Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

. (page 36 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 36 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


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 intro-
duction 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 finislied
the note, he came over to Martin, sat down 1iy Iiini, and shook
hands.

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

"Subject to your opinion, and the agent's advice," replic(l



334 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

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 connexion, as he thought, with
any land company, and therefore being likely to give him disinter-
ested 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 1 "

"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-lookiug
umbrella it was ; a very bad counter to stand for the sterling jp^ii
of his benevolence -"'Hiere am I with gray liairs^ Sir, and a moral
sense. Would I, with my principles, invest capital in this specu-
lation if I didn't think it full of hopes and chances for my brother
man 1 "

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 1 But it is nat'ral in
you to make such an enqueriy, for you come from England, and
you do not know my country."

" Then you think," said Martin, " that allowing for the hard-
ships we are prepared to undergo, there is a reasonable — Heaven
knows we don't expect much — a reasonable ojDening in this place?"

" A reasonable opening in Eden. Sir ! But see the agent, see



^lARTIN CHUZZLEAVIT. 335

the agent ; see the maps, and plans, Sir ; and conclude to go or
stay, according to the natiir' 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
uugentlemanly 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 Sympathizers were,
of whom he had spoken in addressing Mr. La Fayette Kettle, and
ou wl)at 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
slices, 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 up stairs and down stairs, scores of little whitewasiied
bed-rooms, and a four-sided verandah to every stoiy in the house,
which formed a large brick square with an uncomfortable court-
yard 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, where-
ever 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.



336 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

They did the same things ; said the same things ; judged all sub-
jects by, and reduced all subjects to, the same standard. Observing
how they lived, and how they were always in the enchanting com-
pany 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 imblic 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 ravishing 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 counsel, 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 imjwrtance 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, / am."

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



7^



I



MARTIX CIIUZZLEWIT. 337

to yo\i, ami a great satisfaction to nie. ]\Iark, 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 ^lartin ! 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 conscious-
uess of patronising and most munificently lewarding Mark !

"I don't know. Sir," I\Iark rejoined, much more sadly than his
custom was, though from a very different cause than Martin sup-
posed, " 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
[jublic 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
fouple 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
agi-eed 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 him-
self in his jollity, of this concession; perfectly well knowing that
tlie matter would come to that in the end, any way.

The General was one of the party at the puhlic table next day,
and after breakf\ist suggested that they should wait upon the agent
without loss of time. They, desiring nothing more, agreed ; so off

7.



338 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

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 estab-
lishment 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 door-way 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 for-
wards 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 gray 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 straiglit as
any plummet line, but rumpled tufts were on the arches of liis
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 tlie
General saluted by the name of Scadder.

"Well, Gen'ral," he returned, "and how arc youl"

" Ac-tive and spry. Sir, in my country's service and the sym-
pathetic 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 tliink I know what bis'ness you have brought these strangers
iiere upon, then, Gen'ral ? "

" Well, Sir. I expect you may.'



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 339

" You air a tongue-y person, Gen'ral. For you talk too much,
id that's a fact," said Scadder. "You speak a-larming well in
iblic, 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
e General, after pausing for consideration.

" You know we didn't wish to sell the lots off right away to
y loafer as might bid," said Scadder; "but had con-eluded to
3erve 'em for Aristocrats of Natur'. Yes ! "

" And they are here. Sir ! " cried the General with warmtli.
rhey 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
ith me, Gen'ral."

The General whispered Martin that Scadder was the honestcst
low in the world, and that he wouldn't have given him offence
signedly, for ten thousand dollars.

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

I wisli to serve," said Scadder in a low voice, looking down the
ad and rocking still. " They rile up rough, along of my object-
g to their selling Eden off too cheap. That's human natur' !
ell ! "

"Mr. Scadder," said the General, assuming his oratorical de-
irtment. " Sir ! Here is my hand, and here my heart. I
teem you. Sir, and ask your pardon. These gentlemen air
ends of mine, or I would not have brought 'em here. Sir, being
?11 aware. Sir, that the lots at present go entirely too cheap,
it these air friends, Sir ] these air partick'ler friends."

Mr. Scadder was so satisfied by this explanation, that he shook
e General warmly by the hand, and got out of the rocking-chair

do it. He then invited the General's particular friends to
company him into the office. As to the General, he observed,
th his usual benevolence, that being one of the Comi^any, he
juldn't interfere in the transaction on any account ; so he
ipropriated the rocking-chair to himself, and looked at the pres-
et, like a good Samaritan waiting for a traveller.

" Heyday ! " cried Martin, as his eye rested on a great plan
lich occupied one whole side of the office. Indeed, the office
.d little else in it, but some geological and botanical specimens,
e or two rusty ledgers, a homely desk, and a stool. " Heyday !
liat's that 1 "

"That's Eden," said Scadder, picking his teeth with a sort of
ung 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."



