Tonight is Twelfth Night, or L’Épiphanie as my Provençese-speaking fellows call it; and tomorrow Jack will return to Mont-Havre without having formed any attachment to any of the daughters of Bois-de-Bas—and, what is more surprising, without any marked degree of flirting! It is a state of the most vexing, as Amelie would say, for I would truly wish to have him settled close by.
We spoke of it briefly several days ago—briefly, in that way that men have. “Bois-de-Bas is a friendly place,” he said to me. “And it will become a fine one in time. But I’ve hitched my cart to Lord Doncaster, and so I must be in Mont-Havre.” And on an earlier evening when we sat by the fire, just the two of us. “There are two kinds of old soldier, Armand: those who move on to something else, like Sergeant Allen, and those who make their home at the bottom of a tankard. I expect you to make me rich, Armand, and may you succeed beyond my wildest dreams. But if I don’t keep busy, it will be the ruin of me.”
I quite see his point. Myself, I am fully occupied with my designs and my forming, not to mention with the town itself. Jack is not needed at the wagon works, for all that he is (quite justifiably) profiting from them; and just what would he do here? Armorica is not a place for idling, we are too young for that, and if Jack set himself up as a retired gentleman at his age he’d be pitied at best and held in contempt at worst. It is true that he has only one leg, but in Bois-de-Bas such an injury is no excuse for idleness.
Most here in Bois-de-Bas work the land in some way. The easiest route to respectability would be for Jack to buy some land and play the squire, but he would have to actively manage his property to retain the expect of his neighbors; and alas, he was not brought up to that. He is the second son, intended for a military career from his birth. And while my uncle George is indeed a member of the landed gentry, he and Aunt Maggie have been fixtures in Yorke for as long as I recall, and his lands—I cannot even remember where they are—are managed by an agent. Still, Jack could come to it easily enough, if he had a mind to it; he would have no end of help. But so far, at least, the notion holds no attraction.
I can hardly fault him for following his own wishes and desires, not after leaving home in the manner I did. Still, I hope he may settle down, even if it is in Mont-Havre. I suppose the important question is how long His Lordship will stay in Mont-Havre. As governal-general his term will be determined by politics in Yorke, which are no less opaque to me now than they were in my youth; but he has brought his family here, and though he is a peer he is a newly created peer, due to his heroics during the war, and he may establish his house anywhere he chooses. If His Lordship were to settle here, I do believe Jack would remain as well.
But be all that as it may.
I have been hard at work, with Jacques and Marc, designing and forming the courier wagon that Jack will take back to Mont-Havre with him. It is similar to my goatless goat-cart, though larger, and safer to operate, for it has but two controls: a tiller, by which it may be directed, and another which sends it forward and stops it when released. If I were to fall asleep, or have a seizure, or something of the sort, my goat-cart would happily proceed onward until it smashed into a tree; the courier wagon will instead glide swiftly to a halt.
The wagon has a seat in front wide enough for two, should the courier have a companion; and the bed is enclosed, instead of being open, with a door that locks and as much hardening as I could manage. Operation of the wagon depends on the possession of a metal ring, rather like a signet ring; without it the wagon will not move of itself, nor can the freight compartment be opened. The ring I shall give Jack is plain; I imagine that in the future His Lordship will arrange for an emblem for his courier service, and provide us with rings that are so marked.
But all that is for the future. For now, well, we lose Jack tomorrow.