“As to Mme. de Noriolis, she was so well frightened, that, letting the reins drop from her hands, she had simply thrown herself in my arms. Her adorable little head had rolled hap-hazard on my shoulder, and my lips just touched her hair. With my left hand I tried to recover the reins, with my right I supported Mme. de Noriolis; my leg hurt me frightfully, and I was seized with a queer feeling of confusion.
“It was thus that Mme. de Noriolis made her first entry into La Roche-Targe.
“When she returned there, one evening at midnight, six weeks later, having during the day become Mme. de La Roche-Targe, she said:
“’What is life, after all? Nothing like this would have happened if you hadn’t bought the circus charger.’”
“Don’t be alarmed, sir; you won’t miss the train. For the last fifteen years I’ve been carrying travellers to the station, and I’ve never yet missed a train! Think of that, sir; never!”
“Oh, don’t look at your watch. There is one thing you don’t know and that you must learn, and that your watch will never be able to tell you—that is, that the train is always a quarter of an hour late. Such a thing as the train’s being on time has never happened.”
Such a thing happened that day, however, for the train was on time, and so I missed it. My driver was furious.
“You should warn us,” he said to the station-master, “if your trains are suddenly going to start at the right hour. Who ever saw the like!”
And he turned to one or two of the porters for witnesses.
“Did you ever see such a thing? I don’t wish to appear blamable before the gentleman. A train on time—on time! You know it’s the first time it has ever happened.”
There was a general cry of “Yes, indeed; usually there’s some delay.” But, for all that, I had none the less three long hours to pass in a very desolate village (in the Canton of Vaud) shut in by two sad-looking mountains, which had their little topknots covered with snow.
But how kill three hours? In my turn I now asked advice, and again there was a chorus of “Go see the Caldron; that’s the only sight to be seen in this part of the country.” “And where is this Caldron?” On the mountain, to the right, half way up; but the path was a little complicated, and I was advised to take a guide; and there, over there in that white cottage with green blinds, I would find the best guide there was about here, an honest man—Old Simon.
So I went and knocked at the door of the little house.
An old woman opened it.
“Simon, the guide?”
“Yes, right here; but—if it’s to go to the Caldron—”
“It is to go to the Caldron.”
“Well, Simon hasn’t been very well since morning; he hasn’t much strength, and he can’t go out. But don’t worry yourself; there is some one who can replace him—there is Blacky.”