“Where are you going?”, Mr l’Escoussière * challenges me casually leaning on his scyth with the narrow blade sharp like a cut-the-cabbage-razor, while over the pine-trees of the Pine-Tree Plantation big leaden clouds are rolling along. “I go as far as the fountain of Gant!. Mr l’Escoussière is absolutely bent on accompanying me all the more because his children are getting ready to go trout fishing (rod, hook, grasshopper) in a stream which joins the Arize. Mr l’Escoussière with his steel blade challenges one last time the grass which falls hissing and thus masters the last square of vegetation, vanquished by the cutting metal.
Descent in the middle of the chestnut-trees, ash-trees, beech-trees, fern.
Mr l’Escoussière draws my attention to a source near a magnificent tree (“La Sagnouto”) on parcel 234, finds the footprints of the badger (“now protected because becoming extinct !”), examines the ivy eaten away on the trunk of an oak up to a man’s height (“that’s the stag or the hind who are quite undisturbed here for nobody will come !”) and continues to open up his passageway with powerful and precise blows of his stick.
In the stream, deeply emptied in places, there is no water, but suddenly a little expanse is spreading : “that’s the fountain of the ford !”, he says triumphantly. From a crevice wells a perfectly transparent water (“it never dries up !”) which immediately fills a rock bowl with a sandy bottom before which our first magistrate lies down to drink, lapping with the tongue. A bit further down, a dip splashed with sand indicates that a wild boar (“about sixty kilos”) has been rolling abundantly here in the hot hours of the day.
Mr l’Escoussière climbs the embankment on all fours, follows a small corniche path which runs along the border of parcel 234, pushes aside the branches and the brambles laden with thick black berries before stopping and staring at a sombre, round hole : a minecraft round which we go cautiously. A bit further, a few meters away, black Flint piles up in a damp Spoil heap : “a loading platform perhaps”, calculates our man who is now looking for the principal entrance. We get lost in the brambles and the foliages, and to orientate ourselves, listen to the river which is singing at the bottom of the valley ; we shake our shirts and our hair dampened by the drops from the leaves and the sweat of the progression, we consult the cadastral plan to make out passages there or any existing limits before coming out on a little esplanade of sombre stone chippings which seems to advance towards a semblance of a rock-gorge.
There can be found indeed the vast opening, a cyclopean entrance into which, without saying a word, Mr l’Escoussière , casts a stone of size which one hears cascade, ricochet, whistle, whip up the water, before being lost in silence. Further along, a no less immense aperture announces a gallery, almost horizontal that one, which leads towards the heart of parcel 228. “Cattle have slid into there”, he murmurs pensively while acknowledging that he finds himself for the first time outside these cavities which kindly to situate for them he has been asked by numerous curious people. “This must be like in the North”, he pursues, “one says that here, there were small rails and minecarts which came out at the level of the bank which dominates the river... and the barns of your great-uncle Cartou. It would be necessary to speak about it to Norbert Casteret...” * Two or three crows beat the tree canopy with their heavy wings. Suddenly, on the other side of the valley, the joyous bells of a marriage in the fields trouble the obscure serenity of these underwoods where Vulcan pursues a long pause in his cavern, while chilliness gains the numb limbs of Aeolus chained to his side.
Mr l’Escoussière, does he think about them on the badly defined paths which, from chestnut-trees to wild cherry-trees, take us back to the light of heaven? “I am content to have seen that !”, he concludes sadly. To have seen what?
* Escoussière du Courtiou – village - Hte Garonne (Midi Pyrénées). Escoussière – Mont Gaillard (Toulouse). Escoussière is the name given to streets running along the remparts inside the town.
*Norbert Casteret (1897-1987), speleologist and writer discovered the grotto of Montespan, the Souterrain of Houantaon, (Midi Pyrénées) and the Grotto of The Cigalère like the Gouffre Martel. 0900 Sentein (Pyrénées Ariégeoises)