A respectfully familiar sobriquet given to Mgr. de Laval.
LAST YEARS OF MGR. DE LAVAL
Illness had obliged Mgr. de Laval to hand in his resignation. He wrote, in fact, at this period of his life to M. de Denonville: “I have been for the last two years subject to attacks of vertigo accompanied by heart troubles which are very frequent and increase markedly. I have had one quite recently, on the Monday of the Passion, which seized me at three o’clock in the morning, and I could not raise my head from my bed.” His infirmities, which he bore to the end with admirable resignation, especially affected his limbs, which he was obliged to bandage tightly every morning, and which could scarcely bear the weight of his body. To disperse the unwholesome humours, his arm had been cauterized; to cut, carve and hack the poor flesh of humanity formed, as we know, the basis of the scientific and medical equipment of the period. These sufferings, which he brought as a sacrifice to our Divine Master, were not sufficient for him; he continued in spite of them to wear upon his body a coarse hair shirt. He had to serve him only one of those Brothers who devoted their labour to the seminary in exchange for their living and a place at table. This modest servant, named Houssart, had replaced a certain Lemaire, of whom the prelate draws a very interesting portrait in one of his letters: “We must economize,” he wrote to the priests of the seminary, “and have only watchful and industrious domestics. We must look after them, else they deteriorate in the seminary. You have the example of the baker, Louis Lemaire, an idler, a gossip, a tattler, a man who, instead of walking behind the coach, would not go unless Monseigneur paid for a carriage for him to follow him to La Rochelle, and lent him his dressing-gown to protect him from the cold. Formerly he worked well at heavy labour at Cap Tourmente; idleness has ruined him in the seminary. As soon as he had reached my room, he behaved like a man worn out, always complaining, coming to help me to bed only when the fancy took him; always extremely vain, thinking he was not dressed according to his position, although he was clad, as you know, more like a nobleman than a peasant, which he was, for I had taken him as a beggar and almost naked at La Rochelle.... As soon as he entered my room he sat down, and rather than be obliged to pretend to see him, I turned my seat so as not to see him.... We should have left that man at heavy work, which had in some sort conquered his folly and pride, and it is possible that he might have been saved. But he has been entirely ruined in the seminary....” This humorous description proves to us well that even in the good old days not all domestics were perfect.