Page:Martin Chuzzlewit.djvu/335

This page needs to be proofread.
275
MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT.

side, for it was rather tight in the crown: "You're quite a public man I calc'late."

"So it seems," retorted Martin, who was very tired.

"Our citizens, sir," pursued the Captain, "intend to pay their respects to you. You will have to hold a sort of le-vee, sir, while you're here."

"Powers above!" cried Martin, "I couldn't do that, my good fellow!"

"I reckon you must then," said the Captain.

"Must is not a pleasant word, Captain," urged Martin.

"Well! I didn't fix the mother language, and I can't unfix it," said the Captain coolly; "else I'd make it pleasant. You must re-ceive. That's all."

"But why should I receive people who care as much for me as I care for them?" asked Martin.

"Well! because I have had a muniment put up in the bar," returned the Captain.

"A what?" cried Martin.

"A muniment," rejoined the Captain.

Martin looked despairingly at Mark, who informed him that the Captain meant a written notice that Mr. Chuzzlewit would receive the Watertoasters that day, at and after two o'clock which was in effect then hanging in the bar, as Mark, from ocular inspection of the same, could testify.

"You wouldn't be unpop'lar, I know," said the Captain, paring his nails. "Our citizens an't long of riling up, I tell you; and our Gazette could flay you like a wild cat."

Martin was going to be very wroth, but he thought better of it, and said:

"In Heaven's name let them come, then."

"Oh, they'll come," returned the Captain. "I have seen the big room fixed a'purpose, with my eyes."

"But will you," said Martin, seeing that the Captain was about to go; "will you at least tell me this? What do they want to see me for? what have I done? and how do they happen to have such a sudden interest in me?"

Captain Kedgick put a thumb and three fingers to each side of the brim of his hat; lifted it a little way off his head; put it on again carefully; passed one hand all down his face, beginning at the forehead and ending at the chin; looked at Martin; then at Mark; then at Martin again; winked, and walked out.

"Upon my life, now!" said Martin, bringing his hand heavily upon the table; "such a perfectly unaccountable fellow as that, I never saw. Mark, what do you say to this?"

"Why, sir," returned his partner, "my opinion is that we must have got to the most remarkable man in the country at last. So I hope there's an end to the breed, sir."

Although this made Martin laugh, it couldn't keep off two o'clock. Punctually, as the hour struck, Captain Kedgick returned to hand him to the room of state; and he had no sooner got him safe there, than