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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 454 pages of information about The Vicissitudes of Bessie Fairfax.

CHAPTER X.

BESSIE GOES INTO EXILE.

The rapid action and variety of the next few days were ever after like a dream to Bessie Fairfax.  A tiring day in Hampton town, a hurried walk to the docks in the sunset, the gorgeous autumnal sunset that flushed the water like fire; a splendid hour in the river, ships coming up full sail, and twilight down to the sea; a long, deep sleep.  Then sunrise on rolling green waves, low cliffs, headlands of France; a vast turmoil, hubbub, and confusion of tongues; a brief excursion into Havre, by gay shops to gayer gardens, and breakfast in the gayest of glass-houses.  Then embarkation on board the boat for Caen; a gentle sea-rocking; soldiers, men in blouses, women in various patterns of caps; the mouth of the Orne; fringes on the coast of fashionable resort for sea-bathers.  Miles up the stream, dreary, dreary; poplars leaning aslant from the wind, low mud-banks, beds of osiers, reeds, rushes, willows; poplars standing erect as a regiment in line, as many regiments, a gray monotony of poplars; the tide flowing higher, laving the reeds, the sallows, all pallid with mist and soft driving rain.  A gleam of sun on a lawn, on roses, on a conical red roof; orchards, houses here and there, with shutters closed, and the afternoon sun hot upon them; acres of market-garden, artichokes, flat fields, a bridge, rushy ditches, tall array of poplars repeated and continued endlessly.

“I think,” said Bessie, “I shall hate a poplar as long as I live!”

Mr. Carnegie agreed that the scenery was not enchanting.  Beautiful France is not to compare with the beautiful Forest.  Harry Musgrave was in no haste with his opinion; he was looking out for Caen, that ancient and famous town of the Norman duke who conquered England.  He had been reading up the guide-book and musing over history, while Bessie had been letting the poplars weigh her mind down to the brink of despondency.

A repetition of the noisy landing at Havre, despatch of baggage to Madame Fournier’s, everybody’s heart failing for fear of that august, unknown lady.  A sudden resolution on the doctor’s part to delay the dread moment of consigning Bessie to the school-mistress until evening, and a descent on Thunby’s hotel.  A walk down the Rue St. Jean to the Place St. Pierre, and by the way a glimpse, through an open door in a venerable gateway, of a gravelled court-yard planted with sycamores and surrounded by lofty walls, draped to the summit with vines and ivy; in the distance an arcade with vistas of garden beyond lying drowsy in the sunshine, the angle of a large mansion, and fluttering lilac wreaths of wisteria over the portal.

“If this is Madame Fournier’s school, it is a hushed little world,” said the doctor.

Bessie beheld it with awe.  There was a solemn picturesqueness in the prospect that daunted her imagination.

Harry Musgrave referred to his guide-book:  “Ah, I thought so—­this is the place.  Bessie, Charlotte Corday lived here.”

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