Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.

The Abyss, off Armorica
25 August 1017

Dear Journal,

I have left my new home to return to my old home once again, dragged thither by the bonds of family. I am not an unnatural child; I will truly be glad to see my mother and my cousins. And yet I have so much to do and so much to be at home in Bois-de-Bas. So much that I begrudge even short trips to Mont-Havre. And yet here I am, aboard the Amelie, bound for a minimum of three month’s separation from my family and my business.

Still, I must attend to my blessings. I could have a cramped berth on a standard packet for twice the time—or worse, steerage on the Lombard, as I did when I first came here. Instead I have the master’s cabin on the Amelie, with a wide berth and a proper desk and the freedom of what passes for the Amelie‘s quarterdeck. And time to think and plan! For indeed I have much to think on.

Luc, at least, is happy; though he was properly solemn regarding his new duties, I believe I may safely describe him as over the moon. He had known that he was returning to Bois-de-Bas with Grandmaster Netherington-Coates’ best wishes, and not under any kind of a cloud; and he had known that his mastery could not be more than a year or two away. That it should be given him within days of his return, that he had by no means expected. And that he should be given an official role at the wagon works, that he had not even dreamed.

I had intended a quiet ceremony in the forming shop, with the entire guild—to wit, Bastien, William, and I—in attendance, followed by a festive family meal; but Amelie corrected me as she so often does.

“You are the mayor; and Luc is a man of Bois-de-Bas. More, he is soon to be partner in Tuppenny Wagons, and—zur alors!—Tuppenny Wagons is the biggest thing in town. We will have a party at the Town Hall you worked so hard to build. Leave it to me; Elise and I, we will see to it.”

And so I did. The event was well attended, and when I placed his master’s chain around his neck and announced that henceforth he would be earning his place as a partner at Tuppenny Wagons, there was a roar that shook the roof. Thereafter there was food and drink and dancing, and I saw Luc going round the dance floor with any number of pretty girls but showing excess favor to none.

I mentioned this to Amelie as we passed Luc and his current partner, and she said, “Mais, oui! For so I advised him. He has his eye set, this I know, but he must be settled in his profession before he speaks to her papa.”

“He must have his own house, you mean.”

Bien sur. And with this advance in his fortunes, he will soon be able to afford it.”

“And what of the young lady? Does she get to have an opinion?”

“The game, she knows how it is played,” said Amelie, with utter certainty and a twinkle in her eye; and I remembered how the ladies of Bois-de-Bas had maneuvered me into Amelie’s father’s shop and so into marriage.

“I am sure they will do very well together, just as we have,” I said, and she laid her head on my shoulder as we danced on.

Regarding Mother I have made few plans. I must see her; if possible I shall bring her to Armorica for a visit; and if not I must in any case see her settled and happy. We must surely sell off the house in Norwich Street; I shall never live there again, and I am sure Mother would be happier in a smaller, more cheerful locale. But all that must wait on the event.

In the meantime, I have been making adjustments to the binnacle—a sort of pedestal by the Amelie‘s wheel that contains her compass. I have mounted upon it a device that looks rather like a shepherd’s crook. The shaft of the crook is held by a bracket on the side of the binnacle, and the crook is positioned so that the point of the crook’s hook is centered about a foot above the center of the compass. To this point I have fastened a short string; and on the other hand of this string there is a yellow disc of formed wood about the size of my palm.

This disc came from the same log of wood as the rather larger piece I sent to Cousin Amelia some months ago; and it is most gratifying to see it hanging over the binnacle, and what’s more hanging well out of true in the direction in which the compass says we shall find Toulouse.

I knew it would, of course, as I’ve had it suspended in my workshop for some months; I was able to track the progress of its companion block to Toulouse by the angle of its string. But I love it when a design comes to fruition for the first time.

Master Carcasonne, the man Tuppenny Wagons pays to manage the Amelie, has been suitably impressed. “I am not ready to rely on it, vous connez,” he told me after our first few hours of flight. “I trust my charts and my calculations, moi. But if it holds true for the next month, alors! That will be a thing!”

I have not told him yet, but in my cabin I have a second disc, a green one, whose companion block is mounted by the Amelie‘s berth at the wagon works. I have no wish to dispense with Master Carcasonne’s services; but I am glad to know that in the event of some catastrophe I shall still be able to find my way home.

Next letter.


Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash

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