It is a charming drive from Nant to Millau. Our road winds round the delicious little valley of the Dourbie, the river ever cerulean blue, bordered with hay-fields, in which lies the fragrant crop of autumn hay ready for carting. By the wayside are tall acacias, their green branches tasselled with dark purple pods, or apple trees, the ripening fruit within reach of our hands. Little Italian-like towns, surrounded by ochre-coloured walls, are terraced here and there on the rich burnt-amber walls, the limestone ridges above and around taking the form of a long line of rampart or lofty fortress, built and fashioned by human hands. In contrast to this savagery, we have ever and anon before our eyes the sweet little river, no sooner lost to sight amid willow-bordered banks than found again.

Nervous people should avoid these drives, on account of the steep precipices, often within a few inches of the horses' heels. Wherever on the shelves of rock a few square yards of soil are found or can be laid, are tiny crops of buckwheat, potatoes, and beetroot. The weather has a southern warmth and brilliance, and in and out the burning-hot mountain wall on our left large beautiful brown lizards disport themselves. The road is very solitary. Till within the precincts of Millau, we meet only a few peasants and two Franciscan brothers.

The approach to Millau is very pretty. Almond and peach orchards, vineyards and gardens, form a bright suburban belt. Two rivers, the Tarn and the Dourbie, water its pleasant valley, whilst over the town tower lofty rocks in the form of an amphitheatre. Nant may be described as a little idyll. After it Millau comes disenchantingly by comparison.

Never was I in such a noisy, roystering, singing, lounging place. There was no special cause for hilarity; nothing was going on; the business of daily life seemed to be the making a noise.

In spite of its pretty entourage, too, the town is not engaging. Its hot, ill-kept, malodorous streets do not call forth an exploring frame of mind. The public garden is, however, a delightful promenade, and. the well-known photographer of these regions has his atelier in one of the most curious old houses to be seen anywhere.

Climbing a narrow, winding stone stair, we come upon an open court, with balconies running round each story, carved stone pillars supporting these; oleanders and pomegranates in pots make the ledges bright, whilst above the gleaming white walls shines a sky of Oriental brilliance. The whole interior is animated. Here women sit at their glove-making, the principal industry of the place, children play, pet dogs and cats sun themselves; all is sunny, careless, southern life - a page out of 'Graziella.'

There are several mediaeval facades, and some curious old carved arcades also; much, indeed, that is sketch worthy, if our artists could be brought to deem anything worth sketching in France, out of Brittany and Normandy.

Millau, once one of the stanchest Protestant communities of the Cevennes, was quite ruined by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

May not French history up to the date of the Revolution be summed up in a single sentence - one woman created France; another ruined it? The glorious work of Jeanne d'Arc was for a time wholly undone by the machinations of that arch enemy of mankind, Madame de Maintenon. We must travel in the Cevennes, and learn by heart the vicissitudes of these once-flourishing little Protestant centres to realize the bloodstained page in French history played by the bigoted adventuress whose sole ambition was to become Queen of France.

And how worthy of such a career the last little episode of her court life! When the old king, a shadow of his former self, lay on his dying bed, and whispered that his chief consolation in dying was the thought that she would rejoin him in heaven, Madame de Maintenon made no reply. She was, indeed, wearied of the task that had been, in her eyes, so inadequately rewarded - amusing for thirty and odd years a dull, resourceless, ennuye and ennuyant husband; and had no desire to see any more of him, either in this world or the next.

At present there is but a sprinkling of Protestants in Millau.

We took train to Mende. It is one of those delightfully slow trains which enable you to see the scenery in detail, after the leisurely fashion of Arthur Young, trotting through France on his Suffolk mare.

Part of the way lies through a romantic bit of country: chateau-crowned hills follow each other in succession, every dark crag having its feudal shell, whilst patchwork crops cover the lower slopes.

Everywhere vineyards predominate, so persistent the faith of the French cultivator in the vine, so touching the efforts made to entice it to grow on French soil. Few and far between are little wall-encompassed villages perched on the hilltops.

At Severac-le-Chateau romance culminates in the stern, yellowish-gray ruin cresting the green heights. A most picturesque little place is this, seen from the railway. We now leave behind us cornlands and the vine, and reach the region of pine and fir woods.

On the railway embankment we see the yellow-horned poppy and the golden thistle growing in abundance; many another flower, too, as brilliant brightens the way-a large, handsome broom, several kinds of mullein, with fern and heather.

Bright and strongly contrasted are the hues of the landscape - purply- black the far-off mountains, emerald-green the fields of rye and clover at their feet. A large portion of the land hereabouts is mere wilderness; yet the indomitable peasant wrenches up the boulders, cleans the ground of stones, and turns, inch by inch, the waste into productive soil. At every turn we are reminded of the dictum of 'that wise and honest traveller,' Arthur Young: 'The magic of property turns sands to gold.'

We are now in the region of the Causses; around us rise the spurs of Sauveterre and Severac. The scenery between Marvejols and Mende is grand; sombre, deep-green valleys, shut in by wide stretches of stupendous rocky wall, dark pinewoods, and brown wastes.

Then evening closes in, and the rest is lost to us. As on my first visit to Mende, a year ago, I lose the romantic approach to this wonderfully placed little city.

The Hotel Manse, whither we now betake ourselves, is a great improvement on the other mentioned in my first chapter in matters of situation, sanitation, and comfort; the people are very civil and obliging in both.

Here, however, we are not in the very heart of the stuffy, dirty, ill- kept town, but on the outskirts, looking on to suburban gardens and pleasant hills, with plenty of air to breathe.

Our rooms are so spacious, well-furnished, and clean that once more we regret we cannot stay for weeks. Such quarters might indeed tempt many a tourist to idle away a month here. The people are well-mannered, affable, and strikingly handsome; and if the town requires an advanced aedileship, no one need see much of it. Abundance of excursions are to be made from Mende, and the prices of hotels are very moderate.

At Millau we saw a drunken man, and in the streets of Mende one old woman came up to us begging an alms. I note these facts as we have so rarely encountered either drunkards or mendicants on our way.

Strangers might naturally expect a somewhat low standard of morality in a department so isolated from the great French highways and social centres as that of the Lozere. The railway to Mende, as I have before mentioned, dates from a few years only; up till that time the little bishopric in the mountains would often be completely shut off from the outer world by the snow, the only link being the telegraphic wire. Nevertheless, an exceptional freedom from crime distinguishes the country, as may be gathered from the following statement in a French newspaper, dated August 29th, 1888.

'The opening of the assizes of the Lozere, which should have taken place on the 3rd of September, will now be unnecessary, the list of cases being nil.' What are called 'white sessions' (assises blanches), for the matter of that, are of no infrequent occurrence in the department of the Lozere, eminently an honest one. This is the second time that 'white sessions' have distinguished it during the present year.

As the Lozere is essentially a region of peasant owners, far from the richest of their class, I commend the fact to the opponents of peasant property - albeit, I know too well, to small purpose. The people have no right to the soil in the eyes of these political economists. Whether the possession of the soil makes them better or happier is wholly beside the question. Just as the great autocrat Louis XIV, after very serious reflection on the matter, came to the solemn conclusion that his subjects had no right to any property whatever, and that the sovereign was the divinely-ordained owner of everything supposed to belong to them, so certain writers believe that, according to some direct Providential arrangement - a second choosing of a special people - not a Canaan alone, but every inch of Mother Earth, is the heaven-sent heritage of the superior few.