HotFreeBooks.com
My First Years As A Frenchwoman, 1876-1879
by Mary King Waddington
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

MY FIRST YEARS AS A FRENCHWOMAN



MY FIRST YEARS AS A FRENCHWOMAN

1876-1879

BY

MARY KING WADDINGTON

ILLUSTRATED

1914



CONTENTS

I. WHEN MACMAHON WAS PRESIDENT II. IMPRESSIONS OF THE ASSEMBLY AT VERSAILLES III. M. WADDINGTON AS MINISTER OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION IV. THE SOCIAL SIDE OF A MINISTER'S WIFE V. A REPUBLICAN VICTORY AND A NEW MINISTRY VI. THE EXPOSITION YEAR VII. THE BERLIN CONGRESS VIII. GAIETIES AT THE QUAI D'ORSAY IX. M. WADDINGTON AS PRIME MINISTER X. PARLIAMENT BACK IN PARIS XI. LAST DAYS AT THE FOREIGN OFFICE

INDEX



ILLUSTRATIONS

MADAME WADDINGTON Frontispiece From a photograph taken in the year of the Exposition, 1878.

MONSIEUR THIERS

MARSHAL MACMAHON

SITTING OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AT THE PALACE OF VERSAILLES

THE FOYER OF THE OPERA

MEETING OF OFFICERS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, AND OF DELEGATES OF THE NEW CHAMBERS, IN THE SALON OF HERCULES, PALACE OF VERSAILLES

THEODOR MOMMSEN

PALACE OF THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, PARIS

FRANZ LISZT

WILLIAM E. GLADSTONE

LORD LYONS

HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS, EDWARD, PRINCE OF WALES, IN 1876

PRINCE HOHENLOHE

M. WILLIAM WADDINGTON. IN THE UNIFORM HE WORE AS MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND AT THE BERLIN CONGRESS, 1878

NASR-ED-DIN, SHAH OF PERSIA

PRINCE BISMARCK

THE BERLIN CONGRESS

M. JULES GREVY, READING MARSHAL MACMAHON'S LETTER OF RESIGNATION TO THE CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES

M. JULES GREVY ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC BY THE SENATE AND CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES MEETING AS THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

THE ELYSEE PALACE, PARIS

HER MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA, ABOUT 1879

M. DE FREYCINET

MME. SADI CARNOT

PRESIDENT SADI CARNOT



MY FIRST YEARS AS A FRENCHWOMAN



I

WHEN MACMAHON WAS PRESIDENT

I was married in Paris in November, 1874, at the French Protestant Chapel of the rue Taitbout, by Monsieur Bersier, one of the ablest and most eloquent pastors of the Protestant church. We had just established ourselves in Paris, after having lived seven years in Rome. We had a vague idea of going back to America, and Paris seemed a first step in that direction—was nearer New York than Rome. I knew very little of France—we had never lived there—merely stayed a few weeks in the spring and autumn, coming and going from Italy. My husband was a deputy, named to the National Assembly in Bordeaux in 1871, by his Department—the Aisne. He had some difficulty in getting to Bordeaux. Communications and transports were not easy, as the Germans were still in the country, and, what was more important, he hadn't any money—couldn't correspond with his banker, in Paris—(he was living in the country). However, a sufficient amount was found in the country, and he was able to make his journey. When I married, the Assembly was sitting at Versailles. Monsieur Thiers, the first President of the Republic, had been overthrown in May, 1873—Marshal MacMahon named in his place. W.[1] had had a short ministry (public instruction) under Monsieur Thiers, but he was so convinced that it would not last that he never even went to the ministry—saw his directors in his own rooms. I was plunged at once into absolutely new surroundings. W.'s personal friends were principally Orleanists and the literary element of Paris—his colleagues at the Institute. The first houses I was taken to in Paris were the Segurs, Remusats, Lasteyries, Casimir Periers, Gallieras, d'Haussonville, Leon Say, and some of the Protestant families—Pourtales, Andre Bartholdi, Mallet, etc. It was such an entirely different world from any I had been accustomed to that it took me some time to feel at home in my new milieu. Political feeling was very strong—all sorts of fresh, young elements coming to the front. The Franco-German War was just over—the French very sore and bitter after their defeat. There was a strong underlying feeling of violent animosity to the Emperor, who had lost them two of their fairest provinces, and a passionate desire for the revanche. The feeling was very bitter between the two branches of the Royalist party, Legitimists and Orleanists. One night at a party in the Faubourg St. Germain, I saw a well-known fashionable woman of the extreme Legitimist party turn her back on the Comtesse de Paris. The receptions and visits were not always easy nor pleasant, even though I was a stranger and had no ties with any former government. I remember one of my first visits to a well-known Legitimist countess in the Faubourg St. Germain; I went on her reception day, a thing all young women are most particular about in Paris. I found her with a circle of ladies sitting around her, none of whom I knew. They were all very civil, only I was astonished at the way the mistress of the house mentioned my name every time she spoke to me: "Madame Waddington, etes-vous allee a l'Opera hier soir," "Madame Waddington, vous montez a cheval tous les matins, je crois," "Monsieur Waddington va tous les vendredis a l'Institut, il me semble," etc. I was rather surprised and said to W. when I got home, "How curious it is, that way of saying one's name all the time; I suppose it is an old-fashioned French custom. Madame de B. must have said 'Waddington' twenty times during my rather short visit." He was much amused. "Don't you know why? So that all the people might know who you were and not say awful things about the 'infecte gouvernement' and the Republic, 'which no gentleman could serve.'"

[Footnote 1: "W.," here and throughout this book, refers to Madame Waddington's husband, M. William Waddington.]



The position of the German Embassy in Paris was very difficult, and unfortunately their first ambassador after the war, Count Arnim, didn't understand (perhaps didn't care to) how difficult it was for a high-spirited nation, which until then had always ranked as a great military power, to accept her humiliation and be just to the victorious adversary. Arnim was an unfortunate appointment—not at all the man for such a delicate situation. We had known him in Rome in the old days of Pio Nono's reign, where he had a great position as Prussian minister to the Vatican. He and the Countess Arnim received a great deal, and their beautiful rooms in the Palazzo Caffarelli, on the top of the Capitol Hill (the two great statues of Castor and Pollux standing by their horses looking as if they were guarding the entrance) were a brilliant centre for all the Roman and diplomatic world. He was a thorough man of the world, could make himself charming when he chose, but he never had a pleasant manner, was curt, arrogant, with a very strong sense of his own superiority. From the first moment he came to Paris as ambassador, he put people's backs up. They never liked him, never trusted him; whenever he had an unpleasant communication to make, he exaggerated the unpleasantness, never attenuated, and there is so much in the way things are said. The French were very hard upon him when he got into trouble, and certainly his own Government was merciless to him.

One of my first small difficulties after becoming a Frenchwoman was to eliminate some of my German friends from my salon. I could not run the risk of their being treated rudely. I remember so well one night at home, before I was married, seeing two French officers not in uniform slip quietly out of the room when one of the German Embassy came in, yet ours was a neutral house. When my engagement was announced one of my great friends at the German Embassy (Count Arco) said to me: "This is the end, I suppose, of our friendship; I can never go to see you when you are the wife of a French deputy." "Oh, yes, you can still come; not quite so often, perhaps, but I can't give up my friends." However, we drifted apart without knowing why exactly. It is curious how long that hostile feeling toward Germany has lasted in France.

Every year there is a great review of the Paris garrison (thirty thousand men) by the President of the Republic, at Longchamp, on the 14th of July, the national fete—the day of the storming of the Bastile. It is a great day in Paris—one of the sights of the year—and falling in midsummer the day is generally beautiful and very warm. From early dawn all the chairs and benches along the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne are crowded with people waiting patiently for hours to see the show. There is not a seat to be had at Longchamp. Unless one arrives very early the tribunes are packed, and the President's box very crowded, as he invites the diplomatic corps and the ministers and their wives on that day. The troops are always received with much enthusiasm, particularly the artillery, dragging their light field-pieces and passing at a gallop—also the battalion of St. Cyr, the great French military school. The final charge of the cavalry is very fine. Masses of riders come thundering over the plain, the general commanding in front, stopping suddenly as if moved by machinery, just opposite the President's box. I went very regularly as long as W. was in office, and always enjoyed my day. There was an excellent buffet in the salon behind the box, and it was pleasant to have a cup of tea and rest one's eyes while the long columns of infantry were passing—the regular, continuous movement was fatiguing. All the ambassadors and foreigners were very keen about the review, paying great attention to the size of the men and horses and their general equipment. As long as Marshal MacMahon was President of the Republic, he always rode home after the review down the Champs-Elysees—in full uniform, with a brilliant staff of foreign officers and military attaches. It was a pretty sight and attracted great attention. Some of the foreign uniforms are very striking and the French love a military show.



For many years after the war the German military attache returned from the review unobserved in a shut carriage, couldn't run the risk of an angry or insulting word from some one in the crowd, and still later, fifteen years after the war, when W. was ambassador in England, I was godmother of the daughter of a German-English cousin living in London. The godfather was Count Herbert Bismarck, son of the famous chancellor. At the time of the christening I was in France, staying with some friends in the country. The son of the house had been through the war, had distinguished himself very much, and they were still very sore over their reverses and the necessity of submitting to all the little pin-pricks which came at intervals from Germany. Bismarck sent me a telegram regretting the absence of the godmother from the ceremony. It was brought to me just after breakfast, while we were having our coffee. I opened it and read it out, explaining that it was from Bismarck to express his regret for my absence. There was a dead silence, and then the mistress of the house said to me: "C'est tres desagreable pour vous, chere amie, cette association avec Bismarck."

