Today was a surprise. Now that I live with Amelie in the village, Onc' Herbert has of course needed to send others to the village in the cart to get supplies—in the sleigh, rather, at this time of year. And today he sent Marc and Elise.
It was a fine winter morning. We have had no new snow for a week, nor any clouds, so the air was bright and cold. We can't see that from within the shop, of course, being buried up to the eaves, so Amelie and I stepped out for a few minutes to walk to the church and then up into the open air to enjoy the sunshine.
When the weather is clear for days on end, the young lads of the village make benches and settees and chairs out of snow on the green before the church—just where the trestles are set out on a Sunday afternoon in the warmer part of the year, but on a level with the eaves of the church. And then their elders go out with blankets on fine days and sit on the them, and that is what we did, with a thick rug of grand-blaireau fur beneath us, and another wrapped around us, only our eyes peeking out.
It is a grand prospect, sitting there. The village is on rising ground, built around the green with our shop at the lower end and the church at the upper end. We could see the roof and chimneys of our shop poking through the snow, and just the cross stroke of the "T" in Tuppenny on the sign—for further snows had obscured it after I put it up afresh. We could see the steam from the hot springs curling up from the grottos off to our right. And there, not quite so far to the right, lies the road out to Onc' Herbert's farm. One can't see the whole road, for it is obscured by trees here and there, but it had been travelled enough since the last snow that the one could easily make out the line of it.
Amelie saw the sleigh first. "It is your friends," she said. "For is that not the sleigh of Herbert de Néant?"
"How can you tell?"
She shrugged under the blanket. "You will see. O! And it is Marc and Elise Frontenac, for I see her red cap. They will stop at our shop, so we must be ready."
She was wrong—but only because Marc saw us gathering up our furs and drove the sleigh straight up the green—something one would never do in summer.
"All is quiet on the farm," he said, "and so Onc' Herbert has given us leave to come to dinner!"
"But do not fear," said Elise, clambering out the sleigh and embracing Amelie. "For we come bringing gifts!" And so they had, cheese, and fine sausage of goat meat, and so I had my revenge on the goats at last.
I shall always remember that dinner, which began with much laughter in the kitchen as Elise and Amelie prepared the meal and ended many hours later when, the sun approaching the horizon, we bundled the Frontenacs back into their sleigh for the mule to take home. I hope it is but the first of many like it.
It wasn't until later, as we were preparing for bed, that it occurred to me that Amelie and Elise had greeted each other as old friends. And then it occurred to me that they are of an age, and that the women of the village have their afternoons in the hot springs just as the men do, and it was with an even stronger sense of having been managed—and no little satisfaction—that I put the hot stones into the foot of the bed and climbed in beside my beloved wife. I am lucky to have such friends.