A Period Piece.
There are areas of France that have remained almost unaffected by the twentieth century. There are villages in which there are no cars, no televisions, outside toilets and three or four surnames are shared by all the inhabitants. There are plaques on the walls of the houses commemorating villagers who were ‘burned alive’ in seventeen hundred and something for their criminal activities. The people are self-sufficient, independent and often very, very strange.
We bought the Chateau near one of these villages in 1985 when my French wife, Odile, received a large inheritance. The Chateau was run-down and neglected but its foundations were solid, the roof was watertight and we saw its renovation as a challenge. Financially independent, we decided to make this challenge our life; to live there and refurbish the interior and cut the gardens back into shape. Every month or so I fly back to England for a few days to visit friends and family. We have always been very happy here and now have two children who are growing up in the serenity of a private park with two parents who always have time for them.
I have had very little contact with the village. There has never been any reason to go there. I occasionally pass one of the villagers on the road but we only nod to each other and walk on. I was therefore surprised to find one of the village men, with a young girl by his side, waiting outside the main gates one day when I went to check the mail-box.
“Monsieur.” He said, lowering his head and doffing his cap.
“Monsieur.” I replied.
“This is my daughter Catherine.” He said with the guttural accent that is peculiar to the French dialect of this remote area. I nodded to her and she lowered her eyes, shyly, to the ground. He pointed to her and announced.
“She has started her periods.”
He looked at me and waited for a reply. I was dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say so I merely offered my congratulations and then commented upon the weather. He agreed that it was very nice for that time of year but looked at me with and air of consternation.
“She has reached puberty, monsieur.” He exclaimed and, seeing my obvious confusion, he pointed to her crotch area and said,
“Sang. Sang.” (Blood. Blood.)
I indicated that I understood, pointed to my watch, wished him “Salut” and returned to the house.
The following day when I went to the mailbox he was there once again with his daughter in tow. She twitched nervously while he stamped his feet in agitation.
“Is she ugly?” he asked and displayed the girl. “Does it turn your stomach to look at her?”
I did look and saw a very attractive young woman so I thought the question was rhetorical and just smiled.
“Her breasts are not large, I admit that, but she has breasts.” He continued, pulling her sweater at the back so it tightened over her chest.
“Walk.” He said to her and she walked a few yards down the road.
“Enough.” He commanded and she returned to his side. I pointed at my watch, said ‘salut’ and returned to the house.
After dinner that evening, when the children were in bed, I mentioned these two incidents to Odile. She laughed out loud. She has read books about the history of the area and knew exactly what the man’s intentions were. She explained.
“Until a couple hundred years ago the master of the Chateau had the right, and usually exercised it, to deflower the innocent daughters of the local populace, the peasants. He brought his daughter here for your approval.”
I was amazed.
“You mean that I am supposed to have sex with her?” I stuttered.
Odile laughed even louder.
“No. That’s all finished but the traditions of hundreds of years die hard in this part of France and so the custom has become symbolised.”
“Thank goodness for that.” I sighed. “What was I supposed to do?”
“You were supposed to kiss her fully on the mouth, fondle her breasts, just a little, compliment her on her beauty and then order a suckling pig to be killed which you would offer to her father on a silver salver.”
“What?” I demanded.
“That’s what they do around here but I haven’t told you the best bit.”
Odile looked at me with a wicked smile on her lips.
“The father will accept the pig.” She continued. “He will then drain a small goblet of blood from it which you are supposed to drink. Not all of it, just a drop. He takes the pig home to his family and they make a feast and invite the neighbours in.”
“Are we invited?” I wanted to know.
“No way.” She snorted. “During the evening, when they are all good and drunk, there will be a competition to see who can do the best imitation of you and the version that raises the most laughter is the winner. I’d really like to see that.”
“What should I do?” I questioned.
“It’s alright.” Said Odile. “I will fix it. I will go down there tomorrow and explain that because you are English the custom is not valid. I’ll tell him that the English had nothing to do with the sexual abuse of his ancestors.”
I fell asleep that night smiling to myself at the idea of me as official deflowerer and I must admit that the peasant’s daughter was very attractive. I wonder where I can get hold of a suckling pig.
Check out Barry Gee singing 'Tell it to your face' on youtube. Read the lyrics on writebuzz. I hope you like it.
Published on writebuzz®:
> Stories & Scripts