Next morning we woke up to a delightfully wet day, the very best piece of good fortune that can occasionally overtake the traveller. We could write, sketch, chat with the people of the house - above all, enjoy a brief period of entire repose. For my own part, I hail nothing so enthusiastically in my travels as a day of unmitigated downpour. Not the most astounding landscape, not the most novel experience, can evoke a warmer outburst of gratitude and welcome. I suppose there are tourists who never feel the need of rest, who, like the Flying Dutchman, are impelled to move on perpetually, who do not want to nurse their impressions, if I may legitimize the expression. I, for one, cannot understand the condition of body and mind implied in such a temperament. Were life long enough and did circumstances and seasons permit, I should make a six weeks' halt at least between every stage of a journey, sipping experiences as we sip exquisitely flavoured liqueurs, and making the whole last as long as possible.

To our intense satisfaction, we had not been anticipated by those much- dreaded deputies of the Lozere. We had a choice of rooms, although later in the day a large contingent of tourists arrived - two or three French families travelling in company. The hotel at Le Rozier is a primitive, but quite lodgeable, place - open, airy, cheerful. Bells, bolts and bars are apparently unheard of. When we remonstrated with the patrone on the insecurity of our doors, there being no means whatever of fastening them, she gazed at us with the greatest possible astonishment. 'Grand Dieu!' her face said, 'is there a country under heaven in which folks are such ruffians that no one can sleep safely in his bed?'

'N'ayez pas peur' (Have no fear), was the reply; such a question in her eyes was evidently the naivest in the world.

The primitive - I am almost tempted to say ideal - condition of things here was more strikingly illustrated a little later.

I had begged madame to give me change for a hundred-franc note; she immediately accompanied me back to my room, unlocked a drawer, and displayed a heap of money - notes, gold and silver.

'Good heavens, madame!' I cried, 'do you keep your money in a room given up to strangers?'

'Il n'y a pas de danger' (There is no danger), she replied, with almost a contemptuous toss of the head, as she took out what she wanted and turned the key in its loosely fastened lock. Anyone with a pocket-knife could have wrenched it off.

We begin to understand why there should be 'white assizes' in the Lozere!

I exchanged my bedroom containing the drawer full of money, and which was the best in the house, for a quieter one, higher up. Nothing could be homelier than my present quarters, an attic bare as a barn, and almost as spacious. There was a bed in it of excellent quality, a chair and one very rickety table furnished with jug and washbasin - no more. I believe at night the bats, to say nothing of rats and mice, were tolerably familiar with this part of the house. The floor sadly showed its unacquaintance with soap and scrubbing-brush, but there were compensating advantages. I was far away from the noise and savoury smells of the kitchen; my window opened on to a wonderful view, and turning the bed into a sofa, I could write or read as cosily as at home.

Nor did my companion spend less happy hours below. Her room had a more cosmopolitan appearance. The table serving as washstand stood securely on its four legs. She had even the luxury of a table and an arm-chair.

The rain was a veritable windfall of good luck to her as well as myself, affording leisure to paint the floral treasures culled by the way. How those sweet sketches brightened the bare room!

There was the golden thistle, the horned poppy, the fringed gentian, the blue pimpernel, the rare orobanche ramosa, the yellow salvia, and pinks in profusion.

Blessed, thrice blessed, the traveller with companions whose mind to them a kingdom is! What disenchantment to have had the glorious experiences of the last few days followed by a spell of boredom! Diderot says: 'Ceux qui souffrent, font souffrir les autres' (Those who suffer make others suffer); and certainly to be in company of the bored is to become bored one's self.

That long wet day passed like an hour. Towards sunset the rain ceased, and at last the three deputies of the Lozere made their appearance. They looked drier and more cheery than could be expected, although to have shot the rapids of the Tarn in such weather was about as mortifying a circumstance as could befall any travellers.

They displayed the true verve Gauloise in dealing with a trying situation, smoked cigarettes, chatted with the people of the house, and made friends with everybody.

