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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMartin Chuzzlewit - Chapter TWENTY-ONE
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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter TWENTY-ONE Post by :Ghostdog Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :January 2011 Read :1664

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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter TWENTY-ONE

MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES, MARTIN TAKES A PARTNER, AND MAKES A
PURCHASE. SOME ACCOUNT OF EDEN, AS IT APPEARED ON PAPER. ALSO OF
THE BRITISH LION. ALSO OF THE KIND OF SYMPATHY PROFESSED AND
ENTERTAINED BY THE WATERTOAST ASSOCIATION OF UNITED SYMPATHISERS


The knocking at Mr Pecksniff's door, though loud enough, bore no

resemblance whatever to the noise of an American railway train at

full speed. It may be well to begin the present chapter with this

frank admission, lest the reader should imagine that the sounds now

deafening this history's ears have any connection with the knocker on

Mr Pecksniff's door, or with the great amount of agitation pretty

equally divided between that worthy man and Mr Pinch, of which its

strong performance was the cause.

 

Mr Pecksniff's house is more than a thousand leagues away; and again

this happy chronicle has Liberty and Moral Sensibility for its high

companions. Again it breathes the blessed air of Independence;

again it contemplates with pious awe that moral sense which renders

unto Ceasar nothing that is his; again inhales that sacred

atmosphere which was the life of him--oh noble patriot, with many

followers!--who dreamed of Freedom in a slave's embrace, and waking

sold her offspring and his own in public markets.

 

How the wheels clank and rattle, and the tram-road shakes, as the

train rushes on! And now the engine yells, as it were lashed and

tortured like a living labourer, and writhed in agony. A poor

fancy; for steel and iron are of infinitely greater account, in this

commonwealth, than flesh and blood. If the cunning work of man be

urged beyond its power of endurance, it has within it the elements

of its own revenge; whereas the wretched mechanism of the Divine

Hand is dangerous with no such property, but may be tampered with,

and crushed, and broken, at the driver's pleasure. Look at that

engine! It shall cost a man more dollars in the way of penalty and

fine, and satisfaction of the outraged law, to deface in wantonness

that senseless mass of metal, than to take the lives of twenty human

creatures! Thus the stars wink upon the bloody stripes; and Liberty

pulls down her cap upon her eyes, and owns Oppression in its vilest

aspect, for her sister.

 

The engine-driver of the train whose noise awoke us to the present

chapter was certainly troubled with no such reflections as these;

nor is it very probable that his mind was disturbed by any

reflections at all. He leaned with folded arms and crossed legs

against the side of the carriage, smoking; and, except when he

expressed, by a grunt as short as his pipe, his approval of some

particularly dexterous aim on the part of his colleague, the

fireman, who beguiled his leisure by throwing logs of wood from the

tender at the numerous stray cattle on the line, he preserved a

composure so immovable, and an indifference so complete, that if the

locomotive had been a sucking-pig, he could not have been more

perfectly indifferent to its doings. Notwithstanding the tranquil

state of this officer, and his unbroken peace of mind, the train was

proceeding with tolerable rapidity; and the rails being but poorly

laid, the jolts and bumps it met with in its progress were neither

slight nor few.

 

There were three great caravans or cars attached. The ladies' car,

the gentlemen's car, and the car for negroes; the latter painted

black, as an appropriate compliment to its company. Martin and Mark

Tapley were in the first, as it was the most comfortable; and, being

far from full, received other gentlemen who, like them, were

unblessed by the society of ladies of their own. They were seated

side by side, and were engaged in earnest conversation.

 

'And so, Mark,' said Martin, looking at him with an anxious

expression, 'and so you are glad we have left New York far behind

us, are you?'

 

'Yes, sir,' said Mark. 'I am. Precious glad.'

 

'Were you not "jolly" there?' asked Martin.

 

'On the contrairy, sir,' returned Mark. 'The jolliest week as ever

I spent in my life, was that there week at Pawkins's.'

 

'What do you think of our prospects?' inquired Martin, with an air

that plainly said he had avoided the question for some time.

 

'Uncommon bright, sir,' returned Mark. 'Impossible for a place to

have a better name, sir, than the Walley of Eden. No man couldn't

think of settling in a better place than the Walley of Eden. And

I'm told,' added Mark, after a pause, 'as there's lots of serpents

there, so we shall come out, quite complete and reg'lar.'

 

So far from dwelling upon this agreeable piece of information with

the least dismay, Mark's face grew radiant as he called it to mind;

so very radiant, that a stranger might have supposed he had all his

life been yearning for the society of serpents, and now hailed with

delight the approaching consummation of his fondest wishes.

 

'Who told you that?' asked Martin, sternly.

 

'A military officer,' said Mark.

 

'Confound you for a ridiculous fellow!' cried Martin, laughing

heartily in spite of himself. 'What military officer? You know

they spring up in every field.'

 

'As thick as scarecrows in England, sir,' interposed Mark, 'which is

a sort of milita themselves, being entirely coat and wescoat, with a

stick inside. Ha, ha!--Don't mind me, sir; it's my way sometimes. I

can't help being jolly. Why it was one of them inwading conquerors

at Pawkins's, as told me. "Am I rightly informed," he says--not

exactly through his nose, but as if he'd got a stoppage in it, very

high up--"that you're a-going to the Walley of Eden?" "I heard some

talk on it," I told him. "Oh!" says he, "if you should ever happen

to go to bed there--you MAY, you know," he says, "in course of time

as civilisation progresses--don't forget to take a axe with you." I

looks at him tolerable hard. "Fleas?" says I. "And more," says he.

