III. THE HOME OF LAFAYETTE

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. The broad green alleys of the park, with the trees just changing a little, were quite charming. Our station was Verneuil l'Etang, a quiet little country station dumped down in the middle of the fields, and a drive of about fifty minutes brought us to the chateau. The country is not at all pretty, always the same thing - great cultivated fields stretching off on each side of the road - every now and then a little wood or clump of trees. One does not see the chateau from the high road.

We turned off sharply to the left and at the end of a long avenue saw the house, half hidden by the trees. The entrance through a low archway, flanked on each side by high round towers covered with ivy, is most picturesque. The chateau is built around three sides of a square court-yard, the other side looking straight over broad green meadows ending in a background of wood. A moat runs almost all around the house - a border of salvias making a belt of colour which is most effective. We found the family - Marquis and Marquise de Lasteyrie and their two sons - waiting at the hall door. The Marquis, great-grandson of the General Marquis de Lafayette, is a type of the well-born, courteous French gentleman (one of the most attractive types, to my mind, that one can meet anywhere). There is something in perfectly well-bred French people of a certain class that one never sees in any other nationality. Such refinement and charm of manner - a great desire to put every one at their ease and to please the person with whom they are thrown for the moment. That, after all, is all one cares for in the casual acquaintances one makes in society. From friends, of course, we want something deeper and more lasting, but life is too short to find out the depth and sterling qualities of the world in general.

The Marquise is an Englishwoman, a cousin of her husband, their common ancestor being the Duke of Leinster; clever, cultivated, hospitable, and very large minded, which has helped her very much in her married life in France during our troubled epoch, when religious questions and political discussions do so much to embitter personal relations. The two sons are young and gay, doing the honours of their home simply and with no pose of any kind. There were two English couples staying in the house.

We had tea in the dining-room downstairs - a large room with panels and chimney-piece of dark carved wood. Two portraits of men in armour stand out well from the dark background. There is such a wealth of pictures, engravings, and tapestries all over the house that one cannot take it all in at first. The two drawing-rooms on the first floor are large and comfortable, running straight through the house; the end room in the tower - a round room with windows on all sides - quite charming. The contrast between the modern - English - comforts (low, wide chairs, writing-table, rugs, cushions, and centre-table covered with books in all languages, a very rare thing in a French chateau, picture papers, photographs, etc.) and the straight-backed, spindle-legged old furniture and stiff, old-fashioned ladies and gentlemen, looking down from their heavy gold frames, is very attractive. There is none of the formality and look of not being lived in which one sees in so many French salons, and yet it is not at all modern. One never loses for a moment the feeling of being in an old chateau-fort.

It was so pretty looking out of my bedroom window this morning. It was a bright, beautiful autumn day, the grass still quite green. Some of the trees changing a little, the yellow leaves quite golden in the sun. There are many American trees in the park - a splendid Virginia Creeper, and a Gloire de Dijon rose-bush, still full of bloom, were sprawling over the old gray walls. Animals of all kinds were walking about the court-yard; some swans and a lame duck, which had wandered up from the moat, standing on the edge and looking about with much interest; a lively little fox-terrier, making frantic dashes at nothing; one of the sons starting for a shoot with gaiters and game-bag, and his gun over his shoulder, his dog at his heels expectant and eager. Some of the guests were strolling about and from almost all the windows - wide open to let in the warm morning sun - there came cheerful greetings.

I went for a walk around the house before breakfast. There are five large round towers covered with ivy - the walls extraordinarily thick - the narrow little slits for shooting with arrows and the round holes for cannon balls tell their own story of rough feudal life. On one side of the castle there is a large hole in the wall, made by a cannon ball sent by Turenne. He was passing one day and asked to whom the chateau belonged. On hearing that the owner was the Marechal de la Feuillade, one of his political adversaries, he sent a cannon ball as a souvenir of his passage, and the gap has never been filled up.