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. Not a vehicle of any kind had ventured out. In the middle of the road were footprints deep in the snow where evidently the keepers and some workmen had passed. Nothing and no one had arrived from outside, neither postman, butcher, nor baker. The chef was in a wild state; but I assured him we could get on with eggs and game, of which there was always a provision for one day at any rate.

About eleven, Pauline and I started out. We thought we would go as far as the lodge and see what was going on on the highroad. We put on thick boots, gaiters and very short skirts, and had imagined we could walk in the footsteps of the keepers; but, of course, we couldn't take their long stride, and we floundered about in the snow. In some places where it had drifted we went in over our knees.

There was nothing visible on the road - not a creature, absolute stillness; a line of footprints in the middle where some labourer had passed, and the long stretch of white fields, broken by lines of black poplars running straight away to the forest.

While we were standing at the gate talking to old Antoine, who was all muffled up with a woollen comforter tied over his cap, and socks over his shoes, we saw a small moving object in the distance. As it came nearer we made out it was the postman, also so muffled up as to be hardly recognizable. He too had woollen socks over his shoes, and said the going was something awful, the "Montagne de Marolles" a sheet of ice; he had fallen twice, in spite of his socks and pointed stick. He said neither butcher nor baker would come - that no horse could get up the hill.

We sent him into the kitchen to thaw, and have his breakfast. That was one also of the traditions of the chateau; the postman always breakfasted. On Sundays, when there was no second delivery, he brought his little girl and an accordion, and remained all the afternoon. He often got a lift back to La Ferte, when the carriage was going in to the station, or the chef to market in the donkey-cart. Now many of the postmen have bicycles.

We had a curious feeling of being quite cut off from the outside world. The children, Francis and Alice, were having a fine time in the stable-yard, where the men had made them two snow figures - man and woman (giants) - and they were pelting them with snowballs and tumbling headlong into the heaps of snow on each side of the gate, where a passage had been cleared for the horses.

We thought it would be a good opportunity to do a little coasting and inaugurate a sled we had had made with great difficulty the year before. It was rather a long operation. The wheelwright at Marolles had never seen anything of the kind, had no idea what we wanted. Fortunately Francis had a little sled which one of his cousins had sent him from America; and with that as a model, and many explanations, the wheelwright and the blacksmith produced really a very creditable sled - quite large, a seat for two in front, and one behind for the person who steered. Only when the sled was finished the snow had disappeared! It rarely lasts long in France.

We had the sled brought out - the runners needed a little repairing - and the next day made our first attempt. There was not much danger of meeting anything. A sort of passage had been cleared, and gravel sprinkled in the middle of the road; but very few vehicles had passed, and the snow was as hard as ice. All the establishment "assisted" at the first trial, and the stable-boy accompanied us with the donkey who was to pull the sled up the hill.

We had some little difficulty in starting, Pauline and I in front, Francis behind; but as soon as we got fairly on the slope the thing flew. Pauline was frightened to death, screaming, and wanted to get off; but I held her tight, and we landed in the ditch near the foot of the hill. Half-way down (the hill is steep but straight, one sees a great distance) Francis saw the diligence arriving; and as he was not quite sure of his steering-gear, he thought it was better to take no risks, and steered us straight into the ditch as hard as we could go. The sled upset; we all rolled off into the deep soft snow, lost our hats, and emerged quite white from head to foot.

The diligence had stopped at the foot of the hill. There were only two men in it besides the driver, the old Pere Jacques, who was dumbfounded when he recognized Madame Waddington. It seems they couldn't think what had happened. As they got to the foot of the hill, they saw a good many people at the gate of the chateau; then suddenly something detached itself from the group and rushed wildly down the hill. They thought it was an accident, some part of a carriage broken, and before they had time to collect their senses the whole thing collapsed in the ditch. The poor old man was quite disturbed - couldn't think we were not hurt, and begged us to get into the diligence and not trust ourselves again to such a dangerous vehicle. However we reassured him, and all walked up the hill together, the donkey pulling the sled, which was tied to him with a very primitive arrangement of ropes, the sled constantly swinging round and hitting him on the legs, which he naturally resented and kicked viciously.

We amused ourselves very much as long as the snow lasted, about ten days - coasted often, and made excursions to the neighbouring villages with the sled and the donkey. We wanted to skate, but that was not easy to arrange, as the ponds and "tourbieres" near us were very deep, and I was afraid to venture with the children. I told Hubert, the coachman, who knew the country well, to see what he could find. He said there was a very good pond in the park of the chateau of La Ferte, and he was sure the proprietor, an old man who lived there by himself, would be quite pleased to let us come there.

The old gentleman was most amiable - begged we would come as often as we liked - merely making one condition, that we should have a man on the bank (the pond was only about a foot deep) with a rope in case of accidents.... We went there nearly every afternoon, and made quite a comfortable "installation" on the bank: a fire, rugs, chairs and a very good little gouter, the grocer's daughter bringing us hot wine and biscuits from the town.

