My first business at Avignon was, of course, to visit the tomb of our great countryman, John Stuart Mill.

As we drive to the cemetery this cloudless August day there is little to remind us of northern latitudes: warm yellow walls, burning blue heaven, venerable fig-trees white with dust, peach and olive orchards - all combine to conjure up a vision of the far-off East. The perpetual wind, however, cools the air, and if it has not the delicious freshness of the desert breeze tasted towards nightfall near Cairo, at least it makes August in that apparently tropic region bearable. Avignon should without doubt be visited in the height of summer, otherwise we lose this Oriental aspect, which is its most striking and, at the same time, most beautiful characteristic.

Passing the colossal palace of the popes - pity such superb masonry should be linked with the memories of crimes so horrible! - we reach the public gardens, containing the statue of a comparatively humble individual, who did more for the public weal than perhaps all the popes and anti-popes put together. This is Althen, who, by the introduction of the madder-root into France, promoted the peaceful industry and wellbeing of thousands of honest families. From the lofty terrace of this promenade - a natural precipice overlooking the river - we obtain a glorious panorama - the entire city, with its towers, palace, and churches, spread before us as a map, the glory of the Dauphinnois Alps, the magnificent Mont Ventoux stretching across the northern horizon, under the shadow of its sunny crest the pale violet hills of Vaucluse, and, to complete the picture, the Rhone, silvery bright - I protest it is not always muddy as some writers insist! - flowing swiftly between green banks towards the sea.

An avenue of stone pines leads to the cemetery - announced by flower-stalls and stonemasons' yards - and we soon find the head-gardener - an ancient man, proud to show us the tomb of the 'grand Anglais.'

'Do my country-people often come here to pay their respects to this grave?' I asked.

'Oh, many, many!' he said; 'and the demoiselle, his daughter - it is she who sees to everything. She is always coming. Never was any grave so cared for, as you will see.'

He was right. The sarcophagus of pure white marble stands in the midst of a tiny garden, exquisitely kept and railed in, with gate well-locked. The well-known inscription inscribed by Stuart Mill to the memory of his wife cannot be deciphered from outside the enclosure, and no one, under any circumstances whatever, is permitted to enter it; but the name of the noble apostle of liberty stands out bold and clear, and may be seen from a distance. The flower-borders around the tomb were bright with late summer and autumn flowers; not a seared leaf, not an unsightly weed anywhere. The reverential care bestowed on this grave is delightful to witness. Two English girls lie buried near the great champion of women and of liberty of thought. Rare flowers - roses and lilies - were not to be had, so I purchased a homely garland of zinnias and China asters, and laid it just outside the little railing. In paying this modest tribute to the memory of John Stuart Mill I fulfilled a wish very dear to my heart. One other pilgrimage of the like kind I would fain make did not wide seas intervene. I should like to place a wreath on the tomb of another apostle of liberty - the dauntless, the self-immolating Colenso!

Schiller, great in poetry as in prose, says: 'The larger portion of humanity are too much concerned with the struggle for bare existence to occupy themselves with the search after truth.' Let us, then, rejoice in the memory of those who have consecrated their existences to this lofty task!

Beautiful as is Avignon for a burial-place, we wonder how anyone could from choice live here. The perpetual mistral-like wind, the dazzling glare, the white dust, the malodorous streets of the old town, do not at any rate invite a long stay during the dog-days, and much of its picturesqueness would be lost in winter. With the prospect of the breezy Roof of France ever before us, we certainly felt little disposed to linger, in spite of our comfortable quarters and another attraction not mentioned in guide-books. I allude to the great beauty of the people, especially of the young girls and children. We seemed here to have touched the first note of a gradually ascending scale of beauty, the climax awaiting us in the mountain fastnesses of the Lozere. In and around Avignon we saw many a girl beautiful as one of Raphael's Madonnas, many a child lovely as an angel. We could not paint these charming heads, we could not make the acquaintance of their possessors; but it was delightful to obtain such glimpses of beauty by the way - to feel one's self in a living portrait-gallery of beauty. The great neatness and tidiness of the country people, and the absence of vagrancy, are very striking. Wherever we go, we see evidence of an existence laborious perhaps in the extreme, yet one of wholesomeness and content.

