The Grandmother (Božena Němcová, 1891)/Chapter 16

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THE morning was hot and sultry. Everybody, old and young, worked in the fields so as to get in at least what grain was already cut. The householders were obliged to put in a good part of the night, so that they might be able to keep up with their own work and the socage required by their manor lords. The sun shone scorchingly hot, and the baked ground cracked beneath its burning rays. People panted with heat, the flowers wilted, the birds flew near the ground, the animals sought the shade. From early dawn clouds gathered here and there above the horizon; at first small and gray or white. As the day advanced they grew more numerous, collected in heaps, rose higher, clashed and rifted, leaving long dark fissures. Their color grew darker and darker, till by noon the whole western sky was enveloped in a heavy, black cloud, which was drawing toward the sun, The reapers looked upon the sky with fear. Although they were panting from exhaustion, each redoubled his exertions, not waiting to be urged on by the overseer's imprecations and curses. This was his custom in order that the people might not forget that he was their master and had a right to demand due respect for his authority.

Grandmother sat upon the doorsill; she was watching with great anxiety the clouds, which were already above the house. Adelka and the boys were playing in the yard, but were so warm that they would have gladly taken off their clothes and jumped into the stream, if Grandmother had only given them permission. Adelka, who was always bright and active as a linnet, was gaping; she did not feel like playing; and finally her eyes closed and she was asleep. Grandmother, too, felt her eyelids growing heavy. The swallows flew low, and at last hid in their nests; the spider that Grandmother had watched that morning, as he decoyed and devoured several flies, concealed himself in his den; the poultry in the yard gathered in groups; the dogs lay stretched at Grandmother's feet, and with their tongues drawn out as if they had come from some wild chase, panted for breath. The trees stood perfectly quiet; not a leaf stirred.

Mr. and Mrs. Proshek came home from the castle. "My dear people, a terrible storm is coming on, is everything safe at home?" called Mrs. Proshek from afar. The linen bleaching on the grass, the poultry, the children,—everything was attended to and put out of the way of danger. Grandmother placed a loaf of bread upon the table and got ready the "blessed" storm candle. All the windows were closed. The air was sultry, the sun was covered by a dark cloud. Mr. Proshek stood in the road, looking in all directions. In the woods he saw Victorka standing under a tree; a brisk wind came up, the hollow rumbling of thunder was heard, streaks of lightning shot through the dark clouds. "Heavens, that woman stands under a tree!" said Mr. Proshek to himself and began to call and motion to Victorka to go away. She, however, did not notice him, and at each flash of lightning clapped her hands and laughed aloud. Great drops of rain began to fall, zigzag lightnings gleamed through the black clouds, the thunder roared, and the storm burst forth in all its fury. Mr. Proshek hastened into the house. Grandmother had the blessed candle lighted; she was praying with the children, who turned pale every time the lightning struck. Mr. Proshek went from window to window, looking outside. The rain came down in torrents, and the sky was a continuous sheet of lightning; peal after peal of thunder was heard, as if the furies were flying through the air. A moment of silence,—then again the bluish yellow light gleamed in the windows, two fiery snakes crossed each other in the sky, and—crash! crash! came two explosions in quick succession, directly above the house. Grandmother wanted to say: "God be with us!" but the words died upon her lips; Mrs. Proshek took hold of the table, Mr. Proshek turned pale, Vorsa and Betsey fell upon their knees, and the children began to cry. With that last stroke the storm seemed to have spent its wrath, and now began to pass away. The rumbling of the thunder grew lower and lower, the clouds gradually scattered, they changed color, and already the blue sky was seen behind the gray curtain. Lightnings gleamed only now and then, the rain ceased,—the storm was over.

What a change outside! The earth rested as if she were weary; her limbs still trembled, and the sun looked down at her with a tear-stained, but glowing eye, though now and then clouds were seen over his face, the remaining signs of the recent tempest. The grass and the flowers were beaten to the ground; streams of water were flowing along the sides of the road; in the river the water was muddy; the trees shook off thousands of glittering drops from their bright green foliage; the birds again swept through the air; the geese and ducks were enjoying the pools of water that the rain had made for them; the chickens were running about seeking worms which were seen squirming in great numbers on the ground; the spider came out of his den. All creatures seemed refreshed and hastening out to new enjoyment of life, to new struggles and conquests.