It was a perfect sight for La Ferte. The whole town came to look at us, and the carters stopped their teams on the road to look on - one day particularly when one of our cousins, Maurice de Bunsen,[3] was staying with us. He skated beautifully, doing all sorts of figures, and his double eights and initials astounded the simple country folk. For some time after they spoke of "l'Anglais" who did such wonderful things on the ice.

  [3] To-day British Embassador at Madrid.

They were bad days for the poor. We used to meet all the children coming back from school when we went home. The poor little things toiled up the steep, slippery hill, with often a cold wind that must have gone through the thin worn-out jackets and shawls they had for all covering, carrying their satchels and remnants of dinner. Those that came from a distance always brought their dinner with them, generally a good hunk of bread and a piece of chocolate, the poorer ones bread alone, very often only a stale hard crust that couldn't have been very nourishing. They were a very poor lot at our little village, St. Quentin, and we did all we could in the way of warm stockings and garments; but the pale, pinched faces rather haunted me, and Henrietta and I thought we would try and arrange with the school mistress who was wife of one of the keepers, to give them a hot plate of soup every day during the winter months. W., who knew his people well, rather discouraged us - said they all had a certain sort of pride, notwithstanding their poverty, and might perhaps be offended at being treated like tramps or beggars; but we could try if we liked.

We got a big kettle at La Ferte, and the good Mere Cecile of the Asile lent us the tin bowls, also telling us we wouldn't be able to carry out our plan. She had tried at the Asile, but it didn't go; the children didn't care about the soup - liked the bread and chocolate better. It was really a curious experience. I am still astonished when I think of it. The soup was made at the head-keeper's cottage, standing on the edge of the woods.

We went over the first day about eleven o'clock - a cold, clear day, a biting wind blowing down the valley. The children were all assembled, waiting impatiently for us to come. The soup was smoking in a big pot hung high over the fire. We, of course, tasted it, borrowing two bowls from the children and asking Madame Labbey to cut us two pieces of bread, the children all giggling and rather shy. The soup was very good, and we were quite pleased to think that the poor little things should have something warm in their stomachs. The first depressing remark was made by our own coachman on the way home. His little daughter was living at the keeper's. I said to him, "I did not see Celine with the other children." "Oh, no, Madame; she wasn't there. We pay for the food at Labbey's; she doesn't need charity."

The next day, equally cold, about half the children came (there were only twenty-seven in the school); the third, five or six, rather shamefaced; the fourth, not one; and at the end of the week the keeper's wife begged us to stop the distribution; all the parents were hurt at the idea of their children receiving public charity from Madame Waddington. She had thought some of the very old people of the village might like what was left; but no one came except some tramps and rough-looking men who had heard there was food to be had, and they made her very nervous prowling around the house when she was alone, her husband away all day in the woods.

W. was amused - not at all surprised - said he was quite sure we shouldn't succeed, but it was just as well to make our own experience. We took our bowls back sadly to the Asile, where the good sister shook her head, saying, "Madame verra comme c'est difficile de faire du bien dans ce paysci; on ne pense qu'a s'amuser." And yet we saw the miserable little crusts of hard bread, and some of the boys in linen jackets over their skin, no shirt, and looking as if they had never had a good square meal in their lives.

I had one other curious experience, and after that I gave up trying anything that was a novelty or that they hadn't seen all their lives. The French peasant is really conservative; and if left to himself, with no cheap political papers or socialist orators haranguing in the cafes on the eternal topic of the rich and the poor, he would be quite content to go on leading the life he and his fathers have always led - would never want to destroy or change anything.

I was staying one year with Lady Derby at Knowsley, in Christmas week, and I was present one afternoon when she was making her annual distribution of clothes to the village children. I was much pleased with some ulsters and some red cloaks she had for the girls. They were so pleased, too - broad smiles on their faces when they were called up and the cloaks put on their shoulders. They looked so warm and comfortable, when the little band trudged home across the snow. I had instantly visions of my school children attired in these cloaks, climbing our steep hills in the dark winter days.

I had a long consultation with Lady Margaret Cecil, Lady Derby's daughter - a perfect saint, who spent all her life helping other people - and she gave me the catalogue of "Price Jones," a well-known Welsh shop whose "specialite" was all sorts of clothes for country people, schools, workmen's families, etc. I ordered a large collection of red cloaks, ulsters, and flannel shirts at a very reasonable price, and they promised to send them in the late summer, so that we should find them when we went back to France.

We found two large cases when we got home, and were quite pleased at all the nice warm cloaks we had in store for the winter.

As soon as the first real cold days began, about the end of November, the women used to appear at the chateau asking for warm clothes for the children. The first one to come was the wife of the "garde de Borny" - a slight, pale woman, the mother of nine small children (several of them were members of the school at St. Quentin, who had declined our soup, and I rather had their little pinched, bloodless faces in my mind when I first thought about it). She had three with her - a baby in her arms, a boy and a girl of six and seven, both bare-legged, the boy in an old worn-out jersey pulled over his chest, the girl in a ragged blue and white apron, a knitted shawl over her head and shoulders. The baby had a cloak. I don't believe there was much on underneath, and the mother was literally a bundle of rags, her skirt so patched one could hardly make out the original colour, and a wonderful cloak all frayed at the ends and with holes in every direction. However, they were all clean.

