A Letter From Chrétien de Rochefort

Unto my dearest father, Sir Waldhart de Rochefort, from your son Chrétien.

Greetings and well wishes for your good health.

I send sincerest apologies for this delay in writing unto you, but I was uncertain of several things, firstly where to obtain paper and pen, then whence to direct the letter, and finally by what means it was to be sent.

My cousin Samanthe has been most helpful in all these things and in so many other ways. She hath, at times, a look almost of my sweet Madeleine about her face. It is in her smiles that I recall my daughter.

I am well pleased to dwell here with my cousin Samanthe and to protect her from our enemies. But I forget myself. It is by the name “Sam” that she doth prefer to be addressed.

You asked to hear of my adventures in the land of Californie, and they are many, I assure you, dear father. Although perhaps none can compare with the voyage over the seas in the great airoplane. (I am uncertain of the spelling of the word.)

But greater wonders awaited us when we arrived at the port of the airoplanes in l’Amérique! The people of this land drive about in over-large carriages—but I forget. These are not wonders to you, my dear father.

Shall I speak of those things pertaining to the manor house perhaps? Firstly, there is a great pool of water kept always clear as a goblet of vin blanc. I am told that it is wholesome if consumed accidentally, but I have no wish to ascertain the truth of this. The water, while clear in appearance, hath an odor which is not pleasing to mine nose.

Ah! But I forget. I am to say “my” nose, and not “mine” nose. There are subtle differences in the language of the Americans, when compared to that of the anglais nobles with whom I spoke at the court of my king.

I must learn to say “haz” and not hath. Also, they do not use “doth” hereabouts, methinks. Perhaps those living in England use it, but those in Californie do not. Instead of asking my cousin if she doth wish to walk, I must ask if she “duz” wish to walk.

(I have not made certain of the spelling of these new words, so perhaps I have them amiss.)

Three days ago, I was enrolled in the school which Samanthe doth attend. I am to take instruction in histoire, in mathematics, in literature, in the science of biology, and in other courses for which, you will forgive me, I have not learned the proper names.

These subjects were not studied in the France of the Roi Soleil. I am told, moreover, that I must learn to drive a “car,” which is their uncouth name for the carriages operating without horses.

Here is a thing which will amuse you, mon père. This night they prepare festivities marking a saint with whom I am not familiar. Saint Groundhog, I believe Samanthe did call him. At these festivities, I am to be introduced into the society of Las Abuelitas, as a sort of honored guest. It is all rather embarrassing, but I do not wish to distress mine hosts, so I have agreed that all shall be as they desire.

Mademoiselle Gwyn hath been—haz been—most eager to instruct me in the methods of dance practiced in this land. I find them uncouth. But when I tried to show her what proper dancing looked like, she merely laughed and forbad that I should dance in such manner.

This, after all the pains Louis my king was at to instruct the court in the arts of dancing and war. It would seem that no one who studies war now studies dance. How, I wonder, do they train their bodies to be always in a disciplined state? Louis would never have believed it possible to study war and not dance!

I have recollected a final thing that will amuse you: the mother of the household, Madame Sylvie, doth attempt to speak to me in French from time to time. This morning after I sneezed, she said, “Blessez-vous!” I had not the heart to tell her that she had just requested that I harm or wound myself.

I shall write to you again when I am able. Your most humble and loving son,

Chrétien Fitzwaldhart de Rochefort