Mark thanked him for the compliment.
'But you are much too 'cute to last. I can't con-ceive of any spotted Painter in the bush, as ever was so riddled through and through as you will be, I bet.'
'What for?' asked Mark.
'We must be cracked up, sir,' retorted Chollop, in a tone of menace. 'You are not now in A despotic land. We are a model to the airth, and must be jist cracked-up, I tell you.'
'What! I speak too free, do I?' cried Mark.
'I have draw'd upon A man, and fired upon A man for less,' said Chollop, frowning. 'I have know'd strong men obleeged to make themselves uncommon skase for less. I have know'd men Lynched for less, and beaten into punkin'-sarse for less, by an enlightened people. We are the intellect and virtue of the airth, the cream of human natur', and the flower Of moral force. Our backs is easy ris. We must be cracked-up, or they rises, and we snarls. We shows our teeth, I tell you, fierce. You'd better crack us up, you had!'
After the delivery of this caution, Mr Chollop departed; with Ripper, Tickler, and the revolvers, all ready for action on the shortest notice.
'Come out from under the blanket, sir,' said Mark, 'he's gone. What's this!' he added softly; kneeling down to look into his partner's face, and taking his hot hand. 'What's come of all that chattering and swaggering? He's wandering in his mind to-night, and don't know me!'
Martin indeed was dangerously ill; very near his death. He lay in that state many days, during which time Mark's poor friends, regardless of themselves, attended him. Mark, fatigued in mind and body; working all the day and sitting up at night; worn with hard living and the unaccustomed toil of his new life; surrounded by dismal and discouraging circumstances of every kind; never complained or yielded in the least degree. If ever he had thought Martin selfish or inconsiderate, or had deemed him energetic only by fits and starts, and then too passive for their desperate fortunes, he now forgot it all. He remembered nothing but the better qualities of his fellow-wanderer, and was devoted to him, heart and hand.
Many weeks elapsed before Martin was strong enough to move about with the help of a stick and Mark's arm; and even then his recovery, for want of wholesome air and proper nourishment, was very slow. He was yet in a feeble and weak condition, when the misfourtune he had so much dreaded fell upon them. Mark was taken ill.
Mark fought against it; but the malady fought harder, and his efforts were in vain.
'Floored for the present, sir,' he said one morning, sinking back upon his bed; 'but jolly!'
Floored indeed, and by a heavy blow! As any one but Martin might have known beforehand.
If Mark's friends had been kind to Martin (and they had been very), they were twenty times kinder to Mark. And now it was Martin's turn to work, and sit beside the bed and watch, and listen through the long, long nights, to every sound in the gloomy wilderness; and hear poor Mr Tapley, in his wandering fancy, playing at skittles in the Dragon, making love-remonstrances to Mrs Lupin, getting his sea-legs on board the Screw, travelling with old Tom Pinch on English roads, and burning stumps of trees in Eden, all at once.
But whenever Martin gave him drink or medicine, or tended him in any way, or came into the house returning from some drudgery without, the patient Mr Tapley brightened up and cried: 'I'm jolly, sir; 'I'm jolly!'
Now, when Martin began to think of this, and to look at Mark as he lay there; never reproaching him by so much as an expression of regret; never murmuring; always striving to be manful and staunch; he began to think, how was it that this man who had had so few advantages, was so much better than he who had had so many? And attendance upon a sick bed, but especially the sick bed of one whom we have been accustomed to see in full activity and vigour, being a great breeder of reflection, he began to ask himself in what they differed.
He was assisted in coming to a conclusion on this head by the frequent presence of Mark's friend, their fellow-passenger across the ocean, which suggested to him that in regard to having aided her, for example, they had differed very much. Somehow he coupled Tom Pinch with this train of reflection; and thinking that Tom would be very likely to have struck up the same sort of acquaintance under similar circumstances, began to think in what respects two people so extremely different were like each other, and were unlike him. At first sight there was nothing very distressing in these meditations, but they did undoubtedly distress him for all that.
Martin's nature was a frank and generous one; but he had been bred up in his grandfather's house; and it will usually be found that the meaner domestic vices propagate themselves to be their own antagonists. Selfishness does this especially; so do suspicion, cunning, stealth, and covetous propensities. Martin had unconsciously reasoned as a child, 'My guardian takes so much thought of himself, that unless I do the like by MYself, I shall be forgotten.' So he had grown selfish.
But he had never known it. If any one had taxed him with the vice, he would have indignantly repelled the accusation, and conceived himself unworthily aspersed. He never would have known it, but that being newly risen from a bed of dangerous sickness, to watch by such another couch, he felt how nearly Self had dropped into the grave, and what a poor dependent, miserable thing it was.
It was natural for him to reflect—he had months to do it in—upon his own escape, and Mark's extremity. This led him to consider which of them could be the better spared, and why? Then the curtain slowly rose a very little way; and Self, Self, Self, was shown below.
He asked himself, besides, when dreading Mark's decease (as all men do and must, at such a time), whether he had done his duty by him, and had deserved and made a good response to his fidelity and zeal. No. Short as their companionship had been, he felt in many, many instances, that there was blame against himself; and still inquiring why, the curtain slowly rose a little more, and Self, Self, Self, dilated on the scene.
It was long before he fixed the knowledge of himself so firmly in his mind that he could thoroughly discern the truth; but in the hideous solitude of that most hideous place, with Hope so far removed, Ambition quenched, and Death beside him rattling at the very door, reflection came, as in a plague-beleaguered town; and so he felt and knew the failing of his life, and saw distinctly what an ugly spot it was.
Eden was a hard school to learn so hard a lesson in; but there were teachers in the swamp and thicket, and the pestilential air, who had a searching method of their own.
He made a solemn resolution that when his strength returned he would not dispute the point or resist the conviction, but would look upon it as an established fact, that selfishness was in his breast, and must be rooted out. He was so doubtful (and with justice) of his own character, that he determined not to say one word of vain regret or good resolve to Mark, but steadily to keep his purpose before his own eyes solely; and there was not a jot of pride in this; nothing but humility and steadfastness; the best armour he could wear. So low had Eden brought him down. So high had Eden raised him up.
After a long and lingering illness (in certain forlorn stages of which, when too far gone to speak, he had feebly written 'jolly!' on a slate), Mark showed some symptoms of returning health. They came and went, and flickered for a time; but he began to mend at last decidedly; and after that continued to improve from day to day.
As soon as he was well enough to talk without fatigue, Martin consulted him upon a project he had in his mind, and which a few months back he would have carried into execution without troubling anybody's head but his own.
'Ours is a desperate case,' said Martin. 'Plainly. The place is deserted; its failure must have become known; and selling what we have bought to any one, for anything, is hopeless, even if it were honest. We left home on a mad enterprise, and have failed. The only hope left us, the only one end for which we have now to try, is to quit this settlement for ever, and get back to England. Anyhow! by any means! only to get back there, Mark.'
'That's all, sir,' returned Mr Tapley, with a significant stress upon the words; 'only that!'
'Now, upon this side of the water,' said Martin, 'we have but one friend who can help us, and that is Mr Bevan.'
'I thought of him when you was ill,' said Mark.
'But for the time that would be lost, I would even write to my grandfather,' Martin went on to say, 'and implore him for money to free us from this trap into which we were so cruelly decoyed. Shall I try Mr Bevan first?'
'He's a very pleasant sort of a gentleman,' said Mark. 'I think so.'
'The few goods we brought here, and in which we spent our money, would produce something if sold,' resumed Martin; 'and whatever they realise shall be paid him instantly. But they can't be sold here.'
'There's nobody but corpses to buy 'em,' said Mr Tapley, shaking his head with a rueful air, 'and pigs.'
'Shall I tell him so, and only ask him for money enough to enable us by the cheapest means to reach New York, or any port from which we may hope to get a passage home, by serving in any capacity? Explaining to him at the same time how I am connected, and that I will endeavour to repay him, even through my grandfather, immediately on our arrival in England?'
'Why to be sure,' said Mark: 'he can only say no, and he may say yes. If you don't mind trying him, sir—'
'Mind!' exclaimed Martin. 'I am to blame for coming here, and I would do anything to get away. I grieve to think of the past. If I had taken your opinion sooner, Mark, we never should have been here, I am certain.'
Mr Tapley was very much surprised at this admission, but protested, with great vehemence, that they would have been there all the same; and that he had set his heart upon coming to Eden, from the first word he had ever heard of it.
Martin then read him a letter to Mr Bevan, which he had already prepared. It was frankly and ingenuously written, and described their situation without the least concealment; plainly stated the miseries they had undergone; and preferred their request in modest but straightforward terms. Mark highly commended it; and they determined to dispatch it by the next steamboat going the right way, that might call to take in wood at Eden—where there was plenty of wood to spare. Not knowing how to address Mr Bevan at his own place of abode, Martin superscribed it to the care of the memorable Mr Norris of New York, and wrote upon the cover an entreaty that it might be forwarded without delay.
More than a week elapsed before a boat appeared; but at length they were awakened very early one morning by the high-pressure snorting of the 'Esau Slodge;' named after one of the most remarkable men in the country, who had been very eminent somewhere. Hurrying down to the landing-place, they got it safe on board; and waiting anxiously to see the boat depart, stopped up the gangway; an instance of neglect which caused the 'Capting' of the Esau Slodge to 'wish he might be sifted fine as flour, and whittled small as chips; that if they didn't come off that there fixing right smart too, he'd spill 'em in the drink;' whereby the Capting metaphorically said he'd throw them in the river.
They were not likely to receive an answer for eight or ten weeks at the earliest. In the meantime they devoted such strength as they had to the attempted improvement of their land; to clearing some of it, and preparing it for useful purposes. Monstrously defective as their farming was, still it was better than their neighbours'; for Mark had some practical knowledge of such matters, and Martin learned of him; whereas the other settlers who remained upon the putrid swamp (a mere handful, and those withered by disease), appeared to have wandered there with the idea that husbandry was the natural gift of all mankind. They helped each other after their own manner in these struggles, and in all others; but they worked as hopelessly and sadly as a gang of convicts in a penal settlement.
