|Back||1 2 3 4 5 6 7||Next|
'I hope you're satisfied with the success of your joke, Mark,' said Martin.
But here, at a most opportune and happy time, the General interposed, and called out to Scadder from the doorway to give his friends the particulars of that little lot of fifty acres with the house upon it; which, having belonged to the company formerly, had lately lapsed again into their hands.
'You air a deal too open-handed, Gen'ral,' was the answer. 'It is a lot as should be rose in price. It is.'
He grumblingly opened his books notwithstanding, and always keeping his bright side towards Mark, no matter at what amount of inconvenience to himself, displayed a certain leaf for their perusal. Martin read it greedily, and then inquired:
'Now where upon the plan may this place be?'
'Upon the plan?' said Scadder.
He turned towards it, and reflected for a short time, as if, having been put upon his mettle, he was resolved to be particular to the very minutest hair's breadth of a shade. At length, after wheeling his toothpick slowly round and round in the air, as if it were a carrier pigeon just thrown up, he suddenly made a dart at the drawing, and pierced the very centre of the main wharf, through and through.
'There!' he said, leaving his knife quivering in the wall; 'that's where it is!'
Martin glanced with sparkling eyes upon his Co., and his Co. saw that the thing was done.
The bargain was not concluded as easily as might have been expected though, for Scadder was caustic and ill-humoured, and cast much unnecessary opposition in the way; at one time requesting them to think of it, and call again in a week or a fortnight; at another, predicting that they wouldn't like it; at another, offering to retract and let them off, and muttering strong imprecations upon the folly of the General. But the whole of the astoundingly small sum total of purchase-money--it was only one hundred and fifty dollars, or something more than thirty pounds of the capital brought by Co. into the architectural concern--was ultimately paid down; and Martin's head was two inches nearer the roof of the little wooden office, with the consciousness of being a landed proprietor in the thriving city of Eden.
'If it shouldn't happen to fit,' said Scadder, as he gave Martin the necessary credentials on recepit of his money, 'don't blame me.'
'No, no,' he replied merrily. 'We'll not blame you. General, are you going?'
'I am at your service, sir; and I wish you,' said the General, giving him his hand with grave cordiality, 'joy of your po-ssession. You air now, sir, a denizen of the most powerful and highly- civilised dominion that has ever graced the world; a do-minion, sir, where man is bound to man in one vast bond of equal love and truth. May you, sir, be worthy of your a-dopted country!'
Martin thanked him, and took leave of Mr Scadder; who had resumed his post in the rocking-chair, immediately on the General's rising from it, and was once more swinging away as if he had never been disturbed. Mark looked back several times as they went down the road towards the National Hotel, but now his blighted profile was towards them, and nothing but attentive thoughtfulness was written on it. Strangely different to the other side! He was not a man much given to laughing, and never laughed outright; but every line in the print of the crow's foot, and every little wiry vein in that division of his head, was wrinkled up into a grin! The compound figure of Death and the Lady at the top of the old ballad was not divided with a greater nicety, and hadn't halves more monstrously unlike each other, than the two profiles of Zephaniah Scadder.
The General posted along at a great rate, for the clock was on the stroke of twelve; and at that hour precisely, the Great Meeting of the Watertoast Sympathisers was to be holden in the public room of the National Hotel. Being very curious to witness the demonstration, and know what it was all about, Martin kept close to the General; and, keeping closer than ever when they entered the Hall, got by that means upon a little platform of tables at the upper end; where an armchair was set for the General, and Mr La Fayette Kettle, as secretary, was making a great display of some foolscap documents. Screamers, no doubt.
'Well, sir!' he said, as he shook hands with Martin, 'here is a spectacle calc'lated to make the British Lion put his tail between his legs, and howl with anguish, I expect!'
Martin certainly thought it possible that the British Lion might have been rather out of his element in that Ark; but he kept the idea to himself. The General was then voted to the chair, on the motion of a pallid lad of the Jefferson Brick school; who forthwith set in for a high-spiced speech, with a good deal about hearths and homes in it, and unriveting the chains of Tyranny.
Oh but it was a clincher for the British Lion, it was! The indignation of the glowing young Columbian knew no bounds. If he could only have been one of his own forefathers, he said, wouldn't he have peppered that same Lion, and been to him as another Brute Tamer with a wire whip, teaching him lessons not easily forgotten. 'Lion! (cried that young Columbian) where is he? Who is he? What is he? Show him to me. Let me have him here. Here!' said the young Columbian, in a wrestling attitude, 'upon this sacred altar. Here!' cried the young Columbian, idealising the dining-table, 'upon ancestral ashes, cemented with the glorious blood poured out like water on our native plains of Chickabiddy Lick! Bring forth that Lion!' said the young Columbian. 'Alone, I dare him! I taunt that Lion. I tell that Lion, that Freedom's hand once twisted in his mane, he rolls a corse before me, and the Eagles of the Great Republic laugh ha, ha!'
When it was found that the Lion didn't come, but kept out of the way; that the young Columbian stood there, with folded arms, alone in his glory; and consequently that the Eagles were no doubt laughing wildly on the mountain tops; such cheers arose as might have shaken the hands upon the Horse-Guards' clock, and changed the very mean time of the day in England's capital.
'Who is this?' Martin telegraphed to La Fayette.
The Secretary wrote something, very gravely, on a piece of paper, twisted it up, and had it passed to him from hand to hand. It was an improvement on the old sentiment: 'Perhaps as remarkable a man as any in our country.'
|Back||1 2 3 4 5 6 7||Next|
Martin Chuzzlewit -- by Charles Dickens