THE WINTER OF GREAT TRIAL
Shortly after his wife's death, Louis Martin moved his family of five girls (ranging in ages from four to seventeen) to Lisieux. He rented a home and named it "Les Buissonnets" ("The Hedges"). Therese then entered what she termed "the second" and "most painful" period of her life. Because of the shock of her mother's death, "my happy disposition completely changed," she remembered. "I became timid and retiring, sensitive to an excessive degree...."
Louis Martin and his daughters did all they could to help little Therese who missed her mother so much. They lavished affection and attention upon the motherless child. At Les Buissonnets, under the tutelage of her sisters Marie and Pauline, Therese began her first schooling. Each day after classes were over she joined her father in his study. Louis called Therese his "little queen". Eventually the two would go for a walk. They would visit a different church each day and pray before the Blessed Sacrament. The bond between father and daughter grew stronger and stronger. "How could I possibly express the tenderness which Papa showered upon his queen?" she later exclaimed. Her sister Celine, nearly four years older, became her favorite playmate.
The passage is all the more remarkable because it revealed the theme of exile which dominated her whole life. Therese maintained the first word she learned to read was "heaven". From her childhood she interpreted all her world as only the beginning, only a glimpse of a glorious future. Sundays had tremendous significance. They were days of rest tinged with melancholy because they must end. It was on a Sunday evening this youngster felt the pang of exile of this earth. "I longed," she explained, "for the everlasting repose of heaven - that never ending Sunday of the fatherland...."
Therese, given the proper occasion, continued to produce extreme temper tantrums. The following is her own account of one of the more sparkling scenes that took place between herself and her poor nurse, Victoire. "I wanted an inkstand which was on the shelf of the fireplace in the kitchen; being too little to take it down, I very nicely asked Victoire to give it to me. But she refused, telling me to get up on a chair. I took a chair without saying a word, but thinking she wasn't too nice; wanting to make her feel it, I searched out in my little head what offended me the most. She often called me a 'little brat' when she was annoyed at me and humbled me very much. So before jumping off my chair, I turned around with dignity and said, 'Victoire, you are a brat!' Then I made my escape leaving Victoire to meditate on the profound statement I had just made....I thought, if Victoire didn't want to stretch her big arm to do me a little service, she merited the title 'brat.'"