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.

I went all over the house later with the Marquis de Lasteyrie. Of course, what interested me most was Lafayette's private apartments - bedroom and library - the latter left precisely as it was during Lafayette's lifetime; bookcases filled with his books in their old-fashioned bindings, running straight around the walls and a collection of manuscripts and autograph letters from kings and queens of France and most of the celebrities of the days of the Valois - among them several letters from Catherine de Medicis, Henry IV, and la Reine Margot. One curious one from Queen Margot in which she explains to the Vicomte de Chabot (ancestor of my host) that she was very much preoccupied in looking out for a wife for him with a fine dot, but that it was always difficult to find a rich heiress for a poor seigneur.

There are also autographs of more modern days, among which is a letter from an English prince to the Vicomte de Chabot (grandfather of the Marquis de Lasteyrie), saying that he loses no time in telling him of the birth of a very fine little girl. He certainly never realized when he wrote that letter what would be the future of his baby daughter. The writer was the Duke of Kent - the fine little girl, Queen Victoria.

In a deep window-seat in one corner, overlooking the farm, is the writing-table of Lafayette. In the drawers are preserved several books of accounts, many of the items being in his handwriting. Also his leather arm-chair (which was exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair), and a horn or speaking-trumpet through which he gave his orders to the farm hands from the window. The library opened into his bedroom - now the boudoir of the Marquise de Lasteyrie - with a fine view over moat and meadow. In this room there have been many changes, but the old doors of carved oak still remain.

There are many interesting family portraits - one of the father of Lafayette, killed at Minden, leaving his young son to be brought up by two aunts, whose portraits are on either side of the fireplace.

It is curious to see the two portraits of the same epoch so absolutely unlike. Mme. de Chavagnac, an old lady, very simply dressed, almost Puritanical, with a white muslin fichu over her plain black silk dress - the other, Mademoiselle de Lafayette, in the court dress of the time of Louis XVI, pearls and roses in the high, powdered coiffure and a bunch of orange flowers on one shoulder, to indicate that she was not a married woman.

There were pictures and souvenirs of all the Orleans family - the Lasteyries having been always faithful and devoted friends of those unfortunate princes; a charming engraving of the Comte de Paris, a noble looking boy in all the bravery of white satin and feathers - the original picture is in the possession of the Duc de Chartres. It was sad to realize when one looked at the little prince with his bright eyes and proud bearing, that the end of his life would be so melancholy - exile and death in a foreign land.

There are all sorts of interesting pictures and engravings scattered about the house in the numberless corridors and anterooms. One most interesting and very rare print represents a review at Potsdam held by Frederick the Great. Two conspicuous figures are the young Marquis de Lafayette in powdered wig and black silk ribbon, and the English General Lord Cornwallis, destined to meet as adversaries many years later during the American Revolution. There are many family pictures on the great stone staircase, both French and English, the Marquis de Lasteyrie, on the maternal side, being a great-grandson of the Duke of Leinster. Some of the English portraits are very charming, quite different from the French pictures.

In the centre panel is the well-known portrait of Lafayette by Ary Scheffer - not in uniform - no trace of the dashing young soldier; a middle-aged man in a long fur coat, hat and stick in his hand; looking, as one can imagine he did when he settled down, after his brilliant and eventful career, to the simple patriarchal life at La Grange, surrounded by devoted children, grandchildren, and friends.

We were interrupted long before I had seen all the interesting part of the house and its contents, as it was time to start for La Houssaye, where all the party were expected at tea. We went off in three carriages - quite like a "noce," as the Marquise remarked. The drive (about an hour) was not particularly interesting. We were in the heart of the great agricultural district and drove through kilometres of planted fields - no hills and few woods.

We came rather suddenly on the chateau, which stands low, like all chateaux surrounded by moats, turning directly from the little village into the park, which is beautifully laid out with fine old trees. We had glimpses of a lovely garden as we drove up to the house, and of two old towers - one round and one square. The chateau stands well - a very broad moat, almost a river, running straight around the house and gardens. We crossed the drawbridge, which always gives me a sensation of old feudal times and recalls the days of my childhood when I used to sit under the sickle-pear tree at "Cherry Lawn" reading Scott's "Marmion" - "Up drawbridge, grooms - what, Warder, ho! Let the portcullis fall!" wondering what a "portcullis" was, and if I should ever see one or even a chateau-fort.

