The Chateau of Prince Polignac HTML version
Above this, at a mile's distance, is the rock of Espailly, formed in the same way, and
almost equally precipitous. On its summit is a castle, having its own legend, and
professing to have been the residence of Charles VII., when little of France belonged to
its kings but the provinces of Berry, Auvergne, and Le Velay. Some three miles farther
up there is another volcanic rock, larger, indeed, but equally sudden in its spring,--equally
remarkable as rising abruptly from the valley,--on which stands the castle and old family
residence of the house of Polignac. It was lost by them at the Revolution, but was
repurchased by the minister of Charles X., and is still the property of the head of the race.
Le Puy itself is a small, moderate, pleasant French town, in which the language of the
people has not the pure Parisian aroma, nor is the glory of the boulevards of the capital
emulated in its streets. These are crooked, narrow, steep, and intricate, forming here and
there excellent sketches for a lover of street picturesque beauty; but hurtful to the feet
with their small, round-topped paving stones, and not always as clean as pedestrian ladies
And now I would ask my readers to join me at the morning table d'hote at the Hotel des
Ambassadeurs. It will of course be understood that this does not mean a breakfast in the
ordinary fashion of England, consisting of tea or coffee, bread and butter, and perhaps a
boiled egg. It comprises all the requisites for a composite dinner, excepting soup; and as
one gets farther south in France, this meal is called dinner. It is, however, eaten without
any prejudice to another similar and somewhat longer meal at six or seven o'clock,
which, when the above name is taken up by the earlier enterprise, is styled supper.
The dejeuner, or dinner, at the Hotel des Ambassadeurs, on the morning in question,
though very elaborate, was not a very gay affair. There were some fourteen persons
present, of whom half were residents in the town, men employed in some official
capacity, who found this to be the cheapest, the most luxurious, and to them the most
comfortable mode of living. They clustered together at the head of the table, and as they
were customary guests at the house, they talked their little talk together--it was very little-
-and made the most of the good things before them. Then there were two or three
commis-voyageurs, a chance traveller or two, and an English lady with a young daughter.
The English lady sat next to one of the accustomed guests; but he, unlike the others, held
converse with her rather than with them. Our story at present has reference only to that
lady and to that gentleman.
Place aux dames. We will speak first of the lady, whose name was Mrs. Thompson. She
was, shall I say, a young woman of about thirty- six. In so saying, I am perhaps creating a
prejudice against her in the minds of some readers, as they will, not unnaturally, suppose
her, after such an announcement, to be in truth over forty. Any such prejudice will be
unjust. I would have it believed that thirty-six was the outside, not the inside of her age.
She was good-looking, lady-like, and considering that she was an Englishwoman, fairly
well dressed. She was inclined to be rather full in her person, but perhaps not more so
than is becoming to ladies at her time of life. She had rings on her fingers and a brooch
on her bosom which were of some value, and on the back of her head she wore a jaunty