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Two Summers in Guyenne by Edward Harrison Barker

Part 2 out of 5

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necessity of giving this tragic warning to his fellow-beings. Centuries
later an English poet expressed the same idea in verse:

'The woman's cause is man's! they rise or sink
Together, dwarfed or god-like, bond or free.'

One of the less conspicuous figures is going down head foremost in the
company of an animal that looks very like a pig. This beast having been
damned by ecclesiastical sculptors in France as early as the twelfth
century, and probably earlier, it is not surprising that a polite peasant,
when he mentions it by name, often excuses himself for his supposed breach
of good manners by adding: '_Sauf votre respect_.'

Nearing a village not far from Souillac, and wondering the while what had
become of the picturesque, I saw, as if by enchantment, a few yards away, a
little old church covered with ivy, and surrounded by tombstones that were
stained with the dead colours of last winter's lichen; one leaning this
way, another that, but all going down into the grassy graves. A few chairs
and a single bench told that the people who came here to pray were not many
nor rich. Most of the flagstones were broken, and the altar was almost
simple enough to please a Calvinist. It was the simplicity, not of
intention, but of poverty. Are such churches--lost amidst the pensive
trees, or bathed by the tender evening light upon the vine-clad
hillside--doubly hallowed, or is it the poetry of old memories and ideal
pictures stored away behind a multitude of newer impressions that moves us
like the wind-blown strains of half-forgotten melodies as we pass them in
our wanderings?

Evening found me by the Dordogne, that flowed calmly in a salmon-coloured
light, thrown down by a wasteful stony hill, itself lit up by a reflected
glow of the sinking sun. The meadows through which the little path ran were
dotted all over with golden spots of lotus, and near the water the pale,
pure yellow of the evening primrose shone against the darkening willows.
The voices of unseen peasants, labouring somewhere in the fields so long
as the daylight lasted, were carried up the valley by the breeze, just
loosened from its leash; but the sound was only a little louder than the
whispering of the poplars.

The gloaming lingered until I reached the village of Cazoules. At the inn
where I decided to pass the night I fell among bicyclists--quite a crowd of
them--all young, frantic with the excitement of some break-neck run, and
noisy enough to shock the dog's sense of decorum, for he slunk off with
his tail between his legs. Having slaked their thirst, the jovial band
of enthusiasts sprang upon their steel horses and dashed off into the
darkness, where their voices were quickly lost.

While waiting for dinner, I found nothing so amusing as listening to a high
dispute between the hostess and a travelling butcher, with whom she had
long had dealings, but whom she had lately deserted because she had found
another who sold cheaper. The butcher called his rival a 'dirty sparrow,'
but at length proposed to yield the sou on each pound of meat by means of
which the 'sparrow' had scored his victory. In future all his meat was to
be sold at eleven sous, and on these terms he was restored to favour. Thus,
by playing one man off against the other, the artful woman was able to save
quite a pile of sous every week on her general expenses. The Frenchwoman of
ordinary intelligence, whether she belongs to the north or the south, the
east or the west, may be safely trusted to beat any man of her own race at

For a rural inn this one at Cazoules was good and substantial, but it
provided a little too much irritation at night to be consistent with
peaceful slumber and happy dreams. This was not, perhaps, the fault of the
inn, but of the Dordogne Valley. As soon as the day broke another enemy
entered the field. The flies then awoke, refreshed but hungry, and
determined to make the most of a good opportunity. The house-flies of the
North, when compared to those of the South, seem to have been well brought
up, and trained to live with human beings on terms of civility, if not of
friendship. The flies of Southern France must be descended from those that
were sent to worry Pharaoh, and when one has lived with them during the
months of August and September, one can quite believe that their ancestors
exasperated the Egyptian king to the point of promising anything so that
they might be taken from him.

It was not until I had walked away from Cazoules that I realized where I
was. I had left the Quercy while wandering through those meadows as the sun
was sinking, and had entered Perigord--once famous for troubadours, and
now for truffles. Nobody can live there today by making verses, and the
representative of the jongleur, who once sang from castle to castle to the
accompaniment of the mediaeval fiddle, and who was so heartily welcomed at
all the baronial feasts and merrymakings, is now a wandering beggar, who
gathers crusts from the peasants by his rude minstrelsy, that changes
from the pious to the obscene, or from the obscene to the pious, as the
character and taste of the audience may decide. Many persons, however,
contrive to prosper by hunting for truffles in the exhilarating company
of pigs. It is not in this fertile valley that they find them, but on the
hillsides and stony table-lands, where the oak flourishes, but never grows

I passed almost at the foot of one of those darkly-wooded, precipitous
hills or cliffs which now approach the water's edge and now recede for
a mile or more in this part of the valley; widening or diminishing the
cultivated land accordingly as the rocky sides of the fissure resisted the
washing and mining of the ancient waters.

On the top of the cliff stood a high round tower--the keep of a small
feudal stronghold. It is called the Tour de Mareuil. Its position leaves
little doubt that in old times its owners, like so many other nobles whose
ruined castles crown the heights on both sides of the Dordogne, levied toll
upon the boats that came up or went down the river. Navigation must have
been always difficult on account of the strong current and the numerous
rapids and shallows; but the stream was a means of communication between
Bordeaux, Perigord, and the Haut-Quercy that was not to be despised,
and probably some care was taken to keep the channel open. According to
tradition, the English made frequent use of it. The tolls were an important
source of income to the nobles whose fortresses overlooked the river. A
sharp look-out was always kept from the towers for approaching boats.

I was on my way to the castle where Fenelon first saw the light, and in
order to reach it I had to cross the river. An old flat-bottomed boat,
built for conveying men, asses, and other animals from one side to the
other, lay off the bank, and two girls, who were in charge of a flock of
geese as well as of the ferry, were willing to take me across. While the
elder ferried, the younger examined me carefully at close quarters,
and apparently with much interest. Presently she asked me if I sold
writing-paper. After landing, I soon reached the village of St. Mondane.
Here I halted at an inn in the shadow of old walnut-trees. A few yards off,
under one of the great trees, was a high wooden crucifix, around which some
twenty or thirty geese were standing or lying down, all in a digestive or
contemplative mood, and through the openings between the boles and the
branches were seen the sunlit meadows sloping to the low willows and the
flashing river.

From St. Mondane a charming road or lane between very high banks that are
almost cliffs leads upward to the Chateau de la Motte-Fenelon, where, in
1651, was born Francois de Salignac de la Motte, known to the world as
Fenelon. Having reached the top of the hill, I soon came in view of a
picturesque mass of masonry with round towers capped with pointed roofs,
and with Gothic gables hanging lightly in the air over dormer windows; the
whole rising out of a dense grove of trees in the midst of a quiet sunny
landscape. When quite near I found that the grove was a sombre little wood
of ever-green oaks. The same wood, if not the actual oaks, may have been
there in Fenelon's time, for the ilex is one of the commonest trees in
Perigord on the hills about the Dordogne. As a boy, while climbing here,
he may have torn his hose into tatters, notwithstanding his precocious
knowledge of Greek. The future churchman may even have robbed a jay's nest
on this very spot. What quietude and what deep shadow! Not a leaf stirred;
only a fiery shaft of sunshine forced its way here and there through the
dark roof of unchanging green to the brown soil and the rampart's mossy

Although the present castle was raised when feudalism was nothing more than
a tradition and a sentiment, the outworks, consisting of two walls, the
inner one standing on ground considerably higher than the other, were of
exceptional strength, and as they were originally, so they remain at the
present day. I passed through the outer and then the inner gateway, and, in
my search for a human being, accident led me to the kitchen, which was very
large and entirely paved with pebbles. Here I found the cook, who, I had
been told, was the only person in authority at that time. Surrounded by
four great walls, on which hung utensils that were rarely handled except
for the periodical scouring, she looked as solemn as a cloistered nun. She
consented, however, to show me the interior of the castle, with a pathetic
readiness which said that the appearance of an occasional visitor kept her
from sinking into hopeless melancholy.

[Illustration: CHATEAU DE FENELON.]

The most interesting room is the one in which Fenelon slept. Here is to be
seen his four-post bedstead, each of the posts a slender twisted column,
the silk hangings and fringe looking very worn and faded after being
exposed to the light of over two hundred years. Adjoining this room is the
_salle a manger_, the immense hearth, with seats at the ingle corners,
being covered by an elliptical arch. Most of the furniture here and
elsewhere is of massive oak, carved in the style of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries. The family into whose possession this castle has
passed, although distinct from that of Salignac de la Motte, which has now
no representative, reverently preserves all that associates the spot with
the memory of the illustrious author of 'Telemaque.'

From the top of one of the machicolated towers I saw a vast expanse of
country, singularly grand, but very solemn. From each side of the Dordogne
Valley rose and stretched away into the distance a seemingly endless
succession of hills, broken up by narrow gorges and glens. Over all, or
nearly all these hills lay a dark and scarcely varying mantle of forest.
This tract of country is well named Perigord Noir. It is one of the few
districts of France which still draw a sum from the Government yearly in
the form of prize money for the wolves that are killed there.

I returned to St. Mondane and continued my journey westward by the valley,
which brought me every day a little nearer to the sea--still so far away.
As I had no need to hurry, I sat awhile in the late afternoon upon a low
mossy wall, in the deep shade of a dripping, whispering rock, from which
hung delicate green tresses of the maiden's-hair fern. Above, the rock was
lost in a steep wilderness of trees and dense undergrowth, which met the
radiant sky somewhere where the eye could not follow. The bell-like tinkle
of water out of sight was the only sound until I heard a patter-patter of
webbed feet coming along the road. A flock of geese were moving homeward,
followed by a woman, whose feet were as bare as theirs, and whose eyes were
fixed upon her distaff and spindle. She would not have noticed me had not
the birds, true to their ancient reputation, given the alarm.

A little later I had left the shadow of the wooded rocks and was on the
margin of the river, which spread out broadly here between its shelving
banks of pebbly shingle. Then, to reach by the shortest way the village
where I intended to pass the night, I had to turn once more from the water
and cross some wooded hills. Here the jays mocked at the solemnity of the
evergreen oaks, and the dark forest echoed as with the laughter of fiends.

Grolejac was the curious name of the village I was seeking, and which I at
length found partly on a hill and partly in the valley of the Dordogne.
Chance taking me to a house that bore the sign of an inn, although it
was at the back of a farm-yard, I thought I might as well stop there as
anywhere else.

I am waiting for dinner-seldom a cheerful way of killing time. I do not,
however, expose myself to the risk of being irritated by the sight of my
willing but mechanical hostess scraping the white ashes from the embers,
parcelling out these into little heaps of fire upon the hearth, throwing
salt into the swinging pot with a hand the colour of which may be
distressing to the imagination, then tasting the soup: all this, and much
more, I leave her to accomplish in the gathering darkness of the kitchen,
and, sparing her the pain of lighting lamp or candle while there is still
a gleam of day, I wander out beyond the houses of the village to a quiet
woodside, there to watch the coming of night, which, whether it be
accompanied by wailing winds and storm-rack brimming with tears, or by that
grand serenity which grows in beauty as the light fails, is always like the
coming of death.

In the clear obscure, the brown and yellow rocks of bare limestone, at
the foot of which is the small inn, seem to be drawing nearer. All their
details become luminously distinct as the air grows darker, while the
caverns gape like the black mouths of some stealthily approaching,
monstrous, many-headed form. Two men are still working in a field of
tobacco, and they go on until lights flash forth from all the houses in the
valley. Then they slowly move off into the dusk with their ox and waggon.

All about the fields, where the night crickets are now chirruping and the
flying beetles are droning, there is a general movement of life towards the
village--of men carrying their mattocks on their shoulder or walking in
front of the ox that has done his long day's ploughing, of women and
children, geese, turkeys, and sheep.


I wonder if the wooden cross beside the tobacco-field was put there to
mark the spot where somebody died, in accordance with an old and beautiful
custom still much practised in these rural districts of France; but the
thought of the laid table at the auberge changes the train of ideas, so,
following in the wake of the last goose, I, too, take refuge from the night
in the now animated village.

Sitting alone at a great table in a room large enough for a marriage feast,
ill-lighted by an oil-lamp, whose flame appears to be afflicted with St.
Vitus's dance--a room quite free from ornament, with furniture responding
exclusively to the purposes of resting, eating, and drinking, with
curtainless windows looking out upon the moonless night that is beginning
to sigh and moan at the approach of a storm--my dinner is not a very
cheerful one. Not that I am necessarily unhappy when I take a solitary
meal. In this matter all depends upon the mood, and the mood frequently
depends upon influences too subtle to be analyzed. The dinner was as good
as I had a right to expect it to be. A dish on which the hostess had
evidently striven to use her best art was of orange mushrooms in a sauce
of verjuice; but the substantial one was a roast fowl--an unfortunate bird
that was just going to roost with an easy mind, when my coming upset the
arrangements of the inn and the poultry house. One fowl, at all events, had
had good reason to think it was an ill wind that blew me into the village.

