Straight Talk

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

13 Norwich Street, Yorke, Cumbria
2 October 1017

My dear cousin Amelia,

Two nights ago I had the pleasure of dining with your parents and brother. My mother was also in attendance, but I fear I must in honesty say that it was no pleasure. Still, I think it was good for her. I do not know what matter Mama and Aunt Maggie found for discussion in the drawing room while Jack, Uncle George, and I sat over the port; but I do know that we did not join them until Aunt Maggie sent a footman in to summon us.

Mama was drawn into herself during our ride home, and remained so through the day yesterday. It seems that a sister may say things to a grieving widow that a son cannot; and make them stick, too.

“What will become of me now, Armand?” she asked me this morning over the toast and marmalade. There was worry in her voice, a worry that perhaps was the source of her earlier lamentations.

“That is up to you, Mama.”

She cast her eyes down at her plate, toast in one hand and spoon in the other, and made a great business of spreading marmalade; but at last she said, “I visited with him, you know, Armand. Your father, I mean. I went every day to the guild house and sat with him.”

She look up, eyes bright.

“He didn’t always remember me, but he was always delighted to see me. It was as though we were young again, and courting.” She laid down the toast and the spoon, and brought her napkin to her eye. “Those were good days, Armand. Those were very good days.”

“I am glad of it, Mama—glad that you were in peace with one another at the end.”

She nodded. “But what shall I do now? I do not wish to live here on my own, with no one about but the servants.”

“You have choices, Mama.” I said. “There is money enough for you to live here on your own, should you choose to do so. We might find you a smaller, more cheerful place to live. Or, you may come and live with Amelie and I, and with your grandchildren.”

“Can you not bring your Amelie and your daughters here to live?” It was not a plea like that of the day I arrived, with tears, but a question filled with quiet sorrow.

I shook my head. “I have gone both up and down in the world, Mama. I am grandmaster of the guild in Armorica. I am a man of business there, a business that cannot function without me. I am one of the leading men in Bois-de-Bas, and my Amelie one of the leading women. But it is a guild that at present consists of but two masters, a journeyman, and an apprentice. Bois-de-Bas is no longer a village, but it is not yet even a large town. My Amelie is my joy and my delight; and she is a shopkeeper’s daughter and a shopkeeper herself.” I shrugged. “Amelie will not leave the shop that her father built and that she runs so well to come and be idle in Yorke. Nor will I ask her to do so. My life is there, now, Mama.”

She looked down at her toast.

I rose from the table. “Whatever you choose, I will do my best to help you. And now, I fear, I must attend upon Wackspallen.”

Wackspallen had little enough to say, but that he would be glad to see to the selling of this house should my mother wish it; and when I left him I was glad to spend an unfettered few hours arranging for Cumbrian books to be shipped to Armorica, followed by a leisurely lunch with Jack.

When I returned home for tea, I heard Mama laughing; and found her sitting with John Netherington-Coates in the drawing room. He had been telling her stories of his current crop of apprentices, and as I entered the room I heard her say, “Yes, Armand was just like that, when Burlington’s eye wasn’t on him.”

I do not know as yet what she will choose, Amelia; but the difference between this and her demeanor when I arrived is as night and day, and I have resolved to present your mother with a bouquet of roses tomorrow morning.

Clearly I cannot leave for Armorica until she has made up her mind, and I have attended to any consequences; but I believe I can promise to come see you as early as next week.

Your affectionate cousin,


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Photo by Elena Leya on Unsplash

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