Strange to say, chemical science has proved as disastrous to the rural population round about Avignon as the phylloxera has done in other parts of the department. The supersession of madder by aniline dyes has, indeed, for a time almost ruined the small farmers of Vaucluse.

'Ah!' said an elderly man to me, 'in former days the madder made up for everything. It was the harvest of the year. If a peasant's corn was blighted, or potatoes and fruit crops failed, the madder was there to take to market. The madder paid his way in bad seasons and in good - gave him a little "argent mignon" to lay by. The peasant just manages to live nowadays, but when madder was cultivated 'twas his own fault if he didn't grow rich.'

The culture of this plant, which extended over 13,500 hectares in Vaucluse in 1860, had diminished to eight, representing a loss of millions of francs. The vineyards have also been reduced, owing to the inroads of the phylloxera, although not in equal proportion. Even the silkworm, the third chief source of wealth here, has suffered from a parasite.

But the peasant-owner of the soil never loses heart. He drives his plough across the ruined vineyard, digs up the madder-field, plants other crops, and cheerfully accepts a fourth part of former profits.

My companion, of course, would no more have dreamed of quitting Avignon without a visit to Vaucluse than I should have thought it possible to go away leaving unvisited the tomb of John Stuart Mill. But next morning brought a lowering sky, heavy rain-drops, and an ominous rumbling of thunder. To set out for a twenty miles' drive across country under such auspices were madness.

We decided to visit Orange instead, a short distance by railway. We should be sure to obtain a covered carriage at the station. Under such circumstances, need a deluging shower or two and a thunderstorm keep us at home?

The prospect brightened towards mid-day, so we started in high spirits, assuring ourselves of a delightful excursion. We found pleasant company in the railway-carriage, our fellow-travellers being all bound for Paris. One, a young Jesuit who had been in England, was delighted to practise his English.

'You are not favoured with fine weather in your travels,' he said; 'but you are probably going to remain at Orange some time?'

'Oh dear no,' was the reply. 'We are spending the afternoon there, that is all - just going to see the Roman theatre!'

'I wish you enjoyment of your expedition,' he replied drily, no little amused, but evidently somewhat accustomed to insular eccentricity.

The rest of the company could hardly keep a grave countenance. 'These English! these English!' their faces said, and the general verdict evidently was parodying the immortal words of Madame Roland: 'O Pleasure, what pains are endured under thy name!'

By the time we reached our destination the storm had become truly awful. Rain fell in torrents; the crashing thunder was like the roar of artillery. The heavens were black as night, but for the blue flashes that seemed to set the place on fire. Outside the station was no vehicle of any kind; within, groups of storm-driven travellers and pedestrians waited for the tempest to abate.

And long, indeed, we had to wait. The most rational alternative seemed to be to take the next train back to Avignon. But we might never again find ourselves at Orange. We recalled Addison's words, 'The remains of this Roman amphitheatre are worth the whole principality of Orange,' so we abided the storm. We were, after all, as well off in the comfortably-appointed little station as in a first class railway-carriage, and the tempest, if awful, afforded a sublime spectacle. Lightning so vivid I think I never before witnessed.

At last the deluging rain slackened somewhat; the heavens grew clearer; and the omnibus of the Hotel de la Poste made its appearance. We took our seats and rattled into the town, the poor drenched horses paying no heed to the swiftly-recurring peals and flashes.

At the Poste, most French and old-fashioned of French inns - very spacious, very handsome, and scrupulously clean - we found a charming landlady, to whom we carried friendly greetings from former visitors; and after tea and a little chat, the thunder and lightning having abated, we ventured forth.

