Aurore!  The Mystery of the Martyred Child

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Aurore: la vraie histoire

Chapter 16, p. 264 to 267.

(The day of the funeral of Marie-Anne Houde's first husband. She has invited Télesphore to her house.)

Then she served him, filling his plate with pea soup herself. And each time that she had to pass near him, she brushed up against him with her dress and her fragrance, which was intoxicating for a man with desires who, for months, hadn’t been able to go near his too-ill wife.

Finally, she made her play, just after serving him a piece of raspberry pie that she knew, since that unforgettable New Year’s Day, that he preferred to pumpkin, "Well, you know, I would be ready to take care of your wife and your house.... I can’t run the farm here all alone. As long as I can bring my children; of course I can’t leave them behind.... It would be ideal for you, Télesphore. You could work as long as you wanted and not worry. You could go in the woods if you wanted. Go about your chores in peace. Leave the house for as long as you wanted... anything.... It’s hard to say, but it’s almost as though Poléon died at just the right moment for you all... if I can help you, naturally."

Télesphore was flabbergasted. He had thought exactly the same thing at the cemetery but had rejected the idea in the midst of confusion.... A strange woman offering to take care of a consumptive woman -- that was hard to figure out.

"You know she’s really sick?"

"Yes, and with tuberculosis, and that doesn’t scare me, not one bit. Some people don’t catch it -- you, for example, Télesphore. How come you don’t get sick living with her, being next to her all the time, eh?"

"Ah! Everybody knows that, but everybody’s afraid anyway."

"Well, not me and that’s that!"

"I can't afford to pay much for a maid, a cook, a nurse -- and for everything else you’d have to do."

"I just ask for a roof over my head and a meal, and the same for my children. And when Marie gets back her health, well, I’ll find myself a place somewhere else. Maybe in a presbytery; I’m not too sure. I’m stuck too, Télesphore. He died fast, Poléon. It would help me and you people too. And who wouldn’t be happy about it? The parish priest out your way first. I’d say God first..."

Télesphore wondered what Napoléon would think from up in heaven, but he said something else: "I wonder what my wife Marie-Anne would think...."

"You'll find out by talking to her. And I’ve made her my proposal in the letter I have for you...."

The young woman got up and quickly made her way into the darkened room, from where the man soon heard loud cursing. Followed by a shout, "Télesphore! Télesphore, could you come help me a bit? I’ve got a drawer that won’t open again. Poléon was always supposed to fix them for me but I don’t think he knew how...."

Télesphore felt flattered. As he got closer to the problem drawer, Marie-Anne managed to get it open. "It heard you coming, it seems, eh!"

She took out the letter and put it in his hand as he looked around the room.

"Oh! My furniture, I could just put it somewhere in a shed or else in a barn when the farm is sold. For now, I’m leaving it all right here. You see the bed, it’s a good bed... even for a big man like you.... Poléon died in it but it’s all been changed; there’s no germs left. And besides, it wasn’t consumption that killed him...."

Télesphore’s head was spinning like a top; things were happening so fast. After a few seconds, she continued as she walked away, "I said what I had to say. I won’t push, that’s for sure. It’s up to you all to really think about it!... If you’re interested, I’m ready to start work at your place in the next couple of months."


In spite of the sense it all made at first, in spite of the willingness of Marie-Anne Houde, Télesphore promised himself all the way back home that his wife would have to agree one hundred percent to another woman coming into the house. Even more than one hundred percent....


As he passed through the village, he was about to stop in at his brother’s house to talk for a while, and possibly get his opinion on the question that was bothering him, but he reconsidered. Anthime, he remembered, didn’t like this Marie-Anne Houde and he would only argue with him and, in any case, the notion ultimately was conditional on the complete approval of his wife.

She smiled as he entered the room. He glanced at her furtively, as if hesitant about something. He handed her the letter but spoke before she opened it:

"I have to tell you, Marie-Anne, she really feels bad for you. And... from what I can see, I think she’s proposing something to us in her letter. She would agree to take care of you, I think. But it’s up to you to decide, not to me at all. Read...."

He left and went to light the cold stove.

“Télesphore? Come....”

He leaned against the doorframe.

“Well, I think that we should maybe accept her offer; what do you think?”

“Me? I don’t really know!”

“Oh! You don’t want to,” said his wife with disappointment.

“That’s not what I said. What I’m saying is that it’s not up to me to think anything about it. It’s up to you and nobody else.”

“It would help us. You too, not just me. Like she says, you could still go in the woods, do all your chores without worrying about me....”

“It would help me, that’s for sure. But that doesn’t matter. You’re all that matters, nothing else!”

At that moment, Télesphore was telling the truth. He never consciously lied and he never would have in such a serious situation.

“Bring me paper and something to write with.... We’ll answer her nice generous letter.... Do you want to read it?”

“No need! We both know what’s in it!”


“Well, let’s say I have some doubts. Not too many now, but some.” Télesphore repeated to Father Blanchet the same words he had already uttered a few times concerning the widow with the big heart who was ready to take care of his wife in exchange for food and lodging for herself and her family.

The parish priest approved of the idea.

There was one condition: Télesphore would have to tell him how the situation was evolving every time he came to confession.

The holy deal was concluded.


Source: André Mathieu, Aurore: la vraie histoire, chapitre 16 (Saint-Eustache: Éditions du Cygne, 1990), 264-267.

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