Ma chére Amelie,
Marc and I have just returned from a private dinner with Lord Doncaster and my cousin Jack. All is well, and as I know you are waiting with ‘bated breath I am taking a few moments before bed to write to you. Tomorrow I shall attend on M. Suprenant and send this to you by arrow.
Ma chérie, all is well, all is very well indeed. I fear I have misjudged His Lordship rather severely, and in fact the meal was full of surprises for me. But let me tell it as it happened.
Marc and I arrived in Mont-Havre two days ago; the trip was swift and comfortable, and I have a list of interested customers that I gathered along the way. We made haste to meet with M. Gauthier and give him a copy of the town charter, which was the work of but a moment. We dined with M. Suprenant, and yesterday with my good friend M. Fournier; and this morning a messenger brought an invitation to dine with His Lordship to the Guild Hall.
Dinner with the Governer-General is often a grand affair: an enormous dining room, a long table with many chairs, footmen serving each diner, music, chandeliers sporting hundreds of candles, and all of the leading men of Bois-de-Bas in attendance. Tonight, though, we were escorted to a small room with a table set for four where Jack and His Lordship waited. We were seated, and a single footmen served us and then closed the doors and departed.
Once we was gone His Lordship asked us, in “a voice of the most stern”, what we thought we were playing at. I began to explain our reasoning, and my desire to live and work in Bois-de-Bas, and all of the arguments you know, and as I spoke I noticed a most peculiar expression on His Lordship’s face. His mustache almost seemed to be twitching, and I thought to myself, “How angry is he?” The twitching grew worse, and Jack stared at his plate with a fixed, glassy-eyed expression, and I grew more and more concerned, and then as I was wrapping up His Lordship burst into gales of laughter.
“You have no idea,” he said, drying his eyes after many long moments of merriment, “you have no idea how much pleasure I have derived from watching the members of le Grand Parlement scurry hither and thither like crazed mice. Most of them are merchants or have mercantile interests, you know. A third of them are calling down curses on your name because of what they fear you will do to business here in Mont-Havre, another third are angry because they didn’t think of it first, and all of them are consulting with their men of law to ensure that no one can do it again without their approval. I find I must drink your health.”
And he did so, in bumpers. Then he spoke to me seriously.
“My dear Tuppenny, you have misjudged me. I do not wish to constrain you unduly, but I do wish to keep you safe. You are the only one who knows how to form these contraptions of yours, which are of the first importance for Armorican prosperity, and also, though you might not care as much about this, for Cumbrian supremacy over her enemies; and you have been the target of one plot already.”
“Oh!” I exclaimed. “Is that all? In that case I can assure you that I am in no danger in Bois-de-Bas—less so than here in Mont-Havre, I assure you.” And then, of course, I told him of the events of the war: how Le Maréchal’s men tried to winkle me out of Bois-de-Bas, and how the folk of Bois-de-Bas responded. I did not go into detail about the location of our hide-out during those days, but only that we had one; I may have led him to think that it was underground. It is better that L’Isle de Grand-Blaireau remains a secret.
His Lordship enjoyed the stories immensely, but afterwards said to me gravely, “I see you are much loved. But consider: people will be coming to Bois-de-Bas now, people you don’t know. Some may come to love you as well. Others, well, they may have reasons not to do so. I do pray you will be careful.”
Perhaps, ma chérie, you might consider hiring someone? A largish someone to help with loading and unloading wagons and moving things about the store-room, and to ride with me when I travel to and from the wagon-works? You know the young men of the village; you will be well able to find someone worthy of trust.
Marc and I will dine with M. Suprenant tomorrow, and leave for Bois-de-Bas on Mardi, and so I should be home with you on Mercredi
With all my love,