Part 4 out of 7
At a ball at the Tuileries he said to a young American whose father he had
met: "J'ai connu votre père en Amérique. Est-ce qu'il vit encore?" And the
young man, embarrassed and confused, answered, "Non, sire; pas encore."
"It is so good," the Emperor said, "to have a laugh, especially to-day.
All the afternoon I shall be plunged in affairs of state."
I did not forget to tell the Emperor that Delsarte was wildly excited on
receiving the present his Majesty had sent him last year. I wandered
considerably from the truth, as, in reality, Delsarte, who is not
Napoleonic in his politics, had said when I gave it to him, "Comment!
c'est Badinguet qui m'envoit cela. Que veut-il que j'en fasse?" with a
dark frown, But I noticed he smoked _le bon tabac_, all the same; and
I am sure he said (even to his best friend), "Tu n'en auras pas."
Of course the Emperor had quite forgotten that such a person as Delsarte
had ever existed.
This was a perfectly delightful _déjeuner_, and I shall never forget it.
The numerous chamberlains were busy arranging the different amusements for
the guests, putting horses, carriages, shooting, and excursions at their
disposal; but we, unlucky ones, were in duty bound to abide by the
Marquis, who had now completed his troupe to his satisfaction. He had
enticed the two young Mademoiselles Albe and two of their admirers to
undertake the chorus; he was very grateful to them, as otherwise it would
have had to be suppressed--perhaps the best thing that could have happened
The Princess Metternich asked us to come to their salon (they have the
beautiful apartments called _les appartements d'Apollon_), in order that
we could try the music with the piano which her husband had hired, as
usual, for his stay at Compiègne, and which he had put at the disposition
of the Marquis.
The Marquis was in ecstasy, and capered about to collect us, and at last
we found ourselves stranded with the manuscript and its master, who was
overjoyed to embark us on this shaky craft. He put himself at the piano,
played the score from beginning to end, not sparing us a single bar. My
heart sank when I heard it, it was worse than I thought, and the plot was
even worse than the music--naïf and banal beyond words.
A lord of the manor (Vicomte Vaufreland, basso) makes love to a humble
village maiden (myself, soprano); the lady of the manor (Madame Conneau,
contralto) becomes jealous and makes a scene with her husband; the friend
and adviser (Count d'Espeuilles, tenor) steps in and takes his friend's
part and kindly says that it was he who had loved the village maiden. The
wife is satisfied, and everything ends beautifully.
It would be very uphill work for the poor Marquis and I wondered if he
would really have the patience to go on with it, after realizing how
unmusical the men were. D'Espeuilles stood behind the Marquis's bald head
and reached over to put his finger on the note he wanted to sing, and then
banged on that, until, after singing every note in the scale, he finally
fixed it in his brain.
Could anything be more despairing?
Our next thought naturally was our costumes.
The operetta was laid in the time of Louis XV.
Would we be able to find anything in the various trunks in the gallery
next to the theater?
When we went there we found everything we did not want--costumes, odds and
ends of all sorts, which belonged to all other periods than Louis XV. The
contents of the trunks were in a very chaotic state; each article which
once had formed one of a complete costume was without its better half; the
unprincipled things had meandered off and got mixed up in other sets.
To be sure, there was a Louis XV. coat, with embroidered pockets and
satin-lined coat-tails, but nothing more suitable for _culottes_ could be
found than a pair of red-plush breeches, trimmed with lace (I think one
calls them "trunk hose"), of Henry II.'s time.
When they were urged upon the Vicomte, he absolutely refused them, saying
he would not mix up epochs like that, and, after pulling over everything,
he decided to send to Paris for a complete costume.
Count d'Espeuilles was less difficult to satisfy, and was contented with a
black-velvet Hamlet costume, with a plumed hat, which suited no epoch at
all, but suited his style of beauty.
Madame C---- thought her maid might arrange out of a ball-dress some sort
of attire; with powdered hair, paint, and patches, she could represent the
lady of the manor very well. My Tyrolean dress of last year would do quite
nicely for me, when my maid had put the customary bows on the traditional
We all separated, carrying our carefully written rôles under our arms, and
in the worst of tempers.
Monsieur Dué was my neighbor at dinner. He is very musical, and was much
interested in hearing about the operetta. He does not think the Marquis
has any talent; neither do I! But I don't wish to give any opinion on the
poor little struggling operetta before it has lived its day, and then I am
sure it will die its natural death. Monsieur Dué has composed some very
pretty things for the piano, which he plays on the slightest
Nothing else was talked of in the evening but the operetta, and the
Marquis was in the seventh heaven of delight.
Their Majesties were told of the Marquis's interesting intention. I could
see, across the room, that the Empress knew that I was going to take part,
for she looked over toward me, nodding her head and smiling at me.
There was some dancing for an hour, when one of the chamberlains came up
and said to me that the Empress would be pleased if I would sing some of
my American songs. I was delighted, and went directly into the _salle de
musique_, and when the others had come in, I sat down at the piano and
accompanied myself in the few negro songs I knew. I sang "Suwanee River,"
"Shoo-fly," and "Good-by, Johnny, come back to your own chickabiddy." Then
I sang a song of Prince Metternich's, called, "Bonsoir, Marguerite," which
he accompanied. I finished, of course, with "Beware!" which Charles
The Emperor came up to me and asked, "What does chickabiddy mean?"
I answered, "'Come back soon to your own chickabiddy' means 'Reviens
bientôt à ta chérie,'" which apparently satisfied him.
Their Majesties thanked me with effusion, and were very gracious.
The Emperor himself brought a cup of tea to me, a very unusual thing for
him to do, and I fancy a great compliment, saying, "This is for our
Their Majesties bowed in leaving the room; every one made a deep
reverence, and we retired to our apartments.
The old, pompous, ponderous diplomat (what am I saying?)--I should have
said, "the very distinguished diplomat"--the same one the Emperor told me
yesterday was so impervious to a joke, honored me by giving me his
baronial arm for _déjeuner_. I can't imagine why he did it, unless it
were to get a lesson in English gratis, of which he was sadly in need. He
struck me as being very masterful and weighed down with the mighty affairs
of his tiny little kingdom. I was duly impressed, and never felt so
subdued in all my life, which I suppose was the effect he wished to
produce on me.
We sat like two gravestones, only waiting for an epitaph. Suddenly he
muttered (as if such an immense idea was too great for him to keep to
himself), "Diplomacy, Madame, is a dog's business." ("La diplomatie est un
métier de chien.")
I ventured to ask, "Is it because one is attached to a post?"
He gave me such a withering look that I wished I had never made this silly
All the same, he unbent a little and, with a dismal twinkle in his eye,
his face brightening, and launching into frivolity, said: "The Emperor
told me something very funny the other day. (I knew what was coming.)
He asked me why I liked salad." Turning to me he said, "Can you guess the
I had many ready for him; but I refrained and only said, "No, what was
"Parce qu'elle était ma mère!" he replied, and laughed immoderately, until
such a fit of coughing set in that I thought there would not be a button
left on him. When he had finished exploding he said, "Did you understand
If I had not understood the "choke," I understood the choking, and I
thought any more jokes like this would be the end of him then and there.
I answered quite seriously, "I think I would understand better, if I knew
what sort of salad his Majesty meant."
He shook his head and said he did not think it made any difference what
sort of salad it was. And we became tombstones again.
I could hardly wait till we returned to the salon, I was so impatient to
tell the Emperor of the Baron's latest version.
As his Majesty was near me, talking to some lady during the _cercle_,
I stepped forward so as to attract his attention.
He soon moved toward me, and I, against all the rules of etiquette, was
the first to speak.
"Your Majesty," said I, "I sat next to the Baron at breakfast and was not
spared the salad problem."
"How did he have it this time?" asked the Emperor.
"This time, your Majesty, he had it that you had said he liked salad
because it was his mother."
The Emperor burst out laughing and said, "He is hopeless."
It would seem as if Fate had chosen the Baron to be the butt of all the
Later in the afternoon we drove in _chars-à-bancs_ to St. Corneille,
a lovely excursion through the woods. The carriages spun along over the
smooth roads, the postilions cracked their whips and tooted their horns,
the air was cold and deliciously invigorating, and we were the gayest
party imaginable. One would have thought that even the worst grumbler
would have been put in good spirits by these circumstances; but no! our
distinguished diplomat was silent and sullen, resenting all fun and
nonsense. No wonder that all conspired together to tease him.
At St. Corneille there are some beautiful ruins of an old abbey and an old
Roman camp. When we came to the "Fontaine des Miracles" Mr. Mallet (of the
English embassy) pulled out of his pocket a Baedeker and read in a low
tone to those about him what was said about the miracles of the fountain.
The Marquis de Gallifet, not wishing any amusement to take place without
helping it on and adding some touches of his own, thereupon interposed in
a stage whisper (evidently intended to be heard by the Baron), "The waters
of this fountain are supposed to remove [then raising his voice]
"Baroness who?" asked the diplomat, who was now all alert.
Mr. Mallet, to our amazement (who ever could have imagined him so jocose),
said quite gravely, "Probably the wife of the barren fig-tree."
"Ah!" said the Baron, "I don't know them," thus snubbing all the fig-
"A very old family," said Mallet, "mentioned in the Bible."
This seemed to stagger our friend, who evidently prided himself on knowing
every family worth knowing. The Marquis de Gallifet, seeing his chance,
hurried to tell the story of the d'Albe family, which the crestfallen
Baron drank in with open mouth and swallowed whole. As the Duke d'Albe was
there himself, listening attentively and smiling, the story must have been
true! The Marquis de Gallifet said, when Noah was ready to depart in the
ark he saw a man swimming for dear life toward the boat, waving something
in the air. Noah called out to him:
"Don't ask to be taken in. We can't carry any more passengers, we are
already too full."
The man answered, "I don't want to be taken in; I don't care for myself;
but, pray, save the papers of the family."
The Baron looked very grave, and turning to the Duke asked, in an
extremely solemn tone, "Is this really true?"
"Perfectly," answered the Duke, without moving a muscle. "The saying,
'Après moi le déluge,' originated in our family; but we say, 'Nous
d'abord, et _puis_ le déluge!'"
"How interesting!" said the Baron.
Then Monsieur Dué, not wishing to be outdone, said his family was as old
(if not older), having taken the name of Dué from the dove [in Swedish
"dué" means dove] which carried the olive-branch to the ark. By this time
the poor Baron, utterly staggered and bewildered in presence of such a
concourse of ancient nobility, did not know on which leg to stand. How
could he and his family ever hold up their heads again?
