12. On the Watch
It has left off raining down in Lincolnshire at last, and Chesney Wold has taken heart.
Mrs. Rouncewell is full of hospitable cares, for Sir Leicester and my Lady are coming
home from Paris. The fashionable intelligence has found it out and communicates the
glad tidings to benighted England. It has also found out that they will entertain a brilliant
and distinguished circle of the elite of the beau monde (the fashionable intelligence is
weak in English, but a giant refreshed in French) at the ancient and hospitable family
seat in Lincolnshire.
For the greater honour of the brilliant and distinguished circle, and of Chesney Wold into
the bargain, the broken arch of the bridge in the park is mended; and the water, now
retired within its proper limits and again spanned gracefully, makes a figure in the
prospect from the house. The clear, cold sunshine glances into the brittle woods and
approvingly beholds the sharp wind scattering the leaves and drying the moss. It glides
over the park after the moving shadows of the clouds, and chases them, and never
catches them, all day. It looks in at the windows and touches the ancestral portraits with
bars and patches of brightness never contemplated by the painters. Athwart the picture
of my Lady, over the great chimney- piece, it throws a broad bend-sinister of light that
strikes down crookedly into the hearth and seems to rend it.
Through the same cold sunshine and the same sharp wind, my Lady and Sir Leicester,
in their travelling chariot (my Lady's woman and Sir Leicester's man affectionate in the
rumble), start for home. With a considerable amount of jingling and whip-cracking, and
many plunging demonstrations on the part of two bare-backed horses and two centaurs
with glazed hats, jack-boots, and flowing manes and tails, they rattle out of the yard of
the Hotel Bristol in the Place Vendome and canter between the sun-and-shadow-
chequered colonnade of the Rue de Rivoli and the garden of the ill-fated palace of a
headless king and queen, off by the Place of Concord, and the Elysian Fields, and the
Gate of the Star, out of Paris.
Sooth to say, they cannot go away too fast, for even here my Lady Dedlock has been
bored to death. Concert, assembly, opera, theatre, drive, nothing is new to my Lady
under the worn-out heavens. Only last Sunday, when poor wretches were gay--within
the walls playing with children among the clipped trees and the statues in the Palace
Garden; walking, a score abreast, in the Elysian Fields, made more Elysian by
performing dogs and wooden horses; between whiles filtering (a few) through the
gloomy Cathedral of Our Lady to say a word or two at the base of a pillar within flare of
a rusty little gridiron-full of gusty little tapers; without the walls encompassing Paris with
dancing, love-making, wine-drinking, tobacco-smoking, tomb-visiting, billiard card and
domino playing, quack-doctoring, and much murderous refuse, animate and inanimate--
only last Sunday, my Lady, in the desolation of Boredom and the clutch of Giant
Despair, almost hated her own maid for being in spirits.