How foolish that sounds to my ears! As though I were my young cousin Cynthia writing about her beaux. And yet, I must record these things, for my own safety, and I must not communicate them to others, for their safety and mine.
I had word from my cousin yesterday—a courier boat came yesterday, one that was expected a month ago. The boat had been fired upon by an unknown ship and much knocked about, and was forced to flee and take refuge in an unknown land until repairs could be effected. True to the motto of the Courier's Guild, they then proceeded on to Mont-Havre, faithful in all circumstances.
I could wish he had not written, for it was foolish in the extreme, though well meant. It has caused me much trouble; I pray it will not cause him even more.
His words were as follows. (I shall burn the copy momentarily.)
I write in haste. There have long been rumblings in the Corps now that Provençe is climbing back to its feet after the Troubles, and the word is that my regiment is being sent to Sarnia—the which is both the arse-end of nowhere and the closest Cumbrian possession to Provençe. I know nothing officially, but I fear that war is coming.
I dare write no more; my captain has just emerged from the colonel's tent. Watch yourself.
And now I fear the pirates are no such thing, but Cumbrian privateers; and that the attacks on our shipping are in fact attacks on Provençese shipping in general, for most of our traffic is with Provençe and its other colonies. Armorica is independent now, or the next best thing, but it is nominally still a colony of Provençe—and I doubt the King's navy is all that concerned with nuances.
Armorica is my home now; I do not wish to fight my former countrymen, but neither do I wish my new countrymen to fight each other. There are many Cumbrians here now, and I fear for what might happen if word gets out. And yet, I have felt that I must warn the powers that be—my new nation must not be taken unawares.
After long deliberation—for this past night in my crow's nest, watching for pirates, was good for little else—I sought Madame Truc this morning, privately, and asked whom I must speak to in the government.
"You shall do no such thing, mon fils!" she told me. "It would be an act of the most rash and the most fatal! You are but new here, you would not be trusted. Non, you must go to M. Suprenant, for he is a man of both honor and discretion, and well known to M. le Gouverneur. He will advise you; and he will carry the word for you, I think."
And so I copied my cousin's letter—the copy I have just now burnt—and went to work and sought an audience with M. Suppressant when he arrived.
"Thank you for seeing me, monsieur," I said, and handed him the original letter. He read it in a moment, and his lips pursed. Then he tilted the paper against the light of his lamp to examine the watermark.
"Why have you brought this to me?" he said.
"To learn what I must do with it," I said. "The governor must know that war is coming—he must take stops to prevent it coming here. But you know what they say about the bearer of bad tidings, and he may think I am not to be trusted. And if he were to mistreat me, and then war were to break out, well; there are many Cumbrians here now. For Cumbrians to fight Provençese can only be bad for Armorica, but I don't know the best thing to do to prevent it."
"You are wise for your years," he said. "Do you know any more than what is written here?"
"Only that my cousin is in the 29th Foot."
He gave me a sharp look. "No more than that? Nothing else?"
"Nothing else, monsieur."
"Very well," he said. "You may leave the matter with me; I will attend to it. And I shall burn this letter—it would ill repay your cousin's loyalty to you if his name were to escape."
"Thank you, monsieur."
"M. le Gouverneur is a hater of bad news, and inclined to seek easy solutions. He may decide that you are a rabble-rouser, seeking to cause him trouble. I think that we—the guild and I—can bring him round…but that will be no help to you if he moves swiftly. And if he takes against you, I have no means to protect you. Have you somewhere to go?"
"I believe I do. I have a friend—"
"No more! It is better that I know as little as possible. I shall speak to Madame Truc when I judge it is safe for you to return. Go now, and make haste. I shall take counsel with myself today and tonight, and take the actions that seem best to me tomorrow."
"But if I run—won't that set him against me?"
"It is I who have advised you to do so, and I will tell him so myself. Now, go!"
I bowed and left. I made haste to Madame Truc's and spoke briefly with her; and then gathering my things in a sac à dos of her husbands I hurried away on foot, completely unremarked so far as I can tell. At present I am at the inn in the village of Petit-Monde, as far as I could go ere dark. Tomorrow I shall continue on my way to Bois-de-Bas.