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A Versailles Christmas-Tide   By: (-1937)

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Mary Stuart Boyd

With Fifty three Illustrations by A.S. Boyd



I. The Unexpected Happens II. Ogams III. The Town IV. Our Arbre de Noël V. Le Jour de l'Année VI. Ice bound VII. The Haunted Château VIII. Marie Antoinette IX. The Prisoners Released


The Summons Storm Warning Treasure Trove The Red Cross in the Window Enter M. le Docteur Perpetual Motion Ursa Major Meal Considerations The Two Colonels The Young and Brave Malcontent The Aristocrat Papa, Mama, et Bébé Juvenile Progress Automoblesse oblige Sable Garb A Football Team Mistress and Maid Sage and Onions Marketing Private Boxes A Foraging Party A Thriving Merchant Chestnuts in the Avenue The Tree Vendor The Tree Bearer Rosine Alms and the Lady Adoration Thankfulness One of the Devout De l'eau Chaude The Mill The Presbytery To the Place of Rest While the Frost Holds The Postman's Wrap A Lapful of Warmth The Daily Round Three Babes and a Bonne Snow in the Park A Veteran of the Château Un, Deux, Trois Bedchamber of Louis XIV Marie Leczinska Madame Adelaide Louis Quatorze Where the Queen Played Marie Antoinette The Secret Stair Madame sans Tête Illumination L'Envoi



[Illustration: The Summons]

No project could have been less foreseen than was ours of wintering in France, though it must be confessed that for several months our thoughts had constantly strayed across the Channel. For the Boy was at school at Versailles, banished there by our desire to fulfil a parental duty.

The time of separation had dragged tardily past, until one foggy December morning we awoke to the glad consciousness that that very evening the Boy would be with us again. Across the breakfast table we kept saying to each other, "It seems scarcely possible that the Boy is really coming home to night," but all the while we hugged the assurance that it was.

The Boy is an ordinary snub nosed, shock headed urchin of thirteen, with no special claim to distinction save the negative one of being an only child. Yet without his cheerful presence our home seemed empty and dull. Any attempts at merry making failed to restore its life. Now all was agog for his return. The house was in its most festive trim. Christmas presents were hidden securely away. There was rejoicing downstairs as well as up: the larder shelves were stored with seasonable fare, and every bit of copper and brass sparkled a welcome. Even the kitchen cat sported a ribbon, and had a specially energetic purr ready.

Into the midst of our happy preparations the bad news fell with bomb like suddenness. The messenger who brought the telegram whistled shrilly and shuffled a breakdown on the doorstep while he waited to hear if there was an answer.

"He is ill. He can't come. Scarlet fever," one of us said in an odd, flat voice.

"Scarlet fever. At school. Oh! when can we go to him? When is there a boat?" cried the other.

There was no question of expediency. The Boy lay sick in a foreign land, so we went to him. It was full noon when the news came, and nightfall saw us dashing through the murk of a wild mid December night towards Dover pier, feeling that only the express speed of the mail train was quick enough for us to breathe in.

But even the most apprehensive of journeys may hold its humours. Just at the moment of starting anxious friends assisted a young lady into our carriage. "She was going to Marseilles. Would we kindly see that she got on all right?" We were only going as far as Paris direct. "Well, then, as far as Paris. It would be a great favour." So from Charing Cross to the Gare du Nord, Placidia, as we christened her, became our care.

She was a large, handsome girl of about three and twenty. What was her reason for journeying unattended to Cairo we know not. Whether she ever reached her destination we are still in doubt, for a more complacently incapable damsel never went a voyaging. The Saracen maiden who followed her English lover from the Holy Land by crying "London" and "À Becket" was scarce so impotent as Placidia; for any information the Saracen maiden had she retained, while Placidia naively admitted that she had already forgotten by which line of steamers her passage through the Mediterranean had been taken... Continue reading book >>

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