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MARTIN AND HIS PARTNER TAKE POSSESSION OF THEIR ESTATE. THE JOYFUL
OCCASION INVOLVES SOME FURTHER ACCOUNT OF EDEN
There happened to be on board the steamboat several gentlemen
passengers, of the same stamp as Martin's New York friend Mr Bevan; and
in their society he was cheerful and happy. They released him as well
as they could from the intellectual entanglements of Mrs Hominy;
and exhibited, in all they said and did, so much good sense and high
feeling, that he could not like them too well. 'If this were a republic
of Intellect and Worth,' he said, 'instead of vapouring and jobbing,
they would not want the levers to keep it in motion.'
'Having good tools, and using bad ones,' returned Mr Tapley, 'would look
as if they was rather a poor sort of carpenters, sir, wouldn't it?'
Martin nodded. 'As if their work were infinitely above their powers and
purpose, Mark; and they botched it in consequence.'
'The best on it is,' said Mark, 'that when they do happen to make a
decent stroke; such as better workmen, with no such opportunities, make
every day of their lives and think nothing of--they begin to sing out
so surprising loud. Take notice of my words, sir. If ever the defaulting
part of this here country pays its debts--along of finding that not
paying 'em won't do in a commercial point of view, you see, and is
inconvenient in its consequences--they'll take such a shine out of it,
and make such bragging speeches, that a man might suppose no borrowed
money had ever been paid afore, since the world was first begun. That's
the way they gammon each other, sir. Bless you, I know 'em. Take notice
of my words, now!'
'You seem to be growing profoundly sagacious!' cried Martin, laughing.
'Whether that is,' thought Mark, 'because I'm a day's journey nearer
Eden, and am brightening up afore I die, I can't say. P'rhaps by the
time I get there I shall have growed into a prophet.'
He gave no utterance to these sentiments; but the excessive joviality
they inspired within him, and the merriment they brought upon his
shining face, were quite enough for Martin. Although he might sometimes
profess to make light of his partner's inexhaustible cheerfulness,
and might sometimes, as in the case of Zephaniah Scadder, find him
too jocose a commentator, he was always sensible of the effect of his
example in rousing him to hopefulness and courage. Whether he were in
the humour to profit by it, mattered not a jot. It was contagious, and
he could not choose but be affected.
At first they parted with some of their passengers once or twice a day,
and took in others to replace them. But by degrees, the towns upon their
route became more thinly scattered; and for many hours together they
would see no other habitations than the huts of the wood-cutters, where
the vessel stopped for fuel. Sky, wood, and water all the livelong day;
and heat that blistered everything it touched.
On they toiled through great solitudes, where the trees upon the banks
grew thick and close; and floatad in the stream; and held up shrivelled
arms from out the river's depths; and slid down from the margin of the
land, half growing, half decaying, in the miry water. On through the
weary day and melancholy night; beneath the burning sun, and in the mist
and vapour of the evening; on, until return appeared impossible, and
restoration to their home a miserable dream.
They had now but few people on board, and these few were as flat, as
dull, and stagnant, as the vegetation that oppressed their eyes. No
sound of cheerfulness or hope was heard; no pleasant talk beguiled
the tardy time; no little group made common cause against the full
depression of the scene. But that, at certain periods, they swallowed
food together from a common trough, it might have been old Charon's
boat, conveying melancholy shades to judgment.
At length they drew near New Thermopylae; where, that same evening, Mrs
Hominy would disembark. A gleam of comfort sunk into Martin's bosom when
she told him this. Mark needed none; but he was not displeased.
It was almost night when they came alongside the landing-place. A steep
bank with an hotel like a barn on the top of it; a wooden store or two;
and a few scattered sheds.
'You sleep here to-night, and go on in the morning, I suppose, ma'am?'
'Where should I go on to?' cried the mother of the modern Gracchi.
'To New Thermopylae.'
'My! ain't I there?' said Mrs Hominy.
Martin looked for it all round the darkening panorama; but he couldn't
see it, and was obliged to say so.
