Are you attending to me there? I only see your back.'
'I hear you. Go on!'
'I say that notwithstanding what has passed, I will be plain with you.'
'You said that before. And I have told you once I heard you say it. Go on.'
'You are a little chafed, but I can make allowance for that, and am, fortunately, myself in the very best of tempers. Now, let us see how circumstances stand. A day or two ago, I mentioned to you, my dear fellow, that I thought I had discovered--'
'Will you hold your tongue?' said Jonas, looking fiercely round, and glancing at the door.
'Well, well!' said Montague. 'Judicious! Quite correct! My discoveries being published, would be like many other men's discoveries in this honest world; of no further use to me. You see, Chuzzlewit, how ingenuous and frank I am in showing you the weakness of my own position! To return. I make, or think I make, a certain discovery which I take an early opportunity of mentioning in your ear, in that spirit of confidence which I really hoped did prevail between us, and was reciprocated by you. Perhaps there is something in it; perhaps there is nothing. I have my knowledge and opinion on the subject. You have yours. We will not discuss the question. But, my good fellow, you have been weak; what I wish to point out to you is, that you have been weak. I may desire to turn this little incident to my account (indeed, I do--I'll not deny it), but my account does not lie in probing it, or using it against you.'
'What do you call using it against me?' asked Jonas, who had not yet changed his attitude.
'Oh!' said Montague, with a laugh. 'We'll not enter into that.'
'Using it to make a beggar of me. Is that the use you mean?'
'Ecod,' muttered Jonas, bitterly. 'That's the use in which your account DOES lie. You speak the truth there.'
'I wish you to venture (it's a very safe venture) a little more with us, certainly, and to keep quiet,' said Montague. 'You promised me you would; and you must. I say it plainly, Chuzzlewit, you MUST. Reason the matter. If you don't, my secret is worthless to me: and being so, it may as well become the public property as mine; better, for I shall gain some credit, bringing it to light. I want you, besides, to act as a decoy in a case I have already told you of. You don't mind that, I know. You care nothing for the man (you care nothing for any man; you are too sharp; so am I, I hope); and could bear any loss of his with pious fortitude. Ha, ha, ha! You have tried to escape from the first consequence. You cannot escape it, I assure you. I have shown you that to-day. Now, I am not a moral man, you know. I am not the least in the world affected by anything you may have done; by any little indiscretion you may have committed; but I wish to profit by it if I can; and to a man of your intelligence I make that free confession. I am not at all singular in that infirmity. Everybody profits by the indiscretion of his neighbour; and the people in the best repute, the most. Why do you give me this trouble? It must come to a friendly agreement, or an unfriendly crash. It must. If the former, you are very little hurt. If the latter--well! you know best what is likely to happen then.'
Jonas left the window, and walked up close to him. He did not look him in the face; it was not his habit to do that; but he kept his eyes towards him--on his breast, or thereabouts--and was at great pains to speak slowly and distinctly in reply. Just as a man in a state of conscious drunkenness might be.
'Lying is of no use now,' he said. 'I DID think of getting away this morning, and making better terms with you from a distance.'
'To be sure! to be sure!' replied Montague. 'Nothing more natural. I foresaw that, and provided against it. But I am afraid I am interrupting you.'
'How the devil,' pursued Jonas, with a still greater effort, 'you made choice of your messenger, and where you found him, I'll not ask you. I owed him one good turn before to-day.