I didn't see much of W. in the daytime. We usually rode in the morning in the Bois and immediately after breakfast he started for Versailles in the parliamentary train. Dinner was always a doubtful meal. Sometimes he came home very late for nine-o'clock dinner; sometimes he dined at Versailles and only got home at ten or eleven if the sitting was stormy. The Hotel des Reservoirs did a flourishing business as long as the Chambers sat at Versailles. When we were dining out it was very disagreeable, particularly the first winter when I didn't know many people. I remember one dinner at the Countess Duchatel's where I went alone; we were ten women and five men. All the rest were deputies, who had telegraphed at the last moment they would not come, were kept at Versailles by an important question.

One of the most interesting things I saw in 1873, just before my marriage, was the court-martial of Marshal Bazaine for treachery at Metz—giving up his army and the city without any attempt to break through the enemy's lines, or in fact any resistance of any kind. The court was held at the Grand Trianon, Versailles, a place so associated with a pleasure-loving court, and the fanciful devices of a gay young queen, that it was difficult to realise the drama that was being enacted, when the honour of a Marshal of France—almost an army of France, was to be judged. It was an impressive scene, the hall packed, and people at all the doors and entrances clamouring for seats. The public was curious, a little of everything—members of the National Assembly, officers all in uniform, pretty women of all categories—the group of journalists with keen eager faces watching every change of expression of the marshal's face—some well-known faces, wives of members or leading political and literary men, a fair amount of the frailer sisterhood, actresses and demi-mondaines, making a great effect of waving plumes and diamonds. The court was presided over by the Duc d'Aumale, who accepted the office after much hesitation. He was a fine, soldierly figure as he came in, in full uniform, a group of officers behind him, all with stern, set faces. The impression of the public was generally hostile to the marshal; one felt it all through the trial. He was dressed in full uniform, with the grand cordon of the Legion of Honour. It was melancholy to hear the report of his career when it was read by his counsel,—long years of active service, many wounds, often mentioned for brave conduct under fire, having the "Medaille Militaire"—the grand cordon of the Legion d'Honneur, the baton de Marechal de France,—all the honours his country could give him—to end so miserably, judged not only by the court but by the country, as a traitor, false to his trust, when his country was in the death-throes of defeat and humiliation. His attitude at the trial was curious. He sat very still in his armchair, looking straight before him, only raising his head and looking at the Duc d'Aumale when some grave accusation was made against him. His explanation brought the famous reply from the duc, when he said it was impossible to act or to treat; there was nothing left in France—no government, no orders—nothing. The due answered: "Il y avait toujours la France." He didn't look overwhelmed, rather like some one who was detached from the whole proceedings. I saw his face quite well; it was neither false nor weak—ordinary. It is difficult to believe that a French general with a brilliant record behind him should have been guilty of such treachery, sacrificing his men and his honour. His friends (they were not many) say he lost his head, was nearly crazy with the utterly unforeseen defeat of the French, but even a moment of insanity would hardly account for such extraordinary weakness. W. and some of his friends were discussing it in the train coming home. They were all convinced of his guilt, had no doubt as to what the sentence of the court would be—death and degradation—but thought that physical fatigue and great depression must have caused a general breakdown. The end every one knows. He was condemned to be shot and degraded. The first part of the sentence was cancelled on account of his former services, but he was degraded, imprisoned, escaped, and finished his life in Spain in poverty and obscurity, deserted by all his friends and his wife. It was a melancholy rentree for the Duc d'Aumale. His thoughts must have gone back to the far-off days when the gallant young officer, fils de France, won his first military glory in Algiers, and thought the world was at his feet. His brilliant exploit, capturing the Smala of Abd-el-Kader, has been immortalised by Vernet in the great historical picture that one sees at Versailles. There are always artists copying parts of it, particularly one group, where a lovely, fair-haired woman is falling out of a litter backward. Even now, when one thinks of the King Louis Philippe, with all his tall, strong, young sons (there is a well-known picture of the King on horseback with all his sons around him—splendid specimens of young manhood), it seems incredible that they are not still ruling and reigning at the Tuileries. I wonder if things would have been very different if Louis Philippe and his family had not walked out of the Tuileries that day!

I often asked W. in what way France had gained by being a republic. I personally was quite impartial, being born an American and never having lived in France until after the Franco-Prussian War. I had no particular ties nor traditions, had no grandfather killed on the scaffold, nor frozen to death in the retreat of "La Grande Armee" from Moscow. They always told me a republic was in the air—young talents and energy must come to the front—the people must have a voice in the government. I think the average Frenchman is intelligent, but I don't think the vote of the man in the street can have as much value as that of a man who has had not only a good education but who has been accustomed always to hear certain principles of law and order held up as rules for the guidance of his own life as well as other people's. Certainly universal suffrage was a most unfortunate measure to take from America and apply to France, but it has been taken and now must stay. I have often heard political men who deplored and condemned the law say that no minister would dare to propose a change.

I went often to the Chamber in the spring—used to drive out and bring W. home. Versailles was very animated and interesting during all that time, so many people always about. Quite a number of women followed the debates. One met plenty of people one knew in the streets, at the Patissiers, or at some of the bric-a-brac shops, where there were still bargains to be found in very old furniture, prints, and china. There is a large garrison. There were always officers riding, squads of soldiers moving about, bugle-calls in all directions, and continuous arrivals at the station of deputies and journalists hurrying to the palace, their black portfolios under their arms. The palace was cold. There was a fine draught at the entrance and the big stone staircase was always cold, even in June, but the assembly-room was warm enough and always crowded. It was rather difficult to get seats. People were so interested in those first debates after the war, when everything had to be reorganised and so much of the past was being swept away.



II

IMPRESSIONS OF THE ASSEMBLY AT VERSAILLES

The sittings of the assembly were very interesting in that wonderful year when everything was being discussed. All public interest of course was centred in Versailles, where the National Assembly was trying to establish some sort of stable government. There were endless discussions and speeches and very violent language in the Chambers. Gambetta made some bitter attacks on the Royalists, accusing them of mauvaise foi and want of patriotism. The Bonapartist leaders tried to persuade themselves and their friends that they still had a hold on the country and that a plebiscite would bring back in triumph their prince. The Legitimists, hoping against hope that the Comte de Chambord would still be the saviour of the country, made passionate appeals to the old feeling of loyalty in the nation, and the centre droit, representing the Orleanists, nervous, hesitating, knowing the position perfectly, ardently desiring a constitutional monarchy, but feeling that it was not possible at that moment, yet unwilling to commit themselves to a final declaration of the Republic, which would make a Royalist restoration impossible. All the Left confident, determined.

The Republic was voted on the 30th of January, 1875, by a majority of one vote, if majority it could be called, but the great step had been taken, and the struggle began instantly between the moderate conservative Republicans and the more advanced Left. W. came home late that day. Some of his friends came in after dinner and the talk was most interesting. I was so new to it all that most of the names of the rank and file were unknown to me, and the appreciations of the votes and the anecdotes and side-lights on the voters said nothing to me. Looking back after all these years, it seems to me that the moderate Royalists (centre droit) threw away a splendid chance. They could not stop the Republican wave (nothing could) but they might have controlled it and directed it instead of standing aloof and throwing the power into the hands of the Left. We heard the well-known sayings very often those days: "La Republique sera conservatrice ou elle ne sera pas" and "La Republique sans Republicains," attributed to M. Thiers and Marshal MacMahon. The National Assembly struggled on to the end of the year, making a constitution, a parliament with two houses, senate and chamber of deputies, with many discussions and contradictions, and hopes and illusions.



I went often to Versailles, driving out when the weather was fine. I liked the stormy sittings best. Some orator would say something that displeased the public, and in a moment there would be the greatest uproar, protestations and accusations from all sides, some of the extreme Left getting up, gesticulating wildly, and shaking their fists at the speaker—the Right, generally calm and sarcastic, requesting the speaker to repeat his monstrous statements—the huissiers dressed in black with silver chains, walking up and down in front of the tribune, calling out at intervals: "Silence, messieurs, s'il vous plait,"—the President ringing his bell violently to call the house to order, and nobody paying the slightest attention,—the orator sometimes standing quite still with folded arms waiting until the storm should abate, sometimes dominating the hall and hurling abuse at his adversaries. W. was always perfectly quiet; his voice was low, not very strong, and he could not speak if there were an uproar. When he was interrupted in a speech he used to stand perfectly still with folded arms, waiting for a few minutes' silence. The deputies would call out: "Allez! allez!" interspersed with a few lively criticisms on what he was saying to them; he was perfectly unmoved, merely replied: "I will go on with pleasure as soon as you will be quiet enough for me to be heard." Frenchmen generally have such a wonderful facility of speech, and such a pitiless logic in discussing a question, that the debates were often very interesting. The public was interesting too. A great many women of all classes followed the sittings—several Egerias (not generally in their first youth) of well-known political men sitting prominently in the President's box, or in the front row of the journalists' box, following the discussions with great interest and sending down little slips of paper to their friends below—members' wives and friends who enjoyed spending an hour or two listening to the speeches—newspaper correspondents, literary ladies, diplomatists. It was very difficult to get places, particularly when some well-known orators were announced to speak upon an important question. We didn't always know beforehand, and I remember some dull afternoons with one or two members making long speeches about purely local matters, which didn't interest any one. We looked down upon an almost empty hall on those occasions. A great many of the members had gone out and were talking in the lobbies; those who remained were talking in groups, writing letters, walking about the hall, quite unconscious apparently of the speaker at the tribune. I couldn't understand how the man could go on talking to empty benches, but W. told me he was quite indifferent to the attention of his colleagues,—his speech was for his electors and would appear the next day in the Journal Officiel. I remember one man talked for hours about "allumettes chimiques."

