I RE-ENTERED the town a hungry man; the dinner I had forgotten recurred
seductively to my recollection; and it was with a quick step and sharp appetite I
ascended the narrow street leading to my lodgings. It was dark when I opened
the front door and walked into the house. I wondered how my fire would be; the
night was cold, and I shuddered at the prospect of a grate full of sparkless
cinders. To my joyful surprise, I found, on entering my sitting-room, a good fire
and a clean hearth. I had hardly noticed this phenomenon, when I became aware
of another subject for wonderment; the chair I usually occupied near the hearth
was already filled; a person sat there with his. arms folded on his chest, and his
legs stretched out on the rug. Short-sighted as I am, doubtful as was the gleam
of the firelight, a moment's examination enabled me to recognize in this person
my acquaintance, Mr. Hunsden. I could not of course be much pleased to see
him, considering the manner in which I had parted from him the night before, and
as I walked to the hearth, stirred the fire, and said coolly, "Good evening," my
demeanour evinced as little cordiality as I felt; yet I wondered in my own mind
what had brought him there; and I wondered, also, what motives had induced
him to interfere so actively between me and Edward; it was to him, it appeared,
that I owed my welcome dismissal; still I could not bring myself to ask him
questions, to show any eagerness of curiosity; if he chose to explain, he might,
but the explanation should be a perfectly voluntary one on his part; I thought he
was entering upon it.
"You owe me a debt of gratitude," were his first words.
"Do I?" said I; "I hope it is not a large one, for I am much too poor to charge
myself with heavy liabilities of any kind."
"Then declare yourself bankrupt at once, for this liability is a ton weight at least.
When I came in I found your fire out, and I had it lit again, and made that sulky
drab of a servant stay and blow at it with the bellows till it had burnt up properly;
now, say 'Thank you!'"
"Not till I have had something to eat; I can thank nobody while I am so famished."
I rang the bell and ordered tea and some cold meat.
"Cold meat!" exclaimed Hunsden, as the servant closed the door, "what a glutton
you are; man! Meat with tea! you'll die of eating too much."
"No, Mr. Hunsden, I shall not." I felt a necessity for contradicting him; I was
irritated with hunger, and irritated at seeing him there, and irritated at the
continued roughness of his manner.
"It is over-eating that makes you so ill-tempered," said he.
"How do you know?" I demanded. "It is like you to give a pragmatical opinion
without being acquainted with any of the circumstances of the case; I have had
What I said was petulant and snappish enough, and Hunsden only replied by
looking in my face and laughing.