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have the honour and glory of producing the new lioness in fashionable society. I own I'm rather curious to see them together, for ages ago I used to hear about Ursula Hamilton from my cousin, Monsieur de Saldes, who knew her abroad, and she appeared to be anything but an amenable subject, although at that time she was only fifteen or sixteen. But I shall leave you to dress now-you needn't hurry, for we don't breakfast till half-past eleven."
With that she nodded her head in a friendly way, and strode majestically out of the room.
I had been so thoroughly roused by Madame Olympe's visit, that I got up as soon as she had left me. I unfastened those delicious French windows that open from top to bottom, and seem to let all heaven and earth at once into the room, threw back the outer jalousies, and feasted my eyes upon the landscape. Before me lay the park (a bit of land redeemed from the heart of the forest, and cleared for the dwelling of my hostess) dotted all over with clumps of trees: here and there little screens of delicate young poplars, already turned by the season, quivered their golden leaves in the clear splendours of the autumn blue. At the bottom of the hill lay the river, of which my room commanded three different views as it turned and wound about, all glittering and rippling, and covered, as it were, with an ever-vibrating network of light; and beyond, stretching up and on for miles and miles around us, was the great ocean of the forest, drenched in deep dews, steeped in warm sunshine, swaying in the sweet morning freshness, and chanting its solemn hymn of glad ness to the Lord of all the beauties of the earth.
When I was dressed, I went into the drawing-room, where I found Madame Olympe, still in the same picturesque costume, assiduously dusting the books upon the table with a feather brush. "This is not much like England after all," thought I.
"We have a new servant," she said in a plaintive tone of voice, "who never touches a thing in the morning, and so I am obliged to go round myself and see to it.'
'Why, what does she do?" I inquired; "lie in bed till this hour?" "The she is a he, whose name is Hyacinthe, and that is what he does!" she answered, pointing with her brush to the chandelier.
I looked up; it was a quaint edifice, built entirely of stags' heads and antlers carved in wood, and it was filled from top to bottom with flowers and leaves grouped together in the loveliest way.
"Look there-and there," she said.
I glanced round the room; in every corner there were heaps and heaps of flowers arranged, with every variety of sword-like rush and feathery plume of grass.
There he is!" she
"Would you like to see the artist himself? continued, opening the door which led out into the hall.
Beyond the hall was a large portico, fitted up with sofas and chairs, and here, at a table covered with flowers, sat a short fat man with a turn-up nose, pasty face,
and sentimental aspect, dressing a couple of huge vases. These he afterwards brought in and placed triumphantly upon the chimney-piece; they were entirely filled with the most delicate ferns, intermingled with dark ivy-leaves, which fell over and round the jars in garlands of exquisite grace.
At breakfast I was introduced to Monsieur Berthier, a gentleman who looked about fifty-five years old. He was fair, rather bald, and had the gentlest voice and manner in the world. He very kindly endeavoured to put me at my ease by speaking to me in English, but his pronunciation was so peculiar that I could hardly understand what he said—which made me much more nervous than I was before. However, they all soon found out that I spoke French without difficulty, and then we got on swimmingly.
Monsieur Charles appeared in full hunting costume. He did not wear the green, which is the colour of the Imperial hunt, but a white coat with maroon velvet facings: it was extremely picturesque, and very becoming to pretty little Jeanne, who was charmingly got up in the same colours.
They called this morning meal their breakfast, but it was to all intents and purposes a regular dinner. There were two large dishes of hot meat, two or three others of cold, hot dressed vegetables, salad, eggs, and all served upon the bare oak table without any table-cloth. At the end where Madame Olympe sat, were the urn and breakfast-service; but I observed that everybody drank wine-and-water to begin with, and then gradually arrived at tea as a sort of climax, when a most delicious hot heavy pastrycake was handed round, which they ate with an addition of butter and honey that made me expect to see them die on their chairs by my side. It is but fair to add that this breakfast and their dinner are the only meals partaken of in the day. The servants have their breakfast and dinner immediately after their masters have done, upon what is left; the whole domestic machinery seems to me much simpler than our English arrangements. French servants do not eat or drink half so much as ours do, and make much fewer difficulties. What complicates matters in England a good deal is the separate life led by the children: this does not exist in France, where the children keep for the most part the same hours with their parents, instead of dining apart and early, as ours do.
