10 AUGUST 1872, Page 13



[FROM A CORRESPONDENT.] Bourbonne-lea-Bains, Haute Marne. A "GRAND bal " at the Etablissement des Bains here is an amusing aped mole. To our first feelings of incredulity succeeded pleasure at seeing so many people enjoying themselves in so homely and innocent a fashion. The salle is a large, well-propor- tioned room, with a floor so highly polished that it requires caution in the uninitiated to walk on it without slipping. How the canes and crutches contrive to avoid tumbling about I cannot under- stand. Gas is unknown at Bourbonne, where the light of other nights suspends itself in lanterns, few and far between, from ropes stretched across the street, and burns dimly in old carriage lamps- hooked up at odd corners. So the salle is lighted by candies only, and leaves something to be desired in that respect. The orchestra occupies a kind of den, which discloses itself on the sliding back of certain painted panels in a wall, and the spectators range them- selves on chairs and sofas within a sternly defined limit. A tepid reluctance marked the early stages of the proceedings, and the spirits of some gentlemen (mostly lame) evidently flagged. " Quadrille" announced itself in red letters on a large card dis- played in front of the orchestra, and the inviting strains of the "Agnes Sorel" set appealed to the company, but for some minutes no one stirred. Then advanced a small young man, with light hair, light whiskers, light trousers, spectacles, and an un- mistakably German face, who resolutely put on a pair of cream- coloured gloves, and asked the largest lady in the room to dance. She promptly acquiesced, and the quadrille was formed. Can it be possible that precedence here is regulated by weight ? we asked each other, as we observed that the three ladies who were led to their places after the first were also remarkable for size, and by no means in their first youth. How heartily they danced, and how well ! With what good faith, and genuine enjoyment, and how their cavaliers did their best to make up for a stiff knee in one case, a club foot in another, and an eccentric and unmanage- able hop in a third ! With what business-like gravity did the German, that enemy of the country, set its children right in the figures, and correct everybody's inclination to give the wrong hand in the choice dc-s dames. After that initiatory quadrille all went well. The collection of canes and crutches in a corner multiplied, as the dauntless patients joined the dance, and to our amazement we beheld persons whom we had regarded with the kindest compassion, as they limped past our window, or hobbled up and down the terrace, performing the complicated evolutions of the mazurka, or the distracting jerk of the deux temps. The officers mustered strong, and danced with a persistent good-will truly astonishing, considering that most of them are only recovering from terrible wounds. They are all young men, some very fine-looking fellows, but there is a uniform stamp of suffering in their faces, the anxious outlook of pain. Here is a chef de bataillon of Algerian 6J-cid/curs, who is as thin as a walking- stick, and nearly as dry and brown, who has had a ball through his right shoulder, and his left leg broken by his horse having fallen upon him,—he has:done his two seasons at the baths, and he never leaves off dancing the whole evening. Here is a brown- faced young man, who distinguished himself by great gallantry in the dreadful battle of Gravelotte, quite the ideal of a soldier, with cold, piercing, blue eyes, and stern set features, rapid of movement and abrupt of speech,—he has a few bullets dispersed about him still, I believe, after having had four taken out of his palms and wrists, for it happened strangely that both hands were wounded precisely in the same way ; and be bolds his partner oddly, with a fiu-like expression of the fingers, but he dances beautifully, and he gives his whole mind to it. In a short time everybody has arrived, and there is quite a crowd, but such a polite, accommodating, kindly crowd, anxious to give the strangers the best places, and interested in us, not vulgarly curious. A little confused about our nationality, though, for we distinctly hear ourselves described as " les dames Hollandaises de chez Madame G—," and we conceive a humi- liating suspicion that we are supposed to express ourselves imperfectly in the French tongue when we say we are " Irlandaises," and that the "Emerald gem of the Western world" is unknown at Bourbonne. The notables look on approvingly, groups of pleased matrons talk pleasantly together, many pretty girls and young women, dressed with perfect taste, who are evidently residents, mingle with the visitors, and several of the doctors survey the proceedings with grave professional assent, and comment upon the progress of their re- spective patients, who, having been obliged to abstain from even the mild quadrille at the beginning of their ' season,' are now indulging in the exhilarating polka. Yes, that ex- ploded dance still flourishes at Bourbonne, no doubt because its alternate hop and stagger recommend it to lame dancers. The dancing is so animated that we have hardly any attention to spare for the spectators, but we notice a young man, seated near one of the external doors, in the most backward row of chairs, who leans forward and looks on with a fresh vivid pleasure. We can only see his head and shoulders and his fine golden-brown beard for a long time. He is very young, and very handsome, though at first we think he must be dying, and then that he is just rescued from death, for his face is like a fine waxen mask, and his deep-set blue eyes are sadly bright and eager. Presently the chairs in front of him are vacated, and we see that he is covered with a rug, that his shoulders are supported by crutches, and that he wears the uniform of a Chasseur regiment under his cloak, which he draws round him with white emaciated fingers. " One of your wounded ? " I ask of Dr. Maginn, the chief physician here. " He is one of them, one of four eons of an officer, old French family from La Rochelle, who was killed at Solferino. He had just left St. Cyr when the late war began, and was the youngest of the four. The other three volunteered, were in all the battles, and escaped without a wound,