Leon Say was a delightful speaker, so easy, always finding exactly the word he wanted. It hardly seemed a speech when he was at the tribune, more like a causerie, though he told very plain truths sometimes to the peuple souverain. He was essentially French, or rather Parisian, knew everybody, and was au courant of all that went on politically and socially, and had a certain blague, that eminently French quality which is very difficult to explain. He was a hard worker, and told me once that what rested him most after a long day was to go to a small boulevard theatre or to read a rather lively yellowbacked novel.

I never heard Gambetta speak, which I always regretted—in fact knew very little of him. He was not a ladies' man, though he had some devoted women friends, and was always surrounded by a circle of political men whenever he appeared in public. (In all French parties, immediately after dinner, the men all congregate together to talk to each other,—never to the women,—so unless you happen to find yourself seated next to some well-known man, you never really have a chance of talking to him.) Gambetta didn't go out much, and as by some curious chance he was never next to me at dinner, I never had any opportunity of talking to him. He was not one of W.'s friends, nor an habitue of the house. His appearance was against him—dark, heavy-looking, with an enormous head.

When I had had enough of the speeches and the bad atmosphere, I used to wander about the terraces and gardens. How many beautiful sunsets I have seen from the top of the terrace or else standing on the three famous pink marble steps (so well known to all lovers of poetry through Alfred de Musset's beautiful verses, "Trois Marches Roses"), seeing in imagination all the brilliant crowd of courtiers and fair women that used to people those wonderful gardens in the old days of Versailles! I went sometimes to the "Reservoirs" for a cup of tea, and very often found other women who had also driven out to get their husbands. We occasionally brought back friends who preferred the quiet cool drive through the Park of St. Cloud to the crowd and dust of the railway. The Count de St. Vallier (who was not yet senator, but deeply interested in politics) was frequently at Versailles and came back with us often. He was a charming, easy talker. I never tired of hearing about the brilliant days of the last Empire, and the fetes at the Tuileries, Compiegne, and St. Cloud. He had been a great deal at the court of Napoleon III, had seen many interesting people of all kinds, and had a wonderful memory. He must have had an inner sense or presentiment of some kind about the future, for I have heard him say often in speaking of the old days and the glories of the Empire, when everything seemed so prosperous and brilliant, that he used often to ask himself if it could be real—Were the foundations as solid as they seemed! He had been a diplomatist, was in Germany at the time of the Franco-German War, and like so many of his colleagues scattered over Germany, was quite aware of the growing hostile feeling in Germany to France and also of Bismarck's aims and ambitions. He (like so many others) wrote repeated letters and warnings to the French Foreign Office, which apparently had no effect. One heard afterward that several letters of that description from French diplomatists in Germany were found unopened in a drawer at the ministry.

It was rather sad, as we drove through the stately alleys of the Park of St. Cloud, with the setting sun shining through the fine old trees, to hear of all the fetes that used to take place there,—and one could quite well fancy the beautiful Empress appearing at the end of one of the long avenues, followed by a brilliant suite of ladies and ecuyers,—and the echoes of the cor de chasse in the distance. The alleys are always there, and fairly well kept, but very few people or carriages pass. The park is deserted. I don't think the cor de chasse would awaken an echo or a regret even, so entirely has the Empire and its glories become a thing of the past. A rendezvous de chasse was a very pretty sight.

We went once to Compiegne before I was married, about three years before the war. We went out and breakfasted at Compiegne with a great friend of ours, M. de St. M., a chamberlain or equerry of the Emperor. We breakfasted in a funny old-fashioned little hotel (with a very good cuisine) and drove in a big open break to the forest. There were a great many people riding, driving, and walking, officers of the garrison in uniform, members of the hunt in green and gold, and a fair sprinkling of red coats. The Empress looked charming, dressed always in the uniform of the hunt, green with gold braid, and a tricorne on her head,—all her ladies with the same dress, which was very becoming. One of the most striking-looking of her ladies was the Princess Anna Murat, the present Duchesse de Mouchy, who looked very handsome in the tricorne and beautifully fitting habit. I didn't see the Empress on her horse, as we lost sight of them very soon. She and her ladies arrived on the field in an open break. I saw the Emperor quite distinctly as he rode up and gave some orders. He was very well mounted (there were some beautiful horses) but stooped slightly, and had rather a sad face. I never saw him again, and the Empress only long years after at Cowes, when everything had gone out of her life.

The President, Marshal MacMahon, was living at the Prefecture at Versailles and received every Thursday evening. We went there several times—it was my first introduction to the official world. The first two or three times we drove out, but it was long (quite an hour and a quarter) over bad roads—a good deal of pavement. One didn't care to drive through the Park of St. Cloud at night—it was very lonely and dark. We should have been quite helpless if we had fallen upon any enterprising tramps, who could easily have stopped the carriage and helped themselves to any money or jewels they could lay their hands on. One evening the Seine had overflowed and we were obliged to walk a long distance—all around Sevres—and got to Versailles very late and quite exhausted with the jolting and general discomfort. After that we went out by train—which put us at the Prefecture at ten o'clock. It wasn't very convenient as there was a great rush for carriages when we arrived at Versailles, still everybody did it. We generally wore black or dark dresses with a lace veil tied over our heads, and of course only went when it was fine. The evening was pleasant enough—one saw all the political men, the marshal's personal friends of the droite went to him in the first days of his presidency,—(they rather fell off later)—the Government and Republicans naturally and all the diplomatic corps. There were not many women, as it really was rather an effort to put one's self into a low-necked dress and start off directly after dinner to the Gare St. Lazare, and have rather a rush for places. We were always late, and just had time to scramble into the last carriage.

I felt very strange—an outsider—all the first months, but my husband's friends were very nice to me and after a certain time I was astonished to find how much politics interested me. I learned a great deal from merely listening while the men talked at dinner. I suppose I should have understood much more if I had read the papers regularly, but I didn't begin to do that until W. had been minister for some time, and then worked myself into a nervous fever at all the opposition papers said about him. However, all told, the attacks were never very vicious. He had never been in public life until after the war when he was named deputy and joined the Assemblee Nationale at Bordeaux—which was an immense advantage to him. He had never served any other government, and was therefore perfectly independent and was bound by no family traditions or old friendships—didn't mind the opposition papers at all—not even the caricatures. Some of them were very funny. There was one very like him, sitting quite straight and correct on the box of a brougham, "John Cocher Anglais n'a jamais verse, ni accroche" (English coachman who has never upset nor run into anything).

There were a few political salons. The Countess de R. received every evening—but only men—no women were ever asked. The wives rather demurred at first, but the men went all the same—as one saw every one there and heard all the latest political gossip. Another hostess was the Princess Lize Troubetskoi. She was a great friend and admirer of Thiers—was supposed to give him a great deal of information from foreign governments. She was very eclectic in her sympathies, and every one went to her, not only French, but all foreigners of any distinction who passed through Paris. She gave herself a great deal of trouble for her friends, but also used them when she wanted anything. One of the stories which was always told of the Foreign Office was her "petit paquet," which she wanted to send by the valise to Berlin, when the Comte de St. Vallier was French ambassador there. He agreed willingly to receive the package addressed to him, which proved to be a grand piano.

The privilege of sending packages abroad by the valise of the foreign affairs was greatly abused when W. became Minister of Foreign Affairs. He made various changes, one of which was that the valise should be absolutely restricted to official papers and documents, which really was perhaps well observed.

The Countess de Segur received every Saturday night. It was really an Orleanist salon, as they were devoted friends of the Orleans family, but one saw all the moderate Republicans there and the centre gauche (which struggled so long to keep together and be a moderating influence, but has long been swallowed up in the ever-increasing flood of radicalism) and a great many literary men, members of the Institute, Academicians, etc. They had a fine old house entre cour et jardin, with all sorts of interesting pictures and souvenirs. Countess de S. also received every day before three o'clock. I often went and was delighted when I could find her alone. She was very clever, very original, had known all sorts of people, and it was most interesting to hear her talk about King Louis Philippe's court, the Spanish marriages, the death of the Duc d'Orleans, the Coup d'Etat of Louis Napoleon, etc. When she first began to receive, during the reign of Louis Philippe, the feeling was very bitter between the Legitimists (extreme Royalist party) and the Orleanists. The Duc d'Orleans often came to them on Saturday evenings and always in a good deal of state, with handsome carriage, aides-de-camp, etc. She warned her Legitimist friends when she knew he was coming (but she didn't always know) and said she never had any trouble or disagreeable scenes. Every one was perfectly respectful to the duke, but the extreme Legitimists went away at once.

We went quite often to Monsieur and Madame Thiers, who received every evening in their big gloomy house in the Place St. Georges. It was a political centre,—all the Republican party went there, and many of his old friends, Orleanists, who admired his great intelligence, while disapproving his politics,—literary men, journalists, all the diplomatists and distinguished strangers. He had people at dinner every night and a small reception afterward,—Madame Thiers and her sister, Mademoiselle Dosne, doing the honours for him. I believe both ladies were very intelligent, but I can't truthfully say they had any charm of manner. They never looked pleased to see any one, and each took comfortable little naps in their armchairs after dinner—the first comers had sometimes rather embarrassing entrances,—but I am told they held very much to their receptions. Thiers was wonderful; he was a very old man when I knew him, but his eyes were very bright and keen, his voice strong, and he would talk all the evening without any appearance of fatigue. He slept every afternoon for two hours, and was quite rested and alert by dinner time. It was an interesting group of men that stood around the little figure in the drawing-room after dinner. He himself stood almost always leaning against the mantelpiece. Prince Orloff, Russian ambassador, was one of the habitues of the salon, and I was always delighted when he would slip away from the group of men and join the ladies in Madame Thiers's salon, which was less interesting. He knew everybody, French and foreign, and gave me most amusing and useful little sketches of all the celebrities. It was he who told me of old Prince Gortschakoff's famous phrase when he heard of Thiers's death—(he died at St. Germain in 1877)—"Encore une lumiere eteinte quand il y en a si peu qui voient clair,"—(still another light extinguished, when there are so few who see clearly). Many have gone of that group,—Casimir Perier, Leon Say, Jules Ferry, St. Vallier, Comte Paul de Segur, Barthelemy St. Hilaire,—but others remain, younger men who were then beginning their political careers and were eager to drink in lessons and warnings from the old statesman, who fought gallantly to the last.

