We never remained all summer at our place. August was a disagreeable month there - the woods were full of horse-flies which made riding impossible. No nets could keep them off the horses who were almost maddened by the sting. They were so persistent that we had to take them off with a sharp stick. They stuck like leeches. We generally went to the sea - almost always to the Norman Coast - establishing ourselves in a villa - sometimes at Deauville, sometimes at Villers, and making excursions all over the country.

Some of the old Norman chateaux are charming, particularly those which have remained just as they were before the Revolution, but, of course, there are not many of these. When the young ones succeed, there is always a tendency to modify and change, and it is not easy to mix the elaborate luxurious furniture of our times with the stiff old-fashioned chairs and sofas one finds in the old French houses. Merely to look at them one understands why our grandfathers and grandmothers always sat upright.

One of the most interesting of the Norman chateaux is "Abondant," in the department of the Eure-et-Loir, belonging until very recently to the Vallambrosa family. It belonged originally to la Duchesse de Tourzel, gouvernante des Enfants de France (children of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette). After the imprisonment of the Royal Family, Madame de Tourzel retired to her chateau d'Abondant and remained there all through the Revolution. The village people and peasants adored her and she lived there peacefully through all those terrible days. Neither chateau nor park was damaged in any way, although she was known to be a devoted friend and adherent of the unfortunate Royal Family. A band of half-drunken "patriots" tried to force their way into the park one day, with the intention of cutting down the trees and pillaging the chateau, but all the villagers instantly assembled, armed with pitchforks, rusty old guns and stones, and dispersed the rabble.

Abondant is a Louis XV chateau - very large - seventeen rooms en facade - but simple in its architecture. The Duchess occupied a large corner room on the ground-floor, with four windows. The ceiling (which was very high) and walls covered with toiles de Jouy. An enormous bed a baldaquin was trimmed with the same toile and each post had a great bunch of white feathers on top.

In 1886, when one of my friends was staying at Abondant, the hangings were the same which had been there all through the Revolution. She told me she had never been so miserable as the first time she stayed at the chateau during the lifetime of the late Duchesse de Vallambrosa. They gave her the Duchesse de Tourzel's room, thinking it would interest her as a chambre historique. She was already nervous at sleeping alone on the ground-floor, far from all the other inmates of the chateau. The room was enormous - walls nearly five metres high - the bed looked like an island in the midst of space; there was very little furniture, and the white feathers on the bed-posts nodded and waved in the dim light. She scarcely closed her eyes, could not reason with herself, and asked the next morning to have something less magnificent and more modern.

In all the bedrooms the dressing-tables were covered with dentelle de Binche[15] of the epoch, and all the mirrors and various little boxes for powder, rouge, patches, and the hundred accessories for a fine lady's toilette in those days, were in Vernis Martin absolutely intact. The drawing-rooms still had their old silk hangings - a white ground covered with wreaths of flowers and birds with wonderful bright plumage - hand-painted - framed in wood of two shades of light green.

  [15] Binche, name of a village in Belgium where the lace is made.

The big drawing-room was entirely panelled in wood of the same light green, most beautifully and delicately carved. These old boiseries were all removed when the chateau was sold. After the death of the Duchesse de Tourzel the chateau went to her niece, the Duchesse des Cars - who left it to her niece, the Duchesse de Vallambrosa, a very rare instance, in France, of a property descending directly through several generations in the female line.

It was sold by the Vallambrosas. The old wood panels are in the Paris house of a member of that family. The park was very large and beautifully laid out, with the fine trees one sees all over Normandy.

Twenty years ago a salle de spectacle "en verdure" still existed in the park - the seats were all in grass; the coulisses (side scenes) made in the trees of the park - their boughs cut and trained into shape, to represent green walls, a marble group of allegorical figures at the back. It was most carefully preserved - the seats of the amphitheatre looked like green velvet and the trees were always cut in the same curious shapes. It seemed quite a fitting part of the fine old place, with its memories of past fetes and splendours, before the whirlwind of liberty and equality swept over the country.

Many of the chateaux are changing hands. The majorat (entail) doesn't exist in France, and as the fortunes must always be divided among the children, it becomes more and more difficult to keep up the large places. Life gets dearer every day - fortunes don't increase - very few young Frenchmen of the upper classes do anything. The only way of keeping up the big places is by making a rich marriage - the daughter of a rich banker or industrial, or an American.

