Infomotions, Inc.Travels With A Donkey In The Cevennes / Stevenson, Robert Louis

Author: Stevenson, Robert Louis
Title: Travels With A Donkey In The Cevennes
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): modestine; donkey; english literature
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Identifier: stevenson-travels-647
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Travels with a Donkey in the Cevenne

by Robert Louis Stevenson

May, 1996  [Etext #535]

Project Gutenberg Etext of Travels with a Donkey in the Cevenne
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Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson.  
Scanned and proofed by David Price,

Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes

My Dear Sidney Colvin,

The journey which this little book is to describe was very 
agreeable and fortunate for me.  After an uncouth beginning, I had 
the best of luck to the end.  But we are all travellers in what 
John Bunyan calls the wilderness of this world - all, too, 
travellers with a donkey:  and the best that we find in our travels 
is an honest friend.  He is a fortunate voyager who finds many.  We 
travel, indeed, to find them.  They are the end and the reward of 
life.  They keep us worthy of ourselves; and when we are alone, we 
are only nearer to the absent.

Every book is, in an intimate sense, a circular letter to the 
friends of him who writes it.  They alone take his meaning; they 
find private messages, assurances of love, and expressions of 
gratitude, dropped for them in every corner.  The public is but a 
generous patron who defrays the postage.  Yet through the letter is 
directed to all, we have an old and kindly custom of addressing it 
on the outside to one.  Of what shall a man be proud, if he is not 
proud of his friends?  And so, my dear Sidney Colvin, it is with 
pride that I sign myself affectionately yours,

R. L. S.


Many are the mighty things, and nought is more mighty than man. . . 
. . He masters by his devices the tenant of the fields.

Who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?


IN a little place called Le Monastier, in a pleasant highland 
valley fifteen miles from Le Puy, I spent about a month of fine 
days.  Monastier is notable for the making of lace, for 
drunkenness, for freedom of language, and for unparalleled 
political dissension.  There are adherents of each of the four 
French parties - Legitimists, Orleanists, Imperialists, and 
Republicans - in this little mountain-town; and they all hate, 
loathe, decry, and calumniate each other.  Except for business 
purposes, or to give each other the lie in a tavern brawl, they 
have laid aside even the civility of speech.  'Tis a mere mountain 
Poland.  In the midst of this Babylon I found myself a rallying-
point; every one was anxious to be kind and helpful to the 
stranger.  This was not merely from the natural hospitality of 
mountain people, nor even from the surprise with which I was 
regarded as a man living of his own free will in Le Monastier, when 
he might just as well have lived anywhere else in this big world; 
it arose a good deal from my projected excursion southward through 
the Cevennes.  A traveller of my sort was a thing hitherto unheard 
of in that district.  I was looked upon with contempt, like a man 
who should project a journey to the moon, but yet with a respectful 
interest, like one setting forth for the inclement Pole.  All were 
ready to help in my preparations; a crowd of sympathisers supported 
me at the critical moment of a bargain; not a step was taken but 
was heralded by glasses round and celebrated by a dinner or a 

It was already hard upon October before I was ready to set forth, 
and at the high altitudes over which my road lay there was no 
Indian summer to be looked for.  I was determined, if not to camp 
out, at least to have the means of camping out in my possession; 
for there is nothing more harassing to an easy mind than the 
necessity of reaching shelter by dusk, and the hospitality of a 
village inn is not always to be reckoned sure by those who trudge 
on foot.  A tent, above all for a solitary traveller, is 
troublesome to pitch, and troublesome to strike again; and even on 
the march it forms a conspicuous feature in your baggage.  A 
sleeping-sack, on the other hand, is always ready - you have only 
to get into it; it serves a double purpose - a bed by night, a 
portmanteau by day; and it does not advertise your intention of 
camping out to every curious passer-by.  This is a huge point.  If 
a camp is not secret, it is but a troubled resting-place; you 
become a public character; the convivial rustic visits your bedside 
after an early supper; and you must sleep with one eye open, and be 
up before the day.  I decided on a sleeping-sack; and after 
repeated visits to Le Puy, and a deal of high living for myself and 
my advisers, a sleeping-sack was designed, constructed, and 
triumphantly brought home.

This child of my invention was nearly six feet square, exclusive of 
two triangular flaps to serve as a pillow by night and as the top 
and bottom of the sack by day.  I call it 'the sack,' but it was 
never a sack by more than courtesy:  only a sort of long roll or 
sausage, green waterproof cart-cloth without and blue sheep's fur 
within.  It was commodious as a valise, warm and dry for a bed.  
There was luxurious turning room for one; and at a pinch the thing 
might serve for two.  I could bury myself in it up to the neck; for 
my head I trusted to a fur cap, with a hood to fold down over my 
ears and a band to pass under my nose like a respirator; and in 
case of heavy rain I proposed to make myself a little tent, or 
tentlet, with my waterproof coat, three stones, and a bent branch.

It will readily be conceived that I could not carry this huge 
package on my own, merely human, shoulders.  It remained to choose 
a beast of burden.  Now, a horse is a fine lady among animals, 
flighty, timid, delicate in eating, of tender health; he is too 
valuable and too restive to be left alone, so that you are chained 
to your brute as to a fellow galley-slave; a dangerous road puts 
him out of his wits; in short, he's an uncertain and exacting ally, 
and adds thirty-fold to the troubles of the voyager.  What I 
required was something cheap and small and hardy, and of a stolid 
and peaceful temper; and all these requisites pointed to a donkey.

There dwelt an old man in Monastier, of rather unsound intellect 
according to some, much followed by street-boys, and known to fame 
as Father Adam.  Father Adam had a cart, and to draw the cart a 
diminutive she-ass, not much bigger than a dog, the colour of a 
mouse, with a kindly eye and a determined under-jaw.  There was 
something neat and high-bred, a quakerish elegance, about the rogue 
that hit my fancy on the spot.  Our first interview was in 
Monastier market-place.  To prove her good temper, one child after 
another was set upon her back to ride, and one after another went 
head over heels into the air; until a want of confidence began to 
reign in youthful bosoms, and the experiment was discontinued from 
a dearth of subjects.  I was already backed by a deputation of my 
friends; but as if this were not enough, all the buyers and sellers 
came round and helped me in the bargain; and the ass and I and 
Father Adam were the centre of a hubbub for near half an hour.  At 
length she passed into my service for the consideration of sixty-
five francs and a glass of brandy.  The sack had already cost 
eighty francs and two glasses of beer; so that Modestine, as I 
instantly baptized her, was upon all accounts the cheaper article.  
Indeed, that was as it should be; for she was only an appurtenance 
of my mattress, or self-acting bedstead on four castors.

I had a last interview with Father Adam in a billiard-room at the 
witching hour of dawn, when I administered the brandy.  He 
professed himself greatly touched by the separation, and declared 
he had often bought white bread for the donkey when he had been 
content with black bread for himself; but this, according to the 
best authorities, must have been a flight of fancy.  He had a name 
in the village for brutally misusing the ass; yet it is certain 
that he shed a tear, and the tear made a clean mark down one cheek.

By the advice of a fallacious local saddler, a leather pad was made 
for me with rings to fasten on my bundle; and I thoughtfully 
completed my kit and arranged my toilette.  By way of armoury and 
utensils, I took a revolver, a little spirit-lamp and pan, a 
lantern and some halfpenny candles, a jack-knife and a large 
leather flask.  The main cargo consisted of two entire changes of 
warm clothing - besides my travelling wear of country velveteen, 
pilot-coat, and knitted spencer - some books, and my railway-rug, 
which, being also in the form of a bag, made me a double castle for 
cold nights.  The permanent larder was represented by cakes of 
chocolate and tins of Bologna sausage.  All this, except what I 
carried about my person, was easily stowed into the sheepskin bag; 
and by good fortune I threw in my empty knapsack, rather for 
convenience of carriage than from any thought that I should want it 
on my journey.  For more immediate needs I took a leg of cold 
mutton, a bottle of Beaujolais, an empty bottle to carry milk, an 
egg-beater, and a considerable quantity of black bread and white, 
like Father Adam, for myself and donkey, only in my scheme of 
things the destinations were reversed.

Monastrians, of all shades of thought in politics, had agreed in 
threatening me with many ludicrous misadventures, and with sudden 
death in many surprising forms.  Cold, wolves, robbers, above all 
the nocturnal practical joker, were daily and eloquently forced on 
my attention.  Yet in these vaticinations, the true, patent danger 
was left out.  Like Christian, it was from my pack I suffered by 
the way.  Before telling my own mishaps, let me in two words relate 
the lesson of my experience.  If the pack is well strapped at the 
ends, and hung at full length - not doubled, for your life - across 
the pack-saddle, the traveller is safe.  The saddle will certainly 
not fit, such is the imperfection of our transitory life; it will 
assuredly topple and tend to overset; but there are stones on every 
roadside, and a man soon learns the art of correcting any tendency 
to overbalance with a well-adjusted stone.

On the day of my departure I was up a little after five; by six, we 
began to load the donkey; and ten minutes after, my hopes were in 
the dust.  The pad would not stay on Modestine's back for half a 
moment.  I returned it to its maker, with whom I had so 
contumelious a passage that the street outside was crowded from 
wall to wall with gossips looking on and listening.  The pad 
changed hands with much vivacity; perhaps it would be more 
descriptive to say that we threw it at each other's heads; and, at 
any rate, we were very warm and unfriendly, and spoke with a deal 
of freedom.

I had a common donkey pack-saddle - a BARDE, as they call it - 
fitted upon Modestine; and once more loaded her with my effects.  
The doubled sack, my pilot-coat (for it was warm, and I was to walk 
in my waistcoat), a great bar of black bread, and an open basket 
containing the white bread, the mutton, and the bottles, were all 
corded together in a very elaborate system of knots, and I looked 
on the result with fatuous content.  In such a monstrous deck-
cargo, all poised above the donkey's shoulders, with nothing below 
to balance, on a brand-new pack-saddle that had not yet been worn 
to fit the animal, and fastened with brand-new girths that might be 
expected to stretch and slacken by the way, even a very careless 
traveller should have seen disaster brewing.  That elaborate system 
of knots, again, was the work of too many sympathisers to be very 
artfully designed.  It is true they tightened the cords with a 
will; as many as three at a time would have a foot against 
Modestine's quarters, and be hauling with clenched teeth; but I 
learned afterwards that one thoughtful person, without any exercise 
of force, can make a more solid job than half-a-dozen heated and 
enthusiastic grooms.  I was then but a novice; even after the 
misadventure of the pad nothing could disturb my security, and I 
went forth from the stable door as an ox goeth to the slaughter.


THE bell of Monastier was just striking nine as I got quit of these 
preliminary troubles and descended the hill through the common.  As 
long as I was within sight of the windows, a secret shame and the 
fear of some laughable defeat withheld me from tampering with 
Modestine.  She tripped along upon her four small hoofs with a 
sober daintiness of gait; from time to time she shook her ears or 
her tail; and she looked so small under the bundle that my mind 
misgave me.  We got across the ford without difficulty - there was 
no doubt about the matter, she was docility itself - and once on 
the other bank, where the road begins to mount through pine-woods, 
I took in my right hand the unhallowed staff, and with a quaking 
spirit applied it to the donkey.  Modestine brisked up her pace for 
perhaps three steps, and then relapsed into her former minuet.  
Another application had the same effect, and so with the third.  I 
am worthy the name of an Englishman, and it goes against my 
conscience to lay my hand rudely on a female.  I desisted, and 
looked her all over from head to foot; the poor brute's knees were 
trembling and her breathing was distressed; it was plain that she 
could go no faster on a hill.  God forbid, thought I, that I should 
brutalise this innocent creature; let her go at her own pace, and 
let me patiently follow.

What that pace was, there is no word mean enough to describe; it 
was something as much slower than a walk as a walk is slower than a 
run; it kept me hanging on each foot for an incredible length of 
time; in five minutes it exhausted the spirit and set up a fever in 
all the muscles of the leg.  And yet I had to keep close at hand 
and measure my advance exactly upon hers; for if I dropped a few 
yards into the rear, or went on a few yards ahead, Modestine came 
instantly to a halt and began to browse.  The thought that this was 
to last from here to Alais nearly broke my heart.  Of all 
conceivable journeys, this promised to be the most tedious.  I 
tried to tell myself it was a lovely day; I tried to charm my 
foreboding spirit with tobacco; but I had a vision ever present to 
me of the long, long roads, up hill and down dale, and a pair of 
figures ever infinitesimally moving, foot by foot, a yard to the 
minute, and, like things enchanted in a nightmare, approaching no 
nearer to the goal.

In the meantime there came up behind us a tall peasant, perhaps 
forty years of age, of an ironical snuffy countenance, and arrayed 
in the green tail-coat of the country.  He overtook us hand over 
hand, and stopped to consider our pitiful advance.

'Your donkey,' says he, 'is very old?'

I told him, I believed not.

Then, he supposed, we had come far.

I told him, we had but newly left Monastier.

'ET VOUS MARCHEZ COMME CA!' cried he; and, throwing back his head, 
he laughed long and heartily.  I watched him, half prepared to feel 
offended, until he had satisfied his mirth; and then, 'You must 
have no pity on these animals,' said he; and, plucking a switch out 
of a thicket, he began to lace Modestine about the stern-works, 
uttering a cry.  The rogue pricked up her ears and broke into a 
good round pace, which she kept up without flagging, and without 
exhibiting the least symptom of distress, as long as the peasant 
kept beside us.  Her former panting and shaking had been, I regret 
to say, a piece of comedy.

My DEUS EX MACHINA, before he left me, supplied some excellent, if 
inhumane, advice; presented me with the switch, which he declared 
she would feel more tenderly than my cane; and finally taught me 
the true cry or masonic word of donkey-drivers, 'Proot!'  All the 
time, he regarded me with a comical, incredulous air, which was 
embarrassing to confront; and smiled over my donkey-driving, as I 
might have smiled over his orthography, or his green tail-coat.  
But it was not my turn for the moment.

I was proud of my new lore, and thought I had learned the art to 
perfection.  And certainly Modestine did wonders for the rest of 
the fore-noon, and I had a breathing space to look about me.  It 
was Sabbath; the mountain-fields were all vacant in the sunshine; 
and as we came down through St. Martin de Frugeres, the church was 
crowded to the door, there were people kneeling without upon the 
steps, and the sound of the priest's chanting came forth out of the 
dim interior.  It gave me a home feeling on the spot; for I am a 
countryman of the Sabbath, so to speak, and all Sabbath 
observances, like a Scottish accent, strike in me mixed feelings, 
grateful and the reverse.  It is only a traveller, hurrying by like 
a person from another planet, who can rightly enjoy the peace and 
beauty of the great ascetic feast.  The sight of the resting 
country does his spirit good.  There is something better than music 
in the wide unusual silence; and it disposes him to amiable 
thoughts, like the sound of a little river or the warmth of 

In this pleasant humour I came down the hill to where Goudet stands 
in a green end of a valley, with Chateau Beaufort opposite upon a 
rocky steep, and the stream, as clear as crystal, lying in a deep 
pool between them.  Above and below, you may hear it wimpling over 
the stones, an amiable stripling of a river, which it seems absurd 
to call the Loire.  On all sides, Goudet is shut in by mountains; 
rocky footpaths, practicable at best for donkeys, join it to the 
outer world of France; and the men and women drink and swear, in 
their green corner, or look up at the snow-clad peaks in winter 
from the threshold of their homes, in an isolation, you would 
think, like that of Homer's Cyclops.  But it is not so; the postman 
reaches Goudet with the letter-bag; the aspiring youth of Goudet 
are within a day's walk of the railway at Le Puy; and here in the 
inn you may find an engraved portrait of the host's nephew, Regis 
Senac, 'Professor of Fencing and Champion of the two Americas,' a 
distinction gained by him, along with the sum of five hundred 
dollars, at Tammany Hall, New York, on the 10th April 1876.

I hurried over my midday meal, and was early forth again.  But, 
alas, as we climbed the interminable hill upon the other side, 
'Proot!' seemed to have lost its virtue.  I prooted like a lion, I 
prooted mellifluously like a sucking-dove; but Modestine would be 
neither softened nor intimidated.  She held doggedly to her pace; 
nothing but a blow would move her, and that only for a second.  I 
must follow at her heels, incessantly be-labouring.  A moment's 
pause in this ignoble toil, and she relapsed into her own private 
gait.  I think I never heard of any one in as mean a situation.  I 
must reach the lake of Bouchet, where I meant to camp, before 
sundown, and, to have even a hope of this, I must instantly 
maltreat this uncomplaining animal.  The sound of my own blows 
sickened me.  Once, when I looked at her, she had a faint 
resemblance to a lady of my acquaintance who formerly loaded me 
with kindness; and this increased my horror of my cruelty.

To make matters worse, we encountered another donkey, ranging at 
will upon the roadside; and this other donkey chanced to be a 
gentleman.  He and Modestine met nickering for joy, and I had to 
separate the pair and beat down their young romance with a renewed 
and feverish bastinado.  If the other donkey had had the heart of a 
male under his hide, he would have fallen upon me tooth and hoof; 
and this was a kind of consolation - he was plainly unworthy of 
Modestine's affection.  But the incident saddened me, as did 
everything that spoke of my donkey's sex.

It was blazing hot up the valley, windless, with vehement sun upon 
my shoulders; and I had to labour so consistently with my stick 
that the sweat ran into my eyes.  Every five minutes, too, the 
pack, the basket, and the pilot-coat would take an ugly slew to one 
side or the other; and I had to stop Modestine, just when I had got 
her to a tolerable pace of about two miles an hour, to tug, push, 
shoulder, and readjust the load.  And at last, in the village of 
Ussel, saddle and all, the whole hypothec turned round and 
grovelled in the dust below the donkey's belly.  She, none better 
pleased, incontinently drew up and seemed to smile; and a party of 
one man, two women, and two children came up, and, standing round 
me in a half-circle, encouraged her by their example.

I had the devil's own trouble to get the thing righted; and the 
instant I had done so, without hesitation, it toppled and fell down 
upon the other side.  Judge if I was hot!  And yet not a hand was 
offered to assist me.  The man, indeed, told me I ought to have a 
package of a different shape.  I suggested, if he knew nothing 
better to the point in my predicament, he might hold his tongue.  
And the good-natured dog agreed with me smilingly.  It was the most 
despicable fix.  I must plainly content myself with the pack for 
Modestine, and take the following items for my own share of the 
portage:  a cane, a quart-flask, a pilot-jacket heavily weighted in 
the pockets, two pounds of black bread, and an open basket full of 
meats and bottles.  I believe I may say I am not devoid of 
greatness of soul; for I did not recoil from this infamous burden.  
I disposed it, Heaven knows how, so as to be mildly portable, and 
then proceeded to steer Modestine through the village.  She tried, 
as was indeed her invariable habit, to enter every house and every 
courtyard in the whole length; and, encumbered as I was, without a 
hand to help myself, no words can render an idea of my 
difficulties.  A priest, with six or seven others, was examining a 
church in process of repair, and he and his acolytes laughed loudly 
as they saw my plight.

I remembered having laughed myself when I had seen good men 
struggling with adversity in the person of a jackass, and the 
recollection filled me with penitence.  That was in my old light 
days, before this trouble came upon me.  God knows at least that I 
shall never laugh again, thought I.  But oh, what a cruel thing is 
a farce to those engaged in it!

A little out of the village, Modestine, filled with the demon, set 
her heart upon a by-road, and positively refused to leave it.  I 
dropped all my bundles, and, I am ashamed to say, struck the poor 
sinner twice across the face.  It was pitiful to see her lift her 
head with shut eyes, as if waiting for another blow.  I came very 
near crying; but I did a wiser thing than that, and sat squarely 
down by the roadside to consider my situation under the cheerful 
influence of tobacco and a nip of brandy.  Modestine, in the 
meanwhile, munched some black bread with a contrite hypocritical 
air.  It was plain that I must make a sacrifice to the gods of 
shipwreck.  I threw away the empty bottle destined to carry milk; I 
threw away my own white bread, and, disdaining to act by general 
average, kept the black bread for Modestine; lastly, I threw away 
the cold leg of mutton and the egg-whisk, although this last was 
dear to my heart.  Thus I found room for everything in the basket, 
and even stowed the boating-coat on the top.  By means of an end of 
cord I slung it under one arm; and although the cord cut my 
shoulder, and the jacket hung almost to the ground, it was with a 
heart greatly lightened that I set forth again.

