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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 mean 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 carriage stopped, he waited for no invitation,
but leapt hardily out, and went upstairs.
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
'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
'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
'I hear you. Go on!'
'I say that notwithstanding what has passed, I will be plain with you.'
'You said that before. And I have told you once I heard you say it. Go
'You are a little chafed, but I can make allowance for that, and am,
fortunately, myself in the very best of tempers. Now, let us see how
circumstances stand. A day or two ago, I mentioned to you, my dear
fellow, that I thought I had discovered--'
'Will you hold your tongue?' said Jonas, looking fiercely round, and
glancing at the door.
'Well, well!' said Montague. 'Judicious! Quite correct! My discoveries
being published, would be like many other men's discoveries in this
honest world; of no further use to me. You see, Chuzzlewit, how
ingenuous and frank I am in showing you the weakness of my own position!
To return. I make, or think I make, a certain discovery which I take
an early opportunity of mentioning in your ear, in that spirit of
confidence which I really hoped did prevail between us, and was
reciprocated by you. Perhaps there is something in it; perhaps there is
nothing. I have my knowledge and opinion on the subject. You have yours.
We will not discuss the question. But, my good fellow, you have been
weak; what I wish to point out to you is, that you have been weak. I may
desire to turn this little incident to my account (indeed, I do--I'll
not deny it), but my account does not lie in probing it, or using it
'What do you call using it against me?' asked Jonas, who had not yet
changed his attitude.
'Oh!' said Montague, with a laugh. 'We'll not enter into that.'
'Using it to make a beggar of me. Is that the use you mean?'
'Ecod,' muttered Jonas, bitterly. 'That's the use in which your account
DOES lie. You speak the truth there.'
'I wish you to venture (it's a very safe venture) a little more with
us, certainly, and to keep quiet,' said Montague. 'You promised me you
would; and you must. I say it plainly, Chuzzlewit, you MUST. Reason the
matter. If you don't, my secret is worthless to me: and being so, it
may as well become the public property as mine; better, for I shall
gain some credit, bringing it to light. I want you, besides, to act as a
decoy in a case I have already told you of. You don't mind that, I know.
You care nothing for the man (you care nothing for any man; you are
too sharp; so am I, I hope); and could bear any loss of his with
pious fortitude. Ha, ha, ha! You have tried to escape from the first
consequence. You cannot escape it, I assure you. I have shown you that
to-day. Now, I am not a moral man, you know. I am not the least in the
world affected by anything you may have done; by any little indiscretion
you may have committed; but I wish to profit by it if I can; and to a
man of your intelligence I make that free confession. I am not at all
singular in that infirmity. Everybody profits by the indiscretion of his
neighbour; and the people in the best repute, the most. Why do you give
me this trouble? It must come to a friendly agreement, or an unfriendly
crash. It must. If the former, you are very little hurt. If the
latter--well! you know best what is likely to happen then.'
Jonas left the window, and walked up close to him. He did not look
him in the face; it was not his habit to do that; but he kept his eyes
towards him--on his breast, or thereabouts--and was at great pains
to speak slowly and distinctly in reply. Just as a man in a state of
conscious drunkenness might be.
'Lying is of no use now,' he said. 'I DID think of getting away this
morning, and making better terms with you from a distance.'
'To be sure! to be sure!' replied Montague. 'Nothing more natural. I
foresaw that, and provided against it. But I am afraid I am interrupting
'How the devil,' pursued Jonas, with a still greater effort, 'you made
choice of your messenger, and where you found him, I'll not ask you. I
owed him one good turn before to-day. If you are so careless of men in
general, as you said you were just now, you are quite indifferent to
what becomes of such a crop-tailed cur as that, and will leave me to
settle my account with him in my own manner.'
If he had raised his eyes to his companion's face, he would have seen
that Montague was evidently unable to comprehend his meaning. But
continuing to stand before him, with his furtive gaze directed as
before, and pausing here only to moisten his dry lips with his tongue,
the fact was lost upon him. It might have struck a close observer that
this fixed and steady glance of Jonas's was a part of the alteration
which had taken place in his demeanour. He kept it riveted on one spot,
with which his thoughts had manifestly nothing to do; like as a juggler
walking on a cord or wire to any dangerous end, holds some object in his
sight to steady him, and never wanders from it, lest he trip.
