'If he could kill me with a wish,' thought the swindler, 'I should not live long.'
He resolved that when he should have had his use of Jonas, he would restrain him with an iron curb; in the meantime, that he could not do better than leave him to take his own way, and preserve his own peculiar description of good-humour, after his own uncommon manner. It was no great sacrifice to bear with him; 'for when all is got that can be got,' thought Montague, 'I shall decamp across the water, and have the laugh on my side--and the gains.'
Such were his reflections from hour to hour; his state of mind being one in which the same thoughts constantly present themselves over and over again in wearisome repetition; while Jonas, who appeared to have dismissed reflection altogether, entertained himself as before. They agreed that they would go to Salisbury, and would cross to Mr Pecksniff's in the morning; and at the prospect of deluding that worthy gentleman, the spirits of his amiable son-in-law became more boisterous than ever.
As the night wore on, the thunder died away, but still rolled gloomily and mournfully in the distance. The lightning too, though now comparatively harmless, was yet bright and frequent. The rain was quite as violent as it had ever been.
It was their ill-fortune, at about the time of dawn and in the last stage of their journey, to have a restive pair of horses. These animals had been greatly terrified in their stable by the tempest; and coming out into the dreary interval between night and morning, when the glare of the lightning was yet unsubdued by day, and the various objects in their view were presented in indistinct and exaggerated shapes which they would not have worn by night, they gradually became less and less capable of control; until, taking a sudden fright at something by the roadside, they dashed off wildly down a steep hill, flung the driver from his saddle, drew the carriage to the brink of a ditch, stumbled headlong down, and threw it crashing over.
The travellers had opened the carriage door, and had either jumped or fallen out. Jonas was the first to stagger to his feet. He felt sick and weak, and very giddy, and reeling to a five-barred gate, stood holding by it; looking drowsily about as the whole landscape swam before his eyes. But, by degrees, he grew more conscious, and presently observed that Montague was lying senseless in the road, within a few feet of the horses.
In an instant, as if his own faint body were suddenly animated by a demon, he ran to the horses' heads; and pulling at their bridles with all his force, set them struggling and plunging with such mad violence as brought their hoofs at every effort nearer to the skull of the prostrate man; and must have led in half a minute to his brains being dashed out on the highway.
As he did this, he fought and contended with them like a man possessed, making them wilder by his cries.
'Whoop!' cried Jonas. 'Whoop! again! another! A little more, a little more! Up, ye devils! Hillo!'
As he heard the driver, who had risen and was hurrying up, crying to him to desist, his violence increased.
'Hiilo! Hillo!' cried Jonas.
'For God's sake!' cried the driver. 'The gentleman--in the road-- he'll be killed!'
The same shouts and the same struggles were his only answer. But the man darting in at the peril of his own life, saved Montague's, by dragging him through the mire and water out of the reach of present harm. That done, he ran to Jonas; and with the aid of his knife they very shortly disengaged the horses from the broken chariot, and got them, cut and bleeding, on their legs again. The postillion and Jonas had now leisure to look at each other, which they had not had yet.
'Presence of mind, presence of mind!' cried Jonas, throwing up his hands wildly. 'What would you have done without me?'
'The other gentleman would have done badly without ME,' returned the man, shaking his head. 'You should have moved him first. I gave him up for dead.'
'Presence of mind, you croaker, presence of mind' cried Jonas with a harsh loud laugh.