I had now an arm free to thrash Modestine, and cruelly I chastised 
her.  If I were to reach the lakeside before dark, she must bestir 
her little shanks to some tune.  Already the sun had gone down into 
a windy-looking mist; and although there were still a few streaks 
of gold far off to the east on the hills and the black fir-woods, 
all was cold and grey about our onward path.  An infinity of little 
country by-roads led hither and thither among the fields.  It was 
the most pointless labyrinth.  I could see my destination overhead, 
or rather the peak that dominates it; but choose as I pleased, the 
roads always ended by turning away from it, and sneaking back 
towards the valley, or northward along the margin of the hills.  
The failing light, the waning colour, the naked, unhomely, stony 
country through which I was travelling, threw me into some 
despondency.  I promise you, the stick was not idle; I think every 
decent step that Modestine took must have cost me at least two 
emphatic blows.  There was not another sound in the neighbourhood 
but that of my unwearying bastinado.

Suddenly, in the midst of my toils, the load once more bit the 
dust, and, as by enchantment, all the cords were simultaneously 
loosened, and the road scattered with my dear possessions.  The 
packing was to begin again from the beginning; and as I had to 
invent a new and better system, I do not doubt but I lost half an 
hour.  It began to be dusk in earnest as I reached a wilderness of 
turf and stones.  It had the air of being a road which should lead 
everywhere at the same time; and I was falling into something not 
unlike despair when I saw two figures stalking towards me over the 
stones.  They walked one behind the other like tramps, but their 
pace was remarkable.  The son led the way, a tall, ill-made, 
sombre, Scottish-looking man; the mother followed, all in her 
Sunday's best, with an elegantly embroidered ribbon to her cap, and 
a new felt hat atop, and proffering, as she strode along with 
kilted petticoats, a string of obscene and blasphemous oaths.

I hailed the son, and asked him my direction.  He pointed loosely 
west and north-west, muttered an inaudible comment, and, without 
slackening his pace for an instant, stalked on, as he was going, 
right athwart my path.  The mother followed without so much as 
raising her head.  I shouted and shouted after them, but they 
continued to scale the hillside, and turned a deaf ear to my 
outcries.  At last, leaving Modestine by herself, I was constrained 
to run after them, hailing the while.  They stopped as I drew near, 
the mother still cursing; and I could see she was a handsome, 
motherly, respectable-looking woman.  The son once more answered me 
roughly and inaudibly, and was for setting out again.  But this 
time I simply collared the mother, who was nearest me, and, 
apologising for my violence, declared that I could not let them go 
until they had put me on my road.  They were neither of them 
offended - rather mollified than otherwise; told me I had only to 
follow them; and then the mother asked me what I wanted by the lake 
at such an hour.  I replied, in the Scottish manner, by inquiring 
if she had far to go herself.  She told me, with another oath, that 
she had an hour and a half's road before her.  And then, without 
salutation, the pair strode forward again up the hillside in the 
gathering dusk.

I returned for Modestine, pushed her briskly forward, and, after a 
sharp ascent of twenty minutes, reached the edge of a plateau.  The 
view, looking back on my day's journey, was both wild and sad.  
Mount Mezenc and the peaks beyond St. Julien stood out in trenchant 
gloom against a cold glitter in the east; and the intervening field 
of hills had fallen together into one broad wash of shadow, except 
here and there the outline of a wooded sugar-loaf in black, here 
and there a white irregular patch to represent a cultivated farm, 
and here and there a blot where the Loire, the Gazeille, or the 
Laussonne wandered in a gorge.

Soon we were on a high-road, and surprise seized on my mind as I 
beheld a village of some magnitude close at hand; for I had been 
told that the neighbourhood of the lake was uninhabited except by 
trout.  The road smoked in the twilight with children driving home 
cattle from the fields; and a pair of mounted stride-legged women, 
hat and cap and all, dashed past me at a hammering trot from the 
canton where they had been to church and market.  I asked one of 
the children where I was.  At Bouchet St. Nicolas, he told me.  
Thither, about a mile south of my destination, and on the other 
side of a respectable summit, had these confused roads and 
treacherous peasantry conducted me.  My shoulder was cut, so that 
it hurt sharply; my arm ached like toothache from perpetual 
beating; I gave up the lake and my design to camp, and asked for 


THE AUBERGE of Bouchet St. Nicolas was among the least pretentious 
I have ever visited; but I saw many more of the like upon my 
journey.  Indeed, it was typical of these French highlands.  
Imagine a cottage of two stories, with a bench before the door; the 
stable and kitchen in a suite, so that Modestine and I could hear 
each other dining; furniture of the plainest, earthern floors, a 
single bedchamber for travellers, and that without any convenience 
but beds.  In the kitchen cooking and eating go forward side by 
side, and the family sleep at night.  Any one who has a fancy to 
wash must do so in public at the common table.  The food is 
sometimes spare; hard fish and omelette have been my portion more 
than once; the wine is of the smallest, the brandy abominable to 
man; and the visit of a fat sow, grouting under the table and 
rubbing against your legs, is no impossible accompaniment to 

But the people of the inn, in nine cases out of ten, show 
themselves friendly and considerate.  As soon as you cross the 
doors you cease to be a stranger; and although these peasantry are 
rude and forbidding on the highway, they show a tincture of kind 
breeding when you share their hearth.  At Bouchet, for instance, I 
uncorked my bottle of Beaujolais, and asked the host to join me.  
He would take but little.

'I am an amateur of such wine, do you see?' he said, 'and I am 
capable of leaving you not enough.'

In these hedge-inns the traveller is expected to eat with his own 
knife; unless he ask, no other will be supplied:  with a glass, a 
whang of bread, and an iron fork, the table is completely laid.  My 
knife was cordially admired by the landlord of Bouchet, and the 
spring filled him with wonder.

'I should never have guessed that,' he said.  'I would bet,' he 
added, weighing it in his hand, 'that this cost you not less than 
five francs.'

When I told him it had cost me twenty, his jaw dropped.

He was a mild, handsome, sensible, friendly old man, astonishingly 
ignorant.  His wife, who was not so pleasant in her manners, knew 
how to read, although I do not suppose she ever did so.  She had a 
share of brains and spoke with a cutting emphasis, like one who 
ruled the roast.

'My man knows nothing,' she said, with an angry nod; 'he is like 
the beasts.'

And the old gentleman signified acquiescence with his head.  There 
was no contempt on her part, and no shame on his; the facts were 
accepted loyally, and no more about the matter.

I was tightly cross-examined about my journey; and the lady 
understood in a moment, and sketched out what I should put into my 
book when I got home.  'Whether people harvest or not in such or 
such a place; if there were forests; studies of manners; what, for 
example, I and the master of the house say to you; the beauties of 
Nature, and all that.'  And she interrogated me with a look.

'It is just that,' said I.

'You see,' she added to her husband, 'I understood that.'

They were both much interested by the story of my misadventures.

'In the morning,' said the husband, 'I will make you something 
better than your cane.  Such a beast as that feels nothing; it is 
in the proverb - DUR COMME UN ANE; you might beat her insensible 
with a cudgel, and yet you would arrive nowhere.'

Something better!  I little knew what he was offering.

The sleeping-room was furnished with two beds.  I had one; and I 
will own I was a little abashed to find a young man and his wife 
and child in the act of mounting into the other.  This was my first 
experience of the sort; and if I am always to feel equally silly 
and extraneous, I pray God it be my last as well.  I kept my eyes 
to myself, and know nothing of the woman except that she had 
beautiful arms, and seemed no whit embarrassed by my appearance.  
As a matter of fact, the situation was more trying to me than to 
the pair.  A pair keep each other in countenance; it is the single 
gentleman who has to blush.  But I could not help attributing my 
sentiments to the husband, and sought to conciliate his tolerance 
with a cup of brandy from my flask.  He told me that he was a 
cooper of Alais travelling to St. Etienne in search of work, and 
that in his spare moments he followed the fatal calling of a maker 
of matches.  Me he readily enough divined to be a brandy merchant.

I was up first in the morning (Monday, September 23rd), and 
hastened my toilette guiltily, so as to leave a clear field for 
madam, the cooper's wife.  I drank a bowl of milk, and set off to 
explore the neighbourhood of Bouchet.  It was perishing cold, a 
grey, windy, wintry morning; misty clouds flew fast and low; the 
wind piped over the naked platform; and the only speck of colour 
was away behind Mount Mezenc and the eastern hills, where the sky 
still wore the orange of the dawn.

It was five in the morning, and four thousand feet above the sea; 
and I had to bury my hands in my pockets and trot.  People were 
trooping out to the labours of the field by twos and threes, and 
all turned round to stare upon the stranger.  I had seen them 
coming back last night, I saw them going afield again; and there 
was the life of Bouchet in a nutshell.

When I came back to the inn for a bit of breakfast, the landlady 
was in the kitchen combing out her daughter's hair; and I made her 
my compliments upon its beauty.

'Oh no,' said the mother; 'it is not so beautiful as it ought to 
be.  Look, it is too fine.'

Thus does a wise peasantry console itself under adverse physical 
circumstances, and, by a startling democratic process, the defects 
of the majority decide the type of beauty.

'And where,' said I, 'is monsieur?'

'The master of the house is upstairs,' she answered, 'making you a 

Blessed be the man who invented goads!  Blessed the innkeeper of 
Bouchet St. Nicolas, who introduced me to their use!  This plain 
wand, with an eighth of an inch of pin, was indeed a sceptre when 
he put it in my hands.  Thenceforward Modestine was my slave.  A 
prick, and she passed the most inviting stable door.  A prick, and 
she broke forth into a gallant little trotlet that devoured the 
miles.  It was not a remarkable speed, when all was said; and we 
took four hours to cover ten miles at the best of it.  But what a 
heavenly change since yesterday!  No more wielding of the ugly 
cudgel; no more flailing with an aching arm; no more broadsword 
exercise, but a discreet and gentlemanly fence.  And what although 
now and then a drop of blood should appear on Modestine's mouse-
coloured wedge-like rump?  I should have preferred it otherwise, 
indeed; but yesterday's exploits had purged my heart of all 
humanity.  The perverse little devil, since she would not be taken 
with kindness, must even go with pricking.

It was bleak and bitter cold, and, except a cavalcade of stride-
legged ladies and a pair of post-runners, the road was dead 
solitary all the way to Pradelles.  I scarce remember an incident 
but one.  A handsome foal with a bell about his neck came charging 
up to us upon a stretch of common, sniffed the air martially as one 
about to do great deeds, and suddenly thinking otherwise in his 
green young heart, put about and galloped off as he had come, the 
bell tinkling in the wind.  For a long while afterwards I saw his 
noble attitude as he drew up, and heard the note of his bell; and 
when I struck the high-road, the song of the telegraph-wires seemed 
to continue the same music.

Pradelles stands on a hillside, high above the Allier, surrounded 
by rich meadows.  They were cutting aftermath on all sides, which 
gave the neighbourhood, this gusty autumn morning, an untimely 
smell of hay.  On the opposite bank of the Allier the land kept 
mounting for miles to the horizon:  a tanned and sallow autumn 
landscape, with black blots of fir-wood and white roads wandering 
through the hills.  Over all this the clouds shed a uniform and 
purplish shadow, sad and somewhat menacing, exaggerating height and 
distance, and throwing into still higher relief the twisted ribbons 
of the highway.  It was a cheerless prospect, but one stimulating 
to a traveller.  For I was now upon the limit of Velay, and all 
that I beheld lay in another county - wild Gevaudan, mountainous, 
uncultivated, and but recently disforested from terror of the 

Wolves, alas, like bandits, seem to flee the traveller's advance; 
and you may trudge through all our comfortable Europe, and not meet 
with an adventure worth the name.  But here, if anywhere, a man was 
on the frontiers of hope.  For this was the land of the ever-
memorable BEAST, the Napoleon Bonaparte of wolves.  What a career 
was his!  He lived ten months at free quarters in Gevaudan and 
Vivarais; he ate women and children and 'shepherdesses celebrated 
for their beauty'; he pursued armed horsemen; he has been seen at 
broad noonday chasing a post-chaise and outrider along the king's 
high-road, and chaise and outrider fleeing before him at the 
gallop.  He was placarded like a political offender, and ten 
thousand francs were offered for his head.  And yet, when he was 
shot and sent to Versailles, behold! a common wolf, and even small 
for that.  'Though I could reach from pole to pole,' sang Alexander 
Pope; the Little Corporal shook Europe; and if all wolves had been 
as this wolf, they would have changed the history of man.  M. Elie 
Berthet has made him the hero of a novel, which I have read, and do 
not wish to read again.

I hurried over my lunch, and was proof against the landlady's 
desire that I should visit our Lady of Pradelles, 'who performed 
many miracles, although she was of wood'; and before three-quarters 
of an hour I was goading Modestine down the steep descent that 
leads to Langogne on the Allier.  On both sides of the road, in big 
dusty fields, farmers were preparing for next spring.  Every fifty 
yards a yoke of great-necked stolid oxen were patiently haling at 
the plough.  I saw one of these mild formidable servants of the 
glebe, who took a sudden interest in Modestine and me.  The furrow 
down which he was journeying lay at an angle to the road, and his 
head was solidly fixed to the yoke like those of caryatides below a 
ponderous cornice; but he screwed round his big honest eyes and 
followed us with a ruminating look, until his master bade him turn 
the plough and proceed to reascend the field.  From all these 
furrowing ploughshares, from the feet of oxen, from a labourer here 
and there who was breaking the dry clods with a hoe, the wind 
carried away a thin dust like so much smoke.  It was a fine, busy, 
breathing, rustic landscape; and as I continued to descend, the 
highlands of Gevaudan kept mounting in front of me against the sky.

I had crossed the Loire the day before; now I was to cross the 
Allier; so near are these two confluents in their youth.  Just at 
the bridge of Langogne, as the long-promised rain was beginning to 
fall, a lassie of some seven or eight addressed me in the 
sacramental phrase, 'D'OU'ST-CE-QUE VOUS VENEZ?'  She did it with 
so high an air that she set me laughing; and this cut her to the 
quick.  She was evidently one who reckoned on respect, and stood 
looking after me in silent dudgeon, as I crossed the bridge and 
entered the county of Gevaudan.


The way also here was very wearisome through dirt and slabbiness; 
nor was there on all this ground so much as one inn or victualling-
house wherein to refresh the feebler sort.



THE next day (Tuesday, September 24th), it was two o'clock in the 
afternoon before I got my journal written up and my knapsack 
repaired, for I was determined to carry my knapsack in the future 
and have no more ado with baskets; and half an hour afterwards I 
set out for Le Cheylard l'Eveque, a place on the borders of the 
forest of Mercoire.  A man, I was told, should walk there in an 
hour and a half; and I thought it scarce too ambitious to suppose 
that a man encumbered with a donkey might cover the same distance 
in four hours.

All the way up the long hill from Langogne it rained and hailed 
alternately; the wind kept freshening steadily, although slowly; 
plentiful hurrying clouds - some dragging veils of straight rain-
shower, others massed and luminous as though promising snow - 
careered out of the north and followed me along my way.  I was soon 
out of the cultivated basin of the Allier, and away from the 
ploughing oxen, and such-like sights of the country.  Moor, 
heathery marsh, tracts of rock and pines, woods of birch all 
jewelled with the autumn yellow, here and there a few naked 
cottages and bleak fields, - these were the characters of the 
country.  Hill and valley followed valley and hill; the little 
green and stony cattle-tracks wandered in and out of one another, 
split into three or four, died away in marshy hollows, and began 
again sporadically on hillsides or at the borders of a wood.

There was no direct road to Cheylard, and it was no easy affair to 
make a passage in this uneven country and through this intermittent 
labyrinth of tracks.  It must have been about four when I struck 
Sagnerousse, and went on my way rejoicing in a sure point of 
departure.  Two hours afterwards, the dusk rapidly falling, in a 
lull of the wind, I issued from a fir-wood where I had long been 
wandering, and found, not the looked-for village, but another 
marish bottom among rough-and-tumble hills.  For some time past I 
had heard the ringing of cattle-bells ahead; and now, as I came out 
of the skirts of the wood, I saw near upon a dozen cows and perhaps 
as many more black figures, which I conjectured to be children, 
although the mist had almost unrecognisably exaggerated their 
forms.  These were all silently following each other round and 
round in a circle, now taking hands, now breaking up with chains 
and reverences.  A dance of children appeals to very innocent and 
lively thoughts; but, at nightfall on the marshes, the thing was 
eerie and fantastic to behold.  Even I, who am well enough read in 
Herbert Spencer, felt a sort of silence fall for an instant on my 
mind.  The next, I was pricking Modestine forward, and guiding her 
like an unruly ship through the open.  In a path, she went doggedly 
ahead of her own accord, as before a fair wind; but once on the 
turf or among heather, and the brute became demented.  The tendency 
of lost travellers to go round in a circle was developed in her to 
the degree of passion, and it took all the steering I had in me to 
keep even a decently straight course through a single field.

While I was thus desperately tacking through the bog, children and 
cattle began to disperse, until only a pair of girls remained 
behind.  From these I sought direction on my path.  The peasantry 
in general were but little disposed to counsel a wayfarer.  One old 
devil simply retired into his house, and barricaded the door on my 
approach; and I might beat and shout myself hoarse, he turned a 
deaf ear.  Another, having given me a direction which, as I found 
afterwards, I had misunderstood, complacently watched me going 
wrong without adding a sign.  He did not care a stalk of parsley if 
I wandered all night upon the hills!  As for these two girls, they 
were a pair of impudent sly sluts, with not a thought but mischief.  
One put out her tongue at me, the other bade me follow the cows; 
and they both giggled and jogged each other's elbows.  The Beast of 
Gevaudan ate about a hundred children of this district; I began to 
think of him with sympathy.

Leaving the girls, I pushed on through the bog, and got into 
another wood and upon a well-marked road.  It grew darker and 
darker.  Modestine, suddenly beginning to smell mischief, bettered 
the pace of her own accord, and from that time forward gave me no 
trouble.  It was the first sign of intelligence I had occasion to 
remark in her.  At the same time, the wind freshened into half a 
gale, and another heavy discharge of rain came flying up out of the 
north.  At the other side of the wood I sighted some red windows in 
the dusk.  This was the hamlet of Fouzilhic; three houses on a 
hillside, near a wood of birches.  Here I found a delightful old 
man, who came a little way with me in the rain to put me safely on 
the road for Cheylard.  He would hear of no reward; but shook his 
hands above his head almost as if in menace, and refused volubly 
and shrilly, in unmitigated PATOIS.

All seemed right at last.  My thoughts began to turn upon dinner 
and a fireside, and my heart was agreeably softened in my bosom.  
Alas, and I was on the brink of new and greater miseries!  
Suddenly, at a single swoop, the night fell.  I have been abroad in 
many a black night, but never in a blacker.  A glimmer of rocks, a 
glimmer of the track where it was well beaten, a certain fleecy 
density, or night within night, for a tree, - this was all that I 
could discriminate.  The sky was simply darkness overhead; even the 
flying clouds pursued their way invisibly to human eyesight.  I 
could not distinguish my hand at arm's-length from the track, nor 
my goad, at the same distance, from the meadows or the sky.

Soon the road that I was following split, after the fashion of the 
country, into three or four in a piece of rocky meadow.  Since 
Modestine had shown such a fancy for beaten roads, I tried her 
instinct in this predicament.  But the instinct of an ass is what 
might be expected from the name; in half a minute she was 
clambering round and round among some boulders, as lost a donkey as 
you would wish to see.  I should have camped long before had I been 
properly provided; but as this was to be so short a stage, I had 
brought no wine, no bread for myself, and little over a pound for 
my lady friend.  Add to this, that I and Modestine were both 
handsomely wetted by the showers.  But now, if I could have found 
some water, I should have camped at once in spite of all.  Water, 
however, being entirely absent, except in the form of rain, I 
determined to return to Fouzilhic, and ask a guide a little farther 
on my way - 'a little farther lend thy guiding hand.'

The thing was easy to decide, hard to accomplish.  In this sensible 
roaring blackness I was sure of nothing but the direction of the 
wind.  To this I set my face; the road had disappeared, and I went 
across country, now in marshy opens, now baffled by walls 
unscalable to Modestine, until I came once more in sight of some 
red windows.  This time they were differently disposed.  It was not 
Fouzilhic, but Fouzilhac, a hamlet little distant from the other in 
space, but worlds away in the spirit of its inhabitants.  I tied 
Modestine to a gate, and groped forward, stumbling among rocks, 
plunging mid-leg in bog, until I gained the entrance of the 
village.  In the first lighted house there was a woman who would 
not open to me.  She could do nothing, she cried to me through the 
door, being alone and lame; but if I would apply at the next house, 
there was a man who could help me if he had a mind.

They came to the next door in force, a man, two women, and a girl, 
and brought a pair of lanterns to examine the wayfarer.  The man 
was not ill-looking, but had a shifty smile.  He leaned against the 
doorpost, and heard me state my case.  All I asked was a guide as 
far as Cheylard.


