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Nell and grandfather yearn for the open country. The city is dreary and dirty. It squashes their hopes and makes them feel as if there is no escape. Fire watcher told Nell it would take two days and two nights to leave city.
Nell explains to her grandfather that they will be going slowly, for her feet are sore and her limbs ache. The grandfather wants to try another route, but Nell explains that she knows what lies beyond this road. They will find places where they can live in peace and do no harm. The grandfather is wavering, but finally agrees to follow.
Their spirits dampen as they travel through the city with its repetition of ugly, dirty architecture. There is no vegetation. At night, it is more frightening. The fireplaces in the buildings make them look demonic. The inhabitants seem wild. There is a lot of grief, for many people are unemployed. There is a plague claiming many lives, and many children are starving to death.
Nell prays for a friend for her grandfather, suspecting that she is very ill or dying. She feels very weak and tired. She dreams about Harry, the little scholar.
The next morning, Nell is even weaker. She doesn’t want to eat. When her grandfather complains of hunger, she goes to a house to beg for food. A man tells her that he has been unemployed for three months, and all of his children have died from want. He has no charity to spare. At another house, a man is returning a woman’s son back to her. He tells her he was merciful in the boy’s theft charge because he was deaf and dumb. Another mother asks for her son back. He tells her that her child was in full possession of all his faculties. The woman says that was why he was more easily led astray. He was molded by his environment and is just as disabled as the deaf boy. The man in black tells her she is desperate, and he is sorry for her. She says she is desperate, and begs for her son to be returned so he can work for his family. Nell realizes this is not a place to ask for alms.
Nell and her grandfather agree to keep traveling, hoping to leave city. Nell doesn’t betray how sick she is. She doesn’t stop to rest, wanting to make up for her tardy pace. No one along the way offers them any charity.
She sees a man reading a book and runs up to him. When he turns, she shrieks and faints.
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In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
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