Translation:The High Mountains/25

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The High Mountains  (1918)  by Zacharias Papantoniou, translated from Greek by Wikisource
The Old Lady Charmaine
The Old Lady Charmaine

While they were going up to the Green Wood they met an old lady who was carrying a load of branches.

This was old Charmaine, the oldest woman in the Small Village. They say she is ninety years old but she herself no longer knows her age. And despite all, she says that she cannot live without working.

She will keep working until God calls her.

—Good morning Ma'am, they called to her.

—Up bright and early, my little children.

—How are you, Ma'am?

—God be praised I'm very well. Now, a little rest....

The poor little woman put down her small load on the ground and sighed; she sighed because of the effort and the years gone by.

She was tired of living, she said. And yet if someone came to take her burden and her life from her, she would leave neither one nor the other.

As long as one is upright, life is always good.

At the old woman's belt hung a little bottle which contained some oil.

—Where are you coming from, Ma'am?

—By her Grace! I have been to the chapel to light a lamp at the Holy Belt.

—Where is that?

—Up here. She's all broken. And do you know since when? I was young like you, and she collapsed. But I go to light the lamp for the Lord twice a week.

“Do you know how long I've been putting oil in this lamp? It's been thirty years now. You see, I've got two olive branches. And the Holy Belt, my boy, always gives fruit for my salads and for the lamp.

“And she makes sure, you see, that this lamp isn't left without oil. Because this chapel is very old; already from the time of my grandfather and of my great-grandfather. And while the lamp is lit, the exorcised is afraid.

—Who is this exorcised?

—Let Fate take him, the bad one! It's the Moor, may he keep far away. He lives at the Moor's rock, that's it there.

—And what's he like? Is he black?

—Black, jet black, a real Moor! I've seen him for myself.

—You say you've seen him?” And everyone came closer so as to hear better.

—Of course I've seen him! Do you know how many years it's been now? I was as young as you, young men. At the time there were still the Turks. And at dusk, you look up, and what do you see? He was sitting on the peak of the rock and he was looking down! That's it.

—Oh my goodness! said Spyros, and where is this rock, Ma'am?

But I go to light the lamp for the Lord…

—It's far from here, on another mountain; under the sun.

—But tell us, Ma'am, added Costakis, is it he who lights fires at night?

—He lights fires and often.

—Did you hear that, Matthias! said Costakis.

—That's it, in this fire the exorcised burns the wedding rings and earrings, and the golden hair of the newly-weds he has caught. Because he goes out and catches the bride and groom during the wedding ceremony. Further up the hill we see the petrified families-in-law. Only we must say God have mercy on us three times: Kyri'eleison! Kyri'eleison! Kyri'eleison!

“Help me to get on my way, my children, night is falling. Ahhhhh!”

They helped her to lift up the load of wood and she went slowly down the slope.