Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.
20 June 1016
Yes, as you can see from the superscription I have returned to Armorica. I must apologize for slipping through Mont-Havre without coming to see you or His Lordship, but I did so for your own benefit. It has been over three months since I left Cumbria, which is ample time for His Lordship to receive official word from Yorke regarding my so-called misdeeds. I know that Lord Doncaster is well-disposed towards me, and I wished to spare him embarrassment should he have been ordered to hold me and return me to York.
I have already sent you word of my doings, of the destruction of my fast packet the Anne-Marie, and of the malevolence of the Shipwright’s Guild. You may tell Lord Doncaster that I would be glad to come and speak to him about all these things; but I will not be packed up and sent back to Cumbria to answer the false accusations of the Shipwright’s Guild. He may make up his mind to that.
Thank you for passing word to Marc regarding the need to extend the wagon-works to include a small shipyard. He has that well in train; and as I spent the voyage from Toulouse re-creating (and improving!) my plans, we should have our first packet on the ways by next week.
It is an ingenious design, Jack. You’ll recall that to prevent such a vessel from tearing itself to bits over time one must balance the generous elements against the greedy elements in such way that the generous elements are not consumed. As a result, I have designed the packet as a hardened skeleton from which the other members depend, such that the weight of the packet itself constantly stresses the hardened elements. The lifting elements line the underside of the upper deck to support this skeleton from within; and the whole is designed as a series of interlocking but disconnected parts so that the stresses have free play.
I fear I have confused you. What I mean to say is that the lifting elements are not nailed or otherwise fastened to the hardened skeleton; but they are confined within it in such a way that they cannot slip free. When active, they lift by direct pressure on the ribs that underlie the deck; when inactive, they rest on matching ribs beneath them.
It will be a lovely vessel, Jack. Swift, capacious, and a joy to fly!
Once it is built, we will have a choice to make, all of us with a stake in Tuppenny Wagons: ought we to sell packets, as we sell wagons? Or ought we to fly them ourselves, as competitors to the Guilde du Courriers? The latter has a number of advantages: first, that it prevents the Shipwright’s Guild from purchasing one through intermediaries; and second, as we would fly only non-Cumbrian routes, out-sailing any other packet, we would leave Cumbria isolated…which might eventually put pressure on His Majesty’s Parliament to fix things. You may tell his Lordship that we will gladly serve Cumbria if we may do so freely.
Not that I intend to sell the first packet, the Margaret-Elise. It will remain in the hands of the company, for our own use. Someday I will fly her to Toulouse to visit your sister; and then, if God wills and reason prevails over the machinations of the shipwrights, to Yorke to visit Mother. I surely will not hazard her in Cumbria before then.
I have not written of Amelie and my daughters, for I know well that you have looked after them for me in my absence; Amelie has had nothing but praise for you, and little Anne-Marie chants “Oncle Jacques! Oncle Jacques!” whenever your name is mentioned. I am so glad to be reunited with them.
Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash