Although the last days of May had come, the Alzou, usually dry at this time, was running with swift, strong current through the vale of Roc-Amadour. There had been so many thunderstorms that the channel was not large enough for the torrent that raced madly over its yellow pebbles. I lingered awhile in the meadow by the stream, looking at the rock-clinging sanctuary before wandering in search of the unknown up the narrow gorge.

In a garden terraced upon the lower flank of the rock, the labour of generations having combined to raise a soil there deep enough to support a few plum, almond, and other fruit trees, a figure all in black is hard at work transplanting young lettuces. It is that of a teaching Brother. He is a thin grizzled man of sixty, with an expression of melancholy benevolence in his rugged face. I have watched him sitting upon a bench with his arm round some little village urchin by his side, while the children from the outlying hamlets, sprawling upon a heap of stones in the sun, ate their mid-day meal of bread and cheese or buckwheat pancakes that their mothers had put into their baskets before they trudged off in the early morning. I have noticed by many signs that he is full of sympathy for the young peasants placed in his charge. Yet with all his kindness he is melancholy. So many years in one place, such a dull routine of duty, such a life of abnegation without the honour that sustains and encourages, such impossibility of being understood and appreciated by those for whose sake he has been breaking self upon the wheel of mortification since his youth, have made him old before the time and fixed that look of lurking sadness in his warmly human eyes.

There are few problems more profound than that of the courage with which men like him continue their self-imposed penal-servitude until they become too infirm to work and are sent to die in some refuge for aged frères. They have accepted celibacy and poverty, that they may the better devote their lives to the instruction of children. They have no sacerdotal state or ideal, no ecclesiastical nor social ambition to help them. They must be always humble; they must not even be learned, for much knowledge in their case would be considered a dangerous thing. Their minds must not rise above their work. They guide dirty little fists in the formation of pot-hooks, and when they have led the boys' intelligence up a few more steps of scholarship the end is achieved. The boy goes out into the world and refreshes his mind with new occupation; but the poor Brother remains chained to his dreary task, which is always the same and is never done.

And what are the wages in return for such a life? Food that many a workman would consider insufficiently generous for his condition, a bed to lie upon and clothes which call down upon the wearer the sarcasms of the town-bred youth. What a land of contrast is France!

There are three Brothers here, but this one, the eldest, is the head. Others come and go, but he remains. Most of his spare time is given to the garden. When the eight o'clock bell begins to swing he will leave his lettuces and soon perch himself on the little platform behind his shabby old desk in the dingy schoolroom, which even in the holidays cannot get rid of its ancient redolence of boys. The school-house, now so much like a prison, was once a mansion, and the most modern part of it is of the period which we should call in England Tudor. A Gothic doorway leads into a hall arched and groined, the inner wall being the bare rock, as is the case with most of the houses at Roc-Amadour. A gutter cut in the stone floor to carry off the drippings formed by the condensation of the air upon the cold surface shows that these half-rock dwellings have their drawbacks.

I leave Roc-Amadour and take my way up the valley. Nature has now reached all that can be attained in vernal pride and beauty here. In a little while she will have put on the careworn look of the Southern summer. Many a plant now in splendid bloom, animated by the spirit of loveliness that presides over the law of reproduction, will soon be casting its seed and bringing its brief destiny to a close. Now all is coquetry, beauty, and ravishment. The rock-hiving bees, unconscious instruments of a great purpose, are yellow with pollen and laden with honey. They find more, infinitely more, nectar than they can carry away. The days are long, and every hour is full of joy. But already the tide is at the turn. The nightingale's rapturous song has become a lazy twitter; the bird has done with courtship; it has a family in immediate prospect, if not one already screaming for food, and the musician has half lost his passion for music. It will come again next year. How swiftly all this life and colour of spring passes away! So much to be looked at and so little time!

This narrow strip of meadow that winds along the bottom of the gorge is not the single tinted green ribbon it lately was. The light of its verdure has been dimmed by the light of flowers. The grass mounts high, but not higher than the oxeye daisies, the blue racemes of stachys, the mauve-coloured heads of scabious, the bladder-campions, the yellow buttercups and goat's-beard. The oxeyes are so numberless in one long reach of meadow that a white drapery, which every breeze folds or unfolds, seems to have been cast as light as sea-foam upon the illimitable forest of stems. The white butterflies that flutter above are like flecks of foam on the wing. Elsewhere it is the blue of the stachys and the spiked veronica that rules. Deeper in the herbage other races of flowers shine in the fair groves of this grassy paradise, and every blossom, however small, is a mystery, a miracle. Here is the star of Bethlehem, wide open in the sunshine and showing so purely white amidst the green, and yonder is the purple fringe-like tuft of the weird muscari. Along the banks of the stream tall lilac-purple, stock-like flowers rise proudly above the grasses. They belong to the hesperis or dame's violet, a common wild-flower in this valley. Upon my left is the abrupt stony slope of the gorge. Between it and the meadow are shrubs of yellow jessamine starred with blossom. But the stony steep that dazzles the eyes with the sun's reflected glare has its flowers too. Nature, in her great passion for beauty, even draws it out of the disintegrated fragments of time-worn rock, whose banks would otherwise be as stark and dry as the desert sand. Lightly as flakes of snow the frail blossoms of the white rock-rose lie upon the stones. Then there are patches of candytuft running from white into pink, crimson flowers of the little crane's-bill, and spurges whose floral leaves are now losing their golden green and taking a hue of fiery brown.

An open wood, chiefly of dwarf oak, and shrubs such as the wayfaring tree, the guelder-rose, and the fly-honeysuckle, now stretches along the opposite side of the gorge. Here scattered groups of columbine send forth a glow of dark blue from the shadowy places; the lily of the valley and its graceful ever-bowing cousin, the Solomon's seal, show their chaste and wax-like flowers amidst the cool green of their fresh leaves; and the monkey-orchis stands above the green moss and the creeping geraniums like a little rocket of pale purple fire just springing from the earth towards the lingering shreds of storm-cloud that are melting in the warm sky.

