LAST DAYS AT THE FOREIGN OFFICE
The end of December was detestable. We were en pleine crise for ten days. Every day W. went to the Chamber of Deputies expecting to be beaten, and every evening came home discouraged and disgusted. The Chamber was making the position of the ministers perfectly untenable—all sorts of violent and useless propositions were discussed, and there was an undercurrent of jealousy and intrigue everywhere. One day, just before Christmas, about the 20th, W. and his chef de cabinet, Comte de P., started for the house, after breakfast—W. expecting to be beaten by a coalition vote of the extreme Left, Bonapartists and Legitimists. It was an insane policy on the part of the two last, as they knew perfectly well they wouldn’t gain anything by upsetting the actual cabinet. They would only get another one much more advanced and more masterful. I suppose their idea was to have a succession of radical inefficient ministers, which in the end would disgust the country and make a “saviour,” a prince (which one?) or general, possible. How wise their reasoning was time has shown! I wanted to go to the Chamber to hear the debate, but W. didn’t want me. He would be obliged to speak, and said it would worry him if I were in the gallery listening to all the attacks made upon him. (It is rather curious that I never heard him speak in public, either in the house or in the country, where he often made political speeches, in election times.) He was so sure that the ministry would fall that we had already begun cleaning and making fires in our own house, so on that afternoon, as I didn’t want to sit at home waiting for telegrams, I went up to the house with Henrietta. The caretaker had already told us that the stock of wood and coal was giving out, and she couldn’t get any more in the quarter, and if she couldn’t make fires the pipes would burst, which was a pleasant prospect with the thermometer at I don’t remember how many degrees below zero. We found a fine cleaning going on—doors and windows open all over the house—and women scrubbing stairs, floors, and windows, rather under difficulties, with little fire and little water. It looked perfectly dreary and comfortless—not at all tempting. All the furniture was piled up in the middle of the rooms, and W.’s library was a curiosity. Books and pamphlets accumulated rapidly with us, W. was a member of many literary societies of all kinds all over the world, and packages and boxes of unopened books quite choked up the room. H. and I tried to arrange things a little, but it was hopeless that day, and, besides, the house was bitterly cold. It didn’t feel as if a fire could make any impression.