The man rose to accompany him without a moment's delay. Before they went, Mark took the sick child in his arms, and tried to comfort the mother; but the hand of death was on it then, he saw.
They found Martin in the house, lying wrapped up in his blanket on the ground. He was, to all appearance, very ill indeed, and shook and shivered horribly; not as people do from cold, but in a frightful kind of spasm or convulsion, that racked his whole body. Mark's friend pronounced his disease an aggravated kind of fever, accompanied with ague; which was very common in those parts, and which he predicted would be worse to-morrow, and for many more to-morrows. He had had it himself off and on, he said, for a couple of years or so; but he was thankful that, while so many he had known had died about him, he had escaped with life.
'And with not too much of that,' thought Mark, surveying his emaciated form. 'Eden for ever!'
They had some medicine in their chest; and this man of sad experience showed Mark how and when to administer it, and how he could best alleviate the sufferings of Martin. His attentions did not stop there; for he was backwards and forwards constantly, and rendered Mark good service in all his brisk attempts to make their situation more endurable. Hope or comfort for the future he could not bestow. The season was a sickly one; the settlement a grave. His child died that night; and Mark, keeping the secret from Martin, helped to bury it, beneath a tree, next day.
With all his various duties of attendance upon Martin (who became the more exacting in his claims, the worse he grew), Mark worked out of doors, early and late; and with the assistance of his friend and others, laboured to do something with their land. Not that he had the least strength of heart or hope, or steady purpose in so doing, beyond the habitual cheerfulness of his disposition, and his amazing power of self-sustainment; for within himself, he looked on their condition as beyond all hope, and, in his own words, 'came out strong' in consequence.
'As to coming out as strong as I could wish, sir,' he confided to Martin in a leisure moment; that is to say, one evening, while he was washing the linen of the establishment, after a hard day's work, 'that I give up. It's a piece of good fortune as never is to happen to me, I see!'
'Would you wish for circumstances stronger than these?' Martin retorted with a groan, from underneath his blanket.
'Why, only see how easy they might have been stronger, sir,' said Mark, 'if it wasn't for the envy of that uncommon fortun of mine, which is always after me, and tripping me up. The night we landed here, I thought things did look pretty jolly. I won't deny it. I thought they did look pretty jolly.'
'How do they look now?' groaned Martin.
'Ah!' said Mark, 'Ah, to be sure. That's the question. How do they look now? On the very first morning of my going out, what do I do? Stumble on a family I know, who are constantly assisting of us in all sorts of ways, from that time to this! That won't do, you know; that ain't what I'd a right to expect. If I had stumbled on a serpent and got bit; or stumbled on a first-rate patriot, and got bowie-knifed, or stumbled on a lot of Sympathisers with inverted shirt-collars, and got made a lion of; I might have distinguished myself, and earned some credit. As it is, the great object of my voyage is knocked on the head. So it would be, wherever I went. How do you feel to-night, sir?'
'Worse than ever,' said poor Martin.
'That's something,' returned Mark, 'but not enough. Nothing but being very bad myself, and jolly to the last, will ever do me justice.'
'In Heaven's name, don't talk of that,' said Martin with a thrill of terror. 'What should I do, Mark, if you were taken ill!'
Mr Tapley's spirits appeared to be stimulated by this remark, although it was not a very flattering one. He proceeded with his washing in a brighter mood; and observed 'that his glass was arising.'
'There's one good thing in this place, sir,' said Mr Tapley, scrubbing away at the linen, 'as disposes me to be jolly; and that is that it's a reg'lar little United States in itself.