"Wampires?" says I. "And more," says he. "Musquitoes, perhaps?"

says I. "And more," says he. "What more?" says I. "Snakes more,"

says he; "rattle-snakes. You're right to a certain extent,

stranger. There air some catawampous chawers in the small way too,

as graze upon a human pretty strong; but don't mind THEM--they're

company. It's snakes," he says, "as you'll object to; and whenever

you wake and see one in a upright poster on your bed," he says,

"like a corkscrew with the handle off a-sittin' on its bottom ring,

cut him down, for he means wenom."'

 

'Why didn't you tell me this before!' cried Martin, with an

expression of face which set off the cheerfulness of Mark's visage

to great advantage.

 

'I never thought on it, sir,' said Mark. 'It come in at one ear,

and went out at the other. But Lord love us, he was one of another

Company, I dare say, and only made up the story that we might go to

his Eden, and not the opposition one'

 

'There's some probability in that,' observed Martin. 'I can

honestly say that I hope so, with all my heart.'

 

'I've not a doubt about it, sir,' returned Mark, who, full of the

inspiriting influence of the anecodote upon himself, had for the

moment forgotten its probable effect upon his master; 'anyhow, we

must live, you know, sir.'

 

'Live!' cried Martin. 'Yes, it's easy to say live; but if we should

happen not to wake when rattlesnakes are making corkscrews of

themselves upon our beds, it may be not so easy to do it.'

 

'And that's a fact,' said a voice so close in his ear that it

tickled him. 'That's dreadful true.'

 

Martin looked round, and found that a gentleman, on the seat behind,

had thrust his head between himself and Mark, and sat with his chin

resting on the back rail of their little bench, entertaining himself

with their conversation. He was as languid and listless in his

looks as most of the gentlemen they had seen; his cheeks were so

hollow that he seemed to be always sucking them in; and the sun had

burnt him, not a wholesome red or brown, but dirty yellow. He had

bright dark eyes, which he kept half closed; only peeping out of the

corners, and even then with a glance that seemed to say, 'Now you

won't overreach me; you want to, but you won't.' His arms rested

carelessly on his knees as he leant forward; in the palm of his left

hand, as English rustics have their slice of cheese, he had a cake

of tobacco; in his right a penknife. He struck into the dialogue

with as little reserve as if he had been specially called in, days

before, to hear the arguments on both sides, and favour them with

his opinion; and he no more contemplated or cared for the

possibility of their not desiring the honour of his acquaintance or

interference in their private affairs than if he had been a bear or

a buffalo.

 

'That,' he repeated, nodding condescendingly to Martin, as to an

outer barbarian and foreigner, 'is dreadful true. Darn all manner

of vermin.'

 

Martin could not help frowning for a moment, as if he were disposed

to insinuate that the gentleman had unconsciously 'darned' himself.

But remembering the wisdom of doing at Rome as Romans do, he smiled

with the pleasantest expression he could assume upon so short a

notice.

 

Their new friend said no more just then, being busily employed in

cutting a quid or plug from his cake of tobacco, and whistling

softly to himself the while. When he had shaped it to his liking,

he took out his old plug, and deposited the same on the back of the

seat between Mark and Martin, while he thrust the new one into the

hollow of his cheek, where it looked like a large walnut, or

tolerable pippin. Finding it quite satisfactory, he stuck the point

of his knife into the old plug, and holding it out for their

inspection, remarked with the air of a man who had not lived in

vain, that it was 'used up considerable.' Then he tossed it away;

put his knife into one pocket and his tobacco into another; rested

his chin upon the rail as before; and approving of the pattern on

Martin's waistcoat, reached out his hand to feel the texture of that

garment.

 

'What do you call this now?' he asked.

 

'Upon my word' said Martin, 'I don't know what it's called.'

 

'It'll cost a dollar or more a yard, I reckon?'

 

'I really don't know.'

 

'In my country,' said the gentleman, 'we know the cost of our own

pro-duce.'

 

Martin not discussing the question, there was a pause.

 

'Well!' resumed their new friend, after staring at them intently

during the whole interval of silence; 'how's the unnat'ral old

parent by this time?'

 

Mr Tapley regarding this inquiry as only another version of the

impertinent English question, 'How's your mother?' would have

resented it instantly, but for Martin's prompt interposition.

 

'You mean the old country?' he said.

 

'Ah!' was the reply. 'How's she? Progressing back'ards, I expect,

as usual? Well! How's Queen Victoria?'

 

'In good health, I believe,' said Martin.

 

'Queen Victoria won't shake in her royal shoes at all, when she

hears to-morrow named,' observed the stranger, 'No.'

 

'Not that I am aware of. Why should she?'

 

'She won't be taken with a cold chill, when she realises what is

being done in these diggings,' said the stranger. 'No.'

 

'No,' said Martin. 'I think I could take my oath of that.'

 

The strange gentleman looked at him as if in pity for his ignorance

or prejudice, and said:

 

'Well, sir, I tell you this--there ain't a engine with its biler

bust, in God A'mighty's free U-nited States, so fixed, and nipped,

and frizzled to a most e-tarnal smash, as that young critter, in her

luxurious location in the Tower of London will be, when she reads

the next double-extra Watertoast Gazette.'

 

Several other gentlemen had left their seats and gathered round

during the foregoing dialogue. They were highly delighted with this

speech. One very lank gentleman, in a loose limp white cravat, long

white waistcoat, and a black great-coat, who seemed to be in

authority among them, felt called upon to acknowledge it.

 

'Hem! Mr La Fayette Kettle,' he said, taking off his hat.

 

There was a grave murmur of 'Hush!'

