I became very uncertain where this road over the dismal solitude was going to lead me, for it turned about in such a way as to put me out of my reckoning. At length I saw a deep gorge yawning below, and this told me that I had reached the edge of the causse. Oh, the sublime desolation of these heights and depths in the solemn evening! How, mournful then is the silence of the innumerable, gray stones and monstrous rocks which try to speak to us like creatures once eloquent and possessing the knowledge of wondrous changes, and the key to problems that everlastingly distress the human mind, but on which the curse of dumbness has lain for ages!
I thought that I must have wandered beyond the peopled world, when suddenly I saw, far down in the bottom of the widening valley, a village or small town at the foot of a cone-shaped hill. The little river running near satisfied me that I was in view of Peyreleau. The descent was tedious and long, notwithstanding the loops that I cut off of the curling road by scrambling down the steep sides of the gorge over the loose stones and lavender. It was still daylight when I reached a small hotel, outside of which some tourists were smoking cigarettes and drinking beer while waiting for dinner. Until then I had not seen a tourist after leaving Albi. All through the Albigeois and the Rouergue, I was looked upon as an animal of unknown species, and possibly noxious; but here I was recognised at once as one of a familiar tribe, of small brain development, but harmless. I had entered a region which for several years past had drawn to it many persons—mostly French—who had heard of the grand gorge, or canon, of the Tarn.
I had been told that the right way—the one followed by all sensible people—of seeing the gorge from Sainte-Enimie to Le Rozier was to come down the stream in a boat; but circumstances, or my own perversity, had led me once more to do the thing that was considered wrong. Instead of coming down the swift stream like a fly on a leaf, my intention was to crawl up the gorge by such goat or mule paths as were available on the margin of the river or on the ledges of the cliffs. Thus I should not be obliged to treat every fresh view as if it were a bird on the wing, but could dawdle as long as I pleased over this or that object without being a trouble to anybody.
It was far from unpleasant, however, to spend an evening at this water-side inn with people fresh from Paris, bringing with them the spray of the sea that beats against the shores of high-strung life. Nor was it unpleasant to find a little refinement in the kitchen again, and to eat trout not saturated with the essence of garlic.