Often at night when Mark and Martin were alone, and lying down to sleep, they spoke of home, familiar places, houses, roads, and people whom they knew; sometimes in the lively hope of seeing them again, and sometimes with a sorrowful tranquillity, as if that hope were dead. It was a source of great amazement to Mark Tapley to find, pervading all these conversations, a singular alteration in Martin.
'I don't know what to make of him,' he thought one night, 'he ain't what I supposed. He don't think of himself half as much. I'll try him again. Asleep, sir?'
'Thinking of home, sir?'
'So was I, sir. I was wondering how Mr Pinch and Mr Pecksniff gets on now.'
'Poor Tom!' said Martin, thoughtfully.
'Weak-minded man, sir,' observed Mr Tapley. 'Plays the organ for nothing, sir. Takes no care of himself?'
'I wish he took a little more, indeed,' said Martin. 'Though I don't know why I should. We shouldn't like him half as well, perhaps.'
'He gets put upon, sir,' hinted Mark.
'Yes!' said Martin, after a short silence. 'I know that, Mark.'
He spoke so regretfully that his partner abandoned the theme, and was silent for a short time until he had thought of another.
'Ah, sir!' said Mark, with a sigh. 'Dear me! You've ventured a good deal for a young lady's love!'
'I tell you what. I'm not so sure of that, Mark,' was the reply; so hastily and energetically spoken, that Martin sat up in his bed to give it. 'I begin to be far from clear upon it. You may depend upon it she is very unhappy. She has sacrificed her peace of mind; she has endangered her interests very much; she can't run away from those who are jealous of her, and opposed to her, as I have done. She has to endure, Mark; to endure without the possibility of action, poor girl! I begin to think that she has more to bear than ever I had. Upon my soul I do!'
Mr Tapley opened his eyes wide in the dark; but did not interrupt.
'And I'll tell you a secret, Mark,' said Martin, 'since we ARE upon this subject. That ring—'
'Which ring, sir?' Mark inquired, opening his eyes still wider.
'That ring she gave me when we parted, Mark. She bought it; bought it; knowing I was poor and proud (Heaven help me! Proud!) and wanted money.'
'Who says so, sir?' asked Mark.
'I say so. I know it. I thought of it, my good fellow, hundreds of times, while you were lying ill. And like a beast, I took it from her hand, and wore it on my own, and never dreamed of this even at the moment when I parted with it, when some faint glimmering of the truth might surely have possessed me! But it's late,' said Martin, checking himself, 'and you are weak and tired, I know. You only talk to cheer me up. Good night! God bless you, Mark!'
'God bless you, sir! But I'm reg'larly defrauded,' thought Mr Tapley, turning round with a happy face. 'It's a swindle. I never entered for this sort of service. There'll be no credit in being jolly with HIM!'
The time wore on, and other steamboats coming from the point on which their hopes were fixed, arrived to take in wood; but still no answer to the letter. Rain, heat, foul slime, and noxious vapour, with all the ills and filthy things they bred, prevailed. The earth, the air, the vegetation, and the water that they drank, all teemed with deadly properties. Their fellow-passenger had lost two children long before; and buried now her last. Such things are much too common to be widely known or cared for. Smart citizens grow rich, and friendless victims smart and die, and are forgotten. That is all.
At last a boat came panting up the ugly river, and stopped at Eden. Mark was waiting at the wood hut when it came, and had a letter handed to him from on board. He bore it off to Martin. They looked at one another, trembling.
'It feels heavy,' faltered Martin. And opening it a little roll of dollar-notes fell out upon the ground.
What either of them said, or did, or felt, at first, neither of them knew. All Mark could ever tell was, that he was at the river's bank again out of breath, before the boat had gone, inquiring when it would retrace its track and put in there.
The answer was, in ten or twelve days; notwithstanding which they began to get their goods together and to tie them up that very night. When this stage of excitement was passed, each of them believed (they found this out, in talking of it afterwards) that he would surely die before the boat returned.
They lived, however, and it came, after the lapse of three long crawling weeks. At sunrise, on an autumn day, they stood upon her deck.
'Courage! We shall meet again!' cried Martin, waving his hand to two thin figures on the bank. 'In the Old World!'
'Or in the next one,' added Mark below his breath. 'To see them standing side by side, so quiet, is a'most the worst of all!'
They looked at one another as the vessel moved away, and then looked backward at the spot from which it hurried fast. The log-house, with the open door, and drooping trees about it; the stagnant morning mist, and red sun, dimly seen beyond; the vapour rising up from land and river; the quick stream making the loathsome banks it washed more flat and dull; how often they returned in dreams! How often it was happiness to wake and find them Shadows that had vanished!
IN WHICH THE TRAVELLERS MOVE HOMEWARD, AND ENCOUNTER SOME DISTINGUISHED CHARACTERS UPON THE WAY
Among the passengers on board the steamboat, there was a faint gentleman sitting on a low camp-stool, with his legs on a high barrel of flour, as if he were looking at the prospect with his ankles, who attracted their attention speedily.
He had straight black hair, parted up the middle of his head and hanging down upon his coat; a little fringe of hair upon his chin; wore no neckcloth; a white hat; a suit of black, long in the sleeves and short in the legs; soiled brown stockings and laced shoes. His complexion, naturally muddy, was rendered muddier by too strict an economy of soap and water; and the same observation will apply to the washable part of his attire, which he might have changed with comfort to himself and gratification to his friends. He was about five and thirty; was crushed and jammed up in a heap, under the shade of a large green cotton umbrella; and ruminated over his tobacco-plug like a cow.
He was not singular, to be sure, in these respects; for every gentleman on board appeared to have had a difference with his laundress and to have left off washing himself in early youth. Every gentleman, too, was perfectly stopped up with tight plugging, and was dislocated in the greater part of his joints. But about this gentleman there was a peculiar air of sagacity and wisdom, which convinced Martin that he was no common character; and this turned out to be the case.
'How do you do sir?' said a voice in Martin's ear
'How do you do sir?' said Martin.
It was a tall thin gentleman who spoke to him, with a carpet-cap on, and a long loose coat of green baize, ornamented about the pockets with black velvet.
'You air from Europe, sir?'
'I am,' said Martin.
'You air fortunate, sir.'
Martin thought so too; but he soon discovered that the gentleman and he attached different meanings to this remark.
'You air fortunate, sir, in having an opportunity of beholding our Elijah Pogram, sir.'
'Your Elijahpogram!' said Martin, thinking it was all one word, and a building of some sort.
Martin tried to look as if he understood him, but he couldn't make it out.
'Yes, sir,' repeated the gentleman, 'our Elijah Pogram, sir, is, at this minute, identically settin' by the engine biler.'
The gentleman under the umbrella put his right forefinger to his eyebrow, as if he were revolving schemes of state.
'That is Elijah Pogram, is it?' said Martin.
'Yes, sir,' replied the other. 'That is Elijah Pogram.'
'Dear me!' said Martin. 'I am astonished.' But he had not the least idea who this Elijah Pogram was; having never heard the name in all his life.
'If the biler of this vessel was Toe bust, sir,' said his new acquaintance, 'and Toe bust now, this would be a festival day in the calendar of despotism; pretty nigh equallin', sir, in its effects upon the human race, our Fourth of glorious July. Yes, sir, that is the Honourable Elijah Pogram, Member of Congress; one of the master-minds of our country, sir. There is a brow, sir, there!'
'Quite remarkable,' said Martin.
'Yes, sir. Our own immortal Chiggle, sir, is said to have observed, when he made the celebrated Pogram statter in marble, which rose so much con-test and preju-dice in Europe, that the brow was more than mortal. This was before the Pogram Defiance, and was, therefore, a pre-diction, cruel smart.'
'What is the Pogram Defiance?' asked Martin, thinking, perhaps, it was the sign of a public-house.
'An o-ration, sir,' returned his friend.
'Oh! to be sure,' cried Martin. 'What am I thinking of! It defied—'
'It defied the world, sir,' said the other, gravely. 'Defied the world in general to com-pete with our country upon any hook; and devellop'd our internal resources for making war upon the universal airth. You would like to know Elijah Pogram, sir?'
'If you please,' said Martin.
'Mr Pogram,' said the stranger—Mr Pogram having overheard every word of the dialogue—'this is a gentleman from Europe, sir; from England, sir. But gen'rous ene-mies may meet upon the neutral sile of private life, I think.'
The languid Mr Pogram shook hands with Martin, like a clock-work figure that was just running down. But he made amends by chewing like one that was just wound up.
'Mr Pogram,' said the introducer, 'is a public servant, sir. When Congress is recessed, he makes himself acquainted with those free United States, of which he is the gifted son.'
It occurred to Martin that if the Honourable Elijah Pogram had stayed at home, and sent his shoes upon a tour, they would have answered the same purpose; for they were the only part of him in a situation to see anything.
In course of time, however, Mr Pogram rose; and having ejected certain plugging consequences which would have impeded his articulation, took up a position where there was something to lean against, and began to talk to Martin; shading himself with the green umbrella all the time.
As he began with the words, 'How do you like—?' Martin took him up and said:
'The country, I presume?'
'Yes, sir,' said Elijah Pogram. A knot of passengers gathered round to hear what followed; and Martin heard his friend say, as he whispered to another friend, and rubbed his hands, 'Pogram will smash him into sky-blue fits, I know!'
'Why,' said Martin, after a moment's hesitation, 'I have learned by experience, that you take an unfair advantage of a stranger, when you ask that question. You don't mean it to be answered, except in one way. Now, I don't choose to answer it in that way, for I cannot honestly answer it in that way. And therefore, I would rather not answer it at all.'
But Mr Pogram was going to make a great speech in the next session about foreign relations, and was going to write strong articles on the subject; and as he greatly favoured the free and independent custom (a very harmless and agreeable one) of procuring information of any sort in any kind of confidence, and afterwards perverting it publicly in any manner that happened to suit him, he had determined to get at Martin's opinions somehow or other. For if he could have got nothing out of him, he would have had to invent it for him, and that would have been laborious. He made a mental note of his answer, and went in again.
