Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/111

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ing about this intelligence, having no reason to suppose the bringing in of oats to be in any way more interesting than the carting of potatoes or wheat; and to the majority of land-owners the thought of tomorrow's work is chiefly connected with dry, prosaic details, such as repairing the harness and oiling the cart-wheels; but there are others in the village on whom the announcement has had an electrifying effect, and for whom the words are synonymous with love and wedding-bells.

Five or six of the young village swains, or maybe as many as eight or ten, spend that evening in a state of pleasurable bustle and excitement; busying themselves in cleaning and decking out the cart which is to fetch the oats to-morrow, furbishing up the best harness, grooming the work-horses till their coats are made to shine like satin, and plaiting up their manes with gaudy-colored ribbons. Early next morning the sound of harness-bells and the loud cracking of whips causes all curious folk to rush to their doors; and as every one is curious, the whole population is soon assembled in the street, to gaze at the sight of young Thomas, all attired in his bravest clothes, and wearing a monstrous nosegay in his cap, riding postilion on the left-hand horse, and cracking his whip with ostentatious triumph—while behind, in the gayly decorated cart, is seated a blushing maiden, who lowers her eyes in confusion at seeing herself the object of general attention—at least this is what she is supposed to do, for every well-brought-up maiden ought surely to blush and hang her head in graceful embarrassment when she first appears in the character of a bride; and, although no formal proposal has taken place, yet, by consenting to assist the young man to bring in his oats, she has virtually confessed her willingness to become his wife. Her appearance on this occasion will doubtless cause much envy and disappointment among her less fortunate companions, who peep out furtively through the chinks of the wooden shutters, at this sight of a triumph they had hoped for themselves.

"So it is the red-haired Susanna, after all, and not the miller's Agnes, as every one made sure," the gossips are saying. "And who has young Martin got on his cart, I wonder? May I never spin flax again, if it is not verily the black-haired Lisi who was all but promised to small-pox Peter of the red house!"—and so on, and so on, in endless variety, as the carts go by in procession, each one giving rise to manifold remarks and commentaries, and not one of them but leaves disappointment and heart-burnings in its rear. This custom of the maiden helping the young man to bring in his oats, and thereby signifying her willingness to become his wife, is prevalent only in a certain district in the north of Transylvania, called the Haferland—the land of oats—a broad expanse of country covered at harvest-time by a billowy sea of golden grain, the whole fortune of the land-owners.

In other parts of the country various other bridal customs are preva-