From Mme Martin to her brother Isidore CF 15 - November 7, 1865.

From Mme Martin to her brother

November 7, 1865

My father has shared your letter with us, and he’s hurrying to send you the money you need (which is enclosed) so you won’t go to Monsieur D, who is, we know, very financially embarrassed again despite the 3,000 francs we lent him. (Monsieur and Madame D were lace merchants in Paris and would place their orders with the manufacturers. Zélie had business dealings with them for Alençon lace). Business has not been good these past three months, and, if it continues, he’ll have to abandon his profession!

You’ll have your box of linen within two weeks. The finest worker in the city has worked on it. I’m sorry to see that you need them so badly. If I had known, you would have received them much sooner. It’s a little my fault and a little yours, as well. I’ll tell you frankly that we were not happy with you. You did not deign to write to us, and we were a little mortified by that. I thought you didn’t care much for us.

Let’s speak of something else. I’m completely disillusioned. I used to see you in Le Mans and I eagerly looked forward to paying you a little visit from time to time. That was a bright spot in my so monotonous and laborious existence.

But what you want makes it necessary to give up everything (Isidore was attempting to buy a pharmacy in Lisieux belonging to the Fournet family. He will marry their daughter Céline on September 11, 1866). I never had much joy in my life, no; never what one would call joy. My childhood, my youth, was as sad as a shroud because, if my mother spoiled you, as you know, she was too strict with me. She, though so good, didn’t know how to treat me, so my heart suffered greatly.

Now, I’m not unhappy. I admit I’m happier than I was. However, I have many problems that other women in my situation don’t have. It’s this awful Alençon lace that makes life difficult. When I have too many orders, I’m a slave to the worst kind of slavery. When it’s not going well and I find myself liable for 20,000 francs out of my own account, and I have to send to other firms the workers who were so hard to find; (Zélie employed lace makers who worked at home. Every Thursday they would bring their completed pieces of lace to Zélie and she would assemble them into the master design) this gives me reason to worry, as well as nightmares! Oh well, what can I do? I must accept it and come to terms with it as bravely as possible.

But here is another reason to be sad: you want to move seventy leagues (274 km) from here!… So, I’ll say goodbye to you forever; we’ll hardly see each other until the next world because, never in my poor life, which, I believe, will not be long, will I have the time to go see you. As for you, you won’t have any more time than I’ll have. We’ll only speak to each other by letter, and when I want to see you, I’ll look at your portrait, which is a very poor consolation.

If, by chance, you can get away for two days to come and see us, there will be, on both sides, as much pain as pleasure. When the distance that separates you is so great, the separation is very painful. On the other hand, if you lived in Le Mans, all you would have to say is, “If I want, I can see her in two hours!” This would be enough to calm you. And how much our poor sister in Le Mans wanted this! I even dreamed of a happiness that perhaps will never be realized. I would say to myself, “Maybe Louis will want to move to Le Mans after we retire.”

Oh well, this shouldn’t make you take the wrong road. You must go where you believe you can build a good business. You’ll have a wife and children who will fill the void and who’ll make you forget everyone else … up to a point. If I didn’t have my husband and children, it wouldn’t matter that you go far – if you went to Africa, I would follow you there. My father would come also, and I would keep house for you the best I could. I’m going to say a prayer to the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph that the pharmacist in Le Mans decides in your favor, if it’s for your happiness.

I finish my letter with a heart filled with sadness.

My father is well, as are all of us, except for little Hélène, who has had a fever for several days.


© Society of St. Paul / Alba House

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