Monthly Archives: October 2019

Letters from Armorica- A Brief Respite (18 July 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Today I took a brief respite from my labors to attend divine services with the Suprenants, followed by a lovely Sunday dinner. It was life-saving, for I have been living at the Guild Hall and eating my own cooking—a skill I have never acquired, and for which I have no time! I wonder if Bertrand has any ability to cook. I wonder if Bertrand will be coming to help me. I found an arrow from Amelie awaiting me at the Suprenant's today, but it simply said that she understood my instructions and would attend to things in Bois-de-Bas. I take that as a good sign, but not as conclusive, for she will still have to deal with Bertrand's father.

I wonder if I can afford to hire a woman to come in and cook and clean the guild hall.

Mr. Trout thinks I am building models and perfecting my design, and in truth I have built a few models—the sort of thing I made when I first started thinking about flight last year—just so that there is something for him to see should he infiltrate the guildhall in my absence. I have also fashioned a hiding place for you, Dear Journal, of a sort only another former might notice. It wouldn't do for Trout or his agents to find you. I have also put a small amount of money and some papers in the hiding place beneath Master Grenadine's bed; if Trout goes looking he should find something, lest he keep looking!

But mostly I have been trying to work out plausible relationships between Greed and Generosity in formed objects: what Master Grenadine refers to as charité and envie. I have been re-reading him closely, trying to glean anything more that he has to say. But no, there is nothing. He got almost as far as Luc and I have in our observations, and he wrote them down in his highly poetic way; but beyond that he seems to have contented himself with idle speculation.

I wonder…perhaps there is nothing practical in his book because all of the practical applications are in his grimoire? They would be near the end, which I confess I have not read carefully. And, of course, I left his grimoire in Bois-de-Bas. I shall have to send another arrow to Amelie.

I spoke to M. Fournier yesterday, asking for books about mathematics. I should have done so a month ago, when I first thought of it. He had none, alas; as I believe I have noted before, his clientele purchases books to give the appearance of culture, not the appearance of learning. In better days, he told me, he might get me one from Toulouse in a matter of a few months. But it is not impossible, he told me, that there might be one among his acquaintances who is interested in such things, or who knows of such a person. I am to be patient.

In the meantime, I am pondering harmonie. Master Grenadine says that a thing exhibits harmonie if its formed parts exhibit charité and envie to the same degree, and describes harmonie as a blessed state much to be achieved. It is clear that he is speaking of exactly that state of balance between Greed and Generosity that I am seeking. And yet, how is one to know that two parts are in this state of balance without measurement? He doesn't say.

He goes on to wonder whether we might ever form a single thing that exhibits harmonie in and of itself. This is worth thinking on: would this be a hardened block that also warms, a thing formed in two distinct ways? An unusual thing to do, though I'm not sure why; and I don't know whether that would mean forming it in one way, and then, subsequently, in another. Or would it be something else, a new kind of forming altogether, where rather than aiming at a particular Greedy effect and also at a particular Generous effect, one aims at a single Harmonious effect?

I am not even sure that that last idea makes any sense! Indeed, I'm not sure that Grenadine distinguished between different kinds of Greedy or Generous effects.

In the meantime, I have at least managed to procure a balance and a set of weights, and a thermometer, by the simple expedient of telling Trout that I need them. They should arrive tomorrow; and then I can begin to get on with my trials.

Next letter
____
photo credit: National Library of Medicine – History of Medicine E Per Natura E Per Amor Sorelle via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Coercion (16 July 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

It seems that His Majesty's Government has been intercepting my mail to Cumbria, perhaps for the whole time I have been here in Armorica. I now know that the sky-chair plans I sent to my father never reached him, and that I have my master's chain not through any change of heart on my father's part, nor because my aunt forced his hand by speaking with Master Netherington-Coates, but solely through the machinations of Trout and his ilk.

I know this because Trout told me at our meeting that the sky-chair was now a tightly-held secret of His Majesty's Government, that I was not to speak of it to anyone, and that His Majesty was calling on me to, as he put it, "extend and elaborate" my design for the use of the Cumbrian Royal Army.

According to Trout, if anything he says is to be believed, Le Maréchal has fled with 500 men to a benighted land called Guyanão, a place of swamps, giant trees, torrential rainfall, and no roads to speak of. Evidently they are living on the sloops and other small craft by which they fled.

The Cumbrians—I had written "Our troops," Dear Journal, but I have struck it out though it pains me to do so—the Cumbrians, I say, have had great difficulty finding the Provençese forces, for they have nothing suitable for scouting in such an environment. The ground is unfit for foot travel, and though the forest is relatively open under the canopy of the trees, a sloop is not easily maneuvered. Moreover, the place has long been in the possession of the Provençese, and some of the cochons with him are familiar with it. They have exhibited great skill at moving from tree to tree, the better to set up ambushes.

