How can I describe the unimaginable picturesqueness of this little town wedged in between the crowding hills, dropped like a pebble to the bottom of a mountain-girt gulf?

St. Enimie has grown terrace-wise, zigzagging the steep sides of the Causse, its quaint spire rising in the midst of rows of whitewashed houses, with steel-gray overhanging roofs, vine-trellised balconies, and little hanging gardens perched aloft. On all sides just outside the town are vineyards, now golden in hue, peach-trees and almond groves, whilst above and far around the gray walls of the Causse shut out all but the meridian rays of the sun.

As I write this, at six o'clock on the evening of the 5th of September, the last crimson flush of the setting sun lingers on the sombre, grandiose Causse Mejean. All the rest of the scene, the lower ranges around, are in a cool gray shadow: silvery the spire and roofs just opposite my window, silvery the atmosphere of the entire picture. Nothing can be more poetic in colour, form, and combination.

Close under my room are vegetable gardens and orchards, whilst in harmony with the little town, and adding a still greater look of old-worldness, are the arched walls of the old chateau-fort. As evening closes in, the fascination of the scene deepens; spire and roofs, shadowy hill and stern mountain fastness, are all outlined in pale, silvery tones against a pure pink and opaline sky, the greenery of near vine and peach-tree all standing out in bold relief, blotches of greenish gold upon a dark ground. I must describe our inn, the most rustic we had as yet met with, nevertheless to be warmly recommended on account of the integrity and bonhomie of the people.

Somewhat magniloquently called the Hotel St. Jean, our hostelry is an auberge placing two tiny bedchambers and one large and presumably general sleeping-room at the disposal of visitors. We had, as usual, telegraphed for two of the best rooms to be had. So the two tiny chambers were reserved for us, the only approach to them being through the large room outside furnished with numerous beds. The tourist, therefore, has a choice of evils - a small inner room to himself, looking on to the town and gardens, or a bed in the large outer one beyond, the latter arrangement offering more liberty, freedom of ingress and egress, but less privacy. However, the rooms did well enough. A decent bed, a table, a chair, quiet - what does the weary traveller want beside?

Here, as at Le Vigan, we were received with a courteous friendliness that made up for all shortcomings. The master, a charming old man, a member of the town council (conseiller municipale), at once accompanied me to the post-office, where the young lady post-mistress produced letters and papers, probably the first English newspapers ever stamped with the mark of St. Enimie. The townsfolk stared at me in the twilight, but without offensive curiosity, I may here give a hint to future explorers of my own sex, that it is just as well to buy one's travelling-dress and head-gear in France. An outlandish appearance, sure to excite observation, is thus avoided. In the meantime the common inquiry was put to us, 'What will you have for dinner?' It really seemed as if we only needed to ask for any imaginable dish to get it, so rich in resources was this little larder at the world's end. The exquisite trout of the Tarn, here called the Tar; game in abundance and of excellent quality; a variety of fruit and vegetables-such was the dainty fare displayed in the tiny back parlour leading out of the kitchen. Soup in these parts, it must be confessed, is not very good. In other respects we fared as well for our five francs per diem, including lights and attendance, as if at some big Paris hotel paying our twenty-five!

The fastidious are warned that certain luxuries we have learned to regard as necessary to existence are unheard of in the Lozere. A bell, for instance - as well expect to find a bell here as in Noah's Ark! A very good preparation for this journey would be the perusal of Tieck's humorous novelette called 'Life's Superfluities' (Des Lebens Uberfluss), wherein he shows that with health, a cheerful disposition, and sympathetic companionship, we may do without anything in the way of an extra at all. Shelter, covering, bed - beyond these all is mere superfluity.

Having dined, we made inquiries as to the morrow's journey on the Tarn, and that somewhat portentous shooting of the rapids we longed for, yet could hardly help shrinking from.

Our host soon set our minds at rest, and smiled when I suggested discomfort and peril.

'Make your minds easy,' he said; 'I will myself answer for your safety.'

