It has been far too long since I was last able to write you and send you my love; indeed, between the war with Provençe and other goings on I haven’t been free to write anyone in Cumbria in almost a year. At first I was trying to avoid attracting attention; and then later there was no way to send a letter; and in recent months I have been out of contact with almost everyone. But things have changed, both here in Armorica and there in Yorke, and I have reason to think that this letter will not be unwelcome.
First, give me joy! And give yourself joy, too, for you are once again a grand-mama! Two days ago, on 15 October, my Amelie gave Anne-Marie a sister, a lovely baby girl. We have decided to name her Margaret Elise after Aunt Maggie and Amelie’s good friend Elise Frontenac. I have mentioned Mme. Frontenac to you in the past, though you may not remember; I met her and her husband Marc on the boat here to Amorica—my word, almost three years ago! They have been stalwart friends all of that time, and I owe much of our current health and prosperity to them. But there is a special reason for honoring Mme. Frontenac, and that is that I was obliged to be away in Mont-Havre on business starting in early August until just a week or so ago. Mme. Frontenac has taken good care of my Amelie in that time, and made sure that she wants for nothing.
Oh! There is so much to tell you. I expect you have had some words of me from Aunt Maggie, through Cousin Jack, but I have no idea what you know and what you don’t know. Let me tell it all plain.
When the War broke out something over two years ago, I was obliged to leave my position in Mont-Havre. Marc and Elise, bless them! took me into their home here in Bois-de-Bas. I soon met my Amelie, the daughter of the proprietor of the general store here in town, and we married that December.
Truly, I know it seems a bit of a comedown for my father’s son to wed a shopkeeper’s daughter—but remember that Bois-de-Bois is a small place on the frontier. The general store is the lifeblood of the community, and its owner an exalted personage by local standards! And, well, my Amelie is a dear and a delight, and I know you would love her as I do. I think, given time, she would even manage to charm Father.
After we married I took up forming again in a small way; and on investigating—for Father has always impressed on me the importance of the approval of the Guild—I found to my surprise that I more or less am the Former’s Guild in Armorica. Three formers came here from Toulouse in the early days of the colony, but they returned to Provençe after one was killed by a wild beast. They left behind a small but soundly constructed guild-hall. I wrote home seeking to be granted my mastery, as I believe you may know, and under guild law and with the approval and support of Lord Doncaster, His Majesty’s governor-general for Armorica I am now the grand-master of the Armorican Former’s Guild, La Confrerie des Thaumaturges. You may tell Father that I claimed the grand-mastery and the guild-hall last spring, on my own authority under guild-law and without seeking approval from anyone; that should bring him satisfaction. His Lordship’s approval came later, as Father would say it should.
But I am getting ahead of myself, for I have neglected to mention the War! How clumsy of me, for of course it is the War that has prevented me from writing home as I would have liked to do. It was the War that drove me here to Bois-de-Bas, yes and it followed me here, and we had a time of great confusion. I shan’t say much about it, as I was rarely in direct danger myself; but I served in my way, and in so doing won the hearts of my neighbors. We do not have much in the way of formal government in Bois-de-Bas, being a small place on the edge of things; but at the time of my coming the mayor of Bois-de-Bois, if so I may call him (for no one here ever did) was Marc Frontenac’s uncle, Herbert de Néant. He was a wise and strong man, and my benefactor, but he was tragically killed during the fighting…and to my shock and surprise (and some amount of dismay) my neighbors chose me to replace him. They don’t call me “mayor” either.
It is not a time-consuming task, mind you. I preside over the town meetings, when we have them; and I am the one to whom everyone brings their knottiest problems involving their neighbors. I have not yet had to prove my wisdom by dividing a baby down the middle, but it may well come to that. In the meantime, the front half of my former’s workshop has become a kind of salon for the old men of the town, especially in cold weather. They play chess and tell each other stories that they all have heard a thousand times, and they are literally my council of elders, giving me the benefit of their wisdom whether I ask for it or not.
Among their number is a fellow named Jacques-le-Souris, whom you may remember my mentioning in my early letters home. He was another boarder at Madame Truc’s boarding house, and when Le Maréchal brought war to Mont-Havre and his men confiscated her house to garrison troops in, she and Jacques came to Bois-de-Bas. They are married, now, and live with us, and have been a great help to Amelie.
Indeed, our household has grown alarmingly. In addition to my Amelie and Anne-Marie (and now Margaret Elise as well!), and Jacques and Madam Truc, there is also my apprentice, Luc, a quick and likely lad who will be a great former one day; and also an Armorican goat named Patches of whom I have been inordinately and mysteriously fond—for Armorican goats are distinctly and uniquely unlovable.
And then there is Jean-Baptiste and his wife Brigitte. I first met Jean-Baptiste in Mont-Havre when I worked at Suprenant et Fils. He also came to us because of the war, and being commercially minded has been helping Amelie with the shop while I am away. I expect that in time we may sell it to him, for I am more and more involved with my forming and with the town, and so have little enough time to spare for it, and Amelie’s time is increasingly taken up with our children.
Oh, and I have forgotten to mention young Bertrand, a stalwart lad and a great friend of my apprentice, Luc. Bertrand is not my apprentice, having no talent for forming whatsoever that I can see; and yet I think I shall have to find a lasting place for him. He was of great use to me during the war, and also more recently, and his father insists on treating him like a child though he has proven himself to be a young man.
As you can see, Mum, I have built a new life for myself here; and if my actions with regard to the Guild have earned Father’s respect and approval, well. That’s something I think I never would have done had I remained in Yorke, for we should have always been butting heads. For my part I am surprised at the lessons I learned from him without realizing it, and at the good use I have been able to make of them, and I though I miss you I am quite content to use them out from under his immediate supervision.
Do feel free to share this last paragraph with him. I am quite done trying to please him—and yet I find that I would be glad of his good opinion.
Dearest Mum, I shall try to write more often now that peace has broken out. Please give my best to Aunt Maggie.
Your loving son,