Germain would have gone mad, had not his son, who was looking for him and who entered the cottage galloping on a stick, with his little sister en croupe, lashing the imaginary steed with a willow switch, recalled him to himself. He lifted him up, and said, as he put him in his fiancee’s arms:
“You have made more than one person happy by loving me!”
THE COUNTRY WEDDING
Here ends the story of Germain’s courtship, as he told it to me himself, cunning ploughman that he is! I ask your pardon, dear reader, for having been unable to translate it better; for the old-fashioned, artless language of the peasants of the district that I sing—as they used to say—really has to be translated. Those people speak too much French for us, and the development of the language since Rabelais and Montaigne has deprived us of much of the old wealth. It is so with all progress, and we must make up our minds to it. But it is pleasant still to hear those picturesque idioms in general use on the old soil of the centre of France; especially as they are the genuine expressions of the mockingly tranquil and pleasantly loquacious character of the people who use them. Touraine has preserved a considerable number of precious patriarchal locutions. But Touraine has progressed rapidly in civilization during and since the Renaissance. It is covered with chateaux, roads, activity, and foreigners. Berry has remained stationary, and I think that, next to Bretagne and some provinces in the extreme south of France, it is the most conservative province to be found at the present moment. Certain customs are so strange, so curious, that I hope to be able to entertain you a moment longer, dear reader, if you will permit me to describe in detail a country wedding, Germain’s for instance, which I had the pleasure of attending a few years ago.
For everything passes away, alas! In the short time that I have lived, there has been more change in the ideas and customs of my village than there was for centuries before the Revolution. Half of the Celtic, pagan, or Middle-Age ceremonials that I saw in full vigor in my childhood, have already been done away with. Another year or two, perhaps, and the railroads will run their levels through our deep valleys, carrying away, with the swiftness of lightning, our ancient traditions and our wonderful legends.
It was in winter, not far from the Carnival, the time of year when it is considered becoming and proper, among us, to be married. In the summer, we hardly have time, and the work on a farm cannot be postponed three days, to say nothing of the extra days required for the more or less laborious digestion attending the moral and physical intoxication that follows such a festivity.—I was sitting under the huge mantel-piece of an old-fashioned kitchen fire-place, when pistol-shots, the howling of dogs, and the shrill notes of the bagpipe announced the approach of the fiances. Soon Pere and Mere Maurice, Germain, and little Marie, followed by Jacques and his wife, the nearest relations of the bride and groom, and their godfathers and godmothers, entered the court-yard.