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Heir Stolberg as he placed me in the seat and stood before me— 'I love you!'
I made no reply, and he went on.
'Alice ! I have loved you for the last ten years—even since you were a little child. When you were a child, I was a man ; I hive now reached middle hie, and you are in the bloom of youth. Can you love me?'
I was silent, hut the tears slowly filled my eyes and dropped upon my cheeks.
'I never left you, Alice,' he said in the same low tone, 'since that night when you departed in sorrow from your German home. On the roof of the same coach I travelled with and protected you. In Paris, I have watched over you; and when death threatened to remove you from my care, I was ready also to die!'
I looked up into his dark eyes, and standing there in his noble truth and generous love, to me he seemed beautiful—it was the beautiful of the soul.
.' I have prepared this summer-home for you. Be my wife, Alice, and let us share it together! When the autumn comes, we will return to Germany, and to our art.'
And I smiled sadly through my tears. 'But I have no voice,' I said softly.
'I know it; still you have voice enough to say: "I love you" —and that is all the melody my heart asks from thine.'
And so, reader, I said it.
The words were spoken fifteen years ago, and I have not repented of them yet.
TOUR IN AUVERGNE.
j LONG with a party of friends, in the summer of 1844, I was able to make a tour in Auvergne and some other parts of France not ordinarily "visited by the English; the principal object of our excursion being to see some of the more curious geological phenomena, for which the rergne country is celebrated. Our route, in its early part, by Boulogne and Paris to Orleans, was of the usual common-place character. At Orleans, we were upon the Loire, and descended that river by a small steamer, which drew only two or three feet of water. To Blois was our first day's performance, and having landed there, we next day proceeded, by means of a hired caleche, to Vierzon, a town now reached by railway direct from Paris. At Vierzon, which is a small town on the Cher, where we stopped for the night, the country was observed to alter in character from extensive alluvial plains to undulating hill and dale, and here commenced on the roadsides those long continuous lines of walnut-trees which extend in various directions through the centre of France. Orchards also became numerous; and occasionally we had glimpses of uplands warmly clothed in vegetation, and dotted with villages. Whatever may be said of the intelligence of the people in this part of France, no one will deny that they are patterns of industry. Not an idle man, woman, or child—or, I may add, cow—is to be anywhere seen. The men and women were busily engaged in rural labour; and the girls, while tending a few sheep, employ themselves in knitting or spinning with the distaff. Yet, although the people work hard, and are to all appearance their own masters, they do not seem to be in the enjoyment of many worldly comforts. They were universally barelegged, and wore wooden shoes, while their cottages appeared to contain little furniture. The beasts of draught we met were principally cows and asses, the former yoked in pairs by the horns, and forming a dismal picture of poverty and oppression.
Bourges, one of the most ancient towns in France, has nothing of interest to detain the stranger except an old cathedral, locally celebrated for its painted glass windows; which, however, did not strike us as worth more than a transient notice. We were, therefore, glad to quit the place on the day after our arrival, and proceed to Moulins, a distance of sixty miles, which a diligence with five horses spiritedly achieved in nine hours. Approaching Moulins, we find ourselves entering the fine flat vale of the Allier, rich in tall trees and the most luxuriant vegetation. Artificial grasses likewise make their appearance in the fields ; and although it is only the 8th of July, bands of reapers are already busy cutting down the grain.
Moulins has a vastly superior appearance to Bourges. The streets are generally open, and pretty well paved; there are several spacious airing-grounds, adorned with trees, both within the town and in the environs; and the houses of the opulent classes are numerous and elegant. The Allier, which forms one of the principal tributaries of the Loire, is here crossed by a long stone-bridge: hut though broad, it is a shallow stream, full of sand-banks, and of little value in inland navigation.
From Moulins we proceeded by diligence to Vichy, a fashionable resort in central France, and celebrated for its hot mineral springs. After remaining here a few days, we departed on our way to Clermont, or more correctly, Clermont-Ferrand. We had now entered the territory which is locally known as the Limagne. Crossing a ridge of hills, we have this fine country before us, spread out in all the glory of summer. We have the garden of France at our feet. The morning on which we reached this interesting spot was one of the most brilliant of the season, and our eye had an opportunity of taking in the whole plain—rich in orchards, vineyards, bright green fields, and yellow crops of groin—as far as its mountain boundary, formed by the range of Puys, or volcanic peaks, which it was our object to visit. A white cloud rested on the top of the central peak, the Puy-de-D6me, marking its superior height and grandeur.
In the course of our ride across the plain, we passed through the small towns of Aigueperse, Riom, and Mont-Ferrand, the last situated on the summit of a rising ground, and consisting of heavy buildings of a dark-coloured lava.
