The gardens of Durbelliere were also wonderful in another respect. It was supposed to be impossible to consume, or even to gather, all the cherries which they produced in the early summer. The trees between the walks were all cherry-trees—old standard trees of a variety of sorts; but they all bore fruit of some description or another, some sweet and some bitter; some large, some small, and some perfectly diminutive; some black, some red, and some white. Every species of known cherry was in that garden in abundance; but even the gardener himself did not know the extent of the produce. Birds of all kinds flocked there in enormous numbers, and banqueted gloriously during the summer. No one disturbed them except the painted sportsman; and the song of the linnet and the thrush was heard all day, and that of the nightingale during the night.
The old Marquis de Larochejaquelin had been crossed in love early in life, and he had not recovered from his sorrow till he was above fifty, when he married, and outlived his young wife, who left him different children. Henri and Agatha were the only two now living with him. As has already been said, the old man was very infirm, and had lost the use of his limbs.
When the weather was cold or wet, he sat with his daughter, Agatha, near his bright wood fire, and watched her needle, or listened to her songs; but, if the sun appeared at all, he was dragged out in his garden chair among the birds and the painted figures, and was happy in spite of his infirmities.
He was most affectionate to his children, and indulgent to a fault. He was kind to every one, and, unless the birds were disturbed, the cherry-trees injured, or the figures upset, he was never angry even with a servant. Everybody loved and venerated the old Marquis, and even in his foibles, he was thoroughly respected. He had a vast collection of stuffed birds of every description, and the peasants round him were so anxious to gratify him by adding to his stock, that there began to be a doubt whether room in the chateau could be found for the presents which were continually brought. The upper story of the house had never been required by the family, and the rooms had not even been roofed or plastered. One great partition wall ran across the space, and the only ceiling was the bare high-pointed roof of the house. This place was called the granary, and was used for a drying ground. And here the superfluous birds were brought, much to the old man’s grief, for he knew that he should never see them again; but he could not refuse them when they were given to him, and the room which he inhabited would conveniently hold no more.