We returned to Compiègne by St. Périne, where there was a most enchanting
view, and drove straight through a long avenue and entered _La cour
d'honneur_. It was almost half-past five when we reached our rooms.
I thought I had had enough of fossils and ruins for one day, from
breakfast onward, so when old General Changarnier came to offer me his arm
for dinner I said to myself, "This is the climax!"
But, on the contrary (the unexpected always arrives), he was so delightful
and genial that my heart was warmed through, which, indeed, it needed,
after the ice-chest I had had for _déjeuner_. He did not try to raise
me to his level, but simply let himself down to mine, and talked small
talk so youthfully that I felt we were about the same age. He was a
Monsieur de Laferrière arranged a sort of ball for this evening. There was
an unusual flutter, for everything was going to be extra fine, and we put
on our prettiest dresses. Programmes with dangling pencils were lavished
on us, on which regular dances were set down--quadrilles, waltzes, polkas,
The usual _cercle_ was curtailed, in view of the ball.
The chamberlains, to facilitate matters, had arranged the boxes of music
for the mechanical piano very methodically on a table, so there should be
no mistakes or fumbling with the slides.
The ladies were so agitated, fearing they would not get any partners, that
they made very transparent efforts to attract the attention of the
gentlemen. One would have thought they had never been to a ball in all
their lives. The gentlemen, just as agitated, rushed about to secure the
ladies, whom they could have had _without_ the rushing on other evenings.
The Empress looked exquisitely beautiful. The Emperor stood in the
doorway, smiling at this whirlwind of gaiety and animation. The Prince
Imperial danced untiringly with all the ladies.
Flowers were distributed about, and, wonder of wonders! ices were served
at intervals, as if it were a real ball. My old general was chivalry
itself. He even engaged a partner for the lancers, and skipped about
telling everybody he did not know how to dance them, which was
unnecessary, as one could see for oneself later.
There are four kinds of people in society:
Those who know the lancers.
Those who don't know the lancers.
Those who know the lancers and say they don't.
Those who don't know the lancers and say they do.
My old and venerable warrior belonged to class number two, and really did
not know the lancers, but tripped about pleasantly and let others guide
him. When we came to the _grande chaîne_ he was completely intoxicated
with his success. Every eye was on him. Every one was occupied with his
doings, and his alone. All the ladies were pulling him first one way and
then the other, trying to confuse him by getting him into another set,
until he found himself quite at the other end of the room, still being
pulled about and twirled in every direction, never knowing where he was or
when he was going to stop. At last, utterly exhausted and confused, he
stopped short and placed himself in the middle of the ballroom, delighted
to be the center of all eyes and to make this effective _finale._ But no
one could compare with him when he made his Louis-Quinze reverence; the
younger men had to acknowledge that he scored a point there, and he might
well be proud of himself. All this made us very gay, and almost
boisterous. Never before had the evening finished with such a burst of
merriment, and we all retired, agreeing that the ball had been a great
success, and that Monsieur de Laferrière could sleep on his laurels as
soundly as we intended to sleep on our pillows.
Count Niewekerke offered me his arm for _déjeuner_ this morning. He is a
Dutchman (_Hollandais_ sounds better) by birth, but he lives in Paris. As
he is the greatest authority on art there, the Emperor has made him Count
and Director of the Galerie du Louvre. He is very handsome, tall, and
commanding, and has, besides other enviable qualities, the reputation of
being the great lady-killer _par excellence._
As we stood there together the Empress passed by us. She held up her
finger warningly, saying, "Take care! Beware! He is a very dangerous
person, _un vrai mangeur de coeur!"_ "I know, your Majesty," I answered,
"and I expect to be brought back on a litter."
She laughed and passed on.
Monsieur Niewekerke looked pleasantly conscious and flattered as we walked
to the dining-room, and I felt as if I was being led to the altar to be
sacrificed like poor little Isaac. His English is very cockney, and he got
so mixed up with "heart" and "art" that I did not know half the time
whether he was talking of the collection of the Louvre Gallery or of his
lady victims. He did not hesitate to call my attention to the presence of
some of them at the table, which I thought was very kind of him, in case I
was unaware of it.
He is as keen about the good things of the table as he is about art; in
fact, he is a great epicure. As he thought well of the menu, I will copy
it for you:
_Consommé en tasses._
Oeufs au fromage à l'Italienne.
Cailles au riz.
Côtelettes de veau grillées.
Viande froide, salade.
Brioches à la vanille, fruits, dessert, café....
"Well," said the Empress, as she stopped in front of me after _déjeuner_,
"are you alive?"
"I am, your Majesty, and, strange to say, my heart is intact."
"Wonderful!" she said, "you are an exception."
We had the choice between going to a _chasse à tir_ (without the Emperor),
and a drive to Pierrefonds.
I had enough of the _chasse à tir_ last year, and I still see in my dreams
those poor birds fluttering in their death-agony. Anything better than
I preferred Pierrefonds, with its gargoyles and its hard, carved chairs.
I was glad Monsieur de Niewekerke went with us, for he was more
interesting and did not go into so many details as Viollet-le-Duc.
[Illustration: LA SALLE DES PREUX--CHÂTEAU DE PIERREFONDS]
The restoration has progressed very much since the last time we were here,
though far from being completed yet. In the huge hall Niewekerke told me
the statues about the chimney were portraits of the wives of the _preux
chevaliers_ of that time.
I thought the frescos of this hall were very crude in color; but Monsieur
de Niewekerke said they were excellent copies of the ancient style of
The castle is such a magnificent ruin one almost wishes that it was not
I would like to see it in summer, not in this season, when one perishes
with cold and longs, in spite of its beauty, to be out of it and in a
There was a dense fog on the lake and a mist in the forest when we left,
and it was dreadfully damp and cold. The postilions took a shorter cut and
carried us through La Brévière and St. Jean aux Bois.
I should think both must be charming in summer; but now--ugh!
What was my delight at the Empress's tea this afternoon to see Auber, my
dear old Auber! He had been invited for dinner, and had come with the
artists who are to play to-night. He looked so well and young, in spite of
his eighty-three years. Every one admires him and loves him. He is the
essence of goodness, talent, and modesty. He is writing a new opera. Fancy
writing an opera at eighty-three!
I asked what the name of it was. He answered: "'Le Rêve d'Amour.' The
title is too youthful and the composer is too old. I am making a mistake,
but what of that? It is my last!"
I said I hoped he would live many more years and write many more operas.
He shook his head, saying, "Non, non, c'est vraiment mon dernier!"
Monsieur de Lareinty said to the Empress at tea that there was an unusual
amount of musical talent among her guests--a real galaxy of stars seldom
to be found in amateurs.
The galaxy may have existed--but the stars! The Milky Way seen through the
wrong end of an opera glass was nothing to the smallness of their
The Empress caught at the idea directly, and the decree went out that
there should be a concert tomorrow evening; not mere desultory singing,
but singers and songs in regular order.
Auber said he was sorry he could not be there to applaud us. He
accompanied us when we went to our rooms, and then he had no idea how to
find his own. After having seen him handed over successively to three
different valets, we left him to his fate, hoping he would arrive at his
destination eventually. When we entered the salon for dinner Auber was
already there. If he had not brought his own servant with him, he never
would have been in time.
The troop of the Comédie Française played "La Joie fait Peur," by Musset.
The theater was brilliantly lighted; the guests, from the environs and the
_fine fleur_ of Compiègne, filled all the boxes. The gentlemen and the
officers were in the parquet. The Court and Imperial guests sat with their
Majesties in the Imperial box. It was a magnificent sight!
Madame Favart was most touching in her part, and everybody, I think, wept.
Coquelin was excellent; but I do not like him so much in his pathetic
rôles; his squeaky voice and nasal tones do not belong to the sentimental
style. After the play he gave a monologue, which was the funniest thing I
ever heard, "Les Obsèques de Madame X----." The whole house was laughing,
and most of all the Emperor. I could see his back shaking, and the
diplomatic and apoplectic Baron condescended to explode twice.
The representation lasted till half-past ten. The artists did not change
their toilettes, but came into the salon as they were dressed for the
play. They were received with great cordiality by their Majesties. The
Chamberlain gave them each a little package containing, I suppose, a
valuable souvenir from the sovereigns. A special train took them back to
Auber bid me good-by, saying, "Au revoir until Paris, if you are not too
absorbed in these grandeurs to receive a poor, insignificant bourgeois
"You can always try," I answered with a laugh. "Bon soir et bon voyage!"
What a day this has been! A storm of rain and hail raged all night, and
when I looked out of the window this morning I saw everything deluged in
water. The park looked dismal; all the paths were full of puddles; the
trees were dripping with rain, and, to judge from the dark skies and
threatening clouds, it seemed as if worse was to follow and there might be
thunder and lightning. On the programme for to-day there stood _chasse à
courre_; but of course _cela tombait dans l'eau_, as would have been its
natural end anyway in this weather. None of the ladies donned their green
costumes, as even one was so sure that the day would be passed indoors.
At _déjeuner_ I was fortunate enough to sit between Prince Metternich
and the Marquis de Gallifet. Certainly I could not have two more
delightful companions, each so different and yet so entertaining. The
Marquis was very aggressive and grumpy; but very amusing.
In French one says, "On a le vin triste," or "On a le vin gai." The
Marquis has "le déjeuner grincheux (grumpy)," I think.
He began by attacking me on the English language. He said it was utterly
absurd and illogical, and though he ought to know it, as he had an English
wife, he felt he never could learn it.
"Apropos of to-day's weather, you say, 'It never rains but it pours'--au
fond qu'est-ce que cela veut dire? 'Il ne pleut jamais, mais il pleut à
verse'; cela n'a pas le sens commun--you might as well say, 'It never
pours but it rains.'"
I had to confess that it did sound senseless, and tried to explain the
meaning; but he grumbled, "Why don't they say what they mean?" He told me
he was once traveling in England and put his head out of the carriage
window to see something, and some one inside cried, "Look out!" He put his
head still farther out, when the person continued to scream, "Look out!"
He answered, "I am looking out," at which a rude hand seized him by the
coat-collar and jerked him inside, saying, "Damn it, look in then!"
"How can any one conquer a language as stupid as that?"
I told him I felt humiliated to own such a language, and I ought to
apologize for it, though I had not invented it and did not feel
responsible for it; but he would not listen to me.
Prince Metternich asked, "What shall we do indoors this awful day?"
I proposed tableaux; but he objected to tableaux.
