'He's my landlord,' thought John, as he took a candle in his hand, and setting it down in a corner out of the wind's way, opened a casement in the rear of the house, looking towards the stables. 'We haven't met of late years so often as we used to do--changes are taking place in the family--it's desirable that I should stand as well with them, in point of dignity, as possible--the whispering about of this here tale will anger him--it's good to have confidences with a gentleman of his natur', and set one's-self right besides. Halloa there! Hugh--Hugh. Hal-loa!'
When he had repeated this shout a dozen times, and startled every pigeon from its slumbers, a door in one of the ruinous old buildings opened, and a rough voice demanded what was amiss now, that a man couldn't even have his sleep in quiet.
'What! Haven't you sleep enough, growler, that you're not to be knocked up for once?' said John.
'No,' replied the voice, as the speaker yawned and shook himself. 'Not half enough.'
'I don't know how you CAN sleep, with the wind a bellowsing and roaring about you, making the tiles fly like a pack of cards,' said John; 'but no matter for that. Wrap yourself up in something or another, and come here, for you must go as far as the Warren with me. And look sharp about it.'
Hugh, with much low growling and muttering, went back into his lair; and presently reappeared, carrying a lantern and a cudgel, and enveloped from head to foot in an old, frowzy, slouching horse- cloth. Mr Willet received this figure at the back-door, and ushered him into the bar, while he wrapped himself in sundry greatcoats and capes, and so tied and knotted his face in shawls and handkerchiefs, that how he breathed was a mystery.
'You don't take a man out of doors at near midnight in such weather, without putting some heart into him, do you, master?' said Hugh.
'Yes I do, sir,' returned Mr Willet. 'I put the heart (as you call it) into him when he has brought me safe home again, and his standing steady on his legs an't of so much consequence. So hold that light up, if you please, and go on a step or two before, to show the way.'
Hugh obeyed with a very indifferent grace, and a longing glance at the bottles. Old John, laying strict injunctions on his cook to keep the doors locked in his absence, and to open to nobody but himself on pain of dismissal, followed him into the blustering darkness out of doors.
The way was wet and dismal, and the night so black, that if Mr Willet had been his own pilot, he would have walked into a deep horsepond within a few hundred yards of his own house, and would certainly have terminated his career in that ignoble sphere of action. But Hugh, who had a sight as keen as any hawk's, and, apart from that endowment, could have found his way blindfold to any place within a dozen miles, dragged old John along, quite deaf to his remonstrances, and took his own course without the slightest reference to, or notice of, his master. So they made head against the wind as they best could; Hugh crushing the wet grass beneath his heavy tread, and stalking on after his ordinary savage fashion; John Willet following at arm's length, picking his steps, and looking about him, now for bogs and ditches, and now for such stray ghosts as might be wandering abroad, with looks of as much dismay and uneasiness as his immovable face was capable of expressing.
At length they stood upon the broad gravel-walk before the Warren- house. The building was profoundly dark, and none were moving near it save themselves. From one solitary turret-chamber, however, there shone a ray of light; and towards this speck of comfort in the cold, cheerless, silent scene, Mr Willet bade his pilot lead him.
'The old room,' said John, looking timidly upward; 'Mr Reuben's own apartment, God be with us! I wonder his brother likes to sit there, so late at night--on this night too.'
'Why, where else should he sit?' asked Hugh, holding the lantern to his breast, to keep the candle from the wind, while he trimmed it with his fingers.