15 MAY 1915, Page 10


UNLIKE en English village, a Moravian village is an autonomous whole. It has its own Mayor and Council, and its inhabitants form, as regards their occupation, a self- supporting system. The bulk consists of peasants owning their small holdings, but there is equally, on the one side, an artisan class, comprising the trades indispensably associated with the ordinary needs of a self-supporting community, and, on the other, a class of labourers, though they consist mainly of crofters who do not exclusively depend on outside work. Farm labourers in the English sense of the word there are none, because the hired hands, mostly young fellows and girls, who are in service only until they marry, are treated as part and parcel of the household. Additionally to their board and lodging, they receive in money only about £6 a year—girls a little less—to cover the cost of their clothes and boots. The surplus, if any, along with a regular gratuity every Sunday— about fourpence, but on occasion liberally increased, and including also the Bo-called "tail-money," a tip usually given by the butcher or horse-dealer—serves, of course, as pocket- money.

As is seen, there seems to be still a lingering shade of patriarchalism in the relation between master and servant. But it would be a mistake to suppose that the spirit of caste is on that account absent. Even though sitting daily at the same table and unreservedly sharing all the good things going—and considering the flocks of geese, ducks, pigeons, and poultry abounding in most farm households, and the number of pigs killed off in winter time, the table kept is not so very bad—the farm servant knows his or her place, and never dares to cross the invisible barrier separating him or her from the household itself. Nevertheleae, it ia in the nature of things that a longer term of service should partially efface the distinction, though never to such a degree as to allow a misalliance. The idea of a marriage between the two classes would be viewed in the light of a tragedy to be fought against tooth and nail. Love is not considered a sufficient reason for marriage; what comes in the first place is the dowry, which in the case of a servant-girl is conspicuous by its absence. Yet, though rarely entered into because of love, marriages do not seem to be any less happy than in England. In any case, the dowry brought in makes the wife economically the equal of the husband ; for it remains settled on her and is frequently doubled. Quite properly, too, the wife isnot called by her husband's Christian name as well as by his surname. My mother was addressed as Mrs. Catherine Sedlik, even though my father's Christian name was Matthew.

The foremost place in the social scale undoubtedly belongs to the village priest, since squires there are none. The priest is, as a rule, a Roman Catholic clergyman. The long perse- cution of the Czech race has practically succeeded in suppress- ing even the memory of the Hussite Wars. True, the old spirit is beginning to lift its head again, but the revival makes itself at first noticeable only in towns, in the first place in Prague, the centre of Czech culture, styled affectionately " the golden mother." However, the country population is, ton the whole, still loyal to home. The " reverend father." aa

the priest is called, still exercises the most potent influence over the deeply religions temperament of the simple village folk. Unlike the English clergyman, he does not go visiting his flock, but keeps himself aloof from social intercourse, though without the slightest suggestion of a haughty reserve. When meeting his parishioners daring an occasional walk he invariably exchanges very amiable remarks with them, and undoubtedly feels quite embarrassed by their extreme wish- fulness to kiss his Land. Although he is, as a rule, by birth one of them, to be singled out by him for a little chat is looked upon as a great honour ; and this great respect for the "reverend father" survives even the breath of scandal which may occasionally, though rarely, arise out of his private conduct. "After all, he too is human," any the people, feeling on that account nearer to him than before.

Next in the social scale comes the village schoolmaster. Jest as the priest is looked up to in matters connected with the other world, so the schoolmaster counts as an authority in matters connected with this world. Under his suggestion there may be established a reading club, a singing club, a gymnastic club ; waste places are planted with fruittrecs ; the communal wood is properly looked after; his expert knowledge in bee-keeping and gardening comes in useful. The fact that his suggestions are readily acted upon would of itself stimulate him to do his beat for the common good. And let it be understood that he is looked up to only to the extent to which ho proves his greater knowledge. The Slav race, it would seem, respects knowledge for its own sake, for, as regards his economic position, the schoolmaster would easily take a back seat.

As regards the size of individual holdings, it may average about fifty acres, though in every village there will doubtless be a few holdings appreciably deviating from this figure on both sides. The possibly original equality of division cannot continue under the regime of individual ownership. The land surrounding a village is, as a rule, divided into charac- teristically denominated diatriota—brook-side, wood-side, on the hill, on the slope, on the border, &e.—and peasants own fields in each of these districts; fields of varying breadth and divided only by a furrow, whose proper place is carefully marked. In this way every one shares equally the good and bad soil. Seeing that villages are about an honr's walk, more or less, from one another, and a square mile contains six hundred and forty acres, the number of individual holdings may ran into a considerable number. But, then, we must discount a lot of land belonging to large estates, whose administration has, however, no connexion with the village life except in so for as it provides its poorest class with occa- sional employment, in which case the wage is about a shilling a day, along with the additional privilege of gathering fuel in the usually extensive forests belonging to the estate.

Although the life is on the whole rather laborious, it has its compensations. Sunday—and every Church holiday is treated like a Sunday—is a day of social pleasure. Very frequently there is dancing in the village inn, but the chief season for merry-making is the carnival and harvest and vintage festival some time in October. Feasting and dancing occupy on these occasions three successive days. Another festival is that of the village patron saint. A wedding, too, becomes as a rule en occasion for general holiday-making directly the wedding party adjourns to the village inn for dancing. Among the guests there is invariably both the priest, who, however, never stays very late, and the schoolmaster. It must be understood that a Moravian wedding is an affair of two or three days and that the entertainment is lavish. As a matter of fact, even death becomes an occasion for feasting in the bereaved house. hold directly the burial is over—possibly one of the many still surviving customs of the old pagan times. In any case, death is looked upon as a beginning of a higher life, and hence as no real reason for sorrowing. The dead are spoken of as though still living.

As a child, I loved best the long winter evenings, spent in stripping goose-feather from off the quill, and affording a welcome opportunity for mutual visiting between various households. My grandfather was an inexhaustible mine of the most wonderful tales about princesses dwelling in mysterious regions approachable through long dark tunnels guarded by fearful monsters; of treasures found under the guidance of benevolent spirits dwelling in the mountains; of the tricks played upon chance wayfarers by the so-called " hasterman"

the astral man—living in ponds and rivers and wearing a green coat with water dripping from its lapels ; of mighty wizards whose evil power was finally broken down by innocence —all tales making such an appeal to the still unsophisticated human mind, and especially to the mystical Slav mind, because of their allegorical presentation of the contest between our inmost idealism and superficial matter-of-factness. Little wonder that the neighbouring Teutons ceaselessly strive to devour the Czech race, as they had done with the Slav branches upon the Elbe and the Seal : the Slavonic soul is too idealistic, and correspondingly weak, readily resigned to God's Will. In the long run, however, who knows f this kind of weakness may prove to be the very essence of true strength.