The Romance of Lady Isabel Burton, by Isabel Burton

Chapter VII

My Continental Tour: Italy

(1857-1858)

Leave thy home for abroad an wouldst rise on high,

And travel whence benefits fivefold arise —

The soothing of sorrow and winning of bread,

Knowledge, manners, and commerce with good men and wise;

And they say that in travel are travail and care

And disunion of friends and much hardship that tries.

Alf Laylah wa Laylah (Burton’s “Arabian Nights”).

In August, 1857, nearly a year after Richard had gone, my sister Blanche married Mr. Smyth Pigott, of Brockley Court, Somerset, and after the honeymoon was over they asked me to travel abroad with them. I was glad to go, for it helped the weary waiting for Richard, who was far away in Central Africa.

On September 30 we all took a farewell dinner together, and were very much inclined to choke over it, as we were about to disperse for some time, and poor mother especially was upset at losing her two girls. On that occasion she indulged in a witticism. She told me that she had heard by a little bird that I was fond of Richard; but little thinking she was speaking anything in earnest, she said, “Well? if you marry that man, you will have sold your birthright not for a mess of pottage, but for Burton ale.” I quickly answered her back again, “Well, a little bird told me that you were ordered an immense quantity of it all the time you were in the family way with me, so that if anything does happen we shall call it heredity,” upon which we both laughed. We all left home at six o’clock for London Bridge Station: we — my sister, her husband, and myself — to go on the journey, and the rest of the family came with us to see us off.

We had a beautiful passage of six and a half hours, and slept in rugs on deck. There was a splendid moon and starlight. About three o’clock in the morning the captain made friends with me, and talked about yachting. He had been nearly all over the world. The morning star was very brilliant, and I always look at it with particular affection when I am on board ship, thinking that what I love best lies under it. We got to the station at Dieppe at 7.30 a.m.; and then ensued a tedious journey to Paris.

The next day we drove about Paris, and then went to the Palais Royal, Trois Frères Provenceaux, where we dined in a dear little place called a cabinet, very like an opera-box. It was my first experience of that sort of thing. The cabinet overlooked the arcade and garden. We had a most recherché little dinner, and only one thing was wanting to make it perfect enjoyment to me. The Pigotts sat together on one side of the table and I— alone on the other. I put a place for Richard by me. After dinner we strolled along the principal boulevards. I can easily understand a Parisian not liking to live out of Paris. We saw it to great advantage that night — a beautiful moon and clear, sharp air.

This day (October 3) last year how wretched and truly miserable I was! On the evening of this day Richard left! We drove out and went to the Pré de Catalan, where there was music, dancing, and other performances. We went to the opera in the evening A petit souper afterwards. This night last year was a memorable one. If Richard be living, he will remember me now; it was the night of my parting with him a year ago when he went to Africa for three years.

We left Paris three days later; arrived at Lyons 7 a.m. The next morning breakfasted, dogs and all, and were at Marseilles at 5 p.m. I should have been glad to stay longer at Marseilles; I thought it the most curious and picturesque place I had ever seen. We arrived just too late for the diligence. There was no steamer. A veterino was so slow, and we could not remain till Saturday, so we did not know what to do. At last we discovered that a French merchant vessel was going to sail at 8 o’clock p.m.; but it was a pitch-dark night, and there was a strong, hard wind, or mistral, with the sea running very high. However, we held a consultation, and agreed we would do it for economy; so we got our berths, and went and dined at the Hôtel des Ambassadeurs, table d’hôte, where I sat by a cousin of Billy Johnson, a traveller and linguist. We fraternized, and he made himself as agreeable as only such men can. After dinner we went on board, and all the passengers went down to their berths. I dressed myself in nautical rig, and went on deck to see all that I could. We passed the Isle d’Hyères and the Château d’If of Monte Christo. We could not go between the rocks, owing to the mistral. The moon arose, it blew hard, and we shipped heavy seas. The old tub creaked and groaned and lurched, and every now and then bid fair to stand on beam-ends. Being afraid of going to sleep, I lashed myself to a bench; two Frenchmen joined me, one a professor of music, the other rather a rough diamond, who could speak a mouthful of several languages, had travelled a little, and he treated me to a description of India, and told me all the old stories English girls hear from their military brothers and cousins from the cradle. Every time we shipped a sea all the French, Italian, and Spanish passengers gave prolonged howls and clung to each other; it might have been an Irish wake. They were so frightfully sick, poor things! It hurt my inside to hear them, and it was worse to see them. Meanwhile my two companions and I had pleasant conversation, not only on India, but music and Paris. By-and-by they too gradually dropped off; so I went down and tumbled into my berth, and slept soundly through the night.

