We were very particular about attending all important ceremonies at La Ferte, as we rarely went to church there except on great occasions. We had our service regularly at the chateau every Sunday morning. All the servants, except ours, were Protestants, Swiss generally, and very respectable they looked - all the women in black dresses and white caps - when they assembled in M. A.'s library, sitting on cane chairs near the door.

Some, in fact most, Protestants in France attach enormous importance to having all their household Protestant. A friend of mine, a Protestant, having tea with me one day in Paris was rather pleased with the bread or little "croissants," and asked me where they came from. I said I didn't know, but would ask the butler. That rather surprised her. Then she said, "Your baker of course is a Protestant." That I didn't know either, and, what was much worse in her eyes, I didn't care. She was quite distressed, gave me the address of an excellent Swiss Protestant baker and begged me to sever all connection with the Catholic at once. I asked her if she really thought dangerous papist ideas were kneaded in with the bread, but she would not listen to my mild "persiflage," and went away rather anxious about my spiritual welfare.

We went always to the church at La Ferte for the fete of St. Cecile, as the Fanfare played in the church on that day. The Fanfare was a very important body. Nearly all the prominent citizens of La Ferte, who had any idea of music, were members - the butcher, the baker, the coiffeur, etc. The Mayor was president and walked at the head of the procession when they filed into the church. I was "Presidente d'Honneur" and always wore my badge pinned conspicuously on my coat. It was a great day for the little town. Weeks before the fete we used to hear all about it from the coiffeur when he came to the chateau to shave the gentlemen. He played the big drum and thought the success of the whole thing depended on his performance. He proposed to bring his instrument one morning and play his part for us. We were very careful to be well dressed on that day and discarded the short serge skirts we generally wore. All the La Ferte ladies, particularly the wives and sisters of the performers, put on their best clothes, and their feelings would have been hurt if we had not done the same.

In fact it was a little difficult to dress up to the occasion. The older women all had jet and lace on their dresses, with long trailing skirts, and the younger ones, even children, had wonderful hats with feathers - one or two long white ones.

It was a pretty, animated sight as we arrived. All along the road we had met bands of people hurrying on to the town - the children with clean faces and pinafores, the men with white shirts, and even the old grandmothers - their shawls on their shoulders and their turbans starched stiff - were hobbling along with their sticks, anxious to arrive. We heard sounds of music as we got to the church - the procession was evidently approaching. The big doors were wide open, a great many people already inside. We looked straight down the nave to the far end where the high altar, all flowers and candles, made a bright spot of colour. Red draperies and banners were hanging from the columns - vases and wreaths of flowers at the foot of the statues of the saints; chairs and music-stands in the chancel. We went at once to our places. The cure, with his choir boys in their little short white soutanes, red petticoats and red shoes, was just coming out of the sacristy and the procession was appearing at the bottom of the church. First came the Mayor in a dress coat and white cravat - the "Adjoint" and one of the municipal council just behind, then the banner - rather a heavy one, four men carried it. After that the "pompiers," all in uniform, each man carrying his instrument; they didn't play as they came up the aisle, stopped their music at the door; but when they did begin - I don't know exactly at what moment of the mass - it was something appalling. The first piece was a military march, executed with all the artistic conviction and patriotic ardour of their young lungs (they were mostly young men). We were at the top of the church, very near the performers, and the first bursts of trumpets and bugles made one jump. They played several times. It didn't sound too badly at the "Elevation" when they had chosen rather a soft (comparatively) simple melody. The cure preached a very pretty, short sermon, telling them about Saint Cecile, the delicately nurtured young Roman who was not afraid to face martyrdom and death for the sake of her religion. The men listened most attentively and seemed much interested when he told them how he had seen in Rome the church of St. Cecile built over the ruin of the saint's house - the sacristy just over her bath-room. I asked him how he could reconcile it to his conscience to speak of the melodious sounds that accompanied the prayers of the faithful, but he said one must look sometimes at the intention more than at the result.

There was a certain harmony among the men when they were practising and preparing their music for the church, and as long as they held to coming and gave up their evenings to practising, instead of spending them in the wine shops, we must do all we could to encourage them.

The procession went out in the same order - halted at the church door and then W. made them a nice little speech, saying he was pleased to see how numerous they were and how much improved - they would certainly take an honourable place in the concours de fanfares of the department. They escorted the Mayor back to his house playing their march and wound up with a copious dejeuner at the "Sauvage." Either the Mayor or the "Adjoint" always went to the banquet. W. gave the champagne, but abstained from the feast.

They really did improve as they went on. They were able to get better instruments and were stimulated by rival fanfares in the neighbourhood. They were very anxious to come and play at the chateau, and we promised they should whenever a fitting occasion should present itself.

We had a visit from the Staals one year. The Baron de Staal was Russian Ambassador in England, and we had been colleagues there for many years. We asked the Fanfare to come one Sunday afternoon while they were there. We had a little difficulty over the Russian National Hymn, which they, naturally, wanted to play. The Chef de Fanfare came to see me one day and we looked over the music together. I had it only for the piano, but I explained the tempo and repetitions to him and he arranged it very well for his men. They made quite an imposing entrance. Half the population of La Ferte escorted them (all much excited by the idea of seeing the Russian Ambassador), and they were reinforced by the two villages they passed through. We waited for them in the gallery - doors and windows open. They played the spirited French march "Sambre et Meuse" as they came up the avenue. It sounded quite fine in the open air. They halted and saluted quite in military style as soon as they came in front of the gallery - stopped their march and began immediately the Russian Hymn, playing it very well.

They were much applauded, we in the gallery giving the signal and their friends on the lawn joining in enthusiastically. They were a motley crowd - over a hundred I should think - ranging from the municipal councillor of La Ferte, in his high hat and black cloth Sunday coat, to the humpbacked daughter of the village carpenter and the idiot boy who lived in a cave on the road and frightened the children out of their wits by running out and making faces at them whenever they passed. They played three or four times, then W. called up one or two of the principal performers and presented them to the Staals. Mme. de Staal spoke to them very prettily, thanked them for playing the Russian Hymn and said she would like to hear the "Sambre et Meuse" again. That, of course, delighted them and they marched off to the strains of their favourite tune. About half-way down the avenue we heard a few cries of "Vive la Russie," and then came a burst of cheers.

Our dinner was rather pleasant that evening. We had the Prefet, M. Sebline; Senator of the Aisne, Jusserand, present Ambassador to Washington; Mme. Thenard, of the Comedie Francaise, and several young people. Jusserand is always a brilliant talker - so easy - no pose of any kind, and Sebline was interesting, telling about all sorts of old customs in the country.

Though we were so near Paris, hardly two hours by the express, the people had remained extraordinarily primitive. There were no manufacturing towns anywhere near us, nothing but big farms, forests and small far-apart villages. The modern socialist-radical ideas were penetrating very slowly into the heads of the people - they were quite content to be humble tillers of the soil, as their fathers had been before them. The men had worked all their lives on the farms, the women too; beginning quite young, taking care of cows and geese, picking beet-root, etc.