The baby and the boy were soon provided for. The boy was much pleased with his flannel shirt. Then we produced the red cloak for the girl. The woman's face fell: "Oh, no, Madame, I couldn't take that; my little girl couldn't wear it." I, astounded: "But you don't see what it is - a good, thick cloak that will cover her all up and keep her warm." "Oh, no, Madame, she couldn't wear that; all the people on the road would laugh at her! Cela ne se porte pas dans notre pays" (that is not worn in our country).

I explained that I had several, and that she would see all the other little girls with the same cloaks; but I got only the same answer, adding that Madame would see - no child would wear such a cloak. I was much disgusted - thought the woman was capricious; but she was perfectly right; not a single mother, and Heaven knows they were poor enough, would take a red cloak, and they all had to be transformed into red flannel petticoats. Every woman made me the same answer: "Every one on the road would laugh at them."

I was not much luckier with the ulsters. What I had ordered for big girls of nine and ten would just go on girls of six and seven. Either French children are much stouter than English, or they wear thicker things underneath. Here again there was work to do - all the sleeves were much too long; my maids had to alter and shorten them, which they did with rather a bad grace.

A most interesting operation that very cold year was taking ice out of the big pond at the foot of the hill. The ice was several inches thick, and beautifully clear in the middle of the pond; toward the edges the reeds and long grass had all got frozen into it, and it was rather difficult to get the big blocks out. We had one of the farm carts with a pair of strong horses, and three or four men with axes and a long pointed stick. It was so solid that we all stood on the pond while the men were cutting their first square hole in the middle. It was funny to see the fish swimming about under the ice.

The whole village of course looked on, and the children were much excited, and wanted to come and slide on the ice, but I got nervous as the hole got bigger and the ice at the edges thinner, so we all adjourned to the road and watched operations from there.

There were plenty of fish in the pond, and once a year it was thoroughly drained and cleaned - the water drawn off, and the bottom of the pond, which got choked up with mud and weeds, cleared out. They made a fine haul of fish on those occasions from the small pools that were left on each side while the cleaning was going on.

Our ice-house was a godsend to all the countryside. Whenever any one was ill, and ice was wanted, they always came to the chateau. Our good old doctor was not at all in the movement as regarded fresh air and cold water, but ice he often wanted. He was a rough, kindly old man, quite the type of the country practitioner - a type that is also disappearing, like everything else. Everybody knew his cabriolet (with a box at the back where he kept his medicine chest and instruments), with a strong brown horse that trotted all day and all night up and down the steep hills in all weathers. A very small boy was always with him to hold the horse while he made his visits.

Our doctor was very kind to the poor, and never refused to go out at night. It was funny to see him arrive on a cold day, enveloped in so many cloaks and woollen comforters that it took him some time to get out of his wraps. He had a gruff voice, and heavy black overhanging eyebrows which frightened people at first, but they soon found out what a kind heart there was beneath such a rough exterior, and the children loved him. He had always a box of liquorice lozenges in his waistcoat pocket which he distributed freely to the small ones.

The country doctors about us now are a very different type - much younger men, many foreigners. There are two Russians and a Greek in some of the small villages near us. I believe they are very good. I met the Greek one day at the keeper's cottage. He was looking after the keeper's wife, who was very ill. It seemed funny to see a Greek, with one of those long Greek names ending in "popolo," in a poor little French village almost lost in the woods; but he made a very good impression on me - was very quiet, didn't give too much medicine (apothecaries' bills are always such a terror to the poor), and spoke kindly to the woman. He comes still in a cabriolet, but his Russian colleague has an automobile - indeed so have now many of the young French doctors. I think there is a little rivalry between the Frenchmen and the foreigners, but the latter certainly make their way.

What is very serious now is the open warfare between the cure and the school-master. When I first married, the school-masters and mistresses took their children to church, always sat with them and kept them in order. The school-mistress sometimes played the organ. Now they not only don't go to church themselves, but they try to prevent the children from going. The result is that half the children don't go either to the church or to the catechism.

I had a really annoying instance of this state of things one year when we wanted to make a Christmas tree and distribution of warm clothes at Montigny, a lonely little village not far from us. We talked it over with the cure and the school-master. They gave us the names and ages of all the children, and were both much pleased to have a fete in their quiet little corner. I didn't suggest a service in the church, as I thought that might perhaps be a difficulty for the school-master.

Two days before the fete I had a visit from the cure of Montigny, who looked embarrassed and awkward; had evidently something on his mind, and finally blurted out that he was very sorry he couldn't be present at the Christmas tree, as he was obliged to go to Reims that day. I, much surprised and decidedly put out: "You are going to Reims the one day in the year when we come and make a fete in your village? It is most extraordinary, and surprises me extremely. The date has been fixed for weeks, and I hold very much to your being there."