 

'Mr La Fayette Kettle! Sir!'

 

Mr Kettle bowed.

 

'In the name of this company, sir, and in the name of our common

country, and in the name of that righteous cause of holy sympathy in

which we are engaged, I thank you. I thank you, sir, in the name of

the Watertoast Sympathisers; and I thank you, sir, in the name of

the Watertoast Gazette; and I thank you, sir, in the name of the

star-spangled banner of the Great United States, for your eloquent

and categorical exposition. And if, sir,' said the speaker, poking

Martin with the handle of his umbrella to bespeak his attention, for

he was listening to a whisper from Mark; 'if, sir, in such a place,

and at such a time, I might venture to con-clude with a sentiment,

glancing--however slantin'dicularly--at the subject in hand, I

would say, sir, may the British Lion have his talons eradicated by

the noble bill of the American Eagle, and be taught to play upon the

Irish Harp and the Scotch Fiddle that music which is breathed in

every empty shell that lies upon the shores of green Co-lumbia!'

 

Here the lank gentleman sat down again, amidst a great sensation;

and every one looked very grave.

 

'General Choke,' said Mr La Fayette Kettle, 'you warm my heart; sir,

you warm my heart. But the British Lion is not unrepresented here,

sir; and I should be glad to hear his answer to those remarks.'

 

'Upon my word,' cried Martin, laughing, 'since you do me the honour

to consider me his representative, I have only to say that I never

heard of Queen Victoria reading the What's-his-name Gazette and that

I should scarcely think it probable.'

 

General Choke smiled upon the rest, and said, in patient and

benignant explanation:

 

'It is sent to her, sir. It is sent to her. Her mail.'

 

'But if it is addressed to the Tower of London, it would hardly come

to hand, I fear,' returned Martin; 'for she don't live there.'

 

'The Queen of England, gentlemen,' observed Mr Tapley, affecting the

greatest politeness, and regarding them with an immovable face,

'usually lives in the Mint to take care of the money. She HAS

lodgings, in virtue of her office, with the Lord Mayor at the

Mansion House; but don't often occupy them, in consequence of the

parlour chimney smoking.'

 

'Mark,' said Martin, 'I shall be very much obliged to you if you'll

have the goodness not to interfere with preposterous statements,

however jocose they may appear to you. I was merely remarking

gentlemen--though it's a point of very little import--that the

Queen of England does not happen to live in the Tower of London.'

 

'General!' cried Mr La Fayette Kettle. 'You hear?'

 

'General!' echoed several others. 'General!'

 

'Hush! Pray, silence!' said General Choke, holding up his hand, and

speaking with a patient and complacent benevolence that was quite

touching. 'I have always remarked it as a very extraordinary

circumstance, which I impute to the natur' of British Institutions

and their tendency to suppress that popular inquiry and information

which air so widely diffused even in the trackless forests of this

vast Continent of the Western Ocean; that the knowledge of

Britishers themselves on such points is not to be compared with that

possessed by our intelligent and locomotive citizens. This is

interesting, and confirms my observation. When you say, sir,' he

continued, addressing Martin, 'that your Queen does not reside in

the Tower of London, you fall into an error, not uncommon to your

countrymen, even when their abilities and moral elements air such as

to command respect. But, sir, you air wrong. She DOES live there--'

 

'When she is at the Court of Saint James's,' interposed Kettle.

 

'When she is at the Court of Saint James's, of course,' returned the

General, in the same benignant way; 'for if her location was in

Windsor Pavilion it couldn't be in London at the same time. Your

Tower of London, sir,' pursued the General, smiling with a mild

consciousness of his knowledge, 'is nat'rally your royal residence.

Being located in the immediate neighbourhood of your Parks, your

Drives, your Triumphant Arches, your Opera, and your Royal Almacks,

it nat'rally suggests itself as the place for holding a luxurious

and thoughtless court. And, consequently,' said the General,

'consequently, the court is held there.'

 

'Have you been in England?' asked Martin.

 

'In print I have, sir,' said the General, 'not otherwise. We air a

reading people here, sir. You will meet with much information among

us that will surprise you, sir.'

 

'I have not the least doubt of it,' returned Martin. But here he

was interrupted by Mr La Fayette Kettle, who whispered in his ear:

 

'You know General Choke?'

 

'No,' returned Martin, in the same tone.

 

'You know what he is considered?'

 

'One of the most remarkable men in the country?' said Martin, at a

venture.

 

'That's a fact,' rejoined Kettle. 'I was sure you must have heard

of him!'

 

'I think,' said Martin, addressing himself to the General again,

'that I have the pleasure of being the bearer of a letter of

introduction to you, sir. From Mr Bevan, of Massachusetts,' he

added, giving it to him.

 

The General took it and read it attentively; now and then stopping

to glance at the two strangers. When he had finished the note, he

came over to Martin, sat down by him, and shook hands.

 

'Well!' he said, 'and you think of settling in Eden?'

 

'Subject to your opinion, and the agent's advice,' replied Martin.

'I am told there is nothing to be done in the old towns.'

 

'I can introduce you to the agent, sir,' said the General. 'I know

him. In fact, I am a member of the Eden Land Corporation myself.'

 

This was serious news to Martin, for his friend had laid great

stress upon the General's having no connection, as he thought, with

any land company, and therefore being likely to give him

disinterested advice. The General explained that he had joined the

Corporation only a few weeks ago, and that no communication had

passed between himself and Mr Bevan since.

 

'We have very little to venture,' said Martin anxiously--'only a few

pounds--but it is our all. Now, do you think that for one of my

profession, this would be a speculation with any hope or chance in

it?'