I was aroused next morning by a steward redolent of garlic. Our maid shared the cabin with me, and treated me to a scene like the deck of the preceding evening. Why are maids always sick at sea, and have to be waited on, poor things, by their mistresses who are not? There was such a noise, such heat and smells. I slept till we were in Nice Harbour. My sister and her husband went off to find a house; I cleared the baggage and drove to the Hôtel Victoria, where we dined, and then went to our new lodging.

I was not sorry to be housed, after being out two days and two nights. I got up next morning at 6 a.m.; there was a bright, beautiful sky, a dark blue sea, and such a lightness in the air. I went out to look about me. Nice is a very pretty town, tolerably clean, with very high houses, beautiful mountains, and a perfect sea, and balminess in the air. There is something Moorish-looking about the people and place. I am told there is no land between us and Tunis — three hundred miles! — and that when the sirocco comes the sand from the great desert blows across the sea on to our windows. We have an African tree in our garden. And Richard is over there in Africa.

My favourite occupation while at Nice was sitting on the shingle with my face to the sea and towards Africa. I hate myself because I cannot sketch. If I could only exchange my musical talent for that, I should be very happy. There is such a beautiful variety in the Mediterranean: one day it looks like undulating blue glass; at others it is dark blue, rough, and dashing, with white breakers on it; but hardly ever that dull yellowish green as in our Channel, which makes one bilious to look at it. The sky is glorious, so high and bright, so soft and clear, and the only clouds you ever see are like little tufts of rose-coloured wool. The best time to sit here is sunset. One does not see the rays so distinctly in England; and when the sun sinks behind the hills of the frontier, there is such a purple, red, and gold tint on the sea and sky that many would pronounce it overdone or unnatural in a painting. A most exquisite pink shade is cast over the hills and town. There is one nice opera-house at Nice, one pretty church, a corso and terrace, where you go to hear the band and eat ices in the evening; there is the reading club at Visconti’s for ladies as well as men, where you can read and write and meet others and enjoy yourself. (I am talking of 1857.) Our apartments suit us very well. My portion consists of a nice lofty bedroom, a painted ceiling, furnished in English style, a little bathroom paved with red china, and a little sort of ante-drawing-room. My windows look over a little garden, where the African tree is, and the sea beyond, and beyond that again Africa and Richard.

We left Nice for Genoa at 5.30 on November 14, my sister, her husband, and self, in the coupé, which was very much like being packed as sardines — no room for legs. However, we were very jolly, only we got rather stiff during the twenty-four hours’ journey; for we only stopped twice — once for ten minutes at Oniglia at 4 a.m. for a cup of coffee, and once at noon next day for half an hour at another place to dine. However, I was too happy to grumble, having just received a letter saying that Richard would be home in next June, 1858 (he was not home for a year later); we smoked and chatted and slept alternately. The Cornice road is beautiful — a wild, lonely road in the mountains, with precipices, ravines, torrents, and passes of all descriptions: the sea beneath us on one side, and mountains covered with snow on the other. You seem to pass into all sorts of climates very speedily. On the land to our left was a fine starlight sky and clear, sharp air, and on the sea thunder and lightning and a white squall. There was always the excitement of imagining that a brigand might come or a torrent be impassable; but alas! not a ghost of an adventure, except once catching a milestone. I think the Whip Club would be puzzled at the driving: sometimes we have eleven horses, each with a different rein; to some the drivers whistle, to others they talk. It is tiresome work crawling up and down the mountains; but when they do get a bit of plain ground, they seem to go ten miles an hour, tearing through narrow streets where there seems scarcely room for a sheet of paper between the diligence and the wall, whirling round sharp zigzag corners with not the width of a book between the wheel and the precipice, and that at full gallop. We created a great sensation at one of our halting-places, and indeed everywhere, for we were in our nautical rig; and what amused the natives immensely was that one of our terriers was a very long dog with short legs, and they talked of the yards of dog we had with us. We at last arrived at Genoa.