It is a bad custom in rural France to kill fowls just when they are wanted
for the spit. Not only is it unpleasant to think that a creature is not
allowed time to cool before it begins to turn in front of the fire, but the
art of cooking is placed at a disadvantage by the practice. It is of no
use, however, trying to convince the people of their error, even when they
kill poultry for themselves and can choose their time: they will never do
things otherwise than in the way to which they have been accustomed. The
French are stubbornly conservative in everything except politics.

As I felt the need of talking to-night, I fetched the farming innkeeper
from his kitchen and persuaded him to drink some of his own cognac. This he
did without wincing, but he soon returned the compliment by bringing out of
a cupboard a bottle of clear greenish liquor, which he said was _eau de vie
de figues_. It was something new to me. I had tasted alcohol distilled from
a considerable variety of the earth's fruits, but never from figs before.
It retained a strong flavour of its origin, and might have been correctly
described as fire-water, for it was almost pure spirit.

I drew this man into conversation upon the peasant's life. All that he
said was only confirmation of the opinion I had already formed from other
testimony respecting the occupation of Adam when he had to struggle with
nature outside of the terrestrial paradise. Let a man own as much soil as
he can till with his hands, let him have an ox, too, to help him: he can
only live at the price of almost incessant labour and rigorous frugality.
This is the normal condition of the peasant-proprietor's existence.

'The peasant who works seriously,' said the farmer, 'does not sleep more
than four hours a night during the summer months. He goes to bed at ten,
and gets up at two. This would not hurt him if he were better fed, but he
eats little besides his soup, and drinks bad _piquette_.'

The man went back to his kitchen, and then to his bed close by; the flame
of the lamp became sick unto death, for it now wanted oil, and the house
grew so quiet that the squeaking of the rats and the pattering of their
feet could be heard from places that seemed far away. But for the rumbling
of the thunder, the only sound from the mysterious world outside would have
been the scream, now like the cry of a cat, now like a puppy's bark, of
an owl flying with muffled wings up and down the valley. Very different,
however, was this little owl's cry from the madman's shout of the great
eagle owl, which I had often heard in the rocky vale of the Alzon. I
threw open the window of my bedroom and looked out upon the night. It
was illumined, not by moon nor by stars, but by lightning flashes, which
followed one another with such rapidity that there was no darkness. The
quivering flame threw an awful brightness into the great woods upon the
tops of the hills.

A few hours later I was wandering through these woods, which were now
filled with another light that dried the dripping leaves.

Some miles of forest, then cultivated slopes, and at length the Dordogne
again. I was growing rather weary of searching for the mediaeval town of
Domme, when I recognised it by its old ramparts upon the summit of a high
bare hill, which looked very forbidding indeed where it changed to rock,
whose naked escarpments seemed to float as inaccessible as a cloud in the
blue air far above the valley. As I climbed the shadeless stony hill in the
mid-day sun-glare, I thought that if the soldiers of five or six centuries
ago used strong language as they toiled up here in their heavy armour, it
was excusable. I was wellnigh repenting of my resolution to reach Domme,
when, by a turn of the road, I found myself not many yards in front of a
fortified gateway of the fourteenth century, with a drumtower on each side
connected by a curtain with the ramparts. At first glance nothing seemed to
be wanting. The towers, however, were ruinous in the upper part, and the
battlements had disappeared.

With the help of a local pork-butcher, who kept the key, I was able to
enter the towers of this gateway. In each was a guard-room of considerable
size, and the men-at-arms while on duty there evidently found that in time
of peace the hours lagged, for some of them had carved upon the wall with
their knives or daggers crucifixes and representations of the Virgin and
Child, all closely imitated from church sculpture, painting or window
decoration of the Gothic period. Many names are cut in Gothic character on
the same walls; a further proof that the vanity of man has ever sprouted in
much the same way as now. The antiquary, because he has his own prejudices,
perceives an abyss between the act of the Cockney tourist of to-day who
carves his name upon an old tower or a menhir, and that of a man who five
centuries ago, for no better reason than the other, left upon a guard-room
wall a similar record of his passage. The man of the present is a vulgar
defacer of interesting monuments, whereas he of the past added to their
interest, and prepared a pleasant little surprise for the archaeologist who
might walk that way a few centuries later.

Enough of the fortifications of Domme remains to show what a very strong
place it was in the Middle Ages. Much of the wall where the town was not
naturally defended by the high naked rock, forming a frightful precipice
that no besiegers would have attempted to scale, has been well preserved.
Standing upon some bastion of this rampart, with the deep valley far below
him and the sky above him, the wanderer may allow his fancy almost to
convince him that he is really standing upon some 'castle in the air.'
Of the many rock-perched towns of the South, this is one of the most
remarkable; although, with the exception of the fortifications, little
remains of archaeological interest.

According to the chronicles of Jean Tarde, a canon of the neighbouring
town of Sarlat, who wrote at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the
seventeenth century, Domme was first taken by the English in 1346, but
not without the help of '_quelques traistres_.' From this stronghold they
harassed the surrounding country, 'while the armies of one and the other
party were in Normandy and Picardy, and that battle of Cressi (Crecy) was
fought to the disadvantage of the party of France. Towards the end of the
year a truce was accorded, but it was in no way observed in Perigord by the

The correct date of the capture of Domme appears to have been 1347. The men
who treasonably delivered up the place were afterwards hanged by the French
party when they regained possession of the stronghold. In 1369 the English
again invested the rock, this time under the command of Robert Knolles.
(Tarde, who spelt all English names as he had heard them pronounced in the
country, writes Robert Canole.) The place was then so well defended, and
success appeared so far off to the partisans of Edward III., that the siege
was raised in despair at the end of a month; and the annalist goes on to
say that the English then marched into the Quercy and took Roc-Amadour.
Domme, however, fell into the English power again; but in 1415 it was once
more in the hands of the French. Then we read that the seneschal sent
the crier into the public place to proclaim '_de par le Roy_' that every
inhabitant of Domme was forbidden to leave the town with the intention of
living elsewhere, under the penalty of having any property that he might
possess in the town confiscated. The motive of this ordinance is explained
as follows: 'The wars had already rendered the country so desolate, that at
Domme, where the ordinary number of inhabitants who were heads of families
was a thousand, there were now no more than a hundred and twenty. The
people who had left had abandoned everything, and gone to Spain or

From the bare and windy hill I went down again into the quiet valley,
where, when a few more miles were left behind, I came to La Roque-Gageac,
a village at the foot of high-reaching rocks of fantastic outline, not far
from the Dordogne. Many houses long ago seem to have climbed far up the
warm limestone under the shelter of cornice and canopy, fashioned by the
sculptor Time, braving all the storms of centuries, and the danger of being
hurled in fragments towards the valley by some falling crag.

In an open space, forming a little square, a man and a woman were holding
down a pig, one at each end of a board, where the animal had been stretched
out against its inclination, while a third person had the knife ready for
action. And the spot chosen for the execution was immediately in front of
a very old and interesting shrine, with gabled roof, surmounted by a rude
Gothic crucifix. I caught a glimpse of the pale statue and the flowers
before it; but only a glimpse, for the struggles of the doomed pig, and the
momentary expectation of seeing the red stream gush forth, made me turn
away. One sees much that is anything but poetical in the romantic land of
the troubadours.

Near this strikingly-picturesque village is a cave such as one might read
of in a story of fanciful adventure. It is in a rock beside the Dordogne,
where, the river rests in a deep pool. The entrance is under water, and it
can only be reached with safety by a good diver when, the sun shining at a
certain hour, and the light striking in a particular way, the passage into
the cavern is lit up. A boy had made the dive successfully not long before
my visit to this place, but he found so much to interest him in the cave
while it was lighted a little by the borrowed gleam from the water, that he
lingered there until, the sun moving on his course, the angle of refraction
suddenly changed. The child had not the courage to take a plunge into the
dark gulf, where there was no beacon to guide him, and where he might have
struck against the rock. He therefore remained the rest of the day and all
night in the cavern. When the sun again lit up the passage leading from his
prison, the boy plunged, and a few seconds afterwards he was sitting on the
river-bank drying himself in the sun.

* * * * *

I have entered upon the tenancy of a small house beside the Dordogne at
Beynac, a village a few miles below La Roque, partly crouching beneath a
very high rock, and partly built upon its terraces or ledges up to the
inner wall of a feudal castle that was much modified and refashioned in
later ages under the pressure of two forces--time, that ruins, and the
eternal striving of each generation to attain its own ideal of comfort and
elegance. But the grand old keep still rears its rectangular mass behind
and far above the later masonry, and when the evening sun shines upon it,
the stones, no longer gray, wear again their bright colour of six or seven
centuries ago. Presently, as the glow moves higher, the battlements and
machicolations take a golden clearness that marks every detail against the
blue depth of sky whose fire is fading and preparing to change into the
calm splendour that mingles with the dusk. Between the base of the rock and
the river is just space enough for a road, which is dazzlingly white now,
and well powdered with dust; but in winter it not infrequently disappears
under water.

[Illustration: BEYNAC.]

On the opposite shore, above a shelving beach of yellow pebbles and a
broken line of osiers, stretch meadows that are intensely green in spring,
and would be quickly so again if rain were to fall; but now they are very
brown, and the long-tailed sheep that wander over them, tinkling their
bells, like to keep near the Dordogne, where they can moisten their mouths
from time to time, and thus help themselves to imagine that they are eating
grass. Beyond the reach of meadow, almost at the foot of high wooded hills
which mark the boundary of the valley on that side, is a modern chateau;
but the architect found his model for it in the past, when castles were
more picturesque than comfortable. When the amber-tinted towers are seen
through the haze of a summer morning against the background of wooded hill,
one thinks that in just such a castle as this Tasso or Spenser would have
put an enchantress, whose wiles, combined with the indolent influence of
the valley, few pilgrim knights taking the eastward way to Roc-Amadour
would have been able to resist.

I found the valley so hot in the steady blaze of summer that, having
reached Beynac, I felt no inclination to go any farther. I thought I would
stop there until cooler weather came, and live meanwhile principally in the
Dordogne. Several families from different parts of Perigord had already
come here to spend a mildly exciting and not too costly river season; and
there they were, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, splashing in the
blue tepid water, with their clothes laid carefully in little heaps upon
the pebbly beach or upon the brown grass by the osiers. Despising the
shelter which in more fashionable watering-places is thought indispensable,
they lazily undressed and dressed in the open air with an appreciation of
sunshine and regardlessness of apparel that was almost lizard-like in its
freedom from conventional restraint.

I was charmed by the spectacle as I meditated upon the opposite bank. The
more I meditated the better I liked the idea of tarrying in a spot where
Arcadian simplicity of life was so unaffectedly cultivated. I resolved that
I, too, would take a house at Beynac if there was one to be had, and that I
would have what I figuratively termed my 'caravan' brought up here. At the
auberge--the only one in the place--I learnt that there was but a single
house still vacant, and that it was not a very beautiful one. A young
fisherman started off barefoot to fetch the owner from his village, four
miles away. The country had to be scoured for him, so that it was long
before he showed himself.

While waiting, I went out and amused the fish in the Dordogne by pointing
a borrowed rod at them, and tempting them with the fattest house-flies I
could find; but as soon as they saw the bait they all turned their tails
to it. My angling was a complete failure. And yet there were multitudes of
fish swimming on the surface; the water seemed alive with them. I concluded
that they were observing a solemn fast.

At length the fisherman returned, looking very hot and dusty, and of course
thirsty. He was accompanied by a hard-baked man of about sixty--a peasant,
apparently, but one who had put on his best clothes in view of an important
bargain that was to be made. He had cunning little eyes, and a mouth that
seemed to have acquired from many ancestors, and from the habits of a
lifetime, a concentrated expression of rustic chicanery which told me that
no business was to be done with him without a fight.

He led the way to his house, which was on the road just above the river. I
came to terms with him for a month, after the expected fight; but it
was not until he had gone away that I began to realize that I had not
distinguished myself by my wisdom in this transaction. Even the villagers,
who are not dainty in the matter of lodging, described the house as a
_baraque_. It gave me the same impression when I saw the inside of it; but
I closed my eyes to its drawbacks, because I had taken a fancy to Beynac,
and this was the only furnished dwelling to be obtained there. I thought
all the little drawbacks belonging to it, such as the rustic hearth to cook
upon, pots with holes in them, rusty frying-pans, deficiency of crockery,
and more than a sufficiency of fleas, would be overcome somehow, as they
had been elsewhere during my peregrinations in out-of-the-way districts,
where the traveller who nurses his dignity, and has a proper regard for the
comforts of life, never thinks of stopping. But things did not settle down
this time quite so quickly as I had expected.