What absolutely changed the men was the three years military service. After knocking about in garrison towns, living with a great many people always, having all sorts of amusements easily at hand and a certain independence, once the service of the day was over, they found the dull regular routine of the farm very irksome. In the summer it was well enough - harvest time was gay, everyone in the fields, but in the short, cold winter days, with the frozen ground making all the work doubly hard, just enough food and no distraction of any kind but a pipe in the kitchen after supper, the young men grew terribly restive and discontented. Very few of them remain, and the old traditions handed down from father to son for three or four generations are disappearing. After dinner we had music and some charming recitations by Mme. Thenard. Her first one was a comic monologue which always had the wildest success in London, "Je suis veuve," beginning it with a ringing peal of laughter which was curiously contagious - everyone in the room joined in. I like her better in some of her serious things. When she said "le bon gite" and "le petit clairon," by Paul Deroulede, in her beautiful deep voice, I had a decided choke in my throat.

We often had music at the chateau. Many of our artist friends came down - glad to have two or three days rest in the quiet old house. We had an amusing experience once with the young organist from La Ferte - almost turned his hair gray. He had taught himself entirely and managed his old organ very well. He had heard vaguely of Wagner and we had always promised him we would try and play some of his music with two pianos - eight hands. Four hands are really not enough for such complicated music. Mlle. Dubois, premier prix du conservatoire - a beautiful musician - was staying with us one year and we arranged a concert for one evening, asking the organist to come to dinner. The poor man was rather terrified at dining at the chateau - had evidently taken great pains with his dress (a bright pink satin cravat was rather striking) and thanked the butler most gratefully every time he handed him a dish - "Je vous remercie beaucoup, Monsieur." We had our two grand pianos and were going to play the overture of Tannhaeuser, one of the simplest and most melodious of Wagner's compositions. The performers were Francis and I, Mlle. Dubois and the organist. It was a little difficult to arrange who he should play with. He was very nervous at the idea of playing with Mlle. Dubois - rather frightened of me and in absolute terror at the idea of playing before W. Finally it was decided that he and I should take the second piano - he playing the bass. It was really funny to see him; his eyes were fixed on the music and he counted audibly and breathlessly all the time, and I heard him muttering occasionally to himself, "Non ce n'est pas possible," "Non ce n'est pas cela."

I must say that the Walpurgis Night for a person playing at sight and unaccustomed to Wagner's music is an ordeal - however, he acquitted himself extremely well and we got through our performance triumphantly, but great drops of perspiration were on his forehead. W. was very nice to him and Mlle. Dubois quite charming, encouraging him very much. Still I don't think his evening at the chateau was one of unmixed pleasure, and I am sure he was glad to have that overture behind him.

We saw our neighbours very rarely; occasionally some men came to breakfast. The sous-prefet, one or two of the big farmers or some local swells who wanted to talk politics to W. One frequent visitor was an architect from Chateau-Thierry, who had built W.'s farm. He was an enormous man, very stout and red, always attired in shiny black broadcloth. He was a very shrewd specimen, very well up in all that went on in the country and very useful to W. He had a fine appetite, always tucking his napkin carefully under his chin when he sat down to table. He talked a great deal one day about his son, who had a good tenor voice and had just got an engagement at the Opera Comique. Said he would like us to hear him sing - might he bring him some day to breakfast?

He came back two or three weeks later with the young man, who was a great improvement upon his father. The Paris boulevards and the coulisses of the opera had quite modified the young provincial. He talked a good deal at table, was naturally much pleased to have got into the Opera Comique. As it is a "theatre subventionne" (government theatre), he considered himself a sort of official functionary. After breakfast he asked us if we would like to hear him sing - sat down to the piano, accompanying himself very simply and easily and sang extremely well. I was much astonished and Mme. A. was delighted, especially when he sang some old-fashioned songs from the "Dame Blanche" and the "Domino Noir." The old father was enchanted, a broad smile on his face. He confided to W. that he had hoped his son would walk in his footsteps and content himself with a modest position as architect in the country, but after six months in Paris where he had sent him to learn his profession his ideas had completely changed and he would not hear of vegetating in the country.

We had, too, sometimes a doctor from one of the neighbouring villages. He had married an Englishwoman. They had a nice house and garden and he often had English boys over in the summer to learn French. He brought them occasionally to us for tea and tennis, begging us not to speak English to them. But that was rather difficult, with the English terms at tennis - horses and dogs always spoken to in English. One could not speak French to a fox-terrier bred in Oxfordshire.

       * * * * *

Another pretty, simple fete was the Blessing of the Flag given by Francis to the Pompiers of Montigny, our little village in the woods just above the chateau. My husband had always promised them a flag, but he died before their society was formed. Three years after his death, when we were living in the small place which now belongs to my son, a deputation arrived from Montigny one Sunday afternoon to ask if Francis would give the flag his father had promised. This of course he was delighted to do. He knew all the men and they all knew him - had seen him since he was a baby - all of them had worked in his father's woods, and two or three of the older ones had taken care of him and his gun when he first began to shoot.

His father gave him a gun when he was twelve years old - had it made at Purdy's in London, a reduced model of his own. No one is allowed to shoot in France till he is sixteen years old and then must have his "permis de chasse" duly signed by the Mayor. So it was rather difficult to get Francis and his gun into the woods - once there they were safe. Nothing would have induced him to let any of the men carry it. He walked beside the keeper with his gun over his shoulder just like him; they did meet two gendarmes one day and quickly the gun was given to some one else. I think the gendarmes quite realised the situation (Labbey, the keeper, said they knew all about it), but they were friends of the family, W.'s appointment, probably, and asked no questions.

It was necessary of course to consult the local authorities before deciding such an important question as the presentation of a flag to the Pompiers. Francis went over two or three days later and interviewed the cure, the Mayor and the school-master, found out where the flag must be ordered in Paris and decided the day a fortnight later, a Sunday, of course. The function was to consist of a service and sermon at the church and a "vin d'honneur" offered by the Pompiers at the Mairie, which they hoped Madame Waddington would grace by her presence.

The flag was duly ordered, sent direct to Montigny and everything was ready on the appointed day. We had fine weather, a bright, cold November afternoon; the country looked beautiful, all the trees red and yellow, a black line of pines in the middle of the woods. The long straggling village street, ending at the church on the top of the hill, was full of people; all the children in the middle of the road, their mothers dashing after them when they heard the horn of the auto.

We were quite a large party, as the house was full, and we brought all our guests with us, including an American cousin, who was much interested in the local festivities. The Pompiers were drawn up in the court-yard of the Mairie, their beautiful new flag well to the front. Almost all were in uniform, and those who had not yet been able to get one wore a clean white shirt and the Pompier's red belt. There was a cheer and a broad smile on all their faces when we drove up. Francis got out, as he was to head the procession with the Mayor and the cure. We went on to the church and stationed ourselves on the steps of the Infant School to see the cortege arrive.

