It is well on in the afternoon. A peasant in black and white, and his young, handsome woman in rose-red costume, with gorgeous apron bordered deep with[Pg 166] grass-green, and a little, dark-purple waistcoat over her white, full bodice, are sitting behind me talking. The workmen peasants are subsiding into sleep. It is well on in the afternoon, we have long ago eaten the meat. Now we finish the white loaf, the gift, and the tea. Suddenly looking out of the window, we see Gennargentu’s mass behind us, a thick snow-deep knot-summit, beautiful beyond the long, steep spurs among which we are engaged. We lose the white mountain mass for half an hour: when suddenly it emerges unexpectedly almost in front, the great, snow-heaved shoulder.
How different it is from Etna, that lonely, self-conscious wonder of Sicily! This is much more human and knowable, with a deep breast and massive limbs, a powerful mountain-body. It is like the peasants.
The stations are far between—an hour from one to another. Ah, how weary one gets of these journeys, they last so long. We look across a valley—a stone’s throw. But alas, the little train has no wings, and can’t jump. So back turns the line, back and back towards Gennargentu, a long rocky way, till it comes at length to the poor valley-head. This it skirts fussily, and sets off to pelt down on its traces again, gaily.[Pg 167] And a man who was looking at us doing our round-about has climbed down and crossed the valley in five minutes.
The peasants nearly all wear costumes now, even the women in the fields: the little fields in the half-populated valleys. These Gennargentu valleys are all half-populated, more than the moors further south.
It is past three o’clock, and cold where there is no sun. At last only one more station before the terminus. And here the peasants wake up, sling the bulging sacks over their shoulders, and get down. We see Tonara away above. We see our old grimy black-and-white peasant greeted by his two women who have come to meet him with the pony—daughters handsome in vivid rose and green costume. Peasants, men in black and white, men in madder-brown, with the close breeches on their compact thighs, women in rose-and-white, ponies with saddle-bags, all begin to trail up the hill-road in silhouette, very handsome, towards the far-off, perched, sun-bright village of Tonara, a big village, shining like a New Jerusalem.
The train as usual leaves us standing, and shuffles with trucks—water sounds in the valley: there are stacks of cork on the station, and coal. An idiot girl in a great full skirt entirely made of coloured patches[Pg 168] mops and mows. Her little waistcoat thing is also incredibly old, and shows faint signs of having once been a lovely purple and black brocade. The valley and steep slopes are open about us. An old shepherd has a lovely flock of delicate merino sheep.
And at last we move. In one hour we shall be there. As we travel among the tree slopes, many brown cork-trees, we come upon a flock of sheep. Two peasants in our carriage looking out, give the most weird, unnatural, high-pitched shrieks, entirely unproduceable by any ordinary being. The sheep know, however, and scatter. And after ten minutes the shrieks start again, for three young cattle. Whether the peasants do it for love, I don’t know. But it is the wildest and weirdest inhuman shepherd noise I have ever heard.Share It