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a tale




Page 37


The seeds by nature planted
Take a deep root i'th soil, and though for a time
The trenchant share and tearing harrow may
Sweep all appearance of them from the surface,
Yet, with the first warm rains of Spring, they'll shoot,
And with their rankness smother the good grain.
Heaven grant, it mayn't be so with him.


The scene of this tale must now be changed to the little
Inn, which at that period, as at the present, was situated
in the vicinity of Harley College. The site of the
modern establishment is the same with that of the ancient,
but every thing of the latter, that had been built by hands,
has gone to decay and been removed, and only the earth,
beneath and around it, remains the same. The modern
building, a house of two stories, after a lapse of twenty
years, is yet unfinished. On this account, it has retained
the appellation of the `new Inn,' though, like many who
have frequented it, it has grown old ere its maturity. Its
dingy whiteness and its apparent superfluity of windows
(many of them being closed with rough boards) give it
somewhat of a dreary look, especially in a wet day.

The ancient Inn was a house, of which the eaves approached
within about seven feet of the ground, while the
roof, sloping gradually upward, formed an angle at several
times that height. It was a comfortable and pleasant
abode to the weary traveller, both in summer and
winter; for the frost never ventured within the sphere
of its huge hearths; and it was protected from the heat
of the sultry season by three large elms that swept the


Page 38
roof with their long branches and seemed to create a
breeze where there was not one. The device upon the
sign, suspended from one of these trees, was a Hand,
holding a long necked Bottle, and was much more appropriate
than the present unmeaning representation, of a
Black Eagle. But it is necessary to speak rather more
at length of the Landlord, than of the house over which
he presided.

Hugh Crombie was one, for whom most of the wise
men, who considered the course of his early years, had
predicted the gallows as an end, before he should arrive
at middle age. That these prophets of ill had been deceived
was evident from the fact, that the doomed man
had now past the fortieth year, and was in more prosperous
circumstances than most of those who had wagged
their tongues against him. Yet the failure of their forebodings
was more remarkable than their fulfilment would
have been.

He had been distinguished almost from his earliest infancy
by those precocious accomplishments, which, because
they consist in an imitation of the vices and follies
of maturity, render a boy the favorite plaything of men.
He seemed to have received from nature the convivial
talents, which, whether natural or acquired, are a most
dangerous possession; and before his twelfth year he was
the welcome associate of all the idle and dissipated of his
neighborhood, and especially of those who haunted the
tavern of which he had now become the landlord. Under
this course of education Hugh Crombie grew to youth
and manhood; and the lovers of good words could only
say in his favor, that he was a greater enemy to himself
than to any one else, and that, if he should reform, few
would have a better chance of prosperity than he.

The former clause of this modicum of praise (if praise


Page 39
it may be termed) was indisputable; but it may be doubted,
whether, under any circumstances where his success
depended on his own exertions, Hugh would have made his
way well through the world. He was one of those unfortunate
persons, who, instead of being perfect in any single
art or occupation, are superficial in many, and who
are supposed to possess a larger share of talent than other
men, because it consists of numerous scraps instead of
a single mass. He was partially acquainted with most of
the manual arts that gave bread to others; but not one of
them, nor all of them, would give bread to him. By
some fatality, the only two of his multifarious accomplishments,
in which his excellence was generally conceded,
were both calculated to keep him poor rather than to
make him rich. He was a musician and a poet.

There are yet remaining, in that portion of the country,
many ballads and songs—set to their own peculiar tunes
—the authorship of which is attributed to him. In general,
his productions were upon subjects of local and temporary
interest, and would consequently require a bulk
of explanatory notes, to render them interesting or intelligible
to the world at large. A considerable proportion
of the remainder are Anacreontics,—though, in their construction,
Hugh Crombie imitated neither the Teian nor
any other bard. These latter have generally a coarseness
and sensuality, intolerable to minds even of no very
fastidious delicacy. But there are two or three simple
little songs, into which a feeling and a natural pathos
have found their way, that still retain their influence over
the heart. These, after two or three centuries, may perhaps
be precious to the collectors of our early poetry.
At any rate, Hugh Crombie's effusions, tavern haunter
and vagrant though he was, have gained a continuance
of fame (confined, indeed, to a narrow section of the