I found the first winter in Paris as the wife of a French deputy rather trying, so different from the easy, pleasant life in Rome. That has changed, too, of course, with United Italy and Rome the capital, but it was a small Rome in our days, most informal. I don't ever remember having written an invitation all the years we lived in Rome. Everybody led the same life and we saw each other all day, hunting, riding, driving, in the villas in the afternoon, generally finishing at the Pincio, where there was music. All the carriages drew up and the young men came and talked to the women exactly as if they were at the opera or in a ballroom. When we had music or danced at our house, we used to tell some well-known man to say "on danse chez Madame King ce soir." That was all. Paris society is much stiffer, attaches much more importance to visits and reception days.

There is very little informal receiving, no more evenings with no amusement of any kind provided, and a small table at one end of the room with orangeade and cakes, which I remember when I was first married (and always in Lent the quartet of the Conservatoire playing classical symphonies, which of course put a stop to all conversation, as people listened to the artists of the Conservatoire in a sort of sacred silence). Now one is invited each time, there is always music or a comedie, sometimes a conference in Lent, and a buffet in the dining-room. There is much more luxury, and women wear more jewels. There were not many tiaras when I first knew Paris society; now every young woman has one in her corbeille.



One of the first big things I saw in Paris was the opening of the Grand Opera. It was a pretty sight, the house crowded with women beautifully dressed and wearing fine jewels which showed very little, the decoration of the house being very elaborate. There was so much light and gilding that the diamonds were quite lost. The two great features of the evening were the young King of Spain (the father of the present King), a slight, dark, youthful figure, and the Lord Mayor of London, who really made much more effect than the King. He was dressed in his official robes, had two sheriffs and a macebearer, and when he stood at the top of the grand staircase he was an imposing figure and the public was delighted with him. He was surrounded by an admiring crowd when he walked in the foyer. Everybody was there and W. pointed out to me the celebrities of all the coteries. We had a box at the opera and went very regularly. The opera was never good, never has been since I have known it, but as it is open all the year round, one cannot expect to have the stars one hears elsewhere. Still it is always a pleasant evening, one sees plenty of people to talk to and the music is a cheerful accompaniment to conversation. It is astounding how they talk in the boxes and how the public submits. The ballet is always good. Halanzier was director of the Grand Opera, and we went sometimes to his box behind the scenes, which was most amusing. He was most dictatorial, occupied himself with every detail,—was consequently an excellent director. I remember seeing him inspect the corps de ballet one night, just before the curtain went up. He passed down the line like a general reviewing his troops, tapping lightly with a cane various arms and legs which were not in position. He was perfectly smiling and good-humoured: "Voyons, voyons, mes petites, ce n'est pas cela,"—but saw everything.

What W. liked best was the Theatre Francais. We hadn't a box there, but as so many of our friends had, we went very often. Tuesday was the fashionable night and the Salle was almost as interesting as the stage, particularly if it happened to be a premiere, and all the critics and journalists were there. Sarah Bernhardt and Croizette were both playing those first years. They were great rivals and it was interesting to see them in the same play, both such fine talents yet so totally different.



III

M. WADDINGTON AS MINISTER OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION

In March, 1876, W. was made, for the second time, "Ministre de l'Instruction Publique et des Beaux Arts," with M. Dufaure President du Conseil, Duc Decazes at the Foreign Office, and Leon Say at the finances. His nomination was a surprise to us. We didn't expect it at all. There had been so many discussions, so many names put forward. It seemed impossible to come to an understanding and form a cabinet which would be equally acceptable to the marshal and to the Chambers. I came in rather late one afternoon while the negotiations were going on, and was told by the servants that M. Leon Say was waiting in W.'s library to see him. W. came a few minutes afterward, and the two gentlemen remained a long time talking. They stopped in the drawing-room on their way to the door, and Say said to me: "Eh bien, madame, je vous apporte une portefeuille et des felicitations." "Before I accept the felicitations, I would like to know which portfolio." Of course when he said, "Public instruction," I was pleased, as I knew it was the only one W. cared for. My brother-in-law, Richard Waddington, senator of the Seine Inferieure,[1] and one or two friends came to see us in the evening, and the gentlemen talked late into the night, discussing programmes, possibilities, etc. All the next day the conferences went on, and when the new cabinet was presented to the marshal, he received them graciously if not warmly. W. said both Dufaure and Decazes were quite wonderful, realising the state of affairs exactly, and knowing the temper of the house, which was getting more advanced every day and more difficult to manage.

[Footnote 1: My brother-in-law, Richard Waddington, senator, died in June, 1913, some time after these notes were written.]

W. at once convoked all the officials and staff of the ministry. He made very few changes, merely taking the young Count de Lasteyrie, now Marquis de Lasteyrie, grandnephew of the Marquis de Lafayette, son of M. Jules de Lasteyrie, a senator and devoted friend of the Orleans family, as his chef de cabinet. Two or three days after the new cabinet was announced, W. took me to the Elysee to pay my official visit to the Marechale de MacMahon. She received us up-stairs in a pretty salon looking out on the garden. She was very civil, not a particularly gracious manner—gave me the impression of a very energetic, practical woman—what most Frenchwomen are. I was very much struck with her writing-table, which looked most businesslike. It was covered with quantities of letters, papers, cards, circulars of all kinds—she attended to all household matters herself. I always heard (though she did not tell me) that she read every letter that was addressed to her, and she must have had hundreds of begging letters. She was very charitable, much interested in all good works, and very kind to all artists. Whenever a letter came asking for money, she had the case investigated, and if the story was true, gave practical help at once. I was dismayed at first with the number of letters received from all over France asking my intercession with the minister on every possible subject from a "monument historique" to be restored, to a pension given to an old schoolmaster no longer able to work, with a large family to support. It was perfectly impossible for me to answer them. Being a foreigner and never having lived in France, I didn't really know anything about the various questions. W. was too busy to attend to such small matters, so I consulted M. de L., chef de cabinet, and we agreed that I should send all the correspondence which was not strictly personal to him, and he would have it examined in the "bureau." The first few weeks of W.'s ministry were very trying to me—I went to see so many people,—so many people came to see me,—all strangers with whom I had nothing in common. Such dreary conversations, never getting beyond the most ordinary commonplace phrases,—such an absolutely different world from any I had ever lived in.

It is very difficult at first for any woman who marries a foreigner to make her life in her new country. There must be so many things that are different—better perhaps sometimes—but not what one has been accustomed to,—and I think more difficult in France than in any other country. French people are set in their ways, and there is so little sympathy with anything that is not French. I was struck with that absence of sympathy at some of the first dinners I went to. The talk was exclusively French, almost Parisian, very personal, with stories and allusions to people and things I knew nothing about. No one dreamed of talking to me about my past life—or America, or any of my early associations—yet I was a stranger—one would have thought they might have taken a little more trouble to find some topics of general interest. Even now, after all these years, the difference of nationality counts. Sometimes when I am discussing with very intimate friends some question and I find that I cannot understand their views and they cannot understand mine, they always come back to the real difficulty: "Ecoutez, chere amie, vous etes d'une autre race." I rather complained to W. after the first three or four dinners—it seemed to me bad manners, but he said no, I was the wife of a French political man, and every one took for granted I was interested in the conversation—certainly no one intended any rudeness. The first big dinner I went to that year was at the Elysee—the regular official dinner for the diplomatic corps and the Government. I had Baron von Zuylen, the Dutch minister, one of our great friends, on one side of me, Leon Renault, prefet de police, on the other. Leon Renault was very interesting, very clever—an excellent prefet de police. Some of his stories were most amusing. The dinner was very good (always were in the marshal's time), not long, and mercifully the room was not too hot. Sometimes the heat was terrible. There were quite a number of people in the evening—the music of the garde republicaine playing, and a buffet in the dining-room which was always crowded. We never stayed very late, as W. always had papers to sign when we got home. Sometimes when there was a great press of work his "signatures" kept him two hours. I don't think the marshal enjoyed the receptions very much. Like most soldiers he was an early riser, and the late hours and constant talking tired him.

I liked our dinners and receptions at the ministry. All the intelligence of France passed through our rooms. People generally came early—by ten o'clock the rooms were quite full. Every one was announced, and it was most interesting to hear the names of all the celebrities in every branch of art and science. It was only a fleeting impression, as the guests merely spoke to me at the door and passed on. In those days, hardly any one shook hands unless they were fairly intimate—the men never. They made me low bows some distance off and rarely stopped to exchange a few words with me. Some of the women, not many, shook hands. It was a fatiguing evening, as I stood so long, and a procession of strangers passed before me. The receptions finished early—every one had gone by eleven o'clock except a few loiterers at the buffet. There are always a certain number of people at the big official receptions whose principal object in coming seems to be to make a comfortable meal. The servants always told me there was nothing left after a big party. There were no invitations—the reception was announced in the papers, so any one who felt he had the slightest claim upon the minister appeared at the party. Some of the dresses were funny, but there was nothing eccentric—no women in hats, carrying babies in their arms, such as one used to see in the old days in America at the President's reception at the White House, Washington—some very simple black silk dresses hardly low—and of course a great many pretty women very well dressed. Some of my American friends often came with true American curiosity, wanting to see a phase of French life which was quite novel to them.

