It's too stale. Now just attend to me for a bit, Mr Pitch, or Witch, or Stitch, or whatever your name is.'
'My name is Pinch,' observed Tom. 'Have the goodness to call me by it.'
'What! You mustn't even be called out of your name, mustn't you!' cried Jonas. 'Pauper' prentices are looking up, I think. Ecod, we manage 'em a little better in the city!'
'Never mind what you do in the city,' said Tom. 'What have you got to say to me?'
'Just this, Mister Pinch,' retorted Jonas, thrusting his face so close to Tom's that Tom was obliged to retreat a step. 'I advise you to keep your own counsel, and to avoid title-tattle, and not to cut in where you're not wanted. I've heard something of you, my friend, and your meek ways; and I recommend you to forget 'em till I am married to one of Pecksniff's gals, and not to curry favour among my relations, but to leave the course clear. You know, when curs won't leave the course clear, they're whipped off; so this is kind advice. Do you understand? Eh? Damme, who are you,' cried Jonas, with increased contempt, 'that you should walk home with THEM, unless it was behind 'em, like any other servant out of livery?'
'Come!' cried Tom, 'I see that you had better get off the stile, and let me pursue my way home. Make room for me, if you please.'
'Don't think it!' said Jonas, spreading out his legs. 'Not till I choose. And I don't choose now. What! You're afraid of my making you split upon some of your babbling just now, are you, Sneak?'
'I am not afraid of many things, I hope,' said Tom; 'and certainly not of anything that you will do. I am not a tale-bearer, and I despise all meanness. You quite mistake me. Ah!' cried Tom, indignantly. 'Is this manly from one in your position to one in mine? Please to make room for me to pass. The less I say, the better.'
'The less you say!' retorted Jonas, dangling his legs the more, and taking no heed of this request. 'You say very little, don't you? Ecod, I should like to know what goes on between you and a vagabond member of my family. There's very little in that too, I dare say!'
'I know no vagabond member of your family,' cried Tom, stoutly,
'You do!' said Jonas.
'I don't,' said Tom. 'Your uncle's namesake, if you mean him, is no vagabond. Any comparison between you and him'--Tom snapped his fingers at him, for he was rising fast in wrath--'is immeasurably to your disadvantage.'
'Oh indeed!' sneered Jonas. 'And what do you think of his deary-- his beggarly leavings, eh, Mister Pinch?'
'I don't mean to say another word, or stay here another instant,' replied Tom.
'As I told you before, you're a liar,' said Jonas, coolly. 'You'll stay here till I give you leave to go. Now, keep where you are, will you?'
He flourished his stick over Tom's head; but in a moment it was spinning harmlessly in the air, and Jonas himself lay sprawling in the ditch. In the momentary struggle for the stick, Tom had brought it into violent contact with his opponent's forehead; and the blood welled out profusely from a deep cut on the temple. Tom was first apprised of this by seeing that he pressed his handkerchief to the wounded part, and staggered as he rose, being stunned.
'Are you hurt?' said Tom. 'I am very sorry. Lean on me for a moment. You can do that without forgiving me, if you still bear me malice. But I don't know why; for I never offended you before we met on this spot.'
He made him no answer; not appearing at first to understand him, or even to know that he was hurt, though he several times took his handkerchief from the cut to look vacantly at the blood upon it. After one of these examinations, he looked at Tom, and then there was an expression in his features, which showed that he understood what had taken place, and would remember it.
Nothing more passed between them as they went home. Jonas kept a little in advance, and Tom Pinch sadly followed, thinking of the grief which the knowledge of this quarrel must occasion his excellent benefactor.