I liked Genoa far better than Nice: the sky is more Italian; the sea looks as if it washed the town, or as if the town sprang out of it; it is all so hilly. The town with its domes looks like white marble. The lower range of mountains is covered with monasteries, forts, pretty villas, and gardens; the other ranges are covered with snow. There are six or seven fine streets, connected by a network of very narrow, oddly paved side-streets, whose tall houses nearly meet at the top; they are picturesque, and look like the pictures of the Turkish bazaar. Mazzini is here, and the Government hourly expect an outbreak of the Republican party. The troops are under arms, and a transport with twelve hundred men from Turin and troops from Sardinia have arrived. The offer to the Neapolitan Government to expel the exiles is the cause. The police are hunting up Mazzini; Garibaldi is here; Lord Lyons’ squadron is hourly expected.

I have been abroad now two months. I have had one unsatisfactory note from Richard; he is coming back in June or July. Oh what a happiness and what anxiety! In a few short months, please God, this dreadful separation will be over. Pray! Pray!! Pray!!!

Monsieur Pernay spent an evening with me; and seeing the picture on the wall of Richard in Meccan costume, he asked me what it was; and on my telling him, he composed a valse on the spot, and called it “Richard in the Desert,” and said he should compose a libretto on it. How I wish Richard were here! It makes me quite envious when I see my sister and her husband. I am all alone, and Richard’s place is vacant in the opera-box, in the carriage, and everywhere. Sometimes I dream he came back and would not speak to me, and I wake up with my pillow wet with tears.

My first exclamation as the clock struck twelve on St. Sylvester's night, 1857, as we all shook hands and drank each other’s health in a glass of punch at the Café de la Concorde, was, “This year I shall see Richard!”

On the first Sunday of the year I went to hear Mass at Saint Philip Neri, and then went to the post-office, where a small boy pushed up against me and stole my beloved picture of Richard out of my pocket. I did not feel him do it, but a horrible idea of having lost the picture came over me. I felt for it, and it was gone! I had a beautiful gold chain in my pocket, and a purse with £25; yet the young rascal never touched them, but seemed to know that I should care only for the portrait. I instantly rushed off to every crier in the town; had two hundred affiches printed and stuck up in every corner; I put a paragraph in the papers; I asked every priest to give it out in the pulpit; the police, the post-office, every corner of the town was warned. Of course I pretended it was a picture of my brother. After three agonizing days and nights an old woman brought it back, the frame gone, the picture torn, rubbed, and smeared, which partly effaced the expression of the face and made it look as if it knew where it had been and how it had been defiled. The story was that her little boy had found it in that state in a dirty alley; and thinking it was a picture of Jesus Christ or a saint, took it home to his little brother to keep him good when he was naughty, and threw it in their toy cupboard. A poor priest happened to dine with this poor family, and mentioned the affiche, in which the words ufficiale Inglese as large as my head appeared. The boys then produced the wreck of the portrait, and asked if that could possibly be the article, and if it was really true that the Signorina was willing to give so much for it; and the priest said “Yes,” for the Signorina had wept much for the portrait of her favourite brother who was killed in the Crimea. So it was brought, and the simple Signorina gladly gave three napoleons to the old woman to know that she possessed all that remained of that much-loved face. But that boy — oh that boy! — got off scot-free, and the Signorina’s reward did not induce any one to bring him to her. Doubtless, finding the stolen picture of no value to him, he had maltreated it and cast it in the gutter. How I could spank him!

We left Genoa at 9 a.m. on January 15. We wished good-bye to a crowd of friends inside and outside the hotel. We had a clean, roomy veterino with four capital little horses at the door charged with our luggage, a capital vetturino (coachman), and room for four inside and four out. A jolly party to fill it. It was agreed we should divide the expenses, take turns for the outside places, and be as good-humoured as possible. Luckily for me nobody cared for the box-seat, so I always got it. The first day we did thirty miles. Our halting-place for the day was Ruta, where something befell me. I lost my passport at Nervi, several miles back; a village idiot to whom I gave a penny picked it up and sold it to a peasant woman for twelve sous, who happened to be riding on a mule into Ruta, and halted where we were feeding. Our vetturino (Emanuele) happened to see it and recognized it in her hand, bought it back again for twelve sous, and gave it to me. It would have been a fatal loss to me. Soon after sunset we halted for the night at Sestri; the horses had done enough for the day. Four or five carriages had been attacked this winter, and there was a report of a large number of murders near Ancona, and there was no other sleeping-place to be reached that night. We soon had a capital fire, supper, and beds.