In a few weeks what will have become of all this greenness and beautiful colour of flowers? The torrid sun and the hot breath of summer will have burnt up the fair garment of spring, and laid bare the arid sternness of the South again. The nightingale still warbles fitfully in the green bushes, but the raven, perched up yonder upon the stark rock, croaks like a misanthrope at the quick passing away of youth and loveliness. What sad undertones, mournful murmurs of the deep that receives the drifted leaves, mingle with the spring's soft flutings and all the voices that proclaim the season of joy!

While listening and day-dreaming, I was overtaken by a man and his donkey, both old acquaintances. Every day, except Sundays and the great Church festivals, when the peasants of the Quercy abstain from work, like those of Brittany, this pair were in the habit of trudging together side by side to fetch and bring back wood from the slopes of the gorge. The ass did all the carrying, and his master the chopping and sawing. It was a monotonous life, but both seemed to think they were not worse off than the majority of men and donkeys. The man was contented with his daily soup of bread-and-water, with an onion or a leek thrown in, and a suspicion of bacon, and the beast with such herbage as he could find while his master was getting ready another load of wood. The man was an old soldier, who had seen some rough service, for he was at Sedan, and was afterwards engaged in the ghastly business of shooting down his own countrymen in Paris. But, with all this, he was as quiet a tempered creature as his donkey, which he treated as a friend. The army, he told me, was the best school for learning how to treat a beast with proper consideration.

I asked why.

'Because,' replied he, 'when a soldier is caught beating a horse, he has eight days of salle de police.'

Man and donkey having disappeared into a wood, my next companion was a small blue butterfly that kept a few yards in front of me, now stopping to look at a flower, now fluttering on again. Some insects, as well as certain birds, appear to derive much entertainment from watching the movements of that fantastic animal - man.

Arcadian leafiness: rocky desolation befitting the mouth of hell. Grass and flowers on which souls might tread in the paradise of the Florentine poet. Stony forms, monstrous, enigmatic, reared like symbolic tokens of defeated gods, or of the worn-out evil passions that troubled old creation before the coming of man, and the fresh order of spiritual and carnal bewilderment. Why should I go on and seek further amazement, while from the lowest to the highest I can read not one of the mystic figures of the solitude around me? What is my relation to them, and theirs to me? Why should that beetle in the grass, upon whose back all the colours of the prism change and glow like supernatural fire, trouble me with the cause and motive of its beauty? Why should yonder rock, standing like a spar of some ship wrecked in a cataclysm of the awful past, draw me to it as though it were the image of a grand, yet unattainable and blighted, longing of the human soul?

The gorge became so narrow and the rocks so high that there was a twilight under the trees, which still dripped with the rain-drops of last night's storm. Hesperis, columbine, and geranium contrasted their floral colours with the deep green of the young grass. Some spots of dark purple were on the ground where the light was most dim. They were the petals and calyxes of that strange flower, lathraea, of the broom-rape family. Each bloom seemed to be carried in the cup of another flower. The plant had no leaves, for it was a thief that drew its nutriment from the root of an honest little tree that had struggled upward in the shade of strong and greedy rivals, and had raised its head at length into the sunshine in spite of them.

After some difficulty in working round and over rocks that barred, the passage, I came to a spot where it was impossible to follow the gorge any farther. The walls narrowed to an opening a few yards wide, where the stream fell in a cascade of some thirty feet. I took my mid-day meal like a forester in the midst of this beautiful desolation, and then, having found a spot where I could escape from the gorge of the Alzou, I climbed the steep towards the north.

Here there was a blinding glare of sunshine reflected by the naked stones. Goats looked down at me from the upper rocks near the line of the blue sky. When I reached the boy who tended them, I asked him the way to the road that I wished to strike upon the plateau. After staring at me for some time, he screwed up his mouth, and said: 'Je comprenais pas français, you.' You did not apply to me, but to himself, for it means I in the Southern dialect.

Here was a boy unable to speak French, although all children in France are now supposed to be educated in the official language of the republic. Such cases are uncommon. In the Haut-Quercy, where patoisis the language of everybody, even in the towns, one soon learns the advantage of asking the young for the information that one may need.

I found the road I wanted, and also the spot marked on the map as the Saut de la Pucelle. It is one of those numerous gouffres to be found in the Quercy, especially in the district of the Dordogne.

Here a stream plunges beneath the surface of the earth to join the subterranean Ouysse, or the Dordogne. A ravine, sinking rapidly, becomes a deep, dark, and gloomy gully, at the end of which is a wall of rock. The stream pours down a tunnel-like passage, at the base of the rock, with a melancholy wail. Where the sides are not too steep they are covered with trees and shrubs.

As I stood amidst the poisonous dog-mercury, under the hanging ivy and the hart's-tongue ferns, watching the stream glitter on the edge of everlasting darkness, and listening to its death-dirge, I pictured awful shadows issuing from the infernal passage and seizing the terror-stricken ghost of the guilty horseman, of whom I had heard from a local legend.

This legend, as it is commonly told, is briefly as follows: Centuries ago a virtuous young woman was persecuted by the lord of a neighbouring castle, who was not at all virtuous. One day, when she was mounted upon a mule, he gave chase to her on horseback. He was rapidly gaining upon her, and she, in agony of soul, had given herself up for lost, when, by one of those miracles which were frequent in those days, especially in the country of Notre Dame de Roc-Amadour, the mule, by giving a vigorous stamp with one of his hind-legs, kicked a yawning gulf in the earth, which he, however, lightly passed over with his burden, while the wicked pursuer, unable to check his steed in time, perished in the abyss.