I told him that was just my reason for requiring help.

'I understand that,' said he, looking uncomfortable; 'MAIS - C'EST 

I was willing to pay, I said.  He shook his head.  I rose as high 
as ten francs; but he continued to shake his head.  'Name your own 
price, then,' said I.

'CE N'EST PAS CA,' he said at length, and with evident difficulty; 
'but I am not going to cross the door - MAIS JE NE SORTIRAI PAS DE 

I grew a little warm, and asked him what he proposed that I should 

'Where are you going beyond Cheylard?' he asked by way of answer.

'That is no affair of yours,' I returned, for I was not going to 
indulge his bestial curiosity; 'it changes nothing in my present 

'C'EST VRAI, CA,' he acknowledged, with a laugh; 'OUI, C'EST VRAI.  

A better man than I might have felt nettled.

'Oh,' said I, 'I am not going to answer any of your questions, so 
you may spare yourself the trouble of putting them.  I am late 
enough already; I want help.  If you will not guide me yourself, at 
least help me to find some one else who will.'

'Hold on,' he cried suddenly.  'Was it not you who passed in the 
meadow while it was still day?'

'Yes, yes,' said the girl, whom I had not hitherto recognised; 'it 
was monsieur; I told him to follow the cow.'

'As for you, mademoiselle,' said I, 'you are a FARCEUSE.'

'And,' added the man, 'what the devil have you done to be still 

What the devil, indeed!  But there I was.

'The great thing,' said I, 'is to make an end of it'; and once more 
proposed that he should help me to find a guide.

'C'EST QUE,' he said again, 'C'EST QUE - IL FAIT NOIR.'

'Very well,' said I; 'take one of your lanterns.'

'No,' he cried, drawing a thought backward, and again intrenching 
himself behind one of his former phrases; 'I will not cross the 

I looked at him.  I saw unaffected terror struggling on his face 
with unaffected shame; he was smiling pitifully and wetting his lip 
with his tongue, like a detected schoolboy.  I drew a brief picture 
of my state, and asked him what I was to do.

'I don't know,' he said; 'I will not cross the door.'

Here was the Beast of Gevaudan, and no mistake.

'Sir,' said I, with my most commanding manners, 'you are a coward.'

And with that I turned my back upon the family party, who hastened 
to retire within their fortifications; and the famous door was 
closed again, but not till I had overheard the sound of laughter.  
FILIA BARBARA PATER BARBARIOR.  Let me say it in the plural:  the 
Beasts of Gevaudan.

The lanterns had somewhat dazzled me, and I ploughed distressfully 
among stones and rubbish-heaps.  All the other houses in the 
village were both dark and silent; and though I knocked at here and 
there a door, my knocking was unanswered.  It was a bad business; I 
gave up Fouzilhac with my curses.  The rain had stopped, and the 
wind, which still kept rising, began to dry my coat and trousers.  
'Very well,' thought I, 'water or no water, I must camp.'  But the 
first thing was to return to Modestine.  I am pretty sure I was 
twenty minutes groping for my lady in the dark; and if it had not 
been for the unkindly services of the bog, into which I once more 
stumbled, I might have still been groping for her at the dawn.  My 
next business was to gain the shelter of a wood, for the wind was 
cold as well as boisterous.  How, in this well-wooded district, I 
should have been so long in finding one, is another of the 
insoluble mysteries of this day's adventures; but I will take my 
oath that I put near an hour to the discovery.

At last black trees began to show upon my left, and, suddenly 
crossing the road, made a cave of unmitigated blackness right in 
front.  I call it a cave without exaggeration; to pass below that 
arch of leaves was like entering a dungeon.  I felt about until my 
hand encountered a stout branch, and to this I tied Modestine, a 
haggard, drenched, desponding donkey.  Then I lowered my pack, laid 
it along the wall on the margin of the road, and unbuckled the 
straps.  I knew well enough where the lantern was; but where were 
the candles?  I groped and groped among the tumbled articles, and, 
while I was thus groping, suddenly I touched the spirit-lamp.  
Salvation!  This would serve my turn as well.  The wind roared 
unwearyingly among the trees; I could hear the boughs tossing and 
the leaves churning through half a mile of forest; yet the scene of 
my encampment was not only as black as the pit, but admirably 
sheltered.  At the second match the wick caught flame.  The light 
was both livid and shifting; but it cut me off from the universe, 
and doubled the darkness of the surrounding night.

I tied Modestine more conveniently for herself, and broke up half 
the black bread for her supper, reserving the other half against 
the morning.  Then I gathered what I should want within reach, took 
off my wet boots and gaiters, which I wrapped in my waterproof, 
arranged my knapsack for a pillow under the flap of my sleeping-
bag, insinuated my limbs into the interior, and buckled myself in 
like a bambino.  I opened a tin of Bologna sausage and broke a cake 
of chocolate, and that was all I had to eat.  It may sound 
offensive, but I ate them together, bite by bite, by way of bread 
and meat.  All I had to wash down this revolting mixture was neat 
brandy:  a revolting beverage in itself.  But I was rare and 
hungry; ate well, and smoked one of the best cigarettes in my 
experience.  Then I put a stone in my straw hat, pulled the flap of 
my fur cap over my neck and eyes, put my revolver ready to my hand, 
and snuggled well down among the sheepskins.

I questioned at first if I were sleepy, for I felt my heart beating 
faster than usual, as if with an agreeable excitement to which my 
mind remained a stranger.  But as soon as my eyelids touched, that 
subtle glue leaped between them, and they would no more come 
separate.  The wind among the trees was my lullaby.  Sometimes it 
sounded for minutes together with a steady, even rush, not rising 
nor abating; and again it would swell and burst like a great 
crashing breaker, and the trees would patter me all over with big 
drops from the rain of the afternoon.  Night after night, in my own 
bedroom in the country, I have given ear to this perturbing concert 
of the wind among the woods; but whether it was a difference in the 
trees, or the lie of the ground, or because I was myself outside 
and in the midst of it, the fact remains that the wind sang to a 
different tune among these woods of Gevaudan.  I hearkened and 
hearkened; and meanwhile sleep took gradual possession of my body 
and subdued my thoughts and senses; but still my last waking effort 
was to listen and distinguish, and my last conscious state was one 
of wonder at the foreign clamour in my ears.

Twice in the course of the dark hours - once when a stone galled me 
underneath the sack, and again when the poor patient Modestine, 
growing angry, pawed and stamped upon the road - I was recalled for 
a brief while to consciousness, and saw a star or two overhead, and 
the lace-like edge of the foliage against the sky.  When I awoke 
for the third time (Wednesday, September 25th), the world was 
flooded with a blue light, the mother of the dawn.  I saw the 
leaves labouring in the wind and the ribbon of the road; and, on 
turning my head, there was Modestine tied to a beech, and standing 
half across the path in an attitude of inimitable patience.  I 
closed my eyes again, and set to thinking over the experience of 
the night.  I was surprised to find how easy and pleasant it had 
been, even in this tempestuous weather.  The stone which annoyed me 
would not have been there, had I not been forced to camp blindfold 
in the opaque night; and I had felt no other inconvenience, except 
when my feet encountered the lantern or the second volume of 
Peyrat's PASTORS OF THE DESERT among the mixed contents of my 
sleeping-bag; nay, more, I had felt not a touch of cold, and 
awakened with unusually lightsome and clear sensations.

With that, I shook myself, got once more into my boots and gaiters, 
and, breaking up the rest of the bread for Modestine, strolled 
about to see in what part of the world I had awakened.  Ulysses, 
left on Ithaca, and with a mind unsettled by the goddess, was not 
more pleasantly astray.  I have been after an adventure all my 
life, a pure dispassionate adventure, such as befell early and 
heroic voyagers; and thus to be found by morning in a random 
woodside nook in Gevaudan - not knowing north from south, as 
strange to my surroundings as the first man upon the earth, an 
inland castaway - was to find a fraction of my day-dreams realised.  
I was on the skirts of a little wood of birch, sprinkled with a few 
beeches; behind, it adjoined another wood of fir; and in front, it 
broke up and went down in open order into a shallow and meadowy 
dale.  All around there were bare hilltops, some near, some far 
away, as the perspective closed or opened, but none apparently much 
higher than the rest.  The wind huddled the trees.  The golden 
specks of autumn in the birches tossed shiveringly.  Overhead the 
sky was full of strings and shreds of vapour, flying, vanishing, 
reappearing, and turning about an axis like tumblers, as the wind 
hounded them through heaven.  It was wild weather and famishing 
cold.  I ate some chocolate, swallowed a mouthful of brandy, and 
smoked a cigarette before the cold should have time to disable my 
fingers.  And by the time I had got all this done, and had made my 
pack and bound it on the pack-saddle, the day was tiptoe on the 
threshold of the east.  We had not gone many steps along the lane, 
before the sun, still invisible to me, sent a glow of gold over 
some cloud mountains that lay ranged along the eastern sky.

The wind had us on the stern, and hurried us bitingly forward.  I 
buttoned myself into my coat, and walked on in a pleasant frame of 
mind with all men, when suddenly, at a corner, there was Fouzilhic 
once more in front of me.  Nor only that, but there was the old 
gentleman who had escorted me so far the night before, running out 
of his house at sight of me, with hands upraised in horror.

'My poor boy!' he cried, 'what does this mean?'

I told him what had happened.  He beat his old hands like clappers 
in a mill, to think how lightly he had let me go; but when he heard 
of the man of Fouzilhac, anger and depression seized upon his mind.

'This time, at least,' said he, 'there shall be no mistake.'

And he limped along, for he was very rheumatic, for about half a 
mile, and until I was almost within sight of Cheylard, the 
destination I had hunted for so long.


CANDIDLY, it seemed little worthy of all this searching.  A few 
broken ends of village, with no particular street, but a succession 
of open places heaped with logs and fagots; a couple of tilted 
crosses, a shrine to Our Lady of all Graces on the summit of a 
little hill; and all this, upon a rattling highland river, in the 
corner of a naked valley.  What went ye out for to see? thought I 
to myself.  But the place had a life of its own.  I found a board, 
commemorating the liberalities of Cheylard for the past year, hung 
up, like a banner, in the diminutive and tottering church.  In 
1877, it appeared, the inhabitants subscribed forty-eight francs 
ten centimes for the 'Work of the Propagation of the Faith.'  Some 
of this, I could not help hoping, would be applied to my native 
land.  Cheylard scrapes together halfpence for the darkened souls 
in Edinburgh; while Balquhidder and Dunrossness bemoan the 
ignorance of Rome.  Thus, to the high entertainment of the angels, 
do we pelt each other with evangelists, like schoolboys bickering 
in the snow.

The inn was again singularly unpretentious.  The whole furniture of 
a not ill-to-do family was in the kitchen:  the beds, the cradle, 
the clothes, the plate-rack, the meal-chest, and the photograph of 
the parish priest.  There were five children, one of whom was set 
to its morning prayers at the stair-foot soon after my arrival, and 
a sixth would ere long be forthcoming.  I was kindly received by 
these good folk.  They were much interested in my misadventure.  
The wood in which I had slept belonged to them; the man of 
Fouzilhac they thought a monster of iniquity, and counselled me 
warmly to summon him at law - 'because I might have died.'  The 
good wife was horror-stricken to see me drink over a pint of 
uncreamed milk.

'You will do yourself an evil,' she said.  'Permit me to boil it 
for you.'

After I had begun the morning on this delightful liquor, she having 
an infinity of things to arrange, I was permitted, nay requested, 
to make a bowl of chocolate for myself.  My boots and gaiters were 
hung up to dry, and, seeing me trying to write my journal on my 
knee, the eldest daughter let down a hinged table in the chimney-
corner for my convenience.  Here I wrote, drank my chocolate, and 
finally ate an omelette before I left.  The table was thick with 
dust; for, as they explained, it was not used except in winter 
weather.  I had a clear look up the vent, through brown 
agglomerations of soot and blue vapour, to the sky; and whenever a 
handful of twigs was thrown on to the fire, my legs were scorched 
by the blaze.

The husband had begun life as a muleteer, and when I came to charge 
Modestine showed himself full of the prudence of his art.  'You 
will have to change this package,' said he; 'it ought to be in two 
parts, and then you might have double the weight.'

I explained that I wanted no more weight; and for no donkey 
hitherto created would I cut my sleeping-bag in two.

'It fatigues her, however,' said the innkeeper; 'it fatigues her 
greatly on the march.  Look.'

Alas, there were her two forelegs no better than raw beef on the 
inside, and blood was running from under her tail.  They told me 
when I started, and I was ready to believe it, that before a few 
days I should come to love Modestine like a dog.  Three days had 
passed, we had shared some misadventures, and my heart was still as 
cold as a potato towards my beast of burden.  She was pretty enough 
to look at; but then she had given proof of dead stupidity, 
redeemed indeed by patience, but aggravated by flashes of sorry and 
ill-judged light-heartedness.  And I own this new discovery seemed 
another point against her.  What the devil was the good of a she-
ass if she could not carry a sleeping-bag and a few necessaries?  I 
saw the end of the fable rapidly approaching, when I should have to 
carry Modestine.  AEsop was the man to know the world!  I assure 
you I set out with heavy thoughts upon my short day's march.

It was not only heavy thoughts about Modestine that weighted me 
upon the way; it was a leaden business altogether.  For first, the 
wind blew so rudely that I had to hold on the pack with one hand 
from Cheylard to Luc; and second, my road lay through one of the 
most beggarly countries in the world.  It was like the worst of the 
Scottish Highlands, only worse; cold, naked, and ignoble, scant of 
wood, scant of heather, scant of life.  A road and some fences 
broke the unvarying waste, and the line of the road was marked by 
upright pillars, to serve in time of snow.

Why any one should desire to visit either Luc or Cheylard is more 
than my much-inventing spirit can suppose.  For my part, I travel 
not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel's sake.  The 
great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life 
more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilisation, and 
find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.  
Alas, as we get up in life, and are more preoccupied with our 
affairs, even a holiday is a thing that must be worked for.  To 
hold a pack upon a pack-saddle against a gale out of the freezing 
north is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and 
compose the mind.  And when the present is so exacting, who can 
annoy himself about the future?

I came out at length above the Allier.  A more unsightly prospect 
at this season of the year it would be hard to fancy.  Shelving 
hills rose round it on all sides, here dabbled with wood and 
fields, there rising to peaks alternately naked and hairy with 
pines.  The colour throughout was black or ashen, and came to a 
point in the ruins of the castle of Luc, which pricked up 
impudently from below my feet, carrying on a pinnacle a tall white 
statue of Our Lady, which, I heard with interest, weighed fifty 
quintals, and was to be dedicated on the 6th of October.  Through 
this sorry landscape trickled the Allier and a tributary of nearly 
equal size, which came down to join it through a broad nude valley 
in Vivarais.  The weather had somewhat lightened, and the clouds 
massed in squadron; but the fierce wind still hunted them through 
heaven, and cast great ungainly splashes of shadow and sunlight 
over the scene.

Luc itself was a straggling double file of houses wedged between 
hill and river.  It had no beauty, nor was there any notable 
feature, save the old castle overhead with its fifty quintals of 
brand-new Madonna.  But the inn was clean and large.  The kitchen, 
with its two box-beds hung with clean check curtains, with its wide 
stone chimney, its chimney-shelf four yards long and garnished with 
lanterns and religious statuettes, its array of chests and pair of 
ticking clocks, was the very model of what a kitchen ought to be; a 
melodrama kitchen, suitable for bandits or noblemen in disguise.  
Nor was the scene disgraced by the landlady, a handsome, silent, 
dark old woman, clothed and hooded in black like a nun.  Even the 
public bedroom had a character of its own, with the long deal 
tables and benches, where fifty might have dined, set out as for a 
harvest-home, and the three box-beds along the wall.  In one of 
these, lying on straw and covered with a pair of table-napkins, did 
I do penance all night long in goose-flesh and chattering teeth, 
and sigh, from time to time as I awakened, for my sheepskin sack 
and the lee of some great wood.


'I behold
The House, the Brotherhood austere -
And what am I, that I am here?'



NEXT morning (Thursday, 20th September) I took the road in a new 
order.  The sack was no longer doubled, but hung at full length 
across the saddle, a green sausage six feet long with a tuft of 
blue wool hanging out of either end.  It was more picturesque, it 
spared the donkey, and, as I began to see, it would ensure 
stability, blow high, blow low.  But it was not without a pang that 
I had so decided.  For although I had purchased a new cord, and 
made all as fast as I was able, I was yet jealously uneasy lest the 
flaps should tumble out and scatter my effects along the line of 

My way lay up the bald valley of the river, along the march of 
Vivarais and Gevaudan.  The hills of Gevaudan on the right were a 
little more naked, if anything, than those of Vivarais upon the 
left, and the former had a monopoly of a low dotty underwood that 
grew thickly in the gorges and died out in solitary burrs upon the 
shoulders and the summits.  Black bricks of fir-wood were plastered 
here and there upon both sides, and here and there were cultivated 
fields.  A railway ran beside the river; the only bit of railway in 
Gevaudan, although there are many proposals afoot and surveys being 
made, and even, as they tell me, a station standing ready built in 
Mende.  A year or two hence and this may be another world.  The 
desert is beleaguered.  Now may some Languedocian Wordsworth turn 
the sonnet into PATOIS:  'Mountains and vales and floods, heard YE 
that whistle?'

At a place called La Bastide I was directed to leave the river, and 
follow a road that mounted on the left among the hills of Vivarais, 
the modern Ardeche; for I was now come within a little way of my 
strange destination, the Trappist monastery of Our Lady of the 
Snows.  The sun came out as I left the shelter of a pine-wood, and 
I beheld suddenly a fine wild landscape to the south.  High rocky 
hills, as blue as sapphire, closed the view, and between these lay 
ridge upon ridge, heathery, craggy, the sun glittering on veins of 
rock, the underwood clambering in the hollows, as rude as God made 
them at the first.  There was not a sign of man's hand in all the 
prospect; and indeed not a trace of his passage, save where 
generation after generation had walked in twisted footpaths, in and 
out among the beeches, and up and down upon the channelled slopes.  
The mists, which had hitherto beset me, were now broken into 
clouds, and fled swiftly and shone brightly in the sun.  I drew a 
long breath.  It was grateful to come, after so long, upon a scene 
of some attraction for the human heart.  I own I like definite form 
in what my eyes are to rest upon; and if landscapes were sold, like 
the sheets of characters of my boyhood, one penny plain and 
twopence coloured, I should go the length of twopence every day of 
my life.

But if things had grown better to the south, it was still desolate 
and inclement near at hand.  A spidery cross on every hill-top 
marked the neighbourhood of a religious house; and a quarter of a 
mile beyond, the outlook southward opening out and growing bolder 
with every step, a white statue of the Virgin at the corner of a 
young plantation directed the traveller to Our Lady of the Snows.  
Here, then, I struck leftward, and pursued my way, driving my 
secular donkey before me, and creaking in my secular boots and 
gaiters, towards the asylum of silence.

I had not gone very far ere the wind brought to me the clanging of 
a bell, and somehow, I can scarce tell why, my heart sank within me 
at the sound.  I have rarely approached anything with more 
unaffected terror than the monastery of Our Lady of the Snows.  
This it is to have had a Protestant education.  And suddenly, on 
turning a corner, fear took hold on me from head to foot - slavish, 
superstitious fear; and though I did not stop in my advance, yet I 
went on slowly, like a man who should have passed a bourne 
unnoticed, and strayed into the country of the dead.  For there, 
upon the narrow new-made road, between the stripling pines, was a 
mediaeval friar, fighting with a barrowful of turfs.  Every Sunday 
of my childhood I used to study the Hermits of Marco Sadeler - 
enchanting prints, full of wood and field and mediaeval landscapes, 
as large as a county, for the imagination to go a-travelling in; 
and here, sure enough, was one of Marco Sadeler's heroes.  He was 
robed in white like any spectre, and the hood falling back, in the 
instancy of his contention with the barrow, disclosed a pate as 
bald and yellow as a skull.  He might have been buried any time 
these thousand years, and all the lively parts of him resolved into 
earth and broken up with the farmer's harrow.

I was troubled besides in my mind as to etiquette.  Durst I address 
a person who was under a vow of silence?  Clearly not.  But drawing 
near, I doffed my cap to him with a far-away superstitious 
reverence.  He nodded back, and cheerfully addressed me.  Was I 
going to the monastery?  Who was I?  An Englishman?  Ah, an 
Irishman, then?

'No,' I said, 'a Scotsman.'

