There wasn’t a sound. I don’t know if it was any sort of religious feeling—some dim recollection of their early days, or merely the love of a show of any kind that is inherent in all the Latin race, but they seemed much impressed. While the collection was being made there was music—very good local talent—two violin soli played by a young fellow, from one of the small neighbouring chateaux, whom we all knew well, and the “Panus Angelicus” of Cesar Franck, very well sung by the wife of the druggist. The cure of La Ferte, a very clever, cultivated man, with a charming voice and manner, made a very pretty, short address, quite suited to childish ears and understanding, with a few remarks at the end to the parents, telling them it was their fault if their children grew up hostile or indifferent to religion; that it was a perfectly false idea that to be patriotic and good citizens meant the abandonment of all religious principles.
We waited until the end of the service (Francis and his friends arrived in time to hear the cure’s address), and watched the procession disappear down the steep path and gradually break up as each child was carried off by a host of friends and relations to its home. The cure was very pleased, said he had had a “belle fete”—people had sent flowers and ribbons and helped as much as they could to decorate the church. I asked him if he thought it made a lasting impression on the children. He thought it did on the girls, but the boys certainly not. Until their first communion he held them a little, could interest them in books and games after school hours, but after that great step in their lives they felt themselves men, and were impatient of any control.
CHRISTMAS IN THE VALOIS
It had been a cold December, quite recalling Christmas holidays at home—when we used to think Christmas without snow wasn’t a real Christmas, and half the pleasure of getting the greens to dress the church was gone, if the children hadn’t to walk up to their ankles in untrodden snow across the fields to get the long, trailing branches of ivy and bunches of pine. We were just warm enough in the big chateau. There were two caloriferes, and roaring wood fires (trees) in the chimneys; but even I must allow that the great stone staircase and long corridors were cold: and I couldn’t protest when nearly all the members of the household—of all ages—wrapped themselves in woolen shawls and even fur capes at night when the procession mounted the big staircase. I had wanted for a long time to make a Christmas Tree in our lonely little village of St. Quentin, near Louvry, our farm, but I didn’t get much support from my French friends and relations. W. was decidedly against it. The people wouldn’t understand—had never seen such a thing; it was entirely a foreign importation, and just beginning to be understood in the upper classes of society.