from the Ship Hotel towards the church, traversing the
Imlac and the Princess agreed to accompany him, and after the necessary preparations, they began their journey. Their way lay through the fields, where shepherds tended their flocks and the lambs were playing upon the pasture. "This," said the poet, "is the life which has been often celebrated for its innocence and quiet; let us pass the heat of the day among the shepherds' tents, and know whether all our searches are not to terminate in pastoral simplicity."
The proposal pleased them; and they induced the shepherds, by small presents and familiar questions, to tell the opinion of their own state. They were so rude and ignorant, so little able to compare the good with the evil of the occupation, and so indistinct in their narratives and descriptions, that very little could be learned from them. But it was evident that their hearts were cankered with discontent; that they considered themselves as condemned to labour for the luxury of the rich, and looked up with stupid malevolence towards those that were placed above them.
The Princess pronounced with vehemence that she would never suffer these envious savages to be her companions, and that she should not soon be desirous of seeing any more specimens of rustic happiness; but could not believe that all the accounts of primeval pleasures were fabulous, and was in doubt whether life had anything that could be justly preferred to the placid gratification of fields and woods. She hoped that the time would come when, with a few virtuous and elegant companions, she should gather flowers planted by her own hands, fondle the lambs of her own ewe, and listen without care, among brooks and breezes, to one of her maidens reading in the shade.
CHAPTER XX - THE DANGER OF PROSPERITY.
ON the next day they continued their journey till the heat compelled them to look round for shelter. At a small distance they saw a thick wood, which they no sooner entered than they perceived that they were approaching the habitations of men. The shrubs were diligently cut away to open walks where the shades ware darkest; the boughs of opposite trees were artificially interwoven; seats of flowery turf were raised in vacant spaces; and a rivulet that wantoned along the side of a winding path had its banks sometimes opened into small basins, and its stream sometimes obstructed by little mounds of stone heaped together to increase its murmurs.
They passed slowly through the wood, delighted with such unexpected accommodations, and entertained each other with conjecturing what or who he could be that in those rude and unfrequented regions had leisure and art for such harmless luxury.
As they advanced they heard the sound of music, and saw youths and virgins dancing in the grove; and going still farther beheld a stately palace built upon a hill surrounded by woods. The laws of Eastern hospitality allowed them to enter, and the master welcomed them like a man liberal and wealthy.
He was skilful enough in appearances soon to discern that they were no common guests, and spread his table with magnificence. The eloquence of Imlac caught his attention, and the lofty courtesy of the Princess excited his respect. When they offered to depart, he entreated their stay, and was the next day more unwilling to dismiss them than before. They were easily persuaded to stop, and civility grew up in time to freedom and confidence.