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Nice by R. Davey


Twenty-Two centuries ago—eighteen hundred years before Columbus sailed in quest of the New World—a Phocean colony from Marseilles founded this celebrated city, calling it Nichê (Nice or Victory), in honor of a signal triumph obtained by their arms over their enemies, the Ligurians, or inhabitants of the northern coast of Italy. For ages it flourished, being almost as famous with the ancients as a health-resort as it is to-day; but its evil hour came when the Goths, Lombards and Franks in A.D. 405, pouring through the defiles and gorges of the Maritime Alps, laid Nice and almost all the other cities of Italy, even beyond Rome, in ashes. A hundred years later it was rebuilt, but its beautiful forum, its classical temples, its mosaic-paved villas and marble theatres had disappeared utterly, and the new city was but a shadow of the old. In the tenth century the Saracens conquered Nice, and remained in quiet possession for seventy years, and during their stay introduced much of the tropical vegetation which we still admire. They were finally driven away by the insurgent natives in A.D. 975, but they left the impress of their occupation in many Arabic words which still mark the local patois; and as a number of the fugitives were captured and reduced to slavery, intermarrying in the course of time with the native population, the Moorish type is still very noticeable amongst the peasantry. Freed from the Saracenic yoke, the Niçois lived in peace for nearly two centuries, being only disturbed from time to time by the unwelcome visitations of pirates. Later on, toward the middle of the thirteenth century, like most other Southern and Italian cities, Nice fell a victim to the constant quarrels of the powerful families allied respectively to the Ghibelline and Guelphic factions. Thus, the incessant broils between the Lascaris of Tenda, the Grimaldis of Monaco and the Dorias of Dolceacqua desolated the surrounding country, and often reduced the city to a state of siege. The Niçois were compelled to keep up a perpetual guerilla, which, however inspiriting, was by no means conducive to their material prosperity. In 1364 an invasion of locusts from Africa led to a famine, and ultimately a plague which destroyed two-thirds of the population. The people, attributing their misfortunes to the intercession of the Jews with the powers below, rose up and massacred them: only five Israelites out of over two thousand are said to have escaped their blind fury. When order was at last re-established, and the Niçois began to settle down again, they perceived their impoverished and subordinate position to be so alarming that their only chance of safety was immediately to place themselves under the protection of the dukes of Savoy, who for a century and a half defended them from the attacks of their numerous enemies in a most valiant manner. But in 1521, Francis I. of France wrenched the city and province from the beneficent rule of the Savoyards and proclaimed himself count of Nice. In 1524 war broke out between Francis and the emperor Charles V., and the contending armies alternately devastated and pillaged Nice and its environs. The pest reappeared, and with it a drought and famine of so fearful a character that many thousand persons perished, and others in their despair slew themselves. Pope Paul III. undertook the difficult task of reconciling the belligerents, and even went so far as to travel to Nice for the purpose. A marble cross which gives its name to a suburb of the town ("La Croix de Marbre") still marks the spot where the conference took place in which Francis and Charles swore a peace in the presence of His Holiness which they took the first opportunity to violate. In 1540 the war recommenced, and a number of dissolute young men of good family formed themselves into organized companies of bandits and overran the country, to the terror of the wretched peasantry and the utter ruin of many hundreds of honest families. But in 1543 a second Joan of Arc was raised up by Providence to deliver the Niçois in the person of the still popular heroine, Catterina Segurana. Francis I. had recently scandalized Christendom by allying himself with the famous Mohammedan corsair, Barbarossa of Algiers with a view of reconquering Nice, which he considered the key of Italy. Accordingly, one fine morning three hundred vessels belonging to the Algerine pirate entered the neighboring port of Villefranche, and presently the whole country was filled with a horde of turbaned freebooters. Cimiez, Montboron, Mont Gros and a hundred other villages and hamlets were soon alive with French marauders and Turkish pirates, who presently proceeded to bombard the city itself. The siege was short, but terrible, and the inhabitants were at the last gasp when the energetic Catterina Segurana, a washer-woman by trade, and surnamed Mao faccia ("Ugly face"), on account of the homeliness of her countenance, seized a hatchet, and, after a vigorous address to her fellow-citizens, placed herself at their head and led them against the enemy. The same result attended her efforts as did those of her immediate prototype, the glorious Maid of Orleans. She so animated the people, so roused their patriotism, that before the day was over the French and infidels were conquered, and the bold and generous Catterina. stood surrounded by her enthusiastic fellow-citizens, waving the conquered Algerine flag, in token of victory, from the summit of the castle hill, on the spot where formerly stood her statue.