Then I suggested that one might have a fancy-dress tea-party. At last,
after many wild propositions, he said, "Why not charades?"
Of course he had intended charades all the time. He asked the Marquis de
Gallifet if he would help us.
"No, I won't," answered the Marquis, "but you are welcome to my wife; she
loves dressing-up and all that nonsense;" adding, "It is the only thing
she can do with success."
"But we want her to act. Can she?"
"Act!" said the amiable husband. "She can act like the devil!"
By the time we had returned to the salon the Prince had not only found a
good word for a charade, but had decided in his resourceful mind all minor
details. He thought it would amuse the Prince Imperial to join us, and he
asked permission of the Prince's _gouverneur_ to allow him to do so. The
permission was readily given.
Prince Metternich begged Vicomte Walsh to obtain the Empress's gracious
consent to honor the performance with her presence. She was very pleased
at the idea of seeing her son's _début_ as an actor, and promised to come,
and even said she would have the tea, usually served in her salon, brought
to the little theater.
Prince Metternich gave us a sketch of what he wanted us to do, and gave us
general instructions as to our costumes, and bade us meet again in an
hour. He would see to everything else: light, heat, scenery, powder,
paint, etc., all the accessories, would be ready for us. We ladies were to
be _pierrettes_ and dancers of Louis-Quinze period; the gentlemen were to
represent the _talons rouges_, and to have red cloth pasted on the heels
of their low shoes. We could paint our faces and powder our hair after our
own ideas. "But, ladies, above all, do not be late," were the parting
words of the Prince.
We followed his instructions as well as we could, and reappeared in the
theater to hear the now fully matured plans of our impresario.
The Empress was seated before we were ready, Prince Metternich was so long
painting the Prince Imperial. We could hear her saying, "Allons! Allons!"
clapping her hands in her eagerness for us to commence.
The word was PANTALON.
The first syllable, PAN, was represented by the Prince Imperial as a
statue of Pan.
His body was visible to the waist above a pedestal. Over his flesh-colored
undershirt he wore a wreath of green leaves across his shoulders, and his
head was also covered with a wreath. He held the traditional flute before
his mouth. No one could have recognized the delicate features of the
Prince Imperial, as Prince Metternich had painted his lips very large and
very red, and had added a fantastic mustache. His eyebrows (black as ink)
had an upward tilt, in true Mephistophelian style.
It was a sylvan scene. Prince Metternich had ordered from the greenhouse
some orange and other trees to be moved on to the stage, which made a very
The Princess Metternich, in a quaint costume, was the Harlequine to her
husband's Harlequin. They made a very funny love scene, because, being man
and wife, they could make all their kissing real, and so ridiculously
loud, that one could hear it all over the theater. Every one laughed till
they cried, and particularly as Pan was rolling his eyes about in a very
Her other lover (Pierrot) came in unawares; but she had time to throw a
shawl over Harlequin, who put himself on all fours, thus making a bench,
on which she demurely sat down. In order to throw dust in Pierrot's eyes,
she took from her basket a hammer and some nuts and began cracking them
(to the audience's and Pan's horror) on poor Harlequin's head, eating them
with great _sang-froid_.
Prince Metternich had prudently provided a wooden bowl, with which he
covered his head so that his ambassadorial skull should be spared. Pan
smiled a diabolical smile, and had, of course, a great success.
TALON was the next syllable. This was a sort of pantomime. The actors were
grouped like a picture of Watteau. Count Pourtales was a dancing-master
and was really so witty, graceful, and took such artistic attitudes that
he was a revelation to every one. Prince Metternich (his bosom friend)
"Who would ever have thought it? How talent conceals itself!"
The whole word PANTALON was a combination of Columbines, Harlequins, and
Louis-Quinze cavaliers dancing in a circle, and all talking nonsense at
The statue of Pan in knickerbockers, his wreaths still on his head and
shoulders, joined in the dance.
The Empress led the vociferous applause, and Prince Metternich came
forward on the stage and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are deeply
flattered at your approval. There will be a second performance before his
Majesty, the Emperor of the French, and I hope you will accord us your
There was great laughter at this.
Count Pourtales took me in to dinner. We were very glad to be neighbors.
He was resting on his laurels, and I wanted to rest before getting mine
(if I got any) this evening. We exchanged views on nervousness. He said he
had been dreadfully nervous in the afternoon. I told him I was always
nervous when I had to sing, and when I sang the first song I was hot and
cold all over.
"Like Alboni," he said; "she has had to give up singing in opera, she had
We thanked each other after finishing dinner for having been kind enough
to have let the other alone.
The rain was still pouring in torrents when we returned to the salon. In
spite of the many voices, we could still hear it pattering against the
windows of the terrace. It was lucky there were some stars among us, as
Monsieur de Lareinty had said, otherwise we would have seen none to-night.
At ten o'clock the "galaxy" went into the _salle de musique_, and the
planets began to shine. First came Baroness Gourgaud, who attacked the
"Mi-bémol Polonaise," of Chopin. Their Majesties settled themselves in
their chairs with a look of heavenly resignation on their faces, which was
reflected on those of most of the guests.
However, she played beautifully, more like an artiste than an amateur. The
Empress went forward to her, holding out her hand, which the Baroness,
bowing to the ground, kissed gratefully, feeling that she had covered
herself with glory, as she really had.
Then Monsieur de V---- (our basso) sang "O Marguerite," from Faust,
without the slightest voice, but with excellent intentions. Next, having
the music under his hand, he continued and sang "Braga's Serenade," which
he thought was more suited to his voice, though it is written, as you
know, for a soprano. He sang the girl's part in a mysterious, husky, and
sepulchral voice, and the angel's part weaker and feebler than any angel
ever dreamed of.
I looked at the beautiful ceiling painted by Girodet, and to keep myself
from going to sleep counted the legs of the angels, and tried to calculate
how many legs belonged to each. Monsieur de V---- said his idea was to
make the contrast very strong between the girl and the angel; he certainly
Monsieur Dué played some of what he calls his "Sketches." "Il est si doué
(gifted)," exclaimed Princess Metternich.
Every one was pleased; so was he.
I sang "Le Rossignol," of Alabieff, in which is the cadenza Auber wrote
for me. Princess Metternich played the accompaniment.
Madame C---- (our contralto) sang "Lascia che pianga," which suited her
beautiful voice better than it did the audience's taste. Then she sang
"Ah! Mon Fils," of "Le Prophète," with great effect, accompanying herself.
But this was not the kind of music to please our audience.
Count E---- (our tenor) was asked to add his Milky Way tenor to the rest
of the planets, but begged to be excused on the plea of a sore throat. No
one questioned this, and he was allowed to remain unheard.
Later I sang "Oh! that We Two were Maying," by Gounod, a much too serious
song; but the Empress said she thought it was the most beautiful one she
had ever heard. I think so, too. I also sang one of Massenet's, "Poème
d'Avril." They asked for "Beware!" which I sang. The Emperor came up to me
(each time he gets up from his chair every one gets up and stands until he
sits down again), and said, "Won't you sing the song about the shoe?"
What did he mean? I had no idea.
"The one you sang the other night," said the Emperor.
What do you think he meant?
Well, he meant "Shoo-fly!" I sang it, as he desired. I don't believe he
knows yet what its true meaning is. There is an end to all things, and our
concert came to an end at last. Their Majesties, with gracious smiles and
repeated thanks, retired, the Milky Way faded from view, and the planets
went to bed.
I know I deserved mine, and I appreciated it when I got it.
The _chasse à courre_ is generally fixed for the last day of the _série_;
but their Majesties, at the suggestion of the thoughtful Vicomte Walsh,
ordered it to be changed to this afternoon, in order that the operetta
should arrive at a riper stage of perfection. Would it ever be near
enough? We had never had a moment yet when we could rehearse all together.
Vicomte de V----'s costume had not come from Paris, and he was bordering
on brain-fever, in a state of expectancy and impatience. Neither he nor
d'Espeuilles knew their songs, and the chorus needed much drilling. The
Princess Metternich put her salon at the Marquis's disposal, and he spent
half his time teaching some of his pupils.
The days of the _chasse à courre_ the gentlemen appear in red coats and
the ladies in green-cloth dresses. Those that had _le bouton_ put it in
their buttonhole. You may be sure I wore mine!
All the carriages, the horses, and grooms were before the terrace at two
o'clock, and after the usual delay we drove off to the forest. Their
Majesties and the Prince Imperial were on horseback. The Duchess de Sesto
invited me to drive with her, and in the same _char-à-banc_ with us were
Baronne de la Poeze, Comtesse Pourtales, and four or five others. The
Duchess looked very dainty, wrapped in her chinchilla furs. I had had so
little time to learn the talking part of my rôle that I took it with me in
the carriage, hoping to be able to study it. They all sympathized with me,
as they knew the operetta was to be given to-morrow evening.
The roads were full of mud; but we splashed through them regardless of
such minor details as dirt Fortunately it did not rain, and the sun made a
few spasmodic efforts to come out, but it was far from being the ideal day
of last year.
This _chasse_ varies but little, and I described my first acquaintance
with it in a letter last year, so I will spare you the repetition of
details. I fancy the route we took was the same; but I am not quite sure,
for all the roads and avenues resemble one another.
Once, as we halted at an _étoile_, we saw a beautiful stag bound past
us, full of life and strength, with enormous horns (they said it was a
_dix cors_). Every one in the carriage stood up in their excitement to
look after it. How I wished he would escape and live his free and happy
life in the forest. I hate this _chasse_; I hate to write about it; I
hate to be present at it. It is all so pitiful and painful to me! How can
any one find pleasure in such cruel sport?
To kill a living creature, to take the life of an animal that has done you
no harm, seems horrible to me. But I will say no more on this subject. It
always puts me in a bad temper, and makes me disgusted with my fellow-
We followed the other part of the cavalcade and arrived at the _carrefour_
in time to see the death of one stag. The others saw it, but I was
occupied with my manuscript.
There were two stags taken, two beautiful creatures that ought to have
It was so cold and bleak I longed to get back to warm rooms, cheerful
fire, and a hot cup of tea, which I was sure to find awaiting me, and I
was heartily glad when we turned homeward.
Six o'clock had just struck when we drove up to the front of the Grand
Escalier, and I was able to get a little rest before dressing for dinner.
All the ladies who owned diamond crescents, or any crescent suggestive of
Diana and her pastimes, put them on. The Empress had a gorgeous crescent
on her lovely hair.
