If you don't mind trying him, sir--'
'Mind!' exclaimed Martin. 'I am to blame for coming here, and I would do anything to get away. I grieve to think of the past. If I had taken your opinion sooner, Mark, we never should have been here, I am certain.'
Mr Tapley was very much surprised at this admission, but protested, with great vehemence, that they would have been there all the same; and that he had set his heart upon coming to Eden, from the first word he had ever heard of it.
Martin then read him a letter to Mr Bevan, which he had already prepared. It was frankly and ingenuously written, and described their situation without the least concealment; plainly stated the miseries they had undergone; and preferred their request in modest but straightforward terms. Mark highly commended it; and they determined to dispatch it by the next steamboat going the right way, that might call to take in wood at Eden--where there was plenty of wood to spare. Not knowing how to address Mr Bevan at his own place of abode, Martin superscribed it to the care of the memorable Mr Norris of New York, and wrote upon the cover an entreaty that it might be forwarded without delay.
More than a week elapsed before a boat appeared; but at length they were awakened very early one morning by the high-pressure snorting of the 'Esau Slodge;' named after one of the most remarkable men in the country, who had been very eminent somewhere. Hurrying down to the landing-place, they got it safe on board; and waiting anxiously to see the boat depart, stopped up the gangway; an instance of neglect which caused the 'Capting' of the Esau Slodge to 'wish he might be sifted fine as flour, and whittled small as chips; that if they didn't come off that there fixing right smart too, he'd spill 'em in the drink;' whereby the Capting metaphorically said he'd throw them in the river.
They were not likely to receive an answer for eight or ten weeks at the earliest. In the meantime they devoted such strength as they had to the attempted improvement of their land; to clearing some of it, and preparing it for useful purposes. Monstrously defective as their farming was, still it was better than their neighbours'; for Mark had some practical knowledge of such matters, and Martin learned of him; whereas the other settlers who remained upon the putrid swamp (a mere handful, and those withered by disease), appeared to have wandered there with the idea that husbandry was the natural gift of all mankind. They helped each other after their own manner in these struggles, and in all others; but they worked as hopelessly and sadly as a gang of convicts in a penal settlement.
Often at night when Mark and Martin were alone, and lying down to sleep, they spoke of home, familiar places, houses, roads, and people whom they knew; sometimes in the lively hope of seeing them again, and sometimes with a sorrowful tranquillity, as if that hope were dead. It was a source of great amazement to Mark Tapley to find, pervading all these conversations, a singular alteration in Martin.
'I don't know what to make of him,' he thought one night, 'he ain't what I supposed. He don't think of himself half as much. I'll try him again. Asleep, sir?'
'Thinking of home, sir?'
'So was I, sir. I was wondering how Mr Pinch and Mr Pecksniff gets on now.'
'Poor Tom!' said Martin, thoughtfully.
'Weak-minded man, sir,' observed Mr Tapley. 'Plays the organ for nothing, sir. Takes no care of himself?'
'I wish he took a little more, indeed,' said Martin. 'Though I don't know why I should. We shouldn't like him half as well, perhaps.'
'He gets put upon, sir,' hinted Mark.
'Yes!' said Martin, after a short silence. 'I know that, Mark.'
He spoke so regretfully that his partner abandoned the theme, and was silent for a short time until he had thought of another.
'Ah, sir!' said Mark, with a sigh. 'Dear me! You've ventured a good deal for a young lady's love!'
'I tell you what.