 

'Well,' observed the General, gravely, 'if there wasn't any hope or

chance in the speculation, it wouldn't have engaged my dollars, I

opinionate.'

 

'I don't mean for the sellers,' said Martin. 'For the buyers--for

the buyers!'

 

'For the buyers, sir?' observed the General, in a most impressive

manner. 'Well! you come from an old country; from a country, sir,

that has piled up golden calves as high as Babel, and worshipped 'em

for ages. We are a new country, sir; man is in a more primeval

state here, sir; we have not the excuse of having lapsed in the

slow course of time into degenerate practices; we have no false

gods; man, sir, here, is man in all his dignity. We fought for that

or nothing. Here am I, sir,' said the General, setting up his

umbrella to represent himself, and a villanous-looking umbrella it

was; a very bad counter to stand for the sterling coin of his

benevolence, 'here am I with grey hairs sir, and a moral sense.

Would I, with my principles, invest capital in this speculation if I

didn't think it full of hopes and chances for my brother man?'

 

Martin tried to look convinced, but he thought of New York, and

found it difficult.

 

'What are the Great United States for, sir,' pursued the General 'if

not for the regeneration of man? But it is nat'ral in you to make

such an enquerry, for you come from England, and you do not know my

country.'

 

'Then you think,' said Martin, 'that allowing for the hardships we

are prepared to undergo, there is a reasonable--Heaven knows we

don't expect much--a reasonable opening in this place?'

 

'A reasonable opening in Eden, sir! But see the agent, see the

agent; see the maps and plans, sir; and conclude to go or stay,

according to the natur' of the settlement. Eden hadn't need to go

a-begging yet, sir,' remarked the General.

 

'It is an awful lovely place, sure-ly. And frightful wholesome,

likewise!' said Mr Kettle, who had made himself a party to this

conversation as a matter of course.

 

Martin felt that to dispute such testimony, for no better reason

than because he had his secret misgivings on the subject, would be

ungentlemanly and indecent. So he thanked the General for his

promise to put him in personal communication with the agent; and

'concluded' to see that officer next morning. He then begged the

General to inform him who the Watertoast Sympathisers were, of whom

he had spoken in addressing Mr La Fayette Kettle, and on what

grievances they bestowed their Sympathy. To which the General,

looking very serious, made answer, that he might fully enlighten

himself on those points to-morrow by attending a Great Meeting of

the Body, which would then be held at the town to which they were

travelling; 'over which, sir,' said the General, 'my fellow-citizens

have called on me to preside.'

 

They came to their journey's end late in the evening. Close to the

railway was an immense white edifice, like an ugly hospital, on

which was painted 'NATIONAL HOTEL.' There was a wooden gallery or

verandah in front, in which it was rather startling, when the train

stopped, to behold a great many pairs of boots and shoes, and the

smoke of a great many cigars, but no other evidences of human

habitation. By slow degrees, however, some heads and shoulders

appeared, and connecting themselves with the boots and shoes, led to

the discovery that certain gentlemen boarders, who had a fancy for

putting their heels where the gentlemen boarders in other countries

usually put their heads, were enjoying themselves after their own

manner in the cool of the evening.

 

There was a great bar-room in this hotel, and a great public room in

which the general table was being set out for supper. There were

interminable whitewashed staircases, long whitewashed galleries

upstairs and downstairs, scores of little whitewashed bedrooms, and

a four-sided verandah to every story in the house, which formed a

large brick square with an uncomfortable courtyard in the centre,

where some clothes were drying. Here and there, some yawning

gentlemen lounged up and down with their hands in their pockets; but

within the house and without, wherever half a dozen people were

collected together, there, in their looks, dress, morals, manners,

habits, intellect, and conversation, were Mr Jefferson Brick,

Colonel Diver, Major Pawkins, General Choke, and Mr La Fayette

Kettle, over, and over, and over again. They did the same things;

said the same things; judged all subjects by, and reduced all

subjects to, the same standard. Observing how they lived, and how

they were always in the enchanting company of each other, Martin

even began to comprehend their being the social, cheerful, winning,

airy men they were.

 

At the sounding of a dismal gong, this pleasant company went

trooping down from all parts of the house to the public room; while

from the neighbouring stores other guests came flocking in, in

shoals; for half the town, married folks as well as single, resided

at the National Hotel. Tea, coffee, dried meats, tongue, ham,

pickles, cake, toast, preserves, and bread and butter, were

swallowed with the usual ravaging speed; and then, as before, the

company dropped off by degrees, and lounged away to the desk, the

counter, or the bar-room. The ladies had a smaller ordinary of

their own, to which their husbands and brothers were admitted if

they chose; and in all other respects they enjoyed themselves as at

Pawkins's.

 

'Now, Mark, my good fellow, said Martin, closing the door of his

little chamber, 'we must hold a solemn council, for our fate is

decided to-morrow morning. You are determined to invest these

savings of yours in the common stock, are you?'

 

'If I hadn't been determined to make that wentur, sir,' answered Mr

Tapley, 'I shouldn't have come.'

 

'How much is there here, did you say' asked Martin, holding up a

little bag.

 

'Thirty-seven pound ten and sixpence. The Savings' Bank said so at

least. I never counted it. But THEY know, bless you!' said Mark,

with a shake of the head expressive of his unbounded confidence in

the wisdom and arithmetic of those Institutions.

 

'The money we brought with us,' said Martin, 'is reduced to a few

shillings less than eight pounds.'

 

Mr Tapley smiled, and looked all manner of ways, that he might not

be supposed to attach any importance to this fact.

