Charles Dickens

'We know all about it.'

'WHAT did you say, sir?' cried Miss Pecksniff, sharply.

'Didn't you hear?' retorted Jonas, lounging down upon a chair. 'I am not a-going to say it again. If you like to stay, you may stay. If you like to go, you may go. But if you stay, please to be civil.'

'Beast!' cried Miss Pecksniff, sweeping past him. 'Augustus! He is beneath your notice!' Augustus had been making some faint and sickly demonstration of shaking his fist. 'Come away, child,' screamed Miss Pecksniff, 'I command you!'

The scream was elicited from her by Augustus manifesting an intention to return and grapple with him. But Miss Pecksniff giving the fiery youth a pull, and Mrs Todgers giving him a push they all three tumbled out of the room together, to the music of Miss Pecksniff's shrill remonstrances.

All this time Jonas had seen nothing of Tom and his sister; for they were almost behind the door when he opened it, and he had sat down with his back towards them, and had purposely kept his eyes upon the opposite side of the street during his altercation with Miss Pecksniff, in order that his seeming carelessness might increase the exasperation of that wronged young damsel. His wife now faltered out that Tom had been waiting to see him; and Tom advanced.

The instant he presented himself, Jonas got up from his chair, and swearing a great oath, caught it in his grasp, as if he would have felled Tom to the ground with it. As he most unquestionably would have done, but that his very passion and surprise made him irresolute, and gave Tom, in his calmness, an opportunity of being heard.

'You have no cause to be violent, sir,' said Tom. 'Though what I wish to say relates to your own affairs, I know nothing of them, and desire to know nothing of them.'

Jonas was too enraged to speak. He held the door open; and stamping his foot upon the ground, motioned Tom away.

'As you cannot suppose,' said Tom, 'that I am here with any view of conciliating you or pleasing myself, I am quite indifferent to your reception of me, or your dismissal of me. Hear what I have to say, if you are not a madman! I gave you a letter the other day, when you were about to go abroad.'

'You Thief, you did!' retorted Jonas. 'I'll pay you for the carriage of it one day, and settle an old score besides. I will!'

'Tut, tut,' said Tom, 'you needn't waste words or threats. I wish you to understand--plainly because I would rather keep clear of you and everything that concerns you: not because I have the least apprehension of your doing me any injury: which would be weak indeed--that I am no party to the contents of that letter. That I know nothing of it. That I was not even aware that it was to be delivered to you; and that I had it from--'

'By the Lord!' cried Jonas, fiercely catching up the chair, 'I'll knock your brains out, if you speak another word.'

Tom, nevertheless, persisting in his intention, and opening his lips to speak again, Jonas set upon him like a savage; and in the quickness and ferocity of his attack would have surely done him some grievous injury, defenceless as he was, and embarrassed by having his frightened sister clinging to his arm, if Merry had not run between them, crying to Tom for the love of Heaven to leave the house. The agony of this poor creature, the terror of his sister, the impossibility of making himself audible, and the equal impossibility of bearing up against Mrs Gamp, who threw herself upon him like a feather-bed, and forced him backwards down the stairs by the mere oppression of her dead weight, prevailed. Tom shook the dust of that house off his feet, without having mentioned Nadgett's name.

If the name could have passed his lips; if Jonas, in the insolence of his vile nature, had never roused him to do that old act of manliness, for which (and not for his last offence) he hated him with such malignity; if Jonas could have learned, as then he could and would have learned, through Tom's means, what unsuspected spy there was upon him; he would have been saved from the commission of a Guilty Deed, then drawing on towards its black accomplishment. But the fatality was of his own working; the pit was of his own digging; the gloom that gathered round him was the shadow of his own life.