La Houssaye is an old castle built in the eleventh century, but has passed through many vicissitudes. All that remains of the original building are the towers and the foundations. It was restored in the sixteenth century and has since remained unchanged. During the French Revolution the family of the actual proprietor installed themselves in one of the towers and lived there many long weary weeks, never daring to venture out, show any lights, or give any sign of life - in daily terror of being discovered and dragged to Paris before the dreaded revolutionary tribunals. Later it was given, by Napoleon, to the Marshall Augereau, who died there. It has since been in the family of the present proprietor, Monsieur de Mimont, who married an American, Miss Forbes.

The rain, which had been threatening all the afternoon, came down in torrents just as we crossed the drawbridge, much to the disappointment of our host and hostess, who were anxious to show us their garden, which is famous in all the countryside. However, in spite of the driving rain, we caught glimpses through the windows of splendid parterres of salvias and cannas, making great spots of colour in a beautiful bit of smooth green lawn. In old days the chateau was much bigger, stretching out to the towers. Each successive proprietor has diminished the buildings, and the present chateau, at the back, stands some little distance from the moat, the vacant space being now transformed into their beautiful gardens.

We only saw the ground-floor of the house, which is most comfortable. We left our wraps in the large square hall and passed through one drawing-room and a small library into another, which is charming - a corner room looking on the gardens - the walls, panels of light gray wood, prettily carved with wreaths and flowers.

We had tea in the dining-room on the other side of the hall; a curious room, rather, with red brick walls and two old narrow doors of carved oak. The tea - most abundant - was very acceptable after our long damp drive. One dish was rather a surprise - American waffles - not often to be found, I imagine, in an old French feudal castle, but Madame de Mimont's nationality explained it. I was very sorry not to see the park which is beautifully laid out, but the rain was falling straight down as hard as it could - almost making waves in the moat, and a curtain of mist cut off the end of the park.

Our dinner and evening at La Grange were delightful. The dining-room is particularly charming at night. The flowers on the table, this evening, were red, and the lights from the handsome silver candelabres made a brilliant spot of warmth and colour against the dark panelled walls - just shining on the armour of the fine Ormond portraits hanging on each side of the fireplace. The talk was always easy and pleasant.

One of the guests, the naval attache to the British Embassy to France, had been "en mission" at Madrid at the time of the Spanish Royal marriage. The balcony of the English Embassy overlooked the spot where the bomb was thrown. In eighty-five seconds from the time they heard the detonation (in the first second they thought it was a salute), the Ambassador, followed by his suite, was at the door of the royal carriage. He said the young sovereigns looked very pale but calm; the king, perhaps, more agitated than the Queen.

We finished the evening with music and dumb crambo - that particularly English form of amusement, which I have never seen well done except by English people. It always fills me with astonishment whenever I see it. It is so at variance with the English character. They are usually so very shy and self-conscious. One would never believe they could throw themselves into this really childish game with so much entrain. The performance is simple enough. Some of the company retire from the drawing-room; those who remain choose a word - chair, hat, cat, etc. This evening the word was "mat." We told the two actors - Mrs. P. and the son of the house - they must act (nothing spoken) a word which rhymed with hat. I will say they found it very quickly, but some of their attempts were funny enough - really very cleverly done. It amused me perfectly, though I must frankly confess I should have been incapable of either acting or guessing the word. The only one I made out was fat, when they both came in so stuffed out with pillows and bolsters as to be almost unrecognizable. The two dogs - a beautiful little fox-terrier and a fine collie - went nearly mad, barking and yapping every time the couple appeared - their excitement reaching a climax when the actors came in and stretched themselves out on each side of the door, having finally divined the word mat. The dogs made such frantic dashes at them that M. and Mme. de Lasteyrie had to carry them off bodily.

The next morning I went for a walk with M. de Lasteyrie. We strolled up and down the "Allee des Soupirs," so called in remembrance of one of the early chatelaines who trailed her mourning robes and widow's veil over the fallen leaves, bemoaning her solitude until a favoured suitor appeared on the scene and carried her away to his distant home - but the Allee still retains its name.

The park is small, but very well laid out. Many of the memoirs of the time speak of walks and talks with Lafayette under the beautiful trees.

