Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Great War, Vol. 1, Chapter 6-1

Village of Chateau Ducloux, France. July 28, 1914. Henri was shown into the library at the Perreau house. It was a small room, smelling comfortably of leather and pipe tobacco. The shelves were filled with handsomely bound volumes, and the wood of the shelves glistened with careful dusting and polishing. However, if someone went so far as to pull a volume from it’s place, it proved to have plentiful dust on the top edge. The only reading material that showed actual wear was a rack of magazines relating to Justin Perreau’s two interests: photography and bird watching.

“Monsieur Perreau will be in shortly,” said the maid who had shown him in. “Make yourself comfortable.”

Then she left, shutting the door behind her.

There was only one visibly comfortable chair in the room, a large, worn, leather easy chair. A standing lamp and magazine rack stood on one side of it, the smoking table on the other. It spoke to much time spent in pleasantly reclusive solitude.

Henri sat instead on one of the two wooden chairs facing the desk and set his ledger book down on the desktop before him.

It was some minutes before Justin arrived. At last he burst in, making Henri start, then stopped to shut the door quietly behind him before going to his desk and sitting down.

“I’m sorry to be late, Monsieur Fournier. Mother becomes quite angry if either of us get up before she has finished with her tea.”

Henri shrugged. “You’re my last appointment of the day. I’m at your disposal.”

“Thank you, thank you.” Justin leaned forward and spoke in a lower voice. “What have you found?”

Henri opened the ledger book and laid it open on the desk facing Justin. “As you requested, I’ve conducted a full audit. This page shows the summary of income and assets.”

In neat columns, each of the family’s farm holdings and each of its financial investments was laid out, labeled, valued, and its income and expenses during each of the last three years listed. Writing out this ledger book for his client, all in pen with no mistakes, had been the work of several days, pulling together all of the figures, laying out the table in pencil on a loose sheet of paper, and then copying it carefully into the book. Many hours of interviews were reduced to figures, many hours of calculating figures summarized on a single page, all to provide the client with a view of his assets and income which made it easy for him to understand and make decisions about an estate too complicated for him to easily keep track of himself.

“Really, the estate is in very good condition,” Henri said, once he had run through the entire list, explaining each entry. “However, as you requested, I looked especially for any problems, any failures of management. I have found a few. There are two categories. The first, if I may summarize it bluntly, is that your mother plays favorites among the tenant farmers.”

Justin was nodding eagerly. Henri turned a page in the ledger.

“Here is one of the cases: Victor Morand. Five years ago he had the tenancy of sixty acres and owed you three hundred Francs in back rent. On your mother’s authorization he was given a loan by the estate for an additional five hundred Francs to buy additional equipment, and when Eloy died she gave Morand his tenancy as well, for the same rent that Eloy had paid, even though that was a below market rate due to his age. Since then Morand has fallen behind an additional one hundred Francs in rent, and he’s missed payments on his loan twice. There are two other, similar cases.” He flipped pages in the ledger, showing the summary of each case. “All three I was first tipped off to by other tenants who claimed, with some reason, that they would have been better choices for the additional land. The playing of favorites definitely causes some resentment.”

“And the other category?”

Continue Reading

No comments: