But this could not last long, either without or within him.
He came to himself in the woods. How far he had wandered, or whereabout he was, he did not know. The storm had died away, and all that remained was the wind and the rain. The tree-tops swayed wildly in the irregular blasts, and shook new, fitful, distracted, and momentary showers upon him. It was evening, but what hour of the evening he could not tell. He was wet to the skin; but that to a young Scotchman is a matter of little moment.
Although he had no intention of returning home for some time, and meant especially to avoid the dinner-table — for, in the mood he was in, it seemed more than he could endure — he yet felt the weakness to which we are subject as embodied beings, in a common enough form; that, namely, of the necessity of knowing the precise portion of space which at the moment we fill; a conviction of our identity not being sufficient to make us comfortable, without a knowledge of our locality. So, looking all about him, and finding where the wood seemed thinnest, he went in that direction; and soon, by forcing his way through obstacles of all salvage kinds, found himself in the high road, within a quarter of a mile of the country town next to Arnstead, removed from it about three miles. This little town he knew pretty well; and, beginning to feel exhausted, resolved to go to an inn there, dry his clothes, and then walk back in the moonlight; for he felt sure the storm would be quite over in an hour or so. The fatigue he now felt was proof enough in itself, that the inward storm had, for the time, raved itself off; and now — must it be confessed? — he wished very much for something to eat and drink.
He was soon seated by a blazing fire, with a chop and a jug of ale before him.
An evening lecture.
Shall call thee when it walks.
The inn to which Hugh had betaken himself, though not the first in the town, was yet what is called a respectable house, and was possessed of a room of considerable size, in which the farmers of the neighbourhood were accustomed to hold their gatherings. While eating his dinner, Hugh learned from the conversation around him — for he sat in the kitchen for the sake of the fire — that this room was being got ready for a lecture on Bilology, as the landlady called it. Bills in red and blue had been posted all over the town; and before he had finished his dinner, the audience had begun to arrive. Partly from curiosity about a subject of which he knew nothing, and partly because it still rained, and, having got nearly dry, he did not care about a second wetting if he could help it, Hugh resolved to make one of them. So he stood by the fire till he was informed that the lecturer had made his appearance, when he went up-stairs, paid his shilling,