Although the last days of May had come, the Alzou, usually dry at this time, was running with swift, strong current through the vale of Roc-Amadour. There had been so many thunderstorms that the channel was not large enough for the torrent that raced madly over its yellow pebbles. I lingered awhile in the meadow by the stream, looking at the rock-clinging sanctuary before wandering in search of the unknown up the narrow gorge.
In a garden terraced upon the lower flank of the rock, the labour of generations having combined to raise a soil there deep enough to support a few plum, almond, and other fruit trees, a figure all in black is hard at work transplanting young lettuces. It is that of a teaching Brother. He is a thin grizzled man of sixty, with an expression of melancholy benevolence in his rugged face. I have watched him sitting upon a bench with his arm round some little village urchin by his side, while the children from the outlying hamlets, sprawling upon a heap of stones in the sun, ate their mid-day meal of bread and cheese or buckwheat pancakes that their mothers had put into their baskets before they trudged off in the early morning. I have noticed by many signs that he is full of sympathy for the young peasants placed in his charge. Yet with all his kindness he is melancholy. So many years in one place, such a dull routine of duty, such a life of abnegation without the honour that sustains and encourages, such impossibility of being understood and appreciated by those for whose sake he has been breaking self upon the wheel of mortification since his youth, have made him old before the time and fixed that look of lurking sadness in his warmly human eyes.