Patches Errant

Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.

Bois-de-Bas, Armorica
6 July 1016

Dear Mum,

Something most extraordinary happened here while I was off visiting you in Yorke.

I don’t know if you will remember Patches the goat; I don’t believe I spoke of her while I was in Yorke, and though I mentioned her often in my letters during the war and after I cannot recall which of my correspondents I told which stories—and some of those likely went astray. But you will surely remember my battles with Onc’ Herbert’s goats in my early days here in Bois-de-Bas. Armorican goats are genuinely useful for milk and meat, but I have found them to be vile, ill-tempered, surly, and quite literally abrasive—their pelt and their horns will take the skin off your hands as quickly as that. Goat-keepers here must wear a kind of leather armor and gauntlets while working with them.

Some time after I married Amelie and moved into town we began receiving visits from one of Onc’ Herbert’s goats, a rather pushy nanny that for whatever goatish reason took me into its repellent little goatish heart. I would gladly have been spared the indignity, as it was most inconvenient—particularly on the occasion when the goat appeared at our bedside in the middle of the night.

After many such visits we bowed to the inevitable and built a pen for the goat, whom I dubbed “Patches” for her effect on my clothing; and later I made some hardened armor for her, and especially for her horns, so it would be easier to wrangle her and she would be safer for others. After we built the wagon-works I made a small sky-cart for myself and Patches found a new task: pulling me to and from the works each day, weather permitting. She became quite well known around our little town.

And so things stood when I had to drop everything and return to Yorke to help you with Father at the beginning of last autumn.

Patches, I am told, was disconsolate through the fall and winter, and sought me here and there in the town until the snow came and kept her in her pen. But it seems that in the spring time a young nanny-goat’s thoughts turn to finding her master, and once the ground was clear she went searching for me. Bastien went to her pen to feed her one morning, he being by far the most sturdy member of the household, and she was gone. He tells me that she had been restless for some days.

We are not at all sure what precise route she took in her wanderings, but Marc Frontenac was able to track her to some degree by the damage she left in her wake. It seems she went from our home in town out to the wagon-works, where she broke down the door to the building in which I have my office and workshop, and spent no little time nosing about, as was easily seen by the scuff marks on anything that wasn’t hardened—for she had left her armor behind, except for the guards on her horns.

Not finding me at the wagon-works she headed west along the main road towards Mont-Havre. She made a stop in Honfleur, where she frightened the innkeeper’s wife nearly out of her wits and spoiled an improbably large quantity of new ale—not through malice, I believe, but accidentally in the course of their attempts to catch her and remove her from their inn. Once they caught her they penned her up while trying to learn to whom she belonged, but of course that was to no avail.

Anne-Marie was obliged to pay for the ale. One understands their position, of course, but it is a trial to me; if they had simply let the poor thing pass on through they could have saved themselves considerable trouble and ourselves considerable expense. Though I suppose we would still have had to pay for a quantity of varnish and furniture wax.

The road west of Honfleur is more heavily traveled, and from traveler’s tales we gather that she terrorized any number of folk on the road. She did little damage on this stage of her journey, but no true Armorican can feel quite happy when they are boldly approached by an Armorican goat on a mission. She took a good look at everyone she encountered, and then moved on.

We got a similar story from the innkeeper in Petit-Monde, where Amelie was made to pay for a new inn sign. Patches is remarkably agile when evading capture, though I am not at all certain—but be that as it may, it is all nanny-goats over the bridge by now.

And then Patches reached Mont-Havre, and found fame.

Goats are not a common sight in Mont-Havre, so there were a number of small injuries as she worked her way through the streets one fine spring morning, making stops at Suprenant et Fils and Madame Truc’s former boarding house (much to the dismay of the current occupants) before fetching up at the door of the Former’s Guild Hall—which she was quite unable to enter, due to the craftsmanship of those formers who first had it built. Her efforts to butt down the door drew quite a crowd, which then she had to inspect for my presence; that led to shredded trousers, ill feelings, and considerable merriment on the part who escaped unscathed. That drew still larger crowds; and in time word came to Lord Doncaster, who naturally sent Cousin Jack to investigate. Jack recognized Patches at once, and she him, it seems. He returned her to Bois-de-Bas personally—the which I would feel sorry for, having sent him quite out of his way, save that he made a point of visiting Bois-de-Bas every few weeks during my absence.

I have achieved a certain notoriety in Mont-Havre, thanks largely to Tuppenny Wagons and my connection with His Lordship by way of Jack, and Jack as made quite free with my name the story was reported in the Mont-Havre papers and became the talk of the town for some weeks. Everyone had a story to share concerning their encounter with Patches, including many that I am quite sure never made her acquaintance.

I am told that the keeper of the tavern closest to the Guild Hall, an enterprising gentleman, it seems, changed the name of his establishment. It is now called Le Chèvre Fidèle, the Faithful Goat. The sign has a nice likeness of Patches, complete with horn-guards.

Luc tells me that the affair led to an increase in business to our former’s shop. One of the house-builders of Mont-Havre was much taken with how well the door to the guild-hall withstood Patches’ onslaught, and Anne-Marie signed a contract for us to harden doors for him. I will leave that to Luc; it will give him the beginnings of a tidy income when he reaches his mastery.

For her part, Patches has been delighted to have me home. I confess that I have let her convey me out to the wagon-works on days when I might not otherwise have gone there, simply to indulge her.

I am unsure what I have done to deserve such fidelity, but I pray that whatever it is le Bon Dieu will in time forgive me for it.

Your goat-encumbered son,


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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Patches Errant

  1. I was so excited to meet Patches again that I didn’t notice some thing on my first reading: why is Ann-Marie, about age 5 now I believe, signing things instead of Amelie?
    I myself call members of my family by the wrong name far too often.
    I comment on the typo only in hopes that you may turn this into a book (multiple books by now – e or print) I may purchase and read whenever I like and give to people I think would like it but are unlikely to read it in its current form. I reread the entire series last night when yet another search failed to find a sequel to Very Truly Run After and noticed only 2 other typos. One, from around the solving of the unterminated L-something transform, said Squire Montjoy when Squire Willowby (only I think you used more letters) was meant. Another one Amelia was explaining her brother Edward and said he had nothing to do but hang around London with young men whose amusements he did not share but I assume York was meant.


    • Thank you! The encouragement is quite welcome, and I’ll fix the typos. As for Michael, I’ve written a sequel to VTRA, but I don’t like it. Got some good bits, got some big problems, and I think I’m going to need to start over.


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