After the arrival of the 'caravan' I took to fishing--always with the same
rod borrowed of the blacksmith-innkeeper--with a zeal that I had not known
since I was a boy. I found that things settled down better when I was out
of the way. But there was something that settled down only too rapidly.
This was the kitchen floor. There was a bare rock forming the back wall of
the house, and down it a runnel of water gently trickled. In the wet season
it lost all modesty, made a lake that rose above the boards, and tried to
find an exit by the back of the chimney. This explained why the fire needed
two days' coaxing and blowing before it would burn, notwithstanding that
our servant had been reared in the knowledge of such chimney-places and
their humours. It also explained why somebody's foot went through the floor
in a fresh place two or three times a day. At the end of the first week
one had to stride or jump over half a dozen chasms to get from one side to
another. About the same time four or five of the lower stairs gave way from
rottenness, so that it needed no little agility to reach the bedrooms.
The old man had to come and mend his house, and because he had a guilty
conscience he brought a basket of figs with him; but, instead of owning
that the wood was rotten, he insinuated that it had been maliciously danced

But the heat was the worst tribulation. The house, with all its windows
without _persiennes_--a detail I had quite overlooked--faced the south, so
that during the hottest hours of the day the sun was full upon it, and the
heat was over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. It was the most
scorching August that had been known even in the South of France for years.
The recollection of those burning hours in that shanty will be ever green.

Nevertheless, the time spent at Beynac left some pleasant memories. The
days were fiery, and, when the south wind blew, almost suffocating; but
when the sun went down into the west there usually came a beneficent
change. During the few minutes that the golden circle lay seemingly upon
the edge of the world, a boat crossing the river appeared to glide over
unfathomable depths of splendour; then gradually over the fields of maize
and tobacco, and where the yellow stubble of the corn long since reaped had
been left, there spread the deep-toned lustre of evening. As the brown dusk
filled the valley, and under the sombre walnut-trees the wayside cross
became like the spectre of one, shrill voices of old women were heard
calling the geese and turkeys that still lingered in the fields.

The geese were often left to come home by themselves, after spending the
day along the banks of the river. They belonged to various people, but,
being eminently sociable birds, they started off together in flocks of
fifty or more. Although there must have been causes of jealousy and rivalry
among them, they never seemed to quarrel. They knew when it was time to go
home by the failing light, and in the dusk I often met them marching along
the road like a regiment of soldiers. As they reached houses to which some
of them belonged, detachments would fall out and the others would go
on. Every bird would return to the place which had for it the sweet
associations of its gosling innocence.

It is now night--the calm summer night without a moon, but spangled with
stars. Among those which the Dordogne reflects and holds as if they were
its own, is the planet Mars, which gleams readily in the midst of a swarm
of lesser yellow lights. The river here is broad and still; there is not
ripple enough to make a beam tremble. If the stars in the water flash, it
is because the rays are flashed from above. Just below the village there
are rapids, and a faint murmur comes up from them, but it is borne under by
the shrilling of the crickets that have climbed into the osiers and poplars
all along by the water's edge. Now and again there is a great splash in the
middle of the stream, which makes one think that a fish large enough to
swallow some unsuspecting Jonah of Perigord must be there in a playful
mood; but this is merely the effect upon the imagination of a sudden noise
breaking in upon the monotonous sounds of the night which are so much like

Lured by the freshness of the air and the serene glory of the starlit sky,
I wander off down the valley to a spot where the river, all in turmoil,
washes and wears away the flanks of rocks rising sheer from its bed like a
wall. Looking back, I can see very distinctly the dark mass of the castle
and the church by its side high above me against the sky, and every minute
or so the lightning-flash from a storm far away in the west brightens the
sombre masonry and the rock beneath.

Centuries ago in this light, the rock, the fortress, and its church must
have looked much the same as now. An Englishman, who had campaigned with
the Black Prince, standing where I am--the road was probably a mule track
then---would have seen against the sky the picture that sets me dreaming of
the past. But the quietude of the summer night might have been disturbed
by sounds that are not heard now. It is unlikely that so large a castle,
containing so many men-at-arms and officials as must have been deemed
necessary to its safety and dignity, would at this early hour have been
wrapped in silence more complete than that of the valley. There would
surely have been some people breathing the cool air on the platform of the
keep besides the watchman, some soldiers pacing the _chemin de ronde_,
although peaceful days may have returned to the unlucky land of Guyenne;
and the clamour of strong voices would have come down to the river. But now
the castle is quiet as its rock which was beaten by the waves of a vanished
sea, and those who still live in it are like the keepers of a cemetery.
That _donjon_, whose dark form seems to stand amidst the stars, only serves
to mark one of the many tombs of feudalism which rise above the smiling but
capricious Dordogne like menhirs--monuments of older illusions--along the
ocean-scalloped coast of Brittany.

Animated as Beynac became late in the afternoon, when the little society,
composed of extraneous particles, met in costumes that were airy,
fantastic, elementary, anything but ceremonious, to exchange civilities in
the water, life on the whole was so mildly exciting that when one day a
small caravan, drawn by a donkey and preceded by a young man half hidden by
a great straw hat and wildly beating a drum, entered the place, there was a
great and tumultuous movement of the population. Everybody wanted to know
what the donkey and the young man proposed to do at Beynac. On the caravan
had been painted '_Theatre de la Gaite_,' which threw light upon the object
of the intruders. The donkey drew up in front of the inn, and the excited
crowd waited with ill-contained impatience to see the company of players
descend from the battered travelling trunk on wheels. At length a pretty
little girl of about twelve, with large and lustrous brown eyes, came out
of the box. She was the company. She was in the charge of her mother,
who superintended the artistic arrangements, as well as the culinary and
financial, but did not venture upon the stage. The young man looked after
the donkey and the drum, and filled up his time by catching fish for the
company and her mother. The stable of the auberge was hired for evening use
as a _salle de spectacle_, and at one end a very diminutive stage was set
up by means of rough planks and old pieces of carpet.

Everybody who could afford to spend a penny or twopence upon vanity and
worldliness went to see the performance. It was quite a fashionable
gathering. The best society were by common consent allowed to take the best
seats--very hard benches--the less ambitious crowded behind, with minds
fully made up not to allow themselves to be carried by enthusiasm beyond
the expenditure of two sous when the plate went round; while favoured
children, who were not expected to pay anything, because they had nothing,
climbed into the mangers, and packed themselves as close together as aphids
on a rose-stalk. The stable had been carefully cleansed, but the horsey
odour that belonged to it could not be swept out. This, with the bad
ventilation, and a temperature almost equal to the hatching of eggs without
hens, was a drawback; but the audience was in no humour to be critical. A
small handbell was rung, two pieces of old carpet were drawn back, and the
little girl made her bow to the audience in a costume as near to that of
Mignon as she and her mother could make it. She sang:

'Connais-tu le pays ou fleurit l'oranger?'

and other airs from the opera in a small, bird-like voice, unaccompanied
by any music. For three hours the child sang, acted, and danced in the
suffocating stable, lighted by two petroleum lamps. The next day I saw
Mignon sitting on one of the shafts of the caravan and gnawing the
'drumstick' of a fowl. The child-actress was the prop of her mother and the
donkey; her talent also kept the youth, who began to agitate the nerves of
Beynac with his diabolical _rataplan_ hours before each performance.

One morning, soon after sunrise, the donkey, which had begun to think that
this time it had really been pensioned off, was put into the shafts, and
the caravan gradually disappeared upon the white road. Then the village
became quite dull again; but it was roused from its torpor by the annual
fete. This was the chief event of the year. The peasants came in from the
scattered villages and from the isolated farms lying in the midst of the
chestnut woods. All the women coifed themselves with their best
kerchiefs, the heads of most of the young girls being resplendent with
brilliant-coloured silk. This coiffure resembles that of the Bordelaise,
but it is not so small, nor is it folded so coquettishly. There was much
love-making--sometimes exquisitely comic by its rustic naivete--and
there was a good deal of dancing to the maddening music of two screaming

At Beynac I made the acquaintance of a French-man who, after angling for
riches--a sport at which he lost much bait and caught nothing--turned all
his attention to the fish in the Dordogne. He resolved that he would run
no more risk by casting his bread upon the wider waters, but that he would
make the most of what remained to him by withdrawing to some riverside
nook, where his love of the unconventional, and his taste for a free life
in the open air, could expand, emancipated from all servitude to society,
including the necessity of keeping up what is called 'an appearance.'

What, to my mind, helps greatly to make France such a pleasant country to
live in is the large amount of social liberty that one enjoys there. Except
in great towns, and in those places which are thronged at certain seasons
by cosmopolitan crowds, people can live as simply as they please, and they
can wear anything, however cheap or even shabby, without risk of being
diminished on this account in the opinion of others. They are liked or
disliked, respected or despised, as their conduct and dealings become known
and judged.

The Otter--this nickname had been given to my new acquaintance by those who
were jealous of his fishing skill--when he was out in his boat never wore
anything finer than corduroy trousers, a short blue jacket of the cotton
material from which blouses are made, a straw-hat, and _espadrilles_,
into which he put his bare feet. No heavier clothing is consistent with
happiness in such a climate as that of the Dordogne Valley during the
summer months. When, by gliding over the transparent water, which revealed
the pebbles at the bottom almost in the deepest places, and the shoals of
fish as they passed up and down the stream, the temptation to plunge became
irresistible, the blue jacket and the other garments were thrown off in a
few seconds, and the fish were startled by the descent of a black head and
beard, followed by the rest of that human form which Carlyle has compared
to a forked radish.

Sometimes the Otter made nocturnal expeditions far up the channels of the
little streams that fall into the Dordogne. Then he was after crayfish.
The ordinary method of catching these crustaceae, namely, with a piece of
netting covering a small wire hoop, and baited with meat, had little charm
for him. There was another much more in keeping with his passion for
movement. He would walk up the beds of the streams quite heedless of the
water, holding in one hand a lantern, and having the other free to make a
grab at every crayfish he might see scuttling out of harm's way over the
stones or sand. As he went slowly up the narrow valleys, the gleam of
his lantern through the osiers, the tall loose-strife and hemp-agrimony
startled the owls, the hedgehogs and the weasles; but not the sound of
water wailing in the darkness, nor the cries of disturbed animals, nor
the weird blackness of overhanging trees that hid the stars, troubled his
nerves. On he went, through water-meadows, at the bottom of gloomy little
gorges, and by the fringe of the forest, until he had wandered miles away
from Beynac. We very nearly met one night, both being out with the same
object in view. I, however, had very little of his zeal for the sport, and
was less interested by the crayfish than by the fantastic indistinctness
of trees and shrubs and flowers, which, in the light of the stars and the
lantern, seemed to belong to a world with which I was but vaguely familiar,
although I had travelled all over it in dreams.

Sometimes I used to go out fishing with the Otter on the Dordogne. When
the casting-net was left at home (it was of little use when the water was
clear) chub-fishing with the flying-line was generally the chosen form
of sport. Here I may say that my companion, who could turn his hand
to anything, made his own rods from hazel-sticks. Where the water was
sufficiently deep, the boat was rowed and steered with a single-bladed
paddle, but where it was shallow much better progress could be made by
polling. These are the two methods invariably used by the fishermen and
ferrymen of the Dordogne, and it is astonishing with what success they can
get a boat up the rapids without having recourse to the towing-line.

When we went chub-fishing, we took the boat a mile or so up-stream, and
then let it drift down with the current near a bank that was fringed with
willows and acacias. Although we needed only six inches of water, the depth
was sometimes miscalculated, and we went aground on a bank of pebbles. Then
the Otter, whose bare feet were always ready for such emergencies, stepped
out into the sparkling current, and hauled or pushed the boat over the
obstacle. What with rapids and banks of pebbles, the excitement of boating
on the Dordogne above Lalinde never flags. It looked very easy to throw a
line with a worm on it towards the shore, and then draw it back, but the
chub showed such little eagerness to be caught by me that I generally
preferred to steer and watch my companion pulling them out as he stood in
the prow, his face nearly hidden under the thatch of his straw hat. When
the fish were in a biting humour, he had one on his hook every time he
threw the line.

There are few trout in this part of the Dordogne, but in tributary streams,
like the charming little Ceou, they are plentiful. Carp are abundant, but
they are very difficult to take with the line, and even with the net,
except in time of flood, when they get washed out of their holes, and the
water being no longer clear, their very sharp eyes are of little use
to them. Then a lucky throw will sometimes bring out two or three carp
weighing several pounds each. The fish commonly caught are mullet, perch,
barbel, gudgeon, bream, and chub. As a food-supplying river, the Dordogne
is one of the most valuable in France, and, owing to the rapid current and
the purity of the water, the fish is of excellent quality.

