"Good afternoon," he greeted me gruffly; "you are the foreigner... the little English lord?"
By then I was used to the curious peasant idea that all English people were lords, and I admitted that that's who I was. He turned and roared at a goat which had reared on to its hind legs and was tearing at a young olive, and then turned back.
"I will tell you something, little lord," he said; "it is dangerous for you to lie here, beneath these trees."
I glanced up at the cypresses, but they seemed safe enough to me, and so I asked why he thought they were dangerous.
"Ah, you may sit under them, yes. They cast a good shadow, cold as well- water; but that's the trouble, they tempt you to sleep. And you must never, for any reason, sleep beneath a cypress."
He paused, stroked his moustache, waited for me to ask why, and then went on: "Why? Why? Because if you did you would be changed when you woke. Yes, the black cypresses, they are dangerous. While you sleep, their roots grow into your brains and steal them, and when you wake up you are mad, head as empty as a whistle."
I asked whether it was only the cypress that could do this, or did it apply to other trees.
"No, only the cypress," said the old man, peering up fiercely at the trees above me as though to see whether they were listening; "only the cypress is the thief of intelligence. So be warned, little lord, and don't sleep here."
Literally Lost: 9
Last week's extract came from 'Racing Pigs and Giant Marrows' by Harry Pearson. The action took place in Malton, Yorkshire. The winner was Ms F Jackson, from Shropshire.Reuse content