Chateau De Croixmare




Chateau De Croixmare,

_16th August_.

[Sidenote: _A Formidable Godmother_]

Dearest Mamma,--What a crossing we had, perfectly disgusting! The sky
was without a cloud, but such a wind that every one was sick, so one
could not enjoy oneself. Agnes became rapidly French too directly we
landed at Dieppe, and the carriage was full of stuffy people, who would
not have a scrap of window open; however, Jean was waiting for us at
Paris. We snatched some food at the restaurant, and then caught the
train to Vinant. Jean is quite good-looking, but with an awfully
respectable expression. Any one could tell he was married even without
looking at his wedding ring. He was polite, and made conversation all
the time in the train, and as the engine kept puffing and shrieking I
was obliged to continually say "_Pardon?_" so it made it rather heavy.
I think he has changed a good deal since their wedding--let me
see--that must be eight years ago, as I was nine then; I hardly
remembered him.

Godmamma was waiting for us in the hall when we arrived. Ch�teau de
Croixmare is a nice place, but I _am_ glad I am not French. It was the
hottest night of the year almost, and not a breath of air in the house,
every shutter closed and the curtains drawn. Heloise had gone to bed
with a _migraine_, Godmamma explained, but Victorine was there. She has
grown up plain, and looks much more than five years older than me. They
weren't in evening dress, or even tea-gowns like in England--it did
seem strange.

Mme. de Croixmare looks a dragon! I can't think how poor papa insisted
upon my having such a godmother. Her face is quite white, and her hair
so black and drawn off her forehead, and she has a bristly moustache.
She is also very up right and thin, and walks with an ebony stick, and
her voice is like a peacock's. She looked me through and through, and I
felt all my French getting jumbled, and it came out with such an
English accent; and after we had bowed a good deal, and said heaps of
Ollendorfish kind of sentences, I was given some "sirop" and water, and
conducted to bed by Victorine. She is a big dump with a shiny
complexion, and such a very small mouth, and I am sure I shall hate
her, she isn't a bit good-natured-looking like Jean. The house is
really fine Louis XV., and my bedroom and cabinet de toilette are
delicious, so is my bed; but the attitude of Agnes--such a conscious
pride in the superiority of France--nearly drove me mad.

There isn't a decent dressing-table mirror, only one in an old silver
frame about eight inches square, and that is sitting on the
writing-table--or what would be the writing-table, if there happened to
be any pens and things, which there aren't. All the hanging places open
out of the panels of the wall, there are no wardrobes, only beautiful
marble-topped _bureaux_; but I was so tired.

[Sidenote: _A French Family at Home_]

I left Agnes to settle everything and jumped into bed. This morning I
woke early, and had the loveliest cup of chocolate, but such a silly
bath, and almost cold water. There are no housemaids, and nothing is
done with precise regularity like at home, although they are so rich.
Agn�s had to fish for everything of that sort herself, and such a lot
of talking went on in the passage between her and the _valet de
chambre_, before I even got this teeny tiny tray to splash in. However,
I did get dressed at last, and went for a walk in the garden--not a
soul about but a few gardeners. The begonias are magnificent, but there
is no look of park beyond the garden, or nice deer and things that we
would have for such a house in England. It is more like a sort of big
villa.

I saw Jean at last in the distance, going round and round a large pond
on his bicycle. He did look odd! in a thick striped jersey, and the
tightest knickerbockers; almost as low as a "scorcher." He jumped off
and made a most polite bow, and explained he was doing it for
exercise. But I do think that an idiotic reason--don't you, Mamma? It
would be just as much exercise on a road. However, he assured me that,
like that, he knew exactly how many miles he went on the flat before
breakfast, so I suppose it was all right.

I saw he wanted to continue his ride, so I walked on, and presently
came to a summer-house, where Victorine and the _dame de compagnie_
were doing their morning reading. There were also the two little girls
building castles out of a heap of sand, and with them the most hideous
German maid you ever saw. They are queer-looking little monkeys,
Yolande is like Jean, but Marie--there are three years between them--is
as black as ink--but where was I? Oh, yes!--well, by this time I was so
hungry I could have eaten them, German _bonne_ and all! Fortunately
Godmamma turned up, and we strolled back to _dejeuner_. Heloise was in
the salon, and she is charming, such a contrast to the rest of the
party. She was beautifully dressed and so _chic_. We took to each
other at once, she has not picked up that solid married look like Jean,
so perhaps it is only the husbands who get it in France.

There was a good deal of ceremony going in to breakfast. Jean gave his
mother his arm, and we trotted behind. The dining-room is a perfect
room, except there is no carpet, and the food was lovely, only I do
hate to see a great hand covered with a white cotton glove, plopping a
dish down on the lighted thing in the middle, so that one has to look
at the next course all the time one is finishing the last one. The way
in which the two little monkeys and the German maid devoured their
breakfast quite took one's appetite away. There seemed to be numbers of
men-servants, who wore white cotton gloves, and their liveries buttoned
up to the throat, which takes away that nice clean-shirt-look of our
servants at home.

[Sidenote: _French Servants_]

This afternoon we are going to pay a visit of ceremony to the Comte and
Comtesse de Tournelle; we are going with them on their yacht down the
Seine to-morrow. It is Jean and Heloise who have arranged to take
me--it is kind of them, and it will be fun; and I am glad it is not
considered proper for young French girls to go without their mothers,
because we shall get rid of Victorine, and the voyage will be more
agreeable. Agnes and the other maids and valets are going by train, and
will meet us with the luggage at the different places we stop at each
night, as the _Sauterelle_ is too small to carry everything. I must go
and get ready now, so good-bye, dear Mamma.--Your affectionate
daughter, Elizabeth.




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