He still persisted, looking very miserable and uncomfortable, and finally said he was going away on purpose, so as not to be at the school-house. He liked the school-master very much, got on with him perfectly; he was intelligent and taught the children very well; but all school-masters who had anything to do with the Church or the cure were "malnotes." The mayor of Montigny was a violent radical; and surely if he heard that the cure was present at our fete in the school-house, the school-master would be dismissed the next day. The man was over thirty, with wife and children; it would be difficult for him to find any other employment; and he himself would regret him, as his successor might be much worse and fill the children's heads with impossible ideas.

I was really very much vexed, and told him I would talk it over with my son and see what we could do. The poor little cure was much disappointed, but begged me not to insist upon his presence.

A little later the school-master arrived, also very much embarrassed, saying practically the same thing - that he liked the cure very much. He never talked politics, nor interfered in any way with his parishioners. Whenever any one was ill or in trouble, he was always the first person to come forward and nurse and help. But he saw him very little. If I held to the cure being present at the Christmas tree, of course he could say nothing; but he would certainly be dismissed the next day. He was married - had nothing but his salary; it would be a terrible blow to him.

I was very much perplexed, particularly as the time was short and I couldn't get hold of the mayor. So we called a family council - Henrietta and Francis were both at home - and decided that we must let our fete take place without the cure. The school-master was very grateful, and said he would take my letter to the post-office. I had to write to the cure to tell him what we had decided, and that he might go to Reims.

One of our great amusements in the winter was the hunting. We knew very well the two gentlemen, Comtes de B. and de L., who hunted the Villers-Cotterets forest, and often rode with them. It was beautiful riding country - stretches of grass alongside the hard highroad, where one could have a capital canter, the only difficulty being the quantity of broad, low ditches made for the water to run off. Once the horses knew them they took them quite easily in their stride, but they were a little awkward to manage at first. The riding was very different from the Roman Campagna, which was my only experience. There was very little to jump; long straight alleys, with sometimes a big tree across the road, occasionally ditches; nothing like the very stiff fences and stone walls one meets in the Campagna, or the slippery bits of earth (tufa) where the horses used to slide sometimes in the most uncomfortable way. One could gallop for miles in the Villers-Cotterets forest with a loose rein. It was disagreeable sometimes when we left the broad alleys and took little paths in and out of the trees. When the wood was thick and the branches low, I was always afraid one would knock me off the saddle or come into my eyes. Some of the meets were most picturesque; sometimes in the heart of the forest at a great carrefour, alleys stretching off in every direction, hemmed in by long straight lines of winter trees on each side, with a thick, high undergrowth of ferns, and a broad-leaved plant I didn't know, which remained green almost all winter. It was pretty to see the people arriving from all sides, in every description of vehicle - breaks, dog-carts, victorias, farmer's gigs - grooms with led horses, hunting men in green or red coats, making warm bits of colour in the rather severe landscape. The pack of hounds, white with brown spots, big, powerful animals, gave the valets de chiens plenty to do. Apparently they knew all their names, as we heard frequent admonitions to Comtesse, Diane (a very favourite name for hunting dogs in France), La Grise, etc., to keep quiet, and not make little excursions into the woods. As the words were usually accompanied by a cut of the whip, the dogs understood quite well, and remained a compact mass on the side of the road. There was the usual following of boys, tramps, and stray bucherons (woodmen), and when the day was fine, and the meet not too far, a few people would come from the neighbouring villages, or one or two carriages from the livery stables of Villers-Cotterets, filled with strangers who had been attracted by the show and the prospect of spending an afternoon in the forest. A favourite meet was at the pretty little village of Ivors, standing just on the edge of the forest not far from us. It consisted of one long street, a church, and a chateau at one end. The chateau had been a fine one, but was fast going to ruin, uninhabited, paint and plaster falling off, roof and walls remaining, and showing splendid proportions, but had an air of decay and neglect that was sad to see in such a fine place. The owner never lived there; had several other places. An agent came down occasionally, and looked after the farm and woods. There was a fine double court-yard and enormous "communs," a large field only separating the kitchen garden from the forest. A high wall in fairly good condition surrounded the garden and small park. On a hunting morning the little place quite waked up, and it was pretty to see the dogs and horses grouped under the walls of the old chateau, and the hunting men in their bright coats moving about among the peasants and carters in their dark-blue smocks.