Another legend of the Maiden's Leap is more romantic, but less supernatural. It is a story of the English occupation of Guyenne, and the revolt of the Quercynois in 1368. Before the main body of the British force that subdued Roc-Amadour as related by Froissart arrived in the Haut-Quercy, the castle of Prangères, near Gramat, was entered by a troop of armed men in the English service under Jéhan Péhautier, one of those brigand captains of whom the mediaeval history and legends of Guyenne speak only too eloquently. An orphan, Bertheline de Castelnau, châtelaine of Prangères in her own right, was in the fortress when it was thus taken by surprise. Captivated by her beauty, Jéhan Péhautier essayed to make Bertheline his prisoner; but she made her escape from the castle by night, and endeavoured to reach the sanctuary of Roc-Amadour on foot. Her flight was discovered, and Péhautier and a party of horsemen started in pursuit. She would have been quickly captured had she not met a mounted knight, who was no other than her lover, Bertrand de Terride. She sprang upon his horse, and away they both went through the oak forest which then covered the greater part of the causse; but the gleam of the knight's armour in the moonlight kept the pursuers constantly upon his track. Slowly but surely they gained upon the fugitives. Suddenly Bertheline, who knew the country, perceived that Bertrand was spurring his horse directly towards the precipice now called the Saut de la Pucelle. It was too late, however, to avoid the gulf; she had only time to murmur a brief prayer before the horse bounded over the edge of the rock. To the great wonder and joy of the lovers, the animal cleared the ravine, and alighted safely on the other side. But a very different fate awaited the pursuers. On they came, crashing through the wood, shouting exultantly, for they believed that the prey was now almost in their grasp, when suddenly the air was rent with cries of horror, mingled with the sound of crashing armour, and bodies falling upon the rocks and upon the bed of the stream. An awful silence followed. The dead men and horses were lying in the dark water. As Péhautier felt the solid earth leave him, he gave out his favourite oath, 'Mort de sang!' in a frightful shriek, and the words long afterwards rang in the ears of Bertheline and Bertrand.

As I returned to this spot some months later in order to explore the cavern, I may as well give an account of the adventure here. I was accompanied by my neighbour Decros, who gave his donkey on this occasion a half-holiday. Decros, although a native of the locality, could not tell me how far the cavern extended, for he had never been tempted to explore its depths himself, nor had he heard of anybody who knew more than himself about it. A story, however, was told of a shepherd-boy who long ago went down the opening, and was never seen again.

'Perhaps,' said I, 'we shall find his skeleton.' This observation brought a peculiar expression to my companion's face, which meant that he had no ambition whatever to share the surprise of such a discovery. Although he had done his duty bravely in the war of 1870, he was by no means free from the awe with which these gouffres inspired the country-people, and his soldiering had still left him a Cadurcian Celt, with much of the superstition that he had drawn in with his native air. One morning he found that his donkey had nearly strangled himself over-night with the halter, and Decros could not shake off the impression that this accident was an omen intended to convey some message from the other world. He was ready to go with me into any cavern; but I am sure he would have much preferred scaling dangerous rocks in the broad sunlight, for there he would have felt at home.

There was not too much water to offer any danger, so we stooped down and entered the low vault after lighting candles. The roof soon rose, and we were in a spacious cavern, the sides of which had evidently been washed and worn away into hollows by the sea that rolled here long before the mysterious race raised its dolmens and tumuli upon the surrounding knolls. The passage was wide enough for us to walk on the margin of the stream, or where the water was very shallow; but had much rain fallen, the expedition would have been perilous, for the descending torrent would then have been strong enough to carry a man off his legs.

Stalactites hung from the rocks overhead, and as we proceeded they became more numerous, more fantastic, and more beautiful. They were just as the dropping water had slowly fashioned them in the darkness of ages, where day and night were the same, where nothing changed but themselves, save the voice of the stream, which grew louder or softer according to the play of winds and sunshine and clouds upon the upper world. Some tapered to a fine point, others were like pendant bunches of grapes; all were of the whiteness of loaf-sugar. No tourists stricken with that deplorable mania for taking home souvenirs of everything, and ready to spoil any beauty to gratify their vanity or their acquisitiveness, had cast stones into the midst of the fairy handicraft of the wizard water for the sake of a fragment; nor had the village boys amused themselves here at the expense of the stalactites, for happily they had been well trained in the horror of the supernatural. The cavern ran for a certain distance south-west; then the gallery turned at a sharp angle north-north-west, and continued in this direction. We followed the stream some three or four hundred yards, and then it entered a deep pool or lake under low rocks. We tried a side-passage to see if it led round this obstacle, but it soon came to an end. As I stood on the brink of the deep, black, silent pool, I had a great longing to know what lay beyond; but I had to content myself with imagining the unrevealed wonders of the cavern. It would be just possible, by crouching down in a little boat, to pass under the rock, which is probably no insuperable obstacle. The roof is just as likely to form a high vault on one side of it as on the other. The water is the serious obstacle; but it is safe to say, from the character of the formation, that the deep pool does not extend very far. A peculiarity of these underground streams of the causses is that they generally form a chain of pools.

If a shepherd-boy really lost his life in this cavern, he must have done so by trying to pass the pool, unless he was washed into it by a sudden rush of water after a heavy storm. It must be confessed that the spot is calculated to fill one with superstitious dread. The calm of the deep water into which the stream glides makes it quite easy to imagine, with the help of the surroundings, that there is an evil spirit lurking in it - perhaps that of the wicked Péhautier whom the demons dragged down here. I had another grim thought: Supposing this water, in obedience to some pressure elsewhere, should rise suddenly and flood the lower part of the cavern! There is no knowing what tricks water may play in this fantastic region, where the tendency of rivers is to flow underground, and where one gallery may be connected with a ramification of water-courses extending over many miles of country, and with reservoirs which empty themselves periodically by means of natural syphons. There is a world full of marvels under the causses of the Lot, the Aveyron, and the Lozère; but although much more will be known about it, a vast deal will remain for ever hidden from man.

I will now return to my wayfaring across the Causse de Gramat in the early summer.

I had passed through the village of Alvignac - a little watering-place that draws all the profit it can from a ferruginous spring which rises at Miers hard by, but otherwise uninteresting, and had left on my right the village of Thégra, where the troubadour Hugues de St. Cyr was born, when suddenly the landscape struck me with the sentiment of England. For some hours I had been walking chiefly over the stony causse, searching for a so-called castle that was not worth the trouble of finding. I had seen spurge and juniper, and ribs of rock rising everywhere above the short turf, until I grew weary of the sameness. Now, the sun, whose ardour was already melting into the tenderness of evening, shone upon a broad valley, where the grass stood high in rich meadows separated from other meadows and green cornfields by hedges, from the midst of which rose many a tall tree. The blackbird's low, flute-like note sounded above the shrilling of the grasshoppers.