While we were in the middle of breakfast a figure darted past the window, gesticulating violently-this I found was Monsieur Kiowski, who had been out painting and had not heard the breakfast-bell. Presently he rushed in with his sketch-book in his hand: he was quite young, and very pleasant-looking.
"Mille pardons!" he said, hurrying up to Madame Olympe and kissing her hand. “I hadn't any idea it was so late, but I found the most adorable little bit to paint from the boat-house! When first I got there it was all cool grays and silver tones-a perfect Corot-with just that little bit of dead tree coming in there you see" (showing her the book) "to give it a red accent; but when the sun came out the whole aspect altered from minute to minute, so that I was obliged to give it up at last. I must try and get up early again to-morrow to finish it if possible. Good
morning, Jeanne. Good-morning, Berthier. Why didn't you come out and have a go at the river too? You have no idea how lovely it looked from the inside of the boat-house; but perfectly adorable!" (and he sent a kiss into the air rapturously from the tip of his fingers). "Yes, some pommes de terre sautées, Hyacinthe, if you please."
All this came pelting out in a torrent of French, and in a single breath, and I was perfectly dumfoundered when Madame Olympe presented him to me, and he asked me in equally faultless English if I had had a good night and was rested after my journey?
"Mademoiselle does not look as if she had crossed the sea yesterday: were you ill?" asked Monsieur Berthier in his slow gentle way. "I think the English character never comes out more strongly than on board a steamboat," he continued. "The feeling of decency-le convenable—is what English people never lose sight of English women more especially: even the tortures of sea-sickness they manage to control, and retire to some secluded corner with their basin, hoping to shroud from observation an attitude which no amount of will can render graceful or dignified. I saw a vulgar Spaniard once, when I was crossing over to England: be had been making game of a poor Meess, who, with English forethought, had provided herself with a basin before the vessel started. He straddled about on deck with a great chain and a gaudy cane, and said in a swaggering way, 'Look at all these poor wretches who are determined to be ill! Their precautions are exactly what makes them so; they are afraid, and give in, and of course are sick immediately; but if one walks up and down as I do, and smokes as I do, and sings as I do, one is never ill.' He began executing some roulades as the boat steamed out of harbour; the sea was terrible, and before ten minutes were over, my Spaniard, who had suddenly lapsed into ominous silence and gradually become of a hue the like of which I never beheld before or since on any human countenance, uttered a discordant shriek, and made a violent plunge at a basin he saw upon a bench near him-the ship lurched, the basin rolled off, and he rolled after it and lay wallowing there on the ground where he fell, an utterly demoralized and disgusting object; but so miserable and so regardless of all appearances that I assure you he became almost grand through excess of suffering, and the entire absence of self-consciousness. Meess, with her basin in her corner, and all her British dignity, was little by the side of that Spaniard in the agony of his utter self-abandonment."
We all laughed, but Madame Olympe took the English side of the question and stood up for it very vigorously. Monsieur Berthier turned
"Confess that you went downstairs and tried to hide yourself from every one; you would not be English if you had not done this. I remember at one time of my life having to pass every day the English pastrycook's at the corner of the Rue de Rivoli. I used to see the English Misses there eating cakes, and when I looked in at the window at them (for they were almost always pretty) they took a crumb at a time, but
when I passed on, and they thought they were not seen any more, they put enormous pieces into their mouths, and ate with as much voracity as other people. I used to amuse myself with pretending to go by, and then coming back stealthily to watch them from the corner of the window, and they always did the same."
'Well," said Monsieur Kiowski, "and very right too: you seem to think it ridiculous and unpoetical, but after all, it shows a regard for the feelings of others, and a certain sense of beauty too, which in my humble opinion are qualities rather than defects."
André now came to say that the horses were at the door, and we all went out upon the perron to see them start. Jeanne embraced her mother, and the Marquis kissed his sister's hand before they mounted. The horses were English, and very handsome beasts, and the Marquis's tall slight figure in his gay uniform, and with his great hunting-horn slung over his shoulder, looked uncommonly well as they passed in and out through the trees, with the sun shining full upon them. How I envied them their ride,-I, who could not even walk!