'You are from Eden, sir? How did you like Eden?'
Martin said what he thought of that part of the country, in pretty strong terms.
'It is strange,' said Pogram, looking round upon the group, 'this hatred of our country, and her Institutions! This national antipathy is deeply rooted in the British mind!'
'Good Heaven, sir,' cried Martin. 'Is the Eden Land Corporation, with Mr Scadder at its head, and all the misery it has worked, at its door, an Institution of America? A part of any form of government that ever was known or heard of?'
'I con-sider the cause of this to be,' said Pogram, looking round again and taking himself up where Martin had interrupted him, 'partly jealousy and pre-judice, and partly the nat'ral unfitness of the British people to appreciate the ex-alted Institutions of our native land. I expect, sir,' turning to Martin again, 'that a gentleman named Chollop happened in upon you during your lo-cation in the town of Eden?'
'Yes,' answered Martin; 'but my friend can answer this better than I can, for I was very ill at the time. Mark! The gentleman is speaking of Mr Chollop.'
'Oh. Yes, sir. Yes. I see him,' observed Mark.
'A splendid example of our na-tive raw material, sir?' said Pogram, interrogatively.
'Indeed, sir!' cried Mark.
The Honourable Elijah Pogram glanced at his friends as though he would have said, 'Observe this! See what follows!' and they rendered tribute to the Pogram genius by a gentle murmur.
'Our fellow-countryman is a model of a man, quite fresh from Natur's mould!' said Pogram, with enthusiasm. 'He is a true-born child of this free hemisphere! Verdant as the mountains of our country; bright and flowing as our mineral Licks; unspiled by withering conventionalities as air our broad and boundless Perearers! Rough he may be. So air our Barrs. Wild he may be. So air our Buffalers. But he is a child of Natur', and a child of Freedom; and his boastful answer to the Despot and the Tyrant is, that his bright home is in the Settin Sun.'
Part of this referred to Chollop, and part to a Western postmaster, who, being a public defaulter not very long before (a character not at all uncommon in America), had been removed from office; and on whose behalf Mr Pogram (he voted for Pogram) had thundered the last sentence from his seat in Congress, at the head of an unpopular President. It told brilliantly; for the bystanders were delighted, and one of them said to Martin, 'that he guessed he had now seen something of the eloquential aspect of our country, and was chawed up pritty small.'
Mr Pogram waited until his hearers were calm again, before he said to Mark:
'You do not seem to coincide, sir?'
'Why,' said Mark, 'I didn't like him much; and that's the truth, sir. I thought he was a bully; and I didn't admire his carryin' them murderous little persuaders, and being so ready to use 'em.'
'It's singler!' said Pogram, lifting his umbrella high enough to look all round from under it. 'It's strange! You observe the settled opposition to our Institutions which pervades the British mind!'
'What an extraordinary people you are!' cried Martin. 'Are Mr Chollop and the class he represents, an Institution here? Are pistols with revolving barrels, sword-sticks, bowie-knives, and such things, Institutions on which you pride yourselves? Are bloody duels, brutal combats, savage assaults, shooting down and stabbing in the streets, your Institutions! Why, I shall hear next that Dishonour and Fraud are among the Institutions of the great republic!'
The moment the words passed his lips, the Honourable Elijah Pogram looked round again.
'This morbid hatred of our Institutions,' he observed, 'is quite a study for the psychological observer. He's alludin' to Repudiation now!'
'Oh! you may make anything an Institution if you like,' said Martin, laughing, 'and I confess you had me there, for you certainly have made that one. But the greater part of these things are one Institution with us, and we call it by the generic name of Old Bailey!'
The bell being rung for dinner at this moment, everybody ran away into the cabin, whither the Honourable Elijah Pogram fled with such precipitation that he forgot his umbrella was up, and fixed it so tightly in the cabin door that it could neither be let down nor got out. For a minute or so this accident created a perfect rebellion among the hungry passengers behind, who, seeing the dishes, and hearing the knives and forks at work, well knew what would happen unless they got there instantly, and were nearly mad; while several virtuous citizens at the table were in deadly peril of choking themselves in their unnatural efforts to get rid of all the meat before these others came.
They carried the umbrella by storm, however, and rushed in at the breach. The Honourable Elijah Pogram and Martin found themselves, after a severe struggle, side by side, as they might have come together in the pit of a London theatre; and for four whole minutes afterwards, Pogram was snapping up great blocks of everything he could get hold of, like a raven. When he had taken this unusually protracted dinner, he began to talk to Martin; and begged him not to have the least delicacy in speaking with perfect freedom to him, for he was a calm philosopher. Which Martin was extremely glad to hear; for he had begun to speculate on Elijah being a disciple of that other school of republican philosophy, whose noble sentiments are carved with knives upon a pupil's body, and written, not with pen and ink, but tar and feathers.
'What do you think of my countrymen who are present, sir?' inquired Elijah Pogram.
'Oh! very pleasant,' said Martin.
They were a very pleasant party. No man had spoken a word; every one had been intent, as usual, on his own private gorging; and the greater part of the company were decidedly dirty feeders.
The Honourable Elijah Pogram looked at Martin as if he thought 'You don't mean that, I know!' and he was soon confirmed in this opinion.
Sitting opposite to them was a gentleman in a high state of tobacco, who wore quite a little beard, composed of the overflowing of that weed, as they had dried about his mouth and chin; so common an ornament that it would scarcely have attracted Martin's observation, but that this good citizen, burning to assert his equality against all comers, sucked his knife for some moments, and made a cut with it at the butter, just as Martin was in the act of taking some. There was a juiciness about the deed that might have sickened a scavenger.
When Elijah Pogram (to whom this was an every-day incident) saw that Martin put the plate away, and took no butter, he was quite delighted, and said,
'Well! The morbid hatred of you British to the Institutions of our country is as-TONishing!'
'Upon my life!' cried Martin, in his turn. 'This is the most wonderful community that ever existed. A man deliberately makes a hog of himself, and THAT'S an Institution!'
'We have no time to ac-quire forms, sir,' said Elijah Pogram.
'Acquire!' cried Martin. 'But it's not a question of acquiring anything. It's a question of losing the natural politeness of a savage, and that instinctive good breeding which admonishes one man not to offend and disgust another. Don't you think that man over the way, for instance, naturally knows better, but considers it a very fine and independent thing to be a brute in small matters?'
'He is a na-tive of our country, and is nat'rally bright and spry, of course,' said Mr Pogram.
'Now, observe what this comes to, Mr Pogram,' pursued Martin. 'The mass of your countrymen begin by stubbornly neglecting little social observances, which have nothing to do with gentility, custom, usage, government, or country, but are acts of common, decent, natural, human politeness. You abet them in this, by resenting all attacks upon their social offences as if they were a beautiful national feature. From disregarding small obligations they come in regular course to disregard great ones; and so refuse to pay their debts. What they may do, or what they may refuse to do next, I don't know; but any man may see if he will, that it will be something following in natural succession, and a part of one great growth, which is rotten at the root.'
The mind of Mr Pogram was too philosophical to see this; so they went on deck again, where, resuming his former post, he chewed until he was in a lethargic state, amounting to insensibility.
After a weary voyage of several days, they came again to that same wharf where Mark had been so nearly left behind, on the night of starting for Eden. Captain Kedgick, the landlord, was standing there, and was greatly surprised to see them coming from the boat.
'Why, what the 'tarnal!' cried the Captain. 'Well! I do admire at this, I do!'
'We can stay at your house until to-morrow, Captain, I suppose?' said Martin.
'I reckon you can stay there for a twelvemonth if you like,' retorted Kedgick coolly. 'But our people won't best like your coming back.'
'Won't like it, Captain Kedgick!' said Martin.
'They did expect you was a-going to settle,' Kedgick answered, as he shook his head. 'They've been took in, you can't deny!'
'What do you mean?' cried Martin.
'You didn't ought to have received 'em,' said the Captain. 'No you didn't!'
'My good friend,' returned Martin, 'did I want to receive them? Was it any act of mine? Didn't you tell me they would rile up, and that I should be flayed like a wild cat—and threaten all kinds of vengeance, if I didn't receive them?'
'I don't know about that,' returned the Captain. 'But when our people's frills is out, they're starched up pretty stiff, I tell you!'
With that, he fell into the rear to walk with Mark, while Martin and Elijah Pogram went on to the National.
'We've come back alive, you see!' said Mark.
'It ain't the thing I did expect,' the Captain grumbled. 'A man ain't got no right to be a public man, unless he meets the public views. Our fashionable people wouldn't have attended his le-vee, if they had know'd it.'
Nothing mollified the Captain, who persisted in taking it very ill that they had not both died in Eden. The boarders at the National felt strongly on the subject too; but it happened by good fortune that they had not much time to think about this grievance, for it was suddenly determined to pounce upon the Honourable Elijah Pogram, and give HIM a le-vee forthwith.
As the general evening meal of the house was over before the arrival of the boat, Martin, Mark, and Pogram were taking tea and fixings at the public table by themselves, when the deputation entered to announce this honour; consisting of six gentlemen boarders and a very shrill boy.
'Sir!' said the spokesman.
'Mr Pogram!' cried the shrill boy.
The spokesman thus reminded of the shrill boy's presence, introduced him. 'Doctor Ginery Dunkle, sir. A gentleman of great poetical elements. He has recently jined us here, sir, and is an acquisition to us, sir, I do assure you. Yes, sir. Mr Jodd, sir. Mr Izzard, sir. Mr Julius Bib, sir.'
'Julius Washington Merryweather Bib,' said the gentleman himself TO himself.
'I beg your pardon, sir. Excuse me. Mr Julius Washington Merryweather Bib, sir; a gentleman in the lumber line, sir, and much esteemed. Colonel Groper, sir. Pro-fessor Piper, sir. My own name, sir, is Oscar Buffum.'
Each man took one slide forward as he was named; butted at the Honourable Elijah Pogram with his head; shook hands, and slid back again. The introductions being completed, the spokesman resumed.
'Mr Pogram!' cried the shrill boy.
