And Then - What Else Can
One Offer To These Abruzzi Mountain-Folk?
Their life is one of
miserable, revolting destitution.
They have no games or sports, no
local racing, clubs, cattle-shows, fox-hunting, politics, rat-catching,
or any of those other joys that diversify the lives of our peasantry. No
touch of humanity reaches them, no kindly dames send them jellies or
blankets, no cheery doctor enquires for their children; they read no
newspapers or books, and lack even the mild excitements of church
versus chapel, or the vicar's daughter's love-affair, or the squire's
latest row with his lady - nothing! Their existence is almost bestial in
its blankness. I know them - I have lived among them. For four months in
the year they are cooped up in damp dens, not to be called chambers,
where an Englishman would deem it infamous to keep a dog - cooped up amid
squalor that must be seen to be believed; for the rest of the time they
struggle, in the sweat of their brow, to wrest a few blades of corn from
the ungrateful limestone. Their visits to the archangel - these vernal
and autumnal picnics - are their sole form of amusement.
The movement is said to have diminished since the early nineties, when
thirty thousand of them used to come here annually. It may well be the
case; but I imagine that this is due not so much to increasing
enlightenment as to the depopulation caused by America; many villages
have recently been reduced to half their former number of inhabitants.
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