Monthly Archives: April 2019

Letters from Armorica- Goat Handles (9 February 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

It is now deep winter; the snow is piled high around the houses, we live by lantern light all the day, and we visit each other by walking through tunnels in the snow. Only when we get out of the village proper can we travel about up in the light—when the day is fine, which often it isn't, and so mostly we don't. There's not much to do: we get few deliveries for the shop this time of year, having to make do with what's in store (which is why we have such a large store-room). My forming work is easy, being limited only by the raw materials I have at hand and my own know-how, so I am busy enough; but for the most part we in Bois-de-Bas spend our time working on small things and visiting each other to complain about the weather.

As a result, my crew of older men who play checkers and gossip in the front part of my workshop is if anything larger in bad weather than in fine, though it takes them a little longer to gather. If I go down first thing I can usually count on having the workshop to myself for an hour or so, except for Luc asleep under the bench.

I was much taken aback, then, to enter my workshop this morning and discover that the pot-bellied stove in the front of the shop was already quite hot (for we bank it at night); and not only that, the settee was occupied by a reclining form wrapped in a blanket. We do not lock our doors at night in Bois-de-Bas, so anyone might have entered in search of shelter, and welcome to it; but why not come to the front door? The settee is comfortable enough to sit on, for a hard wooden bench, but I should not like to sleep on it.

The figure roused as I entered, and sat up; and I found that it was Jacques-le-Souris. The freshly married Jacque-le-Souris, who should have been in bed in quite another part of the house altogether with his new bride, Madame Truc.

Though I suppose she is no longer Madame Truc, but to call her Madame Le Souris is unthinkable (Madame not being mouse-like in the slightest) and also wrong, because "le-Souris" is only a nick name. In fact, I have just this minute realized that I do not know what Jacques' full name really is. How odd.

For a man who had spent at least part of the night on a wooden settee, Jacques looked surprisingly cheerful.

"Eh, I know, Armand," he said placidly. "It is her way. Back in Mont-Havre, you remember, she would send me down to a lower spot at the table when she was displeased with me, or cast me out altogether for a day or two. Now, all she can do is make me sleep somewhere else." He shrugged. "We are who we are, even now that we are married. C'est bon."

"But what did you—never mind, Jacques. Best you return to bed, before Amelie rises. Perhaps Madame will have forgiven you by now."

He nodded, and gathering his blankets about him he made his way from the room as dignified as a prophet.

After that I rousted out Luc and sent him to go feed Patches the goat, snug in her new pen, and got to work. We broke our fasts an hour or so later, when Amelie rose, and it was late morning before I realized how quiet my workshop was. Luc was in the main shop for his lessons with Amelie; Jacques was presumably still in bed; and none of my other gentlemen had appeared.

What could be keeping them? Had the snow tunnel to our porch collapsed? It had been a cold, quiet night, with no new snow, so far as I could tell. I went to the front door of my workshop to take a look, and when I opened the door, I found Patches the goat reclining on the porch with her back to it. She looked up at me with her weird goat eyes and made that horrible rasping noise she makes; and then, to my horror, begin to get to her feet. I slammed the door.

"Luc!" I called.

"Oui, monsieur?" came his voice from next door, followed by the sound of footsteps. He opened the door from Amelie's shop and stuck his head through.

"Luc, did you leave the goat pen open?"

His eyes got big.

"O non, monsieur. Jamais! Patches, she is fierce!"

"She is also on the porch. Go get your gear and take her back to her pen."

He took a deep breath. "Oui, monsieur."

That was one mystery solved, but several more in its place. First, how was Patches getting out of her pen? Second, how to keep Patches in her pen? Third, how to keep her from terrorizing my neighbors when she did get out?

I sat down on the settee by the pot-bellied stove, and pondered. I'd been considering the problem as a sometime keeper-of-goats; perhaps it was time to consider the problem as a master former.

Perhaps I could harden her pen in some way, to prevent her from doing whatever it was she was doing to escape? But more importantly, since locking down the pen was liable to involve much trial-and-error, how could I mitigate her nasty horns and highly abrasive coat in the meantime, so that she would less of a danger to the clothing, skin, and flesh of anyone who mer her unprepared?

The second being the more pressing problem, I found some scraps of leather and got to work; and by early afternoon I'd found a solution. I called Luc, we both donned our protective gear, and we went out and measured her. We escaped bruised but otherwise unharmed. Then I got busy with shears and Amelie's heaviest thread and needle, while perusing a few pages of my grimoire that I had never thought to actually use; and at the end of the day, we dragged Patches back to her pen (for she'd gotten out again) and dressed her in her new garments of hardened leather.

