Bois-de-Bas has grown in size yet again with the coming of the garrison, and I am not sure how we will manage. When I first came, this was a tidy little place, and all discussions as to the future of the community were held in the hot springs of a Sunday afternoon. Then came the War, and an influx of young men from the surrounding region, many of whom stayed, and our population was too big for the hot springs. In response we built a town hall—which, by the by, I must find some way to heat, for town meetings are a trial at this time of year. People have been trickling in slowly since then: Sergeant Allen, of course, and others looking for work. And now we have the garrison—not properly members of the community, not eligible to vote in the town meeting, but nevertheless here.
When I came here, Jack, we didn’t even have an inn. Sergeant Allen has done well to provide an evening gathering place for the young men who have been coming to town, and he keeps things under control, but with the garrison he is having great difficulties. There are simply too many men, and not enough room, and too little (at this time of year) for them to do.
Yesterday, for instance, a party of men came to Allen’s inn, and could not be admitted because a group of young men from the town were gathered for a celebration. Paul D’Esprit, a young fellow from Nouveau St. Mare (a grandiose name for a tiny village) who came to us during the War has got himself engaged to a local girl, one Mademoiselle Jean Martin, and his friends were drinking his health. The place was quite full, as I have reason to know, for I was there myself; Paul is now employed at the wagon-works, and invited Marc and I to share his joy. I assure you, Jack, that there was no room, and also no intent to leave His Majesty’s soldiers in the cold; but His Majesty’s soldiers took it poorly. Windows were broken, and much beer was spilled, and we narrowly avoided burning down the inn.
I hasten to say, there was no intent on anyone’s part to do so. So far as I can tell, the men were put out, as who would not be, and cold, as is clearly the case; and if they could not have a quiet warming drink, a loud warming brawl was next best.
I must also hasten to say that the young men within the inn were by no means averse to a good brawl, if such were offered, and gave as good as they got. The trick now is to try to cement this into mutual respect rather than mutual hatred; and this will be difficult under the circumstances.
I do not wish you to think I am criticizing Captains Fleming and Hampton, with whom I have established satisfactory relations. But the fort consists of four stakes pounded into the snowy ground, a few lines of tents, and the Polliwog. Hampton does his best to drill the men and keep them busy, and the Polliwog is usually out patrolling if the weather is clear; she is becoming a familiar sight in the sky. But the men have no respite from the cold, and no place to go when they are off-duty but Sergeant Allen’s.
A few—a very few, mostly from among the older troops—have managed to make friends with local families; by which I mean they are befriending the daughters of local families in the only possible way. Some of these, I think, will settle down here when their term of service is complete; others, well. Heartbreak is always a possibility, and it is not my responsibility to prevent it.
This is no time of year for building. The snows are deepening, and will grow worse before winter’s end, and so there is little that can be done, at least by us. Come spring, though, we will need to take steps, and it were well if we could plan them now.
For my part I think we need another inn, closer to the post. Perhaps His Lordship has another sterling sergeant wishing to retire? Or possibly someone here may wish to establish one. But what would you suggest, Jack? And is there anything His Lordship can do in the meantime to improve matters? For I can tell you that friction is increasing; and since it is in part due to His Lordship sending us a garrison before building proper housing and facilities, I look to him to help us resolve it.
photo credit: James St. John Roche moutonnée (Lembert Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, USA) 15 via photopin (license)