The fixed belief of all the riverside people in this and other valleys is
that fish should be cooked alive. You enter an inn and ask for a _friture_
of gudgeon. In a few minutes you see the victims, which have been pulled
out of a tank with a small net on the end of a stick, jumping on the
kitchen table, and they are still jumping when they go into the boiling
grease. I am not among those who have grown callous to such sights, common
as they are in France. To see fish scraped, opened, and cooked while still
alive gives me disgust for it when it afterwards appears on the table. I
can imagine somebody saying: 'Why look at what goes on in the kitchen?'
That somebody does not quite understand what rural France is. In a country
inn we invariably pass through the kitchen to reach the room set apart for
guests, and it has often fallen to my lot to seek rest, shelter, and food
in a poor auberge, where the kitchen is also the common room of the family
and outsiders.

A Beynac character that left on my memory a lasting impression was old
Suzette. Suzette might have been any age between fifty and seventy. She had
no beauty, but she must have had a little vanity left, for when I showed
her a photograph I had taken of her, she put her hard old hands together,
swayed her head from shoulder to shoulder, and actually wept. She could not
speak much French, but she said as well as she could that she did not know
that she had grown so ugly. I have noticed, however, that my photographs
have a tendency to draw tears or angry expressions from most of those on
whom I operate, which I can only account for by the reason that these
people have not the pleasure of paying for their portraits. What is
done for nothing is seldom appreciated. Suzette, not wishing to hurt my
feelings, soon wiped out her eyes with her largest knuckle, and, having
composed her countenance, thanked me for having photographed her. She
had had a rough life, but as she had known little else but hardship and
privation, she was contented with what Providence considered enough for
her. This was now a two-roomed cottage to live in, and for food a bunch of
grapes, a peach or a pear to eat with her bread in the fruit season, a few
walnuts to go with it in autumn or winter, chestnuts to boil or roast, and
a piece of fat bacon hanging to a beam, from which she cut only just enough
at a time to disguise the water which, when thickened with bread, a handful
of haricots, and some scraps of other vegetables, made her daily soup. She
was a widow now, but although whenever she spoke of her dead husband her
head began to wag and the tears to start from her eyes, she had less care
and worry and pain as a lonely woman than when she was bearing children
and working harder than any pack-mule to bring them up. Her husband was a
fisherman of the Dordogne, and she sold his fish in the Sarlat market, some
eight miles distant from where they lived by the river. In order to be
early in the market, she had to start at about two in the morning, and the
road, which was uphill all the way, ran between woods where the wolves,
descending from the vaster forests of Black Perigord, often howled in
winter. She told me it frequently happened when she reached the market that
her arms and hands were so benumbed with the cold that she could not take
the basket of fish from her head. As a widow, she had lived for a while
with a married son, but the young woman soon turned the old one out. Poor
Suzette told the story without bitterness; she recognised the law of nature
in this expulsion of the mother when she was of no further use to her
children, and accepted thankfully the ten francs a month which her son
allowed her. She managed to live by fetching and carrying for anyone who
would give her two or three sous for an hour's trudging. She used to take
my letters to post at the nearest railway-station, and no one who merely
noted how nimbly her bare feet moved along the hot, dusty road would have
supposed that she had left her youth so far behind her. Battered and
pinched and harassed as she had been by destiny, she still believed in the
working out of eternal justice, and one day before sunrise she started off
on a pilgrimage to a distant sanctuary, and did not return until after many
hours. With all this she was gay, and could tell a lively story with plenty
of Southern salt. She was a good bit of human nature, worth studying.

Sarlat, where old Suzette went to sell her husband's fish, was a very
important stronghold of Black Perigord in the Middle Ages, and the chief
place in that Sarladais which the English kings of Norman and Angevin
descent found such a tough bone to pick. The way to it from Beynac leads up
steep valleys and gorges, covered with dense forest. Here wolves are to be
seen occasionally in winter, but the wolf country begins a little to the
north of Sarlat, and stretches towards the Limousin. The town appears to be
composed of one long street, and to be dismally uninteresting. There is,
however, an old Sarlat that lies a little off the main artery, and which a
lazy visitor who does not like the trouble of asking questions might easily
miss. There are few scenes more original and picturesque in France than
that presented by the ruinous old church, half open to the weather, and
the ancient houses that form a framework round it. Under the lofty Gothic
vaulting are wooden shops and shanties, and, looking up, you see the smoke
from bakers' ovens hanging about the ribs of the great arches, which it has

Of the old houses, one of the most remarkable is that which was the
residence of the philosophical writer, Etienne de la Boetie, the friend
of Montaigne, It is an interesting example of the French Renaissance, the
exterior being richly ornamented with carvings.

A very rough, bad time had the men of Sarlat during the long years that
they were fighting intermittently for their lives and property with the
lawless bands of so-called English, who had turned so many rocks into
fastnesses, and who issued from their fortified caverns, that they made
almost impregnable, to prey upon the unfortunate people who strove to live
by husbandry. These hardened ruffians and freebooters had no respect for
treaties, and inasmuch as peace never lasted long, and the English kings
of that epoch always liked to feel that they were ready for anything that
might happen in France, the companies of brigand soldiers who preferred to
serve under the leopards rather than under the golden lilies were left to
do pretty much what they pleased in the wilder parts of Guyenne.

After the treaty that followed the battle of Poitiers they continued their
depredations, heedless of the orders communicated to them by the English
commissioners. They carried their raids up to the walls of Sarlat, even at
the time of vintage, although this season was much respected in the Middle
Ages by violent men, from a motive that was perhaps not disinterested. They
seized the bullocks that were harnessed to the waggons, and bore them off
to their strongholds. It is but fair to add, however, that the Sarladais
did not formally submit to English authority until 1361--five years after
the battle of Poitiers. Then Chandos went to Sarlat and received the
submission of the burghers. Soon afterwards Edward III confirmed all the
privileges they had been enjoying under the kings of France. But they did
not remain quiet long. Persuaded by Talleyrand and other nobles, they
rebelled in 1369, and the town became again French. Speaking of this event,
Tarde observes:

'And behold how and when the salamander [Footnote: This reptile was borne
in the arms of Sarlat.] was again placed under the three fleurs-de-lys,
having carried the leopards in chief only eight years two months and a

The people of Sarlat often boast that their town never submitted to the
English. In this matter, however, they are in error.

September came, and I was still at Beynac, although I had found another
house. The fruit season was then at its height. Peaches were sold at three
sous the dozen, a good melon cost about the same sum, and figs were to be
had almost for nothing. On these terms quite a mountain of fruit could be
placed upon the table for half a franc. There was often no necessity to run
into this extravagance, for the people at Beynac are good-natured, and they
would frequently send a basket of their earliest grapes or other fruit.
Although the present might have been made by a woman with bare feet, her
feelings would have been hurt had money been offered in return.

One day rather late in the month, having grown ashamed of inactivity, I
carried my knapsack down to the river and put it into the Otter's smallest
boat, which he called the _perissoire_, although it was not really a canoe.
He was the chief builder of it, and as a contrivance for bringing home
to man the solemn truth that life hangs to a thread or floats upon a
plank--perhaps the worst state of the two--it certainly did him infinite
credit. It was a flatbottomed outrigged deal boat, very long, and so narrow
that to look over one's shoulder in it was a manoeuvre of extreme delicacy,
especially where the rapids caused the water to be in wild commotion. I was
told that it would go down stream like an arrow, and so it did. There was
no need to row hard, for the current took the fragile skiff along with it
so fast that the trees on the banks sped by as if they were running
races, and every few minutes brought a change of landscape. It was very
delightful; only one sensation of movement could have been better--that of

The water was as blue as the sky above, and over the valley, the wooded
hills, and naked rocks lay the sunshine of early autumn, tender in its
strength, mingling a balm with its burning. I seemed to be floating swiftly
but gently down some lovely but treacherous river of enchanted land. And
where is the river that lends itself better to this illusion than
the Dordogne--ever charming, changing, and luring like a capricious,
fascinating, and rather wicked woman? Now it flows without a sound by
the forest, where the imagination places the fairy people and the sylvan
deities; now it roars in the shadow of the castle-crowned and savage rock,
over which the solitary hawk circles and repeats its melancholy cry; now it
seems to sleep like a blue lake in the midst of a broad, fair valley, where
in the sunny fields the flocks feed drowsily.

The depth of the water was as variable as the strength of the current.
Sometimes I saw the stony bed seven or ten feet below, and then quite
suddenly the boat would get into rushing water that sparkled with crystal
clearness over a bank of pebbles, and I expected momentarily to hear a
grating noise and to feel myself aground; but the little boat went over the
shallows like a leaf. I passed a bank large enough to be called an island.
The water had not covered it for months, and it was all thickly overgrown
with persicaria, which the late summer had stained a carmine red, so that
the island was all aflame. The swallows that dipped their wings in the
water, the kingfishers that flew along the banks or perched on the willow
stumps, and the graceful wagtails, were for some miles my only river
companions--excepting, of course, the fish, with which a treacherous
current or a sunken rock might have placed me at any moment on terms of
still closer intimacy.

But time flew like the boat, and I soon came in sight of a charming little
village whose houses with peaked roofs seemed to have been piled one
upon another. Here upon stones in the water I recognised the human form
supported by two bare legs, and in the posture as of a person about to take
a dive, which is not perhaps very graceful, but is one that certainly lends
character to the riverside scenery of France. Two or three women were
rinsing their linen.

On nearing St. Cyprien the current became swifter and the turmoil of the
rapids so great that I prepared my mind here to being swamped by the waves.
The question whether I would abandon or try to rescue my knapsack after the
wreck was distressing. The risk being over, it was with a sigh of relief
that I beached the boat, now half full of water, at the nearest spot to the
small town. Having moored it and given the sculls in charge of a man whose
house was close by, I was soon walking in the warm glow of the September
afternoon by cottage gardens where the last flowers of summer were

The small burg of less than three thousand inhabitants which bears the name
of the African saint was probably, like many others, much more important in
the Middle Ages than it is now. In accordance with the building spirit
of the past, so strongly pronounced throughout Aquitaine, and obviously
inspired by a defensive motive, the houses are closely packed together on a
steep hillside. A few ancient dwellings, notably one with a long exterior
gallery, show themselves very picturesquely here and there. The town grew
up at the foot of an abbey, of which the church still existing exhibits a
massive tower that might easily be mistaken at a little distance for an
early feudal keep. The lower part of this tower is Romanesque. The interior
of the church is in the very simple pointed style of the twelfth century,
but the interest has suffered much from restoration. What is chiefly
remarkable here is the carved oak of the reredoses and pulpit.

The English in 1422 took the town of St. Cyprien and besieged the abbey,
which was a veritable citadel where the inhabitants in the last resort
found shelter. A French force coming, however, to the relief of the people,
the English, who were probably not very numerous, deemed it prudent to

There being still an hour or more of daylight, I continued the ascent of
the hill above the houses and the solemn old church to find a certain
Chateau de Pages, which I knew to be somewhere in the locality. A woman
working her distaff and spindle with that meditative air which the rustic
spinners so often have, her bare feet slowly and noiselessly moving over
the rough stones, pointed out to me a little lane that wound up the
deserted hill between briars bedecked with scarlet hips and bits of ancient
wall to which ferns and moss and ivy clung, tinged by the waning golden
light. I passed through vineyards from which the grapes had been gathered,
then rose by broom and blackthorn to the level land.

I looked in vain for the castle. I might have searched for it until
darkness came, but for the help of a boy who was taking home a goat. At
length I found it lying in a hollow, a sufficient sign that it was never
a stronghold. In feudal times it was probably a small castellated manor
belonging perhaps to a knight who could not afford to build himself a
_donjon_ on some eminence and to fortify it with walls; but centuries later
what remained of the original structure was patched up and considerably
enlarged. Now, as I saw it in the dusk, it seemed a very ghost-haunted
place. The building had not fallen into ruin; it was still roofed, and
might easily have been made habitable; but there was no glass in the
windows; all the rooms were silent with that silence so deep and sad of the
long-deserted house which is not sufficiently wrecked by time and decay
to have lost the pathos of human associations. The breath of the dying
twilight stirred the ivy leaves upon the wall of the detached chapel where
never a person had prayed for many a year, and the goblin bats came out
from the shadowy places to flutter against the pale sky. Then I felt that
I had lingered long enough on this desolate spot, and the thought of the
awaking hearths brightening the little town with the blaze of wood made me
hasten through the heather and gorse that had grown up on the grave of many
a vine.

The next morning saw me afloat again. As I was getting away from the shore
a man called out to me: 'Your boat is worth nothing! If you try to pass the
third bridge you will go to the bottom!'

