It was the close of a chilly autumn day; and under a lowering grey sky the landscape of river and marsh and low-lying hills looked forbiddingly forlorn. White mists veiled the wet earth; the road, running between withered hedgerows, was ankle-deep in mud, and the stubbled fields held streaks of water between their ploughed ridges. Occasionally the pale beams of a weakened sun would break through the foggy air: but the fitful light, without warmth or power, only served to accentuate the depression of the scene. The most cheerful of men would have succumbed to the pessimism of the moment. As it was, the solitary creature who trudged along the miry highway accepted his misery with sulky resignation. At intervals he lifted a hopeless face to the darkening clouds: sometimes he peered idly to right and left, and twice he halted, breathing heavily, a monument of wretchedness. But usually, with his hands in the pockets of a thin jacket, and with a bent head, he plodded doggedly onward, bearing submissively a situation which he could not mend. In his gait there was the hint of the pedestrian who aims at no goal. Without eagerness, without resolution, with slack muscles and a blank expression, he toiled like a hag-ridden dreamer through those dreary, weary, eerie, Essex marshes, a derelict of civilisation. Yet his face, when revealed by the wan sunshine, appeared young and handsome and refined, though sadly worn and lean. The skin, bronzed to a clear brown by wind and rain and sunshine, was marred by unexpected wrinkles, less the work of time than of care. His closely-clipped hair and small moustache exhibited the hue of ripe corn; his eyes possessed the fathomless blue of Italian skies; his thin nose, slightly curved, his firm chin and set lips revealed character and determination. Also, he had the frame of a wiry athlete, the spring-gait of a long-distance walker, and the expansive forehead of a student. Such a man should not have been ploughing through the mud of a lonely country road, with but a threadbare suit of blue serge to protect him from the inclement weather. Something was wrong: and none knew that better than the tramp himself. But whatever might be the cause of his misery, he kept it in his heart, being by nature reticent, and by experience, suspicious. At sunset the air became darker, the mists thicker, the scene even more dreary. Still he laboured onward, but now, for the first time, with a hint of resolution in his movements, bracing himself, as it were, for a final spurt, to attain a newly-guessed-at end. On the right he could hear the lapping of the Thames against its weedy banks, on the left a dull dripping of water from leafless boughs, saluted his ears. Sometimes there sounded the cry of a belated bird; again would come the shrill whistling of trains, and not infrequently the hooting of a siren, as steamers passed each other on the blind river. And, between pauses, he could hear his own weary breathing, and the squelching of the water in his well-worn shoes. None of these sounds tended to raise his spirits, which were, at the moment, as low as the tide of the unseen stream.