A Scotsman?  Ah, he had never seen a Scotsman before.  And he 
looked me all over, his good, honest, brawny countenance shining 
with interest, as a boy might look upon a lion or an alligator.  
From him I learned with disgust that I could not be received at Our 
Lady of the Snows; I might get a meal, perhaps, but that was all.  
And then, as our talk ran on, and it turned out that I was not a 
pedlar, but a literary man, who drew landscapes and was going to 
write a book, he changed his manner of thinking as to my reception 
(for I fear they respect persons even in a Trappist monastery), and 
told me I must be sure to ask for the Father Prior, and state my 
case to him in full.  On second thoughts he determined to go down 
with me himself; he thought he could manage for me better.  Might 
he say that I was a geographer?

No; I thought, in the interests of truth, he positively might not.

'Very well, then' (with disappointment), 'an author.'

It appeared he had been in a seminary with six young Irishmen, all 
priests long since, who had received newspapers and kept him 
informed of the state of ecclesiastical affairs in England.  And he 
asked me eagerly after Dr. Pusey, for whose conversion the good man 
had continued ever since to pray night and morning.

'I thought he was very near the truth,' he said; 'and he will reach 
it yet; there is so much virtue in prayer.'

He must be a stiff, ungodly Protestant who can take anything but 
pleasure in this kind and hopeful story.  While he was thus near 
the subject, the good father asked me if I were a Christian; and 
when he found I was not, or not after his way, he glossed it over 
with great good-will.

The road which we were following, and which this stalwart father 
had made with his own two hands within the space of a year, came to 
a corner, and showed us some white buildings a little farther on 
beyond the wood.  At the same time, the bell once more sounded 
abroad.  We were hard upon the monastery.  Father Apollinaris (for 
that was my companion's name) stopped me.

'I must not speak to you down there,' he said.  'Ask for the 
Brother Porter, and all will be well.  But try to see me as you go 
out again through the wood, where I may speak to you.  I am charmed 
to have made your acquaintance.'

And then suddenly raising his arms, flapping his fingers, and 
crying out twice, 'I must not speak, I must not speak!' he ran away 
in front of me, and disappeared into the monastery door.

I own this somewhat ghastly eccentricity went a good way to revive 
my terrors.  But where one was so good and simple, why should not 
all be alike?  I took heart of grace, and went forward to the gate 
as fast as Modestine, who seemed to have a disaffection for 
monasteries, would permit.  It was the first door, in my 
acquaintance of her, which she had not shown an indecent haste to 
enter.  I summoned the place in form, though with a quaking heart.  
Father Michael, the Father Hospitaller, and a pair of brown-robed 
brothers came to the gate and spoke with me a while.  I think my 
sack was the great attraction; it had already beguiled the heart of 
poor Apollinaris, who had charged me on my life to show it to the 
Father Prior, But whether it was my address, or the sack, or the 
idea speedily published among that part of the brotherhood who 
attend on strangers that I was not a pedlar after all, I found no 
difficulty as to my reception.  Modestine was led away by a layman 
to the stables, and I and my pack were received into Our Lady of 
the Snows.


FATHER MICHAEL, a pleasant, fresh-faced, smiling man, perhaps of 
thirty-five, took me to the pantry, and gave me a glass of liqueur 
to stay me until dinner.  We had some talk, or rather I should say 
he listened to my prattle indulgently enough, but with an 
abstracted air, like a spirit with a thing of clay.  And truly, 
when I remember that I descanted principally on my appetite, and 
that it must have been by that time more than eighteen hours since 
Father Michael had so much as broken bread, I can well understand 
that he would find an earthly savour in my conversation.  But his 
manner, though superior, was exquisitely gracious; and I find I 
have a lurking curiosity as to Father Michael's past.

The whet administered, I was left alone for a little in the 
monastery garden.  This is no more than the main court, laid out in 
sandy paths and beds of parti-coloured dahlias, and with a fountain 
and a black statue of the Virgin in the centre.  The buildings 
stand around it four-square, bleak, as yet unseasoned by the years 
and weather, and with no other features than a belfry and a pair of 
slated gables.  Brothers in white, brothers in brown, passed 
silently along the sanded alleys; and when I first came out, three 
hooded monks were kneeling on the terrace at their prayers.  A 
naked hill commands the monastery upon one side, and the wood 
commands it on the other.  It lies exposed to wind; the snow falls 
off and on from October to May, and sometimes lies six weeks on 
end; but if they stood in Eden, with a climate like heaven's, the 
buildings themselves would offer the same wintry and cheerless 
aspect; and for my part, on this wild September day, before I was 
called to dinner, I felt chilly in and out.

When I had eaten well and heartily, Brother Ambrose, a hearty 
conversible Frenchman (for all those who wait on strangers have the 
liberty to speak), led me to a little room in that part of the 
building which is set apart for MM. LES RETRAITANTS.  It was clean 
and whitewashed, and furnished with strict necessaries, a crucifix, 
a bust of the late Pope, the IMITATION in French, a book of 
religious meditations, and the LIFE OF ELIZABETH SETON, evangelist, 
it would appear, of North America and of New England in particular.  
As far as my experience goes, there is a fair field for some more 
evangelisation in these quarters; but think of Cotton Mather!  I 
should like to give him a reading of this little work in heaven, 
where I hope he dwells; but perhaps he knows all that already, and 
much more; and perhaps he and Mrs. Seton are the dearest friends, 
and gladly unite their voices in the everlasting psalm.  Over the 
table, to conclude the inventory of the room, hung a set of 
regulations for MM. LES RETRAITANTS:  what services they should 
attend, when they were to tell their beads or meditate, and when 
they were to rise and go to rest.  At the foot was a notable N.B.:  
resolutions, indeed!  You might talk as fruitfully of making the 
hair grow on your head.

I had scarce explored my niche when Brother Ambrose returned.  An 
English boarder, it appeared, would like to speak with me.  I 
professed my willingness, and the friar ushered in a fresh, young, 
little Irishman of fifty, a deacon of the Church, arrayed in strict 
canonicals, and wearing on his head what, in default of knowledge, 
I can only call the ecclesiastical shako.  He had lived seven years 
in retreat at a convent of nuns in Belgium, and now five at Our 
Lady of the Snows; he never saw an English newspaper; he spoke 
French imperfectly, and had he spoken it like a native, there was 
not much chance of conversation where he dwelt.  With this, he was 
a man eminently sociable, greedy of news, and simple-minded like a 
child.  If I was pleased to have a guide about the monastery, he 
was no less delighted to see an English face and hear an English 

He showed me his own room, where he passed his time among 
breviaries, Hebrew Bibles, and the Waverley Novels.  Thence he led 
me to the cloisters, into the chapter-house, through the vestry, 
where the brothers' gowns and broad straw hats were hanging up, 
each with his religious name upon a board - names full of legendary 
suavity and interest, such as Basil, Hilarion, Raphael, or 
Pacifique; into the library, where were all the works of Veuillot 
and Chateaubriand, and the ODES ET BALLADES, if you please, and 
even Moliere, to say nothing of innumerable fathers and a great 
variety of local and general historians.  Thence my good Irishman 
took me round the workshops, where brothers bake bread, and make 
cartwheels, and take photographs; where one superintends a 
collection of curiosities, and another a gallery of rabbits.  For 
in a Trappist monastery each monk has an occupation of his own 
choice, apart from his religious duties and the general labours of 
the house.  Each must sing in the choir, if he has a voice and ear, 
and join in the haymaking if he has a hand to stir; but in his 
private hours, although he must be occupied, he may be occupied on 
what he likes.  Thus I was told that one brother was engaged with 
literature; while Father Apollinaris busies himself in making 
roads, and the Abbot employs himself in binding books.  It is not 
so long since this Abbot was consecrated, by the way; and on that 
occasion, by a special grace, his mother was permitted to enter the 
chapel and witness the ceremony of consecration.  A proud day for 
her to have a son a mitred abbot; it makes you glad to think they 
let her in.

In all these journeyings to and fro, many silent fathers and 
brethren fell in our way.  Usually they paid no more regard to our 
passage than if we had been a cloud; but sometimes the good deacon 
had a permission to ask of them, and it was granted by a peculiar 
movement of the hands, almost like that of a dog's paws in 
swimming, or refused by the usual negative signs, and in either 
case with lowered eyelids and a certain air of contrition, as of a 
man who was steering very close to evil.

The monks, by special grace of their Abbot, were still taking two 
meals a day; but it was already time for their grand fast, which 
begins somewhere in September and lasts till Easter, and during 
which they eat but once in the twenty-four hours, and that at two 
in the afternoon, twelve hours after they have begun the toil and 
vigil of the day.  Their meals are scanty, but even of these they 
eat sparingly; and though each is allowed a small carafe of wine, 
many refrain from this indulgence.  Without doubt, the most of 
mankind grossly overeat themselves; our meals serve not only for 
support, but as a hearty and natural diversion from the labour of 
life.  Yet, though excess may be hurtful, I should have thought 
this Trappist regimen defective.  And I am astonished, as I look 
back, at the freshness of face and cheerfulness of manner of all 
whom I beheld.  A happier nor a healthier company I should scarce 
suppose that I have ever seen.  As a matter of fact, on this bleak 
upland, and with the incessant occupation of the monks, life is of 
an uncertain tenure, and death no infrequent visitor, at Our Lady 
of the Snows.  This, at least, was what was told me.  But if they 
die easily, they must live healthily in the meantime, for they 
seemed all firm of flesh and high in colour; and the only morbid 
sign that I could observe, an unusual brilliancy of eye, was one 
that served rather to increase the general impression of vivacity 
and strength.

Those with whom I spoke were singularly sweet-tempered, with what I 
can only call a holy cheerfulness in air and conversation.  There 
is a note, in the direction to visitors, telling them not to be 
offended at the curt speech of those who wait upon them, since it 
is proper to monks to speak little.  The note might have been 
spared; to a man the hospitallers were all brimming with innocent 
talk, and, in my experience of the monastery, it was easier to 
begin than to break off a conversation.  With the exception of 
Father Michael, who was a man of the world, they showed themselves 
full of kind and healthy interest in all sorts of subjects - in 
politics, in voyages, in my sleeping-sack - and not without a 
certain pleasure in the sound of their own voices.

As for those who are restricted to silence, I can only wonder how 
they bear their solemn and cheerless isolation.  And yet, apart 
from any view of mortification, I can see a certain policy, not 
only in the exclusion of women, but in this vow of silence.  I have 
had some experience of lay phalansteries, of an artistic, not to 
say a bacchanalian character; and seen more than one association 
easily formed and yet more easily dispersed.  With a Cistercian 
rule, perhaps they might have lasted longer.  In the neighbourhood 
of women it is but a touch-and-go association that can be formed 
among defenceless men; the stronger electricity is sure to triumph; 
the dreams of boyhood, the schemes of youth, are abandoned after an 
interview of ten minutes, and the arts and sciences, and 
professional male jollity, deserted at once for two sweet eyes and 
a caressing accent.  And next after this, the tongue is the great 

I am almost ashamed to pursue this worldly criticism of a religious 
rule; but there is yet another point in which the Trappist order 
appeals to me as a model of wisdom.  By two in the morning the 
clapper goes upon the bell, and so on, hour by hour, and sometimes 
quarter by quarter, till eight, the hour of rest; so 
infinitesimally is the day divided among different occupations.  
The man who keeps rabbits, for example, hurries from his hutches to 
the chapel, the chapter-room, or the refectory, all day long:  
every hour he has an office to sing, a duty to perform; from two, 
when he rises in the dark, till eight, when he returns to receive 
the comfortable gift of sleep, he is upon his feet and occupied 
with manifold and changing business.  I know many persons, worth 
several thousands in the year, who are not so fortunate in the 
disposal of their lives.  Into how many houses would not the note 
of the monastery bell, dividing the day into manageable portions, 
bring peace of mind and healthful activity of body!  We speak of 
hardships, but the true hardship is to be a dull fool, and 
permitted to mismanage life in our own dull and foolish manner.

From this point of view, we may perhaps better understand the 
monk's existence.  A long novitiate and every proof of constancy of 
mind and strength of body is required before admission to the 
order; but I could not find that many were discouraged.  In the 
photographer's studio, which figures so strangely among the 
outbuildings, my eye was attracted by the portrait of a young 
fellow in the uniform of a private of foot.  This was one of the 
novices, who came of the age for service, and marched and drilled 
and mounted guard for the proper time among the garrison of 
Algiers.  Here was a man who had surely seen both sides of life 
before deciding; yet as soon as he was set free from service he 
returned to finish his novitiate.

This austere rule entitles a man to heaven as by right.  When the 
Trappist sickens, he quits not his habit; he lies in the bed of 
death as he has prayed and laboured in his frugal and silent 
existence; and when the Liberator comes, at the very moment, even 
before they have carried him in his robe to lie his little last in 
the chapel among continual chantings, joy-bells break forth, as if 
for a marriage, from the slated belfry, and proclaim throughout the 
neighbourhood that another soul has gone to God.

At night, under the conduct of my kind Irishman, I took my place in 
the gallery to hear compline and SALVE REGINA, with which the 
Cistercians bring every day to a conclusion.  There were none of 
those circumstances which strike the Protestant as childish or as 
tawdry in the public offices of Rome.  A stern simplicity, 
heightened by the romance of the surroundings, spoke directly to 
the heart.  I recall the whitewashed chapel, the hooded figures in 
the choir, the lights alternately occluded and revealed, the strong 
manly singing, the silence that ensued, the sight of cowled heads 
bowed in prayer, and then the clear trenchant beating of the bell, 
breaking in to show that the last office was over and the hour of 
sleep had come; and when I remember, I am not surprised that I made 
my escape into the court with somewhat whirling fancies, and stood 
like a man bewildered in the windy starry night.

But I was weary; and when I had quieted my spirits with Elizabeth 
Seton's memoirs - a dull work - the cold and the raving of the wind 
among the pines (for my room was on that side of the monastery 
which adjoins the woods) disposed me readily to slumber.  I was 
wakened at black midnight, as it seemed, though it was really two 
in the morning, by the first stroke upon the bell.  All the 
brothers were then hurrying to the chapel; the dead in life, at 
this untimely hour, were already beginning the uncomforted labours 
of their day.  The dead in life - there was a chill reflection.  
And the words of a French song came back into my memory, telling of 
the best of our mixed existence:

'Que t'as de belles filles,
Que t'as de belles filles,

And I blessed God that I was free to wander, free to hope, and free 
to love.


BUT there was another side to my residence at Our Lady of the 
Snows.  At this late season there were not many boarders; and yet I 
was not alone in the public part of the monastery.  This itself is 
hard by the gate, with a small dining-room on the ground-floor and 
a whole corridor of cells similar to mine upstairs.  I have 
stupidly forgotten the board for a regular RETRAITANT; but it was 
somewhere between three and five francs a day, and I think most 
probably the first.  Chance visitors like myself might give what 
they chose as a free-will offering, but nothing was demanded.  I 
may mention that when I was going away, Father Michael refused 
twenty francs as excessive.  I explained the reasoning which led me 
to offer him so much; but even then, from a curious point of 
honour, he would not accept it with his own hand.  'I have no right 
to refuse for the monastery,' he explained, 'but I should prefer if 
you would give it to one of the brothers.'

I had dined alone, because I arrived late; but at supper I found 
two other guests.  One was a country parish priest, who had walked 
over that morning from the seat of his cure near Mende to enjoy 
four days of solitude and prayer.  He was a grenadier in person, 
with the hale colour and circular wrinkles of a peasant; and as he 
complained much of how he had been impeded by his skirts upon the 
march, I have a vivid fancy portrait of him, striding along, 
upright, big-boned, with kilted cassock, through the bleak hills of 
Gevaudan.  The other was a short, grizzling, thick-set man, from 
forty-five to fifty, dressed in tweed with a knitted spencer, and 
the red ribbon of a decoration in his button-hole.  This last was a 
hard person to classify.  He was an old soldier, who had seen 
service and risen to the rank of commandant; and he retained some 
of the brisk decisive manners of the camp.  On the other hand, as 
soon as his resignation was accepted, he had come to Our Lady of 
the Snows as a boarder, and, after a brief experience of its ways, 
had decided to remain as a novice.  Already the new life was 
beginning to modify his appearance; already he had acquired 
somewhat of the quiet and smiling air of the brethren; and he was 
as yet neither an officer nor a Trappist, but partook of the 
character of each.  And certainly here was a man in an interesting 
nick of life.  Out of the noise of cannon and trumpets, he was in 
the act of passing into this still country bordering on the grave, 
where men sleep nightly in their grave-clothes, and, like phantoms, 
communicate by signs.

At supper we talked politics.  I make it my business, when I am in 
France, to preach political good-will and moderation, and to dwell 
on the example of Poland, much as some alarmists in England dwell 
on the example of Carthage.  The priest and the commandant assured 
me of their sympathy with all I said, and made a heavy sighing over 
the bitterness of contemporary feeling.

'Why, you cannot say anything to a man with which he does not 
absolutely agree,' said I, 'but he flies up at you in a temper.'

They both declared that such a state of things was antichristian.

While we were thus agreeing, what should my tongue stumble upon but 
a word in praise of Gambetta's moderation.  The old soldier's 
countenance was instantly suffused with blood; with the palms of 
his hands he beat the table like a naughty child.

'COMMENT, MONSIEUR?' he shouted.  'COMMENT?  Gambetta moderate?  
Will you dare to justify these words?'

But the priest had not forgotten the tenor of our talk.  And 
suddenly, in the height of his fury, the old soldier found a 
warning look directed on his face; the absurdity of his behaviour 
was brought home to him in a flash; and the storm came to an abrupt 
end, without another word.

It was only in the morning, over our coffee (Friday, September 
27th), that this couple found out I was a heretic.  I suppose I had 
misled them by some admiring expressions as to the monastic life 
around us; and it was only by a point-blank question that the truth 
came out.  I had been tolerantly used both by simple Father 
Apollinaris and astute Father Michael; and the good Irish deacon, 
when he heard of my religious weakness, had only patted me upon the 
shoulder and said, 'You must be a Catholic and come to heaven.'  
But I was now among a different sect of orthodox.  These two men 
were bitter and upright and narrow, like the worst of Scotsmen, and 
indeed, upon my heart, I fancy they were worse.  The priest snorted 
aloud like a battle-horse.

demanded; and there is no type used by mortal printers large enough 
to qualify his accent.

I humbly indicated that I had no design of changing.

But he could not away with such a monstrous attitude.  'No, no,' he 
cried; 'you must change.  You have come here, God has led you here, 
and you must embrace the opportunity.'

I made a slip in policy; I appealed to the family affections, 
though I was speaking to a priest and a soldier, two classes of men 
circumstantially divorced from the kind and homely ties of life.

'Your father and mother?' cried the priest.  'Very well; you will 
convert them in their turn when you go home.'

I think I see my father's face!  I would rather tackle the 
Gaetulian lion in his den than embark on such an enterprise against 
the family theologian.

But now the hunt was up; priest and soldier were in full cry for my 
conversion; and the Work of the Propagation of the Faith, for which 
the people of Cheylard subscribed forty-eight francs ten centimes 
during 1877, was being gallantly pursued against myself.  It was an 
odd but most effective proselytising.  They never sought to 
convince me in argument, where I might have attempted some defence; 
but took it for granted that I was both ashamed and terrified at my 
position, and urged me solely on the point of time.  Now, they 
said, when God had led me to Our Lady of the Snows, now was the 
appointed hour.

'Do not be withheld by false shame,' observed the priest, for my 

For one who feels very similarly to all sects of religion, and who 
has never been able, even for a moment, to weigh seriously the 
merit of this or that creed on the eternal side of things, however 
much he may see to praise or blame upon the secular and temporal 
side, the situation thus created was both unfair and painful.  I 
committed my second fault in tact, and tried to plead that it was 
all the same thing in the end, and we were all drawing near by 
different sides to the same kind and undiscriminating Friend and 
Father.  That, as it seems to lay spirits, would be the only gospel 
worthy of the name.  But different men think differently; and this 
revolutionary aspiration brought down the priest with all the 
terrors of the law.  He launched into harrowing details of hell.  
The damned, he said - on the authority of a little book which he 
had read not a week before, and which, to add conviction to 
conviction, he had fully intended to bring along with him in his 
pocket - were to occupy the same attitude through all eternity in 
the midst of dismal tortures.  And as he thus expatiated, he grew 
in nobility of aspect with his enthusiasm.