He spoke very seriously, and I wished to take further counsel of him; but
having once got into the current, it carried me off at such a rate that
while I was thinking of putting a question I was taken out of speaking
distance. I shot through one of the arches of the first bridge, and soon
found myself in water that was a little rough for my poor skiff. Here were
the rapids again. I had been warned against these before I left the inn.
There was no turning back now, and if the commotion of water had been ever
so great I should have had to take my chance in it. The Otter's advice
when I came to rapids was to pull as hard as I could in the middle of the
current. I followed it, and my shallow boat, which had just been described
as worthless, darted into the midst of the turmoil, and went through it
all as swift as a swallow on the wing. The river, however, had risen
considerably during the night, and the strength of the current having much
increased in consequence, my belief in the _perissoire's_ worthiness was
not sufficient to make me run the risk of being swamped at the third
bridge. I therefore landed at the next one, which was close to the village
of Siorac. It seemed that I had only just started from St. Cyprien, and yet
I had travelled about six miles. With the help of a willing man the boat
was carried to the railway-station, which was not far off, and its journey
home having been paid, I ceased for awhile to be a waterfarer, and became
again a wayfarer.

Although there was not much to interest me at Siorac, I stayed there to
lunch in a small inn, where an old woman grilled me a chop over the embers,
and then set before me a pile of grapes, another of pears, and a third of
fresh walnuts. The fruit was to me the best part of the meal, for the long
hot summer had caused me to look upon meat very much as a necessary evil in
the routine of life. While I was seated at the table, the old woman, who
now dozed over her distaff in the chimneycorner, would start up every five
minutes or so, as if from the beginning of a nightmare, and rush at the
flies, which were ravenously busy upon the grapes and pears that I had set
aside for them. She hated them with a hatred so fierce and bitter that I
thought it rather unbecoming at her time of life.

'_On ne pent rien manger,_' she said, '_sans que ces diables y touchent._'

This was quite true; but it was not the flies' fault that their parents
were prolific, and that they had been hatched in a climate eminently
conducive to their vigour and happiness. Their numbers and their voracity
showed that they, too, were compelled by the struggle for life to be active
and enterprising. Unlike some beings of a higher order, they did not take
this trouble sadly; but, then, they were Southern flies.

Having driven them from the table, the aged woman nodded her head with
vindictive satisfaction, and murmured, '_C'est egal; elles vont bientot
crever_'--unmindful of the fact that she, too, had reached the season of
life when the frost comes suddenly and catches people unawares.

I returned to the river and crossed the bridge. On one side of it was a
high statue of the Madonna and Child, with these words on the pedestal:
'_Protectrice du pont, priez pour nous._.' The inscription further stated
that the statue was raised in remembrance of the flood of 1866. That was
in the time of the Empire; nowadays the Government despises all heavenly
assistance in the department of roads and bridges, and religious statues
are no longer erected in such places. Just before reaching a village
called Coux, I was confronted by a very large army of geese, and while the
foremost row advanced to the attack with outstretched necks and bills laid
near the ground, the others cheered them on. For a minute or so matters
looked very serious; then goose and gander courage failed completely, until
the army worked round to my rear, when the screams of defiance arose again.

Poor wretches! their high spirits were not going to last long. They would
soon have to undergo the cramming process, which a goose detests, for,
unlike a pig, it will never of its own will eat more than it needs. In a
few weeks the livers of most of them would be made into those excellent
truffled _pates de foie gras_, which it is the pride and profit of Perigord
to send far and wide.

A grand old elm, such as one does not often see in France, stood in front
of the village church--a Transition building with a Romanesque portal.
Beyond this place the land became marshy, and considerable tracts of it had
been planted with Jerusalem artichokes, each of which had now its yellow
head that tells its relationship to the sunflower. These artichokes are
much grown by damp woodsides, and on other land of little value, in the
valleys of Perigord. They are rarely used as food for man, for the French,
notwithstanding the wide range of their gastronomy, including as it does
squirrels and tomtits, and even snakes in certain localities, as well as
various herbs and vegetables seldom or never eaten in England, have not
been able to acquire a liking for the tubers of the artichoke. The plant
is cultivated for feeding cattle, the whole of it doing good service in a
region where there is but little grass. The multitude of golden flowers
floating, as it were, on sombre green waves light up the autumnal landscape
with a new flame when the skies turn gray.

A solitary man whom I found working a loom in a cottage by the side of the
river kept a ferryboat, and with his help I crossed again to the other
bank. Wandering on with a somewhat vague purpose, I soon found myself--now
under a gray sky--on a marshy flat, which a backwater of the Dordogne had
almost made an island. Here there were many low shrubs of dwarf elder
covered with berries; pools, and wide ditches, where the dark water
scarcely moved, all fringed with tall reeds; while here and there was the
gleam of a white flower upon the erect stem of a marsh-mallow. But what
gave to this spot a strange and almost weird character was the number of
great hoary willows, thirty or forty feet high, with gnarled and twisted
boles, scattered over the dark green grass. It was a melancholy grove of
fantastic dream-haunted willows, such as belongs to the South and the
Virgilian muse:

'Umbrarum hic locus est, somni noctisque soporae.'

And the sad solitude, in which there was not a sound of moving leaf or
singing bird, seemed to be peopled by the ghosts of men who were waiting
and weeping out their hundred years on the Stygian shore.

Hoary willows, dark alders, and then the road. This led me to Le Buisson--a
place possessed of the blue devils, and which exists merely out of
compliment to the railway-junction here. Having made arrangements for
returning to the inn, I wandered out again to look at the river in the gray
evening, and at the bridge where it was predicted that I should go to
the bottom if I remained in the little boat. I crossed fields from which
tobacco and maize had lately been carried, and reached the bridge of evil
prophecy. The river certainly seemed to be doing its best to sweep away the
piers, and when it escaped from the arches it raised its voice to a roar;
but it seemed to me that on one side the _perissoire_ would have gone
through gaily without being swamped. The cry of troubled water in the dusk
fascinated me. I lingered, and yet felt the strong impulse to hurry back to
the society of men, out of the sound of the angry river, whose slaty waves
flashed out strange gleams. What is it in the gloom and horror of nature
that so draws us and yet warns us to flee? The day was ending stormily. The
poplars wailed, and bent under the lash of the rising wind; dark masses of
cloud stood still in the sky, whilst others, torn and scattered below them,
rushed hither and thither madly. Every few minutes the faint gleam of
lightning, still far off, brought to the black woods along the hills a
momentary return of radiance, as though it were the fitful flashing of the
day's dying lamp.

The roaring and wailing of the turbid flood now seemed to be repeating in
cruel mockery the despairing cries of all the drowning people who were ever
the prey of the water-fiends that draw downward in whirlpools to depths
where twilight passes into darkness, and take the form of the long waving
weeds that look so innocent, but whose grasp is deadly, or guide the
current that utters never a sound as it seizes its victim and bears him
into an unfathomed gulf under the pitiless rock. A voice within me cried
'Home!' but home had I none anywhere of the staple sort: mine was like a
home on wheels.

As I returned to the inn across the fields, I saw some scattered peasant
figures moving slowly the same way under the wild sky; men with the ox
that was weary like themselves, women with bundles of forage on their
heads--melancholy forms or phantoms in the dusky air, at one with nature
in unconscious sympathy. Then across the dim and dreary plain, where the
narrow path was lost to sight after the first few yards, a railway lamp
flashed like the large red eye of some unimaginable monster of the
primordial marsh.

In the morning I was on the road to Cadouin. The air was keen and a little
frosty, for the hour was early. Men were mowing the last crop of grass,
which was powdered with rime. After the meadows came the woods, for the
road went south, and was therefore carried over the hills which rise above
the valley of the Dordogne. The woods were mainly of chestnut, and, under
the action of the storm, followed by the first frost, many a nut lay
shining on the road within its gaping prickly shell. After two or three
miles of ascent the road sloped downward, and it was not long before I
entered a very neat and trim little town, which, however, was altogether
village-like. This was Cadouin, and in the centre stood its venerable
Romanesque church. I entered the building, which was silent and very dim;
not a soul was there but myself. Presently there was a moan in the tower,
which seemed so far away: the clock was striking one of the quarters. Now
the dim light brightened suddenly, for the sun had risen high enough to
dart its rays through a window, and to flash upon a column the brilliant
colours of the glass. With the exception of the apse, which is purely
Romanesque, the interior of this church is Gothic of the Transition; but
most of the capitals of the pier-columns have a plain Romanesque outline.
There is no clerestory, the light being admitted from small round-headed
windows in the aisle walls. Much of the building dates from the foundation
of the abbey of Cadouin, in the early part of the twelfth century; but the
existing cloisters, which are what is most remarkable here, date from
the fifteenth century, and owe much of their interest to the partial
transformation of their style which they afterwards underwent when the
spirit of the Renaissance set in. The Gothic tracery of the arches that
face the quadrangle unites the strength of stone with the delicacy of
pencil drawing. In the late Gothic and Renaissance part, the ceilings
are richly and floridly groined, angelic and other figures forming the
termination of the low-reaching bosses, the groins converging in fan-like
order towards elaborately-carved canopies against the wall. At one end
of this wing is a doorway, the jambs and lintels of which are heavily
over-worked with carvings very typical of the exuberant fancy of the early
French Renaissance.


For centuries Cadouin was a famous place of pilgrimage, in consequence
of the claim laid by the abbey to the possession of the Holy Shroud. The
following is the history of the celebrated relic, according to Jean Tarde:

'In the year 1100 Hugh, surnamed the Great, brother of the King of France,
and Bishop of Le Puy, in Auvergne, having gone on a voyage beyond the seas
with Godefrey de Bouillon, found means, after the taking of Jerusalem, to
recover this holy relic, and, dying in Palestine, he left it in charge of a
priest, his chaplain. The priest falling ill on board ship, and perceiving
that his end was drawing near, gave the shroud into the hands of a clerk, a
native of Perigord. He, after the death of his master, took a small barrel,
in the middle of which he placed a partition. In one half he put the sacred
sheet, and his drink in the other. In this manner he carried the relic back
to his native land, and placed it in a church near Cadouin, of which he had
charge. Fearing that someone might steal his treasure, he left it in the
barrel, which he put away in a chest near the altar, showing it only to a
few of the monks of Cadouin. But one day, while he was absent, fire broke
out and gained the whole village. All that was in the church was consumed,
excepting the chest that contained the barrel. The monks of Cadouin,
informed of the fire, hastened to the spot, and, having broken open the
chest, took away the barrel, and carried it to their own church. The clerk,
on his return, asked for what had been taken from him; but the monks said
that, inasmuch as they had risked their lives in saving it from the flames,
it belonged to them. The difference was arranged in this wise: the clerk
was received as a religious, and the keeping of the relic was entrusted to
him during his lifetime. He himself thought it safer there than in a rural

In 1392, when the country was distracted by the dynastic wars between the
crowns of France and England, the Holy Shroud was taken for safety to
Toulouse. Subsequently, the people of Perigord wished to have it replaced
at Cadouin, and the Abbot and Chapter of St. Etienne at Toulouse resisting,
much litigation ensued. In 1455 some monks of Cadouin took it away by
stealth, and brought it back to their abbey. Tarde mentions, among other
circumstances which tended to increase the importance of the abbey of
Cadouin, '_les bienfaietz d'une reyne d'Angleterre_'.

Had it not been for other plans, I should have continued my journey
southward from Cadouin as far as the Chateau de Biron, one of the most
instructive relics of the past in Perigord, and have taken on my way
Modieres, one of the English _bastides_ which Edward I. farmed for ten
years; but I made my way back to the Dordogne, with the intention of
ascending the valley of its tributary the Vezere. I did not, however,
return to Buisson, but took the road to Ales, which lies a little lower
down the stream.

While I was recrossing the hills the sun warmed the world again, and led
back the trembling summer which had been scared by the early morning's
frost. The half-benumbed butterflies opened and shut their wings many times
upon the bramble leaves before they could bring themselves to believe that
that pinch of winter was only a joke. It seemed a cruel jest while the
bloom of honeysuckle was upon the hedges.