Montague was quick in his rejoinder, though he made it at a venture.
There was no difference of opinion between him and his friend on THAT
point. Not the least.
'Your great discovery,' Jonas proceeded, with a savage sneer that
got the better of him for the moment, 'may be true, and may be false.
Whichever it is, I dare say I'm no worse than other men.'
'Not a bit,' said Tigg. 'Not a bit. We're all alike--or nearly so.'
'I want to know this,' Jonas went on to say; 'is it your own? You'll not
wonder at my asking the question.'
'My own!' repeated Montague.
'Aye!' returned the other, gruffly. 'Is it known to anybody else? Come!
Don't waver about that.'
'No!' said Montague, without the smallest hesitation. 'What would it be
worth, do you think, unless I had the keeping of it?'
Now, for the first time, Jonas looked at him. After a pause, he put out
his hand, and said, with a laugh:
'Come! make things easy to me, and I'm yours. I don't know that I may
not be better off here, after all, than if I had gone away this morning.
But here I am, and here I'll stay now. Take your oath!'
He cleared his throat, for he was speaking hoarsely and said in a
'Shall I go to Pecksniff? When? Say when!'
'Immediately!' cried Montague. 'He cannot be enticed too soon.'
'Ecod!' cried Jonas, with a wild laugh. 'There's some fun in catching
that old hypocrite. I hate him. Shall I go to-night?'
'Aye! This,' said Montague, ecstatically, 'is like business! We
understand each other now! To-night, my good fellow, by all means.'
'Come with me,' cried Jonas. 'We must make a dash; go down in state, and
carry documents, for he's a deep file to deal with, and must be drawn
on with an artful hand, or he'll not follow. I know him. As I can't
take your lodgings or your dinners down, I must take you. Will you come
His friend appeared to hesitate; and neither to have anticipated this
proposal, nor to relish it very much.
'We can concert our plans upon the road,' said Jonas. 'We must not go
direct to him, but cross over from some other place, and turn out of our
way to see him. I may not want to introduce you, but I must have you on
the spot. I know the man, I tell you.'
'But what if the man knows me?' said Montague, shrugging his shoulders.
'He know!' cried Jonas. 'Don't you run that risk with fifty men a day!
Would your father know you? Did I know you? Ecod! You were another
figure when I saw you first. Ha, ha, ha! I see the rents and patches
now! No false hair then, no black dye! You were another sort of joker
in those days, you were! You even spoke different then. You've acted
the gentleman so seriously since, that you've taken in yourself. If he
should know you, what does it matter? Such a change is a proof of your
success. You know that, or you would not have made yourself known to me.
Will you come?'
'My good fellow,' said Montague, still hesitating, 'I can trust you
'Trust me! Ecod, you may trust me now, far enough. I'll try to go away
no more--no more!' He stopped, and added in a more sober tone, 'I can't
get on without you. Will you come?'
'I will,' said Montague, 'if that's your opinion.' And they shook hands
The boisterous manner which Jonas had exhibited during the latter part
of this conversation, and which had gone on rapidly increasing with
almost every word he had spoken, from the time when he looked his
honourable friend in the face until now, did not now subside, but,
remaining at its height, abided by him. Most unusual with him at any
period; most inconsistent with his temper and constitution; especially
unnatural it would appear in one so darkly circumstanced; it abided by
him. It was not like the effect of wine, or any ardent drink, for he was
perfectly coherent. It even made him proof against the usual influence
of such means of excitement; for, although he drank deeply several times
that day, with no reserve or caution, he remained exactly the same man,
and his spirits neither rose nor fell in the least observable degree.