Mr. Proshek went outdoors, walked around the house, and behold! the old pear tree, whose branches for so many years had sheltered the house, was split from top to bottom by the lightning! half of it lay on the roof, the other half was bent to the ground. That old wild pear tree had not borne fruit for many years; still they loved it, for with its wide branches it had shaded the house from spring to winter.

The rain had done some damage in the fields, but the people were thankful that it was no worse; they had all feared that a hail storm was coming up. In the afternoon the roads began to dry, so that the miller could go, as was his custom, to the lock in his slippers. As Grandmother was going to the castle she met him; he told her that the heavy rain had done some damage to his fruit trees. Then he asked her where she was going and offered her a pinch of snuff; when she told him, they bade each other good day, and went their several ways.

Mr. Leopold must have received orders to take Grandmother to the Princess without any announcement; for as soon as she appeared at the entrance, he opened the doors to her without any delay or ceremony and showed her into a small parlor where the Princess was sitting. She was alone and bade Grandmother to he seated beside her.

"Your simpleheartedness and sincerity please me greatly; I place entire confidence in you, and think you will tell me honestly what I ask you?" began the Princess.

"How could I do otherwise, your Grace? only ask, I shall be too glad to reply," said Grandmother, wondering what it could be that the Princess wanted to know.

"You said yesterday that when the Countess reaches her native land and sees what is dear to her heart, her cheeks will regain their color. You placed such emphasis upon those words that my curiosity was aroused. Was I mistaken, or did you do it intentionally?" Thus speaking, the Princess looked keenly upon her visitor.

Grandmother was not confused. She considered a moment, then said candidly: "I said it intentionally; what was in my mind came to my tongue. I wanted to give your Grace a hint; sometimes a word spoken in season is profitable."

"Did the Countess confide in you?" questioned the Princess further.

"Heaven forbid! Her Grace is not one of those that parade their grief before the whole world; but when we have suffered ourselves, we are quick to understand others."

"What did you understand? What did you hear? Tell me all about it; it is not curiosity, but anxiety for my child, whom I dearly love, that impels me to want to know all", said the Princess much disturbed.

"I can tell you all I heard, for it is nothing wrong, and I did not promise on my soul not to tell," replied Grandmother, and began to relate how she had heard of the betrothal and illness of the Countess. "One thought suggests another," she said; "and it often happens that one can judge better of a thing when seeing it from a distance than when observing it close at hand; reflection, too, brings wisdom. Thus, your Grace, it occurred to me that, perhaps, the Countess did not like to marry that nobleman, and only consented because she knew it would please your Grace. Yesterday, as I observed her so pale and wan, I could have wept; we were looking at those beautiful pictures that she painted,—it is wonderful,—and then we came to a picture, which, as she told me, her teacher painted and gave her. I asked her if that handsome gentleman was the painter himself,—an old person, like a child, wants to know everything. She blushed, arose, made no reply, but her eyes filled with tears. That was enough for me, and your Grace can tell best, whether the old woman was right."

The Princess arose, paced the floor several times, and then said as if speaking to herself: "I observed nothing; she was always cheerful and submissive. She never spoke of him."

"Well," replied Grandmother to these audible thoughts, "natures differ. One would not be happy if he could not set up every joy, every sorrow for the wonder of the world; another carries them hidden in his bosom all his life, and takes them with him to the grave. It is hard to win such people, but love begets love. People seem to me like plants; for some we need not go far,—we find them in every meadow, in every hedge; for others we must go into the forest's deep shade, we must search for them under the leaves, must not be discouraged if we climb over hills and rocks, or if brambles and thorns obstruct our way. But our labors, in this case, are rewarded a hundred fold. The old herb woman that comes to us from the mountains always says when she brings us fragrant moss: 'I must search long before I find it, but it pays.' That moss has the odor of violets, and its fragrance reminds one of spring. But pardon me, your Grace, I always wander away from the subject. I was going to say that perhaps the Countess was happy because she had hope; and now, when she has lost that, she realizes her grief. How often is it that we do not value our blessings until we have lost them."

"I thank you, Grandmother, for your suggestion," said the Princess. "I fear I shall not be the gainer by it, but what care I, if she is only happy. She will have you alone to thank, for without you I never should have guessed the truth. I will keep you no longer. The Countess is preparing to paint; so to-morrow come here with the children."

