It has taken me almost two weeks, but I have finally had a talk with Bertrand's father, M. Laveau. The Laveau's live at the far end of the village from us, and though I have several times set out in that direction I always seem to be stopped by someone else before I get there. More than that, though I have caught sight of him at the church and the hot springs he has avoided my eye, and slipped away before I can speak with him.
One of the perquisites of my position in Bois-de-Bois, however, is the use of a private chamber in the hot springs—I chamber I know from my own interview with Onc' Herbert, shortly after I came to the village. This afternoon I went there when I reached the springs, leaving it to Marc to snag M. Laveau and bring him to join me.
He was both hangdog and sullen when Marc led him in, and sat down on the bench in the hot water in silence.
After Marc left, I said, "M. Laveau, I want to speak to you of your son Bertrand."
He still didn't look at me, but he muttered, "He's my son, not yours."
"Yes, I was afraid it might be like that. But I said I want to speak to you of him, not about him. As you say, you are his father, and it is not for me to come between you."
He looked at me suspiciously out of the corner one eye, not turning his head.
"M. Laveau, has he spoken to you about his time on L'Isle-du-Grand-Blaireau?"
"Oui, and all about you!" He looked like he wanted to spit, and I am sure that if we had been outside he would have.
"Let me tell you of him, instead. First, you probably imagine that he strays over to my workshop to see me. Nothing could be further from the case."
"I speak truly. During his time on the island he became close friends with my apprentice, Luc. I assure you, at the hour when Bertrand comes to see Luc, I am warm in my bed, moi.
"But more importantly, let me tell you about his service. You have much to be proud of."
And then I told him about the flock of boys, and Bertrand's leadership of them, and how they kept watch for the village and helped out in so many other ways. By the end of my tale, M. Laveau was facing me, and shaking his head in amazement.
"Bertrand is not the same boy who was sent to the island for his own safety," I concluded. "He grew to an extraordinary degree during our time there. I have not spoken to him about it myself, but from what I have overheard I think he chafes at being treated like a child."
M. Laveau bridled at that, a bit, but I waved it away. "It isn't for me to say, M. Laveau. But if he were my son I believe I'd load him down with adult responsibilities—real ones, that matter."
And at that I bowed my head to him, rose and left for the main chamber. And so we shall see.
photo credit: Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel Two crayfish by Julie de Graag (1877-1924). Original from the Rijks Museum. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel via photopin (license)