Anshelm and Delfig find the food simple but abundant and in excellent flavor, consisting predominantly of old potatoes, turnip greens, young birds eggs, dove, roasted dormice and fresh milk. This being the spring season, and the store of food from the previous autumn having been spent, there are no grains, nor the bread made of it, nor vegetables, nor fruits.
The smallish man, the head of the community, is named Emmanuel; he introduces you to the other men, whose names you’ve forgotten, and to the two women who were present earlier, Frieda and the pretty one, Suzanne. Suzanne is married to Emmanuel, and Frieda to one of the other men. These are the only members of the small hamlet, and you learn that four of the houses seen earlier are unoccupied.
Emmanuel gets quite angry when you mention the blockhouse. “Obvious?” he asks bitterly. “The town knows nothing about it. They’ve been told Jan and his wife were sympathizers who gave comfort to Protestants during the war. They were innkeepers! They gave comfort to whomever knocked on the door!”
Suzanne tries to soothe him but he won’t have it.
“It’s the war that’s done this,” Emmanuel says. “I’m naught but a cotter, and I’ve naught to do but tend the lord’s sheep and find what food I can, but I can say there’s an evil loose on the land. It’s these men taking pay for doing nothing. My father could remember when the men who owned and worked the land would rise in war to defend it—but those days are gone, and but in one generation. Now it’s the soldier, always the soldier, fighters with no master but the paymaster, who defend not the town but the purse of the town. Hired to fight the Protestants and now kept in hire to fight innocent innkeepers and their wives!”
Emmanuel stands up, needing more room to continue to rant.
“And who holds the purse? The merchants, that’s who! None of them landowners, none of them with a stake in this town nor any town, who gather their things with them whenever they wish to steal from us before moving on to steal from someone else. It’s they who dictate to the army, its they who pay the soldiers and feed the soldiers. If you go into the town, and you look in the town hall, do you know what you’ll find? There’s a notice there asking for more soldiers! For what I ask you? For the good of the peace? Not at all! For the good of destroying the peace, that’s what, to make more monsters to hulk out from the town and pillage the gentle folk here! God, I beg you, put an end to it! Deliver us from these money-loving sinners!”
He sits again, quite worn out, while Suzanne wets a cloth in the corner water barrel and wipes his forehead with it.