W. remained two years as Minister of Public Instruction, and my life became at once very interesting, very full. We didn't live at the ministry—it was not really necessary. All the work was over before dinner, except the "signatures," which W. could do just as well in his library at home. We went over and inspected the Hotel du Ministere in the rue de Grenelle before we made our final decision, but it was not really tempting. There were fine reception-rooms and a pretty garden, but the living-rooms were small, not numerous, and decidedly gloomy. Of course I saw much less of W. He never came home to breakfast, except on Sunday, as it was too far from the rue de Grenelle to the Etoile. The Arc de Triomphe stands in the Place de l'Etoile at the top of the Champs-Elysees. All the great avenues, Alma, Jena, Kleber, and the adjacent streets are known as the Quartier de l'Etoile. It was before the days of telephones, so whenever an important communication was to be made to him when he was at home in the evening, a dragoon galloped up with his little black bag from which he extracted his papers. It made quite an excitement in our quiet street the first time he arrived after ten o'clock. We just managed our morning ride, and then there were often people waiting to speak to W. before we started, and always when he came back. There was a great amount of patronage attached to his ministry, nominations to all the universities, lycees, schools, etc., and, what was most agreeable to me, boxes at all the government theatres,—the Grand Opera, Opera Comique, Francais, Odeon, and Conservatoire. Every Monday morning we received the list for the week, and, after making our own selection, distributed them to the official world generally,—sometimes to our own personal friends. The boxes of the Francais, Opera, and Conservatoire were much appreciated.

I went very regularly to the Sunday afternoon concerts at the Conservatoire, where all classical music was splendidly given. They confined themselves generally to the strictly classic, but were beginning to play a little Schumann that year. Some of the faces of the regular habitues became most familiar to me. There were three or four old men with grey hair sitting in the first row of stalls (most uncomfortable seats) who followed every note of the music, turning around and frowning at any unfortunate person in a box who dropped a fan or an opera-glass. It was funny to hear the hum of satisfaction when any well-known movement of Beethoven or Mozart was attacked. The orchestra was perfect, at its best I think in the "scherzos" which they took in beautiful style—so light and sure. I liked the instrumental part much better than the singing. French voices, the women's particularly, are thin, as a rule. I think they sacrifice too much to the "diction,"—don't bring out the voices enough—but the style and training are perfect of their kind.

The Conservatoire is quite as much a social feature as a school of music. It was the thing to do on Sunday afternoon. No invitation was more appreciated, as it was almost impossible to have places unless one was invited by a friend. All the boxes and seats (the hall is small) belong to subscribers and have done so for one or two generations. Many marriages are made there. There are very few theatres in Paris to which girls can be taken, but the Opera Comique and the Conservatoire are very favourite resorts. When a marriage is pending the young lady, very well dressed (always in the simplest tenue de jeune fille) is taken to the Conservatoire or the Opera Comique by her father and mother, and very often her grandmother. She sits in front of the box and the young man in the stalls, where he can study his future wife without committing himself. The difference of dress between the jeune fille and the jeune femme is very strongly marked in France. The French girl never wears lace or jewels or feathers or heavy material of any kind, quite unlike her English or American contemporaries, who wear what they like. The wedding-dress is classic, a simple, very long dress of white satin, and generally a tulle veil over the face. When there is a handsome lace veil in the family, the bride sometimes wears it, but no lace on her dress. The first thing the young married woman does is to wear a very long velvet dress with feathers in her hair.

I think on the whole the arranged marriages turn out as well as any others. They are generally made by people of the same monde, accustomed to the same way of living, and the fortunes as nearly alike as possible. Everything is calculated. The young couple usually spend the summer with parents or parents-in-law, in the chateau, and I know some cases where there are curious details about the number of lamps that can be lighted in their rooms, and the use of the carriage on certain days. I am speaking of course of purely French marriages. To my American ideas it seemed very strange when I first came to Europe, but a long residence in a foreign country certainly modifies one's impressions. Years ago, when we were living in Rome, four sisters, before any of us were married, a charming Frenchwoman, Duchesse de B., who came often to the house, was very worried about this family of girls, all very happy at home and contented with their lives. It was quite true we danced and hunted and made a great deal of music, without ever troubling ourselves about the future. The duchesse couldn't understand it, used often to talk to mother very seriously. She came one day with a proposal of marriage—a charming man, a Frenchman, not too young, with a good fortune, a title, and a chateau, had seen Madam King's daughters in the ballroom and hunting-field, and would very much like to be presented and make his cour. "Which one?" we naturally asked, but the answer was vague. It sounded so curiously impersonal that we could hardly take it seriously. However, we suggested that the young man should come and each one of the four would show off her particular talent. One would play and one would sing (rather like the song in the children's book, "one could dance and one could sing, and one could play the violin"), and the third, the polyglot of the family, could speak several languages. We were rather puzzled as to what my eldest sister could do, as she was not very sociable and never spoke to strangers if she could help it, so we decided she must be very well dressed and preside at the tea-table behind an old-fashioned silver urn that we always used—looking like a stately maitresse de maison receiving her guests. We confided all these plans to the duchesse, but she was quite put out with us, wouldn't bring the young man nor tell us his name. We never knew who he was. Since I have been a Frenchwoman (devant la loi)—I think all Americans remain American no matter where they marry,—I have interested myself three or four times in made marriages, which have generally turned out well. There were very few Americans married in France all those years, now there are legions of all kinds. I don't remember any in the official parliamentary world I lived in the first years of my marriage—nor English either. It was absolutely French, and rather borne French. Very few of the people, the women especially, had any knowledge or experience of foreign countries, and didn't care to have,—France was enough for them.

W. was very happy at the Ministry of Public Instruction,—all the educational questions interested him so much and the tournees en province and visits to the big schools and universities,—some of them, in the south of France particularly, singularly wanting in the most elementary details of hygiene and cleanliness, and it was very difficult to make the necessary changes, giving more light, air, and space. Routine is a powerful factor in this very conservative country, where so many things exist simply because they have always existed. Some of his letters from Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Montpellier were most interesting. As a rule he was very well received and got on very well, strangely enough, with the clergy, particularly the haut clerge, bishops and cardinals. His being a Protestant was rather a help to him; he could take an impartial view of things.

At Bordeaux he stayed at the Prefecture, where he was very comfortable, but the days were fatiguing. He said he hadn't worked so hard for years. He started at nine in the morning, visiting schools and universities, came home to breakfast at twelve, and immediately after had a small reception, rectors, professors, and people connected with the schools he wanted to talk to, at three started again seeing more schools and going conscientiously over the buildings from basement to garret,—then visits to the cardinal, archbishop, general commanding, etc.—a big dinner and reception in the evening, the cardinal present in his red robes, his coadjutor in purple, the officers in uniform, and all the people connected in any way with the university, who were pleased to see their chief. There was a total absence of Bonapartist senators and deputies (which was not surprising, as W. had always been in violent opposition to the Empire), who were rather numerous in these parts. W. was really quite exhausted when he got back to Paris—said it was absolute luxury to sit quietly and read in his library, and not talk. It wasn't a luxury that he enjoyed very much, for whenever he was in the house there was always some one talking to him in his study and others waiting in the drawing-room. Every minute of the day he was occupied. People were always coming to ask for something for themselves or some members of their family, always candidates for the Institute, anxiously inquiring what their chances were, and if he had recommended them to his friends. It is striking even in this country of functionaries (I think there are more small public employees in France than in any other country) how many applicants there were always for the most insignificant places—a Frenchman loves a cap with gold braid and gilt buttons on his coat.

All the winter of 1876, which saw the end of the National Assembly and the beginning of a new regime, was an eventful one in parliamentary circles. I don't know if the country generally was very much excited about a new constitution and a change of government. I don't think the country in France (the small farmers and peasants) are ever much excited about the form of government. As long as the crops are good and there is no war to take away their sons and able-bodied men, they don't care, often don't know, whether a king or an emperor is reigning over them. They say there are some far-off villages half hidden in the forests and mountains who still believe that a king and a Bourbon is reigning in France. Something had to be decided; the provisoire could no longer continue; the country could not go on without a settled government. All the arguments and negotiations of that period have been so often told, that I will not go into any details. The two centres, centre droit and centre gauche, had everything in their hands as the great moderating elements of the Assembly, but the conflicting claims of the various parties, Legitimist, Orleanist, Bonapartist, and advanced Left, made the question a very difficult one.

W. as a member of the Comite des Trente was very much occupied and preoccupied. He came back generally very late from Versailles, and, when he did dine at home, either went out again after dinner to some of the numerous meetings at different houses or had people at home. I think the great majority of deputies were honestly trying to do what they thought best for the country, and when one remembers the names and personalities on both sides—MacMahon, Broglie, d'Audiffret-Pasquier, Buffet, Dufaure, and Thiers, Casimir Perier, Leon Say, Jules Simon, Jules Ferry, Freycinet, and many others, it is impossible to think that any of those men were animated by any spirit other than love of the country and an ardent desire to see some stable government restored which would enable France to take her place again among the great powers. Unfortunately the difference of opinion as to the form of government made things very difficult. Some of the young deputies, just fresh from the war and smarting under a sense of humiliation, were very violent in their abuse of any Royalist and particularly Bonapartist restoration.



IV

THE SOCIAL SIDE OF A MINISTER'S WIFE

My first big dinner at the Ministry of Public Instruction rather intimidated me. We were fifty people—I the only lady. I went over to the ministry in the afternoon to see the table, which was very well arranged with quantities of flowers, beautiful Sevres china, not much silver—there is very little left in France, it having all been melted at the time of the Revolution. The official dinners are always well done in Paris. I suppose the traditions of the Empire have been handed down. We arrived a few minutes before eight, all the staff and directors already there, and by ten minutes after eight every one had arrived. I sat between Gerome, the painter, and Renan, two very different men but each quite charming,—Gerome tall, slight, animated, talking very easily about everything. He told me who a great many of the people were, with a little commentary on their profession and career which was very useful to me, as I knew so few of them. Renan was short, stout, with a very large head, almost unprepossessing-looking, but with a great charm of manner and the most delightful smile and voice imaginable. He often dined with us in our own house, en petit comite, and was always charming. He was one of those happy mortals (there are not many) who made every subject they discuss interesting.