'Perhaps,' said the spokesman, with a hopeless look, 'you will be so good, Dr. Ginery Dunkle, as to charge yourself with the execution of our little office, sir?'
As there was nothing the shrill boy desired more, he immediately stepped forward.
'Mr Pogram! Sir! A handful of your fellow-citizens, sir, hearing of your arrival at the National Hotel, and feeling the patriotic character of your public services, wish, sir, to have the gratification of beholding you, and mixing with you, sir; and unbending with you, sir, in those moments which—'
'Air,' suggested Buffum.
'Which air so peculiarly the lot, sir, of our great and happy country.'
'Hear!' cried Colonel Grouper, in a loud voice. 'Good! Hear him! Good!'
'And therefore, sir,' pursued the Doctor, 'they request; as A mark Of their respect; the honour of your company at a little le-Vee, sir, in the ladies' ordinary, at eight o'clock.'
Mr Pogram bowed, and said:
'Good!' cried the Colonel. 'Hear, him! Good!'
Mr Pogram bowed to the Colonel individually, and then resumed.
'Your approbation of My labours in the common cause goes to My heart. At all times and in all places; in the ladies' ordinary, My friends, and in the Battle Field—'
'Good, very good! Hear him! Hear him!' said the Colonel.
'The name of Pogram will be proud to jine you. And may it, My friends, be written on My tomb, "He was a member of the Congress of our common country, and was ac-Tive in his trust."'
'The Com-mittee, sir,' said the shrill boy, 'will wait upon you at five minutes afore eight. I take My leave, sir!'
Mr Pogram shook hands with him, and everybody else, once more; and when they came back again at five minutes before eight, they said, one by one, in a melancholy voice, 'How do you do, sir?' and shook hands with Mr Pogram all over again, as if he had been abroad for a twelvemonth in the meantime, and they met, now, at a funeral.
But by this time Mr Pogram had freshened himself up, and had composed his hair and features after the Pogram statue, so that any one with half an eye might cry out, 'There he is! as he delivered the Defiance!' The Committee were embellished also; and when they entered the ladies' ordinary in a body, there was much clapping of hands from ladies and gentlemen, accompanied by cries of 'Pogram! Pogram!' and some standing up on chairs to see him.
The object of the popular caress looked round the room as he walked up it, and smiled; at the same time observing to the shrill boy, that he knew something of the beauty of the daughters of their common country, but had never seen it in such lustre and perfection as at that moment. Which the shrill boy put in the paper next day; to Elijah Pogram's great surprise.
'We will re-quest you, sir, if you please,' said Buffum, laying hands on Mr Pogram as if he were taking his measure for a coat, 'to stand up with your back agin the wall right in the furthest corner, that there may be more room for our fellow citizens. If you could set your back right slap agin that curtain-peg, sir, keeping your left leg everlastingly behind the stove, we should be fixed quite slick.'
Mr Pogram did as he was told, and wedged himself into such a little corner that the Pogram statue wouldn't have known him.
The entertainments of the evening then began. Gentlemen brought ladies up, and brought themselves up, and brought each other up; and asked Elijah Pogram what he thought of this political question, and what he thought of that; and looked at him, and looked at one another, and seemed very unhappy indeed. The ladies on the chairs looked at Elijah Pogram through their glasses, and said audibly, 'I wish he'd speak. Why don't he speak? Oh, do ask him to speak!' And Elijah Pogram looked sometimes at the ladies and sometimes elsewhere, delivering senatorial opinions, as he was asked for them. But the great end and object of the meeting seemed to be, not to let Elijah Pogram out of the corner on any account; so there they kept him, hard and fast.
A great bustle at the door, in the course of the evening, announced the arrival of some remarkable person; and immediately afterwards an elderly gentleman, much excited, was seen to precipitate himself upon the crowd, and battle his way towards the Honourable Elijah Pogram. Martin, who had found a snug place of observation in a distant corner, where he stood with Mark beside him (for he did not so often forget him now as formerly, though he still did sometimes), thought he knew this gentleman, but had no doubt of it, when he cried as loud as he could, with his eyes starting out of his head:
'Sir, Mrs Hominy!'
'Lord bless that woman, Mark. She has turned up again!'
'Here she comes, sir,' answered Mr Tapley. 'Pogram knows her. A public character! Always got her eye upon her country, sir! If that there lady's husband is of my opinion, what a jolly old gentleman he must be!'
A lane was made; and Mrs Hominy, with the aristocratic stalk, the pocket handkerchief, the clasped hands, and the classical cap, came slowly up it, in a procession of one. Mr Pogram testified emotions of delight on seeing her, and a general hush prevailed. For it was known that when a woman like Mrs Hominy encountered a man like Pogram, something interesting must be said.
Their first salutations were exchanged in a voice too low to reach the impatient ears of the throng; but they soon became audible, for Mrs Hominy felt her position, and knew what was expected of her.
Mrs H. was hard upon him at first; and put him through a rigid catechism in reference to a certain vote he had given, which she had found it necessary, as the mother of the modern Gracchi, to deprecate in a line by itself, set up expressly for the purpose in German text. But Mr Pogram evading it by a well-timed allusion to the star-spangled banner, which, it appeared, had the remarkable peculiarity of flouting the breeze whenever it was hoisted where the wind blew, she forgave him. They now enlarged on certain questions of tariff, commercial treaty, boundary, importation and exportation with great effect. And Mrs Hominy not only talked, as the saying is, like a book, but actually did talk her own books, word for word.
'My! what is this!' cried Mrs Hominy, opening a little note which was handed her by her excited gentleman-usher. 'Do tell! oh, well, now! on'y think!'
And then she read aloud, as follows:
'Two literary ladies present their compliments to the mother of the modern Gracchi, and claim her kind introduction, as their talented countrywoman, to the honourable (and distinguished) Elijah Pogram, whom the two L. L.'s have often contemplated in the speaking marble of the soul-subduing Chiggle. On a verbal intimation from the mother of the M. G., that she will comply with the request of the two L. L.'s, they will have the immediate pleasure of joining the galaxy assembled to do honour to the patriotic conduct of a Pogram. It may be another bond of union between the two L. L.'s and the mother of the M. G. to observe, that the two L. L.'s are Transcendental.'
Mrs Hominy promptly rose, and proceeded to the door, whence she returned, after a minute's interval, with the two L. L.'s, whom she led, through the lane in the crowd, with all that stateliness of deportment which was so remarkably her own, up to the great Elijah Pogram. It was (as the shrill boy cried out in an ecstasy) quite the Last Scene from Coriolanus. One of the L. L.'s wore a brown wig of uncommon size. Sticking on the forehead of the other, by invisible means, was a massive cameo, in size and shape like the raspberry tart which is ordinarily sold for a penny, representing on its front the Capitol at Washington.
'Miss Toppit, and Miss Codger!' said Mrs Hominy.
'Codger's the lady so often mentioned in the English newspapers I should think, sir,' whispered Mark. 'The oldest inhabitant as never remembers anything.'
'To be presented to a Pogram,' said Miss Codger, 'by a Hominy, indeed, a thrilling moment is it in its impressiveness on what we call our feelings. But why we call them so, or why impressed they are, or if impressed they are at all, or if at all we are, or if there really is, oh gasping one! a Pogram or a Hominy, or any active principle to which we give those titles, is a topic, Spirit searching, light abandoned, much too vast to enter on, at this unlooked-for crisis.'
'Mind and matter,' said the lady in the wig, 'glide swift into the vortex of immensity. Howls the sublime, and softly sleeps the calm Ideal, in the whispering chambers of Imagination. To hear it, sweet it is. But then, outlaughs the stern philosopher, and saith to the Grotesque, "What ho! arrest for me that Agency. Go, bring it here!" And so the vision fadeth.'
After this, they both took Mr Pogram by the hand, and pressed it to their lips, as a patriotic palm. That homage paid, the mother of the modern Gracchi called for chairs, and the three literary ladies went to work in earnest, to bring poor Pogram out, and make him show himself in all his brilliant colours.
How Pogram got out of his depth instantly, and how the three L. L.'s were never in theirs, is a piece of history not worth recording. Suffice it, that being all four out of their depths, and all unable to swim, they splashed up words in all directions, and floundered about famously. On the whole, it was considered to have been the severest mental exercise ever heard in the National Hotel. Tears stood in the shrill boy's eyes several times; and the whole company observed that their heads ached with the effort—as well they might.
When it at last became necessary to release Elijah Pogram from the corner, and the Committee saw him safely back again to the next room, they were fervent in their admiration.
'Which,' said Mr Buffum, 'must have vent, or it will bust. Toe you, Mr Pogram, I am grateful. Toe-wards you, sir, I am inspired with lofty veneration, and with deep e-mo-tion. The sentiment Toe which I would propose to give ex-pression, sir, is this: "May you ever be as firm, sir, as your marble statter! May it ever be as great a terror Toe its ene-mies as you."'
There is some reason to suppose that it was rather terrible to its friends; being a statue of the Elevated or Goblin School, in which the Honourable Elijah Pogram was represented as in a very high wind, with his hair all standing on end, and his nostrils blown wide open. But Mr Pogram thanked his friend and countryman for the aspiration to which he had given utterance, and the Committee, after another solemn shaking of hands, retired to bed, except the Doctor; who immediately repaired to the newspaper-office, and there wrote a short poem suggested by the events of the evening, beginning with fourteen stars, and headed, 'A Fragment. Suggested by witnessing the Honourable Elijah Pogram engaged in a philosophical disputation with three of Columbia's fairest daughters. By Doctor Ginery Dunkle. Of Troy.'
If Pogram was as glad to get to bed as Martin was, he must have been well rewarded for his labours. They started off again next day (Martin and Mark previously disposing of their goods to the storekeepers of whom they had purchased them, for anything they would bring), and were fellow travellers to within a short distance of New York. When Pogram was about to leave them he grew thoughtful, and after pondering for some time, took Martin aside.
'We air going to part, sir,' said Pogram.
'Pray don't distress yourself,' said Martin; 'we must bear it.'
'It ain't that, sir,' returned Pogram, 'not at all. But I should wish you to accept a copy of My oration.'
