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trinsically no less incredible than they, becomes invested with a halo of glory through the mere lapse of ages, which is wholly wanting to the spannew and often clumsily conceived nineteenthcentury miracle.

Gazing thus on external beauty, or busy with one's own thoughts, the scene would be diversified by the appearance of some cowled and whitefrocked member of the Brotherhood, in quest of air and exercise like oneself; his presence serving but to accentuate the prevailing stillness, as well as to impart variety of tint and picturesque effect to a prospect otherwise sufficiently delightful and romantic. And yet, while contemplating all that was before him, or any possible excess of beauty in any other scene, he could not but feel the deep charm of home when well ordered and in harmony with itself. It leaves a man nothing to desire. In all his wanderings his heart fondly turns to it in thought as a place of peace and rest such as his spirit loveth.

CHAPTER VI.

THE MOUNTAIN STORM.

Autumn in the Uplands. — The Bridge of Conques. -St. Faith's

Well.-A Tempest.

"The sense of sublimity,' Wordsworth tells us,

depends much more upon form and relation of objects to each other, than upon their actual magnitude ;' and he adds, as if to suggest an idea of what he means by sublimity, “an elevation of 3,000 feet is sufficient to call forth in a most impressive degree the creative and magnifying power of the atmosphere. The force of these sentences will be felt amid a highland country which, like Westmoreland or the Rouergue, exhibits a large and ever-varying expanse of mountain scenery, though by no means on the highest scale of elevation. Conques lies in the most rugged part of the province; and, at this season, the hillsides were aglow with the many-shaded autumnal tints of the vinebrown, yellow, purple-and the golden brown of the changing chestnut forest ; while, in the narrow

valleys beneath, the rushing torrents are fringed here and there with 'the tender green of the aftergrass upon the meadows' (to again quote Wordsworth) interveined with lilac-coloured crocus. There is something, as it were, mysterious and fraught with the poetry of solitude, touching on the sublime, in the panorama around you. Lofty peaks receding, like waves, one behind another into the far distance; projecting boulders of grey rock; sweeps of hillside, clothed with chestnut woods or long stretches of fading vines—the whole o'ercapped, may be, by storm clouds, dark and lowering, with their slaty tint of murky blue, or, possibly, half enveloped in the morning haze which is slowly lifting out of the vale, as the fickle November sun makes itself tardily felt :-all combine to suggest the reflection, that there are few things in nature more winningly beautiful than the ever-changing aspects of dale, peak, and hillside in the border time between autumn and winter.

It was amid such scenery and at such a season that the writer took many a walk over the amphitheatre of mountains that hem in Conques in all directions. On the first of these occasions he had the benefit of the company of several brethren of the convent where he was tarrying. There was Père Henri, a man of middle age, and ranking in seniority next to the Prior himself; Père Pierre, an older man and the same that read out with such spirit and humour in the refectory ; Père Jules, a young recluse of gracious manners ; and Frère Denis, in deacon's orders, and a skilled musician.

Passing through the narrow, steep, roughly paved streets of the little town, our party descended to the valley of the Dourdou. This rapid and not inconsiderable watercourse is crossed by an old high-pitched stone bridge which presents the singular appearance of a trio of arches all of different sizes, the highest and widest being on the Conques side, while the span and elevation of each succeeding arch are palpably less than the preceding. We began at once to ascend the hillside opposite (which almost sets its foot in the stream), climbing broken ground and finding our way through the copse overshadowed by a lofty mountain top above; at the same time leaving behind us the wind-tossed waters of the Dourdou, which had been dyed red by the washings of sandstone borne down by the headlong current during recent rains. The wayfarers reposed and talked awhile as they sat grouped about a spring gushing out of the rock, known as the Fountain of Ste.-Foy-the harmonious figures of the white-draped canons blending effectively with the still valley girt by hanging woods. This fountain, according to a local legend, sprang forth miraculously, in honour of the spot having formed the last resting-place for the relics of Ste-Foy, when these were brought surreptitiously to Conques from Agen towards the close of the ninth century-about the year 886, or contemporary with our Alfred-after being purloined from their rightful owners, the monks of Agen, by a Benedictine of Conques Abbey, then called St. Saviour's. The story of the theft was related to the writer by the companions of his walk, who, without justifying the action, remarked nevertheless that the customs of those days would hardly regard a pious fraud of this kind as any sin. It may be mentioned that a stone coffin enclosing the remains of a human body had been recently disinterred from beneath the high altar at Ste.-Foy de Conques, which the brethren believe to be that of their patron saint: the same that was brought from Agen a thousand years since—so much at least seems probable enough-and which only awaited the authorization of the Bishop of Rodez to be publicly proclaimed as such with all the pomp and pageantry at the command of the most ceremonial of Churches, and of the most ceremonial Order within that Church.

i The incidents of this curious act of pious felony are set out at length in the Histoire de l'Eglise du Rouergue (Rodez : 1874) by M. l'abbé Servières, himself a native of Conques, whose acquaintance the author had the advantage of making when there.

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