Abbildungen der Seite

had prostrated me still farther. Then came our move down to aunt Emily's cottage in Devonshire, from which I had hoped wonders; but while it seemed to be bringing mother round beautifully, and making her quite fat and rosy again, I was dwindling away into an absolute shadow; I could not walk a step without violent palpitations; I fainted dead away after being out for ten minutes in the sun, and when aunt Emily spoke a little louder or sharper to me than usual, if it was only to say good morning, I began to cry. It was such a new state of things for me, that my two dear old guardian angels were getting quite troubled about me, and so after a good long discussion and many useless efforts on my part to persuade them to let me stay where I was and be quiet, it was finally decided that Madame de Caradec's kind invitation was to be accepted, and that I was to go abroad for the first time in my life, and see what entire change of air and scene would do for me.

Abroad! everything has been brought so close to one of late years by the increased rapidity of travelling, and every one is so continually on the move in consequence, that nothing short of Australia, or the Himalayas, answers at all now to the important sound of the word "abroad." Italy, Germany, Switzerland, are become as familiar to everybody as Portman Square or Piccadilly, and my "abroad" meant even less than all this: a bit of France just off the high-road-no more-and within ten hours of England; it would take me very little longer to get there than it had taken us to come down to aunt Emily's.

Madame de Caradec's mother was an Englishwoman, but she herself was born in France, and married there, and has always lived there, both before and since her widowhood. Her only brother, who came to her when her husband died, and has remained with her ever since, I had heard of as entirely Anglomane in his tastes and habits. They buy English horses and keep English grooms, and I believe they even prefer English cookery; and she drives her own pony-chaise, and talks English better than I do. Oh, was it worth while to cross that horrid Channel, and no doubt be odiously ill, to go away from my own who love me, among a parcel of strangers, to find only another inferior sort of England? Oh, was it worth while? especially for a single week; for longer I was quite determined I would not stay? I did not say this, however, either to mother or to aunt Emily, for I saw that they had quite set their hearts on the project, and so I submitted with the best grace I was able to muster; saw my new carmelite, my best black silk, and a white muslin for evenings, put into my trunk, and finally, accompanied by old Margery, who had been with us ever since I was born, and who, having also once spent a single week in Paris when she was six years old, was considered likely to "be of use to me" on my journey, I took leave of my dear ones with a weary heart and watery eyes, and set forth upon my travels. I saw my dear mother with her slender figure, her silver hair, and sweet moonlight face, shading her eyes with her hand, and aunt Emily, who looked like a peony with a grizzled crop, both standing in the porch to look after us as long as we VOL. XV.-NO. 86.


were in sight; but the turn in the road by the Angler's Home soon came, and hid us from each other, and then I felt fairly launched indeed and very desolate.

"Never mind, dear," said Margery, wiping a sympathetic drop from the tip of her pointed red nose. "I know shpow means hat."

We crossed on the 18th of October. It was a lovely day, and the steamer was crowded with passengers. It was too fine, and the sea too. smooth, for any one to be ill, so I had the ladies' cabin all to myself, which I infinitely preferred to being in the midst of all those unfamiliar faces. I hitched myself up into a very comfortable berth, close to an open port-hole, through which I watched the great green swirls of water glittering in the sun, and the passage did not seem long. When we landed at Boulogne, the sky was so blue, the shops all looked so different ; the fishwomen, with their short petticoats and their baskets on their backs, so curious; everything seemed so sparkling and unaccustomed, that I would not get into a carriage, but taking my bag in my hand walked with Margery the few steps from the boat to the station.

"Would you allow me, muddam-porty-bag, muddàm ?" said a voice at my side. I turned and recognized an Englishman, with a hot and anxious visage, who had just crossed over with us, and who was making for the same destination as ourselves.

"Thank you," I answered; "I can carry it quite easily; it's not at all heavy."

"Oh, Lord, mum!" ejaculated my friend with effusion, "what a blessing it is to hear one's own language again!"