Page 40
country) which many, who called themselves poets then,
and would have scorned such a brother, have failed to

During the long winter evenings, when the farmers
were idle round their hearths, Hugh was a courted guest;
for none could while away the hours more skilfully than he.
The winter therefore was his season of prosperity; in
which respect he differed from the butterflies and useless
insects, to which he otherwise bore a resemblance. During
the cold months, a very desirable alteration for the better,
appeared in his outward man. His cheeks were plump
and sanguine, his eyes bright and cheerful, and the tip of
his nose glowed with a Bardolphian fire,—a flame, indeed,
which Hugh was so far a vestal as to supply with its necessary
fuel, at all seasons of the year. But as the Spring
advanced, he assumed a lean and sallow look, wilting and
fading in the sunshine, that brought life and joy to every
animal and vegetable except himself. His winter patrons
eyed him with an austere regard, and some even practised
upon him the modern and fashionable courtesy of the
`cut direct.'

Yet, after all, there was good, or something that Nature
intended to be so, in the poor outcast,—some lovely flowers,
the sweeter even for the weeds that choked them.
An instance of this was his affection for an aged father,
whose whole support was the broken reed—his son. Notwithstanding
his own necessities, Hugh contrived to provide
food and raiment for the old man,—how, it would be
difficult to say, and perhaps as well not to inquire. He
also exhibited traits of sensitiveness to neglect and insult,
and of gratitude for favors; both of which feelings a course
of life like his is usually quick to eradicate.

At length the restraint, for such his father had ever
been, upon Hugh Crombie's conduct, was removed by


Page 41
his death; and then the wise men and the old began to
shake their heads; and they who took pleasure in the follies,
vices, and misfortunes of their fellow-creatures, looked
for a speedy gratification. They were disappointed,
however; for Hugh had apparently determined, that,
whatever might be his catastrophe, he would meet it
among strangers, rather than at home. Shortly after his
father's death, he disappeared altogether from the vicinity;
and his name became, in the course of years, an unusual
sound, where once the lack of other topics of interest
had given it a considerable degree of notoriety. Sometimes,
however, when the winter blast was loud round the
lonely farm-house, its inmates remembered him who had
so often chased away the gloom of such an hour, and,
though with little expectation of its fulfilment, expressed a
wish to behold him again.

Yet that wish, formed perhaps because it appeared so
desperate, was finally destined to be gratified. One summer
evening, about two years previous to the period of
this tale, a man of sober and staid deportment, mounted
upon a white horse, arrived at the Hand and Bottle, to
which some civil or military meeting had chanced that
day to draw most of the inhabitants of the vicinity. The
stranger was well, though plainly dressed, and anywhere
but in a retired country town, would have attracted no
particular attention; but here, where a traveller was not
of every day occurrence, he was soon surrounded by a
little crowd, who, when his eye was averted, seized the
opportunity diligently to peruse his person. He was rather
a thick-set man, but with no superfluous flesh; his hair
was of iron-grey; he had a few wrinkles; his face was so
deeply sun burnt, that, excepting a half smothered glow
on the tip of his nose, a dusky yellow was the only apparent
hue. As the people gazed, it was observed that the


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elderly men, and the men of substance, gat themselves
silently to their steeds, and hied homeward with an unusual
degree of haste; till at length the inn was deserted,
except by a few wretched objects to whom it was a constant
resort. These, instead of retreating, drew closer to
the traveller, peeping anxiously into his face, and asking,
ever and anon, a question, in order to discover the tone
of his voice. At length, with one consent, and as if the
recognition had at once burst upon them, they hailed their
old boon companion, Hugh Crombie, and leading him into
the inn, did him the honor to partake of a cup of welcome
at his expense.

But, though Hugh readily acknowledged the not very
reputable acquaintances, who alone acknowledged him,
they speedily discovered that he was an altered man.
He partook with great moderation of the liquor, for which
he was to pay; he declined all their flattering entreaties
for one of his old songs; and, finally, being urged to engage
in a game at all-fours, he calmly observed, almost
in the words of an old clergyman, on a like occasion, that
his principles forbade a profane appeal to the decision
by lot.