After that first experience, I liked the big men's dinners very much. There was no general conversation; I talked exclusively to my two neighbours, but as they were always distinguished in some branch of art, science, or literature, the talk was brilliant, and I found the hour our dinner lasted a very short one. W. was very particular about not having long dinners. Later, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where we sometimes had eighty guests, the dinner was never over an hour. I did not remain the whole evening at the men's dinners. As soon as they dispersed to talk and smoke, I came away, leaving W. to entertain his guests. We often had big receptions with music and comedie. At one of our first big parties we had several of the Orleans family. I was rather nervous, as I had never received royalty,—in fact I had never spoken to a royal prince or princess. I had lived a great deal in Rome, as a girl, during the last days of Pius IX, and I was never in Paris during the Empire. When we went back to Rome one winter, after the accession of King Victor Emmanuel, I found myself for the first time in a room with royalties, the Prince and Princesse de Piemont. I remember quite well being so surprised by seeing two of the Roman men we knew very well come backward into the ballroom where we were sitting. I thought they must be anticipating the Mardi Gras and were masquerading a little, didn't realise that every one was standing. I remained sitting for a moment (much to the horror of one of the English secretaries who was with us and who thought we were going to make a spread-eagle American demonstration and remain sitting when royalty appeared). However, by some sort of instinct, we rose too (perhaps to see what was going on), just as the princes passed. Princess Marguerite looked charming, dressed in white, with her splendid pearls and beautiful fair hair.

When it was decided that we should ask the Orleans princes to our party, I thought I would go to see the Duc Decazes, the foreign minister, a charming man and charming colleague, to get some precise information about my part of the entertainment. He couldn't think what I wanted when I invaded his cabinet, and was much amused when I stated my case.

"There is nothing unusual in receiving the princes at a ministry. You must do as you have always done."

"But that is just the question, I have never done. I have never in my life exchanged a word with a royal personage."

"It is not possible!"

"It is absolutely true; I have never lived anywhere where there was a court."

When he saw that I was in earnest he was as nice as possible, told me exactly what I wanted to know,—that I need not say "Altesse royale" every time I spoke, merely occasionally, as they all like it,—that I must speak in the third person, "Madame veut-elle," "Monseigneur veut-il me permettre," etc., also that I must always be at the door when a princess arrived and conduct her myself to her seat.

"But if I am at one end of the long enfilade of rooms taking the Comtesse de Paris to her seat and another princess (Joinville or Chartres) should arrive; what has to be done?"

"Your husband must always be at the door with his chef de cabinet, who will replace him while he takes the princess to her place."

The Marquise de L., a charming old lady with white hair, beautiful blue eyes, and pink cheeks, a great friend of the Orleans family, went with me when I made my round of visits to thank the royal ladies for accepting our invitation. We found no one but the Princesse Marguerite, daughter of the Duc de Nemours, who was living at Neuilly. I had all my instructions from the marquise, how many courtesies to make, how to address her, and above all not to speak until the princess spoke to me. We were shown into a pretty drawing-room, opening on a garden, where the princess was waiting, standing at one end of the room. Madame de L. named me, I made my courtesies, the princess shook hands, and then we remained standing, facing each other. She didn't say anything. I stood perfectly straight and quiet, waiting. She changed colour, moved her hands nervously, was evidently overcome with shyness, but didn't utter a sound. It seemed very long, was really only a few seconds, but I was getting rather nervous when suddenly a child ran across the garden. That broke the ice and she asked me the classic royal question, "Avez-vous des enfants, madame?" I had only one, and he was rather small, but still his nurse, his teeth, and his food carried me on for a little while and after that we had some general conversation, but I can't say the visit was really interesting. As long as I was in public life I regretted that I had but the one child,—children and nurseries and schoolrooms were always an unfailing topic of conversation. Frenchwomen of all classes take much more interest in the details of their nurseries and the education and bringing-up of their children than we Anglo-Saxons do. I know several mammas who followed all the course of their sons' studies when they were preparing their baccalaureat, even to writing the compositions. The head nurse (English) who takes entire charge of her nursery, who doesn't like any interference, and brings the children to their mother at stated hours, doesn't exist in France.

Our party was very brilliant, all sorts of notabilities of all kinds, and the leading Paris artists from the Grand Opera, Opera Comique, and the Francais. As soon as the performance was over W. told me I must go and thank the artists; he could not leave his princes. I started off to the last of the long suite of salons where they were all assembled. Comte de L., W.'s chef de cabinet, went with me, and we were preceded by a huissier with sword and chain, who piloted us through the crowd. I felt very shy when I arrived in the greenroom. The artists were drawn up in two rows, the women on one side, the men on the other, all eyes of course fixed upon madame la ministresse. Madame Carvalho, Sarah Bernhardt, and Croizette were standing at the head of the long line of women; Faure, Talazac, Delaunay, Coquelin, on the other side. I went first all along the line of women, then came back by the men. I realised instantly after the first word of thanks and interest how easy it is for princes, or any one in high places, to give pleasure. They all responded so smilingly and naturally to everything I said. After the first two or three words, I didn't mind at all, and found myself discussing acoustics, the difficulty of playing any well-known part without costumes, scenery, etc., the inconvenience of having the public so near, quite easily. We often had music and recitations at our parties, and that was always a great pleasure to me. I remember so well one evening when we had the chorus of the Conservatoire and they sang quite beautifully the old "Plaisirs d'Amour" of our childhood. It had a great success and they were obliged to repeat it. W. made one great innovation in the dress of the ladies of the Conservatoire chorus. They were always dressed in white, which was very well for the young, slight figures, but was less happy for a stout middle-aged lady. So after much discussion it was decided to adopt black as the official dress and I must say it was an enormous improvement.



THE SOCIAL SIDE

All sorts of interesting people came to see us at the Ministry of Public Instruction,—among others the late Emperor of Brazil, Don Pedro de Bragance, who spent some months in Paris that year with his daughter, the young Comtesse d'Eu. He was a tall, good-looking man, with a charming easy manner, very cultivated and very keen about everything—art, literature, politics. His gentlemen said he had the energy of a man of twenty-five, and he was well over middle age when he was in Paris. They were quite exhausted sometimes after a long day of visits and sightseeing with him. He was an early riser. One of the first rendezvous he gave W. was at nine o'clock in the morning, which greatly disturbed that gentleman's habits. He was never an early riser, worked always very late (said his best despatches were written after midnight), and didn't care about beginning his day too early. Another interesting personality was Mommsen, the German historian and savant. He was a picturesque-looking old man with keen blue eyes and a quantity of white hair. I don't think anything modern interested him very much. He was an old man when I first saw him, and looked even older than his age. He and W. used to plunge into very long, learned discussions over antiquities and medals. W. said the hours with Mommsen rested him, such a change from the "shop" talk always mixed with politics in France.

We often had political breakfasts at home (more breakfasts than dinners). Our Aisne deputies and senators were not very mondains, didn't care much to dine out. They were pleasant enough when they talked about subjects that interested them. Henri Martin, senator of the Aisne, was an old-fashioned Republican, absolutely convinced that no other government would ever succeed in France, but he was moderate. St. Vallier, also a senator from the Aisne, was nervous and easily discouraged when things didn't go smoothly, but he too thought the Republic was the only possible government now, whatever his preferences might have been formerly.

W.'s ministry came to an end on the famous 16th of May, 1877, when Marshal MacMahon suddenly took matters in his own hands and dismissed his cabinet presided over by M. Jules Simon. Things had not been going smoothly for some time, could not between two men of such absolute difference of origin, habits, and ideas. Still, the famous letter written by the marshal to Jules Simon was a thunderclap. I was walking about the Champs-Elysees and Faubourg St. Honore on the morning of the 16th of May, and saw all the carriages, our own included, waiting at the Ministry of the Interior, where the conseil was sitting. I went home to breakfast, thought W. was later than usual, but never dreamed of what was happening. When he finally appeared, quite composed and smiling, with his news, "We are out of office; the marshal has sent us all about our business," I could hardly believe it, even when he told me all the details. I had known for a long time that things were not going well, but there were always so much friction and such opposing elements in the cabinet that I had not attached much importance to the accounts of stormy sittings and thought things would settle down.



W. said the marshal was very civil to him, but it was evident that he could not stand Jules Simon any longer and the various measures that he felt were impending. We had many visitors after breakfast, all much excited, wondering what the next step would be—if the Chambers would be dissolved, the marshal trying to impose a cabinet of the Right or perhaps form another moderate liberal cabinet without Jules Simon, but retaining some of his ministers. It was my reception afternoon, and while I was sitting quietly in my drawing-room talking to some of my friends, making plans for the summer, quite pleased to have W. to myself again, the butler hurried into the room telling me that the Marechale de MacMahon was on the stairs, coming to make me a visit. I was very much surprised, as she never came to see me. We met very rarely, except on official occasions, and she made no secret of her dislike to the official Republican ladies (but she was always absolutely correct if not enthusiastic). I had just time to get to the head of the stairs to receive her. She was very amiable, a little embarrassed, took a cup of tea—said the marshal was very sorry to part with W., he had never had any trouble or disagreement with him of any kind, but that it was impossible to go on with a cabinet when neither party had any confidence in the other. I quite agreed, said it was the fortunes of war; I hoped the marshal would find another premier who would be more sympathetic with him, and then we talked of other things.

My friends were quite amused. One of them, Marquise de T., knew the Marechale quite well, and said she was going to ask her if she was obliged to make visites de condoleance to the wives of all the fallen ministers. W. was rather astonished when I told him who had come to tea with me, and thought the conversation must have been difficult. I told him, not at all, once the necessary phrases about the departing ministers were over. The piano was open, music littered about; she was fond of music and she admired very much a portrait of father as a boy in the Harrow dress, asked who it was and what the dress was. She was a perfect woman of the world, and no one was uncomfortable.

