Page:A book of the Cevennes (-1907-).djvu/381

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287
MOURÈZE

now only be traced on foot. The sparkling stream slides over contorted slate rocks, and trout dart through the pools. The hillsides are covered with pale grey flowered heath and the stunted kermes-oak with its glistening leaves. This, the Quercus coccifera, never grows higher than five feet, the garus it is that gives its name to the garigues, the desolate regions of limestone on which nothing else will grow. On its leaves feeds the kermes insect, round as a ball, and formerly supposed to be the fruit growing out of the rib of the leaf as does the berry of the butchers' broom. It produces a red dye, less brilliant than cochineal, and some of the Oriental reds are produced from it. The dye of the kermes is more permanent than cochineal. Suddenly on our eyes bursts Mourèze, one of the most fantastic groups of rock, castle, church, and village to be seen anywhere. We are disposed to regard the pictures by Gustave Doré of rock scenery interspersed with ruined towers as in his series, Le Juif errant, to be the creations of a fevered dream. But they are not so. He must have lived or travelled among the dolomitic formations of Languedoc, and thence drawn his inspiration.

The approach to Mourèze by the old carriage road is different; it is through red sandstone, soft and friable, and torn by streams into gullies. One would suppose that Mourèze had been founded originally by refugees from a world devastated by wars. It is concealed from view on all sides. It is Nature's hiding-place for persecuted men. At its back start up sheer cliffs of limestone, pink and yellow and grey, rising from 1,300 to 1,600 feet. Dolomitic limestone is composed of carbonate of lime and carbonate of magnesia, and the texture is mostly crystalline and granulated.