On the next sabbath, Hugh Crombie made his appearance
at public worship, in the chapel of Harley College,
and here his outward demeanor was unexceptionably serious
and devout,—a praise, which, on that particular occasion,
could be bestowed on few besides. From these
favorable symptons, the old established prejudices against
him began to waver; and, as he seemed not to need, and
to have no intention to ask, the assistance of any one, he
was soon generally acknowledged by the rich, as well as
by the poor. His account of his past life and of his intentions
for the future was brief, but not unsatisfactory.
He said, that, since his departure, he had been a sea-faring


Page 43
man, and that, having acquired sufficient property to
render him easy in the decline of his days, he had returned
to live and die in the town of his nativity.

There was one person, and the one whom Hugh was
most interested to please, who seemed perfectly satisfied
of the verity of his reformation. This was the landlady
of the inn, whom, at his departure, he had left a gay,
and, even at thirty-five, a rather pretty wife, and whom,
on his return, he found a widow of fifty, fat, yellow, wrinkled,
and a zealous member of the church. She, like others,
had at first cast a cold eye on the wanderer; but it
shortly became evident, to close observers, that a change
was at work in the pious matron's sentiments, respecting
her old acquaintance. She was now careful to give him
his morning dram from her own peculiar bottle,—to fill
his pipe from her private box of Virginia,—and to mix
for him the sleeping cup, in which her late husband had
delighted. Of all these courtesies Hugh Crombie did
partake, with a wise and cautious moderation, that, while
it proved them to be welcome, expressed his fear of trespassing
on her kindness. For the sake of brevity, it shall
suffice to say, that, about six weeks after Hugh's return,
a writing appeared on one of the elm-trees in front of the
tavern, (where, as the place of greatest resort, such notices
were usually displayed) setting forth, that marriage
was intended between Hugh Crombie and the Widow
Sarah Hutchins. And the ceremony, which made Hugh
a landholder, a householder, and a substantial man, in
due time took place.

As a landlord, his general conduct was very praiseworthy.
He was moderate in his charges, and attentive
to his guests; he allowed no gross and evident disorders
in his house, and practised none himself; he was kind
and charitable to such as needed food and lodging, and


Page 44
had not wherewithal to pay,—for with these his experience
had doubtless given him a fellow feeling. He was
also sufficiently attentive to his wife; though it must be
acknowledged that the religious zeal, which had had a
considerable influence in gaining her affections, grew, by
no moderate degrees, less fervent. It was whispered,
too, that the new landlord could, when time, place, and
company were to his mind, upraise a song as merrily, and
drink a glass as jollily as in the days of yore. These
were the weightiest charges that could now be brought
against him; and wise men thought, that, whatever might
have been the evil of his past life, he had returned with
a desire (which years of vice, if they do not sometimes
produce, do not always destroy) of being honest if opportunity
should offer;—and Hugh had certainly a fair one.

On the afternoon previous to the events related in the
last chapter, the personage, whose introduction to the
reader has occupied so large a space, was seated under
one of the elms, in front of his dwelling. The bench
which now sustained him, and on which were carved the
names of many former occupants, was Hugh Crombie's
favorite lounging place, unless when his attentions were
required by his guests. No demand had that day been
made upon the hospitality of the Hand and Bottle, and
the landlord was just then murmuring at the unfrequency
of employment. The slenderness of his profits, indeed,
were no part of his concern; for the Widow Hutchins'
chief income was drawn from her farm, nor was Hugh
ever miserly inclined. But his education and habits had
made him delight in the atmosphere of the Sun, and in
the society of those who frequented it; and of this species
of enjoyment his present situation certainly did not afford
an overplus.

Yet had Hugh Crombie an enviable appearance of indolence


Page 45
and ease, as he sat under the old tree, polluting
the sweet air with his pipe, and taking occasional draughts
from a brown jug, that stood near at hand. The basis of
the potation contained in this vessel, was harsh old cider,
from the Widow's own orchard; but its coldness and acidity
were rendered innocuous by a due proportion of yet
older brandy. The result of this mixture was extremely
felicitous, pleasant to the taste, and producing a tingling
sensation on the coats of the stomach, uncommonly delectable
to so old a toper as Hugh.

The landlord cast his eye, ever and anon, along the
road that led down the valley in the direction of the village;
and at last, when the sun was wearing westward,
he discovered the approach of a horseman. He immediately
replenished his pipe, took a long draught from the
brown jug, summoned the ragged youth who officiated in
most of the subordinate departments of the Inn, and who
was now to act as ostler; and then prepared himself for
confabulation with his guest.

