Today was the wedding of Jean-Baptiste and Brigitte. It was a quiet affair, beginning at the church in Bois-de-Bas and continuing at the home of Brigitte's family, and not at all fancy, even by the standards of Bois-de-Bas. Jean-Baptiste and Brigitte wore the clothes they stood up in, and though there was great joy there was little cheer in the way of food and drink.
Times are lean in Bois-de-Bas. We've had no trade with Mont-Havre to speak of since August, when Jean-Baptiste and Madame Truc arrived, or with any town or village in that direction. We have some small trade with the other villages in the new confederation Marc is building—to give it an overly grand name—but they, like we, are on the frontier. They, like we, produce food for themselves and goods needed by the larger towns, and they, like we, have no market for the latter.
And yet the folk here are remarkably cheerful. I have to remind myself that these are the families who chose a hard life away from the big towns, and not so long ago either. The products of civilization that they currently lack were completely unavailable as recently as ten years ago. They have their ways of making do, and make do they will. They are proud of their self-sufficiency, even if it means keeping these evil Armorican goats.
I can imagine what my father would say about my new friends and how they live, but for my part I am proud of them and glad to be numbered among them.
Amelie and I took time during the day to visit what is left of our shop. Marc and Elise took it over when Amelie came to live with me on L'Isle de Grand Blaireau; and then they were evicted by the Provençese cochons when they garrisoned the village. It has stood empty since we dealt with the garrison. Oh! that was a sad visit! Our friends in Bois-de-Bas (and especially the Gagnon's) did their best to clean it up for us, but the cochons were pigs indeed! Marc and Elise were able to remove Amelie's keepsakes and valuables when they were cast out, and took them to Onc' Herbert's farm, including a cherished drawing of Amelie's mother, but what remained was sorely abused. Several articles of furniture had to be burned, and the soldiers carved rude words and obscenities on the walls and tables. It will take much more work to make it a fit place to raise a family. The soldiers also made free with the goods in the store room. Our neighbors have taken stock of what is left, and assure me that they are keeping track of what they take for their own needs.
Amelie seems far less distressed about it all than I. When I swore at the pigs for their misdeeds, she chided me and said, "They are dead, mon cher. We are not." She is right, of course, and I suppose that surviving in such circumstances is the best revenge.
I do not know what we shall do with the shop when the war is over. Perhaps the settlement on L'Isle de Grand Blaireau will wither when the war is over, having served its purpose, and we will return to Bois-de-Bas. Or perhaps it will become a new village in truth, in which case I think we must remain. But the people of Bois-de-Bas will need a village shop once trade returns.
It depresses me to think of these things—to think of the future. The man in black—he said to call him Mr. Trout, which I am sure is not his real name—left Bois-de-Bas after we spoke, having given me a password and certain instructions that I shall not write down even here, and I dread hearing from him again. The war is a curse, but so long as the war continues I am protected. Le Maréchal cannot afford to spend too many troops on Armorica; he has other cats to whip, as Amelie would say. And my father, well. His reach is even longer than I thought, but even Mr. Trout knows nothing of our island.
But once the war is over, I fear it will go hard for me, whoever it is that wins. I fear the little man is correct: for all our bravery, Armorica cannot stand on its own. Le Maréchal would execute me, and my father would have me back under his thumb.
Could Armorica be truly independent? Our numbers are few, and Provençe and Cumbria are large. My new devices would give us an edge, yet I've no doubt the Guild in Yorke could produce the same if they chose, once they have seen them.
And then…Mr. Trout warned me that the Cumbrian guild would repudiate me if I didn't fall into line. I fear that the Cumbrian guild might repudiate me anyway, once they learn what I've been doing.
I wish Marc were here. I need his counsel and advice, and I dare not commit my concerns to paper.
photo credit: Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel Hogs live out their last days in the “finishing shed,” where they are grouped by weight to give smaller animals a fair chance at food. Original image from Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress collection. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel. via photopin (license)