For some days he haunted the spot, then became a lodger at the farm-house, and now after making some inquiries he had found that the owner was willing to sell the place for something more than its market value, and he was going up to London about it.
At Waterloo I wished him happiness in his old home found again after so many years, then watched him as he walked briskly away—as commonplace-looking a man as could be seen on that busy crowded platform, in his suit of rough grey tweeds, thick boots, and bowler hat. Yet one whose fortune might be envied by many even among the successful—one who had cherished a secret thought and feeling, which had been to him like the shadow of a rock and like a cool spring in a dry and thirsty land.
And in that host of undistinguished Colonials and others of British race from all regions of the earth, who annually visit these shores on business or for pleasure or some other object, how many there must be who come with some such memory or dream or aspiration in their hearts! A greater number probably than we imagine. For most of them there is doubtless disappointment and disillusion: it is a matter of the heart, a sentiment about which some are not given to speak. He too, my fellow-passenger, would no doubt have held his peace had his dream not met with so perfect a fulfilment. As it was he had to tell his joy to some one, though it were to a stranger.
Chapter Fifteen: Summer Days on the Otter
The most characteristic district of South Devon, the greenest, most luxuriant in its vegetation, and perhaps the hottest in England, is that bit of country between the Exe and the Axe which is watered by the Clyst, the Otter, and the Sid. In any one of a dozen villages found beside these pretty little rivers a man might spend a month, a year, a lifetime, very agreeably, ceasing not to congratulate himself on the good fortune which first led him into such a garden. Yet after a week or two in this luxurious land I began to be dissatisfied with my surroundings. It was June; the weather was exceptionally dry and sultry. Vague thoughts, or “visitings” of mountains and moors and coasts would intrude to make the confinement of deep lanes seem increasingly irksome. Each day I wandered miles in some new direction, never knowing whither the devious path would lead me, never inquiring of any person, nor consulting map or guide, since to do that is to deprive oneself of the pleasure of discovery; always with a secret wish to find some exit as it were—some place beyond the everlasting wall of high hedges and green trees, where there would be a wide horizon and wind blowing unobstructed over leagues of open country to bring me back the sense of lost liberty. I found only fresh woods and pastures new that were like the old; other lanes leading to other farm-houses, each in its familiar pretty setting of orchard and garden; and, finally, other ancient villages, each