 

'Upon the ring--HER ring, Mark,' said Martin, looking ruefully at

his empty finger--

 

'Ah!' sighed Mr Tapley. 'Beg your pardon, sir.'

 

'--We raised, in English money, fourteen pounds. So, even with

that, your share of the stock is still very much the larger of the

two you see. Now, Mark,' said Martin, in his old way, just as he

might have spoken to Tom Pinch, 'I have thought of a means of making

this up to you--more than making it up to you, I hope--and very

materially elevating your prospects in life.'

 

'Oh! don't talk of that, you know, sir,' returned Mark. 'I don't

want no elevating, sir. I'm all right enough, sir, I am.'

 

'No, but hear me,' said Martin, 'because this is very important to

you, and a great satisfaction to me. Mark, you shall be a partner

in the business; an equal partner with myself. I will put in, as my

additional capital, my professional knowledge and ability; and half

the annual profits, as long as it is carried on, shall be yours.'

 

Poor Martin! For ever building castles in the air. For ever, in his

very selfishness, forgetful of all but his own teeming hopes and

sanguine plans. Swelling, at that instant, with the consciousness

of patronizing and most munificently rewarding Mark!

 

'I don't know, sir,' Mark rejoined, much more sadly than his custom

was, though from a very different cause than Martin supposed, 'what

I can say to this, in the way of thanking you. I'll stand by you,

sir, to the best of my ability, and to the last. That's all.'

 

'We quite understand each other, my good fellow,' said Martin rising

in self-approval and condescension. 'We are no longer master and

servant, but friends and partners; and are mutually gratified. If

we determine on Eden, the business shall be commenced as soon as we

get there. Under the name,' said Martin, who never hammered upon an

idea that wasn't red hot, 'under the name of Chuzzlewit and Tapley.'

 

'Lord love you, sir,' cried Mark, 'don't have my name in it. I

ain't acquainted with the business, sir. I must be Co., I must.

I've often thought,' he added, in a low voice, 'as I should like to

know a Co.; but I little thought as ever I should live to be one.'

 

'You shall have your own way, Mark.'

 

'Thank'ee, sir. If any country gentleman thereabouts, in the public

way, or otherwise, wanted such a thing as a skittle-ground made, I

could take that part of the bis'ness, sir.'

 

'Against any architect in the States,' said Martin. 'Get a couple

of sherry-cobblers, Mark, and we'll drink success to the firm.'

 

Either he forgot already (and often afterwards), that they were no

longer master and servant, or considered this kind of duty to be

among the legitimate functions of the Co. But Mark obeyed with his

usual alacrity; and before they parted for the night, it was agreed

between them that they should go together to the agent's in the

morning, but that Martin should decide the Eden question, on his own

sound judgment. And Mark made no merit, even to himself in his

jollity, of this concession; perfectly well knowing that the matter

would come to that in the end, any way.

 

The General was one of the party at the public table next day, and

after breakfast suggested that they should wait upon the agent

without loss of time. They, desiring nothing more, agreed; so off

they all four started for the office of the Eden Settlement, which

was almost within rifle-shot of the National Hotel.

 

It was a small place--something like a turnpike. But a great deal

of land may be got into a dice-box, and why may not a whole

territory be bargained for in a shed? It was but a temporary office

too; for the Edeners were 'going' to build a superb establishment

for the transaction of their business, and had already got so far as

to mark out the site. Which is a great way in America. The office-

door was wide open, and in the doorway was the agent; no doubt a

tremendous fellow to get through his work, for he seemed to have no

arrears, but was swinging backwards and forwards in a rocking-chair,

with one of his legs planted high up against the door-post, and the

other doubled up under him, as if he were hatching his foot.

 

He was a gaunt man in a huge straw hat, and a coat of green stuff.

The weather being hot, he had no cravat, and wore his shirt collar

wide open; so that every time he spoke something was seen to twitch

and jerk up in his throat, like the little hammers in a harpsichord

when the notes are struck. Perhaps it was the Truth feebly

endeavouring to leap to his lips. If so, it never reached them.

 

Two grey eyes lurked deep within this agent's head, but one of them

had no sight in it, and stood stock still. With that side of his

face he seemed to listen to what the other side was doing. Thus

each profile had a distinct expression; and when the movable side

was most in action, the rigid one was in its coldest state of

watchfulness. It was like turning the man inside out, to pass to

that view of his features in his liveliest mood, and see how

calculating and intent they were.

 

Each long black hair upon his head hung down as straight as any

plummet line; but rumpled tufts were on the arches of his eyes, as

if the crow whose foot was deeply printed in the corners had pecked

and torn them in a savage recognition of his kindred nature as a

bird of prey.

 

Such was the man whom they now approached, and whom the General

saluted by the name of Scadder.

 

'Well, Gen'ral,' he returned, 'and how are you?'

 

'Ac-tive and spry, sir, in my country's service and the sympathetic

cause. Two gentlemen on business, Mr Scadder.'

 

He shook hands with each of them--nothing is done in America without

shaking hands--then went on rocking.

 

'I think I know what bis'ness you have brought these strangers here

upon, then, Gen'ral?'

 

'Well, sir. I expect you may.'

 

'You air a tongue-y person, Gen'ral. For you talk too much, and

that's fact,' said Scadder. 'You speak a-larming well in public,

but you didn't ought to go ahead so fast in private. Now!'

 

'If I can realise your meaning, ride me on a rail!' returned the

General, after pausing for consideration.

 

'You know we didn't wish to sell the lots off right away to any

loafer as might bid,' said Scadder; 'but had con-cluded to reserve

'em for Aristocrats of Natur'. Yes!'