It seemed quite strange and very pleasant to take up my old life again after two years of public life. W. breakfasted at home, went to the Senate every day and to the Institute on Fridays and we dined with our friends and had small dinners in our own house instead of official banquets at all the ministries (usually from Potel and Chabot at so much a head). Politics were very lively all summer. The Chambers were dissolved almost at once after the constitution of the new cabinet, presided over by the Duc de Broglie. It was evident from the first moment that the new ministry wouldn't, couldn't live. (The Duc de Broglie was quite aware of the fact. His first words on taking office were: "On nous a jetes a l'eau, maintenant il faut nager.") He made a very good fight, but he had that worst of all faults for a leader, he was unpopular. He was a brilliant, cultured speaker, but had a curt, dictatorial manner, with an air always of looking down upon his public. So different from his colleague, the Duc Decazes, whose charming, courteous manners and nice blue eyes made him friends even among his adversaries. There is a well-known story told of the two dukes which shows exactly the personality of the men. Some one, a deputy I think, wanted something very much which either of the gentlemen could give. He went first to the Duc Decazes, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, who received him charmingly, was most kind and courteous, but didn't do what the man wanted. He then went to the Duc de Broglie, President du Conseil, who was busy, received him very curtly, cut short his explanations, and was in fact extremely disagreeable but did the thing, and the man loved Decazes and hated de Broglie. All sorts of rumours were afloat; we used to hear the wildest stories and plans. One day W. came in looking rather preoccupied. There was an idea that the Right were going to take most stringent measures, arrest all the ministers, members of Jules Simon's cabinet, many of the prominent Liberals. He said it was quite possible and then gave me various instructions. I was above all to make no fuss if they really came to arrest him. He showed me where all his keys, papers, and money were, told me to go instantly to his uncle, Mr. Lutteroth, who lived next door. He was an old diplomat, knew everybody, and would give me very good advice. I did not feel very happy, but like so many things that are foretold, nothing ever happened.

Another rumour, from the extreme Left this time, was that a large armed force under the command of a well-known general, very high up in his career, was to assemble in the north at Lille, a strong contingent of Republicans were to join them to be ready to act. I remember quite well two of W.'s friends coming in one morning, full of enthusiasm for this plan. I don't think they quite knew what they were going to do with their army. W. certainly did not. He listened to all the details of the plan; they gave him the name of the general, supposed to have very Republican sympathies (not generally the case with officers), the number of regiments, etc., who would march at a given signal, but when he said, "It is possible, you might get a certain number of men together, but what would you do with them?" they were rather nonplussed. They hadn't got any further than a grand patriotic demonstration, with the military, drums beating, flags flying, and the Marseillaise being howled by an excited crowd. No such extreme measures, however, were ever carried out. From the first moment it was evident that a large Republican majority would be returned; almost all the former deputies were re-elected and a number of new ones, more advanced in their opinion. In the country it was the only topic of conversation.

Parliament was dissolved in June, 1877, but we remained in town until the end of July. It wasn't very warm and many people remained until the end of the session. The big schools too only break up on the 15th of July, and many parents remain in Paris. The Republican campaign had already begun, and there were numerous little dinners and meetings when plans and possibilities were discussed. W. got back usually very late from Versailles. When he knew the sitting would be very late he sent me word and I used to go and dine with mother, but sometimes he was kept on there from hour to hour. I had some long waits before we could dine, and Hubert, the coachman, used to spend hours in the courtyard of the Gare St. Lazare waiting for his master. We had a big bay mare, a very fast trotter, which always did the train service, and the two were stationed there sometimes from six-thirty to nine-thirty, but they never seemed the worse for it. W., though a very considerate man for his servants generally, never worried at all about keeping his coachmen and horses waiting. He said the coachmen were the most warmly dressed men in Paris, always took care to be well covered, and we never had fancy, high-stepping horses, but ordinary strong ones, which could wait patiently. W. said the talk in the Chambers and in the lobbies was quite wild—every sort of extravagant proposition was made. There were many conferences with the Duc d'Audiffret-Pasquier, Duc de Broglie—with Casimir Perier, Leon Say, Gambetta, Jules Ferry, and Freycinet—where the best men on both sides tried hard to come to an agreement. W. went several times in August to see M. Thiers, who was settled at St. Germain. The old statesman was as keen as ever, receiving every day all sorts of deputations, advising, warning, encouraging, and quite confident as to the result of the elections. People were looking to him as the next President, despite his great age. However, he was not destined to see the triumph of his ideas. He died suddenly at St. Germain on the 3d of September. W. said his funeral was a remarkable sight—thousands of people followed the cortege—all Paris showing a last respect to the liberateur du territoire (though there were still clubs where he was spoken of as le sinistre vieillard). In August W. went to his Conseil-General at Laon, and I went down to my brother-in-law's place at St. Leger near Rouen. We were a very happy cosmopolitan family-party. My mother-in-law was born a Scotch-woman (Chisholm). She was a fine type of the old-fashioned cultivated lady, with a charming polite manner, keenly interested in all that was going on in the world. She was an old lady when I married, and had outlived almost all her contemporaries, but she had a beautiful old age, surrounded by children and grandchildren. She had lived through many vicissitudes from the time of her marriage, when she arrived at the Chateau of St. Remy in the Department of Eure-et-Loire (where my husband, her eldest son, was born), passing through triumphal arches erected in honour of the young bride, to the last days when the fortunes of the family were diminished by revolutions and political and business crises in France. They moved from St. Remy, selling the chateau, and built a house on the top of a green hill near Rouen, quite shut in by big trees, and with a lovely view from the Rond Point—the highest part of the garden, over Rouen—with the spires of the cathedral in the distance. I used to find her every morning when I went to her room, sitting at the window, her books and knitting on a table near—looking down on the lawn and the steep winding path that came up from the garden,—where she had seen three generations of her dear ones pass every day—first her husband, then her sons—now her grandsons. My sister-in-law, R.'s wife, was also an Englishwoman; the daughter of the house had married her cousin, de Bunsen, who had been a German diplomatist, and who had made nearly all his career in Italy, at the most interesting period of her history, when she was struggling for emancipation from the Austrian rule and independence. I was an American, quite a new element in the family circle. We had many and most animated discussions over all sorts of subjects, in two or three languages, at the tea-table under the big tree on the lawn. French and English were always going, and often German, as de Bunsen always spoke to his daughter in German. My mother-in-law, who knew three or four languages, did not at all approve of the careless habit we had all got into of mixing our languages and using French or Italian words when we were speaking English—if they came more easily. She made a rule that we should use only one language at meals—she didn't care which one, but we must keep to it. My brother-in-law was standing for the deputation. We didn't see much of him in the daytime—his electors and his visits and speeches and banquets de pompiers took up all his time. The beginning of his career had been very different. He was educated in England—Rugby and Woolwich—and served several years in the Royal Artillery in the British army. His military training was very useful to him during the Franco-Prussian War, when he equipped and commanded a field battery, making all the campaign. His English brother officers always remembered him. Many times when we were living in England at the embassy, I was asked about him. A curious thing happened in the House of Lords one day, showing the wonderful memory of princes for faces. R. was staying with us for a few days, when the annual debate over the bill for marriage of a deceased wife's sister came up. The Prince of Wales (late King Edward) and all the other princes were present in the House. R. was there too, standing where all the strangers do, at the entrance of the lobby. When the debate was over, the Prince of Wales left. As he passed along, he shook hands with several gentlemen also standing near the lobby, including R. He stopped a moment in front of him, saying: "I think this is Mr. Waddington. The last time I saw you, you wore Her Majesty's uniform." He hadn't seen him for twenty-five or thirty years. I asked the prince afterward how he recognised him. He said he didn't know; it was perhaps noticing an unfamiliar face in the group of men standing there,—and something recalled his brother, the ambassador.

In September we went down to Bourneville and settled ourselves there for the autumn. W. was standing for the Senate with the Count de St. Vallier and Henri Martin. They all preferred being named in their department, where everybody knew them and their personal influence could make itself more easily felt. W.'s campaign was not very arduous. All the people knew him and liked him—knew that he would do whatever he promised. Their programme was absolutely Republican, but moderate, and he only made a few speeches and went about the country a little. I often went with him when he rode, and some of our visits to the farmers and local authorities were amusing if not encouraging. We were always very well received, but it wasn't easy to find out what they really thought (if they did think about it at all) of the state of affairs. The small landowners particularly, the men who had one field and a garden, were very reserved. They listened attentively enough to all W. had to say. He was never long, never personal, and never abused his adversaries, but they rarely expressed an opinion. They almost always turned the conversation upon some local matter or petty grievance. It didn't seem to me that they took the slightest interest in the extraordinary changes that were going on in France. A great many people came to see W. and there would be a curious collection sometimes in his library at the end of the day. The doctor (who always had precise information—country doctors always have—they see a great many people and I fancy the women talk to them and tell them what their men are doing), one or two farmers, some schoolmasters, the mayors of the nearest villages, the captains of the firemen and of the archers (they still shoot with bow and arrow in our part of the country; every Sunday the men practise shooting at a target)—the gendarmes, very useful these too to bring news—the notary, and occasionally a sous-prefet, but then he was a personage, representing the Government, and was treated with more ceremony than the other visitors. It was evident from all these sources that the Republicans were coming to the front en masse.