With these words she dismissed Grandmother, who went home happy that with a good word she had contributed to the happiness of another human being.

Approaching the house, she met the gamekeeper; he was excited, his step was quick. "Listen, hear what has happened!" he said to Grandmother in a voice full of sorrow.

"Do not frighten me, but tell me quickly, what is it?"

"Victorka was struck by God's messenger!"

Grandmother clasped her hands. It was some time before she could utter a word, then two great tears rolled down her cheeks. "God loved her, let us be glad that he has called her home!" she said quietly.

"Her death was easy," said the gamekeeper.

Just then the children and Mr. and Mrs. Proshek came out, and hearing the sad news stood mute with grief. At length Mr. Proshek said: "I was greatly concerned about her before the storm, when I saw her standing under the tree. I called, I motioned, but she only laughed. I saw her then for the last time. It is well."

"Who found her, and where?"

"After the storm I went into the woods to see if much damage had been done; I reached the top of the hill where those united fir trees stand, as you know, just above Victorka's cave. I saw something lying under some green fir branches and called, but there was noreply. I looked up to see where the branches came from. Both the firs, on the sides next to each other had their branches and bark torn off from top to bottom. I raised the branches; beneath them lay Victorka—dead. I shook her, but she was already cold. From her shoulder to her foot, on the left side, her clothes were scorched. I suppose she was pleased at the storm,—she always laughed when it lightened,—and ran up on the hill,—there is a fine view from that fir, and there death overtook her."

"As it came to our pear tree," said Grandmother. "And where did you put her?"

"I had her carried to our house; it was the nearest. I am going to take charge of the funeral myself, although her relatives object. I've been to the village to announce it. I did not think we should lose her so soon. I shall miss her," said the gamekeeper.

The tolling of the bell was now heard from Zernov. They signed themselves and began to pray; they knew it was for Victorka.

"May we go to see her?" begged the chidren.

"To-morrow you may come, when she is laid out!" said the gamekeeper, taking his leave.

"Poor Victorka won't come to our house any more; we shall never again hear her singing above the dam; she has gone to heaven!" said the children returning to their tasks without even asking Grandmother about the Countess.

"Certainly she is in heaven, for she suffered enough upon earth," thought Grandmother.

The news of Victorka's death spread quickly over the whole neighborhood; every one who knew her pitied her, and was glad, therefore, that death found her, especially such a death, they said, "as God sends to but few people." They had always pitied her, but now that pity was joined with reverence.

The next day, when Grandmother and the children went to the castle to be sketched and painted, the Princess spoke of Victorka. The Countess, hearing how the unfortunate girl was loved both at The Old Bleachery and the gamekeeper's, promised that she would paint for them copies of the picture that she had shown to Grandmother, in which Victorka was seen standing under a tree.

"She wants to do something for everybody, before she leaves; she would like to take all of you with her," smiled the Princess.

"What is better than to be among those that love us, what greater happiness than to make others happy?" said Grandmother.

The children thought it was a grand thing to have their pictures painted,—no one knew anything about Grandmother's,—they also looked forward with great eagerness to the gifts the Countess promised them, if they would sit very quiet. Grandmother watched how under the skillful hand of the artist the features of her loved ones appeared clearer and clearer, and reproved the children whenever they indulged some foolish habit. "Johnny, do not stand upon one foot, you will be lopsided! You, Barunka, don't wrinkle up your nose like a rabbit, how you would look! Willie, don't raise your shoulders all the time as a goose raises her wings when she loses a quill!" But when Adelka forgot herself so far as to put her index finger into her mouth, then Grandmother scolded: "Are you not ashamed, a maid big enough to cut her own bread![1] Some day I must sprinkle some pepper upon it."

The Countess enjoyed her work very much and had many a hearty laugh at the children's expense. Indeed, she seemed to grow brighter every day, so that Grandmother remarked that she appeared to her not so much like a rose as like the buds of an apple tree just before it blossoms. She was happier, her eye was clearer and sparkled with a new light; she had a pleasant smile for everyone, and spoke only of those things that she knew interested others. Sometimes she fixed her eyes upon Grandmother, tears seemed to gather in them, she cast aside her brush, put her arm around her neck, kissed her wrinkled forehead, and smoothed her white hair. Once she bent down and kissed her hand.

