The Two Destinies HTML version

35. Under The Window
I SET the position of the harbor by my pocket-compass, and then followed the course of
the first street that lay before me.
On either side, as I advanced, the desolate old houses frowned on me. There were no
lights in the windows, no lamps in the streets. For a quarter of an hour at least I
penetrated deeper and deeper into the city, without encountering a living creature on my
way--with only the starlight to guide me. Turning by chance into a street broader than the
rest, I at last saw a moving figure, just visible ahead, under the shadows of the houses. I
quickened my pace, and found myself following a man in the dress of a peasant. Hearing
my footsteps behind him, he turned and looked at me. Discovering that I was a stranger,
he lifted a thick cudgel that he carried with him, shook it threateningly, and called to me
in his own language (as I gathered by his actions) to stand back. A stranger in Eukhuizen
at that time of night was evidently reckoned as a robber in the estimation of this citizen! I
had learned on the voyage, from the captain of the boat, how to ask my way in Dutch, if I
happened to be by myself in a strange town; and I now repeated my lesson, asking my
way to the fishing office of Messrs. Van Brandt. Either my foreign accent made me
unintelligible, or the man's suspicions disinclined him to trust me. Again he shook his
cudgel, and again he signed to me to stand back. It was useless to persist. I crossed to the
opposite side of the way, and soon afterward lost sight of him under the portico of a
Still following the windings of the deserted streets, I reached what I at first supposed to
be the end of the town.
Before me, for half a mile or more (as well as I could guess), rose a tract of meadow-
land, with sheep dotted over it at intervals reposing for the night. I advanced over the
grass, and observed here and there, where the ground rose a little, some moldering
fragments of brickwork. Looking onward as I reached the middle of th e meadow, I
perceived on its further side, towering gaunt and black in the night, a lofty arch or
gateway, without walls at its sides, without a neighboring building of any sort, far or
near. This (as I afterward learned) was one of the ancient gates of the city. The walls,
crumbling to ruin, had been destroyed as useless obstacles that cumbered the ground. On
the waste meadow-land round me had once stood the shops of the richest merchants, the
palaces of the proudest nobles of North Holland. I was actually standing on what had
been formerly the wealthy quarter of Enkhuizen! And what was left of it now? A few
mounds of broken bricks, a pasture-land of sweet-smelling grass, and a little flock of
sheep sleeping.
The mere desolation of the view (apart altogether from its history) struck me with a
feeling of horror. My mind seemed to lose its balance in the dreadful stillness that was
round me. I felt unutterable forebodings of calamities to come. For the first time, I
repented having left England. My thoughts turned regretfully to the woody shores of
Greenwater Broad. If I had only held to my resolution, I might have been at rest now in