The Republicans (for once) were marvellously disciplined and kept together. It was really wonderful when one thought of all the different elements that were represented in the party. There was quite as much difference between the quiet moderate men of the Left Centre and the extreme Left as there was between the Legitimists and any faction of the Republican party. There was a strong feeling among the Liberals that they were being coerced, that arbitrary measures, perhaps a coup d'etat, would be sprung upon them, and they were quite determined to resist. I don't think there was ever any danger of a coup d'etat, at least as long as Marshal MacMahon was the chief of state. He was a fine honourable, patriotic soldier, utterly incapable of an illegality of any kind. He didn't like the Republic, honestly thought it would never succeed with the Republicans (la Republique sans Republicains was for him its only chance)—and he certainly had illusions and thought his friends and advisers would succeed in making and keeping a firm conservative government. How far that illusion was shared by his entourage it is difficult to say. They fought their battle well—government pressure exercised in all ways. Prefets and sous-prefets changed, wonderful prospects of little work and high pay held out to doubtful electors, and the same bright illusive promises made to the masses, which all parties make in all elections and which the people believe each time. The Republicans were not idle either, and many fiery patriotic speeches were made or their side. Gambetta always held his public with his passionate, earnest declamation, and his famous phrase, that the marshal must "se soumettre ou se demettre," became a password all through the country.



V

A REPUBLICAN VICTORY AND A NEW MINISTRY

The elections took place in October-November, 1877, and gave at once a great Republican majority. W. and his two colleagues, Count de St. Vallier and Henri Martin, had an easy victory, but a great many of their personal friends, moderates, were beaten. The centres were decidedly weaker in the new Chambers. There was not much hope left of uniting the two centres, Droite et Gauche, in the famous "fusion" which had been a dream of the moderate men.

The new Chambers assembled at Versailles in November. The Broglie cabinet was out, but a new ministry of the Right faced the new Parliament. Their life was very short and stormy; they were really dead before they began to exist and in December the marshal sent for M. Dufaure and charged him to form a Ministere de Gauche. None of his personal friends, except General Borel at the War Office, was in the new combination. W. was named to the Foreign Office. I was rather disappointed when he came home and told me he had accepted that portfolio. I thought his old ministry, Public Instruction, suited him so well, the work interested him, was entirely to his taste. He knew all the literary and educational world, not only in France but everywhere else—England, of course, where he had kept up with many of his Cambridge comrades, and Germany, where he also had literary connections. However, that wide acquaintance and his perfect knowledge of English and English people helped him very much at once, not only at the Quai d'Orsay, but in all the years he was in England as ambassador.

The new ministry, with Dufaure as President of the Council, Leon Say at the Finances, M. de Freycinet at Public Works, and W. at the Foreign Office was announced the 14th of December, 1877. The preliminaries had been long and difficult—the marshal and his friends on one side—the Republicans and Gambetta on the other—the moderates trying to keep things together. Personally, I was rather sorry W. had agreed to be a member of the cabinet; I was not very keen about official life and foresaw a great deal that would be disagreeable. Politics played such a part in social life. All the "society," the Faubourg St. Germain (which represents the old names and titles of France), was violently opposed to the Republic. I was astonished the first years of my married life in France, to see people of certain position and standing give the cold shoulder to men they had known all their lives because they were Republicans, knowing them quite well to be honourable, independent gentlemen, wanting nothing from the Republic—merely trying to do their best for the country. I only realised by degrees that people held off a little from me sometimes, as the wife of a Republican deputy. I didn't care particularly, as I had never lived in France, and knew very few people, but it didn't make social relations very pleasant, and I should have been better pleased if W. had taken no active part. However, that feeling was only temporary. I soon became keenly interested in politics (I suppose it is in the blood—all the men in my family in America were politicians) and in the discussion of the various questions which were rapidly changing France into something quite different. Whether the change has been for the better it would be hard to say even now, after more than thirty-five years of the Republic.

Freycinet was a great strength. He was absolutely Republican, but moderate—very clever and energetic, a great friend of Gambetta's—and a beautiful speaker. I have heard men say who didn't care about him particularly, and who were not at all of his way of thinking, that they would rather not discuss with him. He was sure to win them over to his cause with his wonderful, clear persuasive arguments.



The first days were very busy ones. W. had to see all his staff (a very large one) of the Foreign Office, and organise his own cabinet. He was out all day, until late in the evening, at the Quai d'Orsay; used to go over there about ten or ten-thirty, breakfast there, and get back for a very late dinner, and always had a director or secretary working with him at our own house after dinner. I went over three or four times to inspect the ministry, as I had a presentiment we should end by living there. The house is large and handsome, with a fine staircase and large high rooms. The furniture of course was "ministerial"—stiff and heavy—gold-backed chairs and sofas standing in rows against the walls. There were some good pictures, among others the "Congres de Paris," which occupies a prominent place in one of the salons, and splendid tapestries. The most attractive thing was a fine large garden at the back, but, as the living-rooms were up-stairs, we didn't use it very much. The lower rooms, which opened on the gardens, were only used as reception-rooms. The minister's cabinet was also down-stairs, communicating by a small staircase with his bedroom, just overhead. The front of the house looks on the Seine; we had always a charming view from the windows, at night particularly, when all the little steamers (mouches) were passing with their lights. I had of course to make acquaintance with all the diplomatic corps. I knew all the ambassadors and most of the ministers, but there were some representatives of the smaller powers and South American Republics with whom I had never come in contact. Again I paid a formal official visit to the Marechale de MacMahon as soon as the ministry was announced. She was perfectly polite and correct, but one felt at once she hadn't the slightest sympathy for anything Republican, and we never got to know each other any better all the months we were thrown together. We remained for several weeks at our own house, and then most reluctantly determined to install ourselves at the ministry. W. worked always very late after dinner, and he felt it was not possible to ask his directors, all important men of a certain age, to come up to the Quartier de l'Etoile at ten o'clock and keep them busy until midnight. W.'s new chef de cabinet, Comte de Pontecoulant, was very anxious that we should move, thought everything would be simplified if W. were living over there. I had never known Pontecoulant until W. chose him as his chef de cabinet. He was a diplomatist with some years of service behind him, and was perfectly au courant of all the routine and habits of the Foreign Office. He paid me a short formal visit soon after he had accepted the post; we exchanged a few remarks about the situation, I hoped we would faire bon menage, and had no particular impression of him except that he was very French and stiff; I didn't suppose I should see much of him. It seems curious now to look back upon that first interview. We all became so fond of him, he was a loyal, faithful friend, was always ready to help me in any small difficulties, and I went to him for everything—visits, servants, horses, etc. W. had no time for any details or amenities of life. We moved over just before New Year's day. As the gros mobilier was already there, we only took over personal things, grand piano, screens, tables, easy chairs, and small ornaments and bibelots. These were all sent off in a van early one morning, and after luncheon I went over, having given rendezvous to Pontecoulant and M. Kruft, chef du materiel, an excellent, intelligent man, who was most useful and devoted to me the two years I lived at the ministry. I was very depressed when we drove into the courtyard. I had never lived on that side of the river, and felt cut off from all my belongings,—the bridge a terror, so cold in winter, so hot in summer,—I never got accustomed to it, never crossed it on foot. The sight of the great empty rooms didn't reassure me. The reception-rooms of course were very handsome. There were a great many servants, huissiers, and footmen standing about, and people waiting in the big drawing-room to speak to W. The living-rooms up-stairs were ghastly—looked bare and uncomfortable in the highest degree. They were large and high and looked down upon the garden, though that on a bleak December day was not very cheerful—but there were possibilities. Kruft was very sympathetic, understood quite well how I felt, and was ready to do anything in the way of stoves, baths, wardrobes in the lingerie, new carpets, and curtains, that I wanted. Pontecoulant too was eminently practical, and I was quite amused to find myself discussing lingeries and bathrooms with a total stranger whom I had only seen twice in my life. It took me about a week to get really settled. I went over every day, returning to my own house to eat and sleep. Kruft did wonders; the place was quite transformed when I finally moved over. The rooms looked very bright and comfortable when we arrived in the afternoon of the 31st of December (New Year's eve). The little end salon, which I made my boudoir, was hung with blue satin; my piano, screens, and little things were very well placed—plenty of palms and flowers, bright fires everywhere—the bedrooms, nursery, and lingeries clean and bright. My bedroom opened on a large salon, where I received usually, keeping my boudoir for ourselves and our intimate friends. My special huissier, Gerard, who sat all day outside of the salon door, was presented to me, and instantly became a most useful and important member of the household—never forgot a name or a face, remembered what cards and notes I had received, whether the notes were answered, or the bills paid, knew almost all my wardrobe, would bring me down a coat or a wrap if I wanted one suddenly down-stairs. I had frequent consultations with Pontecoulant and Kruft to regulate all the details of the various services before we were quite settled. We took over all our own servants and found many others who were on the permanent staff of the ministry, footmen, huissiers, and odd men who attended to all the fires, opened and shut all the doors, windows, and shutters. It was rather difficult to organise the regular working service, there was such rivalry between our own personal servants and the men who belonged to the house, but after a little while things went pretty smoothly. W. dined out the first night we slept at the Quai d'Orsay, and about an hour after we had arrived, while I was still walking about in my hat and coat, feeling very strange in the big, high rooms, I was told that the lampiste was waiting my orders (a few lamps had been lit in some of the rooms). I didn't quite know what orders to give, hadn't mastered yet the number that would be required; but I sent for him, said I should be alone for dinner, perhaps one or two lamps in the dining-room and small salon would be enough. He evidently thought that was not at all sufficient, wanted something more precise, so I said to light as he had been accustomed to when the Duc Decazes and his family were dining alone (which I don't suppose they ever did, nor we either when we once took up our life). Such a blaze of light met my eyes when I went to dinner that I was quite bewildered—boudoir, billiard-room, dining-room (very large, the small round table for one person hardly perceptible), and corridors all lighted "a giorno." However, it looked very cheerful and kept me from feeling too dreadfully homesick for my own house and familiar surroundings. The rooms were so high up that we didn't hear the noise of the street, but the river looked alive and friendly with the lights on the bridges, and a few boats still running.

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse