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Title: A Versailles Christmas-Tide
Author: Boyd, Mary Stuart, -1937
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Versailles Christmas-Tide" ***

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A VERSAILLES CHRISTMAS-TIDE

By

Mary Stuart Boyd

With Fifty-three Illustrations by A.S. Boyd

1901



Contents

     I. The Unexpected Happens
    II. Ogams
   III. The Town
    IV. Our Arbre de Noël
     V. Le Jour de l'Année
    VI. Ice-bound
   VII. The Haunted Château
  VIII. Marie Antoinette
    IX. The Prisoners Released



Illustrations

The Summons
Storm Warning
Treasure Trove
The Red Cross in the Window
Enter M. le Docteur
Perpetual Motion
Ursa Major
Meal Considerations
The Two Colonels
The Young and Brave
Malcontent
The Aristocrat
Papa, Mama, et Bébé
Juvenile Progress
Automoblesse oblige
Sable Garb
A Football Team
Mistress and Maid
Sage and Onions
Marketing
Private Boxes
A Foraging Party
A Thriving Merchant
Chestnuts in the Avenue
The Tree Vendor
The Tree Bearer
Rosine
Alms and the Lady
Adoration
Thankfulness
One of the Devout
De l'eau Chaude
The Mill
The Presbytery
To the Place of Rest
While the Frost Holds
The Postman's Wrap
A Lapful of Warmth
The Daily Round
Three Babes and a Bonne
Snow in the Park
A Veteran of the Château
Un, Deux, Trois
Bedchamber of Louis XIV
Marie Leczinska
Madame Adelaide
Louis Quatorze
Where the Queen Played
Marie Antoinette
The Secret Stair
Madame sans Tête
Illumination
L'Envoi



CHAPTER I

THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS


[Illustration: The Summons]

No project could have been less foreseen than was ours of wintering in
France, though it must be confessed that for several months our thoughts
had constantly strayed across the Channel. For the Boy was at school at
Versailles, banished there by our desire to fulfil a parental duty.

The time of separation had dragged tardily past, until one foggy
December morning we awoke to the glad consciousness that that very
evening the Boy would be with us again. Across the breakfast-table we
kept saying to each other, "It seems scarcely possible that the Boy is
really coming home to-night," but all the while we hugged the assurance
that it was.

The Boy is an ordinary snub-nosed, shock-headed urchin of thirteen, with
no special claim to distinction save the negative one of being an only
child. Yet without his cheerful presence our home seemed empty and dull.
Any attempts at merry-making failed to restore its life. Now all was
agog for his return. The house was in its most festive trim. Christmas
presents were hidden securely away. There was rejoicing downstairs as
well as up: the larder shelves were stored with seasonable fare, and
every bit of copper and brass sparkled a welcome. Even the kitchen cat
sported a ribbon, and had a specially energetic purr ready.

Into the midst of our happy preparations the bad news fell with
bomb-like suddenness. The messenger who brought the telegram whistled
shrilly and shuffled a breakdown on the doorstep while he waited to hear
if there was an answer.

"He is ill. He can't come. Scarlet fever," one of us said in an odd,
flat voice.

"Scarlet fever. At school. Oh! when can we go to him? When is there a
boat?" cried the other.

There was no question of expediency. The Boy lay sick in a foreign land,
so we went to him. It was full noon when the news came, and nightfall
saw us dashing through the murk of a wild mid-December night towards
Dover pier, feeling that only the express speed of the mail train was
quick enough for us to breathe in.

But even the most apprehensive of journeys may hold its humours. Just at
the moment of starting anxious friends assisted a young lady into our
carriage. "She was going to Marseilles. Would we kindly see that she got
on all right?" We were only going as far as Paris direct. "Well, then,
as far as Paris. It would be a great favour." So from Charing Cross to
the Gare du Nord, Placidia, as we christened her, became our care.

She was a large, handsome girl of about three-and-twenty. What was her
reason for journeying unattended to Cairo we know not. Whether she ever
reached her destination we are still in doubt, for a more complacently
incapable damsel never went a-voyaging. The Saracen maiden who followed
her English lover from the Holy Land by crying "London" and "À Becket"
was scarce so impotent as Placidia; for any information the Saracen
maiden had she retained, while Placidia naively admitted that she had
already forgotten by which line of steamers her passage through the
Mediterranean had been taken.

Placidia had an irrational way of losing her possessions. While yet on
her way to the London railway station she had lost her tam-o'-shanter.
So perforce, she travelled in a large picture-hat which, although pretty
and becoming, was hardly suitable headgear for channel-crossing in
mid-winter.

[Illustration: Storm Warning]

It was a wild night; wet, with a rising north-west gale. Tarpaulined
porters swung themselves on to the carriage-steps as we drew up at Dover
pier, and warned us not to leave the train, as, owing to the storm, the
Calais boat would be an hour late in getting alongside.

The Ostend packet, lying beside the quay in full sight of the
travellers, lurched giddily at her moorings. The fourth occupant of our
compartment, a sallow man with yellow whiskers, turned green with
apprehension. Not so Placidia. From amongst her chaotic hand-baggage she
extracted walnuts and mandarin oranges, and began eating with an
appetite that was a direct challenge to the Channel. Bravery or
foolhardiness could go no farther.

Providence tempers the wind to the parents who are shorn of their lamb.
The tumult of waters left us scatheless, but poor Placidia early paid
the penalty of her rashness. She "thought" she was a good sailor--though
she acknowledged that this was her first sea-trip--and elected to remain
on deck. But before the harbour lights had faded behind us a sympathetic
mariner supported her limp form--the feathers of her incongruous hat
drooping in unison with their owner--down the swaying cabin staircase
and deposited her on a couch.

"Oh! I do wish I hadn't eaten that fruit," she groaned when I offered
her smelling-salts. "But then, you know, I was so hungry!"

In the _train rapide_ a little later, Placidia, when arranging her wraps
for the night journey, chanced, among the medley of her belongings, upon
a missing boat-ticket whose absence at the proper time had threatened
complications. She burst into good-humoured laughter at the discovery.
"Why, here's the ticket that man made all the fuss about. I really
thought he wasn't going to let me land till I found it. Now, I do wonder
how it got among my rugs?"

We seemed to be awake all night, staring with wide, unseeing eyes out
into the darkness. Yet the chill before dawn found us blinking sleepily
at a blue-bloused porter who, throwing open the carriage door, curtly
announced that we were in Paris.

Then followed a fruitless search for Placidia's luggage, a hunt which
was closed by Placidia recovering her registration ticket (with a
fragment of candy adhering to it) from one of the multifarious pockets
of her ulster, and finding that the luggage had been registered on to
Marseilles. "Will they charge duty on tobacco?" she inquired blandly, as
she watched the Customs examination of our things. "I've such a lot of
cigars in my boxes."

There was an Old-Man-of-the-Sea-like tenacity in Placidia's smiling
impuissance. She did not know one syllable of French. A new-born babe
could not have revealed itself more utterly incompetent. I verily
believe that, despite our haste, we would have ended by escorting
Placidia across Paris, and ensconcing her in the Marseilles train, had
not Providence intervened in the person of a kindly disposed polyglot
traveller. So, leaving Placidia standing the picture of complacent
fatuosity in the midst of a group consisting of this new champion and
three porters, we sneaked away.

[Illustration: Treasure Trove]

Grey dawn was breaking as we drove towards St. Lazare Station, and the
daily life of the city was well begun. Lights were twinkling in the dark
interiors of the shops. Through the mysterious atmosphere figures loomed
mistily, then vanished into the gloom. But we got no more than a vague
impression of our surroundings. Throughout the interminable length of
drive across the city, and the subsequent slow train journey, our
thoughts were ever in advance.

The tardy winter daylight had scarcely come before we were jolting in a
_fiacre_ over the stony streets of Versailles. In the gutters, crones
were eagerly rummaging among the dust heaps that awaited removal. In
France no degradation attaches to open economies. Housewives on their
way to fetch Gargantuan loaves or tiny bottles of milk for the matutinal
_café-au-lait_ cast searching glances as they passed, to see if among
the rubbish something of use to them might not be lurking. And at one
alluring mound an old gentleman of absurdly respectable exterior
perfunctorily turned over the scraps with the point of his cane.

We had heard of a hotel, and the first thing we saw of it we liked. That
was a pair of sabots on the mat at the foot of the staircase. Pausing
only to remove the dust of travel, we set off to visit our son, walking
with timorous haste along the grand old avenue where the school was
situated. A little casement window to the left of the wide entrance-door
showed a red cross. We looked at it silently, wondering.

[Illustration: The Red Cross in the Window]

In response to our ring the portal opened mysteriously at touch of the
unseen concierge, and we entered. A conference with Monsieur le
Directeur, kindly, voluble, tactfully complimentary regarding our
halting French, followed. The interview over, we crossed the courtyard
our hearts beating quickly. At the top of a little flight of worn stone
steps was the door of the school hospital, and under the ivy-twined
trellis stood a sweet-faced Franciscan Soeur, waiting to welcome us.

[Illustration: Enter M. Le Docteur]

Passing through a tiny outer room--an odd combination of dispensary,
kitchen, and drawing-room with a red-tiled floor--we reached the
sick-chamber, and saw the Boy. A young compatriot, also a victim of the
disease, occupied another bed, but for the first moments we were
oblivious of his presence. Raising his fever-flushed face from the
pillows, the Boy eagerly stretched out his burning hands.

"I heard your voices," his hoarse voice murmured contentedly, "and I
knew _you_ couldn't be ghosts." Poor child! in the semidarkness of the
lonely night-hours phantom voices had haunted him. We of the morning
were real.

The good Soeur buzzed a mild frenzy of "Il ne faut pas toucher" about
our ears, but, all unheeding, we clasped the hot hands and crooned over
him. After the dreary months of separation, love overruled wisdom. Mere
prudence was not strong enough to keep us apart.

Chief amongst the chaos of thoughts that had assailed us on the
reception of the bad news, was the necessity of engaging an English
medical man. But at the first sight of the French doctor, as, clad in a
long overall of white cotton, he entered the sick-room, our insular
prejudice vanished, ousted by complete confidence; a confidence that our
future experience of his professional skill and personal kindliness only
strengthened.

It was with sore hearts that, the prescribed _cinq minutes_ ended, we
descended the little outside stair. Still, we had seen the Boy; and
though we could not nurse him, we were not forbidden to visit him. So we
were thankful too.



CHAPTER II

OGAMS


[Illustration: Perpetual Motion]

Our hotel was distinctively French, and immensely comfortable, in that
it had gleaned, and still retained, the creature comforts of a century
or two. Thus it combined the luxuries of hot-air radiators and electric
light with the enchantment of open wood fires. Viewed externally, the
building presented that airy aspect almost universal in Versailles
architecture. It was white-tinted, with many windows shuttered without
and heavily lace-draped within.

A wide entrance led to the inner courtyard, where orange trees in green
tubs, and trelliswork with shrivelled stems and leaves still adhering,
suggested that it would be a pleasant summer lounge. Our hotel boasted a
_grand salon_, which opened from the courtyard. It was an elaborately
ornate room; but on a chilly December day even a plethora of
embellishment cannot be trusted to raise by a single degree the
temperature of the apartment it adorns, and the soul turns from a cold
hearth, however radiant its garnish of artificial blossoms. A private
parlour was scarcely necessary, for, with most French bedrooms, ours
shared the composite nature of the accommodation known in a certain
class of advertisement as "bed-sitting-room." So it was that during
these winter days we made ourselves at home in our chamber.

The shape of the room was a geometrical problem. The three windows each
revealed different views, and the remainder of the walls curved
amazingly. At first sight the furniture consisted mainly of draperies
and looking-glass; for the room, though of ordinary dimensions, owned
three large mirrors and nine pairs of curtains. A stately bed, endowed
with a huge square down pillow, which served as quilt, stood in a
corner. Two armchairs in brocaded velvet and a centre table were
additions to the customary articles. A handsome timepiece and a
quartette of begilt candelabra decked the white marble mantelpiece, and
were duplicated in the large pier glass. The floor was of well-polished
wood, a strip of bright-hued carpet before the bed, a second before the
washstand, its only coverings. Need I say that the provision for
ablutions was one basin and a liliputian ewer, and that there was not a
fixed bath in the establishment?

It was a resting-place full of incongruities; but apart from, or perhaps
because of, its oddities it had a cosy attractiveness. From the moment
of our entrance we felt at home. I think the logs that purred and
crackled on the hearth had much to do with its air of welcome. There is
a sense of companionship about a wood fire that more enduring coal
lacks. Like a delicate child, the very care it demands nurtures your
affection. There was something delightfully foreign and picturesque to
our town ideas in the heap of logs that Karl carried up in a great
_panier_ and piled at the side of the hearth. Even the little faggots of
kindling wood, willow-knotted and with the dry copper-tinted leaves
still clinging to the twigs, had a rustic charm.