At Ales--a mere group of houses round a little old church with a broad
squat tower--I lunched in a very wretched inn. If a pig had not been killed
at an early hour that morning I should have been obliged to be satisfied
with vegetable and egg diet; and the knowledge that the pig had met with
such bad luck only a few hours before did not dispose me in favour of the
various dishes prepared from the external and internal parts of him. The
_aubergiste_ was an old boatman of the Dordogne, who had steered many a
cargo of wine floating with him down-stream in time of partial flood; but
that was before the phylloxera had played havoc with the vines. Now he had
to get along as well as he could by combining husbandry, pig-rearing, and

On reaching the river again, I perceived that the annual descent of the
Auvergnats had commenced. All the people who live by the higher waters of
the Dordogne, whether they belong to the Puy de Dome, the Cantal, or the
Correze, are called Auvergnats in Perigord, or, rather, such of them as
come down the stream with their small barges laden with wood, when the
autumnal rains have commenced, and there is sufficient water in the river
for their purpose. Sometimes, in their anxiety to turn their wood into
money, they start a little too early, and being misled by an increase of
the current which is not maintained, they go aground after a few days'
navigation. I have seen one of these boats stuck fast on a bank almost in
mid-stream, with the rapids nearly breaking over it with a roar that could
be heard a mile away. The wood is cut in the forests, which stretch almost
without a break for many a league on both sides of the Upper Dordogne, and
is seasoned, dressed, and shaped for barrel-making before it is put afloat.
The boats, which are some thirty or forty feet long, are necessarily
flat-bottomed, and are so roughly built that there are usually gaping
spaces between the planks, which are caked with moss. They are good enough
for the voyage, which is their first and last. The men return, but
never the boats. These are sold as firewood at Libourne, when they have
discharged their cargoes. Where the water is deep and comparatively quiet
the speed is increased by rowing with very long oars; but where the current
is strong the boat has only to be steered. This, however, is work that
needs thorough knowledge of the river.

The autumn is a merry time for these Auvergnats. They look forward to it
during the long months that they are working in the woods. The annual
voyage to the Bordelais gives them an opportunity of again seeing the old
friends whom they have been meeting for years at the waterside inns where
they frequently put up at night, because the descent of the Dordogne in the
dark is rather too exciting. They always say that they will start again
in the morning at sunrise, but it often happens that the sun is very high
indeed before they are afloat. After all, an Auvergnat is a man no less
than another, and because he lives on next to nothing eleven months in the
year is perhaps a reason why he should feel that he has earned the right
to let his sentiments expand, and to light the lamp of conviviality in his
breast during the remaining two or three weeks that he may be away from

There is this, however, to be said: whatever money he may possess,
he trusts himself with very little when he goes off on his annual
river-voyage, and when he has sold his wood he is anxious to get out of
danger as quickly as possible.

I had to return some distance up-stream before I was able to cross to
Limeuil. This is one of the most picturesque villages on the banks of the
Dordogne. It is built on the side of an isolated rock, close to the point
where the Vezere falls into the broader river. Before crossing the bridge
I lingered awhile gazing at all those high-gabled roofs with red and
lichen-stained tiles rising from the blue water towards the blue sky; vine
trellises mingling their sunny green with the red of the roofs. Where no
houses clung, the yellow rock was splashed with the now crimson sumach.

Then I climbed the long street over the rock and cobble stones between
walls half green with pellitory, houses with high gables and rough wooden
balconies where geraniums shone in the shadow, and from which the trailing
plants hung low in that supreme luxuriance which is the beginning of their
death. A few old women sat at their doors spinning, and geese, in small
companies of three or four, waddled out of the way; but there was no sound
of any kind--Limeuil was as silent as a cemetery. And yet there were cafes,
which gave the place a false air of liveliness. Some tourists, attracted by
the caverns in the valley of the Vezere, had possibly wandered as far as
Limeuil; but where were the inhabitants now? Had there been an epidemic,
and were the old women, whose heads were bent towards their knees while
they clutched their distaffs, the few survivors?

Taking the road to Bugues, I passed a small church with an open belfry
with a tiled roof supported by wooden pillars. It stood in a grove of tall
cypresses and weeping willows, and the gravestones lay scattered round
about. The waning sunshine seemed to fall more tenderly here than upon the
open fields where the ruddy pumpkins flamed. It was nearly dark when I
reached the little town of Bugues.

[Illustration: TRUFFLE-HUNTERS.]


The spring has come again, and I am now at Les Eyzies, in the valley of the
Vezere: a paradise of exceptional richness to the scientific bone and flint
grubber on account of the very marked predilection shown for it by the men
of the Stone Age, polished and unpolished. It is about five in the morning,
and the woods along the cliffs are just beginning to catch the pale fire of
the rising sun. Just outside my open window are about twenty chickens in
the charge of two mother hens, and as they have not been long awake, they
do their utmost to make a noise in the world like other creatures that are
empty. As soon as the neighbour's door is open they enter in a body, and
march towards the kitchen. A female voice is heard to address something
sharply to them in patois; there is a scuffle in the passage, and all the
chickens scream together as they rush before the broom into the road. This
is how the village day opens.

I am waiting for a man who has undertaken to show me some caverns in the
neighbouring rocks. Meanwhile, another comes along, and makes mysterious
signs to me from the road. He is barefoot and ragged, and does not look as
if he had a taste for regular work, but rather as if he belonged to the
somewhat numerous class who live by expedients, and have representatives in
all ranks of society. He has a small sack in his hand, to which he points
while he addresses me in patois. I tell him to come in. The sack contains
crayfish, and now I know the reason of his mysterious air, for all
fishing is prohibited at this time, and he is running the gauntlet of the
_garde-peche_, who lives close by. The poor ragamuffin has been out all
night, wading in the streams, and his wife, who looks, if possible, more
eager and hungry than himself, is waiting near, keeping watch. He offers
his crayfish for three sous the dozen, and I buy them of him without
feeling that respect for the law and the spawning season which I know I
ought to have. But I have suffered a good deal from bad example. There was
a _Procureur de la Republique_ not far from here the other day, and the
first thing he asked for at the hotel was fish.

Presently the other man--the one I am waiting for--shows himself. He is
a lean old soldier of the Empire, with a white moustache, kept short and
stiff like a nailbrush. He is still active, and if he has any disease he is
in happy ignorance of it; nevertheless, he confides to me that it is in
the legs that he begins to feel his seventy-two years. His face has a very
startling appearance. It is so scratched and torn that it makes me think of
the man of the nursery-rhyme who jumped into the quickset-hedge; and, as
it turns out, this one was just such another, only his movement was
involuntary. He tells me how he came to be so disfigured. He was coming
home with some cronies, at a late hour, from one of those Friendly Society
meetings which in France, as in England, move the bottle as well as the
soul, when, owing to an irregularity of the road, for which he was in no
way to blame, he took an unintentional dive down a very steep bank, at the
bottom of which was a dense forest of brambles. As he was quite unable to
extricate himself, his companions, after a consultation, decided to haul
him up by the legs; and it was to this manner of being rescued that he
attributed most of the damage done to his ears.

[Illustration: CHATEAU DES EYZIES.]

We passed under the ruined castle of Les Eyzies, which was never very
large, because the shelf of rock on which it was built would not have
admitted of this; but when defended it must have been almost inaccessible.
The ruin is very picturesque, with the overleaning rock above, and the
clustered roofs below. The village is continued up the marshy valley of the
Beuene, which here joins that of the Vezere. In the face of the overleaning
rocks are orifices that strike the attention at once by their shape, which
distinguishes them from natural caverns. They have been all fashioned like
common doors or windows on the rectangular principle, which proves that
they are the artificial openings of human dwellings. The men who made their
homes in the side of the precipice, and who cut the rock to suit their
needs, must have let themselves down from the top by means of a rope. To
what age these Troglodytes belonged nobody knows, but it is not doubted
that they came after the flint-working savages, whose implements are found
in the natural caverns and shelters near the ground.

We continued up the valley of the Beuene. The banks under the rocks were
starred with primroses, and from the rocks themselves there hung with
cotoneaster the large and graceful white blossoms of that limestone-loving
shrub, the amelanchier. In the centre of the valley stretched the marsh,
flaming gold with flags and caltha, and dotted with white valerian. The
green frogs leapt into the pools and runnels, burying themselves in the
mud at the shock of a footstep; but the tadpoles sported recklessly in the
sunny water, for as yet their legs as well as their troubles were to come.
I confess that this long morass by the sparkling Beuene, frequented by
the heron, the snipe, the water-hen, and other creatures that seek the
solitude, interested me more than the caverns which I had set out to see. I
nevertheless followed the old man into them, and tried to admire all that
he showed me; but there was not a stalactite six inches long the end of
which had not been knocked off with a stick or stone. The anger that
one feels at such mutilation of the water's beautiful work destroys the
pleasure that one would otherwise derive from these caves in the limestone.

A visit, however, to the now celebrated cavern known as the Grotte de
Miremont repaid me for the trouble of reaching it. It lies a few miles to
the north of Les Eyzies, in the midst of very wild and barren country. From
any one of the heights the landscape on every side is seen to be composed
of hills covered with dark forest and separated by narrow valleys. Here and
there the white rock stands out from the enveloping woods of oak, ilex, and
chestnut, or the arid slope shows its waste of stones, whose nakedness the
dry lavender vainly tries to cover with a light mantle of blue-gray tufts.
It is these sterile places which yield the best truffles of Perigord.
Sometimes trained dogs are used to hunt for the cryptogams, but, as in the
Quercy, the pig is much more frequently employed for the purpose. A comical
and ungainly-looking beast this often is: bony and haggard, with a long
limp tail and exaggerated ears. A collar round the neck adds to its

One has to climb or descend a steep wooded hill to reach the cavern, for
the entrance is on the side of it. The _metayer_ acts as guide, and his
services are indispensable, for there are few subterranean labyrinths so
extensive and so puzzling as this.

Although the principal gallery is barely a mile in length, there are so
many ramifications that one may walk for hours without making a complete
exploration of the daedalian corridors, even with the help of the guide.
With sufficient string to lay down and candles to light him, a stranger
might enter these depths alone and come to no harm; but if he despised the
string and trusted to his memory he would soon have reason to wish that he
had remained on the surface of the earth, where, if he lost himself, there
would be fellow-creatures to help him. Now with the sticky and tenacious
clay trying to pull off his boots at every step, now walking like a monkey
on hands and feet to keep his head from contact with the rock, he would
grow weary after an hour or so, and begin to wish to go home, or, at any
rate, to the hotel; but the more his desire to see daylight again took
shape and clearness, the more bewildered he would become, and farther and
farther he would probably wander from the small opening in the side of the
hill. Thus he might at length hear the moan of water, and if it did not
scare him, he would see by the glimmer of his solitary candle the gleam
of a stream rushing madly along, then plunging deeper into the earth, to
reappear nobody knows where. This cavern offers little of the beauty of
stalactite and stalagmite; but the roof in many places has a very curious
and fantastic appearance, derived from layers of flints embedded in the
solid limestone, and exposed to view by the disintegration of the rock or
the washing action of water. They can be best likened to the gnarled and
brown roots of old trees, but they take all manner of fanciful forms.

The little house in which I am living stands almost on the spot where some
particularly precious skeletons, attributed to prehistoric men and women,
were dug up about twenty years ago, when the late Mr. Christy was here
busily disturbing the soil that had been allowed to remain unmoved for
ages. The overleaning rock, which is separated from my temporary home only
by a few yards, probably afforded shelter to generations of those degraded
human beings from whom the anthropologist who puts no bridle on his
hobby-horse is pleased to claim descent. Near the base is one of those
symmetrically scooped-out hollows which are such a striking peculiarity
of the formation here, and which suggest to the irreverent that a
cheese-taster of prehistoric dimensions must have been brought to bear
upon the rocks when their consistency was about the same as that of fresh
gruyere. According to one theory, they were washed out by the sea, that
retired from the interior of Aquitaine long before the interesting savages
who made arrow-heads and skin-scrapers out of flints, and needles out of
bone, came to this valley and worked for M. Lartet and Mr. Christy. Others
say that the sea had nothing to do with the fashioning of these hollows,
but that they were made by the breaking and crumbling away of the more
friable parts of the limestone under the action of air, frost, and water.
While members of learned societies discuss such questions with upturned
noses, a rock above them will sometimes be unable to keep its own
countenance, but, simulating without flattery one of the human visages
below, will wear an expression of humour fiendish enough to startle the
least superstitious of men.

Upon the lower part of my rock is hanging the wild rose in flower, and
above it is a patch of grass that is already brown, although we are in the
first week of May; then upon a higher grass-grown steep is a solitary ilex,
looking more worthy of a classic reputation than many others of its race.
Its trunk appears to rise above the uppermost ridge of bare rock, and the
outspread branches, with the sombre yet glittering foliage, are marked
against the sky that is blue like the bluebell, as motionless as if they
had been fixed there by heat, like a painted tree on porcelain.

