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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.
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Friday, 19 July 2013
I only noticed yesterday that the mark of the aged female peasant in this village is a cap (I suppose it would be called a mob-cap - but I don't know what a mob-cap is at all), which is drawn very tightly over the head, very tightly indeed. It is apparently formed out of a cotton handkerchief, for there are the ends of bows to be seen at the top-back of the head and also below. These aged creatures are almost without exception deformed, chiefly by vast deposits of fat. They wear very short skirts (always some shade of blue, much washed out); and, like the majority of peasant women of no matter what age in this district, they have exceedingly unpleasant voices.
But an even more extraordinary specimen of the sex passed along the high road last night while we were dining. This was an old woman harnessed to a small cart containing merchandise that I could not distinguish. On either side of the old woman was harnessed a dog about as big as a pointer. An old man stalked majestically behind at a distance of several yards, carrying a very long staff, and uttering at regular intervals a mournful cry of a few syllables which doubtless referred to his wares. The woman was, in the accepted phrase, 'little more than a brute', and there was no doubt about, no concealment of it. They did not belong to the district. Probably they toured like that through a whole department, or several departments, and as Madame Bergeret suggested, might be in easy circumstances.
Talking about eating, Madame Bergeret said that in the Midi (neighbourhood of Toulouse especially) there used to be men who prided themselves on enormous powers of eating. They did not usually eat a great deal, but on occasions, when put to it, they would perform terrible feats such as consuming a whole turkey. The result sometimes was that they were very ill. The method of curing them was to dig a hole in the muck-heap, strip the sufferer naked, put him in the hole, and pack him tightly with manure up to his neck. The people who did this did it with gusto, telling the sufferer what an odious glutton he was. The heat generated promoted digestion in a manner almost miraculous, and next day the sufferer was perfectly restored.