First, my thanks for the many wagon-loads of supplies you have sent to us over the past week. I begin to think you are stripping the barns and storehouses of Bois-de-Bas quite bare! Fortunately the lads have found some grottoes we can use for storage, or we should have been quite unable to get it all under cover. I know, of course, that you are sending it to us not for our own use, but to keep it out of the hands of Le Maréchal‘s men when they come, but as more and more of the villagers come here to the encampment the supplies are quite necessary. And indeed, our simple encampment is looking more and more like a village. The simple tents on the ground are being replaced by what I might call demi-cabins, with wooden floors but canvas roofs; some even have the beginnings of wooden roofs. The little church is coming along slowly, and the bathhouse has become a great comfort to all of us. Le Blaireau scarcely resembles a sloop any longer, being more of an inn and community center. Her masts and cordage have been taken for other uses (her canvas went long ago); windows have been opened everywhere, giving light to the spaces within; and she is connected to both banks of the river by a pair of permanent bridges that connect to a passage way of sorts cut through her hull. My folk here have taken to calling it the Avenue.
The space just forward of the Avenue is now my former’s shop; it is central, so I am always available for questions, and I have a desk for my work managing the encampment in the afternoons. The space aft of the Avenue is my Amelie’s domain where she manages the encampment’s stores. We can’t keep the stores all in one place anymore, and it is easier for her, in her condition, to work from Le Blaireau than to go out to her old spot on the bank. Not that she will be able to keep it up much longer! Indeed, she is spending most of her days sitting in a comfortable armchair directing others in the work.
And speaking of that, thank you so much for sending us Brigitte! She has been a great consolation to Amelie, for I find that they are old friends; and Amelie is teaching her what she must know to help out in managing the stores. Brigitte is also, as I’d hoped, assisting Madame Truc in nursing poor Jean-Baptiste! It is embarrassing for him, I think, having such a pretty girl see him so low, but at least it has brought color back to his cheeks. And this morning, to my delight, he agreed to be carried down to sit with me in my former’s shop. He could only manage it for a little over and hour before he had to be returned to his bed, but we had much conversation in that time, and I noticed that his eyes were much on a certain person at the counter on the other side of the Avenue.
I believe I have solved the communication problem, at least here on Grand-Blaireau. As Onc’ Herbert may have told you, we have our lookouts around the perimeter of the island: the lads of Bois-de-Bas, led by Bertrand and Jean-Marc. They are all much steadier now they have something to occupy them! But when they spy something it is a long and weary slog for them back to the encampment, the more so as we have not had time to cut proper trails. It would leave little enough time for us here to prepare for a direct attack, let alone to pass word along to you down below. But I have come up with a solution: the sky-sled!
Imagine a sled, just big enough for the occupant to lie prone, but with the runners extending above instead of below. The entire package is not much bigger than one of the lads. I have now built two of them; they are light and speedy, and can maneuver deftly between trees and over briars. Each of the lookout points will have one, to be used to alert the encampment, and I intend that each of the boys will be trained in their use.
I admit that I was concerned that the lads would take them skylarking and do themselves injuries, but my Amelie had the answer to that. She took Bertrand and his lieutenant aside. “Those who fly recklessly shall not be allowed to fly at all,” she told them. “And my husband will hold you two responsible.” That put a stop to their capers. Young Bertrand would be mortified to be grounded when others can yet fly, and he has the others firmly under his thumb.
The sleds are easy to form, delightfully so after all my work with sky-wagons; they are light, and hardened throughout so that they are nearly indestructible. I should have enough for our needs soon. You might consider whether you could use a sled or two for your scouts—they carry less than a two-man sky-chair, and are far less comfortable; but they can go more places, they are easier to hide, and of course they leave no tracks.
The next challenge is how best to communicate what we learn to you on the ground. I have no good solution; but I’m thinking a sled relay might be best. When we see something, we send a sled to the lake shore, using the waterfall for cover. You keep a man with a sled or sky-chair on duty there, to carry word along to you and Onc’ Herbert.
I wish there were a way for us to use semaphores of some kind; but I cannot think of anything that would be visible to your men on the ground that wouldn’t possibly be visible to les Cochons as well. For them to find our encampment would be a waste of all of our hard work, and as our establishment here grows in size I find I am nervous even about sending out so much as a sled out during daylight hours. I have already constrained the hunters to go out before dawn and not return until after dark.