'Thank you,' said Martin, 'you are very good. I shall be most happy.'
'It ain't quite that, sir, neither,' resumed Pogram; 'air you bold enough to introduce a copy into your country?'
'Certainly,' said Martin. 'Why not?'
'Its sentiments air strong, sir,' hinted Pogram, darkly.
'That makes no difference,' said Martin. 'I'll take a dozen if you like.'
'No, sir,' retorted Pogram. 'Not A dozen. That is more than I require. If you are content to run the hazard, sir, here is one for your Lord Chancellor,' producing it, 'and one for Your principal Secretary of State. I should wish them to see it, sir, as expressing what my opinions air. That they may not plead ignorance at a future time. But don't get into danger, sir, on my account!'
'There is not the least danger, I assure you,' said Martin. So he put the pamphlets in his pocket, and they parted.
Mr Bevan had written in his letter that, at a certain time, which fell out happily just then, he would be at a certain hotel in the city, anxiously expecting to see them. To this place they repaired without a moment's delay. They had the satisfaction of finding him within; and of being received by their good friend, with his own warmth and heartiness.
'I am truly sorry and ashamed,' said Martin, 'to have begged of you. But look at us. See what we are, and judge to what we are reduced!'
'So far from claiming to have done you any service,' returned the other, 'I reproach myself with having been, unwittingly, the original cause of your misfortunes. I no more supposed you would go to Eden on such representations as you received; or, indeed, that you would do anything but be dispossessed, by the readiest means, of your idea that fortunes were so easily made here; than I thought of going to Eden myself.'
'The fact is, I closed with the thing in a mad and sanguine manner,' said Martin, 'and the less said about it the better for me. Mark, here, hadn't a voice in the matter.'
'Well! but he hadn't a voice in any other matter, had he?' returned Mr Bevan; laughing with an air that showed his understanding of Mark and Martin too.
'Not a very powerful one, I am afraid,' said Martin with a blush. 'But live and learn, Mr Bevan! Nearly die and learn; we learn the quicker.'
'Now,' said their friend, 'about your plans. You mean to return home at once?'
'Oh, I think so,' returned Martin hastily, for he turned pale at the thought of any other suggestion. 'That is your opinion too, I hope?'
'Unquestionably. For I don't know why you ever came here; though it's not such an unusual case, I am sorry to say, that we need go any farther into that. You don't know that the ship in which you came over with our friend General Fladdock, is in port, of course?'
'Indeed!' said Martin.
'Yes. And is advertised to sail to-morrow.'
This was tempting news, but tantalising too; for Martin knew that his getting any employment on board a ship of that class was hopeless. The money in his pocket would not pay one-fourth of the sum he had already borrowed, and if it had been enough for their passage-money, he could hardly have resolved to spend it. He explained this to Mr Bevan, and stated what their project was.
'Why, that's as wild as Eden every bit,' returned his friend. 'You must take your passage like a Christian; at least, as like a Christian as a fore-cabin passenger can; and owe me a few more dollars than you intend. If Mark will go down to the ship and see what passengers there are, and finds that you can go in her without being actually suffocated, my advice is, go! You and I will look about us in the meantime (we won't call at the Norris's unless you like), and we will all three dine together in the afternoon.'
Martin had nothing to express but gratitude, and so it was arranged. But he went out of the room after Mark, and advised him to take their passage in the Screw, though they lay upon the bare deck; which Mr Tapley, who needed no entreaty on the subject readily promised to do.
When he and Martin met again, and were alone, he was in high spirits, and evidently had something to communicate, in which he gloried very much.
'I've done Mr Bevan, sir,' said Mark.
'Done Mr Bevan!' repeated Martin.
'The cook of the Screw went and got married yesterday, sir,' said Mr Tapley.
Martin looked at him for farther explanation.
'And when I got on board, and the word was passed that it was me,' said Mark, 'the mate he comes and asks me whether I'd engage to take this said cook's place upon the passage home. "For you're used to it," he says; "you were always a-cooking for everybody on your passage out." And so I was,' said Mark, 'although I never cooked before, I'll take my oath.'
'What did you say?' demanded Martin.
'Say!' cried Mark. 'That I'd take anything I could get. "If that's so," says the mate, "why, bring a glass of rum;" which they brought according. And my wages, sir,' said Mark in high glee, 'pays your passage; and I've put the rolling-pin in your berth to take it (it's the easy one up in the corner); and there we are, Rule Britannia, and Britons strike home!'
'There never was such a good fellow as you are!' cried Martin seizing him by the hand. 'But what do you mean by "doing" Mr Bevan, Mark?'
'Why, don't you see?' said Mark. 'We don't tell him, you know. We take his money, but we don't spend it, and we don't keep it. What we do is, write him a little note, explaining this engagement, and roll it up, and leave it at the bar, to be given to him after we are gone. Don't you see?'
Martin's delight in this idea was not inferior to Mark's. It was all done as he proposed. They passed a cheerful evening; slept at the hotel; left the letter as arranged; and went off to the ship betimes next morning, with such light hearts as the weight of their past miseries engendered.
'Good-bye! a hundred thousand times good-bye!' said Martin to their friend. 'How shall I remember all your kindness! How shall I ever thank you!'
'If you ever become a rich man, or a powerful one,' returned his friend, 'you shall try to make your Government more careful of its subjects when they roam abroad to live. Tell it what you know of emigration in your own case, and impress upon it how much suffering may be prevented with a little pains!'
Cheerily, lads, cheerily! Anchor weighed. Ship in full sail. Her sturdy bowsprit pointing true to England. America a cloud upon the sea behind them!
'Why, Cook! what are you thinking of so steadily?' said Martin.
'Why, I was a-thinking, sir,' returned Mark, 'that if I was a painter and was called upon to paint the American Eagle, how should I do it?'
'Paint it as like an Eagle as you could, I suppose.'
'No,' said Mark. 'That wouldn't do for me, sir. I should want to draw it like a Bat, for its short-sightedness; like a Bantam, for its bragging; like a Magpie, for its honesty; like a Peacock, for its vanity; like a ostrich, for its putting its head in the mud, and thinking nobody sees it—'
'And like a Phoenix, for its power of springing from the ashes of its faults and vices, and soaring up anew into the sky!' said Martin. 'Well, Mark. Let us hope so.'
ARRIVING IN ENGLAND, MARTIN WITNESSES A CEREMONY, FROM WHICH HE DERIVES THE CHEERING INFORMATION THAT HE HAS NOT BEEN FORGOTTEN IN HIS ABSENCE
It was mid-day, and high water in the English port for which the Screw was bound, when, borne in gallantly upon the fullness of the tide, she let go her anchor in the river.
Bright as the scene was; fresh, and full of motion; airy, free, and sparkling; it was nothing to the life and exultation in the breasts of the two travellers, at sight of the old churches, roofs, and darkened chimney stacks of Home. The distant roar that swelled up hoarsely from the busy streets, was music in their ears; the lines of people gazing from the wharves, were friends held dear; the canopy of smoke that overhung the town was brighter and more beautiful to them than if the richest silks of Persia had been waving in the air. And though the water going on its glistening track, turned, ever and again, aside to dance and sparkle round great ships, and heave them up; and leaped from off the blades of oars, a shower of diving diamonds; and wantoned with the idle boats, and swiftly passed, in many a sportive chase, through obdurate old iron rings, set deep into the stone-work of the quays; not even it was half so buoyant, and so restless, as their fluttering hearts, when yearning to set foot, once more, on native ground.
A year had passed since those same spires and roofs had faded from their eyes. It seemed to them, a dozen years. Some trifling changes, here and there, they called to mind; and wondered that they were so few and slight. In health and fortune, prospect and resource, they came back poorer men than they had gone away. But it was home. And though home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit answered to, in strongest conjuration.
Being set ashore, with very little money in their pockets, and no definite plan of operation in their heads, they sought out a cheap tavern, where they regaled upon a smoking steak, and certain flowing mugs of beer, as only men just landed from the sea can revel in the generous dainties of the earth. When they had feasted, as two grateful-tempered giants might have done, they stirred the fire, drew back the glowing curtain from the window, and making each a sofa for himself, by union of the great unwieldy chairs, gazed blissfully into the street.
Even the street was made a fairy street, by being half hidden in an atmosphere of steak, and strong, stout, stand-up English beer. For on the window-glass hung such a mist, that Mr Tapley was obliged to rise and wipe it with his handkerchief, before the passengers appeared like common mortals. And even then, a spiral little cloud went curling up from their two glasses of hot grog, which nearly hid them from each other.
It was one of those unaccountable little rooms which are never seen anywhere but in a tavern, and are supposed to have got into taverns by reason of the facilities afforded to the architect for getting drunk while engaged in their construction. It had more corners in it than the brain of an obstinate man; was full of mad closets, into which nothing could be put that was not specially invented and made for that purpose; had mysterious shelvings and bulkheads, and indications of staircases in the ceiling; and was elaborately provided with a bell that rung in the room itself, about two feet from the handle, and had no connection whatever with any other part of the establishment. It was a little below the pavement, and abutted close upon it; so that passengers grated against the window-panes with their buttons, and scraped it with their baskets; and fearful boys suddenly coming between a thoughtful guest and the light, derided him, or put out their tongues as if he were a physician; or made white knobs on the ends of their noses by flattening the same against the glass, and vanished awfully, like spectres.
Martin and Mark sat looking at the people as they passed, debating every now and then what their first step should be.
'We want to see Miss Mary, of course,' said Mark.
'Of course,' said Martin. 'But I don't know where she is. Not having had the heart to write in our distress—you yourself thought silence most advisable—and consequently, never having heard from her since we left New York the first time, I don't know where she is, my good fellow.'
'My opinion is, sir,' returned Mark, 'that what we've got to do is to travel straight to the Dragon. There's no need for you to go there, where you're known, unless you like. You may stop ten mile short of it. I'll go on. Mrs Lupin will tell me all the news. Mr Pinch will give me every information that we want; and right glad Mr Pinch will be to do it. My proposal is: To set off walking this afternoon. To stop when we are tired. To get a lift when we can. To walk when we can't. To do it at once, and do it cheap.'