It was quite a pretty sight as it wound up the hill: first the banner of blue silk with gold cords, which was held proudly aloft by two tall young fellows, then Francis walking between the cure and the Mayor, the Pompiers immediately behind them, then the Municipal Council, the usual escort of children that always turns out on such occasions bringing up the rear. We let the procession pass into the church and then took our places; a front pew was reserved for the family, but Francis and I sat on two arm-chairs inside the chancel, just behind the Pompiers.

The fine old church, which is rather large for such a small village, was crowded; they told me many people had come from the neighbouring hamlets. The Montigny people had done their best to beautify their church; there were a few plants and flowers and some banners and draperies - church property, which always figured upon any great occasion. They told us with pride that the school-master had arranged the music. I suppose the poor man did what he could with the material he had, but the result was something awful. The chorister, a very old man, a hundred I should think, played the harmonium, which was as old as he was. It groaned and wheezed and at times stopped altogether. He started the cantique with a thin quavering voice which was then taken up by the school-children, particularly the boys who roared with juvenile patriotism and energy each time they repeated the last line, "pour notre drapeau, pour notre patrie."

The sermon was very good - short and simple. It was preached by the Doyen of Neuilly - a tall, strong, broad-shouldered man who would have seemed more at home in a dragoon's uniform than in the soutane. But he knew his business well, had a fine voice and very good delivery; his peroration and appeal to the men to "remember always that the flag was the symbol of obedience, of loyalty, of devotion, to their country and their God," was really very fine. I almost expected to hear cheers. The French are very emotional, and respond instantly to any allusion to country or flag. The uniform (even the Pompier's) has an enormous prestige. Then came the benediction, the flag held high over the kneeling congregation, and the ceremony was ended.

We stopped a few moments after the service to let the procession pass out and also to thank the preacher and one or two cures who had assisted on the occasion; they did not come to the "vin d'honneur."

We walked down to the Mairie, where the Mayor and his Adjoint were waiting for us; they conducted us to a large room upstairs where there was a table with champagne bottles, glasses and a big brioche. As soon as we had taken our places at the top of the room, the Pompiers and Municipal Council trouped in and Francis made quite a pretty little speech. It was the first time I had ever heard him speak in public; he did it very well, was not at all shy. Then there was a pause - the Mayor filled a glass of champagne, handed it to me, took one himself and we "trinque'd" solemnly. Still there seemed a little hitch, no one else took any and there was an air of expectancy. I made a sign to the school-master, who was also the Adjoint, and he explained to me in a low voice that he thought it would give great pleasure if I would shake hands and trinquer with all the Pompiers. So I asked to have all the glasses filled and made the round, shaking hands with every one.

Some of them were very shy, could hardly make up their minds to put out their big, rough hands; some of the old ones were very talkative: "C'est moi qui suis Jacques, Madame, j'ai nettoye le premier fusil de M. Francis." Another in a great hurry to get to me: "C'est moi qui ai remasse le premier lievre de M. Francis," etc. I remember the "premier lievre" quite well; Francis carried it home himself and dashed into his father's study swinging the poor beast by its long ears, the blood dripping from a hole in its neck. It was difficult to scold, the child was so enchanted, even old Ferdinand did not grumble but came to the rescue at once with brushes and "savon noir."

The wine had loosened the tongues and made every one more at ease. I asked that Hubert (our coachman who had been in W.'s service for thirty-one years) should be invited to come up and have a glass of champagne. He knew everybody, having driven W. about in his dog-cart all over the country. He was delighted to take part in the fete and made his little speech, saying he had seen Monsieur Francis when he was only a few hours old, and that he had grown since - which joke was received with great applause.

Then some of the young men went off with Francis to look at the automobile, a great novelty at that time. We went out and talked to the women who were waiting in the street. Every one looked smiling and pleased to see us; the men all formed again in procession and escorted us to the end of the street, the whole village naturally following. They stopped at the foot of the hill, giving us a ringing cheer as we left.

       * * * * *

I never but once saw the whole neighbourhood assembled - when the only son of the Baron de L. married. The Baron and his wife were very good specimens of provincial noblesse. He was a tall, heavily-built man, square-shouldered, with the weather-beaten complexion of a man who spent all his days riding about his fields and woods; a pleasant, jovial manner, quite the type of the country gentleman.

They lived in a charming old Louis XV. chateau almost in the forest of Villers-Cotterets - their park touching the line of wood. They went rarely to Paris; lived almost all the year in the country and were devoted to their place. One just saw the pointed red roof of the chateau in the trees as one passed on the road. It stood high, a very steep road leading up to it. At the foot of the hill were market gardens, which made a very curious effect from a distance - the long rows of glass "cloches" making huge white spots. The vegetables always looked very tempting as we passed in the early summer. They were all "primeurs" - the gardens lying in full sun and were sent off to the Paris market. Half-way up the slope was a pretty little church almost hidden in the trees, and a tiny village struggled up the hill and along the road.

The bride, dressed in white - a slight girlish figure - was standing near her mother-in-law and had a pretty smile of welcome for all the guests. It was rather an ordeal for her, as she was a stranger in the country (she came from the south of France) and every one was looking at the newcomer.

It was in the first year of my marriage, my first appearance in the country, and I was rather puzzled about my dress for the occasion. We were asked to dinner at seven o'clock. My first idea was to wear full dress - light-blue satin and diamonds - but a niece of Mme. A.'s, who was staying with us and who had been to some entertainments in that part of the country, advised me strongly to dress more simply. "They would not understand that sort of toilette and I would be overdressed and probably uncomfortable." So I compromised with a high white dress, no diamonds and one string of pearls.

We had a short hour's drive. It was a clear, cold night and we saw the chateau from a great distance. It was brilliantly lighted. The lights twinkling through the trees looked like huge fireflies. As we drove into the rather small court-yard there was quite a stir of carriages arriving and backing out. The hall doors were wide open; a flood of light streaming out over the steps - Baron de L. and his son at the door. There was a hum of voices in the drawing-room and there seemed to be a great many people. The rooms were handsome - plenty of light, the old tapestry furniture looked very well, standing straight and stiff against the wall, and the number of people took away the bare unused look they generally had.

All the chateaux of the neighbourhood were represented: The Comte de Lubersac and his sister had come over from their fine place, Maucreux. He was a very handsome young man - a great hunter and master of hounds of the stag hunting in the forest of Villers-Cotterets; his sister, Mlle. de Lubersac, most attractive, with the face of a saint. She was very simply dressed in a high black dress. She lived almost the life of a Sister of Charity - going about all day among the sick and poor, but she had promised her father, who was a great invalid, almost crippled with gout, to remain with him as long as he lived. It was only after his death that she took the vows and entered one of the strictest orders (Carmelites) in France.

