Being delivered into the charge of the maîtresse, I was led through a long narrow passage into a foreign kitchen, very clean but very strange. It seemed to contain no means of cooking—neither fireplace nor oven; I did not understand that the great black furnace which filled one corner, was an efficient substitute for these. Surely pride was not already beginning its whispers in my heart; yet I felt a sense of relief when, instead of being left in the kitchen, as I half-anticipated, I was led forward to a small inner room termed a "cabinet". A cook in a jacket, a short petticoat and sabots, brought my supper: to wit,—some meat, nature unknown, served in an odd and acid, but pleasant sauce; some chopped potatoes, made savory with, I know not what: vinegar and sugar, I think; a tartine, or slice of bread and butter, and a baked pear. Being hungry, I ate, and was grateful.
After the "", madame herself came to have another look at me. She desired me to follow her up-stairs. Through a series of the queerest little dormitories—which, I heard afterwards, had once been nun's cells: for the premises were in part of ancient date—and through the oratory—a long, low, gloomy room, where a crucifix hung, pale, against the wall, and two tapers kept dim vigils—she conducted me to an apartment where three children were asleep in three tiny beds. A heated stove made the air of this room oppressive; and, to mend matters, it was scented with an odor rather strong than delicate: a perfume, indeed, altogether surprising and unexpected under the circumstances, being like the combination of smoke with some spirituous essence—a smell, in short, of whiskey.
Beside a table, on which flared the remnant of a candle guttering to waste in the socket, a coarse woman, heterogeneously clad in a broad-striped showy silk dress and a stuff apron, sat in a chair fast asleep. To complete the picture, and leave no doubt as to the state of matters, a bottle and an empty glass stood at the sleeping beauty's elbow.