As a result the pair concluded that I should seek out the Prior, 
since the Abbot was from home, and lay my case immediately before 


'OUI,' added the CURE, sententiously nodding; 'COMME ANCIEN 

At this moment, whilst I was somewhat embarrassed how to answer, in 
came one of the monks, a little brown fellow, as lively as a grig, 
and with an Italian accent, who threw himself at once into the 
contention, but in a milder and more persuasive vein, as befitted 
one of these pleasant brethren.  Look at HIM, he said.  The rule 
was very hard; he would have dearly liked to stay in his own 
country, Italy - it was well known how beautiful it was, the 
beautiful Italy; but then there were no Trappists in Italy; and he 
had a soul to save; and here he was.

I am afraid I must be at bottom, what a cheerful Indian critic has 
dubbed me, 'a faddling hedonist,' for this description of the 
brother's motives gave me somewhat of a shock.  I should have 
preferred to think he had chosen the life for its own sake, and not 
for ulterior purposes; and this shows how profoundly I was out of 
sympathy with these good Trappists, even when I was doing my best 
to sympathise.  But to the CURE the argument seemed decisive.

'Hear that!' he cried.  'And I have seen a marquis here, a marquis, 
a marquis' - he repeated the holy word three times over - 'and 
other persons high in society; and generals.  And here, at your 
side, is this gentleman, who has been so many years in armies - 
decorated, an old warrior.  And here he is, ready to dedicate 
himself to God.'

I was by this time so thoroughly embarrassed that I pled cold feet, 
and made my escape from the apartment.  It was a furious windy 
morning, with a sky much cleared, and long and potent intervals of 
sunshine; and I wandered until dinner in the wild country towards 
the east, sorely staggered and beaten upon by the gale, but 
rewarded with some striking views.

At dinner the Work of the Propagation of the Faith was recommenced, 
and on this occasion still more distastefully to me.  The priest 
asked me many questions as to the contemptible faith of my fathers, 
and received my replies with a kind of ecclesiastical titter.

'Your sect,' he said once; 'for I think you will admit it would be 
doing it too much honour to call it a religion.'

'As you please, monsieur,' said I.  'LA PAROLE EST A VOUS.'

At length I grew annoyed beyond endurance; and although he was on 
his own ground and, what is more to the purpose, an old man, and so 
holding a claim upon my toleration, I could not avoid a protest 
against this uncivil usage.  He was sadly discountenanced.

'I assure you.' he said, 'I have no inclination to laugh in my 
heart.  I have no other feeling but interest in your soul.'

And there ended my conversion.  Honest man! he was no dangerous 
deceiver; but a country parson, full of zeal and faith.  Long may 
he tread Gevaudan with his kilted skirts - a man strong to walk and 
strong to comfort his parishioners in death!  I daresay he would 
beat bravely through a snowstorm where his duty called him; and it 
is not always the most faithful believer who makes the cunningest 



The bed was made, the room was fit,
By punctual eve the stars were lit;
The air was still, the water ran;
No need there was for maid or man,
When we put up, my ass and I,
At God's green caravanserai.



THE wind fell during dinner, and the sky remained clear; so it was 
under better auspices that I loaded Modestine before the monastery 
gate.  My Irish friend accompanied me so far on the way.  As we 
came through the wood, there was Pere Apollinaire hauling his 
barrow; and he too quitted his labours to go with me for perhaps a 
hundred yards, holding my hand between both of his in front of him.  
I parted first from one and then from the other with unfeigned 
regret, but yet with the glee of the traveller who shakes off the 
dust of one stage before hurrying forth upon another.  Then 
Modestine and I mounted the course of the Allier, which here led us 
back into Gevaudan towards its sources in the forest of Mercoire.  
It was but an inconsiderable burn before we left its guidance.  
Thence, over a hill, our way lay through a naked plateau, until we 
reached Chasserades at sundown.

The company in the inn kitchen that night were all men employed in 
survey for one of the projected railways.  They were intelligent 
and conversible, and we decided the future of France over hot wine, 
until the state of the clock frightened us to rest.  There were 
four beds in the little upstairs room; and we slept six.  But I had 
a bed to myself, and persuaded them to leave the window open.

'HE, BOURGEOIS; IL EST CINQ HEURES!' was the cry that wakened me in 
the morning (Saturday, September 28th).  The room was full of a 
transparent darkness, which dimly showed me the other three beds 
and the five different nightcaps on the pillows.  But out of the 
window the dawn was growing ruddy in a long belt over the hill-
tops, and day was about to flood the plateau.  The hour was 
inspiriting; and there seemed a promise of calm weather, which was 
perfectly fulfilled.  I was soon under way with Modestine.  The 
road lay for a while over the plateau, and then descended through a 
precipitous village into the valley of the Chassezac.  This stream 
ran among green meadows, well hidden from the world by its steep 
banks; the broom was in flower, and here and there was a hamlet 
sending up its smoke.

At last the path crossed the Chassezac upon a bridge, and, 
forsaking this deep hollow, set itself to cross the mountain of La 
Goulet.  It wound up through Lestampes by upland fields and woods 
of beech and birch, and with every corner brought me into an 
acquaintance with some new interest.  Even in the gully of the 
Chassezac my ear had been struck by a noise like that of a great 
bass bell ringing at the distance of many miles; but this, as I 
continued to mount and draw nearer to it, seemed to change in 
character, and I found at length that it came from some one leading 
flocks afield to the note of a rural horn.  The narrow street of 
Lestampes stood full of sheep, from wall to wall - black sheep and 
white, bleating with one accord like the birds in spring, and each 
one accompanying himself upon the sheep-bell round his neck.  It 
made a pathetic concert, all in treble.  A little higher, and I 
passed a pair of men in a tree with pruning-hooks, and one of them 
was singing the music of a BOURREE.  Still further, and when I was 
already threading the birches, the crowing of cocks came cheerfully 
up to my ears, and along with that the voice of a flute discoursing 
a deliberate and plaintive air from one of the upland villages.  I 
pictured to myself some grizzled, apple-cheeked, country 
schoolmaster fluting in his bit of a garden in the clear autumn 
sunshine.  All these beautiful and interesting sounds filled my 
heart with an unwonted expectation; and it appeared to me that, 
once past this range which I was mounting, I should descend into 
the garden of the world.  Nor was I deceived, for I was now done 
with rains and winds and a bleak country.  The first part of my 
journey ended here; and this was like an induction of sweet sounds 
into the other and more beautiful.

There are other degrees of FEYNESS, as of punishment, besides the 
capital; and I was now led by my good spirits into an adventure 
which I relate in the interest of future donkey-drivers.  The road 
zigzagged so widely on the hillside, that I chose a short cut by 
map and compass, and struck through the dwarf woods to catch the 
road again upon a higher level.  It was my one serious conflict 
with Modestine.  She would none of my short cut; she turned in my 
face; she backed, she reared; she, whom I had hitherto imagined to 
be dumb, actually brayed with a loud hoarse flourish, like a cock 
crowing for the dawn.  I plied the goad with one hand; with the 
other, so steep was the ascent, I had to hold on the pack-saddle.  
Half-a-dozen times she was nearly over backwards on the top of me; 
half-a-dozen times, from sheer weariness of spirit, I was nearly 
giving it up, and leading her down again to follow the road.  But I 
took the thing as a wager, and fought it through.  I was surprised, 
as I went on my way again, by what appeared to be chill rain-drops 
falling on my hand, and more than once looked up in wonder at the 
cloudless sky.  But it was only sweat which came dropping from my 

Over the summit of the Goulet there was no marked road - only 
upright stones posted from space to space to guide the drovers.  
The turf underfoot was springy and well scented.  I had no company 
but a lark or two, and met but one bullock-cart between Lestampes 
and Bleymard.  In front of me I saw a shallow valley, and beyond 
that the range of the Lozere, sparsely wooded and well enough 
modelled in the flanks, but straight and dull in outline.  There 
was scarce a sign of culture; only about Bleymard, the white high-
road from Villefort to Mende traversed a range of meadows, set with 
spiry poplars, and sounding from side to side with the bells of 
flocks and herds.


FROM Bleymard after dinner, although it was already late, I set out 
to scale a portion of the Lozere.  An ill-marked stony drove-road 
guided me forward; and I met nearly half-a-dozen bullock-carts 
descending from the woods, each laden with a whole pine-tree for 
the winter's firing.  At the top of the woods, which do not climb 
very high upon this cold ridge, I struck leftward by a path among 
the pines, until I hit on a dell of green turf, where a streamlet 
made a little spout over some stones to serve me for a water-tap.  
'In a more sacred or sequestered bower . . . nor nymph nor faunus 
haunted.'  The trees were not old, but they grew thickly round the 
glade:  there was no outlook, except north-eastward upon distant 
hill-tops, or straight upward to the sky; and the encampment felt 
secure and private like a room.  By the time I had made my 
arrangements and fed Modestine, the day was already beginning to 
decline.  I buckled myself to the knees into my sack and made a 
hearty meal; and as soon as the sun went down, I pulled my cap over 
my eyes and fell asleep.

Night is a dead monotonous period under a roof; but in the open 
world it passes lightly, with its stars and dews and perfumes, and 
the hours are marked by changes in the face of Nature.  What seems 
a kind of temporal death to people choked between walls and 
curtains, is only a light and living slumber to the man who sleeps 
afield.  All night long he can hear Nature breathing deeply and 
freely; even as she takes her rest, she turns and smiles; and there 
is one stirring hour unknown to those who dwell in houses, when a 
wakeful influence goes abroad over the sleeping hemisphere, and all 
the outdoor world are on their feet.  It is then that the cock 
first crows, not this time to announce the dawn, but like a 
cheerful watchman speeding the course of night.  Cattle awake on 
the meadows; sheep break their fast on dewy hillsides, and change 
to a new lair among the ferns; and houseless men, who have lain 
down with the fowls, open their dim eyes and behold the beauty of 
the night.

At what inaudible summons, at what gentle touch of Nature, are all 
these sleepers thus recalled in the same hour to life?  Do the 
stars rain down an influence, or do we share some thrill of mother 
earth below our resting bodies?  Even shepherds and old country-
folk, who are the deepest read in these arcana, have not a guess as 
to the means or purpose of this nightly resurrection.  Towards two 
in the morning they declare the thing takes place; and neither know 
nor inquire further.  And at least it is a pleasant incident.  We 
are disturbed in our slumber only, like the luxurious Montaigne, 
'that we may the better and more sensibly relish it.'  We have a 
moment to look upon the stars.  And there is a special pleasure for 
some minds in the reflection that we share the impulse with all 
outdoor creatures in our neighbourhood, that we have escaped out of 
the Bastille of civilisation, and are become, for the time being, a 
mere kindly animal and a sheep of Nature's flock.

When that hour came to me among the pines, I wakened thirsty.  My 
tin was standing by me half full of water.  I emptied it at a 
draught; and feeling broad awake after this internal cold 
aspersion, sat upright to make a cigarette.  The stars were clear, 
coloured, and jewel-like, but not frosty.  A faint silvery vapour 
stood for the Milky Way.  All around me the black fir-points stood 
upright and stock-still.  By the whiteness of the pack-saddle, I 
could see Modestine walking round and round at the length of her 
tether; I could hear her steadily munching at the sward; but there 
was not another sound, save the indescribable quiet talk of the 
runnel over the stones.  I lay lazily smoking and studying the 
colour of the sky, as we call the void of space, from where it 
showed a reddish grey behind the pines to where it showed a glossy 
blue-black between the stars.  As if to be more like a pedlar, I 
wear a silver ring.  This I could see faintly shining as I raised 
or lowered the cigarette; and at each whiff the inside of my hand 
was illuminated, and became for a second the highest light in the 

A faint wind, more like a moving coolness than a stream of air, 
passed down the glade from time to time; so that even in my great 
chamber the air was being renewed all night long.  I thought with 
horror of the inn at Chasserades and the congregated nightcaps; 
with horror of the nocturnal prowesses of clerks and students, of 
hot theatres and pass-keys and close rooms.  I have not often 
enjoyed a more serene possession of myself, nor felt more 
independent of material aids.  The outer world, from which we cower 
into our houses, seemed after all a gentle habitable place; and 
night after night a man's bed, it seemed, was laid and waiting for 
him in the fields, where God keeps an open house.  I thought I had 
rediscovered one of those truths which are revealed to savages and 
hid from political economists:  at the least, I had discovered a 
new pleasure for myself.  And yet even while I was exulting in my 
solitude I became aware of a strange lack.  I wished a companion to 
lie near me in the starlight, silent and not moving, but ever 
within touch.  For there is a fellowship more quiet even than 
solitude, and which, rightly understood, is solitude made perfect.  
And to live out of doors with the woman a man loves is of all lives 
the most complete and free.

As I thus lay, between content and longing, a faint noise stole 
towards me through the pines.  I thought, at first, it was the 
crowing of cocks or the barking of dogs at some very distant farm; 
but steadily and gradually it took articulate shape in my ears, 
until I became aware that a passenger was going by upon the high-
road in the valley, and singing loudly as he went.  There was more 
of good-will than grace in his performance; but he trolled with 
ample lungs; and the sound of his voice took hold upon the hillside 
and set the air shaking in the leafy glens.  I have heard people 
passing by night in sleeping cities; some of them sang; one, I 
remember, played loudly on the bagpipes.  I have heard the rattle 
of a cart or carriage spring up suddenly after hours of stillness, 
and pass, for some minutes, within the range of my hearing as I lay 
abed.  There is a romance about all who are abroad in the black 
hours, and with something of a thrill we try to guess their 
business.  But here the romance was double:  first, this glad 
passenger, lit internally with wine, who sent up his voice in music 
through the night; and then I, on the other hand, buckled into my 
sack, and smoking alone in the pine-woods between four and five 
thousand feet towards the stars.

When I awoke again (Sunday, 29th September), many of the stars had 
disappeared; only the stronger companions of the night still burned 
visibly overhead; and away towards the east I saw a faint haze of 
light upon the horizon, such as had been the Milky Way when I was 
last awake.  Day was at hand.  I lit my lantern, and by its glow-
worm light put on my boots and gaiters; then I broke up some bread 
for Modestine, filled my can at the water-tap, and lit my spirit-
lamp to boil myself some chocolate.  The blue darkness lay long in 
the glade where I had so sweetly slumbered; but soon there was a 
broad streak of orange melting into gold along the mountain-tops of 
Vivarais.  A solemn glee possessed my mind at this gradual and 
lovely coming in of day.  I heard the runnel with delight; I looked 
round me for something beautiful and unexpected; but the still 
black pine-trees, the hollow glade, the munching ass, remained 
unchanged in figure.  Nothing had altered but the light, and that, 
indeed, shed over all a spirit of life and of breathing peace, and 
moved me to a strange exhilaration.

I drank my water-chocolate, which was hot if it was not rich, and 
strolled here and there, and up and down about the glade.  While I 
was thus delaying, a gush of steady wind, as long as a heavy sigh, 
poured direct out of the quarter of the morning.  It was cold, and 
set me sneezing.  The trees near at hand tossed their black plumes 
in its passage; and I could see the thin distant spires of pine 
along the edge of the hill rock slightly to and fro against the 
golden east.  Ten minutes after, the sunlight spread at a gallop 
along the hillside, scattering shadows and sparkles, and the day 
had come completely.

I hastened to prepare my pack, and tackle the steep ascent that lay 
before me; but I had something on my mind.  It was only a fancy; 
yet a fancy will sometimes be importunate.  I had been most 
hospitably received and punctually served in my green caravanserai.  
The room was airy, the water excellent, and the dawn had called me 
to a moment.  I say nothing of the tapestries or the inimitable 
ceiling, nor yet of the view which I commanded from the windows; 
but I felt I was in some one's debt for all this liberal 
entertainment.  And so it pleased me, in a half-laughing way, to 
leave pieces of money on the turf as I went along, until I had left 
enough for my night's lodging.  I trust they did not fall to some 
rich and churlish drover.


We travelled in the print of olden wars;
Yet all the land was green;
And love we found, and peace,
Where fire and war had been.
They pass and smile, the children of the sword -
No more the sword they wield;
And O, how deep the corn
Along the battlefield!




THE track that I had followed in the evening soon died out, and I 
continued to follow over a bald turf ascent a row of stone pillars, 
such as had conducted me across the Goulet.  It was already warm.  
I tied my jacket on the pack, and walked in my knitted waistcoat.  
Modestine herself was in high spirits, and broke of her own accord, 
for the first time in my experience, into a jolting trot that set 
the oats swashing in the pocket of my coat.  The view, back upon 
the northern Gevaudan, extended with every step; scarce a tree, 
scarce a house, appeared upon the fields of wild hill that ran 
north, east, and west, all blue and gold in the haze and sunlight 
of the morning. A multitude of little birds kept sweeping and 
twittering about my path; they perched on the stone pillars, they 
pecked and strutted on the turf, and I saw them circle in volleys 
in the blue air, and show, from time to time, translucent 
flickering wings between the sun and me.

Almost from the first moment of my march, a faint large noise, like 
a distant surf, had filled my ears.  Sometimes I was tempted to 
think it the voice of a neighbouring waterfall, and sometimes a 
subjective result of the utter stillness of the hill.  But as I 
continued to advance, the noise increased, and became like the 
hissing of an enormous tea-urn, and at the same time breaths of 
cool air began to reach me from the direction of the summit.  At 
length I understood.  It was blowing stiffly from the south upon 
the other slope of the Lozere, and every step that I took I was 
drawing nearer to the wind.

Although it had been long desired, it was quite unexpectedly at 
last that my eyes rose above the summit.  A step that seemed no way 
more decisive than many other steps that had preceded it - and, 
'like stout Cortez when, with eagle eyes, he stared on the 
Pacific,' I took possession, in my own name, of a new quarter of 
the world.  For behold, instead of the gross turf rampart I had 
been mounting for so long, a view into the hazy air of heaven, and 
a land of intricate blue hills below my feet.

The Lozere lies nearly east and west, cutting Gevaudan into two 
unequal parts; its highest point, this Pic de Finiels, on which I 
was then standing, rises upwards of five thousand six hundred feet 
above the sea, and in clear weather commands a view over all lower 
Languedoc to the Mediterranean Sea.  I have spoken with people who 
either pretended or believed that they had seen, from the Pie de 
Finiels, white ships sailing by Montpellier and Cette.  Behind was 
the upland northern country through which my way had lain, peopled 
by a dull race, without wood, without much grandeur of hill-form, 
and famous in the past for little beside wolves.  But in front of 
me, half veiled in sunny haze, lay a new Gevaudan, rich, 
picturesque, illustrious for stirring events.  Speaking largely, I 
was in the Cevennes at Monastier, and during all my journey; but 
there is a strict and local sense in which only this confused and 
shaggy country at my feet has any title to the name, and in this 
sense the peasantry employ the word.  These are the Cevennes with 
an emphasis:  the Cevennes of the Cevennes.  In that undecipherable 
labyrinth of hills, a war of bandits, a war of wild beasts, raged 
for two years between the Grand Monarch with all his troops and 
marshals on the one hand, and a few thousand Protestant 
mountaineers upon the other.  A hundred and eighty years ago, the 
Camisards held a station even on the Lozere, where I stood; they 
had an organisation, arsenals, a military and religious hierarchy; 
their affairs were 'the discourse of every coffee-house' in London; 
England sent fleets in their support; their leaders prophesied and 
murdered; with colours and drums, and the singing of old French 
psalms, their bands sometimes affronted daylight, marched before 
walled cities, and dispersed the generals of the king; and 
sometimes at night, or in masquerade, possessed themselves of 
strong castles, and avenged treachery upon their allies and cruelty 
upon their foes.  There, a hundred and eighty years ago, was the 
chivalrous Roland, 'Count and Lord Roland, generalissimo of the 
Protestants in France,' grave, silent, imperious, pock-marked ex-
dragoon, whom a lady followed in his wanderings out of love.  There 
was Cavalier, a baker's apprentice with a genius for war, elected 
brigadier of Camisards at seventeen, to die at fifty-five the 
English governor of Jersey.  There again was Castanet, a partisan 
leader in a voluminous peruke and with a taste for controversial 
divinity.  Strange generals, who moved apart to take counsel with 
the God of Hosts, and fled or offered battle, set sentinels or 
slept in an unguarded camp, as the Spirit whispered to their 
hearts!  And there, to follow these and other leaders, was the rank 
and file of prophets and disciples, bold, patient, indefatigable, 
hardy to run upon the mountains, cheering their rough life with 
psalms, eager to fight, eager to pray, listening devoutly to the 
oracles of brain-sick children, and mystically putting a grain of 
wheat among the pewter balls with which they charged their muskets.