There were also the chatelaines of Thury en Valois - a fine chateau and estate, not very far from us in the other direction. They had splendid gardens and their fruit and vegetables were famous all over the country. Mme. de Thury was a compatriot - the daughter of an American general; the young Comte de Melun from Brumetz - very delicate looking, with a refined student's face. His father was a great friend of the Marechal MacMahon and one of the leaders of the Catholic clerical party, and the young man was very religious. Their woods touched ours and once or twice when we were riding late, we saw him kneeling at a little old shrine, "the White Lady," which was almost hidden under the big trees - so little left that the ordinary passer-by would have seen nothing. There were also the owners of Colinance - rather an ugly square house standing low, surrounded by a marsh, but a good property - and three or four men I did not know - the bride's brother and one or two of her relations.

There was hardly time to introduce every one, as dinner was announced almost immediately. We were a large party, about twenty. All the women, except the bride and me, were dressed in black, high or a very little open - no lace, nor jewels. Henriette was right. I would have looked absurd if I had worn a low dress. The dinner was very good, very abundant and very long. The men said the wines were excellent. The talk was animated enough - it was principally the men who talked. I didn't think the women said much. I listened only, as I was too new in the country to be at all up in local topics.

After coffee the men went off to smoke and we women remained alone for some time. I wasn't sorry, as one had so few opportunities of seeing the neighbours, particularly the women, who rarely went out of their own places. One met the men hunting, or in the train, or at the notary's.

The notary is a most important person in all small country towns in France. Everybody consults him, from the big landowner when he has discussions with his neighbour over right of way, to the peasant who buys a few metres of land as soon as he has any surplus funds. We were constantly having rows with one of our neighbours over a little strip of wood that ran up into ours. Whenever he was angry with us, which happened quite often (we never knew why), he had a deep, ugly ditch made just across the road which we always took when we were riding around the property. The woods were so thick and low, with plenty of thorns, that we could not get along by keeping on one side and were obliged to go back and make quite a long detour. The notary did his best to buy it for us, but the man would never sell - rather enjoyed, I think, having the power to annoy us.

Mme. de Thury and I fraternised a little and I should have liked to see more of her, but soon after that evening they had great trouble. They had a great deal of illness and lost a son. I never saw Thury till after both of them were dead. The chateau had been sold, most of the furniture taken away and the whole place had a deserted, neglected look that made one feel quite miserable. The big drawing-room was piled up with straw, over the doors were still two charming dessus-de-porte, the colours quite fresh - not at all faded - chickens were walking about in another room, and upstairs in a pretty corner room, with a lovely view over woods and park, was a collection of photographs, engravings (one the mother of the late owner), a piece of unfinished tapestry, samplers, china vases, books, papers, two or three knots of faded ribbon, all tossed in a corner like a heap of rubbish. The things had evidently been forgotten in the big move, but it looked melancholy.

The chateau must have been charming when it was furnished and lived in. Quantities of rooms, a long gallery with small rooms on one side, the "garconniere" or bachelors' quarters, led directly into the church, where many Thurys are sleeping their last sleep. The park was beautiful and there was capital shooting. W. had often shot there in the old days when their shooting parties were famous.

We ended our evening with music, the bride playing extremely well. Mme. de Thury also sang very well. She had learnt in Italy and sang in quite bravura style. The evening didn't last very long after the men came in. Everybody was anxious to get the long, cold drive over.

I enjoyed myself very much. It was my first experience of a French country entertainment and it was very different from what I had expected. Not at all stiff and a most cordial welcome. I thought - rather naively perhaps - that it was the beginning of many entertainments of the same kind, but I never dined out again in the country. It is only fair to say that we never asked any one to dine either. It was not the habit of the house, and I naturally fell into their ways. Luncheon was what people liked best, so as not to be too late on the road or to cross the forest after nightfall, when the darkness was sometimes impenetrable. Some of the chatelaines received once a week. On that day a handsome and plentiful luncheon was provided and people came from the neighbouring chateaux, and even from Paris, when the distance was not too great and the trains suited.

       * * * * *

We had quite an excitement one day at the chateau. Francis was riding with the groom one morning about the end of August, and had hardly got out of the gates, when he came racing back to tell us that the manoeuvres were to take place very near us, small detachments of troops already arriving; and the village people had told him that quite a large contingent, men and horses, were to be quartered at the chateau. W. sent him straight off again to the mayor of Marolles - our big village - to know if his information was correct, and how many people we must provide for. Francis met the mayor on the road on his way to us, very busy and bustled with so many people to settle. He was billeting men and horses in the little hamlet, and at all the farms. He told us we were to have thirty men and horses - six officers, twenty-four men; and they would arrive at sundown, in time to cook their dinner. Hubert, the coachman, was quite bewildered at first how to provide for so many, but fortunately the stables and dependencies were very large, and it was quite extraordinary how quickly and comfortably everything was arranged. Men from the farm brought in large bundles of straw, and everybody lent a willing hand - they love soldiers in France, and are always proud and happy to receive them.

About 4.30, when we had just moved out to the tennis ground for tea, we saw an officer with his orderly riding up the avenue. He dismounted as soon as he caught sight of us sitting on the lawn, and introduced himself, said he was sent on ahead to see about lodging for himself, his brother-officers, and his men. They were part of a cavalry regiment, chasseurs, stationed at a small town in the neighbourhood. He asked W. if he might see the soldiers' quarters, said they brought their own food and would cook their dinner; asked if there was a room in the chateau where the sous-officiers could dine, as they never eat with their men. He, with W. and Francis, went off to inspect the arrangements and give the necessary orders. We had already seen to the officers' rooms, but hadn't thought of a separate dining-room for the sous-officiers; however, it was easily managed. We gave them the children's dining-room, in the wing near the kitchen and offices.

When W. came in he told us the whole party had arrived, and we started off to the communs to see what was going on. The stable-yard, which is very large, with some fine trees and outbuildings all around it, was filled with blue-coated soldiers and small chestnut horses - some were drinking out of the troughs; some, tied to the trees, and rings on the wall, were being rubbed down - the men walking about with the officers' valises and their own kits, undoing blankets, tin plates, and cups; and I should think every man and boy on our place and in the small hamlet standing about anxious to do something. Our little fox-terriers were mad with excitement; even the donkey seemed to feel there was something different in the air. He brayed noisily, and gave little vicious kicks occasionally when some of the horses passed too near. A group of officers was standing at the door of the stables talking to Hubert, who had managed very well, putting all the officers' horses into a second stable, which was always kept for guests, and the others in the various sheds and outhouses, all under cover.

W. introduced the officers - a nice-looking lot, chasseurs, in the light-blue uniform, which is so smart. He had asked permission for the men to dine at the chateau. They had their own meat and bread, but our chef was most anxious to cook it for them, and make them another substantial dish; so it was agreed that they should dine at six in the servants' hall. They all marched up in procession, headed by their sergeants; the blue tunics and red trousers looked very pretty as they came along the big avenue. The commandant asked W. if he would go and say a few words to them when they were having their coffee. They were very quiet; one hardly heard anything, though all the windows were open. W. said it was quite interesting to see all the young faces smiling and listening hard when he made his little speech. He asked them if they had had a good dinner; he hoped his man knew how to cook for soldiers. They all nodded and smiled at the chef, who was standing at the door looking very hot and very pleased. He had produced a sweet dish - I don't know what with, as he didn't habitually have thirty extra people to dinner - but I have always seen that when people want to do anything it is usually accomplished.

