Now, he goes on before, and now behind, and anon he'll be stealing on, on this side, or on that, stopping whenever I stop, and thinking I can't see him, though I have my eye on him sharp enough. Oh! he's a merry fellow. Tell me--is he silly too? I think he is.'
'Why?' asked Gabriel.
'Because be never tires of mocking me, but does it all day long.-- Why don't you come?'
'Upstairs. He wants you. Stay--where's HIS shadow? Come. You're a wise man; tell me that.'
'Beside him, Barnaby; beside him, I suppose,' returned the locksmith.
'No!' he replied, shaking his head. 'Guess again.'
'Gone out a walking, maybe?'
'He has changed shadows with a woman,' the idiot whispered in his ear, and then fell back with a look of triumph. 'Her shadow's always with him, and his with her. That's sport I think, eh?'
'Barnaby,' said the locksmith, with a grave look; 'come hither, lad.'
'I know what you want to say. I know!' he replied, keeping away from him. 'But I'm cunning, I'm silent. I only say so much to you--are you ready?' As he spoke, he caught up the light, and waved it with a wild laugh above his head.
'Softly--gently,' said the locksmith, exerting all his influence to keep him calm and quiet. 'I thought you had been asleep.'
'So I HAVE been asleep,' he rejoined, with widely-opened eyes. 'There have been great faces coming and going--close to my face, and then a mile away--low places to creep through, whether I would or no--high churches to fall down from--strange creatures crowded up together neck and heels, to sit upon the bed--that's sleep, eh?'
'Dreams, Barnaby, dreams,' said the locksmith.
'Dreams!' he echoed softly, drawing closer to him. 'Those are not dreams.'
'What are,' replied the locksmith, 'if they are not?'
'I dreamed,' said Barnaby, passing his arm through Varden's, and peering close into his face as he answered in a whisper, 'I dreamed just now that something--it was in the shape of a man--followed me-- came softly after me--wouldn't let me be--but was always hiding and crouching, like a cat in dark corners, waiting till I should pass; when it crept out and came softly after me.--Did you ever see me run?'
'Many a time, you know.'
'You never saw me run as I did in this dream. Still it came creeping on to worry me. Nearer, nearer, nearer--I ran faster-- leaped--sprung out of bed, and to the window--and there, in the street below--but he is waiting for us. Are you coming?'
'What in the street below, Barnaby?' said Varden, imagining that he traced some connection between this vision and what had actually occurred.
Barnaby looked into his face, muttered incoherently, waved the light above his head again, laughed, and drawing the locksmith's arm more tightly through his own, led him up the stairs in silence.
They entered a homely bedchamber, garnished in a scanty way with chairs, whose spindle-shanks bespoke their age, and other furniture of very little worth; but clean and neatly kept. Reclining in an easy-chair before the fire, pale and weak from waste of blood, was Edward Chester, the young gentleman who had been the first to quit the Maypole on the previous night, and who, extending his hand to the locksmith, welcomed him as his preserver and friend.
'Say no more, sir, say no more,' said Gabriel. 'I hope I would have done at least as much for any man in such a strait, and most of all for you, sir. A certain young lady,' he added, with some hesitation, 'has done us many a kind turn, and we naturally feel--I hope I give you no offence in saying this, sir?'
The young man smiled and shook his head; at the same time moving in his chair as if in pain.
'It's no great matter,' he said, in answer to the locksmith's sympathising look, 'a mere uneasiness arising at least as much from being cooped up here, as from the slight wound I have, or from the loss of blood. Be seated, Mr Varden.'
'If I may make so bold, Mr Edward, as to lean upon your chair,' returned the locksmith, accommodating his action to his speech, and bending over him, 'I'll stand here for the convenience of speaking low.