Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.
The Elms, Wickshire
18 May 1017
It’s a lovely spring here in Wickshire; the trees and flowers are blooming, and so is Elder Brother Edward, who has had what even I must describe as a cracking good idea.
Edward had occasion to head down to Yorke this past week, and while there it seems that he drained a few with an old school chum, one Sir Frederick Pelham.
“Sad case,” said Edward to me. “Family’s fallen on hard times. Poor Freddie’s been forced to resort to publishing.”
That was a facer; but before I could inquire what the deuce he meant, he continued, “He’s employed at a publishing house in Yorke, a place called Ogilvy and Jacks.” Here he shook his head. “It’s a sad thing, but there it is. Still, he had a good word for you.”
“Did he?” I waited with ‘bated breath to hear what word that might be. I have been called a few in my time, not least by you.
To my surprise, though, the word was “author”.
“He wants me to what?” I cried.
“Write your memoirs. Of the war with the Maréchal, of course. All the rage he says. And your name has been in the Times, linked with Lord Doncaster’s. War hero, aide to famous general, gave a leg for the cause. He says he could sell out a print run like that!” And here Edward snapped his fingers. “Money in it for you, of course,” he said, eyes lowered, as if ashamed of mentioning anything so sordid.
“I wasn’t his aide during the war, you know,” I said. Still, I cast the eyes of memory over my time in the 29th Cumbrian. “There were rollicking times in the canteen, certainly,” I said. “Hijinks galore.”
“No, no, nothing like that,” said Edward. “He wants a sober, considered account of the war, from the point of view of a known but junior officer.”
“Sober? Has he met any officers? Does he think his clientele have not?”
Edward gave me a reproving look. “Freddie said, ‘Those who don’t know don’t need to, and those who do don’t care to be reminded in public.'”
I had to admit the justice of that. “But,” I said, “that’s going to give me a bit of a cramp, so to speak.”
“Never mind about that. Jane has ordered tea to be provided for you in the Library; you won’t be bothered there now that Amelia is living in Toulouse. Off you go.”
So here I sit, Armand, wondering what I can possibly say that the Cumbrian people should wish to read, and making up titles. The Defeat of the Maréchal by Lt. Montjoy. (Boring.) Despatches from Provençe: The Maréchal’s War. (Also boring, and untrue as I didn’t write any despatches.) The Worm, Turned. (Less boring; possibly too obscure. Also too mild for the subject.) Fighting The Cochons. (Might be mistaken for a history of the Provençese Pig Wars; also, not very diplomatic.) A Leg for the Maréchal. (Heartfelt, but possibly too morbid?) Not a Fig for the Maréchal. (Equally heartfelt.)
It’s all one, of course; Sir Freddie will no doubt slap some dull title on it, like The Malague Campaign: A Lieutenant’s War against the Maréchal.
The worst part is that I can think of a hundred delightful tales about my time abroad with the regiment; and so few of them are suitable for the book Sir Freddie has in mind. All that remains is a bland description of troop movements, most of which I don’t remember all that well. My usual orders were, “We’re heading over yonder, boys. Step lively!”
Edward would like me to spin the tale in short order, so that I might acquire an income and get out from under his feet, but I can see that I shall have to speak with Lord Doncaster before I go very much farther. It’s always best to do some reconnaissance and make sure the ground is clear before proceeding.
Still, Edward is right; it’s a sad thing but sometimes one truly must resort to publishing.
Your newly literary cousin,