The streets, which on our arrival an hour before were like rivers, now began to dry up; the raindrops fell at intervals only; the thunder pealed from a distance. A few townspeople, like ourselves, were abroad.

A noble avenue of plane-trees leads from the station to the ancient town. Hardly a bit of modernization to be seen anywhere, its quaint, narrow streets having deep, over-hanging roofs and round arched galleries, as seen in some of the old Spanish towns of Franche-Comte. After zigzagging for awhile in rain, we come suddenly upon the Roman theatre, a sight to take one's breath away. Rome itself shows nothing finer than this colossal mass of masonry - facade of the Augustan amphitheatre, and at the same time an acoustic wall, built of such thickness and solidity in order to retain the sound of the actors' voices. The entire facade is very nearly perfect, and forms a splendid specimen of Augustan architecture in its prime. It is constructed of huge blocks put together symmetrically, without the adjunct of cement. The colour is of deep, rich brown, the entire structure majestically dominating the town, whilst around, dwarfed by its gigantic proportions, rise the pleasant green hills.

Close under the shadow of the facade, enhancing its grandeur by force of contrast, are mean little houses, and in front an open space, where poor people are washing their clothes and carrying on the homeliest avocations. Some notion of the interior may be gathered from without, but, on payment of a small fee, strangers are permitted to enter and wander at will about the stone benches raised on tiers, the corridors, and dressing-closets of the actors. Vandalism has all but done its worst; still, enough are left of proscenium and auditorium, originally constructed to hold 7,000 spectators, to admit of the performance of plays here. The stone corbels, pierced with holes to hold the enormous awning or velarium used in wet weather or extreme heat, remain intact. The gray stone is covered with moss and greenery, and the whole scene for magnificence and impressiveness may be compared with the great Dionysiac theatre at Athens.

As we lingered outside, it was pleasant to witness the pride of the inhabitants in this great monument.

'Ah, you should have been here a few days ago!' one bystander said to us; 'you might then have seen the "OEdipe Roi" of Corneille given in this amphitheatre, by the troupe of the Comedie Francaise. Never before was a fete so brilliant seen at Orange! People flocked hither from fifty miles and farther round!'

We found, and lost, and lost, and found our way in the perplexing labyrinth of ancient streets, till we reached the fine but somewhat cold and uninspiring triumphal arch at the other end of the town. Then we returned to Avignon, the thunderstorm bursting forth with renewed fury. Our compartment was illuminated by the lightning from the beginning of our journey to the end, and when we alighted the blue flashes were positively appalling; the whole place seemed ablaze with the steely-blue, blinding coruscations. So we rattled through the lightning-lit streets and turned into bed, the storm taking its departure as soon as we were safely housed. It was worth while making a great effort to see Orange, but nothing - no, nothing - will ever tempt me to excursionize in such a storm again!

It is odd that English folk so rarely visit Orange; but the attractions of Switzerland are too obvious, and the great Schweitzer Hof at Lucerne has more charms for the multitude than the thoroughly French Hotel de la Poste.

One illustrious English traveller, however, just two hundred years ago, thought otherwise.

In a recently-unearthed letter of Addison to Bishop Hough, dated 27th October, 1700, he wrote: 'I was about three days ago at Orange, which is a very fruitful and pleasant spot of ground. The governor, who is a native of the place, told me there were about 5,000 people in it, and one-third were Protestants. There is a Popish bishop and some convents, but all live very amicably together, and are, I believe, not a little pleased with their prince, who does not burden them with taxes and impositions. There are two pieces of antiquity - Marius' triumphal arch, and the remains of a Roman amphitheatre - that are worth the whole of the principality.'

It may be as well to add here that the prevailing opinion of archaeologists now refers the arch to the reign of Marcus Aurelius, and that the name Marius has no reference to the conqueror of the Cimbri, as has been generally supposed. The supposition was brought about by the name Mario inscribed on a shield, among the many facsimiles adorning the trophy. But it is clearly the name of the vanquished, not the victor, found here, and Mario, part of Marion, may well have been the name of a Gaulish prisoner.

