Some might deem the little spectacle theatrical, and there was a slight irrelevance in the pot-plants that were grouped along the foreground, but none could fail to be impressed by the silent reverence of the congregation. No service was in process, yet many believers knelt at prayer. Here a pretty girl returned thanks for evident blessings received; there an old spinster, the narrowness of whose means forbade her expending a couple of sous on the hire of a chair, knelt on the chilly flags and murmured words of gratitude for benefits whereof her appearance bore no outward indication.
We had left the prisoners to the enjoyment of their newly acquired property in the morning. At gloaming we again mounted the time-worn outside stair leading to the chamber whose casement bore the ominous red cross. The warm glow of firelight filled the room, scintillating in the glittering facets of the baubles on the tree; and from their pillows two pale-faced boys—boys who, despite their lengthening limbs were yet happily children at heart—watched eager-eyed while the sweet-faced Soeur, with reverential care, lit the candles that surrounded the Holy Bebe.
LE JOUR DE L’ANNEE
The closing days of 1900 had been unusually mild. Versailles townsfolk, watching the clear skies for sign of change, declared that it would be outside all precedent if Christmas week passed without snow. But, defiant of rule, sunshine continued, and the new century opened cloudless and bright.
[Illustration: De L’eau Chaude]
Karl, entering with hot water, gave us seasonable greeting, and as we descended the stair, pretty Rosine, brushing boots at the open window of the landing, also wished us a smiling bonne nouvelle annee. But within or without there was little token of gaiety. Sundry booths for the sale of gingerbread and cheap jouets, which had been erected in the Avenue de St. Cloud, found business languishing, though a stalwart countryman in blouse and sabots, whose stock-in-trade consisted of whirligigs fashioned in the semblance of moulins rouges and grotesque blue Chinamen which he carried stuck into a straw wreath fixed on a tall pole, had no lack of custom.
The great food question never bulks so largely in the public interest as at the close of a year, so perhaps it was but natural that the greatest appreciation of the festive traditions of the season should be evinced by the shops devoted to the sale of provender. Turkeys sported scarlet bows on their toes as though anticipating a dance rather than the oven; and by their sides sausages, their somewhat plethoric waists girdled by pink ribbon sashes, seemed ready to join them in the frolic. In one cookshop window a trio of plaster nymphs who stood ankle-deep in a pool of crimped green paper, upheld a huge garland of cunningly moulded wax roses, dahlias, and lilac, above which