'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!'
'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.