Gathering Dust


Like so many other tales, this one begins in the attic. We live in an old Victorian house that has been in the family for 100 years. The house was so full when we moved in, in 1979, that it was hard to walk through the rooms. I was pregnant and the house needed major restoration and repairs. Family lore and memorabilia got shoved in an attic crawlspace behind the tower room. Some stuff was moved to an old servant's quarters, upstairs over the carriage house.

For years I have been trying to clean out that crawlspace in the attic. It is a hopeless task, because my husband insists on saving everything. As 23 years have gone quickly by, I am beginning to wonder if I will ever attain my goal. Every once in a while, I brave the creepy crawlspace to sift through what has become four generations of family mystery, to try to make sense of it all


One summer, I dragged out an intriguing black metal box filled with old family documents and letters. I carried the curious box down three flights of stairs to sort through it is better air and light on the front porch. Among the papers I discovered an old will from Echallens, Switzerland, beautifully calligraphed in French and dated January 2, 1829


Madame Henriette (nee Monnier) Mouquin, Veuve (widow) of David Mouquin of the Commune of L'Abbaye, an aubergiste (innkeeper) in Echallens, called the notary to her bed, in the intent to receive the depositions of her testament, and consequently to implore Devine mercy. Appearing of sound mind and spirit; she dictated the following in the presence of the undersigned witnesses


  1. I leave to the poor of Echallens, without distinction of religion, 16 francs payable upon my death.

  2. I leave my linens and personal clothing to my two daughters.

  3. My son, Louis, must take all that he needs to complete his military equipment.

  4. My children are too young to continue my business. I direct that the inn be closed and that one sell only what is necessary to save the furniture and linen.

  5. I direct my heirs, my dear children - Louis, Fanchette and Sophie to pay my debts of equal portion, but only under the condition that my son retain the right to keep the inn.

I revoke any prior wills.

My daughters reserve the right to remain in the house until that time that they marry.

SiGNED IN The presence of Monsieur Etie Jaquier, of Echallens, tutor of the heirs of Henriette Mouquin, and in the company of his pupil Louis Mouquin, age 18, and Louis Monnier, brother of Henriette Mouquin.