These were pleasant moments when, ascending from the chill outer air, we
found our chamber aglow with ruddy firelight that glinted in the mirrors
and sparkled on the shining surface of the polished floor; when we drew
our chairs up to the hearth, and, scorning the electric light, revelled
in the beauty of the leaping and darting flames.

It was only in the _salle-à-manger_ that we saw the other occupants of
the hotel; and when we learned that several of them had lived _en
pension_ under the roof of the assiduous proprietor for periods varying
from five to seven years, we felt ephemeral, mere creatures of a moment,
and wholly unworthy of regard.

[Illustration: Ursa Major]

At eight o'clock Karl brought the _petit déjeûner_ of coffee and rolls
to our room. At eleven, our morning visit to the school hospital over,
we breakfasted in the _salle-à-manger_, a large bright room, one or
other of whose many south windows had almost daily, even in the depth of
winter, to be shaded against the rays of the sun. Three chandeliers of
glittering crystal starred with electric lights depended from the
ceiling. Half a dozen small tables stood down each side; four larger
ones occupied the centre of the floor, and were reserved for transient
custom.

The first thing that struck us as peculiar was that every table save
ours was laid for a single person, with a half bottle of wine, red or
white, placed ready, in accordance with the known preference of the
expected guest. We soon gathered that several of the regular customers
lodged outside and, according to the French fashion, visited the hotel
for meals only. After the early days of keen anxiety regarding our
invalid had passed, we began to study our fellow guests individually and
to note their idiosyncrasies. Sitting at our allotted table during the
progress of the leisurely meals, we used to watch as one _habitué_ after
another entered, and, hanging coat and hat upon certain pegs, sat
silently down in his accustomed place, with an unvarying air of calm
deliberation.

Then Iorson, the swift-footed _garçon_, would skim over the polished
boards to the newcomer, and, tendering the menu, would wait, pencil in
hand, until the guest, after careful contemplation, selected his five
_plats_ from its comprehensive list.

[Illustration: Meal Considerations]

The most picturesque man of the company had white moustaches of
surprising length. On cold days he appeared enveloped in a fur coat, a
garment of shaggy brown which, in conjunction with his hirsute
countenance, made his aspect suggest the hero in pantomime renderings of
"Beauty and the Beast." But in our hotel there was no Beauty, unless
indeed it were Yvette, and Yvette could hardly be termed beautiful.

Yvette also lived outside. She did not come to _déjeûner_, but every
night precisely at a quarter-past seven the farther door would open, and
Yvette, her face expressing disgust with the world and all the things
thereof, would enter.

Yvette was blonde, with neat little features, a pale complexion, and
tiny hands that were always ringless. She rang the changes on half a
dozen handsome cloaks of different degrees of warmth. To an intelligent
observer their wear might have served as a thermometer. Yvette was
_blasée_, and her millinery was in sympathy with her feelings. Her hats
had all a fringe of disconsolate feathers, whose melancholy plumage
emphasised the downward curve of her mouth. To see Yvette enter from the
darkness and, seating herself at her solitary table, droop over her
plate as though there were nothing in Versailles worth sitting upright
for, was to view _ennui_ personified.

Yvette invariably drank white wine, and the food rarely pleased her. She
would cast a contemptuous look over the menu offered by the deferential
Henri, then turn wearily away, esteeming that no item on its length
merited even her most perfunctory consideration. But after one or two
despondent glances, Yvette ever made the best of a bad bargain, and
ordered quite a comprehensive little dinner, which she ate with the same
air of utter disdain. She always concluded by eating an orange dipped in
sugar. Even had a special table not been reserved for her, one could
have told where Yvette had dined by the bowl of powdered sugar, just as
one could have located the man with the fierce moustaches and the fur
coat by the presence of his pepper-mill, or the place of "Madame" from
her prodigal habit of rending a quarter-yard of the crusty French bread
in twain and consuming only the soft inside.

From the ignorance of our cursory acquaintance we had judged the French
a sociable nation. Our stay at Versailles speedily convinced us of the
fallacy of that belief. Nothing could have impressed us so forcibly as
did the frigid silence that characterised the company. Many of them had
fed there daily for years, yet within the walls of the sunny dining-room
none exchanged even a salutation. This unexpected taciturnity in a
people whom we had been taught to regard as lively and voluble made us
almost ashamed of our own garrulity, and when, in the presence of the
silent company, we were tempted to exchange remarks, we found ourselves
doing it in hushed voices as though we were in church.

A clearer knowledge, however, showed us that though some unspoken
convention rendered the hotel guests oblivious of each other's presence
while indoors, beyond the hotel walls they might hold communion. Two
retired military men, both wearing the red ribbon of the Legion of
Honour, as indeed did most of our _habitués_, sat at adjacent tables.
One, tall and thin, was a Colonel; the other, little and neat, a Colonel
also. To the casual gaze they appeared complete strangers, and we had
consumed many meals in their society before observing that whenever the
tall Colonel had sucked the last cerise from his glass of _eau-de-vie_,
and begun to fold his napkin--a formidable task, for the serviettes
fully deserved the designation later bestowed on them by the Boy, of
"young table-cloths"--the little Colonel made haste to fold his also.
Both rose from their chairs at the same instant, and the twain, having
received their hats from the attentive Iorson, vanished, still mute,
into the darkness together.

[Illustration: The Two Colonels]

Once, to our consternation, the little Colonel replaced his napkin in
its ring without waiting for the signal from the tall Colonel. But our
apprehension that they, in their dealings in that mysterious outer world
which twice daily they sought together, might have fallen into a
difference of opinion was dispelled by the little Colonel, who had
risen, stepping to his friend and holding out his hand. This the tall
Colonel without withdrawing his eyes from _Le Journal des Débats_ which
he was reading, silently pressed. Then, still without a word spoken or a
look exchanged, the little Colonel passed out alone.

[Illustration: The Young and Brave]

The average age of the Ogams was seventy. True, there was Dunois the
Young and Brave, who could not have been more than forty-five. What his
name really was we knew not, but something in his comparatively juvenile
appearance among the chevaliers suggested the appellation which for lack
of a better we retained. Dunois' youth might only be comparative, but
his bravery was indubitable; for who among the Ogams but he was daring
enough to tackle the _pâté-de-foie-gras_, or the _abattis_, a stew
composed of the gizzards and livers of fowls? And who but Dunois would
have been so reckless as to follow baked mussels and _crépinettes_ with
_rognons frits_?

Dunois, too, revealed intrepid leanings toward strange liquors.
Sometimes--it was usually at _déjeûner_ when he had dined out on the
previous evening--he would demand the wine-list of Iorson, and rejecting
the _vin blanc_ or _vin rouge_ which, being _compris_, contented the
others, would order himself something of a choice brand. One of his
favourite papers was _Le Rire_, and Henri, Iorson's youthful assistant,
regarded him with admiration.

[Illustration: Malcontent]

A less attractive presence in the dining-room was Madame. Madame, who
was an elderly dame of elephantine girth, had resided in the hotel for
half a dozen years, during which period her sole exercise had been taken
in slowly descending from her chamber in the upper regions for her
meals, and then, leisurely assimilation completed, in yet more slowly
ascending. Madame's allotted seat was placed in close proximity to the
hot-air register; and though Madame was usually one of the first to
enter the dining-room, she was generally the last to leave. Madame's
appetite was as animated as her body was lethargic. She always drank her
half-bottle of red wine to the dregs, and she invariably concluded with
a greengage in brandy. So it was small marvel that, when at last she
left her chair to "tortoise" upstairs, her complexion should be two
shades darker than when she descended.

Five dishes, irrespective of _hors d'oeuvres_ at luncheon, and _potage_
at dinner, were allowed each guest, and Madame's selection was an affair
of time. Our hotel was justly noted for its _cuisine_, yet on infrequent
occasions the food supplied to Madame was not to her mind. At these
times the whole establishment suffered until the irascible old lady's
taste was suited. One night at dinner Iorson had the misfortune to serve
Madame with some turkey that failed to meet with her approval. With the
air of an insulted empress, Madame ordered its removal. The conciliatory
Iorson obediently carried off the dish and speedily returned, bearing
what professed to be another portion. But from the glimpse we got as it
passed our table we had a shrewd suspicion that Iorson the wily had
merely turned over the piece of turkey and re-served it with a little
more gravy and an additional dressing of _cressons_. Madame, it
transpired, shared our suspicions, for this portion also she declined,
with renewed indignation. Then followed a long period of waiting,
wherein Madame, fidgeting restlessly on her seat, kept fierce eyes fixed
on the door through which the viands entered.

Just as her impatience threatened to vent itself in action, Iorson
appeared bearing a third helping of turkey. Placing it before the irate
lady, he fled as though determined to debar a third repudiation. For a
moment an air of triumph pervaded Madame's features. Then she began to
gesticulate violently, with the evident intention of again attracting
Iorson's notice. But the forbearance even of the diplomatic Iorson was
at an end. Re-doubling his attentions to the diners at the farther side
of the room, he remained resolutely unconscious of Madame's signals,
which were rapidly becoming frantic.

The less sophisticated Henri, however, feeling a boyish interest in the
little comedy, could not resist a curious glance in Madame's direction.
That was sufficient. Waving imperiously, Madame compelled his approach,
and, moving reluctantly, fearful of the issue, Henri advanced.

"Couteau!" hissed Madame. Henri flew to fetch the desired implement,
and, realising that Madame had at last been satisfied, we again breathed
freely.

A more attractive personage was a typical old aristocrat, officer of the
Legion of Honour, who used to enter, walk with great dignity to his
table, eat sparingly of one or two dishes, drink a glass of his _vin
ordinaire_ and retire. Sometimes he was accompanied by a tiny spaniel,
which occupied a chair beside him; and frequently a middle-aged son,
whose bourgeois appearance was in amazing contrast to that of his
refined old father, attended him.

[Illustration: The Aristocrat]

There were others, less interesting perhaps, but equally self-absorbed.
One afternoon, entering the cable car that runs--for fun, apparently, as
it rarely boasted a passenger--to and from the Trianon, we recognised in
its sole occupant an Ogam who during the weeks of our stay had eaten, in
evident oblivion of his human surroundings, at the table next to ours.
Forgetting that we were without the walls of silence, we expected no
greeting; but to our amazement he rose, and, placing himself opposite
us, conversed affably and in most excellent English for the rest of the
journey. To speak with him was to discover a courteous and travelled
gentleman. Yet during our stay in Versailles we never knew him exchange
even a bow with any of his fellow Ogams, who were men of like
qualifications, though, as he told us, he had taken his meals in the
hotel for over five years.

Early in the year our peace was rudely broken by the advent of a
commercial man--a short, grey-haired being of an activity so foreign to
our usage that a feeling of unrest was imparted to the _salle-à-manger_
throughout his stay. His movements were distractingly erratic. In his
opinion, meals were things to be treated casually, to be consumed
haphazard at any hour that chanced to suit. He did not enter the
dining-room at the exact moment each day as did the Ogams. He would rush
in, throw his hat on a peg, devour some food with unseemly haste, and
depart in less time than it took the others to reach the _légumes_.

[Illustration: Papa, Mama et Bébé]

He was hospitable too, and had a disconcerting way of inviting guests to
luncheon or dinner, and then forgetting that he had done so. One morning
a stranger entered, and after a brief conference with Iorson, was
conducted to the commercial man's table to await his arrival. The
regular customers took their wonted places, and began in their leisurely
fashion to breakfast, and still the visitor sat alone, starting up
expectantly every time a door opened, then despondently resuming his
seat.

At last Iorson, taking compassion, urged the neglected guest to while
away his period of waiting by trifling with the _hors-d'oeuvres_. He was
proceeding to allay the pangs of hunger with selections from the tray of
anchovies, sardines, pickled beet, and sliced sausage, when his host
entered, voluble and irrepressible as ever. The dignified Ogams
shuddered inwardly as his strident voice awoke the echoes of the room,
and their already stiff limbs became rigid with disapproval.

In winter, transient visitors but rarely occupied one or other of the
square centre tables, though not infrequently a proud father and mother
who had come to visit a soldier son at the barracks, brought him to the
hotel for a meal, and for a space the radiance of blue and scarlet and
the glint of steel cast a military glamour over the staid company.

An amusing little circumstance to us onlookers was that although the
supply of cooked food seemed equal to any demand, the arrival of even a
trio of unexpected guests to dinner invariably caused a dearth of bread.
For on their advent Iorson would dash out bareheaded into the night, to
reappear in an incredibly short time carrying a loaf nearly as tall as
himself.

