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Madame de who had not heard the name of the present proprietor of Les Rochers, whispered me,
“ Ah! ma belle, ce Monsieur le Baron d'aujourd'hui est sans doute une de la Bande Noire, "* coldly declined the proposition, and as rest, to her, was always enjoyment, she patiently resigned herself to the agreeable infliction of remaining tranquilly in the carriage; while Félicie, who descended to give Sylphide an airing, immediately seated herself on a mossy bank by the road side; and Hypolite, mounting one of the coachhorses, rode off for the smith, the smoke of whose forge was visible at a short distance.
The idea of visiting Les Rochers, whence so many of the inimitable letters of the most charming writer in the world were written, appeared to me rather a pleasant dream, than a reality. I could scarcely credit my luck. So taking the stranger's offered arm, I promised Madame de — a speedy return, and proceeded to the shrine of “ Notre Dame des Rochers," with as much devotional enthusiasm as ever carried a jubilee pilgrim across the Pontine Marshes, from the Abruzzi to St. Peter's. Having cut across the little orchard, we were still involved in a woody copse, which gave us only partial gleams of the white towers of the château. “ Envoyez-moi de la vue, et je vous enverrai des arbres, "* writes Madame de Sévigné to Madame de Grignan: and the request is still applicable to the site, which is covered with trees, to the total exclusion of some charming views, which, with a little effort, might be happily commanded from the bụilding. The château and its mass of antique towers stand upon an esplanade, after the manner of the feudal edifices of France. La cour du château, spacious and gloomy, is shut in by a ponderous iron gate, through which I gazed with a fluttering heart, while the old porter, summoned by the stranger, went for his keys to give us admission. Nothing could be more antique and picturesque than the architecture, tinged and partially lighted, as it was, by a brilliant sunset. The château is said to date its erection as far back as the fourteenth century; and its high antiquity was verified by a spiral flight of stairs, cut out of a tower in the corps de logis; which was flanked by two other towers,—the whole bordered by grim Gothic heads, and monstrous nondescript representations of animals, which incrusted the upper part of the building, from the springing of the roof to its summit. One little tower stood apart, built in the same grotesque style, except
* “ This mushroom Baron is most likely one of the Black band”--the purchasers and dilapidators of the forfeited châteaux.
that its roof resembled an extinguisher. “ That,” said my cicerone, " is a modern building. It is the chapel mentioned in Madame de Sévigné’s letters, built by her for le bien bon, the amiable and witty Abbé de Coulanges.”
The porter now gave us admittance; and as we paused before the interesting edifice, which, with Turkish barbarity, had been recently whitewashed, he exclaimed, “ It is another thing now, pardie, to what it was before the Revolution, with its green and brown walls, and moss, and ivy, and birds' nests, and what not !
Mais nous avons changés tout cela—nous avons reblanchi toutes ces vieilles masures, à la chaux ; et encore donné trois couches bien épaisses en dehors et en dedans.”
* 6 We have whitewashed all the old premises, and given them three coats, inside and out.”
The old porter then waddled on before us, and the stranger observed, in a low voice, as if replying to the disgust my looks involuntarily expressed, “ Monsieur le Concierge, it seems, has never read the letters of Madame de Sévigné. They have indeed changed this most interesting of all sites into a grotesque métairie ;” and pointing to a lavoir and stables decorated with Corinthian columns, the curé added, “ And yet this is not the worst !"
We were now in the hall of the château, and followed our cicerone through the apartments not closed against the intrusion of strangers; but all had been so recently and thoroughly changed to the modern style of decoration, that there was scarcely any object left to recal la bellissima madre, except her portrait by Mignard, which was placed over le poële in the dining-room. Dark, low, and narrow, this apartment could not have been the room in which Madame de Sévigné so often entertained the splendid governor of the province and his lady, the high-bred Palatine, with the jovial, gay, and witty visitors, the Coulanges, Pomenars, and others of rank and talents, whom the assembling of the States General at Rennes brought to the château. Nothing now remained as it had been even so recently as the year 1810. .
Every thing has been destroyed and effaced," whispered the stranger: “ and even the cabinet de lecture and the bedchambers of Madame de Sévigné and Madame de Grignan (where the portrait of la belle et fière comtesse still hangs) have undergone a similar and equally barbarous alteration."
As these classical and historical apartments were locked up, and as time pressed, and the sun was sinking, we hurried on to the gardens and grounds, so often described by Madame de Sévigné. But still change, barbarous, pitiless change prevailed. New walls, new terraces, new orangeries destroyed all those precious associations so intimately connected with the old. They had also recently cut down those allées, planted and watched with such maternal tenderness by Madame de Sévigné; and as their sites were pointed out to me, I could not avoid exclaiming, “ Helas ! qu'est devenu ce bosquet enchanté ?"