`He comes from the sea-coast,' said Hugh to himself,
as the traveller emerged into open view on the level road.
`He is two days in advance of the post, with its news of
a fortnight old. Pray heaven, he prove communicative!'
Then as the stranger drew nigher, `one would judge that
his dark face had seen as hot a sun as mine. He has
felt the burning breeze of the Indies, East and West, I
warrant him. Ah, I see we shall send away the evening
merrily! Not a penny shall come out of his purse,—that
is, if his tongue runs glibly. Just the man I was praying
for—Now may the devil take me if he is!' interrupted
Hugh, in accents of alarm, and starting from his seat.
He composed his countenance, however, with the power
that long habit and necessity had given him over his emotions,
and again settled himself quietly on the bench.


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The traveller, coming on at a moderate pace, alighted
and gave his horse to the ragged ostler. He then advanced
towards the door near which Hugh was seated,
whose agitation was manifested by no perceptible sign,
except by the shorter and more frequented puffs with
which he plied his pipe. Their eyes did not meet till just
as the stranger was about to enter, when he started apparently
with a surprise and alarm similar to those of Hugh
Crombie. He recovered himself, however, sufficiently to
return the nod of recognition with which he was favored,
and immediately entered the house, the landlord following.

`This way, if you please, Sir,' said Hugh. `You will
find this apartment cool and retired.'

He ushered his guest into a small room, the windows of
which were darkened by the creeping plants that clustered
round them. Entering and closing the door, the two
gazed at each other, a little space, without speaking.
The traveller first broke silence.

`Then this is your living self, Hugh Crombie?' he said.
The landlord extended his hand as a practical reply to the
question. The stranger took it, though with no especial
appearance of cordiality.

`Ay, this seems to be flesh and blood,' he said, in the
tone of one who would willingly have found it otherwise.
`And how happens this, friend Hugh? I little thought
to meet you again in this life. When I last heard from
you, your prayers were said, and you were bound for a
better world.'

`There would have been small danger of your meeting
me there,' observed the landlord, dryly.

`It is an unquestionable truth, Hugh,' replied the traveller.
`For which reason I regret that your voyage was

`Nay, that is a hard word to bestow on your old comrade,'


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said Hugh Crombie. `The world is wide enough
for both of us, and why should you wish me out of it?'

`Wide as it is,' rejoined the stranger, `we have stumbled
against each other,—to the pleasure of neither of us,
if I may judge from your countenance. Methinks I am
not a welcome guest at Hugh Crombie's Inn.'

`Your welcome must depend on the cause of your coming
and the length of your stay,' replied the landlord.

`And what if I come to settle down among these quiet
hills where I was born?' inquired the other. `What if I,
too, am weary of the life we have led,—or afraid, perhaps,
that it will come to too speedy an end? Shall I have
your good word, Hugh, to set me up in an honest way of
life? Or will you make me a partner in your trade, since
you know my qualifications? A pretty pair of publicans
should we be, and the quart pot would have little rest between

`It may be as well to replenish it now,' observed
Hugh, stepping to the door of the room and giving orders
accordingly. `A meeting between old friends should
never be dry. But for the partnership, it is a matter
in which you must excuse me. Heaven knows, I
find it hard enough to be honest, with no tempter but
the devil and my own thoughts; and if I have you also
to contend with, there is little hope of me.'

`Nay, that is true. Your good resolutions were always
like cobwebs, and your evil habits like five inch cables,'
replied the traveller. `I am to understand, then, that
you refuse my offer?'

`Not only that,—but if you have chosen this valley as
your place of rest, Dame Crombie and I must look through
the world for another. But, hush,—here comes the wine.'

The ostler, in the performance of another part of his
duty, now appeared, bearing a measure of the liquor that


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Hugh had ordered. The wine of that period, owing to
the comparative lowness of the duties, was of more moderate
price than in the mother country, and of purer and
better quality than at the present day.

`The stuff is well chosen, Hugh,' observed the guest,
after a draught large enough to authorize an opinion.
`You have most of the requisites for your present station,
and I should be sorry to draw you from it. I trust there
will be no need.'

`Yet you have a purpose in your journey hither,' observed
his comrade.