The start was very pretty - one rode straight into the forest, the riders spreading in all directions. The field was never very large - about thirty - I the only lady. The cor de chasse was a delightful novelty to me, and I soon learned all the calls - the debouche, the vue and the hallali, when the poor beast is at the last gasp. The first time I saw the stag taken I was quite miserable. We had had a splendid gallop. I was piloted by one of the old stagers, who knew every inch of the forest, and who promised I should be in at the death, if I would follow him, "mais il faut me suivre partout, avez-vous peur?" As he was very stout, and not particularly well mounted, and I had a capital English mare, I was quite sure I could pass wherever he could. He took me through all sorts of queer little paths, the branches sometimes so low that it didn't seem possible to get through, but we managed it. Sometimes we lost sight of the hunt entirely, but he always guided himself by the sound of the horns, which one hears at a great distance. Once a stag bounded across the road just in front of us, making our horses shy violently, but he said that was not the one we were after. I wondered how he knew, but didn't ask any questions. Once or twice we stopped in the thick of the woods, having apparently lost ourselves entirely, not hearing a sound, and then in the distance there would be the faint sound of the horn, enough for him to distinguish the vue, which meant that they were still running. Suddenly, very near, we heard the great burst of the hallali - horses, dogs, riders, all joining in; and pushing through the brushwood we found ourselves on the edge of a big pond, almost a lake. The stag, a fine one, was swimming about, nearly finished, his eyes starting out of his head, and his breast shaken with great sobs. The whole pack of dogs was swimming after him, the hunters all swarming down to the edge, sounding their horns, and the master of hounds following in a small flatboat, waiting to give the coup de grace with his carbine when the poor beast should attempt to get up the bank. It was a sickening sight. I couldn't stand it, and retreated (we had all dismounted) back into the woods, much to the surprise and disgust of my companion, who was very proud and pleased at having brought me in at the death among the very first. Of course, one gets hardened, and a stag at bay is a fine sight. In the forest they usually make their last stand against a big tree, and sell their lives dearly. The dogs sometimes get an ugly blow. I was really very glad always when the stag got away. I had all the pleasure and excitement of the hunt without having my feelings lacerated at the end of the day. The sound of the horns and the unwonted stir in the country had brought out all the neighbourhood, and the inhabitants of the little village, including the cure and the chatelaine of the small chateau near, soon appeared upon the scene. The cure, a nice, kindly faced old man, with white hair and florid complexion, was much interested in all the details of the hunt. It seems the stag is often taken in these ponds, les etangs de la ramee, which are quite a feature in the country, and one of the sights of the Villers-Cotterets forest, where strangers are always brought. They are very picturesque; the trees slope down to the edge of the ponds, and when the bright autumn foliage is reflected in the water the effect is quite charming.

Mme. de M., the chatelaine, was the type of the grande dame Francaise, fine, clear-cut features, black eyes, and perfectly white hair, very well arranged. She was no longer young, but walked with a quick, light step, a cane in her hand. She, too, was much interested, such an influx of people, horses, dogs, and carriages (for in some mysterious way the various vehicles always seemed to find their way to the finish). It was an event in the quiet little village. She admired my mare very much, which instantly won my affections. She asked us to come back with her to the chateau - it was only about a quarter of an hour's walk - to have some refreshment after our long day; so I held up my skirt as well as I could, and we walked along together. The chateau is not very large, standing close to the road in a small park, really more of a manor house than a chateau. She took us into the drawing-room just as stiff and bare as all the others I had seen, a polished parquet floor, straight-backed, hard chairs against the wall (the old lady herself looked as if she had sat up straight on a hard chair all her life). In the middle of the room was an enormous palm-tree going straight up to the ceiling. She said it had been there for years and always remained when she went to Paris in the spring. She was a widow, lived alone in the chateau with the old servants. Her daughter and grandchildren came occasionally to stay with her. She gave us wine and cake, and was most agreeable. I saw her often afterward, both in the country and Paris, and loved to hear her talk. She had remained absolutely ancien regime, couldn't understand modern life and ways at all. One of the things that shocked her beyond words was to see her granddaughters and their young friends playing tennis with young men in flannels. In her day a young man in bras de chemise would have been ashamed to appear before ladies in such attire. We didn't stay very long that day, as we were far from home, and the afternoon was shortening fast. The retraite was sometimes long when we had miles of hard road before us, until we arrived at the farm or village where the carriage was waiting. When we could walk our horses it was bearable, but sometimes when they broke into a jog-trot, which nothing apparently could make them change, it was very fatiguing after a long day.