 

'And they are here, sir!' cried the General with warmth. 'They

are here, sir!'

 

'If they air here,' returned the agent, in reproachful accents,

'that's enough. But you didn't ought to have your dander ris with

ME, Gen'ral.'

 

The General whispered Martin that Scadder was the honestest fellow

in the world, and that he wouldn't have given him offence

designedly, for ten thousand dollars.

 

'I do my duty; and I raise the dander of my feller critters, as I

wish to serve,' said Scadder in a low voice, looking down the road

and rocking still. 'They rile up rough, along of my objecting to

their selling Eden off too cheap. That's human natur'! Well!'

 

'Mr Scadder,' said the General, assuming his oratorical deportment.

'Sir! Here is my hand, and here my heart. I esteem you, sir, and

ask your pardon. These gentlemen air friends of mine, or I would

not have brought 'em here, sir, being well aware, sir, that the lots

at present go entirely too cheap. But these air friends, sir; these

air partick'ler friends.'

 

Mr Scadder was so satisfied by this explanation, that he shook the

General warmly by the hand, and got out of the rocking-chair to do

it. He then invited the General's particular friends to accompany

him into the office. As to the General, he observed, with his usual

benevolence, that being one of the company, he wouldn't interfere in

the transaction on any account; so he appropriated the rocking-chair

to himself, and looked at the prospect, like a good Samaritan

waiting for a traveller.

 

'Heyday!' cried Martin, as his eye rested on a great plan which

occupied one whole side of the office. Indeed, the office had

little else in it, but some geological and botanical specimens, one

or two rusty ledgers, a homely desk, and a stool. 'Heyday! what's

that?'

 

'That's Eden,' said Scadder, picking his teeth with a sort of young

bayonet that flew out of his knife when he touched a spring.

 

'Why, I had no idea it was a city.'

 

'Hadn't you? Oh, it's a city.'

 

A flourishing city, too! An architectural city! There were banks,

churches, cathedrals, market-places, factories, hotels, stores,

mansions, wharves; an exchange, a theatre; public buildings of all

kinds, down to the office of the Eden Stinger, a daily journal; all

faithfully depicted in the view before them.

 

'Dear me! It's really a most important place!' cried Martin turning

round.

 

'Oh! it's very important,' observed the agent.

 

'But, I am afraid,' said Martin, glancing again at the Public

Buildings, 'that there's nothing left for me to do.'

 

'Well! it ain't all built,' replied the agent. 'Not quite.'

 

This was a great relief.

 

'The market-place, now,' said Martin. 'Is that built?'

 

'That?' said the agent, sticking his toothpick into the weathercock

on the top. 'Let me see. No; that ain't built.'

 

'Rather a good job to begin with--eh, Mark?' whispered Martin

nudging him with his elbow.

 

Mark, who, with a very stolid countenance had been eyeing the plan

and the agent by turns, merely rejoined 'Uncommon!'

 

A dead silence ensued, Mr Scadder in some short recesses or

vacations of his toothpick, whistled a few bars of Yankee Doodle,

and blew the dust off the roof of the Theatre.

 

'I suppose,' said Martin, feigning to look more narrowly at the

plan, but showing by his tremulous voice how much depended, in his

mind, upon the answer; 'I suppose there are--several architects

there?'

 

'There ain't a single one,' said Scadder.

 

'Mark,' whispered Martin, pulling him by the sleeve, 'do you hear

that? But whose work is all this before us, then?' he asked aloud.

 

'The soil being very fruitful, public buildings grows spontaneous,

perhaps,' said Mark.

 

He was on the agent's dark side as he said it; but Scadder instantly

changed his place, and brought his active eye to bear upon him.

 

'Feel of my hands, young man,' he said.

 

'What for?' asked Mark, declining.

 

'Air they dirty, or air they clean, sir?' said Scadder, holding them

out.

 

In a physical point of view they were decidedly dirty. But it being

obvious that Mr Scadder offered them for examination in a figurative

sense, as emblems of his moral character, Martin hastened to

pronounce them pure as the driven snow.

 

'I entreat, Mark,' he said, with some irritation, 'that you will not

obtrude remarks of that nature, which, however harmless and

well-intentioned, are quite out of place, and cannot be expected to

be very agreeable to strangers. I am quite surprised.'

 

'The Co.'s a-putting his foot in it already,' thought Mark. 'He

must be a sleeping partner--fast asleep and snoring--Co. must; I

see.'

 

Mr Scadder said nothing, but he set his back against the plan, and

thrust his toothpick into the desk some twenty times; looking at

Mark all the while as if he were stabbing him in effigy.

 

'You haven't said whose work it is,' Martin ventured to observe at

length, in a tone of mild propitiation.

 

'Well, never mind whose work it is, or isn't,' said the agent

sulkily. 'No matter how it did eventuate. P'raps he cleared off,

handsome, with a heap of dollars; p'raps he wasn't worth a cent.

P'raps he was a loafin' rowdy; p'raps a ring-tailed roarer. Now!'

 

'All your doing, Mark!' said Martin.

 

'P'raps,' pursued the agent, 'them ain't plants of Eden's raising.

No! P'raps that desk and stool ain't made from Eden lumber. No!

P'raps no end of squatters ain't gone out there. No! P'raps there

ain't no such location in the territoary of the Great U-nited

States. Oh, no!'

 

'I hope you're satisfied with the success of your joke, Mark,' said

Martin.

 

But here, at a most opportune and happy time, the General

interposed, and called out to Scadder from the doorway to give his

friends the particulars of that little lot of fifty acres with the

house upon it; which, having belonged to the company formerly, had

lately lapsed again into their hands.

