Your sober dress and dignified manner did much to win their approbation, as did your command of Provençese—though I did overhear one or two remarks about your provincial accent. Not even Dr. Grenouille, the oldest master and a most curmudgeonly man, had anything harder to say.
Watching Dr. Equinrien’s face was as good as a play while you demonstrated your skills. The sneer as you took the length of firewood from the servant lad; the ennui as you bored a hole through one end and laced a length of rope through it; the grudging curiosity at the steps of your forming; the disgust at the dust produced when you cut the piece of wood into two unequal lengths; the dismay when you handed him the end of the length of rope prior to invoking your last step; and the amazement as you walked about the room with the larger piece of wood, with the smaller piece tugging at the rope as it floated in the air, tracked your movements perfectly. Not even Dr. Guisman’s glee was the equal to it, and I saw Dr. Laguerre turn away lest anyone see her smile broadly.
I need not relate the questions with which the assembled wizards peppered you; but after you left us (and je suis tres desolée that you had to return to Yorke so soon) the room became a regular Bonnyduke Fair. Dr. Guisman was rejoicing that the Fleuve de Belazel had been rediscovered (and I took the liberty of giving him your direction in both Yorke and Bois-de-Bas); Dr. Equinrien proclaimed that it was no such thing, and would gladly have proclaimed you a charlatan as well had you not left your artefact behind. In the face of its presence there was not much he could say: L’École had provided the wood, the rope, and the other materials, and a moment’s inspection ruled out the mirrors and hidden wires of the mountebank.
In the end, the assembled masters determined that at least some of your skills were worthy of the name sorcellerie; that thaumaturgie was indeed worthy of further study; and that what you had done could not be the product of the stream of Belazel, as your workings were contrary to what little is known of it. (“Nothing is known of it,” said Dr. Equinrien, at this juncture, “it is a myth!”)
I must also say that Dr. Morue was much struck by the mathematical nature of your advanced work. The mathematique is not much used by any of the Six Streams, but he feels it might be applicable to his work with the Fleuve de Marcel. You will perhaps be hearing from him as well.
At present the rope is tied to a lamp bracket, and the larger length of wood has been lashed to a settee across the room.
The Masters have much to think upon, and to ponder deeply. And I hope you will be able to stop here for several days on your way back to Armorica, however your arrangements with the Admiralty fall out, for both Dr. Guisman and Dr. Morue are eager to determine whether a combination of your skills with theirs might aid us in locating my Maximilian.
Your vindicated and hopeful cousin,