From the time of the brave Catterina to our own, Nice has sustained at least a dozen sieges of more or less severity. That of 1706 was perhaps one of the most shocking on record. The city, by the treaty of Turin of 1696, had once more passed under the protectorate of the dukes of Savoy, but the French, who have always had a longing eye for the "Department of the Maritime Alps," as they even then called it, broke the treaty they had themselves framed, and sent the duc de la Feuillade over the frontier with twenty thousand men to conquer the country. Nice was then governed by the marquis de Caraglio, who, although entreated by the enemy to allow the women and children to leave the city's gates, positively refused to do so. The consequence was that during the siege, which lasted six months, more than a third of the inhabitants perished from starvation. Men are said to have killed their wives for food, and women their children. Sixty thousand shells fell in various parts of the town, and the castle, cathedral and many churches were entirely destroyed.

In 1792, under the First Republic, Nice was again occupied by the French, and declared a chef-lieu de département. By the treaty of 1814 the place was handed over to the Piedmontese, and stayed contentedly beneath the rule of the Sardinian kings until 1860, when, by the treaty of March 24, Napoleon III. annexed the county of Nice and the duchy of Savoy to his imperial possessions, in exchange for the services his army had rendered Italy at Magenta and Solferino. How long Nice will continue French is a question somewhat difficult to answer just now. There exists in the city and province a very strong Italian party, and during the war of 1870, Nice was declared in a state of siege, owing to the constant and very serious demonstrations of a certain part of the population. One of the leading inhabitants, a noted banker, even went so far as to travel to Florence with the intention of proving to the Italian government that whilst the French troops were concentrated in the north those of Victor Emmanuel would find no difficulty in crossing the frontier and uniting Nice to Italy. To the honor of the Italian government, this treacherous suggestion was rejected, but in those days the feeling between France and Italy was more cordial than it has since been. The Italian party is so active in the city and the department that the government has difficulty in keeping note of its proceedings. Thousands of pamphlets are secretly circulated amongst the lower orders, in which the advantages of the city's return to Italy are vividly contrasted with the disadvantages it suffers from by remaining French. The clergy, however, who are both numerous and influential, are French to a man, and dread the hour which will see them governed by the "jailer of Pius IX.," and consequently prove a very great assistance to the authorities in counteracting the intrigues of the Italians. But should ever, in future years, a war break out between either France and Italy, or between France and Italy's new ally, Prussia, the question de Nice will be once more on the tapis, and victory alone will preserve this magnificent possession to its present owners.

Nice may well boast herself a rival in point of splendor of natural position of the most famous cities of the South—of Lisbon, Genoa, Naples and Constantinople—and she eclipses them in point of climate. Built at the eastern extremity of a fine gulf—that of Les Anges—and backed by an amphitheatre of hills and lofty mountains, she is sheltered from cold winds in winter, and in summer the Alpine breezes temper an atmosphere which would else be unendurably sultry, owing to the prevalence of the sirocco, a hot wind which passes directly hither over the Mediterranean from the burning shores of Africa. One can scarcely imagine a more glorious panorama than that of this city and its environs as seen from the sea or from any neighboring elevation. Let us suppose it a fine morning late in spring, and that we stand upon the deck of a yacht about a mile and a half distant from the shore. Nice, we see, surrounds a steep and rugged rock which rises almost perpendicularly from the Mediterranean to the height of about six hundred feet, and is crested by the ruins of the ancient castle, and covered with terraced gardens forming a delicious promenade. Groves of cypresses and sycamores hang on the declivities of this rock, which in places is rough with cactuses and aloes and with the Indian fig, whose bright orange flowers, when the sun's rays fall on them, have a magic splendor of color. A group of palm trees at the extremest elevation, standing out on a high crag, add not a little to the picturesque appearance of this singular urban hill. On one side of this rock the rapid torrent Paillon, traversed by several handsome bridges, some of them adorned with statues, separates the "old" from the "new" town. On the other is the port, filled with steamers and innumerable fishing-craft. Beyond the port stretches the Boulevard de l'Impératrice, inaugurated a few years since by the late empress of Russia, with its fine villas, notably the splendid Venetian Palace, an exact reproduction of the celebrated Moncenigo Palace at Venice, belonging to Viscount Vigier, whose wife was once a popular idol of the musical world of Paris and London—Sophie Cruvelli—and the extraordinary Moresque-looking castle of Mr. Smith, which is well called the Folie d'un Anglais—the "craze of an Englishman." The latter stands on the end of a promontory, and with its lofty towers and domes closes in the view. It is perhaps the most curious residence in the world, being built on a barren rock, and its apartments literally hewn out of the marble of which it is composed. On the top of the hill is a long building, with two curious twin towers and a dome, built of red brick faced with white marble. Here is situated the chief entrance. You descend from the spacious entry-hall a long well staircase cut in the rock and lighted from above, until you reach a superb octagonal chamber of white marble ornamented with statues and Oriental divans covered with Persian silk. This is the great saloon, and leading out of it are other fine chambers, all of them lined with polished marble and furnished with Eastern magnificence. Externally, there is no trace of these chambers visible. They are, as I have said, excavated, like Egyptian tombs, in the heart of the mountain. The proprietor, an eccentric English bachelor, never inhabits this fantastic mansion, but lives in a second-rate hotel, spending thousands annually in adding embellishments to his astonishing castle, where, notwithstanding its magnificent suites of apartments, no human being has ever slept a night or eaten a meal.

