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Two grey eyes lurked deep within this agent's head, but one of them had no sight in it, and stood stock still. With that side of his face he seemed to listen to what the other side was doing. Thus each profile had a distinct expression; and when the movable side was most in action, the rigid one was in its coldest state of watchfulness. It was like turning the man inside out, to pass to that view of his features in his liveliest mood, and see how calculating and intent they were.
Each long black hair upon his head hung down as straight as any plummet line; but rumpled tufts were on the arches of his eyes, as if the crow whose foot was deeply printed in the corners had pecked and torn them in a savage recognition of his kindred nature as a bird of prey.
Such was the man whom they now approached, and whom the General saluted by the name of Scadder.
'Well, Gen'ral,' he returned, 'and how are you?'
'Ac-tive and spry, sir, in my country's service and the sympathetic cause. Two gentlemen on business, Mr Scadder.'
He shook hands with each of them--nothing is done in America without shaking hands--then went on rocking.
'I think I know what bis'ness you have brought these strangers here upon, then, Gen'ral?'
'Well, sir. I expect you may.'
'You air a tongue-y person, Gen'ral. For you talk too much, and that's fact,' said Scadder. 'You speak a-larming well in public, but you didn't ought to go ahead so fast in private. Now!'
'If I can realise your meaning, ride me on a rail!' returned the General, after pausing for consideration.
'You know we didn't wish to sell the lots off right away to any loafer as might bid,' said Scadder; 'but had con-cluded to reserve 'em for Aristocrats of Natur'. Yes!'
'And they are here, sir!' cried the General with warmth. 'They are here, sir!'
'If they air here,' returned the agent, in reproachful accents, 'that's enough. But you didn't ought to have your dander ris with ME, Gen'ral.'
The General whispered Martin that Scadder was the honestest fellow in the world, and that he wouldn't have given him offence designedly, for ten thousand dollars.
'I do my duty; and I raise the dander of my feller critters, as I wish to serve,' said Scadder in a low voice, looking down the road and rocking still. 'They rile up rough, along of my objecting to their selling Eden off too cheap. That's human natur'! Well!'
'Mr Scadder,' said the General, assuming his oratorical deportment. 'Sir! Here is my hand, and here my heart. I esteem you, sir, and ask your pardon. These gentlemen air friends of mine, or I would not have brought 'em here, sir, being well aware, sir, that the lots at present go entirely too cheap. But these air friends, sir; these air partick'ler friends.'
Mr Scadder was so satisfied by this explanation, that he shook the General warmly by the hand, and got out of the rocking-chair to do it. He then invited the General's particular friends to accompany him into the office. As to the General, he observed, with his usual benevolence, that being one of the company, he wouldn't interfere in the transaction on any account; so he appropriated the rocking-chair to himself, and looked at the prospect, like a good Samaritan waiting for a traveller.
'Heyday!' cried Martin, as his eye rested on a great plan which occupied one whole side of the office. Indeed, the office had little else in it, but some geological and botanical specimens, one or two rusty ledgers, a homely desk, and a stool. 'Heyday! what's that?'
'That's Eden,' said Scadder, picking his teeth with a sort of young bayonet that flew out of his knife when he touched a spring.
'Why, I had no idea it was a city.'
'Hadn't you? Oh, it's a city.'
A flourishing city, too! An architectural city! There were banks, churches, cathedrals, market-places, factories, hotels, stores, mansions, wharves; an exchange, a theatre; public buildings of all kinds, down to the office of the Eden Stinger, a daily journal; all faithfully depicted in the view before them.
'Dear me! It's really a most important place!' cried Martin turning round.
'Oh! it's very important,' observed the agent.
'But, I am afraid,' said Martin, glancing again at the Public Buildings, 'that there's nothing left for me to do.'
'Well! it ain't all built,' replied the agent. 'Not quite.'
This was a great relief.
'The market-place, now,' said Martin. 'Is that built?'
'That?' said the agent, sticking his toothpick into the weathercock on the top. 'Let me see. No; that ain't built.'
'Rather a good job to begin with--eh, Mark?' whispered Martin nudging him with his elbow.
Mark, who, with a very stolid countenance had been eyeing the plan and the agent by turns, merely rejoined 'Uncommon!'
A dead silence ensued, Mr Scadder in some short recesses or vacations of his toothpick, whistled a few bars of Yankee Doodle, and blew the dust off the roof of the Theatre.
'I suppose,' said Martin, feigning to look more narrowly at the plan, but showing by his tremulous voice how much depended, in his mind, upon the answer; 'I suppose there are--several architects there?'
'There ain't a single one,' said Scadder.
'Mark,' whispered Martin, pulling him by the sleeve, 'do you hear that? But whose work is all this before us, then?' he asked aloud.
'The soil being very fruitful, public buildings grows spontaneous, perhaps,' said Mark.
He was on the agent's dark side as he said it; but Scadder instantly changed his place, and brought his active eye to bear upon him.
'Feel of my hands, young man,' he said.
'What for?' asked Mark, declining.
'Air they dirty, or air they clean, sir?' said Scadder, holding them out.
In a physical point of view they were decidedly dirty. But it being obvious that Mr Scadder offered them for examination in a figurative sense, as emblems of his moral character, Martin hastened to pronounce them pure as the driven snow.
'I entreat, Mark,' he said, with some irritation, 'that you will not obtrude remarks of that nature, which, however harmless and well-intentioned, are quite out of place, and cannot be expected to be very agreeable to strangers. I am quite surprised.'
'The Co.'s a-putting his foot in it already,' thought Mark. 'He must be a sleeping partner--fast asleep and snoring--Co. must; I see.'
Mr Scadder said nothing, but he set his back against the plan, and thrust his toothpick into the desk some twenty times; looking at Mark all the while as if he were stabbing him in effigy.
'You haven't said whose work it is,' Martin ventured to observe at length, in a tone of mild propitiation.
'Well, never mind whose work it is, or isn't,' said the agent sulkily. 'No matter how it did eventuate. P'raps he cleared off, handsome, with a heap of dollars; p'raps he wasn't worth a cent. P'raps he was a loafin' rowdy; p'raps a ring-tailed roarer. Now!'
'All your doing, Mark!' said Martin.
'P'raps,' pursued the agent, 'them ain't plants of Eden's raising. No! P'raps that desk and stool ain't made from Eden lumber. No! P'raps no end of squatters ain't gone out there. No! P'raps there ain't no such location in the territoary of the Great U-nited States. Oh, no!'
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Martin Chuzzlewit -- by Charles Dickens