 

'You air a deal too open-handed, Gen'ral,' was the answer. 'It is a

lot as should be rose in price. It is.'

 

He grumblingly opened his books notwithstanding, and always keeping

his bright side towards Mark, no matter at what amount of

inconvenience to himself, displayed a certain leaf for their

perusal. Martin read it greedily, and then inquired:

 

'Now where upon the plan may this place be?'

 

'Upon the plan?' said Scadder.

 

'Yes.'

 

He turned towards it, and reflected for a short time, as if, having

been put upon his mettle, he was resolved to be particular to the

very minutest hair's breadth of a shade. At length, after wheeling

his toothpick slowly round and round in the air, as if it were a

carrier pigeon just thrown up, he suddenly made a dart at the

drawing, and pierced the very centre of the main wharf, through and

through.

 

'There!' he said, leaving his knife quivering in the wall; 'that's

where it is!'

 

Martin glanced with sparkling eyes upon his Co., and his Co. saw

that the thing was done.

 

The bargain was not concluded as easily as might have been expected

though, for Scadder was caustic and ill-humoured, and cast much

unnecessary opposition in the way; at one time requesting them to

think of it, and call again in a week or a fortnight; at another,

predicting that they wouldn't like it; at another, offering to

retract and let them off, and muttering strong imprecations upon the

folly of the General. But the whole of the astoundingly small sum

total of purchase-money--it was only one hundred and fifty dollars,

or something more than thirty pounds of the capital brought by Co.

into the architectural concern--was ultimately paid down; and

Martin's head was two inches nearer the roof of the little wooden

office, with the consciousness of being a landed proprietor in the

thriving city of Eden.

 

'If it shouldn't happen to fit,' said Scadder, as he gave Martin the

necessary credentials on recepit of his money, 'don't blame me.'

 

'No, no,' he replied merrily. 'We'll not blame you. General, are

you going?'

 

'I am at your service, sir; and I wish you,' said the General,

giving him his hand with grave cordiality, 'joy of your po-ssession.

You air now, sir, a denizen of the most powerful and highly-

civilised dominion that has ever graced the world; a do-minion, sir,

where man is bound to man in one vast bond of equal love and truth.

May you, sir, be worthy of your a-dopted country!'

 

Martin thanked him, and took leave of Mr Scadder; who had resumed

his post in the rocking-chair, immediately on the General's rising

from it, and was once more swinging away as if he had never been

disturbed. Mark looked back several times as they went down the

road towards the National Hotel, but now his blighted profile was

towards them, and nothing but attentive thoughtfulness was written

on it. Strangely different to the other side! He was not a man much

given to laughing, and never laughed outright; but every line in the

print of the crow's foot, and every little wiry vein in that

division of his head, was wrinkled up into a grin! The compound

figure of Death and the Lady at the top of the old ballad was not

divided with a greater nicety, and hadn't halves more monstrously

unlike each other, than the two profiles of Zephaniah Scadder.

 

The General posted along at a great rate, for the clock was on the

stroke of twelve; and at that hour precisely, the Great Meeting of

the Watertoast Sympathisers was to be holden in the public room of

the National Hotel. Being very curious to witness the

demonstration, and know what it was all about, Martin kept close to

the General; and, keeping closer than ever when they entered the

Hall, got by that means upon a little platform of tables at the

upper end; where an armchair was set for the General, and Mr La

Fayette Kettle, as secretary, was making a great display of some

foolscap documents. Screamers, no doubt.

 

'Well, sir!' he said, as he shook hands with Martin, 'here is a

spectacle calc'lated to make the British Lion put his tail between

his legs, and howl with anguish, I expect!'

 

Martin certainly thought it possible that the British Lion might

have been rather out of his element in that Ark; but he kept the

idea to himself. The General was then voted to the chair, on the

motion of a pallid lad of the Jefferson Brick school; who forthwith

set in for a high-spiced speech, with a good deal about hearths and

homes in it, and unriveting the chains of Tyranny.

 

Oh but it was a clincher for the British Lion, it was! The

indignation of the glowing young Columbian knew no bounds. If he

could only have been one of his own forefathers, he said, wouldn't

he have peppered that same Lion, and been to him as another Brute

Tamer with a wire whip, teaching him lessons not easily forgotten.

'Lion! (cried that young Columbian) where is he? Who is he? What

is he? Show him to me. Let me have him here. Here!' said the

young Columbian, in a wrestling attitude, 'upon this sacred altar.

Here!' cried the young Columbian, idealising the dining-table, 'upon

ancestral ashes, cemented with the glorious blood poured out like

water on our native plains of Chickabiddy Lick! Bring forth that

Lion!' said the young Columbian. 'Alone, I dare him! I taunt that

Lion. I tell that Lion, that Freedom's hand once twisted in his

mane, he rolls a corse before me, and the Eagles of the Great

Republic laugh ha, ha!'

 

When it was found that the Lion didn't come, but kept out of the

way; that the young Columbian stood there, with folded arms, alone

in his glory; and consequently that the Eagles were no doubt

laughing wildly on the mountain tops; such cheers arose as might

have shaken the hands upon the Horse-Guards' clock, and changed the

very mean time of the day in England's capital.

 

'Who is this?' Martin telegraphed to La Fayette.

 

The Secretary wrote something, very gravely, on a piece of paper,

twisted it up, and had it passed to him from hand to hand. It was

an improvement on the old sentiment: 'Perhaps as remarkable a man as

any in our country.'

 

This young Columbian was succeeded by another, to the full as

eloquent as he, who drew down storms of cheers. But both remarkable

youths, in their great excitement (for your true poetry can never

stoop to details), forgot to say with whom or what the Watertoasters

sympathized, and likewise why or wherefore they were sympathetic.

