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Chapter 12
"I lay on my straw, but I could not sleep. I thought of the occurrences of the day. What
chiefly struck me was the gentle manners of these people, and I longed to join them, but
dared not. I remembered too well the treatment I had suffered the night before from the
barbarous villagers, and resolved, whatever course of conduct I might hereafter think it
right to pursue, that for the present I would remain quietly in my hovel, watching and
endeavouring to discover the motives which influenced their actions.
"The cottagers arose the next morning before the sun. The young woman arranged the
cottage and prepared the food, and the youth departed after the first meal.
"This day was passed in the same routine as that which preceded it. The young man was
constantly employed out of doors, and the girl in various laborious occupations within.
The old man, whom I soon perceived to be blind, employed his leisure hours on his
instrument or in contemplation. Nothing could exceed the love and respect which the
younger cottagers exhibited towards their venerable companion. They performed towards
him every little office of affection and duty with gentleness, and he rewarded them by his
benevolent smiles.
"They were not entirely happy. The young man and his companion often went apart and
appeared to weep. I saw no cause for their unhappiness, but I was deeply affected by it. If
such lovely creatures were miserable, it was less strange that I, an imperfect and solitary
being, should be wretched. Yet why were these gentle beings unhappy? They possessed a
delightful house (for such it was in my eyes) and every luxury; they had a fire to warm
them when chill and delicious viands when hungry; they were dressed in excellent
clothes; and, still more, they enjoyed one another's company and speech, interchanging
each day looks of affection and kindness. What did their tears imply? Did they really
express pain? I was at first unable to solve these questions, but perpetual attention and
time explained to me many appearances which were at first enigmatic.
"A considerable period elapsed before I discovered one of the causes of the uneasiness of
this amiable family: it was poverty, and they suffered that evil in a very distressing
degree. Their nourishment consisted entirely of the vegetables of their garden and the
milk of one cow, which gave very little during the winter, when its masters could
scarcely procure food to support it. They often, I believe, suffered the pangs of hunger
very poignantly, especially the two younger cottagers, for several times they placed food
before the old man when they reserved none for themselves.
"This trait of kindness moved me sensibly. I had been accustomed, during the night, to
steal a part of their store for my own consumption, but when I found that in doing this I
inflicted pain on the cottagers, I abstained and satisfied myself with berries, nuts, and
roots which I gathered from a neighbouring wood.