The furniture is scrubbed into brightness, the small diamond-shaped panes of the old-fashioned casements are clean as hands can make them; the large antique fireplace is filled with fresh flowers; and the walnut-tree tables are covered with white napkins.
No sooner had we performed our ablutions, and changed our travelling dresses for others, than our good hostess, aided by three active young country maidens, served up a plentiful dinner, consisting of an excellent pot-au-feu, followed by fish, fowl, and flesh, sufficient to satisfy the hunger of at least four times the number of our party.
Having covered the table until it literally “groaned with the weight of the feast,” she seated herself at a little distance from it, and issued her commands to her hand-maidens what to serve, and when to change a plate, what wine to offer, and which dish she most recommended, with a good-humoured attention to our wants, that really anticipated them.
There was something as novel as patriarchal in her mode of doing the honours, and it pleased us so much that we invited her to partake of our repast; but she could not be prevailed on, though she consented to drink our healths in a glass of her best wine.
She repeatedly expressed her fears that our dinner was not sufficiently recherche, and hoped we would allow her to prepare a good supper.
When we were descending the stairs, she met us with several of her female neighbours en grande toilette, whom she had invited to see the strangers, and who gazed at us with as much surprise as if we were natives of Otaheite, beheld for the first time. Cordial greetings, however, atoned for the somewhat too earnest examination to which we had been subjected; and many civil speeches from our good hostess, who seemed not a little proud of displaying her foreign guests, rewarded the patience with which we submitted to the inspection.
One old lady felt the quality of our robes, another admired our trinkets, and a third was in raptures with our veils. In short, as a Frenchwoman would say, we had un grand succes; and so, our hostess assured us.
We went over the Amphitheatre, the dimensions of which exceed those of the Amphitheatre at Nismes. Three orders of architecture are also introduced in it, and it has no less than sixty arcades, with four large doors; that on the north side has a very imposing effect. The corridor leading to the arena exhibits all the grandeur peculiar to the public buildings of the Romans, and is well worthy of attention; but the portion of the edifice that most interested me was the subterranean, which a number of workmen were busily employed in excavating, under the superintendence of the Prefect of Arles, a gentleman with whose knowledge of the antiquities of his native town, and urbanity towards the strangers who visit them, we have every reason to be satisfied.
Under his guidance, we explored a considerable extent of the recently excavated subterranean, a task which requires no slight devotion to antiquities to induce the visitor to persevere, the inequalities of the ground exposing one continually to the danger of a fall, or to the still more perilous chance—as occurred to one of our party—of the head coming in contact with the roof.