THE PONT VALENTRE AT CAHORS
PORCH OF THE CATHEDRAL OF ALBI
CIGALA, the shoeblack.
[Illustration: The Pont Valentre at Cahors.]
THE VALLEY OF THE OUYSSE AND ROC-AMADOUR.
From the Old-English town of Martel, in Guyenne, I turned southward towards the Dordogne. For a few miles the road lay over a barren plateau; then it skirted a desolate gorge with barely a trace of vegetation upon its naked sides, save the desert loving box clinging to the white stones. A little stream that flowed here led down into the rich valley of Creysse, blessed with abundance of fruit. Here I found the nightingales and the spring flowers that avoid the wind-blown hills. Patches of wayside took a yellow tinge from the cross-wort galium; others, conquered by ground-ivy or veronica, were purple or blue. Presently the tiled roofs of the village of Creysse were seen through the poplars and walnuts. A delightful spot for a poetical angler is this, for the Dordogne runs close by in the shadow of prodigious rocks and overhanging trees. What a noble and stately river I thought it, as the old ferryman, with white cotton nightcap on his head, punted me across! I took the greater pleasure in its breadth and grandeur here because I had seen it an infant river in the Auvergne mountains, and had watched its growth as it rushed between walls of rock and forest towards the plains.
What witchery of romance and spell-bound fancy is in the song of the Dordogne as it breaks over its shallows under high rocky cliffs and ruined castles! Everything that can charm the poet and the artist is here. The grandeur of rugged nature combines with the most enticing beauty of water and meadow, and the voices of the past echo with a sweet sadness from cliff to cliff. It is said that several of these castles were built to prevent the English from coming up the river, but this may be treated as one of the many fanciful legends respecting the British period which are repeated throughout Aquitaine.
By cutting off a curve of the Dordogne I soon came to the river-side village of Meyronne, and here I stopped for a meal at a very pleasant little inn, where to my surprise I found that I had been preceded a few days before by another Englishman, who, accompanied by a Frenchman, had come up from Bordeaux in a boat. They must have found it very hard work rowing against the rapids. The hostess here was evidently a woman who treasured her household gods, but who liked also to show them. She gave me my coffee in a china cup that looked as if it had belonged to her great-grandmother; and in the bright little room where she served my lunch was a large walnut buffet elaborately and admirably carved, bearing the date 1676.