On this journey we planned out our day much as follows: We rose at daybreak and started; we had breakfast in the carriage after three hours’ drive. We passed our day in eating and drinking, laughing and talking, smoking and sleeping, and some mooning and sentimentalizing over the scenery: I the latter sort, and improving my Italian on the vetturino. We used to halt half-way two hours for the horses to rest and dinner, and then drive till dark where we halted for the night, ordered fire, supper, and beds, wrote out our journals, made our respective accounts, and smoked our cigarettes. The scenery and weather varied every day.

We slept a night at Sestri, and went on at daybreak. This day I had a terrible heartache; to my horror we had a leader, the ghost of a white horse covered with sores, ridden by a fine, strapping wag of a youth, who told me his master was rich and stingy, and did not feed him, let alone the horse, which only had a mouthful when employed. I told him his master would go to hell, and he assured me smilingly that he was sure his soul was already there, and that it was only his body that was walking about. I asked him to sell the horse to me, and let me shoot him; but he shook his head and laughed. “You English treat your horses better than masters treat their servants in Italy,” said he, as we topped the mountain. At my request Emanuele gave the poor beast a feed and sent him back, poor mass of skin and bones that it was. It was not fit to carry a fly, and I am told it was the best horse he had. That day our journey was a forty weary miles of black, barren ascent and descent, amongst snowy mountains, which looked as if man or beast had never trod there. Our halt was at Borghetto in the middle of the day. At the end of the forty miles came a delightful surprise. We were on a magnificent ridge of Maritime Alps covered with snow; a serpentine road led us down into a beautiful valley and Spezzia on the sea, the beautiful Gulf. The Croce di Malta was a comfortable little hotel. In half an hour we were round a roaring fire with a good supper.

Next morning we took a boat and explored the Gulf, the Source d’Eau, Lerici, where Byron and Shelley lived. That day was the Feast of Saint Anthony; the horses were blessed, which is a very amusing sight. It was the first night of the Carnival, and the Postilions’ Ball, to which we were invited and went. It was full of peasant-girls and masqueraders; it was capital fun, and we danced all night. The costumes here are very pretty; they and the pronunciation change about every forty miles.

The day we went away we had great fun. The Magra had to be passed two hours from Spezzia; it is a river with a bridge broken down. The peasants, working, look for all the world like diggers at the diggings; they are lawless enough to do anything. You get out and walk a mile amongst them; your carriage is embarked in a barge; it wades through and gets filled with water; the men at their pleasure upset it, or demand eighty francs or so. However, we were all game for anything that might occur, knowing how they treated others. Our vetturino was a regular brick — waded through with it without an accident; we walked through with all our money about us, dressing-cases in hand, our jackets with belts and daggers in them. One man became rather abusive; but we laughed at him, and gave him a universal chaffing. They followed us, and were annoying; but we swaggered along, and looked like people troubled with mosquitoes instead of ruffians, and not given to fainting and hysterics. So at last they were rather inclined to fraternize with us than otherwise. I suspect that they were accustomed to timid travellers. After this we passed Sarzana, a town of some consequence in these parts, with a castle and fortress. The weather this day was cold and biting, especially on the box-seat, and the scenery, except at Carrara, no great shakes. We found Carrara in a state of siege, and the troops occupied the hotel. Emanuele found a sort of stable, but we could get no food.

After this we proceeded by stages, and stopped some days at several places, and made long interior excursions, which I was often too tired to note. At last we arrived at Pisa. We had no trouble with the douanier. When I entered the Tuscan frontier, I declared I would never say another word of French; and Emanuele, who was a wag, sent all the douaniers to me; but a franc, a smile, an assurance that we had nothing contraband, and the word was given to pass. We scarcely ever had our baggage touched; but that was in 1858.

In Pisa we saw many things, including the Baptisteria, the Campanile or leaning tower, the Duomo, and the Sapienza, an object of interest to me, as Richard passed so much of his boyhood here, and that was his school. I regret to say the most debauched and ungentlemanly part of the population issued from this place, which distressed me, who held it sacred because of him. The Granda Bretagna was a very nice hotel, with a good table d’hôte, and all English. It had every comfort; only, being full, we could only get small, dark rooms at the back, which was dull, and with nothing but stoves; and the weather being bitter, we were petrified. We went a great deal to the Duomo and the Campo Santo, where the figures rather made us laugh, though I felt sentimental enough about other things. At the top of the Campanile or leaning tower, or belfry, I found that Richard had chiselled his name, so I did the same. How curious it would have been if while he was doing it he could have said, “My future wife will also come and chisel hers, so many years later, in remembrance of me.”

The man who shows the Campanile remembered Richard, and it was he who told me where he cut his name at the top of the tower.

