'That you never heard of Jefferson Brick, sir. That you never read Jefferson Brick, sir. That you never saw the Rowdy Journal, sir. That you never knew, sir, of its mighty influence upon the cabinets of Europe. Yes?'
'That's what I was about to observe, certainly,' said Martin.
'Keep cool, Jefferson,' said the colonel gravely. 'Don't bust! oh you Europeans! After that, let's have a glass of wine!' So saying, he got down from the table, and produced, from a basket outside the door, a bottle of champagne, and three glasses.
'Mr Jefferson Brick, sir,' said the colonel, filling Martin's glass and his own, and pushing the bottle to that gentleman, 'will give us a sentiment.'
'Well, sir!' cried the war correspondent, 'Since you have concluded to call upon me, I will respond. I will give you, sir, The Rowdy Journal and its brethren; the well of Truth, whose waters are black from being composed of printers' ink, but are quite clear enough for my country to behold the shadow of her Destiny reflected in.'
'Hear, hear!' cried the colonel, with great complacency. 'There are flowery components, sir, in the language of my friend?'
'Very much so, indeed,' said Martin.
'There is to-day's Rowdy, sir,' observed the colonel, handing him a paper. 'You'll find Jefferson Brick at his usual post in the van of human civilization and moral purity.'
The colonel was by this time seated on the table again. Mr Brick also took up a position on that same piece of furniture; and they fell to drinking pretty hard. They often looked at Martin as he read the paper, and then at each other. When he laid it down, which was not until they had finished a second bottle, the colonel asked him what he thought of it.
'Why, it's horribly personal,' said Martin.
The colonel seemed much flattered by this remark; and said he hoped it was.
'We are independent here, sir,' said Mr Jefferson Brick. 'We do as we like.'
'If I may judge from this specimen,' returned Martin, 'there must be a few thousands here, rather the reverse of independent, who do as they don't like.'
'Well! They yield to the popular mind of the Popular Instructor, sir,' said the colonel. 'They rile up, sometimes; but in general we have a hold upon our citizens, both in public and in private life, which is as much one of the ennobling institutions of our happy country as--'
'As nigger slavery itself,' suggested Mr Brick.
'En--tirely so,' remarked the colonel.
'Pray,' said Martin, after some hesitation, 'may I venture to ask, with reference to a case I observe in this paper of yours, whether the Popular Instructor often deals in--I am at a loss to express it without giving you offence--in forgery? In forged letters, for instance,' he pursued, for the colonel was perfectly calm and quite at his ease, 'solemnly purporting to have been written at recent periods by living men?'
'Well, sir!' replied the colonel. 'It does, now and then.'
'And the popular instructed--what do they do?' asked Martin.
'Buy 'em:' said the colonel.
Mr Jefferson Brick expectorated and laughed; the former copiously, the latter approvingly.
'Buy 'em by hundreds of thousands,' resumed the colonel. 'We are a smart people here, and can appreciate smartness.'
'Is smartness American for forgery?' asked Martin.
'Well!' said the colonel, 'I expect it's American for a good many things that you call by other names. But you can't help yourself in Europe. We can.'
'And do, sometimes,' thought Martin. 'You help yourselves with very little ceremony, too!'
'At all events, whatever name we choose to employ,' said the colonel, stooping down to roll the third empty bottle into a corner after the other two, 'I suppose the art of forgery was not invented here sir?'
'I suppose not,' replied Martin.
'Nor any other kind of smartness I reckon?'
'Invented! No, I presume not.'
'Well!' said the colonel; 'then we got it all from the old country, and the old country's to blame for it, and not the new 'un. There's an end of THAT.