|Back||1 2 3 4||Next|
It was their ill-fortune, at about the time of dawn and in the last stage of their journey, to have a restive pair of horses. These animals had been greatly terrified in their stable by the tempest; and coming out into the dreary interval between night and morning, when the glare of the lightning was yet unsubdued by day, and the various objects in their view were presented in indistinct and exaggerated shapes which they would not have worn by night, they gradually became less and less capable of control; until, taking a sudden fright at something by the roadside, they dashed off wildly down a steep hill, flung the driver from his saddle, drew the carriage to the brink of a ditch, stumbled headlong down, and threw it crashing over.
The travellers had opened the carriage door, and had either jumped or fallen out. Jonas was the first to stagger to his feet. He felt sick and weak, and very giddy, and reeling to a five-barred gate, stood holding by it; looking drowsily about as the whole landscape swam before his eyes. But, by degrees, he grew more conscious, and presently observed that Montague was lying senseless in the road, within a few feet of the horses.
In an instant, as if his own faint body were suddenly animated by a demon, he ran to the horses' heads; and pulling at their bridles with all his force, set them struggling and plunging with such mad violence as brought their hoofs at every effort nearer to the skull of the prostrate man; and must have led in half a minute to his brains being dashed out on the highway.
As he did this, he fought and contended with them like a man possessed, making them wilder by his cries.
'Whoop!' cried Jonas. 'Whoop! again! another! A little more, a little more! Up, ye devils! Hillo!'
As he heard the driver, who had risen and was hurrying up, crying to him to desist, his violence increased.
'Hiilo! Hillo!' cried Jonas.
'For God's sake!' cried the driver. 'The gentleman--in the road-- he'll be killed!'
The same shouts and the same struggles were his only answer. But the man darting in at the peril of his own life, saved Montague's, by dragging him through the mire and water out of the reach of present harm. That done, he ran to Jonas; and with the aid of his knife they very shortly disengaged the horses from the broken chariot, and got them, cut and bleeding, on their legs again. The postillion and Jonas had now leisure to look at each other, which they had not had yet.
'Presence of mind, presence of mind!' cried Jonas, throwing up his hands wildly. 'What would you have done without me?'
'The other gentleman would have done badly without ME,' returned the man, shaking his head. 'You should have moved him first. I gave him up for dead.'
'Presence of mind, you croaker, presence of mind' cried Jonas with a harsh loud laugh. '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.'
|Back||1 2 3 4||Next|
Martin Chuzzlewit -- by Charles Dickens