Grandmother had not expected this; she was startled, turned red, and then said: "What is your Grace doing? Such honor does not belong to me!"

"I know what I am doing and for what I have to thank you. You were my good angel!" she said as she knelt at Grandmother's feet.

"Then may God bless you and grant you all the happiness you desire!" said Grandmother, placing her hands upon the forehead of the kneeling girl, a forehead white and clear, like the petals of a lily.

"I shall pray for you and for the Princess, she is a good lady."

The gamekeeper stopped at The Old Bleachery the day after the storm to let them know that they could now come to take a last look at Victorka and to bid her farewell. Mrs. Proshek did not like to look at a corpse, so she remained at home; the miller's wife had the same excuse, but the miller declared that she was afraid lest Victorka's ghost should appear to her in the night. Christina was in the manorial harvest field, so nobody went with Grandmother and the children except Manchinka. On their way they gathered flowers to make a wreath, together with the mignonette which they brought from home. The boys carried consecrated pictures, which Grandmother had brought them from the Svatonovitz shrine; Grandmother had a rosary, and Manchinka, also, some pictures.

"Who would have thought that we were to have a funeral?" said the gamekeeper's wife, meeting them at the door.

"We are all here for a time; we arise in the morning, but know not what the day will bring to us," replied Grandmother. The fawn came and pushed her head against Adelka's lap and the boys and dogs surrounded the new comers.

"Where have you laid her out?" asked Grandmother, entering the hall.

"In the garden house," replied the gamekeeper's wife, taking Nannie by the hand and leading the guests into the garden.

The garden house,—or rather a sort of arbor,—was lined inside with evergreens. In the middle of the room upon a bier of rough birch wood stood a plain coffin; in it lay Victorka. The gamekeeper's wife had dressed her in a white shroud. Her forehead was covered with a wreath of wild pinks, and her head rested upon a pillow of moss. Her hands were folded upon her breast as she was wont to carry them when she was alive. The coffin and the cover were trimmed with evergreens, a lamp burned at her head, and at her feet was a small vase with holy water, in which was a sprinkling brush made of ears of rye. The gamekeeper's wife had done everything, seen to everything herself; many times a day she had been in the little arbor, so that the sight had become familiar to her; but Grandmother stepped to the coffin, made the sign of the cross over the body, knelt down, and began to pray. The children followed her example.

"Now tell me, are you satisfied, have we arranged everything as it should be?" asked the gamekeeper's wife anxiously, when Grandmother arose from prayer. "We did not give her any more flowers or pictures because we knew that you, too, would want to put some little gifts into the grave."

"Everything is well done, very well, indeed," replied Grandmother.

The gamekeeper's wife took the flowers and pictures from the children and placed them around the body of Victorka. Grandmother twined the rosary around her stiff hands, and looked long and lovingly into her face. The wild expression was gone! The black, burning eyes were closed, theirlight had died out. The black, tangled masses of hair were smoothly combed out, and around the forehead, cold as marble, was wound a red wreath, like the band of love. The distortion of features which had made her hideous in wrath was not seen; the muscles of the face were relaxed in calm repose; but upon her lips lay her last thought, as if in her surprise she had died with it,—a bitter smile.

"What was it that grieved thee, thou poor heart? what did they do to thee?" said Grandmother in a low voice. "Alas! no one can atone to thee for thy sufferings. God will judge the guilty one. Thou art in eternal light and peace."

"The blacksmith's wife wanted us to put shavings under her head, but my husband would have moss; I am afraid the people, and especially her relatives, will say that we took charge of her funeral and then disposed of her as if she were a pauper."

"My dear woman, let the people say what they will! After a person is dead, they would wrap him in cloth of gold, but while he lives they do not ask: 'Poor soul, what aileth thee?' Let her keep that green pillow; for fifteen years she has slept on no other." And Grandmother took the rye brush, sprinkled Victorka from head to foot three times, made the sign of the cross over her, bade the children do likewise, and then without a word all left the garden house.

Behind Riesenburg, in a romantic little valley where stands the chapel that the Lord of Turyn built out of gratitude for the recovery of his deaf daughter, is a graveyard; there they buried Victorka. Upon her grave the gamekeeper planted a fir tree. "That is green both summer and winter, and she always loved it," said Grandmother, when they spoke of it.