Our dinner was very pleasant. We were ten at table - W. and I, Henrietta, and a niece. The men talked easily, some of them Parisians, knowing every one. They knew that W. had remained at the chateau all during the Franco-German War, and were much interested in all he told them of the Prussian occupation. Only one of them had, as a very young fellow, served in 1870. All the rest were too young, and, like all young soldiers who have not been through a war and seen the horrors of it, were rather anxious to have their chance, and not spend all the best years of their lives in a small, dull garrison town.

We discussed the plans for the next day. They were going to have a sham fight over all the big fields in our neighbourhood, and advised us to come and see it. They said the best time would be about ten in the morning, when they were to monter a l'assaut of a large farm with moat and drawbridge near Dammarie. They were to make a very early start (four o'clock), and said they would be very pleased to have some hot coffee before mounting, if it could be had at that unearthly hour. They were very anxious about choosing a horse out of their squadron for the general, who was an infantryman, very stout, very rheumatic, and a very bad rider. The horse must be sure-footed, an easy mouth, easy canter, no tricks, accustomed to drum and bugle, to say nothing of the musket-shots, etc.

Henrietta and I rather amused ourselves after dinner teaching the commandant and another officer halma, which was just then at the height of its popularity. We had brought it over from London, where the whole society was mad over it. We were staying in a country house one year where there were seven tables of halma in the long gallery. The gentlemen rather disdained it at first, but as the game went on and they began to realise that there was really some science in it, and that our men were placing themselves very comfortably in their little squares, while theirs were wandering aimlessly about the centre of the board, they warmed to their task, and were quite vexed when they were badly beaten. They wanted their revanche. W. came in and gave a word of advice every now and then. The others finished their billiards, came to look on, each one suggesting a different move, which, of course, only complicated matters, and they lost again. Then some of the others tried with the same result. I think we played five or six games. They were so much pleased with the game that they asked us to write down the name and where to get it, and one of them afterward told my nephew, also a cavalry officer, that they introduced it at their mess and played every night instead of cards or dominoes. It was really funny to see how annoyed they were when their scientific combinations failed. The next morning was beautiful - a splendid August day, not too hot, little white clouds scurrying over the bright blue sky, veiling the sun. We started about nine, W., Francis, and I riding, the others driving. There were a good many people about in the fields and cross-roads, a few farmers riding, and everybody wildly interested telling us which way to go. Janet, my American niece, who was staying in the country in France for the first time, was horrified to see women working in the fields, couldn't believe that her uncle would allow it on his farm, and made quite an appeal to him when we all got home, to put an end to such cruel proceedings. It seems women never work in the fields in America, except negresses on some of the Southern plantations. I have been so long away that I had forgotten that they didn't, and I remember quite well my horror the first time we were in Germany, when we saw a woman and an ox harnessed together.

We separated from the carriage at the top of the hill, as we could get a nice canter and shorter road across the fields. We soon came in sight of the farmhouse, standing low, with moat and drawbridge, in rather an isolated position in the middle of the fields, very few trees around it. There was no longer any water in the moat. It was merely a deep, wide, damp ditch with long, straggling vines and weeds filling it up, and a slippery, steep bank. Soldiers were advancing in all directions, the small infantrymen moving along with a light, quick step; the cavalry apparently had been on the ground some time, as they were all dismounted and their horses picketed. We didn't go very near, as W. wasn't quite sure how the horses would stand the bugle and firing. They were already pulling hard, and getting a little nervous. It was pretty to see the soldiers all mount when the bugle rang out, and in a moment the whole body was in motion. The rush of the soldiers over the wide plains and the drawbridge looked irresistible - the men swarmed down the bank and over the ditch - one saw a confused mass of red trousers and kepis. The cavalry came along very leisurely, guarding the rear. I looked for the general. He was standing with some of his staff on a small hill directing operations. He did look stout and very red and warm; however, it was the last day, so his troubles were over for the present.

One of the officers saw us and came up to pay his respects; said they wouldn't be back at the chateau until about five; perhaps the ladies would come to the stable-yard and see the pansage. It was quite interesting; all the horses ranged in a semi-circle, men scrubbing and combing hard, the sous-officiers superintending, the officers standing about smoking and seeing that everything was being packed and ready for an early start the next morning. I was astonished to see how small the horses were. My English horse, also a chestnut, was not particularly big, but he looked a giant among the others. They admired him very much, and one of the officers asked Hubert if he thought I would like to sell him.

Our dinner was again very pleasant, and we had more halma in the evening. W. played once or twice, and as he was a fairly good player, the adversaries had no chance. We broke up early, as they were to start again at some unearthly hour the next morning. It seems they were very lively in the stables after dinner - we heard sounds of merriment, singing, and choruses, and, I fancy, dancing. However, it made quite a pleasant break in our summer, and the big place seemed quieter and lonelier than ever after such unusual animation. W. said the war talk was much keener than the first day when they were smoking in the gallery; all the young ones so eager to earn their stripes, and so confident that the army had profited by its bitter experience during the Franco-German War.

       * * * * *

Election day is always a very important day in France. The village farmers and labourers put on their best clothes - usually a black coat, silk hat and white shirt - and take themselves solemnly to the Mairie where the voting takes place. For weeks beforehand agents and lecturers come from Paris and bamboozle the simple village people with newspapers, money and wonderful promises. It is astounding how easily the French peasant believes all that the political agents tell him and all that he reads in the cheap papers, for, as a rule - taken en masse - they are very intelligent and at the same time suspicious (mefiants), manage their own little affairs very well and are rarely taken in; but there is something in the popular orator that carries them away and they really believe that a golden epoch is coming - when there will be no rich and no poor and plenty and equality for all. They don't care a bit what form of government they live under as long as their crops are good, and they can have regular work and no war. The political agitators understand that very well. They never lay any stress on Royalist or Bonapartist, or even a military candidate. The "People's Candidate" is always their cry - one of themselves who understands them and will give them all they want. They are disappointed always. The ministers and deputies change, but their lives don't, and run on in the same groove; but they are just as sanguine each time there is an election, convinced that, at last, the promised days of high pay and little work are coming.

I tried to reason with a nice, respectable man one day, the village mason - one of the most fiery orators at the cafe, over his dominoes, but in everyday life a sober, hard-working man, with a sickly wife and several children, who are all clothed and generally looked after by us. His favourite theme was the owners of chateaux and big houses who lived in luxury and thought nothing of the poor.

I said to him, "Why do you listen to all those foolish speeches that are made in the cafes? You know it isn't true half they say. Whenever you come and ask for anything for your wife and your children, it is always given to you. You know quite well whenever any one is ill in the village, they always come here for wine, old linen, or bouillon."

"Oh, oui, Madame is good, but Madame does not understand."

