And so it has happened, though it has taken awhile for me to find time to write about it.
It began nine days ago, when the first great storm of the season came blowing through Bois-de-Bas. It came in the afternoon, just as I was finishing my reading lesson with Amelie, with quick flurries of snow flakes in the shop windows and howling winds that made the roof creak. It continued for three days, after which M. Fabré's designs had been well and truly accomplished.
M. Fabré cocked an ear the moment the winds started to blow, and soon took to his bed; and that night, when it was clear that it would not be safe for me to go to the next house, let alone to Onc' Herbert's farm, he called Amelie and I into his room. It wasn't precisely a blessing he gave us, but I think there was a certain satisfaction in it for him. Then he told me to treat his beloved daughter well, and then he lay back on his pillow and told us to leave him. We didn't, of course. Amelie was by his side all through the night, and I was with her at intervals, bringing tea and holding her hand and such-like.
I think that he had been waiting for this storm, and that he truly planned and expected to die in the night, but in the event he did not. In point of fact, he is sitting across the room from me right now, in a chair by the fire. He is wrapped in a warm robe and and he has a warm drink, and he is listening to Amelie read him one of the simpler of the books he was used to read to her. He is weak, and it is much better for him to spend his days by the fire rather than out in the cold storeroom, but he is still with us. And I think he is content.
I remained at the shop for the three days of the blizzard. The second day was Sonnedi; and as we could not leave the house, Amelie and I promised ourselves to each other standing before the fire in the presence of the Holy Things, and made as merry as we could.
And then I continued to remain at the shop. On the first fine day, Étienne rolled up just as I was preparing to walk to One' Herbert's farm for the rest of my things. (I do not think I have mentioned Étienne's name before, but he is the one who drives Onc' Herbert's wagon to and from Mont-Havre, and who has carried my letters for me.)
He was taking advantage of the fine weather to make his last trip to Mont-Havre for the season, and as he was coming he had my paltry collection of things tucked into a corner of the wagon bed. To my surprise, he also wanted to talk business. Once again it struck me that although my promises to Amelie were as private as private could be, made with only the Lord for witness, they were also wholly public. The whole village was expecting and relying on them, and so it seems that I am now considered fit to conduct business on Amelie's behalf. It was a weighty discovery, and I was much moved.
It so happens that I did in fact have some goods for him to carry to Mont-Havre, and some for him to fetch back if he had room (not least a few possessions I'd left with Madam Truc). And he congratulated me on my good fortune, and didn't tease me when I stepped inside for a moment to confer with Amelie, just to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything.
And then yesterday was Sonnedi come again, and as Amelie had foretold we stood up in front the altar in the church, before the entire population of Bois-de-Bas, and there we made our promises again. There was universal satisfaction, and Onc' Herbert kissed me on both cheeks. After that came Sonnedi dinner at the Tremblay's, for which Marc and Elise joined us. It was a great feast, with many folk I had not yet met by name; and then the hot springs, as usual, at which I am afraid I got far drunker than Drunken Jacques. Every man there wished to drink my health, and clearly expected me to drink it with them, and so I did my best. I do not remember anything of the journey back to the shop, nor anything else until I woke up beside Amelie this morning, aching from my head to my toes. Amelie took good care of me, smiling and speaking quietly, and seeming completely unsurprised about my state, as indeed I'm sure she was—but I think I shall not test her patience (or my head) by drinking like Drunken Jacques next Sonnedi.
And so here I am still, with a warm fire before me and Amelie by my side. And here, it seems, I shall stay. Huzzah!