From Isidore Guérin to his daughter Marie - June 18, 1896

From Isidore Guérin to his daughter Marie - June 18, 1896.

La Musse. 18th June 1896

Beloved little Marie,

The sweet task of writing to you has befallen me today. The blood from my heart runs so abundantly to my brain when I think of you that the thoughts crowd my mind all at once and I can’t grasp or disentangle them. I will cast the net into the heap and spread them out before you in the order in which they present themselves, like the miraculous catch of fish. I would rather put fine trout at your feet, but they have become rarer than the surges of affection for my Benjamin. There were so many poachers that soon there won’t be any left! So in answer to your request for 18 to 20 trout to worthily celebrate dear Mother’s feast day, I racked my brain and went to find St. Peter (Here, Mr. Guérin was playing on the name Peter, the guardian or farmer at La Musse) so that he, a hardened and wily old fisherman, could tell me the secret as to what bait he put in his net 1,864 years ago, and which resulted in the fantastic catch that will be talked about until the world’s end. When he caught sight of me, his face broke into the big wide grin you know so well. He modestly lowered his eyes and took his straw hat in his hand. He listened to my twaddle without breathing a word, and then he answered: “Impossible by hand, would be rotten by Friday – possible with fyke nets, if they’re willin’, but devilishly temperamental – anyway only have one fyke net.”    

[lv°] Following this eloquent speech, I had him buy 6 fyke nets through Arsène and as I have greater trust in St. Anthony’s ability than in Peter’s, we placed them under the protection of this saint – But hitherto, he has failed us, because he has found us only 5. We are going to make a last attempt tonight – We are going to cast 9 fyke nets and all our back lines. Tomorrow we’ll send you what we catch – Ah! If only Arsène could send us one of the 5 of 6 monsters we saw in his pond – I expressed your desire to him and we even managed to tell him what time the parcel was to be dispatched – It’s up to St. Anthony to do the rest – Hitherto, poor Peter, who is very obliging, is as miserable as two bandicoots – I say two because ordinarily he is as miserable as one alone.

- Ah! If it had been a question of rabbits, I would have sent you a barrelful (the proposition of “a barrelful of rabbits” would have rung a bell in Marie Guérin’s mind). Everyone would have chipped in: your mother, Léonie, Joséphine (Joséphine Pigeon, fine old maid of 63 years of age), the servants, Peter and all his kiddiewinks, Simon and Simonne and the 3 dogs. With the gun, net, and snare, it would have been most surprising if we hadn’t caught a hundred of them. I used to so love having you taste the produce of La Musse, where I was so happy to see my two little daughters Céline and Marie flittering along the wide shady paths – Your absence makes the memory of you even stronger in my mind. I don’t feel regret; God has healed that wound with his divine balm; I feel a calm and mellow joy and a kind of pride, which accompanies the ever-present image of you in my mind. - And yet, it was not without a pang of regret that I decided to come here, because I know the human heart too well to be unaware of its temptations and battles, [2r°] and I thought it impossible for my little Benjamin not to feel slightly heart-broken at seeing us leave for this Eden, where she was once so happy, and which she would never see again. But I was quickly reassured thinking that you had endured many other more painful deprivations than this one, that you had long since trampled underfoot all the comfort and contentment that had surrounded you at home, and that you were now tasting other joys, of which the world is unaware, but which are like those beverages that taste bitter at first but which leave behind a delicious freshness. I thought that your divine fiancé would be taking you for romantic walks in parks that were much more beautiful and much more captivating than the one at La Musse, and that every day he was revealing new horizons to you, and enchanting flowers, which you nevertheless had to pick from in amongst brambles and thorns, and these made your poor little heart bleed. - These reflections comforted me. I no longer pitied you because I saw that you had exchanged your ephemeral joys for unending happiness and that your divine fiancé’s graces chased away the regrets that from time to time must have surfaced when faced with mirages of your past life. - When I think of all that, I understand the intense suffering that parents without faith must feel at the sight of their beloved children burying themselves alive in the cloister. I think their affection must become dulled or even die out, while ours has certainly grown in purity. We are doubly grateful to the One who chose our child, and also for the once small sickly being who is now the advocate and protector of her parents. I have in mind not only you when I consider these things, but also my other four daughters for whom I have an almost equal affection, because they were entrusted to me by their dear Mother, and because I have acquired [2v°]

Morning of 19th June - certain rights over them in the little part I played in their vocation, their education, and in the care we took of them. So be happy, dearest child, in your blessed sanctuary; as happy, happier even than we are to know you are sheltered there. Be happy among your saintly companions whom we also love, and much more than worldly friends, because we know they are contributing to your happiness and our own through their prayers. I single one of them out in particular (Mother Marie de Gonzague), because she surrounds you with such maternal affection, such tender care and solicitude that I don’t know how to express my deep gratitude to her on this, her feast day. Since I cannot express these sentiments in person, I’m asking you to eloquently convey them. I would have liked to have sent her a sufficient number of trout, but St. Peter has forgotten his former profession and was only able to catch 7 little ones. We will therefore make up the number with those in the reservoir to make one complete dish, unless Arsène sends me one at the last minute.

I urge you to eat them with oil, but cold, that’s how I like them best. Your mama is adding some strawberries, which are abundant here, and flowers from the garden and meadow. The drought this year is the cause for there being no grass or cornflowers.

We sent Alexandre down to the plain to pick the little bouquet we are sending, this is all he could find out there.

I had almost entirely recovered when I was struck with bouts of coughing last night and it slightly revived the pain in my groin. Maria’s health is still very poor, pray for her.

Farewell, my dear Benoni (affectionate alternative for Benjamin), your mama and I send all our love and kisses, which is a lot, to you and my 4 little daughters. I kiss your portrait that’s in my bedroom and Céline’s that is in your aunt’s room. The large photograph is in the living-room.

Your loving father

I. Guérin

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