The dragon of Comte A. d’Orsay looked strangely fantastic at night. In the mouth, as well as the eyes, was a brilliant red light; and to a tiger-skin covering, that nearly concealed the cream-coloured horse, revealing only the white mane and tail, was attached a double line of silver gilt bells, the jingle of which was very musical and cheerful.
The shadows of the tall trees falling on an immense plain of snow, the light flashing in fitful gleams from the torches and lamps as we were hurried rapidly along, looked strange and unearthly, and reminded me of some of the scenes described in those northern fictions perused in the happy days of childhood.
This excursion and exposure to the wintry air procured me a good night’s sleep,—the first enjoyed since the severity of the weather has deprived me of my usual exercise. This revival of an old fashion (for in former days sledges were considered as indispensable in the winter remise of a grand seigneur in France as cabriolets or britchkas are in the summer) has greatly pleased the Parisian world, and crowds flock to see them as they pass along. The velocity of the movement, the gaiety of the sound of the bells, and the cold bracing air, have a very exhilarating effect on the spirits.
Met the Prince Polignac at the Duchesse de G——’s today. His countenance is remarkably good, his air and manner tres-distingue, and his conversation precisely what might be expected from an English gentleman—mild, reasonable, and unaffected. If I had not previously known him to be one or the most amiable men in the world, I should have soon formed this judgment of him, for every expression of his countenance, and every word he utters, give this impression.
The Prince Polignac has lived much in England, and seems to me to be formed to live there, for his tastes are decidedly English. Twice married, both his wives were English; so that it is no wonder that he has adopted much of our modes of thinking. Highly as I am disposed to estimate him, I do not think that he is precisely the person calculated to cope with the difficulties that must beset a minister, and, above all, a minister in France, in times like the present.
The very qualities that render him so beloved in private life, and which make his domestic circle one of the happiest in the world, are perhaps those which unfit him for so trying a post as the one he is now called on to hold—a post requiring abilities so various, and qualifications so manifold, that few, if any, could be found to possess the rare union.
A spirit is rife in France that renders the position of premier in it almost untenable; and he must unite the firmness of a stoic, the knowledge of a Machiavelli, and the boldness of a Napoleon, who could hope to stem the tide that menaces to set in and sweep away the present institutions. If honesty of intention, loyalty to his sovereign, personal courage, attachment to his country, and perfect disinterestedness could secure success, then might Prince Polignac expect it.