For two months, Eugene was at the home of his sister, convalescing and also performing “the role of consoling angel” (Rey I p 478) to his 19-year-old niece, Nathalie de Boisgelin, who was dying.
He describes the situation to Fr Tempier, and shares his anguish:
She confided to me that even if she desired it on the one hand, she was extremely repelled by it on the other because Purgatory made her horribly afraid and she trembled in all her limbs just at the thought that on leaving this world she would be separated from God, since in Purgatory one cannot see God while going through cruel expiation of one’s sins. She wept while speaking thus to me.
Judge for yourself my position. Obliged, by duty of conscience, not to divert her mind from the death which she told me must be very close, and to suppress in my heart all the anguish and havoc that the sight of her did to me! You will know that I neglected nothing to inspire in this beautiful soul the amply justified motives of confidence which she ought to entertain.
But martyrdom on the rack, or iron claws or fire are nothing in comparison with the torments that conversing with her thus for half an hour made me feel. I cannot conceive how my heart does not burst on such occasions when I am forced to contain it while behaving and speaking as if no upheaval was going on within me.
Letter to Henri Tempier, 28 October 1829, EO VII n 339