The Two Destinies
1. Greenwater Broad
LOOK back, my memory, through the dim labyrinth of the past, through the mingling
joys and sorrows of twenty years. Rise again, my boyhood's days, by the winding green
shores of the little lake. Come to me once more, my child-love, in the innocent beauty of
your first ten years of life. Let us live again, my angel, as we lived in our first paradise,
before sin and sorrow lifted their flaming swords and drove us out into the world.
The month was March. The last wild fowl of the season were floating on the waters of the
lake which, in our Suffolk tongue, we called Greenwater Broad.
Wind where it might, the grassy banks and the overhanging trees tinged the lake with the
soft green reflections from which it took its name. In a creek at the south end, the boats
were kept--my own pretty sailing boat having a tiny natural harbor all to itself. In a creek
at the north end stood the great trap (called a "decoy"), used for snaring the wild fowl
which flocked every winter, by thousands and thousands, to Greenwater Broad.
My little Mary and I went out together, hand in hand, to see the last birds of the season
lured into the decoy.
The outer part of the strange bird-trap rose from the waters of the lake in a series of
circular arches, formed of elastic branches bent to the needed shape, and covered with
folds of fine network, making the roof. Little by little diminishing in size, the arches and
their net-work followed the secret windings of the creek inland to its end. Built back
round the arches, on their landward side, ran a wooden paling, high enough to hide a man
kneeling behind it from the view of the birds on the lake. At certain intervals a hole was
broken in the paling just large enough to allow of the passage through it of a dog of the
terrier or the spaniel breed. And there began and ended the simple yet sufficient
mechanism of the decoy.
In those days I was thirteen, and Mary was ten years old. Walking on our way to the lake
we had Mary's father with us for guide and companion. The good man served as bailiff
on my father's estate. He was, besides, a skilled master in the art of decoying ducks. The
dog that helped him (we used no tame ducks as decoys in Suffolk) was a little black
terrier; a skilled master also, in his way; a creature who possessed, in equal proportions,
the enviable advantages of perfect good-humor a nd perfect common sense.
The dog followed the bailiff, and we followed the dog.
Arrived at the paling which surrounded the decoy, the dog sat down to wait until he was
wanted. The bailiff and the children crouched behind the paling, and peeped through the
outermost dog-hole, which commanded a full view of the lake. It was a day without
wind; not a ripple stirred the surface of the water; the soft gray clouds filled all the sky,
and hid the sun from view.