This sound reminded us that the sun would soon drop behind the hill, and that the Pomoyssin, to which we intended to pay a visit on our way home, was not a spot that gained attractiveness from the shades of night. I had heard the country-people speak of it as a peculiarly horrible and treacherous gouffre, and its name, which means ‘unwholesome hole,’ corresponds to the local opinion of it. The shepherd children would suffer torture from thirst rather than descend into the gloomy hollow and dip out a drop of the dark water which is said to draw the gazer towards it, and then into its mysterious depths under the rock, by the spell of some wicked power. Some years ago a woman, supposed to have been drawn there by the evil spirit, was found drowned, and since then the spot has been avoided even more than it was before.
It was to this place, then, that we went when the sun was setting. The way led up a deep little valley which was an absolute desert of stones. A dead walnut-tree, struck apparently by lightning, with its old and gnarled branches stretching out on one side like weird arms, was just the object that the imagination would place in a valley blighted by the influence of evil spirits, in proximity to a passage communicating from their world to this one. Presently, as we drew near some high rocks, Decros, pointing to a dark hollow in the shadow of them said, ‘There it is.’ We went down into the basin to the edge of the water that lay there, black and still, Decros showing evident reluctance and restlessness the while, so strongly was his mind affected by all the stories he had heard about the pool. Moreover, it was rapidly growing dusk. In this half-light the funnel in which we were standing certainly did look a very diabolic and sinister hole. The fancy aiding, everything partook of the supernatural: the dark masses of brambles hanging from the rocks, the wild vines clinging to them with leaves like flakes of deep-glowing crimson fire, and especially the intermittent sound of gurgling water.
I was glad to have seen the Pomoyssin under circumstances so favourable, but it was with relief that I left it and began to climb the side of the gorge from this valley of dreadful shadows towards the pure sky that reddened as the brown dusk deepened below.
It was a burning afternoon of late summer when I walked across the stony hills which separate the valley of the Lot from that of its tributary the Cele, between Capdenac and Figeac. I did not take the road, but climbed the cliffs, trusting myself to chance and the torrid causse. I wished that I had not done so when it was too late to act differently. There was nothing new for me upon the bare hills, where all vegetation was parched up except the juniper bushes and the spurge. At length I found the road that went down with many a flourish into the valley of the Cele, and I reached Figeac in the evening, covered with dust, and as thirsty as a hunted stag. Here I took up my quarters for awhile.