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  The cold on the 8th of February, 186-, was more intense than the Parisians had experienced during the whole of the severe winter which had preceded it, for at twelve o'clock on that day Chevalier's thermometer, so well known by the denizens of Paris, registered three degrees below zero. The sky was overcast and full of threatening signs of snow, while the moisture on the pavement and roads had frozen hard, rendering traffic of all kinds exceedingly hazardous. The whole great city wore an air of dreariness and desolation, for even when a thin crust of ice covers the waters of the Seine, the mind involuntarily turns to those who have neither food, shelter, nor fuel. This bitterly cold day actually made the landlady of the Hotel de Perou, though she was a hard, grasping woman of Auvergne, gave a thought to the condition of her lodgers, and one quite different from her usual idea of obtaining the maximum of rent for the minimum of accommodation. 'The cold,' remarked she to her husband, who was busily engaged in replenishing the stove with fuel, 'is enough to frighten the wits out of a Polar bear. In this kind of weather I always feel very anxious, for it was during a winter like this that one of our lodgers hung himself, a trick which cost us fifty francs, in good, honest money, besides giving us a bad name in the neighborhood.

French By Heart

  Can a family of five from deep in the heart of Dixie find happiness smack dab in the middle of France?French By Heart is the story of an all-American family pulling up stakes and finding a new home in Clermont-Ferrand, a city four hours south of Paris known more for its smoke-spitting factories and car dealerships than for its location in the Auvergne, the lush heartland of France dotted with crumbling castles and sunflower fields. The Ramseys are not jet-setters; they’re a regular family with big-hearted and rambunctious kids. Quickly their lives go from covered-dish suppers to smoky dinner parties with heated polemics, from being surrounded by Southern hospitality to receiving funny looks if the children play in the yard without shoes. A charming tale with world-class characters, French By Heart reads like letters from your funniest friend. More than just a slice of life in France, it’s a heartwarming account of a family coming of age and learning what “home sweet home” really means.


  From Content: 'AMONG the rugged Auvergne Mountains, in the southern part of France, stands a castle that is severe and almost grim in its aspect. Two bare round towers flank the building on the right and on the left. Rows of lofty French windows are built across the upper part of the front, and the small, ungenerous doorway below has a line of portholes on either side that suggest a thought of warlike days gone by. This castle, built in the fourteenth century, is called the Chteau de Chaviniac de Lafayette. Though it was burned to the ground in 1701, it was rebuilt as nearly like the earlier structure as possible; hence it represents, as it stands, the chivalrous days of the crusading period and so forms a fitting birthplace for a hero. In this half-military chteau was born one of the most [Pg 2] valiant champions of liberty that any country has ever producedthe Marquis de Lafayette. The climate of the Haute-Loirethe highlands of Auvergneis harsh; it has been called the French Siberia. There are upland moors like deserts across which sweep fierce winds, where the golden broom and the purple heatherflowers of the barren heightsare all that will flourish. There are, indeed, secluded valleys filled with muskmallows and bracken, but these are often visited by wild tempests, and sudden floods may make the whole region dreary and dangerous. In Lafayette's time the violence of the elements was not the only thing to be dreaded. When the children wandered too near the edge of the forest, they might catch sight of a wild boar nozzling about for mushrooms under the dead oak leaves; and if it had been a severe winter, it was quite within possibility that wolves or hyenas might come from their hiding places in the rocky recesses of the mountains and lurk hungrily near the villages. The family living in the old chteau was one whose records could be traced to the year one thousand, when a certain man by the name of Motier acquired an estate called Villa Faya, and thereafter he became known as Motier de la [Pg 3] Fayette. In 1240 Pons Motier married the noble Alix Brun de Champetires; and from their line descended the famous Lafayettes known to all Americans. Other Auvergne estates were added to the Chaviniac acres as the years went by, some with old castles high up in the mountains behind Chaviniac, and all these were inherited by the father of America's famous champion. Lafayette's father was a notable warrior, as his father had beenand hisand hisaway back to the days of the Crusades. Pons Motier de la Fayette fought at Acre; Jean Motier de la Fayette fell at Poitiers. There were marshals who bore the banner in many a combat of olden times when the life of the country was at stake. It was a Lafayette who won the battle at Beaug in 1421, when the English Duke of Clarence was defeated and his country was compelled to resign hope of a complete conquest of France. Among other men who bore the name, there were military governors of towns and cities, aids to kings in war, captains and seneschals. Many of them spent their lives in camps and on battlefields. One of them saw thirty years of active service; another found that after thirty-eight years of military life he had been present at no less than sixty-five sieges besides taking part in many pitched battles. [Pg 4] Lafayette's grandfather was wounded in three battles; and his uncle, Jacques Roch Motier, was killed in battle at the age of twenty-three.'


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