Little Women HTML version
At three o'clock in the afternoon, all the fashionable world at Nice may be seen on the
Promenade des Anglais--a charming place, for the wide walk, bordered with palms,
flowers, and tropical shrubs, is bounded on one side by the sea, on the other by the grand
drive, lined with hotels and villas, while beyond lie orange orchards and the hills. Many
nations are represented, many languages spoken, many costumes worn, and on a sunny
day the spectacle is as gay and brilliant as a carnival. Haughty English, lively French,
sober Germans, handsome Spaniards, ugly Russians, meek Jews, free-and-easy
Americans, all drive, sit, or saunter here, chatting over the news, and criticizing the latest
celebrity who has arrived--Ristori or Dickens, Victor Emmanuel or the Queen of the
Sandwich Islands. The equipages are as varied as the company and attract as much
attention, especially the low basket barouches in which ladies drive themselves, with a
pair of dashing ponies, gay nets to keep their voluminous flounces from overflowing the
diminutive vehicles, and little grooms on the perch behind.
Along this walk, on Christmas Day, a tall young man walked slowly, with his hands
behind him, and a somewhat absent expression of countenance. He looked like an Italian,
was dressed like an Englishman, and had the independent air of an American--a
combination which caused sundry pairs of feminine eyes to look approvingly after him,
and sundry dandies in black velvet suits, with rose-colored neckties, buff gloves, and
orange flowers in their buttonholes, to shrug their shoulders, and then envy him his
inches. There were plenty of pretty faces to admire, but the young man took little notice
of them, except to glance now and then at some blonde girl in blue. Presently he strolled
out of the promenade and stood a moment at the crossing, as if undecided whether to go
and listen to the band in the Jardin Publique, or to wander along the beach toward Castle
Hill. The quick trot of ponies feet made him look up, as one of the little carriages,
containing a single young lady, came rapidly down the street. The lady was young,
blonde, and dressed in blue. He stared a minute, then his whole face woke up, and,
waving his hat like a boy, he hurried forward to meet her.
"Oh, Laurie, is it really you? I thought you'd never come!" cried Amy, dropping the reins
and holding out both hands, to the great scandalization of a French mamma, who
hastened her daughter's steps, lest she should be demoralized by beholding the free
manners of these `mad English'.
"I was detained by the way, but I promised to spend Christmas with you, and here I am."
"How is your grandfather? When did you come? Where are you staying?"
"Very well--last night--at the Chauvain. I called at your hotel, but you were out."
"I have so much to say, I don't know where to begin! Get in and we can talk at our ease. I
was going for a drive and longing for company. Flo's saving up for tonight."
"What happens then, a ball?"
"A Christmas party at out hotel. There are many Americans there, and they give it in
honor of the day. You'll go with us, of course? Aunt will be charmed."