« Never has time seemed longer to me »
At the beginning of 1830, Eugénie is staying in Gaillac with her sister Marie. The coldness of that dreadful winter, to linger for a long time in the memories of the Tarnais as « l’annada dal frech », compels her to remain secluded in uncle Albenque’s mansion, and she is worrying about her father’s health, as he remained at the Cayla. Above all, she would like to conceal from him a ghastly piece of news : the death of Victor Mathieu, from Albi, her cherished cousin, her “elder brother”, Maurice looked so much alike (“… a tenderly beloved friend, the charm of my childhood, who used to take me on his knees, teach me reading without making me cry…” … Journal, 31st December 1839).
That death, after her mother’s one ten years before, will be the beginning of a series of bereavements for Eugénie, leaving their mark on her forever.
To her father
[Gaillac], 15th January 1830.
Never has time seemed longer to me than this week, my dear daddy. At long last your letter arrived to comfort me for a while. But merely a while as, after I’d read it, I find myself as far from you as if we were hundred leagues away from each other. When will I be able to see you again and embrace you and tell you all I have got to tell you ? That last night has been one of the harshest 1, they say, as I did not go out. I take care of myself as if you were there to tell it me. Thus I am faring rather well, without lying at all, believe me. Mimi didn’t withstand the cold as well, she’s been down with the flu for a few days. But do not take alarm though, her flu is heated, sweetened as best as possible. My uncle shares his candies with her and makes her drink sweetened water every evening. You are not talking about your health whereas I dread so much. Boredom, coldness make me shiver and above all the woeful blow I would not wish to remind you of.
That poor Victor was as good as brother to you, I cannot believe he is no more in the land of the living. But, alas ! The ghastly truth is there ; I have got that letter from Raynaud that struck us like lightning. I didn’t send it out to you on Friday in order not to distress you all of a sudden. I saw you were not suspecting anything, that’s why I wrote to you in such a way as not to deprive you of any hope. But, since you know what I wanted to conceal from you, I am sending you all the letters we received. There are two from Maurice ². It seems he is faring well, apart from his sorrow which must have been quite acute. I wrote to him yesterday in order not to leave him too long without hearing from us.
Everyone is fine at my uncle’s ; M. de Bellerive, who is at the corner of the fireplace I’m writing from, sends his friendly regards.
I resume my letter where I had left it to go to the mass. I hardly get out but for going to church ; any other place bores me instead of entertaining me. The weather is said to be improving. If it goes on brightening up, I am expecting you tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
Farewell, my dear Érembert, take good care of yourself ³ so I won’t have to look after you, but just embrace you.
I come back to you, my dear daddy, but it is only to leave you and say farewell. I hope that soon I will say good morning or good evening upon seeing you, and indeed a long time will elapse before I say farewell. I do not know if you will be able to read me ; I am using a sheet of paper, the only one I was able to find, raising doleful thoughts in me, due to the deaths written whereupon. God only knows how much I love you. Farewell, dear daddy ; I will soon come and tell you. Mimi repeats all I have just said, she joins her embrace to mine.
1 See letter n°2 – February 2014.
2 Those from 23rd and 29th December 1829.
3 He had been seriously ill and was recovering slowly. In his letter from 5th January 1830 (our Letter of the month n° 13), Maurice was joyful « about the sweet evidence of his health recovery… »).