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      Sheridan took the matter up, the postillions were examined, but all they said was that a strange gentleman had taken them to a public-house and bribed them to take the road they had followed. The hired servant had disappeared. Not wishing to spend the time or money necessary to bring this mysterious affair into a law court, they did nothing more about it, and never understood why it had happened, or what was intended, or anything concerning it.Whether this dastardly trick was done out of mere spite and envy, or only in order to save the reputation of the guilty woman at the expense of the innocent one, Mme. Le Brun never knew, and of course had no more communication with the person in question.

      When the road was made through Bunnoo a pile of stones was heaped up in the middle of the village. The Moslems finally persuaded themselves that this was a saint's grave; and they come hither to perform their devotions, planting round it bamboo flagstaffs with pennons, and adding to the mound the stones they piously bring to it day by day.

      Never, he said, was the Queen more truly a Queen than to-day, when she made her entry with so calm and noble an air in the midst of those furies.

      On the shore, on the steps in front of the temples and round the holy images, in short, everywhere on this day, red powder was sprinkled to inaugurate[Pg 179] the month just beginning; a beggar, to secure the favour of the gods, had smeared his head and hands with it.


      With the Vernet family, too, she was on intimate terms. The landscape painter, Joseph Vernet, was always a kind friend to her. His son Charles, or Carle, as he was called, was also an artist, and his daughter milie, the wife of M. Chalgrin, was constantly at her house.As soon as dessert was removed two lieutenants got up, and seizing a couple of drums played away with all their might, while some other officers, under the pretext of dancing a Highland fling, cut the most amazing capers. When the band had left[Pg 276] the fun went on to the sound of the banjo, lasting late into the cool night, all in the highest spirits.



      The young princes and princesses, however, in spite of the disputes, jealousies, and quarrels that occurred amongst them, agreed in amusing themselves very well together. They gave balls, theatricals and ftes of all kinds; the Queen was very fond of cards, and gambling went on to an extent which, with the money spent on ftes and in other still more reprehensible ways, especially by the Comte dArtois, though it could have passed as a matter of course under former reigns, now increased the irritation and discontent which every year grew stronger and more dangerous. For the distress amongst the lower orders was terrible; for years marriages and the birthrate had been decreasing in an alarming manner; the peasants declaring that it was no use bringing into the world children to be as miserable as themselves.