'Why that's it!' cried Mrs Hominy, pointing to the sheds just mentioned.
'THAT!' exclaimed Martin.
'Ah! that; and work it which way you will, it whips Eden,' said Mrs
Hominy, nodding her head with great expression.
The married Miss Hominy, who had come on board with her husband, gave to
this statement her most unqualified support, as did that gentleman also.
Martin gratefully declined their invitation to regale himself at their
house during the half hour of the vessel's stay; and having escorted
Mrs Hominy and the red pocket-handkerchief (which was still on active
service) safely across the gangway, returned in a thoughtful mood to
watch the emigrants as they removed their goods ashore.
Mark, as he stood beside him, glanced in his face from time to time;
anxious to discover what effect this dialogue had had upon him, and
not unwilling that his hopes should be dashed before they reached their
destination, so that the blow he feared might be broken in its fall. But
saving that he sometimes looked up quickly at the poor erections on the
hill, he gave him no clue to what was passing in his mind, until they
were again upon their way.
'Mark,' he said then, 'are there really none but ourselves on board this
boat who are bound for Eden?'
'None at all, sir. Most of 'em, as you know, have stopped short; and
the few that are left are going further on. What matters that! More room
there for us, sir.'
'Oh, to be sure!' said Martin. 'But I was thinking--' and there he
'Yes, sir?' observed Mark.
'How odd it was that the people should have arranged to try their
fortune at a wretched hole like that, for instance, when there is such
a much better, and such a very different kind of place, near at hand, as
one may say.'
He spoke in a tone so very different from his usual confidence, and with
such an obvious dread of Mark's reply, that the good-natured fellow was
full of pity.
'Why, you know, sir,' said Mark, as gently as he could by any means
insinuate the observation, 'we must guard against being too sanguine.
There's no occasion for it, either, because we're determined to make the
best of everything, after we know the worst of it. Ain't we, sir?'
Martin looked at him, but answered not a word.
'Even Eden, you know, ain't all built,' said Mark.
'In the name of Heaven, man,' cried Martin angrily, 'don't talk of Eden
in the same breath with that place. Are you mad? There--God forgive
me!--don't think harshly of me for my temper!'
After that, he turned away, and walked to and fro upon the deck full two
hours. Nor did he speak again, except to say 'Good night,' until next
day; nor even then upon this subject, but on other topics quite foreign
to the purpose.
As they proceeded further on their track, and came more and more towards
their journey's end, the monotonous desolation of the scene increased to
that degree, that for any redeeming feature it presented to their eyes,
they might have entered, in the body, on the grim domains of Giant
Despair. A flat morass, bestrewn with fallen timber; a marsh on which
the good growth of the earth seemed to have been wrecked and cast away,
that from its decomposing ashes vile and ugly things might rise; where
the very trees took the aspect of huge weeds, begotten of the slime
from which they sprung, by the hot sun that burnt them up; where fatal
maladies, seeking whom they might infect, came forth at night in misty
shapes, and creeping out upon the water, hunted them like spectres until
day; where even the blessed sun, shining down on festering elements
of corruption and disease, became a horror; this was the realm of Hope
through which they moved.
At last they stopped. At Eden too. The waters of the Deluge might have
left it but a week before; so choked with slime and matted growth was
the hideous swamp which bore that name.
There being no depth of water close in shore, they landed from the
vessel's boat, with all their goods beside them. There were a few
log-houses visible among the dark trees; the best, a cow-shed or a rude
stable; but for the wharves, the market-place, the public buildings--
'Here comes an Edener,' said Mark. 'He'll get us help to carry these
things up. Keep a good heart, sir. Hallo there!'
The man advanced toward them through the thickening gloom, very slowly;
leaning on a stick. As he drew nearer, they observed that he was pale
and worn, and that his anxious eyes were deeply sunken in his head. His
dress of homespun blue hung about him in rags; his feet and head were
bare. He sat down on a stump half-way, and beckoned them to come to him.