Le Rozier is an attractive little place, and its one inn stands airily in the village street; on the other side of the way, a little lower down, is its rival, the Hotel Dieudonne, which, although within a stone's throw, is in another village and another department. Behind us lies the Lozere, in front the Aveyron, and perched most picturesquely on a pyramidal green hill, crowned with a fine old church tower, rises the little Aveyronnais village of Peyreleau. Travellers have therefore a choice of inns and of prospects, the twin townlings being both most advantageously placed between the three Causses, and accommodation very fair in both.

As we sauntered about in the bright sunshine following the storm, watching the red light on the dark flanks of the Causse Noir, on which we can now discern the feudal tower of Capluc, gathering the fringed gentian just outside the town, interchanging friendly talk with the cheery peasant-folk, the thought arose: What a paradise for weary brain workers! What a perfect summer retreat! Removed from the routine of daily life, escaped for a time from the artificiality of ordinary travel, how happy were the lover of nature, of pastoral existence, of quietude in such a spot! No whistle of railway, no bustle of streets, only the placid rippling of the Tarn and the wind gently swaying the pine-trees.

Alas! I was soon to undergo the cruellest disillusion.

'There are now three religions in these parts,' said our host to us: 'the Catholic religion, the Protestant religion, and the religion of the Salvation Army.'

He then added, much as if such a piece of news could but give us the liveliest satisfaction:

'Not so very long ago Booth was here himself!'

The Salvation Army on the very Roof of France! That solitude of solitude invaded by fife and drum; the wastes of Sauveterre echoing the hackneyed air, 'Hold the Fort;' Hallelujah lasses in hideous poke-bonnets parading the picturesque streets of St. Enimie; the very rapids silenced by the stentorian exordiums of these Salvationist orators! Could any disenchantment be more complete?

Now, whilst accrediting every member of the Salvation Army with the best possible intentions, I quite approve of the severe measures taken in so many English towns, and also in some places abroad, against one of the most tremendous social nuisances that ever afflicted humanity. Doubtless these good people, whether Protestants or Catholics of Le Rozier and Peyreleau, follow their religion in all sincerity; for Heaven's sake, then, let us leave our neighbours' creeds and spiritual concerns alone. In a community in which assizes, not once only, but often, are found to be unnecessary, there being no criminals to try, General Booth and his noisy followers are surely out of place. In the face of such results as these, the religion of the people must be pronounced adequate to their needs.

Let the Salvationist chiefs occupy themselves instead with mastering the principles of Spinoza's 'Tractatus Theologico-Politicus,' Colenso's 'Pentateuch,' and, thrown into the bargain, Sir G. B. Airey's essay on 'The Earlier Hebrew Scriptures.'

One piece of information, however, in no small degree consoled me for that terrible nightmare of the Salvation Army on the banks of the Tarn.

'There are three religions in these parts, but one political belief only,' added our host. 'Everybody in the department of Lozere is a stanch Republican,' and a conclusion, novel to many minds, may be drawn from this fact also. The Republic is not the demoralizing force some would have it believed. An entire department may show a clean bill of moral health when the assizes come round, and yet be ardently devoted to a democratic form of government!

Whilst Le Rozier is a prosperous, well-to-do little place, its twin village Peyreleau has a woefully forlorn and neglected appearance. If a French Chadwick or Richardson would preach the gospel of sanitation there, and, by force of precept and example, teach the people how to sweeten their streets and make wholesome their dwellings, I for one would wish God-speed to the undertaking. Perhaps over-much of devotion has made these village-folks neglectful of health and comfort. Let us by all means give them instead a dose of positive philosophy. Certain amateur political economists would straightway set down the unsightliness of this remote spot to peasant property, whereas I shall show that the causes are to be sought elsewhere.

