After Meyronne my road ran for a few miles beside the broad and curving river. The forms of the great cliffs on each side were ever changing. Over a sky intensely blue sailed the fleecy April clouds before the soft west wind, and whenever the sun shone out with unveiled splendour, the rays fell with summer warmth. While the tinkling of sheep-bells from the ledges of the rocks came down to me, the passionate warble of nightingales, that could not wait for the night, must have risen from the leafy valley to the ears of the listless shepherd-boy gathering feather-grass where goats would not dare to venture, or eating his dark bread in the sun on the edge of a precipice. Time flowed gently like the river, and I was surprised to find myself at Lacave so soon. This village is near the spot where the Ouysse falls into the Dordogne. A little beyond the clustering houses, upon the edge of a high rocky promontory overlooking the Ouysse, is the castle of Belcastel, still retaining its feudal keep and outer wall. In this fortress the English are said to have kept many of their prisoners.
I now left the Dordogne and ascended the valley of the Ouysse. This stream is one of the most remarkable of the natural phenomena of France. To judge from its breadth near the mouth, one would suppose that it had flowed fifty or a hundred miles, but its entire length is less than ten miles. It is already a river when it rises out of the depths of the earth. The narrow valley that it waters is a gorge 500 or 600 feet deep through the greater part of its distance. The traveller at the bottom supposes, or is ready to suppose, that he is in some ravine of the high mountains; in reality, it is simply a fissure of the plateau that was once the bed of the sea. There is no igneous, no metamorphic rock here; nothing but limestone of the Jurassic formation. The convexities on one side of the fissure correspond with marked regularity to the concavities on the other.
For awhile I walked on the lush grass by the brimming river, where in the little creeks and bays the water-ranunculus floated its small white flowers that were to continue the race. Then I left the water and the green ribbon that followed its margin, and, taking a sheep-track, rose upon the arid steeps, where the thinly-scattered aromatic southern-wood was putting forth its dusty leaves. The bare rocks, yellow, white, and gray, towered above me; they were beneath me; they faced me across the valley; wherever I looked they were shutting me off from the outer world. No nightingales were singing here, but I heard the melancholy scream of the hawk and the harsh croak of the raven. And yet, when I looked down into the bottom of this steep desert of stones, what soft and vernal beauty was there! Over the grass of living green was spread the gold of cowslips, just as if that strip of meadow, with its gently-gliding river, had been lifted out of an English dale and dropped into the midst of the sternest scenery of Southern France.