Letters from Armorica- Lessons (4 January 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I have made the most distressing discovery—young Luc does not know how to read and write!

This afternoon, as a break from shaping bed-warmers out of bronzewood, I set him to begin to copy my grimoire. This is how it has always been done: each former has his grimoire, in which he records how to form all of the things he knows how to form. He begins by copying his master's grimoire; and as times goes on he adds his own discoveries, and so the craft progresses. Master Netherington-Coates of the guild house in Yorke once told me that he had copied his grimoir several times, adding notes and amendments to the earlier entries and perfecting the latter ones, and expected to do so several more times over the course of his life. It is sage advice, and I intend to follow it as I can.

My father, perhaps needless to say, did not. When I copied his grimoire as an apprentice, the main body of the book was all in his schoolboy hand. Jealous as he is of protecting his status as a master former, he is far more a politician than a former.

And so this afternoon, I judged it both prudent and merciful to give Luc a rest from shaping bronzewood and from my own windy lectures, and let him get on with making his own copy. I pulled a blank ledger from our store room, that being what was available, and pen-and-ink, and sat him down at his bench to begin.

"This is your grimoire," I said, handing it to him. "And here is mine. It contains everything I know about forming. Over the next few months you will be copying it over; and by the time you are a journeyman you will know what all of it means. Here is pen and ink; best you get started."

I was discussing the news of the day with the gentlemen gathered at the front of my workshop—M. Simard has been helping M. Gagnon to remove the last of the red paint from the Gagnon's front door, and suchlike matters of import—when Old Edouard jerked his head at me and made a pointed glance over my shoulder. I turned to look and found that Luc was sitting on his stool, head down, utterly still.

I walked over to him, quietly as good be, and looked over his shoulder. My grimoire and his own lay open before him. There were no marks on the page; the pen still lay where I had placed it.

"Luc, what's the matter?" I said.

Behind me I heard the door open; I glanced back and saw Jacques-le-Souris waving the other gentlemen through the door into Amelie's shop. He winked at me, and followed them out.

Luc looked up at me, his face the very picture of misery, and shook his head.

"All you need to do is read what's there, and then copy it down. Much of it won't make sense to you, but that is quite all right for now."

He shook his head again, and looked down. It was very strange; I had always found him to be both willing and able to do anything I asked of him.

"Luc," I began, and his shoulders hunched. A thought came to me. "Luc, you do know how to read and write, don't you?"

His shoulders hunched in tighter.

I pulled the stool over from my bench and sat down next to him. "You don't know how to read and write," I said. He made the tiniest little shake of his head.

"How on earth do you not know how to read and write?"

He shrugged. I stopped. I'd known a boy, once, who seemed to be simply unable to learn. He said the words swam around before his eyes. Could Luc be like that? But—

"Luc, what about Bertrand and the other boys. Do they know how to read and write?"

"Some do, some don't, Master Tuppenny. It all depends," he said in a tiny voice.

"On what?"

"On their parents."

I thought about the buildings in the village. The church, our shop, the various houses.

"There is no school here, is there?"

"No, Master Tuppenny," he said, without turning to look at me. "Are you going to send me away now, master?"

"What?" I was quite taken aback. "Send you away? What nonsense! You're my responsibility, young Luc. It's my job to teach you what you need to know to be a former."

"Oh," he said, and I saw his shoulders relax a bit.

I picked up my grimoire, and the pen and ink.

"Put your grimoire away for now; you'll want it later. In the meantime go back to the warmer you were working on. I must go talk to Madame Tuppenny."

And indeed I do, though that will wait until I am done with this journal entry. Mostly I wanted time to think, and to tell Jacques and Edouard and the others that it was safe to return to the comfort of my workshop.

I must teach Luc to read and write, and that will be a challenge. I taught Amelie to read, but her father had taught her her letters and how to figure. She could read and write names of things well enough, or at least recognize them and copy them well enough to keep accounts. And she'd acquired a love of stories from her father's reading to her. Luc hasn't even that basic foundation.

I fear I have been leaving him too much alone in the evenings. I shall have to consult with Amelie as to which of the books we have would be the most exciting for a young boy.

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photo credit: Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel Vintage quill pen illustration via photopin (license)