"But it is you, mon ami, who don't understand. Once the election is over, and they have got your vote, no one will think about you any more."

"Oh, yes, Madame, everything will be divided - there will be no more big houses, every one will have a garden and rabbits - not all for the rich. It is not right; Madame knows it is not right." It was quite useless talking to him.

Women in France never take the active part in elections that they do in England. It interested me so much when we were living in England to see many of the great ladies doing all they could for their candidate, driving all over the country, with his colours on servants and horses, a big bill in the windows of their carriages with "Vote for A." on it. In the drawing-room windows of a well-known society leader there were two large bills - "VOTE FOR A." I asked W. one day, when he was standing for the Senate, if he would like me to drive all about the country with his colours and "VOTE FOR WADDINGTON" on placards in the windows of the carriage; but he utterly declined any such intervention on my part, thought a few breakfasts at the chateau and a quiet talk over coffee and cigars would be more to the purpose. He never took much trouble over his elections the last years - meetings and speeches in all the small towns and "banquets de pompiers" were things of the past. He said the people had seen him "a l'oeuvre" and that no speeches would change a vote.

The only year that we gave ourselves any trouble was during the Boulanger craze. W. went about a great deal and I often went with him. The weather was beautiful and we rode all over the country. We were astounded at the progress "Boulangism" had made in our quiet villages. Wherever we went - in the cafes, in the auberges, in the grocer's shop - there was a picture of Boulanger prancing on his black horse.

We stopped one day at a miserable little cottage, not far from our place, where a workman had had a horrible accident - been caught in the machine of one of the sugar mills. Almost all the men in the village worked in W.'s woods and had always voted - as one man - for him or his friends. When we went into the poor little dark room, with literally nothing in it but the bed, a table, and some chairs, the first thing we saw was the well-known picture of Boulanger, on the mantelpiece. We talked a little to the man and his wife (the poor fellow was suffering terribly), and then W. said, "I am surprised to see that picture. Do you know General Boulanger? Have you ever seen him?" The man's face quite lighted up as he looked at the picture, and he answered: "Non, Monsieur, je ne l'ai jamais vu - mais il est crane celui-la," and that was all that he could ever get out of him - "il est crane." I don't know exactly what he meant. I don't think he knew himself, but he was quite excited when he spoke of the hero.

Boulanger's campaign was very cleverly done. His agents distributed papers, pictures and money most liberally. One of the curious features of that episode was the quantity of money that was given. Gold flowed freely in to the General's coffers from all parts of France; great names, grandes dames, giving largely and openly to the cause - a great deal sent anonymously and a great deal in very small sums.

Boulanger lived in our street, and I was astounded one day when I met him (I did not know him) riding - always with a man on each side of him. Almost every one took off his hat to him, and there were a few faint cries of "Vive Boulanger," proceeding chiefly from the painters and masons who were building a house just opposite ours.

Certainly for a short time he had the game in his hands - could, I think, have carried the country, but when the moment to act arrived, his nerve failed him. It is difficult to understand what made his great popularity. Politics had not been satisfactory. The President - Grevy - had resigned under unfortunate circumstances. There had been a succession of weak and inefficient cabinets, and there was a vague feeling of unrest in the country. Boulanger seemed to promise something better. He was a soldier (which always appeals to the French), young and dashing, surrounded by clever unscrupulous people of all classes. Almost all the young element of both parties, Radical and Conservative (few of the moderate Republicans), had rallied to his programme - "Revision et Dissolution." His friends were much too intelligent to let him issue a long "manifesto" (circular), promising all sorts of reforms and changes he never could have carried out, while his two catch words gave hopes to everybody. A revision of the constitution might mean a monarchy, empire, or military dictatorship. Each party thought its turn had come, and dissolving the chambers would of course bring a new one, where again each party hoped to have the majority.

The Paris election by an overwhelming majority was his great triumph. The Government did all they could to prevent it, but nothing could stop the wave of popularity. The night of the election Boulanger and his Etat-major were assembled at Durand's, the well-known cafe on the corner of the Boulevard and the rue Royale. As the evening went on and the returns came in - far exceeding anything they had hoped for - there was but one thought in every one's mind - "A l'Elysee." Hundreds of people were waiting outside and he would have been carried in triumph to the Palace. He could not make up his mind. At midnight he still wavered. His great friend, the poet Deroulede, then took out his watch - waited, in perfect silence, until it was five minutes past twelve, and then said, "General, depuis cinq minutes votre aureole baisse." Boulanger went out by a side door, leaving his friends - disappointed and furious - to announce to the waiting crowd that the General had gone home. He could certainly have got to the Elysee that night. How long he would have stayed, and whom he would have put there, we shall never know.

MAREUIL, October 31st.

It has been a beautiful, warm, bright autumn day and, for a wonder, we have had no frost yet, not even a white one, so that the garden is still full of flowers, and all day the village children have been coming - begging for some to decorate the graves for to-morrow. I went in to the churchyard this afternoon, which was filled with women and children - looking after their dead. It is not very pretty - our little churchyard - part of a field enclosed on the slope of the hill, not many trees, a few tall poplars and a laurel hedge - but there is a fine open view over the great fields and woods - always the dark blue line of the forest in the distance. They are mostly humble graves - small farmers and peasants - but I fancy they must sleep very peacefully in the fields they have worked in all their lives - full of poppies and cornflowers in summer and a soft gold brown in the autumn, when the last crops are cut and the hares run wild over the hills.

I think these two days - the "Toussaint" and the "Jour des Morts" - are the two I like best in the Catholic Church, and certainly they are the only ones, in our part of the world, when the churches are full. I walked about some little time looking at all the preparations. Every grave had some flowers (sometimes only a faded bunch of the last field flowers) except one, where there were no flowers, but a little border of moss all around and a slip of pasteboard on a stick stuck into the ground with "a ma Mere" written on it. All the graves are very simple, generally a plain white cross with headstone and name. One or two of the rich farmers had something rather more important - a slab of marble, or a broken column when it was a child's grave, and were more ambitious in the way of flowers and green plants, but no show of any kind - none of the terrible bead wreaths one sees in large cities.

There was a poor old woman, nearly bent double, leaning on a stick, standing at one of the very modest graves; a child about six years old with her, with a bunch of flowers in a broken cup she was trying to arrange at the foot of the grave. I suppose my face was expressive, for the old woman answered my unspoken thought. "Ah, yes, Madame, it is I who ought to be lying there instead of my children. All gone before me except this one grandchild, and I a helpless, useless burden upon the charity of the parish."

On my way home I met all the village children carrying flowers. We had given our best chrysanthemums for the "pain benit," which we offer to-morrow to the church. Three or four times a year, at the great fetes, the most important families of the village offer the "pain benit," which is then a brioche. We gave our boulanger "carte blanche," and he evidently was very proud of his performance, as he offered to bring it to us before it was sent to the church, but we told him we would see it there. I am writing late. We have all come upstairs. It is so mild that my window is open; there is not a sound except the sighing of the wind in the pines and the church bells that are ringing for the vigil of All Saints. Besides our own bells, we hear others, faintly, in the distance, from the little village of Neufchelles, about two miles off. It is a bad sign when we hear Neufchelles too well. Means rain. I should be so sorry if it rained to-morrow, just as all the fresh flowers have been put on the graves.

