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E-text prepared by Richard Lammers, Stephanie Bailey, and the Project
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CHATEAU AND COUNTRY LIFE IN FRANCE

by

MARY KING WADDINGTON

Author of _Letters Of A Diplomat's Wife_ and _Italian Letters of
a Diplomat's Wife_

Illustrated

1909







[Illustration: A country wedding]



CONTENTS

I. CHÂTEAU LIFE
II. COUNTRY VISITS
III. THE HOME OF LAFAYETTE
IV. WINTER AT THE CHÂTEAU
V. CEREMONIES AND FESTIVALS
VI. CHRISTMAS IN THE VALOIS
VII. A RACINE CELEBRATION
VIII. A CORNER OF NORMANDY
IX. A NORMAN TOWN
X. NORMAN CHÂTEAUX
XI. BOULOGNE-SUR-MER




ILLUSTRATIONS

A COUNTRY WEDDING
A FINE OLD CHÂTEAU
I LOVED TO HEAR HER PLAY BEETHOVEN AND HANDEL
THERE WERE ALL SORTS AND KINDS
FERDINAND
"MERCI, JE VAIS BIEN"
LONG PAUSES WHEN NOBODY SEEMED TO HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY
THEN HE LIGHTED A FIRE
I SUGGESTED THAT THE WHOLE CHASSE SHOULD ADJOURN TO THE CHÂTEAU
SOME RED-COATED, SOME GREEN, ALL WITH BREECHES AND HIGH MUDDY BOOTS
PEASANT WOMEN
A VISIT AT THE CHÂTEAU
SOLDIERS AT THE CHÂTEAU
THE MAYOR AND A NICE, RED-CHEEKED, WRINKLED OLD WOMAN WERE WAITING FOR US
THERE WAS ONE HANDSOME BIT OF OLD LACE ON A WHITE NAPPE FOR THE ALTAR
THEY WERE ALL STREAMING UP THE SLIPPERY HILL-SIDE
ALL THE CHILDREN IN PROCESSION PASSED
THERE WAS ONE POOR OLD WOMAN STILL GAZING SPELL-BOUND
L'ETABLISSEMENT, BAGNOLES DE L'ORNE
IN DOMFRONT SOME OF THE OLD TOWERS ARE CONVERTED INTO MODERN DWELLINGS
CHÂTEAU DE LASSAY
ENTRANCE TO HÔTEL OF THE COMTE DE FLORIAN
MARKET WOMEN, VALOGNES
OLD GATE-WAY, VALOGNES


[Illustration: A fine old château.]




I

CHATEAU LIFE


My first experience of country life in France, about thirty years ago,
was in a fine old château standing high in pretty, undulating, wooded
country close to the forest of Villers-Cotterets, and overlooking the
great plains of the Oise--big green fields stretching away to the
sky-line, broken occasionally by little clumps of wood, with steeples
rising out of the green, marking the villages and hamlets which, at
intervals, are scattered over the plains, and in the distance the blue
line of the forest. The château was a long, perfectly simple, white
stone building. When I first saw it, one bright November afternoon, I
said to my husband as we drove up, "What a charming old wooden house!"
which remark so astonished him that he could hardly explain that it
was all stone, and that no big houses (nor small, either) in France
were built of wood. I, having been born in a large white wooden house
in America, couldn't understand why he was so horrified at my
ignorance of French architecture. It was a fine old house, high in the
centre, with a lower wing on each side. There were three
drawing-rooms, a library, billiard-room, and dining-room on the ground
floor. The large drawing-room, where we always sat, ran straight
through the house, with glass doors opening out on the lawn on the
entrance side and on the other into a long gallery which ran almost
the whole length of the house. It was always filled with plants and
flowers, open in summer, with awnings to keep out the sun; shut in
winter with glass windows, and warmed by one of the three calorifères
of the house. In front of the gallery the lawn sloped down to the
wall, which separated the place from the highroad. A belt of fine
trees marked the path along the wall and shut out the road completely,
except in certain places where an opening had been made for the view.

