[Illustration: Papa, Mama et Bebe]
He was hospitable too, and had a disconcerting way of inviting guests to luncheon or dinner, and then forgetting that he had done so. One morning a stranger entered, and after a brief conference with Iorson, was conducted to the commercial man’s table to await his arrival. The regular customers took their wonted places, and began in their leisurely fashion to breakfast, and still the visitor sat alone, starting up expectantly every time a door opened, then despondently resuming his seat.
At last Iorson, taking compassion, urged the neglected guest to while away his period of waiting by trifling with the hors-d’oeuvres. He was proceeding to allay the pangs of hunger with selections from the tray of anchovies, sardines, pickled beet, and sliced sausage, when his host entered, voluble and irrepressible as ever. The dignified Ogams shuddered inwardly as his strident voice awoke the echoes of the room, and their already stiff limbs became rigid with disapproval.
In winter, transient visitors but rarely occupied one or other of the square centre tables, though not infrequently a proud father and mother who had come to visit a soldier son at the barracks, brought him to the hotel for a meal, and for a space the radiance of blue and scarlet and the glint of steel cast a military glamour over the staid company.
An amusing little circumstance to us onlookers was that although the supply of cooked food seemed equal to any demand, the arrival of even a trio of unexpected guests to dinner invariably caused a dearth of bread. For on their advent Iorson would dash out bareheaded into the night, to reappear in an incredibly short time carrying a loaf nearly as tall as himself.
One morning a stalwart young Briton brought to breakfast a pretty English cousin, on leave of absence from her boarding-school. His knowledge of French was limited. When anything was wanted he shouted “Garcon!” in a lordly voice, but it was the pretty cousin who gave the order. Dejeuner over, they departed in the direction of the Chateau. And at sunset as we chanced to stroll along the Boulevard de la Reine, we saw the pretty cousin, all the gaiety fled from her face, bidding her escort farewell at the gate of a Pension pour Demoiselles. The ball was over. Poor little Cinderella was perforce returning to the dust and ashes of learning.
[Illustration: Juvenile Progress]
The English-speaking traveller finds Versailles vastly more foreign than the Antipodes. He may voyage for many weeks, and at each distant stopping-place find his own tongue spoken around him, and his conventions governing society. But let him leave London one night, cross the Channel at its narrowest—and most turbulent—and sunrise will find him an alien in a land whose denizens differ from him in language, temperament, dress, food, manners, and customs.