'Unless we do it cheap, we shall have some difficulty in doing it at all,' said Martin, pulling out the bank, and telling it over in his hand.
'The greater reason for losing no time, sir,' replied Mark. 'Whereas, when you've seen the young lady; and know what state of mind the old gentleman's in, and all about it; then you'll know what to do next.'
'No doubt,' said Martin. 'You are quite right.'
They were raising their glasses to their lips, when their hands stopped midway, and their gaze was arrested by a figure which slowly, very slowly, and reflectively, passed the window at that moment.
Mr Pecksniff. Placid, calm, but proud. Honestly proud. Dressed with peculiar care, smiling with even more than usual blandness, pondering on the beauties of his art with a mild abstraction from all sordid thoughts, and gently travelling across the disc, as if he were a figure in a magic lantern.
As Mr Pecksniff passed, a person coming in the opposite direction stopped to look after him with great interest and respect, almost with veneration; and the landlord bouncing out of the house, as if he had seen him too, joined this person, and spoke to him, and shook his head gravely, and looked after Mr Pecksniff likewise.
Martin and Mark sat staring at each other, as if they could not believe it; but there stood the landlord, and the other man still. In spite of the indignation with which this glimpse of Mr Pecksniff had inspired him, Martin could not help laughing heartily. Neither could Mark.
'We must inquire into this!' said Martin. 'Ask the landlord in, Mark.'
Mr Tapley retired for that purpose, and immediately returned with their large-headed host in safe convoy.
'Pray, landlord!' said Martin, 'who is that gentleman who passed just now, and whom you were looking after?'
The landlord poked the fire as if, in his desire to make the most of his answer, he had become indifferent even to the price of coals; and putting his hands in his pockets, said, after inflating himself to give still further effect to his reply:
'That, gentlemen, is the great Mr Pecksniff! The celebrated architect, gentlemen!'
He looked from one to the other while he said it, as if he were ready to assist the first man who might be overcome by the intelligence.
'The great Mr Pecksniff, the celebrated architect, gentlemen.' said the landlord, 'has come down here, to help to lay the first stone of a new and splendid public building.'
'Is it to be built from his designs?' asked Martin.
'The great Mr Pecksniff, the celebrated architect, gentlemen,' returned the landlord, who seemed to have an unspeakable delight in the repetition of these words, 'carried off the First Premium, and will erect the building.'
'Who lays the stone?' asked Martin.
'Our member has come down express,' returned the landlord. 'No scrubs would do for no such a purpose. Nothing less would satisfy our Directors than our member in the House of Commons, who is returned upon the Gentlemanly Interest.'
'Which interest is that?' asked Martin.
'What, don't you know!' returned the landlord.
It was quite clear the landlord didn't. They always told him at election time, that it was the Gentlemanly side, and he immediately put on his top-boots, and voted for it.
'When does the ceremony take place?' asked Martin.
'This day,' replied the landlord. Then pulling out his watch, he added, impressively, 'almost this minute.'
Martin hastily inquired whether there was any possibility of getting in to witness it; and finding that there would be no objection to the admittance of any decent person, unless indeed the ground were full, hurried off with Mark, as hard as they could go.
They were fortunate enough to squeeze themselves into a famous corner on the ground, where they could see all that passed, without much dread of being beheld by Mr Pecksniff in return. They were not a minute too soon, for as they were in the act of congratulating each other, a great noise was heard at some distance, and everybody looked towards the gate. Several ladies prepared their pocket handkerchiefs for waving; and a stray teacher belonging to the charity school being much cheered by mistake, was immensely groaned at when detected.
'Perhaps he has Tom Pinch with him,' Martin whispered Mr Tapley.
'It would be rather too much of a treat for him, wouldn't it, sir?' whispered Mr Tapley in return.
There was no time to discuss the probabilities either way, for the charity school, in clean linen, came filing in two and two, so much to the self-approval of all the people present who didn't subscribe to it, that many of them shed tears. A band of music followed, led by a conscientious drummer who never left off. Then came a great many gentlemen with wands in their hands, and bows on their breasts, whose share in the proceedings did not appear to be distinctly laid down, and who trod upon each other, and blocked up the entry for a considerable period. These were followed by the Mayor and Corporation, all clustering round the member for the Gentlemanly Interest; who had the great Mr Pecksniff, the celebrated architect on his right hand, and conversed with him familiarly as they came along. Then the ladies waved their handkerchiefs, and the gentlemen their hats, and the charity children shrieked, and the member for the Gentlemanly Interest bowed.
Silence being restored, the member for the Gentlemanly Interest rubbed his hands, and wagged his head, and looked about him pleasantly; and there was nothing this member did, at which some lady or other did not burst into an ecstatic waving of her pocket handkerchief. When he looked up at the stone, they said how graceful! when he peeped into the hole, they said how condescending! when he chatted with the Mayor, they said how easy! when he folded his arms they cried with one accord, how statesman-like!
Mr Pecksniff was observed too, closely. When he talked to the Mayor, they said, Oh, really, what a courtly man he was! When he laid his hand upon the mason's shoulder, giving him directions, how pleasant his demeanour to the working classes; just the sort of man who made their toil a pleasure to them, poor dear souls!
But now a silver trowel was brought; and when the member for the Gentlemanly Interest, tucking up his coat-sleeve, did a little sleight of hand with the mortar, the air was rent, so loud was the applause. The workman-like manner in which he did it was amazing. No one could conceive where such a gentlemanly creature could have picked the knowledge up.
When he had made a kind of dirt-pie under the direction of the mason, they brought a little vase containing coins, the which the member for the Gentlemanly Interest jingled, as if he were going to conjure. Whereat they said how droll, how cheerful, what a flow of spirits! This put into its place, an ancient scholar read the inscription, which was in Latin; not in English; that would never do. It gave great satisfaction; especially every time there was a good long substantive in the third declension, ablative case, with an adjective to match; at which periods the assembly became very tender, and were much affected.
And now the stone was lowered down into its place, amidst the shouting of the concourse. When it was firmly fixed, the member for the Gentlemanly Interest struck upon it thrice with the handle of the trowel, as if inquiring, with a touch of humour, whether anybody was at home. Mr Pecksniff then unrolled his Plans (prodigious plans they were), and people gathered round to look at and admire them.
Martin, who had been fretting himself—quite unnecessarily, as Mark thought—during the whole of these proceedings, could no longer restrain his impatience; but stepping forward among several others, looked straight over the shoulder of the unconscious Mr Pecksniff, at the designs and plans he had unrolled. He returned to Mark, boiling with rage.
'Why, what's the matter, sir?' cried Mark.
'Matter! This is MY building.'
'Your building, sir!' said Mark.
'My grammar-school. I invented it. I did it all. He has only put four windows in, the villain, and spoilt it!'
Mark could hardly believe it at first, but being assured that it was really so, actually held him to prevent his interference foolishly, until his temporary heat was past. In the meantime, the member addressed the company on the gratifying deed which he had just performed.
He said that since he had sat in Parliament to represent the Gentlemanly Interest of that town; and he might add, the Lady Interest, he hoped, besides (pocket handkerchiefs); it had been his pleasant duty to come among them, and to raise his voice on their behalf in Another Place (pocket handkerchiefs and laughter), often. But he had never come among them, and had never raised his voice, with half such pure, such deep, such unalloyed delight, as now. 'The present occasion,' he said, 'will ever be memorable to me; not only for the reasons I have assigned, but because it has afforded me an opportunity of becoming personally known to a gentleman—'
Here he pointed the trowel at Mr Pecksniff, who was greeted with vociferous cheering, and laid his hand upon his heart.
'To a gentleman who, I am happy to believe, will reap both distinction and profit from this field; whose fame had previously penetrated to me—as to whose ears has it not!—but whose intellectual countenance I never had the distinguished honour to behold until this day, and whose intellectual conversation I had never before the improving pleasure to enjoy.'
Everybody seemed very glad of this, and applauded more than ever.
'But I hope my Honourable Friend,' said the Gentlemanly member—of course he added "if he will allow me to call him so," and of course Mr Pecksniff bowed—'will give me many opportunities of cultivating the knowledge of him; and that I may have the extraordinary gratification of reflecting in after-time that I laid on this day two first stones, both belonging to structures which shall last my life!'
Great cheering again. All this time, Martin was cursing Mr Pecksniff up hill and down dale.
'My friends!' said Mr Pecksniff, in reply. 'My duty is to build, not speak; to act, not talk; to deal with marble, stone, and brick; not language. I am very much affected. God bless you!'
This address, pumped out apparently from Mr Pecksniff's very heart, brought the enthusiasm to its highest pitch. The pocket handkerchiefs were waved again; the charity children were admonished to grow up Pecksniffs, every boy among them; the Corporation, gentlemen with wands, member for the Gentlemanly Interest, all cheered for Mr Pecksniff. Three cheers for Mr Pecksniff! Three more for Mr Pecksniff! Three more for Mr Pecksniff, gentlemen, if you please! One more, gentlemen, for Mr Pecksniff, and let it be a good one to finish with!
In short, Mr Pecksniff was supposed to have done a great work and was very kindly, courteously, and generously rewarded. When the procession moved away, and Martin and Mark were left almost alone upon the ground, his merits and a desire to acknowledge them formed the common topic. He was only second to the Gentlemanly member.
'Compare the fellow's situation to-day with ours!' said Martin bitterly.
'Lord bless you, sir!' cried Mark, 'what's the use? Some architects are clever at making foundations, and some architects are clever at building on 'em when they're made. But it'll all come right in the end, sir; it'll all come right!'
'And in the meantime—' began Martin.
'In the meantime, as you say, sir, we have a deal to do, and far to go. So sharp's the word, and Jolly!'
'You are the best master in the world, Mark,' said Martin, 'and I will not be a bad scholar if I can help it, I am resolved! So come! Best foot foremost, old fellow!'