"Smith's Craze," as I have said, closes in the view to our right. To the left, beyond the torrent Paillon, is situated modern Nice, with its quays, leviathan hotels, and an almost interminable line of villas marking the celebrated Promenade des Anglais. The background of the scene is filled up by a semicircle of well-wooded hills, verdant with vines, fig, orange, olive and pomegranate trees, and sparkling with white country-seats, convents, and campanili. Towering over these hills appears another range, of rocky and bold outlines, and then another, of lofty mountains whose peaks lose themselves in clouds, and by their fantastic figures form as delightful an horizon as the eye can behold. In the centre rises the conical peak of Monte Cao, an extinct volcano, exactly resembling Vesuvius in conformation, and only wanting a curl of smoke issuing from its crater to make the illusion perfect. Alongside of Monte Cao is another extinct volcano, on which are seen the ruins of the ancient and deserted village of Châteauneuf, while between the two summits (thirty-five hundred feet high) are distinctly visible the peaks of some of the ever-snowy Alps. The foreground of the picture is formed by the deep indigo waters of the Mediterranean, diversified by a hundred sunny sails, and overhead hangs the cloudless Italian sky.

Let us now put back to port and walk through the city, visiting first Old Nice, then the modern Pompeii, as Alphonse Karr pleasantly calls the new town. Old Nice resembles Genoa on a small scale, and has very narrow streets of lofty (and in some cases really fine) houses, no end of churches, gloomy-looking convents, and one or two palaces. In the narrow streets surrounding the cathedral—a large and showy building, formerly a parish church—is a market supplied with native fruits—oranges, lemons, grapes, figs, and many varieties of melons and nuts. The streets, which are in places so narrow that you can almost stretch your arms across them, are full of bright-looking shops, with all their varied goods displayed at the open, unglazed windows. Here and there one comes across remains of ancient times of considerable interest. Thus, in the Rue Droite is an old house, with a series of quaint little arches and a curious Gothic gateway, which was formerly part of the palace inhabited by Joanna II. of Naples. Near the church of St. Jacques is another old residence, with an odd decoration on its front in the shape of colossal figures of Adam and Eve, executed in alto-rilievo, which have their feet on either side of the doorway and their heads above the fifth story. The tree of knowledge, over-laden with its dangerous fruit, flourishes between the windows of what was once the saloon, and is now a manufactory of maccaroni. In the Rue du Centre is the quondam palace of the Lascaris family, an old Italian mansion, with marble balconies, wide, majestic staircases adorned with Corinthian columns, and vast apartments frescoed by Carlone, a reputable Genoese painter of mythological subjects. Carlone's gods and goddesses look down no longer on the members of the House of Lascaris, who once ruled over Tenda, and were the lineal descendants of the imperial Byzantine house of Del Comneno, but on those of an amiable Niçois family, who most willingly show the old palace to any stranger who may choose to knock at their door.

