It is a singular thing, but there are no inns in Bois-de-Bas—no place where folks might go of an evening to gather. People gather on Sundays, at the church and in fine weather have Sunday dinner together in the square, and at the hot springs. A few old men often gather at my shop on weekday afternoons. But for the most part, the citizens of Bois-de-Bas do not gather in the evening; or if they do they gather at each other’s homes. As I noted last winter, we do not even have a town hall—unless one considers the hot springs to be the de facto town hall, as I think one must.
Jean-Claude Astreaux tells me—he is one of Jacques-le-Souri’s cronies, and a frequent visitor to my shop—he tells me that it is because of les grand-blaireau and similar creatures. “You forget, you, that this was wilderness not so many years ago. Those who went out at night are no longer with us, n’est-ce pas?” And then, the folk of Bois-de-Bas are sober and hard-working, and not much given to frivolity.
But we still have many young men with us and who have no place to go in the evenings except their rooming houses. Many came during the war, and many have come since; Bois-de-Bas has acquired a reputation. Those of them who wish to settle here—the majority—are still resentful about being excluded from the hot springs on a Sunday. They may go on their own during the week, or on Saturdays, but not at the time when decisions are made. Some few have left in frustration; some few have worked their way into one family or another, much as I did. But there are many others, and a few more arrive every month. As I see it we must make them part of the town or there will eventually be hell to pay. We need a town hall when we can all gather together to make decisions.
I spoke of this to the men of Bois-de-Bas—most of the men of Bois-de-Bas—at the hot springs this afternoon. I was able to get agreement about the town hall; the problem was clear enough last winter, for all love, but you can’t build a great huge barn in deep snow. And that’s really all we need, nothing fancy: just a space big enough for everyone to meet together in bad weather.
“And then, once we have it,” I went on, “we might use it for the occasional dance or celebration. I know we are in the habit here of spending our evenings at home—but, you know, no one has seen a grand-blaireau in this region for many, many years. Well, except for the beast we found on the island during the War, and as his pelt is now on my bed I think we needn’t worry about him.”
There was a bit of muttering at this, for folks here tend to socialize in certain set groups. I would not have been accepted the way I was if it weren’t for my friendship with Marc and Elise Frontenac and my marriage to Amelie, aided by my willingness to work with goats without complaining and my activities during the war. Which is another reason why the hot springs are so important, of course—it’s the one place that all of the men and women of the town have traditionally met as equals.
But I think having public dances and celebrations are necessary to the future of our town. The newly-arriving men must meet people; especially they must meet young women, so that they can marry and settle down. This is what most of them are seeking, after all, and yet there is so little opportunity for it today. The only ones who have married so far are those who have met an eligible daughter in the course of their work. I did not mention this concern to the men at the springs, however.
The women must agree with the building of the town hall, of course, but Amelie and Elise Frontenac attended to that this afternoon. Now the husbands and wives must confer, and likely there will be further discussion of details this coming Sunday; but I rather expect that a site will be chosen and the building will be erected in proper barn-raising fashion in the next few weeks.
Now if only we had an inn or tavern as well.