Page:A book of the Cevennes (-1907-).djvu/369

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281
THE PILLARDS

though a man can dispose lightly of the fruits of the earth that he has tilled, of the tree he has planted, it is not without a pang that the shepherd can separate himself from the beast he has nourished. Between the pastor and his flock do there not exist, moreover, mutual sentiments of affection, even of love, that defy all psychology?"


But the market is not one of cattle and corn only, it is of human beings as well, for hither come the shepherds to hire boys to attend during the year on the sheep and herds of swine. These lads are locally called {{wikt: pillard|pillards}}, and the token that one has been engaged is that the shepherd buys the boy a pair of new {{wikt: sabot|sabots}} out of his own money, a sort of investiture in the pastoral office. These lads and the shepherds lead a lonely life in the mountains. The boys are not unkindly treated, for the Cevenol, if rough and silent, has a gentle and kindly heart. But what a life for a growing boy in wild nature, among mountains and shrubs, birds of all kinds, and creeping things innumerable, and at night with the stars shining above his head with a sharpness and intensity as though they stabbed him to the heart, but left an exquisite pain behind. He learns to know the signs of the times, the winds, the voices of nature, to distinguish one bird's note from another, and to ascertain the virtues of the aromatic herbs on the limestone causse. The life may be hard, but it is healthy both to body and mind and soul.