`Yes,—and you would fain be informed of it,' replied
the traveller. He arose and walked once or twice across
the room; then seeming to have taken his resolution, he
paused and fixed his eye stedfastly on Hugh Crombie.
`I could wish, my old acquaintance,' he said, `that your
lot had been cast any where rather than here. Yet if you
choose it, you may do me a good office, and one that shall
meet with a good reward. Can I trust you?'

`My secrecy, you can,' answered the host, `but nothing
farther. I know the nature of your plans, and
whither they would lead me, too well to engage in them.
To say the truth, since it concerns not me, I have little
desire to hear your secret.'

`And I as little to tell it, I do assure you,' rejoined the
guest. `I have always loved to manage my affairs myself,
and to keep them to myself. It is a good rule, but it must
sometimes be broken. And now, Hugh, how is it that
you have become possessed of this comfortable dwelling
and of these pleasant fields?'

`By my marriage with the Widow Sarah Hutchins,'
replied Hugh Crombie, staring at a question, which seemed
to have little reference to the present topic of conversation.


Page 49

`It is a most excellent method of becoming a man of
substance,' continued the traveller;—`attended with little
trouble, and honest withal.'

`Why, as to the trouble,' said the landlord, `it follows
such a bargain, instead of going before it. And for honesty—I
do not recollect that I have gained a penny more
honestly these twenty years.'

`I can swear to that,' observed his comrade. `Well,
mine host, I entirely approve of your doings; and, moreover,
have resolved to prosper after the same fashion myself.'

`If that be the commodity you seek,' replied Hugh
Crombie, `you will find none here to your mind. We
have widows in plenty, it is true, but most of them have
children and few have houses and lands. But now to be
serious—and there has been something serious in your
eye, all this while—what is your purpose in coming hither?
You are not safe here. Your name has had a wider
spread than mine, and if discovered it will go hard with

`But who would know me, now?' asked the guest.

`Few,—few indeed,' replied the landlord, gazing at the
dark features of his companion, where hardship, peril
and dissipation had each left their traces. `No, you are
not like the slender boy of fifteen, who stood on the hill
by moonlight, to take a last look at his father's cottage.
There were tears in your eyes, then; and as often as I
remember them, I repent that I did not turn you back,
instead of leading you on.'

`Tears, were there? Well, there have been few enough
since,' said his comrade, pressing his eyelids firmly together,
as if even then tempted to give way to the weakness
that he scorned. `And for turning me back, Hugh,


Page 50
it was beyond your power. I had taken my resolution,
and you did but shew me the way to execute it.'

`You have not inquired after those you left behind,'
observed Hugh Crombie.

`No,—no;—nor will I have aught of them,' exclaimed
the traveller, starting from his seat, and pacing rapidly
across the room. `My father, I know, is dead, and I
have forgiven him. My mother—What could I hear of
her, but misery?—I will hear nothing.'

`You must have passed the cottage, as you rode hitherward,'
said Hugh. `How could you forbear to enter?'

`I did not see it,' he replied. `I closed my eyes and
turned away my head.'

`Oh, if I had had a mother—a loving mother,—if there
had been one being in the world, that loved me or cared
for me, I should not have become an utter cast away,'
exclaimed Hugh Crombie.

The landlord's pathos,—like all pathos that flows from
the wine cup,—was sufficiently ridiculous; and his companion,
who had already overcome his own brief feelings
of sorrow and remorse, now laughed aloud.

`Come, come, mine host of the Hand and Bottle,' he
cried, in his usual hard, sarcastic tone; `be a man, as
much as in you lies. You had always a foolish trick of
repentance; but, as I remember, it was commonly of a
morning, before you had swallowed your first dram. And
now, Hugh, fill the quart pot again, and we will to business.'

When the landlord had complied with the wishes of
his guest, the latter resumed in a lower tone than that of
his ordinary conversation.

`There is a young lady, lately become a resident hereabouts.
Perhaps you can guess her name; for you have
a quick apprehension in these matters.'


Page 51

`A young lady?' repeated Hugh Crombie. `And what
is your concern with her? Do you mean Ellen Langton,
daughter of the old Merchant Langton, whom you have
some cause to remember?'

