If you are so careless of men in general, as you said you were just now, you are quite indifferent to what becomes of such a crop-tailed cur as that, and will leave me to settle my account with him in my own manner.'
If he had raised his eyes to his companion's face, he would have seen that Montague was evidently unable to comprehend his meaning. But continuing to stand before him, with his furtive gaze directed as before, and pausing here only to moisten his dry lips with his tongue, the fact was lost upon him. It might have struck a close observer that this fixed and steady glance of Jonas's was a part of the alteration which had taken place in his demeanour. He kept it riveted on one spot, with which his thoughts had manifestly nothing to do; like as a juggler walking on a cord or wire to any dangerous end, holds some object in his sight to steady him, and never wanders from it, lest he trip.
Montague was quick in his rejoinder, though he made it at a venture. There was no difference of opinion between him and his friend on THAT point. Not the least.
'Your great discovery,' Jonas proceeded, with a savage sneer that got the better of him for the moment, 'may be true, and may be false. Whichever it is, I dare say I'm no worse than other men.'
'Not a bit,' said Tigg. 'Not a bit. We're all alike--or nearly so.'
'I want to know this,' Jonas went on to say; 'is it your own? You'll not wonder at my asking the question.'
'My own!' repeated Montague.
'Aye!' returned the other, gruffly. 'Is it known to anybody else? Come! Don't waver about that.'
'No!' said Montague, without the smallest hesitation. 'What would it be worth, do you think, unless I had the keeping of it?'
Now, for the first time, Jonas looked at him. After a pause, he put out his hand, and said, with a laugh:
'Come! make things easy to me, and I'm yours. I don't know that I may not be better off here, after all, than if I had gone away this morning. But here I am, and here I'll stay now. Take your oath!'
He cleared his throat, for he was speaking hoarsely and said in a lighter tone:
'Shall I go to Pecksniff? When? Say when!'
'Immediately!' cried Montague. 'He cannot be enticed too soon.'
'Ecod!' cried Jonas, with a wild laugh. 'There's some fun in catching that old hypocrite. I hate him. Shall I go to-night?'
'Aye! This,' said Montague, ecstatically, 'is like business! We understand each other now! To-night, my good fellow, by all means.'
'Come with me,' cried Jonas. 'We must make a dash; go down in state, and carry documents, for he's a deep file to deal with, and must be drawn on with an artful hand, or he'll not follow. I know him. As I can't take your lodgings or your dinners down, I must take you. Will you come to-night?'
His friend appeared to hesitate; and neither to have anticipated this proposal, nor to relish it very much.
'We can concert our plans upon the road,' said Jonas. 'We must not go direct to him, but cross over from some other place, and turn out of our way to see him. I may not want to introduce you, but I must have you on the spot. I know the man, I tell you.'
'But what if the man knows me?' said Montague, shrugging his shoulders.
'He know!' cried Jonas. 'Don't you run that risk with fifty men a day! Would your father know you? Did I know you? Ecod! You were another figure when I saw you first. Ha, ha, ha! I see the rents and patches now! No false hair then, no black dye! You were another sort of joker in those days, you were! You even spoke different then. You've acted the gentleman so seriously since, that you've taken in yourself. If he should know you, what does it matter? Such a change is a proof of your success. You know that, or you would not have made yourself known to me. Will you come?'
'My good fellow,' said Montague, still hesitating, 'I can trust you alone.'
'Trust me! Ecod, you may trust me now, far enough. I'll try to go away no more--no more!' He stopped, and added in a more sober tone, 'I can't get on without you.