Skin creams and salves

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Praying for a cure

Hmmmm... an interesting story from an old children's magazine. The moral of this particular story seems to be to be very specific in your prayers.

And to take your iodine!

From  "Golden Hours, A Magazine for Boys and Girls", 1878

LISA rose early, with her mind fully made up. She slipped on her skirt, took her apron and bodice in her hand, and patted down a rocky path which led from Mere Gillott's hut to a spring. Kneeling down by the hand-wide stream which trickled from the spring, she bathed her face, arms, and bosom, and said her prayers, looking toward the east. She wiped her smooth, fresh skin with her apron, and smoothing back her hair, gave it a twist under a kerchief. Then she put on her apron and bodice, and her toilet was made.

Lisa did not know much about the world. She thought all earth was a mountain, with bits of huts dotted here and there, and the universal holidays only such as were kept in her native canton. There was nobody to teach Lisa. She lived in a little hut with Mere Gillott, who was a bent, half-alive old lace-weaver, more ignorant if possible than Lisa herself.

It was a Church holiday, and Lisa had permission from her mistress to spend it in the usual way, in games with the boys and girls, and in company with the whole population, who left work and devoted that day to prayers and feasting and sociability.

After making her toilet she looked very sweet and pretty, though she had neither shoes nor hat. Her wooden shoes must be kept for the cold Winter; her sun-tanned feet must go bare in Summer. Some of the girls who would gather at the festival would wear shoes—real shoes!—but Lisa was not envying them or even thinking of them. She went into the hut. Mere Gillott slept still; her feet moved softly over the earthen floor; she got a thick slice of black bread, a round ball of Swiss cheese and a cup, then she went to the door and called the goat. The goat came near, and Lisa milked some of the thin milk into her cup, and sitting on a stone, ate her breakfast.

The sun was now rising. The air grew lighter, and warm with splendors. Long slants marked distant peaks; the mist rolled cloud over cloud down into hollows. By the time Lisa's breakfast was eaten the sun sprung above the horizon. She now took the garden sickle, and went to the sweet marjoram bed. She cut her apron just as full as she could carry it of sweet marjoram. It was heavy with dew, and Lisa dipped her face into it with delight.

She was now ready to start. But not to the merry-makings which would be kept around the church. She was going up the mountain, on what many would call a superstitious errand. As she came out of the garden, and turned toward the hut to hang up her sickle, the goat clattered up and thrust her nose into Lisa's apron, nibbling the pretty green and white herb.

"Begone, Nanine.'' said Lisa; "this is not for such as thee."

She pulled out a handful for the goat, and hung her sickle on the nail. Then she look the winding and devious path which led up the mountain.

Mere Gillott's hut stood close by the Avail which surrounded an old chalet. Here lived the minister, whose family were all dead, and his housekeeper, a woman so old that nobody in the region pretended to guess at her age. Nevertheless she was still brisk and sharp-eyed. The girls were always glad to sit in groups and hear Mere Grisa talk. Her experiences were marvelous, and they gathered up the very crumbs of her superstition and treasured them.

A few days before the festival Mere Grisa condescended to chat with Mere Gillott. The minister's housekeeper wore a high black cap; the old Gillott had nothing but a black kerchief to her head. Lisa watched them nodding and chattering toothlessly, and wondered how it would seem when she, too, was old. How would she like to have her plump cheeks curve in instead of out? to go bent over, leaning on a stick or crutch? to see her hands and arms shrivel, and all things grow dimmer than they were at present? She did not like the thought. She loved being young and buoyant and strong. She loved to feel her limbs full of spring, and to see such long distances. On the other hand, however, one can not have experiences without growing old, and how all respect the dignified aged!

