LIDDES, August 10.
MY DEAR JANE,
The peasants were coming out of church, in their Sunday attire, and their whole appearance was neat and decent, with an air of great cheerfulness about them. The men were all, without any exception, dressed in suits of snuff-coloured clothes; and the women had little black hats like pie-dishes, with broad ribbons spread at full width round the almost flat crowns, and finished at the back of the hats with two bows and ends. Some of the ribbons were ornamented with tarnished gold or silver; and all of them appeared to have been inherited from their ancestors.
Some of the houses at Liddes are painted like those at La Valette; but most of them are my favourite picturesque wooden houses. We went into one of them, and found a very good-humoured looking woman in it, with a large family of children. She showed us about the house, and seemed highly delighted at our admiring the neatness and orderliness of it. And I do assure you it was no flattery, for every thing was very clean and comfortable: the tables and chairs looked very bright, as if they were nicely rubbed; and the brass kettles and pans were beautifully clean and shining.
The good woman seemed to take great pride in showing my mother her eight children, and in telling her all their good qualities. I gave one of the little boys two or three sous, for which she expressed great obligation, and which she did not seem at all to expect; but we had no sooner left the door, than she sent another of the children after us to ask for more. On our telling her that we had no more, the girl seemed quite satisfied and pleased, and kept walking on with us, chatting away with the most perfect good-humour. She took us into a very large and remarkably neat wooden house, in which the furniture was as bright and shining as if rubbed with the French polish, and the rooms were spacious and commodious.
I followed the girl into this house before the rest of the party, and attempted to enter into conversation with an old man who was sitting by a fire; but he was so deaf that I could not make him understand me. A poor crétin then came up, and accosted me with strange kind of gestures, putting her hand on my shoulder. 1 am almost ashamed to say that I have not yet learned to overcome a very unpleasant sen- sation, when these unfortunate creatures come close to me ; and I was glad to see my father and mother come in. They made some kind signs to her, allowed her to shake their hands, and gave her a little money. She shook it about in her hands, and looked quite delighted. Indeed, I felt quite ashamed of myself, and determining to overcome my weakness, I patted her on the shoulder ; on which she ran and fetched me a flower, and we parted very good friends.
Our little companion then took us towards the church, and I was quite struck with the pretty house of the curé, in a garden filled with beautiful flowers, among which were the finest hollyhocks I think I ever saw. It is a small, square house, the roof narrowing to a point on the top, which is terminated by a chimney : it is white-washed, and has a border painted in fresco, round the windows and down the sides of the house. In the neighbourhood of London, I might, perhaps, have thought that this parsonage had rather a cockney appearance; but in such a wild, remote situation as this, there is something very pleasing in the taste and neatness with which it is tricked out.
Here our little companion left us, and I made her very happy by giving her a bow of ribbon from my cap.
I could not help expressing to my father my wonder that this gentleman, so accomplished in his mind and so polished in his manners, should be so perfectly happy and contented in a place where he could find so few companions, and where he lives alone, secluded from almost all the world ; but my father very justly replied, that it was a strong instance of the possibility of being happy in any situation, and under any circumstances, when we feel that we are doing our duty.
My dear Jane, my thoughts reverted to you.
Ever yours, most affectionately,
Seymour, Rose W.
LETTER XI., A tour to Great St. Bernard's and round Mont Blanc, Harvey and Darton, London, 1827, pp.58-63