Some years ago a Turinese lawyer, looking over his father's private papers, discovered that he was the legitimate heir to the Lascaris titles and estates, which had been left unreclaimed for many centuries. This gentleman, on proving his claim, assumed the grandiose title of Prince Lascaris del Comneno, grand duke of Macedonia. His glory was short-lived. His wife went to Rome and obtained a full recognition of her rights from the Holy Father and admission into the first circles of Roman society, but was subsequently expelled from the city for plotting against the papal government; but she returned with the Piedmontese occupation in 1870, only, however, to get into a still worse pickle by exposing herself to the charge of defrauding Flaminio Spada's bank of a large sum of money. During the trial she mizzled, and has not, I believe, been heard of since. This lady is the famous "Princess Mopsa" about whose adventures the Roman papers have entertained their readers considerably during the last year or so.

The churches are usually in the Italian style, having heavy façades, plain brick sides and queer but rather picturesque bell-towers. Internally, they are gaudy and tasteless, the altars ornamented on high days and holidays with innumerable wax candles, festoons of red, white and blue drapery, and huge pyramids of paper roses with gold foliage. Ecclesiastical affairs are presided over by Monsignor Pietro Sola, a charming old bishop, who is the essence of kindliness and charity. He was formerly one of the spiritual directors of Queen Adelaide of Austria, the late wife of Victor Emmanuel. The number of priests, monks and nuns is very considerable. There is a very large Franciscan monastery up at Cimiez on the hill, and a rambling old Capuchin convent at St. Bartolomé. The Nice Capuchins are a splendid body of men, and a goodly sight to see marching in a procession with their chocolate-colored hooded robes and long, flowing beards. Their present prior is a marquis Raggi of Genoa, a man of high family and rank, who some years since abandoned a world he had known only too well, gave all his fortune to the poor, and turned monk.

There is a street in the old part of Nice which is perfectly unique. It is nearly a mile and a half long, runs parallel with the sea, and consists of a double row of low, one-storied houses having a paved terrace on their roofs, to which you ascend by several handsome staircases. The terrace forms a very popular promenade of an evening, and from it are enjoyed lovely views of the bay and mountains. Between these two rows of houses is the fish-market, where are frequently seen displayed monsters like Victor Hugo's famous pieuve sprawling out their dozen glutinous legs fringed with eyes and deadly weapons in almost supernatural hideousness, to the admiration of a group of English or American tourists. Hard by the fish-market is the Corso, a shady promenade round which the gala carriages drive in Carnival time, while the masked inmates pelt and get pelted in turn with comfits made of painted clay. The Corso is also the scene of numerous religious processions, some of which are quaint and picturesque. There are a number of ancient confraternities established amongst the trades-people of Nice, who wear costumes of, red, white, black and blue serge, according to the guild they belong to. This sack-like garment covers them from head to foot, face and all, there being only two eyeholes slit in the mask to permit the wearer to see out. These brotherhoods attend the sick, bury the dead and take care of the widows and orphans, and in Holy Week make the narrow streets of the old city delightful to the artistic eye by the bright mass of their vivid-colored raiment, the flickering of their tapers, and the gigantic crucifixes of gold and silver they carry in procession from church to church. Every morning there is a market held on the Corso of fruits, vegetables and flowers. Such magnificent baskets of camellias, japonicas and roses, such nosegays of violets and orange-blossoms, can be seen, I fancy, nowhere but at Nice. Here also the peasant-women sometimes bring immense pots of Peruvian aloes for sale, whose snowy blossoms are scented like those of the magnolia, and rise in gigantic pyramids of magnificent cup-shapedflowers. They are plants to salute respectfully as you pass by them, such is their size and dignity. In Holy Week women are to be seen all over the old town selling plaited palm branches of a pale straw-color, some of which are bedecked with little bows of ribbon or stars of tinsel, used in the ceremonies of Palm Sunday. The peasant-girls who come to market at Nice are rather handsome, but as dark as Nubians, with almond-shaped eyes and long, coarse black hair, which they wear plaited into tails bound round the head with broad velvet ribbons, like a coronet. On the top of this headgear they sport a wide-brimmed straw hat of peculiar shape, ornamented with little black crosses made of narrow velvet. In Princess Marie Lichtenstein's Holland House there is a portrait of Lady Augusta Holland wearing one of these Nice hats.

