The Century: A Popular Quarterly 1908

He
is a rugged fellow, rather big for a mountaineer,
muscular and alert, and scant of words. His rough, weather-beaten countenance, with two deep, parallel scars across his nose and high cheek-bones, shines with deep-set, wolfish eyes, squinting from under his mushroom-shaped hat, shiny from frequent contact with milk and butter, and commonly surmounted with an eagle’s feather. Over his coarse, wide-sleeved linen shirt, which does not reach his waist, a
big ten-inches-wide belt of three-ply cowhide, ornamented, and weighing over fifteen
pounds, encircles his body like an armor, and shines with four large brass buckles and many brass and silver gewgaws, which jingle at his swaggering gait. A shaggy sheepskin serdak, with
long, yellowish wool, covers his back. On his tight woolen trousers, patched and
darned at the knees, there had once been blue and red embroidery, now mostly rubbed off.

Jedrek was a typical yuhas, and a yuha.s is the nearest type to the now dispersed zboiniks, or Tatra brigands. His great vital power, and his intense passions, insufficiently controlled by reason, often bring him into fights that frequently end fatally, for he always carries a sharp ciupaga, or tomahawk-like ax.

In Poland, which is a typical flat country, with only one chain of mountains rising abruptly at its edge, the difference between the mountaineer and the lowland type is most striking. The corals, or mountaineers,
as little resemble the Polish peasants of the plains as do the lofty mountain regions the wide, level fields of Sarmatia.

The ravine of Sohickowa, which is a favorite rendezvous for lovers, has an eventful history, and there fierce tragedies sometimes break the monotony of cow-bells and melancholy songs. Goral fantasy and superstition readily turn natural happenings into myth and poetry. One late afternoon, while resting under a juniper bush at the edge of the ravine, in the twilight that follows the glow of a red sunset, I saw a goral youth (judging from appearance, a yuhas), followed by a girl of our neighborhood, running stealthily down the ravine, pushing aside the branches of elder bushes, and throwing frightened glances behind.

They had scarcely gone over the edge of the ravine, following one of the many parallel cattle-trails, when a young fellow jumped from behind a spruce, and, facing the yuhas, demanded, “Where to?”

They stood for a while motionless, parley, no dispute ; neither could speak for anger, but they understood each other.


Finally, when the yuhas pulled the lass by the sleeve, and attempted to pass, the other flung himself on his enemy with the fury of a panther. Two ciupagas flashed, but soon were dropped, and they then clung tightly to each other. For a while they struggled for equilibrium, then fell down on the broken slate, and continued
to fight, silently, as they rolled down the slope from bush to bush. Mud covered their garments and filled their hair, and blood began to trickle over their faces.
Some juniper bushes now covered the combatants, and I could hear only heavy breathings and groans. Since they had dropped their weapons in the first moment of the fight, I had not looked for serious consequences ; but now I thought it necessary to interfere. Before I reached them, they released their hold. The yuhas with curses disappeared among the spruce-trees, leaving the other panting on
the stones with a broken rib. With my help the latter got up, and, slipping and stumbling, limped home. Next morning l saw him lying in front of his parents’ house. He never mentioned the cause of his illness, and when old Tereska, who knows the marvelous power of weeds, was called to cure him, she announced, with all certainty, that “Vilkolak” had had him in their arms.

Advertisements