As all spoliations throughout France indiscriminately are imputed to the Revolution, it may be as well to remind the reader that it was Maurice, Prince of Nassau, who did his very utmost to demolish the noble Roman theatre of Orange.

By the Treaty of Ryswick, signed 1697, the family of Nassau were confirmed in the possession of Orange, and the prince referred to in Addison's letter was our William the Third. The spoliator of the Roman theatre was his ancestor, the tyrannical and justly-hated Maurice. This fact is to be noted.

The thunderstorm cooled the air, and the next day we had unclouded skies and burning sunshine, tempered with a brisk wind, for our expedition to Vaucluse. The wind blows ever at Avignon, no matter what the weather may be, and renders the tropic heat of summer tolerable. All the way we caught sight of beautiful faces, these peasant-girls and children having faultless features, a rich complexion, dark hair and eyes, and a dignified carriage. They go bare-headed in the broiling sun, and seem to revel in the heat. Passing suburban villas, close-shuttered, vine-trellised, handsome chateaux, each approached by stately avenues of plane or mulberry, cypress groves and vineyards, we are soon in the heart of the country.

Little farmhouses are seen on either side, their ochre-coloured walls gleaming against the deep-blue sky - fig-trees in every garden, with peach-orchards beyond, showing the brilliant fruit. It is a bit of the East, only the blue-bloused peasant and the bare-headed, dignified country girls, wishing us 'Bonjour' as they pass, remind us that we are on French soil. There is no evidence here either of wealth or poverty; but the fruits of the earth, so laboriously cultivated, are equally shared by all. Everywhere we find cheerfulness, independence, and thrift.

Pilgrims to Vaucluse must be prepared to pay dear for the privilege. Once - and once only during this journey-were we thoroughly overcharged, and it was at the little inn here.

I have not kept the bill, but was it not worth any money to taste trout fished from Petrarch's stream, eggs whose ancestors had crowed in Petrarch's hearing, salad grown within perhaps a stone's-throw of Petrarch's garden? Thus doubtless our hostess reasoned, and in all probability she was right. What devotee would be deterred from visiting such a shrine by the prospect of a long bill?

Many, however, will be deterred by another reason. I allude to the burning noonday sun, that makes this close-shut valley, as it is complimentarily called, a veritable furnace. It is in reality a deep winding cleft between lofty, yellow rocks, by virtue of position and formation a naturally formed sun-trap, not a ray being lost. Words can give no idea of the scorching, blinding heat this August afternoon. Yet a little girl who acts as our guide confronts the sun bareheaded, and as we go we find dozens of relic-vendors equally unprotected. No one seems to require a hat or umbrella. This child had the face of a miniature Madonna, and others we met on the way equally beautiful and well-formed. Strange thus to escape for a time altogether from the region of human ugliness, to be as completely isolated from ill-favoured looks and uncomely gait as if we were in a sculpture-gallery of Florence! These country-bred girls and children have not only statuesque features, but the stateliest carriage, holding themselves with the air of Nature's princesses.

I stopped when half-way through the burning, blinding cul-de-sac, and took refuge under the shadow cast by a bit of wall and a fig-tree. If the deluging showers of yesterday had failed to damp my enthusiasm, the meridian heat of Vaucluse shrivelled it up. My companion, with her angelic-faced little cicerone, perseveringly went on.

