Valescure - Tree heath and briar-wood pipes - Fragrant herbs and thyme carpet - Aloes and agaves - Cork trees - Frejus - Ruins of the Tuileries: De 1'Orine and Bullant - Meissonier's picture of the burnt Tuileries - Cannes - Eucalyptus trees - La Mortola - Arrival at Florence - Turban ranunculus - Mino da Fiesole - Letter about Florence.

Having the chance last year of letting my house to a friend for March and April, I was tempted to do that which I had always declared I would never do - viz., go to the South of France at the time when everybody else goes there. On March 1 we started, a party of four ladies, for the Grand Hotel, Valescure, arriving at the St.-Raphael station after the usual day and night journey. We had left great cold behind us, and found the weather grey and mild. But we were told it had been very cold, and it certainly was soon bitterly cold again. Snow was on all the hills, the almond-blossoms were brown, and the shrub we call mimosa, really yellow acacia, looked pinched and unable to bloom. Our hotel being situated on the side of a hill with a beautiful open view of plain, mountain, and sea, surrounded by delightful pine woods, had a great charm of its own, and for those who have no objection to hotel-life I cannot imagine a more satisfactory resting place in fine spring weather. But I dislike hotels of all kinds, and it was singularly unlucky, as I hoped to live outside all day, that the mistral blew hard during the whole ten days I was at Valescure, and the weather was colourless, though dry. On the other side of St.-Raphael, down by the sea, there is another hotel, the Grand Hotel Boulouris, built on a perfect site for those who like being near the sea, and even more completely solitary than the one at Valescure. I gathered that it was not so well heated as the Valescure hotel. This I think an advantage, for though I like fires in the rooms, I hate hot passages, as they always make people afraid to open the windows.

All down to the shore and up in the woods by Bou-louris were magnificent tall plants of what I thought was Mediterranean heath : the flowers were only half open and injured by frost. I suppose most people know that from the roots of this tree heath are made the favourite wooden pipes known as briar-wood pipes. The name briar is a corruption of the French word bruyere, meaning heath. The collecting of these roots seems to be a trade wherever the plant grows, and the 'Encyclopaedia Britan-nica' says that' in Italy they are taken to Leghorn where the roots are shaped into blocks, each suitable for a pipe, the cutting of the wood so as to avoid waste requiring considerable skill. These blocks are simmered in a vat for twelve hours, which gives them the much-appreciated yellowish-brown hue of a good briar-root. So prepared, the blocks are exported for boring and finishing to St.-Claude (Jura), in France, and to Nuremberg, the two rival centres of the wooden-pipe trade.'In Moggridge's 'Flora of Mentone,' he refers to this and other European heaths as follows: 'Erica multiflora abounds near Toulon and Hyeres, but from the Esterelles mountains to Genoa I only know of three small patches of this pretty plant, all of which are near Nice, one round the tower of St.-Hospice, and the others at Bellet in the valley of Magnan. . . . Erica mediterranea is never found on the shores of the Mediterranean, but grows in South-Western France, Western Spain and Ireland. . . . The English often call Erica arborea (Linn.) the "Mediterranean Heath." This is a mistake. ... It abounds along the coast from Marseilles to Genoa, and though usually cut down, it is occasionally allowed to take its natural course when it becomes a small tree 8 to 10 feet high. At Cannes, the wood is used for turning, and of it are made the briar-wood pipes which are imported into England. Erica arborea and Erica scoparia are to be found growing together, but the former flowers in February or March, and is quite out of blow before E. scoparia first expands its greenish flowers in the end of April. Even when out of blossom, the tree heath may always be distinguished by its hairy branches. . . . It is also found in the Canary Islands, Madeira, Portugal, and the Pyrenees. E. scoparia endures a varied temperature, but is more confined in its distribution, being found only in Northern and Southern France, Spain, Italy, Corsica, Sardinia, and Dalmatia.'

How curious it is this distribution of plants, especially when the spreading and flourishing seem to depend not entirely on temperature ! Temperature being the ordinary cause of the stopping of vegetation towards the north, the nature of the soil must, I suppose, be the reason in this case for such fantastic skipping of whole districts.

At Valescure, the woods and open spaces are covered with heaths that have been cut down, and many low-growing sweet-smelling herbs. The dryness, however, combined with the bitter cold winds we were having, held back the scents, and one walked on thyme and sage and other sweet-smelling herbs without even perceiving it, and brushed through myrtle and bay without their giving one anything of their fragrance. In a resigned tone we said to each other, 'March is March everywhere, even on the Mediterranean shores,' and I secretly wondered why I had left my own little greenhouse full of sweetness and spring flowers for the euphemistically called'sunny South.' I know a place in England where nature's sweet-smelling carpet is imitated by planting a wood path with garden thyme instead of turfing it. It is kept low and somewhat even by perpetual clipping, and it is a pretty idea that the scent is given forth in summer by the present fashion of women's trailing skirts. This seems to be a rare exception to the well-known evils of the present long dresses. It is well for all sensible women never to forget the story of the German professor who sent his wife and daughter out for a walk through the town, and on their return let them see through his microscope the vitality of the microbes they had brought back with the dust. Dry sunshine is necessary for the sweet smelling of thyme, and many other herbs, whereas flowers generally smell sweeter for dampness in the air.