Soeur_," but never a moan or a groan.

At night, as we were wearily returning home, the young footman, with

ashen face, met us half-way down the steps and announced that there

would be Prussian officers at dinner who were already quartered in the

chateau. We were nearly too tired to be impressed at this as one

naturally would, at least, be moved in one sense or another, but we did

inwardly wonder what the keynote might be at table.

At eight o'clock dinner was served. Madame X.'s daughter and I, after

such a scrubbing and disinfecting, came down the last ones and stepped

into a veritable playworld of the Middle Ages with the most beautiful

setting--a large salon, opening out onto the terrace, with old,

Flemish-wood fire-place and raftered ceiling, Japanese bronzes, rugs

from the Orient, soft lamps and portraits of dear grandmothers, in the

beauty of their youth, smiling out from their golden frames on the

walls. As we came into the room from the brightly lighted hall, a

semi-circle of gray-green coats rose right up out of the dimness and we

were blinded by a vision of shining buttons, polished boots, gleaming

swords and a military salute accompanied by clinking spurs. At the end

of the room stood Madame X. and her sons waiting for us. Naturally there

were no presentations and the moment was unique in the extreme--nobody

moved for a second which seemed like a decade and nobody spoke, so all

there remained to do was to acknowledge the salute with a semi-circular

bow.

Dinner was an odd affair tho' it went off not so badly. Madame X., in

her proud Russian beauty and her admirable control of the conditions,

was superb. I never admired anybody so much, for it is not easy to

entertain at one's board an enemy who has just usurped home and country,

but her extraordinary charm and dignity gave the situation its note and

the "guests" were everything that was agreeable. We talked of

generalities, as well as "War," in four languages (Russian, French,

English and German) with much the same _sang-froid_ as the juggler who

tosses knives and, when the meal was done, thanked Heaven that nobody

had launched a tactless bomb which might have plunged us into a boiling

sea. There was nothing particularly boastful in their conversation,

though at times a certain assured reference to "Paris in a fortnight"

crept in, which we found difficult to digest--in fact I was furious.

Paris, indeed! Beautiful Paris! My neighbor at table on the right was a

man of perhaps fifty-eight years, rather gray and grandfatherly, with

such nice, blue eyes. Prefacing all his remarks with a nervous little

cough to fix my attention, he would launch with difficulty one or two

phrases in restricted French followed by a few straggling words in

English and finally finished up with a burst of voluble German. It was a

work of art to understand him, but I arrived panting--at least I had

that sensation, and it is not the first time I have given thanks for a

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