But it is time for us to cross the bridges and pay our respects to Nice the "new." When I first visited Nice in 1856 at least two-thirds of this part of the city were not in existence. There were no splendid railway-stations then; only one or two, instead of twenty, monster hotels; the Promenade des Anglais only extended about a mile along the shore, instead of four; and there were but one quay and two bridges. Now superb quays line the river on either side, and there are six bridges, and Heaven only knows how many churches for the accommodation of all the denominations imaginable and unimaginable, from Père Lavigne's very beautiful and very orthodox church, in which Monsignor Capel has preached in Lent, down to Léon Pilate's, where collections are made for the evangelical missions presided over by Mrs. Gould and W.C. Van Metre. There is a Greek church of exceeding beauty, the altar-screen of which was sent from Moscow as a present from the czar; and an Episcopal church, surrounded by a beautiful cemetery, where sleeps the philosophic Bussy d'Anglas, with many others whose names are well known. The real Niçois almost all dwell in Old Nice, leaving the new city to the foreign colony. Indeed, the natives are rarely if ever seen, except in the street. They keep to their old quiet way of living, and, beyond letting their houses and selling their goods, appear to be utterly unconscious even of the existence of the strangers on the other side of Paillon. Many of the Nice families are titled and wealthy, but with the exception of that of the count de Cessoles, it is very rare to meet the Niçois in society. Mademoiselle Mathilde de Cessoles is the reigning belle, and deserves the honor. She is a superb-looking woman, with a head and countenance worthy of a regal diadem. Her features resemble those of the House of Bourbon, her complexion is admirable, and she has a certain good-natured, indolent, sultana way of moving which is perfectly charming. Cupid alone knows how many have sighed for her hand since her long reign as a queen of society began, but none have as yet been favored with a kinder glance than that of friendship. Scottish dukes, Roman princes and American officers have wooed, but never won: la belle Mathilde still walks the orange groves of her villa, "in virgin meditation, fancy free."

"But it waxes late—'tis near three o'clock:" let us hasten past the casinos, cafes, reading-rooms, Turkish baths and American drinking-bars which flourish on the quays, and make our way to the Promenade des Anglais, by this time alive with fashionables. The "Promenade," as I have said, is nearly four miles long, and faces the sea. It is very broad, and has on one side a row of villas and hotels—on the other a walk shaded by oleanders and palm trees, through the openings of which are obtained magnificent views of the Mediterranean. Some of these villas are remarkably beautiful, especially that of the Princes Stirby, the former sovereigns of Wallachia, which is surrounded with exquisite gardens abounding with noble camellia trees, some of which produce as many as fifteen hundred flowers. The Villa de Dempierre is very pretty, and is the property of the countess of that name, who is a most noteworthy person. Madame de Dempierre belongs to one of the most ancient and wealthy families of France. She was once a great beauty, and is still a brilliant wit and charming artist. Some years ago she visited the empress of Russia, then residing at Nice, where she died. Her Imperial Majesty, who was noted for her habit of making personal remarks, said bluntly, "Madame la comtesse, how beautiful you must have been!" "Majesty," answered the spirituelle Madame de Dempierre, "you were complaining of the nearness of your sight: since you can distinguish my beauty through the vista of so many years, I think you enjoy long-sightedness in a remarkable degree." The empress wrinkled her nose, and presently observed: "I think, countess, I remember to have seen your husband, General de Dempierre, in Russia." "Doubtless Your Majesty did so: he was the first Frenchman that entered the Kremlin." The czarina was silent: the fall of Moscow was not a pleasant subject of conversation to the wife of Nicholas. The Villa de Diesbach comes next, the winter residence of the historical family of that name, into which married a few years since a tall, gazelle-eyed American belle, Miss Meta McCall. Then follows the pretty Villa Bouxhoevden, the property of a Corlandese count of a very noble house, whose wife hails from New Jersey. The countess is much the fashion, and her hospitable house is a rendezvous of the elite of the foreign and American colony. She is a tall, graceful woman, with a pale and interesting countenance, shadowed with clusters of light-brown curls, which reminds one of Vandyke's portraits of Queen Henrietta Maria—a likeness somewhat increased by costumes admirably suited to her style—long flowing robes of rich silk trimmed with ermine and costly lace. Then there is Mrs. Williams's garden, with Indian creepers and gaudy Eastern plants, sent to her by her gallant son, the Crimean hero, from the slopes of the Himalayas. Here on a Sunday gathers a pleasant circle to drink five-o'clock tea and listen to the bright remarks of Madame de la