I spent an unhappy evening, for the inn where I stopped—it called itself a hotel—had been made uninteresting by enterprise; and a couple of tourists from the South, with whom it was my lot to dine, caused me unspeakable misery by talking of nothing else but of a bridge which they had lately seen; If I should ever be near it, I think the recollection of that evening will make me avoid it. It may be a miracle in iron, but none the less shall I owe it an everlasting grudge. These gentlemen from Carcassonne were typical sons of the South in this, that the sound of their own voices acted upon their imagination like the strongest coffee blended with the oldest cognac. They would have been amusing, nevertheless, but for the horrible intensity of their resolve to make me see that nightmare of a bridge. If one had taken breath while the other spoke, or rather shouted, I should have suffered less; but they both shouted together, and their struggle to get the better of one another by force of lung, gesticulation, and frenzied rolling of the eyes became a duel, whereby the solitary witness was the only person harmed. What a relief to me if they had gone down to the river bank and fought it out there! No such luck, however. Had there been no listener, they, too, might have wished the bridge in the depths of Tartarus.
If I passed an unhappy evening at Sainte-Enimie, I spent a worse morning. There was a change of weather in the night, and when the day came again, it was a blear-eyed, weeping day, with that uniform gray sky with steam-like clouds hiding half the hills which, when seen in a mountainous region by a person bent on movement, is enough to give him ‘goose flesh.’ I now felt a longing to leave the Cevennes and to return to the lower country, but there seemed no chance of escape. The rain continued hour after hour—and such rain! It was enough to turn a frog against water. As the people of the inn seemed incapable of showing sympathy, I went out to look at the town under a borrowed umbrella. It was certainly not much to look at, especially under circumstances of such acute depression. I walked or waded through a number of miry little streets where all manner of refuse was in a saturated or deliquescent state—cabbage-stumps and dead rats floating in the gutters, potato-peelings and bean-pods sticking to the mediaeval pitching—everything slippery, nasty, and abominable. There were old houses, as a matter of course; but who can appreciate antiquities when his legs are wet about the knees and his boots are squirting water? Nevertheless, I tried to notice a few things besides the vileness underfoot. One was a rudely-carved image of the Virgin in a niche covered by a grating. This was in such a dark little street that it seemed as if the sun had given up all hope of ever shining there again. I struggled through the slush to the church, built, with the town, on the side of a hill rising from the Tarn. I found a Romanesque edifice—old, but rough, and offering no striking feature, save the arched recesses in the exterior surface of the wall. A little higher upon the hill was the convent founded by St. Enimie; but the original building disappeared centuries ago.