but were made prisoners at Sedan. He was desperately wounded at Gravelotte, left for dead on the field, rescued by some country people, reported to his mother dead,' and discovered by his only sister, a nun, serving the ambulances under the Red Cross. In> addition to other injuries, be was struck by a fragment of a shell on both legs, the bones were not broken, but the nerves were torn, and the limbs have wasted away. He is quite cheerful and happy,. tells with delight how he can drag himself along now with crutches, instead of being drawn in a little carriage—a service of which his. comrades never wearied—and how he is studying engineering, since his career of predilection is closed. He will be quite strong- in one more year, he thinks, and he never suffers from his head, so• they allow him to look on at the dancing." We notice that one or other of the officers takes his place beside the helpless boy (he is little more) between every dance, and that his low voice is pleasant, and his face, which it is difficult to look away from, is never melancholy or moody. So the "grand bal " has more than one aspect for us, though its amusing features decidedly preponderate. General arrangements for the public amusement are largely dis- cussed at the ball, and we learn that a grand chasse aux saugliers- is to take place in some of the adjacent forests. Wild boar abounds in this district, and the animals occasionally leave the woods and commit extensive depredations in the vineyards and orchards. The chasse, conducted with much form, is said to be very dangerous,. and we are still more surprised than by the ball, to find that many of the lame gentlemen there present are to be of the party.

Bourbonne abounds in delightfully unexpected bits of picturesque- landscape. You turn out of the pretty little steep street into a. stony lane, which you climb to the level of a wooded ridge, and there bursts upon your view a picture of perfect beauty of the- richest, most luxuriant order. You ascend a flight of stepsrlike- those which lead to the fishing quarter of Boulogue-sur-Mer, or to- Fourvieres at Lyons, and you find yourself in the midst of gardens, vineyards, and terraced walks leading to chalets which might have- furnished models for those of Asnieres and Meudon. The most beautiful of the neighbouring villages are Coiffy-le-haut and Coiffy-le-bas,—names of historic importance, and which recall many terrible reminiscences of massacre and incendiarism in the bad old times. Exquisitely lovely and peaceful places are they now, the first perched upon a hill, jutting out over the deep, wide• valley, which stretches away in the distance with endless variety of crop and colour to the horizon, where the spire of the great cathedral of Langres stands out against the steel-blue of the sky; the second nestling in the lowland, red-roofed and vineyard-girded, beside a swift-flowing rivulet, guarded by shivering aspens and drooping osiers. The peasant proprietors are at work in their- vineyards under the burning sun, and when we pass through the village streets we do not see a living being. The old, old church of Coiffy-le-haut, built on the outer edge of the tongue-shaped hill,. scrupulously clean and well preserved, contains some curious. ancient tablets, with complicated inscriptions, and some modern works of art, combined with devotion of astonishing naivete. All the roads are very solitary, and in the beau tiful wood-paths we have never met anybody. Within easy reach of the town there are delightful walks, but hills must be• climbed to get at them, and the patients, who go to the balls and to the chasse, do not attempt the hills. As we were returning from a walk by a suburb of the town new to us, we passed a smelt house whose windows and doors were, as usual, wide open. A deer's foot, hanging in the place of the bell-handle, first attracted our attention, and we looked in, after the friendly fashion of Bourbonne. No sign of habitation, complete silence, empty rooms, furnished} with taste, completeness, and in the daintiest order. We lean on the carved stone window-sill of a room on the ground floor, and leisurely survey its contents, which might furnish a very choice little museum. The walls are hung with rare skins, from Africa,.

