Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes

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Copyright 1905, BY


Printed in the United States of America

All rights reserved. No part of this book
may be reproduced in any form without
the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons




THE two inland voyagers, Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Simpson, returned from their cruise so greatly refreshed in mind and body that it was determined to repeat the experience as soon as possible. But, as time passed, Sir Walter's enthusiasm waned, and, besides, he looked askance at the idea of taking the road on foot, as his comrade proposed. His gait was very deliberate, with short, even, careful steps, so that he was soon left far in the rear by his more impetuous companion, who forged ahead in a manner that carried him to his destination long before the arrival of Sir Walter. Walking together, therefore, being practically out of the question, when the second expedition started, on the 23rd of September, 1878, Modestine and her master comprised the only members of the party.

The twelve days' tramp through the Cévennes, though in some ways more exhausting than the canoe voyage, was more to the traveller's taste, having elements of romance the former lacked. To the end of his life the author of Treasure Island and the Child's Garden remained at heart a boy. What could appeal more strongly to the imagination of a "lantern bearer" than the thought of sleeping alone under the stars in a fleecy blue bag, and breaking his fast on bits of chocolate?—to say nothing of the pistol, which I doubt would have proved a very efficient weapon in time of need, had such a chance occurred, it being of an antiquated pattern, uncertain in its mechanism, and more likely to be a menace than a protection to its owner.

The management of Modestine's pack must have been a source of exasperation and perplexity to her master, for my husband was, like his father before him, what the Scotch call a "handless man." Neither of them could tie a knot that would hold, and the inventor of the revolving lights and countless scientific instruments would find himself helpless before the problem of cording a trunk, or even buttoning his own cuffs. I remember once, in an out-of-the-way place, my husband offering to carry wood from a distant pile as his share of the camp work, my sister and I to do the cooking. Our supply of fuel seeming very scant, we looked into the matter to find him plodding wearily back and forth, fetching a single stick at a time. He certainly never attained "that neat, hurried, bite-your-thread effect" that he so admired in Americans.

Kegan Paul not only paid twenty pounds for the Travels with a Donkey, but invited the author to dinner, where the shy young man suffered agonies of embarrassment over the claret that was served to the guests alone, Mr. Paul being an abstainer from principle. Would the acceptance, at his invitation, of the wine Mr. Paul thought it wrong to take, put Mr. Paul in a false position? And yet, on what grounds to refuse? This delicate question became so harassing to the Scotch conscience, that, as my husband has told me, he would have infinitely preferred to dine not at all.

F. V. de G. S.

My dear Sidney Colvin,

The journey which this little book is to describe was very agreeable and fortunate for me. After an uncouth beginning, I had the best of luck to the end. But we are all travellers in what John Bunyan calls the wilderness of this world,—all, too, travellers with a donkey; and the best that we find in our travels is an honest friend. He is a fortunate voyager who finds many. We travel, indeed, to find them. They are the end and the reward of life. They keep us worthy of ourselves; and, when we are alone, we are only nearer to the absent.

Every book is, in an intimate sense, a circular letter to the friends of him who writes it. They alone take his meaning; they find private messages, assurances of love, and expressions of gratitude dropped for them in every comer. The public is but a generous patron who defrays the postage. Yet, though the letter is directed to all, we have an old and kindly custom of addressing it on the outside to one. Of what shall a man be proud, if he is not proud of his friends? And so, my dear Sidney Colvin, it is with pride that I sign myself affectionately yours,



Velay Page
 The Donkey, the Pack, and the Pack-saddle 3
 The Green Donkey-driver 13
 I have a Goad 28
Upper Gévaudan
 A Camp in the Dark 41
 Cheylard and Luc 59
Our Lady of the Snows
 Father Apollinaris 69
 The Monks 78
 The Boarders 91
Upper Gévaudan (Continued)
 Across the Goulet 105
 A Night among the Pines 111
The Country of the Camisards
 Across the Lozère 123
 Pont de Montvert 132
 In the Valley of the Tarn 143
 Florac 160
 In the Valley of the Mimente 165
 The Heart of the Country 173
 The Last Day 186
 Farewell, Modestine 196