On the other side of the house is a small balcony that looks upon the road,
the peaceful valley, and the darkly-wooded cliffs just beyond the Vezere.
During the brief twilight--the twilight of the South, that lays suddenly
and almost without warning a rosy kiss upon the river and the reedy pool--I
sometimes watch from the balcony the barefooted children of the neighbours
playing upon the white road. Poor village children! As soon as a wanderer
gets to know them, he leaves them never to see them again. Living in
a great city is apt to dull the sensibility, and to close men up in
themselves. In a village you become forcibly interested in surrounding
humanity, and enter into the lives and feelings of others. A young woman
died yesterday in child-birth, and was buried to-day. Everybody felt as if
the awful shadow that descended upon the lonely house across the river
had passed close to him and her, and left a chill in the heart. When the
uncovered waggon bearing the deal coffin wrapped in a sheet, and having at
the head an upright cross of flowers and leaves that shook and swayed with
the jolting of this rustic hearse, moved towards the church, nearly the
whole of the population followed. Only the day before another woman was
carried along the same white road towards the little cemetery, but the
coffin then was borne upon the shoulders of four persons of her own sex.
Now and again fatigue brought the bearers to a standstill; then they would
change shoulders by changing places. And the white coffin, moving up and
down as a waif on the swell of the sea, passed on towards the glowing west,
where presently the purple-tinted wings of evening covered it.

But the peasants are not sentimentalists--far from it. Always practical,
they are very quick to perceive the futility of nursing grief, and
especially the unreasonableness of wishing people back in the world who
were no longer able to do their share of its work. A young man came into
the village with a donkey and cart to fetch a coffin for his father who had
just died.

'_Ape!_ I dare say he was old,' was the reflection of our servant--a
Quercynoise. If it had been the old father who had come to fetch a coffin
for the young man, she would have found something more sympathetic to say
than that.

Sometimes at sunset I climb the rugged hill behind the house. Then the
stony soil no longer dazzles by its white glitter, but takes a soft tint of
orange, or rose, or lilac, according to the stain of the sky, and there is
no light in the rocky South that so tenderly touches the soul as this. Here
the spurge drinks of the wine of heaven with golden lips wide open; but the
hellebore, which has already lost all its vernal greenness, and is parched
by the drought, ripens its drooping seeds sullenly on the shadowy side of
the jutting crag, and seems to hate the sun. Higher and yet far below the
plateau is a little field where the lately cut grass has been thrown into
mounds. Here the light seems to gain a deeper feeling, and the small
vineyard by the side holds it too. It is one of the very few old vineyards
which, after being stricken nearly unto death by the phylloxera, have
revived, and by some unknown virtue have recovered the sap and spirit of
life. The ancient stocks gnarled and knotted, and as thick as a man's arm,
together with the fresh green leaves and the hanging bunches of buds that
promise wine, wear a colour that cannot be rightly named--a transparent,
subtle, vaporous tint of golden pink or purple, which is the gift of this
warm and wonderful light. A cricket that has climbed up one of the tender
shoots strikes a low note, which is like the drowsy chirrup of a roosting
bird. It is the first touch of a fiddler in the night's orchestra, and
will soon be taken up by thousands of other crickets, bell-tinkling toads,
croaking frogs in the valley, and the solitary owl that hoots from the
hills. Below, how the river seems to sleep under the dusky wings of
gathering dreams where the white bridge spans it! Beyond, where the
blue-green sky is cut by a broken line of hill and tree, the rocks become
animated in the clear-obscure, and the apparently dead matter, rousing from
its apathy, takes awful forms and expressions of life.

My small boat had been lying on the Vezere several days doing nothing, when
I decided upon a little water-faring up the stream. This canoe had been
knocked together with a few deal boards. It had, as a matter of course,
a flat bottom, for a boat with a keel would be quite unsuitable for
travelling long distances on rivers where, if you cannot float in four
inches of water, you must hold yourself in constant readiness to get out
and drag or push your craft over the stones. This exercise is very amusing
at the age of twenty, but the fun grows feeble as time goes on. My boat
was not made to be rowed, but to be paddled, either with the short
single-bladed paddle which is used by the fishermen of the Dordogne, and
which they call a 'shovel,' or by the one that is dipped on both sides of
the canoe alternately. There being rapids about every half-mile on the
Vezere, and the current in places being very strong, I realized that no
paddler would be able to get up the stream without help, and so I induced
my landlord to accompany me and to bring a pole. He was a good-tempered
man, somewhat adventurous, with plenty of information, and a full-flavoured
local accent which often gave to what he said a point of humour that was
not intended. The voyage, therefore, commenced under circumstances that
promised nothing but pleasantness. It was a perfectly beautiful May
afternoon, with a fresh north breeze blowing that tempered the ardour of
the sun.

The water changed like the moods of a child who has only to choose the form
and manner of his pleasure. Now it pictured in its large eye, whose depth
seemed to meet eternity, the lights and forms and colours of the sky, the
rocks, and the trees; now it leapt from the shaded quietude, and, splitting
into two or more currents, separated by willowy islets or banks of pebbles,
rushed with an eager and joyous cry a hundred yards or so; then it stopped
to take breath, and moved dreamily on again. Where the water was shallow
was many a broad patch of blooming ranunculus; so that it seemed as if the
fairies had been holding a great battle of white flowers upon the river.
We glided by the side of meadows where all the waving grass was full of
sunshine. On the bank stood purple torches of dame's violet, and the
dog-rose climbing upon the guelder rose was pictured with it in the water.
On the opposite bank stood the great rocks which have caused this part of
the river to be called the Gorge of Hell. Here human beings in perpetual
terror of their own kind cut themselves holes in the face of the precipice,
and lived where now the jackdaw, the hawk, the owl, and the bat are the
only inhabitants. In the Middle Ages the English companies turned the side
of the rock into a stronghold which was the terror of the surrounding

This fastness was called La Roque de Tayac, because the village of Tayac
faces it on the other side of the river. Although only a few fragments of
the masonry that was formerly attached to the rock remain, the chambers cut
in the solid limestone are strange testimony of the habits and contrivances
of England's lawless partisans in these remote valleys. The lower
excavations evidently served for stables, as the mangers roughly cut in
the rock testify. The horses or mules were led up and down a steep narrow
ledge. A perpendicular boring, shaped like a well, connects the lowest
chamber with those above, and there can be no doubt that the nethermost
part served the purpose of a well or cistern. By means of a hanging rope a
man could easily pull himself up to the higher stages and let himself down
in the same manner. In the event of a surprise the rope would, of course,
be pulled up. Woe to those who exposed their heads in this cylindrical
passage to the stones which the defenders above had in readiness to hurl
down! But the river flowing deeply at the base of the rock, no part of the
fortress could have been easy of access. Such was the stronghold which
obtained so evil a reputation throughout a wide district as an almost
impregnable den of bandits and cut-throats.

We read that the English, who had fortified themselves at the Roque de
Tayac, having ravaged the country of Sarlat in 1408, the men of Sarlat laid
an ambush for them, and, taking them by surprise, cut them in pieces. But
the next year, their numbers being again largely increased, they resumed
their forays with the result that the Sarladais marched to the valley of
the Vezere and regularly besieged the Roque de Tayac. The struggle was
marked with great ferocity on both sides. The fortress was eventually
captured, but the defenders sold their lives dearly, and many of the
Sarladais, instead of returning to their homes, remained under the pavement
of the church across the water.

Having passed the first rapids easily, we talked, and the conversation
turned upon--cockchafers! My companion had been much impressed by the
strange doings of a party of gipsy children whom he had lately passed on
the highroad. One of them had climbed up a tree, the foliage of which had
attracted a multitude of cockchafers, and he was shaking down the insects
for the others to collect.

But it was not this that made the teller of the story stop and gaze with
astonishment; it was the use to which the cockchafers were put. As they
were picked up they were crammed into the children's mouths and devoured,
legs, wings, and all. At first he thought the small gipsies were feasting
on cherries. He declared that the sight disgusted him, and spoilt his
appetite for the rest of the day. In this I thought his stomach somewhat
inconsistent, for I knew of a little weakness that he had for raw
snails, which, to my mind, are scarcely less revolting as food than live
cockchafers. He would take advantage of a rainy day or a shower to catch
his favourite prey upon his fruit-trees and cabbages. Having relieved them
of their shells, and given them a rinse in some water, he would swallow
them as people eat oysters. He had a firm belief in their invaluable
medicinal action upon the throat and lungs. His brother, he said, would
have died at twenty-three instead of at fifty-three had it not been for
snails. He told me, too, of a man who, from bravado, tried to swallow
in his presence, and at a single gulp, one of the big pale-shelled
snails--known in Paris, where they are eaten, after being cooked with
butter and garlic, as _escargots de Bourgogne_--but it stuck in his throat,
and a catastrophe would have happened but for the sturdy blow which his
companion gave him on the 'chine.' That a snail-eater should criticise
gipsies for eating cockchafers shows what creatures of prejudice we all

After passing the Nine Brothers--a name given to nine rocks of rounded
outline standing by the water like towers of a fortress built by
demi-gods--we had our worst fight with the rapids, and were nearly beaten.
It was the last push of the pole from the man behind me, when he had no
more breath in his body, that saved us from being whirled round and carried
back. Before one gets used to it, the sensation of struggling up a river
where it descends a rocky channel at a rather steep gradient is a little
bewildering. The flash of the water dazzles, and its rapid movement makes
one giddy. There is no excitement, however, so exhilarating as that which
comes of a hard battle with one of the forces of nature, especially when
nature does not get the best of it. This tug-of-war over, we were going
along smoothly upon rather deep water, when I heard a splash behind me, and
on looking round saw my companion in a position that did not afford him
much opportunity for gesticulation. He was up to his middle in the water,
but hitched on to the side of the boat with his heels and hands. He had
given a vigorous push with his pole upon a stone that rolled, and he rolled
too. Now, the boat being very light and narrow, an effort on his part
to return to his former position would have filled it with water; so he
remained still while I, bringing my weight to bear on the other side,
managed to haul him up by the arms. After this experience, he was restless
and apparently uncomfortable, and we had not gone much farther before he
expressed a wish to land on the edge of a field. Here he took off the
garments which he now felt were superfluous, vigorously wrung the water out
of them, and spread them in the sun to dry. I left him there fighting with
the flies, whose curiosity and enterprise were naturally excited by such
rare good luck, and went to dream awhile in the shadow of the rock, on the
very edge of which are the ramparts of the ruined castle of La Madeleine.
This is the most picturesque bit of the valley of the Vezere; but to feel
all the romance of it, and all the poetry of a perfect union of rocks and
ruin, trees and water, one must glide upon the river, that here is deep and
calm, and is full of that mystery of infinitely-intermingled shadow and
reflection which is the hope and the despair of the landscape-painter. Now,
in this month of May, the shrubs that clung to the furrowed face of the
white rock were freshly green, and the low plaint of the nightingale, and
the jocund cry of the more distant cuckoo, broke the sameness of the great
chorus of grasshoppers in the sunny meadows.

When I returned to my companion, I found that he was clothed again, but not
in a contented frame of mind. He accompanied me as far as Tursac, and then
started off home on foot. He had had enough of the river. There was still
sufficient daylight for me to continue the voyage to Le Moustier, but,
apart from the fact that I could not get up the rapids alone, I was quite
willing to pass the night at Tursac.

Having chained the boat to a willow, I walked through the meadows towards a
group of houses, in the midst of which stood a church, easily distinguished
by its walls and tower. When I had arranged matters for the night, I passed
through the doorway of this little church, under whose vault the same
human story that begins with the christening, receives a new impetus from
marriage, and is brought to an end by the funeral, had been repeated by
so many sons after their fathers. The air was heavy with the fragrance
of roses from the Lady Chapel, where a little lamp gleamed on the ground
beside the altar. As the sun went down, the roses and leaves began to
brighten with the shine of the lamp, like a garden corner in the early

At the inn I met one of those commercial travellers who work about in the
rural districts of France, driving from village to village with their
samples, fiercely competing for the favours of the rustic shopkeeper, doing
their utmost to get before one another, and be the first bee that sucks the
flower, taking advantage of one another's errors and accidents, but always
good friends and excellent table companions when they meet. I learnt that
my new acquaintance was 'in the drapery.' We were comparing notes of our
experience in the rough country of the Correze, when he, as he rolled up
another cigarette, said:

'I had learnt to put up with a good deal in the Correze, but one day I had
a surprise which was too much for me. I had dined at one of those auberges
that you have been speaking of, and then asked for some coffee. It was an
old man who made it, and he strained it through--guess what he strained it

I guessed it was something not very appropriate, but was too discreet to
give it a name.

'_Eh bien_! It was the heel of an old woollen stocking!'

'And did you drink the coffee?'

'No. I said that I had changed my mind.'

