As soon as it was over, I went with Sebline to compliment the actors. We found Bartet, not in her dressing-room, but standing outside, still in her costume, very busy photographing Mounet, superb as a Roman Emperor. He was posing most impatiently, watching the sun slowly sinking behind the ruins, as he wanted to photograph Berenice before the light failed, and the time was short. They were surrounded by an admiring crowd, the children much interested in the “beautiful lady with the stars all over her dress.” We waited a few moments, and had a little talk with them. They said the fete had interested them very much and they were very glad to have come. They were rather taken aback at first when they saw the tent, the low small stage, and the very elementary scenery—were afraid the want of space would bother them, but they soon felt that they held their audience, and that their voices carried perfectly. They were rather hurried, as they were all taking the train back to Paris, except Bartet, who had promised to stay for the banquet. I had half hoped she would come to me, but of course I was obliged to waive my claim. When I saw how much the Prefet and the official world held to having her—when I heard afterwards that she had had the seat of honour next to the Bishop I was very glad I hadn’t insisted, as she certainly doesn’t often have the opportunity of sitting next to a Bishop. It seems he was delighted with her.
We loitered about some little time, talking to all our friends. The view from the terrace was beautiful—directly at our feet the little town, which is literally two streets forming a long cross, the Grande Rue a streak of light and color, filled with people moving about, and the air alive with laughter and music. Just beyond, the long stretches of green pasture lands, cut every now and then by narrow lanes with apple trees and hawthorn in flower, and the canal winding along between the green walls of poplars—the whole hemmed in by the dark blue line of the Villers-Cotteret forest, which makes a grand sweep on the horizon.
It was lovely driving back to Mareuil, toward the bright sunset clouds. We had a gay dinner and evening. I never dared ask where the various men dressed who came to dinner. The house is not very large, and every room was occupied—but as they all appeared most correctly attired, I suppose there are resources in the way of lingerie and fumoir which are available at such times, and Francis’s valet de chambre is so accustomed to having more people than the house can hold that he probably took his precautions. Francis started off for the banquet at the Sauvage in his voiturette, but that long-suffering vehicle having made hundreds of kilometres these last days, came to grief at the foot of “la Montagne de Marolles,” and he was towed back by a friendly carter and arrived much disgusted when we were half through dinner.
We heard all the details of the dinner from the Abbe Marechal. Certainly the banqueting hall of the Sauvage will not soon again see such a brilliant assembly. Madame Bartet was the Queen of the Fete, and sat between the Bishop and the Prefet. There were some pretty speeches from M. Henri Houssaye, M. Roujon—and of course the toast of the President accompanied by the Marseillaise.