To hunt ole cotton-tail.
“At one end of the barn, on a bed decorated with branches of green leaves, lay the corpse, an old woman of eighty, the mother of the man of the house. He stood by the head of the dead woman, while all the near relatives had seats round. Then the mourning women entered and sat down on the ground in a circle, one in the centre cloaked and hooded, who began the chant or funeral wail, all the rest joining in chorus. After an interval there would come a deep silence; then the chant began again, and when it was over the women rose up and went out, leaving the place free for the next comers, who acted a play full of ancient symbolic meaning. But, first, whisky was served round, and the pipers played; for every village had sent their best player and singer to honour the wake.
One of the leading men in the village has a brand-new house made of logs. The logs were neatly squared and the chinks between them carefully plastered and painted. The house had three rooms, besides a storeroom and cow-stall. I counted three barns in the court, besides three outdoor cellars, one for the milk and the others for the storing of vegetables. To my question as to what the farmer did in the winter our guide replied, "Nothing. When they want money they go to the hole where the potatoes and turnips are buried and carry a load to the town." The owner of this house was very proud of his new place and showed one room in which were several huge chests, decorated and stained in bright vermilion in the peculiar style of peasant art. These chests were filled with clothes—peasant costumes of very handsome material, very beautifully embroidered and decorated. The principal ornament of the costume shown us was a belt studded with brass nails with broad leather clasps, as large as a small platter, behind and in front. It must have occupied the hours of a good many long winter evenings to make the garments this man had stowed away in these chests. Although there was plenty of room in this house, it is evident that the family lives almost wholly in the one large living-room.
I was so overcome I could not help bursting into tears, through which I sobbed: "Dear, dear Father Urbani. I will go with you anywhere, but I will never take a Mule or a Horse!"
"He is still unconscious," he had said, and had understood that they asked more from him than that. Then, feeling that he could not endure the greediness of their attention, he had beckoned Joe Kenyon to come out with him into the garden.
There are seven herbs of great value and power; they are ground ivy, vervain, eyebright, groundsel, foxglove, the bark of the elder-tree, and the young shoots of the hawthorn.
It sounded formidable to my youth; almost like a geological era. And that suited him, in a way—I could imagine him drifting, or silting, or something measurable by aeons, at the rate of about a millimetre a century.
Copyright © 2020