Thus Martin remained for a long time as completely in the dark as

ever; until at length a ray of light broke in upon him through the

medium of the Secretary, who, by reading the minutes of their past

proceedings, made the matter somewhat clearer. He then learned that

the Watertoast Association sympathized with a certain Public Man in

Ireland, who held a contest upon certain points with England; and

that they did so, because they didn't love England at all--not by

any means because they loved Ireland much; being indeed horribly

jealous and distrustful of its people always, and only tolerating

them because of their working hard, which made them very useful;

labour being held in greater indignity in the simple republic than

in any other country upon earth. This rendered Martin curious to

see what grounds of sympathy the Watertoast Association put forth;

nor was he long in suspense, for the General rose to read a letter

to the Public Man, which with his own hands he had written.

 

'Thus,' said the General, 'thus, my friends and fellow-citizens, it

runs:

 

 

'"SIR--I address you on behalf of the Watertoast Association of

United Sympathisers. It is founded, sir, in the great republic

of America! and now holds its breath, and swells the blue veins

in its forehead nigh to bursting, as it watches, sir, with feverish

intensity and sympathetic ardour, your noble efforts in the cause

of Freedom."'

 

 

At the name of Freedom, and at every repetition of that name, all

the Sympathisers roared aloud; cheering with nine times nine, and

nine times over.

 

 

'"In Freedom's name, sir--holy Freedom--I address you. In

Freedom's name, I send herewith a contribution to the funds of your

society. In Freedom's name, sir, I advert with indignation and

disgust to that accursed animal, with gore-stained whiskers, whose

rampant cruelty and fiery lust have ever been a scourge, a torment

to the world. The naked visitors to Crusoe's Island, sir; the

flying wives of Peter Wilkins; the fruit-smeared children of the

tangled bush; nay, even the men of large stature, anciently bred in

the mining districts of Cornwall; alike bear witness to its savage

nature. Where, sir, are the Cormorans, the Blunderbores, the Great

Feefofums, named in History? All, all, exterminated by its

destroying hand.

 

'"I allude, sir, to the British Lion.

 

'"Devoted, mind and body, heart and soul, to Freedom, sir--to

Freedom, blessed solace to the snail upon the cellar-door, the

oyster in his pearly bed, the still mite in his home of cheese, the

very winkle of your country in his shelly lair--in her unsullied

name, we offer you our sympathy. Oh, sir, in this our cherished and

our happy land, her fires burn bright and clear and smokeless; once

lighted up in yours, the lion shall be roasted whole.

 

'"I am, sir, in Freedom's name,

 

'"Your affectionate friend and faithful Sympathiser,

 

'"CYRUS CHOKE,

 

'"General, U.S.M."'

 

 

It happened that just as the General began to read this letter, the

railroad train arrived, bringing a new mail from England; and a

packet had been handed in to the Secretary, which during its perusal

and the frequent cheerings in homage to freedom, he had opened.

Now, its contents disturbed him very much, and the moment the

General sat down, he hurried to his side, and placed in his hand a

letter and several printed extracts from English newspapers; to

which, in a state of infinite excitement, he called his immediate

attention.

 

The General, being greatly heated by his own composition, was in a

fit state to receive any inflammable influence; but he had no sooner

possessed himself of the contents of these documents, than a change

came over his face, involving such a huge amount of choler and

passion, that the noisy concourse were silent in a moment, in very

wonder at the sight of him.

 

'My friends!' cried the General, rising; 'my friends and fellow

citizens, we have been mistaken in this man.'

 

'In what man?' was the cry.

 

'In this,' panted the General, holding up the letter he had read

aloud a few minutes before. 'I find that he has been, and is, the

advocate--consistent in it always too--of Nigger emancipation!'

 

If anything beneath the sky be real, those Sons of Freedom would

have pistolled, stabbed--in some way slain--that man by coward hands

and murderous violence, if he had stood among them at that time.

The most confiding of their own countrymen would not have wagered

then--no, nor would they ever peril--one dunghill straw, upon the

life of any man in such a strait. They tore the letter, cast the

fragments in the air, trod down the pieces as they fell; and yelled,

and groaned, and hissed, till they could cry no longer.

 

'I shall move,' said the General, when he could make himself heard,

'that the Watertoast Association of United Sympathisers be

immediately dissolved!'

 

Down with it! Away with it! Don't hear of it! Burn its records!

Pull the room down! Blot it out of human memory!

 

'But, my fellow-countrymen!' said the General, 'the contributions.

We have funds. What is to be done with the funds?'

 

It was hastily resolved that a piece of plate should be presented to

a certain constitutional Judge, who had laid down from the Bench the

noble principle that it was lawful for any white mob to murder any

black man; and that another piece of plate, of similar value should

be presented to a certain Patriot, who had declared from his high

place in the Legislature, that he and his friends would hang without

trial, any Abolitionist who might pay them a visit. For the

surplus, it was agreed that it should be devoted to aiding the

enforcement of those free and equal laws, which render it

incalculably more criminal and dangerous to teach a negro to read

and write than to roast him alive in a public city. These points

adjusted, the meeting broke up in great disorder, and there was an

end of the Watertoast Sympathy.

 

As Martin ascended to his bedroom, his eye was attracted by the

Republican banner, which had been hoisted from the house-top in

honour of the occasion, and was fluttering before a window which he

passed.

 

'Tut!' said Martin. 'You're a gay flag in the distance. But let a

man be near enough to get the light upon the other side and see

through you; and you are but sorry fustian!'

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