Made into Films/Plays
||epub, kindle mobi
||Henriette Desportes, the main character, was a great-aunt of Rachel Field, the author of the novel. Henriette was, at one time, the governess of the children of the Duchesse de Choiseul-Praslin and her husband, the Duc Theobald de Praslin. She later went to the United States as a French teacher and while there she married Henry Martyn Field, a minister of religion. The American Civil War and the laying of the intercontinental telegraph cable provided a backdrop to their lives together. They also became acquainted with many of the notable people of the time. The book was made into a film starring Bette Davis and Charles Boyer.
||Among the ill-assorted group of passengers waiting to leave the small steamer that had brought them across the Channel from Southampton to Le Havre, a woman stood erect and alone with her luggage piled about her. It was unusual in the year 1841 for a woman of her age and appearance to be travelling unaccompanied. Not that she showed striking beauty, but a certain spirited grace of carriage distinguished her from her fellow-travellers.
Late March was not the most propitious time for crossing, and the English Channel had lived up to its reputation for choppiness. The night had been rough and rainy, and a general air of limp resignation prevailed in the little group so soon to be scattered. Curls and once crisp feathers drooped damply against wan faces; eyes were circled in unbecoming dark hollows; huddled forms in shawls and steamer rugs slumped miserably on benches as the edged wind of early morning blowing across salt water strove with the thickness of the ship's saloon. The stale scents of food and tobacco and human occupation mingled with that unmistakable smell peculiar to all such vessels, a combination of tar and rope and brass polish, of varnish and smoky oil lamps--hardly an atmosphere to enhance a woman's charm. But this solitary female bore up well under the ordeal. She was young--at least she could not be called old--and she appeared considerably less than her twenty-eight years; she was vigorous and full of a lively interest in the world and her temporary companions, and she had learned long before this how to conduct herself alone.
A shaft of salty air came in with the opening and closing of doors as men went out into the rapidly thinning dimness on deck. In response to the freshness her head lifted and her nostrils dilated as she breathed deeply. Involuntarily she made a half-move to leave the overcrowded saloon; but the impulse was checked almost at once. Much as she would have welcomed fresh air, it would not do to go out and join the men who tramped the damp decks in masculine freedom, untrammelled by billowing skirts of cashmere or taffeta, by yards of petticoat and bonnet strings that were prey to every current of air. Besides, there were all her possessions in the neatly roped bandboxes and bags and the new leather portmanteaus with the brass-headed nails driven into the lid to form the letters "H.D." There was no one to whom she might entrust them.