Nimes in August is about as hot as Cairo in May, which certainly is saying a good deal. In front of the pleasant Hotel de Luxembourg are fountains and gardens, bright with oleanders and pomegranates; and the town is open and airy, but the heat is very oppressive. The unremitting precautions taken to keep out the sun show what is expected in summer-time. The rooms are not only protected by shutters, but by Venetian blinds as well, and are kept in semi-darkness during the greater portion of the day. How the business of daily life can be carried on in this perpetually enforced twilight I am unable to say. Whether or no the majority of the townsfolk have acquired by sheer force of habit the faculty of seeing in the dark, or contrive to transact all obligatory affairs in the cool of the evening, when for a brief moment shutters are thrown open and blinds drawn, is a mystery.

I have no intention of describing Nimes - a city, perhaps, as familiar to my country-people as any in France; and, indeed, time only permitted of a glance at the beautiful Roman baths, a quite fairy-like scene, the exquisite little Greek temple, [Footnote: Colbert wished to move this lovely little temple to Versailles, bit by bit, and the Cardinal Alberoni demanded that it should be encased in gold.] known under the name of the Maison Carree, and the amphitheatre. All these have been well and amply described for tourists elsewhere; also the lovely group of Pradier adorning the principal fountain of the town - a modern chef- d'oeuvre that may well figure amid so many gems of classic art. The most hurried traveller will, of course, visit one and all.

The modern aspect of Nimes is worthy of note.

Distinguished Frenchmen - or, for the matter of that, Frenchwomen - may count with mathematical certainty upon the compensation of earthly ills: they are sure of their statue after death.

Nimes, not behindhand in this appreciative spirit, has recently conferred such honours upon two illustrious sons - Reboul, the artisan poet; and Paul Soleillet, the gallant African explorer. Both monuments are well worth seeing, and both men deserved to be so remembered.

One-fourth of the inhabitants of Nimes are Protestant; but a true spirit of toleration was very slow to make itself felt there. In 1876, for the first time, 'Les Huguenots' was given at the opera-house. Hitherto the experiment had been considered risky.

It is strange that the inroads of the phylloxera should have any influence upon the movements of religious bodies, but so it is. Narbonne, in the neighbouring department, has lately lost its Protestant population, most of whom were wine-growers or wine-merchants, ruined by the terrible vine-pest. So complete was the exodus that the ministrations of a pastor were no longer needed. These facts I had from the thendesoeuvre pastor himself, who was appointed to the cure of souls in the little village of St. Georges de Didonne, at the mouth of the Gironde, during my stay there two years ago.

Thankful as the visitor may feel to get away from Nimes in the dog-days, it should certainly be visited then, otherwise we lose that impression of the South - that warm glow of colour and Oriental languor so new and striking in Northern eyes. For ourselves, we would willingly have lingered days - nay, weeks - in the noble Roman city, but for the heat and our feverish desire to reach that cool, breezy Roof of France, so near, yet so apparently difficult to reach; in fact, the nearer we approached our destination, the more unattainable it appeared. No more at Nimes than at Avignon could we get an inkling of information as to the best means of reaching the Causses.

We are but fairly off on our way to Le Vigan when we find a welcome change in the atmosphere. The air is cooler, the heavens show alternating cloud and sky; we feel able to breathe. Past olive grounds and mulberry plantations, ancient towns cresting the hill-tops, cheerful farmsteads dotted here and there - these are the pictures descried from the railway. It was hard to pass Tarascon without stopping, but the experience of last year was fresh in my memory. If we lingered at every interesting place on the way, we should find the Roof of France embedded in snow. There was nothing to be done but, in policeman's language, 'move on.' Some of the little towns passed on the way are very old and curious, but night closed in long ere we reached our destination.

I had heard nothing in favour of Le Vigan. The hotel was described to us as a fair auberge. The very place was marked down in my itinerary simply because it seemed impossible to reach the region we were bound for from any other starting-point. At least, the two other alternatives had drawbacks: we must either make a circuitous railway journey round to Mende, or a still longer detour by way of Millau.

