Page:A book of the Cevennes (-1907-).djvu/392

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294
THE CEVENNES

penetrate it at the Col de Sanctières, and issue from its huge bulk again at Mont Paon, a distance of fifteen miles. But from its abrupt precipices above Milau to the bold frontage of glaring white at L'Escalette is a distance of twenty-four miles. Elisée Reclus says of it:—


"The plateau of Larzac is a veritable table of stone. Water lacks on its surface. The soil, pierced by fissures, is hardly moistened by torrential rains. The drops falling on it pass through it as through a sieve and disappear. At certain spots the rifts in the rock are large, their walls have fallen in, and one sees huge funnels, avens, open in the calcareous surface, and descend to frightful depths. But almost everywhere the surface of the causse is uniform, and the subterranean wells are only indicated by superficial zigzags. Nowhere does a single spring rise.

"The inhabitants have for their own use and that of their cattle but the rain-water collected in cisterns or lavagnes, carefully cemented inside. Where water lacks, vegetation lacks also, and so also inhabitants.

"On most of the causses not a tree is to be seen, hardly a bush, save in dips offering some shelter from the wind. The rock is covered with naught but a short herbage, and the inhabitants, few in number, have utilised but scanty surfaces for the growth of barley, oats, and potatoes."


When the water in the cisterns fails, the caussenard has to make a day's journey to descend into the valleys and fetch the pure liquid from one of the springs that issue there, either in boisterous cascades or welling up out of deep abysses, thrust forth silently by the pressure of the water from above.

A century ago the Larzac could be reached from