Sometimes, when we had people staying with us, we followed the hunt in the carriage. We put one of the keepers of the Villers-Cotterets forest on the box, and it was wonderful how much we could see. The meet was always amusing, but when once the hunt had moved off, and the last stragglers disappeared in the forest, it didn't seem as if there was any possibility of catching them; and sometimes we would drive in a perfectly opposite direction, but the old keeper knew all about the stags and their haunts when they would break out and cross the road, and when they would double and go back into the woods. We were waiting one day in the heart of the forest, at one of the carrefours, miles away apparently from everything, and an absolute stillness around us. Suddenly there came a rush and noise of galloping horses, baying hounds and horns, and a flash of red and green coats dashed by, disappearing in an instant in the thick woods before we had time to realize what it was. It was over in a moment - seemed an hallucination. We saw and heard nothing more, and the same intense stillness surrounded us. We had the same sight, the stag taken in the water, some years later, when we were alone at the chateau. Mme. A. was dead, and her husband had gone to Paris to live. We were sitting in the gallery one day after breakfast, finishing our coffee, and making plans for the day, when suddenly we saw red spots and moving figures in the distance, on the hills opposite, across the canal. Before we had time to get glasses and see what was happening, the children came rushing in to say the hunt was in the woods opposite, the horns sounding the hallali, and the stag probably in the canal. With the glasses we made out the riders quite distinctly, and soon heard faint echoes of the horn. We all made a rush for hats and coats, and started off to the canal. We had to go down a steep, slippery path which was always muddy in all weathers, and across a rather rickety narrow plank, also very slippery. As we got nearer, we heard the horns very well, and the dogs yelping. By the time we got to the bridge, which was open to let a barge go through, everything had disappeared - horses, dogs, followers, and not a sound of horn or hoof. One solitary horseman only, who had evidently lost the hunt and didn't know which way to go. We lingered a little, much disgusted, but still hoping we might see something, when suddenly we heard again distant sounds of horns and yelping dogs. The man on the other side waved his cap wildly, pointed to the woods, and started off full gallop. In a few minutes the hill slope was alive with hunters coming up from all sides. We were nearly mad with impatience, but couldn't swim across the canal, the bridge was still open, the barge lumbering through. The children with their Fraeulein and some of the party crossed a little lower down on a crazy little plank, which I certainly shouldn't have dared attempt, and at last the bargeman took pity on us and put us across. We raced along the bank as fast as we could, but the canal turns a great deal, and a bend prevented our seeing the stag, with the hounds at his heels, galloping down the slope and finally jumping into the canal, just where it widens out and makes a sort of lake between our hamlet of Bourneville and Marolles. It was a pretty sight, all the hunters dismounted, walking along the edge of the water, sounding their hallali, the entire population of Bourneville and Marolles and all our household arriving in hot haste, and groups of led horses and valets de chiens in their green coats half-way up the slope. The stag, a very fine one, was swimming round and round, every now and then making an effort to get up the bank, and falling back heavily - he was nearly done, half his body sinking in the water, and his great eyes looking around to see if any one would help him. I went back to the barge (they had stayed, too, to see the sight), and the woman, a nice, clean, motherly body with two babies clinging to her, was much excited over the cruelty of the thing.

"Madame trouve que c'est bien de tourmenter une pauvre bete qui ne fait de mal a personne, pour s'amuser?" Madame found that rather difficult to answer, and turned the conversation to her life on the barge. The minute little cabin looked clean, with several pots of red geraniums, clean muslin curtains, a canary bird, and a nondescript sort of dog, who, she told me, was very useful, taking care of the children and keeping them from falling into the water when she was obliged to leave them on the boat while she went on shore to get her provisions. I asked: "How does he keep them from falling into the water - does he take hold of their clothes?" "No, I leave them in the cabin, when I am obliged to go ashore, and he stands at the door and barks and won't let them come out." While I was talking to her I heard a shot, and realised that the poor stag had been finished at last. It was early in the afternoon - three o'clock, and I suggested that the whole chasse should adjourn to the chateau for gouter. This they promptly accepted, and started off to find their horses. Then I had some misgivings as to what I could give them for gouter. We were a small party, mostly women and children. W. was away, and I thought that probably the chef, who was a sportsman as well as a cook, was shooting (he had hired a small chasse not far from us); I had told him there was nothing until dinner. I had visions of twenty or thirty hungry men and an ordinary tea-table, with some thin bread and butter, a pot of damson jam, and some sables, so I sent off Francis's tutor, the stable-boy, and the gardener's boy to the chateau as fast as their legs could carry them, to find somebody, anybody, to prepare us as much food as they could, and to sacrifice the dinner at once, to make sandwiches - tea and chocolate, of course, were easily provided.

