After a day of gloom and downpour the weather became again perfect - no burning sun, no cold wind; instead, we had a pearly heaven with shifting sunlight and cloud, and the softest air.

The carriage-roads of the Lozere are a good preparation for ascending Mont Blanc or the Eiffel Tower.

Here we seem to be perpetually going up or coming down in a balloon; and to persons afflicted with giddiness, each day's excursion, however delightful, takes the form of a nightmare when one's head rests on the pillow. For days, nay, weeks after these drives on the Roof of France, my sleep was haunted with giddy climbs and still giddier descents. It was the price I had to pay for some of the most glowing experiences of my much-travelled life. The journey to Montpellier-le-Vieux formed no exception to the rule. Happy, thrice happy, those who can foot it merrily all the way!

The pedestrian has by far the easier task. Throughout the two hours' drive thither, and the somewhat shorter journey back, the horses have to crawl at a snail's pace, their hoofs being within an inch or two of the steep incline as the sharp curves of the corkscrew road are turned. The way in many places is very rough and encumbered with stones; and there is a good deal of clambering to be done at the last. Let none but robust travellers therefore undertake this expedition, whether by carriage or on foot.

Our landlord drove us, much to our satisfaction; his horses, steadiest of the steady, his little dog - a distant cousin to my own pet at home - trotting beside us, sniffing the air joyously, as if he too were a tourist in search of exhilaration and adventure.

Over against Le Rozier, towering high above Peyreleau, its twin village, rises a sharp pyramidal spur of the Causse Noir, its shelving sides running vertically down. That mountain wall, impracticable as it seems, we have to scale.

The road cut so marvellously round it is excellent, wild lavender scenting the way. As we wind slowly upwards we see an old, bent woman filling a sack with the flowery spikes for sale. Thus the Causse, not in one sense but many, is the bread-winner of the people. We follow this zig-zag path westward, leaving behind us sunny slopes covered with peach-trees, vineyards, gardens and orchards, till flourishing little Le Rozier and its neglected step-sister, Peyreleau, are hidden deep below, dropped, as it seems, into the depths of a gulf.

An hour's climb and we are on the plateau, where the good road is quitted, and we take a mere cart-track between pastures, rye-fields, and woods of Scotch fir. So uneven and blocked with stones is the way here, that the poorest walker will soon be glad to get down. The deliciousness of the air, and the freshness of the scenery, however, soon make us insensible to bodily fatigue. Every minute we obtain wider and grander horizons, the three Causses being now in view, their distant sides shining like gigantic walls of crystal; deep blue shadows here and there indicating the verdant clefts and valleys we know of. All lightness and glitter are the remoter surfaces; all warm colour and depth of tone the nearer undulations. What a wealth of colour! what incomparable effects for an artist!

The prospect now increases in wildness, and we seem gradually to leave behind the familiar world. We are again in the midst of a stony wilderness, but a wilderness transformed into a fairy region of beauty and charm.

Nothing can be softer, more harmonious, more delicate than the soft gray tints of the limestone against the pure heaven; every bit of rock tapestried with the yellowing box-leaf, or made more silvery still with the flowers of the wild lavender.

East, west, north, south, the lines of billowy curves in the far distance grow vaster, till we come in sight of what seems indeed a colossal city towering westward over the horizon; a city well built, girt round with battlements, bristling with watch-towers, outlined in gold and amethyst upon a faint azure sky.

It is our first glimpse of Montpellier-le-Vieux.

The jolting now becomes excessive; we leave our carriage, conductor and little dog to follow a traverse leading to Maubert, the farmhouse and auberge where are to be had guides, food, and bedchambers for those who want them.

We could not miss the way, our driver said, and woe betide us if we did! We seem already to have found the city of rocks, the famous Cite du Diable; so labyrinthine these streets, alleys, and impasses of natural stone, so bewildering the chaos around us. For my own part, I could not discern the vestige of a path, but my more keen-eyed companion assured me that we were on the right track, and her assertion proved to be correct. After a laborious picking of our way amid the pele-mele of jumbled stones, we did at last, and to our great joy, catch sight of a bit of wall. This was Maubert; a square, straggling congeries of buildings approached from behind, and of no inviting aspect. A dunghill stood in front of the house, and hens, pigs, and the friendliest dogs in the world disported themselves where the flower-garden ought to have been. At first the place seemed altogether deserted. We knocked, shouted, ran hither and thither in vain. By-and-by crawled forth, one after the other, three ancient, hag-like women, staring at us and mumbling words we could not understand. On nearer inspection they seemed worthy old souls enough, evidently members of the household; but as their amount of French was scant, they hurried indoors again. A few minutes later a young, handsome, untidy woman popped her head from an upper window, and seeing that we were tourists, immediately came downstairs to welcome us.