TOM PINCH DEPARTS TO SEEK HIS FORTUNE. WHAT HE FINDS AT STARTING
Oh! What a different town Salisbury was in Tom Pinch's eyes to be sure, when the substantial Pecksniff of his heart melted away into an idle dream! He possessed the same faith in the wonderful shops, the same intensified appreciation of the mystery and wickedness of the place; made the same exalted estimate of its wealth, population, and resources; and yet it was not the old city nor anything like it. He walked into the market while they were getting breakfast ready for him at the Inn; and though it was the same market as of old, crowded by the same buyers and sellers; brisk with the same business; noisy with the same confusion of tongues and cluttering of fowls in coops; fair with the same display of rolls of butter, newly made, set forth in linen cloths of dazzling whiteness; green with the same fresh show of dewy vegetables; dainty with the same array in higglers' baskets of small shaving-glasses, laces, braces, trouser-straps, and hardware; savoury with the same unstinted show of delicate pigs' feet, and pies made precious by the pork that once had walked upon them; still it was strangely changed to Tom. For, in the centre of the market-place, he missed a statue he had set up there as in all other places of his personal resort; and it looked cold and bare without that ornament.
The change lay no deeper than this, for Tom was far from being sage enough to know, that, having been disappointed in one man, it would have been a strictly rational and eminently wise proceeding to have revenged himself upon mankind in general, by mistrusting them one and all. Indeed this piece of justice, though it is upheld by the authority of divers profound poets and honourable men, bears a nearer resemblance to the justice of that good Vizier in the Thousand-and-one Nights, who issues orders for the destruction of all the Porters in Bagdad because one of that unfortunate fraternity is supposed to have misconducted himself, than to any logical, not to say Christian, system of conduct, known to the world in later times.
Tom had so long been used to steep the Pecksniff of his fancy in his tea, and spread him out upon his toast, and take him as a relish with his beer, that he made but a poor breakfast on the first morning after his expulsion. Nor did he much improve his appetite for dinner by seriously considering his own affairs, and taking counsel thereon with his friend the organist's assistant.
The organist's assistant gave it as his decided opinion that whatever Tom did, he must go to London; for there was no place like it. Which may be true in the main, though hardly, perhaps, in itself, a sufficient reason for Tom's going there.
But Tom had thought of London before, and had coupled with it thoughts of his sister, and of his old friend John Westlock, whose advice he naturally felt disposed to seek in this important crisis of his fortunes. To London, therefore, he resolved to go; and he went away to the coach-office at once, to secure his place. The coach being already full, he was obliged to postpone his departure until the next night; but even this circumstance had its bright side as well as its dark one, for though it threatened to reduce his poor purse with unexpected country charges, it afforded him an opportunity of writing to Mrs Lupin and appointing his box to be brought to the old finger-post at the old time; which would enable him to take that treasure with him to the metropolis, and save the expense of its carriage. 'So,' said Tom, comforting himself, 'it's very nearly as broad as it's long.'
And it cannot be denied that, when he had made up his mind to even this extent, he felt an unaccustomed sense of freedom—a vague and indistinct impression of holiday-making—which was very luxurious. He had his moments of depression and anxiety, and they were, with good reason, pretty numerous; but still, it was wonderfully pleasant to reflect that he was his own master, and could plan and scheme for himself. It was startling, thrilling, vast, difficult to understand; it was a stupendous truth, teeming with responsibility and self-distrust; but in spite of all his cares, it gave a curious relish to the viands at the Inn, and interposed a dreamy haze between him and his prospects, in which they sometimes showed to magical advantage.
In this unsettled state of mind, Tom went once more to bed in the low four-poster, to the same immovable surprise of the effigies of the former landlord and the fat ox; and in this condition, passed the whole of the succeeding day. When the coach came round at last with 'London' blazoned in letters of gold upon the boot, it gave Tom such a turn, that he was half disposed to run away. But he didn't do it; for he took his seat upon the box instead, and looking down upon the four greys, felt as if he were another grey himself, or, at all events, a part of the turn-out; and was quite confused by the novelty and splendour of his situation.
And really it might have confused a less modest man than Tom to find himself sitting next that coachman; for of all the swells that ever flourished a whip professionally, he might have been elected emperor. He didn't handle his gloves like another man, but put them on—even when he was standing on the pavement, quite detached from the coach—as if the four greys were, somehow or other, at the ends of the fingers. It was the same with his hat. He did things with his hat, which nothing but an unlimited knowledge of horses and the wildest freedom of the road, could ever have made him perfect in. Valuable little parcels were brought to him with particular instructions, and he pitched them into this hat, and stuck it on again; as if the laws of gravity did not admit of such an event as its being knocked off or blown off, and nothing like an accident could befall it. The guard, too! Seventy breezy miles a day were written in his very whiskers. His manners were a canter; his conversation a round trot. He was a fast coach upon a down-hill turnpike road; he was all pace. A waggon couldn't have moved slowly, with that guard and his key-bugle on the top of it.
These were all foreshadowings of London, Tom thought, as he sat upon the box, and looked about him. Such a coachman, and such a guard, never could have existed between Salisbury and any other place. The coach was none of your steady-going, yokel coaches, but a swaggering, rakish, dissipated London coach; up all night, and lying by all day, and leading a devil of a life. It cared no more for Salisbury than if it had been a hamlet. It rattled noisily through the best streets, defied the Cathedral, took the worst corners sharpest, went cutting in everywhere, making everything get out of its way; and spun along the open country-road, blowing a lively defiance out of its key-bugle, as its last glad parting legacy.
It was a charming evening. Mild and bright. And even with the weight upon his mind which arose out of the immensity and uncertainty of London, Tom could not resist the captivating sense of rapid motion through the pleasant air. The four greys skimmed along, as if they liked it quite as well as Tom did; the bugle was in as high spirits as the greys; the coachman chimed in sometimes with his voice; the wheels hummed cheerfully in unison; the brass work on the harness was an orchestra of little bells; and thus, as they went clinking, jingling, rattling smoothly on, the whole concern, from the buckles of the leaders' coupling-reins to the handle of the hind boot, was one great instrument of music.
Yoho, past hedges, gates, and trees; past cottages and barns, and people going home from work. Yoho, past donkey-chaises, drawn aside into the ditch, and empty carts with rampant horses, whipped up at a bound upon the little watercourse, and held by struggling carters close to the five-barred gate, until the coach had passed the narrow turning in the road. Yoho, by churches dropped down by themselves in quiet nooks, with rustic burial-grounds about them, where the graves are green, and daisies sleep—for it is evening—on the bosoms of the dead. Yoho, past streams, in which the cattle cool their feet, and where the rushes grow; past paddock-fences, farms, and rick-yards; past last year's stacks, cut, slice by slice, away, and showing, in the waning light, like ruined gables, old and brown. Yoho, down the pebbly dip, and through the merry water-splash and up at a canter to the level road again. Yoho! Yoho!
Was the box there, when they came up to the old finger-post? The box! Was Mrs Lupin herself? Had she turned out magnificently as a hostess should, in her own chaise-cart, and was she sitting in a mahogany chair, driving her own horse Dragon (who ought to have been called Dumpling), and looking lovely? Did the stage-coach pull up beside her, shaving her very wheel, and even while the guard helped her man up with the trunk, did he send the glad echoes of his bugle careering down the chimneys of the distant Pecksniff, as if the coach expressed its exultation in the rescue of Tom Pinch?
'This is kind indeed!' said Tom, bending down to shake hands with her. 'I didn't mean to give you this trouble.'
'Trouble, Mr Pinch!' cried the hostess of the Dragon.
'Well! It's a pleasure to you, I know,' said Tom, squeezing her hand heartily. 'Is there any news?'
The hostess shook her head.
'Say you saw me,' said Tom, 'and that I was very bold and cheerful, and not a bit down-hearted; and that I entreated her to be the same, for all is certain to come right at last. Good-bye!'
'You'll write when you get settled, Mr Pinch?' said Mrs Lupin.
'When I get settled!' cried Tom, with an involuntary opening of his eyes. 'Oh, yes, I'll write when I get settled. Perhaps I had better write before, because I may find that it takes a little time to settle myself; not having too much money, and having only one friend. I shall give your love to the friend, by the way. You were always great with Mr Westlock, you know. Good-bye!'
'Good-bye!' said Mrs Lupin, hastily producing a basket with a long bottle sticking out of it. 'Take this. Good-bye!'
'Do you want me to carry it to London for you?' cried Tom. She was already turning the chaise-cart round.
'No, no,' said Mrs Lupin. 'It's only a little something for refreshment on the road. Sit fast, Jack. Drive on, sir. All right! Good-bye!'
She was a quarter of a mile off, before Tom collected himself; and then he was waving his hand lustily; and so was she.
'And that's the last of the old finger-post,' thought Tom, straining his eyes, 'where I have so often stood to see this very coach go by, and where I have parted with so many companions! I used to compare this coach to some great monster that appeared at certain times to bear my friends away into the world. And now it's bearing me away, to seek my fortune, Heaven knows where and how!'
It made Tom melancholy to picture himself walking up the lane and back to Pecksniff's as of old; and being melancholy, he looked downwards at the basket on his knee, which he had for the moment forgotten.
'She is the kindest and most considerate creature in the world,' thought Tom. 'Now I KNOW that she particularly told that man of hers not to look at me, on purpose to prevent my throwing him a shilling! I had it ready for him all the time, and he never once looked towards me; whereas that man naturally, (for I know him very well,) would have done nothing but grin and stare. Upon my word, the kindness of people perfectly melts me.'
Here he caught the coachman's eye. The coachman winked. 'Remarkable fine woman for her time of life,' said the coachman.
'I quite agree with you,' returned Tom. 'So she is.'
'Finer than many a young 'un, I mean to say,' observed the coachman. 'Eh?'
'Than many a young one,' Tom assented.
'I don't care for 'em myself when they're too young,' remarked the coachman.
This was a matter of taste, which Tom did not feel himself called upon to discuss.
'You'll seldom find 'em possessing correct opinions about refreshment, for instance, when they're too young, you know,' said the coachman; 'a woman must have arrived at maturity, before her mind's equal to coming provided with a basket like that.'