When they complied, he put his hand upon his side as if in pain, and
while he fetched his breath stared at them, wondering.
'Strangers!' he exclaimed, as soon as he could speak.
'The very same,' said Mark. 'How are you, sir?'
'I've had the fever very bad,' he answered faintly. 'I haven't stood
upright these many weeks. Those are your notions I see,' pointing to
'Yes, sir,' said Mark, 'they are. You couldn't recommend us some one as
would lend a hand to help carry 'em up to the--to the town, could you,
'My eldest son would do it if he could,' replied the man; 'but today
he has his chill upon him, and is lying wrapped up in the blankets. My
youngest died last week.'
'I'm sorry for it, governor, with all my heart,' said Mark, shaking him
by the hand. 'Don't mind us. Come along with me, and I'll give you an
arm back. The goods is safe enough, sir'--to Martin--'there ain't many
people about, to make away with 'em. What a comfort that is!'
'No,' cried the man. 'You must look for such folk here,' knocking his
stick upon the ground, 'or yonder in the bush, towards the north. We've
buried most of 'em. The rest have gone away. Them that we have here,
don't come out at night.'
'The night air ain't quite wholesome, I suppose?' said Mark.
'It's deadly poison,' was the settler's answer.
Mark showed no more uneasiness than if it had been commended to him as
ambrosia; but he gave the man his arm, and as they went along explained
to him the nature of their purchase, and inquired where it lay. Close to
his own log-house, he said; so close that he had used their dwelling
as a store-house for some corn; they must excuse it that night, but he
would endeavour to get it taken out upon the morrow. He then gave them
to understand, as an additional scrap of local chit-chat, that he had
buried the last proprietor with his own hands; a piece of information
which Mark also received without the least abatement of his equanimity.
In a word, he conducted them to a miserable cabin, rudely constructed
of the trunks of trees; the door of which had either fallen down or
been carried away long ago; and which was consequently open to the
wild landscape and the dark night. Saving for the little store he had
mentioned, it was perfectly bare of all furniture; but they had left a
chest upon the landing-place, and he gave them a rude torch in lieu
of candle. This latter acquisition Mark planted in the earth, and then
declaring that the mansion 'looked quite comfortable,' hurried
Martin off again to help bring up the chest. And all the way to the
landing-place and back, Mark talked incessantly; as if he would infuse
into his partner's breast some faint belief that they had arrived under
the most auspicious and cheerful of all imaginable circumstances.
But many a man who would have stood within a home dismantled, strong in
his passion and design of vengeance, has had the firmness of his
nature conquered by the razing of an air-built castle. When the log-hut
received them for the second time, Martin laid down upon the ground, and
'Lord love you, sir!' cried Mr Tapley, in great terror; 'Don't do that!
Don't do that, sir! Anything but that! It never helped man, woman, or
child, over the lowest fence yet, sir, and it never will. Besides its
being of no use to you, it's worse than of no use to me, for the least
sound of it will knock me flat down. I can't stand up agin it, sir.
Anything but that!'
There is no doubt he spoke the truth, for the extraordinary alarm with
which he looked at Martin as he paused upon his knees before the chest,
in the act of unlocking it, to say these words, sufficiently confirmed
'I ask your forgiveness a thousand times, my dear fellow,' said Martin.
'I couldn't have helped it, if death had been the penalty.'
'Ask my forgiveness!' said Mark, with his accustomed cheerfulness, as he
proceeded to unpack the chest. 'The head partner a-asking forgiveness of
Co., eh? There must be something wrong in the firm when that happens. I
must have the books inspected and the accounts gone over immediate. Here
we are. Everything in its proper place. Here's the salt pork. Here's the
biscuit. Here's the whiskey. Uncommon good it smells too. Here's the
tin pot. This tin pot's a small fortun' in itself! Here's the blankets.