Victorka's lullaby was heard no more by the dam; the cave was empty, the fir above it cut down;still she was by no means forgotten. For many years her unhappy fate resounded through the neighborhood in a sad song, composed by Bara of Zernov.


The Countess kept Grandmother's picture as had been agreed, bringing her only that of the children. The father and the mother were delighted, but Grandmother's joy knew no bounds. "The Countess knew how to put a soul in those faces," she said, showing the picture to everybody who came into the house; and everybody agreed with her when she declared that they looked as if they could open their lips and speak.

When years had passed and the children had left home, Grandmother often said: "Although it is not the custom among the common people to have their pictures painted, nevertheless it is a good custom. For my part, I remember each face well; but years will pass away, the memory will fade, the image will grow dim, and then what a comfort it will be when I can look at this picture." The last sheaves were taken in from the manorial fields. Since the Princess was anxious to hasten her departure to Italy, the steward ordered that the harvest festival should be held at the end of the wheat harvest.

Christina was the most beautiful maiden in the whole neighborhood, and therefore everybody was pleased that Grandmother selected her to present the harvest wreath to the Princess.

There was a large open place behind the castle covered partly with grass and partly with straw stacks. In the middle of this space, the young men set up a long pole decorated with red handkerchiefs, ribbons, evergreens, wild flowers, and ears of grain. Benches were put around the straw stacks, booths were built of evergreens, and the ground was trampled down to make a dancing floor.

"Grandmother, Grandmother," said Christina, "you have fed me on hope, I lived on your words, sent armfuls of comfort to Jacob; and behold! the harvest festival is here, and still we know not what to expect. Tell me, dearest Grandma, was it only the apples of promise that you showed us, to keep up our hearts until we should become reconciled to our lot?"

"My dear girl, it would have been very unwise to comfort you in that way. I meant what I said. To-morrow put on your best, the Princess will be pleased. If I am alive and well I shall be there, too, and then if you ask me, I will tell you all," replied Grandmother, while her face beamed with a hidden joy.

She knew well what had been done for Milo, and had she not promised the Princess to be silent, she would not have delayed a moment to remove all anxiety from Christina's mind.

The next day all the socagers, together with the young people from the manor, dressed up in their holiday attire, gathered together in one of the fields to celebrate the harvest festival. A wagon was partially loaded with sheaves; the horses, upon one of which was mounted the driver, were trimmed with gay streamers. Christina with several other girls took their places upon the top of the sheaves, while the others, old and young, ranged themselves in couples about the wagon. The reapers carried scythes and sickles, the women sickles and rakes; each one had a harvest bouquet in her corsage, and the young men had their hats trimmed with corn flowers and other field blossoms.

The driver cracked his whip, the horses started, the reapers sang and the procession moved to the castle. As soon as they reached it, the girls dismounted, Christina placed the wreath upon a red kerchief, and the young people, ranging themselves in couples behind her, began to sing, and thus the procession entered the hall. The Princess entered at the same time from the opposite direction. Christina, trembling, blushing, and with downcast eyes, stammered through the recitation, wishing their mistress a successful and abundant harvest and rich crops for the coming year. She then laid the harvest wreath at the feet of the Princess. The reapers waved their hats and shouted long life and health to their mistress. She thanked them and referred them for food and drink to the steward. Then turning to Christina, she said: "To you, my dear girl, I am especially grateful for the beautiful wreath and wish that you have given me; I see that all the rest are in couples, but you are still alone; perhaps I shall please you best if I furnish you with a partner!"

She smiled, opened the parlor door, and there stood Milo,—and dressed in a peasant's garb!

"Holy Virgin! Jacob!" exclaimed Christina, and would have fallen down, overcome with surprise and joy, had not one of the company caught her.

The Princess quietly left the hall. "Come, come," cried Milo, "the Princess doesn't want any thanks," and when they were outside he raised a full purse saying: "The Countess gave me this to distribute among you. Here, comrade, take it and distribute it yourself!" he added giving the purse to Tomesh, who like the rest was staring at Milo, unable to say a single word. When they were out of the castle they raised a wild shout. Milo embraced his loved one fervently and then told the company that all gratitude for his deliverance was due to the Princess.

"And to Grandma," added Christina, "if we did not have her, we should have nothing."