The last day I was in Pisa (January 25) it was our Princess Royal’s wedding day. We had a grand dinner, champagne, toasts, and cheering. The table d’hôte was decorated with our yacht flags. One of the English ladies invited us to her rooms, where we had music and dancing, and I talked to one girl of seventeen, who proved to be an original after my own heart. After the soirée, we smoked a cigarette and discussed our plans. The next morning we had to leave Pisa. We were all sorry to part.

Half an hour’s train brought us to Leghorn, where we got pretty rooms at the Victoria and Washington. It is quite spring weather, beautiful sky and sea; again flat, ugly country, but the range of mountains shows to advantage; the air is delicious, and we are all well and in spirits. The town is very fine, the people tant-soit-peu-Portsmouth-like. There is nothing to see at Leghorn. Faute de mieux we went to see an ugly duomo, which, however, contained Canova’s Tempo, the one statue of which you hear from morning till night. We also visited the English Cemetery, which contained Smollett’s tomb. There are the docks to see, and Habib’s bazaar, a rogue, and not too civil, but he has beautiful Eastern things. The town is in a state of siege, and no Carnival is allowed.

We left Leghorn on February 1 for Florence, and visited successively many queer, little, out-of-the-way towns en route.

The first day at Florence we drove about to have a general view of the city, and after that we visited the principal palazzos, churches, and theatres — all of which have often been described before. We were at Florence nearly a month. We saw one Sunday’s Carnival, one opera, one masked ball. We had several friends, who were anxious for us to stay, and go into society; but time pressed, and we had to decline. Every evening we used to go to the theatre, and some of our friends would invite us to petits soupers. At Florence all Richard’s friends, finding I knew his sister in England, were kind to us; and we were very sorry to start at 3 a.m. on February 11 en route for Venice.

We were five individuals, with our baggage on our backs, turned into a rainy street, cutting a sorry figure and laughing at ourselves. The diligence started at once. We had twenty-one hours to Bologna, drawn by oxen at a foot’s pace through the snow, which the cantonniers had cleared partially away, but which often lay in heaps of twelve or twenty feet untouched. I never saw such magnificent snow scenes as when crossing the Apennines. We slept at Bologna, saw it, and took a vetturino next day. The drive was a dreary, flat snow piece of forty miles in length. Malebergo was the only town. We here came across a horrid thing. Two men had fallen asleep in a hay-cart smoking; it caught fire, burnt the men, cart, hay, and all. The horse ran away, had its hind-quarters burnt out, and they were all three dead, men and horse. It gave us a terrible turn, but we could do nothing. Next morning we were up at four o’clock. We crossed the river Po at seven o’clock; it was bitter cold. We drove fifty miles that day; the last twelve were very pretty. At length we reached Padua. The ground was like ice; our off leader fell, and was dragged some little distance. (How little I thought then that I should be a near neighbour and frequent visitor of all these places during the eighteen last years of my married life!) When we left Padua, we had twenty-seven miles more to go, where we exchanged for the (to us girls) new wonder of a gondola, which took us to the Hôtel Europa in Venice. We were not sorry to have got through our journey, and a blazing fire and a good supper and cigarette soon effaced the memory of the cold, starvation, and weariness we had gone through for so long. We wanted no rocking that night.

It is all very well writing; but nothing I could ever say would half express my enthusiasm for Venice. It fulfils all the exigencies of romance; it is the only thing that has never disappointed me. I am so happy at Venice. Except for Richard’s absence, I have not another wish ungratified; and I also like it because this and Trieste were the last places he was in near home when he started for Africa.

Not a night passes here that I do not dream that Richard has come home and will not speak to me; not a day that I do not kneel down twice, praying that God may send him a ray of divine grace, and bring him to religion, and also, though I feel quite unworthy of so high a mission, that I may be his wife, for I so love and care for him that I should never have courage to take upon myself the duties of married life with any other man. I have seen so much of married life; have seen men so unjust, selfish, and provoking; and have always felt I never could receive an injury from any man but him without everlasting resentment. Oh, if he should come home and have changed, it would break my heart! I would rather die than see that day!