One morning a stalwart young Briton brought to breakfast a pretty
English cousin, on leave of absence from her boarding-school. His
knowledge of French was limited. When anything was wanted he shouted
"Garçon!" in a lordly voice, but it was the pretty cousin who gave the
order. _Déjeûner_ over, they departed in the direction of the Château.
And at sunset as we chanced to stroll along the Boulevard de la Reine,
we saw the pretty cousin, all the gaiety fled from her face, bidding her
escort farewell at the gate of a Pension pour Demoiselles. The ball was
over. Poor little Cinderella was perforce returning to the dust and
ashes of learning.

[Illustration: Juvenile Progress]



CHAPTER III

THE TOWN


The English-speaking traveller finds Versailles vastly more foreign than
the Antipodes. He may voyage for many weeks, and at each distant
stopping-place find his own tongue spoken around him, and his
conventions governing society. But let him leave London one night, cross
the Channel at its narrowest--and most turbulent--and sunrise will find
him an alien in a land whose denizens differ from him in language,
temperament, dress, food, manners, and customs.

Of a former visit to Versailles we had retained little more than the
usual tourist's recollection of a hurried run through a palace of
fatiguing magnificence, a confusing peep at the Trianons, a glance
around the gorgeous state equipages, an unsatisfactory meal at one of
the open-air _cafés_, and a scamper back to Paris. But our winter
residence in the quaint old town revealed to us the existence of a life
that is all its own--a life widely variant, in its calm repose, from the
bustle and gaiety of the capital, but one that is replete with charm,
and abounding in picturesque-interest.

[Illustration: Automoblesse Oblige]

Versailles is not ancient; it is old, completely old. Since the fall of
the Second Empire it has stood still. Most of the clocks have run down,
as though they realised the futility of trying to keep pace with the
rest of the world. The future merges into the present, the present fades
into the past, and still the clocks of Versailles point to the same long
eventide.

[Illustration: Sable Garb]

The proximity of Paris is evinced only by the vividly tinted automobiles
that make Versailles their goal. Even they rarely tarry in the old town,
but, turning at the Château gates, lose no time in retracing their
impetuous flight towards a city whose usages accord better with their
creed of feverish hurry-scurry than do the conventions of reposeful
Versailles. And these fiery chariots of modernity, with their ghoulish,
fur-garbed, and hideously spectacled occupants, once their raucous,
cigale-like birr-r-r has died away in the distance, leave infinitely
less impression on the placid life of Versailles than do their wheels on
the roads they traverse. Under the grand trees of the wide avenues the
townsfolk move quietly about, busying themselves with their own affairs
and practising their little economies as they have been doing any time
during the last century.

Perhaps it was the emphatic and demonstrative nature of the mourning
worn that gave us the idea that the better-class female population of
Versailles consisted chiefly of widows. When walking abroad we seemed
incessantly to encounter widows: widows young and old, from the aged to
the absurdly immature. It was only after a period of bewilderment that
it dawned upon us that the sepulchral garb and heavy crape veils
reaching from head to heel were not necessarily the emblems of
widowhood, but might signify some state of minor bereavement. In Britain
a display of black such as is an everyday sight at Versailles is
undreamt of, and one saw more crape veils in a day in Versailles than in
London in a week. Little girls, though their legs might be uncovered,
had their chubby features shrouded in disfiguring gauze and to our
unaccustomed foreign eyes a genuine widow represented nothing more
shapely than a more or less stubby pillar festooned with crape.

But for an inborn conviction that a frugal race like the French would
not invest in a plethora of mourning garb only to cast it aside after a
few months' wear, and that therefore the period of wearing the willow
must be greatly protracted, we would have been haunted by the idea that
the adult male mortality of Versailles was enormous.

"Do they wear such deep mourning for all relatives?" I asked our hotel
proprietor, who had just told us that during the first month of mourning
the disguising veils were worn over the faces.

Monsieur shook his sleek head gravely, "But no, Madame, not for all. For
a husband, yes; for a father or mother, yes; for a sister or brother, an
uncle or aunt, yes; but for a cousin, _no_."

He pronounced the _no_ so emphatically as almost to convince us of his
belief that in refusing to mourn in the most lugubrious degree for
cousins the Versaillese acted with praiseworthy self-denial.

There seemed to be no medium between sackcloth and gala-dress. We seldom
noted the customary degrees of half-mourning. Plain colours were
evidently unpopular and fancy tartans of the most flamboyant hues
predominated amongst those who, during a spell of, say, three years had
been fortunate enough not to lose a parent, sister, brother, uncle, or
aunt. A perfectly natural reaction appeared to urge the _ci-devant_
mourners to robe themselves in lively checks and tartans. It was as
though they said--"Here at last is our opportunity for gratifying our
natural taste in colours. It will probably be of but short duration.
Therefore let us select a combination of all the most brilliant tints
and wear them, for who knows how soon that gruesome pall of woe may
again enshroud us."

Probably it was the vicinity of our hotel to the Church of Notre Dame
that, until we discovered its brighter side, led us to esteem Versailles
a veritable city of the dead, for on our bi-daily walks to visit the
invalids we were almost certain to encounter a funeral procession either
approaching or leaving Notre Dame. And on but rare occasions was the
great central door undraped with the sepulchral insignia which
proclaimed that a Mass for the dead was in prospect or in progress.
Sometimes the sable valance and portières were heavily trimmed and
fringed with silver; at others there was only the scantiest display of
time-worn black cloth.

[Illustration: A Football Team]

The humblest funeral was affecting and impressive. As the sad little
procession moved along the streets--the wayfarers reverently uncovering
and soldiers saluting as it passed--the dirge-like chant of the
_Miserere_ never failed to fill my eyes with unbidden tears of sympathy
for the mourners, who, with bowed heads, walked behind the wreath-laden
hearse.

Despite the abundant emblems of woe, Versailles can never appear other
than bright and attractive. Even in mid-winter the skies were clear, and
on the shortest days the sun seldom forgot to cast a warm glow over the
gay, white-painted houses. And though the women's dress tends towards
depression, the brilliant military uniforms make amends. There are
12,000 soldiers stationed in Versailles; and where a fifth of the
population is gorgeous in scarlet and blue and gold, no town can be
accused of lacking colour.

Next to the redundant manifestations of grief, the thing that most
impressed us was the rigid economy practised in even the smallest
details of expenditure. Among the lower classes there is none of that
aping of fashion so prevalent in prodigal England; the different social
grades have each a distinctive dress and are content to wear it. Among
the men, blouses of stout blue cotton and sabots are common. Sometimes
velveteen trousers, whose original tint years of wear have toned to some
exquisite shade of heliotrope, and a russet coat worn with a fur cap and
red neckerchief, compose an effect that for harmonious colouring would
be hard to beat. The female of his species, as is the case in all
natural animals, is content to be less adorned. Her skirt is black, her
apron blue. While she is young, her neatly dressed hair, even in the
coldest weather, is guiltless of covering. As her years increase she
takes her choice of three head-dresses, and to shelter her grey locks
selects either a black knitted hood, a checked cotton handkerchief, or a
white cap of ridiculously unbecoming design.

No French workaday father need fear that his earnings will be squandered
on such perishable adornments as feathers, artificial flowers, or
ribbons. The purchases of his spouse are certain to be governed by
extreme frugality. She selects the family raiment with a view to
durability. Flimsy finery that the sun would fade, shoddy materials that
a shower of rain would ruin, offer no temptations to her. When she
expends a few _sous_ on the cutting of her boy's hair, she has it
cropped until his cranium resembles the soft, furry skin of a mole, thus
rendering further outlay in this respect unlikely for months. And when
she buys a flannel shirt, a six-inch strip of the stuff, for future
mending, is always included in the price.

But with all this economy there is an air of comfort, a complete absence
of squalor. In cold weather the school-girls wear snug hoods, or little
fur turbans; and boys have the picturesque and almost indestructible
bérets of cloth or corduroy. Cloth boots that will conveniently slip
inside sabots for outdoor use are greatly in vogue, and the comfortable
Capuchin cloaks--whose peaked hood can be drawn over the head, thus
obviating the use of umbrellas--are favoured by both sexes and all ages.

[Illustration: Mistress and Maid]

As may be imagined, little is spent on luxuries. Vendors of frivolities
know better than to waste time tempting those provident people. On one
occasion only did I see money parted with lightly, and in that case the
bargain appeared astounding. One Sunday morning an enterprising huckster
of gimcrack jewellery, venturing out from Paris, had set down his strong
box on the verge of the market square, and, displaying to the admiring
eyes of the country folks, ladies' and gentlemen's watches with chains
complete, in the most dazzling of aureate metal, sold them at six sous
apiece as quickly as he could hand them out.

Living is comparatively cheap in Versailles; though, as in all places
where the cost of existence is low, it must be hard to earn a livelihood
there. By far the larger proportion of the community reside in flats,
which can be rented at sums that rise in accordance with the
accommodation but are in all cases moderate. Housekeeping in a flat,
should the owner so will it, is ever conducive to economy, and life in a
French provincial town is simple and unconventional.

[Illustration: Sage and Onions]

Bread, wine, and vegetables, the staple foods of the nation, are good
and inexpensive. For 40 centimes one may purchase a bottle of _vin de
gard_, a thin tipple, doubtless; but what kind of claret could one buy
for fourpence a quart at home? _Graves_ I have seen priced at 50
centimes, _Barsac_ at 60, and _eau de vie_ is plentiful at 1 franc 20!

Fish are scarce, and beef is supposed to be dear; but when butter, eggs,
and cheese bulk so largely in the diet, the half chicken, the scrap of
tripe, the slice of garlic sausage, the tiny cut of beef for the
_ragout_, cannot be heavy items. Everything eatable is utilised, and
many weird edibles are sold; for the French can contrive tasty dishes
out of what in Britain would be thrown aside as offal.

On three mornings a week--Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday--the presence of
the open-air market rouses Versailles from her dormouse-like slumber and
galvanises her into a state of activity that lasts for several hours.
Long before dawn, the roads leading townwards are busy with all manner
of vehicles, from the great waggon drawn by four white horses driven
tandem, and laden with a moving stack of hay, to the ramshackle
donkey-cart conveying half a score of cabbages, a heap of dandelions
grubbed from the meadows, and the owner.

[Illustration: Marketing]

By daybreak the market square under the leafless trees presents a lively
scene. There are stalls sacred to poultry, to butter, eggs, and cheese;
but the vegetable kingdom predominates. Flanked by bulwarks of greens
and bundles of leeks of incredible whiteness and thickness of stem, sit
the saleswomen, their heads swathed in gay cotton kerchiefs, and the
ground before them temptingly spread with little heaps of corn salad, of
chicory, and of yellow endive placed in adorable contrast to the scarlet
carrots, blood-red beetroot, pinky-fawn onions, and glorious orange-hued
pumpkins; while ready to hand are measures of white or mottled haricot
beans, of miniature Brussels sprouts, and of pink or yellow potatoes, an
esculent that in France occupies a very unimportant place compared with
that it holds amongst the lower classes in Britain.

[Illustration: Private Boxes]

In Versailles Madame does her own marketing, her maid--in sabots and
neat but usually hideous cap--accompanying her, basket laden. From stall
to stall Madame passes, buying a roll of creamy butter wrapped in fresh
leaves here, a fowl there, some eggs from the wrinkled old dame who
looks so swart and witch-like in contrast to her stock of milk-white
eggs.

Madame makes her purchases judiciously--time is not a valuable commodity
in Versailles--and finishes, when the huge black basket is getting heavy
even for the strong arms of the squat little maid, by buying a mess of
cooked spinach from the pretty girl whose red hood makes a happy spot of
colour among the surrounding greenery, and a measure of onions from the
profound-looking sage who garners a winter livelihood from the summer
produce of his fields.

[Illustration: A Foraging Party]

Relations with uncooked food are, in Versailles, distinguished by an
unwonted intimacy. No one, however dignified his station or appearance,
is ashamed of purchasing the materials for his dinner in the open
market, or of carrying them home exposed to the view of the world
through the transpicuous meshes of a string bag. The portly gentleman
with the fur coat and waxed moustaches, who looks a general at least,
and is probably a tram-car conductor, bears his bunch of turnips with an
air that dignifies the office, just as the young sub-lieutenant in the
light blue cloak and red cap and trousers carries his mother's apples
and lettuces without a thought of shame. And it is easy to guess the
nature of the _déjeûner_ of this _simple soldat_ from the long loaf, the
bottle of _vin ordinaire_, and the onions that form the contents of his
net. In the street it was a common occurrence to encounter some
non-commissioned officer who, entrusted with the catering for his mess,
did his marketing accompanied by two underlings, who bore between them
the great open basket destined to hold his purchases.

[Illustration: A Thriving Merchant]

A picturesque appearance among the hucksters of the market square is the
_boîte de carton_ seller. Blue-bloused, with his stock of lavender or
brown bandboxes strapped in a cardboard Tower of Pisa on his back, he
parades along, his wares finding ready sale; for his visits are
infrequent, and if one does not purchase at the moment, as does Madame,
the opportunity is gone.

