Mary King Waddington

MAREUIL-SUR-OURCQ, April 20th, 1899.

BAGNOLES DE L'ORNE, July-August.

We never remained all summer at our place. August was a disagreeable month there - the woods were full of horse-flies which made riding impossible. No nets could keep them off the horses who were almost maddened by the sting. They were so persistent that we had to take them off with a sharp stick. They stuck like leeches. We generally went to the sea - almost always to the Norman Coast - establishing ourselves in a villa - sometimes at Deauville, sometimes at Villers, and making excursions all over the country.

One year we were at Boulogne for the summer in a funny little house, in a narrow street just behind the port and close to the Casino and beach. There were a great many people - all the hotels full and quantities of automobiles passing all day. The upper part of the town is just like any other seaside place - rows of hotels and villas facing the sea - some of the houses built into the high green cliff which rises steep and almost menacing behind. Already parts of the cliff have crumbled away in some place and the proprietors of the villas find some difficulty in letting them.

My first experience of country life in France, about thirty years ago, was in a fine old chateau standing high in pretty, undulating, wooded country close to the forest of Villers-Cotterets, and overlooking the great plains of the Oise - big green fields stretching away to the sky-line, broken occasionally by little clumps of wood, with steeples rising out of the green, marking the villages and hamlets which, at intervals, are scattered over the plains, and in the distance the blue line of the forest. The chateau was a long, perfectly simple, white stone building.

We didn't pay many visits; but sometimes, when the weather was fine and there was no hunting, and W. gone upon an expedition to some outlying village, Mme. A. and I would start off for one of the neighbouring chateaux. We went one day to the chateau de C, where there was a large family party assembled, four generations - the old grandmother, her son and daughter, both married, the daughter's daughter, also married, and her children. It was a pretty drive, about an hour all through the forest.

La Grange was looking its loveliest when I arrived the other day. It was a bright, beautiful October afternoon and the first glimpse of the chateau was most picturesque. It was all the more striking as the run down from Paris was so ugly and commonplace. The suburbs of Paris around the Gare de l'Est - the Plain of St. Denis and all the small villages, with kitchen gardens, rows of green vegetables under glass "cloches" - are anything but interesting. It was not until we got near Grety and alongside of Ferrieres, the big Rothschild place, that we seemed to be in the country.

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.

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