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Venice

We plan out our days here, rising at eight, breakfast nine, Mass, spending the morning with friends, music, reading, working, writing, reading French and Italian, and some sketching. At one o’clock we start to explore all the beautiful things to be seen here, then we go to a very cheerful table d’hôte, and afterwards spend a most agreeable evening in each other’s apartments, or we gondola about to listen to the serenades by moonlight. I think we have walked and gondolaed the place all through by day and moon. How heavenly Venice would have been with Richard, we two floating about in these gondolas! Our friends are a charming Belgian couple named Hagemans, two little children, and a nice sister, and last, though not least, the Chevalier de St. Cheron. The Chevalier is a perfect French gentleman of noble family, good-looking, fascinating, brilliant in conversation; has much heart, esprit, and délicatesse; he is more solid than most Frenchmen, and better informed, and has noble sentiments, head and heart; and yet, were he an Englishman, I should think him vain and ignorant. He has a few small prejudices and French tricks, which are, however, little faults of nationality, education, and circumstance, but not of nature. Henri V., the Bourbon King, called the Comte de Chambord, lives at the Palazzo Cavalli, and holds a small court, kept up in a little state by devoted partisans, who are under the surveillance of the police, and have three or four different lodgings everywhere. St. Cheron is his right-hand man and devoted to him, and will be in the highest office when he comes to the throne. As we are devoted to the Bourbons he introduced us there, and the King helped to make our stay happy to us.

We arrived in Venice for the end of the Carnival. The last night of it we went to the masked ball at the Finice; it was the most brilliant sight I ever saw. We masked and dominoed, and it was there that the Chevalier and I first came in contact and spoke; he had been watching for an opportunity. The evening after the ball he came to table d’hôte and spoke to us, and asked leave to pay us an evening visit, which he did (the Hagemans were there too); and from that we spent all our evenings and days together.

One night we rowed in gondolas by moonlight to the Lido; we took the guitar. I never saw Venice look so beautiful. The water was like glass, and there was not a sound but the oars’ splashing. We sang glees. Arrived at the Lido, we had tea and walked the whole length of the sands. That night was one of many such evenings in queenly Venice. I shall often remember the gondolier’s serenades, the beautiful moon and starlight, the gliding about in the gondola in all the romantic parts of Venice, the soft air, the stillness of the night, hearing only the splash of oars, and nothing stirring except perhaps some dark and picturesque figure crossing the bridge, the little Madonna chapel on the banks of the Lido edging the Adriatic, the Piazza of San Marco with the band, and ices outside Florian’s, the picturesque Armenians, Greeks, and Moors, and the lovely water-girls with their bigolo, every language sounding in one’s ears. I remember too all my favourite localities, too numerous to set down, but known doubtless to every lover of Venice.

On the days that were too bad for sight-seeing we and our friends read Byron, talked French, and sketched; on indifferent days we lionized; and on beautiful days we floated about round the islands. I had two particularly happy days; they were the summer mornings when the sun shone and the birds sang; and we were all so gay we sang too, and the Adriatic was so blue. There were two or three beautiful brigs sometimes sailing for Trieste.

One day Henri V. desired the Chevalier to bring us to a private audience. Blanche wore her wedding-dress with pearls and a slight veil; my brother-in-law was in his best R.Y.S. uniform, and I in my bridesmaid’s dress. We had a very smart gondola covered with our flags, the white one uppermost for the Bourbons, which did not escape the notice of the King, and the gondoliers in their Spanish-looking sashes and broad hats. Blanche looked like a small sultana in her bridal robes sitting amidst her flags. We were received by the Duc de Levis and the Comtesse de Chavannes; there was also a Prince Somebody, and an emissary from the Pope waiting for an audience. As soon as the latter came out we were taken in, and most graciously received; and the King invited us to sit. He was middle height and fair, a beau-idéal of a French gentleman, with winning manners. His consort was tall, gaunt, very dry and cold, but she was kind. They asked us a thousand questions; and as my French was better than the others’, I told them all about our yachting, and all we had seen and were going to see; and they were much interested. I was also able to tell the King that when he was a little boy he had condescended to ask my mother to dance, and that it was one of the proudest souvenirs of her life. My brother-in-law behaved with great ease and dignity; he put his yacht and his services at the King’s disposal, and expressed our respectful attachment to the House of Bourbon. We thanked them for receiving us. After about twenty minutes they saluted us; we curtseyed to the ground, backed to the door, repeated the curtsey, and disappeared. We were received again by the Duc de Levis and the Comtesse de Chavannes, and conducted to the gondola. I am proud to say that we heard that the King was enthusiastic about Blanche and myself, and subsequently that night at dinner and many a day after he spoke of us. We also heard from the Chevalier and a Vicomte Simonet that the King was charmed with my brother-in-law for turning the white flag upwards and offering him the use of his yacht.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:33