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The Tempting of Tavernake

II.1. New Horizons
Towards the sky-line, across the level country, stumbling and crawling over the deep-
hewn dikes, wading sometimes through the mud-oozing swamp, Tavernake, who had left
the small railway terminus on foot, made his way that night steadily seawards, as one
pursued by some relentless and indefatigable enemy. Twilight had fallen like a mantle
around him, fallen over that great flat region of fens and pastureland and bog. Little
patches of mist, harbingers of the coming obscurity, were being drawn now into the
gradual darkness. Lights twinkled out from the far-scattered homesteads. Here and there a
dog barked, some lonely bird seeking shelter called to its mate, but of human beings there
seemed to be no one in sight save the solitary traveler.
Tavernake was in grievous straits. His clothes were caked with mud, his hair tossed with
the wind, his cheeks pale, his eyes set with the despair of that fierce upheaval through
which he had passed. For many hours the torture which had driven him back towards his
birthplace had triumphed over his physical exhaustion. Now came the time, however,
when the latter asserted itself. With a half-stifled moan he collapsed. Sheer fatigue
induced a brief but merciful spell of uneasy slumber. He lay upon his back near one of
the broader dikes, his arms outstretched, his unseeing eyes turned toward the sky. The
darkness deepened and passed away again before the light of the moon. When at last he
sat up, it was a new world upon which he looked, a strange land, moonlit in places, yet
full of shadowy somberness. He gazed wonderingly around--for the moment he had
forgotten. Then memory came, and with memory once more the stab at his heart. He rose
to his feet and went resolutely on his way.
Almost until the dawn he walked, keeping as near as he could to that long monotonous
line of telegraph posts, yet avoiding the road as much as possible. With the rising of the
sun, he crept into a wayside hovel and lay there hidden for hours. Hunger and thirst
seemed like things which had passed him by. It was sleep only which he craved, sleep
and forgetfulness.
Dusk was falling again before he found himself upon his feet, starting out once more
upon this strangely thought-of pilgrimage. This time he kept to the road, plodding along
with tired, dejected footsteps, which had in them still something of that restless haste
which drove him ceaselessly onward as though he were indeed possessed of some
unquiet spirit. He was recovering now, however, a little of his natural common sense. He
remembered that he must have food and drink, and he sought them from the wayside
public-house like an ordinary traveler, conquering without any apparent effort that first
invincible repugnance of his toward the face of any human being. Then on again across
this strange land of windmills and spreading plains, until the darkness forced him to take
shelter once more. That night he slept like a child. With the morning, the fever had
passed from his blood. A great wind blew in his face even as he opened his eyes, touched
to wakefulness by the morning sun, a wind that came booming over the level places, salt
with the touch of the ocean and fragrant with the perfume of many marsh plants. He was
coming toward the sea now, and within a very short distance from where he had spent the
 
 
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