Having lighted the candle at length and opened his own door, he softly ascended, holding the taper high above his head, and peering cautiously about; curious to see what kind of man had chosen so comfortless a shelter for his lodging.
With his head upon the landing and his great limbs flung over half- a-dozen stairs, as carelessly as though he were a dead man whom drunken bearers had thrown down by chance, there lay Hugh, face uppermost, his long hair drooping like some wild weed upon his wooden pillow, and his huge chest heaving with the sounds which so unwontedly disturbed the place and hour.
He who came upon him so unexpectedly was about to break his rest by thrusting him with his foot, when, glancing at his upturned face, he arrested himself in the very action, and stooping down and shading the candle with his hand, examined his features closely. Close as his first inspection was, it did not suffice, for he passed the light, still carefully shaded as before, across and across his face, and yet observed him with a searching eye.
While he was thus engaged, the sleeper, without any starting or turning round, awoke. There was a kind of fascination in meeting his steady gaze so suddenly, which took from the other the presence of mind to withdraw his eyes, and forced him, as it were, to meet his look. So they remained staring at each other, until Mr Chester at last broke silence, and asked him in a low voice, why he lay sleeping there.
'I thought,' said Hugh, struggling into a sitting posture and gazing at him intently, still, 'that you were a part of my dream. It was a curious one. I hope it may never come true, master.'
'What makes you shiver?'
'The--the cold, I suppose,' he growled, as he shook himself and rose. 'I hardly know where I am yet.'
'Do you know me?' said Mr Chester.
'Ay, I know you,' he answered. 'I was dreaming of you--we're not where I thought we were. That's a comfort.'
He looked round him as he spoke, and in particular looked above his head, as though he half expected to be standing under some object which had had existence in his dream. Then he rubbed his eyes and shook himself again, and followed his conductor into his own rooms.
Mr Chester lighted the candles which stood upon his dressing-table, and wheeling an easy-chair towards the fire, which was yet burning, stirred up a cheerful blaze, sat down before it, and bade his uncouth visitor 'Come here,' and draw his boots off.
'You have been drinking again, my fine fellow,' he said, as Hugh went down on one knee, and did as he was told.
'As I'm alive, master, I've walked the twelve long miles, and waited here I don't know how long, and had no drink between my lips since dinner-time at noon.'
'And can you do nothing better, my pleasant friend, than fall asleep, and shake the very building with your snores?' said Mr Chester. 'Can't you dream in your straw at home, dull dog as you are, that you need come here to do it?--Reach me those slippers, and tread softly.'
Hugh obeyed in silence.
'And harkee, my dear young gentleman,' said Mr Chester, as he put them on, 'the next time you dream, don't let it be of me, but of some dog or horse with whom you are better acquainted. Fill the glass once--you'll find it and the bottle in the same place--and empty it to keep yourself awake.'
Hugh obeyed again even more zealously--and having done so, presented himself before his patron.
'Now,' said Mr Chester, 'what do you want with me?'
'There was news to-day,' returned Hugh. 'Your son was at our house--came down on horseback. He tried to see the young woman, but couldn't get sight of her. He left some letter or some message which our Joe had charge of, but he and the old one quarrelled about it when your son had gone, and the old one wouldn't let it be delivered. He says (that's the old one does) that none of his people shall interfere and get him into trouble. He's a landlord, he says, and lives on everybody's custom.'
'He's a jewel,' smiled Mr Chester, 'and the better for being a dull one.--Well?'
'Varden's daughter--that's the girl I kissed--'
'--and stole the bracelet from upon the king's highway,' said Mr Chester, composedly.