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Chapter 6 - The Alchemist’s Snare by A.J. Hall

From Sarai Benveniste, physician, of Glasstown to John Watson, physician, of Gondal.

Yr last received safe, much thanks. The ills of the season more severe than I have yet known: yr febrifuge has provd its worth already & April barely out. But magister meo — if I might venture the smallest of corrections to one whose learning so greatly exceeds my own — ferns bear fronds not leaves.

The land in heavy sorrow for death of Princess Dow. & my heart oppressd the more as the dissolution of hr betrothal to his Gr. of Gondal means I shall not see you in Glasstown this Sept. & so am forcd to commit to paper that I would & with more freedom confide in personam. Yr delicate enquiry re family & yr kind condolences for loss shews my late troubles have reached yr ears. Happily all now resolvd. Mast. Buccafusca confessd he plannd to scapegoat me from 1st & doubt Mast. Frankland wd have taken my part save for mischief’s sake, if that. I wd have been good as condemnd but trade of murder more like apothecary’s than I hd thought: the nicest of balances required. By inspiration born in the inst. Mast B. lookd to accuse also Mast. Altamount (wine mcht of F&F Bros, a stranger chance-met) & so o’reachd & brought down all. Magister meo from you of all I can not disguise: I still dream of nooses & cellars & even in this sickliest & most stinking season Glasstown’s free air smells pure as snow.

I owe safety, reputation, liberty & all to Mast. A’s wits & my fam.’s constancy & courage. Mast. A. stands out like a white crow in black flock & has a wandering foot — like others I have known — and in that at least wine trade suits him well. Shd he stray N. wch I think not unlike I commend him to you as my friend & greatest of benefactors & doubt not you will find in him all that and more [double underlined].

One unalloyd delight: my nieces are come to live with me, the manor being sold (we pity the purchaser caught between such neighbours! Should he show an instant’s civility to F., Marie and Sir G.will deem it mortal insult & F. is doubtless already prep’d to bring suit for any cause or none.) R. & Jac. included, we are now a household of 8 & of consid. consequence. So magister meo we can feast & house you as you deserve when next you come to Glasstown. Pray it may be soon.

Yr loving friend