I felt inclined to advise him to venture no farther if he already expe rienced mal du pays to such an extent, but to go back and wait patiently at the pier until the next. steamer started for England. We had two blooming young English ladies in our carriage, accompanied by a surly brother in one corner, who was far too satisfied with himself and too discontented with everything else not to have been a freeborn Briton. Just before arriving at the junction where Margery and I were to branch off from the great Paris main line for Marny-les-Monts, "Préparez vos billets, messieurs et mesdames, s'il vous plaît," said the conducteur. "Stoopid ass!" remarked the Englishman, with sullen scorn; "in England they'd have said Tickets!' and there'd have been an end of it." When we arrived at Hautbuisson (the station at which we had to get out), I found that the Countess had expected us by an earlier train, and had sent her carriage to meet us. Not finding us, however, it had gone home again, and we had to wait some time while another vehicle was being procured for us, so that it was already quite dark when we started for Marny-les-Monts quite too dark to be able to see anything whatever of the scenery around us. I only felt that suddenly our road took us through the yet thicker black of trees; then again we emerged, and rolled and bumped with a muffled sound over a heavy wooden bridge; toiled up a sandy hill to the lights that were glimmering on the summit; heard a

noise of loud voices and foreign tongues all vociferating together; and then I suddenly found myself lifted, I hardly knew how, out of the carriage, and into a tall and potent embrace, enveloped in which I was conveyed along, with my feet hardly reaching the ground, into a brilliant drawingroom. Here a tall gentleman bowed to me, who was presented to me as "my brother Charles." He turned with a kind anxiety to my conductress, and said, "Olympe, what will you do about the dinner?"

"She will dine in her own room," answered the Countess, with despotic melancholy.

"But perhaps she would rather come in with us at once, as we are still at table," he suggested, in a low voice.

"She will dine in her own room," repeated the Countess.

"Are you quite sure that you would like that best?" he again attempted, turning to me.

"She will dine in her own room," imperturbably remarked the Countess, without the slightest shade of difference in her intonation.

I was quite too shy to venture any opinion on the subject myself; moreover, I had an intuitive conviction that it was not expected of me: so, dazed with the sudden light and the new faces, and with the strong arm round me, I was carried, still upon the very tips of my toes, up the staircase, and finally deposited in a cheery little chintz bedroom, where, after a hearty kiss of welcome, I was left, much to my relief, to slip on my dressing-gown, put my feet up, and rest both the spirit and the flesh, which were equally tired out.

Presently, while Margery was arranging my things for the night, the cup of tea, which was all that I had asked for, was brought to me. As I lay with closed lids upon the sofa, I heard Margery say, "Here-on table-tray-put;" as if she thought that broken English, uttered in a very decisive manner, and with a break between each word, answered quite the same purpose as French.

"Does mademoiselle wish for anything else?" inquired the little maid. Toody swee," Margery observed, with perfect assurance.

[ocr errors]

"Do you speak French? " the little maid asked her, with a smile. "Oh, wee," responded the undaunted Margery, adding "Shpow!" in what I thought rather a menacing way, as she kept nodding her head triumphantly at the girl, and giving sharp taps to her own bonnet, by way of convincing her then and there that she knew what was what.

Fortunately an Irish nurse, who had lived with Madame de Caradec ever since the birth of her daughter, just at this juncture arrived opportunely to the rescue, and Margery, having duly attended to my comfort, was borne off by her new friend to be made comfortable herself.

Later in the evening, just as I had finished writing to mother to tell her of my safe arrival, I heard a quick, decided step coming along the passage, and a hurried little tap at the door. "Come in," I said, and a charming child of about sixteen made her appearance. She was short for her age, but did not look so, from her erect carriage, and from the mag

nificent way in which her head was set upon her shoulders. She was brilliantly fair, with heaps of golden hair, which she wore turned back from her clear broad forehead. The charm of her face consisted in its great nobility. The expression was one of mixed decision and sweetness; and there was altogether a sort of veiled power about her, which, combined with her childish aspect, made her exceedingly attractive.

"Maman sends me to ask," she said, in her sweet broken English,, "will you more tea? or some sirop, perhaps? Have you, indeed, all you want?"

"I see you are Jeanne," said I, holding out my hands to her, and drawing her down on the sofa by my side.

"Yes, I am Jeanne," she replied in French. "I had been out with the hounds all day, and was late for dinner, and dressing in a hurry when you came; that was why you did not see me when you arrived. But Maman was there, I hope, and Charles, and René, to receive you?"