The little village of Padirac was entered at sundown. The small inn where I chose my quarters for the night had a garden at the back, where vines in new leaf were trained, over a trellis from end to end. There were also broad beans in flower, peas on sticks, currant-bushes, and pear-trees. It was a quiet, green spot, and as I strolled about it in the twilight, vague recollections of other gardens chased one another, but it would have been hard to say whether they were pleasant or sad. My dinner or supper was of sorrel soup and part of a goose that was killed the previous autumn, and, after being slightly salted, was preserved in grease.

Lean tortoiseshell cats, with staring eyes and tails like strings, kept near at hand, and seemed ready to commit any crime for the smallest particle of goose. String-tailed, goggle-eyed, meagre cats that seize your dinner if you do not keep watch over it, and when caressed promptly respond by scratching and swearing, appear to be held in high favour throughout this district. They are expected to live upon rats, and it is this that makes them so disagreeable, for although they kill rats for the pleasure of the chase, they do not like the flavour of them. On this subject there is a standing quarrel between them and society, which insists upon their eating the animals that they kill. In order that the cats shall have every facility for the chase, holes are often cut in the bottom of house-doors, so that at night they may go in and come out as the quarry moves them. Should any food have been left about, what with the rats and the cats, not a trace of it will be seen in the morning. This I know from experience.

Being within a mile or so of the Puit de Padirac - that gloomy hole in the earth which was supposed to be one of the devil's short-cuts between this world and his own, until M. Martel proved almost conclusively that it was not the way to the infernal city, but to a subterranean river, and a chain of lakes that could be followed for two miles - I set out the next morning to find it. I might have spent hours in vain casting about, but for the help of a peasant, who offered, quite disinterestedly, to be my guide. He was an old man, with a very Irish face, and eyes that laughed at life. But for his language he would have seemed a perfectly natural growth of Cork or Kerry.

Here may be the place to remark that the stock of the ancient Cadurci appears to have been much less impaired here in an ethnological sense by the mingling of races than in the country round Cahors. The peasants, generally, have nothing distinctively Southern in their appearance, although they speak a dialect which is in the main a Latin one, the Celtic words that have been retained being in a very small proportion. Gray or blue eyes are almost as frequent among them as they are with the English, and many of the village children have hair the colour of ripening maize.

We left the fertile valley and rose upon the stone-scattered causse where hellebore, spurges, and juniper were the only plants not cropped close to the earth by the flocks of sheep which thrive upon these wastes. All the sheep are belled, but the bells they wear are like big iron pots hanging upon their breasts. Each pot has a bone that swings inside of it and serves as a hammer. The chief use of these bells is to prevent the animal from leaving its best wool, that of the breast, upon the thorns of bushes.

We have now reached the brink of the pit, which is not bottomless, but looks so until the eye faintly distinguishes something solid at a depth that has been measured at 175 feet. The opening is almost circular, with a diameter at the orifice of 116 feet. This prodigious well, sunk in successive layers of secondary rock, looks as if it had been regularly quarried; but men could never have had the motive for giving themselves so much trouble. Did the rock fall in here? No explanation is satisfactory. How it fills one with awe to look into the depth while lying upon a slab of stone that stretches some distance beyond the side of the pit! Bushes with twisted and fantastic arms, growing, they or their ancestors, from time immemorial in the clefts of the rock, reach towards the light, and the elfish hart's-tongue fern, itself half in darkness, points down with frond that never moves in that eternal stillness which all the winds of heaven pass over, to a thicker darkness whence comes the everlasting wail and groan of hidden water.

This horrid gulf being in the open plain, with not even a foot of rough wall round it as a protection for the unwary, I asked the old man if people had never fallen into it.

'Yes,' he answered, 'but only those who have been pushed by evil spirits.'

He meant that only self-murderers had fallen into the Puit de Padirac. 'Pushed by evil spirits.' Perhaps this is the best of all explanations of the suicidal impulse. Strong thoughts are sometimes hidden under the simplicity of rustic expression. He told me the story of a man who, having gone by night to throw himself into the Puit de Padirac, came in contact with a tough old bush during his descent which held him up. By this time the would-be suicide disliked the feeling of falling so much that, so far from trying to free himself from the bush and begin again, he held on to it with all his might and shrieked for help. But as people who are not pushed by evil spirits give the Puit de Padirac a wide berth after sundown, the wretched man's cries were lost in the darkness. The next morning the shepherd children, as they led their flocks over the plain, heard a strange noise coming from the pit, but their horror was stronger than their curiosity, and they showed their sheep how to run. They went home and told their fathers what they had heard, and at length some persons were bold enough to look down the hole, from which the dismal sound the children had noticed continued to rise. Thus the cause of the mysterious noise was discovered, and the man was hauled up with a rope. He never allowed the evil spirits to push him into the Puit de Padirac again.