The worn-out Marquis took me in to dinner. It was fortunate, for there
were some vital points which we had to discuss. On my other side was the
Count de Grammont, a sportsman, who wanted to talk only of the hunt; but I
was able to turn a deaf ear to his marvelous exploits, thanks to the
Marquis's incessant explanations.
There was a little dancing, to fill up the time before the _curée_. It is
a pity that this is our last dance. The chamberlains are beginning to show
a good deal of talent in their playing _le piano méchanique_, and they can
play almost in time.
The _curée_ was at ten o'clock. The long gallery was soon alive with an
eager public. All the windows were occupied by the ladies. The courtyard
was filled, in spite of the cold weather, with the populace of Compiègne;
the _piqueurs_ waved their torches; the dogs howled and yelped; the
_gardes_ blew their long _cors de chasse_, and it was just like last year,
except that on this occasion there were two stags--therefore, two sets of
entrails to be devoured.
Tea and cakes were passed about. Those who had come from the neighboring
châteaux took their leave, those who were to return to Paris drove off to
the station, and the privileged guests retired to their apartments.
At ten o'clock this morning I was surprised at hearing a timid knock at my
salon door. Who should it be but the Marquis d'Aoust. He begged my pardon
for disturbing me; but he wished to consult me about something he
considered of great importance.
He looked disheveled and careworn, even at this early hour, as if he had
not slept all night. Would I be willing to help Count d'E---- in our duet,
and sing a part of his music? Otherwise, he was sure it would never go.
I told him it would not be easy to sing tenor; but I would see at the
rehearsal what I could do. He was in despair. I tried to tranquilize him,
my compassion triumphing over my forebodings, and assured him that all
would go well. I did not tell him that I had had a succession of
nightmares last night, where I saw myself stranded on the stage, having
forgotten both words and music.
He said that he had been on the stage at work with the carpenters since I
don't know when this morning. They had first put up the scenery as he had
ordered; but he saw that there would not be space for the eight performers
(there are two scenes where we are all on the stage at once). Accordingly,
he had ordered the carpenters to change it.
I ate my _déjeuner_ sandwiched between the tenor and the basso. We
rehearsed our dialogues, although we pretended to discuss other matters.
The Empress went directly to the Marquis after _déjeuner_ and said, "We
are looking forward to your operetta to-night with real pleasure, and
we are sure that it will be a great success." The Marquis was radiant.
When we met later in the theater for our first and only rehearsal we were
delighted to find there the grand piano from the _salle de musique_. The
curtain rose on a very pretty garden scene, with trees on either side,
green linen on the floor representing grass, a village with a church-
steeple in the background, and for stage properties a garden bench and a
vase placed just before the footlights, so that it would not interfere
with our movements, but would show us where _not_ to fall off.
The Marquis was, of course, at the piano, and Prince Metternich, as
prompter, squeezed into a prompter's box, looking wretchedly
uncomfortable. We commenced the rehearsal, which, on the whole, went off
better than we expected.
The basso is the first to appear. He sings a melancholy song, in which he
makes known his love for the humble village maiden. His voice gets more
dismal and lower as he becomes despondent, and higher and more buoyant as
his hopes rise. At the end, when he sings "Elle sera à moi," his voice,
though very husky, was almost musical. Then I, as the village maiden,
enter with a basket, suggestive of butter and eggs, and sing a sentimental
ditty telling of my love for the friend of the lord. The music of this is
mediocre beyond words. The Marquis tries to show, by a few high soprano
notes, how high my wildest flights of aspirations fly before I could ever
reach the subject of my love. "Mes tourments" and "le doux plaisir
d'aimer" get so mixed that I don't know myself what I am singing about.
The lady of the manor hears my lament, and, believing me to be in love
with her husband, berates me in a dramatic duet. The friend and adviser
now appears, and we get through an incomprehensible trio. He cannot
convince her (the lady) of the innocence of her husband. She insists upon
thinking him a traitor, leaves us in a fury, and we have the floor to
ourselves when we sing the famous duet on account of which the Marquis had
qualms this morning. In it there is a minor phrase which is quite
intricate, and I saw that unless I came to d'E----'s rescue he could never
The lord and the lady reappear, while the friend and I retire in the
background and lean up against the village steeple and whisper. The lady
is violent and the lord is indifferent. The music sounds like an
everlasting grumble, because her voice is contralto and his is bass. The
village maiden is called to the front, and denies everything she has been
accused of. The husband makes amends in a phrase miles too high for his
voice. The friend takes all the blame on his black-velvet shoulders, and
says he has loved the maiden all along. The maiden is overcome with
emotion and faints for joy.
The final quartette is a sad affair, musically speaking, constructed on
the Marquis's own ideas of thoroughbass. All the singers start on the same
plane, the soprano soars heavenward, the contralto and the bass grovel in
their deepest notes, while the tenor, who ought to fill up the gap, stands
counting the measures on his fingers, his eyes glued to the prompter,
until he joins me and we soar together.
To use a metaphor, one might say that the contralto and bass were in the
lower regions, the soprano floating in heaven, the tenor groping about on
earth for his note; then we all meet on the same place we started from,
which is the signal for the chorus to unite their forces with ours.
The Marquis was dreadfully put out with me because I refused to faint on
the stage (in the text it says _Rosette tombe évanouie_). He said nothing
was easier. I had only to put my arms out to break the fall and--fall. He
thought that with a little practice between the afternoon and the evening
I should be able to do it.
I could see myself covered with bruises tumbling about over sofas and
chairs, and I could see the bewilderment of any one coming into my room
while I was practising this part of my rôle.
I said, "I absolutely refuse to risk my neck." He thought it was very
selfish of me. One would have thought that the whole success of the
operetta depended on my fainting. He said he could show me how to fall
without hurting myself, and in trying to do so he tripped over the vase
and bumped his head against the garden bench. Fortunately he did not
damage himself, but the argument ended then and there.
At half-past four my maid came to the theater to tell me that the Empress
expected me to tea. I had thought she would, as she had promised the
answers to those questions; and so it was. As soon as I appeared (I had
had time to change my dress) the Empress called me to her and said:
"Here are the answers to your American soul-probing questions! These are
mine (giving me hers) and here are the Emperor's. He was very pleased to
write them, as it was you who asked him; besides, I think they amused him.
He spent a long time pondering over each answer. You see," she added, with
her lovely smile, "nous vous aimons bien."
I was very glad to have the answers. I copy them for you.
A quelle qualité donnez-vous la préférence? À la gratitude.
Quels sont vos auteurs favoris? Tacite.
Quelles sont vos occupations favorites? Chercher la solution de
Qui voudriez-vous être? Mon petit fils.
Quelles personnes de l'histoire détestez-vous le plus? Le Connétable
Pour quelles fautes avez-vous le plus d'indulgence? Pour celles dont
A quelle qualité donnez-vous la préférence? Au dévouement.
Quels sont vos auteurs favoris? Calderon, Byron, Shakespeare.
Quelles sont vos occupations favorites? Faire le bien.
Qui voudriez-vous être? Ce que je suis.
Quelles personnes de l'histoire détestez-vous le plus? Lopez.
Pour quelles fautes avez-vous le plus d'indulgence? Pour celles que la
I add the answers of Prosper Mérimée:
À quelle qualité donnez-vous la préférence? La persévérance.
Quels sont vos auteurs favoris? Pr. Mérimée.
Quelles sont vos occupations favorites? Faire des châteaux en Espagne.
Qui voudriez-vous être? Napoléon III.
Quelles personnes de l'histoire détestez-vous le plus? Mazarin.
Pour quelles fautes avez-vous le plus d'indulgence? La gourmandise.
I think the Emperor's are very clever.
"And the operetta?" inquired the Empress.
"I hope your Majesties will be indulgent," I replied.
Monsieur de Laferrière was next to me at dinner. He was as much interested
in the operetta as other people seemed to be. I took advantage of his
being my neighbor to ask him to manage it so that we could leave the salon
before the _cercle_ commenced, as we had to dress, and if any of us were
late I dared not think what the effect would be on the nervous Marquis.
The Emperor raised his glass during dinner, though I sat very far down the
table. I suppose he wanted to inspire me with hope and courage.
Monsieur de Laferrière arranged everything for us most amiably. We rushed
off to our rooms to dress. I, for one, was not long over my toilette, and,
followed by my maid, hurried through the long corridors to the theater.
We were all there except Monsieur de V----, who was no doubt still
pottering over his raiment. The artist he had ordered from Paris was
already there, brush in hand, ready to paint us. The result was very
satisfactory. When we looked at ourselves in the glass we wondered why one
should not be beautiful every day with so simple an art.
We were rather taken back when Monsieur d'Espeuilles appeared in a wig and
a false mustache; but he hastened to say there was nothing like being
disguised to put one at one's ease. The gentlemen of the chorus, not
willing to go to any extra expense, had _culottes courtes_ and white
stockings; the ladies had tried to be more in harmony, but they thought
that with rakes, spades, and basket they had quite enough _couleur
The chamberlain came to ask whether their Majesties should come now.
Prince Metternich answered that we were waiting for them, A tedious delay
occurred before the audience had settled into their places in accordance
with their rank, to the great annoyance of Prince Metternich, shut up in
the small prompter's box, and the Marquis d'Aoust, fidgeting at the piano,
and driving us almost to distraction by his repeated questions and
exhortations: "Do you think you know your part? Don't forget to"--etc.
At last! at last! No retreating now, _Coûte que coûte!_ we must take in
the plank and embark on our shaky craft.
The Marquis attacked the overture by playing some vigorous arpeggios and
pompous chords. The curtains were drawn aside and the lord of the manor
entered. After his monologue, which he did very well, he hesitated a
moment. This agitated the Marquis to such a degree that he stood up and
waved his hand as a signal to him to commence his song, and gave him the
note on the piano. Monsieur de V---- started in all right and sang his
song with due sentiment, and very well. I even think as far back as the
sixth row of seats they were conscious that he was singing. His acting and
gestures were faultless. All Frenchmen can act.
I thought, when I came in, the public was chilly, and I felt cold shivers
running down my back. My courage was oozing out of me, and when the lord
of the manor said to me, "Rosette, que fais-tu ici?" and I had to answer,
"Ce que je fais, Monsieur; mais vous voyez bien, je ne fais rien," I
thought I should die of fright and collapse on the spot. However, I pulled
myself together and began my silly little song.
The moment I began to sing I felt at ease, and I flatter myself I gave a
certain glaze to the emptiness of the music. Madame Conneau sang her
dramatic aria beautifully, and created quite a _furore_. I only wish the
music had been more worthy of her. The love duet between the friend and
myself was, much to my surprise, a great success. It was encored, and we
sang it again.
