Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.
13 July 1016
17 Rue Thomas, Toulouse, Provençe
My dearest cousin Armand,
Such news I have for you!
Yesterday morning there came a knock on Dr. Laguerre’s door during my hour with her. She rose to answer it in the frostiest possible way, and I confess I said a prayer for the poor soul who was about to be sent packing—for Dr. Laguerre has made it clear to all that she is not to be disturbed when she is with a student, and she has a way of doing so that I cannot begin to describe. She does not shout hotly, nor whisper coldly, nor look daggers, nor make threats; but somehow, anyone who so transgresses swiftly repents and forms the intention never to do so again. I cannot account for it, and yet I have experienced it myself.
After such an event, she invariably returns to her study, takes her seat across from me, and continues our discussion, sometimes almost in mid-sentence. Today, to my surprise and lasting joy, she returned with a small smile on her face.
“There is a sight at the gate you will wish to see,” she said. “Allez! Vite, vite! You will not be returning here today, I think.”
There could be only one cause, and I believe I fairly flew out the door and down the path to the gate. The porter smiled at me rather more broadly than Dr. Laguerre, and waved me out to the street—where I discovered that the road was blocked by a Provençese sloop-of-war. Fortunately, the Rue St. Albert was wide enough to receive it!
It was the Josephine, on which M. Lavigne had set out to find my Maximilian! And who should I see standing at the rail but M. Lavigne himself—and next to him, my dearest husband! Both of them were smiling broadly as well; in fact, you might as well assume that broad smiles were present all round the sloop, from the bow to the stern.
I could not speak but waited impatiently, nearly jumping as they let down a rope ladder by which the captain and M. Lavigne descended. I was surprised to see that Maximilian was still standing by the rail and was starting to frown when they hoisted him into the air by a kind of harness, swung him out over the rail, and lowered him swiftly to the ground.
And then I frowned even more, for he held a crutch, and one leg was swathed with bandages. M. Lavigne helped him extricate himself from the harness, so that he was standing upright with the help of the crutch.
I ran to him, crying, “Maximilian, you’re wounded!”
He took my hands in his.
“Nothing to worry about, dearest,” he said, continuing to smile. “Just a scratch.”
I kissed him, of course, and took M. Lavigne’s hands and thanked him warmly.
“De rien,” he said.
“It most certainly was not nothing, mon ami,” I scolded him, “and I will ever be grateful.”
He shrugged, but I could see he was pleased. Do you know, I do not believe I had ever seen him smile before yesterday.
“He has been good company, too, as we were returning to Toulouse,” said Maximilian. “Now come, I must introduce you to the captain of the Josephine.”
After that there were introductions all round, for Dr. Laguerre and Dr. Guisman emerged moments later, and many thanks were exchanged.
And now, as you can see from the direction, I am once again living in our flat at 17 Rue Thomas, with my dearest, instead of in my lonely room at L’École. Though you mustn’t think that Maximilian is barred from the school grounds, not after all that has happened—they have taken me to their hearts, and so they have taken him as well. It is simply that there is no suitable housing for married couples at L’École.
If there is a dark cloud in my sky, it is Maximilian’s wound; for it was not a scratch, whatever he may say. “I haven’t been fighting,” he assured me when we were alone. “But I stumbled into a trap in the woods, and by the time I got back to headquarters the wound was going bad.” He hasn’t said so, but M. Lavigne has told me privately that Maximilian is lucky to still have two feet! And so am I—and if he has a permanent limp, so be it. It is a small price to pay to have him home and safe.
Your radiant cousin,
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash