In this sentence, the punctuation is your best guide, drawing attention to the word that. That carries an implication of so that or in order that. It tells you to look for a cause and effect. Both bits of information in the sentence up to the blanks signal the same cause: The traveler had no companion but his staff and he paused to exchange a word with the innkeeper. The effect of having no companion is the need to ward off loneliness, and that is the answer choice.