Travels with a Donkey in the Cevenne
Robert Louis Stevenson

Part 2 out of 2

afield. All night long he can hear Nature breathing deeply and
freely; even as she takes her rest, she turns and smiles; and there
is one stirring hour unknown to those who dwell in houses, when a
wakeful influence goes abroad over the sleeping hemisphere, and all
the outdoor world are on their feet. It is then that the cock
first crows, not this time to announce the dawn, but like a
cheerful watchman speeding the course of night. Cattle awake on
the meadows; sheep break their fast on dewy hillsides, and change
to a new lair among the ferns; and houseless men, who have lain
down with the fowls, open their dim eyes and behold the beauty of
the night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Your name?' they asked.

'Pierre Seguier.'

'Why are you called Spirit?'

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

'Your domicile?'

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

'Have you no remorse for your crimes?'


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'You have slept here?'

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

'Why?' he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did not know I was so good a preacher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I told him sternly, 'Nothing.'

'Nothing?' cried he.

I repeated 'Nothing,' and made off.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

'And oh!
The difference to me!'

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

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


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