`I do remember him; but he is where he will speedily
be forgotten,' answered the traveller. `And this girl—
I know your eye has been upon her, Hugh. Describe
her to me.'

`Describe her,' exclaimed Hugh, with much animation.
`It is impossible, in prose; but you shall have her very
picture, in a verse of one of my own songs.'

`Nay, mine host, I beseech you to spare me. This is
no time for quavering,' said the guest. `However, I am
proud of your approbation, my old friend,—for this young
lady do I intend to take to wife. What think you of
the plan?'

Hugh Crombie gazed into his companion's face, for the
space of a moment, in silence. There was nothing in its
expression that looked like a jest. It still retained the
same hard, cold look, that, except when Hugh had alluded
to his home and family, it had worn through their
whole conversation.

`On my word, comrade,' he at length replied, `my advice
is, that you give over your application to the quart
pot, and refresh your brain by a short nap. And yet,
your eye is cool and steady. What is the meaning of this?'

`Listen, and you shall know,' said the guest. `The
old man, her father, is in his grave.'—

`Not a bloody grave, I trust,' interrupted the landlord,
starting, and looking fearfully into his comrade's face.

`No, a watery one,' he replied, calmly. `You see,
Hugh, I am a better man than you took me for. The
old man's blood is not on my head, though my wrongs are
on his. Now listen. He had no heir but this only daughter;


Page 52
and to her, and to the man she marries, all his wealth
will belong. She shall marry me. Think you her father
will rest easy in the ocean, Hugh Crombie, when I
am his son-in-law?'

`No, he will rise up to prevent it, if need be,' answered
the landlord. `But the dead need not interpose to
frustrate so wild a scheme.'

`I understand you,' said his comrade. `You are of
opinion that the young lady's consent may not be so soon
won as asked. Fear not for that, mine host. I have a
winning way with me, when opportunity serves; and it
shall serve with Ellen Langton. I will have no rivals in
my wooing.'

`Your intention, if I take it rightly, is to get this poor
girl into your power, and then to force her into a marriage,'
said Hugh Crombie.

`It is; and I think I possess the means of doing it,'
replied his comrade. `But methinks, friend Hugh, my
enterprise has not your good wishes.'

`No; and I pray you to give it over,' said Hugh Crombie,
very earnestly. `The girl is young, lovely, and as
good as she is fair. I cannot aid in her ruin. Nay more
—I must prevent it.'

`Prevent it!' exclaimed the traveller, with a darkening
countenance. `Think twice before you stir in this
matter, I advise you. Ruin, do you say? Does a girl
call it ruin, to be made an honest wedded wife? No, no,
mine host; nor does a widow either,—else have you much
to answer for.'

`I gave the Widow Hutchins fair play, at least; which
is more than poor Ellen is like to get,' observed the landlord.
`My old comrade, will you not give up this scheme?'

`My old comrade, I will not give up this scheme,' returned
the other, composedly. `Why, Hugh, what has


Page 53
come over you, since we last met? Have we not done
twenty worse deeds of a morning, and laughed over them
at night?'

`He is right there,' said Hugh Crombie, in a meditative
tone. `Of a certainty, my conscience has grown
unreasonably tender, within the last two years. This
one small sin, if I were to aid in it, would add but a trifle
to the sum of mine. But then the poor girl.'—

His companion overheard him thus communing with
himself, and having had much former experience of his
infirmity of purpose, doubted not that he should bend
him to his will. In fact, his arguments were so effectual,
that Hugh at length, though reluctantly, promised his
co-operation. It was necessary that their motions
should be speedy; for, on the second day thereafter,
the arrival of the post would bring intelligence of the
shipwreck, by which Mr. Langton had perished.

`And after the deed is done,' said the landlord, `I beseech
you never to cross my path again. There have
been more wicked thoughts in my head, within the last
hour, than for the whole two years that I have been an
honest man.'

`What a saint art thou become, Hugh!' said his comrade.
`But fear not that we shall meet again. When I
leave this valley, it will be to enter it no more.'

`And there is little danger that any other, who has
known me, will chance upon me here,' observed Hugh
Crombie. `Our trade was unfavorable to length of days,
and I suppose most of our old comrades have arrived at
the end of theirs.'

`One, whom you knew well, is nearer to you than you
think,' answered the traveller; `for I did not travel hitherward
entirely alone.'