Deciding, after some discussion, to travel at night, in order that the
day's business might not be broken in upon, they took counsel together
in reference to the means. Mr Montague being of opinion that four horses
were advisable, at all events for the first stage, as throwing a great
deal of dust into people's eyes, in more senses than one, a travelling
chariot and four lay under orders for nine o'clock. Jonas did not go
home; observing, that his being obliged to leave town on business in
so great a hurry, would be a good excuse for having turned back so
unexpectedly in the morning. So he wrote a note for his portmanteau, and
sent it by a messenger, who duly brought his luggage back, with a short
note from that other piece of luggage, his wife, expressive of her wish
to be allowed to come and see him for a moment. To this request he sent
for answer, 'she had better;' and one such threatening affirmative being
sufficient, in defiance of the English grammar, to express a negative,
she kept away.
Mr Montague being much engaged in the course of the day, Jonas bestowed
his spirits chiefly on the doctor, with whom he lunched in the medical
officer's own room. On his way thither, encountering Mr Nadgett in the
outer room, he bantered that stealthy gentleman on always appearing
anxious to avoid him, and inquired if he were afraid of him. Mr Nadgett
slyly answered, 'No, but he believed it must be his way as he had been
charged with much the same kind of thing before.'
Mr Montague was listening to, or, to speak with greater elegance, he
overheard, this dialogue. As soon as Jonas was gone he beckoned Nadgett
to him with the feather of his pen, and whispered in his ear.
'Who gave him my letter this morning?'
'My lodger, sir,' said Nadgett, behind the palm of his hand.
'How came that about?'
'I found him on the wharf, sir. Being so much hurried, and you not
arrived, it was necessary to do something. It fortunately occurred to
me, that if I gave it him myself I could be of no further use. I should
have been blown upon immediately.'
'Mr Nadgett, you are a jewel,' said Montague, patting him on the back.
'What's your lodger's name?'
'Pinch, sir. Thomas Pinch.'
Montague reflected for a little while, and then asked:
'From the country, do you know?'
'From Wiltshire, sir, he told me.'
They parted without another word. To see Mr Nadgett's bow when Montague
and he next met, and to see Mr Montague acknowledge it, anybody might
have undertaken to swear that they had never spoken to each other
confidentially in all their lives.
In the meanwhile, Mr Jonas and the doctor made themselves very
comfortable upstairs, over a bottle of the old Madeira and some
sandwiches; for the doctor having been already invited to dine below at
six o'clock, preferred a light repast for lunch. It was advisable, he
said, in two points of view: First, as being healthy in itself. Secondly
as being the better preparation for dinner.
'And you are bound for all our sakes to take particular care of your
digestion, Mr Chuzzlewit, my dear sir,' said the doctor smacking his
lips after a glass of wine; 'for depend upon it, it is worth preserving.
It must be in admirable condition, sir; perfect chronometer-work.
Otherwise your spirits could not be so remarkable. Your bosom's lord
sits lightly on its throne, Mr Chuzzlewit, as what's-his-name says in
the play. I wish he said it in a play which did anything like common
justice to our profession, by the bye. There is an apothecary in
that drama, sir, which is a low thing; vulgar, sir; out of nature
Mr Jobling pulled out his shirt-frill of fine linen, as though he would
have said, 'This is what I call nature in a medical man, sir;' and
looked at Jonas for an observation.
Jonas not being in a condition to pursue the subject, took up a case of
lancets that was lying on the table, and opened it.
'Ah!' said the doctor, leaning back in his chair, 'I always take 'em out
of my pocket before I eat. My pockets are rather tight. Ha, ha, ha!'
Jonas had opened one of the shining little instruments; and was
scrutinizing it with a look as sharp and eager as its own bright edge.
'Good steel, doctor. Good steel! Eh!'
'Ye-es,' replied the doctor, with the faltering modesty of ownership.
'One might open a vein pretty dexterously with that, Mr Chuzzlewit.'
'It has opened a good many in its time, I suppose?' said Jonas looking
at it with a growing interest.
'Not a few, my dear sir, not a few. It has been engaged in a--in a
pretty good practice, I believe I may say,' replied the doctor, coughing
as if the matter-of-fact were so very dry and literal that he couldn't
help it. 'In a pretty good practice,' repeated the doctor, putting
another glass of wine to his lips.
