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Marie, would communicate, either out of an open window, or down a trap of some sort, such remarks as “ Quatre-vingt-dix-neuf, un chocolat !” the final syllable of the last word being prolonged into a cadence of inordinate length.
Further sleep was of course hopeless, so the little ones got up and dressed, wondering much at all these odd disturbances. There was no kind-hearted, enraptured Marie to come to them that morning, they had to get through their toilettes as best they could, alone. By the time they were nearly ready, Great-heart came in, as was his wont, with tender inquiries as to how they had rested.
“Not much, after seven,” remarked Trixie ruefully. “ There were such noises."
Great-heart was sorry they had been disturbed. It was a pity, but this sort of thing always went on more or less in foreign hotels, he told the children. Such boisterous habits were, it would seem, incurable.
“Would you like your breakfast, here, or below?” he asked, when they were ready.
Dot felt in her heart a little nervous at facing so many strangers, but she said she did not mind. Of course, Trixie preferred going downstairs to her meal.
So they stepped out on to the slippery corridor, which only boasted a drugget along its centre, and
descended the stairs, which were laid with a carpet of imitation leopard-skin. It was a good long descent too; for they were lodged high up-au troisième. From off each landing they came to, passages like the one they slept on ran right and left, with lots of doors opening out of them also. They encountered a few fellow-travellers on the road, mostly ready equipped for sight-seeing, notwithstanding the state of the weather. They saw a good many chambermaids too, all be-capped and noisy, as they always were, all very busy. Several men, the foreign equivalents of "boots,” only they had more to do with the bedrooms here than their confrères across the water, without coats, but with a plentiful supply of pinafore and apron, were engaged in their duties of dusting and making beds, carolling shrilly the while. They met waiters charging up the stairs three steps at a time with tray-loads of breakfasts for lazy travellers borne aloft on their extended palms. Then they got to a broad Aight of stone steps which led straight down into the splendid hall they had crossed the night before.
It was really very fine, paved in large black and white squares of marble, and had massive pillars along each side ; also comfortable leathern sofas to sit upon.
Dotted about also were many slender tables for refreshments. From the right opened out a great dining and breakfasting room, where lots of people were eating, in groups scattered down the long table. The left-hand side was nearly all looking-glasses, except where a door opened about midway into another passage, which led to the courtyard of a new wing recently added to the building. On the extreme right was a room used in busy times as an addition to this dining-hall, but formerly, before the improvements, the drawing-room ; opposite, the “bureau,” where sat the active long-headed inanager and his clerk, who regulated the concerns of this vast establishment Straight in front was the chief entrance to the hotel, through glass doors, now thrown back and allowing a peep into the busy street, along which hurried dripping pedestrians. Knots of fancifully-attired travellers stood talking together, glancing up from time to time at the black clouds from which came the relentless downpour. A huge pile of arriving and departing luggage stood under the pillars nearest the street, and close behind, up in a corner, was a private shelter for the numerous hall-porters and commissionaires attached to the place. There they had their meals, or gave information as to the times of departure of tidal trains, and so on, to such intrusive and excitable travellers as found them out. A fight of steps, immediately under a staircase which led up to the front of the building and into the new wing of the hotel, communicated below with the kitchen department. All the waiters had to run down these across the marble floor, to give their orders or return with them executed. Without exception, the visitors were, by their dress and manners, unmistakably English. This, it appeared, was the great house for them ; indeed, almost the only language you heard was theirs, excepting when some ignorant untravelled person tried to "air" his or her knowledge of French on the waiters, which always resulted in failure and exposé.
It was a fine sight looking down from the staircase. The little children stood there delighted for some minutes contemplating it.
At length they descended and ordered their breakfast. The ten minutes required in preparing it they spent in exploring the new portion of the building on the left. They found a fine smokingroom, fitted up luxuriously with leather couches, no end of marble tables, and ornamented by a remarkably ponderous gilt chandelier. Also the new drawing-room, with everything in red velvet, or velveteen ; some large pictures, a tinkling piano (instantly attacked by Trixie), and no end of writing materials, photographic albums, and
albums, and newspapers littered over the big table in the centre; then the courtyard, very new and pretty, paved with white tiles, and hemmed in on three of its sides by the five floors of the rooms above. An attempt was being made there to twine a creeper up the wall, which stood as a blank on its fourth side. But it was early yet to say whether the plant would take kindly to the soil it sprung from, which was in a wooden trough only. Still the children were pleased to see an attempt made at any rate to introduce a little country into the midst of all the life and bustle of the place. There was a most curious style of ornament running round the yard ; no end of green laths painted on its walls, crossed and re-crossed in all sorts of fantastic patterns. In one corner, especially, the artist, whoever he was, had quite surpassed himself, for, by a cunning arrangement of these strips, he had produced quite a natural picture of a tunnel, which seemed to stretch away into an endless perspective. The effect was wonderful. Then there was the “lift," which was an immense amusement to the young people staying at the hotel, who were perpetually taking trips upstairs on improvised errands. One little boy in particular had become quite expert in working the machine, and was never tired of making up ascending or descending parties, much to the