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Our cousins, Comte and Comtesse d'Y - - , have a pretty little old place not very far from Villers-sur-Mer, where we went sometimes for sea-bathing. The house is an ordinary square white stone building, a fine terrace with a flight of steps leading down to the garden on one side. The park is delightful - many splendid old trees. Until a few years ago there were still some that dated since Louis XIV. The last one of that age - a fine oak, with wide spreading branches - died about two years ago, but they cannot make up their minds to cut it down. I advised them to leave the trunk standing - (I think, by degrees, the branches will fall as they are quite dead) - cover it with ivy or a vine of some kind, and put a notice on it of the age of the tree.

The house stands high, and they have splendid views - on one side, from the terrace, a great expanse of green valley looking toward Falaise - on the other, the sea - a beautiful, blue summer sea, when we were there the other day.

We went over from Villers to breakfast. It was late in the season, the end of September - one of those bright days one sometimes has in September, when summer still lingers and the sun gives beautiful mellow tints to everything without being strong enough to make one feel the heat. The road was lovely all the way, particularly after we turned off the high road at the top of the Houlgate Hill. We went through countless little Norman lanes, quite narrow, sometimes - between high green banks with a hedge on top, and the trees meeting over our heads - so narrow that I wondered what would happen if we met another auto. We left the sea behind us, and plunged into the lovely green valley that runs along back of the coast line. We came suddenly on the gates of the chateau, rather a sharp turn. There was a broad avenue with fine trees leading up to the house - on one side, meadows fenced off with white wooden palings where horses and cows were grazing - a pretty lawn before the house with beds of begonias, and all along the front, high raised borders of red geranium which looked very well against the grey stone.

We found a family party, Comte and Comtesse d'Y - - , their daughter and a governess. We went upstairs (a nice wooden staircase with broad shallow steps) to an end room, with a beautiful view over the park, where we got out of all the wraps, veils, and glasses that one must have in an open auto if one wishes to look respectable when one arrives, and went down at once to the hall where the family was waiting.

The dining-room was large and light, high, wide windows and beautiful trees wherever one looked. The decoration of the room was rather curious. The d'Y - - s descend - like many Norman families - from William the Conqueror, and there are English coats-of-arms on some of the shields on the walls. A band which looks like fresco, but is really painted on linen - very cleverly arranged with some composition which makes it look like the wall - runs straight around the room with all sorts of curious figures: soldiers, horses, and boats, copied exactly from the famous Bayeux tapestries, the most striking episodes - the departure of the Conqueror from Dives - the embarkation of his army (the cavalry - most extraordinary long queerly shaped horses with faces like people) - the death of Harold - the fighting Bishop Odo - brother of the Conqueror, who couldn't carry a lance, but had a good stout stick which apparently did good service as various Saxons were flying horizontally through the air as he and his steed advanced; one wonders at the imagination which could have produced such extraordinary figures, as certainly no men or beasts, at any period of time, could have looked like those. The ships were less striking - had rather more the semblance of boats.

However, the effect, with all the bright colouring, is very good and quite in harmony with this part of the country, where everything teems with legends and traditions of the great Duke. They see Falaise, where he was born, from their terrace, sometimes. We didn't, for though the day was beautiful, there was a slight haze which made the far-off landscapes only a blue line.

After breakfast we went for a walk in the park. They have arranged it very well, with rustic bridges and seats wherever the view was particularly fine. We saw a nice, old, red brick house, near the farm, which was the manoir where the Dowager Countess lives now. She made over the chateau to her son, in her life time, on condition that he would keep it up and arrange it, which he has done very well. We made the tour of the park - passing a pretty lodge with roses and creepers all over it and "Mairie" put upon a sign; d'Y - - is mayor of his little village and finds it convenient to have the Mairie at his own gate. We rested a little in the drawing-room before going back, and he showed us various portraits and miniatures of his family which were most interesting. Some of the miniatures are exactly like one we have of father, of that period with the high stock and tight-buttoned coat. The light was lovely - so soft and warm - in the drawing-room, and as there were no lace curtains or vitrages, and the silk curtains were drawn back from the high plate glass windows, we seemed to be sitting in the park under the trees. They gave us tea and the good little cakes, "St. Pierre," a sort of "sable," for which all the coast is famous.

The drive home was enchanting, with a lovely view from the top of the hill; a beautiful blue sea at our feet and the turrets and pointed roofs of the Villers houses taking every possible colour from the sunset clouds.

