Behind a mangy old writing-table in this apartment sat a figure with a stump of a pen in its mouth and a great pair of scissors in its right hand, clipping and slicing at a file of Rowdy Journals; and it was such a laughable figure that Martin had some difficulty in preserving his gravity, though conscious of the close observation of Colonel Diver.
The individual who sat clipping and slicing as aforesaid at the Rowdy Journals, was a small young gentleman of very juvenile appearance, and unwholesomely pale in the face; partly, perhaps, from intense thought, but partly, there is no doubt, from the excessive use of tobacco, which he was at that moment chewing vigorously. He wore his shirt-collar turned down over a black ribbon; and his lank hair, a fragile crop, was not only smoothed and parted back from his brow, that none of the Poetry of his aspect might be lost, but had, here and there, been grubbed up by the roots; which accounted for his loftiest developments being somewhat pimply. He had that order of nose on which the envy of mankind has bestowed the appellation 'snub,' and it was very much turned up at the end, as with a lofty scorn. Upon the upper lip of this young gentleman were tokens of a sandy down; so very, very smooth and scant, that, though encouraged to the utmost, it looked more like a recent trace of gingerbread than the fair promise of a moustache; and this conjecture, his apparently tender age went far to strengthen. He was intent upon his work. Every time he snapped the great pair of scissors, he made a corresponding motion with his jaws, which gave him a very terrible appearance.
Martin was not long in determining within himself that this must be Colonel Diver's son; the hope of the family, and future mainspring of the Rowdy Journal. Indeed he had begun to say that he presumed this was the colonel's little boy, and that it was very pleasant to see him playing at Editor in all the guilelessness of childhood, when the colonel proudly interposed and said:
'My War Correspondent, sir--Mr Jefferson Brick!'
Martin could not help starting at this unexpected announcement, and the consciousness of the irretrievable mistake he had nearly made.
Mr Brick seemed pleased with the sensation he produced upon the stranger, and shook hands with him, with an air of patronage designed to reassure him, and to let him blow that there was no occasion to be frightened, for he (Brick) wouldn't hurt him.
'You have heard of Jefferson Brick, I see, sir,' quoth the colonel, with a smile. 'England has heard of Jefferson Brick. Europe has heard of Jefferson Brick. Let me see. When did you leave England, sir?'
'Five weeks ago,' said Martin.
'Five weeks ago,' repeated the colonel, thoughtfully; as he took his seat upon the table, and swung his legs. 'Now let me ask you, sir which of Mr Brick's articles had become at that time the most obnoxious to the British Parliament and the Court of Saint James's?'
'Upon my word,' said Martin, 'I--'
'I have reason to know, sir,' interrupted the colonel, 'that the aristocratic circles of your country quail before the name of Jefferson Brick. I should like to be informed, sir, from your lips, which of his sentiments has struck the deadliest blow--'
'At the hundred heads of the Hydra of Corruption now grovelling in the dust beneath the lance of Reason, and spouting up to the universal arch above us, its sanguinary gore,' said Mr Brick, putting on a little blue cloth cap with a glazed front, and quoting his last article.
'The libation of freedom, Brick'--hinted the colonel.
'--Must sometimes be quaffed in blood, colonel,' cried Brick. And when he said 'blood,' he gave the great pair of scissors a sharp snap, as if THEY said blood too, and were quite of his opinion.
This done, they both looked at Martin, pausing for a reply.
'Upon my life,' said Martin, who had by this time quite recovered his usual coolness, 'I can't give you any satisfactory information about it; for the truth is that I--'
'Stop!' cried the colonel, glancing sternly at his war correspondent and giving his head one shake after every sentence.