At length we reached Clermont, favourably situated on a flattish low hill, sloping gently in all directions, at the verge of the Limagne. The ascending approaches to this ancient capital of Auvergne are described by old travellers as so vile and offensive, that we were pleasingly disappointed in finding them much improved, and that the town generally had in recent times undergone numerous reparations, so as to be now one of the neatest and best built in France. As at Mont-Ferrand, the houses are built of lava, and the streets paved with the same material. The lava-stone of Clermont is grayish-black, and full of small holes, like the cooled cinders of furnaces; but it is excessively hard, and so impervious to the weather, that the stones of the cathedral, which is built of it, though hewn 600 years ago, are as sharp in their angles as the day they were fashioned by the builder.
Leaving the examination of the town to a future opportunity, I was anxious to take advantage of the settled fine weather to pay my visit to the range of adjoining puys or peaks. To be done properly, this requires a guide, and the use of a car; for about five miles must be passed over in ascending the braes, or low bills, before we reach the base of the principal mountains. A car was accordingly hired, well provisioned for a day's excursion, and, accompanied by a geological friend from Edinburgh, who was fortunately on the same errand, and had already procured a guide, our party drove out of Clermont, on an expedition the most interesting in which we had ever been engaged. While pursuing our way beyond the barriers, let us consider for a moment what it is we are going to see.
In the year 1751, two members of the Academy of Paris, Guettard and Malesherbes, on their return from Italy, where they had visited Vesuvius, and observed its productions, passed through Montelimar, a small town on the left bank of the Rhone. Here they were surprised to observe that the pavement of the streets consisted of masses of basalt, brought from Rochemaure, on the opposite side of the river; and they were, moreover, told that there was a mountain-tract in that direction which abounded with similar rocks. Incited by a love of science, they proceeded in search of the basaltic hills, and, step by step, reached Clermont in Auvergne, discovering every day fresh reason to believe in the volcanic origin of the mountains they traversed. At Clermont, all doubts on the subject ceased. The currents of lava in the vicinity, black and rugged as those of Vesuvius, descending uninterruptedly from some conical hills of scoriie, most of which present a regular crater, convinced them of the truth of their conjectures; and they loudly proclaimed the interesting discovery. On their return to Paris, M. Guettard published a memoir, announcing the existence of volcanic remains in Auvergne, hut obtained very little credit. The idea appeared to most persons an extravagance; but the obstinacy of ignorance was finally forced to yield to conviction, and the investigations of Demarest in 1771 put an end to all doubt on the question.
The more recent inquiries of our indefatigable and ingenious countryman Scrope, and others, French and English, have brought the volcanic region of Auvergne prominently into notice as a field of geological study. Nor is it without interest to ordinary travellers. A great cluster or chain of conical mountains, each an extinct volcano, left very much in the form it possessed at the moment when it ceased to act—which may have been ten thousand years ago, for what anybody can tell—is not a thing seen every day, or in every situation. Vesuvius, Stromboli, and Etna, smoke and rage, and from time to time vomit forth their currents of liquid lava, and their showers of scorioe. Here are dozens of volcanic heights once equally active, but now dormant, and covered with the soil and herbage of accumulated centuries—a region of fire and smoke transformed by time into a tranquil sheep and cattle walk. It was the central point of this once extraordmary scene of commotion that we were going to see.
Our way lay along a road which wound itself in a singular and picturesque maimer up the acclivities of the hills, in a direction westward from Clermont, every turn of the path revealing some new and striking prospect. The lower ridges, consisting of calcareous stratified rocks, were chiefly covered with vineyards; but to these succeeded small fields of grain; and these, in tbeir turn, gave way to heathy uplands, through which projected masses of bare rock, either lava or granite. These features of the country around us were, however, for the time, less attractive than its human inhabitants. Nearly all the way, from the gates of Clermont to the summit of the plateau on which the peaks appear to rest, a distance of several miles, we encountered and passed a seemingly continuous band, or series of bands, of mountaineers proceeding with cars of firewood to market. This was my first introduction to the descendants of the ancient Gauls, as they are supposed to be, and it was with something more than mere curiosity that I examined their garb and personal appearance, as they descended the successive slopes towards the plain. The cars, rude in their construction, and piled with chopped brushwood! were each drawn by two cows or oxen, bound together by a yoke across the forehead, to which the pole of the vehicle is attached. No reins were employed. Before each vehicle stalked its saturnine conductor, having a long rod over his shoulder, with which, by a touch, he guided his docile and downcast charge in any required