'Now, could you cut a man's throat with such a thing as this?' demanded
'Oh certainly, certainly, if you took him in the right place,' returned
the doctor. 'It all depends upon that.'
'Where you have your hand now, hey?' cried Jonas, bending forward to
look at it.
'Yes,' said the doctor; 'that's the jugular.'
Jonas, in his vivacity, made a sudden sawing in the air, so close behind
the doctor's jugular that he turned quite red. Then Jonas (in the same
strange spirit of vivacity) burst into a loud discordant laugh.
'No, no,' said the doctor, shaking his head; 'edge tools, edge tools;
never play with 'em. A very remarkable instance of the skillful use of
edge-tools, by the way, occurs to me at this moment. It was a case of
murder. I am afraid it was a case of murder, committed by a member of
our profession; it was so artistically done.'
'Aye!' said Jonas. 'How was that?'
'Why, sir,' returned Jobling, 'the thing lies in a nutshell. A certain
gentleman was found, one morning, in an obscure street, lying in
an angle of a doorway--I should rather say, leaning, in an upright
position, in the angle of a doorway, and supported consequently by the
doorway. Upon his waistcoat there was one solitary drop of blood. He was
dead and cold; and had been murdered, sir.'
'Only one drop of blood!' said Jonas.
'Sir, that man,' replied the doctor, 'had been stabbed to the heart.
Had been stabbed to the heart with such dexterity, sir, that he had
died instantly, and had bled internally. It was supposed that a
medical friend of his (to whom suspicion attached) had engaged him in
conversation on some pretence; had taken him, very likely, by the button
in a conversational manner; had examined his ground at leisure with
his other hand; had marked the exact spot; drawn out the instrument,
whatever it was, when he was quite prepared; and--'
'And done the trick,' suggested Jonas.
'Exactly so,' replied the doctor. 'It was quite an operation in its way,
and very neat. The medical friend never turned up; and, as I tell you,
he had the credit of it. Whether he did it or not I can't say.
But, having had the honour to be called in with two or three of my
professional brethren on the occasion, and having assisted to make a
careful examination of the wound, I have no hesitation in saying that
it would have reflected credit on any medical man; and that in an
unprofessional person it could not but be considered, either as an
extraordinary work of art, or the result of a still more extraordinary,
happy, and favourable conjunction of circumstances.'
His hearer was so much interested in this case, that the doctor went
on to elucidate it with the assistance of his own finger and thumb and
waistcoat; and at Jonas's request, he took the further trouble of going
into a corner of the room, and alternately representing the murdered
man and the murderer; which he did with great effect. The bottle being
emptied and the story done, Jonas was in precisely the same boisterous
and unusual state as when they had sat down. If, as Jobling theorized,
his good digestion were the cause, he must have been a very ostrich.
At dinner it was just the same; and after dinner too; though wine was
drunk in abundance, and various rich meats eaten. At nine o'clock it was
still the same. There being a lamp in the carriage, he swore they would
take a pack of cards, and a bottle of wine; and with these things under
his cloak, went down to the door.
'Out of the way, Tom Thumb, and get to bed!'
This was the salutation he bestowed on Mr Bailey, who, booted and
wrapped up, stood at the carriage door to help him in.
'To bed, sir! I'm a-going, too,' said Bailey.
He alighted quickly, and walked back into the hall, where Montague was
lighting a cigar; conducting Mr Bailey with him, by the collar.
'You are not a-going to take this monkey of a boy, are you?'
'Yes,' said Montague.
He gave the boy a shake, and threw him roughly aside. There was more of
his familiar self in the action, than in anything he had done that day;
but he broke out laughing immediately afterwards, and making a thrust
at the doctor with his hand, in imitation of his representation of the
medical friend, went out to the carriage again, and took his seat. His
companion followed immediately. Mr Bailey climbed into the rumble. 'It
will be a stormy night!' exclaimed the doctor, as they started.