'Perhaps you would like to know what it contains?' said Tom, smiling.
As the coachman only laughed, and as Tom was curious himself, he unpacked it, and put the articles, one by one, upon the footboard. A cold roast fowl, a packet of ham in slices, a crusty loaf, a piece of cheese, a paper of biscuits, half a dozen apples, a knife, some butter, a screw of salt, and a bottle of old sherry. There was a letter besides, which Tom put in his pocket.
The coachman was so earnest in his approval of Mrs Lupin's provident habits, and congratulated Torn so warmly on his good fortune, that Tom felt it necessary, for the lady's sake, to explain that the basket was a strictly Platonic basket, and had merely been presented to him in the way of friendship. When he had made the statement with perfect gravity; for he felt it incumbent on him to disabuse the mind of this lax rover of any incorrect impressions on the subject; he signified that he would be happy to share the gifts with him, and proposed that they should attack the basket in a spirit of good fellowship at any time in the course of the night which the coachman's experience and knowledge of the road might suggest, as being best adapted to the purpose. From this time they chatted so pleasantly together, that although Tom knew infinitely more of unicorns than horses, the coachman informed his friend the guard at the end of the next stage, 'that rum as the box-seat looked, he was as good a one to go, in pint of conversation, as ever he'd wish to sit by.'
Yoho, among the gathering shades; making of no account the deep reflections of the trees, but scampering on through light and darkness, all the same, as if the light of London fifty miles away, were quite enough to travel by, and some to spare. Yoho, beside the village green, where cricket-players linger yet, and every little indentation made in the fresh grass by bat or wicket, ball or player's foot, sheds out its perfume on the night. Away with four fresh horses from the Bald-faced Stag, where topers congregate about the door admiring; and the last team with traces hanging loose, go roaming off towards the pond, until observed and shouted after by a dozen throats, while volunteering boys pursue them. Now, with a clattering of hoofs and striking out of fiery sparks, across the old stone bridge, and down again into the shadowy road, and through the open gate, and far away, away, into the wold. Yoho!
Yoho, behind there, stop that bugle for a moment! Come creeping over to the front, along the coach-roof, guard, and make one at this basket! Not that we slacken in our pace the while, not we; we rather put the bits of blood upon their metal, for the greater glory of the snack. Ah! It is long since this bottle of old wine was brought into contact with the mellow breath of night, you may depend, and rare good stuff it is to wet a bugler's whistle with. Only try it. Don't be afraid of turning up your finger, Bill, another pull! Now, take your breath, and try the bugle, Bill. There's music! There's a tone!' over the hills and far away,' indeed. Yoho! The skittish mare is all alive to-night. Yoho! Yoho!
See the bright moon! High up before we know it; making the earth reflect the objects on its breast like water. Hedges, trees, low cottages, church steeples, blighted stumps and flourishing young slips, have all grown vain upon the sudden, and mean to contemplate their own fair images till morning. The poplars yonder rustle that their quivering leaves may see themselves upon the ground. Not so the oak; trembling does not become HIM; and he watches himself in his stout old burly steadfastness, without the motion of a twig. The moss-grown gate, ill-poised upon its creaking hinges, crippled and decayed swings to and fro before its glass, like some fantastic dowager; while our own ghostly likeness travels on, Yoho! Yoho! through ditch and brake, upon the ploughed land and the smooth, along the steep hillside and steeper wall, as if it were a phantom-Hunter.
Clouds too! And a mist upon the Hollow! Not a dull fog that hides it, but a light airy gauze-like mist, which in our eyes of modest admiration gives a new charm to the beauties it is spread before; as real gauze has done ere now, and would again, so please you, though we were the Pope. Yoho! Why now we travel like the Moon herself. Hiding this minute in a grove of trees; next minute in a patch of vapour; emerging now upon our broad clear course; withdrawing now, but always dashing on, our journey is a counter-part of hers. Yoho! A match against the Moon!
The beauty of the night is hardly felt, when Day comes rushing up. Yoho! Two stages, and the country roads are almost changed to a continuous street. Yoho, past market-gardens, rows of houses, villas, crescents, terraces, and squares; past waggons, coaches, carts; past early workmen, late stragglers, drunken men, and sober carriers of loads; past brick and mortar in its every shape; and in among the rattling pavements, where a jaunty-seat upon a coach is not so easy to preserve! Yoho, down countless turnings, and through countless mazy ways, until an old Innyard is gained, and Tom Pinch, getting down quite stunned and giddy, is in London!
'Five minutes before the time, too!' said the driver, as he received his fee of Tom.
'Upon my word,' said Tom, 'I should not have minded very much, if we had been five hours after it; for at this early hour I don't know where to go, or what to do with myself.'
'Don't they expect you then?' inquired the driver.
'Who?' said Tom.
'Why them,' returned the driver.
His mind was so clearly running on the assumption of Tom's having come to town to see an extensive circle of anxious relations and friends, that it would have been pretty hard work to undeceive him. Tom did not try. He cheerfully evaded the subject, and going into the Inn, fell fast asleep before a fire in one of the public rooms opening from the yard. When he awoke, the people in the house were all astir, so he washed and dressed himself; to his great refreshment after the journey; and, it being by that time eight o'clock, went forth at once to see his old friend John.
John Westlock lived in Furnival's Inn, High Holborn, which was within a quarter of an hour's walk of Tom's starting-point, but seemed a long way off, by reason of his going two or three miles out of the straight road to make a short cut. When at last he arrived outside John's door, two stories up, he stood faltering with his hand upon the knocker, and trembled from head to foot. For he was rendered very nervous by the thought of having to relate what had fallen out between himself and Pecksniff; and he had a misgiving that John would exult fearfully in the disclosure.
'But it must be made,' thought Tom, 'sooner or later; and I had better get it over.'
'I am afraid that's not a London knock,' thought Tom. 'It didn't sound bold. Perhaps that's the reason why nobody answers the door.'
It is quite certain that nobody came, and that Tom stood looking at the knocker; wondering whereabouts in the neighbourhood a certain gentleman resided, who was roaring out to somebody 'Come in!' with all his might.
'Bless my soul!' thought Tom at last. 'Perhaps he lives here, and is calling to me. I never thought of that. Can I open the door from the outside, I wonder. Yes, to be sure I can.'
To be sure he could, by turning the handle; and to be sure when he did turn it the same voice came rushing out, crying 'Why don't you come in? Come in, do you hear? What are you standing there for?'—quite violently.
Tom stepped from the little passage into the room from which these sounds proceeded, and had barely caught a glimpse of a gentleman in a dressing-gown and slippers (with his boots beside him ready to put on), sitting at his breakfast with a newspaper in his hand, when the said gentleman, at the imminent hazard of oversetting his tea-table, made a plunge at Tom, and hugged him.
'Why, Tom, my boy!' cried the gentleman. 'Tom!'
'How glad I am to see you, Mr Westlock!' said Tom Pinch, shaking both his hands, and trembling more than ever. 'How kind you are!'
'Mr Westlock!' repeated John, 'what do you mean by that, Pinch? You have not forgotten my Christian name, I suppose?'
'No, John, no. I have not forgotten,' said Thomas Pinch. 'Good gracious me, how kind you are!'
'I never saw such a fellow in all my life!' cried John. 'What do you mean by saying THAT over and over again? What did you expect me to be, I wonder! Here, sit down, Tom, and be a reasonable creature. How are you, my boy? I am delighted to see you!'
'And I am delighted to see YOU,' said Tom.
'It's mutual, of course,' returned John. 'It always was, I hope. If I had known you had been coming, Tom, I would have had something for breakfast. I would rather have such a surprise than the best breakfast in the world, myself; but yours is another case, and I have no doubt you are as hungry as a hunter. You must make out as well as you can, Tom, and we'll recompense ourselves at dinner-time. You take sugar, I know; I recollect the sugar at Pecksniff's. Ha, ha, ha! How IS Pecksniff? When did you come to town? DO begin at something or other, Tom. There are only scraps here, but they are not at all bad. Boar's Head potted. Try it, Tom. Make a beginning whatever you do. What an old Blade you are! I am delighted to see you.'
While he delivered himself of these words in a state of great commotion, John was constantly running backwards and forwards to and from the closet, bringing out all sorts of things in pots, scooping extraordinary quantities of tea out of the caddy, dropping French rolls into his boots, pouring hot water over the butter, and making a variety of similar mistakes without disconcerting himself in the least.
'There!' said John, sitting down for the fiftieth time, and instantly starting up again to make some other addition to the breakfast. 'Now we are as well off as we are likely to be till dinner. And now let us have the news, Tom. Imprimis, how's Pecksniff?'
'I don't know how he is,' was Tom's grave answer.
John Westlock put the teapot down, and looked at him, in astonishment.
'I don't know how he is,' said Thomas Pinch; 'and, saving that I wish him no ill, I don't care. I have left him, John. I have left him for ever.'
'Why, no, for he dismissed me. But I had first found out that I was mistaken in him; and I could not have remained with him under any circumstances. I grieve to say that you were right in your estimate of his character. It may be a ridiculous weakness, John, but it has been very painful and bitter to me to find this out, I do assure you.'
Tom had no need to direct that appealing look towards his friend, in mild and gentle deprecation of his answering with a laugh. John Westlock would as soon have thought of striking him down upon the floor.
'It was all a dream of mine,' said Tom, 'and it is over. I'll tell you how it happened, at some other time. Bear with my folly, John. I do not, just now, like to think or speak about it.'
'I swear to you, Tom,' returned his friend, with great earnestness of manner, after remaining silent for a few moments, 'that when I see, as I do now, how deeply you feel this, I don't know whether to be glad or sorry that you have made the discovery at last. I reproach myself with the thought that I ever jested on the subject; I ought to have known better.'
'My dear friend,' said Tom, extending his hand, 'it is very generous and gallant in you to receive me and my disclosure in this spirit; it makes me blush to think that I should have felt a moment's uneasiness as I came along. You can't think what a weight is lifted off my mind,' said Tom, taking up his knife and fork again, and looking very cheerful. 'I shall punish the Boar's Head dreadfully.'