Pierre was unusual in that he was a second-generation expatriate; his father worked for the same company that he did, and Pierre himself was born in China where his father had been posted after surviving the trenches of la Grande Guerre. After two generations of des Cieux going abroad, Pierre had the deep sense that, instead of selling into the modern world, he was reliving his father’s more primitive postings, and his return trip home underscored that feeling.
When Pierre arrived in Serelia, he did so by ferry from Alemara with no car, so he made arrangements to hire one of the church’s vehicles to get himself around. After several days of beating around Serelia’s narrow, poorly maintained roads, he arrived at the Amhersts’, his last stop. They insisted on taking him back to the port, and early the next morning, while the Amhersts slept off their ample alcohol consumption from the night before, the driver loaded Pierre’s luggage—now without the champagne he had brought with him—and headed to the morning darkness to the port in Serelia town. Once more he transferred self and stuff into another conveyance, this time the ferry. As the ferry headed out the inlet and the rising sun fell on the ship’s starboard bow, Pierre stood to watch as the palace passed by. Once it cleared the inlet, the ship’s course was set more towards the sun as it headed along the eastern shore of the Island.
Pierre’s trip was more visually appealing than usual in that his travelling companions for the day were a group of silly Alemaran and Vidameran girls coming home from St. Anne’s School up the coast from Serelia town, some still in their school uniforms. Pierre knew most of their parents, so he was able to make conversation, explaining to them them their mistakes on their French exams, more pleasantly enthralling them with stories from his travels, and giving the voyage a more cosmopolitan feel. At the same time he was gathering intelligence, both for himself about their parents and for his daughter Madeleine about St. Anne’s girls’ tennis team, which Madeleine’s school was supposed to play the following year.
They rounded the point at Drago and headed outside of the Gulf of Cresca, finally threading their way through Campbell’s Cut and arriving at Alemara’s Government Dock. Passing through the usual formalities, Pierre came through to be greeted by his son Raymond, finishing up the first part of his Fourth Form experience at Alemara Academy. Raymond’s greeting of his father, however, wasn’t very attentive; he was drawn to all of these girls his father had been travelling with, and so while Raymond spent time socialising with them Pierre engaged in conversation with their parents.
As it happened both Pierre and Raymond achieved their objective. Staying at the Alemaran Guest House, Pierre ended up having dinner with Arthur and Maureen Williamson. Arthur was on Alemara’s ruling council and owned the auto repair and parts shop which was Pierre’s principal outlet in Alemara. Across the room Raymond attempted to exercise his Gallic charm, undimmed by his father’s foreign postings, on their daughter Deidre, who had already experienced his father’s ability to attract and hold attention. Both father and son agreed at the end that life just didn’t get much better than it had that evening.