'Was he struck, do you think?'
They both turned to look at him. Jonas muttered something to himself, when he saw him sitting up beneath the hedge, looking vacantly around.
'What's the matter?' asked Montague. 'Is anybody hurt?'
'Ecod!' said Jonas, 'it don't seem so. There are no bones broken, after all.'
They raised him, and he tried to walk. He was a good deal shaken, and trembled very much. But with the exception of a few cuts and bruises this was all the damage he had sustained.
'Cuts and bruises, eh?' said Jonas. 'We've all got them. Only cuts and bruises, eh?'
'I wouldn't have given sixpence for the gentleman's head in half-a- dozen seconds more, for all he's only cut and bruised,' observed the post-boy. 'If ever you're in an accident of this sort again, sir; which I hope you won't be; never you pull at the bridle of a horse that's down, when there's a man's head in the way. That can't be done twice without there being a dead man in the case; it would have ended in that, this time, as sure as ever you were born, if I hadn't come up just when I did.'
Jonas replied by advising him with a curse to hold his tongue, and to go somewhere, whither he was not very likely to go of his own accord. But Montague, who had listened eagerly to every word, himself diverted the subject, by exclaiming: 'Where's the boy?'
'Ecod! I forgot that monkey,' said Jonas. 'What's become of him?' A very brief search settled that question. The unfortunate Mr Bailey had been thrown sheer over the hedge or the five-barred gate; and was lying in the neighbouring field, to all appearance dead.
'When I said to-night, that I wished I had never started on this journey,' cried his master, 'I knew it was an ill-fated one. Look at this boy!'
'Is that all?' growled Jonas. 'If you call THAT a sign of it--'
'Why, what should I call a sign of it?' asked Montague, hurriedly. 'What do you mean?'
'I mean,' said Jonas, stooping down over the body, 'that I never heard you were his father, or had any particular reason to care much about him. Halloa. Hold up there!'
But the boy was past holding up, or being held up, or giving any other sign of life than a faint and fitful beating of the heart. After some discussion the driver mounted the horse which had been least injured, and took the lad in his arms as well as he could; while Montague and Jonas, leading the other horse, and carrying a trunk between them, walked by his side towards Salisbury.
'You'd get there in a few minutes, and be able to send assistance to meet us, if you went forward, post-boy,' said Jonas. 'Trot on!'
'No, no,' cried Montague; 'we'll keep together.'
'Why, what a chicken you are! You are not afraid of being robbed; are you?' said Jonas.
'I am not afraid of anything,' replied the other, whose looks and manner were in flat contradiction to his words. 'But we'll keep together.'
'You were mighty anxious about the boy, a minute ago,' said Jonas. 'I suppose you know that he may die in the meantime?'
'Aye, aye. I know. But we'll keep together.'
As it was clear that he was not to be moved from this determination, Jonas made no other rejoinder than such as his face expressed; and they proceeded in company. They had three or four good miles to travel; and the way was not made easier by the state of the road, the burden by which they were embarrassed, or their own stiff and sore condition. After a sufficiently long and painful walk, they arrived at the Inn; and having knocked the people up (it being yet very early in the morning), sent out messengers to see to the carriage and its contents, and roused a surgeon from his bed to tend the chief sufferer. All the service he could render, he rendered promptly and skillfully. But he gave it as his opinion that the boy was labouring under a severe concussion of the brain, and that Mr Bailey's mortal course was run.
If Montague's strong interest in the announcement could have been considered as unselfish in any degree, it might have been a redeeming trait in a character that had no such lineaments to spare. But it was not difficult to see that, for some unexpressed reason best appreciated by himself, he attached a strange value to the company and presence of this mere child.