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France

At setting off [from Incisa], we were surrounded by beggars as usual, the most interesting of whom were a little blind boy and his mother, who had besieged us with gentle pertinacity during our whole stay there. There was likewise a man with a maimed hand, and other hurts or deformities; also, an old woman who, I suspect, only pretended to be blind, keeping her eyes tightly squeezed together, but directing her hand very accurately where the copper shower was expected to fall. Besides these, there were a good many sturdy little rascals, vociferating in proportion as they needed nothing.

June 8th. - I went this morning to the Uffizi gallery. The entrance is from the great court of the palace, which communicates with Lung' Arno at one end, and with the Grand Ducal Piazza at the other. The gallery is in the upper story of the palace, and in the vestibule are some busts of the princes and cardinals of the Medici family, - none of them beautiful, one or two so ugly as to be ludicrous, especially one who is all but buried in his own wig.

August 2d. - We had grown weary of the heat of Florence within the walls, . . . . there being little opportunity for air and exercise except within the precincts of our little garden, which, also, we feared might breed malaria, or something akin to it. We have therefore taken this suburban villa for the two next months, and, yesterday morning, we all came out hither. J - - - had preceded us with B. P - - - . The villa is on a hill called Bellosguardo, about a mile beyond the Porta Romana.

October 2d. - Yesterday morning, at six o'clock, we left our ancient tower, and threw a parting glance - and a rather sad one - over the misty Val d' Arno. This summer will look like a happy one in our children's retrospect, and also, no doubt, in the years that remain to ourselves; and, in truth, I have found it a peaceful and not uncheerful one.

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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