Dear friend of my heart, I leave with my son and his wife the 20th of the month to stay two weeks in Paris, perhaps more if the revival of Villemer delays me longer. Therefore your dear good mother, whom I do not want to miss, has all the time she needs to go to see her daughters. I shall wait in Paris until you tell me if she has returned, or rather, if I make you a real visit, you shall tell me the time that suits you best.
My intention, for the moment, was quite simply to go to pass an hour with you, and Lina was tempted to accompany me; I should have shown her Rouen, and then we should have embraced you in time to return in the evening to Paris; for the dear little one has always her ear and her heart listening when she is away from Aurore, and her holidays are marked by a continual uneasiness which I quite understand. Aurore is a treasure of gentleness which absorbs us all. If it can be arranged, we shall then go on the run to grasp your hands. If it can not, I shall go alone later when your heart says so, and, if you are going south, I shall put it off until everything can be arranged without disturbing whatever may be the plans of your mother or yourself. I am very free. So, don’t disturb yourself, and arrange your summer without bothering about me.
I have thirty-six plans also, but I don’t incline to any one; what amuses me is what seizes me and takes me off suddenly. It is with a journey as with a novel: those who travel are those who command. Only when one is in Paris, Rouen is not a journey, and I shall always be ready when I am there, to respond to your call. I am a little remorseful to take whole days from your work, I who am never bored with loafing, and whom you could leave for whole hours under a tree, or before two lighted logs, with the assurance that I should find there something interesting. I know so well how to live OUTSIDE OF MYSELF! It hasn’t always been like that. I also was young and subject to indignations. It is over!
Since I have dipped into real nature, I have found there an order, a system, a calmness of cycles which is lacking in mankind, but which man can, up to a certain point, assimilate when he is not too directly at odds with the difficulties of his own life. When these difficulties return he must endeavor to avoid them; but if he has drunk the cup of the eternally true, he does not get too excited for or against the ephemeral and relative truth.
But why do I say this to you? Because it comes to my pen-point; for in considering it carefully, your state of overexcitement is probably truer, or at least more fertile and more human than my SENILE tranquillity. I would not like to make you as I am, even if by a magical operation I could. I should not be interested in myself if I had the honor to meet myself. I should say that one troubadour is enough to manage and I should send the other to Chaillot.
A propos of gypsies, do you know that there are gypsies of the sea? I discovered in the outskirts of Tamaris, among the furthest rocks, great boats well sheltered, with women and children, a coast settlement, very restricted, very tanned; fishing for food without trading; speaking a language that the people of the country do not understand; living only in these great boats stranded on the sand, when the storms troubled them in their rocky coves; intermarrying, inoffensive and sombre, timid or savage; not answering when any one speaks to them. I don’t even know what to call them. The name that I have been told has escaped me but I could get some one to tell me again. Naturally the country people hate them and that they have no religion; if that is so they ought to be superior to us. I ventured all alone among them. “Good day, sirs.” Response, a slight bend of the head. I looked at their encampment, no one moved. It seemed as if they did not see me. I asked them if my curiosity annoyed them. A shrug of the shoulders as if to say, “What do we care?” I spoke to a young man who was mending the meshes in a net very cleverly; I showed him a piece of five francs in gold. He looked the other way. I showed him one in silver. He deigned to look at it. “Do you want it?” He bent his head on his work. I put it near him, he did not move. I went away, he followed me with his eyes. When he thought that I could not see him any longer, he took the piece and went to talk with a group. I don’t know what happened. I fancy that they put it in the common exchequer. I began botanizing at some distance within sight to see if they would come to ask me something or to thank me. No one moved. I returned as if by chance towards them; the same silence, the same indifference. An hour later, was at the top of the cliff, and I asked the coast-guard who those people were who spoke neither French, nor Italian, nor patois. He told me their name, which I have not remembered.
He thought that they were Moors, left on the coast since the time of the great invasions from Provence, and perhaps he is not mistaken. He told me that he had seen me among them from his watch tower, and that I was wrong, for they were a people capable of anything; but when I asked him what harm they did he confessed to me that they had done none. They lived by their fishing and above all on the things cast up by the sea which they knew how to gather up before the most alert. They were an object of perfect scorn. Why? Always the same story. He who does not do as all the world does can only do evil.
If you go into the country, you might perhaps meet them at the end of the Brusq. But they are birds of passage, and there are years when they do not appear at all. I have not even seen the Paris Guide. They owe me a copy, however; for I gave something to it without receiving payment. It is because of that no doubt that they have forgotten me.
To conclude, I shall be in Paris from the 20th of June to the 5th of July. Send me a word always to 97 rue des Feuillantines. I shall stay perhaps longer, but I don’t know. I embrace you tenderly, my splendid old fellow. Walk a little, I beg of you. I don’t fear anything for the novel; but I fear for the nervous system taking too much the place of the muscular system. I am very well, except for thunder bolts, when I fall on my bed for forty-eight hours and don’t want any one to speak to me. But it is rare and if I do not relent so that they can nurse me, I get up perfectly cured.
Maurice’s love. Entomology has taken possession of him this year; he discovers marvels. Embrace your mother for me, and take good care of her. I love you with all my heart.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54