When we came to the minor passage (the stumbling-block) the Marquis, who
was perspiring at every pore in his dread that I should not hit the right
note, pounded it on the piano loud enough to be heard all over the
theater. I gave him a withering look, which he pretended not to see.
Perhaps he did not, for his attention, like mine, was startled by seeing
the false mustache of Monsieur d'Espeuilles ungluing and threatening to
drop into his mouth. The Marquis began wagging his head and making frantic
signs. Monsieur d'Espeuilles was horribly confused, and I feared for the
success of our _da capo;_ but he patted the now limp offender back on
his lip, and we continued the duet. During the applause the Marquis took
the occasion to wipe the perspiration from his bald head.
In spite of our qualms the final quartette was not so bad after all. When
it was time for me to come down from my upward flight in order to help the
tenor, the Marquis again waved his right hand in the air to attract my
attention, while he thundered a tremolo with his left, to keep the
accompaniment going until he was sure that everything was right. The
chorus came on in due order, and flourished their rakes and spades as
though they were waving flags, in participation of the joy and gladness of
the reconciliation. There was one moment of genuine hilarity, when the
little fox-terrier belonging to the Empress's niece rushed on to the stage
to join his mistress, who, with great _sang-froid,_ picked him up and
went on singing, to the immense amusement of the audience.
It was suffocatingly hot in the little theater, and we were glad to think
that we had arrived at the end of our perilous journey. The red on our
cheeks was getting paler; the powder was becoming paste; the black on the
eyebrowless actors began to run down their cheeks; Monsieur d'Espeuilles's
wig and mustache were all on one side.
All these details mattered little, now that the end had come, and the
performance had concluded with great _éclat_.
The happy Marquis (though I think he aged ten years that hour at the
piano) was radiant with his success. Every emotion had swept over him:
ambition, vanity, hope, pride, forbearance, patience, long-suffering.
The curtain fell amid great applause, as spontaneous as it was persistent
and, I hope, genuine.
We stayed in our costumes for the tea in the Emperor's salon.
Both their Majesties complimented the Marquis, and thanked us all
separately for the pleasure they had had and the trouble we had given
ourselves. The Emperor said to me, "Vous vous êtes surpassée ce soir." I
courtesied and asked him what he thought of the music.
He hesitated before answering. "I don't know much about music; but it
seems to me, as Rossini said of the music of Wagner: 'Il y a de jolis
moments, mais de mauvais quarts d'heures!' All the same, it was very
Every one praised the Marquis to the skies, and he was really in the
seventh heaven of delight.
I am only afraid his head will be turned, and that he will write another
I was glad when their Majesties bade us good night, for I was completely
PARIS, _December 5th_.
It seems nice, all the same, to be at home again. We arrived in Paris at
six o'clock, and at half-past seven I was in my bed, completely worn out.
However, I must tell you how our visit ended the day before yesterday. Was
it only the day before yesterday? It seems months ago. At _déjeuner_ the
Princess Metternich sat on the right of the Emperor, and the Empress's
brother-in-law, Duke d'Albe, gave me his _avant-le-déluge_ arm, and put me
on the left of his Majesty.
I thought the Emperor looked tired and ill, and I noticed he frequently
put his hand on his back, as if he was in pain. The Princess Metternich
engrossed the Emperor's attention. She is so witty and lively that every
one must listen when she talks. All the same, the Emperor talked with me a
good deal, and thanked me for having done so much to amuse them. Never
would they forget the pleasure they had had.
When we went up to our rooms to put on our cloaks there was no pretentious
majordomo demanding his fee, and our particular valet looked sad, and did
not meet my eye when I tried to catch his to give a smile of adieu, and
persistently fixed his gaze on something at the other end of the corridor.
I rather liked the old way better, as one felt that in a measure one had
made some little compensation for all the delightful days spent there.
I asked my maid how the servants felt about this change. She said that in
their _salle à manger_ almost all the maids and valets belonging to the
guests gave _pourboires_.
After we had made our adieux, and taken our seats in the different
carriages, their Majesties came out on the balcony to see us depart. They
waved their hands in farewell as we drove off.
The journey back to Paris was a silent one. Every one was occupied with
his own thoughts. Prince Metternich sat in a corner talking with the
impervious diplomat; I wondered if he were relating the salad's
complicated relationships. We all bade one another good-by, adding, with
assumed enthusiasm, that we hoped to meet soon again, when perhaps we were
rejoicing in the thought that we would not do so for a long time to come.
What insincere creatures we are!
We were invited to a picnic at Grand Trianon, given by the Emperor and
Empress for the Archduke of Austria.
The rendezvous was to be at St. Cloud, and we were asked to be there at
four o'clock. On arriving we found the Metternichs, Édouard Delesert,
Duperré, and Count Dehm, the Austrian Secretary. Their Majesties and the
Prince Imperial joined us when we were all assembled. We then mounted the
two _char-à-bancs_ which were waiting for us in front of the chateau,
with their postilions and four horses; the _piqueurs,_ in their saddles,
were all ready to precede us. The Emperor, Empress, the Prince Imperial,
Princess Metternich, and the Archduke were in the first carriage; the rest
of us were in the second--about fourteen people in all. We drove through
the lovely forest of Marly, the long, tiresome avenues of Versailles, and
through many roads known probably only to the postilions, and perhaps used
only on rare occasions such as this royal excursion, for they were in such
a bad condition, ruts and stones everywhere, that our heads and shoulders
were bumping continually against our neighbors'. Finally we reached Petit
Trianon, where we left the carriages and servants, who were ordered to
meet us at Grand Trianon later, bringing our extra wraps with them. The
air was deliciously balmy and warm, and was filled with the perfume of
lilacs and acacias.
We wandered through the park, admiring the skill of the artist who had
laid it out so cleverly, just like Petit Val. This is not surprising, as
it was the same person who planned them both. All the surroundings recall
the charming life which Marie Antoinette must have lived in the midst of
this pastoral simplicity.
I wondered if the same thought passed through the Empress's mind which
passed through mine. Could history ever repeat this unfortunate queen's
horrible fate? We continued our walk to Grand Trianon, and found the table
spread for our dinner under the wide _charmille,_ near the lake. The
Princess Metternich sat on the right of the Emperor, and I on his left.
The Emperor was in excellent spirits, and bandied repartees with Monsieur
Delesert, who surpassed himself in wit, and told many and sometimes rather
risky stories, which made every one laugh. The Prince Imperial could
hardly wait till the end of the dinner, he was so impatient to get to the
rowboat which was ready waiting for him on the lake. The Empress was quite
nervous, and stood on the edge of the lake all the time he was on the
water, calling to him, "Prends garde, Louis!" "Ne te penches pas, Louis!"
and many other such counsels like any other anxious mother, and she never
took her eyes from the little boat which was zigzagging about under the
hands of the youthful prince.
It was after nine o'clock when we started to return to St. Cloud by
another route. The _piqueur_, finding the gate locked through which we had
to pass, knocked on the door of the lodge-keeper, who, awakened from his
slumbers, appeared in a _déshabillé_ more than hasty, intending to
administer a _savon_ (scolding) to such tardy comers. But on hearing from
the _piqueur_ that the monarch of all he surveyed was waiting in the
carriage, he flew to open the gate, disclosing his scanty night-attire.
The funniest part of it was that, as soon as he realized the situation, he
thought it his duty to show his patriotism, so he stood on the steps of
his lodge and, as we passed through the gate, he chanted a hoarse and
sleepy! "Vive l'Empereur!" and waved his smoking candle.
The Emperor was convulsed with laughter. I, who sat behind him, could see
his shoulders shaking.
The ball of the _plébiscite_ was the most splendid thing I ever saw.
The architects and decorators had outdone themselves. The gardens of the
Tuileries beyond the fountain had been hedged in by orange-trees, and
other large trees moved there in their tubs. The whole _parterre_ of
flowers was festooned with lanterns and little colored lamps, making this
fairy scene as bright as day. The ballroom and adjoining salons, of which
the windows had been removed as well as the iron railing outside of them,
led on to a large platform which occupied the space of six such windows or
doors; these gave out into two colossal staircases which descended into
the garden. It was such a beautiful night, so warm that we ladies could
walk about in our ball-dresses without any extra wraps; there were about
six thousand people invited, they said. It seemed as if all Paris was
After the _quadrille d'honneur_ their Majesties circulated freely about.
Every one was eager to offer congratulations to the Emperor. Was it not
the greatest triumph of his reign to have the unanimous vote of all
France--this overwhelming proof of his popularity? As he stood there
smiling, with a gracious acknowledgment of the many compliments, he looked
radiantly happy to thus receive the homage of his country. As the Emperor
passed near me I added my congratulations, to which he replied, "Merci, je
suis bien heureux."
Their Majesties stood on the dais with the members of the Imperial family,
and after watching the dance they all went in to the _Pavillon de Flore_,
where supper was served for the notabilities.
For the others there was arranged a supper in the theater; an orchestra on
the stage played all the time; the balconies were festooned with flowers
and filled with guests; there were supper-tables in the parquet and in the
largest _loges_, and plants and shrubs placed in every available spot.
LONDON, _June, 1870._
DEAR M.,--What will you think of your dissipated daughter? Do you not
think that she is insatiable? I am sure that you will say that I ought to
be contented after the long season of gaiety and excitement in Paris, and
settle down in lovely Petit Val, where the lilacs and the violets call one
with scented voices.
However, we decided to go to London.
Did I write to you of our breakfast at Armenonville? After Lord Lyons's
ball, which lasted until six o'clock in the morning, Prince Metternich and
several others thought that it would be a good idea to go home, change our
ball-dresses for morning-dress, and go out to the Bois for our morning
coffee. We did it.
I confess that it was a crazy thing to do after dancing all night; but the
beautiful May morning, the glorious sunshine, and our spirits inspired us
to carry out this wild whim, much to the disgust of our sleepy coachmen.
This excursion was not a success; we were all tired and longed for bed.
One cannot be amusing or _en train_ at seven o'clock in the morning.
And as for the family, when we returned home all the comment they made
was, "What fools!" They did not see any fun in it; neither did we, to tell
The Rothschilds, Lord Lyons, and Prince and Princess Metternich gave us
what must have been very powerful letters, for we had hardly been in
London more than a few days before we knew every one worth knowing, and
all doors worth opening were opened to us, and I found myself what one
We took rooms in Park Street; that is, we had the two stories of the
house. The landlady lived downstairs, and gave us our meals when we were
at home. As soon as we got settled we left our cards and letters of
Invitation followed invitation in the most bewildering manner, sometimes
several for the same day.