The spirit of camaraderie is strong amongst the good folks of the
market. One morning the Artist had paused a moment to make a rough
sketch of a plump, affable man who, shadowed by the green cotton awning
of his stall, was selling segments of round flat cheeses of goat's milk;
vile-smelling compounds that, judged from their outer coating of
withered leaves, straw, and dirt, would appear to have been made in a
stable and dried on a rubbish heap. The subject of the jotting, busy
with his customers, was all unconscious; but an old crone who sat, her
feet resting on a tiny charcoal stove, amidst a circle of decadent
greens, detecting the Artist's action, became excited, and after eyeing
him uneasily for a moment, confided her suspicions as to his ulterior
motive to a round-faced young countryman who retailed flowers close by.
He, recognising us as customers--even then we were laden with his
violets and mimosa--merely smiled at her concern. But his apathy only
served to heighten Madame's agitation. She was unwilling to leave her
snug seat yet felt that her imperative duty lay in acquainting Monsieur
du Fromage with the inexplicable behaviour of the inquisitive foreigner.
But the nefarious deed was already accomplished, and as we moved away
our last glimpse was of the little stove standing deserted, while Madame
hastened across the street in her clattering sabots to warn her friend.

The bustle of the market is soon ended. By ten o'clock the piles of
vegetables are sensibly diminished. By half-past ten the white-capped
maid-servants have carried the heavy baskets home, and are busy
preparing lunch. At eleven o'clock the sharp boy whose stock-in-trade
consisted of three trays of snails stuffed _à la_ Bourgogne has sold all
the large ones at 45 centimes a dozen, all the small at 25, and quite
two-thirds of the medium-sized at 35 centimes.

The clock points to eleven. The sun is high now. The vendors awaken to
the consciousness of hunger, and Madame of the _pommes frites_ stall,
whose assistant dexterously cuts the peeled tubers into strips, is fully
occupied in draining the crisp golden shreds from the boiling fat and
handing them over, well sprinkled with salt and pepper, to avid
customers, who devour them smoking hot, direct from their paper
cornucopias.

Long before the first gloom of the early mid-winter dusk, all has been
cleared away. The rickety stalls have been demolished; the unsold
remainder of the goods disposed of; the worthy country folks, their
pockets heavy with _sous_, are well on their journey homewards, and only
a litter of straw, of cabbage leaves and leek tops remains as evidence
of the lively market of the morning.

[Illustration: Chestnuts in the Avenue]



CHAPTER IV

OUR ARBRE DE NOËL


We bought it on the Sunday morning from old Grand'mere Gomard in the
Avenue de St. Cloud.

It was not a noble specimen of a Christmas-tree. Looked at with cold,
unimaginative eyes, it might have been considered lopsided; undersized
it undoubtedly was. Yet a pathetic familiarity in the desolate aspect of
the little tree aroused our sympathy as no rare horticultural trophy
ever could.

Some Christmas fairy must have whispered to Grand'mere to grub up the
tiny tree and to include it in the stock she was taking into Versailles
on the market morning. For there it was, its roots stuck securely into a
big pot, looking like some forlorn forest bantling among the garden
plants.

[Illustration: The Tree Vendor]

Grand'mere Gomard had established herself in a cosy nook at the foot of
one of the great leafless trees of the Avenue. Straw hurdles were
cunningly arranged to form three sides of a square, in whose midst she
was seated on a rush-bottomed chair, like a queen on a humble throne.
Her head was bound by a gaily striped kerchief, and her feet rested
snugly on a charcoal stove. Her merchandise, which consisted of half a
dozen pots of pink and white primulas, a few spotted or crimson
cyclamen, sundry lettuce and cauliflower plants, and some roots of
pansies and daisies, was grouped around her.

[Illustration: The Tree-Bearer]

The primulas and cyclamen, though their pots were shrouded in pinafores
of white paper skilfully calculated to conceal any undue lankiness of
stem, left us unmoved. But the sight of the starveling little fir tree
reminded us that in the school hospital lay two sick boys whose roseate
dreams of London and holidays had suddenly changed to the knowledge that
weeks of isolation and imprisonment behind the window-blind with the red
cross lay before them. If we could not give them the longed-for home
Christmas, we could at least give them a Christmas-tree.

The sight of foreign customers for Grand'mere Gomard speedily collected
a small group of interested spectators. A knot of children relinquished
their tantalising occupation of hanging round the pan of charcoal over
whose glow chestnuts were cracking appetisingly, and the stall of the
lady who with amazing celerity fried pancakes on a hot plate, and sold
them dotted with butter and sprinkled with sugar to the lucky possessors
of a _sou_. Even the sharp urchin who presided over the old red
umbrella, which, reversed, with the ferule fixed in a cross-bar of wood,
served as a receptacle for sheets of festive note-paper embellished with
lace edges and further adorned with coloured scraps, temporarily
entrusting a juvenile sister with his responsibilities, added his
presence to our court.

[Illustration: Rosine]

Christmas-trees seemed not to be greatly in demand in Versailles, and
many were the whispered communings as to what _les Anglais_ proposed
doing with the tree after they had bought it. When the transaction was
completed and Grand'mere Gomard had exchanged the tree, with a sheet of
_La Patrie_ wrapped round its pot, for a franc and our thanks, the
interest increased. We would require some one to carry our purchase, and
each of the bright-eyed, short-cropped Jeans and Pierres was eager to
offer himself. But our selection was already made. A slender boy in a
_béret_ and black pinafore, who had been our earliest spectator, was
singled out and entrusted with the conveyance of the _arbre de Noël_ to
our hotel.

The fact that it had met with approbation appeared to encourage the
little tree. The change may have been imaginary, but from the moment it
passed into our possession the branches seemed less despondent, the
needles more erect.

"Will you put toys on it?" the youthful porter asked suddenly.

"Yes; it is for a sick boy--a boy who has fever. Have you ever had an
_arbre de Noël_?"

"_Jamais_," was his conclusive reply: the tone thereof suggesting that
that was a felicity quite beyond the range of possibility.

The tree secured, there began the comparatively difficult work of
finding the customary ornaments of glass and glitter to deck it. A
fruitless search had left us almost in despair, when, late on Monday
afternoon, we joyed to discover miniature candles of red, yellow, and
blue on the open-air stall in front of a toy-store. A rummage in the
interior of the shop procured candle clips, and a variety of glittering
bagatelles. Laden with treasure, we hurried back to the hotel, and began
the work of decoration in preparation for the morning.

During its short stay in our room at the hotel, the erstwhile despised
little tree met with an adulation that must have warmed the heart within
its rough stem. When nothing more than three coloured glass globes, a
gilded walnut, and a gorgeous humming-bird with wings and tail of spun
glass had been suspended by narrow ribbon from its branches, Rosine, the
pretty Swiss chambermaid, chancing to enter the room with letters, was
struck with admiration and pronounced it "très belle!"

And Karl bringing in a fresh _panier_ of logs when the adorning was
complete, and silly little delightful baubles sparkled and twinkled from
every spray, putting down his burden, threw up his hands in amazement
and declared the _arbre de Noël_ "magnifique!"

This alien Christmas-tree had an element all its own. When we were
searching for knick-knacks the shops were full of tiny Holy Babes lying
cradled in waxen innocence in mangers of yellow corn. One of these
little effigies we had bought because they pleased us. And when, the
decoration of the tree being nearly finished, the tip of the centre stem
standing scraggily naked called for covering, what more fitting than
that the dear little Sacred _Bébé_ in his nest of golden straw should
have the place of honour?

It was late on Christmas Eve before our task was ended. But next morning
when Karl, carrying in our _petit déjeûner_, turned on the electric
light, and our anxious gaze sought our work, we found it good.

Then followed a hurried packing of the loose presents; and, a _fiacre_
having been summoned, the tree which had entered the room in all
humility passed out transmogrified beyond knowledge. Rosine, duster in
hand, leant over the banisters of the upper landing to watch its
descent. Karl saw it coming and flew to open the outer door for its
better egress. Even the stout old driver of the red-wheeled cab creaked
cumbrously round on his box to look upon its beauties.

[Illustration: Alms and the Lady]

The Market was busy in the square as we rattled through. From behind
their battlemented wares the country mice waged wordy war with the town
mice over the price of merchandise. But on this occasion we were too
engrossed to notice a scene whose picturesque humour usually fascinated
us, for as the carriage jogged over the rough roads the poor little
_arbre de Noël_ palpitated convulsively. The gewgaws clattered like
castanets, as though in frantic expostulation, and the radiant
spun-glass humming-birds quivered until we expected them to break from
their elastic fetters and fly away. The green and scarlet one with the
gold-flecked wings fell on the floor and rolled under the seat just as
the cab drew up at the great door of the school.

The two Red-Cross prisoners who, now that the dominating heat of fever
had faded, were thinking wistfully of the forbidden joys of home, had no
suspicion of our intention, and we wished to surprise them. So, burdened
with our treasure, we slipped in quietly.

From her lodge window the concierge nodded approval. And at the door of
the hospital the good Soeur received us, a flush of pleasure glorifying
her tranquil face.

Then followed a moment wherein the patients were ordered to shut their
eyes, to reopen them upon the vision splendid of the _arbre de Noël_.
Perhaps it was the contrast to the meagre background of the tiny
school-hospital room, with its two white beds and bare walls, but,
placed in full view on the centre table, the tree was almost imposing.
Standing apart from Grand'mere's primulas and cyclamen as though,
conscious of its own inferiority, it did not wish to obtrude, it had
looked dejected, miserable. During its sojourn at the hotel the
appreciation of its meanness had troubled us. But now, in the shabby
little chamber, where there were no rival attractions to detract from
its glory, we felt proud of it. It was just the right size for the
surroundings. A two-franc tree, had Grand'mere possessed one, would have
been Brobdignagian and pretentious.

[Illustration: Adoration]

A donor who is handicapped by the knowledge that the gifts he selects
must within a few weeks be destroyed by fire, is rarely lavish in his
outlay. Yet our presents, wrapped in white paper and tied with blue
ribbons, when arranged round the flower-pot made a wonderful show, There
were mounted Boers who, when you pressed the ball at the end of the
air-tube, galloped in a wobbly, uncertain fashion. The invalids had good
fun later trying races with them, and the Boy professed to find that his
Boer gained an accelerated speed when he whispered "Bobs" to him. There
were tales of adventure and flasks of eau-de-Cologne and smart virile
pocket-books, one red morocco, the other blue. We regretted the
pocket-books; but their possession made the recipients who, boylike,
took no heed for the cleansing fires of the morrow, feel grown-up at
once. And they yearned for the advent of the first day of the year, that
they might begin writing in their new diaries. For the Sister there was
a miniature gold consecrated medal. It was a small tribute of our
esteem, but one that pleased the devout recipient.

[Illustration: Thankfulness]

Suspended among the purely ornamental trinkets of the tree hung tiny net
bags of crystallised violets and many large chocolates rolled up in
silver paper. The boys, who had subsisted for several days on nothing
more exciting than boiled milk, openly rejoiced when they caught sight
of the sweets. But to her patients' disgust, the Soeur, who had a pretty
wit of her own, promptly frustrated their intentions by counting the
dainties.

"I count the chocolates. They are good boys, wise boys, honest boys, and
I have every confidence in them, but--I count the chocolates!" said the
Soeur.

[Illustration: One of the Devout]

As we passed back along the Rue de la Paroisse, worshippers were
flocking in and out of Notre Dame, running the gauntlet of the unsavoury
beggars who, loudly importunate, thronged the portals. Before the quiet
nook wherein, under a gold-bestarred canopy, was the tableau of the
Infant Jesus in the stable, little children stood in wide-eyed
adoration, and older people gazed with mute devotion.

Some might deem the little spectacle theatrical, and there was a slight
irrelevance in the pot-plants that were grouped along the foreground,
but none could fail to be impressed by the silent reverence of the
congregation. No service was in process, yet many believers knelt at
prayer. Here a pretty girl returned thanks for evident blessings
received; there an old spinster, the narrowness of whose means forbade
her expending a couple of sous on the hire of a chair, knelt on the
chilly flags and murmured words of gratitude for benefits whereof her
appearance bore no outward indication.

We had left the prisoners to the enjoyment of their newly acquired
property in the morning. At gloaming we again mounted the time-worn
outside stair leading to the chamber whose casement bore the ominous red
cross. The warm glow of firelight filled the room, scintillating in the
glittering facets of the baubles on the tree; and from their pillows two
pale-faced boys--boys who, despite their lengthening limbs were yet
happily children at heart--watched eager-eyed while the sweet-faced
Soeur, with reverential care, lit the candles that surrounded the Holy
_Bébé_.



CHAPTER V

LE JOUR DE L'ANNÉE


The closing days of 1900 had been unusually mild. Versailles townsfolk,
watching the clear skies for sign of change, declared that it would be
outside all precedent if Christmas week passed without snow. But,
defiant of rule, sunshine continued, and the new century opened
cloudless and bright.