I say "hardened," but that's misleading because I had taken care to keep the leather supple. "Strengthened" might be a better word; or perhaps, "goat proof". Patches now wore a kind of surcoat of leather on her body, attached by hardened straps around her front and middle so that there was no way for her to rid herself of it. Now bumping up against someone would no longer tear holes in their garments.

I'd also attached close-fitting leather covers to her horns and hooves, hiding the sharpness away from the world. The horn covers I attached permanently, bonding them to the horn; and better still they were joined at the top by a length of hardened wood wrapped in hardened leather, so that horns and handle made a kind of upside-down "U" shape. A similar wooden handle was affixed to her leather surcoat approximately in the middle of her back, giving the unlucky goat tender two convenient handholds by which to drag her back to her pen.

When we were finished, Patches looked like nothing anyone had ever seen before; but I am confident that she presents much less of a risk to others.

I shall have to find some better solution before the weather warms up, as I fear that wearing the leather coat will be bad for her in the heat; but this will be a help while we figure out how to escape-proof her pen.

Next letter

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photo credit: @tc_goatwriter caproflies30 via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- A Wedding (5 February 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I have been remiss, quite completely remiss, in not recording the on-going story of Madame Truc and Jacques-le-Souris. Not that you care, of course; but myself, in the future, I will want to remember the details.

Looking back, I see that it was almost a month ago that I suggested to Jacques that perhaps Madame Truc had been waiting for him to declare himself. He did, I gather, in his fumble-fingered way; and there followed a week of searching gazes and pondering expressions (and much less banter and badinage than I am used to from them). Amelie and I pretended not to notice, of course, and it was by mere chance that I happened to overhear the denouement, as it were.

"Jacques," cried Madame Truc, "what is it you are doing? Following me about, with the greatest constancy, adjusting the chairs and offering me pillows? It is of the most tiresome!"

Jacques' response was abashed, most unlike him, but I mentally applauded him for his perseverance:

"But, Madame Truc, je t'aime, n'est-ce-pas?"

"Naturellement, petit Jacques, for who could not? It is of all things the most reasonable," she said. "I see that I must give into your demands, or peace, there will be none for me! But you must stop this foolish pillowing behavior."

But of course it wasn't that simple, for Madame Truc was a fine lady from Mont-Havre, and she knew what was due her, she did, and so she told him. It was fine for Amelie and I to marry in quite a fly-by-night way (as indeed we did, for the village conspired that Amelie and I should spend the night under the same roof during a snowstorm, which would quite ruin her reputation if we did not marry post haste; and so we stood up together in the Church the next Sonnedi, and did so again some months later when next the priest came to Bois-de-Bas). For we were young and foolish and rash, she said. But Madame Truc was a grown woman, she was, and was not about to rush into anything!

And so they announced to us over supper a couple of weeks ago that they planned to marry "as soon as is convenable"; and then poor Jacques had to pack his things and go off and stay with Marc and Elise on the farm, for Madame Truc would not remain a single night under the same roof with him until they were wed properly, by a priest, for she had her reputation to think of!

It is really a thing of the most foolish, as Madame herself would say; for she has lived under the same roof as Jacques-le-Souris these many years, and no one would doubt the devotion the pair have for each other. And more, Madame's reputation is quite strong enough, even after such a short time as she has been in Bois-de-Bas, to overcome any number of social proprieties. She is a force of nature, she is, and the folk of our village are accustomed to paying all due respect to such, living closer to nature than do the folks of Mont-Havre. And indeed, making the announcement in Church of a Sonnedi is really all that local proprieties require!

But that was not good enough; and so I breathed a sigh of relief when Pére Georges arrived in Bois-de-Bas yesterday. We never know when to expect him, for his circuits depend on the weather and many other things; but he was here, and sooner than I would have expected. Amelie immediately went to Madame Truc and told her that she and Jacques could be wed the following day.

"So soon? But my trousseau, it is quite unfinished."

"Nevertheless," said my Amelie with great firmness. "For it is the most unfair to keep poor Jacques waiting, now that Pére Georges has come. I saw him in Armand's workshop yesterday, and he looked quite miserable to be parted from you like this!"

And so Madame Truc and Jacques-le-Souris made their vows today, and are sharing a room; and it is to be hoped that tomorrow I shall be able to resume the use of my study.

Next letter

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photo credit: SurFeRGiRL30 Off Center? via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Town Hall (29 January 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I have been pondering much over the last couple of weeks, about town government, proper hygiene, and social contact. Also, I seem to have acquired a goat.

Regarding access to the hot springs, I have determined several things.

First, our newcomers will never be fully assimilated into our town so long as they are excluded from the springs. It is the one place where everyone has time to chat. Anyone may speak to anyone in the springs.

Second, excluding anyone from the comfort of the springs during January in Bois-de-Bas is more cruel than I can say. It is the one place in town (outside of one's bed) where one can truly be warm all over at this time of year.

