have I now spent in this country, each day bringing its joy or its
sorrow, its light or its shade; with each year my interests widened,
my understanding deepened; I knew where I was needed to help.
I am not going to talk of my country's institutions, of its
politics, of names known to the world. Others have done this more
cleverly than I ever could. I want only to speak of its soul, of its
atmosphere, of its peasants and soldiers, of things that made me
love this country, that made my heart beat with its heart.
I have moved amongst the most humble. I have entered their cottages,
asked them questions, taken their new-born in my arms.
I talked their language awkwardly, making many a mistake; but,
although a stranger, nowhere amongst the peasants did I meet with
distrust or suspicion. They were ready to converse with me, ready to
let me enter their cottages, and especially ready to speak of their
woes. It is always of their woes that the poor have to relate, but
these did it with singular dignity, speaking of death and misery
with stoic resignation, counting the graves of their children as
another would count the trees planted round his house.
They are poor, they are ignorant, these peasants. They are neglected
and superstitious, but there is a grand nobility in their race. They
are frugal and sober, their wants are few, their desires limited;
but one great dream each man cherishes in the depth of his heart: he
wishes to be a landowner, to possess the ground that he tills; he
wishes to call it his own. This they one and all told me; it was the
monotonous refrain of all their talk.