The chateau, a modern building in Italian style, with two projecting wings and
three flights of steps, lay at the foot of an immense green-sward, on which some
cows were grazing among groups of large trees set out at regular intervals, while
large beds of arbutus, rhododendron, syringas, and guelder roses bulged out
their irregular clusters of green along the curve of the gravel path. A river flowed
under a bridge; through the mist one could distinguish buildings with thatched
roofs scattered over the field bordered by two gently sloping, well timbered
hillocks, and in the background amid the trees rose in two parallel lines the coach
houses and stables, all that was left of the ruined old chateau.
Charles's dog-cart pulled up before the middle flight of steps; servants appeared;
the Marquis came forward, and, offering his arm to the doctor's wife, conducted
her to the vestibule.
It was paved with marble slabs, was very lofty, and the sound of footsteps and
that of voices re-echoed through it as in a church.
Opposite rose a straight staircase, and on the left a gallery overlooking the
garden led to the billiard room, through whose door one could hear the click of
the ivory balls. As she crossed it to go to the drawing room, Emma saw standing
round the table men with grave faces, their chins resting on high cravats. They all
wore orders, and smiled silently as they made their strokes.
On the dark wainscoting of the walls large gold frames bore at the bottom names
written in black letters. She read: "Jean-Antoine d'Andervilliers d'Yvervonbille,
Count de la Vaubyessard and Baron de la Fresnay, killed at the battle of Coutras
on the 20th of October, 1857." And on another: "Jean-Antoine-Henry-Guy
d'Andervilliers de la Vaubyessard, Admiral of France and Chevalier of the Order
of St. Michael, wounded at the battle of the Hougue-Saint-Vaast on the 29th of
May, 1692; died at Vaubyessard on the 23rd of January 1693." One could hardly
make out those that followed, for the light of the lamps lowered over the green
cloth threw a dim shadow round the room. Burnishing the horizontal pictures, it
broke up against these in delicate lines where there were cracks in the varnish,
and from all these great black squares framed in with gold stood out here and
there some lighter portion of the painting—a pale brow, two eyes that looked at
you, perukes flowing over and powdering red-coated shoulders, or the buckle of
a garter above a well-rounded calf.
The Marquis opened the drawing room door; one of the ladies (the Marchioness
herself) came to meet Emma. She made her sit down by her on an ottoman, and
began talking to her as amicably as if she had known her a long time. She was a
woman of about forty, with fine shoulders, a hook nose, a drawling voice, and on
this evening she wore over her brown hair a simple guipure fichu that fell in a
point at the back. A fair young woman sat in a high-backed chair in a corner; and
gentlemen with flowers in their buttonholes were talking to ladies round the fire.