Caume, the daughter of the hostess, who knows more about French politics than many a deputy at Versailles. But whilst we have been looking in at villa-gardens the Promenade has filled up rapidly. A continuous stream of carriages occupies the centre of the road, a throng of gay folks animate with their showiest toilets the oleander walk and the Jardin Publique, where a tolerable band plays for two or three hours thrice a week. The marble stairs of the Casino are crowded with loungers, and the windows and balconies of every villa are filled with well-dressed men and women. Nowhere, perhaps, excepting in Rotten Row or the Bois de Boulogne, can so many celebrated and beautiful women and handsome or famous men be seen parading up and down together as on the Promenade des Anglais of a fine afternoon in the season. Here gathers the crême de la crême of two worlds, the Old and the New, Europe and America. In the winter of 1870 the town was crowded to excess. Never before were there so many notabilities assembled at Nice—never was there so much gossip, so much cancan and small talk. It was amusing to sit in the shade of a palm tree on the promenade and review the personæ of this Vanity Fair. Frederick Charles of Prussia and his princess in a landau, with two Nubians on the box; the crown-princess Victoria of England and her sister of Hesse-Darmstadt, on a trip from Cannes, where they were then visiting; Her Grace of Newcastle; De Villemessant of the Figaro, in an invalid's chair, the most accomplished of causeurs; Count Montalivet, the former minister of Louis Philippe, and by him, for a few days at the full of the season, a little old gentleman with a squeaky voice, M. Adolphe Thiers. Next comes a group of ladies, the three daughters of the Hispano-Mexican duchess De Fernan-Nuñez; all three looking exactly alike, tall and dark; all three of a height; all three invariably dressed in black, with lofty Tyrolese hats and cocks' feathers; all three unmarried; all three marriageable, and worth Croesus only knows how many millions; all three invariably alone—a fact which made old Madame Colaredo scream out of her window one day, "Tiens! voilà les trois cent (sans) gardes!" Then follow Lord Rokeby, the most affable of lordships; Lord Portarlington; General Sir William Williams of Kars; Princess Kantacuzène, the last descendant of the imperial Byzantine house of that name; the ideally lovely Miss Amy Shaw of Boston; the three pretty Miss Warrens of New York; Madame Gavini de Campile, the wife of the prefect, a fine-looking dame gloriously arrayed in showy robes, whom half the society adored and the rest cordially hated; the duke de Mouchy, who married Anna Murat; the duke de Périgord-Talleyrand, who married an American; the duke de la Conquista, who derives his title from the conquest of Peru; the lovely countess Del Borgo; and the famous Italian beauty, Madame Bellotti, a Milanese lady, whose maiden name was Visconti, of that semi-royal house. Theresa Bellotti's beauty is of a grand style seen nowhere out of Italy. Picture her to yourself as I once saw her at a masquerade at the préfecture. Round her superb figure swept an ample robe of crimson velvet looped up with bands of gold. Her bare arms, models worthy of the chisel of Canova, gleamed from the rich sables which lined the hanging sleeves of her dress. Her hair, dark as night, was gathered up in the high fashion Sir Joshua Reynolds loved to depict. A half-moon of enormous diamonds fastened a plume over her left temple, and her neck and fingers flashed back the colors of the rainbow from a thousand gems. As to her face, it was radiant. Rich color flushed her cheeks, her eyes sparkled with animation when she spoke; but at times, when her features resumed a calm after conversation, she resembled the portraits of some of the famous Italian women of the Renaissance—her own ancestress, for instance, Bianca Visconti, duchess of Milan, or Veronica Cibò, or Lucrezia Petroni, whose daughter was the ill-fated Beatrice Cenci. And now come by the fascinating Mrs. Lloyd, whom all the world knows and likes; grand-looking Mrs. Senator Grymes of Louisiana, a witty, brilliant old lady, whose salon is one of the most elegant in Nice; Baron Haussmann, and with him his colossal daughter, Madame de Perneti, the handsomest of giantesses, who was once asked to join in private theatricals, but when the stage was built up in her friend's drawing-room, being about five feet from the level of the rest of the chamber, it was discovered that la belle Caryatide, as her friends call her, could not act on it, for the simple reason that she was a full head taller than the scenery; clever Madame de Skariatine, the daughter of the famous Count Schouvalof (the "Shoveloff" of our times), who, after being Russian ambassador half over Europe, turned Barnabite monk at Rome; Lady Dalling and Bulwer, the great duke of Wellington's niece, and now the widow of one of England's most illustrious statesmen; hospitable Marquise de St. Agnan, and her pretty daughter, Mademoiselle Henriette; and Princess Souvarow, ci-devant widow Apraxine, ci-devant widow Kisselof, the most fascinating of Russian princesses, and one of the greatest of female gamblers, who one night broke the bank at Monte Carlo for two hundred