[Illustration: De L'eau Chaude]

Karl, entering with hot water, gave us seasonable greeting, and as we
descended the stair, pretty Rosine, brushing boots at the open window of
the landing, also wished us a smiling _bonne nouvelle année_. But within
or without there was little token of gaiety. Sundry booths for the sale
of gingerbread and cheap _jouets_, which had been erected in the Avenue
de St. Cloud, found business languishing, though a stalwart countryman
in blouse and sabots, whose stock-in-trade consisted of whirligigs
fashioned in the semblance of _moulins rouges_ and grotesque blue
Chinamen which he carried stuck into a straw wreath fixed on a tall
pole, had no lack of custom.

The great food question never bulks so largely in the public interest as
at the close of a year, so perhaps it was but natural that the greatest
appreciation of the festive traditions of the season should be evinced
by the shops devoted to the sale of provender. Turkeys sported scarlet
bows on their toes as though anticipating a dance rather than the oven;
and by their sides sausages, their somewhat plethoric waists girdled by
pink ribbon sashes, seemed ready to join them in the frolic. In one
cookshop window a trio of plaster nymphs who stood ankle-deep in a pool
of crimped green paper, upheld a huge garland of cunningly moulded wax
roses, dahlias, and lilac, above which perched a pheasant regnant. This
trophy met with vast approbation until a rival establishment across the
way, not to be outdone, exhibited a centrepiece of unparalleled
originality, consisting as it did of a war scene modelled entirely in
lard. Entrenched behind the battlements of the fort crowning an
eminence, Boers busied themselves with cannon whose aim was carefully
directed towards the admiring spectators outside the window, not at the
British troops who were essaying to scale the greasy slopes. Half way up
the hill, a miniature train appeared from time to time issuing from an
absolutely irrelevant tunnel, and, progressing at the rate of quite a
mile an hour, crawled into the corresponding tunnel on the other side.
At the base of the hill British soldiers, who seemed quite cognisant of
the utter futility of the Boer gunnery, were complacently driving off
cattle. Captious critics might have taken exception to the fact that the
waxen camellias adorning the hill were nearly as big as the battlements,
and considerably larger than the engine of the train. But fortunately
detractors were absent, and such trifling discrepancies did not lessen
the genuine delight afforded the spectators by this unique design which,
as a card proudly informed the world, was entirely the work of the
employés of the firm.

It was in a pâtisserie in the Rue de la Paroisse that we noticed an
uninviting compound labelled "Pudding Anglais, 2 fr. 1/2 kilo." A little
thought led us to recognise in this amalgamation a travesty of our old
friend plum-pudding; but so revolting was its dark, bilious-looking
exterior that we felt its claim to be accounted a compatriot almost
insulting. And it was with secret gratification that towards the close
of January we saw the same stolid, unhappy blocks awaiting purchasers.

[Illustration: The Mill]

The presence of the customary Tuesday market kept the streets busy till
noon. But when the square was again empty of sellers and buyers
Versailles relapsed into quietude. I wonder if any other town of its
size is as silent as Versailles. There is little horse-traffic. Save for
the weird, dirge-like drone of the electric cars, which seems in perfect
consonance with the tone of sadness pervading the old town whose glory
has departed, the clang of the wooden shoes on the rough pavement, and
the infrequent beat of hoofs as a detachment of cavalry moves by,
unnatural stillness seems to prevail.

Of street music there was none, though once an old couple wailing a
plaintive duet passed under our windows. Britain is not esteemed a
melodious nation, yet the unclassical piano is ever with us, and even in
the smallest provincial towns one is rarely out of hearing of the
insistent note of some itinerant musician. And no matter how far one
penetrates into the recesses of the country, he is always within reach
of some bucolic rendering of the popular music-hall ditty of the year
before last. But never during our stay in Versailles, a stay that
included what is supposedly the gay time of the year, did we hear the
sound of an instrument, or--with the one exception of the old couple,
whom it would be rank flattery to term vocalists--the note of a voice
raised in song.

With us, New Year's Day was a quiet one. A dozen miles distant, Paris
was welcoming the advent of the new century in a burst of feverish
excitement. But despite temptations, we remained in drowsy Versailles,
and spent several of the hours in the little room where two pallid
Red-Cross knights, who were celebrating the occasion by sitting up for
the first time, waited expectant of our coming as their one link with
the outside world.

[Illustration: The Presbytery]

It was with a sincere thrill of pity that at _déjeûner_ we glanced round
the _salle-à-manger_ and found all the Ogams filling their accustomed
solitary places. Only Dunois the comparatively young, and presumably
brave, was absent. The others occupied their usual seats, eating with
their unfailing air of introspective absorption. Nobody had cared enough
for these lonely old men to ask them to fill a corner at their tables,
even on New Year's Day. To judge by their regular attendance at the
hotel meals, these men--all of whom, as shown by their wearing the red
ribbon of the Legion of Honour, had merited distinction--had little
hospitality offered them. Most probably they offered as little, for,
throughout our stay, none ever had a friend to share his breakfast or
dinner.

The bearing of the hotel guests suggested absolute ignorance of one
another's existence. The Colonels, as I have said in a previous chapter,
were exceptions, but even they held intercourse only without the hotel
walls. Day after day, month after month, year after year as we were
told, these men had fed together, yet we never saw them betray even the
most cursory interest in one another. They entered and departed without
revealing, by word or look, cognisance of another human being's
presence. Could one imagine a dozen men of any other nationality thus
maintaining the same indifference over even a short period? I hope
future experience will prove me wrong, but in the meantime my former
conception of the French as a nation overflowing with _bonhomie_ and
_camaraderie_ is rudely shaken.

The day of the year would have passed without anything to distinguish it
from its fellows had not the proprietor, who, by the way, was a Swiss,
endeavoured by sundry little attentions to reveal his goodwill. Oysters
usurped the place of the customary _hors d'oeuvres_ at breakfast, and
the meal ended with _café noir_ and cognac handed round by the
deferential Iorson as being "offered by the proprietor," who, entering
during the progress of the _déjeûner_, paid his personal respects to his
_clientèle_.

The afternoon brought us a charming discovery. We had a boy guest with
us at luncheon, a lonely boy left at school when his few
compatriots--save only the two Red-Cross prisoners--had gone home on
holiday. The day was bright and balmy; and while strolling in the park
beyond the Petit Trianon, we stumbled by accident upon the _hameau_, the
little village of counterfeit rusticity wherein Marie Antoinette loved
to play at country life.

Following a squirrel that sported among the trees, we had strayed from
the beaten track, when, through the leafless branches, we caught sight
of roofs and houses and, wandering towards them, found ourselves by the
side of a miniature lake, round whose margin were grouped the daintiest
rural cottages that monarch could desire or Court architect design.

History had told us of the creation of this unique plaything of the
capricious Queen, but we had thought of it as a thing of the past, a toy
whose fragile beauty had been wrecked by the rude blows of the
Revolution. The matter-of-fact and unromantic Baedeker, it is true, gives
it half a line. After devoting pages to the Château, its grounds,
pictures, and statues, and detailing exhaustively the riches of the
Trianons, he blandly mentions the gardens of the Petit Trianon as
containing "some fine exotic trees, an artificial lake, a Temple of
Love, and a hamlet where the Court ladies played at peasant life."

It is doubtful whether ten out of every hundred tourists who, Baedeker
in hand, wander conscientiously over the grand Château--Palace, alas! no
longer--ever notice the concluding words, or, reading its lukewarm
recommendation, deem the hamlet worthy of a visit. The Château is an
immense building crammed with artistic achievements, and by the time the
sightseer of ordinary capacity has seen a tenth of the pictures, a third
of the sculpture, and a half of the fountains, his endurance, if not all
his patience, is exhausted.

I must acknowledge that we, too, had visited Versailles without
discovering that the _hameau_ still existed; so to chance upon it in the
sunset glow of that winter evening seemed to carry us back to the time
when the storm-cloud of the Revolution was yet no larger than a man's
hand; to the day when Louis XVI., making for once a graceful speech,
presented the site to his wife, saying: "You love flowers. Ah! well, I
have a bouquet for you--the Petit Trianon." And his Queen, weary of the
restrictions of Court ceremony--though it must be admitted that the
willful Marie Antoinette ever declined to be hampered by
convention--experiencing in her residence in the little house freedom
from etiquette, pursued the novel pleasure to its furthest by commanding
the erection in its grounds of a village wherein she might the better
indulge her newly fledged fancy for make-believe rusticity.

About the pillars supporting the verandah-roof of the chief cottage and
that of the wide balcony above, roses and vines twined lovingly. And
though it was the first day of January, the rose foliage was yet green
and bunches of shrivelled grapes clung to the vines. It was lovely then;
yet a day or two later, when a heavy snowfall had cast a white mantle
over the village, and the little lake was frozen hard, the scene seemed
still more beautiful in its ghostly purity.

At first sight there was no sign of decay about the long-deserted
hamlet. The windows were closed, but had it been early morning, one
could easily have imagined that the pseudo villagers were asleep behind
the shuttered casements, and that soon the Queen, in some charming
_déshabillé_, would come out to breathe the sweet morning air and to
inhale the perfume of the climbing roses on the balcony overlooking the
lake, wherein gold-fish darted to and fro among the water-lilies; or
expect to see the King, from the steps of the little mill where he
lodged, exchange blithe greetings with the maids of honour as they
tripped gaily to the _laiterie_ to play at butter-making, or sauntered
across the rustic bridge on their way to gather new-laid eggs at the
farm.

The sunset glamour had faded and the premature dusk of mid-winter was
falling as, approaching nearer, we saw where the roof-thatch had
decayed, where the insidious finger of Time had crumbled the stone
walls. A chilly wind arising, moaned through the naked trees. The shadow
of the guillotine seemed to brood oppressively over the scene, and,
shuddering, we hastened away.



[Illustration: To the Place of Rest]

CHAPTER VI

ICE-BOUND


Even in the last days of December rosebuds had been trying to open on
the standard bushes in the sheltered rose-garden of the Palace. But with
the early nights of January a sudden frost seized the town in its icy
grip, and, almost before we had time to realise the change of weather,
pipes were frozen and hot-water bottles of strange design made their
appearance in the upper corridors of the hotel. The naked cherubs in the
park basins stood knee-deep in ice, skaters skimmed the smooth surface
of the canal beyond the _tapis vert_, and in a twinkling Versailles
became a town peopled by gnomes and brownies whose faces peeped quaintly
from within conical hoods.

Soldiers drew their cloak-hoods over their uniform caps. Postmen went
their rounds thus snugly protected from the weather. The doddering old
scavengers, plying their brooms among the great trees of the avenues,
bore so strong a resemblance to the pixies who lurk in caves and woods,
that we almost expected to see them vanish into some crevice in the
gnarled roots of the trunks. Even the tiny acolytes trotting gravely in
the funeral processions had their heads and shoulders shrouded in the
prevailing hooded capes.

[Illustration: While the Frost Holds]

To us, accustomed though we were to an inclement winter climate, the
chill seemed intense. So frigid was the atmosphere that the first step
taken from the heated hotel hall into the outer air felt like putting
one's face against an iceberg. All wraps of ordinary thickness appeared
incapable of excluding the cold, and I sincerely envied the countless
wearers of the dominant Capuchin cloaks.

[Illustration: The Postman's Wrap]

Our room was many-windowed, and no matter how high Karl piled the logs,
nor how close we sat to the flames, our backs never felt really warm. It
was only when night had fallen and the outside shutters were firmly
closed that the thermometer suspended near the chimney-piece grudgingly
consented to record temperate heat.

[Illustration: A Lapful of Warmth]

But there was at least one snug chamber in Versailles, and that was the
room of the Red-Cross prisoners. However extravagant the degrees of
frost registered without, the boys' sick-room was always pleasantly
warm. How the good Soeur, who was on duty all day, managed to regulate
the heat throughout the night-watches was her secret. A half-waking boy
might catch a glimpse of her, apparently robed as by day, stealing out
of the room; but so noiseless were her movements, that neither of the
invalids ever saw her stealing in. They had a secret theory that in her
own little apartment, which was just beyond theirs, the Soeur, garbed,
hooded, and wearing rosary and the knotted rope of her Order, passed her
nights in devotion. Certain it was that even the most glacial of
weathers did not once avail to prevent her attending the Mass that was
held at Notre Dame each morning before daybreak.

[Illustration: The Daily Round]

Frost-flowers dulled the inner glories of the shop windows with their
unwelcome decoration. Even in the square on market mornings business
flagged. The country folks, chilled by their cold drive to town,
cowered, muffled in thick wraps, over their little charcoal stoves,
lacking energy to call attention to their wares. The sage with the
onions was absent, but the pretty girl in the red hood held her
accustomed place, warming mittened fingers at a chaufferette which she
held on her lap. The only person who gave no outward sign of misery was
the boulangère who, harnessed to her heavy hand-cart, toiled
unflinchingly on her rounds.

