Letters from Armorica, 14 Août 33AF

Dear Marc,

Things are unsettled here in Mont-Havre, and the future looks bleak. I presume that the news has come to Bois-de-Bas of the troubles we have had from pirates: the Cannondale taken, and other ships missing altogether. M. Suprenant no longer whistles when he comes in in the morning, and my work here is nearly at a stand-still. Indeed, I am nearly at a stand-still, myself, and I hope I may presume on your hospitality if I find I must leave Mont-Havre.

Even my esteemed Madame Truc wears a face of the most long these days. Many of her boarders, her jeune hommes as she calls us (never minding that some are as old as she is) are involved in the shipping trade one way or another. It is as though Mont-Havre has been blockaded, and if it goes on many of us will need to seek other employment. How can she find positions for all of us at once? The burden of this riddle is wearing her down, and the evening meal has become a sad and depressing affair.

It is the worse for her in that most of her jeune hommes are tolerably recent immigrants to Armorica. What happens when a town such as Mont-Havre experiences hard times? The long-time residents pull in their horns and bar their doors, so to speak, and take care of their own; and the newcomers are left to their own devices. It is sad, and most unfortunate for me, but one can't really blame them. But it is a great trial to Madame Truc, who has devoted her life to helping other mother's sons since she has none of her own.

And yet I do not think I shall rush away from Mont-Havre. I am still employed—just—and I wish to hold on to my job as long as I can.

In the mean-time, Governor Francois is organizing what he calls les Observateurs: not a militia, as such, though I suspect that he has some such thing in mind as well, but volunteers to watch the skies. There is much fear that the pirates might stage a raid on Mont-Havre, and with the small boats we are told they used against the Cannondale they could attack anywhere, not just at the port. Sentinel posts are being raised all over town—quite literally posts, bronze wood logs thirty or forty feet in length, set vertically with a ladder and a kind of box at the top. They are high enough that an observer can see to the horizon on all sides, and have an alarm bell in case the pirates are seen.

I have signed up for this service, as you will have guessed, though I do not expect the pirates to do the kind of raiding the governor is worried about; why should they come to Mont-Havre and raid house-to-house when they can take entire ships already full of valuable cargo? But Armorica is my home now, and I want to show willing; and to the side, I think M. Suprenant will be more inclined to keep me on if he sees me working for the security of his family.

Madame Truc is pleased with me, at any rate. My first shift is this evening—fortunately it is not cold this time of year—and she has promised to send me off with a jug of coffee and other provisions to keep me awake and well fed during the long night.

Please do let me know if I may come to you. Be assured, I know that for your part the answer must always be yes; but I am well aware that you are not yet master of your own house. My best regards to Elise!

Your friend,

Armand

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photo credit: Pai Shih Milkyway in a Starry Night via photopin (license)

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