THE BLACK CAUSSE.
One cannot be sure of the weather even in the South of France, where the skies are supposed, by those who do not know them, to be perpetually blue. The ‘South of France’ itself is a very deceptive term. The climate on one side of a range of mountains or high hills may be altogether different from that on the other. In Upper Languedoc and Guyenne the climate is regulated by three principal factors: the elevation of the soil, the influence of the Mediterranean, and the influence of the Atlantic. On the northern side of the Cevennes, the currents from the ocean, together with the altitude, do much to keep the air moist and comparatively cool in summer; whereas on the other side of the chain, where the Mediterranean influence—in a large measure African—is paramount, the climate is dry and torrid during the hot months. A liability to sudden changes goes with the advantages of the more favoured region. This was enforced upon me at Millau.
At seven o’clock the sky, lately of such a fiery blue, was of a most mournful smokiness, and the rain fell in a drenching spray. It was mountain weather, and I blamed the Cevennes for it. But I was in the South, and at a season when bad weather is seldom in earnest, so I did not despair of a change when the sun rose higher. It came, in fact, at about eight o’clock, when, a breeze springing up, the clouds, after a short struggle, were swept away. The market-women spread out upon the pavement their tomatoes, their purple aubergines, their peaches, and green almonds; the harvesters, long hesitating, went out into the fields to reap; and I, leaving the Tarn, took my way up the valley of the gleaming Dourbie. Millau was soon nearly hidden in its basin, but above it, on the sides of the surrounding hills, scattered