My Dearest Reggie:
I see that I have once more broken the first rule of home front correspondents. I have worried you. No need for you to worry any longer. Firstly, Wong Lee and I have returned home, and there is no tong war in the offing. It turns out that even east coast "men of respect" have their limits. Our friend was delegated to break the news to his acquaintance that even his closest relatives had no time for malingering. There was a war on, and all he was being asked to do was tour and sing, something which he had taken on as an amazingly lucrative career, and he should get on with it.
Regrettably, men of respect only respect strength. Someone had to be seen to pay for encouraging the young man's selfishness, which is why I arranged an arrest even before D-Day brought this to a head. You will, I am sure, have heard of that. What you may not have heard is that the case is quite thin. The arrested fellow has been an irritation for so many reasons that I do not feel the least guilty about moving forward, even though it is likely that this will degenerate and require even more extreme measures.
Well, that was a terrible attempt to lighten the mood! You may have heard that with school out, "Miss V.C.'s" research trip to Monterrey went ahead. Certain papers were seen that supplement the annals of old Monterrey, and I had an interesting conversation with the young lady on her return. She confirmed in the Santa Clara university library that Maquinna's daughter, Maria Jesus de Nutka, arrived in the old town in 1794, attended school in Santa Clara, married into an old Californian family, and had descendants. The portfolio at Monterrey added information about the "prince of Nootka" who accompanied her, of which of course I need tell you nothing, and led her to a family name (besides, obviously, her own, as she would have to be dense not to see the similarity) --and so, of course, back to the county records and to a reference to that old map in the family papers from the 1871 lawsuit.
"Do we still have it?" She asked. I did not see the point in denying it. It is not outside the realm of possibility that she will still need it. So I produced it from Grandfather's papers, seeing much else that I had forgotten for years, and waxing nostalgic.
"1820 is awfully old for a house in these parts, especially such an Oriental-looking one," she observed from the date on the map. I shrugged. Even in those days there were wealthy sea captains in the Bay, involved in the tallow and coastal fur trades, I pointed out. And Chinese styles were in fashion in those days.
"Why is the name written in Chinese?" She asked. I shrugged again. I pointed out that the building was erected by Chinese artisans, and that this version of the property map had been drawn by one of them. "It means 'Arcadia,'" I said. No point in bringing up the awful Hilton book. Did you know that the Lady wanted to complete the estate with a pagoda on the south ridge? Imagine what our neighbours would think if we completed the bequest!
"Et in Arcadia Ego," "Miss V. C." said. I started, and had difficulty controlling my expression. I had had no intention of feeding that clue to her. But it turns out that she was just quoting some snatch of popular writing. "It's an odd place to find Chinese carpenters," she continued.
There were not many other places to find them around the Pacific in those days, I observed. Arcadia was quite a sight. I am just glad that it was never reported by someone whose reminiscences went into print --at least, not into print in a fashion that the good fathers of the Mission were not as eager to see suppressed as was Grandfather. So many things were lost in the Earthquake....
"Is that why Meares brought Chinese carpenters to Nootka? And no-one ever says what happened to them."
You would be so proud of the artful way that I let my face slip at this point. What can I say? I shall be in Vancouver inspecting the refit, and it is a beautiful summer, I have a line on good tyres, Vancouver Island is beautiful at this time of year. and I can probably find an elder who is willing to lead her down the next step on this little journey of discovery of hers.