Uncle Louis

In Autumn 2007, when I had exchanged contracts and first swept the dust from the house to see what it was I had bought, I had a strange encounter with a previous occupant. Towards the end of a week of cleaning and scraping, thinking and planning I was sweeping up the filth from the massive granite jigsaw puzzle which constitutes the ground floor. I had a boiler suit on and a dust mask, all the windows were open. As I picked up the large pile of dirt form the floor with a dustpan and brush I noticed something and picked it out. A sepia round portrait on brown sugar paper not more than 8cm square. A young man in uniform with the mere hint of a moustache and a suggestion of a smile playing around the corners of his mouth.

[Louis Bourret]
I found this small sepia portrait in a pile of dust in 2007

He cannot be much more than 18 years old – perhaps younger. Surely the neat four-letter rising cursive ‘Sara‘ is the name of his sweetheart, underlined for emphasis. His name is Louis Bourret and he was born on the 10th May 1903, in Colondannes – most probably in this very house. At the time of the 1911 census he was living in  his grand-father’s Jean-Baptiste’s house with his mother Pauline, older sister Augustine and his father’s younger brother, his uncle Alexis. The men were farmers and his father is listed as Cultivateur Patron.

[1911 census - Colondannes]
Young Louis BOURRET in the 1911 Colondannes census.

So we can speculate that this cameo was taken after 1920 during a period of national service. Young Louis looks handsome in his uniform and maybe he intends to give his sweetheart a copy? Or perhaps it is she who has had this image taken for him? We shall never know. I can find no mention of a young contemporary named Sara in the Colondannes census. Whoever she was, it seems likely he met her someplace else. Sadly, I don’t believe (for whatever reason) that their acquaintance bore fruit.  Louis Auguste Henri Bourret died unmarried in Gueret on 21st march 1972.

When I bought the house I attempted to fix some stone steps, next to the well,  up to the raised garden. There I found a midden where many household waste items had been deposited within easy reach of the main door. The finds leads me to believe that Louis never did spend much time (if any) with his mysterious Sara. It seems he was long alone in the house until he passed away, sometime in the early Seventies. Conversations I have had with Mme. Durande suggest as much. Odette inherited the house from her uncle upon his death but the house stood empty after that until I bought it in 2007. In some ways it is a sad story and all I know of Louis. But the sentimentalist in me feels like he found a way to say hello.

We have never felt anything other than comfortable in this house and the ‘vibes’ are only good for us. It is warm and welcoming and on those early occasions when I slept alone in a ruin in a hammock strung from the beams of the ground floor, I always felt comfortable and safe.