Having therefore expected literally nothing either in the way of accommodation or surroundings, what was our satisfaction next day to wake up and find ourselves in quite delightful quarters, amid charming scenery! Our hotel, Des Voyageurs, is as unlike the luxurious barracks of Swiss resorts as can be. An ancient, picturesque, straggling house, brick-floored throughout, with spacious rooms, large alcoves, outer galleries and balconies facing the green hills, it is just the place to settle in for a summer holiday. On the low walls of the open corridor outside our rooms are pots of brilliant geraniums and roses; beyond the immediate premises of the hotel is a well-kept fruit and flower garden; everywhere we see bright blossoms and verdure, whilst the low spurs of the Cevennes, here soft green undulations, frame in the picture.

The weather is now that of an English summer, with alternating clouds and sunshine and a fresh breeze.

The people are no less winning than their entourage. Our host, a septuagenarian of the old-fashioned school, in his youth was cook to Louis Philippe, and has carried with him to this remote spot all the polish and urbanity of the court. Aristocratic as he was in manner, and evidently a man of substance, as behoved a royal cook to be, he yet exercised supervision in the kitchen, not only giving instructions, but inspecting saucepans, to see that the acme of cleanliness was arrived at.

For what we may therefore call a royal cuisine, besides excellent accommodation, we were charged the modest sum of seven francs per diem each. Madame la patrone was no less dignified in manner than her husband, and from the first took me into her confidence.

She told me that the prosperity of their old age had just been saddened by the death of their only child - the hope of hopes, the joy of joys. No one remained to inherit their good name and little fortune.

'And a young girl so carefully brought up, so well educated and amiable, so useful in the house! Voyez-vous, madame, ces choses sont trop tristes,' she said with tears; and what could we say to comfort her?

To attend upon us we had a delightful peasant woman, neat, clean, sturdy, unlettered; yet very intelligent, and full of interest in English inventions and English ways. What a treasure such a woman would be at home! but for the hindrance of husband and children, we should have felt sorely tempted to bring her away with us. Then there was a tall, handsome fellow, a man of all work, in the establishment, who would rap at my door at all hours of the day with two enormous jugs of boiling water. I required a considerable supply of hot water early in the morning wherewith to fill my portable indiarubber bath - a perpetual source of amusement in the Lozere-and he seemed to think that a warm bath, like a cigarette or a petit verre, was a luxury to be indulged in at all hours of the day.

I would be absorbed in the study of maps and geographies when a thundering rat-tat-tat would make me start from my seat, and, lo! on opening the door, there stood the tall, soldierly, well-favoured Francois, holding in each hand a huge steaming jug filled to the brim, his handsome face beaming with satisfaction at having thus anticipated my wishes.

He evidently thought, too, that anyone with an appetite so unreasonable in the matter of hot water must have innumerable wants equally unreasonable. So quite unexpectedly, I believe whenever he had a spare moment, he would knock at our door and stand there, stock-still, awaiting commands.

Seductive as is Le Vigan by virtue of site and surroundings, I am sorry to have to say that the town is badly kept. Its aediles are terribly wanting in a sense of what is due to public health and enjoyment. The streets look as if they were never cleaned from January to December, although there is an abundant supply of water. Sanitation is for the most part woefully disregarded, and the little that is needed to make the place wholesome and attractive is left unattempted. What distressed my companion more than the neglected aspect of the streets was the sight of so many apparently uncared-for, ill-fed cats and dogs. As a rule, French people are kind to their domestic pets, but the bare- ribbed cats and their kittens here told a different story. Fortunately, when sketching just outside the town one day, the cure came up and entered into conversation with the sketchers. Here was an opportunity not to be neglected, and it was eagerly seized upon.

'Do, M. le Cure,' pleaded the English lady, after drawing his attention to the destitute condition of many four-footed parishioners, 'speak to your people, and make them see how wrong it is thus to rear cats and dogs, and leave them to starve,'

The benevolent old man promised to do his best, reminding me of the different response made to a similar appeal by a Breton priest.

I was once so shocked at the cruel treatment of calves at a country fair that I boldly stopped the cure in the middle of the road, and entreated him to preach against such wickedness.

'Madame' was his reply, 'ce n'est pas un teche' (it is no sin); meaning, I suppose, that diabolical cruelty to animals did not come under the head of offences against the Church.

It may be a consolation to many readers to know that the Loi Grammont now prohibits the misdeeds ignored by so-called ministers of religion in France; and it is a law, if not often, occasionally enforced with little ceremony. At Clermont-Ferrand, a few weeks later, a cab-driver was carried off to prison before our eyes for having brutally beaten his fallen horse.

