like all creatures who have spent too much time flying close to the sun, or at mountainous altitudes, the comtesse de colinson loved the sound of the sea, and as the chateau she had repaired to was only a mile from the shore, and as she had few guests, and as those she might expect were, like the baron de b---------, for the most part excruciating bores and preferably avoided, she spent much of her time walking beside the waves and gazing out at the alternately stormy and placid atlantic.
her favorite spot to pursue this timeless occupation was beneath a cliff about two miles north and west of her chateau. the cliff provided protection, if necessary, from sun or rain, and the watery vista, unmarked by rocks even at low tide, provided an excellent view of an edifice whose presence she found both soothing and curiously romantic - an old lighthouse. (but in this part of the world, there would, of course, be no new lighthouses - or anything new.)
in her visits to the beach the comtesse had seen no sign that the lighthouse was occupied. she enjoyed speculating on the possibilities of a romantic narrative regarding its abandonment, and had forborne to enquire as to its actual circumstances, either from servants, tradespeople, or the local gentry, any of whom might have quickly enlightened her.
on the afternoon our narrative recommences (for the comtesse never rose or bestirred herself before noon), she was walking along this favored spot accompanied by a single maid, the same child the reader has already encountered in our desription of the baron de b----------'s visit.
the coachman who had brought them to the spot had been despatched to the woods behind the cliff, on the pretext of catching some small game, or picking mushrooms.
the tide and the waves were high, a light rain fell through a mist, the lighthouse presented a supremely picturesque and forbidding aspect, and the comtesse's curiosity got the upper hand of her.
she turned to the maid, whose name was marie, and asked whether the lighthouse was still maintained?
"oh yes, madame, old mother morneau has kept it these many years, as did her husband before her, in the olden days."