and fifty thousand francs, and lost them the next. On the opposite side of the way, screening herself from observation, demurely clad in sober-colored attire, Madame Volnis passes along from some mission of charity. This lady was once one of the most popular actresses on the French stage, and with Mademoiselle Mars and Rose Chéri was the idol of Paris—Léontine Fay. She was, if possible, a still greater favorite in St. Petersburg, where, on her retirement from the stage, she became French reader to the late czarina. Since the death of the empress she has always resided at Nice, where she is distinguished for her exalted piety and extreme charity. Even when on the stage this lady devoted her leisure to charitable works. She was always remarked for her modesty of manner: her dress was simplicity itself. At the theatre she wore costumes rich and elegant, suited to the parts she enacted, but in society she invariably appeared in plain white muslin or dark silk. It would be impossible to exaggerate her goodness. Her whole life has been passed amongst the poor, in the minute fulfillment of her duties, and on her knees in church. After acting one part of the evening, she would hasten, on the fall of the curtain, to pass the rest of it watching by the bedside of some poor wretch stricken low perhaps by some infectious disease. During the war of 1870, Madame Volnis's conduct was angelical. If there was some awful operation to be performed upon any of the wounded soldiers sent to Nice from the field of battle, it was she who was present, who held the sufferer's hand, and who consoled and cheered with the tenderness of a Sister of Charity—of a mother.

As the austere figure of Léontine Fay passes away, hidden in a cloud of sunny dust raised by the wheels of a hundred carriages, another form comes upon the stage, radiant amongst the most brilliant, the observed of all observers—Madame Rattazzi, née Princess Bonaparte Wyse. What a wonderful toilette is hers! One fine afternoon she appeared upon the Promenade clad in a purple velvet robe, edged and flounced with canary-colored satin, looped up voluminously en panier, and adorned with big bows of yellow ribbon. Her hat was a broad-brimmed Leghorn straw trimmed with large bunches of pansies. No one but Madame Rattazzi could have worn such an attire in the public streets without the risk of being hooted, but such are the grace and beauty of this celebrated woman that her costume seemed in perfect keeping. She was in Nice one winter for at least five months, and every day saw her out in a fresh dress. When she travels she has more boxes than Madame Ristori. She dwelt on the Promenade, over the dowager of Colaredo, who had a special spite against her; in consequence of which she invariably illuminated her windows, when she had company, with the Italian colors, red, white and green, to the supreme disgust of the old Ultramontane countess. Her apartment was elegantly furnished, and adorned with beautiful vases of mignonette and plants of moss-roses. When she received of an evening the chambers were agreeably lighted up with many pale and subdued lamps. Her tables were always covered with new books, magazines and several copies of her own poems and novels, including an exceedingly clever story, Louise Keller, which she had just finished. On the walls hung pictures in oil and water-colors of her own execution; on the piano were scattered, together with much classical music, some hymns, polkas and ballads of her composition. One night she acted in a comedy of her own writing, and her rendering of the part of the heroine, a witty and intriguing widow, was inimitable. Many severe critics have declared that Madame Rattazzi is, as an actress, a worthy rival of Fargeuil or Madeleine Brohan. Her manners are very fascinating—a little bit too natural to be quite French, and a little too ceremonious to be quite Italian. She would have proved an invaluable acquisition at the downfall of the tower of Babel, for she is mistress of I dare not say how many languages. As a rule, women hate her, and men do just the contrary. This is not to be wondered at, for she is very beautiful even now. Her face has the chiseled cameo features of her uncle, Napoleon I.; her eyes are deep violet, fringed with long sweeping lashes; her mouth is perfectly exquisite, and on either side of it two pretty dimples appear whenever she smiles. So many enemies has she amongst her own sex that to avenge herself for the affronts they constantly offer her she published a magazine in Florence called the Matinées Italiennes, for the purpose of showing up her female antagonists. Here is a sample: "At Nice a grand ball; Madame la Viscomtesse de B—— en grande toilette, looking for all the world like a big Nuremberg doll, with her black hair dyed an impossible straw-color, and appearing at least five years younger than she did when I first saw her make her début in society five-and-twenty years ago; and she was then a gushing maiden of twenty-one." By and by comes the hour of vengeance. Madame Rattazzi gives a ball, and not a woman will go to it. In 1870 she gave one at the Grand Hotel, to which half the town was invited. There arrived at the festal scene about five hundred men and just thirty-two women. It was funny