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IT would not be difficult for a geographical
tyro to lose himself amongst the acs. A large
portion of the map of France is overlaid with
proper names which, with whatever consonant
or vowel they may begin, have all of them a
c for their final letter, preceded either by an
e or an o ; but more commonly by an a, to
vocalise their ultimate syllable. It is clear
that, to steer your way with safety through
this archipelago of synograms, you must not
fix your rudder at the stern of the word,
but at the prow, or even at midships. You
must catch the topographical eel, not by
the tail, but by the head and shoulders,
whereon good luck and skill may, perhaps,
enable you to fix some lasso of artificial
memory to hold it with. Thus, there is Balzac,
which gives its title to two famous De
Balzacs, to Jean-Louis Guez, the artist who
moulded the French language into shape, and
to Honoré, whose masterpieces of fiction, are
for want of translation, almost unknown to
the British public. Balzac, besides, is a black
variety of grape in considerable esteem for
the brandy it makes. There is Blanzac,
where the people revolted because salt was
taxed too heavily ; where they plundered
the salt stores, and killed the tax-gatherers.
There is Jarnac, remarkable for its
magnificent avenue of poplars which
conducts you out of town on the road to
Cognac. There is Ruffec, a rising little place
(it stands on a hillock), frequented for its
markets of grain and cattle, but whose most
exquisite articles of exportI intend writing
an article about themit might be injurious
to the public service to specify now. There
is Moussac, which has been sleeping in the
night of obscurity from past eternity to the
present day, and which would have slept on
unknown for an eternity to come, if the railway
had not waked it up and forced it to become
a member of active society. There is Nérac,
famous for terrines (or partridge pies with an
earthen crust of pottery instead of paste) ;
Chierzac where asses and oxen wear coats
and breeches in summer time to save them
from the stings of flies, gnats, and cousins ;
Cubzac, with its suspension bridge of iron and
wood ; Riberac. where you may eat good pâtés
of liver stolen from the insides of ducks that
quack ; and, lastly, there is Cognac itself
where yon taste excellent brandy with lips
that involuntarily smack. Cognacnow
world-famousis a small town with some
nine or ten thousand inhabitants, which
stands partly on a plain, but principally on
a gentle slope, forming one side of the valley
of the river Charente.

When I passed through Saintesa
picturesque, Italian-looking place, built on
broken ground, with a genuine Roman arch
by the side of the river, which is crossed
by a smart suspension-bridgewhen I passed
through Saintes on my way to Cognac, they
were fêting the Immaculate Conception of the
Virgin with so dense a procession, that the
diligence could scarcely pass. The leaders
had to nod and say, " How do you do ? " to
the gilt and silvered image that was carried
along, for several minutes before we could
reach the coach-office. Before I could get out
of the coupe, I was torn in pieces by six or
eight male and female touters (the latter
with flatulent and bursting caps), who wanted
each of them to cram a dinner down my
throat. I amused myself by not deciding for
a quarter of an hour, but walked about the
town, with this amiable tail following me, as
I examined the shop windows and hunted for
points of view. At last, I put myself under
the protection of a lady who persisted in
inviting me with, " This way, Captain "—a
title which tickled my ears as much as " My
Lord " does those of other folks on the ninth
of November. She carried me off in triumph,
fed me very respectably, and then packed me
snugly in the diligence for Cognac, without
insisting too violently that I should stop and
sleep at her inn at Saintes.

Cognac stands on a foundation of rock, and
is solidly built with stone; and so it had need
be; for if it were once to catch fire at any point,
it would explode like a mountain of lucifer
matches struck by lightning, and would blaze
afterwards like an ever-burning omelette-au-
rhum, which was meant to be gazed at but
never eaten. Some of the narrow side-streets
look as if they were hewn out of the rock
itself. The vines in front of the houses there,
seem to climb for the sake of reaching the
summit of a natural cliff. This rude and
rough external appearance is partly caused
by the alcoholic fumes that float in the air.