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Ms A 43v

[43v°] These words of the Imitation touched me deeply, but I had to buy, so to speak, this inestimable grace through my desires; I was still only a child who appeared to have no will but that of others, and this caused certain people in Alençon to say I had a [5] weak character. It was during this trip that Léonie made her attempt to enter the Poor Clares. I was saddened by her extraordinary entrance, for I loved her very much and I hadn’t even the chance to kiss her before her departure. Never will I forget the kindness and embarrassment of this poor little Father of ours when he came to announce that Léonie had already received the habit of the Poor Clares. [10] He found this very strange, just as we did, but he didn’t want to say anything when he saw how unhappy Marie was about the matter. He took us to the convent and there I experienced a sort of contraction of my heart such as I never felt at the sight of a monastery. This monastery produced the opposite effect which Carmel produced in me, for there everything made my heart expand. The sight of the religious didn’t attract me [15] in the least, and I was not tempted to remain among them. However, poor Léonie was very attractive in her new costume, and she told us to get a good look at her eyes because we would no longer see them (the Poor Clares have a custom of going around with eyes downcast), but God was content with only two months of sacrifice, and Léonie returned to show us her blue eyes which were frequently [20] moist with tears.

When leaving Alençon I believed she would remain with the Poor Clares, and so it was with a heavy heart I left the sad street of Demi-lune (half moon). We were only three now and soon our Marie was also to leave. The 15th of October was the day of separation! From the happy and numerous family of Les Buissonnets there remained only the two youngest children. The doves had flown from the paternal nest, and those who remained would have loved to fly in their turn, but their wings

 

 

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Ms A 43r

[43r°] window was a table covered with a green cloth, and in the center were an hourglass, a small statue of St. Joseph, a watchcase, baskets of flowers, an inkwell, etc. A few rickety chairs and a beautiful doll’s cot belonging to Pauline completed my furnishings.Truly, this [5] poor attic was a world for me and like M. de Maistre I could compose a book entitled: “A Walk Around My Room.” It was in this room I loved to stay alone for hours on end to study and meditate before the beautiful view which stretched out before my eyes. When I learned of Marie’s departure, my room lost [10] its attraction for me and I didn’t want to leave for one instant the dear sister who was to fly away soon. What acts of patience I made her practice! Each time I passed in front of the door of her room, I knocked until she opened it and I embraced her with all my heart. I wanted to get a supply of kisses to make up for all the time I was to be deprived of them. [15] A month before her entrance into Carmel, Papa brought us to Alençon, but this trip was far from resembling the first; everything about it was sadness and bitterness for me. I cannot express the tears I shed on Mama’s grave because I had forgotten to bring the bouquet of cornflowers I had gathered especially for her. I really made a big fuss over everything! I was just the [20] opposite of what I am now, for God has given me the grace not to be downcast at any passing thing. When I think of the past, my soul overflows with gratitude when I see the favors I received from heaven. They have made such a change in me that I don’t recognize myself. It is true that I desired the grace “of having absolute control over my actions, of not being their slave but their mistress.”

 

 

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Ms A 42v

[42v°] after two or three days I got sick and they had to bring me back to Lisieux.86 My sickness, which they feared was serious, was only an attack of nostalgia for Les Buissonnets, for hardly had I put my foot in the house when my health returned. And it was from a child such as this that God was taking away the only [5] support which attached me to life!

As soon as I learned of Marie’s determination, I resolved to take no pleasure out of earth’s attractions. Since my leaving the boarding school, I set myself up in Pauline’s old painting room and arranged it to suit my taste. It was a real bazaar, an assemblage of pious objects and [10] curiosities, a garden, and an aviary. Thus, at the far end on the wall was a big cross in black wood, without a corpus, and several drawings I liked. On another wall, a basket, decorated with muslin and pink ribbons, contained some delicate herbs and flowers. Finally, on the last wall, was enthroned all by itself the portrait of Pauline at the age of ten. [15] Beneath the portrait was a table and upon it was a large cage which enclosed a great number of birds; their melodious song got on the nerves of visitors but not on those of their little mistress who cherished them very much. There was also the “little white piece of furniture” filled with my school books and copybooks, and on it [20] was set a statue of the Blessed Virgin, along with vases always filled with natural flowers, and candles. Around the statue was a number of small statues of the saints, little baskets made out of shells, cardboard boxes, etc.! My garden was suspended in front of the window, and there I cultivated pots of flowers (the rarest I could find). I also had on the inside of “my museum” a flower stand on which I placed my privileged plant. In front of the

 

 

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Ms A 42r

[42r°] in spite of my twelve and a half years, and I remember the joy I had putting on some pretty sky-blue ribbons Aunt had given me for my hair; I also recall having confessed at Trouville even this childish pleasure which seemed to be a sin to me. I had an [5] experience one evening that surprised me very much.

Marie [Guérin] , who was almost always ailing, often whimpered; and then Aunt babied her, giving her all kinds of endearing names, but my dear little cousin continued her crying and said she had a headache. I, who had a headache almost every day and didn’t complain, wanted [10] to imitate Marie. So one evening, sitting in an armchair in the corner of the parlor, I set about the business of crying. Soon Jeanne and Aunt hurried over to me, asking me what was the matter. I answered like Marie: “I have a headache.” It seemed that complaining didn’t suit me, for I was unable to convince them that a headache would [15] make me cry; instead of babying me, they spoke to me as to an adult, and Jeanne scolded me for lacking confidence in Aunt, for she was convinced something was bothering my conscience. Getting nowhere for all my trouble, I made the resolution never to imitate others again, and I understood the fable about “The donkey and the pet dog.” I was the donkey that saw the caresses [20] the little dog was getting; he came and placed his clumsy hoof on the table to get his share of kisses. Although I didn’t get the blows of the cudgel like the poor animal, I did get what I deserved and this cured me for life of any desire to attract attention. The one effort I had made was far too costly!

The following year, that of my dear Marie’s departure for Carmel, Aunt invited me again but this time all alone, and I was so much out of my element that

 


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Ms A 41v

[41v°] impassable walls. But finally I ended up by recognizing the sad reality: Pauline is lost to me, almost in the same manner as if she were dead. She always loved me, prayed for me, but in my eyes my dear Pauline had become a saint who was no longer able to understand the things [5] of earth. And the miseries of her poor Thérèse, if she were aware of them, would only astonish her and prevent her from loving her Thérèse as much as she did. Besides, even when I would have desired to confide my thoughts to her as at Les Buissonnets, I could not have done so, for the visits at the Carmel were only for Marie. Céline and I had permission to come only at the end, just to [10] have the time to break our heart.

And so, in reality, I had only Marie, and she was indispensable to me, so to speak. I told my scruples only to her and was so obedient that my confessor never knew my ugly malady. I told him just the number of sins Marie permitted me to confess, not one more, and could pass [15] as being the least scrupulous soul on earth in spite of the fact that I was scrupulous to the highest degree. Marie knew, then, everything that went on in my soul, and she knew my desires for Carmel. I loved her so much I couldn’t live without her. Aunt invited us to come every year, each in our turn, to her place at Trouville, and I should have [20] loved going there, but with Marie! When I didn’t have her with me, I was very much bored. Once I did enjoy going there, however, and it was the year of Papa’s trip to Constantinople. To give us a little distraction (we were sad when we knew Papa was so far away), Marie sent us, Céline and me, to the seashore for two weeks. I enjoyed myself very much because I was with my Céline. Aunt provided us with all the amusements possible: donkey rides, fishing for eels, etc. I was still very much a child

 


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