The detesters of peasant property, single-minded persons who love the land so well that they cannot support the notion of a neighbour possessing so much as an inch, remind me of certain French folks, determined antagonists, they hardly know why, of the Republic. These worthy people - the only thing that can be said against them is that they have come into the world a hundred years too late - impute every conceivable mishap or calamity, public or private, to the fact of having a Republican form of government. They entertain but lukewarm feelings for any other; they are adherents of neither the Bonapartist nor Orleanist pretenders, nor do they care a straw for the charlatan hero of the crutch and blue spectacles: their only political dogma is a dislike to the Republic.

So, if a landslip occurs and an express train runs off the line with disastrous results, they immediately cry, 'Is M. Carnot out of his senses?' If there is an inundation of the Loire and the riverside villages are under water, they lift up their hands, exclaiming: 'What can be expected under such a Government as ours?' When cholera breaks out at Toulon, or the phylloxera makes further inroads in the Cote d'Or, or murrain appears among sheep, they protest that nothing in the shape of bad news astonishes them. The only wonder is that, under a Republic, honest folks keep their heads on their shoulders!

On a par with this is the reasoning of the would-be political economists alluded to. If a French peasant is lazy, it is because he has no rent to pay; if a French peasant works too hard, it is because he owns a bit of land. If a cottage is untidy, it is because its occupants are not farm labourers in receipt of ten shillings a week; in fact, the possession of land - except in the hands of English squires - is the most impoverishing, demoralizing, satanic force imaginable, and the only way of turning modern France into a Utopia would be to clap every peasant proprietor alive into nice comfortable, well-conducted workhouses, after the English model.

Now, in the first place, peasant proprietors in many parts of France, as I have shown elsewhere, enjoy not only the comforts, but also the luxuries, of their neighbours of the towns; and in the second, the untidiness, excessive thrift, and even squalor, occasionally found in out-of-the-way places, are to be attributed to quite other causes than that of having no rent to pay. Tidiness, seemliness, order, are taught, like everything else, by example, and from one cause and another this example has not been widely set the French peasant.

The matter is one requiring much more space than can be devoted to it here. I would only observe that the life of French country gentlemen is often simple to homeliness, and that their poorer neighbours have few practical illustrations of the value of comfort and hygiene. I have been astonished to find in the houses of rich landed proprietors in Anjou and Berri, brick-floored bedrooms, carpetless salons, dejeuner served on the bare table, and servants in waiting with their unstockinged feet thrust in sabots.

This condition of things is slowly changing, but there is another and yet more formidable obstacle to the progress of ideas in isolated rural districts. I now allude to the celibate clergy. There are doubtless many estimable parish priests in France, but how can these worthy men revolutionize the homes of the peasant? Their own is often hardly more comfortable or hygienic. If feminine influence presides over a priestly household in the country, it is generally of the homeliest kind. The mother, sister, housekeeper of a village abbe belongs in all probability, like himself, to the peasant class, and, unlike himself, gets no glimpse from time to time of a more polished society and cosmopolitan ways. Let the clergy marry in France, laicize all schools, alike for rich and poor, and what may be called the aesthetic side of domestic economy, to say nothing of hygiene, would soon spread to the remotest corners of the country. Will it be believed, at Nant, in that conventual establishment I have before described, there was absolutely no lavatory for the children at all? They were just taken to a fountain in the courtyard, there to be washed after the manner of little Bedouins.

There is also another cause which in part accounts for the ofttimes squalid and unsanitary condition of the peasant's home. Educated Frenchwomen as a rule have little love of the country, and convent-bred Frenchwomen have still less sympathy with their humbler neighbours in rural districts, whose Republican convictions are well known. Thus it comes about that, generally speaking, the housekeeping sex of different ranks remains apart. And as the well-to-do peasant regards domestic service in the light of degradation, his daughters in turn may become heads of houses without ever having once been inside a home conducted on modern principles. One word more: ill-kept, ofttimes squalid as is the house of the French peasant owner, he can say with Touchstone, 'Tis a poor thing, but 'tis my own.' The son of the soil in France may want carpets, wardrobes, clean swept hearths: he at least owns a home from which only imprudence or thriftlessness can eject him.