The people of these causses have a supernatural explanation for everything that they cannot account for by the light of reason and observation. They have their legend with regard to the Puit de Padirac, and it is as follows: St. Martin, before he became Bishop of Tours, was crossing one day this stony region of the Dordogne to visit a religious community on the banks of the Solane, whither he had been despatched by St. Hilary. He was mounted on a mule, and was ambling along over the desert plunged in pious contemplation, when he heard a little noise behind, and, looking round, he was surprised to see a gentleman close to him, who was also riding a mule. The stranger was richly dressed, and was altogether a very distinguished-looking person, but the excessive brilliancy of his eyes was a disfigurement. They shone in his head like two bits of burning charcoal. 'What do you want, cruel beast?' said St. Martin. This would scarcely have been saintly language had he not known with whom he had to deal. The gentleman thus impolitely addressed returned a soft answer, and forced his company upon the saint, who wished him - at home. Presently Lucifer, for it was he, began to 'dare' St. Martin, after the manner of boys to-day. 'If I kick a hole in the ground I dare you to jump over it,' was the sort of language employed by the gentleman with the too-expressive eyes. 'Done!' said St. Martin, or something equivalent. 'Digging pits is quite in my line of business!' exclaimed the devil, in so disagreeable a voice that the saint's mule would have bolted had the holy rider not kept a tight rein upon her. At the same moment the ground over which the infernal mule had just passed fell in with a mighty rumble and crash, leaving a yawning gulf. 'Now,' said Lucifer, 'let me see you jump over that!' Whereupon, the bold St. Martin drove his spurs into his mule and lightly leapt over the abyss. And this was how the Puit de Padirac was made. The peasants believe that they can still see on a stone the imprint left by the hoof of St. Martin's mule. This adventure did not cause the saint and the devil to part company. They rode on together as far as the valley of Medorium (Miers). 'Now,' said St. Martin, 'you jump over that!' pointing to a little stream that was seen to flow suddenly and miraculously out of the earth. Before challenging the arch enemy he had, however, taken the precaution to lay two small boughs in the form of a cross on the brink of the water. In vain the devil spurred his mule and used the worst language that he could think of to induce the beast to jump. The animal would not; but, as the spurring and swearing were continued, it at length went down on its knees before the cross. But this did not suit the devil's turn. On the contrary, the proximity of that emblem which St. Martin had placed unobserved on the ground made him writhe as though he had fallen into a font. Then with the speed of a lightning flash he returned to his own kingdom - possibly by the Puit de Padirac. A church dedicated to the saint was afterwards built near the scene of his triumph, and the healing spring where it comes out of the earth is still known by the name of Lou Fount Sen Morti - St. Martin's Fountain.

Having left the pit, we went in the direction of Loubressac, to which village my companion belonged. While still upon the causse a spot was reached where a small iron cross had been raised. The stone pedestal bore this inscription:


The old man knew Hélène Bonbègre when he was young, and he told me the tragic story of her death on this spot. She was going home in the evening, and her sweetheart the blacksmith accompanied her a part of the distance. They then separated, and she went on alone. They had been watched by the jealous and unsuccessful lover, whose heart was on fire. Where the cross stands the girl was found lying, a naked corpse. The murderer was soon captured, and most of the people in the district went to St. Céré to see him guillotined. It was a spectacle to be talked over for half a century. The blacksmith never forgave himself for having left the girl to go home alone, and it was he who forged the cross that marks the scene of the crime and sets the wayfarer conjecturing.

The peasant changed his ideas by filling his pipe. He smoked tobacco that he grew in a corner of his garden for his own use, and which he enjoyed all the more because it was tabac de contrebande. He gave me some, which I likewise smoked without any qualm of conscience, and thought it decidedly better than some tobacco of the régie. He lit his pipe with smuggled matches. Had I been an inspector in disguise, I should never have made matters unpleasant for him; he was such a cheery, good-natured companion. He had brought up his family, and had now just enough land to keep him without breaking his back over it. He was quite satisfied with things as they were. I did not ask him if he was a poacher, but took it for granted that he was whenever he saw a good chance. Almost every peasant in the Haut-Quercy who has something of the spirit of Nimrod in him is more or less a poacher. Those who like hare and partridge can eat it in all seasons by paying for it. Occasionally the gendarmes capture a young and over-zealous offender, but the old men, who have followed the business all their lives, are too wary for them. They are also too respectable to be interfered with.

At Loubressac I took leave of my entertaining friend, but not before we had emptied a bottle of white wine together. It was a vin du pays, this district having been less tried by the phylloxera than others farther south and west. I was surprised to find white wine there, the purple grape having been almost exclusively cultivated for centuries in what is now the department of the Lot.

In the room of the inn where I lunched there were four beds; two at one end and two at the other. There was plenty of space left, however, for the tables. The rafters were hidden by the heads of maize that hung from them. The host sat down at the same table with me, and when he had nearly finished his soup he poured wine into it, and, raising the plate to his lips, drank off the mixture. Objectionable as this manner of drinking wine seems to those who have not learnt to do it in their youth, it is very general throughout Guyenne. Those who have formed the habit would be most unhappy if they could not continue it.Faire chabron is the expression used to describe this sin against good manners. The aubergiste was very friendly, and towards the close of the meal he brought out a bottle of his old red wine that he had treasured up 'behind the faggot.'

Before reaching this village I had heard of a retired captain who lived here in a rather dilapidated château, and who was very affable to visitors, whom he immediately invited to look through his telescope, which, although not a very large one, had a local celebrity, such instruments being about as rare as blue foxes in this part of the world. Conducted by the innkeeper, I called upon this gentleman. The house was one of those half-castellated manors which became scattered over France after the Renaissance, and of which the greater number were allowed to fall into complete or partial ruin when the territorial families who were interested in them were extinguished or impoverished by the Revolution. They are frequently to be found in Guyenne, but they are generally occupied by peasants either as tenant-farmers or proprietors; two or three of the better preserved rooms being inhabited by the family, the others being haunted by bats and swallows and used for the storage of farm produce. It suited the captain's humour, however, to live in his old dilapidated mansion, scarcely less cut off from the society that matched with his position in life than if he had exiled himself to some rock in the ocean.

The ceremony of knocking or ringing was dispensed with for the sufficient reason that there was neither bell nor knocker. We entered by the open door and walked along a paved passage, which, was evidently not held as sacred as it should have been by the roving fowls; looked in at the great dark kitchen, where beside the Gothic arch of the broad chimney was some ruinous clockwork mechanism for turning the spit, which probably did turn to good purpose when powdered wigs were worn; then ascended the stone staircase, where there was room for four to walk abreast, but which had somewhat lost its dignity by the balusters being used for hanging maize upon. Presently we came to a door, which the aubergiste knocked sharply with his knuckles.

