Hotel d'Angleterre, January 15th. - On Tuesday morning, (12th) we took our departure from the Hotel de Louvre. It is a most excellent and perfectly ordered hotel, and I have not seen a more magnificent hall, in any palace, than the dining-saloon, with its profuse gilding, and its ceiling, painted in compartments; so that when the chandeliers are all alight, it looks a fit place for princes to banquet in, and not very fit for the few Americans whom I saw scattered at its long tables.
By the by, as we drove to the railway, we passed through the public square, where the Bastille formerly stood; and in the centre of it now stands a column, surmounted by a golden figure of Mercury (I think), which seems to be just on the point of casting itself from a gilt ball into the air. This statue is so buoyant, that the spectator feels quite willing to trust it to the viewless element, being as sure that it would be borne up as that a bird would fly.
Our first day's journey was wholly without interest, through a country entirely flat, and looking wretchedly brown and barren. There were rows of trees, very slender, very prim and formal; there was ice wherever there happened to be any water to form it; there were occasional villages, compact little streets, or masses of stone or plastered cottages, very dirty and with gable ends and earthen roofs; and a succession of this same landscape was all that we saw, whenever we rubbed away the congelation of our breath from the carriage windows. Thus we rode on, all day long, from eleven o'clock, with hardly a five minutes' stop, till long after dark, when we came to Dijon, where there was a halt of twenty-five minutes for dinner. Then we set forth again, and rumbled forward, through cold and darkness without, until we reached Lyons at about ten o'clock. We left our luggage at the railway station, and took an omnibus for the Hotel de Provence, which we chose at a venture, among a score of other hotels.
As this hotel was a little off the direct route of the omnibus, the driver set us down at the corner of a street, and pointed to some lights, which he said designated the Hotel do Provence; and thither we proceeded, all seven of us, taking along a few carpet-bags and shawls, our equipage for the night. The porter of the hotel met us near its doorway, and ushered us through an arch, into the inner quadrangle, and then up some old and worn steps, - very broad, and appearing to be the principal staircase. At the first landing-place, an old woman and a waiter or two received us; and we went up two or three more flights of the same broad and worn stone staircases. What we could see of the house looked very old, and had the musty odor with which I first became acquainted at Chester.
After ascending to the proper level, we were conducted along a corridor, paved with octagonal earthen tiles; on one side were windows, looking into the courtyard, on the other doors opening into the sleeping-chambers. The corridor was of immense length, and seemed still to lengthen itself before us, as the glimmer of our conductor's candle went farther and farther into the obscurity. Our own chamber was at a vast distance along this passage; those of the rest of the party were on the hither side; but all this immense suite of rooms appeared to communicate by doors from one to another, like the chambers through which the reader wanders at midnight, in Mrs. Radcliffe's romances. And they were really splendid rooms, though of an old fashion, lofty, spacious, with floors of oak or other wood, inlaid in squares and crosses, and waxed till they were slippery, but without carpets. Our own sleeping-room had a deep fireplace, in which we ordered a fire, and asked if there were not some saloon already warmed, where we could get a cup of tea.
Hereupon the waiter led us back along the endless corridor, and down the old stone staircases, and out into the quadrangle, and journeyed with us along an exterior arcade, and finally threw open the door of the salle a manger, which proved to be a room of lofty height, with a vaulted roof, a stone floor, and interior spaciousness sufficient for a baronial hall, the whole bearing the same aspect of times gone by, that characterized the rest of the house. There were two or three tables covered with white cloth, and we sat down at one of them and had our tea. Finally we wended back to our sleeping-rooms, - a considerable journey, so endless seemed the ancient hotel. I should like to know its history.
The fire made our great chamber look comfortable, and the fireplace threw out the heat better than the little square hole over which we cowered in our saloon at the Hotel de Louvre. . . . .
In the morning we began our preparations for starting at ten. Issuing into the corridor, I found a soldier of the line, pacing to and fro there as sentinel. Another was posted in another corridor, into which I wandered by mistake; another stood in the inner court-yard, and another at the porte-cochere. They were not there the night before, and I know not whence nor why they came, unless that some officer of rank may have taken up his quarters at the hotel. Miss M - - - says she heard at Paris, that a considerable number of troops had recently been drawn together at Lyons, in consequence of symptoms of disaffection that have recently shown themselves here.
Before breakfast I went out to catch a momentary glimpse of the city. The street in which our hotel stands is near a large public square; in the centre is a bronze equestrian statue of Louis XIV.; and the square itself is called the Place de Louis le Grand. I wonder where this statue hid itself while the Revolution was raging in Lyons, and when the guillotine, perhaps, stood on that very spot.