"I saw one gentleman in the drawing-room-your uncle Charles, I believe."

"Yes," said Jeanne; "that was the Marquis."

"And who is René ?" asked I.

“Réné is a cousin of Maman's, who comes here to hunt for three months every winter. De Saldes is his other name-René de Saldes. He always does what he pleases, and is never in time for anything. But the Marquis has to mind his p's and q's, or hm-hm!" and she screwed up her mouth and shook her head with a funny little sagacious expression. "And you," said I, laughing," are not obliged to mind your p's and q's, but come down when you like?"


"That depends," she answered. "When René comes out with us, never get a scolding: there is a sort of complicated family machinery about it all, that it is a little difficult to understand at first. I protect the Marquis, and René protects me: not, indeed, that I need much protection; for they all of them spoil me very perfectly in their different ways, and Maman most of all, although she affects to bring me up with the utmost severity. But I must go now, for Maman desired me not to stay and tire you with my gossiping. I hunt to-morrow with our own hounds; but I shall have the pleasure of seeing you at breakfast before we go."

Then bidding me good-night, she left me to the enjoyment of the most perfect bed that ever rested weary limbs.

The next morning I was awoke by feeling something indescribably soft, cool, and fragrant touching my cheek; and I opened my eyes into a large bunch of dewy, fresh-gathered roses. Madame Olympe was standing br by my bedside with a heap of exquisite flowers in her hands, with which she proceeded to deck the jars on the chimney-piece and on the table.

She looked very grand and beautiful, enveloped from head to foot in a great white burnous, which fell in thick heavy folds round her stately person, and was altogether a most satisfactory morning vision, with the white hood over her head shading and softening her stern face, as she

bent over her many-coloured treasures and arranged them silently. When she had filled the vases, she came and sat down on the foot of my bed. "How are you," she said, "after your journey? rested? It was much better for you to dine in your own room-you would have felt shy and uncomfortable the first evening with strangers."

"Have you people staying with you now?" I inquired.

"Yes we have René de Saldes, Monsieur Kiowski, and Monsieur Berthier. The first is my cousin, the last two are painter friends of mine. They will amuse you, they make such a contrast to each other. The one is so rapid in everything he does, and the other so slow. When they come together their differences not only appear more pronounced, but actually become so. They act unconsciously upon each other, and Monsieur Kiowski rushes on like a small mill-stream, while Monsieur Berthier takes an hour to say the slightest thing. I am also expecting some time to-day Lady Blankeney and her daughter, and Miss Hamilton."

"My dear Madame Olympe," said I, "I should never have had the courage to come if I had thought to find so many people here."

"Oh," she answered, "you needn't feel at all alarmed: there is only one person to be frightened at in the whole lot, and that is Miss Hamilton. Lady Blankeney is only a harmless, silly sort of little old fly: if you will but let her flutter and buzz, she will be quite content; she does all the talking herself. I rather like it and never think of answering her; and Maria is the quietest of the quiet, and properest of the proper-pure English growth-a bashful, blushing, infantile old maid of nine-and-thirty-the thing don't exist with us. They are both great bores, and I am sorry they should happen to be coming just at this particular time, because I should have liked you to become acquainted with René de Saldes, and he is already gone; knowing they were to be here to-day, he fled early in the morning. I am rather curious to see how they will make it out with Ursula Hamilton; she must startle Lady Blankeney occasionally, I should


"What is the tie between them? Is she any relation of theirs?" I inquired.


"There is a sort of distant cousinship," answered Madame Olympe. "Miss Hamilton's father had once a good fortune, which he squandered every conceivable discreditable way, and then went to live for economy, with his little girl, at Florence. He died some time ago, and Ursula was left all but destitute. She then, to the horror of all her friends, announced her intention of going on the stage, for which, it appears, she has an immense natural talent-when suddenly, by the greatest piece of unlookedfor good luck in the world, a rich old aunt of hers died, and bequeathed her a very large sum of money. So, thank goodness, she gave up (though I do believe it was rather à contre-cœur) the notion of singing in public, and Lady Blankeney, who had been in Italy during all her troubles, and carefully ignored both her and them, flew to her the instant she became an heiress, and is now convoying her to England, where she means to

« ZurückWeiter »