During the last years of Lafayette's life, La Grange was a cosmopolitan centre. Distinguished people from all countries came there, anxious to see the great champion of liberty; among them many Americans, who always found a gracious, cordial welcome; one silent guest - a most curious episode which I will give in the words of the Marquis de Lasteyrie:

"One American, however, in Lafayette's own time, came on a lonely pilgrimage to La Grange; he was greeted with respect, but of that greeting he took no heed. He was a silent guest, nor has he left any record of his impressions; in fact, he was dead before starting on his journey. He arrived quite simply one fine autumn morning, in his coffin, accompanied by a letter which said: 'William Summerville, having the greatest admiration for the General Lafayette, begs he will bury him in his land at La Grange.' This, being against the law, could not be done, but Lafayette bought the whole of the small cemetery of the neighbouring village and laid the traveller from over the sea to rest in his ground indeed, though not under one of the many American trees at La Grange itself, of which the enthusiastic wanderer had probably dreamed."

They told me many interesting things, too long to write, about the last years of Lafayette's life spent principally at La Grange. A charming account of that time and the lavish hospitality of the chateau is given by Lady Morgan, in her well-known "Diary." Some of her descriptions are most amusing; the arrival, for instance, of Lady Holland at the home of the Republican General. "She is always preceded by a fourgon from London containing her own favourite meubles of Holland House - her bed, fauteuil, carpet, etc., and divers other articles too numerous to mention, but which enter into her Ladyship's superfluchoses tres necessaires, at least to a grande dame one of her female attendants and a groom of the chambers precede her to make all ready for her reception. However, her original manner, though it startles the French ladies, amuses them."

Her Irish ladyship (Lady Morgan) seems to have been troubled by no shyness in asking questions of the General. She writes: "Is it true, General, I asked, that you once went to a bal masque at the opera with the Queen of France - Marie Antoinette - leaning on your arm, the King knowing nothing of the matter till her return? I am afraid so, said he. She was so indiscreet, and I can conscientiously add - so innocent. However, the Comte d'Artois was also of the party, and we were all young, enterprising, and pleasure-loving. But what is most absurd in the adventure was that, when I pointed out Mme. du Barry to her - whose figure and favourite domino I knew - the Queen expressed the most anxious desire to hear her speak and bade me intriguer her. She answered me flippantly, and I am sure if I had offered her my other arm, the Queen would not have objected to it. Such was the esprit d'aventure at that time in the court of Versailles and in the head of the haughty daughter of Austria."

I remember quite well the parents of my host. The Marquise, a type of the grande dame, with blue eyes and snow white hair survived her husband many years. During the war of 1870 they, like many other chatelains, had Prussian soldiers in their house. The following characteristic anecdote of the Marquise was told to me by her son:

"There are still to be seen at La Grange two little cannon which had been given to Lafayette by the Garde Nationale. One December morning, in 1870, when the house was full of German troops, Madame de Lasteyrie was awakened by a noise under the archway, and looking out of her window saw, in the dim light, the two guns being carried off by the German soldiers. In an instant, her bare feet hastily thrust into slippers, her hair like a long white mane hanging down her back, with a dressing gown thrown over her shoulders, she started in pursuit. She followed them about three miles and at last came upon them at the top of a hill. After much persuasion and after spiking the guns (in no case could they have done great damage), the soldiers were induced to give them up, and departed, leaving her alone in the frost and starlight waiting for the morning. She sat bare-footed (for she had lost her shoes) but triumphant on her small cannon in the deep snow till the day came and the farm people stole out and dragged them all - the old lady and the two guns - back to the house."

I was sorry to go - the old chateau, with its walls and towers soft and grey in the sunlight, seems to belong absolutely to another century. I felt as if I had been transported a hundred years back and had lived a little of the simple patriarchal life that made such a beautiful end to Lafayette's long and eventful career. The present owner keeps up the traditions of his grandfather. I was thinking last night what a cosmopolitan group we were. Three or four different nationalities, speaking alternately the two languages - French and English - many of the party having travelled all over the world and all interested in politics, literature, and music; in a different way, perhaps, but quite as much as the "belles dames et beaux esprits" of a hundred years ago. Everything changes as time goes on (I don't know if I would say thateverything improves), but I carried away the same impression of a warm welcome and large hospitable life that every one speaks of who saw La Grange during Lafayette's life.