Here's the axe. Who says we ain't got a first-rate fit out? I feel as if
I was a cadet gone out to Indy, and my noble father was chairman of the
Board of Directors. Now, when I've got some water from the stream afore
the door and mixed the grog,' cried Mark, running out to suit the action
to the word, 'there's a supper ready, comprising every delicacy of
the season. Here we are, sir, all complete. For what we are going to
receive, et cetrer. Lord bless you, sir, it's very like a gipsy party!'
It was impossible not to take heart, in the company of such a man as
this. Martin sat upon the ground beside the box; took out his knife; and
ate and drank sturdily.
'Now you see,' said Mark, when they had made a hearty meal; 'with your
knife and mine, I sticks this blanket right afore the door. Or where, in
a state of high civilization, the door would be. And very neat it looks.
Then I stops the aperture below, by putting the chest agin it. And very
neat THAT looks. Then there's your blanket, sir. Then here's mine. And
what's to hinder our passing a good night?'
For all his light-hearted speaking, it was long before he slept himself.
He wrapped his blanket round him, put the axe ready to his hand, and lay
across the threshold of the door; too anxious and too watchful to close
his eyes. The novelty of their dreary situation, the dread of some
rapacious animal or human enemy, the terrible uncertainty of their means
of subsistence, the apprehension of death, the immense distance and the
hosts of obstacles between themselves and England, were fruitful sources
of disquiet in the deep silence of the night. Though Martin would have
had him think otherwise, Mark felt that he was waking also, and a prey
to the same reflections. This was almost worse than all, for if he began
to brood over their miseries instead of trying to make head against them
there could be little doubt that such a state of mind would powerfully
assist the influence of the pestilent climate. Never had the light of
day been half so welcome to his eyes, as when awaking from a fitful
doze, Mark saw it shining through the blanket in the doorway.
He stole out gently, for his companion was sleeping now; and having
refreshed himself by washing in the river, where it snowed before the
door, took a rough survey of the settlement. There were not above a
score of cabins in the whole; half of these appeared untenanted; all
were rotten and decayed. The most tottering, abject, and forlorn among
them was called, with great propriety, the Bank, and National Credit
Office. It had some feeble props about it, but was settling deep down in
the mud, past all recovery.
Here and there an effort had been made to clear the land, and something
like a field had been marked out, where, among the stumps and ashes of
burnt trees, a scanty crop of Indian corn was growing. In some quarters,
a snake or zigzag fence had been begun, but in no instance had it been
completed; and the felled logs, half hidden in the soil, lay mouldering
away. Three or four meagre dogs, wasted and vexed with hunger; some
long-legged pigs, wandering away into the woods in search of food; some
children, nearly naked, gazing at him from the huts; were all the living
things he saw. A fetid vapour, hot and sickening as the breath of an
oven, rose up from the earth, and hung on everything around; and as his
foot-prints sunk into the marshy ground, a black ooze started forth to
blot them out.
Their own land was mere forest. The trees had grown so think and close
that they shouldered one another out of their places, and the weakest,
forced into shapes of strange distortion, languished like cripples.
The best were stunted, from the pressure and the want of room; and high
about the stems of all grew long rank grass, dank weeds, and frowsy
underwood; not divisible into their separate kinds, but tangled all
together in a heap; a jungle deep and dark, with neither earth nor water
at its roots, but putrid matter, formed of the pulpy offal of the two,
and of their own corruption.
He went down to the landing-place where they had left their goods last
night; and there he found some half-dozen men--wan and forlorn to look
at, but ready enough to assist--who helped him to carry them to the
log-house. They shook their heads in speaking of the settlement, and had
no comfort to give him. Those who had the means of going away had all
deserted it. They who were left had lost their wives, their children,
friends, or brothers there, and suffered much themselves. Most of
them were ill then; none were the men they had been once. They frankly
offered their assistance and advice, and, leaving him for that time,
went sadly off upon their several tasks.
