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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 183 pages of information about My First Years as a Frenchwoman, 1876-1879.

III

M. WADDINGTON AS MINISTER OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION

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

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

W. at once convoked all the officials and staff of the ministry.  He made very few changes, merely taking the young Count de Lasteyrie, now Marquis de Lasteyrie, grandnephew of the Marquis de Lafayette, son of M. Jules de Lasteyrie, a senator and devoted friend of the Orleans family, as his chef de cabinet.  Two or three days after the new cabinet was announced, W. took me to the Elysee to pay my official visit to the Marechale de MacMahon.  She received us up-stairs in a pretty salon looking out on the garden.  She was very civil, not a particularly gracious manner—­gave me the impression of a very energetic, practical woman—­what most Frenchwomen are.  I was very much struck with her writing-table, which looked most businesslike.  It was covered with quantities of letters, papers, cards, circulars of all kinds—­she attended to all household matters herself.  I always heard (though she did not tell me) that she read every letter that was addressed to her, and she must have had hundreds of begging letters.  She was very charitable, much interested in all good works, and very kind to

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