-'^^^«^

-^t.




RIVIXG CITY OF EDEX, AS IT APPEARED ON PAPER.



LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF MARTIN I'llUZZLEWIT. oil

A flourishing city, too ! An ai-chitectnral city ! There were
banks, churches, cathedrals, market-places, factories, hotels, stores,
mansions, Avharves ; an exchange, a theatre ; public buildings of
all kinds, down to the office of the Eden Stinger, a daily journal ;
all I'aithfully depicted in the view before them.

"Dear me ! It's really a most important place ! " cried Martin,
turning roiuid.

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

"But, I am afraid," said Martin, glancing again at the rublic
Buildings, " that there's nothing left for me to do."

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

Tliis 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 spon-
taneous, perhaps," said Mark.

He was on the agent's dark side as he said it ; but Scadder
instantly changed his place, and brouglit his active eye to bear
upon him.

"Feel of my hands, young nuui," he said.

" What for ? " asked Mark, declining.

"Air they dirty, or air they clean, Sir?" said Scadder, holding
them out.

In a physical })oint of view they were decide<lly dirty. But it
being obvious that Air. Scadder ottered them for examination in a
figurative sense, as emblems of his moral character, JNIartin hastened
to pronounce them pure as the driven snow.

"I entreat, Mark," he said, with some irritation, "that you



342 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

will not obtrude remarks of that nature, whicli, however harmless
and well-intentioned, are quite out of place, and cannot be expected
to be very agreeable to strangers. I am quite surpi'ised."

" The Co.'s a putting his foot in it already," thought Mark.
" He must be a sleeping partner — fast asleep and snoring — Co,
must : / 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 w^ere stabbing him in effigy.

"You haven't said whose work it i.s," 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 otf,
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 a'nt 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 lo-catiou in the territoary of the
Great U-nited States. Oh, no ! "

" I hope you're satisfied w^itli 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 grurablingly 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 1 "

" Upon the plan 1 " 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 xip, he suddenly made a dart at
the drawing, and pierced the very centre of the main wharf,
through and through.



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 343

" Tlicic ! " he said, leavini,' his knife quivering in tlie wall ;
that's where it is ! "

jMartiu glanced with sparkling eyes upon his Co., and his Co.
iw that the thing was done.

The bargain was not concluded as easily as might have been
ipectod though, for Scadder was caustic and ill-humoured, and
ist much unnecessary opposition in the way : at one time re-
iiesting them to think of it, and call again in a week or a fort-
ight ; at another, predicting that they wouldn't like it ; at
lothor, offering to retract and let them off, and muttering strong
aprecations i;pon the folly of the General. But the whole of the
stonndingly small sum-total of purchase-money — it w-as only one
undred and fifty dollars, or something more than thirty pounds of
le capital brought by Co. into the architectural concern — was
Itimately paid down ; and Llartin's head was two inches nearer
le roof of the little -wooden office, with the consciousness of being
lauded j^roprietor in the thriving city of Eden.

"If it shouldn't happen to fit," said Scadder, as he gave Martin
16 necessary credentials on receipt of his money, "don't blame

18."

"No, no," he replied merrily. "We'll not blame you. General,
re you going ? "

" I am at your service. Sir ; and I wish you," said the General,
iving him his hand with grave cordiality, "joy of your po-ssession.
on air now. Sir, a denizen of the most powerful and highly-
vilised do-minion that has ever graced the world ; a do-minion,
ir, where man is bound to man in one vast bond of equal love
tid truth. May you. Sir, be w'ortliy of your a-dopted country ! "

Martin thanked him, and took leave of Mr. Scadder ; who had
jsumed his post in the rocking-chair, immediately on the General's
sing from it, and was once more swinging away as if he had never
een disturbed. Mark looked back several times as they went
own the road towards the National Hotel, but now his blighted
rofile was towards them, and nothing but attentive thoughtfulness
'as written on it. Strangely different to the other side ! He was
ot a man much given to laughing, and never laughed outright ;
ut every line in the print of the crow's foot, and every little wiry
ein in that division of his head, was wrinkled up into a grin !
'lie compound figure of Death and the Lady at the top of the old
allad was not divided with a greater nicety, and hadn't halves
lore monstrously unlike each other, than the two profiles of
lephaniah Scadder.

The General posted along at a great rate, for the clock was on
he stroke of twelve ; and at that hour precisely, the Great Meeting



344 LIFE AXD ADVENTURES OF

of the Watertoast Sjanpathisers was to be lioldeii iii 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 tlie General : and, keeping closer than ever when they entered
the Hall, got by that means upon a little platform of tables at tiie
upper end : where an arm-chair 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



Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 36 of 80)