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There was a great bar-room in this hotel, and a great public room in which the general table was being set out for supper. There were interminable whitewashed staircases, long whitewashed galleries upstairs and downstairs, scores of little whitewashed bedrooms, and a four-sided verandah to every story in the house, which formed a large brick square with an uncomfortable courtyard in the centre, where some clothes were drying. Here and there, some yawning gentlemen lounged up and down with their hands in their pockets; but within the house and without, wherever half a dozen people were collected together, there, in their looks, dress, morals, manners, habits, intellect, and conversation, were Mr Jefferson Brick, Colonel Diver, Major Pawkins, General Choke, and Mr La Fayette Kettle, over, and over, and over again. They did the same things; said the same things; judged all subjects by, and reduced all subjects to, the same standard. Observing how they lived, and how they were always in the enchanting company of each other, Martin even began to comprehend their being the social, cheerful, winning, airy men they were.
At the sounding of a dismal gong, this pleasant company went trooping down from all parts of the house to the public room; while from the neighbouring stores other guests came flocking in, in shoals; for half the town, married folks as well as single, resided at the National Hotel. Tea, coffee, dried meats, tongue, ham, pickles, cake, toast, preserves, and bread and butter, were swallowed with the usual ravaging speed; and then, as before, the company dropped off by degrees, and lounged away to the desk, the counter, or the bar-room. The ladies had a smaller ordinary of their own, to which their husbands and brothers were admitted if they chose; and in all other respects they enjoyed themselves as at Pawkins's.
'Now, Mark, my good fellow, said Martin, closing the door of his little chamber, 'we must hold a solemn council, for our fate is decided to-morrow morning. You are determined to invest these savings of yours in the common stock, are you?'
'If I hadn't been determined to make that wentur, sir,' answered Mr Tapley, 'I shouldn't have come.'
'How much is there here, did you say' asked Martin, holding up a little bag.
'Thirty-seven pound ten and sixpence. The Savings' Bank said so at least. I never counted it. But THEY know, bless you!' said Mark, with a shake of the head expressive of his unbounded confidence in the wisdom and arithmetic of those Institutions.
'The money we brought with us,' said Martin, 'is reduced to a few shillings less than eight pounds.'
Mr Tapley smiled, and looked all manner of ways, that he might not be supposed to attach any importance to this fact.
'Upon the ring--HER ring, Mark,' said Martin, looking ruefully at his empty finger--
'Ah!' sighed Mr Tapley. 'Beg your pardon, sir.'
'--We raised, in English money, fourteen pounds. So, even with that, your share of the stock is still very much the larger of the two you see. Now, Mark,' said Martin, in his old way, just as he might have spoken to Tom Pinch, 'I have thought of a means of making this up to you--more than making it up to you, I hope--and very materially elevating your prospects in life.'
'Oh! don't talk of that, you know, sir,' returned Mark. 'I don't want no elevating, sir. I'm all right enough, sir, I am.'
'No, but hear me,' said Martin, 'because this is very important to you, and a great satisfaction to me. Mark, you shall be a partner in the business; an equal partner with myself. I will put in, as my additional capital, my professional knowledge and ability; and half the annual profits, as long as it is carried on, shall be yours.'
Poor Martin! For ever building castles in the air. For ever, in his very selfishness, forgetful of all but his own teeming hopes and sanguine plans. Swelling, at that instant, with the consciousness of patronizing and most munificently rewarding Mark!
'I don't know, sir,' Mark rejoined, much more sadly than his custom was, though from a very different cause than Martin supposed, 'what I can say to this, in the way of thanking you. I'll stand by you, sir, to the best of my ability, and to the last. That's all.'
'We quite understand each other, my good fellow,' said Martin rising in self-approval and condescension. 'We are no longer master and servant, but friends and partners; and are mutually gratified. If we determine on Eden, the business shall be commenced as soon as we get there. Under the name,' said Martin, who never hammered upon an idea that wasn't red hot, 'under the name of Chuzzlewit and Tapley.'
'Lord love you, sir,' cried Mark, 'don't have my name in it. I ain't acquainted with the business, sir. I must be Co., I must. I've often thought,' he added, in a low voice, 'as I should like to know a Co.; but I little thought as ever I should live to be one.'
'You shall have your own way, Mark.'
'Thank'ee, sir. If any country gentleman thereabouts, in the public way, or otherwise, wanted such a thing as a skittle-ground made, I could take that part of the bis'ness, sir.'
'Against any architect in the States,' said Martin. 'Get a couple of sherry-cobblers, Mark, and we'll drink success to the firm.'
Either he forgot already (and often afterwards), that they were no longer master and servant, or considered this kind of duty to be among the legitimate functions of the Co. But Mark obeyed with his usual alacrity; and before they parted for the night, it was agreed between them that they should go together to the agent's in the morning, but that Martin should decide the Eden question, on his own sound judgment. And Mark made no merit, even to himself in his jollity, of this concession; perfectly well knowing that the matter would come to that in the end, any way.
The General was one of the party at the public table next day, and after breakfast suggested that they should wait upon the agent without loss of time. They, desiring nothing more, agreed; so off they all four started for the office of the Eden Settlement, which was almost within rifle-shot of the National Hotel.
It was a small place--something like a turnpike. But a great deal of land may be got into a dice-box, and why may not a whole territory be bargained for in a shed? It was but a temporary office too; for the Edeners were 'going' to build a superb establishment for the transaction of their business, and had already got so far as to mark out the site. Which is a great way in America. The office- door was wide open, and in the doorway was the agent; no doubt a tremendous fellow to get through his work, for he seemed to have no arrears, but was swinging backwards and forwards in a rocking-chair, with one of his legs planted high up against the door-post, and the other doubled up under him, as if he were hatching his foot.
He was a gaunt man in a huge straw hat, and a coat of green stuff. The weather being hot, he had no cravat, and wore his shirt collar wide open; so that every time he spoke something was seen to twitch and jerk up in his throat, like the little hammers in a harpsichord when the notes are struck. Perhaps it was the Truth feebly endeavouring to leap to his lips. If so, it never reached them.
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Martin Chuzzlewit -- by Charles Dickens