This morning after breakfast, in the big hall, where every one congregates for coffee, we had a little political talk—not very satisfactory. Everybody is discontented and everybody protests, but no one seems able to stop the radical current. The rupture with the Vatican has come at last, and I think might have been avoided if they had been a little more patient in Rome. There will be all sorts of complications and bitter feeling, and I don’t quite see what benefit the country at large will get from the present state of things. A general feeling of irritation and uncertainty, higher taxes—for they must build school-houses and pay lay-teachers and country cures. A whole generation of children cannot be allowed to grow up without religious instruction of any kind. I can understand how the association of certain religious orders (men) could be mischievous—harmful even—but I am quite sure that no one in his heart believes any harm of the women—soeurs de charite and teachers—who occupy themselves with the old people, the sick, and the children. In our little town they have sent away an old sister who had taught and generally looked after three generations of children. When she was expelled she had been fifty years in the town and was teaching the grandchildren of her first scholars. Everybody knew her, everybody loved her; when any one was ill or in trouble she was always the first person sent for. Now there is at the school an intelligent, well-educated young laique with all the necessary brevets. I dare say she will teach the children very well, but her task ends with the close of her class. She doesn’t go to church, doesn’t know the people, doesn’t interest herself in all their little affairs, and will never have the position and the influence the old religieuse had.
I am sorry to go away from this quiet little green corner of Normandy, but we have taken the requisite number of baths. Every one rushes off as soon as the last bath (twenty-first generally) is taken. Countess F. took her twenty-first at six o’clock this morning, and left at ten.
A NORMAN TOWN
I seem to have got into another world, almost another century, in this old town. I had always promised the Florians I would come and stay with them, and was curious to see their installation in one of the fine old hotels of the place. The journey was rather long—not particularly interesting. We passed near Caen, getting a very good view of the two great abbayes with their towers and spires quite sharply outlined against the clear blue sky. The train was full. At almost every station family parties got in—crowds of children all armed with spades, pails, butterfly nets, and rackets, all the paraphernalia of happy, healthy childhood. For miles after Caen there were long stretches of green pasture-lands—hundreds of cows and horses, some of them the big Norman dray-horses resting