The last three days have been among the longest in my life, not excluding the weeks spent on the Lombard in transit to Armorica. No fires, no light at night, no building during the day, nothing to do but sit and worry. It is not good for me; it is not good for any of us except Amelie, who in her condition might well do a good deal more sitting and resting than she has been willing to. It seems to me that our child might come any day, but she assures me that there remains at least two more weeks.
For myself, I have tried to keep busy, for forming, at least, is not a noisy endeavor in and of itself, and there is useful work I can do. It can be cold at night, here on our island in the sky, and while light is forbidden there is no reason for us to be cold, not while I still have my skills. The same kind of heating blocks I provided to the bathhouse to heat the water can be used, if carefully contained, to heat tents and huts. The blocks in the bathhouse I made of metal, brought from Bois-de-Bas for the purpose; but metal is scarce here on the island and so I am forced to make do with wood, and wood is tricky for this purpose: even hardened wood will burn if it gets too hot. Thus, the heating blocks I am producing now will provide a gentle warmth, but are no good for cooking. They will not even boil water.
If this goes on for long I may need to re-purpose the bathhouse heaters. I wish we had more metal on hand.
In the meantime we are keeping watch, keeping silence, and waiting for word from Bois-de-Bas. We have heard nothing more; all we know is what we can see from our watch posts—and Bertrand’s boys have been keeping careful watch. They tell me that the three new Provençese sloops have been quartering the region, sailing slowly hither and yon. No doubt they are looking for encampments. They can see for themselves that many of the villagers are missing, including many of the young men; no doubt they imagine that there is a band of them out in the woods who are responsible for the loss of their sloops and men. It would be funny if it were not so serious: here we are, high above them, watching their efforts; and yet we are not the ones responsible for their losses, but rather Onc’ Herbert and his hunters. Les Cochons are living in the very “bandit encampment” for which they are searching, and they do not know it!
So they are searching, and that is well and good, for there is nothing for them to find. But what are they doing in Bois-de-Bas? What are they doing to our friends and families? A deputation came to me today; one of Jacques Pôquerie’s helpers wants to take a sled and investigate the village. I had to forbid him, of course, for if he were discovered, all would be lost. I told him that Onc’ Herbert would surely send Étienne or Marc with news if there was anything we needed to know. I pray he will, and soon.
But of course Jacques’ man is simply bored, tired of waiting, tired of nothing to do; and his imagination is filling his head with all manner of evils that might be taking place on the ground.
Perhaps tomorrow I will send the young men out to thoroughly explore the rest of the island. We have had no time for that, hitherto. We established the watch posts around the rim, and the paths to and from them, and we have done a modicum of hunting; but most hunting has been done in the forests below, now that Old Man Blaireau is no more and his fur graces Amelie’s bed, and for the rest our efforts have been directed to building our homes here. I still hope to find caves or grottoes big enough for our community to hide in, and maybe even to dwell in. It would be well to be underground and out of sight should les Cochons come calling.
Some folk might be unwilling to move underground, but I know my people. Grottoes come naturally to the folk of Bois-de-Bas; and all I need do is move the bathhouse first, and all the folk will follow.
photo credit: markbyzewski A-2813 via photopin (license)