Throughout the remainder of this journey I am bound to say that we were struck with the kindness and gentleness of our drivers to their horses. Any sign of ill-temper or skittishness was always coaxed away, an angry word or blow never being resorted to.

As I have said, Le Vigan might easily be made a charming halting-place for tourists in these regions. The pulling down of a few ancient, ill- favoured streets, a wholesale cleaning and white-washing, a general reparation of the town from end to end, open spaces utilized as public gardens - all this might be done at half the expense of the supernumerary statues now being raised all over France. Sanitation first, statues afterwards, should be the maxim of its prefets and maires in these remote and behindhand regions. Our hotel, it must be added, is clean and well kept, and even furnished with the luxury of baths. A few more royal cooks at the head of French country inns, and we should soon find cosmopolitan luxuries in out-of-the-way corners.

But such an epithet will not long apply to our favourite town. A railway now in course of construction will soon link it to Millau, on the Toulouse line, thus rendering it accessible from all south-westerly points. Who knows? This quaint, old-fashioned, thoroughly French hotel may be replaced a few years hence by some huge fashionable barracks, in which there will be a perpetual come and go of tourists furnished with return tickets, including the Causses, the gorges of the Tarn and Montpellier le Vieux.

An English pedestrian or cyclist or two have, I believe, found their way hither, but no lady tourists.

Poorly off in matters of sanitation, Le Vigan could not, nevertheless, afford to lose its one statue to its one hero. We all know the story of the gallant young Chevalier d'Assas, captain of an Auvergnat regiment, and of his no less heroic companion, the Sergeant Dubois: how when reconnoitring at night in the forest near Closter-camp, their men in ambush behind them, they came suddenly upon the foe. A dozen bayonets were pointed at their breasts with the whisper, 'Silence or death!'

The pair in a breath gave the warning: 'The enemy! Fire!' and fell side by side, pierced with the bullets alike of friend and foe.

This bronze statue is the only monument the town can boast of, but it possesses a compensation for many monuments - I allude to its noble grove of venerable chestnuts. Well-planted boulevards of plane-trees lead to what appears a bit of primeval forest - an assemblage of ancient trees, their knotted, hoary trunks each in girth huge as a windmill, in striking contrast to the bright foliage and abundant fruit. Nothing can be more weird and fantastic than these broken, corrugated stems, battered by storm, worn out by time, apparently dropping to pieces, yet at the root full of vitality, sending forth the most luxuriant harvest, the freshest, youthfullest leafage: the whole - the gray old world below, the fairy-like greenery above - making a glorious scene under the bright blue sky. May not this chestnut grove symbolize the phenomenal richness and activity of highly-endowed natures in old age - the Goethes, the Titians, the Voltaires? From these pleasant suburbs, little paths wind invitingly upward among the hills, planted on all sides with the vine, and although the summer is already so far advanced, wild-flowers abound. What a paradise this would be for the botanist in spring, or for the portrait painter! The good looks of the people, their rich colouring, fine stature, and dignified bearing, strike us ever with a sense of novelty.

How many makable places, if I may coin such a word, still remain in France - sweet spots, Cinderellas of the natural world, only awaiting the fairy godmother to turn them into princesses, courted by wealth and fashion. Many a nook in the environs of Le Vigan doubtless answers to this description. I will only describe one, Cauvalet, an inland watering-place sadly in need of enterprise and patronage.

The 'Etablissement des Bains' stands in a nest of greenery within ten minutes' drive of the town; its mineral waters, strongly impregnated with sulphur, are said to be very efficacious in rheumatic affections. We found a few visitors lounging in the gardens; with proper accommodation, and under good management, the place might doubtless become a miniature Vals. The same remark might be applied to many other equally favoured spots I have met with in my French travels. It is a consolation to remember that, sooner or later, their time must come. So enormously has the habit of travelling increased of late years among French people, that France itself will erelong prove too narrow for its own tourists, to say nothing of foreigners.

Our good hosts were very anxious that we should see everything. Accordingly we were escorted to one of the numerous silk factories in the town. Here, as at Vic-sur-Cere the year before, and in places to be described later on, we were rather treated as guests in a country house than Nos. 1 and 2 of an ordinary hotel. Everybody - master, mistress, and servants - wanted to do the honours of their native place for us, and this without any thought of interest or advantage. It was the good, invaluable, middle-aged chambermaid who, out of her own head and on her own account, carried us off to see the silk factory. The fact of two English ladies having come so far to see the country evidently impressed her wonderfully.