India, and America, and trophies of arms are displayed upon them, weapons of savage tribes, and samples of the elaborate steel-work of outlived civilisations,—here, a sheaf of assegais, there a couple of Malay kreeses, further on, a Mexican shield with an aureole of spear-heads, and a fantastic bordering of horse accoutrements ;.

Spanish rapiers, Indian maces and axes, Iroquois arrows, and the bead-bedecked panoply of a great chief, a canoe which might have carried 'Cruses and La Longue Carabine, carved gourds from which Nile explorers may have drunk, a shirt of mail and gauntlets of the time of the Crusades, scoriae from burning mountains, antique- earthenware, a cor de chasse of such richness that it might hare served the Chevalier de Bohan himself, two daggers in wrought- silver sheaths of great price and beauty, a stuffed falcon on a. perch, hood and jesses complete, a couple of Chinese josses, and an eagle, the vigilant gravity of the head skilfully preserved by the art of the empailleur, presiding over a table strewn with written documents and proof-sheets. No doubt we have come upon the retreat of a philosopher, a collector, a savant ; we inquire, and we find the owner of all these things is a mild gentleman, who edits the local newspaper, but who has a son, en voyage. This simple and kindly individual takes it for granted that everybody is to come and lean on his window-sill, inspect his possessions, and if he happens to be in the room, ask him any questions they please. It is much less trouble than a public museum, and it costs nothing.

We have had magnificent storms, and the air is delightfully cool and fresh. We never tire of watching and wondering at the sunsets, which impress us deeply, though Madame G— assures as that, in comparison with other sunsets of other years, they are peu de chose. Every evening the deep blue sky, so vast, so high, is draped with curtains of rose-colour, and orange, crimson, and purple, and they are gradually withdrawn in slow and stately succession before the face of the crowding stars. The beautiful night falls rapidly, and lightning glimmers all along the edges of the hills until dawn. Of course, we are told that it is nothing, that we should see La Suisse, and so on. We should like to see La Suisse, no doubt, but in the meantime this is very beautiful to us, and we enjoy it exceedingly. We should also like to see the Etablissement and the town generally on the 15th, which is the ate du pays, as well as the great national fête of France. Then Chinese lanterns, likewise Venetian, are to be hung upon the trees in the garden, the lime-walks are to be lighted, and many popular games are to be added to that one in vogue at present, which consists in throwing a number of small copper discs into the open mouth of a huge bronze frog, squatting upon a meuble like a denuded washing-stand. Then there are to be a concert and a comedietta, and some of the minor stars of the Vaudeville and the Varidtes are to twinkle here. We are quite interested about it, and we wonder, supposing, in the excitement of the moment, and under the influence of sirop and the memory of Louis Napoleon, anybody were to chalk up 44 Vice rEmpereur !" on the wall, and run away, or to shout 44 Vice lEmpereur !" and not run away, what would be the course of conduct expected by the

Republic from the one gendarme. F. C. H.