Martin Chuzzlewit HTML version

Chapter 23
There happened to be on board the steamboat several gentlemen passengers, of
the same stamp as Martin's New York friend Mr Bevan; and in their society he
was cheerful and happy. They released him as well as they could from the
intellectual entanglements of Mrs Hominy; and exhibited, in all they said and did,
so much good sense and high feeling, that he could not like them too well. 'If this
were a republic of Intellect and Worth,' he said, 'instead of vapouring and jobbing,
they would not want the levers to keep it in motion.'
'Having good tools, and using bad ones,' returned Mr Tapley, 'would look as if
they was rather a poor sort of carpenters, sir, wouldn't it?'
Martin nodded. 'As if their work were infinitely above their powers and purpose,
Mark; and they botched it in consequence.'
'The best on it is,' said Mark, 'that when they do happen to make a decent stroke;
such as better workmen, with no such opportunities, make every day of their lives
and think nothing of--they begin to sing out so surprising loud. Take notice of my
words, sir. If ever the defaulting part of this here country pays its debts--along of
finding that not paying 'em won't do in a commercial point of view, you see, and
is inconvenient in its consequences--they'll take such a shine out of it, and make
such bragging speeches, that a man might suppose no borrowed money had
ever been paid afore, since the world was first begun. That's the way they
gammon each other, sir. Bless you, I know 'em. Take notice of my words, now!'
'You seem to be growing profoundly sagacious!' cried Martin, laughing.
'Whether that is,' thought Mark, 'because I'm a day's journey nearer Eden, and
am brightening up afore I die, I can't say. P'rhaps by the time I get there I shall
have growed into a prophet.'
He gave no utterance to these sentiments; but the excessive joviality they
inspired within him, and the merriment they brought upon his shining face, were
quite enough for Martin. Although he might sometimes profess to make light of
his partner's inexhaustible cheerfulness, and might sometimes, as in the case of
Zephaniah Scadder, find him too jocose a commentator, he was always sensible
of the effect of his example in rousing him to hopefulness and courage. Whether
he were in the humour to profit by it, mattered not a jot. It was contagious, and he
could not choose but be affected.
At first they parted with some of their passengers once or twice a day, and took
in others to replace them. But by degrees, the towns upon their route became
more thinly scattered; and for many hours together they would see no other
habitations than the huts of the wood-cutters, where the vessel stopped for fuel.
Sky, wood, and water all the livelong day; and heat that blistered everything it
On they toiled through great solitudes, where the trees upon the banks grew thick
and close; and floatad in the stream; and held up shrivelled arms from out the
river's depths; and slid down from the margin of the land, half growing, half