I had travelled hitherto through a dull district, and in the track 
of nothing more notable than the child-eating beast of Gevaudan, 
the Napoleon Bonaparte of wolves.  But now I was to go down into 
the scene of a romantic chapter - or, better, a romantic footnote 
in the history of the world.  What was left of all this bygone dust 
and heroism?  I was told that Protestantism still survived in this 
head seat of Protestant resistance; so much the priest himself had 
told me in the monastery parlour.  But I had yet to learn if it 
were a bare survival, or a lively and generous tradition.  Again, 
if in the northern Cevennes the people are narrow in religious 
judgments, and more filled with zeal than charity, what was I to 
look for in this land of persecution and reprisal - in a land where 
the tyranny of the Church produced the Camisard rebellion, and the 
terror of the Camisards threw the Catholic peasantry into legalised 
revolt upon the other side, so that Camisard and Florentin skulked 
for each other's lives among the mountains?

Just on the brow of the hill, where I paused to look before me, the 
series of stone pillars came abruptly to an end; and only a little 
below, a sort of track appeared and began to go down a break-neck 
slope, turning like a corkscrew as it went.  It led into a valley 
between falling hills, stubbly with rocks like a reaped field of 
corn, and floored farther down with green meadows.  I followed the 
track with precipitation; the steepness of the slope, the continual 
agile turning of the line of the descent, and the old unwearied 
hope of finding something new in a new country, all conspired to 
lend me wings.  Yet a little lower and a stream began, collecting 
itself together out of many fountains, and soon making a glad noise 
among the hills.  Sometimes it would cross the track in a bit of 
waterfall, with a pool, in which Modestine refreshed her feet.

The whole descent is like a dream to me, so rapidly was it 
accomplished.  I had scarcely left the summit ere the valley had 
closed round my path, and the sun beat upon me, walking in a 
stagnant lowland atmosphere.  The track became a road, and went up 
and down in easy undulations.  I passed cabin after cabin, but all 
seemed deserted; and I saw not a human creature, nor heard any 
sound except that of the stream.  I was, however, in a different 
country from the day before.  The stony skeleton of the world was 
here vigorously displayed to sun and air.  The slopes were steep 
and changeful.  Oak-trees clung along the hills, well grown, 
wealthy in leaf, and touched by the autumn with strong and luminous 
colours.  Here and there another stream would fall in from the 
right or the left, down a gorge of snow-white and tumultuary 
boulders.  The river in the bottom (for it was rapidly growing a 
river, collecting on all hands as it trotted on its way) here 
foamed a while in desperate rapids, and there lay in pools of the 
most enchanting sea-green shot with watery browns.  As far as I 
have gone, I have never seen a river of so changeful and delicate a 
hue; crystal was not more clear, the meadows were not by half so 
green; and at every pool I saw I felt a thrill of longing to be out 
of these hot, dusty, and material garments, and bathe my naked body 
in the mountain air and water.  All the time as I went on I never 
forgot it was the Sabbath; the stillness was a perpetual reminder; 
and I heard in spirit the church-bells clamouring all over Europe, 
and the psalms of a thousand churches.

At length a human sound struck upon my ear - a cry strangely 
modulated between pathos and derision; and looking across the 
valley, I saw a little urchin sitting in a meadow, with his hands 
about his knees, and dwarfed to almost comical smallness by the 
distance.  But the rogue had picked me out as I went down the road, 
from oak wood on to oak wood, driving Modestine; and he made me the 
compliments of the new country in this tremulous high-pitched 
salutation.  And as all noises are lovely and natural at a 
sufficient distance, this also, coming through so much clean hill 
air and crossing all the green valley, sounded pleasant to my ear, 
and seemed a thing rustic, like the oaks or the river.

A little after, the stream that I was following fell into the Tarn 
at Pont de Montvert of bloody memory.


ONE of the first things I encountered in Pont de Montvert was, if I 
remember rightly, the Protestant temple; but this was but the type 
of other novelties.  A subtle atmosphere distinguishes a town in 
England from a town in France, or even in Scotland.  At Carlisle 
you can see you are in the one country; at Dumfries, thirty miles 
away, you are as sure that you are in the other.  I should find it 
difficult to tell in what particulars Pont de Montvert differed 
from Monastier or Langogne, or even Bleymard; but the difference 
existed, and spoke eloquently to the eyes.  The place, with its 
houses, its lanes, its glaring river-bed, wore an indescribable air 
of the South.

All was Sunday bustle in the streets and in the public-house, as 
all had been Sabbath peace among the mountains.  There must have 
been near a score of us at dinner by eleven before noon; and after 
I had eaten and drunken, and sat writing up my journal, I suppose 
as many more came dropping in one after another, or by twos and 
threes.  In crossing the Lozere I had not only come among new 
natural features, but moved into the territory of a different race.  
These people, as they hurriedly despatched their viands in an 
intricate sword-play of knives, questioned and answered me with a 
degree of intelligence which excelled all that I had met, except 
among the railway folk at Chasserades.  They had open telling 
faces, and were lively both in speech and manner.  They not only 
entered thoroughly into the spirit of my little trip, but more than 
one declared, if he were rich enough, he would like to set forth on 
such another.

Even physically there was a pleasant change.  I had not seen a 
pretty woman since I left Monastier, and there but one.  Now of the 
three who sat down with me to dinner, one was certainly not 
beautiful - a poor timid thing of forty, quite troubled at this 
roaring TABLE D'HOTE, whom I squired and helped to wine, and 
pledged and tried generally to encourage, with quite a contrary 
effect; but the other two, both married, were both more handsome 
than the average of women.  And Clarisse?  What shall I say of 
Clarisse?  She waited the table with a heavy placable nonchalance, 
like a performing cow; her great grey eyes were steeped in amorous 
languor; her features, although fleshy, were of an original and 
accurate design; her mouth had a curl; her nostril spoke of dainty 
pride; her cheek fell into strange and interesting lines.  It was a 
face capable of strong emotion, and, with training, it offered the 
promise of delicate sentiment.  It seemed pitiful to see so good a 
model left to country admirers and a country way of thought.  
Beauty should at least have touched society; then, in a moment, it 
throws off a weight that lay upon it, it becomes conscious of 
itself, it puts on an elegance, learns a gait and a carriage of the 
head, and, in a moment, PATET DEA.  Before I left I assured 
Clarisse of my hearty admiration.  She took it like milk, without 
embarrassment or wonder, merely looking at me steadily with her 
great eyes; and I own the result upon myself was some confusion.  
If Clarisse could read English, I should not dare to add that her 
figure was unworthy of her face.  Hers was a case for stays; but 
that may perhaps grow better as she gets up in years.

Pont de Montvert, or Greenhill Bridge, as we might say at home, is 
a place memorable in the story of the Camisards.  It was here that 
the war broke out; here that those southern Covenanters slew their 
Archbishop Sharp.  The persecution on the one hand, the febrile 
enthusiasm on the other, are almost equally difficult to understand 
in these quiet modern days, and with our easy modern beliefs and 
disbeliefs.  The Protestants were one and all beside their right 
minds with zeal and sorrow.  They were all prophets and 
prophetesses.  Children at the breast would exhort their parents to 
good works.  'A child of fifteen months at Quissac spoke from its 
mother's arms, agitated and sobbing, distinctly and with a loud 
voice.'  Marshal Villars has seen a town where all the women 
'seemed possessed by the devil,' and had trembling fits, and 
uttered prophecies publicly upon the streets.  A prophetess of 
Vivarais was hanged at Moutpellier because blood flowed from her 
eyes and nose, and she declared that she was weeping tears of blood 
for the misfortunes of the Protestants.  And it was not only women 
and children.  Stalwart dangerous fellows, used to swing the sickle 
or to wield the forest axe, were likewise shaken with strange 
paroxysms, and spoke oracles with sobs and streaming tears.  A 
persecution unsurpassed in violence had lasted near a score of 
years, and this was the result upon the persecuted; hanging, 
burning, breaking on the wheel, had been in vain; the dragoons had 
left their hoof-marks over all the countryside; there were men 
rowing in the galleys, and women pining in the prisons of the 
Church; and not a thought was changed in the heart of any upright 

Now the head and forefront of the persecution - after Lamoignon de 
Bavile - Francois de Langlade du Chayla (pronounce Cheila), 
Archpriest of the Cevennes and Inspector of Missions in the same 
country, had a house in which he sometimes dwelt in the town of 
Pont de Montvert.  He was a conscientious person, who seems to have 
been intended by nature for a pirate, and now fifty-five, an age by 
which a man has learned all the moderation of which he is capable.  
A missionary in his youth in China, he there suffered martyrdom, 
was left for dead, and only succoured and brought back to life by 
the charity of a pariah.  We must suppose the pariah devoid of 
second-sight, and not purposely malicious in this act.  Such an 
experience, it might be thought, would have cured a man of the 
desire to persecute; but the human spirit is a thing strangely put 
together; and, having been a Christian martyr, Du Chayla became a 
Christian persecutor.  The Work of the Propagation of the Faith 
went roundly forward in his hands.  His house in Pont de Montvert 
served him as a prison.  There he closed the hands of his prisoners 
upon live coal, and plucked out the hairs of their beards, to 
convince them that they were deceived in their opinions.  And yet 
had not he himself tried and proved the inefficacy of these carnal 
arguments among the Buddhists in China?

Not only was life made intolerable in Languedoc, but flight was 
rigidly forbidden.  One Massip, a muleteer, and well acquainted 
with the mountain-paths, had already guided several troops of 
fugitives in safety to Geneva; and on him, with another convoy, 
consisting mostly of women dressed as men, Du Chayla, in an evil 
hour for himself, laid his hands.  The Sunday following, there was 
a conventicle of Protestants in the woods of Altefage upon Mount 
Bouges; where there stood up one Seguier - Spirit Seguier, as his 
companions called him - a wool-carder, tall, black-faced, and 
toothless, but a man full of prophecy.  He declared, in the name of 
God, that the time for submission had gone by, and they must betake 
themselves to arms for the deliverance of their brethren and the 
destruction of the priests.

The next night, 24th July 1702, a sound disturbed the Inspector of 
Missions as he sat in his prison-house at Pont de Montvert:  the 
voices of many men upraised in psalmody drew nearer and nearer 
through the town.  It was ten at night; he had his court about him, 
priests, soldiers, and servants, to the number of twelve or 
fifteen; and now dreading the insolence of a conventicle below his 
very windows, he ordered forth his soldiers to report.  But the 
psalm-singers were already at his door, fifty strong, led by the 
inspired Seguier, and breathing death.  To their summons, the 
archpriest made answer like a stout old persecutor, and bade his 
garrison fire upon the mob.  One Camisard (for, according to some, 
it was in this night's work that they came by the name) fell at 
this discharge:  his comrades burst in the door with hatchets and a 
beam of wood, overran the lower story of the house, set free the 
prisoners, and finding one of them in the VINE, a sort of 
Scavenger's Daughter of the place and period, redoubled in fury 
against Du Chayla, and sought by repeated assaults to carry the 
upper floors.  But he, on his side, had given absolution to his 
men, and they bravely held the staircase.

'Children of God,' cried the prophet, 'hold your hands.  Let us 
burn the house, with the priest and the satellites of Baal.'

The fire caught readily.  Out of an upper window Du Chayla and his 
men lowered themselves into the garden by means of knotted sheets; 
some escaped across the river under the bullets of the insurgents; 
but the archpriest himself fell, broke his thigh, and could only 
crawl into the hedge.  What were his reflections as this second 
martyrdom drew near?  A poor, brave, besotted, hateful man, who had 
done his duty resolutely according to his light both in the 
Cevennes and China.  He found at least one telling word to say in 
his defence; for when the roof fell in and the upbursting flames 
discovered his retreat, and they came and dragged him to the public 
place of the town, raging and calling him damned - 'If I be 
damned,' said he, 'why should you also damn yourselves?'

Here was a good reason for the last; but in the course of his 
inspectorship he had given many stronger which all told in a 
contrary direction; and these he was now to hear.  One by one, 
Seguier first, the Camisards drew near and stabbed him.  'This,' 
they said, 'is for my father broken on the wheel.  This for my 
brother in the galleys.  That for my mother or my sister imprisoned 
in your cursed convents.'  Each gave his blow and his reason; and 
then all kneeled and sang psalms around the body till the dawn.  
With the dawn, still singing, they defiled away towards Frugeres, 
farther up the Tarn, to pursue the work of vengeance, leaving Du 
Chayla's prison-house in ruins, and his body pierced with two-and-
fifty wounds upon the public place.

'Tis a wild night's work, with its accompaniment of psalms; and it 
seems as if a psalm must always have a sound of threatening in that 
town upon the Tarn.  But the story does not end, even so far as 
concerns Pont de Montvert, with the departure of the Camisards.  
The career of Seguier was brief and bloody.  Two more priests and a 
whole family at Ladeveze, from the father to the servants, fell by 
his hand or by his orders; and yet he was but a day or two at 
large, and restrained all the time by the presence of the soldiery.  
Taken at length by a famous soldier of fortune, Captain Poul, he 
appeared unmoved before his judges.

'Your name?' they asked.

'Pierre Seguier.'

'Why are you called Spirit?'

'Because the Spirit of the Lord is with me.'

'Your domicile?'

'Lately in the desert, and soon in heaven.'

'Have you no remorse for your crimes?'

'I have committed none.  MY SOUL IS LIKE A GARDEN FULL OF SHELTER 

At Pont de Montvert, on the 12th of August, he had his right hand 
stricken from his body, and was burned alive.  And his soul was 
like a garden?  So perhaps was the soul of Du Chayla, the Christian 
martyr.  And perhaps if you could read in my soul, or I could read 
in yours, our own composure might seem little less surprising.

Du Chayla's house still stands, with a new roof, beside one of the 
bridges of the town; and if you are curious you may see the 
terrace-garden into which he dropped.


A NEW road leads from Pont de Montvert to Florac by the valley of 
the Tarn; a smooth sandy ledge, it runs about half-way between the 
summit of the cliffs and the river in the bottom of the valley; and 
I went in and out, as I followed it, from bays of shadow into 
promontories of afternoon sun.  This was a pass like that of 
Killiecrankie; a deep turning gully in the hills, with the Tarn 
making a wonderful hoarse uproar far below, and craggy summits 
standing in the sunshine high above.  A thin fringe of ash-trees 
ran about the hill-tops, like ivy on a ruin; but on the lower 
slopes, and far up every glen, the Spanish chestnut-trees stood 
each four-square to heaven under its tented foliage.  Some were 
planted, each on its own terrace no larger than a bed; some, 
trusting in their roots, found strength to grow and prosper and be 
straight and large upon the rapid slopes of the valley; others, 
where there was a margin to the river, stood marshalled in a line 
and mighty like cedars of Lebanon.  Yet even where they grew most 
thickly they were not to be thought of as a wood, but as a herd of 
stalwart individuals; and the dome of each tree stood forth 
separate and large, and as it were a little hill, from among the 
domes of its companions.  They gave forth a faint sweet perfume 
which pervaded the air of the afternoon; autumn had put tints of 
gold and tarnish in the green; and the sun so shone through and 
kindled the broad foliage, that each chestnut was relieved against 
another, not in shadow, but in light.  A humble sketcher here laid 
down his pencil in despair.

I wish I could convey a notion of the growth of these noble trees; 
of how they strike out boughs like the oak, and trail sprays of 
drooping foliage like the willow; of how they stand on upright 
fluted columns like the pillars of a church; or like the olive, 
from the most shattered bole can put out smooth and youthful 
shoots, and begin a new life upon the ruins of the old.  Thus they 
partake of the nature of many different trees; and even their 
prickly top-knots, seen near at hand against the sky, have a 
certain palm-like air that impresses the imagination.  But their 
individuality, although compounded of so many elements, is but the 
richer and the more original.  And to look down upon a level filled 
with these knolls of foliage, or to see a clan of old unconquerable 
chestnuts cluster 'like herded elephants' upon the spur of a 
mountain, is to rise to higher thoughts of the powers that are in 

Between Modestine's laggard humour and the beauty of the scene, we 
made little progress all that afternoon; and at last finding the 
sun, although still far from setting, was already beginning to 
desert the narrow valley of the Tarn, I began to cast about for a 
place to camp in.  This was not easy to find; the terraces were too 
narrow, and the ground, where it was unterraced, was usually too 
steep for a man to lie upon.  I should have slipped all night, and 
awakened towards morning with my feet or my head in the river.

After perhaps a mile, I saw, some sixty feet above the road, a 
little plateau large enough to hold my sack, and securely parapeted 
by the trunk of an aged and enormous chestnut.  Thither, with 
infinite trouble, I goaded and kicked the reluctant Modestine, and 
there I hastened to unload her.  There was only room for myself 
upon the plateau, and I had to go nearly as high again before I 
found so much as standing-room for the ass.  It was on a heap of 
rolling stones, on an artificial terrace, certainly not five feet 
square in all.  Here I tied her to a chestnut, and having given her 
corn and bread and made a pile of chestnut-leaves, of which I found 
her greedy, I descended once more to my own encampment.

The position was unpleasantly exposed.  One or two carts went by 
upon the road; and as long as daylight lasted I concealed myself, 
for all the world like a hunted Camisard, behind my fortification 
of vast chestnut trunk; for I was passionately afraid of discovery 
and the visit of jocular persons in the night.  Moreover, I saw 
that I must be early awake; for these chestnut gardens had been the 
scene of industry no further gone than on the day before.  The 
slope was strewn with lopped branches, and here and there a great 
package of leaves was propped against a trunk; for even the leaves 
are serviceable, and the peasants use them in winter by way of 
fodder for their animals.  I picked a meal in fear and trembling, 
half lying down to hide myself from the road; and I daresay I was 
as much concerned as if I had been a scout from Joani's band above 
upon the Lozere, or from Salomon's across the Tarn, in the old 
times of psalm-singing and blood.  Or, indeed, perhaps more; for 
the Camisards had a remarkable confidence in God; and a tale comes 
back into my memory of how the Count of Gevaudan, riding with a 
party of dragoons and a notary at his saddlebow to enforce the oath 
of fidelity in all the country hamlets, entered a valley in the 
woods, and found Cavalier and his men at dinner, gaily seated on 
the grass, and their hats crowned with box-tree garlands, while 
fifteen women washed their linen in the stream.  Such was a field 
festival in 1703; at that date Antony Watteau would be painting 
similar subjects.

This was a very different camp from that of the night before in the 
cool and silent pine-woods.  It was warm and even stifling in the 
valley.  The shrill song of frogs, like the tremolo note of a 
whistle with a pea in it, rang up from the river-side before the 
sun was down.  In the growing dusk, faint rustlings began to run to 
and fro among the fallen leaves; from time to time a faint chirping 
or cheeping noise would fall upon my ear; and from time to time I 
thought I could see the movement of something swift and indistinct 
between the chestnuts.  A profusion of large ants swarmed upon the 
ground; bats whisked by, and mosquitoes droned overhead.  The long 
boughs with their bunches of leaves hung against the sky like 
garlands; and those immediately above and around me had somewhat 
the air of a trellis which should have been wrecked and half 
overthrown in a gale of wind.

Sleep for a long time fled my eyelids; and just as I was beginning 
to feel quiet stealing over my limbs, and settling densely on my 
mind, a noise at my head startled me broad awake again, and, I will 
frankly confess it, brought my heart into my mouth.

It was such a noise as a person would make scratching loudly with a 
finger-nail; it came from under the knapsack which served me for a 
pillow, and it was thrice repeated before I had time to sit up and 
turn about.  Nothing was to be seen, nothing more was to be heard, 
but a few of these mysterious rustlings far and near, and the 
ceaseless accompaniment of the river and the frogs.  I learned next 
day that the chestnut gardens are infested by rats; rustling, 
chirping, and scraping were probably all due to these; but the 
puzzle, for the moment, was insoluble, and I had to compose myself 
for sleep, as best I could, in wondering uncertainty about my 

I was wakened in the grey of the morning (Monday, 30th September) 
by the sound of foot-steps not far off upon the stones, and opening 
my eyes, I beheld a peasant going by among the chestnuts by a 
footpath that I had not hitherto observed.  He turned his head 
neither to the right nor to the left, and disappeared in a few 
strides among the foliage.  Here was an escape!  But it was plainly 
more than time to be moving.  The peasantry were abroad; scarce 
less terrible to me in my nondescript position than the soldiers of 
Captain Poul to an undaunted Camisard.  I fed Modestine with what 
haste I could; but as I was returning to my sack, I saw a man and a 
boy come down the hillside in a direction crossing mine.  They 
unintelligibly hailed me, and I replied with inarticulate but 
cheerful sounds, and hurried forward to get into my gaiters.

The pair, who seemed to be father and son, came slowly up to the 
plateau, and stood close beside me for some time in silence.  The 
bed was open, and I saw with regret my revolver lying patently 
disclosed on the blue wool.  At last, after they had looked me all 
over, and the silence had grown laughably embarrassing, the man 
demanded in what seemed unfriendly tones:

'You have slept here?'

'Yes,' said I.  'As you see.'