I could not begin to tell you all that we have already done. Writing
letters seems to be the one thing which I have no time for. It is a
perpetual push and rush from morning till night.
Our first dinner was at Baron and Baroness Rothschilds', where the Prince
and Princess of Wales and a great many distinguished people were invited.
I sat next to a Mr. Osbourne--everybody called him Dick. He told me that
he was the most dined-out and tired-out man in London, and that he had not
eaten at home for six months.
I had not seen their Royal Highnesses since their visit to Paris during
the Exposition. They said that they remembered me; but I cannot think it
possible that they can have such wonderful memories.
I never saw such a splendid collection of orchids as there was on the
table, and each lady had a bouquet of orchids and roses by her plate.
I was asked to sing, and was delighted to do it. The Rothschilds' ballroom
was a glorious place in which to make a debut.
Michael Costa, the well-known musician, came after dinner and accompanied
me in the "Cavatina" from "Rigoletto," and the waltz from the "Pardon de
Lady Sherbourne, a charming lady whom I fell in love with at first sight,
sang also. She has a beautiful, rich contralto voice, and sang with a
great deal of expression an English song called, "Out on the rocks when
the tide is low."
In your last letter you wrote, "I am afraid that you are on the way to
become conceited." I am afraid myself I am, still I cannot resist telling
you, this once, that my audience was very enthusiastic and Mr. Costa said
--well, I won't tell you what he said; it might sound conceited. The last
thing I sang was "Beware!" which was immensely appreciated.
The Prince of Wales said: "That is a bewitching song. I never heard it
before. Who composed it?"
I told him that it was written for me by my husband, and Longfellow had
written the words.
The Princess, before leaving, said, "I cannot tell you how much pleasure
you have given us this evening; we hope to see you often while you are in
London." She is very beautiful, even handsomer than when I saw her last.
Baroness Rothschild kissed me, and thanked me for having sung for her.
Call me vain and conceited if you will, my head is turned, and there is
nothing more to be said about it!
A luncheon at "Caroline, Duchess of Montrose's," at two o'clock upset me
for the whole day. I am not accustomed to those big _déjeuners-
dinatoires_. I was sleepy and felt good for nothing the rest of the day;
and when we dined at Lady Molesworth's that evening, "to meet their
Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales," and wanted to be extra
up-to-the-mark, I felt just the contrary. However, after dinner the Prince
of Wales asked me to sing, and I did not refuse, and even sang most of the
evening. There was a charming Baron Hochschild, the Swedish Minister, who
sang delightfully. He is a thorough musician, and accompanied himself
perfectly with all the aplomb of an artist. He has a deep, rich barytone,
and his _répertoire_ consisted of all the well-known old Italian songs.
Lady Molesworth is a beautiful old lady, who must have been a great beauty
in her youth. She wears curls just like yours, dear mama, which made me
love her. I met here Arthur Sullivan; he was full of compliments.
The next day we were invited to a _matinée musicale_ at Lady Dudley's,
preceded by a luncheon, which Mr. Osbourne called "a snare," because, he
said, I could not refuse to sing. I did not want to refuse, either. The
piano was in the beautiful picture-gallery, all full of Greuze's pictures
bought from the Vatican; it has the most wonderful acoustics, and the
voice sounded splendidly in it. Lady Dudley is a celebrated beauty. Lord
Dudley--before he succeeded to the title--was Lord Ward. The Duke and
Duchess of Sutherland asked us to dine. This was a very imposing affair;
the Duke of Cambridge was at the dinner as the _grosse pièce_, and there
were many diplomats. After dinner several artists came from Covent Garden,
and among them Madame Patti, who sang the "Cavatina" of "Lucia," with
flute accompaniment, and how beautifully!
When I was introduced to her I said, "The first time I heard you sing was
years ago when I was a little girl and you were in short dresses."
"In Rochester," I replied. "I shall never forget how exquisitely you sang
'Ah! non giunge' and 'Ernani.'"
"Yes, I remember quite well. I was singing in concerts with Ole Bull; but
that was a long time ago."
"It was indeed," I said; "but I have never forgotten your voice, nor a
lovely song you sang which I have never heard since, called 'Happy
Birdling of the Forest.' And your trill! Just like the bird itself!"
We became quite good friends, and she made me promise to come to see her.
She is charming. Every one was most enthusiastic. Some one said she gets a
thousand pounds for an evening. The Marquis de Caux (her husband) looked
rather out of place. It seemed queer to see him again, not as the
brilliant Marquis of the Tuileries (the "beau" _par excellence_), but
simply as the husband of Patti. He did not find a chance to speak to me.
Some days later Lady Anglesey gave a luncheon for me. On the invitations
were, "To meet Mrs. Moulton." I read between the lines: to hear Mrs.
Moulton sing. They always put on their invitations, "To meet" so and so.
Mr. Quimby said to me, "I liked you from the first moment I saw you, but I
had no idea you were going to be such a beast." "Beast!" I echoed. "That
is not very complimentary." "A lion is a beast, isn't it?" he jokingly
"Am I going to be a lion? I did not know it."
"Well, you are a lioness, which is better."
He is considered the wit of London, and this is a specimen of his wit.
What do you think?
At the luncheon there were Jacques Blumenthal, the famous pianist and
composer, and Arthur Sullivan, who asked me to sing in his little
operetta, which some amateurs are rehearsing for a _soirée_ at Lady
Harrington's; and on my acceptance he brought the music for me to try over
with him the next morning. The _soirée_ was to be three days later. The
music is nothing remarkable; in fact, the whole thing (it is called "The
Prodigal Son") is not worthy of him. I have not met any of my fellow-
performers yet. Forgive this jerky letter; I have been interrupted a
thousand times. Charles thinks it is time to go back to Paris; but we have
just received an invitation from Baron Alfred Rothschild to spend Ascot
week--a _séjour de sept jours_--with a party at a house he has hired
for the race-week there, and I could not resist.
ASCOT, LONDON, _June, 1870._
DEAR M.,--Viscount Sydney thought that we ought to ask for an audience of
the Princess of Wales, and we did it. The audience was accorded, and we
presented ourselves at the appointed hour and were received by the lady of
honor and shown into the beautifully arranged drawing-room. The Princess
was most gracious; she certainly is the loveliest lady I have ever seen. I
told her we were going to Ascot for the week, and she said that they were
also going there and hoped they would see us. Our interview came to an
end, as such interviews do, without anything very interesting happening,
and, finally, we backed ourselves out of the royal presence.
That evening there was a ball at Lady Waldegrave's, who lives at
Strawberry Hill, a mile or so out of London. Baron Alfred Rothschild
offered to take us out there in his coach and-four. We dined first with
the Baron Meyer Rothschild, and afterward drove out to Strawberry Hill. It
is the most beautiful place you can imagine. I never saw anything so grand
as the cedar-trees.
The cotillon lasted very late; the Duke of Saxe-Weimar talked a long time
with me, mostly about music. He is very musical, and knows Liszt
intimately, and told me a quantity of anecdotes about him. He was
interested in what I told him about Liszt's going to the Conservatoire
with Auber and me, and about the "Tannhäuser" overture incident. It was
six o'clock when we drove back to London. We saw the milk-carts on their
morning rounds and the street-sweepers at work. One felt ashamed of
oneself at being in ball-dress and jewels at this early hour, galloping
through the streets in a fine carriage, making such a dreadful contrast to
the poor working-people.
I had great fun at Lady Harrington's musical _soirée_, where Arthur
Sullivan's "Prodigal Son" was to be sung.
We had been dining at Lady Londonderry's, and arrived rather late at Lady
Harrington's. The whole staircase was crowded with people, and even down
in the hall it was so full of ladies and gentlemen that there was no
question of moving about. However, I made my way as far as the stairs,
every one wondering at my audacity, and I murmured gently:
"May I pass?" There was a chorus of "Quite impossible!" "Perfectly
useless!" and other such discouraging remarks. I said to a gentleman who
sat stolidly on his step:
"Do you think I could send word to Mr. Sullivan that the Prodigal Son's
mother cannot get to him?"
"What do you mean?" said he. "Are you--"
"Yes, I am; and if you don't let me pass you won't have any music."
You should have seen them jump up and make a pathway for me. I marched
through it like the children of Israel through the Red Sea. I was
enchanted to have my little fun. I joined the other performers, and the
mother of the Prodigal Son was received with open arms. The Prodigal Son's
father was pathos itself, and we rejoiced together over our weak tenor-
boy. The only fatted calves that were to be seen belonged to the fat
We had a beautiful time at Ascot. Alfred Rothschild was an excellent host.
Among the other guests were the Archibald Campbells, the Hochschilds, Mr.
Osbourne, the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle, Hon. and Mrs. Stoner, one of
the ladies of the Queen, Mr. Mitford, and others. Lady Campbell had only
one dress with her (they must be very poor!); it was a black velvet
(fancy, in the middle of summer!). She wore it high-necked for the races
in the daytime and low-necked in the evening. We drove to Ascot every day
at one o'clock. We had seats in the Queen's stand, and after seeing one
race we went to lunch with Mr. Delane, who had open table for one hundred
people every day. Mr. Delane belongs to the _Times_ newspaper.
Baron Rothschild had _carte-blanche_ to bring any guest, or as many as he
liked. The Prince of Wales always lunched there, and any one that was of
importance was sure to be present. I made many new acquaintances, and you
may imagine how I enjoyed this glimpse of a world so entirely unknown to
me. The races at Longchamps, Auteuil, and Chantilly I had seen many times;
but I never saw anything like this exciting and bewildering scene.
The Prince of Wales gave a ball at Cooper's Hill (the house they had hired
for the Ascot week), which was very charming and _sans façon_. I danced
the cotillon with Baron Rothschild and a waltz with the Prince of Wales.
The supper, which we had in the palm-garden, was an elaborate affair. We
drove home in the early morning, just as the day was breaking.
The next day we lunched first at the barracks, and then afterward went to
Virginia Water, where the Princess of Wales had arranged a picnic. There
was boating on the pretty lake and tents on the lawn; tea was served
during the afternoon, and a military band played the whole time. The great
attraction was the echo. We all had to try our voices, and the gentlemen
made bets as to how many times the echo would be heard. Some loud,
piercing voices were repeated as many as eight times.