enough. The thirty-two women besported themselves with thirty-two partners in the centre of the hall to the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musical instruments, whilst the rest of the men stood round the hall five deep, like a deep dark fringe on a Turkish carpet. Madame Rattazzi, however, achieved a great triumph against all odds. By dint of grace, charm of manners and tact she put all her guests in the best humor. The "thirty-two" had a fine time of it, and danced to their hearts' content. The five hundred men were introduced and grouped and wined and punched until every man there swore that earth did not hold a fairer or more genial hostess. Madame Rattazzi was "supported," as the phrase goes, on this memorable occasion by Madame la Princesse, her mother, a rather formidable-looking dowager, a daughter of Lucian Bonaparte, and widow of Sir Thomas Wyse, once British consul at Athens. Her Imperial Highness Princess Letitia must have been a wonderful beauty in her youth—a stately grand being who one could easily imagine might have resembled the Roman Agrippina or empress Livia. Once the barrier of her stately manners overcome, she proved to be a talkative, affable woman of the world, with a huge experience thereof. I can see her now, dressed in a scarlet satin robe and glittering with jewels. She wore a headdress of diamonds with two long ostrich feathers in it, one of which, a white one, got out of its place and stood bolt upright, as if it was frightened, until some charitable hand laid it down. This was, I fancy, the last ball Princess Letitia ever graced, for she died a very little while afterward. Poor Rattazzi was there too. He was not a striking-looking man, but agreeable and excessively polite. He rarely talked politics—I rather suspect from the fear of compromising himself—but his conversation was was pleasant and varied. After his death Madame Rattazzi removed to Monaco, where she busied herself with editing his letters and memoirs—a task which, it appears, the Italian government would be delighted that she should spare herself, as his papers are said to be very full of compromising matter relative to the Mentana expedition. A large sum of money was offered her to relinquish her hold on these documents, but she answered by a letter published in the Italian papers that they were left to her as a sacred trust, and that she felt herself in duty bound to make their contents public, in order to justify her husband's memory. As a curious proof of her political sagacity—unless it is to be considered a mere coincidence—I may mention that in January, 1870, she came to a masked ball at the Casino dressed as Mars, in a short skirt of red satin, a cuirass of gold, on her head a helmet, in one hand a spear, and in the other a shield, and on it was written "Roma." Did Madame Rattazzi foresee that by September of the same year there would be a war, and that as one of its results Rome would so soon become the capital of that Italy which her husband had helped to build up?

From this somewhat rambling sketch the reader will readily understand that Nice is one of the great centres of society in Europe, and indeed in late years it is rather, as a place of gay reunion that it is frequented than as a resort for invalids. Since the foundation of quieter colonies at Mentone and San Remo, Nice has somewhat lost its reputation as a sanitarium, for it is rather difficult, especially for young people, to resist the temptation of its innumerable balls and round of gayeties; and these are not considered conducive to the preservation of health even amongst the healthiest. The medical men, therefore, recommend places along the neighboring coast which enjoy the same or even greater advantages of climate. That of Nice, after all that has been written about it, still seems to me one of the finest in the world. The air is exquisitely pure and clear, and has proved beneficial in many hundreds of cases of incipient consumption. But the fatal error is often made of sending hither patients in whom the disease has made considerable progress. In such cases the irritating air hastens death. I have known people brought here in the second and last stages of consumption, who have been carried off in a fortnight after their arrival, and who might have lingered on for years elsewhere. The patient who finds himself benefited should remain at Nice for at least three or four years, only varying the air in summer by a visit to some of the many pleasant places in the neighboring mountains, where the atmosphere is pure, cool and wholesome. Perhaps, it is owing in part to the brightness of the sunshine and the beauty of the scenery that soon after his arrival the health of the invalid often revives as if by enchantment. Alphonse Karr, a resident of many years, who knows every nook and corner of the place, and who has cultivated a garden in its environs as celebrated throughout the world as his own sparkling pen, says well: "Who is there so downhearted as to resist the glorious heat of the sun, the beauty of that deepest of blue seas, the loveliness of the varied trees, the tropical vegetation, the scent of the orange-flowers, the music of the brooks, the sight of the ever-changing hues of the mountains of Nizza la bella?"