His Majesty, Trout tells, wants sky-chairs, or something like them: something small, maneuverable, capable of carrying one, two, or three men and their weapons: precisely the sort of things I was building and have stock-piled on L'Isle de Grand-Blaireau.

And yet how can I in good conscience build them, knowing what I now know? If the war here in Armorica had continued any longer, my people would have begun to fall out of the sky!

My one salvation at this time is that Trout is not omniscient. He knows that I dropped out of sight for a time during the war; he doesn't know where I was, and he doesn't know how successful I was. He thinks the plans I sent my father are a possible design, a speculation still to be confirmed: a ploy, in fact, to try to get back in my father's good graces, as if I had ever been in them in my entire life. A ploy, but a plausible one, and of sufficient potential value that I am ordered here to Mont-Havre to perfect it. I am grateful that he knows no more than that: for if he knew that I had already succeeded I am sure that I should have already been spirited away to some benighted place, there to labor for the Royal Navy until Trout should find it prudent to let me go.

I must determine how to balance greed and generosity in my designs, how to build robust sky-chairs, sleds, and wagons—for I will not send men like Jack to their deaths at my hands. If only I had more time! But I have no choice in the matter: for it seems that my mastery has not yet been registered with the Guild in Mont-Havre.

"It pleases His Majesty's Government that you should be considered Grand Master of the Guild here in Armorica, and so there will no trouble, no trouble at all, Master Tuppenny," so he told me. The phrase, "just so long as you cooperate," went delicately unsaid. If I balk, His Majesty's Government may choose to see me as an imposter, as a rogue former pretending to a rank he does not possess—and by guild law, all my property would then be forfeit to the Guild in Yorke. Amelie would be destitute—or worse, the region around Bois-de-Bas would rise against Yorke as they did against Toulouse, and I not there to help them.

Trout thinks it desirable that I be visible in Mont-Havre, meeting occasionally with my friends—distressingly, he knows all of their names—but it is clear to both of us that I cannot do the work he requires at the Guild Hall, not once I get to the stage of practical models. I have told him that I must have a secluded place, open to the sky, where I may make trials unseen. He proposed a building with a courtyard here in the city; but, I told him, how was I to determine maximum velocities in a space of small compass? I proposed a farm, secluded, yet close enough to Mont-Havre that I can make regular visits, and with fields broad enough that one can get up a good degree of speed without fear of crashing.

Truly, of course, I simply want the space! For I will need to greatly accelerate the program of research that Luc began, and I must have space between the individual trials. Until I have it, I can do little but stew whilst making a show of things.

O Lord, help me in this time of trial!

Next letter

—-
photo credit: Sergei_41 these hands… via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Fire (16 July 35 AF)

First Letter

My dearest Amelie,

The news is not good, and I am glad that you insisted on remaining in Bois-de-Bas, especially in light of your condition. Indeed, I only wish I could be sure I might return home before the baby is due in October.

At noon today I arrived at the appointed inn for a meal with Cousin Jack—and there I found not him, but rather Mr. Trout—the little Cumbrian man who brought me my master's chain last October. I have not said much about him to you—for your own safety, for he frightened me—but now I believe I must tell you that Trout is an agent of the King, or, at least, of some dark chamber within His Cumbrian Majesty's government. He brought me my chain of office, but would not relinquish it to me unless I promised to carry out any orders he might give me during the course of the war. He made dire threats, and I was forced to acquiesce in order to receive my chain and so my office, from which I hope so many blessings will come for you and our children.

But little came of it, for the war ended here in Armorica shortly thereafter; and Lord Doncaster was able to come to Mont-Havre and take control with no help from me. At that time I had dared to hope that I had seen the last of Trout. But here he was at table in the little private room to which I was brought, in the same subfusc lawyer's garb he'd worn in Bois-de-Bas.

"Trout," I said. "I suppose it was always you I was to speak with, and not His Lordship."

"Indeed, Master Massey."

"The name is Tuppenny."

"As you wish." Trout is hard to read—he has no expression, and the glass in his square spectacles is thick—but I thought that I amused him.

"Where is my Cousin Jack?"

"Your cousin is a man who knows how to obey orders, Master Tuppenny. As, so I shall continue to presume, are you."

I suppose I mustn't say too much about what followed: Trout is no man to cross, and though he made no overt threats he did inquire after your health. We have friends; see that you keep them close. In particular, seek help from Jean-Baptiste and Brigitte!

Trout tells me that the fighting is going well in Provençe. Le Maréchal's forces have been broken and Toulouse has been captured. But Le Maréchal himself is still at large. To point not too fine a point on it, he has fled with a small but sturdy force, and has taken refuge—somewhere. Somewhere difficult. I am told that my skills are required.