We went back once more to a the dansant given for her seventeen-year-old daughter. It was a lovely afternoon and the place looked charming - the gates open - carriages and autos arriving in every direction - people came from a great distance as with the autos no one hesitates to undertake a drive of a hundred kilometres. The young people danced in the drawing-room - Madame d'Y - - had taken out all the furniture, and the parents and older people sat about on the terrace where there were plenty of seats and little tea-tables. The dining-room - with an abundant buffet - was always full; one arrives with a fine appetite after whirling for two or three hours through the keen salt air. The girls all looked charming - the white dresses, bright sashes, and big picture hats are so becoming. They were dancing hard when we left, about half past six, and it was a pretty sight as we looked back from the gates - long lines of sunlight wavering over the grass, figures in white flitting through the trees, distant strains of music, and what was less agreeable, the strident sound of a sirene on some of the autos. They are detestable things.

We were very comfortable at Villers in a nice, clean house looking on the sea, with broad balconies at every story, where we put sofas and tables and green blinds, using them as extra salons. We were never in the house except to eat and sleep. Nothing is more characteristic of the French (particularly in the bourgeoise) than the thorough way in which they do their month at the sea-shore. They generally come for the month of August. Holidays have begun and business, of all kinds, is slack. Our plage was really a curiosity. There is a splendid stretch of sand beach - at low tide one can walk, by the shore, to Trouville or Houlgate on perfectly firm, dry sand. There are hundreds of cabins and tents, striped red and white, and umbrellas on the beach, and all day long whole families sit there. They all bathe, and a curious fashion at Villers is that you put on your bathing dress in your own house - over that a peignoir, generally of red and white striped cotton, and walk quite calmly through the streets to the etablissement. Some of the ladies and gentlemen of mature years are not to their advantage. When they can, if they have houses with a terrace or garden, they take their meals outside, and as soon as they have breakfasted, start again for the beach. When it is low tide they go shrimp-fishing or walk about in the shallow water looking for shells and sea-weed. When it is high tide, all sit at the door of their tents sewing, reading, or talking - I mean, of course, the petite bourgeoisie.

At other places on the coast, Deauville or Houlgate, the life is like Newport or Dinard, or any other fashionable seaside place, with automobiles, dinners, dressing, etc. They get all the sea air and out-of-door life that they can crowd into one month. One lady said to me one day, "I can't bathe, but I take a 'bain d'air' every day - I sit on the rocks as far out in the water as I can - take off my hat and my shoes and stockings."

There is a great clearing out always by the first of September and then the place was enchanting - bright, beautiful September days, one could still bathe, the sun was so strong; and the afternoons, with just a little chill in the air, were delightful for walking and driving. There was a pretty Norman farm - just over the plage - at the top of the falaise where we went sometimes for tea. They gave us very good tea, milk, and cider, and excellent bread and butter and cheese. We sat out of doors in an apple orchard at little tables - all the beasts of the establishment in the same field. The chickens and sheep surrounded us, were evidently accustomed to being fed, but the horses, cows, and calves kept quite to the other end. We saw the girls milking the cows which, of course, interested the children immensely.

We made some charming excursions in the auto - went one Saturday to Caen - such a pretty road through little smiling villages - every house with a garden, or if too close together to allow that, there were pots of geraniums, the falling kind, in the windows, which made a red curtain dropping down over the walls. We stopped at Lisieux - a quaint old Norman town, with a fine cathedral and curious houses with gables and towers - one street most picturesque, very narrow, with wooden houses, their projecting roofs coming so far over the street one could hardly see the sky in some places. There were all kinds of balconies and cornices most elaborately carved - the wood so dark one could scarcely distinguish the original figures and devices, but some of them were extraordinary, dragons, and enormous winged animals. We did not linger very long as we were in our new auto - a Martini hill-climber - built in Switzerland and, of course (like all automobilists), were anxious to make as fast a run as possible between Villers and Caen.

The approach to Caen is not particularly interesting - the country is flat, the road running through poplar-bordered fields - one does not see it at all until one gets quite near, and then suddenly beautiful towers and steeples seem to rise out of the green meadows. It was Saturday - market day - and the town was crowded - every description of vehicle in the main street and before the hotel, two enormous red 60-horse-power Mercedes - farmers' gigs and donkey carts with cheeses and butter - a couple generally inside - the man with his blue smock and broad-brimmed hat, the woman with a high, clean, stiff-starched muslin cap, a knit shawl over her shoulders. They were not in the least discomposed by the bustle and the automobiles, never thought of getting out of the way - jogged comfortably on keeping to their side of the road.