"It is true," said the somewhat childish old Mere Grisa to Mere Gillott, "I have seen it happen thus again and again. If any one has a heart's desire which he wishes to accomplish, let him try it. Why, there was the mountaineer, Hochuly. His girl wandered from him. Not one in the canton could tell where she was. He roamed aimlessly up the mountains. Not a chamois could tempt him. Then some one—it may have been my great-grandson, Ernst—told him what Mere Grisa knew of the shrine. 'Take an offering there,'said Ernst, 'and you will get your heart's desire.' Hochuly roamed about till, being near the shrine one day, and the words ringing in his ears, he hunts edelweiss and lays it on the shrine. Then, as a Christian man should, he said his prayers, and when he got up from his knees there stood his child Marie, and they flew into each other's arms."

"Yes, yes," said Mere Gillott, "I have heard the tale."

"Where is the shrine, good Mere Grisa?" hastily put in the listening girl.

The old dame peered up at her from under bushy eyebrows.

"And what hast thou to do with a shrine?"

"Why, if folks get their heart's desire by laying such offerings as they can get upon it, I have a heart's desire, and I will go there—yes, and take my ear-rings, if they would do."

"Prut!" ejaculated Mere Grisa. "What are they, little trumpery ear-rings. Art an idol-worshiper, to lay metals and such earth upon a sacred shrine? Take something green and flourishing—something the good God has fashioned, and not a trinket made by man, such as papists deck their waxen figures with. I fear thou ait too rattlebrained to be sound in the faith."

Lisa colored, and her eyes filled.
"I did not know what to take," said she. "My ear-rings are all I have, except my bodice and kerchief and apron and skirt. I would give any thing for my heart's desire."

"Wouldst, eh? Well, what is thy heart's desire, silly thing? A new apron and bodice, and a lover to fill thy head with flattery."

Lisa's face flamed indignantly. "O Mere Grisa! why do you judge me so cruelly? I do not look at any of the young men, and they do not look at me."
"Pooh! it's natural; it's natural", chuckled the old woman.

"And my bodice and apron are quite strong yet," continued Lisa.

"Then what is left for such a chicken as thou art to desire?"

Lisa hung down her head.

"Come, I'll not tell thee where the shrine is unless thou tell what's the heart's desire."

"Mere Grisa, I have a sister—Claire."

"With thy old grandmother, who lives beyond the pass?"

"Yes, Mere Grisa. She is—" Lisa hesitated.

"So I have heard," said the old woman, nodding her head. "Well, and what of that? If she is a cretin it can not be helped."

A tear like an angel's finger traced a bar down Lisa's face. Mere Grisa dimly saw that glistening track; she had a kind old heart.

"Well, child, I was only telling the Mere Gillott that if a believing person goes to the calvary at the light hand side of the Two Brothers' Pass, and takes some little offering in the hand, the heart's desire shall be appeased. It is only a saying in this region. We who are old never expect impossibilities."

"But I know the Two Brothers' Pass," cried Lisa, eagerly, "and I know the shrine. I was once up the mountain as high as that. It is a very old wooden cross fastened in a pile of stones. The figure was blown off it long since, they say."

In consequence of this gossip with Mere Grisa, therefore, the girl set out, as I told you, on this holiday morning, and her destination was not the motherly old church, but the high cross, standing lone on its heap of stones by Two Brothers' Pass.

Lisa clambered cautiously. Her bare feet were hardy, but some of the goat paths were quite steep and full of jagged points. When she had ascended some distance she felt more exhilarated than ever. Some of the people were already gathering to the fete below. Usually Lisa was ready for play and merry-making too. She was too full of her errand, however, to think an instant of play now. She believed that her heart's desire would be given her as soon as she reached the shrine and put down her bundle of sweet marjoram.

"Not on account of the sweet marjoram, though," murmured Lisa. "I did not know any better thing to take. I will ask very distinctly that Claire may be cured, that she may never be a simple cretin any more. What other real heart's desire could I have? I would willingly wear this apron and bodice till I die if Claire could be like other girls. Oh, to see her look up clear and bright at me, instead of dull-eyed, and that horrible pouch hanging from her throat down upon her breast! If Claire were not a cretin, if the goitre were gone, how happy we might be! All our lives we could take such comfort with each other. I wish I had known about this making offerings at the shrine long ago. Why, I would carry sweet herbs up the mountain every day, after my work is done, as long as I live, if Claire could be cured!"