Martin was by this time stirring; but he had greatly changed, even in
one night. He was very pale and languid; he spoke of pains and weakness
in his limbs, and complained that his sight was dim, and his voice
feeble. Increasing in his own briskness as the prospect grew more and
more dismal, Mark brought away a door from one of the deserted houses,
and fitted it to their own habitation; then went back again for a rude
bench he had observed, with which he presently returned in triumph;
and having put this piece of furniture outside the house, arranged the
notable tin pot and other such movables upon it, that it might represent
a dresser or a sideboard. Greatly satisfied with this arrangement, he
next rolled their cask of flour into the house and set it up on end in
one corner, where it served for a side-table. No better dining-table
could be required than the chest, which he solemnly devoted to that
useful service thenceforth. Their blankets, clothes, and the like, he
hung on pegs and nails. And lastly, he brought forth a great placard
(which Martin in the exultation of his heart had prepared with his own
hands at the National Hotel) bearing the inscription, CHUZZLEWIT & CO.,
ARCHITECTS AND SURVEYORS, which he displayed upon the most conspicuous
part of the premises, with as much gravity as if the thriving city of
Eden had a real existence, and they expected to be overwhelmed with
'These here tools,' said Mark, bringing forward Martin's case of
instruments and sticking the compasses upright in a stump before the
door, 'shall be set out in the open air to show that we come provided.
And now, if any gentleman wants a house built, he'd better give his
orders, afore we're other ways bespoke.'
Considering the intense heat of the weather, this was not a bad
morning's work; but without pausing for a moment, though he was
streaming at every pore, Mark vanished into the house again, and
presently reappeared with a hatchet; intent on performing some
impossibilities with that implement.
'Here's ugly old tree in the way, sir,' he observed, 'which'll be all
the better down. We can build the oven in the afternoon. There never was
such a handy spot for clay as Eden is. That's convenient, anyhow.'
But Martin gave him no answer. He had sat the whole time with his head
upon his hands, gazing at the current as it rolled swiftly by; thinking,
perhaps, how fast it moved towards the open sea, the high road to the
home he never would behold again.
Not even the vigorous strokes which Mark dealt at the tree awoke him
from his mournful meditation. Finding all his endeavours to rouse him of
no use, Mark stopped in his work and came towards him.
'Don't give in, sir,' said Mr Tapley.
'Oh, Mark,' returned his friend, 'what have I done in all my life that
has deserved this heavy fate?'
'Why, sir,' returned Mark, 'for the matter of that, everybody as is here
might say the same thing; many of 'em with better reason p'raps than
you or me. Hold up, sir. Do something. Couldn't you ease your mind, now,
don't you think, by making some personal obserwations in a letter to
'No,' said Martin, shaking his head sorrowfully: 'I am past that.'
'But if you're past that already,' returned Mark, 'you must be ill, and
ought to be attended to.'
'Don't mind me,' said Martin. 'Do the best you can for yourself. You'll
soon have only yourself to consider. And then God speed you home, and
forgive me for bringing you here! I am destined to die in this place. I
felt it the instant I set foot upon the shore. Sleeping or waking, Mark,
I dreamed it all last night.'
'I said you must be ill,' returned Mark, tenderly, 'and now I'm sure of
it. A touch of fever and ague caught on these rivers, I dare say; but
bless you, THAT'S nothing. It's only a seasoning, and we must all be
seasoned, one way or another. That's religion that is, you know,' said
He only sighed and shook his head.
'Wait half a minute,' said Mark cheerily, 'till I run up to one of our
neighbours and ask what's best to be took, and borrow a little of it to
give you; and to-morrow you'll find yourself as strong as ever again. I
won't be gone a minute. Don't give in while I'm away, whatever you do!'
Throwing down his hatchet, he sped away immediately, but stopped when he
had got a little distance, and looked back; then hurried on again.
'Now, Mr Tapley,' said Mark, giving himself a tremendous blow in the
chest by way of reviver, 'just you attend to what I've got to say.
Things is looking about as bad as they CAN look, young man. You'll not
have such another opportunity for showing your jolly disposition, my
fine fellow, as long as you live. And therefore, Tapley, Now's your time
to come out strong; or Never!'