All went to the dance. The officers of the castle, together with their families, mingled among the reapers, and so did Proshek's family, the miller's and the gamekeeper's; but Grandmother was the first. Joy at the meeting of two persons who were so dear to her urged her to go. Christina and Milo could hardly refrain from embracing her.

"Do not thank me; I spoke but a word, the Princess helped me, and God gave his blessing."

"But, Grandmother," said Christina, shaking her finger at her, "You knew yesterday that Jacob had come and that he was hidden at Vaclav's, and you wouldn't say a word."

"Because I was not at liberty to do so. Besides, you should have trusted me when I promised that you should see each other soon. Remember, my child, that all things come round to those who will but wait in patience."

Around the decorated pole the air resounded with music, laughter, and song. The attendants from the castle danced with peasant maidens, and their daughters were not ashamed to step into the circle with peasant youths, both being well pleased with their partners. The spirits of all became so excited by the abundance of beer, the sweet mixed drinks, and the dance, that when the Princess came with the Countess to look at them, and the young people went through a national dance, their joy reached the highest pitch, all restraint ceased, caps flew into the air, and shouts were heard of "Long live our gracious Princess!" and cup after cup was drained to her health. The ladies were much pleased and had a kind word for every one. When Christina came to kiss the hand of the Countess, that young lady congratulated her; she spoke to the miller and the gamekeeper, and then turned with loving familiarity to Grandmother, at which the stewardess and her daughter turned yellow with envy; they could not endure Grandmother,—she brought to naught all their plans. But when the fathers seated at the table, with their heads quite full, began to rail at the secretaries and the steward, and when one of them seized the beaker to pass a drink to the Princess, and was only restrained by Tomesh, that lady suddenly disappeared.

Several days after the harvest festival she started with the Countess, for Italy. Before their departure the young lady delivered into Grandmother's hands a beautiful garnet necklace, a wedding present for Christina.

Grandmother was satisfied; everything had turned out according to her wishes. But one thing was still on her mind, and that was a letter to her daughter, Johanna. Mrs. Proshek would have attended to this, but then it would not have been as Grandmother wanted it. One day she called Barunka into her room, closed the door, and pointing to the table, upon which lay ready a sheet of paper, pen and ink, she said: "Be seated, Barunka, I want you to write a letter to Aunt Johanna." Barunka sat down; Grandmother seated herself beside her so as to overlook the work, and began to dictate:

"Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ!"

"But, Grandma," said Barunka, "We do not begin a letter that way; we must write at the top 'Dear Johanna.'"

"Not so, my little girl; your great-grandfather and your grandfather always wrote in that way, and I never wrote to my children in any other way." Therefore begin:

"Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! A thousand times I greet and kiss you, dear daughter Johanna, and let you know that I am, thank God, in good health. My cough troubles me somewhat, but that is no wonder, for soon I shall count my age by eight crosses. It is a good age, dear daughter, and one must feel thankful to God when one enjoys with it such good health as I have; I hear well and see well, I could still mend my clothes if Barunka did not do it for me. As for my feet, they are still quite spry. I hope that this letter will find you in good health, and Dorothy, too. From your letter I learned that Uncle is ill, but I hope that he will recover soon. He is often ailing, and they say: 'Often unwell doesn't bring the bell.'[2]

"You also write to me that you want to get married, and you ask my consent. My dear daughter, since you have already chosen according to your heart, what can I say but this: May God grant you happiness and bless you both; may you live to the honor and glory of God, and be useful to the world. Why should I object, when George is a worthy man and you love him; it is not I but you that will live with him. I had hoped, indeed, that you would choose a Bohemian,—those of the same nationality are best adapted to each other,—but it was not your fate; I do not blame you. We are all the children of one father, one mother[3] nourishes and sustains us, and therefore we should love each other, though we be not from the same country. Give my greeting to George, and when you have your business established and nothing to hinder you, come and make us a visit. The children already talk of your coming. May God bless you and keep you in good health. I bid you good-bye."

Barunka read the letter through again, then they folded it, sealed it, and Grandmother put it away in the side drawer of her chest till she should go to church, when she herself would take it to the post office.

  1. Among the country folk of Bohemia, bread is baked once in two or three weeks. The loaves are very large, and at the end of two weeks are so hard that it is quite a feat for a child to cut them.
  2. The funeral bell.
  3. A figurative expression for the earth.