We were a small party for such a big house: only the proprietor and
his wife (old people), my husband and myself. The life was very
simple, almost austere. The old people lived in the centre of the
château, W.[1] and I in one of the wings. It had been all fitted up
for us, and was a charming little house. W. had the ground-floor--a
bedroom, dressing-room, cabinet de travail, dining-room, and a small
room, half reception-room, half library, where he had a large
bookcase filled with books, which he gave away as prizes or to school
libraries. The choice of the books always interested me. They were
principally translations, English and American--Walter Scott,
Marryat, Fenimore Cooper, etc. The bedroom and cabinet de travail had
glass doors opening on the park. I had the same rooms upstairs,
giving one to my maid, for I was nervous at being so far away from
anyone. M. and Mme. A. and all the servants were at the other end of
the house, and there were no bells in our wing (nor anywhere else in
the house except in the dining-room). When I wanted a work-woman who
was sewing in the lingerie I had to go up a steep little winding
staircase, which connected our wing with the main building, and walk
the whole length of the gallery to the lingerie, which was at the
extreme end of the other wing. I was very fond of my rooms. The
bedroom and sitting-room opened on a balcony with a lovely view over
wood and park. When I sat there in the morning with my petit
déjeuner--cup of tea and roll--I could see all that went on in the
place. First the keeper would appear, a tall, handsome man, rather
the northern type, with fair hair and blue eyes, his gun always over
his shoulder, sacoche at his side, swinging along with the free,
vigorous step of a man accustomed to walk all day. Then Hubert, the
coachman, would come for orders, two little fox-terriers always
accompanying him, playing and barking, and rolling about on the
grass. Then the farmer's wife, driving herself in her gig, and
bringing cheese, butter, milk, and sometimes chickens when our
bassecour was getting low. A little later another lot would appear,
people from the village or canton, wanting to see their deputy and
have all manner of grievances redressed. It was curious sometimes to
make out, at the end of a long story, told in peasant dialect, with
many digressions, what particular service notre député was expected
to render. I was present sometimes at some of the conversations, and
was astounded at W.'s patience and comprehension of what was
wanted--I never understood half.

[1] W. here and throughout this volume refers to Mme. Waddington's
husband, M. William Waddington.

We generally had our day to ourselves. We rode almost every
morning--long, delicious gallops in the woods, the horses going easily
and lightly over the grass roads; and the days W. was away and
couldn't ride, I used to walk about the park and gardens. The kitchen
garden was enormous--almost a park in itself--and in the season I eat
pounds of white grapes, which ripened to a fine gold color on the
walls in the sun. We rarely saw M. and Mme. A. until twelve-o'clock
breakfast.

[Illustration: I loved to hear her play Beethoven and Handel.]

Sometimes when it was fine we would take a walk with the old people
after breakfast, but we generally spent our days apart. M. and Mme. A.
were charming people, intelligent, cultivated, reading everything and
keeping quite in touch with all the literary and Protestant world, but
they had lived for years entirely in the country, seeing few people,
and living for each other. The first evenings at the château made a
great impression upon me. We dined at 7:30, and always sat after
dinner in the big drawing-room. There was one lamp on a round table in
the middle of the room (all the corners shrouded in darkness). M. and
Mme. A. sat in two arm-chairs opposite to each other, Mme. A. with a
green shade in front of her. Her eyes were very bad; she could neither
read nor work. She had been a beautiful musician, and still played
occasionally, by heart, the classics. I loved to hear her play
Beethoven and Handel, such a delicate, old-fashioned touch. Music was
at once a bond of union. I often sang for her, and she liked
everything I sang--Italian stornelli, old-fashioned American negro
songs, and even the very light modern French chansonnette, when there
was any melody in them. There were two other arm-chairs at the table,
destined for W. and me. I will say W. never occupied his. He would sit
for about half an hour with M. A. and talk politics or local matters
with him, but after that he departed to his own quarters, and I
remained with the old people. I felt very strange at first, it was so
unlike anything I had ever seen, so different from my home life, where
we were a happy, noisy family, always one of the party, generally two,
at the piano, everybody laughing, talking, and enjoying life, and
always a troop of visitors, cousins innumerable and friends.

It was a curious atmosphere. I can't say dull exactly, for both M. and
Mme. A. were clever, and the discussions over books, politics, and
life generally, were interesting, but it was serious, no vitality,
nothing gay, no power of enjoyment. They had had a great grief in
their lives in the loss of an only daughter,[2] which had left
permanent traces. They were very kind and did their best to make me
feel at home, and after the first few evenings I didn't mind. M. A.
had always been in the habit of reading aloud to his wife for an hour
every evening after dinner--the paper, an article in one of the
reviews, anything she liked. I liked that, too, and as I felt more at
home used to discuss everything with M. A. He was quite horrified one
evening when I said I didn't like Molière, didn't believe anybody did
(particularly foreigners), unless they had been brought up to it.

[2] W.'s first wife.

It really rather worried him. He proposed to read aloud part of the
principal plays, which he chose very carefully, and ended by making a
regular cours de Molière. He read charmingly, with much spirit,
bringing out every touch of humour and fancy, and I was obliged to say
I found it most interesting. We read all sorts of things besides
Molière--Lundis de Ste.-Beuve, Chateaubriand, some splendid pages on
the French Revolution, Taine, Guizot, Mme. de Staël, Lamartine, etc.,
and sometimes rather light memoirs of the Régence and the light ladies
of the eighteenth century, who apparently mixed up politics, religion,
literature, and lovers in the most simple style.



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