Here we bid our kind host good-by and took the train for Twickenham. We
passed the night with Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman at their villa. The next day we
were invited to a croquet-party and dinner by the Count and Countess de
We arrived at Twickenham Court at four o'clock, and began playing our game
directly. Mrs. Hoffman had been praising me to the Countess de Paris to
such a degree that she was fired with ambition to play against a
"champion" of the first water, When we appeared on the ground I noticed
that the Countess had a small ivory mallet. "This," I said to myself, "is
a foregone conclusion; any one who plays with a fancy mallet, and that of
ivory, is sure to be beaten." And in my conceit I thought I need not give
myself much trouble about the game. Alas! I never appreciated the saying
that "pride has a fall" until that day. At first I played with utter
indifference, I was so sure of winning, and even when the Countess de
Paris walked triumphantly over the ground, carrying everything before her,
I smiled inwardly, saying to myself, "Just wait." But though I played my
very best I never scored a game, and I could not even make a decent
stroke. I felt so discouraged, and I was beaten all to pieces. The dinner
was solemn and impressive, the whole Orléans family being present.
The Prince de Joinville, the Duke de Chartres, and the Count de Paris,
with their wives; in all, about twenty at table. I was disgusted with
myself, provoked at my silly self-assurance, and mortified that I had been
beaten _à plate couture_, which in English means that all my seams had
been turned down and ironed, and all my feathers were drooping.
We were (at least I was) glad to escape at ten o'clock. I don't think I
ever was so tired. The week at Ascot, the picnic at Virginia Water, the
balls, and the late sitting-up at night, all told on my nerves, and
instead of resting at the Hoffmans', I passed a miserable and restless
The following day we returned to London in time to drive out, at one
o'clock, with the Lionel Rothschilds to their country-place. It is the
most magnificent estate; the cedar-trees are particularly beautiful, and
the broad lawn, which stretches out in front of the house, is the finest I
have ever seen. Baron Rothschild himself drove the coach and four horses,
and we spun along the fine road, passing Richmond and all the pretty
villas and gardens, which were full of roses. It was my birthday, and I
had many splendid presents. From Baroness Rothschild I received a superb
traveling-bag, all the fittings of silver gilt, with my initials. Baron
Alfred Rothschild gave me a smelling-bottle, with the colors of his
racing-stables in enamel. We had a delightful luncheon, and got back to
London in time for dinner at Lady Sherbourne's. On hearing it was my
birthday, she took a diamond-ring from her finger and gave it to me.
More balls, more dinners, luncheons, and garden-parties followed one
We intend to leave London after the ball at Marlborough House. I must go
home, as I have nothing more to wear. We had accepted an invitation to the
garden-party given by the Princess of Wales at Chiswick (their charming
country-place). All the beauty and elegance of London graced the occasion.
The Princess looked exquisite in her dainty summer toilette, and had a
pleasant smile for every one. The Prince circulated among the guests,
speaking to every one in his usual genial manner. The three little
Princesses looked like three fluffy pink pin-cushions covered with white
muslin. On the extensive lawn, which was like a green-velvet carpet, the
ladies strolled about in their pretty, fresh dresses, sometimes sitting at
the little tables which were shaded by large Japanese umbrellas placed
between the terrace and the walk. It was a garden of living flowers.
The Prince of Wales, in his peculiarly abrupt manner, said to me, "What
have you been doing since Ascot?"
"I have been doing a great deal, sir: dining and dancing and enjoying
"I am glad to know that. Been singing?"
"Not much, sir. We dined at Twickenham Court, where I played a disastrous
game of croquet," I answered.
"Do they play croquet at Twickenham Court?"
"Indeed they do, sir. The Countess de Paris plays a very good game."
"What day did you dine there?"
"On the 17th, your Highness," I replied.
"Are you sure it was the 17th you dined there?"
"Yes, I am quite sure. I know it, because it was the day before my
"Was it a large dinner?"
"It was rather large. The whole Orléans family was there, and some
"Did you know that they had had a _conseil de famille_ that day?"
"No," I answered; "I heard nothing of it."
The Prince continued: "The whole family signed a petition to the Emperor
Napoleon to be allowed to return to France and serve in the army. Can you
imagine why they want to go back to France when they can live quietly here
and be out of politics?" the Prince said.
"Do you think, sir, that the Emperor will refuse?"
"One never knows," said the Prince. "Qui vivra verra."
The Marlborough ball was very magnificent. The Princess of Wales looked
exquisite. She is very lovely, and has gracious, sweet manners. I don't
wonder that her people adore her; and I think the Prince is just as good
as he can be.
On our return from London I remained quietly at delightful Petit Val.
On the 10th of July we received an invitation to a dinner at St. Cloud,
but unfortunately we had promised Baroness Rothschild to spend some days
at Ferrières, and when the invitation came we were obliged to send a
telegram to St. Cloud expressing our regrets. There is such a talk of war,
and so many rumors afloat, that every one is more than excited. Alphonse
Rothschild says that, if there should be a war, it will be a tremendous
one, and that Germany is better prepared than France. "But," said he, "you
ought to know about that, as your brother-in-law Hatzfeldt is in the
secrets of his country."
"That's just it," I answered; "because he is in the secrets of his country
he is the last person to learn anything from, and we (the family) would be
the last to know. But do you think that, if war were really imminent, the
Emperor would think of giving a dinner?" I asked.
"That might be. We don't yet know what the result of Benedetti's interview
with the King of Prussia at Ems will be," the Baron answered.
We stayed at Ferrières until the 14th, and returned to Petit Val, where we
received another invitation to St. Cloud for the 17th, which we accepted.
On the 15th we went to Chamarande, returning to Paris on the following
afternoon. The Duke de Persigny was not at Chamarande, otherwise we should
have been a little more _au courant_ of how desperate things looked in
Paris. The Duchess had a word from the Duke the night before, "and he
seemed," she said, "very despondent." But I remarked, as I did before,
"Things could not be so threatening if they were giving a dinner." "Je n'y
comprends rien," she replied, which was her invariable answer to any doubt
expressed, or when one wanted a direct response.
We got back to town at half-past five, and I soon began dressing for the
dinner. We drove out to St. Cloud, and arrived at the door of the château
just before seven o'clock. What was our astonishment at not seeing any of
the numerous servants who generally were waiting in the vestibule. There
was only one man to be seen.
I began taking off my mantle, still wondering, when Monsieur de Laferrière
came quickly out from one of the salons and said excitedly, "Did you not
receive my letter countermanding the dinner?"
"Countermanding the dinner! What? Then there is no dinner?"
"No," he rejoined; "it has been countermanded."
As our carriage could not yet have got very far off, nothing was easier
than to call it back and return to Paris. And I put on my wrap to depart,
and stood there waiting for the coupé. Then Monsieur de Laferrière came
out again and said, "Her Majesty says that, now that you are here, you had
"But," I protested, "it is much better for us to go back."
He looked puzzled and said, "But the Empress desires it; you cannot well
refuse, can you?"
"We will do as you advise."
"Then I advise you to stay," he answered.
And stay we did, and I never regretted anything so much in my life.
When we went into the drawing-room their Majesties were already there. The
Empress came toward me and said kindly, "How do you do?" The Emperor held
out his hand, but did not say a word. He looked so ill and tired. Never
had I seen him look like that! The Prince Imperial seemed preoccupied and
Dinner was announced; the Emperor gave his arm to the Empress, and the
Prince gave me his. There was no one beside ourselves and the Household,
perhaps twenty in all, and dinner was served in the small dining-room
looking toward Paris. On the other side of me was Count d'Arjuson, aide-
de-camp to the Emperor.
You may imagine that I wished myself a hundred miles away. The Emperor
never uttered a word; the Empress sat with her eyes fixed on the Emperor,
and did not speak to a single person. No one spoke. The Emperor would
receive telegram upon telegram; the gentleman sitting next to him opened
the telegrams and put them before his Majesty. Every now and again the
Emperor would look across the table to the Empress with such a distressed
look it made me think that something terrible was happening, which was
true. I could not learn much from my surroundings, as dead silence
reigned. The dinner was very simple. How different from the gorgeous
repasts of Compiègne, and how sad every one looked! I was glad when the
signal for leaving the table was given and we re-entered the drawing-room.
The Emperor was immediately surrounded by his gentlemen. The Empress moved
a little way off, but without taking her eyes from her husband. The Prince
Imperial stood by his father, watching him. Then the Empress advanced
toward his Majesty and took his arm to leave the room. Just as she neared
the door she looked at me, turned back, and coming up to where I was
standing held out her hand and said, "Bonsoir." The Emperor stood a moment
irresolutely, then, bowing his head, left the room with the Empress on his
arm, the Prince following.
We bade the _dames d'honneur_ good night and fled, found the coupé before
the entrance, and weren't we glad to get in it and drive away? I never in
my life felt what it was to be _de trop_ and even _deux de trop_. We
reached the Rue de Courcelles at nine o'clock. It was too early to go to
bed, and so I am sitting in my dressing-gown, while Charles has gone to
his club to learn the latest news.
This morning war was declared for sure, and they say that the Emperor is
leaving soon with the Prince. Every one is very confident of the success
of the French Army, and people go about in the streets singing "À Berlin"
to the tune of "Les lampions."
PETIT VAL, _28th July_.
The Emperor, with the Prince, left this morning for Metz, to take the
command of the army. He did not come into Paris, but in order to avoid
demonstrations, noise, etc., had a platform put up on the other side of
the station at St. Cloud, where the Empress and her ladies could say their
adieux without the crowd looking on. The last words the Empress said to
her son were, "Louis, fais ton devoir." She is made the Regent during the
absence of the Emperor.
It looks now as if there might be war all over France. As it is, the
Prussians are near Paris, and the French are trying to regain the ground
they have lost. The news we get is very contradictory. According to the
French official reports the French Army has been successful all the time.
The English papers probably give the untarnished truth, unfavorable as it
may be to France. Some people say that at the worst there is only a
question of unimportant skirmishes.
We are well out of Paris and safely in Dinard, where Mr. Moulton is
building a new house (we have already two). We left Petit Val rather
precipitately, leaving everything behind us, clothes in wardrobes and
letters in commodes. We shall not be away more than a month.
I can only say that we lead the most peaceful of lives during this time of
war. I will not tell you any news, because it won't be news when you read
it. We are and have been all the time fed on false reports, great placards
pasted up everywhere telling of the French victories, but from our English
papers we know the contrary. It is pitiful to see the poor, half-clad
peasants being drilled on the beach with sticks in their hands instead of
guns. It is the French idea of keeping up the spirits of the army.