"I am sorry I cannot drive you to the meet to-day," said Madame Olympe to me, "because these people are coming. However, you must see it one day before you go; it is very different from the English hunting, but it is very pretty in the forest, and we can follow it perfectly in a carriage and see all the sport."
While we were still standing on the perron watching the receding figures as they went down the hill, we saw a little black object with a white head-dress flitting swiftly towards the house. As she came nearer to us, I saw that it was a Sister of Charity.
"It is the Sour Marie," said Madame Olympe, going forward to meet her. "The school-children are under her direction and she is the good angel of the neighbouring village. Good-morning, my sister. Are you come to see me about the school-feast, or to tell me of some of your poor people who want help? Will you not come in and have some breakfast?"
"Oh, no, Madame la Comtesse," said the little sister. "I breakfasted long ago; besides, I must not eat such dainty things as you would give me in your goodness: my wicked body must be mortified, and I must keep a tight rein over the sinful appetites of the flesh."
We could hardly help laughing at this speech proceeding from the mouth of the poor sister. She was a spare, small old creature, mere skin and bone, with a pale childish toothless face, small brown watery eyes, and a feeble beseeching voice. Her whole figure had something eager, anxious, and imploring, in its expression, and her quick gait and restless activity, combined with the flutter of her draperies, and a way she had of leaning slightly forward, always somehow gave her the appearance of flying. Well, but a glass of wine and a little bit of cake, my sister—at least that after your long walk? Surely that comes under the head of necessary sustenance?"
No, no, my dear lady," answered the little sister, with childish
earnestness; "I must wrestle with temptation, and overthrow my rebellious passions."
"And why are you not more warmly clad, Sour Marie ?” continued Madame Olympe. "The day is treacherous-warm in the sun and cold in the shade. What have you done with the woollen handkerchief I gave you to keep those little bones of yours warm?"
"Oh, Madame la Comtesse must not be angry," said the little creature, looking imploringly up in her face, "but old Nanon has had her rheumatism so badly of late, that I gave it to her. Madame knows how I value her kindness, but the poor Nanon was so suffering, and, for the moment, I really had no use for it."
"That is always the way," said Madame Olympe, turning to me; "she never keeps anything for herself. However, I do hope that the india-rubber bottle which you brought over for me will be of some comfort to her during the winter; perhaps, as that is neither food nor clothing, I may be able to persuade her to keep it."
She then sent for one of those india-rubber bags which she had begged me to bring from England for her, and when the servant had fetched it she gave it to the old sister, saying, "Here, my sister, is something to make you comfortable in the winter."
Sœur Marie took it with overflowing gratitude, but evidently without having the slightest idea what was to be done with it, or how it was to be made use of. Madame Olympe watched her for a minute or two, and then, finding that she was too timid and humble to make any inquiry, she proceeded to explain to her the method of unscrewing it, putting in the hot water, and screwing it up again. Soeur Marie was in an ecstasy of delight. "There!" said Madame Olympe. "On cold winter nights, when it is full of nice hot water, and you are in bed, my sister, you see you can clap it here or here or here or just wherever you please!" and she whisked it about all over her own body as she spoke, with a droll unconsciousness, and a dear, benevolent beaming face, quite unlike any expression I had thought her countenance capable of. It was charming to see her unbend so completely, and become so sweet and tender to the poor flittering little nun.
Presently they went in together, to talk over a feast that Madame de Caradec was going to give the school-children, and Monsieur Berthier and I went strolling slowly round the house.
It was quite the most enjoyable dwelling I ever was in: I believe, from the fact that it was entirely devoid of any pretension to architectural importance. Wherever a pretty view or sunny aspect invited one to sit, and look or Bask, as the case might be, great wide balconies had been thrown out, with awnings moveable at pleasure; in other places, there were cool verandahs, with seats, for those who preferred the shade. I expressed my approbation of the exterior of the house to Monsieur Berthier. Just then a jalousie was thrown vehemently open, and Monsieur Kiowski's head appeared at the window above us.
"You have delicious weather for your little walk," he remarked to me,