Of late it has seemed that every problem is mine to solve; but I find that I am mistaken, and in the most pleasant possible way. My Amelie has undertaken to teach young Luc to read! She will teach him as she herself was taught: his numbers first, and figuring, and then his letters, and then she will teach him to keep accounts. This is an unusual skill for a former, at least in Yorke where the Guild has a certain dignity, but it is quite a practical one for one in a little town in Armorica where being a former is not much grander than being a shopkeeper. A former can starve as easily as anyone else if he doesn't mind his expenses.
So he will work with her in the shop in the morning while he is fresh, and with me in my workshop in the afternoons; and then in the evenings I will resume reading aloud to Amelie, and we shall have Luc join us. If I pick the tales appropriately (or, perhaps, inappropriately, in my mother's view) I think he shall soon develop a taste for the written word.
As a result of this new program, I happened to find myself alone in the workshop with Jacques-le-Souris yesterday, a storm having kept the other elders of the village by their firesides. He was passing the time by telling me an improbable story of a tame grand-blaireau that developed a taste for cognac—a story I firmly believe he was making up as he went along. A lull came after he related an episode in which the beast got stuck in the cellar of a tavern in Old Mont-Havre, having demolished the stairs in its drunken lurchings, and so had to be extricated by a team of men with horses and ropes and a net; and during that lull I struck.
"Jacques, tell me truly. M. Truc was killed by a grand-blaireau decades ago, and you have remained at Madame Truc's side all of the time since then; but you have never married her. Why not?" I didn't look at him as I said this, but continued polishing the bed-warmer I was forming.
He tried to evade the issue. "Oh, but Armand, Madame Truc is a widow of the most fierce! You know this. Who would willingly bind himself to such a woman? Only my old friend Edmond, only he would be brave enough."
"And yet, you seem to have done so," I said.
"Moi? Oh, no, cher Armand. I am not bound to her." He started looking around the room, as if to find a means of escape. "Her husband asked me to take care of her with his dying breath, vraiment, but I am a free man, moi!. I am a rover. I go where I please and do what I please!"
"This is true, my friend. I have often heard your stories. But still…it seems that going where you please often finds you sitting on the settee in my parlor by her side." He began to sweat visibly, but I did not relent. "In fact, Jacques, it seems to me that you have been a husband to her in all ways but the most central for all of these many years."
"She is, she is, a woman of the most proper," he said.
A thought struck me.
"Jacques," I said, "how is it that you first came to be called Jacque-le-Souris, Jacques the mouse?"
"Why, Madame Truc began to call me that, some time after—"
"After her husband died?"
He nodded sadly.
"And still you did nothing?"
"She is a woman tres formidable, Armand," he said, sadly.
"C'est vrai. But still, she has had many years to accept another's offer, and she has not done so."
Jacques got a look in his eye. Clearly this was a new thought.
"Do you think—"
"That she has been waiting for you to declare yourself? I do." In all honesty, Dear Journal, I was less certain than I let on. But I continued to meddle anyway. "I do believe that you will find her in the parlor with Anne-Marie. Perhaps she might like some company?"
Jacque humphed a bit in his colorful flavor of Provençese, and tried to go back to his tale about the drunken grand-blaireau, but after perhaps a quarter of an hour of fidgeting and sweating he made a paltry sort of excuse and left the workshop.
I have no definite news to report, but Madame Truc and Jacques-le-Souris kept shooting glances at each other over the dinner table this afternoon when they each thought the other wasn't looking. Something has changed; and as I haven't heard Madame utter a sharp-tongued word all day it is clear she has been given pause to think. I have the highest hopes for our living situation.