24 December, 1896.
My dear and good Lucie:
I wrote you a few lines only a few days ago. But my thought is always with you, with our children, night and day! I know also all that you suffer, all that you all suffer, and I long to come and talk to you before the arrival of your letters, each month so impatiently awaited.
I also know how it calms the heart only to see the writing of those we love, all of whose sorrows we partake; I know also that in this way it seems that we have with us a part of their very selves, of their hearts, feeling them tremble and throb at our sides. And then I wish that I might render better—not my sufferings, you know them. My heart, like yours, is only a bleeding wound; but what I suffer for you, for our children, how my life is wrapped up in you all! And if I still stand erect, despite the agonies that rend my being—for every impression, even the commonplace, the exterior impressions, produce upon me the effect of a deep wound—it is because you are there, you and our children. I have re-read, as I have always done each month, all the letters that I have from you; they are the companions of my profound solitude, all these letters of you all; and it seems to me as I read them that you have not entirely seized my thought, which is perforce somewhat confused by being scattered among all the letters I have written to you.
I have often told you dreams that could never be carried into effect in real life, crushed by the blows that have rained upon me for more than two years without my ever having understood why they fell, my brain, distraught, searching in vain for the meaning of the horri-