travelling now with a single pair) plunged and started from the rills of quivering fire that seemed to wind along the ground before them; but there these two men sat, and forward they went as if they were led on by an invisible attraction.
The eye, partaking of the quickness of the flashing light, saw in its every gleam a multitude of objects which it could not see at steady noon in fifty times that period. Bells in steeples, with the rope and wheel that moved them; ragged nests of birds in cornices and nooks; faces full of consternation in the tilted waggons that came tearing past: their frightened teams ringing out a warning which the thunder drowned; harrows and ploughs left out in fields; miles upon miles of hedge-divided country, with the distant fringe of trees as obvious as the scarecrow in the beanfield close at hand; in a trembling, vivid, flickering instant, everything was clear and plain: then came a flush of red into the yellow light; a change to blue; a brightness so intense that there was nothing else but light; and then the deepest and profoundest darkness.
The lightning being very crooked and very dazzling may have presented or assisted a curious optical illusion, which suddenly rose before the startled eyes of Montague in the carriage, and as rapidly disappeared. He thought he saw Jonas with his hand lifted, and the bottle clenched in it like a hammer, making as if he would aim a blow at his head. At the same time he observed (or so believed) an expression in his face: a combination of the unnatural excitement he had shown all day, with a wild hatred and fear: which might have rendered a wolf a less terrible companion.
He uttered an involuntary exclamation, and called to the driver, who brought his horses to a stop with all speed.
It could hardly have been as he supposed, for although he had not taken his eyes off his companion, and had not seen him move, he sat reclining in his corner as before.
`What's the matter?' said Jonas. `Is that your general way of waking out of your sleep?'
`I could swear,' returned the other, `that I have not closed my eyes!'
`When you have sworn it,' said Jonas, composedly, `we had better go on again, if you have only stopped for that.'
He uncorked the bottle with the help of his teeth; and putting it to his lips, took a long draught.
`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.'
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|