Page:A book of the Cevennes (-1907-).djvu/28
Not only so, but man from the remotest period has burrowed into the rock to form habitations for himself. Near S. Jean-le-Centenier are the Balmes de Montbrul, a volcanic crater 300 feet in diameter and 480 feet deep. Men have scooped out rudimentary dwelling places in the sides in fifteen to twenty stages, one above another; a chapel and a prison were among these excavations. A troglodyte family lived in one of these caves at the end of the eighteenth century.
The mountains of the Vivarais are the finest portion of the Cevennes, so noble are their outlines, so deep are the clefts that seam them, so tumbled is the aspect of range heaped on range; and they are supremely interesting on account of the volcanic vents that remain in good preservation, and the wondrous walls of prismatic basalt that line the rivers.
The Ardèche is certainly the most extraordinary river in Europe; after leaping, and burrowing, and sawing its way through basalt, it passes down a cleft of lias disposed in beds completely horizontal, and rising like the walls of houses. In fact, it traverses a long white street, many miles in length, and then enters the great ravine between lofty precipices of Dolomitic limestone, where runs no road, and where one must descend in a boat, shooting rapid after rapid in the midst of scenery only rivalled by the noted gorges of the Tarn.
It is not necessary to do more than indicate the general aspect of this portion of the Cevennes, to give an outline that may be filled in with details later on. But before quitting this department, I must quote some words of Mr. Hammerton, no mean judge of landscape:—
"The department of Ardeche on the right bank of the