We left the auto at the hotel and found many others in the court-yard, and various friends. The d'Y - - s had come over from Grangues (their place). He is Conseiller General of Calvados, and market day, in a provincial town, is an excellent occasion for seeing one's electors. There were also some friends from Trouville-Deauville, most of them in autos - some in light carriages. We tried to make a rendezvous for tea at the famous patissier's (who sends his cakes and bonbons over half the department), but that was not very practical, as they had all finished what they had to do and we had not even begun our sightseeing. However, d'Y - - told us he would leave our names at the tea-room, a sort of club they have established over the patissier's, where we would be quieter and better served than in the shop which would certainly be crowded on Saturday afternoon. We walked about till we were dead tired.

St. Pierre is a fine old Norman church with beautiful tower and steeple. It stands fairly well in the Place St. Pierre, but the houses are much too near. It should have more space around it. There was a market going on, on the other side of the square - fruit, big apples and pears, flowers and fish being heaped up together. The apples looked tempting, such bright red ones.

We went to the two abbayes - both of them quite beautiful - St. Etienne - Abbaye aux Hommes was built by William the Conqueror, who was originally buried there. It is very grand - quite simple, but splendid proportions - a fitting resting-place for the great soldier, who, however, was not allowed to sleep his last sleep, undisturbed, in the city he loved so well. His tomb was desecrated several times and his remains lost in the work of destruction.

We went on to the Abbaye aux Dames which is very different; smaller - not nearly so simple. The facade is very fine with two square towers most elaborately carved, the steeples have long since disappeared; and there are richly ornamented galleries and balustrades in the interior of the church, not at all the high solemn vaulted aisles of the Abbaye aux Hommes. It was founded by Queen Mathilde, wife of William the Conqueror, and she is buried there - a perfectly simple tomb with an inscription in Latin. There was at one time a very handsome monument, but it was destroyed, like so many others, during the Revolution, and the remains placed, some years after, in the stone coffin where they now rest. We hadn't time to see the many interesting things in the churches and in the town, as it was getting late and we wanted some tea before we started back. We found our way to the patissier's quite easily, but certainly couldn't have had any tea if d'Y - - had not told us to use his name and ask for the club-room. The little shop was crowded - people standing and making frantic dashes into the kitchen for chocolate and muffins. The club-room upstairs was quite nice - painted white, a good glass so that we could arrange our hair a little, one or two tables - and we were attended to at once. They brought us the specialite of the place - light, hot brioches with grated ham inside - very good and very indigestible.

We went home by a different road, but it looked just like the other - fewer little hamlets, perhaps, and great pasture fields, filled with fine specimens of Norman dray horses and mares with long-legged colts running alongside of them. It was late when we got home. The lighthouses of Honfleur and Havre made a long golden streak stretching far out to sea, and the great turning flashlight of St. Adresse was quite dazzling.

We went back over the same ground two or three days later on our way to Bayeux. The town is not particularly interesting, but the cathedral is beautiful and in wonderful preservation - the columns are very grand - every capital exquisitely carved and no two alike. Our guide, a very talkative person - unlike the generality of Norman peasants, who are usually taciturn - was very anxious to show us each column in detail and explain all the really beautiful carving, but we were rather hurried as some of the party were going to lunch at Barbieville - Comte Foy's chateau.

On the same place as the cathedral is the Hotel de Ville, with the wonderful tapestries worked by the Queen Mathilde, wife of William the Conqueror. They are really most extraordinary and so well preserved. The colours look as if they had been painted yesterday. I hadn't seen them for years and had forgotten the curious shapes and vivid colouring. We went to one of the lace shops. The Bayeux lace is very pretty, made with the "fuseau", very fine - a mixture of Valenciennes and Mechlin. It is very strong, though it looks delicate. The dentellieres still do a very good business. The little girls begin to work as soon as they can thread their needle, and follow a simple pattern.

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The F.'s enjoyed their day at Barbieville, Comte Foy's chateau, very much. They said the house was nothing remarkable - a large square building, but the park was original. Comte Foy is a racing man, breeds horses, and has his "haras" on his place. The park is all cut up into paddocks, each one separated from the other by a hedge and all connected by green paths. F. said the effect from the terrace was quite charming; one saw nothing but grass and hedges and young horses and colts running about. Comtesse Foy and her daughters were making lace. The girls went in to Bayeux three or four times a week and took lessons from one of the dentellieres.