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Repairing to a noted coffee-house in Covent Garden when he left the
locksmith's, Mr Chester sat long over a late dinner, entertaining
himself exceedingly with the whimsical recollection of his recent
proceedings, and congratulating himself very much on his great
cleverness. Influenced by these thoughts, his face wore an
expression so benign and tranquil, that the waiter in immediate
attendance upon him felt he could almost have died in his defence,
and settled in his own mind (until the receipt of the bill, and a
very small fee for very great trouble disabused it of the idea)
that such an apostolic customer was worth half-a-dozen of the
ordinary run of visitors, at least.
A visit to the gaming-table--not as a heated, anxious venturer, but
one whom it was quite a treat to see staking his two or three
pieces in deference to the follies of society, and smiling with
equal benevolence on winners and losers--made it late before he
reached home. It was his custom to bid his servant go to bed at
his own time unless he had orders to the contrary, and to leave a
candle on the common stair. There was a lamp on the landing by
which he could always light it when he came home late, and having a
key of the door about him he could enter and go to bed at his
He opened the glass of the dull lamp, whose wick, burnt up and
swollen like a drunkard's nose, came flying off in little
carbuncles at the candle's touch, and scattering hot sparks about,
rendered it matter of some difficulty to kindle the lazy taper;
when a noise, as of a man snoring deeply some steps higher up,
caused him to pause and listen. It was the heavy breathing of a
sleeper, close at hand. Some fellow had lain down on the open
staircase, and was slumbering soundly. 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
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
'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
'Varden's daughter--that's the girl I kissed--'
'--and stole the bracelet from upon the king's highway,' said Mr
Chester, composedly. 'Yes; what of her?'
'She wrote a note at our house to the young woman, saying she lost
the letter I brought to you, and you burnt. Our Joe was to carry
it, but the old one kept him at home all next day, on purpose that
he shouldn't. Next morning he gave it to me to take; and here it
'You didn't deliver it then, my good friend?' said Mr Chester,
twirling Dolly's note between his finger and thumb, and feigning to
'I supposed you'd want to have it,' retorted Hugh. 'Burn one, burn
all, I thought.'
'My devil-may-care acquaintance,' said Mr Chester--'really if you
do not draw some nicer distinctions, your career will be cut short
with most surprising suddenness. Don't you know that the letter
you brought to me, was directed to my son who resides in this very
place? And can you descry no difference between his letters and
those addressed to other people?'
'If you don't want it,' said Hugh, disconcerted by this reproof,
for he had expected high praise, 'give it me back, and I'll deliver
it. I don't know how to please you, master.'
'I shall deliver it,' returned his patron, putting it away after a
moment's consideration, 'myself. Does the young lady walk out, on
'Mostly--about noon is her usual time.'
'In the grounds before the house.--Them that the footpath crosses.'
'If the weather should be fine, I may throw myself in her way to-
morrow, perhaps,' said Mr Chester, as coolly as if she were one of
his ordinary acquaintance. 'Mr Hugh, if I should ride up to the
Maypole door, you will do me the favour only to have seen me once.
You must suppress your gratitude, and endeavour to forget my
forbearance in the matter of the bracelet. It is natural it should
break out, and it does you honour; but when other folks are by, you
must, for your own sake and safety, be as like your usual self as
though you owed me no obligation whatever, and had never stood
within these walls. You comprehend me?'
Hugh understood him perfectly. After a pause he muttered that he
hoped his patron would involve him in no trouble about this last
letter; for he had kept it back solely with the view of pleasing
him. He was continuing in this strain, when Mr Chester with a
most beneficent and patronising air cut him short by saying:
'My good fellow, you have my promise, my word, my sealed bond (for
a verbal pledge with me is quite as good), that I will always
protect you so long as you deserve it. Now, do set your mind at
rest. Keep it at ease, I beg of you. When a man puts himself in
my power so thoroughly as you have done, I really feel as though he
had a kind of claim upon me. I am more disposed to mercy and
forbearance under such circumstances than I can tell you, Hugh. Do
look upon me as your protector, and rest assured, I entreat you,
that on the subject of that indiscretion, you may preserve, as long
as you and I are friends, the lightest heart that ever beat within
a human breast. Fill that glass once more to cheer you on your
road homewards--I am really quite ashamed to think how far you have
to go--and then God bless you for the night.'
'They think,' said Hugh, when he had tossed the liquor down, 'that
I am sleeping soundly in the stable. Ha ha ha! The stable door is
shut, but the steed's gone, master.'
'You are a most convivial fellow,' returned his friend, 'and I love
your humour of all things. Good night! Take the greatest
possible care of yourself, for my sake!'
It was remarkable that during the whole interview, each had
endeavoured to catch stolen glances of the other's face, and had
never looked full at it. They interchanged one brief and hasty
glance as Hugh went out, averted their eyes directly, and so
separated. Hugh closed the double doors behind him, carefully and
without noise; and Mr Chester remained in his easy-chair, with his
gaze intently fixed upon the fire.
'Well!' he said, after meditating for a long time--and said with a
deep sigh and an uneasy shifting of his attitude, as though he
dismissed some other subject from his thoughts, and returned to
that which had held possession of them all the day--the plot
thickens; I have thrown the shell; it will explode, I think, in
eight-and-forty hours, and should scatter these good folks
amazingly. We shall see!'
He went to bed and fell asleep, but had not slept long when he
started up and thought that Hugh was at the outer door, calling in
a strange voice, very different from his own, to be admitted. The
delusion was so strong upon him, and was so full of that vague
terror of the night in which such visions have their being, that he
rose, and taking his sheathed sword in his hand, opened the door,
and looked out upon the staircase, and towards the spot where Hugh
had lain asleep; and even spoke to him by name. But all was dark
and quiet, and creeping back to bed again, he fell, after an hour's
uneasy watching, into a second sleep, and woke no more till