Goat Gotten

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

Bois-de-Bas
6 January 1017

My dear John,

I am writing to inform you that your William Graves is in a bad way: not fatally injured, though I fear that his youthful beauty, such as it was, may be gone forever. I feel somewhat responsible; and yet I must hasten to say that the actual mishap was entirely Graves’ own fault.

Perhaps I erred in allowing Bastien to explain to young Graves the shortcomings of his first attempt at the forming of lifting blocks; there is always the potential for rivalry when two young men are brought together, and Graves’ amour propre could only be hurt by being schooled by a provincial who is also his junior in the guild.

I simply wished to show him that there is much for him to learn, and that he should not disdain those from whom he can learn it. Alas, I fear he was too full of himself to learn the lesson; and I, I confess, am a novice at training apprentices and journeymen.

The event led to a continuing series of skirmishes and small battles over the past two weeks—not generally physical, you comprehend, for Bastien would surely prevail in any matter of fisticuffs; but there has been much attempted bickering, many attempted set downs, and a wide variety of attempted pranks and practical jokes, some successful and some not.

You will notice my repeated use of the word “attempted”, for through it all Bastien has maintained his stolid and ox-like demeanor—in part because it is his habit, and in part because it has proven the easiest way to drive young Graves to the point of madness.

But you must not think that the aggression has all been one sided; Bastien would be less than human not to resent Graves’ dislike and scorn, and so he has replied quietly, in his way: rearranging the items on Graves’ workbench, putting his tools away in the wrong place, and, if I am not mistaken, introducing various items into Graves’ bedding.

I have done my best to keep this caustic pot from boiling over, though it is hard when every day Graves makes it plain that his scorn extends not just to Bastien but to me and to all of Armorica. He is not openly defiant, no—I should know how to respond to that. But you remember what it we were like.

I do not know what led Graves to think upon our goat, Patches, nor do I know what scheme he had in mind; perhaps he thought a goat a suitable response to the toad he had found in his blankets the day before.

But alas! And this, I must agree, is wholly my fault: I had not properly introduced Graves to Patches, or she to him. Mind you, I have frequently wished to do so; were he my apprentice I should have had him cleaning out her pen after his first day here, to teach him the meaning of presumption. But one mustn’t use a journeyman so, and perhaps because the thought has so tempted me I had failed to bring the pair of them together.

And so, the event. Young Graves went along to Patches’ pen late one evening, while Bastien was otherwise occupied, opened the gate, and slipped within.

I do believe I have told you of our goats over dinner in Yorke: the evil eye, the attitude, the sharp-edged horns, the coat that will remove the skin from your palms in moments; and if so you can already picture the result.

Handling Patches is a dangerous matter at the best of times, for she is an affectionate creature—at least with me—and might easily do an injury without meaning it. But Armorican goats are irascible, and her response to a strange young man in her pen was in all ways predictable.

When we found him—for I assure you the entire household was astir mere moments after he entered the pen—Patches had knocked him down into the back corner. She had her fore-hooves on his legs and was threatening him with her horns.

Naturally he had failed to don any of the protective gear one would ordinarily wear: the heavy leather apron, the gauntlets, and so forth; and it being late evening, Patches was not wearing the mantel I put over her body when she is drawing a cart. And worse, he was wearing nothing more than his shoes and a nightshirt! A stout woolen nightshirt is a good protection against an Armorican winter night, but is not much to have between one’s body and an angered Armorican goat.

He was fortunate that the hardened leather covers I made for her horns are never removed, or he would be in a much worse state. As it is, his hands and forearms were scraped and bleeding, and also his right cheek; it seems he had bent down to attach a lead rope around her neck. His body and legs were badly bruised from her butting, and his legs cut from her hooves; and we had to burn his nightshirt, which was tattered and bloodstained.

I do believe Graves will make a complete recovery, though it is possible he may walk with a limp; and we are doing the utmost to ensure that the wounds on his face will not scar.

Bastien assures me that he had not mentioned Patches to young Graves, nor in any way encouraged him to seek her pen—he is an Armorican lad, raised on a farm, and the very idea shocked him to the core. He has been quite solicitous with our invalid, showing Graves his own scars—I have not condescended to show him mine, though I could—and attending him faithfully each day. It seems that a sneering young man from abroad is an enemy; but the victim of a goat has everyone’s sympathy.

Who knows? It may be that all will be well. At the very least, young Graves now has ample time for study.

Your friend,

Armand

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Photo by Thomas Jarrand on Unsplash

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