'These here tools,' said Mark, bringing forward Martin's case of instruments and sticking the compasses upright in a stump before the door, 'shall be set out in the open air to show that we come provided. And now, if any gentleman wants a house built, he'd better give his orders, afore we're other ways bespoke.'
Considering the intense heat of the weather, this was not a bad morning's work; but without pausing for a moment, though he was streaming at every pore, Mark vanished into the house again, and presently reappeared with a hatchet; intent on performing some impossibilities with that implement.
'Here's ugly old tree in the way, sir,' he observed, 'which'll be all the better down. We can build the oven in the afternoon. There never was such a handy spot for clay as Eden is. That's convenient, anyhow.'
But Martin gave him no answer. He had sat the whole time with his head upon his hands, gazing at the current as it rolled swiftly by; thinking, perhaps, how fast it moved towards the open sea, the high road to the home he never would behold again.
Not even the vigorous strokes which Mark dealt at the tree awoke him from his mournful meditation. Finding all his endeavours to rouse him of no use, Mark stopped in his work and came towards him.
'Don't give in, sir,' said Mr Tapley.
'Oh, Mark,' returned his friend, 'what have I done in all my life that has deserved this heavy fate?'
'Why, sir,' returned Mark, 'for the matter of that, everybody as is here might say the same thing; many of 'em with better reason p'raps than you or me. Hold up, sir. Do something. Couldn't you ease your mind, now, don't you think, by making some personal obserwations in a letter to Scadder?'
'No,' said Martin, shaking his head sorrowfully: 'I am past that.'
'But if you're past that already,' returned Mark, 'you must be ill, and ought to be attended to.'
'Don't mind me,' said Martin. 'Do the best you can for yourself. You'll soon have only yourself to consider. And then God speed you home, and forgive me for bringing you here! I am destined to die in this place. I felt it the instant I set foot upon the shore. Sleeping or waking, Mark, I dreamed it all last night.'
'I said you must be ill,' returned Mark, tenderly, 'and now I'm sure of it. A touch of fever and ague caught on these rivers, I dare say; but bless you, THAT'S nothing. It's only a seasoning, and we must all be seasoned, one way or another. That's religion that is, you know,' said Mark.
He only sighed and shook his head.
'Wait half a minute,' said Mark cheerily, 'till I run up to one of our neighbours and ask what's best to be took, and borrow a little of it to give you; and to-morrow you'll find yourself as strong as ever again. I won't be gone a minute. Don't give in while I'm away, whatever you do!'
Throwing down his hatchet, he sped away immediately, but stopped when he had got a little distance, and looked back; then hurried on again.
'Now, Mr Tapley,' said Mark, giving himself a tremendous blow in the chest by way of reviver, 'just you attend to what I've got to say. Things is looking about as bad as they CAN look, young man. You'll not have such another opportunity for showing your jolly disposition, my fine fellow, as long as you live. And therefore, Tapley, Now's your time to come out strong; or Never!'
REPORTS PROGRESS IN CERTAIN HOMELY MATTERS OF LOVE, HATRED, JEALOUSY, AND REVENGE
'Hallo, Pecksniff!' cried Mr Jonas from the parlour. 'Isn't somebody a-going to open that precious old door of yours?'
'Immediately, Mr Jonas. Immediately.'
'Ecod,' muttered the orphan, 'not before it's time neither. Whoever it is, has knocked three times, and each one loud enough to wake the--' he had such a repugnance to the idea of waking the Dead, that he stopped even then with the words upon his tongue, and said, instead, 'the Seven Sleepers.'
'Immediately, Mr Jonas; immediately,' repeated Pecksniff. 'Thomas Pinch'--he couldn't make up his mind, in his great agitation, whether to call Tom his dear friend or a villain, so he shook his fist at him PRO TEM--'go up to my daughters' room, and tell them who is here.