My dear M. Fournier,
I am delighted to hear from you, mon ami. And I am even more delighted to learn that you have a new stock of books from the publishers in Yorke, for I must tell you I am in dire need of Cumbrian literature!
Yes, the word “dire” is a strong one, but nothing else will suit the case. For I am to tell you that I have two young apprentices here, Luc and Bastien, and between them they have devoured all of the books we have available to us.
It is Luc who is doing most of the actual reading, mind you; for Bastien is still learning to read and speak Cumbrian, though he is proceeding apace. Such a surprise he was to me! My Amelie found him for me; he was to be a help for me around my shop, and something of a guard. I feel quite strange using that term, “guard,” but you will remember what happened to me last year—no, my goodness, almost two years ago now!—when that man Trout abducted me for use in some scheme against the Crown. And so I have been advised by His Lordship to take precautions.
And so my Amelia found me Bastien, who is a bastion in truth: tall, broad, taciturn, and devoted—and possessed, I was surprised to learn, of a mind and a talent quite at odds with his stolid appearance. I found Luc reading to him and beginning to teach him the Cumbrian language, and discovered that Amelie had found me not only a guard and a helper, but a new apprentice.
But you can see my problem. Luc and Bastien are eager to learn, but they have read everything we have, in both Provençese and Cumbrian. Aye, and they have re-read all of it as well!
And now you tell me that you have expanded your stock of Cumbrian books immeasurably, and I could not be more pleased. I believe you know what you have sent me already; I should be delighted to receive anything new. And not just works of fiction, though I admit I should like to renew my acquaintance with Becker’s Banister novels, but also anything you have about the natural and philosophical sciences, and especially about mathematics! I shall teach them forming myself; but I would not have them ignorant of anything in the world.
Please, also send us such Provençese works as seem good to you. Many of my people here in Bois-de-Bas are more comfortable in Provençese than in Cumbrian—some hardly speak two words of it—and so I must improve my grasp of it. And besides, it makes Amelie happy for me to read to her in her native tongue.
I suppose—I suggest this with the greatest diffidence—that you might arrange to send me some volumes from M. Harte’s stock as well: something more adventurous and exciting than Dorchester Cellars. If you can find some that are not too lurid, you know. For boys will be boys, and though I know that Luc will struggle manfully through the Banister novels, asking me countless questions, I should like to able to hand him something more restful—for both of us. Something by M. Lapin, perhaps, or another writer of his ilk? I read him in translation, as a boy, and I admit I should like to meet D’Artisan in his own language. “One for all and all for naught!”
Dreaming of swordplay, I remain,