There was a sound of footsteps within, and then the door opened. I was standing before a rather florid man of about fifty, with close-cropped hair, a brush moustache, and a chin that seemed undecided on the score of shaving. He wore a flannel shirt open at the throat, and a knitted worsted tricot. This was the captain. He evidently did not like Sunday clothes. When he settled down here, it was to live at his ease, like a bachelor who had finished with vanities. But although no one would have supposed from his dress that he was superior to the people around him, his manners were those of a gentleman and an officer who had seen the world elsewhere than at Loubressac. The simple, easy courtesy with which he showed me his rooms, and pointed his telescope for me, was all that is worth attaining, as regards the outward polish of a man. This was so fixed upon him that his long association with peasants had taken none of it away. The few rooms that he inhabited were plainly furnished; in others were heaps of wheat, maize and beans. Passing along a passage I noticed a little altar in a recess, with a statue of the Virgin decked with roses and wild flowers. 'C'est le mois de Marie,' said the captain. He lived with a sister, and she took care that religion was kept up in the house.

It being the Fête-Dieu, preparations were being made in the village for the procession that was to take place after vespers. Sheets were spread along the fronts of the houses, with flowers pinned to them, andreposoirs had been raised in the open air. I did not wait for the procession, as I expected to be in time for the one at the next village, Autoire. I took a path that led me up to the barren causse, from which the red roofs of Autoire soon became visible under an amphitheatre of high wooded hills.

As I approached the little village, the gleam of white sheets mingled with the picture of old houses huddled together, some half-timber, some with turrets and encorbelments, nearly all of them with very high-pitched roofs and small dormer windows. The procession was soon to start. I waited for it at the door of the crowded church, baking in the sun with others who could not get inside, one of whom was a woman with a moustache and beard, black and curly, such as a promising young man might be expected to have. The number of women in Southern France who are bearded like men shocks the feelings of the Northern wanderer, until he grows accustomed to the sight. The curé was preaching about the black bread, and all the other miseries of this life that had to be accepted with thankfulness. Presently the two bells in the tower began to dance, and the rapid ding-dong announced that the procession was forming. First appeared the beadle, extremely gaudy in scarlet and gold, then the cross-bearer, young men as chanters, little boys, most strangely attired in white satin knee-breeches and short lace skirts, scattering rose-leaves from open baskets at their sides; the curé came bearing the monstrance and Host, followed by Sisters with little girls in their charge; lastly was a mixed throng of parishioners. Most of the women held rosaries, and a few of them, bent with age, carried upon their heads the very cap that old Mother Hubbard wore, if tradition and English artists are to be trusted. As the last of the long procession passed out of sight between the walls of white linen, the wind brought the words clearly back:

    'Genitori, Genitoque 
    Laus et jubilatio.'

Now I entered the little church that was quite empty, and where no sound would have been heard if the two voices in the tower had not continued to ring out over the dovecotes, where the white pigeons rested and wondered, and over the broad fields where the bending grasses and listening flowers stood in the afternoon sunshine, 'Laus et jubilatio,' in the language of the bells.

The church was Romanesque, probably of the twelfth century. The nave was flanked by narrow aisles. Upon the very tall bases of the columns were carved, together with foliage, fantastic heads of demons, or satyrs of such expressive ugliness that they held me fascinated. Some were bearded, others were beardless, some were grinning and showing frightful teeth, others had thick-lipped, pouting mouths hideously debased. A few were really bons diables, who seemed determined to be gay, and to joke under the most trying circumstances; but the greater number had morose faces, puckered by the long agony of bearing up the church. Such variety of expression in ugliness was a triumph of art in the far-off age, when the chisel of an unremembered man with a teeming imagination made these heads take life from the inanimate stone.

The road from Autoire to St. Céré soon led me into the valley of the Bave, a beautiful trout-stream, galloping towards the Dordogne through flowery meadows, on this last day of May, and under leaning trees, whose imaged leaves danced upon the ripples in the green shade. As I had no need to hurry, I loitered to pick ragged-robins upon the banks, flowers dear to me from old associations. Very common in England, they are comparatively rare in France.

New pleasures await the wayfarer every hour, almost every minute, in the day, and however long he may continue to wander over this wonderful world of inexhaustible variety, if he will only stop to look at everything, and so learn to feel the charm of little things.

I met a beggar, and fell into conversation with him. He asked me for nothing, and was surprised when I gave him two sous. He was a ragged old man, with a canvas bag, half filled with crusts, slung upon his side. I had already met many such beggars in this part of France. They travel about from village to village, filling their bags with pieces of bread that are given them, and selling afterwards what they cannot eat as food for pigs. As they rarely receive charity in the form of money, they do not expect it. This kind of mendicant is distinctly rural, and belongs to old times.

The bold front of an early Renaissance castle, with round towers at the angles, capped with pointed roofs, drew me from the highroad. It was the Château de Montal, in connection with which I had already heard the story of one Rose de Montal, a young lady of some three centuries ago, who had given her heart to a nobleman of the country, Roger de Castelnau. By-and-by the charms of another lady caused him to neglect the fair Rose de Montal. She remained almost constantly at a window of one of the towers, scanning the country, and longing to catch sight of the faithless Roger. One day he came down the valley of the Bave, and she sang from the height of her tower a plaintive love-song, hoping that he would stop and make some sign; but he passed on, unmoved by the tender appeal of the noble damsel. As he disappeared, she cried, 'Rose, plus d'espoir!' and threw herself from the window.

The métayer, now placed in charge of the castle, showed me over it. It was a sad spectacle. The building, one of the best preserved and most elaborately decorated works of the Renaissance in this part of Guyenne until a few years ago, then fell into the hands of a vulgar speculator, who detached all the carvings that could be removed without difficulty, and sold them in Paris. The noble staircase and all its delicate sculpture remain, but these only add to the regret that one feels for what is no longer there. Had the Commission of Historic Monuments placed the Château de Montal upon its list, it would probably have escaped spoliation, although, in the case of private property, the State has no power to prevent destruction, however grievous the national loss.

I entered St. Céré at sundown. This bright little town lies in the midst of fertility. It is on the banks of the Bave, and at the foot of a hill that rises abruptly from the plain, and is capped by two towers of a ruined feudal stronghold, which show against the horizon far into the Quercy, the Corrèze, and the Cantal. Some of the old streets have quite a mediaeval air, with their half-wood houses with stories projecting upon the floor-joists, and others of a grander origin with turrets resting on encorbelments. I had the luck to find a good old-fashioned inn here, and to pass the evening in very pleasant company.

