I slipped one day on the very slippery wooden steps leading from W.’s little study to the passage. Baby did the same, and got a nasty fall on the stone flags, so I asked W. if he would ask Ferdinand to put a strip of carpet on the steps (there were only four). W. gave the order, but no carpet appeared. He repeated it rather curtly. The old Ferdinand made no answer, but grumbled to himself over his broom that it was perfectly foolish and useless to put down a piece of carpet, that for sixty years people and children, and babies, had walked down those steps and no one had ever thought of asking for carpets. W. had really rather to apologize and explain that his wife was nervous and unused to such highly polished floors. However, we became great friends afterward, Ferdinand and I, and when he understood how fond I was of the chateau, he didn’t mind my deranging the furniture a little. Two grand pianos were a great trial to him. I think he would have liked to put one on top of the other.
The library, quite at one end of the house, separated from the drawing-room we always sat in by a second large salon, was a delightful, quiet resort when any one wanted to read or write. There were quantities of books, French, English, and German—the classics in all three languages, and a fine collection of historical memoirs.
We didn’t pay many visits; but sometimes, when the weather was fine and there was no hunting, and W. gone upon an expedition to some outlying village, Mme. A. and I would start off for one of the neighbouring chateaux. We went one day to the chateau de C, where there was a large family party assembled, four generations—the old grandmother, her son and daughter, both married, the daughter’s daughter, also married, and her children. It was a pretty drive, about an hour all through the forest. The house is quite modern, not at all pretty, a square white building, with very few trees near it, the lawn and one or two flower-beds not particularly well kept. The grounds ran straight down to the Villers-Cotterets forest, where M. M. has good shooting. The gates were open, the concierge said the ladies were there. (They didn’t have to be summoned by a bell. That is one of the habits of this part of the country. There is almost always a large bell at the stable or “communs,” and when visitors arrive and the family are out in the grounds, not too far off, they are summoned by the bell. I was quite surprised one day at Bourneville, when we were in the woods at some little distance from the chateau, when we heard the bell, and my companion, a niece of Mme. A., instantly turned back, saying, “That means there are visits; we must go back.”) We found all the ladies sitting working in a corner salon with big windows opening on the park. The old grandmother was knitting, but she was so straight and