I believe I will be allowed to stay here in Mont-Havre for the time being, working at the Guild Hall. I hope I will need to roam no farther than that—his Lordship will provide materials, and I shall provide the forming. I could use Luc here, but I think he will be more valuable in Bois-de-Bas tending our investigations. If he discovers anything of interest please send it on—it may be crucial. In the meantime, though, I do need help from someone I can trust. Would you please have Marc speak to M. Laveau? I should like him to send young Bertrand to me.

There is more I wish I could say; for now, please speak to Marc, for he knows everything that passed between Trout and I last year. You may show him this letter; and then, I suppose, you ought to burn it. Speak of this to no one by Marc!

I am writing this in M. Suprenant's study, and will send it to you by arrow; if you have need to contact me quickly, do reply to me here in the same manner. And do send me more usual news about the shop and our Anne-Marie by M. Suprenant's drovers, as is usual. Everything must seem normal.

I have managed to have a quiet word with Cousin Jack, who I may say is furious at the deception that has been practiced on me. He had no idea of Trout's existence until he was told not to come meet me today. He tells me that Sergeant Allen is one of his men, stout-hearted and a man to be trusted, and no creature of Trout's; and that he is under orders to give you any assistance should you need it.

I shall return to you as quickly as I may; and if anything changes—if, in particular, I am required to leave the city—I will send you an arrow.

In all haste,

Armand

Next letter

____
photo credit: niallstopford via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Smoke (11 July 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Jack,

I should indeed be glad to come to Mont-Havre for a chat with you…but for a chat with Lord Doncaster? Are you sure that's wise? I wrote to you about my dinner with M. Archambault, I know I did. And I have been advised by M. Suprenant, my good friend, to keep clear of politics if I wish to thrive, and not to be seen as associated with either His Lordship or with Le Grand Parlement. I believe he is wise in this. Now, if you wish to put it about that I have been summoned by His Lordship, well. I can but obey.

Oh dear, that makes it sound like I am being balky and demanding written orders. I have heard you speak about that; and I should not wish you to think that I see either you or His Lordship in that light. Very well, I shall come to Mont-Havre, bringing a few articles of comfort to the Guild Hall; and whilst I am there I shall naturally sit down for a meal with my beloved cousin; and you shall make your case. But you must persuade me, Jack.

I must say a few words about your messenger, Sergeant Allen—retired, or so he says. Does he really mean to retire to Bois-de-Bas, or is this simply His Lordship's not particularly discreet way of keeping an eye on me? He shall have to make his own way, Jack, for I don't know him, at least not yet, and so cannot sponsor him. If he truly means to stay here and to open an inn he will find a welcome in the end, I think, but he will have to make his own way.

He has started well, I'll grant him that. He spoke kindly to Amelie, and inquired for a family where he might rent a room, and listened most attentively to the old men who frequent my workshop. And he has been making inquiries as to where he might find the necessities for brewing: kegs, grain, and so forth. That was well-done of him, Jack. He will undoubtedly need to send away for some things, as indeed we all do. But there is much to be had locally, and he will please the townsfolk if he buys it here.

I gather he is a countryman from well south of Yorke, and a twenty-year man, experienced, competent, bold but not brash. He is not overly handsome, but looks quite sturdy; and I may say that the young ladies in Bois-de-Bas have a great respect for sturdy. He might, in fact, do well here if he continues to step carefully.

I think I shall come to Mont-Havre all the more quickly, as the work on our new town hall has entered its next phase. Our men have been felling bronzewood trees for the past two weeks, and will fell the last perhaps the day after tomorrow; and after that they will begin to burn out the stumps. It has been smoky enough these past weeks as they burn the sawdust and trimmings; but nothing burns as smoky as a newly cut bronzewood stump. Nor is there any way to pull it from the ground in one piece!

I asked the cutters whether one might simply build the hall with an elevated floor, and leave the stumps in place beneath. They laughed, and told me that the old stumps would be quite likely to sprout, and we'd soon find our town hall rising into the air. "My uncle tried that nigh on twenty years ago, non?" said one to me. "He built his house over a stump four feet across. Les chèvres! By summer he was living in a tree house." "He had to build a ladder," said another. "And add to it week by week," said a third.

I still don't know whether they were teasing me or not, but yesterday I walked out to the place where it happened, and of a surety I saw the remains of a small house in the top of a tree, at least fifty feet from the ground, with a bit of ladder dangling. The roof and walls were mostly gone, but the bronzewood timbers preserved its shape quite nicely.

And so this week they shall start burning out the stumps. As the town hall site is only a short walk from my home, it is quite unpleasant.

Perhaps I shall bring Amelie and Anne-Marie with me. I am sure that in her condition, Amelie would be delighted to get out of the smoke.

Yours,

Armand

Next letter

____
photo credit: Tim Green aka atoach Tree Stump via photopin (license)