November 2nd. "Jour des Morts."

We had a beautiful day yesterday and a nice service in our little church. Our "pain benit" was a thing of beauty and quite distracted the school children. It was a most imposing edifice - two large, round brioches, four smaller ones on top, they went up in a pyramid. The four small ones go to the notabilities of the village - the cure, two of the principal farmers and the miller; the whole thing very well arranged, with red and white flowers and lighted tapers. It was carried by two "enfants de choeur," preceded by the beadle with his cocked hat and staff and followed by two small girls with lighted tapers. The "enfants de choeur" were not in their festal attire of red soutanes and red shoes - only in plain black. Since the inventories ordered by the government in all the churches, most of the people have taken away their gifts in the way of vestments, soutanes, vases, etc., and the red soutanes, shoes and caps, with a handsome white satin embroidered vestment that C. gave the church when she was married, are carefully folded and put away in a safe place out of the church until better times should come.

After luncheon we went over to Soissons in the auto - the most enchanting drive through the forest of Villers-Cotterets - the poplar trees a line of gold and all the others taking the most lovely colours of red and brown. Soissons is a fine old cathedral town with broad squares, planted with stiff trees like all the provincial towns in France; many large old-fashioned hotels, entre cour et jardin, and a number of convents and abbeys, now turned into schools, barracks, government offices of all kinds, but the fine proportions and beautiful lines are always there.

The city has seen many changes since its first notoriety as the capital of the France of Clovis, and one feels how much has happened in the quiet deserted streets of the old town, where almost every corner is picturesque. The fine ruins of St. Jean des Vignes faced us as we drove along the broad boulevard. A facade and two beautiful towers with a cloister is all that remains of a fine old abbey begun in 1076. It is now an arsenal. One can not always get in, but the porter made no difficulty for us, and we wandered about in the court-yard and cloister. The towers looked beautifully grey and soft against the bright blue sky, and the view over Soissons, with all its churches and old houses, was charming. It seems that Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, lived at the Abbey when he was exiled from England and had taken refuge in France.

We wanted to go to the service in the Cathedral, but thought we would go first to the patissier (an excellent one, well known in all the neighbourhood) famous for a very good bonbon made of coffee and called "Tors de Soissons." The little place was full - every schoolboy in Soissons was there eating cakes and bonbons. There was a notice up in the shop, "Lipton Tea," and we immediately asked for some. The woman made a place for us, with difficulty, on a corner of a table and gave us very good English tea, toast and cakes. I complimented the patronne on her tea and she said so many automobiles with foreigners - English principally - passed through Soissons in the summer - all asking for tea - that she thought she must try to get some. One of the ladies told her where to get Lipton Tea and how much to pay for it. She has found it a very good speculation.

We walked to the Cathedral through a grand old Square planted with fine trees, that had once been a part of the garden of the Eveche. As it was getting dark, we could not see the outside very well. A gigantic mass of towers and little steeples loomed up through the twilight, but the inside was very striking - crowded with people, lights, banners, flowers everywhere - five or six priests were officiating and the Bishop in full dress, with his gold mitre on his head, was seated on his red velvet throne under the big crucifix. The congregation (there were a good many men) was following the service very devoutly, but there were a great many people walking about and stopping at the different chapels which rather takes away from the devotional aspect. Unfortunately the sermon had only just begun, so we didn't hear any music. The organ is very fine and they have a very good choir. Neither did we hear the famous chimes, which we regretted very much. Some of the bells have a beautiful sound - one in particular, that used to be at St. Jean de Vignes, has a wonderful deep note. One hears it quite distinctly above all the others. All the bells have names. This one used to be called "Simon," after a Bishop Simon le Gras, who blessed it in 1643. When the voice got faint and cracked with age, it was "refondue" (recast) and called Julie Pauline.

It was quite dark and cold when we started back. We had to light our big lantern almost as soon as we left Soissons. For some little time after we got out of the town we met people walking and driving - all with holiday garbs and faces - but once we plunged in the long forest alleys we were absolutely cut off from the outside world. It is a curious sensation I have never got accustomed to, those long, dark, lonely forest roads. The leaves were still so thick on the trees that we could hardly see the last glow of a beautiful orange sunset. The only sign of life was a charbonnier's hut in a clearing quite close to the road. They had a dull light; just enough to let us see dusky figures moving about.

This morning our church looked quite different - no more banners, embroideries or bright flowers, all draped in black and a bier covered with a black pall in the middle of the aisle - the cure in a black satin vestment; all the congregation in black. I went out before the end of the service. All the black draperies and the black kneeling figures and the funeral psalms were so inexpressibly sad and dreary. I was glad to get out into the sunshine and to the top of the hill, where the cemetery gates stood wide open and the sun was streaming down on all the green graves with their fresh flowers and plants. Soon we heard the sound of the chaunt, and the procession wound slowly up the steep, straggling village street. A banner and cross carried by the boys and girls - then the cure, with his "ostensoir," followed by his "enfants de choeur" carrying books and tapers, then the congregation. There were a great many people already in the cemetery. The little procession halted at the foot of the cross in the middle. There were several prayers and psalms, and then the cure made the tour of the cemetery, sprinkling all the graves with holy water and saying a short prayer at each. The procession broke up into groups, all kneeling at the different graves praying for their dead. There were not many men; a few old ones. They were not kneeling, but stood reverently, with bowed heads, when the cure passed. It was a pretty sight - the kneeling figures, the flower-covered graves, the little procession winding in and out among the tombstones, the white soutanes of the boys shining in the sun and not a sound except the droning of the chaunts. As it was fete - one of the great religious fetes of the year - there was no work going on - no labourers in the fields, no carts on the road - nothing but the great stillness of the plains.

We had our cure at dinner. We were quite sure no one else would ask him and it seemed a shame to leave him in his empty "presbytere" on a fete day. I think his evenings with us are the only bright spots in his life just now. The situation of the priests is really wretched and their future most uncertain. This government has taken away the very small stipend they allowed them. Our cure got his house and nine hundred francs a year - not quite two hundred dollars. In many cases they have refused to let the priests live in their "presbyteres" unless they pay rent. The churches are still open. They can have their services if they like, but those who have no fortune (which is the case with most of them) are entirely dependent upon the voluntary contribution of their parishioners.