She would send for her husband to act as guide at once, she said; in the meantime, would we breakfast?

I am sorry to confess that this young mistress of the house - a bride, moreover, of three months - did poor credit to the gifts Nature had lavished upon her. Very bright, good-looking, amiable and intelligent she was, but sadly neglectful of her personal appearance, with locks unkempt and dress slatternly - a strange contrast to the neat, clean, tidy peasant-women we had seen elsewhere on our journey.

The farmhouse, turned into a hostelry, only required a little outlay and cosmopolitan experience to be transformed into quite a captivating health resort. If, indeed, health is not to be recruited on these vast, flower-scented heights, nearly three thousand feet above the sea-level, swept clean by the pure air of half a dozen mountain chains, where may we hope to find invigoration?

Even now non-fastidious tourists may be fairly comfortable. A large, perfectly wholesome upper dining-room; bedrooms containing excellent beds; a farmhouse ordinary with game in abundance; courteous, honest hosts, and one of the marvels of the natural world within a stroll - surely scores of worn-out brain-workers would regard Maubert as a paradise, in spite of trifling drawbacks.

We found a pleasant young French tourist with his blue-bloused guide eating omelettes in the salle-a-manger. Soon the master of the house came up - a young man of perhaps twenty-five - as well favoured as his wife, and much neater in appearance. This youthful head of the family possesses a large tract of Causse land, besides owning in great part what may prove in the future - is, indeed, already proving - a mine of wealth, an El Dorado, namely, the city of rocks, Montpellier-le-Vieux.

We now set out, our host, whilst quite ready to chat, possessing all the dignity and reserve of the Lozerien mountaineer. As we sauntered through patches of oats, rye, potatoes, and hay, I obtained a good deal of information about rural affairs.

'As near as you can guess, how large is the size of your property?' I asked.

I had learned by experience that the precise acreage of these highland farms is seldom to be arrived at, the size of a holding in the Lozere and the Cantal often being computed by the heads of stock kept.

He informed me that he owned four hundred hectares, that is to say, nearly a thousand acres, a considerable portion of which consisted of rocky waste or scant pasturage. He employed several labourers, possessed a flock of several hundred sheep, six oxen for ploughing, besides pigs and poultry.

Here, as elsewhere throughout France, all kinds of land tenure are found. Thus we find land let or owned in holdings from two and a half to a thousand hectares, some of the tenant farmers hereabouts paying a rental of several hundred pounds a year. Roquefort cheese is the most important production, and sheep are always housed like other cattle in winter. Here is a hint for Welsh farmers!

'Have you any neighbours?' I asked.

'Oh, yes!' he replied, 'farmers here and there. And we have a postal delivery every day in summer; when winter comes we get letters as we can. I take a newspaper, too. It is not so out of the way a place as it seems. But a church! Ah, church-going is impossible; the nearest is too far off.' He added: 'This influx of tourists is changing everything. I never saw anything like it. My uncle, who acts as guide here, is always occupied now, and I am so much in request as guide too during the summer season, that I think of letting my farm and giving myself wholly up to the business of hotel-keeper. I should keep mules for tourists, horses and carriages, improve the roads, and furnish my house better. There is to be a model of Montpellier-le-Vieux at the grand exhibition in Paris next year; that will make people come here more than ever. I have almost decided to do as I say.'

I thought to myself that the model of a house constructed on strictly scientific principles should be exhibited also. Nothing were easier than the proposed transformation; but it is less money and enterprise that are needed than knowledge of the world and its ways. I wished that I could invite this intelligent, well-mannered young peasant and his handsome, sprightly wife to England, in order to show them how much more besides good food and good beds are summed up in our oft-quoted 'le confort.'