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Lavengro by George Henry Borrow

All were bareheaded sitting or standing


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One day, whilst I bent my way to the heath of which I have spoken on a former occasion, at the foot of the hills which formed it I came to a place where a wagon was standing, but without horses, the shafts resting on the ground; there was a crowd about it, which extended half-way up the side of the neighbouring hill. The wagon was occupied by some half a dozen men; some sitting, others standing--they were dressed in sober-coloured habiliments of black or brown, cut in a plain and rather uncouth fashion, and partially white with dust; their hair was short, and seemed to have been smoothed down by the application of the hand; all were bareheaded--sitting or standing, all were bareheaded. One of them, a tall man, was speaking as I arrived; ere, however, I could distinguish what he was saying, he left off, and then there was a cry for a hymn 'to the glory of God'--that was the word. It was a strange-sounding hymn, as well it might be, for everybody joined in it: there were voices of all kinds, of men, of women, and of children--of those who could sing and of those who could not--a thousand voices all joined, and all joined heartily; no voice of all the multitude was silent save mine. The crowd consisted entirely of the lower classes, labourers and mechanics, and their wives and children--dusty people, unwashed people, people of no account whatever, and yet they did not look a mob. And when that hymn was over--and here let me observe that, strange as it sounded, I have recalled that hymn to mind, and it has seemed to tingle in my ears on occasions when all that pomp and art could do to enhance religious solemnity was being done--in the Sistine Chapel, what time the papal band was in full play, and the choicest choristers of Italy poured forth their mellowest tones in presence of Batuschca and his cardinals--on the ice of the Neva, what time the long train of stately priests, with their noble beards and their flowing robes of crimson and gold, with their ebony and ivory staves, stalked along, chanting their Sclavonian litanies in advance of the mighty Emperor of the North and his Priberjensky guard of giants, towards the orifice through which the river, running below in its swiftness, is to receive the baptismal lymph:--when the hymn was over, another man in the wagon proceeded to address the people; he was a much younger man than the last speaker; somewhat square built and about the middle height; his face was rather broad, but expressive of much intelligence, and with a peculiar calm and serious look; the accent in which he spoke indicated that he was not of these parts, but from some distant district. The subject of his address was faith, and how it could remove mountains. It was a plain address, without any attempt at ornament, and delivered in a tone which was neither loud nor vehement. The speaker was evidently not a practised one--once or twice he hesitated as if for words to express his meaning, but still he held on, talking of faith, and how it could remove mountains: 'It is the only thing we want, brethren, in this world; if we have


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