There's two or three American settlers left; and they coolly comes over one, even here, sir, as if it was the wholesomest and loveliest spot in the world. But they're like the cock that went and hid himself to save his life, and was found out by the noise he made. They can't help crowing. They was born to do it, and do it they must, whatever comes of it.'
Glancing from his work out at the door as he said these words, Mark's eyes encountered a lean person in a blue frock and a straw hat, with a short black pipe in his mouth, and a great hickory stick studded all over with knots, in his hand; who smoking and chewing as he came along, and spitting frequently, recorded his progress by a train of decomposed tobacco on the ground.
'Here's one on 'em,' cried Mark, 'Hannibal Chollop.'
'Don't let him in,' said Martin, feebly.
'He won't want any letting in,' replied Mark. 'He'll come in, sir.' Which turned out to be quite true, for he did. His face was almost as hard and knobby as his stick; and so were his hands. His head was like an old black hearth-broom. He sat down on the chest with his hat on; and crossing his legs and looking up at Mark, said, without removing his pipe:
'Well, Mr Co.! and how do you git along, sir?'
It may be necessary to observe that Mr Tapley had gravely introduced himself to all strangers, by that name.
'Pretty well, sir; pretty well,' said Mark.
'If this ain't Mr Chuzzlewit, ain't it!' exclaimed the visitor 'How do YOU git along, sir?'
Martin shook his head, and drew the blanket over it involuntarily; for he felt that Hannibal was going to spit; and his eye, as the song says, was upon him.
'You need not regard me, sir,' observed Mr Chollop, complacently. 'I am fever-proof, and likewise agur.'
'Mine was a more selfish motive,' said Martin, looking out again. 'I was afraid you were going to--'
'I can calc'late my distance, sir,' returned Mr Chollop, 'to an inch.'
With a proof of which happy faculty he immediately favoured him.
'I re-quire, sir,' said Hannibal, 'two foot clear in a circ'lar di- rection, and can engage my-self toe keep within it. I HAVE gone ten foot, in a circ'lar di-rection, but that was for a wager.'
'I hope you won it, sir,' said Mark.
'Well, sir, I realised the stakes,' said Chollop. 'Yes, sir.'
He was silent for a time, during which he was actively engaged in the formation of a magic circle round the chest on which he sat. When it was completed, he began to talk again.
'How do you like our country, sir?' he inquired, looking at Martin.
'Not at all,' was the invalid's reply.
Chollop continued to smoke without the least appearance of emotion, until he felt disposed to speak again. That time at length arriving, he took his pipe from his mouth, and said:
'I am not surprised to hear you say so. It re-quires An elevation, and A preparation of the intellect. The mind of man must be prepared for Freedom, Mr Co.'
He addressed himself to Mark; because he saw that Martin, who wished him to go, being already half-mad with feverish irritation, which the droning voice of this new horror rendered almost insupportable, had closed his eyes, and turned on his uneasy bed.
'A little bodily preparation wouldn't be amiss, either, would it, sir,' said Mark, 'in the case of a blessed old swamp like this?'
'Do you con-sider this a swamp, sir?' inquired Chollop gravely.
'Why yes, sir,' returned Mark. 'I haven't a doubt about it myself.'
'The sentiment is quite Europian,' said the major, 'and does not surprise me; what would your English millions say to such a swamp in England, sir?'
'They'd say it was an uncommon nasty one, I should think, said Mark; 'and that they would rather be inoculated for fever in some other way.'
'Europian!' remarked Chollop, with sardonic pity. 'Quite Europian!'
And there he sat. Silent and cool, as if the house were his; smoking away like a factory chimney.
Mr Chollop was, of course, one of the most remarkable men in the country; but he really was a notorious person besides.