Our little cure has no longer his servant - the traditional, plain, middle-aged bonne of the priest (they are not allowed to have a woman servant under fifty). He lives quite alone in his cold, empty house and has a meal of some kind brought into him from the railway cafe. What is hardest for him is never to have an extra franc to give to his poor. He is profoundly discouraged, but does his duty simply and cheerfully; looks after the sick, nurses them when there is a long illness or an accident, teaches the women how to keep their houses clean and how to cook good plain food. He is a farmer's son and extraordinarily practical. He came to us one day to ask if we had a spare washing tub we could give him. He was going to show a woman who sewed and embroidered beautifully and who was very poor and unpractical, how to do her washing. I think the people have a sort of respect for him, but they don't come to church. Everybody appeals to him. We couldn't do anything one day with a big kite some one had given the children. No one could in the house, neither gardener, chauffeur, nor footmen, so we sent for him, and it was funny to see him shortening the tail of the kite and racing over the lawn in his black soutane. However, he made it work.

He was rather embarrassed this evening, as he had refused something I had asked him to do and was afraid I wouldn't understand. We were passing along the canal the other day when the "eclusier" came out of his house and asked me if I would come and look at his child who was frightfully ill - his wife in despair. Without thinking of my little ones at home, I went into the house, where I found, in a dirty, smelly room, a slatternly woman holding in her arms a child, about two years old, who, I thought, was dead - such a ghastly colour - eyes turned up; however, the poor little thing moaned and moved and the woman was shaken with sobs - the father and two older children standing there, not knowing what to do. They told me the doctor had come in the early morning and said there was nothing to do. I asked if they had not sent for the cure. "No, they hadn't thought of it." I said I would tell him as I passed the presbytere on my way home. He wasn't there, but I left word that the child was dying - could he go?

The child died about an hour after I had left the house. I sent a black skirt to the woman and was then obliged to go to Paris for two or three days. When I came back I asked my gardener, who is from this part of the country and knows everybody, if the child's funeral had been quite right. He told me it was awful - there was no service - the cure would not bury him as he had never been baptized. The body had been put into a plain wooden box and carried to the cemetery by the father and a friend.

I was very much upset, but, of course, the thing was over and there was nothing to be done. However, when we talked it over, I understood quite well. To begin with, all priests are forbidden to read the burial service over any one who has not been baptized, therefore he had no choice. And this man was not only an unbeliever, but a mocker of all religion. When his last child was born he had friends over, from some of the neighbouring villages, who were Freemasons (they are a very bad lot in France); they had a great feast and baptized the child in red wine. I rather regretted the black frock I sent the mother, but she looked so utterly wretched and perhaps she could not help herself.

The little cure is very pleased to have his midnight mass this year on Christmas eve. Last year it was suppressed. There was such angry feeling and hostility to the clergy that the authorities were afraid there might be scenes and noisy protestations in the churches; perhaps in some quarters of the big cities, but certainly not in the country where people hold very much to the midnight mass. It is also one of the services that most people attend. It is always a pretty sight in the country, particularly if there happens to be snow on the ground. Every one that can walk comes. One sees the little bands arriving across the fields and along the canal - five or six together, with a lantern. Entire families turn out - the old grandfathers hobbling along on their sticks, the women carrying their babies, who are generally very good - quite taken up with the lights and music, or else asleep. We always sing Adam's "Noel." In almost every church in France, I think, they sing it. Even in the big Paris churches like the Madeleine and St. Eustache, where they have orchestras and trained choirs, they always sing the "Noel" at some period of the service.

MAREUIL, le 24 Mai.

To-day was the Premiere Communion at La Ferte, and I had promised the Abbe Devigne to go. I couldn't have the auto, as Francis was at a meeting of a Syndicat Agricole in quite another direction. So I took the train (about seven minutes), and I really believe I had the whole train to myself. No one travels in France, on Sunday, in the middle of the day. It is quite a long walk from the station to the church (the service was at Notre Dame, the church on the hill), with rather a steep climb at the end. The little town looked quite deserted - a few women standing at their doors and in all directions white figures of all ages were galloping up the hill. The bells were ringing and we were a little late. The big doors of the church were wide open, the organ playing, and a good many people standing about. The altar was bright with flowers and candles, and "oriflammes" of blue and pink gauze, worked with gold and silver lilies, were stretched across the church between the pillars. One or two banners with the head of the Virgin and flowers painted in bright colours were also hanging from the columns. Two or three priests, with handsome vestments - white embroidered in gold - were officiating, and the choir boys wore their red petticoats - soutanes trimmed with lace and red shoes and caps. The Suisse (beadle), with his cocked hat, silver embroidered coat and big cane, was hovering about, keeping order.

Just inside the chancel sat the "communiants" - fifty boys and girls. The girls - all in white from top to toe - white dresses, shoes, and gloves, and long white veils coming to the edge of the dress, and either a white cap (which looks very pretty and quaint on the little heads - rather like some of the old Dutch pictures) or a wreath of white flowers. With them sat about half a dozen smaller girls - also in white, with wreaths of white roses. They were too small to make their first communion, but they were to hold the cordons of the banner when the procession passed down the church. The boys were all in black, short jackets, white waistcoats, and white ribbon bows on their sleeves.

The church was very full - mostly women, a few men at the bottom. It was a pretty sight when the procession moved around the church. First came the "sacristain" in his black skirt and white soutane, then the banner held by two of the big girls; the group of little ones - some of them quite tiny and so pretty with the wreaths of white roses on their black hair - holding the cords and looking most pleased with their part of the function. Just behind them came the good old religieuse Soeur St. Antoine, hovering over her little flock and keeping them all in their places; then all the communiants, the smallest girls first, the boys behind, all carrying lighted tapers and singing a hymn to the accompaniment of the organ.

They went first to the font, stopped there, and one of the girls read a sort of prayer renewing their baptismal vows. Then they started again, in the same order, to the Chapelle de la Vierge, always singing their hymn, and knelt at the rails. Then the hymn stopped, and they recited, all together, a prayer to the Virgin. The little childish voices sounded quite distinctly in the old church - one heard every word. The congregation was much interested.

There wasn't a sound. I don't know if it was any sort of religious feeling - some dim recollection of their early days, or merely the love of a show of any kind that is inherent in all the Latin race, but they seemed much impressed. While the collection was being made there was music - very good local talent - two violin soli played by a young fellow, from one of the small neighbouring chateaux, whom we all knew well, and the "Panus Angelicus" of Cesar Franck, very well sung by the wife of the druggist. The cure of La Ferte, a very clever, cultivated man, with a charming voice and manner, made a very pretty, short address, quite suited to childish ears and understanding, with a few remarks at the end to the parents, telling them it was their fault if their children grew up hostile or indifferent to religion; that it was a perfectly false idea that to be patriotic and good citizens meant the abandonment of all religious principles.

We waited until the end of the service (Francis and his friends arrived in time to hear the cure's address), and watched the procession disappear down the steep path and gradually break up as each child was carried off by a host of friends and relations to its home. The cure was very pleased, said he had had a "belle fete" - people had sent flowers and ribbons and helped as much as they could to decorate the church. I asked him if he thought it made a lasting impression on the children. He thought it did on the girls, but the boys certainly not. Until their first communion he held them a little, could interest them in books and games after school hours, but after that great step in their lives they felt themselves men, and were impatient of any control.