We did not take any coffee that evening. We had something less likely to
set the fancy exploring the secrets of the kitchen, where, through the open
doorway, we could see our old peasant hostess seated on her little bench
in the ingle and nodding her head over the dying embers of her hearth. Her
husband was induced by the traveller to bring up from the cherished corner
of his cellar a bottle of the old wine of Tursac, made from the patriarchal
vines before the pestilential insect drew the life out of them. The
hillsides above the Vezere are growing green again with vineyards, and
again the juice of the grape is beginning to flow abundantly; but years
must pass before it will be worthy of being put into the same cellar with
the few bottles of the old wine which have been treasured up here and there
by the grower, but which he thinks it a sacrilege to drink on occasions
less solemn than marriages or christenings in the family.

'You can often coax the old wine from them,' said my knowing companion, 'if
you go the right way to work.'

'And what is the secret?'

'Flattery: there is nothing like it. Flatter the peasant and you will be
almost sure to move him. Say, 'Ah, what a time that was when you had the
old wine in your cellars!' He will say, '_Nest-ce pas, monsieur_?' and
brighten up at the thought of it. Then you will continue: 'Yes, indeed,
that was a wine worth drinking. There was nothing like it to be found
within fifty kilometres. What a bouquet! What a fine _gout du terroir_!'
He will not be able to bear much more of this if he has any of the wine.
Unless you are pretty sure that he has some, it is not worth while talking
about it. Expect him to disappear, and to come back presently with a
dirty-looking bottle, which he will handle as tenderly as if it were a new

Those whose travelling in France is carried out according to the
directions given in guide-books--the writers of which nurse the reader's
respectability with the fondest care--will of course conclude that the
best hotels in the wine districts are those in which the best wine of the
country is to be had. This is an error. The wine in the larger hotels is
almost invariably the 'wine of commerce'; that is to say, a mixture of
different sorts more or less 'doctored' with sulphate of lime, to overcome
a natural aversion to travelling. The hotel-keeper, in order to keep on
good terms with the representatives of the wine-merchants--all mixers--who
stop at his house, distributes his custom among them. Those who set value
on a pure _vin du pays_ with a specific flavour belonging to the soil,
should look for it in the little out-of-the-way auberge lying amongst the
vineyards. There it is probable that some of the old stock is still left,
and if the vigneron-innkeeper says it is the old wine, the traveller may
confidently believe him. I have never known in such cases any attempt at

The next morning I reached Le Moustier. Here the valley is broad, but the
rocks, which are like the footstools of the hills, shut in the landscape
all around. These naked perpendicular masses of limestone, yellow like
ochre or as white as chalk, and reflecting the brilliance of the sun, must
have afforded shelter to quite a dense population in the days when man
made his weapons and implements from flints, and is supposed to have lived
contemporaneously with the reindeer. Notwithstanding all the digging and
searching that has gone on of late years on this spot, the soil in the
neighbourhood of the once inhabited caverns and shelters is still full of
the traces of prehistoric man.

Shortly before my coming, a _savant_--everybody is called a _savant_ here
who goes about with his nose towards the ground--gave a man two francs to
be allowed to dig for a few hours in a corner of his garden. The man was
willing enough to have his ground cleared of stones on these terms. The
_savant_ therefore went to work, and when he left in the evening he took
with him half a sackful of flints and bones.

In a side valley close to Le Moustier is a line of high vertical or
overleaning rocks. A ledge accessible from the ground runs along the face,
and nearly in the centre, and at the back of it, are numerous hollows in
the calcareous stone, some natural, others partly scooped out with the aid
of metal implements, whose marks can still be seen. Each of these shelters
was inhabited. Holes and recesses have been cut in the walls to serve for
various domestic purposes, and on the ground are traces of fireplaces,
reservoirs for water, etc. The original inhabitants of these hollows may
have been savages no more advanced in the arts than those who worked
flints, but it is certain that the latest occupiers were much more
civilized. Rows of holes roughly cut in the limestone show where the ends
of beams once rested, and the use of these timbers was evidently to support
a roof that covered much of the ledge. It is quite certain that people
lived here in the Middle Ages, and they might do so now but for the
difficulty of bringing up water. The security which the position afforded
could hardly have been lost sight of in the days when the inhabitants of
Guyenne were in constant dread of being attacked. One must therefore be
guarded against wild talk about prehistoric man in connection with these
rock dwellings, which in many cases were used as fortresses during the
three hundred years' struggle between the English and French in Aquitaine.

My waterfaring back to Les Eyzies was far easier than the voyage up-stream.
Nevertheless, there was some excitement in it, for when the rapids were
reached, the current snatched the boat, as it were, from me, but carried me
with it, by little reefs each marked out as an islet as white as snow, by
the floating flowers of the water ranunculus; but when its strength failed,
it left me to drift where, in the dark shadow of rock and tree, the water
rested from its race. Presently the rapids were seen again dancing in the
sun, and the boat, gliding on to just where the smooth surface curved and
the current took its leap without a ripple, darted forward like a startled
water-bird. Once a back current whirled my fragile boat completely round.
Then I remembered the good advice of the friendly Otter at Beynac with
reference to going down these streams, where the water has to be watched
with some attention if one does not wish to get capsized: '_Tenez-vous
toujours dans le plus fort du courant_.'

Again in calm water, I recognised, beyond the still grass and the scattered
flame of the poppies, the high walls of the fortress-like church of Tayac,
with the light of the sinking sun upon them. Then a little lower down at
the ford, which was my stopping-place, a pair of bullocks were crossing the
river with a waggon-load of hay; so that the picturesque, the idyllic, and
the sentiment of peace were all blended so perfectly as to make me feel
that the pen was powerless, and that the painter's brush alone could save
the scene from passing away for ever.

Tayac and Les Eyzies form one very straggling commune, and the church where
the slain men of Sarlat lie serves for the entire population. This edifice
of the eleventh and twelfth centuries deserves a brief description. There
is much grandeur in its vast, deeply-recessed Romanesque portal, with
marble columns in the jambs and numerous archivolts. Then its high, narrow
windows, and the low, square towers, pierced with loopholes, give to it
that air of the fortress which immediately impresses the beholder. Without
doubt it was built like so many other churches of the same stormy and
uncertain period, to be used as a place of refuge in case of danger. The
entrance to the principal tower is artfully concealed at the back of a
chapel at the east end, and can only be reached with a ladder. The very
narrow passage makes two or more right angles before it leads to the foot
of the spiral staircase--a disposition of great value in defence.

Having heard of a cavern in the garden of the presbytery which, in the
memory of living people, was the refuge of a murderer whom the gendarmes
were afraid to follow underground, because it was believed that he would
knock them on the head one after the other while they were wriggling
through the passage, and then quietly walk out by a back way unknown to
anyone but himself, I felt a strong desire to explore this cave of evil
repute. The idea was all the more enticing because I was assured that
nobody had entered it but the murderer. I called upon the cure, and asked
him how he felt at the prospect of a little trip underground in his own
garden. He did not seem to feel very eager for the adventure; but when I
proposed to go alone, he was too polite to let me depart with his best
wishes. He decided to accompany me. When he had put on his oldest
_soutane_, we started with a packet of candles and a ball of string.

Priests' gardens are often very interesting, and the one through which
we now passed pleased me greatly. It was a long strip, in two or three
terraces, upon the rocky hillside. Many fruit-trees, but chiefly almond,
cherry, and peach, were scattered over it. There was also a straggling
vine-trellis, from which there now spread in the June air that sweet
fragrance of the freshly-opened flower-buds of which the poet-king Solomon
sung. In the highest part was the cavern. We had to crawl in upon our hands
and knees, and in some places to lie out almost flat. As my friend the cure
insisted upon going first, I could not help thinking that the back view
of him, as he wormed his way along the low gallery, was not exactly
sacerdotal. Sometimes we passed over smooth sand--evidently left by a
stream that once issued here; at other times over small stones, which were
bad for the knees. We kept a keen look-out for the remains of prehistoric
men and beasts, but only found the shells of eggs which a fox had probably
stolen from the cure's fowl-house. There were also rabbits' bones, whose
presence there was to be explained in the same way. My companion, however,
having once entered his cave, was resolved upon returning another day and
digging conscientiously in the sand, which appeared to be very deep in
places. He may since have unearthed some pre-historic treasures there. The
cavern was interesting as showing the honeycombing effects of water on
limestone rock, but it did not lead very far into the hill. The belief that
the murderer escaped by another opening than the one by which he entered
was founded on fiction.

After the cave exploration, the cure was so good as to accompany me to a
mysterious ruin in the neighbourhood, which he believed to be of English
origin, because it was always spoken of by the people of the locality as
William's Chapel. The English pronunciation of the name William had been
preserved in the patois. After this, I did not doubt that his supposition
was correct. Some Englishman was connected with the history of the
building; but was it really a chapel? The hill that we had to climb to it
was very high, and, although covered with herbage, almost precipitous. The
building was not on the summit, but on a ledge of rock some distance down
the cliff. The ruin consisted of only a few fragments of wall, built very
strongly of well-shaped stones laid together without mortar. Holes cut in
the rock showed where the ends of beams had rested. The position was
rather one for a fortress than for a chapel; but no doubt Englishmen of
an eccentrically religious turn appeared as early as the thirteenth or
fourteenth century, if not earlier. If the people of the valley climbed up
to William's Chapel to say their prayers, they must have been very pious

The strength of the current in the Vezere had turned me from my first plan,
which was to ascend the river as far as Montignac, and take the road thence
to Hautefort, the birthplace of Bertrand de Born, who was put into hell by
Dante for having encouraged Henry Plantagenet's sons to rebel against their
father. The sombre Florentine treated the troubadour baron with excessive
harshness, for it is recorded of Bertrand that his repentance for the sins
of his restless and agitated life was so sincere that he ended his days as
a monk in the monastery of Citeaux. [Footnote: 'Mobile, agite, comme son
aventureuse existence qui commenca au donjon d'Hautefort et s'eteint
dans le silence du cloitre de Citeaux.--'_Discours sur les celebrites du
Perigord_,' par L. Sauveroche.]

Bertrand de Born was an evil counsellor to Henry Court-Mantel, but a
singularly attractive figure of the twelfth century was this troubadour
noble, whose life in the world was divided between the soothing charm of
the '_gai scavoir_' and the excitement of war, and who was equally at his
ease whether he was holding the lance or the pen. He had the tenderest
friendship for the young Prince, and mourned his death in the best elegy
that appeared at the dawn of modern literature.


Of the ancient fortress of Bertrand de Born, Viscount of Hautefort, a few
vestiges are left, which may be easily distinguished from the later masonry
of the castle with which they are combined.

[Illustration: A HOUSE AT PERIGUEUX.]


It was in the full flame of noon on a hot June day that we arrived at the
headquarters which I had chosen for my second summer in Perigord. It was
a little chateau, of which I was to occupy a small wing, and also a low
building that was quite detached--all very plain and rustic, as, indeed,
most of the really old chateaux that are still inhabited are. At this
burning hour the place seemed as quiet as the ideal retreat of a literary
hermit could be. In the large old-fashioned garden, where magnolias and
firs mingled with all kinds of fruit-trees, and lettuce-beds were fringed
with balsams, golden apricots hung upon the branches that were breaking
with their weight, and seemed to say: 'There is nobody here to eat us. We
are quite tired of waiting to be gathered.'

Suddenly there was a great noise of barking, and three or four dogs that
had smelt or heard strangers rushed through the archway that led to the
court, which was so much like a farm-yard that no one would know the
difference from the description.

'Mees! Mees! Black! Black!' cried a voice from within.

There was nothing in the sound of these words to cause astonishment, for
most French dogs that move in good society have English names. If you were
to call out at any respectable gathering of these animals, whether in the
North or the South, 'Fox,' 'Stop,' 'Black,' 'Mees' (not Miss), the chances
are that they would all try to reply at once.

After the dogs came bare-footed domestics of both sexes, who stared at us
wonderingly, while saluting politely, and evidently not wishing to show
their curiosity. Then, when we entered the court, we were met by a great
many fowls, ducks, and turkeys of various ages. Not a few had apparently
just jumped out of their shells. Lastly came the master and mistress of
the house, advancing in the slow and stately style of the times when the
drawbridge would have had to be lowered, but moving in the midst of the
poultry. They were gracious and hospitable, and very soon we settled down,
altogether well pleased with our new quarters.

Here we were surrounded by trees just as Robinson Crusoe was by his grove
when it had grown tall and thick. Now, the traveller in Southern France who
lingers as I am wont to linger in my wanderings, will probably have cause
to pine, as I have pined, for trees about his house to shelter him from the
fury of the summer sun. There are few houses that are not hovels or ruins
to be found, except where the land is fertile, and wherever it repays
labour the owner loathes a tree that produces nothing but its wood. Thus
we get those wide, burning plains, where so few trees are to be seen save
poplars along the watercourses and walnuts bordering the roads. Even these
become rare, as in journeying farther south the last low buttresses of the
rocky highlands are left behind.

Here, close to this retreat that I had chosen on the banks of the Isle,

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