Letters from Armorica– Avec Prudence (29 April 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Tomorrow at last I will set out to Mont-Havre to speak with M. Suprenant and Lord Doncaster…and I shall do so in style!

Jacques and I have spent this week building a fine road-wagon: a simple affair, based on a normal wagon body, but with just enough in the way of lifting blocks to carry it a foot or so off of the ground, and sled-like runners on which to rest for loading and unloading. The wagon has no motive block, and must be pulled by horses or other beasts of burden—or, rather, instead of a motive block it has what I call a braking block so that it will slow down on its own. The braking block was a late addition, developed after our wagon narrowly missed maiming two of Marc's best oxen. It is always active.

As a result, this wagon has only one control, to lift it into the air or lower it to the ground. Once lowered, it will not move; and once raised it may be pulled about like any other wagon. Almost like any other wagon: it never requires quite as much work to pull as a normal wagon would on smooth and level ground, regardless of the footing or slope.

It is a modest effort, far less than I could do: even Luc can do most of the necessary forming. But it is easily formed, and the unformed parts are easily built, and it should be no more difficult for a drover or farmer or carter to use than a normal wagon—while being much easier on the horses or oxen, and never breaking a wheel.

I had been all in favor of going straight to a full-fledged sky-wagon, or possibly what one might call a sky-skiff, but Marc and Jack between them talked me out of it. Jack's argument is that anything I make in this line will have military implications—what I want is a patent royal, and it will be much easier to get one if I offer my more advanced vehicles to the crown first. Marc's argument is more down to the earth, as one might say. He well remembers the day his sky-sled went to pieces around him, tumbling him to the ground. Our first customers are much less likely to kill themselves using a road wagon than they would with a sky-sled, sky-chair, or sky-wagon. "You are tres intelligent, Armand, and your work, it is digne de confiance. But still, let us move avec prudence." M. Suprenant, whom we consulted by arrow, agrees. "A man who falls from a wagon is bruised, while a man who falls from the sky, donc, he is killed. Let us remember that les idiots, they are always with us. Let us act so that they do not destroy what we are building."

All three are right, of course, and our unexpected need for a braking block (so that the wagon may also move avec prudence) is just an example of the wisdom of taking it slowly. And speaking of prudence, I must here record, since I neglected to do so above, that the braking block was Luc's notion!

And so tomorrow, Marc, Luc, and I will journey to Mont-Havre in our road-wagon, there (I hope) to acquire a patent royal and form a new company under the auspices of the crown. It shall not be a small endeavor: M. Suprenant for funding, Jacques Pôquerie for the design and normal building, myself for the forming, Marc and Jack for friendship and aid. And possibly Lord Doncaster, though I would prefer if he had no explicit role in the new company. I am glad to give him any credit, but I would prefer if our efforts were purely Armorican-owned. Always assuming that I can persuade Jack to make his life here, as I increasingly hope I can. But Lord Doncaster, as the Crown's representative here, must always be an outsider.

There will be pressure to locate our company in Mont-Havre, but we intend to place it in Bois-de-Bas. It is my home; the necessary materials are here in abundance; and it is past time for Armorica to have another commercial center.

And now, to bed for a good night's rest.

Next letter

photo credit: The_Gut IMG_0641 via photopin (license)

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