Letters from Armorica- Bastien (24 August 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Life is but a whirlwind of changes here in Bois-de-Bas. We are now a properly chartered city, of course, though that doesn't yet show on the surface; and the Guild Hall will remain in Mont-Havre for the time being, Lord Doncaster having agreed to my making a series of quarterly visits. But everything else!

The wagon-works is naturally in a constant state of change at this time as we learn the best ways to organize and speed the daily work. Marc and Jacques have that in hand, and I offer my thoughts whenever I visit—which I now do with a small floating cart of my own, so that I can more easily transport the lifting and motive elements I produce in my own shop. Luc, to my amazement, has trained Patches the goat to pull it.

When I arrived at the wagon-works yesterday I was surprised to discover that I now have a small closet there, with a writing desk and a chair. It is just a small cubby built into one wall, with thin partitions that do little to block the noise; but as the father of small girls I have learned to block out extraneous noise at need. Thus, I now have a place of my own to work and think on my days at the works.

Marc's office is rather larger and grander than mine, I may say, but then he is there every day—and I dare say it should be larger, for Jean-Baptiste has settled in as his clerk, and between Marc and Jean-Baptiste and the files and the ledgers there is scarcely room to move.

But it is the main part of the building where the changes are most dramatic. There are benches all along where the parts of the wagons are shaped, each in turn, and in the middle a place where each new wagon is assembled from the parts all around. Marc says they are now producing a new wagon every third day, and can go faster at need.

But it is the changes at home that have astonished me, for they were wholly unexpected. When I arrived home on Wednesday I found Luc working in the forming shop, and helping customers at the counter as needed, just as he should do…but I also found that the shop itself had changed. Between them, Amelie and Luc had arranged for a small extension at the back: a small place with a stool and a drawing table and places to keep my grimoires, journals, and other drawings. It is not a room precisely, being separated from the main part of the shop by no more than a railing at waist height supported by simple balusters; but it is more than I had before.

"Mais oui, you must be seen," said Amelie. "But you cannot be all of the time chatting with the old men, mon cher Armand. You must be able to think. Voilà! Penses-tu!"

I do not know how they managed to build it in the short time I was gone. I suppose that Amelie asked for it weeks ago, and that Jacques had had the materials all prepared so that he and his men could come in and assemble it quickly. It is small, not to say cramped, and the wood is unfinished (though well smoothed) as it is in the rest of the forming shop; but I find that I already love it very much.

But the biggest change is the presence of our new servant, Bastien. He is well named, I may say, for he is tall and stoutly built, more like an ox than a man; and he is bastion in very truth, for anyone who attempted to knock him down would surely bounce. He speaks little, but does whatever he is asked to do; and when he is not engaged in lifting crates or unloading wagons he stands against the wall somewhere in my vicinity and waits to be of use. I was taken aback when I first saw him, for there are many fragile things in our shops and store-room that might be harmed by a careless move, but for all his size he moves lightly and with ease. I have no idea where Amelie found him for I am sure I have never seen him before; and truly he is hard to miss.

I am of two minds about his presence, even though I was the one who asked Amelie to find such a person, for he is quite a sizable piece of furniture in his own way and I find I am often walking around him. But on the other, I do feel safer with him here, for he will be capable of dealing with most any physical assailant. A pistol could bring him down…perhaps I should look into making him some kind of hardened leather jerkin, such as the King's guards wear?

I shall consider.

Next letter

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar Profile of a gray goat via photopin (license)

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