He then gave me the following printed programme of the day's excursion, which I translate below, as it shows into what excellent hands the stranger falls at St. Enimie. The most timid lady travellers may safely trust themselves to these town councillors and maires of the little villages bordering the Tarn. Not only will they be taken he very greatest care of; not only are they perfectly secure from any form of extortion: they make acquaintance throughout every stage of the way with the very best type of French peasant, a class of men, as will be shown in these pages, of whom any country might justly be proud. I have now a fairly representative experience of the French peasant. The dignity, sobriety, and intelligence of the Lozerien I have nowhere found surpassed. It was a happy thought of the leading men in these parts to organize a kind of tourist agency among themselves, thus keeping out strangers and speculators sure to spoil the business by overcharges. A village mayor here, a municipal councillor there, in all about a score of the inhabitants, have formed what they call 'La Compagnie de Batellerie St. Jean,' which ensures the traveller a fixed tariff, good boats, and, above all, experienced boatmen, for what is during the last stage of the way a somewhat hazardous journey. The prospectus runs thus:


'The Hotel St. Jean at St. Enimie places at the disposal of tourists a service of boats between that town and Le Rozier.

'The service is divided into four stages, the entire journey without halt occupying six hours.

'The corresponding members of the company at the four stations are as follows:

'At St. Enimie, St. Jean, hotel proprietor and town councillor.

'At St. Chely, Bernard, town councillor.

'At La Malene, Casimir Montginoux, hotel proprietor.

'At St. Prejet, Alphonse Solanet, mayor.

'The charge for the complete transit, whether the boat numbers one passenger or several, is forty-two francs, which may be paid to any of the boatmen or at any stage of the journey.'

St. Enimie is what Gibbon calls 'an aged town,' its sponsor and foundress being a Merovingian princess. For the pretty legend concerning this musically-named maiden, I refer readers to the guide-books, liking better to fill my pages with my own experiences than with matter to be had for the asking elsewhere.

Had it been somewhat earlier in the year, we might perhaps have decided to make a little stay here. But in the height of summer the heat is torrid on the Roof of France. In winter the cold is Arctic, and there is no autumn in the accepted sense of the word; winter might be at hand. We were advised by those in whose interest it was that we should remain, to lose no time and hurry on. Having bespoken the four relays of boatmen for next day, we betook ourselves to our little rooms, somewhat relieved by the fact that we were the only travellers, and that the large, general bedroom adjoining our own would be therefore untenanted. We had reckoned without our host, the comfortable beds therein being evidently occupied by various members of the family when the tourist season was slack. We were composing ourselves to sleep, each in our own chamber, when we heard the old master and mistress of the house, with some little grandchildren, steal upstairs and, quiet as mice, betake themselves to bed. Then all was hushed for the night.

Only one sound broke the stillness. Between one and two in the morning our driver descended from his attic. A quarter of an hour later there was a noise of wheels, pattering hoofs, and harness bells. He had started, as he told us was his intention, on his homeward journey, traversing the dark, solitary Causse alone, with only his lantern to show the way. Soon after five o'clock our old host, evidently forgetting that he had such near neighbours, or perhaps imagining that nothing could disturb weary travellers, began to chat with his wife, and before six, one and all of the family party had gone downstairs. I threw open my casement to find the witchery of last night vanished, cold gray mist enshrouding the delicious little picture, with its grandiose, sombre background. That clinging mist seemed of evil bodement for our expedition. Ought we to start on a long day's river journey in such weather? Yet could we stay?

I confess that there was something eerie in the isolation and remoteness of St. Enimie. Compared to the savagery and desolation of the Causses, it was a little modern Babylon - a corner of Paris, a bit of boulevard and bustle, but with such narrow accommodation, and with such limited means of locomotion at disposal, the prospect of a stay here in bad weather was, to say the least of it, disconcerting. I prepared in any case for a start, made my tea, performed my toilet, and packed my bag as briskly as if a bright sun were shining, which true enough it was, although we could not see!

When, soon after seven o'clock, I descended to the kitchen, I found our first party of boatmen busily engaged over their breakfast, and all things in readiness for departure.

'The sun is already shining on the Causse,' said our old host. 'This mist means fine weather. Trust me, ladies, you could not have a better day.'

We did our best to put faith in such felicitous augury. Punctually at eight o'clock, accompanied by the entire household of the little Hotel St. Jean, we descended to the landing-place, two minutes' walk only from its doors.