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where I arrived and was welcomed by a large,
slovenly, benevolent-looking landlady, who,
having scanned my dusty dress and given a
glance at my well-worn trunks, seemed for a
moment to hesitate as to the sort of apartment
I should be indulged in; but a mystic sign
from my apparently artless porter, and a
rapid look at the English name inscribed on
my chattels, settled her doubts, and I instantly
took possession of a spacious apartment on
the first floor, where I became instantly aware
that instinct had not deceived me, and that I
was in the land of gardens. Two fabulously
enormous windows opened to a balcony, which
hung over a large flower and fruit garden,
filled to overflowing with shrubs and trees,
all glowing in the richest luxuriance of
August. One look was sufficient to show
that my host, who was busy there, was a distinguished
amateur, and my first business
was to watch him as he arranged, along a
carved parapet before a temple, a whole host
of small pots, containing apparently every
variety of cactus that capricious nature in
her sportive moods has invented. My host
wore the costume not of a gardener, but of a
cook; and I felt convinced that one who was
so neat-handed as regarded his flowers would
be able to satisfy the appetite which I had
brought with me, in the most approved style.
"Why not?" said my hostess; "was not my
husband chief cook in the household of the
Emperor?—I mean the firstand did he not
accompany the Empress Josephine to the
château de Navarre, near Evreux, where she
went when the two separated? His delight
is in serving a dinner to those who understand
it; and he knows what English taste
of the first order is well enough, for he lived
for ten years with Milor M—, who was not
easily pleased." I remarked that the hotel
did not appear to be crowded at that moment,
to which she answered, that the fashion for
Meaux was entirely past, and now that the
line to Strasbourg was completed, it was a
rarity to behold a stranger. English milors,
however, she informed me, were in the habit
of coming to Sirène with their families, and
there taking up their abode for months, in
the summer, for the sake of the dinners and
the gardens, which, she flattered herself, were
unrivalled in her establishment. "You can
do whatever you please," she added, patronizingly,
"and shall have the salon that opens to
the garden for your dining-room. No one
will interrupt you; there is only a French
captain of hussars here, who is out all day;
the whole mansion is your own."

I found every particular exact as Madame
la Sirène had named it; and during the week
I stayed at Meaux, I was not a little amused
by my observations. The house had evidently,
in former times, been the residence of a
nobleman,—its fine staircases, long passages,
lofty rooms with carved ceilings, and general
style of building, proclaiming its aristocratic
character. There was an entire repose about
its dignified walls and roofs and gablesa
grace in its antique garden walks and bowers,
a richness in its numerous hot-houses and
graperies, that did not belong to a mere hotel.
At one side of the garden a long low building,
very much decorated, was altogether out of
keeping with the rest, and when I was admitted
by my friendly hostess to its interior,
I understood when and how profits might
accrue to the keeper of what seemed the
ghost of an hostelry, which appeared to
exist only on memories of the past. This
chamber was, I found, dedicated to wedding
dinners, balls, concerts, and the like; and its
crimson and white draperies, numerous looking-glasses,
and yet unfaded garlands, proved
that even in the tranquil town of Meaux the
neighbourhood of the great capital had set an
example not neglected, and that gaiety and
enjoyment found a spot in which to indulge
on occasion.

"My husband and I are no longer young,"
said La Sirène—a Frenchwoman never mentions
the word "old"—"and after a long life
of hard work, we are content to take things
easy now. Our children are married; we
have long lived in the château; we like our
garden; why leave it for a smaller? and we
do not want for visitors enough. The reputation
of the dinners of the Sirène is sufficient."

My host had, besides his flowers, a little
treasure, of which he was very tender, and
which he kept in his own private sanctum
close to the bar, where his wife always sat
with her spectacles on, writing, or appearing
to write, in a huge book, the details of her
housekeeping. This treasure, when we became
intimate, was duly shown to me. It was
a coloured print, after a miniature of Isabey,
of the Empress Josephine herself, given to
him with her own hand, and pronounced by
her adoring and regretful admirer the very
best likeness that was ever done. Indeed I
could well believe so, for the face had an
expression of amiability and kindness, such
as the usual portraits rarely give. The large
dark brown eyes were soft and smiling, the
mouth was peculiarly sweet, and a dimple
was on each side of the rounded cheeks.
"That's what she really was," said my host
with a sigh; " the best woman that ever
breathed, and made up of goodness and
grace." Grace, as the French understand the
word, is the quality always insisted on as the
attribute of Josephine, whose name always
awakens a tender feeling in the hearts of all;
and the remark frequently follows it, "Ah, it
was an evil day for the Emperor when they
parted!" Josephine, like Mary Stuart, is
destined to excite interest, and in her fate all
her foibles are forgotten. Marie Antoinette
has harder measure, although her friends and
foes are many, and energetic too. The tide,
however, of sympathy ebbs and flows according
to events; and the star of the gentle
grandmother of the second Emperor is at
present in the ascendant. Mine host's

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