The next morning I climbed to the top of the neighbouring hill to have a closer view of those towers which had been my landmarks on the previous day, passing through the little village of St. Laurent-les-Tours, which lies immediately under the old fortress after the manner of so many others of feudal origin. The towers are rectangular donjons of the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, one being nearly a hundred and fifty feet high. The castle was raised upon a table of calcareous rock; but only the towers, a portion of the outer wall built of enormous blocks of stone, and a ruined archway marking the spot where the drawbridge once hung, remain to tell the tale of the past.

That the Romans had fortified this height there is the strongest evidence in the fact that the substructure of the rampart that once surrounded the castle is of cubic stones laid together according to the method so much practised by the Romans, and known as opus reticulatum. Moreover, the coins, pottery, and arms found here seem to afford conclusive proof that this remarkable hill was one of the fortified positions of the Romans in Gaul.

The spot has its Christian legend, which is briefly this: In the castle that crowned the height in the time of the Visigoth kings was born St. Espérie, daughter of a Duke of Aquitaine. Being pressed to marry, notwithstanding the vow she had made to consecrate her life to God, she hid herself in a neighbouring forest for three months. She was at length discovered by her enraged brother and lover, who cut off her head. Like St. Denis, St. Espérie picked up her head, to the unspeakable astonishment and dismay of her persecutors. They fled from her, but she followed them as far as a little stream that flows into the Bave at St. Céré. Espérie is a saint much venerated in the Haut-Quercy. The church of St. Céré is dedicated to her, and the name given to the town is supposed to be a corruption of Espérie.

From St. Céré I took the road to Castelnau-de-Bretenoux, returning for some distance by the way I came. Inns being now very scarce in the district, I decided to take my chance of lunch in a small village called St. Jean-Lespinasse. Another saint! The map of France is still covered with the names of saints, in spite of all the efforts of revolutionists and pagan reformers to make the people abandon their 'Christian superstitions.' Those who in the 'ages of faith' built up this association of saints and places could have had no conception of the power that these names would have in binding Christianity to the soil in the faithless or doubting ages to come. The only inn at St. Jean-Lespinasse was kept by a blacksmith, and the room where I had my meal was over the forge. Bread and cheese and eggs were, as I expected, the utmost that such a hostelry could offer in the way of food for a wayfarer's entertainment. Before leaving the village I found the church - a curious old structure of the Transition period, with a large open porch covered with mossy tiles, held up by rough pillars. There were stone benches inside, on which generations of villagers had sat and gossiped in their turn. In the interior were columns engaged in the wall of the nave, with the capitals elaborately and heavily foliated with pendent bunches of flowers and fruit, much more in accordance with English than French taste.

I crossed the Bave, and followed a road bordered with hedgerows of quince that presently skirted sunny slopes covered with lately-planted vines. Thunder was moaning and growling in the distance when I reached the much-embowered village of Castelnau, upon a height immediately under the reddish walls and towers of the immense feudal stronghold, the fame of which went far and wide in the Middle Ages. Its name in the Southern dialect means 'new castle,' but it dates from the eleventh or twelfth century. Extensive additions were made in subsequent ages, notably a wing in the Renaissance style, which was inhabited until the middle of the present century, when all but the walls was destroyed by fire.

The feudal castle was built upon the plan of a triangle, with a tower at each angle, the one at the apex being the donjon. The form of this lofty keep is rectangular, and the machicolations and embattlements which were added in the fifteenth century are in a perfect state of preservation. Upon the platform, which I was able to reach by means of ladders and the half-ruinous spiral staircase, viper's bugloss spread its brilliant blue flowers over the dark stones, and enticed the high-soaring bees. The view of the wide and beautiful Dordogne Valley from these old battlements was not less grand because more than one-half of the sky was of a bluish-black - a mysterious canopy that concealed the genius of the storm, but from the turbulent folds of which there darted every minute a dazzling line of light. The tower on which I stood, although the highest of the three, had never been struck by lightning, but one of the others had been repeatedly struck, and the ruined masonry showed abundant signs of the scorching it had undergone in this way. Lightning is capricious and incomprehensible in its preferences.

This castle was besieged by Henry Plantagenet in 1159, but without success. Subsequently he made another effort, and then reduced it. His son Henry made it his headquarters for some time after he had revolted. In 1369 Thomas de Walkaffera the English seneschal who held Réalville on behalf of his sovereign, was besieged there by a Lord of Castelnau, assisted by other barons. The garrison was overcome and massacred. Another Lord of Castelnau, John, Bishop of Cahors, convened a meeting of the States of the Quercy in his fortress, at which a rising against the English was decided upon. It resulted in their temporary expulsion from the Quercy.

Besides the towers and exterior walls, there are some chambers of the old castle in good preservation. The chapel is still roofed, and the altar-stone is in its place. In an elevated chamber at the lower end, the dead were laid while awaiting burial.

Descending to the village, I entered the parish church - a Gothic building of the fourteenth century, containing many interesting details. The oak stalls, each with a quaint human figure carved upon it, are exceedingly curious. Outside the church little girls were playing, in the charge of a Sister who had a beautiful sweet face. She showed me the way to the next village, where I hoped to find shelter from the gathering storm. I have a pleasant picture in the mind of Castelnau - a bowery, ancient, mossy place, with vines climbing about the houses or on trellises in the little steep gardens, and a golden bloom of stonecrop upon the rough walls.

I reached the village of Prudhomat just as the storm burst over it, and took shelter in a small inn, which, like most of those in the country, had its room for the public upstairs. Two women who were there made the sign of the cross each time the lightning flashed - a widespread custom of the French peasantry; but a couple of men who were eating salad and bread paid no heed to the furious cannonade that was kept up by the darkened heavens. It was four o'clock, and they were having their goûter. The peasants of the Quercy do not live on the fat of the land; but they generally have five meals a day, two more than the middle-class French. They begin with soup at a very early hour in the morning; then they have their dinner about ten, which is chiefly soup; at three or four they have a goûter of bread and cheese, salad or fruit; and at six or seven they have their supper, which is soup again.