In the streets the comely little _bourgeoises_ hid their plump shoulders
under ugly black knitted capes, and concealed their neat hands in clumsy
worsted gloves. But despite the rigour of the atmosphere their heads,
with the hair neatly dressed _à la Chinoise_, remained uncovered. It
struck our unaccustomed eyes oddly to see these girls thus exposed,
standing on the pavement in the teeth of some icy blast, talking to
stalwart soldier friends, whose noses were their only visible feature.

[Illustration: Three Babes and a Bonne]

The ladies of Versailles give a thought to their waists, but they leave
their ankles to Providence, and any one having experience of Versailles
winter streets can fully sympathise with their trust; for even in dry
sunny weather mud seems a spontaneous production that renders goloshes a
necessity. And when frost holds the high-standing city in its frigid
grasp the extreme cold forbids any idea of coquetry, and thickly lined
boots with cloth uppers--a species of foot-gear that in grace of outline
is decidedly suggestive of "arctics"--become the only comfortable wear.

[Illustration: Snow in the Park]

After a few days of thought-congealing cold--a cold so intense that
sundry country people who had left their homes before dawn to drive into
Paris with farm produce were taken dead from their market-carts at the
end of the journey--the weather mercifully changed. A heavy snowfall now
tempered the inclement air, and turned the leafless park into a fairy
vision.

The nights were still cold, but during the day the sun glinted warmly on
the frozen waters of the gilded fountains and sparkled on the facets of
the crisp snow. The marble benches in the sheltered nooks of the snug
Château gardens were occupied by little groups, which usually consisted
of a _bonne_ and a baby, or of a chevalier and a hopelessly unclassable
dog; for the dogs of Versailles belong to breeds that no man living
could classify, the most prevalent type in clumsiness of contour and
astonishing shagginess of coat resembling nothing more natural than
those human travesties of the canine race familiar to us in pantomime.

Along the snow-covered paths under the leafless trees, on whose branches
close-wreathed mistletoe hangs like rooks' nests, the statues stood like
guardian angels of the scene. They had lost their air of aloofness and
were at one with the white earth, just as the forest trees in their
autumn dress of brown and russet appear more in unison with their parent
soil than when decked in their bravery of summer greenery.



CHAPTER VII

THE HAUNTED CHATEAU


[Illustration: A Veteran of the Chateau]

The Château of Versailles, like the town, dozes through the winter, only
half awakening on Sunday afternoons when the townsfolk make it their
meeting-place. Then conscripts, in clumsy, ill-fitting uniforms, tread
noisily over the shining _parqueterie_ floors, and burgesses gossip
amicably in the dazzling _Galerie des Glaces_, where each morning
courtiers were wont to await the uprising of their king. But on the
weekdays visitors are of the rarest. Sometimes a few half-frozen people
who have rashly automobiled thither from Paris alight at the Château
gates, and take a hurried walk through the empty galleries to restore
the circulation to their stiffened limbs before venturing to set forth
on the return journey.

Every weekday in the Place d'Armes, squads of conscripts are busily
drilling, running hither and thither with unflagging energy, and the air
resounds with the hoarse staccato cries of "Un! Deux! Trois!" wherewith
they accompany their movements, cries that, heard from a short distance,
exactly resemble the harsh barking of a legion of dogs.

[Illustration: Un--Deux--Trois]

Within the gates there is a sense of leisure: even the officials have
ceased to anticipate visitors. In the _Cour Royale_ two little girls
have cajoled an old guide into playing a game of ball. A custodian dozes
by the great log fire in the bedroom of Louis XIV., where the warm
firelight playing on the rich trappings lends such an air of occupation
to the chamber, that--forgetting how time has turned to grey the once
white ostrich plumes adorning the canopy of the bed, and that the
priceless lace coverlet would probably fall to pieces at a touch--one
almost expects the door to open for the entrance of Louis le Grand
himself.

To this room he came when he built the Palace wherein to hide from that
grim summons with which the tower of the Royal sepulture of St. Denis,
visible from his former residence, seemed to threaten him. And here it
was that Death, after long seeking, found him. We can see the little
great-grandson who was to succeed, lifted on to the bed of the dying
monarch.

[Illustration: The Bedchamber of Louis XIV]

"What is your name, my child?" asks the King.

"Louis XV;" replies the infant, taking brevet-rank. And nearly sixty
years later we see the child, his wasted life at an end, dying of
virulent smallpox under the same roof, deserted by all save his devoted
daughters.

To me the Palace of Versailles is peopled by the ghosts of many women. A
few of them are dowdy and good, but by far the greater number are
graceful and wicked. How infinitely easier it is to make a good bad
reputation than to achieve even a bad good one! "Tell us stories about
naughty children," we used to beseech our nurses. And as our years
increase we still yawn over the doings of the righteous, while our
interest in the ways of transgressors only strengthens.

We all know by heart the romantic lives of the shrinking La Vallière, of
Madame de Montespan the impassioned, of sleek Madame de Maintenon--the
trio of beauties honoured by the admiration of Louis le Grand; and of
the bevy of favourites of Louis XV, the three fair and short-lived
sisters de Mailly-Nesle, the frail Pompadour who mingled scheming with
debauchery, and the fascinating but irresponsible Du Barry. Even the most
minute details of Marie Antoinette's tragic career are fresh in our
memories, but which of us can remember the part in the history of France
played by Marie Leczinska? Yet, apart from her claim to notability as
having been the last queen who ended her days on the French throne, her
story is full of romantic interest.

Thrusting aside the flimsy veil of Time, we find Marie Leczinska the
penniless daughter of an exiled Polish king who is living in retirement
in a dilapidated commandatory at a little town in Alsace. It is easy to
picture the shabby room wherein the unforeseeing Marie sits content
between her mother and grandmother, all three diligently broidering
altar cloths. Upon the peaceful scene the father enters, overcome by
emotion, trembling. His face announces great news, before he can school
his voice to speak.

"Why, father! Have you been recalled to the throne of Poland?" asks
Marie, and the naïve question reveals that many years of banishment have
not quenched in the hearts of the exiles the hope of a return to their
beloved Poland.

"No, my daughter, but you are to be Queen of France," replies the
father. "Let us thank God."

[Illustration: Marie Leczinska]

Knowing the sequel, one wonders if it was for a blessing or a curse that
the refugees, kneeling in that meagre room in the old house at
Wissenberg, returned thanks.

Certain it is that the ministers of the boy-monarch were actuated more
by a craving to further their own ends than either by the desire to
please God or to honour their King, in selecting this obscure maiden
from the list of ninety-nine marriageable princesses that had been drawn
up at Versailles. A dowerless damsel possessed of no influential
relatives is not in a position to be exacting, and, whate'er befell,
poor outlawed Stanislas Poniatowski could not have taken up arms in
defence of his daughter.

Having a sincere regard for unaffected Marie Leczinska, I regret being
obliged to admit that, even in youth, "comely" was the most effusive
adjective that could veraciously be awarded her. And it is only in the
lowest of whispers that I will admit that she was seven years older than
her handsome husband, whose years did not then number seventeen. Yet is
there indubitable charm in the simple grace wherewith Marie accepted her
marvellous transformation from pauper to queen. She disarmed criticism
by refusing to conceal her former poverty. "This is the first time in my
life I have been able to make presents," she frankly told the ladies of
the Court, as she distributed among them her newly got trinkets.

It is pleasant to remember that the early years of her wedded life
passed harmoniously. Louis, though never passionately enamoured of his
wife, yet loved her with the warm affection a young man bestows on the
first woman he has possessed. And that Marie was wholly content there is
little doubt. She was no gadabout. Versailles satisfied her. Three years
passed before she visited Paris, and then the visit was more of the
nature of a pilgrimage than of a State progress. Twin daughters had
blessed the union, and the Queen journeyed to the churches of Notre Dame
and Saint Geneviève to crave from Heaven the boon of a Dauphin: a prayer
which a year later was answered.

But clouds were gathering apace. As he grew into manhood the domestic
virtues palled upon Louis. He tired of the needlework which, doubtless,
Marie's skilled hands had taught him. We recall how, sitting between her
mother and grandmother, the future Queen had broidered altar cloths.
Marie Leczinska was an adoring mother; possibly her devotion to their
rapidly increasing family wearied him. Being little more than a child
himself, the King is scarcely likely to have found the infantile society
so engaging as did the mother. Thus began that series of foolish
infidelities that, characterised by extreme timidity and secrecy at
first, was latterly flaunted in the face of the world.

Marie's life was not a smooth one, but it was happier than that of her
Royal spouse. To me there is nothing sadder, nothing more sordid in
history, than the feeble, useless existence of Louis XV., whose early
years promised so well. It is pitiful to look at the magnificent
portrait, still hanging in the palace where he reigned, of the
child-king seated in his robes of State, the sceptre in his hand,
looking with eyes of innocent wonder into the future, then to think upon
the depth of degradation reached by the once revered Monarch before his
body was dragged in dishonour and darkness to its last resting-place.

[Illustration: Madame Adelaide]

Pleasanter figures that haunt the Château are those of the six pretty
daughters of Louis and Marie Leczinska. There are the ill-starred twins,
Elizabeth and Henrietta: Madame Elizabeth, who never lost the love of
her old home, and, though married, before entering her teens, to the
Infanta of Spain, retired, after a life of disappointment, to her
beloved Versailles to die; and the gentle Henrietta who, cherishing an
unlucky passion for the young Duc de Chartres, pined quietly away after
witnessing her lover wed to another.

Then there is Adelaide, whom Nattier loved to paint, portraying her
sometimes as a lightly clad goddess, sometimes sitting demurely in a
pretty frock. Good Nattier! there is a later portrait of himself in
complacent middle age surrounded by his wife and children; but I like to
think that, when he spent so many days at the Palace painting the young
Princess, some tenderer influence than mere artistic skill lent cunning
to his brush.

When the daughters of Louis XV. were sent to be educated at a convent,
Adelaide it was who, by tearful protest to her royal father, gained
permission to remain at the Palace while her sisters meekly endured
their banishment. From this instance of childish character one would
have anticipated a career for Madame Adelaide, and I hate being obliged
to think of her merely developing into one of the three spinster aunts
of Louis XVI. who, residing under the same roof, turned coldly
disapproving eyes upon the manifold frailties of their niece, Marie
Antoinette.

The sisters Victoire and Sophie are faint shades leaving no impression
on the memory; but there is another spirit, clad in the sombre garb of a
Carmelite nun, who, standing aloof, looks with the calm eyes of peace on
the motley throng. It is Louise, the youngest sister of all, who, deeply
grieved by her father's infatuation for the Du Barry--an infatuation
which, beginning within a month of Marie Leczinska's decease, ended only
when on his deathbed the dying Monarch prepared to receive absolution by
bidding his inamorata farewell--resolved to flee her profligate
surroundings and devote her life to holiness.

It is affecting to think of the gentle Louise, secretly anticipating the
rigours of convent life, torturing her delicate skin by wearing coarse
serge, and burning tallow candles in her chamber to accustom herself to
their detestable odour.

Her father's consent gained, Louise still tarried at Versailles. Perhaps
the King's daughter shrank from voluntarily beginning a life of
imprisoned drudgery. We know that at this period she passed many hours
reading contemporary history, knowing that, once within the convent
walls, the study of none but sacred literature would be permitted.

Then came an April morning when Louise, who had kept her intention
secret from all save her father, left the Palace never to return.
France, in a state of joyous excitement, was eagerly anticipating the
arrival of Marie Antoinette, who was setting forth on the first stage of
that triumphal journey which had so tragic an ending. Already the gay
clamour of wedding-bells filled the air; and Louise may have feared
that, did she linger at Versailles, the enticing vanities of the world
might change the current of her thoughts.

Chief among the impalpable throng that people the state galleries is
Marie Antoinette, and her spirit shows us many faces. It is charming,
haughty, considerate, headstrong, frivolous, thoughtful, degraded,
dignified, in quick succession. We see her arrive at the Palace amid the
tumultuous adoration of the crowd, and leave amidst its execrations.
Sometimes she is richly apparelled, as befits a queen; anon she sports
the motley trappings of a mountebank. The courtyard that saw the
departure of Madame Louise witnesses Marie Antoinette, returning at
daybreak in company with her brother-in-law from some festivity
unbecoming a queen, refused admittance by the King's express command.

[Illustration: Louis Quatorze]

Many of the attendant spirits who haunt Marie Antoinette's ghostly
footsteps as they haunted her earthly ones are malefic. Most are women,
and all are young and fair. There is Madame Roland, who, taken as a
young girl to the Palace to peep at the Royalties, became imbued by that
jealous hatred which only the Queen's death could appease.

