The Two Destinies
32. A Last Look At Greenwater Broad
MY spirits rose as I walked through the bright empty streets, and breathed the fresh
Taking my way eastward through the great city, I stopped at the first office that I passed,
and secured my place by the early coach to Ipswich. Thence I traveled with post-horses to
the market-town which was nearest to Greenwater Broad. A walk of a few miles in the
cool evening brought me, through well-remembered by-roads, to our old house. By the
last rays of the setting sun I looked at the familiar row of windows in front, and saw that
the shutters were all closed. Not a living creature was visible anywhere. Not even a dog
barked as I rang the great bell at the door. The place was deserted; the house was shut up.
After a long delay, I heard heavy footsteps in the hall. An old man opened the door.
Changed as he was, I remembered him as one of our tenants in the by-gone time. To his
astonishment, I greeted him by his name. On his side, he tried hard to recognize me, and
tried in vain. No doubt I was the more sadly changed of the two: I was obliged to
introduce myself. The poor fellow's withered face brightened slowly and timidly, as if he
were half incapable, half afraid, of indulging in the unaccustomed luxury of a smile. In
his confusion he bid me welcome home ag ain, as if the house had been mine.
Taking me into the little back-room which he inhabited, the old man gave me all he had
to offer--a supper of bacon and eggs and a glass of home-brewed beer. He was evidently
puzzled to understand me when I informed him that the only object of my visit was to
look once more at the familiar scenes round my old home. But he willingly placed his
services at my disposal; and he engaged to do his best, if I wished it, to make me up a bed
for the night.
The house had been closed and the establishment of servants had been dismissed for
more than a year past. A passion for horse-racing, developed late in life, had ruined the
rich retired tradesman who had purchased the estate at the time of our family troubles. He
had gone abroad with his wife to live on the little income that had been saved from the
wreck of his fortune; and he had left the house and lands in such a state of neglect that no
new purchaser had thus far been found to take them. My old friend, "now past his work,"
had been put in charge of the place. As for Dermody's cottage, it was empty, like the
house. I was at perfect liberty to look over it if I liked. There was the key of the door on
the bunch with the others; and here was the old man, with his old hat on his head, ready
to accompany me wherever I pleased to go. I declined to trouble him to accompany me or
to make up a bed in the lonely house. The night was fine, the moon was rising. I had
supped; I had rested. When I had seen what I wanted to see, I could easily walk back to
the market-town and sleep at the inn. Taking the key in my hand, I set forth alone on the
way through the grounds which led to Dermody's cottage.