My friend, perhaps I may call him my preserver,--for, to a stranger, my situation was fraught with real danger,--continued to press on at the same speedy pace, but in perfect silence, and I was under too much anxiety of mind to disturb him with any questions. At length we arrived at a part of the shore with which I was utterly unacquainted, when I alighted and began to return in the best fashion I could my thanks for the important service which he had just rendered me.
The stranger only replied by an impatient 'pshaw!' and was about to ride off, and leave me to my own resources when I implored him to complete his work of kindness by directing me to Shepherd's Bush, which was, as I informed him, my home for the present.
'To Shepherd's Bush?' he said; 'it is but three miles but if you know not the land better than the sand, you may break your neck before you get there; for it is no road for a moping boy in a dark night; and, besides, there are the brook and the fens to cross.'
I was a little dismayed at this communication of such difficulties as my habits had not called on me to contend with. Once more the idea of thy father's fireside came across me; and I could have been well contented to have swapped the romance of my situation, together with the glorious independence of control which I possessed at the moment, for the comforts of that chimney-corner, though I were obliged to keep my eyes chained to Erskine's LARGER INSTITUTES.
I asked my new friend whether he could not direct me to any house of public entertainment for the night; and supposing it probable he was himself a poor man, I added, with the conscious dignity of a well-filled pocket-book, that I could make it worth any man's while to oblige me. The fisherman making no answer, I turned away from him with as gallant an appearance of indifference as I could command, and began to take, as I thought, the path which he had pointed out to me.
His deep voice immediately sounded after me to recall me. 'Stay, young man, stay--you have mistaken the road already.--I wonder your friends sent out such an inconsiderate youth, without some one wiser than himself to take care of him.'
'Perhaps they might not have done so,' said I, 'if I had any friends who cared about the matter.'
'Well, sir,' he said, 'it is not my custom to open my house to strangers, but your pinch is like to be a smart one; for, besides the risk from bad roads, fords, and broken ground, and the night, which looks both black and gloomy, there is bad company on the road sometimes--at least it has a bad name, and some have come to harm; so that I think I must for once make my rule give way to your necessity, and give you a night's lodging in my cottage.