In the simplicity of her heart Lisa continued, as she toiled up and up:
"As soon as I lay the bundle of herb down, I wonder if Claire will stand there cured
as the old mere tells of Hochuly's Marie. Marie appeared to him that moment. How rejoiced I should be! What pleasure it is to look forward to happiness! Shall I take her to the fete? How astonished all would be to see poor Claire standing erect, no goitre upon her poor neck!"

The devious path wove back and forth like a slim shuttle across the dark loom of the mountain. The sun did not grow hot. In that high latitude Lisa would not have been too warm had not exercise opened all her pores. She climbed until past noon, and then sat down for a few moments to rest.

It was a long way to the entrance of Two Brothers' Pass. She never had approached it by this route before, and began to wonder if she were going right. It was much easier to think of making the ascent than to make it.

Lisa had some bread and cheese in her pocket, and she nibbled at it. Then gathering her marjoram closer, she climbed on. Perhaps the lines of her face drooped a little. She grew very tired; but her faith in her errand was great—strong enough to move the mountain itself.

It was late in the afternoon, when the lone wooden cross started out of a cliff side upon her sight. How drear upon its heap of stones! Lisa toiled up to it. Her fair holiday was two-thirds gone. Here was the goal of her efforts. The last quarter league was longer than any other part of her journey. She approached the foot of the pile of stones. It seemed that the story of the region had had other believers.

 Some bunches of dried flowers lay on the stones. A pin-scratched bit of writing was on one of the round stones. Lisa stooped and looked at it, but she could not read, and therefore did not know that it said in blasphemous French:
"Whoever is superstitious fool enough to come here as I did, will go away a convicted fool, but less superstitious."

Lisa looked up at the cross. It must be very lonely in the dark nights. It half-terrified her. She spread down her sweet marjoram on the stones. Then she knelt by it, and told her heart's desire fervently. The mountain echoes handled her little voice very softly. She got up and looked around, really expecting to see Claire, goitreless and lovely, standing close at hand. No one was near her. Her heart turned sick. She got down on her knees again, and waited with a patient waiting. Time moved over the mountain in silence.

"Lisa," called a voice, very tenderly. Lisa turned her head and saw the spiritual, beautiful face of Kaspar, the young mountaineer, who lived nearest her grandmother's hut. He was standing leaning on his alpenstock, his eyes full of sympathetic knowledge of what she was doing. She rose up again, and exclaimed, eagerly:

"Where is Claire?"

"She is cured," said Kaspar, approaching. "I was coming by the Two Brothers' Pass to fetch you to your grandmother's."

"But why didn't Claire come too?" cried Lisa. "When did it happeri? How does she look?"
"I have not seen her since she was changed,"said Kaspar; "but I should think she looked beautiful and happy. You were saying your prayers at the old cross for her, were you?"

"Yes: I was praying that the goitre might leave her, that she might get well and stay so always."

"Well, come with me," said Kaspar; "the change has been made, but you must get accustomed to it."

In time Lisa stood by the bed and looked at her Claire; and the tears trickled down her young, sweet face, but her heart could not break as it might have broken once if she had seen Claire lying before her dead.

The goitre and the idiocy were truly cast off by her sister; even Claire's dead face looked fairer than it ever did in life, and somebody had covered the hideous swelling of her neck. The old grandmother was bustling about the hut; she wiped a tear or two, but Lisa was her favorite, and she did not love the idiot girl as Lisa did.

"She's gone," said the grandmother.

"Cured," breathed Lisa.

"Yes, cured," said Kaspar, putting a hand on her shoulder, "only better cured than you thought to ask for her to be."

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