The mysterious lady from Chancolant
In the early spring of 1871, Eugène de Villedieu encountered the Lady from Chancolant for the first time.
They were both passengers on the train that arrived at the Saint-Jean le Centenier station where their coach drivers were waiting for them.
The little steam train coming from Teil in the Rhone Valley was slightly late, so Baptiste, M de Villedieu’s driver got into conversation with Firmin.
They knew each other well as they both lived in the same hamlet named Taverne, midway between the Borie and the village of Berzème.
Up to now M de Villedieu had never met the lady, but because of the delay and the two coach drivers, all was about to change.
It must be said that she had only recently come to the Coiron plateau. Her husband had acquired a large property there, and with it an imposing farm. On the land facing south and adjacent to the farm he had had a big house built where they could spend the hot spring and summer months.
The house wasn’t like anything that had hitherto been built on the plateau. It was much grander, and bigger with a slate roof, so that the local people soon named it « The Castle ».
Nothing ostentatious mind you, but its rooms were spacious and its windows wide to let in the good Coiron air and thus escape the oppressive heat of the valley. All the members of the household enjoyed the change ; a different rhythm , another climate, other scents
Life was pleasant and peaceful at the Borie de Chancolant.
The domestics busied themselves around the house while their masters sat chatting under the sycamore trees at the foot of the steps, keeping a watchful eye on the children playing.
The only sound to disturb this traquillity being the ding-a-ling of sheep bells as their shepherds crisscrossed them from one meadow to the next over the plateau.
Occasionally the sound of a different bell could break the silence, announcing a visitor at the front gates of the park. It was often M de Villedieu. Since their lucky encounter at the station that day, Eugène had paid frequent visits to the Borie de Chancolant, following paths between the fields from Berzème on foot.
He always brought fresh news, and checked up on the growth of the trees that he had given the lady as gifts.
In his opinion the park was too « wild » and would benefit from the addition of redwood trees and ceders. As it happened M de Villedieu , « sous préfet » and resident of Berzème, had a passion for botany, and also for poetry.
With no lack of subjects to discuss the Lady of Chancolant was also delighted by M de Villedieu’s determination to plant exotic trees in her park. His knowledge of poetry impressed her too.
Today the atmosphere at the Borie is electric for it has been decided to go to Vals –les- Bains the following day !
For those who lived in Berzème this was considerd to be a great adventure !
All Lady Chancolant’s fears were quickly dispelled at the thought of visiting the town
Vals had changed radically of late. The park there boasted more than 300 varieties of tree, some unknown. Its paths were ideal for strolling ; sunbonnets and parasols striving to be the most elegant. It was certainly the place to be seen !
The same could be said for the Grand Hôtel des Bains built ten years previously. Its terraces welcomed those of the fashionable society, ideal for refreshments before admiring the intermittant spring.