I sang in the cathedral last Sunday, and the _quête_ (the money taken),
they said, was a large sum. I doubt it! I know what the _quêtes_ are here.
Anything that can rattle in the bag is good. Buttons are particularly
popular, as no one can see what you put in, and it does not matter.
There was a tremendous storm last night, and many of the slates of the new
villa were blown off. The servants who sleep there thought that the
Germans had come at last, and were frightened out of the few wits they
Madame Gignoux, our neighbor at Petit Val, who is living in her other
château in Brittany, sent a letter to me which I should send to Helen in
Berlin, to be sent to Paul, who is in Versailles, to be sent to Mr.
Washburn, in Paris, who is to give it to Henry at Petit Val. Rather
roundabout way! I can't tell you how much of that sort of thing I am
constantly doing for people who are afraid of doing anything for
themselves; they think every one is a spy or a traitor.
PARIS, _March 14, 1871._
DEAR MAMA,--You will be surprised to see that I am in Paris; but you will
understand why when I tell you that I received a letter from Mrs. Moulton
to this effect: "If you wish to go to Petit Val to look after the things
you left there when you went to Dinard last August, you had better come to
Paris without delay, as the trains are running regularly now." The trains
may have been running regularly (I left Dinard the next day), but they
were certainly not running on time, for we missed all connections, and
only arrived at Rennes after seven o'clock, too late to catch the evening
train for Paris. The fine omnibus at the station made me imagine that it
belonged to an equally fine hotel, but the hotel proved to be anything but
fine. It was dreadfully dirty and shabby, and filled to overflowing. It
was with the greatest difficulty I was able to secure a room for myself.
My grumbling maid had to content herself with the sofa. The _salle à
manger_ was thronged with officers clanking their swords on the brick
floor and all talking at once. I passed a sleepless night, being kept
awake by the loud and incessant conversations in the corridor and the
continual tramping of soldiers under my window. We started for Paris the
next morning at eight o'clock. The train was crowded with people who, like
myself, were eager to return home after so many months of anxious waiting.
In all the stations through which we passed one saw nothing but soldiers,
their ragged uniforms hanging on their emaciated forms; their feet--which
had been frozen in January (poor things!)--were still bandaged, and hardly
any of them possessed shoes. They did look, indeed, the picture of abject
dejection and misery.
At Le Mans, the place where we stopped for luncheon, the soldiers were
lying about on the brick pavement of the station, too tired and worn out
to move, and presenting the saddest sight it has ever fallen to my lot to
witness. They were waiting for the cattle vans to take them away. In these
they would be obliged to stand until they reached Paris and its hospitals.
Every one of the travelers was anxious to alleviate their misery in some
way, by offering them cigars, food, and money. My heart bled for the poor
creatures, and I gave them all I had in my purse, and my luncheon also.
They represented the debris of Faidherbe's army, which of all the troops
had seen the most desperate fighting during the war. All the trains we
passed were packed tight with soldiers, herded together like cattle,
patient misery painted on their pale, tired faces.
Hungry and penniless I arrived at last in Paris, where I was delighted to
see a healthy, normal-looking person in the shape of my brother-in-law,
Henry, who met me at the station. He had plenty to tell me of his
experiences since last September. He had been living at Petit Val
throughout the whole campaign, and was still there looking after our
interests, _faisant la navette_ between Petit Val, Paris, and Versailles
at his will. He had free passes for all these places. On my arrival at the
Rue de Courcelles I found the family well, Mrs. Moulton knitting as usual,
Mademoiselle Wissembourg napping, and Mr. Moulton reading the _Journal des
Débats_ out loud in his peculiar French.
I thought of the "Brook," by Tennyson: "Men may come and men may go, but I
go on for ever." The family had not eaten cats and dogs during the siege
as, according to the newspapers, other people had done.
Mr. Moulton having been in Paris at the time of the Revolution of 1848,
and knowing about revolutions, had had the forethought to lay in a stock
of provisions, such as ham, biscuit, rice, etc., and all sorts of canned
things, which he deemed would be sufficient for all their requirements.
They had even given dinner-parties limited to a very choice few, who
sometimes brought welcome additions in the shape of other canned
When the family moved from Petit Val to Paris last September, the French
Government had given them permission to keep one or two cows. They also
brought a calf, a sheep, and some chickens with them. The cows and the
sheep shared the stables with the horses, while the chickens were let
loose in the conservatory, and were expected to lay enough eggs to pay for
their board. The gardener had cleverly converted the conservatory into a
sort of kitchen garden, and had planted some useful vegetables, such as
radishes, carrots, salad, etc., so you see the family took good care that
it should have enough to eat, and mice and rats only appeared on the table
after the repasts.
PARIS, _March 16, 1871._
DEAR MAMA,--This has been a very fatiguing day for me, so you will only
receive a short letter.
Paul [Footnote: Count Hatzfeldt, my brother-in-law.] invited Mrs. Moulton
and me to come to Versailles, and offered us a cup of tea as an
inducement. You know Paul is Count Bismarck's private secretary, having
been with him and the German sovereign during the entire war. He is still
at Versailles, but expects to leave for Berlin one of these first days. He
came to fetch us at the station with the fat ponies and the basket-wagon
(the ponies had escaped the fate of other fat ponies, and they had not
furnished steaks for famished Parisians, but continued to trot
complacently about, as of old). Fortunately they were not too fat to carry
us through the park at a lively pace, and land us at Paul's palatial
residence. It seemed strange to see German officers, in their tight-
fitting uniforms, strolling leisurely about in the park, where before I
had only seen the rather slovenly _pious-pious_ on holidays, when the
fountains played by day and the fireworks by night.
The park looked enchanting in its spring toilette, and made me think of
the last time I was here. Could it have been only last May? It seems years
Paul had invited some of his German officer friends to take tea with us.
Paul had been with the King of Prussia and Jules Favre and Bismarck at
Ferrières, where they had met, he said, "with no other result than to see
Jules Favre weep."
Paul had been at Versailles when the King was proclaimed Emperor in the
_salle de glaces_--the greatest emotion he had ever experienced, he said.
He had also been witness of the signing of the armistice. The pen with
which it was signed had been given him as a souvenir, and it was lying on
Paul thought the Emperor Napoleon more to be pitied than blamed. He had
gone into this war without really knowing the true state of things. He was
made to believe that there were four hundred thousand men ready to take
the field, when in reality there were only half that number, and those
certainly not fit to be pitted against the Germans, who had been provided
with better and newer maps than the French, and knew France and its army
more thoroughly than the French themselves. We could have talked on this
subject for hours had not the fat ponies come to take us to the station,
where we bade farewell to Paul and the officers, and returned to Paris for
the modest repast which we dignified by the name of dinner.
DEAR MAMA,--Such a funny thing happened to-day.
I don't know whether I told you of some Americans, called the O----s, I
met in Dinard fresh from America (_via_ Southampton). When I bade them
good-by, I said, in an offhand way, "When you come to Paris you must come
and see me."
"Oh! that will be nice," gushingly replied Mrs. O----. "Where do you live?"
(Every one of the O----s' phrases commenced with "Oh!")
"I live in the Rue de Courcelles," I answered.
"Oh! Roue de Carrousel," she repeated. "What number?"
"Rue de Courcelles," I replied, correctingly; "twenty-seven."
Mrs. O----'s next question was, "Oh! have you a flat?"
"A flat!! No," I said, "we have a hotel. Every one knows our hotel in the
Rue de Courcelles."
I then proceeded to forget the O----s and everything concerning them. This
morning, when we were at luncheon, the _concierge_ came rushing in, the
tassels on his _calotte_ bristling with agitation.
"Madame," he gasped, "there is a fiacre full of people with a lot of
trunks asking to come in to Madame. I can't understand what they want."
His emotion choked him.
We all said in unison: "Ask for their cards. Who can they be?"
The _concierge_ came back with Mr. O----'s card.
I recollected my impulsive invitation and thought it very polite of them
to be so _empressés_. I went into the salon, followed by Mademoiselle
W----, where we found Mr. O---- seated at his ease in a _fauteuil_, his
feet reposing on the white-bear rug.
I apologized for having kept him waiting, but explained that we had been
He (complacently), "Oh, that's all right; we have just arrived in Paris
and we came straight to you."
I felt overwhelmed at such a keen appreciation of my politeness.
"How is Mrs. O----?" I said.
He answered with the inevitable "Oh!" "Oh! she's all right. She's outside
in the cab."
"Indeed!" I said, and wondered why she had not sent her card in with his,
though I supposed she was waiting to be asked to come in, if he found me
"We thought before trying anywhere else we would see if you could take us
This staggered me considerably. I tried to take _him_ "in" as he stood
before me with traveling cap and umbrella.
"Are you full?" he went on. Mademoiselle and I wondered if we showed signs
of a too copious luncheon.
"Why, what a nice place you have here!" looking about. "Well," he
continued, nothing daunted, "you see, we only want one bedroom, for us,
with a room next for baby, and one not too far off for Arthur."
What was he driving at? Mademoiselle W---- thought he was either a spy or
a burglar who had come to take a survey of the hotel. Her bracelets and
bunch of keys rattled ominously as the thought of burglars entered her
He, familiarly settling himself down for a chat, "Do you think you could
pick up a maid for Mrs. O----?"
Mademoiselle and I exchanged a glance of intelligent indulgence and
thought: All our friends wanted, probably, was a few addresses before
settling themselves in Paris. How stupid of us not to have thought of this
sooner! I hastened to promise all sorts of names and addresses of
tradespeople, thinking he would take his departure.
Not he! On the contrary, he tucked his umbrella more firmly under his arm,
and turned to Mademoiselle W----: "Have you got a register?" taking her,
no doubt, for _la dame du comptoir_.
Mademoiselle draped herself in her most Rachel-like attitude and glanced
knowingly at the hot-air flue which she had been told was a register.
"We have," she answered curtly, wondering if this extraordinary creature
could be suffering from cold on this warm spring day.
"I had better write my name down!" This was too much! Mademoiselle thought
now that he was not only a burglar, but a lunatic.
"I think," I said, "I can give you the address of a very nice maid,"
trying to lead him back into the paths we had trodden before.
"Oh! that'll be all right. You have perhaps a maid in the house?"
"Certainly we have," answered Mademoiselle with asperity, giving her
velvet bow an agitated pat.
"Money is no object," continued he; "I'm always willing to pay what one
asks." Mademoiselle now thought he was drunk and was for sending for the
I asked him, "How is the baby?"
"Oh! baby's all right. The nurse has been a little upset by the journey.
You might give us the address of your doctor."