The old woman who sat near the window worked diligently with her distaff laden with hemp, except when the flashing lightning made her stop to raise her thin hand to her forehead. She was twisting the thread from which the sheets of the country are made. They are coarse, but they last longer than the hands that work the hemp, and descend from mother to daughter.

More than two hours I waited in this auberge while the rain fell in torrents, the lightning blazed, and the thunder crashed. The whole sky was the colour of slate. When at length a line of bright light appeared in the western sky, I could curb my impatience no longer, and, hoisting my pack, I was soon on the road to Carennac.

A little beyond the village I passed a gipsy encampment ranged along the side of the highway on a strip of waste land. There were no tents; but there were four or five miserable little caravans, roofed over with tattered and dirty canvas. They were tents on wheels. Some thin and ascetic-looking old mules and wizen donkeys had been taken out of the shafts, and were now nibbling the short wayside grass, the young burdocks and mulleins, which, but for the rain, would have filled their mouths with dust. Small portable stoves - alas! not the traditional fire with three stakes set in the ground and tied at the top, with the pot swinging therefrom - had been lighted outside the caravans, and gipsy women were making the evening soup. Bright-eyed, shock-headed, uncombed, unwashed, but exceedingly happy gipsy children were tumbling over one another on the wet turf, showing so much of their brown skin between their rags that they would have been more comfortable and quite as decent had they been naked. A hideous old man, merely skin and bones, sitting nose and knees together upon a sack, did not take my curiosity in good part, but glared at me morosely. The younger men of this interesting community were elsewhere - perhaps mending saucepans, or reassuring ducks alarmed by the thunderstorm. A musician of the party must have been kept in by the bad weather, for from one of the caravans came the diabolic screech of a wheezing concertina that had got rid of all its ideals and dreams of distinction.

The bright line in the west moved very slowly upwards, and the rain continued to fall, although less drenchingly than before. The setting sun strove with the cloud-rack and coloured the veil of vapour that its rays could not pierce. The nightingales and thrushes in the shrubs, and the finches amidst the later blossoms of the may, took heart again, and the song rose from so many throats near and far that the whole valley of the Dordogne was filled with warbling. As the birds grew drowsy the frogs came out to spend a happy night on the margins of the pools and the brooks, until their joyful screaming and croaking was a universal chorus. I was by the side of the broad river that flowed calmly through the fairest meadows. The face of the stream, the pools in the road, the grass and the leaves, were brightened with the orange glow of a veiled light as of some sacred fire shining in the dusk through clouds of incense. It grew warmer and warmer until it purpled and died away in grayness and mournful shadow. The beauty of nature at such moments, when the colours brighten and fade like the powers of the mind as the human day is closing, takes a solemnity that is unearthly, and it is good to be alone with the mystery.

It was dark when I reached Carennac. I did not realize how wet I was until I sat down in an auberge and tried to make myself comfortable for the night. It is not easy, however, to be happy under such circumstances. When the fire on the hearth was stirred up and fed with fresh wood to cook my dinner of barbel that had just had time to die after being pulled out of the Dordogne, I placed myself in the chimney-corner to dry before the welcome blaze. How cheering is a fire, even in June and in Southern France, on a rainy night, when the sound of sighing trees comes down the chimney and the tired wayfarer's clothes are sticking to his legs and back! How cheering, too, at such a time is a dinner, however modest, in the light and warmth of the fire. A humble barbel has then a more delicate flavour than a salmon-trout cooked with consummate art for people who never know what it is to be hungry.

The next morning I was in the cloisters belonging to the Benedictine priory of Carennac, of which Fénélon was the titular prior. Hither he came for quietude, and here he wrote his 'Télémaque,' a historical trace of which is found in a little island of the Dordogne, which is called 'L'Ile de Calypso.' It is recorded that the mother of the great Churchman and writer, when she feared that she would be childless, went on a pilgrimage to Roc-Amadour, and that Fénélon was the consequence of that act of devotion.

The cloisters of Carennac, built from plans furnished by that fountain of ecclesiastical art in the Middle Ages, the monastery of Cluny, must, judging from the remnants of tracery in the arcades, and the delicately carved bosses of the vaults, have been once a spot where the spirit of Gothic architecture found delight. Now the spirit of ruin dwells there, leading the bramble and the celandine to conquer, year after year, some fresh territory upon the ancient quadrangle's crumbling wall. Above, where the sunbeam strikes upon the wrinkled stone, the lizard basks and the bee fresh from its hive hums as blithely among the yellow flowers of the celandine as if the blocks raised by men in their reaching towards Heaven were nothing more than the rocks that cast their shadows upon the Dordogne. Upon the ground, man, by using no rein of respect to curb the lower needs of life, has desecrated the spot with pigsties! Some inhabitant of Carennac, into whose hands the cloisters passed in recent times, thought that a place which was good enough for Benedictine monks to walk in might, with a little fresh masonry, be made fit for pigs to feed and sleep in. But an end had come to this idyllic state of things. The cloisters of Carennac had just been placed on the list of historic monuments. The adjoining church had been 'classed' long before.

This church, a small Gothic edifice of the twelfth century, has a far-projecting porch enriched with a specimen of mediaeval carving which is a long delight to the few archaeologists who find their way to the almost forgotten village of Carennac. The composition, which fills the tympan of the scarcely-pointed arch, represents Christ surrounded by the twelve Apostles. The influence of Byzantine art is perceptible in the treatment. Very few such masterpieces of twelfth-century carving have been so well preserved as this. The seated figure of Christ in the act of blessing His Apostles, the right hand upraised, the left resting upon a clasped book, impresses the beholder by its majesty and serenity. Very different are the figures of the Apostles: these are men, and of a very common type too, such as the Benedictines were accustomed to see in their own cloisters, or among their dependents at Carennac. But how animated are the forms, and how expressive the faces! The mouldings which serve as a border to the composition are much more Romanesque or Byzantine than Gothic, and the columns that support it have capitals which are purely Romanesque. In the interior of the church is a fifteenth-century group of seven figures, representing the scene of the Holy Sepulchre; an admirable composition, showing to what a high degree of excellence French sculpture had attained even at the dawn of the Renaissance.