Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.
22 August 1017
I have just received word that my father has passed away, and that my mother is greatly in need of me. I have heard this from my mother, on eight ragged and tear-stained pages; from my aunt, who feels my mother should have more sense; from my cousin Amelia, who wishes to see me for her own reasons; and from John Netherington-Coates, who has returned my journeyman Luc to me in hopes that I will give Luc his mastery and let him get on with the business here while I return to Cumbria to deal with my mother.
I am unsure why John is so concerned with my mother’s well-being, but I have my suspicions. He is unmarried, and was perhaps my father’s rival in more ways than one.
Without Luc’s return it would be unthinkable that I should go. With Luc, alas, it is unthinkable that I should not, however difficult it makes things here. At least I can take the Amelie and arrive after a decently short interval of time!
I broached this with my Amelie, and as usual received by the best of good counsel.
“Of course you must go, n’est-ce pas?” she said at once. “Ta mere, she needs you. But then you will bring her back her for a visit, and to see our daughters, non?”
“I am not at all sure she will come,” I said.
“She will come,” said Amelie. “Have you not her petits-enfants? So that is settled. Now we must think on Luc.”
“Yes, we must give him his mastery,” I said. “You must prepare a celebration—he is the first Armorican to become a master in the guild.”
“A celebration, oui, but you are très erroné. For you were made master here, and are you not Armorican?”
I had intended to continue with “wasn’t born here,” but Amelie forestalled me with a firm look.
“Maman Truc, is she not Armorican?” she said.
And there are I had to admit defeat, for of course Madame Truc was not born here either, and it is impossible to think of anyone more Armorican than she.
“But the celebration, bah. It will happen. I speak of l’entreprise.”
“You mean the wagonworks? What of it?”
“They will depend solely on Luc, n’est-ce pas?”
“While I am gone, yes, they will.”
“And he will be a master in the guild, non?”
“Of course he will.”
“Then Luc must be a partner.”
“A partner! But he is just a boy!”
“He is un l’homme, clever and hardworking. He must have a share. It may be a small share, but he must have it. Or poof! He will move to Mont-Havre and work there. He will be a master, oui. He need not obey you.”
“He must obey guild law, but yes, I will have little control over his movements.”
“And you wish him to be your successor, oui?”
“You know I do.”
“Then keep him close! Reward his skill! He will be wanting to set up his own household soon, I am thinking.”
“His own household—”
But I arrested that thought. Yes, he was young, young especially to be a master. But he had the skills, and yes, I had long intended that he should receive the guild from my hands in times to come.
And yes, he had grown while he was in Yorke. He was more self-confident, and a bit taller. He’d never be brawny, but more than one young lady had come by the forming shop to welcome him back.
“Very well,” I said. “I shall discuss it with Marc and Leon, and if they agree we will give him a small share.”
“What? But you said—”
“You will let him earn that share. Each month a little more, until finally he is a full partner.” She nodded firmly. “Then it will be truly his.”
“And he will always be ours. I see.”
“Mais oui!” she said. “How could you not?”
So there is much to do in the next few days. I must confer with Leon in Mont-Havre, and with Marc, here; I must give Luc his mastery with all due ceremony and celebration, and acquaint him with the full range of his duties in my absence; I must kiss my daughters and promise them new books on my return; I must see to the affairs of Bois-de-Bas. And then I must go, with all speed.
Photo by Digital Content Writers India on Unsplash