I was sorry to go—the old chateau, with its walls and towers soft and grey in the sunlight, seems to belong absolutely to another century. I felt as if I had been transported a hundred years back and had lived a little of the simple patriarchal life that made such a beautiful end to Lafayette’s long and eventful career. The present owner keeps up the traditions of his grandfather. I was thinking last night what a cosmopolitan group we were. Three or four different nationalities, speaking alternately the two languages—French and English—many of the party having travelled all over the world and all interested in politics, literature, and music; in a different way, perhaps, but quite as much as the “belles dames et beaux esprits” of a hundred years ago. Everything changes as time goes on (I don’t know if I would say that everything improves), but I carried away the same impression of a warm welcome and large hospitable life that every one speaks of who saw La Grange during Lafayette’s life.
WINTER AT THE CHATEAU
We had a very cold winter one year—a great deal of snow, which froze as it fell and lay a long time on the hard ground. We woke up one morning in a perfectly still white world. It had snowed heavily during the night, and the house was surrounded by a glistening white carpet which stretched away to the “sapinette” at the top of the lawn without a speck or flaw. There was no trace of path or road, or little low shrubs, and even the branches of the big lime-trees were heavy with snow. It was a bright, beautiful day—blue sky and a not too pale winter sun. Not a vehicle of any kind had ventured out. In the middle of the road were footprints deep in the snow where evidently the keepers and some workmen had passed. Nothing and no one had arrived from outside, neither postman, butcher, nor baker. The chef was in a wild state; but I assured him we could get on with eggs and game, of which there was always a provision for one day at any rate.
About eleven, Pauline and I started out. We thought we would go as far as the lodge and see what was going on on the highroad. We put on thick boots, gaiters and very short skirts, and had imagined we could walk in the footsteps of the keepers; but, of course, we couldn’t take their long stride, and we floundered about in the snow. In some places where it had drifted we went in over our knees.
There was nothing visible on the road—not a creature, absolute stillness; a line of footprints in the middle where some labourer had passed, and the long stretch of white fields, broken by lines of black poplars running straight away to the forest.
While we were standing at the gate talking to old Antoine, who was all muffled up with a woollen comforter tied over his cap, and socks over his shoes, we saw a small moving object in the distance. As it came nearer we made out it was the postman, also so muffled up as to be hardly recognizable. He too had woollen socks over his shoes, and said the going was something awful, the “Montagne de Marolles” a sheet of ice; he had fallen twice, in spite of his socks and pointed stick. He said neither butcher nor baker would come—that no horse could get up the hill.