'Ah!' she sighed cheerfully, 'were it not for my good man and my demoiselles' (her daughters), 'how pleased I should be to return with you and see l'Angleterre!' and as she went along, having dressed herself in her Sunday's best for the occasion, she stopped in high glee to tell chance-met friends and neighbours that we were two Englishwomen come across the sea 'pour s'instruire' - for self-instruction. The fact of having crossed that tiny strip of sea ever impresses French country folk. Had we reached France by land, no matter the distance - say, from St. Petersburg - the exploit would not appear half so striking to them.

The work-room of a silk factory affords a curious spectacle.

At long narrow tables, stretched from end to end of the workshop, sit rows of girls manipulating in bowls of hot water the cocoons - in Gibbon's phrase, 'the golden tombs whence a worm emerges in the form of a butterfly' - carefully disengaging the almost imperceptible film of silk therein concealed, transferring it to the spinning-wheel, where it is spun into what looks like a thread of solid gold. Throughout the vast atelier hundreds of shuttles are swiftly plied, and on first entering the eye is dazzled with the brilliance of these broad bands of silk, bright, lustrous, metallic, as if of solid gold. This flash of gold is the only brightness in the place, otherwise dull and monotonous.

Gibbon gives a splendid page on the 'education of silkworms,' once considered as the labour of queens, and shows impatience with the learned Salmasius, who also wrote on the subject, because, unlike himself, he did not know everything. He tells us how two Persian monks, long resident in China, amid their pious occupations viewed with a curious eye the manufacture of silk; how they made the long journey to Constantinople, imparting their knowledge of the silkworm and its strictly guarded culture to the great Justinian; finally, how a second time they entered China, 'deceived a jealous people by concealing the eggs of the silkworm in a hollow cane, and returned in triumph with the spoils of the East.' 'I am not insensible of the benefits of an elegant luxury,' adds the historian, 'yet I reflect with some pain that if the importers of silk had introduced the art of printing, already practised by the Chinese, the comedies of Menander and the entire decade of Livy would have been perpetuated in the sixth century.'

Alas! a pound of silk is no longer worth twelve ounces of gold, as the Emperor Aurelian complained; and the education of the silkworm, instead of being the labour of queens, is far from a remunerative occupation.

The hours in these factories are terribly long - fifteen - two of which are, however, allowed for meals. The wages, on the other hand, contrast favourably with those of many of our own factories in which women are chiefly employed. About fifteenpence a day is the average pay, the ateliers being always closed on Sundays. Several causes have brought about a temporary depression of the French silk trade. Just as cheap Chinese and Japanese straw-plaits have paralyzed our home industry of hand-plaited straw in Bedfordshire, so cheap Oriental silks have, for a time at least, done much to supplant the more solid, richer, and more brilliant Lyons manufacture.

Again, the silkworm industry, not only in France, but in other countries, was some years back threatened with an enemy as ruthless as the phylloxera. It is interesting to learn that here science has come to aid with a simple but effectual remedy, which it is said has benefited French industry to the extent of the Prussian war indemnity, viz., four hundred million sterling (five milliards of francs). The silkworm-rearers are now taught to breed from healthy moths only. Girls and women are employed in examining the bodies of the moths with microscopes. If the diseased corpuscles are found, the eggs are discarded.

Thus, by a simple method of artificial selection, the silkworm industry has been rescued from what threatened to be a collapse.

Of course, one consequence of these fluctuations in rural industries is a universal migration into the towns, and consequent diminution of population in country places. The towns gain, but the villages lose. We find Le Vigan a little centre of increasing commercial activity, and the same may be averred of the secondary towns of this department, this prosperity having originally a different source.

The Protestant communities of France, formerly deprived, like the Jews, of civil and political rights, threw heart and soul into industrial pursuits. Wherever they settled they founded manufactures - cotton- mills, silk-factories, manufactures of woollen stuffs - many of which have flourished in these small towns on the outskirts of the Cevennes till this day.

The Gard is foremost of all other departments in the matter of silk-worm rearing, the Ardeche alone surpassing it in the number of silk-factories. In all the villages around Le Vigan are small silk-worm farms, the peasants rearing them on their own account, and selling them to the manufacturers. The curious on this subject will everywhere be cordially received, and gain any information they may require. At least, such was our own experience.