Letters from Armorica, 13 Juin 33AF

Dear Mum,

A couple of weeks ago I started to tell you about my job at Suprenant et Fils, and got side-tracked into talking about the local architecture and kinds of timber. It's easy to get side-tracked when there's so much here that's different from an old, established city like Yorke.

S&F is housed in a neat timber-framed building on the Rue du Champs. In the front there is a room with a counter, where a clerk sits to accept orders and payments from the firm's customers. The Guilde du Courriers has a messenger service that runs throughout the city, but as most of the larger merchants and traders are within a few blocks of S&F it is often less expensive (and quicker) to send a boy with a packet or to visit in person than to use the Guild's services.

Because the desk clerk must take in and disburse money it is a position of great responsibility, and as the newest member of the staff I have not yet been entrusted with it for even a few minutes. On the other hand, as a clerk and as a man grown I rank above the office boys, and so haven't had to run any messages. In a way it is a pity, for I should like to learn more about the other merchants in town.

The offices of Mon. Suprenant and the senior clerk are off a hall behind the counter. The senior clerk himself, Mon. Bardot, has been with the firm for many years and resides with his family in a small apartment over the offices. (At least two of the office boys are his sons.) The owner and his family live in a fine house on a shady street some blocks away.

Behind the offices is a large space used as a warehouse, with double-doors opening onto a lane. This is where S&F keeps smaller and more expensive goods: cinnabark, fine hardwoods, blaireau pelts, and the like—the sort of thing worth holding onto until the market is favorable, or too attractive to thieves to keep in the larger warehouse at the port; and also goods for local consumption. There is a locked area with metal bars for the most precious items.

The double doors stand open all day long, and there is a near constant flow of wagons and carts coming by to pick up goods or drop them off; sometimes we have as many as six an hour.

It is my job to stand at a desk near the doors, and note down in a journal everything that comes in and goes out, and the time, and how much, and from whom or to whom, and all such manner of details. I must make all of the notes in ink, and with the greatest of care; if I make an error I must strike it out and initial the entry, and go show it to Mon. Bardot. He is not a hard man, and has been willing to make allowances for my inexperience, so I hate to disappoint him. And so I must concentrate, and think about every letter and number that I note down before I inscribe it. It is surprisingly fatiguing, and I find that I am increasingly grateful to Dad for forcing me to attend to my penmanship. I suppose he won't be much consoled by this, and I suppose you needn't tell him.

Then, at the end of the day when the doors are shut and the night watchman begins his rounds I remove to another desk in the senior clerk's office and update the grand inventory ledgers from my journal. I am also responsible for a card file that gives our whole inventory by type of merchandise, and by owner for goods owned by others that we are waiting to trans-ship.

That is for the goods held in our space here in town; there is a separate set of ledgers and a separate card file for the big warehouse at the port. That is maintained by another young man, Jean Baptiste. We have not had much to do with one another, as he spends his days out at the port and comes into the senior clerk's office only twice a week. What he finds for himself to do at the port, I've no idea; ships are not the same kind of hourly (or even daily) occurrence as the wagons are here in town.

And then, when my work is done I return the ledgers to the shelf and close the card file, and Mon. Bardot locks it all up and goes upstairs for his supper and I return to Madame Truc's for mine.

Your loving son,


photo credit: dlerps Lanes of Green via photopin (license)