Third, there really is no way to accommodate everyone at the same time. There are more grottos, and more hot water, but the early settlers had no difficulty identifying the two largest and most comfortable, and there is no real way to enlarge either of them. Possibly we could build a much larger bath house adjacent to the springs, and supplied by them…but that would necessitate demolishing a number of homes. And, in fact, there would be plenty of room if only we did not insist on seating everyone at once for town meetings.

No, we have two choices: either we must continue to accord all newcomers a second class of citizenship—and I may say that the good men of Bois-de-Bas all looked rather sheepish when I broached this notion at the springs this afternoon—or we must find another place in which to conduct business.

The obvious answer is a kind of town hall, big enough to hold everyone at once, if for limited periods of time. And if it is hard to heat in the winter, at least our business shall be conducted swiftly! Though I might consider building a warming block into the seat of the presider's chair….

I proposed this this afternoon, and was immediately told that this is the wrong time of year for building—as if I couldn't see that for myself, what with the snow all around. So I told them to think on it, and discuss it with their wives, and we will address it again when the weather is warmer.

In the meantime, it appears that I shall have to construct a solid pen for Patches the goat, if only as a matter of self defense, for it appears that I shall never be rid of her. Over the past weeks I have found her on my roof; I have found her at my door; I have found her at the hot springs; and this morning, I found her at my bedside, affectionately taking the night's whiskers off of my cheek with her tongue—along with a certain quantity of skin.

Amelie is darning the holes in my nightshirt as I write these words; the quilt, alas, will take longer to replace, as will my nerves.

I am not sure how Patches opened the front door to the house, but open it was; and so was the gate to the goat pen at Marc's farm; and somehow she had managed to gnaw through the leather-bound chain used to restrain her.

I say that I have found her in these places, but it is entirely more correct to say that in each case Patches has found me! What has brought her to this misguided affection for me, I do not know, nor what I might have done to foster it. It certainly was not my intent to do so! But it seems that I must now give her house room, for Marc is done with fetching her home, he tells me; and I can only hope that if I give her a pen behind the shop and visit her frequently that perhaps I will not find her in my bedchamber of a morning.

At least I will not have to milk her myself: that is what apprentices are for!

Next letter

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photo credit: chrislon28 Morning Steam via photopin (license)

Letters from Armorica- Monsieur Laveau (22 January 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

It has taken me almost two weeks, but I have finally had a talk with Bertrand's father, M. Laveau. The Laveau's live at the far end of the village from us, and though I have several times set out in that direction I always seem to be stopped by someone else before I get there. More than that, though I have caught sight of him at the church and the hot springs he has avoided my eye, and slipped away before I can speak with him.

One of the perquisites of my position in Bois-de-Bois, however, is the use of a private chamber in the hot springs—I chamber I know from my own interview with Onc' Herbert, shortly after I came to the village. This afternoon I went there when I reached the springs, leaving it to Marc to snag M. Laveau and bring him to join me.

He was both hangdog and sullen when Marc led him in, and sat down on the bench in the hot water in silence.

After Marc left, I said, "M. Laveau, I want to speak to you of your son Bertrand."

He still didn't look at me, but he muttered, "He's my son, not yours."

"Yes, I was afraid it might be like that. But I said I want to speak to you of him, not about him. As you say, you are his father, and it is not for me to come between you."

He looked at me suspiciously out of the corner one eye, not turning his head.

"M. Laveau, has he spoken to you about his time on L'Isle-du-Grand-Blaireau?"

"Oui, and all about you!" He looked like he wanted to spit, and I am sure that if we had been outside he would have.

"Let me tell you of him, instead. First, you probably imagine that he strays over to my workshop to see me. Nothing could be further from the case."

"Merde."

"I speak truly. During his time on the island he became close friends with my apprentice, Luc. I assure you, at the hour when Bertrand comes to see Luc, I am warm in my bed, moi.

"But more importantly, let me tell you about his service. You have much to be proud of."

And then I told him about the flock of boys, and Bertrand's leadership of them, and how they kept watch for the village and helped out in so many other ways. By the end of my tale, M. Laveau was facing me, and shaking his head in amazement.

"Bertrand is not the same boy who was sent to the island for his own safety," I concluded. "He grew to an extraordinary degree during our time there. I have not spoken to him about it myself, but from what I have overheard I think he chafes at being treated like a child."

M. Laveau bridled at that, a bit, but I waved it away. "It isn't for me to say, M. Laveau. But if he were my son I believe I'd load him down with adult responsibilities—real ones, that matter."

And at that I bowed my head to him, rose and left for the main chamber. And so we shall see.

Next letter
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photo credit: Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel Two crayfish by Julie de Graag (1877-1924). Original from the Rijks Museum. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel via photopin (license)