We all started back to the house up the steep, muddy path, some of the men with us leading their horses, some riding round by Marolles to give orders to the breaks and various carriages to come to the chateau. The big gates were open, Hubert there to arrange at once for the accommodation of so many horses and equipages, and the billiard and dining-rooms, with great wood-fires, looking most comfortable. The chasseurs begged not to come into the drawing-room, as they were covered with mud, so they brushed off what they could in the hall, and we went at once to the gouter. It was funny to see our quiet dining-room invaded by such a crowd of men, some red-coated, some green, all with breeches and high muddy boots. The master of hounds, M. Menier, proposed to make the curee on the lawn after tea, which I was delighted to accept. We had an English cousin staying with us who knew all about hunting in her own country, but had never seen a French chasse a courre, and she was most keen about it. The gouter was very creditable. It seems that they had just caught the chef, who had been attracted by the unusual sounds and bustle on the hillside, and who had also come down to see the show. He promptly grasped the situation, hurried back to the house, and produced beef and mayonnaise sandwiches, and a splendid savarin with whipped cream in the middle (so we naturally didn't have any dessert - but nobody minded), tea, chocolate, and whiskey, of course. As soon as it began to get dark we all adjourned to the lawn. All the carriages, the big breaks with four horses, various lighter vehicles, grooms and led horses were massed at the top of the lawn, just where it rises slightly to meet the woods. A little lower down was Hubert, the huntsman (a cousin of our coachman, Hubert, who was very pleased to do the honours of his stable-yard), with one or two valets de chiens, the pack of dogs, and a great whip, which was very necessary to keep the pack back until he allowed them to spring upon the carcass of the stag. He managed them beautifully. Two men held up the stag - the head had already been taken off; it was a fine one, with broad, high antlers, a dix cors. Twice Hubert led his pack up, all yelping and their eyes starting out of their heads, and twice drove them back, but the third time he let them spring on the carcass. It was an ugly sight, the compact mass of dogs, all snarling and struggling, noses down and tails up. In a few minutes nothing was left of the poor beast but bones, and not many of them. Violet had les honneurs du pied (the hoof of one of the hind legs of the stag), which is equivalent to the "brush" one gives in fox-hunting. She thanked M. M., the master of hounds, very prettily and said she would have it arranged and hang it up in the hall of her English home, in remembrance of a lovely winter afternoon, and her first experience of what still remains of the old French venerie. The horns sounded again the curee and the depart, and the whole company gradually dispersed, making quite a cortege as they moved down the avenue, horses and riders disappearing in the gray mist that was creeping up from the canal, and the noise of wheels and hoofs dying away in the distance.

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We were pottering about in our woods one day, waiting for Labbez (the keeper) to come and decide about some trees that must be cut down, when a most miserable group emerged from one of the side alleys and slipped by so quickly and quietly that we couldn't speak to them. A woman past middle age, lame, unclothed really - neither shoes nor stockings, not even a chemise - two sacks of coarse stuff, one tied around her waist half covering her bare legs, one over her shoulders; two children with her, a big overgrown girl of about twelve, equally without clothing, an old black bodice gaping open over her bare skin, held together by one button, a short skirt so dirty and torn that one wondered what kept it on, no shoes nor stockings, black hair falling straight down over her forehead and eyes; the boy, about six, in a dirty apron, also over his bare skin. I was horrified, tried to make them turn and speak to me, but they disappeared under the brushwood as quickly as they could, "evidently up to no good," said W. In a few moments the keeper appeared, red and breathless, having been running after poachers - a woman the worst of the lot. We described the party we had just seen, and he was wildly excited, wanted to start again in pursuit, said they were just the ones he was looking for. The woman belonged to a band of poachers and vagabonds they could not get hold of. They could trace her progress sometimes by the blood on the grass where the thorns and sharp stones had torn her feet. It seems they were quite a band, living anywhere in the woods, in old charcoal-burners' huts or under the trees, never staying two nights in the same place. There are women, and children, and babies, who appear and disappear, in the most extraordinary manner. Many of them have been condemned, and have had two weeks or a month of prison. One family is employed by one of the small farmers near, who lets them live in a tumbledown hut in the midst of his woods, and that is their centre. We passed by there two or three days later, when we were riding across the fields, and anything so miserable I never saw; the house half falling to pieces, no panes of glass, dirty rags stuffed in the windows, no door at all, bundles of dirty straw inside, a pond of filthy water at one side of the house, two or three dirty children playing in it, and inside at the opening, where the door should have been, the same lame woman in her two sacks. She glowered at us, standing defiantly at the opening to prevent our going in, in case we had any such intention. I suppose she had various rabbits and hares hung up inside she couldn't have accounted for. There was no other habitation anywhere near; no cart or vehicle of any kind could have got there. We followed a narrow path, hardly visible in the long grass, and the horses had to pick their way - one couldn't imagine a more convenient trysting-place for vagabonds and tramps. It seems incredible that such things should go on at our doors, so to speak, but it is very difficult to get at them. Our keepers and M. de M., whose property touches ours, have had various members of the gang arrested, but they always begin again. The promiscuity of living is something awful, girls and young men squatting and sleeping in the same room on heaps of dirty rags. There have been some arrests for infanticide, when a baby's appearance and disappearance was too flagrant, but the girls don't care. They do their time of prison, come out quite untamed by prison discipline, and begin again their wild, free life. One doesn't quite understand the farmer who gives any shelter to such a bad lot, but I fancy there is a tacit understanding that his hares and rabbits must be left unmolested.