"If I stay here much longer," she told that kindly mother who sought to
give her a treat by showing her Court life, "I shall detest these people
so much that I shall be unable to hide my hatred."

It is easy to fancy the girl's evil face scowling at the unconscious
Queen, before she leaves to pen those inflammatory pamphlets which are
to prove the Sovereign's undoing and her own. For by some whim of fate
Madame Roland was executed on the very scaffold to which her envenomed
writings had driven Marie Antoinette.

A spectre that impresses as wearing rags under a gorgeous robe, lurks
among the foliage of the quiet _bosquet_ beyond the orangerie. It is the
infamous Madame de la Motte, chief of adventuresses, and it was in that
secluded grove that her tool, Cardinal de Rohan, had his pretended
interview with the Queen. Poor, perfidious Contesse! what an existence
of alternate beggarly poverty and beggarly riches was hers before that
last scene of all when she lay broken and bruised almost beyond human
semblance in that dingy London courtyard beneath the window from which,
in a mad attempt to escape arrest, she had thrown herself.

Through the Royal salons flits a presence whereat the shades of the
Royal Princesses look askance: that of the frolicsome, good-natured,
irresponsible Du Barry. A soulless ephemera she, with no ambitions or
aspirations, save that, having quitted the grub stage, she desires to be
as brilliant a butterfly as possible. Close in attendance on her moves
an ebon shadow--Zamora, the ingrate foundling who, reared by the
Duchesse, swore that he would make his benefactress ascend the scaffold,
and kept his oath. For our last sight of the prodigal, warm-hearted Du
Barry, plaything of the aged King, is on the guillotine, where in
agonies of terror she fruitlessly appeals to her executioner's clemency.

But of all the bygone dames who haunt the grand Château, the only one I
detest is probably the most irreproachable of all--Madame de Maintenon.
There is something so repulsively sanctimonious in her aspect, something
so crafty in the method wherewith, under the cloak of religion, she
wormed her way into high places, ousting--always in the name of
propriety--those who had helped her. Her stepping-stone to Royal favour
was handsome, impetuous Madame de Montespan, who, taking compassion on
her widowed poverty, appointed Madame Scarron, as she then was,
governess of her children, only to find her _protégée_ usurp her place
both in the honours of the King and in the affections of their children.

The natural heart rebels against the "unco guid," and Madame de
Maintenon, with her smooth expression, double chin, sober garments and
ever-present symbols of piety, revolts me. I know it is wrong. I know
that historians laud her for the wholesome influence she exercised upon
the mind of a king who had grown timorous with years; that the dying
Queen declared that she owed the King's kindness to her during the last
twenty years of her life entirely to Madame de Maintenon. But we know
also that six months after the Queen's death an unwonted light showed at
midnight in the Chapel Royal, where Madame de Maintenon--the child of a
prison cell--was becoming the legal though unacknowledged wife of Louis
XIV. The impassioned, uncalculating de Montespan had given the handsome
Monarch her all without stipulation. Truly the career of Madame de
Maintenon was a triumph of virtue over vice; and yet of all that
heedless, wanton throng, my soul detests only her.



[Illustration: Where the Queen Played]

CHAPTER VIII

MARIE ANTOINETTE


Stereotyped sights are rarely the most engrossing. At the Palace of
Versailles the _petits appartements de la Reine_, those tiny rooms whose
grey old-world furniture might have been in use yesterday, to me hold
more actuality than all the regal salons in whose vast emptiness
footsteps reverberate like echoes from the past.

In the pretty sitting-room the coverings to-day are a reproduction of
the same pale blue satin that draped the furniture in the days when
queens preferred the snug seclusion of those dainty rooms overlooking
the dank inner courtyard to the frigid grandeur of their State chambers.
Therein it was that Marie Leczinska was wont to instruct her young
daughters in the virtues as she had known them in her girlhood's
thread-bare home, not as her residence at the profligate French Court
had taught her to understand them.

[Illustration: Marie Antoinette]

The heavy gilt bolts bearing the interlaced initials M.A. remind us that
these, too, were the favourite rooms of Marie Antoinette, and that in
all probability the cunningly entwined bolts were the handiwork of her
honest spouse, who wrought at his blacksmith forge below while his wife
flirted above. But in truth the _petits appartements_ are instinct with
memories of Marie Antoinette, and it is difficult to think of any save
only her occupying them. The beautiful _coffre_ presented to her with
the layette of the Dauphin still stands on a table in an adjoining
chamber, and the paintings on its white silk casing are scarcely faded
yet, though the decorative ruching of green silk leaves has long ago
fallen into decay.

A step farther is the little white and gold boudoir which still holds
the mirror that gave the haughty Queen her first premonition of the
catastrophe that awaited her. Viewed casually the triple mirror, lining
an alcove wherein stands a couch garlanded with flowers, betrays no
sinister qualities. But any visitor who approaches looking at his
reflection where at the left the side panels meet the angle of the wall,
will be greeted by a sight similar to that whose tragic suggestion made
even the haughty Queen pause a moment in her reckless career. For in the
innocent appearing mirrors the gazer is reflected without a head.

It was through this liliputian suite, this strip of homeliness so
artfully introduced into a palace, that Marie Antoinette fled on that
fateful August morning when the mob of infuriated women invaded the
Château.

Knowing this, I was puzzling over the transparent fact that either of
the apparent exits would have led her directly into the hands of the
enemy, when the idea of a secret staircase suggested itself. A little
judicious inquiry elicited the information that one did exist. "But it
is not seen. It is locked. To view it, an order from the
Commissary--that is necessary," explained the old guide.

To know that a secret staircase, and one of such vivid historical
importance, was at hand, and not to have seen it would have been too
tantalising. The "Commissary" was an unknown quantity, and for a space
it seemed as though our desire would be ungratified. Happily the
knowledge of our interest awoke a kindly reciprocity in our guide, who,
hurrying off, quickly returned with the venerable custodian of the key.
A moment later, the unobtrusive panel that concealed the exit flew open
at its touch, and the secret staircase, dark, narrow, and hoary with the
dust of years, lay before us.

[Illustration: The Secret Stair]

Many must have been the romantic meetings aided by those diminutive
steps, but, peering into their shadows, we saw nothing but a vision of
Marie Antoinette, half clad in dishevelled wrappings of petticoat and
shawl, flying distracted from the vengeance of the furies through the
refuge of the low-roofed stairway.

In my ingenuous youth, when studying French history, I evolved a theory
which seemed, to myself at least, to account satisfactorily for the
radical differences distinguishing Louis XVI. from his brothers and
antecedents. Finding that, when a delicate infant, he had been sent to
the country to nurse, I rushed to the conclusion that the royal infant
had died, and that his foster-mother, fearful of the consequences, had
substituted a child of her own in his place. The literature of the
nursery is full of instances that seemed to suggest the probability of
my conjecture being correct.

As a youth, Louis had proved himself both awkward and clumsy. He was
loutish, silent in company, ill at ease in his princely surroundings,
and in all respects unlike his younger brothers. He was honest, sincere,
pious, a faithful husband, a devoted father; amply endowed, indeed, with
the middle-class virtues which at that period were but rarely found in
palaces. To my childish reasoning the most convincing proof lay in his
innate craving for physical labour; a craving that no ridicule could
dispel.

With the romantic enthusiasm of youth, I used to fancy the peasant
mother stealing into the Palace among the spectators who daily were
permitted to view the royal couple at dinner, and imagine her, having
seen the King, depart glorying secretly in the strategy that had raised
her son to so high an estate. There was another picture, in whose
dramatic misery I used to revel. It showed the unknown mother, who had
discovered that by her own act she had condemned her innocent son to
suffer for the sins of past generations of royal profligates, journeying
to Paris (in my dreams she always wore sabots and walked the entire
distance in a state of extreme physical exhaustion) with the intention
of preventing his execution by declaring his lowly parentage to the mob.
The final tableau revealed her, footsore and weary, reaching within
sight of the guillotine just in time to see the executioner holding up
her son's severed head. I think my imaginary heroine died of a broken
heart at this juncture, a catastrophe that would naturally account for
her secret dying with her.

[Illustration: Madame Sans Tête]

During our winter stay at Versailles, my childish phantasies recurred to
me, and I almost found them feasible. What an amazing irony of fate it
would have shown had a son of the soil expired to expiate the crimes of
sovereigns!

But more pitiful by far than the saddest of illusions is the sordid
reality of a scene indelibly imprinted on my mental vision. Memory takes
me back to the twilight of a spring Sunday several years ago, when in
the wake of a cluster of market folks we wandered into the old Cathedral
of St. Denis. Deep in the sombre shadows of the crypt a light gleamed
faintly through a narrow slit in the stone wall. Approaching, we looked
into a gloomy vault wherein, just visible by the ray of a solitary
candle, lay two zinc coffins.

Earth holds no more dismal sepulchre than that dark vault, through the
crevice in whose wall the blue-bloused marketers cast curious glances.
Yet within these grim coffins lie two bodies with their severed heads,
all that remains mortal of the haughty Marie Antoinette and other humble
spouse.



[Illustration: Illumination]

CHAPTER IX

THE PRISONERS RELEASED


The first dread days, when the Boy, heavy with fever, seemed scarcely to
realise our presence, were swiftly followed by placid hours when he lay
and smiled in blissful content, craving nothing, now that we were all
together again. But this state of beatitude was quickly ousted by a
period of discontent, when the hunger fiend reigned supreme in the
little room.

"_Manger, manger, manger, tout le temps!"_ Thus the nurse epitomised the
converse of her charges. And indeed she was right, for, from morning
till night, the prisoners' solitary topic of conversation was food.
During the first ten days their diet consisted solely of boiled milk,
and as that time wore to a close the number of quarts consumed increased
daily, until Paul, the chief porter, seemed ever ascending the little
outside stair carrying full bottles of milk, or descending laden with
empty ones.

"Milk doesn't count. When shall we be allowed food, _real_ food?" was
the constant cry, and their relief was abounding when, on Christmas Day,
the doctor withdrew his prohibition, and permitted an approach to the
desired solids. But even then the prisoners, to their loudly voiced
disappointment, discovered that their only choice lay between vermicelli
and tapioca, nursery dishes which at home they would have despised.

"_Tapioca!_ Imagine tapioca for a Christmas dinner!" the invalids
exclaimed with disgust. But that scorn did not prevent them devouring
the mess and eagerly demanding more. And thereafter the saucepan
simmering over the gas-jet in the outer room seemed ever full of savoury
spoon-meat.

I doubt if any zealous mother-bird ever had a busier time feeding her
fledglings than had the good Sister in satisfying the appetites of these
callow cormorants. To witness the French nun seeking to allay the hunger
of these voracious schoolboy aliens was to picture a wren trying to fill
the ever-gaping beaks of two young cuckoos whom an adverse fate had
dropped into her nest.

As the days wore by, the embargo placed upon our desire to cater for the
invalids was gradually lifted, and little things such as sponge biscuits
and pears crept in to vary the monotony of the milk diet.

New Year's Day held a tangible excitement, for that morning saw a
modified return to ordinary food, and, in place of bottles of milk,
Paul's load consisted of such tempting selections from the school meals
as were deemed desirable for the invalids. Poultry not being included in
the school menus, we raided a cooked-provision shop and carried off a
plump, well-browned chicken. The approbation which met this venture
resulted in our supplying a succession of _poulettes_, which, at the
invalids' express desire, were smuggled into their room under my cloak.
Not that there was the most remote necessity for concealment, but the
invalids, whose sole interest centred in food, laboured under the absurd
idea that, did the authorities know they were being supplied from
without, their regular meals would be curtailed to prevent them
over-eating.

The point of interest, for the Red-Cross prisoners at least, in our
morning visits lay in the unveiling of the eatables we had brought.
School food, however well arranged, is necessarily stereotyped, and the
element of the unknown ever lurked in our packages. The sugar-sticks,
chocolates, fruit, little cakes, or what we had chanced to bring, were
carefully examined, criticised, and promptly devoured.

A slight refreshment was served them during our short stay, and when we
departed we left them eagerly anticipating luncheon. At gloaming, when
we returned, it was to find them busy with half-yards of the long crusty
loaves, plates of jelly, and tumblers, filled with milk on our Boy's
part, and with well diluted wine on that of his fellow sufferer.

Fear of starvation being momentarily averted, the Soeur used to light
fresh candles around the tiny Holy _Bébé_ on the still green
Christmas-tree, and for a space we sat quietly enjoying the radiance.
But by the time the last candle had flickered out, and the glow of a
commonplace paraffin lamp lighted the gloom, nature again demanded
nourishment; and we bade the prisoners farewell for the night, happy in
the knowledge that supper, sleep, and breakfast would pleasantly while
away the hours till our return.