'Why?' he asked.

'My faith,' I answered lightly, 'I was tired.'

He next inquired where I was going and what I had had for dinner; 
and then, without the least transition, 'C'EST BIEN,' he added, 
'come along.'  And he and his son, without another word, turned off 
to the next chestnut-tree but one, which they set to pruning.  The 
thing had passed of more simply than I hoped.  He was a grave, 
respectable man; and his unfriendly voice did not imply that he 
thought he was speaking to a criminal, but merely to an inferior.

I was soon on the road, nibbling a cake of chocolate and seriously 
occupied with a case of conscience.  Was I to pay for my night's 
lodging?  I had slept ill, the bed was full of fleas in the shape 
of ants, there was no water in the room, the very dawn had 
neglected to call me in the morning.  I might have missed a train, 
had there been any in the neighbourhood to catch.  Clearly, I was 
dissatisfied with my entertainment; and I decided I should not pay 
unless I met a beggar.

The valley looked even lovelier by morning; and soon the road 
descended to the level of the river.  Here, in a place where many 
straight and prosperous chestnuts stood together, making an aisle 
upon a swarded terrace, I made my morning toilette in the water of 
the Tarn.  It was marvellously clear, thrillingly cool; the soap-
suds disappeared as if by magic in the swift current, and the white 
boulders gave one a model for cleanliness.  To wash in one of God's 
rivers in the open air seems to me a sort of cheerful solemnity or 
semi-pagan act of worship.  To dabble among dishes in a bedroom may 
perhaps make clean the body; but the imagination takes no share in 
such a cleansing.  I went on with a light and peaceful heart, and 
sang psalms to the spiritual ear as I advanced.

Suddenly up came an old woman, who point-blank demanded alms.

'Good,' thought I; 'here comes the waiter with the bill.'

And I paid for my night's lodging on the spot.  Take it how you 
please, but this was the first and the last beggar that I met with 
during all my tour.

A step or two farther I was overtaken by an old man in a brown 
nightcap, clear-eyed, weather-beaten, with a faint excited smile.  
A little girl followed him, driving two sheep and a goat; but she 
kept in our wake, while the old man walked beside me and talked 
about the morning and the valley.  It was not much past six; and 
for healthy people who have slept enough, that is an hour of 
expansion and of open and trustful talk.

'CONNAISSEZ-VOUS LE SEIGNEUR?' he said at length.

I asked him what Seigneur he meant; but he only repeated the 
question with more emphasis and a look in his eyes denoting hope 
and interest.

'Ah,' said I, pointing upwards, 'I understand you now.  Yes, I know 
Him; He is the best of acquaintances.'

The old man said he was delighted.  'Hold,' he added, striking his 
bosom; 'it makes me happy here.'  There were a few who knew the 
Lord in these valleys, he went on to tell me; not many, but a few.  
'Many are called.' he quoted, 'and few chosen.'

'My father,' said I, 'it is not easy to say who know the Lord; and 
it is none of our business.  Protestants and Catholics, and even 
those who worship stones, may know Him and be known by Him; for He 
has made all.'

I did not know I was so good a preacher.

The old man assured me he thought as I did, and repeated his 
expressions of pleasure at meeting me.  'We are so few,' he said.  
'They call us Moravians here; but down in the Department of Gard, 
where there are also a good number, they are called Derbists, after 
an English pastor.'

I began to understand that I was figuring, in questionable taste, 
as a member of some sect to me unknown; but I was more pleased with 
the pleasure of my companion than embarrassed by my own equivocal 
position.  Indeed, I can see no dishonesty in not avowing a 
difference; and especially in these high matters, where we have all 
a sufficient assurance that, whoever may be in the wrong, we 
ourselves are not completely in the right.  The truth is much 
talked about; but this old man in a brown nightcap showed himself 
so simple, sweet, and friendly, that I am not unwilling to profess 
myself his convert.  He was, as a matter of fact, a Plymouth 
Brother.  Of what that involves in the way of doctrine I have no 
idea nor the time to inform myself; but I know right well that we 
are all embarked upon a troublesome world, the children of one 
Father, striving in many essential points to do and to become the 
same.  And although it was somewhat in a mistake that he shook 
hands with me so often and showed himself so ready to receive my 
words, that was a mistake of the truth-finding sort.  For charity 
begins blindfold; and only through a series of similar 
misapprehensions rises at length into a settled principle of love 
and patience, and a firm belief in all our fellow-men.  If I 
deceived this good old man, in the like manner I would willingly go 
on to deceive others.  And if ever at length, out of our separate 
and sad ways, we should all come together into one common house, I 
have a hope, to which I cling dearly, that my mountain Plymouth 
Brother will hasten to shake hands with me again.

Thus, talking like Christian and Faithful by the way, he and I came 
down upon a hamlet by the Tarn.  It was but a humble place, called 
La Vernede, with less than a dozen houses, and a Protestant chapel 
on a knoll.  Here he dwelt; and here, at the inn, I ordered my 
breakfast.  The inn was kept by an agreeable young man, a stone-
breaker on the road, and his sister, a pretty and engaging girl.  
The village schoolmaster dropped in to speak with the stranger.  
And these were all Protestants - a fact which pleased me more than 
I should have expected; and, what pleased me still more, they 
seemed all upright and simple people.  The Plymouth Brother hung 
round me with a sort of yearning interest, and returned at least 
thrice to make sure I was enjoying my meal.  His behaviour touched 
me deeply at the time, and even now moves me in recollection.  He 
feared to intrude, but he would not willingly forego one moment of 
my society; and he seemed never weary of shaking me by the hand.

When all the rest had drifted off to their day's work, I sat for 
near half an hour with the young mistress of the house, who talked 
pleasantly over her seam of the chestnut harvest, and the beauties 
of the Tarn, and old family affections, broken up when young folk 
go from home, yet still subsisting.  Hers, I am sure, was a sweet 
nature, with a country plainness and much delicacy underneath; and 
he who takes her to his heart will doubtless be a fortunate young 

The valley below La Vernede pleased me more and more as I went 
forward.  Now the hills approached from either hand, naked and 
crumbling, and walled in the river between cliffs; and now the 
valley widened and became green.  The road led me past the old 
castle of Miral on a steep; past a battlemented monastery, long 
since broken up and turned into a church and parsonage; and past a 
cluster of black roofs, the village of Cocures, sitting among 
vineyards, and meadows, and orchards thick with red apples, and 
where, along the highway, they were knocking down walnuts from the 
roadside trees, and gathering them in sacks and baskets.  The 
hills, however much the vale might open, were still tall and bare, 
with cliffy battlements and here and there a pointed summit; and 
the Tarn still rattled through the stones with a mountain noise.  I 
had been led, by bagmen of a picturesque turn of mind, to expect a 
horrific country after the heart of Byron; but to my Scottish eyes 
it seemed smiling and plentiful, as the weather still gave an 
impression of high summer to my Scottish body; although the 
chestnuts were already picked out by the autumn, and the poplars, 
that here began to mingle with them, had turned into pale gold 
against the approach of winter.

There was something in this landscape, smiling although wild, that 
explained to me the spirit of the Southern Covenanters.  Those who 
took to the hills for conscience' sake in Scotland had all gloomy 
and bedevilled thoughts; for once that they received God's comfort 
they would be twice engaged with Satan; but the Camisards had only 
bright and supporting visions.  They dealt much more in blood, both 
given and taken; yet I find no obsession of the Evil One in their 
records.  With a light conscience, they pursued their life in these 
rough times and circumstances.  The soul of Seguier, let us not 
forget, was like a garden.  They knew they were on God's side, with 
a knowledge that has no parallel among the Scots; for the Scots, 
although they might be certain of the cause, could never rest 
confident of the person.

'We flew,' says one old Camisard, 'when we heard the sound of 
psalm-singing, we flew as if with wings.  We felt within us an 
animating ardour, a transporting desire.  The feeling cannot be 
expressed in words.  It is a thing that must have been experienced 
to be understood.  However weary we might be, we thought no more of 
our weariness, and grew light so soon as the psalms fell upon our 

The valley of the Tarn and the people whom I met at La Vernede not 
only explain to me this passage, but the twenty years of suffering 
which those, who were so stiff and so bloody when once they betook 
themselves to war, endured with the meekness of children and the 
constancy of saints and peasants.


ON a branch of the Tarn stands Florac, the seat of a sub-
prefecture, with an old castle, an alley of planes, many quaint 
street-corners, and a live fountain welling from the hill.  It is 
notable, besides, for handsome women, and as one of the two 
capitals, Alais being the other, of the country of the Camisards.

The landlord of the inn took me, after I had eaten, to an adjoining 
cafe, where I, or rather my journey, became the topic of the 
afternoon.  Every one had some suggestion for my guidance; and the 
sub-prefectorial map was fetched from the sub-prefecture itself, 
and much thumbed among coffee-cups and glasses of liqueur.  Most of 
these kind advisers were Protestant, though I observed that 
Protestant and Catholic intermingled in a very easy manner; and it 
surprised me to see what a lively memory still subsisted of the 
religious war.  Among the hills of the south-west, by Mauchline, 
Cumnock, or Carsphairn, in isolated farms or in the manse, serious 
Presbyterian people still recall the days of the great persecution, 
and the graves of local martyrs are still piously regarded.  But in 
towns and among the so-called better classes, I fear that these old 
doings have become an idle tale.  If you met a mixed company in the 
King's Arms at Wigton, it is not likely that the talk would run on 
Covenanters.  Nay, at Muirkirk of Glenluce, I found the beadle's 
wife had not so much as heard of Prophet Peden.  But these Cevenols 
were proud of their ancestors in quite another sense; the war was 
their chosen topic; its exploits were their own patent of nobility; 
and where a man or a race has had but one adventure, and that 
heroic, we must expect and pardon some prolixity of reference.  
They told me the country was still full of legends hitherto 
uncollected; I heard from them about Cavalier's descendants - not 
direct descendants, be it understood, but only cousins or nephews - 
who were still prosperous people in the scene of the boy-general's 
exploits; and one farmer had seen the bones of old combatants dug 
up into the air of an afternoon in the nineteenth century, in a 
field where the ancestors had fought, and the great-grandchildren 
were peaceably ditching.

Later in the day one of the Protestant pastors was so good as to 
visit me:  a young man, intelligent and polite, with whom I passed 
an hour or two in talk.  Florac, he told me, is part Protestant, 
part Catholic; and the difference in religion is usually doubled by 
a difference in politics.  You may judge of my surprise, coming as 
I did from such a babbling purgatorial Poland of a place as 
Monastier, when I learned that the population lived together on 
very quiet terms; and there was even an exchange of hospitalities 
between households thus doubly separated.  Black Camisard and White 
Camisard, militiaman and Miquelet and dragoon, Protestant prophet 
and Catholic cadet of the White Cross, they had all been sabring 
and shooting, burning, pillaging, and murdering, their hearts hot 
with indignant passion; and here, after a hundred and seventy 
years, Protestant is still Protestant, Catholic still Catholic, in 
mutual toleration and mild amity of life.  But the race of man, 
like that indomitable nature whence it sprang, has medicating 
virtues of its own; the years and seasons bring various harvests; 
the sun returns after the rain; and mankind outlives secular 
animosities, as a single man awakens from the passions of a day.  
We judge our ancestors from a more divine position; and the dust 
being a little laid with several centuries, we can see both sides 
adorned with human virtues and fighting with a show of right.

I have never thought it easy to be just, and find it daily even 
harder than I thought.  I own I met these Protestants with a 
delight and a sense of coming home.  I was accustomed to speak 
their language, in another and deeper sense of the word than that 
which distinguishes between French and English; for the true Babel 
is a divergence upon morals.  And hence I could hold more free 
communication with the Protestants, and judge them more justly, 
than the Catholics.  Father Apollinaris may pair off with my 
mountain Plymouth Brother as two guileless and devout old men; yet 
I ask myself if I had as ready a feeling for the virtues of the 
Trappist; or, had I been a Catholic, if I should have felt so 
warmly to the dissenter of La Vernede.  With the first I was on 
terms of mere forbearance; but with the other, although only on a 
misunderstanding and by keeping on selected points, it was still 
possible to hold converse and exchange some honest thoughts.  In 
this world of imperfection we gladly welcome even partial 
intimacies.  And if we find but one to whom we can speak out of our 
heart freely, with whom we can walk in love and simplicity without 
dissimulation, we have no ground of quarrel with the world or God.


ON Tuesday, 1st October, we left Florac late in the afternoon, a 
tired donkey and tired donkey-driver.  A little way up the Tarnon, 
a covered bridge of wood introduced us into the valley of the 
Mimente.  Steep rocky red mountains overhung the stream; great oaks 
and chestnuts grew upon the slopes or in stony terraces; here and 
there was a red field of millet or a few apple-trees studded with 
red apples; and the road passed hard by two black hamlets, one with 
an old castle atop to please the heart of the tourist.

It was difficult here again to find a spot fit for my encampment.  
Even under the oaks and chestnuts the ground had not only a very 
rapid slope, but was heaped with loose stones; and where there was 
no timber the hills descended to the stream in a red precipice 
tufted with heather.  The sun had left the highest peak in front of 
me, and the valley was full of the lowing sound of herdsmen's horns 
as they recalled the flocks into the stable, when I spied a bight 
of meadow some way below the roadway in an angle of the river.  
Thither I descended, and, tying Modestine provisionally to a tree, 
proceeded to investigate the neighbourhood.  A grey pearly evening 
shadow filled the glen; objects at a little distance grew 
indistinct and melted bafflingly into each other; and the darkness 
was rising steadily like an exhalation.  I approached a great oak 
which grew in the meadow, hard by the river's brink; when to my 
disgust the voices of children fell upon my ear, and I beheld a 
house round the angle on the other bank.  I had half a mind to pack 
and be gone again, but the growing darkness moved me to remain.  I 
had only to make no noise until the night was fairly come, and 
trust to the dawn to call me early in the morning.  But it was hard 
to be annoyed by neighbours in such a great hotel.

A hollow underneath the oak was my bed.  Before I had fed Modestine 
and arranged my sack, three stars were already brightly shining, 
and the others were beginning dimly to appear.  I slipped down to 
the river, which looked very black among its rocks, to fill my can; 
and dined with a good appetite in the dark, for I scrupled to light 
a lantern while so near a house.  The moon, which I had seen a 
pallid crescent all afternoon, faintly illuminated the summit of 
the hills, but not a ray fell into the bottom of the glen where I 
was lying.  The oak rose before me like a pillar of darkness; and 
overhead the heartsome stars were set in the face of the night.  No 
one knows the stars who has not slept, as the French happily put 
it, A LA BELLE ETOILE.  He may know all their names and distances 
and magnitudes, and yet be ignorant of what alone concerns mankind, 
- their serene and gladsome influence on the mind.  The greater 
part of poetry is about the stars; and very justly, for they are 
themselves the most classical of poets.  These same far-away 
worlds, sprinkled like tapers or shaken together like a diamond 
dust upon the sky, had looked not otherwise to Roland or Cavalier, 
when, in the words of the latter, they had 'no other tent but the 
sky, and no other bed than my mother earth.'

All night a strong wind blew up the valley, and the acorns fell 
pattering over me from the oak.  Yet, on this first night of 
October, the air was as mild as May, and I slept with the fur 
thrown back.

I was much disturbed by the barking of a dog, an animal that I fear 
more than any wolf.  A dog is vastly braver, and is besides 
supported by the sense of duty.  If you kill a wolf, you meet with 
encouragement and praise; but if you kill a dog, the sacred rights 
of property and the domestic affections come clamouring round you 
for redress.  At the end of a fagging day, the sharp cruel note of 
a dog's bark is in itself a keen annoyance; and to a tramp like 
myself, he represents the sedentary and respectable world in its 
most hostile form.  There is something of the clergyman or the 
lawyer about this engaging animal; and if he were not amenable to 
stones, the boldest man would shrink from travelling afoot.  I 
respect dogs much in the domestic circle; but on the highway, or 
sleeping afield, I both detest and fear them.

I was wakened next morning (Wednesday, October 2nd) by the same dog 
- for I knew his bark - making a charge down the bank, and then, 
seeing me sit up, retreating again with great alacrity.  The stars 
were not yet quite extinguished.  The heaven was of that enchanting 
mild grey-blue of the early morn.  A still clear light began to 
fall, and the trees on the hillside were outlined sharply against 
the sky.  The wind had veered more to the north, and no longer 
reached me in the glen; but as I was going on with my preparations, 
it drove a white cloud very swiftly over the hill-top; and looking 
up, I was surprised to see the cloud dyed with gold.  In these high 
regions of the air, the sun was already shining as at noon.  If 
only the clouds travelled high enough, we should see the same thing 
all night long.  For it is always daylight in the fields of space.

As I began to go up the valley, a draught of wind came down it out 
of the seat of the sunrise, although the clouds continued to run 
overhead in an almost contrary direction.  A few steps farther, and 
I saw a whole hillside gilded with the sun; and still a little 
beyond, between two peaks, a centre of dazzling brilliancy appeared 
floating in the sky, and I was once more face to face with the big 
bonfire that occupies the kernel of our system.

I met but one human being that forenoon, a dark military-looking 
wayfarer, who carried a game-bag on a baldric; but he made a remark 
that seems worthy of record.  For when I asked him if he were 
Protestant or Catholic -

'Oh,' said he, 'I make no shame of my religion.  I am a Catholic.'

He made no shame of it!  The phrase is a piece of natural 
statistics; for it is the language of one in a minority.  I thought 
with a smile of Bavile and his dragoons, and how you may ride 
rough-shod over a religion for a century, and leave it only the 
more lively for the friction.  Ireland is still Catholic; the 
Cevennes still Protestant.  It is not a basketful of law-papers, 
nor the hoofs and pistol-butts of a regiment of horse, that can 
change one tittle of a ploughman's thoughts.  Outdoor rustic people 
have not many ideas, but such as they have are hardy plants, and 
thrive flourishingly in persecution.  One who has grown a long 
while in the sweat of laborious noons, and under the stars at 
night, a frequenter of hills and forests, an old honest countryman, 
has, in the end, a sense of communion with the powers of the 
universe, and amicable relations towards his God.  Like my mountain 
Plymouth Brother, he knows the Lord.  His religion does not repose 
upon a choice of logic; it is the poetry of the man's experience, 
the philosophy of the history of his life.  God, like a great 
power, like a great shining sun, has appeared to this simple fellow 
in the course of years, and become the ground and essence of his 
least reflections; and you may change creeds and dogmas by 
authority, or proclaim a new religion with the sound of trumpets, 
if you will; but here is a man who has his own thoughts, and will 
stubbornly adhere to them in good and evil.  He is a Catholic, a 
Protestant, or a Plymouth Brother, in the same indefeasible sense 
that a man is not a woman, or a woman not a man.  For he could not 
vary from his faith, unless he could eradicate all memory of the 
past, and, in a strict and not a conventional meaning, change his 


I WAS now drawing near to Cassagnas, a cluster of black roofs upon 
the hillside, in this wild valley, among chestnut gardens, and 
looked upon in the clear air by many rocky peaks.  The road along 
the Mimente is yet new, nor have the mountaineers recovered their 
surprise when the first cart arrived at Cassagnas.  But although it 
lay thus apart from the current of men's business, this hamlet had 
already made a figure in the history of France.  Hard by, in 
caverns of the mountain, was one of the five arsenals of the 
Camisards; where they laid up clothes and corn and arms against 
necessity, forged bayonets and sabres, and made themselves 
gunpowder with willow charcoal and saltpetre boiled in kettles.  To 
the same caves, amid this multifarious industry, the sick and 
wounded were brought up to heal; and there they were visited by the 
two surgeons, Chabrier and Tavan, and secretly nursed by women of 
the neighbourhood.

Of the five legions into which the Camisards were divided, it was 
the oldest and the most obscure that had its magazines by 
Cassagnas.  This was the band of Spirit Seguier; men who had joined 
their voices with his in the 68th Psalm as they marched down by 
night on the archpriest of the Cevennes.  Seguier, promoted to 
heaven, was succeeded by Salomon Couderc, whom Cavalier treats in 
his memoirs as chaplain-general to the whole army of the Camisards.  
He was a prophet; a great reader of the heart, who admitted people 
to the sacrament or refused them, by 'intensively viewing every 
man' between the eyes; and had the most of the Scriptures off by 
rote.  And this was surely happy; since in a surprise in August 
1703, he lost his mule, his portfolios, and his Bible.  It is only 
strange that they were not surprised more often and more 
effectually; for this legion of Cassagnas was truly patriarchal in 
its theory of war, and camped without sentries, leaving that duty 
to the angels of the God for whom they fought.  This is a token, 
not only of their faith, but of the trackless country where they 
harboured.  M. de Caladon, taking a stroll one fine day, walked 
without warning into their midst, as he might have walked into 'a 
flock of sheep in a plain,' and found some asleep and some awake 
and psalm-singing.  A traitor had need of no recommendation to 
insinuate himself among their ranks, beyond 'his faculty of singing 
psalms'; and even the prophet Salomon 'took him into a particular 
friendship.'  Thus, among their intricate hills, the rustic troop 
subsisted; and history can attribute few exploits to them but 
sacraments and ecstasies.

