Our Hermit

There lived outside the town an old hermit who was a very familiar figure. The old man lived in the woods. He used to be attired in rags and always carried a bag over his back. He was a huge man and wore his hair unshorn. His hair was long, thin and gray and matted with twigs and dirt. He wore a beard that was extremely uncared for.

When he came to town, he used to go from house to house begging for alms. The housewives would give him a loaf of bread or a piece of pasterma, which was a sort of a smoked dried meat cut in thin slices for eating. They would also give him chunks of cheese, and after he had filled his bag, he would wander back to the big square close to our house at one end of the village, where he would begin to preach. After having put down the bag, he would stand there and a crowd would gather around him and then he would begin. Grown-up men, women and children would flock to hear him. They all listened to him attentively and did not sneer at him. He would always start off by telling them that they were sinners and in order to be saved they must repent and do good. He had an amazingly clear voice and well-rounded tones. He was utterly indifferent to the crowd to which he preached. His speeches were of various lengths, some lasted for hours. After finishing these speeches and feeling that he had performed his duty, he would again lift up his bag and go back to the woods. He always made a very formal departure by bowing to the crowd and then quietly wending his way back to his little hut in the center of the woods.

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