The elder Red-Cross knight was a tall, good-looking lad of sixteen, the
age when a boy wears painfully high collars, shaves surreptitiously--and
unnecessarily--with his pen-knife, talks to his juniors about the
tobacco he smokes in a week, and cherishes an undying passion for a
maiden older than himself. He was ever an interesting study, though I do
not think I really loved him until he confided his affairs of the heart,
and entrusted me with the writing of his love-letters. I know that
behind my back he invariably referred to me as "Ma"; but as he openly
addressed the unconscious nun as "you giddy old girl," "Ma" might almost
be termed respectful, and I think our regard was mutual.

All things come to him who waits. There came a night when for the last
time we sat together around the little tree, watching the Soeur light the
candles that illuminated the Holy _Bébé_. On the morrow the prisoners,
carefully disinfected, and bearing the order of their release in the
form of a medical certificate, would be set free.

It clouded our gladness to know that before the patient Sister stretched
another period of isolation. Just that day another pupil had developed
scarlet fever, and only awaited our boys' departure to occupy the little
room. Hearing that this fresh prisoner lay under sentence of durance
vile, we suggested that all the toys--chiefly remnants of shattered
armies that, on hearing of the Boy's illness, we had brought from the
home playroom he had outgrown--might be left for him instead of being
sent away to be burnt.

The Boy's bright face dulled. "If it had been anybody else! But, mother,
I don't think you know that he is the one French boy we disliked. It was
he who always shouted '_à bas les Anglais!_' in the playground."

The reflection that for weary weeks this obnoxious boy would be the only
inmate of the _boîte_, as the invalids delighted to call their
sick-room, overcame his antipathetic feeling, and he softened so far as
to indite a polite little French note offering his late enemy his
sympathy, and formally bequeathing to him the reversion of his toys,
including the _arbre de Noël_ with all its decorations, except the
little waxen Jesus nestling in the manger of yellow corn; the Soeur had
already declared her intention of preserving that among her treasures.

The time that had opened so gloomily had passed, and now that it was
over we could look back upon many happy hours spent within the dingy
prison walls. And our thoughts were in unison, for the Boy, abruptly
breaking the silence, said: "And after all, it hasn't been such a bad
time. Do you know, I really think I've rather enjoyed it!"



L'ENVOI


[Illustration: L'Envoi]

Heavy skies lowered above us, the landscape seen through the driving
mist-wreaths showed a depressing repetition of drabs and greys as we
journeyed towards Calais. But, snugly ensconced in the _train rapide_,
our hearts beat high with joy, for at last were we homeward bound. The
weeks of exile in the stately old town had ended. For the last time the
good Sister had lit us down the worn stone steps. As we sped seawards
across the bleak country, our thoughts flew back to her, and to the
little room with the red cross on its casement, wherein, although our
prisoners were released, another term of nursing had already begun for
her. In contrast with her life of cheerful self-abnegation, ours seemed
selfish, meaningless, and empty.

Dear nameless Sister! She had been an angel of mercy to us in a
troublous time, and though our earthly paths may never again cross, our
hearts will ever hold her memory sacred.



_By the same Author_

OUR STOLEN SUMMER

THE RECORD OF A ROUNDABOUT TOUR

BY

MARY STUART BOYD

WITH ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY SKETCHES BY A.S. BOYD

_Extracts from Reviews_

THE WORLD.--"To be able to go round the world nowadays, and write a
descriptive record of the tour that is vivid and fresh is a positive
literary feat. It has been successfully accomplished in _Our Stolen
Summer_ by Mrs. Boyd, who with no ulterior object in making a book
journeyed over four continents in company with her husband, and picked
up _en route_ matter for one of the pleasantest, most humorous, and
least pretentious books of travel we have read for many a day. It is
admirably illustrated by Mr. A.S. Boyd, whose sense of humour happily
matches that of his observant wife, and the reader who can lay aside
this picturesque and truly delightful volume without sincere regret must
have a dull and dreary mind."

PUNCH.--"_Our Stolen Summer_ is calculated to lead to wholesale breakage
of the Eighth Commandment. Certainly, my Baronite, reading the
fascinating record of a roundabout tour, feels prompted to steal away.
Mary Stuart Boyd, who pens the record, has the great advantage of the
collaboration of A.S.B., whose signature is familiar in _Mr. Punch's_
Picture Gallery.... A charming book."

SPECTATOR.--"The writer, by the help of a ready pen and of the pencil of
a skilful illustrator, has given us in this handsome volume a number of
attractive pictures of distant places.... It is good to read and
pleasant to look at."

TRUTH.--"You will find no pleasanter holiday reading than _Our Stolen
Summer_."

ACADEMY.--"A fresh record, and worth the reading. Of such is Mrs. Boyd's
volume, which her husband has illustrated profusely with spirited line
drawings."

FIELD.--"One of the brightest books of travel that it has been our good
fortune to read. The illustrations deserve a notice to themselves. They
are far and away better than those which we usually get in books of this
kind, and we do not know that we can bestow higher praise on them than
to say that they are worthy of the letterpress which they illustrate."

LAND AND WATER.--"A delightful sketch of a delightful journey.... _Our
Stolen Summer_ is a book which will be read with equal delight on a lazy
summer holiday, or in the heart of London when the streets are enveloped
in fog and the rain is beating against the window panes. Mr. Boyd's
sketches are simply admirable."

SPHERE.--"A delightful record of travel. Mrs. Boyd is never dull, and
there is plenty of acute observation throughout her pleasant story of
travel. My Boyd's illustrations which appear on practically every page,
are, it need scarcely be said, up to the high level that is already
familiar to students of his black-and-white work."

LADIES' FIELD.--"A singularly delightful and unaffected book of travel."

MADAME.--"One of the most delightful books of travel it has been our
good fortune to read."

MORNING POST.--"If the encouragement of globe-trotting be a virtuous
action, then certainly Mrs. Stuart Boyd has deserved well of her
country. To read her book is to conceive an insensate desire to be off
and away on 'the long trail' at all hazards and at all costs.... Mr.
Boyd's illustrations add greatly to the interest and charm of the book.
There is movement, atmosphere, and sunshine in them."

STANDARD.--"Mrs. Boyd went with her husband round the world, and the
latter--an artist with a sense of humour--kept his hand in practice by
making droll sketches of people encountered by the way, which heighten
the charm of his wife's vivacious description of a _Stolen Summer_. Mrs.
Boyd has quick eyes and an open mind, and writes with sense and
sensibility."

DAILY TELEGRAPH.--"It is not so much what Mrs. Boyd has to tell as the
invariable good humour and brightness with which she records even the
most familiar things that makes the charm of her excellent diary."

DAILY CHRONICLE.--"Mrs. Boyd has written the log with sparkle and
observation--seeing many things that the mere man-traveller would miss.
Mr. Boyd's sketches are, of course, excellent."

PALL MALL GAZETTE.--"Mrs. Boyd writes with so much buoyancy, and her
humour is so unexpected and unfailing, that it is safe to say that there
is not a dull page from first to last in this record of a tour round the
world... Mr. A.S. Boyd's numerous illustrations show him at his very
best."

GLOBE.--"A work to acquire as well as to peruse."

WESTMINSTER GAZETTE.--"The narrative from beginning to end does not
contain a dull page. Of Mr. Boyd's numerous sketches it is only
necessary to say that they are excellent. Altogether _Our Stolen Summer_
will be found to be one of the most fascinating of recent books of
travel."

SUNDAY TIMES.--"Brilliantly and entertainingly written, and liberally
illustrated by an acknowledged master of the art of black and white."

SCOTSMAN.--"A beautiful and fascinating book.... Pen and pencil sketches
alike have grace, nerve, and humour, and are alive with human interest
and observation."

GLASGOW HERALD.--"One of the most delightful travel-books of recent
times.... Mrs. Boyd's volume must commend itself to people who
contemplate visiting the other side of the globe and to all stay-at-home
travellers as well."

DAILY FREE PRESS.--"Mrs. Boyd is an admirable descriptive
writer--observant, humorous, and sympathetic. Without illustrations,
_Our Stolen Summer_ would be a notable addition to the literature of
travel; with Mr. Boyd's collaboration it is almost unique."

LEEDS MERCURY.--"Vivacious and diverting record."

YORKSHIRE DAILY POST.--"For such a book there could be nothing but
praise if one wrote columns about it."

BIRMINGHAM DAILY POST.--"A singularly happy and interesting record of a
most enjoyable tour."

NORTHERN WHIG.--"Shrewdness of observation, with not a little humour and
a real literary gift, mark the story of _Our Stolen Summer_."

THE BOOKMAN.--"Mrs. Boyd writes with so much brightness, such vivacity
and picturesqueness of style, that although the volume runs to close
upon four hundred pages there is not a dull page among them. The success
of _Our Stolen Summer_, however, is due as much to the artist as to the
author; and praise must be equally divided. Mr. Boyd's sketches are
spirited, clever, full of humour and sympathetic observation. Without a
word of letter-press they would have formed an excellent travel-book;
taken in conjunction with Mrs. Boyd's narrative they are irresistible."



LONDON AND EDINBURGH: WILLIAM BLACKWOOD & SONS

Illustrated by A.S. Boyd

A LOWDEN SABBATH MORN

BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

WITH TWENTY-SEVEN PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS BY A.S. BOYD

_Extracts from Reviews_

THE TIMES.--"The characters whom Stevenson had in his mind's eye are all
cleverly pictured, and the drawings may be truthfully said to illustrate
the writer's ideas--a quality that seldom resides in illustrations....
All are faithfully presented as only one who has known them intimately
could present them.... Mr. Boyd's talent for black-and-white work has
never found happier expression."

MORNING POST.--"It is impossible to imagine anything more likely to
appeal to the sentiment of the Scottish people throughout the world than
this series of pictures, instinct with the spirit of their land."

DAILY TELEGRAPH.--"One of the happiest combinations of author and artist
which has been seen of late years. Mr. Boyd has entered thoroughly into
the spirit of the lines, and his figures are instinct with graceful
humour."

DAILY CHRONICLE.--"Mr. Boyd is to be congratulated (as R. L. S. would
assuredly have granted) upon interpreting so vividly a notable feature
in the national life of Scotland."

ATHENAEUM.--"The task of illustrating Stevenson's verses was most
difficult, because it demands from the artist knowledge of local
circumstances and characteristic details. Mr. Boyd's success in making
us see so plainly the moods and manners of the 'restin' ploughman' while
he 'daundered' in his garden and 'raxed his limbs' is the more to be
enjoyed and praised."

PALL MALL GAZETTE.--"Followers of the master will appreciate this
beautiful book for its accurate interpretation of the poem as well as
for its excellent drawing."

ST. JAMES'S GAZETTE.--"There is plenty of good Scotch character in the
illustrations, and a quiet observation of the humours of a parish, with
such annals as those recorded by Gait."

ACADEMY.--"An attractive book."

SATURDAY REVIEW.--"In saying therefore that Mr. Boyd's
illustrations--there is a full page drawing for each verse--are not only
worthy of the poem, but actually emphasise and define its merits, we
give the book the highest possible praise. It is a volume which should
be added to the library of every collector."

SPECTATOR.--"These illustrations to Mr. Stevenson's Scots poem are
distinctly clever, especially in their characterisation of the various
attendants at the village kirk."

SPEAKER.--"The book presents very vividly some of the aspects (both
humorous and pathetic) of a Scottish rural lowland parish, and will
doubtless touch a chord in the heart of Scotsmen throughout the world."

OUTLOOK.--"Many of Mr. Stevenson's admirers the world over have long
desired that such a classic poem should be faithfully and adequately
illustrated, and they will give a hearty welcome to this most handsome
quarto."

SCOTSMAN.--"One way and another the book is wholly delightful."

GLASGOW EVENING NEWS.--"Mr. Boyd's contributions to a volume which ought
to be popular with Scots in every part of the world, are full of pawky
humour, and their realism is so pronounced that we seem to have known
the models in the life."

DUNDEE ADVERTISER.--"This is a volume to be treasured alike for the sake
of the poet, of the artist, and of that form of Scottish life which is
rapidly disappearing before the march of progress."

ARBROATH HERALD.--"Mr. Boyd has represented these pictures in line
sketches, which are characterised at once by the strength and confidence
of a masterful draughtsman and the insight of a keen observer of
character, who has long been familiar with the types presented in
Stevenson's poem."

GOOD WORDS.--"Mr. Boyd has portrayed, with here and there a happy trait
of grace or humour beyond the wording of the text, the very scene and
people. Each of the illustrations has a charm and freshness of its own."

ART JOURNAL.--"Mr. Boyd's knowledge of Lothian peasants and their
manners is as complete as Stevenson's. His drawings place in pictorial
view the poet's thoughts, while they greatly enhance the descriptions by
emphasising what the writer rightly left vague."

LONDON: CHATTO & WINDUS, III St. Martin's Lane

[Illustration]





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