People of this tough and simple stock will not, as I have just been 
saying, prove variable in religion; nor will they get nearer to 
apostasy than a mere external conformity like that of Naaman in the 
house of Rimmon.  When Louis XVI., in the words of the edict, 
'convinced by the uselessness of a century of persecutions, and 
rather from necessity than sympathy,' granted at last a royal grace 
of toleration, Cassagnas was still Protestant; and to a man, it is 
so to this day.  There is, indeed, one family that is not 
Protestant, but neither is it Catholic.  It is that of a Catholic 
CURE in revolt, who has taken to his bosom a schoolmistress.  And 
his conduct, it is worth noting, is disapproved by the Protestant 

'It is a bad idea for a man,' said one, 'to go back from his 

The villagers whom I saw seemed intelligent after a countrified 
fashion, and were all plain and dignified in manner.  As a 
Protestant myself, I was well looked upon, and my acquaintance with 
history gained me further respect.  For we had something not unlike 
a religious controversy at table, a gendarme and a merchant with 
whom I dined being both strangers to the place, and Catholics.  The 
young men of the house stood round and supported me; and the whole 
discussion was tolerantly conducted, and surprised a man brought up 
among the infinitesimal and contentious differences of Scotland.  
The merchant, indeed, grew a little warm, and was far less pleased 
than some others with my historical acquirements.  But the gendarme 
was mighty easy over it all.

'It's a bad idea for a man to change,' said he; and the remark was 
generally applauded.

That was not the opinion of the priest and soldier at Our Lady of 
the Snows.  But this is a different race; and perhaps the same 
great-heartedness that upheld them to resist, now enables them to 
differ in a kind spirit.  For courage respects courage; but where a 
faith has been trodden out, we may look for a mean and narrow 
population.  The true work of Bruce and Wallace was the union of 
the nations; not that they should stand apart a while longer, 
skirmishing upon their borders; but that, when the time came, they 
might unite with self-respect.

The merchant was much interested in my journey, and thought it 
dangerous to sleep afield.

'There are the wolves,' said he; 'and then it is known you are an 
Englishman.  The English have always long purses, and it might very 
well enter into some one's head to deal you an ill blow some 

I told him I was not much afraid of such accidents; and at any rate 
judged it unwise to dwell upon alarms or consider small perils in 
the arrangement of life.  Life itself, I submitted, was a far too 
risky business as a whole to make each additional particular of 
danger worth regard.  'Something,' said I, 'might burst in your 
inside any day of the week, and there would be an end of you, if 
you were locked into your room with three turns of the key.'


'God,' said I, 'is everywhere.'

'CEPENDANT, COUCHER DEHORS!' he repeated, and his voice was 
eloquent of terror.

He was the only person, in all my voyage, who saw anything hardy in 
so simple a proceeding; although many considered it superfluous.  
Only one, on the other hand, professed much delight in the idea; 
and that was my Plymouth Brother, who cried out, when I told him I 
sometimes preferred sleeping under the stars to a close and noisy 
ale-house, 'Now I see that you know the Lord!'

The merchant asked me for one of my cards as I was leaving, for he 
said I should be something to talk of in the future, and desired me 
to make a note of his request and reason; a desire with which I 
have thus complied.

A little after two I struck across the Mimente, and took a rugged 
path southward up a hillside covered with loose stones and tufts of 
heather.  At the top, as is the habit of the country, the path 
disappeared; and I left my she-ass munching heather, and went 
forward alone to seek a road.

I was now on the separation of two vast water-sheds; behind me all 
the streams were bound for the Garonne and the Western Ocean; 
before me was the basin of the Rhone.  Hence, as from the Lozere, 
you can see in clear weather the shining of the Gulf of Lyons; and 
perhaps from here the soldiers of Salomon may have watched for the 
topsails of Sir Cloudesley Shovel, and the long-promised aid from 
England.  You may take this ridge as lying in the heart of the 
country of the Camisards; four of the five legions camped all round 
it and almost within view - Salomon and Joani to the north, 
Castanet and Roland to the south; and when Julien had finished his 
famous work, the devastation of the High Cevennes, which lasted all 
through October and November 1703, and during which four hundred 
and sixty villages and hamlets were, with fire and pickaxe, utterly 
subverted, a man standing on this eminence would have looked forth 
upon a silent, smokeless, and dispeopled land.  Time and man's 
activity have now repaired these ruins; Cassagnas is once more 
roofed and sending up domestic smoke; and in the chestnut gardens, 
in low and leafy corners, many a prosperous farmer returns, when 
the day's work is done, to his children and bright hearth.  And 
still it was perhaps the wildest view of all my journey.  Peak upon 
peak, chain upon chain of hills ran surging southward, channelled 
and sculptured by the winter streams, feathered from head to foot 
with chestnuts, and here and there breaking out into a coronal of 
cliffs.  The sun, which was still far from setting, sent a drift of 
misty gold across the hill-tops, but the valleys were already 
plunged in a profound and quiet shadow.

A very old shepherd, hobbling on a pair of sticks, and wearing a 
black cap of liberty, as if in honour of his nearness to the grave, 
directed me to the road for St. Germain de Calberte.  There was 
something solemn in the isolation of this infirm and ancient 
creature.  Where he dwelt, how he got upon this high ridge, or how 
he proposed to get down again, were more than I could fancy.  Not 
far off upon my right was the famous Plan de Font Morte, where Poul 
with his Armenian sabre slashed down the Camisards of Seguier.  
This, methought, might be some Rip van Winkle of the war, who had 
lost his comrades, fleeing before Poul, and wandered ever since 
upon the mountains.  It might be news to him that Cavalier had 
surrendered, or Roland had fallen fighting with his back against an 
olive.  And while I was thus working on my fancy, I heard him 
hailing in broken tones, and saw him waving me to come back with 
one of his two sticks.  I had already got some way past him; but, 
leaving Modestine once more, retraced my steps.

Alas, it was a very commonplace affair.  The old gentleman had 
forgot to ask the pedlar what he sold, and wished to remedy this 

I told him sternly, 'Nothing.'

'Nothing?' cried he.

I repeated 'Nothing,' and made off.

It's odd to think of, but perhaps I thus became as inexplicable to 
the old man as he had been to me.

The road lay under chestnuts, and though I saw a hamlet or two 
below me in the vale, and many lone houses of the chestnut farmers, 
it was a very solitary march all afternoon; and the evening began 
early underneath the trees.  But I heard the voice of a woman 
singing some sad, old, endless ballad not far off.  It seemed to be 
about love and a BEL AMOUREUX, her handsome sweetheart; and I 
wished I could have taken up the strain and answered her, as I went 
on upon my invisible woodland way, weaving, like Pippa in the poem, 
my own thoughts with hers.  What could I have told her?  Little 
enough; and yet all the heart requires.  How the world gives and 
takes away, and brings sweethearts near only to separate them again 
into distant and strange lands; but to love is the great amulet 
which makes the world a garden; and 'hope, which comes to all,' 
outwears the accidents of life, and reaches with tremulous hand 
beyond the grave and death.  Easy to say:  yea, but also, by God's 
mercy, both easy and grateful to believe!

We struck at last into a wide white high-road carpeted with 
noiseless dust.  The night had come; the moon had been shining for 
a long while upon the opposite mountain; when on turning a corner 
my donkey and I issued ourselves into her light.  I had emptied out 
my brandy at Florac, for I could bear the stuff no longer, and 
replaced it with some generous and scented Volnay; and now I drank 
to the moon's sacred majesty upon the road.  It was but a couple of 
mouthfuls; yet I became thenceforth unconscious of my limbs, and my 
blood flowed with luxury.  Even Modestine was inspired by this 
purified nocturnal sunshine, and bestirred her little hoofs as to a 
livelier measure.  The road wound and descended swiftly among 
masses of chestnuts.  Hot dust rose from our feet and flowed away.  
Our two shadows - mine deformed with the knapsack, hers comically 
bestridden by the pack - now lay before us clearly outlined on the 
road, and now, as we turned a corner, went off into the ghostly 
distance, and sailed along the mountain like clouds.  From time to 
time a warm wind rustled down the valley, and set all the chestnuts 
dangling their bunches of foliage and fruit; the ear was filled 
with whispering music, and the shadows danced in tune.  And next 
moment the breeze had gone by, and in all the valley nothing moved 
except our travelling feet.  On the opposite slope, the monstrous 
ribs and gullies of the mountain were faintly designed in the 
moonshine; and high overhead, in some lone house, there burned one 
lighted window, one square spark of red in the huge field of sad 
nocturnal colouring.

At a certain point, as I went downward, turning many acute angles, 
the moon disappeared behind the hill; and I pursued my way in great 
darkness, until another turning shot me without preparation into 
St. Germain de Calberte.  The place was asleep and silent, and 
buried in opaque night.  Only from a single open door, some 
lamplight escaped upon the road to show me that I was come among 
men's habitations.  The two last gossips of the evening, still 
talking by a garden wall, directed me to the inn.  The landlady was 
getting her chicks to bed; the fire was already out, and had, not 
without grumbling, to be rekindled; half an hour later, and I must 
have gone supperless to roost.


WHEN I awoke (Thursday, 2nd October), and, hearing a great 
flourishing of cocks and chuckling of contented hens, betook me to 
the window of the clean and comfortable room where I had slept the 
night, I looked forth on a sunshiny morning in a deep vale of 
chestnut gardens.  It was still early, and the cockcrows, and the 
slanting lights, and the long shadows encouraged me to be out and 
look round me.

St. Germain de Calberte is a great parish nine leagues round about.  
At the period of the wars, and immediately before the devastation, 
it was inhabited by two hundred and seventy-five families, of which 
only nine were Catholic; and it took the CURE seventeen September 
days to go from house to house on horseback for a census.  But the 
place itself, although capital of a canton, is scarce larger than a 
hamlet.  It lies terraced across a steep slope in the midst of 
mighty chestnuts.  The Protestant chapel stands below upon a 
shoulder; in the midst of the town is the quaint old Catholic 

It was here that poor Du Chayla, the Christian martyr, kept his 
library and held a court of missionaries; here he had built his 
tomb, thinking to lie among a grateful population whom he had 
redeemed from error; and hither on the morrow of his death they 
brought the body, pierced with two-and-fifty wounds, to be 
interred.  Clad in his priestly robes, he was laid out in state in 
the church.  The CURE, taking his text from Second Samuel, 
twentieth chapter and twelfth verse, 'And Amasa wallowed in his 
blood in the highway,' preached a rousing sermon, and exhorted his 
brethren to die each at his post, like their unhappy and 
illustrious superior.  In the midst of this eloquence there came a 
breeze that Spirit Seguier was near at hand; and behold! all the 
assembly took to their horses' heels, some east, some west, and the 
CURE himself as far as Alais.

Strange was the position of this little Catholic metropolis, a 
thimbleful of Rome, in such a wild and contrary neighbourhood.  On 
the one hand, the legion of Salomon overlooked it from Cassagnas; 
on the other, it was cut off from assistance by the legion of 
Roland at Mialet.  The CURE, Louvrelenil, although he took a panic 
at the arch-priest's funeral, and so hurriedly decamped to Alais, 
stood well by his isolated pulpit, and thence uttered fulminations 
against the crimes of the Protestants.  Salomon besieged the 
village for an hour and a half, but was beaten back.  The 
militiamen, on guard before the CURE'S door, could be heard, in the 
black hours, singing Protestant psalms and holding friendly talk 
with the insurgents.  And in the morning, although not a shot had 
been fired, there would not be a round of powder in their flasks.  
Where was it gone?  All handed over to the Camisards for a 
consideration.  Untrusty guardians for an isolated priest!

That these continual stirs were once busy in St. Germain de 
Calberte, the imagination with difficulty receives; all is now so 
quiet, the pulse of human life now beats so low and still in this 
hamlet of the mountains.  Boys followed me a great way off, like a 
timid sort of lion-hunters; and people turned round to have a 
second look, or came out of their houses, as I went by.  My passage 
was the first event, you would have fancied, since the Camisards.  
There was nothing rude or forward in this observation; it was but a 
pleased and wondering scrutiny, like that of oxen or the human 
infant; yet it wearied my spirits, and soon drove me from the 

I took refuge on the terraces, which are here greenly carpeted with 
sward, and tried to imitate with a pencil the inimitable attitudes 
of the chestnuts as they bear up their canopy of leaves.  Ever and 
again a little wind went by, and the nuts dropped all around me, 
with a light and dull sound, upon the sward.  The noise was as of a 
thin fall of great hailstones; but there went with it a cheerful 
human sentiment of an approaching harvest and farmers rejoicing in 
their gains.  Looking up, I could see the brown nut peering through 
the husk, which was already gaping; and between the stems the eye 
embraced an amphitheatre of hill, sunlit and green with leaves.

I have not often enjoyed a place more deeply.  I moved in an 
atmosphere of pleasure, and felt light and quiet and content.  But 
perhaps it was not the place alone that so disposed my spirit.  
Perhaps some one was thinking of me in another country; or perhaps 
some thought of my own had come and gone unnoticed, and yet done me 
good.  For some thoughts, which sure would be the most beautiful, 
vanish before we can rightly scan their features; as though a god, 
travelling by our green highways, should but ope the door, give one 
smiling look into the house, and go again for ever.  Was it Apollo, 
or Mercury, or Love with folded wings?  Who shall say?  But we go 
the lighter about our business, and feel peace and pleasure in our 

I dined with a pair of Catholics.  They agreed in the condemnation 
of a young man, a Catholic, who had married a Protestant girl and 
gone over to the religion of his wife.  A Protestant born they 
could understand and respect; indeed, they seemed to be of the mind 
of an old Catholic woman, who told me that same day there was no 
difference between the two sects, save that 'wrong was more wrong 
for the Catholic,' who had more light and guidance; but this of a 
man's desertion filled them with contempt.

'It is a bad idea for a man to change,' said one.

It may have been accidental, but you see how this phrase pursued 
me; and for myself, I believe it is the current philosophy in these 
parts.  I have some difficulty in imagining a better.  It's not 
only a great flight of confidence for a man to change his creed and 
go out of his family for heaven's sake; but the odds are - nay, and 
the hope is - that, with all this great transition in the eyes of 
man, he has not changed himself a hairbreadth to the eyes of God.  
Honour to those who do so, for the wrench is sore.  But it argues 
something narrow, whether of strength or weakness, whether of the 
prophet or the fool, in those who can take a sufficient interest in 
such infinitesimal and human operations, or who can quit a 
friendship for a doubtful process of the mind.  And I think I 
should not leave my old creed for another, changing only words for 
other words; but by some brave reading, embrace it in spirit and 
truth, and find wrong as wrong for me as for the best of other 

The phylloxera was in the neighbourhood; and instead of wine we 
drank at dinner a more economical juice of the grape - La 
Parisienne, they call it.  It is made by putting the fruit whole 
into a cask with water; one by one the berries ferment and burst; 
what is drunk during the day is supplied at night in water:  so, 
with ever another pitcher from the well, and ever another grape 
exploding and giving out its strength, one cask of Parisienne may 
last a family till spring.  It is, as the reader will anticipate, a 
feeble beverage, but very pleasant to the taste.

What with dinner and coffee, it was long past three before I left 
St. Germain de Calberte.  I went down beside the Gardon of Mialet, 
a great glaring watercourse devoid of water, and through St. 
Etienne de Vallee Francaise, or Val Francesque, as they used to 
call it; and towards evening began to ascend the hill of St. 
Pierre.  It was a long and steep ascent.  Behind me an empty 
carriage returning to St. Jean du Gard kept hard upon my tracks, 
and near the summit overtook me.  The driver, like the rest of the 
world, was sure I was a pedlar; but, unlike others, he was sure of 
what I had to sell.  He had noticed the blue wool which hung out of 
my pack at either end; and from this he had decided, beyond my 
power to alter his decision, that I dealt in blue-wool collars, 
such as decorate the neck of the French draught-horse.

I had hurried to the topmost powers of Modestine, for I dearly 
desired to see the view upon the other side before the day had 
faded.  But it was night when I reached the summit; the moon was 
riding high and clear; and only a few grey streaks of twilight 
lingered in the west.  A yawning valley, gulfed in blackness, lay 
like a hole in created nature at my feet; but the outline of the 
hills was sharp against the sky.  There was Mount Aigoal, the 
stronghold of Castanet.  And Castanet, not only as an active 
undertaking leader, deserves some mention among Camisards; for 
there is a spray of rose among his laurel; and he showed how, even 
in a public tragedy, love will have its way.  In the high tide of 
war he married, in his mountain citadel, a young and pretty lass 
called Mariette.  There were great rejoicings; and the bridegroom 
released five-and-twenty prisoners in honour of the glad event.  
Seven months afterwards, Mariette, the Princess of the Cevennes, as 
they called her in derision, fell into the hands of the 
authorities, where it was like to have gone hard with her.  But 
Castanet was a man of execution, and loved his wife.  He fell on 
Valleraugue, and got a lady there for a hostage; and for the first 
and last time in that war there was an exchange of prisoners.  
Their daughter, pledge of some starry night upon Mount Aigoal, has 
left descendants to this day.

Modestine and I - it was our last meal together - had a snack upon 
the top of St. Pierre, I on a heap of stones, she standing by me in 
the moonlight and decorously eating bread out of my hand.  The poor 
brute would eat more heartily in this manner; for she had a sort of 
affection for me, which I was soon to betray.

It was a long descent upon St. Jean du Gard, and we met no one but 
a carter, visible afar off by the glint of the moon on his 
extinguished lantern.

Before ten o'clock we had got in and were at supper; fifteen miles 
and a stiff hill in little beyond six hours!


ON examination, on the morning of October 3rd, Modestine was 
pronounced unfit for travel.  She would need at least two days' 
repose, according to the ostler; but I was now eager to reach Alais 
for my letters; and, being in a civilised country of stage-coaches, 
I determined to sell my lady friend and be off by the diligence 
that afternoon.  Our yesterday's march, with the testimony of the 
driver who had pursued us up the long hill of St. Pierre, spread a 
favourable notion of my donkey's capabilities.  Intending 
purchasers were aware of an unrivalled opportunity.  Before ten I 
had an offer of twenty-five francs; and before noon, after a 
desperate engagement, I sold her, saddle and all, for five-and-
thirty.  The pecuniary gain is not obvious, but I had bought 
freedom into the bargain.

St Jean du Gard is a large place, and largely Protestant.  The 
maire, a Protestant, asked me to help him in a small matter which 
is itself characteristic of the country.  The young women of the 
Cevennes profit by the common religion and the difference of the 
language to go largely as governesses into England; and here was 
one, a native of Mialet, struggling with English circulars from two 
different agencies in London.  I gave what help I could; and 
volunteered some advice, which struck me as being excellent.

One thing more I note.  The phylloxera has ravaged the vineyards in 
this neighbourhood; and in the early morning, under some chestnuts 
by the river, I found a party of men working with a cider-press.  I 
could not at first make out what they were after, and asked one 
fellow to explain.

'Making cider,' he said.  'OUI, C'EST COMME CA.  COMME DANS LE 

There was a ring of sarcasm in his voice:  the country was going to 
the devil.

It was not until I was fairly seated by the driver, and rattling 
through a rocky valley with dwarf olives, that I became aware of my 
bereavement.  I had lost Modestine.  Up to that moment I had 
thought I hated her; but now she was gone,

'And oh!
The difference to me!'

For twelve days we had been fast companions; we had travelled 
upwards of a hundred and twenty miles, crossed several respectable 
ridges, and jogged along with our six legs by many a rocky and many 
a boggy by-road.  After the first day, although sometimes I was 
hurt and distant in manner, I still kept my patience; and as for 
her, poor soul! she had come to regard me as a god.  She loved to 
eat out of my hand.  She was patient, elegant in form, the colour 
of an ideal mouse, and inimitably small.  Her faults were those of 
her race and sex; her virtues were her own.  Farewell, and if for 
ever -

Father Adam wept when he sold her to me; after I had sold her in my 
turn, I was tempted to follow his example; and being alone with a 
stage-driver and four or five agreeable young men, I did not 
hesitate to yield to my emotion.

End of the Project Gutenberg eText Travels with a Donkey


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