Chapter 41

Mr. Jonas and his friend, arriving at a pleasant understanding, set forth upon an enterprise

THE OFFICE OF THE ANGLO-BENGALEE disinterested loan and life assurance company being near at hand, and Mr. Montague driving Jonas straight there, they had very little way to go. But the journey might have been one of several hours' duration, without provoking a remark from either: for it was clear that Jonas did not men to break the silence which prevailed between them, and that it was not, as yet, his dear friend's cue to tempt them into conversation.

He had thrown aside his cloak, as having now no motive for concealment, and with that garment huddled on his knees, sat as far removed from his companion as the limited space in such a carriage would allow. There was a striking difference in his manner, compared with what it had been within a few minutes, when Tom encountered him so unexpectedly on board the packet, or when the ugly change had fallen on him in Mr. Montague's dressing-room. He had the aspect of a man found out and held at bay; of being baffled, hunted, and beset; but there was now a dawning and increasing purpose in his face, which changed it very much. It was gloomy, distrustful, lowering; pale with anger and defeat; it still was humbled, abject, cowardly and mean, but let the conflict go on as it would, there was one strong purpose wrestling with every emotion of his mind, and casting the whole series down as they arose.

Not prepossessing in appearance at the best of times, it may be readily supposed that he was not so now. He had left deep marks of his front teeth in his nether lip; and those tokens of the agitation he had lately undergone improved his looks as little as the heavy corrugations in his forehead. But he was self- possessed now; unnaturally self-possessed, indeed, as men quite otherwise than brave are known to be in desperate extremities; and when the carnage stopped, he waited for no invitation, but leapt hardily out, and went up-stairs.

The chairman followed him; and closing the board-room door as soon as they had entered, threw himself upon a sofa. Jonas stood before the window, looking down into the street; and leaned against the sash, resting his head upon his arms.

`This is not handsome, Chuzzlewit!' said Montague at length. `Not handsome upon my soul!'

`What would you have me do?' he answered, looking round abruptly; `What do you expect?'

`Confidence, my good fellow. Some confidence!' said Montague in an injured tone.

`Ecod! You show great confidence in me,' retorted Jonas. `Don't you?'

`Do I not?' said his companion, raising his head, and looking at him, but he had turned again. `Do I not? Have I not confided to you the easy schemes I have formed for our advantage; our advantage, mind; not mine alone; and what is my return? Attempted flight!'

`How do you know that? Who said I meant to fly?'

`Who said? Come, come. A foreign boat, my friend, an early hour, a figure wrapped up for disguise! Who said? If you didn't mean to jilt me, why were you there? If you didn't mean to jilt me, why did you come back?'

`I came back,' said Jonas, `to avoid disturbance.'

`You were wise,' rejoined his friend.

Jonas stood quite silent; still looking down into the street, and resting his head upon his arms.

`Now, Chuzzlewit,' said Montague, `notwithstanding what has passed I will be plain with you. Are you attending to me there? I only see your back.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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