This rock-shut valley, watered by the Sorgues, a tiny thread of water and verdure amid towering walls of bare, sun-baked rock, has lost much of its poetry and romance. The stream flows clear as in the poet's time, but the solitude he loved so well is invaded. Of his garden not a trace remains. The perpetually whirring wheels of a water-mill, the clatter of washerwomen beating clothes on the bank, now drown the murmur of the waves, whilst at every turn the traveller is beset by vendors of immortelles and photographs. Truth to tell, an element of vulgarity has found its way to this once ideal spot! But it requires no very vivid imagination to transport ourselves to the Eden described so musically in Petrarch's letters; and close at the doors of the hermitage he has rendered immortal lies scenery that might well recall his native Italy. All this is vividly portrayed in the pages of Arthur Young, who was more fascinated by the scenery of Vaucluse than either myself or my companion.

'And what was the fountain like?' I asked, when, after a quarter of an hour, she returned.

This was her account:

'Following the hot and dusty path, beset all the way with children selling wild-flowers and dried grasses-it seems providential that they don't all have sunstroke under this merciless sun-we at last reach a semicircle of rocks, a miniature stone bay, slanting slippery rocks leading down to the midst, covered, as my little guide said, in winter by water. From under these rocks burst the Sorgues-not a very tiny river at its first start-and flows into a dark pool of by no means clear water. Indeed, I should say it looked slightly scummy. On the only ledge of rock above, with soil enough for vegetation, is a bright spot of green, covered with the sweet-scented flower-a plant of the good King Henry tribe, which we had been pestered to buy all the way from the inn. This little patch looked so inaccessible that I think the children must find the plant elsewhere.

'It is well,' sighed my friend, 'that Petrarch cannot see his beloved village and river; for although the Sorgues is still limpid and beautiful when flowing over the mossy rocks, what with guides, tourists, and paper-mills, the place is vulgarized by people who probably never read a line of the great poet of ideal love in their lives, and never will.' [Footnote:

                     'The love from Petrarch's urn, 
                     A quenchless lamp by which the heart 
                     Sees things unearthly.' 

If the outward drive amid orchards of peach and fig trees, vineyard and cypress, conjures up a vision of the East, the return journey will give some idea of the great olive-strewn plain of the Spanish Vega.

Far as the eye can reach, nothing is seen but one continuous sweep of country covered with the silvery-green olive. Beyond in a northerly direction the vast grandiose outline of Mont Ventoux shows an opaline hue, its deep violet tints being subdued in the paling afternoon light. All the tones in the picture are uniform and subdued, but none can be fairer, more harmonious, no spectacle more impressive, than the delicate sea-green foliage of myriads of olive-trees - plumage were the apter word - one unbroken sheeny wave from end to end of the immense horizon.

That the half may be better than the whole in travel is an axiom verified every day. Was it worth while to incur a sunstroke for the sake of seeing Petrarch's fountain - nearly dry, moreover, at such seasons of the year? Far better to drive home without headache, and be able thoroughly to enjoy such compensation for what we could not see.

After the tomb of John Stuart Mill, Petrarch's Vaucluse; after Petrarch's Vaucluse, the palace of the popes.

But the sight of torture-chambers and horrid underground prisons is not inviting; the souvenirs here awakened are anything but attractive. The palace of the anti-popes, moreover, is turned into a caserne. I was content to pass it by. Does not Mr. Symonds relate, in his history of the Italian Renaissance, how a certain pope vivisected little children in the hope of prolonging his own infamous existence? In other words, the pope believed in the doctrine of transfusion of blood, and hapless little lads were bribed into undergoing the operation of blood-letting in order that the veins of the pontiff should be thereby revivified.

The victims received the promised money and died, but I refer readers to Mr. Symonds' work for the story - as horrible as any in the horrible history of the sovereigns of the Vatican. Doubtless the walls of this outwardly imposing papal palace here could tell others as ghastly. I had not the slightest inclination to cross the threshold.

At Avignon we made inquiries right and left as to the best means of reaching the Causses. Nobody had so much as heard of the name. One individual thus interrogated repeated after me:

'L'Ecosse, l'Ecosse? Mon Dieu! je n'en sais absolument rien.'

He thought we were asking the directest road to Scotland - a strangely random question for two Englishwomen to make, surely, in the South of France!