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10 March 1853 — Brother Aimé Mallet to Father Jean-Claude Colin, New Caledonia

Translated by Peter McConnell, December 2010

New Caledonia, 10 March1853.
To very reverend Father Colin, Superior General

Very Reverend Father,
I am writing to Reverend Father Poupinel concerning my affairs and so I won’t talk to you again about it. I still wish to be rid of my possessions; I would like to finalize this matter soon.
I am here in New Caledonia where I have the feeling that I will be totally in God’s service and more on my own. That is an illusion because just as you told us on several occasions you find yourself everywhere; yet I do not regret coming here. On the contrary, I see that it is so much greater a favour of God towards me because I lack most qualities which are essential for being really useful.
Dear Father, I am going to speak to you quite simply about my ordinary life. Perhaps it will suit you better if I were to do so. Being responsible for the meals, I share their preparation with a good catechism teacher, Louis Tadinon, whom you know from reputation, and with a young helper we take turns about each week. Here there is no change from day to day; we rise at dawn or soon after about five o’clock. When it is my turn, I have to hurry to get the breakfast started, then after seizing less than an hour for meditation and Mass, I milk the cows and finally have breakfast at 8 o’clock. After the meal I go visiting and treating some sick people in the neighbourhood, consult my books to see what should be done in the most serious cases which occur, and soon it is time for the second meal. Recreation follows, that is time to recite the rosary, paying a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and a little reading. After that it is kitchen work again or else the little manual work which we call handy work. But to sum up I achieve very little, because lacking ability my output seems to be negligible. Two years ago I undertook to make an still, but I wanted to make it so perfect that I ended up doing nothing, because they felt so sorry for me that they made me stop; it was as well because that still would have certainly caused me other embarrassing moments. Furthermore nowadays we consume so little brandy that it would no longer be worth the trouble. I made a little pump for our well, but it cost more trouble than it was worth because I did not have the appropriate materials to make a solid job of it. The only connection I have with the natives is dealing with the sick. So I always need an interpreter because I have such a poor memory that I scarcely know any words of the language. Various disadvantages occur because of my inability to speak but to speak that language and to be able to understand it, I would have to devote myself solely to that purpose and as my job does not require that, I am happy with what comes naturally.
From this little account you can see that I am not greatly resourceful, because in addition to my being rarely ill, my health is not strong enough to tolerate heavy manual work.
I have an annoying piece of news to give you. For about six months the bishop’s health has been troubling us. Somebody else may have told you about it but as I am his doctor it is appropriate that I should say a few words to you about it. After an epidemic of influenza, His Lordship was left with a persistent cough which makes us particularly worried. The bishop himself is not very sanguine about the condition because there are unfortunate cases of tuberculosis in his family. Yet he has been improving for some months, but the cough increases at the slightest weariness of body and mind. I have given him a cautery and prescribed tar-water. He drinks a bottle of that each day.
Yet I hope God will keep our worthy bishop with us or that at least that sickness will leave him in our care again for a long time, because it does not seem to be increasing rapidly as it did at the beginning.
Please accept, very dear Father,
the respectful greetings
of your very humble and obedient servant,
Aimé Mallet (Marist brother)