'I wish we had never started on this journey. This is not,' said Montague, recoiling instinctively, and speaking in a voice that betrayed his agitation; 'this is not a night to travel in.'
'Ecod! you're right there,' returned Jonas, 'and we shouldn't be out in it but for you. If you hadn't kept me waiting all day, we might have been at Salisbury by this time; snug abed and fast asleep. What are we stopping for?'
His companion put his head out of window for a moment, and drawing it in again, observed (as if that were his cause of anxiety), that the boy was drenched to the skin.
'Serve him right,' said Jonas. 'I'm glad of it. What the devil are we stopping for? Are you going to spread him out to dry?'
'I have half a mind to take him inside,' observed the other with some hesitation.
'Oh! thankee!' said Jonas. 'We don't want any damp boys here; especially a young imp like him. Let him be where he is. He ain't afraid of a little thunder and lightning, I dare say; whoever else is. Go on, driver. We had better have HIM inside perhaps,' he muttered with a laugh; 'and the horses!'
'Don't go too fast,' cried Montague to the postillion; 'and take care how you go. You were nearly in the ditch when I called to you.'
This was not true; and Jonas bluntly said so, as they moved forward again. Montague took little or no heed of what he said, but repeated that it was not a night for travelling, and showed himself, both then and afterwards, unusually anxious.
From this time Jonas recovered his former spirits, if such a term may be employed to express the state in which he had left the city. He had his bottle often at his mouth; roared out snatches of songs, without the least regard to time or tune or voice, or anything but loud discordance; and urged his silent friend to be merry with him.
'You're the best company in the world, my good fellow,' said Montague with an effort, 'and in general irresistible; but to-night --do you hear it?'
'Ecod! I hear and see it too,' cried Jonas, shading his eyes, for the moment, from the lightning which was flashing, not in any one direction, but all around them. 'What of that? It don't change you, nor me, nor our affairs. Chorus, chorus,
It may lighten and storm, Till it hunt the red worm From the grass where the gibbet is driven; But it can't hurt the dead, And it won't save the head That is doom'd to be rifled and riven.
That must be a precious old song,' he added with an oath, as he stopped short in a kind of wonder at himself. 'I haven't heard it since I was a boy, and how it comes into my head now, unless the lightning put it there, I don't know. "Can't hurt the dead"! No, no. "And won't save the head"! No, no. No! Ha, ha, ha!'
His mirth was of such a savage and extraordinary character, and was, in an inexplicable way, at once so suited to the night, and yet such a coarse intrusion on its terrors, that his fellow-traveller, always a coward, shrunk from him in positive fear. Instead of Jonas being his tool and instrument, their places seemed to be reversed. But there was reason for this too, Montague thought; since the sense of his debasement might naturally inspire such a man with the wish to assert a noisy independence, and in that licence to forget his real condition. Being quick enough, in reference to such subjects of contemplation, he was not long in taking this argument into account and giving it its full weight. But still, he felt a vague sense of alarm, and was depressed and uneasy.
He was certain he had not been asleep; but his eyes might have deceived him; for, looking at Jonas now in any interval of darkness, he could represent his figure to himself in any attitude his state of mind suggested. On the other hand, he knew full well that Jonas had no reason to love him; and even taking the piece of pantomime which had so impressed his mind to be a real gesture, and not the working of his fancy, the most that could be said of it was, that it was quite in keeping with the rest of his diabolical fun, and had the same impotent expression of truth in it.