It is amusing to see the keepers when they suspect poachers are in their woods. When the leaves are off they can see at a great distance, and with their keen, trained eyes make out quite well when a moving object is a hare, or a roebuck, or a person on all fours, creeping stealthily along. They have powerful glasses, too, which help them very much. They, too, have their various tricks, like the poachers. As the gun-barrel is seen at a great distance when the sun strikes it, they cover it with a green stuff that takes the general tint of the leaves and the woods, and post themselves, half hidden in the bushes, near some of the quarries, where the poachers generally come. Then they give a gun to an under-strapper, telling him to stand in some prominent part of the woods, his gun well in sight. That, of course, the poachers see at once, so they make straight for the other side, and often fall upon the keepers who are lying in wait for them. As a general rule, they don't make much resistance, as they know the keepers will shoot - not to kill them, but a shot in the ankle or leg that will disable them for some time. I had rather a weakness for one poaching family. The man was young, good-looking, and I don't really believe a bad lot, but he had been unfortunate, had naturally a high temper, and couldn't stand being howled at and sworn at when things didn't go exactly as the patron wanted; consequently he never stayed in any place, tried to get some other work, but was only fit for the woods, where he knew every tree and root and the habits and haunts of all the animals. He had a pretty young wife and two children, who had also lived in the woods all their lives, and could do nothing else. The wife came to see me one day to ask for some clothes for herself and the children, which I gave, of course, and then tried mildly to speak to her about her husband, who spent half his time in prison, and was so sullen and scowling when he came out that everybody gave him a wide berth. The poor thing burst into a passion of tears and incoherent defence of her husband. Everybody had been so hard with him. When he had done his best, been up all night looking after the game, and then was rated and sworn at by his master before every one because un des Parisiens didn't know what to do with a gun when he had one in his hand, and couldn't shoot a hare that came and sat down in front of him, it was impossible not to answer un peu vivement peut-etre, and it was hard to be discharged at once without a chance of finding anything else, etc., and at last winding up with the admission that he did take hares and rabbits occasionally; but when there was nothing to eat in the house and the children were crying with hunger, what was he to do? Madame would never have known or missed the rabbits, and after all, le Bon Dieu made them for everybody. I tried to persuade W. to take him as a workman in the woods, with the hope of getting back as under-keeper, but he would not hear of it, said the man was perfectly unruly and violent-tempered, and would demoralize all the rest. They remained some time in the country, and the woman came sometimes to see me, but she had grown hard, evidently thought I could have done something for her husband, and couldn't understand that as long as he went on snaring game no one would have anything to do with him - always repeating the same thing, that a Bon Dieu had made the animals pour tout le monde. Of course it must be an awful temptation for a man who has starving children at home, and who knows that he has only to walk a few yards in the woods to find rabbits in plenty; and one can understand the feeling that le Bon Dieu provided food for all his children, and didn't mean some to starve, while others lived on the fat of the land.

It was a long time before I could get accustomed to seeing women work in the fields (which I had never seen in America). In the cold autumn days, when they were picking the betterave (a big beet root) that is used to make sugar in France, it made me quite miserable to see them. Bending all day over the long rows of beets, which required quite an effort to pull out of the hard earth, their hands red and chapped, sometimes a cold wind whistling over the fields that no warm garment could keep out, and they never had any really warm garment. We met an old woman one day quite far from any habitation, who was toiling home, dragging her feet, in wretched, half-worn shoes, over the muddy country roads, who stopped and asked us if we hadn't a warm petticoat to give her. She knew me, called me by name, and said she lived in the little hamlet near the chateau. She looked miserably cold and tired. I asked where she came from, and what she had been doing all day. "Scaring the crows in M. A.'s fields," was the answer. "What does your work consist of?" I asked. "Oh, I just sit there and make a noise - beat the top of an old tin kettle with sticks and shake a bit of red stuff in the air." Poor old woman, she looked half paralyzed with cold and fatigue, and I was really almost ashamed to be seated so warmly and comfortably in the carriage, well wrapped up in furs and rugs, and should have quite understood if she had poured out a torrent of abuse. It must rouse such bitter and angry feeling when these poor creatures, half frozen and half starved, see carriages rolling past with every appliance of wealth and luxury. I suppose what saves us is that they are so accustomed to their lives, the long days of hard work, the wretched, sordid homes, the insufficient meals, the quantities of children clamouring for food and warmth. Their parents and grandparents have lived the same lives, and anything else would seem as unattainable as the moon, or some fairy tale. There has been one enormous change in all the little cottages - the petroleum lamp. All have got one - petroleum is cheap and gives much more light and heat than the old-fashioned oil lamp. In the long winter afternoons, when one must have light for work of any kind, the petroleum lamp is a godsend. We often noticed the difference coming home late. The smallest hamlets looked quite cheerful with the bright lights shining through the cracks and windows. I can't speak much from personalexperience of the inside of the cottages - I was never much given to visiting among the poor. I suppose I did not take it in the right spirit, but I could never see the poetry, the beautiful, patient lives, the resignation to their humble lot. I only saw the dirt, and smelt all the bad smells, and heard how bad most of the young ones were to all the poor old people. "Cela mange comme quatre, et cela n'est plus bon a rien," I heard one woman remark casually to her poor old father sitting huddled up in a heap near the fire. I don't know, either, whether they liked to have us come. What suited them best was to send the children to the chateau. They always got a meal and a warm jacket and petticoat.